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Kindred

Chapter Text

Hannibal / Vampire The Masquerade

Hannibal Lecter / Will Graham

“Kindred”

 

I

“Welcome to Baltimore, Childe”


 

     It rained in Baltimore. Night or day didn’t matter, it just rained. People said it meant the city was mourning. More people died in Baltimore from unnatural causes rather than being washed away in the downpour. Others said the city has been cursed. The rain, however, never ceased. It chilled every person to the bone and strangled the warmth from them. It was easy to watch from high above. The smog of the city didn’t linger up so high. From his perch, he felt like God. However, God would never wear expensive suits or smoke cigars or indulge in heinous amounts of debauchery. That’s who the Prince was. He had no piety of a deity let alone any regard to the subjects beneath him. He indulged in the most carnal of human desires to the point he felt alive once again. He’d learn many things over time such as the culinary arts and an appreciation for arts and music. It made his mind active while he sat alone during quiet, rainy days. There wasn’t much an entity as old as he could do once everything had been done. He’d traveled the world and the seven seas, seeing wonders and horrors of all kinds, then when he grew bored of that the Prince conquered the world and seven seas. In that life he was a warrior but, it didn’t last long. Time was nothing but a curse to the Prince of Baltimore. It was worse than the rain. It never seemed to end nor did it ever begin.

 

     He left his perch and sulked back to his domain. An office of dark maroon and black still bloodied from his feast beforehand. It was no much larger than a ballroom given that his penthouse took the rest of the space. He preferred it this way. All the money humans fought and died over bought him this yet, he wished it was bigger . He sat in his cushy leather chair and melted into its soft cushions. He licked the drying blood from his lips and pursued them into a thin, menacing smile. He watched a young, frightened woman struggle and cry out against her restraints. A greedy one, this Prince was. His fangs slipped from his thin lips as he rose. The young woman hollered for assistance where none could be found. The Prince had an exquisite palate. No smokers, no drinkers, and preferably still untouched . In a previous life, he would’ve drained any walking blood-bag without a care for the taste or source. But, as time changed and the Prince evolved, he desired finer vintages. As the Prince stalked towards the girl, she began to cry. She was the rabbit for the stew, the plump veal ready to be devoured, and one of the Prince’s favorite dishes. He loosened his tie as the girl looked up with teary eyes.

 

Bon Apetit .”

 

     A crack of thunder shook Baltimore as the Prince dug his fangs into succulent flesh, ripping and tearing muscle and vein. The young woman howled a blood-curdling scream from her blood filled throat. It made no use to struggle. The Prince held her down by the shoulders as he slurped noisily. How childish it was to slurp as if her throat was alphabet soup. He ripped his fangs free from bloodied flesh and chewed what remained in his gaping orifice. He took a handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed the blood away. The woman hit the floor with a loud, wet thump . The office door opened and a dark, haunting figure slugged itself into the room.

 

“Ah, they you are.”, the Prince beamed, getting up and fixing his attire. “You never fail to disappoint me, Jack Crawford.”

 

     The gargantuan of a man whose name was Crawford only nodded in acknowledgement. He was a dark skinned man with visible scars running like lightning across his face and neck. He wore a heavy trench coat with buckles hanging like vines in the jungle. He kneelt in front of the Prince and silently waited for further instruction.

“Get the car, I believe we have the trial tonight.”, the Prince said, stepping over the young woman who miraculously was still clinging to her life.

 

“Yes, Prince Lecter.”, Crawford uttered softly, rising to his feet.

 

     Jack stood very tall compared to Prince Lecter. Nearly a foot in difference. He was a much thicker, stockier build than his progenitor was and carried a much bigger weapon. It was a sword in nature but, had the bluntness of a meat cleaver’s blade. It was strapped to Jack’s back and intimidated all who dared to approach. The Prince left his cushy office and was met by more of his guard. They were practically the same; clean-cut and able-bodied human beings who wouldn’t hesitate to kill for their Prince. They had been hypnotized to do such. Humans, naturally, saw beings like the Prince as their predators instead of their masters. The Prince didn’t trust his own kindred to guard him. Their world’s politics was a fickle mistress. Fangs from all sorts of cowards wouldn’t hesitate to find their home in Lecter’s jugular. They led him down from the penthouse into the parking garage where his limo waited patiently. The Prince stepped inside and was met by a beautiful, familiar face.

 

“Madame Bedelia Du Maurier, may I say you look quite delicious this evening?”, the Prince mused as the blonde haired beauty sipped champagne from a glass.

 

     She was quite the beauty even if she was aged . Her golden curls caressed her frame like curtains while her eyes dangerously tempted those weak enough to fall into them. Her smile locked the deal.

 

“It’s not every night a lady can drink with a Prince .”, she said curtly. Her eyes bounced from her glass to Prince Lecter playfully. Human she may be but, an old soul with much more to offer.

 

A siren incarnated.

 

     The Prince crossed his legs and smiled back. He was fond of the mortal woman. Of course, she will eventually wither and die a wrinkly old hag but, he didn’t mind that. He thought of death as something beautiful and magnificent . He’d experienced it once when he had a natural life. It wasn’t a peaceful or violent affair but, a mere second of relief. It’d been centuries ago and Lecter couldn’t remember what his life was before that. One memory that couldn’t leave him was a simple whisper.

 

Hannibal , his name is Hannibal .”

     

     It been a name some woman echoed to him many moons ago when he was still a boy playing with sticks and mud. An entire village cut out from the mountain side filled with people of all sorts. Yet when the snow came and the trees became nude, only the sound of silence howled over the mountains. It was a cold, unforgiving time as the Fatherland freezed over and many died within the winter. He was privileged in that life, if Prince Lecter remembered correctly. He lived in a longhouse with many servants and children to play with. All those children were rumoured to be of his father’s harem but, Hannibal never saw them as bastards. They were his friends . Of course they all didn’t look alike. Some had bright, golden hair while others had muddy or charcoal hair. Some had blue eyes while others had dark brown. It didn’t matter to Hannibal. They ate at the same table, bathed in the same pools, and slept in the same beds. However, his father never approved. He could only faintly remembered what his father looked like. An old, gaunt man with silvery hair and a hunger for fresh flesh. He had grown to be a hunchback in his later years. An ugly thing to look at it or that’s what Hannibal heard the servants whisper in the wee hours of the night. His father had grown angry and undesirable in his later years. Eventually, he became greedy and lustful. There was times Hannibal had caught his father pulling serving girls from their duties and into the same bed his mother shared with him. He’d hear them cry and beg him to let them go but, it always ended the same. Come morning there was bloodied sheets but, no body to be retrieved. Some in the village rumoured that his father ate their young, pretty flesh while others said monsters from the snow dragged them away once his father ravaged them.

 

Monsters .

 

     The lips of cowards never brought proof of his father’s heinous crimes. His father was never burned at a stake or smothered in his sleep. He died an old, crazed skeleton when Hannibal came of age. Hannibal remembered the funeral like he remembered seeing a sunset; forgettable . In the hauntingly freezing night, a pyre was built for his father. A traditional way to see warriors off to the next life if Hannibal’s father could be considered a warrior. In his earlier years when he was strong and unwavering maybe but, as Hannibal recollected the memory he didn’t remember his father as nothing more than a hunchback. Fire flourished from the torches the villagers had and it engulfed instantly. There was no tears or a sob. It was deathly silent as the fire crackled and creaked. The Prince still smelled burning flesh when he thought of the funeral pyre and how sick it made him. It was nauseating. Though he was a man grown at that time, he still held onto his mother. She smelled of oak and juniper. She was a comfort in the harsh wasteland Hannibal once called home. Once the fire burned out and only ash coated the soil did everyone return to their shacks. All except Hannibal. He approached the ashes and spat. On that night, he vowed he shall never be such a spineless degenerate like his father.

 

     His mother was a true beauty. She too had silver hair that fell to her bosom and eyes you simply wanted to get lost in. She had a gentle heart. She could never raise her voice no matter how infuriated she was. Her nature didn’t allow her to. She reminded Hannibal of a white doe in a forest of spruce. How beautiful her coat look against the dark, murky color of the spruce trees. She was a rare gem in a frozen wasteland such as the Fatherland. A burning fire in the winter’s night. She’d always sing to Hannibal and braid his hair. Unlike his craven father, she cared from him deeply. No matter what his father did to her, his mother always smiled . An old soul she once was.

 

     Prince Lecter indulged himself into a glass of thick, red blood he’d requested prior to this trip and mused over the memory. Had he remembered his human life better, perhaps he would be a different man. Now he was blessed with immortality and life hasn’t been the same since.

 

     Hannibal. He kept thinking of the name. He hardly referred to himself using that name let alone anyone else. Names were meant to be forgotten in the sands of time. But, for some reason had cherished the name and the memory that came with it. Maybe because it reminded him of his mother, wherever she may be resting in the realms beyond his reach. Or, he’d taken so many lives that his mind was clouded with thousands of names and he couldn’t bear to be nameless.

 

     Madame Du Maurier uncurled herself from her side of the limo and stalked towards Hannibal. Her deep, flirtatious eyes practically lured Hannibal’s dead, sullen eyes in. Their mouths met. Lecter allowed the contact. The taste of iron and sweet champagne fused between them. His hands found her hips and rocked her forward towards his body. They clashed in lustful dominance with Bedelia trying to get the upperhand with her femininity. It was a failed attempt because Hannibal, being dead for so long lacked the means to be aroused like human beings. Or maybe it was him. He hadn’t been fond of too many women when he was still breathing. But, Du Maurier was trying so hard to initiate sexual relations with him that he caved in out of deviance. He wrestled her into his embrace and circled her most intimate area. Humans were easy to please. They required little to no effort to be aroused or indulged. Bedelia moaned a breathy ‘ yes ’ as the Prince continued his ministrations, squeezing his arm between her thighs, and refusing to let him slow down.

 

     The limo wasn’t far from where the trial was set to begin. Masters and mistresses alike were obligated to appear at this trial given that their Prince was attending. It was a grand affair with expensive luxuries not even the human world could acquire. Hannibal turned away from the mewling, gasping woman pressed against his lap and retracted himself from her. Bedelia huffed angrily but, fixed herself as the limo slowed to a halt. The door was opened and they were both lead out by the valet.

 

     The venue was a dank, musty looking place on the outside. It had graffiti splattered over the walls and trash as far as the eye can see. Hannibal wrinkled his nose and turned away. Of course, the matters of the undead couldn’t be settled in a normal courthouse mortal beings flocked to. Their existence couldn’t be mainstreamed for all of the world to see. It would lead to the destruction of their kind. Few mortals mingled with the likes of those like Prince Lecter. Their blood is a valuable source for vampires. They were nothing more than livestock to be cultivated and culled. Only few who share the tale survived long enough to be considered credible . There was reasons why the Kindred never exposed their identities throughout the centuries. Holy inquisitions plagued the world from Asia to the Americas. Where there was war, there was blood to be drained. For the most part of human history, there was always a vampire pulling the strings.

 

     The Prince walked in with Bedelia clung to his arm, still peachy from their sexual rendezvous prior. The masters and mistresses all stood at Hannibal’s arrival but, their eyes followed the hulking figure behind him. Jack wasn’t far behind with that giant butcher knife unhitched and dragging along the floor behind him. Whispers and gasps came from those in the audience as Hannibal lead Bedelia to her seat and ascended onto the stage. An old theatre this venue had once been; upper balconies still existed but the entirety was withered with age. Even with the luxuries embedded within, it couldn’t mask the musk and mildew of the old building. Hannibal tried not to crinkle his nose at the old, moldy smelling atmosphere but, it was unbearable. He smiled through the disgust as Jack joined him on stage with his hefty sword clutched in his hands.

 

“Ladies and gentlemen, I have invited you here tonight in hopes to cast judgement on one of our own.”, the Prince announced.

 

     The theatre erupted with whispers and gasps from all sides as Hannibal gave them a moment amongst themselves. He licked his lips and turned himself towards the dark, dusty red curtains behind him. He lifted his arms and the curtains reeled back in a flash. Before the crowd was two figures gagged and tied on the rotting hardwood. Two men held them by the shoulders as the crowd booed and jeered at them. Lecter couldn’t help but laugh. The mentality of the crowd was that of a pack of hyenas. They cared little of the politics of innocence. They sneered and jeered at whatever they found amusing. Hannibal had given them a taste of what it meant to be the executioners. Of course, he knew they were guilty but, it would be madness not to offer a trial. After all, it is America.

 

The land of the free, home of the brave.

 

“Their crimes are unforgivable .”, Lecter hissed as he turned to the prisoner closest to him, grabbing a fistful of hair and dragging the person forward.

 

     The other prisoner struggled and whimpered against the gag as the other one, a male in his late thirties, tried to lift himself up. They both were moderately young as Hannibal studied them more. The one closest to him had dyed hair of greens and blues, ridiculous tattoos over his face and torso, and smelled musty. Yet, their crime was of the most heinous of. The one that couldn’t seem to regain his posture was vampire while the other one was a childe . The childe still smelled human as Hannibal glared down on him. His stormy eyes bounced around like a stone breaching the water’s surface. They were frantic, crazed, and aroused as the young fledgling took in the chaos. Hannibal had seen many of the childe’s type before and now as he looked upon it’s creator, it was certain. Madness was like a coin. No matter what side it flipped onto, the outcome wasn’t in your favor. Hannibal looked away from the lowly childe.

 

A trueborn Malkavian.

 

     The Masquerade which governs and holds every vampire to a set decree forbids the turning of humankind, especially those without permission or stature, into one of the undead. It kept their population in check. Just looking at them made Hannibal sick .

 

“One of our own kind has shared his blood with a mere mortal .”, Hannibal continued as the crowd grew more furious with their cries.

 

“The most heinous of crimes you can commit against the Masquerade.”

 

      Hannibal wanted to drown himself in the boiling pits of rage that swept over the theatre. It made him drunk and delirious feeling so many bodies, humans and vampires alike, so angry. Jack stood idly by and watched his sire take in the moment. This is what it meant to be a true Prince . Having true power over vampires and humans alike is what truly made Prince Lecter a pinnacle within the Masquerade. Not only did he take in the waves of fury, he absolutely desired more of it. Perhaps it was his hubris that made him so greedy. However, this was Lecter’s kingdom. None who dares to defy his judgment would halt this trial or those that’ll come after it. The crowd chanted his name and hollered for justice and Hannibal turned to Jack.

 

“The punishment is a final death .”, he announced. “An act of mercy, if you will.”

 

     The vampire man looked around hysterically and begged as the gag was ripped from him and someone from behind picked him up by his shoulders. The guard had dropped him on the edge of the stage. The other one, the childe , was brought back and was tossed aside as Jack Crawford came into view. His shadow encroached upon the vampire and the crowd hushed. Time seemed to slow as the vampire took one last glance at the human he turned before that cleaver lopped his head off. There was no time to scream or protest innocence. Dark, gooey black blood sprayed everywhere as the crowd was covered with it. The childe had collapsed against the arms that held him up as the blood splatter slowed and became fiery ashes. The theatre was illuminated with a hot, bright orange glow as the body combusted into flames then extinguished into ashes. Hannibal smiled as the ashes laid at his feet.

 

“Shall we continue?”, Hannibal asked coyly.

 

     The whole crowd erupted again in waves of cries, yells, and a deeper thirst for blood. Hannibal stepped off the stage to allow more of his goonies to gather up the ashes. He will keep them for now. It will remind those not to commit the same act that poor sod did. He walked himself backstage and was met with glorious amounts of refreshments. The crowd will need to settle down before the next one is sent to the chopping block. Too much blood and guts would leave them insatiable. Hannibal sipped some fine cognac and relaxed himself into the velvety cushions he was seated on.

 


     Will Graham wasn’t a typical man nor did he had any outstanding qualities. He was the perfect example of what happens when you mix hard liquor, pain medication, and a scrambled mind then place it into a human. Life wasn’t always so bad for poor Will Graham. He grew up with parents and a decent house, went to a decent school, almost married a decent girl. It wasn’t enough for Will Graham. It was never enough for him. He couldn’t picture himself working in a cubicle and coming home to three obnoxious kids and a dog. He didn’t know why he imagined three kids let alone a dog but, he knew he didn’t want it.

 

     He called Baltimore home. It was an unforgiving place but, it offered him more to life than anything back in Louisiana. It was always cold when Will stood on the corner, a drag of a cigarette between his glossy lips, and a crave for something deeper. This wasn’t the first time Will had to whore his body on a frigid winter evening. It wasn’t like he was ugly. He was up in age yes but, when his face was shaved it was like he skipped a few decades. His chocolate curls that hung around his jawline made him seem more boyish and for whatever sick reason, it blessed him with more clients. His clothes were plain enough besides the jackets he bundled himself up with. At first glance, you’d never suspect Will was looking for a client. It was a bonus not to have cops breathing down your neck when he wasn’t showing more skin.

 

     Just as he was about to turn in for the evening, a car crept towards his corner. It was an older style Cadillac with chipped paint but, very expensive-looking rims. Will gave it a glance as the window was rolled down. A nice, chiseled looking man with dyed hair and thinning beard whistled at him. He was covered in tattoos to the point Will believed that the man probably had tattoos inside his body as well. In reality, Will wanted to run and hide away from the world but, if his cravings and rumbling stomach wasn’t a motivator then he didn’t know what. He turned completely around and tried his best to smile.

 

“Hey, looking for a date?”, Will slurred as he took in the smell of marijuana, sweat, and something else foul in the car.

 

     The man laughed and pulled a bundle of cash from his person. It was a thick wad of cash and Will glanced at it hungrily. That amount of cash would’ve equaled to half a dozen clients in one night and as far as Will was concerned, he laid underneath too many johns to past the offer.The man unlocked the passenger side and he slipped in. There wasn’t anyone around when the car sped off into the murky night of Baltimore. Will sat back as the man dropped the wad of cash into his lap. He kept smiling at Will and the young man couldn’t help but feel nauseous. With so much cash given to him up front, what would be expected of him for the night. He’d been with rough clients in the past, some who got the thrill beating the living hell out of Will while others held him captive to their perverted fantasies. He’d grown accustomed to the pain though Will suspected it was the opioid abuse.

 

     It was a short drive to an apartment complex the client pulled up into. It was a classic red brick apartment with a dozen or so windows stacked closely together. Will examined his surroundings only to find not even a street cat around. He was quickly ushered in by his john and into an apartment.

 

     Will had thought the car smelled bad when he was introduced into the space. It smelled heavily of weed and real bad incense. There was rugs everywhere . Some had foreign patterns while others were a solid color. Will noticed the numerous amounts of bongs and other paraphernalia scattered amongst the apartment. Bookshelves filled with books and jars filled with suspicious items covered nearly every wall. The paint was chipped on all walls of the apartment and Will could faintly smell rat piss in the air. He took off  one of his coats and laid it against a nearby chair. His client had disappeared into the back of the apartment. His heart began to race and thump around in his chest. He hardly ever went into a john’s home. He preferred staying under a streetlight in case he had to hop out. All sorts of thoughts coursed through his head. Will calmed a little as he heard water running in the back. He walked towards the only window not covered in newspaper to look at Baltimore. He grew fond of the city even though it was an unforgiving pimp. It beat and hollered at him no matter what he did right or wrong. It robbed him of his earnings and spat him back out into the hard, unforgiving streets. He had nothing left in Louisiana nor did he ever want to see anyone he knew from there ever again. It was nothing but mosquitoes and painful memories left there.

 

     His john, who introduced himself as Mateo , had offered him some questionable looking mushrooms from his own cache and Will politely declined. He wasn’t of the garden variety. Mateo then offered him something to drink along with familiar, long white pills. Xanax was a luxury for Will. He didn’t do any kind of street drug that left him too fucked up in the morning but, xanax was an exception. He gobbled them down with a swig of cheap beer and found himself laid out on the nearby futon. When he was like this, nothing in the world seemed to bother him. It felt as if he was drifting out into sea to never be found again. He wanted to feel the waves swallow him and his ship whole. He didn’t even register Mateo over him and attacking his skin with wet kisses.

 

He didn’t even care.

 

     Will just surfed his waves of buzzed euphoria as he was ravished from head to toe. His body took gear and performed its duty but, his mind was like caramel being slowly poured. Though his appearance was rather on the freakish side, Mateo was a gentle lover. He lapped and mouthed at every inch Will’s body offered. He swallowed an entire nipple before slipping his hands where Will felt the most intimate. Will’s body reacted accordingly as it was trained to do. The night continued with hard then soft fucking followed with more foreplay and soft whispers. Will paid Mateo no mind. He felt livid ...

 

 

     As the night dragged on and Will found himself in and out of sleep, something spooked him. He tried to get up but was encaged around Mateo. Something hot and piercing made his entire neck and shoulder engulf in hot flame. He tried to reach out for anything he could grab but, he felt his arm being pulled back to his body. He was paralyzed . All he could feel is a hot, rushing feeling invade his body. A scream erupted from his throat as Mateo was on top of him again. He was slurping and lapping at Will’s neck as the younger, smaller body tried to push him off. It was no use. Will felt himself slipping as he flopped onto the floor with Mateo still latched onto him. His hands found the beer he had early and he cracked it on Mateo’s back. To his surprise and his awe, it had no effect.

 

     His whole body gave out as Will laid there. He gasped for breaths as Mateo finally freed himself from Will’s flesh. His bloodied mouth had bits of flesh in between his jeweled teeth and the man grinned at him. He then saw two, elongated fangs protrude from his client’s gums. His whole being seized up. His muscles retracted and froze like frostbite. He heard the stories from the others who walked the streets of dead things that’d suck your blood then throw you in the trash. Will didn’t want to believe it. He grew up with older cousins trying to scare him with stories of the Sasquatch, Boogieman, and even Bloody Mary but, he never fell for their tricks. Now, a real life monster just ripped his throat open. He reached up weakly to the figure in his blackening vision. Mateo smiled and came closer to him. He took another sip from Will's throat before the young man slipped into the bliss of unconsciousness…


     When Will woke again, he was bundled in the sheets of a bed. He shot up and look around. He wasn’t in the same room he remembered and he panicked. He was about to rush out of the bed till a tingling sensation crept over his entire shoulder. He hissed at the dull pain and felt where the pain was coming from. Two raised wounds met Will’s fingertips and he jumped back. It was tender yet still hard to touch. He yelped when a figure next to him rolled over. It was Mateo. His mouth was still bloodied from when he attacked Will and the young man had the nerve to strangle him. But, something else was different . Though there was only the rain tapping against the window sill, Will could hear people talking . It was like a dozen different people screaming, crying, and whispering in his head all at once. Heavy heartbeats, shallow heartbeats, Will was certain he could smell someone’s heart beating. A baby wailed in the distance, a car alarm blared in the distance, and a woman crying echoed and swirled around his headcage. Will cuddled into a ball and tried to plug his ears.

 

It was unbearable.

 

     Will found himself crying as the voices screamed bitterly at one another then turned their aggression towards Will. They rattled around in his head so hard that Will’s ear begin to rang.

 

“Husha bye baby, hush quite a lot bad babies get rabies and have to be shot.”, one voice cooed.

 

“Fuck, I got my tongue in a dog’s arse!”, another one jested loudly.

 

“How many men does it take to screw in a lightbulb? None! Because I FUCKING killed them!”, one voice screamed.

 

     A strong arm came across his body and the voices hushed into a soft humming noise. Will glanced from the corner of his eye and saw Mateo’s hairy, inked arm around him. He sniffled but said nothing. It sounded like static when he looked upon Mateo but, the moment he blinked his eyes the voices came rushing back. Like an angry tidal wave of curses and demeaning language.

 

“He did this to YOU . YOU, YOU. YOU. ”, the voices chanted in unison.

 

Kill. Kill. Kill the rabbit. Boil him into a stew.

 

     Will closed his eyes and tried to get his head to quiet down. It was impossible. He thought of it as a hallucination from the xanax or his own mind playing tricks on him but, as his mind continued to chatter the more he grew afraid of himself. Another arm enclosed him again and Will accepted the embrace. He was like a frightened sheep in the wolf’s den. Where could he go? He was sure that he’d died bleeding out on a dirty carpet in some freako’s apartment. Yet against all odds, Will was very much alive. A twisted lady luck was to Will.

 

     With the voices quieted down, Will was lulled again into a slumber. It was interrupted when the front door was mowed down and Will woke up screaming. Something hard stabbed into his chest as he was dragged from the bed along with Mateo. His chest felt like an elephant had sat down on him as his whole body felt like lead. Blood came rushing up from his throat and he began to spew like a fountain. He couldn’t move nor could he do anything but be dragged. Down the stairs their kidnappers gagged and bound them then, threw them into the back of some kind of van. His head jostled around like if it was cracked like an egg given that his assaulters weren’t of a gentle type. No one in the apartment complex came to their aid. Some peeked their hauntingly benign eyes from their doors while others stood silently in the hallway. Even outside not a single soul protested. The rough treatment left Will shaking while Mateo look at him with deep, sorrowful eyes.

 

You’re going to be alright .

 

     Will was sure that he’d heard Mateo talking to him as he stared at his one night lover. Nothing could explain his new found adoration for the man that ripped into his throat hours prior. The ride was insufferable yet, Will calmed when he looked at Mateo. Whatever this newly found affection was, he didn’t mind. When he looked at Mateo, a wave of peace cooled his core. He kept his eyes on him as the van finally slowed down some time later. The back was opened and again, both him and Mateo was dragged out into the night. The rain soaked Will’s half naked body as they were quickly ushered inside some building. It was dark and dank as they were forced to sit down. Will turned his head to every voice. Most were in a language he felt like he knew but, he was incapable of understanding. Mateo, on the other hand, sat in silence. The younger man turned to him and saw the sweat bead up on tanned, tattooed skin. He too began to worry as they both could hear commotion not to far away.

 

     It felt like a milenina when the kidnappers came back and dragged Mateo and Will from the back of the building. They werent gentle at all and when they spoke, it was harsh and hard to understand. He couldn’t fight against their monstrous grip. They were met by a large, deep red curtain in front of them and could hear someone talking . Will was sure it wasn’t the voices now plaguing his skull. It was someone with a beautiful accent. The voice sounded clear and eloquent as a crowd roared in fury. Thats when Will’s heart sank.

 

Death. Death. Death. Death. Here it comes. Death. Death. Death.” , his mind cage rattled.

 

     The curtain was lifted and Will was blinded by bright lights. He squinted and turned his head away from them but, couldn’t help but pin his eyes on the figure dressed in black and maroon. Silver hair that looked like strands of moonlight caught Will’s attention first while Mateo almost vomited. Will was no longer paying attention to his  fellow prisoner. He was so entranced with that stalwart, beautiful figure he didn’t even recognize the giant sword lopping Mateo’s head off. It flew practically off the stage. Will saw Mateo’s eyes follow him as his head landed hard on the wooden stage. He began to cry hysterically as blackened blood oozed everywhere. The crowd went absolutely mad as Mateo’s body burst into flames. The figure Will was so astonished by glared at him with hungry eyes and the young man felt his whole body gave out. He fell forward and his eyes fluttered. The crowd yelled profanities at him in all sorts of languages. His head was aching as he closed his eyes.

 

 

     He could no longer hear the crowd or smell the mold of the building. His whole mind isolated itself like it was so well-trained to do. He wanted to sleep and never wake up. He prayed to himself as the cool wave of unconsciousness lapped at him...

 

 

Chapter Text

II
“First Lessons”


 

 

Will regained his consciousness as he too was dragged to the edge of the stage where his sire was culled. He could still see the ash stained into the floorboards and he caught himself gagging. It smelled just as bad as it looked. The coagulated blood that stained the old floorboards rubbed against Will’s cheek as he was held down. It was like dark, chunky jello on the floor. It smelled of guts and gore galore. Behind his gag he had to keep himself from retching. The audience demanded his head and grew louder every chant. He looked up the man in the dark suit and pleaded with his eyes. He didn’t want to die. He still had much to live for. Hell, life hadn’t been so patient or kind with him neither as was he but, he knew he didn’t want his head lopped off. As he stared his impending death in its twisted face, his mind began to whisper once more.

 

Judge, jury, aristocrat.”, one of the voices chided softly.

 

His head was throbbing. He didn’t like this. Why did he have to jump into that car? He should’ve known it was going to be trouble. No one that drives such a low-grade, messed up vehicle with decent rims should have that much money in Baltimore. All his instincts warned him not to enter that car yet the enticement of dollar bills lured him in. He should’ve been more careful and vigilant.

 

The crowd hushed once more as the Prince gestured them for their silence. He looked upon the fledgling on his knees and scowled. It was a look of utter disgust and Will didn’t need a brain to comprehend that one. His father had given him the same look once upon a time. Will remembered it clearly. It was a hot day that summer, almost unbearable if you didn’t have air conditioning. He’d been sitting on the porch with bruised knees while his cousins ran freely around the yard. He couldn’t have been no older than sixteen or seventeen at the time. He coaxed a bloodied nose with a dishrag as he tapped his foot impatiently on the creaky, old wooden floorboards of his home’s porch. He loathed summer. All of his cousins, though younger than him but of better build, haunted their house for days upon days. Of course, Will being an only child, didn’t like the intrusion. They were cruel. His cousins would beat and attack him out of the prying eyes of the neighborhood. The twins; John and Robert, were particularly vicious. They would hold Will down by his arms and force mud into his mouth. Other times they would kick the shit out of him till one of the other cousins found an adult.

 

This time in particular, John and Robert had followed Will to the pond behind the house. It was some ways away from the house but, it was Will’s only salvation when the house felt too crowded . It wasn’t much. Mosquitoes swarmed the small body of water like flies on cow manure. It was filled with bright green algae and sometimes Will could swear it looked like a nuclear pit because of how green it was. Other times he swore the creature of the black lagoon would snatch him. He was sitting on the water’s edge when he felt a pair of rough, abusive hands yank him from behind and drag him from the edge. He was flipped over onto his bank and Will hollered bloody murder. His arms went out in front of him to try to grab anything that’d give him leverage from his attackers. A knee rested on his back and Will heard the zip of zipper. At first he didn’t understand till he felt the sharp, burning pain travelling down his back. He didn’t know what to make of it as he screamed and hollered for anyone. He did hope that whatever lurked in the algae-filled pool would reveal itself and save him. When no help came, he closed his eyes and sank his face further into the mud. That was the first time.

 

It happened twice after that. Will couldn’t recollect the other times. He drowned it with his father’s whiskey and whatever his mother had in her medicine cabinet. Now he sat on the porch with a bloody nose and bruised knees, listening to the soft rock playing from within the house, and watching his older and younger cousins flock around in the front yard. He was jittery but at the same time, lax. He saw John and Robert across the yard tackling one another in a game of football. Some kids from the neighborhood had joined in the sport, their sweaty bodies colliding in a craze of dirty flesh and hypermasculinity. His parents were inside. His father was sitting in his recliner reading one of his hunting magazines while his mother, aunt, and a few other ladies from the neighborhood was cooking up a storm in the kitchen. The teen could smell the fried, greasy meats which the South fattened itself on. His stomach churned as he sat on the porch.

 

He couldn’t take it anymore . He rose shakily to his feet and stepped off the porch. Along the walkway of his house, he grasped a bulky, jagged rock and held it behind his back. As he got closer to the game of football, John had stopped with the ball in his hands. The other kids turned and mocked Will with all sorts of discriminating slurs. Will didn’t register their presence when he smashed the rock into John’s face. He fell on top of him and continued to bash his face in. Flesh slinged into the grass as the other kids and his cousins tried to pull him off. He kept swinging with all his fury. His eyes welled with tears as he smashed John’s face. When he finally was alleviated off of John, the boy was hardly recognizable. His nose and mouth looked like a bloodied jigsaw puzzle. His brown, manure-colored eyes pooled red and his teeth bubbled in his throat. Robert was nowhere in sight when the adults rushed from the house. His father, what a bear of a man he was, wielded his shotgun while his mother screamed and hollered like she’d just been possessed by the devil. The entire neighborhood was roused as cruisers came to the house in a tirade of screeching sirens. Time came to a halt as Will stood there with the rock still in his grasp and his bruised knees. It was only when he was shoved into the back of a police cruiser did he wake from his trance. The last look of his family was of disbandment and scorn. His father’s face was twisted with disgust and rage as he was escorted away. He know he wouldn’t ever forgive him.

 

Will snapped from his reminiscence and registered where he was again. The same giant-like figure that murdered his progenitor was soon behind him with his monstrous sword  raised high. The entire crowd gasped in childish glee and awaited for the sword to swing. Will closed his eyes and slowed his breathing. He could say he had a decent life. His childhood was messy but, he was sure it was the best he could get. There would be no need for a funeral. If his body was to combust like Mateo’s, he wouldn’t want them scooped into some fancy urn and placed onto a mantle. He didn’t want to be remembered .

 

“As we all know, it’s a crime against us Kindred to embrace mortals without express permission.”, the Prince began to say.

 

Will looked up at him again. Kindred . It sounded awful when Will’s head tried to rattle the word around his head. It rang like an old telephone, over, and over again. He hardly knew what the word meant given that his only memories of the night was like TV static. He swallowed hard and looked at the audience again. They were people of all types but, when Will really looked he was in utter horror. There was ugly, deformed looking people with discolored skin and gnarly teeth. There was some that looked like human gorillas with their protruding muscles and freakish appearance. Others was some of the most beautiful people Will had ever seen. In fact, he was sure nobody could be that beautiful. He tried to look away but, everything around him made him panic. He struggled and squirmed in his chains but to no avail, he only made blood bead from his wrists.

 

“A childe without a sire is destined to walk the earth with no purpose or responsibility. Most importantly, not knowing our laws or customs.”, the sword was raised higher as the Prince trailed off.

 

The silver on the blade was still wet with his progenitor’s blood as Will watched the blade raise higher and higher till it casted a long, thin shadow above him. He held his breath as the crowd hollered and belittled him. They called at him in a foreign language that Will knew he couldn’t speak yet, he understood them. His head hung as he counted the seconds till inevitably, his life would be cut short.

 

He kneeled down to where Will was trembling and placed a hand on his back. The young man rose his head as dark, bloody tears streamed down his cheeks. For a moment, it felt as though they’d understood each other. Prince Lecter wiped a tear with the pad of his thumb and leaned in closer.

 

“Forgive me.”, he whispered then proceeded to stand on his feet. Will watched him step away and looked up to the Prince’s executioner once again. A small gasp escaped his lips as his head snapped back to look at the floor. Those boiling, fierce eyes the executioner had in his skull made Will’s head rattle like marbles. He’d never seen anything so terrifying in his life.

 

Off with her head.

 

“Therefore, I purpose…”, a shrill cry from the crowd stopped the Prince’s dialogue.


“You can’t do this you son of a bitch!”, a rugged man yelled as two of his companions, a man and a woman tried to hold him back. He was rough-looking; his denim torn and stained with dark, black spots. His hair looked greasy against his forehead. Yet he was a boiling pit of anger and that could be felt in the theatre.

 

The crowd around him booed and snarled at him as the man and his companions bared their fangs back. A flash of teeth and several pairs of claw-like talons filled the audience as the man glared back at the Prince. He knew of him. The Prince gave him a thin, strained smile as the audience voiced their uproars.

 

“Ashes, ashes, we all fall downnnn….”, a child’s voice whispered eerily in Will’s mind-cage.

 

“Matthew Brown, I didn’t think you’d accept my invite.”, the Prince jested, licking his pale tongue over his teeth as he smiled. He then furled his eyebrows when he looked back down at Will.

 

“If you would’ve let me finish…I’m letting this childe live. They’ll be instructed in our ways and customs for a greater purpose.”

 

The entire theatre hushed quiet. A dead silence washed over the entire theatre as some held their frustrations in their mouths. Who would dare to speak ill to their liege? Prince Lecter’s words are and forevermore will be law . Will looked up and quietly laughed. He didn’t think he was laughing till the Prince looked down at him again. He didn’t know what possessed him to laugh but, he was overwhelmingly joyful . He crinkled his nose as he gestured for his monster of a bodyguard to lower his sword. The man who’d caused the interruption left the theatre in a red, heated flush as his companions followed suit. Will had caught a glimpse at the man who saved him from impending death and silently thanked him.

 

“I thank you all for coming. I hope the significance wasn’t lost tonight.”

 

With that, the audience rose in unison and proceeded to leave the murky, damp-smelling theatre. The stage was cleared except for the Prince and his bodyguard. Will’s bindings and gag were cut from him and he rose up with shaky legs. He took a glance at the Prince and lingered there. He had no idea what to do. Hell, what was he supposed to do? Was he supposed to run? If he did, where would he run to? The childe was ushered to follow as the Prince waltzed away from him. He was led off the stage and towards the back. It was only him and the Prince now in the grey hallway. Roaches crawled on the walls while dozens upon dozens of old abandoned stage props littered the way. Old productions, gone were their glitz and glamour, was remnants of what happens when theatre dies. Will found their printed eyes haunting as he passed.

 

“There are some rules which all Kindred must adhere to. Those who break our laws undermine all the work we have made.”, Prince Lecter began as he stood in front of the door leading to the night outside.

 

Will swallowed hard as he blankly stared at the Prince. He was a chiseled beauty. His skin was sun-kissed and creased with wrinkles but, he was unnervingly handsome. A well-dressed man with a mouth filled with sharp, canine-like ivories. He was enthralling, sure, if you didn’t know how dangerous he was behind expensive cologne and a chiseled jawline.

 

“First lesson, show your respect to your betters.”, the Prince said scornfully, pointing his finger down to the floor.

 

The childe hesitated but, lowered himself down on one knee and kept his eyes down The obnoxious voices in his head rattled and drummed for him to be defiant and loud but, Will found himself kneeling down and kissing the black, shiny leather of the Prince’s shoe. He raised his eyes and through his thick lashes he felt the stinging rays of the Prince’s. He swallowed as he knelt there. Hannibal ushered for him to rise with his finger and the childe rose. An air of silence hushed between them. Will nervously faked a cough and the Prince arched an eyebrow. How cynical he was.

 

“From this night forth, I own you.”, the Prince hissed, a viciousness behind his tone. “You’ll follow every order I say or I’ll revoke your armistice and dispose of you.”

 

Will nodded his head out of both fear and spite given that he’d rather die than be cursed with his unearthly affliction.

 

“You’ll meet with a Frederick Chilton once you leave here. He’ll have work for you to do.”, the Prince said as he approached Will. He was close enough that Will swore he could feel his heartbeat, not that he thought Prince Lecter had one but, he swore he felt one. Lecter took an inhale of Will and smiled darkly.

“You have much to learn, childe. Dont disappoint me.”

 

With that, the Prince disappeared along the spanse of the grey hallway and Will was left staring blankly at the door. He looked behind him but, the Prince was gone . As if he was made of air and disappeared. Will swallowed hard and reached for the door, pushing it, and stepping forward. The cold, bitter night of Baltimore was filled with blaring car alarms, people screaming, and the bustle of cars zooming down the street. Will could hear everything . He heard the rats scurrying in the sewers, he heard the water rushing in the pipes, and a thousand heartbeats drumming in his ears. It was surreal. Smells he could never smell infiltrated his nostrils and made him gag. He knew the city smelled but, this is straight decay . His eyes could see better than ever. He had no need of his glasses as he flung them off his face and into the asphalt. His newly found senses was good and all till he was interrupted by a strong yet delicate touch on his arm. He was spooked as he jerked his arm away. He turned and spotted the source and froze. A man in his mid-thirties, tightly curled hair, and wearing leather leaned against the wet wall nearby. He had a cigarette trapped between his lips as he lit it. The thin trail of smoke wrapped around in the air like a bow on a present. Will stood there blankly.

 

“I assume you’re the fledgling .”, the man commented, looking Will up and down with unimpressed eyes.

 

“If that is my title, I wish to relinquish it.”, Will heard himself saying. He was confused. He’d never say anything like that. He raised a finger to his lips and pursed them.

 

“Woooow…”, the man said coyly. “It isn’t every night I have to deal with a Malkavian .”

 

Will tilted his head and paused for a moment. He didn’t know what a Malkavian was but he assumed it was his title. He approached the man questioningly and before he could ask anymore questions, he was met with a puff of smoke to his face. He wrinkled his nose.

 

“Zeller.”, the man held out his hand. It was rough looking with blisters and cuts on his palms. He had rings on his fingers in shapes of crosses and skulls and Will reluctantly shook his hand. The grip was strong and Will snapped his hand back. “Brian Zeller.”

 

Will hesitated for a moment. He swallowed dryly as Zeller dug his hands into the pockets of his torn leather jacket. He retrieved a pair of keys and spun them around his finger.

 

“Well, aren’t you going to tell me your name?”, he beamed at Will.

 

The childe rolled his lips into a thin frown and began to turn around when he felt the lingering presence of Zeller’s eyes on his back. He just wanted to go anywhere but here. He had enough for a night. He craved a nice, warm bed where he could sleep till the world ends. As he was about to reach the end of the building, he paused. He held a hand to his throat and tried to swallow. It was as dry as sand and burned like hot flame. He didn’t have any saliva in his mouth to coax the burning heat in his esophagus. A pair of elongated, crooked fangs poked from his gums as he covered his mouth glancing back to where Zeller stood. He was still spinning the keys on his keychain.

 

“What deplorable affliction has come upon me, wicked fiend?”, Will begged. “Why do I thirst but, not for water or wine?”

 

Zeller slid the keys back into his pocket and approached Will. He reached a hand out to touch Will’s back and the Malkavian bristled. Their eyes met for a moment and the fangs that poked viciously from Will’s gasping orifice retracted into their fleshy pouches. Zeller helped him to stand upright and slithered his long, hairy arm around him. His other hand pointed up at the night sky.

 

“Kid, you got much to learn about yourself.”, he chided and walked.

 

They walked together onto the street where people bustled and bumped into one another. Will could hear their thoughts. He heard the thoughts of grown men, dogs, and even infants being escorted in their carriages. Some voices whispered while others sang songs or yelled bitterly at one another. It was all very livid. Will bit his cheek to himself from showing his fangs. Brian held him tighter as they walked and walked throughout the night. He showed Will where the degenerates of the night crowded around their fiery trash pits to siphon warmth back into their bones. The Malkavian glanced at them hungrily. Their heart bumps thumped and jostled around in their chests. He found himself free from Zeller’s embrace as he made passage across the concrete river for which the street was. Brian had shouted something at him but, he didn’t register what it was. As he approached the group of individuals, most of them scattered from Will’s presence. Their stench was repulsive but, the blood flowing in those veins made Will’s appetite stirr.

 

A woman, dirty and disheveled, looked at Will as she was warming her hands in the fire. She dressed in tattered clothes ruined with grime as Will too joined her near the fire. His hands which were unforgivingly cold hovered over the fire for a moment as Brian caught up with him, huffing and puffing. He said something in the same language Will heard in the theatre but, how was he supposed to understand. The woman grew unnerved as she looked Brian up and down. She had began to back away from the fire till Will took a large step to the other side. She was startled by his presence.

 

“I don’t know what ‘ya doin’ around here but, you outta scat!”, the woman hollered at them as she tried to shuffle her way into the alley.

 

Will didn’t allow her to. He was close behind when he grabbed her by her shoulders and flung her face first into the grimy brick wall. She groaned and tried to recuperate herself on the ground as Brian stood there and observed. He shifted a cigarette out the pack as he watched Will pin her against the wall and open his mouth like a gaping alligator. Fang met flesh as the blood-curdling cry of the woman was drowned by the late night traffic of Baltimore’s never sleeping cicadas. He ripped and tore flesh as he slurped. Once the woman stopped screaming and Will’s fangs slid back into his gums did she crumple to the asphalt. The childe backed up shakily and kept a hand over his mouth. The taste was divine . Will licked the blood between his fingers as he turned to Brian.

 

“Well kiddo, that was your first lesson.”, Brain told him as he flicked the cigarette away.

 

Will smiled gleefully as he licked the rest of the blood off his hands. The dryness in his throat had subsided and he felt full . He never had tasted something that made him satisfied. He secretly starved for more.

 

“Welcome to Baltimore, kid .”

 


 

 

The crackling sound of the fireplace was his only solace from the annoying presence of his house servants. They didn’t vocalize but, the Prince could hear their rapacious thoughts swirling in their heads. Maids scrubbed the carpet of blood and gore as other servants resetted the furniture and cleaned. The Prince tapped his finger gently on the arm of his suede chair. Bedelia had long left his presence and retired to the Prince’s bedroom yet, he was still awake. The sun would kiss the horizon again and Hannibal’s skin prickled. He didn’t know why he was on edge or what about the trial made him so antsy he couldn’t retire to another dreamless sleep. Like a fog of uneasiness wafted around him as he sat there gazing at the flames.

 

Something wasn’t right .

 

Hannibal rose from his chair and walked out from his office and into the hallway. His footsteps was deft to the ears of many. He slid his hands along the wall as he approached his bedroom. He pushed the door and it creaked noisily as it gaped. Bedelia laid fast asleep underneath his bed sheets, blissful and unaware. He slid in next to her and inhaled her smell. She smelled of sex and some perfume that overwhelmed Hannibal’s olfactory sense. He held his breath as he slid in his length back into her that earned him a soft, breathy sigh from her lips. She didn’t wake but, Hannibal wrapped his arms around her. He listened to her heart beat pump through her jugular and nestled his face into her neck. Bedelia was human, however, Hannibal was fond of her presence. She didn’t bore or tire him. She was just as cynical if not zealous to practice the laws of the Camarilla. She never asked to be embraced or ask for a greater role within Kindred society but, Hannibal found her useful as his advisor. He drew small circles in the curve of her hip as they laid there together. The room was eerily dark and cool as Hannibal had all of his windows equipped to keep the blinds shut till after sunset. He didn’t care much for coffins given that he’d been staked too many times in a lifetime.

 

As he laid there in complete silence he couldn’t help but think about the fledgling . A nervous wreck with deep, stormy eyes and a mind filled with capricious thoughts. He was at his mercy but, Hannibal couldn’t compel himself to execute him. There was something far more greater in the fledgling that Hannibal had saw as the crowd jeered and demanded of him to take his head. He didn’t know what it was but it gnawed at him and dug thorns into his side. He withdrew himself from Bedelia once more and sat completely up. With a mind heavy in thought, Hannibal cupped his face in his hands. Bedelia woke up and laid a hand on her cold lover. He didn’t retract from the touch as the mortal woman laid soft kisses up and down his shoulder.

 

A fledgling destined for greatness or his own demise ?

 

“What troubles you, my liege?”, Bedelia whispered. “Is it the trial?”

 

Hannibal caught her by her chin and laid a soft kiss on the bridge of her nose. She giggled softly and used her other hand to cusp his cheek and ran a finger along his cheekbone.

 

“I’m just tired, my darling .”, Hannibal replied. “Return to your slumber.”

 

Bedelia nodded and scooted over. She wrapped the blanket over her curvaceous body and retired. Hannibal had her underneath his thumb. His powers over domination and manipulation was mastered with perfection. He could control human and Kindred alike. A flick of a finger or a smile could make someone melt into Hannibal’s hands. In the case of Bedelia, sweet words and a good fuck made her a slave to Hannibal’s devices. He laid back and closed his eyes. Things were going to change in Baltimore. The Camarilla already was whispering of ominous, powerful magics from across the world that enticed royalty such as Hannibal. He cared little for the politics which the Camarilla adhered him to but, to grasp power by its neck and wring it dry was his ultimate desire. He no longer  desired “Prince” as his title.

 

He wanted to be known as God.

Chapter Text

III

“Start Of A New Day”


 

 

Will had feasted on two other humans before Brian grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and dragged him through the mazes of Baltimore’s buildings was constructed as. He didn’t kill his prey as Brain had warned him. He had said that to kill humans was against the laws of the Masquerade and could cost him his head again . Will didn’t understand every law but Brian assured him he would. They went into a run-down, red brick building and upstairs. It was faintly remembered as Brian held Will as he unlocked the apartment door. The apartment was dark and smelled of ammonia. Brian had let go off his claw-like grip off Will and rested his hands on his hips. He flipped on a light switch. The apartment was illuminated with bright, yellowish light. Will winced at the sudden brightness but, Brian just stood near the door. He let out a big exhale as the fledgling looked around the apartment. He remembered this place. He was brought here hours ago by his sire . The drugs had been discarded as much of the furniture looked somewhat new. There was a computer in the far right corner that hummed softly. It didn’t smell so musty as before.

 

“Well kid, home sweet home.”, Brian commented. “It’s not much but, you’ll get used to it.”

 

Will went to the window that wasn't plastered with newspaper and looked down. He saw people going in and out of the buildings nearby in a hurried frenzy. Some old while others were young and fair. Where could they possibly be going at this time of night? Will could hear the faint beatings of their hearts and the breath being exhaled from their lungs. They all looked delicious . Will bit his lip in anticipation. Brian had warned him not to overfeed. It would cause him to be lazy and fat. For a vampire being lazy and fat meant you were easier to be staked . Will drew a smiley face on the window as it fogged.

 

“I don’t think I need to tell you this but, don't go out when the sun’s up.”, Zeller said. “You don’t want to sizzle.”

 

Will turned away from the window and raised a brow to Zeller. He may not understand his immortality but, he wasn’t a fool . He still remembered the burnt, decay smell of his progenitor deep within his head. It was like the burnt charr after a BBQ. He didn’t wish to end the same way. He pulled himself from the window and crept towards the back part of the apartment. Zeller, who was becoming annoyingly persistent , whistled for Will again. The fledgling groaned but turned around to face him.

 

“You pester me with your constant ramblings, guardian.”, Will complained. “Why do you continue to molest my attention? Surely I am not dense enough t-”

 

“If it wasn't for me, your guardian , your sorry ass would’ve been staked .”, Zeller gritted out.

 

He turned on his heels and stormed to the door. Will felt the bubbling irritation Zeller exfoliated around him. Did he offend him? Brian gave one last look to the fledgling and swung the door open.

 

“Good night, fledgling .”

 

Will winced when the door slammed and some dishes in the open cupboard clattered onto the floor. Shards of cheap porcelain scattered on the floor in a crescendo of tings . Will looked at the shattered plates and sighed. This was all too much to take in. He craved to crawl into a bed and never wake again. A casket adorned with jewels and lace to bury him into the earth. His legs compelled him to waltz to the back bedroom. The mess would have to wait. Like most of the apartment, the previous occupant’s furnishings had been removed and placed with generic versions of them. Will went to the window to open the curtains but stared blankly at towers of bricks covering a otherwise beautiful view. He drew the curtains back together and spotted a small, metal-framed bed. It wasn’t much but it lured Will to its plush covers. He crawled in and sighed in relief. The voices quieted as he felt he was melting deeper and deeper into the mattress.

 

The events of the night became nothing more than swirls of innate thoughts as Will dreamt. He tossed over on his side. His mouth grew dry like it did earlier when he craved but, he kept his eyes squeezed shut. An hour went by till he gave into his cravings and leaped from the covers. His bare feet padded softly on the floor as he went into the darkened kitchen. He felt around for the refrigerator and once his hand wrapped around the handle, he pulled it free. The bright light of the fridge’s light blinded Will’s drowsy eyes but, his bounty gleamed within. Blood packs filled both shelves to the brim and Will beamed in delight. He reached in and ripped the plastic cork free from the bag. He poured the rich, life force into his mouth. It dripped and oozed along the corners of his lips then continued down his neck. Not even the finest scotch could taste as divine as Will hungrily devoured the blood bag. As he was about to reach for another one, the sound of something falling over spooked him. He spun around and was met with nothing but darkness.

 

His heart grew excited as his eyes frantically bounced at every shadowy figure in the open apartment. He heard a young girl laugh then a bicycle’s chime. He could smell fresh grass and feel it beneath his feet. It grew between his toes and up to his knees. Will tried to move himself forward but the grass that strangled his toes grew a tighter grip and he fell forward. He hit the floor with a soft thump but, the grass began to travel up his knees to his waist. He tried to crawl forward but, the grass was like vines. Their vice grip on Will’s waist strangled the breath out of him as his throat bubbled up the blood he’d just consumed. He reached up for help and someone caught his hand. His eyes followed up his arm and to his hand. His mouth hung agape as the scream in his throat fell silent. A grotesque, decaying boy with pus-filled eyes and maggots crawling from whatever used to be a mouth sputtered and croaked at Will. He was covered in mud, blood, and green algae as Will laid there entrapped by the grass. Teeth flowed out of the gaping pit of a mouth as he went down on his knees and looked at Will. The nasty gunk coming out of his mouth sprayed Will black and green and the fledgling vomited all the blood he had drunk.

 

“You did this to me.”, the boy accused him.

 

Maggots poured like an endless fountain as Will gagged and choked. The smell of pus, gore, and death made his head scream for relief as he was hostage to the mess. His face was cupped into a pair of rough, skeletal hands and Will stared into the orifice. The boy poured ooze all over the fledgling’s face till Will could feel himself drowning. He struggled and writhed but, the blackness filled his body and burned on the way down. His skin felt aflame as from the corner of his eye he could see his flesh peel and evaporate just like paper.  His body was engulfed in dark, black flame as the pain was too much and he hollered as the decaying boy backed away from him. He writhed and jerked around on the floor as his skin burned and his muscle tore away from his skeleton.

 

You deserve this .”



Will was startled awake by an alarm clock ringing nearby on the nightstand. He clutched his throat as the alarm clock chirped itself off. He reached for it with his other hand and looked at the time. He had slept well into the early evening. He threw the covers off his sweaty body and rose. He felt foreign . He had to dig his nails into his palms to register that he still had hands. The nightmare made his head hurt. He got up and stripped his dirty, sweaty clothes as he went into the bathroom. The spray of the hot, scorching shower made his skin pink but, he couldn’t feel the heat. There was a lot of things Will was learning about himself. Things he discovered already shook him to his core . The curse of immortality would leave him mourning for centuries over his loved ones. They would wither and become old as he would stay fair and lovely till the end of time. His voices, however, wasn’t of the forgiving sort. He couldn’t ever learn to forget them. They taunted, abused, and strangled every sane thought Will he had.

 

He turned off the shower and dried himself off. His hair hung wet and cold against his neck but it didn’t bother him. He glanced at himself in the mirror and traced his eyes on every feature of his body. His face was more gaunt and angular, his eyes deeper and sadder , and his body nothing more than a skeleton.

 

A sickening body to a sicker mind.

 

He retrieved some plain clothes from the dresser in the bedroom and padded down the hallway. A gnawing feeling nipped at him as he went into the kitchen. He opened the fridge door and found there was no blood bags like in his nightmare. He turned around at the sound of the front door unlocking. Brian came in with a plastic bag filled with something. He was dressed in black leather again. His hair was gelled high on his head and Will swore he could see eyeliner smudged under Brian’s eyes. He was surprised at Will’s presence just as Will was surprised at his. Brian dropped the bag onto the counter.

 

“Didn’t think you’d be up.”, Brian commented as he sorted things out the bag.

 

Will watched in silence as he observed Brian take out bag after bag of delicious, red nectar. His mouth watered at the sheer thought of having blood run down his throat. He shoved his hands into the jeans he was wearing and looked away.

 

“Look, kid. I’m sorry I snapped at ‘yah yesterday.”, Brian said as he brought the blood bags over in his arms. He held the fridge door open with his foot and shoved them all in.

 

“It was a long night.”

 

“No, I apologize.”, Will responded as he snatched a blood bag from the open fridge. “It was rash of me to accuse you of causing my distress. I was just tired.”

 

“Right….”

 

Brian put the last of the blood bags into the fridge and closed it. He grinned softly when he caught Will’s lips wrapped around the straw of a bag.

 

“Finish your breakfast, kid. Got a long night ahead of us.”

 

Will paused from his meal and looked confused at Brian.

 

“Where will you be accompanying me, dear guardian?”, Will asked.

 

“It’s the start of a new day, kid. You got a job to do.”

 

Brian began to leave the apartment and Will trailed on his heels. Out into the cold night of Baltimore Brian and Will was off again. The fledgling discarded his now empty blood bag into a nearby trashcan as they took their nightly voyage. Brian was rambling on about Baltimore’s landmarks for the undead but, Will’s ears only focused on the traffic of the city. He didn’t know why but, it was a calming sound. The hums and snarls of car engines as they blazed by made him comfortable . The world wasn’t a sheltering place. Will had that hard-wired into his skull many years ago. He didn’t know what the Prince wanted of him or this Masquerade that nearly had him killed but, he understood he didn’t want to become the scapegoat. Whatever this Prince wanted of him, he was going to do it his way. No longer would he be the sheep.

 

He was the wolf .


 

 

It was dreary and miserable near Baltimore’s main shipyard. Waves splashed hard against the docks and the cool night air didn’t make it any better. Ice had formed up on most of the docks which made it even harder to move about. Elliot shoved his hands deep into his coat as he made his rounds on top of one of the cargo ships. It was a new arrival from Europe. Most of its cargo had been inspected prior to Elliot’s arrival but, his supervisor forced him to check again. So here he was. He looked at the freights with a lazy, nonchalant inspector’s eye as he walked through the long corridors of them. He didn’t like his job or did he care much of it. He wanted to sing and dance at Christmas plays as an angel but, it didn’t pay the bills. He was stuck here in the middle of the night looking at stupid crates from a stupid country on this stupid planet. He tried to read some of their names but, it was a failed attempt. Just as he was about to turn around, his boots slipped and he found himself tumbling backwards. He hit his side on the hard, unforgiving deck of the ship and groaned. He picked himself up and cursed.

 

He made another round under the ship’s deck and into the cargo hold. She was wide and deep for a ship of her size. Elliot found himself grasping the angel pendant he had to keep hidden from his coworkers. They would mock and ridicule him for carrying something so weak . To him, it was a symbol of comfort. The hull of the ship was dark and musty. The cargo here was strapped down with dozens of restraints as if it would escape. Elliot checked the cargo as he passed for anything alive or suspicious. He came upon a particular crate that was long and covered with stickers. All the stickers had some sort of symbol on them as Elliot tried to comprehend what they meant. He ran one of his shaky hands along the crate and he swore it felt warm . He took a few paces back and gripped his angel pendant even tighter.

 

Something wasn’t right .

 

He was about to turn and run out of the hull when a sharp, burning pain erupted from his chest. His legs gave out and he caught himself with his hands. He looked down at his torso and watched in horror as his blood poured out from under him. A scream bubbled in his throat as some strong force yanked him backwards. He went flying as his eyes caught the crate now opened and some kind of sarcophagus was within. The sarcophagus was a golden yellow with cryptic symbols and writings on it. Elliot swore he saw one in some Egyptian documentary he watched some time ago. It opened violently and the last thing Elliot could remember was how his angel pendant looked so beautiful as it flew from off his neck. The crate closed with a loud creak as it rustled around then finally ceased . It was quiet under the ship. Blood oozed from the wood as the waves lapped at the sides of the boat.

 

Heaven has another angel .

 


 

The penthouse was empty with the exception of himself. Classic Mozart hummed within the empty halls and rooms of the penthouse. The help was sent home hours before the sunset. Bedelia was sent off to her own vices and Crawford stood vigilant outside of the Prince’s tower. On the other hand, Hannibal was hard at work in his state-of-the-art kitchen. It was all stainless steel with a love child of victorian and modernism. He slaved away with pots and pans of various delicacies he had in his pantry. He was a master when it came to the culinary arts. He had learned from the greatest of them all in every country he had conquered. He learned the art of cooking all sorts of meats. Now that he’d been bestowed his undeath, he had no need for food other than to eat out of boredom. His particular cut was of a lean type. Across the kitchen, a middle-aged man was strapped to the wall. He was in the nude with his stomach exposing his oozing intestines under the plastic cover Hannibal had laid under him. Delirious and in shock, the man didn’t scream or holler as Hannibal brought his carving blade towards him and took a piece of his forearm. It was a clean, thick slice of meat and Hannibal rolled it between his fingers then slid it down his throat. It was a sweet, syrupy taste Hannibal recalled as he licked the blood off his fingers.

 

As he came in for another slice, Crawford entered the kitchen. He held the house phone in his hand and approached his liege with it. Hannibal held the phone up to his ear as he gave the knife to Crawford. He listened to the voice on the other side eagerly. His grin turned into a frown and he nearly dropped the phone in disbelief. He squeezed it so tight it began to crack and wheeze under the pressure. Hannibal threw the phone across the kitchen and it shattered against the wall. Crawford went to pick the pieces up.

 

The Prince was writhing with anger. His hands felt like a ton of lead had been tied to them as his brows furrowed. He didn’t expect it to arrive so early. The cursed box had finally made its way to the mainland. The contents within was unknown to Hannibal and most of the royal court of the Camarilla but, Hannibal knew it was trouble . Yet, he desired that kind of trouble . He was tired of the charades and courtesies that came with being a Prince. He hungered to be greater than the Princes that came before him. If that kind of trouble could bring him the power he wanted, he wanted to drown in it.



“Jack, bring the car around.”, Hannibal ordered as Jack was picking up pieces of the broken phone.

 

He rose to his feet and bowed to his sire and took the pieces with him. The meat still strapped to his wall groaned and begged weakly for release. Hannibal stood there for a moment in his bloody apron. He stepped over where guts and gore pooled onto the cool plastic and pierced his hand into his victim’s gaping stomach. The man’s eyes bulged out of his skull as Hannibal reached up deeper till he felt the lifeless heart then gave it a squeeze. The familiar smell of burnt ash filled his nostrils as the corpse bloomed into bright hellfire. He retracted his hand and wiped it on his apron.

 

So the rat race begins.

 

He changed out of his bloody entire and into a fresh suit. Accompanied by his guards, Hannibal descended from the top floor to the bottom. The lobby was void of persons other than the guard posted at the check-in desk. It was faintly lit except for the lights above each elevator present. The other suites was personally rented out by Hannibal to keep undesirable voyeurs catching wind of his unearthly status. The guard at the desk was enraptured in some program playing softly on his mini television that he didn’t recognize Hannibal as he passed. He was a chubby man with coarse hair and beard. His face was covered in sweat, grease, and acne as Hannibal loomed over him. He nearly stumbled to his feet as he attempted to acknowledge the Prince.

 

“I-I’m sorry I d-didn’t ev-”, the man stuttered as he frantically tried to turn off the television.

 

“Franklyn, I want this building locked down till I return.”, Hannibal commanded with furrowed brows

 

Franklyn, the security guard, nodded very quickly as he managed the turn the television off. He swallowed hard as Hannibal gave him one last frustrated, disgusted look before being escorted to the parking garage. Franklyn watched the Prince leave with trembling eyes. He was deathly afraid of the Prince as everyone in the world should be. He grabbed his bundle of keys off his crumble-filled desk and started to make his first round of the lobby.

 

What a night , Franklyn thought as he double-locked the lobby doors and proceeded to punch in the security code.

 

He returned to his desk to further lock down the building. He hardly ever saw Prince Lecter except the few times when he had parties in his penthouse above. His guests were beautiful when Franklyn saw them. Exotic women wearing exotic clothes made Franklyn warm in the breeches. He secretly wished one day that he would be invited to one of those parties. He finished locking down all the entrances and exits of the tower. The guard sighed in relief as he sat back down and turned his tv’s knob between his thick fingers.

 

The things he’d do to go to one of those parties...

 




Brian had left Will in an upper-scale part of Baltimore where all the lawns were green and there was a BMW in every driveway. The fledgling stood blankly in front of a pure white estate with many windows. Zeller ensured him he’d be fine as long as he didn’t piss off the client. Now that Will was in front of such a lavish house, he prayed that this would go well. Most of the lights was on except for a few upstairs. Will grew nervous as the streets were void of any persons other than himself. He steeled himself the courage to walk to the front door and rung the bell. A soft chime echoed throughout the house as Will could hear several pairs of feet. He took a step back as the locks on the door clicked. A woman dressed in black and white opened the door and looked at Will. Her eyes was of a rich blue that made Will unnerving uncomfortable .

 

“Are you here to see Master Chilton?”, the woman asked, her voice whimsical and free.

 

Will nodded but kept his eyes off her. He wasn’t good with direct eye contact. She ushered him to come inside and he meekly walked into the house. It was a grand, extravagant house from what Will could see in the foyer alone. Paintings and sculptures of all sorts littered the way as Will tried to keep up with the young lady. The wallpaper looked as if it was brushed with 24-carat diamonds because of the glitter. He could smell food being prepared in the nearby kitchen but, his mouth didn’t water. His stomach didn’t gurgle at the thought of sinking his teeth into steak or potatoes. His stomach, however, growled at the thought of sinking his fangs into the young woman’s neck. He ignored the thought as she lead him upstairs and then to a room with large, white doors. The doorknob was made of gold as Will noted. The woman knocked before she opened the door.

 

The office space was a sight to behold, The furniture was made of dark, polished oak and an imposing painting of the master of the house bore eyes into Will. It was nothing Will was ever exposed to. Tall bookshelves was overfilled with books of various covers and designs. The rug beneath his feet was pure, white tiger fur as he saw the head of it. Those amber eyes glared at him hauntingly and he couldn’t look away. His guide left as Will stood anxiously in the middle of the office.

 

“You must be this fledgling I’ve heard so much about.”, a man echoed from the large desk. His head was down when Will came up closer.

 

He looked up at the childe and didn’t look too impressed. A tan man with streaks of white in his black hair dressed in green and turquoise. The fledgling noticed several gold rings on his fingers.

 

“I am who you assume I am, my lord.”, Will responded.

 

“I’m a lord now? That’s quite a bold statement.”, the man answered him back.

 

“No, I am just a man. A humble man from humble beginnings.”

 

Will watched as the man rose from his cushy leather chair and walked around to face him. He was much taller than Will and twice as thick. He held out one of his meaty hands and Will caught it with his own, skeletal hand. They shook a few times before Will became uncomfortable and retracted his hand again. The man fixed the cuffs on his suit and smiled politely.

 

“My name is Frederick Chilton.”, Chilton introduced himself. “How about you?”

 

“Will. Will Graham.”

 

“Quite a strong name for a soft face.”, Frederick said with a soft chuckle. “Please, have a seat.”

 

Will sat down in one of the suede chairs in front of the desk and watched cautiously as Chilton took his own seat. He folded his hands into his lap and kept his eyes on Will. The young woman appeared again but, she had a tray of tea cakes and coffee between her hands. She sat it down very quietly and bowed to Chilton before she left. Will watched her leave.

 

“A beauty isn’t she?”, Chilton commented as he indulged himself into one of the tea cakes.

 

“A jewel.”

 

“Took her in after her parents was killed a few years back. She’s a good cook.”, Chilton wiped his fingers on a napkin the girl had left on the tray.

 

Will paid no attention to the teacakes or the coffee as his eyes glued onto the painting above Chilton. Nothing seemed to calm him as Frederick went over the girl’s backstory. He heard every smack and swallow coming from Chilton’s mouth. It was disgusting given that Will’s hearing was so acute. He stopped chewing and wiped his mouth.

 

“I’ve heard you are just right for the job.”

 

“If that's what I’ve been described as, I’ll be the emissary of your task.”

 

Chilton leaned back in his chair and appeared to be impressed with Will’s willingness. He folded his hands once again and smiled cheekily.

 

“I’ve ran into a problem with one of my suppliers.”, Chilton began. “One of which stole a very expensive shipment from me.”

 

“May I ask inquire what goods you are missing, merchant?”, Will asked as he finally took a teacake off the tray. He sniffed it softly then slid it between his teeth.

 

Chilton shrugged his shoulders and indulged in the hot, rich coffee his house maid left. He cringed with bitterness. He sat the coffee back down.

 

“You see, I’m a doctor. The shipments I need aren’t exactly of legal means.”, Frederick said with a toothy grin.

 

Will didn’t necessarily know what he meant but, he sat there quietly and chewed the teacake in his mouth. The voices in his head was just as dumbfounded as he was. What would a doctor need to be shipped from overseas? A brain? An entire body?

 

“Your Prince and I are old friends and he said you’ll be perfect for the job. I need you to track down my shipment and bring it to me.”

 

“How am I to find your precious cargo, Blackbeard ? Shall I dive into the deepest of all seas to retrieve it?”

 

“I don’t understand a word you Malks say but, my shipment comes through to the docks on the edge of town. Find the rabbit symbol. Do this and I’ll pay you and your Prince tenfold.”

 

With that, Chilton rose from his chair as did Will. He held his hand out again but, Will turned away in silence. He paced out of the office but before he left, he glimpsed at the tiger-fur rug and gave it a kick. He heard Frederick chuckle as he closed the office door behind him. The young lady from before was coming up the stairs just as he was about to go down and wished him good night.

 

Out in the open air of Baltimore, Will walked down the street of the neighborhood. Cars buzzed by in their lazy flight as he only had his thoughts to accompany him in the silence. He didn’t know the first thing about Baltimore other than street names. How did Chilton and the Prince expect him to do this before dawn? Just as he was about to cross the street, the familiar grip of Brian’s hand latched on his shoulder. He turned around and was greeted by Brian’s cheeky grin.

 

“You seem to appear out of thin air. Are you some ghostly apparition cursed to walk this mortal earth?”, Will asked of him.

 

Brian didn’t even try to comprehend what Will was saying as he held onto the fledgling and began to walk with him.

 

“Don’t worry, kid. I’ll teach you all the cool vampire shit sooner or later.”

 

They walked in the dead silence of night cracking jokes and hollering like school children. With Brian, Will felt safe . Brian was one of the only friends Will ever considered having. He was of a soft nature but a tough exterior. Goofy at times as Will watched him kick over an entire mailbox and holler out ‘earthquake’ . He didn’t know what to expect of this errand of those to come but, he was sure if Brian was with him then he had nothing to worry about.


A true friend in a city of thieves and liars ...

Chapter Text

IV

“The Arrival”

 


 

 

The crowds had already festered to the shipyard when Hannibal’s Bentley pulled to a stop. A bazaar of reporters, journalists, and peasants pried law enforcement with their greedy fascination of whatever laid beyond the lands of yellow tape. A light drizzle began to weep from the sky as Hannibal got out of the back seat. Jack hovered an umbrella above him. Dock workers were swarmed by detectives in the dozens as the shipyard became a hub for the curious. Hannibal scowled at the attention. He couldn’t necessarily walk out with the cargo , not with swarms of flies hovered around his prize. He looked to Jack and dismissed his personal guard back to the car. Jack handed him the umbrella. He walked closer to where the mob had gathered to investigate himself.

 

It was a sight to behold. The entrance of the shipyard was drenched with blood. It was slick and icy-looking as the crowd gasped in unison when the first body was ushered underneath black tarp. Hannibal watched it as it was wheeled by. The corpse was void of smell. Hannibal took a deeper inhale as the investigators went by. Initially when humans died, they smelled of their own defecation and the beginnings of decay. Yet, Hannibal’s superb olfactory couldn’t detect the faintest whiff of death. That made him cautious . He knew of foul magics that could stir the dead and harbor ghouls but, those magics was across the world and hidden deep. Had he suspected necromancy at play, he would have the entire shipyard put to the torch along with those swarming in proximity. More bodies was wheeled out and the results was the same. He backed away from the crowd and journeyed back to the Bentley. A glimpse of someone in his vision made him stop.

 

“You finally grace us with your presence .”, the tone made the hairs on the back of Hannibal’s neck prickle.

 

He looked over his shoulder to an aged, obsidian-colored man, dressed in white with a golden police badge pinned over his heart. His hair was off-black with age and the condescending grin plastered on his face made Hannibal’s fangs protrude from his gums. He slid them back in as he fully turned around.

 

Detective Budge, I was under the assumption you had transferred to Chicago. You’re looking quite well.”, Hannibal lied.

 

In reality, he knew of Tobias and why he still lingered in Baltimore. He was an arrogant man with a more arrogant ego. With the lingering misconduct case above him, Tobias was chained to Baltimore by the ankle. No secret to Baltimore P.D that Tobias was a violent man. Some questioned how such a dangerous mutt got unchained in the first place. Hannibal, however, was amused by the thought of such a zealous man of the law entangling himself in his affairs.

 

“No, I decided Baltimore was more important. I’m loyal to the city that raised me.”, Detective Budge responded as he waltzed up to face Hannibal head on. The Prince could see the faint, black outline of the cello tattoo he had on his neck. He smelled the cheap tobacco on his breath and the much cheaper cologne that suffocated all other smells. He smiled pleasantly.

 

“Got to keep an eye on you to make sure you know our laws.

 

“Of course you do, Detective Budge. Where would Baltimore be if it wasn’t your vigilant eye?”, Hannibal replied back as Jack was looking at him from across the way.

 

“Quite frankly, I should be throwing a feast in your honor .”

 

The lumbering guard left his meat cleaver of a sword back at the penthouse but, his size alone could prove to be unwavering. He stood from the driver’s side and glared at the detective. Budge took a glance at Jack then back to Hannibal with a twisted grin. He scoffed at Hannibal’s suggestion. He gave the Prince a quick pat to the shoulder before turning on his heels to rejoin his fellow officers in the investigation.

 

“We’ll be seeing each other again, Mr. Lecter.”

 

Hannibal scoffed under his breath and pulled his jacket closer. In actuality, Tobias was just blind with hubris as the others that thought they knew what the Prince was. Hunters of all sorts chased Hannibal through the years but, none lived long enough to have Hannibal’s head on their mantle. Their tactics became repetitive after the Great Plague swept Europe. Tied garlic, holy water, and silver crosses became a bore. Hannibal could eat garlic, holy water was a fad, and he used to wear crosses out of spite towards the church. Tobias was no different. But, Hannibal gave him kudos for the try. If anyone could spill his blood, it would be quite legendary.

 

The Prince walked to the Bentley and Jack opened the door for him. He slid in and retrieved his cell phone from his pocket. He began to dial as Jack started the engine. The familiar ringing tone rung softly in his ear. A loud click signaled him to the person on the other line.

 

“Madame Du Maurier’s residence, may I have your name?”, a woman answered dutifully.

 

“Lecter. Hannibal Lecter.”

 

“One moment, Mr. Lecter.”

 

The click of the line chirped from the other side as Hannibal listened to the soft silence. He tapped his fingers patiently on his thigh as Jack drove the Bentley out of the proximity of the shipyard and onto the freeway back to downtown. It was a gorgeous night if Hannibal didn’t revel in it’s shadowy paradise. The moon peeked from the halo of clouds surrounding it. The mood was perfect for a moonlight dance. Hannibal recalled such a night when he was still haunting Europe. Such a night tantalized his tastebuds. As cars and trucks flew by, Hannibal heard the familiar voice of his female fatale.

 

“It’s late, Hannibal.”, she sounded blissfully fatigued, her voice was breathy and soft.

 

“Late? For the queen of the night? I am in awe.”, Hannibal purred as he signaled Jack to merge off the freeway.

 

Bedelia’s laugh was like the sound of a thousand lutes. It was smooth and harmonious but, it kept an element of sultriness to it. He could fall asleep listening to such a beautiful sound.

 

“I’m assuming you’re asking me on a date tonight?”

 

Hannibal didn’t think he was dating Bedelia. He thought of it as a mutual friendship between two successful, powerful aristocrats with sex as a benefit. Perhaps Bedelia was latching onto his shriveled heart. He rolled the idea back and forth for a moment. He needed insight on what lied within the pandora’s box. Bedelia was a natural born socializer with those human and of the Masquerade. She hypnotized and captivated every person she was in contact with. Men of royal blood would give her their kingdoms if it would secure them a night with her. Women would sacrifice their own beauty to uphold Bedelia’s. Priests would flay themselves if it meant that they would feel closer to God if Bedelia asked them to. If she knew any details regarding the cargo ship, Hannibal would need to pry further.

 

“If you were to embrace me tonight, I’ll be delighted beyond belief.”, Hannibal purred. “A thousand nights wouldn’t compare if I couldn’t spend a night with you.”

 

The Bentley zig-zagged around several corners adorned with ornate street lights. Downtown Baltimore was alive with people of all sorts; rich, the beautiful, and the mortal . Hannibal heard every single heartbeat from the people to the insects buzzing in the air. He hungered for the life force that smelled like sweet ambrosia. His attention focused back to Bedelia’s soft sigh on the cellphone.

 

“Anything for you , my prince of darkness.”, With that, the line clicked dead.

 

Hannibal flipped the cell phone closed and purred. He already pictured what Bedelia would adorn herself in. A long, indigo ball gown encrusted with jewels and glitter while her hair was curled beautifully to her frame. How immaculate she’d look with her bright lipstick and sculpted brows. Hannibal’s chest fluttered at the thought of holding her peachy, warm hand. Her veins pumping with fresh, succulent blood made him thirst. Jack hauled the Bentley to a stop in front of a dark, old-world looking estate. Dozens of rose bushes adorned the walkway up to the front door as the house lulled Hannibal from the car. He waltzed up to the front door and gave it three hard knocks. Soft steps padded on the hardwood floor as Hannibal stared at his warped reflection in the door’s painted glass. He brushed a stray hair with his finger as the door flew open.

 

Bedelia, still wrapped in her silk robe and her hair in rollers, looked pleasant in Hannibal’s eyes. He didn’t care for her wrinkles or her disheveled appearance. He beamed with happiness as Bedelia leaned against the frame of the door.

 

“My queen of the night.”

 

Bedelia licked her lips as she eyed Hannibal up and down like a sculpted masterpiece.

 

“My prince of darkness.”

 

 


 

 

Will watched the flashlights go back and forth along the deck of the ship. They waved to him like a beacon across a wild, stormy sea. Like a pair of illuminated eyes, they scanned the atmosphere with a bright perception. He had positioned himself on top of one of the cargo freights as he watched in silence. The drizzle had stopped a while ago. He wasn’t cold but, drenched head to toe in frosted rain. Brian was somewhere nearby probably taking another smoke break but, he assured Will that he’d be fine. He gave him no instructions, no guidance, just a simple push out of the nest. As much to his knowledge, Will didn’t have any fancy vampire powers. He couldn’t turn invisible or shift into a bat. He hardly could keep himself getting startled by every little sound. Of all the vampire movies he had watched throughout his life, he thought it would be simple to shift into a bat or a hellhound. It was harder in actual practice.

 

After a while, the childe didn’t see the flashlights again. He climbed off the cargo freight and landed with a soft thud . His eyes scoured everything around him. He looked at names, markings, and anything distinct on the cargo freights as he crept through the countless aisles of them. They were all the same. Chilton had described a rabbit symbol but in the dark of night, everything looked murky.

 

Will saw the glimpse of the flashlight coming back and he pressed his back hard to the freight. He slowed his breathing to a complete stop as the flashlight inched closer and closer. When he was sure that whoever wielded the flashlight could see him, he was mistakened. The flashlights beamed over him but, the patrolman never stopped or saw Will. He passed by and the childe stood there dumbstruck. He held his hands up and examined them. In his eyes, they were just a fleshy as they were supposed to be. Yet, he was not discovered.

 

“The eyes are the windows into the soul…”

 

Before the patrolman could turnabout, Will crept to the next aisle of freights. Again, the same result. He looked them up, down, and all around but to his own frustration he could not see the cursed rabbit symbol. Thin streaks of lightning wrinkled the sky as Will stood there with hands balled up. He was growing tired of the charade.

 

What was possessing him to abide by the laws which constricted him from progressing in this journey?

 

What was worse than a final death?

 

He was about to approach one of the freights to climb upon when the hard, hollow knocks of hooves echoed on the ship’s deck. The hairs on Will’s neck prickled coldly as he was paralyzed. His jittery eyes caught the glimpse of black-red feathers passing at the end of the aisle. The sound of hooves passed as the childe stood there blank-faced and disturbed.

 

“Your mind is merely an illusion or, so you think it is. Will you drink the wine, Alice?”

 

Will scurried out of the aisle in a flurry. He nearly slipped from the icy footing underneath him if it wasn’t a familiar pair of strong yet gentle arms holding him up by the shoulders. He looked up and caught Brian’s eyes. He held the childe up and brushed him off.

 

“What happened, kid? Did you see a ghost?”, Brian joked as he examined Will up and down.

 

“An apparition of sorts visited me, yes. I am unsure if it was of my own headspace or that of an illusion. Reality seems foreign to me.”, Will replied as he looked back at where he saw the feathered being in question.

 

Brian leaned over to see where Will was staring off to. He didn’t see anything there but another freight. He shrugged his shoulders.

 

“I’m not a Malk so I couldn’t tell ‘ya if there was something there, kid.”

 

Will glanced back at Brian with worrisome eyes. Still nobody has explained to him what it meant to be a Malk or Malkavian . He didn’t have a maker anymore to teach him of his origins. He knew not the first clue on what it meant to be a Malk . He only had his voices and shattered mind as his company. It did make him feel empty not to have that second half but, there was no use crying of spilled milk.  However, he did feel better with Brian watching his back.

 

“A childe without a sire is destined to walk the earth with no purpose or responsibility…”

 

Brian turned on his heels and pointed to a cargo freight near the edge of the ship. It was covered with bright orange paint that chipped from the constant abuse of saltwater. The childe squinted and could make out the edges of what looked to be the infamous rabbit symbol that his quest destined him to. He excitedly ran towards the freight and wrapped his arms around it. Zeller stood there chuckling as Will kissed the iron box.

 

“Let’s crack it open.”

 

Brian grasped the handles of the cargo freight and with a grunt of effort, he successfully pulled the doors apart. A series of shrill cries and sobs echoed out of the freight as Will joined Brian’s side. They stood there puzzled. Half a dozen naked girls cowered in the darkness of the freight. They were of all races, shapes, and creeds. Brian cocked his head to the side as Will spotted the patrolman from before. He tapped on Brian’s shoulder and the older vampire bared his fangs. The patrolman was froze on the spot as the flashlight dropped to the deck.

 

“Go feed, Will.”, Brian suggested as his eyes kept their stinging glare on the patrolman.

 

Will glanced at the sobbing girls in the freight then unleashed his pearly canines from their fleshy prison. Will launched forward and his fangs found the sweet, pumping jugular of the patrolman’s neck. He sucked noisily as Brian glanced back at the girls in the freight.

 

And he said he was a doctor.

 

Will wiped his mouth with his sleeve as Brian shut the freight again. The patrolman laid there pale and void of any blood. Another series of loud, shrill cries erupted from within as the older vampire scratched his head. The fledgling returned to his guardian’s side with a satisfied grin.

 

“Did Chilton give you a number to call?”

 

“He did not.”, Will responded, licking the blood away from his lips.

 

“How does he expect us to bring live cargo back?”

 

“I am just as befuddled as you, cherished herald.”

 

Brian turned his back to the freight and dug another cigarette from his jacket. As much as a smoker he was, Will suspected his lungs would be midnight black. He crinkled his nose at the familiar smell of bad tobacco as he turned around. It was awfully quiet. The waves of the Chesapeake lapped softly. They were far from the hustle and bustle of Baltimore. Their only company was the occasional cry of late night birds and of course the screaming women trapped in the freight. Will wasn’t even going to question what Chilton planned for them. The childe looked upon the blackened sky glittered with stars and sighed. Nights like this made him want to sleep in the nude and listen to the cicadas. Brian smoked his cigarette to a nub then tossed it aside. Just as he was about to retrieve another, the rushing sound of water being disturbed stopped him. Hovering above, black helicopters surveyed like vigilant hawks. Their blades churned like scythes as Brian grabbed Will and hissed angrily above. Armed guards had arrived in the van-load as their black uniforms glistened with moisture. Their guns acted as their appendage as they were held up to Brian and Will. The childe grasped onto Brian’s arm and watched as they were swarmed.

 

“That won’t be necessary.”

 

Zeller and Will snapped their heads towards the guards that raised their metallic arms at them. They parted obediently. Chilton, dressed now in a storm grey suit, clapped his hands in delight. His cheeky grin filled with gold teeth made Will cold . Brian still bared his fangs viciously as he eyed Chilton.

 

“You ASSHOLE ! What the fuck are you doing?”, Zeller roared. Will gripped his arm tighter as his eyes followed Chilton’s movements.

 

The doctor shoved his hands in his pockets and rolled his eyes at Brian. However, when he spotted Will they instantly lit up.

 

“Can I say I’m glad that you recovered my shipment. Impressed, actually.”, Chilton praised.

 

Brian retracted his fangs into his gums but, a low, possessive snarl still rumbled in his throat. The childe loosened his grip and now stood in between Brian and Frederick. He swallowed the hard lump in his throat that impeded him from speaking.

 

“We have secured your bounty, my lord.”, Will pointed to the freight.

 

Frederick chuckled softly to himself then approached Will. The childe flinched from such contact as the doctor cupped his hands around his face and placed a wet, unwarranted kiss on Will’s forehead. Brian seethed in hot anger as the guards raised their guns shakily up at the much older vampire.

 

Chilton brushed a curl behind Will’s ear before he unlatched himself. He gave one last inspection of the childe before taking a cellphone out of his suit jacket.

 

“I’ll give my good word to your Prince, vampire.”, he commented as he walked towards the edge of the ship deck.

 

The guards lowered their guns once again and trailed behind their superior in absolute obedience. Brian stood back from the cargo freight as the helicopter lowered some sort of grapple hook while two operatives slid down the ropes. They latched the hooks onto the cargo freight and signaled for the helicopter to rise back into the airspace. The metal hawk alleviated as Brian and Will watch it depart into the night sky. As quickly as the armada of armored trucks came, they deserted the shipyard in the same haste of their arrival. The vampire duo stood aboard the deck of the ship in both bewilderment and relief. Brian wrapped an arm across his younger pupil’s shoulder and sighed heavily.

 

“One hell of a night, huh kid?”, Brian sounded much more calm and friendly now that Chilton left.

 

Will shrugged his shoulders. He had worse nights.

 

“Let’s get you home. The Prince will be expectin’ us sooner or later.”

 

Into the cover of night Will and Brian traveled back to the city. The crowded streets of Baltimore felt suffocating as Will brushed, bumped, and jostled between all sorts of people. Brian seemed not to mind the crowd as he chattered with glee on what kind of person he was going to feed on. He desired someone plump like a jelly donut. Will couldn’t help but chuckle at Brian’s never stagnant choice of cuisine,=. At first he said he wanted a plump person, then a newborn, then finally an old lady on her deathbed. There was no sense of content with Brian. They caught a metro bus without fare. Zeller had a way of hypnosis that made people forget his presence. He commented that there wasn’t much to it except don’t blink . Easy for him to say.

 

Miraculously, Will and Brian finally made it back to their side of Baltimore and back into the roach-infested apartment complex they had to dwell in. Brian went into the bathroom and ended up crashing in the porcelain tub. Will managed to crawl himself back into the bed. His voices must’ve been worn out as well because not even their whispers bothered Will. That night he didn’t dream of infected people or childhood traumas. The only thing Will heard was the gentle currents of the Chesapeake.

 

A tranquil way to end a night filled with calamity…

 


 

 

Endless fucking proceeded by soft, breathy moans echoed from the Prince’s bedroom. Hannibal had Bedelia atop of him in her fits of pleasure. Her face reddened as if she was filling with hot lava, spilling from her moist core, and onto Hannibal. He held her by the hips as she grinded on his length. He only watched her in amusement. Her blonde hair drenched with sweat stuck to her ivory skin like flies to honey. Her breasts heaved up and down like a fleshy furnace. She was the epitome of a woman’s pleasure. With one last soft sigh, Bedelia rolled off Hannibal and laid to his side. She caught her breath as Hannibal reached to lit the table lamp on his nightstand. Her hands tangled i the silvery-blonde curls of Hannibal’s chest as she gazed upon his chiseled face.

 

“You look sad.”, Bedelia said softly, kissing the curve of Hannibal’s arm.

 

The comment caught him off guard but, he remained expressionless. His maroon eyes caught Bedelia’s steel blue then danced back to the shadows of the room. He had lost the inability to feel sadness many moons ago. Now that was left in his chest was the burning, fiery ambition to claim what kept him hindered for years. The Camarilla, the Masquerade, it was child’s rules to keep the bigger kids from taking their rights. They were nothing but old remnants of a world that already died and so did their customs. Humans evolved far too quickly to have the Camarilla treat them as cattle willing to be slaughtered. Hannibal clenched his jaw as he knew all the elders of the Camarilla on their cushy thrones laughed at him.

 

“He’s far too young for any position of power. A child without discipline is nothing more than a brat.”

 

“He’s already a brat. Look at him!”

 

They mocked and ridiculed him since the moment he arrived to North America. They jested upon his lineage and his sireship but, he was much more than a name and a progenitor. He was their demise. Their final death. The wolf that threatened the shepherd’s flock. Bedelia raised up and stared at Hannibal. She cupped her hand on his pale cheek and he instinctively melted into the touch. The warmth of her hand made his skin tingle.

 

“You’re thinking too much, my prince.”, she cooed at him.

 

“If I do not articulate what my enemies are devising, they’ll dethrone me.”, Hannibal replied, taking her other hand into his own.

 

Bedelia made a tsk noise as she climbed onto Hannibal. She straddled his waist and leaned in closer. Her breasts smashed against his chest and that same warmth made his chest heat up.

 

“No one would dare to dethrone you, Hannibal. They fear you.”

 

“How are you so sure, my queen? Do you see their daggers behind their backs? Can you decipher their pleasantries for sourness?”

 

“You cannot dethrone God .”

 

Hannibal beamed in delight. The woman was brighter than she liked others to perceive her as. She recognized Hannibal as her messiah come forth to deliver salvation to the believers and the pagans alike. She worshipped him with her mouth as she laid sweet, wet kisses along his jaw, neck, and to his chest. She praised every inch of flesh as he watched her in silence. Her Judas .

 

“What would you do if God’s kingdom was usurped from him?”, Hannibal asked as her lips brushed against his phallus.

 

She looked up and grinned.

 

“I’d burn them all if it would give you the kingdom you deserve, my liege .”, she said then proceeded to take his full length into her mouth.

 

He furrowed his brows and sighed. A journeyman in the matters of flesh and pleasure. Hannibal couldn’t help but feel the prang of arousal as her skilled tongue kept his adequately interested. Sure that he could never be aroused again, Bedelia proved him wrong. Her expert tongue caught his bounty as she slid back up to face him. He cupped her aged face and kissed her between her brows.


Burn them all for me .”

Chapter Text

V
“Hemoglobin”


 

 

He was awake. The rusted, old-school heater in the corner sputtered pitifully. The blankets he had once drawn over his skeletal-frame draped the floor like rugs as he sat up. The crinkled clothes left on his body was discarded in favor for basic, cotton attire left on a nearby dresser. Greeted by the familiar pitch-black murk his eyes accustomed to, he paced softly on the hardwood floor. His toes felt every streak of age of the old wood as he crept into the open space of the conjoined living and dining area. Baltimore had already been revived in a crescendo of blaring car alarms and the rabble of drunks, degenerates, and the ill-driven. Will watched them from the window. He peeled the newspaper that obscured most of the view and scanned the street.

 

It was all a rat race down there.

 

People ripped and tore at each other's throats for the most minimal of pleasures. Though they didn’t carry out their violent fetishes but, Will could see the gamblers, thieves, and liars. The streets acted like cemented veins flowing with shit and piss of the world. Will once called the streets his own but, he suffocated within the filth. Drugs made him run in the hamster wheel and sex gave him hydration. It was a never-ending pendulum of self-destruction. When the drugs and the fucking couldn’t numb him from the destruction, he wallowed in despair. He couldn’t stand his own body and would angrily try to rip the flesh from his body. That part of him died the moment he felt Mateo’s fangs puncture his veins.

 

From street dreams to a restless reprieve from mortal life, Will only watched in silence. A door creaked open from down the hall. Brian stumbled into the open space of the apartment with his clothes wrinkled and strewn about his lanky frame. His eyes looked like black spheres with all that heavy mascara he lined them with now smudged. He flopped himself against the island counter and groaned pitifully.

 

“Kid, how are you up so e-a-r-l-y?”, Brian asked. “Vampires need their nightly 12 hours a night.”

 

Will didn’t answer but, kept his gaze out towards the window. In truth, he didn’t know why he was awake let alone why he still woke up in the first place. So much has happened in his first two nights that it didn’t even feel as if the sun rose. His body was accustomed to late night binges and drug-fueled power trips but, he couldn’t seem to stay at rest. It was entirely possible that Will couldn’t accepted the fact he was actually dead and that sleep was just a nuisance.

 

Brian grew bored of Will’s brooding and uncorked a blood bag from the refrigerator. He slurped and sucked as if he’d been stranded in the desert for forty nights. He wiped his mouth with the pads of his fingers and threw the wrinkled blood bag into the bin. He leaned against the counter as Will turned himself away from his beloved window. The childe stretched lazily and sat down in the middle of the living room.

 

“I feel as if I have dreamed a thousand nightmares and my heart has turned sour with decay.”, Will said. “Oh woe is me, quoth the raven.”

 

Brian raised a penciled eyebrow at him.

 

“I’m pretty sure Poe never wrote that.”

 

“Shall we forever be cursed with a yearning for the grave? Or shall we spoil like monkey’s brains?”, Will wailed as his body rocked back and his lips stifled a cackle.

 

The Malk had a fit of laughter as Brian had skulked back into the bathroom. Water gushed noisily from the abused faucet as Will rolled and tossed across the dirty carpet. His chest was bursting with insanely joyous glee as his fingers curled up against his cheek and he couldn’t help but pull at the skin. He didn’t register the pain of his skin pull from his face as the same intense feeling jolted down to his toes. As his laughter began to grow hoarse, Will felt the same wave of melancholy and dread wash over him. He picked himself off the filthy rug and scowled. He wasn’t happy anymore.

 

The TV in the far corner of the room was flicked on by Brian as he came back into the living room with a towel draped on his shoulders. His face looked fresh. His eyes looked clearer and more softer without the harsh, black eyeliner he mutilated them with. In fact, his face was much softer to look at in general. He spied Will’s dreadful mood and rolled his eyes. He didn’t hang around too many Malkavians for a reason.

 

This was one of them.

 

He sat down on the worn sofa and watched the faded colored screen with little to no interest. Will had rolled over onto his belly and watched. The TV screen flickered between color and static as the pair only watched the evening news in silence. After a few mediocre news reports of sick puppies and old ladies being saved from trees, Will became bored. The TV’s volume was a dull, monotone noise humming the living room. Will pictured a cat chef with a tuna across a cutting board. The cat was plump with a white chef’s hat while the tuna was rotten and had begun to grow fungus.

“Mew mew, don’t you want to cook with mew?”, the cat meowed to Will. The feline chef picked up the rotten tuna with its paw and threw it over its furry shoulder.

 

The Malk only shrugged his shoulders as a breaking news report interrupted the chef cat’s segment. He was really looking forward to the kitty’s show.

 

“In other news, another mutilated body found washed up on the Chesapeake Bay.”, the news reporter announced with a suspicious sense of excitement.

 

The graphic image of a eviscerated, bloody piece of torso barely censored or blurred took up most of the screen. At another scene, a pair of arms still was chained to the ceiling as the pictures of the crime scene was worse than the actual corpse itself. Will witnessed dried guts and ritual paraphernalia plastered like a billboard. The live footage of crime scene investigators rummaging through the ropes of intestines and gore made his stomach gurgle. He looked away from the TV.

 

“The victim has been identified as 23-year old Andrew Hawkins of Rockville that had been missing for the last month. No word on if the other pieces has been recovered.”

 

Other pieces.

 

Brian flicked the channel to some old-style western with an irritated huff. Will glanced at him from the corner of his eye but didn’t utter a word. He had seen blood and guts before but, he didn’t remember them being so gorey.

 

“Do you think our own brood could be capable of such depravity?”, Will questioned as his eyes followed the action on the screen.

 

Brian looked at him and chuckled softly.

 

“Kid, there’s alot of things I’m capable that you haven’t seen.”

 

Before Will could give a response, the computer that sat ominously silent near the window made a  chirp noise. Both vampires turned to look at the infernal machine with a cautious, instinctual guard. Will got up and went towards the computer. It was one of them old-school, wide computers with speakers attached to both sides. A webcam was attached to the top of the monitor. Will was sure that the computer model was older than him. The lightly-colored screen displayed a blank box. Within the box, a password had been demanded. The childe sat down in the chair nearby and looked at the keyboard in confusion. He’s used computers before but, his fingers couldn’t place the words scrambling around in his brain. Brian had peeled himself off the couch to hover behind Will.

 

“How can I impregnate this fortress of mystical knowledge without the skeleton key, guardian?”, Will questioned as he typed in random phrases into the box.

 

Every phrase Will entered was met with a bright red ERROR message. Brian squinted at the screen then caught a glimpse of something underneath the keyboard. He pushed the keyboard aside as Will was just smashing keys and retrieved a thin slip of paper. He uncurled the piece and read it.

 

SUNRISE.

 

“Will, type in ‘sunrise’ into that box.”, he said as Will stopped his childish keying.

 

The childe abided and the computer chirped again and revealed a window of dozens upon dozens of emails that had began to pile up. The screen couldn’t redirect to any other window except for the window where the emails were displayed. Will pawed at the computer mouse and dragged the cursor over the first email he saw. With two clicks, he opened the email and a bazaar of flashing lights and female erotica echoed out from the speakers.

 

“Want to get a rock-hard schlong that’ll make her climax to the EXTREME? Buy EXTREME STEELE! Your lady will LOVE the EXTREME pleasure!”

 

Brian rolled his eyes at the obnoxious piece of spam mail as Will grew entranced by the flashy advertisement. The older vampire turned the knob on the speaker to quiet the lustful moaning. He gained control of the mouse and forced the Malk out the chair. Brian scrolled through the emails as Will only kneeled there defeated and awfully curious. He watched how Brian’s jaw clenched and relaxed and how his fingers tightened on the mouse. Emails of all sorts were opened, scanned, then placed in the respective trash bin. One particular email, however, made Brian’s whole body seize up. Will got up again to look at the screen.

 

From: <f.chilton@aol.com>

To: <cr4zychilde13@hotmail.com>

Subject: H-E N-E-E-D-S Y-O-U-R H-E-L-P

savehimsavehimsavehimsavehimsavehimsavehimNOW.
you-know-who-i-am->:P
god-save-the-P-R-I-N-C-E? XDDDD

 

The email left a tight, anxious knot in Will’s stomach as Brian’s tight grasp on the mouse nearly cracked its plastic exterior. It was composed like some ill-riddled adolescence with no grasp on proper language. The phrase circled around Will’s head like water swirling down the drain. It was frightening.The older vampire rose from the chair sharply and grabbed his leather jacket hung on the back of the front door. He slid his lanky arms into its sleeves angrily. Will only stood there in uneasiness as the email continued to taunt him and it gave an excuse for the voices in his membrane to rattle. He pinched his eyes shut as the familiar buzz of white noises became harsh static in his ears.

 

“Save him. Save him. Save him. Don’t you want to save him?”, a young girl’s voice mocked. “The fleet-footed god has been caught in a big ol’ trap!”

 

“You can’t save him.”, another voice echoed in response. “You can’t save anything! You’re crazier than a hatter!”

Will shook his head from side to side for a moment till the ringing in his ears ceased. When he regained a sense of clarity, Brian was no longer in the apartment. Instantly, Will raced out the apartment and into the musty-smelling hallway. He caught a glimpse of Brian skidding around the corner and he pounced after him. Around the corner and down the stairs did Will finally catch Brian by the end of his coat. The older vampire only scrunched his nose up at his ward and jerked his arm away.

“Why must you be so aversive to my woes, guardian? What has caused a great cataclysm in your membrane?”, Will demanded.

 

Brian sighed softly and turned his full body towards Will.

 

“Kid, you don’t even dream of what could happen.”, he confessed.

 

Will furrowed his brows together and rested his hands on his hips. He didn’t believe that Brian would allow any harm or terror to happen to him. By the way Brian averted his gaze from Will, he really wished that Will would drop the issue.

 

“What dangers lurk that will impede our conquest? What cou-”, Will stammered before Brian brought his boney finger over his lips.

 

“For once in your short ass existence, stop listening to those damn voices and listen to me .”

 

The childe pursed his lips and didn’t give a response. The traffic outside seemed to pick up in beat because car horns blared as a collision could be heard in the distance. Brian pulled his finger away from the childe’s lips and smiled softly. Another hand came to cusp the back of Will’s head to bring him in closer. Their eyes met. Warm chocolate met steel grey as their noses touch. Will squinted at the intimate touch but, he didn’t shy away from it.

 

“I can’t take you with me tonight.”

 

“No matter what happens, I’ll always be by your side.”, Brian said. “No matter what.”

 

Will smirked. He’s heard the same vague promise in the past. Everyone he had ever trusted had betrayed him in this way. Mortal or immortal, no one stayed by his side. He nodded as Brian released his gentle grasp. He turned on his heels and zipped up his infamous worn-out leather jacket. He opened the doors of the foyer and walked into the open night. Will watched him from the entrance as Brian seemed to easily blend in with the waves of individuals flooding Baltimore’s sidewalks. As Will watched his guardian whisk to some battlefield, he couldn’t help but worry. He gnawed at his bottom lip as he walked up the creaky steps.

 

The apartment was quieter than a cemetery as Will locked the door behind himself. The computer hummed quietly in its lonely corner and the TV still played the hooping and hollering of cowboys and vagabonds. He sat at the computer as it still displayed the open window of emails. Will took it upon himself to open a few himself but was met with the same disappointment Brian had. He trashed several but only one caught his eye.

 

To: <cr4zychilde13@hotmail.com> Sent on Friday at 5:21 A.M.
From: <unknown.sender@email.com>
Subject: Your attendance has been requested.

Dear Childe,
By order of the Prince, you have been summoned to court. Failure to comply to the Prince’s call will result in immediate termination. An address has been attached to the bottom of this email.

Signed,

Magistrate of Camarilla Affairs

Leonard Brauner

 

Will read the email with a sense of dread as he could still visualize that cheeky smile on the night of his sire’s execution. He remembered how those maroon eyes pried into his skin like flaming swords. The cries of the crowd still sounded just as fresh as the night before. Just thinking of the Prince made Will’s skin jump off his body. The fear of a final death, however, possessed him to change clothes and groom his stray curls. Every cell of his scrambled brain told him to run away but, where could he run to? As far as Will knew, the Prince had a vice-grip on every edge of the city if not the state.  Sure, he could hide in the sewers or bury himself in the dirt. If the Prince really wanted to kill him, nothing on this mortal earth would stop him.

 

He wasn’t sure of the address that the email had given him but, if he took the bus long enough he’d eventually end up somewhere. All the lights flicked off as Will took once glance around the apartment before leaving. Determined to keep his head, he left the apartment and out into the streets of Baltimore. He shoved and pushed through people who yelled, snubbed, or swore at him. Cars and trucks blared their horns as they skidded along the street like mechanical tadpoles. The city was obnoxiously loud. It all fell on deaf ears. He wasn’t going to die again. He didn’t want to die again.

 

He wanted to live again.

 


 

Brian made it to the other side of the Chesapeake Bay faster than he originally thought. The public transportation of the city was beyond catastrophic but for once, Brian was grateful for the oil-fueled land whales. He had gotten off well beyond the edge of which segregated the poor of Baltimore and the elite. The Chesapeake glittered like a sea of pearls. The water was tranquil with the exception of the currents that lapped at the water’s edge. He traveled the extended miles that would normally tire his mortal physique. He wasn’t tired or did he feel his body scream for relief.  The familiar rows of pristine lawns and luxury cars told Brian he wasn’t far. The well-lit neighborhood of the prim and proper was silent.

 

The vampire flicked his collar up to obscure his face from unwanted eyes as he skulked through green lawns. If his mortal memory recalled correctly, Chilton’s estate wasn’t too far down the street. The mansions on the street looked all too familiar as Brian looked through windows as he passed. Whole families of warm blood bags sat at their dinner tables or in their dens. They laughed, enjoyed, and indulged unknowing of the predator right outside. They were fat, lazy sheep that Brian could easily abduct from the pasture. He licked his lips at the thought of tasting tender flesh and the warm gushes of blood that followed with it.

 

He cleared his head of such greedy thoughts as he finally spotted Chilton’s estate beyond the hedge. He hopped over and landed deftly on the other side. All seemed to be in order as Brian had to weave through the motion lights. The front door didn’t looked bashed in or molested. Until Brian touched the doorknob did he discover that the door had indeed been bothered and the lock was unhinged. He was cautious as he invited himself in. The house remained unbothered as there was no furniture knocked out of place or the familiar scent of gore. Zeller entered the large living room to find out nothing had been bothered. The kitchen was the same. No dishes had been shattered or treasures vandalized. It appeared to be no one had touched a single item.

 

What has happened here?

 

Something clattered above that instantly made Zeller wary.. He ascended up the stairs with deft steps. The hairs on the back of his neck stood at attention. The blood in his veins had began to bubble with anticipation. The unknown danger made him excited. Every ounce of sense made him want to turn on his heels with his tail tucked between his legs. Yet somehow, he craved for the hidden danger.  He needed something to spark a fire in his ass.

 

On the second floor, the strewn body of a young female with a dozen or so silver knives embedded into her chest made Zeller crinkle his nose. Her flesh already smelled putrid as Brian stepped over her body. He stared down the doors of Chilton’s study and steeled himself. He opened the doors and was met with the bloodied, abused heap of whatever was left of Chilton on the duvet. The vampire approached the bloodied sleaze and inhaled his scent. It was like rotten meat and harsh cologne. He found himself nauseated by such strong smells. He wasn’t a fan of Chilton or his malpractices but, he was a viable source of blood trafficking within the city. The Prince, as proud he makes himself out to be, relied on humans like Frederick Chilton to keep the off-shore accounts full. The study, however, was in such disarray that Brian wasn’t sure if the destruction was out of malice or boredom.

 

Who was I supposed to save? The papers?

 

Just as Brian was going to leave Chilton on the duvet, a claw-like grip chained Brian back down. He jerked his arm back only to find Chilton barely breathing and wheezing harshly. He took in a deep inhale and only gagged out an exhale. His eyes bulged like a goldfish. Zeller found himself nearly retching at the sight.

 

“G-Gi-”, Chilton’s lips bubbled with blood as he tried to make words.

 

The vampire swallowed his nausea. Brian made a shushing noise as he kneeled down to run his fingers through Chilton’s bloodied hair. Clumps upon clumps of dark, wet hair began to entangle in his fingers. Brian shook the stray hairs off his hand.

 

He was changing.

 

That plump brown face Chilton boasted was now skeletal and peeling away. His eye sockets grew droopy as his face lost that strong bone structure. The adverse effects of consuming vampire’s blood included extreme aging but, Brian had never seen this kind of deterioration followed by violence. He had an idea of how much product Chilton consumed but, he’d never seen such negative effects on a human being before. Traditionally, vampires have allowed select humans to consume their essence to turn them. Addiction was a modern phenomena as vampires no matter their age seemed to get their kicks to having humans feed upon them. The black market had endless supplies of watered-down vamp blood. However, those means of obtaining the nectar meant fried brains or violent altercations with whatever was in the way. Addicts suffered furious withdrawals once the blood wasn’t mixing with their own. Their physical status dragged them closer to their death with baldness, bloodied and blistered skin, and spews of vomit.

 

Chilton was one of those addicts.

 

The vampire pricked the pad of his thumb with his fang and pressed on it. Blackish-red blood pooled from the tiny dent as Chilton’s eyes light up with a shred of hopefulness. Greedily, Chilton took Brian’s entire thumb into his swollen mouth. Zeller hissed at the suddenness as Chilton nursed himself.

 

“What the fuck happened here?”, Brian questioned as he jerked his thumb out of Chilton’s mouth.

 

A thin thread of bloody saliva trailed from Brian’s thumb. The doctor’s condition had slowed to the point that his swollen orbs of eyes could open. His lips parted and a whistle-like noise came from between them. Chilton sucked Brian’s thumb back into his mouth. The vampire took notice of the strewn books and ledgers around the office. A safe embedded within a bookshelf had been torn open by some kind of monstrous strength by the looks of it. The door had distinct hand prints melted into the metal. Not even a vampire of his strength could just pry open a safe like that. The hairs on his neck and arms prickled at the thought of something so strong .

 

Chilton unlatched himself from Brian’s thumb and weakly sat himself up. His face wasn’t the worse sight Brian had ever laid his eyes upon. The doctor groaned weakly as he retrieved a cigar from his bloodied pocket. He tried to flick a match between his fingers but in a failed attempt, the vampire snatched it from him. Zeller was able to flick the match ablaze and guided the flame to the end of the cigar. Thick rings of smoke puffed between Chilton’s bruised lips. A man in his condition had no business molesting his lungs with fumes but, Brian assumed if he was on the brink of death then one last smoke was a far cry.

 

“What the fuck happened to you, Chilton?”, Brian interrogated as he watched Chilton smoke waves from his nostrils.

 

“What do you mean fuck happened here? I was ROBBED!”, Chilton snapped back.


The vampire’s fangs protruded from his gums and Chilton scoffed.

 

“The sons of bitches took EVERYTHING. My money, my product, and FUCK! They took the shipment too!”

 

“You mean the scared girls you had in the back of a freight crate.”, Brian corrected him.

 

Chilton rolled his bloodied eyes as he took another long drag from his cigar.

 

“Don’t get righteous on me, vampire . Your thin-blooded friends did this to me!”

 

Thin-blooded ?”, Zeller raised an eyebrow at the term.

 

He wasn’t aware what a “thin-blood” was. There was a fine line of what made a vampire a vampire and a human a human. There was folklore of those born of both human and vampire ancestry but, that was for Hollywood to make cheesy vampire romances out of.

 

“Gideon and his pack of rats. Those addicts ran off with the shipment and the product. Shit, some of the product is already paid for.”, Chilton threw his shrunken cigar across the room.

 

“I want you and your vampire friend to get my shit BACK.”

 

Zeller sucked on his teeth at that request. He did however applaud Chilton for thinking he could just order him around like his maid.

 

His maid now desecrated in the hallway.

Chilton had laid his aching body down on the duvet as he took off his suit-jacket. His shirt was practically covered in his blood and it made Zeller’s stomach churn. It smelled disgusting but sweet at the same time.

 

“This isn’t my problem, ‘derick .”, Zeller said. “This is between you and the Prince .”

 

Chilton’s eyes welled up like marbles. He skyrocketed off the duvet and grabbed Brian with new-found strength. He shook the vampire back and forth in a crazed fury. Zeller only laughed and held onto the doctor’s shoulders as Chilton cursed at him in spanish.

 

Pendejo ! Pinche cabron! Do you know what HE would do to me if he found out!?”

 

“If you value your fuckin’ head man, you’ll get your fucking hands off me.”

 

Chilton huffed and unlatched himself from Brian. He dragged himself back and forth across the study as Brian fixed his clothes.

 

“I’m willing to help you but, you gotta do something for me first.”

 

Chilton beamed once again in hopefulness as Brian rubbed his hands together.

 

“Name your price, vampire.”

 

“I want to take down the Prince.”

 


 

The colossal skyscraper loomed like a dark, concrete angel. Will stood outside the heavily decorated and heavily guarded building with feverish eyes. Gargoyles stood posted on every column around the building. Their jeweled eyes bore into Will as if they were standing guard. If the armed guards wasn’t an indication that someone worthy of the protection didn’t reside within, this was quite the spectacle. Will wandered up to the guards posted at the main entrance and shook nervously. They eyed him like hawks as they opened the large, glass double doors for him. Neither of them spoke to Will as they just watched . The childe thought of them as mutes.

 

Inside, the lobby was extravagant. Marble was in no short supply. The childe could see his reflection in such illustrious tile. Ahead of him was rows upon rows of elevators. Every inch of space was covered with sculptures. He couldn’t even tell how big the place really was on the outside. He didn’t know that a building can have so many elevators.

 

He walked up to the security guard at the front desk. A plump man with curls thicker than Will’s was so entranced into his mini television that he was startled when Will knocked softly on the countertop. He spun around in his swivel chair and readjusted himself. The childe only stared at him blankly.

 

“Can I help you with something?”, the guard asked meekly.

 

Will read his nametag as his mindspace tried to gather a response. ‘Franklyn’ seemed to grow more uneasy with Will then Will was with him. He wetted his lips with his tongue.

 

“I seek the presence of my liege. He has called me to his inquisition. ”, Will replied.

 

Franklyn scratched the side of his face with his blunt nails.

 

“I-I’m sorry but, who are you looking for?”

 

Will rolled his eyes as he leaned in closer to Franklyn. He smelled of grease and bad hygiene habits. His face made Will even more disgusted. He could only see boils covered in donut-filling when he looked at Franklyn. His eyes bore into Franklyn like fangs into flesh. He cocked his head slowly to the side as his eyes did not blink or falter away from the dim-witted security guard.

 

YOU WILL BE MY OFFERING TO THE  GODS IF I CANNOT REACH HOLY COMMUNION WITH HIM . I WILL DINE UPON YOUR FLESH AND SUCK THE MARROW FROM YOUR BONES YOU DISGUSTING WRETCH. ”, Will’s voice came out in a hollow, monotone curse rather than a demand.

 

The security guard seized in absolute terror as his hands began to swarm on some buttons. Will retracted himself from the desk as an elevator dinged. He smiled at Franklyn. The poor man stayed glued in his swivel chair with his bulging eyes drenched with tears. Will walked up to the open elevator and stepped inside. A dozen or so floors was within the building but on a hunch, Will clicked the top floor. The elevator doors closed silently and soft classical music filled within. The fledgling leaned against the back of the elevator and sighed. He wondered where Brian was.

 

Eventually, the elevator seized its endless climbing and arrived in a long, red corridor. Will stepped out to be greeted by another set of armed guards with their hands readied on their weapons. The fledgling hesitated but just like the guards outside, they granted him entry. Will had to walk down another much longer corridor till he stood in an empty space. Two flights of curving stairs greeted him on both sides as he was unaware of what path to take. He climbed up and pushed open the doors.

 

A luxury penthouse with a view of Baltimore and the Chesapeake greeted him. Glass on all sides surrounded him and Will felt the sense of a thousand reflections mocking him. He hesitated to touch anything. All the furniture within looked as if they were imported from exotic places that Will probably couldn’t pronounce. He stood in the entry way like a deer in the headlights. The penthouse was empty. Will thought he was in one of those fun houses where all the mirrors was an illusion. A door adjacent to where he was standing opened softly and Will’s heart sunk. The hulking, misshapen physique of his former executioner exited. He was clad in black and chains as Will’s knees buckled and he fell to the floor.

 

The Prince’s bodyguard approached Will and picked him up by the shoulders as if he was a bag of feathers. Will let out a cry in response but was soon back on his feet. The obsidian man only pointed to another door up above. It was ornate with gold and black designs similar to far-eastern temple doors. Will swallowed hard and found the staircase to the second level. The bodyguard was on his heels as he came up to the doors and granted himself entrance. An office with the same kind of immaculate detail of foreign furniture was bare of all persons except for one . Dread washed over Will like waves from the Chesapeake.

 

Hannibal stood near his desk with a goblet in one of his fine, pale hands. His finger tapped along the edge of it as his attention was to the world outside the office. He watched as if the city was molded by his hands in seven days. However, he did side-eye Crawford and Will standing at the door. He pursed his lips and turned around. The fledgling instantly wanted to die . The Prince’s eyes were hauntingly deep and made Will feel as if spiders were crawling on him. Crawford gave him a gentle push forward as he backed out of the office, closing the doors behind him, and finally leaving Will.

 

“You have survived, childe. Welcome back.”, the Prince greeted with a thin smile.

 

The fledgling felt squeamish as his legs possessed him to walk forward and take a seat in front of the desk. He made himself as small as he could, hugging his knees to his chest, and his eyes bouncing anywhere but the Prince. Hannibal sat his goblet down on the edge of his desk and sat in his own swivel chair. It was a rich, red leather chair that had gold embroidered into the sides of it. He crossed his legs and looked over the much younger vampire with childish curiosity. He marveled how low and belittled the childe made himself out to be.

 

“I’m assuming you know why I have called you here?”, Hannibal asked innocently enough.

 

The childe flinched at the sound of Hannibal’s voice and shrugged. Those hollow, detached eyes could drown a thousand men in their depths. Hannibal leaned in closer and the childe distanced himself. Silence lingered between them. Out of curiosity, Hannibal snaked a hand across the table and Will made a soft, anxious gasp. His hand returned to his lap.

 

“You’re cautious, I understand. If I was in your unfortunate position, I’d been wary of myself too.”, the Prince lied. In reality, the Prince could care less for what Will’s fried brain was trying to cope with. He did feel devilish glee from making the childe so fear-stricken though.

 

“But, you don’t have to fear any harm from me tonight.”

 

Will scowled at Hannibal as those steel eyes became metal swords. The familiar whispers in his head grew chattery.

 

“Liar…” they repeated. “Liaaaar….”

 

The voices swirled around and around till Will bit the inside of his cheek. The sudden ache of pain dulled the whispers for the moment. He untucked his knees from his arms and sat properly in the chair. The anxiety he had when he entered the office dissolved into annoyance. He pictured himself across the desk with his hands tight around Hannibal’s neck. He wanted to push Hannibal through the window.

 

“I heard of your success by Chilton.”

 

“The merchant has spoken tales of my feats. I shall reward him with a rabbit’s foot.”

 

Hannibal raised his brows at such a response. He’s dealt with the monstrous Nosferatu, snobbish Tremere, and even crazed Gangrel but, never a Malkavian as volatile as Will. Among the vampire clans, Malkavians were supposed to be great seers that juggled the past, future, and present in their hands. Hannibal found them as nauseating as their cryptic ramblings.

 

“I have another assignment for you.”, Hannibal began to dig through one of his desk drawers.

 

Hannibal slapped a folder down on his desk and passed it across the desk. Will opened it warily as his eyes scanned over the printed text. Some pictures had been attached to the documents. He took a glance at them and he nearly gagged. The pictures were the ones that had been broadcasted on the nightly news except uncensored . Will’s fingers  clutched the picture so tight it began to tilt inwards. The Prince gauged the fledgling’s response.

 

“I’m sending you to Downtown to root out these complications .”

Will closed the file and sat back.

 

“If I refuse, Judas? Will you crucify me upon a holy cross and nail thorns to my skull?”, he asked.

 

The Prince pinched his brows together but didn’t utter a word. He practically oozed dominance and subserviance. The office door opened again and Crawford stood like a silent, stalwart shadow in the door way. Will’s head snapped around and he grew alarmed. Jack stood there for a few moments then as silently as he came in, left the office once again.

 

You will not disobey me, childe .”, Hannibal’s voice came out in a long, velevty purr.

 

Will found himself nodding up and down very slowly. He even cracked a smile.

 

“Now.”, the Prince began as he rose from his chair and fixed his suit jacket. “Retire for the night.”

 

With that, Will rose out of his seat and walked to the door. Hypnotized by some mystic charisma Hannibal had conjured on him, he walked down the gilded stairs and into a room far off from the main entrance. He was greeted by a room of bright purple and gold. The bed called his name. Will didn’t even bother to peel out of his clothes. He fell face first into the plush mattress. He was tired . He didn’t have the strength to even argue. Baltimore pulled at his body like leeches. The Camarilla had their claws snug into Will’s back. His only release was sleep if his troubled mind allowed his respite.

 

He prayed for someone to stake him in his back.

Chapter Text

VI

“Thin-Blooded”

 


 

 

     Hannibal entered the guest bedroom with soft, poised footsteps. The bedroom was cool and dark with the absence of windows. Purple reigned on every inch of wall with the courtesy of gold trim. In the middle of the exquisite, Egyptian cotton mattress, the fledgling slept soundly buried underneath the blanket. His pouty, parted lips bubbled with a sheer coat of saliva. His body twisted to the curve of the pillow at his back. Eyelashes dotted with flecks of dirt did not rise. Hannibal sat at the edge of the bed and studied the childe. He looked fragile. His frame was so thin that his clothes seemed to dwarf him. Yet, there was some curious beauty about him that Hannibal couldn’t help but gravitate towards. His fine hand reached out toward the fledgling and planted itself on Will’s exposed ankle. The willowy, thin skin was feverish to the touch. The purple veins showing underneath the skin pleated sluggishly as the childe did not stir from his slumber.

 

     A pity , Hannibal mused as his finger circled around Will’s ankle bone, watching as the childe began to shift around on the mattress, such a delicate mind prisoner to an unforgiving tormentor.

 

     He left Will’s bedside after a while and into the open space of the penthouse. It was dark except for the circular lights embedded in the ceiling above the open bar. The shelves of liquor was illustrious with shades of blue and cerulean. He watched Baltimore moan and gurgle itself with the filth of the city. He hadn’t always called this city his lair but, it grew onto him like a bad rash. Humans were so feeble and meek.

 

     Though they have advanced from their cave-dwelling days, they still lacked the intelligence or vitality to move from up under their petty existence. Baltimore was full of humans of the lowest cunning and ambition. Had Hannibal had choice of his own domain, he would’ve chosen Europe. America left a stale taste in his throat.

 

     The soft clicks of a familiar set of heels greeted Hannibal out of his musing. Bedelia, long and elegant, stood heavenly in Hannibal’s presence. Her golden locks feel to her breasts like curtains. She dressed in royal purple, her dress leaving a glittery trail behind her, and made Hannibal’s dead heart warm. She made a ‘tsk’ noise with her lips as she came behind her Prince and wrapped her arm around his waist. The vampire did not move as his eyes transfixed on Baltimore below.

 

“You worry too much, my prince.”, Bedelia cooed in that signature sultry voice.

 

Hannibal intertwined his hand with the one around his hip and chuckled.

 

“I am a creature without doubts or worries, my queen.”, he responded. “I cannot stress or faulter.”

 

      In her own devilish way, Bedelia knew when Hannibal lied no matter how honeyed his words were. His falsehoods were her ambrosia, sweet, and ungodly to digest. She unwrapped herself from Hannibal and lounged on the large, pure white sofa facing the windows. She stretched her golden legs and gestured for Hannibal to join her. He obliged and caressed her legs into his lap.

 

      She was a natural-born succubus.

 

     They sat in silence as the penthouse was achingly empty of any living bodies except for Bedelia. Hannibal made circles against the soft flesh of her ankle as he couldn’t gnaw away the feeling of the childe asleep in the bedroom. Something wicked and worrisome oozed off the mad childe that made Hannibal squeamish. Malkavians by default were prone to fits of madness, Hannibal could recall several notable Malkavians spurred in their depths of insanity. The Camarilla coddled them as great seers, bringer of woes and end times but, with such scrambled minds came opportunity for the ambitious or stupid. A Prince that possessed a powerful Malkavian within their court could conjure the doom of their fellow royalty all with a foggy vision of supposedly the “end of the world”. All false visions, of course, because the future wasn’t a stagnant idea. Hannibal didn’t play into their childish game of who could out piss the next. He didn’t need mad seers to put himself on the throne.

 

     The Camarilla changed like the seasons. When one Prince is usurped, another petty one takes his place. When the crown grows too tight, they’re strewn upon a holy cross with thorns digging into the flesh and condemn him to a final death. They bicker and argue like feeble children in the hopes that their voice is the loudest. Hannibal loathed his elders especially. Wrinkled, decrypted fools that engorged themselves on mortals and worldly pleasures. These supposed “elders” were great conquerors and lords in their time but, they were craven and misshapen, and too stuck in their ways to understand the new world. Hannibal wasn’t different than them in some aspects. He enjoyed fine furniture and had a great appreciation for creativity of man but, he didn’t want petty title after petty title. He hungered for the absolute domination of every vampire, wolf, and mortal. He would be a conqueror, sacker of cities, and a scourge to all.

 

     The sarcophagus was what the Prince really valued. Such an old relic from the old world had immense power to it, Hannibal felt it in his blood. He dreamt about the sarcophagus every night when he went to rest. He could see powerful trophies from the old world that could reduce his enemies to ash or curse them with blight.

 

      Perhaps he was greedy but, it was a well-deserved birthright . He wasn’t patient for what the sarcophagus yielded. Bedelia slid her legs from Hannibal’s grasp and pursed her cranberry lips at him. He raised an eyebrow.

 

“You’ve become infatuated with something dangerous , Hannibal.”, she accused.

 

     Hannibal stifled a chuckle and cupped her ankle into his grasp once again. She was a perceptive woman but, she assumed too much.

 

“Are you that danger, my beloved?’

 

“You shouldn’t trust me with your heart let alone your enemies.”, Bedelia replied, flexing her toes into Hannibal’s hands.

 

     Never . Hannibal was selective with his friendships and rivalry but, never would he display his true self for others to gorge on. However, he could admit he was growing awfully curious with the Malkavian he bestowed his divine mercy upon. It wasn’t deep as Bedelia presumed. When things tend to bore him, however, they become irrelevant. Nothing was boring or irrelevant about this Will Graham though. What remained buried in such a volatile mind? Was this Malkavian going to be his seer to his glorious kingdom or his usurper bond to send him to Hell? Time would tell but, Hannibal wasn’t quite satisfied with what he’s pried from the childe just yet.

 

A real interesting pity .

 


 

 

     Brian wrinkled his nose at the smell of vomit and rotting trash. The entire street smelled disgusting even for Baltimore-standards. The street was empty except for the few nightcrawlers haunting the street corners with the promise of cheap sex or narcotics. The houses that aligned the street were run-down, broken, and a memento of a time of families and prosperity. The Chesapeake ended near the neighborhood; the water adding a musty smell to the air. Brian lingered outside a particular brick stone home with boarded windows.

 

     Tall fences surrounded the home but, most of it was broken or had holes cut through the steel webs. Few of those nightcrawlers, young, cautious young men lingered about with cigarettes between their lips. Some were women clad in only the audacious of clothing but looked like harpies ready to claw a man’s heart out. They eyed Brian up and down like some diseased leper. The vampire smelled their blood pumping lazily in their drug-ruined veins. He wasn’t thirsty. Not for that vintage.

 

     He walked up the porch steps to be greeted by a much brawnier man, tall and scarred, and scowled. The man said nothing as Brian eyed him up and down. He had tattoos on every inch of his flesh, some vulgar, and others blemished by battle wounds. Brian narrowed his eyes straight into the walking giant’s and they remained frozen. As if possessed by strings, the doorman unconsciously made way for Brian to enter the house. Inside, the suffocating smoke of cigarettes and other narcotics hung heavily. Wallpaper smeared with grime, old blood, and what Brian presumed was shit entrapped him on both sides. The rooms of the house had been gutted to the bare minimum; the foundation of the house acted like stripped bones. People of all sorts, some tweaking on their fix, while others were intertwined in a sweaty, disgusting orgy found their attention transfixed on Brian.

 

     The vampire paid mortals no mind as he went up a flight of stairs. He smelled every fear, heard every heartbeat, and could feel every trickle of desire when mortals lingered in his presence. For being such a sophisticated species, humans when stripped down to their bare wants, they were wanton and predictable. The stairs creaked noisily as Brian tip-toed up.

 

     Upstairs wasn’t better. Trash and broken furniture littered the way as Brian kept a hand over his nose. Men talked amongst themselves towards the end of the hallway. Brian steeled himself for the confrontation. The hairs on his neck bristled.

 

“This shit must be powerful, ‘G”, one man cackled wheezily.

 

“What kind of fuckin’ doctor gets shit like this?”, another loud voice exclaimed followed by more laughter.

 

     Others in the room spoke indiscriminately as Brian’s hand made the door creak open in a long, squeaky note. The room was dark except for the colored lights pinned up around the crowning of the walls. Compared to the other rooms within the rundown crackhouse, this room was most equipped with walls and decent flooring. A sense of panic and agitation swept the room like a tidal wave. Brian already spotted hands wrapped around hoisters and knives. He chuckled as the mortal men stared at him like rabid wolves. They outnumbered him by five as the vampire took a better glance at his opposition.

 

     Around the room was makeshift chemistry tables with concoctions bubbling in all sorts of cheap containers. It smelled like chemicals as Zeller tried not to inhale. The liquid that was cooking within was of the most toxic potency. Brian wasn’t concerned with the guns and knives being drawn on him but, the figure that stood in the far corner, arms crossed, and a cheeky grin across an aged face made his blood boil.

 

“Brian fucking Zeller.”

 

     Brian’s body wanted to contort in disgust as he stood there, physically unphased, but mentally repulsed. One of his assailants, a short dark-skinned man brandishing a blade, lunged for him. The knife found its home in Brian’s side but, the vampire didn’t flinch or vocalize his pain. The man on the other end of the blade trembled back as the knife was left unattended in dead flesh. Brian slid the knife out and flung it down to the floor. He swallowed hard as Brian turned to snatch him by his shoulder, reeling him in, then taking a chunk out of his face. The flesh tasted dead in his mouth. He spat it out.

 

     The man hollered bloody murder as Brian spun him around. Deep pink tissue looked like a shredded kite as the other human men in the room panicked, throwing their knives, and firing their guns. In a lapse, Brian stepped out the path of the projectiles and forward to the individual blanketed by the shadow of the corner. He grabbed at the figure but to his surprise and perhaps his own proudness, a pair of bulky hands grabbed him by his shirt and flung him like a ragdoll to a wall. He crashed into the wall with the force of a thousand storms. He crumpled to the floor as the wolf pack caught up to the present. A bit of blood trickled from the corner of his mouth.

 

So much for being a fucking vampire.

 

     The beast that threw him unveiled himself from the shadows. Scarred, peachy skin and wispy red hair appeared fiery in the night’s light. Brian spat out a tooth as he got up. Tattoos of Celtic origin curled and wrapped around the beast like chains. The infamous Brujah mark; the upside down Anarchist ‘A’, was in the center of his chest.

 

“Have you FUCKING missed me, Zel!?”

 

     Brian wiped his mouth and took a defensive stance. He fucking hated this vamp with every fiber of his corpse. In mortal life, his foe was a vicious, vain man that made killing a sport. Now in death, Brian only wanted to give him the final death he deserved .

 

“In your fucking dreams, Abel .”, Brian responded as the entourage behind him circled like vultures. “I came for the stash.”

 

     The vampire, Gideon, let out a crazed, guttural roar of a laugh as his pack of wolves only circled him and Brian closer. One of them, the one Brian maimed, was set to launch against Brian again but, Gideon swooped in on him and entrapped him in his arms. The much smaller man struggled as Gideon kept his eyes on Brian, those deep, bloodied eyes bearing knives into Brian. His arms became a vice grip as the man’s neck snapped with a crack and his body slumped to the ground. The other vampire hissed at the sound.

 

He hated that sound .

 

     Gideon stepped over the body as a few sparks popped off the body then finally lit up like a small pyre. The others in the room only cowered in fear as they watched the corpse spark up like a crack pipe. Brian wrinkled his nose as Gideon stood between him and a window.

 

“When did you become that human’s little bitch , Zel?”, Gideon questioned. “The night you started sucking Camarilla cock?”

 

      Brian bared his fangs and sinked lower onto his knees. Gideon was too crazed and volatile to ever give him a clear answer. Downstairs was an indication that whatever Chilton’s supply was already smoked in a crack pipe. He didn’t expect to win against Gideon in an honorable fight but damn him to hell, Gideon was going to die . Their bad blood had been spilled since the day they became Kindred. The sins Abel committed since then deserved justice.

 

“So this what you’re doing now, Abel? Having fucking thin-bloods sling dope? Have you lost your motherfuckin’ mind?”, accused Zeller. “Have you fucking forgotten our ways?”

 

      With that accusation, Gideon came forward and Brian met him halfway. A series of punches, kicks, and biting came in the flurry of their duel. Brian was a dwarf compared to Gideon’s gargantuan size but, his foe had become so frenzied that his attacks were slower. The thin-bloods or humans with only traces of vampire blood in their veins panicked and raced out the room. Gideon swore at them in the old language as he too delivered blows to Zeller.

 

“Have you fucking lost your way?”, Gideon growled, catching Zeller by his upper arm and yanking him forward. “The day you fuckin’ became Camarilla, you lost our ways.”

 

     Zeller was pinched in his grip as his legs couldn’t seem to hit any of Abel’s vulnerable points. He took a bite into Gideon’s fleshy arm as the older vampire attempted to break his neck only to have a gaping wound gushing blood. Brian broke free as Gideon began another barrage of punches and clawing.

 

“Like I had a damn choice!”, Brian socked the hell out of Gideon, the vampire taking a few steps back.

 

Gideon flexed his jaw and cackled at his much younger kinsmen. He truly didn’t register pain.

 

“We always have a fucking choice !”

 

     Slower attacks didn’t mean they didn’t lose their bite because a particular punch to his head left Brian twirling backwards. He caught the marbles rattling around in his head and in one last attempt to gain leverage in the battle, forced his entire body against Gideon. The force sent them both rocking into the window behind them.

 

     Glass shattered and commotion soon followed. Brian kept his claws on Gideon’s wife-beater. Glass shards sunk into the flesh of his cheeks and hands but, Brian kept himself atop of the Kindred till impact. The impact made the air out of Brian’s chest escape in a painful wheeze. The sickening sound of jagged metal piercing flesh made Brian unaware. He was momentarily dazed as he landed on top of trash cans piled against the house. Nearby on a broken fence post, Gideon was another story. The metal fence rod was lodged deep within his chest as dark blood oozed down. The flesh exposed looked like shredded meat as Abel, in shock or taken over by his insanity, tried to shove his guts back in.

 

      The rabble flushed out the house in waves of gasps and screams. Brian coughed as he got up weakly. Gideon was choking on his own blood as he couldn’t pull himself free of the steel impaler.

 

     God gave him a fucking break for once , Brian limped up to where Gideon’s head was rolled back. Those crazed, hungry eyes were like glossy marbles as the vampire couldn’t seem to comprehend the pain he was in. Brian leaned in real close to listen to his mortal foe choke. Every strangled, desperate gasp brought Zeller a divinity of justice.

 

“You were never a true Brujah ...”, Abel’s lips trembled every vowel.

 

“I’ll always be a Brujah, now and forever.”

 

     Brian pulled himself away from Gideon as a single, strangled gasp from him signaled his expiration. His skin started to crackle and pop. Heat emerged from his corpse in a burst of reddish flames. The roasted flesh peeling off GIdeon’s body fell in thick, crispy strips into the dirt. It curled and shriveled like fingernails. The crowd outside shouted and stood there agape as someone pulled out a cellphone. Brian didn’t give himself the luxury of watching Gideon’s flesh expire. He digged in his pockets for a cigarette. He limped down the block as more and more droves of people gathered outside to watch the spectacle. His cigarette hanged from his bruised lips.

 

He lives to fight another night.

 


 

 

     Electronic music drummed through the building like a horde of vibrating cicadas, deep but upbeat, as the sounds of clattering glasses and pool balls being knocked around on the pool table. Dancers swung around in metal cages only clothed with a fabric to cover their naughty bits. The smell of beer and smoke lingered faintly in the air as the cool night air wafted in several denizens of the night inside. Matthew watched from the upstairs loft of the bar in his infamously known melancholy. A cigarette remained unsmoked between his bruised knuckles.

 

     He had gotten into another fight.

 

     Matthew wasn’t a stranger to throwing hands or getting stabbed but, he was black and blue from the neck down. He couldn’t remember who he was fighting or why but, he must’ve won because he wasn’t missing any appendages. From what Freddie told him after he was bandaged, he was lucky he didn’t lose an arm. His competitor wasn’t so lucky. His opponent, Freddie only described as ‘the big fucking freak’, was bleeding out in some alleyway without a leg.

 

      Patrons at the bar were drunkenly merry and robust as Matthew only wallowed in self pity. His body was tearing itself down. His hair feel like greasy seaweed and he reeked of alcohol. His clothes stuck on his body like musty rags. The weight of the world weighed down on him when he wasn’t piss drunk or stupidly high. In fact, it was better that Matthew was in a stupor because he couldn’t stand himself sober.

 

      The Anarchs shacked themselves up in the Last Round, a unique warehouse-turned-bar-turned-nightclub, but it had seen its fair share of raids and bombings. Matt had lost several friends, Kindred and mortal alike, all at the hands of the Camarilla wanting to wrap their hands around every single throat.

 

      The Camarilla itself made Matt angry. It was everything Matthew had escaped from in mortal life only to have it follow in death. They were greedy, deceitful, and uncaring bastards that weren’t better than the mortal scum. The Camarilla only wanted the little people suffer. Matthew lit the cigarette between his swollen fingers from a nearby candle. He took a long inhale, kept the smoke in his chest, then exhaled. In the corner of his eye, he watched Freddie come up the stairs.

 

     Freddie, a Toreador by blood but Brujah in spirit, stood at the top of the stairs with her own cup of liquor. Her blood-red curls kissed the tips of her shoulders as she scowled in Matt’s direction, the fine lines near her lips creased tighter, and the Brujah could feel the heat of her wrath from his perch. He braced himself for a verbal assault as her boots clicked hastily on the wooden floor.

 

     Instead, she joined him on the railing and finished the rest of her drink. She threw the glass over her shoulder where it became a thousand glittery pieces. She looked down at the patrons grinding their sweaty bodies together and rolled her eyes. Matt caught a glimpse of her elongated fangs in the dim light.

 

“Fred, if you keep throwing glasses around I’m going to make you pay for it.”, Matthew jested, taking a drag from the cigarette.

 

     She scoffed under her breath and kicked a shard away from her. “How many times I’ve saved your life, Matt? That's more than enough to cover the glasses in this joint.”

 

     She had a point. Freddie’s been there since the beginning, long before the Anarchs even called themselves ‘anarchists’, and never failed to have his back. She had her own share of battles and scars, including her burns, yet she had some deep courage that didn’t falter or waiver. Matt thought of Freddie as the bravest vampire he’d ever known. If he were to face his final death, he was confident that Freddie would lead their people into freedom.

 

     Their people.

 

      It was a funny thought when the Anarchs first banded together. It’d been mentioned to him several different times that he was this ‘messiah’ and ‘martyr’ for the vampire liberation front. He was far from it and if any messiah was a piss-drunk, angry Brujah then the devil was a fucking clown. He never asked to be anyone’s savior anyway.

 

“Heard anything lately?”, Matt asked as Freddie took the cigarette from his fingers.

 

     She took a quick inhale then an exhale and shrugged her shoulders. She brushed a few curls back behind her ear.

 

“Nothing new, just the stupid coffin or whatever it is. It hasn’t moved from the ship it came on.”

 

     The sarcophagus. Matt didn’t care much about the history of the vampire race but, the sarcophagus that came from overseas left the hairs on the back of his neck curled in anxiety. There was something sinister about that old box yet Matt didn’t want anything to do with it. Intel within Prince Lecter’s court suggested that it was the Prince himself who wanted the box and that made Matt awfully determined to snatch it from him. Anything that would make the Prince piss his royal pants made Matt determined.

 

“The fledgling?”

 

“The Prince’s new pet from what Brian’s been telling me.”

 

“He has no choice.”

 

     Freddie furrowed her brows as she looked at Matt in complete disgust.

 

“We all have a fucking choice, Matt.”

 

     The Brujah yanked himself around from the railing and sized Freddie up. He had a full foot on her given that she wasn’t wearing a tall heel but, the energy between them turned into something fiery and raw. She didn’t back down either.

 

“Do you think he knew what his choices were? He’s a fucking newborn for fuck’s sake.”, Matthew gritted but Freddie only rolled her eyes.

 

     She spun around on her heels as those fire-kissed curls smelled like sandalwood.

 

“You care too fucking much, Matt.” She huffed in frustration and disappeared to her own space in the loft.

 

     Matthew could hear her door slam and something delicate crash to the floor. It was no use trying to argue politics with a spitfire like Freddie Lounds. He was right, however, because the anxiety-riddled childe he saved just a few nights ago didn’t truly have a choice . How could he? Before that night, the kid probably didn’t even know vampires actually existed. Matt couldn’t see another one of his kind subjected to the tortures of Camarilla rule. He placed all his trust into Zeller to protect and guide the sireless Malkavian.

 

Brian fucking Zeller , who would have thought ?

 

     As if the Devil was playing his fiddle, Matthew caught the glimpse of the patrons ceasing their erotic dance. The music died down into a hum. The dance floor split down the middle as a bruised, bloody mess of what Brian was limped across the dance floor. Matt raced down the side stairs and caught his kinsman before he fell to the floor. The dancers seemed to be dazed not to care too much on Brian and Matthew as the Anarch signaled the DJ to resume the music. Nearly instantly everyone flooded the dance floor and acted as cover as Matthew had to practically drag Brian upstairs.

 

     Matthew got Brian down onto a nearby loveseat and cupped his face in his own hands. He was more fucked up than he was. Zeller had seen his fair share of rumbles but, he was practically knocking at death’s door.

 

“Zel, what fucking happened? Hey! Zeller!”, Matthew had started shaking Brian like a ragdoll.

 

     The much older Brujah in turn grabbed him by the shoulders and braced himself. He gasped something in the old language but, he fell back on the loveseat. Freddie emerged from her bedroom and raced across the loft to kneel next to Matthew.

 

“And I thought you were beat up.”, Freddie said as Zeller tried to regain himself but, the words fall short as blood trickled up his throat.

 

“He needs blood.”

 

“And a coffin.”

 

     Matthew and Freddie split apart as one went downstairs to find a willing specimen while the other went into the storage to pull out a coffin. Freddie had more charm with people than Matthew, easily snagging a young couple off the dance floor, and up to the loft with a promise of sex with a vampire. She was a wicked girl as Matthew drug the coffin out of storage and cracked it open. The cushions within were a bit torn and dirty but Matthew didn’t think Zeller would care in such a traumatic state.

 

     Freddie coaxed the couple to sit on the floor near Zeller with soft, delicate whispers of her abnormal Domination ability. Toreadors weren’t prone to having such powers but, Freddie had learned from the best . The couple grew starry-eyed as they didn’t seem to flinch when Freddie ran a knife down their arms. Brian perked up in interest as he rolled over on his side, groaning as he turned, to indulge himself in the thick drops of blood. He slurped hungrily at the man’s reaching arm as the woman offered her own. Brian took both into his grip and fed as the coffin was rigged up for him.

 

“Brian...What happened?”, Freddie asked as the man began to slump backwards, the sudden blood loss causing him to grow weak.

 

      Zeller took a breath between his wolfish swallows and wiped his mouth. He looked at Freddie and shrugged his shoulders, rolling over onto his back, and sighing. Matthew came from behind and leaned over his friend.

 

“Gideon’s dead.”

 

      Freddie and Matt exchanged cautious glances as Brian got a cigarette out of his bloodied pocket. He lit it and smoked it down to half its size in a single inhale.

 

“Don’t ask why or how, he’s fucking dead .”

 

“We weren’t but you need to sleep, dude.” Matt curled his lips into a gentle smile as  Brian rolled his eyes.

 

     There was no love lost. Matthew hated Gideon as much as Brian did if not more. Abel was wild, even for Brujah standards, and sometimes Matthew debated the actual bloodline Abel was apart of. He swore that Gideon was a Gangrel .

 

“I’ll sleep when Prince Asshole is dead.”

 

     The three of them laughed in unison and the human couple collapsed onto the floor. Their blood pooled underneath them coldly as Freddie gave Brian a goodnight kiss on his brow. She gave Matthew one on his cheek and left them alone. Matthew sat with his friend at the edge of the loveseat. Brian curled his legs up to his chest. The older vampire offered the Anarch his cigarette but he politely declined.

 

     They sat there for a while in silence except for the occasional hard choke Brian had. Zeller talked in the old language though Matt was inexperienced with the tongue. He didn’t have a proper sire like Brian. Alot of things that Brian had the privilege of only Matt could dream of. He wasn’t forced to become Kindred or leader of a bunch of rebels, lonely hearts, and freedom fighters. Yet  through all odds, they were friends till their deaths.

 

      Brian stopped speaking hours before sunrise as Matthew had to drag his body across the loft and into the coffin. For someone of his frame, you would think he would be easier to carry. The Anarch made sure Brian was tightly entombed in the coffin before retreating into his own room. He fell face first into his bed. They were all beaten down.

 

     We all make choices, no matter what they cost us. How many of our choices will be of our own choice?

Chapter Text

VII
"Auspex"

 


 

 

     The blanket wrapped around his sweaty, aching frame threatened to swallow him alive as Will fought it off in a flurry of flailing hands and feet. It unraveled itself and pooled at the foot on the elongated bed. The sticky pillows surrounding his head was flung over the sides of the bed. He scrubbed his face with his hands as he listened to the eerie silence. His voices didn’t plague him. He must’ve slept for two nights given that his clothes hadn’t changed and he smelled pungent.

 

     However, he was certain that he wasn’t back in the apartment either. The lavish expanse of the bedroom screamed luxury as Will swung his arm over his body, touching the edge of marble nightstand, and soon finding a light. He took in his surroundings as the room illuminated in a soft, orange glaze. He hadn’t grown up with wealthy but respected it much so that his presence in the room made him uncomfortable. How disgusting would it be for whoever cleans the place to wash the soiled linens. Will peeled himself off the mattress. A pool of drying sweat was the evidence of his nightly fits. His dream had been a vivid one.

 

     Will dreamed of destruction. He saw the city boil in blood and people engulfed in hellfire. He could smell the ash and taste decay on the tip of his tongue. Overturned cars and flattened buildings littered the path. The Chesapeake overflowed with a sea of bones. Monsters, large and bellowing, had fangs the size of sabers as the engorged themselves on burning corpses. Will must’ve been one of them because he was drenched head to toe in sticky, delicious blood. High above in a tower much like the Prince’s residence, he saw the clouds break and blood rained from above. Yet through the clouds, his eyes began to weep.

 

     A chiseled face, porcelain and soft to the touch, smiled amidst the death and torment. He called forth the bloody rain to drench more of Baltimore’s boiling expanse. A set of gilded wings brought the maelstrom as the engulfed went spiraling in all directions saved that monsters grabbed them within their maws. The young, old, and suffering only screamed and cried till monsters ripped their final cries and the winds took their fears. Will looked at God and began to break down in pitiful sobs. The beautiful face looked down to where he knelt and cried with him.

 

God wept with bloody eyes .

 

     Thats where his dreamed ended and Will couldn’t recollect the face he thought of as God . He presumed it was of his own oversensitive empathy or his fanatic-idled mind but, he couldn’t help but gnaw at a name. The dream was awfully vague though. He didn’t think he’d find the God  he was looking for as long as he remained prisoner in this room.

 

Speaking of which…

 

     Will got to his feet and felt the plushness of the carpet tickle his toes. He walked deftly across the room and smoothed his hand over a golden knob. When he pulled, the door opened in the motion. To his surprise and relief, a bathroom with a large, clawfoot tub in the middle of it filled with scented water invited Will into its watery nirvana. He peeled out of his dirty clothes and meekly submerged himself into the water. The temperature was instant as he kept himself from flying out the tub. His knuckles grew white against the rim of the tub as the sudden warmth made his body tingle.

 

     He slid himself into the water to rest his head on the curve of the tub. The childe’s muscles ached from his neck down to his toes. He wasn’t comfortable though. The much needed sleep was in many ways plentiful except for the dreams but, he was a foreigner in a foreign place. The threat of the Prince or the Prince’s gargoyle of a guard still left him uneasy. Had the Prince wanted to have him executed, he hoped it was a stake to his chest while he slept.

 

     The Prince , the title made Will’s tongue curl. Every fiber of his being told him to get the hell out of Baltimore but, those same fibers told him to cooperate . The world of Kindred was a foreign and dangerous one. There was no city, state, or country from what Will had witnesses that the Prince didn’t have his hands upon.

 

     He had only been a vampire for a week yet, he’s learned so much about his new way of life. He experienced the power of illusion while embarked on the cargo ship, felt the companionship of a true friend, and learned that his choices were no longer his to make.

 

     Everything he did, said, or even thought of was wrapped around the tendrils of this Camarilla organization. Brian had warned him of the perils and tribulations he would face. That he was grateful for. He was a newborn child just learning to crawl but he was placed in a crib with his own devices to navigate his new world. He stretched his toes out as the soapy water left foamy patches on his legs. He could at least enjoy something human for once. The suds began to fizzle away as Will slipped himself underneath the water. His curls floated around his head as there was no point worrying about drowning as he completely immersed himself into the water.

 

Not everything could be human about him anymore .

 


 

 

     Chilton woke up a bruised, battered, and bloody mess. His body was bandaged from head to toe with the exception of his face. He was redressed into a plaid pants suit as the bandages wrapped his body like a mummy. He attempted to shift his position underneath the sofa his blood soiled but, the surging pain made him flop on his back. He raised his bandaged hands to his bloated face. His vision was fuzzed yet he could make out details of his unfamiliar surroundings. It was a lavish space with silver and gold jewels embedded into chandeliers, the carpet was of a winter color, and the soiled sofa had to be of the finest cotton and embroidery. Baltimore was picturized outside in a sea of yellow and white lights twinkling in the night.

 

     Frederick braced himself on his elbows and groaned weakly into the open space. Blue light behind a bar illuminated his shadow as the soft humming of music wafted into the room. Such a grand expanse meant great wealth, Chilton himself was a man of wealth but this was wealthy . As unfamiliar as his surroundings were, he couldn’t help but feel a thousand eyes staring at him.

 

     To his left was nothing, to his right was nothing.

 

     Uneasiness washed over him as Frederick relieved his elbows of their burden. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He was being childish again. He knew what kind of monsters and demons lurked in the darkness. Those monsters had fangs and didn’t hide under his bed.

 

      For a few moments, he swore he could feel someone over him. Those thousand eyes had eyelashes that brushed up and down his skin and left goosebumps in their wake. He tried to ignore the feeling given that he wasn’t used to sleeping in complete silence especially in an unfamiliar space. However, when that gnawing feeling didn’t leave, his eyes opened like shutters. He met bright crimson eyes and was chilled to his core. Those eyes stared hungrily into his own as his body practically seized up.

 

Hannibal Lecter .

 

      He’d only met the Prince on a few occasions, mostly at his dinner parties, and rarely outside of business transactions. The few conversations they would have was only business in nature.

 

      The Prince wasn’t the one for conversation.

 

      He was well-dressed in navy blue and cream. His silvery locks was laid down in a sheer coat of gel and his thin lips flatlined from ear to ear. What was more unsettling was the way Hannibal looked at Chilton. It was a ravenous look that couldn’t be burned away from his memory. The Prince smiled thinly. He didn’t need to see himself to know that his blood, tainted with not the pleasant of entities, had some appeal to the vampire. Chilton braced himself back up.

 

     “You appear to be healing well, Dr. Chilton.”, Hannibal’s voice was cool and easy to the ears. His eyes moved from Chilton down to his bandaged body. In reality, Chilton wasn’t healing well. He was a broken man. His face was a mass of purple and red bruises.

 

“I-”, Chilton began but, his jaw was stiff and crooked with tingling pain. He closed his mouth and only nodded to the Prince.

 

“You should rest, my dear friend .”, Hannibal cooed as he eased Frederick down back on the sofa.

 

       The sudden touch made Chilton jittery as his eyes seemed to be engulfed in the Prince’s own. They were of a deep, rich maroon that sometimes appeared red in the correct lighting. The shipment and the fresh bodies that came with it was lost. If Chilton could imagine where those starved, half-skeletal girls were he could only assume the worse . He swallowed the lump in his throat as the Prince adjusted himself on the arm of the couch. His long legs crossed one another. A brief period of silence came between them as Chilton laid there sucking in his swollen bottom lip.

 

Hannibal knows .

 

      The Prince didn't utter a word or voice his annoyance with his human business associate but, he wasn’t a forgetful being. The shipment was of utmost importance not just to Chilton but to Prince Lecter. Fresh bodies provided sustenance which the Prince keened on being very selective. Much to his dismay or arrogance, Hannibal had piqued interests in what he abhorred his father to.

 

      Hannibal wasn’t charitable in nature. He would not have his wealth squandered in the hands of overzealous beggars. However, Chilton proved to be quite the centerpiece in his affairs. He was a sleazy “doctor” that only found joy in his hubris but, he had much of a part to play in human affairs. Hannibal wasn’t quite ready to dispose of Chilton though he was irritated with his failure.

 

      From what Chilton reported, Will and the vampire Zeller had been successful in their retrieval. Initially when Jack laid the file upon his desk, he was appalled with what was actually reported. He didn’t war with the pettier bloodlines of Brujah, Gangrel, or Nosferatu. They were feral in nature and easy to outsmart but for Chilton to have involvement with a Brujah , it made Hannibal roll his eyes into the back of his skull. Even more so when Chilton’s militia of sorts hurried his body into the penthouse and onto the pure white sofa. Hannibal’s lip twitched.

 

      It was no secret that Chilton consumed vampire’s blood as a font of longevity. If his consumption of a vampire’s essence was dire to the point of addiction, it was time to cut the snake’s head off.

 

“My Prince, please allow me to explain.”, Chilton begged. “Please, my liege.”

 

     Hannibal would have none of it. His couch was already soiled with an addict’s secrements and his patience was worn thin. He had invested money into Chilton only to have it regurgitated in a pool of shit. He rose from the arm of the sofa.

 

“Let this be a warning to you, Dr.Chilton”, the phrase was cold and unforgiving. Hannibal’s eyes found Chilton’s swollen pair.

 

“I am not the one to be played with.”

 

      Chilton tried to not fumble over his next words as Hannibal left him at peace. The penthouse returned to its silence as Chilton’s erratic heartbeat rung in Hannibal’s ears like church bells. He would dispose of Chilton when the time echoed but for now, he indulged the mortal that he would be safe from his wrath.

 

       He met Jack downstairs in the lobby. Other business demanded his attention, far more important that Chilton licking his wounds, though it humored him to see him battered. It knocked him down several pegs if not a whole tower. Jack escorted him into the Bentley and pulled off into Baltimore’s nightlife. Everyone whether vampire, wolf, or mortal had their time. Hannibal could be a patient man much more so when it came to the things he wanted. But, he was no fool or something to be made a fool out of. Jack merged onto the freeway and Hannibal turned his attention away from his musing. His face was still cracked with irritation.

 

He’s definitely one not to play with .


 

 

      Bedelia had always been a beauty, in fact, she was promised to be the most beautiful woman in the world. Her mother harped for days and nights about how beautiful Bedelia would become with her rich blonde hair and perfectly sculpted legs. Instead of being read bedtime stories, she was forced to listen to Femina or Grazia articles all night. As her sixth birthday would come around, Bedelia could recite every issue since their initial publish.  She was the only child of two socialites obsessed with their place in Baltimore’s ever-changing hierarchy that she felt prisoner between them.

 

     Her school days consisted of dancing classes, ballet in the afternoon, and rigorous studies till her fingers bruised from gripping the pencil so tightly. She studied languages, world history, and the most vigorous of maths. It was no surprise to her parents that her grades never dipped below top marks or her routines were praised gloriously. Her mother would shower her with expertly tailored dresses while her father would drown her in expensive jewels. By the time she was twelve, her necklaces alone could pay for an entire country.

 

     She wasn’t a happy child  but, she made herself smile and curtsy till she was of age. Her parents didn’t abuse her in the sense of physicalities yet somehow till this day she had wished her parents hugged her. Over the years it became worse for Bedelia to accept the fact she was too beautiful to be loved. Her praises only came from her beauty. Love only came from how beautiful and enticing she would look on some gentleman’s arm.

 

If they could be called that .

 

     She entered college soon after her high school graduation. Bedelia’s admission into Yale to pursue a career in psychology was expected of her like most of her upbringing. The  cycle continued. She earned the highest of grades and became the best within her field. When she turned twenty-six, she was married to some attorney that even in her middle years couldn’t even remember. The marriage was made of hate and sought out of prestige instead of love or for the sake of children they didn’t have. In fact, there was no living children between them.

 

     No matter her academic success or prestige within society, she did fail in terms of motherhood. Her children, all three she bore within her short marriage, died sickly infants upon arrival into the world. She did not mourn for them as her husband did with a bottle of liquor and a pack of smokes. They kept their urns on the mantle for several years till her husband divorced her and took those poor unfortunate souls. Her husband left with hardly a penny to his name but, he did remarry and had a family of his own soon after. Bedelia didn’t shed a tear as the divorce was finalized and she was free once more. Though after the end of every pregnancy, a surge of renewal blossomed within her. It felt good for her to fail .

 

     Now she was in her golden years, still dressed in fine clothes and jeweled beyond belief, yet oddly detached from her need to fail. Hannibal had brought that out of her years  ago. He saw the ambition in her eye, the pridefulness in her stride, and how deep her craving was to indulge in the love she wanted. She smiled at the thought of Hannibal in his buttoned-up suit, his strong face, and how his hands brought her to a new kind of ecstasy every time. He saw what the dresses and the jewels tried to flaunt.

 

He saw her failures as successes.

 

      The night that Hannibal spared this so-called fledgling made her heart sink so far into her chest it felt like she was going to suffocate. The way Hannibal’s eyes focused on the sobbing, quaking mess of what Will Graham was revolted her. Those eyes belonged on her beautiful figure. Those hands belonged on her aged skin. She wasn’t a scornful or jealous kind of woman but every time she heard the childe’s name breathed , it made her entire skin crawl with avarice.

 

      Bedelia had watched Hannibal and his brute of a bodyguard leave from the penthouse with gnawing anxiety. Chilton was no threat to her, let alone anyone else, but the childe was still haunting the space she made for herself and Hannibal. She had noticed his presence the night before when she stumbled upon him fast asleep.

 

      Innocent and angelic he appeared to be when he slept, Bedelia could admit that his curls gave him a boyish innocence yet that didn’t excuse him for capturing her Prince’s infatuation. She had watched him for hours as he stirred and fought off his nightmares. A part of her wanted to slip a pillow over his face and hold it down till his choking sobs fell on deaf ears. He was immortal in all shapes and forms. He didn’t have the need to breathe or could choke. That technicality left Bedelia morose.

 

He was what she couldn’t be; immortalized .

 

       There were several occasions that Bedelia practically begged Hannibal to embrace her. Nights when they were entangled in their own sweaty bodies, Bedelia would gesture her neck to her Prince but, he would turn the other cheek. She never vocalized the want of his fangs into her flesh. Some years passed and she accepted the fact that perhaps Hannibal didn’t want her to become what he had. Ravenous, monstrous, all the things Hannibal was underneath his tailored suit and honeyed words. How would she look with her mouth agape with blood? Would she still be beautiful?

 

      Bedelia sat on the disheveled bed and listened to the water being sloshed out of the tub. The glass of whiskey she had partaken in lost its appeal as she could make out the scrawny frame of the fledgling within the bathroom. He was oblivious to her deft presence as she watched . He did turn to look over his shoulder as he dressed but did not whisper a word. His eyes were blue, oddly deep and understanding as Will Graham slipped a silk shirt down below his waistline. His lips parted to utter something then closed when the words couldn’t find their place.

 

      The woman uncurled herself from the bed and approached Will in the steamy bathroom, his cautious stance was skittish and anxious. He took two steps back when Bedelia took two steps forward. She made a ‘tsk’ noise with her tongue as the childe couldn’t met her in the eyes. He avoided her steady gaze.

 

“You’re so damaged but he can’t see it.”, she commented, leaning against the marble counter. “I cant believe he sees something in you .”

 

     Will’s gaze averted up to her and a scowl thinned across his face. The corners of Bedelia’s lips curved into a grin. She must’ve struck a nerve. Again, Will didn’t surrender a response as he finished getting dressed in what Hannibal desired. His fingers fumbled with the buttons and Bedelia caved in, approaching the childe forcefully, and taking the buttons between her lithe fingers. She couldn’t harbor hatred for Will Graham much as herself told her to do. Her petty evilness wouldn’t dispose of him or relent Hannibal’s interest from him. He was a truly lost cause but not a patient she could condem to the deepest pits of an asylum.

 

     She sighed softly as she fastened the last button up to Will’s throat. He stared at her with those anxiety-riddled eyes and a quivering lip.

 

“I’m just…”, she trailed off as Will watched her fingers caress the buttons on his shirt.

 

“Have you felt scorn since my arrival upon this hellish plane?”, Will finished, taking one of her fingers into his hand. The coolness in his hand made Bedelia embrace her entire hand to his.

 

“I can promise you, Athena , I am not here to become the scourge of your paramour.”

 

     Bedelia chuckled softly at the nickname the Malkavian gave her. Athena , was she so beautiful that she could be compared to a goddess of war? The gesture was out of kindness but Bedelia made distance between herself and Will. The flames of envy and scornfulness had cooled when she looked at Will once more over her shoulder. He shifted nervously under her gaze again and darted his eyes down to the marbled floor.

 

Perhaps she been too rash to judge him so harshly.

 

     As she was leaving the bedroom, the soft steps of Will’s bare feet stopped her at the door. He was peeking his head from the bathroom with a wide, maniacal looking sneer. Bedelia pursed her lips as she couldn’t help her throat dehydrate.

 

“God save the queen…”, Will trailed off with a high-pitched keen. Those baby blues she thought as innocent boiled into something crazed and it made her tremble.

 

     He disappeared into the bathroom once again and Bedelia rushed out the bedroom, slamming the door behind her, then a hand clasped around her pendant. Chilton raised his head weakly and muttered something in Spanish. Bedelia didn’t mind him as she called for Hannibal’s personal guards to escort her downstairs. They brought her to her own car and she had the driver rush her straight home.

 

She was gravely mistaken. Will wasn’t some lost child that needed to be coddled.


He was the danger lurking in the king’s court .

Chapter Text

VIII
“Placenta”

 


 

 

Brian’s body jerked violently up from its hibernation. His first instinct was to erupt from his darkened confinement but, his balled up fists only knocked against the wooden case he was captured in. Blood still trickled from the corners of his mouth as he had to take in the realization that he had been put to rest . He must’ve made it to the ‘ Last Round ’. He curled his legs up to his torso in an attempt to kick the shitty wooden door of the coffin. It didn’t budge but made a wheezy creak instead.

 

The coffin he figured Matthew had threw him in was locked from the outside. It would be quite a killer joke if Brian was to burst free only to get scorched like beef jerky. He sighed and flexed his fingers out. They were still splotched with purple and red as the knuckles of each bony finger throbbed. His jaw felt like it was impacted with cement. His whole body was just an aching mess.

 

Brian was no stranger to schoolyard tumbles or late night brawls but, Gideon was different . When he saw Gideon impaled and trying to retrieve his entrails, a sharp prang stabbed in his chest. Even as he walked blocks upon blocks of the city, his body wanted to pull him back to where Gideon’s ashes crackled. Like a cesspool of grief and rage slushed around in his gut, it took every piece of Brian not to throw himself into the Chesapeake.

 

They shared a sire, a bloodline, and most importantly a bond . He wasn’t aware of every Kindred his progenitor sired nor did he care about every single hellspawn. He knew only of Gideon. As much as Abel made his blood boil, he was in fact his only kin . Brian couldn’t help but roll his eyes at the idea of his sire somewhere in Hell swearing every cuss word in the book. Wasn’t his fault that one of his many progenies was a drug-fiend and a psychopath.

 

He laid there for what seemed forever till her heard a padlock being molested. He could hear music, deep and vibrating, echo underneath. The smell of alcohol being spilled and swirled made his lips moist. The lock was freed. He rose up and braced his damaged hands on the sides of the coffin. When he looked up, he caught Matthew’s sneer.

 

“Good morning, Dracula.”, Matthew greeted coldly.

 

Brian flicked him off as he lurched forward, his hands curling around his feet, and the muscles in his back screaming in agony. He hated coffins. Matthew shrugged his shoulders and found comfort in the torn-up couch Brian laid on the night prior. The music became increasingly louder as Brian wanted to shoot whoever was at the DJ booth. Matthew was softly chuckling as he watched Zeller stumble around the loft space.

 

What happened to taking care of your elders?

 

“How long have I been out?”, Zeller asked. “It feels like I got fucking hit by a semi.”

 

“All morning.”, Matthew answered back. “You slept like you were dead .”

 

Matthew was overzealously proud of his joke because he couldn’t stifle a chuckle. He jeered and cackled as Brian got out the coffin and walked around the loft. It was too millenial for his tastes. The posters glued haphazardly on every inch of wall was of bands and singers that Brian could only describe as too punk for his tastes. The wood floor was stained with paint and graffiti; motifs of long-dead rappers and revolutionaries. The Anarch’s taste of furniture was solely on refurbished milk crates and flea-covered sofas that made Brian’s skin crawl.

 

“You must think you’re a real fucking comedian huh, Matt?”, Brian asked his much younger kinsmen.

 

Matthew beamed another sneer as Brian began to paw at his musty clothes.

 

“I just didn’t think anybody was more fucked up than me. Thats what’s funny.”

 

Matthew displayed the healing scars and bruises on his hands and Brian scoffed. It wasn’t merely a bruise let alone anything to cry about. The new generation didn’t know the difference between a real fight or just a catfight.

 

He began to strip out of his bloodied tank and leather getup. Brian pulled the greasy pants off his hips and flung his boots across the room. The Anarch turned around and nearly dropped his drink.

 

“Put some fucking clothes on! This isn’t a strip club!”, Matthew hollered at him.

 

“You sure run the ‘ Last Round’ like one.”

 

The older Brujah rolled his eyes as he walked towards Freddie’s bedroom, opening the door, and braced himself for the verbal slaughter on his life. Her room was much darker than the loft space. Her walls were covered with newspaper clippings, boy band posters, and a couple framed pictures of herself. Lava lamps of all assorted colors marked all four corners in the room with their glow. Her bed was a mess within itself and her coffin remained abandoned against the far wall.

 

Freddie didn’t even turn to look at him as she was entranced in her computer work. The snug headphones over her ears blocked all sounds including the nauseating thumping of the electronica downstairs. Her fingers speedily tapped the keys in a crescendo of clicks and clacks. The computer screen flickered of windows with all sorts of images and articles on them. Her fire-kissed curls dripped and the towel wrapped around her frame pooled at her hips. So beautiful but had fangs to rip a man’s heart out.

 

He snuck by Freddie in order to get into her bathroom. It was still steamy from her own shower as Brian worked the nozzles. Immaculate and feminine, the smell in the air was tropical and soft. The shower seemed to be stubborn as Zeller crotched there, grimey, and frustrated with the device. A spurt of icy cold water shot out from the showerhead as Zeller kept working turning the knobs. He finally got a warm temperature to squirt out and he enraptured his body in the spray. The caked up blood, grime, and sweat ran off his body in droves as the spray felt all too good to be real.

 

Brian soaked his hair underneath the spray and stood there for awhile. The scars etched down his back like lightning bolts prickled in the tepid froth. He was getting too old to keep getting into fights. His mind drifted towards other thoughts. He began to worry about Will. He imagined the fledgling curled so tightly in the cot that he dwarfed into the darkness of the room. Brian didn’t mean to be gone for so long and prayed to whoever took prayers that the fledgling was still in the apartment.

 

Will Graham had the body of a man but the mannerisms of a lost child. He could hardly kept himself from a panic attack it was nearly impossible to have him survive on his own. It’d been some years since Brian was entrusted with a neonate. Will reminded him much of the fledgling he had that it pained him to see the childe go about in the world so blindly. Will Graham had no idea what kind of a fucked up circus the Camarilla was let alone what the Prince was going to torment him with. Hell, the kid didn’t even know his own clan or his disciplines.

 

How could Brian teach a fledgling outside of his blood? He didn’t even know what teachings Malkavians had. He didn’t know a single Malkavian in the entire state of Maryland.

 

Brian sighed as he turned off the shower. As much as Matthew and Freddie protested about the harsh injustices of the Camarilla or how every vampire should be free to choose their own path, they didn’t take in consideration that some vampires couldn’t choose their own path. The Camarilla’s rules were asinine in nature but, it kept the vampire race in-check and out of sight. If every blood-crazed vampire chose their path, their race would have been extinct millenia ago. Brian only wanted Prince Asshole’s ass fried not the only family he’s ever known. That family; Freddie, Matthew, and now Will was the only thing that mattered.

 

Zeller nabbed one of Freddie’s silky bathrobes and put it on his wet body. He didn’t bother to dry off. She wasn’t sitting at her computer anymore when he came out the bathroom. Her bedroom door was open and he could hear her and Matthew chattering amongst themselves. He walked in to join them to get the scoffs and silent judgements from both Freddie and Matthew. He crossed his legs and beamed. Freddie turned completely around in the recliner with her eyes focusing back on the tablet in her hands. Matthew got up from where he was sitting.

 

“I’m here, what the fuck do you guys want now?”

 

Matthew went over a table covered with papers, beer bottles, and other drug paraphernalia and dragged out a rolled up paper. He went over to a wall that wasn’t covered with a rock poster and pinned it up. Brian looked at it in idleness as Freddie got up with her tablet in hand. It was a map of Baltimore. Most of the map was marked up with red circles, beer stains, and several lines of writing as Brian only watched the two Anarchs marked it up some more.

 

“So I come home only to get a geography lesson? Wooow….”

 

“You always shit on us for not taking action.”, Freddie started, her eyes darting to Brian like daggers. “Maybe it’s time .”

 

Zeller was intrigued as Matthew did some more circling with his marker. He approached the map and took notice of their notes. Downtown Baltimore was their target; more specifically, the Prince’s tower. The older Brujah could give them credit for being ambitious but to directly attack the castle, foolish if not insane .

 

“Don’t fuckin’ tell me you’re going straight to the source?”, Brian challenged, his fingertips stabbing the map.

 

“You’re going to get k-”

 

“You think I’m that stupid?”, Matthew interrupted. He paused his scribblings to glare at Brian. “Look closer.”

 

Brian examined the map once more with only an arched brow and the itch to sock Matthew in his smart mouth. He took notice of a few surrounding circles around the Prince’s tower then the lightbulb in his head lit up. They were businesses of all sorts and professions.

 

“You’re going to blow up his businesses?”

 

Both Freddie and Matt laughed that time.

 

“Hell yeah! We’re going to fuck with his money.”, Freddie replied, bringing up a street-view of the area.

 

Brian liked the sound of that. Contrary to popular belief, much of the Camarilla relied on the politics of the human world. Presidential races, the next technological discovery and even international diplomacy all derived from what the Camarilla slithered into. Dollars, yen, pesos, the Camarilla needed human money to function the not so human world. The Prince hoarded nearby human businesses through intimidation and the “promise” of protection. There was no negotiating with a vampire like Hannibal Lecter. If you didn’t do what he said, he’d kill someone’s entire family and serve it like dinner. He would serve mothers to their daughters, fathers to their sons, and the rest to the socialites of Baltimore’s elite.

 

“When?”

 

“Tonight.”, both Anarchs said in unison.

 

Brian went to collect his clothes off the floor and began to dress in them again. They smelled stale compared to the flowery notes of Freddie’s body wash but they would have to do.

 

“Well?”, he shook a cigarette from the pack he had in his coat pocket. Freddie and Matthew looked at him slightly puzzled.

 

“Let’s go start some shit.”

 


 

Baltimore chilled him down to his bones again. Will stood outside of the towering building with his hands shoved in his tight pants. He looked to his right and left. The street was empty of heartbeats. He should’ve nabbed a coat before he left his wretched imprisonment.

 

Could vampires even die from the cold or was this revenge for ignoring the voices?

 

The silk shirt he was given did not to warm his frail body as cars of all kinds of luxuries zipped around him. The penthouse was suffocating if not nauseating just to be inside. Hannibal’s paramour , Bedelia, irked him in all the wrong ways. Her intentions were meticulous if not evil in thought for what reasons Will did not know. He had never encountered Bedelia till this night but, the jezebel harbored hate for him. He shouldn’t have scared her but it wasn’t because he was picking a fight, they told him to.

 

His voices gossiped as if they were guests on a talk show. They were persistent on Will to go back inside the penthouse, grab Bedelia, and push her out the window. Her death was pictured a thousand times over. Another suggestion was to rip her throat out and drink her like a straw. His mouth watered. His legs threatened to turn him around.

 

He pushed those malicious suggestions into the back of his head as he embarked down the street. The streets on this side of Baltimore were bare of denizens of the nightly hour. The businesses were closed and their expensive merchandise locked away behind rigorous alarm systems.

 

He paraded down the barren streets in a heightened sense of caution. Every smell, gust of wind, and mere glimpse of anything had Will growling in his throat. He hated this. He didn’t like to be alone in a foreign place. He missed Brian especially. He couldn’t quite place why he felt drawn to Brian’s guardianship especially now that he was coming in full-swing of being considered a real vampire. There wasn’t much Brian had taught him yet other than the Prince was a top level prick and the Camarilla’s purpose was to screw him over. Somehow, Brian was imprinted onto Will in a good way.

 

Brian .

 

The name brought comfort to his senses as he ended up into an entirely different district of downtown. Opulent, unique buildings of all sorts surrounded him followed by an entourage of late night shoppers.The sudden barrage of human beings, their heart beats, and their delicious blood was all too much for his wrecked nerves. He ran towards the other direction till the streets were crepuscular and quiet.

 

His voices guided his way. Will trekked the streets till a shrill cry of a woman’s horror jolted his attention ahead. The faint silhouette of a petite woman, a stroller, and something monstrous made Will tremble. It wasn’t anything he had seen. He could make out whatever was attacking the woman wasn’t human-looking. The woman fell to the ground and continued to scream as her stroller was ripped from her and a feeble little cry came from it.

 

The sound of a newborn.

 

Whether it was a blind sense of heroism or of his own stupidity, Will bolted towards the woman still struggling with the beast that poached her child. The breath in his chest came out in cool gasps as Will skidded on the sidewalk. The woman let out one last yowl of defiance as the monster ripped the baby from her grasp. Curved, gnarly claw-like hands slashed at flesh and blood shot into the air. The childe stood between the beast, baby, and the mother who weakly tried to reach for her newborn. Her blood oozed from her bosom lazily. Their eyes met, storm blue clashing against blood red, then the monster skidded into the alleyway with the baby still crying in its grasp.

 

Will let out a fierce bark as he blindly chased the assailant into the murky alleyway. Trash cans in his path was overturned by the beast as it fled, the baby’s screams of terror guiding Will around every corner. His vision was blurred with frustration and exertion as he met a dead end. He looked up, down, and around frantically for any sign of the fiend. He didn’t hear the baby anymore. Tears welled in his eyes as his mouth opened to cry. His hand squeezed over his mouth as he kept himself steady against the wall.

 

Possessed by some ungodly amount of despair, Will broke into sobs as he imagined that cherub of a child in the maw of the monstrosity. The blood would rush over and pool like a gaping lake. The baby wouldn’t even comprehend its death or the loss of a mother.

 

The death of children was the cruelest of tortures for any man.

 

Will slid down the wall and buckled his knees. The alleyway smelled of filth and moisture but, Will could only weep in the silence of it all. What did he do to deserve such evilness? He brought his hands up to his eyes to smear the tears away. No longer blinded by his tears, his eyes caught something peculiar. A disturbed sewer gate made him inquisitive. He got up to wretch it loose and underneath its top, the murky smell of sewage made Will’s nostrils flare.

 

Echoes of the baby’s soft cries, however, steeled him to descend into the unknown bowels of the city. He landed softly onto the edge of the greenish, flowing water as rats scurried around his feet. The tunnels were lit with lamps that buzzed like dull cicadas. Will walked along the flowing cesspool till he heard the baby once again. The sound was close. The Malkavian stalked around every twist and turn of the sewage system till he could spot the baby laying on the pavement. He approached slowly as the newborn; a baby girl with light blonde hair and doe eyes, cried and wept for the arms of safety. He cooed the child and as he reached to rapture her into his arms, something struck him from behind. He went stumbling into the river of filth. When he emerged again, his eyes found the hulking mass of disgust personified.

 

Claw-like hands that curled into hooks, a body contorted into a painful forward arch, and a mouth full with a mixture of jagged and broken teeth made Will bristle. The beast was a few feet away from where Will had been. It was dressed in a ripped white collared shirt with slacks. In a sense, it had appeared human . The Malkavian could see how much the creature drooled as he crawled back onto the pavement. He took a defensive stance with his arms out in front of him and his back to the baby girl. The monster made clicking noises with its throat as it only stood on its hind legs instead of all-fours.

 

“You will laugh at violence and famine. You will not be afraid of wild beasts…”

 

Without warning, the monster launched full speed at Will and by instinct, the Malkavian met it halfway. They tumbled into the water in a clash of claw and fangs. Will felt the stinging pain of his flesh being sliced as his hands tried to grasp around flesh. They emerged from the water as the monster flung Will back onto the opposite. He sputtered the dank filth he had swallowed as the monster uttered in a language Will wasn’t familiar in from across the way. He rose to his feet as the baby girl nearby could not be hushed in her throes of fear. His voices began to whisper their violent suggestions as the monster turned its attention back to the newborn. Mouth agape, the beast stalked to where the baby wailed and Will’s blood ignited into hot fury.

 

No! ”, Will shouted as strength returned to all corners of his body.

 

He leapt over the crevice in newly found vitality and straddled the monster’s back. The both of them struggled again with the exception that Will clamped his fangs into the hard, muscled flesh of the beast’s shoulder. The beast howled in pain as it was taken back, bucking wildly, and screaming for Will to release it. The Malkavian heard none of it as black pungent blood filled his mouth and trickled down his throat. He drunk deep despite the taste as the monster’s claw found his thigh, gripping it tight, and forcing Will to release his grip. The childe fell forward and his torso hit the pavement hard.

 

The beast wept as it inspected the grevious wound. Will looked over his shoulder with fire burning in his eyes.

 

W-why would you hurt me..? ”, the beast sobbed, it’s claw-like hand trying to stop the gush of blood.

 

Will was taken aback by the words that fumbled from the beast’s mouth. It sounded of a man as the voice was pained. He rose to his knees and took his stance again. His storm blue eyes became focused and deep as the beast only whined and cried in despair.

 

I am Nosferatu! We share blood! Why would you deny me my supper? ”, the beast shriveled away from Will as the Malkavian remained bold in his posture.

 

The Nosferatu gave the newborn once last hungry gaze then cowered into the darkness of the sewer. Will almost gave chase if it wasn’t for the baby girl that needed the protection of his arms. He turned around and bent down to gather her up in his arms. She was so small and delicate that Will wasn’t quite sure he was holding her right. He laid a soft kiss to her forehead.

 

He carried her out the way he came into the sewers. The night air had turned frigid as Will did his best to keep the girl sheltered from the elements. She had stopped crying by the time Will emerged from the bowels of Baltimore. Sirens blared nearby and Will was cautious to reveal himself. He watched officers study the baby girl’s mother underneath a white sheet. There was no surviving such a mortal wound the mother had. She was expiring by the time Will delved into the sewer. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

 

Illusion becomes me .

 

When he opened them again, he saw the world in a glossy lense. Time was trapped in a bubble as Will felt the airiness he experienced on the cargo ship. He began to approach the officers with the baby girl in hand. She cooed and babbled at him as he couldn’t bear leaving her in the darkness of night, motherless, and ripped of her innocence. He placed her on top of a hood of an abandoned car. He banged his fist on it a couple times and the officers snapped their heads to his direction. He vanished around the corner as the officers was alerted of the baby girl’s shrill cry.

 

She will be safe from the monsters .

 

The childe walked out of the alleyway from another end and revealed himself to the naked eye. He wiped the black blood still smeared on his face with his ruined shirt. He smelled of the sewer. His hair was sticky with the excrements of Baltimore. His condition didn’t bother him as much compared to what the Nosferatu said in the sewer.

 

‘We share blood…’

 

Brian hadn’t told him of vampires that looked monstrous as the Nosferatu did. It revolted him that there was such monstrous fiends in Baltimore. What else crept in the darkness? How much did Will not know of the Kindred world? His stomach flared up in pain again as the slash marks bled through his silk shirt. He needed to find Brian. Will didn’t need anymore fights with monsters or be a patriarch to orphan children. He disappeared into the streets of Baltimore, hungry from companionship, and tired from his wounds. Destined to walk through the night, Will allowed his legs to carry him to wherever they saw fit.

 


 

The pig masks Brian, Matt, and Freddie donned were comical in all sense of the word as they rode in the back of a van. They had packed several cases of explosives, most of which Matthew had designed himself, and gallons of pig blood. Brian wasn't one to be poetic or creative but he had to give Matthew some credit.

 

This shit was going to be hilarious .

 

The van made its first stop in a vacant parking lot. The vampires got the explosives rigged carefully in their packaging. It was imperative that they didn’t allow the bombs to be traumatized before getting glued to their destinations. Freddie was the first to leave the van with a bomb strapped carefully on her side. Matthew followed her with two buckets in hand. Brian was the one who kept watch. He was given Freddie’s tablet to record their deviance. They sneaked to the first business across the parking lot.

 

A beauty parlor for the posh and elite. The cursive sign was dotted with luminous lights as Brian scoffed under his breath. Did the Prince really need facials and pedicures? They snuck around the side of the building and looked for fuse box. Matthew was the first spot the box and ushered Freddie to begin planting the bomb. Brian remained in front of the building with his mask off. This side of town was vacant of the nightly prowlers; courtesy to the Baltimore P.D. The businesses of downtown only scattered to the financially greedy. Freddie plugged the last of the wires in and gave a thumbs up. Matthew went back around to the front of the building and opened the buckets.

 

The blood was pungent and dark as the vampires curled their nostrils at the smell. Animal blood, in all tastes and sources, wasn’t a particular delicacy for most vampires. Brian stepped back as Matthew lifted one bucket and splattered its contents on the storefront window. It oozed down the glass like tears as he did the same with the other bucket. Freddie came from activating the device and the three of them returned to the van. Their driver whisked them halfway across downtown into a galleria.

 

The bombs were rigged up to four other establishments; a lounge, jewelry store, a restaurant, and another beauty parlor. Matthew used the last bit of the pig blood at the beauty parlor but, stained the inside of the store this time. The business’s alarm system hadn’t been reactivated when the Anarch threw the bucket through the front window. He stepped over broken glass and merchandise as he began to rip products off their shelves. Freddie joined him and opened containers of tonics, elixirs, and other skin creams. They overturned furniture, desecrated the walls, and made a mess of things. By the time the children had enough, Brian could admit that there was nothing beautiful about the spa anymore.

 

Matthew asked the driver to take them to Baltimore’s observatory once all their bombs were placed. They left their pig masks outside of the van. In the middle of Baltimore, the observatory was dark with the exception of the antennas on the roof. They blinked lazily as the Anarchs sneaked up the tower. The security guard stationed at the front desk slept soundly as the vampires couldn’t stifle their giggles. They were like rebellious teens in their mischief. They took the stairs up the several dozens flights and made it up the roof. Freddie had brought her own selection of drugs; joints of marijuana and candies infused with it. Matthew partaken in the candies while Brian slid the joint between his lips.

 

Matthew dug the remote out of his pocket and whistled for Freddie and Brian to join him. All three vampires looked down at Baltimore with a sense of justice in their bodies.

 

“Once we do this, there’s no turning back.”, Matt warned, his finger dangerously on the detonator.

 

“He started this shit.”, Freddie replied, lighting her own joint and taking an inhale. Her exhale was shaky as the fumes lodged in her throat.

 

“I never planned to.”, Brian said. “Blow the shit up, Matt.”

 

Matthew’s finger flattened the detonator and in a crescendo of rumbling, the buildings simultaneously collapsed. Fire erupted from the buildings as the explosions triggered other buildings surrounding them to shake and tumble down. The vampires hooped and hollered as the area began to crackle with flame. Freddie and Matt embraced each other while Brian let out the loudest, raunchiest scream his throat could muster. The city was alive with wildfire as sirens blared in the distance. Hannibal Lecter owned most of Baltimore if not the entire state of Maryland but, this was going to get his attention. Brian looked forward to seeing that smug, conceited asshole of a face. Matthew and Freddie turned their backs to the show and sneaked back down. Brian savoured the smell of smoke and marijuana for a few more moments before he followed them back down.


Let the war begin .

Chapter Text

IX
“Ikizukuri”

 


 

 

Hannibal sat in passive silence as alluring classical music purred in the background. His brows furrowed so tightly that his scowl was beginning to ache. The lavish space of the dining hall was dark in color, deep cherry and oak furnishings, and screamed with a much needed revival. The table stretched the expanse like an elongated arm. They were seated based on rank; barons to barons, lords to lords, and the princes at the head of the table. A parade of plates, glasses, and utensils littered the way. Servants (humans under the miasma of a vampire) served delicacies served of blood and flesh. The cuisine made Hannibal’s stomach revolt. He shooed them away with a subtle flick of his hand.

 

The conversations around him were dull and tedious. His fellow royalty, some old while others were fresher than him, talked of politics and the changing times. Some scorned the old regime while others lied about their loyalties. Hannibal saw their sneers and heard their promises of alliances. Worthless, but the flock was weak. Younger Kindred harped on how worthless it was for old world politics to continue. The more ambitious lords spoke of democracy.

 

That led to some fangs being bared and words exchanged in the old tongue. A brawl broke between two Kindred which was promptly extinguished with a stake to their chests. Their bodies bubbled into red boils before disintegrating into black ash. The smell wafted in the room in thick plumes. The other Kindred in the room whispered their swears and sat back in their chairs. Hannibal rolled his eyes.

 

How petty his kinsmen had become.

 

The Prince didn’t want to remain in this centuries-old delegation of cravens and the dense-minded. Jack was posted in the far corner of the room. His mourning-like attire blended him into the wallpaper with the exception of his saffron orbs. He shared in the Prince’s annoyance but didn’t allow it to falter his face. Hannibal drew his eyes away from his guard and back to the rabble at the table. The only vampire that Hannibal had found interest in was a much younger Prince.

 

He was a foreigner . He was dressed much like Hannibal with the exception of paisley. His posture was poised but not too alert. They shared the same hair color minus the style. In reality, Hannibal could easily pass him off as his own progeny. His scowl wasn’t as brooding or noticeable. His eyes wafted from vampire to vampire in idle interest. Hannibal gave him another glance and their eyes met.

 

“Good evening.”, Hannibal greeted, his voice drawled into a mere murmur.

 

The vampire obliged with a simple nod and uncurled his clasped hands. He offered his hand for the company of Hannibal’s own. Their hands embraced in a quick one, two shake.

 

 nsufferable , isn’t it?”, the younger Prince suggested, his eyes averting to the rabble of the royalty down the table.

 

“They squable like enfants .”

 

Hannibal’s scowl curled into a smile. He chuckled softly and watched as vampires left or indulged in the served courses. The music was changed into something even more dramatic; the notes was violent and pounding rather than soft and smooth. More servants came into the dining hall to sweep the ashes from the carpet. It was all too human for Hannibal’s tastes but, it was entertaining enough. Wouldn’t be a true delegation without a final death. His new found acquaintance shared his amusement.

 

“Hannibal. Hannibal Lecter. ”, the name slipped from the older Prince’s outh in a foreign drawl.

 

Sebastian LaCroix .”

 

Hannibal’s eyebrow arched. He was familiar with the name but never knew a face to match .

 

Prince LaCroix , the title rolled off the tongue like bourbon. Los Angeles had its issues in terms of electing heirs for the city but, he didn’t expect it to be so sudden. The last Prince of Los Angeles faced a quite gruesome, torturous final death at the hands of his own court. Hannibal recalled hearing the news as the courtiers didn’t bother to give their culled monarch a proper burial. Distasteful as it was, the Kindred of Los Angeles returned order by electing this Sebastian LaCroix as their Prince.

 

The lack of familiarity was met with the subtle acknowledgement between them. They were both of the same clan; trueborn Ventruvians of the oldest pedigree. All Princes alike shared Ventruvian parentage but most were born in the New World rather than the old, civilized world Hannibal had been versed in. They couldn’t imagine the true knowledge or power that came along with being a Ventrue of the old blood.

 

“Tell me why the Prince of Los Angeles came all this way to hear the squabbling of Baltimore.”

 

LaCroix didn’t answer immediately. He took in a long pause as the dining hall doors swung open. A long silver tray embellished with fruits of all sorts came forth in an entourage of servants. On top of the platter is what drew gasps and whispers. A mortal man with his chest cavity breached with tortuous instruments whined in his confinements. The plates around the delegation was cleared in the wake of the course being brought before them. LaCroix and Lecter shared another glance as the dish was sat down before them.

 

The look of delirium was a unique one. Hannibal had watched many a mortal fall to the grasp of shock-induced insanity but, the look he found in this poor soul’s eyes was true agony. The servants laid a bundle of knives between each lord followed by needles. LaCroix stared at the silverware in slight confusion but Hannibal knew exactly of this practice.

 

He had performed it himself.

 

Ikizukuri , the act of serving the sashimi while the fish breathes, had been performed on this unfortunate soul. The Prince had learned of the culinary fetish while traveling East Asia years ago. Peculiar as the act was, Hannibal saw how sophisticated the chefs had to be to keep their prey alive to serve it. It was the matter of being capacious with the knife work that didn’t leave the fish bleeding out. Same can’t be said with a human or Kindred subject. Especially this Kine .

 

Hannibal watched as the Kindred around him eagerly brandished their knives and began to stab, rupture, and terrorize the young man plastered on the silver slab. He wailed his pains and begged for release but, they fell on deaf ears as parts of his skin was skinned like a pelt. Parts of his flesh was cut in tiny morsels while his organs were left undisturbed. The Prince scoffed at their hasty assault. Such a decadent masterpiece of flesh should be savoured not ripped apart by wild beasts.

 

Hannibal noticed LaCroix took not part in the feasting and made note of his discretion. His hands were clasped in his lap and his eyes away from the gore.

 

“You and I aren’t quite different.”, Prince LaCroix commented as the Prince next to him; the Prince of Houston, took a greedy bite of the flesh he stole from the human carcass.

 

Hannibal wrinkled his nose but kept his eyes to LaCroix.

 

“How so, Prince LaCroix? We share a clan but I don’t see where we are similar.”, Hannibal asked, looking upon his younger predecessor.

 

There was no vampire like Hannibal Lecter. He traveled the seven seas, fought a thousand battles, and lived a thousand lifetimes. He gorged on a million souls and he couldn’t believe that the much younger, prideful royal would dare to compare. Sebastian was coy if not cynical to say the least. He was a rash figure for Ventruvian standards yet Hannibal couldn’t place where Sebastian placed as a threat. He did keep his microaggressions to a minimum. He didn’t know where Sebastian was on the terms of a threat.

 

LaCroix leaned in closer towards Hannibal.

 

We both know what the sarcophagus really is .”

 

Hannibal was deathly intrigued now. There was only a few souls that knew what the sarcophagus may contained. The Prince found that Sebastian seemed to be proud of the acknowledgment as he slithered back into his poised posture. The sarcophagus that landed upon the Chesapeake was sinister if not an ancient sign that Gehenna was near. Vampires weren’t auspicious beings or one to be victim to superstition but, Hannibal wasn’t a fool. He’s seen the signs many centuries ago and it was the most catastrophic genocide Kindred had ever faced.

 

Hannibal reached for the goblet of plasma in front of him and took a deep swallow. LaCroix watched as the young man exhaled his final breath as his organs were molested with. The lungs were the first to be ripped free of their socket as it too was slashed and hacked till nothing remained.

 

“I had diverted the Elizabeth Dane from my waters.”, LaCroix continued, watching as the heart was extracted.

 

“I was having my own meddling from within my own court so, I decided it was the best to have that bloody ship away from my city.”

 

“Courtiers, such dangerous people.”, Hannibal said, a bit of cynicism in his words.

 

In actuality, Hannibal thought of LaCroix as some boasting peacock. If he did redirect the ship from his port, he sounded bitter that he didn’t reap the rewards.

 

“I meant terrorists but yes, your own court could be the very death of you.”

 

Hannibal grimaced as the vampires around them begant tear limbs from the platter. As much gore he’s been witness to, it was beginning to revolt his appetite. He got up and fixed his suit as LaCroix gave him another glance. Jack came up behind him to groom him; slicking back loose hairs and fixing cuffs. The Prince gave LaCroix a curt farewell. He lead his Prince out the dining hall as another defiant, screaming course was coming down the opposite way. Hannibal hissed under his breath as they exited the building into Baltimore’s cool night.

 

The Bentley was warmed up to a warm, pleasant heat. Hannibal loosened his tie. The night had been long and tedious. Hannibal deserved a hot, bubbling bath and a glass of chardonnay. His body ached for his retirement into his coffin. He couldn’t help to gnaw at his encounter with the new Prince of Los Angeles. Legally, the Prince had to recognize that LaCroix had been lawfully elected by the Camarilla as the de-jure lord of Los Angeles city limits. LaCroix was far too young and inexperienced to have any such claim to a city like Los Angeles. Hannibal recognized ambition on sight. Sebastian reminded him of his younger years when Baltimore was merely a colony. Colonial times were simpler if not more laxed. The only threat at the time was the god-fearing pilgrims and their faith. Sheep, really. Hannibal had no issues dealing with pilgrims, raiding natives, or the wolves. He exercised his rights over Kindred and Kine alike a bully in the sandbox till higher powers showed him the true way.

 

Perhaps that’s what LaCroix needed , Hannibal watched the traffic move on the other side of the freeway, a strong rod to beat the spoiledness out of him.

 

Jack pulled off the freeway at the familiar exit and was met with procession of emergency vehicles and police cruisers. Hannibal looked up to the front seat and caught the glimpse of the flashing sirens. His lips pursed into a thin line. Dawn was going to be upon them in a matter of an hour or so. He could feel his skin prickle as the threat of the sun’s blaze made it crawl. The traffic ahead moved at a slow, gradual pace as car horns and angry yelling echoed in the chaos. Hannibal was about to retrieve his cellphone till Jack was able to pull off the freeway exit and onto a side street.

 

His eyes grew wide as he looked upon the bright, red flare of buildings engulfed in wildfire blazed in a few blocks down. Firefighters battled the flames with torrents of water, but the fire was simply too volatile to contain. People along the sidewalks were injured by the debris or flames. Paramedics assisted the wounded as new reporters began their nightly reports. Jack looked at his Prince from the rear view mirror.

 

“What shall you have me do, Prince Lecter?”, he asked, his voice was a hollow, lifeless echo.

 

Hannibal seethed in quiet wrath as his nails dug into his palms. He stared down the destruction. A couple of spinless, wayward “freedom fighters” had been no threat to him since taking residence in Baltimore, but now he was made a fool of. These weren’t just rebels that harped about injustice or rioted against the system.

 

These were home-grown terrorists .

 

Jack opened his mouth again to question till Hannibal’s fist struck the window. A thin crackle on the glas appeared in the wake of the impact.

 

Take. Me. Home .”, the command was vicious if not tyrannical as Jack instantly was ushered to drive the Bentley back to Hannibal’s residence.

 

They passed by more destruction and disaster as Hannibal couldn’t help but sink his fangs into his lower lip. He wanted nothing more than to rip these little punks by their roots and gild them upon a holy cross. Diplomacy was no longer an option for him. This personal attack on his establishments meant that his casus belli was valid. He no longer needed the preachings of the Camarilla to enact his vengeance.

 

Jack swiftly pulled the Bentley into the parking structure of the tower and Hannibal didn’t bother to wait for his personal guard to escort him to the penthouse. The oblivious security guard, Franklyn, tried to greet him as he went to the elevator. Hannibal shot him a red, menacing glare and the security guard nearly crumpled to the ground.

 

He entered the penthouse with little regard to who was still within. Chilton was no longer on his sofa as the evidence of the blood-stained cushions were hard and darkened. Bedelia was seated by the bar as she watched her Prince pace back and forth. She swallowed the last bit of her drink and saultered towards him.

 

She wrapped her arms around his chest and calmed his pacing. He huffed but melted into her arms. His wintry hands embraced her own and they stood together overlooking Baltimore. She whispered sweet nothings but Hannibal couldn’t hear her over the blood thumping in his ears. He was too furious to be comforted by his paramour. Even from his penthouse window, the flames licked the sky in lashes of black and red. His kingdom was burning .

 

“They will pay in time, my Prince.”, Bedelia cooed as she too watched Baltimore become scorched earth.

 

Hannibal turned his head to meet her own and laid a kiss on her tawny cheek. His wrath couldn’t be held against Bedelia’s coolness. When he looked upon her, Baltimore didn’t matter as much.

 

“I’ll have their heads. All of them.”, Hannibal responded, bringing Bedelia around so he could lift her up by her waist.

 

“I know you will.”, she returned a kiss to his forehead.

 

Her legs immediately wrapped around Hannibal’s waist as he picked her up. Her sultry laugh ran like velvet down Hannibal’s skin as he brought her to their bedroom. Tonight, he would embrace Bedelia rather than the confines of his favored coffin. He peeled the dark purple dress from her frame in one swift motion. Underneath laid nothing but delicate, warm flesh that Hannibal assaulted with tongue and fang. She curled off the bed as Hannibal took her entire sex into his mouth, licking and lapping, till a steady stream of her ambrosia came from her. She curled her toes and breathed one long moan as Hannibal engulfed her sex again with another assault. His tongue circled and nipped at the pearl till Bedelia thrashed him away from between her thighs. He ventured to her breasts and bit down hard on her perky nipples. She hissed in pain as he drew blood from them.

 

She ripped at his suit till it was a ruined mess near them. She ran her fingers up and down his chest. He unsheathed himself and slid inside her with one, calculated thrust. He was in till the hilt as Bedelia used his shoulders as support. He buried himself deep as his fangs prickled her neck. The quick succession of thrusts left his paramour gasping for air as thin, fleshy trails etched his back. Hannibal had Bedelia on her knees and struck the bundle of nerves deep within. As he was about to leave her sex, she forced him onto his back and took initiative. She was around his length once more as they melted into each other. Their grinding was impatient. Hannibal’s mouth twitched into a snarl as Bedelia was quick to bring him to his end.

 

Their pleasure was swift if not a violent, abrupt end of their passion. Her cry was shrill and his growl monstrous. Hannibal remained inside Bedelia as he shifted them both onto their sides. She panted softly as her arms entangled them both. He found solace in the crook of her neck. He took in her sickly sweet scent as they laid in a mess of themselves. She was fast asleep by the time the Prince was forced to retire. Dawn was upon them as they were enraptured together in the bed. The smell of ash still flared his nostrils, but nothing else mattered when Bedelia was in his arms. Sleep came quickly for the vampire as he listened to his paramour’s breathing.


They will pay , Bedelia’s promise circled in his conscious as he fell asleep, they will pay .

Chapter Text

X
“Sunny Side Fried”

 


 

 

Brian entered the apartment with a sense of caution. The lights were turned off except for the static of the television lighting up the corner. Trash littered the floor. He stepped over empty blood bags to find a battered, yet sleeping soundly Will Graham bundled underneath a blanket. His blood soaked through the threadbare blanket and covered him like a black cloak. He could see his bruises bulge from the skin. The wisps of chocolate curls was damp with something foul. He tiptoed closer to the fledgling, kneeled down, then cupped his chin in his hand. The fledgling did not stir or protest the sudden touch as Brian reached to pull the soaked blanket off him.

 

The cream-colored shirt strewn about his frame was stained maroon. Brian undid the buttons one by one till he was able to peel it off Will’s body. A deep, angry gash raked his side as the flesh appeared pained and warm. The Brujah’s nostrils flared at the scent. The smell was rancid if not musty.

 

Brian threw the blanket back over Will and gathered the lithe childe into his arms. Dawn was to be upon them and the newspaper plastered on every inch of window wasn’t going to safeguard either of them from a crispy death. He carried Will into the back bedroom and laid him on the bed spread. The Malk roused with a quiet gasp.

 

His eyes lazily glanced from the wall, to the ceiling, then to Brian. His face morphed with glee as he pounced upwards to grab Brian by his shoulders. The Brujah was taken aback by the sudden gesture, but warmed into Will’s embrace. They released one another. Will sat down on the bed’s edge and Brian joined him.

 

“As a childe greets his sire, I am exalted to see you again.”, Will said. “Hath my nights been filled with violence.”

 

“I can tell, kid.”, Brian pointed downwards to the now oozing wound Will had on his side.

 

The childe looked down and grimaced at the sight. His lanky fingers traced over the battle wound with slight abrasiveness. He parted his lips to say something, but only an incoherent whisper escaped. He looked back to Brian abravisvely then darted his eyes to somewhere else.

 

“I battled ‘Nessie’ in the rivers of the Nile.”, Will admitted. “I didn’t bring you the skin.”

 

Brian didn’t question Will’s descriptive imagery as per standards when dealing with a Malkavian, but it did leave a gnawing knot in his stomach. Will wasn’t prepared for life as a vampire let alone anything involving actual combat. Sure, he wasn’t frail compared to the average human but he still was meek in his disciplines. Seven nights into his new life and Will had become battle-hardened. The fact scared Brian much more than what the Camarilla or the Prince could do.

 

The Brujah took the cigarette pack he had nestled in his infamous leather jacket and freed one from its confines. He sparked up the thin white stick and inhaled the smoke deep in his chest. Will turned away when Brian exhaled.

 

“Who did you fight with, Will?”, Brian questioned.

 

As Will was about to open his mouth, Brian shot him a hot, terrifying glare.

 

“Give me a straight ass answer. None of that ‘the end is here’ kind of shit.”

 

Will swallowed and lost himself in thought. His eyes, one darker than the other in a shade of cerulean, bounced from his lap, to the wall, then back to his lap. He didn’t know what he fought. He still felt the hot, slick blood in between his fingers and heard the infant’s shrill cries rattle in his head. The words he wanted to spill was a flurry of nonsense and macabre imagery. The fledgling let out a shaky, uncertain sigh and looked to Brian.

 

“I-I fought….”, the words fell off a cliff as Will couldn’t compose his sentence.

 

Brian pursed his lips and tried to comprehend Will’s trembling lips. He extinguished the cigarette against the metal frame of the bed.

 

“You fought….? A human ?”, he jested. “Don’t tell me you got into a fucking cat fight, kid.”

 

Will shook his head as he composed another set of rabblings. One voice asked what he wanted for dinner while another whispered something incoherent.

 

“I fought a Nosferatu .”, the coherent phrase was relief to Will.

 

Brian made an ‘ooh’ sound as Will silently congratulated himself for making sense. The Brujah scratched his stubble.

 

“Congratu fucking lations, kid. You didn’t die.”

 

Will sent a questionable glance Brian’s way.

 

“You aren’t angry?”

 

“No..”, Brian wrapped his arm around Will’s shoulder. “I will never be mad at you, kid.”

 

Will’s face warmed in a red hue as he hid his cheeky smile with his hand. His buried his head to the crook of Brian’s neck. Brian felt how his curls felt against his growing stubble. He held the fledgling tighter as  trickles of sunlight pierced through the newspaper in the living room. The bedroom remained darkened.

 

The vampires sat in silence and for a long time, it was soothing to listen to each other’s breathing. Brian felt the much need pull of sleep nip at him. He laid back with Will nestled to his side. Their legs dangled from the edge as it was awkward to be spread across a small twin bed.

 

Anxiety gnawed at Zeller like a comedown from a high. His paranoia, his uneasiness, and his frustration cramped inside his chest made it harder to even think straight. The childe resting soundfully in his embrace worried him so much. This world was not kind to a neonate. Since the night he was embraced, the ship at the docks, and now this battle scar from a Nosferatu, Will was delving into a foreign world with closed eyes. Brian grimaced as the childe beside him shifted around.

 

So helpless , Zeller thought as he listened to Will’s breaths, God is such a cruel ass bastard.

 

The Brujah closed his eyes and counted his own breaths. He would have to worry about Will’s future once the sun kissed the horizon to sleep. Anarchs, Camarilla, and being a surrogate sire for an insane fledgling was more than enough to worry about.

 

“Hey Will.”, Brian poked at the fledgling sleeping beside him with his elbow.

 

Will roused again with an irritated huff.

 

“Take a bath, you smell like a fucking sewer.”

 


 

They partied as if it was the end of the world as they knew it. Music blasted from the hangout into the open night. Beer cans, wine bottles, and the remnants of smoked pipes littered the floor along with vomit. Clothes littered the floor like abandoned rags. The Last Round was silent with the exception of the occasional groan or gurgle of vomit. Matthew laid in a pile of bodies, some nude while others hardly covered, with a raging headache.

 

Being undead didn’t exempt him from a wicked hangover. He cursed in the old tongue as he felt around the bodies of flesh. His head thumped like a hundred drums. Hands grabbed at him from all sides and he refused them all. Freddie was somewhere downstairs passed out over the bar counter. Anarchs from all over the state had poured into the Last Round in flocks. They congratulated Matt for their success and raised their voices for the resistance.

 

It was a gesture for change when Matthew was strung out on adrenaline and alcohol. He accepted it with his head held high. He basked in the glory of being the messiah for the people. When the high ended he was left strung out and destitute.  He loathed the rallying cries of Anarchs from coast to coast, begging him to show them where freedom lied, and when it all came down on him to trap him, he ran from it. Matthew Brown was no leader or freedom fighter.

 

He just really hated rich assholes like Lecter.

 

He untangled himself from the tendrils of limbs and legs around him. He pulled on the first pair of jeans in front of him, though the pair chosen was too tight around his waist, and tried to get his bearings. His legs didn’t want to cooperate as he had to balance himself along the furniture. The stairs was quite a climb if not a descent as Matthew’s perception of the stairs became longer and longer as he stumbled down. The humans and vampires still piled on the floor hardly roused at the sound.

 

Sounds of bottles clattering downstairs and swears came from downstairs. Freddie was up with vomit caked in her hair and dried down her shirt. She caught the glimpse of Matthew dragging himself down the stairs.

 

“H-H-Hey!”, her lips tripped in the pronunciation. “Mattt….”

 

Matthew zipped around the bar counter before Freddie could wrap her lanky, vice grip arms around him in a drunken folly. She leaned back against the counter and pawed at the unattended bottle of vodka. The vampire passed out next to her regurgitated greenish-red vomit all over the counter. Matthew had to bite his tongue to keep himself from throwing up. The place reeked .

 

He poured himself a glass of water and did his best to get it down his throat. He shouldn’t have drank so much. The water doused his nerves as he took a look around the space. The dance floor was an absolute mess, the upper balconies had all sorts of underwear and streamers hanging from it, and the floor couldn’t be found. Matthew shook his head.

 

Freddie got herself situated and pulled the vampire next to her down to the floor. He muttered something and Freddie wasn’t having it. She stripped out her ruined shirt and pants. Her nude body was scarred and tattooed from her early days. Matthew eyed her nude frame as she shook her kinky hair out. As many years they’ve been together, Matthew was always surprised at Freddie’s frame. She was skinny but not too skinny. Her limbs were long and made her seem ominous in how they would sway from her sides. The tattoos down her body were crude if not avant garde in a way. Every nick and scar Freddie had was a new stroke on the canvas.

 

“Thish place ish a mesh...”

 

“When is it not?”, Matthew drank the last of his water and sat the glass down on the counter.

 

Freddie slid her hands up into her hair and plucked out the knots of vomit and debris from her hair. She disappeared into one of the bathrooms.

 

Matthew poured himself more water as the rousing patrons woke one by one. Some said nothing as others offered their ‘good evenings’ or ‘where am I’s’. They haunted around the bar expecting the Anarch to make them fresh drinks, but only received a glare and a silent ‘fuck you’.

 

As vampires and kine alike began to dress and depart from the Last Round, the front door slammed open hard . Every vampire in the room hissed and bared their fangs as the kine only stood there baffled. Matthew was the first one to face the intruder at the door. The hairs of his neck stood at attention as the instant smell of roasted flesh made his nostrils flare. Beams of the evening sunset spilled in from the entrance and Matthew bounced away from its reach. Freddie had came out of the bathroom with a fresh set of clothes and her eyes widened at the sight.

 

A scarred, burnt-looking vampire crawled on the floor as her back sizzled from the exposure. Her face was curdled into a horrifying ‘aah’ as Matthew took several steps back. Her voice came out in a long, pained groan as incoherent words bubbled from her lips.

 

“Caamm…”, her voice bellowed.

The flesh sizzled away as exposed bones crackled and blackened from the heat. The vampires in the room hid their panic behind bared fangs and hisses. Matthew had seen vampires die in several ways; staking, beheading, and even electrocution, but he never witnessed such agony. The face of the young vampire blistered and oozed with blackened blood. She began to cry and beg Matthew in the old tongue to help her. He held his breath as the sizzles became loud pops . The familiar glow of a final death sparked the bar alive with an orange glow. The humans in the room screamed and panicked. They fled out of the Last Round in hordes, nude, and spooked out of their minds.

 

Fried , what a shitty way to die.”, she commented as ash began to pool on the floor.

 

Freddie stood next to Matthew as he seethed. The Toreador looked to her compatriot but only saw rage in his eyes. She tried to grasp at Matthew’s fist but he jerked his arm away. The dwindling crowd still in the club made room as the Anarch stormed up the stairs. He’s seen death and violence, but that look that vampire had as she began to die struck a nerve.

 

'Fuck the Camarilla and fuck the assholes in it .’, Matthew dug his nails into his fists and paced around the loft space.

 

In his fury, he flipped over the couches and the end tables. He ripped the posters from the wall and destroyed anything left in his path. Freddie only watched in caution as she watched in silence. Those beryl eyes that knew any and everything was idle. The Brujah crumpled to his knees and wept on the floor. Freddie gave in and wrapped her body over Matthew’s.

 

“They’ll pay, Matt.”, she assured him but even her tone was uncertain.

 

How could she be sure? They’ve been butting heads with the Camarilla for decades and now war has been declared, there will be more vampires just like the one downstairs. Matthew was no hero or a freedom fighter but he had the heart . Freddie wished Matt could shed his skin and see that it took a shitload of pain to be an Anarch. She’s seen Anarchs like Matt rise, fall, and fall even harder. If they had any chance of touching the Camarilla, Matthew would need to steel his gentle heart.

 

I cant lose you like this , Freddie laid a kiss onto Matthew’s cheek as he cried into her arms. His fists uncurled to reveal pinkish palms dotted with blood.

 

Her arm was stained red with her compatriot’s bloody tears as he ceased his sobbing. He wiped his nose with his other hand and looked up at Freddie. She beamed a smile though she wanted to cry just as much as Matthew did. They had each other. No matter how many centuries passed or the fights to be fought, Matthew and Freddie were inseparable.

 

“I’m going to take them down, Fred. I fucking promise.”

 

She shook her head and buried her face into Matthew’s. Their lips touched and for the moment, everything in the world made sense. Her cheeks became warm as Matthew kept them locked together. Neither of them wanted to disengage but they did after more vampires came up into the loft space. They seethed for vengeance as Matthew and Freddie stayed curled up on the floor.

 

The Anarchs listened to all their fantasies on ripping apart the Camarilla and throwing them out into the sun. They stifled their laughter as the vampires around them grew more dark in their revenge.

 

“Can we at least sober up?”

 


 

 

The fledgling woke up startled by the sound of something being dragged across the floor. He rose up to find that he was alone on the tiny bed. He looked around to only find Brian’s muddy boots and leather jacket sprawled over the floor. If Will knew anything about Brian, he never left without that coat. He stretched out his cramping limbs. As he turned to yawn, he caught a strong whiff of his odor.

 

Brian was right . I smell like the sewer.

 

He actually fought in a sewer. Will shook his head as he got off the bed. He peeled out the ruined shirt and pants and walked across the room. He flicked the bathroom light on and caught his reflection in the mirror. That once cherub-like face that sold him a good fix was still pale and purplish. His lips were chapped and bloodied from the skin peeling. His hair now touched his neck and a stubble was coming alive along his jaw.

 

Will turned on the shower and let the lukewarm water rinse the grime off his frame. The raggedy washcloth he had didn’t do a fair job of wiping down the stubborn stains as he had to rake his skin pink. The soap didn’t do much for the smell either. He washed most of the gunk out of his hair before the drain could clog. As he stepped out the shower, he was startled again with Brian’s entrance into the cubicle-like bathroom. He covered his unmentionables with his hand and made distance between them.

 

“Have I no privacy in the most private of areas?”, he questioned Brian as the Brujah had dragged one of the kitchen chairs in.

 

An electric razor and some scissors was on the bathroom sink as Brian ignored the Malk’s protests and ushered him to sit down. He hesitated for a moment but reluctantly sat down. The chair was cool against his bare bottom as he crossed his legs to conceal his innocence . Brian had brought a fresher towel with him to dry the Malkavian’s hair. The razor buzzed on as Will watched from the mirror. He had a personal attachment to his hair. It was all anyone could talk about when he was younger. His father wanted to cut his curls the moment he started to grow them. His mother would roll them up in curlers every Sunday afternoon. The girls during recess would twirl their fingers in it while the boys would tug them. Over the years it was a shield for his age. Curls sanctified innocence and innocence bought him drugs.

 

Drugs . Will was flattered with himself that he was actually thinking about drugs in a time like this. He wasn’t human anymore. Drugs didn’t affect vampires, or thats Will thought, so what was the point of even taking them anymore. Drugs made him a vampire and he didn’t want anything to do with them anymore.

 

Brian brought the buzzing razor to Will’s head and began to mow down the thick forest of curls. Back, forth, and around did the razor go as clumps of wet, grimey curls fell into the sink. Will watched them fall with a prang of loss. He hoped Brian wouldn’t shave him bald like the wrinkly cats one of his teachers owned as a kid.

 

Will watched as the last clumps of curls dropped into the sink. He looked at his reflection in the mirror as Brian did a ‘phew’. He looked like a literal jarhead . He rubbed his hand through his cropped hair and teared up. Brian began dusting off the hair on his shoulders as the fledgling began to cry.

 

“Come on kid it’s not th-”, Brian began in his defense.

 

“I look like an egg.”, Will cried as he pointed to his reflection in the mirror. “You made me look like an egg!”

 

The comparison made Zeller stifle, snicker, then finally burst in laughter as the fledgling cried in his seat. Will got out of the chair and fled into the bedroom. Brian was pushed aside as he crumpled to the floor in hysterically laughter.

 

The naked Malkavian in the other room whined pitifully as he ran his hands through the prickly stubble. He hated it. He found some more clothes in the dresser and tearfully put his clothes on.

 

Brian came into the bedroom as Will dressed. He was never the best at cutting his hair given that his own was a wild mess but, Will’s hair stenched everything in the room. He didn’t even look that bad if he would dye it or something.

 

“Kid, I’m so so sorry.”, Brian tried to say but his laughter couldn’t be contained.

 

“You’re a real jackass, Brian Zeller.”, Will replied.

 

Even the voices in his head was mocking his egghead .

 

Brian came up to Will as he buttoned up his pants. He laid his hand on his newly-shaved head and brought it closer. Will stumbled for a sec at the pull. The Brujah laid a kiss into the prickly sea of hair.

 

“I’m always going to be here, kid.”, he spoked softly. “Now and forever.”

 

Will silently forgave his guardian. He wasn’t entirely disappointed at the sudden haircut but, he appreciated the Brujah’s concern for his well-being. This is who he had now. He needed Brian just as Brian needed him. The world wasn’t a forgiving place anymore. Every lesson, every note, and every comment from Brian is what he had to guide him through his new foreign world. There was nothing in the world Brian could do that Will couldn’t forgive.

 

Nothing .

 

“I know.”, Will replied and turned to face Zeller.

 

They beamed at one another as Brian stifled another burst of laughter. The corners of Will’s lip twitched as he socked Brian in his chest. The Brujah was taken back by the blow as Will stormed out the bedroom in a heated flush.

 

“You really do look like an egg though!”

 

Brian listened to cabinets being opened and slammed angrily as the fledgling searched for something to eat.

 

“You’re a real jackass! Now and forever!”

 

And that was ok with Brian. He smiled and joined Will in the kitchen. In times like this, maybe it wasn’t so bad being that jackass ...

Chapter Text

XI

“Strangolato”

 


 

 

The night was young and riddled with scandal as Hannibal sat in the crowded, suffocating reception hall with barons, dukes, and Princes. The herd panicked with a barrage of questions, demands, and outcries for Hannibal’s resignation. Those bold enough to directly accuse him nearly foamed at the mouth with their slander. He batted his eyelashes to all of them.

 

His colleagues might’ve been fools but he was not. The Anarchs were the average, home-grown punkish terrorists with a victim complex. Children without any real idea of how the world truly worked or did they have some righteous end-goal. They partied, fucked, and whined like the Kine. Feeble their ideology, Hannibal wasn’t going to take their little trick with the bombings of his human interests lightly. He’d plot and scheme as he made his daily appearances; galas, conferences, and presidential dinners. He would not flee because a few buildings had some misfortunate events. His fellow Camarilla would be eager to pack up their centuries-built empires and jump ship as soon as they smelled smoke, but not Hannibal. He’s survived worse than Anarchs and he was not going to run because of a little smoke.

 

Bedelia had vowed her loyalty to defeating the punk-rock scourge, but Hannibal doubted her very much so. It wasn’t the he didn’t trust her resolve, but at the end of the day she was still Kine .

 

She’s mortal, Hannibal had to remind himself countless times when they talked, laughed, and fucked. When they laid together at night, her soft breathing, her warm chest against his frigid frame reminded him of that. Her body pumped blood and his did not. Hannibal trusted Bedelia more than what he should’ve. How could he not? She was more beautiful than any woman Hannibal patronized with. Cunning, intelligent, and yet mortal. He didn’t doubt her ways but at the end of the night, she could die from the things Hannibal wouldn’t even feel . Whether tonight or a thousand nights after, she will cease to breathe and he will be alone .

 

Alone, the word felt familiar on the tip of Hannibal’s tongue. He watched as Baron Komeda, a short yet quick-tempered draculina, storm out of the reception hall. Kindred thrive in solitude, but Hannibal couldn’t accept  being alone . Many a man has gone insane from the isolation of contact, but to be alone by one’s own choices strangled Hannibal like a noose.

 

Perhaps love has made him a fool.

 

Hannibal caught the glimpse of LaCroix, vain and misanthropic, across the banquet table. He appeared to be paler. His lips was pressed in a fine, strained scowl. The purplish veins jutting out from his neck cracked his face like a broken vase. His eyes never left Hannibal’s as they stared at each other in mutual silence. His presence amongst the herd made him worth the curiosity. The terrorist attacks on Baltimore didn’t have the Frenchman tuck tail and run home to Los Angeles like the others. Hannibal thought of it as misguided pride.

 

A Frenchman’s pride , Hannibal scooted his chair back and stood. The clamoring of the dukes, barons, and Princes around him ceased to mutters and whispers as he departed from the reception hall. LaCroix could scowl as much as he wants. The Frenchman opened his lips to protest Hannibal’s departure, but the Prince paid him no mind. He posed no real threat, not compared to the Anarchs, Sabbat, and the Camarilla. After all, he just lost a precious toy . He wanted that said toy back but Hannibal was a much bigger kid. The sarcophagus aboard the Elizabeth Dane wasn’t just something to redirect to another port. LaCroix, in all meaning of the word, was a complete moron for having such an artifact snatched from his hands. Hannibal would make use of it.

 

Or it would be the stolen once again .


 

 

Brian and Will walked through the wet, musty alleyways of Baltimore with a cigarette lit between them. Will inhaled the cigarette till the ash scrunched up, exhaled, and passed it back to Brian. Brian puffed the last bit of it and flicked it away. The streets was barren of Kine and Kindred alike but from what Brian said, secrecy was their ‘friend’. He had no idea where they were going. His body moved on its own accord to the tune of Brian’s march.

 

The night wasn’t as scary as it was when he was alive. There wasn’t a shady John waiting to press him against a wall, take him in the worse way, and leave him bleeding in the alleyway. No cops creeping around the corner to scoop him up. Drugs alleviated that fear but, it never went away entirely. The night was like a haven for him now. He could hear and see what was unseen to him just a week prior. Tonight, the moon was freckled with spots of clouds as Will looked up to it. Like a watchful eye, the moon kissed the night sky with soft light.

 

Will nearly ran into Brian as the older vampire had paused in front of a large, ran-down building. He turned to look as Will stood there dazed. He rolled his eyes and walked up to the gnarled chain-linked fence. He began to climb and vaulted himself to the other side. Will swallowed and followed suit, making a not-so-graceful landing on his ass, then followed Brian around the building. Trash and debris littered the way as Brian had to make a path through it all. The remnants of concert posters, missing posters, and tagged graffiti was just a shell of what this building used to be.

 

They made it to a large, steel door painted red and scratched up from wear and tear. Brian gave it a few knocks and stepped back. Will ran his fingers through the hair he had left and bit his lip. Something in the back of his mind told him to run and run far away. The building was as large as a factory and as ominous as a cemetery. He felt something awful in his chest as he waited with Brian.

 

“What are we doing here?”, Will asked, standing a far bit closer to Brian than he thought.

 

“You’re going to need some damn help if you’re going to keep working for Prince Asshole.”, he replied as there was no response from the other side.

 

“I didn’t have a choice.”, Will retorted bitterly.

 

“We all have a choice , kid.”

 

Brian walked up to the door once again and banged on it harder. A quick succession of hard raps against the steel door was met with more silence and the Brujah kicked the door. Silence still remained and Brian took some more steps back. He braced himself to slam into the door. Will stood back and held his breath.

 

As the Brujah was about to lunge forward, the door swung open and he tripped halfway. He landed into the concerte with a ‘thud’ and an ‘ugghhh’. Will came to his side to help him up as overly loud, electronic music screamed from inside. Lights of all sorts shot out like beams as Will looked at the doorman.

 

A gnarly-looking man covered with tattoos from the tip of his bald head down to his toes. He dressed much like Brian with the exception of more leather and chains. Brian got up to his feet and nursed his forearm.

 

“You could’ve opened the fucking door sooner, yeah?”, Brian accused the doorman.

 

The doorman rolled his eyes and stepped aside. Brian walked in first with Will tailing him and eyeing the doorman wearfully. Inside was much louder. The music drowned out any foreign noise as the lights blinded the eyes. A thousand bodies gyrating in a sweaty fit crowded on the dance floor, the balconies, and even suspended from cages. Women, men, all beautiful in their leather-clad attires and painted faces taunted Will as he could hear their heartbeats and thoughts. Whisper after whisper flooded his ears as Brian maneuvered them through the dancing bodies.

 

As incoherent as his whispers became overtime, they made him uneasy especially in such a foreign place. Like a misplaced warning, Will wanted to kick himself from doubting their advice.

 

They made it to an elevator, retro and in the need of a better upgrade, and crowded in. The elevator had an old-fashioned crank instead of buttons and Brian took it upon himself to crank themselves up. Will grew uneasy as he watched his friend elevate themselves up. He’s never been the one to be some anxious but something was clawing at him deeply. He shuddered as the elevator came to a screeching halt and Brian forced the gate apart. He stepped out and reached for the fledgling’s hand.

 

Will hesitated but his hand found Brian’s and they exited the elevator. The space away from the elevator only had a wilted ivy plant and a scratched up door. Brian didn’t bother knocking this time as he invited himself in. On the other side, the room was white, maroon, and covered in luxury. In the center was a heart-shaped bed with blankets strewn about. A divider separated the bed space from the living space. All walls of the room had a Cezanne or a Botticelli hung on them. Though Brian had entered forcefully, Will waited in the doorway.

 

From around the divider, caramel-colored legs dressed in stockings stretched languidly. Will’s eyes followed the legs up to a waist, then a chest, the to a face. He swallowed hard as Brian started to laugh. He held his arms out and approached the pair of beautiful legs. From those legs came a gorgeous woman, her light hair fell in coiled curls and her arms wrapped around Brian like a cloak. Her white dressed flowed around her like a flower blooming. Her laugh sounded like heaven and Will found himself melting in the doorway.

 

“It’s so fuckin’ good to see you, baby girl.”, Brian said as he gave the woman a kiss to her cheek.

 

They broke apart but held each other’s hands. Will tried to get a better look at her face but from the corner of his eye, he saw another pair of legs come from around a desk. These legs were alabaster and clad with ripped stockings and heels. Will watched as those set of legs revealed a just as beautiful woman, if that could be the word, with a devilish grin. She was dressed more liberally than her bronzed counterpart; a rather cheekier version of school-girl attire mashed with goth aesthetic. The whispers Will was hearing downstairs seemed to quiet and purr as he stared down the seductress. She waltzed closer to him and put both hands on the frame of the doorway. Even in her heels, she dwarfed Will by an inch but that didn’t make her less intimidating. He swallowed hard. His body felt like melted wax as Alana’s light grey eyes made his swirl deeply.

 

Sister .”, the other woman scolded as she came up to Will.

 

He was shivering like a leaf as the other woman rolled her smokey eyes back at her ‘sister’. She backed up a few paces to allow Will to escape the small space between them. The childe fled to Brian’s side as the Brujah also greeted the alabaster ‘sister’ with a whistle.

 

“Bella and Alana, you two really know how to woo a vamp.”, the Brujah said with more ego than compliment.

 

“And you haven’t visited us in a while. The Asylum is always accepting new patients.”, the sisters, Alana and Bella, replied in unison.

 

Brian shrugged his shoulders.

 

“I’ve been busy.”

 

“So we’ve been told.”, the sisters answered once again as Alana, the one that made Will’s skin heat up, pointed at him.

 

The fledgling turned away in idle shyness and Bella chuckled softly. She sat on a nearby loveseat and stretched her legs across it. She took a cigarette out from in between her bosom. Brian was quick to offer her a light as she accepted it. Alana laid herself across the heart-shaped bed and gestured for Will to join her.

 

He refused. He wanted to but he was afraid he was going to embarrass himself even more.

 

"This must be the new neonate Baltimore’s been dying to know about.”, Alana chided as she rolled over onto her back, her breasts dangerly exposed in her thin shirt.

 

“What’s your name, sweetheart?”

 

Will couldn’t seem to find letters as he struggled with the request. He parted his lips to speak but closed them once he couldn’t muster the courage to regurgitate his own name. His body was pleasantly warm when he looked at the darker-haired sister. Zeller caught onto his uneasiness and answered for him.

 

“Will.”, the sisters said simultaneously.

 

“What a beautiful name for a beautiful man.”, Bella commented.

 

“T-thanks…”, the phrase came out plain if not emotionless as Will furrowed his brows and tried to focus.

 

The sisters laughed together as Brian met Alana across the bed. He kissed her in the space where her breasts parted and she purred. Bella extinguished her cigarette and joined her ‘sister’ and Brian across the heart-shaped bed. She took her lips against Brian’s as Alana’s hands found his shoulders. Will grimaced at the sight of their intimacy. His uneasiness turned into distress as he moved himself in front of the divider.

 

“As much as I want to be here with y’all, I need your help.”, Brian admitted as he pulled himself free from the succubi’ embrace. The sisters cocked their heads.

 

“Well, he needs your help.”, Brian was about to point to the place Will once stood but noticed he wasn’t there anymore.

 

Will came from around the divider again with his hands shoved in his pockets and his face flushed.

 

Him ?”, Alana accused, her sultry voice becoming more of an authoritative tone.

 

“What could he ever need from us? He hasn’t met his final death. That’s more than what others have.”, Bella sounded just as vicious as Alana in her accusation.

 

“What help could we offer to a sireless childe?”, the sisters said again in unison.

 

Brian scoffed and crossed his arms. His jaw twitched a little and Will caught the frustration bubbling underneath his leather-clad ego.

 

“That’s what I’m trying to save him from. A final fucking death. Prince Asshole is sure sending him a first-class ticket to Hell at this fuckin’ rate.”

 

 

The ‘sisters’ hushed and looked at each other. Dark mahogany and light grey met and then departed from each other. Alana rose up and buttoned up her shirt. Bella sighed and clasped her hands together.

 

“Hannibal Lecter has been a problem to all of us, even as a Baron, I can’t escape him.”, Bella admitted, looking to her ‘sister’ as the seductress made herself more conservative.

 

“I know you can’t, babe. But this kid.”, Brian looked at Will and frowned softly. “He’s just a fuckin’ innocent in this shit.”

 

Alana excused herself and walked out of the room. The door closed softly behind her and the elevator could be heard descending noisily to the bottom floor. Bella sighed.

 

“You have to do something for me first, Brian.”

 

“Anything.”

 

Bella looked at Will then back to Brian.

 

“Do you know of a vampire named Bertram Tung ?”, she asked.

 

Will shook his head but Brian acknowledge the familiarity of the name.

 

“That Nosferatu, yeah? I saw him in Santa Monica back in the day.”

 

“Yeah that’s the one. He’s been quite the pain in my neck, Brian.”, Bella seethed in irritation and the whole room quivered at the feeling.

 

Will leaned against the wall and looked at the assortment of paintings on the wall as Brian and Bella conversed. One painting in particular, a tall man with a dreary expressions next to two small girls, had him perplexed if not creeped out. One daughter was painted dark and macabre while the other daughter was innocent. Their big eyes made Will’s skin crawl with maggots. The man looked like he was in pain though.

 

“He’s influencing my sister to do immoral deeds.”

 

Zeller had to stifle his laughter as Bella only glared at him. Alana was an immoral woman by default. She was sex incarnated, of course she was immoral for Bella’s standards. He did take Bella’s seriousness though.

 

“Look what your sister does on her nights off really isn’t my business b-...”, Brian trailed off.

 

“He’s going to steal my sister!”, Bella stood up and shot such a furious look at Zeller that the wallpaper was going to peel at such intensity. Will gulped as Brian backed up a few paces.

 

“Alright, alright. We’ll go track this Bertram Tung and give him a talk.”, the Brujah surrendered as Bella eased off of him.

 

She turned on her heels with a huff. The fledgling peeled himself off the wall and stood behind Zeller. She turned once again with a wide smile across her face.

 

“Do this, darling, and I’ll give you and the neonate my assistance.”

 

“Any other special requests?”, Brian asked, looking to the vicious beauty in hopes she wouldn’t bite his head off for asking.

 

“Bring him to me alive .”

 

Brian nodded and grabbed Will by his upper arm, leading him out the room impatiently, and into the waiting elevator. The fledgling didn’t protest as he was relieved that he’d be escaping this asylum . The elevator was cranked down to the ground floor as they walked out of the crowded nightclub. Will caught the glimpse of Alana swaying on the dance floor. Their eyes met in a mere glimpse and yet, Will felt something warm in his chest. Not a teenage crush or lust but, a deep understanding of something that they had. Maybe it was his perception or just his mind playing tricks but Alana and him were same if not different .

 

She smiled at him as Brian led them out the main door. Once outside and away from the Asylum, Brian let him go. The fledgling twisted the kinks out his sore arm as they got ready to vault over the fence again. Onto the street they landed, they trekked their way back into the alleyways. Will lagged behind Brian as he couldn’t help feel himself being tugged back into the lucrative club. His legs wanted to rush back and find Alana again. Zeller noticed that he stopped and turned around.

 

“Come on Will, I’m not trying to get fried.”, he ushered Will to follow once again. The fledgling refused.

 

“What was she?”, he inquired. His blood hummed when he saw Alana. His mind dulled and his anxieties faded when he thought of this Alana .

 

“What do you mean? Her clan? Uhh…”, the Brujah had to think about it. Did he even know what the sisters were apart of?

 

“I’m pretty sure she’s a Toreador. Why do you ask?”

 

Will made a ‘huh’ and walked ahead of Brian.

 

“Just curious, I suppose. I hope it doesn’t kill me.”

 

“You’ll be surprised, kid.”

 

The Brujah followed suit and they walked in silence. Cars blurred past them as they walked. The night was becoming much older as the familiar need to slumber came up on the both of them. Block after block, Will couldn’t help but think about Alana. Her long, ghostly-colored legs and her smile was etched into his memory.

 

Toreador , the word was new to Will just as Brujah and neonate . He had much to learn, to discover, and to comprehend but Alana could never be learned to the fullest extent. He had never felt so sure about something since being turned. He’d hope he would see more of Alana. If this Bertram Tung was all they needed to see more of the sisters, Will couldn’t wait.

 

He really wanted to see Alana again .

 


Chilton was very much alive to say the least. His estate had been cleaned of the gore, glass, and utter trash ransacked in every room. His own self, however, needed much work. The few gulps of blood he got from Brian healed his internal wounds but not his face. His face hung like burnt paper. A bit of bone jutted from his cheek. His nose was even more crooked. An eye didn’t blink quite the same and he needed the assistance of a cane to walk.

 

Mirrors disgusted him and people angered him. He’d hired new house staff but dismissed them all on the first day. The nurses that cooed over him were fired on the spot. All he needed was aspirin and some time to think .

 

He sat alone in his living room with a glass of cognac and a cigar in his hands. His body ached but he didn’t care. The news replayed the same story about another Ripper victim. Another body part found in an obscure location, another name added to an endless list, and another night of mysticism around this ‘Ripper’ figure.

 

Go figure , Chilton sipped the last of his cognac and left the glass on the arm of his sofa. He extinguished the cigar in the ashtray and rose painfully to his feet. With all this excitement happening in the city, he needed a vacation. Beaten within an inch of his life then scolded like some child by this Prince , Chilton had enough of the city. All the years he spent licking ass and catering to vampires, Frederick Chilton was ready to pack up and jump ship.

 

Yet, something was anchoring him to Baltimore. He had a nose for drama, an eye for opportunity, and an ear for secrets. It was his trade. He dealt in foreign goods and secrets. He was good at it.

 

Chilton didn’t become a success overnight. He schemed, stole, and destroyed enemies and friends alike. All it took was one night with Hannibal Lecter and he found himself a slave to the vampire’s will. He would wake in the night terrified that the Prince would have assassins choke him in his sleep. Some nights he wouldn’t sleep at all because he was imagining all the ways the Prince could have him tortured.

 

He would overthink his actions the most. Perhaps he said the wrong thing, didn’t greet the Prince in the right tone, or wear the right suit. Chilton made himself sick over the Prince that every night he worked underneath him made his body seize up in frigid terror. One such night, he had misspoken to the Prince and found himself being strangled by his gargantuan brute of a guard. It was only by the grace of God that Hannibal ordered his guard to release him with the excuse of “he still had a purpose”. Since that night, Chilton cowered in the shadow of Lecter. Hannibal Lecter held such a hold on Chiton for years that any thought of escape , he feared the vampire would know.

 

A purpose , Chilton listened to a car speed by outside. Chilton had many purposes but not to be broken like a doll.

 

That terror was replaced with hatred once he mustered up a spin. He learned that vampires could be killed. The garlic, holy water, and crucifix hoax was nothing more than fiction but a well-placed stake and a beheading did the trick. He saw it done on obscure livestreams he would find in the deepest of web searches. It seemed so easy till Frederick thought about it in reality. No way he would get close enough to Hannibal to behead him.

 

If Chilton couldn’t kill Hannibal Lecter, he could take him down a peg. Chilton saw Hannibal as nothing more than a dictator to be toppled. He didn’t care about his friends or his associates. Chilton’s beaten body didn’t warm the Prince’s heart to be merciful. Him being broken and bloodied must’ve gave Hannibal the biggest hard-on for all Frederick knew. That was a clear indicator that Hannibal didn’t care whether Chilton lived, died, or rose again from the grave.

 

If Brian, as much as Chilton didn’t trust a vampire’s word, really wanted his help to take down the Prince then he would consider the proposal. Lecter wasn’t no average stake-to-the-heart vampire. He was as ancient as the earth they walked on. He’s existed through civilizations, dynasties, and world wars. What could Chilton and a vagabond vampire do to a god ?

 

Not a damn thing, Frederick flicked off the news and slugged himself upstairs. His legs began to stiffen as he nearly fell face first into bed. He didn’t have the strength to peel his dirty clothes off his body. Everything was hurting.

 

I dont deserve this , Chilton curled himself into a pillow and bit back bitter tears that welled in his eyes. His whole life he wanted nothing more than to be loved, respected, and praised. His existence was solely on the purpose of being a plaything for monsters to pick and toy at. His eyes fluttered shut as he laid there listening to the Chesapeake lap and curl at the shore. In another life, he wished he never moved to Baltimore or met Hannibal Lecter.

In that life, he would’ve been free .

Chapter Text

XII

“Carmen”

 


 

 

Will laid on the couch in the living room listening to the cars lazily crawl on the street below in the early morning haze. Brian had usurped the bed the instant they got in the door and there was no negotiations. He was fine with that. The bed was cheap and made his back hurt.

The sun hadn’t been up for too long; the apartment was still pleasantly dark and cool to lay in. His body knew to lull him to sleep but he wasn’t in the mood to sleep. Everytime he closed his eyes, those storm grey eyes burned into his eyelids. That warm, fluttery feeling made his chest feel air-tight when he thought of Alana .

He couldn’t stop thinking about her since they arrived home. The smell of her body, the flicker in her eyes, and how her laugh brought tears to his eyes. Brian teased him for being mushy towards a ‘homewrecker’ like Alana.

Will didn’t care. He didn’t want to fuck her, but she felt so familiar to him that he couldn’t help but want to be engulfed in her. He wanted to congeal himself till he was nothing more than a puddle of goo.

Bask in her glow and drink it like the sun, bleeding golden nectar down his throat, and feel the light in his chest. He’d never been so woozy about a woman before. He’s never been woozy about anyone.

Will sat up and scrubbed his face with his hands. If he kept fancying the idea of Alana, he was sure to make himself sick with puppy love. He walked over into the rinky-dink kitchen and grabbed himself a blood bag. For a while, he stared at the plastic bag filled with the sanguine nectar his stomach churned for. He became such an addict for the substance that every drop made him crave the next one.

He emptied it with deep, ravenous gulps as the cool liquid pooled into his belly. He had another and watched the sun slit through the newspaper. The rays painted the floor with a light orange hue.

The sun, as much as Brian urged him to stay away from it, he felt inclined to bask in it. Seven nights into his nocturnal lifestyle didn’t sate his desire to feel the warm heat on his skin. He had to forget about that life. It was hard especially when he saw humans live and he only imitated.

He wouldn't have the need to eat food or breathe with lungs. Whereas humans will age, decay, and sink into the cold earth, Will would be youthful for decades to come.

He’d never know what it meant to grow old with someone. Never feel how his body would break down and cave in on him. Envious, thirsty for the life plucked from him like grapes on the vine, Will sulked against the counter.

The Prince came to thought as he partook in another drink. The man was handsome, slender, and oozed with authority. In some twisted way, Will found him gorgeous.

Golden-skinned and lightly colored hair that shined in a certain light. He was beautiful but wickedly dangerous.

The fledgling prickled with goosebumps as the night of his execution, the Prince was hauntingly  cold in his authority, and everyone in that room recognized it.

“Forgive me.”, the phrase made Will shake in both terror and anger. Predestined to die because of some ‘secret customs’, but somehow this ‘Prince’ asked for his ‘forgiveness’.

How could Will forgive men such as Prince Lecter? He wouldn’t. The same Prince ordered his execution then recruited him to some elusive ‘Camarilla’ like a slave soldier. The same Prince that Brian dubbed ‘Prince Asshole’.

For good reasons.

Men like Hannibal Lecter drowned in their authority. The crown gets so tight upon their heads, it chokes the reason and empathy from their consciousness.

They clawed at the bottom, gorging on the weak, fattening themselves on their torment. Will spent years underneath men like the Prince, feeling their hot breath as they dug into his body, heaving like a tired beast.

The now crinkled blood pouch fell to the floor as Will compelled himself to walk to the back bedroom. Brian, curled around the pillow and still clad in his leather, remained asleep and unbothered.

He forced Brian to inch over as he joined him in the bed. The Brujah smelled of must, tobacco, and iron. His leather jacket strewn about his chest revealed scars and the remnants of covered-up ink.

His stubble had grown into a wiry beard as Will rolled over to study his face more.

In his sleep, Brian was peaceful though the outside world weighed him down. The fine wrinkles near his eyes and forehead laxed into waves. His eyebrows curved rather than furrowed like he did when he was awake.

Will smiled as he could hear the Brujah’s soft, gentle breaths. A pair of arms wrapped around his slender frame and Brian curled his leg over.

The fledgling didn’t mind. The closeness was a comfort. Brian had warmth to his body. Will nestled his head in the crook of Brian’s shoulder and steadied his breaths.

The Camarilla would be hard to please. Brian would help him though the Brujah hated them with every fiber of his being. As the Prince warned him, he was property until his debt was paid. For such a debt, his life was the cost.

The length of his servitude, however, had not been discussed and Will didn’t think it’d be in his best intentions to question it.

He wouldn’t be alone. Brian was once foreign to Will. A handsome stranger that made him follow him around like a lost child. The kind of stranger that understood rather than lectured. That said stranger  who became a trusted, beloved friend that had Will’s interests at heart rather than the Camarilla.

Will listened to Brian mutter something in his sleep and sighed. His heart with fluttery but his mind jittered. His own worse enemy , Will rolled over to his side in Brian’s embrace. He closed his eyes to sleep.

In his dreams, he would escape limbo, even for a brief moment, and seek the solace he yearned for when he was awake. In his dreams, he would hear Carmen laughing, feel her, and see how beautiful she was.

In his dreams, God kissed him with soft lips and Alana was the name that escaped his lips...

 


 

 

Bedelia was in all sense of the word, a natural-born socializer, and held herself up to her reputation. Her smile was pretty and her words oozed like honey. She captured a room in her arrival and left it in awe in her departure.

This morning, however, she wasn’t hypnotizing a crowd or seducing her way through hearts. She was bundled up head to toe and standing at the edge of the Chesapeake.

In the distance, the Elizabeth Dane bobbed on the water’s surface. A magnificent ship, Bedelia could see the intricate details along her body, as it waited in port. The Chesapeake, Bedelia crinkled her nose at, wasn’t worthy water for such a ship.

It smelled of factory run-off and death. The water murky and brown as it lapped at the sandy shore. Bedelia watched as the bottom of her heeled boots soak the water. Even in the early morning haze, the water looked like a twinkling body of excrement.

Yet she stood on the shoreline watching the Elizabeth Dane wait patiently for her captain. She wasn’t alone. Her personal guard, Anthony Dimmond, stood by her patiently, almost wraith-like as he held her umbrella. He was a decent-looking man that Bedelia didn’t mind voyeur her.

The man was a ghoul . He didn’t have the urge to eat, sleep, or lust over Bedelia. He obeyed, like all good little ghouls, and didn’t question her commands. Hannibal had one of his lackeys turn the poor man into the silent guard he was. Bedelia did not complain when she was rewarded with Mr. Dimmond.

He was capable of doing all the tasks she bidded him; taking care of the estate and garden, running her errands, and disposing her rivals.

However vibrant Anthony Dimmond was in his previous life, he was now a mute, obedient entity with warm eyes. He also watched the ship across the water with little interest.

She had no access to her contents, yet, but she would board the ship soon. Hannibal desired what the Elizabeth Dane hoarded. As much as Bedelia would like to understand, Hannibal was relentless regarding of keeping what really was aboard that ship.

A few conspiracies came to mind; illegal weapons, historic artifacts, or priceless gems. Bedelia didn’t know Hannibal as the one to hoard treasures such as those, but he was so secretive about it that it made her question him entirely.

Hannibal , his name curled on her lips like thick plumes of smoke. She wanted to melt into him when they laid together in sweaty embrace. When she looked into his eyes, those deep maroon orbs, the tribulations of the world couldn’t falter her.

The early mornings she would listen to his soft, breathy sighs as he lay next to her. Canines that would dangerously tease to prick his lips didn’t appear to be so when she studied him. In a way, Hannibal reminded her of a sleeping beast. Majestic but ferocious should you anger him, she never had been harmed by Hannibal.

Yet, she craved to be at his side eternally. Hannibal, as intelligent as he was, became oblivious to her silent pleas for his sireship. He took it as loyalty to him and the Camarilla, but Bedelia saw it as reluctance. If he feared her becoming a turncloak, he was paranoid .

How could she turn on the man that raised her from the dirt, rebirthed her, and loved her in the most carnal of ways? Bedelia couldn’t fathom it. For him to keep secrets from her, it was a puzzling phenomena not even she could think of a reason.

She noticed the same policeman from the other morning and dipped away from the shoreline. He was a vigilant one. From what she’s heard, he was also overzealous in his policing. She had no protection from the Camarilla during the day. The day belonged to the living and she, as much as she would like to forget so, was bound to the laws of the living.

Anthony followed close behind with the umbrella still cascaded over the both of them. The vehicle wasn’t far.

Her other personal guard, a man by the name of ‘Phillipe’, waited as the driver in her idle Escalade. Anthony closed the umbrella down as he reached to open the back door. Bedelia thanked him as she slid into the warmed, leather seats. He walked around the Escalade and joined Philippe on the passenger side.

She asked of Phillipe to return her to her manse. Hannibal would be summoning her later in the evening, but her daytime was hers. By the time they entered the city limits, Bedelia was ready for an early brunch.

Salmon was on her mind as Anthony and Phillipe ushered her inside. They pampered her; did her hair, nails, and bathed her in oils, and fed her the finest cuisine. She was used to this. She was a queen, nothing more, nothing less. Hannibal made sure that her expensive tastes were well-paid for.

Should Hannibal cast her aside and make her a dowager, help the one she would be replaced with...

 


 

 

Detective Budge loathed the Elizabeth Dane. He found it to be old-world and out of place in Baltimore’s port. Yet it flocked both the curious and the envious on a constant basis.

The entire force had their hands full when the crowds would flock to sneak their way onto the Elizabeth Dane. Mornings, afternoons, and evenings did not deter their childish imagination. Sometimes, it took all his ‘lawful’ willpower not to have the crowd dispersed in a tidal wave of water hoses.

Tobias eyed the ship with idle disgust. It still smelled rotten and bloody as the mess from all the bodies hadn’t been cleaned under the guise of it being ‘evidence’. The crime, Tobias scoffed at it, couldn’t be pinned on no one ‘human’.

The beast that came to mind was him . Dressing the beast in suits didn’t make it more human. He styled himself as some ‘Prince’ but, Tobias knew what he was, what he did, and what truly showed underneath his tailored suits.

He didn’t grow up believing in vampires, spirits, and demons, but when he first saw Hannibal Lecter, he knew the world was bigger than what it was. Since identifying Hannibal’s affiliation, his life, career, and even marriage had deteriorated since.

The Prince was a patiently vengeful creature. Vampires, supposedly, was immortal beings that glided through the sands of time. Unlike Tobias, Hannibal had many lifetimes to exact his frustrations.

Tobias was wary of Hannibal Lecter though he would never cower. Baltimore quivered at Hannibal’s wake but the detective would not. He swore to protect Baltimore, human or not, and serve he would.

His career, battered and bruised, couldn’t survive much longer in Baltimore. Hannibal was passive-aggressive in his methods. He had a way of convincing and silencing his friends and oppositions alike. Through some thieving tactics, Hannibal was successful of pinning a misconduct case onto Tobias’s name.

The details of said case was closed from Tobias, though he expected Hannibal pulled the strings to bar him from proceeding, but his reputation faltered. His fellow officers stayed far away from him and whispered their concerns amongst themselves.

At one point, Tobias doubted his badge. He was ashamed to wear it. Police work was his life’s purpose. The community was his sanctuary but when he would walk the streets, he felt their suspicion and caution as he passed. Children didn’t oogle at him in inspiration. Adults retreated from their porches. Criminals mocked him.

All because Tobias wouldn’t kneel to the Prince.

Tobias heard another cruiser pull in nearby and sighed. His duty had been relieved. His day would take him back to the precinct, behind his desk, and buried in paperwork. That was life for Detective Budge.

Paperwork during the day, his cello in the evening, alcohol to put him to sleep at night.

Officer Ortega, as Tobias recognized as the husky, round officer walked onto the dock was going to take over his watch. He greeted Tobias as he did every morning with a smile, an offer of a croissant, and then a goodbye. Tobias never took a croissant but the brief conversations they had was more fulfilling.

Marcello Ortega was perhaps the only officer in the precinct that didn’t snub or slander him. For that, Tobias was eternally grateful.

He got into his cruiser and pulled off to enter the city again. Baltimore would prostrate herself at Hannibal’s pleasure, but Tobias was not willing. He wouldn’t be chained and enslaved like the city. Hannibal, at the end of the day, still could die.

He wasn’t invincible as he liked to believe. Tobias gripped the steering wheel tighter. He would find his weakness, his kryptonite, and kill it in the worse way. As Hannibal would tear up, hiss, and fight, Tobias would choke him and strangle the evil out of his corpse.

Because he was to protect and serve Baltimore, as many did before him, and let him be damned if he was to fail...

Chapter Text

XIII

“A Golden Goose”

 


 

 

Will roused at the sudden loss of Brian’s arms twisted around his body. He turned to find that the Brujah, save for his leather coat left behind, was missing from the cheap bed. His body’s imprint still sunk into the space where he would’ve laid. Will moved the leather coat aside and rose up. His fingers and toes flexed and curled inward, his body stretching like the curve of a bow, and his mouth dropping into a yawn.

He walked down the hallway to find Brian, languidly against the island counter, focused on the rings around his sleek fingers. His eyes narrowed on the round, ornate bands till Will came into the kitchen space, reaching for a cool blood bag inside the refrigerator. They softened as they followed Will from the fridge, to the living room, and onto the couch.

There weren’t ‘good mornings’ between them. ‘Good evening’ sounded strange to say, but they were vampires so it’s was a corny joke between the both of them.

Brian left his rings alone to watch Will. Malkavians , Brian saw how Will sucked greedily at the blood bag as he watched the TV, never know when they’re going to snap .

In a week’s time, Will still waddled his feet in the water. He’s drained humans, fought Nosferatu, and fell in love. Brian couldn’t remember what he did in a night let alone in a week. Will was learning fast, incredibly fast, and Brian knew that eventually the fledgling would be fine on his own. Still, when Brian looked at Will, those soft yet sometimes sharp eyes, or how his body shriveled at the slightest instance of contact, it disturbed Brian deeply.

He still hadn’t found a step-sire for Will. He had no insights on raising a Malkavian, though he would prefer to keep it that way, and he would be dense as hell if he tried to raise Will with Brujah teachings. The only Malkavian Brian had came to know was of Dr. Alistair Grout and he was missing in action.

They met briefly during Brian’s glory days; the hippie movement and as much drugs he could snort. It was a different time for Brian; he wasn’t as mature as he was now. In fact, he was a lot more groomed now than he was a few decades ago. His beard needed some work, but at least he didn’t look like the Wolfman anymore.

However, Grout was simply ‘there’. Brian met him on the night of a festival, deep in the desert, and watched how he was doing magic tricks for tweaking hippies. His skeletal fingers twirled and curved with vibrant lights and flashes. Of course the Kine was keen for his party tricks, they were clueless and high on drugs, but Brian entertained the so-called magician. The alcohol was cheap, the drugs was mediocre, and the sex could’ve been better.

Brian lost Dr. Grout halfway through his performance in the search for another hippie to drain.

Grout had pulled him to the side later on in the night, Brian being the drunken spitfire he was, hauled off on Dr. Grout with a beer bottle. The Malkavian, frail and in no position to take on the fierceness of Brujah’s force, took the beating face first. Brian stopped once the beer bottle was nothing more than shards digging into his palms. What compelled him to attack Grout, the Brujah couldn’t say, but the alcohol fused with Dr. Grout’s preachings of a “cure” to vampirism triggered his violent fit.

“A cure for the infliction”, the words dribbled out of Grout’s mouth, thick and red, as he laid there in the desert sand.

A cure , Zeller only knew of one ‘cure’ and it was a final death.

Brian apologized a decade or so later after joining the Anarchs in Los Angeles. He matured immensely from that night and Alistair commented on it. In fact, he said he was proud of Brian’s growth as a Kindred. Since then, Zeler has kept that praise as a reminder that he was malleable and could change for the better. When he did think to find Dr. Grout again, he was in Los Angeles as well. By that time, Grout had secluded himself in his mansion and hadn’t left it’s dozens hallways since.

A man of science, he was once a professor and an author while Brian rebelling and blowing up police cars in Los Angeles. He was quite rational for a Malkavian, but being a full-bred primogen of his brood meant he wasn’t as susceptible to bouts of madness. The Malkavians he sired, Will included, wasn’t so sane. He was keen on recording dozens and dozens of tapes of his research, some more bizarre than the others, but nonetheless he was still the ranting lunatic the Malkavian clan was known to be.

Grout was been missing, presumed dead, for the latter part of the decade.  Brian wouldn’t be surprised if one of his experiments-gone-Norman-Bates gave him a final death. The Camarilla wasn’t going to look for him either. His experiments was his life’s work and the Camarilla wasn’t found of raving, psychotic mishaps. His mansion was crawling with ghouls from what Brian heard.

Ghouls weren’t the most stable of things to have .

Will looked over to Brian with his brows raised. Brian shot a half-smile to him and the fledgling snapped his head back around, more focused on the nightly news, and Brian went back to fondling his rings. He thought of Matthew and Freddie, drinking at ‘The Last Round’, and plotting without him. It’s been just a few nights, but Brian never felt out-of-place without Matt and Freddie.

All this sucking up to the Camarilla for Will’s sake was becoming an annoyance. Yet, it had to be done. He still had to protect Will no matter what.

Brian stopped twisting the rings around his finger and went towards the computer. He typed the password ‘sunrise’ into the space provided and was welcomed to an inbox screen. More ads filled the inbox than the earlier in the week, Brian went through them with a bored expression, till one email caught his eye.

The same email handle as before; the unknown sender, titled the email ‘Your immediate presence has been requested’. A basic yet condescending command. Brian rolled his eyes at the email but reluctantly opened it.

He read the email aloud:

 

 

To: < cr4zychilde13@hotmail.com > Sent on Saturday at 7:18 P.M

From: < unknown.sender@email.com >

Subject: Your immediate presence has been requested

Dear Will,

Your immediate presence is needed at the Lecter tower. Do not delay in meeting me tonight.

Your Prince,

H.L

Will’s face scrunched up as he listened to Brian read the email out loud. His stomach tightened in a thick, hot knot as the phrase ‘your prince’ threatened to make him throw up. The night he stayed at the Prince’s tower was a clear reminder he didn’t want anything to do with Hannibal, his witchy paramour, or his oversized bodyguard. It was a den of knives waiting to stab and carve him up like Thanksgiving turkey.

“I shall not go.”, Will said, getting off the couch to throw away his empty blood bag. “I shall not be lead through the valley of death.”

Brian closed the email and turned around in the chair. As much as he wanted to tell Will he didn’t have to go, he was inclined to bring Will to Lecter’s tower. The Anarchs needed someone in the inside, preferably not Brian given his rocky history with Hannibal, and Will was their skeleton key. Hypocritical as it was, the Anarchs needed Will as much as Will needed them.

“Look, see what the asshole wants and I’ll keep an ear out for Tung.”, Brian suggested.

Will scoffed and ran a hand through the stubbles on his head. He was irritated. Brian could feel it across the room. The fledgling relented after a few moments of thinking it over. Who was he to deny the glorious Hannibal Lecter an audience? Especially if he’s so interested in meeting him for the third time.

Third time’s a charm , though Will had no sort of charm about him.

But, they had other priorities for the night.

“I won’t see him.”, he declared, flicking from the nightly news to a sit-com.

“Kid, dont do this to me tonight. I really don't want to haul your ass across the city.”, in fact, Brian was willing to drag Will across the entire state if he had to.

“I’ll find the tongues that know of Tung. The Devil can wait .”, with that, Will went to the back bedroom to find his shoes.

Zeller wasn’t going to argue with someone as stubborn as Will Graham. The kid was headstrong, for good or the worse, he wasn’t a punk that’s for sure. Will came back with his Brian’s infamous coat. He had dressed in a cleaner sweater.

The Devil could wait. Hannibal’s lived at least five centuries if Brian did his math correctly. If someone could live five centuries without getting impatient, the Prince could wait another night.

Brian slipped on the familiar musty, leather coat and as he got up, he saw a peculiar envelope slipped underneath the door. He reached down to get it and ran his fingers along the floral print. He flipped it over to see Will’s name perfectly written in cursive.

“Hey, you got mail.”, Brian said, Will coming up from behind and snatching the envelope from between his fingers.

He opened the envelope and it revealed a rich purple and gold card inside. Will opened the card and read the words etched in gold lettering:

 

"Dark blood, our curse, a light this verse
Such power I sense in one so young
Come find me where burns the mystical sun."

The poem, as far as Will could decipher, meant little to him. The words was confusing and the sender even more confusing. However, his mind was having a field day with the cryptic mantra that it was starting to sound like white noise. He bit the inside of his cheek to cease their ramblings as he put the letter on the computer desk.

“Anybody you know?”, asked Brian.

Will shook his head and Brian shrugged, opened the door, and they exited the apartment together. The letter was strange if not sinister in origin. Someone other than Brian or the Prince knew of him and that fact made Will’s skin crawl. The world around him was foreign yet his name was being whispered from every mouth. How curious was the world to delve into his brain, pick and pry at the pieces they wanted, and leave him for the vultures? He ignored the thought as him and Brian walked the streets of Baltimore.

Brian lit a cigarette as they leisurely strolled on the street. The ground beneath them was nothing, the humans around them were cattle, and they were the predators waiting in ambush. Will was so used to the fleeting heartbeats, the wails of babes, and the overall stench of the city that even now, being immortal, the world was like a old timey movie. The world was black and white now. The truth of it all was that in the end, everybody would face their final death some kind of way. Will hoped it wasn’t tonight though.

Zeller wasn’t phased by people knocking into him or cars jolting by. He was completely oblivious to their interactions and Will wanted to learn how to ignore such things.

His mind began to wonder about other things; the Prince in particular. Hannibal Lecter, as Will would gladly paint him as Beelzebub himself, made him angry and sick at the same time. He couldn’t think of the name without his blood boiling. He was rightfully angry . He was being toyed with by Hannibal Lecter. As if he had some sick fascination in inducing panic attacks, Hannibal was a master in fear.

What could the Prince do?   Will’s mind trailed again to the email. If he was going to kill me for not showing up, he might as well stake me in my sleep .

Brian had said something but, Will didn’t register it. When he looked up from grovelling, the Brujah was gone. Will looked behind him, around, then back forward to find the results to be the same. The older vampire vanished like the smoke from his cigarette. The part of the city they had walked into was crowded, much like downtown, and was screaming with hoarse voices. Will wanted to kick himself, but they both had priorities. It would be better for them to split up and cover more ground.

Bertram Tung .

Brian always urged him to take a leap of faith and do something without him.

Simpler in thought, harder in action , Will found himself scoffing.

He wasn’t familiar with vampires with the exception of the incident in the sewers. He couldn’t differentiate different clans or gangs. Brian didn’t give him that lesson in depth yet. The fledgling took a deep breath and flowed into the crowd of humans mingling in the nightly air. He passed by several businesses, some ran down while others invited patrons in with the promise of a ‘good time’.

The Malkavian was about to turn around when a voice called out to him from a building front. The building, a run-down yet operating blood bank, had patrons of the shady and desperate type lined up to donate their precious vitality. The voice that called to him beseeched him again and Will couldn’t help but hear him. He twisted his head around to find a young, seemingly ecstatic young man nearly quaking at Will’s glance. His piss-yellow eyes came closer to Will’s blue-grey orbs and the Malk recoiled from the eye contact.

“Need any help, pal? You look lost.”, he asked.

WIll eyed him up and down then finally caved in. In reality, he was dreadfully lost especially without Brian breathing down his neck.

“I seek a master of tongues.”, he told the man.

He man’s eyes lit up in unfathomable glee as he nearly fell to the ground at Will’s utterance. His smile curled from cheek to cheek as Will was tempted to run as far as he could away from the overzealous fiend.

“Aw man! Wait. Say that again!”, the man giddily asked.

“That wasn’t me. It was the other voices in my head.”, the Malkavian replied.

As if he was lit on fire, the man nearly combusted in his excitement. Will unconsciously bared his fangs, the pearly canines pricking his lips, and the man saw. His mouth was left agape as he stood there in astonishment.

“Aw man. You - You’re a vampire, aren’t you?”, the man was starting to recoil as the excitement sizzled into fear.

The fledgling instantly felt threatened with the accusation. There was dozens of people around them. Will couldn’t secretly drain the man in the alley and walk away. This man knew what he was and Brian definitely didn’t teach him what to do in this situation. Will swallowed hard as he thought of a response.

“You’re crazier than what I see in the mirror.”, Will accused, watching as the young man came back from reeling in fear to disbelief.

“Aw come on, you are too! Don’t bullshit me man, just come clean, you know, I man....oh man. I ain’t gonna tell no one. It’s okay, man. I just want to talk!”, the man was persistent if not annoyingly so.

Will went over his options; flee or smash his head against the brick wall. The latter option was tempting, but Brian had instituted the idea that the Camarilla had eyes everywhere. Those eyes were the ones Will was trying to avoid at all costs.

He need information, however, and this human might be his first source. If he knows about Will’s affliction, he’s bound to know more about other vampires in the city. Finding Bertram Tung meant seeing Alana again and Will desperately needed to see her again.

“Let’s trade words, golden boy.”

Chapter Text

XIV

“Tartare”

 


 

“Hell yeah! Oh man, I knew it! I just...Oh geez, I knew you were. I just could tell. I - oh man, this is great. And th-then I saw your teeth an-and I was like, damn! It was like I could just sense you. The name’s Knox Harrington. Pleasure to meet you. Aw man!”, Knox said, trembling his words as he watched Will’s expression dampened into annoyance.

 

Will saw how the line outside of the blood clinic diminished to a straggling few. He pressed his lips into a thin, peachy line. He had to choose his words carefully, sweeten them with some vampiric ‘honey’, and milk the information from Knox Harrington .

 

“Are you also a night’s child?”, he asked. “Do you walk in the shadows of the moonlight?”

 

Knox rubbed his hands together and crinkled his eyes so tight they appeared to be cat-like. He looked to his left, then his right, before leaning into Will’s personal space. The Malkavian made an inch of distance between them again, his back closer to the edge of the street.

 

“I’m a ghoul, you know?”, he said. “I didn’t know about any of this stuff until a couple months ago...when this guy appeared, and, well all of a sudden - bam ! Vampires are real and right in front of my eyes. Blew my goddamn mind!”, his voice raised to a shrill holler as he couldn’t help but physically tense up in his excitement.

 

A ghoul , Will wasn’t familiar with ‘ghouls except the ones dressed up during Halloween. His notion of them was that they were like zombies, but less ‘dead’ and more Frankenstein. Knox didn’t look dead, though he looked sallow and frail, or did he smell like he was. His eyes were abnormally piss yellow, but Will didn’t see no reason not to think he wasn’t human. It was clever, in fact, that Knox blended so easily into human populace. Unlike himself, Knox didn’t appear suspicious or predatory. Awfully annoying, sure, but he didn’t stand awkwardly in place like Will did.

 

“Ghoulish as ghoulish...Wait. What’s a ghoul?”, Will asked, his voice came out like a bark from an overexcited child.

 

Knox opened his mouth to speak, but he closed it as he conjured an answer that Will would make sense of. The fledgling waited a few seconds then turned his attention to the building in front of them both.

 

Will watched as a young woman, brown-haired and frigid, walked out of the blood clinic with a wad of cash tucked haphazardly into her coat pocket. She was pretty, if it wasn’t for her sad, mournful expression on her face. He saw dark feathers fall from her shoulders as she passed. The knocking of hooves against the sidewalk followed her as she walked down the street.

 

His eyes followed her till she disappeared in the oncoming crowd. The feathers had skidded into the dirty puddles along the sidewalk. He turned his attention back to Knox who had started to ramble on about vampires instead of answering his questions. Will was ready to leave the poor ghoul to his own devices, but where else did he have to be?

 

He definitely wasn’t going to see the Prince and Brian could be anywhere in the city. Listening to Knox ramble mindlessly beat catering to the Prince and his manipulation.

 

“Well, the way it was explained to me, whenever a vampire lets a human drink some of their vampire blood, the human gains a little vampire power, can heal up quick and that kinda stuff.”, Knox replied, rolling his shoulders around as another burst of excitement rocked his body almost violently, causing him to stutter and jolt.

 

“Then, they’re a “ghoul”, and oooh….Watch out!”

 

A vampire’s blood , Will pondered on the idea if he could sire his own ghoul. It was squashed with the notion that he himself didn’t know much about his own vampiric lifestyle, how could he teach a ghoul to be a ‘ghoul’?

 

“What creature spawned you, golden ghoul?”, the blood bank soon had another line of herded, desperate denizens and they looked at Knox and Will in idle interest.

 

Knox slumped his shoulders and looked around as if he was being watched by some sinister, unknown forces. His lips cracked into a thin, distressed half-smile. For once, he made space between himself and the Malk as the vampire could sense the discomfort between the both of them.

 

“I really wish I could tell ‘yah man, but I don’t think I’m supposed to.”, Knox admitted, painfully aware of how Will’s annoyance turned in cynicism.

 

Of course he can’t tell me, it’s all secrets and lies here , Will wanted to punch Knox in his chest and leave. He’s had enough of being kept in the dark or redirected to other, less reliable sources.

 

He needed to find Bertram Tung now .

 

His mind began to distort the sounds of street life into garbled, hard to understand squeaks and giggles. He heard the rats in the sewer pad underneath his feet, their little mouths making small, scared chattering. The sound of water churning made his ears sound like they were being drowned. Will’s eye began to twitch and thump in the stress of listening to the muddled noises of his mind cage.

 

Tell me the master to your chain, slave. Or I’ll hang you with it like a noose .”, the words gushed like oil, thick and suffocating, as Will couldn’t keep a twisted smile from cracking his face.

 

Knox swallowed hard and his lips began to tremble in terror. He had made a space big enough between them both in the case he needed to flee, though Will would give chase and eventually catch him, the ghoul was frightened.

 

“Look, I-I don’t want any trouble man. My m-master’s a pretty nasty dude. You know? A really nasty dude.”, Knox stumbled to find his words as Will relaxed, allowing his body to slack rather than tense.

 

“Tell me of this, nasty dude, and I shall leave you to wander.”, Will said, a soft coo in his tone.

 

Knox hesitated again but fearing the wrath the actual vampire possessed, he caved into a response.

 

“He just appears, man. He gave me this “secret mission” and ghosted on me. I-I really want to help you, aw geez, but I can’t man. He could kill us both !”, with that Knox had fled into the flow of street traffic.

 

Will didn’t give chase to the ghoul, as much as desperately needed to find Bertram Tung, he couldn’t squeeze anything else ‘sane’ from Knox. It wouldn’t be the last of Knox the Malk would see. If Knox’s master, this nasty dude, needed him for their “secret mission” then he wouldn’t be far. Will took note of what street he was on before walking into a nearby alley.

 

The fledgling walked into the night air aimlessly towards downtown. He could find Brian on his own. They were inseparable, now and forever, and if Will had to walk all night to find him, he was glad he dressed in a warmer sweater. A few places came to mind; ‘the Asylum’, most definitely would be the first stop. The fledgling would start there. Alana would be there, he hoped, and even if he couldn’t find Brian tonight, a night with her made up for a thousand nights being without Brian. He smiled thinking about Alana as he walked down the familiar set of blocks to the elusive nightclub.

 

Perhaps being on his own wasn’t so bad after all…

 


 

In another life, Hannibal could’ve been an interior decorator because the penthouse was adorned for the gods. He had the dreary, Victorian-esque chandeliers replaced for sparkling diamond-and gold crystal ones. They hung from the dining room ceiling cascaded in illuminating lights, shining down on the table like starlight. The table was set with it’s own riveting enclave of extravagance.

 

Soft, delicate sounds of a bel canto playing in the background had Hannibal deep in his work.

 

He had set the table with a red, satin tablecloth accompanied with an arrangement of sliced apricot, scooped pomegranate seeds, red grapes, and green olives. The chairs had been replaced for darker, mahogany ones with raised backs. Carved with motifs of fighting lions, tigers, and bars designs, the chairs weren’t the pride of the table.

 

As a centerpiece, he had arranged for a beautiful bust of Julius Caesar commissioned and crowned with dead rose petals. Bouquets of gladioli and lily surrounded the marble bust of the former emperor. Goat and deer antlers separated the living from the dead flower arrangements. Hannibal wasn’t the one to be poetic, but he liked to play with obscure, sometimes clashing themes.

 

Shakespearean tragedies, Poe-esque horror, all of it was inherently entertaining. Humans wrote of their pain and heartache, but regurgitated it into songs, plays, and even sitcoms. As long as Hannibal’s been walking the earth, humans hadn’t changed, nor did their fascination with misery.

 

Cooking had became his fascination instead of tragedy. He enjoyed the smells of meats being fried, how vegetables and fruits could make or break a dish, and the refinement that came with it. He loathed how humans fattened, engorged themselves on delicacies that his stomach would violently reject. Any morsel, meat, fish, or vegetable had him reeling from the table. Vampires, no matter their previous mortal cravings, needed blood. Vitae , what all Kindred starved for, and what Hannibal opposed vehemently.

 

He had accepted his fate after a century trying to eat something that wasn’t oozing from a vein.

 

His promotion to his title enabled him the means otherwise. The library-turned-office still had much of their old-world texts. Books bound in animal leather, sometimes human skin covers that had been written in the old language told of ancient powers, extinct clans, and legends. Hannibal had spent an entire month’s nights reading over countless pages, deciphering riddles and warnings, till his fingers was sore from turning the pages. One text, the title was obscured from old age, had Hannibal deep into reading it.

 

He’s heard of bloodlines like the proud Lasombra, the sadistic Tzimisce, but the Nagaraja, their violent almost predatory ways, had Hannibal hunkered down in fascination. They were flesh-eaters and their hunger insatiable as their thirst for blood was just as ravenous for flesh. The source of their flesh, the book had detailed, must have been fresh from the kill or it was too spoiled to be consumed. However, as Hannibal read further in the texts, the source of the flesh had not been transcribed.

 

He didn’t tell a single soul of the forbidden texts given that the Camarilla viewed it as ‘old world propaganda’. The knowledge had no place in the new order the Camarilla was sprouting in America. He would be deemed a ‘heretic’ and had his hard-earned position usurped. He was craft in hiding the text. He had a special addition in his office, hidden behind the bookcases, and had it guarded within a safe. The naked eye didn’t notice the bookshelf-turned-hideaway.

 

As he furthered studied the teachings within the text, he became comfortable enough to implement the Nagaraja clan’s flesh-eating customs. He procured several humans; some young, different races, different bodies. THe feasted on bits of them over the course of a year, fattening them up as if they were cattle, and the result was still the same: revolting .

 

He had the best chefs around the world cook him their finest dishes. Lecter didn’t tell him where the meat had been harvested from, but they worked dutifully every night. Every night ended the same. He couldn’t stomach the taste or how it slid down his throat. It burned on it’s way down, threatening to shut his wind pipe. He pushed away plate after plate till whisperings of his condition was heard amongst the herd.

 

To prevent word of his affliction, he had his security execute the chefs. Men liked to talk of the unknown and him being Kindred, vampires had to keep being the unknown . Those nights, Hannibal wanted to lash out in frustration. He would make himself craven and sick reading the texts over again, sometimes refusing drink, till his hair became brittle and his body became macabre

 

One night as he suffered through one of his foul, morose moods, one of the neonates assigned to him had interrupted his reading. The Prince wasn’t the one to be triggered by such simple, innocent questions but, the fledgling in particular had asked something so bengin that it had Hannibal reeling to strike her.

 

She was a young Ventrue, sired by one of Hannibal’s ‘betters’, destined to fill the role as a Baron or overseer in the Camarilla. Her name had been obscured from Hannibal’s memory as he finished setting his table, but her face was just as clear as that night. It was small yet lovely. Her eyes, big and brown, gave her the innocent doll look. A beauty, Hannibal recalled as his lithe hands folded a handcloth, but had she lived long enough, she would’ve been the Prince instead of him.

 

He had slashed her throat with a letter opener without uttering. The Ventrue was surprised, if not shocked that in Hannibal’s ill state, he could move so fast. She collapsed to the floor holding her gushing neck, unable to cry for help, as her blood stained the texts scattered over the floor.

 

Hannibal stood over her as she bled. A slash of the neck didn’t mean a final death, but it was painful as the she was being strangled by her own vitae. His mouth watered, for the first time in a long time, while the young fledgling tried to crawl away from him. He watched as her eyes bulged with tears and terror. The few phrases that escaped her slashed throat was of mercy. He wouldn’t hear of it. His pride wouldn’t hear of it. Most importantly, his hunger was craving for it.

 

He bent down and engulfed his body with her writhing own. She clawed and hissed at him as his canines, long and drooling with saliva, came to her lacerated wound. A tentative lick, then a drink, and finally a ravenous slurp had Hannibal’s stomach purring in satisfaction.  His drinking became feasting as the first mouthful sent him into euphoria.

 

The taste was smooth and sweet, like a flavored cognac, and Hannibal couldn’t get enough of it. He feasted on her flesh till she was riddled with teeth marks and places where her flesh should’ve been. Her body ignited into crackling red flares and Hannibal got off of her. The taste lingered on his bloody lips for the rest of the night. Jack, much younger and less scarred, didn’t speak of what he saw in the library but as his duty bound him to Hannibal, he had made sure her ashes wouldn’t be discovered.

 

The Camarilla questioned her whereabouts, especially her sire, but Hannibal simply denied knowing of her whereabouts. He had given them a lie; the girl had ran-off with her Toreador ‘lover’. The investigation was short given there was no proof she was alive or dead. Her sire, an aristocrat from Norway, nearly drove himself mad trying to search for her. He was brave enough to accuse Hannibal, but too stupid to see his own final death. Hannibal had him dispatched and cooked into lapskaus a week later. The Camarilla didn’t question his disappearance either.

 

Since then, he had captured his kin and made culinary masterpieces from them. In the beginning, he was nervous and concerned for his position and his life. He’d lay awake in his coffin, the nervousness gnawing at him, but it would dissipate by the time night fell and he hungered again. Over the years as he became more comfortable as a Prince of Baltimore, it became easier to grow his palate.

 

Hannibal’s table was completed. The kitchen help would be ready to serve the first course had a special guest arrived. Bedelia, as much as Hannibal enjoyed her company, didn’t partake in the flesh like Hannibal did. He didn’t mind. He didn’t expect her to be a willing participant in his ‘Nagarajan’ studies. He thought of another, more innocent, less likely to chastise his lifestyle.

 

The fledgling, this Will Graham , was the only guest for the feast. Before, Hannibal had been rash, intimidating to the Malk childe and he reaped the bad harvest. The childe was weary if not hating him with the thanks of Zeller’s zealous preachings in his ear. The assignment that Hannibal had haphazardly forgotten to give him in the midst of his ‘curiosity’ left abandoned on his desk had expired.

 

He wanted to check-in on his favorite ghoul .

 

Chilton was sensitive as a butterfly’s wings but he still had work to do. Since Will was familiar with Frederick, it wouldn’t have been a hassle to check in on the poor sod. Chilton was fine, for the better or worse, and work could continue. A few broken bones and bruises couldn’t hinder his most important work for Hannibal, if he valued his life.

 

Hannibal wasn’t himself. He was starting to unravel all over Will Graham and he didn’t know why. He was just a sireless fledgling, not of royal blood or clan, but the bottom of the totem pole. Malkavians were useful in their predicting of events and catastrophes, but that within itself was a disaster in the making.

 

Something about that childe was making Hannibal crazy . In fact, he wasn’t sure himself why he was so interested. When he saw him the night of his sire’s execution, it was nothing but disgust. When he saw him again, fast asleep, and untouched, it spurred something in Hannibal he hadn’t felt in centuries.

 

Perhaps it was guilt , Will wasn’t the first or the last fledgling that would be executed on his order. It was too late for Hannibal to feel guilt, he’s had thousands killed on his selfish whim.

 

If God was trying to show me a more merciful, righteous way to live then the Devil was a cruel, selfish bastard, Hannibal took his seat at the head of his table.

 

Hannibal focused his gaze to Baltimore’s skyline. The city made him melancholic. It was stale with people like Hannibal; cruel and abrasive. Yet, being alone in the vastness of his penthouse was nerve-wracking. He couldn’t stand the silence. The bel canto was muted with the sounds of kitchen utensils being clattered around. The clock had struck a quarter till midnight and it raised the hairs on Hannibal’s neck. The fledgling had not arrived. Hannibal was a patient being, but he didn’t like to be made a fool of. The email was worded as ‘nicely’ as Hannibal could make it. Why wouldn’t the fledgling heed his invitation?

 

Does he fear me ? The Prince pondered on the thought as his kitchen staff began bringing out the entrees of ‘steak’ tartare, ‘beef’ bourguignon, and other cooked meats. Nothing was accompanied with vegetables or a side dish. There was no need for them, the meat was of a high quality and didn’t need to be soiled with kale or romaine lettuce. That said quality was of a Tremere baron from New Jersey. Hannibal couldn’t remember his name, but he could remember how offensive he was at a gala a few years back. His marbled, fatty flesh made for great butchering.

 

He thought of Will’s reaction to partaking in cannibalism. Could he really make him into a starving, ravenous beast like Hannibal was? Would Will be receptive to becoming the predator rather than the prey? He was of fragile mind and body, but could he make Hannibal proud ?

 

Hannibal looked at the clock again. Half-an-hour passed since the clock rung last. The food had cooled on their plates. The staff waited idly by, but Hannibal didn’t call for them to take the abandoned plates. For Will Graham, he would wait till the sun peeks over the horizon, making the Chesapeake golden as she flowed, but he would not forget this betrayal .

 

He could be patient but for Will Graham, he could wait a thousand nights.

 

 

Chapter Text

XV

“Lover Boy”

 


 

 

‘The Last Round’ smelled of alcohol, vomit, and ash . The door was unlocked which was a surprise to Brian given that they had the Anarch hideout locked up tight every night. The lights were dimmed with the exception of the bar, the floor cleared except for broken glass and trash, and there was a haunting silence wafting in the air. Brian had never seen the Anarch hideout void of patrons or did he imagine seeing it in such a filthy state. As much as he would gripe at Matthew and Freddie to keep the place somewhat free of bottles and roaches, they wouldn’t listen. Most nights they were too drunk or high to care.

 

He tiptoed around the mess with a crinkled nose. Vomit stuck to the floor in a thick layer of green and brown. The stench was deplorable even for Anarch standards. The bar’s liquor had been smashed or stolen from what Brian could tell. He went upstairs and opened the door to the Anarch’s den. The mess was continued upstairs; beer bottles, strewn clothes on the floor, and drug paraphernalia. Brian picked up the trash as he passed. Call him domesticated, but he couldn’t stand the mess.

 

The posters on the wall had been vandalized. They were ripped like tattered cloth hanging on a line. In some poetic way, it was better to see the posters ripped up. It added another chaotic trait to the Anarch hideout. Their furniture had been flipped and thrown around the room.

 

Brian discarded the bottles in a nearby milk crate and found that his fellow Anarchs were in a chaotic state much like ‘The Last Round’.

 

Freddie was wide awake and out of her coffin. Her red hair tumbled in wet, slinky coils as she sat in the oversized bean bag chair. Her clothes hung on her lithe frame like a cloak. Blood caked around her mouth like if she was a deadbeat mime. Her eyes followed Brian like two orbs filled with pools of emerald. He glanced at her as he collected beer bottles but didn’t utter a word. Matthew, on the other hand, was sprawled out on the floor in a pool of his own vomit, tears, and snot.

 

He must’ve went on a binge , Brian saw how Matthew hardly rose or jerked when he was cleaning the mess around him.

 

The older Brujah snorted as he hovered over the younger Anarch. He saw the vomit and makeup caked on his face.

 

“I leave for a day and the Anarchs are a fucking mess while the Camarilla is fucking us in the ass?”, Brian butted Matthew with the tip of his foot, causing the Anarch to jolt up from the floor.

 

“What the hell have you little shits been doing since I’ve been gone?”

 

Freddie rose from the beanbag chair in a near blink on an eye. Her eyes lit up like angry, green flares. She was seething underneath the cloud of alcohol and sleep deprivation. She gritted her teeth to the point it made an uncomfortable, nails-on-a-chalkboard like noise. Matthew muttered something under his breath finding that he was still holding a half-empty beer bottle.

 

The Toreador and the Brujah ogled one another, though not out of malice or hate, but a silent argument between them. Both of them were dominant beings, naturally, their engagements were a matter of who’s more stubborn. The Toreador was fearless, insanely so, but Brian was stern and stalwart. Freddie flared her nostrils as she exhaled and backed off.

 

She helped Matthew rise from his alcohol binge and got him to sit upright on the loveseat nearby. He swallowed what was left in his bottle and made an ‘ahhh’. Brian itched for a cigarette. He more than furious with his fellow Anarchs. Getting piss-drunk when they should be plotting their next mood, Brian must’ve missed out on the party. Once Matthew was settled enough (though he was still stupidly drunk), Freddie sat down next to him. She looked at Brian with creased lips.

 

“What’s wrong with you?”, Brian questioned. “What happened the other night?”

 

Freddie cupped her face in her hands. She remembered the smell of ash in her nostrils, that bright flare of light as the body began to burn, and that god-awful scream the draculina let out as she died. It wasn’t a quick death either. The draculina would’ve had to suffer through the sunlight in order to reach ‘The Last Round’ halfway across Baltimore. Her skin would’ve boiled and bursted with bloody puss. She would feel her organs cook from within. Freddie couldn’t wish the memory away. It made her frigid and sensitive to the touch. It made her own skin prickle and burn as if it was her combusting in flames. If she had the choice, she would’ve opted for herself to face such a gruesome death and not the much younger vampire.



“Give me a cigarette.”, the Toreador reached her hand out. “I fucking need it.”

 

The Brujah fished around in his jacket pocket for his signature pack of ‘cancer’ sticks. He slid one out the pack and handed it to her. Next came the lighter. She lit it between her lips and took a long, deep inhale, then exhaled the thick, grey cloud. Matthew reached for it and she allowed him to take a drag of it. Brian soon lit his own cigarette as the three of them stayed in the room with tobacco and silence between them.

 

Cammies .”, Freddie said. “Lit up a newbie right on our doorstep.”

 

Brian glanced at her mid-exhale. The Camarilla, as much as Brian wouldn’t like to give them the credit, weren’t the ones to roll over and take it. They were masters of warfare. They’ve been doing it since the Dark Ages. The Camarilla had years to perfect their craft. But, to cull a fledgling in such a way was not only cruel but inhumane . Dare say it was against their “commandments”, but when fighting rebels, wa there morality?

 

Brian’s mind gravitated on the thought that fledgling could’ve been Will and it made his stomach drop in his chest. How easily the Prince could have Will slaughtered in such way made Brian grit his teeth. Those mismatched blue eyes that would be squeezed so tight in pain and agony — The thought of it made Brian squeamish. He took a deep breath as he listened to Freddie recall the attack.

 

Freddie and Matthew should’ve known what to expect; they blew up the Prince’s toys. He wasn’t going to ignore them. Hannibal Lecter wasn’t like the Princes before him; he didn’t play by Camarilla standards. He was scheming as the Anarchs was licking their wounds. Brian didn’t hold it against his younger Anarchs as much as he should’ve. They were young freedom fighters in a world full of injustice.

 

Young, dumb, and full of heart .

 

They hadn’t seen suffering like Brian’s seen. Hell, Freddie was practically a fledgling herself. Matthew’s seen what the Great Depression did to the country, the Great war that tore the world asunder, but he never saw the bodies piled up on the battlefields waiting to be buried, if ever . It was one of Brian’s regrets in raising the Anarchs. He sugarcoated the grittiness of the world instead of plunging them head first in it.

 

Time wasn’t on their side. He needed his younger Anarchs to drag themselves out the pit of self-pity they were drowning in.

 

“What kind of fucking monster does that?”, Freddie said through clenched teeth.

 

Brian extinguished his cigarette under his boot and kneeled down where Freddie bit back tears. She was a strong girl, stronger than any of them, but she was too headstrong to admit that she was terrified . Freddie was their anchor, the most trusted person in their cause, but she was still her own person with fears, doubts, and dreams. As much as she didn’t want to admit her terror, she hid it behind her feistiness and drive to see justice served.

 

Matthew, drunk but slightly coherent, looked to Brian with tired eyes.

 

Matthew was suffering much more than his Toreador counterpart. He reluctantly picked up the mantle of ‘revolutionary’, but barely had enough time to mature for himself. The dark circles under his eyes, the alcohol abuse, and the notion he must save everyone was enough to make any person, kine or kindred, crack from the pressure. People flocked to him for answers when he himself had no answers for himself. Like Jesus, Matthew suffered but for the good of his people.

 

Matthew, in all sense of the definition, was a ‘freedom’ fighter. Yet, who was there to free him from his inner demons?

 

He never had a chance at a real, decent sire to guide him through the shitshow the world was. Brian thought he could’ve led Matthew in the way he was led, but looking at Matthew’s piss-drunk self was evident Brian had failed miserably .

 

He wouldn’t fail again, not with Matthew, Freddie, or Will .

 

“You can’t fucking give up just because of one fucking dead vampire.”, he scolded, looking to Freddie with stern eyes.

 

“If we give up, we all die.”, Matthew’s eyebrows furrowed as he tried to regain his composure.

 

Brian got up off the floor and pinched the bridge of his nose.  They didn’t have the time to mop around like beaten dogs. The Camarilla wasn’t going to stop with one vampire firebomb and Zeller needed his comrades to steel their hearts.

 

He went to Matthew to help the revolutionary to his feet. The younger Brujah held onto Brian as if his life depended on it. His legs weren’t cooperating with him to move. Brian dragged him along to Freddie’s room to get washed and changed. The Toreador regained herself as she cleared their ‘war’ table nearby. Stained with liquor, Freddie pressed it out with her hands and looked over the dozens of circles, arrows, and notes she had made on it.

 

Brian had to shove Matthew into the shower. The younger Brujah complained and cursed at his elder in all sorts of dialects. Zeller paid him no mind as he had to physically wrestle with the other Brujah to get him to wash. Matthew opened his mouth to protest but a stream of vomit shot out instead. That was the final straw for Brian as he threw his hands up and let Matthew stand under the shower puking his guts out.

 

They had work to do. Enough with the hard liquor, partying with humans, and the orgies. Brian squirmed hearing Matthew retch, but at least he was getting it out his system. The Anarchs had the Camarilla sending flaming vampire cocktails to their front doors. That meant they’ve noticed and very eager to destroy them. They knew their base, perhaps some of their members, but they don’t have their drive to not give up. Matthew vomited the last of his liquor and cleaned himself up. He saw how Brian looked away in idle disgust. He wiped his mouth with his forearm.

 

“Hey…”, he softly said, using his other arm to reach for Brian.

 

“Hey.”, Brian replied, shifting his eyes up towards Brian. “You done?”


There was silence as the shower head spat water noisily from it’s neck. Matthew nodded and finished cleaning himself. His expression was of pitiful embarrassment. His brown hair fell like greasy snakes on his neck. His behavior was a joke.

He was the joke.

 

As much as he wanted to be the leader the Anarchs of Baltimore needed, he always found himself at the end of a night long binge or passed out drunk. He couldn’t remember the last time he was sober. All he wanted was peace, but here he was — bombing Camarilla buildings and making a fool out of himself.

 

What went wrong, Matthew couldn’t say but if Nines was here, he would never hear the end of it. Nines would drag him all across the city, stake him, then throw his body in the Chesapeake. That’s how much Matthew had made himself look like a fool .

 

Who would follow a leader that couldn’t even stay coherent enough to speak? The Anarchs of Baltimore, small in number, strong in heart, couldn’t survive much longer if he couldn’t pull himself away from decadence. He thought of Freddie if he happened to die. She would be lost.

 

The cause would be lost .

 

Matthew pushed those thoughts behind him. He dressed himself back in his pants given that his shirt was covered with vomit. He swept his wet hair underneath a towel. Brian followed him out the bathroom and they met Freddie at the war table.

 

“Let’s finish what we’ve started.”, Matthew said, pointing to a crossed-out picture of Hannibal Lecter.

 

“You got your shit together?”, Brian asked, seeing how Matthew was just a drunk on the floor and suddenly he was ready to become ‘Superman’.

 

He looked to Freddie and nodded. He had to be a leader not for himself, but for all of them. He needed to be fierce just like Nines would want him to be.  Freddie shot a smile as she began to explain their next move. Brian listened to the both of them plot and a feeling of relief in his chest swirled. These were his kids , a little headstrong and moody, but nonetheless he’s raised them well.

 

Whether or not they could liberate everyone from the Camarilla scourge was to be seen, but Brian had faith. A fool’s faith, but he had people to fight for. He didn’t want to see another vampire — especially Will, Freddie, or Matthew a plaything for the Camarilla to twist their heads off.

 

He’d give anything to see the Camarilla crumble into the dirt — anything .

 


 

Frustrated, profoundly so as her fingers wrapped around her a pen and tapped viciously against the desk. Her bottom lip vice gripped between her fangs as she chewed on the skin. The lily that once bloomed was withered and droopy in its vase. Surrounded by towers of paperwork and clutter, Alana wanted to scream. She wasn’t built for numbers, unlike her sister, and it was driving her to the brink of insanity.

 

She didn’t have an academic mind, but she was lovely. Alana was heavenly in all forms. Her body was shapely and voluptuous in parts it needed to be. She was intelligent though she never allowed herself to show it. Her smile had kine and kindred alike falling hard for her. In a way, it made her position much easier as a co-owner of ‘The Asylum’.

 

On the other hand, her ‘twin’ sister, Bella, was too stubborn and serious that Alana was sure that no sword entered her sheathe. As beautiful and godly she appeared to be, she was a viper lurking in the grass. Her tongue was sharp and her intelligence even sharper. Sometimes she would scare Alana with how cunning she was.

 

Yet she was still her sister, an overbearing, ambitious sister. She wanted to own the world, Alana could  support her conquest, but in the end, she believed Bella’s ambition would kill her.

 

Or the both of them .

 

Bella was the more political one between them. She orchestrated support for her claim to Baltimore within the Camarilla. She had kindred of every breed wooing for her. Bella knew how to infiltrate circles and camouflage her true intentions. Scary, but she knew how to talk game. Alana knew if Bella really applied herself that she could be crowned the new ‘Prince’ of Baltimore. A baron had power, but a prince had godhood . She would practically be unstoppable .

 

Had she didn’t have a sister like Alana ‘ruining’ her reputation.

 

Alana set the pen down and looked at the paper she scribbled over. The paper had looked like a toddler attacked it with a marker. Incoherent words, doodles, and the occasional smiley face was all that her scattered mind could conjure. Her fingers curled into her palm as she looked down at her mess.

 

I’m getting worse , Alana slid the paper away from her.

 

There was nights where she couldn’t decipher what was the real, the fake, or both. Her speech had become garbled and messy with topics she hadn’t thought of. Her handwriting was suffering the same affliction. Other nights, when Bella would leave her just like tonight, she felt imprisoned. No one there to hold her through the throws of madness. Like Alice who drank the wine and took the pill, Alana was sprawling down the rabbit hole. The piles of paperwork would tower her till they crashed on her.

 

Alana tried to be a good sister and a better business partner. She wanted to help Bella manage their club, but it was getting harder as more of her persona was beginning to break. Bella hid her sister’s status as much as she could. Their sire didn’t want to believe that he could father such a disastrous brood. Irony at it’s finest given that sire was indeed ‘bad’ blood himself. A smoked-out, sex-hungry, brute of a sire.

 

Bella had been spared from his ‘bad’ blood that Alana was victimized with. She was a natural-born Toreador but Alana, with her ‘bad’ blood, was cursed with the affliction of Malkavianism.

 

Their sire, their former ‘pimp’, had found his final death when acquiring ‘The Asylum’. A gruesome affair orchestrated by the former Prince of Baltimore involving a chainsaw and a real bad reading of “The Shining”.

 

“Here’s Johnny!” Alana remembered though it was better to remember the movie’s version rather than the chainsaw fiasco. She couldn’t believe the human body could hold so much guts and blood till she saw her sire gush and coagulate like jello.

 

Strange, a sire that ostracized Alana had the empathy of Bella. She was angry at her sister for a very long time. She couldn’t understand why her twin sister would actually cry for their ‘sire’. It pained her that her sister, her only friend in such a crazed, volatile world, would weep for a monster that would’ve staked Alana if he could make a quick buck from it. A monster that abused her, berated her, and nearly took her life.

 

In the end, Alana reluctantly forgave Bella. They needed each other to survive. Bella was the stronger one between them. Though she was relieved when her sire drew his last breath, she couldn’t lie that the sudden prang in her chest when his body ceased to exist on this plane. They shared a blood bond. He was her progenitor. Her father .

 

It scarred. It burned. It hurt . And she moved on.

 

They remained sisters. Their had their ups, downs, and the seasonal argument, but they were inseparable. Twin spirits if it wasn’t for their distinct appearances.

 

But it was starting to feel like she was a wayward soul .

 

Alana needed a break. She left the desk to stretch her legs out. The room was quiet with the exception of thumping bass under her. Epitaphs of old Hollywood-esque models, Bella’s cluttered shelves, and Alana’s perverse line of ‘phallic’ objects were reminders that in this space, she had manufactured a persona not of her own. The walls drooled ‘teenage emo’ while the room itself said “fuck me”. She played the roll as the ‘sexy-bombshell-kitten’, but in reality, herself had been lost underneath the makeup and latex.

 

She wanted to be free — unshackled from the weight of the world.

 

Her freedom was laid in the foundations of sex. It drove her to be adventurous and straightforward. It gave her the power she wanted in such a volatile world.

 

At one point, she hated sex . She was inexperienced when her ‘sire’ had her and she still imagined his brutish hands making bruises on her skin. She hated the smells, the feelings, the constant ravaging of her body. Upon becoming kindred, she utilized sex as her weapon — her own ambition .

 

Cal, the lumbering cow of a barkeep/bodyguard, had no inclination that he lusted for Alana. Strange but, what did he know about fucking? She thought of the kine downstairs. Of course, they had the means to perform intercourse, but their understanding of love was fragile. They were mortal and saw the world as a fast, approaching race to the end. Hamsters in the wheel, really, as their lifespans revolved around reproduction and legacy. They would die but Alana would persevere for millenia to come.

 

She thought of Will Graham . It made her mind fuzzy when she thought of the ragged fledgling dressed in black. He dressed him much like himself. Brian prided himself as a neutral in politics, but anyone could tell he affiliated himself with Anarchs. He dressed like it — clad in black and brooding with the “weight of the world”. Brian had dragged him along like some scared newborn. In fact, that’s what Will Graham was — a scared newborn .

 

He was a frail-looking man, Alana recalled how the fledgling shrunk in the room. He was definitely a submissive one, someone that didn’t like to be noticed. Yet, his eyes were deep and seemingly conscious of the world and perhaps more. A sireless fledgling, no less, but he was interesting.

 

Same but polar opposites. Alana’s affliction wasn’t known outside of her and Bella. She passed as a Toreador like her sister. She shared a love for the fine arts, politics, and a thirst for knowledge. Though it was against her nature, she endured.

 

It wasn’t the same for Will Graham. The Malkavian stain ran deep. Alana could see it in the way he stood in the room, dangerously aware of everything. He was skittish, but calm and calculating at the same time. His mind would be cloudy with premonitions of the end. He would be unsure of what was real or what was fabrications of his addled mind. She thought she would be like Will if she chose to embrace her true self.

 

If not — worse .

 

Alana left the upstairs bedroom she shared with her sister and descended on the elevator. Much to her protest, if she had to take a kine to bed on this night, she was going drink tonight. The elevator halted and she stepped out of it. The nightclub was packed with sweaty bodies covered in glitter and Alana could smell the vitae pump in their veins. Their heartbeats, their insecurities, and their body odor alone was a plethora of new scents. Neither scent was the same as she immersed herself in the crowd.

 

Instantly she was noticed. Hands tentatively reached out for her while eyes followed her through the gyrating crowd. She allowed them to touch and marvel her. The attention was much needed. Her body rocked with their own. Her hips being guided by a stranger’s hands. They were hard, calloused and had no love to them. No matter how persistent those hands were to cover her in bruises or cup her delicately, she felt ruined in the swirl of bodies. Ravished, broken, and deep with something that made her chest flood, Alana twisted herself free from the dominant hands and swam to the surface.

 

Her skin prickled as she lingered on the outskirts of the crowd. She looked to her right to see Cal making drinks at the bar. He didn’t look at her, but Alana couldn’t help but feel something cold . Her imagination, vivid with her Malkavian tendencies, was either lying or trying to warn her. Her eyes couldn’t break away from the dark corner.

 

The corner looked back at her. Eyes stained with merigold glittered from the shadowy cover of the dark. The glint of a silver earring was familiar to Alana. Her lips curled into a giddy, school girl-like smile. She made her way to that dark corner and was embraced by much loving hands. Nails dug into the mounds of her ass as the darkness swallowed her lips in a hot, breathy kiss. Her arms wrapped around a grotesque, burly figure of her shady lover.

 

Their kiss ended with a thick web of salvia between them. The breath out of Alana had been stolen out of her chest. She was happy though.

 

“It’s been a while, Bertie ”, she said as she felt up the sides of her lover’s face.

 

The rough, bumpy face of her lover revealed itself in the light of the bar. His nose ring hung low from his upturned nostrils. He grinned with a mouthful of jagged fangs.

 

“What can I say? I’m your lover boy.”, her lover said huskily, his fangs causing him to slobber and drool over his words.

 

They shared more sloppy kisses before Alana took her lover up to her bedroom, undressed him, worshipped every inch of his ghastly frame. With her Bertie , she could forget the ails of the world she had to suffer so much for to perfect. He understood. He never shamed or tried to chain her. They were in love . Bella would kill her Bertie had she found out he was here, inside her, and keeping her sane. She didn’t care. In this moment, she was alive and anchored.

 

She wanted to be suffocated with love .

 


 

 

Bedelia wasn’t greeted with a warm embrace or the prick of fangs along her slender neck. In fact, she wasn’t greeted at all. The penthouse was quiet except for the kitchen — dishes being washed and put away in the cabinets. She saw some of the hired help meekly clearing the dining room table and tidying up the spanse. They lowered their eyes to her as she looked at them. She acknowledged their gesture with a courteous smile though they were hired help — not anyone worthy enough to note .

 

Bedelia dressed out of her fur coat herself and walked down to the living room. His gargantuan of a bodyguard wasn’t in the room although Bedelia was glad he wasn't. The television was on, a rarity in Hannibal’s home, and Bedelia saw a thin stream of smoke coming from the couch. The evening broadcast spoke of murder, violence, and nothing more positive than that.

 

She walked deftly across the room. Her body swayed as she came closer to the source of the smoke. Hannibal was sitting there, clad in dark maroon, but completely silent. She didn’t think of him as smoker, but to each his own.

 

He was focused on the view past the television screen. Baltimore, a city drowning in greed and corruption — but a city that Hannibal conquered. He slew his competitors, quieted his opposition, and wooed his fanatics. Bedelia, much to her own charming personality, could say she was wooed by his charisma.

 

Now he was a morose, sensitive being that prided himself to be unfeeling. He put on a facade, of course, yet within he was neurotic and quick to obsess. Bedelia blamed herself at first. She thought she wasn’t passionate enough for his tastes, but come to find out that another had his interests.

 

Perhaps not in a carnal, sexual way but enough to have him turned inside out. It was sickening to watch such a proud, heavenly figure like Hannibal fall into his obsession of a frail, sick-looking thing. Who was Will Graham — no, the serpent that had Hannibal so fixated?

 

He had no appeal really. He was scrawny, gaunt, and unhealthy in general. Bedelia was none of those things. She had life to her skin and her body was chiseled by Aphrodite herself. Yet, Hannibal seemed so fascinated by someone so macabre.

 

Bedelia said nothing as she sat next to her Prince. A reasonable distance between them allowed them to be close, but not familiar. They watched the evening news with idle interest. She wouldn’t say anything, not tonight, not with Hannibal in such a passively chaotic state. He wasn’t prone to fits of violence or anger like other men she’s endured over the years yet, he was calculating and cruel. If he truly wanted to, he could have her neck open and she would be choking to death. He could have her killed in the most horrific ways and he wouldn’t lose an ounce of sleep.

 

And that terrified her .

 

He loved her — Bedelia would like to believe he did deeply but his behavior was starting to become a red flag. With the Elizabeth Dane, the sarcophagus, and now Will Graham occupying much of her beloved’s time, she was an ‘extra’ commodity. She wanted to believe that she was a once-in-a-lifetime investment but if Chilton wasn’t a reminder that Hannibal was resourceful, perhaps she was a fool .

 

Hannibal looked to her with those same rich, maroon eyes she fell in love with. They were much lighter in the darkness of the room. The light from the television made them glow like hot flares. Her breath hitched in her throat as her lips parted, but nothing came to mind. He took her silence as passiveness. He looked back to the television and continued watching. His cigarette curled with ash.

 

What could she say? She loved him? He already knew that. She prostrated herself at his feet on more than one occasion. She’s lied for him. She’s betrayed her friends and family alike for him.

 

She’s even killed for him .

 

What more could be done to show she was deeply, insanely in love with Hannibal?

 

The night was becoming late as Hannibal relinquished his cigarette into a nearby ashtray. He stood and pressed the crinkles out his suit. He glanced at his beloved paramour once more before excusing himself to his study. Bedelia remained seated on the sofa with the evening news recycling the same story for the past hour.


What more could a girl do when she’s in love ?

Chapter Text

XVI

“Abnormality”

 


 

 

Will lingered in front of the macabre nightclub with his fingers curled around a cigarette he bummed from an artistic figure with a pink mohawk. He wasn’t a smoker but, it kept his nerves from overheating. The taste strangled his tongue as he kept the smoke in his mouth. He exhaled and threw the cigarette in a nearby puddle.

 

He wanted to go inside — truly, but he was possessed to stay outside out of his own nervousness. The front entrance was more appropriate rather than having to vault over a fence to the back entrance. He didn’t want to end up flattened like Zeller.

 

More people — kine haunted here than the way him and Brian entered. They dressed themselves in leather and latex, in all shades and colorings, and their haphazard fashion choice reflected their wild selves.

 

He wanted to see Alana badly that every thought of her made his legs turn into water and his heart to resume beating. He wanted to believe she wanted to see him too, but he prepared himself for inevitable rejection. It was killing him to step inside the den of carnal, shameless desires. Nervously, he shoved his hands in his pocket and paced back and forth from the street to the sidewalk.


The fledgling needed to decide what his intentions was going to be. He had little time; he could feel his skin prickle as the night grew older. The nasty dude had to be found, soon, but before the sun would sizzle him into ash.

 

A death he would’ve considered before Alana entered his membrane and quite frankly, made him insane .

 

The air was cool with the morning haze rolling in from the Chesapeake. He was tired. His mouth watered for a drink. There was dozens of jugulars to sink his fangs into. It would be easy to drink long and deep from a fresh source like the clubgoers huddled around with their cigarettes.

 

Yet, Brian was adamant in his warnings of breaking the Masquerade’s code. He mentioned it before they parted ways — perhaps when Will was focused on the ramblings of his addled mind. A vague set of laws that Will didn’t think were much of a code of conduct to follow, but it was clear that kindred must not reveal themselves to the kine — shall it be a violation to the Masquerade .

 

He thought of it as commandments. Or that’s what they sounded like. The Masquerade required that all kindred , regardless of clan, must be stealthy of their existence in order to trick the kine . Along those lines, childer , or fledglings like himself must obey their sire regardless of the task or command.

 

Will was sireless, as much as he would like to forget, but it seemed like everyone around him mentioned it every second of the night. The buzz of the town, the sireless fledgling, must be juicy gossip for vampires as old as the Prince. What else did they have to do?

 

He obeyed the Prince to an extent — was he already breaking the Masquerade ? He didn’t go to the Prince’s tower as demanded. He didn’t answer respectfully as the Prince would’ve commanded him to do.  Was he in danger for something so little?

 

Will pushed thoughts of the Masquerade and kindred out of his head. It wasn’t helping him in finding the nasty dude.

 

Brian wasn’t here to chastise him either. His few lessons, fewer in number as they traveled together, hardly reflected what his behavior should be. He knew of the little things — his affiliation, his former sire, and how to keep his head should the Prince demand of it.  He had a lesson of his own; don’t fight strange things in strange places .

 

Do what he says , Brian had scolded him before they had left their apartment. See what he wants .

 

What did Will Graham want ? Life? That was stripped away from him the moment he slipped inside the Cadillac that drove him straight into a hellmouth. Freedom? The Prince made it clear that should he disappoint him, he would suffer the same fate his sire.

 

Will wanted Alana.

 

The fledgling stopped his pacing and forced himself to intrude inside the club. The doorman that landed Brian flat on his ass recognized his entry. He said nothing and allowed the fledgling to creep inside. His eyes adjusted to the darkness within. The air around him grew heavy with the smells of liquor and body odor.

 

The walls pulsated with music, the floor was like glistening waves under his feet, and the patrons inside danced wildly. They were crazed with poor inhibitions. They openly hurled their bodies into a flurry of sex. They gulped down pills of all shapes and colors as if they were some naughty sweet stolen from the candy jar.

 

It was a pleasant chaos compared to the calamity his scattered mind would conjure. The noise, the lights, it reminded Will of a time where he was young, strung out and desperate to keep the eyes on him. In a way, the club felt like home , not in the traditional sense, but it felt like home. He watched dancers in their iron cages call out to him with their youthful bodies. He couldn’t stay — not for long, and their bodies wasn’t her body.

 

Will gravitated to the bar. The bartender was hard at work, slinging drinks down the winding countertop, and catering conversation to the ones who needed it. The humongous brute of a bartender eyed down Will with a bulged eye as he spoke with patrons. His mouth curled into a snarl as he saw the fledgling pause before coming to the bar.

 

The fledgling came to the bar counter and slid onto one of the stools. Few others sat further don the counter with their hands shakily grasped around their drinks. They dressed as destitute as Will — given that his attire wasn’t borrowed from Brian’s ‘fashion is dead’ collection. He couldn’t tell whether they were human or not, but that wasn’t what he was focused on.

 

He wanted to talk to Alana, badly , and not act so skittish like the previous night. Will would kick himself at how he nervous he was. He’s seen girls — he liked how they would smile and giggle as they pass him by.

 

He was sure he liked girls, though girls didn’t like him as much as he thought they did, but nonetheless he liked girls like Alana .

 

But girls like Alana turned out to be better than just a girl they were goddesses .

 

Alana was dangerously beautiful. She was sexual but not devious — a mix that had Will half-mast and bothered. She had great sex appeal but it wasn’t overzealous. He felt like a teenager — filled with puberty-driven libido and poor choices. How her legs would wrap around his slender waist, squeeze them tight, and keep him inside. Her lips would part and sing like starry-eyed nymphs frolicking in a mystical garden.

 

Or so he would like to imagine. Alana could very much be a pawn that the Prince tossed his way to torture Will. He didn’t want to believe it, but if he’s learned anything about his new lifestyle — everyone is your worse enemy.

 

And paranoia was his best friend.

 

Cal, the giant bartender introduced himself as, slid a drink to him that he didn’t ask for. Will caught it within his hands and felt how warm the drink felt. It was a rich, red drink that reminded Will that he hadn’t fed himself these last few hours. He didn’t hesitate washing the tepid, thick drink down his throat. It calmed his aching stomach as Cal came by to take the emptied glass away.

 

Will looked down the counter and saw an unusual, feminine figure. He couldn’t say he was a stranger in this place, but this woman, with her buttoned-up shirt and worried look had Will perplexed. She was aged, exceptionally well, and looked far too professional to be in a place such as ‘The Asylum’.

 

A professional woman , Will saw how well-kept she was as he encroached into her space. She had no place here — or anywhere that had such degenerates and broken things like Will Graham.

 

They made eye contact and Will’s throat dried as his eyes danced along her jaw down to her exposed neck.

 

She looked away timidly and clutched her martini in manicured hands. The club scene muffled what her lips parted to say. The lights darkened what her face contorted in confusion. Will heard how her blood strangled the veins tight in her neck and it stirred bestial hunger in his stomach.

 

He entered her waters carefully. He was calm in demeanor, but inside he heard the garble of muffled voices urging him to take a bite. That sick, sadistic feeling he felt when he fed threatened to take over the bit of humanity he had left.

 

Give it a nibble, Will’s mouth salivated when he imagined her sweet, bloody nectar dripping down her neck.

 

Don’t be greedy, another voice chastised him. It’ll go straight to your thighs.

 

He was scared of letting go. He just had a drink but he craved more. He was an addict once in life, but to be such a victim to his volatile instinct was scary. Brian didn’t warn him of this constant hunger. Maybe Brian didn’t think Will was ravenous. Or perhaps it was their inhuman nature to gorge themselves like this.

 

Will pushed those feelings aside.

 

They faced one another in the neon lights of the club. Will noticed how she hid her surprise in a polite, but stressed smile. She gave a curt nod and turned herself away from him — unknowingly making a near fatal decision. She left her drink next to her. Unaware of  how close Will was to her, she attempted to ignore his disturbing presence. He came to her side and danced his fingertips along her forearm, feeling how the skin chilled, and caught another wild stare from the startled female. She twisted her lips to protest but stopped as she gazed into a swirling ocean of mismatched eyes underneath a canopy of eyelashes.

 

What she saw in his eyes, Will couldn’t say but he stared her down till all sense of willpower left her conscious.

 

She calmed down as Will leaned in close enough to smell the overwhelming perfume and doubt underneath her blanched skin. His fangs extended from his cracked lips as he leaned in to lick her jugular. He had her pressed against the bar counter with his legs between hers. Tentatively, his victim snaked a leg around his waist and held him there as he lavished her neck with gentle nips. Will couldn’t say he was a romantic. These actions felt natural to him given that half of his adult life he spent underneath men that did the same to him.

 

His hand found her breast and cupped it gently as the first bite was shallow, naive in the action and the woman curled into his touch. His sips became long, lazy slurps as the club around them grew louder with the music. A great cover because no one thought to look at Will feasting on her neck.

 

Blood dribbled from his lips as he gorged himself. He drained the vitality from her body, feeling how her strength tired, and he held to the small of her back to keep her from falling away from him. Her mouth was left agape in horrified ecstasy as she was helpless.

 

With every gulp, something exhilarating thumped around in Will’s stomach. A fire blazing so wildly in his core that it felt like he would be burnt up by the heat. His fangs didn’t retract into his gums as they should — his arms kept his victim close. His mouth took in gulp after gulp straight from the source.

 

Blood brings the vicious beast , a low, dreadful voice had warned him.

 

That fear he had before he had her in his arms came crawling up his back. He was frozen place, physically, but mentally the firestorm continued to blaze everything moral left in him.  He wanted to stop — no, needed to stop. He couldn’t fight the ravenous tsunami crashing over the walls of his morality.

 

A hand came to touch his shoulder and it felt like a thousand barbed needles prickled his skin. His mouth left the woman’s neck and left a bloody fissure in its wake. She slumped with her back to the bar and knees buckling underneath her. Will salvaged bits of flesh from his teeth and swallowed them. That same hand turned him around gently and wrapped him towards a body, much more voluptuous and cold than the kine , and squeezed.

 

Will felt his head being caressed in the crook of this stranger’s shoulder. He could smell the whiff of sex clinging to her frame, the sweat, and the iron all bundled into an enigma of sensory overload. His mind buzzed idly and did not protest to the foreign touch. The embrace was broke apart and the fledgling, with widened eyes, and his mouth left agape nearly collapsed into a pool of gelatin.

 

Alana.

 

Her hair fell in messy, dyed curls and her nude body hardly covered underneath her sheer robe. Her face void of makeup and blemishes, naturally, as Will thought her to be at an hour so late. She was tender. Her smile made the fire brewing in his body cool and simmer into ice. His mouth closed as her hand came up to dab away the blood painted around it.

 

“You poor thing.”, Alana cooed, her hands gingerly rubbing along Will’s lips. “You poor sweet thing.”

 

He sighed into the palm of her hand as a tears streamed from his eyes.

 

“Are you alone tonight, Will?”

 

Will nodded.

 

“Would you like to come with me?”

 

She led him away from the bar counter, side-eyeing Cal as they made their way to the elevator, and coaxed Will to follow her upstairs. She had him like a mother leading her child away. Alana hummed and she led them inside the elevator. The elevator lifted them up to the familiar, white and maroon den of Alana and Bella. Alana took it upon herself to cover her body in a much darker material as Will stood awkwardly, once again, away from her. He was anxious but with no where else to go, he was glued in place. Alana opened the door on the far side of the room, revealing a much bigger living and kitchen space on the other side.

 

“Come, let me get you out of those clothes.”, she offered, though her offer sounded much more like a demand Will couldn’t get out of.

 

“I’m sure you’re full. But there’s vitae — blood, in the fridge if you’re thirsty.”

 

He peeled out of his bloodied top and jeans as he followed Alana into the massive living room. His shoes left abandoned nearby. It was much more regal in design compared to their office. The living space had more than enough couches and love seats that curled and stretched. The decor screamed old Hollywood; high-back, suede chairs, encrusted lamps, and an coffee table stretched so long it could banquet a dozen. All of it was extravagant. He wasn’t used to seeing such wealth back home in Louisiana — let alone this much finery in one room. Will didn’t dare to sit on the furniture just yet — not with blood and filth from the streets caked on his body. The chandelier above him dripped with expense. He had only seen such a piece in another lair — the Prince’s lair, but it wasn’t as beautiful as the one twinkling above him.

 

Will noticed other smaller details as he paced around the living room. There was a mix of the twin sisters in this room. Instead of obscure sex items glorified on walls and shelves or portraits of macabre old men, it was a subtle and almost a neutral space. Not one twin’s style overwhelmed the other one’s. A blank canvas neither of them casted a paintbrush upon.

 

Perhaps this is how they keep the balance of being in such a strange world. Will picked up a small, ornate orb made of glass and ran it between his hands. He set it back down gently.

 

The kitchen had the same immaculate decor. The fledgling didn’t think the sisters did much cooking given that the both of them were kindred , but it left some normalcy in the space. A full-stocked bar, an elevated dining table with chairs, and what looked like a small breakfast nook was all it consisted of. Not even a fresh bowl of fruit was left on the countertop. Knives were in abundance though Will was sure those knives weren’t use to slay carrots and tomatoes.

 

Alana came from another room with clothes tucked underneath her arm. She saw Will fixated on the space around them and deftly moved towards him. She came to him and handed him the clothes. He was puzzled at first, trying to figure out how she readily had clothes of his size on hand, but was grateful given that he was dressed down to his underwear.

 

“I ran you a bath, Will.”, she commented, grabbing the fledgling’s hand and leading him away from his fascination.

 

He followed behind her.  His eyes threatened to wet themselves again. Here she was, Alana , but his lips wouldn’t part to tell her how much he knew of her. Her saw what others couldn’t — what the makeup and the sex appeal tried to shield. He wanted to ask her if she was tired . He’d keep her secret, as many others, and would love her more than anything.

 

“May I ask you a question?”, his tongue wanted to declare love for her but it was far too early and childish to suggest such a topic.

 

Would she love me just the same? The thought fled from Will the moment Alana stopped in the bathroom, taking her own robe off, and hanging it on a nearby rack. Her nude frame, heavenly in all forms, just like he hoped was graceful in movement. He was left agape as she slipped into the warm, bubbly water. He wasn’t sure if this was an indication that he would be bathing with her, but the anxiety made him shake nervously. He shakily left the bundle of clothes on the bathroom counter, keeping his eyes from her body, and failing miserably. He had to keep himself from shrieking. The tub was big enough for the both of them, but Will couldn’t compel himself to strip the last fabric of modesty off his body.

 

“You may ask me anything you desire, Will.”

 

Alana looked at him with a sharp, but amused expression. She held her soapy hand out to him and those eyes, big, blue was an irresistible siren’s call. He turned around to strip down his undergarments and stepped timidly into the water. Her eyes did not drift lower than Will’s own. She was content once his body was fully emerged in the water.

 

“Let’s get that mess off you.”, she chirped, happily soaking a washcloth and bringing it to Will’s face.

 

He shied away, but didn’t protest when Alana began to scrub the dirt and blood from his face. She was gentle in the action, making sure soap didn’t enter his eyes, and kept cooing to him something in that same language he heard many others say to him before. She brought the washcloth back into the water and repeated the process.

 

“What do you know of a nasty dude?”

 

Alana playfully rolled her eyes as she couldn’t help herself from beaming at the question.

 

“In my profession, I know a lot of nasty dudes. You’ll have to be specific.”

 

“I don’t have his real name but I hear he’s quite nasty . I talked to his ghoul at the blood bank.”

 

“Did you?”, Alana paused. “What did this little ghoul say about this nasty dude?”

 

Will shrugged and took control of the washcloth. He brought it to his face, then to his shoulders, then finally his stomach. He wringed it out and laid it over the tub’s edge.

 

“His master likes to vanish — alot. But, nothing more than that.”

 

Alana made said huh and rubbed her moist hands through Will’s cropped hair. She opened a vial nearby filled with sweet smelling soap and rubbed it into his scalp. He purred as her nails dug and scratched his scalp.

 

“Well, if I hear about this nasty dude of yours. I’ll tell you first.”

 

She rinsed the suds out of his hair.

 

Will’s frazzled mind was silent, for once, as Alana resumed bathing him. The water dirtied in a mix of light brown and red. Alana was gentle in her ministrations, but Will couldn’t help but bite his lower lip in hesitation. With such clarity, it gave him an opportunity not to speak in riddles and ill-rhymes, but a coherent conversation. He allowed Alana to wash the rest of the dirt from his body before he caught her wrist in his skeletal-like hand. She glanced up at him with sly eyes. Those same eyes that multiplied and watched Will from every angle in the room. The same eyes that reflected his. He swallowed dryly.

 

Alana .”, he began, his lips trembling as the words started to overflow. “Help me to understand. There’s so much I dont know.”

 

“What do you not know? Hasn’t Brian been teaching you things? He isn’t the sharpest of tools in the shed, for a Brujah , but he can’t be that bad .” Alana continued to wash Will with her hands instead of the washcloth. His skin looked pearly once the caked up murk was washed away.

 

“A little soft in the head, if you asked me. Then again, I like them soft .”

 

“I’m so lost, Alana . I’m afraid of what I do not know. I’m afraid of the things that go bump in the night.”

 

“My love, we are the things that bump in the night. Surely you aren’t talking about us ?”

 

“I mean...I’m afraid of me . The things I could do...”

 

Alana sighed as she slid back to the other side of the tub. She brought her hands to sit on her knees and gave Will a look with a mix of pity, a friend’s pity, but an understanding kind of pity. Perhaps she couldn’t conjure any sympathy or she herself has been ostracized and defamed like him. She smiled, however, and looked on to Will with a melancholic look.

 

“It’s scary , I understand. I was once a newborn, just like you . Give yourself time, you can’t just rush everything at once. Do as you’re told till you can walk on your own two feet.”

 

“You’re still young, Will Graham. The night is yours for many nights to come.”

 

Do as I’m told , Will shivered at the thought of having to see the Prince or his bodyguard again. Do as I’m told till I’m killed ?

 

“If you’ve seen the things I have done or heard what they tell me to do, would you still help me? I’m a monster , Alana. A monster .” Will held onto his plea with both hands. He was trembling at this point. The water creased as his body jolted in absolute terror. He was beyond petrified. Till this point, it was always follow Brian, do what Brian said — but since his sire’s execution, the dream of seeing Baltimore drowning in blood, and the Nosferatu encounter, Will Graham wasn’t sure of what he was holding onto.

 

“A monster is eating me from the inside out!”

 

“Oh Will.”, the way Alana said his name was sickly-sweet. “We all have the beast in us. It’s a matter of will you fall to it?”

 

“It’s something we can’t ignore but, think of it as a….”, Alana trailed off as she tried to come up with a good answer.

 

“An itch you can't scratch...You want to, but you can’t get to it.”

 

“I can’t get a grip on myself anymore — am I mad ? Will I have to live like this? Forever? This beast you speak of, can it be killed?”

 

Am I mad ? Will lost time on more than one occasion long before he succumbed to his vampiric life, but the constant whispering and the ravenous urge to kill spun his head around. Even as he sat in the cooling water, the burning urge to sink his fangs into anything threatened to ignite again.

 

“Jesus…”, Will brought his hands to his face. “Am I going insane ? I’m fucking insane, aren’t I?”

 

“This is a crazy world, Will Graham. We are all a little crazy.”, Alana tried to lighten the conversation but to no avail, Will was spiraling into a moroseful stupor. “But you’re a good kind of crazy. A bit abnormal….but it’ll probably save you one day.”

 

Will looked at Alana with dreadful eyes. Crazy , abnormal , all adjectives he’s heard before.

 

“Yeah, if you say so….

 

Alana slid into the space between Will’s legs and cupped his face in her hands. Her lips parted and kissed his own — a quick interaction, not out of arousal or desire but to anchor Will. She had said something in a foreign tongue and gave him another kiss with passion behind it. He looked at her in a cloud of heat and want. Alana was there, in the flesh, but she was distant to him now. Her touch felt cold to him. Will saw her as a stranger with a friend’s face. But, he still wanted her.

 

“I’ll always help you. Now and forever.”

 

Sealed with the kiss of swine , a persona mocked as his mind was slowly reverting to it’s addled state. He’s heard now and forever thrown around so loosely, the meaning of it obscured it’s intent.

 

Now and forever , Brian would promise him. He could very much betray Will or worse.

 

Alana could do the same. He didn’t want to think of that possibility, but his paranoia was in full-swing.

 

“Look, it’ll be morning soon. We have a spare coffin in the guest bedroom if you want to go to ground…”, her tone lacked the cheeriness it did when she met him downstairs. It was sour in note and bitter in intent.

 

“Have a good night, Will.”

 

She got out of the bath water and went to dry, towel, and redress herself. Will waited till he heard another door close and lock before he submerged his entire body in the water. Water ran off the sides of the tub but he did not care. In this moment, he wanted to drown.

 

He was childish to think that his problems could be fixed with some ill-conceived notion of love . It wasn’t true love, just his awkward attempt to relate to anything that could talk. That’s what he did — wedge himself into relationships as a means to save himself. He overly empathized with the wrong people. His heart ended up broken into a thousand different pieces and like the naive person he was, he’d find someone to pick up the pieces.

 

The wrong people , Will recalled a time a particular john had dragged him through the street, fractured his shoulder, and yet Will still begged to have his fix in an exchange for a trick. He didn’t remember what set the john off other than a disagreement of what Will would or wouldn’t do, but his shoulder didn’t heal as it should’ve. The short-lived pain healed his battered loneliness.

 

He wanted an escape from this life, desperately, but here he was being strangled at every turn. He couldn’t turn to narcotics anymore; he’s already dead and vampires can't overdose . Sex required charisma and with a mind so fried and overloaded like his, he couldn’t hope to seduce someone successfully.

 

What was I thinking ? Will rose from the bath water and scrubbed his face. He dried off his body and dressed himself in the clothes Alana left him. A simple long-sleeve shirt and pants would have to do.

 

How stupid could I be ? He saw how Alana had kept a lamp on in the guest bedroom across the kitchen. As he padded on soft, deft feet he couldn’t help but feel terrible. He was tired. With his thirst settled, his body remembered how tired it was.

 

Sleep would clear his racing mind and cool the tension between him and Alana. He’ll apologize in the evening. She deserved it. For now, he stared at the coffin in the middle of the room. With only a nightstand in the far corner, the coffin was an odd piece of furniture. It was just a standard black coffin, nothing more, but Will saw it as an ironic reminder that he’d never truly be laid to rest.

 

He was used to the cheap cot back at the apartment. He unlatched the lock of the coffin and listened to it open with a shrill squeak.

 

Much to his surprise, it was deep and had enough leg room for him to stretch out. Will laid himself inside with his arms crossed over his chest. A bit stereotypical, sure, but he was sure it was a natural thing to do. He reached for the door and closed it on himself. He turned over on his side and huffed. Darkness swept over him and he laid there, a bit dumbfounded, and uncomfortable.

 

There was alot that his mind tried to piece together and yet, he was just floating between real and what was conjured by an already fragile mind. The feelings he thought he had for Alana were fabricated lies his mind made up.

 

He was no step closer to finding the nasty dude. Zeller was out there, probably sick to death trying to find Will, or he was perfectly content without Will following him around like a sick puppy. Will squeezed his eyes tight to shut out his negative thoughts. Sleep found him in the early morning hours. If he had to be an abnormality, let it be something that kept him close from the beast .

 

Chapter Text

XVII
“Mercurio”


 

Frederick peeked through his bedroom blinds as his newly-hired team of diligent, overzealous nurses prepared his meals, clothing, and prescriptions. The start of the morning was slow, unbearably so as Chilton was meticulous in his daily routine. His suits must be washed and hand-pressed every night along with his ties, dress socks, and pocket square. His house was to be tidy at all times regardless of company. His breakfast couldn’t be anything that required much chewing Gideon made sure of that.

Most importantly, he had to look presentable . Face had meant everything to Chilton. He was very handsome; chiseled jaw, perfect skin, beautiful eyes. Now as Frederick caught his reflection in the cloudy window, he had become something so gnarly that he was disgusted to stare back at the reflection.

The bandages that came off his face just days before revealed much of what he feared; his wounds had worsened. They’d left him disfigured. His face remained droopy,; eyes didn’t open quite the same, and the limp he had grew worse. One of his ribs still jutted out from his side, nose still had a bit of a crook in it, and his teeth couldn’t sit in their sockets anymore, falling out in between chews, or in his vomit. With the few teeth left dangling in his mouth, he needed the aid of dentures to break down solid food. He hated seeing the pair of fake incisors in their glass at the end of the day.

The Brujah, Brian Zeller , shared his vitality with him, and it saved his life. He was grateful for the ‘life-saving’ gulps he took from the Brujah’s fingers, but it did little to save his physical self. His regnant , the Prince, offered none of the savory, insanely addicting vitae in his veins when Chilton came crawling to him. He was a pile of battered flesh, but his noble , regal Prince cared more about his precious sofa being stained rather than his prized ghoul.

His blood would’ve restored him fully him, but Chilton knew he was not going to get any mercy from the Hannibal Lecter .

His newly-hired nurses made sure he looked recognizable with the help of contacts, foundation, and prosthetics, but when it all came off at the end of the night — he was monstrous.

He hid away from the world; he limited his appearances to nightly shows or dinner receptions where he could mask his disfigured face in a blanket of shadow. His nurses tried to hide their disgust beneath curt smiles and pleasantries, but he saw how they winced when he passed in the hallway. He was skeptical to have another horde of nurses. His medical needs required many delicate hands, though Frederick was keen on hiring ambivalent help. His suspicions bore fruit as one morning - he caught them whispering slander amongst themselves as they worked.

At first, he was deeply offended. They belittled his injuries. His pain was something for them to mock and gossip about.

He was a beautiful man — or so he thought. He didn’t understand the severity of his beating as he laid restless nights awake, scorned, and licking his wounds. Cognac doused away his fears, but he drowned in his tears. The vortex of paranoia remained — Frederick waking in the night with screaming terrors and delusions. The phantoms of the people he’d crossed, some stabbing their shadowy blades into his chest, while others jeered at his wretched state. He would be immobilized and chained to his bed as the abuse went on. When he woke up, he always remembered the Prince , with his cocky smile and silvery hair.

The nurse, a much older woman by the name of Agustina, chiseled from onyx with a mane of thick, coarse hair running down her back, nursed his wayward mind late into the morning. She, unlike her much younger and liberal colleagues, understood the great stress and trauma a body could suffer. Agustina didn’t gossip or lie about how good he looked. No, she was blunt and abrasive.

She dabbed his sweaty skin with a cool rag as he slept. Her hands were gentle but calloused. She would sing to him in Spanish; the words would slide off her tongue like water. Chilton would listen to her sing softly in the morning til the other nurses barged in the room demanding blood for their meticulous tests. She did no wrong in his eyes. Agustina was an anchor he needed to throughout the day, whether it was for conference calls or keeping himself from breaking down.

Frederick freed himself from the window to go into his renovated office. His furniture had to be replaced — again, by the courtesy of Abel Gideon . In an attempt to return to normalcy, he forced himself to sit down at his desk and look at the paperwork neatly stacked around him — courtesy of Agustina. Slowly he began to pull papers from their towers, his eyes lazily trying to read the garbled words running across them. Letters of encouragement from fake friends and rivals alike. Chilton easily tossed them towards the floor. Their pity was a facade and Chilton had no time to wallow in ‘get well’ cards.

He abandoned his zealous letter tossing in favor of his computer. His fingers stretched awkwardly forward on the keyboard. They pecked timidly on the keys as Chilton attempted to compose an email. His task still remained — inquire about the Elizabeth Dane . The ship, to say the least, had its own cult following. Conspiracy theorists, cult worshipping groupies, and the curious flocked to the ship daily. It was a relic of a much older, sophisticated time. He had watched a livestream of the ship bobbing in the Chesapeake on her arrival. She was haggard from the sea’s vicious whipping, but still beautiful nonetheless.

The contents still was under lock and key, courtesy of the Baltimore P.D, but not all of it was under such tight security. Frederick didn’t have street smarts, but money made everything flow smoothly. A couple bills passing from hand to hand gained him eyes within the Elizabeth Dane. Well-placed cameras positioned in every nook and cranny gave Frederick uncensored access within the ship. It was empty except for the cursed sarcophagus within the hull. It was an immaculate- looking coffin;, Frederick hadn’t seen one like it. It was a tomb bronzed and carved with intricate imagery of scales, feathers, and thirsty sycophants. It wasn’t a traditional Egyptian sarcophagus — nothing a pharaoh would’ve been buried in, but it screamed ancient . Frederick tapped the arrow key to have the camera zoom on the sarcophagus. A knot tightened in his stomach as his eyes pinned onto the coffin.

It was still caked with dried blood, from what the cameras broadcasted. Darkened hand prints and bits of gore still clung onto the outside. What was inside the sarcophagus, Frederick didn’t have that privilege to know, but his Prince wanted it, and therefore, he would fetch it.

Like the loyal mutt he was .

He minimized the broadcast to the corner of his desktop and proceeded to open his emails. He disregarded the ‘get well’ emails just like he did with the letters — moving them one by one into his junk folder. In the process of reading, moving, and deleting emails, the broadcast minimized in the corner had fizzled into static. Frederick quicky maximized the broadcast and held his breath as the sarcophagus shook violently in its place. Blackish goo began to sputter and ooze off the sides of the sarcophagus as Frederick watched with horror plastered on his face. It rattled some more as the flood of black goo ceased and congealed underneath it. Frederick swallowed as the broadcast became clear as if nothing had occured.

Agustina had came into the room holding a tray of his morning tea. She was deft on her feet as she approached. She sat the tray down and slid the teacup near Chilton. Her round eyes were cautious as they looked at every ripple and crack in Chilton’s demeanor.

Frederick hadn’t known she was in the room til his hand knocked the little teacup off his desk. He jumped at the shattered glass and Agustina was quick to clean the debris. Her eyes, however, remained on her employer. He apologized and began to compose an email to the Prince with vigor. She silently dismissed herself from the room. The sarcophagus was dangerous , almost something hellish, and regardless, if Hannibal wanted the cursed coffin — it wasn’t supposed to shake or ooze.

From: <f.chilton@aol.com>
To: <hlecter@office.com>
Subject: Inquiry of the Elizabeth Dane

To my royal regnant,

The cargo you’ve tasked me to investigate has proven to be problematic in nature. I wish not to offend, Prince Lecter, but this sarcophagus is something hellish . If I may speak as your advisor, the sarcophagus is unnatural in origin and behavior. I would warn extreme caution once the sarcophagus is retrieved. It is still aboard the Elizabeth Dane but how long, I’m not sure. Minimal security in the hull of the ship. A closer inspection would be required before arrangements can be made to secure it. I’d suggest sending the fledgling.

Your confidant,

Frederick Chilton

He looked at the email with a worrisome look. He gnawed at the inside of his cheek as his eyes bounced tiredly across every sentence. His fingers danced over the keys as he finished his last sentence. He wouldn’t question Hannibal’s desire for the sarcophagus, but he didn’t want anything to do with it anymore. Chilton closed out his emails and rose from the desk. He held onto the desk for support and hobbled to where his gilded cane rested against the bookshelf. He seized hold of it as Agustina came back into the office with a bucket of cleaning supplies. She gazed at him with a censored, concerned stare but did not chastise. She sat the bucket down where she stood in the door and crossed her arms. Her look of concern turned into cynicism.

“Agustina.”, Chilton gargled, trying to hold himself up with his cane. “Get my coat.”

The nurse stood there with her thick brows raised in subtle surprise. She picked up her bucket and nodded on her way out. Chilton hobbled his way to the doorway, out of the office, and to the top of the staircase. He swallowed thickly, seeing how the stairs descended like a long serpent. He saw his other nurses going from room to room. They chattered merrily, completely oblivious of their master’s presence above them. Timidly, he began to take steps down the stairs.

His knuckles went bone white as he held onto the railing for dear life. His cane acted like a stalwart wall, ready to catch him should he tumble. A step at a time til he was near the bottom. Agustina had came back to the foyer and watched silently as Frederick descend. Once both of his feet were landed at the foot of the stairs, she offered him his jacket and hat. He took them with gratitude and draped the coat on his body. Her eyes said more than enough praise for which Chilton translated proudly.

“I’d like to go for a walk today.”, he announced, taking it upon himself to usher to the door. “Come with me.”

Agustina compiled and dressed warmly with her own coat on a nearby hanger. She joined Chilton out the door and tentatively linked her arm with his own. The air was frigid as the breeze from the Chesapeake froze the city. It was sprinkling, but Chilton didn’t mind. The sheer cold prickled his senses. It reminded him he was very much alive — in a sense . The morning haze revealed the moon shyly peeking from the sky’s hazy canopy. Chilton limped along as Agustina paced herself alongside him.

He needed a much clearer conscious — especially now with ghost ships, mad vampires, and cursed coffins on the loose.

Chapter Text

XVIII
“Scapegoat”

 


 

The precinct was abnormally quiet as Tobias sat at his desk. A tower of paperwork to his left and his abandoned badge to his right. His breakfast was cold and unattended in his lap. Officers mumbled amongst themselves with styrofoam cups grasped in their hands. Not much was happening in the precinct.

The city’s crime was at a standstill, a rarity, but it made things at the precinct incredibly dull. Traffic altercations, the usual teen vandalism, or a minor disturbance were the only incidents coming through. Even the operators were out of work. The cells was void of criminals, yet Tobias was here, processing backed-up reports. Desk work wasn’t his passion but with his suspension, there wasn’t much he could do in the field.

Suspension . Tobias recalled the bitter sting of having his badge torn from his uniform. It was a piece of his heart being wrung out and stomped on. Even now as his badge laid on his desk, a sour reminder to how much of a failure he was, his focus shifted to back to his suspension. The terms of his suspension: he was not allowed out in the field pending investigation. That said suspension had started over a year ago.

All thanks to Hannibal Lecter .

He gripped his pen tighter as he scribbled. Every thought of Hannibal Lecter with his chiseled jaw, silvery hair, and shit-eating smirk made Tobias fume. His career, his marriage, and even his child had been robbed from him.

In the beginning, it was meager coercion — an offer of something with more pay and bravado. His family had to share a tight, one bedroom apartment on the lower side of town. A wife, newborn son, and mounting medical expenses dug them deep into debt. Loans only relieved them for a short time till they were due. His wife was understanding — to an extent , but with a newborn child it made home life conflicting. The money lenders weren’t so forgiving either.

Tobias never took handouts, a well-learned lesson from his father, and no matter how sweet the Prince made his offer, he declined adamantly. Everyday, the Prince would contact Tobias either through phone calls or written letters. Everyday, Tobias angrily ripped up letters or disconnected the landline. His wife would beg him to take whatever Hannibal offered and of course, he vehemently argued that ‘ no handout came without a favor ’. The man even had the nerve to leave his business card on Tobias’s desk when he wasn’t looking.

He knew men like Hannibal. They were privileged cutthroats that cared little of who’s lives they ruin. If Tobias would say yes, it would be child’s play for Hannibal to get him to do his bidding . The offer would be like honey dripping from his fingers. His obligations would be small in nature then eventually Hannibal would pry and poke for more till he had damning evidence on Tobias that if he even thought of backing out, his life would be destroyed .

Tobias continuously ignored Hannibal over the next few weeks. The wedge between their marriage drove deeper as his hours got cut viciously. His work slowed to a halt as officers with more experience than him snatched the top tier cases. Most nights he didn’t come home, preferring his desk instead of his warm, inviting bed he shared with his wife. He had begged the current police chief to allow him out in the field.

The same half-ass excuse of “you’re not ready” followed by “you have work here” irked Officer Budge. The precinct laughed at him. His pride was gutted, but Tobias didn’t give the officers that mocked him the satisfaction. He tended to his desk work with wounded pride, but kept his humility to himself.

As a last, desperate attempt to keep his family from being destitute, Tobias took odd jobs around the community, but it hardly covered the lights let alone formula, bottles, or diapers. His wife had to pick up a part-time job cashiering at a nearby liquor store. Being the proud, traditional man and husband he was, he couldn’t fathom his wife working, but the times was rough. Their paychecks combined wasn’t cutting it. He was a patrol officer fresh out the academy — what else could he do? Petty thieves, raggedy excuses for gangsters, or lowly pimps didn’t earn him the recognition for a raise. Eventually, the eviction notice was nailed to the door heralding the inevitable end. With the threat of his family out in the cold, Officer Budge swallowed his pride.

Tobias reluctantly made contact with Hannibal after months of teetering on the edge of poverty-induced limbo. At the time, he was just known as Hannibal Lecter and not the posh, snobby “Prince” title he galvanized with. He was a simple businessman or so he appeared to be. He dressed in immaculate Brioni suits and kept himself meticulously groomed. Not a single stray hair fell out of place. He always stood with his chin slightly lifted, his eyes lidded downwards, and a sense of authority wherever he stood.

Tobias saw Hannibal’s flaunting as nothing more than blind pride.

Hannibal’s penthouse was of a modest size. In fact, he had thought he was going to meet Hannibal at some mediocre office instead of a million dollar penthouse in downtown Baltimore. He sat impatiently across from Hannibal who by all means was polite in conversation. He was offered food and drink. Tobias declined. He couldn’t trust his stomach to keep anything down because of how agitated he was. Hannibal didn’t partake in either and Tobias took mental note of it.

A note he still had today .

Hannibal initiated conversation, naturally, and Tobias composed himself.

“It’ll be a matter of compliance.”, he stated, pointing at the contract he had prepared on the desk. He slid it over to Tobias with his finger. “Should you accept my offer, you’ll find the terms very simple to understand.”

A simple contract — nothing lasting more or less than a year. The document was simple in nature but, secretive in context. Every sentence was masked with a series of loopholes and diversions. Nothing was transparent.

“And you’ll have me do what ?”, Tobias questioned. “Be your whipping boy ? By all means, I’m sure you get your kicks out of it.”

Hannibal pursed his lips into a thin frown.

“I’ll have you do no such thing, Office Budge. You’ll do tasks I desire.”

“What do you desire? What can you not afford?”

“Not everything can be bought or sold — not even loyalty.”

He was right. Loyalty was an oddity to see with a price tag. Though Hannibal seemed clear with his intentions, Tobias remained skeptical.

“Do you like playing games with people?”, Tobias accused. “Is that what gets you off? Or is it just foreplay to you? You think I’ll just do something for you because you paid me? That’s soliciting , Mr. Lecter.”

“Officer Budge, let us speak like civilized gentlemen instead of accusing one another of fantasized perversions.” Hannibal’s secretary placed a pen near Tobias. “I chose you .”

“You chose me? There’s dozens of cops who would easily take dirty money from men like you so why me?”

Hannibal curled his lips into a grin, but did not relinquish an answer. He did however bury his eyes deep into Tobias with a mix of devilish intent.

You don’t know men like me.

Tobias scoffed under his breath.

“And you don’t know officers like me.”

Hannibal’s eyes narrowed as the officer brushed off his assertiveness.

“You have a family . Most importantly, you have a son .”, Hannibal replied sharply. His eyes twinkled as he watched Tobias tense. “Sons are such a blessing. Such a beautiful boy deserves the best fathers can provide.”

Fathers , Tobias rolled the word back and forth on his tongue as he kept a steady, hot gaze on Hannibal. How much did Hannibal know of him before this meeting?

“Will you sign, Office Budge? I would for my family.”

Tobias re-read the document several times but was reluctant to let the pen stride across the paper. His fingers curled around the pen as he stared at the words blankly. Hannibal watched him in anticipation. Tobias thought of Pierre when he signed his life away with a simple stroke.

“Fine.”

Pierre would understand when he’s old enough , Tobias swallowed dryly as he sat the pen down.

Hannibal wasted no time having his secretary make copies of the signatures followed by Tobias’ fingerprints, a blood sample, and his mugshot .

It was much especially for a contract that wasn’t supposed to last more than a year. Officer Budge wasn’t going to question the legality of the situation given that whatever he was conscripted into had no clear lines of legality.

Recruitment . Hannibal suggested that Tobias shouldn’t think of it as slavery , but he was practically signing his freedom away. In a span of year, Tobias was nothing more but an errand boy. He would wait on his knees till the master commanded him otherwise.

Lecter wished him luck as he stood and embraced the officer. He smelled of cedar, the faint whiff of tobacco, but it was a crisp and satisfying scent. Pleasant, but cold and frigid to embrace. He stood nearly a foot taller than Tobias, but his embrace was exceptionally strong. His lips came close to Tobias’ cheek and the officer stood awkwardly. Tobias thought of it as nothing more than a queer European custom, but what came next, Tobias’ memory drew a blank.


 

Several days had passed as Tobias nursed a sore neck. The raised bumps on his neck throbbed but he ignored it. He did his normal nine-to-five with overtime strapped onto his back. He kept his conversations light as his mind juggled over his dealing with Hannibal. He told no one, not even his coworkers, of what Hannibal had commissioned him with.

One particular morning as he was getting ready for work, an early delivery came. The postman had left it on the doorway and briskly paced away as Tobias retrieved it from the front door. The package was the first of a series of unfortunate events. Tobias opened the box to find a thick envelope of dollar bills followed by a meticulously wrapped handgun .

A small 9mm handgun with a pouch of silvery-looking bullets. It was equipped with a silencer. The gun’s serial number was scrapped off — a necessary precaution and the bullets was nothing Tobias had ever shot with. They looked like torpedos — their heads shaped with the only intention to search and destroy .

Silver bullets, Tobias didn’t believe actual silver bullets existed — aside from the cheesy B-rated vampire movies he grew up with. Why silver bullets ?

Tobias was secretive with the handgun and bullets. He kept it hidden in one of his old cello cases. The money, however, was revealed once his wife woke up. She was wide-eyed as she counted the bills over and over. She glowed once Tobias revealed he had taken Hannibal’s offer. He promised her that the money would keep flowing and that they would finally move out of their tight apartment. He even promised the house she’d been eyeing in Roland Park.

A promise he had wished he could’ve kept .

After the package came a letter with instructions — the first job . He was to dispatch a troublesome individual, but for what reason, it was withheld from Tobias. The letter disclosed an address. A picture fell out of the letter and he picked it up. The subject was a middle-aged man with droopy eyelids and blottish skin. His hair was stringy and pale.

Frail , Tobias thought as the man in the photograph hardly had meat on his bones. His composure was malnourished and sickly. His fingernails were long, sallow-colored and curled towards his fingers. The few teeth present in their photo looked rough and caked in grime. Nothing about this man read menacing . The instructions was short and concise: shoot with the intent to kill; leave no survivors.

Tobias questioned the lack of morality of killing a man as feeble as the one in the picture but, morality died the day he signed his name across the line. He reluctantly put his feelings aside. His hands rattled like wind chimes in the breeze.

You’re a wreck, he scolded himself as he kept his hands underneath his armpits.

His wife said nothing as she put their son to bed. She embraced him, as if it was the last time they would, and pleaded with him to stay safe. He assured her but, he knew it could be their last night together. He smelled how her hair was damp, but willowy from the shower, felt the curve of her body against is, and warmth. He waited till she was sound asleep to get ready.

Tobias unwrapped the dark, mediocre hoodie and pants he picked up from a local thrift store. He pulled out his cello case to take out the handgun provided to him. He counted out six silver bullets and made sure to fill the chamber. He changed into his new clothes. The gun was tucked into his waistband. He made a stop into the kitchen to equip a knife from the drawer.

He left the apartment deftly and took one of the late-night metro buses across Baltimore. His mind was fleeting and unable to focus as he rode the bus. He had always been a collected individual, but not knowing whether he would return to his family left his mind plagued with pessimisticism.

The address was on the outskirts of town. The denizens in the area eyed him cautiously as he covered his face with his hood. He was no stranger to the impoverished or discarded, but he couldn’t help but squirm as their lingering gaze followed him. The gun pressing against his side was a constant reminder that this wasn’t a ‘pay up or I’ll be back’ fiasco.

Someone was going to die tonight.

The rundown brownstone home was dark except for the flickering porch light. The chain fence around the house was in disrepair as it kept nothing in or out. A shell of an older style car sat in the lawn like a hollowed out jack-o-lantern. The windows, the few that weren’t cracked or broken, was dark and uninviting. Tobias stepped over the broken fence and listened to his drumming heart in his chest. The dead grass underneath his feet crunched noisily.

The wooden porch whined as Tobias stood at the front door. He tried to peek into the living room window, but to no avail could he make out any shapes. He twisted the front door and much to his shock, it had been left unlocked. There couldn’t be much to guard if such a rundown house was left unguarded.

He stepped inside and instantly reeled back. It smelled rancid as the scent lingered on the walls. The overpowering odor crawled into the officer’s nostrils. He covered his mouth and nose as he crept further inside the putrid dwelling. A pool of vomit threatened to violently eject out of his stomach.

Trash littered both sides of the hallways. Excrement from rats, stray animals, and others blotched the floor as the officer was careful where he stepped. The wallpaper peeled off the drywall like curled nails. The floorboards whined. The smell worsened the further he ventured inside. The house felt tight as the officer’s paranoia worsened by every inch of hallway he surveyed. Every slight knock or whine made him grope for the gun in his waistband.

Office Budge heard the television in the other room playing an infomercial. His hands snaked underneath his hoodie to retrieve the handgun. He flicked the safety off as he held it with deadly intent. He saw shadows dance on the walls while he passed. The living room was nothing more than a few torn up couches and the TV in the middle.

Tobias held his breath as he crept up to one of the couches. His finger lingered dangerously on the trigger. A figure slumbered on the couch covered with a threadbare blanket. Tobias couldn’t imagine anyone sleeping in such a cesspool of filth. He stepped around to face the sleeping stranger and swallowed the thick lump in his throat. His hand shakily left his gun to reach out and pull the blanket back.

Sheets of silvery-white strands covered the stranger like a cowl. Tobias saw how bleached the skin was from the light of the television. Purple veins wrapped around the arms like grape vines. Bright red blotches of blood caked around the mouth and nose. Stained fingernails clutched the blanket like a straggly claw.

His hand returned to the gun and his finger curled around the trigger. He didn’t register the bullet darting out from the barrel till it bursted into the sleeping stranger’s body. A strangled cry followed by a howl as the stranger woke up; rouge eyes filled with pain.

The stranger made eye contact with Tobias and the officer-turned-hitman backed up. The stranger rolled over onto the floor grasping at his chest. He moaned weakly as the infomercial drowned his feeble whines. Tobias recognized the second bullet as it dug deep into the stranger’s back.

The soft, mewling cries of the stranger on the floor silenced to nothing more than an expiring gasp as his body stopped moving. The stranger’s face relaxed as the pain ceased. Blood pooled underneath his body. The officer lowered his gun and looked down as the blood began to curl around his boots. He was stone-faced as he loomed over the deceased man.

He’s seen death before, but when he looked upon the corpse laying in front of him, it did not stirr sadness or remorse. His eyes saw food on the table, money for the bills, and his family alive . He would never admit it to anyone, but he actually felt relieved to see the man dead and bleeding.

He sheathed the gun back into the safety of his waistband. He stepped around the body like he would to a chalk outline, but his hands remained juddering at his sides. He exited the living room swiftly and paced down the hallway. He pinned his eyes to the open front door. Something darted from his left, up the staircase, and glared from above.

A shudder quaked his body as the officer stopped in his tracks. In the dark, obscured atmosphere, Officer Budge felt hungry eyes gnaw at his flesh. He looked up and found red eyes hungry and malicious. His hand sneaked underneath his waistband as those red eyes began to descend down the staircase. The gun escaped his grasp Tobias felt his body lift off the floor — the air escaping his chest as he landed with a thump .

He scrambled to regain his footing before he was lifted and tossed again further down the hallway. He landed haphazardly on his stomach as the gun was lost to him in the darkness. Hateful eyes approached again as Tobias crawled backwards into the living room — the light of the television illuminating the silhouette of an even lankier figure.

Hair spun from starlight fell in long, thick coils as the red eyes glowed at Tobias. The silhouette was nothing more than a thin, scrawny woman. She stood at an awkward, bent angle as if her bones could mold into wicked poses. The officer swallowed and felt around on the floor for his weapon. He watched in horror as the woman’s mouth unhinged and revealed dozens of razor-sharp canines. Two elongated fangs drooled with salvia.

Vampire? Tobias remembered the first vampire movie he ever watched — Blade . The fangs, the paleness, and the cold, unmistakably sinister presence was all too clear.

Hannibal. The name spranged to Tobias. The woman clamped her maw shut — her attention turning to the corpse on the floor. Her expression went from enraged to passive.

She kneeled down to where Tobias had executed the slumbering man and she began to make a soft, clicking noise with her throat. She sat there for several moments. Her hands roamed over the bloodied corpse in front her yet, no tears dribbled down her face. Her lips only parted to utter a silent, breathless farewell . The woman looked over to where Tobias shakily sat on the floor.

The corpse was abandoned as she stalked towards him on hands and knees. Her skin was sheer like glass. Her long locks dragged along the floor like sparkling chains. Tobias swallowed as he couldn’t feel anything around him to use as a weapon. She was soon upon him with her arms acting like bars to keep Tobias imprisoned between them. Her mouth opened again as her long fangs hovered dangerously close to the officer’s neck.

He realized he still had the knife he hid within his hoodie’s pocket and carefully sneaked it out. The fangs pricked at his skin, but Tobias’ hand found strength and plunged the kitchen knife deep into the body on top of him. The blood-curdling shriek of the woman made his ears ring as she launched herself away from him — a stream of blood pouring out of her gut. The blood felt thick and cold against Tobias as he wasted no time making his grand escape.

He bolted as the cries behind him grew louder and an orange warmth blazed behind him. He fell face first on the porch, but he picked himself up and ran down the street. In the moment, all his mind could conjure was Pierre and his wife having to live life without him. He didn’t want that , no, he wanted to survive this.

Leave no survivors , the letter warned but Tobias didn’t care. His life meant more than just himself, but two others that relied on him for everything.

He ran till his legs gave out on him miles away from the cursed house of horrors. When he caught his breath in ragged gasps, he saw that he had ran back to his side of town. He didn’t dare to return home, especially if the woman was still on his trails, and quickly escaped into one of the maze-like alleyways. The night broke into dawn as he was able to nestle himself into a dry corner of alleyway. His thwarted senses kept him up as he watched the sun rise.

Go home, his mind said as his body ached from the adrenaline-fueled escape. His legs lead him home, soiled with filth and blood, and straight onto his living room couch. His wife was wide-awake as well as their son. Their son babbled aimlessly as his wife rushed to his side. She questioned him over and over, but his lips did not stirr to answer.

He could not speak of the horrors he witnessed in that house. He couldn’t believe that actual vampires existed or did he want to scare his wife. His mind didn’t want to remember starving eyes peeling flesh off his bones. Gunpowder clung to him like metallic musk. His wife took it upon herself to bathe, feed, and put Tobias to bed. She took it upon herself to call the police chief directly to disclose of Tobias’ absence. In the background, he heard his cello being played — the strings making deep, hollow moans. Like long fingers plucking at heart strings, Tobias melted into the bed and his body went lax. He drifted off to the sound of Pierre’s mobile rattling softly.

Tobias slept for a considerable amount of time. The clock on the nightstand read P.M and the blinds had allowed the stars to peek through. He rubbed his face with his hands. His body was slow and sluggish to wake. He closed his eyes for a few more blissful moments, but it felt like a presence was hovering over him. He opened his eyes again but found only the ceiling fan waving solemnly above him.

He rolled over to the side and reached his hand out to feel for his wife. The blanket felt moist and Tobias thought of it as sweat. When she did not rouse to his touch, he rose off the mattress and glanced over to her side of the bed. He did not feel her body next to him. His hand pulled over the sheets and the sight, the ghastly sight, drained all life from the officer’s face.

Even in the pitch darkness of the bedroom, the blankets were damp with what Tobias didn't want to believe was blood. He scrambled out the bed with a mouthful of vomit bubbling in his mouth. He coughed up bile and stumbled to the floor. The officer couldn’t compose himself as the irony smell of blood was strong. Underneath his hands and knees, the carpet was as moist as the bed sheets.

His first instinct was Pierre . He got up again and went around the bed to where their son’s crib was. He frantically dove his hands into the crib but to his horror, he did not feel his son. To his left, he heard the bathtub faucet gushing water. He put his ear to the door, but only the water flowed. The water soaked the floor. It had begun to soak the carpet. He pushed the door open with shaky hands and saw that the shower curtain was pulled back. He stepped timidly to the shower curtain, gripped it, then pulled it back slowly.

The sight was revolting , nearly catastrophic to Tobias as the officer fell to his knees. The world was shattered into shards that drove deep into his skin. His eyes watered, jaw so tight that his teeth began to grind, and the breath left his chest in short, choked gasps. The water ran deep red as his wife, the woman he had braved hell and high water with, slumped underneath the surface. Her arms remained rested on either side of their bathtub with long, deep crevices running down her forearms. Her face was void of pain or fear, almost doll-like, as her eyes were wide and emotionless. He tried to lift her from the water, but to no avail her body was weighed like lead. He fell back and with angry, hot tears streaming down his face - he tried again. With another try, her limp body fell into his lap and he held her there.

He screamed . He kept screaming a long, desperate howl. Such a scream alerted the entire complex, the sounds of doors unlocking and people shuffling out their apartments. They clamored in the hallway. Their curious voices squeaked outside their front door, but Tobias could not hear them. He screamed till his throat became hoarse and ragged.

Leave no survivors , the phrase repeated itself from a dozen pairs of lips.

The police had came in response of his uproars and even trained officers of the law cringed at the sight of the blood drenching every wall of their bedroom and bathroom. He shooed, kicked, and hollered at the officers to leave them be, but he could not fight them all. He was pulled away from his wife’s cold body, then ushered into a cruiser with cuffs on his wrist. The coroner followed them silently, the wheels of the gurney clawing the floorboards, and blood dribbling behind. On the way downstairs, his neighbors gasped and whispered in hushed voices. They saw how delirious he looked. He must’ve looked rabid with his fierce objections being ripped away from his wife.

Even in the cruiser, Tobias banged on the window in the hopes of release. His eyes became wet with tears as in the upstairs window, he saw that long, scrawny woman look at him from above. Her fingers made wet lines against the panes as she smiled. The cruiser pulled away from the street, the coroner’s van behind them, but Tobias kept his eyes fixated on the woman till she was out of view. His thoughts went back to Pierre.  The possibilities, some that mortified Tobias, spiraled in his mind as the ride back to the precinct was an arduous one...


 

“—Did she have a history of depression or mental illness? Was there any warning signs you were awa-”, Sergeant Diaz began, but she pursed his lips once she saw Tobias glare at her.

They sat in front of each other in the interrogation room with only styrofoam cups as their buffer. The handcuffs on his wrists dug into the thin skin of his wrists as he sat there fidgeting.  The only sound between them was the air conditioner sputtering above them. Jimena Diaz, an officer Tobias would’ve normally gotten along with, irked him with her constant questions and her aloofness. She was a considerably empathic person, but in these circumstances she became cold and unfeeling. He denied that his wife committed suicide voluntarily — he proclaimed it as murder . Though Diaz wrote every word Officer Budge barked at her, there was cynicism behind every flick of her pen. He rambled about the house and the vampire but Officer Diaz took every statement with a grain of salt.

“I’m telling you, Diaz, this wasn’t a suicide! ”, Tobias pleaded. “You have to believe me!”

“S-she was murdered, alright? A woman c-came into our apartment an-”

Officer Diaz sighed and sat back in her chair. She raised her hands up.

“You know how this sounds, right? Tobias…This entire story is crazy.”

“Don’t you fucking call me crazy.”

“Look, Tobias. We’ll do everything possible to get you just-”

The door swung open and another officer, Ortega, walked in brandishing a stack of file folders. He sat them down on the table and a few photos slipped out. Tobias’ breath hitched in his throat at the photograph. Their bedroom was soaked in blood and it became triggering to Tobias. He looked away as Diaz ordered the remaining photographs. Ortega mumbled his condolences under his breath and left the room briskly. He was obviously bothered but not bothered enough to help Tobias get justice for his wife or locate Pierre .

Pierre . Tobias averted his gaze back to the photographs then to Diaz. The first set was of their bedroom and bathroom. The second set, however, made Tobias attentive. They were surveillance footage of some kind of office space but, he saw his Pierre being held by a stranger. He leaned forward and Diaz took note.

“Where did you get these?”. Tobias used his fingers to pull the photos closer. “This is my son…”

“This was earlier today, Tobias. Do you know who this man is?”, Diaz pulled out another higher quality photo from the file. Tobias looked and his nostrils flared with an angry huff. His jaw tightened hard. The photo was clear as glass.

“It’s him.”, Tobias barked. “He caused all of this!”

Diaz raised an eyebrow and looked at the photo as well.

“Officer Budge, who is this man?”

Hannibal Lecter.”

Diaz paused and gave another cynical look to Officer Budge. Of course, she wouldn’t believe him. As far as he knew, Hannibal was a local celebrity . He was a patron of arts, donor to many foundations for the underprivileged, and held himself to such high regard that people fainted in his presence. Practically untouchable and much revered in all social circles, but Tobias saw past his shroud of courtesies and philanthropy.

“Are you su-”

“I’m fucking sure of it, Sergeant.”

Still skeptical, Diaz wrote down Hannibal’s name on her report and continued to listen. He started from the beginning — the bills, Hannibal’s offer, and what he conscripted him to do. He admitted everything, sparing no detail, and finally felt free for once in his life. Officer Diaz recorded every word, but excused herself. She took the files with her and Tobias sat alone, trembling in his chair, and listened to the clicking hands of a nearby clock. His eyes felt heavy with tiredness. The coldness of the room prickled his skin, but he wanted to rest.

Officer Diaz came back to the interrogation room. This time, however, she was joined by their captain. He was a stout man, mean to look at, but the way he glowered at Tobias made the officer freeze. He sat where Diaz was sitting before she left and clasped his hands together.

“Sir, let me ex-”, Tobias’ lips started to tremble.

“We’re suspending you till this investigation is over.”, the captain declared coldly. Diaz nodded her head.

“This wasn’t my fault!”, Tobias tried to plead, but the chief would not hear none of it.

“I will have none of it, Budge. You’re lucky I’m not taking your badge too.”

The chief stood up with Diaz trailing behind him. Tobias sat in his chair baffled. He didn’t know whether to cry or scream. He turned around and saw that the door was left open. He heard footsteps echoing from the hallway and swallowed.

Hannibal stood in the doorway accompanied by a much larger individual. A sinister, conniving smile stretched his face as Tobias launched from his chair. He fell as Hannibal stood there unbothered. In his arms, though, the familiar baby blanket spotted with blood began to fidget. The soft, timid cries of his child nearly sent Tobias into a frenzy. But, his legs did not compel him to stand up. Hannibal hushed the baby in his arms.

“You disappoint me, Tobias Budge.”, he said, bringing the baby onto his chest. Two tiny hands clutched the fabric like an anchor.

“My mistake, really, I misjudged you. I believed you had potential . I was very wrong.”

Tobias opened his mouth to holler, but his lips curled inwards any time a word wanted to ooze out. His body was glued to the floor — Hannibal’s gaze was a paralyzing miasma strangling his nerves. Pierre began to babble and whimper in Hannibal’s arms.

“For now, I’ll take care of him.”, Hannibal kissed one of Pierre’s hand and that gesture made Tobias lose it. He foamed at the mouth like a rabid beast, unable to break free of the bear trap, and ready to gnaw his leg off to escape.

“As his father should’ve done.”

Hannibal left with the gargantuan man following behind him. The door was closed and Tobias was left in the interrogation room sobbing uncontrollably. His heart ached deeply. He wanted nothing more than to curl up and die, but his pride would not let him.

He had to get his family back.

And kill Hannibal.


 

Tobias shoved the last bit of paperwork to the edge of his desk. He looked around the precinct and saw that everybody had left. He sighed and leaned back in his swivel chair. His back and shoulders ached from over exertion. The clock struck noon — an indicator for a lunch break, and just as Tobias was about to abandon his post, his phone ranged. He rolled his eyes, but got up anyway to answer the phone. He held the telephone to his ear and listened.

Lord, I pray now that you give me strength in battle. That I might overcome the hordes of Satan and his children. That I might wield the flaming sword of the archangel and defend myself with your shield of faith. And that my victories are many and my wounds few. That I might further your kingdom here on earth. And if I meet death tonight, then let it be first that I cast a mighty host of demons back into the lake of fire whence they came. And then rest finally in the light of your glory. Amen.”, the voice read over the phone like a rehearsed mantra.

“Who is this?”, Tobias questioned, feeling his skin prickle at the recited manifesto. “Who are you? How do you know me?”

“Seek us when you’re strong, Office Budge. And we’ll rid Baltimore of him. Let God show you the path to righteousness and may evil quake at your coming.”, the line clicked and Tobias only heard the busy dial tone. He set the telephone down and stood at his desk in confliction.

Of Hannibal? Tobias wanted nothing more than to drag Hannibal like the dog he was into the grasps of justice, but Pierre was constantly on his mind. Tobias hadn’t seen in his son in a year. He’s never heard his first words or seen his first steps, hell, Tobias didn’t know if Pierre remembered him . He also didn’t know if Hannibal held him captive somewhere easily accessible in case the officer came for him. He didn’t want to risk his only family left by acting reckless or walking into Hannibal’s grasp.

Tobias left his desk and walked down the hallway of the precinct. He undid his tie, loosened his belt, and unbuttoned his shirt. He had much to think about. He would never call himself a religious man, but with the evil brewing in the streets of baltimore — he needed  some holy guidance.

Tobias walked to the front of the precinct and watched the traffic move back and forth. Officer Ortega came up behind him with an armful of bagels in his arms. He meekly tapped his fellow officer on the shoulder with his free hand.

“Come with me for patrol duty?”, Ortega asked, slipping a bagel into his mouth.

Tobias chuckled and took a bagel from his partner.

“Anything to get me out of here.”

Chapter Text

XIX

“Wonder Child”


 

 

Will roused from a dreary, dreamless slumber. His eyes, naïve to the darkness, found hardship adjusting to the sudden shade. His body was still prisoner to the shackles of his sleep — His arms and legs sluggish to move. His mind, however, was jolted with a dozen different voices chattering in unison. They spoke of gibberish or distorted, foreign words. Nothing recognizable, but it made Will’s head rattle like old bones. He bit his tongue till he tasted the blood in his mouth. The pain dulled the voices as he had to remember he was still very much alive.

The fledgling’s fingers reached for the inner latch within the coffin. They curled around it and he sprung free from within. The carpet fissured under his toes as Will walked around and stretched the pains out from his body.
 

It did not feel like a restful respite — Rather, a means to pass time and sort the chaotic maelstrom suffocating his mind cage. A moment for philosophy, really, Will having time to slumber upon restless feelings of ill-received affection, and fear. Contemplating whether it would be easier to drink nightshade or continue suffering through the world’s limbo. Whereas he had thought that deep down, so far below that he’d discovered someone like him — an abused, love-starved prisoner like himself. Yet his mind had deceived him once again, feeding his paranoia, and stifling any real hope of coming to terms with his misplaced feelings. His body still enslaved to physical desires.


Alana, as much as Will wanted to prostrate himself in front of her — He felt adversed, almost spurned by the thought of how unachievable she was to him. Her miasma once choked him but now when he thought of Alana, he wanted nothing more but to bury himself deep in the earth to never be in her presence again. She must’ve thought of him like some kind of pervert, no, some disgusting lust-filled leech wanting to defile her in every way. He had no thoughts of that or did he feel himself stir.

 

He wished he had never laid eyes upon her.


He was alone. Alone, scorned, almost destined to walk the nights without purpose. He desired his own name rather than what is whispered at secret parlors or gatherings. Something to distinguish him other than the gossip surrounding his creation. Will did not want to be the sireless wonder child Baltimore’s vampires harped about at their fancy dinners. His sire was nothing more than a dirty, drug-fried hooligan needing to get his rocks off but it would’ve been the closest person Will could have had in his circle. Brian, as much as Will could thank him, was no Malkavian. He was the polar opposite. The Brujah did his best yet it could only get so far till Will delved feet first into the deep end. The only knowledge of his clan — what the others saw him as and a frizzled conscious.

He had wished she could see the pain he saw behind charcoal-covered eyes and a voluptuous body. Because when he thought of Alana, he saw something hidden underneath her façade. Beastial, a primal kind of nature burried deep underneath the one she fabricated herself with. Instead of being immaculate and welcoming, she was a ravenous sycophant that only knew death.

 

He noticed the room had been breached; the door left slightly crackled and allowing the hard electronica playing downstairs to sneak in. The air conditioner chilled the living space though Will wasn’t sure why Alana or Bella would need to keep the space cool.

 

Stark naked, flesh pricked by the coolness in the air — Will inhaled, exhaled, and inhaled once more. His lungs did not expand or tighten with the faux breathing he compelled himself to remember to do. He placed two fingers on his wrist and waited for a pulse. Nothing happened, but Will did these as natural as they should be. The simplest things - pretending to breathe, feel his pulse, even remembering to blink — relics of his mortal life past the expiration date.

Dead as a doorknob . A child’s voice mocked as Will heard chimes clanking against each other. The week had been so blurred that even waking from a dreamless slumber, he still dreamt he was alive. He found new clothes laid out for him on the nearby nightstand - a thick, black sweater accompanied by tight jeans. He slipped them onto his skinny frame, finding it hard to keep the pants around his waist.

Dressed and ready to leave, he walked into the living room to find it empty. The place had been cleaned, recently, but Will was certain Alana was nearby. It did not matter, she didn’t know of the nasty dude’s whereabouts.

 

Perhaps it was better to depart without a goodbye .

 

He remembered her offer of the vitae — blood she promised he could partake. He retrieved the cool, plastic pouch out of the refrigerator and bit the corner. The blood strangled his tongue with rich flavour. It soothed his throat as he had another, then another, and finally the half of a pouch. He wiped the blood off his lips with his sleeve and turned around. He saw the penthouse’s main door open with Bella being escorted by two of her guards. She was surprised seeing Will in her kitchen. She smiled at him and ushered her guards to wait nearby. She came to him dressed in a long, floating gown made from green and cream colored fabric.

 

“Will, I’m surprised you’re here. Thought I’d never see you again.”, she said, leaning against the island counter. She tapped her nails softly on the granite countertop.

 

Will lowered his eyes.

 

“Alana had invited me…”, he replied his eyes never once leaving the floor. “I sought knowledge but found nothing but dead ends.”

 

“Oh?”, Bella gazed at Will up and down, an amused smile plastered on her face. “You’d have better luck asking a mute .”

 

“I’ve overstayed my welcome.”, he brushed past her, smelling the choking scent of jasmine and vanilla.

 

“Will.”

 

He turned on his heels and gazed at her. Her smile had deadened into a thin frown.

 

“She’s playing with you.”

 

“I’m aware.”, a lie, of course. Will tousled with the thought that perhaps some unmeasurable amount of hope that Alana did care for him.

 

“Are you really? Or is that what you like to believe ?”

 

“You ask more than enough questions that not all my voices could answer.”

 

Bella approached Will with such a swiftness that it startled him. He was forced back against the other side of the island counter. They stood at equal height, but Bella proved to be beautifully terrifying. Her hand gripped his chin in a vice grip.

 

"Unhand me, harlot .”, Will gritted, his eyes narrowing. Harlot . He didn’t mean to call her that, not really, but underneath her glittered eyes and long gown - that’s what she was revealed to be. Her bronze skin moist from sweat, her lips parted in pleasure, and euphoria washing over her. When he blinked, he saw her again but as she appeared; reality.

 

“I am your Baron and this is my domain. You’ll answer all my questions whether you want to or not.”, her tone was as vicious as her strong hold on Will.

 

“What did you ask of her?”

 

Her castle. His personalities mocked. Dare not lay siege while the dragon is asleep.

 

“I shall not answer.”

 

Her long, knife-point nails dug into his flesh and blood bubbled to the surface. Will clenched his jaw tightly that his canines started to grind against one another. Hot heat prickled his skin and angry tears moistened his eyes. His hands flexed into fists as he kept himself from lashing upon her. He had no doubt that he could land a successful hit, but his deep southern morals chastised him for even imagining that he could strike a woman. The Baron holding him hostage, though wrathful, softened once she saw how Will’s eyes watered in her vulture-like clutch.

 

“I didn’t mean to get so angry with you, of all people…”, Bella laxed her grip and Will quickly absconded out of her reach. He leaned against the opposite wall with his piercing eyes glued on the Baron. His fangs slid dangerously out of his pale gums. “But Alana is a distraction. To you, to me, and perhaps the entire world.”

 

“She is your sister.”, Will rubbed his fingers where the blood had botched his cheek. His fangs retracted into his gums. “You have more than most.”

 

Bella sat at the island counter and sighed. She gestured for her guards to bring her a cigarette. She slipped it between her lips and allowed the smoke to curl around her lips.

 

“And my greatest enemy.”, she exhaled. “I love her to death, but by God I could kill her.”

 

Will was not surprised; Bella was quick to anger. Out of the two of them, Bella was violent, almost coldly rather than vengeful. She was used to being cutthroat, perhaps as as survival mechanism, but where her once compassionate, understanding heart was only remained blackness. The tragedy of her position.

 

“Enough about me, you’ve been summoned.”

 

“Do I dare to ask whom?”

 

“Our mutual associate. You know him - our Prince.” Bella extinguished her cigarette.

 

“Is he your Prince?”

 

“I could ask the same of you, fledgling.”, her eyes narrowed, sharply, like daggers piercing into the flesh.

 

“I did not ask to be apart of this life or his plaything.”

 

Plaything. The phrase sounded lewd and perverted on his tongue. He would like nothing more than to not think about what plaything could mean, especially, to Hannibal.

 

“We all make choices. Now put your big boy pants on and do as you’re told.”

 

“I don't like to be told what to do.”, Will said with a growl scratching his throat. He’s been told what to do since the first night and it never ended in his favor. For once, he wanted his own autonomy.

 

“Then you ask for an early, final death.”

 

Will scoffed and walked towards the living room. Her two guards blocked his path, but Bella allowed him to pass with a flick of her hand.

 

He already died. A final death would be a welcomed fate.

 

“You’ll need a ride, Will. Let me have my entourage escort you.”

 

“I know where my journey lies. I need not of your chivalry or your caution.”, with that, Will brushed past her guards.

 

She did not hinder his exit, but her eyes followed him like two burning suns digging into his back. Her guards, both gargantuan with an air of the occult surrounding them, bowed their heads respectfully as he left.

 

The nightclub beneath his feet drummed as the elevator took him down into the pit of lust and euphoria. His fingers curled into his palm so tightly that his nails drew blood. His anger, though misdirected and born from stress and anxiety, made him feverish. The recipient of his anger, however, always landed on the tall, silver-haired monster .

 

Hannibal. The name brought red, hot anger to Will’s eyes as the elevator opened and he glided through the masses of gyrating bodies. He wanted nothing to with Hannibal, not now, or ever again. He was prideful, tyrannical, and downright terrifying. Yet, here he was, answering his summons and waiting on hand and knee for whatever he told him to do. To his own disgust, he found Hannibal handsome, stoic even when he stood in a room. His eyes were deep, always searching for weaknesses or flaws where none or the most could be found. He kept them lidded and looking down whenever he spoke, perhaps, something ingrained into his position of authority. When he dreamt of him, it brought his entire being crashing down to earth. Hellfire and blood washed Baltimore like a downpour and through it all, Hannibal stood and watched with a grin painted on his face.

 

And it terrified the shit out of Will.

 

His search for the nasty dude halted, temporarily, until he could meet with Brian again. Brian knew Baltimore. Every sidewalk, alleyway, or tenement was familiar to Brian regardless if he visited or walked there. In a way, Will envied Brian on how easy it was for him to blend in - walk without fear or paranoia. Baltimore was a loud, living city.

 

With no other leads, he would make his way back to the apartment they shared. Out in the open air of Baltimore, the city’s stench brought the tears down his face. It was a much heavier, almost irony smell than the usual rain and decay. He rubbed them away with his shirt sleeve as the blare of cars stung his ears. He walked down the street with his mind scrambled. He would rest, at least for a few hours, till he could retrace his steps and find the ghoul, Knox Harrington, again.

 

Will allowed his legs to guide him along asphalt rivers. He had walked far enough that the buildings became desolate shells of their former appearance. Chain-link fences around fields of beached car hulls, abandoned basketball courts, and empty playgrounds surrounded him. The streets were cracked and bruised from the years of abuse. The street lights flicked faintly like lighthouses past their illuminated glory. Not a soul, kindred or mortal, walked the streets. He looked around with his eyes nervously catching every glimpse of apparitions not being there. He looked behind him. It was better that he turned around hence the morning would catch up to him and he would fry.

 

He turned on his heels and tried to follow the streets back to familiar territory but to no avail, he confused himself. Buildings and busted windows blurred and he could only stand there, lost and confused. With no cellphone or means to contact anyone - Brian in particular , he had paranoia as his company. He crossed a street and saw the familiar opening of an alleyway - perhaps a sewer within to guide him back into downtown. He walked briskly; his hands bunched up into his pockets and his shoulders raised to make it appear he was quite stocky than he appeared. As he was about to cross into the alley, something so forceful made breath leave his body. He stumbled forward and fell onto his knees.

 

The sudden blow made him knelt and as he was about to bolt up to face his assailant, it was joined by another one.

 

Whack.

 

The second impact made him yowl in pain and his stomach hit the concrete. His back stung from the hit as he tried to look over his shoulder at his attacker.

 

Whack.

 

Blood dribbled from his mouth as he laid on the concrete. A stream of tears engulfed his eyes as he could only curl up on the sidewalk and take the brute force from his attacker. He heard mouthfuls of laughter, the foreign language his ears had grown accustomed to, and an incoming swing of their weapon of choice. He seized up, but unexpectedly the hit did not touch his body.  Instead, the sharp ring of a bullet echoing in the night air surprised all of them.

 

He got a look at his attackers, now distracted from the gunshot, and swallowed a mouthful of blood. They were grey-skinned, almost corpse-colored. Their physiques ranged from bulky to monstrous as the one wielding the bat was twice the size of his companions. They were ragged, in streetwear with arms tattooed with hieroglyphs and pin-ups. The one attacking him, his coiled dreads dangling down his back, looked back to Will with a mouthful of sharpened dentures. His skin tinted greyish blue and his eyelids curled backwards that all can be seen was a large, dilated pupil. The fledgling gulped and seized up for the oncoming blow. As the bat came down, another gunshot rang.

 

This time, Will felt hot, searing ashes on his back as the scrawnier of the bulky attackers sizzled into a heap of ash and bone. The other one panicked, saying something that sounded like gibberish to Will’s ears, before sprinting off into the dark alley. The one holding the bat held his ground as he barked something towards the direction of the gunshot. Will caught a glimpse of the bat being raised again and he whimpered.

 

“One step and I’ll blow your fucking brains out, Sabbat shit.” the voice was familiar, but Will couldn’t place a name. He only watched in a mixture of fear and shock. His attacker gave him another heated glance before joining his other companion in running away from the fledgling curled up on the sidewalk. Will shakily rose to his hands and knees as more blood dripped from his mouth and nose.

 

“Thank you, stranger.”, was the only thing his lips could manage, more blood filling his gaping mouth.

 

“If you died, Brian would kill me.”, his rescuer replied, coming to the fledgling’s side and helping him up to his feet.

 

“Who was that?”, Will held onto Matthew. “Why would they attack me?”

 

“This is Sabbat territory, fledgling. They’d kill your ass and wear your skin as a coat if it wasn’t for me.”

 

Sabbat. The word swirled around Will’s head and flushed itself right on out.

 

Will saw his rescuer’s face and the memories of the night he was embraced came back to him in cloudy memories. The stranger was tall, his brown hair greasy and stuck to his forehead in coiled streaks, and his eyes pierced like needles. He dressed much like Brian, the leather coat was a dead giveaway, but his face was younger and much more morose. He smelled of stale alcohol, smoke, and grime, but it was fitting of his appearance.

 

“My name is Matthew and we have much to talk about, fledgling.”, Matthew introduced himself.

 

“I’m sorry, but my mind has melted into the witch’s cauldron.”, Will said as he wiped the blood from his mouth and nose. “I fear I do not know of you, but I have seen you once in my waking nightmares.”

 

“But I am called Will.”

 

Matthew scoffed under his breath and unequipped his handgun.

 

“Brian was right. You’re crazy as shit for a Malk.”, Matthew hooked his arm underneath Will’s and helped him up. Will held onto Matthew like life support as more blood gushed from his nose. Matthew dug in his jacket pocket and gave the fledgling a hand cloth. The fledgling held it to his nose and titled it back.

 

“I have a lot to explain to you, yeah? But not here. Too many fucking rats on this side of town.”, Matthew said, hauling Will towards the alleyway.

 

Will silently agreed, relieved that someone familiar was around him again. They chatted amongst themselves as the alleyways became labyrinths of brick and grime. Matthew explained, to the best of Will’s cognitive ability, his history. He grew up poor, almost poorer than Will, and found what he called the “true” path once he was embraced. His sire was a revolutionary, the best of his kind apparently, but he was murdered - Just like Will’s. He had no shyness or guilt about his poorness, in fact, Matthew said that he never allowed it to hinder him. Will, on the other hand, cringed at the memories of going to school every year with flooded jeans, shirts that didn’t quite fit right, and the impression that everyone knew he was dirt poor. Being the odd, damaged wretch in his neighborhood, perhaps the entire town, Will was used to isolation. Yet, Matthew didn’t hide. In fact, he wore it over his heart.

 

“Look, I know a lot of shit doesn’t make sense to you right now.”, Matthew said as they turned out of the alleyway onto a populated street. The street was familiar; the expensive vehicles parked and well-guarded by gargoyle-like light poles. People chattered, cheerfully, completely oblivious to predators in their midst. Will swallowed as the atmosphere brought dread to his entire body.

 

“But as a mutual friend once told me, the world is a shitty fucking place.”

 

That statement earned a grin from Will. Blunt, he thought. Brave but blunt.

 

“I can’t explain everything but remember this:”, Matthew stopped and Will swallowed.

 

Don’t get yourself killed.”

 

Easier in theory, harder in concept. Will nodded his head and they continued through the alleyways.

 

They arrived in the heart of downtown Baltimore where the rich, elite, and cultured sat high in their immaculate penthouses able to breathe unlike the rest of the city. The area was awfully familiar, much so that it made the hairs on Will’s neck stand tall. Matthew brought Will to sit down on a carved bench, bracing the battered Malkavian, as he dug in his pockets. He retrieved a small cloth and put it to the fledgling’s cut forehead.

 

“You’ll heal.”, Matthew said softly, his eyes looking up and down Will’s bruised skin.

 

Will looked at him, this time, with his own slightly mismatched eyes focused only on him. Matthew caught his stare and looked away, a slight redness warming his face in the cool night air, and it earned a shy grin from Will’s lips.

 

“Thank you, nurse.”

 

Matthew stood back and leaned against the nearby lamp post. He dug a cigarette from his pant’s pocket, slipping the thin, stick between his pale lips. The fledgling tentatively rose a finger to his busted lip, feeling how sore they had become. His clothes, borrowed by Alana’s hospitality, stained with his blood and dirt. Matthew noticed and he took off his own leather jacket, offering it to the Malkavian. He took it gratefully. The leather smelled just like Brian and it brought him a pool of comfort to dwell in his belly.

 

Matthew kept his idle attention to anything that moved; traffic, leaves, or the occasional rat. He was aware, Will noticed, even more vigilant than he himself was. Understandable from what Will understood - Everyone was out to get you in some way or another. Yet he looked around with calmness in his posture. Baltimore didn’t scare him or did the gargoyles atop of buildings, their stone eyes glowering underneath their brows.

 

“I know you have questions about how shit works here, Will.”, Matthew started, his eyes pointing upwards to the tall skyscraper looming over them.

 

“I want to answer them for you, but…”, he pointed to the skyscraper now and Will followed his digit. “This asshole always comes first .”

 

“I don’t understand.”, from Will’s perspective, people like Brian and Matthew despised Hannibal. Brian had made it very clear he was no acquaintance of Hannibal or wanted anything to do with the Camarilla. Matthew didn’t seem any different. “Why must I suffocate under the heel of Caligula?”

 

The analogy earned a soft, almost surprised huff from Matthew as he threw his half-smoked cigarette into a puddle.

 

“Play your cards, Will. You are in a very dangerous place.”, the Brujah’s tone took a very dark, cautious octave and Will clutched his hands together. “Brian can’t protect you from everything.”

 

“Get through whatever he puts you through and I’ll come back for you.”

 

Matthew offered his hand. The fledgling looked at him and saw a morose, almost depressed boy behind his eyes. He saw bruised skin, bloody scratches, and dirt-stained hands begging to him. He could feel thirst cling to his throat like an arid blanket. His body tightened with insatiable hunger. In Matthew, he saw his previous life. A harsh, never-forgiving life and the Malkavian hesitated to take the Brujah’s hand.

 

It reminded him too much of himself.

 

“Promise me.”, Will demanded. “Give me your word that you will come back for me.”

 

Matthew’s face laxed into a boyish softness. A grin prickled at the edges of his lips.

 

“You mean alot to Brian so you mean alot to me, fledgling.”

 

“You just met me.”, Will disagreed. “You’ve never met someone like me.”

 

“People talk. I’ve listened. Quite the wonder child you’ve become.”

 

“Have I sated your curiosity?”

 

“Hey, now. Adults don’t tell their business to the childer.”

 

Will swore he saw the Brujah’s face change into a pinkish hue as he turned quickly away. The fledgling looked back up at the skyscraper glowering at the both of them and tensed up. It was now or never again. Had Will deny Hannibal his unrequited attention again, hell hath no fury for a diabolical, tyrannical deviant like Hannibal Lecter. As Will turned around to walk towards the front gates, Matthew glanced at him. The fledgling felt those cool, blue eyes on the back of his neck.

 

He glanced over his shoulder and caught the Brujah grinning at him.

 

“You’ll do wonders, kid.” and with that, Matthew walked across the street, down the street, and disappeared amongst the bricks and grime. Will couldn’t help but smile. Brave, blunt, and charismatic . He’s seen types like Matthew throughout his life, but the Brujah held both pain and joy behind his eyes. Whereas the crying boy he kept begging on his hands and knees, he had created such a strong, protective persona over him that Will wasn’t sure if Mathew allowed his closest allies to peek at it.

 

He opened the front gate to the skyscraper where Hannibal’s penthouse sat above and walked into the front door. Like the previous time before, Franklyn sat the oval desk in front completely oblivious to Will’s presence. This time, he was more cleaned up than before. His greasy curls were now slicked back onto his head. His shirt was clean-pressed, free of any stains, and well-tucked in his waistband. Even his face looked new, perhaps his skin looked more refreshed and lively. He was more focused on a hand radio he fiddled with in his hands rather than Will approaching the counter. Will stood there for a brief moment till he began to tap his finger lightly on the countertop.

 

Franklyn looked up and instantly, the redness in his round face drained and left him like alabaster. His plump lips had began to tremble as Will looked at him, his mismatched eyes narrowing, and his tongue darting out to lick his lips. He was, of course, playing with Franklyn given that the man was petrified of his presence from before. The human responded like Will expected; fearfully. Franklyn pointed one of his fingers towards the elevators and without saying a word, Will snaked around the counter, up the short steps, and onto the platform where the elevators rested. He could still hear Franklyn’s heartbeat rattle around in his ears. The elevator came shortly and Will stepped inside.

 

Quite the wonder child you’ve become. The phrase replayed over and over in Will’s head as he tuned out the elevator music playing softly. How had Matthew heard of him? What did Brian tell of him? Those questions bounced around in his skull as he couldn’t help but fidget nervously. He didn’t want to be in this place. He thought of this place as death, the insides as death, the stench of death clinging to the walls. The elevator pulled to a stop and Will’s faux breath hitched in his throat. He stepped out and was outside of the grand, very ornate door of Hannibal’s penthouse. It was all too real to stand here. The fledgling dreaded what laid behind that door, yet Matthew reminded him to play along.

 

Play along. Will began to chant to himself as he approached the door and knocked. The sound echoed off the door and into the open hallway. As quiet as the hallway was, not even his voices dared to whisper. He stood back and moments later, it was opened for him by some force he could not see.

 

Play along. Will compelled himself to walk the familiar floors of Hannibal’s penthouse. He saw more decadence the more he took in his surroundings. He saw the gold, the marble, and the worldly wealth such a creature like Hannibal surrounded himself with. He remembered where his office was and stood outside of it.

 

Play along. The door was opened for him once again and upon entering, Hannibal was there. He stood at the ceiling length windows with his back turned and a goblet between his hands. His hair glistened like woven starlight. His suit was gold and ivy green paisley, fitted to his long, toned frame. From the reflection, Will saw those hungry, maroon eyes watch him as he entered.

 

“William, you’ve come at last.”, Hannibal announced, turning on his heels and meeting the fledgling with eye contact.

 

Play along. Will wanted nothing more than to die in this very moment. He swallowed the thick lump in his throat and bowed his head. To his right, he saw Hannibal’s guard. He silently watched the Malk cross the floor, his steel-colored eyes unblinking. He sat down and soon Hannibal joined him across the desk. A brief moment passed between them as Hannibal folded his hands with nothing more than a polite smile across his face.

 

“We have much to talk about.”, Hannibal said, calling for his guard to stand next to him.

 

Will said nothing, but kept his eyes straight into Hannibal’s own.


Play along, I’ll come back for you.

Chapter Text

XX

“Estranged”

 


 

They sat in silence, an uncomfortable silence, at least on Will’s part. He wasn’t much of a conversationalist or did he have anything to say. Instead, he found himself fixated with the metallic zipper of his borrowed jacket. His fingers curled around the zipper, fondling it between his fingers, and his eyes drifted upwards to where Hannibal sat. On the other side of the desk, however, Hannibal sat smugly, with his eyes lidded and his head cocked to the side. His hand flattened against the plateau of his jaw. Neither of them shared words and as they sat in front of each, staring, reading each other’s facial quirks ━ Much to Hannibal’s amusement. He, on the other hand, memorized every line, blemish, and grimace Will gave him. How his brows would furrow tightly when Hannibal looked at him or how his lips would part and close again to scowl ━ Hannibal enjoyed it, shamefully.

 

Will was interesting to look at. Profoundly so, though his recent physical changes had startled Hannibal. Hair was hair, but Hannibal missed the slight curl of Will’s locs. Only dark, stalky stubble was left on a cherubish head. His skin had paled, almost became white in tint, but nonetheless vibrant and pleasing to Hannibal’s eye. His eyes that would appear obscured now differed in color; the shades of blue losing their vibrancy. His attire could be much perfected for Hannibal’s particular taste. Perhaps custom fitting from his own personal tailor, but it was fitting of Will. The leather jacket, though, brought a frown to Hannibal’s lips.

 

It was distasteful, ugly and the persons Hannibal associated with that leather jacket made his eyes roll back. Anarchs, specifically, Matthew Brown was nothing more than an whining child to Hannibal. As well as his other Anarchs, Matthew was a drunken, misanthropic neo-revolutionary with no spine. He walked with his tail between his legs. Hannibal had many encounters with Matthew Brown over the years ━ Each one more exasperating than the last. Since their little tantrum on his coveted businesses, they’ve became bold, fearlessly so. Matthew even more so as Hannibal’s agents within the Anarch movement spoke fevertly on his pride. Hannibal could give them credit however ━ They didn’t give up quite as easily as their other chapters. The more troublesome chapters; Austin, New York, and Los Angeles had disappeared into obscurity.

 

The Baltimore Anarchs had their fun, but Hannibal was past playing games with sniveling children. The first of many sabotages came from espionage. Then, the Camarilla planted their own within Anarchy waters. From there, snatching their cohorts was easy ━ The Camarilla had names to match faces and faces to match addresses. Hannibal was quite proud of himself with the flaming kamikaze he sent to Matthew’s door.

 

But, he was no longer concerned with Anarchs knocking on his doorstep. No, in this moment, he saw nothing but Will Graham. The doomed fledgling, the one he saved, much to the disapproval of the Camarilla and his closest allies ━ Nonetheless, Will Graham. Hannibal admitted to himself that he was too inconsiderate  in his encounters with Will, perhaps too rash. Will didn’t deserve what Hannibal had put him through or did what befell him.

 

Hannibal felt wetness swell in his eyes and he turned his cheek away from Will. He dabbed it away from his finger and it was stained a light, pale red. He could start over, at least with Will, and someday Will would understand. When Baltimore, if not the entire state and country was settled into a true Camarilla authority, then Will would understand the sacrifices Hannibal had to make for him . The world was ugly ━ Human and kine alike, and it desperately needed to be rebirthed. Will will be there with him, hand in hand, witnessing the ultimate Gehenna.

 

And it will be everything Hannibal had ever wanted .

 

“Why am I here?”, asked Will, his voice stale with agitation. “Why am I here, Judas ?”

 

Hannibal upturned his lips into a smirk. His hands clasped in his lap and for a brief moment, he pondered on the question. Sure, Hannibal was feeling quite insulted at Will’s decline of his dinner invite ━ As with vampirism comes no actual need for sustenance, but it was rather rude of Will not to accept. Will wouldn’t have been receptive to having an dinner with his own kind as the main course, but Hannibal hoped to change his mind.

 

On the other hand, Hannibal was rather lonesome and his mind was begging for some kind of stimulation. Bedelia, as much as Hannibal could thank her tenfold for reminding him that humans were still gullible, wasn’t suitable for his end-game. Their conversations only consisted of who they were going to betray next or the affairs of the Camarilla. Hannibal desired intimacy with his own kind, someone who’s thoughts he couldn’t read, or actions he could anticipate. As beautiful, cunning Bedelia Du Maurier was, she was confused . It was fairly easy to spin her around his finger ━ Humans were receptive to wealth, sex, and a sense of belonging. All things will die and Bedelia would be bones, but Will would be forever.

 

“Do you think of me as a traitor , William?”

 

“No, I don’t think much and especially not of you.”

 

“Can I say, I’m hurt?”

 

“I don’t care .”, Will huffed. His cherubish face had morphed into fiery, teenage rebellion, “I honestly dont care.”

 

“You wound me, fledgling. You didn’t respond to my invite either.”, Hannibal responded. “Or did I hear from you afterwards.”

 

That earned an eye roll from Will as he shifted in his seat. He brought his leg up to his chest and folded it at the knee. His hand rested on his knee cap and he looked at Hannibal with lidded eyes. Hannibal winced as he watched Will’s dirited shoes making dark, slurred marks on the fabricated chair.

 

Terribly rude, but forgivable.  

 

“I was chasing rabbits.”, Will’s brows tightened together and Hannibal read the bubbling anger. The Prince hid his anticipated glee with a blank face. “Very vicious rabbits.”

 

Rabbits . Will’s mind was fractured, to say the least, upon embracing his Malkavian heritage, but Hannibal had started to suspect he wasn’t quite there to begin with. It had to be something subtle, common that generic medications sated till the gift of Malkavianism riddled his mind with cryptic messages. Whatever the cause, it made Hannibal antsy to delve into Will’s head further. At least, what he could scrape off top and serve with a good vintage.

 

“Careful, William. I’ve heard rabbits are quite vicious.”, Hannibal leaned forward over the desk. His fangs slipped from his gums as the fledgling too, bared his much shorter canines. A waning display of stubbornness, really. William had no real power, not in Hannibal’s elysium , his domain. Like a game of tug-of-war, Will fooled himself into thinking he could continue to pull the rope from Hannibal’s hands. Had he thought reasonably without the aid of his frazzled mind, he would have clarity to see straight through Hannibal’s facade.

 

“I’ve heard I’m vicious .”, the corners of Will’s lips upturned into a frown. “Do you think I am?”

 

“No. You’re far from it.”

 

Liar .”

 

“Do you consider yourself a rabbit then, William? Do you see yourself caught in a trap and the only way out is to claw and bite anyone who approaches?”

 

“No, if I was you would’ve snapped my neck already.”

 

He was right. Hannibal would’ve cracked his neck, skinned him, and make a handkerchief from his pelt. Will more than a delicate rabbit, but he was not the fox. Rather, he was the hunter with the rifle glaring down both the rabbit and fox.

 

“You’re right.”

 

The Prince retracted his fangs and so did the fledgling.

 

“But I didn’t call you hear to discuss the rules of nature, William. I just want to speak to you.”

 

“Don’t call me that, Judas .”

 

Hannibal chuckled. It was a habit, yes, but Will’s name was beautiful to roll of the tongue.


“I cannot help myself, William. It’s a beautiful name.”

 

Will slid back in his seat with a ‘hmph’. His mood did not falter because his body was uptight and rigid. Hannibal didn’t expect Will to ever become comfortable in his presence, but he enjoyed the fledgling’s presence nonetheless. As he looked at Will Graham, he couldn’t help but wonder if he had truly found his trump card. Another rather discouraging thought ━ Will was blind . With Malkavians, it was a hit or miss. The fledgling wasn’t sired from ancient, tested stock but from a run-down, thin-blooded lunatic. Hannibal didn’t like to be pessimistic, but it did leave him on the edge of the seat. No one else could possess such imitate sights into the near future and not knowing was the bane of many ambitious men like Hannibal. However, Will was interesting and a far better specimen to keep rather than dispose. Malkavians were tolerated but, not entirely necessary ━ The Camarilla keeps their eye on them. They were deranged, thanks to their forefather Malkav , and without population control they could overrun the other bloodlines; risking the safety of all . Hannibal has seen what exposure has done to sects across the world.

 

Genocide of entire clans, wiped from recorded histories, to never be spoken on lips ever again.

 

Although Hannibal’s loyalties was to the Camarilla, forever and always, his feelings remained the same; Will was still his . He had no issue dispatching Malkavians like Will’s sire, but he couldn’t think about murdering Will without feeling a sharp pain in his chest.

 

Perhaps, Hannibal was more human than he would liked to be. Or he was obsessing again. Bedelia would warn Hannibal when he became fixated on something or someone. For obvious good reasons, but being as old as he was ━ Life truly had no sense of purpose. When everything was learned, experienced, or conquered what little satisfaction came with it was gone from Hannibal.  He needed to keep himself distracted and Will Graham was an awfully good distraction. Much to Bedelia’s disapproval, he would not grow bored of Will Graham.

 

Not ever .

 

“I’ve been rather….”, Hannibal trailed off, suddenly not finding the correct words. Rash? Ruthless? Cruel? Hannibal would not apologize for sending Will to the guillotine, no, he was still much of a criminal than an innocent. Hannibal didn’t make apologies . Initially, Hannibal did not care who lived or died. The world was a cruel place and vampires even crueler. If their traditions wasn’t upheld then anarchy would wash the streets with blood and Will’s sire had broken a series of laws when he decided to embrace him. Again, the thought of killing Will made Hannibal feel morose.

 

Progeny . Will was embraced without his direct permission. A clear violation of Masquerade law. He had only caught wind of it through his Camarilla associates, in particular, the Nosferatu agents lingering in the sewers and alleyways. At that time, he only had an address. It was easy to imagine a nameless face, but until Hannibal saw how young, alluring Will Graham was, he realized he made a mistake. His sire, a name he chose to forgot, was hideous to all the senses. It was much effortless to dispatch of the sire rather than the childe. For the most part, the childe was innocent of their progenitor’s crimes.

 

Hannibal memorized how the blood, ash, and bone smelled as it burned in a hue of red-orange. He sill heard the crowd and how their voices would shrill and heighten as Jack’s sword came downwards. Hannibal closed his eyes and his tongue darted across his lips. The familiar taste of death was a cherished one.

 

“...cruel in how I’ve treated you, William.”

 

“I understand.”, Will abruptly replied, now having both of his knees tucked underneath his arms.

 

Hannibal’s face froze as he was impressed but, slightly puzzled in the fledgling’s response. Will kept staring at him with his eyes unmoving, almost unnerving.

 

“You understand….?”, inquired Hannibal. “I’m afraid I don’t understand.”

 

“I understand why you do the things you do.”

 

“Do you? Please, tell me. My interest has been peaked, William.”

 

Will came forward, his hands landing flatly on the desk, and his body lurched over the desk. Hannibal did not move or falter. Instead, he leaned in closer to where he and Will was near inches away from one another. He could smell Will. He smelled the streets of Baltimore on him; gritty. He also smelled faintly of roses, perhaps cherries, like a cheap feminine body wash. He didn’t mind the smell. It was Will’s scent and he would memorize it, cherish it, and revisit the smell even when Will wasn’t near.

 

“Evilness comes natural to you. You enjoy positions of authority because it makes it easy to inflict pain.”

 

“Is that all?”

 

“No, you were like this long before you became what you are now. Like you’re hiding something underneath your flesh suit.”

 

“I’m afraid I have to disagree.”, Hannibal didn’t think he was necessarily evil but his actions were well-justified. Everything he did was for the wellbeing of all Kindred, regardless of clan or bloodline. He upheld the Camarilla’s ideologies and persecuted all in accordance to the Masquerade. Failing to do so would reveal their kind to the world and Hannibal didn’t think he could bare witness to another Crusade.

 

Not again .

 

“You’re going to do something terrible.”

 

“Dear William, I’ve done many terrible things as of late.”, Hannibal caught a glimpse of Jack entering the room. He stood silently by the door. They met each other’s eyes and with the flick of his hand, Jack was out the room once again.

 

“You’ll have to be specific.”

 

“I’ve seen it already.”, Will’s bottom lip had a slight quiver to it. “You were there, crying, but everything else was on fire.”

 

“I do not cry, William. I haven’t for a long time.”, a lie. Hannibal cried, when he was frustrated, or in an act of mimicry. He was a natural-born actor and he could cry on cue if asked.

 

“If you open it, we will fall like Sodom and burn like Gomorrah.”, Will eased back into his chair and his hands had started to tremble. Sweat had sheened his skin and he covered his face in his shaking hands. He had completely broken down in a mere matter of seconds. Hannibal sat there, taken back, and oddly curious. He knew the demise of the sinful cities ━ Many kindred perished in the hellfire, but to compare Baltimore to their wickedness left him perplexed.

 

Especially to hear it from Will’s lips.

 

But to ‘open it’ made Hannibal much aware of what Will was referencing. He meant the sarcophagus, the same sarcophagus docked on the Elizabeth Dane, and the sarcophagus Hannibal desired to ‘open’. Had Hannibal doubted the possibility that Will’s deranged mind was more lucid than he gave it credit? Unsure of what Will did or didn’t know about the sarcophagus, Hannibal made mental note to have arrangements made.

 

“Enough of talk about Sodom and Gomorrah. You’ve had a long night, fledgling. You deserve rest.”, Hannibal lightened the conversation from prophesied hellfire.

 

Will raised his head with puffy, red eyes. Hannibal saw tiredness. Hannibal, once upon a time, felt that same tiredness after his embrace. His body and mind restless and in a constant state of vitality. Hannibal couldn’t imagine Will was getting the proper respite or diet while Brian dragged him across the city. Brian Zeller himself wasn’t a shining example of health so by default, Will wasn’t picking up good habits. Will’s lips were pale and parched. The fledgling was thirsty and Hannibal was happy to oblige. He clapped his hands, startling Will at the suddenness, and from the door came Jack. Without command, Jack had brought a platter of a two, elongated glasses accompanied by a bucket full of ice and a bottle.

 

He silently sat the platter down and gave both Hannibal and Will a glass. The fledgling looked to Jack with the same fearfulness Hannibal witnessed the night of his sire’s execution. Jack had a rough-looking face, but he was practically harmless. He was obedient to the fullest extent. If Hannibal did not command him to act, then Jack was stationary, oblivious to everything happening around him. However, Will was still suspicious of the bodyguard. Jack made a move to pop the cork from the bottle but Hannibal stopped him.

 

“This is an aged blend from the Orient. I’ve had it imported, stored, and perfected in my own personal cellars.”, Hannibal told Will.

 

The fledgling seemed not to care and watched how Jack carefully dropped three ice cubes in their glasses. Jack was meticulous, dreadfully so, and Will watched his every moment with cautious anticipation. The wrong sleight of hand would have Will baring fangs. Jack gave the honor of breaching the vintage to his Prince.

 

Hannibal plucked the cork from the bottle and he poured. First, Will’s glass then his own glass. The ice hisses as the liquid caressed the glass. The fledgling hesitated for a moment but thirst overcame his paranoia and he wrapped his fingers around the skinny neck of the glass. His first sip was meek, but upon taste it became a deep sip. Hannibal whisked the vintage around in his glass, but his eyes were so fixated on Will that he had forgotten to partake in his drink. He was watching how Will’s throat would flex and relax with every swallow.

 

Perverted . Hannibal took his eyes away from Will as they had their drinks. His thoughts should’ve not drifted to baser thoughts. Jack left as silently as he came in. The only instance of his presence in the room was the door being left slightly cracked. Will finished his drink with an ‘ah’ and sat the glass down on the desk. The ice cubes clinked noisily and Hannibal left his drink half-full.

 

“Thank you.”, Will said.

 

“Anything you desire, William, I will give it to you tenfold.”, Hannibal confessed, finishing the last of his glass and abandoning it in favor of keeping his hands in his lap.

 

That confession caused Will to look away from Hannibal.

 

“Like I’ve said before, I’ve been rather ignorant to your tragedies.”, Hannibal’s stood up now. He walked around the desk and Will, almost instantly, rose to meet him. The Prince’s hand found contact with Will’s shoulder. Will didn’t like the sudden touch, but tolerated it as he looked at Hannibal irrately.

 

“I wish to rectify with you in hopes that I may be a sire you’ve never had.”

 

Will’s nostrils flared and he swatted Hannibal’s hand away.

 

“Don’t you dare .”, Will warned, his frown distorting his face. “Don’t you fucking dare .”

 

Hannibal’s eyebrow twitched at the usage of the harsh words, but he did not let it offend him. No, Will couldn’t offend him. He was an angry, disgruntled child that needed nothing more than the loving embrace of a patriarch. What Will was doing was nothing more than tantrum for Hannibal to sate with promises of change and humility. Hannibal was not as humble and he would never admit to it truthfully.

 

“Perhaps I didn’t choose my words correctly. If you allow m━”

 

“You tried to kill me, remember?”, Will stepped forward and their chests touched. Hannibal, standing a far bit taller than the fledgling, downcasted his eyes towards him. His hands remained at his sides, a far better place than wrapped around that slender neck or sides, and his demeanor remained the same; neutral. On the other hand, Will’s hand shook with fury. His fists balled up so tightly that his nails dug into his palms.

 

“From what I understand, you still want to kill me.”

 

“That’s not true, William. You are far more valuable to me as you are rather than ash and bones.”

 

“Why haven’t you snapped my neck yet, hm? That’s all you see me as ━ A rabbit, ensnared in a trap, and the only merciful way out is to snap my neck.”

 

“Don’t make those assumptions, William. I would not think of it.”

 

Liar .”, Will hissed.

 

“Will, rest your thoughts for the night.”, Hannibal suggested. “You aren’t being particularly rational right now.”

 

“Don’t tell me what I need.”, Will backed up. “I will not stay here.”

 

“I can’t let you venture out into the unknown without having you rested.”

 

Fuck you.”

 

Hannibal’s lips tightened into a thin, disapproving frown. Jack was nearby, perhaps listening through the door, ready to come forth should Hannibal make the command. He did not want to keep Will prisoner, but Will was quite adamant he was leaving. Hannibal especially didn’t want Will walking back into the Anarchs arms either. Rather than chase Will into Matthew’s arms, he would practice restraint and allow Will autonomy. Hannibal looked to the cracked door and called for Jack. In mere moments, Jack was in the room with his giant, lumbering sword held in his hands. Will saw him but did not bristle or make a notion to flee. Instead, he stood his ground.

 

“If you’re going to kill me, at least do it while I stand here.”

 

Hannibal had no thought of killing Will. He couldn’t allow himself to give that order to Jack. Instead, he stood there with his hands clasped together.

 

“I won’t harm you any more, William. I will not.”

 

Jack crossed the room and stood off to Hannibal’s side. He glared down the fledgling with bright, hungry eyes. Hannibal raised his hand to have Jack stand behind him and the bodyguard complied dutifully.

 

Will scoffed.

 

“You should’ve killed me when you had a chance, Prince . Like you said, rabbits can be vicious .”, with that Will turned on his heels and crossed his way across the office floor. Hannibal was not going to stop him or have Jack apprehend him. In fact, he much rather have Will leave. He was angry and in no position to act civil ━ Something Hannibal added to his mental notes. Hannibal would let him go, just for this night, to collect his thoughts and come back to him. Crawling, Hannibal preferred.

 

“William.”, Hannibal called out. The fledgling looked over his shoulder.

 

“I’ll always be here for you.”

 

Will jeered at Hannibal’s declaration and out the room he was. The door slammed behind him. Hannibal turned his intentions to the large, ceiling length window panes of his office. He went to the window and looked out.  Baltimore was alive as the cement-paved veins bustled with traffic below. He held onto this gnawing feeling that by letting his Will go out into that troubling world, he was somehow failing . Hannibal had never fathered childer or did he have a desire to ━ Children were hard to wrangle, especially those of the immortal type. Yet, he couldn’t help but feel morose about Will.

 

Sickening, almost. He looked back to where Jack stood. He kept thinking over and over about Will’s threats of Sodom and Gomorrah. The sarcophagus, the Elizabeath Dane, all of it made the entire Kindred world uneasy. Even LaCroix, as much as Hannibal hated the much younger and snobbier Ventrue, desired what laid inside the sarcophagus. Hannibal would not act, not with the threat of possible danger. Hannibal wasn’t a superstitious type, but how Will completely broke down as he relayed what his addled mind warned him ━ Hannibal found himself cautious.

 

“Jack, contact Chilton.”, Hannibal demanded. “Tell him I need all his intel on the Elizabeth Dane.”

 

Jack nodded and sheathed his sword down his back. He left the room. Once again, Hannibal was left in silence. His own thoughts were void as there was nothing he could conjure up. Will was gone, Bedelia left to her own devices, and Jack was silent. In this penthouse, silence was miserable company. Hannibal only had his lonesome perch.

 

A bloodied tear streamed down his face and he caught it with the pad of his finger. For a moment, he rolled it between his fingers till it was nothing more than a wet, red blotch. He cracked a smile and continued to look out towards Baltimore.

 

He would be here for Will, for a night, or a thousand nights. Even through the silence, Hannibal still heard Will’s voice loud and clear. A voice he would much rather hear than the whispers of enemies and friends alike.


Chapter Text

XXI

“Sabbatical”


 

 

‘The Last Round’ was eerily empty of patrons though drinks still filled glasses and touched lips. Ash still lingered heavily in the air. The trash, broken glass, or discarded needles had been cleared from the floor and walkways. With the nightclub void of their usual patrons, Brian was left to drink alone. Freddie would descend from the upstairs loft, but they hardly spoke to one another. She was preoccupied with her own work while Brian was left to drink in solitude.

 

The cigarette half-masted between his lips became brittle with burnt tobacco and he expelled it into a nearby ashtray. He knocked against the countertop and the bartender behind it turned their attention to him.

 

Their newest bartender, a young, freshly embraced Brujah that introduced herself as “Rose”, made Zeller another pint of cold beer. She slid it across the counter and he caught it, bringing the pint to his lips, and letting the froth foam around them. He sat it back down and turned his back to the bartender. He fished out his cellphone — a cheap, disposable one he bought from a nearby liquor store. He started to dial Matthew’s number and brought it up to his ear, listening to the shrill ringing, anticipating for the Anarch to answer. The line clicked into the automated voicemail and Brian slammed the cell phone onto the counter causing it to come apart.

 

Rose had dipped under the counter to collect bits of the phone. She offered them back to the Brujah who just crossed his arms and looked across the empty dance floor.

 

Matthew still was somewhere out in Baltimore, drunk or starting trouble, if not both. He was headstrong, never settling for one thing at a time. Where there was Camarilla, there was opportunity for Matthew to add fuel to the fire.

 

He was their leader, though Brian had spent many a night contemplating how the prodigy of Nines Rodriguez, the Nines Rodriguez, became the Baltimore Anarch’s shining revolutionary.

 

Nines was much like his firebrand prodigy; bold, hard headed, always the first to rumble in the sandbox. No doubt his prodigy would be any less. Brian and Nines met only once in Los Angeles, long before the Camarilla had a strong footing in Baltimore, and by then — Los Angeles was a bustling Camarilla enclave.

 

Nines was fresh in the Anarch scene whilst roaming the streets for renegades, degenerates, and anyone that came out chewed up from the Camarilla meat grinder.

 

Insanely young though full of zeal, Nines had a way with words. Especially, the right kind of words. Brian heard many a speech Nines proclaimed to the “hungry, desolate masses” of the underground scene of Los Angeles. He preached to their vulnerability, their loneliness, and most importantly — their anger. That’s what the Anarchs are; shells of lonely, angry people. Nines was incredibly smart, Brian admitted, and he knew exactly what he needed to start a revolution.

 

Though it had been nearly a decade since Brian had been in Los Angeles, he spoke little about Nines, even as blood-kin, or did he agree with every move Nines made. It was better that way considering Matthew praised Nines like if he was his own sire. That said sire that abandoned Matthew in his time of a need and like a shining knight, Nines was there and gaffled the young Anarch under his flaming Anarchist banner.

 

Even now, Nines rubbed Brian the wrong way. Riling up anger was one thing, but allowing fanatics to aimlessly stir the pot was where Brian’s views clashed with Nines’. Sure, they needed all the manpower they could get, but Nines had a blind eye when it came to vetting.

 

The Anarchs, as proud and united they preached to be, were ignoring their greater threat. Their movement was falling in on itself — Fighting amongst the inner circles, territories seized and argued over, and the worst of it; the Sabbat trickling into their ranks. Nines and his compatriots especially had turned blind to the fanatics underneath their roof.

 

Brian wasn’t political or did he hold every vampire to some pretentious moral standard, especially on how all Kindred conduct themselves in life, but he could not agree that their world without the Traditions could sustain. As much as Brian would dream to see the Camarilla and their totalitarian autonomy crumble into the dirt, the laws they were doctrined to follow since their embrace was what the Sabbat wanted to annihilate.

 

Traditions were their laws, not for restricting their freedom, but as a means of survival. Respect another Kindred’s lair, hold yourself responsible for childer, and mostly importantly — revealing their existence to mortal kind was strictly forbidden.

 

The Kine world could not know about their existence — hence the destruction of their kind. Humankind would hunt them into either extinction or exile and Brian wasn’t keen on getting staked in his sleep. Every law has its place, or so many of his compatriots would disagree, but when it came to preserving their kind — No matter of their support or apathy to the Camarilla, all could agree that the Sabbat was a threat to all vampire kind.

 

Terror and murder was the Sabbat’s speciality given that many a vampire, regardless of their upbringing or bloodline, had met gruesome ends when cohorting with the Sabbat. A band of thieves, killers, and traitors — The Sabbat prided themselves as the “true” childer of Cain. Like Cain, their forefather, murder came as natural as feeding.

 

The worst of their crimes came from what pain they inflicted upon both Kine and Kindred alike. They kidnapped, tortured, and from what Brian heard in hushed rumors — diablerie their enemies.

 

Brian bristled when he thought of the act of diablerie . It was cruel if not an immoral practice of consuming Kindred till a final death ended their suffering. It was worse than cannibalism; it was the most heinous deed any vampire could inflict on the other. Other rumors said the act of diablerie shrouded the practitioner in such, dark, ominous aura that the last shrivels of humanity disappear; making a beast out of a monster.

 

Practitioners have said that the act of diablerie was the act of eating one’s soul, but Brian was a skeptic. For vampires were soulless creatures, at least on the part they kill in order to eat. To have a soul meant to have morality and vampires were far from having morals.

 

The Sabbat reveled in that kind of terror, obscenely, and the rest of the Kindred world abhorred their practices.

 

The Anarchs of Baltimore did their best to persuade their fellow vampires, especially the newly embraced, to avoid the likes of the Sabbat but inevitably — their numbers festered. Had the Camarilla and the Anarchs saw each other eye to eye, as a united front, they had the numbers to overwhelm the Sabbat. Yet, here they were fighting amongst themselves like squabs while the Sabbat grew more haughty by the day.

 

Brian looked over to the new bartender and pursed his lips.

 

Easy target , he thought. She looked the type; easy to convince, eager to please.

 

Rose came by again and she wiped the countertop, fleeting eyes never lingering too long on Brian, and a sense of uneasiness around her. She was good, at least when it came to pouring drinks, but otherwise she stood as if she was walking on coals. She was pretty though her face was blanketed with harsh, black and purples.

 

Her hair had been haphazardly chopped and colored with every color possible. Brian abandoned his half empty pint and dug a tip out for Rose. She reluctantly slid it into her bodice and continued to wipe down the counter.

 

Young . Brian smelled life clinging onto Rose underneath sweat, perfume, and earthy musk. Her cheeks blushing pink underneath her pale makeup. His gaze lingered on her as she worked as he couldn’t help but see another Will Graham in her. Consciously, Brian knew that Rose had a sire somewhere, perhaps not in the club but out in the world somewhere. But, Will was alone in a world where the strong diablerize the weak and vulnerable.

 

Vulnerable , Will was far from it — at least, not stupid enough caught up in the likes of the Sabbat. Naive, immensely so, but vulnerable had became a foreign concept to the likes of Will. Every night he was becoming familiar with the world, almost seeing it through a looking glass and Brian could see the fledgling step deeper into the water. Though the Brujah would keep his search for a potential step-sire, he would still be his mentor, protector, and most importantly his guardian.

 

Now and forever.

 

Talk about one being reminiscent, Brian could punch himself for being sappy. Will was ok, at least for now, and Brian already had put word out for the few Anarchs running the streets to keep their eyes on him.

 

He had his own priority; finding Tung. Will was out there as well and hopefully he’d have better luck that Brian.

 

As far as Brian knew, Tung moved from state to state on a moment’s whim. Close associates, friends, and enemies alike had no real location whenever Tung moved — An enviable skill. Tung once had a footing in Los Angeles till the current Prince, a snobbish Frenchman by the name of LaCroix, began flushing the Nosferatu from Los Angeles.

 

The Nosferatu, or sewer rats as the nickname implied, were the eyes and ears of the Kindred world. Their sewers were their power whilst the streets were battled fang and claw for; no one wanted the sewers.

 

They heard, saw, and spoke life into hushed rumors. The Camarilla adored their ghastly sewer rats, apparently, but LaCroix smoked out the Nosferatu out of their watery covens, and scorched them at dawn’s arrival. An extermination to say the least.

 

LaCroix had a fiery stick up his ass as allegations of his ruthlessness came to Baltimore. He came to power after what some considered a coup-d’etat and it was widely believed LaCroix murdered his former Prince. Prior to his predecessors, LaCroix was seen to be rash, intoxicated with power, and very French-like in his mannerisms.

 

Again, rumors but Brian knew what power did to men. He’s seen immense power destroy entire societies and exterminate entire populations out of existence. To say the least, Brian knew a disaster-in-the-making and it’s name was LaCroix.

 

Regardless, LaCroix was making moves from Los Angeles to Baltimore. Where LaCroix walked, tragedy followed. That couldn’t be sitting well with their current Prince, Hannibal Lecter, as the both of them came from premium Ventrue stock. If the speculations had merit to them, what would stop LaCroix from usurping Baltimore right under Hannibal’s nose?

 

Royal by embrace, prideful by nature.

 

The arrival of LaCroix meant the Camarilla was securing their hold over the States, but suffering from their own inner turmoil. At this rate, Brian suspected the Camarilla would eat each other alive rather than the Anarchs first. He would have to check with Freddie; she had an ear for anything involving politics and drama.

 

Brian went upstairs and found that the living space was empty with the exception of strewn clothes and bottles. He glanced around and saw that Matthew’s door was still closed, but Freddie’s door wide open. He peeked inside her bedroom to find it empty. Her laptop was left on her cluttered workspace and her coffin was void of her body. Brian made a ‘hmph’ sound as he ventured further inside.

 

Besides the clutter on the floor, Freddie’s room was meticulously detailed. The walls, however, plastered every kind of grunge posters she could find. Her overfilled bookshelf kept several named records including contacts, financial details, and more importantly — plans of action.

 

The Brujah tapped the laptop awake and the screen revealed windows of research in various tabs. She was hard at work, to say the least, as the tabs had extensive records of persons, places, and times. His eyes grazed over the various texts, but he could not comprehend what he was viewing. Instead, he glossed over the various pictures.

 

Brian recognized hardly anyone except themselves; him, Freddie, and Matthew. Their respectful profiles listed their information — physical looks, affiliation, and their whereabouts.

 

He turned his head over his shoulder to see Freddie wrapped in a bath towel and toothbrush between her lips. Her red curls dropped heavily to her shoulders and she noticed Brian at her desk. She walked over to her dresser and began digging for clothes. Brian sat in the swivel chair nearby as the Toreador dressed herself.

 

The Brujah swiveled away from her nudity as she dropped the towel onto the floor. They were friends, to an extent, but Brian kept a veil of chivalry between them. Once she was dressed, she finished brushing her teeth and came back into the bedroom.

 

“I thought you were out for the night.”, she said, zipping up her pants.

 

Brian shook his head.

 

“Have you found Tung yet?”

 

“Hit a dead end.”, in reality, Brian hadn’t even started the search.

 

“Still? Why bother? If I was Tung, I’d stay out of the spotlight.”, Freddie went over to her workspace and began pulling out her labeled binders. She flipped through the plastic-covered pages as Brian scooted the chair across the room.

 

“You would think LaCroix would’ve learned not to fuck with people.”, Freddie pulled a xeroxed page from the binder. She retrieved a pen from its holder and began to write on it.

 

“Robespierre would be rolling in his grave, oui?”, Brian stifled his laugh in the crook of his shoulder at Freddie’s god-awful attempt to crack a French joke.

 

“In all seriousness, why are you looking for Tung anyway?”

 

“The Baron asked.”, the Brujah flatly replied. “I needed the favor.”

 

Fredricka slid a suspicious look across to Brian and he deflected it by spinning the swivel chair away from her. She paused her writing to crouch at her laptop. Her fingers clicked the keys in quick, rapid crescendos.

 

“Bella is a Camarilla pin-up, Zel.”, she said, her tone shifting. “We don’t do favors for the Camarilla.”

 

“She’s not like them, Fred.”

 

“Bullshit.”

 

“Bella and Alana hate the Cammies just as much as we do. They have cards at the table unlike us.”

 

Brian was right.

 

“Bella’s still a Baron because we haven’t decided to cook her ass.”

 

“Regardless, Fred, she’s still in our corner.”

 

Bella didn’t owe the Camarilla her allegiance except in business—  her title, however, was best reserved for elected Anarchs. Their hierarchy was much like the Camarilla though power was granted based on merit rather than pedigree. Bella deserved her position regardless if he or Freddie or Matthew agreed.

 

It wasn’t their decision to make, but the people’s. They were no better than the Camarilla should they impeach the same leaders the people nominated.

 

“Sure.”

 

“The day we argue about politics is the day Gehenna rises, Fred.”

 

“Both of those twins rub me the wrong way, Brian.”, Freddie said. “They aren’t fucking right in the head either.”

 

Brian bit his inner cheek. He could not comment on Bella and Alana’s relationship or their “kinship”, but he could agree they were odd. Even for vampire standards, they weren’t normal.

 

The sex, however, amazing.

 

“Who are we to judge? The Camarilla?”, Brian spun the chair around again and the room became a whirlwind.

 

Freddie powered her laptop down and stood up. She fished in her drawer for her rolling papers and tobacco. She ripped the delicate paper, pressed the tobacco neatly within, and tightly rolled it. Brian watched as the Toreador crafted her own cigarette opposed to his cheap, premade tobacco.

 

“Got any intel on our next hit?”

 

Freddie shook her head.

 

“No. I’ve been trying to get that god-awful smell out all damn night.”

 

“Fred, it’s done. No point to cry over another dead vamp.”

 

“It fucking blows.”, Freddie lit her cigarette with a match. She inhaled, held it deep in her chest, and exhaled. “Flaming vamp cocktails? Being one step ahead then getting blown the fuck back another six? It’s mind-fuckingly fucked.”

 

“Being an Anarch never came with an instruction manual.”

 

“What? Are you going to tell me stories about the ‘good ol’ days’ now?”, she jested, taking another long drag. The cigarette began to curl inwards.

 

“Going to preach some good ol’ Brujah philosophy?”

 

The Brujah inched himself closer to her and the desk. He grabbed a nearby mug and offered it to her as an ashtray. She uttered a ‘thank you’ mid-exhale and tapped the burnt tobacco off.

 

“No, I’ve never been much of a scholar.”, it was true. Brian hardly read let alone studied scripture.

 

“You or Matt don’t know the shit me or any of the older Anarchs had to go through.”

 

“If you’re going to talk about molotov cocktails or dog bites to your ass, save it. You’re ancient — did you remember to take your pills today, grandpa?”

 

“You’re a minx, you know that?.”

 

Freddie had a quick tongue and verbal abuse was her speciality. He couldn’t win against her wit.

 

But, he was speaking truthfully.

 

Brian threaded his fingers together and rested his head against the back of the chair. They couldn’t know what it meant to be an Anarch in the early years. Sure, they had a bad reputation looming over their heads and had to watch every shadow but they never once had to fear for their lives.

 

In Brian’s time and as Freddie suggested, molotov cocktails, dogs being sicked on them, and the infamous day raids was too familiar. Many an Anarch met their final death being dragged by silver chains into the blaring sun during those years. Others were either never heard of or their corpses decorated Camarilla strongholds like festive tinsel.

 

One raid in particular never ceased to burn in Brian’s memory. It was in Los Angeles right as the Anarchs had gained their own ‘The Last Round’ hence the familiarity with Baltimore’s “The Last Round”. Nines and his posse had left for the night; another recruiting spree in Hollywood. The Brujah volunteered to watch over the Anarch hideout, not to be in good graces with the Los Angeles Anarch, but to have a place to rest himself for the evening. He came to Los Angeles with nothing more than the clothes on his back.

 

As the evening became older, Brian made his rounds to make sure everyone was to rest, especially the newly embraced, and as he too was returning to his earthly slumber — the worst sound pierced his ears.

 

The light was blinding, but the bullets whizzing through the air had its own place lodged in his memory. They came in swarms of black and their weapons snarled hellishly. Brian had fallen onto the floor as a sharp, stinging pain dug into his gut. The shrill cries of pain and surprise silenced by the rapid succession of rat-tat-a-tat . The air reeked of gunpowder, blood, and death. Those who managed to escape the carnage ended up maimed, or killed as the bullets shot forth on their way out.

 

He crawled himself into another room as the carnage erupted around him. He pressed his hand to his gut, the blood gushing from his body, and he was sure he felt a bit of his intestines ooze out. The press of a muzzle to his back stopped him. Though pain seared through his body, Brian possessed his will to live. The next two rounds hurt , severely, and Brian was sure his final death would come.

 

He was unconscious when the black swarm left and Nines came back, guns ablazed. From there, his memory drew a blank. The only souvenir he had on that encounter was three shots; one in his abdomen and two still embedded in his chest.

 

“Look, Fred. I’m looking for Tung and the only way I can find him is working with the twins.”

 

“You never cared before, Zel. Who are you doing this for?”, Freddie grilled, now standing over Brian where he sat in the swivel chair.

 

“You aren’t doing this for us.”, she accused.

 

Sharp , Brian knew nothing slipped past Freddie whether it was a lie or the truth.

 

“What makes you so sure?”, he proposed. “You think I’m some kind of traitor?”

 

Freddie scoffed and flicked her cigarette into the mug.

 

“No, but you’re a shitty liar.”

 

No point in hiding secrets from Freddie. As much as a Toreador she is, she had the will of a Brujah in her veins. She wasn’t going to let it go, no matter what response Brian gives her.

“Fine, you caught me. I’m doing it for Will.”

 

Freddie’s eyebrows heightened at the name.

 

“The fledgling?”

 

Brian nodded.

 

“The fledgling? Do you know what this means? You know how fucking good this is for us?”

 

Brian shook his head.

 

“I won’t allow you or the Cammies to rip him apart.”

 

Freddie scoffed.

 

“We need him inside the Camarilla, Zel. Tung is a fucking walking encyclopedia when it comes to Cammies.”, she suggested. “Will gets to Tung and we get info on how to take not only Hannibal out, but LaCroix as well.”

 

He grimaced and crossed his arms. He knew in the back of his mind that Matthew wouldn’t have saved Will if it wasn’t some end-goal to get at the Camarilla, but he also believed Matthew truly wanted to save another vamp from Hannibal’s meat grinder.

 

“Didn’t know we had another Prince to commit regicide on.”, Brian slid a jaded glance Freddie’s way.

 

“Funny.”

 

“Will already has enough going on. I’m not going to let the Prince or anyone else use him any more.”, Brian said, standing up from the swivel chair.

 

“You act like we’re pimping him out or something.”

 

“Be quiet.”

 

Freddie was taken aback, but her lips cracking into a mischievous smirk.

 

“Oh my God, Brian. You love him, don’t you?”

 

The accusation made Zeller hold his breath. It took great strength not to be in love, let alone care about anyone in this life. People come and go, sometimes never saying goodbye, and let him be damned if Brian was going to cry after they left.

 

Brian’s had enough heartbreak to last him a millennia.

 

Yet, Will did something to Brian he hadn’t felt in decades. It wasn’t a carnal love or did Brian had an interest in that kind of thing. Instead, it was a deep, profound gut-wrenching ache of guilt.

 

What he was guilty of, he couldn’t say. The night Will was turned loose, how nervous he appeared to be, and that look of emptiness in his eyes made Brian’s heart drop into his stomach. It reminded him too closely of his old life, long before he was embraced, and it was a god-awful thing to be; afraid.

 

The subtle things Will did when it was just the two of them — how his eyes never left Brian’s whenever they spoke, the rise of his chest as they slept, and even the few times they “talked”. Will wasn’t sound of mind, but it was entertaining to listen to him ramble on about flies in soup or black cats. Their relationship started off rocky given that either of them knew each other, but Will had grown onto Brian as if he was his own childe.

 

And that’s what hurted him the most.

 

“I want to keep him safe, Fred.”, Brian said, his tone becoming choked. “That’s all I can do now.”

 

A tear dribbled from his eyes and he swiped it away. Freddie pinched the bridge of her nose.

 

“I’m sorry, Zel. I shouldn’t have impl-”, she was abruptly cut off as the loud clang came from downstairs.

 

Both Brian and Freddie bolted from the bedroom and towards the loft. From the railing, they saw the front door of the club severed from its hinges. Instantly, Freddie went for the stairs and Brian trailed behind her. As they reached the floor, they heard Rose’s shrill cry for help. The Toreador and Brujah stood as three figures stood at the bar — one holding Rose over the bar counter by her shoulders as the fledgling kicked and scratched at her attacker while the other two lingered at the front door.

 

They were gargantuan in stature and uglier in demeanor. The one closest to them was large, even for a male, and his blotchy skin was riddled with scars. The female haunched near the floor; her scaled hands dangling between her legs. The one holding Rose had to be the most grotesque of them all; the exposed skin was peeled back to the point that under light, it appeared to be just shiny muscle.

 

The hairs on the back of Brian’s neck stood to attention as a scowl stretched across his face. Freddie stood at Brian’s side, but her knuckles became alabaster with how tense she bawled her fists.

 

It was undeniable; they were Sabbat. The same Sabbat Brian had been dreading to face since Los Angeles.

 

The same Sabbat that won’t hesitate killing Brian and who knows what to Freddie and Rose.

 

Brian spotted their tattoos, the lot of them being poorly inked or atop of scars. They dressed ragged — a mixture of leather, denim, and poorly-strewn shirts. One of the scrawnier ones, the female, wore her crucifix upside down — a symbol of rejection, at least in their culture. Her matted hair covered most of her appearance, but the crucifix against her bosom caught Brian’s eye.

 

Their smell, however, was their most distinguishing features. It was the musky rot of death that made the Anarchs’ nostrils curl inwards. The one holding Rose captive over the bar counter had his fangs protruding from his gums — a sick, serpentine kind of curve to them. They lingered too closely to Rose’s neck and Brian took a step forward.

 

“I don’t give a shit who you are, but this is a private business.”, Brian warned, his hand hovering near his side. “We’re fucking closed.”

 

He always carried his pistol and in extreme circumstances such as this, he wouldn’t want to be caught without it. Freddie had slipped away to a nearby closet — the one that Matthew kept their firearms inside.

 

The female snickered and said something unintelligible to her partner. The other male of the trio, a Gangrel by his appearance, flashed his own firearm strapped around his waist.

 

“I heard this place had good drinks.”, the Gangrel suggested, his voice sounding ragged and harsh. He looked over to where Rose flailed on the bar counter. “I heard right.”

 

“You heard wrong, shit-face.”, Freddie came back to Brian’s side brandishing her own tactical shotgun. She clocked the forearm back and raised it to the Gangrel. The female approached and in better lighting — her face would make a mother cry. It was lumpy, misshapen and disproportionate. Her gaping mouth was filled with teeth of all sizes and the snarl that came from within it made Brian tense.

 

Nosferatu . Her hideous features could not be obscured underneath her shrouds of matted hair. She was green-skinned, plagued by the mold of her watery coven.

 

“You’re infringing upon my right of domain.”, Brian told them. “It’s in my right to give you a final death.”

 

The Sabbat holding Rose hostage bellowed in laughter as his grip laxed and she broke free. She crawled onto her hand and knees towards Brian and Freddie. Her makeup ran in a hue of dark shades as she hold onto Brian’s leg like a ball-and-chain. Freddie took a step forward, unrelentless with the shotgun firm in her grip, and a finger curled around the trigger.

 

“You Anarchs are all the same.”, the Gangrel accused. “You reject the Camarilla yet are blind to the truth path of Cain.”

 

“If I wanted a sermon, I’d go to church.”, Brian retorted, drawing his own gun from it’s holster.

 

“Leave if you still want your head on your shoulders.”, Freddie turned the shotgun to the Sabbat at the bar.

 

He chuckled huskily and licked his lips. The Sabbat near the bar had started to flank him, Freddie, and Rose and instinctively, Brian stood between them. The Toreador turned her weapon on the female and Gangrel at the doorway. In their standoff, the vampires in the room sized one another.

 

The Anarchs were outnumbered, but neither of them was going to lose the fight without taking one of the Sabbat with them — Brian considering taking at least two of them with him to a final death.

 

If this was the night to die, Brian had booked his first-class ticket to hell.

 

He glanced at Freddie and she glanced back. In their mutual, unspoken agreement, both of them curled their fingers around the triggers.

 

The female Sabbat was the first to lunge forward as she propelled herself into the air. Her claws curled in like rakes, her teeth like pikes, and the most ravenous, vicious growl Brian had ever heard came towards them with blinding speed. Freddie raised her shotgun and as the female Sabbat came down for the kill but, the whizzing sound of a bullet slicing through the air cut her short. Blood and ash covered both Freddie and Brian as the ear-piercing shriek of the Sabbat’s final yowl of pain erupted from her throat.

 

Neither Brian or Freddie fired their guns, but from behind the Gangrel at the door — the familiar, silver-colored Beretta Matthew wielded came into view. The brutish Gangrel turned on his heels to face the Anarch behind him, but just like his female companion, he was greeted with a bullet caving into his chest. He fell back as the hole in his chest burned the flesh around it; turning the flesh into burnt ash. He began to combust and the flesh became blackened bones.

 

The Sabbat between Brian, Freddie, and Rose panicked and tried to run behind the bar, but the Brujah fired a shot — maiming him and causing him to fall onto the floor. The Sabbat cursed in several different tongues as Matthew came into the club.

 

Freddie was the first to run to Matthew. The two embraced and greeted each other as Brian went to inspect the Sabbat bleeding on their floor. He was groaning in pain as the bullet lodged deep into his thigh. He looked up to Brian and scowled.

 

“Kill me!”, the demand was simple, but Brian would not comply. Not when a minute ago, the same Sabbat was going to rip Brian apart.

 

“Should’ve that about that before busting into our place, asshole.”, Brian squeezed the trigger again.

 

Another bullet found its home in the Sabbat’s abdomen and the vampire screamed bloody murder. Rose had crawled herself underneath the staircase and watched.

 

Matthew and Freddie let each other again and the Anarch leader came to Brian, inspecting the remaining Sabbat on the floor, then ushering for the Brujah to lower his weapon. Brian hesitated, but unsheathed his gun.

 

“Don’t. I want him alive.”, Matthew said, pointing to how much blood had soaked the floor.

 

“Seriously?”, both Brian and Freddie said in unison.

 

“Same assholes that attacked me and the kid .”, Matthew unequipped his pistol back into it’s holster. He stepped around Brian to where Rose cowered under the staircase. She shriveled from his approach, but he reassured her in a soft, hardly audible tone.

 

“Kid? You mean Will ?”, Brian urged. “Is he alright? Why the fuck isn’t he with you?”

 

“He’s fine, Zel. He’s a the Tower with the Prince.”, Matthew got Rose shakily onto her feet. The Anarch said more reassuring words to her. He coaxed her upstairs.

 

“You just left him there!?”, the Brujah yelled up the stairs.

 

“He’s fucking fine, Zel!”

 

The Brujah grimaced but left it alone. He didn’t want Will near that asshole, but it was better than wandering the streets with the Sabbat now roaming. Brian watched their captive squirm and groan weakly in a pool of his own vitae. As much as he wanted to bash the brute’s head in, he was obligated to let Matthew take care of this mess.

 

After all, he was their leader .

 

Freddie left the shotgun on a nearby pool table in favor of a knife at the counter. She came to the Sabbat bawled up on the floor, mounted him and held the knife to his throat.

 

“Freddie.”, Matthew warned, coming back down the stairs. “Leave him be.”

 

The Toreador pressed the knife deeper into the skin, but laxed when Matthew stood at the foot of the stairs. She angrily whisked the knife behind her and unmounted their captive. She said something under her breath as she passed Brian. Their shoulders collided painfully and the Brujah was taken aback.

 

She disappeared up the stairs.

 

Matthew dug his cigarettes out his pocket. He sat at the bar and Brian joined him. The Brujah offered the Anarch leader a lighter.

 

“I tried calling your phone.”, the Brujah admitted. “You didn’t answer.”

 

The Anarch exhaled and flicked the cigarette over the counter.

 

“Had no minutes.”

 

Brian made a ‘hmph’ and leaned over the counter at the Sabbat still bleeding out. He was quieter, preferring to whimper rather than howl in torment. He gaped at the Brujah, but only uttered curses at him in a foreign language.

 

“What are we going to do with him?”, Brian pointed to the Sabbat.

 

“I’ll figure something out in the morning.”, the Anarch replied. “But Zel, that fledgling of yours is something else.”

 

“He’s certainly not ordinary.”, if Matthew saw something in Will then maybe there was a slim, sliver chance that Will could survive Baltimore. “I mean — If he really knew what he could do now as a vampire, he’d be a monster.”

 

Monster . The word didn’t sit well with Brian. Will was far from being a monster, hell, he still followed Brian like a kicked puppy.

 

“Listen, Matt. He means everything to be and I’d be fucked if I let anything happen to him.”, Brian confessed, a sharp pain gutting his gut.

 

“So please, Matthew. Don’t let this city fuck him up even more.”

 

The Anarch looked at the Brujah with a jaded look, but only nodded. Brian had never asked Matthew for anything since they formed the Baltimore chapter of the Anarchs, but if their friendship had any merit to it — Matthew would honor his request.

 

“I promise. Now and forever.”, the Anarch leader said, getting up off of the bar stool. Matthew walked to where the Sabbat curled on the floor and pressing his boot onto his injured thigh. In response, the Sabbat hissed in agony and hurled slurs at the Anarch.

 

“First order of business though…”, Matthew crushed his boot further onto the Sabbat.

 

“Get these motherfuckers out of our city.”





Chapter Text

XXII

“Girl Lost”


 

The street was bustling, unusually congested at this time of night, as Will stepped out the wide-double doors of the Lecter Tower. He scrunched up his nose at the sudden onslaught of aromas; some human, others of the city’s musk, and the ripeness of death. To his left, people flooded into restaurants and theatres while to his right, people lounged up on terraces.

They were blissfully unaware or perhaps ignorant to whom lingered in their shadows. He idly watched them in slight awe. He’d never been one to go out with friends, let alone make friends, but they were alive and he was not. It was a life he might’ve wanted had things been different.

A prang of hunger averted his people-watching. He crossed the street though cars sluggishly pulled to a stop as he passed. The open storefronts brandished their wares of expensive trinkets and apparel. Will looked into them as he passed, mesmerized by the extravagance, but then disgusted about their extreme prices. Wealth was never a solid commodity in his previous life other than what could buy him the next hit. Growing up like he did never gave him the luxury of wanting such trinkets.

However, he understood the appeal. It was all a show; who was the richest, the more endowed, versus the downtrodden and fruitless. Where humans pitied their wealth and status against one another, Will had came to terms that blood was worth more than any luxury.

In fact, the essence of life was more valuable.

He began to understand life and the lack of longevity it possessed. Promises and grudges held no weight to him now then it did before he was embraced. Like wealth, it only lasted as long as life did —shortly. Yet, himself was a mystery. Even in death, there was questions begging for answers that seemed like no one in Baltimore could answer. Will caught his reflection looking back at him and he took mental note of himself.

Skinny, even more so as the clothes Alana gave him swallowed his frame. The leather jacket still reeking of gunpowder and cigarettes, courtesy of Matthew Brown, fit him like a rain coat. His hair started to grow back, unbelievably fast, and the locks was starting to curl at the ends. His eyes entranced him the most; their storm-grey color melding into one blue while the other tinted silver. Will’s reflection smiled at him, but he did not return it. Instead, he watched the people inside of the shop.

They nearly floated across the showroom as they went from display to display, like bees pollinating fields of blooming flowers, and Will saw them as haunting ghosts. They chattered, pointed, and stood in awe at every display as if looking at paintings in a gallery. Entranced by their waltz around the store space, Will came closer up to the window. He followed their movements dutifully. His hand left a faint imprint on the pristine glass, but when the ghosts inside noticed his presence, he fled.

He went further down the street till the upscale, bustling avenues became brickstone slums and towers. Nearby, a bus waited underneath a flickering streetlight like a lone ship in a sea of concrete. He dug his hands in his pockets but was void of any coins. He had no idea where he was going, but he wanted to go far, far away. He approached the bus, seeing it nearly empty except for the bus driver, and boarded.

The snoozing bus driver was startled as Will walked down the aisle. She turned herself around and opened her mouth to protest, but Will already took a seat. Her lips scrunched up into a frown, but she turned back around to the steering wheel. After a while, a few more passengers boarded with their coins in hand. Will kept his face pressed towards the window. Once they sat down, the bus driver closed the doors of the bus and started the idled engine.

“This isn’t a charity.”, the bus driver said, shifting her eyes up towards the rear-view mirror. “But I’ll understand this time, you hear?”

Understand. Will didn’t understand himself fully yet this woman suggested she understood him. He couldn’t blame her, or anyone really, he was a unsolvable puzzle. Whereas others placed pieces in the wrong place, Will didn’t know where to start.

He shifted uncomfortably in the seat as his injuries from the recent smackdown had began to ache him. He listened to the idle chatter amongst the passengers and for a moment, he drifted into a light sleep. The bus would ease to stop every half hour or so, new passengers would board, but no one attempted to sit next to him.

It was for the best, really, as Will couldn’t trust himself not to lash out. They probably had sensed it as well; Will wasn’t like them. Like gazelle sniffing the scent of a cheetah in the bush, they avoided him at all costs. Tired, irritable, and famished as he was — it would only take a little to push him over the edge. His thoughts reverted back to the scattered puzzle pieces of his identity.

Malkavian — His sireship had granted him a new, foreign identity that was either said with great scorn or repulse. Whispers never ceased to escape his ears — he was a involuntary sensation amongst vampire circles.

His abilities only granted through the few times his life was in danger still difficult to possess. Most of all, the uncertainty of the world around him left him anticipating every step he made feverishly. Brian, as much as Will could thank him, tried his best to steer Will away from danger but danger gravitated to Will like mosquitoes in a bog.

Will scrubbed his face with his hands. Weary, he tried to make himself comfortable by stretching his legs over onto the empty seat next to him. With no avail, he was forced to lean awkwardly against the window. He shut his eyes for a brief moment, but opened them when he felt a presence in the seat next to him.

The sight was ghastly. Will nearly jumped out of his skin. A body without its head placed where it should’ve been was next to him; bloody, oozing, and downright revolting. A head rested on the body’s lap, seemingly content on where it was, and looked to where Will cowered in the seat.

No one else on the bus seemed to react to what Will saw — perhaps, oblivious to the sight or this was another one of Will’s fantasies made real.

No, Will recognized this person and his heart caved into his stomach. He relaxed in demeanor. Though they spent only one night together, it felt like they had known each other for decades. The tattoos and leather was undeniable that the beheaded man was his true sire . Underneath the blood and grime, the beheaded figure was in fact the sire the Prince had lopped the head off of. A sense of coolness flushed over him as his lips trembled into a reluctant half-smile.

“Do my eyes deceive me or are you a figment of my imagination?”, Will questioned.

“I’m as real as the meaning of life.”, his sire replied, affixing his head back onto his body.

With a sickening crunch , his sire’s head attached to his shoulders. Thick blood sputtered from where his head had been severed and it covered the seat in a red hue. Will watched in silent awe. His sire rolled his shoulders back, forward, and stretched his arms over his head till he was sitting comfortably. He looked to Will with what only the fledgling could tell as remorse .

Mateo. Will remembered the name as it slid off his tongue like melted butter. The night they were taken from the dingy apartment, into the night, then to the theater was still a blur of nonsense. His voices conjugated on the matter, but they too was confused on the details of said night. Will hardly remembered the night of passion they shared hours before, but in this particular moment he could not remember. His sire hadn’t looked different than when they first met; rugged, a bit scarred, and reminded Will much like how Brian dressed.

Perhaps they knew each other. With such alikeness, it wouldn’t surprise him if Brian and his sire were apart of the same affiliation. The thought fled once the bus stampeded into a gridlocked jungle of the city. Passengers nearby groaned and muttered their frustration over the sudden enclave of mechanical wildebeests clogging the way, but Will only had his eyes on his sire. Mateo only sat with his eyes affixed affectionately onto his childe.

“I did not want this for you.”, Mateo said, voice heavy with grief. “Not this cruel life, not for my only childe.”

Will scoffed under his breath then crossed his arms. He should’ve never gotten into that car or spend a night with Mateo, but Will couldn’t bring himself to hate him for what Mateo did to him. Loathe him, yes, but he could not hate his progenitor.

Even so, this figment of his imagination was the closest thing to a family in a while.

“He would’ve killed us both — but I’m glad he didn’t.”, Mateo beamed at Will. “You’re just a childe.”

“Spare the rod, kill the child.”, Will watched how disgruntled the bus driver had become, palming the horn of the bus in a heated flush. “He should’ve killed me.”

“Don’t say that.”, Mateo scolded. “You aren’t finished here.”

No, of course not. Will had to kill Hannibal first before he was finished with this life. If Hannibal was as intelligent he keened himself to be, he would cut Will’s head like a vicious viper before he could strike.

Nonetheless, Will was still a walking corpse with fangs.

A brief moment of brevity passed between them till Will opened his mouth to speak.

“I have questions for you, sire.”, he inquired. “I need for you to speak your evil.”

“Then I shall hear your evil.”

“Tell me what I am or is that a figment of my imagination too? These voices that plague me must be a cruel imitation of my consciousness.”

“They’re your guides to this cruel world. Trust them.”

Will pursed his lips.

“I refuse.”

His sire shrugged.

“Your choice.”

“Tell me what I am.”

“You’ve always known, childe.”, Mateo pointed towards the window. Will watched people hurry back and forth out of buildings and shops. “You can’t be like them anymore.”

Will looked away. He began to chew on the insides of his cheek. He didn’t need to be reminded of what could’ve been.

“I know, but stop avoiding my question.”

“If you must know…”, Mateo trailed off, seeming annoyed with the question. “— we are children of Malkav, our mad father. Madness in the form of flesh, blood, and bone.”, Will flinched at the phrase of ‘madness’.

He was far from it or at least, teetering on the edge. These nights tested his sanity to the brink, but he would not fall.

“Malkav only woken up something you’ve already had, am I right?”

The fledgling rolled his eyes at the accusation. What Mateo claimed was what doctors throughout his adolescence had suggested, but never once diagnosed. His mind was uniquely his — not needing a definition on whether it was sane or not.

“I don’t like to be psychoanalyzed.”, the fledgling retorted.

“I’m not a shrink. Ask another question.”

“Who can I trust?”, the bus was at a standstill and the passengers grew even more disgruntled at the gridlock. One man in particular yelled out something in his native tongue and the bus driver replied back sharply.

“This is a city of liars, you know this. The Camarilla won’t hesitate to execute you like they did me.”

“Can I trust Brian?”

“He’s a liar.”

Will gritted his teeth.

“Matthew? Can I trust him?”

“Another liar.”, Mateo’s head had started to flop to the side, exposing the nerves, veins, and flesh inside. “Liars in a den of fibs.”

“Why must I not trust the only two that have saved me thus far?”, Will had grown offended.

“The same reason why you distrust the Jester Prince.”

“They’re not going to betray me.”, Will muttered. “Or kill me.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”, Will wanted to answer no. At any given moment, it could be Brian, or Matthew, or Alana driving a stake into his heart. He wanted to believe they were his friends, or at least allies, but as he was shown — vampires aren’t people of their word.

Would Brian betray me? Will pushed the thought aside. Brian would never .

“You left me.”, the fledgling accused. “Did you forget that?”

“That was not my choice. Ask another question.”

“Why should I ask questions if you’re only going to humor me?”, the traffic had began to loosen and the bus began to crawl once again.

“You aren’t asking the right questions.”

“I want to leave this cursed city.”, Will admitted, looking at the bus driver angrily drum her hands on the steering wheel. “But I can’t.”

“I have seen evil here in this city, childe. You need to leave this place.”, his sire warned ominously. “It has come in a locked box.”

“Where should I go then?”, Will shot a glance to where Mateo was slumped over in the seat. His sire looked at him as his eyes had began to pool out from their sockets. His already skeletal frame had began to rot into nothing but bones. Will could feel vomit pool up from his stomach at the visual.

“What lies in the locked box?”

“Far away from here.”, Mateo had sparked brightly into a orange, hot hue.  “Far away from that box.”

“I can’t just leave — he’ll kill me.”, Will cried out, reaching out where the ashes had began to swirl.

“Go where he can’t hurt you anymore.”, the phrase echoed in the air then silenced with oncoming traffic.

“Go home.”

The Prince . Will mulled over the thought of Hannibal in his tower, the way his eyes would linger on him for too long, and how in any moment — Hannibal could kill Will on a whim.

But, he didn’t once again.

As the ashes blew towards the back of the bus, the only remnant of his sire’s existence was a particular silver ring left in the seat. Will reached for it and examined the odd babble. It had no stone laid into or engraving, but Will slipped it onto his finger. He curled his finger and watched the ring slip from his slender finger, falling into his lap. He picked it up again and stuffed it into his pocket.

The bus was moving at an agonizing slow crawl and Will slid towards the edge of the seat. It would’ve been faster to walk as the traffic proved yet again, they weren’t going to be moving any time soon. His stomach growled in ravenous discontent — another motive to hurry him off the bus. Will maneuvered up to the doors of the bus. The driver looked at him flabbergasted and bewildered, but couldn’t take her hands from the wheel. Other passengers eyed him, but said nothing as they huddled in their seats.

“Let me off this vessel, Charon.”, he requested, looking at the driver over his shoulder.

The bus driver erupted into laughter then disbelief as Will stood there glowering at her.

“You aren’t serious…”, she began. “First, you don’t pay your fare and now you want off in the middle of traffic?”

“Yes.”

“Take your damn seat.”, she threw out her arm to try and grab Will by his arm, but he moved out of reach.

Will stepped down the bus steps and put his hands on the folding doors. He curled his fingers into the slit of the doors and wretched them open. With nothing more than a grunt, he had wretched-+ the doors apart. The bus driver had began to scream as he squeezed his way through the opening. The passengers in the cars gridlocked in traffic next to them even stared at him in awe and distress. He didn’t care.

He walked in between the cars, some honking at him, while others nearly ran him over in the other lanes. He walked onto the sidewalk and disappeared into a nearby alleyway.

Away from the congestion, he had grown familiar with the grime-covered walls of alleyways. The rats that would scurry in front of him no longer startled him. The smells, sounds, and wetness was a comfort. He was close to the apartment he and Brian shared; the building a lonesome giant amongst a forest of brickstone dwarves.

His pace quickened at the sense of familiarity till he was interrupted by the crashing of trash cans and shrill, feminine scream. Around the corner, Will watched shadows chase one another till they fell on top of each other. He heard a few faint, uneasy breaths followed by the sounds of hoof beats clacking against the concrete.

As Will turned the corner, he saw blood splattered on both sides of the alley. Trash littered the way, but Will saw raw flesh in bloodied, gory clumps.

On the ground, however, was a beast of jet black doused in rouge. Resembling a deer, it laid there wounded and bleeding. Obsidian feathers had pooled where the blood had poured and Will approached. Horns that twisted like thorns threatened to skewer him alive.

The smell of the blood entranced Will as he wobbled at the knees. He crouched down to where the beast faintly breathed and ran his hands over the coat. It’s wet nose touched him gently on the arm, almost asking him, no, begging for him to stop it’s suffering.

The fledgling knelt over and allowed his tongue to trace the blood running off onto the concrete. It tasted of fear, ripeness, but was smooth on the tongue. Another lick followed by a slurp then a greedy swallow. Will closed his eyes as he feasted from the maimed beast. He swallowed at the tempo of each hard, labored breath the beast exhaled. In this moment, he thought of nothing more but soothing the famished beast that dwelled in his gut.

He opened his eyes again and in his shock, he backed away. Instead of a beast laying in front of him, it was a young woman with slash marks over her body. Will wiped the blood around his mouth with his sleeve as the young woman groaned feebly on the ground.

Alive .  She wasn’t far from the grasp of death either as she hardly took a breath. Will took a step forward, knelt down, and laid a hand on her chest. Her heartbeat was nothing but a soft murmur. Her alabaster skin was tinted blue her eyes glossy marbles. He could not leave her here — no, others far more ravenous than himself would rip her to pieces.

Whoever or whatever was chasing her, however, had no intention on finishing the job, rather, leaving her to die.

Animals. Will examined how her wounds were jagged, nothing that a knife could make. Some were deep enough to render flesh from muscle as only her appendages were intact back sheer luck. Bruises had flourished where the blood hadn’t stained — perhaps before she was chased.

He listened for a brief moment for anything; living or dead. When he was certain they would not be ambushed, he cradled her into his arms, careful not to disturb her injuries further and walked briskly down the alleyway.

“Maggots would love her corpse.”, a snickering voice had suggested, but Will would not leave her to die.

Not like he’d been left.

Out of the alleyway, he spotted his familiar apartment building across the street. Blindly, he walked out onto the street as a car was blazing down the street. It came to a screeching halt and Will didn’t bother to look. The driver yelled profanities at him before swerving around them.

Into the apartment building and up the stairs, Will hurried into the apartment space with the young woman drenched in blood.

He brought her into the bedroom and sat her down on the crude, squeaky cot. She didn’t seem to move and after a while, Will feared she had expired. Yet, every few seconds or so she would gasp or spit up blood. Will tried to approach her but with ungodly amount of vitality, she would swipe her shredded arm at him.

Blood had guzzled onto the floor as the young woman was deathly pale. Will didn’t know much about first aid other than to stop the bleeding. He rushed into the bathroom to pull any kind of towels, cloth, anything that could soak her the blood pouring out of her body. He returned to her side and dabbed at her wounds — the urge to drink from her stinging him like a thousand hornets. Her blood had began to pour like thick molasses and it took every sheer ounce of restraint for Will not to react.

Once the towels was soiled rouge, Will returned to the bathroom. He ran the faucet only for water to noisily sputter out of the rusted throat of a sink. He thought of bringing her something for the pain, but the shoddy medicine cabinet was bare except from some obscure bottle for indigestion.

He rinsed the towels to the best of his ability, but a futile effort. He wrung them out and came out the bathroom. Again, he brought the towels to the young woman then repeated the process.

Yet, the third time he returned to her side, her lips parted a quiet, breathless sigh. Will stood there with the bloodied towels in his arms. She did not rattle or stir, but laid there hauntingly still. Moments passed before he was sure she had expired. He dropped the towels and sat at the edge of the cot, cupping her cold hand into his own, and rubbing circles into the flesh with his thumb.

She died alone, nameless, without friends or family to grieve her. Her deep, pool-like blue eyes had gaped into cloudy spheres. Will had witnessed death on many occasions, some sudden, but he couldn’t look at her face. It reminded him of too many painful, aching memories.

It reminded him of himself.

As he sat there with her, rain had began to pour outside. Though the window was shielded with a wall of newspaper, he could see the greyness of the night blanketing the city. When he turned to look at the young woman on his bed, he saw Mateo looking back at him from across the room shrouded in darkness. His mind had started it’s same devious mind games as Will had accepted that his sire was no more than ash than flesh.

Hay poder en la sangre.”, Mateo said, the phrase rolling off his tongue smoothly. He pointed towards the young woman.

Let it flow.”, Mateo opened one of his wrists with a long fingernail, the flesh severing and blood pouring out onto the floor. Will watched with horror as so much blood had gushed free that it swallowed the floor. When he looked away, Mateo had disappeared as if he was never there.

Like a figment of his imagination.

Will looked at the young woman then to his bloodied hands. He had no idea if pouring blood with a corpse would work, but she deserved to live .

Cautiously, he brought his hand to his mouth, drew his fangs, and bit down hard . He winced as his own blood trailed lazily down his hand and wrist. He hovered over the young woman and watched as his blood dripped onto her parted lips.

He withdrew his hand and rose up. He wasn’t expecting a Frankenstein fiasco, but he did not know what to expect from doing this. Brian never mentioned anything like this and as far as Will knew, he was taking advice from his apparitions of a mad man.

Time passed and the rain became a drizzle, yet the corpse remained a corpse. The room had began to smell of blood and death. Will looked at the alarm clock nearby and the bent hands had traveled around it.

He scoffed and suckled on his bite wound. He’d dispose of the corpse at the next nightfall. Brian would understand — or so Will hoped since he didn’t kill the girl, she just wounded up dead in their apartment. He turned around to walk into the hallway only to be startled by a shrill, piercing cry. Over his shoulder, he watched the young woman rise from the bed, starry-eyed and frantic. Their eyes met. Will opened his mouth to speak, but only silence came out.

She scrambled out the bed, falling pathetically onto the floor, then seized up into a tight ball. Her dark, auburn hair pooled around her in thick, bloodied locks that obscured the worst of her wounds — now nothing but scarred gashes. Will crouched to where she had started to cry on the floor.

“Don’t be afraid.”, he told her. “My name is Will. I saved you.”

The young woman looked at him with tearful eyes.

“Can you tell me who you are?”

The woman hesitated, seemingly puzzled by the simple request, but parted her lips to speak.

“Abigail. Abigail Hobbs.”

The name was sweet. Will held her closer in his arms, hands beginning to tangle into her soiled hair, and he could feel her heartbeat thumping against his chest. He buried his nose into her locks and smelled like iron, but a pleasant odor of a flowery perfume emitted from her as well.

“What crime did you commit for this tragedy, Abigail?”, Will asked, seeing how Abigail’s wounds had began to suture themselves closed.

There’s power in the blood .

Abigail shook her head.

“I-I-”, she began to tremble.

Will shouldn’t have asked her. She had been through enough and he was only causing more duress.

“I’m sorry.”

Her quivering arms had tightened around his shoulders as she sat with him, calming as the minutes went by, before eventually settling into his embrace. Never once had Will had such closeness, especially, with a complete stranger. In a way, he felt like he was hugging himself. He couldn’t understand how such a fragile, delicate nymph like Abigail could be in a repulsive city like Baltimore let alone end up in such a circumstance. Regardless, he held her close.

It felt right.

He lifted his head to the sound of hoof beats clicking on the floor boards, but only saw the wisps of feathers trailing in the darkness of the apartment.

“I’ll protect you from the monsters.”, he whispered to her, his bloodied hand shifting to her hand. “You won’t have to flee again.”

Abigail glanced up to him as her tears had a light pink hue to them.

“Are you a monster, Mr. Graham?”, the question stung, no, it burned.

He hesitated to answer. Of course, he wasn’t like the monsters who assaulted her— whether they were human or kindred, it mattered not, but he wasn’t a mindless killing machine. He needed blood in order to survive and that meant feeding on humans. He had a moral code, in a sense, hence he never hunted the weak or defenseless.

He thought of the infant he rescued from the maw of the Nosferatu. Will could’ve easily bled the infant dry, but against his own primal bloodlust — he spared the child. Not because he didn’t crave the blood or was on some high horse, but he took no pleasure in the act of murder.

With no other choice of survival, he had to hunt to feed and if that made him a monster, he was the worst of them all. Will inhaled and cusped Abigail’s chin with his hand. He raised her face up to look at him.

Yes.”