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Embraced by a madman

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Liz was on her way back from a party held by one of her college associates. It was already dark outside and she'd spent more time there than she had originally planned.
Hanging over her right shoulder was a large bag, filled with her sports clothes and her gear. She was on the local tennis team.
Liz checked her phone again for the time. It was now 11 PM. She quickened her steps towards the bus stop. She already regretted wearing a short skirt and a crop top. The cool evening breeze made her shiver.
Liz got on the bus, and just as she'd expected, there were almost no people on it. She sat down and put in her earphones to listen to music. A few stations later, a guy got on and sat down opposite to her.
The first thing Liz noticed about him, was that he was wearing sunglasses, even though it was dark out. Something was strange about him.
"Hey, pretty," the guy said, and a smile crossed over his lips. He looked about Liz's age.
Great, Liz thought. Why is it always the weird ones who talk to me?
"Hey," Liz replied and then continued. "How's it going?" She couldn't explain why she had kept talking.
"I'm good, thank you." He ran a hand through his spiked brown hair.
You're weird, but strangely attractive too...
"What are you doing out so late, little bird?"
Liz replied without thinking, "I was just at a party. How about you?"
The guy chuckled. "I was out to eat..."
Why am I talking to this guy?! I should stop.
"This late?" Liz wanted to know. "Isn't that kinda unhealthy?"
"Nah, it's fine. Have been doing it for ages. By the way, what's your name?
"I'm Liz."
"A pleasure to make your acquaintance. My name is Nick."
"Nice to meet you too." Liz couldn't stop herself from asking, "Say why are you wearing sunglasses? You got some problem with your eyes?"
"As a matter of fact, no. It's just a habit I picked up," Nick said. He pointed at her bag. "Looks heavy. Want me to carry it for you? I could take you home. I live down the street from you."
Liz's face slipped. "You're kidding, right?"
He shook his head. "No, I'm serious. I live on Lumber Street 13. We both get off at the same stop."
Nick's offer made her feel strange. She knew she shouldn't. It was a stupid idea. Nonetheless she agreed to it and they got off the bus 15 minutes later.
He was carrying her bag upstairs and handed her the keys to her apartment.
"Thanks Nick. Why don't you come in and we have a glass of wine?"
Nick's lip twiched. "I don't really drink... I'm sorry."
Liz seemed disappointed. If she'd had to say why, she couldn't have.
"I can come in though, if you really want my company," Nick quickly said. "I could give you a massage. I'm sure you're still sore from today's tennis match. I'm really good too."
She couldn't remember telling him that. Had she?
More words left her mouth. She felt like her brain was on a weird auto-pilot. "I'd love that."
They sat down on her bed and she tied her black hair into a high ponytail. He hadn't lied. He was good. She felt the tension fade from her muscles just moments after he had placed his hands on her shoulders.
He quietly sat behind her with his legs crossed and worked.
"Did you work at a spa before or something?" Liz wanted to know.
"For a time. I've been through more jobs than you can imagine."
She felt him shift behind her and turned her head to look at him. He seemed lost in thought. It was almost as if he was listening to something she couldn't hear.
"Are you ok?"
Nick's head shot up and he smiled. "Yes, sorry. I spaced out there for a second."
"It's all right." She really meant it.
"I want to show you something, Liz." His hand reached for the sunglasses and he slowly pulled them off.
Liz looked into two different colored eyes. One was brown, the other a light blue.
"That's the reason I wear sunglasses most of the time."
Liz thought them beautiful and she told him so.
"Thank you. But most of my peers see them and keep their distance," Nick explained.
"I don't understand," Liz was genuinely confused.
"You don't have to..." he sighed, looked away for a moment.
When his eyes met hers again something in the look he gave her had changed. She could tell he somehow cared about her, even in this very short time they'd just spent together.
Was it just because she'd said something kind?
"You're unique. And I have a gift for you," Nick spoke. He opened his arm and uncrossed his legs. "You don't have to accept, but if you do, let me hug you for a moment. You just need to lean back. I promise I won't hurt you."
She accepted. Liz leaned back into Nick's arms and he pulled her close and wrapped his arms around her waist. Then he rested his head on her shoulder. For a moment she was worried, he'd do more, but he didn't. He just held her close.
"Thank you, for not pushing me away."
Liz almost pitied him. She felt like this guy hasn't had enough people who loved him in his life.
"So what is this gift you had for me?" Liz questioned.
His breath hit her ear when he ansered, "A single kiss on your neck and my embrace. Of course only if you want."
It should be fine, Liz thought. One single kiss can't hurt. Most guys would have wanted to make out by now.
She nodded her consent.
Nick leaned in, slowly and gently placed his lips on a spot low on her neck. Where his lips touched, Liz felt her skin go numb. It was a weird, but not an uncomfortable sensation. He pressed them down a bit more until there was a light pressure and then he held them there. She became sleepy and her mind became cloudy. Her thoughts wandered. There were a lot of colors and whispers.
Her body began to slump deeper into Nick's arm until the colors in her head faded to black.
Nick kept sucking out her blood until there was none left in her. He cut his own wrist with a long sharp nail and dripped a few drops into her mouth. All he had to do now, was wait for her to wake up.
__
Liz opened her eyes to Nick watching over her. He sat in a chair next to her bed.
"You fell asleep," he explained. "I couldn't just leave. And you weren't out long. Just half an hour has passed."
Liz throat felt parched. She was thirsty, so thirsty. She thought she'd die from dehydration.
She slowly stood up and went to get a glass of water.
Nick stopped her, by holding out a white cup with a lid and a straw in. He smiled.
Liz thankfully took it from him and drank. She couldn't see what was in it.
"I took a fast trip down the street and went to get you something to drink."
Liz stopped in her tracks. That meant he had taken her keys, left, and reentered her apartment with them. That was insanely dangerous. She didn't think she'd ever done anything this stupid before.
"Well I am glad you didn't just up and vanish with half my belonings," Liz said.
"I'd never do that!" Nick defended himself.
Liz shrugged. "What am I drinking? It tastes like some excotic coctail."
You don't want to know. The voice in her head was her own, but she didn't actively think it. The thought just came, on it's own without her doing. She felt strange.
"Do you trust me?" Nick asked.
Liz looked up at him and thought for a moment. "Strangely. I do, yes."
"Good. Then please go to the bathroom and take a look in the mirror."
She did as she was told. Nick followed her.
Her eyes. One of them had turned golden. The other had remained its original light blue-gray-ish color.
"What happened?" she wanted to know.
"Bare your teeth..."
She did and froze. "What the fuck?"
A vampire. She couldn't believe it. She was a vampire now?!
"Is this real?"
Nick nodded. "You're not asleep and dreaming this."
Liz took a deep breath and took Nick's hand. She lead him back onto the bed and sat down next to him again. "So what am I supposed to do now? I can't just go back to college?"
Nick answered her, "You can't be out in the sun. And stay away from fire. You can still be killed by that. And a shotgun blast to the head, or be blown up. Other than that, you're good."
"I can only be out at night then, all right." Liz went quiet for a moment. "Do you really live down the street?"
Nick was relieved that she'd taken it so well. "Yes. I really do."
"Good then."
"A word of warning... You can't let anyone know you're a vampire, or else some of the big shots come after you, and that's real trouble. They'll destroy you. Also, you might start hearing voices soon. That's our curse. We are blessed with insight, but others see us as mad."
He stood and walked for the door.
Liz jumped up in a sudden panic. "Please don't go." She didn't know why she wanted him to stay so badly. "Stay the night, well day, whatever." She paused and then whispered, "I don't want to sleep alone after this."
Nick understood where she came from and agreed to stay during the day. They closed all the shutters in the apartment and continued talking for quite a while until Liz fell asleep again.

Chapter Text

A gentle shake on her shoulder woke Liz from her slumber. Nick hadn't left her apartment the entire time she had been sleeping.
She smiled at him, grateful that he was still there. "Good evening, Nick." It was more of a question than an actual statement.
He nodded. "Good evening."
He gently stroked her hair and absently ran his fingers over where her bite marks had been. "I'm glad you're taking everything so well," he admitted. "I expected you to kick me out..."
Liz stayed still, enjoying his touch. "Well I have learned to live with my life's choices. No point in pushing the cause of said choice away." A slight smile spread across her lips. "I prefer to embrace them."
Nick chuckled at that. Then he grew serious again. "When I offered you my embrace, you didn't know what it really meant. It's the term we use to transform someone into a vampire."
"So I have gathered." She looked up at Nick, who was staring into space.
"Nick?" his eyes flicked to her and held her gaze, looking into them deeper, almost as if he was searching for something.
'He will stay with you forever if you ask him. Ask him. You should ask him. Yes, yes! It will be good. Ask him, ask him, ask him. You must ask him, Liz. Or maggots will eat you. Eat you. They will eat you. You're delicious. A treat. A snack for dinner. Ask him. He has to stay. If he doesn't stay you will die. He wants to stay.'
Liz took a sharp breath. It wasn't just one voice, they were many, male and female. The different voices were blending, bleeding into one another, almost making her head hurt with their intensity. It was impossible not to listen. Some were right next to her ear, some further away, some getting closer, some moving away.
"I hear them," Liz whispered, almost scared. "They're all around me. They're speaking to me." She was still looking into Nick's eyes.
"I'm sorry it's happening so soon. You'll get used to them." He traced his fingers along her collarbone.
"Are they always this loud? The voices I mean."
He nodded. "They are, at least for me. But it manifests differently in each kindred." He reminded himself to explain the term to her. "Our word for vampire. For me, it's many voices. Some of them are helpful, some of them commanding and sometimes inanimate objects have voices as well. Sometimes the voices tell me the future." His fingers kept moving along her skin. It calmed her. "Describe what you're feeling and hearing, if I can ease your burden, I will."
Liz appreciated that he wanted to help. She told him that she felt a bit scared, she repeated what the voices had said and as she spoke, more of them kept talking at her. She tried to ignore them.
Nick's hand stopped moving for a moment as he listened. When she had finished he spoke, "The voices were right about the fact that I would stay with you forever if you asked. They were also right about that I want to stay." A flicker of a smile ghosted across the corners of his lips. "I don't think maggots will eat you, and neither do I think you'll die if I leave."
'He helps. He helps a lot. You'll be happy with him. You'll be happy you died. You're dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. No heartbeat. You still have a heart. It's broken. Your heart is dead. You'll be happy. You're happy now. Happy, but still dead.'
"Do you want to stay with me forever?" she asked Nick.
He leaned closer to Liz and breathed, "I do."
Her hands reached for the back of his head and she slowly, gently pulled him to her, kissing him softly. Then she released him again and leaned back a bit. She smiled at him. If she could have blushed, she would have. "I hope that was okay for me to do. I'm sorry I didn't ask first."
Nick seemed amused by this. "It's all right. You're very gentle. Almost tentative. It was a nice kiss. Was it your first?"
She chuckled. "It wasn't. But it was the first that I feel like has meaning."
"You're very sweet." He was genuinely touched by her admitting to that. "It wasn't my first kiss either. But it's the first one that really matters." He went quiet and took Liz's hands in his. She could tell he was listening to what she couldn't hear.
"What are they saying?" she asked. Then quickly added, "You don't have to of course! I- I was just curious. I'm sorry."
His voice was quiet as he spoke, directly giving the voices inside his head, a voice. A real voice. "Fire. It burns. It doesn't. It won't hurt. It's inside you. Keep it lit. Melting. Dripping. Keeps the cold away. Saved her. She's safe."
After a moment, he spoke again. "There's more, but it's hard to voice all of them. There are so many."
Liz understood. "Thank you, for everything."
He opened his arms and she nestled into them. They were quiet for a while, the only sound in the room their breathing.

Chapter Text

"I should probably show you around Santa Monica's 'nightlife' tomorrow," Nick spoke. "There's a lot of vampires here. Maybe one of them even has a job to offer."
At that Liz smiled, "So I can just work night shifts and pay my rent as usual? That's wonderful."
Nick didn't answer, and when Liz looked up at him, he was smiling.
She checked her watch. It was still early enough and sunrise was way off. "Why don't we go now?" she asked. "We still got time, and I don't really feel like sitting here all night."
Nick couldn't hide the flicker of surprise on his face. He had expected her to take more time to adjust. He shrugged, "Well, I can do now. Let's go. I'll give you the Santa Monica tour."
"Okay, just one second, I'll change into something else. My clothes are all messy after falling asleep in them."
Liz went to the closet and opened it. Most of the clothes in there were shirts with flowers on them, in all different colors and patterns. There were jeans and skirts as well. She settled for a creme colored sweater with blue flowers on it, light blue jeans and trainers since they were gonna walk around a lot it seemed. She fixed her ponytail and grabbed her black leather jacket and her keys and went out the door with Nick.
Checking her own clothes had made Liz pay attention to Nick's apparel for the first time. He was dressed very simply. Jeans and button-up shirt. This one was white.
On their way downstairs they encountered one of the apartments residents. It was a guy with graying hair in his early 40's. Liz knew his name; he was Mr. Morez.
She heartily greeted him, "Good evening!"
He was busy pulling his keys out of the pocket of his jacket and slightly startled at her voice. He turned from the door and looked at her. "Oh Liz, what a pleasant surprise! It's good to see you! How are you, dear?"
"I'm well, thank you so much. I hope everything is fine with your wife."
He appreciated her asking. He nodded, his smile widening. "Yes, thank you. She is much better now. Still coughs a little, but the rest of the flu will get out of her system soon." His eyes fell on Nick, who had hung back a bit. "Who is your companion?"
"Oh, this is Nick. He lives down the street." Liz glanced at him. He was bowing his head to Mr. Morez respectfully.
"You take good care of that girl, boy," Mr. Morez said. "She's such a sweetheart. Always worried about everyone."
Nick stepped closer to Liz and put a hand on her shoulder very lightly. He answered, "I will. She is in good hands, never you worry."
Being completely satisfied with Nick's answer, Mr. Morez bid them a good night and vanished into his apartment.
"I always liked him," Liz told Nick. "He lived here for so long."
He made a face as if he had just heard something that he really didn't like to hear.
Liz eyebrow rose. "You don't like him?"
Nick didn't answer. His eyes seemed to stare at nothing at all.
"Nick?" Liz slowly reached for him.
'Don't touch him,' a voice in her head whispered softly.
Her hand stopped mid air. 'He will be back in a moment.' That was a different voice.
Nick's eyes slowly focused again. He breathed out slowly and he glanced at Liz's outstretched hand. With a chuckle, he took it. "Sorry sweetie, I spaced out there."
"I noticed." She wasn't going to ask what the voices had told him. If he wanted to talk about it, he would.
They stepped onto the street and the fresh air was filled with smells.
"Wow," Liz breathed. "This is incredible. Everything is so much clearer, so much sharper. It's hyper realistic."
"Welcome to my world."
Liz looked around, then pulled a face as if she'd eaten something sour. "Uh, Nick?"
"Yes? What's wrong?"
"Why are the landlines flinging around as if we were in a tornado right now?" she stared, confused. It was extremely weird. "There is literally no wind right now."
"Oh! I forgot. I'm sorry I didn't warn you. I'm so used to it already. It's part of our strange gift. I have no idea why, but cables and stuff tend to do this." He smirked. "The first time I went over a huge bridge held by metal wires I got such a bad headache. The wires were moving and the bridge wasn't and it fucked me up. I got so sick."
Amused, Liz inspected the landlines for a moment longer. "I will try to ignore them. Is there anything else you forgot to warn me about? Talking animals perhaps?"
He laughed out loud. "To be honest, I'm not sure. It never happened to me, but who says it can't happen to you. It does manifest differently in each of us."
"I'll let you know if the local wildlife starts talking." Liz turned to face him and excitedly jumped up and down. "I got so much fucking energy all of a sudden. I'm awake! I've never been this awake in my life! Where are we gonna go Nick?"
"Follow me. First stop is the Santa Monica bloodbank. On the way I'll explain a few of our terms to you. The bloodbank is run by a ghoul. And he is not the friendliest of fellows."
After making sure that Liz was ok with walking there, he explained the most important terms that she would definitely need to know to adjust to her new 'life'.
She listened to him go on about things for at least half an hour. The voices had kept quiet so far to her amazement.
"Nick, they shut up the whole time you were talking," she informed him.
"Well they do that from time to time. Don't worry I can assure you they will be back."
Liz shrugged, but he could tell she'd really prefer if they kept quiet.
They arrived at Santa Monica's hospital and Nick led her down into the alley on the side of it and down into a basement. They neared a room with a window in it. Behind the window, Liz spotted a man with longer brown hair and piercing blue eyes.
He looked intense, Liz thought. He looked stronger and healthier than a normal guy.
"Need a fix?" he asked.
She started at the sound of his voice. It was so cold! So very cold.
His eyes narrowed at her. She couldn't look away.
The voices in her head began screaming, screaming, screaming and didn't stop.
'A room full of blood, people strapped to chairs being drained. The terror in their eyes as they realized they were never gonna get out of there again. A knife flashing in fluorescent light, and endless screams.'
Voices and now even images flashed across Liz mind and she began shaking, tried to take a step back and hit the wall behind her. She didn't even realize her lips were trembling.
Nick knew there was nothing he could do to help Liz right now. He soothingly placed a hand on her shoulder.
'Vandal Cleaver, is a violent man, he's death of every kind,' the voices told her. 'If you ever want someone to disappear, go to him. Go to him!' They were cackling now. Their volume increasing, rising into mad laughter.
She saw a smile form on Vandal's lips. He was enjoying her fear.
She tried to silence the screams in her head, to no avail. It was gonna split, she was sure of it. It hurt so much!
She took a deep steadying breath. She counted to ten in her head, focusing on her own conscious thoughts.
Vandal's eyes finally left hers and he turned his attention to Nick.
"That's the first bloodsucker who's ever been scared of me," Vandal laughed, clearly delighted. "Where the hell did you find her?"
With his cold eyes off her, Liz could finally focus again. The screams in her head subsided and the images faded. She took another careful look at Vandal. He had loved the look on her face. He loved causing pain. Fear. Terror.
It was only now she felt the hand on her shoulder. She was grateful for it.
Nick answered, "She's two days old. She lived down the street from me."
"You sired her? Did you have permission?!" How Vandal hoped that he hadn't had and that they would be hunted down by the Camarilla.
"Yes, in fact I did have permission," Nick drily replied. "I was just showing her around."
Vandal's attention returned to Liz and he grinned as she tensed under his gaze again. "You're small. Very petite. You almost look fragile..."
'He wants to break you, burn you, hurt you. Drain you. He would love to.' The voices changed direction in her head, like a wave. 'Oh Liz, ask him about the voices. Ask him. He hears us too. He can hear us.'
Liz took another deep breath. Her hands were clammy.
Vandal's grin only widened. "I can tell we'll be great friends. You know, you really made my night better..." His voice lowered. "I would even let you have a tour of my workplace."
'Liz, you should say something. Say something. But be nice to him. Always be nice to him. He could be your friend. Could be. He thinks you're blood is thin. It's not! Now ask him about us! Ask. Him.'
"Thank you, Vandal," Liz smiled at him. There was a flicker of surprise on his face when she used his name. "That's very nice of you. But maybe another time? Nick still has a lot to show me tonight. I'll be sure to be back though, if you really enjoy seeing me this much."
The grin on his face stayed. "With that lovely expression on your face, of course."
'He hates Therese,' the voices whispered. 'He doesn't want your sympathy.'
The voices kept pressing her to ask him about them. They kept saying other stuff as well now. She didn't know why and it was getting annoying. The next words that left Liz's mouth she uttered only in hope that it would make the voices shut the hell up, "Vandal?" she nervously wrung her hands and forced herself to meet his icy blue eyes again.
"Yes?"
Liz knew the grin on his face would always be there when he looked at her. "I know this sounds strange... But I really think we could be friends... Even if I'm just, as you'd put it, 'a filthy bloodsucker.'"
Vandal couldn't believe his ears. His face contorted first in disbelieve, went to disgust and then there was something else there entirely. Liz couldn't pinpoint what it was.
She wasn't gonna ask. She was gonna state it and his reaction would be answer enough. "I'm sorry you hear them too," she said. "I hope they're not too loud."
Vandal, for one split second, looked like Liz had punched him in the face. He even averted his eyes for a moment. When they were on her again it was as if nothing had changed. Even the grin was back. "We'll be best friends, trust me."
She nodded. "It was a pleasure to meet you, Vandal. I think I'll see you tomorrow."
Nick as well, said his goodbyes and they went up the stairs to leave the bloodbank.
As soon as they were out of earshot, Nick spoke, "Liz, you looked terrified back there. I want you to know that if you want to talk I will always listen." He paused for a moment then continued, "Man, I'm so sorry. I know Vandal is a bit weird, creepy even, but I really didn't think you'd be so scared of him..." He didn't press her to tell him, but Liz would, he already knew it. "You know he can't really hurt you, right?"
'Wrong, wrong, wrong. So wrong. He doesn't know. We do.' Liz believed them.
"Nick it was the voices, and this time I also saw stuff. As soon as he looked at me... I saw things." She shook her head slightly, massaging her temples as she did so.
"Okay," Nick waited patiently. "Mine have always been quiet about him." A moment passed and he added, "I occasionally see things as well. Flashes, quick glimpses."
She told him in all detail what she had seen and heard.
Nick thought on it for a moment. He opened the door of the bloodbank for Liz and exited behind her. "Do you wish to act on it? On the voices?"
Liz took a big breath of night air. It smelled of exhaust fumes. There was a taxi on idle nearby, waiting to pick someone up.
"I'm not sure. But we should definitely keep Vandal on our good side."
Nick agreed.
"Can I actually eat normal food?" Liz wanted to know out of curiosity.
Nick shook his head. "You'll throw it up immediately. Even if you just drink water. Your body will get rid of it instantly."
Liz pouted slightly. "Pity, I loved candy."
Nick laughed. "Sorry, you're on a one drink diet from now on."
"Well, that makes it easier to pick, doesn't it?"
"Speaking of drinking. Since you have only had the cup I brought you when you first woke up it's probably a good idea you fed soon..." Nick said.
"So I had blood from the bloodbank then?"
He nodded. "You did."
She remembered that on the bus, he had said he had had dinner. "So how does it work?" But as soon as the question had left her lips, she already knew. "It doesn't even hurt." A smile grew on her lips. "You fed on me at my apartment before you turned me, right?"
"Pretty much, yeah. Only difference is that I completely drained you. Don't do that. You can only drink as much as they can afford to loose," Nick told her and his voice was rather serious.
"All right." Liz looked around to see if she knew where they were headed. "Well, being fed on isn't too bad. It feels nice. There's a lot of colors and soft whispers."
Nick chuckled, "They're left completely unharmed. I once watched one I had just fed on from the shadows when the daze lifted and he just went on about his business as if nothing happened." He turned a corner and Liz followed. She knew they were headed for a club called the Asylum. "It's easiest to feed on people in the club. I know it's kind of a contradiction since we can't let other humans see us feed, but you're basically invisible with all the noise and people dancing and making out in corners."
"So that's why we're going there now? So I can get a drink?"
Another nod. "It'll come natural to you, so don't worry. You just have to walk up to someone, talk a bit, ask for a kiss and, well 'kiss' them on the neck."
Liz couldn't hide her excitement. "Nick I'm so glad I met you! This is so much more fun than parties!" She nudged him in the arm.
"Well I am glad to hear it!" He was genuinely happy about her reaction.
"Let's go clubbing Nick," Liz giggled and this time it was her, holding the door for him.
The music hit her ears like a shockwave. She grimaced.
Nick asked her what's wrong.
"Fuck. I don't know why I didn't remember to bring earplugs. Fuck, this is a million times worse than before I changed. Fuck," Liz grumbled.
Nick looked confused.
Liz elaborated, "I am super sensitive to noise. I have always been. After a while my ears will hurt super bad and I get dizzy. Damn I used to wear earplugs to the fucking cinema."
"Do you want to leave?" Nick asked sympathetically.
Liz shook her head. "I will be fine. I just can't stay too long. If I get dizzy, I need to go, that's usually when the migraine kicks in too... if that's even a thing anymore."
"I don't think you'll actually experience any of your old symptoms. But let me know if you do. We'll leave immediately."
"Thank you, Nick. I appreciate it. I mean it."
Liz and him pushed through the people to the bar. Nick apparently had seen someone he knew there. He told Liz to mix with the crowd and try her luck.
She did. She scanned them and found a woman her age further in a corner. She looked bored. Her light hair was braided along her head and she wore a simple knee long dress.
Liz approached her and she smiled.
"Hey."
"Hi," Liz answered. "I'm sorry, I'm new around here." She was lying, she had never been to the club before and she knew that nobody from collage went here for a fact, so she wouldn't run into anybody. "I'm Liz."
"Merinda. Pleased to make your acquaintance."
"Are you alone here, or are you waiting for your boyfriend, or perhaps girlfriend?" Liz liked not to make assumptions on whether or not someone was straight or gay.
Merinda smiled at that. "Aren't you considerate! I like it! Well, I used to have both actually. I'm Bi. How about you?"
"I'm straight. My boyfriend is here with me, but he's talking with a buddy, so I thought I go make some friends of my own. I just moved in with him." She was surprising herself with how well the lies flowed from her lips.
Merinda laughed. It was genuine. "How refreshing to see someone so open minded."
"Thank you!"
Liz ended up talking with Merinda for a while and she enjoyed it. She hadn't realized how long she had been talking when Nick came over to her.
Merinda smiled at him. "Hey!" She turned back to Liz. "That your boyfriend?"
She nodded. "That's Nick."
Nick wraped an arm around her shoulder and asked casually, "Liz, did you have a drink yet? I could buy you one."
"Oh, I haven't, sorry Nick. I was just talking to Merinda. I forgot the time."
"I'm here every two days. I would be glad to meet up again if you have time," Merinda offered. "I don't want to keep you from having a drink with your boyfriend."
"Oh, I'd love to meet up again! How about the end of the week? I'm really busy lately." Liz said.
"Wonderful, then I'll see you Saturday, Liz."
Nick gently led her back to the bar and his voice had a hint of amusement in it when he spoke, "You're quick at making friends, huh?" A small pause, then, "You're still feeling ok? I'm keeping an eye on the time. We have to make sure to be back home way before sunrise."
"I'm good, thank you. I'll hurry up and get a drink. Sorry again for making you wait..."
He quickly hugged her. "Don't worry about it. I can keep talking to Knox here."
As if on cue, a tall athletic guy stepped up to them and greeted Nick heartily. "Nick! Aw, man! It's good to see you!"
The man called Knox, Liz registered, was also a ghoul. She immediately liked the guy. His laid back attitude coupled with his excitement had a certain charm to it.
His eyes flicked to her and he flashed her a wide smile. "And the new girl! Welcome to our community! Aw, man!"
"Hey," Liz laughed. "It's so good to meet you Knox! I'm Liz, but I assume you already know that. You seem well informed!"
'Tracker... he's good. He loves his job.' She appreciated the relative quiet of the voices. They were soft in the back of her head.
"I am," Knox agreed with her. "My boss told me about you! I gotta say for two Malkavians, you two are super awesome! No confused ramblings, nothing."
"Have you met many?" Liz asked sincerely curious.
"Yeah, man! I met some really bad cases! Couldn't even get what they were saying half the time!"
"Lucky us then!" Liz quickly checked her surroundings again. There among the dance floor she had just spotted a suitable source to drink from. "It was good to meet you, Knox. I'll leave you with Nick to talk in peace."
Knox waved a goodbye and turned to talk some more with Nick while she made her way to the dance floor.
The girl she had seen had danced with two different girls before. Not a single guy tonight. The voices had whispered it.
Drinking from her turned out to be super easy, just like Nick had said. After a quick dance she had pulled her aside and the girl had rather willingly accepted. She had asked Liz for a hug and she had taken that opportunity to rest her head in the crook of the girl's neck and drunk.
She took great care to leave more than enough blood in her and felt the surge of strength flow through her as soon as her lips had touched the red, warm liquid. Smiling, Liz left the girl on the dance floor. A quick glance back told her that she was already coming back to herself. The girl truly did not seem to be fazed and went about her business immediately.
'Wipe your mouth...' the voice was almost inaudible.
She did and her hand came away with the tiniest amount of blood. Now she looked like she had accidentally scratched it.
Nick was sitting at the bar alone. Knox had already left. He could see the difference in her immediately. "You're looking great," he complimented her. "Very healthy."
"I feel wonderful. I was very careful, like you said." She pointed at the girl she had 'danced' with. "Not a hair missing on her head."
"I can see that." Nick sounded so utterly happy. He was positively shining.
"You almost sound impressed." Liz took his hand. "Are we done, or is there anything you need to finish up here?"
He shook his head at that. "I'm good." He checked his phone for the time. "And we still have about two hours left to stroll around before we should be going home. I have one more stop planned for us tonight."
Said stop turned out to be the beach.
"I thought maybe you'd like to have some quiet after the noise of the club," he smiled. "Let's sit for a bit and talk. There's still a lot more I need to explain."
Liz listened carefully as Nick talked, burning everything he said into her mind.
He told her what Vandal had meant by getting permission to sire her and told her about the rules of their society. He answered all the questions she had patiently. He felt like he had known Liz for ages already. He was glad, so glad that she was staying with him.
After they had finished their serious talk, they started talking of other things. Nick promised her that she'd meet a few other kindred within the course of the next week and that they'd find her a job.
"So what do you work," Liz wanted to know.
"I work for Issac Abrams, the guy in Hollywood, I manage his finances from my office at home," Nick replied. "It's very convenient."
"You said he was a Toreador, right?"
"Correct."
Liz leaned against Nick's shoulder. "Has he given you time off work to let you ease me into unlife?"
"More or less, yes. I had most of this months work ready and the rest can be finished within a few hours. So you have my full attention."
"He sounds like a nice boss. Will I get to meet him too?"
"Eventually, yes."
Nick automatically wrapped his arms around Liz and pulled her closer. "Do you have anything you want to do tomorrow? Anywhere you want to do?" Asking that reminded Nick of something Liz had said earlier. "You told Vandal you thought you'd see him tomorrow..."
"Yeah..." Liz was lost in thought for a moment. "I'm not quite sure why, but I really think I will..."
"We can pay him a visit if you want."
Liz sighed. "We'll see what happens tomorrow. I hadn't really planned to go to the bloodbank, but who knows?"
"I'll follow you wherever," he breathed and placed a kiss on her head.
"The same goes for me," Liz smiled.
"We should head home. I'll walk you to your door. Let me know if you want me to stay the day or not."
"I would like it if you stayed the day, but if you want to finish your work, that's fine by me. In that case I'd just pick you up at your house tomorrow evening," Liz answered.
Nick stood and offered her a hand to help her up. "I will stay then. It really isn't a lot of work that I have left and I can finish it at the start of the next week."
Overjoyed, Liz walked home with him. They made a small detour to let him pick up some clothes from his apartment, and with a packed duffel bag, they continued. Once they were at her apartment again, she noted that she hadn't even bothered to open the shutters. The air was sticky.
"God I should have cracked a window at least," she muttered.
'We will remind you...'
Liz laughed out loud. "Oh my god, okay that's kinda awesome."
Nick turned to her in utter confusion. "What now?"
Liz giggled. "They said, 'We will remind you.' just after I complained about cracking no windows."
"Okay, that is actually pretty funny. Let me know if they really do. Mine rarely keep such promises."
"Will do!"
Liz lazily hung her jacket over a chair and placed the keys on the small hook beside the door. "Put your stuff wherever," she told Nick. "Make yourself feel at home."
She went and put on some sweatpants.
"Can I turn on the TV?" she heard him call from the living room.
"You don't have to ask."
"Thanks!!"
She returned just a minute later and sat down on the sofa beside him. He was watching the news.
No... she corrected herself. He was talking to the news man it seemed.
To her, the news show was just the reporter talking about some news about a ship and its missing crew. But to him...
Liz watched him, fascinated.
"I don't get it," Nick said.
A pause, in which the newsman seemed to be talking again.
"No, I do not think that's funny. You got any other news?"
Another moment of quiet from Nick, then, "What do you mean? That's the only channel I get."
Liz looked at the TV again. The news reporter was still going on about the Elizabeth Dane.
"Good night, to you too."
"Well that was certainly interesting..." Liz commented. "I just got the normal news show. Apparently you got an extra channel that I can't tune into."
Nick rolled his eyes at that. "It has always been like this. For some reason he usually just tells me stupid jokes."
"He was telling you a joke? Really?" That sounded plain bizarre.
"It wasn't a good joke though." He repeated the joke to her.
"Damn, that news man has a terrible taste in jokes!"
"I know, right?!"
They both laughed.
The rest of their day was rather uneventful. They talked a bit more until they went to lie down for a few hours.

Chapter Text

Liz was up before Nick this time. She let him sleep and went to get some earphones to plug into her phone so she could listen to music. Absent minded she lay down on the sofa.
The voices kept their mouths shut for now.
The music had barely started when Liz noticed a change. There was colors coming with it now. She saw them behind her closed eyes. It was beautiful. They swirled and danced to the drum beats and changed color with different notes.
She opened her eyes to check if they were only in her head. They weren't. The colors were all around her. They got brighter the more she concentrated on the music. Liz didn't think she had ever experienced something this wonderful before. "It's so pretty," she whispered.
She kept listening until Nick stirred and finally rose from his sleep and got dressed.
"Good evening," she greeted him.
"Good evening." Nick stretched and checked the time. "Wonderful, the sun has just gone down. That means whenever we're ready to go, we can."
"Do we have anything planned tonight?"
Nick nodded, "There's one more ghoul in the area we need to meet. His name is-"
"Mercurio," Liz finished for him.
"Yes. He's LaCroix's ghoul."
Liz nodded, she remembered the name from Nick's lesson yesterday. "The prince, yes."
"He lives near the hospital. He was running errands, that's why we didn't go."
"All right, then. Let's hop to it!"
'The windows, Liz! We told you we'd remind you.'
She stopped in her tracks.
Nick gave her a questioning look.
"They reminded me to crack the windows," she spoke, baffled. "Wow, just... I-" she was at a loss for words for the moment.
She hurried to crack the necessary ones and then, with Nick commenting, "I am speechless," they left.
The walk down the street didn't take them long. They were at his place within a few minutes.
"Damn it looks fancy," Liz noted and looked at the marble floors and expensive vases in the halls.
Nick knocked on Mercurio's door. "It's Nick."
The door opened immediately and Mercurio let them in. His clothes were as expensive as the rest of his apartment.
Liz's eyes went wide at the sight of all the wealth. "Damn, it's a pretty place."
"Mercurio, as you already know, that's Liz," Nick introduced her. "Liz, this is Mercurio. He was the one who helped arranging everything regarding my permission to sire you."
Liz actually bowed to him and spoke, sincerely, "Thank you so much for that! I am in your debt! Yours and Prince LaCroix's."
Mercurio stood in stunned silence. Had she truly just 'bowed' to him? Vampires were supposed to feel superior to them and they took every chance to let everyone below them know how much more perfect they were than them. And this one... had bowed.
He regained his composure and answered, "You're most welcome. I will make sure to give your thanks to Prince LaCroix as well."
"Thank you again."
Mercurio shook his head and this time, smiled at her. "I can't believe you're Malkavian," he said. "Both of you! You're almost normal. The last ones I met were barely able to form coherent sentences."
"Now where have I heard that before?" Nick chuckled. "We get that a lot lately."
"We welcome the compliment," Liz added.
"Do you or the prince need anything?" Nick inquired.
"No, not at the moment. We have everything we need." Mercurio hesitated for a moment. "If you ever need anything you're not supposed to have, come to me. I can get practically anything you could dream of."
"We will remember that. Thank you."
And with that, their visit at Mercurio's was over.
"Well. So much for that. That was the fastest visit at Mercurio's I've ever had," Nick said. "We're free the rest of the evening if nothing else comes up."
"Good. I, for one, could use a drink."
"Then a drink you shall have! Lead the way, oh ponytailed beauty!"
Liz laughed. "Are you poking fun at my ponytail?"
To her surprise, Nick shook his head. "I am not. I really like it. But I was thinking a red hairtie would add a bit of contrast. The black one your using practically disappears in your hair."
"A man who pays attention to detail," Liz chuckled. "Well then, I shall tie my hair with a band as red as blood next time."
Their visit to the Asylum lasted only a quarter as long as the one the night before. They were basically in and out of there within 15 minutes. They had both drunk their fill and Liz kept and ear out for her voices, who were suspiciously quiet at the moment. It was almost like the calm before the storm and she really didn't like that. She felt like she was waiting for a major catastrophe to happen inside her head.
She voiced her thoughts to Nick.
"I don't know, Liz. Maybe they just ran out of news for the moment. It happens."
Frustrated she grumbled, "I don't know what's worse. This deafening silence or the over abundant chatter. I don't even know why the silence unsettles me so much."
Nick offered her his hand to hold as they walked and she gratefully took it.
Together, they walked for a while aimlessly, no destination in mind when Liz stopped abruptly.
"What is it?" Nick almost sounded worried.
Liz sushed him. "Do you hear that?" she asked.
He shook his head. Whatever Liz was hearing, he couldn't.
She listened intently. Her head shifted from side to side as she followed the sound. It was a humming of some sort, not unlike electricity but somehow different. The sound was moving away from her and back again as if it wanted her to follow.
She informed Nick of the phenomenon she was experiencing.
He had no answers for her. "Tell me what you want to do."
There was no doubt in her voice when she told him, "We are going to follow it. If we are headed somewhere that you deem unsafe, let me know and we'll abandon this at once."
The sound was leading them back into Santa Monica. Liz stopped once more to listen to the direction it was moving and then continued on with Nick right behind her.
The further they went the louder the sound became and soon the all too familiar whispers inside Liz's head started up again.
"Well my friends are back," she groaned. "And they are sputtering numbers all over the place." She made a face. "Why did it have to be numbers. I despise math of any kind. I am no friend of numbers."
They turned a corner and Nick faced her. "It's leading us back to the bloodbank..." he sighed. "I'm not even gonna ask why. I stopped wondering and asking questions a long time ago."
Liz gave a shrug and they headed downstairs. She stopped out of earshot of Vandal's window. "It is leading us inside. It isn't stopping at the window. I'm now officially fucking suspicious where this is going. I wish the voices would spout anything else apart from the stupid numbers right now. This is not helpful."
Nick for some reason seemed excited. "Maybe yours aren't spouting anything else right now. But mine are extremely useful at the moment," he said. "Apparently there is a passcode for something in the freezers."
"And you think I am getting the code?" she asked skeptically.
"I am almost certain."
"Should I beg Vandal for that tour he offered then?" she tried to sound calm, but she wasn't. Even the thought of that guy freaked her out.
The voices had no answers for her on that part.
Nick took the decision from her. He walked up to Vandal's window and Liz followed him, only to see that there was no one sitting behind it.
"What now? Do we wait?"
"Give me your phone Nick," Liz urged him.
"What?"
"Please, your phone!" she sounded desperate. "I left mine at home! Please, I have more numbers here than a stupid 4 digit code! I need to write this down!" She knew it was important somehow.
Nick quickly handed her his phone and watched as Liz frantically typed the numbers into a note.
When she was done with that she started dialing and pressed the call button. It was connecting.
Inside the bloodbank they heard a ringing. Liz was shaking her head without realizing it.
The person on the other end picked up.
"Who is this?"
Liz nearly dropped the phone. She recognized his cold voice immediately. She hung up. "Fuck, Nick. We are getting the hell out of here!" But she didn't move.
The swearing from the back of the bloodbank was followed by footsteps and Vandal stepped around the corner. There was blood on his clothes. His eyes fell on the phone in Liz's hand.
"How the hell did you get this number?" he was speaking quietly, but his tone had changed to something menacing.
The voices in her head were screaming and laughing at the same time.
She turned her head to look at Nick for help.
He wasn't there! He was gone! How could that be possible? He had been standing right next to her, just a second ago!
"I asked you a question." Vandal was slowly stepping towards her now. She was still frozen in shock.
Somewhere in the back of her head she registered, that she was no longer holding Nick's phone. She definitely hadn't dropped it.
"The voices. They led me here. They gave me the numbers. I followed the sound here," her voice was barely more than an outbreath.
Vandal was reaching behind his back and held his hand there. She was sure it was wrapped around the hilt of a knife. "And you came here alone?" he laughed. "You 'seriously' came here alone? That was a stupid idea."
She knew, for a fact, that Vandal was out for blood now. Whatever they had interrupted back there, he was so not happy with it.
'Move back!' one of the voices hissed at her. 'Move back! He's gonna stake you!' When she didn't move, a second voice kicked in, this time a male one and its tone was worse than Vandal. 'Get back!' it commanded. It was so loud that she winced and involuntarily took a step away from him.
Vandal came closer and with every step he looked more ready to strike at her. "I wonder how long it'll take to drain one of you..." he mused. "But first, I'll make you wish you had stayed dead. I don't care if the queen bitch is gonna punish me for this. It's worth it."
'He wants you to fight back. It's more fun for him when they fight him at first...'
"Please, don't," Liz breathed. He had almost reached her now. Somehow he had managed to run her into the wall next to the window and she was unable to retreat. He placed a hand beside her head.
"Why'd you have to come?" he hissed. "Now I have to make you disappear..."
'Start begging!'
"What?!" Liz's voice caught in her throat.
Vandal laughed, he sounded as mad as the voices in her head. "You're so finally dead, bitch!"
The other voices had subsided, only the commanding one had remained. 'I told you, BEG!!'
If Liz could have still cried, she was sure that tears would be sliding down her face right now. She howled and sobbed.
'I am NOT telling you again! DO IT!' A piercing pain shot through her head and she nearly fell forward into Vandal.
"Please, don't do this, I'm begging you!" her voice was broken up by sharp intakes of breath.
'LOOK! AT! HIM!'
Her eyes snapped open just to find Vandal way too close to her. He was only a few inches away, he was leaning in, one of his hands still behind his back. His eyes were slightly dialated. He looked fucking insane. There was a disturbing want to hurt burning within them.
'Why am I not running?' Liz thought. Her own voice wasn't loud enough, it was overwhelmed by the one that now seemed to command her.
'You're not running from this!' it growled dangerously.
Vandal's voice slashed through the air like a knife, "Beg some more and I just 'might' let you get out of here with your 'life,' he spat the last word with disgust. His hot breath hit her face and it was all she could feel.
'DO AS HE SAYS!'
More words left her lips without her own control.
Vandal's hand moved without warning, but not as she had expected, to ram a stake inside her heart. It was the hand beside her head that moved. He placed a finger against her lips to silence her.
"Shh," he purred.
Liz stopped breathing, not that she needed the air anyway. A whimper escaped her.
The smile that slowly spread across Vandal's face was filled with, what Liz could only describe as perverse pleasure. His finger traced down to her chin and to the side of her jaw. She tried to draw back, get out of his reach. His hand closed around it and turned her head back to him. "I'll take my time with you. No one will hear your scream where I'm taking you," he whispered.
Liz couldn't stand to look at him any longer, she needed to close her eyes.
Vandal however, tightened his grip on her jaw, "No. You're gonna keep looking. I want the last thing you see to be how happy this makes me." The hand behind his back shot forward, so much faster than a normal human's, but for her it moved weirdly slow.
The knife never even got close to reaching her. Vandal's hand froze mid air, as if blocked by an invisible force.
"Unhand her, at once, or I will break both your hands," Nick hissed.
Liz had never heard anyone this angry before.
"Thank you!" she sobbed.
Nick appeared before them, his hand wrapped around Vandal's wrist.
Vandal's head snapped to him and his hand on Liz's jaw opened. She didn't have the nerves to move away, instead, she slipped down the wall to sit.
"Well, you took quite a while to intervene," Vandal mocked.
Liz heard the underlying tension in his voice. She didn't understand why he wasn't 'terrified' right now.
"I don't care what you do to me, bloodsucker!" He tried to get his hand with the knife free.
Nick held tight, he didn't have a chance.
"Let go of the knife!" When Vandal didn't, Nick tightened his grip even further and with a sharp breath, Vandal's hand snapped open.
The sound of metal hitting the floor was followed by that of Vandal slamming into the wall, where Nick held him by the shoulders.
Liz stood in an instant, Nick looked ready to punch him.
"Nick, don't," her voice was steady when she spoke.
"Excuse me?" Nick glanced over at her in disbelieve.
Vandal looked at her past Nick, he sneered, "Oh, do you want to hurt me yourself? Ha! You would never do it!"
Vandal knew he was right. He wasn't afraid of either of them and Liz knew, she knew that Vandal had guessed that she would not let Nick hurt him either.
Liz sighed, her head clearing finally. 
"Liz, do you know what I found back there? He just drained someone dry in a back room! The guy was already dead when I got in!"
"And who do you think 'ordered' me to do this job?!" Vandal cut in. "I'm a slave!"
"I don't CARE!" Nick was almost shouting at him. He pressed him harder into the wall. "You enjoy it!"
Vandal cried out, "Well, you SHOULD CARE! I hate the bitch with every fiber of my being! You think I WANTED to be a slave to some bloodsucker?!" There was pain mixed into his voice.
"Nick, let him go, please!" Liz screamed. "You're gonna crush his shoulders!"
Nick's hands snapped back and he moved so that he was blocking Vandal from escaping.
Vandal's breaths came heavy and he bent over slightly, his hands checking his own shoulders for injuries, before straightening again.
Liz had stopped him before he had done any real damage.
Nick took a deep breath. "All right. Tell me what you want to do. After all, your voices started it."
Vandal grimaced at the mention of the voices.
Liz glanced at Nick, but when she spoke again, her attention was on Vandal. "We're going to-"
'Help him.'
"Help Vandal..." Nick continued her sentence. She knew he heard the same voice as her right now.
'You MUST help him.' it pressed.
Vandal stared at them.
"Be free of Therese," Liz went on.
"For good," Nick finished.
"You're both nuts!" Vandal groaned.
"Speak for yourself," Liz snapped, partly at him and partly irritated at the increasing amount of voices building in her head again.
"Lead the way, 'princess,'" Vandal jeered.
She picked up the knife from the floor and the three of them went into the back of the bloodbank. Nick all the while, kept an eye on Vandal.
He punched in the code to the hidden room in the freezer once more, let Vandal and her in and closed the door behind them.
Liz stopped in her tracks. The room looked exactly like she had seen it in her visions. There were a variety of scalpels, knives and even a cleaver on the counters, as well as syringes, tubes, bags and needles, all of them sterilized.
The worst sight was the dead guy hanging limp in the chair. The tubes were still connected to his arms. His chest was layed bare and displayed a grotesquely beautiful pattern of cuts.
"Are you admiring my handiwork?" Vandal asked her, a strange undertone present in his voice. "I'm sure your voices have a lot to tell you about it." His voice that time, had almost been soft and it made him sound even creepier. It was the first time he had actively mentioned the voices.
Vandal was right, Liz thought, listening. They did have a lot to say. But these voices were different. They seemed to come from far away, the images that came with them were so faded that she could hardly make anything out. This felt like the dead reaching for her, one last time, to let her know what had happened. To let her know they were gone.
She slowly pried her eyes away from the corpse. She stared into space for a moment. Her head felt foggy.
Liz spoke to Vandal before she even knew why, "I want to know..." the words didn't quite reach her own ears, "what you feel... when you kill them."
"Uhm, Liz, are you okay?" Nick was clearly worried.
She nodded.
'Don't worry. She is fine. You need to trust us.' Nick heard the whispers in the back of his head. 'It will be fine.'
Vandal stepped towards Liz.
'Do not interfere.' Nick stopped in the middle of his motion to catch him. His hand fell to his side again.
She looked into Vandal's eyes. They were still cold, but now there was something else in them. Fascination.
He rolled up one sleeve of his shirt until his arm was exposed up to his elbow, he reached out and took the hand that Liz was still holding the knife with. He guided her to place the tip of it on his exposed wrist.
Liz tried to pull back so that the steel was no longer on his skin. Vandal tightened his grip, he wouldn't let her remove it.
He spoke very quietly, "It feels ecstatic. It's better than a drug. The feeling when they realize what's about to happen, the raw terror in their eyes, them knowing that you control them, that you own them in that moment, and that there is nothing they can do as their life flees them, leaves them in the void. That you're the last thing they will ever see, that you 'are' their last moments, and that you are taking them for yourself." He pressed the tip of the knife down harder until it almost broke his skin. "You've never taken a life before," he stated. He knew she hadn't. "There's nothing like watching the light leave someone's eyes." He pressed down even harder and guided the knife up his arm. "Nothing like feeling someone's life slip away under your hands." The wound immediately closed up behind where he was cutting. "Nothing like having the power to decide if someone deserves to live or not." He was dragging the knife in a zig-zag motion now. "Look at me."
She did and Vandal's eyes seemed to pierce her soul. "You understand," he breathed the words. "You don't agree, but you 'understand.' I can see it." His grip on her hand loosened. "I can 'hear' it." He let go and immediately felt the cold steel leave his arm. It was the first moment Liz saw something akin to amusement flicker in his eyes. "I 'know' you understand."
And he was right, Liz thought. She did understand and the fact that she did made her doubt herself for just a second. She felt strange.
He stepped back and turned to Nick, who had been watching silently the whole time, like a ghost. "Let's get him to the morgue."
Nick cocked his head to the side.
"You told me you wanted to help me, you might as well help with his," Vandal said.
"That's not what Nick was actually questioning," Liz answered for Nick. "Won't they ask what happened to him? I would be highly suspicious if a body came to my morgue in this state."
"They never ask questions. It was arranged that way. After all, the queen bitch runs this place," he snarled.
"Fine, whatever. Where do you keep the body bags?" she asked.
"In the box outside the freezer."
"Nick, can you keep an eye on him until I'm back?" she smiled at him.
"Of course."
Vandal only rolled his eyes.
A minute later, Liz returned and they cleared out the room, filled body bag in tow.
"Hey, princess."
Liz winced even though she had not wanted to and turned to him as they made their way to the morgue. It would take her a while to get used to Vandal's tone of voice.
"What, Vandal? Don't you think you're a bit too busy to be talking right now?" Liz retorted.
They had made him carry the body bag.
"Aw, princess, you sobered up real quick. Where did all that lovely fear go?"
She answered him with another question, "Shouldn't you know that best?"
His usual grin appeared on his face again, "Oh I know where it went, princess. I know where it's 'hiding,' too. Want me to 'find' it for you?"
'He could... He can...' a voice in the back of her head warned. 'But he won't. Not right now.'
"Thanks, but no thanks." She sighed, and the sound was almost frustrated. "Why don't you talk to Nick, instead?"
Vandal gave a short laugh. "Princess, you're much more fun to talk to than him."
"Excuse me?"
"Hey, it's not my fault! You said, to my FACE that you don't care I'm a slave to that bitch," Vandal hissed, his voice filled with venom.
"I'm helping you now, am I not?"
"Doesn't change the fact you said that. Doesn't change the fact you're making me carry this," his eyes flicked to the body bag.
Nick rolled his eyes. "Give it here, then."
The grin on Vandal's face widened. He gave the body bag to Nick. "Thank you," it didn't sound sincere.
The hallway was wide enough for the three of them to walk side by side. Nick on the left, Vandal in the middle and Liz to his right.
Vandal could feel her tense up again, now that he had his hands free. She had taken half a step to the side.
"I'm watching you," Nick warned. "And you're not touching her."
"There's no need for me to touch her," Vandal smirked. "She's already on edge again." His eyes flicked to her. "Isn't that right, princess?"
Liz crossed her arms and averted her gaze, focusing only on Vandal's voice.
"I like you better like this, princess," he hummed.
Different shades of blue waved in front of her vision, almost close enough to touch. It made her smile.
"Your voice has the same color as your eyes," she told Vandal. "Or at least it does when you speak like you just did."
"That makes me want to know what color screams are," he had lowered his voice deliberately, just to get a reaction out of her. "So tell me."
"I don't know," she answered.
"Don't piss off the help, Vandal," Nick said.
"Thanks, Nick." Liz offered to carry the body bag for a while.
"Nah, I'm good, I'm not gonna let you carry 'that.'"
She shrugged. "Ok."
"We're almost there," Vandal informed them.
Nick placed the body in the cold chamber Vandal had told him to and they went back to the donation window.
"What do you usually have to do here, when you're not selling?" Nick asked him. He was not faking his interest.
"I just sort the blood bags and make sure there's enough supplies here."
"There isn't enough donors these days to keep the hospital, and us supplied," Nick said drily. "I get it."
Vandal unlocked the door to his donation window. "Come in."
Liz and Nick stepped inside.
Boxes stacked as high as the ceiling greeted them.
"These won't even last a week," Vandal said, bitter.
"Fuck," Nick massaged his temples. "I really wouldn't want to be in your shoes. No wonder you hate the world so much."
Liz watched as Vandal sat down on the only chair in the room. He looked so tired of it all.
"We have some serious planning to do, Nick," she spoke. She was determined to find a way to make life better for Vandal.
"Don't I know it."
Vandal turned to his desk and checked the computer for emails.
Liz saw his hand ball into a fist as he was reading. He was digging his nails into his palm until she could smell his blood and eventually saw it trickling down his fingers.
"Vandal, you're bleeding," she called out softly.
He didn't seem to care that he was, he didn't even react, his eyes were fixed on the screen.
"A full box, make sure it's on time," he fumed. "Bitch."
When he turned to them again, Liz repeated, "Vandal you're bleeding." She pointed at his hand.
"We can deliver that, if you like," Nick offered.
Vandal looked like he was ready to explode. "She wants me to bring it to her office at the Asylum, tomorrow night. Personally." He finally opened his hands and the wounds healed.
'Go with him. Let her know. Let the bitch know you're coming! Go with him, Liz.'
Nick spoke before she did. "Will you be ok alone with him?"
"Yes, why? Are you leaving? Did something come up?"
"I meant tomorrow," Nick said. "Are you ok with going alone?"
'He knows. We told him what we told you.'
"Oh! Yes, I'll be fine."
He nodded. "Vandal, would you let Miss Voreman know that you'll be bringing the newcomer in town? She should be delighted to meet her."
"You want me to bring her to the bitch? Why?" Vandal was skeptical.
"I have a good feeling about it," Nick simply said. "Can you write her?"
Vandal begrudgingly replied to Therese's message and they had a reply within the next few minutes. "She said she will be delighted to meet you, princess."
Liz thought for a moment. "Hey Vandal?"
He just looked at her, grin plastered onto his face and waited.
"I'll be on my best behavior tomorrow," she smiled. "Oh, Miss Voreman will curse the day she hired me."
"Come to the Asylum at 1:15 AM," Vandal told Liz. "Do under no circumstances, be late. She hates that. I'll be waiting for you at the elevator to bring you up."
"All right."
They heard footsteps down the hall and Vandal turned to the donation window.
Nick and Liz couldn't make out who was on the other side.
"Need a fix?" he used the same cold voice as she had first heard yesterday.
"2 blood packs." The woman's voice was nobody she recognized. "I'm sorry, I'm new to this. How do I properly store these?"
"Just put them in the fridge and they'll be fine for 6 weeks," Vandal answered her. He sounded bored.
"Thank you. Have a good night."
"How long till you can go home," Nick wanted to know.
"An hour."
"Did you know who she was, Nick?" Liz asked.
He shook his head. Then casually added, "We'll stay till your shift ends, if that's ok with you?"
Vandal didn't care if they left or stayed as long as they didn't bother him.
They didn't talk for a while, each one of them lost in their own thoughts.
Liz, enjoyed the quiet. Her voices were just whispering in the back of her head. They weren't saying anything important, if they were, they would be screaming at her. Now they were just gentle background noise.
She watched as Vandal cataloged different types of blood and sorted them into different boxes. One of them, he set aside. Liz noticed it was a box holding only rare blood types.
Nick was fast asleep beside her, leaning on her shoulder. She gently rested her head against his, closing her eyes.
Vandal had just finished typing in the last box into the inventory on his computer when his gaze fell on Liz and Nick. He had never seen a vampire sleeping. He had always assumed they'd look dead, but strangely, they didn't. They really did look like they were just sleeping. Their chests were still rising and falling, drawing breath they didn't really need.
He shut down the computer and walked over to them, hunkering down uncomfortably close on purpose.
Liz felt a hand run over her head and lightly pull at her ponytail. She had fallen asleep, hadn't she? She groaned.
"Rise and shine," Vandal breathed right next to her ear.
Her eyes snapped open in utter shock.
"Princess!" He was still holding onto the end of her ponytail. The next words that left his mouth were not comforting, not coming from him. "Sleep well?"
He saw the realization flash in and out of her eyes, that he could have done anything he wanted, that he could have put a stake through both Nick's and her heart while they had been asleep only a few feet from him.
"Please, let go of my hair," she spoke quietly. She didn't want to wake Nick. "Please." She worried that Vandal would drag her up by it.
He tugged at it, not hard enough to hurt, but definitely enough so she would notice. "I usually don't give advice, but this time, I'll make an exception, so listen carefully," Vandal's voice lowered into a warning, "If the bitch as much as sniffs that you're trying to help me, instead of her, we will both be dead and then she'll come after your boyfriend here. Believe me. She will find out he was involved, and she will make sure we all end up dead, or worse."
She knew, that this time, Vandal wasn't trying to scare her to enjoy it.
"Do you understand, princess?" His voice was sharpened into an edge.
She was about to nod, and then thought better of it. "I understand. I appreciate the warning."
"Good." He didn't immediately let go of Liz's hair. He made sure to slowly run his fingers through it first, letting the ends slip through them.
Liz only relaxed again when Vandal had stepped away from her.
"Let's wake your boyfriend and let's get out of here," he said.
She gently shook his shoulder. "Nick, let's go home. Sun's up in a few hours."
He stirred and stretched, stood up and immediately pulled a face. "Ugh, I can smell it from here, damn."
Vandal glanced at him and then, to his surprise handed him 2 blood packs from one of the boxes. "You're welcome, now let's get out of here."
Nick, a bit perplexed, thanked him.
The three of them stepped outside the bloodbank. The air was cool and refreshing.
"Man," Liz took a deep breath. "Can't wait for tomorrow."
At that, Vandal turned to her one last time for the night, "Remember: Be on time and don't fuck this up!"
"She'll love me. Don't you worry."
He turned to Nick. "Make sure to put them in the fridge as soon as you're home."
He gave the two of them curt goodbye and turned on his heels, leaving for his apartment.
Nick and Liz left as well and talked on the way home.
He informed her that he would finish the rest of his work for Issac tomorrow, while she was out to see Therese. He would come to the club after the meeting had ended so they could go over everything.
"You know what I think, Liz?"
"No, what is that?"
"We make a pretty good team. Even our voices make a damn good team!" His eyebrows drew together as he thought for a moment. "You know, I stopped questioning them a long time ago... But sometimes, just sometimes, I wonder what exactly they really are and what their deal is. I mean, they're telling us to help, this guy. Why?"
"I don't know, Nick. But I feel like they're trying to help me help people. I always liked helping. No matter whom."
"Vandal said you understand him. He said you understood what he felt... Did you really?"
Liz nodded. She had, truly. "Yes. I understood him. It kind of scares me that I do, because... What the hell does that make me, if not some sort of psychopath myself?"
"Would you act on it? On the feelings he described?"
"No. Because I know, no matter how 'good' it feels. It's still wrong."
There was a pause before Nick spoke again, "For as long as I can remember the voices in my head have always given me advice and told me what I should do. If you don't heed them, for a while, they get louder. If you don't act on them when they're screaming, it hurts your head. I've only ever once experienced an instant where I completely lost control over my actions. They were shouting and all I could do was obey... I think if I hadn't I wouldn't be here..."
"Have you ever experienced different kindred's voices work together like that?"
He shook his head. "Our clan's members tend to avoid each other."
"Hm... What happened to us today, it's almost like the voices are talking to each other as well, only we can't hear when they do. We only hear them when they directly talk to us. Maybe this is how it's meant to be and no one has ever found out cause they all kept to themselves..."
"Maybe," Nick agreed. "But for now, let's get some well deserved rest."
Upon arriving at home, Nick put the blood packs into the fridge and Liz made sure all windows and shutters were closed.
She lay down beside him and immediately felt him shift and wrap his arms around her. Smiling, she fell asleep. The voices in her head, wishing her good night as well.

Chapter Text

Liz was tapping her foot on the floor as she looked through her wardrobe. She pulled out black ballet flats, freshly ironed black pants, a dark red v neck t-shirt and a black blazer to wear over it.
When she had dressed, she brushed her hair back and pulled out a hairtie to secure it into her usual ponytail. She had taken Nick's suggestion from yesterday and used a red one.
She checked her watch. The taxi should be there any minute. Today she had decided not to walk, or rather, the voices had decided for her.
Nick had already left for his apartment and she was sure he was already working on his things for Issac.
She tucked her phone and keys away into the pockets of her blazer and took enough money to pay the taxi driver before she headed downstairs.
The taxi arrived a minute after she had stepped outside.
She got in and told the driver where she wanted him to take her.
"The Asylum? You don't look like you're going clubbing," the driver commented.
"I have a job interview with the manager," she replied.
"Ah, that explains it. I wish you good luck."
"Thank you."
The rest of the drive was spent in silence. They arrived and she gave him a small tip.
Liz felt her nerves start to make an appearance the moment she set foot into the club. She had forgotten how much she hated interviews. Even though she knew it was going to go well, she couldn't help but feel nervous.
'Calm down,' she told herself. 'It's gonna be fine.'
'You will be fine. She'll love you. We will help you. We'll guide you if you need us.' This time, she was glad for the voices.
'Take a deep breath.' Liz did. 'Stand tall. She can't hurt you. We won't let her. You'll be fine.'
'Thank you,' she spoke to the voices. To her amazement, she felt them acknowledge her words.
'You're welcome, Liz.'
It made her smile. It made her feel so much better.
Vandal was already waiting for her by the elevator. He looked her over from head to toe. "You're early. Good."
Liz knew immediately that he had come directly from the bloodbank and that he had already delivered the box of supplies to Therese. His mood seemed worse than usual. He was tense.
"Miss Voerman was furious when I got here," he let her know. "Be very careful what you say to her."
"I will be, thank you, Vandal." Liz straightened. The voices had started talking again.
"Are you ready?"
She nodded. "Let's go."
He pressed the button for the elevator and they stepped in. Vandal stood as far from her as possible in the small space. He was glowering at the ceiling.
The voices in her head were more present than usual, they seemed to want her to know they were there. It reassured her.
There was a ring and the doors of the elevator opened on the second floor.
Liz followed Vandal. He knocked on the door to Therese's office.
"Enter," they heard her from the other side.
He opened the door for her and let her in.
"Miss Voerman, your guest has arrived." He bowed to her and closed the door.
Miss Voerman was a tall woman with blond hair that she had pulled into a bun. Her clothes were neatly put together. Heels, skirt, blouse and blazer. She had the appearance of a business woman. Black glasses sat on her nose.
"Miss Lisonport, it's a pleasure to finally meet you," she greeted Liz.
"The pleasure is mine, Miss Voerman," Liz answered and took a deep bow.
"Come, sit."
She was guided to a small table with two chairs.
"How are you adjusting to Santa Monica's nightlife? I hope everything is going well? I was informed that you have only been introduced to our community a few days ago," Therese chatted on.
"You're very kind to ask after my well being, Miss Voerman," Liz smiled. "I am fitting in quite well so far, my sire, Nick, has taken a few days off work to ensure that everything goes well. There have been no complications so far."
"Wonderful. I am always glad to hear that." She elegantly crossed her legs and continued speaking, "You have already met my ghoul, Vandal, at the bloodbank yesterday. I must say I was suprised when he wrote me that you wanted to meet me. Usually fledglings spend the first few weeks with their sires."
Liz lightly bowed her head. "I am aware, and I apologize for being so forward. I had heard a lot of good things about you from my sire and I would be delighted for a chance to work for you."
She thought for a moment and then nodded. "I don't see why not. You seem to have adjusted remarkably more quickly that the usual fledglings. I have a few open jobs that I need people for. Tell me, what did you do before entering into our community?"
"I have a master's degree in logistics. I also had a few semesters in computer sciences before my change."
Liz saw that her answer had satisfied her. Miss Voerman, spoke, rather pleased, "That is good news. You could help me with quite a few things, actually. For now, I would like you to start helping Vandal at the bloodbank. Supplies have been running low lately and I've had a few complaints."
Therese's eyes snapped to Vandal in disgust. "You will ensure that Miss Lisonport has all the information on the bloodbank she needs. She will be helping you with orgainizing and restocking your supplies. You will follow her orders as if they were my own. Miss Lisonport will report back to me and I do not wish to hear any complaints about you on her part, or there will be severe consequences. Do you understand?"
"Yes, Miss Voerman," he answered her.
Therese turned back to Liz and spoke, "Do not hesitate to make use of him. He is a rather good servant, if sometimes troublesome."
"I will be sure to remember that, Miss."
"I would like you to report back to me at the end of the week. If there are any complications, feel free to contact me. You can always reach me via email. In emergencies, you can call me." She handed Liz a business card. "If everything goes well and there aren't any complaints you will receive pay at the end of the month. You are free to schedule your visits to the bloodbank to help and oversee, as you see fit."
She stood up and Liz rose from her seat as well.
"I am very grateful for this opportunity, Miss Voerman. And I thank you for taking the time to see me. I assure you, you will not be disappointed in our arrangement." she bowed once more.
"Vandal," Therese snapped. "I want you to be present for Miss Lisonport's first visit. Make sure everything is in order for it and bring all the supply lists from the office at the hospital!"
"Of course, Miss Voerman."
"Will you have everything ready, if I come over in an hour and a half?" Liz asked him.
"Yes, Miss Lisonport."
He did not look at her when he spoke.
"Did I not tell you to show respect?" Therese reprimanded him. "You are to look at your betters, when they speak to you!"
His head had automatically snapped to Therese as soon as he had heard her voice.
Liz spoke, calmly, "It is no bother to me, Miss Voerman." To Vandal, she said, "I look forward to working with you. I will see you at the bloodbank later."
"You should be grateful she is so patient! If it had been me, there would have been immediate consequences," Therese hissed. Then she turned to Liz once more, taking a deep breath. "Vandal will see you out. It was a pleasure to meet you. I have a feeling, I'll be very pleased with your results regarding the bloodbank."
"Thank you, Miss Voerman. I'm sure everything will go smoothly."
Vandal saw her out. As soon as the door to Therese's office had closed, his hands balled into fists and his expression turned dark.
They entered the elevator.
Liz rested her head against the cool metal. She had not looked it, but the way Therese had treated Vandal had made her angry. The way she had looked at him, as if he was worth less than dirt... Like a tool that could be easily replaced once it lost its usefulness.
"Looks like you're stuck with me now, princess," Vandal said. His demenor was back to normal.
"Looks that way..." Liz thoughts were still somewhere else. "I hate how she treats you."
Vandal huffed, "You haven't even seen the half of it."
"Oh, I know. She was holding back," she answered. Her eyes found Vandal's and it was the first time he had ever seen them darken. "If she ever talks to you like that again in my presence, like you're just some piece of equipment that can be discarded at any moment, I will make her wish she had never uttered a word at all."
He smiled at that. "I didn't think you had violent tendencies, princess. You wouldn't even let your boyfriend hurt me."
"Well wielded words can be just as sharp as a blade, Vandal."
"Words don't kill people," he retorted.
Liz laughed. "Then you've never seen a woman wage war with them. They can kill. Death just comes slower... and more passive."
Vandal thought on it for a moment before he spoke, "I think I'm actually starting not to hate you. You have an interesting perspective."
"Thank you, Vandal." Liz knew what he had said had been a huge compliment. "I mean it."
The door to the elevator opened and she spotted Nick sitting at the bar already. Of course he had known when she was done with her meeting, she thought. The voices had told him.
"Vandal, do you want to keep us company? We can go to the bloodbank later and pick up the documents together. You don't have to be back at there today, save for my 'visit,' right?"
"Sorry to disappoint you, princess. But I hate company. Besides, I would prefer not to run into Knox here. I know he comes around a lot. He's always snooping around and trying to get information for Tung." he said.
"Okay, then I will see you at the bloodbank later," Liz watched him leave and went to the bar.
"Nick!" She hugged him and placed a kiss on his cheek. "I'm sure you already heard the news," she grinned. "Did you finish everything for Issac?"
He was overjoyed to see her. "I heard, congratulations! I finished all my work and have all the time in the world for you."
"Did they also tell you what I do now?"
"They have been quiet on that end. I only know Therese hired you."
Liz, excitedly told him, "For now I work at the bloodbank with Vandal to help organize things and make sure supplies don't run low again."
"You seem pretty okay with that. I'm glad. How's he treating you?"
"As usual," Liz chuckled. "But I got an unexpected compliment, so that's a start." She sighed, "I can't believe how she treats him. It's horrible. You should have seen it! It's no wonder he is, like he is."
"I can imagine," Nick said. "I was going to meet Knox here in a bit. He said he had something he needed my help with tonight. When do you plan to leave the bloodbank? Same time as yesterday? I know you're leaving in an hour."
"Jup, same time as yesterday. I was thinking we could pack one of my duffel bags to bring to your apartment. So, we can swing by my place later and then go to yours?"
"Sure. I can show you my office and my work for Issac, if you like," he smiled.
"Oh, I'd love that!"
Ten minutes later Knox arrived.
"Hey Nick!" he said. "Aw man, that's awesome!" As soon as he saw that Liz was there too, he turned to her. "Liz, so good to see you again! You're dressed fancy today. Any special occasion?"
Liz gave him a warm smile. He was so nonchalant, all while asking questions and getting information. "Well, I had an interview with Miss Voerman, and I am glad to say that it went wonderful. I'm helping organize the bloodbank now."
Knox eyes widened just the tiniest bit. "So you work with Vandal now?"
"I sure do," she laughed. "And judging by that look on your face, you've already met him more than once."
"Aw, man. Yeah! He's not the nicest of guys. To be honest, he is scary, he freaks me out. And that's saying something, coming from me!"
"I bet, Knox. I bet!"
"So, you excited to work for Miss Voerman?" Knox pressed for more information in his charming way.
"Yes, absolutely. She was so forthcoming. I am very grateful to be able to work with her. She's a respectable woman." Liz knew, for a fact, that all the information she was giving him, was going straight to Bertram Tung afterwards. "So I heard Nick was gonna help you with something tonight. Just wanna let you know that if you ever need my help as well, feel free to call on me. I assume I will be at the bloodbank 4 to 5 days a week at intervals, but if you need anything on any other day, I'm up for it."
"Aw man, thanks! I'll make sure to remember that," Knox said. He turned to Nick. "So I hope you're up for a bit of sport tonight. I need help tracking this one dude. He's been super evasive, doesn't leave a lot of leads to follow..."
Liz tuned out of their conversation and into her voices.
'We told you, all would be well. You did good. Good girl. Did you miss us?'
The last sentence made her realize that they had not spoken a single word during the meeting with Therese.
'You didn't need our help. You did good. We would have helped if you had needed it.'
'Thanks, guys. I appreciate it.' The voices in her head approved the fact that she actually answered them, she could feel it.
While Nick was talking with Knox, she took the time to save Therese's number and email on her phone. She followed the conversation with half an ear.
They were discussing leads and places they could check out.
After a while, she looked at her watch again. It was time to go to the bloodbank.
"Well you two, I gotta go. I wish you good hunting! Nick I'll see you at my apartment later."
Nick kissed her goodbye and wished her a successful first night at work.
She knocked at the donation window. "Vandal it's me."
He opened the door for her and let her in. Two new boxes had joined the ones from yesterday. They held the folders with the supply lists.
She opened them and Vandal sat down on his chair, watching her.
Liz flicked through the documents, her expression souring with every page she flew over. "There's almost no donors that come regularily. That's catastrophic. How do you even manage to keep this place going?"
"I get unwilling donors from the streets," Vandal purred. "You saw one yesterday."
She pulled a face, then grabbed another folder that had a bunch of addresses in it. She held it out to him and pointed at one of them, saying, "They are supposed to send the hospital blood in an emergency. Have you ever made use of that?"
"Like you said, they only send us blood in 'emergencies,' princess. Don't you think I've already tired to get them to send more when supplies were running low? If you don't practically have someone on their death bed needing a transfusion, they'll not send anything."
"Well, I think our situation is quite an emergency. We have such a shortage of donors that they can't possibly expect us to work like this," Liz pouted. She pulled out more hospital records. "Looking at the list of this month's donations, it's a joke. For a place like Santa Monica it should be more!" She thought for a moment, then asked, "You run the bloodbank on your own right? How much of this is not sold?"
"Yes. A good portion of it." He pointed at the boxes in the corner. "These all belong to the hospital."
She let out a frustrated sigh. "Okay. I'll try and write the emergency supplier for now and then I better start thinking real hard how to make this work."
"Be my guest," Vandal stood up from his chair and let her have the place in front of the computer. He sat down on the floor and leaned against the wall.
Liz placed the donor list and address beside her and started writing. She carefully noted down donor percentages and took care to press them, that they needed supplies urgently. After she had finished, she leaned back in the chair. "First step done, a million more to go." She put the folders back into their respective boxes and set them aside, before sitting down again. "I can't believe that she makes you run all of this alone. Man, Nick was right when he said he didn't wanna be in your shoes. I'm so glad I get to help. I bet she has never offered a single word of thanks for what you're doing here. Fucking unbelievable."
Vandal stared at her with a weird look on his face. "The queen bitch only calls when there are complaints, to let me know how not well I am doing."
Liz groaned, "Ugh, I knew it."
There was a moment of silence before Liz spoke again, "You were right about Knox. He came shortly after you left, he needed Nick's help hunting some guy."
Vandal's face distorted in disgust at the mention of Knox. "I hope you know that everything you say to him goes right back to Bertram Tung."
"I know that. That's why I mentioned I help with organizing the bloodbank now. I also spoke very highly of Miss Voerman." she chuckled. "You would have enjoyed his reaction when he heard I work with you. He said you're scary and you freak him out."
"Good, he should keep his distance then," Vandal growled.
"Damn, you really hate him don't you?"
"Almost as much as the queen bitch."
"Why is that?" Liz really wanted to know.
"Knox is naive! He doesn't see that he's being used, that he is a slave to Tung, for as long as he is useful to him and only for as long as he is useful. Ask him next time, what it's like to be a ghoul. He'll make it sound like it's the best thing that ever happened to him! He loves it!"
Liz nodded, "Ah... I see. I'll ask him next time."
"I really want to hurt him," Vandal said, his voice lowering with every word. "I want to wipe that stupid smile off his face and make him see what he should really be feeling. I want his screams to fill with deseperation at the realization that he's going to suffer endlessly, that he has no control anymore, that he can't escape, that his life is entirely in someone else's hands, that he can't make the pain stop even if he tired, even if he wanted to. That his life is not even his to take anymore. That he's completely powerless."
Liz stared at him, her heart racing. 'What he should really be feeling?' Something in the back of her head told her that Vandal had once felt exactly what he wanted Knox to see.
"If I ever get my hands on him, I will break him. I will break his will to live, I'll shatter his soul and I will make him wish there was a way to end it all when there isn't." He looked up at her, his eyes filled with equal measures of hate and contempt.
Liz hands went up to her mouth to cover the sound of her pain filled gasp. She noticed she was shaking. She wanted to scream and cry at the same time, but no sounds left her.
This side of him scared her more than when he had threatened her own life. It scared her more than anything had ever before. It scared her, because she knew that he had meant every word. It scared her, because she knew that deep underneath all his hate there was a pain there that had been twisted unrecognizable. And what scared her most, was that she understood him. That deep down inside her she had felt what he felt. She knew that he had looked for a way out and had found none.
She didn't stop shaking and her eyes were still on his, widened in a mix of fear, pain and shock.
Vandal stood up and slowly crossed the distance between them. He kneeled down and reached out, plucking her hands from her face and holding them in his. He didn't meet any resistance. She just kept staring into his eyes. "Understanding me scares you," he stated. "It fucking terrifies you."
Liz nodded.
"Then maybe you should flee," he said.
"No."
"Why not?"
"I'm not running from this," she breathed. "And I'm not looking away either." There was a strange calm coming over her and Vandal noted a change in her eyes. "I want you to live. I will fight for this."
Vandal pulled back as if she had burned him. His expression turned from surprise to disbelieve to hate and settled on bitter.
"I-" she was searching for words to describe the feelings that she didn't know the names of. "I think what scares me the most is that when I look at you... I see what I could have become if people had abandoned me. If they had stopped helping me."
For a moment everything was still.
Liz took a deep breath and then she said something that Vandal had never thought she would be able to, "I will help you get your hands on Therese, do with her whatever you desire, but I can't let you have Knox... I'm sorry, but he doesn't deserve it... You told me he's naive. Let him keep his ignorance, because sometimes, that's better than knowing what is truly going on..."
He crossed his arms in front of his chest, "I need you to swear that I will get to kill the bitch. If you fail to keep your promise, I will put you in a world of hurt. I will put you through what I had planned for Knox." He reached into the back pocket of his jeans and pulled out a switchblade. He opened it and handed it to her, hilt first. "I want your guarantee, in blood."
Her eyes flicked from the blade to Vandal and back again. He was waiting.
Liz took it and placed the steel on her right palm. She pressed it into her skin and then cut, deep enough that the blade was coated in crimson. "I swear, you'll get to kill the one you hate the most." She handed the kife back to him.
Vandal was satisfied. He eyed the blood on it and then-
Liz let out a gasp.
He ran his tongue over the blade. He was licking it clean.
She saw him swallow.
When he looked at her again there was a deep hunger in his gaze.
"It doesn't feel the same as drinking from her," he said. Liz knew he meant Therese. "I can hear your voices inside my head and they're not towering over me..."
'Liz, listen what we have to say to him.'
"They're talking, to me," he continued and then grew silent and listened.
'You still have a choice. We will give you your life back. Therese will have no power over you anymore. We will take it from her. We will be there when you need us and we will leave when you order us to. We will wait and listen. We will come if you call. We told Liz to listen what we said to you. She heard. If you choose to ask, she will answer.'
"They said you could hear what they told me."
Liz nodded. She repeated it back to him, word by word. When she had finished, Vandal still seemed to be hearing them.
She said, "You're still listening to them, right? Because I can't hear anymore."
He did not tell her what they had told him just now. He was absent mindedly opening and closing his switchblade. "They're giving me advice... They're drowning out the bitch. She's still in my blood, but I can choose not to listen."
"Good." she thought for a moment. "Nick will know what happened, Vandal. They communicate and they will have told him."
He shrugged. He didn't mind him knowing as long as he didn't interfere. "Fine by me." He put the switchblade back into his pocket and moved for the door, gesturing her to follow.
"Where are we going?" Liz inquired.
"Out," Vandal said. "Since you seem to be pretty ok with me killing people who really deserve it, we're going hunting. I can't take my chances and unless you can find me like 5 or so willing donors 'right now,' our supplies will have run out by the end of the week. So either you're gonna get me willing donors or I'm gonna pull some asshole from the street who really deserves to die."
"Fuck." She walked up the stairs behind him and they stepped outside. "All right. Let's try the Asylum, ok? If I can't make anyone come back to the hospital with us to donate then you can get some asshole."
Vandal was shaking his head, saying, "Princess, I highly doubt anyone will come with you willingly."
She sighed, "Well, I can still hope, can't I?" She continued, "What do we need? Anything that's clean will do right?"
He nodded. "Yes, but the higher ups want the rare stuff. Or higher class people, as they put it."
Liz pulled a face. "Ugh, what the hell. That's horrible!"
"How about you, princess?" Vandal seemed genuinely curious. "You got a preferred taste?"
She shook her head. "No, I don't. Blood is blood, as long as it's not diseased I'm good. You don't care what kind of water you drink either, or do you? As long as it keeps you hydrated and doesn't make you sick, you drink it."
"Did anyone ever tell you that you're every strange sometimes?" he asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Yeah," she smiled. "And I don't care that I am."
They neared the entrance of the club and Vandal told her, "I'll wait outside. You have 30 minutes, princess. If you're not back by then with 5 people, I'll start looking around for a suitable canidate."
"Fine."
Liz went inside and looked around. A bright smile spread across her face as she spotted Merinda at the bar.
She walked over. "Merinda! Hi!"
Merinda turned to her. "Oh! Hey Liz! Did you decide to drop by earlier? How nice of you!"
"Ah, unfortunately I'm here regarding matters of my new job. I work the night shift at the hospital and my collegue is waiting outside. We are trying to get volunteers to donate blood, so he can teach me. Today has been so busy that we hadn't had the time. I need to find 5 people..." she sighed. "It seems like an impossible task."
"Oh dear. I've donated before. I'd be willing to come to the hospital with you. I'm here with friends. I'm sure some would be willing to help!"
Liz knew this was paying off already. Befriending Merinda at her first night here had been a good idea.
"Oh, that's wonderful! I'd owe you! I promise to repay you and your friends with a round of drinks on Saturday!"
Merinda laughed. "Seems like a good deal! Let's see, I'll ask them. Wait here a moment. They're all dancing."
Liz waited and when Merinda came back with 4 of her friends, it made her night. "I apologize in advance for my collegues bad mood. He had a very stressful day." She quickly explained where they were going and promised them that it wouldn't take long and that they could come back here after immediately.
They followed Liz outside.
"Vandal," Liz addressed him and saw his face twitch in surprise when he saw the small crowd behind her. "This is my friend Merinda," she pointed at her. "And that are Merinda's friends, Bryan, Leslie, Chelsey and Hannah." She smiled brightly. "Everyone, this is Vandal. He is in charge of teaching me how to take blood tonight."
"Beginner's luck," Vandal smirked.
The group went to the bloodbank and was lead to the official blood donation section. They took all the necessary data they needed from the donors and then continued.
"So who's up first?" Vandal asked when he had finished preparing everything.
Merinda volunteered.
Liz watched and listened carefully as he explained, "You need to find a strong vein. The easiest spot to take from is usually in the crook of the arm." He pointed at the vein he was going to puncture. "Disinfect the area beforehand and make sure the blood bag is connected to the tube. After than you just have to insert the needle." He pressed a finger down underneath the spot he was going to puncture. "Pull the skin taunt so that the vein doesn't roll away." His hand with the needle hovered a few millimeters over Merinda's arm. "Take a deep breath," he told her. As she breathed he inserted the needle at an angle. Blood started flowing into the tube immediately. "And now we just wait. It'll only take a few minutes. When the bag is full, we seal it and store it away."
Vandal showed her how to seal the blood bag and then asked, "You think you can take the next donation? I'll help you find a vein."
"Sure," she put on gloves, disinfected her hands and then cheerfully turned to Merinda's friends, "Who's volunteering to be poked at by the student?"
"I will. I don't mind being poked at with needles. I'm a medical student myself," Chelsey told her and went over.
Liz inspected her arm. Vandal stood close behind her and said, "Tell me which one you'd pick."
She pointed at one of the more visible veins. "This one."
He shook his head and pointed at another, "Take it from there. The vein you chose might have been more visible, but this one forks. It'll leave more room for error if your aim is slightly off."
"My aim's not gonna be off," Liz pouted as she disinfected the puncture area.
"We'll see about that, won't we? Because I can see your hand trembling the tiniest bit," Vandal teased.
"You meanie!" she grimaced. To Chelsey she said, "Hope your teacher is nicer. You ready?"
"Vandal seems like a good teacher," she said. "I'm ready when you are."
He watched her insert the needle. For her first time, it wasn't bad at all. "I'm impressed. That was good. Make the angle a bit steeper for the next one and I'll call it perfect."
She hadn't expected any praise from him. "Wow, thank you Vandal!"
While she waited for the bag to fill he was already busy with the next donor.
Leslie was the last one who had her blood taken. Just as before, Vandal watched her. Liz had taken his advice to heart and inserted the needle at a steeper angle that time.
"Well, perfect," he said.
Liz smirked. "I take everything back, you're not a meanie."
She turned to Merinda. "Thank you, so much! I owe you, big time! Seriously you have 'no idea' what a huge help you were!"
"Aw, sweetie, any time! I can't wait to see you Saturday!"
"You guys are all coming, right?" Liz asked the other 4. "Because drinks are on me. Thanks so much, again!"
"Of course!" they told her.
"Is Vandal gonna come, too?" Chelsey asked.
He pulled a face. "I don't really go clubbing."
"That's a pity," she looked honestly disappointed.
"I'll try to persuade him, but I can't make any promises," Liz laughed.
She said goodbye to them and suggested they'd come by regularily now that they knew the hospital had a donation center.
The two of them put away the equipment and brought the blood to the storage before returning to the donation window.
Vandal turned to her. "Well, princess. I'll be damned. You are lucky as hell."
Liz was laughing and jumping up and down. "Oh my god, that was awesome! And this gave me an idea how to get more donors, too! We will be drowning in work by next week!"
"I highly doubt that, princess," he replied skeptically. "Let's close up here for tonight."
She nodded. "So I thought about coming by here about 4 or 5 days a week. That ok?"
"It doesn't really matter as long as everything runs smoothly," Vandal said. "The bloodbank is closed on the weekends."
"All right. I'll be here tomorrow same time as today."
"Sure, princess."
He looked at her, but didn't say anything more. Liz looked back, confused. She felt the seconds stretch in the silence.
Finally Vandal spoke, "I want to know why you're so much more scared of someone trying to take their own life, than having your own threatened."
The question felt like a punch in the face.
"I saw the expression in your eyes. You looked like you were in more pain than I could ever physically cause you," he said.
"I need to sit," Liz said. She flopped to the floor and leaned against the wall. She motioned for him to take a seat opposite to her and he did. She sighed, "It's because it makes me feel helpless. It makes me feel powerless. I can only try to help and if it wasn't enough, they're gone. They're gone, but I am still around. I'll still be around, in pain, haunted by my failed attempt to save them, and never knowing if there wasn't something else I could have done. If it's only my own life that's threatened... well if you're dead, you can't care about shit..."
"I'm beyond the point of caring about anyone," Vandal told her. "I just hate the entire world."
"I know, and I really don't blame you. People can be shit. Makes me want to save the ones who aren't all the more." She paused for a moment. "I guess that's why I'm ok with letting you have Therese. She's one of the shit's."
"There's not a lot of people you don't like, is there?"
"True," Liz answered. "I feel strange when I think about it; there's so few people that I really hate, but the ones I do, well I'm sorry to say that I can see the attraction in making them feel like crap for a change. Though I don't think I'd ever do it."
"Come to me, if you ever change your mind about that," Vandal offered.
"I'll do that." She let out a slow breath. "I think I'm kinda of broken... I think once upon a time, something in me shattered and I lost some pieces."
"Princess, everyone's broken one way or another."
She smiled. He was right.
"Yeah. I guess you're correct." Liz rested her head against the wall, inspecting the ceiling. "Sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I didn't care this much about people. Hating them is clearly easier."
"It is, princess. There's a certain liberation that comes with it."
She heard the slight change in tone in his voice and looked at him. The corners of his lips were pulled into something that was almost a smile.
"You know what, Vandal? You're not so bad. You can hate the world for me and I can care about it for you, how's that sound?"
"Sounds good to me," he said. What he didn't say, was that he hated her slightly less than everybody else now. In the back of his head, a voice told him that Liz knew it.
"I should go see Nick now," she spoke and rose from her seat on the floor. "I'll see you tomorrow."
They went upstairs and locked the bloodbank.
"See you tomorrow, princess." And with that he turned and left.
Liz looked after him. 'You'll have a gift for him soon...' the voices whispered, and Liz didn't quite understand what they meant.
She shrugged and quickened her steps to get back to the apartment. She was sure that Nick was already waiting for her there.

Chapter Text

When Liz had left the club, Knox turned to Nick again and grinned, "She's such a sweetheart. I really hope she'll be ok working with Vandal."
Nick answered him, "She'll be fine. I'm not worried."
"You've got real faith in the guy not to pull any shit, then. I've seen how he looks at people. Like he's gonna snap any moment," Knox said.
Nick grimaced, "Yeah, I know. But I really think Liz will be fine. She's good with people. I think she actually knows Vandal better than most already."
Knox shrugged, "Well, if you say that. Now let's get going. We'll start at the guy's apartment."
Nick nodded and they made their way there on foot. On their way, Knox filled him in with more details.
They weren't hunting any of Knox's usual bounties, this guy was different. He had information that Bertram badly wanted.
"You heard about the missing crew of the Elizabeth Dane, right?" Knox asked.
"No, I didn't."
"Dude, it was all over the news! Don't you watch TV?!"
Nick laughed, "I only get one channel. And there's never any real news on there."
Knox grimaced. "Dude, aw man! Well, so that ship's crew went missing, just disappeared off the face of the earth. Apparently the ship's cargo contained something really important that Tung's people wanted to get off their hands on, but said cargo vanished as well. The guy we're hunting is some kind of conspiracy theorist. Bertram was sure he has info on stuff."
They arrived at the apartment complex the guy was residing in.
"Bertram said to check number 203."
Nick entered and together they went upstairs. He knocked on the door.
There were no sounds coming from inside. "Yeah, the guy definitely isn't home. Let's go in."
Knox picked the lock on the door. He worked fast and quietly.
"You'd make a good burglar," Nick chuckled. It earned him a scowl.
They closed the door behind them. The apartment was clean and looked like the guy didn't come around often.
Nick checked the desk drawers for anything useful. There were a ton of documents in them. Some clippings from newspaper articles, some handwritten notes, as well as research papers. So far, nothing that could have told him where the guy had gone.
"There's nothing here so far that helps," he told Knox. "Are you having better luck over there?"
Knox shook his head. "He left his phone, but there's nothing on there. The last call he made was to a radio station. I think it's the KTRK. It's hosted by a woman named Deb."
"I think I heard her before. Well since that's our only lead so far, let's go to the radio station and ask Deb some questions."
Knox agreed.
Deb was on air when she saw two men standing outside her broadcast booth at the station.
"Apologies to all you night owls out there, but this girl's got something she's gotta take care of in the next few minutes. Here's a little music to keep you up, if you get what I mean," Deb said and switched the broadcast to some pop music.
She took off the headphones she'd been wearing and ran a hand through her carrot red hair that hung to her shoulders. She was dressed in an orange tank top, jeans and sneakers. She waved at them to come in.
"Hello," she smiled, her red painted lips pulling back far enough to reveal two sharp fangs. "I don't get many visitors, even less kindred spirits. To what do I owe the pleasure?"
Nick felt Knox tense beside him.
"We have a few questions about one of your callers," Nick replied.
"Ah, so this is about Gomez?"
"Yes, we were at his apartment and found his phone. The last call he made was to the station. We need to find him."
Deb said, "Well, he's one of my most frequent callers. Always onto something that guy. This time was pretty serious though. He was talking about the Elizabeth Dane, said 'vampires' took the crew and stole some sarcophagus that could as well be holding some 'super vampire.' You know I'm in charge of keeping the masquerade up here, right? I've had a few suspicious calls tonight." Deb sighed. "For where he is, I can't really help you."
"Do you keep recordings of the calls?" Knox wanted to know.
"Yes. I can play the call back to you, if you want."
They listened.
"Well, after that we can only hope we get the guy first, before someone else decides to go after him," Knox concluded.
"Well yeah, and after that call I doubt he's gonna go back to his apartment any time soon," Nick said.
"Sorry, guys. This is all I got. He calls twice every week."
"Well, thank you, Deb. We'll not keep you any longer."
Deb wished them good luck and Nick and Knox saw themselves out.
"So, what now?" Nick wanted to know. "Where would you go if you'd just found out vampires exist and now you're scared for your life?"
"I don't know, man. This is not good, Bertram will not be happy if I don't come back with all the information this guy has." It was the first time Nick had actually seen Knox considerably worried.
"Let's go back to his apartment, now that we know what he's onto, maybe we have better luck. He did have an astounding amount of research papers and stuff in his drawers," Nick suggested.
So they went back to his apartment and went through Gomez's notes.
"Man his handwriting is atrocious!" Knox groaned. "I wonder why he left all of this here. It's stupid."
Nick had an eye on the door, just in case.
'She shared her blood...'
"What?!"
Knox's head shot to Nick. "Yo, what's wrong?" he asked.
Nick's hands were balled into fist and he was tense as a board.
'She shared her blood...' the voices repeated and then went on. 'She made a promise. You must trust us. All will be well. Therese is going to fall.'
"What the fuck?! What do you mean by that?!"
"Nick? I just wanted to know what's wrong." Knox stared at him.
'She promised he could have her. She promised him Therese. She promised he could have the one he hates the most.'
"Why would she do that? I don't understand. Tell me!"
"Dude, who are you talking to?" Knox asked, but it was clear that Nick could not hear him.
'We told you you must help him. This is what it takes. We assure you it's for the best. You will see. Therese is a disease that needs to be cured. We are HELPING YOU and LIZ even if you don't realize it yet. We are preventing chaos from spreading,' the voices in his head changed, they seemed to melt together, morphed into a single entity that made him double over in pain as it boomed, 'DO NOT QUESTION US!'
"Fine, whatever. Next time, a 'Nick don't freak out about what we have to tell you, everything's ok,' as a heads up, would have been nice!" he growled, knowing the voices had heard.
'We will try to remember...'
He huffed, "Well, thanks."
Knox was still staring at him. Nick gave him an apologetic smile. "Sorry, Knox. I hope I didn't freak you out too much."
"Dude, that was weird! I always forget you got that thing with your head..."
'This is our apology. We found something for you... Check his phone again..'
"Knox, can you check his phone again? Maybe we missed something..." Nick told him.
"Yeah, sure."
"Dude! Jackpot!" Knox grinned. "He just got a text from someone that says, 'I'm at the Santa Monica Pier. You coming?'"
"Let's go! Take the phone with you!"
They hurried to the pier. As expected there was nobody there at this time of the night. They spotted Gomez's contact immediately. He was a normal looking guy with a buzz cut, wearing a bomber jacket. He was smoking a cigarette.
"That must be the guy," Knox said to Nick. "Just keep an eye on him, I'm sure he'll try to bolt the second I open my mouth."
They casually walked up to him. His eyes narrowed suspiciously at the sight of them.
"Good evening," he said cautiously.
"Hey," Knox said, making an effort to look like friendly. "I'm sorry, but me and my friend here aren't from around here. I'm afraid we took a wrong turn somewhere. We were looking to get to the other side of town."
The guy relaxed a bit. "Oh! Well where exactly did you want to go? I can give you directions," he offered.
Nick was ready to grab the guy if he so much as twitched.
"Well, we wanted to go clubbing," Knox said.
They listened to his directions.
"Thanks. So, what are you doing here? Work night shifts?"
"Yes. I'm just waiting for a friend to show up."
Knox chuckled, "Yeah, I don't think he got your text." His eyes flicked to Nick.
Bomber jacket guy's face distorded in suprise and he attempted to run.
Nick's hands shot forward and grabbed him by the shoulder, hard. "Nope, you're gonna answer my friend's questions here first, then you can go in peace. He's a bounty hunter. I promise we're not gonna hurt you. We just need information. I'll let go of you, if you don't try to bolt again," his voice was neutral as he spoke.
The guy took a deep breath. "Okay. I'll tell you everything I know. Please, let go of me."
Nick released his shoulders and watched as he rubbed them, grumbling, "Damn man, you grip hard."
Knox started questioning the guy, "Do you know where he is right now? Because we don't and we'd really appreciate any information you can give us. He wasn't at his place. He had left his phone there."
"I'm not sure, man. The last time I talked to him he wasn't calling from his phone, he was at a hotel downtown. The empire arms. But that's been a few days ago, who knows if he even has a room there still." He gave them the number he had received the call from.
"Keep talking, why were you meeting tonight?"
"Is this about all the crazy conspiracy shit he's always sprouting? Oh my god, I told him that stuff was gonna get him in trouble! He really is my friend, I was just gonna hang at Holly's with him for a bit. Look, shit man. I live near here."
Knox could tell when someone was lying to him, and this guy, wasn't.
"All right. Well, I need you to do us a small favor. I want you to call his hotel room at the empire arms just to see if anyone picks up. Maybe we're lucky and he's there. If he picks up, just ask him if he could come down here. Don't tell him you're with us. If he agrees to come, we can have a chat with him and then you two can go to Holly's."
"So then he isn't your mark?" bomber jacket guy wanted to know.
Knox shook his head. "No, I just need the information he has. He's free to go once I talked to him."
"Okay."
He called the hotel room and after a moment, Gomez picked up the phone on the other end.
Nick and Knox listened.
"Hey Gomez, it's Michael. You didn't reply to my text. I was wondering if you wanted to come hang with me at Holly's. I got off work a few minutes ago."
They didn't hear Gomez reply. Michael hadn't put him on speakers.
"Yeah? Okay. Dude, don't you think you're overreacting? Nobody believes that stuff! Just come see me and stop stressing so much!"
There was a pause when Gomez answered.
"Okay. Well, good night. See you some other time then."
He hung up and with a look of apology he said, "Well, I tried my best. He's not coming. But he is staying at the hotel room. You could try to catch him there."
Knox nodded. "We'll head there. Can you tell us what he looks like? And please don't tell him we're coming, or he might move before we get there. He seems like the paranoid type."
Michael agreed. "Yeah, but he's a nice guy." He then gave them a detailed description of Gomez. According to Michael, he was hispanic, very tall, and usually wore plain simple jeans, button-up shirt and a necktie.
"Well, thanks for you help," Nick told him. "And sorry about your shoulders. You might wanna have Holly put some ice on that once you get there."
Michael smiled. "Thanks, for the advice. You two have a good night. Good luck with Gomez."
The empire arms hotel turned out to be one of the fancier downtown hotels. All marble floors and red carpets.
"Hope they'll tell us which room he's in..."
Knox went up to the Clerk and showed his licence. "We just need to have a quick chat with Mr Gomez. He has a room here."
The woman hurried to check her computer, "Oh my. I hope it's nothing serious!"
"No. Everything's ok. We're jsut here to talk."
"He's in 107."
"Thank you, kindly."
"Of course he has a room on the ground floor," Nick grumbled. "I should probably go around back to cover the windows... He's probably gonna pack up real quick once you knocked on the door."
Knox agreed and he waited for Nick to leave. When enough time had passed that he was sure both Gomez escape routes had been covered, he knocked.
"Yes?" he heard Gomez call from the other side. "Who's there?"
Knox answered, "My name's Knox Harrington. I'm a bounty hunter. I just need some information from you."
"What's this about?" Gomez wanted to know.
"Please, can you open the door? I'd prefer to talk eye to eye."
"Is this about the call to the radio station from tonight?" he wanted to know.
Knox sighed. "Yes. I just need all the information you have on this case, then I will leave you in peace."
"I'm gonna open the door for you. But I'm warning you, I'm armed! I have a gun! Please stand back."
"All right." Knox took a few steps from the door.
It opened and Gomez let him into the room. He was backing away and telling him to close it behind him. He had the gun trained on Knox.
"So, you said the cargo on the Elizabeth Dane was some sarcophagus?" Knox asked. "Supposedly carrying some 'super vampire,' was what you said. Do you know who took the thing or where it went?"
"So you believe me?"
"Yes," Knox told him.
"All right, well I can't tell you how I found out, but I can tell you what I found out, other than the stuff I already said on the radio," Gomez spoke, now clearly excited that he had found someone who was willing to listen.
"Well, don't let out any details."
"Okay, so apparently there's this entire vampire society thing. They have like different groups and everything! My sources found out the crasiest stuff! That sarcophagus that vanished with the crew of the ship... Well, I went investigating and there was a transport headed to the Museum of Natural History. So it was there for a while, but get this: It vanished again! And this time, it was taken by different vampires! It's crazy! I don't know what it is about that sarcophagus but it must really be important if they start stealing from each other! Well, so this group that stole it this time apparently got it for some prince."
"A prince? Why would a prince want some old coffin?" Knox asked, playing dumb.
"I don't know. I'm still trying to find out though! Apparently the sarcophagus can be opened with a set of 2 keys. He might just want to open it?"
Knox had heard enough. Bertram Tung would be pleased with the information he had.
"Open it? And let the super vampire out? Seems like a shit idea..."
"I know, right!" Gomez agreed.
Knox smiled at him. "Well thank you for your help. I'll be taking my leave now and I'll offer you a bit of advice. You should really, really abandon this project, before someone else comes looking for you."
Gomez looked stunned. "What?"
"You're damn lucky to still be breathing. Also, you might wanna invest in a better lock," Knox grinned. He slowly reached into his pocket and pulled out Gomez's phone and placed it on the table next to the door. "Say hi to Michael from me."
Before Gomez could react, he opened the door and exited the hotel room.
Nick was waiting for him outside. "Well, when he didn't go out the window I knew you didn't need my help, so I waited here."
"I got all the information I need for Tung. You heading back to Liz now?"
Nick nodded. "Yeah, got some stuff to talk about with her."
"Well, good luck."
"You too. Keep me posted if you need me again."
"Will do."
They both went back by cab. Knox, heading for the his meeting with Tung, while Nick went to Liz apartment. She had given him the spare keys, so he let himself in.
He stretched out on the sofa and waited for her return.
"Nick, I'm home," Liz announced as she pulled in the door.
He was laying on the sofa, relaxing.
She smiled at him, "How did your hunt with Knox go?"
He smiled back, "Well, it was not as exciting as you might expect. We started at the guy's apartment, and followed a lead to the radio station."
"KTRK?"
"Yes, that's the one. We met Deb. She's one of us," he told her.
"No way! That's awesome!"
He continued telling her about his day and everything that had happened, including his conversation with the voices and his knowledge of her promise to Vandal. He made sure to leave out no detail and when he was finished with his retelling of the day, he asked Liz about hers.
He made room on the sofa for her and she lay down across his legs.
She began telling him about the state of the bloodbank and supply shortage, went on with what Vandal had told her, her descision to help him, then continued with the excursion to the Asylum and her learning how to take blood and how the day had ended with a very serious conversation.
"You're not mad at me, right?" Liz asked Nick.
"I'm not mad, no." He gently pulled the hairtie out of her hair and brushed his fingers through it. "I understand him a bit better now, at least. He's still a murderer, but I... I do feel sorry for him. Even though I hate to admit that."
Liz gave him a pained look, "Don't let him see that look on your face in his presence. He might blow up."
"He's like a powder keg too close to a fire."
Liz nodded. "Kind of, yeah." She thought for a while before she spoke again, "I was wondering, since you're finished with your work for Issac, could you help me with something for the bloodbank? I just need you to run a few numbers, nothing complicated."
"Well, sure sweetie!"
Liz started packing her duffel bag and together they went over to Nick's apartment.
She told him what she needed for the bloodbank and Nick afterwards showed her his work for Issac.
They decided that they would keep updating each other on the state of things like they had today, every evening.
Nick made sure to ask Liz if it was ok if he took a trip to see the Malkavian primogen Alistair Grout tomorrow, because he wanted to report their findings on the voices to him. He was sure that he'd be interested in what he had to say.
Liz reassured him that it was fine and had him print the numbers he had run for her so she could take them with her.
After they had talked for a while longer they called it a night and went to bed.
As Liz drifted off to sleep the last thing she heard were the voices whispering, 'Sweet dreams...'

Chapter Text

Liz was on her way to the bloodbank and turned into one of the side streets she used as a shortcut. The scent hit her before she heard anything. The air was heavy with sweat, it smelled as if someone had been running. Then she heard muffled sobs from the direction she was going.
"Stupid, bitch!" A man's voice hissed. "Stop crying! I know you enjoyed it!"
The second person cried out in pain.
Liz hurried her steps. This wasn't good and she was going to interfere.
She turned another corner and what she saw, made her stop in her tracks.
The man who had spoken was standing over a girl her own age. He had just slapped her. The girl's cheek was bright red, tears were streaming down her face and she had slipped down the wall. She was cowering there, her whole body trembling. She looked disheveled and absolutely mentally destroyed.
The man was closing the button of his pants, when he noticed Liz. He turned to her and threatened, "Move along, if you know what's good for you."
Liz hands balled into fists. She knew what had happened.
Something in her head clicked into place and she felt a flood of anger come over her. How dare he!
"This is my last warning, girl. Leave," the man told her.
Liz stepped forward. "Fuck you."
"Well, then you're next!" The man's hands shot forward and he tried to get a hold on Liz.
She had expected his move, she was faster. She grabbed one of the man's arms and twisted it down and then behind his back. WIth one well placed strike downwards on his neck, she knocked him unconscious.
She hurried over to the girl who still hadn't moved from the spot the man had left her in. "I'm so sorry for what happened! Are you injured?" Liz asked.
"Thank you! I thought he was gonna kill me just then!" the girl sobbed.
Liz looked her over. She had no open wounds, only a few scratches, but she knew that mentally, she was bleeding out right now.
"Do you know this man?"
"No! He just approached me, and then," she started shaking again. "I feel horrible! What do I do?!"
"Listen, go home, get cleaned up. Talk to someone about what happened to you, even if it's hard. I'm gonna take care of that shitbag, so you don't have to worry about that. You just focus on getting better," Liz told her. "Also, go see a doctor as soon as you can and have yourself checked. Those scratches don't look too good, I don't want that to get infected."
She felt so bad for this girl. The poor thing.
"Okay. Thank you so much for not walking away!" she was calming down a bit now. "I- I'm Melody."
"Liz." She helped Melody to her feet. "Are you stable enough to walk?"
Melody nodded.
"Okay, I'll leave you now. Please, go straight home. I have to make sure, that pissbag there gets what he deserves. Jail time."
"Take my number," Melody said. "I'm sure this is going to court, so..."
Liz pulled out her phone and saved Melody's number, then rang her up. "Thank you. I'll get going. I'm sure, I'll see you again."
Melody, slowly left the alleyway and Liz picked up the still unconscious guy, draping him over her shoulders.
She started walking.
The door to the bloodbank opened and then fell shut again, a bit louder than usual. Liz had used her foot to close it.
She went downstairs and when she had reached the last step she called, "Vandal! I was wrong!"
He stepped into the hallway, slightly irritated, "What are you going on about, princess?" His eyes fell on the guy she had draped over her shoulder.
"I need your help," she said.
Vandal's eyes lit up. "Aw, princess, I didn't expect you to bring a gift!"
"Let's go, before I change my fucking mind."
They brought him to the hidden back room in the freezers and Vandal told her to put him down in the chair. He started strapping the guy in.
"Did anyone see you bring him in here?" he asked.
"No."
"Where did you find him?"
"I found him in a back alley, just after he raped a girl. Then that motherfucker threatened to rape me too. I knocked him out," she told him.
"What about the girl? She saw you. You're sure she isn't going to report it?"
"No. I told her, I'd take care of it. She was in no state to do much of anything. She was in shock. I sent her home and told her to see a doctor. She didn't even know the guy. He just attacked her. I'm pretty sure if I hadn't stepped in, he'd have killed her."
"Good." Vandal was pleased. No one would miss this guy. "I'm sure you want to have a chat with him when he wakes up?"
"Yes!"
He looked at her. Anger was an expression that completely changed her face. It hardened her soft features and made her seem stronger, more alive. There was a spark in her eyes that told him she'd gone past the point of caring about this particular guy. And he, really, really, liked that.
"The room's soundproof. So, shout at him all you like, princess," Vandal smirked. "I'm sure he's gonna wake up in a few moments. I can see his face twitching."
And he was right. Not a moment after the words had left his mouth, the guy's eyes snapped open. He was scanning the room, trying to orient himself.
"What the hell?! Bitch! Where'd you take me?!" he snapped at Liz. He started pulling at the restraints, trying to get out.
"It doesn't really matter where you are," she told him and stepped closer to him. "You're gonna answer some questions for me."
"Fuck you!"
"Nice," she rolled her eyes. "First question. What's you name? Second question. What the FUCK is WRONG with you?!"
"I'm not telling you SHIT!" He spat her. "I'm not taking orders from a goddamn woman!"
Liz wiped the spit off her cheek, disgusted. "You know, you're just making this worse for yourself by the minute." She sighed. "I'm gonna repeat my questions. What is your name and what the hell is wrong with you?"
"Fuck you! You think you can scare me, bitch?"
"Wasn't planning on scaring you," Liz said drily. "I just want you to answer my questions. As for my friend here," she pointed at Vandal. "He would 'really' love to."
His eyes flicked to Vandal, who had a cruel smile slowly spreading across his face.
"I'm being real nice here," Liz said.
"When I get out of here I'll make you regret this, you stupid whore!" he shouted.
Liz laughed. "Wow. Fine. Well you'll leave, but you won't be walking when my friend's done with you."
She stepped away from the guy and Vandal stepped forward.
"I want those fucking questions answered. I need him in a condition to be able to form coherent sentences. I am planning on asking more than those two," she told him.
He smirked, "Your wish is my command, princess."
Vandal pulled out his blade. The guy didn't seem fazed yet.
"I'm not telling YOU shit either!"
"For a guy strapped to a chair, you got a pretty big mouth," Vandal sneered and placed the tip of the blade on his arm. He saw him flinch ever so slightly.
"Fuck you, too!"
Vandal pressed the tip into his arm and the guy balled his fists, sharply pulling in air as he slowly dragged the blade along his arm, leaving a bloody, but shallow line. "I have all night. I can take my time." He made another cut right next to the previous one. "Now, these don't really hurt all that much, but," he deepened the cut he had just made by going over it again, "this makes it worse, doesn't it?" The guy was gritting his teeth now. Vandal deepened the second cut as well. "Burns a bit, right?" He continued cutting a thrid line and deepening it. Then a 4th and a 5th. Then he hovered his blade over the first cut again. "Each time I do this your arms is gonna feel more and more like it's on fire." He began cutting the lines again and this time, the guy let out a pained hiss for each one of them. "Ah, now that's much better." He went over everything a 4th and a 5th time.
Starting the sixth one and moving the knife, the guy started screaming.
"What's you name?" Vandal demanded, continuing the cut.
"Robin!" the guy screamed. Tears were forming in his eyes.
"Keep talking! Why'd you rape that girl!" Vandal angled the knife for the next cut, to widen it. When the guy didn't answer, he began slicing again, more slowly than the last time and drawing a lot of blood. He was careful not to hit any arteries.
Robin howled in pain. "I wasn't raping her! She was practically begging for it with the way she dressed!!"
Liz couldn't believe her ears. "Did you ASK her if she wanted it?!"
Vandal widened more cuts and the guy's screams rose in pitch. "She didn't tell me no!"
"Are you fucking KIDDING ME?" Liz hissed. "Her not telling you NO, DOES NOT make it a yes!!"
His arm was a mess of blood by now and Vandal could barely make out the marks he'd left on his skin. He grinned as he switched to Robin's other arm. "How about we even out that pain?"
The guy was struggling against the restraints, panting. Vandal saw the fear start surface in his eyes. "You can answer more questions while I work."
He mirrored what he had done on the first arm, making sure to take short breaks in between.
"How many before her, were practically begging for it?" Liz asked in disgust, using the guys words on purpose.
"I didn't count them!" Robin pressed out during one of the breaks.
"Take an estimate, then," Vandal suggested in a voice that was almost vindictive.
"Four!!" he shrieked as Vandal kept carving his lines.
"Why don't we make that number a permanent reminder on the back of both of your hands?" he purred.
"No, no!"
Vandal saw the fear in the man's eyes slowly begin to morph into terror as he pried his fist open and trapped his fingers with his free hand. "I'll make sure to go over it more than once. Wouldn't want the reminder to fade, would we?"
He placed the dripping blade and etched the first line into the man's hand across it's entire width. He was now screaming far louder than before.
"Please, no!"
The second one was drawn on the right side of the hand and ran all the way across its length. The last one connected the left side of the first line and the top of the second, engraving a 4 into the man's skin.
Each time Vandal had placed a new line, the man had screamed and when he begun his second round of etching, they turned piercing. They were broken up by sobs in between.
His attention turned to Robin's other hand and with a wide grin, he hovered the knife a few millimeters above it.
"Please, no, no!" the man cried.
"Maybe the woman in the room will give you a break, if you ask her nicely," Vandal breathed, placing the tip of the blade on his hand. "I'd try, if I were you. Because I'll not stop, unless my princess here tells me to."
"Please, make him stop!" Robin begged her.
"Aw, that's real cute," Liz said sweetly. "Are you having a bad night? Oh, no, you're not. Your night just got started. I can tell you who's having a really bad time right now! That girl from earlier! She'll be broken for the rest of her life! She'll carry that memory around with her until the day she dies! And for that, my friend here, is gonna break 'you.'"
"Well, that definitely sounded like a no to me," Vandal smiled. He pressed the tip down harder, "And she was right, I'm really just getting started."
He saw the fear in his eyes had now yielded to full on terror and it made him smile wider. He pressed the blade into his skin and let the screams fill the room in waves.
Once the second reminder was done the man was trembling. "Let me go. Please, let me go," he repeated over and over.
Vandal ripped through middle of Robin's shirt to expose his chest. "Ah, so much more fresh material to work with."
He went over to the counter and put a blowtorch to the blade, heating it until it glowed.
Liz spoke again, "I just remembered... You don't even know that girl's name. It's Melody. And I think we should put that there."
"No, no, no, please, no!"
"Would you prefer 'rapist' instead?" she asked.
He sobbed. "No, please!"
"Aw, he can't decide." Liz voice had a slight edge to it as she spoke, "Then we'll put both."
"NO PLEASE!" He turned to Vandal as he closed in on him again. "Please, don't!" Tears streamed down his face.
"Which one do you want first, princess?"
"Call it artistic licence and take your pick."
She watched him start with 'rapist'.
By the 4th letter, Robin had screamed his throat raw. The cuts Vandal was making were deeper than the ones on the arms and hands. He wasn't drawing the letters in clear lines, he was making them jagged and they almost looked like they had their own pulse. He kept going back to heating the blade in between letters. By the time he had finished the word, the guy's breathing had become ragged. Vandal continued, with the girl's name, this time moving the knife in waves.
"There you go, princess. Decoration's done," Vandal smirked.
He moved over to one of the counters and exchanged the knife for a cleaver. "Now, that was fun and all. But now, I'm 'really' going to hurt you." He turned to Liz, "If you want to ask, or say anything more, do it now, princess. From here on out, he won't be able to talk anymore."
"I heard enough out of him, yeah."
With a newfound surge of adrenaline Robin started fighting against the restrains. "No! Let me go!!" his shouts were panicked.
Vandal's hand shot forward, ramming the cleaver into his knee. The shriek that came with it was high pitched and agony filled. Blood sprayed and splattered to the floor as he removed the blade from the now shattered kneecap.
"Make it stop, please," Robin heaved, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"
Vandal saw that he was cracking, breaking bit by bit. He sliced along the leg towards his hip.
"Please," the guy whimpered. "I'm so sorry!"
He brought the cleaver down again on his hip, then pulled it out. More howling, followed by Robin begging him. He went for the shoulder next.
The guy was breaking, Vandal saw it.
"Princess, come closer," he spoke and it was the first time Liz had heard his voice sound this soft. "Look."
She stepped next to him. She watched as the expression in Robin's eyes changed as he was no longer able to endure the agony, he was utterly defeated, broken, his will to live extinguished like the flame of a candle. "Please. End it. I beg you."
Vandal held the cleaver out to her. "He's yours."
She took it and breathed, "I don't think I can... I don't know how."
"I'll help." He put his hand over hers and guided it so that the blade was sitting against Robin's neck right under his jaw. "Relax your arm," he gently said. When he felt no more tension, he moved her hand across his throat in a swift motion, slicing the jugular artery.
Liz felt the blood flow over her hands and she saw the light in his eyes fade until it was completely gone.
For a moment everything was still.
Vandal released her hand again and she turned to look at him. He was smiling. Not a fake, mocking smile or his grin. It was the first real smile she had seen.
She let out a long breath.
"Princess, that was wonderful! How do you feel?"
The realization hit her. She had just killed someone for the first time.
"I feel..." she thought for a moment. "I feel like I just did the world a favor... I can't believe I'm saying this. I feel, fine. I know how I 'should be' feeling. Words like, shocked and sad or maybe disgusted come to mind... and those feelings, they're, just not there..." She paused and then said, "It's official now. I am completely insane and I am totally ok with it." She put the cleaver onto the counter. "Oh, and by the way. We're not telling Nick about this."
"It'll be our little secret, princess," Vandal chuckled.
'We will be silent. Nick will not know.'
She saw Vandal pull a face and knew he had heard them too. "Even the voices agree."
"Let's clean this place up."
And clean, they did. Liz was mopping the blood off the floor while Vandal took care of the chair and all the tools.
"There's so much. It didn't look like it was that much! I swear that stuff is spreading!" Liz grumbled. "Is it always this messy?"
"Sorry to inform you that it is, yes," he laughed. "You know, we could make a pretty good team."
"What now? I bring you some asshole the world is better off without from time to time?" she said, actually considering it. "You know what? Let's do it! I don't fucking care anymore."
"You're serious? I wasn't joking. I don't make jokes," he told her, his tone stern.
"And I meant it. I can bring in complete utter shitbags to drain when I find them," she replied.
"Just make sure they won't be missed," Vandal told her.
"I will."
It took them a while to clean the hidden room and when Liz finally put the mop away she felt good. The bloodbank would be running smoothly by the end of the week and everything was going well. Most of all, she was now positive that her promise to Vandal, that eventually killing off Therese would make Santa Monika a better place. She knew that the voices Nick had heard were right. They were curing cancer. And she was now also helping to cure the world of some more minor ailments. It didn't matter if she though of herself as mad. It didn't matter that she knew people would think of this as wrong. What mattered, was that they were helping, even if not everyone would understand or appreciate it, even if no one would. She didn't care. She didn't need their thanks. She knew that this, was right.
"I had Nick run some numbers for me at home. If we get this to work, in addition to the 'unofficial donors' then we shouldn't be getting any more complaints from Miss Voerman, ever," Liz said. She watched as he cleaned the blood off the last of his tools. His grip had tightened at the mention of his regents name.
"I hope you're right about that, princess," he spoke darkly. He put the blade he was holding back down on the counter and nodded in the direction of Robin. "I'll get him out of here." He handed her the keys to the donation window room. "If anyone shows up, the price list is in the top drawer."
She nodded and took the keys off him. "Wait, you got a damn price list? Isn't that risky to have lying around?"
Vandal shrugged and gave her a look that said, 'I couldn't care less.'
She returned to the donation window and checked the emails. The emergency supplier had replied, telling them that they would receive additional supplies each month. So far that was good news but as she kept reading her expression soured.
"What's bitten you, princess?" Vandal was standing in the doorway.
"This email," she huffed. "I explicitly said we need the deliveries to come in at either 'evening' or 'very early morning', hell I even told them when we're here and they wrote back," she read the paragraph to him, "We are sorry to inform you that we cannot meet your requested delivery times. We will send the supplies during the day. 'Please make sure someone will be present to receive the delivery,'" she nearly hissed the last sentence. They had ended the email with giving them the exact delivery date and time.
"Great," he grumbled and entered the room.
"I had really hoped we could oversee this without getting anyone else involved. I'm not having you come in here during the day!" Liz said, scandalized at the fact their supplier couldn't meet their request.
"You want to come yourself, princess?" Vandal teased.
Somehow that made her laugh. "Of course! I love burning and dying in the sun!" She grew serious again. "Still, I will not have you come here during the day. You are here ever single night. I'm not having it."
"I'd rather not have the moron who operats the donation section during the day, receive our delivery," he said, now clearly irritated.
"Who runs it?"
Vandal frowned, "The girl's name is Brittany. She's very chatty."
Liz didn't really think that was a problem. They'd just have to make the blood supply deliveries official. She said, "Well, I'm going upstairs to see who's working at the moment and introduce myself."
"Princess, that sounds like a stupid idea," Vandal scolded her. In fact, he hated her idea. People would start talking, ask questions.
"It'll be fine," she assured him. "Nobody will bother us."
He didn't believe that.
"I'll be right back," she turned to leave.
Vandal's hand shot forward and he grabbed her by the wrist. "We don't need any unnecessary attention," he brought out through clenched teeth. "If anyone gets wind that these supplies mysteriously disappear from the inventory once this is official, the bitch will have our heads."
"I know that," she said, turning back to him. "But these supplies are not going into the inventory. They're not for the hospital to use. They're to be sent to a long term storage facility. The emergency supplier can't argue with that even if they should ever find out. The hospital is not gonna question this. Not when I'm overseeing this project."
"This is gonna backfire, princess." He wasn't convinced. It was risky.
"If it does, I'm taking full responsibility," Liz told him.
Vandal let go of her. "I'll hold you to that," he growled.
"Be back in a few minutes," Liz smiled and left.
The blond woman at the reception area of the clinic greeted her, "Good night, how can I help you?"
"Hey, my name's Liz. I wanted to introduce myself. I started working here yesterday. I have been hired by Miss Voerman to oversee a project regarding the bloodbank. I just talked to Vandal downstairs. I'm supposed to help him with some things during his shifts."
Surprise flicked in and out of her eyes. "Oh! Pleased to meet you. I'm Henrietta."
"Hey, Henrietta," Liz made sure to sound as friendly as she could. "So I have a small favor to ask. Vandal told me that Brittany works in the blood donation section during days. We're getting a delivery of 3 boxes of blood each month. I just need her to receive the delivery and put it in the freezer. I'll take care of the rest. They're later to be sent to long term storage."
"Yes, of course! That won't be a problem."
Liz gave her the delivery date and smiled at her warmly, "That's wonderful! I can count on Brittany to be present for the delivery, right? I'd hate for anything to go wrong. Miss Voreman is very strict."
"Oh, darling. You can count on her! She's a perfectionist. A very chatty one, but still. She takes those things very seriously!" Henrietta reassured her.
Liz smiled wider, careful not to show teeth as she did. "Oh, thank you so much! I was so worried. I really had hoped not to bother anyone with this, but unfortunately, this is not the only project I'm overseeing and I have a very tight schedule. My days and nights are super busy lately." She sighed, "I don't get a lot of sleep."
Henrietta laughed, "Brittany would like you! You're kind of chatty too!" Then she added, "I've only ever seen Vandal up here once or twice. He seems a bit grouchy."
"He's all right," was all Liz said. "Well, I should go back downstairs. Say thanks to Brittany for me in advance!"
Henrietta nodded and with that Liz returned to Vandal.
"Done. Brittany will put the delivery in the freezer, that's it," she told him.
He was sitting in front of the computer as usual. "Who did you speak to?"
"Henrietta." Liz leaned against the wall and checked her watch. She changed the subject, "You think there will be any customers this late?"
"There usually aren't," Vandal scoffed.
"Well, that's pretty boring. What do you usually do when there's no customers?"
"I get to sit here and think, a lot."
"Ah. Well, now you have me to kill time with," Liz grinned.
"Or assholes, rapists and the like," he said, delighted.
She chuckled, "Sure."
Vandal thought for a moment before he asked, "What did you feel when you killed him? I know you didn't feel the same as I do when I kill."
"My answer will severely disappoint you, I'm sorry to say. I felt, nothing. And not in the sense that I felt dead inside. More like, indifferent. I didn't care." She looked at him and spoke, "I think the kills are wasted on me, considering how they make you feel. I saw the look in your eyes after he was gone. You were alive. You were smiling." She paused and then surprised herself by saying, "Thank you, for letting me have the kill and thank you... for guiding my hand. I think I'd have fucked up if you hadn't helped."
Liz saw something flick in and out of his eyes for just a second, too fast for her to discern what the emotion was that had flared up. His voice was neutral as he said, "You're welcome, princess. So, that means I get all future kills?"
"Of course. I like seeing you smile."
She saw the same emotion shift through his eyes again, this time longer and now she recognized it. He was grateful. He was grateful that she accepted him and his twisted hate for the world and he was grateful for her thanks. She knew, Vandal had never heard a kind word from Therese in all his life and she knew that he had not heard many before he had become a ghoul either.
He averted his eyes. He didn't say thank you, but Liz didn't need it.
'You're doing well. How are you feeling?' The voices whispered.
"Ah, my friends are back," Liz chuckled and tapped her temple. "Thanks, guys. I'm good."
'You're welcome. We're glad to hear it.'
She smiled. "Are you guys well too?"
'We are. Thank you. We'll leave you to yourself now.'
"Hear you soon," she chuckled. She felt them wave goodbye, so to speak.
"You're talking 'with' them?" Vandal asked in disbelieve.
"Yes. What do you think? They told you that they'd come if you called and that they'd leave you if you ordered them, didn't they? Makes sense for them to be able to hear you, right?" she answered as if it was the most normal thing in the world.
He stared at her. "You're telling me, they can 'hear' me?"
"Yeah? I talk to them from time to time. They're great company."
"You sound crazy right now, princess."
"Why don't you ask them if they can hear you?" Liz laughed.
"Bat shit crazy." Vandal shook his head and mocked, "Can you hear me?"
'Hello, Vandal.'
His eyes widened. He looked unsettled.
'Do you want Liz to listen, too? If so, we're gonna say hi.'
"Okay," Vandal said.
'Liz, he said you could listen,' the voices sounded amused.
"Well, hi again. That was quick," she smiled.
'Hi again, Liz. So, Vandal. She doesn't sound so crazy now, does she? We hope we're not freaking you out. We mean well.'
"No, I guess she doesn't. I'm ok," Vandal answered them.
The voices let the lie slip. They knew he was a bit unnerved.
'We're glad you had fun today, Vandal. Next time you see Therese, she will have you drink again. We took her control, but she will get louder again.' There was a moment's pause before they went on, 'We will ensure she dies, one way or another, but now you have more than one choice. Liz promised you, you'd have the killing blow. You will. If her blood fades from your veins again, she will help weaken her enough that she cannot utter any commands to control you, she will already be broken. But if you choose to keep us in your veins for a while longer, you can break her yourself. We know you want to. There is a third option...'
"He'd have to take a sip every month?" Liz inquired.
'We're stronger than Therese. He won't need much. Just enough for us to drown her out, like we're doing now.'
"What will happen once she's dead? My blood will still be in his system, Therese's control will be completely gone and he might have drunk more than 3 times by that time already. I want him to be free, not a slave! Wouldn't he be immediately bound to me then?" Liz asked.
'There's a chance he will be. Yes.'
"What's the third option?" Liz wanted to know. "Because option 2 seems very drastic."
'The third way... It would take longer... It's a lot harder... Get permission to sire him. He'll become one of us... We can make it happen, if he chooses it...' The voices addressed Vandal again, who had been very quiet and now had a look of shock on his face. 'Think on it. Therese will summon you at the end of this month. Let us know what you want. Find us if you have questions. We wish you both good night. Liz, hear you later.'
They faded and left a deafening silence in the room.
Vandal looked stunned. He'd be free. More than that. He could choose how to get his freedom. He could make Therese 'suffer.'
"Vandal, I want you to know: The voices. They do not fuck around. Whatever you choose here, WILL HAPPEN," Liz said.
It took him a moment to regain his composure. He let out a long breath. He had already decided. It was so easy. How often he had dreamt of it? Of being strong enough to overpower the bitch, of being able to disobey with her gaze on him and seeing the dread slowly form in her eyes, to be able to break her like she had him. "I want to kill the bitch while I'm still human. If that means I might end up blood bound to you, it's worth it. I'd rather be a slave to you than her."
Liz had not expected that. She thought he'd love the idea of being embraced. "If the blood bond really does make an appearance after she's gone. I swear to you, I will never order you around. You'll be free to do as you please."
"I'm looking forward to destroying the bitch," Vandal said ominously.
She knew that his decision was final, that he had made up his mind completely. "I'll make sure you get my blood every month."
'We heard. It will be done.'
He grinned. He stood up from his chair.
"Are we-" Liz didn't get to finish the question. She had wanted to ask if they were leaving for tonight, but her brain shorted out as Vandal stepped so close to her that their bodies were almost touching. He placed one hand on each side of her head on the wall behind her. She tensed up immediately. Why was she so nervous? "Vandal, what-?" she didn't manage to finish that either. He leaned in and if she'd still had a heartbeat, she knew it'd be pounding. Their noses were almost touching now. She could smell him. The scent was so strong. His gaze was fixed on her intensely. She felt like he was looking into her. She could barely think. She felt the heat radiate off him and covering her in a blanket. Everything was so quiet, she could hear him breathing, slowly, deeply. "Princess," it was barely more than a whisper. "Drink." He turned his head away and offered his neck.
She thought she hadn't heard him right. She stammered, "W- what? Oh, no, Vandal... I- I really shouldn't. I I- couldn't." He could have offered her any of the blood packs in the room. He could have offered her his wrist to drink from, but he wasn't. He was giving her his neck. He was offering her a kiss and he was trusting her not to drain him dry.
When she didn't move, he turned back to look into her face again. Her lips were trembling. Her eyes were wide. This was not exactly fear. Not quite. There was something else there that he couldn't name. This fear felt different. This felt almost like... Apprehension? She felt timid. "Are you... scared right now?" he asked and her eyes left his for a split second before they were on him again. He moved his right hand without thinking, running his fingers through her ponytail.
"I don't know," she told him. She really didn't. It was hard to think for her right now. She felt overwhelmed with emotions. She didn't want to do anything he might hate himself for later. She was grateful for his trust. She didn't want to hurt him. "Are you sure you really want this? I won't do it if you aren't sure. I can't. It would feel wrong." Having blood freely offered somehow made it feel different. She couldn't say why. She didn't drink from people she knew, from people she thought of as friends, because she felt like that was kind of like stealing from them. She compared it to stealing something to drink from a random store to stealing from your best friends house and the latter, would make you feel like shit.
"I want you to drink. I'm sure," he spoke.
"Thank you so much, Vandal," Liz breathed. She looked so grateful. "I'll be very careful. You won't even feel the bite. It, it doesn't hurt. I promise, I'll not drink much."
She saw amusement flicker in his eyes before he closed them and turned his head away once more. He was relaxing his whole body.
"You're sure?" she asked again.
Vandal remained as he was as he answered, "I'm sure, princess. This is my thank you, to you."
Liz leaned in closer. If he tensed up even the slightest bit, she'd stop. She carefully checked his reaction. There was no tension in him. He was breathing evenly and he looked calm. She was aware he was still running his fingers through her hair. She didn't know if he was doing it consciously or not. She didn't mind. She placed her lips in the crook of his neck. She held them there for a few seconds. He didn't tense up. He was relaxing even further and Liz knew he wasn't forcing himself to relax. No. He was relaxing into it. He seemed to actually be enjoying it. She bit, slowly, making sure he wouldn't feel it. Warm blood ran into her mouth and she took two gulps. He tasted different than a normal person. She knew it was the vampire blood in his veins that altered it. She pulled back. Vandal had a quiet smile on his lips when he turned to her again. He didn't step away. Instead, he spoke, fascinated, "There were colors and warm light."
For some reason, it made her happy to hear that. She smiled at him. He was still running his fingers through her hair. "You really like my ponytail, don't you?"
Surprise flashed across his face as he realized what he was doing. He finished the stroke and let the ends slip out of his hand. Then he grinned, "You made a mess, princess."
Liz checked his neck, confused. It was clean.
Before she could react Vandal reached out and ran his thumb over the corner of her mouth. It came off wet with blood. He licked it.
For a few seconds, Liz just stared at him. Then her face cracked into another smile.
Vandal couldn't believe himself. He didn't hate her smile. He usually hated people's smiles. Mostly because they were always fake. Hers was genuine. He found himself smiling back. Before he could stop himself he reached back up, gently placed a hand on the back of her head and pulled the hairtie out of her hair with the other. He brushed it out. It fell past her shoulders, onto her chest, like black silk. She looked younger like this. The hair framing her face softened her features. He slipped the hairtie into the back pocket of his jeans.
Liz cocked her head. "Am I getting that back?"
"No. I'm keeping it as a souvenir," Vandal grinned.
"I could take it back from you," she laughed. "I can reach it."
"You wouldn't dare to put your hand there," he said darkly. "Not if you want to keep it."
"I'm pretty sure I'm fast enough to swipe it."
"Really? Do you want to bet on that? I dare you to try it," he challenged. His gaze grew cold.
Liz hesitated and it made him smirk. She wasn't taking his threats lightly. That was good.
"I think I'll keep my hand, thank you," she said and looked away. She automatically started brushing through her hair.
Very good, Vandal thought. She still knew to be scared of him when he changed tone. She hadn't taken chances and most of all she hadn't tested him.
"Princess," he spoke softer this time. "You'll get to keep your hand even if you fail. Let's see how fast you are."
Another moment of hesitation. She still wasn't looking at him either even though he had softened his voice. He had given her one warning and it had been enough to put the idea out of her mind. He was pleased.
He pulled the hairtie out and held it behind his back with one hand. He used his other to make her face him again. "I'm holding it behind my back. Try to get it."
This time she nodded.
He tensed and his free hand shot forward as soon as she twitched. She had no chance. She was faster, yes. But not skilled enough. He had anticipated what she would do and therefore been able to stop her. He had her wrist trapped. He squeezed, enough for her to notice, but not to hurt.
"That's your hand gone, princess," he stated.
She glanced at her wrist in his grip. Then she said eagerly, "I don't get it. I was faster. What did I do wrong?" There was a thirst for knowledge in her now.
"You're too predictable," he let her know. "Just reaching around me isn't gonna cut it, no matter how fast you are."
"Please, tell me what to do different," she asked him, her tone friendly. She wasn't demanding it. She wanted advice. She added, smiling, "You can keep the hairtie after the lesson."
He stepped backwards a few steps and pulled her with him, away from the wall. He let go of her and ordered, "Put your hands behind your back."
She did and he continued, "Now, I'm going to do what you did. Stop me, you'll see how easy it is if you know what's going to happen."
Liz caught his wrist like he had a moment ago.
"Good," he chuckled as she immediately let go of him again. "If you really want to get behind my back, the only way is for you to turn me. Try taking hold of my shoulder and pulling me towards you and then to the side."
She did as he told her again and something seemed to amuse Vandal to no end.
She had him turned and could reach behind him now. She snatched the hairtie back, then handed it to him.
"How on earth did you manage to knock that guy out?" Vandal wanted to know. He couldn't for one second imagine how she'd managed. Her technique was horrible. He could have had her trapped again in 3 seconds just now.
"I grabbed his arm and twisted it behind his back, then I struck his neck hard enough so he would pass out," she shrugged.
He raised his eyebrow. "If you could do that, then why are you so clumsy at this?"
"I don't know. Maybe I'm just not a good offensive player," she laughed.
"Do you want me to teach you?" he offered. If she was gonna bring people back to drain, she needed to get better.
"Oh, yes please!" She was actually excited. "Yes, that would be wonderful!"
He taught her the basics and showed her how to disarm someone. He was glad to see that she learned quicker if he demonstrated it on her first. She wasn't too bad.
Liz on her part, was actually having fun. She had always loved learning new things.
They ended their lesson as their shift ended. They hadn't had any more customers.
Vandal was shutting down the computer and Liz moved into the hallway, or at least she should have. When she stepped out of the room, it had changed. The air was cool. She was in a tunnel, somewhere underground.
"What the hell? Where am I?" she looked back to where she had come from. The tunnel continued there. She was no longer at the bloodbank. "What the fuck is going on?!" She was slightly panicked.
As soon as Vandal heard her he moved into the hallway. She was standing there, looking around in panic. "Princess?" She didn't seem to see or hear him. He grabbed her shoulders and even that did nothing to snap her out of whatever she was in.
"Guys?" she was calling for the voices.
'Listen.' They were faint in the back of her head.
She did. She focused and then she heard it. Someone was talking. Not the voices. A person. A male raspy voice.
"I want to meet her," it said. "You said she's with Nick, right? And works at the bloodbank currently? For Therese?"
"Yes, that's correct." It was Knox!
"Very good, this should be interesting. Can you intercept her before she starts her shift tomorrow?"
Knox sounded the confident, "Yes, of course."
The tunnel dissolved and the air warmed up again.
Vandal still had his hands on her shoulders when her eyes focused again and snapped to him. He let go.
"Welcome back, princess."
"Oh, fuck. I'm so sorry!" she said. "That kinda scared me for a minute. Fuck. I don't know where the hell I was, but it was cold and dark!" When she went on she was withholding the information on Knox and Bertram on purpose for now. She knew she wasn't allowed to tell him. She felt the voices in the back of her head, more than she heard a spoken warning. "I might be late to my shift tomorrow, I don't know. This felt like something is gonna come up. But I will be there."
"Be careful, princess," he urged her. If she didn't know better it almost sounded like he was worried.
"I will be, thank you Vandal."
They said their goodbyes in front of the bloodbank as usual and went home.
Liz put in her headphones as she made her way down the street, so it looked like she was talking to someone on the phone when she asked the voices, "Any news on, Nick? How is he?"
'All is well. He will tell you about his day when he comes home. He will go to his apartment first.'
"Can I surprise him, by waiting for him there, or should I wait at my place?"
They were laughing. She had never heard them laugh before. Not like this. It wasn't mad laughter. 'It is of no consequence. Do as you please. We thank you, for asking, though.'
She'd wait for him at his place then. They had exchanged spare keys before they had left in the evening.
Liz pulled her hair back to secure it before she remembered that Vandal had actually not given her tie back. It made her wonder if he liked it better like this.
On her way upstairs she ran into one of Nick's neighbors who gave her a curt hello.
She sat down in Nick's living room and turned on the Tv. There was nothing interesting on the news, so she pulled out her phone and decided to text Melody. She wrote, "Hey Melody, it's Liz. I just wanted to check if you got home all right. I hope you're doing ok, all things considered." She would probably get a reply during the day when she was asleep.
Nick got there half an hour later. He pulled in with a folder under his arm. Liz could see he was pleasantly surprised to see her as she walked over and kissed him on the cheek.
"Surprise," she smiled.
"Sweetie!" he looked so happy. "How was you night?"
"Eventful! Great!" she said. "Yours?"
"Very interesting. My meeting with Grout was enlightening. But let me hear about your day first." He put the folder down on the table and they sat down in front of the Tv.
She began talking, starting with the most recent events and going backwards, "So just now when I left I had a vision. Knox is going to bring me to Bertram tomorrow before my shift starts. He's probably gonna be waiting near the bloodbank. Have you met Bertram in person before, or was it always just you and Knox?"
"I met Bertram. He's no looker," he laughed. "But he's a fun guy."
"Good to know. Knox seems to think he's the coolest guy around."
"I'm sure you'll like him," Nick said.
She nodded and continued, "My night at the bloodbank was as usual. The numbers you ran really helped! I even got a reply from the supplier and we'll be restocked every month. It's going so well! Therese will be pleased to get my report."
"That's great!"
Then she told him about her talk with Vandal and the voices. Nick informed her that at his talk with Grout he had had the exact same experience. That they had had a conversation with them.
"So, Vandal decided he'd drink my blood every month," Liz spoke. "I was thinking of getting a vial to fill and give to him."
Nick had no objections. "I'll help, of course."
"Thank you!" Liz leaned against him and he petted her head.
"What happened to your ponytail?"
"Vandal stole it."
Nick snorted, "He stole your ponytail?" He didn't know why he found that so funny.
"Yeah, he simply failed to return the needed tool. I'm not one hundred percent sure if it was on purpose or not."
"Wait, he pulled your hair open? Why?"
Liz shrugged, "Yeah. I don't know why. I'm not even sure he knows himself. Maybe he just wanted to see how it looks?"
Nick shook his head then grinned, "He should know better than to mess with a girl's hair. The ones I knew would have punched him in the face."
"I would never punch anyone for something so minor! Actually, let's expand that statement. I WOULD NEVER punch him! Nick you wouldn't believe how nice he can actually be if he doesn't hate someone! He even taught me how to disarm someone when he found out I couldn't when it came up in a conversation later."
That was something Nick hadn't expected to hear. "That's nice of him. I'll have to thank him for looking out for you when I get the chance."
"Yes, please do. He's really not so bad when you get to know him and if you can look past his extreme hate for the world in general and the violent tendencies," she said. "I really think he's learning to hate everything a bit less. He started with me."
He believed her.
Liz continued talking for quite a while, leaving out only the detail the voices had agreed not to share with him. When she was done Nick started his retelling of his own night.
"I arrived at Alistair's mansion and of course he knew I was coming. So we sat down and I explained to him what happened with us and he said that he had thought something like that was actually possible. He hypothesized that the voices are actually some kind of universal force, or matter. He said he could best describe it if he compared it to something we already knew. He told me that for instance you could compare it to a bat being able to echolocate. It makes a sound and hears the echo the object makes. He said we are able to hear hear the echo of the very universe, that our mental voice puts out sound that is then reflected back at us but in a different form."
Liz told him, "Okay, still it doesn't explain how they're actually able to take control of us."
Nick nodded, "Yes that's where it gets tricky. He had no explanation for that. During out conversation when we started to talk to the voices, he actually asked them what they were and they told him they had no words to explain it. They did try though, but it was almost incomprehensible. They said they're what everything is made of, almost like atoms, but different." He shook his head, remembering. "After that part, we talked about different things to them. They told Grout to beware of the LaCroix, he was plotting something. They told me not to get involved and that I should focus instead on helping you, Knox and Vandal. So that's what I'm gonna do."
Liz smiled at him. "Well, then it looks like you got the day off tomorrow, since I'm meeting Bertram and will be going to the bloodbank straight after. I'd offer you to come to the bloodbank, but that's probably more boring for you than sitting here at home with your one channel of TV."
He laughed, "I'll think about it. If I decide to come, or if the voices decide I should come, I'll have them send a memo in advance."
She kissed him for that. "You're the sweetest!"
They spent some time listening to Deb's radio show before they went to sleep.

Chapter Text

Liz woke up next to Nick who was still asleep. Carefully she slipped out of his arms and went to get dressed. She felt like wearing all black today, so she did. She ran a hand through her hair and left it open. She was too lazy to rummage through her bag again for a new tie.
She was checking her phone when she heard Nick get up.
Melody had replied to her message. She had gotten home all right and had seen a doctor. She had also decided to get a therapist.
"Good evening," Nick said, stretching in the doorway to the bedroom. "I assume you're off now?"
"Yes. And my friends are already giving me a heads up on Bertram."
"Well nice. I think I'll just browse the web for a while. I'll let you know if I'm coming by later," he smiled.
"Wonderful. See you later, Nick. Love you!"
"Love you too," he opened his arms and looked at her.
She rose from her seat and hugged him. She kissed him goodbye and then left for the bloodbank.
She had expected Knox to wait outside the medical clinic or the entrance to the bloodbank, but he wasn't there.
Liz was dreading where this was going. He had gone downstairs, hadn't he? He had had to go downstairs.
Vandal would be pissed. He'd be furious. This was not going to be fun.
"Fuck," she breathed. He'd be in such a foul mood.
She opened the door to the bloodbank and went inside.
Knox was standing in the hallway leaning close to the donation window. He had been speaking to Vandal and turned when he heard her approach.
"Hey Knox! What are you doing here?" Liz asked.
Vandal actually stepped out the door into the hallway. He looked like he was ready to rip heads off. "Hi, princess. I was just asking him the same thing."
She saw Knox take half a step back from him. She walked over and stood next to Vandal.
"I was looking for you, Liz!" he smiled. "I need to talk to you. Alone."
"Whatever you have to say to her, you can say while I'm standing here," Vandal threatened.
"Sorry, I'm not sure that's a good idea," Knox looked troubled now.
"I agree with, Vandal," Liz said. "You came down here. If you wanted to talk alone, why not wait at the entrance to the bloodbank?" She crossed her arms in front of her chest. "He will hear whatever you have to say. So please, what did you want to talk about?"
The smile that spread across Vandal's face was one of cruel satisfaction.
Knox was worried this was going to get back to Therese. He knew if it did, his boss wouldn't appreciate it too much. He spoke, "Well, Bertram wants to meet you."
"When?"
"Tonight," Knox answered.
Vandal was not happy with that, he turned to Liz with a cold stare. "Princess, I am 'unhappy' with this turn of events. Let me make something 'very clear' here." He grabbed her shoulders, hard.
"Dude, let go of her!" Knox was stepping forward.
"Stay out of it, Knox!" Liz barked. She knew if he as much as reached for Vandal right now, he'd snap his neck.
Knox stopped in his tracks, staring at the both of them.
Vandal continued, "The bitch CANNOT find out where you've been!" His grip tightened further and she winced, he hadn't actually meant to hurt her. He was just so furious. "Do you understand?"
"I understand. I swear she won't find out, Vandal. You can stake me if she does," Liz tried to ignore the pain in her shoulders.
He let go of her and his head snapped to Knox. He sounded malevolent when he spoke, "Make sure no one hears about this, or I will end you." He took a step towawrds Knox, who held his ground. "You're gonna bring princess back here in one piece. You should really be thanking her right now." He turned back to Liz and she saw, he was trying really hard to keep his anger in check and his voice somewhat neutral as he said, "I'll see you later, princess."
Liz looked at him with an expression that was 'I'm sorry he came down here' and 'Thank you for not snapping his neck' at the same time. "I'll see you later, Vandal."
She grabbed Knox by the arm rather roughly and dragged him along with her.
The door to the bloodbank fell shut behind them and they were outside.
"Fuck," Liz took a deep breath. She was slightly annoyed and at the same time relieved nothing catastrophic had happened.
She turned to Knox, who said, "What the hell! Are you all right? Did he hurt you? He looked like he was ready to kill you!"
'No, he was ready to kill YOU!' Liz thought. 'He was right, you really should be thanking me right now.'
She sighed. "I'm good." She thought for a moment then she punched Knox in the arm.
"Ow!"
"Now, I'm better," she grinned. "It would have made things easier if you had just waited for me outside. Why on earth did you go down there?"
"I just wanted to ask Vandal if he knew when you were gonna come in, that's all," Knox answered.
Liz shook her head. "Whatever. What's done is done. I'll just deal with a meanie for the rest of the night when I get back. Probably."
Knox looked concerned. "No, seriously, Liz. Are you gonna be ok?"
"Look, Knox. I 'like' Vandal. You might not know, but I was helping you, trust me."
"You 'like' him?" he was looking at her as if she was crazy.
"I do," her voice was firm and she saw Knox's eyes widen. "You don't even 'know' him. You shouldn't be so quick to judge!"
"Okay, if you say so." He raised his hands defensively.
"Anyway, where are we going?"
"Abandoned water tower on the edge of town," he replied. "You know, Bertram and Therese aren't really on good terms. I can understand why he was pissed that I'm taking you to him."
"Vandal was right though. If Therese finds out, we're all toast."
"Secret's safe with me," Knox promised. He placed a hand over his heart and smiled at her.
They arrived at the water tower a bit later. He was leading her inside and they were out of few of the streets.
"Bertram, here she is," Knox said.
Bertram Tung stepped forward. "Thank you, Knox." He turned to Liz. "Let's skip the introduction. I hope Knox didn't make any trouble for you."
Nick had been right. He wasn't a looker. He had bulbous growths on his hands and his bald head. His eyes were unnatural. The whites of them were black, the irises blood red and they seemed to almost glow in the dark. He was dressed in a red shirt with a jacket over it and wore jeans.
Liz took a bow. "Not at all, sir. No."
Tung raised an eyebrow. "Well, Knox could only tell me what you told him. You work for Therese and you help organizing the bloodbank. I just want to know why Therese came to you for that."
'Choose your words very carefully now. He cannot know you came to her by yourself. Lie! Nick recommended you!'
'Let Nick know what's happening immediately, please,' she told the voices.
"Miss Voerman had heard about my college degrees from Nick. I got two different degrees and I needed the work to be able to pay rent. He recommended me," she spoke.
"What does your work there entail?"
"Not much, actually. I help restock supplies and organize them."
Tung was persistent, "Can you elaborate. What is it you do there?"
"Well, I sell blood packs to customers, I sort the supplies and make sure the hospital has enough for its patients and the rest of it is sold. We also now get monthly blood deliveries. From an official supplier for the hospital."
"Ah," Tung seemed pleased with that answer. "Do you do anything else for Therese?"
"What else would I be doing? I was hired to organize the blood bank. I'm not sure I understand the question, sir," Liz said, confused.
'He thought you might be out to sabotage one of his operations...'
Tung smiled at her. "It's all right. So, I guess if Therese found out you've been to see me, she'd be pissed?"
"She would be, sir. I would very much like to keep my job."
"I understand. You offered Knox your help, correct?"
She smiled back at him warmly, "Yes. I did."
"Well, you'll be helping me by helping Knox. Do you think you could organize something other than a bloodbank?"
"Probably, yes. It really depends on what needs to be organized," Liz said.
"I need explosives. I need to make a warehouse disappear," Tung said.
Liz face slipped for a second. "A warehouse? Which warehouse? How big is it?"
"Downtown. It's run by the Sabbat." He showed it to her on a laptop.
'This is not the operation he thought you were going to sabaotage. This is safe. You can agree.'
She nodded. "I can do it. How large do you want the explosion? I can make it large enough that it'll be all over the news! Do you have anyone to plant them?"
Tung laughed, "I like you! I will have people ready to plant everything. You just need to concern yourself with getting them near enough the warehouse."
'It'll be fun! Fun! Fun!'
"All right, sir."
"Good, let me know once you have the delivery ready for transport," Tung told her. "Knox has a pager, he can reach me."
"Of course, sir. I will keep him posted on progress." She bowed again.
"Very well. Thank you for your help. Knox will see you out."
Knox led her back to the bloodbank in silence.
The voices in her head were going crazy right now. There was almost too much information coming in for her to process. She felt like she was going insane. She groaned, "Too much. Hurts, so much. My head!" She needed it to stop. She put her hand on the entrance door of the bloodbank and barely registered Knox worried gaze on her.
They were telling her about the warehous, the explosives, they were talking about Vandal, they were talking about Nick, Therese, Tung, all at once.
Her head felt like it was going to crack. She opened the door and stepped inside. "Knox, I'll see you soon," she brought out between clenched teeth. "Thanks for bringing me back." She left him standing where he was. Her vision was a mess of blurry overlays and images, zipping past her eyes. She stumbled down the stairs. "Need it to stop." She opened the door to Vandal's room. She barely could see anyhting other than the rush of colors and images. The voices in her head kept talking, some of them too loud, some of them too quiet but all of them blending into horrible noise. "Too much!! TOO MUCH!!" She felt laughter rise from her throat and somewhere in between her knees had given out and she was crouched onto the floor. She started cackling. "Make it stop! My head!" She felt Vandal's hands around the sides of her face. His voice seemed to come from far away. She couldn't make out what he was saying over all the voices. They were now accompanied with a high pitched ringing. They were screeching. Her head felt like it was being split with a sledgehammer. She screamed. "Make it stop! KILL THEM! KILL ME!" His hands were still on her face. Part of the images rushing past her started turning blue. Why were they blue? She didn't know. His eyes were blue. His eyes. She focused on the blue spot that overlayed the blurry mess. "Princess? Can you hear me?" his voice reached her ears through all of it somehow.
"Don't let go of my face," she heard herself say. "Please, keep looking at me."
"I'm right here."
He was pushing out the noise. He was pushing it away. He made it go away. He was her aspirin right now. Focus. She had to focus on him. Nothing else.
She heard herself speak again, "Please, say something, anything. You're helping. You're drowning out the other sounds. You're saving me."
"I don't hate you, princess," he told her. "Are you feeling a bit better?"
His face slowly came back into focus. It was pushing through the wall of images. His voice had fully reached her. "Thank you, Vandal." She slumped against his chest. His heartbeat would drown out the rest of the whispers. "You saved me... I felt like dying, but the pain didn't stop. I wanted it to end and you did end it. You killed the voices for me." She listened. The monotone rhythm of his heart was calming her down. She unconsciously wrapped her arms around him. "Can I stay like this for a short while longer?" She felt his hand move to her back and stay there.
"Take your time, princess."
"Thank you," she smiled.
'We're sorry... We couldn't stop the information from coming in once it started... We didn't know it'd be too much... We will prioritize next time...' They truly did sound sorry they had hurt her.
'It's all right now...' she told them.
"Princess?" She though he wanted her to move away, but when she tried there was a light pressure from his hand. "You can stay. It's ok." She leaned back again and relaxed. He ran a finger up and down her spine. "You told Knox you like me." She heard the smile in his voice.
'We showed him. He was watching.'
"Of course I did. I DO like you," Liz told him. Her head was finally starting to slowly get back to normal.
Vandal didn't say anything to that and that was fine. Instead he asked, "What did Tung want from you? He always wants something."
"I'm just supposed to blow shit up for him," she grinned. "A warehouse downtown."
"Princess, you amaze me," he laughed.
"I told him it'd make the news. So it's gonna be a big boom!"
'Nick's coming.'
They heard footsteps down the hallway.
Vandal was about to move, but Liz stopped him, "It's fine, it's just Nick."
"I heard," he said.
"He won't mind. I don't mind. Do you?"
"No." So he stayed as he was, with Liz resting against him.
The door opened and Nick saw them.
"Hi, Nick. I'm getting better," Liz smiled at him.
Nick went in and crouched down to her. He lightly touched her head. "I'm glad. I heard what happened." He turned to Vandal and said, "Thank you. For keeping her from going insane."
"You're welcome," Vandal spoke in a neutral tone. "Do you want to take over?"
Nick asked Liz, "Do you want to stay with him? I don't mind if you do. I know the sound helps." He was referring to Vandal's heartbeat.
"Just a few more moments," she said and closed her eyes.
Nick sat down on the floor beside them. "Did she tell you what Tung wanted?"
"Princess said he wanted her to blow up a warehouse."
Nick laughed, "Typical!"
"She told him, it'd make the news," he smirked.
"Then I'll never see it," he said. He saw the confusion in Vandal's eyes and explained, "Thanks to my condition," he tapped his temple. "TV is not a thing I can watch. I only get one channel and the newsman on there is always telling jokes."
That made Vandal pause for a moment.
"If there's ever anything you need, Vandal. Please tell me. I'm very grateful for what you did for her." Nick said, sincerely.
Vandal nodded his thanks. "I will."
For a while none of them said a word, but the silence wasn't heavy, it was calm, relaxed even.
Liz's weight shifted against him and he looked at her. She had fallen asleep.
"Vandal? Can I ask you something? You don't have to answer if you don't want to. But I wondered how you came to be Therese's ghoul. You hate her so deeply and I've never seen anything like it. Liz really cares about you and she'd never risk asking in fear of hurting you with bad memories."
Vandal winced, then stared at him. He said, darkly, "It was the worst night of my life. It was the night I finally snapped." He looked at Nick, hard, "Have you ever been so angry at someone that you wanted to hurt them? You were when I had princess. You wanted to hurt me and then she wouldn't let you. Now imagine that anger, but a million times worse. I've always been, off. I always disliked people. Not hated, just intensely disliked. But it got worse over time. People kept getting worse and I grew to hate them. The night I met the bitch I was at a club and things just spun out of control. I got in a fight and I dragged the guy who had punched me, for no other reason than that I had looked like a freak to him, outside into an alleyway. I held him against the wall and pulled a knife on him. He was scared. It felt good. He deserved it. I wanted to hear him apologize, beg. He did. That moment, something inside me snapped in two. I didn't care about him. I didn't care about ANY of them. I killed him. I've never been the same since. The moment as the light was fading from his eyes... something in them changed... something in me changed. And I didn't hate it. After he was dead, I left him there. I was on my way out of the alley when the bitch appeared out of nowhere and blocked my way. She told me I could have more of that power I was feeling just then. She said I could work for her. I could take people for her. She told me I could have more power than I ever had as a human. I refused. She said that meant she would have to kill me. I didn't care. And then she did what all the rest of them do, humans and kindred alike. She forced me to drink from her. She took my control away and made me see things with her dementation and before I knew what was going on, I was drinking from her wrist." He paused and then spoke, bitter, "She didn't even let me choose to die. For that I hate her from the bottom of my twisted heart. I'll make her suffer and then I'll give her what she wouldn't let me have."
Nick stared at him. "You wanted to die?"
Vandal's eyes didn't show any emotion as he spoke, "I guess, once upon a time, I did." He looked at Liz and gently stroked her hair. "She knows. She figured it out before I even told her and it scared her. She told me it makes her feel powerless, when she's unable to help. She told me that she thinks she's broken too, but to be honest, we all are to some degree. I might always hate the world, and I don't think I'll ever unlearn to like and enjoy causing pain and death, but I'll at least try not to take anyone who she, or you, think they don't deserve it. I realized I don't want to hurt either of you..."
"Thank you, Vandal," Nick said. He had never expected this turn of conversation to end up anywhere but with Vandal shutting him down. "Thank you, for telling me. I think I understand you."
Vandal turned his attention back to Liz sleeping against his chest. "You should probably take her home. I think she's out for good," he smirked. "Tell her I'll see her on Monday, when she wakes up. I'll finish the shift alone."
"Are you sure you don't need help? I can come in after I brought her home," Nick offered.
"I've been doing this alone for almost 10 years now. I'll manage," Vandal grumbled. He carefully took her in his arms and stood up. She was extremely light, he noticed. She really was petite. He handed her to Nick. "I would prefer if you didn't tell her about how I came to be the bitch's slave. I'd like her to ask me herself, once she's ready."
Nick nodded. "Of course."
Vandal plucked the red tie from his pocket and gently slipped it over Liz's hand. "Sleep tight, princess." To Nick he said, "I'll see you around." He returned to his desk.
Nick left the bloodbank with Liz in his arms.

Chapter Text

Liz woke again during the late afternoon of the next day. She remembered falling asleep leaning on Vandal. Nick had brought her home to his apartment. She found him already awake and sitting on the sofa, having a conversation with the newsman on TV.
"Hey, Nick," she said and sat next to him. "What's new?"
"I'm trying to convince him to let me watch the news, at least once, for when you're blowing up the warehouse," he laughed. "I don't think it's working."
She looked at the TV. She turned it to a movie channel. "Is it still news?"
He nodded. "I told you, it's really just one channel. For me anyway."
"So technically I could sit here watch a ton of movies and you'd never know what I was watching?"
"Yes."
"Did you try watching news on your phone? Or any videos at all. What happens then?"
"Tried it. I can't. Every video I ever tried. Newsman. Jokes," he grumbled.
"What a sad thing... At least you get normal radio news..."
He laughed. "Vandal told me to tell you he'll see you on Monday," he let her know.
"Thanks! Wait, it's Saturday right?"
Nick raised his eyebrow, "Yes. Why?"
"Yes! Because I'm going out to the club to meet with Merinda and her friends! Wanna come with?" she asked, excited.
"Sure."
"Chelsey will be sad. She wanted Vandal to be there. I never had the chance to ask him again if he really didn't wanna come."
"I remember you telling me about it. The guys who donated blood, right?" Nick chuckled.
"Yes, that's them. They're a nice bunch. Say, can I use your computer? I wanted to file that report for Miss Voerman."
"Of course, sweetie."
She wrote a mail on the current status of things and asked if Miss Voerman would like her to come in for a meeting tomorrow night or the start of the next week. When she was done with that, she got dressed for her night out.
"Say Nick, I'm bored. Wanna wear matching outfits for tonight?"
Nick came to stand behind her as she was pulling stuff out of her bag and said, "Well my wardrobe isn't that diverse, you know. I got jeans and button up shirts and t-shirts in different colors."
She smiled. "Works for me. I want to wear white today." She pulled out a blouse, then jeans.
"Can do, sweetie."
They got dressed and waited for the sun to go down. Liz periodically checked the mail and before long, she had a reply from Therese telling her to come in tomorrow night at 2 AM.
It wouldn't be a long meeting. Everything was running smoothly and there had been no complaints.
'She will sing you praises. She will be so pleased,' the voices whispered.
"Thanks, guys. Maybe let Vandal know I'm going to meet her tomorrow. I don't know. I think we should keep him updated."
'We will let him know as soon as he wakes up.'
"Thank you."
They left the apartment an hour after. Liz took enough money to pay for her friends round of drinks.
The Asylum was packed with people. It was so packed that you could barely get to the bar.
"Holy shit," Liz said over the noise of music and people having conversations. "Is it always that full on weekends?"
Nick answered, "Yes. And we should definitely get a drink before we meet your friends."
They did.
Merinda arrived with the group about half an hour after Nick and Liz had gotten there.
She spotted them and greeted, "Hey Liz! And hi Nick! I should have know you'd be there too. It's so good to see you! Now my friends get to meet you as well." She was happy. "Guys, that's Nick!" She pointed at each of her friends, introducing them, "Bryan. Leslie. Chelsey and Hannah."
"It's good to meet you all," Nick said, smiling at them.
"Oh my god, you got husky eyes!" Hannah laughed. "That's so cool! I already thought Liz's were awesome, but damn I didn't know her boyfriend also had Heterochromia! Sorry Liz, his are cooler!"
Liz nudged Nick in the arm with her elbow playfully and said, "Told you, Nick! They're awesome!" She told Hannah, "This nut job hides them behind sunglasses! Can you believe it?!"
"Aw, what? Seriously?!" Hannah burst out. "Damn boy! They're pretty! Don't hide them!"
"She just called me nuts!" Nick said, faking to be shocked. "I can't believe it! You all heard it, right?"
Merinda kicked in laughing, "Well, who knows. She knows you better than me. I'll let her be the judge of it!"
"Well, if that's the case, she's just as nuts as me!" He paused, then said, "You guys wanna hear a joke? I know a ton of them and I don't usually get to tell them to this many people."
They agreed and he started with the tuna joke Liz had heard him tell her the first time she'd seen him watch TV. He told a couple others too.
"Damn, where did you get them all? Some of them are actually good!" Bryan wanted to know.
"Some from co-workers, some I read on the internet, some on TV," he grinned. "I don't seem to forget them once I heard them."
"You do any sports?"
Liz turned to the four girls. She was not gonna listen to them talk about sports. "Here we go, guys talking about sports. I do not need it," she groaned.
"Yeah, right!" Leslie said, amused. "So how's your work going Liz?"
"Great! I was hoping I could host a campaign for the hospital to get more donors," she smiled. "What about you guys?"
They told her about their work and she listened. Hannah worked in retail, Leslie was a manager, Merinda, she already knew worked at the museum and Chelsey was a medical student.
"Chelsey, so you mentioned you're a medical student. Which field?"
"General surgery," she told Liz. "Planning to do extra classes on trauma surgery after."
"Nice!"
They kept talking for quite a while and Liz bought them their promised round of drinks.
"You're not gonna have anything?" Merinda asked surprised.
"Ah, no. Nick and I are on a very strict diet right now. No sugar in drinks and tons of reading on labels," she let out a frustrated breath. "If I slipped now, I'd hate myself later."
Merinda shrugged. Then she grinned, "Well, good on you for staying strong! I wouldn't be able to do it!"
Later, Leslie, Merinda and Bryan wanted to hit the dance floor. Chelsey had just come back from it and said, "Merinda! You see the chick in the blue shirt? The one with the ripped jeans and the short dark brown hair? I just talked to her. She's gay. You might wanna check that single lady out! I think she's your type!"
Merinda was off in the blink of an eye. Bryan and Leslie followed behind. Nick said he wanted to get a minute of fresh air and went outside.
Liz laughed heartily, "Well, Chelsey the matchmaker, eh? Wonderful! Sorry I couldn't make Vandal come, by the way. But he really doesn't like clubs. Personal reasons, I guess."
"It's all right," she said. "He seemed interesting, though. I'd have liked to get to know him."
"Sorry. Maybe I can get him to come next time. I'll certainly try again, though I don't think he'll change his mind."
"Thanks for trying," Chelsey said happily. "I'll keep hoping."
This girl was just full of sunshine, Liz thought. She really liked her. She decided to exchange numbers.
'We have a surprise for you.'
"Oh, look Liz! Your boyfriend brought a friend!"
Liz turned in the direction Chelsey was pointing.
"Knox!" she cried out in joy. As soon as he was close enough she closed the rest of the distance and hugged him.
Knox petted her back, a bit perplexed. "Hey Liz!"
She stepped back. "It's so good to see you! Oh my god! I felt so bad for basically stumbling out on you in front of the bloodbank, but my head was killing me! Almost literally."
"Yeah, I noticed! I'm glad to see you're better! Who is your friend?" Knox smiled at her.
"That is Chelsey. And my other friends are currenly dancing."
"Hey Knox," Chelsey greeted him.
"Hi!"
"Where did you find him, Nick?" Liz wanted to know.
"He didn't find me! Girl! It's Saturday night. I can go out clubbing when I'm off work!" Knox was laughing so hard.
"And here I though you were just following one of your many leads," she teased.
Chelsey cut in, "Say what now?"
"I'm a bounty hunter," Knox answered.
"Cool! Compared to you, I'm boring!"
"She's a medical student," Liz told him before Chelsey could.
"And there you go spoiling the surprise!" she laughed. "Knox, wanna come with me? I'll introduce you to everyone. Liz, Nick, you coming too, right?"
Liz looked at Nick and offered him a hand. "Let's dance, pretty boy."
Together they hit the dance floor.
Dancing turned out to be as much fun as ever, even if the music they played at the Asylum wasn't really her thing. It worked for dancing though so she didn't mind too much.
"Are you having fun?" Nick asked Liz, while they were still on the floor.
"Yes, so much! I love it! It's a lot more intense than I remember! How about you?"
"I'm good. Feels like a normal Saturday night!" he replied.
"Just tell me when you wanna leave, I'll excuse us for the night whenever you want to go home."
"I'm not done yet!" he said, while Liz did a pirouette.
"Well then, let's see who gets tired first!"
"That a challenge?" he teased.
"It totally is!"
Neither of them got tired or tired of it. After a while, Knox tapped Nick on the shoulder and asked, "Can I steal her for a dance too?"
It made Liz grin like a high school girl. "Aw, I'm honored Mr. Harrington!"
He took her by the hand and Nick went back to the bar to look for Leslie and Bryan. He took Chelsey with him. Merinda had apparently taken a real liking to the girl Chelsey had pointed out to her. They were talking.
"So Knox, since nobody is gonna hear us here you get to ask me whatever you want," Liz said.
"I didn't know you had so many friends! I'm actually super amazed! Most of you guys are not so sociable," he said sincerely. "How'd you meet them?"
"Merinda was the first. I was just lucky when I came here the second time that she had a bunch of friends with her. I like them all. They're a fun bunch! Almost a pity I can't go shopping with them during the day and all!"
"Aw, man, yeah that's a shame!"
Knox was actually a pretty good dancer, Liz noted. She'd known he's athletic, but he could really dance.
"I didn't think you'd be that good of a dancer for some reason!" she told him. "You're awesome! Did you take lessons?"
"You're really interested?"
She nodded. "I wouldn't have asked, if I weren't. So, tell me," she smiled.
"Well, yeah. I did actually. It's been a while, but I used to dance in a larger group and took part in competitions," he told her.
"That's awesome! I did latin dance for 3 years. That was during my teens though."
They talked about this and that. It was the first time that she had talked with Knox at length and he had not asked her about anything regarding work, or the like.
"Hey, if you ever want to hear a cool story you've got to ask Nick how he met me! I can't do it justice, I suck at telling stories. Nick on the other hand, he's good at it!" Knox said to her.
"I will remember to do that!"
'We're glad to see you're having fun, you two! Nick, tell Merinda to tell Cassidy the joke with the two blondes that fell in a hole. Liz, just keep enjoying yourself.'
"Aw, thanks!" she said.
Knox gave her a questioning look.
She gave him a wink in return and tapped her temple. "They told me to have fun. Also, that brown haired girl Merinda's hanging with is Cassidy." She paused for a moment and then continued, "I can't even remember what it's like to be alone up there. I like the company!"
"Except for when company is giving you a headache?"
"Even then, I still like them," she laughed. "What are your plans for the weekend?"
"I'll probably hang out with some of my buddies by the beach," Knox said.
"Do you surf?"
"Nah. I'm not one for water sports. Got a fear of drowning," Knox told her. "I play Volleyball from time to time."
She pulled a face. "I fucking 'hated' that in school! My arms were always bruised after! And they fucking made you play it, too! By god, why did it always have to be ball sports. Ugh!"
Knox looked amused at her outburst. "My school always came up with the worst things to do during gym. Hurdles, gymnastics, you name it!"
"I'd have given half a toe to swap with you! We always played ball! And I always got hit! I was a goddamn magnet for them, I swear! I got hit at least once a month! Maybe I was just shit at dodging, who knows."
Knox was laughing again.
"That's not funny! They hurt!"
And now he was laughing harder. She punched him in the shoulder, lightly. "Meanie!!"
He looked at her again. He had laughed so hard he had tears in his eyes.
They were green. Why had she not noticed before? They were as green as a lake in the forest. It was such a beautiful shade. She tried to remember if they matched the color of his voice.
"Uh, Liz... you're staring at me," Knox said.
A flash of orange went through a wave of turquoise before her eyes, followed by white. No. They didn't match his voice.
"Liz? Hello?"
She snapped out of it. "Sorry," she apologized. "I spaced out there. If it interests you, I concluded your eyes don't match your voice. Your voice is kinda turquoise and a bit of white." She went on to explain, "I see colors when I hear sound. It's called synesthesia."
"That sounds cool! So music is also a visual experience for you?"
She nodded. "It's pretty. Orchestra is the best. It makes the nicest pattern."
After she had told him he asked a lot of questions about it. He was curious and he was enjoying just talking about something that wasn't work. Liz felt the same. Knox was great to talk to. He had a lot of interesting things to say.
They had rejoined the group at the bar and kept talking. Merinda had introduced Cassidy to them and Liz talked with her for a while.
Cassidy was a professional violinist.
As soon as she had said it, Liz excitedly turned to her, "Oh my god. I already love you! I have been playing piano for 12 years and flute for around three."
Cassidy and Liz talked about their favorite pieces and it turned out that their taste in music was very similar. Cassidy loved Hans Zimmer and film scores in general. They talked at length about their favorite composers and music theory. Merinda had joined the conversation at one point, telling them about historical instruments and then told them about ancient Aztec death whistle's that were used in warfare and produced a sound like human screaming.
Liz was enjoying herself so much and time was flying. The group decided to call it a night at around 3:30 AM.
They said their goodbyes in front of the Asylum and set another meet up for Saturday at the same time the next week. Knox hung back a bit and now it was just the three of them.
"I had so much fun!" Liz said. "Thanks for the dance, Knox."
"You're welcome, Liz. I'll definitely be there for next week. But I'll see you around earlier than that for work, anyway. You already got plans for the big boom you promised?"
She smirked, "Oh yes. It'll be awesome! Nick even begged the newsman to let him watch it, but I don't think he convinced him yet!"
"Hey, he's a hard nut to crack! You try talking to a guy who only ever tells jokes!" Nick sighed, frustrated.
"Why not watch it live?" Knox asked. "If you really want to see it, I can take you to a spot where we can view it."
"Are you serious?" Nick asked, baffled.
"Sure, man!"
"Uh, guys? I wanna come too?! If you're gonna watch a live performance of my work and are not inviting me, I'm gonna be pissed, okay?!"
They both laughed. "Of course you can come!"
"I'll bring popcorn for you Knox!" Liz joked.
"All right. Well, then it's settled. We're gonna watch a live show!" Nick was excited. "That'll be the first news event I've ever seen in a long time!"
"Well, I'm glad to hear I could help," Knox said. "So, Liz. I'll see you around, next week. When do want me to check in on you?"
"Let's say Wednesday night. IN FRONT OF the bloodbank. 30 minutes AFTER my shift ends," Liz said, her tone serious.
"Damn, you really don't want me to run into Vandal again after yesterday, huh?"
"Nope, I don't need that currently."
Nick cocked his head.
"You know Vandal doesn't like Knox, why are you looking so surprised?"
He shrugged, "I guess I missed a memo on what happened yesterday."
"But I'm a nice guy," Knox laughed. "Everyone likes me."
Liz shook her head and rolled her eyes, "Knox, I like you. I like Vandal, too. But the two of you together? It's not gonna work. Keep your distance for now and avoid him, ok? I'm giving you really good advice here. Vandal's got a very short temper. You saw it."
Knox reassured her, "All right, Liz. I'll keep my distance and I'll meet you in front of the bloodbank."
"Thanks Knox." She hugged him goodbye and this time, he actually hugged her back.
"I'll see you Wednesday! Nick, see you Saturday!"
"See you, Knox!"
Nick turned to Liz, "What was that about?"
"Didn't they tell you? Knox came downstairs and Vandal got really pissed off when he heard Knox wanted to take me to Tung. I guess the voices didn't say anything cause nothing happened and it was minor, but fuck, it could have gone super bad real quick," she told him.
"Ah, okay." Nick thought for a moment and then told her everything that he had heard from yesterday's events.
He had gotten the most important information from the voices and was up to date with what Tung wanted her to do. It had just been that little detail that had been missing.
They made their way back to the apartment and talked some more.
They made plans for after Liz's meeting with Therese tomorrow. Nick would come to the Asylum after and they were going to take a trip to the pier.
They chatted with the voices and they let them know that all was well.
Nick and Liz stayed up for a while longer before they finally went to sleep.
The voices hummed Liz a lullaby.

Chapter Text

'Wake up... Wake up... Liz. We want you to have enough time to get ready for the meeting...'
Liz turned in her bed and slowly opened her eyes. Nick was still asleep next to her. She was drowsy.
'Rise and shine...'
She groaned. When she didn't sit up this time, the voices kept persisting, 'You should really get up... You hate rushing...'
She sat up and stretched. She checked the fridge out of habit and to her surprise, she found a few sealed blood bags in there. They were marked with expiring dates.
She took one out and filled a cup to drink from. She smiled. This felt like how she used to always have tea in the morning.
'You also used to sleep on the bus to college,' the voices chimed.
They were right. She always had. She had never been a morning person. Mornings were the worst.
'And now you get to get up late all the time. So much better, isn't it?'
She answered, 'It is! So, got a heads up for the meeting?'
She felt the voices in her head ripple like waves as they reached out to somewhere to get information. 'So far, nothing. If we see something different, we will let you know. We're probably going to me with you during the meeting... It's easier for us to see the closer the event draws...'
'So you're not a very far seeing, far seer?'
They actually laughed at that. 'If the consequences reach far enough we can see further...'
'So, it's like you feel the shockwave of an explosion before it happens? Interesting...'
They were silent for a moment, then, 'Not quite like that... We don't know how to explain...'
'It's all right, don't worry about it. I'm just glad you're there,' Liz told them.
'Thank you.'
She had not expected that.
'You're welcome.'
She got dressed for the night. This time, a blouse and black trousers would do. She loosely tied her hair in the back and then woke Nick.
"Good evening, sweetie," he yawned. "Are you off to your meeting?"
"I am, yes. Thanks for stocking up the fridge. When did you do that?"
"I went back to Vandal after bringing you home," he smiled. "I thought it might be a good idea to have these for days when we're too lazy to go anywhere."
"How nice of you! Thanks!"
"You're welcome."
She went to hug him. "I'll see you later then." She stood on the tip of her toes and kissed him. "Love you!"
"Love you too! See you, sweetie."
Liz entered the elevator to Therese's office and knocked on the door. She was on time.
"Enter," Miss Voerman said.
Liz took a bow. "Good evening, Miss Voerman."
She smiled at her. "Miss Lisonport. Good to see you!"
They shook hands and Therese continued, "I've had no more complaints from customers since you started working, I'm happy to say. I am also very pleased to hear that you managed to have supplies restocked monthly. Tell me about it."
"Of course, Miss Voerman," Liz said. She explained in detail where the supplies would be coming from and told her that their delivery was official. She also mentioned that the supplies would not be going into the hospital's inventory in the first place, but be sent off to be stored long term somewhere else, so that the bloodbank could sell them in peace.
"I am exceptionally pleased with the outcome of our arrangement," Miss Voerman said. "Did your supplies run out during the week?"
"They did not, Miss. I went to check the inventory on Friday and I am happy to say, the supplies we have so far will be lasting us another week. This is not counting any donations we've received."
"Wonderful." Therese paused for a moment and then said, "You did not mention my ghoul in your report. I hope he started showing respect after that utterly foul display at our first meeting."
"I have no complaints about Vandal, Miss Voerman. He is behaving and he's been very helpful." She saw the distaste flit across Therese's face when she used his name.
There was a rush of static building up in Liz's head.
"Very good. For now, I will keep having you oversee the bloodbank. You will receive pay at the end of the month," Miss Voerman spoke.
The static was getting louder, cracking sounds broke it up in between. It felt strange. It felt almost like the voices in her head were purposefully tuning out of a channel.
"Thank you, Miss Voerman. I am very glad you're pleased with my work. I will send you another report at the end of next week, if you wish."
She nodded, "Yes, I would like that. I will send you the date for another meeting for the end of the month."
Liz bowed. "Very well. I shall report back and I look forward to our next meeting."
"You may go now."
Liz left the office and stepped into the elevator. The static had more frequent cracks and she could make out the voices in between them.
'Told us- prioritize information... hard... can... hear us?'
The static didn't go away long enough for her to comprehend what the voices were trying to tell her. She felt a shift in direction in her head. Then another. The static was growing louder again. It was starting to give her a headache before-
A single voice pushed through the static and predominated it. Liz recognized the voice and felt a flash of fear shoot through her. It was the deep, vicious voice that had taken her control away once.
'Let's try that again, shall we? Since you're too weak to go through it all at once, they're gonna have you go through it one by one, until there's nothing left for you to see. We're starting now. Watch!'
Liz knew this was gonna be a vision and readied herself for whatever was going to come.
The door of the elevator opened and the moment she stepped out of it she was not at the Asylum anymore. There was still static in the background and the whole scene was flickering like a bad recording. She was indoors. It looked a lot like an abandoned warehouse. The size of the space seemed correct. From what she could make out though, this was not the warehouse she was supposed to blow up, since that one would be in use. The scene moved around her as if she was actually walking through the space, but she was standing still. The smell of singed flesh and dried blood reached her nose. She heard a piercing scream, and felt something wet on her hands. She looked down. They were dripping with blood. She raised them and stared. Turned them and inspected them. She looked back up and stumbled against the wall in shock. She nearly screamed. She was looking at the back of someone who had been hung, naked, from the ceiling. The skin had been folded open and peeled outwards. It was pierced by several hooks, supporting the body's weight and holding it in place. It was grotesque. The flayed skin looked like wings.
The scene changed, this time she was in front of a computer and it was showing an address. This was somewhere near the beach. Then it went to Mercurio's place.
It changed again and she was standing on a rooftop with Knox and Nick.
It changed again to the bloodbank's freezers, showing 3 boxes. It went to Henrietta, who was saying, "I'll give it to Brittany." She was holding an envelope.
Liz followed the images with care taking in all the details. This was working. It was showing her what would happen and what she needed to do.
The images kept coming.
She was holding an empty blood collection tube.
Nick's office was stacked with research folders.
A different apartment building, Nick and her were with another kindred and a woman with black glasses and shoulder long, red hair.
The images went on for a while before they abruptly stopped and the static was gone.
'Make sure to remember!' the male voice boomed and then faded.
The other voices were back. 'We held it all back. It was hard. We're glad it worked.'
'Thank you so much, guys! This worked wonderfully! I got everything!'
She felt them give her a mental pat on the back.
Liz looked around the Asylum. Nick hadn't arrived yet, so she sat down at the bar to wait for him.
'Please, tell Vandal all went well. I don't want him to worry.'
'We will.'
"Hey, sweetie," Nick greeted when he got to the bar. "I got word we'll probably be doing a detour before we go to the pier."
She had decided to check by Mercurio's place first. "Jup," she said. "Got a ton of info today. You're filled in on everything?"
"I am."
"Let's hit the road," Liz took him by the hand and they were off.
Mercurio wasn't expecting anyone when he heard a knock on his door. Unannounced guests were something he did not like, they were almost always trouble. When he opened the door, he found Liz and Nick smiling at him.
"We're so, so sorry to disturb you at this hour," Liz apologized. "But I really need your help."
He let them in and asked, "What do you need?"
"I have an address for you that I need checked. Maybe you have info on it," she told him and gave him said address.
He knew it immediately. "What do you want with this guy? He sells drugs and other things." He was being vague on purpose.
'Boom!' the voices in her head went.
"He sells explosives, right?"
Mercurio's face slipped. "How do you know that?!"
She shrugged. "Can you get them for me? I really need every last stick of dynamite he can sell."
He stared at her in disbelieve. "What?"
"Please, you'll see why I needed them on the news in about a week's time. I just need you to get the explosives to a certain address and the rest is handled by a different team."
He thought for a moment and then said, "All right. Tell me when and where and I'll make sure they will arrive on time."
"Thank you!"
She set the drop for Sunday night to give Bertram enough time to assemble his own team.
"I can count on you right? If anything is delayed, contact me immediately so I can let the people at the drop point know." She gave him her email.
"I will see to it," Mercurio said.
Liz could see he wasn't all too happy with the favor she'd called in, but he'd manage. "Thank you again. I owe you!"
They left and Nick heard Mercurio grumbling through the closed door. "Why am I always getting involved in stuff like this?" he was saying.
"Poor Mercurio," Nick laughed.
"He'll be fine. Now, let's go."
They walked up the steps and as soon as they had turned the corner, they heard someone call Nick's name.
It was Michael, the guy Knox and him had questioned to get to Gomez.
"Nick! Hey! How are you?"
Nick waved at him as they approached. He was smoking a cigarette, just like last time.
"Hey Michael! I'm good! I hope you are too."
"Thanks, man. I am," Michael glanced at Liz, but didn't say anything. He continued, "You know, Gomez called me after you were at the apartment. He was going nuts! Said he'd stop with the project he was working on and everything! He came to my house the day later!"
Knox had done well, Nick thought. Gomez was better off like this.
"Well, I'm glad to hear he's spending time with you again. Did Holly give you ice for your shoulder when you got there?"
Michael nodded. "She did. Man, I had bruises!"
"Ah, sorry!"
He shrugged, "Well, it's all right."
Nick pointed at Liz and introduced her, "Michael, that's my girlfriend, Liz."
"Glad to meet you," he said. He looked uncomfortable. He barely looked at her.
"It's great to meet you too," Liz replied, friendly. "You always work night shifts?"
"Ah, no. Only 2 to 3 times a week."
Liz cocked her head. Why was he so uncomfortable? She didn't get it.
"You can relax, I don't bite," she smiled.
Michael ran a hand through his hair and told her, "I'm sorry. I'm just nervous around girls... Holly's the only female friend I have and I've known her since childhood."
"Oh, I'm sorry. If that's the case, think of me as a second Holly. I'm totally harmless, I promise," she kept smiling hoping he'd relax.
At least it brought a chuckle out of him. "Thanks."
Nick cut the conversation short, "Well, Michael, we should probably be going. Have a great night."
Michael turned to him, "Thanks! To you as well."
They went down the pier.
"Well, that was kind of strange," she giggled. "Never thought I'd see the day I'd make anyone uncomfortable. How did he survive high school and college?"
Nick laughed, "I don't know. But Liz, you were staring at him. You weren't even blinking."
"Really? I didn't notice. I'll try to blink more!"
He just kept laughing. "I don't even know why I think this is so funny!"
Liz jumped on his back. Nick had no problems holding her. He didn't even look surprised. He carried her along the pier until they were completely out above the water. They sat down overlooking the ocean making its waves.
"Knox told me he has a fear of drowning," she told Nick. "I talked quite a while with him yesterday. He also said, that if I ever wanted to hear a cool story, I should ask how the two of you met."
That made Nick smile. It was one of his fondest memories. "The moment I saw him, I just thought, 'This has got to be the stupidest person in the entire world.'"
He started telling his tale.
"I met him a few years ago. It was before I moved to my current apartment. I lived downtown. So, I was asleep during the day when a noise woke me up. Not a loud noise. No. Something was clicking and rattling and it bothered me, so I went to check what it was. I went to the living room and it was coming from my front door. Someone was outside and seemed to struggle with picking the lock. That, in itself, I already found amusing, but what happened next was even more so. I decided to let whoever that was in. So I swung the door open and said, 'Good day, whoever's trying to get in. Since I have nothing of value in my apartment. Feel free to have a look around.' You should have seen the look on Knox's face! It was hilarious! He stood there with the lockpicks still in hand, trying to get his face under control. He didn't even try to bolt! He was in shock. So, I stepped aside to let him in, right? And he actually went with it! He just came in as if it was the most normal thing to do! By the time he was in my apartment, he had his face under control again. And the first thing that came out of his mouth was, 'Dude! You got a nice place!' It made me laugh. I asked him who I had the honor of speaking to and he said his name was Knox Harrington and that he was a bounty hunter. Told me he had followed a lead to the apartment complex. I wanted to know what he was hoping to find here and he told me. Poor Knox had been set up, so bad. He had thought the place wasn't occupied and had wanted to see if anything had been left behind that could have been useful to track his mark. He was really frustrated since he had nothing to go on now. After that conversation, he left and I thought I'd never see the guy again, when two days later, Knox knocked on my door again. This time, at night. I'll never forget his words. 'Dude, shit! My mark was hoping you'd off me! You're one of them! He's one of them! And now, he's hunting ME!' He looked scared, so I let him back in. It was the start of our first hunt together. Knox told me everything he had found out and we tracked some Asian guy to a junkyard. That dude was not playing around, he was throwing cars when we confronted him! It was crazy! I had to kill him in the end, he just wouldn't back down! Knox's reaction was brilliant. He went, 'Dude, that guy just threw a car at us! Dude he THREW A CAR!' My answer to that was just, 'Dude, I think that was a Mercedes!' And then I told him to take cover. Fight didn't last all that long. After that Knox and I became really good friends. I've been helping him ever since."
"I wish I could have been there!" Liz laughed. "That was great!"
"It was such an exciting night. It was one of the very few that I can really say are worth a retell," Nick smiled.
"Yeah, and I see why. Nothing like getting cars thrown at you!" She tousled his hair. "You can look forward to next Sunday! It'll be great!"
"Yes, I can't wait!" He was excited.
Liz told Nick the details of the visions she had earlier and let him know, that they had a lot of work ahead of them. She asked him about the red haired woman with the glasses, but it turned out this was someone who they hadn't met yet. They decided that they would both keep an eye out and stay alert.
After a while of silence, Nick asked her, "Hey Liz, what colors do you see when you listen to the ocean?
She listened for a moment. "It's blots of dark orange and purple, some white spikes ripping through whenever there's a louder splash against the pier."
"Pity, I really wanted it to be blue," Nick sighed.
"Ohh, does it make you sad? Come here, I'll hug you!" She pulled him close, wrapping both arms around his waist. "You poor, poor guy!"
He leaned his head against her shoulder. "Yes, definitely. Pity me!"
"Ohh!!"
Nick hugged her back, very tightly and sighed once more. He told her, "I have never said it before, but my decision to embrace you and make you kindred... That was one that I made on my own. It was the first one in a long time that the voices had nothing to do with. Even with all the company in my head, I kind of felt... alone. Like I was missing something. I'm so glad you didn't push me away after."
"And I am so glad you stayed," Liz breathed. "And I am so grateful you picked me. You gave me a new life. And I'm really happy."
Nick beamed at her, "I'm glad you are. I am too."
They sat at the pier together for a while longer before making their way back to Nick's apartment.
Nick was going to go downtown to check a club called 'Confession' while Liz was at work. He was hoping he might run into either the redhead or the kindred she had described to him. He would return to the bloodbank after, if he hadn't had any luck.
Liz knew tomorrow would be a long night. Her last thought before she went to sleep was, that Monday's 'really' suck.

Chapter Text

Liz left for the bloodbank as soon as the sun had gone down. She was waiting for Vandal in front of it.
Once he crossed the corner into the alley and saw her he was on high alert. She never came in this early.
"Princess, what are you doing here?" he asked, suspicious.
"Hi, Vandal," she smiled. "Well, I work here and I got a ton of stuff to take care of tonight."
He opened the door and they went downstairs. On their way, Liz kept talking, "Delivery is in the freezer. Brittany brought it there. I'll help you move and sort it and then I need to go back upstairs to Henrietta for something else."
He nodded. "Your meeting with the bitch went well, I heard."
"Yes. I don't meet her again until the end of the month. Thank god!"
She'd been right. The three boxes were in the freezer, just like she'd seen. She picked two up at once and left the third for Vandal.
"So, how was your weekend?" she wanted to know. She was not expecting anything but a curt, 'fine' or something like it in return.
"Uneventful," Vandal said.
Yes. A one word answer. She bit her lip, trying not to laugh.
What she didn't expect was what came after that.
"Yours?"
He had just signed his own downfall with that. He knew she wouldn't stop talking now.
Liz took a deep breath. She grinned, then, "Great!"
He blinked. Was she not gonna say more?
She wasn't. Liz kept quiet after that. If he really wanted to know, she thought. He'd ask what she did. Or well. He knew what she did for Saturday at least.
They put the boxes down on the floor in the small room they sold them from.
"Do you have a system you use when sorting them?" she questioned him.
Vandal showed her that he put the rarer types of blood into the front and the rest in the back.
Sorting the bags didn't take all that long. They worked in silence and Liz seemed lost in thought. She was going through the visions she had seen again.
Vandal's voice pulled her back into the room. "You already got ideas how to get the explosives for that warehouse?
"I have everything set up to be blown to smithereens next Sunday. You should watch the news. It'll be big."
"I will be sure to watch it," he said. "Who's helping you with the explosives?"
"Oh, I went to Mercurio for that. Gave him an address. He was not happy," Liz said, remembering.
"Mercurio?" Vandal hadn't expected that. "How'd you convince him?"
"He didn't need convincing. Not really. I called in a favor. He was suspicious though. He would rather have not gotten involved. The door fell shut behind us and he was talking to himself." She quoted him, "Why am I always getting involved in stuff like this?" She shrugged, "He'll manage. If he doesn't, I told him to contact me."
Vandal was grinning now, "I can almost guarantee you, he's gonna contact you. That guy takes unnecessary risks all the time."
Liz grumbled, "Ugh, well. We'll see won't we? I'll get a heads up if shit goes wrong. If so, I might just have to go myself."
Now he laughed, "You want to go yourself? To a guy who sells drugs and explosives?"
"You know the place?!"
He nodded, "It's not exactly a secret that guy exists."
"Well, sorry for not digging through the belly of Santa Monica's criminal society during my college time. I had stuff to do!"
"Of course you had, princess." Vandal gave her a mocking look. "Did you like college?"
Liz was caught off guard. He was asking her about collage? Really?
A shadow passed across her face as she told him, "No. Well mostly. I liked learning there. I hated everything else. The people, the teachers." She balled her fist. "It wasn't a great time. I had exactly 2 people there that I called friends. One of them... is now dead. The other moved away short after..." She continued, trying to keep the pain from her voice, "Melanie, she killed herself... I was trying so hard to help. I went to the teachers, I went to the principal, I went to her parents. I went to the people who were bullying her to make them stop. Mel and I talked a lot. And one day, I got a call... that she shot herself." Liz didn't know why she had kept talking. She could have just stopped at that she didn't really like college. She didn't really want to burden Vandal with this. "I, I'm sorry I said anything. I don't know why I brought it up even. It just rushed out. Just ignore I said anything. I shouldn't burden you with my bad memories."
Vandal didn't say anything. He didn't know what. He'd never been good at this. Nothing he could ever say could take her pain away. He hadn't known Liz's friend and saying that he was sorry she was gone felt insincere. He knew it was cruel. But to him, Mel was just one more individual he didn't know and didn't really care about. However, he did feel sorry that it hurt Liz that she was gone. He spoke, "I'm sorry that you're hurting."
Liz knew he had meant it. She immediately knew his choice of words had been sincere. "Thank you, Vandal." She slowly unclenched her fists. Breathed in and out again. "That shit will haunt me forever, but you'll never hear me speak of it again." She shook her head. "Fuck..." When she looked up at him again the pain was gone from her face, but her eyes looked empty. "Why are the walls bleeding?" Her gaze went around the room.
"Princess, what are you talking about?" Was she seeing things again?
Liz gestured around the space. She didn't look fazed. She looked like she didn't care all that much about what she was seeing. "Can you make him see this?" she asked the voices.
'If he has never felt the feeling you're feeling, he will see nothing.'
"Then try it," she told them. "I really want him to see this." To Vandal she said, "You can say no, if you don't want to see it."
"No, show me."
At first, nothing changed, but then there was a sudden pull in his head.
The room was darker than it should be. The walls were cracked. The cracks running along them, horizontally, diagonally, vertically, forming a pattern not unlike veins under skin and from these cracks, blood was spilling in pulses, being pushed out by a heartbeat that could not be heard. The floor of the room was covered in blood a few inches high. It kept rising with every new spout of blood from the walls. They were sitting in it. He felt it soak his jeans. He could touch it with his hands and feel the wet warm liquid on them. When he held them up, they were stained in it. He stared. This was unsettling.
"It's not pretty, isn't it?" Liz asked. "I think this is an emotion induced hallucination, but I can't be sure."
The blood was rising in the room. It was up to their waists now.
"I think it wants to drown me... I wonder what happens if I let this go on," Liz thought aloud. "Maybe I'll die."
Vandal didn't like the sound of that. He'd never admit it aloud, but she was scaring him. He knew she didn't mean to. He knew the destructive potential of clan Malkavian's hallucinations. He was in one of them now. He wanted out!
"Stop!" he hissed through his teeth. "Pull us out!"
"Guys, pull Vandal out," Liz told them. "I'll stay a while longer."
For Vandal the room turned back to normal immediately. He stood up.
Liz held her hand neck high to indicate the level of the blood he could no longer see. She raised her hand higher, to her nose, then she closed her eyes. Her hand was now above her head.
Vandal tensed.
Liz's face contorted in discomfort. She didn't need air, but the feeling of being submerged in blood was still not great. She pulled herself back to reality.
Her eyes went to Vandal when they opened again. She could hear his heart racing. "Well, that wasn't really comfortable. I was submerged in it. You'd definitely have drowned..." She glanced at the door. "Hm, now I wanna know if it had flown into the hall if I had opened that..."
"You are crazy, princess," Vandal brought out. It was a strangled sound.
"Yeah... let's not do that again. That was not fun," she said and looked off to the side.
Vandal had been able to see, Liz thought. That meant he'd at one point felt what she felt, even if it was probably in a very different context.
She stood as well. "Sorry I freaked you out. I'll go upstairs to Henrietta. Be right back." She left quickly.
Once Liz had left the room Vandal sat down and took a deep breath. This had felt like drowning in despair and pain. She had said it had been emotion induced. If she saw stuff like this often, he wondered why she wasn't already as insane as some of the other Malkavian's he'd met in his time. It had been disturbing.
'She won't let it consume her. Her desire to help is stronger than the pain... She won't stop, even if she failed...'
Upstairs, Liz entered the clinic.
"Hi, Liz!' Henrietta greeted her when she saw her.
"Henrietta, hey! Thanks so much for giving the message to Brittany! We got the delivery," she said, smiling brightly. "Say, I wanted to give dear Brittany a little something as a thank you. What does she like?"
Henrietta laughed, "My, you're sweet! Brittany loves a lot of things. She reads a lot, she has an obsession with sweets and chocolate, she also loves like everything from Lush, and the amount of jewelry she owns is insane."
"Oh that's wonderful! I think I know what I'll do then. I'll bring something for her. And of course you deserve a thank you as well for being my errand girl. What is it you like?"
"Oh, no it's all right!" Henrietta said.
"I insist," Liz smiled.
"Well, I think we could just go out for a drink one of those nights?"
"Sure! Do you go clubbing? We could go to the Asylum," Liz asked.
"Yeah, sure. I'd like that."
"Well then it's settled. I'll take you out for a drink as thank you." She paused then wanted to know, "You got any left over collection tubes you're not using here? I just need one."
Henrietta didn't even question why she needed it. She said, "Sure, go down the hall first door on the left. They're in the cupboard on the right."
"Thanks!"
She went to the room and got the needed tube. The cupboard was full with medicine and sedatives. She could take whatever she wanted here. She shook her head. 'Sorry, Henrietta, but wow, this is stupid and reckless, just letting me in here unsipervised.'
'Take the bottle of sedatives... Take. It.'
She hesitated.
'Take. It.'
She did. She slipped the bottle into the front pocket of her hoodie. The test tube, she carried in her hand and went back to the front.
"Did you find it?" Henrietta asked.
Liz held out the tube and gently waved it. "Yes, thanks. You're such a great help! I'll be going now. See you tomorrow!"
"See ya!"
Vandal was leaning back in the chair with his eyes closed when she returned. He didn't react when she came in. Liz quietly sat down and pulled out the bottle she had swiped.
The label read 'Propofol.' She didn't know what kind of sedative that was, or how it acted. She'd have to look it up.
'For what did I take it?' she wanted to know form the voices.
They were quiet for a while before they said, 'As precaution... Backup...'
They were making backup plans? Liz didn't know what to think of that.
'We're making sure you're prepared for all options... We saw something that could happen... We made sure if it does... You're still going to succeed...'
'Ah, okay. Thanks.'
Vandal moved. He hadn't heard Liz come in. She was holding a bottle.
"What do you have there, princess?"
She read the label to him. "Do you know what it does?"
"Propofol? Well, it's a strong sedative that causes a lack of memory for events and decreased levels of consciousness. It's often used in combination with Ketamine for procedural sedation and when inducing anesthesia," he told her. "If you administer a high enough dose of Propofol, it's lethal. Missouri wanted to use it for executions." There was a moment's pause. "Was that why you went up there?"
Liz shook her head, "No. I went to get a collection tube. The sedative I stole." She shrugged. "Their fault. They were stupid enough to let me go back there unsupervised."
"You see why I was so averse to letting any of them handle stuff related to the bloodbank. They're idiots," he growled.
"Yeah."
"Why'd you take them?" he asked, interested.
"Precaution. Backup plan. Voices," she said flatly.
"Hm."
Liz remembered something and spoke, "Hey, Vandal. I have a really, 'really' fucked up question."
He raised his eyebrow. "What could you possibly ask that would even come close to being fucked up?"
Liz laughed, "Well, you saw the shit I saw earlier."
That made the corners of his mouth twitch. "Well, I'm all ears. Ask away."
"It's hypothetical. So, if you cut someone's back open in the middle, peeled the skin from the muscles and stretched both sides outwards and then put several hooks through that skin. Would it support the weight when suspended from a ceiling?"
The smile forming on Vandal's face as she spoke was perverse.
"Yes, it would." There was a light in his eyes as he imagined it. "And they would be screaming."
"Have you flayed someone before?" She wanted to hear a no and she knew she wasn't gonna get one.
"Yes. Not to this extend though," he held out the inside of his forearm to her and placed his thumb and index finger a length apart on it. "This much." He went on, "It was messy. Couldn't get a clean enough cut and I think the blade wasn't sharp enough. Screams were worth it though." He then asked, "You saw what you described?"
She nodded, "One of my visions. It looked like someone was sacrificed to Satan and got demon wings in the process."
"Interesting choice of words," Vandal mused.
"It looked so grotesque..."
Vandal kept smiling his twisted smile. "Let's hunt down a demon and make it grow wings."
"So, you're Satan now?"
"Yes." There was nothing that was giving away what he was feeling. The word held no emotion as he spoke it.
He could practically hear Liz's thoughts racing. She was trying to figure out if he had been serious or not and he saw, that she was leaning towards serious. There was uncertainty there though.
And then, the expression on her face slowly changed, she started grinning. Wider, until she was baring her teeth. Her eyes lit up with something akin to frenzy.
"The demon," she said. "is Therese."
He had never thought he'd see her like this. He knew what she felt. Right that moment she felt a hate for someone so strongly that it made her want to hurt them. That it made her enjoy even the thought of hurting them.
"She'll pay, Vandal. She'll pay for everything she ever did to you. And I'll be there. I'll be watching. I'll be listening. And I fucking hope her screams turn red as blood."
"I'll make sure they will, princess," Vandal purred.
"We're going to destroy that bitch," she said, her statement final.
"And that, princess. Is music to my ears," he smiled.
She smiled back and Vandal could see that she wanted to say something. But she didn't.
"Well, spit it out, princess," he told her.
Her answer was a nervous chuckle. "Nah, it's all right. I'm just weird." She ran her hand through her ponytail. "I was just thinking, I'd like a hug."
She saw his confusion.
She counted 5 seconds before Vandal stood up from his chair and opened his arms. "Well, then come here."
"Aw, yes!" She was over and wrapping her arms around his midriff in the blink of an eye. She squeezed him and leaned her head against his shoulder as she did so.
Vandal hugged her back. With a smirk on his face he undid her hair, just to annoy her.
Liz laughed and squeezed a bit tighter, then-
Vandal felt his feet leave the ground. She was lifting him up!
"Meanie!" she said with a sparkle in her eyes.
"You gonna let me down?" he seemed amused.
"Only, if you tell me why you hate my ponytail so much," she grinned.
"Let me down, and I'll tell you," he said.
She let him down and stepped back. She talked before he could.
"I think I might know why." She held out her hand for the tie. "It reminds you of the bitch, doesn't it? She always has her hair pulled up."
Vandal gave it back. "Or maybe, I just wanted to annoy you. And maybe, I just think you look better like this."
"Well, do you?" she asked curious.
Vandal's lip twitched. "Yes," he admitted.
Liz took a playful bow. "Well, Master Cleaver. Your wish is my command. You shall have a princess with waves of black silk flowing down her back," she spoke, face breaking into a warm smile.
He cracked up. He hadn't laughed like this in a long time.
Pinching her cheek he said, "Your Master thanks you."
She just kept smiling.
"Aw, that's so nice." She took another bow. "Your humble servant will ensure your continued well-being."
Vandal rolled his eyes but wasn't all that put off by her being just utterly silly.
"I think my sister would like you," he told Liz. "She used to joke around like this. She'd always try to lift me only to see if she could."
"Oh? That's nice!" With a start she realized he had used past tense. "Wait, used to?"
"She's paralyzed from the waist down. Still in good spirits though, all things considered."
"I'm sorry to hear that," she said, and she really was. "I'm glad she's keeping a positive outlook."
"I haven't seen her in a while," he said. "Would you like to meet her, the next time she visits?"
"Of course, Vandal! I would love to meet her!" She looked so, so happy, almost thankful.
"Then I'll let Eliza know, we'll have a guest over." He looked away for just a moment and then said, "I want you to remember her, when we get our hands on the bitch. Because Therese is the reason my sister can't walk anymore. She punished me by taking my sister's dream away. She wanted to be a dancer. Now she can't." He balled his fists and blinked the tears he felt forming in his eyes away.
He pressed the sadness down inside him and let it fuel his hate for Therese. He would not cry, because crying was useless. All it did was hollow out your heart and make you feel empty inside.
"I'm so sorry for you and your sister, Vandal," he heard Liz say. "She has a place in my heart, and I promise I'll think of her when we make Therese pay for what she did. I'll always remember. We'll make sure she won't ever be able to hurt anyone ever again. Not you. Not Eliza. Nobody."
He felt something inside him crack. He had never spoken about what had happened with his sister with anyone. He had just bottled up the pain of it. And now it was trying to break out.
Liz leaned forward and placed a hand over his heart. "I know how this feels. I know how much it hurts. But I also know it'll hurt less once you let it all out. It makes space for something else. It lets you keep fighting and keeps you from drowning."
Vandal looked at her and she saw that he was very close to crying. He was fighting it. She reached out and pulled him into her arms.
He didn't sob, he made no sound but he felt the tears stream down his face as he let go. When he had none left to cry he spoke, "Thank you, princess."
"You're welcome, Vandal," she said, softly.
He remained where he was for a few moments longer until he pulled back slowly. He looked drained, but she knew it would pass. This part was always the worst. The few moments after you had let go of all of it and had no energy left. You just needed to take a few deep breaths.
"Take a deep breath and gather your strength," Liz said.
He did and she saw the change. He felt a bit better, a bit lighter.
"And now, we keep fighting." She stepped around him and sat down in front of the computer. "If you need time alone now, I understand. I can finish the shift and close up the bloodbank if you leave me the keys."
To her surprise, he shook his head, "It's all right." He sat down in the usual spot on the wall.
Liz thought they should really get a second chair in here.
She checked the mail and memorized the prices for the blood bags. She waited for customers and there were almost none.
"Is it always this slow on Monday's? We barely sold anything."
"Yeah, the busier days are usually Wednesday and Friday," he answered.
"Man..." Liz twirled a strand of her hair around her finger. "Nick didn't have any luck downtown. It's ok for him to come over, right?"
"Sure," Vandal said. "What was he doing downtown?"
"Oh, we're looking for a redhead with shoulder long hair and black glasses. She's another ghoul. I saw her," Liz told him.
"A readhead? She sounds like the girl who bought blood the first day you and Nick stayed here. You even asked him if he knew who that was. The one who asked me how to store it," Vandal said.
"So, she's bound to come around again, right?"
"Yeah, probably this week."
"Good," she smiled.
"What do you want with her?"
"I don't know yet. I think I want something from the kindred she's bound to. I saw both of them," she said. "The stuff I see isn't always clear cut."
"Well, night's still long. When will Nick arrive, do you know?"
"In 20 minutes, I guess."
"Hm," Vandal hummed. "Do you have siblings?"
"I'm an only child," she answered. "I would have loved to have at least one sibling."
"My sister is a lot different from me. Our tastes in certain things are almost polar opposites. Music and food are the worst," he told her. "She always listens to Jazz and country music. I can't stand that stuff. She also loves seafood and I don't."
"Oh, I love seafood!" Liz smiled. "How about you, what do you like to eat?"
"Steak, meat in general," he said.
Steak, of course he liked steak, Liz thought. What was it with guys and meat?
"I should have known," she laughed. "Then how about music?"
He thought for a moment before answering, "Mostly just pop, some rock. I don't actually listen all that often."
"Oh. I love orchestra, because it's pretty." She tried to come up with more things to ask him. "How do you like your steak? I couldn't eat raw to save my life."
"Medium. Did you like sweets? My sister loves sweets."
"Me too! Loved them! Chocolate was the best. I could eat a whole bar and then some."
"Where did you leave all that chocolate? You're tiny!" he teased.
"The stress burned through it," she replied. "I think it just evaporated in my stomach." Then she said, "Wait, I'm not tiny?! I'm almost as tall as you!"
"You're a head and a half smaller! You should drink more red milk," he grinned. "Maybe you'll grow."
"I should just wear platform boots."
Vandal pulled a face. "What's it with girls and shoes? I never understood that. My sister is obsessed with them, even now."
"I own three pairs of shoes," she giggled. "Three! I think that's acceptable?"
"Then you're one weird anomaly in the system," he laughed.
They talked more and Liz enjoyed it. Vandal seemed so normal like this. You'd never know how extreme he could be just by having a normal conversation.
He adored his sister, Liz could hear it. His sister was probably one of the only few people he truly ever cared about.
She listened as he went on about things she liked and Liz, as he finished, told him, "I already love your sister. I think we'll get along great. I'll make sure to bring chocolate for her. It makes me happy to give people things they like."
"I'm sure she'll like you, princess," Vandal smiled.
She was glad to hear it.
They continued their talk and when Nick entered the room, Liz was just saying, "I think if you did that it would actually blow up the car."
"What are you guys trying to blow the car up with?" Nick inquired, as he closed the door behind him.
"Lighters," Vandal told him. "Like whole racks of them stacked on top of each other."
He laughed. "There's gas in them, so yeah. If you have enough of them, they could blow up a car."
"Let's send a few trucks full of lighters to the warehouse then!" Liz said. "Vandal, if Mercurio fails, we're getting lighters!"
"Sure, princess."
"Well, it looks like you two had fun," Nick smiled. "I had an unsuccessful hunt..."
"We have info for you!" Liz said excited. "Vandal says the girl we're looking for came around here while we were there. The one who asked how to store the bags! That means she'll probably be back this week!"
"That's wonderful news!"
"Yeah, we still don't know what we want with her though. So far all I have is that vision," Liz grumbled.
'It'll come to you once you see her...'
"Well, thanks guys." Liz went on to quote them.
Nick shrugged. Then he turned to Vandal and pointed to the spot next to him. "Mind if I sit next to you?"
"You're just gonna sit down anyway, aren't you?" Vandal's voice held the slightest bit of tension as he spoke.
"No, of course not. If I didn't care if you minded, then I wouldn't have asked," Nick said.
"If that's the case, I'll be 'nice' and let you sit there," he said with a strange undertone Liz could not decipher.
"Hey, Nick?" Liz addressed him.
He turned to her.
She tapped her lap. "Way more comfy than the floor," she laughed.
When Nick just stood there, she laughed harder. "Did that failed hunt throw you off so bad that you can't make decisions anymore?"
She stood and kissed him. "Just take the chair Nick," she giggled. She turned to Vandal. "Can I sit next to you too?"
"A princess should not sit on the floor," he grinned.
"Ah, I see. Well, Nick I'm turning you into a throne." She sat down in his lap. "So, I know you were at that club. How was it?"
"To be honest, the Asylum is a better place to hang. Even when I lived downtown I never went to the Confession. The lady who runs the place is ok, I asked her about her customers. She couldn't help me much. But hey, you and Vandal cheered me up immensely!"
"Never thought I'd cheer 'you' up," Vandal spoke, more to himself that Nick.
"Well, I'm glad we did, sweetie," Liz told him. With a wide smile on her face she turned to Vandal again. "Nick and I would like to treat you to dinner. I know a wonderful steakhouse. I'm sure you'd like it."
She had spoken with the voices and asked Nick beforehand. He had told her that it was a great idea.
"You want to take me out to dinner?" Vandal's face had slipped for just a second. "You're serious?"
"Of course," Liz nodded. She quickly added, "It's all right if you don't want to. We could go tonight or tomorrow, if you have time."
He had serious doubts that this was a good idea. What if any of the customers saw them together and reported back to Miss Voerman? She would ask him about this, he would have to answer her and she would sniff that something was up.
'It's safe.'
That didn't convince him. Ghouls were not seen just hanging out with other kindred unless their own regent was present, or they were running errands for said regent.
This could go so, so wrong.
'It won't.'
Liz was patiently waiting for his answer. She saw the concern on his face. The voices in her own head were quiet.
He took a breath. "I would like to go after the shift later."
"Yay!"
The night really was slow. They only sold a few more bags after and before long, they were on their way to dinner.
The place Nick and Liz wanted to take him was a very small back alley business. She told him she had found it just before she started college, kind of by accident.
Liz was walking in their middle, Nick to the right and Vandal to her left.
He was lighting a cigarette.
Liz wrinkled her nose, then said, "Okay, I admit. I did not think you smoked. Why do I find this weird?"
Vandal laughed, "Of all the shit I do, THIS is what you find weird?"
"Okay, maybe not weird. I'm more, well surprised, if anything. Somehow I thought, the thought of destroying your own lungs would put you off it," she replied. "Do you drink?"
"I don't," he smirked.
"Well, fuck. You keep surprising me."
"I see all those stupid idiots, drinking their own self control away, and I HATE losing control. Destroying my lungs. That I can handle," he said with a grim smile on his face. "It's usually bad for other people's health when I lose control." He wrapped his hand around the back of Liz's neck and gave it a light squeeze.
Her shoulders automatically drew up and her back tensed. "Yeah, I can imagine."
He released her again and asked, "How about you two?"
Nick answered first, "I used to drink wine. I never smoked."
"I used to do neither."
"Aw, so innocent, princess." He made it sound almost like an insult, when he said it.
"Well, maybe I did other drugs," Liz joked. "You wouldn't know."
"If you count your irrational consumption of chocolate as drug use, then I'll seriously question your sanity," Vandal teased her.
"Chocolate is a great drug!"
Vandal rolled his eyes. "Tell me again, why I'm putting up with this madness?"
Nick burst out into laughter. "Oh my god, this is the best! I bet this is what it's like watching a TV show."
She punched Nick in the arm. "Aw, I'm glad you're enjoying your special live show!"
"I'd say you're watching a play, but fine," Vandal smirked. He turned to Liz again and repeated, "Why am I putting up with this madness?"
She grinned. "Well, because this girl here," she pointed at herself. "And that guy there," she pointed at Nick. "Are taking you out to dinner, duh!"
He shook his head, then took a draw from his cigarette and blew the smoke into Liz's face.
She coughed and waved her hand to cleared the rest of it away. "Bah, reeks even worse now than before. Damn! How the hell do you stand the smell?! Ugh!"
He shrugged. "You get used to it."
Nick was having a good time watching them. This was actually funny.
"Do something?" Liz told Nick.
"I'd rather watch," he chuckled. "This is great!"
She faked being devastated. "And so the princess was left to a cruel, cruel fate by a knight in shining armor, as the dragon burned her to a crisp." Then she snickered, "Well, done Nick. You make a shit knight!"
"Nah, I make a great knight! I'm just bad at slaying dragons!"
"I'm disappointed, Sir Knight! We'll have to find a replacement for your role. Vandal can stay, he makes a great dragon," she laughed.
"And an even better devil," he said and lowered his voice.
"Didn't we agree on Satan?"
"I can do both," he answered. "They're basically the same, depending who you ask."
"If he gets the role of the dragon, and I've been fired as a knight, what am I gonna play?!" Nick wanted to know.
"I think you'd make a great horse!" she giggled as she jumped on his back. "What do you think, Vandal? Great horse, right?"
He actually thought this was so absurdly stupid that it was worth laughing at. "Yes. Most definitely."
Nick let her back down. "I accept my role as humble steed!"
They arrived at the Steakhouse after a good 10 minute walk and went in.
The waitress taking their order looked somewhat annoyed when she found out Nick and Liz would not be eating or drinking anything.
"Well, you just made someone's night worse, princess," Vandal grinned.
Liz could tell he was happy they had pissed her off. "Well, I can see you're not bothered that I did that, so I'm good."
They waited for his food to arrive in relative silence. Nick told them more about his trip downtown and they discussed some things he'd heard from the owner of the club.
When the waitress finally came back with Vandal's plate, Liz stared.
"You're gonna eat all of that?! That's one huge steak. I've never seen anything this large," she said in disbelieve. "It looks great though. I think now I'm envious."
"I'm a hungry guy, what can I say," he smirked. "Wanna try?"
"Haha. You know I don't. Not unless you want to piss off that waitress even more by cleaning up the mess I'll make and then in the process lose your appetite."
"I would risk that just to see her reaction," he grinned.
Liz shook her head. "Oh god, Vandal, please just eat."
Nick had a look of amazement on his face when Vandal was finished. "Where did it go? How is this possible? Man, you 'devoured' that steak like a wolf! You know, eating this fast is actually unhealthy?"
The look he gave him said that he couldn't care less.
"Was it good?" Liz wanted to know.
"It was delicious," Vandal smiled.
"I'm glad," she said.
"I used to eat a lot, but you, you eat like you've been starved for 2 weeks," Nick told him. "Do you always eat this much?"
"Yes."
"If he was a girl he'd probably have just punched you, Nick," Liz told him. "Don't ever ask a girl that question. If you asked the wrong one she'd likely rip your head off. Had a few girls like that at college. They thought asking that question was a death sentence for whoever had asked it!"
"So if I punched him, I'd be the first guy to ever do that?" Vandal wanted to know.
"Probably. I can't know for sure," Liz said, then added, "We're not punching Nick."
"Well, princess. 'We're' not. I might," he smirked.
"I'd rather you didn't punch Nick," she said.
He fixed his gaze on her intensely and leaned forward over the table. "If I was actually angry, I'd need a very, 'very' good reason not to do it, princess."
She looked away for just a moment, but he had already seen the flicker of disquiet in her eyes. "Keeping your hand's a good reason, right?"
She had thrown his own words back at him. He leaned back and spoke, amused, "Good one, yeah." He turned to Nick. "I've never had the chance to punch one of you."
"Be my guest. When we get back outside you can have a swing at me," Nick offered. "Chances are you'll injure your hand."
Liz stared at him. "You're letting him punch you?"
Nick shrugged. "Yeah, sure. I'm curious how much damage he can do."
"Whatever," she grumbled.
She called over the waitress for the bill, payed and tipped her a rather large amount. "Sorry we didn't eat anything."
The waitress smiled. "It's all right. Thanks."
They left and turned into the next alley they found that was out of view from the streets.
Nick turned his back to Vandal and said, "Punch as hard as you can. I'll stand like this so I can't see it coming. If I saw you swing at me I'd block, it's a reflex I can't stop."
Vandal swung at Nick's back. The outcome, was less than exciting. Nick grunted and stumbled forward. Vandal opened his fist and shook his hand out.
He said, "Jup, felt like punching a guy."
Liz laughed. "I don't know what either of you expected."
Nick turned back to Vandal, grimacing, "You definitely cracked a rib, but hey that shit heals instantly. Good punch!"
"Now, I guess your curiosity has been satisfied?" she asked both of them.
"Jup," Nick said. "Your hand ok, Vandal?"
"It is."
The three of them headed back around to the bloodbank before they split up for the night.
Vandal thanked them for the meal and then turned to Liz. He placed both hands on her shoulders and spoke, "If I had a second sister, I would have liked her to be like you."
Before Liz could even say anything, he turned and left her in a stunned silence.
"See you tomorrow," he called over his shoulder.
Nick looked after him and then back at Liz, who still stood there now with her hands over her mouth, looking both ready to cry and utterly happy.
"Thank you, so much," she breathed almost inaudibly.
Nick wrapped his arms around her. "He has a sister?"
Liz just nodded. "You can't imagine how much his words mean to me."
"I think I understand," Nick said softly. "I'm glad we're helping him."
"Me too."
They went back to Liz's apartment and called it a night.

Chapter Text

"Why am I so undecided on clothes today?" Liz asked herself as she stared into her wardrobe.
'Pick the green shirt. No the red one! I'd rather she wore flowers today.' the voices argued in her head.
"Guys, this is nuts, can we please decide on 'something?'" she said almost frustrated.
Nick came into the room. "No, don't tell me they're arguing about what you should wear?"
"They are very undecided today, and unfortunately, so am I," she huffed. "A little help here?"
"I'm not getting involved and risk having them assault me too," Nick raised his hands and backed out of the room.
'I like purple. No. Something blue.'
"Ugh!" Liz reached out for a green shirt.
'No! Not the green one! Liz one of us doesn't like green!'
"Are you fucking kidding? Okay, guys! Change of plans. Should I just go without a shirt?!"
The cry that followed sounded like the voices had morphed into a choir. 'NO!'
"Well, thanks. At least we're agreed on that."
The stream of voices arguing, abruptly cut off and was replaced with the deep male one.
'If you don't decide soon. I will MAKE HER go naked!' it threatened.
"What?! No, no, no!" This was worrying.
'You have 10 seconds. Get dressed!'
The assault of voices felt like a kick in the head.
'She's never worn plaid. We don't want plaid. She'll look like a country girl. How about a skirt?'
"Guys, you heard him! And so that I don't piss any of you off, we're going through all your suggestions one by one, starting with green!"
The voices seemed to be okay with her idea. They giggled, 'Yes, we'll do that.'
They cut off again. The presence of the single voice was heavy, she felt it looming over her. It felt like it was holding a flame close to her skin, ready to burn her. It didn't speak.
Liz got her clothes out of her closet as fast as she could.
"I know, you're there," Liz told it. "I'm already getting dressed." She put on her jeans.
'I can see...'
It felt creepy, Liz thought. This felt like it was truly watching. She'd never had that with the other voices. This one's presence was so much stronger. So much 'closer.' It felt like it was in the room with her as well as inside her head.
"You're different form the others," Liz said. "Do you have a name?"
The flame moved closer to her skin. It almost hurt now. She put on socks, then grabbed her shirt.
'Yes.' Liz heard a word in her head in a language she didn't know and couldn't comprehend the meaning of. 'There is no single word in your tongue to express what I am.'
"Could you try in words I understand?"
'I'll 'show' you,' it sounded like a threat.
Liz hissed in pain as the flame burned her arm. 'I told you to get dressed.'
She pulled on the rest of her clothes.
She smelled something burning before her bed caught fire. She jumped back in panic.
'I'm the deepest fears in your heart.'
The voice took over. Liz stepped towards the flames without her own say so. She struggled against it to no avail. "No, no, no."
'I'm the moment when panic takes over.'
It made her reach out. Her hand was almost touching the fire. It stung.
'I'm the loss of control when instinct kicks in and makes you run, or fight.'
It made her stick her hand into the blaze. She screamed. She saw her own flesh blacken.
'I'm the desperation to make the pain stop when you're feeling it.'
It let go, and she stumbled back. Her breaths came ragged. Her hand was no longer charred and the pain faded. The room was back to normal.
'And I'm the release when it stops.'
Everything turned black. She could no longer see. She was blind.
This didn't freak her out as much. There was no pain now.
"You're a lot of things," she told the voice.
'I am.'
There was a longer pause before it asked. 'You understand?'
"I do."
'You're one of a few others to ever comprehend a part of what we are. The others we drove insane.'
"So I heard," she said.
'Until next time. I will be back.'
It faded and her sight returned. The other voices were still chatting on in the back of her head.
She found Nick, standing in the doorway with a look of concern on his face. "What happened?! Are you ok? You just jumped from the bed and stared at it, then you reached out for, I don't even know what and started screaming!"
She told him what she had seen, heard and felt.
"That's kind of unnerving," Nick said. "I don't like it at all."
"And I feel calmer than I have in a long time," Liz spoke, with a quiet smile on her lips.
"Why? Because all I heard was that it willfully took your control away."
"I have no words to explain this," she said.
"And now you sound like the voices," Nick sighed.
"I'll send for you if that girl shows up," Liz let him know.
"All right, I'll head over to the Asylum for now." He kissed her goodbye and went out the door.
Liz checked her mail and printed the 25 dollar gift card she had ordered for Brittany.
She went to Henrietta before she headed downstairs to the bloodbank.
When she entered the room, Vandal had emptied out a box and was refilling it entirely with Type 0 blood bags.
He turned to Liz when he heard her approach. "Hello, princess."
"Hi, Vandal. Thank you, for what you said yesterday. It means a lot to me."
He didn't speak, he just smiled at her.
"Are we reorganizing the system, or is this a delivery?"
"Delivery. The bitch will send someone to pick it up this time," he grumbled.
"When?"
"In ten minutes. Apparently this is for Mr. Strauss," he looked pissed off. "I don't get why he's so insistent on it being only Type 0."
"How many will that leave us?"
"Not a lot."
"Great," she started helping him box the blood bags. "Who's coming to pick it up?"
"It didn't say."
They had just finished filling the box, when there was a knock on the donation window. Liz stepped over to it.
A black haired woman, wearing an ankle long skirt and slightly tinted glasses looked back at her. "I'm here to pick up the Type 0 delivery," she said.
Her voice was very unique. It was a bit rough around the edges, but not unpleasant.
'Tremere. One of Strauss' fledglings...'
"Of course. One moment, please."
She opened the door and the woman saw Vandal.
"Make the ghoul bring it to my car," she said.
'BIIITCH!!!!!' the voices in her head screamed. 'CARRY IT YOURSELF!'
Vandal moved his hands behind his back and dug his nails into his wrists.
Liz picked up the box and while her back was turned to the Tremere kindred, she looked at him and mouthed, "Bitch!"
She saw the corners of his mouth twitch ever so slightly.
With a wide smile she faced the woman again and said, "Oh, no that's all right. I'll bring it-"
'Veronica.'
"Veronica," she finished.
Veronica flinched. Liz had to force herself not to laugh. The voices kept giving her info on her.
"You could have just parked in front of the bloodbank instead of the parking garage," Liz continued.
Veronica now looked really uncomfortable.
"I like white cars. Convertible's are so great! I don't own a car." She started walking down the hall and Veronica made sure to leave enough space between them as she walked beside her.
Liz kept talking the whole way to the Tremere's car. She put the box into the trunk and took a bow. "Glad to be of service Ma'am. If you want to keep your wing mirror on your car. Don't park behind that red Chevy when you get back. Have a good night. Drive safe."
"Thank you," Veronica spoke. She looked wary and slightly confused. "I won't park behind red cars tonight."
She got back into the bloodbank and started laughing.
"What's with you, princess?" Vandal asked, smirking.
"I wrecked the bitch's car! I told her not to park behind the red Chevy when she gets back, if she wants to keep her wing mirror. What I didn't say however, is that the alternative is a caved in roof. She's gonna park under that tree that's gonna loose a huge branch. She'll be so pissed when she gets back!"
"Nice!"
"She deserved it after how she talked to you. Nobody talks to my friends like that without it having consequences!"
"We'll have to restock this week," Vandal said. "You got more friends around you can get to donate?"
"You were right about beginner's luck. I might not be able to get enough people to come. I'll help you hunting of course."
"You'll get to pick the donors. The unwilling ones too."
Liz nodded. "Well, finding a real shit won't be hard. They keep multiplying."
"They do, yes."
"Let's check inventory. I want to know how much we can sell before we tap into hospital supplies," she said, opening up the file on the computer.
It didn't look good. Vandal had been right. At this rate, thanks to Strauss, they would barely have anything left at the end of the week.
Liz let out a frustrated sigh. "Well, shit."
"My thoughts exactly, princess."
The early Tuesday evening was busier than the night before. Liz sat at the donation window a few times and she and Vandal took turns selling, while the other kept going through inventory.
"There you go, have a good night," Liz said as her next customer went on his way. This one had been a Toreador. "How's our inventory looking now?"
"Worse by the minute," he growled. "Have a look yourself."
She went over to him. There were about 5 blood bags left in the box they had started. Liz groaned.
There was another knock on the donation window. "Hello? Anyone there?"
Liz went over to the window.
'Heather!'
"Heather?"
The redhead from her vision looked back at her, surprised. Then she smiled and asked, "Yes. Are you the breaker of shackles who seeks the fall of the two faced god?"
Vandal stepped up behind her. "She sounds a lot more crazy than last time... What the hell is she saying?"
Liz had understood. "I am." The voices in her head now had a slightly different speech pattern and felt a bit like a breeze in her mind. "I am in search for the soul snatcher."
Vandal stared. "The hell?"
"Ah. Then we shall wait until the sled dog arrives," Heather said.
"Indeed, we shall," Liz smiled. "He heard. I whistled."
"I also need 2 blood bags," Heather said, speaking normally.
Liz took her money, opened the door and handed them to her.
Heather greeted Vandal and said, "Thanks, by the way. I put them in the fridge like you said."
He gave her a nod.
"Peggy's super excited to meet you!" she told Liz. "She wouldn't stop talking about it!"
"I'm glad she's excited," she took a step out into the hall.
Vandal grabbed her arm and said, "No let her in, I don't even care."
"Really?" Liz had been sure he'd have them talk outside so he could have his peace.
"Come in."
Heather looked at him shyly. "Oh, uhm. Thank you."
He sat back on the chair, Liz and Heather against the wall.
"I'm Liz," she introduced herself.
"Good to meet you finally, Liz," Heather said. "I did dream of you yesterday, but I only now realized. The visions in my dreams are very weak."
"I understand. How about the voices? They bother you?"
She shook her head. "They're not too bad. Peggy's however are constantly screaming. She says she wants to bang her head against the wall a lot to make them stop."
"Not like that for me... They're mostly quiet," Liz said.
"Peggy saved my life. I was dying when she found me. She told me I don't owe her anything. She told me it would be better if I left. She told me the desire to be near her would fade in a month. That it would go away and I could go have a second chance at life..."
"And you should have taken it when you had it," Vandal hissed at her angrily.
She smiled at him sadly, "I'd rather be a slave to her than go back to the life I had. I KNOW I'm a slave. I chose this because it was a better alternative than what I would have come back to! Besides, Peggy's like a friend to me, this doesn't feel like enslavement. Less so than before, anyway."
Heather's answer shut him up. He had heard himself say the same words about a potential blood bond to Liz.
He gritted his teeth. "Sorry." At least she knew what she was.
"It's all right. Peggy was angry with me too. Had me give her a million reasons before she let me drink again and even then, she wasn't all too happy with my choice. She tried to talk me out of it. She had me show her what I would have gone back to before she let me drink again," Heather told him. Then she asked, "What's your name?"
"Vandal."
"You name sounds as angry as you," she chuckled.
He just glared at her until she looked away again.
"Nick's bound to be here in 5 minutes," Liz told them. "Vandal, I'll come back as quickly as I can. I feel like shit having to make you sit through most of this awful shift alone."
"It's all right, princess. We just need to make sure we got time to resupply before the week ends," he said.
"I could come in to donate," Heather offered. "It would help, wouldn't it?"
"Yes, of course it would. Thank you." Liz smiled. "Four more donors to go."
"Find another flower to drain," Heather said.
'Lily was the thin blood that escaped. Tried to steal blood. He had her ready to drain... someone undid the restraints.'
"What?" Vandal asked, eyebrow raised.
"Lily," Liz told him. "She's talking about your donor that ran away before you could take blood."
His expression darkened. He had been so pissed. At least the bloodsucker who'd let her out had later brought in a replacement. "Yeah, I remember that all too well."
"You should try the sandy beach. It has a lot of flowers," Heather told them. "Roses are the best."
"Because they're thorny, right?" Liz asked.
"And they sting," Heather nodded. "You should pick the tallest one you find."
"Thank you, Heather," Liz smiled. "That's very good advice."
"How are you talking to her? You're both not making sense!" Vandal said, staring at them.
"I have a bunch of translators in my head. You should make use of them," she said.
Vandal just shook his head.
"I'm sorry if my speech is sometimes weird," Heather apologized. "I'm glad you understand me regardless."
"Heather, you're fine. I'm even more excited to meet Peggy after talking to you," she said to her, smiling.
Nick opened the door. "Well, the room gets fuller and fuller every time I get here. Hi, Heather!"
"The sled dog has arrived! Hi Nick!" she greeted him heartily.
"Horse, sled dog, the list keeps growing," he laughed. He turned to Vandal. "Hey. How are you doing? I hope those two ladies didn't annoy you too much?"
"They don't even make sense when they talk anymore!" he groaned. "I'm good though, thanks. You?"
"Wonderful," he gave Liz a quick hug. "Heather, we're meeting Peggy in her apartment, right?"
"Correct."
Liz addressed Vandal and said, "I'm so sorry. Seriously, you can go home early tomorrow if you want."
"I'll think about it," he said.
She stepped closer to him and opened her arms.
Vandal smirked and told her, "We need to do something about your addiction." He gave her a good squeeze.
She smiled, "Well, I got my fix now. So I'm good for another like, let's say 30 minutes."
She waved goodbye and the door fell shut behind the group.
Vandal sat down again and enjoyed the quiet.
They took a cab downtown and arrived at an apartment complex. Heather pressed the button for the 7th floor in the elevator.
They stepped out the same moment Peggy opened the door. She leaned against the door frame.
"Hi," Peggy grinned. "Got my new friends here in one piece. Thanks, Heather!"
She sounded AMAZING, Liz thought. She sounded fucking amazing. The way she spoke was so high energy and excited that it was contagious. Her voice was what Liz could only describe as electrified.
Peggy also looked as amazing as she sounded. She was intense. She wore army boots, ripped jeans and a black tank top. Her chin long hair was dyed a brilliant purple. Her lipstick matched the color and her eyes were framed with black liner. Their color was unique as well. One was an almost translucent shade of green, the other amber. A crescent moon was tattooed onto the back of her right hand. Her bottom lip was pierced.
"You are one amazing kindred," Liz said. "Like holy hell. I mean I saw a glimpse of you in my vision. But damn!"
"And you're even cuter than I thought you'd be!" Peggy said. "You innocent, cute little birdie."
Liz laughed.
Peggy moved towards her, leaning down to Liz's eye level as she did so. "Heard, ya like hugs, baby girl." The way she said it almost made it sound perverse. "I'll be your drug."
"Then, I'll take a shot." She wrapped her arms around Peggy's neck and before she could further react Peggy picked her up and carried her through the door of her apartment, calling to Nick, "I am kidnapping your girl! You should come after us!"
Nick followed with Heather on his heels.
Her place was cozy. She had a lot of heavy wood furniture and the living room's middle held two sofas with a small table in between. They were leather sofas, old but very comfortable.
"Make yourselves at home," Peggy said and sat down with Liz still in her arms. "You're staying here girl," she told her.
"You bet, I will," Liz spoke, grinning.
Heather sat down next to Liz and Peggy. Nick took the freedom to stretch out on the other sofa. He had taken it quite literal. The voices had said it's ok.
"So, you guys are trying to slay gods, huh?" Peggy inquired.
"Yes," Nick answered.
"And in the process you wanna break some shackles?"
"Correct," Liz said.
"Heather, you met the guy in question, right?" Peggy addressed her.
"Yes. He seemed very unhappy with his whole situation."
"Ah." Peggy turned her eyes to Liz again. "Shackle breaker, tell me, your tale."
'Tell her everything. She can be trusted. She's a powerful ally.' the voices whispered.
Liz told her how the whole thing had started, how she had met Vandal and seen visions and how she was helping him. When she was done. Peggy was listening to her own voices.
Her expression changed while she listened, it grew annoyed. "If ya'll could just stop screaming all at once, I could make sense of everything! Yes, I got that! The other thing!"
She kept listening. "I can see it, ok?! WHERE? WHEN?" A pause, then "Liz, I need you to move over to your boyfriend, like right now. Heather, you too. I can feel it coming closer..."
Liz immediately got up and hurried to Nick.
Peggy drew her legs up and was holding her head, as if she was in pain. She began rocking back and forth.
'Too many voices in her head. They're different from us... Aggressive.'
Peggy let out a scream. She hugged herself, rammed her nails into her arms with so much force that she broke the skin and rivulets of blood flowed down them. She started laughing in between screams.
Liz wondered if she had looked like this on the day her own voices had overwhelmed her.
Peggy dragged them down her arm and Liz watched the wounds close up again. She began speaking so fast it was incoherent.
The whole thing lasted for at least two minutes, before Peggy's eyes slowly focused again and she calmed down.
She removed her hands from her arms. "Well, if you wanna catch flies, you need honey. If you wanna catch a god, you need some real good trap. Draw it out of its lair and weaken it. Or, you need to be stronger and faster than it. I can help with the latter. I am the devourer of souls."
"Diablerie is a crime under the Camarilla," Nick said.
"I know. That's why that's my job. I don't care. I belong to no one but myself and my ideals," Peggy laughed. "I'll find someone at least one or two generations lower than your mark, take their soul and then you can draw her out to me, so we can trap her and you get to do whatever you want with the dark daughter."
"Sounds good," Liz told her.
"It sounds like, fun," she grinned.
"Well, that is at least a step forward. You need help researching?" Nick asked Peggy.
"Yeah, I'll need information on the kindred that have been sired in the last millennia," she answered. "I know you can help with that."
"Have, fun Nick. I remember what your office looked like," Liz chuckled.
"Yeah..."
Heather went back over to Peggy and told her, "Oh, I almost forgot to tell you. I'll be donating blood to the bloodbank from now on."
"To help our friends? You're so nice!" Peggy seemed happy. "We'll all be helping! Yay! We'll be a big happy family in the end!"
"I assume you want to go through the files with me, once I have them?" Nick wanted to know.
Peggy gave him a nod. "I'll stop by your apartment. I saw where you live."
"All right, then."
"Heather, did you eat yet?" Liz asked.
"I'll eat later," she said.
Peggy stood up and went to the kitchen. "What do you want? We have lasagna, pizza, ramen, fish."
"Pizza's would be great," Heather smiled.
"Pizza you shall have! Just let me know when you want it ready and you don't even need to lift a finger," Peggy giggled.
"In an hour?"
"Will be done." Peggy jumped onto the sofa, next to Heather and pulled her onto her lap. She started massaging her shoulders. "You're always so tense. Let me help with that."
"Thanks, Peggy." She closed her eyes. "It's actually sitting a bit lower than that."
"Shoulder blades?"
She nodded. Peggy moved her hands and Heather visibly relaxed.
"Found it. Haha!"
Their whole dynamic made Liz smile. They really cared about each other's well-being. Heather was right, this was no enslavement.
"Baby girl?"
Liz eyes went from Heather to Peggy. "Huh?"
"Jealous?" she asked.
"Nah, Nick gives great massages!" Liz told her.
Peggy's eyes went to Nick. "That true?"
"I used to work at a spa, so yeah," he let her know.
"Well, then maybe I should be jealous instead," she grinned.
"No need," Liz said. "From the look on Heather's face, you seem to be doing lovely."
"She is," Heather spoke quietly.
"When do you have the files ready, Nick?"
"If I'm fast, I can have them by Thursday night," he said.
"Yeah, let me give you my number, cause I can never be sure that a ring from the voices gets through. There are too many," Peggy said and then told him her number so he could save it.
"So, I guess that's settled then? Peggy's going to come over on Thursday night?" Liz asked.
"I might stop by the bloodbank, to pay you and your friend a visit, too, baby girl," she grinned. Something in her tone was different, but Liz couldn't say what exactly the change was.
"Okay, sure."
"Well, then we're off again," Nick said. "It was great to meet you Peggy!! I can't wait for Thursday."
Heather stood up and Peggy rose as well. "It was lovely to meet you too!" they spoke in unison.
They brought Liz and Nick to the door.
Nick headed for the elevator and Liz followed.
Peggy grabbed her wrist. "Liz," she said. Pulling her back.
"Yes?"
Peggy leaned in close. "Don't go picking flowers when the gardener is out. And don't go picking in the wrong garden."
"Calluna's garden is ok?" she asked.
"Yes, but they're not blooming this week."
She nodded. "Thank you, Peggy."
Peggy let her go. "Gardener's out watering flowers on the morrow. Do not visit any gardens," she warned.
"I won't."
The door to the elevator closed and Nick said, "What was that just now?"
"Peggy is keeping me out of trouble," she simply said.
Peggy's warning was worth gold, Liz thought. She had told her not to go hunting tomorrow and wait to go to the beach like Heather had suggested, only next week. That would put her donor hunt to Friday, since Peggy was visiting them on Thursday.
"Where are you going to get the files from?" she wanted to know from Nick.
"It'll be a bother. I need to visit Prince LaCroix for that," he sighed.
"Oh? Really? Will he really give you access to those documents?"
"It'll take some convincing... But hey, I got my permission to sire you from him as well, so..."
Liz could see that Nick was thinking really hard.
"I might want to talk to Issac before I go to him. If I said it was for work to identify famous historical people as kindred over the last millennia for some project for Hollywood..." he continued. "It might work. I need to plan this thoroughly though."
"Okay. If you need me, you know where to find me. I'll be sitting off my shift at the bloodbank," Liz said.
They hailed a cab once they were outside.
"I'll head to my apartment. Come by later. I'll probably already be drowning in work when you arrive," Nick sighed.
"I will cheer you up when I get back, sweetie. Maybe I'll have some funny story to tell. Maybe I'll have some stupid customers, or maybe Vandal will talk about blowing up more cars, who knows?" she laughed.
"Yeah, by the way, how did that conversation get there?"
She laughed harder, "You poor, poor televisionless guy."
"I can start to see this is becoming a problem," he grinned.
"Ah, most definitely."
The cabby let Nick out at his apartment and drove Liz to the bloodbank.
She went downstairs.
Someone was at the donation window and something felt off. This guy didn't look like he was gonna buy blood. He was talking to Vandal.
She heard him say, "You're here to make a donation?"
"Yes."
"Wonderful, then follow me, please." Vandal stepped into the hallway.
With a start, Liz remembered the police car she had seen outside.
"Ah, Sir. You're here to donate?" she asked, as she approached them.
Vandal gave her a weird look.
"Yes, I had heard the bloodbank takes donations during night hours," he said.
'Setup!!' the voices in her head screamed.
"That is correct. My name's Miss Lisonport. I oversee the organization of the bloodbank," she introduced herself.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Miss Lisonport."
"Is this your first donation, or do you carry a donor card?" she asked him.
"I carry a donor card. I have donated here before, although it's been a few years."
"Ah, wonderful. Then let me quickly check if you're still in the system, so we can save you a lot of paperwork," Liz said. "Mr Cleaver has to log me in, since my account isn't activated yet. I need your card, Sir. Please excuse us for one moment. We'll be right back."
The man handed her the card and waited. She went into the room with Vandal and checked the computer.
She spoke in a low voice, "Vandal, this guy is bugged. We have police outside. If they hear a peep or think something is up, we're toast. Do NOT drain this guy. He HAS TO walk out of here in one piece." She typed in his data and nothing came up.
She spoke up, addressing the guy, "I'm sorry, Sir. We do not have you in the system anymore. You'll need to file all the paperwork again."
"That's all right. My donor card is still valid though, right?"
Liz smiled at him, "Of course, Sir." She turned to Vandal and spoke, "I know you'd really love to off that guy, but trust me it's not worth it."
Vandal spoke under his breath, "Well, princess. I think you should take his donation, then. Because I don't trust my self control right now."
She nodded. "Thank you. I'll be right back."
Liz went went back outside and said, "I am sorry for the hold up, Mr. Morris. It is a bother. I have only started working here recently and the guys from IT have a ton of things to do."
"It's no problem," he said, friendly.
She led him down to the donation section and had him file the paperwork, then prepared the equipment.
"I hope you're not scared of needles, Sir," she said.
He laughed, "Oh, no. Not at all."
"Good."
She took his blood and a few minutes later, she came back to the front with him.
"Thank you for your donation, Mr. Morris. Come again."
He made his way down the hall.
Liz went in to Vandal and said, "I am going after him. I want to hear what he reports back."
"They will see you, princess."
"They won't," she smiled. "I'll be right back."
She waited till she heard the door fall shut upstairs, then went after him.
Liz had seen Nick turn invisible exactly once and she knew it was a discipline unique to clan Malkavian and clan Nosferatu. She concentrated and felt the energy ripple out and consume blood. She was bending the light around her in a way that made it so she could no longer be seen.
Mr. Morris headed straight for the two officers who now got out of the car to greet him.
"There is absolutely nothing unusual, other than their weird work hours," he told them. "They follow regulations, and one of the higher up's who organizes the bloodbank had just come in at this ungodly hour as well."
"Hm, well. We had heard some rumors. Maybe it's really just some Teenager's who're making up some new urban legends," the bearded officer said.
"I told you so," the second officer grumbled. "We just wasted our time. We could have been home already!"
Mr. Morris handed them back the hidden microphone. "Well, I for one, am glad nothing happened. Now let's head back to the station and then home."
They got into the car and drove off.
Liz went back to Vandal.
"Jup," she said. "Guy was a bugged cop. Went back to his buddies immediately. Apparently some teens are spreading rumors. Cops put it off as making up urban legends."
Vandal growled, "Just great."
"Well, I have some info that'll cheer you up," Liz smiled. "We're hunting Friday."
"Good," he smirked.
"And Thursday we'll have a guest. Peggy's gonna come over to say hi. She'll help us to get our hands on the bitch, eventually. Nick's doing research with her," Liz told him. "You'll like Peggy, I think. She drains other kindred and consumes their souls."
He liked the sound of that. "Interesting. I only know how to shatter and break them," he said darkly.
"Well, then you will have a great talk, I assume. Peggy's probably going to be super excited to chat with you," Liz grinned. "You know what, Vandal? Why don't you take the night off tomorrow? You deserve a break. You almost did all of the shift alone. The bitch will never know, if that's what worries you."
Vandal hesitated. He had never in all his time working at the bloodbank, let anyone do a shift alone. Never.
"Are you worried I'll mess up?" she asked.
He wasn't. So he said, "No, princess."
"Aw, thank you!" The look she gave him was very warm.
Vandal gave up and handed her the keys to the bloodbank. "I will walk you through everything again later, just to make sure. I don't want anything out of place when I get back Thursday."
"Nothing, will be out of place, I promise," Liz smiled. "You can count on me."
The rest of their shift was rather uneventful. They talked some more about this and that before Vandal had her repeat in detail what she had to do when closing up. When he was satisfied, he spoke, "Very good, princess. Then let's go home for tonight."
She nodded and they went outside.
"So, are you planning to do anything tomorrow, now that you got the day off?" she asked curiously.
Vandal shook his head. "Most likely, I will just sleep in and then do nothing for the rest of the night."
"Yeah, sounds very familiar. That's all I ever did too."
He chuckled.
"Well, then. Enjoy your night off and I'll see you Thursday. I'll make sure everything's in order when you come back," Liz said, automatically stepping forward and hugging him goodbye.
"Goddamn, addict," Vandal laughed.
She squeezed him before she let go. "See you!"
"See you, princess." Vandal turned and left, shaking his head.
Liz pulled into Nick's apartment and called, "Sweetie, I'm back. How's it going?"
The frustrated sight coming from the office was not a good sign. "Well, so far nothing catastrophic has happened, I was on the phone with Issac for like, an hour though. And now I have to get an appointment squared away to meet the Prince tomorrow."
"Okay. When you're done with that, I got something to tell you," Liz said and waited for Nick in the living room. "Is it ok if I turn on the TV or will it distract you?"
"It's fine."
She turned it on. Or at least tried to. The screen stayed black.
"Nick? I think something's wrong with the TV," Liz said.
Nick poked his head out into the living room. "Oh, I'm sorry. I unplugged it earlier."
Liz raised her eyebrow at him, "Why?"
"I heard thunder, and I unplug all my stuff during a storm," he explained.
"Ah, all right. Thanks, sweetie."
Nick went on to make his appointment. Liz plugged in the TV again and switched through the channels. There wasn't really anything interesting on.
He came back about 15 minutes later and stretched out on the sofa, resting his head in Liz's lap. He looked at her and said, "Tomorrow 2 AM, LaCroix's office." He pulled a face. "I don't really like the guy. But hey. I need his files. So, what did you want to tell me?"
"Oh, Vandal and I got a surprise visit from an undercover cop earlier," she chuckled. "They thought our hours were weird and checked if we're really taking donations."
"So, what happened with him?"
"Well, I took his donation, followed him back out and he and his two buddies went back to the station," she laughed. "Vandal was not amused."
"He wanted to drain the guy, right?"
"Absolutely. I talked him out of it."
"Yeah, it wouldn't have been worth the trouble that had ensued after," Nick said.
"I told Vandal to take the day off tomorrow. I felt bad for having him sit through almost all of the shift alone."
"You're such a sweetheart," he told her. "So you looking forward to working with Peggy?"
"Uh, yes! I told Vandal she's going to visit on Thursday."
"Of course you did," Nick reached up and ran his hand through her hair. "You're meeting Knox after work tomorrow, right?"
"Yes. I think he and I are gonna pay Mercurio a surprise visit."
"He hates surprise visits," Nick laughed.
"I know, but I wanna make sure everything's going well. I'm really looking forward to seeing Knox again," she smiled.
"Knox is great, yeah."
"That, he is!"
They ended up going to sleep way later than they had actually planned.

Chapter Text

Liz woke to the sound of Nick's voice. He was on the phone again.
'Good evening, Liz' the voices greeted her.
"Evening, guys."
'We had a talk between us and decided you should wear something red,' they informed her.
"Wonderful. I can work with that," she smiled.
'Have a nice night.'
"You too."
She got out of bed and took a blood bag from the fridge, filling a cup. In the office, Nick hung up the phone.
"Hey, sweetie," Nick smiled at her. "I got a call from LaCroix's secretary. He called in Beckett as well, to help with something else. So that now puts my meeting to an hour later. I had hoped to join you and Knox, but at this rate, I don't think it's gonna work."
"Oh, sweetie. I'm sorry."
"Ah well, can't be helped," he said. "You're leaving for the bloodbank in a few minutes, yes?"
She nodded. "Yeah. It'll be a busy night though, so I won't get bored."
"That's good."
Liz got dressed and put her hair into her usual ponytail. Then she was off.
At the bloodbank, she checked the mail, got the boxes ready and sat down, waiting for customers.
Not 15 minutes had passed before the first ones came in.
The night was busy. Liz kept checking the inventory in between and frowned as supplies dwindled hourly. As the second half of her shift started, she had to open up a new box. It was almost frustrating to see how much blood Santa Monica's kindred consumed.
She felt the monotony of the shift set in. It was boring. She had been wrong about that. It gave her too much time to think.
Vandal had been doing this alone for so long. It was no wonder he hated everything. Liz had not even finished a whole night and she was already feeling how much this sucked.
She had started talking to herself by hour six. She wasn't talking to the voices. She truly was talking to herself. She needed to fill the silence of the room with something, anything.
How had Vandal not gotten a radio in here, at least?
"This is awful," Liz grumbled. "The blood's just running through my fingers here. And I know I have to get more soon, or heads will roll. They don't even know how much work it is to get it. That stuff doesn't just magically appear out of thin air. We should up our prices at least. That'll put them off buying it and make them go hunting. God, I gotta speak to Nick about this. When we're through the supplies he bought, we're gonna go to the Asylum to drink every fucking night. I swear. This job is like hell on earth. Damn."
Every bag she sold made her a bit more pissed. "Well, this is just convenient, isn't it? You get to go in here, get dinner and go back home. Don't even have to lift a finger, eh? No preparation, no 'cooking,' nothing. Ugh. We're like a fast food restaurant, only difference is, they get their supplies from someone else and we're harvesting our own veggies and slaughtering our own animals here! And the poor workers get paid minimum wage. Do they even know, just ONE guy used to run this business?"
Hour seven started and she seriously wanted to scream as she opened up another box of blood bags.
"Lazy fucking assholes. Should seriously up the prices," she growled. "Can't believe how much this sucks. Only one more hour. One more."
Time seemed to have slowed down for the last hour. Liz kept looking at her watch.
"Fuck, fuck, fuuuuuck!" She didn't know what was worse, just sitting there doing nothing, or watching supplies evaporate.
She had 8 more customers and they had emptied out the box she had opened on hour seven.
"What the hell! Are they having a banquet, or do they need to feed a family of five?!"
Liz checked inventory again. They would need to hunt on Friday. They so needed to. This was bullshit.
Finally her shift ended. She closed up the bloodbank, just like Vandal had showed her and checked twice to make sure she had not forgotten anything.
She went upstairs and locked the door. She was still pissed.
"Liz!"
Knox was moving into the alley towards her.
She turned the key in the lock one more time and her head snapped to him.
Knox stopped dead in his tracks about 6 feet in front of her.
"Damn, girl. What's wrong? You look pissed off. Hell, the look on your face is almost like Vandal's," Knox spoke.
She stepped towards him, "Do you have any idea, how much this sucks? Do you have any idea, how much fucking blood those lazy ass motherfuckers drink?"
Knox was retreating, raising his hands. "Whoa! What? Slow down, Liz."
"Do you have any clue, how 'hard' it is for 'one guy' to supply almost all of Santa Monica's kindred society?" She grabbed his upper arms.
"No?" Knox looked seriously concerned for his own safety.
"It's hell," she told him. "Knox, his job is hell on earth." She wrapped her arms around him and leaned her head against his chest.
Knox relaxed. "Okay, seriously. For a moment there I thought you were going to snap and hurt me."
"I wouldn't hurt you, Knox," she said quietly. "I'm sorry I freaked you out. I was just so angry."
"Where's Vandal, now that you mentioned him."
"I gave him the night off." She stepped back and looked Knox in the eyes. "I worked the shift alone. It was one night. Just one. He did, I don't know how many years of this shit. Can you imagine how crap he feels, when I'm like this after just a night?"
He held her gaze and answered, "To be honest, I had never thought about it. Tell me about it on the way."
"On the way where?" Liz asked, confused.
"I need coffee," he answered.
"Okay," Liz laughed. "I wanted to pay Mercurio a visit later. I had planned to have everything ready for transport on Sunday. How's it going on Bertram's side?"
"Oh, he already has his team. We just need to know when and where we need to pick stuff up," he told her. "So you went to Mercurio?"
"Yes. I gave him the drop point. It's very close to the warehouse. I just wanted to check in on him. Vandal said he's a risk taker."
"He's right," Knox said.
They made their way to the diner around the corner and Knox got his coffee. They weren't far from Mercurio's place now.
"You're good to go now, right?"
"Yeah, now I won't fall asleep. Had kind of a shit day," he muttered.
"Failed hunt, or just not many leads?" she wanted to know.
"Both," he said.
"Wow, that is a shit day indeed." She petted his back.
Knox sipped his coffee as they walked.
Liz told him about yesterday's undercover cop and talked more about tonight's shift. She had to admit, Knox was a very good listener.
"Oh my god, Knox! I totally forgot. I asked Nick to tell me how you met! That was awesome! Best fucking story I have heard in a long while!"
Knox laughed, "I told you! That night was insane. When I came back to his place I was fucking terrified. Usually it's me who does the hunting."
"Poor Knox!"
"Yeah!"
"Ever been to Mercurio's," Liz wanted to know.
"Nope."
"Well, be prepared. His place, it's fancy," she laughed.
"I bet! That guy works for the Prince!"
"Mercurio's not gonna be happy in a minute," Liz spoke, as they entered the apartment building. "His face will fall the moment he sees me."
She knocked and heard a frustrated growl from the other side. "What is wrong lately? Can't people just CALL or send a message before they just come to my door?!"
"Told you," Liz laughed. "His mood already dropped."
The door opened and Mercurio saw them. Like Liz had said, his face fell.
"Liz!" he said. His eyes flicked to Knox. "Well you seem to be bringing different guests now too... Hello Knox."
"Hey, Mercurio."
"Can we come in?" she asked, friendly.
He stepped aside and closed the door behind them.
Knox was looking around and drinking in the details.
"I just wanted to know how it's going," Liz told him. "The second team is ready. They just need to know if everything will be on time."
"So far, yes. I got hold of the guy with the explosives, but the dynamite he sells won't be enough to blow up the entire thing and he isn't parting with his Astrolite," Mercurio looked uncomfortable.
"You got the dynamite ready though, right?"
"I have that ready, yes. It's just not enough," he said, his hands were shaking the slightest bit.
"Are you all right?" Liz asked. "Your hands."
Mercurio quickly hid them behind his back. He tried to stifle a nervous laugh as he answered, "Yeah, I'm ok."
'He's scared...'
"Of what?" Liz asked aloud without thinking.
Mercurio glanced at her. "What?"
'Of failing. Last time he fucked up wasn't too great for him.'
"Hm... Okay."
'Might want to go yourself. You got the address. Knox can come with you.'
"Yeah, and then what? Do I just go in there and say, 'Hi, could you give me that Astrolite. Pretty please?' Guys, come on, that'll never work," Liz spoke.
Knox turned to Mercurio, "Oh, don't mind her. That's normal."
"Normal?! That is creepy! She's talking to herself," Mercurio answered, staring at Liz, who apparently didn't seem to notice or care.
The voices laughed, 'No, just steal it.'
"Ah, so now we're 'thieves,' huh?"
'Yeah, pretty much. All other options are harder AND take longer.'
Liz gave up. "Okay, guys. Thanks." She turned to Knox, "Knox, you'll now get to be a burglar. I need your lockpicking skills. We're stealing that shit."
"Wait, what? You want to sneak in there?" Mercurio was baffled.
Liz shrugged. "Yeah. I'll bring it to you, and then you can take care of the rest. Does that work for you?"
"Of course," he said.
"Knox, we're going on an adventure! Mercurio, we'll be back in about 45 minutes. See ya!"
Liz marched out the door with Knox on her heels, leaving Mercurio in somewhat of a daze.
"Liz, you know that place will probably be swarming with people, right?" Knox asked her. He was excited however.
"Don't really care. We'll get the stuff one way or another. I want that big boom for the show!"
They went through the parking garage down the stairs to the beach. Liz pointed up to a hill and said, "There. That's the place."
Knox nodded. "It is. The guy's name is Dennis. The one who sells everything."
They went up and Liz immediately knew. There was no way they were gonna get in and out unseen. A buff guy stood at the house's perimeter, blocking the way into the fenced off area.
"Shit. So do we just try to talk Dennis into giving us that stuff, or what? Guys, you said 'steal.' Can you please elaborate?" Liz huffed.
'You'll think of something.'
"Uh, what?"
'Talk your way in, then everything will fall into place.'
"Okay. Knox, you're right behind me, yeah?"
Knox placed a hand on her shoulder. "I got your back, any time."
"Thanks. We're talking our way in. Then, we'll improvise."
She stepped up to the buff guy, who looked her and then Knox up and down.
"Hi, big guy," Liz smiled. "I need to speak with your boss. Can we go in?" She leaned in closer and purred, "I'll make it worth your while, when we leave again, surfer boy. We could go take a stroll on the beach. Just you and I. My friend here will be long on his way."
Buff guy started grinning. "I like the sound of that."
'IDIOT!!' the voices in her head were screaming what she'd love to say to him.
"Good, so we're allowed in?" Liz hummed.
"Yeah, sure."
"I'll be back in a flash," she smiled at him coyly.
When Knox and her were out of earshot, he told her, "Why did that display make me uncomfortable, Liz?"
"Because it was disgusting?" Liz said blankly.
Knox was already scanning the area. "Let's check the outside first. Maybe we'll come up with something, while we're looking around."
Liz agreed.
There was really nothing other than a fuse box to mess with. If they cut power, however, they'd have to get in and out fast, before they started looking around.
Liz saw two guys watching TV in the living room and on the other side, Knox had spotted another two playing cards.
Dennis was in another back room with a pair of guards.
"Let's just go in through the front door and have a chat with the guy," Liz sighed.
And so they went in.
She knocked on Dennis' back room door and entered.
"Ah, everyone wants something from me. What can I do for you, pretty lady?" he smiled.
Dennis wore an expensive white suit and jewelry.
She smiled back, "Hey handsome. I was wondering if you could help me and my friend out. We need the strongest explosives you got."
"Ah. So you're looking for Astrolite, eh? I'm sorry to say that's already been sold. And if you can't top the price my customer's offering me, there's nothing I can do," Dennis said, all business.
"How much?" it was Knox who wanted to know.
"15 grand," Dennis replied.
No wonder Mercurio couldn't get his hands on it, Liz thought. That was absurd.
"Would it help if I told you, what I'm gonna blow up with it, will make the news?" Liz grinned.
Dennis didn't look impressed at all. "No, it wouldn't. You think what my other customer is doing with it won't?"
"Pity. And there's no way we can talk about the price?" Liz pouted.
Dennis' eyes ran over her from head to toe and back up. He smiled. "Well, there might be something..."
'Disgusting, pigs! All of them! Should just off them, one by one!' the voices howled.
Out of the corner of her eyes she saw Knox ball his fist and glower at Dennis.
Liz spoke before he could, "Well, handsome," she took half a step towards him. "If that's the case, why don't we send the guys out for a moment. I don't like it when someone watches."
Dennis addressed his guards, "Go check the odometer on my car."
"Knox, you can wait in front of the door," she smiled at him, then gave him a wink.
He nodded and left the room behind the two guards.
Liz was disgusted by what she was about to do. She stepped closer and whispered, "Why don't we start slow. I'm all for gentle kisses."
Dennis leaned in and Liz placed her lips on his neck. She sank her teeth into him and drank.
While he was still in a daze, she swiped the Astrolite from behind him and hurried out of the room. She grabbed Knox by the arm. "I got it. Now let's get the fuck out of here, before I start puking."
"What did you do?" Knox wanted to know. "What did he do?"
She shuddered. "He did nothing, but I just drank from him." They hurried out the front door. "I don't drink from disgusting pigs like that usually. But this was necessary."
Buff guy heard them approach and smiled. "Hey, you're back."
Liz gave him a look that said she'd really like to kick him in the balls. She spoke, "I am back. And I have some good advice for you, surfer boy. I could go back to your girlfriend, to Kate's house, right now, if I wanted. And tell her about the shit you agreed to to with a complete STRANGER! But I won't. I have more important things to do. Have a good night."
She walked past him and the look he had on his face was one of pure shock.
"So, you got a moral compass who you drink from, huh?" Knox wanted to know. "Sounds a bit like clan Ventrue."
"Maybe," Liz said. "But clan Ventrue only want the noble rich guys and the rare blood. They are likely to puke anything else up." She put an arm around Knox's shoulder. "I don't care about that. Don't get me wrong, his blood was fine. I'd never puke it up. It's just the thought of drinking from someone so perverted, ugh. I don't like it. It feels wrong. You get what I mean?"
He smiled at her. "Yeah, I feel you." His curiosity had gotten the better of him once more and he asked, "So let's say you're looking for someone to drink from at the club. How do you pick?"
"Oh, that's easy. I watch the people around me and everyone who's not acting like a complete moron or an asshole, has fun, dances and isn't making out with like everybody, and didn't have too much to drink, is fine with me," she laughed. "I also get a lot of info on everyone from up here." She tapped her temple.
"That's interesting. So I'm drinking material?" he wanted to know.
"Definitely not," Liz said.
"Excuse me? I'm not a moron, I'm nice, I have a lot of fun and I don't make out with everyone!"
"I do not steal from friends," she told him.
"You have a real interesting outlook on this whole thing," Knox spoke. "So if it feels like stealing. What if I offered?"
"Then, yes. But only if you were one hundred percent sure about it," she said, remembering her situation with Vandal.
"Good to know," Knox smiled.
"I have a question for you, now," Liz grinned. "Have you ever fired that gun you're carrying?"
Knox was taken aback. He had concealed it really well.
"Yes. On two occasions," he answered. "I only ever fire it for self defense and not with the intend to kill. Only to disable."
"How good is your aim?"
"Very good," he grinned.
"You practice at a shooting range?"
"At least once a week, yeah."
Liz really wanted to see how good of a shot Knox was. She asked him, "Would you be able to hit my leg from say a hundred and fifty yards away if I wasn't moving?"
Knox raised his eyebrow, "If you're not moving. Torso, definitely. I might miss the leg. I never tried."
"Well we'll have to test that one of those days."
Knox stared at her. "I'm not shooting you!"
She laughed. "You're so sweet!! Then I'll ask Nick to be the target."
"I'm not shooting Nick either!"
"Nick makes a great target! He already volunteered as punching bag once." Liz found this absolutely hilarious. "I can quote him, 'I'm curious how much damage he can do.' Those were his words, right before Vandal punched him so hard he cracked his rib!"
"Wait, what? When did you guys hang out with Vandal?" Knox looked like he had never heard anything stranger.
"On Monday. After my shift. It was actually fun," Liz chuckled. "Don't be jealous, Knox. We're hanging out on Sunday to watch the big explosion!"
That cheered him up. "Hell, yeah!"
They returned to Mercurio's place and he let them in.
Liz handed him the Astrolite. "Look what I got for you," she grinned. "Let's blow shit up!"
"You really got them." He took the package and went over to his laptop. "You said Sunday night, correct?" He showed her the address again. "And that's the drop point?"
She checked it again. "Yes, correct."
Knox stood behind her and said, "Good drop point, Liz. Easy to access and out of sight."
"I'm glad you're pleased," she said. "Mercurio, the time's still 2:30 AM for the drop."
"All right," he looked like he wanted to say more.
"What's wrong?" Liz asked softly.
Mercurio looked off to the side, then at his feet and then he flopped onto the sofa with a sigh. "Sorry you had to go yourself," he said.
"Oh, no. Mercurio, it's fine. That guy was a total prick and charging an insane sum. I understand. Don't beat yourself up about it. It's not your fault, really," Liz told him. She felt bad for him.
"You're very forgiving," he told her.
Now she felt even worse. The voices were whispering in her head. Apparently the Prince was a spoiled little brat.
"I'm sorry, too," she said.
Mercurio looked at her. "I'm not sure I understand why 'you're' sorry."
"Because, I made you feel bad. Because, I unknowingly sent you to a task that was almost impossible to do," she said quietly. "And I'm sorry I did that."
He stared at her. He couldn't understand how she could be so human. She was super emotional.
It took him a moment before he smiled and said, "Apology accepted." He saw her face change. The worry vanished from it and lit up.
"Thank you." She looked relieved. "Do you need help with the transport, it's all right if you do. I would be glad to help if you need it."
Mercurio stood up and walked to her. Liz looked up at him with questioning eyes.
"You'll have the explosives at the drop point, Sunday at 2:30 AM," he spoke and then held out his hand to her.
She took it and gave it a very light squeeze. "Thank you, for all your help. I want to return your favor, so if you ever need anything. Call on me and Nick."
"I will," he let go of her hand. "Have a good night, Liz."
"You too, Mercurio."
They left and Knox pulled out his pager. "We're meeting Tung in 10 minutes, if that's ok with you?"
"Sure."
They headed for the water tower.
Liz asked Knox, "Tell me, how's Tung treating you?"
"He's an awesome boss!" Knox told her, excited. "I get to do all the stuff I used to like before, but now I'm even better at it! It's great!"
Liz remembered what Vandal had told her. She wouldn't bring it up, but she kept it in the back of her head as he continued, "Tung sends me around a lot more than Kilpatrick did. He pays better too. I'm really happy. This whole thing is like one of the best things that ever happened to me!"
"I'm glad you're happy, Knox," Liz smiled.
All of the ghouls she had met so far had completely different opinions on their masters. Knox thought Bertram was the coolest guy around, Heather saw Peggy as a friend and escape of her hold life, and Vandal hated Therese for more than one reason.
"Do you have siblings, Knox?" she asked him.
"Ah, yes. I have a big brother. We don't talk all that often, but we're on good terms. You?"
"Only child," she simply said.
They got off the street into the gloom of the water tower. Bertram was already waiting.
"Ah, you were even quicker than I expected," he said. "So everything's ready?"
Liz bowed. "Yes, Sir. The drop point is very close to the warehouse. Knox saw it and said it's good. Everything's set for Sunday 2:30 AM."
"That's what I like to hear."
Liz showed him the drop location on a map and Tung seemed, very pleased. She told him what kind of explosives his team could expect to set up.
"I'm impressed. Very nice work. That warehouse will be blown sky high," he smiled.
"I'll be watching it live with Nick and Knox," she grinned.
"I know, Knox informed me already."
"Oh, and I thought I was bringing news." Liz liked Bertram. He was very laid back.
"Sorry, kid. You're not."
Liz hesitated. She really wanted to ask something.
Bertram saw it and said, "Well, kid. Spit it out. What's on your mind?"
"Sir, I'm sorry. I know this is a really strange question, but have you been shot at before?"
Tung laughed, hard. "Yes, kid. More than once. Good old Knox here shot me when we first met."
Okay, that was one, then. She wondered what the other occasion had been.
"Ah. Well, the reason I'm asking was, I wanted to know if it hurts," Liz said.
That made him laugh harder. "Not really. It heals so quickly you barely notice. Why are you asking?"
She smiled, "I wanted Knox to use either me, or Nick as targets for practice, but he refused. I just wanted to know what it feels like."
Tung thought for a moment, then said, "Well if you're really that curious, why don't the three of us go somewhere where nobody will bother if they hear gunshots?"
"Aw, hell yes! Is there enough space there that we can have Knox shoot at me from a hundred and fifty yards?" She was so excited. This was going to be fun! "Come on, Knox. Bertram said it doesn't hurt, you've got to try this! It'll be fun! I want to see if you can hit my leg!"
"Well, you're easily excitable." He waved the two of them to follow.
"Yes! Knox, let's go!"
They followed Bertram down into the sewers and it took a while till they went back up through a manhole.
Liz took in where they were. She hadn't been able to follow the confusing sewer layout.
They were on the site of an abandoned factory outside of town, inside the fenced off area. It was perfect. There were no floodlights, nothing to give them away.
Bertram stretched and turned to Liz, "After you're done being the target. Wanna take a shot at me? Knox could show you how to shoot it."
"You're letting me shoot you? Oh my god, thanks! This is such an awesome night! I'm gonna learn how to shoot a gun. Yay!"
Knox was smiling. "Okay, you lunatic. Go stand a hundred and fifty yards away."
Liz walked in the opposite direction and then turned back to Knox, standing with her legs apart a bit. "Well, then. Take your shot. I'll let you know if it was hit or miss!" she called to him
Knox took careful aim and then fired.
The shot was loud. She'd never heard a gunshot before. "You missed," she let Knox know.
Bertram was beside him and said. "Try a bit lower and to the right. It was close."
He took aim again. Another shot ran out.
Liz felt the bullet go through her leg. There was pressure for only a second before the wound closed again. "Ow!" she laughed. It hadn't hurt, not really, just like Bertram had said. "You hit my upper leg right through the middle. Take another!"
Knox did. This time, he aimed for the left leg and hit it without problems.
"You're amazing!" Liz called to him.
Knox called back, "Try walking towards me at normal speed. I want to see if I can hit you when you're moving."
Liz smiled. Knox was having fun now.
She started walking and he took aim once more.
Another bullet went through her leg.
"Knox, you're a master shot!" she laughed.
He lowered the gun again and put on the safety.
Liz came back to them. Bertram went to stand at a considerably smaller distance than Knox had.
Knox handed her the pistol. It was heavier than she had expected. He showed her how to remove the safety again and then had her aim down the sight. He corrected her stance, saying, "Okay, now extend your arms fully, but don't lock them up. Lean forward ever so slightly and keep a firm grip on the gun. That thing's going to kick when you pull the trigger." She did as instructed and Knox continued, "Okay, aim for Bertram's torso."
She did.
"I'm going to move behind you to check your aim, ok?"
"Sure."
He moved and told her, "Your aim's good. Bend you elbows a bit." He waited for her to do so. "All right. Now, squeeze the trigger slowly and keep your shoulders relaxed. Don't be scared of it and don't flinch. It helps if you breathe out while you pull it."
She nodded and steadily pulled the trigger of the gun, keeping a tight grip on it.
The gun fired. The recoil was a lot stronger than she had thought from a small handgun like that.
The bullet passed through Bertram's chest.
"I hit him! I can't believe I hit him! I was sure I'd miss!"
Knock gave her a pat on the back. "Good! Put the safety back on."
She did and handed him the gun again. "That was fun!" She turned to Bertram, "Thank you so much!!"
"Ah, no problem, kid."
Knox grinned, "I am still amazed I hit you from that distance while you were walking."
"It was awesome!" Liz was so happy she got to do this.
Bertram looked off into the distance somewhere before he spoke, "I should get out more. Secluded places like this are relatively easy to find. I'm definitely spending too much time in the warrens. I almost forgot how good it is to breathe fresh air."
"Well, if you want we can come here regularly. I'd be happy to spend time with you," Liz offered. "We can do whatever you want. I'd be fine with just sitting here too. We don't even have to talk."
He thought about it for a moment, before he answered, "Why not. Knox, you want to come too?"
"Of course. I like hanging out with Liz."
Liz face lit up. "Oh. Would it be ok for me to bring Nick, one of these nights?"
"Sure, kid. Nick can come too."
"Yay! So how's next Wednesday sound?"
"Sounds good to me. Same time, same place. We'll all meet at the water tower again," Bertram said, smiling.
"Wonderful!"
They entered the sewers again and Tung led them back to where they had come from. Liz couldn't make sense of how he kept track of where they were going. She didn't think she'd ever figure it out. She'd always been bad with directions and this was two times harder than following roads.
"Till next week," Bertram said, gave them both a nod and disappeared back into a manhole.
"Where are you headed now, Knox?" Liz asked him.
"I'll go get some shut eye for the night, you?"
"Nick's apartment. He'll probably be back from his meeting by now," she answered.
"All right. Then I'll see you Sunday. I can't wait! It'll be great!" Knox spoke excitedly.
"Yeah!" She hugged him. "See you Sunday Knox. I had a good time today."
They parted ways and Liz found Nick in his office. It looked like in her vision. It was packed with folders filled with documents.
"Well, that looks worse in real life than it did in my head," Liz said.
"Yeah... Peggy and I are going to have a hell of a time going through this. Some of those documents are copies of parchment rolls. I can't even read them! They're not in English!"
"Do the voices do translations for stuff like that?" Liz wanted to know.
"I will find out tomorrow..."
Nick looked tired, Liz thought. She'd never seen him look tired.
"Are you ok, Nick?"
He turned to her and a smile came back on his lips. "Oh, sweetie. I can see the worry on your face. I'm all right. Talking to the Prince is like dealing with a 5 year old kid that's throwing a tantrum. It's annoying."
"Ah. Well, I'm here to lift your mood." She reached up and gently pulled his face down and kissed him. Then she smiled brightly, "We're meeting Tung next Wednesday."
"Really? What's the job?"
She laughed, "No job. It's just us, Knox and Bertam hanging out. All fun, no work."
"That's lovely!" he said, happily. "How did that happen?"
"Well, my meeting with Knox went fine. He paged Bertram and we met up. Then Knox shot me in the leg a few times, because I wanted to see if he could and after Knox taught me how to shoot his gun and Bertram offered to be my target."
Nick shook his head, laughing. "You are incredible!"
"I know!"
"Want to have a look at these files with me?" Nick asked, opening a large red folder.
She went over and together they flipped through the documents.
"This is gonna be a ton of work," she sighed. "Hope Peggy's a fast reader."
"Yeah, me too."
The rest of the night, they kept reading. Liz had a lot of documents of more recently sired kindred. The reads were boring and dry.
In between the reading, Liz told Nick about her horrible shift and what she now thought of buying from the bloodbank.
Nick had no objections that they went out to hunt every night after the supplies had run out.
Before they went to sleep they moved aside all the folders they had read through already.
Liz lay down next to Nick and the last words she heard before she drifted off were the voices, saying, 'Good night, Liz. Let's discuss clothes, while she sleeps.'

Chapter Text

Liz woke before Nick and got out of bed.
'Good evening, Liz. Today is purple. Because Peggy is over. We want to match your shirt to her hair.'
She had a purple shirt in her duffel bag at Nick's she was happy to see. She would not have liked to see the backlash of what would have happened if she didn't have one. She wondered if the voices would have told her to get one from her apartment.
'We knew you had purple in there,' they answered her unspoken question.
"Okay guys. Thanks."
She got dressed and braided her hair down the side of her head.
She drank and then woke Nick before she left for the bloodbank. "Sweetie, I'm off now. I'll be back after my shift. I think Peggy's gonna visit me at the bloodbank relatively early before coming over."
He turned in bed, smiled and gave her a kiss. "All right. I'll see you later. Love you!"
"Love you too! See ya!"
She was off.
She had arrived and opened the bloodbank before Vandal. She sat down in font of the computer and opened the inbox.
Nothing. Thankfully. Just spam.
She heard Vandal's footsteps down the hall and turned when the door opened.
Something hit her in the chest.
"Princess, your reflexes are shit," Vandal grinned.
Liz looked down into her lap. He had thrown a none see-through bag at her. She tentatively poked at it. It was squishy.
She looked up at Vandal and her voice held a bit of suspicion as she spoke, "What is this? Did you rip someone's heart out and bring it to me?"
Vandal answered, "I might have, yes." His voice lowered as he challenged, "Why don't you have a look."
"It's way too light to be a heart..." she said.
"How would you know how much a heart weights?"
She wouldn't. Now she had serious doubts, but the contents of the bag didn't smell of blood.
She slowly unrolled the bag and looked inside.
"What the fuck?"
The voices in her head started crying, 'Oh my god! It's PINK! PINK! WHY?! WE HATE PINK!!!!'
Liz pulled out the neon pink content of the bag.
It was a T-Shirt with a huge letter print on the front of it.
"FREE HUGS?! Are you shitting me?!"
Vandal burst into laughter. "Oh my god, that was SO worth it!"
Liz stood up and held the shirt in front of her chest. "Are you kidding?"
Vandal was still laughing as he said, "I'm going to make you wear this when we're donor hunting and I will count how many hugs you get, you addict! I did you a huge favor!"
The shirt was her size, Liz noted. She smiled.
"Of course, I'll wear it! Thanks for looking out for me!"
'PINK! Liz, no!'
She laughed and let Vandal know, "By the way, the voices hate pink. They're screaming at me."
"Well, that makes it even better," he smirked.
She rolled the shirt back up and put it back into the bag. "Thanks, Vandal. Seriously. That's nice of you," she smiled.
"Well, it was actually more for me, than for you. Because, I will have a great time watching," he told her. "But you're welcome, regardless." He looked around the room. "And I see nothing is out of place. Well done, princess."
"Thanks again," Liz paused for a moment before she spoke again. "I thought I was going to go nuts cooped up in here, with nobody to talk to. Like, holy shit. At the end of the shift I was ready to break stuff. How have you not gotten a radio in here at least?"
"I had, for some time. It started to piss me off as well," Vandal grumbled.
"Damn." She looked at Vandal and asked, quietly, "How long have you been doing this alone?"
"Almost ten years."
"I'm so sorry." She sighed. "Well, I know it probably won't make you feel better, but I spent one night here and I was ready to burn the whole world. Ten years of it, and I would have blown up the surrounding planets as well."
"It kind of does make me feel better," he smiled.
"The bitch gives you the prices for the bags, right?"
"Yes."
"I thought we should up them. Like considerably. That'll put all those lazy motherfuckers off buying so much and makes them go out and hunt for their own fucking blood," she huffed.
"Good luck getting the bitch to do that," Vandal sneered. "She'll never do it."
"We'll see. I need a few good enough arguments. I'll bring it up. I'm so pissed. They have no idea how much fucking work it is to get people in here, willing or not."
"Just be careful what you say around the queen bitch," Vandal warned.
"I will." She stood up and offered Vandal the chair. "I've got enough of this spot for the rest of the shift. Reminds me of yesterday's hell too much." She sat on the floor.
Vandal took her place. He checked inventory.
"This is bullshit," he growled.
"Yeah, my thoughts exactly. I was ready to scream yesterday. Seriously. The last ones who came in cleared out a box."
He turned back to her and said, "I hate this so much."
"Me too, Vandal."
He fixed his eyes on hers and asked, "Which one didn't change?"
"Which one do you think?" she asked back.
He thought for a moment then answered, "The blue one."
"Yeah, how'd you know?"
"The other one is too bright." He rose from his seat and walked over to Liz, crouching down to her eye level. He took her chin in his hand and held her head in place. He slowly leaned in closer.
"Uh, Vandal. What are you doing?"
"Don't move, and don't look away. Don't even blink," he said.
As he leaned in, he was starting to block out the light from the lamp overhead. Liz's pupils started to widen and the golden eye he was focusing on was changing ever so slightly. As his shadow grew darker the eye became brighter. It was glowing from within. The nearer he came, the more light he blocked, the stronger the glow grew. He was close enough now to see that the ring around her pupil was lighter than the rest of it.
"It's glowing from inside," Vandal said, fascinated. "If you pay enough attention you can see it light up when it gets darker."
He moved his left hand to cast an even larger shadow over her eye. "It's like an ember in a dying fire, catching one last gust of wind."
Liz didn't dare to move. She stared into Vandal's eyes and the look in them was changing, and it was worrying. He was fascinated and his fascination was turning into something she had no words for.
"I wonder what it's like to watch that go out," he breathed. "I bet it's beautiful."
He placed the hand that was shading her eye on the side of her face. His voice turned softer with every word he spoke, "I really want to see that go out, princess. I want to watch as it fades."
Somehow Liz knew that Vandal wasn't trying to hurt or scare her here. His tone was genuine. He was doing the best he could to sound calming, even though his words were creepy.
"Will you let me watch it go out?" he asked.
"How?" It was all she could bring out.
"If I paralyze you, it will kill the light in your eyes. It will almost be like dying." His voice was so, so gentle.
She didn't speak. She couldn't.
"I promise you, I'll be careful," he whispered. "It won't hurt. It'll be uncomfortable, but it won't hurt. And if I see fear in your eyes I will stop."
"I want to hold the knife with you while you do it," Liz spoke quietly.
Vandal pulled out his blade, releasing the hold on her chin. He flicked it open one handed. He placed the tip of it over Liz's heart. "Put your hand on mine."
She did. She thought she'd be nervous, scared even. But all she felt was a strange calm.
"I'll drive it in slowly. If you want me to stop give me a squeeze," he said soothingly.
She nodded and locked eyes with him again.
"I want you to look deeper than that. I really want you to look into them," Vandal said. He placed his thumb under her jaw so her head wouldn't drop.
"I'll look for your soul," she smiled. "I'll let you know if I found it after."
He could feel the difference in her gaze. She wasn't looking at him anymore, she was looking into him. Carefully he pressed the tip of the blade down harder. There was no fear in her. He broke her skin. With every inch of blade disappearing in her flesh the light in her eyes was dimming, the glow weakening. Her grip on his hand was slowly slipping. And she was still smiling. She looked peaceful.
'It's like falling asleep...' the voices quoted Liz, who was no longer able to speak.
He kept pushing and pierced her heart. The moment the blade went through it, Liz's eyes lost focus. They went blank and empty. The light in them faded and the glow was gone. Her hand had fallen into her lap.
For a moment, he remained like this. She looked very close to dead. Something deep down in her eyes was still there. Something was still there, even though all the light had faded into nothing. He had no words for what he saw in them. But something hadn't left, the way it did when he took a life.
He slowly pulled the knife back out and he watched the reverse of it. It came out crimson red. He put it down on the floor next to him.
The moment Liz had control of her muscles again, she took his hand. He held it, smiling back at her.
"It's not a bad way to go," Liz reflected. "I could still hear. It didn't go black, everything just went out of focus and became darker. I couldn't make out enough to tell what I was seeing. It felt a bit like dreaming..." She leaned into Vandal's hand that was still on the side of her face. "I wouldn't mind if that fascination in your eyes was the last thing I ever saw. You were hypnotized. There was nothing else for you there. It was just me. If I had really been dying, you would have been my release. Vandal, this was very, very intimate. I don't think you could ever be closer to someone than when they're dying. This didn't feel like you're taking something from me... It felt like you're sharing something with me. Vandal, you're not taking their last moments for yourself... You're sharing them... with complete strangers..."
She paused, then continued, "If this is what every one of the people you kill see. Then they are seeing something as equally beautiful as you're seeing, in a strange way. There was no hate in your eyes any longer, Vandal. You were letting it go... I don't think I have any way to describe this."
"Maybe it feels different, because you know me," he wondered aloud and let the hand on the side of her head drop into his lap.
Liz shook her head, "I don't think so... If they're looking as they're slipping, there's a visible change in your eyes."
"Interesting." He was still smiling. "Well, we'll never know what they're feeling. Unless you start raising the dead, princess." He gently stroked the back of her hand with his thumb and said, "You just gave me your life. You put your life in my hands. Literally. What I'm going to ask now, I want you to answer truthfully. Would you also have let me do this if we weren't hunting for the bitch together? If I didn't need you for that? If I had no reason not to just kill you?"
"I would," she answered without hesitation. "I trust you. Just like you trusted me not to drain you when you let me drink."
His gaze went off to the side. "Would you..." His breathing was strained. He couldn't get out the second question. He tried again, "Would you..." He closed his eyes. "Would you actually die for me?"
Something inside Liz's head clicked into place. "Vandal, look at me," she said.
He couldn't. He realized he was afraid of her answer.
"Please, Vandal." When he finally did, she told him, "I would fucking die my final death for you."
"And I... would never do the same for anyone," he spoke. He felt strange.
"And that's ok."
She was smiling. How could she be smiling when he had just said he'd never do the same for her or anyone? Shouldn't she be angry, or disappointed? Anything else but smiling, he'd have understood. If she had answered no, he'd have understood.
"Vandal, listen. There is nothing wrong with that. What you're feeling is normal. You've survived in this hell for almost 10 years, on your own. Believe me when I say that I would be just like you if I had gone through that. I think, I would be worse for wear, I would have cracked and shattered a very long time ago. You are a lot stronger than me. You just cope with things differently than I," she said.
Vandal was quiet for a long while before he found his voice again. "Thank you, for letting me have this." She knew he was referring to her letting him watch the light in her eyes go out. "And thank you for trusting me."
Liz knew how hard this was for him. "You're welcome." She took his other hand in hers. "I want you to know, that you can always count on me."
"I don't know what to say right now." He was at a loss for words.
"Then don't say anything. I don't mind," she smiled.
He looked at Liz's hands in his. They were so small, but her fingers were very thin and long.
"Did you find it then," he wanted to know.
"Your soul?" her voice was warm. "I think I did. And it was a lot brighter than you might think it is."
It got the slightest bit of a grin out of him. "You're weird."
She giggled, "Your hands are large."
"No, you're just very petite." He was grinning for real now. "You're so light, a normal person could probably throw you quite a distance."
"How do you know how much I weight?"
"I picked you up and gave you over to Nick when you fell asleep on me," he said. "You weight like nothing."
"Aw!" For some reason the thought of Vandal carrying her was something she actually found cute. "So you could probably make me fly?"
"I could," he laughed.
"I've always wanted to be able to fly," she said. "We're testing that some night. I want to fly!"
"You seriously want me to throw you?" The idea was so absurd.
"Sure."
He shook his head. "Well, fine. I'll throw you. You'll end up crashing into the concrete like a stone after."
"Probably."
"Have you always been like this, or did it get worse after you changed?" he asked.
"It's always been this bad," she laughed. "My friends were just like me. We used to take shopping carts from super markets, sit in them and race down a hill. We had competitions on who was the fastest."
"You're kidding, right?"
"It's fun, Vandal! Have you ever tried it?"
"It's stupid," he told her. "How do you even think of something like that?"
"I don't know. It just came to me one day," she grinned.
He groaned, "You're not just weird, you're also slightly deranged."
"Aw, thanks. You like it, so I'm good," she raised one of his hands to her face again and leaned back into it.
"When did I ever say that?" he teased.
She kissed the back of his hand and said, "You didn't. Not once. But I know you."
"How well do you think you know me?"
"Well, better than most, I guess. At least I know more about you than most," she smiled.
"That, is true." He really wanted to know if a single question could wipe that smile off her face and replace it with something else. Just to get a laugh. "Would you kiss me?"
"What?!" Her reaction was equal to getting slapped. All that had been missing was the sound of his hand meeting her face.
He forced himself not to laugh, not yet. He said, serious, "You kissed my hand just now. Would you kiss me?"
She looked like a panicked rabbit, searching for an escape route. Her mind was racing.
"I- I-" she stammered. "When- What-?"
This was so funny. "Would you like to? I might just let you."
He had fried the section of her brain that enabled her to speak it seemed. She kept stammering single words.
He couldn't hold it in anymore. He started laughing.
When he had calmed down again he said, "You give out hugs like they're candy, princess. I really didn't think this would fry your brain."
She took a breath. "They're just hugs. I don't just kiss anyone," she grumbled.
"The question still stands though," he grinned.
"Would you like me to?" she asked.
"You're turning my own weapon on me, princess," he said sternly.
She sighed, "If you really, really wanted me to. Yes. It would be very quick. It would be like the kiss on your hand. And you would have to keep your mouth shut. Otherwise, I wouldn't."
"Your last chance to retract that statement, because I'm really tempted to challenge you to do that for my own amusement," he told her. "Are you sure?"
"Well, challenge accepted you meanie," Liz stated. "Now close your eyes and keep your mouth shut."
For a second, he was taken aback. He had thought she'd chicken out. The look he gave her before he closed his eyes told Liz that he was already laughing again inside.
It took all his self control not to grin as she leaned in. She lightly pressed her lips on his. They were cool. She leaned back again and he opened his eyes.
Her face. She looked perplexed. This was hilarious.
"If you could see the look on your face, right now, princess," he laughed.
"Why did I never notice that your body temperature is extremely high? Like more so than a regular person?" she asked. The question was not actually directed at Vandal. She was thinking aloud. "I just noticed that. How strange..."
"You notice the strangest things at the strangest times."
"You're like an oven," she giggled. "You're a walking, talking oven. Compared to you I'm a walking, talking fridge."
Vandal rolled his eyes.
"Vandal?" her tone had changed back to serious.
"Yes, princess?" He looked at her again.
"Why do you call me princess?" she wanted to know. "You know my name. I don't think I've heard you use it even once. I mean, I don't care, you can call me princess. I was just curious, is all."
He smiled, "You kind of look like what I imagined Snow White from the fairy tales to look like. So I called you princess."
His answer surprised her. It was incredibly sweet.
"That's really precious. Thank you," she smiled. "If I'm Snow White, then you'll be the huntsman, and the bitch is the evil queen. It even fits. Now we need seven more people. Nick can be the prince." She laughed and pulled at her shirt. It was stained with blood and had a hole in it where Vandal had pushed the knife through. "Look, you even already tried to kill me and couldn't."
He picked up the blood stained blade next to him and grinned, "I need to bring the queen a heart then."
"Absolutely." She thought for a moment then asked, "Is that the only one you own? Or do you have a collection?"
"It's the only one I have," he spoke. "It was a gift from my sister."
"That's nice." She eyed the blade again. "You should probably clean that. Blood's already drying."
He reached out his hand and petted her head. "If I go to clean that, you'll have to sit in the seat you did not want to have for the rest of the shift."
"You're correct. If you trust me with it, I can go clean it," she offered.
Vandal handed her the blade without hesitation. "Have fun," he grinned.
Now 'she' was hesitating. The piece had great sentimental value to him. "I can't break anything on this, right?"
"Princess, it's sturdy. Remember, I drove that 'into your heart,'" he laughed.
"Well, then. Be right back."
She stood up and went to the hidden room in the freezers. She cleaned the blade and carefully dried it. She turned it in her hands and inspected it. She was sure the piece was handmade. It was entirely made from Damascus steel. The pattern was beautiful. When she flipped it back over to the other side she noticed that the blade was actually engraved with an inscription. 'May it keep you safe.'
Liz felt a wave of emotion roll in. She felt like crying and laughing at the same time. Vandal's sister had to be the sweetest person on the entire planet. Just reading that one line, she knew that Eliza really cared about him and that there was so much more behind it that she knew. This was a story Vandal had not shared yet.
She carefully folded the blade again and went back.
She had almost reached the donation window when she heard Peggy shouting from upstairs, "GUYS! I would like to DONATE!"
Vandal opened the door and came into the hallway, he looked annoyed already. "Don't tell me that's Peggy?"
"It's Peggy," she confirmed.
He ran a hand over his face. "I will try my best not to immediately ram my blade through her heart the moment I see her." He held out his hand and Liz gave it back. He put it into his pocket.
They heard her footsteps. But there was another sound, something was dragging over the stairs.
Peggy came into view and saw them. She grinned and spoke, "I would like to donate-" She was pulling two unconscious men by the arm behind her. She let them flop to the floor and stepped back so they could see. "-the blood of these two fuckers."
Vandal regained his composure first. "Did anyone see you come in here with them?!" he asked sharply.
Peggy waved at him and spoke, "Hey, grumpy boy! No one saw me. Nobody's gonna miss them. Let's go DRAIN THOSE SHITS!" She picked both of them up. One over each of her shoulders. "Come on!" She walked past them down the hall, straight for the freezer.
Liz followed her and so did Vandal, while asking, "What the hell?! Did you tell her about this?"
Peggy answered for Liz. "No she didn't. She's not stupid. But my friends up there told me."
Vandal grimaced. "Where did you get those two?"
"From prison," she simply said. "They were gonna be executed in 12 hours. No one's gonna miss them."
"What? You're telling me you went to a prison to get them? Are you insane? The police will search for escaped convicts!"
"Aw, grumpy boy! This girl's got her ways. Trust me." Peggy punched in the code to the room and went in. She placed each of the prisoners in a chair and started strapping the first one in. "Help me with the other please, Vandal."
He let out a frustrated breath and started strapping the second guy to the chair. "I swear if the police comes snooping around here again because of this, I'll hunt you down and make you wish you'd never come."
Peggy laughed. "Aw, you're full of sunshine."
When they had them in the restraints Liz helped Vandal set them up to drain. "How often do we need to change the bags for this?" she wanted to know.
"Quite a few times," he said.
They worked and Peggy watched them. She addressed Vandal, "You and Liz run this thing alone, right?"
"Yes."
"Wow, that sucks. It takes quite some time to drain them. This is hard work. You poor guys have to hunt all on your own. Man." Peggy looked around the room, taking in its details.
Liz changed another blood bag and told her, "I did one shift alone. You wouldn't believe how much this sucks."
"Oh, I can imagine. You said, hell on earth, if I remember correctly," she grinned.
"I see you got your update," Liz laughed.
"And you look like you got murdered, Liz." She spoke to Vandal, "That baby girl's really something, eh?"
"Baby girl? Really?" Vandal huffed and changed out the next bag.
Liz laughed.
Peggy shrugged and told him, "Well, I can't call her princess, that's your job."
He shook his head and ignored her.
They changed a few more bags until they had completely drained them.
"Good, now give 'em back," Peggy said gesturing to the two prisoners. "They've never been here. I'll dispose of them." She started undoing the first guy's restraints. "I'll burn them somewhere far away from here. I'm fast enough to get them over to another state. I'll come back after so we can chat more. It'll take me about-" she closed her eyes, listening. "40 minutes." She turned to Liz. "Then we can properly say hi!"
They watched her undo the rest of the restraints and pick the guys back up before she disappeared before their eyes. "See ya in a bit!" she said before she took off running.
Vandal turned to Liz. "What the hell is up with her? How much info does she get from those voices?"
"She gets a lot more than me it seems. It isn't fun for her though. You should have seen her at the apartment. That shit hurts her. You remember me screaming at the top of my lungs, to kill the voices, then to kill me? Peggy has it a million times worse. Hers are aggressive. They seem to be ripping her apart from the inside..." she told him.
"Hm. Well at least she's made our work easier. She brought in two. If we're going out tomorrow and find even just 2 willing donors, we're probably good for a week," he said.
They went back to the front and put away the new supplies, then waited for Peggy to come back. During their wait they had only a few customers.
Vandal was checking the inventory when Peggy knocked and Liz let her in.
She jumped into Peggy's arms.
"That's my girl!" Peggy squeezed her.
Vandal stared at them. "What's happening?"
"Baby girl's getting a fix!" Peggy laughed. She sat down against the wall with Liz still in her arms. "So tell me, how'd it feel? I've never been paralyzed before."
"It's like dreaming, a bit," Liz told her, remembering. "Everything's a bit blurry but you still hear and see."
"That's interesting." Peggy started undoing Liz's braid. "I know that was a lot of work, but I really like brushing through hair, while I have you here. Sorry, baby girl."
Liz didn't mind. She smiled, "As long as you're keeping me here, I'm good. Do whatever with my hair."
Peggy turned her attention to Vandal, but kept running her hand through Liz's hair. "You wanna know how to really fuck up kindred? I can tell you. Can't teach you how to suck out their souls however."
"Enlighten me," Vandal smirked.
"Definitely get a blowtorch and a knife. Like you did with that rapist. It'll be a lot worse for the kindred. We hate fire. Also, get a hammer and smash some bones. Flaying is also good. And get a bucket of blood next to her while you're fucking her up. The smell will drive her nuts. And since the wounds close up you can go over it again and again and she'll just suffer, endlessly." Peggy smiled at him. "You love the sound of that, I can see it. Well, the bitch deserves a fate worse than death."
"She does," Vandal agreed. "So you suck out souls? I only know how to break them."
"Yeah, it's great. If I had to describe it, it's quite a lot like what you're already feeling when you kill," Peggy reflected. "You're almost a soul snatcher."
"We actually concluded something different today, or well. I did," Liz told her.
"Baby girl, I'm sharing my body with those souls. I know, what you concluded. The souls are still silent. And in the end it doesn't really matter," Peggy said, her voice gentle.
"Oh well," she said indifferently.
"Nick already got the files?" Peggy questioned.
"Yeah, he did. His entire office is stacked. Hope you like reading. Nick and I already started and that's a ton of crap to go through," Liz sighed.
"It'll be fine," Peggy murmured.
"There were copies of parchment rolls in there that weren't even in English. It's going to be really frustrating if the information you need were to be in one of them," Liz told her.
Peggy's face darkened. "Yeah... If I have to run around to also find someone to read that for us I'd be pissed."
"Let's keep hoping for now then," Liz smiled.
Peggy chuckled. She closed her eyes and said, "It's strangely quiet right now. This is the first time in a long time they're not screaming. And that mean I will be hit by a wrecking ball soon..." There was a small flicker of fear passing over her face.
"I'm sorry Peggy. I know how bad it is. Tell me when you feel it coming so I can give you the space," Liz let her know.
"I will."
Vandal asked Peggy, "Are they towering over you? If so then that sounds a lot like what I had in my head when there was only the bitch."
"Yes. It's a lot like being chased and attacked over and over. You keep fighting, but there's no way out. And you just know, one day, they'll get you. One day you'll trip, you'll fuck up and then you're gone," she spoke.
"Then that's still different form the bitch's."
"I'm glad you don't have to listen anymore," she said, her voice sincere.
Vandal stayed silent.
"Eh, Vandal?" Peggy grinned.
"What?"
"You want to come help us with the research? This is after all, your crusade as well. It would go faster with another pair of eyes to read through that stuff. The quicker we finish, the quicker we can finally get rid of that two headed snake," Peggy spoke relaxed.
"You just invited me to someone else's house," Vandal replied. "Princess? Will Nick be fine with me coming?"
"Whoa! Snap! You're coming?!" Liz asked. She'd never thought in a million years that Vandal would do this. "Yes, oh my god! Nick will be so happy!"
"Why would he be?" Vandal asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Oh man! Vandal you should have seen his face when he looked at the files. He'll be overjoyed for you to help!" Liz spoke, excited. "Awesome!"
Peggy laughed. "How'd you like Heather, Vandal?"
Vandal's lip twitched. He spoke, coldly, "The only thing I can say so far is that she knows what she is at least. As well as that she talks strange. And that you're a friend to her. That makes me not hate her completely. But it doesn't mean I really care either."
"Well, Heather dear talked quite a lot about you after Nick and Liz left," Peggy grinned. "Said you looked really unhappy and very angry."
"Great deduction on her part," Vandal sneered. "That's obvious. Everyone who's got EYES can see that!"
"She also said that you looked happier when you were looking at baby girl. She said you looked at her like she was lifting some weight off your shoulders. She said she found that very interesting, right before saying she wanted to see you again."
"If you want to keep her, do not send her my way," Vandal threatened. "I have a reputation for wanting to snap other ghoul's necks."
"I'm not worried about Heather, to be honest," Peggy smirked. "I bet she could kick your ass."
"That girl could not kick my ass even in her dreams!" Vandal scoffed. "I saw the way she looked at me when I let her in." He leaned forward in his seat and his voice turned ominous as he spoke, "Please, please send her my way then. We'll see what happens. But I 'warned' you, so don't come back crying if I snap."
Liz stayed out of it. She just kept watching.
Peggy bared her fangs at him. "Accepted. I'm calling her now." She pulled out her phone and dialed.
The look on Vandal's face told Liz that he was so ready for a fight. He wanted one.
"Heather sweetie," Peggy said sweetly when she had picked up. "Vandal agreed to see you. You might just wanna wear your usual stuff and sneakers though. Don't bother dressing up." There was a pause. "Yes, sweetie. See you in a bit." She hung up and turned to Vandal again, "15 minutes."
They waited in complete silence.
Vandal got up as soon as he heard footsteps coming down the stairs.
He went into the hallway. Liz and Peggy stood in the doorway and Peggy told Liz, "We'll just watch. I will know if to interfere or not."
Liz nodded.
Vandal leaned against the wall with his arms crossed. His eyes were cold as ice.
Heather had reached the foot of the stairs and came towards him. Like Peggy had told her, she wore her usual things. A yellow tank top, jeans and sneakers. She came to stand before Vandal and said, "Hi Vandal."
"So, I've been told you wanted to see me, Heather." His voice was as cold as the look he was giving her. "Say whatever you wanted to say then."
She glanced at him. She was pressing her hands together nervously. "Well, you were so angry when you heard I chose this, I wanted to know if you were forced into being a ghoul and if that's why you hate it so much."
"Yes," he growled. He leaned towards her. "What else? Say anything on the off chance that I rip your head off."
"In that regard we're so different. I chose to escape what I had, I escaped my hell and you were just dropped into it," Heather spoke, more confidently than before. "But you chose to take a potential risk to be blood bound to Liz to escape this hell. You also see her as a friend, kind of. Which puts you in the same situation as I was in. I know where all your rage is coming from. I might know how you feel, if you ever wanted to talk about it."
"You don't know how this feels," Vandal snapped. "This is not the same!"
"I know how it feels!" Heather suddenly screamed at him. "I know how it feels when the people around you are total shits! When you start to hate the world around you! My father SOLD ME into prostitution! I was being trafficked! He didn't give two shits about me! That fucked up drunk beat my equally stupid mother into a coma and then got rid of ME! You think I don't know what hell is like? It doesn't matter it's not the same! It's still HELL!"
"Well, Heather," Vandal said, menacingly. "If you really know how this feels, then you might also know that I would really love to hurt you right now." He wanted her to fight. He could actually relate to what she had said. He was angry though.
He grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her towards him. Heather twisted it out of his grip immediately. Vandal took another step towards her, "Well, do you also know what it's like when the only person you ever cared about has her dreams taken form her as punishment for something you did? Because that feels worse than dying!"
Heather's fist shot forward towards his face and he grabbed her wrist again. This time, he pulled harder and kept his grip tight.
"Yes!" Heather shouted at him. "The only person I cared about and who ever cared about me was my grandma! They extorted her for money. They bled her dry! Couldn't afford her medicine, her health care anymore and she died!"
"Still not the same!" he shouted back. He wanted her to get furious.
"I KNOW IT'S NOT THE SAME!" Heather's knee shot up and Vandal slammed her into the wall. She kept shouting, "But it FEELS the SAME! I'm still responsible in a way that that happened!"
"Every time I see my sister I'm reminded how things could have been different. I have to suffer through it every time! And I have no way to change that!" he hissed.
"And I knew my grandma was slowly dying and I had NO WAY to do anything. AT LEAST YOU GET TO SEE YOUR SISTER! I never even had the chance to say goodbye!" Heather was screaming at the top of her lungs now.
Vandal didn't see the headbutt coming in. Heather pushed him off her and threw another punch. It didn't connect. Vandal had her wrist again.
"Shut up, Heather!" He wasn't shouting anymore. His voice had dropped to a whisper, filled with malice. "Your grandmother is gone. Her suffering is over. My sister is alive sitting in her wheelchair unable to walk. She wanted to be a dancer and someone else crushed that dream. And I have to look at that, every time I see the sadness on her face when she remembers feels like I'm dying all over again inside. You only had to go through it once. I'm going to be reliving it over and over again."
Heather's foot shot out so fast that Vandal didn't have time to block it. She kicked him to the floor and jumped on him like a rabid dog.
"Then you know what I feel like every time I think of my grandma!" she howled. "And then you know that I KNOW HOW IT FEELS!!!"
Vandal pushed her off him by slamming his fist into the side of her head. Heather's glasses had slipped and she was holding her head. They were both breathing hard.
He stood and Heather looked up at him. He held out his hand to her, to help her up.
She took it and stood as well.
"Fine," Vandal said. "Maybe you do know how it feels."
"You punch hard," Heather grumbled, pushing her glasses back up her nose.
"You kick hard," Vandal said drily.
"I'm sorry about your sister Vandal," Heather said.
"I'm sorry about your grandma," he replied.
Heather held out her hand to him this time. "We're even now?"
He nodded and took it. "Yes."
Before he could react Heather pulled him close, wrapped one arm around his waist, leaned in, placed a hand on the back of his head and kissed him, forcing his mouth open.
His body reacted before his brain could and he kissed her back. He started and pushed her away from him. A look of horror on his face.
Heather laughed and asked, "What? Not good enough for you?"
"What the hell?!"
Heather took another step towards him again. "Are you looking for that shy girl that came down the stairs? She comes and goes as I please..." she smiled. "I learned how to play in my own hell. Just like you have in yours." She placed a hand on his shoulder and he immediately shook her off again. "If you ever want to get rid off that frustration... Call me." She turned around walked a few steps before looking back at Vandal. She pushed both of her hands into the back pockets of her jeans and said, "I won't have Peggy charge you. I'm frustrated too." She walked off. "Thanks Peggy! I'm gonna get coffee! See ya!"
Peggy was grinning. She had know what would happen.
"That's better than TV," Liz said to her careful not to speak too loud so Vandal wouldn't hear.
Peggy stepped up to Vandal. "Told you Heather could kick your ass. She did kick you to the floor! Ha!"
He felt like he'd been played. But the result had been something completely different than he had expected. He actually felt better after that fight.
"Where did she learn to kick like that? That actually hurt!" he asked Peggy.
"Why don't you ask her when she comes back?" Peggy told him. "She's just getting coffee."
"Whatever."
Liz walked over to him and softly asked, "Are you all right?"
He took a deep breath before he turned to her and plastered a smile onto his face that he didn't really feel. "I am."
"Does it still hurt? I can get ice, if you need it," she said worried.
The smile on his face turned into a real one. "Princess, I don't need ice. I'm ok."
"Okay." And the worry on her face disappeared. She smiled back. "I'm glad."
He petted her head.
"Do you need a hug?" she asked.
"Are you asking because you want one?" he grinned.
"I always want hugs, but this time, I'm really asking for you," she said warmly.
He sighed. "I don't need a hug, princess." He opened his arms. "But you can have one."
"Thank you." She quickly hugged him and let go again. "So, how about we finish inventory before Heather comes back?"
He nodded. Then he turned to Peggy. "You helped a lot," he said.
"You're welcome."
They went back inside and Vandal sat down in front of the computer again. Liz helped him and counted the new bags, giving him the numbers.
Heather knocked on the door and Peggy let her in.
She placed a cup on the desk next to the keyboard. Vandal looked up at her.
"That's for you," Heather smiled at him. Her demeanor was extremely relaxed. "You seemed like a black coffee kind of guy, so I didn't put anything in it."
"Thanks," he said, a bit surprised.
"You're welcome." She walked over to Peggy and sat down, sipping her coffee.
"Vandal, that last number is 15. We're done," Liz said.
He typed the last one in and shut the window. Like Heather, he started drinking his coffee. He asked her, "Where did you learn to kick like that?"
She told him, "I do kickboxing. But my punches need some work. You blocked them all."
"You might want to try faking a left before punching right. I could see your punches coming from a mile away," he grinned.
"Well, next time we're fighting I'll remember that you said that," Heather said. "Your punch had me seeing stars, that fucking hurt!"
"The same could be said for your kick!" Vandal flexed his left hand open and shut. "If I had struck harder, I could have knocked you out."
"Well, thanks for not doing that, then," Heather pushed a strand of hair out of her face. "So, now that I'm here. I said I'd donate blood. Want to go do that now?"
"And we just finished inventory," he said darkly. "Come on then."
Heather stood up and put her cup on the desk. "Lead the way."
The door closed behind them and Peggy said, "Well, that went very well. At this rate you can just put off your hunt tomorrow."
"We're still going," Liz answered. She sat down next to Peggy. "Gotta admit, I didn't think Heather was this confident. Her shy girl act is convincing."
"She's not really acting," Peggy argued. "She has an on and off switch for that shit."
Liz shrugged. "She's good."
"You might wanna give Nick a call that two more people will be joining him in his apartment in addition to the one who was already invited," Peggy told Liz. "Heather's going to come with as well."
Liz pulled out her phone and called Nick.
"Liz, sweetie! What's up?"
"Vandal and Heather will be joining us for research later," she let him know.
"I know. I already bought them dinner," Nick laughed. "Peggy had you call, correct?"
Liz smiled. Of course he knew. "Yes, sweetie." To Peggy she said, "He got his update already." She put Nick on speaker. "Nick you're on speaker now."
"Hey Peggy!! Thanks for calling, unfortunately you're not bringing news."
"I forgot you two have an advantage over me," she spoke. "Well, we'll be over pretty soon. So watch out."
"I will. I'll see you all later!"
"See ya, Nick," Peggy grinned.
"Till later, sweetie." She hung up the phone. "Now I just have to get this shift over with. Vandal and I will be joining you guys later."
"We'll stay here with you guys. It's of little consequence and Nick will be fine," Peggy said.
The door opened again and Heather and Vandal came back in.
"I hate needles," Heather told them.
Vandal was grinning. "She nearly fainted," he laughed. "That was great! Do come again!"
"Ugh!"
He put the blood bag away and sat down again.
"Well, I just called Nick," he knows we're all coming over. "Heather, Vandal. He bought you dinner. I didn't ask what he bought, but I'm sure it'll be fine."
Vandal didn't even react to the fact that Heather was coming too. And Heather was just smiling because she had decided to join them and known that Peggy would pick up on it.
Liz looked at Heather and asked her, "Hey Heather? Can I check your temperature?"
Heather walked to her and sat down. "Yeah, sure. But why?"
Liz placed a hand on the side of her face. "Okay..." She turned to Vandal. "You're seriously just radiating a ton of heat. She's normal."
Vandal shrugged. "So what, now I'm not an oven but a heater?"
Liz laughed, "Hey with you in the room we can cut our heating costs in half!"
"Come sit with us and keep us warm, heater boy," Peggy teased.
Vandal grimaced and spoke, "I can't wait to see Nick."
Liz laughed harder. "I'll tell him you said that. He'll be happy to hear it!"
He let out a sigh and kept drinking his coffee.
"Can you hand me mine, please?" Heather asked. "I'm too lazy to get up."
He handed it to her and said, "I really want you to come in to donate each month, just to see you half scared to death of a tiny needle."
"That was my actual plan, to my dismay," she replied. "I can watch on others, just not myself. I guess it slipped my mind. Next time I'm not gonna look."
"A pity."
"You seemed like you had a lot of fun watching," Heather grimaced.
"I had," he answered, giving her a nasty smile.
"Well, then maybe I should have some fun at your expense too," Heather smirked. "Maybe I should try punching that look off your face again."
"Not in here," he scowled. "Fights are taken in the hallway. Too much stuff to break inside the room."
Heather shrugged. "Nah, I'm good." She took another sip of coffee. "Do you do sports?"
"If you count sleeping and doing nothing as sport, yes," he said. "And if it doesn't. I hunt, but a different kind of game."
Heather knew about that. Peggy had told her. "Well, yeah. Human cattle, I know."
"Correct." He sat down in front of the donation window again.
"You were right, Liz," Heather spoke. "Damn. Felt like a blanket being pulled off when he moved away."
"Yeah. I don't fucking know, why I only noticed today."
"I 'know' why," Peggy gloated.
"Peggy!" Liz whined.
She laughed. "Oh! Did I upset our baby girl?"
Liz shook her head. "Well, whatever. I'm good."
Vandal eyed Liz and said, "Yeah, I really wish you could have seen your face after that!"
"Are you teaming up against me?!" Liz spoke, outraged. "Heather! We need to form our own team to defend ourselves against these two!"
"Definitely!" She looked at Liz and noticed her blood stained shirt for the first time. "What the hell happened to you?!"
Liz laughed out loud. "Oh! Vandal and I were role playing. We did an reenactment of Snow White. He was the huntsman. Failed to kill me. He still needs to bring the queen a heart."
"You let him stab you?" Heather shook her head. "I guess we're all mad here."
"Let's crawl down a rabbit hole then!" Liz suggested. "If I dye my hair blond, I can be Alice!!"
"Off with his head!!" Peggy ordered, pointing at Vandal.
"Oh god. Please let this be over," Vandal groaned.
Liz, Peggy and Heather burst into laughter. Vandal rested his face in his hands.
When they finally stopped, Peggy said, "This is great! Liz you guys are so much fun to hang out with!"
"Likewise," she smiled.
"I can't wait to do research," Vandal grumbled. "At least then it'll be quiet again."
"Do you want Peggy and me to go outside?" Heather asked him. "Then you and Liz can finish your shift with a bit less noise."
He looked at her. "No. It's fine. I guess I'm just not used to it, yet..."
There was the slightest flicker of sadness washing over Heather's face. She felt sorry for him. She averted her eyes quickly. "All right. We'll be more quiet then."
"Thanks." He looked at her for a moment longer. She had a quiet smile on her lips and kept her gaze to the floor. Like this you'd never think she was strong enough to kick him to the floor.
"I think you're staring," Heather chuckled. She glanced at him. "Jup. Well at least you're looking at my face."
"What else would I be looking at?" he asked, but as soon as he had, he knew that was going to backfire in a second.
Heather grinned and raised her head again, looking into Vandal's face. "I'm well built. There's a lot to look at."
"I think I want to punch that grin off your face," he retorted.
"Oh, I don't think you do," she teased.
Liz and Peggy started giggling.
Liz whispered to her, "At this rate, I'll never have to watch TV again. I can see why Nick was so glad to watch when Vandal was annoying me."
"Don't test me," he threatened.
"I already have." She bit her lower lip. "Your reaction that time was instantaneous though. Before the interference."
He glared at her. "You're infuriatingly frustrating."
Heather chuckled. "When I want to be."
He shook his head, rolled his eyes and turned away.
Liz was trying so hard not to laugh again.
"Heather?" Peggy said. "You might want to turn that switch in your head before the guy explodes."
"All right, Peggy. I'll just go into standby then," Heather smiled.
They spent the rest of the shift in relative quiet. Liz asked Heather about things she liked and found out that she really loved cats.
There were a few more customers towards the end of it.
Vandal and Liz closed up and then the four of them were on their way to Nick's.
Liz handed Vandal back the keys to the bloodbank. "None of us is ever going to sit through that shit alone again, Vandal. One time was enough for me. And you've had quite enough of it as well."
"Princess, I couldn't agree more," he said and took the keys.
Heather stretched her arms over her head. "Ah, fresh air!" She pulled a lighter and cigarette from her pocket. "Time to pollute it." She put it in her mouth and put the lighter to it. The click sounded but there was no flame. She tried again. "That's just great," she growled.
Vandal smirked, "Princess, you might want to move away over to Peggy." He pulled out his own lighter and cigarette and lit it. "Heather, let me help you."
"Yes, please!" She leaned over and let him give her a light. "Air pollution for the win!"
"Peggy, safe me!" Liz dramatically cried.
"I don't really mind," Peggy told her. She moved so that she was walking in between Liz and Heather and Vandal.
"And I thought that'd help," Liz grumbled. "Still just as bad."
"I tried," Peggy shrugged. "You get used to it."
"Ugh, I heard that before!"
Vandal reached over past Peggy to Liz and grabbed her arm. "You might want to try systematic desensitization. I can help with that." He started pulling her over to him again. "Come on, princess."
Liz found herself between Heather and Vandal before she even thought to struggle. Vandal had his arm draped across her shoulders.
"And like this, you can't escape," he grinned. "And you got exposure from both sides."
"Ugh!"
Vandal told Heather, "If you really want something to laugh at, try blowing smoke in her face."
"Maybe I should just do that to you? I think that'd make me laugh more," Heather spoke.
"Thanks, Heather!" Liz said, amused.
"You really think so?" Vandal asked Heather. "Because I really don't care if you actually did that." He glanced at Liz again. "But her expression is priceless."
"I'm pretty sure, the look on your face would be more fun to me. Because you'd probably just look aggravated, while poor Liz here would probably look disgusted," Heather concluded.
Somehow that made Liz laugh. "The smell is worth this conversation. Heather, I love you!"
"Aw! You're sweet!" Heather giggled. "Love you too!"
"I hate you all right now," Vandal growled. "Except for Peggy. She is keeping her mouth shut."
"Oh, I can change that, real fast," Peggy grinned. "I was just enjoying the show, but I can play commentator."
Vandal looked at her like he wished she'd just drop dead. "I hate you too!"
"Poor Vandal," Liz spoke sympathetically. "Should I bring earplugs for you next time?"
Vandal smiled at her cruelly and spoke, "I can't decide if I'd rather just gag all three of you, or stake the two of you and just gag Heather, to shut you all up." He leaned closer. "I'll let the two of you decide for yourselves. Heather's unfortunately only got one option." He widened his smile and lowered his voice even more, "You know what I'd prefer for you, princess." He stared into her eyes. "You wouldn't mind, would you?"
"No," Liz breathed. "I wouldn't mind." And it was the truth.
He warmed up his gaze and smile. "You're so nice, princess. I think you don't need to be shut up when you tell me things like that." He leaned back and saw Peggy and Heather staring at them and they looked unsettled. He was very happy with that.
"Holy shit, Vandal," Peggy said. "Damn, that was fucking creepy."
"Take your pick, Peggy," Vandal told her.
She thought about it for a moment. "Stake. From what Liz described it wasn't so bad."
"We can arrange that," he said. He turned to Heather and smirked, "I'll let you pick a gag, then."
Heather burst into laughter. "Oh my god! Well if that's the case just use tape."
"Good. If Nick asks, princess. Tell him they got to choose beforehand," he said. "Because I doubt he'd believe me."
"I will," she smiled.
"Okay, now that that's out of the way, can we talk about how this actually made me uncomfortable?" Peggy asked Vandal. "Damn, remind me not to mess with you. I'm glad I'm on your side and not on the receiving end." She was referring to Therese.
Vandal turned to her. "You should be, yes." He smiled coldly. "I'm glad it made you uncomfortable. It even shut the two of you up for a minute."
"Hmpf," Peggy made.
Liz wrapped her arm around Vandal's waist and told him, "We make a good team."
He agreed, but didn't speak again.
The four of them made their way upstairs to Nick's and had reached the last step, when Nick opened the door.
He smiled brightly at them. "Welcome to my humble home. I am so overjoyed that you could all make it. Please come in!"
Liz face lit up when she saw how happy he was. He was positively shining. "Aw, Nick! You're brighter than the sun right now. That's wonderful!" She went over and gave him a kiss. Then she entered the apartment.
The others followed her.
Vandal went last and Nick still smiling, told him, "Good to see you, Vandal. I mean it."
"It's good to see you too, Nick," Vandal nodded. "For real."
Liz added, "Nick, he said 'I can't wait to see Nick.' earlier. I can confirm his statement."
"Thanks man!" Nick smiled and closed the door behind him. He grinned at Liz and said, "I see he takes real good care of you. He even removed that stake from your heart so you could come home to me. How nice!"
"He's great!" Liz agreed happily. Her frist stop was the bedroom to store away the shirt Vandal had given her and to get changed.
Peggy was already on her way into Nick's office. "Holy shit! Well, now I'm really glad I have 4 more pairs of eyes to help with that."
"The stack on the right hand corner in front of the desk are the ones Liz and I went through yesterday," Nick called to her.
Liz went over to the fridge. Nick had stocked up on food for Heather and Vandal. She called them over and said, "Well, I guess you can take your pick. Nick seemed to have emptied out a supermarket for you guys." She left Vandal and Heather to their fate of picking food.
She went to Peggy and Nick into the office. They had already started looking through things. Peggy was saying, "First thing I need is all the info we have in here on Therese. I need to know everything I can about her. I have to make sure the kindred I'm hunting down is older than her when I take the soul."
Nick pointed at a few rows of folders and explained, "These here are all the records from about up to 300 years ago." He pointed at the next rows, "Up to 500." The next. "1000."
She nodded. "Let's just pick up where you guys left off. If anyone finds anything interesting, speak up."
Nick sighed, "Yay... lot's and lot's of dry reading... Fun."
Liz picked up a folder from the row they had already started. "We're gonna be setting them up back the same way on the right side of the room when we're through one. I'll get a few pencils and notepads to take notes." She opened one of Nick's desk drawers and pulled them out. One for each of them, including Vandal and Heather when they'd be joining. "This is going to take a while. I'm already dreading it."
"Where do you keep your dishes, Nick?" Heather called.
Nick was getting up, but Liz stopped him. "It's all right. I'll go, sweetie."
Liz came into the living room and showed them where everything was. They had decided on lasagna.
"Thanks Liz," Heather said.
"No problem. Why don't you two relax for a bit and come after you're done eating? Watch TV, feel at home. Hope you can decide on a channel," she chuckled. "If you need anything call for me."
"Thanks again. You're sure you don't want us to help the time that is in the oven?" Heather asked.
"Nah, it's fine," she grinned.
Vandal glared at her.
"You should check Vandal's face, Heather. I think he didn't like that you spoke for him as well," she suppressed a laugh.
Heather looked at him mirthfully. "I know."
Vandal turned to Liz and said, "If you hear the sound of my hand meeting her face then that means I slapped that horrible look off it. You were warned. I will not be sorry."
Liz had to use all her self control not to just double over laughing. "If you're going to fight again you will have to take that outside. This house is a no combat zone." She smiled at Vandal. "If you feel like exploding, you know where to find me."
He nodded.
"Enjoy dinner," Liz said and returned to the office and closed the door.
She picked up the folder, notebook and pencil and started reading. "Peggy, what area do you want us to search for potential candidates?"
She thought for a moment, then said, "Neighboring states are fine, but pick cities close to the border. I'm really quick and I know how not to be seen."
"Okay, then we'll start making a list and note everything important down. It'll make it easier to go through everything once we found the info on Therese. It's a damn shame they sort these things so weird," Liz sighed. "It's really stupid they have records from like 500 years ago in the 100 years ago section just because that's the time they filed said record."
They heard the TV in the living room turn on. It was news.
Liz asked Nick, "If you only hear it, is it news?"
"No. It's still the newsman, talking shit and telling jokes."
"Ah, and I thought it might have been only when you see it. Oh well. You know what's ten times more fun than TV? Watching Vandal and Heather fight. Or watching Vandal annoy me, or anyone. You were totally right to just stand back and enjoy the show! It's great!"
He laughed. "I told you!"
And with that, they turned to reading.
Liz was on the second folder and had taken about a page of notes on her notepad when Vandal and Heather joined them.
She handed them each a folder and writing equipment and explained what they were looking for.
Vandal sat down next to Nick, Heather went over to Liz and Peggy.
The only sound in the room for the next 45 minutes was the scribbling of pencils, turning of pages, moving of folders and their breathing.
Nick was the first to speak again. He didn't even have to lift his voice above a whisper to be heard. "Has anyone found anything interesting yet? Anything on Therese?"
Everyone shook their heads.
The voices were quiet. They hadn't spoken up the entire time.
"Well, let's just keep reading," Nick sighed.
Liz was reading a document about a Tremere Baron in Prussia who had been abducting and torturing people in an attempt to harvest their life force and store it in a magical orb.
She flipped to the next page. This one was about a female Toreador painter who was nowadays selling her glow in the dark paintings online. She also did wall murals.
She read through another document about a Gangrel who lived with a pack of wolves. Then another about another Toreador who had joined a traveling circus in Great Britain that was run entirely by kindred of all different clans and a ton of ghouls. It said the circus opened at sunset and closed at sunrise.
Peggy's voice startled her and she placed a finger on the line she was reading.
"Guys, okay you have to hear this. I can't just keep this to myself. It's so funny. I'm reading about a Malkavian guy who had himself thrown into every state's prison in search for some weird inscriptions on walls that apparently only a few of our clan can see!" she told them. "He kept breaking into stores to steal shit and get caught on purpose. He always broke out of his cell before sunrise and moved on to get thrown into the next prison." She asked, "What are you guys reading right now? Since some of this stuff is actually cool. Just make sure to let me know if you think you found anything that could actually help."
"Mine is boring," Heather said. "The one I have here is just some Ventrue politician guy."
"I am reading about a female Brujah cage fighter," Nick chuckled.
"I have a file on a Toreador magician in a theather in Reno," Vandal let them know.
"We need to go to London. There's a traveling circus run by kindred there. It sounds great!"
"Anything useful yet?" Peggy asked.
"Not really," Nick grumbled. "I'm so glad when we finally found the files on Therese at least." He addressed Vandal, "I assume you got no clue how old she could be? It'd help if we had even an estimate."
"The queen bitch doesn't speak about her past. All I ever hear her talk about is work. I can't help with that," he said.
Nick sighed. "Oh well. Back to reading then."
Another hour passed and Liz could feel the frustration set in. She wanted to find the files on Therese, finally. They had reached the records from 200 years back now.
She glanced around the room. Everyone was absorbed in their documents. Heather and Vandal both kind of looked a bit sleepy, she noted. Heather had rested her elbow on her knee and was supporting her head with her hand. Vandal had placed the folder on the floor in front of him and had pulled his knees up and rested his chin on them.
Another 30 minutes passed and Nick was quietly swearing from time to time. She heard words like, stupid, morons, and imbeciles. She knew he was raving about the guys who had decided on the filing system.
Liz flipped another page. Nothing interesting. Another. Still nothing.
Heather's joyful cry made her head shoot up. "I found the bitch! I found her! Finally!"
A sigh of reliev went through the room.
"Well, let's hear it then," Peggy smiled.
Heather read, "Therese Voerman, Baron of Santa Monica. Affiliation: Camarilla, Sire: Unnamed, Generation: 6th, Clan: Malkavian. There's not a lot more on her. Only recent events."
"We hit jackpot with that file," Peggy spoke excitedly. "We know she's 6th generation. So now you guys check your notes on anything that's lower than that! I'm gonna hand you that bitch on a silver platter after I'm done sucking out a soul!"
They checked their notes, but none of them had a suitable candidate yet. So they kept going through the files.
The next sound that interrupted the flipping of pages was not anyone speaking.
Smiling, Liz looked over to the source of the sound. Vandal had apparently fallen asleep over his folder. His forehead rested on his knees and he was snoring the slightest bit. You could only hear it because it was so quiet in the room.
Nick was grinning from ear to ear. He mouthed, "Should I wake him up?"
Liz shook her head, "Let him sleep. He needs it. Please nobody wake him. He'll wake on his own eventually."
"He looks so peaceful," Heather whispered. "It's cute."
They kept flipping through documents and Nick was the first to find some 5th generation kindred who worked night shifts at a homeless shelter.
Peggy frowned, "Then I can't take him. I need a real shit to devour. I'm sorry guys. We have way too little good kindred. Keep looking."
Liz found the next, "This might do, if you're up for a bit of running. He's quite a distance away. 4th generation, has quite a lot of masquerade breaches, supposedly sold a ton of drugs and guns on the black market, and is marked on a watch list by the Camarilla. So if there's one more breach he's toast anyway."
Peggy held out her hand for the file. "Looks wonderful." She checked the location. "It works. Good one Liz. I can find him and take his soul. Let's get two more, so we have backup in case anything goes wrong, yeah?"
They agreed and Heather was the next to not find anything, but fall asleep on them. She had slumped to the side into Peggy.
When they had two more, Liz checked her watch and realized with a start, that it was almost the crack of dawn.
"Peggy," she whispered, so she wouldn't wake Heather and Vandal. "Peggy it's almost light out. I'm so sorry. I totally forgot to check the time again."
"It's fine, don't worry. I can sleep anywhere," she said.
"You and Heather can have the guest room," Nick offered.
"Thank you, Nick. That's very kind of you," Peggy spoke, grateful. She took the page with her 3 marks and slipped it into her pocket. "I'll carry poor Heather." She picked her up from the floor.
"Wake Vandal up, tell him he can have the couch and I'll give him some clothes to sleep in," Nick told Liz. "I'll show Peggy and Heather to the guest room."
"Thank you Nick! You're the sweetest. I love you!" Liz smiled.
"I love you too, sweetie." He led Peggy and Heather out of the room.
Liz moved over to Vandal and crouched down. "Vandal," she said quietly. When he didn't react she gently placed a hand on his shoulder. "Vandal?" Still nothing. She didn't want to wake him from deep sleep, it seemed like a bad idea. She gave it one last try. "Vandal," she spoke again and gently shook his shoulder.
He started. His reaction was far more violent than Liz had expected. He had felt her hand on him and his arm had immediately shot out towards the side of her head. Liz blocked the blow before it connected.
Vandal stared at her. He dropped his hand again and let out a long breath. "Sorry, princess. That was a reflex."
"Are you ok?" she was more worried about him than herself. "I'm so sorry I woke you up like that."
"I'm good."
"Nick will give you some clothes. You can sleep on the couch. It's almost day break," Liz spoke softly. "Peggy and Heather are still here too."
He agreed. He was too tired to move more than 5 steps.
In the living room, Nick handed Vandal a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt. "There you go. Bathroom's to the right down the hall."
"Thanks Nick," Vandal said. "Sleep tight."
"Sleep tight, Vandal."
Liz stepped towards him, smiling, "Good night, Vandal. I hope the couch is not too uncomfortable."
"It'll be fine," he said. "Sleep well, princess."
"Am I getting a good night hug?" she asked.
"Don't you have Nick for that?" he chuckled.
"That's not enough," she pouted.
Vandal pulled her in and squeezed her. "Are you good now?"
The smile on her face was brilliant. "Yes, thank you!"
Nick and Liz went to their bedroom and closed the door.
"I'm so glad to have people over. I had no idea how much I missed it until now. Even though we were researching most of the time, I immensely enjoyed the company," Nick said.
"Me too. It's wonderful," Liz answered. "I'm so glad we found three marks for Peggy. Everything's going well so far."
Nick nodded. "Yes. Let's sleep for now. We can talk more tomorrow. All that reading really killed me."
She agreed and as she fell asleep the voices in her head were whispering, 'Today was fun. Tomorrow will be as well. Good night, Liz.'