Abby gently wiped Hannibal's brow with the damp cloth, trying to see the man beneath the fever, the gaunt features and the ghostly pallor. Zoe had been sitting with him for several hours, but now it was her turn and no matter how it pained her she would not leave him alone.
"Hey, Whistler," Hannibal's voice was weak and the brown eyes looking at her seemed faded somehow.
"Hey yourself," she replied, giving him a smile, even if it was forced, "you're supposed to be resting."
"Do you see me swinging from the light fittings?" he asked and smiled back, but even that appeared to take so much out of him.
It was Daystar doing this to him. Their great weapon that had killed so many vampires, was still killing them, was killing one of their own as well. The new biologist they had on board said it was because the cure had made Hannibal human again, but he still had inactive vampire DNA in his system. Being at ground zero and then redeploying Daystar in city after city had saturated them all with the virus and it was slowly attacking the part of Hannibal that was still vampire.
"Sleep, King," she said, "that's what you need, so you have the strength to fight this off."
His smile turned kind of sad then.
"Abby," he said quietly and she felt her heart miss a beat at the tone of his voice, "we both know that's not going to happen."
He sounded as if he was talking to a child, maybe trying to explain to Zoe, not her, but his eyes were looking straight into hers.
"Don't say that," she insisted.
She jumped when fingers slid onto her own and she looked down stupidly to see Hannibal's hand sitting on hers. Somewhere inside it made her want to cry, but she was a Whistler and did not do that.
"I'm toast, girl," he said in an incredibly bad accent that made her smile even as it made the back of her eyes prickle.
"We'll find a way," she insisted, but the way his fingers tightened on her hand stopped her from saying more.
"I'm sorry," he said and she could not figure out what he was apologising for, "I never meant to leave you alone."
"You won't," she said, but her voice held no conviction and she realised that despite her best efforts at least one tear had escaped her eyes.
"Been meaning to tell you something," he continued, ignoring her protests, "never had the guts before."
Each word seemed an enormous effort, but he was Hannibal; he was incapable of just saying something.
"Figured ... you can't ... kill me ... now."
She wanted to hit him for being such an idiot.
"Love ... you."
His eyes slipped closed and his body relaxed and for a moment she thought he was dead, but then she saw his chest rise and fall. Hannibal was still breathing, but the effort of speaking had pushed him back into sleep. The relief she felt was tangible as his words floated through her mind.
They were colleagues and friends and they had always tiptoed around the whole sex thing. They'd even tried it a couple of times, just as friends with benefits, but nothing more. Vampire hunters didn't need emotional baggage. She'd spent her whole adult life being a strong independent woman, but it was beginning to dawn on her that, maybe, she had deliberately blinded herself to certain things. The old adage 'you don't know what you've got until it's gone' flashed through her mind.
Standing up, she made a decision. Hannibal was not dead yet and she refused to lose him without more of a fight. She could still be strong without being alone and she was not going to give up on that idea.
There was one thing left to try.
Walking quickly, she went to where she knew Blade was testing out the latest weapons. They hadn't actually needed to confront vampires head on in months, but that didn't mean they weren't still prepared. When Blade had come back to them after recovering from the effects of Daystar the daywalker had set to work making sure they were as defended as they could be. Their biggest problem now was familiars sent by their masters as the vampires hid from them.
"I want your blood," she said without preamble as soon as she walked into the stone-walled room.
"Whistler," was all Blade said in that really annoying way he had.
"Your blood, now," she replied.
Their biologist had not been able to explain why Blade's human nature allowed his vampire nature to survive Daystar, where Hannibal's dormant vampire cells pulled down his human side, but there had to be something. They had tried everything else to save Hannibal and this was all they had left.
"You don't know what it will do to him," Blade said without turning.
"He's dying," she snapped back, "it doesn't matter."
"If he turns ..."
She actually laughed at that.
"He has Daystar in his blood," she said, "if he turns he's dust anyway."
Vampires had coveted Blade's blood for many reasons; it was unique, and Abby was about ready to try anything. Finally Blade turned to look at her, face set in the same grim lines as usual. She knew the Blade from before Daystar would have refused, but so much had changed and finally the daywalker nodded.
It didn't take long to pull a syringe full of Blade's blood and it took even less time to add it to the bag of I.V. fluid attached to Hannibal's arm. It was crude and unscientific and just as likely to backfire as have any positive effect, but Abby was out of options. Hannibal convulsed once when the blood hit his system and then lay still; lying there as if nothing had been done.
"Call me if anything changes," Blade said from behind her and then she heard him leave.
All that was left to her was the waiting game and she sat down in the chair next to the bed, took Hannibal's hand and watched.
"Hey, is it me or is it really bright in here?" were the words that dragged her out of sleep.
She still had hold of Hannibal's hand, but at some point she had to have drifted off, because her head was on her arm on the mattress and morning sunlight was flooding into the room. She sat up and blinked, focusing instantly on Hannibal, who was squinting back at her as if the light was hurting his eyes.
The change in him actually took her breath away. He was still too thin, but his eyes were bright and there was colour in his cheeks; he looked alive.
"It's you," she said and couldn't stop the little bubble of a laugh that rose from her chest.
He frowned at her, clearly confused and then half sat up, looking down at himself as if trying to work out what had happened.
"Yanton come up with an antidote?" he asked, obviously at a loss to explain anything.
Abby shook her head as she watched him puzzle things out. He lifted a hand and touched his mouth, lifting his top lip and touching his teeth. Abby could see one fang showing and for a moment Hannibal looked panicked before catching up with the whole sunlight thing.
"Blade," he said and looked at her again.
"Blade's blood," she replied and squeezed his hand. "I didn't know what else to do."
"And that makes me?"
She shrugged; she honestly had no idea. They were in new territory, but she didn't care.
"Given what you said last night," she said with a small smile, "I'd say mine."
His eyes opened a little in shock before he went back to squinting again, but then he smiled just a little.
"Guess I'm in real trouble now then," he said.