Slowing to a stop on the boarded sidewalk, I stare at the three-story building waiting across the hardened street. Within the darkness of early evening, soft light filters out from the sheer curtains of numerous windows, and on occasion, there are the shadows of people moving within those rooms. Uncertain about the purpose of this place, I watch the play of shadows and try to discern what the people are doing within the tall building.
A soft chuckle sounds before a hand rests on my waist and a warm body presses up against my back. "Have you figured out what type of place this is yet?"
I frown, not appreciating the humored tone of the blond.
Seifer leans in closer with his breath caressing the back of my ear. "It's a whore house."
"And what is that?"
"It's a place where men go to lose their souls," the vampire states with a gentle clap to my back. "Let's go, little native. There's no need to prolong the inevitable."
As Seifer steps into the street, I glance over the large framed body that is straight with purpose, and yet relaxed in readiness. It reminds me of the single night he spent with my tribe and the moment he commanded Nida and his friends to release their hold on me. Then and now, there is a confident aura to the vampire as if he could do no wrong, but I know the weaknesses of the large blond. And for some reason, it is his strength despite his flaws which makes me respect him the most.
Following steps behind Seifer, I keep my eyes trained on the entrance of the large building, still uncertain about the situation I'm walking into. It makes me anxious, and yet, I can't feel completely afraid with the vampire striding in front of me. Despite his previous words, I feel confident that he will protect me from his 'Mistress', or at the least, he will make my death a swift one. Either outcome wouldn't be so terrible.
With the opening of the front door, I'm immediately repulsed by the overwhelming scent of burnt flowers and heavy perfume. But that irritation is promptly ignored when I take in the view of numerous women present in the wide room, all of them wearing bright dresses and some kind of paint on their faces. With our entrance and the subsequent closing of the front door, many of the women glance in our direction and smile widely with soft giggles.
With a smug smirk at the women, Seifer asks, "Which one of you lovelies would like to lead me to Adel?"
The twittering of giggles increases as several of the colorfully dressed women approach the large man and, unbelievingly, begin to touch him. Fine fingers with long, painted nails stroke against golden skin, and my eyes widen in disbelief as the graceful hands slip beneath the vampire's clothing. My attention diverted, I'm startled when a cold hand brushes against my own neck, the intimate caress making me jerk to the side to avoid anymore of the female's touch.
As I glare at her audacity, the woman of heavy black eyelashes and bright red lips laughs at my reaction. "You're a skittish one, aren't you?"
Before I have the chance to reply, another woman is at my back with her long fingernails raking up into my hair. "What handsome boys. It's a nice change from the usual sort we get around these parts."
I move away more slowly this time, not wanting to appear overly weak to the vampire before me, but I can't help stepping closer to him in a hopeless attempt to escape the shameless women.
Seifer chuckles, obviously unbothered by the women draped all over his body. "We're not here for play, ladies. I have a meeting with your mistress."
The obnoxious laughter sounds again as the scented women don't reply and instead continue their explorations and high-pitched cooing. Then, abruptly, there is wetness along my neck, the moist touch making me react before thought. A loud cry sounds, instantly silencing the rest of the women as the one who had placed her lips on me stumbles backward with a bloodied and perhaps broken nose. I slowly lower my elbow and glare at the offensive female, feeling only a hint of shame for injuring a weaker woman.
"How... How dare you!" the woman hisses, her furious sneer revealing unnoticed fangs.
Shocked by the features of the vampire, I simply stare as she launches forward with incredible speed. Thankfully, the need to react isn't necessary as her progress is efficiently halted by a strong hand encircling the woman's long throat. Seifer then jerks the vampire close, his emerald eyes flashing with intense heat.
"No one tastes this man except me. Is that understood, whore?"
The woman manages a strangled squeak before she is thrown across the room, her body slamming hard against a far wall. The resulting crash causes a stand of lit candles to fall on the unconscious woman, her smoldering dress unfortunately extinguished by her squealing companions before the material could catch on fire.
"You were never one for subtly."
The musical voice makes me turn to glance up the stairway where a lovely woman stands at the second level. Dressed in a simple gown of light blue and a white shawl, the brunette appears the most appealing of the women I've seen thus far. But with her dark hair tied back in a loose bun and her deep brown eyes gazing down at us with a type of fondness, I quickly realize that I'm relating this stranger to Rinoa, the only person who has held some kind of love for this unwanted soul. But then a heavy arm rests around my shoulders, reminding me that Rinoa is no longer the only one who cares about my life and death.
"Ellone," Seifer addresses the newcomer with disgust. "I didn't realize that you were still traveling with Adel."
The dark-haired woman smiles, skillfully hiding any of her true feelings behind the warm mask. "Now, Seifer, you know that calling Mother by her given name wounds her heart. Isn't it time for you to place your childish rebellions aside?"
"You don't have the right to call me a child, Elle, and you aren't the one I'm here to see. So how about announcing me to the old whore before I go up there myself."
The brunet frowns at the vampire's choice in words, but nods her acceptance. "Your companion can stay here and be entertained in your absence."
"Sorry, but my donor comes with me."
Instantly I feel the pressure of numerous eyes upon me, those of the brunette named 'Ellone' being felt the strongest. Though uncomfortable with such attention, I'm easily calmed as Seifer brushes his fingers along one of the dark circles viewable on my neck.
"Who do I need to remind that this man is mine?" the blond vampire asks while shifting his poisonous eyes to one of the women who had licked her overly red lips at the announcement of my donor status.
"No one, dear brother," the dark-eyed brunette states coolly, though her gaze remains on me. "We all know the meaning behind those black seals and what the magic has done to his blood. If someone does not, with her first taste, she will realize that the human has been spoiled for the rest of us."
"Fucking children," Seifer huffs before leading me in the direction of the stairway. "They don't know a damn thing about our rules anymore."
Ellone smiles at the muttered complaint. "As if you ever respected those rules."
The large man chooses not to respond, but his hand on my neck tightens before he releases his hold. Seifer remains close behind me as I go upstairs and follow the female vampire's lead while she steps gracefully to the other set of stairs which continue to the third floor. From both of the higher levels, soft groans and the occasional muffled cry reach my ears, making me further confused about the purpose of this place. That is, until I hear one particular deep moan which immediately reminds me of Seifer and his pleasure induced noises from this morning. While still uncertain about the details, the knowledge that this building is used for sex makes me look up at the blond. Sensing my gaze, Seifer glances at me and smiles softly before returning a serious glare in the direction of upstairs. Not wanting to break his concentration and knowing that my curiosity is trivial compared to his problems, I decide to hold my questions for another time.
Without further distractions, we reach the third floor which displays obnoxious red carpet and odd furniture decorated with creatures I can't identify. But more importantly, a set of double doors is revealed with the pull of a rope which draws back heavy blood-red curtains. The female vampire knocks lightly at the door, and after apparently hearing something I couldn't, she opens both doors to allow us entrance, but chooses not to step inside herself. Seifer strides pass the brunette, forcing me to keep pace before the set of doors slam shut behind us. The resulting swirl of smoky air thick with perfume finally pushes my limits and a forceful sneeze escapes me, then followed by an even stronger sneeze. Seifer glances back with an amused smirk, but his humor doesn't last long.
"My lost son, I was not expecting your visit so soon. Forgive me for being unprepared."
We both turn at the sultry voice, my eyes widening at the physical form of the vampire's tormentor and false mother. Though I had seen her in the mirror only a short time ago, I wasn't prepared for the sight of this tall and intimidating woman before me. Almost Seifer's height, the female vampire is not simply pale, but white-skinned, especially compared to her dark purple dress and her thick crimson hair pulled back into a loose braid. But her unnatural features aside, the woman has a sickening aura about her, a powerful, but nauseating aura. Again I have wonder what attracted Seifer to this demon in human skin, but judging by the others downstairs, he hasn't been the only one to be seduced by the aged vampire.
Paying no attention to me, Adel's strange blood-red eyes focus on Seifer and she smiles at her protégé, the attempt appearing more of a vicious sneer than anything close to 'motherly'. "Shall I assume you never received my message?"
"Either way, it doesn't matter. I had already planned to stop by tonight."
She hums with interest, her unnatural eyes glancing over the man in search of injuries. "While I smell blood, it's not your own."
Seifer smirks broadly to reveal a pointed fang. "You haven't smelled my blood in a long time, woman. You could be mistaken."
"I'm not," the female demon states icily. "But it won't hurt me to make certain."
The sudden vanishing of the two vampires makes me retreat a step, their supernatural speed quickly reminding me that I'm a pathetic human mixed-up in the affairs of immortal beings. The disgusting women downstairs can hardly compare to these aged vampires, their blurred forms occasionally appearing within the large room as they meet to fight with weapons retrieved from who knows where. Gunshots sound at random, echoing in the wide room and making my ears ache, but the rushed battle doesn't pause in the least to ease my worry about the potential of Seifer being harmed thus far.
So entranced by the fight between vampires, I jump when an even louder crash of gunfire sounds from behind me. Staring at the closed doors, I watch the dark wood in anticipation of something, anything from splintered wood to someone entering through the doorway. But during that moment of distraction, a vague breeze brushes against my arm and a familiar low groan sounds to my distress. Turning, I stare at the image of the broad back strong before me, Seifer's coat removed at some point and his white shirt torn in all places. From outstretched arms, strange silver points have pierced through his flesh and dark blood has already soaked through his shirt. I want to reach out and treat those wounds, but I feel frozen in place no matter how much I want to move.
"Ridiculous child," Adel states in a laughing tone. "He is mortal and will die eventually. Why bother to protect him with such passion when you won't allow me to change him for you?"
"He's mine," Seifer bites out in reply, but the breathy quality to his voice is obvious. Also, with him so close to me, I can also sense his unexpected exhaustion. It's only been a short time, and yet he has already been reduced to this injured and weakened state. On some level, that terrifies me.
The aged vampire scolds him with a quiet tsk. "So possessive, my lost son. I thought I had taught you the most important lesson which came with your conversion - everything that you own from your soul to your pets belong to me."
Seifer growls, but oddly doesn't move from his position. Assuming his wounds are worse than I first thought, I glance over his body with a closer examination, but I see nothing more than the few thick needles which have pierced through his arms at his elbows.
Abruptly, there is the shattering of wood behind us, and before I have the chance to turn, an explosion of gunfire sounds. I can't hold back a quiet cry as pain flares from my upper arm, but that pathetic noise of weakness is promptly covered up by screams from female vampire. Ignoring her sounds of anguish, I glance back at the opened doorway and briefly stare at the unexpected appearance of the longhaired cowboy wielding his shotgun. But noticing his aim was still trained on Adel and not Seifer, I decide to turn my back on Kinneas in order to help the blond vampire.
Moving to the larger man's side, I'm startled by the sight of numerous lengthy needles piercing the golden flesh and dark blood trailing down his body in thin streams. Immediately I reach for the silver protruding from his neck and begin to remove the pins as gently as I can.
"Idiot," Seifer hisses as the first needle is removed. "You have to get out of here, and take that worthless mutt with you."
I ignore him and continue with my task. "What are these?"
"Poisoned pins, so be careful of their tips."
My eyes widen at the announcement that he had been poisoned.
With a half-hearted chuckle, Seifer reassures softly, "This won't kill me, but I can't move due to the poison and the placement of the pins. And since I can't protect you like this, would you fucking leave before I have to watch you die?"
Eyes of bright emerald glare at me and make my breath stall. "My mistress cannot be kill so simply. Leave before she's done pla--"
His words are cut off by the deafening explosion of gunfire. I glance back to question Kinneas for the unexpected shot, but then freeze at the sight of the crimson-eyed vampire holding the offensive weapon instead of the cowboy. Dark lips pulled back in a frightening sneer, Adel slowly lowers the shotgun before tossing it beyond the open doorway, our exit now blocked by the presence of the aged demon. With intentional slowness, the vampire turns and directs her blood-red gaze on me, but my eyes don't stay with hers as I view upon the amount of damage Kinneas has caused. A large and ragged hole curves into her left side into an injury that no human could live through, let alone function after receiving such a wound. While plenty of dark blood flows from the sickening hole, globs of the same blackness move at the edge of her destroyed flesh, writhing outward as if the darkness within her was trying to escape.
Adel smirks without suggesting that she felt any of the pain related to such an injury. Then, with a flick of her wrist, the solid doors slam close behind her and shimmer strangely as a symbol flares to life on the dark wood. That done, the vampire gracefully moves from her position, her path purposefully taking her past the fallen cowboy where she steps on a limp hand. Kinneas hardly reacts to the pressure on his fingers, the greater pain of his body being riddled with shot taking most of his attention.
"That wasn't necessary," Seifer mutters, the man unable to see the injured hunter, but the scent of blood and the sounds of Kinneas' groans are obvious enough.
"Ridiculous. Have you fallen so far that you care about the life of a beast, not to mention a hunter?"
"I don't care about him," the blond bites back, glaring at the woman as she pauses at a large window covered by dark red curtains.
"Perhaps, but your so-called... 'daughter' cared a great deal for him, if I remember correctly. Though it was difficult to understand the names she called out while I was studying her intestines to learn more of the future."
"Don't you dare speak of her."
"Very well. If she isn't a matter to be discussed, then how about your latest catch?" Eyes of blood red and no pupils shift to meet my gaze and her darkly painted lips twist into a fearful smirk. "Despite your continued desire to frustrate me, I must admit that you have the amazing ability to find rare and lovely treasures. Though I do believe that I favor this pet above the others in your past."
Seifer growls softly, but the attempt to move his arm does nothing but cause his muscles to twitch beneath his shredded shirt.
"Don't struggle - you know my pins never miss their mark," she states with sadistic glee. Her gaze still focused on me, she raises a pale hand and motions me forward. "Come, pet. Let me view you up close."
Fighting the vampire's command, I glance warily at Seifer, but he bows his head the other way to avoid looking at me. Uncertain what to do, my eyes lower in thought, and at that moment, I notice the small knife still sheathed at his side. Knowing the properties of the weapon, I attempt to strategize a method in which I can retrieve the important knife without arousing the aged vampire's attention. But as I step closer to Seifer's side for the purpose of shielding the movements of my hand, a single scolding sound from the crimson-haired woman freezes me in place.
"Careful, mortal. I told you to come to me, not to your disobedient master. And you will come to me."
Unable to resist the strengthened command, I turn away without managing to touch the knife, and I walk directly, albeit hesitantly, to the tall woman. Her smile of yellow-stained teeth widens with every one of my steps closer to her, victory clear in her expression. I eventually manage to stop myself, but Adel easily closes the remaining distance with a single step and places an icy hand at my cheek. I don't bother to hide my shiver of revulsion at the touch which smelled of dead flowers and gunpowder.
"Yes, a very fine specimen you have found. He will be a lovely addition to our family."
"I won't curse him with our life."
The red-eyed woman laughs with a brash edge. "You are too dramatic, my son. For you to say that immortality and inhuman powers are horrible curses instead of the blessings you had once begged from me…" Her words breakup with more laughter before she asks, "Whomever did you get these ideas from?"
"You have wasted too much time listening to these humans before tasting them. Such an inefficient use of your time," Adel scolds as her hand continues to stroke my skin. She then places her hand at my shoulder and turns me around to face Seifer, the sight of the injured and unmoving man making my heart clench with ache. But I'm quickly distracted as a lengthy fingernail traces along a seal on my neck, the touch unexpectedly pleasurable as much as it disgusts me. "As I warned you before, my son, we share blood. Though you have selfishly ruined this human for others, there are ways for me to trick the magic into believing that I am you."
"I won't let you," Seifer growls as he attempts to move forward, the action causing more dark blood to flow, the blood I had given to him earlier today. How could our situation change so rapidly, from simple pleasure of flesh to the horrors of pain and death.
"You have only two choices, child. Either I transform this pathetic man into someone more worthy of your status, or..." The vampire pauses as her long fingers wrap around my throat and slowly squeeze to the point of making it very difficult to breathe. "I will kill him like your other pets."
I don't know if Seifer responses to the ultimatum, verbally or otherwise. With the unnaturally strong hand around my neck, my vision dims to an uncomfortable hazy black and my hearing is blocked by the rushing sound of waves. And stupidly, with the vampire touching the two symbols present on the sides of my neck, I can't stop feeling a sense of desire for the demon, which only makes my revulsion for her that much stronger. Wanting and needing her hand away from me for reasons more than air, I instinctively grab for the knife at my side. Instantly, harsh screams attack my defenseless mind and command me that I am not allowed to harm the woman behind me, my future 'Mistress'. If I had breath, I would be tempted to laugh at the suggestion that I would accept the woman as my master.
Hardly thinking in my need for freedom, I stab the knife at the hand gripped around my throat. While I cry out at the blade slicing through my skin, the vampire's scream makes it worth my meager pain. Adel jerks back her hand, myself just barely keeping hold onto the knife handle to cut it deeper into pale flesh before she could pull her hand free of the blade.
My vision returning with my ability to breathe, I gaze forward to view upon the hazy image of Seifer and frown when seeing his lips curled into a dark smile. But before I can understand his apparent humor, I sense the approach of the aged demon. Everything slows as I turn to face her, and somehow I can see the coming strike of her bloodied hand. After bending my knees just enough to slip below her claw-like fingernails, I promptly lunge upward with my knife held before me in both hands. The etched metal pierces deep into the woman's chest and instantly silences her howling screams. Blood-red eyes stare down at me with an uncomprehending gaze as her hand falls limply to her side.
My heart racing with fear and heated energy, I release my hold on the knife hilt and step back cautiously with the intent to help Seifer and somehow escape from this place. But with my hand removed and my vision clearer than before, I take notice of the weapon buried in the vampire's chest and recognize that the aged hilt isn't the one I had carved for myself. Turning sharply, I stare at Seifer with a silent question, unable to believe that the blond could actually be that stupid.
His malicious smile changing into one of pride, Seifer says, "I switched our blades just before we stepped inside this brothel. Sorry, but I couldn't let her read your mind and discover that you held the key to her death."
Despite the success of his trick, I feel furious at his audacity to place such a large responsibility on my mortal shoulders. Though tempted to punch the man for his arrogance, I'm interrupted by a sound behind me. I quickly turn around into a defensive stance, but then relax at the sight of female vampire fallen to her knees.
"My son... how... betrayed me..."
Seifer scoffs. "If I was truly your son, you would've wanted me to live the life of my choosing. I never betrayed you, Adel - you betrayed me."
The crimson-haired woman stares blankly at the man. "You were so beautiful... so handsome... my dark son..." And with her final sighed out words, Adel falls backward and doesn't speak or move a second time.
It's with mixed feelings that I watch my 'mother' fall dead to the ground. In truth, she was the only mother I knew in my lengthy lifetime, and early on, I worshipped the woman like I have no other. It was a century before I recognized her distorted sentiments for what they were. I had pulled away from Adel in search of peace, but my weakness toward her never really faded, even as my hatred and anger grew stronger. And so, viewing her lifeless body, I can't help but to feel both sadness and relief toward the death of the woman who cursed me with this life, a life that has given me infinite grief and the rare touch of happiness.
My disjointed thoughts are interrupted by the sharp pain of silver sliding through flesh. Moving my gaze from the murdered immortal, I watch as Squall removes another set of needles from my arm. Any thoughts of speaking to the native disappear once I see the stern expression of the brunet. I suppose it shouldn't be a surprise that he is furious, but as of late, something about angering the young man bothers me. Certainly, I enjoy getting a frosty glare whenever I tease him for one thing or another, but I fear his true fury, the same anger which prompted him to leave his tribe and declare that he no longer had a home. One of these days, I imagine that I will be at the wrong end of his anger, and I'm not entirely certain what I'd want with my life without Squall around.
With the final needle removed from my foot, I fall to my knees and wrap my arms tightly around the slim man. Surprisingly, Squall doesn't refuse me the need to touch him and hold him close. I had first smelled his blood when he was hit by stray shot from the werewolf's attack, and then when the native had cut himself in his attempt to escape Adel. And now, with this chance to relieve the hunger which had been stirred by the intoxicating scent, I sigh softly and slide my tongue along the shallow wound at his neck. Squall stiffens at the moist touch, but then grabs onto the side of my torn shirt in a desperate hold.
"I hate you."
Licking his cut closed, I lightly kiss the healed flesh. "I'm sorry."
"Do not let another person touch me. Never again."
Though initially surprised by his demand, I smirk against his skin. "No one else is allowed to have you. Only me."
"Only you," Squall whimpers softly as my aching fangs caress his throat.
It takes plenty of my failing willpower to not bite into the native here and now. With my body in pain and too much blood lost, I want to find the comfort that drinking the half-blood's nectar will bring me. But remembering the hopeless children beyond the sealed door, I know that Squall will have to defend himself and perhaps me, as well, given my current pathetic state.
"Seifer. That cowboy needs help."
Reminded of Kinneas, I straighten and gaze down at the native. While I was at first tempted to leave the werewolf to his misery, I surrender to the concern visible in pale eyes. "Help me to him."
With Squall's aid, I stand up and walk unsteadily to the fallen hunter. Truthfully, with my back turned to him this entire time, I didn't expect the werewolf to be this badly injured. Along with the severe damage caused by the silver shot in his gun, there are deep cuts caused by Adel's knife. At least the hunter got in a good shot before the woman had stolen his weapon, but against an aged vampire, it wasn't nearly enough.
Kneeling to the hardwood floor, I place a hand at the side of his head. Sweat mixed with spots of dark blood cover his face and neck, the rest of him a mess of gore from the shot that tore into his chest. Despite the years I've spent trying to make him resistant to the silver poisoning, too much of the harmful metal has entered into his blood. His body can't heal this way and there's nothing I can do about it.
"I'm dead," Kinneas mutters through clenched teeth.
"That's what you get for acting like a novice hunter. You should've known a single shot wouldn't kill an old vampire, and you didn't even shoot her in the fucking heart! What were you thinking?!"
A strained chuckle comes from the hunter. "That I had... one shot left..."
"And your hesitating gave that shot to Adel."
Opening his eyes enough to reveal a sliver of amethyst, Kinneas manages a smile in my direction. "You... care...?"
"I only care about my promise, and you made it fucking impossible to save your ass time and time again."
His smile widening, he knocks his hand against my knee. "Take... the bracelet..."
With a glance downward, I frown at the sight of the metal bracelet I had given Quistis when she became a nurse. Seeing the wide bar of steel connected by decorative chains on the wolf's wrist causes a twist of jealousy in my gut, but I can't blame her for giving the memento to her husband. And so, I shake my head, not wanting this gift returned to me.
"Take it," Kinneas hisses, then promptly coughs until blood coats his chin.
I glare at the hunter, annoyed at his attempt of a truce or whatever else is rolling around in that dense head of his. But while I refuse the bracelet, Squall unexpectedly reaches between us and removes the metal from the limp wrist. Though wanting to scold the native, I notice the gleam of relief in the eyes of the wolf. Deciding to do something about the bracelet later, I allow the brunet to safely tuck away the jewelry into his pocket.
"Squall," I say with renewed control over my anger. "Bring me my knife."
Pale eyes glance over the ruined form of the hunter before Squall stands up smoothly and steps over to the body of my former mistress.
"Thanks..." Kinneas mutters while closing his eyes, already prepared to meet Quistis before me. Though I would only be fooling myself to believe that I will ever get the chance to see my daughter again. The doors to Heaven and peace will never be open for a man who willing chose to become a demon.
As I take my blade from Squall's outreached hand, I wonder at the strange feel to the knife I've held for centuries. Done with pointless words, I raise the blade and whisper a quiet 'good riddance' which the keen hearing of the wolf catches judging by his grin. I stab the dark blade into his bloodied flesh, cleanly piercing the tainted heart within.
Gasping at the feel of the demon-killing knife, Kinneas opens his eyes to stare at me. "Ta... take care... of him..."
As the mist of death fills his violet gaze, I find myself with wide eyes and without breath for several moments. Abruptly able to move, I grip what is remaining of the cowboy's shirt and lift him up for us to be eye to eye. "Take care of who, you bastard. Who the fuck are you talking about!"
Warm hands settle on my arm, making me look sharply at the native. The unhidden worry in his stormy eyes make me realize that I'm trying to get answers out of a dead man. Reluctantly and with a final shake of the limp form, I let the body drop to the ground with wet sound. I stare at him for a moment longer before remembering something and turn my gaze to the native.
"The bracelet. Give it me."
Squall frowns while placing a protective hand over his pocket. "He wanted you to have it."
"I know that, you idiot. I'm not going to get rid of it, so give me the bracelet."
Though the wariness doesn't leave his eyes, Squall removes the piece of jewelry from his pocket and gently lays it on my hand. I stare at the warm metal for a long moment, almost afraid that my guess could be right about this matter. Carefully, I place the large bar of metal between my fingers and then use a fingernail to pop open the disguised locket. A yellowed piece of paper rests inside, and once unfolding the small square, I have the urge to cry and scream at the same time.
Growling, I push myself up, and after regaining my balance, I kick the corpse beneath me, taking satisfaction with every splatter of blood my boot causes. But I don't get in more than four kicks before arms are around my chest and I'm pulled away from the dead werewolf. Only the poison in my system makes me weak enough to allow the native to stop my desire to mutilate the hunter's body further. Even so, I try to escape his surprisingly strong hold.
"That bastard! How dare he... how dare he leave my grandson in a fucking orphanage!"
At the same moment I lunge forward, Squall jerks me back another step, the awkward move leaving us both unbalanced as we fall to the ground. The native quickly rolls on top of me and uses his weight to keep me flat on the hardwood. I struggle against him, prompting the brunet to grab onto my wrists and slam them back over my head.
"He is dead, Seifer! Leave him in peace!"
"He doesn't deserve peace!"
Though not loosening his hold, Squall appears startled by my rage. "Explain this to me."
At the calm demand, I pull in some of my fury and speak in low tones to the native. "Hidden in that bracelet was a piece of paper which has an address for an orphanage in England and Kier's name. That fucking wolf left his son, my grandson, in an orphanage so that he could hunt me without a young boy slowing him down."
"And what is an... or-fan-giz?"
"An orphanage is a place where unwanted children are stashed away. But Kier doesn't belong there. From the beginning, he was wanted by his mother, and I..." My anger mostly smothered by somber memories of Quistis and her son, I state softly, "I haven't even seen the boy."
"And the wolf asked you to care for this boy?"
"Like I give a shit what that monster wanted. He left that boy all alone even though that bastard wolf has family in Virginia. He should've just brought Kier to America where he belongs."
Squall finally releases his hold on me and sits back on my thighs. "Maybe... he had a reason?"
"I told you his damned reason - his priority was to kill me when he should've been raising his son. Instead, he deserted his own blood just like a piece of dead weight."
The native cocks his head in a thoughtful manner and then asks, "This 'Kier' is the child of Quistis, too?"
"Yes, damn it. Have you been listening to me?"
"Then, you will go care for her son?"
"That's not the point! That bastard--"
"Is dead," the native interrupts in a calm tone. "And that boy is alive."
I stare into blue-gray eyes, hating what I see there. How can this man already know what I refuse to admit to myself, that more than anything, I want to see my grandson. And now, with both of his parents dead, I'm the last who knows where the boy has been hidden. I can't take care of this child, not with my dark life, but he doesn't deserve to live the life of an orphan. Somehow, I have to retrieve Kier and send him to where the Kinneas family currently resides.
Squall stands silently, and then holds out a hand. "We should go."
Staring at the extended hand, I hesitate before accepting the offer of aid. Once steady, I jerk my hand from his grasp and step over to the fallen wolf. Leaning down, I remove the knife from the bloodied chest, and after a final kick to the corpse, I turn to face Squall and his scolding glare.
"I couldn't resist," I state with a sneer, and then hold out the knife to the brunet. "Take it and let's go."
"That is your knife."
"Not anymore. I'm done with this weapon and I want you to have it. Hell, you accomplished more with this blade than I did in the past century. It belongs to you."
Squall eyes the knife for a moment longer before accepting my gift to him. With a careful touch, he wipes dark blood from the blade as best he can, and then sheaths the weapon at his side. Glancing over my shoulder, he frowns in thought, but I beat him to the question I can sense forming in his mind.
"I'll send someone to retrieve his body and ship him off to his family, so stop bothering me about that piece of scum."
The brunet smirks with a small curl of pale lips before turning in the direction of the exit. "I hope the wolf left some of those... 'whores' alive."
I can't resist my smile at the native's careful usage of the crude term, and then take my place at his side. "Lead on, lovely. I'll watch your back."
Sitting in a dimly lit room filled with old furniture, I can't force myself to sit in place. Instead, I stand next to a window and stare out at the fog moving sluggishly under the early evening light. I probably should have waited until morning, but I was afraid that I'd think up a new set of excuses overnight and would never find the courage to come here to the orphanage. At the sound of a quiet sip, I glance over at the seated man and realize that Squall wouldn't have allowed me to shirk my responsibility to my grandson. The native is the only reason I've gotten this far, and I hate him for that.
Deciding to distract myself, I gaze at the slim man bundled in a thick sweater and a wool vest with his jacket resting on his lap. Seated on the worn couch, Squall holds a steaming cup of tea between his two hands and steals another sip of the heated liquid despite his nose-crinkling distaste for the flavor. It had taken more effort than I thought it would to convince the native to come with me to England. Aside from his fear of traveling across an ocean and visiting strange lands, Squall had managed to convince himself that I wouldn't need him once Adel had been killed. I blame his past, a time when he was exploited for his fighting abilities, and then left to bleed whenever the battle was finished. How he found the motivation to crawl back to his tribe to heal and fight another day, I'll never understand. But I was no better in the beginning, only wanting Squall to appease my hunger. He wasn't supposed to mean more to me, but that changed the first night I watched over his sleeping form. Of course my love for him wasn't anything instant, but there was no avoiding the sight of the beautiful man relaxed in a stretched out pose. It was the beginning of an irresistible hunger which I enjoy satisfying every chance I get.
The sound of footsteps startles me from comforting thoughts, and instantly my stomach twists with uncertainty. I watch the open doorway as the steps draw closer, and my breath halts at the sight of the young woman who watches over the children here. A small child follows closely behind her, efficiently hiding behind the woman's long skirt while still holding onto her hand. The woman, 'Selphie' if I remember correctly, smiles fondly at the child before turning a cooler gaze in my direction.
"I'm not certain if I should trust you with this boy, but he says he wants to talk to you."
"It's alright. I understand that Kinneas told you... things about me. I'd be more worried if you weren't concerned about my presence here."
The green-eyed woman sighs before reaching into the folds of her skirt. "Normally, I wouldn't have let you set one foot into this building, but we received this letter weeks ago. Kier swears that his father wrote it, so it leaves me to honor Irvine's wishes."
I frown, unable to guess the contents of the letter.
"Daddy's dead, isn't he?"
Surprised by the stern voice of the young boy, I glance downward at the child who is still hidden behind the protective matron. Not knowing how to respond, I reflexively speak with plain honesty. "He was killed while trying to help me. And I couldn't save him."
With extreme caution, the boy peaks out from behind the woman and suddenly I'm staring into lavender eyes which shine in contrast to the black knitted hat covering most of his head. Lord, I forgot that it has been nearly five years since Quistis' death, and Kier had been two at that time. So much time lost, and I'll probably never see him again after I take him home to the Kinneas estate. Why do I torture myself like this?
"And you didn't kill Mommy?"
The simple question steals away my breath, surprising me that the young Kinneas knows the truth, that I would have never harmed his mother. Unable to reply otherwise, I shake my head and whisper, "No..."
After staring at me for a moment longer, Kier releases his hold on the skirt of his matron and he holds out his hand. "Can I give Péré the letter?"
While I stare with disbelief at the boy calling me 'grandfather' in Quistis' first language, the young brunette gives the child the envelope and he walks warily in my direction.
"Daddy wrote to me and he said that he was wrong. He said you are a good person just like Mommy said. He also said that you would come and get me if Daddy died." Holding out the worn envelope, Kier continues to say, "Daddy wrote something to you, too, and I didn't open it since he told me not to. Ms Selphie wanted to know what it said, but I made her promise to not read it."
Smiling at the tattletale ways of young children, I take the envelope and place it in my pocket to be read later.
"Are... are you going to take me home, now?" Kier asks while pulling the sides of his knitted hat lower in a shy manner.
"If you want to come with me, yes. But I can wait until you're ready."
The boy shakes his head. "I don't want to stay here anymore. I want to go home."
Before I can reply, the young matron states, "I'll go collect his things," and leaves the room with a hurt air, most likely upset with how quickly the child decided to join me.
"Kier..." Both the boy and I jump at the soft voice, never noticing when Squall had moved from the couch. He kneels next to my young grandson and looks directly into lavender eyes. "Will you remove your hat?"
Kier immediately tugs harder on the hat and shakes his head.
"It is alright. You do not need to hide from your grandfather."
The boy stares at the native, and then gazes warily in my direction. White teeth bite into his lower lip before his eyes shift to the floor. Small hands clutch tighter at the black material before he slowly slides the hat forward. Auburn hair frizzes as the fine strands stick to the hat, but that is hardly my concern as dark brown fur makes its appearance and two wolf ears slip out into plain view. I know I should have expected this, but I had hoped long ago that Quistis' son wouldn't have to bear the curse of the werewolf.
Breaking the silence, Squall reaches out his hand. "May I?"
Kier nods sharply in reply, but despite giving his permission, he closes his eyes tightly when long fingers first touch his unusual ears. In his gentle way, Squall strokes along the wolf ears and he patiently smoothes down the dark fur. Once realizing that no harm was being caused to his ears, Kier opens his eyes to gaze at the native, and slowly, a shy smile forms as the massaging strokes continue.
"You have soft fur."
Kier's smile widens to display sharp canines, the small fangs giving the boy a mischievous look. "I have a tail, too, and Mommy always liked how soft it is."
Squall returns the smile before removing his hand. "Thank you for showing us your secret."
The youth nods happily, and then puts his hat back on. "Ms Selphie says I shouldn't show no one my ears or tail, but Daddy's letter said I could show Péré." Frowning in sudden thought, Kier then asks the native, "Who are you?"
"He's Squall," I say before the brunet can speak. "He is someone who is very important to me, just like your mother was important to your father."
The boy considers the answer, and then asks, "Do I have to call you 'Grandmum'?"
Gazing at the form curled into a tight ball under a thick blanket, I slowly close the door to the boy's room and step quietly down the hallway to the room where I last saw Seifer. Pausing at the doorway, I frown at the sight of the vampire seated on a bench next to the dark window, him in the exact same position since I had readied Kier for bed and told him a story about the wolf spirits my people respected. Not wishing to disturb Seifer, I turn with the intention to find a snack, but a deep voice stops me.
"Is the pup asleep?"
Glancing back at the blond, I see his extended hand and easily recognize the silent request for contact. I step toward the vampire and move close enough for the larger man to wrap his arm loosely around my waist. "He is resting. But he asked for you."
Seifer sighs while lifting up the crumpled paper he had been reading ever since we returned to this place with his grandson. "I know you can't read and the letter isn't worth repeating word for word, but I'll summarize it for you. Kinneas first rambled on about misjudging me, which makes me believe that the bastard wasn't fully unconscious when I told you about Quistis. There's no other way he could realize the truth, that I wasn't her killer, and it looks like this letter was sent while he was still recovering from the injuries you gave him.
"But that isn't really important compared this one paragraph here," Seifer states while his thumb brushes next to a clump of the dark lettering I can't decipher. "Kinneas never told his family about his transformation, that apparently they would've hunted him like any other beast. While I'm tempted to believe that he was overreacting, it doesn't really surprise me much. They are quite the fanatics when it comes to ridding the world of so-called darkness."
As the vampire drops into silence, I allow him a moment to organize his thoughts while I place a hand at his neck in a comforting gesture. With a sigh, Seifer closes his eyes and slumps against my chest as the hand holding the piece of paper drops onto his lap.
"They wouldn't accept Kier," he says quietly. "They'd sooner kill him than raise him. And I told you how Quistis was a street rat, a child without a family. There's no where for the boy to go."
"There is you."
Seifer scoffs. "I can't raise a child, Squall. Look at what happened to Quistis. Adel might be dead, but there will always be others. Whether they are demons I've wronged in the past or hunters looking for fame, there will always others who will threaten any type of happiness I can piece together."
I don't argue, knowing by his choked tone of voice and the tightened hold around my waist that any words I say won't affect him in his current state. Maybe in the morning I can remind him about his previous fury when he learned that his grandson was living in an orphanage, left alone much like his daughter had been before she met the blond vampire. It'll take time, but I know Seifer wants this despite his fear of losing the happiness he gains in his difficult life.
Seifer abruptly straightens, and without a word, he pushes me aside to stand up from the bench. Leaving the letter behind, he walks just beyond the doorway where he turns with arms folded across his chest and his emerald eyes glaring downward.
"I thought you were asleep."
At the sound of a soft sniffle, I move next to the vampire and look down to find Kier sitting next to the doorway. His dark ears rest limply over his auburn hair and a fluffy tail curls tightly beneath his pajama covered legs. Though his cheek are red and moist with spent tears, his pale purple eyes are serious as he stares up at Seifer.
"You don't want me?"
The blond growls out a sigh before continuing to glare at the young boy. "Do you have any idea what kind of monster I am?"
Nodding, Kier says, "A vampire. Mommy told me that."
"You don't need to lie, boy. I know you were too young to remember anything your mother told you."
"Nuh-un! I remember her," Kier retorts angrily as his dark tail bristles with offense. "I remember since before I could walk. And Mommy always talked about you, and she said you would love me even though she said bad things to you."
Seifer stiffens at the boy's declaration, but then regains his icy front. "Very well, but aren't you afraid of me?"
"No. Daddy was a werewolf, and I'm like him, kind of." Lavender eyes widen with realization and Kier sits up straighter. "If I gave you my blood, would you want me then?"
"And why in Hell's name would I drink the blood of a child?!"
The boy winces at the stern tone of his grandfather and his dark ears flatten fearfully on top of his head. "Sorry..."
"There is no reason for you to be sorry," I state softly as I step between him and the vampire. "Come, you should be in bed."
Moist lavender eyes peer up at me, Kier obviously not wanting to leave before he can successfully convince Seifer to keep him. I smile at the boy and hold out a hand to him, coaxing Kier to come with me. Reluctantly, he places a small hand in mine and allows me to pull him up to his feet. While he comes with me down the hallway, the young boy drags his feet in a purposeful manner to give Seifer plenty of time to say something, but the vampire does nothing more than glare at me for my intervention.
After tucking the child under warm blankets for a second time tonight, I sit on the edge of the bed and lean down far enough to speak quietly to the boy. "Do you truly want to stay with Seifer?"
Kier nods while curling deeper under the heavy blanket covering his body.
"Then he will not desert you. But you must stay strong and ignore his attempts to scare you away."
The boy blinks with confusion, but then nods with a touch more confidence.
"And I will help you."
Hope light enters the pale eyes. "You want me?"
I nod in reply.
"And you think Péré will let me stay?"
"Yes. But give me time to remind Seifer that he is lucky to have you."
Kier smiles shyly at my words and I can feel the swaying motion of his tail beneath the blanket. Pleased that it was a simple task to reassure the young boy, I brush strands of hair from his face and wish him good dreams before I leave the small room. As I close the door, I can feel the heavy gaze of emerald eyes from across the hall. Unbothered by the gleam threat in those poisonous eyes, I take my time returning the narrow room holding plenty of chairs and more books than I've seen in my lifetime. As I sit in a cushioned chair with my back held to the entrance, Seifer follows behind me and closes the door tightly before speaking.
"I am not taking that boy in and that's that."
I don't let myself be swayed by the heated anger flowing from the vampire, but instead look at the window's reflective surface given the darkened world outside. "Do you know how it feels... to lose a mother who loved you? And then discover no one else cares if you live or die?"
Seifer doesn't say anything for a time as his gaze meets mine through the reflection of the dark window. But abruptly his eyes shift away and glare at the corner of the room. "I know what you're trying to say, Squall, but it doesn't matter. There's only blood and death in my world, and that is no place for a child. Certainly not my grandson."
"But with his... features, that will be his life."
Seifer frowns, his only reply.
"Do you know what you gave me?"
Green eyes dark in the window shift to meet mine through our reflections, the softened gaze revealing the man's curiosity.
Uncertain how to explain my thoughts in straight words, let alone in his language, I state simply, "I am happy with my life."
His expression becomes unreadable through the panes of glass, and after a time of staring, Seifer steps away from the door to circle around the chair and stand before me. Leaning forward, he places one hand on an armrest while resting his other chilled hand at my throat. With his thumb stroking the dark brand, he asks, "How can you be happy with this?"
I place my hand on his. "It binds me to you."
"That is hardly something to be proud of."
"It is not about pride, but... wanting to be alive. And to live in warmth with you." Squeezing his hand, I continue to say, "Kier also wants life, where he is not alone or afraid. You can give that to him."
Seifer sighs at my tenacity and slowly sinks to his knees before resting his head on my lap. "I hate the way you make things sound easier than they are. It'll take more than you think to raise a child, especially with the need to move and hide all of the time. He'll eventually hate us for that."
I don't argue, already getting my taste of Seifer's necessity for stealth when we had to escape the city where Adel was killed along with her whores. And given his immortality, I have to assume that he is forced to move whenever someone would question his appearance. This place is safe simply because Seifer managed to convince the aged and nearsighted caretaker that he is the grandson of the man who owns this house when, of course, it was Seifer who invested his money into this piece of land decades ago. According to the vampire, he owns numerous residences throughout Europe, and he has already promised to show me those places along with the various sights of this strange continent. Thankfully, Kier's presence should change those plans. After crossing an entire ocean, I'm not overly eager to venture even further into countries where they don't speak English.
"Will you help me?"
I glance down at the vampire to find that I had placed my fingers deep into his golden hair at some point. Deciding to ignore what that could mean, I continue the massage and reply, "I will always stay at your side."
The blond huffs. "I knew that the moment you agreed to come to Europe with me, but that doesn't answer my question, lovely. Will you help me raise the brat?"
I don't reply directly, and instead ask, "Is he like his father?"
"If you are asking about his features, then no, he's not a werewolf like Kinneas was."
When Seifer says nothing more than a quiet 'lower', I rub the back of his neck while mentioning, "But he looks like a wolf."
Sighing, the vampire explains, "When a human and wolf mate, there are several possibilities with their offspring. They can range from completely normal humans to insanely ferocious werewolves. Kier is mix, which is actually one of the better possibilities. He'll always bear the signs of the wolf, but he won't transform with the full moon. In a sense, he gets the best of both worlds - the mind of a human and some greater abilities of the wolf."
"But people will see the monster."
At my words, Seifer sits back onto his heels and gazes up at me with a gleam of defeat in his eyes. "Except for us, you mean, right?"
I smile softly, pleased that the blond isn't hopelessly stubborn.
"Fine, but I want him to have a real education, so that means we'll have to live near a large city, which I know you'll hate. And we'll have to move every few years or so. And you'll have to wear the clothing I buy you. And--"
I press fingers against his lips to stop the blond's attempt to discourage me. "Before, I felt alone while living with many people. I do not want that child to live like I did."
As a cool hand wraps around my fingers to pull them aside, Seifer smiles and kisses the digits. "Even with my powers, I apparently can't move a mountain like yourself."
"No, you cannot," I mutter distractedly as a deft tongue circles along my fingers and draws them deeper into his mouth. Sharp fangs caress my suddenly warmer flesh, and I find that focusing on the blond vampire is harder than it was moments previously. "<White demon...>"
The slip into my native language makes Seifer hum with pleasure as he removes my fingers from his mouth to better us his lips on the dark branding present on my wrist. My entire body goes limp at the feel of pointed teeth tracing the outer circle of the black seal, and I can't resist a quiet groan. The noise encourages the vampire into moving forward such that his larger body covers mine and his mouth attacks my vulnerable neck. Unexpectedly, a cold hand sneaks beneath the gray sweater which had been doing a very good job at keeping me warm. I briefly consider hitting the man for making me feel chilled again, but that idea dissolves into nothingness when calloused fingertips stroke along the markings on my lower back.
Just when I begin to mutter in my own language about the unfairness of the situation, Seifer pulls back and growls in the direction of the doorway. "What do you want?"
Startled by the sound of the opening door, I sit up and look around the back of the chair to see Kier standing in a timid stance with his hand held tight on the doorknob. "Can I have some water?"
Seifer sighs loudly in annoyance while muttering to me, "And this is what you get when you allow a child into your home." Standing before I can retort, the vampire steps to the young boy and places his hand between two flattened ears. "Come on, mutt. I'll get you that glass of water, and then you'll go to the bathroom. That way you'll have no more excuses for staying up tonight. We have a busy day of shopping tomorrow, and if you don't get your sleep now, you'll be exhausted before we get to the candy store."
Pale purple eyes brighten at the mention of this 'candy store'. "Can we really go there?"
"A-ah, and I'll allow you three pieces of candy, but only if you're good. Understood?"
Kier's eyes widen further. "Three pieces? Just for me?"
Seifer smiles in reply before moving his hand to the boy's chest and pushes him into the hallway. "Hurry up, kid. I want to tuck Squall into bed as soon as possible."
I smirk at the suggestive wink the vampire sends my way before vanishing beyond the doorway. Alone, I sit silently while listening to Kier's voice echo from the hall, the child probably trying to get a straight answer from his grandfather about whether or not he'll be staying with us for good. After the voice fades into the distance, I turn to face my reflection in the dark window. It's hard to believe at times that I've come this far, that an unwanted rodent from the desert has found a comfortable home with a lonely beast of the night. And now, given this chance to save another unwanted child from my near fate of dying without knowing true happiness, I feel heartened and blessed by the Spirits.
Adjusting my position in the large chair, I curl my feet beneath me and cross my arms over my chest to regain the warmth which Seifer had stolen from me. While I can't sense his hunger just yet, I'll have to convince the vampire to feed on my blood before he tries anything else tonight - it's easier to appreciate his touches when they don't freeze me to the bone. And that's not to mention his increase stamina after getting his fill.
I jump slightly as I wake from my apparent doze and stare directly into bright emerald eyes.
"And what were you smiling about, hn?"
I shrug, not one to admit that I was wondering how much warmer I'd feel after a session of sex. "Is Kier asleep?"
"Finally, and he should stay that way with the mild suggestion I gave him." Smirking, Seifer leans in close such that I'm quickly lost in entrancing green pools. "And what about you, hmmm? Time for bed?"
"Yes," I murmur before closing the distance between us to taste the cool lips of the vampire. Retreating from the chaste kiss, I warn the blond, "But take blood before you make me colder."
Seifer laughs out, "Yes, my Indian Prince," before burying a hand in my hair and drawing me forward for a more intimate tangle of lips and tongues. Eventually he allows me the chance and space to stand up from the large chair, but his arm immediately moves to my waist as he holds me tight against his body. I lose my breath as the vampire takes his first taste of me for this night, his fangs piercing deep into the juncture of shoulder and neck. Even though he has done this numerous times, I find myself groaning at the intense sensation which travels through my veins. The noise prompts Seifer to tighten his hold as he draws deeper on my life blood, bringing me to the edge of dizziness before he licks my skin to heal the wounds he created.
"Better?" he asks in a low tone while his warmer hand brushes from behind my ear to the back of my neck.
I whisper out a 'yes' before I glance up to witness Seifer licking traces of blood from his lips. "Does it taste good?"
The vampire chuckles at the question, his fangs in full view. "You taste better than 'good', lovely. It's an irresistible flavor I could never describe."
Smiling at his honest tone, I place my hand at his cheek and brush away a fleck of blood from his pale skin. "You are warm."
"Mmm, apparently so. Which means I'm allowed to touch you again, yes?"
I hum the affirmative, but then quickly add, "Remember, Kier is down the hall."
"He's under my spell and won't wake even if a stampede of elephants trampled over his bed. Or if there were similar sounds against the wall between our rooms," Seifer adds suggestively.
While easily catching his meaning, I can't stop myself from asking, "What is an 'ella-faint'?"
Author's Whining -- Whoo, this story took a lot longer than I thought it would to write. I blame stupid characters who don't know when to quit. I opted against doing an epilogue simply because I'm lazy and I wasn't certain if it really needed one. If I get complaints, I can write up the short epilogue I had in mind, but I don't really think it's worth it. Anywho, I hope you enjoyed your request, Vinnie no Neko, and I'm sorry that this took forever to finish.
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