Three Coffins

AN: Well, vampire stories seem to be a big thing, so I thought I might as well write one. I'm not a huge fan of the title, and I hate leaving the story so short - but I also think that adding more might spoil it a little, so here you all are! I hope you enjoy it, and I'm looking forward to seeing what people think of Leanna.

Leanna had always known that she was beautiful.

Ever since she was a little girl, sweet and contented and good, she'd been beautiful: from her little sun bonnet, to her pretty frock, to her white lacy socks and her shiny black patent leather shoes. She'd known it, too, from parties with her mother's friends, carefully sipping milky tea from a porcelain teacup. "Such a little lady," her mother's friends would say indulgently. "And so beautiful."

"Such beautiful hair," her mother would sigh later as she brushed it, her own brown locks looking dry and dull next to the black silk shine of Leanna's in the little mirror. "You must remember to brush it a hundred times every night, to keep it soft." And Leanna would nod her head solemnly, and stare at the warm reflection of her own half-lidded eyes in the mirror. Not that she ever needed to remember such things: her mother did it for her.

"Such big eyes!" a visiting aunt might say, smiling into the wide, chocolate-and-honey depths, affectionately cupping the small, soft cheek. "Isn't she just a darling?"

When she went to school it had set her apart from the beginning, made her special; with a flirtatious toss of her long hair she could win herself as many companions as she wanted, and an earnest, remorseful half smile could win over all but the hardest of teacher hearts.

"We don't worry about her academically," her mother might earnestly tell a guest. "After all, girls don't need all that much education - and she is so very beautiful."

Or, "How's my beautiful little girl?" her father would ask jovially, kissing her, his moustache a silly, tickling thing. And when she dimpled endearingly and gazed at him hopefully through her lashes, with a shy request for a favour, daddy, please, he'd just laugh and tap her on the cheek with a rolled up five pound note, making her smile in delight.

And she was beautiful, from her delicate nose, to her perfect figure, to her scarlet-painted toenails.

She wasn't the only one to see it, either; girls whispered enviously, and boys followed her with their eyes, breath going short when she looked at them, or when she twirled to make her skirt flirt up above her knees. And Leanna laughed, and teased them, and led them on by turns; one boasting that he'd join up and getting a kiss as reward, another saying that he'd make a fortune and buy her a diamond ring, and getting a dance.

And her beauty thrilled her, her youth. Life was a perpetual bubble of joy, even as some of her paramours went away to where the guns were, the Germans, and her parents talked seriously about going to stay with cousins in the country. The war was still a far off thing, for her. She was too beautiful for fighting - and just beautiful enough for heroes.

When she met Tristan, she thought at first that she'd found a hero.

He was wearing the uniform of a soldier when she first saw him, the only time she ever saw him dressed so commonly - and then, though she didn't know it till later, only as a joke, donning the clothes of a dead man, to steal the honour his victim should have had. Tristan, too, was beautiful; he could have been on any poster for the Nazi recruitment campaign, all golden hair and summer-blue eyes, and such a smile. She'd never seen anything so irresistibly malicious.

He enchanted Leanna from the very first; he was young, but different from all the callow youths who had thus far been her playmates. He was smooth and pale and graceful, all elegant disdain, the look in his eyes the opposite of chivalry - and when he danced, he moved like a predator. Leanna felt the thrill of the hunted thing, and fell in love with him in a moment.

And when he kissed her, his teeth cut her tongue; the taste of blood and him was the most exciting thing she'd ever known. She gasped from it; a drop of blood touched the corner of her mouth like a delicate red tear drop.

"Are you afraid?" he whispered in her ear, and she fancied that his voice was soft as velvet and as cruel as silk.

"Do you want me to be?" she asked him, lost in the strength of his embrace.

And he took her home with him, and in his house of silk and velvet he undressed her, seduced her, cold fingers skilled against skin that seemed creamy warm in comparison. And afterwards, laying her down on a bed of silver satin, he kissed her neck while she held him close, until her skin was almost as white as his under the blood. "You are beautiful," he murmured to her, stroking one cheek fondly with the hand she had warmed. "Like this, you are so beautiful."

And familiar though it had been to her all her life, a constant smug knowledge, like other people might have faith in the love of God - never until that moment she had ever known what a benediction that word could be.

"Do you love me?" Tristan asked her curiously, later, whimsically drawing a heart on her breast in blood and licking his finger clean. He could have been an angel or a Greek statue, poised above her, made of soft marble.

"Of course I do, how could I not?" she replied, worshipping him with her eyes. "I'd - I'd let you kill me, if you wanted." And if just to lie in his presence was a joy, what would it be like to be absorbed by him utterly? To feel so treasured, so wanted, in her last moments... There could be no worthier death than to give herself to him.

"I don't want you dead," he told her, voice warm and fond, blue eyes mocking. "I just want you."

Every night after that, she would come to him, eyes wide and ready for wonder, dressed in pretty clothes to decorate the floor. And every night he'd steal her heat with his vampiric kisses while she shivered beneath him with the cold and his touch; and every night she loved him more.

And Tristan gave her lovely things, rubies set in gold that looked like drops of blood in the candlelight, winking at her endlessly, strings of them draped across her white shoulders, redder and more real than the bloodied lines that Tristan's nails had left. He gave her red wine that they drank from a single crystal goblet; they drank it on a Sunday, and he called it their communion. And he gave her cocaine, letting her, ever-trusting, inhale loose, lacy lines of it like soft snow off his flat, pale stomach, making the world bright and crystalline, and licking it himself, blood-soaked, from her neck, while her fingers danced patterns on his skin.

"Leanna, you look so thin," her mother told her one day, standing at her bedroom door and looking in to see her daughter's empty contemplation of her reflection in the mirror. "And so pale. Are you sick?"

And Leanna would tie a red scarf around her neck and shake her head, ignoring the protests that she shouldn't go out, not tonight, not again. How could she be sick, when every day she felt more beautiful?

And how could she ever stay away?

"I don't want to go home," she told Tristan once. He was studying the jewelled drop of red wine hanging from the end of one long white finger; at her words, he touched it like a blood drop onto her petulant lower lip. "I want to stay here with you, forever." And he smiled, and said she could, and let her kiss his fingertips.

Tristan had other amusements than her, of course; those days when she'd be so pale, and he'd just lick the old blood from the holes in her neck and let that be enough, and come back glowing with the life of another. And she loved him then, the way he'd kiss her and let her taste the flavours of another world on his lips, the way he'd be warm and sleepy and full of energy. Or other days, when he'd come back with his skin still touched with other people's sweat, and let her taste that, too, and she'd feel special, that of all the people he could be with at this moment, he was with her.

And then there were the other vampires. One day she met one, Alexas, a lovely young man who walked into Tristan's house one day and never bothered to leave. And somehow Leanna could never bring herself to hate Tristan for that, either, not even when he opened Alexas' shirt and kissed his way down his smooth chest; how could she hate him, when afterwards he might turn to her, and open the scarlet silk robe he'd given her, and kiss her neck again? But Alexas she hated aplenty, for the way he'd close his eyes and moan when Tristan touched him, and the way he looked at her like she was nothing.

"How does Tristan know you?" she asked Alexas once. He was reclining on a couch, all decadence in dark green silk, unable to move until Tristan dismissed him, and she hated him that he had to be ordered to stay.

He smiled humourlessly and perhaps pityingly, letting her see for the first time the neat, glittering spikes of his fangs. "Oh, Tristan made me everything I am."

And then she hated him even more; how dared he not love Tristan, as she did, worship him, like she did, after he'd been given such a gift? Immortality with Tristan... how could he be so ungrateful as to resent it?

Only once did she ever let Alexas bite her, and only then because Tristan asked it of her. "I need to go out and feed," the younger vampire had said listlessly, not ever quite able to sacrifice his pride and plead. Didn't he know that Tristan was worth pleading? "May I go, Tristan? Just for an hour?"

"You can bite Leanna," Tristan had suggested with a smirk and a shrug. "She won't mind - will you, sweet one?"

And Leanna had shook her head, mute as an adoring doll, even as Alexas protested, "Darling, you know I prefer men."

But Tristan had wanted the younger vampire to stay, and Alexas had sank obedient teeth into Leanna's perfect, blue veined wrist, the two neat puncture marks permanent evidence of her indifference to him, where the deep, careful pair on her neck were a badge of love, a kissing scar that Tristan had given her.

And as the bombs dropped on London, Leanna watched the world vaguely, eyes dimmed with blood and lust and the flickering candles, naked curves caressed by a red silk sheet as Tristan kissed Alexas on the couch, undressing him slowly, two pale bodies frozen in endless perfection, gasps and moans and whimpers in this bower of silk and satin and velvet that always smelt of blood and sex. And it didn't touch them, blackout curtains pointless on always shuttered windows, and black market goods always brought right to the door, the days and nights lazy as they streamed by outside in a welter of sirens and fear.

"Smoke and death," Alexas said softly, staring dreamily out of the window and watching the flames eat the city while opium burned next to him to perfume the air, not looking at Tristan and Leanna as they entwined on the bed. "And not a single pretty young man to be had."

"This place gets more boring day by day," Tristan sighed his agreement one night, twining a strand of Leanna's lustrous black hair around his fingers. "Everyone so anxious, never any time to play... it's so dull. Let's go somewhere with life, Alexas. Let's leave this bloodless place to its own devices for a while, and go to America."

And as they made plans, just for them, Leanna pressed silent sobs into the pillow. "Won't you take me with you?" she whispered brokenly. "Won't you let me come with you? I could be yours, like Alexas is. I could be yours forever. And I'd be better than him, he doesn't love you, he's hateful!"

Tristan slapped her once, gently; her cheek didn't even redden, too thin of blood. Still, it quieted her; she lay silent on the bed once more, her honey eyes leaking silent tears. He kissed them away, and kissed the clotting blood from her neck, sucking gently at the wounds he never let close until fresh blood flowed once more. "Why do you want to be like us?" he asked her, the cruel silk in his voice making her shiver. "You're so beautiful when you bleed like this. So human. So useful to me, like this." He kissed blood away from the soft skin under her ear.

"But I want to be beautiful forever," she told him, her yearning clear and dizzyingly stark. "And I want to be yours forever, because you are what makes me real. Nothing matters without you, don't you see?"

And Tristan smiled, and tenderly stroked a lock of hair from her face, and kissed her softly. Leanna wondered if she'd ever seen anything more beautiful than the studious tilt of his golden head as he bent over her neck, and she wrapped her arms about him possessively as the world spun again, a swirling white haze. And then there was blood on her lips, bringing back a crashing, crystalline clarity as she greedily drank immortality from a gash in her sire's wrist.

And when their boat left Plymouth in a cavalcade of battleships, there were three coffins on the cabin floor.