"Ugh. Remind me why I work here again?" Quinn moaned as she ducked behind the diner's counter. That had been the third ass-slap this week. She figured she deserved it for working at a truck stop.
Her co-worker shrugged. "None of my business what you do," Emma mumbled as she poured more coffee. "Here," she handed Quinn another tray of food and pointed to a table somewhere over Quinn's shoulder. "That guy's been in here before. Think he's a local. He won't give you trouble."
Quinn rolled her eyes in disgust without saying a word and turned around to survey her next guest. Without even trying to think about what would happen to her behind, she walked over and served him food. He glanced at her from under the brim of his baseball cap and smiled a white smile. She curtsied, as she was taught by her manager, and turned around on jelly-knees to politely walk as fast as she possibly could to the safety of the back room. She heaved out a breath she didn't know she was holding and leaned back against the only bare wall. Sinking down to the floor, she put her teary face in her hands.
"This is so not fair," she shakily whispered to herself. It couldn't happen. Nothing is going to happen here, ever, she thought. That's all. Nothing nothing nothing. No more worrying!
"Julie!" Emma called her from the lobby. "Get out here! There's a whole mess of customers you need to take care of!
Quinn quickly wiped her eyes at the summons and weakly rose to stand. She hoped that man left. She couldn't stand him being there, not after...
A quick make up check on the back of a spoon and she knew she looked okay. She walked steadily out to the main room and took up her pen and notepad to bravely face each new man.
It was not that she disliked her new job by any means. It was actually quite pleasant. In fact, it was a lot better than sulking in a darkened apartment like she had for the first few months of her residency in North Dakota. Armed with this thought, she put on her most genuine fake smile and went to risk her ass to more indecencies. With a quick glance, she knew the man had left. She felt glad for it. The haunting was too much to bear.
She was done for the day, relieved by an elderly woman named Mary. This diner was Mary's livelihood. She was retired from some other job, and needed something to occupy her time. She took as many shifts as possible and would allow no one to work overtime without taking over. For her, Quinn was thankful. At least, it meant she did not have to risk extra time out of hiding.
As she hurried home, Quinn began to yank one of her braids, as was her wont when she was nervous nowadays. She walked as fast as possible without making it look like she was trying to escape something, and bit her lip when she turned the corner into her apartment complex. She had no car. Buying an apartment was bad enough. She could be tracked that way, alias or no. She had no bank account. All her earnings were paid out to her in cash. She owned nothing she needed a social security number for. The diner she worked at didn't think twice when she said she didn't have one; that's how seedy it was.
She was just fishing her apartment key out of her purse when the door opened next to hers. She stole a quick, wary glance at the person who exited it, inhaled sharply, and jammed her key into the lock.
"Hey," the man from the diner greeted her. She winced as if attacked, and turned the key, hard, relieved at hearing the familiar click. "How are you?" She heard the question, but didn't risk looking at him again. She just slammed inside her home and shut the door, turning the lock and latching the deadbolt in two swift motions. She did not care how she seemed to the man. His feelings weren't a main priority for her. She felt greasy and disgusting, mostly from work. She doffed her outfit, discarding it in a laundry basket to be washed, and headed determined for the shower.
The warm water felt amazing: she was too cold, lately. She often had shivers, and often felt the need for a jacket. If this were her old life she would be worried, but she wasn't sure. She hated always being careful. She couldn't be carefree, any more; not with the chance that she would be found. When she thought of Sophie...
Ah, God. The man's face, his smile, his voice, swam in her vision, and she shook her head to rid herself of the image. All that did was make her dizzy. She could still see him, and then his face morphed into a new one. Him. It wasn't fair that she should miss him so much. He tortured her, and he was going to kill her, but God if she didn't still love him even a little. After all, she had carried his child. He had avenged her rape. He truly loved her, but he was dangerous, and as long as she stayed hidden he could not hurt her.
"Oh!" She slammed a fist against the wall. "Xavier! What the hell are you doing to me?" She pummeled the same wall until her hands ached with the strain and she had to kneel and hold her hands tightly to her chest. Her sobs were loud, and once they began she could not make them stop. She held her hands under the shower to ease the new bruising on her knuckles, and tried to keep her eyes open as her tears made them shut. She turned off the water, not even finished with her shower, and with blundering falls and blurry vision she managed to find a pair of sweat pants and a baggy shirt to cover herself with. She lay on her bed and hugged her pillow, staring at her drab wallpaper. Her sobs were not loud any more, but silently racked her frame. She bit her pillow to stop her crying, and slowed her breathing so it went down from hyperventilation. Finally, she was able to wipe the tears from her eyes and control herself.
She thought about that man, who reminded her so much of her tormentor. He had raven hair and a smile so much like Xavier's that he reminded her of him. She worked so hard and for so long to banish Xavier from her memory she had forgotten how fragile the banishment was. She sat up in bed and stared at the floor, scattered with so many crumpled up balls of printer paper. She sighed as she stared at them, wishing one would at least be finished. She tried, in all her misery, to write to Xavier. She wanted him to know she was okay. She assumed if she gave it to a truck driver to take to another city and mail it, Xavier would not be able to track her to this hellhole of a place. She was not afraid of him tracking her down. She was simply unsure of how her letter should sound.
She started it many times over with, "I miss you," but that seemed like too much of an invitation. She started it a few times with, "I forgive you," but that was just too awful and arrogant. Once, she even began the damn thing with, "I love you," but she immediately burned that one with a lighter. There was nothing she could say in that letter that would probably not enrage him in some way or other. She could not have that. She wanted him to feel better; not more hurt.
"But why do I want him to feel better?!" Quinn screamed at the top of her lungs at the ceiling. She did not owe him ANYTHING! She was using the alias of Julia Chapin because she did not want to be found. She had dyed her hair blond and kept it short. She did not care for contacts or she would have changed the colour of her eyes. She wore heavy make up when she left her apartment and spoke in a pitch higher than her normal speaking voice. She could not run the risk of being recognized!
She walked into the bathroom to get a tissue to wipe the rest of her make up off her face, and when she was finished she studied herself in the mirror. She looked nothing like her old self except for her green eyes, and she gritted her teeth at the site of her slightly puffy, slightly red cheeks. She yelled at the top of her lungs. She needed to punch something again; her own reflection would do. She balled her hand into a fist, and punched the mirror. "I HATE YOU!" She screamed and cursed and yelled that phrase at herself over and over until she finally broke the mirror, and the shock of it sent her flying onto the floor, catching herself with her glass-covered hand. She gasped as the shards were pushed deeper into her flesh, and she simply began crying anew as she stood to find her tweezers. She could not risk a visit to a doctor's office. She could be identified, that way. Slowly and carefully, sitting on top of the toilet seat lid, she plucked small shards out of her hand. Some were embedded so deeply she bled more after she extracted them, and when she was satisfied with her handiwork she ran the hand under the faucet to clean it off. It would need a bandage, but she would still be able to work the next day.
She bandaged it with gauze and medical tape and fell asleep murmuring how much she hated herself and absently caressing her belly where the baby used to be. She had no more hatred in her heart for Xavier. He had done his best in the end. He slipped up, and she overreacted, and then he overreacted, and so on. She could not blame him any more. She had no excuse to do so. All she had to do was let him live. She had fallen in love with him, after all. He was probably at peace without her...
Xavier pounded on the trapdoor. "Toulouse! I KNOW you are in there! Open this door before I open it for you!" He ran a trembling hand through his mussed and dirty hair. Quinn left, had been gone for months, and after he spent months searching for her he came to the only two people who might know where she had gone. He never asked before then because his pride had the better of him. He had not bathed since she left, had not groomed himself, had not even donned new clothing! He hunted with more ferocity and killed twice as many as he drank from. Such was the desperation within him.
The trapdoor was shoved open and Xavier waved through the entrance. He jumped down, not as graceful as he had been before, and stumbled at the landing. Toulouse, keeping his own counsel, said nothing as his old friend stood and stared at him without even dusting off. They stared at each other a long time.
Finally, Xavier broke the heavy silence. "Where is she, Toulouse?" He asked it softly. He was not angry any more, as he was at first. Toulouse could see it: Xavier was frightened, lonely, and was being slowly killed by his own sorrow.
It would be foolish to feign ignorance over who 'she' might have been, so instead Toulouse whispered, "I don't know, Xavier." Sophie had been working for the past months trying to teach Toulouse to speak properly, but he still had to weigh each word carefully before he spoke it. Sometimes he slipped, but he would do whatever it took.
"You HAVE to know!" Xavier turned around and punched the dirt wall behind him, making the underground lair shake. Toulouse hastily forced Xavier to turn around, and saw the blood tears on his cheeks. He was quick to cry these days. Toulouse felt sorry for him, almost sorry enough to tell him, but he could not break his love's trust. He had worked too hard and for too long to gain that.
"But I don't," he whispered gruffly, and led Xavier into his kitchen, where Sophie was heating tea for the three of them. Xavier stared at her dimly as she turned around and shakily smiled.
"Oh, hello, Xavier," she said softly as she focused on pouring the tea into cups, and sat down across from the vampire, Toulouse politely standing behind her.
"Do YOU know where my love has gone?" Xavier held his face in his hands. He wasn't even looking at her, or he would have seen her glance up at Toulouse. He did not even think to read her mind, or he would have known exactly what she had done. She was thankful for that. She did not want to be hurt, for quite a few reasons.
"No, I do not," Sophie whispered, and took a sip of tea. Xavier shuddered and looked up at her, and she gasped at what she saw. He had no whites left to his eyes! They were completely red, and the colour of his irises was a murky greenish brown. She looked up at Toulouse, who was staring at Xavier without surprise. What is going on? She thought this to him, and he stared at her for a few seconds.
Finally, he explained, "Xavier is suffering grief. He has cried, so he has bled through his eyes. He has despaired, so his eyes have turned dull and lifeless." He did not have to say what she was thinking. It was her fault Xavier was this way. She had to protect Quinn! Who knows what would happen if she told this beast what she knew?! She was torn. He was Toulouse's friend, and Toulouse would not tell him because she told him to not do so. Xavier truly loved Quinn, and she could see in all her fright back then that Quinn had felt the same. She was afraid for her life, but she still loved the vampire. Sophie could never deny that.
Suddenly, she made up her mind. "Xavier," she said softly, and Toulouse put his hand hard on her shoulder, warning her. He knew what she was going to do, and she liked it no better than he did, but she had to proceed. "What would you do if you knew where Quinn was?"
Xavier laughed at her, and she was so startled she clasped her swollen belly out of habit. He gulped a few times, a crazed look in his eyes, and said, "I would go find her, and I would bring her here, and I would get her pregnant and throw her into the dungeon. I would punish her for the pain she has caused. I would...I would..." Xavier banged his head upon the table a few times, topping the two tea cups that were on it, and looked back up again, The crazed look was gone. He simply looked hopeful at her words. "I swear," his voiced cracked, "I would become her friend. I would show her I love her and woo her and court her and all those things a gentleman should do. Is that right? Is that what I should do?" He asked that last as if he were being graded for his response. He was as a wounded beast in the wild, and all she could do was stare at him in pity.
She grabbed Toulouse's hand on her shoulder for support, and gulped as she admitted, "I know where she is."
Xavier reached across the table and grabbed both her hands with pleading eyes, "Where is she?" He was still crying a little, and she cringed as his nails bit into her skin.
"I'll only tell you if you promise to become her friend and court her and woo her and not kidnap her again," Sophie gasped.
Xavier placed a hand over his heart, a weak smile on his face, filled with all the hope of a child, "You have my word, on my honour as a gentleman."
"Okay," she breathed in, gathering all her strength as she betrayed her friend, and told him where Quinn was. She forgot that he did not consider himself a gentleman.
Xavier set out without a word, this time very determined. He set out to North America, yet again, to find the woman he loved with all his heart.
She was screaming into the broken glass that was her mirror in minor fits of rage again. Today, a big man had pulled her onto his lap, licked her ear, and asked for a lap dance. Emma saved her that time. This seemed to be the theme, and she could not break it. At least she did not punch her broken reflection this time, to her credit. She screamed so loudly she did not hear the door open and shut, or the lock click and the deadbolt slide home. All she heard were her screams and the pounding in her ears of utter self-loathing, and when she was finally finished she slipped out of her bathroom cradling her hand, still throbbing from the night before, and she lay on her bed to snuggle under her covers, their warmth the only comfort she had.
She never saw the man in the corner, watching her with relief and desire as she lay back down to sleep, never heard him creep toward the bed as she murmured the one thing she wished she would not feel, the one thing she said every night...
"I love you, Xavier."