Beyond the Sunset

Chapter One

The last chapter you read was really more of a prologue. This is officially Chapter One, where the other main character is introduced, and more of the story is shown...

As always, reviews, feedback, and concrit are welcome!

o0o0o

Aidan was wary as he walked through the corridors of the hospital, moving silently and efficiently amongst the visitors and nurses almost like a ghost. Despite the time that his watch displayed, Aidan wore a pair of sunglasses, for the harsh fluorescent lighting was hard enough to deal with without life and death filling his other senses.

From two floors above, life pulsed outwards in warm, soothing waves from the maternity ward, where he could also feel happiness, relief, exhaustion, joy, and a certain amount of worry and even fear. Amidst the steady pulse of new life he sensed death at its fringes – a prematurely-born child struggling for its life. At the other side of the hospital, death had a much firmer grip in the intensive care unit, though even here it might still be thwarted due to the tenacity of the patients, the ever-knowing life-support and other life-maintaining apparatus, and the expertise of the doctors. Over there was a much stronger concentration of worry and fear, and in his mind's eye Aidan saw a woman next to a bed with a man hooked up to several machines, and in her hands the beads of a rosary continually passed through her twisting fingers.

Quickly clearing the image from his head, he strode through the hallways until he approached a door with the number that the receptionist had given him. He did not notice this number for the fact that his senses told him that his mentor was in the very room beyond. Without so much a knock, he opened the door and slid into the room.

---

Doctor Yvette Demske glanced at the older man in his bed as she made a couple of notations on the clipboard – taking care to not sound too favorable or optimistic. It was hard to believe that this man had been on the brink of death nearly a week ago, having been brought into the emergency room as the victim of a vicious group beating. Due to his age and the severity of his wounds, the ER staff hadn't thought he would make it, but to their shock, he had pulled through and was lucid by morning. The policemen who had come to investigate the report that the ER staff had sent them hadn't been expecting him to be awake at that time, but he had been, and had answered their questions to the best of his capabilities while Yvette stood by in case he relapsed despite the fact that her shift had ended a couple of hours ago. Only after they left had he graciously allowed her to administer some painkillers so he could rest.

Though he wasn't her patient officially, she had taken over his care, and no one had challenged her. And it was a good thing, because any other doctor would have questioned the pace at which Gabriel healed. He hadn't even been here a week, and anyone else would have required a couple more weeks of bedrest. Yet here Gabriel was, laying in his bed, his hands folded across his chest, his arms freed of IV tubes – something that he had been asking for for the last few days. Her had only restrained himself from removing them due to the fact that he was as aware of the situation as she was. Neither of them talked about it, and it was almost as if they were co-conspirators, hiding his seemingly-miraculous healing from the nurses and police officers.

All that remained on his body were lingering bruises and a few cuts. There were no signs of brain or internal damage whatsoever. This man could go home tomorrow if he wanted to. Hell, it was clear from Gabriel's behavior that he would waste no time in going home. He had been a good patient – and a shameless flirt as the nurses were willing to admit. But he was charming, and didn't exude the 'dirty old man' aura that some men inevitably had. But he was clearly bored, and TV and magazines were nowhere near sufficient for a man who had shown himself to be very intelligent.

"Well, Mr. Solis. You're coming along nicely. I have no doubt that you're eager to go home. And I have you cleared to be released tomorrow morning, though I have the feeling that you'd leave without my permission anyway." Yvette replied, her tone slightly dry.

"That's not something I will deny, though I'm happy I don't have to disobey the orders of a lovely doctor." His light brown eyes twinkled, and his smile was warm and friendly. Unbidden, a blush threatened to work its way onto Yvette's cheeks, and she shook her head.

"You do know how to make a lady feel good. But I'm just a doctor." Yvette replied, her tone now firmer and much more professional – the tone she always took with her patients. Just then, her other senses picked up the presence of another person fast approaching. But this person had a subtle difference in his or her aura – a potent difference that sent a shiver up her back. As she looked up, the door opened and she found herself staring at a man who appeared to be in his twenties, tall with a angular jaw. She would have seen more of his face, but shaggy, dark brown hair and a pair of sunglasses – wait, sunglasses? - obscured the upper half of his face.

Aidan fixed his eyes on the man he came to visit for one moment before his eyes swiveled to the other person in the room. Just after being a second in her presence, he noted something a bit... familiar yet different about the gray-eyed woman who was at that moment extending her hand, a small but warm smile on her face. Attributing that to the sickly sweet scent of death around them and far more concerned with his mentor's well-being, he quickly broke the spell between them.

"Good evening. How's he doing?" Aidan asked even as he extended his hand, noting that she had a rather firm grip for a hand that seemed rather slender and delicate in his own.

"Yes, he will be." the doctor responded with genuine enthusiasm in her voice. "All he needs is bedrest for a few more days, and to take it easy for a while. He's in excellent shape, I am happy to say. You must be his nephew." she stated with a warm smile. "I'm Yvette Demske, and I have been your uncle's primary physician since he was admitted here. It's nice to meet you." she said, holding back the shiver she felt under his gaze.

"It's...nice to meet you too." Aidan was grateful that his mentor – the man who had been like uncle and father to him for a long time – was alright, though part of him wasn't entirely surprised by the diagnosis. The old man was in phenomenal physical shape, training in the martial arts and having a disciplined mind and body – his relaxed attitude and hedonism aside – giving him a body men even one-third of his age would envy. This was augmented by the fact that he had received a small 'gift' from Aidan several years ago – a small amount of potent vampiric blood that would boost his physical defenses and strength permanently while leaving him entirely human.

"Well, your uncle will be ready to leave in the morning, so you are more than welcome to come back and take him home with you. I have no doubt he misses the comforts of home." the doctor said, her voice filled with genuine empathy and understanding. "Mr. Solis tells me what a wonderful nephew you are and how proud he is of you!"

"He...has?" The hazel-eyed vampire turned to look at his elder, who was currently asleep. Or rather, feigning it – his heartbeat was too active for someone in genuine slumber. Had he looked at the older man, he would have seen the smallest of smirks on his lips. Dr. Demske nodded.

"He tells me what a intelligent and hardworking young man you are, and how you bring such joy to his life. He says he will be glad to go home, knowing that he has a loving family waiting for him." Her eyes were entrancing, and he found himself thinking he would lose himself in them.

If only it were that easy...

"Well..." Aidan lost his composure for a moment, unused to hearing such praise, "I am honored my uncle thinks so highly of me."

Yvette flashed him another smile. "Well, my duty here is finished. I will be back tomorrow to give him a final check-up before he leaves. You're welcome to stay here if you want, though visiting hours are almost over." she said softly as she set the clipboard at the foot of the bed. She gave both men a bod after wishing them good night, and left the room, the door closing behind her.

---

"Thank you." Aidan managed to say before she turned away, her scent lingering long after the door had closed. The seductive allure of her blood seemed to be overpowered by some other scent, an aroma that was beyond addictive. It was so overpowering that for a moment, Aidan was dizzied from it. He paused before turning back to his mentor.

"I didn't expect you to be such a chatterbox." he stated dryly as his eyes swept along the room and Gabriel's reclined form.

"I could say the same about you, Aidan." Gabriel's lips barely moved, but Aidan's keen hearing could detect every word as clearly as if he'd been yelling aloud.

"Me? I barely spoke."

"It wasn't what you said. It's what your body said." The old man chuckled knowingly, though softly so as to not give away his true health.

"She's just a doctor." Aidan murmured, shoving his hands in his pockets, entirely unwilling to share his reaction to Yvette's presence. "Why would you tell her about me?" the younger man asked sharply.

"Would you rather I just sit here for hours and be bored? She's a nice girl, Aidan."

Girl? The Doctor had to be in her thirties if a day. But then, almost any woman could be a 'girl' to his mentor. Aidan shook his head. Gabriel was so comfortable and easygoing around women, while maintaining his loyalty to his longtime companion. It was an enviable and admirable trait.

"But me? Why talk about me? Why not tell her one of your long, winding stories about the good old days?"

"Long? Winding?" The man in the bed feigned offense, placing his hand over his heart, "How could you say such mean things after how I spoke so highly of you to Yvette?"

"Oh, now you're on a first-name basis with her?" the younger man shot back.

"She's a delightful woman to know. And so professional and efficient! The medical world is blessed by her presence..."

"Cut the dramatics. Apparently the doctor was right and you're recovering just nicely." Aidan shook his head. "Please, don't speak of me like that to women." He looked away as he said this, shoving his hands in his pockets.

"Aidan, I could never lie to you. I saw the way you looked at one another. There was a spark, and she would like to know a little more about you. But she's shy, and she would consider it unprofessional. But if you were to make the first move..."

Aidan scoffed angrily. What woman in their right mind would want a cursed creature like him?

"I'll get you a snack." he offered. If there was one thing that Gabriel Solis enjoyed, it was sweets. He took excellent care of himself, but he certainly couldn't be blamed for having a craving for something sweet every once in a while. There had been a vending machine in the lobby, and the effort of going down a few floors and back up was negligible, especially when it meant he could escape his mentor's knowing glance. Before Gabriel could say anything else, the young man was gone. He shook his head, smirking to himself.

Aidan drummed his fingers impatiently against the glass as the aged vending machine slowly pushed his selection forward. He was aware of the glances sent his way. He was not a mind-reader per se, but one of the aspects of his Gift was to sense emotions, whether someone was lying or telling the truth, and the general vein of the thoughts of those around him. He kept his face averted, but he couldn't disguise his broad shoulders, strong, lean physique, or...

Someone was staring at his ass. Impatiently, he slung his jacket back on, feeling disappointment from his observer before the candy finally fell into the receiving tray. Reaching through the slot, he took the chocolate bar and turned around, giving the lobby a quick survey. The receptionist had been changed since he had gone upstairs, and he studied the slightly plump and pleasantly matronly woman shuffling through some paperwork. As if she sensed his gaze, she looked up. He lifted his sunglasses, and saw the wince on her face when his scar came into full view.

I might have a nice ass, but my face is repulsive, isn't it? he thought as he stared at her almost challengingly. Her face turned from surprise to compassion. At least that was better than having her turn away in disgust. He decided to give her no more regard, and turned towards the staircase.

Gabriel kept his eyes closed as the door opened. But he opened it as soon as he heard the soft crinkle of a wrapper being opened, and smiled as he saw the proffered treat. He hadn't given up on the matter of Aidan and the good Doctor, but right now he would enjoy this little distraction. The hospital food here seemed to be designed with solely nutritional value in mind, with no regard whatsoever for flavor, and as much as he flirted with the nurses, he had no success in getting any candy. He did get lucky a couple of days ago when one of the nurses shared her homemade oatmeal cookies which he had enjoyed immensely.

"I can't wait to get home and have some real food." he said with a small smile as he swallowed his first bite of the chocolate. Aidan glanced at the tray near the bed and its remnants of meatloaf and Jell-O.

"Stephanie misses you. She'll cook whatever you want when you come home."

"I was counting on that." The older man's tone was matter-of-fact, but it was lacking entirely in any sense of entitlement. He took another bite and lay there as Aidan sat down.

"I tracked down who did this to you." the hazel-eyed man murmured, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees. He didn't have to tell his mentor what he had done to these men. Or the grim satisfaction he had felt in destroying these men, their blood visible only by the wet shine on their black clothing. No one would ever see them again.

Gabriel merely nodded.

"You should find a different place."

"Why? I was attacked far away from home. And you know that place is safe."

"Aren't you the one telling me to always be careful?" Aidan shot back.

"Caution is one thing. Running away is another. You know who we're dealing with."

"How could I not?"

"For whatever reason, he sees us as a threat, even though neither of us have made any move against him. But if I run away, he will think we have something to hide, or that we're afraid of him."

Aidan shrugged and nodded as he sat back. Gabriel was right.

"Good, now that's done with. It'll take more than a bunch of thugs to knock me down." He sounded as if he were talking about overcoming playground bullies instead of a small group of men who had beaten him with the intention of leaving him dead. "Now, why don't we talk about something happier? Like the Doctor..."

"Ah!" Aidan let out an exasperated groan and flopped back in his chair. He knew that Gabriel wouldn't have let that matter slide so easily, but he still had hoped...

"Finish your candy." the youth waved impatiently at the sweet still in the older man's hand.

"I intend to. But you need a sweet of your own..."

"Oh, hell." Aidan pressed his palm to his forehead.

"Now, what's wrong? You think she's distasteful?"

"... Yes." His tone was entirely unconvincing.

"That was the worst acting I've ever seen!" Gabriel laughed as he finished his chocolate and rolled up the wrapper in a tight little ball, throwing it into the small wastebasket at the other side of the room with little effort. "If anyone deserves happiness, it's you. I saw the way you looked at one another. Don't be afraid." His smile was bright.

He found himself met with a deadpan stare from hazel eyes.

o0o0o

Yvette's stride was long and fast as she made her way through the parking lot under the hospital. Normally, she went at a more leisurely pace, but she was being watched. Again. It was a feeling that sent pins and needles up and down her spine, but instead of having been numbed, it only made her brilliantly aware of her surroundings despite her exhaustion. She loved her job, but at times it was extremely demanding, and she looked forward to a good, long soak in hot water. She had a morning shift tomorrow, but fortunately it was short and she would have the rest of the day to herself. She couldn't help but wonder if she'd see that cute young man again...

She almost felt dirty as she thought of him and what she'd like to do to him. It'd been far too long since she'd been in any kind of relationship, and this would practically robbing the cradle! Who says you can't have fun?

She heard a soft rustling sound that was so faint that it could have been just in her head. She whipped around, seeing nothing. She hated that feeling of being watched, being followed... Damnit. The first time she had sensed it, she had dismissed it, but after the second time...

Why would anyone be interested in her? She wasn't a spy, she carried no secrets, she didn't work under the table for anyone, and she wasn't involved in anything illegal or secret. She was a doctor and made good money, but she was by no means wealthy.

The feeling of being watched always happened when she was here at work, or out shopping or otherwise engaged outside of her home. No one had been spying on her at home... at least not yet. This watching was happening more and more frequently, and she had the unhappy feeling that the police would be of no help. They never tried to harass or make contact with her in any way. They simply watched her and then disappeared, more than likely to report to their mysterious leader, whoever he might be.

As she made her way to her car, she looked around, seeing a furtive movement around one of the thick concrete supports that dotted the garage in regular intervals. The average person wouldn't have noticed that at all, but Yvette saw the person before he could even disappear from sight. Dressed in a green that was so dark it was nearly ebony in tint even under the fluorescent lights, he seemed to vanish into the unlit areas of the parking lot She hadn't even been able to make out his face, and ran after him.

But he was nowhere to be found, and she felt somewhat foolish – but considerably more angry and bothered than silly – as she approached her car and slipped into it. Before she started her car, she took one last glance around the lot, but the pins-and-needles feeling was now gone. With a quiet sigh, she pulled out of her space.