Ava and Kaylie sat in the cafe talking and nursing mugs of hot coffee,
"I'm glad you're feeling better, Ava. I was really worried for a while there." Kaylie said, blowing on her coffee to cool it down.
Ava yelped, "Ow!"
"I burnt my tongue!" She said, prodding it gingerly.
"Gah, I hate it when that happens!" Kaylie sympathised. "So are you going to tell me what was going on with you?"
Ava shrugged and licked some milk froth off her finger. "I'm fine now."
"But you weren't then. You were twitching at your own shadow. You barely left your room for three days."
"Just forget it!"
"Oh my god!" Kaylie burst out, looking over Ava's shoulder, her eyes wide.
"Oh my god what?"
"I think that gorgeous Irish guy is stalking you! He's sitting over there staring!" Ava paled and turned slowly to look. Her eye's met Henry's and he gave a quick grin and twitched his fingers in greeting.
Ava whipped back around, "We are leaving. Now." She said and stood, grabbing Kaylie's arm.
Still staring at Henry Kaylie shook her head, "Nuh-uh. We are not. This guy has the serious hots for you - you're speaking to him whether you want to or not."
"What? No, I'm not!"
"Yeah you are - he's coming over here right now. Omigod, if he was jonesing for me… Ooh!" She paused as he made slow progress through the mess of tables, chairs, people and an inordinate amount of prams and toddlers, "You know? I really have to pee." Kaylie bolted to the toilets, turning only briefly to wink at Ava who was sitting, highly irritated and quite fearful, clutching her coffee mug which was slowly burning her palms.
"You're friend doesn't listen to you much." Henry commented, taking Kaylie's seat casually.
"What do you want from me?" Asked Ava, too annoyed at being constantly reminded of the most horrifying night of her life to be continually afraid. Her feelings didn't even make sense to herself anymore.
"The pleasure of your company?" Henry hazarded, pleased to just be talking to her and breathing in her scent when it wasn't mixed with alcohol or terror. Annoyance was a novelty.
"I don't like people who try to suck my blood." She said, remarkably calmly.
"Yes, well, technically I drink - not suck."
"Because that makes such a difference!"
"Look, I'm sorry, I promise I won't put my fangs anywhere near your neck again!" Henry said.
Ava rolled her eyes, "Great! Fantastic, can you include your body and five mile radius in that sentence as well? Then it would be perfect."
"Ridiculous." Spluttered Henry in mockery.
"No, remarkably sane for a human when confronted by a monster." Henry flinched at that but Ava didn't notice - she just grabbed her bag and stalked out of the cafe.
He jogged after her, "Come on. Just hear me out."
"What can you possibly say to me that would make me want to be near you?" Henry clutched desperately at straws, breathing in deeply he made sure he stood downwind of her,
"I like the way you smell." He blurted. Ava blinked and backed away. "No, that came out wrong -"
"It sure did." Ava snapped with a baleful glare.
Henry blinked, "When did you get so... not afraid?"
"I - I don't know." Ava said slowly, "Why are you so interested in me?"
"Because - because I find you intriguing."
"So I'm like some mystery you want to figure out?" She hitched her bag higher on her shoulder.
"Well, yes, and no." He ran a long fingered, pale hand through his choppy dark hair. "It's hard to explain - I've lived for a long time, right? Sometimes new things happen - you, Saxon - and I've learned to just go with it."
"So I'm a phase?" Grey eyes narrowed and a small chin jutted out.
"No, you're bloody difficult." He growled. "I'm making an effort here - trying to make friends. Friends, ever heard of them?"
"I have friends," She said stiffly, "Mostly they are my age though."
Henry grinned, "That is a low blow. You're going to hold my age against me? That is not cricket!"
Ava snorted, forgetting for the moment that she was a quiet, timid girl, "Not cricket? Where did you learn your English? The sixties?"
"Actually, Regency England. Those were good times..." He reflected nostalgically.
"Jesus." She fumbled in her bag for her phone which was ringing loudly. "Kaylie? Yeah, sorry, I'm just outside... No, you don't!... Kaylie -please don't..." Ava sighed, "Fine, I'll see you at home."
"She seems to approve of our friendship."
"We're not friends." She returned with a raised eyebrow.
"Fine, our acquaintance... er... ship."
"She wouldn't if she knew what you did to me. She'd come out here and kick your ass."
"Can we let that go, please?" Henry asked in irritation. Kaylie exited the cafe at that moment with a super wide grin on her face. She winked at Ava and scooted off across the road to the supermarket.
Ava sighed, "Yeah okay. I'll forget it. Just don't make any sudden movements around me or I'll be forced to reconsider."
Henry watched her with a newfound respect and intense curiosity. She had called him a monster and was still tense but the paralyzing terror was gone from her wide grey eyes. Staring a little more than necessary Henry noticed how her skin lit up when she blushed.
He grinned and reached out brushing his fingers lightly across her fringe - "You always wear your hair the same."
She shrugged and looked down so her fringe hung across her eyes, hiding them from him, "It's easy." She looked away from him, "So... um, what's with you and Saxon?"
"I thought you didn't know him?"
"I don't, but one of my flat-mates goes to uni with one of Saxon's close friends. It's not such a big city. Everyone knows someone who knows you." She shrugged, "I asked George about him - he says Saxon barely talks to anyone except his two friends and that he's really violent."
Henry started - "Saxon? My Saxon, violent?"
"Your Saxon? Are you gay?"
"No, but it's complicated - we're kind of like... brothers."
"He's a vampire?" She gasped, "I never would have guessed!"
"He isn't a vampire."
"Oh." She chewed her lip nervously.
Henry grinned, "I'll tell you about it someday." She returned his smile faintly - without five hundred years or so of control behind him Henry would have gaped, as it was he just forgot to breathe a little, which was okay because he didn't need oxygen. It was just a pleasant luxury. "As it is, I've got to run, I will see you around little Avani." He turned with another smile and walked away, chuckling lightly when he heard her mutter,
"I'm not that little."
Henry felt entirely refreshed after that little conversation. Truth was he'd been at her house all night and had followed the two girls in to the cafe. It was creepy and stalker-ish but he liked to see her and now that he could speak to her as well - all the better for him. He could almost ignore the bloodlust which increased tenfold around her. Speaking of bloodlust, he needed to find Saxon.
There were perks to being a vampire, of course, like being able to move with almost supersonic speed and having strength far greater than that of any human man. His mind also moved with great dexterity, though not with the same ruthless intelligence the Original Two were rumoured to have possessed. The knowledge of centuries was with him no matter how hard he tried to forget it. It was easy enough to file it away at the back of his mind. Easy enough to not think about it but it was always there, always lurking ready to jump into the front of his mind at the slightest sense of familiarity.
Henry sighed and trotted across the road, ignoring the angry driver of the car he'd just walked right in front of. If anyone had been looking closely they would have seen that Henry was walking just a little faster than was natural and that his eyes were glowing a vibrant liquid gold, as they were apt to do while thinking of Avani and the sweet flow of blood pumping through her veins. Henry scowled and continued striding down the street, ignoring the people skirting around him giving him fearful looks. Being this way - wanting a woman for her blood made him furious. He remembered when he was human - a young boy lusting after the sweet village girls for their curves and smiles. Just for once he wanted to want a woman for her body first, not her blood. Avani's body and understated, lively rather than beautiful, looks floored him, but her blood! Now that was something else. Henry, not watching where he was going and entirely occupied with thoughts of Avani, almost had a heart attack when a man stepped out of a shop in front of him.
"Lee?" His voice, even to his own ears, sounded like a cross between furious and shock bordering on hysteria. The man; golden haired, tall and slender, was the spitting image of Lee and for a moment, in Henry's mind, he was. The lanky, lean frame and long, loping stride. The slight hunch of his shoulders and the muscle definition through the shirt.
"Lee? How did you get here?" Henry reached out and grabbed him, "I thought you were dead. I saw them kill you!" Pulling him around Henry's voice petered out. It was not Lee's eyes staring back at him.
"Mate, what's your problem?" The man asked, angrily yanking his arm from a dazed Henry's grip.
Henry staggered back a few steps, staring at the man in confusion. Every emotion that he'd been suppressing over Lee's untimely death whirled to the surface. The guilt was overwhelming. Henry's pale, shocked face crumpled with the effort of holding it back and he hunched over and crouched on the pavement, burying his face in his hands. Centuries of losing everything again and again came like an onslaught. The man took a few steps forward, "Mate, are you okay?" He sounded wary and worried but also anxious to get away. Henry groaned as Lee's life and many others who he'd cared about pounded against his skull. He needed a distraction - anything! There was a thud on the pavement in front of him, but he didn't bother looking up, instead pressing the heels of his hands harder into his eye sockets.
"Holy fucking shit!" A familiar, very agitated voice rang out, "Dude you have got to stop doing this! At least call me when you're about to do something weird - that way I'm prepared." Henry gaped as Saxon hauled himself to his feet, brushing off what appeared to be a bowl of cereal, appearing like a giant next to the slender Lee-lookalike. "Well, crap. Look what you did -" He poked a finger through a tear in his t-shirt. "This was brand new and now it's holey and covered in Cornflakes!"
Henry choked a little, standing up, feeling a little disconnected from his body - "Don't stress, I'll buy you another - what the hell are you doing here?" The sentence tumbled from his mouth and through the confusion he felt like a human again. Over the past weeks he'd experience more vivid emotions than he had in the last four hundred years. It was tearing down his defenses.
On top of all that there was Bryda hunting him like a dog. She was relentless and just last night he'd seen two of her minions patrolling the suburbs. He'd led them on a merry dance before dispatching them silently and efficiently. She shouldn't really use fledglings for that sort of thing - they were far to weak to put up any sort of fight. The most disturbing thing about the whole event was the small, blurred picture he found of Dana in a wide, red landscape. She was running and looking back over her shoulder, a smile on her mouth and a laugh in her eyes.
"Oh my god. What the... where the hell did you come from? You just - poof! - from nowhere!" The blonde man asked, his voice squeaking at the end slightly.
Saxon gave him a withering look, "Please, people don't just appear from nowhere. Go get your eyes checked." Saxon turned to Henry, "You are in bad shape," and, for the benefit of the shellshocked man, he added, "You have got to stop drinking. Honestly, Henry it's ten o'clock on a Tuesday, don't you think it's a little early in the day for this kind of thing?" Henry nodded vaguely in agreement and trailed after Saxon as he headed to the next bus-stop.
Saxon glanced over his shoulder and grinned, "You, my friend, look like you've just been run over by a semi. What the hell happened?"
"I um..." Henry was recovering from his shock quickly, "Just saw some who reminded me of a good man I once knew. Never mind that though - I wasn't feeding."
Saxon stumbled, "You weren't -"
"No." Henry grabbed Saxon and turned him around, "You teleported when I wasn't feeding. That means you can do it anytime! What did it feel like?"
"It felt like... every other time. Like I was climbing through a doorway that only exists in my head." Saxon shrugged, "I can't explain it better than that."
"Can you feel it now? This doorway?" Henry demanded eagerly.
"No, okay? I can't feel it and I wish I never had." Saxon jerked away and stalked off, more angry at himself that he was so incapable of accessing things that were locked inside of his own head.
Eventually Saxon got home to find his mum grinning at him like the Cheshire Cat. "Whoa mum, what's up?"
Donna's grin widened, "Honey, I have a surprise for you!"
Saxon narrowed his eyes and took a wary step back, "Er... wow. I love surprises." His voice dripped with anxious sarcasm, his mother's surprises were always something to get worried about. The last thing she'd sprung on him had ended with him passed out on the bathroom floor after her she'd made him hang out with her friend's cousin's nephews who then had insisted he participate in a vigorous drinking game. Normally he could hold his drink but all that tequila would tranquilize an elephant!
"I know you'll like it! Now go and put on some nice clothes - you're going out for dinner!"
He sighed in resignation; once she had that look in her eye there was no stopping her. "Oh goodie."
Saxon entered the living room clean and dressed as nicely as someone who doesn't care about fashion dresses.
"Who's the girl? If it's mental Abigail's daughter I am not going. I refuse - that girl is a nutter!"
"It's not Kerry, I thought she was a little troubled too."
"Troubled? She thought you were a part of a government food conspiracy and planning to brainwash her with your pumpkin risotto. She cooked her own meal with aself supplied camp kitchen - she ate a decapitated, barbequed mouse! At our table!" Saxon ended with a degree of horror in his voice. Donna nodded in agreement,
"Yes, well, it's not her. You haven't actually met this girl - she's my friend Sandra's niece."
"A blind date? Oh come on mum, I've kind of got enough going on without you sending me out on blind dates with girls I'll probably not like!" Saxon whined, sounding suspiciously like he'd regressed fifteen years.
"Honey, you don't have a job. You don't have a girlfriend and you only have two friends as far as I can tell. What is it you do all day?" She sounded frustrated.
"Whoa, mum enough with the accusations. I spend my days very productively -" chasing vampires, "doing all sorts of things like job hunting and-" stalking vampires, "keeping fit and -" teleporting, "socialising, you know, things along that vein."
Donna narrowed her eyes in suspicion, "Well, she's a lovely girl and she's meeting you at the restaurant in half an hour so you better go." Donna started shoving him out the door.
"Wait - what restaurant am I going to?"
"Phi Yen in Northbridge. You like Vietnamese don't you?"
"Of course. Who doesn't?" Saxon thought maybe it wouldn't be so bad after all. Phi Yen made food fit for emperors. He looked down at his stomach in consideration - yeah, he could put up with a couple of hours of awkward conversation for the sake of his innards.
Saxon reached the table and gave the woman an awkward, one armed hug and a kiss on the cheek. She was very pretty with pale blonde hair and blue eyes, though she looked very nervous. Her fingers were twisting in the sash of her blue dress uneasily - Saxon thought she looked exactly like he would had he been first here, except perhaps a little shorter and plumper.
"Hi, I'm Saxon. I think my mum set us up." He laughed uneasily.
The girl smiled and joined in, "I'm Maddi and I don't think my mum is entirely innocent!" She had to yell it so he could here;
"God, this place is loud!" He said, silently thanking his mum who had to have known that at least it would take a little bit of pressure off. At least this way if there were awkward silences between them they would be filled by the raucous people sitting around.
Then Maddi asked the killer question a half hour later once they'd exhausted music and movies, "So what is it you do?"
Saxon fell silent and then he looked down at his meal, "I don't do anything at the moment."
"Oh." He could hear the suspicion in her voice - no one liked a freeloader - "What did you used to do?"
"I used to be an electrician's apprentice, but then I got fired." Her smile cooled another degree. "I'm job hunting at the moment, though." There was a pause in conversation which Saxon took as damaging to his chances with this girl who was actually kind of cool - he'd have to tell his mum kudos when he got home. "What is it you do, then?" He asked desperately.
"I'm a high school science teacher." She nodded and smiled briefly, "Yeah, I only started teaching a month ago. I haven't quite finished my degree but they're so desperate for teachers that they are letting me finish while teaching!"
"You're enjoying it, huh?"
"Oh yes. It's very rewarding," Maddi enthused, "It's what I've always wanted to do. Teenagers are a horrible species but if you know how to handle them, they can be a lot of fun." Saxon nodded and smiled, inviting her to continue even though he couldn't think of anything worse than teaching a bunch of insolent brats if they were anything like he used to be at school (big, bad-tempered and really not wanting to be there).
"Well, free food works well and field trips. I take them on a lot of those. It's easy at this time of year because we're doing biology." Her tone was excited and her eyes were alight but just wasn't what Saxon wanted to hear. He was a little jealous, he guessed, that someone had a normal life while his had currently gone mental but he thought, mostly, it was because school was a crap time for him while he was there - reliving it through a teacher's eyes was not going to improve things.
"Uh-huh." Saxon mumbled as despite his best efforts to stay interested in the twenty-seconds she'd been talking, he was already bored. He expected his eyes were glazing over, in a minute he'd be drooling. It wasn't intentional - everything in the last couple of months had been so exciting for him. For him, there was no real thrilling edge to an eighth grade biology teacher, no matter how he swung it.
Eventually the night ended and Saxon was able to detach himself from the pretty, but completely opposite, Maddi. He walked her to her car and brushed another kiss across her cheek,
"I had a really nice time." He said and it wasn't entirely a lie, the food had been nice and the conversation hadn't been so utterly boring that he wanted to go shove his head in a sand hill.
Maddi smiled prettily, blushing at Saxon's warm hand on her waist, "Yes, me too. I, um, we should do this again sometime."
Saxon flashed a wary smile, "Sure, why not..." Maddi didn't realise until he'd disappeared back into the night that he hadn't left his phone number or even asked for hers. With a disappointed sigh and a forlorn look at the spot where he'd vanished she got into her car and drove off.
Saxon walked. The cool air whirled around him as he cut through the night. Hands shoved in jacket pockets and his head hunched against the biting wind his long strides took him further and further from the life his mother wanted for him. There was something terrifying about the path chosen for him but at the same time it was what he'd always been looking for. The wild excitement, the thrill of the unknown, the acute danger of life with Henry and his coven of bloodthirsty, ancient vampires was more than Saxon had ever, ever imagined. Everything he'd expected from life had been turned on its head. The pain of his episodes was a distant memory, while the adrenaline rush of teleporting hummed in the back of his mind.
The vague, distant recognition of vampires roaming his city was always echoing in his mind. Even now around him he could feel several. They felt like little blips on his mind map of the city. None were particularly close - though there were several gathered in what he knew to be the heart of Perth. They echoed with the malevolence that all Nightwalkers did in Saxon's mind. The glow they emitted was nothing like the pale gold of Daywalkers, especially not like Henry's vivid, pulsing gold aura which was never hard to locate. Even now Saxon could sense Henry on the other side of the city in his home. Surrounding him were the glows of other Daywalkers; none so bright as Henry's but all with a softer, friendly glow than the Nightwalkers' venomous emanations.