Chapter 2: Claire & Sam

Claire's leaf-green, slitted eyes twinkled under her mirage; a Siamese cat. "What's going on? Is he some kind of Demigod?" She whispered to Sam, whose mirage was currently a garbage can. He looked extremely agitated.

He shook his head, his light, shaggy hair whipping around him. "Worse, he's a Pirie," he grimaced at the word.

Claire gasped and shuddered involuntarily. As she peered past Sam's mirage, she felt a pang of sympathy towards Gwaire, who was kneeling in a puddle of his own blood, sobbing at the stars as if he were a crazy man. "Sam," she whispered, looking at him with her big, sad eyes. She didn't know it, but Sam's heart fluttered like a moth whenever she looked at him like that. "Sam," she pleaded again, her light, feathery voice calling to him like a fresh, autumn breeze. "He's drinking his own blood. We've gotta help him."

Sam's jaw clenched in anger, but she saw the worry spark in his eyes. "He's part HUMAN," he muttered with distaste. He spat the word out like it was a black, slimy bit in his mouth. The light lines around his eyes and mouth appeared to darken.

Claire's nostrils flared. "Well, that may be, but he's still your friend. He's never done anything to deserve this!" She whispered harshly.

Oh, how she seemed to glow when she was angry. Sam wondered what he looked like when he was angry, for he knew that he was almost as angry as he'd ever been in his entire life; except for that one night.... He looked down, his reddish-brown eyes smoldering with bitterness and hurt. He had to disagree. Gwaire had never done ANYTHING? No, that wasn't true. He'd lied. Gwaire had lied.

"After all of this time, he never even bothered to tell me," he spoke softly.

"With good reason!" Claire refuted, her silver hair bouncing lightly upon her shoulders. "He knows how much you despise humans. How exactly was he supposed to break it to you?!" She finished exasperatedly. In her mind's eye, she could see brief images flitting about in Sam's soul; the scenes of his parents being tortured and killed by humans under the light of a pale full moon.

Yet despite all of her arguments, Sam's mind was set. His mouth twisted into a perverse smile and he shook his head lightly. Right then, he looked at bit like a crazy man, too.

Positively livid, Claire gave a short hiss, her fangs fully unsheathed and sparkling with the magic of her mirage. "Fine," she spat, spluttering in her rage. "If you can't get over your stupid pride to do it, then I will." With a flick of her wrist, the magical image of the cat disappeared in a swirl of sparks, and she strode brusquely out of the alleyway and into the street, her nostrils flared.

Sam watched with mixed feelings as her well-figured form shrank smaller and smaller until she vanished around the corner of the alleyway. Her words spoken not a moment ago had wounded him in a way that he had never been wounded before. She brought lush, green life to his dark, empty soul…yet she would never know. Her words proved what he'd suspected all along; that she wasn't fond of him, but merely tolerant of him. She thought he was an evil, black soul that supported the Dark Movement; she assumed that he was prejudiced against all half-breeds, and that he was too proud to care about Gwaire anymore. But none of those things were true. However stern and harsh he seemed, he simply was not the kind of person who was able to express his feelings. In truth, he still loved Gwaire like a brother and would be willing to do anything for him, but the memory of his parents had burned alive so suddenly, and he felt a loathing for the human blood inside of Gwaire with every fiber of his being. He was just shook up, that's all. Eventually, he'd make himself forget that Gwaire was part human. But the thing that disquieted him the most was the fact that she'd never, ever know…

*

As Claire approached Gwaire's crumpled body, she caught a whiff of his mouth-watering blood, and her teeth threatened to slide out of their protective casings in her mouth. As she knelt down and cautiously placed her hand on his still shoulder, she had to stop herself from sinking her fangs deep into his spongy flesh. "Gwaire?" She asked, her voice laden with sorrow and pity.

He jerked and turned to look at her. His slitted pupils dilated when he saw her, and he hurriedly tried to scramble to his feet.

"Hush," she cooed and tightly gripped his shoulder so that he could not scramble away. He stopped struggling, but she could see that his teeth were half-way out of their casings and ready for action.

"Shhhh…," she soothed as she relaxed her grip and rubbed his shoulder comfortingly. With some relief, she saw his teeth slide a little farther back into their place; Piries were ironically strong for being half human. Though he seemed a little more relaxed, his pupils remained wide. She could see her pale reflection in those two, pitch-black orbs. "I'm taking you with me to the Clan of, Con Veneno Sobre Nos Lenguas*, in the mountains," she reassured him.

He stared blankly at her.

"We'll feed you, clothe you, and teach you how to hunt. If you stay long enough, we could even share blood and call you 'brother.'"

His pupils slowly deflated and his brows furrowed together. "Con Veneno Sobre Nos Lenguas…isn't that-" he began, but Claire hurriedly cut in.

"Yes, it's also the clan that Sam aids in governing," she remarked tersely. "Now, I need you to stand up. We must hurry, before the full moon rises. We want to be ready for the blood-oath," she spoke these words feverishly as she helped Gwaire to his feet.

He had no idea what she was talking about, but he nodded fervently. When he was standing next to her, he glanced in her direction, and could hardly stop himself from gaping. There'd been something about her that he'd failed to notice. He'd observed that her hair glinted silver in the soft light of the night, but her eyes… Her irises were lined with a thin ring of metallic silver, and tiny outward spirals of gold shimmered amongst the light green of her eye.

Claire smiled at his dumb look and rubbed his hand affectionately. In that split second, while her skin was touching his, she received a slight, electric pulse, a scent drifting from his very core. She couldn't explain any of it, but it was as if a sudden outward source of energy had forced upon her the piercing gaze that allowed her to look

far beyond; into the very essence of his soul. This sort of thing had been happening to her a lot lately. Hmm, she thought, How strange… I can only sense energy in colors and aromas in him. But what she perceived of him was good, and also surprisingly … attractive. His soul had a magnetic appeal.

With this surprising information now derived, she couldn't help but take in every inch of his skin, from his shoulder-length, curly black hair, all the way down to his tattered, suede shoes. He had clear, light, olive skin that clashed rather oddly with his dark, murky, blue eyes that shone like the Milky Way in the midnight sky. In all her life, she'd never seen this kind of combination in a Latino... She liked it. She also noted with interest that the silver earring in his right ear was in the shape of a dagger piercing his flesh.

Gwaire blinked, and looked at the ground. He didn't like being examined.

Suddenly realizing that she was staring, Claire cleared her throat hastily. "Do exactly as I do," she voiced with authority. She stroked her chest with her fingers pointed in a 'V'-like symbol.

Gwaire obediently copied her, and they both vaporized in a puff of black, swirling fog that enveloped them in a fast-moving torrent of air. At first, it felt like he was being pushed down a dark shaft only big enough for a small child, but then if felt like the whirl of a black tornado was sucking him down, farther and farther. He closed his eyes to the whipping force of the wind, and heard Claire's sweet voice ringing throughout the gusts of air. "We're here," her words floated around him. And she was right. Out of the blue, the howling wind stopped, and Gwaire felt the ground slam into his feet with surprising force.

Cautiously, when he regained his balance, he cracked open an eyelid, and was met with a strange, unfamiliar world. They were in a long, candle-lit corridor that had high, stained oak pillars, a black and white swirled marble floor, and an arched ceiling with statues of angels high above them. Gwaire particularly liked the angels; they looked so graceful with their fingers poised over golden lyres in the painted sky.

"Wow," was all Gwaire could seem to say. As his low, echoing words pricked Claire's ears, her mind's eye caught a ray of his innocent, blue energy. It was such a pure feeling, that it penetrated her very existence. Nose tingling with his minty, jasmine scent, she cleared her throat and quickly turned away.

"Follow me," she whispered gruffly as she took a sudden left turn. Gwaire trailed along behind her, gazing at the mesmerizing tapestries and stain glassed windows. The windows were the most compelling, since the sunlight streamed through them like an aurora of dancing lights. At last, they came upon two, large, ebony doors. Claire took a deep breath, held up her hands to the doors, and let the power surge to her fingertips in crackling streams of blue electricity. "Abre la puerta, por fa*," she whispered in Spanish. The ground rumbled and shook, and Claire smiled with satisfaction. But suddenly, there came a horrible screeching sound like nails on a chalkboard, and the words, 'lo siento*' appeared in jagged lines on the polished stone doors. Claire's smile disappeared. "Ugh!" She snarled, followed by more than a few profane words. "We missed it!" She growled again, grasping her hair and pulling on it with great force.

Gwaire blinked confusedly at the squiggly scratch marks on the doors. "Um, what exactly did we miss?" he asked Claire, who was now beating her head savagely against the wall.

She stopped and moaned, "We're too late. We missed the time for the blood-oath."

Gwaire still wasn't sure what she meant, but he mumbled, "oh," and casually leaned up against the wall.

She sighed. "The blood-oath has to take place at the precise moment when the moon reaches its peak in the sky, don't ask me why." She waved her hand absently in the air, as if she sought to shoo away all of her troubles like a buzzing fly.

Gwaire licked his lips and braved to ask the question he'd been daring himself to ask, "What's a blood-oath?"

Claire ran her fingers nervously through her hair and looked at him from the corner of her weary eyes. He looked a little scared. She could smell the sour spurts of smoke-like fear emanating from his suddenly dark aura, like decaying leaves burning. She sighed and knew she would have to explain. "It's when a new-comer swears by his blood that he won't reveal us to anyone, not even to other vampires," she replied.

"Oh," Gwaire mumbled again. "What does that mean, then?" he asked timidly.

Claire admired his wit. She chewed on her lip a moment, then stated rather edgily, "To put it quite bluntly, it means that if you ever tell anyone our location, we have the right to kill you."

Gwaire gulped, and she immediately felt a small pang of guilt.

Instead of apologizing, however, she laughed. "It's alright, nobody's ever been killed here before," she reassured him.

He nodded, but he couldn't help but ask, "But has anyone ever revealed this location?"

Claire smiled inwardly, "No, but that's beside the point." She sighed and allowed herself to look at him. She really liked that earring he had in his right ear, and the way his eyes were so young and alive. His scent alone was so provocative that she longed to lean against him and breathe in his innocence.

Gwaire shifted uncomfortably under her stare. "So," he shattered the awkward silence. "What's your name?"

Claire's cheeks flushed blue. She'd brought him all the way here, and she hadn't even bothered to tell him her name. "Uh, it's Claire, Claire Chancely," came her embarrassed response. "And I'm Gwaire, Gwaire Nichols. But I guess you already knew that, didn't you?" he asked curiously.

"Yes, I did," Claire admitted sheepishly. "I came with Sam to meet you today…He's been talking a lot about you, you know." She glanced at him shyly, aware that her un-oxygenated blood was still present in her cheeks.

Gwaire blinked in puzzlement. "So… is Sam, like, your mate or something?" he asked. His face looked as though he had just swallowed a sour gummie worm.

Claire felt giggles bubbling up inside of her, not just because he looked ridiculous, but because the question had struck her as funny. She burst out laughing. "My MATE? Hardly! God, that would be a terrible match, wouldn't it?" She chortled. At last she stopped laughing and said, "No, he's not my mate. He's just a…a friend." She grinned, refraining herself from saying 'pompous ass.'

"Oh," Gwaire breathed quietly. He looked rather pale to her, and forlorn. His inner light had suddenly become unreadable. She wished the he wasn't so… distant. She wanted him to open up to her, she was rather curious about how he came to be...you know, messed up.

They lapsed into a thoughtful silence. Gwaire's eyes flitted about the walls, taking in the intricate murals carved into the wood, and the flickering candles set high upon grainy, stone shelves. The flames danced along the walls like a wavering sunset. The wooden wall he was leaning on felt flawlessly smooth against his cursed flesh. Seeing the way his shadow dithered in the light of the candles made his mind float aimlessly into the memory of that night; the night that had left his soul cold and barren, the night that had stolen his breath away, and his only chance at a life.

"Gwaire?" he heard Claire calling to him from far away. He jerked rather frighteningly out of his reverie.

"Hmm?" He replied.

"Are you alright?" she asked him in a worried tone; his scent had suddenly gone rancid.

The answer was no. He didn't feel alright. He felt awful, and shaky. The madness of the thirst was returning. He could feel the thirst's cold breath filling his lungs; could hear its rhythmic chant in the beating of his heart: "Blood, sweet nectar sucked from the roots of the blood vessels. Blood, the warm, sensuous flow that gives life to the heart. You want it. You need it. You MUST have it!"

"I'm fine," Gwaire barely heard himself say. The sound of his lethargic heart-beat was drowning out every sound with its requiem.

Claire didn't dare take her eyes off of him. There was something that he wasn't saying. She could only distinguish dark shapes swirling within his now visible aura. The scent that filled her nose and mouth was like a noxious gas; the smoldering of rotten eggs. I don't understand, what could've changed his mood so suddenly? She thought to herself. And then it dawned on her. The cold realization of it hit her like a shard of ice to the heart. He was too modest to ask for something to eat.

She sighed. "Gwaire, if you're hungry, I can show you where to get some drink," she offered, her eyes softening with understanding. Gwaire's own eyes perked up, and he nodded eagerly. She gave a small smile. "That's good, because I am feeling a little puckish, myself. Up for a little adventure?" She asked mischievously. For the first time since she'd met him, she saw him smile. As he did, a streak of blue and white lit up his dark, shifting shadow, and for a moment, a tint of his minty-jasmine scent could be distinguished. She returned the smile as she pushed herself away from the wall and began walking brusquely down another corridor to her right.

To Gwaire's surprise, Claire stopped at the first door on the left, which looked like it was about as big as a janitor's closet.

"Abre la puerta, por fa," she whispered again with her hand held up.

To his amazement, the door obediently creaked open, revealing a small, five by five, storage closet. As they both squeezed inside, the thick, residual odor of fresh paint fell on them, as well as the musty smell of dust and mold. Gwaire couldn't help it, his nose crinkled up in disgust.

"I know it stinks in here, but this is where we keep our gold," Claire grunted as she crammed herself in beside him.

Gwaire noted that the color of the room didn't help with the choking smell in the air. Behind rows and rows of shelves, the walls were painted a puke-colored green. Unexpectedly, Gwaire gasped as a familiar scent reached his nostrils, and his fangs shot out of their protective casings, looking polished in the light of the shadowed room. His pupils grew with sudden ravenous hunger, and his skin prickled with beads of sweat.

"You can smell it now, can't you?" Clare smiled shyly at him, a dangerous red color was spreading across his inner glow.

"Where is it?" he asked keenly, his mouth watering with expectancy.

Claire's lips tugged into a small smile, but inside, she was screaming, SLOW DOWN, BIG BOY! At last she said, "Look around," and watched him closely for his reaction.

Gwaire glanced up at the shelves, and had to restrain himself. Rows upon rows of bottles filled with thick, red juice lined the walls. They were all labeled with what type they were; O Positive, A Negative, AB Negative, Etc. A small groan escaped Gwaire's lips.

"There's an enchantment on the bottles so that it won't go bad," Claire explained, watching him with humor. "What would you like?" she asked teasingly.

"Doesn't matter," he answered. He was too hungry to care.

She pushed past him to the lowest shelf on the left and hand-picked two, pop-sized bottles. When she turned around, Gwaire snatched one out of her hand and greedily began unscrewing the lid. "Hey!" Claire hollered and attempted to grab it back. "That one's mine!"

She was met with a snarl as Gwaire barred his fangs and withdrew from her outstretched hand. In his eyes, she could see white, blind fury. Claire blinked in surprise as Gwaire's menacing look slowly faded from his face. He looked bewildered.

"Uh, sorry," he said apologetically as he handed over the bottle with shaking hands. "I guess I was a little hungrier than I thought."

"Yuh think?!" Claire laughed sarcastically as she cautiously took the bottle and handed him the other one. As soon as it was in his hands, he tore off the aluminum lid and began gulping down the thick, delicious liquid. The lid he hadn't bothered to unscrew fell to the floor, crumpled and dented.

Claire watched, eyebrows nearly touching her hairline, as he downed his bottle in less than three seconds. When he finished, he threw the empty bottle forcefully onto the ground. The glass shattered into a thousand, shimmering pieces.

"Be careful with those!" Claire scolded as the tiny shards sparkled like glitter on the rotting floorboards.

Gwaire glanced down at he smashed bottle, and shrugged. "Can I have some more?" he asked politely, his eyes shining with innocence. The hunger burning in his veins hadn't quite been extinguished.

"Sure," Claire nodded and stepped back over to the lowest shelf. "Any specific kind this time?" She asked, a slight smile playing about her lips.

Gwaire licked his lips and again his mind wandered back to that night. He remembered how the girl had smiled at him, a seductive smile that implied so much. He'd returned the smile, willing to do anything to stop the ever-chanting beat of his heart: you want it, YOU NEED IT, YOU MUST HAVE IT! Oh how her smile had faded when she saw…

"A-hem," Claire cleared her throat impatiently.

"Oh, I'll have an O+ please," Gwaire answered, his mind not quite out of its sweet memory, the memory of his first taste at this life.

Claire watched again in amazement as Gwaire downed six bottles in approximately eighteen seconds. "Wow," she mumbled to herself as he set the last empty bottle carefully down on the floor. "You were hungry," she joked.

Gwaire smiled brightly, lighting up the whole room.

Claire smiled back, surprised. "You look a whole lot better, too," she added.

Still smiling, Gwaire laughed and said, "I tend to be happier when I'm not hungry."

"Ya don't say?" Claire rolled her eyes sarcastically.

He gave another heart-warming smile. He reminded her of golden honey in that moment, but she wasn't sure why. Perhaps it was because his soul seemed to glow, and maybe it was also because he was surprisingly gentle and sweet. She blinked and saw his smile had disappeared. He was frowning slightly at her.

"You're doing it again," his frown lines deepened; his color churning with sudden dark, purple frustration.

"What?" Claire asked, feeling self-conscious.

"You're staring," Gwaire grumbled. He looked upset. In fact, she could smell the heavy, almost humid scent of disappointment lingering in the air.

Claire was shocked at his sudden change of mood. "I'm sorry," she muttered in embarrassment. She could feel her cold, cursed blood rising to her cheeks. She quickly looked at the floor so that he wouldn't see her face turn a pale shade of blue.

BANG, BANG, BANG! Fists pounded on the door.

"Cleaning service!" a booming voice called through the door, followed by a rather boisterous laugh. Claire and Gwaire both jumped in surprise and Claire gave an annoyed sigh.

"What is it now, Sven?" She yelled through clenched teeth.

Gwaire heard a deep rumbling guffaw on the other side of the door. "Just reassuring my pattering heart that you still want my body, babe," he guffawed again.

Gwaire saw Claire's eyes flash dangerously. "You're only deluding yourself," she shouted angrily.
"Oh, contraire. You know that deep down inside, you want me," he laughed dumbly. All at once, his laughter cut short. "Wait a minute…I smell someone else in there!" He called; seemingly unnerved by this idea. "And… and it's a dude!" he yelled through the rotting wood. "Who the hell is it!" he pounded on the door.

Claire shook her head, as if she were saying: Why do I put up with this idiocy? "You can come in," she hollered irritably.

The rusty doorknob jangled, and a tall, nerdy kid with curly, brown hair entered the scene. He shot Claire an impish little grin that soon faded when his eyes settled on Gwaire. "So… You're the new kid in town, huh?" he asked cockily. His eyes narrowed. "You thinkin' about messn' wit' my girl? Oh, WHAT! You want a piece of me?" He spoke loudly, his face inches away from Gwaire's. Gwaire flinched when a spec of spittle hit him on the cheek. Otherwise, he didn't show any emotion, but if he did, he'd probably be laughing. This nerd was putting on quite a show. Besides, why would he be interested in Claire? Her eyes were amazing, but otherwise, nah.

Gwaire's face remained expressionless; he'd gotten really good at controlling his facial expressions since he'd been bitten. He whispered barely loud enough to hear, "Get out of my face," and let a trace of coldness creep into his words. Gwaire stared directly into Sven's hawk-like, beady eyes. Inside them, Gwaire saw something waver, and Sven backed down.

"Hey, dude, I was just messn' around," Sven mumbled, alarmed. He had suddenly gone wide-eyed and sallow-faced.

Claire, who had been watching the scene in the crammed corner apprehensively, snorted. "Yeah, right! You were totally serious!"

Sven's look of fear vanished and he seemed to brighten with inspiration. "Why, do you find men fighting over you attractive?"

She stared at him with dull, half-closed eyes. "No," she grumbled with annoyance.

He squinted curiously at her. "Not even remotely attractive?" he asked hopefully.

She took a deep breath. "NO, can I be plainer?" She glared at him.

He deflated, and shot Gwaire a nervous glance. "Uh, then I guess I should tell you why I'm really here," he hesitated and gulped uneasily.

Claire raised her eyebrows, suddenly sensing the damp leaf-like scent of fear upon his heart. "There's no need, Sven, I think I already know. He wants to see him, doesn't He?" She asked with a small edge of worry to her voice.

Sven merely nodded, his loose, brown curls bouncing heavily. "The Jefe wants to see us all in the Silent Room," he spoke glumly.