The man was standing there staring at her, his black hair, longer than Aubrey's, lay lightly on his shoulders as his amber colour eyes stared into hers. A wispy black cloak lay over his shoulders, a strange looking suit of armour laid below it, somehow subtle. In his arms laid a black winged cat, dark red eyes stared back at Ciara as she compiled the ebony feline.

Ciara found her breath caught in her throat at the sight of the two. Something inside of her was screaming to just go ahead and slam the door in their face, yet the other part was saying that doing so might actually, literally, come back and bite her in the ass. Ciara didn't actually take the time to stop and consider that there was a winged cat with red eyes looking at her.

The man smiled, though it did not seem genuine, "did I frighten you, Ciara?"

"Who are you?" Ciara asked, she was caught in the stranger's vivid gaze as he casually walked through the doorway into Aubrey's mansion. Even though Ciara could scarcely contain her nervousness, she did have to admit there was something very striking about the man, yet somehow familiar.

"The vampire Valerian," he said bowing, "I'm sure Aubrey has told you all about me?"

Ciara raised a brow, momentarily musing over the fact that Valerian's wavy mass of hair looked like something she used to try and brush out from one of the many plastic ponies she had collected as a child. "I must say he hasn't."

Valerian's expression dimmed, "Is that so?"

A set of footsteps echoed off the wooden floor, coming to a stop just in front of the kitchen. Aubrey lazily leaned back against the dark counter, though his pose was lackadaisical, his expression was one without lenience as he glared back at Valerian. "What brings you here, Valerian?"

Valerian scoffed, his eyes never once leaving Ciara, "may we discuss this in private?"

Aubrey nodded his head stiffly, glancing at Ciara from the corner of his eye. Though he didn't say any words, Ciara gathered that he was asking her to leave, and she could tell simply by the way that he was looking at her that an apology for asking such a thing was hidden behind those beautiful silver irises.

Though in all honesty, Aubrey would much rather have told Valerian to go screw himself, yet including Ciara in things such as vampire affairs was best to be avoided in the end. Above all else, Aubrey fully intended to keep hidden from her the true darkness of his past, all of which Valerian knew only too well.

Ciara quickly left the room, Okami following her close behind, the sound of her nails clicking against the floor breaking the silence in the room.

"It's worse than I could have foreseen," Valerian said ruefully.

Aubrey stared after Ciara, "well, don't spare me the details."

Valerian smiled, his hand trailing across the back of the sofa as Mecrede crawled from his arms, "I don't intent to," he said quietly, regarding his child with a heated gaze, "that girl of yours certainly is in danger, it would seem."

Aubrey's expression hardened, his eyes scorching his sire, "of which I'm well aware."

"My source tells me, this blonde fanatic going by the name Alaric, is likely in the possession of the light amulet," Valerian said smoothly. The air of his arrogance emanating from him like waves in the ocean.

Mecrede hissed from the back of the sofa, "is certainly in possession of the light amulet."

"I see," Aubrey replied, his voice was curt.

Valerian scoffed, "you seem the least bit phased by this information," he said, annoyance flaring in his lava coloured eyes. "It is very troubling news."

Aubrey growled lightly in response, "I consider the amulet to be a trivial matter."

"Oh of course, lest we forget," Valerian responded sarcastically, "thou greatest love, worth more than all the gold in the universe."

With clenched fingers, Aubrey glared at his sire though red eyes, "perhaps it would seem so to someone so loveless as yourself."

Valerian couldn't mask his shock, Aubrey's comment hurt like a slap in the face, "I am not without love," he replied softly, "you mistake my motives Aubrey."

Aubrey averted his gaze, "in that case then, if she were yours, your love, what would you do, oh great Valerian?"

The resentment in Aubrey's voice made the air seem thick, "for the one I love, there is nothing I would not do..." Valerian's eyes suddenly opened wide, as if he had just realized something, and when he gazed back at Aubrey the strength in which he did so urged Aubrey backward.

Aubrey hesitated, "still?"

Valerian stepped forward, forcing him back against the wall behind with shear force of will. They stood almost chest to chest, Aubrey peering into Valerian's eyes, so vividly amber for a moment he felt a trace of sunlight in their depths.

"Always," Valerian replied tenderly, a tone Aubrey was not accustomed to hearing from him. For a moment, their lips hovered an inch or so away from one another, but Valerian soon closed his eyes and rested his forehead against that of his precious child.


"I know," the elder vampire replied smoothly, "you cannot return my affections, I don't expect you to, but please, don't force me the disservice of having to protect you, I can't bare to see you shaming that pride of yours."

Aubrey nodded, "the dark amulet, is it safe?"

"It is," Valerian lowered his voice to a whisper, "hasn't moved a day since you last saw it."

There was defeat present in his demeanour as Aubrey closed his eyes with a long drawn out sigh, "Ciara..."

"Keep her safe," Valerian hissed his words, "if it came between her and the amulet, you know the choice wouldn't be in her favour."

"I know," Aubrey replied, his annoyance present with his tone.

Valerian brought his fingers to his forehead as if he was massaging out a sinus headache, "until next time then," he said, "I bid you adieu."

With out another word the elder vampire picked up the winged creature and they both vanished from sight.

Upon hearing music in the middle of the night, Ciara was up and prancing around. Pulling a blanket over her naked form, she snuck down the stairs. When Ciara reached the last step, and walked down the hall, she found Aubrey sitting slouched back on the living room sofa with his eyes closed. There was the delicate soft sound of violin music on the air.

"Aubrey?" Ciara said quietly.

Aubrey opened an eye, sighing tiredly he gently urged Ciara next to him and cuddled her close, "did my absence in your sleep wake you?"

Ciara shook her head, allowing Aubrey to rest his own against her shoulder with a smile, "damn."

The smile on his face faded as he peered deeper into her eyes. Letting his hand stray across her cheek, Aubrey nuzzled his nose against hers, "do you have any idea how special you are?"

Ciara nodded sheepishly, "I have an idea."

Aubrey cuddled closer to Ciara, his nose now at the base of her neck, his breath against her skin. There was tension in the air, and usually Aubrey was an unreadable sort, but even Ciara could feel that something was bothering him. Staring off into the fireplace, Aubrey watched the flames lick at the brick as if hypnotized. The orange glow in the room set the mood to be a rather somber one. It was half romantic yet half daunting at the same time.

A heavy breath passed his lips, Ciara couldn't tell if it were from tiredness, or frustration, or both. Sitting up, Aubrey avoided eye contact with her, still staring blankly into the distance, "if there was a way we could be closer, would you allow it?"

Ciara raised a brow, her nervousness was pooling in her stomach, "if you're speaking of marriage, although I'm flattered by the idea, but now probably isn't the best time..."

"What I speak of," Aubrey replied sternly, releasing a sigh, "is of infinite more worth, and far more binding than marriage."

"Is there such a thing?"

"Indeed there is," Aubrey said distantly, "an ancient bond, one tied between a vampire and a human, unbreakable only from or by the death of the vampire."

"...and the death of the human?"

"As long as the vampire lives," Aubrey said, pausing to grasp Ciara's hand tenderly in his, "as does his human."

Ciara's found herself caught in his gaze, "I don't understand, are you implying that the human could not be killed?"

"You would be as immortal as I," Aubrey replied, his voice was a whisper it was so quiet, "forever to walk eternity by my side..."

"I cannot imagine something like that not having it's downsides," Ciara said, trying to mask her shock at his words.

There was silence for a moment, only the sound of the crackling fire. The very sound of it bringing back pleasant memories of past Christmas' that Ciara couldn't let herself remember. There were very bad ones too, years where it didn't matter what was under the tree, where her wishes were not of purchasing means. Ciara felt the sting of tears against her eyes, but Aubrey's voice sudden voice broke her from her thoughts.

"You could get lost," Aubrey added quietly, "in death, once you are tied to me, the only true death available to you would have to be done of my own hand, of any other, either you would come back to me unscathed, or your consciousness would find itself trapped somewhere between life and death."

Suddenly feeling antsy, Ciara dropped the blanket and crawled from the couch toward the fireplace. Lying in front of it she stared at the expanse of wooden beams that made the ceiling. The burn against her body from the flames helped sooth her, and seeing as it was the middle of the night she could have easily drifted to sleep if Aubrey hadn't crawled over to join her.

Aubrey closed his eyes, and wrapped an arm around her, "It's my job to protect you."

Ciara hesitated, her gaze momentarily locking with his, "and if you tire of me?"

"Never, Ciara," Aubrey breathed.

Shivering at his words, Ciara wrapped her arms around herself, "what is required?"

"A sacrifice, of sorts," Aubrey said, his nose against her cheek, "of blood, mine and yours..."

"Isn't that how one becomes vampire?"

"No," Aubrey added sternly, "to become vampire, I would be required to drain you of every drop of blood you have, and then, with your dying breath, you would be forced to drink my own, a fair amount of it, and then you would cross over as a vampire," Aubrey paused to stroll a hand through her hair, "to become bonded to me, I literally tie you to me, your blood, my blood, become two halves of a whole.

"This is definitely more intense than a marriage proposal," Ciara muttered absently, "how much danger am I in?"

Aubrey's expression was a somber one, "too much."

"I'll do it."

"Ciara," Aubrey replied, his eyes darkening, "this isn't a decision you can just willy nilly make."

A bubble of laughter passed her lips from his choice of language, "if you wanna go that route, life is too short to dilly dally."

Aubrey frowned at her, "this isn't a joke."

"I know," Ciara murmured under her breath, "but I've never seen you afraid before, if it's enough to scare you, then I trust that this is the right decision if you mean to protect me."

"It will be painful," Aubrey replied absently, he couldn't lock eyes with her.

"I don't care," Ciara said.

Aubrey's fingers were twitching, tapping something lightly from the pocked of his pants. As he pulled out a black leather packet, Ciara eyed him wearily.

"What's that?"

"Part of the ritual," Aubrey replied softly, his eyes wouldn't meet hers, "not something I think you'll be too comfortable looking at."

Ciara sighed heavily, "do you have to show me?"

"I have to use it on you," Aubrey said, rising from the floor her perched on one knee to look down at her. "You couldn't even make eye contact with me when I took a needle to your hand, this will be much worse than that."

"So it's that bad..." Ciara trailed off.

Aubrey closed his eyes for a moment, "there is one other alternative, but it would require your utmost faith in me."

Ciara didn't look at him, instead she crawled closer to Aubrey and remained staring into the flames. When her head lowered, as her forehead came to rest against his shoulder, she let out a long, slow, breath of air. "Tell me."

"If you wish it of me," Aubrey said, his voice shook a small amount, "I could hypnotize you, and preform the ritual while you are in a different state of mind."

"You can do that?"

"It will be difficult for me to focus on that much," Aubrey paused for a moment, rubbing his fingers across his lips in thought, "but I am certain I can."

Ciara leaned against the sofa, her breath becoming shallow because of her anxiety. In the short time they had discussed the ritual, her stomach had tightened into fistfuls of knots. Aubrey had left the room in order to make her some tea, and by the time he returned with the mug in his hand, Ciara was clenching her fingers into the antique rug on the floor.

"Breath, Ciara," Aubrey's voice was all that tore her from her revere. Placing the cup against her lips, he urged Ciara to sip the warm tea. The first gulp was a slow one, but she took the mug from his hands and sipped it continuously until the tea was gone.

Placing the cup on the side table near the sofa, Ciara took a deep and slow breath, then released it, "okay, I'm ready."

Aubrey looked taken aback, "now?"

"Wasn't that the intention?" Ciara's brow twitched.

"I intended to give you more time."

Ciara's expression was one of annoyance, "I just synched myself up and prepared my brain for this extravaganza, please don't make me go through all of this again another day."

Aubrey averted his gaze, "if you are so ready for this, then prove it, kiss me like it's the only thing you've ever wanted."

A moments hesitation, then she was leaning forward, the palms of her hands against his shoulders. They looked at each other, eyes gazing into the depths of one another. It was like time stopped in that instant. Every particle was vivid and clear. As their lips met Ciara felt everything disappear. The whole world was fading away. It was like falling asleep and only being able to focus on the bed beneath you. All Ciara could feel, were his warm lips against hers, and the sound of his breath in her ears.

The blackness took her.

Everything was hazy. Ciara woke up slowly, rubbing her eyes in confusion as she found herself lying sprawled across the living room floor in a pool of blood. There were flashes of things, as if from a dream, but they were hard to discern. That was when she saw Aubrey leaning against the couch nearby, he looked gaunt, so pale Ciara thought at first that he was a mere illusion.

The golden glint of something from the pool of blood caught Ciara's attention, and she reached for it. As soon as her fingers came into contact with the object another flash of memory went through her. At first it was just a feeling, a powerful one that momentarily caused her to stop breathing. Then the memories started flowing back to her. The golden object in her hand was an ankh, a large one with spikes on both sides. It was an odd contraption for sure, and Ciara had the faint memory of those sharp spikes being driven into her hand.

Clutching her head, Ciara tried to stop the room from spinning. Taking another look at Aubrey, Ciara noticed that he was even paler yet, and panting. The eyes that looked back at her had lost all the love and luster they normally showed, and instinctively Ciara found herself backing away. The heart beating in her chest was thumping like the call of a dinner bell, and it was driving Aubrey wild. Hissing to himself, he fought to hold onto what restraint he had, and prayed that he could hold on to it.

It was then that the front door flew open, slamming against the wall leaving an obnoxious bang to echo through the mansion. Ciara's scream got caught in her throat, having too little energy to actually make a sound. That was when blackness took her again.

Valerian caught Ciara before her head hit the floor. Sighing heavily, the elder vampire stood with Ciara in his arms, lifting her with an ease that seemed far too graceful, even for him. For the moment the girl would be fine, Valerian mused, softly lying her down upon the sofa. Despite his anger and resentment toward her, he stopped to pull a blanket upon her before turning back to his protegee, who was in dire need of his attention.

Aubrey was staring solidly into the distance as if his sire was not even there. It was a concentration tactic, this Valerian knew. Rather than dare to break Aubrey's focus, Valerian bent down to his level and picked him up in his arms just as effortlessly as he had Ciara. For the moment Aubrey was not in a state of mind with which to complain with, so Valerian simply nodded and vanished into the master bedroom without a peep from the younger vampire.

There was no hesitation in Valerian's next actions. The bite he took into his own wrist was fierce, and left a nice oozing gash behind to prove it. Leaning forward, he pressed his arm toward Aubrey's mouth and forced him to drink his ancient blood. The crimson liquid dripped down the blankets to the hardwood floors with a distinctively wet "plop." The bedding was saved a little from the distraction, as it was also coloured red so the blood managed to hide within the cloth a little.

Valerian had his teeth clenched, he realized, and it was not out of pain. Aubrey was feverishly licking at his wrist, and lacking the composure to restrain himself, re-tearing the gash every time it remotely healed over again. This however, wasn't what was on Valerian's mind. Those golden eyes, like the color of sunlight, turned pale and distant as thoughts of the past over took him.

The stench of poverty overwhelmed Valerian's senses. Sneezing uncontrollably, he tried to rid himself of both the smell, and the remains of all the sand he'd been inhaling. Aubrey wasn't but two feet behind him, a towel wrapped around his face so that he wouldn't have to breath in so much of the desert sand. Even at night, the desert was not a vampires choice place of adventure. Though they had been traveling like this for a while, over 15 years to be exact,there were some things that Valerian still was yet to adjust to, and the sand was one of them. Those many years in that cave, were deviant of light and sand. Both of which even now he a hard time dealing with. Didn't matter how ancient he was, didn't matter that sun wasn't going to outright kill him, it still burned his eyes like a farm of onions.

Walking into a town, now dark after the fall of night, Valerian scanned the street with his all seeing eyes to search out heat signatures. There were other vampires nearby, he could tell because their signature was not red per usual with humans and other creatures, but blue and cold. They were not much of a threat though, and the ancient vampire merely coughed in disgust and returned his attention toward the signatures that were red.

Aubrey's gaze was staring solidly at Valerian's back, the elder vampire could feel it as if he was being burned by lasers. It was unpleasant, but he ignored it and chose to continue down a small pathway between two mud huts. There were a few people there, sitting around a small fire cooking something. It had been a while since Valerian had found humans that didn't reek of the stench of poor diets and disease. This small outpost they had travelled to was poor, however not as much so as the places they had been to of late.

One of the humans jumped up at the sight of him, for Valerian was ever much the epitome of a pharaoh, and he dressed to matched the elegance. This one was female, and she smiled and bowed quickly to him, ever much caught in his golden gaze. They exchanged a simple greeting in latin,and before long both Valerian and Aubrey were invited to join them.

Valerian didn't bother to sit, he turned his nose up as he always did at the piles of hay they used as seats. Aubrey was used to such things, he sat down casually, in a manner that seemed almost feminine, and continued on with his silence. Valerian however, only had to exchange a few words of latin with each mortal and a genuine gaze or two and they were all under his control, put into a stupor that could only see him.

Aubrey sat still and gazed into the distance as Valerian took to each one of the humans, raking his teeth across their delicate necks, drowning in the taste of their blood. Enjoying every drop that reached his tongue with a ferocity that didn't leave room for guilt. When he was finished everyone but the female that first greeted them was lying in the sand, paler than before, but all of them still alive.

Valerian crossed his arms and stared at Aubrey impatiently, "we still have vampires to clear out of this town, that would do far worse things to these mortals, if we intend to protect their well beings, we must be well fed for the journey. It is a sacrifice I'm sure they would be willing to make for human kind, after all, how much danger have we protected them from thus far?"

They spoke in English usually because not many locals knew the language. It was one of many languages that Valerian amazingly knew how to speak and write fluently. Aubrey knew only bits of English and the local dialogue of latin that he had learned through books before his turning, but with Valerian's guidance he had become fluent in those, and so much more. Even just days after his turning, he could read scrolls, and words on monuments that were otherwise unknown to him, without even studying, he just simple knew.

Aubrey's fingers tightened into the palm of his hand, and his long nails left cuts across them. A little bit of blood dripped down his fingertips. A sigh left his lips, strong enough to toss up some dust and make him cough. Kneeling down by the girl, he looked at her distant eyes and cursed himself for what he was about to do. Playing against her neck, he let his teeth pierce her flesh and forced himself to ridicule what he was doing inside his mind. With each gulp of her blood he took, another part of him mentally abused himself for doing such a thing. When Aubrey finally pulled away, his self hatred was flaring, and he could only stare down at the still breathing girl with remorseful eyes.

Valerian chuckled, rambling on about how Aubrey would get used to doing such a thing. Though Aubrey doubted every word, and hoped with everything he could hope with that he would not. That guilt that rose inside of him, was the last part of him that felt human.

The elder vampire was already walking away when Aubrey stood. Valerian was impatient, and high from his recent feeding. The light glow of the two vampires nearby was like the teasing hop of a bunny to a wolf. Walking through the sand, his long black and golden cloak whipped up sand. Yanking the cloth off one of the mud huts that made for a door, he walked inside with a confidence that was extremely daunting.

There were bodies inside, a few of them, drained of every drop of blood, and abused and scarred. Aubrey could even smell the stench of rape, of the fear the girls had gone through. It made him want to puke, if only he still could.

Stepping forward, Valerian smiled casually, his eyes falling onto the two vampires in the room. They were worse for wear, burned from sun exposure, and scantly clothed. They didn't have much strength left if any at all, but yet they still stood up and braced for a fight.

Valerian slammed the palm of his hand into the throat of the closer one, he thrashed desperately to get away but Valerian tightened his grip, throwing the vampire against the wall with an ease that didn't suit his stature. Aubrey stepped forward, slicing a gash in his hand with his nails, his blood seeped out and formed a branched blade. While his sire played with his target, Aubrey quickly used the power of his blood to tear the other one apart. Tying itself in knots around the other vampire, Aubrey's blood ran around his prey like strands of rope and seeped through his skin. Through the veins, the tainted blood tore through every cell, and repressed anything remotely vampiric, until there was no longer a vampire left, and all that remained was the husk of a dead human.

Wiping the blood from his hands, Aubrey turned to his sire who was remarkably standing next to a pile of ash. It was something few people knew about vampires, and often assumed wrong. Vampires can't be killed through a stake through the heart, or garlic, or being turned headless. Often they couldn't be killed by sun either if they were old or pure enough. However, a vampire could always be killed by a vampire with stronger blood than they, and Valerian was stronger than all the rest.

Valerian grinned, and pulled Aubrey toward him, pressing a kiss against his lips that was a little more than friendly. Aubrey tensed in response, and politely tried to back away. There was nothing Valerian wanted that he hadn't had, until Aubrey. From the moment he met him as a human begging at his knees. That sweet and honest gaze that pulled every desire in Valerian's body toward trying to dominant him. Though at every turn Aubrey outsmarted him, or politely declined in such a manner there was nothing Valerian could do but bide his time.

Valerian didn't know then how long he'd go on with biding his time...

"You love him too," Ciara asked softly, stepping inside the room from just beyond the door, "don't you?"

Valerian's thoughts were broken, his luminous eyes darting from Aubrey to glare at the girl behind him. Mentally he cursed himself for being too distracted to notice her presence so nearby. An eyebrow twitched in response, "what makes you say such a thing, child?"

Ciara hesitated slightly, she was speaking with a very old and powerful vampire indeed. Glancing toward the bed, her heart leapt a little in her chest, but she was thankful to see that Aubrey's complexion was improving. Shuffling her feet with a sigh, Ciara stepped forward a little and wrapped her arms around the bed post as she leaned on it. Though she still felt a little dizzy from before, her awareness seemed to have returned, at least for the time being.

"The way you were looking at him," she said softly, almost as if she were reminiscing over a sweet memory, her eyes rested on Aubrey's form, her countenance softening at the now peaceful sight of him, "I know a look of love when I see one."

Valerian did not allow himself to look at her, it was almost meek, but he gazed toward the window instead and responded with a tone that seemed disinterested, "I see."

A soft sound, something between a cough and a whimper met the elder vampires ears. Finally his line of sight changed, and he turned to regard Ciara with a look of confusion in his eyes. The girl was looking back at him, her eyes were watery, a tear silently strolling down one of her cheeks.

Closing his eyes at the sight, Valerian gently shook his head, his wavy black locks cascading down his neck as he did so, "he will be fine, child, do not worry yourself."

"It is not him I worry for," Ciara replied, her voice barely met a whisper.

Valerian's eyes widened as he looked back at her. They stared at one another for a moment. Weakly Ciara lifted her arm and pointed at Valerian, her hand shook heavily, her arm dropping to her side again quickly. The ancient vampire stepped nearer to her, the expression in his eyes softening as he reached a hand up and caressed her cheek.

"For a while now i've wondered what it was he saw in you," Valerian mused out loud, his eyes looking back into hers with a gentleness that seemed uncanny, "but now I see it too, and I don't think I could have given him to anyone less worthy than you."

Ciara stared back into Valerian's eyes, his eyes so golden she swore she could see sunlight through them. An impossibility of course, but there was a sort of mysterious glow hiding just behind his irises. It was the type of thing that one would find unexpected with vampires.

Valerian suddenly looked back at his protegee, "he will be better soon, he just needs a little more sleep."