Living forever is a prospect that most humans dream of.

He knows better. He knows what it is like to watch your family die-grow old and wither before your eyes while you stay forever frozen at seventeen. He knows what it is like to watch civilizations rise and fall, to have eternity instead of one short human lifetime.

He knows what it's like to be miserable. Really, truly miserable.

Living forever isn't a dream to him. It never was, but now he is trapped in the cold, harsh reality of it, and he wonders how humans can possibly think it would be a good thing.

He is sitting with his knees drawn up to his chest, chin resting on his knees, high up in the branches of a Red Wood tree, to high up for any human eye to detect him. He doesn't know why his thoughts have turned so dark-that normally happens after he hunts not before-but it is only making him more agitated. His hands are clenched into tight fists, grasping nothing but air because if he were to hold onto any other substance it would snap under his tight hold. He breathes out, sharply, through his nose, in an effort to clear his head and focus. It doesn't really work.

Uncurling from the ball he has rolled into, he stands on the tips of his toes, and takes a deep, long breath, keeping his mouth open so he can taste the scents as well as smell them.

His throat has been burning for days now, but as he breathes in, the burning erupts into flames, scorching his body. Venom pools in his mouth as he hisses. Fang teeth snap out, piercing his lower lip, but the pain is so familiar he barely feels it.

As wild as he is with thirst, he needs to control himself tonight. There are only a few humans camping in the forest, and he has to be quick and quiet about his work if he wants to stay hidden from society. He can't lose his head now.

Closing his eyes, he forces himself to focus, to sift through the millions of scents and select the sharpest, sweetest one. The blood he chooses is that of a young girl, her heart beats strong and fast, and for a moment he allows himself to be lost in it, until his mouth is so full of venom he is forced to swallow, and he nearly breaks the branch he is standing on.

Focus.

Narrowing his eyes, he picks out the hue of her jacket among the tangled leaves on the ground, although really it is quite an obnoxious color-green-that looks nothing like the dirt of the forest floor-and listens until he is familiar with the quiet catch of her breathing pattern.

He abandons himself to his senses, letting the feeling of the cold wind(the only thing that actually feels cold to him) and the rough bark that looks strong to human eyes but is really so fragile guide him closer to his target. Her heartbeat pounds through his ears, her sweet scent burns in his nostrils, and he can already taste her blood in his parched mouth, even though he knows that is just his fevered mind teasing him.

He leaps from the branch and onto the next one, and the next, and the next, slipping silently through the trees until he is on the branch just above the girl's head.

She is alone, he notes, pleased. He won't have to deal with family tonight.

His fang teeth are sharp against his lower lip as his body coils, tensing, waiting for just the right moment-

She stirs, a little, in her sleep, rolling so the long curve of her neck is exposed, creamy and fragile and soft. He can see the blood pumping through the translucent skin. His throat erupts into flames-

He jumps.

It is a mindless action, driven by his need to quench the burning in his throat, and born out of instinct. His body curves as he falls, knees bending, tucking, arms splaying out, head snapping up-

His feet touch the ground, silently, an inch from her shoulder. She does not stir.

Bending down over her, he breathes her in-she smells of sweat and rainwater and blood. Fresh, sweet blood.

Carefully, almost tenderly, he brushes his fingers across her cheek. "Sorry," He breathes, to soft for her weak human ears to detect. And he is sorry. He's always sorry.

But he's also so thirsty.

His fangs slice effortlessly into her throat, at the strongest place where the blood flows, sinking into the warmth, the delicious wetness that exploded around the curve of his mouth, that soothed the wild, aching burn-

His finger clench tightly, to tightly, into her arm as he drinks, spasming with the need of a hunter, and he barely hears her bones snap under the pressure. Blood is hot and warm in his mouth, pounding through his body until he tingles with it, until he feels so alive...

He drinks her dry in a matter of minutes.

Pulling away from the corpse he wipes his mouth with the back of his hand and takes several deep, heaving breaths. The burn in his throat has been reduced to a dull, annoying ache, and he is full of blood. He won't need to hunt again for at least a few days.

But he can still feel that he is not completely control of himself, and if a human were to walk by right now he knew from experience that he would attack them without thought. So he picked up the girls body, slung her over his shoulders, and took off into the night.

He has perfected a technique over the years, of hiding his kills. Sending them to the bottom of the ocean. He runs to the water now, and makes quick work of his latest victim, sending her down to the depths in a matter of minutes.

"I'm sorry," he whispers to her, again, although this time she has no hope of hearing him, "I'm very sorry."

And he is.

OoO

He has come to accept what he is, over the centuries. He has learned that there is not an easy way to kill himself, and if he is honest he knows he doesn't really want to die anyway. He never really sleeps, but he stays in hidden places during the day, whispering to himself and remembering his hazy human life-when he'd had a mother and a father and a younger sister. When he had a whole future of happiness ahead of him.

It makes him sad, but it also keeps him from giving in completely to who he is, from becoming a monster.

At night, when the sun can no longer burn him, he runs through the forests with the wolves, runs and runs and runs until he can't think anymore, until he reaches the end of a continent and has to swim to reach the next.

Sometimes, he goes to visit his grave, which is in a small, forgotten graveyard in the mountains of Switzerland. It says he died five hundred years earlier, at the age of seventeen.

And he thinks, if only.

His life is night and shadows and darkness, and it is not an easy one.

But it is the only one he has.