June 28, 2010

The Following weeks

Sorry for a lack of post last week. As most of you know, I'm currently working on a short film, and was swamped with that all last week and just didn't have the time to put anything up. There should be a post up this week.. theoretically. I don't have alot of filming, but I do have alot to do at my normal job, but I'll try my hardest.

As for the schedule, the plan currently is to begin with the game again on the 11th of July with a few one on one scenes with the characters, since not all of us will be able to be present. Group sessions will start the weekend after that. So there will be new and exciting adventures soon! Thanks for continuing to read through my flashbacks. I still have lots more of them to post for weeks in which we don't have a normal game.

And I hope you are as excited as I am about getting back into the current Chicago storyline!

June 18, 2010

Finding Home

((that same night.. was going to put this with the other post.. but I ran out of time..))

I'm not sure how I got back to my jeep. Everything was running together. I just know I managed to change into the spare clothes I had in the back and drive myself back to the hotel. I left the bloody ones in the jungle somewhere. I took to my hands and arms with the baby wipes I keep in the glove box. I used the entire package, and still didn't get it all off. I'd hate to think of the state I'd be in if i wasn't already inoculated to having other people's blood on me. An unexpected benefit of my job.

I drove on autopilot. I don't remember the trip back, passing through the hotel lobby, or going into my room. I was in shock.. but it was all mental, none of the physical components. I showered.. making an effort not to look at the water as it turned red.. I stayed in there a long time, long enough for the water to run cold. I kept waiting for my skin to start pruning, but it wouldn't. I avoided looking at the mirror once I got out. I did everything I could to avoid thinking. I went through the motions like a robot, letting the routine of cleaning become my entire focus.

And I left. I didn't even bother checking out. I just walked out the door. I drove to the small local airport and I bought a one way ticket to New Orleans. The part of my brain that was keeping me going knew I couldn't drive back.. it knew that being out in the sun was a bad idea.. it was too dangerous. It also knew I had to find Giuseppe. It wasn't sure what I was going to do, however, when I did.

The flight was the hardest part. My robot mode only lasted until I had to sit there, with nothing to focus on but my thoughts. There was nothing to do but sit there and think and feel.. I never thought I could feel my heartbeat.. or the blood flowing through my veins.. but now that my heart was still, and the blood was at rest, I knew I'd been wrong. I'd just never recognized them for what they were.. and now I was keenly aware of their absence.

And even more keenly aware of the appearance of a new feeling. Hunger. It was like the morphine addiction, but intensified by a thousand. It was a persistent, gnawing, infuriating hunger...the type of feeling that makes addicts do terrible things just for one fix.. and I knew, somehow, that it would never go away. That it could only get worse.. like the temple. I closed my eyes and tried not to think of those kids and what I'd done to them...

I sat that way for awhile, collecting my thoughts, trying to shut the doors on the memories I didn't want to have.. but it wasn't working, they were too fresh to forget. But I tried for about 20 minutes. I opened my eyes again and reached for a magazine, anything to occupy my head. I heard the old woman across the aisle sigh in relief. I pretended not to notice.. then heard her mumble to her seat mate, "I was convinced that poor child had sat in her seat and died right there. Did you see how still she was? She didn't look like she was even breathing..And her face is so ashen.. poor thing.."

I put a concerted effort into remembering to breath the rest of the flight.. but the woman's words had shaken me. I wondered if I really looked that terrible. How would I go out in public ever again?

I clicked off the overhead light. It was mostly an attempt to avoid attention, but the light was also making me uncomfortable. I realized that I'd been keeping to the shadows as much as possible since the hotel. I hadn't even turned on the light in the bathroom, relying on the dim illumination of the bedroom lamp coming through the open bathroom door. I clicked the light back on, as though stubbornly sitting under the vexing bulb would make anything different.

I was fortunate that the flight was nearly empty.. because I couldn't help but stare at every breathing person I saw. The flight attendant only approached me once.. I can only imagine what my face looked like.. because I hadn't heard her words the first time, only stared at her throat. It was taking all my self control not to sink fangs into the pulsing vein on her pretty neck. She swallowed nervously and repeated herself. "..to drink?"

I blinked and coughed, trying to regain my composure. "What?"

Her eyes darted side to side nervously. "Can I get you something to drink."

I coughed again to avoid the bitter laugh that welled up.. if only she knew what I'd been thinking of doing to her...

"Please.. rum and coke." My voice was quiet and scratchy. Probably from all the screaming..

She hurried away like a scared rabbit.. a different attendant came back with my drink. No wonder vampires usually seemed bat shit crazy. It took all my concentration to control the impulse to attack someone right here on the plane, even after I'd.. even after the incident on the temple.

I found out the hard way that I couldn't drink normal liquids anymore.

I downed the rum and coke in one gulp, earning me some surprised looks from a couple passengers. It was the first time in 2 years that the drink had actually tasted like a rum and coke, and not a fucking Whiskey Sour.. but I couldn't enjoy it. It didn't taste any different than I remember.. but it was like eating a steak when what you really wanted was a bologna sandwich. .. the steak is tasty.. but it doesn't satisfy. Nothing will satisfy you except that sandwich.

That's what this was like. And it was depressing as fuck.

And of course, the profuse vomiting that occurred five minutes later didn't help much. Thankfully, I made it to the lavatory first. I'd hate to think what that attendant would've done if she saw me vomit all that blood into a barf bag..

I flushed several times, then scrubbed my face and washed out my mouth in the sink. The blood had been cold, and I was still finding bits of flesh between my teeth. I tried to pretend it was from the food at the hotel restaurant before we went to the temple. I grabbed paper towels and wiped my face clean and stood up and looked in the mirror out of habit...

And I couldn't see myself.

I don't mean like in the movies, a complete lack of reflection, but the image in the mirror was indistinct, like an out of focus photograph. I was so unprepared that I tried twice to wipe off the mirror before I realized it there wasn't anything wrong with it..

I went back to my seat with my silent heart deep in the pit of my stomach. I wondered what else might have changed. There was the obvious..I ran my tongue over my teeth and grimaced as I sliced it open on the fangs. I waited for the taste of blood, but it never came. And I knew I'd keep finding more. My body was, for all intents and purposes.. dead. It is not a comfortable feeling. I couldn't even sleep to forget. I should have been exhausted, but I wasn't. I was mentally and emotionally fatigued, but my body wouldn't cooperate by falling asleep. So instead, I spent the rest of the flight discovering how my body was different and trying desperate to claw at some semblance of acceptance of my new..'life'.. while nursing a seething rage in the back of my mind.


I exited the plane and stood at the baggage carousel, somewhat comforted by the familiar place. The clock on the wall told me I still had a few hours of night and I tried not to think about where I would stay during the day. I had no safe place to go..unless...

I was mid pity party when he pulled me out of my reverie. "Excuse me.."

I looked up and fought down the urge to run screaming from the terminal.

The man wasn't frightening or imposing at all.. in fact, he was rather short and looked like he was masking severe annoyance in an attempt to look genuinely concerned. He was Asian, wearing a business suit that was slightly wrinkled from the flight we'd both just gotten off of. I hadn't noticed him on the plane.

But my reaction hadn't been rational. That part of me that had taken over on the temple surged to the front of my thinking brain, tried to steal the reins, and make a mad dash for the exit. It did not see the short, annoyed Asian gentleman that Harper saw, it saw a predator.. one that could chew us up and spit us out without even trying. Another vampire that happened to be higher up on the food chain.

The struggle must have been evident on my face, because his expression became slightly more annoyed.

"I am very sorry to startle you..." His tone indicated he was just the opposite of sorry.

I eyed him, more warily than even I'm used to.. he had the look of someone prepared to hassle me, and I wasn't sure how that would end. The memory of those four kids and my utter lack of control was still fresh in my minds eye. It didn't matter that they'd already been dying. I'd been the one to send them on, and did so with gleeful, hungry abandon. I didn't usually run from a fight, but that was preferable to losing control again..

I shook my head. "I...I'm fine."

"So I see. What I do not see," he lowered his voice as another passenger walked by, "is any attempt on your part to avoid suspicion concerning our.. condition." His eyes flashed angrily.

I blinked at him, caught utterly off guard. I lifted a hand to my cheek self consciously, recalling the blurred reflection and the old woman on the plane. Belatedly, I realized I had stopped breathing again. I took a deep, shaky breath. It felt foreign. I noticed the vampire in front of me was breathing normally, and even had a blush to his face.

He must have seen it in my face, because his expression softened slightly. "You are very new to this existence..what is your clan?"

New? It seemed to be a word that denoted fresh beginnings and innocence. I didn't feel like that applied to me anymore. The term 'newly dead' felt like a cruel oxymoron. I had to try twice before I could speak.. I had to fight not to cry. Funny that.. I never thought a vampire could cry..

"6 hours ago..and I.. I don't know." I hated Giuseppe just a little bit more for the quaver I couldn't keep from my voice at that moment.

His eyes widened and he affected a look of absolute shock. Any remaining annoyance vanished completely. "And your sire...?"

Sire.. was that what he was? I thought he was just a traitorous bastard.

"Left me.. I'm here looking for him."

He sighed. "That does happen occasionally, and I am sorry it happened to you. I am David Hu." He offered his hand, I returned the gesture, but my handshake was weak and uncertain. "Harper.." I didn't offer a last name, and he didn't ask.

"Travel, especially by air, is very dangerous for those unfamiliar with it.." We both glanced out the large airport windows and into the night sky. I swallowed nervously. I'd never seen a vampire caught outside when the sun rose before, but thinking about it caused a deep seated fear to wrap icy tendrils around my still heart. The dread was complete, and totally instinctive. I realized that it now took first, second and third place in the list of things that terrify me. That realization was enough to snap me out, at least mostly, of the stupor I'd been operating in over the last few hours. I'd thought flying was safer than driving.. I hadn't thought about the possibilities of delayed flights, planes stuck out on runways for hours.. and the other potential disasters that could befall a vampire on something as restrictive as an airliner.

Mr. Hu broke the silence. "Do you have a place to stay during the day?"

I nodded, tearing my eyes away from the dark horizon. "I think so.." That, I had at least figured out. Even if I hadn't, I can't say I would've been comfortable taking the charity of a strange vampire. It seemed like a terrible idea. Maybe I was being unfair, but his kindness made me suspicious.

He nodded slowly, like he didn't believe me, like he knew what was going through my mind. He held out his hand to me again, and it held a plain white business card. "Please, if you need anything, don't hesitate to contact me. It is within the Invictus'..and the communities, best interest to be sure those like you are properly educated."

"Thanks. I appreciate it." I mummbled. I took the card and slipped it into my pocket. He looked as though he wanted to say more, but apparently decided against it, because after that he simply nodded to me and continued on his way out of the terminal.

I chewed on what he had said as I waited for my bag to appear. There was apparently a way to appear human.. which made sense.. and 'clans' which I knew nothing about. He'd also mentioned 'The Invictus' which was a term that sounded familiar, but I didn't know why.

But most importantly, the encounter had jerked me out of fugue addled state of self pity. I could not rightly say that I had come to terms with anything, far from it, but I had a mission to focus on now, something more important to worry about for the next few hours. I had to find a way to escape the sun, and figure out exactly what to do to Giuseppe when I finally found him.

One un-life threatening situation at a time. I sent a quick text message and hailed a cab. The cabbie, at least, didn't give me any strange looks. I imagine he'd seen his share of oddness, and my appearance wasn't disturbing enough to make his list.
"Where to?"
I glanced down at my cell as it beeped the answer to his question.
"Club Ampersand." I told him.

I needed to meet with Sundown.


There was a line out the door of the club when I pulled up, regardless of the late hour. I received a few more weird looks, but not because of my ghastly complexion. It was more likely because I was hardly dressed for clubbing in jeans and a t-shirt, even if it was a tight fitting one, and because I was pulling a large duffel bag out of the trunk of the cab. I got a few, more hostile, looks as I skipped the line and headed right for the bouncer. To my relief, he gave me a nod and opened the door. "Boss is upstairs."

I just returned the nob and walked inside, leaving the line of club goers with something to gossip about.

Music assaulted me when I stepped inside, and that was the easiest thing to ignore. Another bouncer took my bag and led me through the surging crowd toward the stairs against the back wall.

It was a trying experience.

I had managed to maintain some semblance of control in the airport, even on the plane, after the brief incident with the flight attendant. But this was so much different. I was immersed in it here. Someone would brush past me, and I could feel her pulse against me skin and that thing inside me, the new thing that had overwhelmed me before, began to bubble to the surface. It wanted more. It was still hungry.. it would never be full. The fact that part of me wanted to let it was the most disturbing thing. I tried to block out the memory, but my body still ached for more.

So moving through the crowd was understandably difficult. A guy pushed past me, moving to the bar, and before I even knew what I was doing I'd grabbed his wrist and was bringing it up to my lips. I caught myself about half way through the motion, horrified. The guy was looking at me, confused, but not unhappy about the situation. If only he knew what was going through my head, how I'd imagined sinking fangs into his veins and drinking until another drop could not be forced from him...

I dropped his hand and did my best to give a teasing smile and a wink to cover my blunder, which probably fell exceptionally short of flirtatious, and disappeared into the crowd again as quickly as I could manage. I think he called after me, but I didn't turn around.

The bouncer was waiting for me at the stairs. He gave me a measuring look as I walked past and left him on the ground floor. My head was reeling. I walked up the steps slowly, trying to regain my composure. The encounter, as brief as it had been, shook me up. I hadn't meant to touch him, it was like something else was living in my head, stealing control whenever I let my guard down.

I paused in front of the door and took a deep breath. It did nothing for my lungs, but it helped calm my nerves. Now that I was here, I worried that Sundown might not know where Giuseppe was, that he might not let me stay the day.. but I forced it from my mind and knocked.

"Come in, Miss O'Shea."

I slipped inside, closing the door behind me and leaning back against it. I braced for the fear I felt in the terminal when the first vampire approached me, but was pleasantly surprised when it didn't happen.

Sundown was sitting behind a huge mahogany desk, attending to some paper work. The office was mercifully dim, lights low, save the bright lamp over the desk itself. As soon as the door clicked shut, he looked up sharply, brow knit together for a brief moment.. then his face shifted into one of deep, sincere pity when he realized what he'd sensed walking through the door.

"Oh, my dear.."

I had to swallow past the lump in my throat. I couldn't handle pity right now.. it made things worse. I took another deep breath before I tried to speak. God knows I'd never let myself cry in front of someone like Sundown.

I decided to ignore the look on his face and focus on why I'd come.

"I need a place to stay for the day.." I blurted. I would say I held my breath waiting for his response..but..well..yeah.
"Of course. You are more than welcome here. I have a spare room where you will not be bothered."

I felt one of the vice grips around my chest relax. "Thank you..."
"Please, have a seat." He motioned to one of the leather chairs in front of his desk. I pushed off the door and relocated to the comfortable chair, allowing myself to sink down into it and relax, just slightly. I rubbed my face then let my hands fall into my lap.

After a long moment I looked back up at Sundown. He was leaning forward on his elbows, fingers steepled, regarding me silently. The pity was mostly gone, but I could still detect hints of it in his eyes. He did not ask me anything, he simple sat, and waited for me to speak.

"Do you know where he is?" My voice was so full of bitterness I could nearly taste it.

Sundown reached into his desk and pulled out a plain white business
card. It was blank, save for an address that had been scrawled across
it in familiar handwriting, rather than printed. I recognized it as a
building full of penthouses on the other side of town. I perked a
brow in silent inquisition as I took the card.

"He requested that I give that to you, though he did not give me a
reason. That question has obviously been answered."

I grit my teeth and crushed the card in my fist. I had to close my
eyes and take a moment to calm down. Flashes of anger were harder to
contain now.. every time I let myself get pissed, that thing in
my head surged forward, trying to gain ground.

Sundown gave me a moment, aware of my internal conflict. He was still
watching my face when I opened my eyes.

"What, exactly, are you planning to do when you find him?" He asked quietly.
"Kill him." I barked, before I even had time to consider the
question. Sundown's expression remained unchanged. He said nothing.

I crossed my arms and sunk deeper into the leather chair. In a flash,
all the problems with that 'plan' had careened through my mind. I
pinched the bridge of my nose in frustration. "I don't know what I'm
going to do. I know what I want to do to that backstabbing sonofabitch."

"May I make a suggestion?" Sundown asked tacitly.
I waved my hand for him to continue.
"Perhaps you should consider speaking with him first. He certainly did this for a reason, and regardless of how it was carried out, you might feel differently once you hear his explanation."

I barked out a bitter laugh. "How exactly do you explain away masquerading as the enemy and trying to kill all of us?"

Sundown gave me a disappointed look. "You know as well as I do, Miss O'Shea, that had he meant to kill any of you, you all would be well and truly dead. He does not tend to leave business unfinished, and certainly does not invite such business over for dinner, as it were." He looked pointedly at the crushed paper in my hand.

"Then why leave me there?" I retorted, stubbornly holding on to every ounce of rage and resentment I could muster.

"Most likely because your compatriots would have continued to try to kill him." He said, matter-of-factly.

I glowered at the floor. I tried not to resent Sundown for his logic, because regardless, the bite of betrayal still stung harshly, and I doubted any amount of words could act as a salve for the wound.

"If you would like, I can provide you with a car to take you to the address. You are, of course, welcome to return here for the day."

I glanced at my watch.. I probably still had time.. if I left now. I nodded mutely, pushing myself to my feet as Sundown hit a small intercom button and called for a car.

We shook hands, and he held mine for a moment longer than a usual handshake, causing me to meet his gaze. "I am very sorry, Miss O'Shea."

I managed a wan smile as he dropped my hand. "Thank you.. for everything."

I left his office without another word. There was a sedan waiting for me in front of the club. I slid into the backseat, and it pulled silently away from the curb. I mulled over what Sundown had said. I hadn't stopped to think about Giuseppe's motivation for what he'd done.. merely the fact that he'd betrayed us all and turned me into a fucking monster.

It was inexcusable, and my rage refused to be quelled.. yet in the back of my mind, my curiosity had been piqued. Now I had to know.. maybe then I would have a better idea on how to accomplish ripping out his lying vocal chords.


Some biological aspects of fear are more psychosomatic than others, apparently. As far as I knew, my brain was no longer sending chemical or electrical impulses through my body.. my adrenal glands shouldn't be able to fire, and my stomach shouldn't feel twisted up in knots.

But it was. I had no shortness or breath, or pounding heart, but I felt other effects of fear all the same. It was disconcerting..and would probably make for a fascinating research paper.

The car pulled up in front of the high rise and I stared at the dim entrance for a good 3 minutes before finally opening the car door, not counting the time it took to rearm myself.

The place looked.. normal. It was a nice building that looked to be filled with mostly penthouses in a rather nice part of town. There was no doorman, but a panel of buttons to press to buzz each residence. I didn't recognize any of the names on the roster, but I knew from the the card which to push. It galled me to have to ask permission to enter his fucking building.. but I didn't have the time to wait for someone to enter or exit and slip in past them.

So he'd know I was on my way up. It was a small thing, but rubbed on my already severely frayed nerves. The logical part of my brain told me he knew I was there the moment the car pulled up, but it did nothing to comfort me. Logic was not something I wanted tonight, try as it might to get the better of me, I could be amazingly stubborn sometimes.

So I pushed the button and snatched at the door when the buzzer sounded indicating it had unlocked. The interior of the building was painfully bright. I felt totally exposed, even armed. The elevator was like a sanctuary in comparison to that foyer, lit only by a small overhead light, and the glowing buttons indicating the floors of the building. I pressed the button as soon as I stepped inside. I didn't want to give myself time to think.. time to reason how this was probably a terrible idea.

The elevator opened on the right floor with a soft ding, leaving me to exit into the silent hallway. I didn't hesitate or bother knocking, ignoring the little voice telling me to run away. I'd be dam.. well, further damned, if I ever let myself run away from Giuseppe.

So I opened that door, not sure if I was prepared for what might be on the other side.


The place was large without being massive. It was so new, I could still smell the paint when I remembered to breath. I shut the door quietly behind me and examined the entry way. There was a largish kitchen to my right, and a living room to the left. There was low opera music filtering in from a study beyond the living room and down the hallway. The only light in the place was a dim glow coming from the end of that hall. Not for the first time tonight, I felt more comfortable in the darkness of the entry way than I did at the thought of walking towards that light.

There was no one in sight, but I stood there and scanned the place anyway. I resisted the urge to draw my gun. Bullets were next to useless, so it would only be a security blanket. I started across the living room and down the hallway. All the doors to what, presumably, were bedrooms, were closed. My footsteps were quiet, but audible, on the wood floors. I made sure they didn't sound halting. My fear was quickly being replaced by anger, which was fine with me. Anger I could use.

The furnishings in the study were also scarce. There were two overstuffed arm chairs, a few books, a small stereo, and a floor lamp that was currently providing the only illumination in the whole place. And of course, Giuseppe, lounging in one of the chairs, one foot propped up on the opposite knee, reading.

I didn't actually process any of that the moment I walked into the room. My eyes fell on Giuseppe, who had already started to stand, and my vision went blood red. The thing in my head grabbed hold of my mounting anger and turned it into scalding rage. It surged to the forefront of my mind, having been provided ample footing. It wanted to rend and tear and bask in his blood. It didn't care that he was stronger, quicker, more experienced. It.. I.. wanted to sink fangs into his neck and reach into his chest and rip out his heart.

I felt my muscles tighten and my canines extend. In my hazy vision, I saw Giuseppe tense ever so slightly, waiting for me to make a move.

But I refused to give in. It was my anger, my fury that was boiling through my veins, but there was something else trying to take over.. trying to use me to its own ends.. and I couldn't let it free. It had murdered four people the first time..it had made me murder four people, who, dying or not, deserved more than to be devoured by a monster. And deep down, I'd enjoyed it.

So I fought to put it back in its cage. I staggered and leaned heavily against the door frame, creating small gouges in the wood with my nails. I put up as many mental walls as I could and did battle with the thing in my own head. But it wrapped claws around my wrath and used it as an anchor. I could not hold on to my control, and my anger.. so I uprooted it and hurled it back into the prison with the monster.. and came back to myself feeling as though I was an empty shell.

Giuseppe stood impassively, watching me. His expression was a blank mask.

"You backstabbing sonofabitch. What did you do to me?" I said, my voice quiet, lacking the intensity of emotion I had felt seconds before. I couldn't afford to be angry. My emotions had to remain walled off, restricted from this conversation. In hindsight, it was for the best. But at that moment, I felt he had robbed me of one more luxury.

An expression flashed across his features too quickly for me to read. He said nothing. I pushed myself off the door frame and stood straight, advancing into the room. The first question had been mostly rhetorical. We both knew exactly what he'd done. So I tried again. "Why?"

His expression did not change. "I did what I felt I had to do to ensure the success of the mission. It was necessary that the witch believe me to be Stone."

"So you kill half of us to keep up the charade?" My voice was bitter. I crossed my arms over my chest, just to keep my hand from resting on the butt of my pistol.

His voice was utterly unapologetic. "I was protecting myself." He held up a hand to stop my protest. "Admittedly, I may have overestimated the amount of force necessary to merely incapacitate. But regardless, the others were a.. lower priority. I was less concerned over their safety than I was yours."

That comment didn't quite penetrate, my brain was only just processing how odd it was, when my mouth decided to push ahead. "And this?" I whispered, gesturing to my 'newly' dead body, trying to ignore that slight quaver that crept into my voice again.

His face changed then. The blank mask slipped and I caught the pained look beneath it. The shift threw me off balance. "Harper, for that, I am truly sorry.."

I stared at him. I didn't even know where to begin to look for a reaction to that. He seemed truly remorseful. And God help me, I believed him. I don't know why, he'd done nothing but lie in the past, but this.. it felt sincere.

But he still did it, and I was still dead.

I turned my face away from him. "You didn't answer my question." My voice was stronger this time, but still tinged with uncertainty.

He inhaled and released a pointless sigh. "Simply put, I need you." I looked up sharply, face betraying my confusion. He met my eyes, his were deadly serious.. and tinged with the barest hint of uncertainty. Or I may have been projecting. I tried to speak twice before I could find any words at all.

"What the fuck are you talking about?" This was definitely not how I had expected this meeting to go. Needed me? As far as I knew, Giuseppe hated me as much as I did him... he'd always acted like I was a burden, only kept around because of my medical skills. I had been prepared to confront that Giuseppe. But now, he was being polite, remorseful, sincere and at least somewhat forthcoming. It was completely and utterly disarming, and I didn't know what to do.

He had purposefully put me in situations he knew I'd hate, and I had thought it was just to torment me. But now.. maybe there was an underlying purpose. Had he been preparing me? For this?

"Of all of them, your mind works differently. You look for answers to questions that the others, and myself, would never consider asking. That is why I need you, Harper, to ask the questions I do not think to ask."

Inwardly, I was stunned, and somewhere below the turmoil of revelations and emotions, flattered, by his admission. Outwardly, I scowled and looked away. "I'm not the only one who is capable of that.."

"Who else would you recommend I trust?" He arched a brow at me.

I blinked dumbly at him. The more he spoke, the more confused I got, the more I wondered if I was even talking to the same person I'd known from before.

"You are more unique than you give yourself credit for, Harper." He said, much more gently than I thought him capable of.

Finally, I threw up my hands in frustration and began pacing the study. He was slowly eating away at my coveted resentment. "And why, exactly," I growled, "did that require you to kill me?"

He turned and walked over to a bookcase, sliding the hardcover he had been reading back into its home. "Several reasons. You have survived thus far, but you were still human, and therefore subject to certain shortcomings inherent in that condition." He turned to face me again as I paced. "Vampires are by no means invincible, but certainly more difficult to kill than mortals."

Vampire. I stopped pacing in front of an armchair when he said it. Until now, I had been avoiding the term, as though not saying it would make it less true.

I was a vampire. My chest felt tight.

"You will also find that you now have access to resources in your search for answers that you did not have previously.." He was searching my face, gauging my reactions..

I sat slowly on the edge of the chair, eyes on the floor. My voice sounded pathetically miserable. "Why not ask me? Why do it this way?"

I felt him step in front of me, close enough to touch. I didn't look up, and he didn't reach out. "Would you have said yes, if I had asked?"

I swallowed the lump in my throat and shook my head. "Maybe..." He said nothing. I sighed. "Probably not.." I whispered.

"That is why. I am truly sorry it had to be this way.. but it is my hope that you will understand, eventually, why it did. Believe me what I say that it is only a curse if you allow it to be."

I looked up, hoping to read his face, but he had turned away from me. I frowned at his back. "And what if I don't want to help you?"

He gestured to the open study door. "Then you are free to leave."

But the unspoken question was thick in the air. Where else would you go?

There was Sundown, but I had no desire to be beholden to the After Hours King. I could strike out alone, but I was completely ignorant and had no illusions of how difficult it would be to survive..and then there was the seed that Giuseppe had just planted. The idea that there might be somewhere that I was actually needed..somewhere that I could have some kind of real purpose...

And then there was the counter thought that told me I was absolutely bat shit insane for even considering staying with the person who had murdered me for his own ends. Forced an existence on me that I'd never wanted.

I wasn't sure I'd be able to forgive him for it. However, the fact remained that staying here, for now, was my safest option. I could always leave tomorrow night. The voice in my head whispered that he could be baiting me, might betray me again, waiting to finish me off.. but the logical part of my brain dismissed the idea. He'd gone to too much effort to turn me, it wouldn't be practical to kill me now.

I couldn't trust his word, or his honor, but I could certainly trust his devotion to practicality.

I stood, running fingers through my hair in a nervous gesture. "I need to get my bag."

"It has already been sent up. It is getting late. Rest, and I will answer more questions tomorrow evening.. if you would like."

I nodded to his back walked slowly out of the room. My bag was sitting on a bed in a small bedroom that now stood with its door open, waiting for me. Mona, probably. I shut the door and sat heavily on the edge of the bed. I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep with so many questions, confusions, and revelations running through my mind at mach 10.

Was i really contemplating staying here? After everything that's happened? Of course I was, I thought bitterly. Giuseppe had done a bang up job of giving me no other viable options. He had engineered the situation perfectly.. the bastard.

What I couldn't admit to myself that night, was that deep down part of me wanted to stay. Part of me desperately wanted to believe that Giuseppe was telling the truth. The part of me that had never, in my entire life, felt fulfilled, was hoping beyond hope that someone as capable and dangerous as Giuseppe Santore really did need Harper O'Shea so badly that he had been willing to go to such measures to ensure he got me. Even if he was lying, it meant he wanted me around enough to go to the trouble of considering my feelings, and fabricating sincerity to make me feel needed. It was flattering and sweet in a weird, dysfunctional, and completely psychotic way.

But before I could realize any of this, I began to feel the sun begin to rise on the other side of my blacked out window, and the only thought I could hold on to as I slipped away into oblivion was the fear that I'd made the wrong decision, and the memory of, as I walked out of the room, Giuseppe's visage reflected in the study window... smiling.

June 11, 2010

And nothing would ever be the same again.

((Been waiting to do this post for awhile! yes, the Promethean is the same one that was called to Chicago awhile back, this was our first encounter with him, and the reason Giuseppe isn't mentioned is because he left the group at the hotel in Mexico several days (which, in real time, was several weeks) before this encounter, saying he had something to take care of that was exceptionally important, and of course, wouldn't tell us what it was. Tommy wasn't here either, due to his player being unavailable, neither was Goule, or Asol, for similar reasons. The werewolves were with Tommy, wherever the hell he was. So the group that went to the temple was Harper, Jaleel, Karl, Danzig, Bob, Korbin, and Jamaicastein..just to help everyone keep it all straight. ))

"This is a bad idea." I grumbled to no one in particular.
"What, you scared?" Karl said derisively.
I glared at the misogynist asshole. "Yes, I'm fucking scared! We're going up there to stop this ritual with no fucking intel. We don't have a clue how powerful Stone, or this witch, are, and we're missing half the people who were supposed to help us!" The volume of my voice increased until I was almost yelling at him at the end.
"We don't need those assholes." Karl retorted.

I wasn't so sure.

We stood outside our hotel, next to the jeep. I was leaning against the driver's door as we debated what to do. The ceremony was tonight, we'd learned that much from Asol.. there was no way of knowing if we'd get another chance. It took us forever to find Stone in the first place, and all of us were eager to solve the mystery.. some for the sake of the mystery, some just to get Natalie off our backs.

But most of us weren't even here. We'd gone through all the trouble of coming to Mexico, and half of our group had vanished. I let a string of muted curses go under my breath. So close to our goal and they all up and disappear. Fuck 'em, fuck Giuseppe especially.

"Well I'm goin'. You can stay here and cry about it, but this is the only chance we're gonna get." Karl tightened his grip on his wrench and turned towards the jungle, apparently set on walking the distance to the temple if he had to.

I exhaled heavily, more than slightly annoyed, and looked at everyone else. They just looked eager. There was a shadow of doubt in Theo's eyes, but it was greatly offset by his ridiculous grin. He was the only other person with military training.. who knew first hand what a cluster fuck this may turn out to be, but it didn't give him much pause.

Out numbered, I unlocked the car and started the engine. "Get in the fucking car, Karl. It'll be faster, and we're on a schedule."

And so we went, and I fought past the growing fear in the pit of my stomach. They were right, after all. This might be our only opportunity to take out Stone, if he didn't take us out first.


We had hiked a few miles into the jungle once the road had become too overgrown by plant life to allow the Jeep access. Night had blanketed us more quickly within the deep foliage. We had stopped trying to talk hours ago and focused all our energy on walking. Our guide, of all people, was Jamaicastein, as Theo had dubbed him due to his long dreads, and lack of any other name.. though he looked more middle eastern then Jamaican..

He'd appeared out of no where, scaring the shit out of me, right about the time we'd had to abandon the jeep. Paying us back for returning his heart, apparently. I wasn't going to complain.. we needed the help, and I have no idea how we would've navigated the jungle without him there.

The temple towered above the trees, alive for the first time in god only knew how long. Torches were lit, and we could hear faint chanting coming from the top. The party had started without us, and it sounded like there were a lot more guests than we'd anticipated. It didn't seem to give anyone pause but me.

We split up into two groups. We'd go up separate sides of the temple and flank those at the top, hoping to cash in on the element of surprise. We came prepared, both taking a short range walkie talkie with us for communication.

Bob, Theo and I took one side, while Jamaicastein, Karl, and Jaleel took the other. The steps were steep, rising about 30 stories to the top of the temple, but I was too focused to notice the burning in my muscles. About 10 stories up, there was a small antichamber to the left of the staircase. We heard voices, and slowed accordingly. Korbin was in the lead. He crept up and peeked inside, then looked back at us as we heard the crackle of a radio. He held up three fingers and put his thumb and forefinger on either side of his chin. Three targets, hostile.

I held up the OK sign, and Bob just looked at us, confused. I got close to his ear as I could and whispered, effecting a lisp to avoid those loud 's' sounds, "Three targets, all hostile."

Note to self, hand signals only effective when everyone has military training.

A grin spread over Bob's face, and he pulled out two large knives without so much as a whisper of the metal leaving its sheath. "I'll take care of them, watch the entrance in case any of them try to bolt."

"Get the one with the radio first." I whispered.
Bob just looked at me with a mildly annoyed expression, and slipping into the small cave like room without another word.

Korbin and I had already pulled out side arms. We heard a surprised yelp that turned into a gurgle, the crunching noise of electronics breaking under a boot heel, and then frantic yelling. One came rushing out the entrance, intent to run up the stairs and get help, or raise an alarm, or both, but Theo was waiting for him. He practically ran into Theo's chest, and didn't even have the time to look shocked before Theo had his hands wrapped around the guys head and snapped his neck with a practiced jerk and a sickening crack.

I saw his face, lying on the stone steps, and started to get sick to my stomach. He wasn't more than 16, and he had a Union tattoo on the side of his neck. Stone had brought the cult. Theo watched me, grin unaffected, but eyes holding a hardness that hadn't been there before, and Bob returned, wiping his knives on a piece of cloth, presumably ripped from one of the other kids. He seemed completely unconcerned.

"Lets go." Theo said quietly, his expression holding a question for me.. a silent, can you handle this?. I took a long breath, set my jaw, squared my shoulders resolutely, and continued up the stairs.

We had to do this... and the kids had transformed from children, to enemy combatants.. and the only way I could face this was to convince myself of that.

We kept going, pausing occasionally to avoid being seen, all the while drawing closer to the chanting on the temple top. I don't know how many stairs we climbed in that hot Mexico jungle, but the feeling of dread spread through me more and more with every step.

When we reached the top, my heart was in my feet.

The Temple roof was ablaze with torches and a huge bonfire in the center. Two figures stood in front of it, wearing white ceremonial robes. One was an older women, hair graying but not so old that her back was bent from age. The witch. And standing next to her was the man that we'd been searching for for weeks. Stone. He stood with his hands clasped in front of him, hidden in the large sleeves of his robes, the deep hood pulled up over his face. The shadow inside the hood was so solid that even when he turned to the fire, its light only barely traced the outline of his chin. The witch was addressing the crowd in a loud voice that carried over the chanting of the assembled mass.

And it was a mass. The entire temple top was full of people. So many teenagers, dressed in black robes, that I would be surprised if any member of the cult wasn't here.

Theo spoke softly into the walkie, and it was drowned out by the ceremony. "In position?"

We waited a few tense seconds before Jaleel's voice responded, in a tone that was almost a whisper. "Yeah. You get the witch. I want to take out the motherfucker Stone."

"Roger. We'll take care of her." He put the walkie away and looked back at us. I took a deep breath, and nodded, gun in hand.

Theo managed to find some higher ground, atop a toppled statue and Bob slipped non nondescriptly into the crowd. The swaying kids didn't notice either of them. They were too focused on the witch and her booming voice, praying to some dark god...

Until Theo shot at their leader with an assault rifle. Then all hell broke loose.

The shots didn't quite hit their mark, and the witch dove into the crowd without so much as a moments hesitation, and my own shots sunk into two of the cultists that had been standing on the other side of the fire, behind her. I saw Bob automatically switch direction and start following her, pushing past and slicing through anyone who got in his way. It was chaos. There was yelling and shrieking and gurgling cries for help.. and an undercurrent of jungle noises. The kids weren't trained for this. They ran in all directions, some trying to escape, many trying to stop us.. but they were their own worst enemies, I saw more than a few kids get trampled. Jamaicastein seemed to fall from the sky, landing on top of two kids. He began tearing a path through them with practiced ease. But I blocked it all out to focus on the mission.

Stone just stood there, facing Theo. He slowly dropped his hands, pulling two long blades from the sleeves of his robe, so long that they were practically swords. They glinted maliciously in the moonlight.

But Theo stayed focused. He cursed and scanned the roof for the witch between bursts of fire directed at cultists that came too close. I couldn't see the witch at all, so I decided to switch targets. Bob and Theo had a better chance finding her than I did. I turned and began to fight my way towards my new objective.

Stone seemed to be about to close the distance between himself and Theo when the others joined the fray.

Jaleel put three rounds into Stones chest, and Danzig lunged for his throat.

The bullets didn't seem to do much, aside illicit a quiet grunt upon impact, and spur him into action. When Danzig lept, he simply wasn't there anymore. His blades moved too quickly to be seen, but I heard the dog yelp and saw droplets of red fall to the dirt.

And then Karl was there, taking a swing with his huge wrench. He landed a glancing blow on Stone's shoulder, but took a nasty slice to his forearm. The wrench clattered to the floor as one of his tendons was severed.

Shots rang out from a few feet away, drowning out my own. My peripheral vision told me that two more kids fell to Korbin’s assault rifle. I caught a glimpse of a crouched figure wading through the crowd toward the fleeing witch, knives at ready, but it was taking Bob time to fight against the current of a hundred brainwashed teenagers. They were there to be cannon fodder, and they did their job well. I think that may have been their only purpose the whole time.. to act as distractions for this very night. And we were plowing through them like they were nothing but cattle. The Promethean was throwing them through the air like rag dolls. But I didn't have enough time to be bothered by the moral dilemma.. I was too busy trying not to die.

I witnessed all this in a split second while trying to stay focused on my target. The white hooded figure looked at me from across the rooftop, blood dripping from massive curved blade in his hand. The robe’s wide sleeves hid his hands making the weapon appear like an extension of his body. Danzig lay a few feet away, gored and unconscious, or maybe dead. I saw Karl’s face contort with rage when he saw the dog fall.

As I took aim, Karl took a swing. His fist connected with the side of Stone’s face. The sickening sound of brass knuckles hitting flesh was lost to the screams of dying youth. I fired as part of the hood rotted away from Stone’s cheek, and his cheek rotted away from his teeth. My bullet caught him in the shoulder, but he didn’t seem to notice. He swung the blade around drew it across his attacker’s stomach using Karl’s momentum to his advantage, moving faster than any human ever could. Karl stumbled and fell to his knees. His front soaked in blood; he seemed transfixed, unable to stand again, unable to move at all. It was a killing wound, I knew that much. He was holding his own guts. Not many came back from that, even with immediate emergency care, and we were a long way away from any hospital. My blood turned to ice. I wanted to run, but I couldn't leave them, and there was no way I could outrun him anyway.

We were like flies to him. Even as Bob crept up behind the old woman and slit her throat, Stone chose another target. Jaleel’s gunfire managed to bring another grunt before Stone sunk his blade into him. I fired until the two were too close to fire without the risk hitting Jaleel. I didn't even slow him down.

“Mother Fucker!” Jaleel threw his fist with all his strength behind it, a punch that had broken concrete the night before. Stone stepped around him as though Jaleel were moving in slow motion and pulled the blade down his back. Jaleel let fly a string of curses and whirled, throwing a right hook the side of Stone's head. It connected, and something cracked. Stone stumbled sideways. Jaleel pressed his advantage, only to have it used against him. As soon as Jaleel advanced, Stone lunged forward and sliced Jaleel cleanly across the chest. Jaleel fell and did not get up again. The blade had slipped between two ribs, and the gash was gaping and pouring blood. He was gasping for air. He was alive, but mobility was so impaired by both cuts that he couldn't hope to fight.

My eyes widened as my stronger companions fell. Stone turned once again in my direction, leaving Jaleel to struggle for breath instead of finishing him off. I panicked. If they couldn't stop him, God knew I couldn't.

I pulled the trigger as quickly as I could. There was no cover, there was no help, there was no way out. He was too fast. I managed to fire three rounds and steel myself for a blow before he was on me. In seconds, he moved from across the roof to close enough to kiss me.

But instead, he slid the blade through my body. It pierced my abdomen effortlessly, and I felt it part the muscles and organs, and exit out my back. He used the blade to hold me against his chest. My scream was choked off with the blood that welled up in my throat. My mouth was filled with the warm coppery taste, and I coughed, spattering his chin and the white robe. I tried to raise the gun but he knocked it from my hand almost absently. I tried to put a hand on the sword, a vain attempt to pull it free, but there wasn't space between his body and mine. His arm slid around my back as my knees began to buckle. He held me up, holding me on the blade, not allowing gravity to pull the knife up through my chest.

I looked up into the hood and could still only see darkness. I heard Korbin yell from across the roof, but he was so far away... I was between him and Stone, and the only clear shot was to Stone's head.. and it would be nearly impossible to hit that target with an assault rifle, and not hit me as well. I willed him to shoot anyway, but I couldn't talk.. my throat and mouth were full of blood and I couldn't get enough air in my lungs. Nevertheless, I heard the burst fire of the assault rifle, and I waited to feel the bullets bite into my back, wondering if I would even notice.

But the bullets never touched me. As the shots were fired, Stone swung me around, tightening his arm around my back and pulling me closer still, shielding me from the rounds with his body. I felt the force as the bullets bit into his back.

Wait..what? Why would he..?

My head was swimming and my ears roaring with pain. I could feel myself going into shock. I would have fallen as Stone slowly drew the blade from my stomach, but he held me close the entire time. I heard the knife clatter to the rough hewn floor, and felt blood begin to course down my body, warming were my legs had begun to go cold. My brain was shutting down, but slowly. Gut wounds take a long time to kill you, but I was pretty sure he'd speared more than one major organ. My thoughts were confused. Confused that I was actually dying, confused about why he'd bothered to kill me, someone who was absolutely no threat to him.. and why he was holding me like a lost lover as I turned his white cloak into a scarlet mess.

I was on the verge of unconsciousness as Stone sank his fangs into my neck, and it all suddenly made sense.. he was thirsty. The screams and moans of the dying drifted away as he drank the life from my body. I was unable to battle against it. My body even ached for it; I would have begged him not to stop if I could speak. I would have begged him to keep killing me. I had seen vampires feed before and it had disgusted me, horrified me.. but now all I felt was release. It was better than sex. But I knew I was going to die. Somewhere beyond the pleasure of it was the wretched knowledge that I would soon be no more. No one was close enough or fast enough to come to my aid against the monster. After everything we'd been through, all the horrors I'd survived.. I was going to die in the jungles of Mexico. And despite that, my breath was coming out in small, pleasure filled gasps.

I felt him pull away and the pain returned. The screams returned. The fear returned. There was nothing to see but blood and gore on the rooftop, but my eyes were transfixed on the vampire. My blood starved brain trying to make sense of what I saw in front of me. My rational mind screaming and thrashing in denial, even as I could feel my body shutting down.

As he had fed, his hood had fallen away from his face. My blood covered Giuseppe’s mouth and ran down his chin.


He met my gaze, but seemed unaffected. He ignored the look in my eyes, the confusion, the hurt, the betrayal, and the utter rage. He didn't care. The man that, while I hated him, had still been with us since the beginning. I'd been wrong to think he couldn't do anything to make me hate him more. So very wrong.. I would have torn out his throat with my bare hands, I was so angry.. but I couldn't move. My hands were cold..I couldn't feel them.. and my vision was quickly fading to black. And I hated him the most for that.. that my last moments I'd feel nothing but rage and bitter betrayal..

But he didn't just discard me. He still held me against him, one arm supporting my limp form. I just wanted him to let me go.. so I could sleep..he didn't' deserve to hold me like that..

I watched him tear open his own wrist and hold it over my mouth.

“Drink Harper.”

His voice was rough and urgent. Crimson welled up from the wound. The choice he gave me was no choice at all. I could feel my body drifting away as I clung to life with terrified desperation. My vision was fading, and the only things that cut through the growing fog was the bitter feeling of betrayal and the panicked thoughts that I didn't want to die.. more than anything, I didn't want to die. I didn't want it all to end here. I had to do something, anything, to keep going.

I didn't want to die.

So I parted my lips as a trickle of Giuseppe’s blood flowed from his hand, mingling with the blood of my comrades before sliding down my throat.

I felt life slip away from my grasp. My body went cold; I felt death like few ever have to do. It was not a physical pain. That had faded. I couldn't feel the stomach wound anymore.

It was as though everything I had ever cared about and everything I could have cared about in the future was wretched away from me in a single instant. It was not like the loss of a lover or a child, it was infinitely more painful. It was a loss of hope, joy, color, and warmth. It was the loss of pleasure, sight, taste and touch.

A true loss of all things. Oblivion is not sweet. The moment you die is the single most wretched instant of human existance. The only sweet thing about it is the nothing that follows. The release, the destruction of the very memory of death...but my consciousness remained. I was acutely aware of every sensation I would never have again. I was not allowed to sink into oblivion and forget the miserable, terrible memory of having myself torn to pieces. I was cursed to remain, to remember how it felt to die, to lose everything.

My mind began to falter under the weight of such loss, pieces began to splinter off, and thoughts began to shatter. The mind was not made to endure such things, the mind isn't conditioned to remember death. I tottered on the brink of madness. Just as my mind began to slip into chaos, a stronger beast took hold. A roaring hunger suddenly entered me. It exploded within me, filling the holes and crevices that had once been the home of true life. Hunger poured through me and replaced that hope, joy, and warmth. It overtook my senses and entangled my mind. Hunger brought my thoughts back together and gave them a manner in which to avoid the madness, a singular focus, a purpose: feed.

In those next few moments I did not resemble anything close to human. The Hunger dragged me to the closet body, clawing at the ground with hands that resembled claws.. towards the scent of fresh blood. A blonde boy stared up at the sky with wide blue eyes, barely alive. He had three neat gunshot wounds in his chest. Part of me, the rational part, screamed in horror I tore into his throat and lapped up the blood that gushed from it. But it was a weak and tiny voice, too badly injured to stop the Beast I was now.

Body to body I went, the Hunger roaring through me, animalistic and brutal. It did not free me until it slaked its thirst on four of the bodies strewn across the rooftop, and then the release was sudden and devastating.

The Hunger slept and I awoke to the reality of my cursed existence. At that moment, I felt the melodrama was justified. Red tinted tears spilled from my eyes and choking sobs racked my lifeless body..and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Despair settled over me. I stared at my hands as they shook uncontrollably, they were bloody, with pieces of flesh in the fingernails were I had clawed like an animal at the open wounds of the dying kids. No, not an animal.. a monster. Giuseppe had turned me into one of the monsters.. and I'd let him do it.. Tears poured down my face in a ceaseless wave, mingling with the blood. It felt like lifetimes, kneeling, sobbing, trying to forget.. before I could gain control again. What I'd done came back to me in waves, and I thought I'd vomit, but my body wasn't reacting like it should. I knew it never would.. and tears poured down my face, mingling with the blood.

I looked around in a panic, finally realizing I was still on the temple top, and possibly still in danger. Giuseppe was gone. Stone was no where to be found, he had probably never been in Mexico at all. I stood slowly, my legs shaky, my clothes drenched in the blood of at least 5 different people. I laid a hand on my stomach, and the skin was whole and smooth. The wound in my stomach was completely healed. The roof of the temple was littered with bodies. Karl, Danzig and Jaleel were gone. I had no idea where.. I thought Karl and the dog were dead. Bob and Korbin were discussing what to do with the body of the witch, staying a good distance away from me. I couldn't blame them. I'd just torn through 4 kids in a monstrous blood lust.... I stood on the rooftop of the temple and looked out over the jungle feeling nothing but empty, and wondering if any of it had been worth it.