A/N: This is a one shot about a superb series of books by my friend and client, Lisa Olsen. She's running a fan fic contest on her website so I officially throw my hat into the ring. This takes place after the events of the most recent book, Hear Me When the Sun Goes Down.

"Play it again, Sam."

The band leader smiled. "Sure thing, Anja."

His name was actually Charles, but he knew what I meant. A moment later, the sounds of an old but finely tuned piano filled the air, along with the resonating plunks of a bass and the gentle whine of a saxophone.

The dance hall was crowded, filled to capacity with people eager to forget the reality of their everyday lives. Rationing, air raids, Keep Calm and Carry On. The walls were covered with USO banners, a few of which even had my face sprawled over them. The air was hazy with cigarette smoke because it was the forties and everyone smoked back then, pulling it off with effortless class. The drink of choice - anything not German.

I stepped up to mic stand, my peep-toe T-straps gleaming under the stage lights like they'd been shined with a floor polisher. My outfit was short, tight, and sparkly, and that was being polite. I looked like an American flag gone wrong, but the catcalls coming from the tables told me I looked pretty good as a pinup girl, so I went with it. That was my job after all, to make the boys happy.

A smile curled onto my candy apple red lips as I stared out into a sea of brown uniforms and cropped haircuts. The room was mine, that was for sure, but there was only one face I was looking for. Tucked into a corner all the way to my right, Rob watched me with keen eyes. His glass was half empty, sitting next to a soft pack of cigarettes. I hated it when he smoked, yet he still managed to make it look good.

He appeared to be the picture of ease - uniform shirt and tie pulled open, arm propped over the back of a neighboring chair, ten o'clock shadow - but I knew better than to assume he was relaxed. He could strike without hesitation, crush a windpipe or break an arm, then go back to casually smoking his Dunhill. His eyes never stopped moving, until they stopped on me.

The words flowed out of me like water, easy and clear, my debilitating stage fright nothing but a distant memory. I didn't really need the microphone, but I liked the way the old amp gave my voice a little pop. "You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh..."

The room quieted down and word by word, every eye in the hall turned to me. Maybe I was singing to the guy that missed his gal back home, or to the girl who'd just lost her crush. The bartender whose son had just been sent out to the frontline. At that moment, I was singing to all of them because that's what I was there to do, but there was only one person I was looking at as I poured my heart into that song, and he knew exactly who he was.

Our eyes met over the mic stand and he watched me like a predator stalking its prey. My hips slowly swayed with the music, which elicited a small, corner of the mouth smile. "It's still the same old story, a fight for love and glory, a case of do or die. The world will always welcome lovers as time goes by."

A wild ruckus of applause erupted when I finished the song and I lost Rob in the crowd. I gave a few distracted bows and thank-you's as I looked around for him, but his table was empty, his cigarette left smoldering in an ashtray. Where had he gone off to? He would never leave without...

"Need a hand, miss?" He stood at the lip of the stage with an outstretched hand, staring up my fishnet-clad legs in the process.

"Why, thank you," I smiled demurely, taking his hand and letting him lead me down the stairs. He swept me into his arms and we twirled onto the dance floor as the band began a lovely rendition of Embraceable You. I couldn't help letting out a happy giggle - spinning around in a crowded room wasn't exactly typical for us, and the simple levity of the moment filled my heart with bliss.

"Hello, solider boy," I said.

"Hullo yourself." He gave me a lazy half-smile, a look that drove me all sorts of crazy, always had.

"Nice uniform."

"You thought it up."

"Oh no, sir. This is your dream we're in, not mine. If I were dreaming about World War Two, you'd be dressed up as Captain America right now." He shook his head and sort of rolled his eyes, but knew better than to make fun of anything involving me and the Cap. "Where are we anyway?" I asked, tightening my arms over his shoulders.

"Vet's hall in Manchester. Used to come here with the boys before the Blitz, let off a little steam."

"You mean, the Blitz?" World War Two history was something I professed to knowing very little about, but even I knew what the Blitz was.

"That would be the one."

My eyebrows fell together. "You never talk about it."

"Not much to talk about," he shrugged, taking the place in slowly. "Just a bunch of ghosts."

"So why're you thinking about it?"

"Thinking about a lot of things right now."

Okay, so he was in one of those moods. Not that I could blame him, obviously, and I knew he didn't like it when I popped in and out of his dreams like a scene from Dreamscape. But still, in for a penny...

"Were you in the Army?"

He nodded. "Air service."

"As in you flew the planes?"

"Na, I was one of the stupid gits that jumped outta the planes."

"Oh." Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined what being in a war was like. It was so far out of my vision scope, even as a vampire Elder in the midst of a mini revolution. I let out a sigh and pulled him a bit closer. "It must've been horrible."

"That's why it's not worth talking about."

"Everything's worth talking about at least once."

For one moment, I thought I saw a shadow of something pass over his face, a muscle in his jaw clenching, a brow scrunching. But instead of spilling it, he opted for the pass. "That a bit of Elder wisdom right there?"

"Something like that I guess."

The conversation was over, and that was okay. He smiled, which made me smile, and I laid my head on his shoulder, taking in the scent combination of worn leather, clean sweat, and faded bay rum aftershave that was Rob. Content to quietly dance in each other's arms, we didn't really need to talk. There would be plenty of time for that. Song after song blended namelessly together, and although the tempo of the music changed, we remained locked in each other's arms, slowly swaying to a music of our own.

A disheveled man bumped into us, giving my shoulder a less than polite tug. He was a big guy, all neck with a Kirk Douglas chin. "How 'bout one for an American G.I., sweetheart?"

He was clearly drunk and reeked of scotch and discourtesy, but I gave him a gracious smile and replied, "No thanks."

"Ah, come on, just one?"

"No, thank you."

I lost my smile but the guy was oblivious and looked to a stone-faced Rob. "You don't mind, do ya, fella?"

Rob swiftly turned me away. A sober man would've heard the tone in his voice and just stepped away. "The lady said she's not interested."

"The lady should get her sweet ass back up there and sing us another one!" The man laughed over his shoulder to a group of equally drunk men, who only further encouraged him with some loud hooting and hollering. I cringed, not because the insult itself bothered me, but because the idea of Rob grinding the guy's face into the floor did.

"Hey. Show some respect, lad." We were now stopped in the middle of the dance floor, Rob standing protectively between me and the offending idiot.

"Sorry, bloke." He thought this was just about the funniest joke ever.

Rob let out a long, even sigh through his nose. I could see the muscles winding up in his neck like the rubber band in a balsam wood airplane. "How 'bout you bugger off and we'll forget this ever happened?" This wasn't really a question.

The man wavered for a second or two, and I thought he might've gotten sober real quick when he saw Rob's eyes narrow to slits, but no such luck. He prodded Rob's shoulder with a few fingers and tried to push him back, which was like pushing back a cement wall. "Listen, you limey little shit, I'm stuck over here to save your asses, so I say we let her sing another fuckin' song."

Rob's steely gaze flicked to me, almost asking me permission, and I gave a feeble shrug. "It's your dream."

That's all it took. In one swift movement, he had pushed me out of the way and wrestled the guy into a choke hold, one of his arms twisted painfully behind his back. "Apologize to the lady," Rob said in a soft, yet menacing sort of way.

"Fuck you!" the guy managed before Rob yanked on his bent arm and he wailed out with sudden pain.

"Apologize to the lady," he repeated.

"Okay, sorry. I'm sorry," the man sputtered.

"Now tell her you're a wank."

"Wha-" Another pull, another scream. "Okay, I'm a wank, I'm a wank!"

At this point, I tried to hide the smile on my face but wasn't very successful. The couples dancing around us watched in unchecked amusement as Rob held the bigger man in place with what looked like hardly any effort at all.

"Now you and your mates are gonna piss off and never show your bloody faces 'round here again. We're crystal, yeah?"


Rob let go and gave him a good shove, just because he could. Stumbling away, the guy pulled at his inebriated friends and they all left in a cloud of Johnnie Walker and testosterone. Then Rob turned back to me and held out his dancing hands, not a pleat out of place, not a bead of sweat on his forehead.

"You didn't have to do that," I scolded as we began to sway around the dance floor once again.

"Course I did. Your honor was at stake."

The only thing really at stake was that guy's butthole when I shoved my pretty patent leather shoe up it, but I let it go with a shake of my head and an indulgent smile. "My knight in shining cotton blend."

"Yeah, that's right."

His voice sent a tingle from my ear right down to my girly parts - that growly voice thingy he did got me every time. When he leaned in to kiss me, I just melted into him, getting lost in the taste of his lips and the feel of his body pressed up against mine. We swayed to the rhythms of a Gershwin song like we didn't have a care in the whole damn world, and it didn't matter who was watching. For half an hour, we had nothing to hide.

"Rob?" I murmured as I took a breath.


"Don't wake up for a while, okay?"

"Anything for you, miss."

But he woke up. With a loud gasp, his body spasmed and reality came crashing back down onto both of us. The amber-lit dance hall was instantly replaced with the dingy walls of a cheap hotel room. The car accident, waking up in the morgue (again), wondering if Rob was dead or alive...

At the moment, he was somewhere in between.

His eyes were wide with panic and confusion. "Anja!"

"I'm here," I soothed. "Shhh, I'm here."

He was stripped down to nothing but his shorts, yet his skin was still hot to the touch. "Bloody hell, it burns!" he said through gritted teeth.

"I know, you're almost through it." Settling back into my temporary position of guardian, I leaned against the headboard and pulled him close to me, dabbing a cool washcloth over his forehead. "It'll be over soon, just hang on."

He swatted the washcloth away but almost immediately grabbed me by the wrist and held my hand tightly against his chest. "Got nowhere else to go," he grumbled.

His body was fighting for its life, battling with the vampire blood that now hummed through his veins. My blood, given to him in a desperate attempt to keep him alive. There had simply been no other choice for me to make. It was either give him my blood or watch him die right before my eyes. Now, as his body fought between death and something else, I watched him go through the same transition process that I had gone through less than a year earlier.

Curled up in a fetal position, his tough exterior having crumbled hours earlier, Rob suffered in silence through most of it. My heart went out to him, seeing him in this undone state. Being out of control was not something Rob did well, and I was sure he'd rather be alone then let me watch him struggle, but there was no way that was going to happen.

I remembered how grateful I'd been for having Bishop by my side through my transition, and I was going to do the same thing for Rob. True, he was hardly your typical newbie vamp, but even he might not be able to control the blood lust that would be just around the corner. I was his Sire, and as wack-job crazy as that sounded, I was determined to do right by him. Not just because I loved him, but because I would never be responsible for making another human being feel the same way I did when I woke up alone on my first night as a vampire.

"You rummaging around in my head again?" he asked after a few quiet minutes, too tired to really protest my dipping into his dream, but annoyed enough to complain.

"What can I say? Waiting around all night to properly kick your butt is pretty boring." He gave a quick, deep chuckle, resting his head against my stomach. "So, you up to it yet? We could do a little sparring before the sun comes up."

"Yeah, in a tick." He didn't move and I didn't expect him to.

"You looked pretty hot in that uniform, you know. Maybe we could dip back in there and go find a coatroom or something."

His eyes stayed shut but he smiled, and for a second he looked like he was simply getting settled in for a nap. "The things you say..."

He faded fast back into unconsciousness, yet his grip on my arm remained tight and the smile on his lips lingered. With a deep, exhausted sigh, I looked down at his sleeping face and gently rubbed his stubble-covered cheek. I would stay awake until I couldn't keep my eyes open for a second more, just in case. But then I would dream, and he would be waiting for me.