Chapter 3

"The Elder bit her."

They were returning to the asylum to check on Vanessa, after verifying that the trail was still sort of intact. Now that that poor man was dead, at least they would have a roof over their heads for the night.

Axel looked at her with wide eyes.

"He did what?" He stopped her with a hand on her arm, turning her around to face him. "What do you mean?"

"That's what she told me. When we were digging up that grave." She shrugged, but her mind hadn't stopped rushing around in circles ever since her sister had dropped that bomb on her. "What if that's why her eyes are turning red, Axel? What if she's turning? What are we supposed to do if she turns?"

"Hey, hey," he touched her cheek and made her look up at him. "Let's not panic just yet, alright?" He said gently and she nodded, taking a deep breath. Just the thought of Vanessa turning into one of those monsters was enough to make her blood freeze in her veins in fear. "Vanessa is strong as hell. She's been bitten countless times by now. I don't think she can be turned at all."

Scarlett leaned forward and rested her forehead on his shoulder. The panic she'd been feeling ever since Vanessa told her she's been craving blood was overwhelming. If it came down to it, if her sister really turned into a full fledged vampire, she didn't know if she would be able to kill her.

She was her twin sister.

She'd just gotten her back in her life. She refused to believe that this was all the time they would get together.

"God, I hope you're right." Letting out a sigh, she forced herself to pull back and look up at him again. "Cause if she turns, I really don't think I'd be able to-" she cut herself short and shook her head. She couldn't even bear to finish that thought.

"Scarlett, look at me." He touched her chin and she met his eyes again. "Hey, we'll cross that bridge if we get to it. Together, alright?" He leaned in and pressed a quick kiss to her lips. "For now let's just focus on the mission at hand."

She nodded again and stole another quick kiss from his lips. Now that Vanessa and the Elder were traveling with them, these stolen moments were very few and far in between. It had only been a few weeks, but Scarlett couldn't even imagine her life without him in it anymore.

And that scared her beyond belief.

Living in a post-apocalyptic world, you kind of had to live on a day by day basis, and she had spent the past four years shying away from any sort of attachment. Because you never knew if you were even going to be alive the next day, so she couldn't allow herself to care too much. Not when there was so much to lose.

But Axel had blown the lid on her feelings wide open and there was nothing she could do to stop it now.

Pressing one last kiss to his lips, she smiled when she met his soft gaze directed at her. He ran his hand through her hair gently and nodded for them to move forward, giving her waist a gentle, affectionate squeeze before letting her walk ahead of him in the trail.

The asylum had just come into view when she saw Vanessa coming down the steps. Alone. Looking at Axel, she found him frowning as well, probably wondering the same thing.

Where the hell was the Elder?

"Hey, is the trail still good?" Vanessa asked as soon as she reached them.

"Yeah. The rain washed most of it away, but we can still make it." Axel told her, but Scarlett wasn't about to ignore the elephant in the room.

"Where's the Elder?" She asked before Vanessa could say anything else. "Vanessa."

"It's a long story, but he tried to get me killed in a reverie." She explained and Scarlett's frown deepened. "Look, let's just go back to that cabin. We can stay the night and I'll fill you guys in."

"Did you kill him?" She asked firmly and Vanessa sighed. "Did you?"

"Yeah, he's dead." Her sister said simply and started walking. "Come on."

Scarlett exchanged a look with Axel and he raised an eyebrow at her. She shrugged and shook her head, at a loss of what to do. Vanessa was already a few feet ahead when they finally started moving.

The walk to the cabin was silent, the only sounds around them coming from whatever was in those woods. When they got there, Axel set out to explore the cabin and the contents of the guy's cabinets. She heard him muttering 'jackpot' under his breath and shook her head with a smile.

Unbuckling her swords harness, she placed it on the small couch to the corner of the room. Vanessa disappeared into the room in the back, so Scarlett took the moment to get her thoughts in order. She still didn't really understand what had happened, but for now, she would wait for her sister to explain.

Stretching her arms above her head, she groaned, feeling her joints popping pleasantly.

"Hey, Ninja," she heard Axel call out to her and smiled at the nickname. It had started out as a way for him to make fun of her, but it had become a term of endearment somewhere along the way, and she'd grown to kind of love it. "Look what I found."

She took his outstretched hand and let him lead her into some sort of pantry.

"Holy shit." She breathed, her eyes running hungrily over the full shelves.

"It looks like we're going to have ourselves a feast tonight." He nudged her shoulder with his and she laughed in awe.

Sure, it was all canned food, but it was still better than nothing. She grinned at him and pulled down a can of chicken rice soup, already dreaming about having a decent meal. She couldn't even remember when she had last eaten. Maybe sometime this morning?

"God, I'm starving." She said, grabbing a jar of peaches, her mouth watering at the thought of her favorite fruit. "Vanessa!"

"Why don't you go get her while I get our dinner ready?" Axel suggested, hand gently caressing her side. "She's probably just washing up or something."

Nodding, she looked in the direction her sister had disappeared to and, after checking that Vanessa was still in the room, Scarlett tugged on his hoodie, pulling him to her, and touched his lips with hers. She felt him smiling against her lips and pulled back, her heart racing at the soft look in his eyes.

For the first time in almost four years, she felt happy.

"Thank you." She beamed at him and kissed him again, before turning on her heels to go find her sister.


His hand made its way to his lips, the phantom feeling of Scarlett's kiss still lingering. Axel watched her disappear into the room in the back and shook his head, trying to clear his head.

This woman was driving him crazy. When he thought he couldn't possibly like her more, his heart surprised him and he had no idea what to do. He couldn't even imagine doing this, surviving this crazy apocalyptic world, without her anymore and that scared him more than anything.

But it was too late now. He was already too attached, too... infatuated to turn back.

Taking a deep breath, he tried to focus on the task at hand. There was a small table in the room, so he pulled down a few cans and put them there, before going in search of silverware. The guy had to have at least a couple of spoons around here somewhere.

Just as he was setting the few forks and spoons on the table, he heard the sisters coming back into the room. Scarlett immediately met his eyes and he raised an eyebrow at her. He was deeply concerned about whatever was happening with Vanessa, and he truly, truly hoped that she wasn't turning.

He hadn't spent the past four years of his life protecting this woman, only to have to kill her in the end. Nope. It wasn't going to happen.

"You've really outdone yourself, Army Man." Scarlett's voice brought him back to the present and he rolled his eyes at her, a small grin playing on his lips.

"You should thank that poor soul out there." He shrugged, picking up a can of spaghetti, before sitting next to her. "He was the one hoarding all this treasure."

She shook her head and opened the chicken rice can she had selected a few minutes ago. "Dig in, sis."

Vanessa grinned at them and picked up a can of what looked like some sort of soup. Taking a seat across from them, she raised an eyebrow at him, and Axel wondered if she knew that he was kind of halfway in love with her sister.

Picking up a fork, he finally tasted some of the spaghetti in front of him, the flavor exploding on his tongue. Before the Rising, he had never been one for canned food, but after four years? This stuff was heaven.

"Good, huh?" He turned to find Scarlett watching him amused. "I'll trade you."

She offered a spoonful of her dinner and he gratefully accepted, the flavors also nearly as heavenly as his spaghetti. Squeezing her thigh in thanks, he pushed his can in her direction, and turned to Vanessa.

"So," he cleared his throat, knowing full well that Vanessa had been watching his entire exchange with Scarlett. "You ready to tell us what happened back there?"

"Yeah, what the hell happened to our pet vampire?" Scarlett completed, moaning at the taste of his dinner, before pushing the can back towards him. "This is amazing." She told him and he chuckled at her enthusiasm.

"I found a sword in Lily's coffin." Vanessa finally broke her silence, digging into her own dinner. "It had blood on it and the Elder said it belonged to the B'ah."

"What the hell is a B'ah?" Scarlett immediately asked and Vanessa swallowed before answering.

"Another Elder."

"Oh."

"Yeah." Sleeping Beauty said before shaking her head. "So he said he could show me how to defeat the B'ah, just like when he created that reverie with Mom, remember?"

Axel watched as Scarlett nodded, sadness clouding her eyes for a moment. Involuntarily, he reached out and caressed the small of her back, in an attempt to comfort her. He knew that these past few weeks had not been easy on her. On any of them.

"It was different this time, though. It was like I was trapped in Lily's body, over a hundred years ago." Vanessa continued and he felt his eyes widening in surprise. Just when he thought nothing could shock him anymore, shit like this happened.

"You travelled in time?" Scarlett asked in awe, eyes as wide as saucers. "Holy shit."

"I don't really know if it was time travel. It was weird. How long were you guys gone for?" Vanessa asked and he thought back to their banter as they walked down the trail to the cabin.

"Fifteen, maybe twenty minutes." He told her and she let out a surprised laugh. "Why? What happened?"

"I lived for days in Lily's body. She was in Hong Kong to destroy vampires. In 1896."

Axel let out an impressed whistle and chuckled when Scarlett gasped out a "holy fuck!".

"This is the weirdest shit I've ever heard." His Ninja added, returning to her dinner. "What was that like?"

"Intense. It's a long story, but the bottom line is that I know what the B'ah's totem is and I know she's supposed to be in San Francisco now."

"She? It's a woman?" Scarlett interrupted and Vanessa nodded. "Great, so now we need to get to San Francisco somehow. This is going to take a while."

"At least we know where we're going." He countered and she shrugged, reaching for the peachjar. "It's better than nothing."

"True." Scarlett conceded and stabbed a piece of fruit with a fork, before pushing the jar in his direction. "So how did our Elder end up dead?" She asked Vanessa curiously.

"He wanted me to die in the reverie. Facing the B'ah by myself." She explained and Scarlett snorted.

"Is that even possible? It just seems too surreal." She shook her head, taking another piece of fruit after he had taken one for himself.

"I don't know, but he sure as hell tried. He was surprised when I came back. So he got a blade to the heart for his efforts."

Vanessa shrugged and Axel shook his head amused. This woman never ceased to amaze him at how badass and ridiculously brave she was. Both of them.

"Good riddance. He shall not be missed." Scarlett saluted with a piece of peach stuck to her fork. "So we should probably get some rest, gather supplies and start making our way down to California."

They finished their dinner in relative silence and Scarlett offered to clean up. Axel took this chance to check the rest of the cabin, finding a simple room in the back with a small twin bed. He was definitely taking first watch tonight, but he figured that at least one of the girls would be able to get a decent night of sleep in an actual bed.

When he returned to the main room, after washing up, he found Vanessa and Scarlett arguing over who was going to take first watch.

"I will." He told them and when they turned to him, ready to argue, he just shook his head. "I'll take first watch. End of discussion."

"You need to rest. That thing back there nearly killed you with his weird ass power." Scarlett countered, but he wasn't having any of it. "Axel, come on."

"I'm fine, Ninja. You can take second watch, if you'd like. But for now, you two get to go to sleep. End of discussion."

"You're fucking annoying, did you know that?" She complained, and he chuckled. "Alright, Army Man. Suit yourself." she shrugged and turned to her sister. "You should take the bed, Vanessa. You time travelled and fought an Elder." She argued when Vanessa opened her mouth to contest.

"She's right, Sleeping Beauty." He agreed, ignoring the narrowed look Vanessa sent his way. "You need rest way more than we do."

"Fine, but I'm taking second watch." Vanessa said and he nodded. "You kids behave." She teased and he knew Scarlett had raised an eyebrow in question, probably thinking the same thing he was. "Goodnight."

Once Vanessa disappeared into the room, he made his way to the fireplace and rekindled the fire, hoping it would last through the night. The temperature had dropped considerably and the last thing they needed was to freeze to death in here.

He heard Scarlett dropping onto the couch and smiled at the sight when he turned to look at her. Her legs were stretched out in front of her and her eyes were already closed.

Giving the fire one last little push, he made his way back to where she was and sat down next to her, immediately pulling her closer to his side.

"Tired?" He asked quietly, pressing a kiss to her hair. She nodded, and stretched her body out before snuggling closer to him. "Sleep, Ninja. I'll be right here."

"Are you sure you're okay?" She asked him after a moment, her fingers gently caressing his stubbled jaw. "That guy got you pretty good in there."

"I promise I'm fine, Scarlett." He smiled and kissed her temple again.

"Vanessa is onto us, you know." She commented after a beat and he chuckled.

"Oh, I'm pretty sure she is. She keeps looking at me weird, and I'm not sure she approves or not." He told her with a teasing grin.

"She doesn't have to approve, Army Man. You're my decision." She poked his chest jokingly and he laughed, capturing her finger and bringing it to his lips.

"Am I now?" He drawled and she rolled her eyes, leaning in for a kiss that quickly deepened.

"Hmm, I miss you." She whispered against his lips and he had to take a deep breath to control himself, his desire for her almost overwhelming his senses.

"Miss you too." He mumbled, pulling her in for another mind numbing kiss. "But I really don't want Vanessa to shoot me because she thinks I'm taking advantage of her little sister."

"You do know we're twins, right?" She laughed and he shrugged. "For all we know, I'm the oldest."

"Still."

"Chicken." She teased and he laughed, kissing her lightly this time. "I'm really glad I found you, Army Man." Scarlett confessed after a couple of minutes in silence.

"Marine." He countered with a grin, before pressing a kiss to her forehead and then to her lips. "I'm really glad you found me too." He caressed her cheek, wondering how he had survived this long without her. "Now sleep, babe. I'll be right here."


A/N: Thoughts?