Shido sat up with a start, to find himself eye to eye with his sire. "Cain…it wasn't a dream, then. You are here."

The elder vampire sat back on his heels, still holding a thin crescent of the blood basin in his hands. "I am here, Shido. I will always be here if you need me." He let the blood dissipate.

Frowning slightly, Shido looked around the room, seeming puzzled. "Drusla – she was here. Did she leave?"

Guni flew up to the back of the couch, and slid down to sit on Shido's shoulder. "Ashes and dust, Shido. Ding-dong the bitch is dead."

Cain smiled a little at the imp's comment. "You will no longer be bothered by her – or her mother. You are free of them, Shido." He tilted his head, rising to stand facing his childe. "What will you do now?"

"Go back to my work, I suppose." Shido rose unsteadily from the couch, with Guni holding on to his collar to keep from falling.

"Hey – can't you warn a person?" She ruffled her wings and settled back down. "Yayoi is going to be frantic about you."

"I know. I will call her – soon." He looked around again, and down at the tattered shirt. "I think I'd better change before I leave here." Guni huffed off to sit on the chandelier as he began unbuttoning it.

"Well, I can see I'm not needed," she grumbled, ruffling her wings.

"So – you are going back to your old life, even though you are no longer the old you?" Cain had moved away to stand against the far wall, watching his childe. "One cannot step into the same river twice, Shido. It is not merely a homily – it is the truth."

Shido looked up as he ransacked the room for other clothing. "I don't know what I'm going to do – I just know that people are waiting on me, and worried about me, and I can't just leave them that way."

Cain nodded. "You could come with me – " He held up his hands as Shido started to say something. "Don't interrupt me. You have come into more of your power, and you need to learn to use it effectively. I can teach you that, for your power is like mine."

Shido sighed, holding up a shirt to check before ripping off the rags of his current one. "I need time to think, Cain. I have been through a lot in the last few days, and I am not sure what it means yet. I can't think with you badgering me."

Cain leaned back and crossed his arms. "I can accept that. I am only saying that you should learn to use your power, and I can teach you. It doesn't have to be today."

Shido walked toward the chair to pick up his coat, and paused, looking over. "I – need to thank you for your help, for my freedom." He sighed, pulling on the coat. "I do owe you quite a bit."

Cain smiled and tilted his head again, a gesture almost too human for his normal demeanor. "You are my childe, Shido, and I love you. I have this terrible feeling that you have corrupted me – I am no longer the perfect predator. I do not think I could have done what Annanais did with her childe."

Shido smiled a little. "It wouldn't have come up. I would never take someone against their will."

"True – still human after all these years," Cain said with a soft sigh. "I mean what I say, Shido – I will be here to help you whenever you need it. If you will let me."

Shido paused, and Guni – ready to take flight to catch up with him – wobbled on the chandelier watching as he turned and walked over, and embraced his sire.

"You should see the look on your face," she said to Cain as his eyes opened wider in surprise. Gently, almost tentatively, he hugged Shido back, ignoring the imp.

"I think I understand some things better now," Shido said, without letting go. "I don't know what that means yet – only that I realize things from a different perspective. Maybe – in time – we can be closer. I just don't know."

Cain's expression had changed from surprise to an incredible tenderness as he stood with his arms around his childe. "Then we will give it time, Shido. We have time."

"You might have eternity, but I don't," Guni complained after they'd stood a couple of minutes longer. "Is this gonna take all night?"

Cain scowled at her, but then started to laugh. Shido just rolled his eyes and gave a last hug to his sire.

"Alright, pest, come on – we have to get home." He let her settle on his shoulder before turning back to his sire. "I will see you again – soon," Shido told him, walking out. Guni waved and ducked under Shido's hair as the door closed behind them.

Cain watched them go, still feeling the firmness of Shido's body against him, and fought the urge to go after him. "As it was before, so it may be again," he said softly, thinking of their early days together and how much he had missed the younger man at his side. A feeling of elation gripped him. "At least, now there is a chance."

In the empty room, an errant breeze swirled the pile of ashes and dust that marked a vampire's fall, while outside, in the deep indigo of the night sky, a figure of light danced joyfully through the stars – smiling.

#end#