Okay, this is it.
The hiss of an inhaler.
The kick. The burn. The bitter relief as the thirst quiets and then fades. But this cure can't fix the other anguish inside of him. One that he helped create. He couldn't kill Whistler when he was bitten, and he couldn't kill Meg even as that bastard took her. Blade grimaces and drives his hands into his thighs again as though physical pain could solve everything.
He hates this place around him almost as much as he hates being forced to suffer here.
God, he misses her.
She was so different. Even though she knew Japanese fighting styles; aikido, judo – she'd never fought with them. Her hunting style was the embodiment of the philosophy, use the path of least resistance. He'd never seen anything like it. Never realized that you could fall in love with a woman because of it.
It was all his fault.
Damn Whistler and his insistence that they could only count on each other. Meg had been there, young and so painfully willing. He'd destroyed everything over a silly ideal that never made any sense. He'd forced her into becoming a vampire, forced her to survive once she was one, but yet he'd expected her not to be one. She was the only woman who had ever taken the conflicting spheres of normalcy and insanity and made him believe that there could be a place between the two.
And he never said a word.
His fingers dig into his thighs until blood runs. The choices that he made turned her life towards this fate. His fault, and hers for trying to love him.
"Blade?" Questioned Abby's voice softly.
"So you can sulk some more?" She's angry, her tone biting and harsh, a lot like his own voice.
"I don't sulk."
"She almost killed him."
Blade shakes his head wearily. Hannibal was never in any danger except for the moment he tried to stop Drake from taking Meg. "He only wanted her."
"Because she's perfect." The words are painful. He's fought vampires all his life and he's given them the weapon they need to use against him. The weapon that will end everything. Blade is suddenly so very tired, and like a curse, the thirst feeds off that darkness so that he can already taste it growing on the back of his tongue. "She is sensitive to light and silver, but it won't kill her. They'll use that to step up their operations. To become more powerful."
"But she feels the thirst."
"It's like an addiction to her, but she doesn't need it."
"I've never seen so many vampires." He says it like an afterthought as he reaches out to grasp the katana from its stand. "They're growing despite everything we do."
"We have to stop them." Abby is persistent and he nods finally, replacing the sword.
But he doesn't speak then and he doesn't use all the rage the way he's told Abby to use it. This time he takes it and buries it downward where he will be the only one to see it. Meg has made him vulnerable and that can't happen, even as he wishes it would.
He loves her.
Bury all those thoughts away so that the real business can be done. Killing vampires.
He slides his sunglasses on and finally faces Abby. She is still covered in Hannibal's blood, weaponless so that she could get him inside the Emergency Room.
"What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to find out where they're gathering."
"Call Karen." He doesn't want to think about the darkness eating through his soul. "She'll know how to make a poison."
"To kill Drake?"
"To kill Meg before they can use her."
"You couldn't kill her before."
He doesn't answer. Only takes his sword and leaves in a flash of black cloak and anger. He's not entirely sure that he'll be able to this time, no matter how deep he buries his feelings for her.
Abby surveys the weapons covering the table in front of her. This mission will need everything she can carry and then some. She's wearing a slender armored vest over a blue tank top and fitted cargo pants. An ammo belt is already circling her waist as Johnny approaches with one arm in a sling and the other covered in leaking bandages.
"What are you doing?"
"Getting ready for war." She answers, gauging the weight difference between two small quivers or one large one. Knives are so much easier and she straps one to each calf.
"You can't take them on alone."
"Blade is going with me."
He snorts. He was there, he saw the sheer mass of vampires. "They won't withdraw this time."
"That doesn't matter."
She glances up as Calder walks out onto the balcony. His face is creased with unhappiness.
He looks down at his clasped hands and gives a small nod. "Karen is almost finished. With a formula I'll be able to synthesize the compound here."
"Compound?" Johnny says softly. "Daystar didn't work."
"This one will." Abby answers tightly and grabs another knife to affix to her body armor. "This formula only needs to kill one." Calder's head drops deeper onto his chest as he hears those words, he doesn't like where this is headed.
"Meg?" Johnny is incredulous. "You're going to kill Meg? You can't! She's one of us."
"Not anymore." Abby is still sorting weapons, discarding a heavy pistol in favor of a modified electronic one with the UV bullets.
"What's going on?" Johnny has turned to Calder. "We can't be doing this. We're supposed to kill vampires."
"Drake can use Meg to make vampires stronger. We have to kill her before they can." He takes a deep breath. "Or we'll lose this war."
"If we start killing each other we have lost this war!"
Abby doesn't turn from her weapon choice as she gently lays each arrow shaft in the quiver. The feathers aren't perfect until she has them aligned for an easy draw. "I won't let them kill everyone I love. I won't be like my father. But that means I have to be more like Blade. No friends and nothing but dead enemies."
"Are you sure you want to make this choice? There's no going back."
She lays another arrow into place. "Let me know the minute you've synthesized the poison."
Calder nods and turns sadly. Although Abby might do the actually deed, it will be his work that leads her there. "God forgive us for what we have come to."
Meg is laying on the floor of the room. She hasn't noticed anything about it except for the fact that she left Hannibal to die on that street and didn't fight as she could have, didn't fight for him or any of the others who must have fallen.
She trembles as a warm washcloth sponges away some of the blood of her hands. She tries to pull away and finds her hand caught. Drake has brought a small metal bowl of warm water that is sitting next to them both. His eyes are deep with something she never imagined possible in a vampire. He raises the cloth again and pulls it across her skin, leaving a trail of pink water that clutches at her heart. Hannibal's blood.
"Meg?" He asks gently and reaches to her face.
The touch makes her close her eyes but not just because of what has happened. It's just then that she realizes hours have passed. Dawn has long since risen outside of this place. Curtains are hiding most of the light but she can sense it, just as she can sense him across from her.
"Why?" She whispers as he continues his ministrations.
"Why what?" Drake asks. "Why did I strike down the man who tried to stop me? Or why did I take you?"
"I know why you struck Hannibal."
"The boy." Drake nods and finishes with one of her arms. Slowly he draws the other across her lap and starts on it. "The one from before. You kept their company. As you kept Blade's."
"We had the same purpose."
"Ah….purpose." His touch is so gentle that Meg is falling into the motion. His hand brushes her lips and her entire body moves with it. "Wait." A touch stops her and he finishes the broad swath of skin until it is clean. Meg looks up at him with awe-struck eyes, she feels like she's losing her mind.
"What have you done to me?"
"I could ask you the same question."
She didn't expect that. Didn't expect to hear such honesty from a vampire.
"You're a vampire." She tried to say it as an accusation but the words fell flat.
"I am. As you once were. Yet no cure will fix me."
Then it comes to her and she springs to her feet. Her hands reach for weapons that are no longer there. "My blood." She hisses. "I'll die before you take it."
He's already there at her side, his hands like iron grips on her arms until he wills himself to loosen the grip. They are walking a path that neither of them is used to and he reminds himself that this woman is different. If he wants her to stay with him forever, he will need to convince her mind of it even though her heart has already chosen.
"I didn't take you for your blood."
"But you know what I am."
"A hundred years or a thousand. How long would I have to wait for another woman like you? Especially when you were the first."
"You drove a stake through my chest." She reminds him, but he's so close that their heartbeats have already settled into a rhythm. She fights against it but she can feel it, as a deep throbbing through her bones.
"And forced you to make a choice. Life or death."
"Because I needed to find someone who would understand what I am…and chose me anyway."
She looks up at him and realizes that she is not alone in this sudden change of heart.
Drake reaches up to touch her with his bare hand and they both start at the sudden electricity of skin on skin. He pulls her closer and tilts her chin up toward him.
"You know exactly what I am."
"Yes." Her response is barely breathed.
"And I know what you are."
"No one will ever touch you. We can accomplish our goals without ever using a single drop of your blood."
"You will kill them all." Meg retains enough sense to remember this part. To remember all of the blood farms.
"My goals are different than Danica Talos' were." He reminds her gently, drawing her attention back to the present. "Completely different. Can you trust me?"
"I shouldn't." But she is already giving in. She's known since that initial glance. Her love for Blade was a slow gradual thing and Drake a flash-fire of emotion. There is no going back after this journey, whatever she decides will remain in her heart forever.
"Meg, you are the only one. Please……stay."
The hospital is full of muted whispers and the soft squeak of nurse's feet as they go about their duties. In a private room the man laying there has not regained consciousness which is probably the best thing.
Hannibal King is swathed in heavy bandages all around his neck and head, those protecting the wounds and the intricate ventilator cords that secure the tube entering his throat. The emergency surgery managed to stop the bleeding and get enough donated blood into him that he pulled through but it wasn't an easy fix. Underneath the bandages are rows and rows of sutures criss-crossing his flesh and the new inability to breathe on his own.
Machines are now monitoring his body; breathing, heart-rate, status of life. But none of them can shut off the drug-induced circuit that is running over and over again in his sleeping mind. He won't remember any of it when he wakes, and for that he would be grateful. Each circuit shows him a different ending to the battle on the street and none of them end any better than the real one.
He is alone. Completely open to any kind of attack if one were to come. But gravely injured, he's no longer a threat.
The machines beep softly with the ventilator that keeps him breathing. The heart monitor with its jagged lines tracing across the screen and then starting all over again. If he'd been awake he would have wished to have Abby with him, to tell her the truth, about everything. But this room is empty even though he is alive.
Thanks for all the feedback and reviews. This is the end of Blood-borne and I appreciate everyone who has read this far.
The third story/sequel will be "Heartstrings" but will be more in the vein of No Pulse.
This one got bogged down a little bit with too much gloom. So back to a little bit more action and some new vampires.