AN: This story incorporates the worlds used in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Highlander the Series. Canon characters from both shows may make appearances, but the focus is on original characters.
The background and characters draw heavily from the story "Vampires in the Home," which is to be expected from a sequel. If you haven't read that one yet, I strongly recommend you do – not just because "Vampires in the Home" is an awesome story, but so you can appreciate "Vampires in the Community."
Chapter 1 – Reunion – January, 2005
Nathan never let his family walk around with activated cell phones. They were traceable, he maintained. He almost regretted the paranoia when his car pulled up to the house at night. The lights were all out, and the couple soon found themselves in an empty home. Nathan's first stop was the kitchen for food.
"Nathaniel?" He followed the sound of Diana's voice to the basement. Why she had made her way down there mystified Nathan, even as he saw her crouched down over the exercise mat. "Something happened." There was anger in her voice, laced with incredible pain.
Nathan prepared himself and knelt beside her. A pile of ash was on the floor. Nathan had seen enough slain vampires to recognize the remains for what they were. "Lau?" He looked around the room for signs of a fight. A large open area around the mat was too much space to reveal any hints.
"I saw Tabitha and Yvonne's hair on the mat. They were sparring here."
"Why would Tabitha and Yvonne spar with sharp pieces of wood?" The question sounded stupid in his ears.
"Or a cutlass?" Diana countered. That made a bit more sense, but her conclusion still seemed premature.
Nathan knew how upset he was when the adrenaline pumped through his veins and he made it to his spare sword's hiding place in record time. The blade was gone. Its removal was not an accident or the work of a thief. Only his children would have known where to find it. Suddenly the reason for his children's absence was not just a night on the town. The missing cutlass could only mean violent intent. Nathan's next stop was Lau's room to check for the vampire's katana. It was also gone.
Had Nathan's worst fears been realized? Were four months enough to destroy decades upon decades of domestic life? He knew he was in shock. He did not awake to himself until Diana stood in the doorway.
"We have seen enough battlefields to recognize the aftermath." Diana had served as a nurse in more wars than Nathan cared to remember, protected from the sunlight by medical tents. "I can smell it in the air. We have to find out what happened, Nathaniel."
Nathan looked to his wife. She was in pain and desperate for answers, even though she spoke with her usual confident tone. Many people thought her cold and callous, but her actions always belied her voice. He loved her dearly. "We can't stay here anymore," he decided. "I have a hotel room on retainer under an alias."
The words seemed to take something out of Diana. For the first time in centuries, pain showed on her face. "Is that really necessary? You want to throw out everything we had just because ..." Her own words were enough to make her see reason. If one of their children had been beheaded by another, then their lives were at risk, too. Nathan had been right about something else, too. Immortals were more afraid of death than mortals. "We have to take the Lotus. There can be no sign we returned."
Nathan nodded. "I have a storage area in Lockport where we can leave the Lotus. It isn't practical for the winter anyway. Is there anything you want to take with you?"
She took time to consider. Everything she wanted that they had not taken only included their children. What else was there? "No. Did you find any messages?"
"I think the pile of ash was a message by itself, don't you?" he retorted. Nathan almost apologized for his harsh tone. "Judging by the lack of dust around the house, this has to have been recent. We need to get out of here before we're noticed."
Diana followed him back to the garage, sure to leave the lights in the same state as before their arrival. They went to storage first to switch the Lotus Espirit for a more mundane Jeep Liberty. "Whose name is this car in?" He pointed to the glove compartment, where she found an envelope that contained his new identification papers. Diana perused them before she handed Nathan his new wallet. "Nathaniel Jaconet. How many more secret warehouses do you have?"
"One more in Erie County. I keep most of my things in a safe house outside of New York City." It had been a long time since they last lived in New York City, so Diana was probably wondering when he put it all together. "When you have decades to get something done, you would be surprised how easy it is to keep it secret."
She was hurt as they drove to the hotel. They were husband and wife now, and there was still so much for her to learn. Of course they had time. Only, it was too easy to use that as an excuse to never discuss anything. That was why it had taken six centuries for them to consummate their relationship. At least he gave an honest answer when she asked. "Are there any other hidden resources I should know about?"
"Your papers should be in the door compartment by the passenger seat." She found the proper envelope easily enough. Apparently, she was twenty-two years old. She had been older when she was Turned. "Diana Jaconet, wife of Nathaniel. There's already a bank account in your name. When we get a chance, we can have the Isaacs's assets given to a third party who doesn't exist yet."
"You mean if we decide to leave town." The idea of dropping their lives in Buffalo did not sit well with her, even if the children were the only reason to stay. The children minus Tabitha or Yvonne. What happened?
Nathan chose not to answer her question. It was at that moment they pulled up to the hotel in Williamsville, so he was saved from being pressed. The concierge accepted the name Nathaniel Jaconet with surprise, but their room was ready. Luckily, the couple's belongings were still packed from their extended honeymoon. A few long minutes later, Nathan and Diana were alone in yet another hotel.
"Now what do we do?" she asked.
Nathan looked out the window, saw that it was still night. "Now we go to sleep. The best time to track down a vampire is during the day." He looked at his watch. "We have a good eight hours until real daylight."
Diana was too worried to consider much of anything. She wrapped her arms around her husband and let him comfort her with an embrace. "Promise me everything will work out."
He wanted to. Ever since their romance had begun, Nathan promised himself never to lie to or mislead the Master Vampire. His dedication to her had expanded without reservation after she regained her heartbeat. Once again, he could not lie. "I promise that I will always be here for you. I promise that..." A wet drop was on his cheek. The tear stopped his speech and made him wonder just what he might say to make everything alright. There was no answer. "We'll find out what happened. It could have been an accident for all we know."
She liked that idea. It was enough to make her smile. "Maybe it was an accident." Diana clung to the feeble thought that was just enough to carry her through the night.
The vampire did not know why she returned. Maybe it was habit. This place had been her home for so long, and the people who owned it were the closest thing she had to parents. She enjoyed the way she felt when her father was near, even though a large part of her was disgusted by the change she had undergone.
From the moment she stepped in through the front door, she knew that her parents were back in Buffalo. Their scent was subtle, but she had spent decades around the people who were her saviors. They were finally back!
Before she knew what she was doing, the vampire made her way down to the site of the betrayal. The basement studio was where her brother and sister had turned against her. "How could you?" she asked the pile of ash. "We both looked up to Diana, we both wanted to be like her." Tears were in the vampires eyes. Just minutes ago, she would have sworn that vampires were incapably of crying. Perhaps she was no longer an ordinary vampire.
That last thought sobered her in an instant. She wanted to live again. That was the real reason she stayed with Nathan and Diana. They made her feel alive, like part of a family, like someone important. For Lau and her sister, it had only been an illusion. They still wanted to be vampires.
Where were her parents? If only she had made it back in time to catch them. She needed to tell them that she was still alive – or, rather, undead. The only thing the vampire knew for certain was that Nathan would not return to the house unless he was sure it was safe. If he had left, then she could assume that she should not stay, either.
The vampire left her home in search of shelter for the coming day. Perhaps then she might find the only two people who, in her eyes, deserved their lives.
Morning came too quickly for Nathan and Diana. Not much sleep – or much of anything else, for that matter – took place over the course of the night. This was the first time either of them truly worried for the well-being of a family member. Neither spouse cared how fortunate they were to first experience the loss of a child so long into their life spans. It was a pain and a mystery that was difficult to even accept, much less confront. That was why it only occurred to Diana at seven in the morning that they had another resource in Buffalo.
"Call Cyrus," she said in almost a whisper. Those were the first words spoken within the hotel room since they arrived. It almost sounded like an intrusion on the pain, and Nathan tried to block it out. Then he caught himself and picked up the hotel phone to obey.
The phone rang four times before Nathan's Student picked up. Halfway into the "hello" on the other end, Nathan felt something snap. "Pancake house, Williamsville. Two hours." The phone was placed on the cradle before Cyrus replied.
A glance was the only hint Diana needed to start getting ready. He allowed himself the pleasure of watching her undress for the shower, before he turned his attention to other preparations.
He picked out clothes for both of them, all the way down to the underwear. The items he laid out had been bought with style and practicality in mind, though Diana would probably be disappointed by the fact that he chose one of his sweaters for her. Next were the weapons: an equal number of knives, swords, and firearms. The bullets were a gift from a lab in Washington State, made from artificial petrified wood.
Diana came out of the shower after only ten minutes, and Nathan pointed right back to the bathroom as she was stepping through the doorway. "I don't want to see you in here for at least another hour." The emotions that played across her face showed that she did not appreciate his words, so he made sure to clarify. More softly, he said, "This can only be a bad day, Diana. Enjoy what you can."
Nathan's wife made a show of sighing. "Fine." She decided to take his recommendation in the spirit it was given and left the bathroom, anyway. Her husband new better than to protest when she walked towards him with a hint of a smile in her eyes.
Cyrus Tegyr, Demon Hunter and Immortal, fiddled with his knife at the table. It was the dull blade given to all customers purely for eating, but for Cyrus it was a bit of a comfort. So much had happened over the past several days. His Teacher was not going to be happy, and Cyrus wished that anyone else could have been in his chair. The only time he had ever seen his Teacher angry was when they had first met...
Circa 800 CE
Cyrus cut down the last Polgara demon with his axe. He managed to avoid getting sprayed by its blood, but the axe refused to budge from what was left of the monster's neck. The only way to get it out now was to dig it out with his dagger. No matter; he had more axes.
The cave was soon behind him and Cyrus breathed in a sigh of relief. Everything demonic in the area was finally slain. It was then that he heard a man shout out something that put him instantly on alert. Cyrus ran off in the direction of the yell and into a battle.
Two men were fighting, one clearly bigger than the other. Yet the bigger man was also losing. The Attacker was fast – faster than any normal human should have been able to move. He also seemed to match the Defender's strength with ease. "Stop!" Cyrus shouted, sure that he knew what was happening.
The voice made the attacker turn his head. He muttered a curse, realizing his mistake, just as the Defender managed a shallow cut to the Attacker's abdomen. Perhaps foreseeing an inevitable loss, the Defender fled before the Attacker could return his attention to the fight. The Attacker started to follow, but Cyrus stopped him.
"I'm Cyrus Tegyr," the Demon Hunter said. "And you're about to die, demon." Cyrus grinned menacingly as he attacked with his own sword. The 'demon' parried easily. Cyrus considered himself both talented and skilled, but he was being treated like a boy with a stick.
"Did you just call me a demon?" the man asked, somewhat offended. Cyrus growled as he continued his offensive. The 'demon's' movements were somewhat rushed as he defended, as if he was confused as to why this Cyrus Tegyr was attacking him. "You don't know what you're doing," he tried during a lull in the combat. "This is your chance to walk away." Cyrus responded with a charge, his sword tipped towards the ground for an upward slash. The 'demon' responded by moving forward more quickly than Cyrus anticipated, his sword piercing the flesh of the mortal's abdomen and disemboweling him as he passed.
A look of shock remained on Cyrus' face as his painful death was about to be cut short by the sword poised to strike at his heart. After the darkness, there would be nothing. No witches to revive him, no Druids with their miraculous abilities. This was the end. And so there was blackness. Then light.
The world rushed back along with Cyrus' consciousness in a sharply-drawn breath, both surprising and scaring the young man. Was he possessed by a demon? Made into some kind of a hybrid – a vampire, perhaps? Cyrus opened his eyes and saw the 'demon' from the alleyway holding him down. "Relax," said the 'demon' in a soothing voice. "If I wanted to kill you, you'd be dead."
Fear was quickly replaced with the burning hatred he felt for all demons and their like. Cyrus glared. "What do you want?"
It was all Nathan could do to keep from rolling his eyes. "To explain a few things to you, so you don't get yourself killed again." The last word echoed in Cyrus's mind. "First of all, there's no such thing as a demon. We're Immortals. Human Immortals."
Cyrus blinked. Not a demon, yet immortal? "How? I don't understand."
Nathan reached somewhere behind and produced a knife – it was one of Cyrus's weapons. With a quick slash, Nathan cut a slit along the palm of his hand. Hardly any blood spilled, as lightning closed the wound within an instant. "This is called the Quickening. It's the life force of an Immortal, it makes us what we are. Nobody knows where Immortals come from. We live normally until our First Death. Afterwards, we heal from any wound and never age."
This time when Cyrus tried to sit up, Nathan let him. "Then why were you fighting that man? What did he mean when he said, 'I won't let you have my soul?' "
The man's actions finally made some sense to Nathan. Still, he was surprised the young man had taken the words so literally. "That's part of the down-side to Immortality. Nothing comes for free."
"You have to swallow souls? Like vampires drink blood?"
Nathan would have laughed if Cyrus had not been so serious. Cyrus looked like he was preparing himself for a fight, too. "Not exactly. We have one weakness: decapitation. When an Immortal kills another Immortal, he absorbs his Quickening. All his power, all his experience, goes to the victor. Because in the end, there can be only one."
"Why only one? And why did you want that man's Quickening?"
"It's part of the Game. No one knows how it started or why, but all Immortals play by the rules. One-on-one fights only. No fighting on holy ground. On the other hand, not everyone is a willing participant, and there is no obligation to accept or issue a challenge."
"I ... think I understand," Cyrus said after a few minutes thought. "So you wanted that man's Quickening so you can win the Game." Cyrus' glare returned. "You were going to murder him for it, even though he wanted no part of it."
Nathan turned away to hide the expressions that threatened to crease his face. He spoke calmly, however. "Not all Immortals are good people. Le Beige is a village several weeks from here. Vincent Huntsman and his brigands raised it to the ground and slaughtered every living soul. I arrived too late to help. The thugs I already killed, but Vincent escaped – here." Nathan faced Cyrus, his full fury shining behind his eyes. "You delayed his fate. You did not alter it." Cyrus nearly shrunk back from the tone in Nathan's voice. "That wasn't your fault," Nathan continued, his tone considerably softer. "You didn't know the situation.
"It's time for introductions. My name is Nathan MacIsaac." For the first time since he had begun speaking, Nathan had a Scottish accent. "I am Immortal. And so are you." The weight of Cyrus' death and resurrection suddenly hit him. He had come close to dying once, but knew immediately upon awakening that it was magic that healed him from the brink of death. Similarly, he now knew that he had actually died in that alley. "Welcome to Immortality, Cyrus Tegyr."
Cyrus swallowed hard, his eyebrows knit together in thought. "I see. But if I'm Immortal, why don't you just take my Quickening?"
Nathan smiled warmly. "All Immortals are sterile, so I suppose the closest we can come to raising children is to take on a Student. The Immortal who found me after my First Death taught me how to survive the Game, and now it's my responsibility to teach you."
The prospect of a stranger teaching him anything– especially one who had so easily killed him not too soon before – did not rest easily with Cyrus. Still, one thing Nathan had said troubled him more. "You said there is no such thing as demons earlier." Nathan looked at him blankly. "You were wrong." Before Nathan could protest, Cyrus interrupted. "I offer you a bargain: You teach me more about the Game, and I'll teach you about the supernatural." Seeing his Student's resolve, Nathan saw no choice but to accept.
"Done." Then the warmth was gone, as if it had never been there. "First I have a head to take. You can follow, if you like. Just don't interfere."
The Buzz brought Cyrus' attention to the door. He blinked away the image of Nathan beheading Vincent Huntsman as his Teacher and the former-demon Diana walked inside. The couple was dressed in matching, loose-fitting clothes that probably hid as many weapons as Cyrus typically carried. For Nathan, the wardrobe spoke volumes.
They waited to order besides exchanging anything more than basic pleasantries. Rather than get right into the bad news, Cyrus decided to ask, "What did you find out from your Teacher?"
Nathan recounted the basics to his former Student – the Game was a sham, Immortals were the natural enemies of demons, etc. "We also learned that if an ancient Immortal and a Master Vampire are near each other for enough time, and if they both have the will, then the demon can be transmuted into a soul."
The waitress brought three plates of food to Cyrus' stunned silence. She gave the group an odd look before offering to get them anything else. When she was gone, Cyrus finally reacted.
"I wonder if that works both ways. Can there be a demonic Quickening?" Tales of "Dark Quickenings" were suddenly placed in a very different context. A demonic explanation made more sense to Cyrus. He preferred black and white to shades of grey.
"What are you trying not to tell us?" Diana asked once she caught his attention. The look in her eyes unsettled Cyrus to the core.
The Demon Hunter started to ask if she read his mind, but thought better of the question. Even though newly-living, she was still a Master Vampire. "Have you ever heard of an Immortal named Flynn?" he rhetorically asked. "He is the only other Immortal on Earth who associates with vampires."
Nathan's eyes narrowed and Diana crossed her arms. There was no chance that Flynn had the same intentions as Nathan. "Sorry, I misspoke. He hires vampires." Cyrus' audience was unsurprised to hear the correction. "Word on the street is that he plans on using vampires to bring him the Quickening of every Immortal – he will create his own Gathering and win the Prize. What he hopes to do with it is anyone's guess."
"Word on the street?" Diana asked, though she already suspected what he meant.
Cyrus had always considered Nathan's wife a cold woman, but the emotion in her eyes was startling. Was she concerned for Cyrus' safety? He saw just a hint of the heart and soul his Teacher saw in Diana. Then the moment was gone, and Cyrus wondered if he was looking for things that were not there. "A posse of vampires tried to take me to their Shogun." The words "posse" and "shogun" sounded dreadfully wrong in the same sentence.
Cyrus let himself consider the wording as a way of stalling. On the other hand, there was only so long he could wait before telling Nathan exactly what the elder Immortal did not want to hear. "Flynn's vampire minions are being led by a Japanese Master Vampire who calls himself the Shogun." There. He had said it. The news that would infuriate his Teacher, if Nathan put two and two together.
"The Shogun?" Again it was Diana who asked for clarification. Cyrus wondered if there was a reason why his Teacher was silent when he realized that Nathan had already finished the equation. Most likely, so had Diana. She just wanted him to come out and say it.
"The Master working for Flynn is Lau. Rumor has it that he earned the job by beheading Flynn's Student, an Immortal twice Lau's age." Now that he had already delivered the difficult news, it was time to go into a subject Cyrus new very well. "Flynn has a serious chance at starting the next Apocalypse."
Earlier That Morning, Before Sunrise
He was gone. Weeks had passed since Laurette last saw her neighbor – Stas – and she was finally forced to admit that he was really gone. The hint, the promise of something more, was gone. She was once again all alone in the world.
Not all alone, Laurette reminded herself. There were still a few, scattered friends out there. Cyrus, the so-called Demon Hunter. He was some kind of vigilante, and Laurette felt that the less she knew about him, the better.
Then there was Laurette's only student. Sophie had come into her life before Laurette heard any hint of Rabbi Nathaniel's Immortality. Long before all the insecurities of her youth had come back in full force.
Laurette dimly wished for her Student's presence before letting out a long sigh. It was four o'clock, and she was still awake. She needed to go out and do something before she drove herself insane through lack of sleep. Stas had warned against going outdoors, but he had also disappeared without saying goodbye. If he had stupidly challenged one of the other Immortals in town – Rabbi or Cyrus – than Stas deserved his death. If he had fled town, then Laurette had no business listening to his advice.
She pulled on a long coat over her sweats and went out into the pre-morning air. Sunrise was just a short time away. Maybe watching the light break the horizon would cheer her up. There was a large field on the University campus, just a few blocks away. The view would be perfect.
Halfway to the University, Laurette caught a glimpse of movement. A woodchuck, perhaps? She turned her head and tried to pin down the source. Several seconds passed before she realized it was a person. The person – a blonde – was much closer than she should have been. Odd. Laurette was usually much more observant.
Wait. Laurette knew her. Or, at least she had caught a glimpse of the blonde. Where had it been? "Hey!" Laurette called out.
The blonde halted suddenly, eyes locked onto Laurette like a frightened cat. They were even yellow – no, that was a trick of the light. She clearly needed help.
"Hey, are you alright?" Laurette asked, walking closer.
The blonde looked like she was about to bolt, until she recognized Laurette. "You're Papa's friend."
Laurette nodded. "That's right. You were there when I came to visit Rabbi Nathaniel. I'm Laurette." She held out her hand with the kindest smile she could manage. The blonde reminded her of everything Laurette wanted to run away from. On the other hand, if she were to be honest with herself, Laurette would have left Buffalo if she really wanted to run away.
"Yvonne." The blonde calmed down as she said her own name. She stood up straight and finally looked like the human she supposedly was.
"Are you–" Laurette started to ask, but she was cut off.
"I don't mean to be rude, Ms. Laurette, but can I ask you for a favor? Do you live nearby?"
It was an odd request. If Yvonne had been a stranger – or almost anyone else – then Laurette would have made up an excuse. Yvonne was the adopted daughter of a man who had shaped Laurette's life in so many ways; she owed the girl an invitation to her home, at the very least.
"I need a place to stay."
Those last words cinched it. "Of course. Right this way." Laurette turned around and started back for her apartment. Yvonne rushed up along side her. "Did you have a fight with your parents?"
Yvonne glanced nervously around them. It was almost as if she was running from something, but Yvonne was not Immortal. What did she have to fear?
"Is a Headhunter after Rabbi?"
Her response was to hasten the pace. "Not exactly," Yvonne said, in response to the second question. "I had a fight with my 'siblings.'" Sibling rivalry was far from enough to explain Yvonne's behavior. Laurette wondered if Yvonne's adoption had been a pity case as they reached the apartment door.
Laurette opened the door and motioned for Yvonne to come in. When she did not enter, the Immortal assumed that she was simply being well-mannered. Laurette walked inside and set down her coat before she turned back around. There was Yvonne, still outside. "Come on in," Laurette insisted.
Yvonne came into Laurette's home with so much relief. She locked the door behind her – all the locks, not just the deadbolt – and hugged herself with the slightest smile on her face. "Thank you so much." The blonde yawned widely before Laurette could offer her anything. "Is it alright if I sleep on your couch?"
The blonde took off her shoes and curled up on the couch, almost asleep by the time Laurette thought to ask any questions.
"When you wake up," Laurette told her in a way that brooked no disagreement, "you are going to tell me exactly what happened."
There was a sound as Yvonne smacked her lips and made herself more comfortable. "If you like. But you won't believe it."
The Immortal rolled her eyes at Yvonne's claim. After eight hundred years, it would take a lot to surprise her. Laurette decided to humor Yvonne and did not challenge her. Instead, she brought the Rabbi's daughter a blanket and tucked her in. Yvonne let out a small moan of acceptance.
Laurette smiled at the scene. She missed having someone around to take care of. A book on the coffee table begged Laurette's attention, and the Immortal curled up to read while she waited for her houseguest to awaken.
When Yvonne finally did wake up, she told Laurette more than about what had happened the night before. At the same time Nathan, Cyrus, and Diana were eating pancakes, Yvonne told Laurette all she knew about vampires and Nathan's family. All five wished the conversations had never taken place.