Look! I wrote another chapter! Finally! I'm actually working on 16, but that's never a sure bet until I finish it. I am, however, inspired right now. I hope it lasts long enough to get me through more than one chapter. But I have plans for this story, now we're getting into the fun part. To everyone who is still with me - thank you for sticking this story out. I've really fallen in love with it. To everyone joining me - I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. On with the story! Love, Ren



Chapter Fifteen

Forks

America, 2005

We had been walking for days. Perhaps longer. In the wilderness, especially under cover of clouds and trees, we did not have to take shelter from the sun. No one around would see us, and if some unlikely hiker were to find us, he would not ever speak of the glowing angels of death.

"I want new pants," I murmured, glancing to James. Laurent chuckled behind me softly. I shot him a look. "I am serious. Look," I pointed to the tears and stains in my blue jeans.

Ever since the Viscount's death, time had rolled relentlessly forward, surrounding us and changing everything else. We were merely along for the ride. We had left France and taken up a wandering life in America again. We had seen Pearl Harbor take an air strike from the Japanese military. We had watched the country go to war all around us. Fashion changed, language changed. We evolved with these changes, changing our language slightly and adapting to new technology, but nothing else moved. Occasionally, hollow ghosts of our originating times surfaced in our speech or mannerisms. Even a hundred years could not undo that. Perhaps if we lived with humans, among them, and tried to blend in, more would change. We had no reason to. Anyone who was close enough to notice that something was off would not live long enough to dwell on the idea. Still, James and I were not completely independent of time. Every so often, we would break into an electronics store and see what was new, steal nearly everything, and then explore what had developed in the last year.

The advent of the blue jeans had been fantastic, second only to the cell phone. I thumbed the slim blue flip phone in my pocket. I did not have a phonebook, I only had one number to memorize: James'. It was the only material item that I had obtained legally. A working phone was invaluable when we were separated, and while it was possible to get by stealing a new one, inevitably the number would be disconnected within days. It was much easier to purchase two legally and pay enough for six months ahead of time and not need to worry about the number being disconnected. Granted the money we had used to buy them was obtained illegally, but at least the phones were kosher.

Laurent plodded behind us, silent and musing as ever. James looked over me closely, thinking.

"You could always take them off if you don't like them," he said matter-of-factly, a playful sparkle lingering in his eyes. I stared at him intently, rolling the idea over in my mind. It did not seem like such a bad idea. Though some nuances of our old cultures remained forever sewn into the fabric of our minds, other nuances changed. For example, James and I spoke of things I would have been ashamed to even think of a hundred years ago. We did things together – and apart – that I would have never dreamed of. With time and immortality came a freedom unlike any other. I glanced down to my torn and tattered pants.

"I still want new ones. And a shower. It's about time, do you think?" I looked to James who shrugged. I looked then to Laurent. Laurent had become less of a subordinate with a talent and more of a leader. His diplomatic nature made him easy to talk to, to discuss ideas with, and his insight was often wise. He just fell into the spot of wise, passive director of our little band of nomads.

"I don't see why not," Laurent said. "I think there's a city a little further north. We can even catch a meal there. Will that do?"

"Do they have blue jeans?" I asked smartly, shooting him a look to rival my wild hair.

"I'm sure they do," James said comfortingly. I nodded once.

"Hurry then!" I did not wait for affirmation; I took off running in our new direction. I heard the boys exchange a surprised word or two, followed by banter at my expense about girls and clothes. I ignored them, making a straight line due north for whatever conglomeration of humans happened to be so unfortunate to be in my path.

***

"What the hell? Who names a town 'Forks'?" James turned to look at Laurent in surprise. Laurent only shrugged helplessly. I, on the other hand, was beyond caring what the name of the town was. I just wanted some clothes.

"Victoria!" I stopped, sighing, frustrated.

"Yes, Laurent?" I turned to face him, trying to hide my impatience.

"...tact. I know you really want your... pants. But we must wait until nightfall and break into a store. Sadly, today is not in your favor. The sun is out," he said, pointing up.

"The hell with it," I said. "Who cares if they see? What can they do to stop us?" I was beyond frustrated.

"Well, the humans can do nothing. But they most certainly can," Laurent said wisely. James and I both went cold at the inflection in the pronoun. "And," he continued, "given your previous run-in with them, I would advise you to be as cautious as you possibly can. You do not want to attract their attention."

I turned away, grumbling. Laurent was right. I think I hated the fact that he was right more than I hated not getting new pants for a couple more hours.

"I know what will cheer you up, sugarbuns," James said coming up behind me, his hands landing low on my hips suggestively. His chin rested on my shoulder and his hips bucked against my rear lightly.

"No, I want-"

"Pants, we know," Laurent said exasperatedly. I locked eyes with him, and he with I. I stared him down mercilessly, and finally the Frenchman gave in, and with a roll of his eyes turned his attention on James.

"Maybe some food will calm her down," he suggested.

James nodded once. "I'm in favor of that."

"We need to be discreet. Stick to the edges of the forest, we shan't go into the town until after dark," Laurent cautioned. Shan't? Shan't? I raised an eyebrow.

"Your language is dating you again," I muttered dryly, walking past him and toward the town, keeping to the edge of the forest. If we were going to eat, I wanted first dibs. The first building I walked by from the cover of the trees was the Forks Nursing Home. I shot James a look over my shoulder and chuckled when I met his horrified stare.

I laughed. It wasn't though I'd regret it, well, actually I would. But not because I would feel bad for killing someone's Grandma. I'd regret it because they taste old. Dry, brittle, weak. There was no energy for our kind in that food supply. No, the elderly were in no danger from the Immortal. They merely had to contend with their own age.

I glanced over my shoulder toward the thick, green woods. I stared, the dense underbrush compelling.

"What is it?" James came up behind me, followed by Laurent.

"Trails."

The two boys turned their heads to look where I was looking, and sure enough, a trail lead up into the forest, then split off into multiple branches.

"It's sunny out," James was commenting.

"-and the humans would think it is a good day for hiking," Laurent finished for him.

"Hiking is very dangerous," I murmured thoughtfully, starting toward the trails. "Accidents happen all the time. People disappear. Get attacked by animals," I paused, looking over my shoulder to see if they were following me. "People don't come home from hiking all the time, and it's all… …perfectly natural."

Laurent and James smiled wickedly at the same time before falling into place behind me as we slipped into the woods.

"And the little Miss has learned how to be discreet," Laurent commented off handedly as I paused to inhale, trying to catch the scent of a hapless hiker. Fortunately for him, I caught wind of fresh blood before I responded to him, and immediately I didn't care about Laurent. I wanted first kill. If I didn't get pants until nightfall, I would have my meal first. I took off running without warning, a unison shout of surprise flaring up behind me. Silly boys. They'd never catch me, anyway.

***

It was a pity, in a tragic, petty sort of way. She had been pretty. Before I ripped her throat out. She had soft, shoulder-length blond hair and had had the prettiest, widest blue eyes, though the latter could have been due to death swooping down on her. I had already finished my meal when Laurent and James caught up. James cussed. Laurent sighed.

"You kind of made a mess," James said, irritated he didn't get to partake. I wasn't planning on letting him share, anyway.

"Well, I could be neater, but then if any rangers found her, she'd have a neat little row of teeth punched into the skin on her throat and nothing else. At least this looks like a bear attack," I said, getting up. "If you hurry, you can catch her two friends. They went screaming that way," I pointed down one of the paths. Neither hesitated. Both boys were flying down the path, trying to catch the remaining two hikers. Just as well, it would be easier if they didn't make it to town screaming about monsters. I didn't doubt that they would catch up.

I stood standing on the trail, listening.

"Three… two…" I counted down slowly, waiting for it. Before I hit the last number, I heard growls followed by shrieks and howls. I glanced down at the girl at my feet. "Sorry honey, they didn't make it like you hoped." I stared at her a little longer. Her mouth was open in a silent scream, her blue eyes still wide open. Death had been quick for her. She had only known fear, not pain. It was the best I could do.

There was something disturbing about her. I had killed before. Most on purpose but some on accident. Perhaps I had never been left alone with the dead before. Her eyes haunted me, staring up at me from the grave I had thrown her in to. Perhaps it was her youth. Or innocence. Though I had decided a long time ago no human was completely innocent. Maybe it was the way her empty eyes stared accusingly at me, as if she knew what I was and what I had done, even though death had been so swift she barely saw it coming. The others had it worse – they had seen me fall on their friend, and then saw my friends come upon them. James had a penchant for playing with his food, so I had a feeling the girl had had it easy. And yet, she haunted me.

A low rumble in the distance caught my attention and I snapped my head up to the sky. Rather, what little of it that I could see. Trees obscured most of the bright blue sky, but I could see just enough to tell it was no longer bright blue.

"Is that a storm?" James' voice came from behind me. I kept looking at the sky, unfazed by his near-silent approach.

"Can we please go in to town if it is?"

"If the storm actually comes and makes it dark enough that we can stay discreet, yes Victoria."

"Damn it, Laurent, I want-"

"Pants," Laurent and James said in unison. I turned around to glare at the two as they dabbed their lips daintily.

"Is that a kerchief," I asked Laurent as he paused mid-dab, a lacey, white thing hanging from his fingers. "What is that from? The 1800s?"

"Actually," Laurent began, but James stepped in between us.

"Listen," he said. I frowned around James at Laurent, but stayed quiet, listening.

"What do you hear?" I didn't need to wait long after I asked the question to hear my answer. Thunder rumbled in the distance, but there was something else. A loud crack. It could have been thunder, but it wasn't.

"Now what do you suppose that is?" Laurent mused aloud as I looked around. James started forward, moving toward the sound. It was several miles away, and I had to admit, I was very curious. I followed in behind him, and Laurent joined up quickly. Another crash sounded. We had gone barely a mile toward the sounds when I froze.

"I know what the sound is," I said. If my blood were warm, it would have chilled. If my heart were beating, it would have faltered. "Do you smell that?"

The other two halted, gathering up around me.

"Oh, oh no," Laurent murmured, shaking his head. "Another vampire. That makes more sense. I couldn't understand what a human could do to make that noise."

"But what would a vampire do to make that noise?" I glanced to Laurent, still confused. "Should we leave them be or investigate?" I had to admit, I wanted to investigate.

"We could go see, I smell… only one vampire here, but be aware, there might be others."

"How many could there be? Maybe a pair," James said offhandedly, starting toward the sound again. Laurent and I followed in behind, walking along. We drifted closer, and I passed the scent of a second, different vampire. I made an audible note of it so the other two would know if they didn't catch the scent.

About a mile from where the crashing noises were, I stopped.

"Baseball," I murmured. Confused sounds came from Laurent and James as they turned to face me. "They're playing baseball," I repeated, walking over to a thick bush and pulling an old, abused, forgotten baseball out. It had cracks in the side – cracks that no human could have ever imparted on a baseball.

"Fascinating," Laurent murmured. We turned back toward the silent clearing a mile ahead. "A game. How long has it been since we played?"

I shook my head and James shrugged in response. It had been decades since we had engaged in something so human.

"I want to play," I said after a moment.

"I thought you wanted pan-" before James could finish the sentence, without looking I thrust my arm out to the side and knocked him into a tree. I did anticipate his rebound as he knocked me off my feet, and we fell into the bushes.

"Come now," Laurent said. "Shall we go?"

"Yes," James said, hopping up, his eyes alight with the prospect of playing a game with more of our own kind. "If they are playing, they would surely let us join, would they not?"

Before either Laurent and I could say anything, James took off running toward the clearing, Laurent and I following in behind him. I noticed a moment later that the sound of baseball had stopped.

We came to a halt not too far from where the noise was to gather ourselves. They had not continued playing.

"They must know we're coming somehow," Laurent commented. "Let us be careful about how we do this. Perhaps they are not as friendly as we thought," he murmured softly. James and I exchanged glances and nodded once.

James grinned once before glancing to where the clearing was.

"Game on," he murmured wickedly, slipping through the last bush and emerging into the clearing. Laurent followed behind him and I went brought up the rear.