Serenity slept through the day and awoke just as the sun vanished below the horizon. She opened her eyes to unfamiliar territory in a warm, cozy little bedroom that by some strange magic alleviated the ache radiating through her body. The old wooden paneled walls had soaked up the daylights rays and held them, creating a heated barrier that kept her nice and snug as the nights chill settled in. A comfortable place was a welcome feeling even as the remains of dried blood cracked and sloughed away from her skin. Still, she couldn't place the room, regardless of how recognizable the invisible odors circulating throughout it were. She tried to move to get a better look, but to her dismay found her limbs unwilling. It was all she could do to turn her head and wiggle a few fingers, aimlessly kneading the heavy comforter beneath her as she fought to take control.
It was a struggle of will, but at last a newfound position enabled her to view the open doorway, further out into the hall and up at all the bright lights lining the ceiling. They were a loud and obnoxious white and yellow, much different than the earthy toned nook she found herself safe within. In fact, they triggered the more recent memories in her that screamed laboratory and suddenly the bed didn't feel secure anymore. Her chest heaved in panic as she continued to stare through the empty frame that made up the entrance. The last thing she could recall was seeing Marko in the early morning hours. The knowledge of a war well ended had been written all over his face. Had she been dreaming it? Were they still stuck somewhere deep within the walls of that hellish place Max had created? She inhaled another deep breath and tears welled in her eyes as she tried to muster the energy to fight through it and rise to a sitting position.
After a few strained tries, only one arm obeyed to cross her chest. She grunted and pushed to try again when a figure appeared at the door, his face darkened by the halo of lights behind him.
This caught Serenity unawares, provoking the natural instinct of fight or flight to come into play, followed by a rampant scream as she jumped up and fell backwards, fumbling through the sea of sheets in her way in order to get as far back against the wall at the back of the bed as she could. This in turn startled the unknown presence almost causing him to drop the plate he held as he let out a little yelp of his own.
"Holy shit! Serenity, it's me…Alan."
Serenity trembled and squinted to see him better before he turned and flicked the light on. His composure quickly returned to its usual stoical self as he held the plate out towards her. "Just thought you might be hungry when you woke up."
"It's over right?" she asked with urgency, still leery as her mind continued to work its way into the present.
"Ya, completely over and done with." He remained calm by the door, but his eyes revealed the fear he had of her leaping from the bed to charge and escape some unseen terror still plaguing her mind.
"I'm fine," she mumbled, finally sinking down to take a seat while covering her eyes to massage them. "Just a little disoriented. For a second I thought I was still in Max's lab."
"We wouldn't let that happen," he stated matter-of-factly as he made his way over to sit on the edge of the bed. "Edgar and I are going to burn it down. That way all the spell binding crap and knowledge that Max dug up will be gone forever." He held the plate up again and set it in the middle between them. "Peanut butter and jelly, nothing fancy, but you lost a lot of blood. You must be starving."
Serenity's mouth watered and her eyes bulged as she stared down at the two pieces of bread held together in a sloppy mess by the sweet stickiness of a fruit spread and thick peanut goodness. She couldn't remember the last time she had eaten anything and all she could think about was blood. It had been consumed in one form or another everywhere around her, smeared all over her clothes, and the stench of it was permanently ingrained in her nose. Her stomach made a loud noise in protest of her hesitation and she dove for the sandwich, squishing the soft dough between her fingers as she took the first bite. Heaven. It was the best damn sandwich she had ever eaten and when the last bite was shoved into her mouth, she wished she had a hundred more just like it. All the while Alan watched in complete and utter silence, most likely comparing her hunger to a ravenous vampire. She was sure if she stuck around long enough that he and Edgar would go to extremes to make sure she wasn't the slightest bit apart of the undead population now.
But in that moment, who cared? He had brought her food! "Alan, you are a god!" she exclaimed while licking her fingers clean of any leftovers.
"If I were a god there wouldn't be any vampires roaming the streets of Santa Carla at night." He offered her a napkin hoping she wouldn't protest the statement. "Shower's up stairs, by the way, along with all your personal stuff, just in case you want to clean up. I know I would."
Without warning, she reached forward and latched onto him, wrapping her arms around his shoulders before he had time to refuse a hug. "Thank you! Thank you, thank you."
He resisted the embrace for a moment with his arms slack, and then realizing she wasn't about to let go, returned the gesture with caution, lightly tapping her shoulders. "You're welcome. It's our job after all." He could smell the iron from the blood that had soaked through her clothes and remembered fast that she had been tainted by a vampire. His first reaction was to shove her away just in case the next thing she got a hold of was his neck with her teeth, but instead he used a gentle prying motion that released her arms as he stood up. "I better get back to the front."
Serenity nodded with a bit of a smile. "Guess I'll take that shower then. Oh hey, do you have any blood in the fridge? I'm so thirsty," she teased.
Alan's lip creased in disapproval of the joke as he skipped backwards without another word and disappeared down the hall.
An hour later Serenity emerged from the back, clean and dressed in grime free clothes. Her hair had sprung back to life and was now it's usual sun kissed color cascading down her back in soft spirals. Despite her clean physique, however, the expression on her face was filled with unease and she stood in that way watching as the young men before her went about their business before taking notice.
Alan sat at a small table and Jax on the other side, twirling his hands around back and forth over three cups as fast as he could while the vampire hunter watched and tried to stay focused. Sage sat at the end, content to watch through his cross as the Frog in front of him was baffled by Jax's speed. The process was soon interrupted when Edgar came charging into the room holding a book open and shoved it into the shape shifters face.
Still, Jax continued to shuffle the cups even as he observed what Edgar had found, while the pupil in front of him studied hard the hands at work, his own hands placed firmly on his knees in thought.
"Nope. No mate, that's not it, try again."
Edgar grunted and rolled his eyes, flipping the book up and over Jax's head in an irritated manner. "Then what the hell is it? This book doesn't help me at all! I'd have better luck finding it in a comic book."
A clever look overcame Jax's face. "Ok, ok, you ready, you watchin?" He was too busy trying to fool Alan and paid little attention as Edgar once again stormed out of the room in search of answers to the supernatural riddle he had been given.
Sage shook his head and smiled. The games that his cohort liked to play on others amused him. "I told you, he's never going to get that one. It's too hard for a rookie."
The cups stopped abruptly under Jax's hands and he let them be, folding his arms as he leaned back. "Ya well, they're hunters, and hunters should know about all beings of the supernatural in case something like this should ever happen again." He paused and leaned in, invading Alan's space with an obnoxious poke to the boy's shoulder. "Hey, buddy, ya in there mate? Time to pick one."
Alan snapped out of his trance and looked up at Jax with a questioning before his memory caught up, then with a hard sneer and a pointed finger he said, "Don't talk about my brother that way."
"Wha?" Jax raised his hands to claim innocence. "Oh hey, don't blame me dear friend for all your troubles. It's the truth of it. Now, ya gona pick or not?"
Alan glanced down at the cups and then back up at his opponent and without looking away touched the bottom of the plastic glass.
"You sure?" Jax asked, a wily smile on his face.
"Positive," Alan stated.
Sage laughed as Jax let out a breath and picked the cup of choice up. To Alan's dismay, there was nothing under it.
"I had my eye on it the entire time," Alan growled, irritation creasing his brow. "This is some kind of trick."
"No, no trick mate."
"Don't let him fool you Alan," Sage advised. "He gets the best of them…well, except for the professional players who like to take his money…"
"Bloody bastards," Jax cursed as he moved to stretch and finally noticed Serenity standing still as a stone statue there in the isle way. "Ahh, there she is, semi alive I'd say and looking as good as ever ya? Huh? Doesn't she look good mate?" He reached across the table again and grabbed Alan's chin, turning it towards her so that he could have a good look. Alan turned a deep shade of red as he nodded in agreement and fought to get his chin back.
Sage got up, noticing her lack of awareness, and ambled over, pulling her closer to the group. "How are you feeling?"
"Like I've been killed and brought back to life to many times," she answered, her eyes blank as she followed him over to the table. Instead of taking a seat, she chose to rest her hands very lightly on it while looking down. "I suppose I should call my trainer…find my horse..."
Jax gave her a good hard pat across the shoulder. "Good news love. We found him for you and he's resting comfortably in a paddock at the barn."
Serenity jumped and grabbed herself, giving Jax a look like contact was sacred and that only she could pick who touched and was touched by her.
Sage frowned and cleared his throat before he kicked Jax in the shin from under the table. He knew it would probably take some time for her to adjust and go back to a somewhat normal life. He was also relieved to see a bit of brightness creep back into her eyes when her horse was mentioned. "You're truck should be ready too," he said softly, easing the words out so as not to startle her again. "I took the liberty of having it fixed myself. Thought it would be a nice gift."
"Thank you," she said, forcing a smile. "I thought that everything would be fine after I washed the gunk away, but it isn't. I can't get Max's face out of my head. I can't get the evil feeling out of my system, so maybe…maybe the other stuff can wait for a little bit longer? I mean, how do you guys do it?"
"Ah ha, now I see." Jax hopped off his stool and gave her a small hug from behind. "You'll be fine my friend, it just takes practice. Practice makes perfect after all. Besides, Max is gone, I mean really gone and I'm pretty sure he was the only one who knew about ya. Anyone else who tries to put a dent in the universe like he did would be a fool."
"Plenty of fools arise in this town," Alan advised before getting out of his seat. "You want us to give you a ride to the barn?"
"Actually," she turned towards the open doors. The Boardwalk was in full running order, but only a few of the workers and patrol officers wandered here and there. It would take awhile before the patrons once again lined the long cement strip. "I think I'll walk."
"Ya sure?" Jax asked.
"Ok, I know I've got it this time," Edgar announced, once again interrupting them from behind. "Hey Serenity," he nodded, nonchalantly parting the way with his elbows so that he could get between her and Jax with a new book in hand. "Skin-walkers," he read out loud, running a finger down the page, "are people with the natural ability to turn into any animal they desire. See…that's gotta be it."
"Boys…girls," Jax eyed Serenity as she moved away in disgust, "I think we have a winner…almost."
"What do you mean almost?" Edgar spat. "I saw you turn into a wolf!"
"Well ya, but that's only half of it. Keep looking."
Serenity found her way over to the check stand where Alan was busy scribbling something down on a piece of paper. "Let me guess, he's making you guys find out what they are?"
Alan looked up, folded the paper and handed it to her. "Yeah, do you know?"
She shook her head no and accepted the note.
"It's our number, in case you need to call us."
"Thanks." She shoved it deep into her pocket. "You guys wanna to catch up with me later before I go?"
Edgar was indifferent as he looked at her, and Sage seemed sad, but Jax quickly hopped the table to rub shoulders with her. "Of course we will! We're a team now, no matter what happens, we'll always keep in contact with each other," he said.
Serenity nodded and headed aimlessly out the door.
The long road between the comic book shop and the barn was a blessing for her as cement eventually turned to sand; causing her legs to feel stiff and heavy by the time she reached the far corner of the barn. Overall, the inside was quiet minus the few horses that chewed happily away at their dinner, and no human presence made itself known. That alone haunted her a little as the vision of Carla appearing before her in black rags with demon eyes popped into her mind. With one leftover nightmare after the other tormenting her, it was better to turn away.
Jax had said the Black would be in a paddock outside anyway, and that's exactly where she found him, grazing on the few patches of green, thick grass that stuck out from sand and dirt. He shook his head and snorted in greeting as she scaled the railing and ran up to greet him. Her arms found their way around his smooth black neck and up through the long main that tickled her face. He pushed his head down and nipped at the back of her shirt in response. "I missed you handsome." He continued to shake his head between nips in approval of her affection and after Serenity had stood for a few minutes, he snorted louder, sensing the approach of someone else. She was used to the horse's antics. He wasn't a lover of most people anyway, so whoever it was could wait as she continued to stay lost in the waves of his black mane.
"You can't just leave without saying good bye. I'd have to hunt you down."
The voice, though familiar, startled her and she jumped back into the horse's chest, turning to see Marko standing at the fence. He cleared it with little effort and made his way towards her, but the Black disapproved and tossed his head while pinning his ears in an aggressive manner.
Serenity regarded the horse with a blank face as she stared on at her vampire lover and gave the stallion a firm tap. "Knock it off."
Marko reached out to try and touch the animal, but the horse would have none of it. "What can I say, I'm a winged animal kind of guy," he admitted.
"I um, wasn't leaving…you." For whatever reason, the same semi shyness she had had with him the first time they made love found its way back as she tried to hide against the horse. "I kind of figured you guys left me."
He managed to pull her away from the Black and held her close, his lips close enough to feel hers. "I wouldn't leave you. You're mine, remember?"
"And you didn't," she whispered drowsily, lost in the deep, sea blue of his eyes. They made the troubled memories that chased her disappear. Her hands weaved their way up under the collar of his jacket just as his lips could resist no more. It was the barest of an open mouthed kiss, his tongue teasing and prodding its way between those luscious lips to find the softness of hers, warm, wet and alive. The sparks that ignited from that kiss set her insides on fire and she gulped back a sound that resembled a sob. She found herself wrapping one leg around him as he snaked his arms down and around her waist to grab at her ass, as the fervent lip lock continued. Her skin glowed red-hot when his want made itself crystal clear and a sudden warmth flooded her inner thighs.
She forced herself to inhale a lungful of air and with all the might she could muster, managed to push herself away. "I want you, I do," she huffed, unable to keep her breath.
He stepped towards her. "So what's the problem?"
She paused and eyed the trailer and without saying a word, took his hand in hers, gripping it tight as she urged him to follow after. He obeyed, but pulled her back halfway over the fence for another penetrating kiss that left her weak in the knees. As soon as they were over, he scooped her up in his arms and carried her the rest of the way, throwing the door to the tack room of the trailer wide open. Once inside there was no restraint. He pushed her roughly against the back of the saddle rack, the bulk of his body dominant over hers, and reached in, tearing her shirt easily down the middle front and center.
"I've got something for you to wear so that when we feel this urge it'll be easy access all the way," he whispered throatily against her ear as he helped to undue the zipper of the jeans she wore. She could tell just by the way he nibbled at her earlobe that he wore his trademark Cheshire cat smile as he worked his charm. And clearly it was working; she was putty in his arms.
As his lips traced a line down to the sweet nook of her neck where he had taken her life's blood the first time, there came another zipping sound and for the second time she felt of his manhood, ready and willing. "Shut up and take me," she murmured, reaching in to do a little biting of her own. The statement was meant to be playful, but his scent invigorated her senses with a spice all it's own and she noticed that unlike the first time, his skin was rather warm. It was a nice change in the scheme of things, causing her heart to flutter even more.
Her sex was his for the taking, heated, wet and inviting, making the pheromones she gave off give her blood a rich aroma that was almost too much to resist. With a quick, rough motion she was lifted from the floor and placed over his hips as he positioned himself and entered her with a vigorous need, causing a moan to rip through her mouth.
Her heat enveloped him with each slow thrust and he let out a voracious sound of his own as he worked her into a sweaty, sticky mess on the verge of orgasm, releasing the pressure at just the right moment in order to make it last. There bodies converged as one and yet they couldn't get enough, nor be close enough it seemed as Serenity worked her fingers through his thick golden curls while he sucked and bit the area on and around her delicate pink nipples, erect and on display for his wandering mouth. She felt herself about to come when he found her mouth again, biting his tongue before slipping it past her lips and she groaned. The bitter metallic taste of his blood electrified her tongue and for a moment there was a slight amber hue mixed in with the blue-green of her eyes. "I can feel you all through me," she expressed against his mouth, as his thrusts became more vigorous.
He was lost in her in that moment and a guttural growl sounded from deep down in his throat as he left her lips and found the sweet, pumping artery there in the crease of her neck. His fangs slipped down and she felt the sharp sting of his teeth pierce flesh to take a taste. It sent her into instant orgasm.
The feeling of her tightening all around him almost made him lose control and he had to fight not to take more of her life than he wanted. "Come with me," she urged, shaking in the afterglow as she rounded her hips. He wrapped his arms around her in a tight embrace; still kissing and sucking the new wound he had inflicted upon her and let himself go with a feral sound that echoed around the small cabin of the trailer.
She rocked with him in the moment, feeling his heavy breathes, or lack of, match her own, as he pulled away from her neck to rest his head against her chest. She reached down and placed a kiss in his mess of curls.
"You tame the beast in me," he confided in her.
"I hope not," she confessed, still breathless in he heat of the moment.
"To be fair, you won't like what you see beyond this," he admitted.
"You said that before, but why don't you let me be the judge of that?" she asked, afraid to admit that she was indeed on her way out of Santa Carla, afraid that he might already know just from hearing her thoughts.
He pulled away from her, committing the horrid act of separation, and hitched up his pants with a lost look on his face that made her want to cry. "Come on, don't be like that," she continued, trying to straighten out what was left of her clothes.
"I don't want to lose you," he told her rather straightforward and then stepped out of the trailer.
"Wait, wait! Marko, I don't have anything to wear," she called, hearing him walk away. "Damn it!" She slumped back against the racks and put a hand to her forehead. She felt feverish and cold without his presence and lack of clothes.
A few minutes later he appeared again with clothes in hand and a pair of black boots in just her size. Serenity gulped. It had been ages since she had worn anything resembling a skirt, not to mention cowboy boots. "Where did you get these?"
He smiled mischievously as she took the dark blue mini skirt adorned at the pockets and belt with bright blue and silver rhinestones and held it up to her waist. It was the perfect size. "You don't want to know. Come on, get dressed."
"I'm leaving you know?
"Not without saying goodbye. Now don't make me come in there, I might just have to take you again."
"Oh? Is that a promise?" she laughed and awkwardly stepped out. The skirt hugged her curves in all the right ways and the dark top outlined her assets perfectly as her long waves of hair fell slightly over her shoulders to highlight the green of her eyes.
Marko let out a wolf whistle. "Wait till the guys get a load of you."
Serenity blushed. "So you say, but we both know that I would still be dead in a ditch somewhere if I wasn't gifted like I am."
"And yet you stay," he mocked, offering her a hand. "Oh and uh, we actually burn the bodies…most of the time." She frowned. "Seriously Serenity, be happy you've been blessed with the gift, or how else would our souls have met up again?"
"I thought vampires didn't have souls."
"We're damned as far as I know, but who the hell cares right now? I sure as hell don't. Now come on, tonight you ride on the back of a real beast."
"Really? I thought I already had?" She looked up at the sky in wonder and Marko's smile went from ear to ear.
"Nah, I meant my bike," he said proudly as they approached. "Is she a beauty or what?" He climbed aboard and once again offered her a hand. "Come on up, I won't bite to hard, unless you want me to."
Serenity swung a leg over and straddled the bike feeling the leather of the seat flesh against her inner thighs as she wrapped her arms around Marko's mid line, running her fingers over the tone of his stomach. She reached in and nipped at his cheek. "I want you to."
The engine roared to life and they were off towards the mid section of town.