Chapter Six: All that I Shall Do
"Charon, indeed, your dreaded oar,
With what a peaceful sound it dips
Into the stream; how gently, too,
From the wet blade the water drips."
-Edna St. Vincent Millay, "Sappho Crosses the Dark River Into Hades"
At first, Edward isn't sure what pulled him from sleep; just that he's wide awake, body already cycling into high gear. The house is dark and silent, and he can hear Pierson breathing deeply and evenly from the other side of the room. He has just enough time to sit up on the sofa before the sound of glass shattering in the livingroom puts a definite end to the pre-dawn silence. He's on his feet in an instant, gun filling his hand without the need for thought. The surprise is that Pierson wakes the same way, silently, motionlessly, and completely; that he's standing -- and armed -- only half a second later. One of the surprises, anyway. That too-loose sweater, that artfully draped bathrobe, were clearly chosen with deception aforethought; stripped down to his boxers, Pierson's body is as efficient and graceful a weapon as the sword in his hand. There's no sign of sleep in his face; just a flicker of dismay that is quickly put aside. When he reaches down for a gun, it is clearly a secondary concern. That sword is his primary weapon, despite his wholehearted adoption of the weapons of the present day. It speaks of age.
"Living room," Edward murmurs. Pierson doesn't waste time in conversation; instead, after a disturbingly sharp glance in Edward's direction, he moves silently toward the door. Edward pauses only to slip on his shoes before following him, reaching the man's side just as he reaches for the doorknob. He gets another of those peculiar looks for his pains; then Pierson is through the door and Edward has to move quickly if he wants to keep up.
The living room is already in chaos. Splinters of glass glitter menacingly from the carpet, and Edward can count half a dozen shadowy forms in the light spilling in from the street. Fortunately, his presence -- and Pierson's -- seem to have taken the intruders by surprise. They turn as the door opens, and he can see the split-second of shock caused by their unexpected appearance. That, or Pierson has scared them into immobility. Half-naked, broadsword firmly in hand, he is -- despite the boxer shorts -- an apparition straight out of the darker parts of the human mind, the ancient world standing tall and bloodthirsty in Anita's living room. Instead of looking out of place, he makes the room itself look almost unreal. The thought is a revelation, at least to Edward -- the result of half a dozen clues or more all strung together and finally making sense. All at once he's certain that Pierson is older than any of the vampires he himself has killed, and infinitely more dangerous. It's almost enough to make him regret his decision not to try and kill the man. Almost. Since he's not sure how to make it stick -- or even if he can -- it's probably good that he has decided to restrain himself.
There are only six intruders, so the fight doesn't take long. Pierson hangs back at first, but when one of them takes aim, he shoots first. There's nothing on his face -- no fear, no regret, no enjoyment -- as he pulls the trigger; nothing when the sword flashes in his hands and comes back to stillness red to the hilt. Even as Edward puts two in the chest of the man closest to him, there's a slight chill running down the back of his neck as he realizes just how very badly he's been underestimating Adam Pierson.
Two of the remaining three decide that they really ought to be focusing on their target, instead of exchanging fire with two unexpected guests in the livingroom, and make a break for Anita's bedroom. Edward double-taps the one furthest along the hall even as Pierson puts one in the other's head with all the aplomb of a professional and turns to deal with the last man just in time to catch a bullet in the chest. He looks surprised, then annoyed, as he tries to lift his gun and can't. Edward takes the last intruder out just as Pierson goes down like a puppet with cut strings. The whole thing took less than three minutes, all told, and Anita is just emerging from her bedroom with the Firestar in her hand and a shocked expression on her face. She regains her composure relatively quickly, though, and joins him over Pierson's corpse.
"Is he --"
"I'm not sure," Edward admits. Pierson looks very dead. Then again, Pierson had looked very dead after Edward garroted him. "It might not be permanent. He's implied that a bullet wouldn't be."
Anita nods, slipping the Firestar into the waist of her pajamas. They have clouds on them, and little stars, and the cuffs of her pants are stained with blood, despite her attempts to avoid walking in it. It's everywhere. Clean-up is going to be a bitch. "How long will it take?"
"For him to come back? I have no idea. It took him about half an hour, maybe forty-five minutes to recover last time. I'm not sure if the manner of death will make a difference."
"Shit." Anita narrows her eyes. "The police are probably already on their way. My neighbors aren't deaf, and there were a lot of shots fired. Is that gun registered?"
"Yes. And I have valid ID under the name of Ted Forrester." She nods, visibly committing the name to memory.
"In that case, all we really need to worry about is getting Pierson's body out of here," she says. "I don't think he'd be too happy about coming back in front of a roomful of cops."
Edward thought that was probably an understatement. Fortunately, Pierson chose that moment to make it a moot issue. Lightning flickered briefly over the wound in his chest, and Edward watched, fascinated, as it closed itself, leaving him whole again. A few seconds later, his eyes flew open and he sat up, gasping, one hand lifting to the place where the wound had been. The other hand closes around the hilt of his sword. A glance at Anita is enough to tell Edward that she sees the same thing he does, or at least is realizing that there's a good deal more to Adam Pierson than he allows to meet the eye of even an interested observer. Then that green-hazel gaze takes in Edward and Anita, and the worst of the tension slides away from him. There's not much he can do to hide the superb condition of his body, though Edward can see him wishing there was, but he does seem to curl in on himself somehow, to become less than he was only seconds ago.
"Bloody hell." Annoyance is sharp in his voice. "I fucking hate getting shot." He gets to his feet, tucking the gun into his boxers, then bends over and cleans the blade of his sword on the nearest corpse. Anita blinks at him, clearly startled by the pragmatism of that particular action, or maybe the source of it.
"Are you all right?" she asks. She looks as if she's still struggling with Pierson's return to life. It was, Edward has to admit, fairly spectacular.
"Fine," he says, with a rueful smile and a shrug that are clearly designed to charm, or at least disarm. It works; some of the stunned expression goes out of Anita's eyes. "At least I didn't ruin a shirt this time." Anita actually returns the smile this time. Edward doesn't shake his head, but he wants to. Anita may not have seen Pierson in action, but she's standing in the aftereffects, saw him right after he revived. She ought to know better.
"I'm going to pull some clothes on," Pierson says, just as the first high-pitched wail creeps into the edge of hearing, resolving itself quickly into a police siren. Edward follows him into the guest room. He, too, wants to be dressed when the authorities arrive. Pierson tucks the sword between the bed and the boxspring, and doesn't so much as glance at Edward as he pulls on jeans and that too-big sweater of his. Edward uses clothing for camouflage himself, but he's not as good at it as Pierson is. Still, he puts on Ted's blue jeans and button-down shirt, hoping to defuse any potential police hostility before it begins. Fortunately, Anita has a good relationship with St. Louis' police department. It will make things much less awkward.
Pierson finishes dressing first and slips out to the living room. By the time Edward catches up to him, he and Anita are switching guns. They both look up as he comes in. Anita is dressed as well, in jeans and t-shirt, her hair pulled carelessly back.
"Edward," Anita says. "When they ask, you and I did the shooting."
"And the stabbing?"
"Me," she says. Edward isn't sure why she's covering for Pierson, but he doesn't have time to ask. The wash of blue lights is already spilling through the shattered window.
Dealing with the police, predictably, takes a lot longer than did the firefight itself. The investigators on call are joined after about ten minutes by Anita's RPIT teammates, which speeds things up, but not very much. Edward answers the questions that are put to him, and leaves it up to Anita to fill them in on Lucius Decimatus, which she does without telling them how she found out herself. If he were a gambling man, Edward would lay good money that the information came from Jean-Claude. He's the only one of the monsters that she's conflicted about. It's interesting to see Pierson following Edward's own example, saying as little as possible and leaving it up to Anita to explain his presence in her apartment, which she does by claiming him as an old friend from college. Ted's presence is put down to Anita's need for a bodyguard, a need that both the RPIT team and the homicide investigators accept without demur.
"You're gonna need to find somewhere else to stay for a few days," the lead homicide guy eventually tells her, while the rest of the cops look around the apartment with typically cynical eyes. "We'll finish processing the scene as fast as we can, but with six bodies, it'll take some time. It'll go down as self-defense, of course. There's no question about that." He glances down at the corpse that Pierson's sword made. "I'll still need to take all of the weapons involved downtown with me, though."
The knife that Anita produces isn't really large enough to have made the wounds she's claiming it made, but Edward doubts they'll be that exact with a case that is so clearly self-defense. He glances at Pierson, who faded into the background as soon as the police finished questioning him and is now being comprehensively ignored. He feels Edward's eyes on him, though, because he looks up and meets Edward's gaze with a stare of his own, his expression only slightly self-satisfied. Edward looks away before it can develop into the sort of contest that would attract police attention.
Eventually all of the questions have been asked, and the police have finished with them, at least for the evening. Edward, the only one without a St. Louis address, is told politely not to leave town, and the three of them are told that they can go. Edward herds both Pierson and Anita out to his car and from there to the nearest hotel, pausing only to collect the necessities. Pierson's first priority is the sword he'd stashed away, and Edward can't help but admire the ease with which the man conceals so large a weapon from the watching police. He ensconces all three of them in one room for safety's sake, and the three of them fall wearily into bed, Pierson still and unmoving on the side of the one he's sharing with Edward.
Notes: As always, thanks go to my wonderful betas -- lferion, morgynlerific, marauderswolf, and goldenrat84 -- all of whom looked this over at one point or another during creation. Feedback is always welcome. The title is from Millay's 'Conscientious Objector'.