Special thanks to Chele681 for betaing at the last minute for me.
This fic is a birthday present for siouxchef. I hope that you like it, baby.
Tearing down the 101, I was glad that I put the top down before I set out from LA. The sun was already setting as I took the exit for Santa Carla, the briny smell of the sea hitting me hard. I breathed in deep, ignoring the itching in my lungs. It had been so long since I'd been back here, too long.
I slowed down as the road turned into the boardwalk. I could see the old carnival had shut down. All that was left was a tall wood barrier guarding the empty space where the rides and game booths used to be. A jeep overflowing with cackling teenagers passed me, their stereo blaring music that I didn't recognize. There was a lot I didn't recognize anymore. I came to a lonely traffic light and stopped the car. The block was filled with empty storefronts, a pawnshop and couple of liquor stores. Trash littered the piss stained sidewalks. Santa Carla was just like every other bankrupt, dying California town.
My arm itched and I reached over to scratch at the crooked cross tattooed on the inside of my forearm. I'd gotten it while on a bender. I had been so high; I couldn't stay still as I bragged about how I took out a whole cadre of vamps with the Frog brothers. Meat, the guy doing my ink, just grunted and dug the needle deeper into my arm.
"You wanna party?" a hushed female voice drew my attention to the passenger side of the car.
I looked over at the girl – who couldn't have been older than fifteen - as she leaned over the passenger door trying to look seductive and failing. The white spit was gathering around the corners of her mouth as she chewed on the ratty sleeve of her hoodie. She had dark circles under her dull blue eyes, and and looked half dead, as she probably was, from whatever she was withdrawing from. Her blond hair hung from beneath her hood in clumps. I imagined that she was beautiful once upon a time, that she had hopes and dreams like I did when I first came to this town.
"What's your name?" I leaned over to dig in my pocket, and pulled out a crumpled twenty.
"Anna," she replied, and began to fumble with the door handle.
"Get something to eat," I said, shoving the money into her hand and turn back to see that the light had turned green.
I pulled out, without bothering to see whether Anna headed toward the convenience store or the obvious meth dealer hovering near the broken street lamp.
It took me a half hour to find the unpaved road that lead out to the beach. I made it just into time to see the last of the sun dip below the horizon, and watched in silence as it turned the sky a hazy purpley pink. It was really beautiful, and I wished that Michael could have been here to see it.
He had loved it here. He had always talked about coming back, after we moved to Colorado because Mom needed another "change of scenery." We never came back, because something else had always come up. I thought for sure we were going to go when Star left him after graduation.
Real life was too hard for her, and after struggling with high school for a few months, she had quit. I remember how they argued on the front lawn of our house in Denver. The snow floated down to cover them in a thin coating of sparkling snowflakes as Star cried and Michael asked her to marry him. She just shook her head and walked away. Mom told him that some people aren't made to stay in one place for too long, but I knew the truth. Star was afraid of growing up. It was messy, scary and it never turned out the way you wanted.
Michael enlisted the next day. I think the idea of trying to go to college, of carrying on with his life without her, seemed wrong to him. So he shipped off to one foreign country after another. Always running, trying to save people, because that's what Michael was…a hero. He died like one too.
When the letter came from the Army, I didn't know what to do. I was that last one left, though I'd already been alone for a long time. Mom had passed two years before, the cancer having finally won the battle that she'd been fighting for years. Michael had only flown in for the night of the funeral, and left for Afghanistan the next day. At least he'd come home for her, he'd only sent a letter when Grandpa died.
I can't judge. I dealt with my pain in my own fucked up way over the years: smoking, popping and shooting whatever I could get my hands on. I did anything to take away the pain of my normal, boring life. After Santa Carla everything seemed…bland, flat and flavorless. It was fucked up, but that summer had been the best time of my life.
I heard more than felt her drop into the seat next to me. I suppose that I should have been shocked, or at least scared, but as I turned to look at Star I felt at home.
"Sam," she said it in a casual tone, and turned to smile at me, like she wasn't unchanged by the almost twenty years since I'd seen her last. "You look…older."
"And you…don't," I replied, smiling at her, and reached out a hand to her. "Did you hear?"
"Yes," she whispered her smile fading. "I'm sorry."
"Don't bother apologizing now," I said with a shrug. "All that's in the past."
"Yes," she sighed, as she traced the lines of my cross tattoo, and I was surprised to see that it didn't affect her. "Hm."
"It only works if you believe," she mumbled, sliding her hand into mine, and leaning her head on my shoulder. "I suppose the track marks explain your lack of faith."
"Yeah, I suppose they do," I sigh, and let my head fall back against the headrest. "Tell me something."
"Sure," she said, her hand sliding over my chest to toy with the zipper of my leather jacket.
"Was this the better choice? Was it worth it?" It wasn't coming out right, the questions had sat in my brain too long, and they weren't making any sense.
"What? You mean changing?" She shifted away from me, and touched my cheek with her warm fingers.
It startled me, but I remembered reading somewhere that everything about them is a lie. There were theories on whether it was through mind control or some chemical that they secreted. Their beauty, warmth and even the strange way that she made me want to kiss her were supposed to be all part of her vampiric powers. Still, it was strange to see Star, looking just like she did all those years ago as she gave me a sad smile.
"Never mind," I said, shaking my head, and gently pushing her hand away. "It doesn't matter anymore."
"Is that why you're here?" She asked, letting her hand fall into her lap, as she licked her lips. "You want me to turn you?"
I looked at her, and wondered what it must be like to have been beautiful for all these years. To never have grown up or worried about working shitty jobs for minimum wage while watching your parents slowly die as your family falls apart. I wondered if she even understood what it was like to be human anymore. Then I reminded myself that it didn't matter.
"No," I said it slowly, giving myself enough time to slide the stake from between my seat and the door.
"Are you sure?" Her fingers lightly brushed over my hair as I turned back to smile at her and slammed the stake into her chest with all of my strength.
"I hope it was worth it!" I spoke softly as she clawed at the stake weakly.
"Sam," she choked out, a look of shock on her face.
I had just enough time to turn my face toward my door before she exploded in the seat beside me. The screaming started immediately, coming from all around me. I flicked on the headlights and saw two of them standing in light of the beams. I quickly punched the horn down and watched the stakes shatter my headlights as they shot out hitting one of them in the chest. The other stake shot too wide. I made a mental note to adjust the trajectory as I grabbed my modified crossbow from under the cover in the backseat.
Something leaned over my door and snapped near my cheek. I swung the crossbow around and hit it in the head. I grabbed the door handle and kicked the door open, knocking him back into the sand. I took aim, clicked the trigger and he began to scream and flail. I felt the air shift behind me, and had just enough time to swivel in my seat as another one swooped down on me. I pulled the trigger twice and kicked him in the gut, sending him rolling over my head.
By the time I'd gotten down to the last of them, the crossbow lay empty and shattered on the ground. I'd already used all the holy water I had, and my axe. I was down to a couple of pool cues I'd stolen from a bar two nights ago and sharpened just to make sure I had enough weapons. I used it to pin the last one to the hood of the car. I almost felt bad that my poor car wasn't going to make it after this fight.
I walked up onto the hood, and put the toe of my boot below his chin.
"I need you to deliver a message to the others," I said, nudging his face to get his attention, and he hissed up at me. "You've got till sunrise to get out of town. After that, I will hunt down every last one of you. Do you understand?"
"Yes," he grunted.
I yanked out the pool cue, and kicked him off the hood of the car. He disappeared as I sat down and lit a cigarette. The night sky was clear, with just a handful of stars scattered across the darkness. I blew the smoke up at the night and felt at peace for the first time in years. This is the only thing that I've ever done right in my life. It's all I can do, and now it's all I'm going to do.
When I was younger, I couldn't understand why Grandpa had stayed in Santa Carla for so long, when he knew about the vampires. As I stared at my scarred and blood covered hands I understood why. It wasn't about being a hero or good versus evil. It was about taking a stand.
Santa Carla is my town, and there's no more room for bloodsuckers here.
I miss your smile.