Waiting was not something Charles Fitzgerald was known for. He was a businessman, not to mention a millionaire several times over. He got what he wanted, when he wanted, and how he wanted it. No one ever challenged him, questioned him, or tried to stop him. Yet here he was, just outside the Amato Opera House, flowers in hand, waiting. He didn't mind people-watching—granted, for him, it more closely resembled picking pastries out of a bakery window...
The night was alive tonight, casting fresh energy on him, bathing him in a streetlight's honey glow and the full moon's ethereal luminance. Amber and ice clashed. It would storm tonight. They'd be safely nestled indoors, his hand in hers, when it began; but he sometimes liked the storms.
But he wasn't annoyed, wasn't riled by it. In fact, he thought he might even be endeared by it. After all, a lady was oft times known for her tardiness, and he himself knew a thing or two about being fashionably late. He suspected she was indulging in that common thing women did—freshening up, was it? Sarah didn't like being late, but Charles didn't mind. She was worth the wait, ten times over. He'd wait here a year—longer even—right in this very spot, until she arrived.
If that's what it took, he thought cheerfully. He'd waited over three hundred years for her already. What was another hour, in comparison?
He imagined her hustling through the streets, harried and bothered with herself for the delay. Her cheeks would be flushed, giving him that delectable view of added blood flow in her complexion. Her red curls would be slightly rumpled, errant strands throwing a lovely contrast against her eyes. The blue in them would be extra vibrant, a little brighter from adrenaline and unnecessary fretting.
No, Charles didn't mind waiting.
He would tease her relentlessly though, just to elicit a rise out of her. Maybe she'd swat him with those flowers, pinch his cheek, do her own impression of a glare at him. All fantastic sights, if you asked him. Maybe she'd even attempt not to speak to him (a rare occasion, but no less amusing). They'd still attend the show. And the night, like always, would end in laughter, kisses, and a tangle of sheets.
Charles grinned in anticipation, excited by these new unfoldings.
Sarah hated being late. Some part of him, in the back recesses of his mind, wondered why she might start now.
In all reality, five minutes passed. But it really did feel like a year.
He tapped his foot, he paced, and he checked his watch—all very human in nature. He tried not to dwell on such things. She hates being late, his internal voice reminded him, for what seemed like the hundredth time. He refrained from carrying on a conversation with himself—that would lead nowhere good, and people were already starting to stare. Some with pity in their eyes, as though they knew a man being stood up when they saw one.
Except Charles wasn't being stood up. He had no misconceptions about this. Even if, for whatever devastating reason, Sarah was no longer to be tied to him, never would she leave him out in the figurative cold like this. Sarah would show, like a true lady, and explain herself. She wouldn't leave him waiting.
Sarah hated making people wait.
If his heart behaved as it ought, Charles was sure it'd be beating its way out of his chest right now. Wrong. Wrong, something is wrong. He took a deep, gratuitous breath, trying to pacify his nerves. Thunder rumbled overhead. He glowered at the clouds, but soon was ignoring them too.
And then everything stopped all at once. He thought the earth itself might have stuttered off its axis.
No human would have heard it. Few would have even cared. After all, this was New York.
Charles felt ice water fill his veins. It was not a comforting chill.
A distant scream—Jesus, a scream. Her scream. Sarah's scream. He knew every single trivial detail about her, and he recognized, with gut-churning clarity, Sarah's voice in pain. Any inflection, any function—laughing, crying, speaking, whispering, gasping, screaming—he knew.
The flowers plunged noiselessly to the street, springing once, feebly, before rolling to a stop beside a drain opening.
Charles ran. The rain started in.
For once, since having Sarah in his life, he was glad he was a demon.
He wouldn't be waiting, after all.
People's heads turned as he flew past them; they pointed, stared, and shouted. He was moving too fast to be safe. Too fast for his secrets. Not fast enough to cause any real danger to the tribe, but any concerns in that fashion were quickly falling by the wayside. Charles didn't care. To hell with vampires, to hell with three hundred plus years of being meticulously careful, to remembering what it felt like to face torch-bearing mobs head on without a prayer to your name—to hell with all of it.
Sarah Alice Whitley was in danger.
Anything else paled in comparison and wasn't even worthy of holding a candle to her in the first place.
Charles ran. His formalwear rustled and hissed at the misuse, his shoes pounded relentlessly against pavement, the rain—light at first—beat against his face and eyes. He twisted around streets and alleys, following her voice, God, her cries of panic and fear. Human speed and agility fell quickly away. No more souls lined the walkways this far out though now—not that it mattered any. This wasn't a notoriously bad part of town, but once more, this was New York. Every part of town was a bad part of town.
He fucking hated New York.
Closer, now. She was closer, he could hear her, smell her, feel her. His eyes stung; from the rain's abuse or other reasons, he didn't know or care. His mind raced. He hadn't felt this scared in a long time, and when the other voices, male and laughing, filled his head, Charles felt himself start to shake with rage.
Two more corners, another street, and he burst into the mouth of the alley with deadly resolve.
It wasn't often he saw her afraid. And it wasn't a sight he wanted to see ever again. He didn't take time to ponder the magnificent cliché playing itself out. All he saw was his Sarah, his reason for being, huddled against the cold stone wall of the alley, tears in her eyes, cringing away from a man who had his filthy, unworthy paw around her perfect throat. The throat that belonged to him. The man who held her prisoner also gripped her purse. Three more had grouped around her, laughing, jeering, taking pleasure and amusement out of her cries.
Charles felt a rage inside him he didn't recognize. Sarah's eyes flew to his. They widened in pure, incomprehensible relief.
One of the men spotted him. They whirled to face him. "Hey, pal, take a hike!"
"Stay out of this, Warbucks," another warned between chortles. "Otherwise you might get h—"
Charles felt his face change. It all seemed to unfold in slow motion—his fingers curled into fists, his teeth bared, a guttural roar spilled from his throat, dark eyes phased to silver.
In reality, it all happened in the blink of an eye. Amber and ice clashed.
Charles had the closest of them hurling into the unforgiving brick of the building before the exclamation could complete itself. The human man was pulverized against the hard surface. The shouting and full-scale panic began the following moments, drowned out by the rain and sporadic crack of thunder. They stood no chance, but they tried.
Were there four of them? It felt like fifty.
Fifty monsters until he reached her, fifty until the storm inside him would stop, fifty until it was over. The storm itself was a magnificent backdrop for him—wild and vengeful, with a power that was impossible to control—and impossible not to be drawn to, for those not on the receiving end of his wrath.
Charles now hated storms.
The next one's neck and spine snapped like toothpicks. The cracks of bone and bodies breaking rivaled the thunder. Another pulled a gun, firing a few shots into him before Charles seized the wrist that held the weapon. It snapped with a sickening crunch of bone. The man didn't have long to scream. His skull was soon smashed into a nearby dumpster. The man was dead before the gun could slip from his lifeless fingers.
The last man, who'd held Sarah trapped before, clutched her now as well, forcing her body before his like a shield. She fought him, struggling weakly against him, tears in her eyes. But there was faith in them too. "Easy, fella! What the hell are y—"
Charles flashed over to them before the man who was going to die—who must die—could finish his angry, frightened tirade. Charles wrenched him from her with such force, it nearly equaled whiplash for the soon-to-be-dead party involved. He pried the dirty fingers away from her, and he slammed the worthless being against the wall.
He bared his fangs, glacial stare burning, as he crushed the life out of this human animal. In the same manner those same dirty fingers had closed around that porcelain throat just moments ago. It was poetic, it was ruthless. It was justice, because how dare this beast lay a hand on her? It had no right to even look at her.
Once the man was finally asphyxiated—and it didn't take long—Charles let the body crumple to the sodden street like the trash it was. He whirled to face her immediately after, taking her trembling, sobbing form into his arms. It took longer for the anger in him to fade, his face to revert to the face she knew, but she never noticed.
She'd remained frozen as he approached, rain pelting them both and soaking her through to the bone. Salty tears mixed with the purer drops from above. "Charles," she choked out, the sound lost in the crash of thunder that followed.
He didn't think she'd ever seen him in full form before—much less in rampage mode. And yet she'd not hidden from his face. She clung to him as though the dead bodies littering the pathway and smeared along the brick building were the demons.
Sarah had always seen the monster in him as the mask. Not the other way around. But that didn't matter, because even if she never spoke to him again, he would save her by any means necessary, each and every time.
Except it did matter.
He murmured words of assurance to her, and they were nearly swallowed in the rain and the noise and the madness. Quickly, he led her away from the middle of the alley, out of the storm, into a small alcove that spared her from the rain.
In the secluded doorway, he peeled the jacket from himself and wrapped it snug around her quaking shoulders. He hauled her back in against his chest, rocking her, whispering to her, absorbing the brunt of the elements for her. Anything to ease her gulping sobs as she cried into his neck, small fingers curling around his soaking shirt.
"Sarah, baby, hush now. It's all right. I promise you, you're safe. I've got you. I've got you."
He felt her tiny form shaking in his embrace, felt the fear and relief and the anguish in the gesture, but her breathing went a little softer, until she sounded less like she was dying. He ran his hand down her back and held on, saying whatever came to mind, trying frantically to decide if he was making it worse or better. If he had lost her, he wasn't sure what he'd have done. Cease to exist, most likely. Wither, turn to ash.
My Charlie, she always called him. If there was no Sarah, there was no one to belong to.
When she finally raised her head to meet his eyes, he felt something knot inside him. Her curls were no more than dripping tendrils, clinging to her face. Her eyes shone like stars, but her lips were a frightening shade of blue. That simple little dress she wore couldn't be protecting her… he'd buy her ten more—a hundred. Anything, just so that she was safe and warm. He would move heaven and earth for her, this girl he needed to protect. But before he could beg her to let him take her somewhere that was indoors—anywhere but out here in the cold, she told him, "I love you so much. More than anything in the world." Her voice was steady, but for the tremors and the tears that still shook her form.
Charles felt something soar inside him. He placed her hand over his unbeating heart with an anguished sigh. "Woman," he said, pain and affection lacing every word, "were I not already dead, you'd surely kill me."
A short burst of weak laughter escaped her, and with a strangled chuckle of his own, Charles dropped his forehead to hers. Sarah nestled closer into him against the chill, the rain and his dinner jacket veritably engulfing and drowning her all at once.
She quickly took notice of the blood, though, and drew back in alarm. "Are you hurt?" she begged to know, fear and worry filling her voice as her fingers pressed against his chest.
Charles gazed lamentably down at the ruined fabric, but rushed to console her. "A minor annoyance compared to ruined Dior," he promised her, trying to set her at ease with a quip. He winced though slightly as he became fully aware of his condition, but he shook it off. "I'll just need," his murmured voice seemed to falter over the word, "blood soon." He averted his eyes from her.
"Oh," she said quietly. Then, she removed her dripping glove and lifted her wrist to him in earnest concern.
He smiled at her sincerity, touched by her desire to help him, even if it came with a price to her. "Put that away, precious," he told her gently. When she hesitated, he pressed a kiss into her palm and lowered the proffered appendage himself, pulling her in close.
His body was no furnace against the cold, but he made a valiant attempt to shield her, best he could. His gaze swept over the bodies once more. His eyes hardened momentarily, but when she sniffled against him—she'd seen them too—he sighed.
"One day, Sarah," he told her, with rueful affection, "and that day will be soon, I'm stealing you away and moving you out of this despicable city and somewhere nice. Somewhere with picket fences and no dark alleys in sight. Until you're like me."
He felt her jerk in his arms, and her head lifted again until her eyes could lock on his.
She stared at him in wonderment. In gradually building awe, hardly daring to hope. "When I'm like you?" she repeated, barely more than a whisper. If it weren't for his preternatural hearing, he'd never have heard it through the weather.
He stared back, unable to break her gaze despite desperately needing to. He swallowed. He'd never been able to deny her anything for long. "If it's what you want," he managed out.
A tentative smile quivered at the corners of her mouth. She took his hands in hers. "Is it what you want, Charles?"
Charles thought that maybe he liked storms after all. Terrible, beautiful things. His face contorted in a combination of agony and desire. He exhaled heavily, his words coming out a sigh. "God help me, it is."
He claimed her mouth in a fiery, desperate kiss. And she clung to him like she was still drowning, and he was the only source of air. Her lips were cool, like his, and it was like a breathtaking glimpse into their future. A future where his touch gave her only shivers of pleasure, and nothing else. A future that had no end.
Forever with Sarah. What a fool he'd been to imagine anything less.
Because her name was a prayer and her lips were his sanctuary. Because all he wanted to see for the rest of his life were her blue eyes, red hair, and scarlet lips. Because her flower petal skin and kisses were like water, running over him, through him.
I'm sorry for being late, she might have said.
Oh, angel… he might have breathed, somewhere between laughter and a sob.
The rain poured.
301 WAVERLY PLACE
This wasn't the forever he imagined.
It had been three hours now since Mick and Beth's departure. Josef strayed momentarily from his place, turning his gaze on the sleeping woman in the bed. Her red curls were still in place, blue eyes hidden from him. They had been for a very long time now. He sat in a chair beside the bed, an opened book resting in his lap. He always had to pause between entries, unable to look away from her for long. Her beauty and youth had not faded one morsel since that night fifty-some years ago. It was devastatingly lovely.
But it would never be a fairytale. Not anymore. She was his Aurora, but his kisses couldn't bring her back.
Josef turned back to his place, resuming where he'd left off. "Whatever our struggles and triumphs," he read quietly, "however we may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into a wash. Just like the watery ink on paper."
On the moonlit window pane, raindrops gathered; forbidden from the warm glow of the candles inside.
Sarah hated making people wait.