Disclaimer: I don't own Vampire Diaries.
Author's note: Thanks for the reviews! I didn't think I would write a new chapter but here it is.
He watched the sunrise, slow yet regal, chasing away the shadows as if eradicating the last remnant of yesterday's folly accidents and unforeseen tragedies. He looked at the ring Katherine had given him, the one that saved his and Damon's lives, and for a moment his anger toward her abated. He may never know if she truly loved or merely toyed with his feelings, but he could never lie about how he felt for centuries. He had loved her but she only used him like a plaything, pushing Stefan to put an end to her little game. Even now, he had to put an end to his love for Elena.
"Goodbye, Elena," Stefan said, as if the wind could carry the heaviness of his last message to her. He felt like a part of him had died when he was looking into her window, knowing that his relationship with her could never be. As long as she was alive, she was never safe with him.
Stefan touched his ring. How easy it was to slip it off his finger, to let the slow burn of the sun suddenly consume him, his ashes blowing off into the wind, into the lake. Yes, this was the perfect spot to die. The cottage by the lake was the last moment of happiness they had shared together. It was brief yet unforgettable. Nostalgia tugged at his heart, making him clench his fist. There was no way he could move on without Elena. Rather than let Klaus use him until he was nothing more but a mindless zombie-slave, he might as well die. Besides, his life was literally a living hell.
He closed his eyes, breathed in deeply. The light breeze tousled his soft, brown hair; the wood-scented air reminded him briefly of his old life, back when he was unwittingly struck by Cupid's arrow; he listened to the gentle lull of the still waters, rocking him slowly to sleep. And then he opened his eyes and saw the sun looming above, shining brighter than he last observed. There was a reason why he kept living, even when Katherine had left him alone.
Hope. Hope that he would find Katherine. Hope that she would come back to him. Hope that she would answer all his questions. And when those questions were finally answered and he was slightly disappointed in her, but he realized that Katherine had to leave because Klaus was chasing after her. So Stefan would hold onto the last shred of hope that he would reunite with Elena. Although the road ahead of him seemed much darker, there was always the possibility that he would return to Elena. Someday. Somehow.
Resolute of his final decision, Stefan made his way back to the bar. As soon as he crossed the threshold, however, he knew that something was amiss. The room was empty. He rushed to the pool table where he had tortured the werewolf, found it to be unoccupied and streaked with dried blood. Even the bar folks were nowhere to be seen.
"Took you long enough," Klaus said, emerging from the shadows. He had the same cocky smile, the piercing dark eyes that said he was not to be messed with.
Stefan turned around sharply; more surprised that he didn't sense Klaus' presence.
"Where's Ray? And the others?" he asked.
"Why are you such a prick about other people's welfare? They don't give a bloody damn about you," Klaus said, shaking his head, his voice rising slightly. When Stefan remained silent, Klaus shrugged his shoulders. "Ray's making a bloody mess in the bathroom. He's had three girls already." He grinned, relishing in his lovely creation.
"Three… girls?" Stefan muttered, slightly aghast.
"And he's on a roll. He's gorging on the fat bartender as we speak," Klaus said. He was obviously brimming with pride, as his glance fell on the bathroom door, imagining the carnage that was taking place. He lifted his nostrils, taking a whiff of the bloodstained air. "Where a vampire lacks power and self-restraint, a werewolf makes up for stamina and discipline."
"And hunger?" Stefan asked.
"It's insatiable at first. Unbearably painful, but you get used to it. The werewolf is disciplined by nature so getting over the hunger pangs takes a week at most, sometimes as few as three days. Unlike a vampire, who takes weeks or months to control the hunger pangs, a hybrid's capacity is more advanced and limitless. Incredible, don't you agree?"
Stefan didn't say a word. He didn't know how to react to such startling information. Was he supposed to be in awe? Afraid? Defensive? Chilled to the bone? He wondered if Klaus saw through his uncertainty. When he looked up, Klaus was staring at him, his eyes turning an ominous shade of gold.
"Klaus?" Stefan asked, his voice barely a whisper.
"You didn't think I'd let you run off to your little human girlfriend without leaving you unscathed? I believe a little flogging is in order." Klaus' voice dropped a notch lower, his fangs bared at Stefan, his face transforming into a wolfish grimace.
Stefan began backing away. How was this possible? It was morning, and the full moon hadn't dominated the night sky.
"Did I forget to mention that a hybrid could transform at will? Thank your vampire blood for the extra ability," Klaus said, taking a step closer. Instead of changing into a wolf form completely, his figure was that of a man, except that his body and facial hair tripled in length and mass; his legs were slightly hunched and powerful; his fingers were longer and sharper; and his muzzle was shorter than an ordinary wolf but his face was more horrific and menacing. He was the archetype of a real werewolf. Half man, half wolf. When Stefan looked closer, Klaus' vampiric fangs were much more prominent than a pureblood werewolf.
"Oh, and something else slipped my mind," Klaus started, interrupting Stefan's thoughts. "The failed experiment wasn't my first. I tried the same procedure on other vampires but to no avail. Why, you didn't think this was the first time I tried turning a vampire into a werewolf, did you?"
Stefan couldn't tell what Klaus was thinking at the moment. The only thing that rushed into his head was that he had to escape, and fast. He looked out the window. Should he attempt to run for it, knowing full well that Klaus was much faster and stronger? He could kill Stefan with one blow. After years and years of being the hunter, he was now the prey. Susceptible to the adrenaline rush of being pursued and still putting up a fight when the odds were against him, Stefan was left with a tiny window of opportunity.
As his back leaned against the pool table, his hands mere inches from the glass of wolfsbane, Stefan took one last look at Klaus. This was the best way to go; either die trying or die with no regrets. Although he would have wanted to spend more time with Elena, he did the best he could for her. He had showered, almost smothered, her with so much love that it left him breathless. At least he was able to hold her, kiss her, love her. And that was all he needed: to love and be loved back. Now that he met a face worse than death, Stefan suddenly felt more impassioned, driven to fight rather than flee.
Growing tired of staring into each other's eyes with immeasurable intensity, Klaus made his move. He growled and lunged at Stefan. In that split second, with one deft move, Stefan grabbed the glass and splashed it at Klaus' face, causing the hybrid to yowl in shock. Stefan quickly jumped out the window and ran through the parking lot, into the woods. He ran as fast as he could, branches swatting his face, leaving welts on his face, but it instantly healed just as it started bleeding.
He arrived at a clearing, looking behind him for any sign of Klaus. He watched the trees, alert for any rustling branches. The trees were as silent and immovable as the air, but it still didn't calm Stefan down. Moreover, his throat was slightly parched from the exertion. It was fortunate that he had some blood a few hours ago, otherwise, he wouldn't have broken free of Klaus' grip, even if he escaped just by a hair's breadth.
"Silly Stefan. You didn't think diluted wolfsbane could stop me, did you?" Klaus' throaty voice was a growl, a tinge of amusement evident in his tone.
Stefan whipped around, facing Klaus in defensive mode. He had his arms poised in front of him, ready for an attack, though he knew it would break him instantly. At least he tried.
"See, there was one thing I haven't tried with the whole vampire-turn-into-werewolf experiment." Again with the staring, Stefan was starting to get sick of Klaus' unreadable expression. It made him feel vulnerable, like a pedophile stalking him. "I haven't tried turning a vampire in my hybrid form."
Before Stefan could utter another word, Klaus was at his throat, his fangs deep and long. The shock numbed the pain at first, but as razor-sharp teeth sunk deeper, he felt his skin was ablaze, his blood reaching boiling point. He cried out, the pain being unbearable. Sunlight paled in comparison to the intense heat he was currently experiencing. It felt like his insides and bones were melting and breaking at the same time. A loud crack resounded in the soundless forest. Stefan wondered if Klaus was breaking his neck—he couldn't tell the difference anymore. Pain was pain, no matter where he was being attacked.
As Klaus' grip slackened, Stefan watched those piercing yellow eyes grinning at him. He could hear the evil laughter echoing in his head. He felt himself drifting into the darkness, thinking that dying was supposed to be quick, painful, no time for flashbacks or contemplation.
"It's a full moon tonight," Klaus said. Those were the last words he heard Klaus say before closing his eyes, letting Darkness wrap its shadowy tendrils around him. He didn't want his last image to be of Klaus' bloody face. He tried conjuring up Elena's face; the light of her smile shining through the dull ache that throbbed in his chest.
Goodbye, Elena. I'll always love you.
His eyes suddenly popped open. Just when he felt like drifting off to Death's door, he was wide-awake, alert and intensely famished. He looked around him and found Klaus perched on a low branch, watching Stefan.
"He's alive!" Klaus said, jumping off the tree, his hands held up in triumph. He was Doctor Frankenstein, ecstatic of his monstrous creation. "How do you feel, my pretty?"
Stefan touched his face, his neck that was still wet from blood, and he looked down at his hands. His hands and arms were hairy, almost furry, and when he laid a hand on his face, his nose and lips were not where it used to be; he could feel a muzzle occupying his leaner face, his nose wet and sensitive. It was like he emerged from the water after years of drowning, breathing and gasping for lungful of air. And his vision, his vision was ten times clearer, like he was cured of blindness—and a vampire's eyesight was far better than that of a human.
"I'm a were—" Stefan started.
"A hybrid," Klaus corrected, obviously elated by the successful transformation. "You're a hybrid!" Klaus was laughing and jumping in the air like Jiminy Cricket.
"But isn't the transformation supposed to be excruciating?" Stefan asked, staggering to his feet.
"Not as bad as an ordinary werewolf," Klaus said, rubbing his hands together like he was about to play a fun game. "What are you hungry for? Barmaid or college student? I'm afraid we're short of barmaid though."
Stefan was at a loss for words, and he couldn't think straight. How was this possible? He touched his elflike ears, which moved on its accord. Everything around him was magnified, clarified into startling focus that it scared him a little. The air was crispier, and his sense of smell seemed like it filtered everything that passed through his nostrils. He could smell the soil beneath his enlarged feet; the woody perfume of the trees towering him was oaky and strong, making him sneeze.
"Stefan," Klaus interrupted his train of thought. "What do you say we go for a hunt?"
The word hunt made his heart leap, his stomach growl louder. Perhaps it was his wolf form that felt the strong inclination to hunt, or maybe the feeling was intensified because he harbored prominent traits of natural-born hunters. He involuntarily nodded his head and he arched his back when Klaus started laughing.
"You're not hunting in that form," Klaus remarked.
Stefan looked down. "You mean my original form?"
"No, your transformation isn't complete. You turn into a wolf completely," he pointed at the moonless sky. The sun was merging into the horizon, creating a breathtaking sunset of oranges and purples blended together.
"But your form awhile ago—"
"That was my half vampire, half werewolf form. I could change at will but because it wasn't a full moon, I couldn't transform into my werewolf form completely. And I conjecture that the reason why you're not dying from the werewolf's bite is because my vampire form nullified it and was able to change you. It's just a guess but it's the best one I've got so far."
Speechless, Stefan looked up at the darkening sky. He could feel his skin crawl with anticipation. He didn't know if he was frightened or excited, or both, but he felt strangely drawn to the emerging pull of the moon. He felt like his chest was about to implode from the rhythmic thudding of his heart. He felt the base of his throat making a low growl, slowly escalating into a soft howl.
Klaus chuckled. "I like how you adapt to your transformation so quickly. Very well-mannered," he commented.
Stefan didn't know if Klaus was making fun of his pathetic, puppyish attempt at howling, but he could care less of what Klaus thought of him at the moment. He was only looking forward to the moon, as if he were waiting for his princess' monthly visit.
"I have to warn you, Stefan. The full transformation is not entirely pleasant. You break a few bones every time," Klaus warned.
"Here it comes," Stefan said, turning a deaf ear to Klaus, who only smiled at his minion's eagerness.
Finally, to his heart's impatient longing, the moon rose to its full glory tonight, striking a sense of kinship in Stefan. Crying out in agony, his ribs breaking and expanding, his facial muscles stretching, his legs becoming longer and sturdier, Stefan felt every nerve bursting, every inch of pain unfolding in his body.
What first sounded like a cry evolved into a long howl. He sang to the moon, serenading his lost lover, beckoning her from her hiding place. Klaus soon joined in, basking in the moonlight, banding together instead of competing against one another.
Hungry for flesh and blood, the two hybrids—both young and old—sprinted across the woods, dodging each branch's slap, flying past aged trees, stomping on soil and stray leaves. Klaus' fur was mostly white with a tinge of black along the curve of his back and legs, while Stefan was auburn, the same color as his hair.
Unlike the vampire's individualistic nature, werewolves were familial and social. As they ran together, Stefan's previous resentment was gone, overshadowed by connection and the thirst for blood. He felt free and wild, liberated from his former feelings of entrapment and fear. This experience was beyond comprehension, and he was glad he was able to live it, once in a blue moon.
To be continued…
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