Fandom: Blade: Trinity
Pairing: Abigail Whistler/Hannibal King
Warnings/Spoilers: Set post the movie
Genres: Angst (with a hopeful ending), (pre-)relationship, het
Disclaimer: Blade: Trinity, the motion picture, is owned by New Line Cinema. This is a not for profit fanfiction, and no copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Notes:Thanks to Aithine for beta reading duties. Any mistakes remaining are my own. Written for sharkgloves for fandom_stocking 2011.
The wind was bitter when Abby stepped out of the truck, and it cut through her with a knife's sharp edge. She took a moment to catch her breath, scanning her surroundings and searching each shadowed doorway, each alley mouth for any sign of danger.
Nothing stirred in the darkness, nothing to show that she and King weren't the only people still left alive in the city, but after years of hunting she was used to the eeriness of that feeling and it no longer fazed her. She simply took a breath and strained her ears, listening until she could pick up the distant sounds of traffic over the wind and, a little closer, the faint sound of what could be people.
She was still looking, still listening when King finally crunched to a stop beside her. He'd left a trail of footsteps behind him in the light dusting of dirty snow on the ground and, once she noticed them, it was automatic to check for other tracks, other signs of life. They weren't the first people to walk along this street today, but the other tracks left behind since the snow had fallen looked just as human as theirs, just as normal. But then there wouldn't be anything to distinguish what they were hunting from anyone else who'd passed this way. Vampires were the ultimate predator - they looked just like their prey until you got up close and realised that the glitter in their eyes, the gleaming of their fangs, wasn't just a trick of the light.
King rubbed his hands together, trying to warm his fingers as he, too, glanced around, the move casual unless you knew what you were looking for. He found nothing either, judging by the subtle way that the tension in his shoulders eased, and he finally glanced over at her, raising his eyebrows.
"It's fucking cold," he said, and she didn't grace him with a reply, not for stating something so obvious. He watched her for a moment, waiting, and then he sighed softly, softly enough for her to ignore that, too, if she wanted to.
She did, not that that would ever stop King.
"So how do you want to play this?" he asked instead, and that deserved an answer if she could find one. Instead she shrugged, and this time the breath huffed out of him impatiently, hanging glittering in the cold air between them for a moment, ice-white in the street lights.
It would be warmer than it looked, she knew. King ran hot where she ran cold, and if she took a step closer to him then she'd feel the warmth of his breath against her skin. The temptation to do just that was real, hanging there between them just as his breath had, but - just like his breath - it soon dissipated when she ignored it.
King sighed again, the sound weary rather than his usual smart-assed, and scrubbed tiredly at his face, his fingers dragging the skin of his cheeks down. For a split second he looked old, like he no longer fit inside his skin, was no longer comfortable living in it. She knew the feeling - she got it every time she looked at him and found the faint traces of Danica's fists and feet spread across his face, the red lines that hadn't fully faded to white yet and wouldn't for months, maybe even years.
Sommerfield had told her once how long a human's skin took to recover from an injury, probably during some discussion about a vampire's ability to heal without scarring. Most of her conversations with Sommerfield had been about vampires, and the regrets she had about that still bit deep. She could no longer remember all of the details, but then she couldn't remember the timbre of Sommerfield's voice either, not clearly, and that bit deeper still.
"Caulder said that most of the attacks seemed to be happening in this area," King said. He was still trying to break through the barricades she was far too good at throwing up, but then King never had known how to quit. Sometimes she thought that was just because he was King; at other times she thought that maybe, just maybe, he thought she was worth the effort.
It was easier to let his efforts pass by without comment, and these days easier seemed better. She didn't have much energy for anything else, not outside hunting or Zo? Not even for King.
King was still watching her, the intensity in his eyes making her squirm a little. It had been clear for weeks that he was worried about her, but she had no idea how to reassure him that she was okay. She'd never been that good at lying to King. With everyone else it was easy - she just threw up a wall of silence that shut them out effectively, but King had a habit of barging straight through it with a grin and an innuendo or two.
"People are that-a-way," he said quietly, his eyes still fixed on her face as he jerked his head towards the distant sounds they could hear. "And where there are people..."
"There are vampires," she completed, because he seemed to want something from her and that was the least she could give him. Her voice sounded rusty, unused, but maybe he didn't catch that or - oddly for King - maybe for once he was disciplined enough not to comment on it. He simply nodded, giving her a slight smile of approval that just made her want to smack the look right off his face. But when she scowled at him, his smile turned into a grin, the bastard, and the familiarity of it hit her with an unexpected surge of longing for things to be normal.
It wasn't quite a longing for King, although that, as always, lurked beneath the surface.
Maybe he caught some of it because he opened his mouth as if to say something, something she probably didn't want - or couldn't bear - to hear. She cut him off, her words falling out over themselves in her hurry not to leave a space he could fill, because King filled all of the spaces, with his body as well as his voice.
"So we go where there are people," she said, "and look for..."
"Not people," he completed easily. "Shouldn't be too difficult. They'll be the ones who aren't fucking freezing." He huffed on his fingers again, rubbing them briskly together pointedly, throwing her a look that invited her to smirk at him, roll her eyes, do anything but ignore him.
She found the look from somewhere, one that made him smirk in return and the warmth underneath his smirk lit up his face and eased the subtle tension lines that had formed around his eyes. She hadn't noticed the lines until they were gone, and she was usually better at paying attention.
So much had slipped away from her over the last few months. Sometimes she wondered why King stuck around at all, now that Danica was dead, but only when she tried lying to herself. She knew why he stuck around, and it wasn't just for Zo?
"So we have a plan?" King asked, still watching her like he always watched her. She nodded, not looking at him and not just because she was busy laying out a plan of the nearby streets in her head. She wasn't as familiar with this part of town as their normal hunting grounds, but when they'd taken out the Talos Clan, they'd created a vacuum in the local vampire power structures that no one yet had been able to fill. In fact, from what they'd gleaned from interrogating familiars, the vampires still avoided the places that Talos had operated, almost superstitious, it seemed, that whatever disaster had taken Talos out was still lingering, ready to take them out if they got too close to the source.
Sommerfield wasn't around any more to tell Abby whether it was true that DayStar could maintain its efficacy for this long after it had been deployed, and Caulder either didn't know or didn't want to commit. But if DayStar lived on in closed spaces, they now knew it that didn't work well in the open air. It was too easily dissipated by the wind, spread to thinly to infect any but the weakest of vampires, which meant they were back to old fashioned methods of hunting until they found an enclosed vamp nest to use it in.
Abby had no objections to that - it felt good to be on the move, to be doing something more than just tracking vamps on the computer systems that Hedges had designed or cannibalised, plotting movements that might lead them to some enclosed space - office building, club, basement - that housed more than a vamp or two. Hunting warmed her blood and eased her heart, and when she hunted she didn't have time to think too deeply about things that still hurt.
"That way," she said, pointing down one of the alleys to the right of them. "If I'm right, there are some stores and maybe even a market square past there."
King nodded, standing too close to her, close enough for her to feel the warmth rising from his body.
He still wasn't close enough.
"Okay," he said easily, giving her one of those smiles of his that warmed her in spite of herself, about the only thing outside of Zo?s laughter that could make her feel warm these days, and Zo?had stopped laughing. She didn't return his smile and it didn't take long to fade away from his face as though it had never been there. He turned away, clearing his throat softly, and the sound was uncomfortable enough to send a pang of guilt through her.
The guilt was familiar, but so was tamping it down, swallowing it and leaving nothing of it showing on the surface.
She turned on her heel and led the way and, as always, he followed. That was familiar, too, King dogging her footsteps determinedly, not letting her put the space between them that she half wanted to and half didn't. She might be stubborn, but King could probably outdo her in that category, if she pushed him hard enough.
She tried not to push him too far. She didn't think she'd ever be successful in pushing him away entirely, but why tempt fate? She'd thought a lot of things over the years that hadn't turned out to be true - she'd thought her father would live forever, that the Honeycomb Hideout was as safe as they could make it, that Blade was a hero in all senses of the word instead of someone just as fucked up as the rest of them.
She couldn't take being wrong about King.
"I'd ask if you wanted a penny for your thoughts," King said quietly, "but I get the feeling that inflation might have kicked in. A dollar?" he offered instead. He gave her another smile, and she found one to twitch at him in reply.
"Just wondering if we'll be in time," she lied. "I'm tired of getting there after someone's already dead," and that part of it wasn't a lie.
Maybe he could tell the difference, but he didn't comment, simply nodding and matching her step for step. It was easy - too easy - to fall into his rhythm, like it would be too easy to fall and let him catch her. If he could catch her. If anyone could.
For a moment she thought he'd accepted her explanation, that he'd let it slide away entirely and keep his own counsel, the way he had been recently, when King normally never had an opinion he didn't share. But then he added, sounding like he was just making conversation, "If we do get there too late for tonight's little appetiser, we'll take them down before they can hurt anyone else." He stole a quick sideways glance, the way he did when he wasn't sure how she'd react, or when he wanted to share a joke with her and her alone, tuning everyone else out. But it was no joke when he added, "It won't be your fault, you know."
She didn't, that was the kicker, but she was smart enough not to argue with King about this. She might not have many guarantees in life, but she could guarantee he wouldn't shut up about until he was convinced that he'd convinced her.
No, stubborn didn't even begin to cover King. It was probably the only reason he'd survived Danica Talos.
The thought of Danica cast another black cloud over her mood, and she turned away, trying to get her mind back on track. The noises were getting louder now, and she focused on them instead, on separating out each one, trying to get a feel for the dimensions of the area up ahead from the echoes, the number of people from the different voices she could hear.
Larger than she'd thought, given the late hour, and she frowned, hastening her steps the last few paces until she was out from cover, heading into the market place.
King kept pace with her, but he didn't seem surprised by the sheer number of bodies swirling around the place in spite of the darkness and the inclement weather. His attention was focused on her, not on them, and she stared back at him, waiting for... something.
He shrugged, giving her a little half-smile that told her nothing and, after a second, she turned away, forcing her way through the crowd.
It was busy, much too busy to make her feel comfortable. Bodies swept past her, shoving and jostling her with half-muttered apologies and the occasional dirty look. It made her teeth itch and her fingers clench as the urge to reach for a blade or two rose slowly to the surface. She took a deep breath, reminding herself that none of them could be vamps - vamps kept their distance until the kill, only moving in this close to taunt and to torture. They didn't surround themselves with seething masses of humanity, and they certainly didn't wander around aimlessly, clutching bags bulging with shopping. Not the vamps she'd encountered up until now, anyway.
Once she'd made it into the market place proper, she found stalls full of knick-knacks, handmade items that were too quaint to be useful, all dainty little chocolates and bath bombs. Nothing she or King could use - no knives or guns, no blades or bows. She paused for a moment, getting her bearings and taking in the sights and the sounds, the noise and the smell, scowling when someone else pushed past her, this one coming between her and King.
She reached out to push back but King caught hold of her hand, tugging her towards him before she could do any damage. He kept his fingers wrapped around hers even after she reached his side; they were warm and firm against hers and the feel of them made her heart beat a little faster, a frantic little bird in a cage, the momentary urge to violence fading.
It was too much, but she couldn't let go, swaying towards him and letting it look like the motion of the crowd was pushing her closer, not the effect of gravity, not the pull of him deep in her veins.
When he leaned in close, his breath was warm against her cheek, making her shiver a little. His voice was just as gentle, just as warm as his fingers when he murmured into her ear, "We should wait until the crowds thin out. Shouldn't take long - I think I mentioned the 'fucking freezing' part, right?" He squeezed her hand, an absentminded little flex of his fingers, almost as if he was just checking that she was still there, still with him. "Until then, I say we just try to blend in, look like a normal couple out shopping for their kids or something."
The only kid they had was Zo? and they couldn't ever be good enough for her. Abbycouldn't ever be good enough for her, because there was no way in hell Abby was ever going to be as good at the mom thing as Sommerfield had been.
She hid the brief pang of grief that flared up within her by nodding, avoiding King's eyes so he couldn't see anything she didn't want him to, but still staying close to him as they made their way through the crowds, his fingers entwined with hers. She couldn't move away from him, not when she needed him close right then - close enough for his shoulder to bump hers each time they stopped, close enough for his leg to press against hers when he eased through a gap, guiding her to follow him. Close enough to reassure her that he wasn't going anywhere.
It had been King she'd called for first, King she'd looked for first, before Zo? before Sommerfield, before anyone else, and the guilt she felt at that wasn't ever going to outweigh her relief that he'd survived.
She let him set the pace and he didn't seem to be in any particular hurry to be anywhere in particular, ambling through the crowd and not seeming to have any difficulty with it. But then he wouldn't - as tall as he was, and as broad shouldered, the crowd simply made way for him. He paused every now and then to stare at the things spread out to tempt them, studying them like he was actually interested in what was on offer.
She studied him instead, taking in the sharp angle of his cheek, the glint of the earring in his ear and how it caught the light when he leaned in for a closer look. She was caught by the way his eyelashes brushed his cheek when he blinked and the way he moved, loose-limbed and easy. Everything about him was sharply familiar and yet alien at the same time, like she was seeing him for the first time, or maybe the last.
He turned his head and caught her staring - he was bound to, the way she couldn't stop. He gave her a quizzical look, one she couldn't answer, not when she wasn't sure herself how to categorise the things that spun through her mind, faster and faster until they left her dizzy and sick with it.
She looked away, staring instead at what had caught King's attention this time. It was a glass and silver ornament, suspended on a spring so that it bounced lightly up and down in the breeze. The streetlights bounced off painted glass, sending sparkling shards of red and blue light dancing around it, and for a moment Abby couldn't figure out what it was supposed to be.
And then she got it - it was a glass butterfly, its body made up of glass beads crudely outline with silver wire, and its wings made of small painted panes. It must have been sturdier than it looked at first glance, but it was pretty in spite of its slightly lopsided nature.
"Think Zo?would like it?" King asked, leaning in to make sure she could hear him over the rustling, hurrying crowd. "For Christmas, I mean? Because I'll admit it - I'm all out of ideas when it comes to buying gifts for the kid."
The butterfly blurred in front of her eyes, the light haloing around it until she couldn't see anything but rings of red and gold.
"Hey, hey." There was a note of distress in King's voice, and it took a second for her to realise that it was because of her, because of the tears that were now streaming down her face. He pulled her into a rough hug, his arm settling around her shoulders, holding her to him, holding her as tightly as she needed.
She needed it, she really did, and she should have felt guilty about needing anything, but with King's arms around her, with the warmth of his body against hers and the scent of him - musk and leather - surrounding her and making her feel safe for the first time in months, she couldn't. She just couldn't.
His breath was warm against her scalp as he made some soft, meaningless sounds meant to comfort her. It should have been funny, King reduced to wordlessness like that, but it wasn't, not when he was the only thing holding her upright, the only thing holding her steady.
She took a deep breath, and then another, and when she let it out it was rough and rasping. "Crayons," she said, and her voice wavered, muffled by his body where her face was pressed against his shoulder. "Some drawing or painting stuff, maybe."
King nodded, his cheek brushing against her hair. "Yeah," he said, and his voice was steady, giving her something to focus on. "Good idea. She likes making stuff, right? We should get her some modelling kits or something. Maybe some Legos."
"Yeah." Her voice still shook but at least now she could raise her head from where she'd had it pressed against his body. Her fingers were still clenched in the fabric of his jacket, but when she tried to let go she couldn't. Not yet. "I think she'd like that."
"Maybe we should get her a puppy," King added brightly, and she tilted her head back to give him a look. "Hey, it's not that bad an idea."
"Yes, it is. We can barely look after ourselves, let alone..."
Let alone an eight-year-old girl. She shivered and King's arms tightened around her.
"It will teach her all about responsibility," King said, like Zo?wasn't all too familiar with that concept already. Zo?had been born old, and everything since had aged her further, ancient eyes staring out of a tiny, flower-like face.
King smoothed his hand gently up and down her back and she gave in to temptation, burying her head into the curve of his shoulder, pressing her face into the place where it met his neck. "Girls like puppies," he said. "Or maybe that's kittens - you're going to have to keep me right on these things, because I'm seriously out of my fucking depth here and I don't mind admitting it." He said it like Abby wasn't just as out of her depth, like he thought she actually had an idea of what the hell she was doing. It should have made her feel worse, knowing that King was struggling just like she was with the whole concept of raising a child, but it didn't.
It made her feel less alone.
"Joking aside," he continued, "we should think about it. Maybe not for Christmas - you're probably right about that - but I'd feel a lot better if we had a guard dog, one that thinks that Zo?hangs the moon and the fucking stars. And before you say it, Caulder doesn't count."
She smiled at that, and it hurt a little, made her cheeks - and her heart - ache with the unfamiliarity of it. "All right," she murmured, and the sound was muffled by his body, her breath warm against his shoulder, warming up her frozen face. "We'll talk about it when... When we've got Christmas over with." Because that was going to hurt, for Zo?most of all. All they could do was try and make it a little better for her, a little more bearable, a little more like they were actually a family.
"Okay," he said, and he pulled her in closer, like he thought she'd move away if he let her when she had no intention of going anywhere, not any time soon. Not ever. His hand was back to stroking up and down her back comfortingly, and she let out a sigh, her arms slipping around his waist like it was the most natural thing in the world. "And talking of okay, how are you doing?"
She pushed into him a little deeper, another brief moment of weakness she wasn't strong enough to fight, not when his embrace was so warm and welcoming. She rubbed her face against his shoulder, breathing in the solid scent of him before she let out a croaky, "I'm okay." She wasn't, but for the first time in a long time she thought she might be one day.
"Good. Because I hate to point this out, sweetheart, but at some point we're going to have to hit the mall. You up for that?"
She weighed it up for a moment, denial still trying to win out. "I'm up for it," she said, and it wasn't entirely a lie. She'd ignored Christmas, like she'd ignored everything else, losing herself in hunting and hoping that it would make the hurt would go away. But it wasn't fair to Zo?not to move on, not to wake up and look around and realise that the world was moving on, too, and that Abby couldn't make it stop no matter how she felt about it. She owed it to Zo? owed it to King.
Owed it to herself.
She hadn't been fair to King, leaving it to him to pick up the slack, keep things going when she hadn't been able to, but he hadn't complained about it once. If she wasn't already half in love with him, that might have done it.
"Hey," he said quietly. When she looked up at him, he smiled at her, even though there was concern still lurking in his eyes. "Are we actually having a Hallmark moment?"
"Don't knock it until you've tried it," she said, and her voice sounded better, sounded more like her, even if it was still rough and thick with tears. He reached up and brushed away the tears that had rolled down her cheeks with his fingers. For a second, she thought he'd do what he always did in awkward moments - crack a stupid joke, make an obscene comment, anything to make that tension go away - but he surprised her by leaning in slowly, so slowly that she had enough time to close her eyes, tilt her face up and wait what seems like an eternity before his mouth was pressing softly against hers.
The world went away for a little while - not far and not for long, but enough so that by the time it came back again, the taste of King was lingering on her lips and the warmth of his touch had seeped down deep inside her, loosening her up until she could finally breathe.
"Okay, I've tried the whole Hallmark thing," he murmured, his lips curling up in an irresistible smile as his thumbs stroked gently along her cheekbones. "I think I could get used to it."
She ducked her head, a little embarrassed as she shoved lightly at him, not missing the soft laugh he let out as he rocked backwards. And then he sobered again, simply looking at her in a way that warmed her up all over again.
"I say we hit the mall tonight," he said, the corners of his eyes creasing in amusement when she scowled up at him, disappointed at the change in subject and unable to hide it completely. "I know it's only two weeks until Christmas, but if we leave it any longer it will only be one week before Christmas, and then it will literally be hell on earth."
"Santa, Satan. Not that much different, really. Both like dressing in red a little too much and they both have daemonic imps at their beck and call."
The joke was stupid but she smiled anyway, her heart lighter than it had been since they'd lost the rest of their team - for once the smile didn't feel forced, like it was actually normal instead of simply an act. "Okay," she agreed, finally forcing her fingers to let go of his jacket. "Anything else, since you seem to have the rest of my night all planned out?"
"Well, I might have other plans later tonight, that's true," and the hint of promise in his words made her shiver again, "but as for right now... Don't look, but I think there's something vampiric and evil lurking in that alley back there. Want to go kick some ass?"
The thought of hunting - and the fact that he was back to cracking jokes at her - lightened her heart even further, but she kept it casual, stepping away from King and turning around as if she was simply examining something on another stall. King was right - there was a figure in the shadows, someone who'd dressed in a thin t-shirt without feeling the cold, someone too pale and too hungry to be human.
"You want to take him down on your own?" King asked, taking in her expression. "Because I hate to say this, and you might be mad enough about it to kick myass instead of our mutual friend's over there, but you look a little vulnerable right now, and that's pretty much guaranteed catnip for that particular bad cat."
The observation was crude but bang on target, as King normally was, and she nodded, all of her attention now focused on her own prey, the tears drying on her face.
"Atta girl," he said. "I'll be here if you need me."
Of course he would. He'd never been anywhere else and he'd never failed to have her back. She shouldn't have doubted that he'd have her back when it came to the rest of her life, when it came to Zo? She nodded at him and reached for her blade, heading into the shadows and wiping her hand across her face like she was just taking a moment to compose herself and wanted the privacy of the darkness.
It was easy to take the vamp down, far easier than the business of day-to-day living had been over the last few months, and when she stepped back into the marketplace, dusting the ash off her leathers, she found King waiting for her, the glass butterfly dangling from his fingers and bouncing gently as he moved.
He still had one hand free and she reached for it, feeling his fingers curl around hers like it was the most natural thing in the world, nothing remarkable, nothing to talk about. Like they would always be there.
There were worse ways to face the reality of living.