Sunday, October 31, 2010

NaNoWriMo Character Exercise: Paul Baxter

I feel in love with Sarah the moment I saw her.

For a fourteen year-old kid from a shitty home who was falling fast into the Dark she was like an angel coming to save me. She treated me like a second little brother from the start and I loved it. I wanted to be a part of their family so badly...but shit happens.

What I know now is a hell of a lot different than what I knew then. Now I know Dev and Sarah are my family. Back then...I still wasn't ready to turn my back on my parents even if my mother was a falling-down drunk and my father was angry at everything for no reason. So when he told me to stop hanging around that do-good bitch (meaning Sarah and Dev's mom), I did it. I cut ties with Sarah too, completely ignoring her because I didn't want him to notice her. Devin he didn't care about so I kept right on being friends with him and he never asked what was going on even though I know it had to bother him. was agony ignoring her. That's part of the reason why I kept getting further and further lost in the Dark; because I no longer had her to help me out of it. And for some reason she just let it slide, like she knew exactly why I was doing what I did.

After I tried to kill Dev and left my so-called "friends" it was like nothing had happened in the time between when I started ignoring Sarah. That first morning after I slept on their couch, she woke me with the same smile that had been haunting me for almost five years and got me up for breakfast. It was eerily reminiscent of the first (and only) time before that I'd spent the night at their house. And it was peaceful. I spent that entire time just sitting at the kitchen table watching her cook, not even noticing that Dev or their parents had come in. My eyes never strayed from her and all I wanted to do was to just stay near her and bask in her calming presence.

So, yeah, trying to kill my best friend opened my eyes. And they all made me feel really welcome and at home somewhere for the first time in my life.

It was Sarah that made me realize what a monster I'd really become, though.

I'd be nothing without her.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

NaNoWriMo Character Exercise: Devin Ridgefield

I think the sense of a kind of kindred spirit is what first drew me to Paul. Or more him to me as he jumped in to defend me against a pair of bullies at the start of seventh grade. With Sarah moved on to the high school, I'd been the prime target for the bullies she'd once driven off and who I refused to touch. Back then I was still too scared of the need to hunt that would sometimes well up within me, to chase down something smaller and weaker than me...and I knew all too well that I could turn the tables on the bullies who only pretended to be strong.

Paul rose to my defense though. He was thirteen, just barely under the mark that would have put him a grade ahead of me, and he wasn't afraid of the bullies. And where Sarah was my safe place to run to when things got too much, he helped me stand tall and try to face what was coming. Sure, I didn't always succeed (shit, I failed more than I like to recall) but he kept me getting up. He's the one that taught me how to brawl too and got me my first drink two years later (don't tell Sarah about that one, she'd kill us both for being such fools). I owe him...I owe him a lot more than I can ever pay back, though he'd tell you he owes me the same.

Really I'm not sure when Paul found his magic but by the time we met he was descending. He wasn't going down fast (more of a casual saunter downwards) but he was going down. There wasn't anything I could do to stop it either except just sit back, be the best friend I could, and hope (not pray, I'll leave that to Sah) he came back. And he did, holy shit, he clawed his way back out of that darkness like a man who'd been drowning but it took a real kick in the pants.

I mean, he did try to kill me.

Paul, my best friend, tried to kill me at eighteen for spell components. It took me punching him in the face and giving him a black eye I'm still proud of to get his head right but he saw what he'd been doing. And what he'd done inadvertently to his then girlfriend Melinda who'd been through things I didn't even want to imagine and come out scared, angry, and power-hungry. Whatever he'd descended into, he dragged her right down with him and when he came up for air, she stayed at the bottom of the ocean. So he left, just like that, picked up from the condemned building where they and a few others of their group lived and started camping out in our living room on the couch. Maybe it was wrong to run...but I can't say I blame him.

Mom didn't take long to practically adopt him as a second son and I think that helped him. Paul never talks much about what his home life was before he dropped out of school and ran away but I've seen enough to know his parents couldn't touch the boots of the lowest-of-the-low if they were standing on their tip-toes (and that's on a good day). Living with us reintroduced him to Sarah, too, and to finally admit he'd been in love with her since he was fourteen - which was just one of the things he'd been running from at the time. And when Mom and Dad died, he was there to help both of us through it just like we were there for him.

I feel...bad though. The one thing I'm most grateful for about Paul?

He's walked the same dark paths as me.

NaNoWriMo Character Exercise: Sarah Ridgefield

I remember clearly the night Mom brought Devin home. He was this tiny scruffy little thing that just clung to her neck like she was the last safe place on Earth, eyes wide in a mix of awe, fear, and caution. That impression of him, all of five years old, is one of the clearest memories from my childhood.

Only eight and I can remember every second of that night like it was yesterday.

It never surprised Dad what she did; Mom did things like that. She gave a homeless man fifty dollars on one hand and brought a teenage girl surviving only by prostitution into the house for a simple bowl of soup. Mom was...amazing is the only word I can find to accurately describe her. She had a heart bigger than the rest of her and when she found Devin abandoned on the street she couldn't help but bring him home. Of course, neither of us found out until later that he wasn't officially a member of the family until he was nine but we had the papers to prove it so the how didn't matter.

Mom fought tooth and nail for her family. The only problem was she saw everyone as extended family. That's what got her and Dad killed in the end; she insisted they pick up this hitchhiker and, can only get so lucky with hitchhikers before you find one that's not looking for just a ride and maybe a meal.

That was later though. Growing up...things were good. Happy. We became a family fast and I took to the role of big sister like a duck to water. And, thinking back on it, we both knew there was something off about him even back then. Devin was an unnaturally quiet little boy (and he's still a very quiet man in general) and he always was watching when we were in public, his eyes darting everywhere as if he needed to see everything. Even when he was five and refused to go anywhere without his hand in mine, he was watching, keeping an eye out for me same as I was keeping an eye out for him.

I remember the first time I knew something was really really wrong was three years later when he was eight and I was eleven. He came creeping into my room that night and climbed in with me, not answering me with anything but a whimper and burrowing into my arms. In the end all I could do was curl myself around him and go to sleep wondering what was wrong with my baby brother and how I could make it better. I didn't know until much later that that was the first night he'd really felt the Wild, felt the need to hunt, to kill, and he'd sought comfort and solid ground in the only way he knew. And then the whole thing blew up in our faces with one horny teenager.

Oh, I beat the ever-loving shit out of Aiden Cormac a month after what he tried to do. Not because he tried to rape me, no, I had gotten around that lightning fast. No, I beat him senseless with a baseball bat because of what he did to Devin. He hurt my baby brother and I showed that little snot that I am damn well my mother's daughter.

I never told Devin I was afraid of him that first time he changed. Oh, I'm sure he smelt it with that nose of his but I never let it show on my face that I was terrified. I couldn't, not when I was his big sister or when I saw just how terrified he was, scared of me and our parents rejecting him. We never told Mom and Dad...but I hold out to this day that they'd have understood even if Devin never agreed. It took a lot of practice to figure out how to best hide it from them as well as how to control his hunting urges and both ended up being our start in hunting. At nineteen and sixteen we were the monster hunters of our block, spreading fear amongst the denizens of the dark and letting ignorant housewives sleep safely.

We were such innocent fools then.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Word of the Day, 10/9/10: Roborant

roborant: a strengthening medicine; a tonic; a restorative


 "Come on, Sarah," urged Paul, fingers massaging his unconscious girlfriend's throat in an attempt to get her to swallow. Fear trembled, half-born, in his belly for a moment then muscles moved under his hand and he sagged with relief as she finally took down the potion that was the only thing keeping her alive. He leaned down and kissed her cheek gently, murmuring, "That's my girl."

As he rose from the chair next to her bed, Paul became aware of a hulking shadow lurking in the doorway of their room. He forced a smile and said to it, "She's still with us."

"I know," growled Devin, his voice carrying a throatier, deeper note to it than it usually did. He stepped forward out of the shadows then and his appearance reminded Paul of how far his best friend had come in the past year.

And just how far he would fall - how far they would both fall - if they lost Sarah.

Instead of his normal rake-thin figure, Devin sported a physique that would have given most athletes an orgasm. His shoulders were three times broader than they had been and his chest and arms were bulked with heavy, powerful muscles that stretched his shirt to its limits. More muscle filled out his legs, tightening the baggy pants he wore, and he was six inches taller than his normal six foot nothing. And that was the end of what the orgasming athlete would notice as good before he wet himself in fear out of the other changes.

Devin's fingernails were gone, replaced by three-inch long black claws that Paul could personally assure were capable of cutting through a solid steel door with the strength of those muscles behind them. Short, dark fur was showing in patches across his skin but could be tucked away by a denying vanilla mortal as just making him a guy with a lot of hair. His hair, which had grown several inches and fell in a bristly mane around his shoulders, covered ears that now ended in a sharp point and were capable of hearing a mouse's heartbeat from miles away. Most obvious, most telling of just what his friend was, were his eyes: none of Devin's face had really changed except to become a little thicker, a little heavier, but his eyes were a bright burnished amber that wasn't possible in humans and full of a fire that was all animal.

Slowly Devin moved over to the bed and knelt, carefully taking his sister's hand into his own that was now over twice the size of hers. He stared down at her for a long moment, a muscle jumping in his cheek, then turned to look at Paul. "Have you figured out who did this yet?" he asked.

Nodding slowly, Paul ran a hand back through his hair before he answered.

"The poison's magical," he explained, "hence why my potions are working on it. It's slowly..."

"Paul," rumbled his friend, the underlying growl in his voice deepening as he spoke, "I don't care how it works. I want to know who poisoned my sister so I can tear them limb from limb."

"My bloody fucking ex, all right?" exploded Paul, running both hands through his hair as he started to pace. He heard something starting to rattle in the apartment as his magic reacted to his mood and continued in a rush, "Melinda Emerson. From back -"

Devin nodded and Paul trailed off as he interrupted, "When you were Dark. I remember."

Paul just snorted at that. "Her signature's hidden amongst the magical body of the poison but obvious enough to someone that knew her. Knew her magic." He shuddered and came to a stop with his hands planted on the back of a chair, fingers clutching at the fabric. God, he knew Melinda's magic all right. How could he not with the spells they had performed together? They had summoned impossible demons, pulled off feats of unimagined complication, and even taken their sex life to new heights because of how well they'd gotten to know each others magic.

There had been a point where they hadn't even had different base magical signatures.

That time, though, was long gone. He'd changed. From what he could tell, Melinda hadn't. And part of him wanted to have that oneness with her again, the connection that he could never have with Sarah or Devin.

Paul felt a heavy hand on his shoulder, claw tips carefully pricking his clothes, and looked up at his best friend. Devin knew. He had ignored Paul's behavior back then, just been his ignorant seeming best friend even though they had both known what each other was. It had been an unspoken agreement back then between them. That and that Paul wasn't to go anywhere near Sarah while he was Dark.

"I can track her," he said after a moment. "We should...we should try and talk the cure out of her first." Paul shook his head, unaware of why he was even saying this but he felt he had to. That he had to give Melinda one chance.

He'd tried to kill Devin for a damn spell component and been forgiven, given a second chance. She should get the same.

Devin had an expression on his face that said he knew both things but that he expected things to go bad. Which was perfectly fine - Paul expected them to go that way himself.

"Tag her," growled Devin, "and we'll go talk to her." He took a deep breath then, his shirt creaking with the strain, and looked over at Sarah. "Will she be okay without us here?"

"Right now my magic is battling Melinda's," answered Paul. "It should hold out while we're gone." He then shook his head, choking out a laugh, and said, "Maybe we should pray."

Devin blinked down at him at that then noted as quietly as he could, "It couldn't hurt." When Paul looked up at him in surprise, he shrugged his broad shoulders and added, "Maybe whatever likes her will listen to two of the Dark who just want something Light to live."

That made Paul smile - an honest, if tired smile - at his friend's much simplified way of looking at what they all were. "Okay," he said, moving over to the bed again, retaking his chair as Devin knelt next to him. His hand found Sarah's and then Devin's curled around both, securing them all together as one, as family.

Then he closed his eyes and made a wish.

Let her live. Please...for me, for Devin, whoever you are that listens to Sarah, that helps her, let her live.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Word of the Day, 10/8/10: Wassail

Wassail: an expression of good wishes on a festive occasion, especially in drinking to someone

Where are we bloody going?” asked Devin as he walked arm-in-arm with his sister. On Sarah's other side Paul walked with her hand in his and judging by the looks they were getting, people were taking it the wrong way.

He didn't care though. It was hard enough for him to get out of their apartment since he'd had no choice but to move in with them. It was annoying, painful, and embarrassing, but he couldn't stand to be away from Sarah at the moment. Even three months after his...ordeal...and he still broke into shakes when she wasn't close by.

And walking close to her, shoulders touching and her arm tucked tightly into his, was the only way he could go out in public.

Sarah smiled up at him and answered, “To celebrate!”

Devin wrinkled his brow at that. “And just what are we celebrating?” he inquired. “Apparently I missed the memo.”

Your recovery,” replied his sister in a tone that said she'd thought it was obvious. “After this month's moon -”

Ah,” interrupted Devin in a terse voice. He then saw her expression fall and winced, shifting a little closer to her. “I'm sorry, Sar. I don't...I don't have your faith in me for being cured.”

I know better, he added quietly to himself. It had been agony trying to hold back the transformation that had wanted to take over every full moon for the past months. He had never even considered that that part of the werewolf lore was true until he'd met Niamh. And then she'd turned him into the same monster.

Dev,” he heard Paul say, breaking him out of his thoughts, “your claws are showing.”

Devin looked down at that and clenched his free hand to hide the black claws that had pushed up underneath his fingernails. He was so numb to pain now that he hadn't even felt it.

Closing his eyes, he sucked in a deep, slow breaths to calm his heart. The second Niamh had entered his thoughts it had sped up in response to a rush of fear, anger, and – he was loath to admit it almost – need.

Even after all she'd done, part of him still wanted her, still loved her even. Which made the fear and anger all the worse.

Thanks,” he said once the claws had slid back into place and he wiped from from his healing nails onto his dark jeans. Paul just nodded in return and they continued on in silence until they arrived at the pub.
Devin balked at the door, pulling their little group to a halt, and his sister's hand found his. He looked down at Sarah's reassuring smile and tried to smile back despite not feeling it. Then he drew in a shuddering breath before saying, “Now or never, right?”

Sarah's smile was blinding. Over her head Devin and Paul shared a look, their long friendship enabling them to silently communicate.

They both knew full well that Devin wasn't cured and that he never would be really. For her, though, they'd both pretend.

Inside the pub they found a relatively quiet corner table and Devin settled himself in the corner itself. Sarah's knee touched his where she sat to his right and Paul ended up almost directly across from him. They ordered their usual drinks and sat in comfortable silence until they arrived.

Sarah lifted her glass, full of a fruity, red-shaded concoction, and beamed the two of them. “To Dev, my favorite little brother,” she began.

And only,” piped Devin with a laugh as he curled his fingers around his glass of Guinness. She kicked him playfully under the table and they shared a laugh.

Who I love dearly,” continued Sarah, “and wish only the best. May your troubles be few from now on and you no longer pick up women that hurt you.”

Hear, hear,” said Paul, lifting his smaller glass of Glenfiddich to clink against Sarah's.

Devin shook his head then lifted his glass to touch the edge against both of theirs.

To my sister and my best friend,” he intoned seriously, “savers of my life and sanity.”

Paul chuckled. “I'll drink to that.”

Me too,” agreed Sarah as her other hand found his under the table. That made him smile and he squeezed her fingers warmly in return.

Devin then closed his eyes and sipped his beer, smiling as he reveled in the well wishes spoken and the presence of those who accepted him despite all mistakes. They would die for each other if need be.

And that's what made them family.

Search & Destroy

Same 'verse as Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting) and Ain't No Rest For the Wicked; sequel to Howl, Night of the Hunter, and Was it a Dream?


Niamh smiled, humming a little tune, as she unlocked her apartment door. It was almost moonrise and she could feel it, her skin tingling as her true self shifted restlessly within her. She soothed it with a half-heard whisper, assuring it that soon they would be true to themselves again.

Still humming, she locked the door and began to strip out of her clothes as she moved across the dark apartment. The French doors that led out to her balcony allowed moonlight to spill across the floor and her belly tightened with anticipation as she moved towards it. Her panties were the last thing she slipped off, kicking them aside before she stepped into the welcoming moonlight. A smile stretched across her face as she stood naked before her mother, her goddess, her world. Niamh felt her true self shift, her skin stretching to accommodate it and she gasped out a plea for it to take her and make them whole again.

Her eyes closed in bliss as her body began to warp then she heard whispered words, loud as a thunderclap in the silence.

“Time to go to Hell,” where the words in an angry masculine voice and Niamh spun. She fully welcome herself, urging it to take her quickly so they could kill the intruder.

Then a circle blazed to life underneath her bare feet and the swift transformation stopped. Niamh gasped and collapsed on legs that were half between human and wolf, the frozen limbs unable to hold up the muscle she'd gained. She sat for a long time, staring at hands that bristled with claws but no fur, in shock.

Because not only had the transformation stopped, she could also no longer feel her true self.

How?” she growled through a half-formed muzzle.

I've met other therianthropes before,” answered the voice and with ears now hearing everything she recognized it.'re Devin's friend. Paul.”

The circle underneath her flared and Niamh screamed as her legs reverted to full human with a snap of bones that cracked the air like a whip. “Yes,” he answered, “and you made a mistake in hurting him, bitch.”

She bristled at the word then snarled, “He had no idea of the power our kind hold. How could I let him be content with only a glimpse at the true wildness of his soul?”

Oh don't pretend you were doing him a favor!” snapped Paul. “I'm no Jesus and neither are you. What's the saying: like knows like?”

What do you want?” demanded Niamh.

There was silence for a moment then he stepped out of the shadows enough that she could see his eyes. Niamh recalled then that Devin had vaguely mentioned him being a witch or something and she could feel it. It was underneath her in the circle, around her pressing against her skin, and in her even. And it was there in his eyes, blazing with fury and killing need.

She knew the latter well.

Niamh trembled then and knew fear again for the first time in many long years. And she knew the answer to her question before he spoke.

Paul answered, “I want you to suffer like you've made Devin suffer. You put him from Hell, made him kill innocent people, and I'm not sure his sister and I can piece him back together. He'll be there, oh yes, but he won't bloody well be the Devin before you. You took his control.”

So what?” asked Niamh. “Are you going to kill me?”

I'd considered it. But I thought of much sweeter revenge.”

She blinked then screamed as her body exploded with pain. Sobs came pouring out of her as she felt her body changing fully back to her human guise and when it was over she was lying sprawled across the glowing circle.

H-how?” she managed to stammer out.

I told you, I've met therianthropes before.” Paul stuffed his hands in his pockets and moved towards her with the smooth hunter's stride of a panther. Niamh flinched as he circled her then laughed before crouching down. He placed a finger on the edge of the circle right in front of her face and flashed a cold smile.

This,” he intoned, “is a circle of subtraction. One of my nastier former acquaintances liked to use it in fights: lay it down and let his enemy walk right into it. Then he'd activate it and suck all of the magic right out of them.”

Niamh's eyes widened at that. “Wh-what?”

He chuckled. “You are a creature of magic. Therefore this circle can draw every bit of the Wild out of you.”

She was confused as to what the 'Wild' was then remembered that was how Devin referred to his true self. Then she started trembling and asked, “Are you going to take it?”

Its already taken. This circle doesn't give. It just takes and takes until it's broken -” Paul smiled as he waved a hand in the air, adding, “Then it just goes away.”

No!” gasped Niamh but she was too weak to do anything.

Paul's smile resembled that of a skull as he growled, “Yes.” She watched his finger start to glow then he drew it across the outer line of the circle. And she felt her soul tear as her true self fully separated and was gone. Niamh started sobbing then and repeating, “You bastard. You bastard.”

She felt fingers on her chin then and looked up through tears at Paul's grim face.

Devin suffers through the rage of the Wild. And I could never bear the pain of severing that part of himself from him,” he said softly. “So it's only fair that you suffer through the pain of humanity. Of being normal and completely ordinary.

No,” she gasped, trying to reach for him but he moved away too quickly. Niamh heard him leaving but she kept reaching and begging, “No, please give it back, give me back. Please. Please.”

There was no answer though and she was left sobbing on her floor, naked and utterly, painfully human.

She had destroyed Devin.

And now his friend had searched, hunted her down, and destroyed her in return.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Was it a Dream?

Same 'verse as Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting) and Ain't No Rest For the Wicked; sequel to Howl and Night of the Hunter


Devin woke in agony.

A groan of pain slipped past lips that felt cracked and dry, through a throat that seemed to be tearing from the mere effort of expelling the cry, and he wanted to die. There was a rustle of cloth near him, the sound louder than it should have been, and he heard a soft intake of breath as if it was a loud as a freight train. The sound of water in...a bowl, maybe...was like a waterfall then there was a cool cloth on his lips, across his skin, tiny sips of water sliding into his mouth, and he moaned as his body sagged with relief.

At a touch of fingertips on his forehead, all of his senses seemed to explode and his nostrils flared as he inhaled involuntarily. The scent he breathed in was one he knew and in one quick flash the thoughts of home, safety, sister passed through his mind.

"Sar-ah," he croaked out and the fingers moved across his skin to gently touch his lips in a gesture of silence. Just that slight touch, though, was agony against his skin and he hissed as it felt like sandpaper scraping hard against him.

"You're safe," she breathed and her voice was so loud it seemed to be coming from everywhere at once. Devin winced, trying to flinch away from the sound, but his body hurt so much it didn't move very far. "Don't try to talk, little brother, you're still recovering."

From what? thought Devin as he slowly blinked open his eyes. Light seared into them and his throat ached as he moaned in agony, closing them again.

"Sorry," Sarah said and he hear her rise, wincing as her chair scraped across the floor. Every step of hers was agony on his ears and he could only lay there and just try to breath through that pain as well as the rest. By the time she sat back down there were tears welling out of the corner of his eyes and she dabbed them away as gently as she could with the cloth.

"Do you want to try opening your eyes again?"

Devin cautiously fluttered one eye at that and was reward with some pain still but nothing like the agony of before. He blinked both eyes a few times then focused on his sister's face above him, her blue eyes filled with a mixture of emotions that he couldn't even begin to comprehend. After a moment he opened his mouth and mouthed the most important question: What happened?

Sarah's violent flinch and her barely held back sob told him something had gone wrong. But what? He couldn't...he couldn't remember.

He couldn't remember anything from the past few days.

"Do you remember Niamh?" she asked and Devin frowned. The name didn't really ring a bell but...

A pretty little sprite of a woman flared into being in his mind's eye, dark haired and doe eyed with a body most women would kill for. She smiled, sweetly, innocently, then fangs replaced her teeth and she lunged at him with claws out as her body tore itself apart to let a monster loose. He shuddered, closing his eyes to try and will the image away but more just kept coming: her lounging across the couch in his apartment, the memory of her scent, bare skin underneath his fingertips as he explored her back, taste of her in his mouth, her body writhing underneath his as they had wild, needy sex on that same couch. It was the last that snapped him out of it as his brain screeched to a halt when they ended up breaking the back off.

He'd liked that fucking couch.

Devin shuddered again as he opened his eyes and mouthed, I remember.

His sister covered her mouth with one hand for a moment then lowered it so she could speak. "She was like you," explained Sarah. "You really liked her, I think."

Obviously, thought Devin as he sifted back through the revived memories. Otherwise I wouldn't have shagged her like a damn animal in heat.

"But she...she did something. To you."

He arched an eyebrow at that and Sarah said, " changed, Dev. When we found you, there wasn't anything human left. Just the wolf."

That...was impossible. He'd always had control. Always. Even during that first time when it had been activated because Aiden Cormac was trying to rape his big sister. He'd known what he was doing then and every time after that.

That couldn't have changed.

Could it?

Devin frowned and reached tenatively out for that other part of him, immediately slamming the proverbial door shut on it a moment later. He'd felt nothing but rage from that section of himself and this wasn't the time or place to deal with it.

Then he remembered pain, agony, bones cracking, fur spreading across his skin, muscles bulking underneath his skin, anger, rage, and sucked in a gasping breath that tore at his throat. He felt Sarah's hand on his shoulder, skin against skin, and Devin fought to hang onto that sensation as the Wild gave off an impression of stretching as it woke almost lazily. It seemed to smile at him, like predator to prey, then his mind was filled with bloodstained images:

A man torn to shreds, his life bleeding out onto the sidewalk as he gasped out a death rattle.

Woman running screaming in front of him before she looked back and fell. Then he was on her and Devin felt tears streaming down his cheeks as he could suddenly taste her blood and skin as the memory him tore into her flesh.

Stone crunching underneath his claws as he hefted his heavy body through a window into a room where a couple was making love. He wanted to scream, to cry, as he tore them both apart and howled to the heavens later as if he had won something.

Then there was Paul, his expression a mix of fury, revulsion, anger, and sadness as he came sprinting towards him. Devin's throat ached as the memory recalled a roar of rage expelling from him then his eyes fell onto the brass knuckles adorning his best friend's hands. The fight was over before it had even begun as Paul dove under his swift, brutal swipe and he never got another as both fists crashed into his jaw. He felt weightless lying down for a moment as the memory shifted as his body lifted into the air before crashing to the ground in a snarling heap.

"Dev," he heard Sarah saying then. "Devin, stay with me, please. Please, little brother, I can't lose you again." He groaned and somehow managed to fumble his hand upward to grasp hers, opening wet eyes to look up at her.

" a...dream?" he croaked.

A sob expelled from his sister then Devin was aware of what he thought first was a steady drumbeat until he breathed and caught Paul's scent. Turning his head, he looked up at his best friend and opened his mouth to repeat the question but he never got the chance.

Paul leaned down with a white square of paper in his hand and breathed, "It wasn't a dream." Then he flipped it over, revealing it to be a photograph, and Devin sucked in a agonized breath as he recognized the girl.

"Niamh," he choked.

"Yeah," answered his friend in a voice that was more growl than anything. Then he shifted the photo of Niamh behind another and held it out as Sarah's sobs grew in volume. As Devin stared at the picture, almost unable to believe it, his ears aching from the sound of his sister's cries.

She had been right; there had been nothing human about him when they'd gotten him back. And he remembered now, being that...that...thing.

That monster.

He wasn't aware that he was sobbing until Sarah wrapped her arms around him and laid her cheek against his. Devin clutched at her, trying to claw for support as his world had suddenly been turned utterly upside down, and he realized she'd always been that. She'd been the first who'd found out what he was, had even known something was wrong before he had, and had always accepted him. His big sister was his rock, his shelter, his safe place, and he suddenly wanted nothing more than to be the little boy again who'd go running for her room during a lightning storm to hide under her sheets as she whispered stories in his ear until he slept again.

Devin knew though that now, more than ever, he could never be that boy again.

He was broken.

He was a monster for real now, his form twisted by a woman he'd thought had loved him, a woman he had loved and who had been like him.

And there was no going back.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Night of the Hunter

Same 'verse as Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting) and Ain't No Rest For the Wicked; sequel to Howl


"What the bloody fuck are you doing just sitting there?" demanded Paul as he stormed into the apartment he and Sarah had shared for nearly four years. She was just sitting cross-legged on a cushioned footstool with her head tilted back, eyes closed, and her fingers clasped around the cross she'd worn since he'd met her so many years before.

Sarah's serene expression didn't flicker as she calmly responded, "Praying."

"Praying," repeated Paul coolly. He snarled and a burst of wild magic caused the flour and sugar containers on the kitchen counter to explode to puffs of white. "You're praying while Devin is out there?! The hell are you praying for that's more bloody important than your brother?"

"Revenge," answered Sarah, her voice dropping into a cooler octave that signaled she was getting angry. "He's gone and that woman has to pay."

Paul scowled then stormed across the room, gripping her face in both hands and hissing, "Look at me, Sarah. Look at me." When her eyes - the pretty blue eyes he'd fallen in love with, the eyes that had given it away that she wasn't related to Devin with his amber gaze and their parents matching blues - opened to meet his, he was torn between screaming and crying. He gathered himself though, settled into calm, and spoke in an even voice.

"He's not gone," he insisted in a rough voice. "Not yet. Maybe he's gotten lost but he's not out of our reach yet and you know that. There's nothing to avenge yet."

"How do you know?" asked Sarah as she stared up at him. Tears stared to well in her eyes as she continued, "You didn't fall asleep every night when he was little and started crying because he wanted to kill something. Or see him that first time!"

Paul shook his head and answered, "No." He was aware of the first time Devin had let what he called the Wild take over though and he completely understood wanting to protect Sarah when some fucking bully was trying to rape her. "But I think I know my best friend since grade school."

Then his hands slipped from her face to fall to her hands where they rested in her lap. He could feel the chain that held her cross pressing against his skin as he folded his larger fingers around hers and added, "And this isn't something you need to pray for."

Sarah stiffened and Paul lifted his head to meet eyes now glaring at him angrily. She tried to pull her hands away from his as she snarled, "So what am I supposed to pray for?"

"Getting Devin back. For Niamh to get her dues. But not for revenge."

As she continued to glare, he shook his head and said, "Sarah, the reason I fell in love with you, the reason why Dev wants to protect you so badly, is because you're the gentlest person we know. You're what kept him sane all those years when he didn't know what he was and thought he would be rejected by his family." Paul paused then finished, "And you're what kept me from going off the magical deep end a few times."

She just frowned at him and he sighed, looking for a better way to explain it.

"Love, Dev's a werewolf and the general consensus is that's a bad thing. Most people would rather see his head mounted on their wall than on his shoulders." Paul paused to see if she had gotten it but judging by her frown she still hadn't yet so he continued. "Much as we might pretend otherwise, we all know the proper term for me is warlock and that doesn't tend bring up happy feelings. I'm a little too willing to walk the darker paths to be a wizard."

"You're what holds us together," he kept on, tightening his grip on her hands as he prayed that she saw what he was trying to say. He didn't believe in God like she did but he hoped that whatever answered her prayers and gave her her power might lend an ear to a warlock just once. "Dev would have lost himself to the Wild a lot time ago if it weren't for you. And I'd probably be worse than dead from going too far into the Black. You're our connection to what's good, Sarah. It's you and only you that keeps us steady and let's us fight against our own nature."

Sarah's frown deepened at that and she intoned softly, "Everyone can fight against their own nature."

Paul sighed at that and shook his head. "They need a reason to though. Trust me, love, I know what I'm saying. I've given in to the darkness before and it doesn't let go once you've gotten a taste. I can pull back because of you."

"And you think Devin can fight off the Wild because of me."

I hope so, thought Paul but he didn't want to say that. Instead he squeezed her hands and said, "If anyone can bring him back, it's you. Niamh may have opened the door but you can close it...maybe not all the way but back near to where it was before."

She nodded slightly then asked, "And how does this all add up to why I shouldn't pray for revenge?"

He laughed at that and leaned forward to kiss the side of her mouth before he breathed, "Because you're all that's good in the world to us and we don't want you to walk the dark paths we do."

"What if I want to?"

"You don't," assured Paul as he rubbed his fingers against the back of her hands. "I've been in love with you since I was fourteen, Sarah, and I know that isn't the place for you. You're be there."

Sarah frowned and leaned her head against his as she breathed harshly, "Then who will hurt that bitch for what she did to my little brother?"

Paul felt anger swell in his chest and heard the containers rattle in the kitchen again. He moved one hand to grip her chin and tilted her head up so he could catch her lips with his own before he promised, "I will. And I swear to you on my magic, my life, and my love for you that she will pay dearly for what she's done."

Sarah's lips crashed against his then in a kiss that mingled need, thanks, and relief all into one giant ball of emotion. He could feel his skin tingling when it ended and smiled as he gently tugged her hands apart and pressed his fingers down on her cross.

"Pray for him back," he whispered. "Pray for Dev home and safe."

She nodded slightly then her eyes met his as she growled viciously, "Let's go find my little brother. And kick the ass of anybody that thinks they can take him for a trophy."

Paul grinned and began quietly going over every spell he'd ever come across or created in his head as he lifted one of Sarah's hand still holding the cross and pressed a kiss against her knuckles.

"That's my girl," he murmured before he pulled them both to their feet.

They had work to do.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Same 'verse as Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting) and Ain't No Rest For the Wicked


He could feel his skin rippling, flesh roiling from the thing underneath it that was trying to get out. Teeth bared, he clenched his fists and fought down the simple need to let loose, to give in, to just release everything. It was freedom singing through his veins, burning like wildfire, and causing the beast to howl for release.

That freedom, though, came at the price of lives. It was the price of blood and he wasn't willing to pay it.

Not for himself, Paul, nor even Sarah was he willing to go through that. And he especially wasn't willing to pay that price for that bloody bitch.

Devin screamed through clenched teeth as he doubled over as his spine and back attempted to shift. As vertebrae tried to stretch out, the muscles across his back and shoulders swelled with power that had nowhere to go, turning him into a grotesque, hunchbacked monstrosity. Then, just as quickly, it was over and as he straightened with a gasp he was glad he'd refused to share a house with his sister and best friend. He loved them both but -
There had always been the chance of him getting out of control. And he didn't want them to be the first in his reach if he actually did.

He started to take a step towards his kitchen and his legs buckled with the gut-wrenching snap of bone, sending him sprawling facefirst against his floor. Fingers curled in the carpet for a brief second then Devin twisted and began fumbling at his jeans as he felt his legs begin to shift. That bitch had urged him to give in just a little bit further to the Wild and he'd let her play him. Oh he had put paid to the relationship real quick once he realized what she was doing but it was already too late by then.

He'd let the Wild in...and it wasn't letting go of what it had gained.

Bones cracked and shifted around, twisting muscle and skin into new designs, and he just managed to kick his jeans off before the change caught on in his feet. Devin clenched his teeth and howled involuntarily in pain as claws grew before his feet began the agonizing shift to paws.

Let it in, he swore he could hear her sultry voice whispering in his ear as he laid on his floor like some freakish wolf version of a satyr without fur. The memory of her voice and words made his blood sing with the Wild and he wanted wanted wanted to let it loose, let it pour out of him. He knew better though, knew better than to listen, but You are freedom, you're the wind itself when you let the Wild in, nothing can touch you was in his ear now and it was so hard to block it out.

Devin hissed as a shiver tore through his body and was chased by a tickling sensation that he knew well. Fur, thick and dark brown, sread across his legs and paw-feet then began to inch it's way up across his stomach, muscles distending, swelling with each inch covered. His spine cracked and stretched again, this time not reversing itself, and he knew he was losing.

Let go, let it in, we were meant to be free, Dev.

No,” he croaked hoarsely, shaking his head in a futile negation even as he lost to the Wild song filling his veins. His entire torso was swelling now with heavy muscle piling up as the fur grew higher and higher, shoulders bunching before the change rippled down his arms. A scream tore from his lips as claws erupted from beneath his fingernails, blood everywhere, then the damage was lost as his hands twisted into weapons of destruction, fur hiding the blood.

Suddenly he wanted Sarah, wanted Paul, hell, he even wanted his mother and she'd never done a damned good thing for him except give him up for adoption. Probably because of the Wild, because she knew that someday he'd discover someone else that heard it, that felt it in their soul, and he'd come to this. Bitch. Why did he want her when she'd never loved him enough to take the risks? Sarah did.

He breathed his sister's name before his throat thickened, before vocal cords shifted from human to animal as the change continued it's upward climb. Devin wanted to laugh suddenly at what he must look like right now: heavily muscled, lupine-like body topped by a tiny human head. His throat quivered with the effort and the noise that came from his throat was more canine whimper than it was a laugh.

The change over took his jaw, fur tickling briefly before bones cracked apart and began to painfully reform. He tried to scream but his jaw was broken and shifting all at once so the howl that came from his throat was strangled and muffled. Then he could feel the haze, blood red and pulsing with blind feral need, starting to claw at the edge of his consciousness and Devin knew he didn't have much longer. There was no holding out against this, no fighting it; the Wild was taking him over, body and soul, and there was nothing he could do to stop it.

As bones snapped into place, he flexed his clawed hands against the floor and began to push himself up, heavy muscles rippling underneath dark fur as he gained his feet. He drew in a breath, lungs filling deeply, broadened chest puffing outward, then released it as the feral haze began to cloud his mind. Half blind rose in a crouch and moved to his kitchen counter, delicately picking up a fragile looking glass wolf filled with shifting mist that Paul had given him years ago. A precaution, his best friend had said and now it would come in handy. It would warn them that he was gone and maybe...maybe they could find a way to bring him back.

Or they'd kill him. It wasn't the way he'd wanted to die, brought down by friend and sister, but it was better than living as a real monster.

Devin felt his ears shift, crawling up the side of his head as they became pointed, then flung the little wolf across the room with a deep snarl. It shattered against the far wall of his apartment and then his entire body shuddered, muscles quivering violently as the change became complete. The Wild roared in his veins and he had time enough for a single thought, recalling a song he had heard recently that fit just right, before the blood haze took over his mind.

If you could only see the beast you've made of me, he thought towards her, the bitch, flame-haired Niamh.

Then Devin was gone.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Questions Asked in the Night

Strangely, out of the two of them, she was the one that stayed up late and watched him sleep. Arana had always thought only guys that did that – then again none of her exes had done it but they were all bastards anyway.

Maybe it was because Darien was so much older than her. No, thinking again that couldn't be it. He had openly admitted that their relationship was the second real one he'd ever had; all of the others didn't count because of his state of mind at the time and the only other that did was long dead.

Perhaps it was her own worry about them that kept her awake some nights watching him sleep next to her. Worry for what would become of them: would he watch her die or beg her – plead with her – to become like him. Honestly Arana wasn't sure how she would answer if he asked.

Turning her head, she looked down at Darien as he lay on his side next to her, one arm stretched out to curl around her waist and his face buried into his pillow. With his bangs falling messily across his closed eyes and the overly hawkish nose he had never been able to grow into silhouetted by the white pillowcase, he looked all too much like a child.

Arana always felt like a cradle robber at times like these when she remember how young he looked. Beside her Darien shifted closer and her cream colored sheet slid down to his waist, revealing skin and lean muscles that only heightened her realizations.

He was far too lean, muscles almost hidden underneath his skin, waist and shoulders too narrow, facial features never fully filled out. Oh, he looked like a twenty-something now to the unaware but she knew that he'd been Turned at nineteen. Those features always gave his youth away to those that knew.

The one that hurt Arana the most were the shoulders. She loved them but then she would remember her brothers and how their shoulders had gotten so broad as they grew older. Then she would look at Darien again and wonder what he would look like if he'd been allowed to grow older than nineteen. He wasn't that much taller than her but she could see the potential in him to have been a fearsomely built man.

Everett, his sire, had taken that opportunity away from him though. Just thinking about it made Arana want to weep sometimes for the Darien that could have been.

Then she wondered what would have happened to her if he hadn't been Turned. She hadn't been on her way to having a happy life before the case involving him had fallen into her lap. And while it wasn't a safe life...she was happy.

Though Arana wondered sometimes if he was happy. Not about being with her, oh no, she knew he loved her all too well. What she wondered about was if he would rather never have been a vampire – no, that wasn't right, she knew he wanted that but he had long ago resolved himself to being unable to have that. No, she wondered if he would rather have that girl from before, Kay of the red hair, of whom he named his dog for, whose name he still sometimes called out in his sleep during a nightmare.

All too suddenly the need to talk to Darien rose up within Arana and she twisted slightly to begin shaking him. “Darien,” she hissed loudly but he only burrowed closer to her, mumbling in his sleep. She shook him harder then, digging her nails into skin that was still warm from the blood he'd drank during dinner, and he finally stirred.

Whassit?” he mumbled sleepily as he lifted his head, green eyes still lidded so they appeared black in the darkness of her bedroom.

Arana bit her lip, suddenly feeling silly that she'd woken him, then gathered her courage. “Do you regret it?” she blurted out too fast, her voice shaking. He frowned and opened his mouth but never got a chance to speak as she suddenly snapped, “Nevermind. Forget it,” in a sudden fit of not wanting to know his answer. Rolling away from him, she burrowed under the blankets and wished that he'd just go back to sleep.

She knew him better than that though.

Darien scooted across the bed, spooning his body behind hers, and laid his arm across her waist with warm fingers sliding underneath her worn shirt to splay across her belly. Then he brushed back her hair with his other hand and Arana shivered as he kissed the back of her neck.

Rana,” he said softly in a voice still rough with sleep and more flavored with his native brogue because of it, “talk to me.”

It was stupid,” she muttered into her pillow, wishing he'd let it be at that.

Darien grunted in the tone that said he didn't believe her and sighed against the back of her neck. He then moved slightly, the tip of his nose nuzzling her ear, and rumbled, “Gr á mo chro í , I can smell your worries.”

That brought a snort out of Arana and she growled, “No you can't.” He'd told her some time ago that emotions didn't change a scent, they merely heightened or lowered it.

He chuckled, the sound vibrating through her where his chest met her back. Then he said, “True. I think I know you well enough now though, Rana, to know when something's wrong.” Darien shifted behind her then, pushing himself up on his elbow, and turned her face to look at him. She couldn't help the tears that welled in her eyes as all of the earlier thoughts came rushing back as the shadows playing across his face made him look so young and he frowned. “Rana, grá mo chro í , talk to me. Do I regret what?”

"Everything,” she answered as his fingers splayed across her cheek, skin so warm against her own. Arana's eyes were blinded by the tears and she couldn't see him anymore but that didn't help any. She knew every feature of his face all too well because it never changed.

Rough fingertips gently wiped at the edge of her eyes then Darien's lips pressed against her own. “Us?” he questioned against her skin, his breath warm and smelling (thankfully) more of their steak dinner than blood. When she nodded slightly, he answered. “Originally I regretted pulling you into my world but never being with you.” He kissed her again as he paused to wipe more of her tears away. “I don't know what I would do without you. What else?”

Arana opened her eyes then and breathed out, before she lost her courage, “Would you have chosen this life?”

He pulled back at that, eyes wide in shock, and she wanted to take the question back. Then Darien's fingers were curling in her hair and he said, “If it meant meeting you, yes, I'd like to think I would have.”

"Even if it meant leaving Kay behind?” she asked. “Of watching her die?”

Grá mo chro í ,” he murmured lovingly though there was an old ache in his voice, “I realized a long time ago that Kay and I never would have lasted. Not with the quarrel between her father and mine. She was...she was nothing more than my high school sweetheart.”

Arana frowned at that, wrinkling her nose. “Some guys actually marry their high school sweethearts.”

That brought a laugh from Darien and he nodded in agreement. “Yes,” he said, “and I might have. But I've lived long enough and looked back on my life to see that it wouldn't have been a very happy marriage.”

"How are we any different?” she asked, feeling tears coming on again. “How are we -” The words choked off in Arana's throat and she shuddered before twisting around on the bed to bury her face against Darien's chest. Both of his arms wrapped around her, drawing her to him with a strength that belied his slight build, and she finally managed to finish. “Are we going to have such a happy life?”

"Don't we already?” he asked, voice rumbling through her as he rested his chin atop her head.

Arana frowned then whispered, “I'm going to die one day, Darien.”

That silenced him for a long moment then he pulled away from her, fingers groping for her chin. As he tilted her head upward so their eyes met, she saw that he had an almost frightened look on his face.

"Arana,” he said slowly, his use of her full name showing how serious he was, “I never want to push that on you. Gods, I want to spend the next centuries with you by my side and show you the world and it hurts to think that I might not.” Darien then leaned his forehead against hers and closed his eyes tight. “I don't want to force you to make that choice though. If you decide that, I want it to be your choice, because you don't want to leave me, not the other way around.”

His fingertips stroked roughly across her face and then his brogue thickened almost to where she couldn't understand him as he continued, “I never want what happened to me to happen to you. You will chose, grá mo chro í . Not me, not Everett, not anyone. But. You.

"Oh, Darie,” she breathed and burrowed into his arms, suddenly wanting nothing more than to be held there. He obliged all too willingly, holding her almost painfully close with his strength, and Arana began, “I -”

"Gods, don't give me your answer now,” he hissed, shivering against her. “Just...just know whatever you decide, I'll accept it.”

Arana nodded but she knew that if she did decide to make that leap into the unknown, to truly step into his world, she had to do it soon. She was in her middle thirties now and waiting too much longer would only widen the gap between them. Darien didn't consider himself to be young since he had seen three centuries pass but she knew how youthful he looked. Her growing too much older before she – if, if – she agreed to be Turned would only widen the gap between them. Not that appearances mattered all that much between vampires and it was only a minor thing in itself.

It bothered her, though, that gap between them.

"Okay,” she finally muttered into his collar bone and he suddenly relaxed, his whole body loosening up. They just lay there after that, doing nothing more than holding each other, until the morning sunlight started to peek into her windows and Darien buried his face into the pillows with a groan.

"It can't be morning yet,” he moaned with his voice slightly muffled. “Make it go away.”

Arana smiled at that and moved a hand to rest against the back of his neck, fingers playing with the fine wisps of hair there like she knew he liked. He leaned into the touch, purring like a cat, then flinched as sunlight hit his face and buried himself again.

"Foul wench,” hissed Darien as he pulled her close, using her to shield his sensitive eyes from the ever brightening sun. “You did that on purpose.”

"Can't prove it,” replied Arana with a smirk as she kissed him. He responded eagerly, growling into her mouth as his hands slid downward to her hips and jerked them across the few inches that separated their bodies. As his hands then began to make their way to the buttons of her shirt, she gasped out, “I have to be at work in two hours.”

Darien chuckled at that. “I'll have you to work, Rana, don't you worry.”

"Without any obvious bite marks?”

He kissed her again at the question then trailed a line down her throat before he ever so lightly raked his fangs across her pulse point, causing her heart rate the jump and her need for him to heighten. That was one thing Arana could never have predicted from their relationship: that she would like and even welcome the feel of his fangs against her skin. Darien only rarely ever actually bit her and it was never for long as he stated her being unable to reciprocate made it only half as fun.

Then he lightly kissed her pulse point and purred against her skin, “You know I'd never leave any obvious ones.”

"Oh no,” said Arana as she tilted her head back to allow him better access at her throat even as she wiggled out of her now unbuttoned shirt, “you only leave them just where I think they might show if I'm not too careful. And in places that make me blush when I feel them later.”

Darien smiled against her throat at that. “I do love making you blush.”

"Far too much.”

"Mmm, we can argue about that later,” said Darien as he rolled on top of her, fingers trailing down her sides until his hand found the curve of her hip. “If we don't hurry, I won't get you to work on time.”

Smiling at that, she worked to ignore the blinding fire burning in her for him and hooked a leg around the back of his knee. “I could go in early,” she mused, looking thoughtfully up at the ceiling. “I mean, I did have all of that paperwork I had to complete.”

"Paperwork!” he growled and shifted just so to draw a gasp from her. Then Darien smirked and bent his head to graze his fangs across her throat again. “Now you're just baiting me, grá mo chro í .”

Arana's need for him increased only further at the second sweep of his fangs and her hands found the back of his neck, drawing him down closer so she could breath heavily in his ear, “Shut up and make love to me, Dari.”

He just grinned at that, the motion obvious as his lips pressed against her throat, and she lost track of time amongst the rhythm of their bodies moving in time with each other. There was only the sensation of skin against skin, nails clawing for purchase, soft touch of lips everywhere, and the bittersweet pinprick of fangs drawing blood after that mixed with the light and growing warmth of the rising sun.

Arana woke atop Darien's chest, her head tucked underneath his chin and one arm wrapped around her. The other arm was thrown over his eyes as he dozed beneath her and she smiled before starting to shift to get out of bed only to discover their legs were tangled and his refused to move, only tightening when she moved hers. “That's cheating,” she said accusingly as she laid back down and tapped her fingers against his sternum.

He snorted lightly and lifted his arm just enough so she could see one green eye as he smiled. “I'm not above it,” he intoned in an honest voice. “Besides, you have almost another hour before you have to go anywhere. Stay.”

"I'd like breakfast before I go to work.”

"I'll get up and go cook in a minute. I just want to lay here for a moment.”

Arana frowned at that and asked, “Are you alright?”

Darien's smile went away at that and he let his arm fall to the bed as he tilted his head to look at her. “Shouldn't I be asking you that, Rana?” he said with an arched eyebrow. He then moved his arm, hand reaching out to cup her cheek as he frowned at her. “What we talked's been bothering you for a while, hasn't it?”

She bit her lip involuntarily, not wanting to answer, but that was all that he needed. With a sigh, Darien untangled their legs and shifted, pushing himself into an upright position even as he pulled her closer. When Arana was settled between his legs, her back against his chest and his arms around her, he rested his chin on her shoulder and sighed.

"What?” she asked, feeling worried now.

"There's something you still haven't asked me,” he answered, “something that's still bothering you. Those things before, they've been bothering you for a while but now you've asked them and the need's lessened. I know the feeling, I've felt it before.”

How this man, this... vampire ...that she had come to love knew her so well after only a year mystified Arana. Darien did know her though but perhaps that was because she was little more than a child in his eyes. She knew him too but...not so well. Knew he loved her, oh yes. That he wanted her to say 'yes' when – if – he ever asked her to stay with him forever. He knew her past though, knew what drove her, what had shaped her.

She only had hints of the things that had shaped him. Oh, Arana knew who his sire was and she had met both of his bloodsiblings, Malloy and Kaeli, as well others of what he called his family. What she didn't know anything about really was his life before them except for his being born in Ireland and having loved Kay. The brogue was blatantly obvious when he got emotional or was still half asleep. Kay...he'd had a nightmare about her their first night together – actually together – and screamed her name. He hadn't been able to hide her after that.

Everything else was still a mystery though. And while she understood him wanting to hide the bloodstained part of his past from her (she'd dug that little tidbit out of Paul one night at Beoir Aite), she didn't understand the rest.

Frowning, Arana leaned back against him, noting that his temperature was cooler than it had been before absently in her mind. Tilting her head back, she nuzzled the line of his jaw then asked softly, “Do you hate her?”

Darien sat silently for a long moment, his arms around her and no sound but their own breathing. Then he said quietly, “Everett.”

"Yes,” she answered even though it hadn't been a question.

For a moment she didn't think he was going to answer then Darien sighed. “Once,” he began, “I did. I lost...I lost too much because of her: my life, my father, my brother, Kay. Because of what she did to me, maybe even because of how she did it, I spent a century as a monster.” He flinched then and his arms tightened around her. “I never wanted you to know about that.”

"I wheedled it out of Paul one night,” said Arana, causing him to jerk in surprise. “He didn't tell me much,” she added quickly to defend his addle-brained friend who hadn't known she was playing him until it was too late, “mostly just that you were someone to be feared. That you and Malloy painted too many cities to count red with blood.”

"And we laughed about it,” Darien spat in a disgusted voice. Shaking his head, he then said, “You asked about Everett though.”


He nodded and was silent again. Then he said, “After...after I came to, back, whatever you want to call my awakening to what I was, I hated her. But in the decades after that I came to realize that she wasn't some monster like I'd been. She killed, yes, gods, she killed with the best of them and still does.” Darien bowed his head against Arana's shoulder then and she felt him breath against her skin, “But she loved the three of us, her children. Kaeli always argued with her and they had these great rows that made wherever we were staying shake...but Everett tore the heads off of two slayers right in front of me when they had her cornered without pausing.”

"Malloy,” he continued, “he was always getting us in trouble by taking girls and Everett screamed at him for it whenever it got us ran out of a city or town. When he was caught drunk on blood and alcohol by an angry mob looking to avenge three he'd taken, she dragged his ass out of the fire even though after she said she should have left him when he kept the girls anyway.”

He stopped talking then and Arana lifted a hand to his cheek. “What about you?” she asked quietly.

Darien shook then with what might have been a shudder or a contained sob before he answered, “She held my leash when I was...wild. Kept me from going too out of control or completely losing it and becoming a threat to be put down by Cyclaryn. She ordered Malloy to never leave my side and he obeyed – mostly because he liked the bloodshed.”

"When...when I attacked her later, after I had my awakening,” he continued slowly, “she didn't fight back. Not really. I know her, Rana, gods, I do know her and she could have killed any of us with a flick of her wrist. Even me and she's always said I'm the best of us. She's stronger than Malloy, smarter than Kaeli, and faster than me. My three centuries are nothing compared to her five millenia but she let me almost win when I attacked her.”

"She saved me then,” said Darien seriously, “by sparing my life when she could have taken it. And after Sweyln scarred me -” He paused as Arana touched the puckered flesh along the outside of his arm, made by the slayer blade his kin had wielded long ago. “- when Omcha and Cyclaryn came to see I was punished for attacking her, she defended me. I hated her saving my life then but...”

He trailed off and she pressed, “But?”

"That's when I realized she loved us like a mother. Like my mother loved me. Everett shielded all three of us, protected us, and by the gods, she would die for all three of us if it came down to a choice between her life and one of ours. We're the children she never had in life and if there is anything she takes seriously, that responsibility for us is it.”

Darien sighed heavily then before saying, “So, yes, once I did hate her. I understand her. I don't necessarily love her but I do care for her.” Turning his head, he smiled down at her as he added, “If she hadn't Turned me, I wouldn't be alive still to have met you, grá mo chro í .”

"That's true,” murmured Arana, a little awed by how much information he'd just revealed. Then she looked over at her alarm clock and said, “I have half an hour before work now. And someone promised me breakfast.”

That brought a laugh out of him that, while a little strained from the previous conversation, was real enough. “So I did,” said Darien, “so I did. Okay, you get yourself ready and I'll go make you breakfast. Pancakes?”

"Bacon,” answered Arana with a smile as his arms loosened and she scooted away from him to climb out of bed. “Eggs too. You can make pancakes for yourself if you really want.”

"But pancakes are no fun without a certain someone to share them and smear syrup across their cheek,” he said with a cheeky smile. Sliding off the bed, he caught her wrist and drew her to him for a quick kiss. “Only so as I can lick the syrup off later, of course.”

The purr of his voice started to kick up the fire inside her again but she quelled it and slid her fingers across his lips. “I'm going to be late if you keep that up,” she growled.

"And what, Rana, did you think my point was?”

Arana glared up at him then said, “You can cook pancakes tomorrow morning. I have the day off then.”

Darien grinned at that, the movement lighting up his entire face, and she saw again how painfully young he was. “Syrup?” he queried as he leaned closer to her.

"Dari, tomorrow you can do whatever you want with the syrup. Just get me breakfast now .”

"Mmm,” he purred as he leaned down to kiss her cheek, the sound rumbling against her skin distractingly. “You might regret that in the morning as I'm going to hold you to it.” Then he spun away from her, swept his boxers and shirt from the floor, and headed out of the room with them in hand. Before he passed the door frame, he looked back at her and winked, saying, “And you're so sexy when you order me around like that,” then disappearing.

Arana heard him whistling as he strode through the house and had the presence of mind to shout, “The kitchen blinds are open! Don't flash my neighbors!

"Even if they like what they see, they can't have it!” he bellowed back and she sighed in exasperation before heading for her closet. As she dressed for work, she felt...surprisingly lighter. She had finally asked Darien about things that had been bothering her and he'd answered her honestly. The only thing left was her own unease with their age differences and yet, somehow, even that was lessened.

By the time she entered the kitchen, the scent of meat and eggs cooking filled the air and Darien had both the blinds closed as well as his clothes on.

"Twenty minutes,” she intoned seriously as she perched on one of her bar stools and rested her elbows on the counter-top. His head bobbed in accordance with what she had said and then, still whistling softly, he presented her with a plate of steaming eggs and bacon a moment later.

"Done,” he purred as he stole a piece of bacon and kissed her cheek before he disappeared back to the bedroom to get himself dressed. Arana smiled after him then dug into the food quickly since it was a ten minute drive to get to the station and she was going to risk running late as it was. It was a shame to have to eat it so fast since Darien was an excellent cook (taught by three separate master chefs as he liked to brag) but she finished and slid from her seat.

"I'm leaving!” she shouted over her shoulder as she headed for the door. When she was suddenly jerked to a stop by arms around her, she hissed, “Dari, I'm going to be late .”

"Leave your car, grá mo chro í ,” he purred in her ear as he laid a bacon-scented kiss on her cheek. “I can carry you there faster and I know how you hate morning traffic.”

Arana squirmed in his arms and asked, “And how am I going to get home ?”

Darien chuckled as he answered, “Who said anything about you coming home? You promised me pancakes and syrup in the didn't say where we'd have to be.” He nuzzled past her collar and grazed one fang across the curve of her shoulder, making Arana shiver in his arms. “I'm going to take you home with me tonight and treat you like a queen. And, in the morning...”

He paused to spin her around and she met his goofy, cheerful grin with laughter and, “Pancakes?”

"Pancakes!” he exclaimed joyfully. As he scooped her up, hefting her in his arms, Darien asked, “Do you want to?” with a tiny petulant tone in his voice that begged not to be let down.

Arana couldn't say 'no' to him. Not when he was so cheerful.

"Yes,” she answered as she leaned down to peck a kiss against the tip of his nose. Then she swatted him across the shoulder and hissed, “Now get me to work. You've got fifteen minutes.”

Darien laughed at that and let her drop to the floor before steering her to the door. “Plenty of time,” he assured and as soon as she closed the door behind them, he swept her legs out from under her and Arana clutched at his neck as the rest of the world became a blur of colors and sounds. She buried her face against his chest, unable to stomach watching everything move around them so fast, and didn't let go until he said, “We're here.”

"No need to throw up, right?” asked Darien warily as he set her carefully on the ground, forcing Arana to recall the first time he'd carried her like that. Well, not the first time of carrying her, honestly, but the first time at his full speed. She'd spent the next hour throwing up after that trip and he'd apologized so often that she'd wanted to strangle him.

"I'm fine,” she assured as she pulled him down for a kiss. He responded willingly, fangs lightly grazing her lips as he drew away, and she saw his pupils were dilated. Hers probably were too and she drew in a deep breath to calm her racing emotions.

"Tonight,” he growled, hands possessively going to her waist, drawing her closer.

Arana nodded and laid her hands on his chest, keeping her from closing the last inches with him. She knew well enough if she did, they might just do things right there in the alley behind the station. “Tonight,” she promised. Then she smiled and added, “After all, you're my ride today.”

Darien's eyes twinkled at that and he said, “I could come up with so many naughty things to say to that but I'll save them for later.” Smiling, he bent his head to kiss her again, this time more calmly, and breathed, “I'll see you tonight, grá mo chro í .”

"You will. Now get going to do the shopping I know you're going to do for tonight.”

He laughed at that but left reluctantly, hands lingering on her waist as long as possible. Arana watched him go then let out a ragged breath as she fought down the renewed need their kiss had brought to life.

She was ridiculously in love with him.

Shaking her head, Arana headed into the station through the back door and moved towards her desk, ready to face the day. And when she saw she had something that would lead her around in Brooklyn near Beoir Aite she made a decision.

Today she'd go talk to Elizabeth for a few minutes, ask her about what it meant to be Turned, what she might need to know. Maybe even who the bartender might suggest to do it. She still wasn't sure if she'd go through with it...but she was closer to a decision than she had been when she'd been awake watching Darien sleep. If she was going to do it, she needed to know these things.

Like he'd said, it was her choice.

And if Arana was going to chose anyone to be with for centuries, it was Darien.