9-18-1999

Warning: The characters belong to who they belong to and not me. Don't sue me, I'm not worth your time. Special thanks to Laurell K. Hamilton for writing the Anita Blake novels.

Addtional warning: Characters acting wildly OOC. You have been warned.

Additional Additional warning: Alternate reality fic. Events that have happened or will happen in this reality not necessarily connected to what happened in the real series in any way. Don't wave the time line at me, I am beyond it now. A HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!

Additional Additional Additional warning: Extreme supernatural action. Supernatural abilities are as defined by me in the shadow world, where this takes place.

 

Acherontia Atropos Part II

 

A tiny, half natural sound off to the side caught my attention and I started to turn toward it, but I was too slow. Something big, heavy, and a hell of a lot faster than little ol' me that smelled a little like snakes a lot like blood hit me from behind and sent me crashing down onto the pavement, where it did its level best to grind my head through the surface of the parking lot.

Just another normal night on the town.

I tried to struggle against the thing on my back. Whatever the hell it was, it was stronger than anything had a right to be, even stronger than Heero when he's having a bad day. I'm not a wuss, you know, I'm pretty strong considering the fact that I'm still short and very skinny, and I do know how to defend myself, but nothing I tried moved the thing even the tiniest bit. After about the third time my head got banged into the pavement, I gave up the thought of any real struggling, since it wasn't doing shit for me anyway, and just started screaming. I learned a long time ago that screaming is what you do when you're ass-deep in alligators and you don't have anything better to do with yourself; it's got to be the most useless reaction in the human arsenal.

I didn't have anything better to do, though. I couldn't fight the thing off, and after having my head slammed into the pavement for the fourth time, I couldn't move much anyway. Sparks started dancing in front of my eyes, and the sound of blood rushing through my veins got so loud that I couldn't even hear myself screaming any more. Not a good sign.

I managed to turn my head so the same place wouldn't get hit again, and out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of a very, very pale face with eyes glowing like blue flame. I have never been so afraid in my entire life. The thing...I don't know what else to call it--it might have looked human, but it sure as hell wasn't...looked down at me with those scary eyes, and hissed. I can't think of another word to describe it. It hissed, like a pissed off cat or snake, and I caught a glimpse of a set of teeth that would have been more at home in the mouth of a wolf than a human.

There was a sharp blast of sound that somehow managed to break through the roaring in my ears. The creature's head just...well...exploded is the best word for it. Its weight was abruptly gone off my back, and I dimly heard a second blast. Somehow, I managed to lurch to my feet. I was spattered with blood, mine and the thing's, I could tell; I could feel wet warmth on my face and my neck, rapidly cooling in the chilly air. I think my clothing was ripped, too, because there was a lot more ventilation than I recall there being before.

At least I think that's how it was. At that time, I wasn't thinking all that clearly. My mind was sounding out one high, thin note of pure fear. I was beyond the point of coherent thought. When I got to my feet, I just stood there, swaying like a drunkard with blood and thicker things sliding slowly down my face. My vision was fading in and out, but I thought I saw a woman lit up by the light of my cross who was barely taller than me (which made her SHORT.) She was standing there in front of me with a shotgun held in her hands like she knew how to use it. Her mouth was moving like she was saying something, but I couldn't hear anything. Somewhere along the line, my hair had come partially out of its braid, and I dimly remember picking something out of one of the loose waves that looked suspiciously like a piece of bone, right before I collapsed to my knees and everything went mercifully black.

***

The first thing that I did when I woke up was try to open my eyes, which was a mistake. It was bright, way too bright, and I felt like my head was going to explode. The second thing I did was mumble out something really incoherent.

"What?" Someone...I think it was Heero...said by my ear, too loudly.

"I said..." I stated much more clearly, "That I’m going to puke." And I rolled over and did exactly that. I think I might have fallen a short distance, but I don't really remember. I was pretty much threading in and out of consciousness at that point. The floor was rough under my knees, though not as rough as it should have been. So I still had my pants on, and I wasn't outside any more. Cool fingers helped me hold my aching head up until I was done. Tears were running down my face, which normally would have pissed me off, but right then, I hurt too much to care about my dignity. I figured I didn't have much left, anyway, considering I just threw up in front of at least one person, and that person was the Perfect Soldier.

"You done now?" Heero said quietly.

I tried to nod my head, which was a mistake. It set off another round of heaving. More tears squeezed themselves out of my eyes. After the pounding in my head subsided enough for me to think coherently and my stomach stayed firmly in place, I managed a very weak, very pathetic "Aa."

"I am going to put you back in your bed, now. Can you handle being moved?"

I wanted to say no, I really did. I wanted to say 'Just kill me, please.' but knowing Heero, he probably would have taken me literally, though at the time, getting put out of my misery didn't seem to be such a bad idea. So instead, I said "Ryoukai." I even managed to smile at my pathetic half attempt at humor.

All he said in reply to that was "Aa." For a moment, between head-splitting waves of pain, I thought I could detect a hint of concern in Heero's voice. It was probably just the trauma of the situation.

Strong, warm arms lifted me up like I didn't weigh anything at all, and set me on the softness that I was pretty sure was my bed a lot more gently than I would have expected. A thin little moan of pain escaped past my lips.

"Are you ok?"

That had to be one of the dumbest questions I've ever heard in my entire life. Even cutting Heero a little slack for not being used to talking, it was still a dumb question. I laughed, very very carefully so that I wouldn't jar my head. "Yeah, just peachy."

"Baka." A hand tentatively brushed my forehead. "You can't be too hurt if you're making jokes."

I whimpered, and the hand withdrew.

"Can you open your eyes?"

"I'd rather not." My voice sounded strange to me. Way too calm.

"Open your eyes, Duo. We need to see if you have a concussion." Heero was being eminently reasonable and logical. And almost...well...kind of...nice. If I hadn't been in so much pain, I would have been suspicious. As it was, I didn't argue. I opened my eyes, and found myself peering right into Heero's eyes from very close range, for the second time that night.

And Heero looked really, really, really pissed, which was kind of funny, considering how nice he was being. I shut my eyes quickly again, because it hurt too much to have them open. Silently, I prayed that whoever Heero was pissed at, it wasn't me. When he's finally upset enough to show an emotion, you are in deep pucky indeed.

"Your eyes aren't focusing right." Heero commented. "You do have a concussion."

"Right now, I just think it's nice that I have a head left to have a concussion with." I laughed weakly again. Yeah, that's me. Mr. Comedian. "How bad is it, doc?"

"Concussion..." Heero's voice went all distant, like he was reading off a grocery list or something. "Severe lacerations on your face and head. Bad bruising on your shoulders, back, chest, and arms. More lacerations on your back."

"Funny," I said. "My head's the only thing that hurts." Of course, when I said that, I was asking for it. My body suddenly turned into one massive ache. There's a lot to be said for blissful ignorance. "Can I have a pain killer? Please?" I didn't even have to try to sound pathetic. My voice did it all on its own. Normally, I hate painkillers, because I really don't need extra chemicals messing with my head, but this time, I really wanted to make an exception.

"Aa." Heero said. "Wufei's raiding the school clinic now."

"Oh...ok." It hadn't occurred to me until this point that anyone other than Heero would know I was hurt. But...wait...how did he even know? "Uh...Heero?" I went over my last few memories carefully. No, no Heero in them, or anyone else I knew. Just the woman, who I was beginning to think that I'd been hallucinating.

"Yes?"

"How did I get in here?" I cracked an eye open, very cautiously.

“I carried you.” Heero actually looked kind of surprised. "You don't remember?"

"Should I?"

"You kept insisting that you were alright and that I should put you down and let you walk." Heero said. If I hadn't known him so well, I would have thought he was trying not to laugh. But then again, I didn't know him all that well, so it was a real possibility.

"I did?"

"Aa."

It didn't add up, but Heero was being unhelpful, as always, so I tried a different question. He's too freaking literal at times, I swear. When in doubt, rephrase. "Why were you outside to carry me, anyway?"

"Quatre hauled me out of bed, along with Trowa and Wufei." Heero shrugged. "He was babbling incoherently about you. Then I heard a gun firing, twice, and I went outside to check it out. I figured that you were in trouble."

"Gee, thanks. It's not like I try to get into trouble, you know." I don't. Really.

"I know."

Something that Heero had said suddenly stuck in my mind. "Gun? Who was shooting a gun?"

"I was."

I turned my head to the side as quickly as I dared. That voice definitely didn't belong to Heero. Men don't spontaneously change into altos.

There was a woman seated on the edge of Heero's bed. She looked like she was just about the same size as Heero, but a lot less muscular, which means just about my size. So she was LITTLE. I can admit to myself that I'm a peanut, because at least I have the comfort of knowing that some wonderful day I'll have a growth spurt if I don't get killed first. This woman was definitely not going to be getting any taller. I don't mean that she was old. She wasn't. But it was also pretty obvious that she wasn't in her teens any more. I would guess late twenties. She had white blonde hair that was in a braid longer than mine, and her skin was fairer than Quatre’s. Put that all together, and she looked like an ice princess…or a little girl’s porcelain doll.

I've never seen a doll look at me like that, though, not hardly. There was nothing vapid or sweet about her. The only other people that have looked at me like that were Gundam Pilots. It's the kind of look that people give you when they're trying to decide whether or not they'll have to shoot you, and if so, exactly how many bullets they should put into you.

I remembered her. She was the last thing I'd seen before I passed out.

Most people would have been fooled by her looks, and assumed that she was harmless. Even if I ignored the fact that the first time I'd seen her, she'd been holding a shotgun, I still wouldn't have been fooled. I know how deceiving looks are. I mean, hell, most people think Quatre and I are totally harmless. There was also the fact that she had a sawed off shotgun across her lap. That certainly didn’t help the effect.

There was something else, though. I have no idea what it was, but something about that woman was making the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. I can't describe it any other way except to say that it felt like she was giving off static electricity. On top of everything else, it was making me pretty damn uncomfortable.

So I was rude. I admit it. “Who the hell are you?” It would have sounded better and more intimidating, though, if I hadn’t been sounding so totally pathetic.

She actually smiled. It was the kind of smile you would give to a little kid when you were humoring them.

I don’t like being humored. Death just isn’t something you humor. So I tried to glare at her. It didn’t work. I gave up and looked at the ceiling, firmly deciding to leave the intimidating to Heero. He’s better at death glares than me, anyway.

“My name’s Tamlin.” She said. “I already know that your name is Duo Maxwell. Your friend Heero and I have been having a nice talk.” She smiled again, this one friendly and open. A ‘trust me smile.’ Good ol’ Tamlin. The girl next door. Just ignore the fact that the girl next door didn’t even own a sawed off shotgun. Right.

“Goody for you.” I looked at Heero. Nice talk? That didn’t quite jive. I couldn’t imagine Heero talking to anyone, let alone some woman that he didn’t even know.

Heero just shrugged. Isn’t he just Mr. Eloquence. I gave up on trying to get a response from him, and turned my attention back to Tamlin. “You still didn’t answer my question. I asked you who the hell you are. Just a name doesn’t tell me a whole lot.” It’s hard to be tough when you’re flat on your back and feeling like ten pounds of shit in a five pound bag, but I did my best.

She shrugged. “I’m a…bounty hunter.”

“Of course. A bounty hunter.” Right. I really believed that. Somehow, though, I couldn’t make myself care all that much. I hurt too much. So instead, I just closed my eyes and ignored Tamlin and Heero. The image of that thing on my back with its bright blue eyes burning at me seemed to be etched on the backs of my eyelids. The enormity of what had just happened suddenly struck me. If Tamlin hadn’t mysteriously showed up, I probably would have died. I’ve never gotten my ass kicked that hard before. The room got very, very cold all of a sudden, and I started shivering. Not really bad…just a little.

Heero didn’t say anything, which was probably the smartest thing he’d done all day. Tamlin didn’t say anything, either, which made me dislike her a bit less. We all just sat there in silence until I got done shaking. It didn’t take very long, anyway.

“God, I feel like shit.” Understatement of the century on my part, but I really didn’t know what else to say, and it was starting to get way too quiet. For one crazy moment, I wondered if Heero and Tamlin had gotten up and left me alone in the room.

No, they hadn’t. I could hear Heero shift, just very slightly in his seat. The little noise was actually kind of disturbing; it’s not like Heero to fidget.

What Tamlin said next was even more disturbing, though. “You might feel like shit, but you’re still lucky. Most people don’t survive their first encounter with a vampire.”

 

**********

Wow, I'm just on a roll, I guess. Either that, or I'm getting really bored at work. God, I love the night shift. Part 3, standard yadda yadda.

And to answer a question I've been getting a lot, lately, I do have a web page, but I am not bothering to give the URL out right now because it is pretty much defunct...I haven't bothered to post an update in over three months. I'm going to be moving to my own URL as soon as my beloved oniichan gets motivated, and then my website will go into generation two with all the updates and new stuff I have. ^^;; When the time comes, I'll be really bad and spam to tell everyone where I've moved to.

Thanks for all the great responses I've been getting on this story!

--
Katsu "O-ka-ne" no Miko
"Erst wenn die Wolken schlafen gehen
kann man uns am Himmel sehen
wir haben Angst und sind allein...
Gott weiss ich wil kein Engel sein..." (~Ramms+ein~)

 

Warning: The characters belong to who they belong to and not me. Don't sue me, I'm not worth your time. Special thanks to Laurell K. Hamilton for writing the Anita Blake novels.

Addtional warning: Characters acting wildly OOC. You have been warned.

Additional Additional warning: Alternate reality fic. Events that have happened or will happen in this reality not necessarily connected to what happened in the real series in any way. Don't wave the time line at me, I am beyond it now. A HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!

Additional Additional Additional warning: Extreme supernatural action. Supernatural abilities are as defined by me in the shadow world, where this takes place.

 

Acherontia Atropos Part III

 

"You might feel like shit, but you're still lucky. Most people don't survive their first encounter with a vampire." Tamlin said, her face completely serious.

For a long, long moment, I just lay there in bed and stared at her, waiting for her to get to the punch line. She just sat there and stared at me, and I started to get the dark, sinking suspicion that there wasn't a punch line to this particular joke. Finally, I had to say something, or go insane from the silence that was surrounding me. Good ol’ mouth to the rescue. "You're kidding, right?"

All the emotion suddenly drained from her face, like someone had just flipped a switch. On, happy. Off, cold and dead. "You will find, Duo," she said, her voice devoid of inflection, "that I never joke about certain things. Vampires are one of them."

"Oh, come on, stop it. Vampires aren't real. They don't exist. You've been watching too many horror movies." I sounded a little desperate to my own ears. To be truthful, I was a lot more willing to believe in the possibility that vampires really existed than I wanted to admit. Really, I was a lot more ready to believe pretty much anything than I would have been last year. Hey, a lot of weird shit can get crammed into one little year.

"I will say this one more time, and you can choose to believe me or not. Vampires exist. They are real, just like you are." Just as suddenly as it had disappeared, the life returned to her face. "You should be a lot more willing to believe, considering that when I found you, one was sitting on your back."

Goose pimples mysteriously sprang into being all up and down my arms. That was not something I was really ready to think about. Still, I had to play it tough and attempt to salvage what little machismo I had left, even if it was pretty obvious to everyone that I was shook. That’s me, the heap big Gundam Pilot. Right. "Yeah, I was there, remember? I know there was something trying to make cracks in the asphalt with my head. I just don't know if I believe that it was a vampire."

"But."

She'd heard the hesitation in my voice. Great, just great. I let myself be manipulated into answering, though. "But it sure as hell wasn't human."

"Then why is it so hard to believe that it could be what I say it was?"

"Come on, man. Vampires are stuff out of old, corny B movies. You know, cheap plastic fangs and black capes and slicked back hairdos with overdone widow's peaks. That shit isn't real."

"No," she agreed, "it isn't."

That made me pause. "What?"

"Movies aren't real. They got a few details right, like the fact that vampires drink blood and are afraid of holy items, but the reality is very different." Her eyes held a burning intensity just like the one I saw every morning when I looked in the mirror. This woman had a purpose. "The only reason that you are still alive, Duo, is because the vampire didn't want to kill you."

"It was sure as hell doing a good impression of it."

"Not true. It wanted you to be unconscious. Dead blood poisons vampires. Living blood is what they feed on. You must have looked like easy prey, walking by yourself. You're lucky that I was in the area." Her fingers caressed the barrel of the shotgun lightly, possessively. "The only thing I don't understand is why it attacked you like that. It should have been able to simple roll you under with its eyes."

"What?"

"Take over your mind. It should have been able to roll you so totally under that it could have peeled your skin off by inches and made you like it." She shook her head. "But it didn't, and it was being very careful about how hard it hit you, because it didn't want to kill."

"Maybe it just underestimated the hardness of my head." I grinned disarmingly at Tamlin. She seemed to be immune to it, but Heero snorted.

"Don't fool yourself. If it had wanted you dead, it could have ripped your throat out with no effort. They can bench press cars one handed. They are not human."

God help me, I don't know why I said what I did next. "Neither are you."

Tamlin stopped, mid-breath, and for a long, long moment, her face went dead again, and I was genuinely scared that she would shoot me. A gun that big wouldn't leave much behind. Instead, she suddenly just started laughing.

"What? What's so funny?"

As quickly as she had started, she stopped. "I think I underestimated you. Maybe that's why it couldn't roll you under."

And damnit, no matter how much I whined, she wouldn't say any more. Finally, I changed tactics. "So let's assume for one minute that you aren't jerking my chain, and that really was a vampire."

"How generous of you." She said, very dryly.

"I try, thanks. Anyway...assuming that, what do you want us to do about it?"

"What makes you think I want anything?"

"Somehow, I don't think you were sitting here, waiting for me to wake up out of simple concern for me, or because Heero's such a good conversationalist." I glanced at the silent guy in question. Not even a hint of emotion. Same old same old.

"That's true." She smiled. "Let's cut to the chase, then."

"Ah, my favorite part."

"I'm here because I was sent to find you. Before you ask, I can't tell you who. There is a kiss of vampires in this area." She held up a hand before I could say anything. "A kiss is what we call a group of vampires. They've been hunting at this school."

Well, that explained a lot, actually. "We who?"

Tamlin grinned wolfishly. "Vampire Hunters."

There was something really, really odd about the entire situation. Vampires? Naw, odd, but not that odd. Vampire Hunters? Kinda went with the territory of vampires. Vampires hunting kids at our school? That actually explained a lot, like where Ayako had gone. I had to suppress a major twinge at that thought. She probably wasn’t alive any more, then. No, it was something even more off kilter, and it took me a while to realize what it was. Heero had been sitting through the entire conversation silently. He hadn't snorted, or made a sarcastic comment, or said anything disparaging at all, even when the woman asserted that vampires were real. And there was also the fact that he'd let some woman that as far as I knew he didn't know into our room, and was letting her sit on his bed with a loaded weapon in her lap. Something was really not adding up here.

"Heero?"

"Aa?"

"Do you know this woman or something?"

Heero's eyes flicked over to her for a brief second before he said. "Aa."

"Really." Something told me that he wasn't telling the whole truth. But I didn't want to go through a long, drawn out question and answer session that probably wouldn't get me anything just then. I'd save that for later. So instead, I asked the more obvious question. "What do you think we should do?"

"I think we should listen to her." Gee, Heero, thanks. What a help.

Tamlin smiled. "Thank you, Heero."

Heero shot her another look, and it wasn't the usual glare. It was...fear? Maybe? From Heero? Naw, couldn’t be. But shit, I was getting a bit scared myself.

"Ok," I said, "I'll buy. So there are vampire hunters. I'm assuming that you spend all your time killing vampires."

"Depending on the Hunter, yes. Sometimes we'll kill other things, like shape shifters, or rogue witches."

This was starting to get too weird, even for me. "Fine, fine. So what do you want us to do about it?"

"All of you have a gift for killing," she said, her face going cold again. "I'm just here to warn you that you might have to broaden your horizons a bit. Monsters are everywhere, and most of them aren't necessarily human. I can't pick your targets for you, but I can give you the knowledge that you'll need to stay alive."

"What do you want in return?" I would have said that this was sounding too good to be true, but the fact that we were talking vampires and such was keeping it firmly away from my "good" list. I normally like it when people offer to teach me new things. This offer just wasn't hitting my G-spot, though, for some strange reason.

"Nothing in return. I'm doing this as a favor for a friend." Once again, she was smiling. Flip the switch on. For some strange reason, I wasn’t reassured. "And I'm also doing it because I wouldn't want to send anyone out to face the monsters alone or unprepared."

"Fine then. Prepare us." This was starting to make me really, really tired.

Someone knocked on the door. It was Wufei, his arms loaded down with rolls of gauze and little orange bottles. After Heero let him in, he managed to sidle past the mess in the room to get to my bed, where he dumped the gauze.

"Ah, Wu-man, just the guy I was hoping to see." I grinned lop-sidedly at him. "Please tell me that those happy little medicine bottles have what I think they have in them."

"Yes." He nodded. "I'll let you have some after we get you bandaged. It would be too difficult for us to do it once you're unconscious."

"Great then, let's do it." I managed to sound a lot more enthusiastic than I felt. Call me crazy, but even if I know it’s going to make me ultimately feel better, I’m still not in to pain. Heero and Wufei had to help me sit up. It was a struggle that left me gasping for air around all the whimpering I had to choke down. My cheeks were suspiciously wet again, and when the two of them started bandaging me up, I decided to get Tamlin or anyone talking. I needed the distraction, anything to keep me from thinking about the fact that I felt like my head was going to split in two. "Ne, Wu-man...did you meet Tamlin?"

"We all did, when we reached you." Wufei started wrapping a long piece of bandaging around my head.

"And she told you she's a vampire hunter?"

"Yes." He didn't seem phased one bit.

"Am I the only one here that thinks it sounds really screwy?"

Heero and Wufei shrugged at the same time. If I hadn't been in so much pain, I would have growled at them. As it was, I settled for a glare, which I transferred over to Tamlin. "Fine, looks like I've been outvoted. I'll believe you, too."

"Once again, how generous."

I wanted to do something really really immature, like flip her off. But I didn't. See? And some people say that I have no self control. "I know I am. Now what do you have to tell us?"

"Right now, I can give you the basics. Don't look a vampire in the eye. Carry a holy item, such as a cross, with you. Holy items will light up in the presence of a vampire, and burn them if they touch. It won't work unless you believe in what the holy item represents, however."

Huh. Go figure. I guess I did believe in God after all.

"Vampires can only come out during the night, but some of the old ones can actually wake in the daylight hours; they just can't let the light of the sun touch them. Normal bullets won't injure vampires, and neither will normal knives. You either have to use straight silver or a metal alloy with a high silver content." She paused, I think for effect. "The best way of killing a vampire is putting a stake through its heart and cutting off its head. The most foolproof, however, is cremation."

The general principle was sound, I’ll admit, but the thought made me a little sick to my stomach. Shooting people, I could handle. Cutting mobile suits in half with a thermal scythe, I could handle. Hell, watching Heero set his own broken leg again, I could handle, as long as I got warned ahead of time and I was allowed to go sit in a corner and have the heebie-jeebies for a while. But when it comes to chopping off actual heads, though, I had a feeling it could get a little grosser than I was really used to. "How did you kill the one that was on me?"

"I blew off its head and took out its chest with the shotgun." She grinned. "That works pretty well, too."

"I can imagine." Wait. Even after being shot twice with a shotgun, there'd still be some of the body left, though not a lot. More than a sandwich baggy full, that’s for sure. "What did you do with the body?"

Wufei was the one that answered me. "Trowa and Quatre are taking care of it."

Ok, one less thing for me to worry about, then. I felt a little hint of guilt that Trowa and Quatre were the ones having to clean up after a mess that was kind of sort of maybe partially my fault...but then again, considering that I'd been wearing part of said mess splattered all over me, maybe I couldn't dredge up that much sympathy after all. I sighed softly, suddenly feeling very, very tired and about a thousand years old. "Is that everything?"

"All of the really important information that I have. Whatever you do, if you go up against these monsters again, is remember that they are stronger, faster, and much, much older than you, and if they are master, they might have all sorts of interesting abilities that no one knows about. With caution, you might live to see another fight. Overconfidence will get you killed out right." She stood. "I don't have much time left here. If there are other Vampire Hunters in the area, they will most likely find you. We weren't a well organized group when I was active, but we still helped each other out for the most part."

"Tamlin?"

“Yes?”

“Is there any GOOD news that you have for us?”

She actually laughed. It reminded me of one of Heero’s more psychotic moments. Somehow, that didn’t surprise me. “You’re still alive, aren’t you?”

Heero jarred my arm, and my shoulder let out a loud, nerve-tingling screech of protest. “Unfortunately, yes.”

“There you are, then.”

I couldn’t let it go. “Tamlin?”

"Yes?" She looked at me curiously, as if she’d never had anyone ask her two whole questions in a row before.

"Why wasn't the vampire able to catch me with its eyes?" The answer to that question seemed to be terribly important all of a sudden.

She smiled at me. "If you want my personal theory, I think it's because you have an affinity for the dead. It could be more than that, but I am almost certain that you have that affinity."

"How do you know that?"

"You could tell there was something wrong with me, couldn't you?" Tamlin winked at me, and then disappeared. I shit not. She just vanished, no light show or over-dramatic sound effects. One minute there, the next minute gone.

For a long, long time, I sat there. The end of the bandage that Wufei had been wrapping around my head slipped from his suddenly still fingers and hung annoyingly over my right eye. We stared at each other, as Heero kept wrapping another bandage around my arm, completely unfazed.

"Wufei?" My voice sounded very, very lost, like a little kid that just found out that Santa Claus doesn't exist. "Please tell me I didn't just see that."