The moon shone down upon a church. Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica, it was called, a monument to classical Roman architecture. The stained-glass windows seemed to glow in the light of the moon, making their subjects almost clear enough to make out with the human eye.
Alex's eyes had no trouble making out the details of the various saints. He had seen them so often that he could have painted them from memory, and often had. But even had he lacked familiarity with them, the moonlight was more than enough to allow his eyes to see clearly. Even now, after centuries, he was painfully aware of this small difference between regular humans and himself.
He and Annabelle stood at the gate to the church's courtyard, looking in. Finally, Ann nudged Alex, and he shook himself out of his contemplation. He opened the gate and walked in, leaving Ann where she stood.
With some hesitation, Alex came to the heavy double doors marking the entrance to the church, and quietly pushed them open. He had to squint as he entered; the light here in this church was soft, but everything about the church seemed somehow too intense. He was not very welcome here, he knew, though he visited several times a week. He was but a necessary guest, to be expelled if he made a nuisance of himself. Acceptance was... unlikely, to say the least.
Alex took the time to kneel behind a pew and give a small prayer of thanks for being allowed inside. This seemed to lessen the pressure on him, to reduce the stares he felt on the back of his neck, though the church was empty at this point. He had never been able to tell if this worked because the prayer temporarily reduced the darkness in his blood, or if somebody was listening and had granted temporary relief. Probably a bit of both, he thought.
Annabelle could never come in here, he thought sadly. It wasn't that she was evil, of course; licentious, brash, and crude as she was, she had a good heart. But she was... different from her brothers. She was far more vampiric than either of them, to the point where she would become sunburnt if exposed to sunlight for five minutes. She also had a more debilitating bloodlust, needing to feed on human blood approximately one in every three nights.
Alex and Trevor had fared somewhat better, in Alex's opinion. Alex himself had very little vampirism in him. He had so little, in fact, that he could survive without blood for weeks, though he would gradually become anemic. His vampiric gifts were similarly weak; his strength, speed, and healing ability were all minimally above human levels.
Trevor, however, had fared the best. Like their father, Adrian, Trevor seemed to have a perfect balance of human and vampire. This balance seemed to lend a certain strength that neither race carried alone. Trevor had all of the strengths of both races, and none of the weaknesses.
If only Trevor's mind had been as strong as his body.
Alex entered a confessional and knelt. He didn't have to wait for a priest to arrive; a shadow was already visible through the screen, waiting for him.
"What do you have for me tonight, Father?"
"Burnham Park," replied the priest. "A man found dead, all of the blood drained from him. There've been sightings of a group of ruffians wandering the area."
"I see. Thank you, Father." Alex rose from the stool, but paused. "Father, I would like to make a confession."
"I'm listening," replied the Priest.
"I... I'm lusting after this woman." Alex knelt again. "She's so... pure, and clean."
"You and I both know that you cannot afford to get close to a woman," the Priest replied. He was not stern, but his words were firm. "Like my path, your path has no room for the pleasures of the flesh. Let her go."
"I'm... not sure that I can, Father."
"Then you are human, my son," replied the Priest, sadly. "But do not allow your darker nature to take hold of you. Your sister has learned to embrace hers and control it, but I fear that if yours breaks free for even a moment of passion, you will be lost to it."
"I shall guard myself, Father." And Alexander rose, leaving the confessional.
On the other side, opposite the screen, Father Martin lowered his gun. Tonight, at least, the half-breed had not given in to the darkness. But he would be prepared in case that day came, he knew. He stared at the gun, absently checked to see that it was indeed loaded with silver bullets. The half-breed himself had given this gun to the church, and the bullets within. This church had allowed the half-breed to roam the city, but if he went astray, it was their responsibility to rectify their mistake.
A black convertible BMW pulled up to a red light. Its top was down, and techno music could be heard blaring from the speakers. When the light turned green, the car's tires immediately began to spin, squealing before the traction caught hold and the BMW went rocketing through the intersection.
"So what's been on your mind, lately?" asked Ann as she turned down the music. With the top down, the breeze whipped at her hair and her jacket. Tonight she was wearing black leather, as usual, but this outfit focused a bit more on utility than on seduction. Of course, it was still skin-tight, but it now covered her whole body. Sure, it creaked whenever she moved, but it was pretty sturdy, and wouldn't get in the way during a fight.
Alex didn't reply to her question, so Ann made an educated guess. "You been thinking about that girl? Francesca?"
"Francine," Alex replied. Then, when he saw Ann's victorious grin, he grumbled, "Very well. Yes, I've been thinking about her."
"Thought so. She reminds me a lot of that girl from Norway. You know, the one with that accent? You were fond of her, too."
"They look nothing alike."
"Yeah, but they've got the same... I don't know. They're the same kind of person. I can tell that's what's caught your interest."
"Well, Annelie's been dead for almost fifty years by now."
"And I bet you think about her all the time. Did you ever even kiss her?" This question was met with silence. Ann sighed. "Listen, Alex. You can't be all tortured and alone forever. At some point, you've got to get some companionship. Or at the very least, some sex."
"I do not criticize your way of living, Annabelle," Alex replied. "But it is not the way I want to live. Love-making is an expression of love, not some hobby."
"You know as well as I do that sex is a way of survival for me," Ann replied, defensive. "Short of attacking people on the street, how else am I going to get the amount of blood I need to live?"
"And you never take more than is absolutely necessary, I know," Alex said, as if the conversation had been had before. "It is simply... difficult for me. And you do not make it easier for me, you know. You're very ribald in dress and in manner."
Ann smiled, baring her fangs. "Aw, I'm just trying to loosen you up. Besides, if I'm going to live like a succubus, I might as well enjoy it. I'm not going to live life feeling guilty just for existing."
"I suppose so. Just... try to be a bit less crass, hm?"
"Okay, okay. Just one more thing."
"Don't be so shy with Frankie. She likes you, too."
"You never even saw us together at the same time."
"I... overheard you two talking through the door. I heard her voice. Believe me: 'like' is an understatement."
Alex grunted and turned away. But he was thoughtful.
A wolf stalked the alleyways of the city.
Slowly he padded along, silently hunting for something. He stopped, raised his muzzle to the cold winter air. That way. Quickly, before the prey was lost, he turned a corner and ran through the dark alley, deftly avoiding the trash cans and dumpsters spread throughout. Overhead could be heard the beating of wings.
And then, with another turn, he was upon his prey. They were a group of men and women, dressed in different ways. But they all had feral expressions, faces very slightly twisted by a desire they could not completely sate. They were incomplete vampires, mere undead shadows of their former selves, driven by bloodlust, and the word of their master, the vampire that had turned them.
The wolf had been hoping to catch them off-guard, but this night he had no such luck. As he made the turn, he found the pack of vampires facing him, their expressions filled with hunger. The wolf briefly considered attacking them as he was, but decided against it. In this form, he could have taken one of them, maybe two... but there were more than ten, here.
The form of the wolf seemed to pulse, and the faint outline of a man appeared, standing where the wolf stood. Quickly, the image of the wolf seemed to fade out of reality, becoming nothing but an outline itself, while the man became more and more real. Finally, with another pulse, Alexander stood whole before the vampires.
These creatures had not expected to find a wolf in the city. But finding Alex was no surprise for them; they had been told to expect him. They had also been told to flee him.
Before they had a chance to do so, however, they heard a screech from above. They looked up to see three beings flying overhead: a large bat, a smaller bat, and a smaller figure too far and too bright to make out clearly. The larger bat screeched again, emitted a pulse much like the wolf had done only moments ago. A second later, Annabelle dropped thirty feet to the cement, cracking it as she landed easily on her feet, the vampires between her and Alex.
Ann rose to her feet, her back to her brother and their prey. As she rose, the whip in her left hand uncoiled, the moonlight glinting off of it. It was an anti-vampiric weapon, composed of silver blades cleverly hooked together so as to make it a slashing weapon. It was not the famous Vampire Killer which had belonged to the Belmont clan, but it was a fearsome weapon nonetheless. Ann looked over her shoulder and smiled at the vampires.
"Shit," said one of the vampires, as he looked back and forth, a Tepes in either direction.
"Screw this," said another, pulled out a handgun, and opened fire on Alex.
Alex dove back into the alley from which he'd come, seeking shelter from the bullets. They stopped after three shots, but he was certain that the vampire wielding the gun was keeping an eye on Alex while the others focused on Ann. Ann could handle herself, Alex thought... but he wasn't about to leave it to chance.
"Llianan," called Alex quietly.
A bright, tiny figure dropped down from above to float a few inches from his face. She was a fairy, slightly larger than Alex's head. She glowed slightly, though the source of the light was not exactly clear. She was pretty, but it was a somewhat inhuman beauty; her face was more angular than a human's. She wore a blue outfit that consisted of a blue top and two long strips of cloth hanging from the front and back of her waist. Her arms and legs were bare.
"Yes, Master Alex?" she replied.
"Watch over me, please. I am going in." And with that he unhooked a mace from his belt. Its head was blue, and almost lantern-shaped. It was a holy weapon, discovered years ago by his father. It could not harm an innocent... but it could certainly harm these fiends. He also removed a gun from its holster on the other side of his belt. It too had been blessed, and the gun and bullets were made of silver.
Alex and the fairy blessed themselves, and Alex stepped back out of hiding.
Before he even came close enough to strike any of the vampires with his mace, a shot rang out, and Alex shouted in pain. His gun dropped to the ground as blood welled from his arm. But he continued forward.
He brought the mace in an upward arc, obliterating the skull of the vampire closest to him. Immediately, he turned and delivered a sweep, knocking a second vampire to the ground. As he finished the sweep, he brought the mace downward, smashing the prone vampire's skull into the pavement. And then another gunshot rang out, and Alex fell to his knees.
He looked down to see blood welling through a hole in his chest. He stared at it for a moment before calling, "Llianan."
A light surrounded Alex, surprising the vampires and driving them a step closer to Ann. When the light cleared, Alex stood. His arm was whole, and there was no broken skin beneath the hole in his shirt. The vampires stared at him, horrified. While they stared, he swung his mace and crushed the ribs of the closest vampire.
From then on the vampires did their best to escape, but it was no use. Alex and Ann steadily moved inward until there was only one vampire left. He looked warily from one to the other, trying to see some means of escape.
"Let me have him, Alex," Ann pleaded. There was hunger in her voice.
Alex shrugged. "He's all yours."
Ann stepped closer, twirling her whip. "Any last words, morsel?"
The vampire stared at her. "My... my master will kill you both. Master Trevor will-"
His words were cut off with a yelp as Ann's whip swung out, the tip creating a gash on his forehead. Before the vampire could recover, he was slashed again on an arm, a thigh, his belly, and twice in an 'x' shape across his chest. He cried out in shock and pain each time the silver blades cut him. Finally, he fell to his knees, blood soaking his clothes.
"Ann!" growled Alex. His grip was tight on the mace's haft.
Breathing heavily, Ann dropped the whip. "S-sorry, Alex. You know how I... I'll just finish him, now."
She stepped forward, grabbed the vampire by the hair, and lifted him so that they were eye-to-eye. The vampire didn't even bother to resist as she grabbed his shoulder with her other hand and pulled his head to the side, exposing his neck.
Alex looked away. He'd seen her feed before, and could deal with it. But after a fight, she was... different. He didn't want to look at the expression on her face right now. So he waited until he could no longer hear that unique slurping sound, then turned back to see Ann still holding the body against her. Her eyes were closed, and her breathing had slowed. Her mouth was covered in blood.
Alex called her name, and Ann seemed to awaken. She tossed the body toward him. He nodded to her, pulled a wooden stake from a small bag attached to his belt, and stabbed the still vampire through the heart. It vanished in a puff of stale dust.
A vampire that had been drained of blood usually died... but there were enough exceptions to the rule that it was wise to make sure they wouldn't awaken. For similar reasons, he went around staking the other bodies. When he ran out of stakes, he picked up his gun and finished the job with silver bullets. Unlike the stakes, the bullets remained after doing their job; he could melt them and re-use them.
In the end, there was nothing left in the alley but him, his sister, and the fairy, his familiar. The bat, his sister's familiar, still flew overhead.
Alex looked over to see Ann standing in the same place she'd been a few minutes ago, staring at nothing. She was absently licking her lips, trying to get the last few drops of blood. Her hunger was never greater than when she'd allowed her bloodlust to rise in battle.
"Ann," he called softly. Her strange gaze shifted to him. "Pick up your whip, and let's go."
She turned and picked it up. Dreamily, she coiled it and placed it back in its satchel, where its silver blades couldn't hurt her. Then she turned back around and walked to Alex. He let her hug him.
Alex had not understood her abrupt change of mood after feeding for a long time. But not long ago Anne had explained to him that feeding for her was very similar to sex. And afterwards in both cases, she just wanted to hold someone.
Alex still found it very, very creepy.
"Come on," he said, awkwardly trying to walk while she was hanging onto him. "Let's get you home.
Ann and Trevor could teleport short distances. But Alex had no such talent. The best he could do was hide in shadows. Even that was limited; he needed a relatively shadowy area, and he had trouble pulling it off if people were specifically looking for him. However, it was quite a valuable ability when trying to carry Ann across the One Night Stand's dance floor without any of the customers noticing.
With some difficulty, Alex hauled his almost-sleeping sister up the stairs and wrestled with the various doors on the way to her room. Finally, they arrived in her room. He tried not to look at the décor. He helped her undress, and got her to put on the pajamas he'd bought for her. They were light blue with a yellow duckling pattern, and he thought they suited her perfectly.
As soon as he showed the slightest inclination of leaving for his own bed, she latched onto him and wouldn't let go, even throwing in a whine when he tried to disengage himself. Alex wasn't surprised. He had, after all, been dealing with her for centuries. So, he led her to her bed, pulled the covers over her, and climbed onto the bed, being very certain that the sheets remained between them. He also kept his clothes on, and turned so that he was facing away from her.
He allowed her to drape an arm over his chest, and she was asleep within minutes. As usual when this happened, he stayed in position for quite some time, wide awake. It was only four in the morning, after all.
Ann had never completely gotten over her childhood aversion to sleeping alone. She had been known to hypnotically put some of her lovers to sleep so that they would stay and sleep next to her for a few hours after she was done with them. But now and then she would insist on sleeping next to Alex. Sometimes she would crawl into his bed after the sun had moved away from his window. In that way, she was still very much his little sister.
As for Alex, he was just glad that he'd thought of the pajamas. Until he had insisted that she wear them on all such occasions, he had found it all quite awkward.
Eventually, the adrenaline from the battle wore off, and he found himself drifting to sleep. As he did, his jumbled thoughts touched on Trevor. Are you sleeping now, too? he asked his brother, wherever he was.
"Let The Sleepers Awaken!
They Are On All Sides, Now:
They Surround You, Slumbering Ones!"
-Chapter 6, Verse 4 of Destinations by Adrian Tepes