Twilight People
by Mari

In the end, there was only enough EDTA to fill two hypodermics. Blade was forced to fill the remaining ten with a clear, labelless liquid that Karen had set next to the EDTA on the refrigerator shelf that she had commandeered for her work. He would have to hope that she knew her poisons. In truth, Blade found that he didn't mind the idea of a little hand-to-hand with the fucking bloodsuckers at all. Whistler's final shot was echoing through his head too loudly.

When you got right down to it, Blade planned to have the time of his life.


"Some motherfuckers are always trying to ice-skate uphill." Blade threw the line off with an arrogance so strong he could taste it on his tongue. He flicked the final vial through the air, spun, and kicked. It struck Frost directly between the ice-colored baby blues that had given him his name. Frost staggered back, knees buckling. His eyes faded from red into their old, chill blue, lighting up the room with one of the purest expressions of pain that Blade could ever remember seeing. He couldn't say that he minded the show.

The sound of Frost's knees hitting the stone floor was nearly as loud as a gunshot in the expectant, adrenaline-soaked silence that had fallen across the temple. His mouth worked, but no sound emerged, not even a scream. The only red left on Frost's body was the blood leaking around the hypodermic needles and spilling freely from his mouth. Tainted blood fleeing the vessel. Frost's hands curled into claws and he made a sound at last: a high whistling noise that may have been an attempt at a scream before he slowly tumbled forward. Frost didn't move again.

Blade hefted the sword in his hand and felt the smooth weight of it, as intimate as a lover's skin. More intimate, and eager to taste the blood that it had been forged for. The metal all but quivered in his grip.

Blade swung the sword over his head, ready to bring it down...and for reasons unknown to himself, even years later, hesitated. He tilted his head upwards, to the balcony where Karen stared down at him with wide eyes. A thousand different emotions were running across her face. One of them was almost certainly fear. Blade thought another might even have been pride. Whatever they were, it seemed terribly important to Blade that Karen no see him do this, and terrifying that one person's opinion could mean so much.

Blade lifted his lips in a snarl too reminiscent of the creatures that he fought for strict comfort and lifted his arm over his head. The sword made a disappointed sighing noise as it slid back into its sheath. The disappointed was alleviated as Blade drew back his foot and buried it as deeply as it would go into Frost's side. The cracking noise of broken ribs echoed and re-echoed throughout the temple. Frost didn't so much as twitch.

"Dead," Blade muttered as he turned away, towards the surface.

The sun was rising as Blade climbed out of the Temple of the Blood God, extending a hand behind up to help Karen up the final few rungs. The rich, buttery warmth seeped into his skin, making the patches of vampire blood coagulated there flake off and fall to the ground like snow. Even dead, it seemed that everything vampire screamed when it was brought into contact with the light. Though his expression remained as blank as ever, Blade turned his face upwards to the newborn sun, drinking it. It made him feel alive. It made him feel human.

Karen emerged into the sunlight behind him, narrowing her eyes and bringing her hand up to shield her face from the brilliant glare balancing on the edge of the horizon. Within minutes she had recovered and dropped her arm back to her side. Karen was a creature of the daytime. Any trips she made into the hunting ground that the city turned into after dark were going to accidental and purely temporary.

Blade processed all this information with flicker/shut speed, there and gone again in less time than it took to blink. Karen was the day; he was the twilight. No remorse, no pity. It just was.

For the first time in a very long time, Blade found that the thoughts caused no pain. Caused no emotion at all, in fact.

The wind blew Karen's hair back from her face and lovely, dark eyes as she said, "I need to get back to the lab if I'm going to cure you."

Blade paused, weighing his next words. Twilight: able to influence events taking place in the night as well as in the day. "It's not over. You keep your cure. There's still a war going on, and I have a job to do. You want to help me, make me a better serum."


In the remnants of the temple, waxen flesh spasmed, taking on a roseate hue that it had not known for many decades-the flush of blood being forced down sluggish veins. Frost jerked, gagged, and rolled over just in time to avoid choking on the blood-drenched vomit that shot past his lips. He was able to raise himself a few inches above the mess by bracing his hands against the stone as he heaved. Over and over again, his body rejecting the blood that he had consumed that day. It didn't end until Frost's ribs throbbed, his esophagus burned with the force of the acid that had barreled up it, and he gasped with the weak, mewling cries of a newborn.


The smell of corpses lingered through the factory long after Whistler's body had been removed, dropped off at the New York City Morgue. They traveled light and often into locales where it was safer to hide behind a legend, but Blade was able to find a wallet with a driver's license and a faded picture of two smiling little girls. The picture Blade tucked away, the license he left on Whistler. Without family to come forward and claim the body, Whistler would be put into a nameless, faceless pauper's grave. It was the best that Blade could do; it wasn't enough. When he went hunting that night, he made sure that the vampires paid for his frustration.

They paid in blood and in bone and in grief that Blade would never allow himself to speak and release into the expectant air, where it could turn on him. He made them pay with his sword, with his stakes, and with his fists towards the end of the night, when exhaustion wasn't chasing his thoughts away as he had hoped. It was guilty, bloody, and in the end not nearly so satisfying as he had hoped. With Frost's influence gone, the vampires were fleeing from the city like packs of rabid dogs, running from Blade's vengeance. All that remained were the old, the stupid. The arrogant. Blade spared none of them. By the time the sun was teasing the horizon his arms were soaked with drying blood and coated with silk-fine ash. Set against his dark skin, it made him look like a burn victim. It occurred to Blade that he was wearing trophies of his victims like a bounty hunter and his lips shifted into what might be considered a smile as he slid the sword back into its scabbard.

At the sound of the applause, he immediately drew it out again.


He was here. Of course he was here; hadn't ever nerve in Deacon's body screamed and begged and cried until he had started moving towards the source of his misery, purely to save what was left of his sanity? So he was here, and looking good from what Deacon could see: all that muscle beaded with what was blood or sweat or most likely, knowing Blade's penchant for gratuitous violence, both, and a stance that was Japanese samurai blended with Indian tiger. He certainly looked none the worse for wear for his excursion into the temple of the Blood God. Miles better than Deacon himself, and he felt his lip curling before he could stop it. At least the temple could have shown some poetic justice and fallen in on him.

The expression on Blade's face was tense. If Deacon didn't know better, he would even say old Tall, Dark, and Handsome was looking a bit anxious. Deacon could sympathize with him, if he were so inclined; he was feeling more than a touch anxious himself since La Magra had failed.

He wasn't so inclined.

The shadows seemed to make a whispering noise as Deacon stepped out of them, as if the very fabric of the universe was trying to tell him that this was a mistake. He paid them no mind. He didn't think it was a mistake. Hell, he knew it was a mistake. That didn't stop it from occurring. Like trains with the misfortune to find themselves on the same track, it seemed that he and Blade were destined to collide against each other.

Deacon's palms made a ringing, hollow sound as the came together, almost forlorn in the oddly serene silence that otherwise dominated the alley. Blade whirled towards the sound, one hand coming up and laying itself upon the hilt of the sword that had had sheathed only moments before. One good look at Deacon, walking towards him and bathed in the early dawn glow, and he withdrew the sword entirely. It made a faint whistling noise as it greeted the air.

"Frost," Blade intoned in that subhuman growl of his, seeming shocked not in the least to see the vampire that he had gone to considerable effort to slice and dice like a julienne fry up and about. Man of few words. With weapons like that to rely on, Deacon could see why.

He, however, was not so well equipped, nor was he possessed of quite the resilience that he had been able to claim three days before. Words were his only weapon. Luckily for Deacon, they were also the one in which he had always been most proficient.

Deacon held up his hands and took a hurried step back as Blade began to approach with that damned pig-sticker, stumbling over his feet and saving himself from a hard knock to the ass by virtue of leftover grace. Bitterness rose in Deacon's throat, sharp and thick as truck-stop coffee, and he ignored it through an application of will. He could continue with his steady mental breakdown later if he wanted to-and a part of Deacon very much wanted to- but there were more pressing matters to attend to at the moment. Like living to see his first sunrise in over 50 years as it arced over the horizon, unwelcome and unwanted but still dazzling all the same. Deacon blinked and, even though his nerves screamed that it was the stupidest and most dangerous thing that he could do, turned his eyes away from Blade, unable to look directly at the fiery miracle rising between the buildings behind him. With half a century of accustoming themselves to darkness and no protective shield of plastic or shady trees standing between them and the light, Deacon's eyes watered and stung.

Two mornings before, the sunlight would have killed him. This day it was the one thing that saved his life. Rather than the liquid pain of a sword parting flesh, he was treated to the grittier, more immediate sensation of being slammed back against the brick wall of one of the buildings, so hard that the skin along his shoulders abraded and he could feel warm trickles running down his spine like an angel's torn wings. Deacon's skull collided with the stone hard enough to make his head ring and his knees go roughly the consistency of Twinkie filling, but Blades fingers curled into the front of his shirt and kept him on his feet. Sentimental guy, that Blade. The whole situation was bringing back more memories than Deacon had ever planned to allow back in. He drew a shaky breath.

Blade, attributing the breath to either anger or, more likely, fear, parted his lips into what only an optimist with about a joint and a half too many in their system would have called a smile. At some point between closing the distance separating him from Deacon and then hurling him into the wall, Blade had sheathed the sword and drawn out one of his deceptively fragile-looking silver stakes to replace it. He shoved the stake against the delicate hollow beneath Deacon's chin, right about the place where his head said hello to his neck. How very phallic of him. It was hard enough to send a rivulet of crimson running down Deacon's Adam's apple, disappearing beneath the collar of his shirt. Deacon's mouth watered and his stomach turned as one motion.

"What the fuck is this?" Blade growled, his voice low and rumbling, the barest hint of a tremble marring that perfect arrogance. So seeing the sunlight falling across Deacon's face was unnerving him?

'Well, good for you, old buddy,' Deacon felt like saying. 'You're feeling about a tenth of what it's doing to me, so welcome to my world. Strait jackets are on the table to your left and we do hope that you enjoy your stay.' His lips parted and let out a sound that was kissing cousins to pure, undiluted hysteria.

"Having a little trouble putting the pieces together, Blade?" he jeered at him, hearing the panic that was soaking his voice and hating it with every ounce of his considerable will. Wherever the badass vampire had gone, it was a long way from this alley. "I'll give you some help, since you seem to be trying awfully hard." Oh, he was begging somebody to hit him, and Blade looked to be about three seconds away from doing just that. "That bitch of a doctor made a cure for vampires who were turned rather than born. You shot me full of a fuckload of it. Ergo, my triumphant return to the human race." Deacon began to laugh again; the sound of it was a hell of a lot closer to hysteria than merely being cousins. He was standing right on top of it, the blossoming insanity leaking through for all the world to see. Blade released him and stepped back a pace, looking about as surprised as he was capable of looking. "Isn't that the funniest thing you've ever heard of?" Without Blade's fingers twisting through his collar and keeping him on his feet, Deacon's knees began to buckle. He braced his hands against them in order to keep himself on his feet, hanging his head down between his thighs until the blood pulsed in his head. A wire-thin trail of saliva slid to the ground. And still he laughed. "Isn't that a scream?"

Blade reversed the stake in his hand and, without saying a word, brought it around in a short, sharp arc. It impacted the side of Deacon's face hard enough to put a hairline fracture into the cheekbone and send its owner into a sudden, surprisingly welcome blackness.


Well. Ow.

The rotten-tooth pounding in the side of his face and the back of his skull would suggest that Blade hadn't killed him, though any thing else ventured into the realm of pure speculation. Deacon's stomach did a slow forward roll and he was possessed by an excruciating second of the full-body rictus that only occurs when one is about to be violently and no doubt colorfully ill. The belief, sly and illogical that it was, that maybe the cure/curse had been only a temporary measure, that things were going to restore themselves to their rightful order of their own accord, undid the cynical locks on Deacon's brain, slithering in and making themselves right at home. When the nausea passed with no physiological pyrotechnics he felt something very close to despair.


"Wakey, wakey, Sunshine." And if that wasn't just the voice that he wanted to hear, then God or whomever else was running the show had decided that today was the day to royally fuck up Deacon's happy place. Oh. Wait. "You're about to miss the bus."

Deacon raised his middle finger in the direction of the voice and got an impatient shifting in response. It made him more than a little aware of the fact that he was at ground level and his ribs had to be providing a tempting target for Blade's boot. Frost rolled over, groaning as his stomach threatened to break the tentative truce that it had achieved with the rest of his body. When things settled down again, more from the fact that he hadn't eaten and thus had nothing of substance to lose than any return to homeostasis, he raised his hand and gingerly felt at the damage that Blade had done to his cheek. It was hot and swollen to the touch, practically vibrating with pain. Anything more firm that the most air-light of touches made the world swing alarmingly from side to side, but nothing shifted beneath his touch. Deacon rocked back on his haunches and glared at Blade. It took him a second or two to come into focus; fuck.

"I think you gave me a concussion."

Blade delivered him a dead man's smile. Deacon began to rework the wisdom of seeking Blade out. But-he was the source, of everything. Of Deacon's obsession with finding a way to blend the best of vampire and human worlds, of his brief stint into godhood. Of the sorry state that he found himself in now. They had been connected for decades without either of them knowing it.

When put that way, Deacon supposed it was damned depressing.

"You were hysterical," Blade said. "What kind of person would I be if I didn't help?"

"Yeah, a prince among men." Deacon brought his hand up to his eyes to shield them from the sun's bright glare. Christ, it must be nearly noon. Had Blade left him in the sunlight that long just to see what would happen? The thought had barely formed in Deacon's mind before he was confirming it. He was going to have one hell of a sunburn.

As if he realized how close he had come to joking a few seconds before and was determined to make up for lost time, Blade's voice became so cold that it invited snow. "Get up."

Deacon lifted his head. "More complicated proposition than you would think," he said. "That tends to happen when-"

Either human eyes were shittier than Deacon's mind could recall or Blade had been stocking up on the vitamins over the past few days, because there was no way that he had moved that quickly before. Deacon's eyes could barely follow him. Lucky him, there was no way that he could remain unaware of the fingers like vices closing about his upper arm, jerking him to his feet so abruptly that it felt as if half of him had been left behind on the pavement. Deacon staggered sideways into Blade's bulk and was given a brief, hard shake, like a dog that is best kept on a short leash. "Hey-" The gun that Blade forced beneath his chin killed any protest. Felt, in fact, like it was going to cut his trachea in two if Blade shoved it against his flesh any harder.

"Now, you listen to me," Blade said. Deacon was listening. Deacon was listening very hard. It seemed that a terrible shift in power had taken place since he had made his oh-so-glorious return to the human race. If Blade were wise, he would keep a tight grip on that gun. "There's a bullet here that's aching to say hello to the top of your skull, see what kind of mess it can make on the way up there. Most of the time my guns and I are in pretty good agreement, but even the lowest life form can have its uses." Deacon made a small sound, the beginnings of a protest. Blade forced the gun's muzzle against his skin hard enough to shut him up and guarantee that there would be a bruise as dark as in later on, if Deacon lived to see later on. The look in Blade's eyes would have made most betting men shake their heads and walk away.

Blade continued as if Deacon hadn't tried to interrupt. "From what I've heard, you've amassed quite a fortune through those clubs of yours. You want to continue with your new approach to healthy living a while longer, you'll share the wealth." He eased the gun back far enough for Deacon to speak and maybe even breathe. The proximity was still enough to discourage any misbehavior and, judging by the awkward tilt of Deacon's head, he knew it.

It took Deacon three tries to get his jaw working again. The first sound to emerge from it when he did was an unhealthy laugh. The dangerous glitter in Blade's eyes made his smile widen. "You think it's going to be that easy?" he asked. "I'm not the only one that wanted your head on a pike, sweetness. Every fucking vampire in the country wanted to be known as the one that took you down. Even more now that the myth of invincibility has been popped." The reference to Whistler was a mistake as soon as it was out of his mouth.

'Blaze' was the only word that could accurately describe what Blade's eyes did then, though Deacon would later jump through every mental hurdle necessary to convince himself that he had been seeing things. Normal human eyes simply didn't do that, but then, Blade had never been exactly human. The look was enough to convince Deacon that their roles had been reversed even further and he was looking into the face of the devil himself, an angel gone so mad on power and pain that he cut down the righteous and the unrighteous alike. It took most of the defiance out of Deacon like water running from cracks in a leaky dam. Not all, but enough to make him reconsider the wisdom of baiting the man who wore enough weapons to make a green beret seem ill-equipped.

Blade seized Deacon's jaw with one hand. Christ, thumb digging right into the cheekbone, and the waves of pain that radiated out from the injury were enough to make the world fade in and out like a bad television set. He sagged, and Blade forced the gun back into the hollow of his throat, in exactly the position that he had held the stake before. Man had a fetish.

They were face to face, bare millimeters separating warm breath and sweaty skin. Deacon could have kissed Blade if he had wanted to, if he hadn't thought that doing so would have resulted in a little epilepsy of the trigger finger. Though the view was a long way from bad, Deacon wished he had room to squirm away, put space enough for reason to reassert itself between them. Blade was in a killing mood; he threw off rage like heat.

"I'm in the mood for a challenge," Blade growled into Deacon's face, every inch the weapon made flesh. The hand on his jaw eased off, fastening itself around his bicep and dragging him forward.

Deacon bit the inside of his mouth until he tasted blood, still hot and copper-sweet. 'Keep your hand on that gun,' he thought in Blade's direction. 'Keep it tight. There are certain things that humans can do every bit as well as vampires, and I think that blowing your head off is one of them. Probably more enjoyable this way.'

"Does anyone else know that you've lost your fangs?" Blade asked, tone clipped short. As long as the murderous rage was shared equally between the two of them, Deacon figured he could live with it.

Deacon exhaled his breath in a disbelieving wheeze; Blade glanced back at him. "Are you kidding me?" Blade's expression barely had to change before Deacon amended, "Of course not. You're physically incapable of it. No, no one knows. Vampire's like a wolf pack. When you're strong, they love you. Anybody you want to fuck, anybody you want to kill, they're yours with a snap of your fingers. Hell, half the time they'll throw themselves into the sunlight on their own if you ask for it." Deacon's tone was nostalgic. Blade telegraphed disgust through every line of his body. Boo-hoo for him. "But the slightest sign of weakness, bam, it's all over. They'll eat you alive and give your skeleton as tribute to the next big thing. Better that they just think I'm dead."

Blade was shaking his head. The muzzle of the gun jiggled alarmingly with each movement. "'Wolves' gives you two much credit," he said. "You're a pack of rats, feeding on everything too slow or stupid to move out of the way."

"Still throwing your lot in with the humans, Blade?" It was impossible to keep the sneer from his voice. Deacon didn't even try. "They're mindless idiots, wandering around deliberately ignorant of the world as it really exists around them. Walking steaks. That's all."

Blade swung on him, releasing Deacon's arm long enough to raise his hand and curl it into a fist. Deacon, fearful of further damage to the side of his face, caught himself cringing back. He added that to the catalogue of crimes that Blade was going to pay for. A flicker of...something passed over Blade's face and he dropped his hand back to his side.

"Welcome to the cattle yard," he said instead, refastening his hand to Deacon's bicep and propelling them both forward again. They emerged onto the street and Blade slid the gun back beneath the cover of his duster before it could cause a panic; even in New York City, some things didn't fly. A battered about the edges hardcase being dragged down the street by a larger, angrier hardcase flew, but barely. Eyebrows were raised and comments were made behind hands, but no one pelted off down the sidewalk screaming for a policeman. Oh, yeah. That human race that Blade was so determined to stand up for was a swell bunch of folks.

Blade had parked his car several blocks away before he had begun hunting at the beginning of the night. By some miracle of luck or the heebie-jeebie vibe that Blade threw off like smoke wherever he went, the vehicle was still there and relatively unmolested. Blade pulled a flyer from the windshield and threw it to the side as he shoved Deacon towards the passenger door. Deacon had a brief tug of war in which he considered bolting, realized that the likelihood of his making it more than three steps was so small as to be laughable, and slid inside the car. Blade, opening the driver's door, flicked a speculative look over him. Probably disappointed that he was missing out on a chance to do some pulp-beating.

After a couple of hours of asphalt hospitality, Deacon's bruises cooed as they came in contact with the leather seats. He knew Blade had to have a closet hedonist streak in there somewhere. No one could be that damned uptight 24 hours a day without eventually imploding all over themselves. Deacon tilted his head back and closed his eyes as he listened to Blade start the car. The engine roared like a tiger greeting its master as it came to life and Blade made a small sound of approval. Definitely a hedonist.

"So." Deacon opened his eyes. "Do you actually have a plan, or are you just going to hurl me in their direction and hope that the bullets hit me instead of you?"

Blade gave him that disturbing smile again, the one that made him resemble a mental patient off his meds. "Thought you would be pleased." He threw the car into reverse, forcing his way into traffic. Horns blared and the New York salute was given. "I'm bringing you back from the dead."


Her name was Kathy, and she was twenty-four. Blonde, pretty, the kind of receptionist who could brew the perfect pot of coffee in the break room and give the perfect blowjob in the bathroom. Her boss told her that she was going places. Kathy pretended to believe him, while she told herself that the first time he tried to fuck her she was going to take his left nut.

Kathy was busy, distracted by the insanity of Monday mornings (and why people thought that screaming at the receptionist for the ten minutes was going to relieve them of their financial woes Kathy was never going to understand, but there were a few nuts among that bunch that she would like to liberate as well). She didn't notice the two men who entered the bank's lobby immediately and when she did it was with a vague surface knowledge. Kathy flashed them a brief smile 'Be with you in a minute' smile over her computer and went back to dealing with a playboy who was determined to hold her personally responsible for the fact that Daddy's money had finally been cut off. It took her several more seconds to catch on the to the fact that: A) one of the men had had the living shit beaten out of him sometime in the very recent past, B) the other man was holding a gun, and C) her boss's increasingly insistent advances were the least of her problems today.

Kathy slowly lowered the phone, cutting off the playboy mid-squawk. The gun barrel pointed at her looked as big as a bowling ball, and the angry man on the other end of it even bigger. "Oh, God," she whimpered. "Please don't shoot me."

"I think he's more likely to shoot me," the battered man said, sounding far more composed than Kathy was managing. She clung to his voice, a lifeline, and recognition slammed into her with the force of a small but nonetheless enthusiastic train. "Mr. Frost! We were told that you had died!" Her voice rose into a yelp on the last word and heads turned towards the sound. A few frightened screams rang out as people caught sight of the gun. The man holding it swore.

"Reports of my demise," Mr. Frost said mildly, wincing as his captor tightened the grip that he was maintaining on his arm. "Listen-" He looked at the nameplate on her desk, "-Kathy, my friend Blade here-" Kathy gasped and clapped her hand over her mouth as Blade glowered at her. "Yeah, him. He's in a bit of a financial jam and I'd like to help him out, swell guy that I am. I trust that none of my funds have been transferred?"

"N-no," Kathy managed. Her spine began to rebuild itself, inch by ice-cold inch. The fucking Daywalker, in her bank. Not a lot of question as to what he was after. Kathy's hand began to creep towards the discreet button set beneath her desk.

And the gun that had been a healthy distance away was suddenly inches from her face. Kathy gasped and shoved herself back from the desk, effectively distancing herself from the gun, but at the same time from the panic button. "I don't think you want to do that," Blade told her in a low, level voice. The lobby had become miraculously empty. Kathy would have bet her Manolo's that elsewhere in the building there were a lot of panic buttons being hit just then. "I don't think it's a wise decision at all, do you?" He caressed her cheek with the barrel and Kathy shook her head, giving herself a good whack in the face in the process.

"Hey," Mr. Frost protested.

"Just meat, remember?" Blade replied, never taking his eyes from Kathy's face. She darted frightened eyes over Blade's shoulder and saw a line appearing between Mr. Frost's brows. He didn't speak again. Blade called her name softly, sounding more gentle than she would have thought possible from him. Kathy liked it better when he was mean; that, at least, was level ground.

"Push your chair back up to the computer," he told her, backing away so that she could, "and put your hands on the keyboard." Kathy did as she was told, noting in a distracted way that her hands were shaking so badly that her charm bracelet, a gift from her boss's dick by way of her last bonus, was making a constant rattling sound. She really hoped that somebody shot Blade for that. "How much money is in Frost's account?"

Kathy typed in the correct series of keystrokes without feeling them, amazed that she could still remember how to speak the computer's language at all. Terror was causing an insistent chittering noise to rattle through her head like insects being denied their supper. The computer froze for a moment and Kathy made a low moaning sound, but then the account popped up. Kathy worked her mouth for a moment before she could gather enough saliva to speak. "Just under three million."

Blade glanced over his shoulder at Mr. Frost. "You're a wealthy man."

"Lucrative business," Mr. Frost replied. He was staring at Kathy, and there was a message written in his eyes.

For the barest of seconds, Blade's attention was divided between her and Mr. Frost. Kathy, never a woman to let an opportunity pass her by, lunged. The gun barrel felt cool and solid against her hand and just for a second Kathy thought, "Hey, I'm going to do this!" before Blade felt the pressure and whirled back around. His expression was a mask of towering fury.

Blade struck her bare-handed and Kathy's head snapped to the side. Mr. Frost jerked forward, as if he would like to intervene, but ultimately restrained himself. The line between his eyes was deeper than ever.

Blade seized Kathy's wrist with his free hand, wrenching it away from the gun and bending it back so far that the tendons creaked. Kathy cried out softly, biting the inside of her mouth to muffle the sound before it could escape too far, and cradled her wounded limb to her expensive blouse. It didn't feel nearly expensive enough any longer; no bonus was large enough to pay for being put through this. The part of Kathy's mind that wasn't utterly possessed by fear began to draft her letter of resignation.

Any pretense at kindness was stripped from Blade's voice as he asked, "Are your bosses vampires, Kathy?"

She nodded and raised her hand to take a swipe at the tears that had begun to creep in humiliating trails down her cheeks. Blade jerked the muzzle of the gun at her; Kathy's hand found its way back into her lap in short order. "Yes. Most of them."

"Keeping a human at the front desk as window dressing," Blade mused, his voice growing lower and angrier by the syllable. Kathy wanted to scoot her chair back a few more paces, but she didn't dare. "Your bosses aren't going to be too happy with you when three million dollars walks out the door, are they?"

The thought hadn't occurred to her. She paled further, nearly to the point of translucency. It might be better if Blade went ahead and shot her. "No," she whispered.

Blade parted his lips into a cold smile. This was the guy who thought he was better than the vampires? From where Kathy sat, they were one and the same. "Then I guess you're in some trouble, aren't you? Empty the account."

"Just Mr. Frost's?" Kathy asked, her fingers whirring across the keys even though her nerves screamed that such quick moves around the Daywalker weren't among the brightest ideas ever brought forth into creation. He was beginning to resemble and ex-boyfriend that Kathy had had in college, one that had begun doing way more meth than was good for him: like there were cracks creeping along beneath the exterior and rotting ice beneath. So he was a murderer, but making the transition to bank robber was throwing him for a loop? Wonders and miracles. All that Kathy knew was that she didn't want to be standing on the center of that ice when it shattered. Her fingers moved at a rate that was guaranteed to give her carpal tunnel before she was thirty. If she lived to see it, she would gladly kiss every gnarled knuckle.

It had been over five minutes since Blade and Mr. Frost had entered the lobby and thoroughly wrecked her day. Where the fuck was security, Kathy thought, pulling their dicks?

Blade pulled his eyes off of Kathy and back towards Mr. Frost, though Mr. Frost hadn't made any move that Kathy could see. He barely seemed to be aware of any of them, in fact. The furrow between his eyes had grown so deep that it was going to give him wrinkles if he didn't watch it, vampire regenerative powers or no, and the expression in his eyes was distant. Kathy was so glad that one of them was able to daydream.

"Just his," Blade answered finally, and Kathy's eyebrows went up for a moment before she remembered that it was smarter to be terrified.

Mr. Frost was apparently having the same thought. He roused far enough to cast Blade a half-surprised, half-scathing look, and then his attention was pulled away by the soft, somber ding of elevator doors opening. Beneath the patchwork of purple and green that marked up the side of his face he went the color of wet cement. "Uh, Blade-"

Blade heard the ding at the same time that Frost did, and his nerves were ready. He whirled to the side, as light and quick as any sword, giving Kathy an unobstructed view of the security team that had just poured out. 'Oh, thank Ch-'

La Magra was already being filed away in the archives as a failure and a fool's errand; there was no reason for anyone in vampire society to want Blade for more than an amusing conversation piece when his head was placed on a stick. At first glimpse of him, several of the vampire guards that poured from the elevator opened fire at once. He, expecting the hail, spun in time to avoid the largest share. A few cut through his coat, pinging off the Kevlar underneath with dull, disappointed sounds. The rest found their way into Kathy.

She was hurled back from the office chair, skirt riding up so that the creamy thighs that her superiors coveted so fiercely were exposed for all the world to see. There wasn't much left to covet any longer, as further bullets slammed into the retreating flesh, shattering bone and sending arterial spray cascading across her terminal.

'What?' Kathy had time to think in a disjointed, distracted way before the blood loss took her. 'What?'

The last sounds that Kathy heard were the distant booms of gunfire, the last sight she saw the bland, tastefully vaulted ceiling.

"Blade-" Deacon didn't know why the word was emerging from his mouth, but he figured he could understand the deep dread that was claiming his limbs just fine. A wolf pack, fierce and quick to turn on the weak, the fallen. Good for you if you dreamed big, but if you also failed big? So long, old hoss, and your were lucky if all you did was die. Amongst vampires, rebellious upstarts who didn't know their place need not apply.

Deacon needn't have bothered the warning. Blade was already spinning away from the danger even as the elevator doors slid open, sparks rising up from the back of his jacket as the bullets ricocheted off his armor. Nice to know that one of them was invincible. Deacon took several hasty, scrambling steps back, putting himself out of range. In the end, unnecessary. Just as it had been-was-for Deacon, for the vampires it was all about Blade. The receptionist took most of the bullets, her body jerking like a marionette held by an impatient child before she slid out of sight. Deacon waited for the coppery tang of blood to hit his nostrils, setting saliva into his mouth. When it didn't he felt something very similar to grief.

"The Daywalker!" one member of the security team shrieked. "Man, it's the fucking Daywalker!" Deacon's lips turned up. With troops like that, it was a wonder that vampire society was able to keep itself secret from three year-olds, let alone the majority of the human race.

Not that this particular idiot was going to be much of a concern to the ruling clans after today, as Blade's hand ducked up and fastened itself about the hilt of his sword as if he were reclaiming a lost body part. Two quick movements, up and out, and the vampire that was so small on brains and so big on mouth found himself missing a part of himself that he couldn't live without. The disembodied head gaped gruesomely about the room for a matter of seconds before it burst into cinder and ash.

And the fight was on.

The bank's security wasn't all as stupid as the one, explaining how they had managed to stay in business for so long without the building collapsing down around them. And Blade, for all that he gather legend about himself like a shroud, was only one man. One of the vampires swung his leg into a roundhouse kick, by some miracle of fortune and defiance of physics avoiding having his limb severed off at the knee. His boot struck Blade in the face, knocking his head to the side and sending an audible cracking echoing through the room as his teeth came together. Blade retained his grip on the sword, but lost the gun. It skittered across the surface of Kathy's desk and disappeared to keep her corpse company.

Blade shook his head, throwing off the blow, and went after the vampire that had delivered it. The rub gleam of blood dotted the corner of his mouth. The vampire lost both of his arms to Blade's hungry blade before he died, and the explosion of ash was incredible to see. It wasn't enough to deter the rest outright, but there was a certain hesitation in their steps after seeing two of their number reduced to fitting into ash trays in under ten seconds. Deacon took a look around him and saw wide-eyed faces peeking out of office windows, wearing much the same expressions as the vampires. One more notch added to the legend.

Watching Blade fight and for once not being on the receiving end, Deacon had the leisure to see Blade move and appreciate him for what he truly was: a highly tuned, smooth running machine designed solely to make other things dead. Stripped of all unnecessary fat or flesh, Blade appeared to be more mercury than man as he was in motion, whirling and striking and cutting with the grace of the weapon that he had been named for. Small wonder that Blade was desperate to hang onto everything he had that made him human; watching him made it clear that he had little enough as it was. What he did have, however, rendered him into perfection. Deacon supposed that it should come as a surprise to no one that he had become obsessed.

A bullet whinged by Deacon's neck, close enough for him to feel the heat and whistle. He jumped and spun, one hand clamping protectively, uselessly to his neck. A second bullet flew by, not so close as the first but still far closer than Deacon preferred for the strictest comfort. He swore and ducked. Well. It would appear that the wolf-pack analogy was proving to be more apt than he had anticipated.

Deacon turned, searching for the source of the shots. No small proposition, that, since it seemed that the lobby was bristling with firearms. Any business that hoped to make deals with vampires kept a large security force for just such unwanted attention; it was the reason that Deacon had chosen it. He had never imagined that there would come a day when the hostile attention was turned onto him. From golden boy to target practice in three easy steps. Hell of a world.

Deacon's would-be assassin wasn't difficult to pick out of the chaos. He made himself visible by virtue of being the only human in the room besides Deacon himself, as well as being the only one who looked less than one hundred percent predator. Deacon felt his lips part into a grin that for once didn't feel hysterical or forced. Felt pretty damned good, when you got right down to the nuts and bolts of it.

The grin did little to assure Deacon's wannabe killer, and the third shot went so far wide as to be ridiculous. Deacon spun towards the protective cover of Kathy's desk and ran for it, feeling the further whistle of bullets as the split the air around his body. He really hoped that the idiot managed to hit one of the vampires raging around him. It would take care of Deacon's problem for him and provide one hell of a fun show.

Cracked ribs and bruised bodies were not conducive to diving but Deacon gave it a shot anyway. A cry that he could not muffle in time flew past his lips and black spots danced invitingly before his eyes, but he held onto consciousness. Deacon's arm struck flesh, still obscenely warm and just beginning to develop the waxen corpse look which would soon overtake her entire body, and Deacon recoiled. The bullets had left Kathy's face untouched and she stared up at the ceiling with blank green eyes. There was a scarcely a hair out of place and her makeup was unmarred except for a single scarlet trail that broke the uniformity of her lipstick and trickled down her chin. She was Barbie waiting for her Ken and wondering when the hell her life had gone so wrong.

Deacon turned away from the corpse for reasons that he could not name and, more to the point, didn't want to, fumbling until his hand encountered the cool, lethal weight of the gun. He checked it to see if the safety was on, was unsurprised to see that the weapon didn't even have one. A fine craftsman, that Whistler.

Popping back over the counter caused nearly as many bruises to shriek as dropping behind it had. Deacon allowed the luxury of a string of obscenities which would have made a mill worker proud. It felt good all the same, the feeling of having a weapon in his hand, of being a weapon again. Fuck this humanity shit, real power belonged to the predators. That was a rule of fucking nature.

And speaking of nature, someone's life expectancy had just run to its termination point. The human had given Deacon up as either a lost cause or too inconsequential to bother with further and had joined the rest of the room in focusing his attentions on Blade. Blade, for his part, was returning the favor, going through vampires like a scythe through ripened wheat.

Deacon drew a bead on the shitty little human, his lips twisting up, and curled his finger around the trigger. He never saw it coming.

Because Deacon didn't shoot.

A malfunction of instruction occurred somewhere between his brain and his hand and the trigger didn't budge. Deacon lowered the gun a hair, feeling confused and lost. The boom of gunfire and the delicate swoosh of Blade's sword faded into background noises without meaning or context. "I'm not like them," Deacon growled to himself after several seconds, raising the gun again. His arm was steady; his finger jerked the trigger back on command.

A stray bullet tore through the human's throat seconds before Deacon's had the chance to, shredding flesh into a hole wide enough to put a child's fist through. The blood droplets hung suspended in the air like jewels before raining down on the marble, faint pattering sounds that Deacon thought might drive him insane. His bullet entered the man's skull as he was falling, tearing away his right eyebrow and rendering the orb beneath it into a pulpy, unrecognizable mess. The owner was far beyond caring.

Deacon's arm jerked to the left, found the vampire that had fired the first shot, and pulled the trigger. Silver filled hollow-points. The explosion of ash and cinder was really quite magnificent.

The clanging that Blade's gun made as it struck the countertop drowned out the sound of the gunfire for a span of seconds. Deacon stared at his hand as if it belonged to someone else and had grafted itself onto his body without his consent or knowledge. 'The greatest sin of any species is to kill its own kind,' a voice that Blade didn't recognize, but suspected was the voice of his long-dead and longer reviled father, whispered through his mind. He took a shaky step back.

Deacon's foot came down on Kathy's hand, slender and fragile and warm somehow even through the sole of his boot, and at the sound of breaking bone he came close to leaping out of his skin.

Welcome to the cattle yard.

The damned fool was going to get them both killed. Blade had been watching Frost from the corner of his eye as he fought, seeing the first shot, the second, and the stunned look that followed. More than merely deer in the headlights, it was the look of the deer that had for the longest time believed itself to be the driver of the car and was just now learning the awful truth.

Blade stabbed an encroaching vampire with one of his stakes, then used the palm of his hand to drive the point all the way through. The vampire died with a gasp and a shriek, and Blade caught the stake before it clattered to the ground. He repeated the process once, twice; the money was no longer the issues nearly so much as getting out alive was. The bank had a great many secrets that it would like to keep hidden from the general public. As a result, it had a great many people who were willing to kill to keep those secrets. Blade had only himself. Though every blow connected and brought the sound of breaking bone and bruising flesh to Blade's ears, a symphony, it was time to go.

But not without everything that he had come with.

Blade drove his boot into a vampire's neck hard enough to make the spine snap like stale spaghetti. The vermin dropped to the floor, head tilted at an unnatural angle, and Blade dropped along with him to finish the job. He rose with ash clinging to the sweat droplets on his skin.

With no one quite daring to approach after that spectacle, Blade placed one hand on the receptionist's desk and vaulted over, having to do a last minute scramble in mid-air to avoid landing on the body on the over side. Not that she had it in her to particularly care; the woman was about as dead as she could be without having yet become stiff. But Blade liked to respect those that had died honest deaths when he could.

Frost had reclaimed Blade's gun, but was allowing it to dangle precariously from slack fingers. Blade swooped it up, feeling the sticky-slick warmth that coated the handle. Going to be a bitch to clean it.

"Hers," Frost said, sounding as if the words were being radioed to him by a broadcaster far away. "It was lying in it." His expression was tight and disturbed, a computer that was trying to reboot itself but continually found a fatal flaw within the system.

Blade nodded once and, for one of only a handful of times in his life, found himself hesitating. It would be quicker to travel without Frost; it would be more just to kill him outright or leave him for the vampires to do it.

The smell of blood was heavy to the point of inducing nausea and the wave of police sirens began to make themselves heard, though still several blocks away. Things had gone very badly for the bank today; unless the security team could provide a body or two that wasn't one of their own it was likely that somebody was going to die. Blade told himself that it was only because he didn't want to make things easier on the vermin that he wrapped his fingers back around Frost's bicep, where he could imagine grooves were being worn into the flesh. He may still prove useful yet.

"Get moving," Blade growled into Frost's ear. The computer, finally receiving a command that it could make sense of, nodded shakily and stepped over the cooling corpse. Frost stumbled a little as he rounded the desk and had to brace his hand against the marble to save himself, a very human move. Blade followed at a close distance, trying to cover all of the considerable number of vampires at once. There was a lift of pride within his chest when he realized that there had been twice the number minutes before.

The leeches were largely unwilling to attack again. Once the word of their failure reached the upper echelons of the bank board, some of them were going to die. If they attacked, they were all dust in the wind. Pragmatism above honor every time.

Blade kept an eye on Frost until he made it out the door unmolested, not knowing why he watched and troubled by the fact. He took out his indecision by spinning on the remaining vampires and firing several shots. Head, heart, head without a single miss, and warm sunshine kissed his face as he stepped into it.

Frost hadn't tried to run. It occurred to Blade that at this point he probably had nowhere else to run to with his brand-new pulse. Frost's worst enemy was now his best hope, and Blade wondered if Frost was appreciating the irony as much as he was.

"Nice exit," Frost commented. Blade pictured a snake with its venom sacs removed, still trying to pretend that its bite was dangerous. Some of the color had come back into Frost's face, but his complexion was still mostly that of unfired clay.

"Seemed appropriate." The sirens were much closer now, close enough to make Blade acutely aware of how little time they had to stop and chat. The initial gunshots had frightened most people away, but New York resilience and simple human curiosity was calling them back. "Get to the car."

If Frost wanted out, this was his chance. The streets were too crowded and the police were too close for Blade to force Frost along if he didn't want to go. There was always the option of killing Frost outright, which still held no small amount of appeal, but Blade found that his hand wasn't calling out for the sword or the gun like it normally would at such thoughts.

Frost turned towards where the car was parked without comment, and the question became moot.

Frost slid into the passenger seat, folded his arms over his chest, and closed his eyes. The circles beneath them were as dark as secrets, the deep purple color of plums ready to be pulled down from the tree. His pulse was beating visibly and erratically in his throat.

Blade inserted the key into the ignition, listening as the big engine greeted him with a roar before he pulled away from the curb. Neither of them spoke.

Blade's skin was itching and he was acutely aware of the beat-beat-beat of the blood moving through his veins by the time he pulled the car in close to the curb at Octavius's. The shop was still open, as he had known it would be. After all, Blade was the prize customer. Frost, eyes still closed and to all appearances trying to appear as if any world other than the world on the backs of his lids did not exist, he left in the car.

Octavius was going over the books when Blade entered. He glanced up as the bell above the door rang, gave a brief, unconcerned nod, and went back to making notations in his ledger. His fingers were clenching the pen tightly enough to turn his knuckles the color of opals. "Hey, man. Figured I'd see you sooner than this."

Octavius would spot a lie on him like some men could spot spare change on the sidewalk. Blade didn't bother to try. "Been seeing how long I could go."

Octavius shook his head. "Dangerous. You fly over the edge, ain't no telling what it'll take to bring you back-"

"Not your problem, is it?" It was nearly a shout, harsher than he had intended. The words hung between them and demanded apology.

Octavius gave him a look. "Nope," he said, "not unless you come after the rest of us." Rebuke delivered, he turned and began pulling bottles down off shelves. "I got some new stuff," he said over his shoulder. "Tell Whistler when he makes your serum-"

"I'm making the serum now."

Octavius froze and turned. His eyes were both sympathetic and guarded. "I'm sorry, man."

Blade shook his head. "Borrowed time." He reached into his duster and flicked out a roll of bills.

Octavius started, as if he wanted to protest but knew better. "The new stuff's strong," he said instead. "When you mix the serum, only mix half as much the first time, see how your body takes it before you try more. The new stuff should cut down on the burn."

"Thanks." Blade laid the bills down on the counter and realized that Octavius was no longer watching him. Turning, he followed the other man's gaze until it terminated with Frost's profile, outlined against the window of the car.

"That who I think it is?" Octavius asked in a low, strained voice. "Man, are you crazy?"

"Nope." Blade threw an extra bill down on the pile. "Just a stray."

Octavius shook his head. "You ARE nuts. Your ass, man."

"That, too." Blade gathered up the bottles. "See you in a few days."

"Do me a favor." Octavius gathered up the money. "Leave the stray behind."

Frost slitted his eyes open as Blade reentered the car but otherwise did not move. His body was taut, snugged tightly against the passenger door. In all likelihood he was expecting Blade to shoot him, and when Blade searched his mind he could find no rational reason not to. Frost had spent the last several decades happily spilling blood, enough so that the most lenient jury in the nation would smile as they put the needle in his arm. He was a monster, a mother-killer, a wolf feasting among the sheep.

A new human, a neutralized threat and maybe-asset.

Blade swore and threw the car into gear violently enough to make something under the hood scream. Frost tensed to the edge of flinching and Blade wondered why he was still there, what he hoped to gain.

"So what next?" Frost asked, staring out the windshield.

"Hell," Blade grunted. "I haven't killed you yet. Go from there."

Deacon hadn't planned on being back in Blade's factory unless it was as a victor or a pile of ash. Humanity added a whole new dimension to the equation. The engine ticked slowly, cooling, as he stepped out of the car, craning his neck to take everything in as if he had seen none of it before. In the most fundamental of ways, he hadn't. It was dimmer than he remembered, the sounds muted and the smells practically nonexistent. Hints of gasoline and cigarette smoke, that was all, when two days before he had been able to catch blood and sweat and rage/fear, well-kept leather and the clean, deadly tang of silver. If this was the blessing of humanity, living their entire lives like people underwater, then they could have it back.

Blade slid from the driver's seat and slammed the door in his wake, not speaking to Deacon and barely looking at him. Detached Blade was almost worse than Homicidal Blade. That man Deacon had at least been able to read, to gauge the directions of his attacks and influence their outcome. This Blade had no emotional hooks for Deacon to slip his fingers into and find purchase, not even rage, and as a result Deacon was left drifting.

For want of anything better to do he followed Blade through the warehouse, past machinery that he didn't recognize and doubted if Blade could name. From wolf to puppy on a string; it was great. Deacon told himself that it was a temporary situation, born of necessity and the odd fact that Blade no longer seemed enthusiastic about ripping him apart with his bare hands, and Deacon was so tired. It was good enough; he would make it good enough.

Blade ignored Deacon entirely, going to one of the lab tables that Karen had left behind and unloading his purchases. Silver, essence of garlic, more bottles that Deacon couldn't name, and he realized with a faint surprise that Blade was preparing his serum. Every vampire in the nation would pay dearly to know the name of Blade's supplier. Enough to turn Deacon, restore him to what he had been? Probably not; his mind moved on.

"Where will they go?"

What? Deacon tugged his eyes back from where they had been roaming about the warehouse with a tourist's interest, realizing too late that he had asked the question out loud.

"The vampires," Blade elaborated, and there was just a shade of his old menace curling through his voice. So good to know that they were back on familiar ground. The ice beneath Deacon's feet was beginning to feel decidedly thin. "The ones that are rushing out of the city," Blade's upper lip curled, "like rats. Where will they run to?" His voice didn't sound like a threat as he asked. Deacon wasn't sure what it sounded like: curious, testing, a little wary. The ice made a creaking sound.

Deacon shrugged, realizing that he hadn't given the idea any thought. "Europe and Asia, most likely. The American council's gone. There goes their protection. If you've scared them badly enough, they'll head for home. The old country." Blade nodded as if he were merely receiving the confirmation of news he had already intuited. Why ask, then? Deacon turned away, comparing his mental map of the place with the one he was making with his new senses and finding the new immeasurably wanting. He glanced over to the chair where Quinn had left Whistler's body. There were still bloodstains on the floor. Deacon averted his eyes quickly, for reasons that he didn't like and couldn't name. The world tilted for a moment, and not because of any concussion.

Blade was watching him once Deacon had regained his equilibrium enough to turn back, his eyes hooded and unreadable. Deacon lifted his chin a notch and refused to look away again as Blade drove the needle full of his serum into his neck. Blade clenched his fingers around the edge of the table until his knuckles turned creamy-pale, bowing his head. Those broad shoulders shook with tension hard enough to make the table quiver and the vials still on it rattle ominously, but Blade himself did not make a sound. Deacon witnessed it without comment, feeling like a scientist sitting down to view an experiment with neither pleasure nor compassion.

Small beads of sweat were standing out on Blade's neck by the time it was finished, and Deacon asked, "Does it hurt?" No one was more surprised than he to hear the lack of acid in his voice as he asked, or the corresponding lack in Blade's as he answered.

"Always. Not like it used to." Blade began to put the instruments away with a surgeon's care that was so unlike his usual heavy-handed violence as to belong to a different person.

"Why do it?" The second question was out of Deacon's mouth before he could catch it and douse with vitriol, one more thing taken from him to swirl away into the void.

Blade flicked him a look, dark and measuring. Whatever answer he saw etched into Deacon's face wasn't enough to make the violence bleed from him, but it held it in check. "Something to hold on to."

Deacon nodded as if he understood, caught himself wishing in a desperate moment that he did. Blade had been human for longer than Deacon; maybe there was an allure that he had been separated from for so long that his brain refused to settle back into its patterns, like a dog gone so homicidally feral that no amount of kindness or pleading was ever going to lure it back. More was the pity for Deacon, because he was slowly coming to the realization, as bone-deep as cancer and every bit as insidious, that this was the end of the line as far as his forays into vampirism were concerned. He was completely, irreversibly human, that big old wheel of karma come full circle at last, and somebody Upstairs had to be getting a giggle or ten out of the ass-kicking that it was giving him. The world tilted again. Deacon gripped the edge of the table to steady himself, stepped closer to Blade without realizing it, and so missed the dangerous, speculative look that Blade cast him in return.

Something to hold onto. Something that could be simplified and understood, tasted and seen and touched, and Deacon still didn't understand, but he thought with a little work he could fake it. He inclined his head until his mouth caught Blade's. Vampire aggression caught within a human's body, gasoline begging for a match or at least a bullet, and you didn't get much more simple and primal than that. Deacon wasn't certain which reaction he was going for, reciprocation or violence, but one way or another the uncertainty that buzzed and tore at him was going to stop.

Which was of course why Blade gave him neither, not immediately. The other man took one shocked breath of air and Deacon braced himself for impact, nearly jumping out of his skin when all that happened was Blade placing his hand upon the nape of Deacon's neck. Big hand, firm and oddly gentle in a way that didn't do the bad-ass reputation any justice, no more than did the curious, way look in Blade's eyes as he pulled back, searching Deacon's face. Deacon didn't know what he was looking for there and didn't particularly care. This was territory he knew. This was territory he could control. He leaned in again.

Blade neither halted Deacon nor encouraged him, standing like a great marble statue that had somehow been gifted with thought. Warmer than stone, though. So much warmer. It had been an age since Deacon had felt heat like that, the steady thump-thump of a human heart through deceptively delicate skin. Deacon flicked his tongue lightly through Blade's lips, got the faintest of moaning sighs in return.

Blade reacted finally, a sound that was half-oath and half-growl tumbling from his mouth and rumbling against Deacon's lips. In the unnatural silence that reigned over the warehouse it sounded like the purr of a cat, and Deacon felt his mouth part into a grin that must have appeared more than a little crazed. Lucky for him, Blade didn't seem to be too interested in his mental state. He parted Deacon's lips with his tongue, lighting every nerve in his mouth on fire with a concentration and arrogance that made Deacon want to laugh and swear both. It had been a long time, but at some point Blade had been good at this. Desperation went to obsession went to lust in less time that it took for Deacon to draw in a full breath, and they were standing close enough to each other for him to feel that he wasn't the only one.

Blade cupped Deacon's face with his palm, tracing his thumb over the purple and green bruise that marked his wounded cheek, so vivid that it seemed alive. Deacon hissed and turned his face away, but Blade went easy, skating his fingers across the flesh in a touch so light that Deacon might have imagined it. It didn't fit the image of Blade as a deadly avenging angel that Deacon had held in his mind for so long, jangled discordantly against the simplicity that he was fighting so hard to get back, wasn't what he wanted.

Deacon bit down on Blade's lower lip hard enough to draw blood, heat and salty-sweetness that he licked away before he could stop himself. He felt Blade start beneath his mouth, followed by a growl and what might have even been a smile. Blade broke contact between their mouths but allowed their foreheads to keep touching: Deacon's sweat mingling with his.

"Like that, huh?" Blade asked, his voice pitched so low that it scarcely sounded human.

"Like that," Deacon agreed, arching his neck and moaning like a whore as Blade's blunt teeth marked up the side of his neck, as his hand found the front of Deacon's jeans and made sure that his attention didn't wander.

They made it to the bed eventually.

It was sunlight falling in softly insistent rays through the dirty windowpanes that woke Deacon. He squinted and raised his palm to shield his eyes, unsurprised to find himself in the bed alone. It wasn't large enough to sleep two comfortably, and Blade had probably felt the need to absolve himself of his sins by killing something after they had finished doing those things which were definitely not sleeping.

Deacon rolled and stretched, feeling the tug of wounded muscles from equal parts injury and unexpected exertion. The gnawing, buzzing feeling of a horde of insects settling into his brain was still there, greatly muted: shock rather than impending insanity. Deacon could almost pretend that it was the sound of a radio that someone had forgotten to turn off, tuned to a station so long gone that all it picked up any longer was static. Moldering equipment, air going quietly stale in the sound booth, now there was an image that he needed to wake up to.

Deacon swore low enough for only himself to hear it as he swung his legs over the side of the bed. Waves of startled gooseflesh crawled up his arms and legs as his bare feet made contact with the cement floor. So sex hadn't fixed all of his problems. Gee, now there was a lesson that hadn't been repeated about eighty billion times throughout the course of human history.

The bathroom had seen better decades, but the water that poured forth from the showerhead was hot and there was a seemingly endless supply of it. Deacon stood beneath the spray until the room was filled with thick detective-novel fog and the outline of his body had grown soft and indistinct. Deacon rested his forehead against the damp tile and felt the water striking against his back, easing out knots of physical and emotional tension both. The buzzing was drowned out by the sound of the water, and for that Deacon was grateful.

The steam parted for Deacon as he stepped back into the bedroom like doors opening for a king. He snorted. It would be a hell of a long time before he was the king of anything again.

Deacon pulled his clothes back on and stumbled out, pushing his damp hair out of his eyes. He needed to eat, he needed sleep that didn't paint blood across the inside of his eyelids, he needed the entire fucking world to stop spinning long enough for him to figure out which way was up again. Barring that, he went outside.

The sun was close to its zenith, so large and bright that to look at it for too long invited retinal damage. Deacon gave it his best shot, anyway, squinting and blinking until dangerous flowers blossomed before his eyes, hanging in the air even after he had looked away. All for this, Deacon thought. For this deadly, unquenchable light Blade was willing to fight, kill, die. It didn't make any sense, and Deacon didn't know which was worse: the fact that he didn't understand it or the fact that someday he might.

Deacon took a seat amongst the assorted detritus that littered the outside of the warehouse, bracing his back against a long-deceased piece of machinery. The sun warmed his face and busily began the business of turning yesterday's burn into a tan. Another couple of days and the whey-pale tone of his skin, one of the last physical signs to mark that he had once been vampire, would be gone.

'Fuck, I'm going to be just like them,' Deacon thought, leaning his head back against the metallic corpse and closing his eyes. It wasn't as depressing as it had been twenty-four hours before, and that in itself was depressing.

The hum of a car engine approached the warehouse. Behold, the return of the triumphant hero. Deacon kept his eyes closed, arms clasped loosely about his bent knees, and listened to the crunch of gravel as Blade parked the car and got out. And now the world could begin making a return to its accustomed patterns. Deacon wondered which one of them would strike the other one first.

The faint crunch of rocks beneath Blade's boots betrayed his approach; nevertheless, Deacon nearly missed the object that was thrown at him. He got it inches before it would have struck him in the face, opening his eyes and staring down at the folds of down-filled fabric. A heavy parka, meant for the tundra, North Dakota, other places where no sane human being would ever want to set foot. If there was a unifying connection here, Deacon wasn't making it. He looked up at Blade, line appearing between his eyes. "The fuck is this for?"

Blade's expression didn't change, but now Deacon knew that it could, and the realization gave him a strange sense of power. "Russia," Blade said.


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