Title: This Mortal Coil
Author: Piper Sargasso
Author's page: https://www.fanfiction.net/u/316218/
Written: 07/19/2004
Please stop by here to offer the author feedback https://www.fanfiction.net/s/1523124/1/
Category: X-Files
Genre: Supernatural/Drama
Disclaimer: Recognizable characters within belong to 1013 productions. No infringement intended.

Words: 48297
Rating: R/NC-17
Summary: What does this mean?"
"It's exactly what it looks like, Scully. This is why I don't want you to find me."
"A vampire," I whispered, stunned and disbelieving.

Archivist's Warning: This story is an unfinished WIP that is likely never to be completed. Read on with this in mind.


Chapter One

October 23, 1997
2:11 am

I was running, faster and further than I ever had before, through the woods, shrouded by a darkness even the moon wouldn't touch.

The idea of outrunning them was ridiculous, to say the least. They knew exactly where I was at every moment. They always would - from now until eternity.

The wind tore through my hair, ripping my lungs in two. How could I have been so stupid? My mind flashed, unbidden, to the hour before. The six of them, dressed in all black as they knelt in a semi-circle around me. The one called Julian holding me in his luminous green gaze, paralyzed and helpless to ward him off as he bent to latch onto my wrist.

The worst part was – I didn't want to stop him. The lure of life everlasting and all the freedom it brought was far too tempting. Never once did the consequences cross my mind.

Scully.

The thought of not ever seeing her again tore at my heart. She could never see me, never know the monster that I'd become. She wasn't even safe in my presence anymore.

I slowed to a stop as the burning in my dry veins coursed through me. My knowledge of The Gift was very little, but the crippling gnaw of my stomach, bending me over in pain, instinctively told me what Julian didn't have to ...

It was time to feed.


Hoover Building
October 23, 1997
11:24 am

The news from Skinner was bleak, as was the expression on his face when he told me that Mulder was still missing. I felt sick. Not only sick, but – lost, somehow. Deep inside of me, there was an emptiness that I couldn't explain. It drowned out even the fear and anxiety over my partner's last disappearing act.

I knew something was different this time.

Skinner's hand on mine and a quiet, but heartfelt, "We'll find him, Agent." I didn't believe him. I'd never felt this before, but I sensed there was no inexplicable return for Mulder this time, no miracle to bring him back to us. None of these things that had made everything okay before, after all of Albert Hosteen's help.

A strange numbness overcame me as I realized the truth, obvious only to me.

Mulder was dead.

I somehow made it to the basement office. A heavy blanket of acceptance laid claim to me and I looked around at my settings. Files, hundreds of them and every one important as life to Mulder, sat in piles all around. Filing cabinets, chairs, tables and shelves held them in the ready, awaiting the day that someone would rescue them from obscurity and knock off the dust with page-turning fingers. His desk, a haven for lost paperwork and forgotten sunflower seed husks, with the evidence of his boredom above it, mere holes in the ceiling.

Someday, some unlucky agent was going to walk in here and wonder what the hell he'd done to deserve this assignment. Maybe he'd come up with interesting stories of how those holes got to be there, when things were slow and he needed to fill the time. Maybe he'd think, if only in passing, of the man who'd occupied this chair before him, analyzing the surroundings created by the infamous Spooky Mulder. He'd wonder what drove him, what compelled him to be locked away in the bowels of the Hoover Building with the dark and crawling things, even as the job slowly sucked him in, as it did me. Maybe, just maybe, he'd wake up one day and realize that the X-Files had become his life. He'll forget what life was all about before.

He'd never know Mulder. He'd never figure out the man who'd hung the ridiculous UFO poster near his desk or left slides scattered out in some mad method of organization only he knew the reason to.

I wanted to protect Mulder from this exposure. I wanted to pack all his things and move them into my spare bedroom, set up a shrine where he'd always live. To me, he always will.

I rose to grab an empty copy-paper box. They wouldn't have anything left to analyze once I got through. I gathered the most important items; the picture of Samantha, his personal notes in the top desk drawer, snapshots of us on cases, taken by crime photographers. I never heard the door open as I carefully took the poster down from the wall to add it to the top of the nearly full box.

"Scully." Skinner's voice sliced through the dead silence of the room. He took hold of my arms and turned me to face him. "Scully, you can't do this."

I looked at him blankly, not comprehending the words he spoke.

His eyes softened and tears that would not fall gathered there. He was no stronger than I. "Dana," he said gently, "you have to leave all this here. There's an investigation. It's evidence."

I refused to register the pained expression on his face, that he suspected the worst, too. I couldn't bring myself to care about his sadness or the pain Mrs. Mulder would feel once she knew the same truth I knew without a doubt. I couldn't feel anything for anyone else; not when the miserable ache overpowered my strange resolve and one word echoed in my head, over and over, like the beat of a techno song:

Evidence.


October 23, 1997
2:36 am

I saw it, about forty yards ahead. It came into my view even before the moon peeked out from the behind the ghostly clouds that surrounded the orb to reveal itself to me. A house, dark and dilapidated, stood silent as a sentry guarding its post. I walked as if on air, over the stairs and across the threshold. Inside, the place was remarkably untouched. It was likely too far out for transients and forgotten by anyone who may have once lived nearby. White sheets covered the furniture and wall hangings, protecting them from the dust settling from a time long gone.

I jerked one off a long object in front of the fireplace, hoping it was a couch and pleased to find that it was. The cloud of dirt and dust that came from the sheet rose in the air from the sudden intrusion, enough to send a flurry of particles in front of me, had no affect on my newly strengthened lungs.

I lowered myself down on the couch. It was strange, but I could feel every inch of my body dance with grace. Every action, no matter how clumsy before, was elegant. I'd already grown accustomed to carrying myself with poise – it came so naturally and with no thought or effort.

Time was different. Instead of the passing of hours, the night passed with tiny moments. Even the night was changed, the gift bringing a luminescent glow to it. The world looked and felt and smelled alive.

I sat and pondered this, my belly full and veins rushing with the blood of a deer I'd fed on earlier. It was frightening – the speed and deftness of the action. Effortless. It was as if I'd done it before.

Sated and bewitched, I allowed my thoughts to drift.

As always, they drifted to home - to Scully. There was nothing in the world that didn't hold a fascinating desire for me now. I was like a kid in a toy store – I wanted to touch and feel everything I laid eyes on. But none of it was worth anything without her.

And she never knew, couldn't ever find out what she meant to me. What she still means to me. She's an angel, one of God's creatures. Angels can't love the fallen.

I wanted to cry, to weep into the night and curse at the sky for my misguided choices. I wanted to, but couldn't. Vampires can't cry.

Sunrise has a sound. It crackles softly, warning of its arrival. Instinctively, I felt its warmth through the roof and walls of the house even as the whisper of the sun made its way to my highly sensitized ears. I had to take shelter and fast. It would be here in about five minutes.

In moments, I found the door to the cellar. It would be a suitable refuge from the sun's deadly rays. I crawled into the furthest corner and curled up into a tight ball, willing myself not to think about Scully.

Merciful darkness claimed me.


Dana Scully's Apartment
October 23, 1997
3:57 pm


October 23, 1997
4:16 pm

I was running through the forest again, so fast my feet never seemed to touch the ground. She was like a beacon in the night, guiding me to the shore safely, saving me from myself with her righteous glow.

"Scully." I heard myself wail out, a pitiful sound that was foreign to my ears.

I could see her running just ahead, out of reach. Always out of my reach. Sorrow wracked my body with the power of my unshed tears. The scene shifted, and suddenly, I was in her bedroom. Tossing restlessly atop the comforter was Scully. She looked troubled, frowning in her sleep. A tiny moan escaped her lips.

"Mulder."

Then, we were back in the forest, only this time she was no longer running from me. The trees created a canopy above us, enshrouding us in dark sanctuary.

"What is this place?" she asked with wonder as she stood before me and looked around.

"I don't know," I answered. "You brought us here."

She seemed confused by that. I raised my hand to lightly stroke her cheek. Her skin shone with such an inner light I expected it to feel like marble, cold and unyielding. But it was soft. Delicate. Just as I'd always pictured it.

She leaned into my touch. "Mulder, you're dead. You left me here all alone." Tears shone in her eyes. They sparkled in the light of the moon.

Shaking my head softly, I answered, "No, Scully. You're wrong."

She didn't answer, didn't pull back from me. We suddenly found ourselves in a cemetery. Impossibly, it held the headstones of all the loved ones we had lost. Her father. Melissa. Dad. A tiny stone marked Emily's grave. To the left, another stood with a cherub statue holding a pitcher. Samantha's name was emblazoned on the front.

She took my hand and we walked amongst the dead, quiet and respectful. She led me to the last in the row, next to my sister's. On it, the name Fox Mulder was engraved. Date of birth, month and year of death.

She pointed to it.

"See?" she asked.

I nodded that I understood. As with Samantha, she thought I was dead. I pulled her small body into my arms and looked into her eyes. If only for a fleeting moment, she needed to know the truth.

"Don't believe it, Scully. I'm not dead – not the way you think."

An invisible gust of wind swirled around us. It was disorienting, blinding me with its force as I felt myself being separated from Scully.

The next thing I felt was the cold floor of the cellar beneath my cheek.


Dana Scully's Apartment
October 23, 1997
7:05 pm

I woke with a start.

It had been so vivid, so real I imagined I could still feel his hot breath upon my face and the smell of pine in my hair.

"I'm not dead – not the way you think."

I never would have believed or trusted it, if it weren't for the feeling of deja vu that plagued me. I recalled a similar dream, not so very long ago. We'd found him then. Maybe we'd find him now.

I wasn't even sure I was meant to remember the dream, but I did and I felt a renewed sense of hope, no matter how small and dull.

7:06 pm.

I felt disoriented and out of touch with the rest of the world, like Sleeping Beauty after the curse was broken.

Skinner was gone. Lazily shuffled steps into the living room confirmed this. I wondered how long he'd stuck around. A trip to the espresso machine in the kitchen told of how he'd passed the time. A coffee cup in the sink and a fresh trashcan liner, along with the TV remote out of place were the only evidence of his presence in my apartment.

I poured the dark brew into the sink, watching the steam as it rose from the drain. There was no way I was going to be able to go back to sleep – not after that.

Tossing on the clothes I wore earlier, I headed for Mulder's apartment.


October 23, 1997
7:05 pm

I was not alone.

Against the far wall, leaned Julian. It was incredible, the way I could see his dark hair curling slightly around his angelic face, the strong line of his jaw - all without the aid of light. He exuded an air of superiority, a clashing contrast with his Michelangelo body.

His smirk was pissing me off.

"How long have you been standing there?" I demanded.

A soft chortle, then, "Long enough, my friend. Did you think I wouldn't find you?"

I could feel my eyes narrow. I'd known Julian for less than a week, but already I knew his penchant for playing games. He'd let me go on purpose, allowing me to think that I'd escaped him, escaped his colony of fiends. But I'd known from the beginning that he'd marked me for his own and I would never escape him.

"Leave me here. I need time."

He shook his head as if placating a willful child, crossing the room to stand before me in the blink of an eye. Just as quickly, his hand reached to stroke my face. "Your place is with me, Fox. Not here, in this rat- infested hole, dreaming about that woman."

I jerked out of his repulsive caress. "Don't call me Fox," I spat between clenched teeth, glaring at him as the blood of the slain doe rushed and swirled violently in my ears. I hated this man. If it were the last thing I do – if it were to destroy me -- I would find a way to kill him.

A flash of emerald fury passed over his eyes, then he smiled indulgently. "Ah, but you are like the fox. You are a predator, stalking the night for your prey. It's why I reached into that beautiful and complex heart of yours and plucked you from mediocrity. I sensed your true nature, Fox. Beautiful and deadly and free. It's why I chose you for my own."

"I want no part of it, Julian. Hunting the helpless, resorting to preying on people's emotions – I won't do it."

The smirk on his face faded. "You should've thought of that before, my friend." He crossed the cellar to stand at the foot of the stairs, the movement too fast to be detected by the human eye. The arrogant smirk returned.

"You have one week, Fox. Live here in squalor, if you like." His eyebrow rose as he looked around at my accommodations, dramatically sweeping his hand at the scene. "Do what is necessary to adjust. I'll be here to collect you when your time is up."

I glared at him in defiance, to which he only grinned wider.

"Do not upset either of us by trying to run; you know I'll find you, no matter where you are. I made you, Fox. I can smell you."

Without warning, he was gone.


Fox Mulder's Apartment
October 23, 1997
8:34 pm

The search started out with a dim optimism; me, with the faint glimmer of hope feeding my anxiety. He was out there, somewhere, alive. The answer was lying under my nose – I could feel it. I had only to uncover it.

I spent the rest of that night in Mulder's apartment, searching for something, anything that had been overlooked by the investigating agents earlier. I frowned to see the same careless job executed in his home as I would later see in his office. His computer was missing, as were some of his papers. My search yielded no results. That is, until my eyes locked on the blank notebook pad lying on the kitchen table.

Mulder presses hard when he writes. Using the grade-school detective technique of rubbing a pencil lightly over the indentions, I was able to reveal a page of notes. It appeared he was profiling a vampire cult, one that he'd never bothered to tell me about. I cursed him for taking off without me again and getting himself into trouble. There was no address or indicator of the location of any kind. Just seemingly random words on a piece of paper, spelling out his unconventional thoughts. It read like the synopsis for a Dracula B-movie.

I studied the paper, almost willing it to explain itself to me. Finally, when my eyes were so strained and my vision became too blurry to concentrate, I sat the notebook down and curled up on Mulder's couch. The faint scent of him that lingered on the pillow and throw were comforting in an odd way.

Silently, I hoped to see him in my dreams.


October 23, 1997
7:29 pm

I stared at the base of the steps where Julian had just been, feeling a sense of dread like I'd never known before come over me.

One week.

One week was all I had left, and then I would be his property. One week until I would become a fiend like him and his pack of fledgling groupies. Seven precious nights until I would be systematically stripped of any lingering humanity I might possess.

I had to get out of there.

By scent alone, I was able to find a small lake, hidden by a dense copse of trees in the woods. The hunger welled up inside me, but was manageable for the time being. I was drawn by the radiant power of the full moon, feeling for the first time, its pull. It was like the gravitational pull of the ocean, tugging at you as the water draws in for another wave when you stand at the edge. Only I felt it constantly.

I sat on the shore, marveling at the sounds of nature. Frogs and owls, wolves and crickets – all singing in perfect harmony, each voice complimenting the next. I'd never heard it so clearly before. It was amazing.

I wished that Scully could be with me. She would love being surrounded by all this, with nothing threatening our lives to mar the experience. I wanted to hold her like I never could in life, kiss her under the stars. Would she hate me? Would she be disgusted by what I'd become? Scully was raised Catholic and her beliefs ran deep and strong. She would know I was damned. How could she love something that wasn't even a man anymore?

A rustle in the brush snapped me into reality. Another deer. I supposed I could wipe out an entire herd, if I wanted to. The thought sickened me. I had it in me to play God. Imagining that power was terrifying, especially when I thought of Julian and his gang of savages.

I pounced on the large buck before he even had time to react, filling my veins with his rich and tangy blood. As long as I sustained myself on the blood of animals, I would be okay. There was no need to take a human life.

Jesus, I wish I never came here.


Hoover Building
October 24, 1997
9:12

The next morning, I went through the motions, careful not to let my thoughts become too hopeful or my expression to become too hopeless. There was a balance between the two that I knew I must maintain, even as I wondered just who it was I was trying to fool.

Only one person interrupted my solitude and that was Skinner, demanding to know why I was at work. I put on my best "piss off" face and calmly informed him of my desire to be included in the investigative team on Mulder's case. He grumbled about personal involvement, to which I countered by ticking off all the previous cases where I was personally invested. There was no way in hell I was going to be left out in the cold on this one; I knew it, he knew it.

A silent standoff, then the nod of his head and he was gone, leaving me in peace.

The poster was back in its place, behind me on the wall. All around me, files and papers were in disarray, the handiwork of a virtual tossing by agents on the case with as much class and finesse as a second-rate thug. I went about the room, putting things back in the preordained order Mulder liked, silently wondering if I'd ever be able to find files in a normal office setting again. Our method had come to make a sort of sense to me

I looked at my watch. 9:30. The team assigned to investigate Mulder's disappearance would be convening now. Glancing down at the bagged notebook pad, I wondered what the boys upstairs would make of it. Doubtful they'd even understand it. I smiled ruefully at that and left the room, shutting the door tightly behind me. The brisk walk to the conference room did little to clear my head of the jumbled thoughts running through it.

Kimberly stopped her stride to give me an understanding smile, one of those tight-lipped ones that always accompany a tilt of the head and an almost pained expression. I ignored it and nodded politely in greeting, passing by her to enter the room she'd just left.

Six agents sat in chairs around the conference desk. Skinner looked up in surprise and the room fell silent. He quickly walked over to my side, grasping my elbow in his hand.

"Scully, what are you doing here?"

I pulled myself up to my height's fullest potential, staring up into his face and replied, "I'm a part of this investigation, Sir, and I expect to be at every one of these meetings."

He pulled me toward the door, out of the other agents' earshot and lowered his voice. "I want you to go home and rest. You can return tomorrow."

I shook my head vehemently. "No, Sir. This is where I need to be."

His eyes bore into mine, brooking no argument from me even as I tried to stand my ground.

"Where you need to be, Agent, is at home. You're a mess, Scully, and you're no use to me this way. Go home and get some sleep. That's an order."

I shoved the rubbing into his hand. "Here. You make sense of this." I spat, then walked out the door without so much as a backward glance. I was too angry to care what he thought of my behavior. The time for bullshit was over. If Mulder was going to be found, it was going to have to be by me.

I climbed into my car, copy of the rubbing in my briefcase, and looked at the side mirror out of habit. Skinner was right; I looked a mess. My eyes were swollen and bloodshot with dark rings giving a bruised color to the puffiness that clung beneath them in semi-circles. My skin looked paler than usual, devoid of the healthy color it once had. I traced a finger slowly over my features, not recognizing myself.

Mulder would be found. He had to be.


It was a quiet lake, smoothed over from the absence of wind. He was standing there, hands in his pockets as he stared out at the tranquil water. The stars hovered above like fireflies, suspended in midair for all eternity.

Slowly, he turned.

"I hoped you'd be here," he said. I stepped to his side, taking in the scenery. We stood in silence.

He turned his head to face me, looking down into my eyes with a sad smile. "I wanted you to see this, Scully."

I took his hand and smiled back. He looked lost to me, so unlike the man I'd known for all these years. I wondered where he'd been, what had happened to him.

"I have to see you again, Mulder. I need to know you're alive."

He shook his head slowly and looked away, focusing on the lake once again. "You can't. I'm sorry." He turned to leave, and my hands grasped the hem of his shirtsleeve.

"No one walks away here. You've brought me to you, haven't you?" He stared down at me and it almost frightened me, the fierce intensity I saw there. But I was not shaken. "Why?" I demanded. "Why are you doing this?" My voice betrayed me, cracking as I whispered, "Are you trying to make me crazy?"

He didn't answer me, but instead leaned down to capture my trembling lips in a feathery kiss, the first we'd ever shared. I opened to him as his kiss deepened and I gasped against the images that unfolded around me.

I could see myself though his eyes, standing on the sandlot baseball game's home plate near the Peacock farm. I look incredible. None of the dozens of flaws I frown daily at the mirror at can be found. The sun, creating a fiery halo around my head and the brilliant blue of my eyes – I barely recognized myself.

Then, on that rock in Heuvelman's Lake with the moonlight high above, spotlighting us and casting shadows all around. My hair and eyes are dark in that light, tresses waving from the lake water and berry-colored lips, inviting. I never knew. To him, I was perfect. It was all at once a heady and humbling feeling. It felt almost undeserved.

He held me close to him as he nibbled at my bottom lip. The scene that unfolded behind my closed eyes now was different, dark. Mulder, walking up to the door of the large estate. He knows he is expected, even though he never announced his intent to visit. It is past midnight, and he feels he's safe because they will already have fed.

Like a badly spliced movie, the scene jerks to the next morning. He's lying in a bed of silk, staring up at the colorful glass-domed ceiling. This is his room, at the insistence of his dangerous host. Regret. He regrets being here, coming without me.

This will be the death of him.

He knows his mistake, knows that, soon, his host will lose interest in him. Then he'll be killed. Sadness swirls though him at this thought, these emotions he was projecting into me. But he wasn't upset for his life so much as he feared never seeing me again.

When the kiss ended, our connection was broken. I pulled back, looking at him questioningly.

"You didn't know, Scully?"

I shook my head.

"I've loved you for years."

He said it so simply, as if it were an obvious truth. I grabbed his hand tightly, pleading with my eyes. "Please, Mulder. Let me see you."

He shook his head once again. "It's not safe, Scully. You- you don't know what I've become."

"I think I do."

"No," he said. "You can't know."

I smiled gently and laid a hand upon his cool skin. "Then make me understand."

I could sense the fear coursing through him. What had happened that he was ashamed for me to find out? He smoothed a stray strand of hair from my face and stared deeply into my eyes.

He's surrounded my men, dressed in black cloaks. Unsure of what is to happen to him, he stands on guard, ready for anything even as he knows his efforts are futile.

I have to close my eyes against what happens next.

A dark-haired man, in about his mid-twenties, comes into view. His softly curling hair and sweet face are a deception, for inside lies a monster. He stalks toward the center of the semi-circle, to where Mulder stands.

Julian, the name breaks through the images.

He smiles and swoops on Mulder's neck, just taking enough of his blood to stun him before lowering him to the ground and taking hold of Mulder's wrist in a vice-like clamp. Once satisfied, Julian offers his cut wrist in return. Mulder is either too weak or too scared to refuse it and he drinks deeply from the proffered gash.

The next thing is pain, blinding and white-hot. It intensifies with every passing second before, finally, the darkness overcomes him.

"What does this mean?"

"It's exactly what it looks like, Scully. This is why I don't want you to find me."

"A vampire," I whispered, stunned and disbelieving.

He leaned down to give me a kiss on the forehead. "Goodbye."

And then, I was all alone.


Dana Scully's Apartment
October 24, 1997
6:12 pm

I bolted upright in my chair.

All around me, papers were strewn, each one as meaningless as the next. None of them; not even the rubbing, had been helpful in the least. I had been studying them in hopes that Mulder left some crumb to follow when I drifted off at the kitchen table.

The clock read 6:13 pm.

These dreams were more than what they seemed. They had to be some kind of shared consciousness between the two of us.

I didn't want it to be true. Because if it were true, it meant that Mulder was lost to me forever.


October 24, 1997
7:03 pm

The sunset has a certain pull to it.

Only we can feel the subtle turn of the Earth, carrying us slowly away from the supernova. I can only describe it as a small tug, like a June bug against a string held by a child. It awakens us from our death-like slumber.

This night, I stood and slowly stretched my limbs out of habit.

"You'll want to abandon those sloppy human inclinations of yours." A lilting female voice rang out sweetly.

I spun around, only to come face to face with Liliana, Julian's sister. Like her ancient brother, Liliana was possessed of great beauty and grace. Her nearly black hair fell in soft ringlets to the middle of her back and her wide, green eyes sparkled with mischief. She always looked like she was ready to either laugh hysterically or pounce. Considering her volatile temperament, it was anybody's guess which would come first.

"What are you doing here?" I demanded. "Did Julian send you?"

Her laughter tinkled like broken glass. "Not at all, dearest Fox." She breathed my name and scratched a red- tipped fingernail over my jaw line, bottom lip in full pout. "I wanted only to warn you."

Grabbing her hand and holding it away from me, I growled, "Warn me about what?"

She snatched her hand out of my grasp and glared, her eyes glowing bright in anger for an instant.

Just as quickly as it came, her fury left to be replaced with the pout once more. "Fox," she drawled coquettishly, "Such atrocious behavior! And my whole purpose in coming here was to make sure you steer clear of my brother."

I've witnessed Liliana ravage the body of a helpless teenage girl to the point where the blood sprayed like a third-rate horror movie and I could no longer tell what sex the victim was from all the pulpy gore. This was done for her own pleasure. Before I was turned, I was brought to witness the Convenire at work, so I knew that feeding could be done delicately and with neatness. There was no need for the savagery Liliana afforded that poor girl. The likelihood that this beast was here to help me was slim to none.

"I already know all I need to know about Julian and I'm well aware of what he's capable of. Now get out of here and leave me in peace."

Her voice was deadly calm. "You have a lot of nerve talking to me with such disrespect, fledgling. Unlike Julian, I do not find it amusing."

She stalked closer, until we were mere inches apart.

"Things were fine until you came along. I liked it. I was happy. You're playing my brother like a fool, while all the while your heart reaches out for another."

She glowered into my eyes, pulling me down to her eye- level with hooked hand around the back of my neck and dropped her poison-saturated voice to a whisper.

"I could snap that pretty head of yours off your neck without so much as batting an eyelash, you weak, pathetic excuse for an apprentice. You forget that I was made centuries before you were ever even born. Do not underestimate me."

She suddenly smiled warmly.

"But I think I may know a better way of getting rid of you, dearest. That woman you crave; I can hear the two of you in the daylight hours. I can see and hear and feel everything you can. Didn't know that, did you? I have only to tell Julian now, at my pleasure." Her voice dropped to a confidential whisper. "That'll be the end of you, my love. Of course, I think I'd rather just make a feast of that delightful morsel myself."

I slammed her against the wall, full-force. "You stay away from her," I growled ferociously. "If you touch one hair on her head, so help me I'll kill you with my bare hands."

That strange glow reflected my own in her eyes. "Kindly take your hands off me." She swatted the hands that clutched the front of her dress with ease, anger boiling in her black veins. "You're lucky you belong to Julian. If you were mine, I'd drain every ounce out of your ungrateful carcass and leave you in the morning sun to bake."

Without another word, she vanished from my sight.


October 26, 1997
9:37 am

The rest of the evening was wholly unproductive, as was the next day. No new leads on Mulder's disappearance and Skinner sent me home once more, citing concern for my health.

I looked horrible, I'm sure. And the confidentiality of the case had been compromised, so I was getting more than my fair share of curious stares in the hallways. Must've been too juicy for the supposed professional agents to keep to themselves.

I wanted to wring their necks. Every last one of them.

Grudgingly, I went home. The only stipulation was that I was to be contacted the minute anything new developed on the case.

I walked in the living room and fell instantly atop the cushioned softness of the couch, feeling so tired and emotionally drained. I'd been feeling a lot of that lately. It was highly unusual for me to sleep this much, but it felt as if I hadn't slept in days.

My last waking thoughts were of Mulder.


We had been dancing. That's all I could remember.

He'd held me in his strong arms, stronger than I've ever remembered them to be, and spun me around the living room of a home I've never seen before. The old-fashioned phonograph played Cheek To Cheek.

"Heaven, I'm in Heaven
And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak;
And I seem to find the happiness that I seek
When we're out together dancing cheek to cheek"

I was peripherally aware of the antique furnishings all around me, the feeling of being locked inside a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie. The simplicity and innocence of our waltz in those surroundings.

The rest was a complete blur.

It frightened me beyond reason that my strange connection to him was faltering already. Yet, a new feeling was taking hold of me, powerful and inexplicable. I felt drawn toward something, knowing instinctively that I needed to get out on the road.

I looked at the clock. In about thirty minutes, I was expected in another pointless meeting regarding Mulder's disappearance more than seven days ago.

I would not be attending.

Shoving clothes into a suitcase, I paused my frantic rushing about the apartment only long enough to inform Kimberly that I wouldn't be in for a few days. Her understanding tone was so clear I could almost see the sympathetic nod over the phone.

"This is why I don't want you to find me."

For hours, I drove aimlessly, completely unaware of my surroundings or where I was going. I wandered in a daze, hearing nothing but the beat of his heart, seeing nothing but the unnatural green of his eyes.

He was guiding me to him, even as I knew he was unaware of doing so. I could feel him all around me, beckoning to me. The car drove me to my destination as if on autopilot and after a while, I was no longer conscious of the passing time.

There was nothing to do but wait. To see where this would lead me.


October 26, 1997
5:43 pm

She was close. I could sense it.

I smiled in my fitful sleep even as I cursed her for putting herself in jeopardy to find me. Julian's laughing face loomed above me in my dreams, the only sanctuary Scully and I shared now.

He would kill her.

Julian was profoundly jealous of anything that stood in his way. I'd learned this much in my short time with him. The moment I met this strange leader of the Convenire, he'd been inside my head, taking obvious pleasure in his intrusion. He recognized my feelings for Scully in a second, all she meant to me and how much I needed her. And he hated her instantly.

I feared for her life. Liliana wouldn't do anything regarding me without her brother's consent, but Julian himself was another story. He answered to no one. There was nothing I could do against the vampire who made me, the monster who'd given me a second life. He was stronger than me, skilled in the art of the chase. He's done it for centuries.

Sunset would be soon. Not for the first time, I dreaded what it would bring.


October 26, 1997
7:36 pm

Funny, that I'd felt no fear.

Walking through lush and unfamiliar woods in the twilight as all the nocturnal life of the land awakened. The cold October wind whipped my hair around me whenever a gust picked up. My cheeks, tingling from the brisk night air. Beneath my feet, fallen brown leaves crunched in time with the rhythm of my footfalls and the harvest moon shone brightly above, lighting my way to I knew not where. It was as if a strange entity had invaded my body, directing me where to go and I, just the vessel to be maneuvered.

A house.

I walked inside, taking in the dusty and mildewed furniture. A phonograph resting on the credenza scratched out Billie Holiday, singing the blues. The fireplace glowed bright and warm as the red-orange flames licked the kindling. The room looked as if it hadn't been touched since the 1940's and all around me, an eerie sense of familiarity filled the air. This was the house in my dreams.

My skin prickled into goose bumps when I shucked off my coat and I edged cautiously to the hearth to warm my frozen fingers.

I felt his arms wrap around me.

Eyes closed, I clutched a hand around the arm that pulled me to him to steady myself.

"I told you not to come here."

His voice was broken and hoarse. I'd never heard so much pain in it.

"I had to, Mulder. How could I not?"

Slowly, he turned me to face him. I couldn't help the gasp that escaped my lips at the sight of him. "My God, you're- "

"Yes," he interrupted.

I nodded once, eyes downcast. "I hoped it wasn't true."

He placed a finger under my chin and forced my gaze upward. "Do you see me? Do you see what I've become?" His voice was laced with pain and anger, and beneath it, helplessness.

Hands cupping his cold face tenderly, I asked, "Mulder, how?"

"I can show you, if that's what you really want."

I nodded and he pulled me to his chest. "Listen."

The irregular beat of his heart slowed, as the room grew darker and darker. I swayed on my unsteady legs and let the strange rhythm envelop me.

Forcefully, an image came into clear view. It was the same as before, only more detailed, layered with dimension.


"Fox," Julian speaks softly and low, drawing out his name.

Mulder is numb with shock, unable to move. He feels like a deer caught in the headlights of a Mack truck, and equally as useless.

All around him, the black shrouded figures stand silent and still, awaiting their leader's command, curious to see what his new apprentice was made of. These creatures sicken Mulder. To him, they represent everything despicable and foul in the world. Under their quiet scrutiny, he knows what it is to be a lab rat, a specimen to be studied.

He wants to run.

"Welcome," Julian smiles, spreading his arms in a wide gesture.

But Mulder's not listening to him. His attention is drawn to the one named Stephan. He is thinking about his latest kill, earlier that night. Taking a cue from Bundy, he posed as an injured student, hobbling pathetically on crutches in order to gain a pretty coed's trust. It was a game he likes to play with his victims and completely unnecessary.

She never saw it coming.

And neither will the next one. Stephan is impatient to get this over with so he can feed again. Mulder looks at him in disgust. The monster leers at him in response.

Julian does not miss this exchange. Kneeling by Mulder's side as he lies on the floor, still dizzy from the pain of the change, Julian strokes his cheek.

"Come," he says. Lifting Mulder to his feet, he is lead into Julian's perversely large bedroom, decorated in Gothic Revival style. Mulder thinks wryly that it's clichéd and didn't he see that same bed on Creature Feature night last week?

Still weak, Mulder spreads out on the chaise and watches Julian as he paces before him. The monster's eyes never leave his fledgling's body, appreciating it and smiling as he makes Mulder wait to hear what he has to say.

"There is much you'll need to learn," he finally says. "So much you'll come to find. I almost envy you, Fox. Everything is fresh and new to you. You're going to need me."

He takes a seat at the edge of the chaise. It is all Mulder could do to keep from cringing.

"Do you find me so repulsive, Fox?" he coos. "You'll come to love me. I promise."

It becomes clear to Mulder the reason why he knew how Stephan chose to spend his evenings, why Julian is able to understand Mulder's reticence and revulsion – they share a sort of telepathy.

"We can read minds?" Mulder asks.

Julian smiles. "Yes. But there are those who will be closed to you. Ancient vampires, such as Maeve and Liliana, have learned to put up a shield. And myself, as your creator, will be closed to you as well. But humans, Fox," he smiles and pushes the lock of hair that has fallen in a curl over Mulder's forehead, "and the lesser vampires will be as an open book. It will be like a whisper, at first. A general idea of what they are thinking. Then the Gift will grow in you. You will become quicker, stronger. Nothing will stop you then." Julian beams in ghoulish pride. "Right now, your thoughts are

transparent to all – even me – because you are so very new."

He stands. "You will be my masterpiece. No one is to touch you. You will be receiving tutelage from me alone. Understand that the penalty for another of the Convenire to school you in our ways is death.

"But come! Enough of all this talk. You must be famished." He's suddenly gone, reappearing at the far closet. He dashes in and when he reenters the room, a bound and gagged young girl his in his strong grasp. Mulder bolts up from his languid sprawling.

She's small and delicate, about sixteen years old. Her choppy, flipped bob and wide, china doll eyes make her look pixyish and innocent. She squirms in vain against her captor.

"Do you like her?" Julian teases. "I chose her specifically for you, my Fox. She'll be an excellent first, no?"

"I- I can't." he stutters out his first words since the change. Stronger, he tells him, "I won't."

Julian's calm demeanor changes, eyes flashing and fangs bared in a snarl of disapproval. "You won't? You will. I have brought her for you and you will drink from her!"

Mulder looks at her, at her bared throat and the veins that pulse beneath her skin, at the fear in her innocent eyes and the hunger and desire that well up inside him are almost unbearable.

"Go to hell, you son of a bitch." He says, breathlessly.

For a moment, Mulder is sure Julian is going to kill him. The rage in his face is frightening and the girl in his arm squirms, her screams muffled against the gag put there to ensure Mulder's gift was a surprise. Julian lunges at Mulder, hissing angrily at him, then turns his fury on the girl, latching viciously onto her neck. Within seconds, she is nothing more than a rag doll, dropped irreverently to the ground with a thud.

Then, all I can see is the blur of passing trees as he runs from that place, runs from the girl he could not save.


His thumb tenderly swiped at a tear on my cheek I hadn't felt fall. My heart was shattering into a million pieces and all I could do was just stand there, willing the pool that had gathered in my eyes not to spill over. It was unbelievable that life could be so merciless and cruel.

"Shhh," he soothed, pulling me into his embrace. "I'll work this out, Scully. Somehow."

Pulling away to look at him, I said, "How, Mulder." I didn't want the hopelessness I felt to seep into my voice, but it did, and I saw him visibly flinch at my defeated statement.

"They'll know you're here. Now that you've found me, there's nothing that will save you. You don't know Julian." He spat the name. "He'll kill you just to teach me a lesson."

"I won't leave, Mulder."

"You have to."

Anger and resentment for the monster that did this to him coursed through me. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was capable of cold-blooded murder.

"And who's to say that he won't find me anyway, no matter where I am? If I'm not safe now, I'll never be safe. Location doesn't make a bit of difference."

He stared into my eyes, as if searching for something there. I felt so exposed, mesmerized by his beauty as I was subjected to his scrutiny. The song on the record changed and Billie's honeyed voice belted out a melancholy tune.

~ I've got a date with a dream
A dream divine
I've got a date with a dream
Who may be mine
~

"Dance with me," he said quietly, eyes darkening.

"Yes," I whispered

~ I've got to hurry and dress
To meet him at seven
When any old corner becomes a corner
Of heaven, blue heaven
~

The body beneath my hands felt hard, petrified. A muscle twitched under his alabaster cheek as he gazed down at me. We moved with a grace I never knew I could possess, as if we'd been dancing together our entire lives.

Perhaps we had.

~ I'm gonna dance with a dream
We'll dance on air
I'm gonna speak to a dream
And tell him I care ~

"Can't we have this one night?"

I've never been so afraid to ask a question before in my life, never so terrified to hear the answer.

His eyes closed and I knew he couldn't deny me, deny us this last moment together. Opening their jade beauty to me, he whispered, "One night."

Gazes locked until the last possible second, we slowly gravitated toward one another's mouth. Hungrily, he drank me in, lifting me slightly from the floor to my tiptoes. The pleasure of it shot straight to my belly, through my limbs and up my spine.

~ And when the evening is over
I'll kiss him goodnight and then
I'll have a date with a dream
And meet him all over again ~

The song ended, to be replaced with another as we touched and explored each other through our clothing. My body hummed with anticipation and I greedily ground myself into his groin, never breaking from the deep, endless kiss.

He pulled away abruptly.

"What's the matter?" I asked, panicked.

Mulder turned sideways from me, hiding his face from my sight. I realized his heavy, labored breathing was from more than arousal.

"Mulder, look at me."

He did. Slowly, ravenous green eyes settled on my neck. "You have to leave, Scully." He pleaded. "You're not safe with me."

I shook my head. "No. I won't leave you."

He whimpered and I noticed for the first time how expressive his eyes were now, so much more than before. They held an incandescent glow when intense emotion overpowered him, like now, when his passion got the better of him and his hunger was vying for control over his heart.

Understanding what he needed, I cupped his face in my hands. "You could never hurt me, Mulder." I tilted my neck a bit, praying that he wouldn't become angry with the gesture. "Please."

His horrified face spoke volumes, of his repulsion, of his crumbling willpower. I was offering myself to him and he wanted nothing more than to take me, but he couldn't bear the thought of drinking from me. I knew all this implicitly, as if he'd spoken the words aloud.

"Please," I repeated. "I want to do this. One night, Mulder. One time."

The hunger finally won out.

Slowly, he bent to lower his lips to caress my neck, taking special care to tease and lick and tickle at the sensitive nerve-endings there.

"Scully," he murmured against my jugular. I wound my fingers through his dark hair and gently urged him onward. Instead of the searing pain I expected, I felt myself being led to the fireplace and lowered onto the lush rug that rested before it. Crackling and pleasantly warm, the fire blazed on. In some corner of my mind, I wondered at Mulder's lack of interest in the source of his phobia. Perhaps the change affected more than just his physical being.

He sprinkled soundless kisses on my face, arms and neck, setting my body ablaze with pure desire for this man, this man who has had me under his spell for years.

"Oh, Scully. I've wanted you, too. For so long..."

I lifted my hips to grind against his, wantonly. "Can you..." A little embarrassed, my words trailed off. He smiled in response and used swift fingers to deftly unbutton my shirt.

His open mouth descended on the exposed mounds of my breasts above the delicate silk and lace of my bra and I reflexively arched into his kiss.

"Mmm, Mulder."

He continued to work at my breasts, nibbling though the thin fabric of my bra, as he reached to undo my pants. Kicking impatiently, I helped to squirm them down my legs, discarded and forgotten under the spell of our first taste of intimacy. It felt incredible, the weight of him above me, the feeling of his hands all over me. I wanted to possess and be possessed by him, exchanging this wonderful gift until neither of us could move anymore.

Together, we made short work of his clothes as well. He was unnaturally hard; something I sensed was an ongoing thing and one that he couldn't control. He backed away for a moment, taking the sight of my naked and aroused body in with ravenous eyes. He licked his lips, now a faint red, and feasted on me with those glowing emerald orbs. I shivered, to be looked at that way.

"Don't be afraid." He soothed, covering my body with his. Before I could assure him that I wasn't, he was licking tenderly at my neck, rendering me speechless with anticipation. We now lay together, bared skin to skin, with nothing but my open shirt splayed around me between us.

I wanted him now, couldn't bear the thought of waiting another minute. Without saying a word, he told me that he understood.

I felt his hot breath on my tender neck and a sharp pain, then nothing but pleasure as he simultaneously pierced and entered me. I tasted pure, sweet bliss – so powerful, it was like a resurrection. So gratifyingly sinful, it was like flying. There are no words for the exquisite rapture one feels when a vampire drinks from them. Couple this with the knowledge that it was Mulder thrusting into me, Mulder lapping at my life-force...

I was splitting apart and floating and tearing off into a million different directions all at once. It was years of foreplay, hundreds of climaxes all rolled into one incredible moment of perfection. I didn't care if I died, just as long as I could feel that way forever.

When it became too dangerous, he stopped.

We both lay there, panting and weak from the exertion. After a few moments, as my furiously beating heart slowed to a normal rhythm, Mulder retrieved my trench coat to cover me.

The most miraculous thing of all was falling asleep in his arms.


I watched her as she slept and the light from the fire made the shadows of her eyelashes dance across her cheek. She never looked more beautiful to me.

It was hard, so hard to be careful with her. Pulling away from her was the most difficult thing I'd ever had to do. This could never happen again – it was far too dangerous.

She shifted, exposing her creamy thigh as her bent leg peeked into the cool air. I covered her, taking care to tuck some of the coat beneath her. It was getting close to dawn and I would have to retreat into my cellar once again. She would be safe in the light of day and we could say our final goodbyes tomorrow night.

I pushed the thought away, determined not to dwell on it until the time came. I wanted to be selfish, to wake her and tell her that I never wanted her to go. That maybe she was right, that she would never be safe as long as Julian still stalked the earth.

But I took one look at her angel-face and knew I couldn't do that to her.

Placing a reverent kiss on her forehead, I left her to escape the fatal dawn.


Whether it was her nearness or the intimacy we'd shared, there were no dreams of Scully that day.

Finally – mercifully – sunset arrived.

I rose from my fetal position on a blanket I'd placed on the floor nights ago and raced up the stairs to see Scully. My heart beat wildly in my hollow body, fearing the possibility that she'd decided to make it all easier for us by leaving while I rested.

I couldn't sense her – that was what frightened me most of all. Entering the front parlor where we'd passed the night before, my stomach lurched to see her coat missing.

She wasn't there.

"Are you looking for your pretty friend?" Julian's jovial voice inquired behind me.

I jumped in surprise and glowered at him. "What have you done with her?"

"Come home, Fox. Your time here is up."

I rushed him, grabbing at his shirt and striking him against the wall time and again, but he was unmoved. If anything, he looked amused. Unbridled fury and fear boiled in my soul, spilling over into a blinding rage.

Julian laughed. "Stop this foolishness, Fox. She's safe – for now. Come home and we'll see about letting you keep her. She should make for excellent entertainment, no?"

"Fuck you," I growled, letting go of his shirt.

He slid down the wall to his feet, eyes spitting emerald fire at me.

"I'm reaching the end of my patience with you, my friend. You will come home. And as for that pretty distraction of yours – I will do with her what I wish. It is not for you to challenge or make demands of me. Never forget that."

He wrapped an arm around my waist against my weaker will and we sped through the forest in a blur. He had everything that was important to me in the palm of his hand, prepared to either reward me for my obedience or crush me for my insubordination. To keep her safe, I'd have to play by their rules and even then there was no guarantee.

Scully... What have I done?

**


Chapter Two

The House of the Convenire
October 27, 1997

It felt like every ounce of breath had been sucked out of my lungs.

Foggy consciousness was creeping up on me, and with it came the pain. It felt as if I'd been sucker-punched in the gut, only it was drawn out. Sustained. As the throbbing and dizziness subsided, I slowly opened my eyes and took in my surroundings.

I was in a luxurious room, lying on a large, canopy bed. The lavender down comforter was thick, so plush I was half-submerged in it. At the far end of the bed, off to the right, there was a huge fireplace with a blaze burning brightly. All around me were massive pieces of Gothic Revival furniture.

I slid off the high bed and lifted my shirt to examine my injury. A big red spot on my abdomen was coloring itself darker, promising to be a bruise by morning. Whoever – or – whatever it was that brought me here was none too careful while handling me. I mumbled a curse and walked over to the door. A few tugs on the scrolled iron handle confirmed my suspicion – it was locked. Crossing the room, I checked the windows – locked tight. I could break the window, but I was four stories up. The drop would kill me.

Blowing out a breath in irritation, I stepped into the middle of the room to survey my options. I knew I had to get out of there, but how? Ten to one the door was not only locked, but also being guarded. All around me the oversized furniture loomed, as if looking down at me, laughing at my predicament. The mounting frustration was overwhelming.

I wanted to scream.

I had no idea how I got there, who brought me or what they wanted from me. Was it Julian? Why didn't he just kill me? I couldn't understand the motivation behind this, but one question ran through my head, over and over, spreading fear over me like an icy blanket.

What did they do to Mulder?

Sitting on the edge of the bed, I tried to think. We'd been connected before, through dreams. Mulder would call them visions. I smiled ruefully at the thought.

Still, something was niggling at the edges of my consciousness, trying to tell me something. I laid back on the coverlet and closed my mind while opening my mind to possibilities I normally would've rejected – I had to try to will myself to have another vision, to try and contact Mulder again through the shared consciousness we experienced before. I focused on my breathing as I embraced the possibility.

In.

Out.

Focus, Dana.

I felt myself slipping into sleep and allowed it. Mulder was just out of my reach, but I was getting closer and closer...

This time, I saw it all through his eyes. This time, I was Mulder.


What the hell am I doing? This is pure insanity. Some weirdo who thinks he's a vampire leaves me a note and I do exactly what I promised Scully I'd never do again – I run off without telling her.

My track record's for shit. The most important thing in the world to us, the one true thing I not only value, but also expect from her is honesty. What was it she said not even a month ago, after I'd done this very thing to her? Respect, she'd said. Honor. She told me with eyes flashing and voice rising that she wanted to be in the loop at all times. That a man of honor wouldn't lie to his partner and disappear in the middle of the night, only to show up in a top-secret military installment the next day. A man who respected his partner would trust her to follow him into the fray, to watch his back whether on duty or off. Ultimately, it always involved her anyway.

I couldn't understand why she'd want to. But I looked at her, hoping she could read the apology in my eyes and saw the hurt written in hers. I made a promise then and there to never do that to her again.

I expect these marks of good character from her, respect and trustworthiness, and yet I can't even keep a simple promise in return for her unwavering loyalty. I saw an opportunity to leave and I took off.

The note told me little. Just enough to pique my curiosity about him and the group of vampires he called The Convenire. He left out details about his clan, but was careful to throw in enough to lure me out here. I found it taped to my bathroom mirror when I woke up five days ago, complete with directions to his lair. It puzzled me that someone had not only been able to get into my locked apartment, but was also able to do so without waking me.

I was intrigued. For the rest of the week, I picked the letter apart, analyzing each minute detail to create a profile of this man who signed his name "Julian" at the bottom. I devoured every piece of information I could glean from books on vampirism and related cults, myths and folklore. If Scully noticed my preoccupation or my secrecy, she didn't let it show. After all, obsessive tendencies are my specialty, right?

So what do I do? I leave as soon as her back is turned. Friday nights are a good time to go somewhere unnoticed. I have the entire weekend to check this out and be back in time for work Monday morning.

Now I'm scared shitless, standing in front of this monstrosity of a house, waiting to meet a bunch of damn bloodsuckers. All because of their leader's unexplained interest in me. I never let him know I was coming, but he knows I'm here at his open request. I can't explain it, but somehow I just know he's aware of me.

Okay, invitation accepted. Now what?

I knock on the heavy oak door and wait for an answer, hoping I timed everything right. They should have fed already, if I'm to believe that they truly are vampires, so I shouldn't be in any immediate danger. I look back down at my watch for what has to be the hundredth time since I've arrived here. 12:24 am. There are no sounds coming from inside, only the chorus of nature all around me from the woods that skirt the manicured lawn.

I look at the door doubtfully. Maybe this is a big mistake. I'm out in the middle of nowhere, knocking on the door of a vampire cult in the dead of night, going into God knows what. I don't exactly have a good feeling about this. One more knock and I'm out of here.

I raise my hand to do just that when the door suddenly opens with a flourish. A beautiful woman with red hair like Scully's stands beside it, looking me up and down with an amused smirk on her face. Her face is pale against the blood-red shirt she wears. Its neck is really low, giving me a generous view of her cleavage. There's a cross dangling between her breasts on a thin, silver chain and a black velvet choker around her throat. Her eye makeup is dark and smudged around vibrant blue eyes and her lipstick is the color of her shirt. I can't help but gawk at her very short, very provocative black leather skirt and the high patent leather boots that come just above her knee.

She's remarkably beautiful and she reminds me of Scully. This is what Scully would look like of she felt like being really naughty. The thought causes my heart to quicken and the woman at the door, who hasn't said a word yet, laughs loudly.

"I'm no angel," she says in a faint Irish accent, "But it seems that little cupcake of yours is. I doubt she'd fit in here."

"Excuse me?" I ask. How the hell does she know who I'm thinking about? I try to remember if there was any mention of mind reading in my research and recall that some cultures believed that a vampire could see into your soul, reach into your mind and control your actions through seduction or suggestion. Slamming a wall up as fast as possible, I try to shield my thoughts from this woman.

She laughs again, more amused than before. "Try all you like, love, but it's no use. Come in. Julian's been expecting you."

She opens the door wider and I step inside. The foyer is bigger than my apartment and Scully's put together and each clumsy tread of my footsteps echoes against the incredibly high ceilings. I notice that the woman's don't, which is interesting. There's a huge grand staircase in front of me, lined with a deep red runner. A wide archway is cut out on either side of the staircase and a collection of tall grandfather clocks line the crescent wall that surrounds it. They are eerily silent, pendulums still.

"You need an escalator to climb that high," I quip.

She says nothing, but walks through the left archway. I follow her, wondering what's going to happen and what Julian will be like as I watch her ass sway beneath the sexy skirt she wears. Each boot, I can now see, is topped with a patent leather bow on the back. It's a little too easy to imagine that the redheaded woman in front of me is my partner, hips rocking with each light step, hair swept up into a spiky twist.

She turns to give me a knowing smirk, then faces front until we reach a door.

"End of the line. He's been pacing the floor like a panther waiting for you," she breathes out. For an instant, her blue eyes flash unnaturally bright. It's almost like they glowed. Before I can blink, they're back to normal. "Go in," she gives me a small nudge forward. I place a shaky hand on the cool doorknob and turn to see if she's coming in with me, but she's already gone. The hall stretches far on either side of me and every door that lines it appears to be closed. Where the hell did she go?

Fear and nervous energy surges through me as I slowly turn the knob. I tamp it down and walk into the room. It appears to be a library, lit by hundreds of tallow candles in clusters and candelabras and the largest fireplace I've ever seen.

I'm alone in the room, which strikes me as odd. Didn't she say that Julian was in here? I'm eager to meet him –as eager as he seemed in the letter to meet me. Strolling over to the first ceiling- high bookcase, I absently run a finger along the leather-bound spines. Out of the corner of my eye, the polished marble floor catches my attention, the reflection of the tiny flames flickering across it.

A figure steps out of the shadows across the room into the light. It startles me enough that I jump in reflex.

"Jesus! You scared the hell out of me!"

The man before me spreads his hands out in apology. He can't be any older than twenty-five. Practically a baby.

He smiles. "Twenty-six, actually. Before I was turned, of course."

I can't place his accent. His enunciation is clear, precise, but I don't know it. It's odd to me - and I've always been good at pinning dialect down. Phoebe used to tease me about it, calling me Professor Higgins. Shockingly, My Fair Lady was her favorite movie, but the way she said that to me was like a bitter insult every time. I push the unwanted thought of her out of my mind and take a step toward the man before me.

"I am of everywhere and everything," he says cryptically. "The place where I was born into humanity is no more."

I squint, sizing him up. "That's twice you've answered questions I haven't asked. Mind telling me how you do that?"

He takes several purposeful steps forward, never removing his intense gaze from me. When he is only a few feet away, he finally speaks.

"We've started off all wrong. I am Julian. Welcome to our home." His hands spread out wide in a sweeping gesture.

Something about him is wrong. Maybe it's his feline movements or the measured way he regards me. Maybe it's this house, with the stereotypical furnishings like props out of a horror movie. Have I stumbled into a hoax – a bunch of Gen-Xers with nothing better to do than dress in Goth clothes and form a coven of wannabe vampires? The whole setup here comes across as staged, but for what? And to what end?

"This is no hoax, I assure you. This is our life, as it were."

"Tell me how you do that," I demanded.

He smiles secretively. "You must be tired. Come! Let me show you to your rooms." His hand curls around my upper arm. We weren't close enough to touch a minute ago – he crossed a distance of five feet without me seeing it? I was looking right at him!

What the hell is going on here?

"My dearest Fox," he says as he leads me out of the library and down the hall, "what will it take to convince you? I know you're no skeptic, so why do you fight what you know is true?"

For once, I don't want to accept it. Instead of answering his question, I stick out my chin like a petulant child and cover my thoughts as well as I can. "If you're really a vampire, prove it."

He laughs. "You want me to drink your blood?" he asks, amused.

Hoping my face doesn't show the horror his question causes I shake my head. "No."

"Ah," he quickly returns, "You want me to dazzle you with a parlor trick." We stop before the giant staircase and he sweeps the back of his cold hand across my cheek. I shudder involuntarily. "Is that what you want?" he whispers.

Before I know what's happening, a dizzying force sweeps through my body and we're in front of another large door. He levers the handle downward and we step into a massive room. Like what I've seen in the rest of the house, Gothic Revival furniture and fixtures dominate the atmosphere. All around me are mahogany and sharp angles.

I notice his long fingernails for the first time as he points to an arched entrance on the right side of the room "That is your wash room." He sweeps his arm to the left and smiles. "And that is your bedroom. Sleep well, dear Fox."

Before I can argue that I never agreed to stay here, he's gone, leaving me with nothing but the snick of a lock engaging. Panicked, I run to the door and try the handle, but it's no use. I throw myself against the door several times, but it's useless. This door is an antique – solid as they come.

What the hell have I gotten myself into?

A careful investigation of the suite provides little, except that I'm up far too high to jump out the window and there are no footholds along the walls of the house. Only one exit, and I've already established that it's not going to budge. My shoulders ache with the proof of that. I'm trapped.

Accepting the fact that I'm not getting out of here tonight, I walk moodily into the bedroom. In my haste to find a way out, I hadn't noticed the tall armoire with the flat screen TV inside or the state-of-the-art electronics smorgasbord above it on shelves. Curious, I pull out the drawers beneath the set and feel my eyes widen in pleasure as I take in the selection of movies inside. Every Title I could ever want is right in front of me like the collection was chosen for my tastes. From The Shining to some pretty choice skin flicks, it's all here.

I shut the drawer and move to the mini-bar across the room. A small refrigerator hums like a homing device my stomach is eager to follow. Inside are about a half-dozen Nesteas and small carafes of orange and cranberry juices.

I close the door and check out the rest of the bedroom. On the counter, a bowl of oranges rests next to a large crystal jar containing sunflower seeds. Every type of top shelf alcohol is present, but I don't feel near safe enough to indulge. Instead, I put a movie into the VCR and walk over to the bed, plopping down on it with the remote in my left hand, a bottle of tea in my right and the heavy jar of sunflower seeds spilling onto the black sheets.

I'm asleep before the middle of the movie.

When I wake the next afternoon, I'm greeted by the wonderful smell of food. My eyes are barely open, but my stomach is demanding satisfaction. I roll over the mess of seeds and the empty bottle of tea to lay blurry eyes on a tray full of various breakfast foods on a stand next to the bed. Bolting upright, I slide off the bed and cross the two rooms to try the door again. Locked tight.

Left with no other option and a complaining gut, I pick up the heavy tray and carry it to the counter of the mini-bar at the edge of the bedroom, where I sit down on one of the empty barstools. I eye the offering warily. Could be the result of being drugged one too many times, but I've come to be leery of consumables from strangers. Why should food from a centuries-old vampire be any different?

I laugh at that thought. Only in my life would a group of blood-sucking vamps be a serious threat. But I decide that there would be little point in Julian drugging me when I'm harmlessly locked in this room.

The food is lukewarm, but good. It's been a long time since I've eaten anything even remotely resembling a home-cooked meal. Not that I can't cook. It's just that I'm too damn lazy to get out of bed in the morning and whip up a bunch of food for no one but myself. Same reason my toilet only gets scrubbed once a month.

I think about this offhandedly as I chew and my eyes fall on a plate I hadn't noticed before on the tray in my eagerness to dig into breakfast. It's piled high with meatloaf, mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans and cornbread muffins and covered with plastic wrap. A small microwave that wasn't here before now sits on the end of the bar, ready for use.

It becomes clear to me that my quiet visitor won't be coming back to let me out. What the hell is wrong with me? This is the second time in a week I've slept through a potentially dangerous situation.

I finish eating and take a hot shower. I soon remember that my suitcase is still in the car – which I can't even see from this side of the house. Several black outfits hang in the closet, all looking like they belong to a brooding Goth poet. I put on the clothes I came in and pass the remainder of the day cozied up on a pillowed window seat in the bedroom, entertaining myself with another new addition to my room – a small stack of obscure books on vampirism that are likely as old as the house itself, if not older. Fascinating to read, but saturated with superstitions that are so outrageous, even I have to chuckle.

Before I know it, the sun is sinking behind the darkened trees of the forest surrounding the estate, backlighting the black leaves and branches against a rosy sky before the world is plunged into blackness.

"Beautiful, wasn't it?" a voice inquires behind me. I jump off the seat to face my jailer.

"I want to leave, Julian. I'm a government agent – you can't just hold me here against my will."

"My dear Fox," he smiles indulgently, "Do you truly think the laws that bind you mortals apply to me? Those things do not touch me. There is nothing but you and I, this night and all the majesty it holds."

He walks away from the bedroom archway and steps to the window. I can see the sitting room door, wide open and inviting. I should make a run for it but, God help me, I'm rooted to the spot.

"You can't imagine the power, my friend. The freedom," he continues with his back turned to me, facing the blackness outside. "You are free to go, of course."

He turns to look at me, slowly spanning the distance between us to stand in front of me. Something in his eyes shifts, turns the irises a deeper shade of purple in the dim, candlelit room. "But maybe you don't want to leave. Maybe you never did."

I'm drawn to his presence, hypnotized by the odd lilt and cadence to his words. I'm torn between heading for the hills and unraveling the great mystery of immortality. Is it worth my life?

"All great knowledge is not without a price," he says, "But it is not your life that I'm interested in."

I feel my eyes narrowing. "Just what is it that you do want from me?"

He smiles and a cold knot forms in the pit of my stomach. "Nothing, my dear Fox, if not companionship."

He takes me by the arm and silently leads me downstairs. My footsteps seem awkward and clumsy next to his, which fall soundlessly in the large hallway. He leads me into another room lit by candles. I wonder why he keeps the rest of the mansion in candlelight. Ambience, maybe? Another element to add to the mysterious air around me? All thoughts that this is some rich kid's morbid idea of getting his rocks off have long since been abandoned. I've seen enough weird shit to convince me of that already. I've got the real deal here – so why all the dramatic touches?

Julian laughs beside me and leans over to whisper in my ear. "All your questions will be answered, Fox. All in due time."

He gestures for me to take a seat. This must have once been the front parlor. I can almost see the ghosts of women long dead, sewing intricate patterns onto handkerchiefs and gossiping over tea in their big-skirted dresses. The high, pointed arches that shape the windows throughout each room I've seen of the house allow the moonlight to pour into the room, lending an otherworldly air to it.

Julian stands behind my chair, his hands lingering on my shoulders. "What is it you would know?" I feel him bend down to speak into my ear, low and breathy. "The secrets of the Convenire? The truth about vampires?"

His voice sends shivers down my spine – whether out of fear or excitement, I don't know. "All of it," I answer shakily. Turning to face him, I go on. "I want to know it all."

He smiles widely and rounds my chair to look down at me with a tenderness in his eyes that makes me uneasy. "Then you shall know it all."

"Anything?"

He nods and takes a seat in the chair in front of mine. "Anything at all." The intimate smile came back to his face. "There's nothing in this world I would deny you, Fox. You have only to ask."

I can't hide how uncomfortable he's making me right now any more than I can hide my thoughts. Thankfully, rather than addressing this, Julian gestures for me to start the questioning.

I shift uneasily under his gaze. There's so much I want to know. Where do I begin?

"Why all the candles?" I nod toward a group of them to my left. He looks disappointed.

"Come now. Surely that can't be the burning question that lingers in that remarkable brain of yours."

"It's a start," I shrug. He already knows the questions I want to ask before I even open my mouth, so why does he insist on this charade?

"Because, dear Fox, I enjoy seeing the thought formulate in your head, the process of articulating it into words that are acceptable to you. I wonder if you are even aware of this – your talent for choosing the appropriate words to correspond to the feelings and ideas you wish to express." He sits back in his chair and looks me up and down. "It's quite remarkable."

"You're avoiding the question."

"But it's such a drab and pointless question. Don't you agree? Wouldn't you much rather ask about feeding or the origin of our kind?"

I shrug again. "I don't think any question is pointless, Julian. All answers come together to create the whole. I'm only asking for all the pieces."

He smiles at that and I get the feeling that I've somehow passed a test.

"Indeed," he answers. "We are nocturnal creatures and as such, we prefer the cloak of night. The candlelight is much more pleasing to our eyes, so we use the electric lights sparingly."

"Do crucifixes repel you?"

He smiles indulgently. "That is all nonsense. Crosses, Holy Water, garlic – all of it. None of them affect us in the least. Mortals have the ability to be so creative, and yet they invent these trite inaccuracies about our kind and stick by them for centuries."

"But what about mirrors?" I ask.

"I assure you, I have no problem looking into a mirror."

I bet.

He throws his head back and laughs. "Do you think me vain, Fox?"

I ignore the question. "Coffins? Do you require them?"

"No. Only complete darkness, and that can be accomplished almost anywhere. Can you imagine traveling with a coffin? Explain that to a desk clerk on the graveyard shift." He smiles at his own joke before going on. "I prefer to sleep on the finest silk sheets in the comfort of a down bed. I will allow no less in my home. For anyone."

"So you sleep in a bedroom?" I ask.

"Yes. In fact, yours is adjacent to mine. I trust you slept well? Do you find your accommodations acceptable?"

Anger and irritation from being held captive the night before bubbles up in me again. "You won't be doing that to me again, Julian. I'm leaving tonight."

"Ah, but maybe I won't have to do it again, my Fox. Maybe you'll want to stay of your own accord."

I snort. "Highly doubtful. What about dirt from your resting grounds? Do you need any of that?"

He looks at me as if I've asked him to eat the dirt. "Of course not! What would I need with dirt? Another invention of mortals to explain the unexplainable. It's always been the least favorite of all the myths to me."

"Can anything kill you?"

"Ah," he says, "now we're getting to the meat of things. Stakes through the heart are quite painful, I assure you. But, once it is removed and enough blood is consumed, the wound will start to heal itself. If anything, it's an annoyance to be staked. Such a cliché."

"Folklore denotes driving a stake through the heart, cutting off the head and stuffing the mouth with garlic as the only way besides sunlight to kill a vampire. You're saying this is all a myth?"

Julian's eyes darken. "Unfortunately, cutting off the head is fatal to any creature, immortal or no. Sunlight is also devastating to the oldest vampires, deadly to fledglings. The rest is just ridiculous."

"Can you eat and drink regular foods?"

"We can, but the idea of it is as repulsive as drinking pint after pint of blood is to you. Every vampire has to do it once in a while - " he smiles widely, "for appearances. But come! Enough questions for now. I want to take you into town and show you where the fine dining is."

Within ten minutes, I change into the clothes hanging in my closet at his request – black leather pants and a white, pointy-collared shirt under a black Edwardian coat that falls just above the backs of my knees. I feel fucking ridiculous, but say nothing as I let the vampire usher me to his chauffeured Model T.

"Where are we going?" I ask as soon as the lights from the estate are out of sight, obliterated by distance and the thick cloak of night.

"Just a little place I like to haunt," he answers softly. The driver hasn't turned his head to look back at us or even at his surroundings. For some reason, visions of a reanimated corpse brought back to serve the devil and his minions come to mind. It's a powerful image. I shake it off and stare at the back of the man's unmoving head.

It seems we've been driving for hours when the car finally halts at the end of a strip ofxx theatres and seedy bars. The block is lined with prostitutes, some in groups of ten or so, calling loudly to the passing cars like a cliché out of a cop movie.

"What are we doing here?" I ask.

Julian just smiles and climbs out of the car, straightening his coat and pulling out an ebony walking stick with a silver lion's head at the top. I resist the urge to roll my eyes at the ludicrous getup and follow him onto the sidewalk. Hookers are sidling up to us one after the other, cooing as they surround us. Julian looks straight ahead, not acknowledging any of them as he parts the way for me to follow. All around is the stench of unwashed male bodies from the patrons of the xxdives, the smell of sex – old sex, co-mingling with the perfume-doused scents from the prostitutes.

We come to a small clearing. Suddenly, Julian stops.

What happens next is unreal to me, even as it unfolds before my eyes.

Julian's entire body seems to be on alert. Quietly, he turns to his right and stares into an alley, standing so still that he looks like a statue. He motions for me to follow as he soundlessly slips over the paved and dirty passageway. I wonder what he's doing.

We're about halfway to the dead end, passing three dumpsters along the way, he suddenly leaps at least seven or eight feet to pounce behind a fourth dumpster. A strangled cry is cut off, to be replaced with muffled sobs. I rush over to see what's going on and feel my eyes go wide in horror.

In his left hand, Julian holds a hooker by the throat, with her skirt still bunched up around her full hips. She's pinned against the wall, eyes bulging in fear. In his right, he holds a large man with his pants down around his ankles. The man's bare legs quiver, tears silently rolling down his cheeks as Julian is latched on, drinking from his meaty neck.

It all happens so fast; I don't have time to think. The man drops to the ground in a lump as Julian takes the hooker into his arms and swings her around. The girl's back is facing me and the monster actually smiles, irises glowing violet, lids hooded with desire before he clamps down on the pale flesh of her neck.

I want to turn away from the gruesome scene, but can't. I'm mesmerized by the eyes that still hold my own, entranced by the awful tearing sound of the skin initially being broken by his fangs. By the dark blood that pools just around his lips before he widens his mouth to take it all back in.

It's a goddamn train wreck. I just can't stop watching. I hate myself in that instant; hate my insatiable curiosity and the part of me that must know how things work. The part of me who got me into trouble in my childhood innocence when I took my Father's radio apart and examined all the funny little parts that made it up. I just had to know what was inside. Once I had it in pieces all over the kitchen table, I had no idea how to put it back together and ended up being grounded for a week. This is the same part of me that refuses to turn away from the awful scene in front of me.

After all, wasn't this what I wanted? The knowledge? A curiosity quenched?

Julian's gaze is rapturous and too intimate for comfort. He's doing more than showing me the mechanics of vampirism. It's almost like he's sharing a lover with me.

Every fiber of my being wants to run, run back home. Back to Scully. Nausea wells in my stomach and I taste the meatloaf and potatoes in the back of my throat as I struggle to keep it all down.

Finally, it's over. The girl is dropped unceremoniously to the cold ground and Julian takes his time stepping over the body to grasp my elbow with a tenderness belying the savage force he just displayed.

In the flashy bustle of the street and sidewalks, no one notices the vampire and his pale human companion emerge stealthily from the dark alley and climb into the black car that awaits them at the end of the strip.

I am locked in the same damned suite of rooms as last night, pacing the floor like a caged tiger that's ready to pounce.

The drive back to the estate was silent, though I'm sure Julian was able to clearly hear the cacophony of thoughts running rampant in my head. He said nothing. Before I knew what was happening, he whisked me into the room and had the door locked. Daylight is now at least two hours away so why the hell did he want me locked away? Damn that lying bastard to hell for holding me against my will again.

It doesn't take long before the traumatic events of the night and my fevered pacing sap all my strength and I'm lying on the bed, facedown.

When I wake, it's afternoon. Again.

I'm definitely having a sense of deja vu here. There's a tray of food set up near the bed and the smell of fresh coffee in the air. The distinct sound of a lock being thrown snicks softly in the silence of the room.

I jump from the bed and run to the door in hopes of catching the person who's been bringing all this food to me. The person who's helping Julian hold me prisoner here.

"Hey!" I shout through the door, pounding on the solid wood. "Hey! Let me out of here. Hello? Look, I know you can hear me. Let me the hell out of here!"

Nothing but heavy breathing on the other side and a shadow coming from beneath the door.

"I'm an FBI agent. If you don't let me out, you'll be an accessory."

My head swims with images of last night, watching Julian kill those two people with no regret – actually taking pleasure in it. That could be me next. The only hope I have left is standing indecisively on the other side of this door.

"Please," I plead softly. Please.

My heart sinks as I hear the sound of retreating footsteps echo down the hall.

Fear settles in the pit of my stomach, spreading its icy fingers throughout my entire body like an infection.

I'm trapped. He'll never let me go.

I've been incredibly foolish, Scully. How could I be so stupid? I'm in the middle of nowhere, in a house that's supposedly full of vampires. How long will it be before Julian gets tired of trying to win my affections? Or will he just become bored with me first?

I'm going to die. It's almost funny – we've survived so much, and it's gonna be a goddamn vampire that finally does me in. You never would have let me come out here. For once, I wish I'd listened to your reasoning voice in my head.

I lumber over to my bed and curl up into a ball on top of the luxurious black silk bedspread. The smell of the food is sickening and I close my eyes against the faint waves of nausea. Somehow, I fall asleep and feel perfectly numb.

A light caress on my face startles me.

Julian looms above me, his eyes full of tenderness. "Come," he offers his hand to me. Despite the fact that every cell in my body is screaming in protest, I sit up and take it. He smiles and leads me out the door without taking his eyes off me. I look straight ahead, nervous as hell. What does he want from me now? I don't think I can stand watching another one of his feedings. I've been with the Bureau for over a decade, but I have yet to actually witness anything as horrifying as what I saw last night.

We stop at the end of the hallway. "They do not always feel pain," he tells me in a quiet voice. "On the contrary, it can be the most erotic experience of their lives."

Anger flares in me and I jerk out of his cold grasp. "Is it worth the price they have to pay?" I fire back.

He smiles indulgently. "There is nothing like it in the world. They are so frightened, so confused at first. Then, all they know is pleasure, infinite and absolute. It's more than they're designed to handle." He smiles widely at me. "Trust me, my young friend. Death means very little to them at that point."

"You're disgusting," I spit out.

"That very well may be," his irritating grin splits his face, "but very soon, you'll learn to appreciate me."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Does he mean that he'll be holding me here indefinitely? I'm not sure if his comment is meant to be a threat or just another example of his flare for melodrama. He doesn't answer, but leads me down the stairs and through the corridor to our right.

We pause in front of the heavy oak door of the library. "I think it's time you meet the Convenire," he says and opens the door with dramatic flourish.

Inside, the mournful strains of a string quartet play on a phonograph as about five men and women lounge around the room. All the men are dressed in the romantic, Edwardian style Julian seems to prefer. I've been forced to dress the same, ever since I'd discovered that all my clothes had been taken away.

I recognize the redhead who'd let me in the door. What was it – only two nights ago? Jesus, it feels like a lifetime has passed since then. She's wearing a long, black dress with several revealing slits. The top half is even more provocative - her breasts practically spill over the black lace of her bra that peeks just above the top of the dress. The slits of the skirt separate to show her pale legs and knee-high, black boots.

A tall, brown-skinned teenager stands in front of her, looking down with adoration as she throws her head back and laughs heartily at whatever it is he just said. He grins at her reaction, never taking his eyes off her.

Across the room, a man leans against one of the ceiling-high bookshelves, reading a tattered old book by the light of the floor candelabra nearby. I squint and see the gold-leafed word "poetry" written on the front cover. He's about my height, as far as I can tell. He never looks up from his book.

A beefy blond man bristles at our presence. His mannerism makes me half expect to see his tail and ears prick up as he tenses and leans forward in his chair, but makes no move to get up. Standing next to him is a very tall, very bald man with "club bouncer" written all over his face. He looks me up and down, sizing me up.

A young woman breezes through the door, cheeks flushed. Her curly hair is so dark, it's almost black and her eyes are flashing lilac. She's incredibly beautiful, but something about her feels -- dangerous.

"Liliana." Julian clucks disapprovingly.

She smoothes the front of her short leather skirt and coolly regards the man. "I'm here, aren't I?"

The two stare at each other for several long moments and I have the feeling that some silent battle is being waged between them. Finally, she looks away.

"It seems my willful sister has already fed," Julian says angrily. Looking closer, I can now see the similar coloring, the same delicate cheekbones. There's no doubt these two are siblings.

Liliana smiles sweetly. "And I will feed again, Brother."

Julian makes a "humph" sound and turns to me. "We'll be going out tonight and I want you to join us. There's a – party being held in our honor." His mouth stretches into a wide grin and the others join in on what must be a private joke. It looks like a room full of hyenas. "It would be rude to make our generous host wait for us, so let's be on our way, shall we?"

He walks up to me and stands so close our noses nearly touch. "Relax, Fox." Wrapping his arms around me, he pulls his large coat to surround both of us. I push away, but it's as futile as pounding my fists against a brick wall. Then, ice-cold, cutting wind whips around us. It's violent and I can't see a damn thing because he's got this coat covering my head. Still, I can feel the sting of it through the material.

Worse than that is the unsettling sensation of free falling. My stomach feels like it's taking up permanent residence in my throat. Please, stop the ride. I'm gonna be sick.

For no reason at all, it does.

The dark cloak is removed and I take a dizzy look around. We're standing in front of what appears to be an abandoned warehouse. There are several similar buildings lining the quiet street. Somewhere, the steady beat of dance music thumps away. The blond man with the attitude problem strides up to the large loading dock doors and rings a small bell bolted to the rotting wood.

I look at Julian curiously as the door swings open to admit his brood. We follow them inside. The place is completely dark except for a neon green trail of glow-in-the-dark stars creating a path to follow on the floor. I feel my eyes widen as they attempt to take in more light. The rhythmic beat grows stronger as we walk. Julian's hand clamps around my upper arm for support. Unsure of what's in store for me, I resist the urge to shake it away. He chuckles lightly beside me.

Finally, we arrive at another door. A black-light strip illuminates it, making the fluorescent painted surface glow. The surly bouncer who guards it moves aside and opens the door for us.

It's a nightclub. The walls are streaked with a rusty red paint. The dim light glints off chains that hang from above, lowering the ceiling. Purple velvet-upholstered booths are situated all around, their high backs and semi-circle design offering some privacy. Some of the patrons take advantage of this and more than a few of the booths hold writhing couples.

Everyone is dressed in black vinyl and fetish- wear, trench coats and leather. Hair is spiked; faces glittered, blackened with eyeliner or heavily made up. Spiky jewelry and tattooed bodies, pierced and looking for a common sanctuary.

Julian motions for me to join him and three of the others in a booth in the far corner. It's suspiciously dark in this corner. The young boy and the woman with the red hair slip in first, followed by Liliana and Julian. The former pair engage in conversation, but I can't make out the words over the booming music. Liliana looks at Julian for a few moments and pouts. His jaw tightens and his eyes gleam with that strange light I've already seen several times.

Finally, Liliana slips out of the booth to saunter off into the throngs of dancers and I realize that I've just been standing here, staring. I take a seat as far away from Julian as the booth as possible and wait. What's the point of bringing me here?

Julian motions to a cocktail waitress I couldn't even see at first in the sparse light. She returns with five drinks, one of which I gulp down. Something inside me wants nothing more than to drown all this out, pretend I never came here to begin with. I could be at home right now, falling asleep with the TV on and having impure dreams featuring a certain redheaded FBI agent – about things that would get me censured and burned at the stake in real life.

Now it just looks like I'm going to die.

Lovely thought, huh? Well, Fox Mulder's turning over a new leaf, starting riiight now. I'm going to be a responsible agent, first and foremost, from here on out. No more chasing lights in the dark, thank you very much.

Shit. How many drinks have I had?

"You see those two?" Julian points to the pair on the other side of the curved seat. A kid in his mid-twenties now sits between the teenager and the redhead, kissing them alternately. They laugh and exchange smoldering glances, oblivious to us.

"Yeah," I reply. My head is swimming, but I can only remember drinking one drink.

"The woman's name is Maeve," he beams proudly. "She's an Ancient, like Liliana and I. She is – a most valuable member of the Convenire."

"And the boy?"

"Someone she found in Egypt. He was homeless, scrounging the streets and pick pocketing. Caleb barely speaks a word of English, but he understands what we say, for the most part. He is her son. The son she could never have in mortal life."

I stare at them as he talks, noting the loving way they fawn over each other over the writhing man between them. Suddenly, Maeve bites down on the man's neck. His eyes closed are closed tight, mouth open in ecstasy, and his moans are loud enough that I can hear them over the noise in the club.

My God. They're going to kill him right in front of at least eighty witnesses. I move to pull them off of him, or at least warn the poor kid, but my limbs are like lead. I can do nothing but watch in horrified silence as Caleb cranes to bite into the opposite side.

"Ah," Julian goes on. "Liliana's found a sweet little morsel, has she not?"

I can't answer. I can't even turn my head to see what he's talking about.

"Not to worry, my young Fox," he whispers in my ear. "They will not kill him. After all, this is what he came for." He straightens and speaks loudly, sweeping a hand around the room. "That is what they all came for!"

I begin to understand. Vampirism. Many people find the act of sharing blood erotic. This place is for people who want to experience that.

Maeve and Caleb pull away from the man, wiping their mouths. Their 'victim' has passed out, missing the unnatural glow of their eyes. I am finally able to move my head and I notice Liliana across the room, grinding against a girl on the dance floor. She has choppy blonde hair and wears a conservative long black gown. She almost looks out of place here. Something in her face is so innocent, untainted. Seeing Liliana's hands all over her makes my stomach turn.

To the left of us, I notice the man who was reading the book of poetry earlier. He's staring at Liliana and the girl, scowling with obvious disapproval.

"Demetrius." Julian supplies. "He's like many of the misguided souls in this room – angry and dissatisfied with life as it is. They always want something more, something deeper than what life has to offer. Sadly, there is little more than what lies in front of them." He smiles at me. "There is a lesson in that, you know."

"Really?" I snort. "And what is that?"

His gaze intensifies. "I want you to join me, Fox. There is a world out there you've never dreamed. You're worthy of so much more than what you've limited yourself to."

I blink, unsure of how to respond. Another wave of dizziness crashes over me and my gaze falls on my empty glass.

"Did- did you drug me?" I demand. Unfortunately, my voice comes out less than intimidating. He doesn't answer, only looks at me in disappointment.

Liliana drops into the booth with her new friend, both of them laughing. She strokes the young girl's hair and smiles down at the top of her head. "Isn't my new pet lovely?" she asks.

I stare at them, appalled as the girl snuggles against Liliana like a kitten looking for love. She nibbles on the girl's neck and earlobes and the girl sighs, relaxing her head against the back of the booth as she surrenders to Liliana.

The vampire bites into her neck and she shivers in pleasure, holding Liliana's head to pull her closer as she drinks. Her breathing hitches.

Liliana pulls back, smiling widely as she licks the blood from her teeth. "I want to take you home with me. I want you to be my pet," she says as she caresses the girl's taut nipples through the dress's fabric. "Would you like that?"

"Yes," the girl says weakly, lids still heavy with desire. The answer earns her a large grinning leer from Liliana.

"Come!" Julian claps his hands together. "I am anxious to get home."

I feel incredibly out of synch and still can't move. Julian slips out after the others and looks down at me. "Come," he repeats. I stand as if there was never a problem. God, I wish I knew what the hell was going on here. I'm sure I was drugged, but is this some sort of mind-control?

Julian takes my arm and helps me out the door of the club and across the glow-in-the-dark path. Once outside, I notice the grace and ease with which these creatures move. They almost float above the ground, gliding. The bald man and the blond come from an alley to join us, each wiping their mouths, eyes gleaming hungrily.

Julian leans into me, dropping his voice while we lag behind. "The one on the left is Adrian," he says, indicating the burly one. "He's my right hand man, for lack of a better term." He motions to the blond one and sighs. "The one beside him is Stephan. He was my favorite, once upon a time. I made him. But, he's become ruthless and unpredictable."

We draw nearer to the others and hear Liliana talking to the girl.

"What do you mean, you've changed your mind?" Her eyes blaze and the girl takes a step back. Liliana advances on her. "Answer me!"

"I- I..." The girl sputters. I move to stand between them, but once again, I am completely helpless. I might be a little fuzzy, but now I'm certain of what's going on. I glare at Julian, who watches the scene with little interest.

"Let me go, you son of a bitch!" I growl.

He glances at me, then turns his attention back to the two women. "This isn't your fight, dear Fox."

Suddenly, Liliana pounces on the girl, knocking her off balance and cutting off her scream as she ruthlessly tears into her flesh, ripping away chunks of it. Sour bile rises in the back of my throat and I try to turn away, Jesus, I try. But I can't.

In her fury, Liliana mutilates the girl's face and chest as well before she's finally satisfied.

This time, the whipping of the wind all around me is cut off short as merciful blackness claims me.

I dream that Julian tenderly tucks me into bed, smoothing my hair like a mother does her child as he excitedly promises something big for me the next night. The last thing I remember is the color blue, the exact shade of the eyes of the woman I left behind.

~*~

I'm going to die.

I woke this afternoon in my oversized anteroom to hell, certain of it. Not like last night, when I was undoubtedly drugged, and therefore, susceptible to Julian's suggestion. No, I'm thinking clearly now.

My only regret is in leaving you, Scully. Leaving you to wonder, as I've wondered all these years with Samantha. Leaving you to explain my erratic actions and subsequent disappearance to our superiors. Leaving you without ever telling you how much you mean to me, without ever tasting your lips or holding you in my arms until dawn. Without ever letting you know that you've always been my sanity, my safe harbor in this fucked up life. I never would've made it this far without you.

I'm locked in here with no food, except for the sunflower seeds. If I never see another goddamned sunflower seed in my life, it'll be a day too soon. But maybe that won't be a problem.

The door bursts open and Adrian and Stefan grab me by my upper arms, hauling me off the bed and down the stairs to a room I've never seen before.

The rest of the Convenire are gathered around in a semi-circle, surrounded by the flickering light of dozens upon dozens of candles. All are dressed in long black robes. All wear different expressions on their pale faces.

Maeve looks at me happily, appearing almost matronly as she stands in her plain attire. Caleb stands next to her. He seems nervous. Well, that makes two of us, pal. Adrian takes his place and stands dead still, arms crossed and regarding me coolly as Stefan looks around the room with obvious impatience. Demetrius appears less than interested. Liliana scowls from her position.

Just what the hell is going on here? The phrase 'ritual sacrifice' comes to mind. I push the thought away. It'll do no good to panic now. I want to rewind, go back to Friday. The funny thing is, I'm not sure if I knew all this was going to happen, I would have stayed in DC. I'd like to think so.

Julian walks into the room and stands in front of me, taking hold of my arm.

"Fox," he whispers and strokes my face before I can dodge his hand. "I have waited three centuries to find the perfect companion, someone I can share all this with. I have chosen you, my Fox."

I jerk away from his grasp. "You can't have me, Julian! I want to leave. Now!"

His smile makes my insides churn. It's maniacal, twisted. Without another word, he swoops down and bites my neck. There is a moment of pure pain and terror as the flesh tears and fear of death dominates all my senses. In an instant, I see a menagerie of images flash behind my closed eyes – squatting next to Scully over a piece of evidence at a crime scene, ushering her through a doorway for the first time and remembering how it felt so natural. Then, looking down at Diana as she tells me with tear-filled eyes that she's leaving. Graduation party at Oxford. Playing catch with Samantha before dinner.

Then, there is nothing but absolute pleasure. It courses through my veins, rushing through my limbs. My soul feels – lighter. I've never felt anything this erotic.

When he pulls away, I want to cry. Please don't leave me, Julian.

I feel myself being lowered to the floor. With hazy eyes, I see him cut his wrist with a small dagger and hold the gaping wound over my mouth.

"Drink, my love. Drink, or you will die."

The survival instinct in me is stronger than my will to resist him and I latch onto his wrist, drinking deeply from it. It's coppery, but surprisingly, it isn't that appalling. Quite the opposite, actually. I feel – feral. Free. It's liberating.

Suddenly, my body begins to jerk. The pain is nearly unbearable – like every molecule of my being is scorching at once. Stars burst behind my closed eyelids.

And then -- darkness.


My eyes snapped open.

My God. What he went through – it's more than I could bear to think about. Still, Mulder was lucky. It could've been so much worse. The room that had once been so warm with the fire blazing now felt cold and unforgiving. I wrapped the blanket tighter around me.

The sound of the bedroom door opening caused me to jump off the bed, blanket and all. My body stiffened at the sight of Liliana, looking just as she did in the vision.

"My dear," she said in a sickly-sweet voice, leering as she closed in the space between us. "I've heard so much about you."


Chapter Three

I couldn't move.

"What's the matter, love? Has the cat got your tongue?" Liliana laughed. The sound echoed through my head, making me wince.

"I know you," I responded.

She smiled. "Yes. That naughty Fox has been transmitting his memories to you." She stalked closer. "I have to say, I'm quite impressed with the level of his ability. Usually it takes decades to reach the point where he is now."

"I know what you are." Why couldn't I move? Liliana's eyes glowed brightly as she narrowed the distance between us.

"What do you want from me?" I asked, disgusted with the frightened quaver of my voice. Trying to move away from her was proving to be an impossible feat – something had turned my legs to lead. I looked at her, realization dawning – she was somehow willing me to remain still. If someone had asked me a few years ago if I thought this was even a remote possibility, I would've laughed at them. But that was before Robert Modell.

Liliana was ten times more dangerous.

And she was drawing nearer.

A lascivious leer split her face as she stopped in front of me. "I think you know what I want. What is it that you want, Dana?"

"What kind of game are you playing here? Take me to Mulder!"

She shook her head with a frown. "Wrong answer."

Before I could fully register what was happening, she grabbed my arm and jerked me toward her with inhuman force. I tried to struggle out of her crushing embrace. The effort was rewarded with a slap that rang in my ears.

She threw me on top of the bed and covered me with her body, pushing me into the mattress with unbelievable strength. It was what I imagined being pressed to death would be like. The air pushed forcefully out of my lungs, and my eyes bulged from the mere effort of inhaling. I could feel that there was nothing pinning my legs, but still could not move them. She pressed my arms into the covers with her hands and smiled warmly.

"You see, love, you really shouldn't be here. And neither should that naughty Fox of yours. I'm going to fix all that," she crooned. "I'm going to turn you, so that the two of you can be together, forever. Would you like that, Dana?"

Noooooo!!! I screamed uselessly inside my head. She smiled, as if she'd heard it. I suspect that she did.

"Think about it," she went on, now smoothing the hair from my forehead with one hand. "Eternity with the man you love. You'll never grow old, never die. Always be beautiful and vivacious. Disease could never touch you. As a scientist, I'd think you would find all this fascinating."

She looked off to the side of us, pausing. I shook beneath her, trying with all my might to shove her off me. Too much pressure – she was going to crush me to death. Why do this? If she can hold me down with sheer will, why go through all this brutality?

As she turned to face me, I knew my answer.

Her eyes glowed purple, with unmistakable hatred and fury. But there was something more, something lying just beneath the surface.

Pure, unadulterated insanity.

"I never had a choice. No. That right was taken away from me. And believe me, it has all been for the best. Now, shhhh. I'm going to make everything better. For everyone."

Without another word, she lowered her mouth to my neck and sank razor teeth into me. Unlike with Mulder, there was no tenderness or love in the act. When she bit down, there was no passion. It was cold and painful, tearing and burning.

But it was more than just pain alone. Images flitted in my mind, though I could feel that my eyes were still wide-open. They were of places I'd only seen the ruins of, civilizations long since reformed. What did these images mean? They seemed to have no purpose.

She eased up on my body, lightening her weight. It was small relief, though it did allow me to breathe once again. But the vice- like clamp on my neck was unbearable. I imagined, as I laid there, a wild animal latching onto its prey as it mauled the sensitive flesh protecting the jugular.

This is what it's like to be chewed to death.

The beat of a drum pounded in my ears, the sound deafening. Slower and slower it pounded. Where was it coming from?

Thump.

Thump.

Thump.

I was light as air, spinning and swirling into the grayness the room had become. There was nothing but the pounding.


Julian and I arrived at the estate in a matter of minutes. The day had passed in a blur, shifting from one night to the next until I had awakened to find her missing. But to Scully, the day must have stretched into an eternity. I could sense her presence, sensed her fear now. Why hadn't I known what was happening to her while I slept?

Julian, with his unyielding grasp on my waist, pulled me up the grand staircase and into his bedroom. Once the door was closed, he released me. We circled each other in the center of the room like two wild animals. I was going to tear him to shreds and nothing was going to stop me.

"What I do is for your own good, Fox."

"What you do is for your own gratification," I barked in disgust. "Tell me what taking her away was going to do, if not serve your ends."

He sighed. "You must know that she is a poison. That she'll be your destruction. I'm only trying to protect you."

"Cut the bullshit, Julian!" I spat. "Just admit that you're jealous of her. She took what you'll never have a long time ago."

His eyes glowed indigo and for a moment, I was almost afraid for my damned soul.

Voice low and even, anger simmered beneath his words. "You go too far, fledgling. You have no idea who you're dealing with."

He stalked forward. With each advance, I retreated until finally, I was pressed between the wall and his rigid body. His glare was replaced by a twisted smile as he leaned in to whisper into my ear.

"You see, dearest Fox, I made you. You belong to me. Forever."

He inhaled deeply, breathing in the scent of my neck and hair in a way that made me shiver in fear.

"I'm not jealous of that - woman. She's nothing but a passing diversion, an annoying gnat with a miniscule lifespan. She had your trust and your heart in life, but this," he pulled back and rested a hand on my cheek, smiling warmly. "This is different. This is for all eternity."

I jerked away from his despicable touch. "Take me to her," I demanded.

Julian sighed again. "It would serve you well to forget about her. She will be gone by morning. Consider it a favor between friends that she will receive my protection until then."

"What the hell are you talking about? Protection from what?" I demanded.

"There are those who would see her killed for what you've done, my young Fox. Transference of The Blood with a mortal is forbidden. I only wanted to bring you to me, not to see you heartbroken from her loss. And so I offer her protection until the morning, when my servants can take her to the nearest airport."

Fear surged through me. I never wanted any of this -- for Scully to be involved with these creatures. Finding my voice, I told him, "She never drank from me. I drank from her. It's all my fault."

The guilt of what we'd done the night before hit me hard. I was ashamed of myself for the selfish act. She never should've come here. I never should've let her stay. And I never should've tainted her pure body with my kiss. It was unforgivable.

Noooooo!!!

"Scully?"

My head whipped around, trying to find the source of the tormented shout. But even as I searched the room with a mental sweep, I knew. It was Scully, no doubt about it.

I crossed the room and grabbed Julian's collar, raising him to his toes. I knew he could flick me off like an annoying bug, but none of that mattered to me at that point. Anger and fear propelled me, drowning out any consideration of consequences.

"WHERE?" I shook him hard, ready to beat the answer out of him if need be.

Julian sighed heavily again. "Fourth floor. She's in the East wing."

I let go of him and ran. The closer I got, the more audible a distinct heartbeat was to me. I could sense no other mortals in the house; it could only be hers.

And it was slowing.

I followed the dreadful sound of her dying heartbeat to a door. Without wasting another precious second, I kicked in the mahogany wood, reducing it to large splinters, and rushed inside.

A horrific sight greeted me.

Liliana, growling and slurping, was sprawled over Scully's body. Unfathomable fear gripped at my heart.

Liliana flipped her blonde hair over her shoulder. In her rapture, she was completely oblivious to my presence. I now had an unobstructed view of Scully's face.

Several things registered in that instant. Her face was pale – far too pale. Her eyes were wide open, but held a far-off gaze. Glazed over. Her lips were leeched of their rosy color, slack and formed into a silent scream. With my keen senses, I could hear that her breathing was nearly non-existent, so shallow were her intakes of air.

Mulder

Her telepathic voice moved me from stunned horror, to immediate action.

I crossed the length of the room in a few long strides and began jerking Liliana off of Scully. She growled in warning, unable to discern who was interrupting her meal. We are at our most vulnerable when we feed -- completely unaware of our surroundings. I took the advantage while I could, while there was still a chance I could save Scully.

Pulling savagely at her shoulders, her hair – anything I could take hold of – I finally managed to draw her away from Scully. She spun around to face me with ferocity.

"How dare you?" Her voice was a bit garbled and liquid from all the blood she'd consumed. Hearing it and knowing the source brought forth a wrath I never dreamed existed in me.

I raised my hand as I never would in my mortal life, ready to strike her, kill her – do anything I could to rid the world of this monstrosity and avenge the woman laying in a dazed heap on top of the covers.

Looking back, I realize this was as ridiculous as my physical attacks against Julian. They were both so old and unimaginably strong. I was an ant, railing against a lioness.

No force on earth could've stopped me from doing my damndest. I fought in a blind rage, attempting to strangle a neck that couldn't crush or break, trying to squeeze the life out of a being that couldn't die.

It was like a nightmare I couldn't wake from. I'd never struck a woman before, yet there I was, on the large bed, thrashing Liliana with as much strength as I could muster in a blind attempt at saving Scully.

Her face changed in an instant from one of fury to one of pure amusement. She laughed maniacally at my efforts and taunted me until I finally stopped, exhausted and terrified that I was losing the only person that mattered to me. The only thing tethering me to this world.

Liliana jumped off the bed and I dully noticed her bruises were already healing before my eyes. I crawled over to Scully's side and held her to me, panicking as each breath became shallower than the last. I could sense that there was little blood left in her now. She needed a transfusion, and she needed it now. Without it, she would die.

"Looks like our little pet is ready to leave this earth," she taunted from the side of the bed where she stood. I stroked Scully's tangled hair, glaring in hatred at Liliana even as silent, helpless tears tracked down my cheeks. So, I thought crazily. We can cry after all.

Julian suddenly appeared behind her and jerked her backwards.

"What have you done?" He held her by her long hair and growled into her bared neck. She spun to face him as best she could.

"I only wanted to give him what he wanted, Julian," she pouted. "He doesn't want you – he wants her. The sooner you realize that won't change, the happier we'll all be."

Julian's eyes flashed, and he pushed his sister away with enough force that she slammed into the opposite wall. "Come, Fox. I'm sorry this has happened, but you must know there is nothing more you can do for her."

"No!" I shouted. There had to be something, some tidbit I'd read in all the research I'd done on vampires.

Transfusion. She needed a transfusion.

Liliana, reading my mind, nodded her head vehemently. "Yes! And you can do it. Your blood is stronger than you know."

Julian grabbed her by the arm and glowered into her elated face. "Liliana, I'm warning you."

Liliana stared proudly up at him. "What would you have done to me, dear brother? Stake me out for the burning sun to reduce me to cinders as you did to our poor, sweet Vivienne? Could you cut off the head that so resembles your own? We are flesh and blood, you and I. One and the same. What you do to me, you do to yourself as well."

She lifted a hand to touch his face as he shook with anger, and cooed into his ear. "I only wanted to return things to their natural order, dear one. I only wanted my family back. Let them go. Let them find their happiness far from here, and let us do the same. I have a sudden urge to visit our Rome again."

His anger seemed to melt into hurt. "What's this all about? Why have you done this?"

"I wanted to restore her to him," she explained sweetly. "I wanted to give him a companion so he could leave. Things must be returned to the way they were, dear one. They must be. Surely you understand the consequences." She shuddered.

Most of the rest is lost to me. It seemed she was crying and pleading for his understanding, and he was angrily telling her she'd crossed a line. I faintly heard him speak of consequences she'd forgotten to take into consideration, namely the sacred rules of the Convenire.

"You miserable, impatient fool! How dare you move to make another without my permission?" he shouted.

Then all was quiet. She was turning to leave and he sent me a silent, telepathic message.

I love you, it said. But I love her too. Please forgive me.

And then, they both were gone, leaving us in privacy.

I knew what it meant. She had to face the Convenire as a panel – judge and jury – and hope for their mercy as a result of her violation. I didn't care about her fate or Julian's sorrowful apology. All I cared about was Scully.

Could I transfuse my polluted blood with hers? I imagined all sorts of terrible possibilities before finally deciding to plunge ahead. She would die within minutes if I didn't move fast, and almost anything was a better alternative to that.

Still cradling her limp body in my arms, I adjusted our position so that I could have access to my right wrist. I bit into the flesh there, and allowed the blood to flow between her dried and colorless lips.

I wanted her to suddenly bolt upright and demand to know what I was doing; to exclaim that this was unlike any transfusion she'd ever known and there's no way it would work. I wanted her to berate me for putting her in this position in the first place.

She didn't do any of those things, but she did move to wrap her lips around my wrist to better receive the life-giving blood as I supported her neck with my arm. Her eyes fluttered closed, but I had no fear now. I knew that The Blood holds properties humans can't imagine as mortal blood passes through immortal veins. It was healing her.

It was a far from perfect plan. I hadn't fed since the night before, and that was on a doe in the twilight hours. I didn't have enough blood to give – not near enough. She would be okay until I could get her to a hospital, but she wouldn't fully recover with my weakened blood. It was almost a relief, as I wasn't sure if too much blood would bring her over. I knew so little about my powers then.

I was weak. Hunger stung in my veins and my vision blurred. The transfusion had taken too much out of me too quickly. I wasn't prepared for it. I was too young, too inexperienced. And losing almost all of the blood in my body without having fed first was as fatal a mistake as a fledgling vampire can make.

Blackness claimed me, and I felt the two of us slip down the pillows into a deep unconsciousness.

I awoke to the cleansing and erotic rush of blood coursing down my parched throat, chasing the godawful hunger away. In the feeding, I had a vision of a brown-haired teenager, holding a knife to his girlfriend's tender white throat and severing her jugular with no remorse. It wasn't the first time this kid had done it. In fact, he was beginning to think of killing as an art form.

Julian had rid the world of this person, and brought his blood and his memories back to me. I knew this instinctively; as I was positive this wasn't the victim himself I clung to so desperately, drinking as fast as I could to regain my strength. The flesh beneath my fingers was cold and rigid, but even without the physical contact, we can sense our own from literally miles away.

Sated, though still dizzy from the experience, I slid off the bed and scooped Scully into my arms.

I looked Julian dead in the eye. "I'm taking her to the hospital." Don't try to stop me, I added mentally.

I looked at the window, knowing it was the fastest way out into the night. It was shut tight and I'd have to unbolt the iron latches to get us out. But before I knew what was happening, the window was opening of its own volition.

I paused a second in my haste to leave and turned to see if Julian had done this. He was gone.

I didn't have time to think about it. Scully was getting weaker and still hadn't regained consciousness.

We arrived at the hospital's emergency room within minutes. I carried her in, limp and lifeless and raved like a lunatic about getting her a doctor immediately.

It was in those panicked moments that I learned I could look into a mortal's mind at will, something I thought wouldn't come to me until later. I saw an image of myself in the night nurse's mind, eyes tinged in red and hair wildly sticking out in all directions. Flashing my badge and shouting that I had a Federal Agent here who needed help, now. She thought I was crazed. Her thoughts were split between wondering if she needed to call security to take me out and rushing the unconscious woman in my arms to the back.

The nurse picked up the phone to call for two orderlies and a gurney – one man to take Scully back and one to calm and restrain me.

I laughed insanely at his attempts to hold me back, saying to me in soothing tones that she was being taken care of. But I knew I couldn't let on that anything was abnormal about me. I needed to settle down and let them do their job rather than rouse their suspicions. I tried to take comfort in the fact that Scully would be safe now. My blood, coupled with a real transfusion, would stabilize her.

The wait was long and unnerving. But it gave me time to think. I wondered about what happened in Scully's room earlier.

Julian's strange behavior, for instance. I still wasn't sure why he didn't just stop me. It was so unlike him, to restore my health and sit passively by as I turned my back on him for Scully. Maybe he was afraid of me hating him more – and I would've.

The window. Had he opened it, or had I? There were so many questions I wanted to ask about my newfound powers, but I didn't want to learn them from Julian. I felt that coming from him, the knowledge would be corrupt somehow.

All I could do was wait. Wait for good news, wait for bad. It seemed my new life was going to be nothing but that.

Waiting, for all eternity.


Chapter Four

There isn't much a badge and a well-placed take-charge attitude can't get you. If I'd failed to learn that lesson in life, I definitely understood it now.

Never mind that I was no longer an FBI agent. Not anymore, though only Scully and I knew that for certain, under the circumstances. But my badge and assertiveness, not to mention some undignified pleading with the night nurse and doctor on duty, earned me unlimited access to Scully's room in ICU that night.

She was still unconscious, but stable. I was right in assuming she would be, but terrified for her nonetheless. Keeping my vigil next to her bed, I clasped her hand tightly and looked around the sterile room.

It was small, but actually had walls instead of curtains to separate the patients. This isn't as standard as one would think in an intensive care unit -- and I should know. The walls were stark white wallpaper, textured and with the palest pastel brushstrokes of color printed on it at intervals. There was a window, but I ruled it out as a point of entry for me, as it was small and narrow. It was also sealed shut by design -- impossible to open and enter. Monitors beeped and whirred insistently, gauging Scully's vitals and taking her blood pressure every few minutes.

The room reminded me of a prison cell. Maybe because I'd been held captive in so many rooms like it for much of my adult life. Maybe because Scully looked so damned small and vulnerable in that monster of a bed. It was a white and chrome prison, blue machines and clear tubes.

I wanted to take her out of there.

Shaking off the impossible thought, I forced myself to remember why she was there to begin with. Could I really blame Liliana? What she'd done was all a part of her nature. The blame lay with myself. If I had turned Scully away that night in the cabin, rather than agreeing to "one last night," she'd be healthy and dreaming in her apartment right now instead of the victim of a vicious vampire attack.

I vaguely remember a detective coming into her little room as I sat with her, asking me questions about her and treating me as a respected colleague. I can't say what a rarity that was. So many times, Scully and I had met with hostility from local law enforcement in our investigations. This man was polite. I scanned his thoughts and found that my answers to his questions were satisfactory. He believed that I found her this way and that the FBI would head up its own investigation in the matter, as was protocol. He harbored no suspicions about me. The man thanked me for my cooperation, and then was gone, leaving us to our symphony of electrical humming and the soft whoosh of her pressure being taken again.

It was about three am when the hunger started to overwhelm and consume every particle of my being. I had unwittingly fed on Julian, but it was only enough to sustain me for a short period of time -- just long enough to get help for Scully.

The scent of blood and death surrounded me, and I was no longer able to block it out. How can one who doesn't possess The Blood understand? It's dizzying. All encompassing. Memories of the flavor of rich, mortal blood blossoms in the back of the throat, something akin to having your mouth water at the thought of cutting into a thick, juicy steak. You become dizzy, disoriented. The only thing you can think of is giving some hapless and precious throat your kiss, and drawing deeply on their beating heart.

I once thought the idea of a vampire "seeing" the blood of its victim through their skin was clichéd, something reserved for Bram Stoker and Hollywood. I know better now. As I looked at my beautiful, silent Scully, I traced the network of blue veins beneath her still-pale skin. The wrist beneath my hand, her throat, so exposed to me -- it was all a great temptation. It seemed they throbbed with life of their own, calling to me. I felt my tongue flick out to lick my lips in answer.

I had to get out of there. I had no idea how long my self- control would prevent me from devouring her -- or anyone else unfortunate enough to cross paths with me. I rose and left as quickly as possible, making sure to plod heavily along as a mortal man would. Once outside, I had the cloak of night to conceal me, and I hurried across town to the club where Julian had taken me only nights ago.

I was more alert than ever, and I knew this had something to do with the burning hunger throughout my body. I opened myself up to be receptive to any evil nearby; anyone I could take small drinks from without remorse.

I found my answer, but not inside the club with all the other reckless mortals playing their blood sports. It was behind the warehouse, in the alleyway.

A man hovered over the body of a woman, and I could see with my sharp night-vision that he was stabbing her. She'd been dead for a few moments; he knew the instant she was gone. Yet he went on and on, thrusting the knife into her body until the blade was buried to the hilt. I'd never witnessed such hatred before. The young woman was little more than a bloody pulp, and he still carried on.

I jerked him away from her body and flung him against a dumpster. He looked surprised, but the shock passed quickly and the fury returned. He ran to retrieve his fallen knife and shouted obscenities at me, brandishing the useless weapon.

With very little effort, my mental powers sent the knife flying out of his hand and scurrying under the dumpster. I stalked toward him, answering to my baser instincts. I was hungry, and needed the blood if I was to safely return to Scully's bedside. Nothing was more important than that. As for my conscience, I quelled it by glancing at the poor woman's body, at her entrails and fluids glistening in the pale light of the moon above. He'd done this to her, and now he would suffer for it.

The man's expression never changed -- not once. I marveled at a hatred so pure, sensible fear couldn't even penetrate it. Ruthlessly pulling him into my embrace, I jerked his head to the side and sank my teeth into his neck. There was no tenderness or mercy in the act. I was far too famished and disgusted by what he'd done to show him compassion.

As I drank, his thoughts poured into me.

Left me. Left me for another man, that bitch. Took all the money out of our account and ran off with that pretty- boy bastard.

It was a mantra he chanted in his head, nonstop. I waited for him to reveal the story of his life, which I now know is what normally happens. But he was closed off, a slave to his hatred, and that was all I received.

In moments, he was gone.

In my bliss, I dropped him indifferently onto the cold ground. But the bliss soon turned to despair as I realized what I had just done. I had taken a human life.

It was unbearable. Unforgivable. I hated myself, and I hated the pleasure that still sang in my body from the warm, life-giving blood. I couldn't believe I'd given in to the temptation of killing. A vampire can take from several victims, never leaving them anything but dazed and drunk feeling. It has been done, and that's exactly what I'd planned to do. I never dreamed I was capable of killing without provocation. I was a murderer, no better than he was.

I dropped to sit down next to his body and for the second time that night, I shed tears. I cried for Scully, cried for the brutalized woman on the ground. Cried for my contaminated soul, and inevitable damnation. Why had I done it? Why had I surrendered to my newfound darkness?

"You'll soon find that time will dry those tears, Young One," a soothing voice said.

My head snapped up. I looked around wildly thinking Julian had found me.

"My protégé," the same voice answered. A man stepped out of the shadows, cloaked in a black coat. He had sandy-colored hair and piercing, unnaturally brilliant blue eyes. He looked young, maybe in his mid-twenties. But there was an air of sophistication about him that fumbling youth could never possess. He was one of us.

"Who are you?" I asked.

He smiled, looking down on me with understanding. "My name is Claudius. Gallio Aebutius Claudius, as I was known in my mortal days. Please, rise from that cold and filthy concrete and we shall talk."

I was surprised to find he'd opened his mind to me. I found nothing but good intentions and loving warmth for me there. I also sensed it was important for my survival that I could depend on someone other than Julian.

"You said Julian was your protégé?" I asked, standing up. If he knew Julian, this -- being -- could be dangerous, regardless of what he let me see in his soul. I stiffened, wondering if he was sent to bring me back to the Convenire.

Claudius laughed and clapped a hand on my back in a familiar, friendly manner. "I can assure you, the links that remain between Julian and myself are far from happy. I am no threat to you. But come. This alley is unpleasant and dawn draws near. We have much to discuss."

I hesitated. It seemed obscene and grotesque to leave the bodies. Once again, I felt the prickling pain of guilt over my cruel actions. I felt Claudius's presence next to me, quietly looking at the scene as I did.

"How can I reassure you? These things happen, and more often than you can fathom. To be sure, it will happen to you again, but you must not surrender to the self-hatred. Such things will make you mad."

"I killed that man," I said miserably. "I didn't even try to control myself."

He answered with great patience, and again, I wondered at his age. "Can you not take comfort in the fact that he was a hard-hearted killer? Surely you can't think this poor girl's actions merited such brutality."

"But who are we to judge?" I countered. "Who am I to dole out justice?"

"There are those that prefer to feast on the innocent nightly, though they have survived long enough to abstain from feeding for months at a time. There are those who take lives without remorse. Your maker is one such creature."

He sighed before going on.

"There will be times where the hunger is far too great, and small drinks from many will not suffice. The occasional life will have to be taken. I can see an intrinsic goodness in you. You will always seek out people such as the one here to quell the insatiable hunger. The ones who do evil toward mankind."

I was morbidly fascinated. "Is that what you do? Feed on murderers?"

"The evildoer, so to speak. Yes." He smiled at me, and there were a few moments of silence as he let me take in this new information. "You don't like being called Fox, do you? Oh, you needn't answer. I know this from your own mind. Mulder it is, then. What an odd choice."

"What do you know about Julian?" I asked. "Can you tell me about him?"

His expression changed to one of sadness. "I'll tell you anything you want to know about Julian. You should be armed with knowledge, Young One."

He asked again that we leave the alleyway, and I finally relented. Nothing could be done for the slain couple.

He wrapped his arms around me and we soon found ourselves on a bench outside the hospital. A large marble fountain gurgled and the strong golden lights below water illuminated the benches surrounding it.

"I sensed your anxiety about the woman inside. I thought you'd want to be here."

I nodded gratefully.

"Let me begin by saying that I was the one who gave Julian his second birth. I am his maker. I don't want the shock of that information to come between us in the future, so I tell you now."

I couldn't hide my surprise at this new information. He simply looked for me to allow him to continue, rather than make excuses or rush to set my mind at ease. I nodded for him to go on.

"He was my apprentice in ancient Rome. Bought at the slave market at the age of fifteen and taught to prepare canvases and mix oils and pigments for me, until the night he begged me to teach him to paint. He was possessed of an outstanding natural talent, and often stayed up late at night to paint alongside me.

"I had been a vampire long enough to crave scenes from the daylight world. It came to be that I would commission him to go out and paint my Rome, the place of my birth and death, in the honest light of day. He brought these paintings, these treasures of everyday sights, to me as he finished them, proudly displaying each before me. In return, he was given praise, gold florins and lush sleeping quarters next to my own. He was never treated as a slave.

"Then, there came the day that he found his twin sister, Liliana."

Claudius paused. A hardness came to his face as if he were remembering something awful.

"Julian, as I said, was treated well, and with love. Freedom was granted to him during the day as I slept. I was able to keep tabs on him without his knowledge through the mind connection I'm sure you're now familiar with."

I nodded.

"Of course, as he was human, he never knew of this connection. He was milling through the marketplace one day when he came upon a slave auction. On the block was his exact counterpart, pulled away from the huddled mass of slaves and prodded as she stood on the dais. A feminine replica of this gentle child.

"He was ecstatic, to say the least. He placed his first bid eagerly, ignoring the taunting and laughs of the grown men who gathered there. But he had the arrogance of youth and a bag full of florins on his side. By the time he placed his final, extravagant bid, no one was laughing anymore.

"With some trepidation, Julian brought Liliana home. I could hear his excited and jumbled thoughts, elated and fearful, all at once. He was thrilled to have found his long-lost twin. It was believed she had died along with the rest of his family in a barbaric invasion of his homeland. But he was terrified he'd overstepped his boundaries with me by purchasing a slave, as he was a slave himself. Not for the world would he displease me, or upset his happy home. He loved me far too much for that, and was fearful I would send him away.

"Of course, I would do no such thing. He was my child, as sure as if I'd sired him, and no slave was ever so adored. I rose that night and went to his room, where the two of them were catching up on lost time. Liliana was breathtaking. There was an innocent sweetness to her that you couldn't imagine. Time - loss - has changed her. But back then, she was a soft-spoken, delicate beauty, blossoming into womanhood.

"They were inseparable. By day, he taught her to read and write, how to do the mundane tasks of preparing canvases and blending pigments. By night, they would sit in the parlor of our villa and talk of their day; of the new things Liliana had learned through her reading. She was an avid reader by the age of seventeen and was always anxious to tell me of the newest books on philosophy, as well as the classics. She loved Sophocles and Homer and couldn't get her hands on enough plays and epic poetry.

"Julian continued to paint for me by day as Liliana sat next to him with her books and read. Indeed, I had an entire room dedicated to his works, as I had long grown weary of painting, myself. But his passion for it still burned brightly, and he was always content to capture the shining rays of daylight for me. How I loved him for that."

I tried to envision these monsters as the gentle young innocents Claudius knew them to be. Julian's murderous hands once held paintbrushes, and Liliana, as evil and insane as she became, had once been in love with works we now call classics, fresh from the monasteries they were copied in. It was unfathomable to me.

Claudius went on. "No doubt you recognize the passage of time is different for us than for mortals. In the blink of an eye, it seemed, they were grown. Liliana was beautiful, and every bit the refined lady. She exuded an air of grace and dignity, and attracted many suitors in spite of her slave background. My wealth and position in the community was such that no one questioned my family or myself, and had accepted both my children unconditionally.

"My charming Julian, however, had become a wild thing. He often visited the brothels and drank heavily. He began to take up with the bottom-feeders of Rome. Days would go by without word from him, and when he did return, no explanation was offered. Of course, I knew where he was the entire time. I kept a close eye on him as he drank and played his dangerous games.

"I feel I should add that, despite his carelessness and frivolity, he was ever respectful to me and doted on Liliana. I knew it was a phase he was going through. I also knew I had spoiled my children by lavishing gifts and privilege, and this was what had become of my indulgences."

"Unfortunately, I couldn't always be there to protect him from himself. One week, I was away by necessity.

"In my absence, Julian had gotten into an argument with a man who'd lost a large sum of money to him. In the heat of the moment, the man took out a dagger and stabbed Julian, leaving him to bleed to death right before Liliana's eyes.

"Hearing her mournful wails, I rushed home as quickly as possible and was horrified to see my dear boy, my painter of sunshine, bleeding an unimaginable amount of blood out onto the rug. He was going to die, of that I was most certain. Fear and anger consumed me and I knew in that moment I couldn't allow his death.

"I ordered Liliana out of the room, which was not easy. She was distraught and bordering on hysterical. Finally, she obeyed. I cradled my boy, my mortal child, in my arms and kissed him on the forehead, then laid him down gently on the rug."

I saw a fraction of the scene play out in my mind's eye, and knew Claudius had planted it there to punctuate the story he was telling me. Julian was pale and so weak he couldn't move. The blood - there was so much of it - poured freely onto the beige carpeting. Claudius knelt by his side, heedless of the gathering fluid staining his clothes. In an instant, the vision was gone.

"I'm sure you remember the Transition quite well," he continued. "The mechanics of it was no different for him. I bit into my wrist and fed him my immortal blood, bringing him over. He was then and forever since a creature of darkness. Liliana marveled at his miraculous recovery, though in her thoughts I knew she suspected something mystical had taken place.

"She was also quite intuitive about the changes that were occurring in Julian, always seeming to know, as a twin often does, what Julian was going through. She had a vague idea that her Master was something other than just a generous eccentric who preferred to sleep the day away. Just what I was exactly, she wasn't sure.

"Jealously started to grow between brother and sister, as I took Julian out nightly to teach him to hunt, and how to use his new gifts while she stayed behind. Such things couldn't be shared with Liliana, for obvious reasons. But she couldn't bear the daily separation as we slept, or the secrecy she now so keenly felt.

"Two years after Julian was brought over, Liliana was stricken by a terrible fever. She tossed and turned in her heated sleep while her doctors informed us she was nearing the end. She looked so fragile and miserable with her sweaty brow and darkly circled eyes. We retired to our reluctant slumber with heavy and broken hearts that night. Julian begged me to bring her over, and I explained the consequences of doing so.

"'I'll damn her soul for eternity, if I do what you ask,' I explained. 'Can you understand the severity of that?' I had made Julian in a moment of fear and panic. I hadn't thought of what making him meant to his soul. But Liliana would be premeditated, and I didn't know if I could allow myself to do such a thing to her.

"'It's what she would want,' he argued. 'Bring her over, or I'll do it myself!'

"Defeated and miserable about her deterioration, I relented.

"When I reached her bedchamber the next night, I was nearly too late. She drew ragged breaths and writhed feverishly atop soaked sheets, talking out of her head.

" 'Can you see them? The people! Oh, the people! And they ride on waves of lilac and seawater, like Scylla and her Sirens!'"

"I soothed her and bit into my wrist. Looking at Julian, who insisted on being present, I asked him if he was certain this was what he wanted. He nodded with wide, haunted eyes.

"I gave her The Blood.

"And so, for the second time, my family had been threatened by the icy and indifferent hand of death. For the second time, I had stopped it. Was I proud that I had ultimately doomed the mortal souls of my beloved children? No. It was an entirely selfish thing on my part. I simply couldn't bear the thought of losing them."

He looked down and something like shame crossed his face. "All things considered," I said, "I can't say I wouldn't have done the same. I can't imagine there will come a day that I lose sight of my human self completely. It must be the same for you."

"Human, yes," he nodded. "The day my human emotion leaves me is the day I truly die. But allow me to continue.

"We spent several happy centuries together. We fled just before the fall of Rome, our beloved home, and moved about the world seemingly without end. Paris, Madrid, Italy - all of these were home to us at one point or another. We existed any and everywhere.

"It would take the space of countless nights to tell you the tales of our adventures. But let me instead tell you of Vivienne. Her tale is important to you, for you must learn of the true nature of your maker.

"Vivienne was a cancan dancer in Paris. She was stunningly beautiful, with vivid green eyes and golden curls down to her shapely backside. Julian, Liliana and I were in search of amusement after a satisfying night of feeding. We walked into the dance club where she worked and Julian saw her immediately. He fell in love that very night.

"When we went home to our Parisian flat to retire that night, Julian would not stop talking about her. He was obsessed. Every night, he'd leave just after twilight and wouldn't return until the nearing of dawn. He became secretive; something Liliana and I weren't accustomed to. There were no mysteries between us, and so this was most strange behavior.

"We later came to find that he'd been courting her and was so entranced by her gracious beauty and poise that he told her all the secrets of the vampires. Everything. Once again, he asked me to change a mortal, to bring her over to us.

"I refused. Allow me to explain something about our kind that should help you to understand my refusal - there is much for you to learn, and Julian has been negligent in your education.

"There are rules, even for us Ancients. There is a kind of protocol, as with your FBI, that needs to be followed. One cannot go around simply making vampires as they see fit. Julian knew this, but also knew that the actions of an Ancient such as myself would be overlooked. The Grand Council of the Vampyres almost always turns and looks the other way for one so old, as we've usually experienced enough of life, as it were, to make informed and responsible decisions when choosing to make a companion. Of course, there is always the exception. Julian and Liliana, though considered old enough, were both denied approval to make their own companions. It was the will of the Council.

"His only option was to either wait for his next hearing with the Council, or to ask me to do it. I felt the decision was rash and unmerited - Julian tended to fall in love quite often in those days. I saw no difference between this and his other infatuations. And so I refused.

"This caused a great rift between us. Julian left Paris, and Liliana, being the faithful sibling, followed with a heavy heart. For the first time in centuries, I found myself completely alone. I fell into despair.

"In the meantime, they had settled into the mansion you were lured to. Julian brought Vivienne to this country and made her into a vampire, flying in the faces of the Council. It was a reckless and potentially fatal decision, and to this day I cannot understand how he has gotten away with it. I've witnessed the Council burn vampires for far less.

"Vivienne lived out the following decades with Julian and Liliana in happiness, from what I've been able to discern. I had become something of an overprotective parent, eavesdropping from across the miles every once in a while to make sure they fared well. In that time, Julian had created that cult - the Convenire, as he's so fond of calling it. Convenire is Latin for 'coven.' My Julian is nothing, if not melodramatic.

"Many years passed in this way, until finally I could endure the loneliness no longer. I went to my beloved children and asked if there was any possibility for forgiveness, if not understanding, for what Julian considered a betrayal. Imagine my happiness when Vivienne herself, who had only known me briefly in her mortal life, took me into her precious arms and asked me to stay. It seemed that was all the approval Julian needed, and I took up residence with them that very night.

"There came between us a kind of peace. We lived and hunted together, and made no mention of my refusal to bring Vivienne over. This is not to say that things were back exactly as they were. No, but things were congenial between the four of us, and I was reunited with my family. There was nothing more sublime, nor fulfilling as that. I could only pray that time would restore our deep love for one another.

"Vivienne was an exceptional creature. She took me into her heart instantly, and looked up to me as a father. Forgiveness flowed from her freely.

"'I want you to know, sweet Claudius, that I harbor no resentment toward you for your decision all those decades ago,' she once told me as we strolled alone, arm in arm in the twilight hours. 'I understand your hesitation completely.'

"I was taken aback. 'Oh? But why? You were doomed to die a mortal death, and would have, were it not for Julian.'

"She sighed. 'Yes, but Julian was wrong to make me for the reasons he did. Love that once burned so bright,' she paused and laughed scornfully. 'He no longer loves me. I was a plaything to him for only a short time, and now he seeks another. What was my purpose? Mortal death would've been kinder.'

"I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Could this be true? It was too cruel for Julian to toss this sweet angel away after damning her soul eternally. But Julian was becoming a being I no longer recognized. He was evasive and silent again. I knew what she said was true, and I cursed myself for not seeing it in time to be the voice of reason.

"As it turned out, I was too late by the time Vivienne had told me. He'd already found another companion. That night, I asked her where I could find Julian so I might have a word with him about his flippant and dishonorable behavior. She led me to a nearby bar, where Julian was intently watching a man who sat across the bar, drinking one Jack and Coke after another.

"That man was you, Mulder."

I was astounded. "Me?"

 "Yes. I scanned your thoughts, and found you to be in a maelstrom of emotions. You were angry and hurt, but most of all, you were consumed, utterly and completely, with guilt.

 "I was intrigued. Prodding further, I found the source of your misery. Your partner - the one in this hospital suffering from my poor Liliana's demented brutality - she was missing. I knew you'd searched everywhere for her. Indeed, I knew every nuance of your tormented psyche, and I hope you'll forgive the intrusion. Guilt was not a passing thing for you, but a slow-feeding parasite, attached to your soul. I understood you completely, for can you imagine a vampire with a guiltless existence?

 "You were oblivious to us and our mental prodding. Julian ignored me, and studied you with deep and unmovable wonder. He was in love with your intense mortal emotions, the layers of them. He wanted to infuse your passion with his own, wanted to solve you, as you were an incredible enigma to him. But most of all, he simply wanted you.

 "Time passed. Your partner was found. Julian followed you wherever you went, and rare was the time he left a night to you alone. I was always close by to make sure he didn't make the fatal mistake of bringing you over, for surely the Council would burn him for another trespass.

 "He was obsessed with you. Completely enthralled with your essence, your pain and wry manner. You didn't know it at the time, but you had a dark guardian angel by your side at all times. Each time your life was threatened, and to be sure, that was an extraordinary number of times, he was half-crazed to bring you over. He lurked outside in the cool desert night as your Navajo friends performed their ancient ceremony, and it was all I could do to keep him from rushing inside and killing every last one of them to get to you. He thought it was all nonsense, and was mad with the possibility of losing you.

 "There were other times as well. Your enemies were nearly his victims more than once. But I held him back.

You see, I had begun to love you as well. You were like another child to me, someone I could care for as a guardian might. I began to care deeply about your quest, and knew the consequences of taking your enemies out. They would take their knowledge with their deaths, and more than that, it was not for us to interfere with your destiny."

 "All this is important to Vivienne's story. You must understand the level of Julian's obsession with you to fully grasp what he did to her. We returned home from yet another night of observing you. I must admit, I was finding that constantly watching over Julian's actions was wearisome, and if not for my concern for your future, I would have finally let him make his mistake.

 "Vivienne was tired of it as well. For decades, she had been the object of Julian's affections, and now she found herself out in the cold. Four years, she held her silence and tolerated it, hoping you were a passing phase. But Julian's obsession grew greater, until it came to be that he was no longer our Julian, but a shell of his former self. He wanted you so very badly, and was crushed by the impossibility of having you.

 "It was finally more than Vivienne could bear. She accosted him that night, demanding that he stay close by from there on out, rather than gallivanting around the nation after you.

 "'You ought to stay where you're loved, Julian, rather than pathetically following some human who doesn't give a damn to know you and never will!'

 "Julian was outraged. No, it was more than that. He was infuriated beyond words. His eyes burned their frightening violet and he shook with rage. I'd never seen him so insane with anger.

 "My tender, sweet flower - my Vivienne - was gone by dawn. He had staked her out in the garden for the morning sun to consume her. There was nothing any of us could do about it, though we tried. He threw each of us off as if we were mere mortals. I'll never forget the sight of him shoving the garden stakes through her hands and feet as she lay spread-eagle and helpless on the ground. His face terrified me. I no longer recognized the boy I once loved. The approaching dawn forced us all to retreat, and Julian himself barely escaped it. There was nothing left to do but sleep. Vivienne was now lost to us.

 "The cruelty of it was unbearable. Nothing has been the same since. I left the following night without so much as a word to Julian. Liliana was beside herself and the Convenire was silent, buried in their thoughts. I haven't seen my children since."

 When Claudius was done with his story, I sat in silence for several moments, absorbing the new information in shock. "He's been following me for four years?"

 Claudius nodded. "Yes. Countless times, I wanted to warn you. But I knew you well enough to know any contact with one of our kind would only create a spark of passion to find out our secrets. I have watched over you from a distance, rarely intervening in your affairs. I knew the moment Julian taped his message on your mirror. I knew the moment you decided to seek him out. Sadly, there was nothing I could do to stop Julian without drawing the Council's attention toward him.

 "Understand that in making you, he's finally crossed the line. They will be looking for him now. Indeed, I'm quite surprised they haven't moved to do so already. They work in ways only they can fully comprehend. Julian put you in danger as well as himself, and so I finally come to you to tell you what you're up against, and the nature of the creature that made you.

 "I'd like to offer you an alternative place to stay. Under the circumstances, I think you'll agree that's best."

 I did agree. We arranged for me to stay with him until Scully recovered and she and I could continue on our own. He assured me Julian wouldn't dare trespass on his privacy and that I would be safe. I thanked him and we parted ways for the remainder of the evening.

 I walked back into the hospital and collected my visitor's badge from the front counter, returning to Scully wiser, and much more aware than before. I was still having difficulty digesting all I'd heard. It was all too strange, but I believed every word Claudius uttered.

 As I turned the corner that led to ICU, I heard a voice speaking in rushed and barely controlled tones.

 "Why wasn't I notified?"

 I'd know that voice from anywhere. I peeked around the corner to verify it with my own eyes. Skinner.

 To her credit, the ICU nurse didn't flinch, though Skinner was in her face. "Mr. Skinner," she began calmly, "Agent Mulder assured us the proper authorities had already been notified. We had no reason to doubt him."

 "Mulder?" his tone softened. "When was Agent Mulder here?"

 "He brought her into the emergency room and stayed in her room here until about an hour and a half ago. Looked like he was in a real rush to leave, too."

 Skinner sighed. I wanted to search his mind and see what he thought, but it seemed too much like an invasion. However, two things were obvious to me without delving deeply into his thoughts; he was worried about me and he was terrified for Scully.

 But his presence threw a monkey wrench into my plans to stay with her as long as I could and protect her from any other nocturnal visitors. There was little time left before daybreak. I had to get out of there - without looking in on Scully and without being seen. I hated it, but had no choice.

 Silently vowing to return the following night, I made my way to my new refuge.


Chapter Five

Scully regained consciousness sometime before noon the next day.

I wasn't there to witness this firsthand, of course. I was able to keep track of her condition through a steady mind connection with an unknowing Skinner. 

I rose from my new room in Claudius's home and pulled the heavy draperies back. Night had just fallen, the sky tinged with streaks of purple and orange. How different this room was from the one where I was held prisoner before. Whereas Julian's cell for me had been an intricate gathering of antique rugs and lavish furnishings, Claudius's offering was an eclectic mix of both modern styles and traditional. Tasteful. The floor was carpeted and fine art prints decorated the walls. It was cozy rather than overbearing. The only thing even remotely ostentatious about it was the heavily canopied, antique king-size bed.

Scully would like it here. More importantly, she would be safe here. It was crazy, but I put my complete trust in Claudius. I knew he would take care of things, a security I never felt with Julian. That trust was the deciding factor as to where Scully should go once she recovered.

Not that the decision was an easy one. I was torn between sending her back to D.C. and keeping her here by my side. In the end, I realized she would be safest with Claudius and me. It seemed to be the only way.

                   ~*~

Eight o' clock found me standing before the hospital, contemplating my course of action. It would do me little good to be seen walking up like anyone else could, given the current circumstances. Even if that were an option, I still wouldn't get away with lifting Scully off the bed and simply walking out.

No, this operation was going to require more stealth than that. My only option was to climb the wall of the building and enter through the window. Luckily, the private room Scully was transferred to had a normal window that opened. This was a welcome relief from the impossible-to-pass-through slit of a window in her ICU room; I may be a vampire, but I am in no way possessed of Toomsian abilities.

With a litheness I still hadn't gotten accustomed to, I made my way up the brick wall, finding finger holds useless to mortals. My ascension was steady and sure. Once I reached Scully's window, I peeked inside to make sure no one else occupied the room. The last thing I needed was to send some poor nurse into hysterics. Satisfied that the coast was clear, I opened the middle panel and climbed inside.

She looked better, though that wasn't exactly saying much. Her collection of machines had diminished to less imposing monitors keeping tabs on her vitals. She was still attached to an IV, but the bag feeding into the tube held some clear solution rather than blood. I took this as a good sign. Still, it was hard to ignore the dark circles under her eyes and her sallow skin. It could've been my imagination, but it seemed she'd gotten even smaller. A pang stabbed at my heart, but I forced myself into action. Who knew when Julian or one of his lackeys would find their way here? The sooner I got her out the better.

I pulled the IV out of her wrist as carefully as possible, but paused before unhooking her from the monitors. I knew from firsthand experience that once those implements were disengaged, no fewer than three members of the hospital staff would be rushing in to see what was wrong with their patient. There would be little time to get out without being seen.

"Mulder?" her voice croaked out.

I looked down at her, trying to smile despite the seriousness of the situation. "It's okay. We have to go now."

She nodded weakly and licked her parched lips. Jesus, her eyes were so dark and sunken. She didn't look much like my Scully at all. Fighting back the bitter guilt coiling in the pit of my stomach, I smiled again. It felt feeble even to me.

"I'm just going to unhook you, okay?"

She nodded again and left me to my task. I made quick work of freeing her, dismayed by the sudden sound of an alarm going off in short bursts even though I expected just that. Leaning down, I swept her up into my arms and tucked the blanket around her. In no time, the place would be swarming with nurses. We had to move fast.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" a man shouted.

I turned around. Skinner.

"There's no time for this," I hissed with more venom than was probably necessary. I could hear the approaching footsteps barreling closer and closer by the second.

But Skinner wouldn't be dismissed. Gun pointed squarely at my head, he bit out a reply. "Put Agent Scully down now, Agent Mulder. That is not a request."

I looked over my former superior's shoulder, calculating how much time it would take me to bolt over to the door and barricade it somehow. The handle itself bore no locks and the chairs in the room would just glide over the polished tile floor. As it was, the door was standing half-open, as if in invitation. Desperation sent a cold shockwave to my brain, bringing my split attention back to the gun.

Scully snuggled against my chest and shivered in spite of the blanket tucked around her. Did he think he was a good enough shot to miss her altogether? No doubt he would be, under normal conditions. However, he had no idea how fast I'd become. I could pivot to head for the window at the exact time he squeezed off a shot. All it would take was a slight miscalculation on either of our parts and the results could be tragic. I wasn't willing to take the chance.

All I knew was that I needed to block the door off at any cost. Skinner inched closer, blinking as he loosened and tightened his grip on the gun. Everything about his stance was keyed-up, uncertain. He glanced down at Scully and a flicker of obvious fear tightened his features. She turned bleary eyes on him, too weak to offer any reassurances.

"I can't let you do this, Mulder."

A flash of blue outside the door -- the standard hospital uniform. The desperate desire to shut them out intensified, a physical swelling in the pit of my stomach, and a physical push emanated from my gut. The door slammed shut, eliciting a masculine yelp of pain from the other side. Frantic voices babbled through the thick barrier and the handle rattled and clicked. They were trying to get in but couldn't. They couldn't get in. The thought was irrelevant, but held me in shocked satisfaction. They couldn't get in because I willed it so.

Whereas I reveled in my newfound talent (and confirmed my earlier suspicions regarding Scully's window in the Convenire), Skinner just looked terrified. All the color had drained from his face along with his desire to point his gun at me. It was held limply at his side, forgotten.

"Wh- what the hell was that?"

I grinned. I couldn't help myself. "A lucky side effect."

His eyes narrowed. "Side effect? Side effect to what, Mulder? It felt like someone was shoving right though me." The voices outside receded. A loud bump announcing some orderly's determination to get inside shook me from my temporary good humor.

"I have to get her out of here," I said.

His armed hand rose, returning us to our former standoff. "You're not taking her anywhere until I get some answers."

"There's no time," I growled. Skinner flinched and looked at me like he'd never set eyes on me before. I could only imagine what he was seeing in me at that moment. No doubt I was unrecognizable to him. Not like the Agent Mulder he knew; more like a caged and dangerous animal. Inhuman. Unearthly.

He lowered his gun. My God. What has he become?

I jumped at the sound of his voice in my head. His thoughts in my head, to be more specific. It took me by surprise; I wasn't searching his mind, nor was I interested in divining his thoughts at the moment. Using this to my advantage, I answered his unspoken question. "Some might say a monster." I laughed bitterly at that. "They wouldn't be too far from the truth."

The blood drained from his face again. I tried not to focus on the primal rush of hunger that surged through my veins at the sight. Instead, I pushed into his mind in search of something useful, something I could say to convince him to let us go in peace. I was unprepared for the torrent of suppressed emotion that pummeled my senses.

He was frightened of me. Pride and survival instinct forbade him to show it, though. The past weeks had taken an enormous toll on him. He was scared and worried for me during the days I was missing. He was still scared and worried for me. He wondered what I had gotten myself into.

But if he was scared for me and for my fate, he was nearly petrified with fear for Scully's. When she'd gone missing, it took more than barking commands to soothe his nerves. It had taken a bottle of Stoli a night just to get to sleep. He was unraveling. It wasn't unlike grieving; the fear of losing her was so strong.

Startled, I pulled back. I had no desire to delve any deeper into the man's feelings towards Scully. 

Skinner found his voice. "Just tell me what's going on, Mulder."

"I've already said it twice -- there isn't time. I've wasted too much of it here as it is."

"Look," he continued, "I want to trust you here, but you're not making it any easier. And I won't even comment on the Jedi mind trick you just pulled on that door." He shook his head. "I think you owe me something though, Mulder. I can't let you just walk out of here without some idea what's going on."

I sighed in irritation. "Okay, listen. I expect the person –" I spat the word. No way was I getting into a discussion about Liliana's lack of humanity here. "-- Who did this to her to come back and finish the job." My eyes narrowed. "You saw the injuries on her neck. The lack of blood."

He nodded.

"Then you must have some idea what we're dealing with here."

He nodded again, swallowing like he was pushing bile back down his throat. "Are you –?"

"Yes."

"My God."

Four or five years ago, I never would've dreamt of such ready acceptance from my boss. Time and proof had changed his perception of reality, it seemed. I found no joy in the prospect.

"I'm taking her to a place that's safe. That's all I can say." I pulled Scully closer to me and narrowed my eyes. "There's no need for the gun, Skinner. I can assure you it will do you no good."

His eyes flickered to the molded steel in his hand, then back to my face. I didn't have to read his mind to know he couldn't imagine a situation where his weapon and a steady hand couldn't help him. Something like vague panic flickered in his eyes. He holstered his gun.

"Where are we going to meet to discuss this, Agent?" he demanded gruffly.

The pounding outside was now spaced further apart, but the shouting was louder than before. Still, I managed a grim smile at his audacious attempt to get on top of a situation he had no inkling how to deal with. Of course, he was entitled to an explanation, but not any time soon. When the danger had passed, then he would know. If the danger ever passed.

"Not tonight," I answered, then turned swiftly to slip out the window with Scully held to me like a cherished, life-sized doll. We hit the ground in a landing so smooth it even impressed me, leaving Skinner to explain his charge's sudden disappearance to the medical staff.

And to wonder how we managed to escape through the window of a fourth floor hospital room without him seeing anything more than a blur.

**

There was never a more welcome sight than the lighted circular drive and façade of Claudius's home. Our host met me at the door and ushered us into the great hall. I comforted myself by thinking, again, that there was nowhere safer or more inviting than where we were at that moment.

Claudius regarded the woman in my arms, asleep and drained from the journey. "I've had her rooms prepared. Follow me."

It was decided earlier that evening that Scully and I should sleep in separate rooms until she was operating with her full mental capacity and used to our unique situation. It would be tragic for her to wake one morning, disoriented from her sickness, throw the drapes back like anyone else would do and fry my fledgling ass to a crisp. Although I did appreciate the irony.

We climbed the curved grand staircase, and turned right. I followed him down the corridor until he stopped before a carved door.

"I trust you'll want to settle in privately. I've taken the liberty of procuring some basic toiletries for her. There is some clothing in the armoire, dressing gowns and such. You should find them appropriate until she makes a full recovery." He smiled reassuringly. It struck me once more that Claudius's smiles couldn't be more different from Julian's cocky, half-leers.

"Thank you, Claudius. For everything."

He replied with a slight nod, and then he was gone.

I opened the door. A small smile tugged at my lips as I surveyed our surroundings, sure that Scully would love it. In the middle of the sitting room was a large, cherry wood table with an equally large floral arrangement situated on the glossy top. It was flanked by beige and cream striped silk chairs and chaise lounges. The walls were papered with a subtle textured print and decorated with Ruebenesque paintings. A fire blazed in the small, cherry wood fireplace beyond the centerpiece table. I smiled wider upon noticing a large, gilded mirror above the mantle, tilted to look down on the room -- a testament to Claudius's humor concerning one of the oldest vampire misconceptions.

I carried her through the open archway to the left, into her bedroom. It was decorated much the same as the sitting room, elegant and classy, yet comfortable. A fire had been lit in the large fireplace and it cast a golden glow over the room. I made my way over to the four-poster. One corner of the bed's covers was pulled back, making it easier for me to slip Scully underneath. She murmured something incoherent upon touching the cool sheets, but settled into the mattress without another sound.

I looked down at her quiescent form, swearing under my breath as I noted that her pallid face and hands stood out even against the cream and gold of the duvet. Little comfort came from the knowledge that as long as she was within these walls, she was safe. It struck me with the force of a paralyzing blow, and not for the first time, that she would never have been dragged into this situation if it weren't for me. At that moment, I despised my curiosity, despised the part of me that needed answers so badly it didn't give a second thought to whose lives may be destroyed in the process. It was, as always, all-consuming, destroying anyone in its path.

"Mulder?" Scully rasped out, not even bothering to open her eyes.

I sat down next to her on the bed, taking a cold hand in mine. "I'm here."

She let out a soft sigh. "So weak."

Anger passed through me. But she didn't need my anger right now. I reached out and pushed a stray wisp of hair away from her face, startled by the coldness of her cheek despite the warmth of the fire. How long would it be before she recovered? She was stable, but still fragile. I was at a terrible loss; this would be the perfect time for Doctor Scully to make a reassuring appearance. With another stab of fury mingled with guilt, I recognized she wouldn't be around for a while.

She pulled a bit of the duvet back from the other side of the bed and motioned for me to join her. The slight action seemed to take the last of her energy, and I didn't question it. I pulled my shoes off and climbed in, satisfied to feel her nuzzle against me. Within minutes, she was asleep again. I took the opportunity to relax against her and just enjoy the sensation of her heart beating against my chest and the warm puffs of breath against my neck. She was warming. She was alive. I tightened my arms around her to punctuate my utter happiness for that fact. 

It wasn't long, though, before those very essences of her life became an overwhelming assault on my senses. Driven to dangerous distraction, I pulled myself away from her warm body and, giving her one more glance and a quiet promise of my return, I left her rooms. I raced down the stairs and out the front door and in seconds, I was standing next to one of the hedges surrounding the circular drive.

One thought burned its way beyond my concern for Scully and through the hunger: will I survive long enough to surpass this nightly need for blood?

I had neither the inclination nor the willpower to ponder this further. Not when the woods looked so inviting...

                    ~ * ~

Tracking my prey was easier and faster than I expected, which was excellent for me. This time it was a big buck, full of spirit and vigor. I left feeling gluttonous, and the deer walked away little more than dazed.

Satisfied that I was no longer a threat to Scully's safety, I returned to her rooms. I must have sat there watching her sleep for an hour at least, witnessing her expressions pass from relaxed stillness to frowning irritation and back to stillness again. In the end, she had seemed troubled and shifted restlessly from her side to her back.

I moved from the chair to the side opposite her on the bed and grabbed hold of her hand. Her eyes fluttered open. "What is it?" I asked quietly.

"Your hands are warm," she noted.

I smiled. "Yeah. I fed a little bit ago."

She nodded. "I'm cold."

It was an invitation I was happy to accept. Crawling under the covers next to her, I gave silent thanks to whatever deity out there had seen fit to make sure she'd survive Liliana's attack. I didn't want to think about what could've been. Rather than get morose about it, I contented myself with the feel of Scully's small body curled into mine, the tickle of her hair brushing my chin and the exquisite rightness of it all.

My life may have taken an awful and incredible turn. Julian, Liliana and the rest of the Convenire may still be a threat. My whole damn world may be in upheaval. But Scully was right here, right now, murmuring about needing just a little more sleep and drawing heat from my well-fed body. And she was going to be okay.

For now, that was enough for me. 


Chapter Six

Claudius told me he was acquainted with a discreet and reputable doctor who didn't ask many questions. The promise of this man's visit to Scully's bedside the next day was the only thing I took solace in when I had to leave her side that night. When the sun finally set on the following day, I climbed out of my canopy bed with the single-minded goal of getting to Scully's room.

"Mulder," a soft voice floated from the shadows. I stiffened and heard a low chuckle.

"It's just me, Mulder." Claudius. He chuckled again at the sigh of relief I let out. "I thought we'd go feed before you see her. It would be best."

I flipped on a light out of habit rather than necessity. "What did the doctor say?"

"She's improving, of course. She'll still need a lot of rest until she's stronger. He was a bit concerned about the transfusion you'd given her, though there is no doubt it saved her life."

I stared at Claudius open-mouthed. He smiled. "He knows all about our kind. I suppose one could call him an ally. He's been a friend of mine for quite some time. You look surprised."

"Well... yes. I thought our kind didn't want to be known to mortals."

"True. But there are the few exceptions. And as I told you before, my man is discreet. He's very interested in learning more about our kind, being a scientist. I hope you don't mind, but he took a blood sample from Miss Scully; it's very rare that a vampire allows so much of his own blood to mingle with a mortal's without completing the Transformation, so her blood was a treat for him indeed. It isn't often he has the opportunity to collect such a specimen."

"No, I suppose it isn't."

There seemed to be nothing more to say on the subject. Claudius clapped his hands together. "So! How about getting out of these rooms and going out for a bit? I know just the place."

"I'd like to check on Scully for a moment first, if you don't mind."

He smiled. "Of course."

~*~

The place was similar to the club where Julian took me, only vampire fetishism didn't seem to be a prerequisite to gain entry. Everything down to the leather-studded attire was present, yet I didn't sense the same strong undercurrent of debauchery there.

"We will never set foot in that place," he explained, hearing my thoughts, "as it is Julian's favorite hunting ground. We vampires are as proud as we are dangerous and we respect each other's territory."  

We fed quickly on two inebriated blondes, twins, and were gone before the lust-haze left their eyes. Less than an hour passed before we were back at the manor. I was anxious to get back to Scully, but Julian stopped me in the foyer.

"There will be a meeting tonight, Mulder. Your presence is required as it concerns you."

"Concerns me? How?"

He shook his head. "Many things will be revealed tonight, I promise you that. I'll meet you at the bottom of the stairs in two hours." With that, he was gone. I smirked at his completely Julian gesture and headed up to Scully's room, thinking about what Claudius said. What could possibly be revealed now? Everything seemed pretty cut and dry; Julian was homicidal and possessive, Liliana was insane and a constant threat to Scully's safety. There was an unnatural attachment between those two I didn't even want to think about. The Convenire was a band of lunatic bloodsuckers; Claudius was safety and knowledge. I had a vague idea what the Council of the Vampyres was all about, knew enough to have a healthy respect for their power.

One important thing I learned about vampires was that their emotions led them; therefore, there was less subterfuge, less second-guessing. If a vampire loved you, he told you, and you felt the intensity of that love. If a vampire wanted you dead, you were dust before daybreak. Maybe centuries of existence quelled the need to bullshit.

**

She was looking much better, I noted with relief so great it made my chest ache.

"Mulder?"

I smiled, warmed by the strength returning to her voice. "Yeah, Scully. It's me."

She sighed. "Why are you so far away?"

I moved to sit next to her on the bed. "Closer," she said, and I lay down behind her, arm draped over her waist. It felt incredible to be this close to her without worrying about feeding. "Mmm, that's much better."

"How are you feeling?"

She snuggled her bottom closer to my body and turned her face so that I could see her profile. "A little better. Weak, but I think I'm improving." She was silent a moment. "A doctor came to see me today, did you know that? I can't remember clearly," here she frowned as if disturbed that she couldn't remember, "but I think he took a blood sample."

"I know."

"You know? But what about the blood you gave me? Won't there be abnormalities?"

I had to smile. Here was my former partner, lying in bed after having almost all her blood drained out of her by a vampire, and still she was thinking in terms of research and lab results. My Scully, ever the scientist, and just paranoid enough as a result of her time on the X-Files. Of course, I did have the very same thoughts just a few hours earlier. "Claudius brought the doctor here to see you. I spoke to him about it tonight and he assures me that everything is fine." I gave her a gentle squeeze, ever mindful of her mortal fragility. "Don't worry, Scully."

She said nothing more, but I sensed she was still nervous, knowing a vial of our mingled blood was floating around God knew where and for God knew what purpose. The short conversation was taxing for her though, and I soon felt her drifting to sleep, relaxing deliciously warm in my arms.

**

Our two hours of peace passed quickly, as moments of happiness invariably do. Before I knew it, the time had come for me to meet Claudius at the foot of the stairs.

The candlelight underscored the unnatural brightness of his blue, vampire eyes and I couldn't help but notice the strange way he was looking at me. Was it fear? Worry? He seemed anxious. That did nothing to ease my own nervousness. What was I going in to?

He offered a lopsided smile, which was at once boyish and scary. Fangs have a way of making any smile menacing. "Are you ready?"

Was I? "What's this all about, Claudius?"

"It is a gathering. Come, you'll understand once we get there." Without another word, I followed my teacher and mentor through the labyrinthine corridors until we reached an ornately carved door. He turned the knob and gestured for me to enter.

The room was full of unwelcome sights. Claudius stood by my side as I took in the faces of vampires I never wanted to see again. Maeve, the confident redhead "Ancient" held her companion's hand, the young Egyptian orphan named Caleb. Demetrius glowered at everyone from the corner of the room. Another man sat next to the fire, gray-haired with a sallow face, seeming at first to be oblivious to his surroundings. A closer look revealed sharp eyes missing nothing. I was reminded of my father's talent for appearing at his easiest when he was most on his guard. It was unnerving seeing the same gift in this creature.

I glared at Claudius. "What the hell is this all about?" After all the trust I put in him, how could he allow these people into his home? The fresh blood I'd taken in that night pounded in my temples. Could Julian be here, too? Had I been deceived?

He laid a cool hand on my arm. "Please, Mulder. You must hear us out – all is not what it seems."

"No shit, I can see that. What the hell is half of the goddamn Convenire doing here, Claudius?"

"I invited them here," he replied. "Please, you've trusted me so far. I need you to continue to trust me now."

I narrowed my eyes at the man next to me, muscles tensed and ready for anything. In my mind, I calculated how my preternatural abilities could carry me upstairs and into Scully's room. But it was no use; before I could get her to the window, these monsters would be upon us. Frustration prickled under my skin like hot quills.

I had no choice but to listen.

The gray-haired one stood. "Shall we get going, Claudius? I don't have time for this."

Demetrius smirked from his corner. "All we have is time, Rueben, don't you agree?" 

An uncomfortable silence filled the room as the two glared at one another. It was the old man – Rueben – who broke the silence. "I am here because Claudius requested my presence." It seemed he was answering a question Demetrius hadn't verbalized. His eyes burned a vibrant blue-green that looked out of place in his elderly face. Then again, what is age to a vampire? I watched the scene unfolding with interest. What grudge did these two have against each other? What did any of this have to do with me?

"Everyone in this room knows my position on these affairs," he went on, temper rising. "Julian and his brood must be stopped!" He punctuated the last sentence by pounding a fist into his hand. A cacophony of voices filled the room, some in protest, some in agreement. I was minutely relieved to find that no matter what the protests, this wasn't exactly a Julian fan club.

Claudius called the 'meeting' to order.

"Please!" he called out.

The voices subsided.

"I believe our guest is at a disadvantage here. Mulder, this is Rueben Malkov, an Ancient and representative of the Council. He is...a most powerful vampire, as all of the Ancients are." The "Ancient" in question appeared bored with the conversation. "I asked him to join us tonight because we all know that with your Transformation, Julian has finally incurred the wrath of the Council. Rueben's opinion on the matter is the same as his colleagues'. Liliana is also at risk of the Burning because of her botched attack on your partner."

"It's an outrage!" The elder exclaimed. "These two have trod on the Council's ancient by-laws for centuries, and then she has the sheer audacity to not only create another against her will, but leave the Transformation half-finished! I shudder to think of the exposure she could have brought to our kind!"

"Perhaps it would be best to explain some of the more basic laws we must live by to Mulder," Claudius said. "He is so very new to us, after all, and his maker told him nothing of these things."

"Of course he didn't," Rueben scoffed. "And why would he? Julian follows no one's rules but his own."

Maeve, whom I hadn't spoken to since the night I arrived at the Convenire, interrupted. "If I may, Rueben." She placed a hand on the man's arm and he calmed. Taking this as a sign to continue, she turned to me and spoke in her Irish lilt. "Mulder, I know what you must think of us. Please understand that we meant you no harm the night you were turned. We wanted to stop him, but there was nothing we could do. You have no idea how powerful he's become."

I glared at her and injected as much sarcasm as possible in my voice. "Forgive me if I find little comfort in that."

"Yes, well, I expect no less than your anger, but perhaps by this night's close you will come to understand."

I said nothing to that, just waited for her to continue.

"Let me begin by explaining a few of our laws. First of all, to leave a mortal in the midst of the Transformation is an abomination. We could be discovered, should the mortal be examined. Or worse, miserable creatures called Halflings can result from the incomplete fusion of the Blood with a mortal's. They are robbed of their minds, as their bodies cannot handle the failed Transformation, and become, in effect, something like zombies. They crave nothing but blood, and are forced to wander around, mindless, until they die. It is a painful death, but merciful given the circumstances. Halflings never last more than a few tortured months, if left to their own devices. Most are killed by the Council long before then."

Horrified, I thought of Scully. Claudius seemed to read my mind. "The large transfusion of mortal blood counteracted yours. She was very lucky."

"Second," Maeve went on, "any vampire who wishes to make another must receive permission from the Council of the Vampyres. Ancients are given that permission once, and are trusted to make wise decisions from there on out. However, there are a few exceptions."

I nodded impatiently. "Yes, I've heard all this before. Julian and Liliana," I spat the name, "were never given permission. Not that that stopped them."

She gave me a rueful smile. "No, it didn't. The Council has overlooked this in the past because of its high regard for Claudius. They were his children, and he was expected to keep them in line."

"I'm afraid we placed too much in Claudius's hands," the elder added. "Especially leaving him responsible for one as willful and reckless as Julian. When he made you, Mr. Mulder, he risked our world. We would never have allowed a person of such high profile to be turned. The Council wants blood for his transgressions."

"And we're searching for an alternative to the Burning," said Maeve.

"The Burning?" I asked.

"It's an execution," Claudius explained. "One is tied by unbreakable bindings and is left to the morning sun."

"Like Vivienne," Maeve said sadly. "Our beautiful, gentle Vivienne. How I loved her."

"We all did," said Demetrius. His usual derisive manner was gone. "I wanted to kill Julian that night."

"There was no time," she replied, then turned to face me. "And we've been frightened of Julian ever since. She could've been any one of us."

"Why haven't you all just killed him then? Or turned him over to the Council?" I asked, feeling like I was speaking to a room full of slow children. It seemed none of them were choosing the most obvious solution.

Maeve looked stricken. Claudius just shook his head. It was Demetrius who answered. "I despise what Liliana has become. She is ruthless and indiscriminate in her feedings, but she is my maker. I loved her more than my mortal soul. I can remember a time not long ago when she felt the same. We were desperate for each other, Liliana and I. There will never be a time when I could raise my hand to harm her."

I gaped at them. "I don't believe this. They have flown in the face of all these laws you hold sacred, they've killed their own kind, they openly feed in public – that goddamn club of theirs... What's the problem? Do you think Julian is sitting in that mansion considering his tender feelings for you all? I know damn well Liliana isn't. If you don't move now, you're going to have a real problem on your hands, because I just don't see either of them letting Scully and I leave so easily." Disgusted by their indecision, I threw my hands up in the air. "You need to make a choice here. I know I don't want to sit here waiting for Julian to make his next move." 

No one spoke. Frustrated, I left the room.

~*~

It was with some difficulty that I forced myself into composure, standing in Scully's sitting room. It wouldn't do her any good to see me worked up. Besides, she would want to know what was wrong, and I didn't think it was the appropriate time to explain it all.

I made no noise coming into her bedroom, in case she was still asleep. To my surprise, she was sitting up in the bed with a book in her hands.

"Mulder," she smiled. "I was hoping you'd come back."

If I'd still been human, I might have blushed with embarrassment. "Sorry about leaving you tonight, Scully. Claudius had some things he wanted to talk about."

Her eyes narrowed, but she let it go at that. She yawned, stretching her back in the process. The gesture was endearing. "I'm so tired. Do you think I'll ever just not be tired? By all accounts, I should have made a complete recovery already."

Yes, Scully, if you hadn't been infused with vampire blood and left to die, I thought angrily. Now I understood that her body was forced to fight the worst kind of infection. I flinched, thinking about the Halflings Maeve told me about. The Burning was far too good for Liliana.

"I don't think I'll ever get used to your eyes doing that glowing thing," she said. "Come to bed, Mulder."

Repressing my anger, I crawled into the bed next to her. Satisfied, she settled her body against mine in a now-familiar position. "Stay with me this time. Please?"

"It...it could be dangerous. The sunlight—"

She chuckled lightly. "Don't worry, Mulder. I won't fry you in the morning."

I smiled against her hair and twisted to make sure the drapes were closed up tight. By the time dawn touched the night with its rosy-gold glow, we were already asleep.


Chapter Seven

Warmth surrounded me.

Strange, that I'd been a vampire for such a short time, and yet the presence of warmth was already as foreign and welcome as sunlight. It seemed a forbidden thing, too wonderful and too pure for our kind.

The source of that warmth, all soft curves and gentle breathing, smiled down at me. "Good morning," she said with a twist of her mouth.

I smiled back and pulled her under the covers with me until we both lay down, facing each other. "Good morning." The drapes were pulled back, silvery moonlight spilling into the room.

She leaned in to press a gentle kiss on my lips. "What was that for?" I teased.

"I feel wonderful today," she said in response. "I think I might even be able to walk around the house. Claudius said he wouldn't mind, and I feel like my muscles have turned to jelly."

I couldn't describe the relief I felt. Instead, I returned her kiss with a little more fire than she expected, I think. She gasped in surprise against my mouth, then melded her body against mine. God, how natural it felt. She got bolder, letting her hands explore my arms, my torso, my thighs. Her touch wandered to the front of my pants and pulled back suddenly with wide eyes.

"Is it...always like that?"

I laughed and explained that, yes, like all my muscles now, "it" is always hard. She seemed fascinated. I was beyond amused. 

Amusement turned to arousal in an instant when she wrapped her hand around said muscle. "God, Scully." She climbed on top of me, kissing me, her caresses alternating from shy to sure, but always tender.

"I need you," she said. I captured her mouth with my own, exploring, tasting. We rolled over together, leaving me on top. I pulled away from the kiss to look at her. She was so beautiful. Her breath caught in a stuttered rhythm and I imagined what I must look like to her – my eyes dragging over her face, glowing, at once hungry and enchanted.

She wrapped trembling legs around my waist; I smoothed a hand over her hot, flushed cheek. "Will you...?" She broke off, seeming unsure of how to put the question. In the end, she pulled the front of her nightgown down and bared her neck to me. "Please," she whispered, and pulled my head down to the exposed skin.

I was lightheaded, dizzy from the pure want I felt. But she couldn't stand another large blood loss so soon; it would put her back in the hospital. I decided on a compromise. I kissed her neck and she gasped from the contact. "Not yet," I whispered against her skin, and continued kissing across to her throat and the tops of her breasts, stopping only long enough to pull her panties and nightgown off.

We made slow love for what felt like forever. Never had I experienced anything so sweet and pure; until that moment, I didn't think such a thing was possible. But it was, for us.

As she neared climax, I nipped at her neck. Her nails scratched at mine, bringing me closer to her delicate skin in a desperate, silent plea. I sank my teeth into her while we met one another's thrusts and she cried out, arching against me violently. The world swam in unadulterated ecstasy, narrowing the universe down to just her and me and the almost painful pleasure we fed off each other. It was exquisite.

It tapered off, leaving us breathless and clinging to one another.

"I love you, Mulder," she said with aching sweetness against my neck. "Always." She burrowed her face between my shoulder and neck. A tear fell down my face, unnoticed by her. For the second time, I proved vampires could cry.

We lay there, content to do nothing more than absorb each other for as long as possible. Neither of us spoke – what was there to say? I felt like my heart would explode from happiness. There is no feeling in the world that can compare to the fluttering ecstasy one feels when he finds out the only person he wants to spend the rest of his time with feels the same.

The rest of my time was considerable. I refused to think about what that meant for Scully and I. Not now, when it was so easy to pretend eternity with her was possible. I traced invisible lines on her face. She closed her eyes against the fluttering of my fingers, a small smile playing across her lips. We kissed, slow and lazy, as if we had all the time in the world. Her heart raced and I was painfully reminded of the small amount of blood I had just taken in, like a tease for a starving man.

I pulled back. She looked hurt. "What's wrong?"

"Scully" was swimming in a vision of arteries and pulsing blood, the rhythm of a heartbeat. My veins ached for her; my teeth tingled for her throat. I needed more, and she couldn't give it. "I have to go," I said, and left the warmth of our bed. "I'm sorry."

She frowned, but seemed to understand. "Hey," she called out softly. I turned from the window I planned to exit to look at her. "Come back soon?"

I smiled. "I'll never be gone long." Satisfied, she smiled back and settled against the pillows. When I jumped from the window, the picture of her red hair splayed against the cream of the pillowcases and the small smile on her face went with me.

Nothing could ever hurt us again, I decided, as long as we stuck together.

~*~

I found Claudius on the veranda near Scully's window speaking to one of his house staff -- all mortals who keep to their own business despite the oddness of their employer and his guests. "Mulder," he nodded in greeting. "Thank you, Jasmine. That will be all." The dismissed woman left without comment, leaving us alone. "Off to feed?" Claudius asked. I nodded. I wanted this to be a quick trip out and get back to Scully as soon as possible.

Claudius joined me. We visited a crack house not far from his home, and fed on the drugged and disillusioned until we were stuffed. Death would've been kinder, I thought as I let the last dazed body drop to the filthy mattress I found him on. Lost souls. I pushed the strange thought away and sought out Claudius.

I found him in another part of the house, embracing a small woman with such poise, such grace as he drank from her. I was reminded of the beauty and grace Julian possessed, and was almost jealous. My new body still felt a little awkward, like putting on someone else's skin. This is what a vampire should be, I thought as I watched.

When he was finished, we left the dirty, condemned building with its dirty, condemned inhabitants. The foyer in Claudius' home never looked brighter or more welcoming. I started toward the steps when Claudius put out an arm to stop me.

"Wait. Something is not right."

I stood dead still and listened. A heartbeat, and it was growing slower by the second. It filled me with a horrible sense of déjà vu. We sprinted up the stairs, knowing that it was Scully's heartbeat once again. Horrified that I couldn't hear it anymore.

Claudius broke in the door to her sitting room just as it started – the thrum. "God, no," he said, and I knew. Before we even made it into her room and saw Liliana's blood pouring down Scully's throat, I knew. She was receiving the Blood. She was being changed.

A howl tore from my lungs and I leapt for Liliana. Claudius got there first. He struck her, leaving four deep scratch marks on her perfect face, and drove her out of the window. The open window. My God. What had I been thinking? His own body followed Liliana's and I was left alone with Scully.

She lay still as death. This was worse than déjà vu; this was a nightmare.

"Scully?" I nudged her, knowing she wouldn't move. The horrible thrumming grew quieter. Helplessness overcame me, and I lifted her limp upper body into an embrace. "I never wanted this for you," I whispered into her hair.

Claudius cleared his throat. "Liliana is gone." He stepped over to the bedside. "Mulder, you must make a decision. If you finish the Transformation, she will live but as a vampire. If you choose to let her go – she may die. That would be preferable to the possibility that she might become a Halfling. The choice is yours."

Would an interruption in the Transformation for the second time be too much for her body? Could she die? I'd do anything to prevent her from becoming one of the creatures Maeve spoke of. But could I let her die?

I love you, Mulder.

No, I couldn't let her die. Wiping away tears, I looked to Claudius for help. He nodded. "You must do it quickly, while there is time."

I needed nothing more for encouragement. I ripped open the artery in my wrist and brought it to her white lips, urging the Blood to pour in faster. She latched onto the gash like a newborn, suckling deeply, and the thrumming filled my ears once again. It was sweet music. I couldn't bring myself to think of consequences, not while I was surrounded in a cocoon of red, pleasure wrapping around me as I gave and she took. Nothing in the world could be better than this, I imagined, than me giving life to her.

When I became too weak, I pulled away, severing our connection. She sat up on the bed, invigorated and full of life. Her eyes burned a steady blue, and her skin already took on a vampire's pale perfection. She never looked more beautiful to me, this living breathing creature.


Chapter Eight

The pain was excruciating. I imagined it was like having your skin turn inside out. But p>

The pain was excruciating. I imagined it was like having your skin turn inside out. Butit was momentary, and soon I was able to feel nothing but the aphrodisiac of sweet blood warming me from head to toe. I must have lain there for several minutes, eyes closed and basking in the dizzying wonder of it.

I knew I had to face the world soon, though.

I sat up and opened my eyes, terrified of breaking the powerful spell, the potently vibrating thrum of Mulder's blood singing in my veins. Of course, I didn't realize that I was feeling the life-giving elixir of mortal blood mixed with vampire. I had been snatched from the very clutches of death -- the details seemed insignificant. I'd never felt so alive.

Mulder gazed down at me, concern apparent in his eyes. But his eyes, my God, his eyes. They were nothing like what I'd seen before, even after he was changed. Now, subtle flecks of fire danced like little imps against a backdrop of the most vivid and impossible green. Preternatural eyes. Vampire eyes

"Come on," he whispered hoarsely. I stood and followed him out of the house and into the night.

Night. I will never think of it the same way again. The world seems to come alive when the sun sets -- the sounds more pronounced, the sights so beautiful. Never in my wildest imagination had I dreamed the night could be so full of splendor! It's a poem, a mystery. It's like nothing I could ever describe; to do so would be to diminish its power. And it is powerful, make no mistake.

The moon cast its soft beams of light around us like an unassuming spotlight as Mulder led me to a small grove in the woods that surrounded Claudius' estate Hunger burned inside me, feeling as if it could collapse my veins from the barbed intensity of it. I didn't have to say a word to him. He already seemed to know what I needed.

Three deer clustered at the edge of the grove, in the light but stunned into stillness by our intrusion. Mulder led me to the smallest of the three and showed me where to bite. In my hunger, it was hard to keep from tearing into the animal. The hot, rich copper flowing from the wound spilled into my mouth thickly, pouring down my parched throat. The deer made no move to leave, and I sensed it felt no pain. My lips pressed into the soft hide, needing to be closer, to drink deeper. Blood drizzled down my chin, but my hands urged the animal closer still. I couldn't get enough.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I realized the deer's legs were shaking. Strong but gentle hands pulled me away.

"That's enough, Scully," Mulder said.

I mourned the loss of the warm creature and the sweet blood inside it. He of all people should realize I needed this!

He chuckled. "There are two more for you, right here. See?" He gestured to the remaining deer. "You don't really want to kill it when there's plenty between the three of them, do you?" What compelled these others to stay while one of them was being fed upon, I couldn't fathom. But they did, and I was too wrapped up in this newfound hunger to question it further.

I took the second largest one next. Less desperate this time, I took slow and steady mouthfuls, allowing myself to enjoy the heady flavor. Mulder looked on, nodding his approval. I felt strong already, unnaturally so. Power seemed to insinuate itself throughout my limbs. It was as if something inside me I never even knew existed had awakened. Whether or not this was a good thing remained to be seen.

I soon felt satisfied and knew I needed no more of the young deer's blood. Mulder, on the other hand, looked pale. Even in the moonlight my new eyes could tell he was ashen-faced and weak, yet I knew he wouldn't take a drop if he thought I wanted it.

"I think I'm finished, Mulder," I told him. Without a word, he stepped to the final deer and drank deeply from it. I watched in complete fascination as a thin trickle of blood spilled around his lips. Something inside me yearned for him. It was a bit disturbing, this feeling. I wanted him because of his show of power and control, for the subtle grace he displayed as he fed off the creature. It was a base, animalistic craving, and it felt so right in the dead of nighttime, with the soft decay and new growth of the woods surrounding us.

He pulled away and swatted the deer gently on the rear. The action broke whatever spell was upon these animals and they ran away into the darkness. Mulder turned to look at me.

"Scully, I --"

I cut him off with a finger placed on his lips. "Can you feel it, too? This power surging inside me, is it inside you, too?"

He nodded, looking stunned.

I pulled him down by the neck and kissed him with all the depth and emotion I was feeling. Elation and fear overwhelmed me in turns, spiraling in my chest until I was sure it would burst.

Pulling away for a moment, I whispered against his lips, "I know why you did it, Mulder. You don't have to say a thing." I crushed my mouth against his again. He broke the kiss, leaning his forehead against mine and huffing unneeded breaths. 

I moved my head until I was looking at the brilliant stars above, disrupting our embrace. His cheek rubbed slowly against mine and I nuzzled it until I could feel his lips on my jaw line. Tingles racked my body and I urged his mouth lower still, until it lingered on the soft flesh of my neck. I gasped, trembling from a need I'd never felt before. Mulder breathed shaky, heavy breaths against my flesh.

Desperate, I threaded my fingers in his hair and pressed his face against me. A silent plea. He paused for a moment, then darted his tongue out to taste me. I gasped again, this time in pleasurable shock. He moaned in response, sending the vibrations straight down to my belly, and pressed his hardened body against mine. I felt his hot mouth stretch over my neck and then a prick.

The piercing sensation gave way to immediate pleasure as Mulder embraced me, both hands in my hair, drinking from me in long, hard pulls. In contrast, his lips molded around the sensitive flesh of my neck softly, in the most loving and gentle manner. He couldn't get close enough or drink deep enough to satisfy my need for him. Everything within me screamed his name, cried out for more even as the potency of what we shared bore down on me like a crushing weight. The sound of sobbing broke through the rush of blood pounding loud as a turbulent ocean in my ears.

Mulder pulled away and I realized the sound was coming from me. I looked up at him, happy to see a healthier color in his cheeks. He scooped me up into his arms and sat down, leaning against the trunk of a large tree.

"I didn't take much," he told me quietly and cupped my cheek with one large hand, "but you need all the strength you can get." He pulled the collar of his shirt down in invitation. I stared at the smooth texture of his neck, captivated by the thumping blue vein just under his pale skin. It seemed to lure me in, almost begging to be opened up and sampled. I wrapped my arms around his neck for balance as I sat across his lap, a chaste lover's embrace, and nuzzled against him. Nervous and excited at once, I rained tender kisses upon him until I gathered the courage to sink my teeth in.

Immediately, the blood began to pour in. It tasted somewhat of the deer we'd both fed from, but seasoned with something more. Something I guessed was to do with our vampire bodies. I clutched him with restless hands, nails scratching against the bark of the tree behind him. It was like before -- I couldn't get close enough, couldn't get deep enough. My body ached with desire I never dreamed possible.

All too soon, he was pulling me away from the sweet fount of his skin.

"We need to get back to the house," he said without meeting my eyes, and stood to leave. I followed him through the woods, paying closer attention to my surroundings than before. Owls hooted at intervals but stayed their distance as we walked with soundless footsteps through the underbrush. The chorus of crickets kept time with the flash-flash-flash of fireflies. All the slimy and multi-legged insects scurried beneath feet that barely touched the ground. The night sky wasn't like night at all -- it glowed with a soft light impossible for a mortal's eyes to pick up. Better than night vision, this was like a permanent dusk. The satellite's silvery glow replaced the orange-red glare of the sun, creating a magical atmosphere.

It was overwhelming. I have a scientific soul not prone to fits of poetic melancholy where too much beauty brings tears. Yet I wanted to cry. It was so much, so fast, and it settled in my heart like a leaden weight. So, against everything I was before, I wept at the unbelievable magnificence that was the night.

~*~

We returned to Claudius's estate, back to a world of electricity and posh surroundings, as far removed as possible from my wooded wonderland. It was an abrupt, unsettling change. 

I followed Mulder into the house, satisfied to find keeping up with his wider strides would no longer be a problem. He swept through the corridors quickly and without telling me the destination. It was as if I wasn't there at all; in fact, he hadn't spoken a word to me since we left the clearing.

I soon found myself in what I guessed was Claudius's study. Claudius himself stood before a bookshelf to the left. He looked at Mulder first, then at me. With a small smile, he re-shelved the book in his hand.

"Dana, I see you've fed. Are you feeling well?"

"Yes, thank you," I answered.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mulder stiffen.

"As well as can be expected," he answered through clenched teeth. "She's a goddamn vampire, Claudius."

The younger-looking man looked down, his tone regretful. "Yes. You know if there was any other way, I would have told you."

"I want them to pay."

"It isn't that easy, Mulder. He's no fledgling. Neither is Liliana."

I placed a hand on Mulder's arm, trying not to be hurt when he flinched from my touch. "Mulder, please. From what I've gathered these monsters aren't anything we can go against alone."

He turned remorseful eyes on me and placed shaking hands on either side of my face. "Look what they've made me do to you, Scully," he croaked out. "I've ruined you, destroyed your soul and made you into a monster like the rest of us. All because I was too afraid to let you go. I can't forgive myself for that."

I should've expected this. Mulder would, of course, feel like it was all his fault. Hadn't he done this throughout our entire partnership? My abduction, my cancer, my infertility. Missy's death. Not a single tragedy in my life went by that he didn't blame himself.

I turned my face into his touch and placed a kiss on his palm. "Mulder, don't you see that you saved me? No, listen to me. I would've died. You have nothing to do with the attack." He still looked doubtful, so I reiterated, "You saved my life, Mulder."

"No, this is not a life, Scully. I've condemned you to hell. You should hate me right now."

I huffed in frustration. "Look, I think I'll decide whom I'll hate and when. We're partners in this, just like we've always been. Anyway, how long did you think I was going to let you get all the glory, Spooky boy?"

By the look on his face, I could see the joke fell flat. I sighed. "I could never hate you. But I think we need to focus on what Liliana and Julian might do next and form some sort of defense."

"I'd prefer to go on the offense," Mulder bit out.

"A preemptive strike?" Claudius put in, startling me. I'd forgotten he was there. "Are you planning on doing this alone?"

"Yes," he said as I was saying, "Absolutely not!" I pinned him with what I hoped was a glare that conveyed I'd put up with no nonsense from him. He was unaffected as always.

"I have to go alone, Scully. No one else will challenge him."

"And what about me? Am I supposed to stay here and practice my needlepoint while you're off getting yourself killed -- for real this time?"

He narrowed his eyes. "You're not coming. I won't lose you."

I was outraged. "Excuse me? The only man who could ever tell me what to do had a star and four bars on his shoulder. You're making a lot of assumptions tonight, Mulder."

"Neither of you is suited to their strength," Claudius said. "You must wait until I can gather those faithful to me in the Convenire."

"The Convenire?" I asked, shocked. "Aren't they the ones who kept Mulder captive? They're Julian's clan!"

"I'm afraid you don't have all the facts, Dana. There are some who will support us in battle against Julian -- and make no mistake, a battle it shall be."

I shivered. "Go on. I'd like to know what makes these creatures trustworthy in your eyes since all they've shown so far is cruelty or indifference." What I saw in my visions from Mulder made me have every reason in the world to doubt they could be on our side. I could still see them dressed all in black, surrounding Mulder and watching while Julian pinned him down and turned him against his will. Bastards.

"They aren't trustworthy," Mulder scoffed. "They've done nothing to prove they'll even lift a finger to help. Look, we're wasting time here --"

Claudius cut in. "There is a great deal about them I haven't even told Mulder, as I believed it wasn't my place. But I can see you both need a little persuasion in order to keep you from running off and doing anything foolish." He looked at us both with disapproval.

"There are three members of Julian's order who have their reasons to break free from his rule and his home. They know the only way out is death, for Julian would see them as the worst sort of traitor, punishable by a slow roast in the sunlight. No one defies Julian without facing the consequences, and someone dear to us all was staked out in the garden for the sun to consume for this very act. Her name was Vivienne."

Claudius paused, staring at a point over my shoulder as if remembering something.

He went on.

"The first to come to me was Maeve, an Ancient. She'd seen the slip in Julian and Liliana's sanity for some time and after Vivienne's death, Maeve feared the worst for everyone within the group. Her young fledgling, Caleb, also fears the pair. He was no more than a teenaged boy when he was made, and is a gentle creature. They frighten him with their unbridled fury and power. That aside, he is loyal to his 'mother'.

"Maeve brought Demetrius to me next. He was always disgusted by Julian, but was in love with his creator, Liliana. She was the world to him for some time, but soon he became disgusted by her hold over him as well. He was co-dependent, the subject of many of her demented desires. He is prepared to go into the sun himself, if only it will free him of her lunacy.

"So you see, you have some allies. Maeve, in particular, is a formidable opponent." 

"And you?" I asked. "What's your position on this?"

His shoulders sagged, but his voice was clear and hard. "I loved Julian and Liliana. They were my children, as surely as if I had sired them myself. But they have become twisted, ugly things I cannot even recognize anymore. Their bloodlust is unquenchable and indiscriminant, their cruelty knows no bounds. They are a danger to humans and immortals alike.

"Still, a part of me will always see them as my beautiful children, my twins, bright eyes and pink skin lingering from their amusements under the sun. I prefer to remember them that way. And you must understand this: I will not become a direct participant in their deaths. I...I don't think I could stand that. However, I have no qualms about dispatching Adrian and Stephan." 

~*~

"Mulder?"

"Hmm?"

"Have you gotten used to it yet?"

"What?"

"This. All of it."

He sighed beside me in the bed, still holding me stiffly, as if he just couldn't be comfortable in my presence. Again, I tried not to let it bother me much. But it hurt. It hurt like hell. After all, he was all I had now.

"I hope to God I never get used to it, Scully."

I nodded my understanding. Everything was so confusing now -- I hadn't had time to process the fact that he was a vampire, or get a chance to understand this strange new world before I was thrust into it myself, completely submerged in this alternate universe. What's worse, the one person I felt I could anchor myself to was wallowing in his own self-loathing. And for what? For saving me? Would he rather I had died?

I tried to see his point about the whole thing. I realized he felt he'd doomed me, and that he'd made me into a demon. I didn't share his feelings -- I was just happy to be alive and with him! Survival instinct is a powerful thing; it can even overcome little things like fear of cursed souls and fiendish bodies and feeding off animal's blood.

I said nothing more, though. He wasn't ready to forgive himself; I wasn't ready to argue the absurdity of his guilt.  

~*~

When I woke the next night, Mulder was already up and dressed, staring down at me from his side of the bed.

"Hey." I smiled.

"Hey." He offered me a hesitant smile in return, looking a little more at ease. Good. I wanted to get past this unreasonable awkwardness as soon as possible.

"Listen," he said, "I thought you might like to go into town tonight after we feed. Get you out of this house for a while."

My heart leapt. I couldn't help myself -- I had been pretty much confined to this estate, after all. "Town? There's a town nearby?"

He smiled, genuinely this time. "Yeah, it's about ten miles down the road. I was thinking about taking Claudius's car and driving like normal people instead of..." he made a swooping motion. I laughed.

"I'd like that." 

He nodded. "It's settled then. I, uh, hope you don't mind, but I had some clothes sent over for you. I figured you might want something more appropriate than this." He fingered my borrowed nightgown and raised an eyebrow.

"Mmm, yes. That would probably be a good idea." I moved to close in on his lips...so close. He looked startled and pulled away at the last moment. What was that all about? I wanted to shout. Last night we shared blood and created an irrevocable bond, and not thirty minutes later he couldn't bear my presence. Now this? Was I repulsive to him now?

I sighed in frustration and watched him slip out the door, muttering something about meeting him downstairs. Getting out of bed, I looked around for the clothes he was talking about. There, draped over the back of one brocaded chair, was my clothing for the evening."

Mulder has excellent taste. The dress was a flattering curve-hugger, modest but sophisticated. He even brought a pair of strappy heels and the finest silk stockings I'd ever put my legs into. Exquisite. These, in typical Mulder fashion, were held up by quality garter belts that matched the midnight blue of the dress. Smiling at his choice as I smoothed the garment down, I silently commended him on a job well done. It was just what I would've picked out for myself. Wherever we were going, it had to be someplace elegant. Too bad I didn't have any makeup on hand for a quick touch up.

I looked in the mirror.

The first thing I realized was that I hadn't seen my reflection in the mirror since before I was taken to the hospital. The second thing that occurred to me was that I had no need for makeup, not ever again.

I still looked like myself, but drastically improved. My skin was never problematic, but now I was smooth and balanced. Not one dark circle, not a single line. My face was...well, perfect. My eyelashes, always a little dark for a natural redhead, laid thick and sooty against pale skin. I ran a finger over plump, red lips. They'd never looked like that in my mortal life, not without collagen boosted lipsticks that cost a fortune. And my eyes! So bright and open, like fire burning behind sapphires. 

Now, I normally wouldn't give my appearance another thought other than to make sure I looked presentable. But standing in front of that mirror, looking at the image of myself as I had never thought I could look...it was amazing. I was beautiful!

Half giddy with delight and new self-discovery, I snatched the beige, form-fitting coat off the chair and made my way downstairs to meet Mulder.

I was not prepared for what waited for me at the end of the staircase.

"So, you are the fledgling's progeny," a thin vampire wearing a black trench coat hissed. I shivered at the coldness in his voice, but continued down the stairs. We were safe in Claudius's house after all -- Mulder assured me of that as soon as I regained consciousness just a few short nights ago. When I reached the bottom, I saw Claudius and two other vampires dressed in trench coats. Claudius looked sorrowful, the others looked as if they'd rather kill me than speak to me.

"Claudius?" my voice shook. "What's going on? Where's Mulder?"

"You're coming with us," the thin vampire barked and pulled me to him by the front of my coat.

Terrified, my eyes snapped back to Claudius. "Where's Mulder?" I shouted. "What have you done with him, Claudius?"

"Please, Dana. Whatever you do, do not try to resist these men."

"What are you talking about? I want to see Mulder now. Get your hands off of me!"

The thin vampire grasped my upper arm with bruising force and pulled me outside -- all my attempts to struggle were futile. Before I could say another word, we were airborne -- or so I presumed, given that it felt like the wind was trying to peel the skin off of me and the air was suddenly ten degrees colder. I tried to pull my face away from the relative safety of the strange vampire's chest and was rewarded with the most painful stinging sensation on my face. Regardless of my fears, instinct told me to keep my face turned into the creature who held me.

When I next opened my eyes, we were on solid ground and in the grand hall of what looked like a castle. Tapestries lined the walls, gruesome images depicted on the preserved textiles. Massive furniture dotted the entrance and the stone floors were broken up with rich-colored Persian rugs. The vampire gave me a little push to move me along. I felt it best not to resist.

He led me through a complicated network of walls and concealed openings, never speaking a word or slowing his pace. Opulent surroundings gave way to modest furnishings, then to what looked like a 1500's prison. The vampire shoved me into a room and stalked over to a large refrigerator. It was so out of place in this isolated environment that I had to wonder what purpose it served.

I didn't have to wonder long. The vampire pulled two units of blood out of the appliance and tossed them to me.

"Eat up," he snarled.

I glared at him.

"Eat up," he barked. "It's not a request."

What little bit of bravado I still possessed left me. I tore a corner out of the first bag with my teeth and drank the liquid down. It was godawful stuff -- ice cold and stale. I choked and spluttered a bit of it onto the floor and was met with a sound slap to the face by my captor.

I drank the rest of it without complaint. 

~*~

I was taken to a small cell, which looked disturbingly dungeon-like. On second thought, I realized that it probably was a dungeon. We'd just spent the better part of a half an hour meandering through a castle, so I shouldn't have been so surprised. The walls were stone, green with mold in some places, and the air was dank, damp. Mushrooms twisted their rounded heads out from the base of the wall here and there. It smelled dirty in a decaying earth sort of way. It was everything your basic nightmare of a dungeon should be, right down to the wooden bench built into the face of the stones and the manacles nailed to the wall with iron spikes. Water dripped somewhere else in the antiquated prison, making the place seem more cavernous and intimidating. Forsaken.

Drip, drip, drip.

Underground. I was definitely underground. I looked at the menacing restraints on the wall, trying to at least be thankful they hadn't strung me up in those. It's the little things that count, after all.

God, I was beginning to sound like Mulder.

Drip, drip, drip.

Who the hell were they? What did they want with us? I couldn't understand it. 

The ancient stones had none of the answers I wanted. The blood I'd consumed, though repugnant and meager, had a nice tranquilizing effect, much like Thanksgiving dinner. I removed my coat, spread it over the rotting bench and laid down. Well, one thing was certain; Claudius sold us out. Those vampires in trench coats tonight didn't take him into custody, and he did essentially tell me not to fight it. Not to mention the fact that they were in his house and he made no move to stop them. And all along, we thought we could trust him. It made me sick to think of it.

What happened to Mulder, though? Where was he? What happened that they wanted us bad enough to retrieve us at Claudius's home? I wondered if they were part of Julian's group of beasts. I shuddered.

I soon felt the tug of dawn bringing me closer to sleep, my circadian rhythm being switched on permanent 'reverse'. The dripping was beginning to lull me into a light doze when I felt a presence at my side. In one motion I gasped, sat up and reached to the small of my back for a gun that wasn't there.

Claudius.

"Bastard," I hissed. "Where's Mulder?"

"He's being held in a separate room upstairs. He's safe, Dana."

I didn't know whether to trust him or not.

He sighed, looking upset, edgy. It was the first time I'd seen him look tense. "You can trust me. Mulder does."

"Mulder and I don't always agree on who is trustworthy and who isn't."

"No, I suppose you don't," he said it in such a wry manner I had to wonder how well he knew the both of us. "There isn't much time, Dana. I've had to negotiate my way down here to you as it is, and you'll be drawn into slumber soon."

I narrowed my eyes at him, wondering if he was up to something. But then, where did I have to go if he was? The cell was still locked up tight and from what little I know about our kind, he was unbelievably strong. I was helpless.

"Those men tonight are members of the Grand Council of the Vampyres. They are a group of Ancients that police us, much like your FBI. They are, perhaps, what have kept our kind alive for so many centuries." He stopped, looking to me for confirmation that I understood thus far.

"Go on," I said.

"There are rules, Dana, rules against making other vampires without the consent of the Council. There will be a trial tomorrow evening. Unless Mulder and I can convince the Council otherwise, he will face the consequences of turning you."

My heart felt as if it had dropped to the floor. "And the consequences are?"

He looked down. "They will expose him to the morning sun. I'm so sorry, Dana."


Chapter Nine

The fabled Grand Council of the Vampyres. Eight vampires, the most powerful in the world, sat at a crescent-shaped table made of marble. The room was bare of unnecessary furnishings, holding nothing but the large table with chairs, the seat I was in and wrought iron torches all along the walls.

I sat still as the dead in my chair positioned just outside the center of the crescent, surprised that they hadn't bound my hands or tried to restrain me in any way. I supposed they had no need to bind any of the unfortunate vampires that passed through their doors -- after what I'd already learned about them in my short time among the undead, I doubted anyone would be stupid enough to try and escape.

Sixteen ancient eyes bore into mine, some appraising, some contemptuous. It was all I could do to keep from squirming. What they were looking for in this uncomfortable, drawn out silence, I couldn't tell, but if Julian could be trusted at all, it was possible they were digging into my mind . More than possible, really, if I was going to be honest with myself. Hadn't I used that same trick on Skinner in the hospital just a few nights ago?

That thought did make me squirm.

I hoped Scully was okay. Claudius came into my holding cell the night before, informing me that they'd taken her into custody as well.

"She's in the dungeons," he'd said, "but she'll be treated well as long as she doesn't try to put up any resistance.

Claudius seemed reassured by this, but it made me damn uneasy.

Where was she now?

"She'll be brought before us in time," the woman I referred to in my head as Dark Eyes answered my thought in a crisp, British inflection.

Not having a clue what their names were, I'd decided to make up my own. From left to right, there was Beak Man. He had black hair, an expression on his face like he'd eaten acid and one of the biggest schnozzes I'd ever seen.

Then there was Rosalie. She looked like the vision of a classic Italian beauty -- shiny black hair, deep brown eyes.

Next to her sat Vigo the Carpathian. I smirked inwardly on that one. He looked just like the character in Ghostbusters II. Next came Jasmine, a woman of obvious Middle Eastern descent. Breathtaking in an exotic, but cruel way. She looked ready to take me out right then and there.

I did recognize the man in the middle; it was Reuben Malkov, the same man I'd met at Claudius's manor. Regardless of the obvious contempt he had for Julian, I doubted he would grant me any leniency. He looked just as peeved as before, sharp, blue-green eyes narrowed at me.

Next came Tinkerbell, named for her pixie-ish appearance and delicate bone structure. Of course, I held no false security there -- no doubt she could kill me with the tiniest flick of her wrist. She sat next to Dark Eyes, the only one who'd spoken to me so far. Dark Eyes was -- intense looking. Her dark features against such white skin made her seem even more unreal than the rest of them. And like all of them, save for Beak Man, Vigo and the elderly, sallow-skinned Reuben, she was unnaturally beautiful.

Last was Red, named for the color of his hair. I didn't know what to make of him just yet, but I took his kind expression to be a good sign.

And it suddenly occurred to me that these creatures probably heard every one of my names for them in my head. A raised eyebrow from Jasmine confirmed this, much to my immense embarrassment. The last thing I needed was to piss these vampires off. Not that I'd invited them into my thoughts, though.

"You know why you are here," Vigo began without preamble. A Bulgarian vampire? Christ. It would be funny, if my life wasn't on the line.

I nodded. No sudden moves, Mulder boy. Don't speak unless you need to.

"What you have done is forbidden," added Jasmine, disapproval lacing her words with venom. "We are well within the ancient Guidelines to burn you."

"If I may." Claudius interrupted from somewhere behind me. "Mulder was thrust upon our world. He was Turned against his will, and told nothing of our Guidelines by his Maker."

Jasmine looked beyond me, unexpected warmth filling her eyes. "Claudius, it cannot be helped. We have rules."

Claudius moved to stand beside me. I speculated the gesture was of symbolic importance when several members of the Council narrowed their eyes at me as though sizing me up. I could almost hear their thoughts: 'Why is this fledgling so important?' It wasn't the first time I felt I had a powerful ally in Claudius.

"My dear Cassia," he replied. Cassia, not Jasmine. "Is it fair to sentence one so new to such a fate? Someone who is, for all intents and purposes, a child? He is an innocent."

"The fact remains that he has offended this Council!" Vigo shot off in his thick accent. "What do I care if he is newly made?"

"You're being unreasonable, Anson," Red said to Vigo. "We should hear what he has to say for himself."

Sounds of agreement and nods from some of the others. Maybe there was a chance of surviving this after all.

Vigo -- Anson snorted in disgust. "Fledglings begetting fledglings. It makes me sick! Will there be no end to our leniency? I'll say again, I have no desire to hear his account."

"We are well aware of where our faults lie, Anson," Rosalie said dryly.

"The blatant disregard of Julian's actions among them," Rueben commented.

Dark Eyes pinned me with an unblinking stare. "We are told he has had a hand in this."

"He's my Maker." How much did they already know about Julian and I? I didn't know if it was wise to expand on my comment, so I kept quiet instead.

She snorted, turning to Beak Man. They looked at one another, not saying anything aloud. I knew they were speaking anyway, with the strange gift of mind reading we all share.

"We have a duty!" Anson boomed.

"Mulder felt he had a duty as well," Claudius said quietly. "The one he created stood the chance of becoming a Halfling."

The Council gasped.

"Abomination," Tinkerbell whispered.

"I'd like to know how this happened," said Rosalie. "He deserves a chance to explain; we clearly have not kept close enough tabs on this...situation."

"What is there to hear that we do not already know, Mirella? He must pay for his deed!"

"Do hush, Anson. I tire of your bloodthirsty mentality," Dark Eyes said. Mumbles of agreement from some of the others. "Mr. Mulder, you may speak on your own behalf. Please keep it to the point -- I don't know how much longer we can hold Anson at bay." Several of the others chuckled at her wry comment. Wasn't so funny to me.

I mentally ran through their actual names; it wouldn't do to slip and call them by the names I'd given them, as precarious as my situation was. Mirella, not Rosalie. Cassia, not Jasmine. Vigo was Anson. I still had no indication of what Tinkerbell, Red, Dark Eyes or Beak Man's real names were. 

The pixie-ish one laughed, bearing her fangs. "Tinkerbell?" Her voice was musical and as sweet as her teeth were fatal. I felt the blood rush to my neck and face. There must be some way to block others from reading into your mind.

"There is," she said. She didn't elaborate, which I took as a bad sign. She must've thought I wouldn't survive long enough to need that skill.

She laughed again. "Your thoughts amuse me, Young One, and therefore I will spare your poor mind the vexation. I am Gillian."

"I'm Emma," Dark Eyes said.

"Gabriel," Red offered.

I looked at Beak Man, the last mystery. He glared at me, arms crossed. Emma was trying, and failing, to suppress a smile. "Braulio," he said gruffly, and like Emma, also in a refined British accent.

Shit. Must be sensitive about the nose -- so much for staying on everyone's good side.

Anson snorted. "Now that we're all friendly, can we get this travesty over with? I'd like to hunt before sunup."

Emma, Gabriel and Gillian looked at him in disgust.

"The fact that you still hunt nightly is proof enough that your judgment is somewhat skewed, Anson," Braulio sneered.

They glared at one another in silence. The rest looked at me expectantly. I cleared my throat and began to explain what happened -- all of it, from discovering the note in my apartment from Julian inviting me to the Convenire, to the moment I was forced to Turn Scully.

When I finished, they sat in silence, staring at me. It was unnerving.

Anson, as expected, spoke first. "Enough of this nonsense!" He banged a fist against the stone slab. "Did he not have a mentor in Claudius? Was he not warned of the dangers before completing Liliana's task?"

"This situation is unique, Anson--" Gabriel began.

"We set these rules for a reason! Grant leniency now, and every fledgling twit with a Lestat complex will begin to create more of our kind."

Claudius remained still at my side. "Anson brings up a valid point," he said. I looked sharply up at him. What the hell was he doing? "However, the situation was indeed dire. The young woman had already been the victim of one botched Turning, and then another. There is no doubt in my mind that, had she been allowed to progress with only a partial intake of The Blood, she would have become a Halfling."

"By his own admission, Mr. Mulder allowed her to feed from him after Liliana's first attempt," Cassia said.

"To keep her alive," I interjected, "not to Turn her!"

"Be that as it may, Turn her you did." She screwed up her face. "Had you left her to her fate, Liliana would have been brought before us rather than you. She would have had us to answer to for this unauthorized act."

"Scully would have died!"

The woman gave me a cold sneer. "What do we care for mortals? They are food, you foolish creature! If not for our high regard for Claudius, I can promise you would already have been secure in an execution tower to await the sun while we went about our nightly amusements. We still may! Look where your affection for a mortal has gotten you."

"It would seem his interruption of the first Turning and the Blood he gave the woman would have affected Liliana's second attempt," Braulio added. "If anything, he is at least partly responsible for the woman's risk of becoming a Halfling."

Great. The man says nothing but his name the whole time, and now this? 

"However, his last intervention stopped an abomination occurring. For that reason, and in deference to Claudius, I oppose a Burning."

"No one has called for a vote!" Anson cried.

Braulio glowered at Anson. "You've made your position clear. I am merely stating mine as well. A Burning would be unmerited in this situation, when Julian and Liliana are the ones who should be punished. Why we continue to dance around the issue of that...demonic pair...is beyond my comprehension." 

"I quite agree," Emma put in. "There is nothing to be gained by executing these fledglings; they are as much our victims as they are Liliana and Julian's -- "

"Spare us, Emma," said Cassia.  

"She's right," Rueben said, the second sentence he'd uttered all night. "If we had been vigilant in our duties, the Convenire would never have become so reckless. As it is, these fledglings are public figures in the mortal world... Julian does us all an ill-fated turn and endangers our kind with his flippancy yet again."

Gillian cleared her throat. "If we all agree there is nothing more to be gained this evening, I propose we call a vote."

Nods all around.

No, this wasn't right! They wouldn't sentence us without Scully present, would they?

"What about Scully's testimony?" I asked.

Cassia scowled. "This isn't a mortal court of law. We've already listened to you; we don't need her version of events."

If I was alive I would have had a lump the size of New York in my throat in anticipation of my sentencing. I'd be sweating a river and my pulse would be out of control. But I wasn't alive and instead, I felt hollow inside. I prayed that whatever the outcome, Scully would be allowed to live. Even as I sat there, I knew it was an impossibility; if I was condemned to death, she would be, too.

Mirella stood and spoke in her clear Italian-accented voice. "By sacred law and in keeping with the traditions of our ancient Guidelines, the Council will cast its vote. Our decision is irreversible. Let none hereafter oppose our greater wisdom."

They all stood. I fought the urge to bolt -- and it was a strong urge. Eight of the most powerful and deadly Ancients locked their gazes with mine as they decided my fate... I couldn't imagine anything more terrifying.

"All those in favor," Mirella continued.

Each member produced something that looked like a fat stick with runes carved into the smooth wood. Natural curiosity had me leaning forward in my seat to get a closer look before Claudius placed a hand on my shoulder. A slight shake of his head told me that maybe staring wasn't such a smart idea. Then they held the sticks a foot or two above the slab table. I tried to look calm, even as the hollowness inside of me grew into panic. This was it.

Cassia and Anson placed their rune-inscribed sticks on the slab, then stepped back. The others held theirs still above the marble, in the same position as before. With a satisfied look on her face, Mirella said, "The Council has spoken."

"What is it?" I whispered to Claudius. I had no idea what the significance of the sticks were, or what decision the Council had come to.  

But before he could answer, Anson snorted. "Hardly surprising. Fools to a one!" He left quickly, Cassia on his heels. I took his outburst as a good omen, considering his eagerness to roast us alive.

The rest filed out in silence, save for Gillian. It was surreal. "What happened? Can we leave? Where's Scully?"

She smiled. "Anson and Cassia were outnumbered, you are both safe. Your companion will be sent up shortly."

Relief washed over me. Claudius laughed at my reaction, which must have been pretty obvious since Gillian was grinning even wider now.

She stopped at the door. "Oh, and Young One? See to it you don't give us cause to bring you back."       

No problem, I thought. Even the air in this place scared the shit out of me.

Minutes later, a wiry vampire entered the room, his hand gripped around Scully's upper arm. As soon as she saw us, she jerked away from her jailer's grasp, tossing off a dirty look in his direction for good measure. Claudius chuckled beside me.

"Come. Let's go home."

When we arrived at Claudius' manor, we found the older vampire had an unexpected visitor.

"Dear God, Demetrius! What's happened?"

The vampire who always seemed so brooding and indifferent to others before was nowhere to be seen. In his place was a shaking, bloodied thing, leaning against the sandstone railing as if the ground was shifting beneath him.

"It's not mine," he whispered, answering the question no one had yet asked. "Not mine."

The blood. If not his, then whose was it? Claudius looked concerned, too, and Scully clutched my arm. Not in fear though, never that. It was a protective gesture. I stepped away, putting myself between her and Demetrius. I had yet to believe, as Claudius did, that the other vampire could be trusted. Not that I could've done much if he chose to attack; Demetrius had the powerful advantage of age.

"You must see Maeve," he told Claudius. "She needs you."

We followed him into the house and up the stairs into a spare bedroom. There, lying in a ball on the bed, was Maeve. Her shoulders shook with the force of her sobs, blood colored the fabric of her elegant dress. It dried on her arms and legs and rubbed off her face and neck onto the bedcovers. Her hair was matted with it.

Claudius carefully sat on the bed next to her. She sat up and clutched him, her cries tearing hoarsely from her throat. Maeve was the first person I'd met at the Convenire and, in her own way, the only one to try and warn me of the dangers ahead. I felt an odd and unexpected attachment to her. To see her like this was unbearable.            

"What happened to you, love? Darling, darling Maeve," Claudius cooed in a strained voice. "Shh... I've got you."

I looked at Demetrius, hoping for some answer to her condition. It was obvious from the larger amount of blood on her that he wasn't the source of the bleeding. But Maeve -- was she wounded?

"What's been done to her, Demetrius?" Claudius asked.

"Caleb's gone...she was there when it happened. I had to pull her away and carry her here as soon as he left."

Maeve wailed, still clutching desperately to Claudius. "He killed him! Julian killed my sweet boy! Oh, my Caleb..." she dissolved into hysterical tears, each choked sob cutting straight through us.

Scully, though she knew nothing of Maeve, moved to sit on the opposite side of Claudius.   Intrinsic compassion overrode wariness as she wrapped her arms around the woman, surrounding her with comfort. I knew this even without seeing her face; hadn't I witnessed her in action with countless victims when we were mortal? I might have regretted her Making, but I could never regret spending eternity with her.

Claudius looked over her shoulder to catch my eyes. "This must end," he said darkly.

I nodded.

Maeve began to calm down between Scully and Claudius, the wracking sobs slipping into whimpers. Claudius looked at Scully. "Will you stay with her?"

She nodded.

Claudius untangled himself from the three-way embrace and motioned for Demetrius and I to follow him out into the hall. We stood in uncomfortable silence before Claudius spoke.

"Caleb is definitely gone?"

"Yes, there is no doubt," Demetrius replied with a meaningful look. "I found her holding the remains in the conservatory. He killed the boy right in front of her," he bit out, "in order to 'teach her a lesson' about coming to you. I cannot even guess how he knew, but we dare not go back."

"No, you must both stay here." Claudius closed his eyes and sighed. He looked like he wanted to cry himself, but was forcing the emotion back. I wondered, how could Julian have killed the boy when it was still dark out? Any why all the blood?

Then I remembered one of the first conversations I had with Julian:

"'Can anything kill you?'

'Ah, now we're getting to the meat of
things. Stakes through the heart are quite painful,
I assure you. But, once it is removed and enough
blood is consumed, the wound will start to heal
itself. If anything, it's an annoyance to be staked.
Such a cliché.'

'Folklore denotes driving a stake through the
heart, cutting off the head and stuffing the mouth
with garlic as the only way besides sunlight to
kill a vampire. You're saying this is all a myth?'

 'Unfortunately, cutting off the head is fatal to any

creature, immortal or no. Sunlight is also devastating

 to the oldest vampires, deadly to fledglings.'"

Exposure to sunlight is relatively clean; you burn to ashes, and your ashes are carried off by the wind. From what I understood, it's a bloodless business. But beheading?

Even knowing what an animal Julian was, it was hard to come to terms with this. That he had it in him to cut the head off a boy in front of his 'mother'...

"Jesus."

Claudius opened his eyes and looked at me as if just remembering my presence. Understanding flickered over his face at that moment, like he knew I'd just grasped the severity of the situation.

"It looks as if you're going to get your revenge after all, Mulder. For all of us."

End

**

A/N: It looks like only three more chapters to go! I apologize for the long wait between updates. I have a wedding and other demanding RL issues competing for my writing time -- believe me, I'd rather be writing.

Thanks to everyone who has reviewed. It means the world to me, even if I haven't been able to respond individually. I'm just so grateful that you're reading and enjoying this story.

-- Piper

 

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