Eric was getting that itch. The itch that meant someone was trying to get his attention.
He ignored the feeling as he had for well over a year. The Dead had nothing important to tell him. Just annoying needy bastards who couldn’t let go. He could even tell what this one wanted, this one wanted to gloat. And it wanted to gloat a lot to be able to get through his heavily fortified defenses. Probably hoping to tell him how he won it big in Vegas back in the fifties.
Still, it was enough of an irritant he couldn’t drown it out enough to sleep. He rolled out of bed and walked over to the door, realizing that in his drunken stupor that night he’d forgotten to undress. He slid his blazer off as he passed the desk chair, being careful it wouldn’t wrinkle, before he headed across the hall.
He knocked and paused for barely a second before entering Alessa’s room. It was empty, much to his chagrin. It wasn’t like he could get any enjoyment from her room, he only enjoyed her presence in the sense that he enjoyed her body. She was more trouble than she was worth and the issues with Gabriel implied he should have killed her and her cadre of misfits ages ago.
That most recent issue was dozing on the couch. It was now at the point he’d introduce the idea Gabriel and he had hit it off. It’d been a few weeks, it wouldn’t be that strange, except that Rob knew Eric never hit it off with anyone. He was what they called emotionally distant.
He loved his brother, but it really could be difficult to hide something from someone who knew you that well. He had to be turned, not to find out the truth of where he’d been, but just so he’d be able to talk to him like he once had. It wasn’t like Alessa was saying about dominating his brother. He just wanted the old Rob back. He wanted someone he could confined in. He couldn’t talk to Alessa about anything, she was part of the problem.
But with Rob there seemed to be a distance ever since he’d returned. A gulf had separated them and it was the vampirism, the one thing Eric was too ashamed to discuss. It was wrong, but he needed it. Otherwise, he’d drown under the waves of Dead.
Someone nearby was doing sorcery, he realized with a slight jolt, as he wandered back towards his room looking for some distraction to keep his mind off of those more pressing matters. He felt the tug on the streams of energy that flowed under and around the house. Whatever this person was doing, it was going to be grand. You didn’t need that much energy to light a candle or get the remote, it was enough energy to create a vortex of flame or possibly more a mountain.
Then it clicked in his head: they were inside the house.
He felt the energy release and it snapped at that corner of his senses he kept closed. Whatever had just happened, it’d cleared the Other Side of the Dead, either through force or just sheer terror, because there wasn’t much that could affect the Dead. It hadn’t been intended for that, it was just a side effect. His gaze was drawn to the door leading towards the hallway and caught the last glimmer of what had been blinding light.
Whoever had come into his house didn’t know what they were getting into. He gathered energy into himself, more than he had in ages, not since… well, he didn’t think about that anymore.
He jogged to the hallway and made his way towards where the light had come from. Whoever it was they were once more drawing on energy and released it just as Eric made it into the living room.
Agony pierced Eric’s mind, not from the light, though it was bright enough he had to turn away, but from the mental connection to Gabriel. The young man had woken up during the first expulsion of vibrant light and was conscious for the second.
The purpose of the light was now clear, Gabriel’s meat puppets were being fried, whatever constituted as life for them being snuffed out. Gabriel, not knowing or expecting this was even a possibility, had immediately an opened connection to them, ostensibly to have them protect him, but was instead disabled by their sudden, violent deaths.
Eric had wondered if the meat puppets could feel pain and now he had his answer.
Though that was all it was. Pain, physical pain. They didn’t have enough sentience to have anything deeper. They couldn’t beg for help, or forgiveness or pray for redemption. But that physical agony was filtered to Eric through his own connection to Gabriel and it was enough to make him want to die. The light was something so pure, it broke down the essence of the power he used to survive, the power Gabriel used to animate his victims.
The light dimmed and and the second puppet collapsed to the ground, breaking apart as there was so little left to hold it together even on a material level. It’s destroyer was Rob. He looked… not enraged, but clearly a slight bit beyond annoyed. His eyes flicked to Eric momentarily as Gabriel charged him, from the couch. He deflected him, causing him to crash into the fireplace.
Gabriel regained his balance as he took a step closer to Rob and began slamming down punches, which failed to meet their targets, instead they crashed into the air just inches away from Rob or miss entirely, twisting Gabriel’s fists in awkward, possibly painful directions. Rob didn’t seem too concerned, still merely annoyed that he had to deal with the vampire.
Eric gritted his teeth, and drew in energy, or at least he tried to draw in energy. He found the pool of aether which existed around the house wasn’t particularly interested in him. It wasn’t like Rob was using it all, he’d just aligned it somehow so Eric couldn’t access it. Maybe it was part of creating that brilliant light, that hurt when Eric thought about it, that positively charged the existing aether around the property. That didn’t really matter, in the end, Eric had enough raw power to be able to distract Rob long enough for Gabriel to get a hit in and hopefully he could pull him off Rob before he killed him.
Sure, it was pulled straight from a video game, but he did share his brother’s dramatic flair and there wasn’t anything more dramatic than a quintet of ice javelins. They materialized over Eric’s right shoulder and with a gesture they flew directly at Rob.
Rob barely acknowledged Eric’s projectiles. A sudden wave of heat filled the room and the javelins were gone.
Doubt flared in Eric. He attempted to conjure more missiles but they wouldn’t even form in the overheated dry air. In his panic the missiles became walls and spikes but even they were small and unimpressive, more like a parking bumper which failed it’s quality control inspection.
Gabriel’s attacks were just as desperate. He was flailing wildly at Rob right up until Rob hit him with the palm of his hand. Gabriel was thrown back against the wall. He slid to the ground leaving a bloody streak across the paint and knocking photographs off the wall.
Moaning, Gabriel began to stand, injuries healing near instantaneously. There was a violent ripping sound as the couch cannibalized itself into a dozen shards of wood. They soared through the air, pinning Gabriel to the wall. The last one, larger than the rest, waited until he was still before striking though his heart. He shuttered, coughing up blood before going still, his expression frozen in surprise as he stared towards Rob.
Now Rob turned towards his brother and Eric did the worst thing he could have tried. Most people don’t know how to defend their minds and that is one of the greatest powers known to vampires. A form of hypnotism through the blood, but it doesn’t work perfectly unless the vampire’s fed off of them. And it works quite terribly if they know how to defend themselves.
Eric was momentarily weightless, then the world came crashing down on him., He struck the floor and rubbed against it until it became carpet as he was dragged into the living and then he smashed into a wall. The world seemed to right itself as he felt Rob pick him off the ground and prop him up. Eric couldn’t move. His spine was healing several injuries from whatever had happened. It felt like the skin had been flayed from his face.
Rob straightened him out as he dug something out of his pocket.
“How long … have you known?” Eric asked, struggling to move, but overcome with bouts of pain as nerves reconnected.
“Since the first time we talked after I got back.” Rob said, “I wasn’t sure at first, but…”
“What gave me away?”
He looked Eric in the eye, “You don’t see dead people, do you?”
“I never liked that.” Eric admitted, “The only reason I kept this up.”
“I doubt it was the only reason.” Rob replied, holding up a vial of liquid, “This is naloxone for vampirism.”
Eric stared at it in horror, “No, Rob, you can’t. I can’t. You can’t.”
“You need this. It’s your best chance.” Rob said inching closer to him.
Eric’s was recovering and attempting to shift away from Rob, “Please, Rob. You don’t remember how bad it is. Please, don’t do this to me!”
“Actually, it’s all I remember.” Rob replied, grabbing Eric’s head and forcing the vial into his mouth.
Strength was returning to Eric as his body mended, but it wasn’t fast enough and he realized as feeling returned that Rob had him well pinned. He could barely struggle as poured the floral liquid into his mouth and then held his jaw shut so he’d swallow.
Eric resisted until fingers pinched his nose, but he was already feeling the effects. He was exhausted. Energy seems to be seeping out of every pore. Shadows were gathering around them. He saw faces he knew in those shadows. He tried to pull up his blocks to veil them from his sight but he had nothing left. He was surrounded.
He reflexively swallowed the last of the potion and grabbed hold of Rob.
“Don’t let them get me,” he begged, “Please don’t let them…” He screamed.
The night was cool and clear as Helena and Ms Dawn walked back to their hotel. The evening had been pleasant though they hadn’t discovered anything more than they’d already knew. Late they’d gotten a message from Josh, some information he’d dug up on Ethan’s biological parents but they wouldn’t be able to see him until morning.
As they entered the hotel, Ms Dawn’s bodyguard opened the door. She glanced towards Helena, “How has Gabriel been? He doesn’t seem to be fulfilling his duties particularly well.”
Helena sighed, “That is true.” she hesitated, “I don’t really know what’s gotten into him. He made excuses the first few times but now I can’t even get him to pick up his phone. Finding something better to do with his time is one thing, but I wish…”
“He’d at least call, maybe?” Dawn said, “This is a bit odd of him isn’t it. He’s not the most reliable man in the world, but he’s usually more communicative than this” she quirked a slight smile, “So I supposed Robin has his uses. More than happy to come out and protect you.”
“Yes, when he’s able to. He has a lot to get done with practically coming back from the dead” Helena said, “He’s very good to me, but sometimes….”
“I’m not sure what my feelings are for him.” Helena said, “I’m not sure what I feel for him.”
“You mean you aren’t sure if you love him or if it’s remorse for what you’ve done to him.” Dawn clarified. “I’m sure there’s a syndrome for it. You are aware of it though, that’s a good thing. It could be a lot worse. You could be throwing yourself at him without acknowledging the situation.”
“I know. And part of me is convinced he’s just doing this to get back at me, forcing me to feel for me and then one day it’s going to explode in my face.” Helena continued as they reached the elevator, “He’s going to reveal it was all a lie and he just wanted to hurt me like I did him.”
Dawn didn’t comment at first, but as the doors closed, “I don’t think he’s that type of person. He seems more forward. He’d have told you how he felt the moment you came to his party.”
“He is very forward. He holds nothing back.”
“Except where he’s been.”
“He told me. Enough at least.” Helena said, “I know enough details to know exactly how he acts the way he does. Why he…” she trailed off. That wasn’t the type of thing she should be talking about, unconfirmed to someone Rob didn’t trust.
Dawn frowned, “You won’t tell me?”
“He doesn’t want anyone to know, so I won’t tell.” Helena replied as the elevator reached their floor, “I think what’s more important is he’s back here whether he wanted to be or not.”
“You don’t think he wanted to return, do you?” Dawn asked.
“Would you have?” Helena asked as she slid the card in her door.
She froze as she cracked it open. The smell of blood was overwhelming. Slowly she gently opened it the rest of the way.
The lights were on and the entryway was clear. With a gesture the guard stepped forward and walked into the room. He got the main room froze and gestured for them to follow.
Gabriel was laid out on Helena’s bed, a shard of wood sticking out of his chest. Beyond that and the massive blood loss he seemed in good condition.
Ms. Dawn gasped, “Great Mother.”
Helena walked over, barely noting Rob sitting near the bed covered in blood. “Now we know,” she said, her voice breaking, “Oh God, how didn’t I see this?” She looked up at Rob, “After you told me about Eric? How didn’t I see?”
Rob seemed to realize she’d arrived, “You didn’t want to see.” He replied, clearing his throat, “I had two doses of the stuff for Eric, but Gabe broke one.”
Helena knelt down by the bed and touched her brother’s face. It was cold, but pliable. It was odd and her hand lingered only to feel a beat. She pulled her hand away and fell back to her heels.
Rob nodded, “Stake and beheading. Or burning works too. He was in a lot worse shape when I got him here. I thought for a bit he might eject that stake.”
Helena swallowed, “Can we get more of that, stuff, the cure?”
“It’s not a cure, it just helps. I don’t even know if it’s going to work on Eric. He might want to go back and there’s nothing I can do to stop him if he does.” Rob said. He spoke in an emotionless monotone, but tears were streaming down his face.
Dawn had stepped closer. She was staring at Gabriel like she was barely seeing him, “His aura is very, chaotic. Almost…” She swallowed as she looked to Helena, “I’m not sure he’ll make the choice you’d like him to make.”
Helena looked at Gabriel lying peaceful on the bed. Maybe it was because she knew, but he didn’t look like her brother. He looked like a monster. It was the set of his face.
“I can’t decide now,” she said looking at Rob, “how long will be keep?”
Rob’s eyes darted to her and then back to the body, “Indefinitely, in theory. After some time, he’ll start to rot away, but he’ll remain alive. If he gets to that point we’ll have to put him down.”
“It won’t.” Helena said, “I just need some time.”
Rob stood up, “I need to go. I need to pay my step-sister a visit.”
Helena head jerked up and stared, “Did she…” she swallowed.
Rob hesitated, “I believe so. I won’t know until I ask her.”
Dawn interjected, “You believe she’ll admit it?”
“I do. She might not be my biological sister but I’ve nearly grown up with her. I know how her mind works.” Rob replied, “she’ll like nothing more than to rub it in.”
Helena stood up, “I’m coming with you.”
“You can’t be serious,” Dawn began, “going out on a—”
“YES,” Helena snarled glaring her. The word reverberated throughout the room as she regained herself, “yes, I’m sure. I’m going with Rob. This must be done.”
Dawn took her by the shoulder, “Think about this, you’re not in your right mind. You’re upset. This isn’t the right thing to do.”
“She destroyed my brother!” Helena raged, her poise shattered in anger. The room was vibrating again, objects attaining resonance at various intervals.
“You cannot do this. This is not how we work, Helena. We bar the gates we don’t fight—” she turned just in time as the large mirror over the dresser opened. Reality bent around the reflective surface and three creatures leapt through.
They were short, doglike, but they didn’t really have heads, just mouths, and whiplike tails. Their fur was rough and matted with dirt and blood. They growled at Ms. Dawn as she fell back against the wall.
Helena turned to Rob, “It’s time to go.” and walked out.
The creatures followed her, barely acknowledging the other humans.
Rob lingered for a moment, giving Dawn a sideways glance, “You should have known better than to have tried to keep a hurricane in a bottle. Keep an eye on Gabriel.”