Work in progress
She sat with her temple pressed against the cool glass, staring at the passing trees. She was ready to run again, the need was like an itch in her veins. Being in one spot for too long irritated her, she found herself more and more uncomfortable as the days passed. She had felt safe in Levi’s cabin, felt as though she was far enough away from the world that no one was coming for her. It didn’t cure the itch though, born simply of the habit of constantly being on the move she supposed.
The hours passed quicker than she expected, the trees gave way to ploughed fields before turning into run down buildings. Suddenly they were driving through the streets of a town that looked as though the bustling city world had forgotten it, leaving it in a poor and dusty decade while everyone else advanced. There was something dreary about the place, something that suggested the end of hope and a way of slogging through life just to get to the next day. Ellie wondered if that was just how she felt about her own life, or if somehow this shabby town represented her feelings.
Levi pulled the truck over to the side of the road, switching off the engine. They sat, minutes ticking past, in silence, their gaze cast through the windscreen. Finally, he spoke.
“Are you going to be ok?” there was something in his voice she couldn’t put a name to, it was lower, rougher. She turned to look at him. His lips were drawn tight, his eyes still focused outside.
“I always am,” she said softly, trying to fill it with certainty to convince him. At this he faced her.
“Not in Vici,” his words were almost inaudible. No, she would not have been alright if he hadn’t rescued her. She could not count on always having him there to save her. It was not his responsibility, he had a life of his own. She shrugged.
“I stay out of trouble when I can,” she offered him a smile, “If it catches up with me one day, so be it.” An odd kind of growl sounded in his throat, but he didn’t say anything.
“Thank you, Levi,” she told him, reaching out to put her hand over his, “for everything you’ve done. And I’m sorry, for disrupting your life the way I did.”
Now he smiled at her, turning his hand to grasp hers.
“Be careful, Aurelia,” he whispered, “I don’t know what you’re up to, what your life involves, but take care, ok?”
“Of course,” she gave his hand a little squeeze before pulling hers free and turning, pushing the door open. She needed to leave before any more feelings passed between them. Stepping out of the truck, she dragged her backpack up onto her shoulders and stretched out. turning back toward Levi she saw him watching her. Neither of them spoke, no one likes goodbyes. She gave him a little wave and closed the door. It was done, he would drive away and she would never see him again.
He knew as he pulled away from her, standing there on the street, that he would come looking for her. She didn’t need to know, he wasn’t sure if she wanted anything else to do with him. He needed to know though, that she would be alright, he needed to be able to make sure. He knew that she was running from something, that she wouldn’t be in Weston for long, but he would be able to follow her. He was exactly the kind of thing that people like her usually ended up running from.
As soon as Levi had driven away, Ellie was turning in the direction of the bus depot. She wasn’t even going to stay in town long enough for anyone to notice her. Places like this everyone remembered strangers who came through and spoke to anyone, ate anywhere, bought anything. What they didn’t notice, was the large number of people who simply got off a bus at the depot only to immediately hop onto another, using this desolate town as a transfer station. It was one of the busiest bus stops in the country, but nobody stayed. There was nothing worth staying for. It was too small, and small minded, here for Ellie’s purposes. She needed a big city she could get lost in, like Vici. Preferably with less creatures trying to eat her.
She had needed Levi to think she was surprised by the Lycan attack. To be honest, she hadn’t known exactly what they were, only that they were not entirely human. She was more familiar than she would care to admit with creatures that were not entirely human. If she was being honest, she would admit that she was pretty sure she was not entirely human. Strange things happened around her and she wasn’t stupid enough not to realize that sometimes she caused them. The ways that she escaped from those chasing her was too often ‘lucky’ in a manner that defied the constant coincidence. There was more than human nature at work. One day she would figure out what they wanted from her and then she would turn and fight. She couldn’t do that yet, as far as she was aware, she had nothing to fight with.
She stared up at the departure screen, watching the times and destinations roll over. She had a number of options, she simply needed to decide how far she wanted to go. She sighed; the fact was it didn’t really matter because she couldn’t stop. She would zigzag her way across the country and back again as she had been doing for years now. She could go back to Vici, if someone had followed her this far then that would throw them. Unless they had only followed her as far as Vici and were still looking for her there. Why did her life have to be like this? From the moment her father had taken her from her home, they had run. He gave her away and she found herself locked away, no clue where she was in the world and no way to leave. Once she escaped, she had believed, far too briefly, that the horrors of her life were over. She had breathed easily and tried to live. But her past had returned for her and people she loved had suffered for it. Had died for it. A terrible stabbing pain lanced through her chest at the memories. Before she knew it she was back to running and she couldn’t imagine living any other way but she was so desperate to be able to just stop, without feeling that itch to go and be anywhere else.
Canon, that would do. Canon was a small city, there would be enough people coming and going that she could grab another bus or hitch a ride out of town and no one would take any notice of her. The bus for Canon was leaving in 10 minutes. She headed for the ladies’ bathroom and went into a cubicle, digging through her bag. Pulling out the makeup case, she shoved enough cash for a ticket and something to eat into her pocket before tucking the rest back into hiding. She could go a couple of days without eating if she had to, but small snacks along the way had proven cheaper and just enough to keep her comfortable. It wasn’t the healthiest lifestyle, but she didn’t always have a choice. Healthier than living in Wyatt’s basement and being his plaything.
Something strange washed over her, a heaviness tugging at her chest and bringing a strange urge to cry. She tried to shake it off. She didn’t cry, there was no point. Despite that resolution tears pricked at her eyes, one slipping down her cheek. She brushed at it with a finger and stared at the dampness on the tip. Levi had taken care of her, he had seemed to want to take care of her. No one had ever made her feel protected like he did. Not even her father had cared for her in such a way, interested in her needs and making sure she was well. She had been the one constantly trying to take care of him, with the innocence of an adoring child. A lot of good that had done her, in the end.
With her bag on her back, a ticket in one hand and a bag of chips and a bar of chocolate shoved in jacket pocket, she climbed on to the bus. She flashed the ticket to the driver and found herself a seat toward the back, tucking her backpack beneath her feet and tucking herself down as much as possible. She pulled the hood of her jumper up, keeping her face from the window. These were moves of habit now, protecting her identity every step as much as she could. The only form of ID she had was an out of date student card, from a university she never attended. University would have been a dream, but it wasn’t one she ever actually entertained. What would she do anyway? She’d never even gone to high school. She loved to read, she learned from her reading, and because of this she knew she wasn’t stupid. Wyatt had given her textbooks and novels, when he felt like it, from them she taught herself as much about the world as she could. That was something she tried not to dwell on thought because the thought that she might have potential that had been wasted made her sad. Better to think that she never would have amounted to anything even if her father and Wyatt hadn’t destroyed her life.
The bus rumbled to life beneath her, still more than half empty of passengers. She frowned, the more people who got off the bus in Canon the less likely that anyone would notice or remember her. She popped open the packet of chips and settled into her seat. She would worry about that when she got there, it was several hours away. There was nothing she could do in between except think and reminisce, two past times that she both relished and despised.
Levi drove faster than the speed limit all the way home. He hated driving, he felt restrained, in a metal cage. He would rather run, or even better, fly. He also hated what he was returning to; Tristan’s mission. It wasn’t that he was afraid of what he would have to walk into or would feel any particular guilt over taking Marius from the world, the vampire was a creature of evil who had caused far more than his fair share of torment in his time. He was tired of being a pawn in Tristan’s game and he knew he could do little to change his fate. He could try to walk away, but Tristan would find him and punish him. If he wasn’t willing to cooperate he would die, it was that straightforward. He had wondered more than a few times if death wasn’t the better option. He had lived more than two lifetimes by most peoples’ standards, he had lost everything he’d ever loved or cared about, there had not been any real reason for him to live on for many years now. Something, something he couldn’t pinpoint, had convinced him to hold out though. As though there was still something waiting for him. An image of Aurelia flickered through his mind with that thought but he dashed it away. She could never belong in his world, it was too dangerous. And there was clearly far more to her world than she was willing to let him in on.
He stood on the front porch of his cabin, watching the orange glow of sunset creep through the forest before him. Darkness fell quickly and his heart raced faster and faster. Was he really going to do this? It was not the action required of him that scared him, it was the consequences. This assassination would start a war; he would start a war if he followed through with this plan tonight. He stretched slowly, feeling the change come over him, feeling the world as it seemed to morph around him. A wolf leapt from the deck and raced off through the forest.
Tristan had told him to get to Marius before he arrived at the party but Levi had an alternative plan. It would be much harder to get anywhere near Marius when he was surrounded by his private security. Getting into a party,however, was much easier, especially for a shape shifter. Levi made his way up the sloping drive with other intending attendees, slipping off into the shadows of a hedge that bordered the fence between the front and back gardens of the huge property. He noted several vampire guards near the door, assessing each person who came through. Human, fine. Fellow vampire, acceptable depending on allegiance. Lycan, definitely not. Anyone recognized as Tristan’s crew, which Levi certainly would be, no way. Tristan’s crew mostly consisted of wizards and witches, low level magicians who’s access to magic came from siphoning the life force of another being. If that being happened to be supernatural then the siphoning would produce more power. He also had a small assortment of allegiant Fey, those who had been locked out of their realm when they barrier went up and now had no choice but to survive in the mortal realm. Mostly Levi felt sorry for them. The Fey were good hearted, as a race, but time in the human world darkened their spirits very quickly and their loyalties generally fell to the evil sides. Tristan also had Levi and Blair, his shape shifters, like himself. Shape shifters, for the most part, kept to themselves. They lead their absurdly long lives in as much solitude as possible and tried to stay out of the always twisted affairs of the other supernaturals. Shape shifters knew better than to take sides, than to let themselves be manipulated. Well, most of them, Levi thought bitterly. Here he was, doing Tristan’s bidding, in eternal debt for a live saved. Blair wasn’t much better off. Tristan knew how to get what he needed, nothing he did ever gave from a desire to truly help another.
Finally, levi spotted what he had been waiting for. A lone wandered, a young man making his way up the long drive. He stared at his feet when he walked and no one paid him any more attention than he did them. As he approached Levi’s place by the hedge, Levi stepped out into his path. The young man glanced up, a look of surprise on his face. Without a word, Levi snapped his arm forward and struck the man’s jaw with the heel of his hand. He dropped like a stone and Levi caught him as he fell, quickly dragging him into the shadows. He pulled several supplies from his pockets, a small plastic bag containing a chloroform soaked rag and a reem of thin, strong chord. He quickly bound the young man’s hands and feet, then held the rag against his face for several breaths.
“Sorry, man,” he muttered, “Wrong place, wrong time.” Holding the young man’s head in his hands, he stared intently at his face for long moments. Releasing him to ground and tucking him securely under the hedge out of sight, he stood and gave himself a small shake. He hated taking another person’s form. Animals felt natural and easy, he was not infringing on another being in any way. But walking around as another person, it always felt wrong. Even the change was more difficult. He had no mirror, no way to ensure that he had got it right. He was shorter, that much he could tell, and slimmer. As he walked out onto the drive his movements felt more awkward, this man was not as strong or fit as Levi and he didn’t move with Levi’s ease. Levi sauntered up to the wide front steps and tried not to eye the guard with any kind of trepidation. They glanced him, gave a slight sniff in his direction, and waved him through without any further speculation. He smelt human and certainly looked harmless. Good choice, Levi thought. The huge house was crowded despite the early hour. Marble floors spread from large room to large room and chandelier and decorative sconces lit the ceiling and walls. Levi whistled, impressed. Whoever designed this place seemed to have desired to splash as much money around as possible. They had succeeded, he thought. Everything looked expensive and classy, and felt cold and clinical. Not his style at all. A waiter passed, dressed elegantly in a crisp white shirt and black vest. He offered Levi a flute of champagne on a tray. Levi took the glass with a nod and continued to move through the various first floor rooms. Chairs and uncomfortable looking couches had been pushed back to line the walls, leaving ample space in the centre of each room. Music blared from somewhere toward the back and people danced half-heartedly as they carried on conversations over the din. Levi deposited the still-full glass on the first table that he passed. Alcohol would not help his mission tonight. If he survived it though, he was sure he would need a strong drink.
Marius had not arrived while he was watching and Levi had known he would likely not make an appearance until late that night. He wandered the house, biding his time, trying to remain primarily unnoticed. As several hours ticked by he noticed the vampire presence within the crowd increasing. He accepted several drinks from passing waiters, but left them, untouched, in different places around the house. His alertness crew as more vampires trickled in. if he was caught in his attempts to get to Marius he was going to be very dead very quickly. He wasn’t sure if he regretted doing this for Tristan or hoped that it all went wrong and served as his escape from Tristan’s crew. Finally, he saw him.
Entering the brightly lit front hall surrounded by several loyal guards, was Marius. Levi turned away, making his way up the stairs. Marius would make social rounds before retreating to a quiet room up here and Levi thought it best for him to already be in place when this happened. So far, no one had said more than a few polite words to him all night and he could only assume that that meant, thankfully, that the body he had impersonated was a nobody. He hoped the poor man would be found tied under the bush, for his own sake. The vampires would immediately suspect Tristan of the murder and as Tristan was a shape shifter, it would tie up neatly. The innocent man with his identity stolen should not get blamed. Of course, that was a hopeful assumption on Levi’s part and there was always the chance that the stranger’s unlucky timing would cost him his life. Levi didn’t like that, but it was a calculated risk he had already chosen to accept when he made his plan and followed it through. It was not the first time he had made such decisions. He was not a good person, his past was only proof of that. Someone like Ellie should definitely steer well clear of him. He shook his head roughly, as though to shake out the thought of her. He made his way down the carpeted hall, eyeing rooms as he passed. Where was Marius most likely to make himself comfortable and entertain his favoured guests? Favoured most likely meaning women, Levi thought. Library, he decided. A fireplace had a small flame blazing within, though it wasn’t truly cold enough outside to be necessary. Several couches littered the room, looking far more cosy than the fancy ones he had seen downstairs. A large leather chair sat regally by the fireplace and Levi could almost see Marius in it, lording his position over the rest of the room. Levi scoured the room, taking note of the furniture and layout, memorizing the exits and windows. Standing in the doorway, he heard the footsteps and murmurs of people coming up the stairs. He made his way further down the hallway, past the first entrance to the library and slipped into an empty room. It was a bedroom, some sort of guest room he figured. He left the lights out, hovering just inside the doorway. Shifting only his eyes to those of an owl to improve his vision in the dim light, he focused on the group coming down the hallway.
Marius lead a group that included three other vampire and two young women that Levi was sure smelled human. Only three guards? This seemed much easier than Levi had anticipated, almost too easy. Marius entered the library, as predicted, leaving two of his guards at the door. Levi remained in his darkened doorway, watching silently. The door closed. Levi waited. Maybe 20 minutes passed before the door opened and the third vampire exited, heading back down the stairs. Levi sprang into action, now was his opportunity. He walked straight past the guards and the door and followed their companion down the stairs. He moved through the ground floor, clearly searching for someone. Levi followed close behind him, glad that the crowd kept the vampire oblivious to his presence. The vampire guard must have seen his target because he suddenly made a beeline across the dining room. Taking a young woman by the elbow, his leaned down to speak in her ear. She nodded, eyes wide, and let him tow her up the stairs. Levi followed them, as they rounded the bannister at the base of the stairs. Stepping up behind the vampire guard, Levi struck, driving his elbow hard into the base of his skull. The vampire fell forward and lay motionless on the steps. Before the girl could scream her shock, Levi grasped her arm and hauled up the stairs with him. By the time they reached the second floor, Levi resembled the vampire he just knocked out. The girl stared at him, eyes wide and lips trembling. Levi paused, looking her in the eye.
“You will be absolutely fine, if you follow me and do exactly as I say,” he informed her, voice low and intense, “Do you understand?” she nodded vehemently. Keeping his grip on her arm, he towed her down the hall and to the guarded library door.
“Stand here, do not move, do not scream,” he told her and she nodded again. He hoped she would do as he said, but knew he couldn’t count on it. Stopping before the guards, he released her arm. One of the guards reached to open the door for him, they had been expecting him back after all. Once he engaged one of them it would be a fight, he could not dispatch both with the ease he had their lone companion or the young human man out in the hedge. He stepped forward, kicking out at the guard who reached for the door before he could turn the handle. These two were vampires, they were fast, but Levi was well trained and knew exactly how to use his shifting abilities to his advantage. Right now, he was a vampire too. The second guard quickly moved in to help his partner and the fight became two on one. It became quickly apparent to Levi that disabling them would not suffice. Pulling a knife from the waistband of his dress pants, he sliced across one vampires throat. The vampire fell to his knees, blood pouring down the front of his shirt. Before he could recover, Levi slashed with the knife a second time and removed the vampire’s head. His knife was sharper and stronger than it looked. At this point, the girl behind him gave up any thought of obedience and screamed. Levi didn’t want to kill her, but he wasn’t ready for any further attention. Turning, he lunged toward her with the knife.
“Shut up!” he warned her, angrily. Falling to her knees, she did so, her scream trailing off and becoming hysterical weeping. He hoped no one had heard her over the pounding music. The second guard tried to take advantage of Levi’s distraction, leaping on him from behind. Swinging around, Levi pulled the man over his shoulders and slung him to the floor. Burying the knife hilt deep in the vampire’s chest, Levi stared into his bulging eyes as he reached his hand into the open wound. With a twist of knife and fist, he removed the vampire’s heart. He stood, shoving his now bloodied knife back into his waistband. His mission was no longer about stealth, now he would need speed. Reaching down toward the sobbing girl, he yanked her to her feet and dragged her to the library doors.
Throwing the doors open before them, he tossed the distraught girl into the room ahead of him. She slumped in a heap on the floor in front of Marius, who looked up to Levi, startled.
“What is this?” Marius cried, leaping up from the leather chair. His eyes cast around the library, panicked. He looked to the open doors, obviously seeking his guards.
“We have a problem,” Levi informed him brusquely. Counting on his disguise as one of Marius’ vampire guards, he moved forward. The two women being entertained by Marius backed away, clinging to each other, shooting terrified glances at the girl huddled on the floor. Marius stared at the blood on Levi’s hands and Levi noted his rapid breathing and darting eyes. So used to relying on guards, Marius was not confident in defending himself and appeared to be deciding on fight or flight.
“I’m going to handle it,” Levi informed him, confidently, stopping before Marius and nodding assuredly at him. The room seemed to freeze, momentarily, as each of its occupants attempted to assess the situation. Knowing Marius was at least twice the age of the guard he had killed at the door, Levi knew he would need to move fast and strike with precision in order to have the upper hand in this fight. In one swift move, Levi pulled the knife from his waistband and lunged for Marius’ throat. Marius dodged, grabbing Levi’s arm and using his moment to throw him to the side. Landing on a small coffee table, Levi rolled and came to his feet on the other side. Using the table for leverage, he leapt back over it and tackled Marius as he made a beeline for the door. The music from downstairs seemed to have increased in volume and the party grew more raucous and Levi was grateful, it would cover the sounds of the fight.
With the Levi’s weight on top of him, Marius speed was no longer an advantage and he was forced to pit his strength against his former guard’s. Marius was spurred by desperation and self-preservation, but Levi operated with steely determination and a callousness born of many years of executing vampires and Lycan for Tristan. Marius landed a punch to Levi’s jaw and attempted to follow it with a second shot, but Levi blocked the hit and crushed Marius’ nose with his elbow. Marius thrashed, trying to throw Levi off him, but his movements are wild and attention scattered. With his single minded focus, Levi slashes Marius throat with the knife, once, twice, driving deeper each time. As Marius chokes on his own blood, staring up at Levi with angry eyes, Levi clenches his jaw, ready to deliver the final stroke.
“This was Tristan,” Levi tells him, knowing it doesn’t matter whether he knows or not. It will be assumed that it was Tristan’s doing when the vampires find one of their leaders dead here. Marius made a final attempt to dislodge Levi, hands slippery with the blood pouring over his chest. Levi grasps Marius hair, hacking with knife at the remains of his neck until he holds Marius head in his hands. He stands, still gripping the vampire’s head and gazes around. The girl on the floor is deadly white and trembling, mouth and eyes wide. Of the other two, one lay prone on the floor after fainted and the other stands screaming, hands pressed tightly over her mouth. There would be no calming her and there was no point in trying. Levi tossed Marius’ head onto his limp body and strode to the window. Attempting to leave the party covered blood would draw attention. The wide window pushed open. Levi stepped back and focus on a new form, he needed wings. The world shifted and seemed to grow around him. His clothes fell to the floor in a pile. Wriggling his way out of the shirt, a pigeon leaps from the ground and takes off through the window. As he departs the house, Levi slowly morphs into the form of an owl, better suited to an easy night flight home through the forest. The screaming diminishes behind him. It won’t be long before someone finds the gory scene he has left behind.
Levi paces his bedroom. The restlessness he has been feeling since leaving the scene of Marius’ murder last night is unusual to him. In the past he has been able to put any thoughts or feelings connected to completing an assignment for Tristan out of his mind. This time it continues to plague him and he hasn’t been able to pin point why. His gaze keeps drifting to his bed, not through any desire to rest there, he keeps seeing Ellie there. He has to wonder if she is the source of his distraction. She is gone now and there worrying about her serves no purpose, he kept her from Tristan and he left well out of Vici. There was nothing more for him to do for her. There is, and never was, no place in his life for her. ‘What is wrong with you’, he scolds himself, ‘get your mind back on business because you know what you just did is far from the end of it’. He couldn’t focus his thoughts, he needed to know if she was alright. He turned toward the bedroom door and froze. Tristan stood in the doorway, frowning into the dark room.
“Why are you brooding, Levi?” Tristan asked, his voice amused rather than concerned, “We were successful, Marius is dead. The vampire factions have already begun accusing each other. No doubt they will discover it was my doing soon enough, but the in fighting has begun.” Levi growled, there was no ‘we’ about it. He had done the dirty work, as usual, and Tristan would take the credit. Not that Levi wanted credit for what Tristan was involved in, he just didn’t want to be involved in it at all anymore. Somehow, since he had met Ellie, his desire to get out of Tristan’s game had grown even stronger. It wouldn’t change anything, there still could not be any sort of relationship between him. It had just made him questioned his life, he supposed.
“It’s time for the next step, my friend,” Tristan informed him, gesturing to Levi to follow him from the room. Walking into Levi’s kitchen he pulled a bottle of Bourbon from a cupboard and reached for two glasses. Shaking his head, Levi collapsed onto his couch. As usual, Tristan was happy to help himself to whatever he wanted and Levi would go along with it. There was nothing else in his life, there was nothing worth fighting for.