Home Sweet Home
Danny walked into the warm Mansion with a smile on her face. Seven months of being in L.A. and breathing in its stale, polluted air, had left her subconsciously wanting to go back here at least for a little while. The Mansion was in a nice secluded area of New York, far from the heavy and polluted air of the city. It wasn't that Danny hated that air, since she did, after all, grow up with it. But the fresh outside was a nice change of pace. As she walked through to the meeting area, Danny was hit with the first time she had seen those walls lined with books and regal pictures of dignified men and women. Being a human, and scared out of her whits, she had not had the time to appreciate the fine details and beautiful warm feeling that the room gave off. As an Initiate, training when she could with Nick and the rest of her new family, she had merely noticed the more intricate details of the room. But now, as a full-fledged Night Haunter, with enough raw skill, power, and talent to virtually replace the entire East Branch, Danny noticed it now and smiled to herself. Only then did Alex run her over with a bear hug backed with all her vampire strength. Danny could swear that she heard her ribs crack slightly.
You have crazy friends, Princess, Shadow noted inside her head.
Shut up, Danny retorted, just as Alex released her long enough for her to catch her breath.
"Shadow!" Alex practically squealed, bouncing up and down as Danny slowly rose to her feet, "Its been forever! You look different, but in a good way! How have you been? Did they treat you okay? 'Cause if they didn't, I'll have to teach 'em a thing or-"
"Pump the breaks, Alex," Danny chuckled, "You're gonna give me a migraine."
"Oh," Alex laughed, "Sorry about that."
"Shadow!" Danny heard Tony's happy voice, "Long time, no see!"
"Yeah," Danny hefted herself to her feet as Tony walked up and gave her a strong hug. It wasn't as crushing as Alex's had been, it was strong enough to agitate the sore areas from that hug in question. Danny decided to not mention said pain as Tony released her and she laid eyes upon the rest of the East Branch. There stood Mark and Adam, Elsa, Jake, and Aaron. They were all in casual clothing except for Aaron, whom was Geared up and had either just returned from a mission or would be leaving soon. Two, Danny noticed right away, were missing. Michael was not there, along with Nick. She assumed Michael would be in the Basement, looking over the expansive map of New York, and of the equally detailed map of New York City.
But Danny knew now exactly who those pacing footfalls upstairs belonged to. They were solid and sure, strong and powerful. She had heard those footsteps before, multiple times during her stay at this Mansion. They could belong to none other then the Nicholas Peterson Danny had grown so fond of in her time here and at the West Branch. Those same footsteps when along with the first voice she had heard when she had Turned, and the last voice she had heard as a human. Nick was the easiest person to talk to, in Danny's opinion, if she was honest with herself. When he had comforted her after her first kill, all that time ago, her pain had ebbed away almost instantly. When they had gone through the Chamber of Ashes together, Danny had felt no pain once Nick had her in his strong arms. Danny had missed that comforting smile, and strong gaze that belonged to him, and she wondered why he wasn't down here right now.
"Where's Michael?" Danny asked, cocking her head.
Tony shrugged as he answered, "In the Den as usual. You know he never really comes out of that basement."
"Yeah," Danny sighed, playing it off, "Wait, where's Nick?"
Alex gave her a wry grin, "He's in his room, all nervous because of you. You know, as soon as we heard the news that you were coming back for a few weeks, he's been really anxious."
Danny rolled her eyes, "Well, I guess I'll just have to change that, won't I?"
"Oh, really?" Elsa butted in, "How ever are you going to that?"
Danny shrugged and smirked, "Wait and see..."
Then Danny turned towards that grand staircase, just as every one of the Haunters present grinned mischievously. Danny mounted the grand stair case quickly and smoothly, and then turned down the hall towards Nick's room. The Mansion was just as she remembered it as, every antique decoration and detail preserved. The air still felt the same as the first few weeks she had stayed here, smelling permanently of mahogany and fresh citrus. The place still felt as if it were transplanted from the 19th Century, before or during the Civil War. Danny liked that aura that the Mansion gave off, it just somehow made her feel at home. This was, after all, the polar opposite of the West Branch Warehouse. The West Branch looked like it was a post-apocalyptic safe house for a freedom fighter organization. While the Mansion of the East Branch felt comforting and safe, the West Branch showed every ounce of what they were fighting since they were in the middle of L.A.
As Danny slowly made her way to the door to Nick's room, she couldn't help but smile to herself. Nick's pacing had stopped, and he was no doubt staring a hole into the wall as he listened to her slow approach. His breath seemed even, but with a slightly anxious and nervous edge to it that was almost perfectly concealed. Danny tentatively knocked onto the stained oak door with her knuckle, and the breath of Nicholas Peterson, the strongest soldier in the East Branch, caught in his throat. That made Danny smile anew, that he was apparently just as nervous as she.
What could that mean then? Danny hadn't thought of relationships whatsoever since she became a Night Haunter, due to lack of candidates and time to spare from her ever present duties as Nathaniel's third in command. Many seemed to look at her either as a trophy meant to be won, or an idol of some sort to others whom envied her strength and emotionless demeanor. But then their were others that despised her as well, as if she could help that she was "cursed" and naturally a killer, no matter how much she sometimes wished she wasn't at times. So why Nick? He came from the same batch of killers apparently, judging by Nathaniel's obviously knowing him. He always was protective of her, even went through a punishment chamber with her for no reason, it seemed, but to make sure she would be alright. He was after all, the reason she was alive in a way she would never have thought possible. And now that strong vampire assassin, one that she called her first mentor, was practically trembling in nervousness. In her eyes, at least.
Well, Princess, it seems he's not going to open it with that weak of a greeting, She heard Shadow add.
Whatever, Danny thought back, and don't call me that!
It's official, Shadow sounded as if she was smirking with triumph, you will forever be addressed as "Princess".
Danny was about to think back a retort, but the groaning of the door before her snapped her back to reality as she heard Nick's breath become as even and strong as it had always been. His eyes were still the same cobalt, like Savage's, but they didn't change to different shades of blue or red like the West Branch assassin. His dirty blond hair was still short and swept up in the front just as the last time she had seen him. He wore a black shirt that was a size too small, which his made his muscles look more pronounced. The black pants he wore were not tucked into his black combat boots like he usually had them when wearing his Gear. He still had his thigh knife sheathed on his leg. There was a pale scar on his jawline, which seemed to have been caused by a blade. The tougher the scar made him look contrasted starkly with what expression adorned his strong features. He was looking at her with a restrained look of happiness, as if he was trying with all his might to keep himself from hugging her or other displays of affection. Danny, however, slammed into his chest in a strong hug, burying her face into his shirt.
She drank in his smell, feeling as safe as she had ever felt in a while.
Not that she didn't feel safe with her brothers, it was simply that she had associated his smell with the essence of safety. And now that that very smell was enveloping her, Danny could already feel her faint smile growing steadily as she embraced him. She heard him sigh as his tense body relaxed, all nervousness and tension washed away as he held her in his strong arms.
For five minutes, they had just stood there, hugging each other with smiles on their faces until Danny reluctantly pulled away, already feeling slightly colder as she left the warm sanctuary of Nick's arms. With a small smile, Nick looked down at Danny with a soft and happy gaze, not the stone cold soldier mask she had seen him wear the last time they had seen each other. Danny knew her face was relaxed from her usual silent assassin expression that put so many on edge. Not really knowing what to say, they both just stood there before laughing at the awkward tension that began to cloud the air around the two of them.
"So," Nick said after catching his breath, "From what I've heard, you are quite the demon over in L.A."
"I suppose so," Danny shrugged, since she only kept small tabs on her reputation. "How have things been going on here?"
"Well," Nick sighed, "But with the recent news of the Werewolves' return, it has been a little hectic."
"Do you think we should ask for some reinforcements?" Danny asked, "There are three Branches on your borders after all."
"We did call for reinforcements," Nick flashed a grin that morphed into a smirk, "And she just arrived."
Danny's eyes widened, "What?"
"Michael requested that the West Branch send support in his last meeting before the werewolves appearance," Nick explained, "He wanted more manpower to help with the increase of rogues in the area. Nathaniel just sent us the report about a week ago that he will be sending his best available Haunter. Since Savage would need to stay in L.A. because of the werewolves, he could not be spared. So, that leaves you, Danny."
Danny blinked. She was surprised that she was in fact third best, no matter how much evidence supported it, but also that he had called her 'Danny', something she hadn't gone by since she left the East Branch. Nick was the only one that would call her that, probably fro the rest of eternity, and that made both her and Nick smile knowingly.
They went into his room and sat on a pair of chairs. There was a small table in between the chairs, which were facing each other slightly. On that table was a couple books and a video game controller, with a glass of blood placed next to the seat that Nick took. Danny took to the other and they both simultaneously sunk into the cold but comfortable black leather chairs.
"So what's the word on my reputation?" Danny asked curiously.
Nick grinned, "Well, they are starting to mix you in on the tall tales along with Savage. You remember killing fifteen hunters recently?"
"Actually," Danny said, "It was closer to around fifty at least."
Nick just smiled, "Before that, though."
"Hmm," Danny search ed her memory for something that fit his request, "Well, I was on a routine scouting mission and we were ambushed in an alleyway by about eight hunters with wooden bullets,"
Nick nodded, "You took them all down by yourself, right?"
"All but one," Danny said, then added, "We took him in for some interrogation by Nathaniel."
"Well," Nick smiled again, "That is just one of the crazy things that you have done that has become a legend. You remember how Tony and Aaron always talked about Savage?"
"Yeah," Danny nodded, waiting for him to continue.
"Now imagine that enthusiasm and awe, but add in a the fact that it's a girl," Nick said then chuckled, "I guess guys that are Night Haunters tend to like a hot and deadly type of girl."
Danny felt her cheeks redden at the thought of Haunters thinking of her both as legendary as Savage, and that when Nick said 'like', he had a glint in his eyes that told her it was more than a mere crush. But along with that glint, there was a hint of anger on that fact, as if he despised the thought that every Haunter male wanted her at all. He seems like he's being protective of me, the thought flew to the front of Danny's mind. That made her think again on the possibility that Nick was starting to be more then just a good friend to her. And that she was starting to think more and more about if she felt that way about him, or she just missed him so much over those few months that she was just over reacting. But she remembered all that he had done for her. Holding her close when she lost it after Turning. When she had killed the two hunters in cold blood and felt a wave of guilt so forceful that she had fallen to her knees as sobs racked her body, and Nick had spoken the words that had played over and over in her mind: "I'm here for you, Danny. Now, and forever." How he had been so thoughtful as to retrieve her bike and riding gear from her home so she could have it with her. And when he had held her in his strong arms as the vervain mist had cascaded down as a waterfall of agony. And that as soon as she had realized that she was in his embrace, the pain of that punishment vanished completely, replaced with the overwhelming feeling of serenity and safety.
In any case, Danny, though independent and strong-willed, was not the type of girl to make the first move. If Danny were to date anyone, they would have to be the one to start the relationship. And Danny had the feeling that Nick was thinking about that, judging by the smallest iota of nervousness returning to his soft gaze. They were just staring at each other now, both hopelessly lost on their trains of thought. Danny continued to stare at Nick, his strong features still relaxed as he looked at her. At least now she had an excuse to look at him for a longer period without making it obvious, though it was a blissfully short amount of time as Nick snapped out of it and seemed to have the smallest flush of embarrassment flash across his face. He looked away promptly, letting out a nervous laugh to hide that embarrassment.
"Sorry," He said, "I guess I just zoned out there."
"Oh, don't worry about it," Danny found herself blushing slightly as well, "I think I did too."
"Oh really?" Nick turned, smiling again, "What were you thinking about?"
"None of your business," Danny smirked.
"It was me, wasn't it?" Nick smirked.
Danny's face redden instantly and she looked away from his gaze. Nick, though Danny couldn't see him but she still knew, was smiling triumphantly. But Danny heard him move in his chair, shifting so he could better hide his face. Undoubtedly to hide his own flush of embarrassment at her reaction. When Danny finally looked back as she got her blush under control, she was met with Nick's smile once again. Danny decided to turn the tables on him.
"And what about you?" She smirked.
"What?" Nick raised an eyebrow.
"What did you space out on?"
"Uh," Nick blushed slightly.
"It was me, wasn't it?" Danny smirked again.
It was now Nick's turn to blush like a strawberry and look away from Danny to hide it. While she also blushed at the thought of Nick thinking of her so much that he would space out just as she did, Danny was flattered at the fact as well. I wonder if he feels the same way, Danny absently thought as Nick returned to gaze at her once again.
But the serene moment that follow was shattered by Alex and Elsa poking their heads through the door and asking unabashed, "Have you kissed yet?"
Both Danny and Nick blushed furiously and glared daggers at the two Haunter girls. They recoiled at Danny's relatively soft death glare, and at Nick's as well. But, knowing that neither would harm them, started to giggle like high school girls as they saw the ever so noticeable blushes adorning the pairs cheeks. As those faded, Danny and Nick looked at each other and sighed. They rose from the chairs and made their way to the oak doors of Nick's room. The two giggling girls used their vampire speed to vanish before Nick could retaliate for their intrusion of his privacy. Nick pushed open the doors and led Danny down to the dining room, shooting he an apologetic smile. Danny returned that smile as they entered the room.
"Have you fed lately?" Nick asked as he went to the fridge of blood bags, while Danny sat down at the table across a passed out Adam with a glass in his hand.
"Last night, in Mystic Falls," Danny recalled.
Nick turned to her, "You went back there?"
Danny nodded, "I did. I ran into the Salvatore brothers while I was in town."
Nick raised an eyebrow as he poured the blood into a glass and slid it over to Danny, "Oh? And how did that go?"
"They got off easy," Danny waved her hand dismissively, "They only got a knife in their chests."
Nick blinked, "You've come a long way to be able to talk so lightly about 160 year old vampires, while you are not even a year into being one yourself."
Danny shrugged dispassionately, "I don't see the problem, Nick. I've killed far worse then those two."
"Right," Nick smiled and took a slip of his glass, "I forget sometimes that you tend to exceed every expectation I have of you."
"You can say that again, Nicholas," resounded the commanding voice of Michael.
Instantly, Danny and Nick shot up from their chairs, fists over their hearts in salute to the commander of the East Branch. Michael gave them a quick salute then a casual wave that told them they could go back to as they were. Danny sat back down quickly, sipping some of the blood in her glass as Michael sat at the end of the table and turned to her. Nick took the seat to the left of Danny, in between her and Michael, and smiled at her reassuringly then turned to Michael with a questioning look.
"What is it, sir?" Nick asked, "Have you already finished the meeting already?"
"No, actually," Michael said, looking pointedly at Danny, "There has been a delay, since the Central Branch's communications are down. I have been told that they will be back online within ten minutes, so I stole a chance to get a drink. And I have a request for you, Shadow."
Danny looked to Michael, "What, sir?"
"I'd like for you to accompany me when the video conference resumes," Michael explained, "One because you are most likely going to need the information,and two because both the Commander and his Lieutenant of the West Branch have adamantly asked you be there if you make it here in time. It seems they have grown attached to you somehow, since they were rather concerned with your well-being, as opposed to their respective eerie natures."
Danny chuckled, knowing that meant they only asked for her presence two or three times, given how her brothers acted around other Haunters, "Alright, I'll be there."
"Good," Michael gave a small smile, "We've missed you, Shadow, every one of us has."
"Thank you, sir," Danny nodded, "I missed everyone as well."
"I'm sure you did," Michael gave her a small smile, "In the meantime, I would like for you and Nick to run an errand for me."
Nick looked over to Michael, "Yes, sir. What would you have us do?"
"We are running low on vervain, though, in light of the new enemy, I suppose that can be considered a minor problem." Michael said, "Despite that, I'd like for you two to retrieve the next shipment with the remaining moonlight we have left. Nick knows the location well."
Nick confirmed it with a nod, "Yes, sir. Would you like for us to leave immediately?"
"Seeing as neither of you have decided to take off too much of your Gear, I don't see why not," Michael nodded.
Danny nodded, "We'll move out right away, sir."
The ride there was spent with Danny discreetly stealing glances at Nick for any signs of interest from the Haunter. While she knew that he was doing the same thing when she watched the countryside rush by, and she was smiling internally as she watched through the reflection on her window as he did so. At night, with the stars in full view away from the bright lights of Liberty City, the countryside was beautiful. With Danny's above average night vision, even for a vampire, she could see it all as if it were during the day. The moon was nearly full, Danny noted absentmindedly, as it illuminated the grass and trees in light as pale as Danny's porcelain skin. Danny heard Nick sigh.
She turned to him with a smirk and a raised eyebrow, "What?"
Nick seemed to blush despite himself, "Nothing."
"Were you just looking at me or something?"
"No," Nick stared forward, "Why would you think that?"
"You just sighed all dreamily!" Danny shoved him playfully in the shoulder.
"I have no idea what you're talking about, Danny," Nick denied quickly.
"Right," Danny rolled her eyes, "So that hug wasn't as amazing for you as it was for me?"
Nick blinked and glanced at Danny, "I never said that."
Danny grinned, "Good. Because I would kill you if you lied to me about something that obvious."
Nick rolled his eyes, but Danny could tell that Nick knew she could easily off him if the need should arise, then he sighed, "So where does that leave us?"
Danny blinked, as it was her turn to blush at what he was hinting at. Millions of thoughts blazed through her mind as she searched for what to say. She decided to move the choice over to Nick, "Where ever you think it does."
He blinked, his mouth opening to say something, but the words seemed to die on his lips. He closed his mouth and looked forward, no response seeming to come to mind as he pulled into the driveway of a lonely country house. The topic hung in the air like a thick cloud. Danny looked expectantly at Nick as he put the truck they were in in park, and pulled the key out of the ignition. He sighed ruefully and turned towards her.
"Look..." He trialed off, "I'm not good at this, since most of my life I've been too focused on my duties to think of anything else besides feeding and drinking. But I...might like you more then just a friend..."
Danny blushed, not that she hadn't expected his response to be along those lines, but because hearing those words still sounded so strange to be directed at Danny. She fought for control of her mouth as she spoke, "...and I might feel the same way..."
Nick, obviously not expecting Danny's reaction to possibly the most awkward statement he'd ever made, blushed as his eyes widened in surprise. He looked into Danny's icy eyes, the pale moonlight shining half his face while casting the other in a dim shadow. He smiled so softly, his features relaxing as he gazed at his old pupil. His cobalt eyes shined in the light, making the darker shade of ice glisten as he turned towards her. Danny gave a small, delicate smile in return. She looked deep into those cobalt eyes and sighed without realizing it. He drew her into another one of his strong hugs, and she gladly returned the embrace. The smell she practically craved washed over her once again. Like a forest should smell, she remembered. She once again felt that addictive feeling of total safety that came with Nick's scent. And she burrowed her cheek into his chest as he softly rested his chin on her head. Nick breathed evenly and quietly, seeming to enjoy this just as much as Danny was. Frankly, she doubted that thought.
Eventually, to Danny's dismay, they pulled apart and slipped out of the truck. They walked closer then was really necessary, but neither of the two complained. They made their way to the door of the country house they had parked in front of and knocked on the door. Danny heard the shuffled of shoes being lazily dragged across wooden floors, as if their owner was half asleep. They eventually reached the door before them and soon multiple locks were being disengaged. When the door opened a crack, a green eye peeked through to inspect the two visitors clad in black.
"That you Nick?" A gruff voice asked.
"That it is, Frank," Nick sighed, "You have the shipment?"
"Yeah," Frank said, throwing the door open all the way and turning his back to them as he headed towards the merchandise.
Nick stepped into the home and Danny followed suit. Or at least tried to. Some strange force was keeping her foot from crossing the threshold, much to Danny's confusion. Nick stopped, realizing that Danny wasn't at his side and turned around. When he saw her dilemma, and puzzled look, he smiled.
"Frank's human, and this is his house," Nick explained. "Which, of course, means that you won't be able to enter unless he invites you in."
"Why?" Danny raised an eyebrow.
"I have no clue," Nick shrugged, "Just one of the weird things that come with the vampire package, I guess."
With a groan, Danny went back to the truck and jumped back into the passenger seat. She waited as the two men dumped burlap sacks filled with the vampire poison, and sighed as they seemed to take their sweet time. With her hearing she could hear their conversations about the Night Haunters, since Frank had inquired about their recent activities. Finally, it seemed, the last sack was loaded and Nick made his way over to the driver seat. Jamming the key into the ignition,and shifting into reverse before he pulled out of Frank's driveway. They were back on the road soon there after, and Danny chose not to speak until Nick started the conversation. Which he soon did, of course.
"Sorry about that, Danny," Nick said, "Frank's an ally of the Haunters and a friend of mine. We made a deal that as long as he provides us with vervain, we don't mess with him. He only trusts me to be inside his home."
"Whatever," Danny shrugged, "It's no big deal anyway."
He smiled, "Good."
Danny couldn't help but smile back, "Yeah, I guess."
"So...about before..." Nick began awkwardly.
Danny's smile faltered slightly as his face reddened at the change in topic, "Yeah?"
"So does that mean we're..." Nick searched for the right word, "...together?"
Danny looked forward to the pale moon, surrounded back countless flickering and glistening stars. She gave a soft smile to herself as she spoke. She said those words softly, almost to herself. They carried so much meaning with them that saying them any louder would have made the statement almost too strong. But Danny knew that Nick had heard her. He must have.
"Yes, Nick. We're together."
"So what you're saying is that we should take the attack to them right this instant?" Nathaniel's voice cut through the Central and North Branch's leaders arguing.
The North Branch Commander sounded confused, "What's wrong with that?"
"These are werewolves," Nathaniel sighed, "The full moon is in two day's time. Pretty soon, no matter what you do, you are going to have a pack of hungry wolves at your little underground shelter's door step. And I'm sure you remember that a werewolf bite, even the smallest nibble, is fatal to vampires?"
The video playback of the North Branch showed the man blinking and doing everything but face palming, "Right...Thank you for the enlightenment, West Branch."
"Happy to oblige," The screen showed Nathaniel shrugging and rolling his eyes.
Danny looked at the screen that showed the playback for the East Branch from under her hood. She stood with her arms crossed in the background of the shot, her black scarf covering what her hood didn't. To her self, as she stood next to Nick's tall frame, she scoffed at the shortsightedness of the North Branch. They had been standing there in the background as the meeting entered into its third hour. Danny was beginning to tire of their arguing, with Micheal and Nathaniel being the exceptions. But she found that they only spoke when spoken to, as if the arguing and bickering some how amused them.
"I suppose that concludes this Council meeting," the Central Branch Commander said, "We will implement our plans and meet back a week later. You are all dismissed."
Then every video feed shut out, except the West Branch.
"What do you think, Michael?" Nathaniel asked.
"I think we should let them fight it out. We both have the most at risk Branches to deal with." Michael said.
"True," Nathaniel agreed, "Well. I guess we'll see each other in a week. Take care of my sister, will ya?"
"With my life, my friend," Michael nodded.
As Nathaniel's feed cut out, Michael turned to Danny and Nick.
"Be prepared, you two," He warned, "I feel that the wolves will be attacking this place first."
"Why do you think so?" Danny questioned.
Michael looked to her with a rueful smile, and spoke as if he were daydreaming, "Because, Shadow. It's what they did a century ago in the last war."