But Your Enemies Closer
Danny stared at Nick with a confused expression, having taken back control of her body from her inner ripper not too long ago. Five minutes had past since he had said those puzzling words.
Ten. Now, fifteen.
He was back to normal now? He was looking at Danny with an equally puzzled look, struggling lightly against the bindings that held him to the chair and burned his wrists. Blood, some of it fresh, was plastered all over his body and soaked through his clothes. He was in a daze from just waking up, not fully realizing what was going on or what had happened to him. Danny glared at him, ready for this to be a trick and Nick ready to slice her open at any opportunity. Danny hated being caught off guard and unprepared.
"Danny," Nick said with caution laced into his voice of concern, staring worriedly into Danny's red eyes, "What's going on?"
Danny growled, "You tell me. You're the one that had a knife to my throat while I was sleeping."
Nick flinched at her harsh tone, but she didn't care. Danny was extremely angry with her boyfriend, and barely heard his voice, "I don't know what you're talking about, Danny, but I don't think that having me tied up when I wake up is helping your case either."
Danny used her vampire speed and rushed towards Nick, baring her fangs and hissing menacingly in his face so suddenly that it even made him flinch, "What is wrong with you? Did someone bribe you or convince you it was okay to threaten your girlfriend?"
"Look," Nick said, trying to calm Danny down, "I really don't know what's going on, but I'm sorry if I did something to hurt you, okay?"
Danny drew back, her fangs retracting reluctantly, "I'm going to hold you there for a day just in case."
"Why?" Nick asked.
"Because you tried to kill me, idiot," Danny said, hopping gracefully onto their bed and turning so that she faced Nick.
"And how did I do that?" Nick asked, sighing.
Danny spent the next thirty minutes describing how their fight had gone, in exquisite detail no less. During the entire story Nick was just staring at Danny as if she were making it all up, but at the same time the story made sense to him.
Danny was seething now, getting more and more irritated with the vampire tied up in front of her. She had bared her fangs accidentally during some of the story, since she was angry enough to lose control of her own instincts. She was getting more and more engrossed in the conversation with her boyfriend, and was starting to lose sense of her surroundings. A werewolf, hunter, or enemy witch could probably have walked in on Danny and Nick and she would not have sensed it. Nick was getting more and more unsettled with her attitude and her murderous glares for every time her tried in vain to convince her that he was innocent. Her hands were at her blades now, tossing one up and down subconsciously, her eyes flicked between Nick's slumped form and the blood on her body.
"Danny," Nick tried again, "I don't know what is wrong with you, but I forgive you."
"Did you really just say that?" Danny fixed him with a glare so menacing Savage would have been proud. "You forgive me?"
She was just fed up with him now. Danny didn't know why she was getting so mad at him. She wasn't crazy, and she definitely didn't imagine the battle she had with the man tied up before her. She hadn't imagined the wounds she had sustained from that very fight, or the pain she felt as she realized what Nick had done. Her hand didn't have a hole in it still because she felt like staking herself that morning. She didn't have a sore stomach because she happened to stab herself in the gut and twist the knife for kicks. Those were real, and Nick seemed oblivious and unbelieving to the point of ignorance. And it angered her to no end, even though he was one of the most important vampires in the world to him.
Now, it seemed he was the same Nick, just one that betrayed her not a too long ago. On the inside, the human part of Danny was spiraling down in despair.
That was exactly what she was like as a human. Weak and frail, powerless and alone. When she was young and still human, Danny had been too forgiving, too gentle, and far from strong. Her brother was her pillar, and the only one that seemed to enjoy her company. She would forfeit an argument or game, even when she was wholly in the right and the other completely wrong, just because of guilt. In middle school she was shy and quiet, not drawing attention to herself by any means, and only talked to a couple trusted friends and her beloved brother. Doing as much as she could to not draw any attention to herself, the human she once was stayed in the background as a voluntary outcast. She purposely made sure that her above average grades were not announced at all so that she wouldn't get asked to tutor anyone, and therefore cause the spotlight to fall on her.
She chose friends that were like her, but not by choice. Those friends were really just kids that were so shy and antisocial that they were mute, and only stayed as a group so that they wouldn't get picked on for their strange personalities. Danny's body had even aided her in keeping a low profile. Being as flat as a board and no curves to speak of. She wore unnoticeable t-shirts and dark jeans, with black converse. She was happy that all her careful plan to remain out of the spot light worked. She spent as much time as she wanted with her brother, even going a far as going with him to the gym to work out. He was, after all, her whole world.
Then high school had happened, and terrified her. She had entered the large building, scared to death, while puberty had hit her like a truck. Her body became the opposite of what it was. Her chest had become the opposite of flat chested over the summer prior to her fresh man year, forcing her to go through the awkward bra shopping with her mother. The workouts she went to with her brother had given her toned muscles, and kept any real body fat off her form.
Her flat edged sides formed into her flattering curves, which were thankfully covered mostly, thanks to the t-shirts she had worn, which were baggy. The jeans she had owned, however, were basically skinny jeans and showed off her legs much to her dismay. Her brother, though not in an awkward way, had discreetly complimented her on that she had ended up with after the most major changes during that summer. Though she had smiled and thanked him in an equally discreet way, she had been scared of what would become of her perfectly crafted reputation of being unnoticed at her school.
She was still that same frail, shy, and self conscious human girl from middle school. And then the guys that had previously not even known her name had begun to look at her in a whole new light. She had caught them staring at her, like they found her attractive, and were always whispering to themselves as soon as she looked away. Girls that had been getting that treatment from those same guys now gave her glares of jealousy as she stole their spot light without lifting a finger. And Danny hated every minute of it.
When her brother had died, Danny was absolutely devastated. With the light of her little world extinguished in a freak car accident, and with the family not even allowed to see the remains of their loved one, the human Danny once was had become the rock of the family. She put on a brave face, not letting anyone know the agony she was going through on the inside. She started to run with the wrong crowd then, all but embracing the delinquent lifestyle. Her parents had cried their hearts out at the funeral over an empty casket. Danny had somehow not shed a single tear in public. Her new friends were astonished that Danny seemed so unaffected by the loss of a sibling they knew that she cared for deeply, but that was even more true for her parents. Though they knew how much it was killing her on the inside, they complimented their daughter of how strong she was being. That her brother would have been so proud of her.
Endless nights of crying herself to sleep was the price to pay for her "strength". The hollow echoes of her woeful sobs had resounded within the confines of her room. As soon as her head had touched the pillow they started, and only stopped when she was so exhausted that she had passed out. She woke up early enough to shower and erase any trace of her weaknesses before her parents could find them. In fact, her parents were rarely home then. Her father had made it a habit to visit family in the L.A. area, while her mother had engrossed herself in her full time job so that she only came home late at night. Both of them were working so hard that they sometimes forgot Danny existed. They would feel guilty about that, and tended to shower her with gifts when there was a particularly long period of time in which Danny was left to fend for herself.
The human that was once known as Danielle Johnson was still that same weak and lonely girl, despite what acts and facades she put up to hide it. Plagued with her faults, doomed to be noticed by all. A frail being if there ever was one.
That's right, Princess, Shadow shattered her train of thought, You are just as weak and pitiful as you ever were, no matter what you do.
Thanks for the vote of confidence, jerk, Danny growled back in thought.
It wouldn't matter even if it was supposed to be a vote of confidence, idiot, Her ripper said in response, If you don't want to be such a weakling then stop acting like one when no ones looking. It makes me really mad when you think about your past like that, then get all sad and depressed. I am literally a part of your freaking soul, Princess, so you don't really have a place to be alone any more.
Shut up, Danny growled back.
No, and you can't make me be quiet by ignoring me when I know that you can hear me, stupid, She retorted, And just you give you a helpful hint: If you act weak, then you can only be weak, but if you act strong, then you will be strong.
Before Danny could think of a retort for her statement, there was a knock on her door. It was all it took to shake her from an extremely long revere. It was a soft knock, so soft that only a vampire could possibly hear it. Danny's hand instantly went to a throwing knife sheathed at her torso, and held it at the ready. The lock started to jostle, and clicked open as the intruder quietly picked it open almost effortlessly.
The knob turned, the door creaking as it was slowly opened from the outside. Danny's eyes turned from their ice blue to their menacing red as soon as sunlight crept though the small crack and widened. Thankfully, the light only reached the foot of the first of the two beds of the room, so Danny didn't have to retreat from the blinding light. A figure stepped silently into the room, but staggered back. Danny, out of reflex, had thrown her knife as soon as the booted foot stepped across the threshold.
But the figure didn't collapse in limp death like all the other enemies that had been hit by that knife alone. It didn't even fall down from the force of the impact Danny's attacks usually carried. That, and the fact that the figure was standing in broad daylight with very familiar Haunter Gear on, put Danny in a very strange mixture of confusion and unease. The figure, as silent as possible, stepped into the room and quickly shut the door. The hilt of Danny's blade jutted out of the man's chest, about an inch to the left of the heart. The intruder gave no indication that he even noticed the wound.
Danny tore her gaze to look at where his gaze was apparently aimed at, which was something she was used to doing with men wearing Haunter hoods and masks that covered their remaining features. He was staring at Nick, whom had momentarily seemed to have stopped breathing from fear. The man was her brother. None other than Nick's old superior, and the Executioner of the West Branch, Savage.
Danny let her body relax, watching as Savage removed his hood but not the scarf from his face. His eyes were the characteristic Prodigy red, instead of their dark cobalt blue, most likely from the knife sticking out of his chest. That explained his not even noticing the knife wound, but not the fact that he had been standing in broad daylight and hadn't even been sizzling.
When Savage spoke in his hoarse, ghost-like voice, Danny almost jumped, "Shadow. What the Hell is going on?"
Danny saw his hard gaze shift from Nick to the wounds that were still healing on her body. Breathless for whatever reason, Danny spoke, "He tried to capture me at knife-point-"
Before Danny could explain anything past "capture", Savage had already appeared in front of Nick with a death glare that could slaughter a civilization, and had given him an upper cut so hard that one of his vertebra was pressing against the inside of his skin just as the word "knife-point" was out of her lips. With Nick's dead body slumped in the chair, the ropes keeping him from sliding uselessly out of the chair, Savage turned towards Danny. Caught off guard, Danny stared at her brother and waited for him to start up the conversation.
"Wounds?" He asked.
"Healing," Danny responded, matching the detached tone of her brother.
"Haven't had any since yesterday."
"I have no idea."
"Nowhere near him."
"Good," Savage said, sitting on the other queen sized bed, "Now, care to explain why he's tied up, and you have a hole in your hand?"
Danny sighed, and started from the beginning of that day. She explained the knife to her throat when she woke up, she told him of how the fight happened, pointing to the wounds that had been inflicted as they came up in the story. Danny told him what Nick had said, and her responses to those statements. Savage listened almost passively the entire time, but Danny knew that was just how he paid attention. By discreetly picking up the conversation while trying to look like he wasn't even paying attention. It was something that Danny noticed, some thing that looked like it was a habit to him.
As Danny wrapped up the explanation, touching on the fact that she had no idea whatsoever why Nick had suddenly acted that way only to just as suddenly go back to normal, Savage started to glare again. As soon as Danny noticed this, she heard Nick groan as he regained consciousness. Savage's glare returned as he looked over the Haunter.
"What do you remember of the last time you were away from Shadow?" He asked in a cold monotone.
Nick flinched away from Savage's gaze, but his voice was steady, "I was out to get some blood for the both of us."
"And?" Savage pressed.
"I don't remember much else," Nick admitted, almost ashamed.
Nick looked away, and at his feet to avoid both Danny's and Savage's looks. Danny was giving him a death glare along with her brother, the feeling of betrayal hot in her veins. She saw Savage momentarily glance in her direction, and give her a flicker of Savage's version of approval. Danny, frankly, was too busy being pissed at Nick to be pleased at the fact she had some how earned her brother's approval. Nick now had a strange, strained look on his face. As if there was something, a memory, so tangible and obvious he had forgotten and was trying to remember. He stared at his shoes, his eyes unfocused as he concentrated.
Savage, of course, noticed this. His eyes held a look of recognition, which disappeared just as fast as it came. He rose and walked once again into the broad daylight. Danny, only now fully thinking about it, wondered how on earth Savage was able to be immune to the sun's deadly rays.
He wasn't an Original, that was for sure. He hadn't told her if the age of a vampire meant it could develop an immunity to sunlight. He hadn't mentioned whether being a Prodigy would mean she could be a Day-walker, either. Then Danny remembered the rumors she had heard a long time ago about a special type of ring that could shield vampires from the light. Danny couldn't remember whether or not Savage had been wearing a ring on either of his hands, which were covered with the finger-less riding gloves he tended to leave on even when he wasn't anywhere near his bike. What was the description she had heard? Silver with a blue stone was what she could think of.
Danny sighed, her hand moving up to her neck to gently rub the ring Savage had given her. Then her eyes widened slightly in realization. The ring. Mostly silver, though set with diamonds, with a lapiz lazuli stone. It fit the description as well as any. Danny clutched the ring tightly in her hands, but restrained herself from misshaping the precious ring the Savage had given her with her vast vampire strength. The chain that the ring hung around her neck from felt cold against her skin, since her recent lack of blood had dulled her ability to ignore things like temperature. She just wished she knew what was going on, and what she could do to fix it. Danny despised situations in which she couldn't do anything but watch and hope that it would turn out alright. She hated being betrayed even more.
"Danny," Nick breathed, "I'm trying to remember what was going on while I was out last night...but I can't."
Danny scoffed to hide any emotions she didn't want Nick to see at the moment, "How is that supposed to help you? Did they brainwash you to forget anything?"
Nick's eyes shot up to meet hers, a look of realization in his eyes, "That's it, Danny!"
"What's it?" Danny cocked an eyebrow.
"Brainwashed, Danny," Nick said, almost breathless, "That explains why I would try to kill you, then forget all about it as soon as I couldn't do it! I was Compelled."
"I think Savage may have hit you a little too hard," Danny sighed, thoughts of just tuning her boyfriend out creeping into her mind.
"No," Nick shook his head earnestly, "I was Compelled by an Original. That's the only understandable way this could have happened, Danny!"
Nick was swelling with an unexpected surge of relieved joy. He urged and pleaded Danny for her acceptance of his proposal. His hands grabbed for hers, to take them and hold them close to his chest like he sometimes did. Danny wretched away, her trust of him still in shattered, jagged shards. She stared at him, as he continued to smile as if he had dodged a bullet.
The door creaked, and light once again crept into the motel. Danny instinctively recoiled from the light, blending into the shadows perfectly as Savage once again defied the sun rays before shutting the door. He glanced around the room before staring at Danny through those shadows, an amused look in his eye that disappeared almost immediately as he looked at Nick.
"What were you saying?" Savage's haunting voice growled from under the scarf still wrapped around his lower face.
"That the only way I would ever betray her is if an Original compelled me to," Nick said, finding the courage to stare into Savage's unyielding gaze.
"I see," Savage said, "Then which one was it?"
Nick blinked, "I don't know."
"Maybe this will help you remember," Savage said. He vanished from sight, only to appear before Nick with a bottle of clear liquid in his grasp. Grabbing Nick's jaw and forcing it open with his free hand, Savage then poured the entire bottle into his mouth. It instantly burned his flesh, a sizzling sound accompanying the smoke that was rising from Nick's mouth. Screams of agony tore from his throat, sounding like a wounded animal. Savage's grip was absolute, his eyes unwavering as he forced Nick to swallow every drop. Nick choked and gagged, his breath hitching when he tried to breath despite the poison laid water. Nick's hands fought against their bindings, the ropes around his ankles groaned as he kicked against them as well.
Nick passed out. Whether from the pain or the fact that he might have drowned, Danny didn't know. Maybe both. But Savage dropped the empty bottle, and turned towards Danny, "Hey, Sis. How are you?"
Danny blinked, then practically giggled, "'Sis'? Wow, Brother, I didn't think you'd ever call me that."
Savage hooked a finger under the edge of his scarf and pulled the black cloth down to reveal a wry grin where his mouth usually was expressionless, "Hey, I had to try it out at least once. Better now, with no one to see then a century from now and I slip up in front of people I'd rather not slip up in front of, right?"
Danny rolled her eyes, "No, you would just use your speed to disappear."
Another grin, not a smile, but just as rare for someone like Savage, "Whatever. So, do you think he was telling the truth?"
"You mean you don't know?" Danny blinked.
"Just because I'm half a millennium old doesn't mean I know everything," Savage shrugged, subconsciously taking out a knife from a hidden sheath and starting to sharpen it.
Danny looked at him, "Your'e five hundred years old?"
Savage looked up from the knife in his hand, "Yeah, that's what I said."
"Then when were you born?" Danny asked, cocking her head to one side.
"Around 1493," Savage said, going back to his blade, "In Italy during the Renaissance."
"Really? What was that like?" Danny unknowingly used her vampire speed to disappear and reappear at Savage's side as he sat down on one of the beds.
He turned to look at Danny's curious expression, then shrugged, "It was alright, I suppose. I mean, I spent most of the Renaissance as a beggar. I was an orphan after all."
Danny looked down at her feet, and said with a touch of sympathy, "I'm sorry to hear that, Brother."
Danny heard absolute silence as Savage abruptly stopped honing the blade, "Sorry? Please, the last thing you should be doing is feeling sorry for me. Maybe Nathaniel, if you knew the whole story, but definitely not me. I am not worthy of anyone's pity, okay?"
Danny looked into Savage's cobalt eyes, which had seemed to darken a shade, and shook her head, "Why not, Brother? Why would you think you had to be worthy of anyone's pity?"
"Because I slaughtered an entire settlement?" Savage said, going back to the sharpening of his weapon, "Because I was such a monster that the entire world population of witches placed a curse on our blood? My family is cursed because of that night, and now you are paying the price. God, listen to me! I sound like a pitiful emotional weakling..."
"Paying the price?" Danny laughed, "You saved me from a soon to be living Hell. My father was one of the top leaders for those stupid Hunters, my mother was a workaholic, and my human brother was killed because of me. Or at least I thought it was my fault. If you hadn't "Cursed" me, Ezekiel, I would have been killed trying to hunt you down. I would have killed all of the vampires I call my 'friends'. I never would have met you, or Nathaniel, or Nick, or anyone."
Savage chuckled, "That's more emotion I've seen you show since all the time I've known you, Danielle. It looks like your starting to merge with your Ripper, aren't you?"
"How did you know that?" Danny asked, looking back up at her brother.
"You're like me," Savage started to explain, "You are the assassin version of Prodigies. We tend to save our emotions for the select few that are worthy of it, and generally stay quiet otherwise. We are a lot faster then other types of Prodigies, and tend to be very good with our weapons. And since you fit most of that description, I can tell that your starting to bond with your Ripper."
"You went through the same thing," Danny said, more a statement then a question.
"A long time ago," Savage said.
"Did you use to be like me when you were human?" Danny asked, "Were you as strong as you are now?"
Savage stared at the wall, "No. I was weak. I couldn't fight, and I was a thief. Sure, I had to do it to survive, but all I ever did was run. My speed sure is useful now, though, huh?"
Nick's moan cut Danny's response off, and gripped the attention of both of the Haunters. Nick's eyes shot open and he immediately began to cough again. Savage sighed, rising from the bed and putting away both the sharpening stone he had been using and the knife he had been honing, and started towards Nick slowly. Savage lifted his chin up with a long knife he seemed to materialize out of thin air, so he could look straight into Nick's eyes.
Savage's ghostly voice echoed in the silence as Danny held her breath to listen, "Do you remember, Nicholas?"
"Yes," was all Nick could say.
"It was Klaus, sir," Nick breathed.
Nathaniel, as enraged as ever with the weakness the North Branch was showing, was literally on a war path. He had found a werewolf hideout near LA and brought with him a battle ax. The hideout was helping him blow off some steam, maiming and decapitating snarling werewolves almost as if on a whim. The strength that Nathaniel had gathered over the centuries made the two handed battle ax in his grip feel like it was made of styrofoam. With just one hand wielding that ax, and the other swatting his enemies away as if they were flies, Nathaniel desolated the pack of werewolves. They fell in pools of their comrades' blood, they watched as they drew in their dying breath while Nathaniel dismembered their pack Alpha limb from limb. They drew their guns, those cowardly excuses of weapons, and opened fire on him from every angle. Bullets, both metal and wooden raced towards Nathaniel.
Using his vampire speed and heightened senses, as well as his hyperactive reflexes, Nathaniel watched as the bullets seemed to slow down fast enough for him to dodge them. Ducking, sidestepping, and jumping out of the way, Nathaniel continued to cleave the ranks of werewolves to pieces. Bullets ricocheted everywhere, catching some of the enemy in the cross fire, as Nathaniel threw the battle ax at a cluster of werewolves. He threw it as casually as Savage did with his knives, and as hard as he could. He threw it in a way that it wouldn't fly end over end, but so that it would only turn in the air once before it landed on its target. And when it hit, it seemed to cut all of the group in half. Nathaniel was too busy ripping the hearts out of the remaining enemies' chests to notice the devastation his throw had wrought.
"That's better," Nathaniel breathed, "Now, on to business."
He dropped the limp body and the heart of the final werewolf to the ground and bent to pick up his ax. Nathaniel gripped it right under the bladed end, and hefted it up. The ax was massive by anyone's standards, and was sharpened by Savage. A deadly weapon, that Nathaniel frankly didn't need. He preferred to use his bare hands, and to finish his battles with the enemies gore smearing his fists.
Savage was an assassin through and through, there was no doubt about it. He was a perfect infiltrator and fast beyond reason. His speed basically gave the illusion that he could teleport. But Nathaniel was far more strong and powerful then his brother. Where he lacked in deception, speed, and stealthy type killing skill, Nathaniel more then made up for it with his blood lust, strength, and experience in fighting. He had been in more open fights then Savage, and he knew exactly how to defeat his opponents. Duels and assassinations of highly guarded targets, as well as kills that needed to be taken care of quietly fell under Savage's expertise.
Nathaniel descended down a flight of steps into the hideout's central area. There were maps and diagrams littering the ground and tables of the dimly lit room. Nathaniel set down his ax unceremoniously onto a nearby couch, and began to ruffle through the multitude of documents and plans. Nothing was even vaguely interesting to Nathaniel, since it was mainly inventory of the various hideouts in the area that had already been cleared out. The maps held what the enemy thought were Haunter positions, even though a good three quarters of them were outdated or completely wrong. There were charts of the commanders in charge of certain packs of wolves, lists of where all the last known positions of the Alphas were, amounts of werewolves in each state. It was all just annoying facts that Nathaniel knew would have been useful a week ago and were now not needed. But there was one document that caught his attention.
"'Classified'?" Nathaniel read the red stamp aloud to himself, chuckling with amusement, "Well, who's gonna stop me?"
Nathaniel broke open the envelope without even pausing, and blinked in surprise. There on the paper was a term that Nathaniel thought he was never going to hear again: "Hybrid."
But even more shocking was the face that the letter told of a thousand of the Hybrids now existed, and that their master had chosen to ally himself with them for an unknown reason. They had a thousand Hybrids. One thousand mouths full of teeth that could kill any vampire with one small nibble. A thousand beings that only had to bite Nathaniel once to kill him. He growled, folding the paper up and stuffing it into a pocket before he picked up his massive ax. Nathaniel stalked out of the hideout and into the pale moonlight towards his bike. He placed his ax in a special back sheath, with the handle of the ax ending up looming over his right shoulder, as he neared the bike he had left a good hundred feet away from the hideout.
He sat on his bike, putting on his helmet without thinking, he was racing towards the West Branch Warehouse on autopilot as he was muttering to himself on how to handle the new enemy.
A multi-layered, eerily psychotic voice interrupted Nathaniel's thoughts, And why would you even think for a second that you couldn't handle a few mutts?