A New Family
Stefan's eyes shot open, realizing immediately what had happened. Elena lay beside him, limp as a doll. Caroline was walking unbalanced towards them, rubbing her neck softly, a groan passing through her lips. Stefan rose and rubbed at the dull ache that went with his neck being snapped. Elena awoke slowly, moaning as she massaged at her neck as well. They all looked from side to side and found no evidence of the hooded figures they had cornered.
"Okay, Stefan," Caroline said, sounding angry, "Spill."
"I guess I probably should have mentioned that they're trained like they were special forces. I hear they turn strong willed people and make them into one of them. Their supposed to be the good guys though, but they have a reputation," Stefan explained, though sheepishly at Caroline's piercing gaze.
"And knowing that, you sent me after those two alone?" Caroline said astonished and offended, "Only one of them fought me while the other just watched, and I still got my neck snapped by a punch! Stefan, I can't believe you right now!"
"Calm down, Caroline," Elena said, standing between the two vampires, "Stefan thought they were just rumors, so he couldn't have known they were true, anyway."
"It still would have been nice to know!" Caroline said, exasperated.
"I'm sorry," Stefan said, "but did you see their faces at all?"
"Nope, those hoods covered their faces from their noses down," Caroline said, "But the one that watched me...her eyes were such a icy blue that I could see them."
"Well, that's something at least," Elena sighed, then she turned her gaze towards Stefan, "So where do we start?"
"They say that those guys are based in New York City, or near it," Stefan said.
"Well," Caroline said, back to her normal perky self, "What're we waiting for?"
Elena and Stefan shrugged and head for their car piling in and turned north towards New York, all of them thinking on how in the world they were going to find Damon.
They were just within the city limits when Danny heard Damon stir in the trunk. She nudged Alex and nodded towards the trunk. Alex shrugged, and whispered to Nick to inform him. It was close to two in the morning, and the lights of New York were as bright as ever, from Danny's enhanced sight and her being slightly homesick. Danny tugged at the bottom of we jacket to straighten it out, and looked out the window towards the skyline, taking in the familiar sight. The moon was high in the sky, glowing the purest white Danny thought possible against the cloudless black sky. She heard the usual commotion of the city, and felt right at home.
"How about now?" Alex chimed in for fiftieth time since they had started back, "He's awake now."
"You know what?" Nick said as if he'd just come up with the idea out of the blue, "Alexandria? Would you like to stick the vampire in our trunk with vervain?"
"That's a great idea, Nicholas!" Alex said, playing along.
Nick rolled his eyes and pulled over to the curve, "Take Danielle with you."
"Gladly," Alex smiled, rising out out the car and pulling out the syringe.
Danny sighed with a smile and got out of the car. As soon as Alex opened the trunk, both of their faces went stone cold serious. Damon looked groggily up at the girls, and let out a long sarcastic sigh when he laid eyes on Alex. He struggled against the bindings at his wrists and ankles. The ropes held firm against his attempts at freedom. Alex unceremoniously trust the needle into Damon's neck and emptied the syringe of liquid. Damon's eyes rolled into the back of his head, and he slumped into unconsciousness, as if Alex had stuffed him with instant sedative. Alex jerked the needle out of his neck and stuck it back into her pocket.
"Well," Danny said, "That's that."
Alex shrugged, "Seems like it. He should wake up in about five hours, and we're four away from the Mansion."
"Hey," Danny said as she opened her door, "Why did you two just use our old names just then?"
"Because most of the time they sound more intimidating or something," Alex said as they slid into their seats, "It's because he was awake and he would have heard us."
"Oh," Danny said, nodding, "Okay, I get it."
"Good," Alex said, then she turned to Nick, "He's out, we can go."
Nick nodded and turned back onto the road. The stone and concrete pillar of apartments towered above Danny as they rode by. The windows reflected the moon and the stars, framing them like exquisite photos. Some of the lights were one higher up on the building, the silhouette of a woman brushing her hair in one of them. They had long lost their luster since Danny had seen them just about everyday when she was human.
When she was human? Danny laughed at how ridiculous that would have sounded to her not three days ago. She shrugged off that train of thought before she could think of her family. They made their way towards the Mansion, which Danny remembered was about an hour and a half north of the city limits. Alex taught Danny how to sharpen her knife with a portable sharpening stone to pass the time, and they both spent the tail end of the trip honing their blades. Before she realized it, they were pulling up to the Mansion, it's windows spilling soft orange light onto the lawn. They all got out of the Camero, Nick and Jake heading around the trunk and hefted Damon's unconscious body into the house, Alex and Danny in tow. The four of them made their way down to where the armory was, and set Damon down in a steel chair, re-tying his restraints to the chair with vervain soaked rope. Michael had received a shipment of the herb not an hour ago. Jake and Nick double checked the bindings as Danny went up to her room as silent as she could, which ended up meaning that she made next to no sounds whatsoever. She entered her room, and walked over o the white door that held her closet. Danny opened the door to reveal a collection of clothes so similar to her old ones that she could help but laugh. They all were the same sizes as her gear which meant they all would fit perfect. Danny picked a pair of rich blue skinny jeans, black boots that looked like the ones she'd just taken off, and a grey tank top. She quickly changed out of her all black gear and into the comfortable clothes she'd picked out, then neatly folded the gear, bringing it to her locker. She hung her clothes, boots, and jacket exactly as she found them, unstrapping the knife and setting it down next to her boots. She looked at the armory-like locker and scoffed at how she should even need it to begin with. She was more then just any vampire, she knew, where that left her she didn't know. The family she had and the one she found herself in were completely opposite, since her previous life was focused on grades and healthy relationships that meant the world to her. Now, however, Danny was focusing on her skills and physical ability. The Danielle that she used to be had dieted and ran to keep her perfect figure, though she usually wore loose shirts and jackets that didn't do her curves any justice. Danny was sure that soon enough, she'll be training to be what the rest of her new family seemed to be: hunters of the hunters, a life of chasing down any stray or rogue vampires and punishing them for their transgressions.
Danny shook her head. She could feel the burning, stomach churning feeling that told her she was hungry...or was it thirsty? It felt like a mixture of both, Danny decided, shutting the doors to her locker slowly. She heard Alex approach her from behind, her footsteps resounding through the stone floor of the basement. Danny took a small breath and turned with a pleasant smile to Alex.
"Yes?" Danny said.
"We need you topside for guard duty," Alex said, pointing her thumb up to indicate the house above them, "By the time we're done with him it will be time for you to get some rest. Then, we'll begin your training."
"Anything, Alex," Danny said, "Will anyone else be up there with me? Do I need anything from here?"
"Oh, Mark and Aaron will be up there with you, and a boot knife couldn't hurt," Alex answered, smiling
"Okay, I'll see you later then," Danny smiled back heading towards the section that had blades hanging from the wall. She found a double edged all black dagger with a boot sheath and clipped it to the inside of her boot. She wouldn't have noticed it was there because the hilt blended so well with her boot. She quickly made her way up the stairs and turned into the kitchen, scanning the room for the freezer that held the blood bags. But instead she found a smiling Aaron, dressed in nice jeans, dark converse, and a grey t-shirt, with a glass of blood resting in his palm. Danny blinked and noticed that the blood bag was half full and an empty glass sat in front of the vacant chair to Aaron's left.
"Mind if I steal that last bit of blood you have left?" Danny smiled and pointed at the bag.
"Not at all, Danny," Aaron said with a smirk, "It was yours after all anyways."
"Was it now?" Danny said, smiling and raising a suspicious eyebrow, "'Cause I don't remember asking for it."
"No, you didn't ask," Aaron said, shrugging, "But, I got it for you anyways."
"How sweet of you," Danny said, rolling her eyes and making her way over to Aaron.
"So what do you think so far?" Aaron asked as Danny slipped into the chair and poured a glass of blood.
"Think about what?" Danny took a sip from her glass.
"Us," Aaron answered simply.
"You all are like my family and I've only known you all for four days," Danny said simply, "I never thought I could find somewhere where I feel like I fit in."
"Well then," Aaron said raising his glass, "Welcome to the family."
Danny softly laughed and touched her glass to his, "Cheers."
"Stefan," Elena said impatiently as they reached the city limits of New York, "Do you have any idea where we are going to find him?"
Stefan shrugged, "Not yet."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Caroline said exasperated, gripping the wheel tighter.
"It means that I will find out soon, Caroline," Stefan said, "Now, if there aren't anymore questions, head to east on that road until you see a cafe."
Caroline nodded impatiently, turning right onto a wet concrete road. They past large square buildings, lined with grids of rectangular windows, as they made their way down the road. Caroline, Stefan, and Elena scoured the sides of the street for a cafe, every two minutes or so one of them would call out one, only to have Stefan say that it wasn't it.
Finally, Elena called out a cafe that had a baby blue awning over its rich oak door and Stefan nodded his approval. Caroline let out a sigh of relief as she turned and parked in front of the cafe. The sun was just peaking out behind the extravagant New York skyline as they entered through the door, a small bell announcing their arrival with a soft ring. A smiling woman greeted them and lead them to a booth, handing them menus as they sat in the comfortable seats. They all ordered water, and Caroline looked expectantly at Stefan, who held up a finger before she could talk. With a shrug, Caroline slouched in her seat, content to wait. The waitress came back with a tray of water, and set them down softly in front of each of them.
"We're here to see Rico," Stefan said simply in the woman's direction.
"Oh," She said, her smile vanishing into a pressed line, "Your one of them then?"
"We all are, I'm afraid," Stefan shrugged,"But we aren't hungry if that's what you're worried about."
"Good, I don't like covering for your kind," The woman said distastefully, "Well, follow me then, I'll take you to him then."
"Thank you," Stefan said, rising as the woman turned and headed for the back of the cafe, then her turned to Caroline and Elena, "Ladies, if you'll follow me."
The girls nodded and fell in behind Stefan as they trailed the woman into the door near the kitchen marked "Employees Only" and pushed through it into a break room that smelled of smoke and microwave meals. They crossed the small, square room, weaving through the cheap wooden tables and chairs into another door that was marked "Custodian". As they entered that room they found a man with short spiked hair snoring in a makeshift canvas hammock, Elena and Caroline saw Stefan grinning. The woman sighed and kicked the man slightly, causing him to stir and jolt upright and almost lose his balance. The man, whose jacket had a patch with the name "Rico", scanned the faces in his presence and his gaze fell upon Stefan, he smiled. Rico jumped up out of his hammock and gave Stefan a big bear hug, patting his back like old friends, which is what they seemed to be. Then woman sighed and left them as soon as the door wasn't blocked by Elena and Caroline.
"Stefan, my friend!" Rico exclaimed in a Hispanic accept, "Last I saw you it must have been three decades ago. What brings you to Liberty City?"
Stefan smiled, "I'm here to ask a favor."
"Oh, that's all? Just business then?" Rico said, smiling but faking hurt.
"Well, I chose you out of ten possible friends to ask, just so I could see you if that makes you feel any better," Stefan grinned.
"Oh that does make me feel special," Rico chuckled, his smile brightening as rubbed his hands together quietly, "So what can I do for you, my friend?"
"Information," Stefan stated simply, "On that one group you told me about last time I was in town."
"You wish to know more of the Night Haunters, then?" Rico said, a hint of curiosity in his voice.
"The who?" Caroline blurted.
"You haven't told them anything much have you?" Rico smiled eyeing Stefan.
"I knew that you would love to tell them yourself," Stefan said with a small smile
"Your too kind, Stefan," Rico said rolling his eyes, his smile never faltering as he turned his gaze to Elena and Caroline, "So, where shall I begin then?"
Elena and Caroline looked at each other and then back to Rico, Caroline opening her mouth to speak, "Who are these creeps?"
"The rumor is that they started out as a group of vampires that all believed that, in order to ensure that vampires wouldn't be hunted down by every hunter in the world, vampires had to be governed. They formed a group, learned how to thrive in combat, and used the strongest founding member's home as a base of operations. That man's name was Nicholas Harrison," Rico explained, sliding behind a small oak desk and folding his hands behind his head, "They are ruthless, cold, and completely loyal to their group unto death. They are the vampire version of a werewolf pack, basically."
"Then what do they want with Damon?" Elena asked, "All he did was give vervain to the Council."
"He did what?" Rico sat forward, leaning over his desk, an astonished look on his face.
"What did I say? What's so bad about giving vervain to them?" Elena shot back, raising an eyebrow.
"Well, it's the lowest transgression that's under their jurisdiction, and one of the first acts they did as they started out," Rico said.
"What else did they do?" Caroline asked.
Rico smiled at her interest as well as how the opportunity to speak, "They dealt with Rippers, rogues, sympathizers, and the like. They left lesser crimes alone because they tended to catch up with the one that committed them, and they ended up dead. When they show up to deal with who ever is causing the problem, then that means that they have deemed that person a threat to the survival of other vampires. In their early years they stamped the vampires they killed with the seal of Nicholas Harrison, which as I recall is an N overlaid with an H. I've seen it myself, it basically looks like an N was divided in half. Anyways, now their clothing is their trademark. I've heard they're clad in eerie black clothing, with knives, and hoods that cast the darkest shadows on their faces so that nothing can see their faces through them, including vampires. Those same clothes are as silent as possible, and that there are no other clothes like them."
"Yep," Caroline said nonchalantly, "That's them. I was knocked out cold by a girl in black with a hood. Her friend had a knife on her thigh."
"You've seen them!?" Rico exclaimed, shooting up from his desk.
"Yeah," Elena said confused as she slowly backed away from the excited man.
"Then how are you alive right now? The only witnesses that live are bystanders, not people that have fought them! Tell me everything!" Rico leaned forward with excitement.
"Well, what you said pretty much summed it up," Elena said, "We could only see from the tips of their noses down. They were smiling like fighting us was a joke to them, like we were an amusement to them or something."
"Well, they are trained from the moment they Turned to hunt down vampires just like you, if not stronger. So it was basically going through the motions for them," Rico shrugged.
"So we had no shot?" Elena said, annoyed.
"Unless you hit them with vervain or catch them off guard, which is highly unlikely, no," Rico answered bluntly.
"And you know what the best part of this is my friend?" Stefan said brightly, "We were planning on barging into these vampires home and taking Damon back."
Rico burst into laughter, collapsing on to his desk, great heaves racking his chest as he fought to regain composure. Elena and Caroline looked at him, staring in disbelief at his reaction while Stefan chuckled and crossed his arms over his chest. Rico laughed for what felt like hours, great surges of laughter that brought tears to his eyes. Finally he spoke, his smiling face looking at the girls incredulous expressions, "That is the textbook definition of a suicide mission, my friends."
"Still," Stefan said, "We are wondering if you know anything about where this house of theirs is."
"You're serious?" Rico's expression instantly went dark, his easy smile vanishing.
Stefan nodded, and Rico told them exactly where to go.
Danny gulped down the last drop of her third glass. She was left alone when Aaron left for his turn to walk around the Mansion. The warm blood had satisfied her hunger, so she felt like she'd eaten a buffet. Danny rose and walked around the large house, thinking it was about time she got used to her new home. It had twelve rooms, most on the second floor, a large kitchen, the meeting room where she'd spent her last moments as a human, and also a large office. Danny had the one room that looked remotely feminine, since every other room had sleek black furniture and wall that could be mistaken for a weapons display. The first floor gave Danny the feeling that a hunter had lived here, thanks to the skeletons on display as well as the prizes that adorned the desks and walls, accompanied by the portraits of regal men and women. Danny went to the meeting room and sunk onto the leather couch, absently tossing the knife. Every time it went airborne it flipped once around before landing back in her palm. She strained to hear Damon's anguished cries, even with her advanced hearing and noted that if she'd not known he was down there, she wouldn't have an inkling that he was even close to her.
Aaron, yawning slightly, walked casually into the meeting room, smiling slightly, "Your turn, princess."
"Already?" Danny looked up into his black eyes, so dark that she couldn't tell pupil from iris, "I thought I had thirty minutes left.
"You do, but I'm asking nicely if you'll cover for me while I get some rest, Mark's in the kitchen," Aaron said.
"Okay, if you're asking nicely," Danny smiled, shrugging before rising from the soft leather couch, "What do I have to do?"
"Just keep an eye on the doors and make sure no one enters unless Michael says they can," Aaron says, "It's not that hard. And if they're humans that seem lost, you can do what you want with them as long as you don't kill them and they don't come back to this place at all."
He smiled wickedly. Do want you want with them, Danny repeated in her mind, thinking of what he could mean by that. Danny smiled as Aaron slipped through the door, up the wooden stairs, and into his room, where Danny could hear him lay down onto his bed as the springs reluctantly gave way under Aaron's weight. Danny sat back down and continued to toss her knife absently, thinking of the training she would be starting soon. She wandered what she would learn first. Fighting? Stealth? Danny was nervous that she would meet up to her family's expectations. Her thoughts were interrupted by Mark's tentative knock on the door frame. She looked up and smiled at him.
"Hey, Danny," he said, "How are you?"
"Oh, nervous I guess," Danny shrugged, trying to appear casual.
"What could you possibly be nervous about?" Mark raised and eyebrow. He still wore his Gear, his version of the leather jacket had a military style to it, like how the pockets looked as if they should be on a military uniform. Mark had combat boots, a large knife jutted from between his shin and the boot on his right. Mark looked heavier then the rest of them, though Danny blamed it in his large jacket. Mark held a glass of what looked like vodka.
"Training," Danny answered lamely.
Mark chuckled, "Oh, don't worry about that, Danny, you'll pass with flying colors. And when your done, you'll be completely one of us."
"I'm not one of you right now?" Danny asked, looking into Mark's eyes.
"Oh, you basically are in everyone's eyes, trust me. You're already like a sister to everyone here. But you officially won't be one of us until you complete training and the Initiation Ritual."
"Initiation Ritual?" Danny asked curiously.
"A ceremony where you make a blood oath with every member, and we give you the full set of equipment we have. So far, all you've been given is the basics, your Gear is only bear essentials. If you wish, you could be a walking arsenal. It's been done by one of us in the West, a vampire prodigy took completely to using blades, it save his and his clans lives actually."
"How?" Danny asked.
"Well, vampires don't usually use as many blades as he did, so when his enemies thought he was unarmed they only realized their mistake when they had a knife in their backs," Mark chuckled.
"Wow," Danny said, catching her blade again and slipping it back into the boot sheath, "I don't know if I'll be that overboard, but I don't see the harm in having hidden back ups."
"Sounds good to me," Mark smiled, then he motioned to the tray of alcohol behind Danny on a high table, "Want a drink?"
Danny chuckled, "What's to drink?"
"One of everything, I think," Mark said, downing the last of the vodka and slowly making his way over to the tray. He poured two glasses of bourbon and sat next to Danny, offering her one of the glasses. With a grateful smile, she took it.
"So do you miss your old family?" Mark asked
"Greatly, but Nick told me I can't ever see them again. Why not?" Danny asked, tilting her head.
"Well, what do you think would happen if they saw their dead daughter come out of the shadows, completely different but still baring the same face. Then, imagine what they would think if they found out what you were? I made the mistake of going home after I Turned. When my father tripped over his feet and nicked his palm with the corner of a tray, he bled only one drop, but it was enough. They saw what I really was then, and they were terrified. They cowered in fear. Tell me, is that what you want to be remembered as? A nightmare?"
"No," Danny mumbled, "but do you think I could at least observe my own funeral?"
"Why would you want to do that?" Mark said, puzzled.
"Closure, I suppose," Danny said, sloshing around her bourbon before taking a drink of it.
"I see, for you or to see if your old family has moved on?"
"Both," Danny answered firmly.
Mark nodded, understanding in his eyes, "Very well then, Danny, I'll ask Michael for permission to take you. If he says yes, he'll require that at least two of us go with you. Who would you like that to be?"
"I'd like to get to know your brother to see if he is as kind as you," Danny answered, smiling.
"Sounds good to me, Danny," Mark returned her smile.
Danny rose, and headed for the kitchen with their now empty glasses, then she turned around and gave Mark a peck on the cheek, "Thank you, Mark."
"My pleasure," Mark said, still smiling.
Danny stopped and listened to a strange sound. It sounded far, but she could hear it getting louder and louder as it approached. Mark stood, listening with her. It was an engine, Danny figured, and it was coming this way. It sounded familiar, like she'd heard this particular car not a day or two ago. It was the car that those three vampires at the motel had driven in, Danny realized.
"Should I gear up?" Danny whispered, thinking they must be within hearing distance by now, "These are the vamps we knocked out cold at the motel."
"It couldn't hurt," Mark said, patting down his belt, boot, and a pocket inside his jacket, making sure he had all of his blades. Danny nodded and blurred through the kitchen, hallway, and down the stairs and she reached her locker in about three seconds. She quickly grabbed everything from the manikin, her boots and her knife. Just before she left for the small side room to change, Danny glanced to where Damon say tied to the chair. He was bloodied, battered, and unconscious, but even in sleep, he looked as if he'd been the test dummy for sledgehammers for ten years. She saw Michael nod his approval for her to gear up, wiping his bloody hands. Danny returned his nod and sped for the room. She practically ripped her clothes off, taking the boot knife she had been wearing and transferring it her other boot as she changed. She took of her grey tank top and whipped on her black one. Her nice jeans came off in a blur as she slipped on the padded black pants, and slid on the boots as soon as the pants were on, adjusting her boot knife so that it was straight. Danny quickly and quietly strapped her knife to her thigh. She grabbed her jacket and bolted out the door and up the stairs. By the time she reached the top of the staircase, the jacket was on and the hood was up. She could hear footsteps now, they were nearing the stone that preceded the oak double doors. Danny did a last minute check, and closed the door, locking it and sliding the key in a hidden pocket on the inside of her jacket. She checked herself quickly in a mirror hanging above a small table in the hall. She couldn't see her face above the tip of her nose thanks to the hood. The over all look she saw, the black clothes, the knives, and the only part of her face that was visible was her cold smile. She shook her head and cleared her mind. Then she silently made her way to the meeting room, where Mark sat, his hood on but not enough to cloak his face.
"Would you like to answer it?" He asked, the foot steps on the stone ringing in Danny's ears.
Danny nodded, and Mark pulled his hood fully down, shrouding his face in shadow.
Elena stood before the two large oak doors. She looked up and saw the seal Rico had told them about. This was the place. It had to be. She could really hear anything from inside the house, but she just knew that Damon was in there. If there were only vampires in there, then they wouldn't have to be invited in, they could storm the place. But they had no idea how many were in there. Elena decided to act as a lost traveler and knocked tentatively three times.
The door opened to reveal a slender, narrow girl an inch taller then Elena. She looked menacing, clad in back, her face shrouded by a wide hood to where the only thing that showed was a smirking mouth. The girls hand rested on the hilt of the knife strapped to her thigh.
"Yes?" The girl said in a beautiful, soft voice. There was something else there. Menace? Amusement? Elena couldn't tell if it was one or the other. Or both.
"I'm kind of lost and my phone is dead. Do you happen to have a phone I could use?" Elena asked.
"What do they want?" a man called from the girls right.
The girl turned her head towards the direction of the man, but Elena couldn't tell whether the girl stopped looking at her, "She needs to make a phone call! We still have a phone?"
"Nope," The man said, "Sorry."
"You heard him, girl," She sneered, shrugging, "Can't help you."
Elena suddenly abandoned her facade and her hand shot to the girl's pale neck. She squeezed hard, running into the house and slamming her against a wall next to a grand looking stair case. The girl grasped at Elena's arm, hissing like a cat and barring her pure white fangs, but she wasn't strong enough. Elena heard Caroline and Stefan climb out of the car, and the man rise from a couch. But before the man could make it over to them, or Caroline and Stefan, the girl ripped the knife out of it's sheath and sliced a long, deep gash that traced the vein that ran from her wrist to her elbow. The laceration gushed blood and Elena screamed as she grasped her arm to stop the bleeding long enough for it to heal. But in that moment of weakness, Elena felt the girls small hands at the back of her head, and the last thing that she saw was the girls knee as it surged towards her. The world was suddenly made of bright lights, then it went completely dark as Elena felt a fist slam into her temple.