Josie twirled the pen in her hand. She had watched the vampire do it enough times to figure it out. She stared blankly at the monitor, which showed the vampire sleeping, as always. She had never been so bored in her life. She glanced at the clock. Mark would be there in an hour to take over watching the vampire sleep. Thinking of him made her skin crawl and sent a shiver down her spine. She had always found his presence unnerving, but lately he was even creepier than before. He was always eager to take his turn watching the monitor, so Josie always made a point of being loud in the hallway each time she was returning to the control room – she didn't want to walk in on him doing anything.
As much as Josie didn't want to see Mark, she didn't want to be stuck in the control room any longer than required either. She didn't know what the big deal was – why did someone have to watch the vampire sleep anyway? She couldn't escape, could she? Maybe Hunt and Athens weren't totally confident that the defenses would actually keep the vampire contained.
Josie glanced at the door before slipping her hand into her pocket and retrieving her MP3 player. She quickly slipped one ear bud into her ear, pulled her hair forward to hide it from view, then pressed “play” and tucked the player back into her pocket. After a second glance at the door to confirm that she was still alone, Josie leaned back in her chair to enjoy her music.
She had chosen the music carefully and arranged the playlists to be slightly shorter than her shifts in the control room were. She hoped this would help her to hide the MP3 player by giving her time to remove the ear bud before anyone else showed up to spell her off. She also kept the volume low so she would be able to hear anyone in the hallway.
Josie wasn't as worried about watching the vampire closely as she had been at first. The vampire basically slept all day and had never tried to escape, so Josie found it hard to imagine that tonight would be any different.
After another glance at the door, Josie pulled a file folder from the shelves above the computer. It contained information on the previous vampire that the project team had studied. It was nearly a decade old, but Josie knew that most of the information would still be useful, especially now that they had a new subject to study.
Footsteps in the hallway stirred Josie from her thoughts. She yanked the ear bud out of her ear and tucked it into her pocket as she closed the file and glanced at the monitor. The vampire hadn't moved from the bed. Josie turned to the door and watched Mark enter. His eyes slid over her and focused on the counter beside her. She checked the clock to confirm that he was there to take over watching the vampire, then tossed the file on the counter and rose from the chair.
Mark didn't speak to her as she passed him in the doorway. She looked back, but he was already in the room and she heard the chair creak as he moved it. She shook her head to clear it. She didn't want to think about how weird Mark was. Tonight he seemed particularly possessed by his obsession with the vampire. Josie hurried down the hallway towards the labs, glad to be back where there were normal people and things to do.
Mark couldn't believe his luck. He shoved the chair out of the way and scooped up the tranquilizer gun that Dr. Hunt had forgotten on the counter. The girl obviously hadn't even noticed it, even when she practically dropped her paperwork right on top of it. Mark caressed the gun lightly with his fingertips, an evil smile growing on his lips.
Dr. Athens had been careless earlier and Mark had seen him enter the code for the vampire's room: 5-9-4-3-1. He had intended to break into the storage locker that contained the guns, but now he was spared the hassle and risk. All he had to do now was get down to the holding cell without being seen and the vampire would be his. He glanced at his watch. He was wasting precious time. He tucked the tranquilizer gun into his lab coat and hurried from the control room.
It was five minutes before noon when Athens’s phone rang, jolting him awake. He managed to grab it before it rang again.
“Hello?” he said groggily.
“Dr. Athens? This is Josie.” She was crying. “You’d better get down here quick. I just came into the control room for my shift and Mark’s in the vampire’s room.”
“What?!” Athens said in disbelief. “How the hell did he get in?”
He threw the covers off himself and sat up.
“I don’t know, but… he’s dead.”
“Oh my God,” Athens replied. How? “I’ll be right there. Have you called Hunt yet?”
“Call her.” He paused. “Where’s the vampire?”
“On her bed. I think Mark shot her with one of the guns, there’s one on the cell floor.”
“Stay put. Call Hunt. I’ll be right there.”
He hung up the phone and dressed as fast as he could. He jumped in his car and made it to work faster than he ever had before, even though it felt like it took twice as long as normal. He ran from his car to the entrance, then as fast as he could down the hall to the vampire’s room. He punched the keys and rushed into the room.
It was a gruesome sight. Johnson was definitely dead. He lay in the middle of the floor in a pool of blood, his throat torn wide open. The tranquilizer gun lay near his right hand. The vampire was strewn across her bed, unconscious. She was half under the covers, like she had been asleep but woke up and started to get up, and there was a tranquilizer dart sticking out of the her chest.
Athens hurried to Merry’s side. He gently pulled the dart out and dropped it on the table. His mind was full of questions and assumptions, but only Merry knew the truth. He looked down at her body. There was blood on her right hand. He touched her cheek.
“Merry?” he ventured. “Merry, wake up. Please Merry.”
She didn’t move. He hung his head and sighed. He looked back at her face and ran his hand down her cheek and onto the right side of her neck. She groaned and shifted. He pulled his hand back in surprise. The side of his neck tingled and a shiver ran down his spine. He was confused, then…. Her link! He gently touched her neck again and felt a rush as energy flowed out of him into her.
Merry took a deep breath and put her hand on his and pressed it tighter against her neck. The tingling sensation returned to Athens’s neck as Merry drew energy out of him into herself. Something had been reawakened between them and Athens’ leg twitched as the scar just above his knee stung momentarily. As Merry started to come awake she realized what was happening – why she was able to actually use Athens energy to heal herself – she was reclaiming the energy she had given him long ago. Athens had been the boy in the car crash. Merry had saved him from bleeding to death or being permanently crippled, now he was helping her to recover from the tranquilizers. Athens had no idea what was happening, or that Merry would be able to use the reawakened link to compel him to do as she wished. This was even better than Merry had planned.
When Merry was awake she wrapped her hand around Athens’ and pulled it off her neck and rested it on her collarbone. She looked up at him, squinting in the lights, but he didn’t meet her eyes.
“Alix?” she whispered. “I…. He was going to…. I had no choice.”
Merry started to cry and she gripped his hand tighter. Athens took her other hand in his. Johnson was going to rape her. Athens was shocked and upset, but not as upset as Merry clearly was. Athens tried to comfort her.
“It’s okay. It’s okay,” he soothed. “It’s all okay now.”
Merry sat up and wrapped her arms around him, leaning her cheek on his shoulder as she sobbed softly. Athens hesitated, then put his arms around her. It felt good, felt right, but he knew he shouldn’t be enjoying it. He should be comforting her. Or, should he be? He should be cleaning up the mess: taking Johnson’s body out of the room and getting the blood off the floor.
Hunt rushed into the room and gasped. Athens and Merry separated and Athens whirled his head around. Hunt leaned against the door frame, her eyes locked on Johnson’s dead body. Athens stood up.
“You go check on Josie in the control room,” he said. “I’ll take care of this.”
“This is my fault,” Hunt said. “I’m so sorry Merry. I left the gun in the control room. I didn’t….”
“It’s alright Amy,” Merry replied, cutting her off. “It’s not your fault. Go.”
Hunt nodded and left. Athens got a wet cloth from the bathroom and sat down on the bed again to wash the blood off Merry's hand.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “about everything. I shouldn’t have been so rude and I shouldn’t have hurt you. You’re not a jerk.”
“Yes I am,” he replied. “I should never have hurt you. And I shouldn’t have asked about you and your sire. It’s none of my business. Hollywood has clouded my brain.”
He nodded, but didn’t speak. He stood up because there was a knock at the door. He opened it to find two lab techs with cleaning supplies and a gurney. Athens turned to Merry, who was eyeing the strangers warily.
“I'm going for a shower,” Merry announced, her voice cold and threatening.
The vampire rose slowly from the bed and never took her eyes off the men as she walked silently to the bathroom. Athens heard the door lock. The lab techs hurried to lift Johnson's body onto the gurney, then covered him with a sheet. Athens watched them wheel the gurney down the hall, then closed the door.
As Athens began scrubbing the blood from the floor he heard the bathroom door open. He looked up but all he saw was Merry's clothes flying at him. As he gathered them up he heard the shower start.
He pictured the vampire naked, then immediately scolded himself. He was glad that he hadn't been present when Hunt had done her medical exam on Merry. If he'd actually seen her naked, he wouldn't have been able to clear the image from his head.
Assuming that Merry wanted nothing more to do with the clothes, Athens tucked them into the large, black garbage bag with his discarded rags.
The shower fell silent. Athens hurriedly finished cleaning and placed the garbage bag out in the hallway. He stood by the door and waited for Merry to emerge from the bathroom.
Merry was wearing a spaghetti-strapped tank top and satin pajama pants. The gap in between them revealed her tight ab muscles. Athens redirected his eyes to the floor.
“I... uh... The floor... Is it clean enough?” he stammered.
Merry smiled and nodded.
“It's perfect. Thank you,” she said as she returned to the bed.
Athens nodded. He turned to the door and punched in the key code.
“Okay then,” he said. He didn't know what else to say.
He flicked the lights off as he stepped out into the hallway and forced himself not to glance back as he closed the door. He felt strange as he made his way back up to the control room.
Hunt had sent Josie home. Athens put his hand on her shoulder.
“You going to be okay?” he asked.
She nodded slowly. Her eyes were fixed in a blank stare.
“You’re tired,” Athens said. “You should go home and get some sleep.”
Hunt shook her head.
Athens gave up. He sat down at the computer and rewound the tape to just after Johnson's shift as “watcher” began. It wasn't long before the lights in the vampire’s room came on, the door opened and Johnson walked into the room. Merry sat up groggily, blinking in the light, and started to toss the covers back. Johnson fired the tranquilizer gun and the dart hit Merry in the chest. She collapsed back down onto the bed and Johnson immediately moved towards her, not realizing that the tranquilizer didn’t really work that fast. He leaned over her and never knew what hit him as she sliced across his neck with her sharp fingernails. He gripped his throat, staggered backwards, and fell to the ground. Merry flopped back down on the bed and her body went limp as the tranquilizer finally took full effect.
Athens switched back to the live feed. Merry wasn’t asleep even though the lights were off, it was the middle of the day, and she should still be tired from the tranquilizer. Athens realized that he wasn’t tired either. Must be the adrenaline, he decided. He glanced over at Hunt. She was asleep in the office chair she was sitting in. Athens smiled. She WAS tired.
He looked back at the monitor at Merry. He wanted to go see her. No, he ordered himself. I should go see her, to check on her. I don’t want to see her, but I should go see her. He glanced at Hunt again and decided to let her sleep. The vampire was still under the influence of the tranquilizer and if he got into trouble, he could start shouting and Hunt would wake up.
He left the control room, stopped to get a bottle of blood for Merry, and headed down to her room. He entered the code for the door and stepped inside. He stared at Merry, meeting her seductive gaze, and didn’t want to look away. He closed the door, paused, then decided to leave the lights off. In the darkness he moved to Merry’s side. He set the bottle down on the table as he touched her cheek with his other hand. He stared into her eyes, allowing her to steer his thoughts. He leaned forwards and she wrapped her arms around him as they kissed.
At first Athens moved slowly, sliding Merry's tank top up while she unbuttoned his shirt. His mind and his body argued over what he should and shouldn't be doing. He certainly knew that he shouldn't be undressing the vampire and her tongue shouldn't be in his mouth. He knew that he should be resisting her has she removed his pants and he should definitely be leaving the room.
Merry pulled Athens down and tossed the blankets over their tangled bodies. She drew her fingernails down his back, scratching him without drawing blood. He wrapped his hands around her muscular shoulders and leaned in to kiss her neck. She sighed and let her eyes fall shut.
Athens knew he couldn't stop. It didn't matter what he should or shouldn't be doing. He wanted Merry and she wanted him. He nuzzled her neck and breathed in the scent of her hair. She squeezed his thigh and pulled him close.
The blankets fell away as the sex became more vigorous. Neither of them cared. Athens was completely lost in the heat of the moment, while Merry was trying her hardest not to hurt him.
When it was over she released him, and he couldn’t believe what he had done. And he didn’t know the half of it.
He sat up and started to get dressed. As he pulled his pants back on he stopped and looked back at Merry. He was sure she was asleep, lying there looking so sweet and innocent. He finished getting dressed and hurried out of the room.
Alone again Merry stretched and redressed, then pulled the blankets over herself. She focused on Hunt and released her hold on her, allowing her to wake up now that she was done with Athens. She shifted her focus to Athens. He was confused and felt guilty. Merry closed her eyes and let herself drift off to sleep.
Athens headed back to the control room and was relieved to find Hunt still asleep. He sat back down at the computer and the chair creaked. Hunt stirred and woke up.
“Alix?” she said groggily. “How long was I asleep?”
“Awhile,” he replied as he glanced at his watch.
He still didn’t feel tired, but Hunt clearly still was. She stood up and stretched, but she wasn’t fooling anyone.
“Why don’t you go home for a while?” he offered again.
“I think I’ll just go lay down on the couch in the staff room,” she replied. “Are you going to be okay?”
“Yeah,” he replied, “I’m not tired at all, strangely.”
She nodded and left the room. Athens turned back to the monitor and fell deep into thought as he stared at the vampire. She misses her sire. This was nothing personal, she just wanted to be touched. This thing with Johnson made her feel weak and she just wanted to feel in control again. He hoped he was right.
Athens resisted the urge to rewind the footage and watch it. He didn't want Hunt or anyone else to walk back in while it was on the screen. He tried to think of a way to erase the footage, but he knew that the computer programmers had built in all sorts of fail-safes to ensure that not a minute of footage was ever lost.
He considered that he might have been able to stop recording before he went down to Merry's room, but then again, he hadn't intended to sleep with the vampire. But he had. And the proof was right there on the tape where Hunt could discover it at any time. And she'd probably kill him when she did.