As Merry sketched an electric guitar in her notebook she remembered the night she met Lea. Of course, she had the advantage of having a blend of both Lea’s memories and her own.
Lea pushed the door open and stepped out of the smoke-filled club, glad for some fresh air. She stepped out into the alley and let the door shut behind her, trapping in the constant noise. She sighed, glad the show was over, then straightened up as she realized she wasn't alone in the dark alley. Three men were leaned against the dumpster across from her, smoking pot. They smiled at her with unfriendly smiles.
Lea turned and reached for the door handle, dismayed to find it locked. She pounded on it, hoping someone would hear her knocking, then turned back to face the men.
The men had moved closer to her. Lea's eyes flickered towards the street at the far end of the alley. She wondered whether to run or scream. She turned back to the men just as the sound of squealing brakes reached them from the street.
Merry's sharp vampire eyes had spotted the three men and one woman down the dark alley even as she had sped past in the “borrowed” sports car. She slammed on the brakes, then popped the transmission into reverse, not worrying about the gears she was grinding. She hit the gas and flew backwards to the entrance of the alley, then cranked the steering wheel hard to skid into the entranceway and disappear off the street.
The humans all stared at the approaching tail lights. They stood frozen as the vampire slammed the car into park and hopped out of the driver's seat. She left the ignition on and the door open as she walked fearlessly down the alley. The music still blasted from the speakers at a deafening level.
The men looked utterly confused, while Lea looked relieved not to be alone anymore, although none of them would have guessed that Merry was a match for any of the men, let alone all of them. Merry stepped up to Lea and took hold of her arm.
“Get in the car,” Merry ordered, looking into Lea's eyes to hypnotize her and make sure she was obeyed.
The small woman hurried into the waiting driver's seat and slammed the door shut. Merry's sharp ears heard the doors lock. She turned to the men as the music quieted.
“I dunno what you think you're doing here,” one of them said, finally finding his voice, “but if you think she's safe in that car you got another thing coming.”
Merry's glare turned to a wicked smile, confusing the men even further.
“It may be a sin,” the vampire said, “but I am REALLY going to enjoy this.”
The men stared.
“Enjoy what?” one asked.
Merry's eyes glowed red and she smiled wider to reveal her sharp fangs. The men's eyes went ridiculously wide as they all took a step back.
Lea sat in the driver's seat of the car. She wanted to run, or to go back inside the bar where her manager was no doubt wondering where she was, but she couldn't move. The stranger had told her to get in the car and here she was. She didn't turn around to see what was happening behind her, but she allowed herself a look in the rearview mirror.
Merry lunged forward and caught all three men by their throats, one in each hand and the middle one with her vicious fangs. She easily held them all against the brick wall behind them as she drained the life from the first man. When he was dead she leaned back to let his lifeless body fall to the ground, then she pulled the second man over into his place. She finished him off like the first, then turned her bloodstained grin to the third man, enjoying his look of complete horror before she bit him too.
Drunk with blood, Merry wiped her face on her sleeve as she staggered back towards the car. Her eyes and teeth returned to normal as she reached the passenger's side. She leaned over and looked in the window.
Lea stared back at her, shocked by what she had just witnessed in the rearview mirror. The vampire tapped on the window and indicated to the lock. Lea shook her head fearfully. Merry sighed and leaned her forehead against the glass as she closed her eyes for a moment. Finally she pushed herself off the car and headed back towards the men.
Merry had wanted to sit down for a moment before disposing of the men's bodies, but since the little human wouldn't let her into the car, she decided to finish her work first. Merry leaned over each body and slashed the throat open with her sharp fingernail, erasing the bite marks. She then lifted a manhole cover and stuffed the bodies down into the sewer below. The sewage and chemicals that the drain contained would quickly erase the wounds and identities from the bodies.
Finished with her task, Merry dusted her hands off on the front of her jeans before heading back to the car. Again she peered into the passenger's window, this time holding up the spare keys for Lea to see.
Lea considered pushing the car into drive and punching it, but she was afraid of what the strange woman might be able to do. She stared into the woman's deep, dark eyes, and found herself compelled to lean over and unlock the passenger's door. Merry slipped into the car and shut the door. She leaned back against the seat and closed her eyes.
“Are you up to driving?” Merry asked. “We shouldn't hang around after murdering three people.”
Lea stared at the strange woman, then looked down at the steering wheel. She carefully eased the car into drive and edged out of the alley.
“Wh...where too?” Lea stammered.
“Anywhere,” Merry replied sleepily. “How about your hotel? You can call your manager and tell him where you are and I can explain to you what happened back there.”
Lea nodded without replying. She drove cautiously, afraid to look at the stranger beside her. She was glad that it wasn't far to the hotel.
“Park down the street a bit,” Merry ordered, opening her eyes. She indicated a spot. “Over there.”
Lea obeyed, edging into the metered spot. She turned the car off and waited. Merry took a deep breath and pushed her door open. Before Lea could move, the vampire was opening her door. Lea stepped out and the strange woman took her hand like they were friends who'd been out on the town. Merry tossed the spare keys into the car and pushed the door shut.
“Shouldn't we lock it?” Lea asked, surprised. “And put something in the meter?”
“It's stolen anyway,” Merry replied, shrugging, before leading Lea across the street to the hotel.
Lea followed obediently as the vampire lead the way across the lobby to the elevator. She didn't question how the stranger knew which floor to pick or how she had liberated the room key from Lea's back pocket. Inside the room, Lea slipped her hand out of the stranger's and headed for the phone. She sat on the bed as she dialed, trying to act calm.
Merry flopped on the bed beside the small human. Her eyelids were heavy but she forced her eyes open as she concentrated on the human's words. Lea told her manager that she was in her hotel room and nothing more. She hadn't been brave enough to try anything.
Lea looked cautiously down at the stranger lying casually on the bed beside her. She bit her lip before speaking.
“Are you going to explain things to me now?” she asked, hoping she didn't anger the strange woman.
“Yes,” Merry replied.
Lea's eyes widened as she saw the vampire's eyes glow red. She wanted to run but something was holding her wrist with near-crushing force. She stared as her arm was slowly brought up to the stranger's long fangs. Her eyes rolled back into her head as the fangs pierced the inside of her wrist.
Merry took only a tiny amount of Lea's blood before pulling back and using their newly formed link to heal the wound. Lea swooned. Merry easily lifted her across to lie beside her on the bed. She kept her hand on the human's wrist where she had bitten her. Lea kept her eyes closed as Merry sent waves of information directly to her mind via their link.
At last Merry released the link and lifted her hand from Lea's arm. She forced herself to stand just long enough to get off the blankets, which she then rolled Lea up in before lying back down. Both of them drunk, Merry with blood and Lea with information, they soon succumbed to sleep.
Lea woke up just before noon the next day. She tried to free herself from the twisted blankets, to no avail. Merry sleepily reached over and tugged, uncovering Lea and covering herself. Lea sat up and shook her head to clear the cobwebs. She felt amazing. She looked down at Merry, who was nearly asleep again, and smiled.
Merry groaned as the small human pounced on her to hug her tightly. She didn't try to fight the blankets to return the embrace.
“Oh Merry, thank you!” Lea exclaimed. “For saving my life too,” she added. “I didn't thank you last night. But for THIS most of all.”
“Mmm hmm,” was all the reply that Merry could muster.
“When will you bite me again?”
This stirred Merry awake. She opened her dark eyes and looked at Lea.
“Don't be so eager,” Merry warned. “You're lucky that I had gorged myself before I bit you last night... It made it much easier to stop. Your blood is very... attractive. It's almost like I was supposed to bite you.”
Lea cocked her head, considering the words.
“I'm not afraid,” Lea said finally. “You won't kill me. Well, not until... you turn me.”
Merry tossed Lea off of her and rose from the bed. She strode to the window and carefully pulled the curtains open, just enough to allow a thin band of sunlight to fall on the carpeted floor.
“Don't be so eager for that either,” Merry stressed.
The vampire stuck her arm into the beam. Lea screamed. Merry let the curtain fall back into place. Lea rushed to her side, staring at where the vampire's arm still steamed. A red, blistered burn striped her shaking forearm. Lea cautiously put her hands on either side of the wound.
“There are things you'll miss,” Merry added, her voice slightly strained.
Lea looked up at her somberly. She nodded slowly. She looked back down at Merry's arm, shocked to see that the burn was gone. She looked back up at Merry questioningly.
“I'm really drunk,” Merry replied. “It should take longer, but I had enough blood last night to last me three weeks.”
She yawned widely, drawing her lips back to expose her teeth. She stretched, freeing herself from Lea's grip.
“Do you mind if I go back to sleep?” Merry asked sleepily. “I am nocturnal.”
“Sure,” Lea replied. “I have to call my manager anyway. He'll be wondering what happened last night.”
“What are you going to tell him?” Merry asked, trying to sound uninterested, as she crossed back to the bed.
“Relax,” Lea replied, rolling her eyes. “Of course I'm going to lie to him.”
Merry nodded as she crawled back into the bed and pulled the covers over her head. She drifted in and out of sleep as Lea sat beside her talking on the phone. The conversation grew more tense with every word. When Lea slammed the phone down angrily, Merry gave up on sleep. She pulled the covers back, sat up, and wrapped Lea in a hug.
“Do you want me to kill him for you?” Merry offered.
“Yes,” Lea sniffled.
“Don't tempt me,” Merry warned jokingly.
“I can't believe him. Just because I don't do an encore for the three people in that dump who were even listening, he dumps my contract.”
“I'll get you a new agent,” Merry replied. “By tonight,” she added.
Lea leaned her head against Merry and forced a smile.
“Who would you like?” Merry continued. “Usher? Howie D?”
“I don't care,” she replied. “I don't know if I even want to bother anymore. Maybe I should just get a real job.”
Merry spun Lea around to face her.
“Think long and hard about this, Lea,” Merry said sincerely. “I can set you on the path to success, where your talent and your hard work will take you to the top. But if that's not what you want, I'll put you through college or an apprenticeship or whatever you choose. I want to say 'don't give up on your dream', but it's your decision.”
Lea hesitated, then gently slid from Merry's arms and stood up. She paced near the window. Merry waited patiently, not intruding on Lea's thoughts. Finally Lea spoke.
“I want to sing,” she said.
Merry smiled and nodded. She closed her eyes and reached out through the network of vampire links. Now Lea waited patiently until Merry opened her eyes again.
The phone rang, startling Lea. Merry's smile hadn't faded. She nodded at the phone.
“You should answer it,” Merry said knowingly.
Lea hurried to the phone and answered it shakily. Merry grinned as she vanished from the bed and into the bathroom. She returned after a relaxing shower, her mane of bronze hair slicked back Bela Lugosi style, complete with widow's peak. Lea had finished her phone call and was practically vibrating with excitement.
“Do you know who that was?” Lea asked. “Damascus! THE Damascus!”
“Of course I do, Lea,” Merry replied as she sat on the bed. “I arranged for her to call you.”
“Wow,” Lea said, not really to Merry, as she flopped backwards onto the bed. She stared, smiling, at the ceiling. “She wants to meet with me tomorrow. I can't believe this. Last night I thought I was going to die and today... I've never felt so ALIVE!”
Merry smiled at her. She dug in her pocket and retrieved a stack of hundred dollar bills. Lea sat up slowly, staring wide-eyed at the money.
“Here,” Merry said, offering most of the stack to Lea. “Buy yourself some new clothes and good food. Get your hair done and your nails... Pamper yourself a bit. Get a massage or a facial.”
“I can't accept this,” Lea replied, stunned, as Merry put the cash in her hand.
“Don't be silly,” Merry said. “Of course you can. I said I'd put you on the right path. You have to look great and feel great for tomorrow. Besides, you haven't eaten anything in hours. I know that makes me cranky.”
Lea stared down at the money in her hand. She looked up at Merry.
“Now go,” Merry ordered, shoving the small human lightly. “I want you back here before sunset so I can say 'goodbye' before I leave.”
Lea had risen from the bed, but she froze at Merry's last word.
“Leave?” she repeated. “You can't leave.”
“Lea, I stole a $100,000 car last night and killed three men. And kidnapped you. I can't just hang around waiting for more trouble to find me. I won't be far. If you need me I'll be here, but you'll be fine. It won't take Damascus long to get you a bodyguard; she'll see how valuable you are.”
“How will I get a hold of you? Do you have a cell phone?” Lea asked, still clearly not wanting the vampire to leave so soon.
“I do,” Merry replied, “but we don't need phones to speak to each other.”
Lea was shocked to hear Merry's voice in her head. It made her wrist tingle where the vampire had bitten her. She touched the spot before looking at Merry.
“Shouldn't it take longer to form a link this strong?” Lea asked, remembering some of the things Merry had told her about vampires.
“Normally, yes,” Merry answered, “but I made a point of building the bond last night while I was explaining things to you. It will strengthen more with time and each time I bite you, but this will do for now.”
Lea nodded. She touched her wrist, comforted by the connection to Merry.
“You'll still be here when I get back, right?”
“Okay, I'll see you soon then,” Lea said as she slowly headed for the door.
“I'll be here,” Merry stressed.
With the room empty and quiet, Merry crawled back into the bed and dozed off to sleep.
By now Hunt was used to the strange dreams and she had a sneaking suspicion that Merry had something to do with them. She still had no idea that Merry had linked to her, so she didn’t know that her dreams were actually formed from Merry’s memories and that whenever she saw herself and Athens, it had originally been Merry and Davide.
An old, reoccurring nightmare startled Hunt awake. She glanced at the clock. It was just after noon. An hour later she resigned herself to the fact that she couldn't fall back to sleep and finally got up. After finding that there wasn't anything that she wanted to do at home, Hunt headed to work.
Josie was surprised to see Dr. Hunt.
“Is something wrong?” Josie asked.
Hunt shook her head.
“I just couldn't sleep,” she replied.
“You should ask the vampire for some tips,” Josie suggested, indicating the monitor.
Hunt leaned in to see Merry sleeping soundly. She lay on her back, still dressed and on top of the blankets. Her head was flopped to the right, facing the wall, and her left hand hung off the edge of the bed.
“She stayed up writing at her desk for hours,” Josie commented. “Finally she flopped on the bed and she hasn't moved much since... Actually, she hasn't moved at all for a couple hours.”
“Is that normal?” Hunt asked. She was never there during the day, so she had never watched Merry sleep.
“No,” Josie replied. “Usually she rolls over or moves her arms or legs fairly often. I think she might have 'restless leg disorder'. Or she dreams a lot.”
“I wonder why she's lying so still today,” Hunt said, mostly to herself. “I'm going to go check on her.”
“Uh, okay,” Josie answered. “Um, what do I do if...?”
“She won't hurt me,” Hunt replied as she disappeared out of the room.
Hunt opened the door and stepped into Merry's room, expecting Merry to sit up and greet her. She was surprised when Merry didn't move at all. Worried that something was terribly wrong, Hunt rushed to Merry's side, letting the door close behind her.
Hunt grabbed Merry's left hand, which still hung off the side of the bed. She gasped and recoiled, shocked at how cold Merry's skin was. Hunt placed her hand on the side of Merry's face and found her cheek was just as cold. Afraid that Merry was dead, Hunt touched her neck in an attempt to find a pulse. She repositioned her fingertips several times, but couldn't discern a heartbeat.
Merry chuckled and grinned, startling Hunt, who drew her hand back. Merry stretched all of her magnificent muscles, cracked her neck and back, and yawned widely, before settling back down and finally opening her eyes.
“I'm sorry,” Merry said, still smiling. “I shouldn't have let you worry.”
“What happened?” Hunt demanded, still staring wide-eyed at the vampire.
Merry offered her hand to Hunt, who took it as she sat on the edge of the bed. Merry's hand was much warmer than it had been, although it was still cool.
“When we are at rest our heartbeat slows to almost nothing,” Merry explained. “It's where the term 'undead' came from. And the practice of sleeping in coffins.”
“You really sleep in coffins?!” Hunt asked, shocked.
“In the past, some vampires did it as a way to protect themselves from 'witch hunts'. If someone came across a vampire sleeping in a coffin, they would assume that they were a dead body during wake, and would continue their hunt elsewhere.”
“Makes sense,” Hunt replied. “Why didn't it happen when you were tranquilized?”
The vampire shrugged.
“The drugs must have affected my metabolism so that my heart rate never slowed.”
“Not that I mind your company,” Merry said, “but why are you here. It's the middle of the day.”
“Oh!” Hunt replied, realizing that Merry's eyes were half closed and her skin was still cool. “I couldn't sleep. You didn't seem to be having any trouble though. Josie said that you weren't even moving around like you usually do at night.”
“Do I?” Merry asked. “I guess no one has ever watched me sleep before.”
“You must be especially tired tonight to be lying so still,” Hunt commented. “Any particular reason?”
“It's the lab blood,” Merry admitted. “It's not... nourishing enough. It's cold, it's dead, it's... hard to explain.”
“Oh my God, really?” Hunt asked, horrified.
“It's enough to keep me alive, but just staying up later writing in the notebook for you has tired me out more than it should. With enough fresh blood I can go for days without feeding, but not with that dead stuff.”
Hunt offered Merry her wrist without hesitation. Merry smiled appreciatively and gently took hold of Hunt's arm.
“Thank you,” Merry said softly.
Her eyes turned red as her fangs extended. Her hand was cold on Hunt's skin. Her breath was warm. Her bite was sharp but her touch made everything seem alright.
Merry was careful not to take too much. She drew back and placed her palm over the wound, healing it over through her link with Hunt.
Hunt opened her eyes. Merry just wanted to close hers. Hunt touched her wrist lightly.
“Better?” she asked.
“Much, thank you,” Merry replied. “Although I'll still need a good day's sleep.”
“I should let you rest,” Hunt said. “I wish I could do the same.”
“Would you like me to help you with that?” Merry offered.
“How?” Amy asked, leaning back slightly.
“I could hypnotize you into falling asleep as soon as your head touched your pillow and sleeping deep and dreamlessly until your alarm clock rang.”
Hunt mulled it over in her mind. She had let Merry bite her and enter her mind to share memories, but she was hesitant to allow her to actually influence her actions.
Merry waved her hand in front of Amy's eyes, drawing her back to the situation. Merry actually looked tired and kept blinking in an attempt to keep her eyes open.
“I'm not sure that's the best idea,” Hunt finally said. “I just...”
Merry sighed and reached for her sunglasses on the desk. She pulled them on, then took Amy's hands.
“Close your eyes and relax,” Merry said.
“Breathe deeply,” Merry continued. “Listen to the sound of my voice. Know that you are in control of your body and that what you wish will be done. Breathe and relax. It is time for your body to sleep. You are in control of your body. When you go home to bed you will fall asleep quickly and sleep soundly until you are awakened by your alarm. Breathe. You will not sleep through anything important, but you will not be disturbed by nightmares or noises. Relax. You will awaken rested and refreshed, without any grogginess, and be ready to work. Breathe. You are in control of your body. Relax.”
Hunt sat still and continued to breathe deeply for several moments after Merry drew her hands back, removed the sunglasses, and lay back down. Merry's eyes slid closed as Hunt opened hers. Hunt was smiling. She was confident that Merry's words would make her sleep restfully as soon as she returned home. She didn't know that Merry's touch had ensured that her words would be obeyed.
Hunt reached down and stroked Merry's cheek with the back of her fingers, as if she was someone she had known for many years. Hunt withdrew her hand suddenly, not because Merry's cheek was cool, but because she wasn't sure what had compelled her to touch the vampire. Deciding that it was a byproduct of the hypnosis, Hunt calmly rose from the bed and let herself out of the room.
Alone in the darkness, Merry smiled. Her hold on Hunt was growing stronger. The human was drawn to her like a magnet and it had reached the point where she sought the rush of endorphins that Merry's touch triggered in her brain. Merry would have to be careful now not to rush things, but she knew that it wouldn't be long now.
Hunt listened to the radio on her way home, keeping time with the beat by drumming her fingers on the steering wheel. She was tuned to an “oldies” channel, and as the DJ came on to remind the listeners that they were listening to “the hits from yesteryear”, Hunt had to smile. Merry would have heard all these songs when they were first released. The vampire might have heard Chopin perform live. What a change it must be from Mozart to Motown and Beethoven to Backstreet Boys.
Just as Merry had said, Hunt had no trouble falling or staying asleep. The few hours of sleep she received were filled with dreams, but no nightmares, and she awoke at her regular time feeling like she had slept for a week.