CHAPTER FORTY-ONE: NATURAL
It had taken Demetrius and Octavia to hold Alex back from killing Peter, the person that he would never harm, not ever, not if he was in his own mind. But he hadn’t been in his right. Like a switch was flipped he had gone from being Demetrius’ Alexander to someone else. Someone who was nearly stronger than Demetrius and Octavia combined. Someone whose hunger had overcome reason and love and perhaps even sanity.
I can’t lose him now! I won’t let him destroy himself with Peter in this act!
Demetrius had Alex in a headlock while Octavia grabbed him around the thighs. They pinned him in a kneeling position on the floor. Alex’ fingernails raked Demetrius’ arms, drawing blood, the scent of which seemed to madden Alex even more. Even with his right forearm being shredded, Demetrius would not let go. He would never let go.
“Alexander, stop! STOP!” Demetrius screamed over and over to no effect.
“Alex! Alex, come back to yourself!” Octavia pleaded as he tried to knee her face. She avoided the blow and ruthlessly gripped his thighs again.
But as if Alex’s sudden madness wasn’t bad enough, what was worse was when Peter jumped towards Alex, reaching for him. The boy’s pupils were blown wide. His mouth was slack. His expression was utter enthrallment. It was the most powerful vampiric seduction that Demetrius had ever seen and Alex wasn’t yet trained in the vampiric arts, but evidently he was a powerful natural. Peter was essentially Alex’s plaything at that moment. He would do anything that Alex wanted. He would slit his own throat open and bleed out for Alex’s enjoyment.
“Alexander, release Peter! Do not do this! He is your brother!” Demetrius begged.
The Nomad grabbed Peter around the waist and snatched him up in the air, hugging the little boy fiercely against his armored chest. The child flailed wildly without regard to the bruises and cuts he was giving himself. Peter actually snarled at the Nomad, snapping his own square teeth at any part of the Grand Master Vampire that came near enough. Peter wanted to get to Alex. He would do anything to get to his older brother and give him his blood. The Nomad squeezed two pressure points on Peter’s neck and the boy went completely limp and unconscious. The Grand Master Vampire then literally disappeared. He was there one minute and gone the next.
Alex howled and suddenly slumped. All the fight went out of him. But Demetrius didn’t trust it. He didn’t believe that Alex was ready to just give up. After a long moment, Octavia cupped Alex’s face, raising it up so she could see into his eyes. She gave a start and nearly backed away from.
“Demetrius, his eyes are red! Why are they red?” she cried.
“Because they are like mine,” the Nomad said. He had appeared just as mysteriously as he had disappeared before, but he no longer had Peter in his arms. He moved Octavia out of the way and stood a few feet in front of Alex. The only thing restraining Alex was Demetrius now though Alex wasn’t fighting. Not yet. “Let him go.”
“What? NO! He still wants to go after Peter! I can sense it!” Demetrius shouted. His normal connection to Alex was showing only red. Waves of red. Blood platelets spinning end over end in an endless crimson sea.
“I am quite aware of this little ruse he’s playing. But he has to be taught ‘no.’ Have you never had a pet, Demetrius? Have you never had to hit a puppy on the nose when he has misbehaved?” the Nomad asked.
“He is one powerful puppy,” Octavia murmured.
“Yes, but he is my puppy and he will obey me no matter what,” the Nomad answered.
Demetrius rested his lips on the base of Alex’s neck. The young man shuddered and there was the tiniest dimming to the world of red between them, a glimmer of his Alexander. “Alexander, if you can hear me, you must fight this. You have to fight this. You would never forgive yourself if you hurt Peter.”
Another shudder ran through Alex and Demetrius was afraid that was one of desire.
“Let him go, Demetrius,” the Nomad repeated softly.
“You are certain of this?” Demetrius stared hard at the Grand Master Vampire.
“I am. Do it.”
Demetrius took in a deep breath and released Alex. He stood up. The Nomad gestured for him to stand back. Reluctantly, Demetrius did. His hands flexed at his sides. Every ounce of him wanted to gather Alex in his arms and hold him tightly, wait until understanding and reason returned to him. It would return.
And then he will be horrified.
Alex stayed still on his knees for exactly ten seconds before he launched himself at the Nomad. The Nomad simply stepped out of the way. Alex slammed into the wall, but had managed to turn so that only his shoulder hit it rather than his face. There was a resounding cracking sound as the plaster shattered and dust rained down from the ceiling. Demetrius winced and again, the need to comfort, to console, to reach out came back over him, but he was locked in place.
The Nomad is keeping me out of this. Damn him. Alexander is hurting! He can’t know what he’s doing? Why allow him to harm himself?
Alex’s head swiveled towards where the Nomad now stood, picking invisible lint off his arms as if completely unconcerned. This was the first time that Demetrius had seen Alex’s red eyes. While a normal vampire’s eyes glowed a neon blue, Alex’s looked like coals in a fire. They were as beautiful as they were alien.
“Is that the best you can do?” the Nomad taunted. “I took your food away and I will ensure that you never, ever get him.”
“Don’t! He’s getting angry,” Octavia warned.
“That’s the point. No matter how angry or out of control Alex may be, it does not matter, for I am the Master. I am the one in control,” the Nomad answered her. “This is a good lesson for you, Demetrius, if you ever have a fledgling that does not respond to your usual seduction, you must learn other means. This is one of them.”
“This seems like cruelty,” Demetrius gritted out.
“No, it is discipline. Alex must learn it now or he will forever be out of control at a moment’s notice. Would you have him put down, Demetrius?” the Nomad asked.
Demetrius gasped. “What? NO! NO! You cannot –”
“If he cannot be stopped now, then he will have to be. This is not a usual reaction. You know this. Unless he can return to us ... Do you understand the stakes?” the Nomad asked.
“You wouldn’t –”
“I love him, Demetrius, as I love you. Both of you are my children,” the Nomad’s voice was soft. “Would you have Alex become a murderous thing? Would you have to lock him up every hour of the day and feed him scraps? For that is what he would be and what you would have to do.”
“He’s not a thing!” Demetrius cried. “I feel him in there! Don’t you?”
“Yes, I do. I think he is strong. He is a fighter,” the Nomad said. “And I hope, I very much hope, he will win through. Can you win through, Alex? Shall you get your Second Life or earn your Second Death?”
Demetrius felt like he wanted to howl himself now. Alex had survived the change! He could not be taken away now! “Alexander, please. Please.”
Alex’s lips writhed away from his teeth. His teeth were different than a normal vampire’s as well. Instead of just the canines being elongated so were the teeth beside them. Four fangs. Long and sharp and incredibly dangerous. Alex made no sound when he moved again. He fought in a concentrated silence.
“He’s not done yet, Demetrius. Look at him rising up on the balls of his feet,” the Nomad said. “Already my blood is changing his body, transforming it into a majestic killing machine.”
This time instead of racing directly at the Nomad, Alex feinted right then left and then went after him, but it did no good. The Nomad sidestepped him again in a movement that was more blur than anything else. Alex stumbled. The Nomad then grabbed his arm and yanked Alex to face him. He grasped the young man’s chin and had Alex look up into his hood. At first, Alex snapped at him, but then the Nomad pulled the hood back slightly so that the young man could see his face and likely into his eyes. Demetrius found himself leaning over, wanting to see his Master’s face, too. But the Nomad dropped the hood fully back in place before he caught even so much as a glimpse of the tip of the Nomad’s nose.
Alex’s reaction though to seeing whatever was under that hood was profound. He was blinking rapidly and shaking his head as if to clear it. The red glow in his eyes cooled and a neon blue replaced it. He was trembling. His head jerked around in confusion. His eyes sought out Demetrius’ face.
“What’s going on, guys? How did I – how did I get – get here? Where’s Pete?” he asked.
“Alexander!” Demetrius cried. Relief like a cool wave washed through him. But he found he could say nothing more.
“Thank the gods,” Octavia whispered. She bowed her head as if in prayer, thanking whatever beings might control their fate, that her son’s lover had returned to them.
“What happened here? Something clearly happened here! Nomad, what’s the deal?” Alex asked.
The Nomad’s shoulders slumped for one moment and Demetrius knew that his Master was more then relieved at the prospect of Alex once again himself. He shook Alex lightly. “You were a very bad puppy.”
“I was a what now?” Alex asked, one eyebrow cocking up into his hairline.
Shockingly, the Nomad embraced Alex then for one quick moment. Alex was too caught off guard to do much of anything other than half attempt to hug back, but the Nomad had already stepped away and was brushing the front of his black outfit. He hissed, “Your blond hair is all over my clothes.”
“Yeah, that’s what happens when you hug someone. And since we already mussed you, let’s hug again,” Alex offered his arms to the Nomad.
“I think not. One hug a century is quite enough,” the Nomad sniffed.
“Okay, but now that I think about it. Why did I warrant a hug from you? What the heck happened to the wall? And where is Peter?” the last was said with increased fear.
“Peter is fine. I took him back to Sanctuary. He is with Babette, Isolde and Hans,” the Nomad answered.
“But how? And why? You must have just zipped him there, but …” Alex’s gaze darted around the room. “I don’t understand.”
“Alexander,” Demetrius whispered, but he stopped when he caught the Nomad’s gaze upon him.
“We will explain it all, but later, Alex. For now, you must … eat.” The Nomad put an arm around Alex’s shoulders and began to move him towards the dining room where the judge still was tied to a chair.
Alex craned his neck over his shoulder. “Demetrius, come with us. Please.”
The invisible bonds that held Demetrius in place were suddenly gone and the Master Vampire jogged over to them. He went to Alex’s other side and placed a comforting hand on his lower back. He glanced over at his mother.
“Go, Demetrius. I need to start figuring out what we need to do here to cover this up and the other house,” she said.
He nodded. “Thank you.”
She smiled. “Of course.”
“You look so pale, Demetrius. Yet before you were so flush with vampire blood, but not anymore,” Alex said as he looked up at the Master Vampire’s face. “Are you feeling alright? Do you need food?” Then memory flooded back into Alex’s face. He smiled hugely. “I – I can feed you, now. I can do what Babette does.”
“Not yet. You need to eat quite a bit first before that will be allowed,” the Nomad said.
“I don’t care about what’s allowed.” Alex scowled at the Nomad. “I only care about helping Demetrius.”
“And I thought I was the Master. You work your dire seduction even here. Amazing,” the Nomad murmured.
“Thank you, but no, my Alexander, I am fine. I am perfectly fine now,” Demetrius lied in part. He was not hungry, but he did feel weak and numb. First to love Alex then to regain him then to almost lose him again. That the young man thought of him when he must be bewildered and overwhelmed caused a wash of warmth to impact the numbness.
He is fine now. He is himself now. What happened? Why were his eyes red and they are blue now?
There were so many questions. He was almost grateful for the Nomad’s desire for silence. He would just enjoy the fact that his Alexander lived again, was himself once more. Their Second Life could begin together. There was plenty of time to find answers.
When they stepped into the dining room, Alex’s eyes went to his mother’s corpse on the floor. He quickly jerked his head away and buried it against Demetrius’ shoulder. “Mom.”
“I am so sorry, Alexander, that we did not get here in time,” Demetrius said.
“There could be no other way,” the Nomad answered simply. “And she would have wanted this if she understood the alternatives.”
“You can see the future?” Alex asked.
“I can see the streams of possibility,” the Nomad said. “Sometimes it is possible to force one’s boat to take a certain tributary … other times, no. But in almost no circumstance is there not loss for the ultimate good.”
Alex then realized why he had been brought into the dining room and put a halt to their forward movement. The judge was indeed still strapped to a chair. He looked like a wax statue. His eyes were like bore holes in his head and they moved with sluggish slowness to the three of them. He looked like he hardly cared whether he lived or died.
That is good for he is going to die. How many young men did he allow harmed? How many young men did he allow to go to prison or worse because his pedophile son? When I imagine what he had store for Alexander, I want to rip him apart myself.
Demetrius knew that the love of a parent for a child could be overwhelming. And sometimes that love blinded one to the evils that child had done.
Like Matthew. Who has escaped yet again … A wave of anger went through him, but he shook it off. Now was not the time.
“What – what are we doing here?” Alex asked.
“You know what we are doing here,” the Nomad said patiently. “He is the only human in this house and you need to feed.”
Alex’s lips writhed back from his teeth. Those teeth now looked to be a normal vampire’s fangs, but he clamped those lips shut just as quickly and shook his head. “No, no, I can’t. I can’t kill somebody, but I don’t think – I don’t think I could stop feeding if I started.”
“No, you cannot yet. You need at least the body of one adult male for this night and every night for at least a month,” the Nomad agreed. “Maybe longer.”
Will that keep the red eyes away? If so, Alexander shall feast every waking moment.
“But then I – I’ll kill him! Nomad, I –” Alex looked like he was ready to flee the room.
“Alexander,” Demetrius said Alex’s name softly, but the young man’s head whipped around towards him. Now was not the time for the cold, hard lesson that the Nomad would impart about feeding. Demetrius didn’t want Alex to think of feeding mixed only with death and fear. The Nomad actually stepped back and allowed the two of them to talk.
“Demetrius, I can’t do this. I really can’t.” Tears actually sprang up in Alex’s blue eyes. He was trembling like a leaf. “I’m hungry, but I don’t want –”
“Don’t want to be like the vampires who sat at this table?” Demetrius gestured to the table where House Graughan representatives had sat and drunk.
Alex vigorously nodded. “I don’t want to be a monster.”
Demetrius cupped Alex’s face and slid his fingers along the young man’s delicate cheek bones. “I will tell you a terrible secret: everyone is capable of being a monster. It is whether or not you choose that path that determines whether you are or not.”
Those tears fell and pattered on the floor. “Doesn’t killing him take me down the wrong path?”
Demetrius shook his head. “Tonight, this man will die regardless of whether you feed from him or not. He has seen too much and … he has earned his death.”
“Because of those boys he let his son hurt?” Alex’s voice was hoarse.
“Yes,” Demetrius said. He leaned in and kissed Alex’s forehead. He breathed the next words against Alex’s skin, “You will determine whether his passing is good or bad. You will determine if he floats into death as if one would into slumber or screaming into the blackness of it.”
“How do I make it like sleept?” Alex asked.
Having seen the young man seduce his brother in a moment, Demetrius knew what he had to say, “Will it. That is all.”
“If I can’t do it, will you? I don’t want to hurt him any more than I have to,” Alex said.
“Yes, but I do not think you will need my help,” Demetrius said.
“Come with me? I want to feel your hands on me when I do this,” Alex requested.
Demetrius nodded. This was unusual. Normally, vampires were very territorial about their food, not wanting another vampire near it, but Alex was in no way a normal vampire. Demetrius released Alex and gestured for the young man to approach the judge. Alex stepped towards the old man. One of his hands gripped the back of a chair. He was standing next to his mother’s body and he shuddered.
“Are you going to kill me, boy?” the judge asked. His voice sounded hoarse, but there was still some challenge in it.
“Yes,” Alex answered simply.
“Then get it over with. I won’t be played with any more than I already have been this night.” The judge sat up ramrod straight in the chair. His eyes faced down towards the other end of the table and not at Alex, Demetrius or the Nomad.
“Look at me,” Alex suddenly demanded and Demetrius heard the vampiric trill in those words.
He is an incredible natural.
“Magnificent, isn’t he? I knew he would be,” the Nomad whispered as the judge’s gaze immediately snapped towards Alex.
The young man walked towards the judge one step at a time. Slow. Measured.
“Why do you want me to look at you? You’re a killer. I’ve seen plenty of them in my day. Knew you were the moment I saw you in the hall with my son’s blood all over you,” the judge taunted.
“No, you didn’t see that at all,” Alex said.
The judge shivered. “I –”
“You saw another victim,” Alex said. He was now just two steps away from the judge. Demetrius moved slowly down as well, but kept a healthy distance back. “You saw another hindrance. Another problem. Another annoyance. Those are the things you saw. Admit it.”
“You want me to say things that I don’t feel so you cannot feel guilty about taking my life,” the judge said, but his lips trembled.
“Tell the truth,” the trill was like the most powerful undertow and the judge was pulled under. Even Demetrius had to shake his head.
“You shot my son. You shot him. He was innocent. You put those ugly things in your brother’s mouth to say. You did. My son was not what people said he was. He wasn’t! It’s all of you troublemakers and delinquents who made up stories about him!” Froth formed on the judge’s lips.
Alex shook his head. “Even now you can’t tell the truth!”
“No, Alex,” the Nomad said. “He thinks that is the truth. He’s told it to himself for so long that he doesn’t know it’s a lie. Imagine how many people he’s harmed with that belief. It’s rather breathtaking, I think. It’s almost – no, it is a service to get such a judge off the bench.”
“They were all liars! Whores! Perverts! My son was not!” the judge roared.
Alex looked over at Demetrius. “You know, I don’t feel so guilty anymore.”
Demetrius nodded. Killing the evil doers was always easier. Alex was at the judge’s side. The old man was breathing hard and sweat beaded his upper lip. His nostrils flared and his eyes were wide. They flickered over to Alex. This was not going to be a sensual moment for Alex. This would be all about food and perhaps that was all right for the first time.
“I’m not going to make this hurt,” Alex said. “I wouldn’t do that. Not even to you.”
Alex pressed a finger against the center of the judge’s forehead and the judge stopped fighting. His eyes emptied. His body went nearly slack. Again, this was something that only the most powerful of the vampires could manage, not a fledgling, but Alex had done it with ease. Demetrius felt the Nomad’s pride. Demetrius moved so that his hands framed Alex’s waist. The young man pressed one hand on top of his. He leaned back into Demetrius.
“I love you, Demetrius.”
“I love you, too, my Alexander,” Demetrius whispered into his hair.
Alex leaned down so that his lips were even with the old man’s ear and said, “If there’s a Hell, your son will be waiting there for you.”
Alex then sank his teeth into the judge’s neck and began to drink.