Ash shut her eyes and let out a heavy sigh. This was the fourth time she’d had to repeat herself. “As I said before, more than once if you recall the past five minutes, no, I do not know what it means.”
Arms crossed over his chest, scowling down at the small vampire, Tristan wasn’t so sure that was the one-hundred percent truth. Ash just had this way with the truth that wasn’t entirely… complete. The words of the pythia’s vision haunted his very conscious thoughts since Yuki spoke them earlier tonight. They terrified him in a way he couldn’t even begin to understand.
“Tristan,” she said, taking a step towards him. “If I knew, I would tell you and only you. It is your foretelling and only you have the right to understand it.” She took that last step between them that would put her just inches from touching him. Tentatively she reached out and put a hand against his chest when he didn’t pull away. “I have always been on your side. Never doubt my loyalty.”
She flinched back. “Pardon?”
“Why are you so loyal to me? What do you get from me? Out of this… arrangement. Because that’s all I see it as with the way things are now.” Maybe that was a bit harsh, but it was what he was thinking. Add his form of honesty of top of the mounting frustration and bad things started to come out of his mouth. You know, more than usual.
She stepped back, looking shocked and confused. “I…”
He took an angry step towards her. This wasn’t the sort of conversation he wanted to be having, but it needed to be said and now was as good of a time as any.
“I—I am not sure how to answer that.”
“It’s exactly as I said, what am I to you? Why do you feel this unwavering loyalty to me? Those were your words, just now. I want to understand them--you.”
She shook her head a little too frantically. She wasn’t trying to lie to Tristan when she kept parts of the truth to herself. Then, perhaps, she was simply lying to herself. There were many truths the man deserved to know, none of which Ash was ready to speak on. Not just yet. She was too confused by everything. “I cannot say,” she answered in a breathy voice.
Tristan made a rude noise through his teeth and pushed past her to go to the bedroom. “That’s what I thought.”
He was just about to shut the panel separating the main room from the sleeping space when Ash called out. “Why did you agree to this hunt?”
“Excuse me?” he drawled, turning around to face her. “I’m Uruwashi. It’s my job.”
She shook her head. “You and I both know that is not the real reason.”
God, he hated that she could read his mind so easily, as if he were an open book with big fucking print. “Stay out of my head.”
They stared at each other for a long time, both unwilling to back down. Tristan relented first and sighed. “I’m doing it for you. Lucien, I know what he did to you that night. I know he,” He took a deep breath. He couldn’t say the word out loud, it would be too insensitive. It was the look on Ash’s face that stopped him, made him mind his mouth for once.
“I know he hurt you. He’s hurt a lot of people, vampire, human, whatever. He needs to be stopped.” Tristan wasn’t sure if he really felt sympathy for the vampires that’d fallen victim to Lucien. It wasn’t because he didn’t know them but because he’d seen what they did to each other and to innocent humans. It wasn’t hard to have zero sympathy for creatures that killed indiscriminately for the pleasure of it. He only killed monsters to keep the humans safe. That was different, right?
Ash made a small noise and relaxed slightly, her fisted hands opening at her side. “Yes. You are right. He has hurt many. And you are Uruwashi.”
Tristan took a step closer thinking that they were on the same mindset.
“But, that doesn’t make you a God.”
He stopped, going rigid. “Excuse me?”
“Who are you to decide his fate?”
“You’re kidding me, right?” She knew what he was, his duty. Besides that, he needed to do this. He needed to hurt that man—that vampire.
She sneered, flashing the tip of a small fang. “We do not know his side of the story, perhaps he never did those things. Perhaps, if he did, it was not his fault.”
Tristan groaned throwing his hands up in aggravation. “Ash. Seriously, you’re giving me a fucking headache. Are you going to pull this shit every time I have a hunt or is there something else that’s bothering you? Some reason you don’t want to see Lucien die—” The second he said it, he understood. Everything made sense in a moment of shocking clarity. She didn’t want to kill Lucien. Oh god, he was wrong all along.
Back in October, Lucien showed up at Ash’s home on the premise of relaying a message. He ended up staying for a bite to eat, definitely more. Tristan found Ash crying and spotted in blood. When asked if she was okay, she told him very plainly that she and Lucien had once been lovers. Tristan never pressed further than that, but he was sure that while she might have slept with him in the past voluntarily, it wasn’t so consensual that night. That Lucien raped her, in body and blood. But now, right here, she was questioning Tristan’s duty as the last Uruwashi and he saw the truth behind her words, the things she said without speaking. She wanted to fuck and feed the vampire that night. She cared about Lucien.
Ash heard the thought as clearly as if he’d spoke aloud and gasped, stepping back. “No,” she whispered. “No, that is not...”
“I don’t fucking believe this,” he growled. “All you had to do was tell me the truth, Ash. Is that so fucking hard? I mean, how hard it is to say, please don’t kill him, I love him? Huh? How hard is it to say, hey, I can’t be with you after all, Tristan?”
She only stared at him, eyes wide with shock. She had no words for him, no excuse.
“I’m so done with this conversation.” He couldn’t even look at her any more. All this time that they spent together, the small moments they shared, as few as they were, were all for nothing. She’d been in love with someone else the entire time. God, he was so stupid.
He stopped, clenching his fists tightly, but couldn’t bring himself to turn around. He couldn’t even look at her right then or he might explode.
“That is not—I… sorry.”
When she said nothing more Tristan tsked angrily and started to walk away again. She made a tiny noise, it might have been the beginning of a word, sorry. He flinched, thinking about stopping and turning to her for just a brief second, but decided to walk away instead.
Sorry? For what? Sorry she had a thing for Lucien? Sorry he had a problem with it? Sorry she didn’t tell him sooner so that Tristan didn’t think they were some kind of couple?
It was stupid, really, thinking an Uruwashi and a vampire could be anything more than enemies. Guess he knew the true parameters of their relationship now. No more fucking around, he was going to go to France, whack Lucien and then go home, alone, to Maryland and start over, for a third time. It would be hard but he’d move into his parent’s home, go back to work, date, maybe get a dog. Do the normal shit normal people do and make a life for himself again.
Tristan shut the shoji behind him with a huffy sigh. He couldn’t believe the night he was having.
He went to turn on the hot water heater for the shower and then plopped down on his hard mat, an arm draped over his eyes. From the very beginning Ash had always been so ambiguous to him. Gender, needs, desires. He could never tell exactly what she was thinking and if what she was saying was even the full truth. But there had been one thing clear to him: that Ash wanted to be with him as much as he wanted to be with her.
After killing Malik and getting out of the hospital, Tristan found her at the burned remains of her home, reminiscing, reflecting. They said a few things to one another about their futures, together, the actual words lost to the haze of pain and drugs, but one thing in particular stuck with him. Simple, clear cut words that Ash had spoken: “I like you. I really do like you, Tristan.” As far as he saw it, Ash practically said she wanted to be with him.
So, what changed?
After Malik, the two moved into Tristan’s modest apartment while Ash tried to find the perfect home in the area Tristan wanted to live in Maryland that could support a woman of her habits. Being a vampire meant a laundry list of seemingly mundane things that didn’t mean shit to him, but he was okay with waiting. They were going to live together. Together.
Their time in waiting had been less than exciting, nothing nearly like those few weeks he spent being inducted into the vampire life. Every day was the same as the last: wake up after dark, eat, drive out of town, train, come home, shower, do random boring shit around the apartment, go to bed a few hours after Ash, sleep through the day.
Training usually involved either kendo, target practice or sparing with hand tools or just hands. And the random boring shit around the apartment never involved being any closer to Ash than an arm’s length away. There were no delicate touches, longing looks or deep conversation about what the other wanted for their future. Instead there were a whole lot of awkward, quiet moments filled with thoughts of what if. Two months and Tristan didn’t know shit about her. He did know they couldn’t share something as simple as a kiss safely, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t touch at all. That they couldn’t talk and do the other things couples did. Guess he misunderstood everything she said. He was just such an honest, forthright, blunt person that he forgot sometimes that not everyone was like him. In fact, Ash was the extreme opposite. In every way, it seemed.
Tristan heaved a sigh, got up from the bed and started to undress. The room was cold and he shivered as he climbed uncomfortably into the shower room, a space the size of a closet. Seriously, it was the tiniest room the Japanese could ever have made. It held a small square tub that was deeper than American tubs so that the water would come up to one’s chest, a small wall-hung sink and a removable shower head fixed on the wall. The entire room was lined in tiles, floor to ceiling—and even the ceiling. There was a drain in the middle of the floor, the whole five square feet of it, outside of the bathtub. The tub-shower area wasn’t fitted with a curtain, it was simply a closet with water.
He left the door separating the bath from the bedroom open. He was too American, too tall for the room to pull the door shut and be comfortable. He just hoped Ash didn’t come into the room.
The first few drops of hot water hit his skin and he sighed deeply, resting his palms on cold tile, head bowed under the water, letting it flow around his face, down his shoulders, warming and comforting him. He wished he could stay here forever like this, let the water just wash everything away. He really didn’t have time for this relationship bullshit but it was all he could think about. The fact that he was about to go to France alone and hunt down Lucien didn’t even bother him. It wasn’t even on his mind in that moment and that was a problem.
He tensed, suddenly aware of the burn in his middle. A cool hand touched his back a second after his Uruwashi blood warned him of her presence and he snapped upright, spinning towards the presence of vampire. He had to blink the water from his lashes, but he was sure he was seeing right. Ash was standing behind him. Naked.
He didn’t know what she was thinking coming in here like this. He couldn’t look at her, not and be able to tell her no. If she touched him again, he would let her help him forget his anger and he wanted to be angry. If he wasn’t angry, he’d never leave. And he needed to leave, it was obvious they didn’t belong together.
Tristan put his back to her. “What are you doing?”
“I just… I want to, I need to apologize.”
“Stop, just stop,” he said, resting his forehead against the wall. “You’ve made your position pretty clear, Ash. I was stupid for not noticing before. So, just… leave me alone and when I leave for this job, we won’t have to see each other again after that. Okay?”
“Tristan,” she said in a breathy voice. “You… you cannot—”
“Wrong. I can and am.” He shut his eyes, feeling the cool tile permeating his forehead. It killed him to say it, but I was time to call it, whatever it was they had. “Please, go away.”
“Tristan,” she said his name again a little more forcefully. “I only wish to fix the wrongs between us. I am trying to explain, to tell you I am sorry.” A cold hand touched his arm and the unmistakable feel of breasts and hips pressed against his back. Uruwashi blood ignited, that cold fire lit something wild inside him. He was burning up and something in him just snapped.
He spun with a speed a little too fast to be considered human, grabbed the vampire by the wrists, and flung her around, slamming her face down against the wall. He made a dangerous noise, something close to a growl, and pushed the naked line of his body against the back of hers, tightened his hold around her where he still gripped her wrists.
“Sorry?” he growled into her ear. “Sorry. Is this how you say sorry?” He pushed his hips against her backside, letting her feel him and she moaned. “You use your body instead of words? You whore yourself for forgiveness...?”
She whimpered under him, body tense with delicious energy. He could feel her fear and her complete need to give herself over to him. Whatever it was that made her what she was called to him. Like a cold wind that prickled along the aura of his soul, he felt her presence. He knew she was hungry, a starved creature of the night. She was a renegade of her kind, her will stronger than most. But the edges were jagged and torn, easily susceptible to being snagged. She was damaged.
She was completely and utterly his.
Tristan let go of a wrist and moved his hand down, pressed his palm over a flat stomach, feeling the outline of tense muscles under smooth flesh. She was breathing heavily now, but refused to move. She had no fight in her. Pity. His hand slipped lower, feeling the small plush of hair between her legs.
“Mmm,” he hummed against her neck. “You’re already wet here.”
She gasped when two fingers grazed across her opening and then slipped in smoothly. “That is because of what I am. Of who you are.”
“And what’s that?” he purred across her hot, damp flesh making her shudder. “What am I?”
She whimpered, body shaking with need. “You…”
“You shouldn’t make offers you don’t intend to follow through on, little vampire.” He wiggled the fingers inside her making her gasp loudly, slump against the wall.
“What…” She had to swallow back a moan. “What is it you think I am offering?”
He chuckled and then gave the curve of her neck a tiny, but slow lick. “Your delicious body, little vampire, what else?”
The breath left her in a shaky sigh. “What I have to offer, I offer no one but you. And I offer so much more…”
“Hmmm,” he answered in a hum, lips pressed to her neck again as he took tiny tastes of her pale flesh. The fingers in her twitched again, making her gasp and finally collapse completely in his hold. The little vampire was positively rank with the scent of submission. She wanted him to have her. Mixed with the perfume of her need was her blood. How he desired the sweet flavor within, the delicately aged nectar that was this Master vampire. And Master indeed, the power she held was greater than even she was willing to accept. She feared her love of such a power and he loved her fear.
He opened his mouth across the base of her neck and bit down hard, driving his teeth deep into her flesh. The little vampire cried out, tossing her head back, and writhed under him, not really trying to get away. She could, if she wanted really to, but she allowed herself to be violated under his wanton attentions. The falsity of her struggles only made him want to devour her more, body and blood. His fingers searched deeper, stroking with purpose as her labored breaths turned into moans. Teeth ground harder, angry and confused as to why her skin wouldn’t break, spilling forth what he longed for.
Then, the little vampire spoke. Was that a name she just whispered? What did she just call him?
Panic shot through Tristan and he gasped, releasing his hold on her neck and backpedaled until he hit the opposite wall. Wide-eyed and puffing for air he stared at Ash through a stream of cooling water. The back of her neck had faint teeth marks that were disappearing as he watched. Slowly she turned. Her face was clear of emotion, the mask she always wore to hide her true feelings. She licked her lips in a nervous gesture and took a small step towards him.
“No!” He tossed a hand up. “Don’t—the fuck was—Just stay away from me.”
Ash stopped and looked to him, expression still carefully neutral.
“Wha—what was that?” he whispered. “What’s happening to me?”
Ash frowned, her pale brows pinching, and reached out to him.
“Please,” he said, lifting a hand to hide his face and his shame, “go.”
The sound of bare feet against tile sounded away from him and he slipped to the floor, face in hands. Oh god. What happened just now? He—he felt like someone else. Something inside just snapped, switched off. Or on, as it was. He wanted her blood. Vampire blood. He could smell it, feel it flowing through her lithe little body. But more than that, he could feel her. The presence, life force, whatever you wanted to call it, that made her vampire. It was tangible, touchable. He felt as if he could reach out to that part of him that was wholly inhuman, the Uruwashi in him, and use it to grab ahold of her essence. And she would be his as a scion was to their Master. He could make her do whatever he wanted and she wouldn’t be able to say no. He had wanted her to give herself up to him in body and blood.
That same essence he felt in Ash, he realized he felt in himself. There was no doubt about it now, the Uruwashi in him tasted of vampire. Yuki was right, he was part vampire. But what happened to bring on this sudden change in the way he’d been for the past twenty-four years? Only two months passed since he discovered who he was. Besides the knowledge of what he was or the possibly of what he could be if bitten, nothing has changed. Well, except for the fact that he’s added one more thing to the list of deplorable acts he’s committed since his parents died—he hunted and killed a man. Just because the asshole had been dead for nearly six-hundred years didn’t mean Tristan still didn’t take his life. And yet, in the end, he felt no regret in killing Malik. Was all of this his slow transformation into becoming a monster? Or did that princess actually have the gall do something to him while he was sleeping? Shit, who was he kidding, she didn’t know how to not poke at things. Dammit all, he was actually going to have to talk to her again.
First things, first—deal with current events. This time though, it was his turn to apologize. He sighed heavily, thinking of what he was going to say as he finished his shower. He dressed quickly, barely drying off, and went out to the main room. “Hey Ash, I’m—” He stopped and looked around. The apartment was empty.
“Shit,” he sighed and went to the kitchen. There he found a note from Ash. It said simply, “Good night” and nothing more. Angry with himself for attacking her like that, he tossed the note away and slammed a hand down on the countertop. This was the first time she’d gone out without him since moving in. Maybe, for once, she was going to fill her craving for blood by feeding from a real live person instead of those mixed drinks she got from her pythia contact. He drove her to this, he chased her away.
He stretched out across the counter, face pressed to the cold laminate. He supposed it was better this way, they didn’t need to be around each other, in that moment or ever again. They were both just bombs waiting to go off. What was he thinking, hoping to have anything more with a vampire than the need to kill it? They may not have been meant to be together, but he didn’t want to kill Ash. Now was as good a time as any to get out. It was time they went their separate ways. He knew this, but could he really do it?