chapter ten: hunters and their prey
persephone; by rhetoric
word count: 975
Gabriel's wide, worried eyes were the first thing she saw. The second thing she noticed were the burns that covered one half of his face. Immediately panicked, she sat up and all the blood rushed around in her body. Light-headed, she accepted the support his hands offered when he reached for her, and shut her eyes until the dizzyness passed. When she finally was able to open her eyes and double-check what she'd seen, she nearly cried out. Gnarly, twisted burns covered Gabriel's entire left side. She was simultaneously enraged and devastated.
"Oh my God, Gabe," she squeeked out, tears already leaking from the corners of her eyes. "What happened to you?"
Gabriel's smile wavered when he offered it to her and her heart stuttered in her chest. Without warning, she could feel an enormous lump of guilt on the back of her tongue and she swallowed it down. It landed in her stomach with a heavy, wet, slap. The burn scars glistened in the dim light. She hadn't even bothered to look around, too stunned by his new face, but now she wanted to look away.
Her reflection was in his eyes and she couldn't get the thought out of her head that, somehow, she'd done this to him. That somehow, she was the reason behind his mutilation. Behind his pain.
"Listen, Seph, it's not important, okay?" His tone was soft but she could hear the steel behind it. He was battling with something. Was it telling her the truth? That she'd done this to him somehow, that he wasn't sure he could forgive her? Her hands shook when she reached out to touch his unscarred cheek, afraid her fingertips would worsen the pain of the scars.
"I'm so sorry," she said, entirely convinced that she had done it, now. The guilt seeped into her bloodstream like a black ink, spreading through her entire body. "It is important," she fumbled for words, then, her tongue only finding the taste of guilt instead of vowels or consonants. "It is so important."
He pulled her hand from his face and held it tightly. "No, Seph, the scars are not important. How are you feeling?"
"Me?" She paused, unsure of the situation. What was he asking about her for? He was the one who was injured, she thought; she felt fine. "I'm fine, but Gabriel, you have to -"
He interrupted her, and she couldn't help but notice he'd never done that before. "Are you hot? Cold? Nothing hurts?"
She shook her head as if dismissing his questions. "No, nothing hurts. What's going on?"
He frowned and the crease only appeared on one side of his mouth; the scarred flesh didn't move. "We have to go. If you're okay, we need to leave. Now." He didn't wait for her to respond. He pulled her up by her hand and led her across the room.
She realized, then, that they were in an abandoned hunting cabin, and it occured to her that she couldn't remember where she had been last. On her feet she was mildly dizzy again. Gabriel slowed, catching on, and slid his burned arm around her waist to support more of her weight.
She let him, and he led her out of the cabin hesitantly, his eyes wild and frantic as he searched the surrounding area for something she couldn't figure out. She wanted to ask what had him so paranoid, but kept her mouth shut. Now clearly was not the time. Before he closed the cabin door, he grabbed a black duffle bag from the table against the wall and slung it over his shoulder. It hit burns but he didn't flinch.
He helped her into the cab of his truck and buckled her in, brushing her hands out of the way to do so. His movements were quicker than usual.
The drive was silent for a while. Persephone wasn't sure what to say, what to ask first, and Gabriel didn't even seem to be aware of the silence between them. She could practically see the cogs and gears turning in his head.
"Who are we running from, Gabriel?" She asked, finally, unable to deal with the quiet any longer.
He glanced at her, worry lines creasing his forehead. "You don't remember?"
She blinked at him. Shaking her head, she said, "No, Gabriel. What day is it?"
"Fuck," he said, then again, louder.
"Why were we at a hunting cabin?" Time to get the facts, she thought, pushing off the anxiety that filled her at the prospect of amnesia.
"Because it was the first place I could think of that would be safe," he answered, his tone levelling out.
"Who are we trying to stay away from?" She held the question on her tongue for a long moment before asking. She wasn't entirely prepared for the answer.
"The hunters," he said, his eyes firmly ahead of him.
"They attacked us while we were at the beach," he explained. The first signs of exhaustion were beginning to show on his face.
"That's why you went to the cabin," she added, starting to piece things together vaguely.
"Right. It was only thrity minutes away, but it's far enough out of the way and out of our ordinary places that I thought it would be safe."
"Seems like it was," she said, "why don't we stay there?"
He shook his head. "No, it won't be safe for long. We have to find others," he said, "there were too many of them. If they're gathering, we need to gather."
"How? You know how rare it is to find another vampire." It all sounded a little implausible, if someone were to ask her.
"Yeah," he said, conceding her point, "but I have been getting the strangest feeling lately. Like we're not the only ones that have been finding others."