Lazarus stood in the doorway a moment, looking at Melissa’s beautiful form through the dim room. He shuffled into the room, lying down near her feet, using the books as a pillow again. She was already asleep, quietly resting in the corner. Sleep swept over Lazarus swiftly and for the first time in centuries, his dream was not one of falling. He was running, Melissa by his side, her hair rippling eerily in the dark as they fled from whatever it was behind them. He didn’t look back, as much as he wanted to; he wanted to see what it was they were supposed to be running from. The acrid smell of burning taunted his dreams and he turned over in his sleep with a groan, trying to escape the stench.
‘Lazarus!’ Melissa screamed, somewhere inside his mind, in the dream and right in his ear. She tugged at his arm and his eyes snapped open. ‘Wake up you useless...!’ she swore violently and he sat up, alarmed that the smell of smoke hadn’t disappeared the moment he left the dream. The panic in Melissa’s voice sent the adrenaline pumping through him and he scrambled to his feet, his hand gripping hers as tightly as possible.
The flickering, angry orange of the fire was spreading across the building from the servant’s quarters. It licked at the damp building almost delicately and it was hypnotic, the way it so carefully destroyed the shell of the manor. Melissa tugged his hand again, pulling him to the front door. As they pushed out into the cold air, Lazarus noticed that hardly any time had passed between him closing his eyes and being woken up again. The early morning light was brightened by the glow from the fire.
A shadow flickered in the trees to their left and Lazarus, noticing this, turned left. They were being herded towards the town. Cursing, he dived into the woodland ahead of them, hoping to circle around the house and throw the shadow off. The freezing air assaulted Lazarus, chilling his lungs as he gulped in air desperately trying to relieve the cramp forming in his muscles from running in the cold. He dropped Melissa’s hand and doubled over, coughing.
‘What’s wrong?’ Melissa’s worried voice hovered tentatively above him as he tried to make his lungs work again.
‘It’s too cold,’ he gasped. Melissa stripped off her coat and wrapped it around him, hoping it would be enough.
‘Lazarus,’ she murmured. ‘Come on, we need to keep moving.’ He straightened and pulled the cold coat around his frame tightly. It didn’t fit very well, and as skinny as Lazarus was, Melissa’s form was still smaller than his, making it a tight fit. But he could put his arms through the sleeves and as his own body heat warmed the material up, he began to feel a bit better.
‘Thank you,’ he said, trying to smile, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that they were being followed. He continued to lead them left, eventually breaking the semi circular route they had been following.
‘Wait, where are you leading us?’ Melissa asked.
‘Did you not see?’ He replied breathlessly, not stopping.
‘See? See what?’ she asked.
‘You should make more use of your powers, Melissa,’ he commented wryly as he vaulted over a fallen tree trunk in his path. Melissa, on the other hand simply jumped with a graceful ease that he could never match, as if to prove him wrong. He rolled his eyes and kept running. ‘There was a person. I didn’t see who, but they were watching.’ He growled, annoyed he hadn’t had more time to take in details.
‘A person?’ Melissa’s eyes widened unhappily. Lazarus’ senses were in over drive, partially from the transformation earlier, partially from the rushing adrenaline.
‘I think they were responsible for the fire.’ He muttered mostly to himself.
‘Hunter?’ Melissa’s voice was grim as she asked and Lazarus didn’t answer for a while. There was a bang and a sharp crack as something flew past the two of them, embedding itself in a tree in front of them. Lazarus swore loudly and paused, ripping the object out of the tree. He carried it tightly in his fist until Melissa decided to ask him what the thing was. He uncurled his fingers and revealed the shiny little thing in the palm of his hands. It took a second for her to take it in. A bullet.
‘Silver. We have a hunter on our trail.’ Lazarus confirmed, shoving the bullet in his pocket, scratching at the small burn the metal had left on his skin. Neither of them dared stop, just running through the trees, each of them hoping that the bare, dead woodland would be enough to cover them, to hide and protect them. Lazarus pushed on beside Melissa’s side, his muscles aching angrily, protesting against the adrenaline and the cold. Melissa still ran with ease. Of course, she wouldn’t have any problem with running this fast for any length of time. She’s just sticking to this speed for me. Idiot! He felt himself slowing, though he tried so hard to keep going, clenching his jaw against Melissa’s concerned glances.
‘Lazarus! Where are we going?’ Melissa asked after a while, realising that he was simply leading them in a long, winding circular route through the woods to try and throw the hunter.
‘Straight ahead, once we get to the edge of the town, we’ll go left for a few miles,’ He called back, crashing towards the town with a dogged determination. His voice carried through the trees and Melissa understood; he had no intention of heading left once they got out of the woods. He moved closer to her and whispered: ‘We’re going right when we get to the edge, not left.’ She nodded once to show that she had taken it in, though she had hardly needed telling. The first signs of the town beyond began to appear, a rundown tarmac road replacing the crack of twigs beneath their feet and small buildings were silhouetted against the rising sun’s light.
‘Now?’ Melissa whispered above the slapping of their feet and the stifling silence of the hunter. Lazarus nodded and followed as Melissa tore off to the right. Eventually Lazarus came to a weary stop, letting himself collapse to the floor of a dark alley where the sun had no hold. He was panting for breath, shivering, clutching at the coat around him.
‘You need some clothes,’ Melissa muttered, ‘and food. Wait here. I think we lost the hunter, you should be okay for a few minutes while I get you some stuff.’
‘I’ll be fine,’ Lazarus coughed and pushed himself up, sitting back against the wall.
‘You’re exhausted. I’ll be back in a couple of minutes. Stay here.’ She disappeared, taking advantage of her vampiric abilities for once.
‘I love you,’ he muttered, wondering if she was gone too fast for him to hear. I love her. But she doesn’t deserve this. I know how much she hates running away. It’s not like I enjoy it, and I’m certainly out of practice – look at me! Sitting in an alley, out of breath and shivering with the cold, waiting for a vampire to run back in the sunlight with stuff I should be perfectly able to get myself! He sighed and looked around. His breaths were still too fast, but slowly his heartbeat slowed to a relatively normal pace. I can’t keep doing this to her. He picked himself up and looked around the corner beyond the alley. Lazarus began to walk, his winter blue eyes cast down with shame and regret.
I’m sorry, Melissa. I won’t make you run any more.
Ohhh cliff hanger, eh? You'll have to see what happens in the sequel won't you *grin*
We hope you enjoyed reading it as much as we enjoyed writing it. Ttfn, from Stella and Phoenix