Stop and Stare

Some content written in italics further along in the chapter are unsuitable for those under the age of 15. You've been warned. Don't blame me if you're tainted. It's not that bad, but there will be worse as this story continues, I can guarantee. Enjoy!

Chapter Two - Stop and Stare.

Nyx's POV.

Since her arrival at Myrnin's lab, Nyx had felt a strange discomfort burning through her mind and body. It made her feel… Unwelcome, not wanted. Which, she knew, was correct. Her instinct was hardly ever wrong - like now, for instance. She let out a gentle, exasperated sigh as she worked feverishly at one of the lab tables. She'd shed her jacket and it lay nearby on the arm of a chair, and her skin had taken on a faint pink tinge. She frowned gently as she inserted a needle into her arm, drew some of her blood from a vein without the assistance of a tourniquet, and deftly took an unused glass slide. Two drops of the crimson liquid flared against the clear surface and marred it, then she covered it with a cover slip and put it on the plate of a microscope. Changing the lens, she peered at it a moment, then took a pencil in her left hand and began to scribble down notes.

''What have you come up with so far?''

Myrnin's voice, lazy yet intrigued, drifted over to her ears from where he sat at the opposite end of the lab. He perched on a stool, observing her work from afar and reading a thick, leather-bound book.

''Take a look,'' she snapped, not pleased she had to spill blood for this. He rose an eyebrow but did not object, and stood, tall with graceful movements, and came to stand next to her. She grunted and hopped up onto the marble top beside the microscope, taking the notebook she'd found in hand as he peered through the eyepiece. She began to read aloud from what she'd written. ''Blood type A - a Morganville vampire of a considerably young age - lacks the vampiric cells that make a vampire function properly. These cells aren't being delivered in large quantities to the muscles and tendons, therefore, making the vampire weaker. Their blood intake is too low, this also being a contributing factor. Blood type B - my blood - has more advanced cells in two single drops. These cells are delivered all around my body in equally large amounts, and because I am healthy, there are enough cells to reproduce. My blood intake is the same as a Morganville vampires', though.''

Myrnin's nostrils twitched slightly. ''Your blood has a different scent.''

Nyx winced. She had hoped it wouldn't be noticeable, but she quickly kept talking in hopes of distracting him. ''There is a conclusion, though not a stable one; the vampires are losing their ability to create new, stronger vampires because of a certain sickness that took place within their systems seventy odd years ago. Is that correct?'' she asked softly.

''Yes, indeed,'' snapped Myrnin, ''but that is not the cause! We cured that disease - every vampire got a dose.''

''Perhaps the infectious bacteria - if you can mould biology that far - weren't fully destroyed. Perhaps the disease isn't as it was. Perhaps… The cells adapted.''

''Adapted to what?''

''The cure. Obviously, it wasn't enough. Now, it's not causing deterioration in vampires - it's just causing them to become weak, maybe it will eventually cause them to become no better than a mortal.''

Myrnin studied her then. It wasn't just a cool, quick assessment. No, his eyes grazed along every inch of her, and she could almost hear the gears grinding in his head. What was he thinking? Was he suspicious of her? He had every right to be - she would be too, if in his position. His eyes finally halted on her face, and she bit the inside of her cheek. A habit she'd probably never overcome. ''You've changed,'' he said, so softly she barely caught it. Then he snatched the notebook from her hands, and read over it, muttering. ''If that is to be the outcome, we cannot stop it. Your blood is stronger than all of ours put together, but to cure all of the vampires, we would have to drain you dry which I feel is not fit for a guest.''

''Damn straight!'' she said defiantly. A streak of anger hazed her vision red. ''Injecting my blood would do nothing for them, only give them a boost of strength until their own blood broke it down - which is extremely dangerous for bloodlines that are not linked, and I assure you, I am not linked to any of these kittens,'' she sneered, her fangs lengthening from their small, sharp points. Myrnin stared at her with a fascinated expression. The growl receded in her throat, and all of a sudden, she felt very childish.

''What?''

''Your fangs. They grew from your original canines.''

''Obviously.''

She frowned at him, bemused but curious at how he had stated that - as though he'd never seen a set of fangs before. Then, before she could even so much as blink, his hand wasaround her throat and her back was pressed against a wall - his body was frightfully close, and she felt smaller than ever. Her midnight blue eyes shone with a silver gleam, a glitter of terror shimmered in their depths just as flames of crimson flickered in Myrnin's. His nails broke her skin, and she felt a shock as her blood spilled onto his fingers. She wriggled against him. ''Stop!'' she gasped, horrified and furious as hell.

''No.'' He said it firmly, and an accusing glare took to his facial features. ''Not until you tell me who and exactly what you are.''

''I'm Nyx!'' God, were these the fits of lucidity Claire had mentioned? But he seemed so… Calm. For a vampire, anyway. Though his grip was crushing and painfully uncomfortable. ''I'm a vampire! You know that! Let go of me!''

''Yes, I am aware, but you smell so different… You're one of us, but what kind?'' he asked, then bent close to sniff at her throat. The other side, the one without his nails. She felt his fangs graze her milky flesh, and she resisted the urge to do something rather unpleasant - or scream. Instead, she did what she'd been brought up to do; turn on the charm. Despite his hand, Nyx pressed her body forward, her skin barely brushing against his. Her hand, the free one, gently glided along his torso, her touch feather-light and enthralling; inviting. He went deathly still as her fingers made contact with his throat, working their way into his glossy locks. His grip slackened slightly, and she nearly breathed in. She stood on tip-toe to reach his ear, and when she did, she let her lips brush against it as she said, ''Release me, and I'll tell you all that - perhaps even more.''

Myrnin's hand slipped from her throat, and he staggered back. His body fell against a lab table, and he was noticeably breathing. Nyx put a hand to her throat, and felt wetness there, then the wounds healing. She took her hand away, wiped the blood on her pants, and slowly advanced towards Myrnin. He looked at her, like a deer trapped by a pack of wolves, but he made no move to get away. Slowly, with a strange feeling burning through her, she took his blood-stained hand into hers, and rose his slender, pale fingers to her lips. Her velvet-like tongue snaked out and licked with gentle precision the blood from his fingers, staring into his eyes while she did it. She felt the tension drain from his body, then released him, stepped way, way back, and let a shudder run through her own. God, that was weird.

Silence, while Myrnin caught his breath (quite literally) and she watched him warily. And then, he looked back at her.

''Go on, then, inform me of your mysterious ways.''

Nyx hesitated. She couldn't help it. For centuries, she'd kept her secrets, and if ever someone got close enough to learn them, she'd have them lain at her feet before they could even blink. Harsh, but necessary. She didn't want anyone to know anything about her, mostly because it let people in - they could always use that against her in the future if ever the opportunity arose. She gnawed the inside of her cheek, and took her place back up on the marble counter. ''It is a long story.''

Myrnin snorted. ''I have time. Too much of it, I believe.''

Nyx nodded, and began. ''I tell no one of my origins, nor how I became to be a vampire, so do not take offence. If you pry, I will see to it you will be miserable while I complete my stay,'' she said with an edge to her voice, then cleared her throat, ''but I can assure you, I have been called many things in my younger life. The reincarnate of Nyx, the Goddess of Night, the Goddess herself, a curse, Calypso, a Titan, and the like. Perhaps some of these were right, and perhaps others weren't. The point is, I have a long line of history behind me that causes fear and terror wherever I am known. It got a little bit lonely. Until, I decided, I was sick of life. Of the high, all-mighty life, and so, I went to a brothel. I moved from house to house, from country to country. I was a whore, and nothing more than that. But… There's something…'' she trailed off, and blinked. ''I was in Ireland. In a brothel, and I got a… customer. He was so unusual, so different to all the other men. It affected me somehow, but I can't… He may have been a vampire, or may not, but I cannot say for sure. It's too unclear.''

She looked up from her sleek lap to see Myrnin watching her with a look of misery and loss. Longing. She cocked an eyebrow, and quickly, the emotion vanished like a wisp of smoke from his face. He motioned for her to continue. ''But… He's the reason I stopped it. He's the reason I began to study Alchemy and all science. I wanted to do something not everyone else could. It turned out I had an exceptional mind, and it was easy for me. I was famous, a worshiped scholar, but there was always competition. And so, I just… Stopped studying what I wanted, what I thrived to do, and began to kill my enemies. Vampires.''

''So, you assisted in our decline?''

''I created that decline,'' she snapped at him with severe impatience. ''Do you know how much it wounded me, to see my failed creations wander around, flaunting what they were to humans who were so afraid of difference?''

And she froze. Oh, God, she'd just blurted something out that perhaps she shouldn't have. She squeezed her eyes shut like a child about to get in trouble. ''Your creations, meaning… You created some of the most powerful vampires in the world,'' he said softly, astonished and a tremor of delight running through his voice. ''This is fantastic! If you create one more master vampire, then our race can be saved!''

Nyx breathed a sigh of relief. He didn't understand, not fully, what she'd said. ''Yes, I could, and yes it can.''

''I have a feeling you're going to drag this experiment out,'' he said, looking conflicted, and rather annoyed. He had every right to be. Would she do it? Not straight away. She smiled, an evil quirk of her lips. ''No. I just made a vow some years ago I would not create any more high-rank vampires.''

She saw Myrnin lunge for her this time. He came forward, a blur of fury, and she slid with effortless grace from the counter top, hit the floor and rolled to her feet in seconds. Her body was crouched into a pouncing-position, and then, Myrnin was staring at her again. Confused. Startled. ''How did you - no, how did you do that? That's…''

''Impossible? Hurtful? Making you doubt your abilities?'' she sneered. ''You're growing weaker, and eventually, you'll be nothing but human. With a fetish for drinking blood, of course.''

A dark light flickered in his eyes. ''I do believe you know my fetish, dear Nyx.''

She paused. The whole world slowed down. A night of lust, so much more different to the ones before. A silver collar around her throat, burning her, poisoning her, yet she'd never felt something so good before. Sweat-slick skin sliding against stained, satin sheets and low moans and high-pitched squeals of raw delight. Pleasure tingling every sleeping nerve to beautiful, seductive life. And suddenly, Nyx felt violated and filthy like those days of living in the brothels. But why? That man couldn't have been Myrnin! He couldn't have been! That was so… Outrageous and so unlikely. But he did have an odd accent… Almost… Like the man from then. ''Where are you from?'' she asked faintly.

Myrnin smiled, a very fragile smile that seemed breakable. He stepped towards her, took her hand in both of his and bent to kiss her cheek. ''It's been a while, my dear.'' And then, the world was swallowed into a black void.

Nyx lounged on her red satin sheets, sprawled like a dangerous, sleepy cat. Her voluptuous, tiny body was dressed in fishnet tights, a garter belt and suspenders. A sleek, silken black ruffled shirt covered the majority of her torso, but only just as she toyed with the buttons as her next customer stepped into the room. He was tall and handsome, but she could only see him through a tired haze - drugs had slowed down her senses a considerable amount. He turned, and she sat up on the bed, giving him a clear view of her body.

''Hello, there, sir. What can I do for you?'' she asked, but her tone was soft and slow, inviting him to come play with her. He smirked, and held out a silver collar in a gloved hand. Her eyes widened. No matter how slowed down she was, she'd always recognize dangers; silver was one of them. ''Oh. I… See. I apologise, but I cannot wear that,'' she said, biting her lip. He nodded. ''I'm aware of that,'' he said in an accented voice that was so deep and lovely, like honey, ''but you're going to.''

And suddenly, his body was on top of hers, pressed against her. Her legs opened to him, and his tall, lean frame fitted into place with hers, and she gasped. ''No! I honestly can't,'' she breathed, overwhelmed all of a sudden - but he wasn't listening. With a flick of his wrist, her neck was burning slowly as the silver touched her skin. She let out an ear-piercing scream of agony, and his now bare hand covered her mouth.

''Shush,'' he whispered into her ear. ''It won't hurt as much if you play nice.''

And then he was kissing her, his lips cold yet comforting against hers. She moaned into his mouth and linked her arms around his neck. The silver was burning her skin, but it didn't feel as bad as it should have. Then her shirt was off, and her bare chest was pressed against his. She let out a squeak, because, oh, he was cold. She arched her back, leaning away from the kiss and pressing her hips against his. His hands wandered along her body, enticing sweet, soft moans from her mouth. It was so gentle, but so demanding and it thrilled her.

She gasped into his mouth, and began to undo the buttons of his shirt. Frustrated, because the nerves in her fingers seemed to be failing her, she ripped the fabric from him with a simple, sudden tug, and the shirt fluttered to the ground. She saw his eyes then, and they were burning. Vampire, she immediately thought. He's a vampire. For some reason, that made the experience oh so more pleasurable, and she reached a hand up to brush her fingers through his hair. Suddenly, in a move she didn't catch, his mouth was at her wrist, and he had her arm in an iron-tight grip. ''N-no,'' she said, but there was no force behind it. He grinned wickedly at her, and kissed her pale, vein-lined wrist.

And then he bit her. She let out a startled yelp, and watched, wide-eyed as his mouth was pressed to her wrist. She felt her blood being dragged through her veins, but it didn't hurt like any other time. It felt… Exhilaratingly good. She arched her body, and then, suddenly, she was awake. Her vision snapped into perfect, sharp, focus, and her body felt like liquid, her muscles then aching to be used. But… Did that mean the influence of drugs was gone? She shook it from her mind because the aching, lovely throb at her wrist was gone, and the man had pulled away and was leaning over her, his eyes burning like hellfire.

''My turn,'' she whispered, and grabbed onto his forearms. She flipped them over, using a gentle yet fierce amount of strength and then she was straddling him, moving with light movements on his waist, begging to feel something, anything good like this - she couldn't remember when her mind and body had been so clear. He was shocked, she could tell, and she leaned down, her face inches from his. ''Does this count as playing nice?'' she asked softly, and then the world faded into a beautiful, lustful red haze.

Nyx awoke with a start.

The blurry world snapped into focus then as she rubbed her sore eyes, and then she sat up. She glanced around her, confused and befuddled. Oh. She was still in the lab, and all of the lights were still burning bright, but she was alone. Myrnin wasn't anywhere to be seen, but his scent still lingered around her. She sat up on the thread-bare couch, and shivered. Her coat, she realised, had been lain over her like a blanket. She sat up, properly, and pulled the coat on. Then she pulled her legs up and began to ponder.

So, it had been Myrnin from that night. It amused her to know he'd actually attended brothels, but then her amusement turned to suspicion. How had he known she was at that particular one? And he'd brought silver, which meant he'd known what she was. And he'd drank her blood. Her eyes widened. Yes, he'd have been a vampire, but he'd tasted her immortal, precious blood! He was a pureblood. Really and truly.

Nyx shot off of the couch, and scuttled clumsily over to where she'd been working earlier. Her notebook lay next to the microscope, abandoned. She rummaged around on the floor for her pen, picked it up, and began to write. It wasn't until she was just finishing off her notes that she heard a heavy clunk, and soft, tapping footsteps emerge into the lab. She looked up, and just as she spotted the person who had entered, she saw her reflection in a mirror. She looked like a wild alley cat, one with matted hair, and fierce, wide blue eyes. Her skin was pale and sallow, and there were bruises under her eyes. It was as though she'd been dragged through a ditch. She needed a shower, blood, and sleep, but she knew she wasn't going to get that, because Amelie was here, again. ''What are you doing here?'' she asked, narrowing her gaze towards the small woman.

''I've come to see what progress you've made.''

''How do you know I've made any? I've only just arrived.''

''Hours ago, and I would have thought you'd be put straight to work,'' she said coolly, and glanced towards the pen in Nyx's hand. ''Which I see you have been.''

Nyx grimaced, and nodded. ''Yes.''

Amelie cocked her head, and rose her frost-coloured brows. ''I assume you're going to tell me, then,'' she said, meeting Nyx's fierce glare. ''Go on.''

She gritted her teeth, grinding them together, and began to read back the notes she'd just written down. ''From previous events, I have discovered another vampire who's ingested my blood. This vampire is a pureblood, one not tainted by the blood of his previous line - his blood is my blood, therefore, he is a stronger vampire - he has the ability to cure this decline in the vampires' strength.''

''Who is this?'' she asked, and she continued in a tone like poison, ''We are sick.''

''Initially, I thought it was just evolution. It seems it is not. There is something causing you to become weaker.''

''Which is?''

''Evolution, of course, and there is a disease beginning to break out again. It's curable, but at a great price.''

''Make yourself clearer, I refuse to banter with you in riddles!'' said Amelie with a tone Nyx hadn't heard her use before. She didn't seem to be able to keep her cool when it came to the vampires.

''Yes your highness,'' mocked Nyx. ''Bloodlines that are newer to the world - yours, for instance - have conducted weaker cells that aren't reproducing correctly because of the disease created an odd seventy years ago. Those who were born a vampire have pure blood, which means they are stronger. They can cure this disease by distillation of their own blood, and injecting it to another vampire. That, or create another master vampire.''

''No vampire is born a vampire - that is ridiculous. We cannot have offspring, we cannot sire children.''

''Au contraire, mon amie,'' she said matter-of-factly. ''There are vampires in the world who can, but they have been effectively murdered and their blood destroyed. Only a handful of them remain, and none would be willing to help. They are stronger, and they are of the most direst cruelty.''

Amelie looked exasperated, and sat down on a near-by chair. Nyx couldn't help but notice how out of place she looked. ''Myrnin was right. It is indeed a lost cause, then.''

''No,'' said a new voice, startling both Amelie and Nyx, ''I was wrong. Nyx here is one of those vampires. And she will help us.'' Myrnin had appeared at the opposite end of the lab, and was pushing an overflowing bookcase back into place. Standing near him was the young girl, Claire, looking lost and fragile and angry. Her hair was ruffled, and her lips were red and slightly swollen, and her clothes were rumpled. Nyx rose an eyebrow, but decided it best not to comment.

Amelie's head snapped up, and she was staring at Nyx. She felt suddenly vulnerable and frightened. ''You,'' she said, very slowly. ''You're a master vampire.''

Nyx gave a curt nod, not looking away from Amelie's face. And then Amelie was standing, waves of compulsion and anger washing over Nyx at Amelie's will. Nyx's eyes flared a bright, gleaming silver, and she let the fury off its leash inside of her. Grass cracked and shrieked, and Myrnin staggered back. Claire pushed herself back against the bookcase, her hands on her head, her eyes clenched shut. Nyx suddenly felt like every bit of a threatened wolf. ''You will not threaten me, Amelie. I will destroy this town, and you, if you even attempt to compel me again. I have obliged to help, and I will do so, but if you force me to act, do not think of me as a puppy with no teeth!''

And then, just like that, Amelie backed down, and Nyx's power was radiating through the room in thick, smothering waves. Glassware shattered and clattered to the ground and shelves creaked. She breathed in deeply, and then, pulled to power back into her body. It took tremendous effort but she did it, and stared at them all.

They were looking at her like she was a monster; wounded, terrified, horrified.

That's what I am to them, she thought suddenly, I could end them if I wanted. They're afraid of me.

Amelie turned to Myrnin and Claire, and said in a voice like shattering ice, ''I require you to assist her in her studies. Do not fail. We shall need much more progress within forty eight hours. Get to work.'' And with that, she left the lab, her footsteps echoing up the stairwell. Nyx stood awkwardly, clutching her notebook in a crushing grip. She looked around, set the notebook down and clapped her hands together loudly.

''Let's start, shall we?''

Hours later, they had a few drops of clear red-tinted liquid in a beaker, with Distilled Blood written on a white sticky label imprinted onto the glass. Nyx's hair was matted with sweat and her skin was flushed, and she knew her eyes would be wild and wary, as she finally felt exhaustion. With a dropper, she extracted a small amount of the clear blood and squirted them onto a glass slide, covered it, and placed it onto the glass of the microscope. She adjusted the lens, and winced. Her cells were thriving in bright red, while the cytoplasm within the cell wall had taken on a pinkish tinge.

Myrnin was working nearby, doing the same thing, only they hadn't touched his blood. Nyx had finally noticed his attire, and it kind of shocked her. He was wearing a violent coloured pink Hawaiian shirt with patterns of neon greens and yellows, and a pair of beige cargo pants. He was wearing a white lab coat spattered with multiple chemicals, and on his feet were a pair of ridiculous, battered vampire bunny slippers. She stared mournfully at the shirt - it was offending her sensitive vision.

''It's been sixteen hours, is the distillation of the blood finished?'' asked Claire, who had just arrived back from an errand Myrnin had sent her on. She was baring a grease-stained bag and two cups of hot coffee. The smell of coffee always made Nyx feel nauseated, and it was especially strong now. She tried to ignore it, and tensed and released her aching shoulder muscles. ''Yes, it's finished, but it's not a lot. Come, look, it looks slightly weaker than pure blood.''

''That is because we added chemicals to it to restrain some of its natural power,'' muttered Myrnin from his work station, and grabbed a Styrofoam cup from Claire and gulped some of its contents down. ''If we don't filter it, it could cause vampires to go insane.''

''You didn't,'' said Nyx venomously, and moved to let Claire peer at the work she'd done. Myrnin looked up, a wounded expression on his face, which quickly contorted into anger. Claire piped in before he got the chance to say something snappy back, ''Actually, he did. But it's okay. Sort of.''

Nyx simply let it slide, and looked down at her pale hands, curling and uncurling her tired fingers.

Claire's POV.

God, I hate this. That's the first thing that came to my mind as I came back into Myrnin's lab. I hate working with vampires, I hate not understanding what they're doing, and I hate having to help make the vamps go to the top again. Why did they get to be top of the food chain, anyway? What's so great about them? They could kill you without even using a quarter of their strength, or eat you, said a logical part of my mind. Oh yeah. I sighed, and bounced from the last marble step, then halting.

Nyx was bent over a microscope, and as she looked up, I resisted the urge to scream. Her eyes were wild, and there was something barley contained in their beautiful depths. Her dark, glossy hair was matted and tangled, probably from running her hands through it, and a rosy colour had taken to her snow-white skin. She was really pretty, but extremely dangerous. Kind of like Myrnin. And not only was she like Myrnin, she was better. Stronger, older, probably and much more cruel. So he'd said. I kind of liked her at the start. Now - not so much. So what was I doing, holding cups of coffee and a bag of doughnuts, helping them get results for whatever they were doing? Oh yeah. Amelie told me so.

Nyx was getting tired, and I could see it. I could see how she was moving, and how her voice was strained. I felt a sort of pity for her - she'd come as a guest and was now working like a mad scientist. When she beckoned for me to come see, I went over, and looked at the distilled version of her blood. The cells were different to the ones I'd studied in biology, and squirmed. Ewwwww. I then looked up, and gave them both a look. ''Maybe you guys should rest.''

Hell, in my opinion, it was a good suggestion. They were both biting at each other, and they'd never get anything done if they were exhausted. Maybe Myrnin wasn't, but Nyx certainly was, and then she'd make mistakes. Ones she couldn't afford to.

Nyx's POV.

Her body felt like lead, and her muscles began to disobey her. She scowled and set her notebook down, then dry-scrubbed her face in frustration. She couldn't stay awake much longer, and even if she could, she wouldn't be able to do anything, which would be bad for all of them. Definitely bad.

''Maybe you guys should rest,'' said Claire suddenly, looking between both Nyx and Myrnin like a child watching arguing parents. Claire turned her dark eyes on Nyx, and it almost seemed like she was pleading with her to agree. And then, she said, ''Come on. You're going to make a mistake, maybe a crucial one, and Amelie won't be happy.''

''I care not what Amelie is! She should be grateful I'm devoting my time and blood to this moronic project.''

''Fair enough, but do you really want to mess up anyway?''

''Claire's right,'' said Myrnin quietly, standing straight with a serious expression on his handsome face. ''Go. Rest. I'll continue the work.''

''Even if I wanted to, there's no place I can go.''

''You can crash on our couch,'' Claire said, and then immediately looked regretful she'd said it. But Nyx didn't understand. Crash? Why would she crash on her couch? Wouldn't that destroy the furniture?

''I mean,'' said Claire quickly, ''you can sleep on our couch for a while. It's no big deal.''

Nyx rose her eyebrows doubtfully.

The End

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