Monday, March 28, 2011

Love, and Sex, and Loneliness.

Cypress had remained in the hills just outside Meridian for the most part. The old mansion (known by it's ironic name, the 'Vampire Court') had once been a place he'd never venture without being strapped for Armageddon. He'd almost met his Final Death numerous times on the grounds of that place. How time eroded and twisted all things, he thought.

Now it was a sanctuary.

He felt besieged by the Unknown, besieged by Brink--the powerful nomadic Sabbat hero who'd ordered him to surrender his lover's blood as a sign of renewed loyalty. He also felt besieged by the creeping presence of a gathering threat. It was like the Unknown but Cypress knew this faceless threat had an identity, a purpose, even a name and material form.

Actually, he was still ready for Armageddon, but the mansion was now his ally--not his enemy.

He sat in the spacious gardens that stretched outward from the back of the Court to the initial slopping terrain of the nearest hill. The gardens were overgrown with weeds and decay, rockwork crumbling and the grounds littered with debris.

He found a certain ascetic in that. It was fitting, he thought. The night was relatively lukewarm, so he wore only a light jacket, black with red trim, over his T-shirt. He reclined on the bench and stared up at the starless night sky. He was looking for the Red Star, recalling that before the death-sleep had gripped him for a handful of years, he'd been quite fascinated by it.

Couldn't remember why.

Under the bench was a black sports bag, unzipped but positioned nearby Cypress' feet.

He had a red-tinted, double-edged knife held absently in his right hand. As if he were waiting for that sense of a pending threat to click within his psyche and send him over the edge into killing mode.

He smiled.

Pale arms folded over modest breasts, Marissa cocked her hips. Green eyes, like they had agreed, gazed at him half lidded. Her lips pursed, she gazed side to side, debating her approach. She disliked meeting in the open like this, if no reason other then what had happened last week in meridian.

There had been losses on both sides. Marissa had mourned for days the loss of her children. That being said, she was rather glad he had not yet asked about their creation, or the scars on her abdomen.

How the hell would she have explained that?

A red skirt tonight, tight black blouse. Hair bundled into pigtails gave her an innocent quality she would have otherwise lacked. A smile tugged at her pale lips as she approached, murmuring his name.


She approached, resting her hand on his shoulder from behind, swinging around the bench and taking a seat. She gazed at him, the bag, the knife. The whole ordeal bewildered her, but she sat for the moment in silence.

Cypress' predatory instincts took hold quickly within his thoughts.

Cypress froze as he felt the impressions of Marissa's fingers upon his shoulder. For less than an instant, he thought his acute senses had failed him, that an attack from his blind side had succeeded despite his preparedness. Then her voice erased that irrational impulse.

His form became relaxed, absent once again. The knife folded inward, pressed against the fabric of the light jacket covering his upper body. Feet crossed at denim-clad ankles. He glanced up at Marissa, a quizzical smile crossing his lips.

"Marissa." He responded to the usage of his name with her own. Eyebrows elevated coolly. "Everything alright?"

She gazed at him sidelong, crossing her legs as she leaned back on the bench. Her eyes shifted to the duffel bag and finally back to his face.

"You tell me."

She spoke simply. There was no hint of anger or irritation in her voice, she simply wasn't very adept at expressing curiosity. So many things were left unsaid between them. She enjoyed the peace for now.

God, she had missed him.

She resisted the urge to lay her palm on his thigh, and instead took the moment to study his face. Angular features, blonde locks.

After what seemed like eternity, she smiled at him.

That was Cypress Dreadslay?

A little disappointing.

The vampire watched from his perch atop one of the spires of the mansion's rooftop. He scowled. Although he was not obfuscated, perfectly physically visible, all anyone would see (if they stared up at the rooftop) was a perched fox coiled in its array of multiple tails (nine in all).

The vampire wrote Cypress off as a dead end. He needed no more undead foot soldiers unless he found someone terribly remarkable. Cypress was not. Not enough command presence.

Good thing he hadn't come to the hills to stare at Cypress Dreadslay. No, he was there to scout the mansion and the surrounding area for potential additions to his Collection. He trained his eyes on Marissa and Amber next, gazing long and hard at them, attempting to discern what they were...if anything more than mortal.

He watched the movement of her eyes. She required knowledge of his 'artillery' as they called it on the streets of Meridian and San Diablo. Cypress responded with a cool nod, shifting his lean frame to face her. Absorbing her image into his sapphire eyes.

It was fine for her to know, he thought. No reason for secrets with Marissa.

"Just a bit of added firepower. In case Brink and his pack decide to show up." In truth, he was concerned about more than his rival Cainite. But Brink was the least ephemeral of his concerns, at least. "It's a machine pistol and a sawed-off shotgun. Decided it might be necessary."

His smile never fully faded from his lips, although it flared back into full existence when she gave him that beautiful expression of her's.

"I feel like something's just....plain wrong. It gets worse when ever I leave the hills," he gestured via his features toward the rolling landscape around them. "And it can't just be Brink." He paused, unsure if he'd even told her that was the 'priest's' name or not. "The priest." He added.

"It's worse than him, though he might be utilized as part of the greater whole...That make any sense?"

She listened, hands folded in her lap. She regarded him calmly as he spoke and finally nodded. What he said was reasonable enough. She disliked guns, but she liked her life a little more. Now was not the time to argue semantics, especially when both of their lives were at risk.

She nodded as he spoke of higher powers, larger pictures were her forte. Emerald eyes blinked softly, her head tilted to the side. She considered the implications. The fates had never been kind to her, why change pace now? She bit her lip as she mulled his words over. Certainly there had been other factors at work even before they met. This whole situation felt almost....

Almost orchastrated.

She pursed her lips, and spoke finally, watching his eyes and chosing her words carefully.

"I suspected as much..."


Cypress shifted, pressing his back against the bench. He lidded his eyes, trying to get back to that place of sublime, instinctive calm that he'd once mastered. It was not a discipline, not something anyone had taught him. It was one part nature and two parts practice. He was one third of the way there.

Relax. He instructed himself within his own thoughts. She is relying upon you to remain calm, to show her there is no cause to worry, that you've got everything under control.

That may not have even been true, but Cypress whole-heartedly believed it. He glanced at her for a second. She seemed contemplative tonight, which was fine. He enjoyed the comfortable silence that sometimes settled in like a shroud over them.

His arm slid over her shoulders. The touch of his fingers was deathly cold tonight.

"Something weighs on your thoughts," he observed verbally, though he kept his voice quiet, relaxed. "Talk to me."

She leaned easily into his embrace, it felt like home to her. She was contemplative, though there was nothing in particular bothering her. Marissa's personality had a tendency to ebb and flow between introverted and extroverted, he just happened to catch her at a time when the tide was out.

She shrugged, casually leaning her head on his shoulder, and smiling gently up at him, but something tugged at her nerves.

"I missed you."

She spoke simply. Disliking admitting it, it wasn't her nature to whisper sweet nothings, especially in public, but she felt it, and she meant it. His arm around her sliced a hairline fracture through her hardened veneer, and sentiment spilled out.

She flushed a little, almost ashamed at herself. Desperate for a change in topic, her eyes scanned the skyline, and caught movement,

Cypress regarded her with a more acute gaze as she admitted to missing him. He found the way she simply, quietly stated it to be endearing. His smile turned crooked, pleased as she flushed slightly.

"I missed you too," he stated bluntly. Cypress' eyes met her own, his gaze caustic for short-lived, existing for only a second before he turned his features away and continued to scan the garden, the hills, for any hints of abnormality.

His outward persona remained somewhat cold, detached. One would have to be right beside the two in order to see that Cypress' mood was actually the opposite of cold, the opposite of detached. He simply reserved it for Marissa. No one else. His fingers gripped her opposite shoulder, drawing her slightly closer as his taller frame edged against her's.

He noticed the movement of her eyes toward the skyline. His features tilted, his stare returning to her.

"See something?"

She nodded. Her eyes met his gaze, a hint of amber beneath the emerald contacts. Returning her gaze to the skyline, her brow scrunched up as she tried to get a better understanding as to what she saw. Her senses however,m weren't as keen as his. It was possible she saw nothing but the movement of the wind, she turned to him, silently pleading.

Anyone watching them would assume they barely knew each other, and that was the way Marissa preferred it. Its quite likely she would come off as a fridgid bitch to any unwary onlooker, anyone foolish enough to eavesdrop, but it was quite the opposite. The passion between them ignited the air. The heat and electricity of it would make the hair on the back of the neck anyone who was foolish enough to approach, to stand on end.

It was the calm before the storm. Animals could sense it, people too, but most were too blind or stupid to care. The air crackled around them. Static and staccato.

The mistake was made. Love slipped from her lips, dripped down her chin and landed in his lap.

Cypress rested his elbow on the back of the bench, leaned back slightly. The pretense of a calm, uncaring demeanor had cracked with the necessity to study her. The wordless plea resonant within her eyes, symbolically veiled by her emerald-shaded contacts, struck him with piercing dissonance inside his thoughts.

This registered plainly in his eyes, although it was barely written at all elsewhere upon his visage.

The corners of his mouth slid upward, forming a smile that was both faint and completely razor-edged--cutting through the layers of hesitation that seemed to fall around them when ever they were anywhere other than completely alone.

He nodded, wordlessly confirming what she had wordlessly conveyed.

Cypress looked back to the Meridian skyline, though he paid little attention any more.

His hand gripped her shoulder and squeezed, pulling her, centimeter by centimeter, completely against him.

"We'll be fine," he assured her, still caught up in that self-imagined hero's role. Knight with a poisoned dagger. And a shotgun. "I'll see to that."

She nodded, offering no resistance as he pulled her close. Careless and proprietary, she smiled softly eyes dropping to the ground. Her lips pursed slightly, happy he was here with her. There were few times she would have appreciated being protected, but he seemed to bring it out of her.

She -WAS- his, and she was content with that.

Her lips curled gently into a warm smile. She closed her eyes, nostrils flaring as she coiled tight against her lover. She nuzzled her nose into his neck, taking the opportunity to whisper in his ear.

'I trust you."

In a perfect world, they would have been permitted to hold one another like that for as long as desired. The seconds wouldn't have felt like the reverberations of .44 magnum blasts sending their sonic waves through his chest.

But this was far from a perfect world.

Via the basic fundamentals of Auspex, which had taught him to rely on his instincts subconsciously at all time, to obey them as if they were divine commands, he knew that this moment in time was about to be interrupted.

Something was coming.

It intensified his reaction to her abrupt and sudden show of affection. He might have been more passive, content to receive her actions and return her smile and words. Instead, the sense of something fated, something pending scraped over his nerves and his reaction was anything but detached, cool, casual.

It was caustic.

His hand shot to the back of her head, his lips crushed to her's.

He clinched his eyes shut as he kissed her. Hungrily and desperately, as if his metaphorically clawing against walls that were closing in.

His arms gripped her as he maintained just enough composure to pull her to her feet, so that they'd have a chance to run if possible.

Still gripping the back of her head with his left hand, his right maintained its ironclad grip on the handle of his knife. The metal brushed her hip as he reached for her, then remembered the presence of the weapon.

But he didn't, for an instant, stop kissing her until it became absolutely necessary.

Emerald eyes snapped open, the change in his demeanor setting her nerves on fire. His lips on hers in an instant, not that she didn't appreciate his aggressiveness, but the context set her ill at ease. She ground her teeth, tensing. Nerves wound tight like gears, getting ready to pounce.

Regardless of how much his lust drive her crazy, for him to act like this when there were eyes on her was seriously wrong. She allowed him to pull her into a standing position. Her hands in his hair, gripping him. She drew strength from him. Her eyes slipped shut, she focused on the passion, the anticipation.

So this was what their lives had become.

She supposed there were worse things to succumb too.l At least he wasn't boring....

Breath short and shallow, she waited on him. Content to let him take the reins tonight, she was still recouping from her careless expenditures from the nights previous, and she needed to horde her reserves until other opportunities came to light.

Besides, she had to allow him to be in control sometimes too. She cast him an impish grin masked by his kiss.

The kiss slowly tapered away into an intermediate affair. Off and on, as he held her with one arm. Eyes oddly shut, as if he didn't trust them, or any other sense except his sixth.

This was how he readied himself for a confrontation he knew was inevitable.

In contrast to her shallow respiration, his own was nonexistent. There was no need for words at this point. His actions, and her own, had served beautifully as a conversation in his mind.

His lips curved into a calm smile, eerily absent of emotion. Eyes opened, just slightly as he entered that psychological state of absolute clarity. He never knew it as a mortal youth, didn't accept or comprehend it when the reality of it was forced upon him for the first time almost a century ago, and never truly delved into it until he was rendered unliving. But this was him at his most natural state. A killing state.

The knife in his right hand twisted, scarlet-tinted blade twisting as he flipped it to a downward-pointed grip. He forcibly tore his eyes from her and stared at the far corner of the garden...

"It's over there," he whispered to her, head lowered slightly. "I can't see it. Not yet. But I can feel it watching us."

If she truly did trust him, there was no better time to do so than right then and there.

The creature veiled in the image of a nine-tailed fox continued to observe them from its perch upon the rooftop.

It slipped behind one of the spires on the beautifully manicured rooftop of the mansion and peeked over its coil of tails, balefully glaring at them.

It prepared to direct one of its minions forward, testing these two, wanting to discern their capabilities.

Misdirection and study for now.

An imperceptible nod, she pressed her lips tight together as he finally broke away. She struggled to catch her breath, eyelids fluttering closed. She stood close to him, obediently, knowing much better then to get very far from his side. with her glamour reserves as low as they were she was pretty much cannon fodder.

Her arms slipped around his hips, pulling him close, stroking his back. Only her eyes showed the concern she felt. A gifted actress, emotion rarely penetrated her features.

It did so now.

Resting her head on his shoulder,s he murmured softly.

"Fight or flight, Mr Dreadslay?"

"Both," he concluded.

Her mannerisms were far more passive than they were the other night, when the two were trapped in that shard or bubble or what ever it had been. That 'false' reality.

He canted his features toward her, features now void of any expression other than calm discernment as he steadied his nerves, kept them flat and unhindered by apprehension. He forced himself to push what he felt and the thoughts she gave him, deep into the blackest recesses of his psyche. Focus.

He stepped away from her, keeping her within arm's reach but also giving them both the opportunity to make split second movements. His blood burned abruptly.

So did the enemy's.

"Keep between me and those vines and undergrowth in the far corner of the garden," he ordered quickly, but his voice remained soft and even in tone. "Get the bag under the bench ready and hand me what I ask for."

The vines he'd referred to shifted and a blur of streaking movements shot toward them both, clearing the garden and flying straight at them.

She nodded with a quiet sincerity, bending nd moving immediately to do as he asks. She retrieves teh bag with fluid grace, slinging it over her shoulder in one fell swoop. She sidesteps him, moving to stand where he asks.

No questions, no qualms.

She stood, feigning a casual stance. Her hand sliding into his, holdong him fast and reluctant to let him go. Perhaps it was silly, but she was apprehensive.

As Cypress reacted to the incoming blur of movement rushing toward them, his hand withdrew from Marissa's.

This was it.

The two Cainites in front of Marissa decided who lived and who died at a pace so frighteningly quick that it was over in a matter of seconds.

Meanwhile, she would see the fox with nine tails approaching her. She'd also recognize it as eerily similar to chimera--but something else. Perhaps a corrupted version of the glamour-infused creatures she was used to. It was...false. Anemic of glamour. Yet still very present.

The creature paused, glared at her with baleful ghost-white eyes.

-This will be your only chance- A voice in her head. -Step back into the mansion immediately if you wish either yourself or your friend to continue to exist-

The mental voice was lofty. Cold.

Narcissistic to the extreme.

The hostile vampire rushed them. He used his first wave of preternatural speed and strength to clear the distance between the underbrush and any obstacles along the way. By the time he reached Cypress and Marissa, his second wave of celerity had been initiated.

The vampire was armed with a curved, bloodsoaked knife.

He swung his weapon with zealotry and determination, not to mention practiced skill. This creature might have been a grunt, but he was a powerful one. What ever allegiances he once had were irrelevant now. He served the Master in all that he did, all that he said, all that he thought.

The first strike hit Cypress square in the neck. He only knew he'd survived the blow when this swift, deadly encounter was over.

It happened so quickly he didn't know he'd even been struck.

Cypress' body twisted to the side, arm guiding his movements and not following. Never following. The hand he struck with was everything, the tip of the spear.

His blade cut into his adversary's chest, sheering through clothes and flesh, leaving a poisoned swath in its wake.

The opposite vampire stabbed toward Cypress' gut.

Cypress twisted his frame out of the way, but took a gash to his side.

A hack at the back of Cypress' neck. Poorly timed but delivered with force.

Cypress brought up his left hand, blocked the hacking motion by chopping their wrists together. The impact of his forearm to the wrist of his enemy was sharp, painful. The enemy was stronger than he was, but Cypress held a slight edge on fortitude.

He found his enemy had also lost his edge of speed. Celerity running dry.

Cypress stepped forward, knifed him down in two more fluid motions to the man's neck.

Her attention focused on everything. She commanded herself to reel it in, being too distracted right now would only serve to get them both killed. Eyes widened, a voice in her head.

She stared at the creature, clutching the bag. She eyed the door, her gaze darting to the cainites, her mate, the creature, and then back to the door. her mind leapt ahead, considering, calculating.

She teetered on indecisiveness and finally reasoned that if a being was powerful enough to communicate directly into her mind, it was probably in her best interest to fucking listen to it

She hitched the bag up, and made a beeline for the door, casting a backwards glance to make sure her lover was ok.

The rush of celerity ended as abruptly as it had begun. Cypress turned around to grab Marissa, seeking to pull her back into arm's reach. It was vital that they not be separated.

It was then that a sharp, searing line of pain slid across the nerves of his neck. The wound didn't bleed as it would upon the skin of a living being, but it grievous none the less. It was designed specifically to destroy him in an instant. Failing that, it was designed to hurt.

Very, very fucking bad.

"Oh my God." His voice was etched roughly into the air emerging from his lips. Vocal chords damaged. The poison rendering his initial attempt to heal the wound unsuccessful. He'd require time, energy, and concentration to even begin to recover. That sort of clinical thinking in and of itself was difficult to maintain. He didn't know how bad the injury to his neck was at the moment.

"Marissa, wait, damnit." He could barely speak above a raspy whisper, voice mutilated by the slice.

Cypress gritted his teeth, limped to the door behind Marissa, doing his best to catch up with her.

That was when he saw the back door of the mansion fly off its hinges, cycle around and around in the air, and slam straight into him as if thrown by a poltergeist. Taken off guard, he fell flat on his back, senses reeling, mind in shock.

Marissa, however, saw no such illusion. The door was open, it hadn't moved an inch. She was in the hall.

-Leave him- The voice in her head whispered. -He was stricken by the blade of one of his cousins. The poison unravels him. He will perish now. There is no use. He would not desire you to follow him, would he?-

The words were clinical, matter of fact.

But behind the proverbial curtain, the one weaving them into reality was grinning like a madman as he did his best to deceive her.

Marissa would see the nine-tailed fox out of the corner of her eyes, perched at the end of the hallway, its ghostly eyes seeming to beckon her forward.

-Come with me. You will be safe.-


She turned abruptly from the creature. Perhaps it was right, maybe he would have wanted her to continue unharmed, but she loved him, and she wasn't going to leave him there to die.

The realization hit her like a brick wall. Helr emotions knocked the wind from her. Her head reeled, she reached out for the wall to steady herself, regain composure. It was true. she did love him.

Bittersweet, the realization came on the cusp of his demise.

She darted back out, ignoring the beast that had lead her astray, cursing silently the abomination. She dropped to her knees, leaning over him, clutching, blood red tears creeping down her face.

"please, please lets go....."

She struggled, trying to pull him to his feet, trembling and sobbing.

"Don't leave me... I'm so sorry...."

She shuddered. Leaning over him, waves of fear ripped through her. She prayed to a god she didnt believe in, begging for salvation.

Her life was worthless without him.

"I'm... hey," he whispered. "Hey. Marissa. I'm okay. Not going anywhere. Just got knocked down. I'm alright."

He spoke rapidly, trying his best to calm her down. He must have been cut very bad, he thought, if she believed he was about to ash.

Of course, he had no idea about the insidious creature who'd tried to separate and conquer them, one by one.

Cypress' eyes were confused, disoriented, but very much sentient. The gash on his neck seemed laced with a translucent red oil that was very clearly malignant. Something like blood, but transformed into something else. The same stuff that she knew tinted his own knife red.

His lips curved into a smile that bordered on delirious as he saw the image of her face abruptly cut into his vision. He reached up with his left hand, still gripping his knife in the right. His hand pressed to her shoulder, snaked downward over the inside of her arm as he moved up to a kneeling position.

He'd heard her words. Seen the expression on her face, the look within her eyes. She would see his lips tighten, his fangs elongated and clearly present, a look of absolute hatred in his eyes--pierced by that emotion's opposite number as his gaze focused upon her.

"I'm okay. I'm okay." His voice hissed roughly. "Just got cut."

His left arm hooked around her own, pulling her back up to her feet as he stood. His world tilted. He tried to maintain balance.

"Something hit me with the door... It flew off its hinges," except it hadn't. Perhaps the poison was making him hallucinate?

He pulled her closer. There would be time to indulge completely in the vortex of feelings she'd induced in him, and Cypress wanted nothing more than to do so.

For now he had to maintain control. Had to get them out of the garden.

"We circle round...go in through the front... Then we barricade your door."

It was a rough, makeshift plan. But he still felt like the court, and the hills around it were much safer than the broader Meridian area at the moment.

The nine-tailed fox dissipated, erased from existence.

The one behind it, behind the telepathic whispers, slid away into the shadows of obscurity. It required incredible sacrifice of will to weave such emotions, and to infiltrate a Fae's psyche with its voice.

Perhaps, it could have overwhelmed Cypress. He was weakened. But this elder was too intelligent, too old to gamble. He only fought by himself when he knew he'd already won. And then there was Marissa. He'd never underestimate a faerie. Never.

He'd be back, though. Whether for them or to others, only the most powerful or elusive of creatures in Meridian were truly safe from his designs.

She nodded, stifling a sob. She wiped her eyes hastily, her arms wrapped around him. She nodded at his plan, any plan was better then nothing. Her fingers gripped him, she trembled, and spoke quietly.

"The poison.. cypress..."

She trailed off, tears starting fresh. what was it about him that turned her into a blubbering child? The creature was gone, and she cursed herself for being so foolish, so easy to control. If he didn't make it through this....

She wasn't sure what she would do.

She forced the possibility out of her mind, using his elbow to guide him, she moves in the direction he motions.

He kept his voice to a low whisper at all times. Drawing upon experience and instincts, he began to recover his shaken resolve. It turned to steel within his psyche. Sapphire eyes swept their gaze from left to right. Right to left, as they initiated their walk round the grounds of the mansion.

"The worst of the poison is over. It's designed to cripple my ability to recover from the injury itself. Other than the lack of rapid blood loss, the wound is as one inflicted upon a mortal... for a time. Eventually I'll recover."

He utilized the explanation to both remind himself that, no, he wasn't dying. It just hurt. Calm the hell down. And also to distract her from the passage of seconds, the anxiety creeping in around them as they walked, alone, yard after yard, over the mansion's grounds.

When they reached the Court's front entrance, he stopped her, pulled her against him. Cypress glanced down at her, a sharp and reassuring smile flickering in and out of existence.

"Thanks for not running off. I wouldn't have wanted to chase you down feeling like I do right now."

He paused only a few more seconds, mind still operating instant by instant, play by play. Emotions, abstract thoughts, tightly constrained.

Cypress pulled her along after him, back into the court. He swore he'd never, ever go into that garden again unless absolutely necessary.

Her arm encircled him, she took his words in, and relaxed. The way he had warned her against the poison when they were driving had set her mind ill at ease. She was relieved to know that it, in itself was not life threatening. As he spoke again, her eyes welled up once more, tears of blood dripping down her face again, such an odd phenomenon. She sniffled a little, and biting her lip before speaking, determined to at least explain herself.

"I heard.. a voice..."

She traile off, pressing her lips together as she struggled with language and emotion, both getting hte best of her.

"It told me to go through the door, that we would be safe..."

She faultered, wincing and leaning in to kiss his cheek gently. Her arm clutched his waist, pulling him tightly.

'I believed it, but then you fell, an it urged me to go on.. and just leave you... I couldn't. I... I lo-"

She stopped short, shaking her head.

Cypress paused before he guided her back into the mansion. He took in her words, patiently analyzing them and listening to what she had to say. He also noticed her the scarlet traces of her tears, staining her cheeks. A plethora of different impulses and emotions flooded his psyche at once. He desired to lean over, lick the tears away, absorb what ever sustenance he could from them. That rather inhuman urge was not without empathy, however. He felt as if it would be done lovingly, if also for a selfish core reason. He wanted her blood, perhaps, more than ever before--having had her nearly torn from his side by some mysterious entity.

He compromised, kissed the more prominent stains of blood from her face. He tore his gaze and his lips from her face, feeling his sense of control beginning to slip away.

"The voice most certainly was not trustworthy," he finally answered her. He reached over, wiped another tear from her face with the pads of his fingers. The touch itself was adoring, admiring, reassuring. "You did not listen to it, in the end. So you have nothing to explain, nothing to worry about."

He glanced down at his fingertips, wet with her blood. He licked them clean.

Eyelids closed for a second as his world reeled--this time from the taste of her blood in his mouth. Distracted, he shook his head and pulled her inside the building.

"Come on." He whispered as they continued their walk. "We'll be fine. We'll be safe. This was a harrowing night, but we survived. That's all that matters."

She nodded sullenly, grateful he either hadn't picked up her momentary slip, or chose not to call her on it. Either way, it allowed her to save face, at least for the mean time. His touch, so careful and caressing, reminded her gently what she stood to lose shoudl she act so foolishly again. She remained quiet, contemplative as he ushered her inside. She did not argue or protest, eyes flickering to his. Baleful, and full of woe, it would be some times before the Madonna broke out of her self imposed prison.

The mother of sorrow wept for herself.

Of course his words had a ring of truth to them, they were safe, neither was grievously injured. That was the important thing, he was right. But the fact that she had been so easily distracted shamed her down to her core.

'Yes, Mr Dreadslay... you're right."

Her eyes shifted, she'd taken a step back from him, figuratively speaking. Marissa had always been good at building walls, segregating herself. This had never been intentional, but regardless if it was or not, she was emotionally retreating. She'd be back, everyone had thier own coping mechanisms.

Mad Marissa's was being introverted.

It was not until they were safely inside her little apartment, their enclosed sanctuary, that he began to become fully aware of her shift in demeanor. In a state of violence or turmoil, his capacity to feel anything at all simply faded into nonexistence.

Certainly, he still possessed the same thoughts of her, but it was not until time stopped racing forward at a terrible pace that he was capable of translating those cerebral things into anything more substantive.

Cypress paused in front of the locked door, shut his eyes, forced the hyper-clarity of the crisis to end with said crisis.

It was over. For now.

He felt at the injury to his neck. It far overshadowed the scratch on his lower back or the deep bruise on his forearm. If he had been weaker or his opponent a bit stronger, he'd be ash right now--not the other way around.

It was a sobering but ultimately irrelevant thought and he pushed it out of his mind after accepting its existence.

"Marissa?" He said quietly. His vocal chords seemed to have healed enough for him to speak at a low pitch and volume. Voice was still a little rough.

He turned toward her, eyes seeking her out.

He held out his hand to her, didn't wait, took her hand, pulled her close.

He looked down at her and then, only then, did he finally toss the knife he'd been gripping the entire time to the floor. Fucking thing.

Cypress attempted to say what he needed to say. The look in his eyes was unpleasant, as if his words were coming up like shrapnel out of his throat.

Lips parted but he shook his head. "Give me a second. Composure's a must here." He whispered obliquely.

She cradled against him, nodding at his requested pause. She struggled with her emotions, beating them down, forcing them into submission for the mean time. There were other things at stake here then how she felt.

She tore her eyes from the floor, gazing at his neck, and then into his eyes. Her head tilted to the side, holding the pigtail out of his way, she shifted her weight against him. He needed her, especially now. the act seemed to pull her from her hiding spot, at least momentarily.

"Please, take it..."

it was the least she could do, and the fact that this had become a ritual for them, a dance, a seduction played a part as well. Her fingers stroked his hair, she mumbled repeatedly how sorry she was.

The offer of blood seemed to distract him, for the time being, from what ever statement he was trying to figure out how to form into words.

His hands gripped her with a force that would have been violence if not for the will he poured into self-restraint. Even so, it left her with no need to stand, only the toes of her shoes brushing the floor. Cypress wanted, desperately, to ask her why she was sorry. Why she kept apologizing.

His thoughts were not eroded by the taste of her blood. They were incinerated. He very nearly found his psyche drowned in a vicious frenzy, but for the constant reminder. He loved her. He loved her. He loved her.

When he pulled back, Cypress was on the edge of blacking out. He licked the marks he'd left on the bottom of her neck, right above her collar, sealed the wound. He pursed his lips, cleaning them of her blood.

His smile was absent, cold, bright with hatred as he replayed over and over again, his kill from earlier that evening. And the kill he intended to duplicate once he got his hands on the mind-speaking fuck who'd almost taken Marissa from him that night.


He said her name without speaking it. No voice. Just a movement of lips.

His eyes became clear with thought again. He looked down at her, his expression suddenly far less viperous, more human.


He glanced from her feet to her eyes, scanning her, trying to decide if...fuck it.

"I love you."

Her fingers stroked through his hair, gripping gently as he lifted her. She felt that familiar prick, his lips and tongue on the alibaster skin of her throat. As he set her down, her name on his lips, no sound, just warm.

Eying him cautiously, he looked her up and down. As he spoke, her face seemed to blur somehow. Her features almost crumbled. She opened her mouth to speak, and stopped short.

She pulled away from him abruptly, slipping into the bathroom and closing the door behind her. Sobs couldd be heard on the other side. Quiet hiccoughing as she fought to bring herself under control. He shouldn't see her like this, she was being weak.

When she finally unlocked the soor, wiping blood from her cheeks, she looked at him, large amber eyes meeting his. She gazed for but a moment before moving to him at speeds that surprised even him. She flung her arms around him, trembling in his grip, she finally spoke.

"I didn't want those god forsaken things in any longer..."

She blinked, obviously referring to the contacts she had removed while in the bathroom. Her voice, barely over a whisper. She wanted him to see her, not some seer-kind facade.

'I love you."

The tears started again, and this time she didn't even attempt to get them under control

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