No Dawn
Published 09-13-2004
PG-13 just in case. Dawnless, a notorious vampiress, is being hunted by the famous hunter Plague and trying to seek out the vampire lord Night. ON HIATUS

FULL SUMMARY: The ex-assassin and Vampiress Dawnless is on an all-out hunt for everyone's favorite vampire overlord, Night. Chasing her is the famous hunter Plague. Somehow, a boy reluctantly working as a thief for a gang in Utah comes into the picture, and gets dragged into the underground world of vampires and hunters, quickly finding out that there's much that isn't known to the general public- including a bloody vampire feud that directly concerns the future of human civilizations all over the world.

CONCERNING THE RATING OF THIS FICTION: The reader progresses at their own caution. So far, the fic is rated at T- which, according to fiction ratings . com, means "Suitable for teens, 13 years and older, with some violence, minor coarse language, and minor suggestive adult themes." So, if you don't like swearing or violence, please don't flame me.

A/N: Ahaha, a new idea I had. Mind you, I know virtually nothing about vampires or christianity, so... bear with me. If I make any major mistakes, don't hesitate to give me a look-see. I'd really appreciate it. (note: the story is mostly written from Aeme's pov., in third person. Kinda odd... but I hate writing in first person. I might switch back and forth.. meh. Anywho, opinions stated are usually hers)

Currently listening to: "I Do Believe In Fairies" from the new Peter Pan movie

Current mood: I hope I can make this story work

Chapter Length: 4 pages

Chapter One

Alpha

Fear is a great motivational force in everything people do. No matter how unselfish, the will to live is always a motivational force beyond anything else in any given human being. Those who will be willing to give their life for others, are scarce and often considered brave. Martyrdom is praised as faith, fearlessness, a display of true quality. It is understandable for a person to choose life over death, to preserve themselves in times of crisis, although it may be seen as cowardly. But it is human nature, and the most important and basic natural skill any living being can posses.

However, despite the fact that some are willing to throw their lives away for their beliefs or for others, does not mean that because of this they will give up and die if they are given a way out in the very end. Even a true martyr in the end may feel a sudden fear, as death takes them and give in to the terror of facing the unknown.

Different views about this particular fear can be argued. Different opinions are important anyways. Belief is what separates the masses, a necessary evil. However, in the end, if any dying person was given a way out... a way to keep on living... would they take it? Or leave their last chance to live as a human behind, and pass on?

It was that choice, that one futile wish, that Aeme wished she'd clung to so many years ago.

She wasn't one of those insecure people, who blamed themselves for everything. It's true that it was her fault. She had no right to blame anyone else, nor the circumstances of her choice. The one she'd made over 1000 years ago, and had been regretting every moment since. Since that fateful day, she'd run in circles all over the nation and the world, establishing and breaking temporary alliances, and making new enemies as she went. It would be exaggerating to say she had any friends.

At the moment, she sat quietly in a small booth in a nondescript town in Utah, watching the other occupants talk animatedly with each other, or carefully nurse their steaming coffee. Gently, carefully, she poured a bit of honey and cream into hers, stirring and watching as it turned a milky caramel color, curling around in the mug and licking at its white rim. She took a sip, relishing in the feel of the hot cup in her hands, ignoring the tingling burning sensation.

"Would you like anything else miss?"

Aeme turned her steady, calculating eyes to the waitress, instantly jealous of her warmth. "No, thank you." She replied politely, lifting the cup back up to her lips and wincing at the bitter taste.

It never tasted right anymore. Nothing did. There was only one thing that could keep her going, and she hated herself for relying on it. She secretly kept an eye on a young man who had come in only a few minutes after her, sitting at his table and reading a newspaper, although for the last twenty minutes he had yet to turn the page. She'd scanned the cafe for others already, and had located only one other possibility, although he seemed much more professional and appeared not to be connected in any way with the first. Did they really think she had no emergency escape plan? Either a really stupid set of hunters, or a mere coincidence. They weren't really worth worrying over.

She set down her half-filled cup of coffee, leaving more than enough money on her table and walking out. Once outside, she pulled her black trench coat around her and snuck into an alley, watching the single entrance and exit to the little cafe. Sure enough, the worthier of the two, a tall, lean man in his mid-teens, came out a few moments later. He looked around, then started walking towards the alley where she was, his head swiveling in all directions as he searched the crowds for her.

Aeme decided to humor him. She walked all the way to her apartment, stopping once she was outside to determine whether he was going to challenge her. When he didn't, she proceeded inside, and vanished into the dark stairwell, ignoring the elevators. She quickly gained speed, nearly flying up the four flights to her room and slipping in soundlessly. If he could find her now, he'd have exceeded her expectations.

She sighed, slipping out of her shoes and leaving them by the door. She made sure to check the locks and scanned the meager, three room apartment for intruders again before plopping down on the couch- which gave a long, mournful groan of age- and heaving a tired sigh. She leaned comfortably back, idly checking the little analog clock sitting on top of the empty tv table. One hour till dawn. The apartment was 'cozy', or so said the ad in the classified section of the news. Apparently in the world of Utah Real Estate, 'cozy' translated to 'old, dusty and falling apart'. But she had no real reason to complain- it was low-profile, the doors locked, the landlord wasn't too nosy, and she was left alone by her thin scattering of neighbors. Not to mention that she'd gotten it within hours of her arrival. It wasn't like she was planning to stay very long anyways. If she wasn't forced to leave within the next two weeks, she could count herself lucky.

Aeme sighed and took her arms out of the sleeves of her trench coat, settling into the couch with a smile of content. Outside she heard footsteps coming up the stairs and pausing at her door. She watched the door through hooded eyes but didn't move, for fear of missing something under the squeaking of the couch. A few minutes later her patience was rewarded. With a neat click, the man successfully picked the handle lock, then with a loud 'chink' of metal cut through the deadbolt. The door squeaked open, and she smirked at his mistake in not oiling the hinges.

Probably believing that she was asleep, he crept over to the couch, not bothering to keep himself out of view. She mentally gave him points for missing a bunch of the more obvious squeaky spots on the flooring. The glint of his dagger, probably blessed silver, shone eerily in the dark room from the small glowing penlight he had. She caught the sudden movement of his sword and swung herself off the couch at the last moment, wincing at the sound of ripping cloth coupled with the loud 'ping' of mattress springs. That wouldn't make a good impression on the landlord.

The man let out a growl of annoyance. "So you were awake, vampire." He hissed.

"That's me." Aeme replied softly, grabbing the hilt of her own silver blade. "I'll give you two options. Leave and don't come back, and you can go free. If you stay and try to fight, then I won't hold back."

"It's me who won't hold back." He replied, getting into a ready stance. She knew she had the advantage since he couldn't see as well in the dark, and she was wearing all black.

"You fool. It seems that hunters just can't wait until dawn." She said, "Is twenty minutes too much to ask? And you always insist on the long silver daggers and stakes. Japanese short swords are so much more reliable-and less messy. Shouldn't you know that?"

"Look, I don't know who you are, but you're the first vampire to come along in a while. I'm warning you. Turn anybody, and you won't live to regret it." He said firmly.

"No need for such worry. I'm not like that." She replied, "I have no desire to make anyone else a vampire anymore. I hate the existence myself."

"You can't be serious." He said angrily, "That's a pretty pathetic excuse. It's obvious that you're lying."

"Why would I? You learn something new every day. Even living for over 1000 years hasn't taught me everything about the world." She said blithely, not changing from her stance.

"How do you get enough blood then? Don't try to fool me. I'll kill you here and now!"

"Unfortunately, I can't let you kill me today. Perhaps if you find me some other day you can have your way. Now, I really don't want to make a mess and upset my landlord. If you don't mind, unless you want to get hurt, I suggest you leave me alone."

In response he lunged forwards, swinging his blade down in an arc and attacking with great force. Blocking, she pushed him back so he stood directly in front of a low, wooden coffee table between the couch and the tv table. "Or what?" He said, his voice obviously containing anger- and fear.

"A bad thing to say to a vampire." She said airily. She lightly kicked forwards, sending him backwards onto the table with a thump. "Oh... sorry." She said, letting her sword catch the light. "Now, you can leave and let me get a good day's sleep, or you can stay, I'll get annoyed, and I'll have to resort to giving you a few... warnings."

The man gritted his teeth and swung the dagger upwards. She didn't flinch but hissed lightly and raised her injured hand into the light, frowning in annoyance. Then, with a quick flick of the wrist, an identical gash appeared in his hand, bleeding freely. He gasped and released the blade, which she kicked out of his reach.

She bent down to stare him in the face as he successfully got into a sitting position on his own. "Perhaps you should research your opponent next time. In any case, I'm bored already. I don't think it'd be fair for me to put you out of action, so I'll forgive you this once. Just mosey back to your organization of hunters and ask them about Dawnless. I'm sure they'll know me."

She watched as he quickly got up, admitting defeat, and exited the apartment, making sure the door was closed after him. She sighed and moved over to the door, inspecting the locks. Feeling the edges of exhaustion closing in, she blearily looked at the clock. Ten minutes till dawn. No wonder she was feeling so sleepy. Slipping the bolt into its slot, she tested the chain lock to find it sufficiently secure until she could get her deadbolt fixed. She also locked the doorknob and carefully pried the chunk of metal left over from the deadbolt so that it at least blocked the gap and made it look like it was set.

Yawning, she stretched and checked the blinds before collapsing onto the couch and slipping into welcome oblivion.

Her waking process was normal. She quietly lay on the couch, unable to move at all, and struggling to open her eyes. Slowly the faint burning of the almost healed wound on her hand and the slow rhythm of her breathing made it to her senses and she frantically checked around the apartment for any life signatures. Thankfully, there were none. A few minutes later she drearily opened her eyes, staring up at the all-too-familiar cracked ceiling, then tiredly turned her head to look at the clock, wincing at the effort it took to move her head. Finally the sun set and she was able to get up, walking over to the window and pushing aside the blinds, looking longingly out as the last tinge of red disappeared from the bottom of the clouds near the horizon, a seldom-broken routine she'd adopted ever since she'd been turned. More than once she'd been tempted to just sit outside and wait for the sun to rise so she could see and feel its warmth, but the burns she'd gotten from doing so once were enough warning to discourage her for awhile.

She looked at her reflection in the window(A/N: does this work? I know they don't have reflections in mirrors...), frowning at the unhealthy pallor of her skin. Though she was usually pale, her skin seemed sickly, her eyes dull. She needed to feed. Feeding was something she always avoided, but she'd already waited too long. If she didn't get new blood by the end of tonight she'd be too weak to go get it herself. Luckily, there was a cattle farm nearby- she could pay that a visit.

She hated human blood almost as much as she hated being a vampire. Unfortunately, it was occasionally necessary for her to feed on a human. She never let herself get so empty that she might lose control and drink someone dry, and she extended the same courtesy to the animals she drank from as well. Unless she really needed the energy boost she got from a human, she kept to animals and the occasional livestock cattle.

She left her room again, entering the elevator and riding it down to the first floor. On her way out she brushed by a young man who seemed vaguely familiar. She shook off the feeling and walked two blocks to her rental car, a red Toyota Camery. Opening the door and swiftly jumping in, she carefully maneuvered out of her parking space, driving through the quiet, dark streets of a sleeping Utah. Soon enough she spotted the farm, only a few blocks' distance away.

She walked to the wire fence surrounding the property and neatly jumped it, landing softly on the other side. Picking her way around the droppings and always on the alert for human heat signatures, she crept towards where she knew the farmhouse to be.

The cattle were milling about in a large group, and one or two who were not nodding off looked up, startled at her sudden appearance, and snorted nervously as she slowly approached. Choosing one they weren't going to slaughter soon, she fixed it with her hypnotic stare and approached it even as the rest of the herd gazed watchfully on.

A/N: And now for the bane of all humanity, the evil of all evils, the... you get it. A cliffhanger. And even more so since I'm randomly suitching pov's! MUAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHA...heh..heh, oh don't freak. I'm just joking. kinda.

A/N: IMPORTANTIMPORTANTIMPORTANT The names Mellor and Wieve HAVE CHANGED to Aeme and Bryant respectively. Tell me what you think!

Updated 1.23.05

Chapter 2
Plague

As he casually entered the run-down apartment building, Bryant bumped into the strange lady he'd seen yesterday at the cafe. She must live here. A strange feeling of recognition swept over him, which he chose to ignore. None of his business why she was leaving anyways. He was sure she'd be coming back later, and the fact that she'd failed to recognize him right away meant she was probably distracted by something. In the meantime, he'd just break into her apartment, if somebody hadn't taken that particular privelege yet. He had no doubt that she lived alone. He couldn't picture a girl like that having a boyfriend or anything. Not that she wasn't pretty.

He casually walked onto the elevator, being as unmemorable as possible and not making eye contact with anyone. Riding up to the fifth floor, he worked his way down the hallway, pausing by each room to listen for movement and checking for light slanting from the crack underneath peoples' doors. All five rooms had someone in them, so he took the stairs down to the fourth floor and started looking there.

The first room he broke into was devoid of any clues suggesting that someone lived there, and he knew from his informers that this particular lady would have something to show that this was her new home. Carefully hiding the fact that he'd just been there, he skillfully relocked the handle lock on the door and moved on.

The next room had pounding music playing from inside. Definitely not an option. At the following door he didn't hear anything, but as he picked the lock he thought he heard a snore, and decided not to chance it.

The next door wasn't even locked and swung right open. Surprised, he quickly ducked to the side of the door. Nothing happened, although the hinges had made quite a bit of noise as the door swung open. He listened for any movement, breathing, anything. There was none. Shrugging to himself, he entered and quickly assessed the room, surprised at the poverty in which she lived. "What could they possibly want with someone this poor?" He wondered under his breath.

The next thing he knew, there was what felt like a knife pressed against his neck. He froze. All right, this definitely wasn't in the job description.

"What is your name?" His assailant asked from behind him. He heard movement from around the door and knew there was more than one of them. He guessed about three.

"Terin Chan." He said, thinking fast. It wouldn't do for them to know who he was, would it? He still wasn't sure who these guys were.

"What are you doing here, Terin Chan?" The man asked gruffly, as another one of them out of his line of sight riffled through some papers.

"I came to pick up something from my sister who lives here." He lied.

"You're lying. What's your real business here. Are you one of them?"

"What is this 'them'? I'm just here to get something. Why are you guys here?" He asked, trying to figure out the situation.

"Don't play dumb."

"Probably one of Dawnless' henchmen." Another man said, sounding angry.

"Idiot. Dawnless hasn't been known to associate herself with humans for decades." The knife guy replied.

"I told you, I'm here to pick something up. I don't know who this 'Dawnless' is, but if you would kindly remove the knife I could be on my way." Bryant said impatiently, inwardly grinning at their naivette.

"Look kid, unless you cooperate you're going to get yourself arrested."

"For what?! I just came to get something from my sister, and all of a sudden these weird guys who have probably broken in appear and tell me I'm a liar! I would very much like to know what's going on here."

"We know you're lying. If Dawnless was your sister, you'd be dead by now. That or undead, but you're not being burnt by my sword. We're doing this for your protection you know. Please try to be a little helpful." A new person said. His voice was high pitched, annoying. 'What the hell...?'

"We gotta be careful, she'll be coming back from feeding any time now." Knife guy said, removing his weapon from Bryant's neck. "I don't think the kid's a threat. Why don't we just send him on his way?"

"We need to know how he's connected to Dawnless." Whiny voice replied.

"I have no idea what's going on." Bryant said, turning to face his captors. "Care to enlighten me?" He was finding the entire situation confusing and rather irritating.

The three who had been doing all the talking looked at one another, then the knife guy shrugged, sheathing his weapon. In the corner, just behind the open door, stood one more person, wearing a long grey jacket that undoubtedly held concealed weapons of some kind. He was silent, his face shadowed, and the other three barely acknowledged his presence.

The tall lanky guy with the whiny voice spoke up first. "Well, I suppose you have a right to know, since you're probably all mixed up in this already. What do you know about vampires, kid?"

"That they aren't real." Weive scoffed.

"That's where you're wrong. You're standing in the apartment of one. Us four are hunters, and we're after this one, codenamed Dawnless, to slay her before she can harm the innocent people in the world." Hunter #1 said. His hand rested lightly on the knife at his side.

"...You guys are nuts." Weive said, skeptical.

"No, we're serious. I'd expected you to know, but it's too late to back out now. If we swear not to tell authorities, will you tell us why you're really here?" Hunter #2 asked. His voice was really getting on Bryant's nerves.

"I was trying to loot this apartment." He said casually. "I got an assignment from somebody who said that I should come here tonight at this time and nab some stuff from one of the rooms on the upper floors. Said there was a pretty big chance there was some nice stuff here tonight and guaranteed that a bunch of people would be gone. Not too trustworthy of a guy if you ask me. But then I'm really low on cash right now, and I was obligated, so I was dumb enough to take the job. Now that you know, I demand that you tell me what you guys are really up to. Do you belong to the local society for paranoid schizophrenics or something?" (a/n: oh! oh! I do! eh... sorry)

"We're dead serious (A/N: no pun intended! XD... all right I lied. Pun very intentional. I appologize for the lameness of my humor bow bow bow)Terin. You need to start remembering what we're saying. You need to get out of here. Act like you don't know anything. If you ever get into trouble, use this number." He handed Weive a simple blank white card with a phone number written on it in black ink. "No matter what, don't tell any vampires you're associated with us. It'd be your doom as well as ours."

There was suddenly the sound of a blade being drawn, and the men whirled around. Bryant snapped his eyes to the door, where the woman he'd seen earlier calmly stood, her tall figure blocking the doorway and suddenly looking much more dangerous with an unsheated kodachi in hand (A/N: whooo hoo! eehhh, sorry cough). "Ohh? Who's this? The idiot who tried to attack me yesterday night and a nice little welcoming committee. How special I feel." She said casually, though clearly on guard. "Hunters just don't learn their lessons do they?"

"You won't win this time!" Hunter #1 cried angrily.

"We're onto you Dawnless. How many have you turned already? Start your own little vampire town?" Hunter #2 sneered.

"You guys are all too paranoid." She said, walking over to the couch and sitting down. "But since you're all here I guess I'll just have to tolerate you for a bit. Please have a seat. Do any of you want something to drink?"

"We're not here for any casual meeting, as you should know Dawnless." Hunter #2 said angrily.

"That's too bad. Oh well, I don't have anything to drink here yet. I just got here yesterday. And for your information, I haven't turned anybody yet. As I told that idiot who barged in yesterday night, I have no intention of ever doing so. All you hunter types are the same, taking me for a ruthless killer or something. Sheesh. Are you sure you don't want to sit? There're chairs for all of you." She said, sounding for all the world to hear like a simple hostess whose friends had dropped in early rather than a vampire cornered by hunters.

Bryant was feeling very out of place. He shifted uncomfortably on his feet. She caught sight of him. "Oh, hello there. You're that other kid I saw at the café yesterday. How'd you get mixed up with this group?" She asked curiously.

"He is not of your concern." Hunter #1 said strictly, walking protectively near Bryant and gripping his dagger.

"Relax, relax. Your blood pressure is going to skyrocket. Is it bad for me to try and make friends? Fine, but I think I've been pretty generous in letting you stay and not attacking you. Vowing not to turn anyone, no less. It seems the softer I get the more people suspect me." She sighed heavily. "Dear dear, I get no break these days. You, by the door, please close it. I got to a good start with the landlord and I don't want to ruin it now."

The one by the door looked to hunter #1, who shrugged. He closed it.

"We have all reason in the world to suspect you." Hunter #3 said, speaking up. "You're Dawnless, the famed vampiress, rumored to be the first or second strongest vampire in the world and once the most wanted bounty head who worked as Night's top huntress, and you've turned up in our quiet little town without warning."

"Flattering, but I don't do the whole hunting out hunters thing anymore." She said, flicking an imaginary speck of dust from her blouse, sitting comfortably back in the couch with her shoes tucked neatly underneath it. "And I don't belong to any groups, I haven't turned anyone for over 1500 years, and I think Night's a creep, but my reputation still seems to stick. I suppose you wouldn't believe me if I told you I hate this existence and I needed to get away from the vampire society for awhile?"

"Not a chance." Hunter #1 growled. "You were none too gentle yesterday."

"You attacked me." She said, sending a surly glare his way. "I was tired, it was ten minutes till dawn, and a hunter barges in and starts stabbing at me with a blessed metal dagger. You're lucky you're alive."

Weive only barely caught the nod hunter #3 gave to the guy behind the door, and the fact that the hunters had shifted positions so they were in a semicircle and nonchalantly gripping their weapons. A glint in her eyes gave him the feeling that Dawnless noticed it too. She got up and stretched like a cat, shedding her heavy trench coat. Underneath she wore dark jeans and a black 3/4 sleeve top. "All right kids, the hostess has a whole night ahead of her. Would you mind giving her a night off?" She suddenly turned her eyes to his and Bryant found himself unable to think straight. He felt himself lose control over his body and stood immoble even after she turned away. The hunters didn't seem to notice. The first three guys charged all at once, and she quickly spun into a crouch. All of them went barreling by, and hunter #1 tripped onto the coffee table again. "You know, I think that table likes you, but trip over it again and it may break. Please try not to be so clumsy." She jumped lightly back over the sofa, holding the sword sharp edge forwards, parallel to the ground.

"Enough playing around, vampire!" Hunter #2 hissed, throwing something at her.

She deftly caught the three silver needles, then hissed and dropped them as they burned her skin. "This is what I get for trying to be nice." She sighed, then suddenly leapt to the side, knocking hunter #2 over with the hilt of her sword. The gun he'd been aiming fell to the ground with a loud clang.

As if on cue, hunters #1 and #3 lunged forwards, swinging their knives at the same time. She swiftly moved to the side, smiling softly as they stopped just short of impaling each other. Hunter #1 quickly recovered and hurtled his dagger at her, which she deftly caught and threw back at him, slicing him down the arm. He cried out and fell to the ground, trying to stop the bleeding. Hunter #3's eyes widened in shock, and he quickly called out for the last one. "Syrias! What do you think you're doing?! Help us out here!"

Syrias gave him a withering look. "You didn't ever tell me to attack did you?" He asked in annoyance. "It was you who told me to attack on your signal." However he snapped to attention and pulled out a long, thin sword which glinted brightly in the glow of the street lights that shone through the torn curtains. He took a steady step forwards then stopped, carefully gauging her movements.

"You seem pretty good, unlike these guys." Dawnless said, smiling to him and analyzing him at the same time. "Will you grace me with your name?"

"You would know me as Plague." He said, smirking. He knew her too well to think she really hadn't recognized him.

"Plague is it? Wow, it's been awhile, you look so different. I hope you haven't gone rusty on me." She said. "I can hardly believe you've aged so well. Not my loss I guess. It's an honor to be fighting you again Plague. Sure you want to go through with this?"

"Yeah, I'm hired after all. Getting to see your dear little self again is just an added bonus."

"Don't flatter yourself." She said, winking. "I'm not gonna come cheap."

"Bring it on." He challenged, grinning.

She lunged forwards, keeping the kodachi parallel to the ground. He swiftly dodged, and she swept around to the side. He countered and retaliated with a low, powerful cut, which she jumped over. They both sprang apart, eyeing eachother carefully. "All right, what do I get out of this if I win?" Dawnless asked nonchalantly.

"I'll give you dirt on Night, if you're still looking for Him." Plague replied with a smirk.

"Sounds good." She feinted to the right and attacked from the left, and he only barely blocked. She quickly whipped out a concealed blade and cut him in the side before he twisted away.

"That was mean." He said, idly checking the wound.

"Please. As if you don't have any surprises hidden away in that cloak." She answered cooly, flicking the dagger to rid it of blood.

Plague grinned and whipped something her way. She deftly caught it, but the thin glass bubble shattered and sprayed her with something wet. She jumped back a pace, spots and splotches burnt into her skin like acid. A long mark like the cut from a blunt knife trailed from her left ear to her forehead, bleeding and forcing her to close her left eye. "Holy water? That's pretty underhanded of you. Smooth move though. You deserve the title of a hunter, unlike those fools." She gestured dispassionately towards the unconcious, bleeding, and cowering hunters.

"A compliment from Dawnless? Wow, you're quite different from eight years ago."

"I'm in a good mood. I'm about to find some good info on Night, I just fed, and I get to see Plague again." She replied, slashing diagonally at him.

He blocked and parried the blow, returning it with a quick swing that she blocked with her dagger. Plague gave in and jumped back, then immediately reengaged her, lunging forwards with a clash of metal on metal, bouncing and throwing a needle towards her as he recovered and came at her again.

Dawnless flicked the needle away with her dagger, not seeming to care as it embedded itself in the wall behind her. Her momentary distraction allowed him to knock the blade from her hands and deliver a long cut accross the hand, which she brought up to block her neck. The wound sizzled slightly, partially cauterized. "Ow." She hissed in annoyance. Bringing down her kodachi with a sudden burst of energy, she poised it lightly against his neck, just as his weapon stopped a hair's breadth from piercing her side.

"A draw." Plague said stonily, looking every bit as irritated as she did.

"We're cursed." She said as they withdrew their blades at the same time and sheathed them. She stuck out a hand and he unnecessarily took it and got up from his crouched position. "It seems I'll never get a decisive fight from you. You're such a stubborn guy."

"I could say the same of you." Plague replied. "You got any bandages in here yet?"

She sighed. "I swear you plan these things." She said, disappearing into the hall. There was the sound of her opening a closet. "I always end up wasting away my allowance on you stupid inconsiderate hunters. I swear I've wasted ten boxes on Plague alone. Idiots, all of you. Next time I want you to bring your own supplies, hear me?"

"I keep forgetting." Plague replied, inspecting his side. The cut wasn't terribly bad, but enough to keep him out of action for a week or two. He'd had worse. He unexpectedly looked up at Bryant, who, although he still couldn't really move, was pretty confused. "Hey, you forgot to unfreeze this kid in here Dawnless. So forgetful."

"Speak for yourself." She said, coming into the room again. "You're in my apartment, mooching off of my hospitality, and you still succeed at annoying me even more. I think I'll just snap and kill you off someday."

"Not until I have a chance to exterminate you first." He said, reaching over and grabbing a roll of gauze.

"We'll take each other out then. Sounds good to me. The world doesn't need you plagueing it with your existance any longer- no pun intended."

"That was pretty bad. Your humor certainly hasn't improved." He replied. "Next time you're going down."

"Just make 'next time' after I'm done with Night." She said, her eyes flashing. "You know how much that means to me. If you get in my way you'll make yourself one heck of an enemy."

"If I did, I'd just have to get him myself." Plague said. "I don't care for that picture. It's so much easier for you to kill him off. Just don't get yourself killed in the process, or I won't forgive you."

"No guarantees there." She replied coldly. "Dang it Plague, you still don't know how to take care of yourself. It's a wonder you're still alive." She said, grabbing the gauze from him and securing it on his arm.

"Dang it, that's too tight." He protested, wincing.

"Sure, bleed to death for all I care." She said, throwing her hands in the air. "Men are all so hopeless!" She grabbed another role of gauze and got up, walking over to the windows and plopping down near the wounded hunter. He whimpered and inched slightly away. "Especially you hunter types." She added, "Geez, stop squirming. I'm not gonna kill you or anything. I'll give you guys one more chance." She reached over and roughly grabbed his arm. "Ohh, sorry mate, didn't mean to cut it that deep. Ah well, nothing your doctors can't stitch up." She tended to the wound, the hunter staring wide-eyed as she ripped off some gauze and sponged off the extra blood, cleaning the wound before wrapping it tightly in white gauze. "Geez, Plague should take a lesson from you. This guy doesn't gripe when people help them out."

"Why are you helping us?" Hunter #3 asked shakily, slightly less tense and sitting behind her.

"I don't want any more incriminating evidence in my apartment." She said, rolling her eyes at him. "I already have a full night's work ahead of me cleaning up all the blood in the carpeting. Thanks to you I'll probably have to feed again tomorrow night."

"Don't complain so much, you're even more annoying than usual when you do that." Plague said, tying off his bindings and pulling his shirt back down to cover them.

"You hurt kid?" Dawnless asked, turning her sultry gaze to Bryant. "I know I took away the hypnosis already. Why're you still just standing there?"

"O-oh, sorry," Bryant said, shakily looking around then sitting down in a nearby folding chair.

"Stop scaring him, Dawnless. You're so bad with kids." Plague scolded.

"What? He broke in too, he's probably some kinda hunter trainee. I only asked him to sit down." She glared at him then turned her slightly less threatening eyes to Bryant. "Well? Are you hurt at all? It's not polite to ignore peoples' questions you know."

"N-no. I'm not hurt." Bryant replied, feeling his composure come back bit by bit.

"Good to hear." She replied indifferently, "It'd really be too bad if you were injured during a fight you couldn't participate in."

"Well, since at the moment I have nowhere to stay, having rushed to Utah for this assignment and all, I guess I'll just have to crash here for tonight." Plague said blithely, grinning ear to ear.

"Oh no you don't." Dawnless said angrily. "You've already taken enough advantage of my hospitality. Stay in a motel or something."

"All of them are booked. I didn't expect you to know, but there's some kinda festival happening nearby tomorrow. I guess most of the motels are full 'cause of tourists and people, since there aren't all that many in the first place. Please?" He pleaded. He sounded like an honest friend asking for a favor. It was too bad his grin gave him away.

"No way." She said firmly. "Sleep on a park bench or something."

"But it's so cold here at night! I know that you have a bedroom, so let me spend the rest of the night."

"I know you too well. You won't be gone in the day. How am I supposed to rest assured by the fact that I'm housing one of the best hunters in the world in my apartment during the day?"

"Don't be such a spoil sport. You and I go way back. It's not like it's the first time I've stayed over. I'll give you my solemn word that I won't do anything to you if you let me stay. It's not like I couldn't just break in anyways."

She glared at him. He grinned back. "You are one heck of a stubborn idiot. Your vows better not be lies, jerk. One wrong move and you're out. Got that?"

"I knew you'd see things my way." He said. "I'll set up my own bed. Be back in a sec!"

"Be a gentleman and sleep on the couch." Dawnless said, waving a hand. "The curtains got torn so I obviously can't sleep in here in the day."

"The couch faces away from the windows."

"Doesn't matter. My house, my rules. And I say you're sleeping on the couch. End of discussion." She said, pulling a little harder than necessary on the hunter's bandage, and not seeming to notice his wince. Not that she probably cared.

"Hey, you two other hunters, I know the coward's not hurt but are you?" She asked hunter #1 as he groaned and slowly got up.

"Uhnnn." He responded, timidly touching the large swelling bump developing on his forehead where she'd hit him.

"Too bad for you. Serves you right for ignoring my warning and attacking me twice in two nights. Now all three of you, scram. You're staying here, kid. I'm not through with you."

"Uh oh you're in for it now!" Plague joked, heartily reaching over and clapping his hand down on Bryant's shoulder.

"Cut it out Plague. Go grab some blankets from the bedroom or something. Grab me a couple washclothes and a basin of water from the bathroom while you're at it." She said dismissively. Plague made a mock bow, which only seemed to agitate her, and swept from the room. Ignoring the hunters who were limping, shaking and groaning their ways to the door, Dawnless turned her full attention to Bryant. He shifted uncomfortably under her intense gaze. "So kid, what's your name?" She asked, though it was more of a demand than a question.

"T-Terin Chan." He replied.

"There's no reason to lie. I'm not about to kill you off or anything. What's your real name?" She was trying to be nice, she really was. Being nice just never came easy to her, especially after 16 years of being in minimal human contact; not counting Plague. Although the two held a grudging respect for each other, any idiot could tell they weren't on a completely friendly basis.

Realizing it was useless to bluff his way out, Bryant visibly deflated and spilled his story. When he was done, she had already set to work picking up her few belongings and refolding a pile of clothes that had fallen during the fight. "Well that explains a lot." She admitted, "I thought at first you were a really inexperienced hunter, but it didn't seem to fit you at all. Now I get it." She carefully appraised him before continuing. "You certainly would work for the job. No really standing characteristics, average height, nothing special. I can't say the same for your skills though, since I haven't seen you fight."

Plague came back in, carrying a large bundle of blankets and sheets. "Hey, thanks Dawnless for so kindly letting me sleep here tonight." He said cheerily, dumping them on the couch.

"Did you leave me anything?" She asked as he started preparing his makeshift bed.

"A couple things. I didn't take the fitting sheet, and I left you one of the summer blankets and a cover sheet."

"Aw, I'm touched." She said, rolling her eyes. "At least all that stuff here is disposable. It's not like I carry those sheets and blankets around with me. I'd hate to have to live with the fact that Plague used the same linens. I'm having enough of a time picturing you staying the night without my sanity paying the price."

"Touching." He replied. "Well, I'm all tired out. Your bucket thingie of water and the washcloths are here. I didn't have enough hands so I put them inside. I hope you don't mind," He said, handing her the bucket and plopping down on the couch.

"It's you. I should've expected as much." She said idly.

"Good night!"

"Hey, get up you lazy bum. It's half your fault the apartment's trashed, so give me a hand here."

"Sorry. I'll get to it in the morning." He said dismissively, not moving.

"Bum."

"Tyrant."

"I sure hope that was sleeptalking." She growled. He was silent. "Thought so. So kid, you got a place to stay? Since this idiot's staying here you may as well keep an eye on him and make sure he does his share of the work." She squeezed out one of the soaking rags and started carefully wiping away the stains on the walls.

"Uh, no, I don't. If it's not too much trouble..."

"I like you. You know your manners, unlike somebody here. You tired? There's some extra sheets and a spare blanket in the bedroom cabinet, if you want to get some rest. Bump that lump from the sofa."

"It's okay. Do you need help?"

She looked at him and for a moment the corners of her mouth turned up in a small smile. "What a gentleman. Only if you want to. You're free to rest or something."

Bryant picked up one of the clothes and struggled to squeeze out the water but found he couldn't get as much out as Dawnless. She made it look so easy. The thought made him wonder about her. How had she been turned? She certainly didn't seem to enjoy her existence. Everyone had called her Dawnless, and said she was like the best in the world or something. By the way she kidded around with Plague all the time, she certainly didn't give off that impression. Dawnless couldn't be her real name, could it? Did anyone even know it?

"You're all full of questions. Holding in all that tension will just make you snap someday. We've got enough time, so ask away."

"How were you turned?" He blurted, then immediately felt dumb for doing so.

"By a vampire of course." She said mildly, "About the 100's, though there really weren't dates back then. Everybody was either an idiot or charged for heresy by the church. I only have pretty vague memories of my life before becoming a vampire. I don't care for that particular memory either, and I've lost track of the time. What else?"

"Are you really the strongest vampire in the world?" He asked, slightly nervous at the question.

"Dunno. Probably not. I know Night could give me a run for my money. You'll have to ask the dummy when he's awake." She said, obviously not bothering to lower her voice.

"Who's Night?"

"That's for me to know and you to hopefully not ever have to find out." She replied with a wink. "Careful, don't let that drip get to the carpet." She added, scrubbing rigorously at the rough brown carpeting.

Bryant quickly caught his mistake and concentrated on the task at hand, trying to put things together in his mind. The only thing Dawnless and Plague agreed on was the fact that Night needed to be killed. Dawnless was up in the list of the strongest vampire in the world, though she didn't act the part, and hunted by Plague, who must be pretty darn good to last so long against her. She also supposedly worked for Night, or used to. Something about being his top huntress. Had she turned anybody? That hadn't been made clear. He somehow doubted that, although he couldn't see how that would work. Vampires needed to feed on humans didn't they? He'd worry about that later. He was fairly confident she wouldn't just flip out and bite him with Plague hanging around in the apartment.

"Is Dawnless your real name?" He asked suddenly, breaking the silence. She breifly paused in the act of dabbing her rag in the water, then resumed cleaning, all emotion wiped from her face.

"No." She replied simply.

He wondered whether he should ask for the specifics, but decided against it. Stony silence settled over them again.

"There. That's as much as I'm doing." Dawnless said, setting down the pink-tinged rag. She looked over. "Hey, that's good. I refuse to let you work any more and do Plague's work. What do you say to a little dessert? Are you hungry, kid?" She walked over to the refrigerator and wrinkled her nose at the mold growing inside, quickly removing an apple pastry and sticking it on the counter.

"A little." He replied steadily, slightly unsure of himself. She was a vampire. Wasn't she supposed to be dangerous or something?

"Good. I need to get rid of this, since I know it won't taste good to me anyways."

Fishing around in a drawer she came up with a plastic fork and a plastic container, which she dumped the pastry in and putting in some microwave settings. The steady hum of the microwave made him suddenly aware of the silence of her movements. Walking around the bare kitchen, her feet seemed to miss all the squeaky spots that were numerous all over the apartment. The microwave started beeping, and she quickly crossed over and pulled out the pastry, setting it down on the table with a flourish. "Come on now, if you don't eat it Plague will, and that'd just be a waste. I'm going to get some bleach."

Bryant uncomfortably slid into a chair, sitting at the meager, scratched kitchen counter.

Dawnless returned shortly. She looked at him with barely masked annoyance. "Now then, go ahead. It's not like I poisoned it or anything." She said lightly, placing down the bleach by the water. "Make sure you tell Plague he's got to bleach the worse stains. If there's one spot of pink on my carpet he's gonna get it at sunset."

Bryant tentatively took a bite from the slightly melted pastry, surprised at how good it tasted. He quickly took another bite.

"So? How is it?" She asked, obviously referring to the food.

"It's great." He replied, "Thank you."

"Not like I'd like it anymore." She shrugged. "Sometimes I just get one when I stop by the market, for old time's sake. I kinda miss being able to taste it, I used to have such a sweet tooth." She didn't allow any sadness or regret seep into her voice, which remained impassive.

"That's too bad." Bryant said sympathetically.

"S'okay. I'll feel better when I get some good sleep and wake up to a clean apartment." She shot a look at the man slumbering in the couch. "Hopefully." She added distainfully.

"Are you going to sleep?" Bryant asked, a little unnerved by the fact that he was holding a normal conversation with a vampire.

"Yup." She replied. "Not quite dawn, but it's catching up to me. Gotta rest so I heal completely by tonight."

"Oh." Bryant said simply.

"Make sure you keep that kid on the couch from hurting himself okay?" She asked. "I'm gonna take a shower and go to sleep."

"Okay. Bye."

'Good kid.' She thought, stopping by the bedroom to grab some clothes more suitable for sleeping in. She checked the bed. Sure enough, Plague had left her only one thin white sheet and a measly wool cover. Ah well. It was a warm night anyways.

The shower did wonders in relaxing her tense muscles. She couldn't help but leave the steamy bathroom with a contented smile on her features, slipping into a soft cotton tank top and capris. She felt exhaustion come creeping in and briefly wondered what time it was before slipping under the covers and promptly falling asleep.

A/N: I have more, but I just contracted the flu and I don't feel like finishing the next part yet. Sorry everybody. I'll get on it asap. Please don't laugh at my suckiness at vamp stories. This happens to be my first one, so fingers crossed I'm hoping the best. Thank you Ominouscloud for becoming my beta! I appreciate it! In the meantime, please please please please PLEASE adopt or make characters for GE! PLEASE! (See my website blog for details)

A/N: This chapter is unedited. Yeah, that's right. Better wince harder. I know it's entirely too buggy, but I'm afraid that if I don't post it now I never will. An update will be on the way shortly.

Edited 1.23.05

Chapter 3

Routine

It was shortly after dawn when Plague woke up, although Bryant suspected that he had not really slept much at all.

"Oy, kid, you got any sleep?" He asked, stretching and rolling out of the couch, ignoring its indignant squeaks of protest.

"Uh, no, I wasn't tired." Bryant replied, starting up from his seat on one of the chairs.

"Ah well. You could always get some sleep today. I bet Dawnless would be pretty bummed if you took off, and I don't want her mad at me."

"Isn't she usually mad at you?" Bryant asked, more at ease with the hunter than the vampire.

"Heh. She's just playing hard to get." Plague said, "Though nobody would want to go for a girl like that. I've been trying for twelve years to get her to loosen up and look where it got me." He promptly walked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator, eyeing its sparse contents.

"Oh- she said you couldn't get anything until you'd cleaned up." Bryant said, pointing to the bucket and bleach.

"It's okay, she won't mind." Plague said, "Besides, it'll be my fault even if I do do the job right now. You just take a nap or something."

"I'm still not too tired." Bryant said. "Should I help with the cleaning or something?"

"If you're worried about Dawnless I already told you it's fine." Plague reminded him, drawing out a second pastry and putting it in the microwave.

"No, it's just that... there really isn't anything to do here." Bryant said, slightly embarrassed by his admonition.

"Yeah, she's so dull she keeps nothing. Do you have money?"

"N-no, not really." Bryant replied meekly.

"Ah well. Use these to get into my car and bring up the big blue duffel, will you?" Plague asked, tossing him a set of keys.

"Um, okay." Bryant replied, catching the keys easily. Plague had a set of five keys, all of them silver, and dangling alongside them a little red rubber keychain shaped like a bird. Bryant paused a moment to wonder what that was about, then concluded that it wasn't his business and went downstairs to find the hunter's car. After a moment he realized he had no idea what Plague's car would look like. He breathed a sigh of relief as he encountered a virtually empty parking lot.

Peering at the keys in hopes of finding any kind of helpful detail he'd missed in his initial scrutiny, he was awarded by a faint, worn toyota logo etched in the car key. Triumphant, he looked over all of the cars, then frowned. None of them were toyotas. Puzzled, he stopped and thought a bit. Trust Plague to be so vague about his instructions. 'Think, Bryant, think.'

'All right. Plague came to slay a vampire, namely, Dawnless. Since he claimed to be a top-notch hunter (despite his personality), he'd have to be always on the alert- in other words, paranoid. Dawnless had to have exhibited this quality in great amounts as well- except where Plague and himself had been concerned. It would make sense if he parked in the street, or even a little ways from the apartment.'

Bryant found Plague's car, a black toyota SUV, parked one block from the apartment, nonchalantly sitting with its right tires resting on the sidewalk, tilted at an angle. He grabbed the bag and re-locked the car.

"Ah, great! You found it." Plague said genially, quickly taking the bag from him as soon as he'd reentered the apartment. He hauled out a large white laptop and flipped it open, starting it up as he fished around for the power cord. He winked at Bryant as he noticed the boy staring at him. "Always carry one of these around, never know when they'll come in handy! Great at storing vampire information; you wouldn't believe the stories my grandfather told me about his days as a hunter." He laughed cheerfully, as the login screen appeared and the laptop awaited the login password. "Poor bloke had to go to a hunter 'station' to get any information, and they were scattered around the country! Sometimes he'd even have to go to another country's station to get information. Now all of that's just a mouse click away." He noticed that the laptop was ready and keyed in an incredibly long password (that Bryant strongly suspected was well beyond the 25-digit limitation) into the password space, as well as replacing the name 'Plague' in the name bank with an equally long string of letters and digits. Finally he finished off with a flourish and rapped the return key before Bryant could make out more than four numbers.

The welcome screen appeared, but the computer was reacting a lot faster than Bryant was used to computers working from past experience. Also, for Bryant, who had worked around Apple computers every now and then, something seemed off about the layout the laptop presented when it was done loading. Could be a new model, he thought, shrugging.

Plague rapidly keyed through several menus and passwords at almost lightning speed. The man had amazing typing skills, Bryant had to admit. He would make a great secretary. Bryant almost laughed at the thought of Plague sitting in front of his laptop, rapidly typing things in wearing a sharp business suit as he tried to tend to a growing pile of papers.

"What're you grinning about?" Plague asked, with a smile of his own as he glanced up at the kid. Bryant shook his head, looking on with avid interest when Plague hurriedly unlocked a new application (with another dismally long password) and started surfing through what could easily pass as the web, down to email alert blinking in the corner of the window and the Yahoo! logo gracing the top of the page. Except that, upon the quick combination of commands and another password (Bryant was beginning to suspect that Plague was either insecure or very, very paranoid), the web page contained massive listings of locations, times, dates, names, group names, organizations, corporations, government officials, allies, country specs, weapon makers, weapon retailers, churches, and every other institution or specific Bryant could think of. Plague clicked on a link innocently titled 'Fictions' in his bookmarks bar, and suddenly the mass steadied down to an extremely long list of names and, in bright red, flourishing script at the top of the page, appeared the word 'Vampire Listing'. Below the title was a bolded black message, flashing quickly to grab his attention. 'Connect to secure internet source required. Recorded log nominal. Weekly update agreement breached.' Plague sighed and clicked twice on the message, making it disappear. He didn't seem perturbed at all by the fact that he seemed to have broken some kind of rule. He scrolled down the list of names, then clinked on a link at the bottom that said, 'United States'. Even more of the names vanished, but the list was still woefully long. Bryant gulped. All these vampires, and he hadn't noticed a thing. It was a little disconcerting.

"Let's see..." Plague said softly. It took Bryant a moment to realize that the hunter was addressing him. "I've got a couple games on this thing, and last time I was connected I uploaded a few shows. Interested?" He glanced back up and Bryant shrugged. "All right, be that way. I've got Shrek, Shrek 2, The Matrix, Dracula Dead and Loving it (Bryant let out a snort of laughter), Spirited Away, Cowboy Bebop A/N: Pretend that he likes old movies. I don't want to be making up names of future movies okay? :P (BEBOP ROCKS!), Pirates of the Caribbean, Lord of the Rings, some sappy romance flick this annoying hunter girl must've snuck on while I wasn't looking, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Basically all old stuff. In terms of games I've got Snood on here, DX Ball, a weird fighting game I picked up somewhere, solitaire, and... Um... Whatwasit, oh yeah, that old game 'Lode Runner'."

"Umm... Anything you want to do is fine." Bryant said awkwardly, not knowing what half of that stuff was.

"Come on kid, work with me here. Movie or game?"

"...Movie." Bryant said. Plague would doubtlessly make a fool of him in a fighting game anyways.

"Cool. Hm, any specific genre or just eeny meenie?"

"I don't have a preference." Bryant replied.

"Eenie meenie it is then." Plague said. He closed his eyes, scrolled for a while without looking at the window full of movies, and randomly stopped and pressed enter. He'd chosen Shrek 2.

As it turned out, they ended up just listening to the sounds coming from the laptop, now perched atop the empty tv table playing Monty Python. Two rounds of eenie meenie later, they'd gotten bored and finally decided to work a little on the cleaning. Actually, Bryant had decided to do some of the cleaning, as he nervously noted that it was already noon, and Plague had shrugged and lent a helping hand, grumbling incessantly about stupid bossy vampires and obedient thieves.

They took breaks for four snacks, digging things out of the vampire's fairly empty refrigerator. When they were done, Plague had cheerfully whipped out a pot and pan from the duffel, with a laugh at Bryant's incredulous face, and started tossing things haphazardly onto the kitchen counter. The pot, filled with water, sat on the gas stovetop boiling while Plague took out a shiny dagger and commenced in chopping up his findings. Bryant wandered into the living room and toyed around with the laptop, working his ways through the levels of Snood.

Plague hummed merrily as he worked, stirring up a thick stew with a large soup bone and tossing in chopped up carrots, lettuce, potatoes, broccoli, leek, and bits of other food items with abandon. After a while, Plague broke into song in a bright, lilting tune that would be beautiful- if Plague could sing. Just as Bryant moved to go see what Plague was up to, he noticed with a start the vampiress casually stretching and yawning, rubbing the sleep from her eyes as she blinked into the room, staring fixedly out of the window as, Wive noticed with a start, the last rays of sunlight disappeared. Moving past him into the kitchen with no more than a nod, she leaned against the entryway, investigating into Plague's attempts at cooking. "Plague you can't sing. I don't like to wake up to your sad attempts at music and the scent of carbon monoxide seeping into my room."

"Carbon monoxide is scentless, Dawn." He said, glancing at her and catching her growl of annoyance at his pet name. "You look like hell. Go get a shower or something and come back when you're fully awake."

"Did you clean up the curtains?" She asked, ignoring his jab.

"Yep." Plague replied, slowly stirring the soup with a spoon.

Dawnless eyed him for a while, before looking back and turning to address Bryant. "Thank you." She said, giving him a smile and a wink. Bryant colored.

"Aw, that hurt Dawnless. That cut me deep." Plague said, planting a sad pout on his face.

"Don't you dare 'forget' that knife on the counter." Dawnless growled. "You have some nerve to be waving that around in my apartment."

"You need to relax." Plague said, blithely picking up the knife again and carelessly attacking more vegetables. "The kid and I had a good time. Right kid?"

Bryant soundlessly nodded, watching the exchange with a confused mix of feelings. Plague and Dawnless were hard to crack, at best.

"He's just afraid you'll poison him with your evil stew." Dawnless said, staring at the pot with distaste.

"Hey, this is veggie soup, my specialty!" Plague said, waving his spoon at her and attacking her with a light spray of foul-smelling droplets.

"I think I'll take that shower now." She said, wrinkling her nose. "Hey Bryant, I'll zap you some mac and cheese after I'm done with my shower. Don't eat anything Plague gives you, 'kay?"

"Don't listen to her kid. She's just bitter she couldn't taste it. Don't trust a vampire's taste in food." Plague replied with a cocky grin. "The soup's ready now if you're hungry. Want me to pour it in a bowl for you?"

"I -er, I think I'm more in the mood for noodles." Bryant said uncertainly. "Besides, I'm not hungry right now."

Dawnless laughed as she disappeared into the bathroom. "Hear that Plague? The kid learns fast!" She called, locking the door behind her.

"N-no! I really don't feel like eating right now." Bryant said. And it was true. The smell wafting in from the kitchen was anything but appetizing. It was death by inhalation. He feverishly hoped that Dawnless had a pretty good ventilation system.

"Your loss." Plague said, whistling loudly. He quickly took out a ladle and spooned some of the concoction into a styrofoam takeout cup which- to Bryant's utter amazement- didn't melt. After a while he was at a total loss as to how the hunter could stand to eat something that smelled so awful, and not die. Already half of the soup was gone, and Plague was on his third bowl. He drank it quickly, with abandon, and didn't even give any sign of noticing when Dawnless waltzed in, looking (slightly) happier. She waited until he'd finished drinking the broth straight from the bowl before favoring him with a disdainful word.

"You get sick, you clean it up." She said, going into a cabinet and removing the lid off of a box of macaroni and cheese.

"Want some?" Plague asked, spooning himself another bowl.

"No." She replied bluntly, pointedly avoiding him as they vied for dominion over the stove. "I'd probably get sick. What a way to start the evening, as if it didn't start bad enough."

"I thought your kind couldn't taste anything." Plague said, his eyebrows shooting up over the rim of his bowl.

"Oh, I'm sure what's left of my taste buds would melt upon contact with your evil brew. Don't cook in my apartment again. I have microwave meals, and you can't possibly mess those up. Deal?"

"You have no taste." Plague replied, sulking as he finished the bowl.

"You're right." Dawnless snapped, her good mood gone. Not that it was terribly noticeable if she was in a good mood, anyways. The microwave beeped and she went over and opened it up, pulling out the plastic skin on top of the TV dinner and sitting it on the island across from Plague. "Come on Bryant, if you're hungry now you can have some TV dinner macaroni and cheese. Yum yum." She added sarcastically, just for good measure.

"'Yum yum?'" Plague questioned, looking like he wanted to laugh.

"Shut it. My apartment, my rules, remember?"

"Like you'd let me forget."

"You do a good job of that anyways."

"Touché."

She stared at him for a moment. "You never let me win that easily. What's up?"

Unnoticed, Bryant squirmed into the seat in front of the macaroni, his mouth watering as the cheesy smell overwhelmed the smell of death at its close vicinity. Dawnless idly chucked him a plastic fork, and he poked at the food awhile, mixing the cheese with the noodles, before digging in.

"You gave everybody in this area the slip. Again." Plague sighed.

"So?" She asked. She seemed pretty laid back for a vampire with numerous hunters on her tail and one sitting in her kitchen.

"So you've gotta either get out of here before they figure out that you know this place or you stay here, forcing me to so unwillingly request to mooch place to stay again."

"I said one night."

"Pleaaase? The motels are still all full. That dang parade's still filling them all up. I got nowhere to stay."

"Stay in your car, stalker."

"I'm not a stalker and if I stay in my car somebody might notice- and I'm not talking about those idiots you scared away yesternight."

"Promise to let me wake up to the scent of microwave foods in the morning?"

He groaned. "Yeah, yeah. Sure."

"Aight, and all that stuff about not revealing my current location or contacting your buds in any way unless you consult me first?"

"Yeah."

"How about not telling them about this rest stop at all and I'll let you sleep on a futon."

"Couch is fine."

"Plague you owe me enough. Don't tell anybody about this place and I'll call it even."

"Gotcha. Deal."

Dawnless looked annoyed, but overall pleased as she turned her attention to the quiet teenager, feeling very out of place, and picking at his microwave macaroni and cheese. "You 'kay Bryant?" She asked lazily, stretching in her seat. The chair squeaked and she winced.

A/N: Eheheh, when I said I wasn't going to work on this... I lied. Please don't kill me! Enough people reviewed that I decided it would be worth doing.

misanthropic muse: thank you for your review! I much appreciate it! I'll probably edit RSS as soon as I get in the mood :P

Mei-Mei the SciFi Junkie: Love ya hon! Thanks for the advice! It goes straight to my shriveled, pruny heart

Black Passion: Thanks! I'll be sure to get to you asap!

Ancamna: Good to know you're still living! I must admit I've been dead for quite awhile, so I'm not one to talk. I love your current projects, keep up the great work!

Tears of Crimson: Oh my gosh! I totally lost your review before! I'm so sorry! I'll get to reviewing you asap! I hope you enjoy this chappie

Earthsong12: You're wonderful. many hugs

A/N: Ehh I really have to change the status of 'No Dawn' on my userpage list... ; Anyhow, thank you thank you thank you earthsong12! You are amazing! I will definitely continue this story.

Anyone who cares; Lode Runner is a real game, and I don't own it, or computer solitaire, or snood, or anything else I may have mentioned except my characters and my stories. siigh But really, Lode Runner is a great game It's ancient, I used to play in when I was in grade 5. Yeah, reallllly old. I actually need to use classic OS on my computer in order to play it :P So I doubt it's still on the market. Still, if you run into it on a street corner somewhere, I highly recommend. Duchess and I love that game. I'm always the blue guy

Aight, I liked earthsong's idea of making a 'pont's vampires' list... so here it is!

THE NAMES MELLOR AND Bryant HAVE CHANGED TO AEME AND BRYAN RESPECTIVELY! TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK!

My Vampires (if you don't agree with something you can tell me but I might not listen, nothing personal )

1. Vampires don't like the sun

2. Vampires are unable to taste food, or only taste the bitterness

3. Crosses burn them upon contact

4. Silver crosses can usually keep them at bay. Those are twice as painful as normal crosses and at near vicinity tend to give my vampies ouchies.

5. Vampires can't touch blessed metals. Silver as a rule is a definite no-no

6. Superhuman movement and strength are plus sides to being vampires

7. Holy water burnnnnsssss

8. No reflection, though they can see themselves

9. More 'sickly' vampires can result from vamps being in bad health when they were turned

10. No aging

11. Garlic is bad

12. Churches bad. Going into one is a biiiig mistake

13. Gargoyles sometimes can make a vamp edgy (I read somewhere that gargoyles on churches protect the churches from satanic forces. I'm borrowing on that fact. This rule's challengeable though)

14. Immortal

15. Wood stake in the heart kills (Good grief that's gotta hurt wince)

16. A quick beheading works too

17. To turn somebody they have to suck them dry (or at least until the point of death) then feed them some of their blood.

18. Newly turned vampires have fractured memories of their life as a human. It may take hundreds of years for them to regain their complete understanding of their past life, but mutiny by hatchlings is not uncommon, and a much faster way for them to regain their memories and freedom.

19. Their saliva can heal minor wounds. (eww that's kinda gross)

20. Their fangs secrete a weird substance that sedates their victims.

Ancamna: Thank you thank you for your wonderful criticism! I'm sorry about making the first update so long blush heheh, don't worry, it's just because I took so long posting it. Thank you for hanging in with me, you're amazing!

I'm starting right where I left off.

Updated 1.23.05
Chapter 4
Routine (cont.)

GLITCH ALERT Sorry, and this isn't really necessary, but it might help your understanding of the story. No Dawn actually had two different forms when I started out, one with and one without Bryant in it But I decided that Bryant was just too much fun to keep out. Therefore, the first chapter has several mess-ups in it. A more important one I'd like to point out is that I accidentally left the description of Bryant (when Dawnless doesn't know him) described him as in his late twenties, Plague's description. Bryant is in his mid-teens.

"Fine." Bryant replied, taking a bite. It wasn't that bad. Still, he couldn't help but feel self-conscious eating in front of a vampire. What if she was just fattening him up or something? He shook the thought away. Well, it wouldn't hurt to eat either way. And she wasn't going to eat him, right? Right.

The only small comfort he found in his current position was that those gangster guys certainly couldn't get a hold of him for not coming back with loot last night. Now he had a whole new set of worries to fret about. Starting with how long these two were planning on keeping him. He decided to ask.

Plague gave him an amused glance and no more. Dawnless actually let out a chuckle. It was the vampire who answered his question. "Well actually my policy is you can leave whenever you want and if you rat me out I come after you." She said. Then she jabbed a thumb towards Plague, staying Bryant's sigh of relief. "Unfortunately, the Hunters have their own code. Ask Plague about that."

"Unfortunately my rules are a little more complicated." Plague said, scratching his chin. "I need you to come with me to meet with the group of hunters I currently belong to... it's the rules so please no hard feelings or whatnot. Anyhow if I don't bring you with me there will be trouble, and I'll have to hunt you down and bring you to them forcefully if need be. Right. Questions?"

"So... I can't go home. I have to go with you until I've met your group."

"Yup. Once we've decided you won't spill any info to the vampires about us we'll let you go wherever you want and you'll never hear from us again as long as you keep out of the vampire and hunter communities."

"Simple enough." Bryan said, shrugging."I guess I can deal with that."

"Good. How about staying here for another week or so?" Plague said, leaning back in his chair in a stretch.

Dawnless visibly tensed. "Excuse me?" She asked coldly. "I don't ever remember giving you permission to stay for a week."

"Aw chill, I already said I wasn't gonna stake you." Plague said, lazily grinning and peering at her with one eye as he slouched backwards. Dawnless twitched a little at his jab. "Please let this old stalker stay in your home so he doesn't have to drag the kid around the town sleeping in cardboard boxes?"

It worked. Dawnless groaned, slipping from her chair and sinking back against the kitchen counter as if doom was rapidly approaching. "I'm doing this out of consideration for the kid. You'll buy your own food from now on, and if you mess this apartment up at all you're gone." After a brief moment she quickly added, "And no stupid stunts like last time."

"I'm hurt. And here I thought you actually had a sense of fun." Plague said, dramatically placing a hand to his heart.

"Scaring the wits out of me by hanging over me with an uncorked bottle of holy water when I woke isn't fun Plague!" Dawnless yelled angrily. Heaving a heavy, suffering sigh, she kneaded her temples a bit. "Dammit, having you here is building up the stress. I'm going to have to feed again before the week's over."

"Not on a human I hope?" Plague asked, raising his eyebrow questioningly. Bryant watched the exchange, fascinated by their interaction. Somehow, he couldn't imagine any other vampire and hunter bickering in this manner.

She shot him an icy glare. "No. Livestock. Don't tempt me. I'm sure you'd be a lot quieter when you're woozy from a lack of blood."

"I withhold the right to self-defense."

"Wasn't in the contract." Dawnless said, disappearing into the bedroom. Not long after there was the rustle of cloth and cool streetlight light pooled in the open doorway. Dawnless came out wearing a pair of black boots and a long trench coat. "I'm going out." She announced, "Don't open the door to strangers, answer the phone, use the phone, set up holy water booby traps for fun, or stain my carpet with any of that soup while I'm gone." Pausing at the door, she turned and beckoned to Bryant. "You wanna come with, Bryant? It'll give Plague some time to ventilate my apartment before we come back." She said, looking pointedly behind him.

"I- I think I'll stay here." Bryant said nervously. To his surprise Dawnless smiled, the kind gesture slightly odd looking on her usually stoic or annoyed face. Judging by the mild surprise registering on Plague's face, she didn't do that often.

"It's all right. I won't jump you or anything. Maybe you can pick out some food to eat at the 24-hour market. That aside, having Plague alone in this apartment will give him a chance to do something useful for once." She said easily, picking up a wallet and a set of keys by the door.

Well, that didn't leave him much choice, and he wasn't going to offend a vampire. Nice or not, she made him nervous. "Okay, I guess I'll come then." Bryant replied, casting a nervous glance at Plague.

The hunter shrugged and grinned, waving him off. At least someone wasn't concerned. "You have no taste at all to be snubbing my cooking." He called after them, the comment obviously meant to be a parting shot.

Dawnless paused as she closed the door behind them. "Neither do you." She called back, shutting it with a smirk.

Kinata: Well, I'm not totally sure about the beheading thing again, but if a vampire gets his head chopped off in my story, he's not gonna be groping around... shivers that's just gross. :P I can't blame you for your business. It's not like I can talk. Glad to hear from you! Thanks for reviewing!

Earthsong12(): Hehe, I love the Plague/Dawnless thing. It's so fun to write... The list of 'Pont's rules for vampires' is now on the start of this chapter and somewhere on the first chapter. Hope that clears a few things up!

A/N: My author's notes are way too long. Therefore for the end ones I'm using an 'about me' section so those of you who don't really care about my busy schedule can just read about the story progress. Have you noticed how you type and type but the chappies on fictionpress seem so short? Rgh! Well, I promise this one is long(ish).

IMPORTANTIMPORTANTIMPORTANTIMPORTANTIMPORTANT!

I feel really bad for keeping changing stuff, but I promise this is the last update! Multiply Dawnless's age and all the timeframes I mentioned about her by 10, I realized that 200 years really isn't that long of a time... historically, so now she's over 1000 years old! :P Thanks!

Chapter 4

Hunters

After a few hours Bryant was actually able to relax. Once he'd determined that Dawnless wasn't showing any signs of hunger (as far as he could tell) he actually began to enjoy himself. At the moment the two were laughing together over steaming cups of hot chocolate. The night was pretty cold and every draft that came through the automatic shop doors behind Dawnless made Bryant shiver. Bryant laughed loudly, having recounted one of his favorite jokes and unable to withhold himself, as Dawnless chuckled appreciatively.

"So, what were you doing in my apartment before I came?" She asked casually, stretching backwards in her chair.

Bryant shifted uncomfortably, but didn't feel threatened. "I was looking to steal, actually. There's this group of bullies who always ask me for money, knowing I can't give it to 'em, so I have to steal it."

"Why d'you let them do that to you?" She asked, staring seriously at him.

He offered her a shaky smile. "I didn't have much of a choice. They're kind of dangling this problem I have over my head..."

"Pray tell." Dawnless said, propping her elbows on the table and folding her hands.

"Um..." He coughed awkwardly. "Well, I guess you could- say that I'm in debt to them..." He said, trailing off. He nearly flinched in surprise as Dawnless reached over and lightly patted his hand, resisting the urge to rub his hand on the spot where her cold one had touched. He was even more surprised by the uncharacteristically kind look on her face.

"Don't worry Bryant, Plague isn't gonna let anybody get you 'till the hunters have made you swear not to tell or nothing, and all of that riffraff. And maybe for sometime more. After that, well, you're a good kid. Behave and I might let you stick around for a little while until you find a home of your own. Aight?" Her assurances were reassuring, but he couldn't help but feel a little worried.

"Thanks." He said with a lopsided grin. "I hope I won't be too much trouble."

"Pish tosh." Dawnless replied, flapping a hand at him. "You couldn't cause half as much as Plague if you try. Speaking of which... I need to ask him about the vampire network while he's stuck with me. I could probably get some juicy tidbits if I play it right." She glanced at him. "Uh... Bryant, if you want I could take you back to the apartment, or if you want I could give you some money and if you wait for me here..."

"Uh.. What do you need to do in such a hurry?" Bryant asked, a little wary of the answer.

"Vampire stuff." She replied, looking, for the first time since he'd met her, uneasy. "Feeding." Her eyes flashed a little and the word came out as a hiss.

"..Oh." Well it could be worse, he thought. She didn't seem offended by his lackluster response. "I think I'll stay here."

"Thanks, I was afraid of being tracked. If anybody asks you make up a name for me, okay? I think those guys are hunters." She said, with the barest of nods towards a trio of ordinary looking guys at a table nearby.

"Sure." Bryant said as she pressed forty dollars into his hand. He wondered where she got the money. Vampires didn't work, did they?

She smiled, even patting him on the head as she left, putting up a friendly front. "All right, I'll see you later then okay?" She said, casually leaving the store.

"Bye!" He called, waving after her. Pretending to sip on his empty soda, he noticed out of the corner of his eye that two of the men had gotten up and followed Dawnless out. The last one came over and seated himself in the seat the vampire had just vacated, his leather coat making odd noises against the plastic chair. Why did it seem that vampires and hunters had a thing with black leather? Bryant forced himself to look startled that the man had come over, and not worried that he'd be dragged off somewhere because of his association with the undead. "Uh... Can I help you sir?"

"You can, actually." The man replied pleasantly with a mild smile, though the effect was lost when he didn't remove his black sunglasses. "Who was that lady you were talking to? I haven't seen her around here before."

"Oh- that." Bryant said, quickly wracking his memory for a plausible alibi. "She's my.. a good friend of my family. I might be staying with her when I get sent to boarding school." Oh yeah. Very smooth Bryant, he'll take that. He mentally slapped himself for the sheer stupidity of his excuse.

"Really now kid?" The man asked, his voice revealing the beginnings of a challenge.

"Um... yeah. Why? 'Cause if you're trying to hit on her, she's taken." He said, trying to sound nonchalant. Still, talking about girlfriends with a hunter, even talking about Dawnless of all people having a boyfriend felt weird.

"Heh, seems kinda old for you kid." The man said, leaning back comfortably in his chair. Bryant desperately hoped that oblong lump in his jacket wasn't a weapon.

"Oh, haha, naw, she's going out with-" He hoped the guy wouldn't notice his hesitation as he wracked his brain for a name. "-this guy from Illinois."

"Is she now? C'mon kid, quit the act. You're obviously new at this." The man replied, sitting up a little and putting his arm on the table.

"Uh- what?" Bryant replied, trying to play innocent.

"That girl. She's a vampire isn't she?"

Bryant let out a nervous laugh. "Vampires aren't real sir. I assure you that- Sarah, isn't one."

"Listen kid, it's dangerous to dabble around with her kind. I'm sure you aren't as clueless as you're trying to act. Now, I can assume that you're a pretty smart boy, but let me warn you that long term association with vampires can only get you trouble. They're killers, all of them."

"Sorry sir, but I'm not really following. Now if you please, I have some shopping to do-"

The man smirked, picking up on Bryant's slight panic. "You're starting to get annoying. What's your name?" He asked, taking out a notepad and a pen.

Did he honestly think Bryant was going to answer that truthfully? "John." He blurted.

"Full name."

"Why should I tell you?" Bryant snapped back, crossing his arms.

"It's for your own good John."

"Lin."

"What?"

"My full name's John Lin. Will you leave me alone now?"

The hunter's brows furrowed. "You don't look like an asian." He growled suspiciously.

"I'm 1/4 asian and 3/4 american and I don't enjoy being interrogated by a stranger." Bryant said, glad that his front of anger was covering up the fear twisting around in his gut.

"Name's Gunther." The hunter replied, reaching a hand over the table for Bryant to shake. "But you better not run back an' tell that vampire gal of yours, you hear?"

Bryant shook, and grumbled a noncommittal "No sir." With his fingers crossed under the table. As if he wouldn't tell Dawnless when this guy was being so blatantly rude.

"So John. Why are you staying with that vampire?"

"I got caught trying to steal from her apartment." Bryant replied truthfully. This elicited a barking laugh from the man.

Bryant looked at the cell phone he'd been given, then made a double take as if just noticing the time. Pushing up from his spot at the table, he again addressed the hunter. "Sorry sir, but- Sarah told me to get some stuff before she came back. It's been real." He attempted to get away but again the man stopped him.

"Where'd she go off to?" The man asked.

"She's gone to suck the blood out of a squirrel." He said sarcastically, rolling his eyes in mock-exasperation. "Sir, I appreciate your concern, but I assure you that Sarah isn't a vampire. Please don't bother me again."

"Watch yourself kid." He growled. Bryant gave himself mental props as the man seemed truly annoyed, but, to his relief, didn't pursue him as he lost himself in one of the numerous aisles.

He walked around the store, staying clear of the front of the restaurant, for almost twenty minutes before Dawnless came back. He heard her hurried footsteps from the canned goods section and walked towards the sound, catching the worry on her face as she came to an abrupt stop upon seeing him. "Well, glad to know you're still safe and sound. Did that other Hunter give you any trouble?"

Bryant shrugged. "Not really. Working for that bully gang had its advantages."

"Accomplished liar, eh?" Dawnless said, a rare twinkle in her eye. Bryant noticed with unease that there was more color to her face, and now her skin tone made her appear like just any other human. Too bad he knew better. "Don't try your charms on me young man, or I'll be on you in a second." She gave him a wink.

"I'm sure." Bryant grumbled.

Dawnless walked past him and started looking through the racks of TV dinners, instant noodles, and Hamburger Helper (a/n: ugh. Hamburger helper. Have you ever had that stuff? Nasty.). "Do you want to get anything? It'll be on me. Make sure that Plague doesn't go near the stove, you hear?"

"Yes ma'am." Bryant said, glad for the thought. He shyly reached up and selected two of the ramen things and a macaroni and cheese container, then stood back and pretended to study the shelves in front of him, feeling incredibly awkward about having someone buy him stuff for no return, especially someone who didn't need to eat.

Dawnless was further down the aisle, peering at the ingredients label on a box of quick-serve pasta with a wrinkled nose. "Honestly, the stuff they put in foods today. Back in the old days, you got spaghetti sauce made of tomatoes and oregano, that's it. And it tasted better than this stuff to boot. Even I can tell!" She squinted unnecessarily at the names on the box. "I mean, now you get all these extra ingredients. What is potassium sorbate? That sounds nasty." She quickly shoved the item back onto the shelf as if it carried some kind of disease and stalked farther along, peering intently at the shelves in search of something with ingredients in it that she could understand. (a/n: I'm not sure if potassium sorbate is in pasta sauce, but I know it's a preservative. Feel free to tell me! (I am constantly bugged by the amounts of chemicals in our food. Ick! This is why I haven't gone to McDonalds since I was a kid. Reading too many science magazines. XP)(Ranannia: shut up pont! / Pont: eep! cowers))

Bryant felt the corners of his mouth lift at her predicament and hurriedly picked out seven more boxes, keeping in mind that they would have to feed him through the whole week, probably breakfast, lunch and dinner. A sudden thought struck his mind. "Hey, Dawnless? Should I get something for Plague?"

He could hear her derisive snort from a few meters away. "Let that idiot fend for himself. If you want I could help you fix up eggs for your breakfasts. Let's pick up some on our way out. We'll have to get some milk and orange juice too. Whew, I forgot all the stuff I had to do when I was human. Did I forget anything?"

"No. Sorry if I'm causing any trouble." Bryant said.

"Don't worry, this is refreshing. Now if you don't stop apologizing I'll let you starve." She replied curtly. She was picking up some snacks, giving up the search for 'real' favor in favor of stuff she'd heard tasted good. "Do you have any belongings you wanna pick up from wherever you were before we got you?" Dawnless asked.

"Uh, not really." Bryant replied. At that moment an old woman hobbled into the aisle, a plastic bag hanging from her walker and her feet shuffling on the ground as she peered behind very thick glasses at the products on the shelf, mumbling to herself and clutching a slightly crumpled shopping list in one pale, bony hand. He decided to hold his questions back for now.

Dawnless stepped forwards with a nod towards the woman so she could easily get by, and the old one walked clear to the end of the hall, making Bryant catch his breath when she swerved and almost hit him and one of the displays advertising a the newest trend in microwave goods. She turned the corner, not stopping for anything.

"Thank god I'll never get like that." Dawnless said, once the woman was long gone. "Poor lady. Probably can't tell where she's going. She was out awful late." She shook her head. "You all set?"

"Sure." Bryant said, grabbing eight more items. He staggered a little, trying to balance the pile in his arms.

Dawnless's eyes sparkled with merriment. "I'll get a cart." She said, "Meet me at the dairy section?"

Brennan nodded and carefully picked his way through the supermarket, concentrating so hard on his load that twice he almost knocked down some of the little temporary display racks placed at random around the place. He couldn't have felt more relieved to see that Dawnless had beaten him and waited with a cart, two packs of small cartons of milk and orange juice sitting in the bottom next to a dozen eggs. She started pushing slowly as he walked up to her, letting him drop everything in and quickening her pace. They wheeled the cart to the front, where they paid the drowzy cashier and left before the poor thing remembered to say 'have a nice day'.

Once they were outside, Bryant noticed Dawnless acting a little more cautious than usual. She seemed a lot tenser, walking at a rigid pace to the grey car they'd taken to the store, and didn't make an effort to engage in the small talk he'd grown accustomed to in her company. He knew it was probably because of the hunters undoubtedly lurking in the area. Still, her silence made him edgy, since he was convinced that, given her reputation, if Dawnless was worried, he'd have good reason to feel threatened. Therefore, when there was a loud bang! from behind them, he quickly blamed it on his jumpiness when he nearly yelped and had to clap a hand over his mouth to hold back a surprised exclamation. Next to him, Dawnless whirled around after unceremoniously dropping the box of crackers into the trunk with a clatter, her right hand going into her trench coat, making him wonder, not for the first time, what she had hidden in there.

He nearly laughed, inwardly berating himself as an idiot when he realized that the cause of his panic was the same old lady he'd seen before in the store, who was painstakingly leaning over in an effort to pick up a dented bottle of milk and a few cans of canned fruits from behind the car parked behind and two spaces to the left of theirs. Muttering softly to herself, the woman stretched out a shaky arm, slowly lowering herself down to get it.

Acting on the manners his parents had taught him, Bryant walked over and collected the rolling cans and the bottle of milk, then stood up and made to put them in the lady's open trunk, when he realized that, in standing back up, the woman had somehow lost her balance and held one-handed to the walker, teetering back and forth. Before he could act, she let out a loud croak as she fell.

Great was his, and the old one's, surprise when she didn't meet the ground. Dawnless, who he could've sworn wasn't there a moment ago, carefully helped her up, placing both her hands back on the walker and guiding her to the front of her car. Bryant looked around for missed items then closed the trunk for her then joined Dawnless at the front as she took a step back. Muttering hoarse 'thank you''s and chuckling merrily to herself, their acquaintance backed up and left, giving them a last smile and wave before carefully turning into a nearby side street.

"She's too old to be out. I wonder where her family is." Dawnless said, frowning. "I tell you, kids these days. No respect for elders." She smiled at Bryant, then walked back to their car and unlocked the front door. "Well, at least it seems you came from a good upbringing. Good job." Getting in, she started up the engine and switched on the headlights.

Bryant hurriedly dropped in the rest of the groceries and pushed their cart into the cart corral before getting in the passenger seat and buckling up.

"Where are we going?" She asked, shifting the car to drive and exiting to a main road.

"Take a left at this light, then another left into the parking lot right after there's a room in the back of a motel that the gang sometimes hides out in- they have connections with the owners. I hid my stuff in there. What time is it?"

"4:00. AM. We need to get back to the apartment soon. This won't take too long I trust?"

"Shouldn't. There's not a high chance that they'll be there at this hour."

"Do they know you keep your stuff in there?"

"I dunno, I never told anyone, but they may've figured it out."

"Well we better prepare for the worst then. If they have noticed you going there for your belongings then they'll know that you'll have to come back sooner or later and they'll probably have a watch on the area if they have any kind of intelligence at all."

"You're right." Bryant replied nervously. "Well, if there's anybody there we can try to come again later..."

"Fat chance." Dawnless said, smirking. She reached into the space between the driver's seat and the gear shift and rummaged a bit, coming up with a black leather bag, which she deposited in his lap before turning her attention back to the road and gunning the engine as they sped through an intersection after the light turned green.

Bryant instinctively grabbed the bag when it came within range, and noticed with some trepidation that it was heavier than it looked. Zipping it open, he gulped at the sight of many small weapons (retracted and sheathed, but weapons nonetheless) inside. "Hey Dawnless? What exactly do I do with these?" He asked nervously.

"Take whatever you want, just for safety. I don't like guarding somebody who's completely defenseless unless I have to. Hide it in your jacket or something." Dawnless said casually, slowing for a yield sign and not looking both ways before accelerating again.

Bryant picked up a long piece of rubber, peering curiously at it. While he'd worked with some weapons during his stay with the gang, he'd never really threatened anyone with them, thief as he was. The stuff he'd occasionally used was limited to scratched-up knives for picking locks and intimidation, but it was obvious that Dawnless had a preference towards variety and a few of the things in the bag honestly confused him. Noticing a slight indentation in the ridge of the handle, he tried pressing it, and nearly dropped it in surprise when a 3-inch pointed blade smoothly slid out, a strip of smooth silver he'd assumed as decoration, it fit so cleanly to the edge, popping out without a sound. He sat for a while admiring it, then cautiously started pushing the dull edge to put it back into the hilt.

"We're here." Dawnless announced, looking over at him as she pulled into a parking space near the back of the lot. "Oh, you like the switchblade, do you." She said, grinning. "Took me ages to find one that was real blessed metal. You better not lose it."

"Aren't switchblades illegal?" Bryant asked, looking at the knife in his hands in a new light.

"Haven't gotten caught yet. And it's not like I'm gonna use it to murder anybody... nobody human at least. If you want you could carry two and keep them in different spots."

Bryant shook his head, putting the weapon into his jacket pocket and sticking the velcro to keep it in. He dearly wished he wouldn't have to use it though.

"All right, now..." Dawnless peered carefully at him, then popped open the glove compartment in front of him and rummaged about, then crammed a thick wool hat over his head. "Good. Now if you see anyone you know do whatever you can to avoid attention. Capiche?"

"Um, sure." He replied. They both got out of the car and shut the doors, and Dawnless clicked her remote key, enabling the alarm and lock system. She casually walked out front, Bryant trailing nervously in her wake, entering and walking right up to the hook-nosed man at the counter, who sniffed as he looked at them expectantly, obviously expecting them to speak first.

"May I ask where the restrooms here are?" Dawnless asked casually, leaning on the counter a little.

"Restrooms are in the rooms, Miss." He said, his nasal voice sarcastic and irritable. "There is a restaurant next door. They have a public restroom."

"Ah yes, silly of me. May I inquire into rooming prices?" She said, her voice crisp and polite.

The man immediately snapped to attention, sitting straight-backed in his chair and primly pushing his spectacles higher onto his nose, typing away at a keyboard. "What kind of room?"

"What do you mean?"

He gave her a withering glance over his glasses. How much did they pay this guy anyway? "There are the rooms upstairs, which are newer and have two beds, and the ones downstairs, which have one." He replied with a sneering smile.

Dawnless looked at Bryant as if she was asking him his choice, and asked, "Do you like this place Kevin? We could get a room upstairs."

'Kevin' tried to figure out a way to play along and at the same time convey that the room was on the first floor. "I dunno sis, could we get those rooms with the door connecting them like in that other motel?"

"Hm." Dawnless said, turning back to the receptionist. "Do you have any rooms like that sir?"

"We certainly do." He replied, typing away. "In fact, there is a set of rooms like that free right now. Would you like to book them?"

"May we have a look first? We'd like to know where we'll be staying." Dawnless replied.

"All right, let me call someone and they'll show you right away."

"Oh no, no sir, there's no need for that. If you could tell us where this room is we could bring back the key when we're done looking. We'll only be a moment." She said loudly as he reached for his phone.

"Well I'm sorry Miss, but I'm afraid it's against our policy to give you the key without some kind of insurance that you won't just walk off with it." He said with that same ugly smile.

"Oh I'm sorry. Would it be fit if I left this?" She said, putting her purse on the countertop and laying out a very fancy looking pocket watch on a silver chain. The man didn't notice the glove she'd slipped on during her excursion in the purse. "I do hope you take care of it though, because it is a family heirloom, and our mother would come back to haunt me if any harm came to it." She said, smiling sweetly, noticing his eyes narrow with interest. Fool. Of course, he didn't know who he was working with, so she gave him points for that.

"Of course Miss. Here is the key." He replied, handing them the key with a flourish.

"Thank you sir." She said, looking at it and hoping it was in the correct hallway. She let Bryant tug her into a the one to the left.

"You're good at this." She said, grinning at him as they hurried down it.

"Thanks. Wasn't it kinda rash to leave him with that pocket watch?" Bryant asked worriedly.

Dawnless laughed lightly. "Don't worry, I always carry that thing around. If he tries to do anything to it, I put a small pinch of sleeping powder under the glass."

"Do you always think ahead like that?" Bryant asked. "Because this feels like a complete setup."

"1000 years of doing this kinda thing can prepare you for most situations." She replied happily. "Now if you see any of your gang members, tell me okay?"

"All right." Bryant said, peering out from under his hat. He was glad of the fact that it covered most of his hair, and shaded his eyes in the dim lighting of the hallway, even if it was itching his ears.

"Hey! What are you doing here?" Growled a voice from the other end of the hall.

IMPORTANTIMPORTANTIMPORTANTIMPORTANTIMPORTANT!

I feel really bad for keeping changing stuff, but I promise this is the last update! Multiply Dawnless's age and all the timeframes I mentioned about her by 10, I realized that 200 years really isn't that long of a time... historically, so now she's over 1000 years old! :P Thanks!

A/N: Ohhh! I figured out a plot! Next chapter: The introduction of some more vampies (Sorry, but I lied; lets pretend that Dawnless hangs out with mostly 'unusual' vampires like herself, aight? I promise to stick some traditional, don't-mess-with-me-I-eat-human-blood-on-a-regular-basis vampires later.) and the answer to the question that (I hope) has been itching in your minds; How the heck to Dawnless and Plague really know each other, how old is she, and how come Plague hasn't killed her yet? Unfortunately, I'm not ready to answer 'Will plague ever learn how to cook' and I actually probably never will :P

About me- History fair (the EVIL of ALL EVILS is now officially over, ending the 5:00am nights of script-writing, interview-transcribing, and vidio-audio editing me and my group members have been sharing together (to the incredible annoyance of our parents ('WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING UP?! WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO IN 3:00 IN THE MORNING!') and I now kinda have time to write again! This week's finals week and after that I have four days of BLISS (aka no homework, no studying... siiigh life is good) In case some of you haven't noticed, Ranannia from Eclipse has taken to haunting me while I'm writing. Something about not killing my other main characters. :3

Earthsong12(NDch4): Ohhh ahem hmmmm wrings hands XD Just kidding. I am willing to make sure that Dawnless doesn't die soon. I like her character too much. This story is a ton of fun to write, I'm glad you like reading it too! (hehehe, maybe I was a little too harsh on poor Ranannia... / Ranannia: Darn tootin' you were! / Did she just say 'darn tootin''? cracks up all right Pont it's off to bed with you.) Ja!

Earthsong12(RSS): Thanks for reviewing Rain Speckled Sidewalk! Glad you liked! I hope to make poem-writing more of a habit. I also hope to get enough time to return more of my reviews! I'm so sorry! bow bow bow

jack meoff()(Train): Hmm.. Well.. Sorry but I enjoy writing. I'm sorry for not really considering your advice. Even if I don't qualify as a professional I find writing fun and I don't intend to quit. Well, thanks for your opinion anyways.

A/N: Keep reviewing people! Just to make sure you know...

I don't remember if I accidentally posted the wrong message on the last update, but the bolded part would be the part I'd have messed up. Anywho, read on!

IMPORTANTIMPORTANTIMPORTANTIMPORTANTIMPORTANT!

I feel really bad for keeping changing stuff, but I promise this is the last update! Multiply Dawnless's age and all the timeframes I mentioned about her by 10, I realized that 200 years really isn't that long of a time... historically, so now she's over 1000 years old! :P Thanks!

Chapter 5

Dawnless calmly turned around, smiling widely at the man standing behind them in the corridor, one hand stuck into his suspiciously lumpy coat and the other tucked into his weathered jeans pocket. His face bore an extra chin, and his stomach stuck out from under his employee shirt. He glared menacingly at them through his small eyes, his scruffy brown hair mostly squashed under the confines of a red baseball cap. Bryant easily identified him as one of the many thugs working for the gang and, careful to keep his face hidden, nudged Dawnless's arm. She gave him a barely perceptible nod and addressed the man before them.

"I'm sorry sir. We were looking for this room, you see, and we seem to have gotten a bit lost." She said sweetly, smiling widely at him and holding out the key.

The man stepped forward and reached out to grab it, his eyes narrowing suspiciously. With hardly a sound, Dawnless moved smoothly forward, grabbed the man's arm, and firmly rapped two fingers against the back of his neck, letting him fall to the ground like a sack of potatoes. Bryant stared on in surprise and shock as another man, dressed in the motel's green shirt and tan slacks, having heard the man fall. Bryant saw Dawnless hurriedly release the gangster's arm and move her hand to his shoulder, gently but insistently shaking it. "Sir, sir are you alright?" She asked, sounding almost in hysterics. Looking up, she 'noticed' the arrival and immediately appealed to him. "Oh dear oh dear, will he be all right? He tripped and he fell and I think he's unconcious-"

"It's all right lady, you and your son just go ahead, I'll take care of him. I apologize about him. He's pretty clumsy. Do you need help with anything?" The other man asked, apparently an employee.

"Oh no, oh no, it's okay. I hope he's all right." Dawnless replied, shakily getting up and taking Bryant's hand, leading him away. "Oh dear oh dear..." She muttered until they were out of sight. Then she dropped Bryant's hand and smirked at him. "Not a word to Plague, okay? He hates it when I assault humans."

Bryant shook his head, and, finding his voice, blurted, "Where did you learn that? That was awesome!"

Dawnless giggled and placed a hand before her face as if she held a fan, batting her eyes at him in a flawless 'southern belle' imitation. "Thank you kind sir, but in this line of business you've got to learn how to manipulate people, and the best way to do that is-" She swooped into a perfect curtsey, sweeping aside an imaginary ball dress, "To act."

"You're really good at it. You would make a mint as an actress." Bryant said, grinning at this out-of-character Dawnless.

"It helps to live through the ages. I know how to act like an air-headed lady of court, swagger like a gangster, and swoon like a lady." She made a face. "But I don't like the latter. Truth is, some of us vampires do try to be actors, but it doesn't pay to 'die' at an early age so people don't notice you never grow older. It's too much trouble these days to have to deal with people telling you you look like your character in a movie from 20 years ago. I did the acting thing in the old days, but I haven't for a long time. I still remember the time I encountered a play where, funnily enough, I was supposed to play a woman of christian faith. That was when I 'disappeared'. I couldn't handle being in such close vicinity with crosses all the time, and when they told me to start carrying one that was it."

Bryant chuckled. "That must've hurt." He replied sympathetically. He stopped, looking both ways down the empty hallway, then put his ear to the door on his side of the hall.

"This is it then?" Dawnless asked casually.

"Yep." Bryant replied in a quiet voice, as if someone might pop out of nowhere and demand to know why they were there.

"All right, go in and I'll wait out here. Yell if you need anything okay?" She asked, taking a more permanent post next to the doorway.

"All right." Bryant said, trying to keep his cool as he nervously eased the door open, wincing as it creaked loudly. When nothing happened, he pushed it further inwards, then peeked cautiously in. He sighed with relief. No one was inside. Walking carefully to a corner, he crouched down and carefully reached under a huge cabinet containing cleaning supplies, found the corner of the blanket his stuff was wrapped in, and carefully dragged it towards the side of the structure, where the gap underneath it was much larger. Smiling a little at the sight of his dusty, dirty blue blanket unharmed, he picked it up and walked to the other side of the room, grabbing a discarded laundry bag next to a rusty washing machine used by the homeless members of the gang. Picking up the heavy burlap sack, he stuffed his bundle inside, then slung it over his shoulder and cautiously opened the door (glad that it opened inwards), edging nervously into the empty hallway with no one in sight except the vampire leaning casually against the doorjamb.

"Did you find it?" She asked, eyeing the laundry bag he held.

"Yep. Let's go." Bryant said, in much better spirits now that he'd collected his few belongings. She nodded and led the way, and he tugged his hat back to its original position from where it'd slid down during his excursion under the cabinet in the back room.

"Ah, did you and your brother find the room miss?" The receptionist asked, giving her a greasy smile.

"Oh yes, it was quite nice." Dawnless gushed, leaning slightly on the counter as they stood before it. "Here's your key back. Thank you so much for letting us look at it."

"No problem at all miss." The receptionist said, and as he rummaged under the desk for her watch, she sent Bryant a look that told him what she really thought of the snotty man. Bryant choked back a laugh, tucking his chin further into his chest and pretending to sneeze as she put back on her flattering smile and carefully plucked the item back with her leather-gloved hand, noticing his slight reluctance. She wondered how the tenants of this motel ignored the sleaziness of their hosts. Of course, the motel didn't seem to be anything of very good repute anyway.

"Come on Kevin. Thanks again sir. We are visiting one more motel tonight." She said, grabbing his hand and leading him out. It wasn't until they were out the doors, around the corner of the building, past a group of gang members loitering outside, and buckling up in the car that she finally spoke to him. "Anywhere else you want to go?" She asked, putting the car into reverse and checking through the rearview mirror to make sure the coast was clear before backing up.

"No. Thanks for letting me get my stuff." Bryant said, still trying to adjust to the fact that he was now, officially, completely free from the gang he'd been chained to for so long. He felt like laughing out loud in relief.

"All right then. Let's go to the apartment shall we? I've gotta put away these groceries."

The ride passed by in silence, as Dawnless concentrated on driving (although there was hardly anyone out this late) and Bryant observing the scenery passing by and mulling over the drastic turn his life had taken. Within the space of two nights he'd been threatened by hunters, stumbled upon the world of the vampires and even been accepted into one's home, gone shopping with said vampire, and severed all ties with the gang he hated so much. It was like some kind of twisted fantasy, the kind that you wake up from in the middle of the night half glad that it was just a dream. He didn't know which was worse, being stuck in the middle of some vampire-hunter feud in constant danger of being mistaken for either side, or being back with the unpredictable, often violent gang looting people. At least with the gang he wasn't wondering whether he'd get attacked by supernatural beings and sucked dry. Seeing as Dawnless and Plague had been nothing but nice to him, though, he opted for former. As long as neither of them had a change of hearts, it was actually quite comfortable living with them.

He glanced over at the black-haired vampire beside him. She really hadn't done anything... vampirish: In fact, she'd been nothing short of generous. She may walk around in a dark trench coat armed to the teeth, but then, anybody would be in her position, right?

Okay, so assuming that vampires weren't as bad as he'd heard. He found that he was looking forward to meeting some other vampires, just to see what they were like, a type of excitement he hadn't felt since he was little and his parents invited new friends over. It was a novel experience to him, no matter (A/N: nomatter? Somebody please help me with this one!) how morbid.

He shook himself out of his thoughts when he saw that they were near the apartment. They both got out of the car after she parked in one of the reserved spots for the building's occupants and split up the groceries between them, though Bryant noticed tat she gave him most of the lighter items. He never would've realized it though, when she reached up and, hands still ladened with bags, slammed the trunk door shut, walking easily despite her heavy load as she led him into the building. Not wanting to feel too much like a weakling, Bryant quietly endured his stinging fingers as he held onto his own six bags of groceries -and the bag containing his stuff- throughout the slow elevator ride to the fourth floor and down the hall until they reached the apartment. Once they were in the kitchen, he dropped them like hot coals and rubbed his hands as he passed her the perishables and she placed them in the refrigerator. She seemed distracted about something as she worked, and he was loathe to interrupt whatever she was thinking about. It wasn't long before Plague sauntered in, and the thoughtful vampire was forced to change her course of attention.

"Yo Dawn. Is it okay if I ask you for a donation to the Plague-needs-a-cot-to-sleep-on fund?"

Predictably, Dawnless favored him with a cold glare. "That was terribly unoriginal Plague, and why should it be my problem whether you have a cot or not?" She asked, opening the refrigerator to carefully place eggs aside from the other items.

He shrugged, hands in pockets and arrogant grin firmly in place. "'Cause the kid's taking up the couch during the daytime, and the only bed in the house is where you sleep."

Dawnless had to agree that his request had merit. "Don't you have money?" She asked exasperatedly.

"Nah, I'm really short on cash since I can't go to the bank." Plague replied.

"Fine. But one of these days I'm gonna get rich off of you borrowing from me." Dawnless said with a heavy sigh, opening the pack of milk cartons and lining them up on the upper shelf by the eggs. Bryant dutifully worked on shoving the instants into the kitchen cupboards.

"I knew there was a good person somewhere deep in your cold, unbeating heart." Plague said, sauntering over and helping Bryant reach the higher shelves.

"Don't get too sure of yourself." Dawnless replied. "I'm not happy about you insisting on pestering me every night."

"This should be the last time." Plague said cheerily.

"Sorry about this Bryant." Dawnless sighed, wearily crumpling the boxes and wrappers and stuffing them in a trash bag. "I promise this won't take long. We'll find the cheapest cot and leave right away."

"It's okay." Bryant replied, still working on stuffing the groceries into their respective storage units.

"You can leave that." Dawnless added as she made her way to the door. "Let's all go together, I would get really nervous leaving you in the apartment alone."

"That one's on sale." Dawnless said, pointing towards a lavender cot in front of the rest. She sat down, bouncing on it a little to make sure it was sturdy.

Plague looked and immediately wrinkled his nose. "It's lavender."

Dawnless looked up at him with narrowed eyes. "So?"

"So I'm a guy. I have a reputation to keep Dawnless. I think I'll get the black one."

"The black one's not on sale." Dawnless replied. "You said you're waiting for your paycheck. Get the cheap one."

"Lavender is too feminine. I'd be the laughing stock of the others."

"I don't like light blue, and I'm a female. Besides, you're THE Plague, right? They won't care as long as you keep following me around and killing off other vamps."

"You're different. I don't want my boss thinking I'm gay."

"Just because you have a lavender cot doesn't make you gay."

Plague gave her a strange look. "You haven't met my boss."

"Look, Plague, if you want me to help you buy this cot, we're getting the cheap one like we agreed. Savvy?"

"No. Any other color's good, but no lavender. Let's get the black one. I'll still pay you back."

"I can't believe we're having this discussion!" Dawnless moaned, throwing up her arms.

"Why? I need a cot."

"Why does it matter?! The lavender one's cheap, sturdy, and stable! Just think of it as purple or something! Why spend the extra $10 for black?!"

"I've made that pretty clear. And purple is even worse. Excuse me miss?" He asked, pulling aside a store clerk. "I'd like the black one please." He said. The girl nodded vigorously and rushed off.

"You'd better pay me back." Dawnless said menacingly.

"I will, I will. Geez, you make it sound like you haven't got eternity to make sure I do." Plague said.

"I don't. If you die without paying me back I'll never forgive you."

"Demand it from my descendants."

"With your attitude, I'd be shocked to find out that you are going to have descendants." Dawnless said, rolling her eyes and crossing her arms over her chest.

"That hurts Dawnless. That hurts deep inside." Plague said mockingly, placing a hand over his heart in fake pain. "Chill okay? I'll pay you back eventually."

"Just like the coffee grinder you ruined the day we got it?"

"Ohhh yeah, I'll pay you back for that too."

"You are such a jerk. Make sure I meet any future girl of yours so I can warn her in advance."

"Aw, c'mon." Plague said, running a hand through his hair. "Who could resist such an irresistible, handsome, not to mention cunning guy like me?"

Dawnless rolled her eyes and Bryant clapped a hand to his mouth to stifle a snicker. "Character is half the battle, Plague, and you're losing."

"So you do think I'm handsome."

"I never said that you were handsome. And where'd you get 'cunning'?"

"I'm very cunning. I track you down every time don't I?"

"Tell me Plague, when was the last time that you found me when I really didn't want you to?" She said, raising an eyebrow. "If it wasn't for our special agreement, I wouldn't have to deal with you at all."

"Aw, you wouldn't be able to let me run around homeless for too long, sweetie, wouldn't you?"

Dawnless was suddenly giving off the aura of a panther about to pounce. "Don't you ever call me-"

"Excuse me sir." Interrupted a saleswoman, looking nervous. Dawnless relaxed, fuming. She sent a sickly smile at the poor woman before retreating into a sulk. Plague grinned widely in victory.

"Yes miss?"

"Your cot is at the front desk." The saleswoman responded, pointing in the general direction of the front door. Spinning on her heel, she left.

"Plague, you are so dead." Dawnless grated behind clenched teeth.

"Good to get an advance warning." Plague said, looking at his watch. "Let's get this cot and head home, eh?"

"You're sleeping in your car today. Behave, and I might let you come back tomorrow night."

"Aw, c'mon Dawnless. Please? I can't be recognized anyway..."

"I don't want to hear it. I don't really need this safe house what with the other 300 safe houses I've got, so tonight, you're sleeping outside, hunter." That said, she stormed her way to the front, paid for the cot in cash, and, with a nervous Bryant and a bummed Plague in tow, climbed into the car and drove all the way to the apartment in stony silence.

Bryant fidgeted. He trusted Dawnless not to attack him and all, but being in the same room as a cheesed-off vampire was not his idea of a good time. Therefore, he jumped when a cold hand suddenly descended on his shoulder. Berating himself for being stupid, he looked as Dawnless settled down beside him with hardly any sound at all. He'd already gotten used to the fact that the vampire moved with feline grace as quickly and as silently as a breath of air, but it still creeped him out sometimes. He stared curiously at the contents of the towel she'd deposited on the ground.

"So kid, what do you wanna do?" She said with a surprisingly warm smile.

Wrapped up in the towel were mismatched pieces of games, complete with old-looking and very worn out boards. Hesitantly, he reached into the center and lifted out a small chinese checkers board made of dark wood. Dawnless grinned and they spent a while sifting through the mess to find the blue and the yellow marbles. Shortly, they were playing, Dawnless as yellow, and Bryant as blue.

Three games later, Bryant was beginning to realize that if one had eternity to practice chinese checkers, they would be damn near invincible. Dawnless's sun-colored pieces moved across the board with a life of their own, using Bryant's every move to their advantage. The first time, he'd been only halfway across the board when Dawnless had grinned and leaned back, and he'd had to look twice to realize that she'd somehow won. Inwardly he pouted. He'd always thought he was good at chinese checkers.

The games were doing wonders on his nerves, though. Dawnless laughed and joked from the beginning, and he noticed that her casual demeanor was working on him, too. Soon he found himself attacking the board, trying at least to fill the area around his pyramid before she managed to pull off another spectacular win.

"I win." Dawnless declared, flopping backwards against the table. Bryant sunk back in the couch. He still couldn't figure out how she saw those moves.

"I'm never going to win." Bryant moaned, covering his face with a hand.

Dawnless laughed, a pleasant, bell-like sound that made the corners of his mouth crook up a little. "Now now, no reason to get bitter," She said, striking a vain pose. "I'm flattered that you think so highly of me, but I must admit you play chinese checkers much better than some of the idiots I've had to deal with. Ask to play with Plague. He's miserable at chinese checkers."

"That sounds cool." Bryant said. It was really amazing how comfortable he was becoming with her.

"Another game?" She said. The way she was flashing those fangs, he knew she was joking more than from real desire to beat him again.

"Nah, I don't want my morale to slip any farther."

"All right then, are you hungry?"

To tell the truth he hadn't noticed. At the promise of food, his stomach immediately tightened, and he wondered how he could've missed it for so long. "Yeah, I guess so." He said sheepishly.

"Aight. Well, you pretty much know what we have, so what are you in the mood for?"

"I'll just have one of the instant noodle things. Do we have a kettle?"

Dawnless smacked her hand to her forehead. "Shoot! Sorry kid, I forgot all about that. You can't microwave these things, can you?" She asked, eyeing the styrofoam cup as if judging its meltability (a/n: that's a word! That's actually a word! I looked it up! nods (isn't that awesome?! XDDD)).

"No, you can't." Bryant said, reaching for Plague's duffel. "Plague probably has something though."

"You're right." Dawnless replied, turning and walking around the island in the kitchen. "The thing's probably cursed, though, knowing Plague and his 'cooking'." She stared suspiciously as he pulled out a fairly normal-looking kettle, complete with a cap for the spout to keep the heat in and make it whistle when the water boiled. She went over to the sink and filled it up.

Placing it on a burner, she flipped the switch and listened to it spark, waiting for the flame to spring up. When nothing happened, she turned it off and waited a little while, then set it to sparking again. "So Bryant, do you have everything you need?" She asked.

"I think so." Bryant replied, rummaging through his stuff. "Where can I clean my dirty clothes?"

Dawnless turned the switch to off again and moved the kettle to another burner, repeating the process. A triumphant smile lit up on her face when blue flames sprung up and licked the bottom of the kettle. "There's a laundry bag in my room, just stuff them in there. I was going to go to the coin laundry tomorrow night. I need to go to the dry cleaners too. Does that sound okay? If you want you can get Plague to take you during the day."

"That should be okay." Bryant replied, picking up his filthy, faded clothes and walking into the twilit bedroom. Flicking on the light, he looked around for the laundry bag. The small, old bed in the middle of the room was unkempt, and Dawnless obviously hadn't bothered to fix it before she'd come into the kitchen this morning -er- night. A digital clock blinked the time in bright red numbers on the bedstand next to it, but otherwise the room appeared empty, save for what had to be her traveling bag sitting with its contents hanging messily from the sides on the white carpeted floor and the dress hanging from a hanger by a peg on the wall. He was about to give up and leave, when, turning around, he saw the bulging burlap bag hanging from the back of the door. Opening the door to give him more room, he stuffed his clothes into it and left, leaving the door slightly ajar behind him and turning off the light.

"Bryant? The water's boiled." Dawnless called from the kitchen. Bryant hurried forward, towards the end of the hall, then stopped in mid-stride, stricken by the sheer familiarity of it all. Long-buried childhood memories threatened to surface now that he was safe and settled into his new environment.

Bry? Bry, your soup's getting cold. There you are! Bring it with you. Be a good boy for your Miss Donaly okay? Promise you'll be a good boy. We'll all be back soon, okay?

"Bryant?"

He shook himself out of his reverie, starting into the kitchen again. Inside, Dawnless was pouring hot water into the instant noodle cup. As he walked in she turned around. "There you are. I was wondering if you died or something." She said with a grin, placing the food on the countertop next to a fork. "Eat up. Plague's got me all stretched out of shape, so try not to blow anything up while I go take a shower okay?"

She didn't seem very 'stretched out of shape.' but Bryant didn't complain. Hopping onto the stool, he swayed a bit as it wobbled on its one too-short foot, then dug into his soup with gusto. He heard Dawnless's moving around in her room down the hall, then the bathroom door shut and the water start running. Soon he was done. Picking up the bowl, he deposited his fork on the washboard, dumping out the remaining hot water into the sink, and threw the cup into the trash can. Taking a few paper towels, he wetted them and cleaned off the soup he'd spilled on the counter, threw them away, and set to work washing his fork. He heard the front door open and turned around, expecting Plague to arrive asking for his stuff, meeting instead a pair of glittering black eyes, set into the too-pale face of a fang-flashing female vampire. He took a moment to realize that, since Dawnless had said that dawn was coming in only a few hours, there really shouldn't be a vampire dumb enough to break in and risk getting caught in the sun on the getaway, before his mind also registered the fact that that was the least of his worries when faced with a trench-coat-wearing, obviously hostile vampire armed only with a bottle of dish soap and a fork (which, he knew to his dismay, was unblessed stainless steel). So he did the first thing that came to mind as he realized that the sound of water in the bathroom had ceased.

"Dawnless!"

It didn't take her long to respond. Dawnless, fully dressed with her jeans rumpled as if she'd pulled them on in a hurry and her wet hair pulled into a messy ponytail, appeared in the end of the hallway in a flash, a drawn and ready switchblade pointed at the offender. "Damn it Bryant, you didn't let her in did you?"

"The boy didn't let me in." The vampiress said, flashing him a fanged grin. "Your incompetence is what let me in. This building's lack of security of any kind is unforgivable. The owner met me in the lobby, and told me exactly where you were. You didn't even bother to use a new identity."

"This is my turf, Lucid." Dawnless growled, her eyes flashing. "I can defend my own. You know I can beat you without batting an eyelash. Now get out."

Lucid ignored her. "Who's the child Dawnless? Planning to change him, or just keeping him around as a snack?" She peered more closely at him, and Bryant found himself frozen like a deer in headlights, feeling uncomfortably like he was being very closely scrutinized by those cold dark eyes.

"The human is mine." Dawnless said threateningly, moving herself between them. "What I do with him is none of your business. Keep him out of your plans. The kid so far has nothing to do with the vampire world, and I plan to release him to his parents, nothing more. If you guys pull him into it, there's going to be hell to pay."

"I don't see why you try, it's too late for him anyways. You used to have better tastes." Lucid said, sneering.

"You used to be smarter. Tell me what you're here for, Lucid."

"Night just wanted me to let you know that if you want to join up you can have your old post back. Refuse his generous offer and you're automatically an enemy. He's completely willing to take you back in without a fuss if you want to come back, and share in the spoils when he achieves his ultimate goal. If you don't want to come, let it be known that there already is someone ready to fill your place, so your little rebellion won't really matter too much. Certain, troublesome vampires have already been taken care of. Star, Darkwing, and Bloodwolf to name a few. Anyone familiar? Of course, there's always the ones we're holding in suspicion. If it was found out that they were working with you..." Lucid trailed off, her dark eyes carefully watching Dawnless's face for some kind of reaction.

"If the oh-so-great Night thinks he can con me into working for him, he's very mistaken. I haven't talked to anyone from the 'old days' and I don't intend to, so go ahead and tell him to go burn in hell or something similar. Tell him that, for the last time, I'm not going back. And that's final." Dawnless replied, still warily watching her.

"Oranget is still working with us you know." Lucid said, her eyes glinting with victory as a trace of something flitted over Dawnless's stony face.

"That has nothing to do with anything Lucid. Get off my turf."

"Night's not going to be happy." Lucid said in her annoying sing-song voice as she walked out of the door. Turning around, she gave them a mocking bow. "Goodbye, Dawnless. Watch your back, even during the daytime." She slammed the door shut behind her.

TBC

IMPORTANTIMPORTANTIMPORTANTIMPORTANTIMPORTANT!

I feel really bad for keeping changing stuff, but I promise this is the last update! Multiply Dawnless's age and all the timeframes I mentioned about her by 10, I realized that 200 years really isn't that long of a time... historically, so now she's over 1000 years old! :P Thanks!

A/N: burning history fair script and submission forms oo jumps AH! ; hellooooo! Ehh, don't forget to review, and hope you liked this chapter! runs off

About Me- Nothing to say this week without ranting. Just remember to read and review!

Enter Pont's completely-unrelated-to-anything Rant (nobody has to read this, I won't even be surprised if everybody ignores this)- AAH! Howl's Moving Castle rocks! griiiin Miyazaki fans, definitely see when it comes out on june 10! On a more sane level, it was a liiitle confusing to me, (but it could've been the really really awful subtitles on my version) but it's still really cute! Hardly any CGI that I could see, (though it was probably CG anyways) and if anyone knows where I can get a falling star (hey, those things were evil but they were so cute!) or Calcifer plushie, pray tell ("It you don't obey, I'll pour water on you!" cracks up)! Beautiful score, very different approach (seems to take place in europe or somewheres (I'm not sure; the subtitles really sucked)) I've heard it's really different from the book, but I haven't read that yet so... :P whew now that I've gotten that out of my system, onward with review responses!

Eartsong12: Thankies Earthie! huggle have a cookie! You rock, since you were the only person who cared enough about poor little me to review cries... you're great cling

A/N: I don't really like Lucid. I think I'll kill her. :P just kidding! You're not going to see her in this chappie, at least. Read on!

Chapter 6

For a full minute, there was silence. Finally Bryant's agony was ended when Dawnless turned and stalked into the kitchen, mumbling about stupid vampire missionaries and bad timing as she straightened out her pants and her hair. As the black cloud continued to hover over her head, Bryant felt the need to apologize. So he did. "Dawnless, uh, I'm sorry that I- er, that she got in." Whoever she was. He added silently. One of these days he was going to sit down and make Dawnless explain everything. Because, at the moment, he was very, very lost.

Dawnless looked at him as if he'd grown another head, then snapped to attention when she realized the glass she was pouring warm water into was overflowing. With a curse, she lifted it up and hastily placed it further up the countertop, grabbing a fistful of paper towels and mopping up the mess. When she'd finished, she threw out the towels and moaned at the big white clean spot on the grey-with-dirt-from-the-past-tenants countertop. She'd have to blackmail Plague into cleaning the rest of it or it'd drive her crazy. Or maybe not. Now that Lucid knew she was around, she'd have to move out as soon as possible, and do a better job of hiding her tracks this time. Apparently Night had connections where she'd thought he hadn't had them before. That meant that she'd have to take out a chunk of money before she left to cover for her while she was 'underground', shake Plague off her tail for a little while, and head for someplace she hadn't been to before- which was hard, because she really wasn't sure where she could go where she'd be safe that she hadn't gone to already in the past 1000 years. Coming back to the present, she realized that the kid expected some kind of answer from her. "Oh, don't worry about it. If Lucid wanted to get in, she'd have been able to even if you had the door barricaded. One of the few good things she was ever useful for in the old days." She dried off the forgotten fork on the countertop and tossed it into a pile of silverware (which, of course, was all stainless steel) in a drawer, replacing the dish soap into the cabinet beneath the sink. She didn't own much silverware, due to her nomadic lifestyle and her lack of reliance on human food, but every now and then she felt the need to chew on something, so she kept some anyways. Taking a young vampire under her wing, according to many of her vampire and human acquaintances, had been good for her but ever since then she'd found herself plagued by little fetishes wherever she went. How often had she been walking along minding her own business when she noticed something and thought, 'Deedee would like that,' even though Aphrodite wasn't living with her any more? Still, she couldn't help a little friendly concern when she found out that Aphrodite, alias Oranget, was in trouble. Calm down Dawn, She'll be fine. She assured herself. Oranget is a smart girl. She can handle herself; you taught her, didn't you? If anybody can survive a fight with one of Night's henchmen, it'd be her. She sighed. No matter what she told herself, she wasn't being convincing enough to satisfy her panicky little protective side who was worried over her ward. She could only hope that Deedee wouldn't do something extremely dumb and cause Night to find her out.

"Uh, Dawnless?" Bryant asked nervously. She started, realizing she had been standing frozen in front of the sink, and turned around, smiling reassuringly at him. It'd been a while since she'd really lived with anyone, and it seemed that she'd gotten rusty with her 'people skills' if Bryant was still nervous around her. But then, he seemed a bit of a shy kid anyways.

"Yeah?"

"Just wondering if you were okay. You were spaced out at the window." Bryant stuttered, flushing a little.

Dawnless grinned and leaned back against the countertop. "It's fine. Now, the next time something like that happens, there's some stuff you need to know. Try to remember what I'm about to tell you, okay?"

"Okay." Bryant said, his full attention concentrated on Dawnless. He was more than willing to learn what kind of things he could do to keep some random vampire from harming him. He was perturbed and wondered if she realized what she was implying by 'next time'.

"The whole deal about vampires not being allowed into humans' houses without permission is bull." Dawnless said, "Vampires would never be an issue for your species if that were true. If they found out about us, everybody could just stay indoors and we'd starve to death."

"Ah." Bryant said, not really sure how to react to this new information.

"Well. Anyhow, there is kind of an unspoken law amongst us that could easily be the beginning point of that rumor. It's really similar to what you experienced with the gang, their idea of turf. It won't work with all vampires, as you saw with Lucid, but usually lower-level and young vampires who don't have a mentor could just break in in hopes of finding fresh blood. Unfortunately, since you haven't been bitten before, you fall under that category, and, since you're so young, (as sick as it is) many of these vampires would target you over, say the old folks who live a few doors down. As a human with little to no training in the hunters' arts, you'll have to fall back to conventional methods of vampire repelling.

"The first thing I'd advise you to do is start carrying around a silver blade, just in case. Blessed metals and silver work for you no matter what faith you are, so it will really hurt if you even touch your opponent with it. A very good thing. Second, you'll want to let it be known that you're under my protection. Play it tough, and act really confident. You should be able to intimidate them at least a little. Avoid their eyes, vampires have a mild form of hypnotic stare that could make you incoherent or stick you in place. Don't let them intimidate you. Most vampires have heard of me; I'm a pretty infamous person. But if all else fails pretend to close the door behind them or something and run like hell out of the apartment. Make sure someone sees you. Vampires dumb enough to break into my apartment without trying to figure out which vampire was in there usually back off if you find someone and stand in a light somewhere."

Bryant nodded, trying to absorb the information, knowing that it would probably be useful in the future; or it would just make him feel better about his situation. "Um, I have a question. Two actually." He said hesitantly.

"Sure. Fire away." Dawnless said. He noticed she hadn't lost her relaxed demeanor throughout her speech. If anyone looked in, they'd probably just see a 20-or-so woman chatting with her young friend or relative in the kitchen.

"Okay, first, what should I do if someone comes who's not one of those- what did you say -young vampires? And what did you mean by 'objects of faith'?"

"Ah. Well, it's a common misconception that crosses always repel vampires." She said. "Not true. In fact, only people of christian faith (or who've been baptized at some point in their life) could fend for themselves against a vampire with a non-metal cross. If someone doesn't have faith in christianity, it won't work. Strange as it may sound, jewish stars, ohm symbols, and old artifacts work just as well." She grinned. "The first time a hunter brandished a ceremonial egyptian vase at me I thought they were nuts."

Bryant chuckled. The mental image her memory procured was very humerous, and he wondered how someone would go around attacking someone else with an egyptian vase- but he decided not to ask. "How'd he get his hands on one?" He asked instead, still unwilling to let the humorous topic drop.

Dawnless laughed, remembering the utter shock she'd felt. At the time, it'd quickly turned from completely unexpected to very bad as the guy had quickly thrown the vase down, showering her with some very sharp pieces of clay pottery. She'd found out later that it was because the thing was apparently a holy artifact that it'd burned her. "Ironically enough, we were in a little museum's historical gallery. We both had to run before we could finish each other off. They're still probably trying to figure out who destroyed that priceless egyptian vessel and got away. Made us famous for quite a while."

"Does Plague know about this?"

"He doesn't. And I'd hate for you to have an accident for telling him." She said, shoving him in the arm.

"Okay okay. I can take a hint. Sheesh." Bryant replied, pretending to rub his arm.

"Well, I've had enough excitement today." Dawnless said, getting up and raising a hand to her mouth as she yawned. "Normally I'd go to bed around now, but seeing as I really want to take advantage of the fact that the idiot left his computer here, and I really don't need the sleep at all, I think I'll stay awake. If you want you can have the bed."

"Okay." Bryant said, "If it's okay with you I think I'll go to bed. I need to get used to being nocturnal, since I'll be staying with you for a while."

"This isn't too much of a problem for you is it?" Dawnless asked as she walked over to the couch where Plague's computer was. "I can tell Plague to take you to the hunter's council immediately if you want." She turned to watch him as he answered.

Bryant shrugged, feeling very much put on the spot. "Not really. But when this is all over I'm going to have jet lag, or whatever the vampire equivalent is."

"Good to hear it." Dawnless replied. He caught a glimpse of something as it quickly passed over her smiling features. Relief? For what? He must be really tired and seeing things, he decided. "It's kind of nice having you here, to keep me from just shooting Plague in his sleep. It's been too long since I hung out with another human." She paused. "A real human, anyway. The hunters' 'drop-ins' don't count so much."

"Well I'd be lying if I said this wasn't a nice break from the streets." Bryant said, surprised by this almost sentimental side of Dawnless. She laughed, not a sarcastic or a cynical laugh like he'd heard from her many times before, but a friendly, smooth laugh pleasant to the ear, and contagious. He felt the corners of his mouth quirk up as he fought off the irrational desire to start laughing as well.

"I told you you could stay with me after Plague clears you with the hunters, right kid?" Dawnless said, vaulting over the couch back and placing the computer in her lap. "It would mean having to run all over the world with me dodging hunters and other vampires and possibly facing life-or-death situations, but as long as you listened to me and stayed out of trouble (as much as possible) I wouldn't mind having a buddy along for the ride. It's been way too quiet without Oranget around and I've been contemplating getting a new apprentice lately, but a human traveling buddy would do very nicely."

"Who's Oranget?" Bryant asked. He remembered that that creepy vampire Lucid had mentioned her, but so far there hadn't really been any explanations as to the identity of Dawnless's apparent acquaintance. Besides which, he wasn't really sure how to answer Dawnless's earlier question.

"Well aside from being completely useless at staying out of trouble and more hardheaded than a lump of rock," Dawnless looked down at the laptop as she rapidly typed in a long string of letters and numbers into the password blank, bringing up a black screen, before quickly and efficiently entering the codes necessary to bypass the security and thusly hack her way into Plague's account. "She's one of the most mysterious and valuable agents in existence, and the most dangerous person active in said business- not counting me. But I haven't taken a long-standing job since about 17 years ago so I let her keep her fame."

"So..." Bryant said, trying to figure out her relation to Dawnless through all of the statistics that had been, metaphorically speaking, dumped in a heap at his feet to wilt in sorrow at his neglect of understanding. "You knew her?"

Dawnless snorted contemptuously. "Unfortunately, she was the one and only apprentice to the famed Dawnless and thus a very interesting and appealing person for virtually all vampires to try to get all buddy-buddy with since they knew they couldn't get my attention."

"So she was a bad student?" He asked in confusion for her half-answers.

"Far from it." Dawnless said, a tiredness entering her tone. "She was brilliant. A prodigy. The only vampire I know of that would stand longer than ten minutes alive against Night in a one-on-one fight, and the only living one right now of her caliber who specializes in all sorts of guns and tranquilizers with the connections to get virtually any sort at her disposal. She's done almost everything right, but she sticks with something until the end, and she won't listen to anyone once she's grabbed on to an idea, not even her teacher." Dawnless's hands halted on the keyboard as she stared into space, the tiniest hint of sorrow on her face, thrown into relief by the sharp shadows projected by the blue glow of the computer screen in her lap. "Well, when she gets in over her head, I'll probably bail her out like usual. Strange girl like that. Maybe she'll visit while you're here. You'll probably like her. She hasn't been around long enough to become bitter like this old vampire has." Her hands quickly went back to work. "Either way, why don't you go get some sleep before I get all sentimental on you. Sorry if I bored you already.""No, I think I'd like to meet this all-so-famous Oranget." Bryant said, trying to picture to himself what she might look like. It was difficult though, since he only had Dawnless and Lucid to work off of how vampire women looked like, and he had no clue as to her age. All he came up with was a thin, pale woman -probably tall- wearing a trench coat and an orange bandanna. Of course, the bandanna was based on her name, and he doubted that Oranget really walked around with an orange bandanna. It would just be way too weird. "But if you really don't mind me using the bedroom..."

"Go ahead. I already told you you could, didn't I?" She asked rhetorically, typing away and humming to herself under her breath.

Bryant walked into the bedroom, stumbling around and groping for the light. He winced when his knees unexpectedly encountered the bedside table, then reached out for the light. Eventually he encountered the lampshade, and felt his way to the chain, pulling it and bathing the room in light. Wincing and letting his eyes adjust, he set to work fixing the bed up a little, then yawned and crawled in, too tired to bother finding a change of clothes. Curling up, he promptly fell into a deep sleep.

(with Dawnless)

Fingers typing furiously into Plague's keyboard, Dawnless unabashedly flew past all of the hunters' security layers- the ones that she knew, anyways. She wasn't concerned with him being upset, but she knew that Plague would have questions when he found the signs of her failed hacking expedition into the hunter database. They'd placed some kind of funky firewall on it that she'd never really figured out how to get past. Ah well, it was worth trying anyways; even if she'd tried for the last few years and had been making less and less progress. She thought it was dumb that they'd make the security around the other folders so flimsy then suddenly make the hunter database so well protected, but she wasn't going to go and complain about it.

So instead, she decided to poke around in the vampires section (which was cutely listed under 'fictions', Dawnless noted, rolling her eyes) and located the 'search' blank. Sitting back for a moment, she contemplated her first victim of illegal scrutiny, then hastily typed in 'Oranget'. She hadn't checked this profile in ages, but the way Lucid had dropped her name on a whim had left her suspicious about her apprentice's dealings.

Name: Unknown Oranget

Age: approx 200 yrs

Species: Vampire

Occupation: Active hit man

Status: Level 1 vampire (borderline 1,2 due to young age)

Group: Devil's Scythe (World)

Location of Residence: Unknown

Nationality: German

Hair: Brown, wavy

Eyes: Green

Clothes: Most often seen in long dark brown leather trench coat reaching to knees. Silver earring typical of high-level members of DS. DS assassin tattoo on left side of neck.

Weapon: Very accomplished marksman, carries a trusty handgun with her at all times. Good swordsman, and carries a long knife.

Skills: Strategizing, tracking and espionage

Specifications: The one and only pupil Dawnless ever took under her wing. Cautious and slippery. Often sighted in nightclubs.

Side: Accomplice of Night (Devil's Scythe)

1expert, 10rookie

See "Devil's Scythe" (DS) under menu "Vampire Organizations"

Dawnless sighed and sat back. Well at least Oranget didn't have Heaven's Justice after her. The union of most Hunter organizations, she'd hate to have them chasing after her apprentice. It was said that Heaven's Justice could take out any vampire with a single word to its elite Hunters, except two; Night and herself. Those under the protection of Night were usually safe as well- as long as they made themselves useful to him. She smiled. What would they think if they knew she'd struck a deal with the famous hunter Plague? There was speculation as to whether Oranget was capable of being considered amongst these two elder vampires.

Next, Dawnless checked out some of her old 'buddies' from Devil's Scythe. Not much was known about Lucid (to her dismay), as well as Channary, Estath, Helix, Jonquil, and Lapis beyond what she'd already divulged to the organization through Plague. She hadn't felt too bad about ratting them out- they had always been cocky and annoying even during her days as an assassin when she'd been required to work with some of them more than once.

She looked up some of her acquaintances. The database was a great way for her to reap favors from other vampires. Favors could sometimes keep you alive. They were very useful. Hoping against hope, she looked up Star, Bloodwolf, and Darkwing. Unfortunately, Lucid hadn't lied about her only real friends from Devil's Scythe. She frowned at the neat red label under Darkwing's name, feeling slightly guilty about their deaths. When they'd made plans for her escape, she'd told them she was cutting all connections, and Star, the only one she'd given contact information, had never called in her favor. All the same, she was unhappy that she'd had to find out from Lucid, of all people. Moving on, she looked up Augustine.

Name: Unknown Augustine

Age: approx 940 yrs

Species: Vampire

Occupation: Active Informant

Status: Level 7 vampire (Informant)

Group: Cascata (Europe, USA, Canada)

Location of Residence: Unknown (Most often seen in USA and Europe)

Nationality: Irish/European mix

Hair: Short curly Red(Often seen wearing a hat)

Eyes: Green

Clothes: Most often seen in long grey coat. Dresses comfortably and casually. Far-sighted; needs glasses when reading or working on her computer. Wears square-rimmed, red wire framed glasses. Has a unique prescription traced to a glasses shop in Italy.

Weapon: Carries a gun with her as well as the knife given to her by Cascata just in case.

Skills: Hacking, programming, manipulation, information gathering, code breaking

Specifications: Taught herself hacking and programming as soon as the earliest computers came out. Extremely good at any kind of puzzle. Extremely proficient in all maths and some sciences. Contact headquarters for contact information.

Side: Neutral

1expert, 10rookie

See "Cascata" under menu "Vampire Organizations"

Dawnless smiled. She was a little scared of the little red-haired informant, but Augustine was anything but boring to be around. She also treated all of Dawnless's requests with extreme suspicion, and the research that she did for her always took much longer than usual because first the girl took it upon herself to carefully comb through every scrap of information about Dawnless's dealings before deciding to hand the data over. It was like some freakish obsession. Dawnless was sure that Augustine probably knew more about her than she knew, and that some of the information in the database, when Plague updated it, would be mysteriously missing. She took great amusement in deleting all information pertaining to herself in her free time, causing big hunter groups and vampire networks to scramble in a panic, resetting security settings and rebuilding firewalls more secure than before; mainly so she could just hack back in later. A stranger vampire there never was.

Dawnless clicked and typed her way through a few more profiles, before sitting back and stretching, peering at the bio for a cute child-vampire named Aria. She'd always liked her, even though she'd nearly gotten a heart attack the first time the 300 year old in an ten year old's body had approached her thinking she was someone else and debriefed her on someone else's reconnaissance mission.

Name: Natalie (Last name unknown) Aria

Age: approx 70 yrs

Species: Vampire

Occupation: Active informant and spy

Status: Level 4 vampire

Group: Cascata (Europe, USA, Canada), Ashes (Western and southern America)

Location of Residence: Chicago, New York and Los Angeles

Nationality: American

Hair: Short permed brown(Often seen wearing a hat)

Eyes: Brown

Clothes: Dresses casually. Expect to see in any dress.

Weapon: Uses primarily weapons like syringes, blow-darts, throwing knives, and small guns due to her stature. Skilled with the type of long, light knife supplied by Cascata. Mostly avoids fighting.

Skills: Espionage, vampire-hunter relations, carrying messages

Specifications: Excellent at blending in where most vampires cannot. Because of her childlike appearance, most lower level vampires don't look twice at her.

Side: Handles hunter-vampire meetings for many small and large vampire groups. Willing to do business with anyone going against Night, but holds a grudge against Roc as well. Has officially bonded herself to both Cascata and Ashes, though all information she gets from any of her contacts is strictly confidential, only given out if said contact goes bad. Contact headquarters for contact information.

Dawnless frowned. So, one of her favorite informants had gotten herself at odds with Roc. While a vampire as slippery as Aria wouldn't have trouble with an organization such as Roc, she hoped that she wouldn't try to put her on the spot for it later. She strongly valued her good relations to the keepers of the gates into China, the Philippines, Taiwan and Japan, and she'd hate to lose either the irreplaceable information she got from Aria or the right to visit said countries without having to buy a forged or dead person's passport. Well, she'd take that problem on if it ever came up. Aria, though a younger vampire than Oranget, was actually quite reasonable. She could probably come up with an agreement if the 'little one' was insulted by her friendly relations with Roc.

She only had a few more contacts and organizations to go through. She looked up Scorpion, Sol, Tevy, and Night, then Roc, Devil's Scythe, Cascata, Euphrates, and Ashes before calling it a night.

A/N: I love Deedee, more on her later! I'm actually doing quite a bit of research into the names for this story. Kudos to anyone who can figure out any! (of course, many of the names are just pulled from my head. Oranget, for instance :P)

Informational chappie. Sorry if you found it boring. I'm finally setting the stage for stuff that's going to happen later! Don't worry, you don't have to know every little thing in this chapter for later. The characters mentioned will be expanded when you meet them, the extra info is just for hints and kicks. Don't forget to review!

I looked up 'muchness' in the dictionary. To my shock, it actually exists! That makes me so happy

Earthsong12: Thanks for the edits! You're the best. I will definitely get my act together and edit my chapters... someday. Have another cookie

Islandbreeze: You are so awesome! worship here, have a cookie Thanks for the encouragement! I AM watching your ficcies, and I AM planning to keep up, just right now the physics and pre-calculus are piling up! (cries I wish I had more time for my pleasure reading) Thanks muchness! huggle Have a cookie

Next chapter: Dawnless and Bryant will get on the move- with Plague, unfortunately. All safety apparel including helmets and armpads can be bought for reasonable prices at eBay, just like everything else. But of course that has nothing to do with the next chapter. Definitely.

A/N: In this chapter I don't own Dasani water- or anything, for that matter, relating to the coca-cola company. And don't kill me if you like the water- Dawnless is merely sharing my opinion that putting stuff in bottled water (which people drink specifically for the fact that it's a pure, unflavored drink) is a mortal sin.

Currently listening to: Hikaru Utada's "Exodus" (CD)
Current mood: I finally updated! :D
Chapter Length: 26 pages...

yeah... and... people who don't like 'language', please don't complain. From here out I'm going to allow a little potty mouth when my characters are feeling really put out. So... yeah. Please continue at your own risk.

Chapter 7
Cascata

When Bryant woke, he lay for a moment, disoriented, waiting for the sound that had woken him up to repeat so that he could identify it. When it didn't he quietly dragged himself out of Dawnless's bed and cautiously pressed himself up against the wall next to the door, listening as he caught the sound of talking on the other side.

"Oranget... move... what.. kid?"

He frowned, the sleep leaving him as he tried to tune out the humming of the room's heating vent, squinting his eyes uselessly in the darkness as he tried to understand the low murmurs. Or, better yet, figure out who else was in the apartment.

"You couldn't possibly be suggesting that you want to keep him?" Ah, much better. Wait a sec- was that Plague?

"What's it to you?" Dawnless replied, sounding decidedly unhappy about Plague's objection.

"Drawing an innocent bystander into the vampire world is a one-way street. This is unusual, even in our books, Dawnless." Plague said, sounding upset.

"Chill out. I wasn't really planning on keeping him." Dawnless drawled, surly and scathing all at once. "Nice to know that I'd have support if I did though. Sheesh."

"Can't blame me. What did you find out?"

"I don't know what you're talking about." She replied, a little too forcefully.

"Oh come on, I find intruder alerts on my computer every time I leave you alone with it. I have to remove the alarms so the almighty forces of Heaven's Justice don't catch on."

"Nothing I didn't already know."

"What?"

"I didn't find out anything I already knew. God, is your brain as messed up as you look or something? By the way, neon red suits you. At least people will know to keep out of your way."

"Shut up." Plague snapped irritably. "It's comfortable. You're the one who made me sleep in my van. It's not like I go hunting in this thing. Sheesh."

"So," Bryant could easily imagine by the silky tone in her voice that Dawnless was adopting a casual pose, preparing for an interrogation. "Who's your next hunt?"

"I hardly think I'm obligated to tell you that." Plague said wryly. It was easy for Bryant to picture them in casual stances, glaring at each other while holding an conversation that bordered on friendly. A kind of friendly that wasn't even worth testing. He doubted those two ever really got along.

"I can help you." Dawnless said, with the air of one making an offer that they know their opponent can't miss. "Wouldn't it suck for you to kill off one of our prize contacts?"

"It's really not fair how much more info you have than me." Plague pouted, "I'm the hunter."

"You have no charm. I happen to be very well connected, and I keep my favorite contacts safe. You know not to mess with most of them, and I've assured them that handling anyone else isn't too bad. Who are you hunting? Other than me, of course."

"A vampire named Carrion. Owes allegiance to Devil's Scythe, as well as acting as a mole in one of our 'friendlies'. We found out he was using his position in Roc to get Night's men and supplies in and out of China, Taiwan and Japan- which wouldn't be a bad thing, if he wasn't disregarding their policies. Roc wants him back alive, but they don't care if he's killed in a struggle."

"Poor guy." Dawnless said after a moment. "Sucks to get on Roc's bad side. Do you know if Night is expected to retaliate?"

"Probably not. He hasn't acted when we've taken out his contacts before, and we're sure he has another spy anyway. Probably not worth your attention. Didn't you say something about California?"

"I have contacts there, but maybe if you're going to go and directly attack an important member of Devil's Scythe without any of the expected retaliation from Roc, I guess I know where all the stuff's going to be going on."

"Roc said they'll publicly issue a warning to us so that Night won't know we're in cahoots with their people."

"I remember a time when Heaven's Justice never took any sort of aid from vampires."

"Things have changed. Night's a threat to everyone now, not just the radical groups screaming conspiracy anymore. Trust me, relations are strained enough anyways." Neither of them seemed to notice -though he was sure that they did; they probably just didn't care- when Bryant nervously slipped into the room, nervously passing between them to get into the kitchen. Plague shot him a casual glance from his pose on the back of the couch, while Dawnless had taken up her usual position against the kitchen counter.

"I read that Aria was working closely with your organization." She pressed, not letting Bryant interrupt their discussion as he opened the refrigerator door, pretending to contemplate his choice of drinks while unable to stop himself from eavesdropping on the two, annoyed with his ignorance about the world he was quickly being sucked into.

"Yeah. No one else in Cascata is better at putting us on awkward ground. They've been making a killing of information off of her. Do you know how hard it is to be rude to a child, even if she really is about 70 years old?"

"She's extremely talented." Dawnless replied. "I guess being turned at a young age makes you more impressionable and more adaptable. If it makes you feel any better, she complains about her height a lot. I'd hate to be stuck in a ten year old's body for all of eternity. She hates that she can't infiltrate unfamiliar bars like the rest of us."

"Well, she certainly makes me squirm." Plague said, shuddering. "thoroughly dangerous, that one. I'd hate to be the one who has to give her bad news."

"Just make sure you don't attack any Cascata." Dawnless warned. "She won't attack you unless you harm one of her kin."

"Cascata is one big family?" Bryant broke in, feeling that if they didn't care about his presence, they probably wouldn't mind his question. He doubted he'd ever really understand what they were talking about, but here was a place to start.

"No, they just consider themselves so. Them and Ashes make a pledge of service. It's kinda like a pledge of Omerta. If you betray anyone in the group, you're as good as dead. Makes a very stable organization."

"It's always death with you guys." Plague grumbled.

"Well threatening to expose someone to hunters doesn't work anymore since everyone over level 1 knows hunters are so good at tracking rogues." Dawnless snapped, getting increasingly annoyed with his banter.

"Well I'm sorry that we're human." Plague replied harshly. "And that while we're trying to save the world idiot deadlings like you are turned and kill humans daily."

"Well then I'm sorry that I'm dead." Dawnless said cooly. "Since I obviously always wanted to be a vampire and go around killing people for a lunatic." Bryant winced as the snap of the refrigerator door closing echoed in the silence emanating from the living room. Trying to make as little noise as possible, he seated himself carefully in front of the island, watching discreetly as Plague and Dawnless stared at each other. After a long moment, Plague sighed.

"I'm sorry, you know I didn't mean it that way Dawn."

"Well next time try to come up with a better adjective." Dawnless replied, deciding to let it slide.

"I didn't know my adjective usage was under such harsh scrutiny." Plague replied, though the humor was drained from his voice and he only sounded tired. "Is 'deadlings' such an awful word?"

"It's not a word." She said, turning and walking into the kitchen. "You can sleep in the bedroom."

"Finally." Plague complained, rubbing his back as he yawned. "Thanks. I didn't get hardly enough sleep last night."

"Before you stink up the bed, go get a goddamn shower." Dawnless yelled after him, "What did you sleep in, a dumpster?"

"Ha ha ha. Very funny." Plague yelled back. A door closed and the shower started running.

With a heavy sigh Dawnless sagged over the countertop, sidling into a seat opposite Bryant with a bottle of water in her hand. "Thank god you're here kid, or I think we may come to blows." She said, taking a long swig and grimacing at the taste. "Bah, I wasn't so low on money I wouldn't drink this crud. Is this Dasani a new company?"

"Yeah, it's owned by coca-cola." Bryant replied distractedly, opening and drinking from his carton of orange juice.

"Human culture is going down the drain if they can't even make a bottle of water right." The vampire grumbled. "Sometimes I really wonder why I put up with everything for them." She was staring at the countertop, talking more to herself than to her human companion. "No one asked me to." Looking up, she met his confused face with her normal smile pasted back on. "Anywhere you want to go tonight kid?"

Bryant shrugged. He supposed that on any other day with the gang he'd be wishing he could go to the new carnival in town and catch some rides, but now that he was free, he really didn't know what to do with his newfound freedom. Going the carnival wasn't all that appealing, because he was sure that if they went he'd only feel uncomfortable, remembering why he'd gone to the carnival before, with the other gang members. He'd never really liked rides, anyways, and he remembered going once with his family- a long time ago, and the fun-house mirrors had scared him. He didn't have a lot of happy memories to lure him to the carnival, now that he stopped to think about it without the novelty that he'd associated with running away from the gang for a night of fun.

"There's a carnival in town this weekend. What day is it, sunday? We could go." Dawnless said, watching the boy across the table. She wasn't surprised when he shrugged and shook his head. She imagined that he'd never really had any opportunities for fun as a kid growing up in a small-town gang, and, more likely than not, would be nervous about running into somebody who'd recognize him.

The next two minutes were spent in comfortable silence. Dawnless thoughtfully spun her water on the scuffed white surface of the table, absentmindedly noticing the way the water sparkled in the light as it swished inside of the blue bottle, trying to come up with a plan for tonight. Now that she'd gathered a lot of information off of Plague's network, she had a pretty good idea of what she needed to do. Unfortunately, she didn't yet have the funding to make the expensive trip to Los Angeles, especially this close to Mardi Gras when all of the plane tickets were so expensive. She supposed she could drive, but she was renting her car here- and buying one would be impractical, as she had one waiting for her with one of her vampiric contacts in LA. Besides, she only needed a little- she had enough to get both of them there, but once they were there, they would need shelter for a while until she called in a favor. Unfortunately, in such a small town, there weren't any assignments for her to take- especially considering what the Hunters had said about not seeing any other vampires. No matter, she'd visit them anyways and try to sell them a little bit of information. Afterwards, she'd look into getting a quick job as a security guard or something- she was pretty sure she still had that fake identity Augustine had made for her. It probably had the same credentials as before- Augusine rarely removed anything from a network once she'd planted it there. She heard the water shut off in the bathroom, then Plague walked into the kitchen messily dressed in a white short sleeved shirt and grey drawstring pants.

"I'm running low on money..." Dawnless said mulishly, swirling the coffee in her mug.

"Used up most of your savings already?" Plague asked, poking around in the refrigerator.

"Yeah, with the Hunters dropping in and destroying my apartments the repair and relocation costs have killed my budget." She replied with a heavy sigh.

"Try investing in the stock market." Plague suggested, taking out some orange juice and pouring it into a cup.

"I already have stock, but it's not bringing anything in. I'm going to get a job," Dawnless said suddenly.

Plague nearly dropped his juice. Bryant choked on his drink and the hunter eyed him sympathetically, thumping him on the back.

"You've got to be kidding right?" He said, resuming his pouring while Bryant quietly sputtered behind him, trying to imagine Dawnless bussing tables.

She gave them both a sultry glare. "No."

"You can't do that!" Plague said, gesticulating wildly. "You're going to blow your carefully-worked-for cover!"

"That's not your problem is it?" Dawnless said, taking a sip from her mug. "Or maybe it is." A sly grin spread over her face and she leaned purposefully over the counter towards him. "Could you maybe hold the hunters off a bit? I have a good idea of where I could get good pay, and it wouldn't be for long. I've got a friend who borrowed money from me, and I just need to hold out 'till he returns it in a month."

Plague glared at her. "You're trying my patience so early in the night." He said, "What do I get out of this?"

"I think the question is 'what are you getting out of this'." Dawnless replied. "I'm providing shelter, protection, some supplies, and a good excuse to be away for so long from your hunter buddies, and I do this very often when I could easily just dump you out on the streets."

"That's your excuse for everything." Plague grumbled.

"It's a good one. Do you wanna sleep outside again?" She asked, "I should really charge you part of the rent on this apartment. Then I may not have to get the job after all."

"I only have one lifetime to live, whereas you have eternity to make money to pay for your shelter," Plague replied, with a heavy sigh. "I guess we have a deal then." Reaching over, he curtly shook hands with the vampire, then leaned back and indulged in his morning cup of orange juice, the business-like atmosphere evaporating immediately.

"Bryant, do you wanna bum around town with Plague, or would you like to come with me finding jobs?" Dawnless asked, tossing back the last of her water and walking over to the trash to throw out the bottle.

"I'll just stick with Plague." Bryant said. His immediate reaction had been to want to go with Dawnless, but he realized that going with her would probably only get in her way, and be much more boring. He wondered how he had managed to become more comfortable with the vampire than the human in the last few days.

"All right." Making her way around the island, she crossed the living room to where their coats hung from pegs behind the front door to the apartment. Lifting up her heavy black trench coat, she unhooked a dark grey coat hanging underneath it and quickly slung it on, the edges coming down just below her waist and made of a light nylon material. Digging around in the trench coat's pockets she removed a gun, a clip with extra bullets, a pack of gum, and a pack of tissues, all of which disappeared into various pockets and loops on her person. Finally she fished out a large keyring, which she wrestled with for a while, carefully extracting a single key from the messy jumble and tossing it in Plague's direction. "That's for the apartment. Make sure you lock it on the way out if you guys go anywhere okay?" Without looking back to see Plague and Bryant's nods of agreement, she turned and left.

Plague sat back in his chair, turning his head to Bryant as he propped his legs up on the table. "Anywhere you want to go kid?" Again Bryant shook his head. "All riight... how about we hang out here. Wanna try and beat me in a game of chinese checkers? I know Dawn has a board hidden around here someplace."

Bryant laughed, remembering what Dawnless had said about Plague's chinese checkers skills. "You're on."

To say that Dawnless was amused by these people was an understatement. She'd have to get together with Oranget or Aria later and have a good laugh out of the situation she'd found herself in.

The first thing that the hunter did when he opened his door to see her smiling sweetly at him from the other side, was try to slam it as hard as he could- blanching an almost transparent shade of white. However, when it happened that Dawnless's foot stepped out of its own accord and blocked the door, he grudgingly opened it and stuttered for her to come in, and please take her shoes off at the door (acting as if she were going to jump him any moment) before backing into the kitchen, where excited murmuring confirmed that the other two were hiding there.

At the moment, though, she was smiling at the kaleidoscope of colors presenting itself to her on the face of the hunter she'd just posed (she thought) a totally innocent question to, more to make them more comfortable and to break the awkward silence, neither of which was being achieved.

The man had just reached a rich carmine color when his friend jerkily elbowed him into his side, and he finally blinked for the first time in almost a minute. "Uhhh yeeess... no. What was the question again?"

Dawnless resisted the urge to roll her eyes and sat back in the couch she was currently occupying, facing all of them, who sat on chairs pulled from the dining room. Their headquarters were, predictably, in Hunter #1's house, even though 'headquarters' was used loosely, as a young girl in her teens had recently walked into the kitchen and back, apparently completely unconcerned by her father's quick warning glance as she walked by. Their 'HQ' had no anti-vampire defenses she'd seen, either, so she was very much convinced that this town probably hadn't seen any before her for a long, long time. Woe be on them if Night decided to attack here. "I asked if that girl was your daughter... sir." She didn't think it would be wise to ask for his name (the man looked apt to blow up and paint the walls with his lunch out of sheer stress at any moment), but calling him 'hunter' wasn't complimentary either. 'Sir' would have to do.

"Uh, yeeees..." Hunter #1 said slowly, sitting frozen like a deer in the headlights. A vein was pulsing in his hand, Dawnless noticed with casual amusement. This man really needed some tranquilizers.

"She's very pretty." Dawnless said politely, turning to the other two, who immediately began very convincing imitations of stone sculptures. Stone sculptures with wide eyes and clenched hands. Well, at least they hadn't forgotten not to mess with her. "Are you two married?"

Hunter #2 mutely shook his head, while Hunter #3 opened his mouth and emitted what sounded suspiciously like a terrified squeak, before clamping his mouth shut and shaking his head violently. His right hand clutched his bandaged arm tightly -she was pleased to notice that he'd apparently gone to the doctor and gotten proper stitches- and his fingers pressed tightly into the fresh white bandaging. "Hey," She said, obviously addressing him, "Don't injure that arm more, stop strangling it like that." Immediately his arms sprang away from each other and fixed their death grips on his chair instead.

She leaned back, brushing a hand through her hair and frowning. Yikes, she had to get it cut or soon she'd start looking like a hobo. "I don't know why you guys are so freaked out about me, and even though I have a fairly good idea, I'm going to stress again (even if you guys aren't going to trust a word I say) that I'm not here to hurt you." She eyed their clenched fists and rigid postures. "And loosen up. You're all going to get muscle cramps. Death-gripping your chairs isn't going to turn them into silver daggers or even wooden stakes to stab me with, even if you could."

"W-well," Hunter #2 said tensely, "Why are you here then?"

"I have some information that I think you would find interesting." Dawnless said, carefully gauging their reactions. It wasn't hard- though not the least professional hunters she'd ever encountered, she had no trouble seeing through the very flimsy masks that they wore. Hunter #3 gripped his seat tighter, while Hunter #2's hands flew into his lap and gripped each other in a death grip, a spark of interest lighting in his eyes. Hunter #1 crossed his legs under his chair and did the same with his arms (a very unwise posture to be holding against a potential enemy), his posture confident but his eyes betraying that he wasn't sure whether to run for the phone and call 9-1-1 or cling to the wheels of a plane bound for Canada.

"Okay," Hunter #1 said finally, looking uncertainly at her. "What is it that you have to tell us?"

"Well, what do you have to offer to me for the information?" Dawnless asked, refusing to believe that they were dumb enough to think that she'd just out and tell them everything she knew.

"It's not free?" Hunter #3 blurted, then immediately blushed as Hunter #2 shot him a quick nervous glance. All three of them glued their eyes on her, obviously waiting for a response.

For a moment she stared at them in utter shock. How these guys hadn't already been taken advantage of by lower level vampires yet was a complete mystery. Dawnless rubbed her temples and spent a few long moments trying to convince her brain that no, blowing up was a very bad idea, and committing suicide with the knife she'd brought just in case the idiots had decided to surprise her and how some intelligence was even worse. She'd just finished a long-winded mental dialogue to her brain explaining to it that if it even thought of releasing the migraine lurking in the not-too-far distance she'd find a way to make a more cooperative clone of it then cut it up with a dull x-acto knife when Hunter #2 decided to repeat his question. Trying to ignore the dull throbbing that began behind her temples (it was definitely too early in the night to be dealing with this) she quickly answered the tense men sitting before her. "No." She said, unable to keep her contempt out of her voice. If there was anything she hated more than pesky hunters, it was stupid hunters. "Look, since you guys are so obviously out of the loop I'll inform you of a few things that I think you definitely need to know before Night comes knocking on your door- for free. But anything beyond that is going to cost some favors. Savvy?"

The men blinked at her, doing very passable impressions of a line of confused orangutans. Then they slowly nodded. "What do you mean by 'night'?" Hunter #3 said.

"Okay, let's start with the basics. What do you guys know about how to kill a vampire?" She asked.

"Uh... holy water, silver weapons, crosses, and burning." Hunter #2 put in.

"Well, that's a start. All right, I'm going to inform you guys on some stuff that you probably don't know about killing vampires. First of all, holy water won't kill unless injected or used in very large amounts. Crosses are only really good for self defense, though those things burn like hell if they touch vampire skin. There was this freak I met once who knew how to forge big burning auras around them, but I can't really tell you anything about that, 'cause I didn't ask him about it at the time. Any kind of metal can be blessed or dipping in holy water, but the water wears off after a while, but pure silver always acts like blessed metal. Beheading is very effective, blessed or not..." She paused to think. "You know, you'd be tons better off if you joined up with a Hunter organization. Didn't Plague mention anything about that to you when you hired him? Heaven's Justice is always looking for people and they'd probably fix you up into decent hunters."

Hunter #1 eyed her appraisingly. "Pardon me, but unless I'm mistaken you're a vampire. You're trying to tell us the different ways to kill your kind, and most of that part rings true with me, but we don't trust you. Why the hell would you be encouraging us to join an organization committed to killing you?!"

"Oh that's simple. If you guys were more informed you'd know I'm a very well respected vampire. You'd also know that, as weird as it sounds, I strongly dislike being one. Another extremely common piece of knowledge is that the vampire Night is currently attacking just about any weak area in the world in an effort to, like most bad guys, rule it all. Naturally, a lot of vampires find the prospect of getting under the rule of a huge vampire monarchy very appealing, and a lot of them are just in it because they're scared of him. Unfortunately, Night actually is capable of accumulating enough power to carry out his plan, so right now he's considered a big enough threat to merit the attention of a lot of larger vampire groups being endangered by him as well as Hunter groups, such as Heaven's Justice. Just the last two years have proven him to be more dangerous than any previous vampire regime, so basically everybody not part of Night's 'groupie' is either being forced to group up with him or attaching themselves to other groups or becoming accomplices to Hunter groups for protection. The only reason Night probably hasn't bugged you guys yet is because this is such a small town, and not in any really important location for him, but, being the maniac that he is, he probably will soon, especially since not only was I here, but Plague was too. You may not have known this when you hired him, but Plague is a very famous hunter, considered the best. He's devoted himself to hunting me. The only reason I was halfway civil to him was because you guys are more or less to be considered civilians (albeit hostile), and I didn't want to pull you into the mess that we've made for ourselves. Last night, I hacked into Plague's laptop and found out that, as of one week ago, one of Night's operatives had her eye on this place- usually meaning that they either knew someone important was going to hide out here or they were planning on taking this town anyway. So, you have two choices; either surrender your town when Night comes- only a few humans will probably be turned, as Night (crazy as he is) understands the meaning of patience. That is not, however, to say that your people would be safe while Night ruled the town- even though they wouldn't notice anything other than a suspicious amount of kidnappings and disappearances, there would be a lot of vampires camping out here, and one thing about most vampires is that they hate hunters. So, all of those facts should give me enough authority to suggest that you contact an organization immediately, for your own good."

For a while following her impromptu briefing, there was utter silence. Hunters #2 and #3 were staring at her with utter shock on their features, mouths gaping open like fishes. Hunter #1 was staring at her as if she'd gone mad. Honestly, she wasn't sure which was worse.

"Let's go out on a limb here and pretend you're lying." Hunter #1 said slowly, "That there isn't a vampire named "Night", and there isn't a Hunter organization called "Heaven's Justice." What you're suggesting, I hope you realize, sounds suspiciously like an out-of-sight-out-of-mind world known only between you vampires and the Hunters. Naturally, the next question that I find myself asking is the simple, 'how the hell is it possible that the vampires haven't made their presence known to the general public, and why does it increasingly sound like there's some sort of strange agreement between you and the hunters not to involve... 'civilians'?'"

Dawnless sat back, satisfied that someone here had an ounce (and no more!) of sense. "I am indeed telling you that vampires and Hunters work underground, without the knowledge of the common person. There's one heck of a story behind it, but, in short, long ago when there were only a few vampires not consumed by bloodlust they decided that the ones killing off humans and blinded by their thirst for blood should be killed. After their task, it was decided amongst them that in the future they would not allow any other mindless vampires to exist, would not kill or turn the unwilling or unnecessarily, and would not make themselves known to any human ignorant of the vampire world. These leaders all created their own organizations to ensure that vampires would not endanger or rule the world, but only one's organization survived, and is currently known as Roc. Hunters came into play later, and Roc members decided to only act in retaliation to them, and not destroy any Hunters who didn't directly attack their organization. Many lone vampires and newer organizations followed their example and continue to do so. On a more current level, it's much more practical not to cause mass panic amongst the humans and most of us sane vampires agree that those who lose their humanity deserve to die anyway. We were all human once. And while many of us have lost a lot of our compassion for the living, it's hard to bring death on a race that you once belonged to."

Another awkward silence. There seemed to be a lot of those lately. However, all of this talking was giving Dawnless a dry throat, and, judging by the mix of disbelief, confusion, surprise, and the ever present fear on the Hunters' faces she was going to be doing a lot more of the same. Oh joy.

"Well gentlemen, I'm sure that you have even more questions for me, but at the moment I'm a little thirsty. May I please have something to wet my throat?" She watched in exasperation as all of them jumped and stared at her with wide eyes, their hands immediately grasping the objects nearest them in lieu of a weapon. Seriously, this was becoming too much. "Really, sirs, I meant a cup of water. Please? Wouldn't massacring you after giving you details to the vampire world be utterly useless? And could someone courteously give me some names to go by? This 'sir' and 'gentleman' business is going to get really old really fast at this rate."

Hunter #3 sprang from his seat at a quick nod from Hunter #1, walking into the kitchen in a very, very forced imitation of a normal sauntering walk. Dawnless nearly laughed out loud as he tripped over the foyer, glancing nervously back and vanishing into the kitchen in record speed.

"Could we have some contact information for Heaven's Justice?" Hunter #1 asked, the only one who seemed to have somewhat realized that she wasn't going to whip out a gun and giggle, "Gotcha!" as she shot them all down. Of course, his hands were still rubbing each other raw, but if one looked really hard, that vein wasn't throbbing in his temple any more.

"Your lucky day." Dawnless said, grinning as she removed one of Plague's business cards from her pants pocket. Plague would have her head if he ever found out she'd stolen what easily could term as incriminating evidence against him in the eyes of Heaven's Justice if she was ever found with said evidence(apparently he didn't seem to think the laptop counted- not that she was going to argue with him on the issue). The thought only made her grin wider. She'd just have to tell him about this soon so he wouldn't die of shock when he was congratulated for these recruits the next time he went back to a base. Though if he did, that'd get him off her tail for a while, at least until he was inexplicably reincarnated to resume his good work as the one constant pestilence she couldn't shake off. Inwardly, she scowled. The thought of Plague getting recognition for her efforts took away a bit of the pleasure she found in irking him by stealing his stuff. She'd have to use it as a bargaining chip in the future. "I stole this from Plague the last time I saw him. It's yours. You can call the number on that card and you'll be connected to a Heaven's Justice official, who will know you're a new recruit if you read off everything on that card in order and will take care of everything. Call now, if you want. I don't think I need to stress how important it is that you keep me completely out of this...?"

Hunter #1 took the paper quickly, his eyes flicking over the seemingly normal looking business card and noting the lack of any mention of Hunters or Vampires beyond sporting the name 'Heaven's Justice' in large block letters near the middle. It gave off the air of any ordinary, if somewhat bland, business card carried by a private music instructor with a low budget. At the top was written 'Syrias Delores', underneath which was typed 'Plague' next to a string of numbers and spaces that went something like '01 00 8979487326'. Below that was 'Musicia Elementaria, sponsored by Heaven's Justice', and below that 'Piano Instructor' above a 1-800 phone number. He looked up at her and cocked an eyebrow. "Piano instructor?" He asked, sounding faintly amused.

"Yes, sir." Dawnless replied, impatiently tossing back her head and gesturing back at the card. "If a civilian picked up that card and it had all of the hunter-vampire junk on it too, there could be an investigation into this supposed 'Musicia Elementaria' and then the government might figure out that it's just an empty building with a phone and an old dusty piano in it." She forced herself to sit back with a loud huff. "And a bathroom." She added after a moment of thought.

"This 'Heaven's Justice' created a fake organization to employ their Hunters under to allay suspicion from the government?!" Hunter #1 asked incredulously.

"Well, yeah." Dawnless said. "Plus, they can use the buildings for an emergency hideout if one of the rookies botches a hunt. They actually do rent it out sometimes to music instructors, though, just for kicks." She leaned forwards, ignoring Hunter #1 as he shrank back a little, and grabbed the hand holding the index card. Pointing, she indicated the second set of numbers. "See, the 00 indicates that he's not on call, except for emergencies. The 01 just means that he's a level 1 hunter, which is elite." She rolled her eyes. "Idiot likes to rub that in. Truthfully, it's a very prestigious award to be made a level 1 hunter, as all existing hunters of that level guard it jealously. I have no idea what the other numbers mean. Maybe you can ask him if you meet him. The point is, use those numbers to get yourselves signed up with Heaven's Justice. In fact, I'm sick of answering questions, so call them now and if you have any further questions I'll just sit here and wait." Releasing the Hunter's hand, she again sagged back into her chair.

"Hey." Hunter #1 grunted, keeping his eyes on her as he called Hunter #3, who'd just returned from the kitchen. "Hand me the phone."

Hunter #3 nodded, opening his mouth to say something, before his eyes met with Dawnless' and he clamped it back shut. Nearly dropping the glass of water in his haste, he hurried back into the kitchen, and, with a little more force than was necessary, pulled the cordless phone from its holster. Hunter #1 took it, finally removing his eyes from the vampire to look at the numbers as he dialed them. Hunter #2 shot a very fast look in his direction, then narrowed his eyes at her, as if challenging her to attack while their leader was distracted. She smiled cheekily back at him, a terrible habit that had worn off on her from her apprentice, who seemed to ever find pleasure in really ticking off her enemies right when they were contemplating whether to kill her or not- making their decisions for them. She really wondered how that girl had managed to hold onto her life so long sometimes. Hunter #2's brows furrowed, undoubtedly wondering why Hunter #1 had let this vampire come in without killing her. Hunter #3 scooted over to his chair, rapidly sitting down, his eyes darting around the room, most often at Dawnless, as if trying to keep himself distracted so his fear wouldn't set in (yeah right) as his feet jingled anxiously above the ugly orange carpet. Almost as awful as that towel that Oranget had dubbed 'Tangerine' and loudly declared her pet one day after her first time stupidly deciding to drink from a drunk, and not too long after Dawnless had warned her about doing so, no less. The man's blood alcohol content must've been pretty high, but then it wouldn't have had to have been, because Oranget was a little eccentric anyways. It wasn't really worth dwelling on. The intoxicated vampire had alternated (to Dawnless's horror) between singing and giggling for nearly a half hour straight, before collapsing on the ground cuddling "Tangerine". Luckily, vampires didn't suffer hangovers unless they'd been very, very drunk, or the poor girl probably wouldn't have comprehended the very firm reprimand Dawnless had made sure she'd heard the next day. She had, however, been extremely drowsy, and Dawn had found herself exasperatedly startling her awake more than once before she injured herself as she started dozing while sharpening her knives or cutting carrots for dinner. Unfortunately, she hadn't always been able to come to her rescue, and Oranget had a nice little scar on her ankle to remind her of her very bad decision. Thankfully, Oranget had learned her lesson, though she occasionally complained about the scar, since sometimes on missions to vampire bars she'd been required to wear socks or long pants to avoid being recognized. It wasn't well-known that she had that scar, but there were people who knew. Even though she'd understood that fact, Oranget still liked to pout about it though.

Hunter #1 visibly flinched as someone spoke on the other end of the line, the words fuzzy and indiscernible even to Dawnless's attentive ears. He gaped soundlessly for a long moment, and his eyes fixed on Dawnless in the expression of someone very much put on the spot. Dawnless pushed down her urge to smirk at him and instead mimed picking up the card and reading the contents to an invisible phone. Hunter #1 jerked out of his reverie, jerking the hand holding the card up and blurting out the first few lines. "SyriasDeloresPlague010089-" The woman on the other end patiently interrupted him, and he listened, gathering his composure until she was quiet again. With a deep breath, he slowly began reading the card at a more manageable pace. "Syrias Delores. Plague. 01, 00, 897, 948, 7326, Heaven's Justice. Piano Instructor." The woman said something else. "Bountiful(SEE NOTE IN AUTHOR'S NOTE!) Utah. Three of us." He glanced nervously at Dawnless, as if deciding something, while the woman asked a question then waited patiently for about a minute before saying something. "Yes, I'm still here. Wallace Byarns. B-y-a-r-n-s. 44. Yes. Brian Kennings, 40. Gordon Millet, M-i-l-l-e-t, 41." He waited after the woman confirmed the names, undoubtedly running a very thorough background screening on them. "Oh... eh... the hunter who contacted us?" He asked, buying time while he stared hard at Dawnless, who mouthed 'Plague' twice before he nodded and hastily answered. "Plague. Yes. Oh. Umm... brown hair..." He turned pleading eyes to Dawnless who cursed and hastily searched her pockets for a pen, snatching the business card from him and flipping it over. She jotted down a few quick notes then handed it back to Hunter #1- or rather, 'Wallace Byarns'. "Grey eyes, fair skin." The 'receptionist' spoke again, and he paused, his eyes scanning over the card, before saying, "I think so. He didn't show it to me, but I may have seen something like that. I think I saw him use it on a vampire." Dawnless inwardly cursed as he paused, listening to the woman ask him something. She knew what question he was listening to. Thinking fast, she snatched the business card from the man and fumbled with the pen, quickly jotting down a name. She shoved it back into the surprised Hunter's hand as he opened his mouth to answer. He sent her a questioning glance, and the woman on the other end spoke loudly in concern when he was silent for more than a minute. Dawnless nodded at the name, then gestured at the phone. Wallace broke out of his reverie. "Lucid. Yes, I'm sure. He addressed her while he was fighting. No, we were looking for the vampire and we asked for his help. Look, I'm sure it was Lucid. Yes." Dawnless inwardly congratulated his acting skills and breathed a sigh of relief. Better chalk up another thing that Plague owed her for.

"Well, we found out about this whole organization thing from Plague, and he advised us that we call and tell you that we want to join. Yes, we're a small town, so there's never been use for any more. I'm not sure. About 80 years? I can't recall what the name was of the vampire that came here before, don't you have files of that somewhere? It's okay, I didn't mean to be rude. Well, Brian and I work mondays through thursdays and saturdays from 8:00AM to 3:00PM and Gordon works tuesdays and wednesdays from 8:00AM to 2:30PM and 6:00PM to 11:00PM, and thursdays and saturdays from 6:00PM to 11:00PM. Well, we should be free the other times." He looked briefly up at his friends and nodded understandingly as Brian mouthed 'church', then looked back at the floor as he talked, switching the phone to his left ear as his right arm got tired. "Come to think of it, we have church on sundays. 10:00AM to 12:30PM. No, there's nothing else. Sure." He waited as there was silence on the other side of the line, and Dawnless held her breath. If the lady assigned Plague to them, it could mess up her plans to take Bryant and get out of the state as soon as possible. She looked up hopefully as Wallace spoke again. "Hello? Oh. Sure, that should be fine. Let me ask them." He covered up the mouthpiece with a hand. "Are you guys willing to give up your saturdays from 4:00PM to 8:00PM?"

Brian looked at Gordon, who shrugged. "Sure, I guess." He said for the both of them.

"It's fine. Saturdays from four to eight. All right. How is that spelled? Okay. Bye." He hung up, and spent a long moment staring at the ground, before getting up with a loud sigh and tramping into the kitchen, where he hung up the phone with a loud 'click', before turning returning to his previous seat and staring long and searchingly at Dawnless.

"Well?" She said, "Are you going to kill me now? Or do you believe me?"

"I don't believe that you're doing this out of the goodness of your heart, but that phone conversation has convinced me that you weren't lying about most of the stuff you told us, so I'm not going to kill you."

"Well that's a start I guess." Dawnless said with a shrug. "Now, do you even slightly remember the name of the vampire who came 80 years ago?"

"Actually I kind of remember it. The name of the vampire was something I should remember, Dark-something maybe? But I figured if I wasn't sure I probably shouldn't open my mouth. I probably didn't remember it right anyways, there probably never was a vamp named Dark-something- I could've heard the name somewhere else. I'm not doing this to be nice okay? I'm just trying to cover myself."

"Reasonable." Dawnless said shortly, her mind spinning. The only vampire whose name started with 'Dark' that she had known to be actively pursuing targets 80 years ago was Darkwing. Darkwing had been here about 80 years ago? As a missionary from Devil's Scythe -a hit man, no less- Darkwing couldn't have been here except by Night's express permission, and that could only be achieved through some kind of assignment. Why would a level 3 vampire be wasted on this small, sleepy town? Dawnless had a good idea, and she cursed herself for not thinking of it earlier. "Where was the battle fought?" She asked nervously. Luckily, Darkwing was one of the few Devil's Scythe operatives who'd supported her decision to get out (probably why she had been 'removed') and wouldn't have been terribly happy with Night's organization 80 years ago. There was a pretty high chance that she, like many of them who'd been dissatisfied with their job, had made some purposeful 'accidental' mistake when she'd come to do her job. "Do you know why she came?"

"You knew her?" Gordon asked, finding his voice.

"Right before I left Night's service. But you didn't answer my questions."

"We don't know why she came, but the fight took place in my dad's old house." Wallace said. "Dark killed one of my granddad's friends, but didn't stay to kill the rest of them and took off. We haven't seen vampire since, though our parents and grandparents made sure we knew how to kill a vampire if they showed up."

"Could you take me there?" Dawnless asked.

"Someone moved in there recently." Wallace explained. "It was abandoned for a few years, but eventually I put it on the market. Nice lady from California moved in there, with her daughter about a month ago."

"Do you think you could take me for a visit?"

Wallace looked nervous. "I guess so. I'm just her landlord, though, mind you. But I guess we could visit."

"Where does she live?"

"Near the center of town, close to where Gordon works. A fifteen minute walk, but it's hot out." He was fidgeting.

Dawnless nodded. "You can drive. I've got my own car. I'll follow you." She said. She'd risk them giving her license plate to Heaven's Justice, she had rented it anyway, and she wasn't staying very long.

Wallace nodded and reached into his tan pants, pulling out a jingling set of keys. He got up, tossing them to Brian, then disappeared back into the kitchen. Dawnless got up as well, sifting through her pockets until she located her car keys. Wallace returned, Gordon on his heels, and nodded to her as he followed Brian out the door. Brian locked the house behind them and got into the driver's side of their pickup truck. Wallace got into the passenger's seat, and Gordon sat in the bed of the truck, holding onto the edge. Dawnless wasn't sure if that was legal, but she shrugged and got into her own car and rolled out of her spot behind them. She tailed them around several turns, at one point passing the street her apartment was on, until finally Brian's hand pointed across the left lane of traffic toward a white house sandwiched between a dry cleaner and a florist, nearly getting it chopped off in the process. His hand quickly withdrew as a white U-Haul truck blew past, its horn honking loudly, and he pulled into a parking spot a little farther up the block. Dawnless cruised on, finally locating a spot for herself near the corner, and got out of the car. She scanned the streets as she walked by, more out of habit than anything else, not really expecting to see anyone this late at night. Before long, she met Wallace, Brian, and Gordon in front of the house, taking in the overgrown hedges in front and the dirt-splattered white plastic covering that made up the front. The dark red roof appeared to be new, but the porch creaked loudly as they climbed up and rang the bell. Gordon stood in front with Wallace, holding a platter of chocolate chip cookies covered in saran wrap. Well, at least these people had courtesy. The curtain covering the window looking onto the porch moved, then the wooden door opened wide, revealing a smiling human woman of about 40 years of age, her pale hands gesturing inside in a welcoming gesture and hurriedly wiping themselves on a blue apron. She thanked Gordon for the cookies and ushered them into the kitchen, where she looked them all over with sharp green eyes as they shuffled into the long cushioned seat set between the wall and the table. Her eyes reached Dawnless, at the end of the line, as Wallace introduced them and her eyes widened. A moment later Dawnless froze and her eyes widened in genuine surprise as the woman's hand, wielding (of all things) a kitchen knife, leveled said weapon millimeters from her throat. The Hunters visibly stiffened, and stared at her with wide eyes. "Rebecca!" The woman cried, sounding very nervous. She didn't take her eyes off of Dawnless' as someone ran down the stairs and into the kitchen.

The knife wasn't burning her with its close proximity, so Dawnless knew it wasn't blessed or silver. That was little assurance though, as it was pressed against her jugular, and it was possible for a vampire to bleed to death if their jugular was completely cut. Unlikely, yes, but not impossible and the woman had already surprised her once, so she wasn't taking chances. She carefully studied her a second time, but even in her second perusal she was sure that this lady wasn't a vampire. A very tense moment ensued, until the other occupant of the house rushed in and took one glance at the standoff, then firmly said, "Lilia, put down your blade."

As the knife left her neck, Dawnless allowed her eyes to leave the confused ones of her assailant and met the face of a very, very amused little girl of about ten years of age, and who was turning red in the face from suppressed laughter.

"Good lord Aria, if this is what you would call funny, I don't want to ever see you conduct a practical joke." Dawnless said crossly.

The little girl clapped a hand over her mouth, then a moment later broke into a fit of giggles, clutching her stomach as she doubled over. Dawnless crossed her arms and waited for one of the vampire world's best informants to finish laughing, as the Hunters and Aria's companion stared between the two of them in utter shock. "The- the look on your face!" Aria choked, struggling to get a hold of herself, "Priceless! Wait until Oranget-"

"Oranget is not going to learn about this, Aria." Dawnless said sternly. Young in vampire years and in age of turning, Aria was very well known in the vampire communities as the unofficial leader of Cascata, and a priceless ally for any vampire group wanting information or aid. Many organizations, though, thought of the leader and her comrades more of a double-edged blade; as Cascata worked on their own sense of justice only, and had turned on their employers many times before when they found out they'd been lied to or kept in the dark. Unfortunately, Aria was also one of her apprentice's best friends, and the two had gotten into all sorts of mischief -at her expense- in Aria's early days as a vampire.

"Why are you here, Dawnless?" Aria asked, the mirth gone from her eyes, replaced by the strong, no-nonsense mask required of Cascata's leader.

"I would like to ask you that." Dawnless said. It was dangerous to keep information from a person like Aria, but she was one of the few people who could get away with it without seriously harming her relationship with Cascata.

"You didn't answer me, Dawnless, and I want to know why you're here first, so I can know what is necessary for you to know," Aria parried cooly.

Okay, so she'd asked for that. "I'm just trying to get away from Night's henchmen. But my vacation was ruined when these lads barged into my apartment with Plague and attacked me, quickly followed by none other than Lucid," Aria's nose wrinkled in distaste, "and I decided to try and figure out what was going on here."

"These men are Hunters?" Aria asked, her attention turning to Wallace, Brian, and Gordon, who suddenly seemed to realize that they were trapped between the wall and the table and began squirming uncomfortably. "What level are they under?"

"They weren't part of an organization, and they're really clumsy, so I'd give them a five," Dawnless replied. If the men had known anything about the Hunter world, they'd probably have realized that she'd just pretty bluntly insulted them. But the fact that they didn't know what she was saying at all just proved more that they belonged in the 'useless rookie' category.

Aria's brown eyes immediately flickered up to hers in alarm. "Five? This town is protected by three level 5 Hunters? This isn't good." She sighed, shifting on her feet, and Dawnless caught the quick movement of her right hand as she swiftly hid a knife in the pockets of her bulky pants. "Sit down. We need to talk." She smiled and finally acknowledged Lilia, pulling out a chair for herself and wriggling her way up onto it. Dawnles sat next to Gordon (whose unease visibly increased since his one means of escape was gone) and nearly smiled. She knew Aria could have jumped up onto the chair, but appearances were everything and the small vampiress was a master actress. Many foes she had vanquished because of her disarming stature and practiced childlike movements. What many of those foes had failed to see was that Aria was a genius, extremely adaptive and as merciless with her enemies as she was intelligent. "Normally, I wouldn't give a damn if a Hunter went and ended up on the wrong side of a knife, but the situation in Salt Lake City, only 12 miles away, is getting dire. You probably knew about the temporary alliance between Cascata and Heaven's Justice and not to talk about it," she paused and waited for Dawnless to nod her understanding, "well, we got a tip that Night plans to strike there next, to give him a foothold in this area. All of the cities near Salt Lake are fiercely protected by other vampire groups. He's trying to increase his presence as much as possible in those cities, so that when he makes his final strike, it will have a devastating effect and leave us scrabbling to defend every place at once."

"Where is he now?"

"No one knows for sure. The most common rumors point to LA, New York, Washington D.C., Taipei, and Tokyo." Aria answered. "However, a few people have mentioned his possible presence in Chicago..."

"And when dealing with Night, his lies and red herrings should be expected rather than suspected," Dawnless finished. It was a lesson hard-learned by many unfortunate vampires well on their ways to becoming some of the best informants, assassins, and spies there were, who were sorely missed by their respective organizations. It was also a lesson she had repeatedly made sure to pound into Oranget during the stubborn student's early days as a vampire and had made sure to grind into Aria as soon as she'd realized that the pint-sized little girl was well on her way to becoming one of the greatest vampires leaders to walk the earth.

"Exactly." Aria said, nodding. "So I reviewed our sources and conferred with Augustine, and the most likely places are Chicago, New York, and Washington D.C., and only partly because of the fact that Roc hasn't accused Cascata of helping Night get into the middle east yet, ruling out Tokyo and Taipei." Her eyes darkened angrily. "Why is it that whenever they have a security failing it's always our fault?"

"Get over it Aria. Now, I know for a fact that Night isn't in D.C. right now. You can pass on that information. I could understand how you wouldn't know that, and Augustine probably doesn't know yet because at the moment it's highly confidential. Heaven's Justice has formed a tentative agreement with Roc, because you know how tightly they hold on to Washington D.C. for fear of vampires corrupting the government. Both sides are probably actually spying on their own allies right now to make sure the other doesn't make any wrong moves. Either way, Heaven's Justice is allowing the presence of Roc's operatives in D.C. to make their presence known, in order to lure out Devil's Scythe vampires lurking around there."

"An agreement with Roc?" Aria whispered, her eyes widening. "I guess you don't want me to give those last details to anyone except Augustine."

"You're right. And you can tell Augustine to expect a visit from me really soon. Is she in the Big Apple or the Windy City?"

"Windy." Aria said, a predatory gleam coming to her eye. "I'm going to the Apple as soon as I'm sure the situation here is under control. Until then, I'm going on a very long undercover operation. Don't try to contact me for a week. I've requested that all organizations and freelancers leave me alone. Augustine's helping me too."

"You have a lot of allies in really good places don't you?"

"That's why I'm such a good commodity right now." Aria replied, smiling cutely at her. The smile had the effect of looking very sweet and innocent on her ten-year-old face, but there was a gleam in her eye that assured Dawnless that it was the same cold, dangerous prodigy that everyone in the vampire and Hunter communities knew and respected. "The world would eat up a small girl like me if I didn't know how to take care of myself." She cocked her head, extending her hand over the table. "Am I wrong?"

Dawnless took it, smiling genuinely at one of her few friends in death. "I would hate to have to eat my words."

"Well, I've gathered plenty of info from you." Aria said pleasantly, ending the shake and cradling her chin on the backs of her hands, setting her pale elbows on the table. "I'm sure you didn't come here simply for a talk, even though I'm here."

"I didn't know you were here, mind you." Dawnless replied, "Or I might have predicted your dear Lilia pointing her knife at my throat." She nodded politely at the human, who nodded curtly back.

Aria smiled at her keeper as she answered the unasked question. "Lilia is acting as my cover for now. I go under the guise of her adopted daughter. Heaven's Justice supplied her, and she has certainly proven her worth by surprising the famous Dawnless."

"Pleased to meet you, Lilia of Heaven's Justice." Dawnless said formally, addressing the woman directly. "May I ask your level of you?"

Lilia laughed. "You toe the line precariously, vampire Dawnless, to ask a Hunter their status."

"I never said you had to answer that question." Dawnless said with a shrug. "I could just as easily have asked Aria and she would probably have told me. But your organization is out to kill me, so I will hold my peace. I'm sure it is only loyalty to whatever orders you got that you have not yet attacked me."

"Hunter Plague has claimed you as his prey." Lilia said, "Surely you know of it. It is out of my place to strike you down. I am only a level 3, under Hunter Scythe, who has been ordered not to endanger Plague's mission. I will be contacting him through the network, though."

"I would expect no less, but be assured that I have not shaken him off." Dawnless replied civilly, used to the rhetoric that all unfamiliar members of vampire and Hunter used between each other to keep the tone of their conversations focused on business, and standardize the way of talk at negotiation tables. She turned back to Aria. "She is very diplomatic," she said, "I will show support for your trust in her when Oranget finds out about this. I have, however, come here with a purpose. Were you aware that 80 years ago Darkwing came here on a mission and killed a Hunter?"

"I had suspected." Aria said, her eyes flashing with interest. "Lilia and I found many poorly-set vampire traps and repellents in the small shack behind the house, along with a gouge like the one a blade would make if it became lodged in wood in one of the structure beams of the porch. I take it you came to search for any clues our favorite disloyal Devil's Scythe Assassin may have left for us?"

"Well, more for someone like 'me', actually, but 'us' will do."

"Us it is then. Would you like to start with the shed or the sword mark?"

"The sword mark would probably be the best place to start. If the shed is as messy as you made it sound, it could take us a long time to clean it out."

"I never said it was messy."

"Your grimace said it for you." Dawnless said, mockingly making an exaggerated grimace.

"Slob."

"Neat freak."

"Follow me." Aria said, hopping off of her chair and waiting for the other, larger, people in the room to get up and follow her as she led them through a sun room and out of a sliding door, into a slightly overgrown yard lined on all sides by tall bushes, with a large worn area in the middle covered in dirt, and a ramshackle little shed in the corner made of old grey wood that looked like a stiff wind might knock it over.

Aria led them down the steps to the ground from the rickety wooden porch that the back door opened onto, then turned and pointed at one of the wooden beams holding up the small platform, which, upon further inspection, had a rather nasty gash carved into it. Dawnless bent and closely inspected the cut, lightly running her fingers over the weathered wood. The cut was smooth, slightly worn around the edges, and obviously had been executed with a lot of force by something very sharp. Darkwing (she guessed, though she had only circumstantial evidence pointing towards that particular vampire) had probably missed one of Wallace's granddad's friends and nearly taken out his porch instead. She looked at the area around her, not really expecting to see anything, and her eyes were drawn to the shed. Walking over to it, she turned critical eyes onto the weathered, frail wood as the others looked on.

Aria appeared at her side, pointing to a spot on the doorpost to the shed, at the young vampire's eye level. "I am not sure if this is just caused by the weather."

Dawnless scrutinized this cut as well. I should become a ballistics agent. The thought brought a small smile to her face. Ha. That'd be the day.

The little fissure was about four inches long, and gaped open from many seasons of exposure to the sun and ice. "I bet it's just water freezing and expanding in there in the winter." She assessed, eyeing the crack as if sizing up an enemy. "This shack's almost falling over anyways."

"It goes through the knot without signs of splintering." Aria pointed out, her large brown eyes asking for Dawnless's opinion.

Dawnless fingered the object of their scrutiny, and found that Aria's assessment was correct. She frowned. Usually the knot in a plank of wood was the hardest part, and ordinarily moisture cracked the area around it, but had a lesser effect on the strong knot. Now that she looked, the cut continued through the top part of the knot without changing its routed or diminishing in size, although the area around it was beginning to show its age. "Maybe you're right then." Dawnless replied. "Well, you're probably right. I'm a pretty lousy informant; I don't usually do this kind of thing. You should know better than to ask me."

Aria looked over her shoulder at the Hunter standing awkwardly to the side. "Lilia, what do you think?"

"You're probably right." Lilia said, shrugging. "I never got any training in this kind of thing above the basic level."

"Well, seeing that none of us are experts, let's just assume we're right and be happy like that."

"Does this actually tell you anything anyway?" Aria asked critically.

"Nope. Not really. I already pretty much knew that the fight took place here from the other cut, but I just wanted a bit of confirmation. Now, what kind of stuff is lurking in this shed that you had to lock it?" Dawnless replied, picking up the rusty lock holding the rickety shed doors together.

"Not as much as that the stuff lurking will come out, but I figured that having the doors swinging open with every passing wind and shaking the structure wouldn't help this half-assed excuse for a shelter anyway."

"Well let's make this quick, because it would be extremely embarrassing for Oranget to find out that I was killed by a shard of wood fallen from the roof or walls o an old, smelly shed." Dawnless said, dusting her hands off on her jeans as Aria stepped forward and unlocked the doors. They immediatly swung inward, hanging haphazardly on their brittle hinges.

"You could probably dodge before it went through your heart," Aria said carelessly, "You're lucky like that."

She wrinkled her nose at the strong scent of garlic that wafted out, "all of us are still counting on you to get rid of Night for us. Nobody else is insane enough to challenge him, and the major vampire groups will never cooperate long enough to stage a decent attack."

"I feel so special." Dawnless said wryly, pinching her nose and entering the twilit interior, scanning the pile of junk and rookie hunter paraphernalia inside.

"Don't. As soon as he's dead, most of us don't care what happens to you." Aria replied. She entered the reeking shed after her, and also pinched her nose, breathing shallowly through her mouth. "Gods, this is worse than sitting next to one of those chain smokers on the train."

"Maybe not that bad," Dawnless said, her voice coming out strange with her nose pinched. "When it comes to that, the whole 'superhuman senses' thing is definitely overrated."

"Yeah," Aria agreed, walking around the pile and rummaging through the other side of it. When she walked back around, she was holding a netting bag at arm's length that contained some very foul, decomposing garlic. Dawnless and the Hunters simultaneously stepped back to let her pass. She walked into the dirt center of the yard and, swinging the bag back, flung the garlic into a nearby bush. A squirrel shot out and ran past her, fleeing the disgusting projectile. She removed her fingers from her nose and waved her hand in front of it for a while, as if warding off lingering tendrils of stench. "Now I've encountered a lot of this stuff before, but that is some exceptionally foul garlic."

"Well said," Dawnless replied, "though I'm afraid your efforts have only served in making another part of your yard inaccessible. The smell has gone into the wood, and probably will take a long time to air out. That makes the shed and that bush off-limits."

"Burning the shed after we are finished removing the contents might be a wise choice, Aria vampire." Lilia put in, still standing straight and using the vampire-hunter rhetoric.

Aria and Dawnless looked at her for a moment, then burst out in laughter. "You're right Lilia Hunter." Aria agreed between giggles, "Perhaps you should grace us with your council more often."

"I would be most pleasured to be allowed that privilege, Aria vampire." Lilia replied, a small smile on her otherwise stoic standard Hunter expression.

"I like her Aria." Dawnless said, grinning. "I think I'd like to introduce her to Oranget and have her slap my stupid student into shape."

"It'd take a lot more than Lilia to slap her into shape," Aria replied. She walked back into the shed and helped Dawnless as she heaved a very heavy -and very twisted- tandem bike out of the doors.

"Was your great-something married?" Dawnless asked, eyeing the ugly, rusted green bike sitting in the dirt patch in Aria's back yard.

"No. But he and the other guys liked to take it out sometimes," Wallace reminisced, looking at the bike with a fond, glassy gaze. "Then it got hit by a car that didn't see it and tried to pull into the parking space my grandfather left it in, and he was heartbroken and insisted on keeping the damn thing even though it was beyond repair."

"O-kay. I really didn't need to know all of that, but I guess when I was human I had my fond memories too." Dawnless said, "Thank goodness I don't go blathering them off like that, or Night would probably die of laughter and I'd never get my whole 'revenge' point across. Effective, but not the way I've always envisioned killing my mortal enemy."

"You're 'blathering' Dawnless." Aria said, rolling her eyes. "Now make your arms as useful as your mouth and help me clear this stuff out, okay?"

"Quiet Aria, I've still got seniority over you." Dawnless walked back into the shed, hauling out a pair of lawn chairs, and tossed them next to the wagon full of concrete mix that Aria had just deposited next to the bike.

"All right old lady, do you need help with that? Wouldn't want you throwing out your back in your old age."

"Don't push it, child. Hey, why are the Hunters just standing there smirking at us? Lilia's more then proven her ability to be more than those stupid brain-dead rookie Hunters, and the men should have been taught to show courtesy towards a lady." Dawnless shook her head, reaching randomly into the pile of junk and carrying out an ancient speaker, power cord nearly falling off. "Kids these days, really."

"You guys seem to be handling that just fine Dawnless-vampire," Lilia said, cautiously entering the shed. "And if the shed collapses you'd heal much faster than us humans. For all we know, you could be plotting to trap us in there."

"Look, not even we're that low. It reeks in there. And we wouldn't even have to trap you, we could've just waved that sack of garlic Aria pulled out in your face and you'd probably have just dropped dead. You're just coming up with excuses not to work. Think of this as an extension to your training with Heaven's Justice. Wallace, Gordon, Brian, get your butts over here."

The three Hunters jumped, and, looking a little resentful, trailed into the shed, helping them carry all manner of old artifacts that could all be classified under 'junk' and half-heartedly adding them to the growing pile in the middle of the yard. More than once, something had to be thrown into the 'hazardous materials area' where Aria had tossed the garlic, because it looked like it might sprout legs and haul itself over to feast on their flesh. They unearthed moldy encyclopedias, soaked and soggy cushions, and a plastic remote that, when Lilia shook it, emitted scary squelching noises and oozed something yellow that made the poor woman turn green and drop the vampire-hunter rhetoric for a few well-chosen words. All of these along with several old pairs of socks (Wallace swore the moss hadn't originated from his grandfather's feet when disgusted looks were shot in his direction) didn't look any better in the open. Though, they all hoped, when the sun came out some of the strange and novel new forms of life they'd discovered -Lilia's Remote Monster included- might just shrivel up and die. Luckily, none of Aria and Lilia's new neighbors had thought to look out of their second floor windows and wonder why such a motley crew had decided to clear out the old shed in the middle of the night, so they were safe for the time being.

Near the bottom of the pile Gordon discovered a pair of cooking tongs, which were immediately put to use dispensing of the brand new creatures multiplying and undergoing speedy cycles of evolution near the bottom of the pile. Finally most of the larger items were gone, so they started poking more carefully through the remaining debris, putting anything that needed cleaning to become recognizable in a line on the porch, and the rest in a pile next to the heap in the middle of the yard. They uncovered moldy wooden crosses (which the vampires made the Hunters remove), glass crosses, wooden stakes (Dawnless and Aria grimaced and made the Hunters promise they'd never use these on anyone except Night's vampires), cheap daggers, several water bottles filled with holy water, sea salt, and a few more bags of garlic.

"Thank heavens they were never attacked," Dawnless said, critically eyeing the meager assembly of armaments.

"Is that it?" Aria asked, plopping down on the grass.

"Yeah. Let's get the worst off those mystery weapons on the porch." Dawnless said, getting up and going for the hose. She turned the nozzle on to jet, then started blasting away the layers of mold, rust and plant life growing out of the various unidentifiable objects. Aria shrieked as one of the bags of garlic, which Gordon had said was unusually heavy and might hold something interesting, burst open upon contact by the jet of water showered everyone with shreds of disgusting-smelling garlic and more mystery growths. However, their efforts were rewarded. Apparently, Wallace's ancestor had correctly assumed that under the pile would be the safest place to stash any vampiric weapons, and where they'd likely never be seen again. Despite their relief upon finding out that their search wasn't in vain, they had a long argument about who should pick them up so that they could inspect them.

"Aria and I are automatically ruled out, since some could be Hunter weapons and thus vampire-resistant." Dawnless pointed out, putting her hands on her hips.

"Which is obviously not fair since this was your idea in the first place," Lilia grumbled. The Hunter seemed to have become much more vocal over the past few hours, and still glanced nervously at the remote sitting slightly apart from the other items in the yard. Her Heaven's Justice-instilled way of speaking still hadn't recovered.

"Well, unless I'm mistaken, this involves Heaven's Justice as well. So-"

Gordon interrupted by shuffling forward, apparently sick of their ceaseless banter, and carelessly picking up the soggy mass that was what they suspected to be a weapon under the layer of algae-like moss from the sodden wooden deck. Grabbing the hose from Dawnless, he held it away from his face and jetted it again, the close range finally removing the slimy layer and revealing a bulky zippered bag made of tough brown leather. Gordon spent a good few moments struggling with the rusty zipper before the stubborn metal gave way and the bag fell open, revealing something dark and metallic inside.

Gordon reached in and held out a heavy, black metal handgun for Dawnless to take. Squatting down so that Aria could see, the vampire carefully turned the weapon over in her hands, weighing it and appraising it, looking closely at the grip, then looking expectantly at the girl, silently asking for her opinion.

Aria looked up at her fellow vampire and smiled, some kind of personal joke passing between them. "Definitely Star." She said softly, so that the others couldn't hear. "I don't know where you got Darkwing, but you weren't far off the mark. Those two usually hung out together, you know." She looked distantly at the weapon, as if it had just opened the doors to hundreds of new questions. "Too bad the vampire herself isn't still around to give this back to."

"Knowing Star, she probably spent ages pining for it," Dawnless murmured. She flipped the gun over, looking at the underside of the barrel, where a pentagram was etched in chrome next to the sign of Devil's Scythe; a crescent bearing an infinity symbol over an omega made out of some red stone- Baltic amber, judging by the blotches of opaque red in a transparent setting. Even if the symbol of the star hadn't been there, there were only five operatives from Devil's Scythe who used this kind of handgun. Only five who had been equipped with the specially equipped FN Herstal Five-seveN Pistol that they favored, furnished for them by Night when he'd learned and became amused by their fetish for this particular weapons, Oranget in particular. Aria knew it because she herself had one, with the fishes surrounding the pisces symbol in turquoise on the barrel.

Assassins were the only ones allowed to carry the dangerous customized guns that could shoot the glass bullets encased within thin strips of metal, that would penetrate a vampire's body before shattering and releasing a few deadly drops of holy water into the victim's blood stream. The kind of weapon that was nearly impossible to get without the connections that Night guarded jealously. Especially the bullets. Even if the glass failed to break (an occurrence that was nearly inconceivable) the silver casing would hurt a lot and could poison a weaker vampire. Dawnless was disappointed to find out that there weren't any bullets left in the gun, the bullet compartment dark and empty, black holes in the dull fluorescent light spilling onto the porch from a fluorescent floodlight that Wallace had found and switched on the humans' benefits; the vampires really didn't have any trouble seeing in the deepening dark as the last vestiges of daylight left the sky and the meager light from the houses around them filtering through the tall bushes went out. Poetic, in a way, until one noticed the ominous shadows cast onto the ground by the pile of trash sitting broodingly in the middle of the lawn. That could also be poetic, up until one looked closely and saw that parts of the supposedly inanimate pile of junk were moving.

"...Clue us in, Dawnless vampire?" Lilia asked, "We're definitely lost."

"This is a special design handheld gun, as you should be able to tell, and if you remember what it looks like you could gain an unfair advantage over another hunter some day, Lilia Hunter," Dawnless said, "so remember it. There were only six of these special designs made by Night, to my knowledge. Can you guess who had them?"

Lilia took the gun and carefully looked at it, feeling its balance and admiring the fine craftsmanship that obviously went into the dark weapon. "It has the mark of Devil's Scythe," she said, looking up at them for confirmation, "but the pentagram could mean almost anything. I'm going out on a limb here and guessing that, in this case, we're talking about Star vampire here," she waited for Aria to nod before continuing. "Well, Star worked worked with Dawnless, so she probably has one, so Oranget probably does too. From there out I'm going to guess Bloodwolf, Darkwing, and Lucid."

"Not bad, Lilia Hunter," Dawnless said, "you're only off on a few things. This is a fairly new gun, so I'd already left Devil's Scythe before Night issued them to his top five special agents. However, Oranget managed to palm a clip of five of the special bullets for me, and Bloodwolf gave me his. Night probably never noticed that Bloodwolf never used his 'gift'- the stubborn idiot always refused to use a handgun. You were right when you predicted that Oranget and Darkwing each got one, but Lucid is a terrible shot with guns, not to mention way below our level in fighting, and Night never wasted one of these on her. Oranget had a second made; I never found out how, but she put in a request and came out with a pair of guns without raising any kind of suspicion. So Oranget has two, Star had one, Darkwing had one, and I have one."

"That's five." Brian piped up, then immediately shrunk back as the group's attention was turned to him.

"Quite right," Dawnless said approvingly, "We don't know who has the sixth. We learned from a very reliable source that six were made, but we only know the whereabouts of five. We assume that Night would keep it, but for what we don't know. He's always used a different set of guns."

Everyone looked at the gun with new appreciation. Small and lightweight, the Five-seveN sat latent in Dawnless's hand but it was not hard to imagine a vampire's fingers curled around the cool black grip and pulling the trigger. There wasn't a single scratch on the black muzzle; this had been a gun well-cared for. Several of them found themselves wondering why it had been so hastily cast aside in the backyard of an amateur Hunter's yard. Another question they'd never be able to ask Star.

They uncovered the clip that went with the weapon when they jetted the slime off of the rest of the items on the porch, two of the bullets shattered by rough handling but one still intact, glinting coldly in the porch's lighting. Dawnless and Aria looked at each other, then the smaller vampire took it, carefully slipping it into a padded pocket in her pants. The four other items turned out to be a broken jar, a sandbag, a plastic box containing a moldy clove of garlic, and a jar of random twisted things made of or plated with silver, none of these very helpful for their search. So it was with the conclusion that Star had been the agent sent, and for some reason had abandoned her weapon here, that Dawnless, Gordon, Brian, and Wallace took their leave, each with their own confused thoughts. They parted with little regret outside of Aria's new abode, and Dawnless turned and caught the diminutive vampiress watching them from the upstairs window. With a cool nod Aria disappeared behind the white curtains.

Shoving her hands into her pockets, Dawnless turned back to her destination- the grey Toyota Prius waiting for her at the corner of the block. A nice car, even if she kept accidentally looking in the wrong place for the speedometer. If she saved up enough money, she'd probably rent the same thing in the next town she visited- she was saving a good deal of money on gas charges, and buying less meant that her current identity would go unnoticed longer. Still, it was only a matter of time before a Hunter researcher found out that 'Silvia Bianchi''s credit card was only used at night, and she was found out. With all of the times she kept having to change her identity, it was no wonder that Augustine didn't offer this service to anyone except her closest contacts. No one could ask for a better backup agent than Augustine.

Fishing around in the large manila envelope she kept hidden under the floor mat on the driver's side, Dawnless smiled as she came out with one of the many fake job applications Augustine had fashioned for her, already signed by an unknown party and filled out with phony qualifications more than suitable for the job she was about to go and apply for. Taking out a pen and the crumpled job ad on the seat next to her, Dawnless filled in the empty fields, careful to replicate the handwriting that Augustine had employed on the rest of them, and dated the top with a flourish.

The interview went well, although the sleepy clerk at the front of the small 24-hour pharmacy had looked strangely at her before allowing her to go up for a very late-night interview. Luckily, this being a night job and all, her superior-to-be was around and quickly briefed her on the different functions she would have to serve out before grinning confidently and nodding in instant approval of the different abilities that Augustine had boasted of her. He explained that one of the two pharmacists had come down with pneumonia and that the family-owned business needed a substitute until she got better. Truth be told, Dawnless had never taken any medical courses before, but her long-time research of poisons and human anecdotes looked like it was finally paying off. It didn't matter what the man thought, as long as she performed her job well enough. The guy hired her on the spot, and informed her that she could start tomorrow night, at 8:00. Dawnless smiled pleasantly and filled out the necessary paperwork, took her uniform top, and left. The pay was good, and she calculated that in about one month she could earn about $4,166; more than enough to get her and the kid to the windy city. She felt a little guilty about taking such blatant advantage of the shop's usual pharmacist's illness, but then they wouldn't be very happy if the spot wasn't filled, either.

Her conscience effectively satisfied, Dawnless found herself walking back up to her apartment one short car drive later in a noticeably better mood than before. Humming some weird tune from her car radio, she calmly inserted the key into the deadbold of her apartment door and unlocked it, doing the same for the knob lock, and let herself in (the landlord had accepted her money for a new lock and was surprisingly forgiving, insisting that the break in wasn't her fault and the locks had been changed the next day). She waltzed in, ignoring the slightly shocked looks on Plague and Bryant's faces, and promptly plopped down on the couch, not even bothering to take off her jacket. Pulling out Plague's laptop, she again bypassed the security settings (behind her, she could feel the eyes of the Hunter angrily boring into the back of her head) and quickly fired up the search databases again, this time with some very specific files in mind for her search.

First, of course, was Night. There wasn't a lot there, as she'd expected, and if she had been hoping to find some kind of confirmation to where he was at the time, she was sorely disappointed. Heaven's Justice seemed to be just as confused as she was, and she couldn't afford to ask Plague to connect to the Heaven's Justice network for fear of them being found out. She'd have to make do with what she had.

After combing their databases for information that she didn't have and finding none, Dawnless entered the history portion of the site, sifting through several years' of reports and research regarding Star. Pulling up the first promising result of her search, she hastily scanned it and located a paragraph that sounded promising.

...Vampire Star (SEE Devil's Scythe), assassin, terminated three nights after her rendezvous with Hunter Tibalt Byarns of Bountiful, Utah and Hunter Noir (SEE Heaven's Justice), who intervened after hearing the commotion shortly after completing an assignment in Salt Lake City and was able to repel the vampire, forcing her to leave behind a weapon...

Dawnless's brows furrowed in concentration as she fished up a few similar articles, confirming the validity of the report. A Hunter from Heaven's Justice named Noir had 'terminated' Star. She opened up a new window and looked the mysterious Hunter up.

Name: Undisclosed (Noir)

Age: Deceased

Species: Human

Occupation: Hunter- Blitz Agent

Status: Level 3 Hunter

Group: Heaven's Justice (USA)

Location of Residence: Salt Lake City

Nationality: Half European mix half African American

Hair: Black

Eyes: Dark Brown

Clothes: Black windbreaker with Heaven's Justice Crest on back and left sleeve, wears scarf covering lower half of face during missions

Weapon: Carries poison powders and sleeping powders as backup. Has a standard-issue flare and light gun. Works mainly with throwing knives as long-range weapon and a silver rapier for close combat.

Skills: Sudden attacks, disabling targets from a distance; quickly and efficiently disposing of a target. Ambush.

Specifications: Carries an ear-piece for emergency contact

Side: Serves Heaven's Justice

Impressive, Dawnless had to admit. She was surprised that Star had let herself get bested by a level three Hunter. She had a feeling that if she asked the vampire about it in the afterlife, she'd get a glare and an embarrassed huff. Her apparent depreciation in skills, letting a level 3 Hunter get to her like that, was probably one of the excuses that Night had used to justify her death. Still, Dawnless would eat her gun if Star didn't leave the weapon behind intentionally. Such was an almost certainly fatal mistake, especially if the gun had been found by Heaven's Justice (which it had) and had been passed to the wrong hands, and because Night did not like it when someone else had a weapon (especially a customized one) with HIS sign on it.

"Dawnless, must you insist on making more and more security alerts for me to disable?" Plague asked from his seat across from Bryant, scrutinizing the chinese checkers board in front of him.

"Well, now that you've destroyed my train of thought, I think I'll take a shower," Dawnless said abruptly, shutting all the windows and logging out. "There was some nasty stuff in one of the Hunters' sheds. Gross." She shivered at the memory, trying not to focus on the foul-smelling flecks of mud on her clothes.

"Ah, I thought you'd visit them," Plague said, "leave the laptop on the couch, I want to clear out the alerts before I accidentally log in and face an interrogation at work."

"Sure thing. If neither of you want to use it, I'm going to monopolize the bathroom for the next half hour. Okay with you Bryant?"

"Yeah. Have a good shower," Bryant said, waving cheerily as she disappeared into the bedroom.

One thing is for sure, Dawnless thought as she gathered up her clothes and prepared for a nice wash that would hopefully get rid of the stench and clear her mind. I have a lot to think about between now and next month, and I'm not even in a major city.

Note about Bountiful: I looked it up, and Bountiful is a little suburb/town in Utah that I randomly chose after deciding that it might work. However, I couldn't find out much more than what Wikipedia gave me (which wasn't a lot), so if you know anything about a place in this strange state to have our little vampie Dawnless running around please tell me!

Note about the Five-seveN: I really don't know a lot about guns, so I did a little prying, and the Five-seveN was the first decent candidate for a vampiric weapon that I could come up with. I chose it because it's easily concealable, small, lightweight, holds 20 rounds, and can penetrate body armor (and I hope to crud that it's not too commonly used :X). If anyone knows anything about a better gun for our heroes to be using, please tell me! I'm completely open for suggestions!

A/N: I'm sorry, friends, that I'm rapidly becoming the type of author that I hate- who says she'll update quickly but takes another month to do so. I'm really sorry. I'm going to shut up and can the excuses, and I hope this chappie serves as a pretty decent apology (c'mon... 20 pages people! What else do you want from me?) but I am trying to come up with some updates. And I know I'm taking ages to update 0-2. It is being worked on, just I'm having more inspiration for No Dawn right now. And before you say it, I have plenty inspiration for Last Rung, just Duchess... isn't. I am bothering her, and I'm working on meating up the updates so it's not two sentences every five months, but it's slow work.

Wow, Dawnless talks way too much this chapter Don't worry, it's all relevant (or most of it, tee hee!) and will come in as handy later on. Especially the stuff about Night. We have officially met our story's baddie! applause

Earthsong12: Glad you likes! Hehe, I'm so happy it's good, 'cause I love writing it. Now, question answering! I edited the last chappie- Aria is verrrry young at 70 years old. My vampires don't age, and she was turned around the age of ten, so she's stuck that way (rgh, I'd hate to be that short for all of eternity). I wrote asterisks to explain the level thing in the first bio, but none of my equal signs or aforementioned asterisks made it through the submission process- sorry! For hunters there's a level 1-5 where 1 is the highest and 5 is rookie, and in vampires there's 1-10, where 1 is still the highest and 10 is basically only for untrained and newborn vampires. Glad I didn't make any huge typos! Love you honey! :huggle: hands out cookies

Islandbreeze: Thanks tons! Glad you likes! If you're confused about anything, don't hesitate to tell me! I try really hard to remember what you guys do and don't know but sometimes I slip up and if nobody tells me I might never notice. Don't worry, cool stuff will start happening really soon- I'm almost all done with the whole 'setup' portion. Thanks tons for your review on 'Studying'! I need a push like that now and then to kick my lazy butt back into action :P It's nice to know someone out there cares warm and fuzzy even if you're being a total idiot and not updating. hits self over head

Raziel17190: Thanks! Don't worry, I'm not taking you wrong :P I'm glad you spoke your mind. Thanks for the suggestion- I'll go back and reread to see what I can do about that. Tell me if I head in the wrong direction :P Thanks tons! :hug:

Next chapter: Stuff starts happening (finally!)

-ON HIATUS, use the poll if you're interested in seeing this continued. Thanks!-