Chapter VIII: Eccentricities

Kacey's eyes widened, and she got up quickly.

"Do I have to meet him? Maybe I can just hide. Give me that sheet!"

"No," Ryder said, pulling it away from her, "It's his house. We can't smuggle you in. It's rude, and probably illegal in some states."

"Like that's ever bothered you before," she grumbled. He grabbed her by the shoulders and began to steer her downstairs, and she was surprised by the immense power in his arms.

"Ryder!" a British-accented voice called from downstairs, "I got you that Tool CD and the Cheezits you've been wanting."

Kacey wrenched her head around to give him a weird look, but he ignored her. When they made it down the stairs, they spotted a tall, black man standing in the doorway, and he was one of the most beautiful beings Kacey had ever seen.

His lashes were so dark that they almost created rings around his eyes. His entire eyes were a deep onyx, and the whites were so bright that they seemed to glow. His hair was shaved close to his head and was also an inky black. He was mumbling with full lips and sorting groceries with big hands.

"Watch it, Ryder. Don't trip over the bread again." He stood up, holding a bag in his hand. "I got skim milk this time on accident, so the pancakes won't be as-AHH!"

The girly screech was almost laughable. He dropped the bag on the ground, milk exploding everywhere as soon as he spotted Kacey. He drew up his hands to his face, and his leg even came up off the floor, as if he were trying to get away but couldn't move.

"My God," he finally whispered, taking on a more normal stance and stepping towards her. "Ryder, do you realize what you've done?"

"This is Kacey," Ryder said bravely, pulling her close to him. Already Kacey felt incredibly guilty for being here, for disturbing the peace.

"I..I think I'll go upstairs…" They both just stared at her as she walked off, going as quickly as she could without running. Ryder narrowed his eyes.

"Why did you have to do that?" he asked. Bernard grabbed him by the collar so quickly and suddenly that he had no time to react. The look on his face was livid, and his eyes were somehow even blacker than before.

"Ryder," he hissed, "don't you remember why I brought you here?"

"Because I was going to die."

"Yes. Now tell me that Kacey was on her deathbed when you did this."

"No," he said, "She was perfectly healthy."

Bernard growled and jerked his hands away from him as if he'd been burned. Popping his neck, he turned to study the yellow curtains on the window.

"You've damned her," he whispered, "damned her to a life of fear and fighting. Of loss and horror."

"Don't pull that demon crap on me," Ryder yawned. "I haven't even seen one yet."

"And do you think that just because you don't see them doesn't mean they don't exist?! You're an idiot! Where do you think I go when I'm gone for weeks at a time?! Why do you think I've spent those long hours talking with you, teaching you? Why, Ryder?! Why?!"

Ryder's eyes widened with worry.

"You stupid boy! You've dragged the one you love into hell with you! I told you to forget her! Forget her!" Bernard almost shouted, seeming hysterical. "I only changed you because you were going to die if I did not. But she had a perfect life ahead of her, and now you've ruined it! A vampire is a thousand times more likely to be attacked then a human! How many times did I tell you that?"

"I never saw them," Ryder whispered, "I just thought…that they weren't…a problem."

"Weren't a problem?"

"I'm sorry!"

"Don't be telling me sorry!" Bernard roared. "Tell her sorry! You didn't ruin my life!"

Ryder was so horrified that his mouth was hanging open. Bernard sighed, shaking his head.

"Teenagers," he mumbled, picking up the busted milk jug.

"I asked her to marry me," Ryder said, staring at the floor. Bernard raised his head.

"Well, don't expect it to last. If you told me that I was going to live out the rest of my miserable life fighting off demons and risking my neck, I wouldn't want you anywhere near me!"

"Would you stop that? I get it!" he cried, shaking both fists at nothing. Ryder stomped up the stairs, kicked open the door, and collapsed on the bed.

"Asked her to marry you," Bernard thought aloud mockingly. "You can't even take care of yourself."

Upstairs, Kacey struggled to get Ryder to talk, but he shut his head between two pillows and refused to pull it out again. Instead of fighting with him, she simply heaved the comforter over his limp body, and decided that it was her turn to face Bernard. She walked down the stairs quietly, going into the kitchen.

The walls were papered in flowers and kittens, looking like a fifty year old woman's house rather than quarters for two men. Bernard was putting up the groceries silently. She began to help him without saying anything, and he only looked at her once from the corner of his eye. Finally, after it was all done, he sat down at the bar.

"So you're his fiancé now?" he asked, even though it seemed to pain him. Kacey nodded. "Well, you're too pretty for him. Go find somebody better."

"Ryder is beautiful," Kacey protested, "and no matter what you say, I'm going to be there for him no matter what." If he ever talks to me again, she thought. He groaned.

"Ryder can be rash," he told her. She nodded, agreeing. "It's one of the biggest flaws in his personality. He doesn't think, he just does, and then tries to change things later." He spun a vase with more daises on it between his hands, a half of a smile appearing on his face. "Funny thing is, I was just getting ready to call someone in to help us exterminate demons. Me and Ryder, you know?"

"How does that work exactly?" Kacey asked quickly, then blushed over her interruption. Bernard didn't seem too surprised.

"Figures that he wouldn't have told you. You suck the demon's blood."

"I know that. I mean how?"

"You get them to a weakened state."

"Fight them?"

"Yes," he said, "but they all go down in different ways. A lot of times it's more complicated than pulling out a revolver and going "bang! Bang!" on its face."

"Oh."

"And when you exterminate a demon, you're not really killing it. You're taking its soul inside your body when you drink its blood, holding it captive until you die. Therefore, the war on demons never ends."

"So Ryder has never seen one?"

"I haven't let him," Bernard informed, "I don't think he's ready."

Kacey shuffled her feet. "I'll help you."

Bernard's face went blank for a moment, and then he began to roar in laughter, his eyes watering. "Help..us?!"

"Well yes!" Kacey cried, feeling offended, "I don't want to be useless around here! I want to protect Ryder!"

"Girl, you are in no way ready to wage a war on demons. I haven't told you half of it!"

"I don't care," she said stubbornly.

"Let me get this straight," he began, "You've just told me this: You owe me nothing, yet you are willing to take demons into your body of your own free will?"

"Yes."

"Hmm, interesting. With Ryder, it took convincing, since he owed me his life. But with you…"

"I want to protect Ryder," she repeated, "He would've done the same for me."

"And you're sure of this?"

She hesitated a moment to picture his sincere face. His blue eyes. "Uh-huh."

"Well then, you two are quite extraordinary then, aren't you?" he said, narrowing his eyes.

"Yup."

"Ah, be quiet. You'll hate each other in six months. You'll see."

He left the room, and Kacey felt worry fill her. What did he mean by that exactly?

"Are you gay, or something?!" she shouted down the hall after him, hoping to provoke him into coming back.

"And you would be referring to the kitten wall paper and daisy doormat, no?"

She jumped in surprise, swinging around to find him behind her. "How did you do that?"

"Oh," he sighed, picking at a hangnail, "I can do all sorts of fun little tricks. I'll show you someday, but only if you promise to torture Ryder with them." He leaned against the wall. "I am not gay, Kacey. Ryder and I are just lazy. This house has been the same since we got it. It came into my possession after one of my more elderly family members died."

"You just seem…feminine to me. No offense," she admitted, forgetting why she had even called after him in the first place. He laughed.

"Then I'm metro. I care about what I look like. Is that such a crime?"

"No."

"Alright then. Let's refrain from rude questions from now on, shall we?"

"Okay," she said, now feeling embarrassed. He gave her a dazzling smile, then left the way he went out the first time. Kacey waited a moment to see if he was going to scare her again, then gave up and went upstairs once more. Ryder hadn't moved since she last saw him.

"You're being a baby, you know," she told him, running a hand through his hair. He wasn't even trying to fake being asleep. His eyes were open and blank, staring at the opposite wall. Sighing, she stole a blanket from the bed.

"I'm going to go take a nap on the couch," she informed him. He didn't say anything.

The next few days went by much the same. He didn't get out of bed unless he was hungry or had to use the bathroom. Kacey was having fun with Bernard, but still missed him, and eventually set her ring on the dresser so that she wouldn't have to look at it.

"You know what I think?" Bernard asked while stirring the ingredients to a cake in a pink ceramic bowl one Thursday afternoon. He was also wearing an apron, which was quite strange to see.

"What?" Kacey asked, licking icing off her finger.

"I have a lot of influence over Ryder," he said, dumping in more milk, "and it's really my fault he's doing this. Sure, he's being childish, but maybe I was too harsh. I think it's time to remedy it."

"What're you gonna do?" Kacey asked worriedly, setting down her spoon. Bernard took off his apron and hung it on a nail, dusting flower from his big hands.

"Be even more harsh, of course."

Kacey watched him until he disappeared up the stairs, worried about what he was planning to do.

Bernard sat down on the bed and began to pat Ryder on the head. "There, there," he said, "I know how you ruined Kacey's life and all, and laying here doing nothing is of course the answer to everything. I'm just here to make you more comfortable. Do you want a cookie? Some lemonade?"

"Screw off," Ryder growled, pulling the covers over his head. Bernard clicked his tongue.

"Tsk, tsk," he sighed, "such a shame. And poor Kacey is sure you don't love her anymore. Poor girl, such a sad story. It's quite your fault, you know. The least you could do for her after ruining her life is to be with her during her time of sorrow, but don't you worry one bit. Just stay and bed and stew on all your problems. In fact, don't even worry about getting up to go to the bathroom! We'll bring in a bucket! Two buckets, for added security!"

"Alright! I get it!" he mumbled, throwing off the sheets. His hair was a mess and his eyes puffy. He was only in his boxers and socks. "I'll take Kacey out today. I just don't think I can see her. I feel so guilty."

"You should," Bernard informed him, straightening his button down. "She's slept on the couch the entire time throughout this ordeal. Unfortunate girl has a crick in her neck now. Can hardly look over her shoulder to lookout for all those hoards of demons sure to maul her eventually."

Ryder glared.

"But that's okay! She's so sweet, always finding happiness in the darkest of places! We're baking a cake right now! It's orange flavor!"

"Bernard, you're overdoing it."

"Okay," he said, "but we really are baking a cake. If you come down fast enough, we'll let you lick the bowl even though you don't deserve it."

"I'd like that."

"You would. People like getting things they don't deserve. Just like those gorillas in the government. Getting all our tax money while there's children starving in the street, dying of strange and unpleasant diseases."

Eventually Ryder came downstairs, a white tank pulled on and looking slightly crumpled. Kacey dabbed a bit of icing on his nose, smiling. He laid his head on the table, mumbling beneath his arm.

"Kacey, do you want to go somewhere tonight?" he asked.

"Not if you're dressed like that," she said, "and you might want to comb your hair. It doesn't look like you've washed it properly in days."

"Did Bernard put you up to saying that?"

Bernard looked over his shoulder, chewing on a stick of cinnamon and smiling.

"No, I've just been around him a lot lately."

"Uh huh," he sighed.

"I think you need another knife thrown at you. Sure cheered you up last time."

"I would just let it hit me in the face. Then we could both be guilty about something."

"Ryder, I realize that you feel bad, but I'm perfectly okay with this," she assured, "Bernard is great, I love you, this is a nice house…tons of reasons to be happy. See, I'm happy!" She smiled really big, pulling her cheeks to stretch it all the way to her eyes.

"Yeah. You look happy," he said, "but that doesn't change how I feel."

"No one cares about your feelings!" Bernard sang. "You're just a fun sucker anyways. Always sucking the fun out of everything. Just shut up and eat your cake. We can do without your nonsense."

Ryder gave one more last weary sigh, and forked a spongy, orange bit into his mouth, planning what he could possibly do to make everything up to Kacey.

A/N: So what do you think of Bernard? I was afraid I made him too obnoxious, but oh well...