A/N- Well, this seemed the appropriate thing to write another chapter for, considering my overwhelming depression and tragedy of a love life. Who knew that writing about soulless vampires would be an outlet? Not an effective one, mind you, but still an outlet.

There is something wrong with her, eating away at the edges of her soul. I do not know how I know it, and I don't know how it is relevant.

But she dances happily between the exhibits of the museum, the too long sleeves of her t-shirt keeping her hands hidden from view, the tips of her middle and ring fingers only just visible. The shirt is a hideous lime green, and the sneer when she pulled it out of her wardrobe was probably all it took to convince her to wear it. Jesse, who I suspect gave her the gauzy black skirt she is wearing, actually got her to wear a pair of sandals, woven hemp things that tie up her ankles.

Jesse follows close behind her, trying to reach out and grab the end of her sleeve every few minutes, trying to capture her hidden hands. He chuckles gently at her, and she smiles back at him- a forced smile that I recognize. It is the smile I smiled when I first began to feel the effects of my nature.

Cassandra is standing next to me, arms folded across her chest. It is more than a little unnerving to stand so close to her, the waves of her raw anger hitting me like sunlight must hit an animal that has spent the entirety of its life in a cave. I do not fear her, but there is the constant feeling that if I were, for any reason, to lose my position as one of the nobles, I would live my life in terror. She is a wrought-iron post, tapering to a vicious point at the top, waiting to skewer someone, but still a safe zone for little girls to cling to.

"I want to see the dinosaurs," says Celia suddenly, halting suddenly and staggering forward into Jesse's arms. He holds her for a moment, waiting for her to regain her balance, and then releases her.

Jesse smirks at her slightly, wrinkling his detestably tanned nose as he says happily, "As you wish."

Celia pretends to mull this over, one lime green covered hand moving to tap her chin. "Well, you kinda are a farm boy. But I'm not a ditz like Buttercup."

I am confounded over this utterly random conversation, until Cassandra mutters under her breath, entirely for my benefit, "They've rediscovered The Princess Bride."

I have read the book, I believe, and watched the movie once when Celia was watching it and Jesse and Cassandra were off representing me at a Council meeting. "But weren't Westley and Buttercup romantically involved?"

Cassandra suppresses an eye roll. I wish for a moment that I remembered the emotions powering an eye roll before pressing on insistently, "But Celia and Jesse are not romantically involved!"

"Oh, is that jealously I detect?" Cassandra shakes her head, honey colored hair moving in waves. "That's not the point. It's more for the allusion to it, I think."

"Luke, she wants to go see the dinosaurs," Jesse cuts in. I nod slightly and follow after them, Cassandra abandoning her place at my right to take the place on the other side of Celia. It sickens me sometimes, how they dote on her. And then, sometimes, I wish I could at least have some kind of begrudging affection for the efforts I make. The other two may be the ones who feel and laugh and smile, but they are not the ones who understand her. Not like I do.

The dinosaur exhibit consists of three sets of bones, missing most of the vital parts, and about ten statues, most accompanied by little plaques giving small bits of largely inaccurate information about the dinosaur. Celia and Jesse insist that it is because they are so old that they are so misinformed. Cassandra and I, in one of the few times we agree with each other, know without a doubt it is because humans are stupid little creatures that can't simply live long enough to find out the answers to their questions.

Celia counters this by pointing out that we were human once, too. But sometimes, I have doubts about myself. I can see Jesse and Cassandra as human, but when I try to remember myself, it comes up as a blank. If I could feel fear, then this would be my greatest.

The last time we were here- a little foray into the world that had ended with an unhappy human girl and a stirring in my chest that can only be described as the faint echoes of pure loathing- Celia wanted to climb on the statues. As much disdain as I have for this farce of a collection of history, it still occurred to me that it would be entirely inappropriate and not even my money would be able to stop us from getting kicked out of the museum. Of course, she chose that moment to have one of her little temper tantrums.

This time, however, Jesse and Cassandra are along, and they give in readily to her pleas to climb on the enormous things. I manage a sneer, contorting my facial muscles to reflect my logical displeasure at this, but since I have not actually forbidden this time, the two ignore me. Celia, of course, sneers right back and sticks out her tongue before clambering up onto the back of a plastic and metal brontosaurus.

My attention drifts as the other three laugh. There is an emptiness welling up inside me, as well as the ever present fear- if it can be called so- that Celia is not the one I seek. The thought is odd, foreign, and not entirely to my liking. Cassandra and Jesse both love her deeply, and I know that if she is not the cure I wish to have, they will turn her. It has crossed my mind a few times that if they don't, I will. Even feeling nothing for her, I can sense that she is connected with the three of us in a manner that can't be broken, even by false prophecies and the thirst for her blood.

I am made of stone and cold, and Celia knows this; I think she hates it so much because she knows she is susceptible to becoming like I am. I can see the iciness, the apathy, welling up inside, though Jesse and Cassandra can't. Even as she laughs, clinging to the neck of some dinosaur statue, there is blankness behind her eyes that I recognize. Some part of her is far away, watching everything from a distance, separated entirely from her laughter and her joy. And of course she'll try to piece herself back together- I think I did, in my early days as an immortal- but that distant part of her will drift further and further away, dragging the rest of her with it, until she is totally lost.

Soon enough, she makes a demand for food, sliding off the back of the brontosaurus, ignoring Jesse's hand, outstretched to help her down. I am virtually ignored as we traipse out of the museum, Cassandra throwing a fanged grin to the teenage boy working the ticket booth. He is a vampire, I know, but one entirely out of my control- either the rebellious son of a noble, submitting himself to a menial human job, or someone sent by the Council to keep an eye on me. The latter, as probable and likely as it is, is somewhat disturbing, because it would mean Cassandra was directly involved with someone sent to "observe" me. Unwavering hatred for me aside, Cassandra is still one of my lineage, indirectly, and one of my house. To think that she might have any part of any workings against me is unthinkable.

Soon enough, the four of us are sitting in a booth at Jesse's favorite diner. Somehow, I have been crammed into a corner, Celia blocking me. Jesse sits directly across from her, flinging balled-up straw wrappers at her, and Cassandra is making comments about the level of immaturity.

The waitress approaches, and, for some reason, I jump in before the others have a chance to speak. "I would like a hamburger, please. Rare. Bloody, if possible."

The waitress- a girl with neon pink hair and a sneer to rival mine- gives me a dubious look, but scribbles it down anyway. Even humans with no idea who I am sense the power behind me. Celia likes to say I'm just too big of an asshole to argue with. I like my version better.

"The girl and me want three orders of large chili cheese fries," Jesse says cheerfully, gesturing with hands just how large they want their order. The waitress is eying him hungrily, something Celia notices as well.

"You sure your sister can handle that much food?" she coos, using a syrup sweet tone that sounds like a poor imitation of Cassandra at her worst. Her shiny plastic name tag reads 'Taylor', and I can tell Celia is itching to tear into her.

Jesse blanches at the sound of her voice, an understandable reaction. He is immune to Cassandra, and this Taylor girl is the worst kind of amateur compared to a centuries old vampiress with a penchant for seducing her prey before she tortures and feeds on them. He manages an easy grin, peering at her name tag before drawling disdainfully, "Well, first of all, she's my brother's girlfriend." He nods at me, and I bare my teeth, ready to deny this blatant lie, but Cassandra kicks me in the shins. "And I know you city girls are all a-no-rexic or whatever, but where we come from, girls have a habit of eatin' healthy." And then, eying her with the utmost distaste, he adds, "You could probably use a few extra helpins' of chili cheese fries, if you don' mind me sayin'."

Taylor remains long enough to take Cassandra's order for a Coke before stomping off grumpily. Jesse and Cassandra burst into laughter, and Celia hangs her head, a reproachful grin crossing her face. "Do you have any idea how cliché is it to pick on the cute waitress checking you out and insulting the chick you're with?"

"Obviously she didn't know how cliché it was to be a cute waitress insulting the girl a guy's with in order to hit on him," Jesse points out, and she rolls her eyes.

I wait a moment before asking quietly, "What was that all about?"

The three of them eye me in relative surprise- normally, during Celia's rare outings, they have a grand time and I follow them around, a dark cloud on their sunny day. I hardly ever speak during these daytime trips, mostly out of the vague irritation of being dragged around in the first place, but also because they don't want me to speak. They don't want to be reminded of my presence, because they know full well that I'm around, and they hate every moment of it.

"Um…Immature satisfaction at being mean to an innocent bystander?" supplies Cassandra, and Jesse and Celia nod, relieved that she has given an answer to my question and thinking that I will stop talking now.

I, of course, want more than a one sentence explanation in the form of a question. Really, I have the mild impression that I am starved for conversation. Normally, at home or on the midnight strolls, they don't mind if I talk; they spend most of the time insulting me or being bitter about our predicament, but I have company. Really, this whole 'day out' thing is boring for me.


My question startles them, I think, but we are quickly distracted by the figure who has just entered the diner. I can tell immediately that he is a vampire- ages old, though he looks as young as Celia. He carries himself with immense importance, even dressed in tattered, fashionable clothes. We know without voicing it that he is headed straight for us, and Celia scoots closer to me. I'm not sure whether it is because she is frightened of this man, and is looking to me for protection, or if it is because she is making room for him to sit down. Either way, my arm goes around her protectively as the new vampire slides in next to her. My cure cannot be harmed.

"Jesse. Cassandra. Celia." He nods at each of them, respectively, then bows as best he can in the cramped booth, showing his deference towards me. "The council sent me."

The look of surprise on our faces is surely priceless- even Celia knows what a strange gesture this was. The council lets me do as I please and doesn't interfere much; I go to the gatherings every fifty years and they, for the most part, leave me alone.

"And why did the council send you?" demands Celia, rather insolently, but at the moment I'm also pleased at her reaction. She isn't even trying to get out from under my arm, and it occurs to me that she is more frightened of this messenger of the council than she is me. The thought is not entirely unpleasant.

He laughs shortly, a simple 'heh' deep in his throat- her obstinance has not gone unnoticed by him, either. "Any other human, and I would have you for lunch, little girl."

The words are barely out of his mouth, and Jesse's arm flicks across the table, his chest pressing into the edge, so that his fingers grip the other vampire's throat. Strangling a vampire is impossible, of course, but even I know that the gesture is to show Jesse's willingness to kill a fellow immortal if he tried to feed on Celia. "But she's not any other human, is she? She is, according to your council, the property of Luke, here."

"My name is Carl," says the other with gritted teeth. "And if you would kindly release my neck, I might tell you what the council sent me for." Jesse glances at me for confirmation, and I wait a moment before nodding. Tanned fingers release the pale throat, and Jesse's hand returns to rest on the table, palm down. "The council, after much research, agrees with Luke's speculation that the girl is the cure."

This news does not impress me much- the council knows next to nothing. It is old and crumbling, and prone to the foolishness of powerful old men. The unfortunate bit of it is that these powerful old men cannot die and leave their positions to younger, perhaps more innovative, men. As it is, they keep to the old ways, and go through the same out-dated rituals constantly. It rather boggles the mind, the way they are so opposed to change. The fact that they agree with me is really enough to cast doubt on my belief that Celia is my cure- but I am beyond doubt. Celia must be the cure.

Carl presses on after a moment, ignoring the blank, vaguely irritated looks on the other three's faces. "The council is prepared to allow you to use her, and Jesse and Cassandra, if they so choose, but after you have what you want, the cure must be destroyed."

Jesse goes into a coughing fit; Cassandra hisses, baring her fangs; Celia shrinks back against me, trembling in either fear or hatred. I simply blink. "I will not destroy the girl."

It is a simple statement, really, so I am not entirely sure why Jesse, Cassandra, and Celia look so confused and hopeful. Ignoring the puzzled expressions on their faces, I look at Carl over Celia's head, raising my chin above her head. "We will simply have to find an arrangement that does not involve the girl's death."

Even with their confusion, the other three know that silence is the best course of action until Carl leaves, so they, thankfully, keep their mouths shut as he splutters. Their confusion is nothing compared to his- after all, the council has been so good to me, the death of one human will be nothing once I have accomplished my goal. The thing they are forgetting, and that I cannot stop lusting after, is that once I have my humanity back, I must surely get my heart back. My emotions, the warmth and life that I must've had as a human- I believe that they will be returned to me. And if I regain my soul, thanks to Celia, how can I let her die? Without my senses of love and loyalty, I can still see it is still a raw deal for her.

"The council demands that it be disposed of after-"

"When have I ever cared what the council demands? Go back and tell them that it won't be done." With that, I remove my arm from Celia's shoulders, although she is still shrinking back against me, and turn as best as I can to face Cassandra.

It does not take long for Carl to scamper off. Messengers of the council take on the arrogance and self-righteousness of their superiors, but they have virtually no status, something Carl would be well aware of. As soon as he is gone, Jesse blinks at me in mild bewilderment. "Why would you care enough not to have Celia killed?"

"Because if I let her be killed, that would mean I would be human, and you and Cassandra could kill me. I am not particularly fond of the idea of being killed, after all these years," I answer smoothly.

Something is burning away at the edges of my soul, too, I think. Even as Celia reflects my coldness, I want to absorb her warmth. The raw emotion, the joy, the anger that she has- I feel faint stirrings of it inside myself. This is why I must become human, so I feel these things again. I must find how the cure works.