There was no one in the alleyway where she had met Leander, and Vivi wondered at first if she had found the right location. But no, she had recognized the street fronts, and her feet had seemed to know exactly where to take her, even if she couldn't have plotted out the path in her thoughts. It made sense that Leander would not be there still, hours later, in full exposure to the sun at the hottest point of the day.
But maybe he would come back, later on today. It was the only option she could come up with, the best shot that she had, and so Vivi settled herself behind the grimy space between the dumpster and the alley wall, leaning her head back heavily against the dusty bricks. After some time passed, her head lolled towards her shoulder, and she drifted into a sleep deeper and more restful than she would have thought possible in such an uncomfortable setting.
No one entered the alleyway, during the time that Vivi slept. Although she could not know this, no one searched for her on the streets or buildings around her. For the time that she slept, as the day passed over into the first stretch of eve, Vivi was not quite forgotten, but she was not acknowledged or pursued. When she finally began to stir awake, it was not due to the darkening of the skies overhead, nor the change in the surrounding noises from distant car horns and engines to gentle cricket calls, but because of the soft calling of her name, nearby.
"Vivianne. You are waiting for me."
Vivi's eyes opened slowly, but although she had slept for hours in an awkward, cramped positioning, she felt no grogginess or difficulty in becoming alert. She shifted herself out from behind the dumpster, recognizing the voice before being able to view its owner.
Leander stood a few feet from the dumpster, waiting patiently for her to emerge, although it did not seem possible that he could have seen her from her hidden position. Vivi saw that his face was now perfectly smooth and unscarred, pale white and youthful in appearance. His clothing appeared new and neat, and even his eyes seemed almost normal, although they held a keen, fierce watchfulness that she could not remember seeing in another on the same level. He continued to wait as Vivi stiffly brought herself to her feet, making no effort to touch her.
"You have now what you have asked for," Leander noted, a faint smile curving lips still pale, if now unblemished and repaired in their skin. "You have power. And yet, your heart's desire is not enough to bring you satisfaction.
"I didn't know it would be like that," Vivi whispered, the words dry and rasping, as though emerging from the throat of a much older woman, from a much more distant period of time than her own. "I didn't know you would do that to me. I didn't know you would do that to them."
"But I did nothing, Vivianne," Leander corrected, tilting his head in polite interest even as he disagreed. "This all came from you. I gave you what you desired. Your desire was just that- yours."
"I didn't…I wouldn't…" she said weakly, one hand trailing to touch her mouth, as though expecting the blood of the others to now stain hers, marking her actions on her own skin. "I wouldn't."
"But you did," Leander countered her quietly. "You would not speak the words, and you would not take the steps to carry out the actions. But that does not mean you did not desire them, Vivianne. You wanted those people to hurt. They hurt you, did they not? You wanted them to hurt, and you wanted them to be frightened, as you were frightened. This is exactly what has happened, and you have the power now to do it, with the deepest of your most hidden desires…even those you hide from knowing yourself."
Vivi's legs seemed to lose what strength held them upright, blood draining from her cheeks as the meaning of Leander's words sank in. She sagged against the wall behind her, letting it take most of her body on to support as she struggled to process what already felt in her body to be true.
She would never hurt someone on purpose. She would never say the words, or even let herself think them. But feeling that desire…it had been there, all the same. It had always been there. And now that unspoken, unthought of wish had come out into being, out into reality.
She had done this after all. And she had wanted it. Had always wanted it.
"What….how can…what can…"
There seemed no words to her feelings, none known to her tongue or brain. Leander interjected smoothly, helping her find what Vivi had not even realized she wanted or needed to say.
"You understand now," he interpreted, waiting briefly for Vivi's tiny nod of response before continuing. "You know that this is indeed what you want. You know that although others would call this wrong, to you, it feels right, and long overdue."
It did. That was the terrible, wonderful thing of it all…that it did feel right, and a long time in coming.
"You don't truly want it to stop, or for your power to go away," Leander summarized, taking a step closer to Vivi as his eyes remained on hers. "What you want is to stop caring about the outcome, to feel that all too human empathy in response to the aftermath of your desires."
And this, too, was true. It would all be so different, would feel so much better and right, if she could just take away everything that made her feel guilty and frightened and confused, everything that made her hate what was happening and what it might mean of who Vivi had become.
She nodded again, biting down on her lip, and Leander smiled, nodding back his understanding.
"What you want to know now, is how this can happen, when the choice has already been made. And you know, Vivianne, that I alone have that power."
"You have to do it for me," she breathed, wetting her lips. "You have to…it has to be you, that takes it away. My feelings. Like…like you gave me my power."
"You are right," Leander acknowledged. "You are a sharp young girl, and it seems I've had to explain very little for you to understand. You must understand, then, that there is only one way for this to occur."
"I…I have to be like you," Vivi said hesitantly, her eyes darting down to the ground before she lifted them with effort back to meet his. "I have to be….what you are."
Leander did not bother to confirm what they both knew to be accurate. He simply extended a hand to the girl, waiting, eyes hooded, for her to make the choice to take hold of it, or to step away.
"If this is what you desire, Vivianne Lee, and you are ready, then step forward. Step forward, and the rest of your eternity awaits."
This time, Vivianne knew exactly what creature she was dealing with, and what it was that he offered. She knew what she was now, and what she would become, should she reach to take his hand for a second time.
She knew that for the rest of her life, she would be both hunter and hunted, with stakes so much higher than they had been in the petty halls of her high school. She knew that she would see and do terrible things, that she may come to a terrible end, but that the end would likely be a long, long time in coming, and perhaps would never happen at all. She knew that she would hurt others, perhaps even kill them, not only for her survival, but perhaps just for the simple reason that she could, or even that she had grown to enjoy it.
If she took Leander's hand, she would leave behind the cruelty of her life and what had been done against her, and she would become the very violence that others had put upon her. She would become what she had hated, what had hated her, and she would not have the capability of caring.
Vivi took very little time to make her choice. Her life, as she had lived it, had prepared her for little else but to step forward and take Leander's icy hand in hers.
This time, she was ready for the pinching pain of Leander's teeth against her skin, and it seemed over quickly, barely a true pain at all. When he guided her head down towards his throat, urging her to bite him in return, Vivi did not hesitate, nor did she shy away from the thick heat of his blood on her tongue and lips.
When it was over, they turned together, almost as one, to face out of the alleyway. Already Vivi could hear them, all of them, calling out to her in a cacophony of voices and heartbeats, walking feet and pumping blood. Together they started forward, unhuman and unafraid of the human cruelty that they would take no little pleasure in ending, one by one.