Oh brother, is he building character.
Here we go--enjoy.
“Come on, Edward—I’m starving to death here!”
Edward dropped his book flat on his chest and closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose. “For pity’s sake James, you—we just ate three days ago!”
“I know! And I’m hungry!”
“You know, I am perfectly capable of going upwards of two weeks between feedings—so I know for a fact that you are not ‘starving to death’ right now,” he replied, annoyed.
James snorted. “Just because you like to play the stoic martyr doesn’t mean that the rest of us do—just because you can go that long is no reason why you should,” he retorted. “Is this what you plan on doing with the rest of however long we live? Only eating when you have to, and never enjoying yourself?”
“Feeding is not about enjoyment,” said Edward firmly.
The words sounded hollow to even his own ears, so it was no surprise that James heard it too. “Yeah,” he sneered. “Sure. Eating is just such a bore. I could tell you were really forcing yourself last time.”
Edward shifted, ill at ease, and looked back at his book. But the text swam before his eyes and he didn’t really see it.
James was in his usual spot, the seat with a good view of the tiny window where they crept in and out of the library attic storage. It had been sunny out today, and so he’d been forced to stay in, something that never agreed with him (or Edward, truth be told, because the man was dreadful company when trying to relax). He was sprawled across the seat, his pose artfully conveying his boredom just as clearly as was his complaining. In his hand he was flicking open and closed a large silver lighter with a gold shamrock on the front; the sound of it was rapidly trying Edward’s patience. And not only because James wouldn’t quit; it had taken him a little while, but Edward had looked at the lighter long enough to realize that it was familiar—that it had been Joey the Eye’s lighter, the one that he was never without.
Edward had been quite appalled when he realized it, and demanded to know what on earth James had taken it for. James looked briefly surprised, but then a horrible smile had stretched across his face. “Just a little something to remember him by,” he’d chuckled, and in his mind Edward had seen flashes of memory, glimpses of past feedings, of stolen watches and beads and bracelets and belts—before they were tamped back down beneath a dirty limerick, and it was with a sick feeling in his middle that Edward suddenly understood exactly what that panoply of junk and jewelry and trinkets that adorned James’s clothes was.
Edward had been extremely uncomfortable with James after that, and the taste of that thug—of Rocko—in his mouth had turned sour. James had noticed Edward’s unease, and after briefly giving him the cold shoulder in return, had been wheedling and needling him to go out with him again ever since.
Just like now. “I figure we can go out and grab a bite—” Edward twitched a little at the turn of phrase, but James didn’t seem to notice, or simply didn’t care, “—and then hit that speakeasy up on Cass.” He grinned at Edward, and the lyrics to “Walking Down Canal Street” grew briefly louder when he said, “I saw a poker game going on in the back over there—what do you say we go hit ‘em? You’ve got ante money, right? With your gift, we can’t lose,” he said with a chuckle.
“I don’t play poker,” Edward said coldly.
“Well, then just what do you play?” James demanded, his lip curling, his voice thick with an affected accent. “Bridge? Croquet out on the lawn, maybe? Nip down to the country club for a spot of tennis, or maybe a game of polo, old fruit?”
Edward scowled at him. “I am—was partial to cribbage and baseball,” he said. “But there is little point to any of this, because there is no point to the game—any game—if I cheat.”
“There’s plenty of point, idiot,” James scoffed. “Like clearing out their pockets to line ours.”
Edward didn’t need to read his thoughts to know that when he said “ours”, he meant “mine”. James had been getting more and more demanding during his short stint here. Best Edward could tell, he’d been living on the move for his entire life as a vampire, and, humble as the surroundings here may have been, living here with Edward was the first time he’d actually had any sort of permanent place to settle.
And, best he could tell, James liked it. He’d been a bit uncomfortable with it at first, but now, he was getting right into the idea of living like a pers—of being settled and civilized again. He wanted nicer clothes, for one thing—too nice for Edward’s budget, really, but then again James didn’t know that Edward had “paid” for his previous acquisitions. But now he’d taken to breaking into considerably more upscale stores and dressing himself as quite the buck and taking showers as frequently as Edward himself did these days. In fact, Edward had started to feel rather the shabby one after a point, and he’d guiltily followed James into a store one evening and snuck off with much nicer clothes as well—also much nicer than he could afford.
And James always wanted to go out—not merely for hunting, but to go out and see the city. In all fairness, Edward had done the same when he first got here. He’d enjoyed several cloudy days down at the art museum or the city zoo, and taken in a handful of evening shows down at the Muny.
James had given a disgusted snort when he’d suggested those, though; he had no interest in that “nancy” stuff, he’d said, and so Edward had rather stiffly suggested a baseball game instead.
James had been amenable to the idea, and Edward found himself warming to it—he’d initially been quite repelled by the notion of going to go see the Cardinals until he’d found out that, as luck would have it, they were playing their rivals and Edward’s own team, the Cubs.
They’d crawled up the side of the stadium, slinking in through the bathroom window where no one would notice them, Edward’s gift making sure they weren’t spotted. When they’d come out into the soft evening air, the dull roar of the crowds and the strains of the organ in the breeze, he’d felt a rush of nostalgia so strong it had stopped him in his tracks. For a brief moment, he was eight again, and Father was taking him to his first ball game in West Side Park. The Cubs were playing the Red Sox, and the sun was bright in his eyes, the sky so blue it hurt to look at it, and he could smell the brown of the dirt, the green of the grass, the scents of popcorn and roasting peanuts, and he clutched a pennant in one hand, his other wrapped tightly in his father’s, and the organ was playing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”, and Father bought him a hotdog with tangy yellow mustard, and they were right down by the base line, and Jimmy Sheckard slid into home and how they’d yelled, and Father hoisted him up on his shoulders and he waved his pennant high, and they won!
“What the hell are you doing?”
Edward jolted out of his reverie, blinking. James was standing impatiently by him, scowling. “Are you just gonna stand there with your thumb up your ass, or are we gonna watch the game?”
It wasn’t daylight out—it was past sundown, the field harshly illuminated by bright electric lights. They didn’t have tickets; the pair of them ended up in the nosebleed section, where there were empty seats they could fill without paying for them. Edward was jostled horribly by the people around him; everyone here had clearly been drinking beforehand, and some had even smuggled in their own booze. They were raucous and rude, shouting obscenities down at the Cubs—players that Edward didn’t recognize—and James was joining in, booing and catcalling and yelling with the rest of them. Edward hunched down in his seat, his hands in his pockets. He could smell the popcorn and the peanuts, but they didn’t appeal anymore, were nothing but meaningless smells in the background, and they were mostly obscured by the stink of unwashed bodies and cheap bathtub gin.
He didn’t watch much of the game. The Cubs lost, anyway.
Edward had been in an ill-temper that night, and snapped at James as they were heading home. James had retaliated by shoving him, and hard—he’d been singing “Gimme a Pigfoot” to himself and Edward hadn’t seen it coming and wound up sprawled in a pile of garbage—and then leaving, spending the rest of the night out on his own. Edward had gone to shower, and then picked up some fresh clothes. Not so fancy, either, and despite his dwindling funds, he paid for them.
He’d gone back home and brooded; the following day had been overcast, and so he hadn’t seen James all that day or the following night. He only came back the next morning, which was sunny, and they sat in a tense silence in the attic, neither mentioning the events of their last time out together.
Which lead them to tonight. As the sun was going down, James had been getting more and more fidgety, growing impatient, and ever since dusk had fallen, he’d been wheedling and cajoling and bullying Edward into going out again—apparently any ill-feelings on his part were ousted in favor of wanting a playmate when he went out to hunt.
Well, they weren’t forgotten on Edward’s part, and he scowled into his book as James sighed theatrically and threw himself into a new position in his seat. “That chair is not in the best of condition; you continue to treat it like that and you’ll break it,” Edward informed him.
James made a dismissive noise that clearly indicated that he didn’t care. “So get a new one—seriously, man, I can’t understand you,” he said. “Your gift could let you get anything you want—you could play cards, run the stock market—even blackmail someone over sensitive information—and yet you sit here, holed up in the attic over the public library.”
Edward looked at him with a furrowed brow. “But I don’t need anything else,” he said.
“That’s not the point.”
Shaking his head, Edward went back to his book. There were times when he didn’t understand James at all. A rare thing for him, really, but when all he usually heard from him were inane poems and offensive song lyrics, it wasn’t surprising. He was almost beginning to regret their little game of trying to shut him out of James mind; true, it was nice enough to not to have to listen to his private, innermost thoughts, but there were times when Edward would have sincerely liked to have known what on earth was going through his head.
Silence fell between them, but of course it didn’t last long. James started up his flopping and sighing again—honestly, was the man twelve years old?—and he finally couldn’t stand it anymore and said, “Well, if you won’t play cards, can we at least just get out of here? We can still go down the speakeasy—I can get you in—” Edward scowled behind his book at the implication, but James didn’t seem to notice and went on, “—and we can at least play a game of pool or something.”
“I don’t know how to play pool,” said Edward dismissively.
“So I’ll teach you, dickcheese,” James retorted. “And trying to read people’s minds won’t help you—well, not so much, at least—because there’s actual skill involved. So you won’t have to cheat,” he finished, his voice mockingly placating.
Edward glared, but folded his book away and set it on the table. He clearly wasn’t going to get any peace tonight, so he would go out and play pool with him—if he was going to be honest, that really did sound fun—and maybe then James would be quiet and leave him alone.
James was all smiles now, tucking away his—Joey’s—lighter in his jacket pocket and bounding to his feet as Edward stood. “Attaboy!” he said, making for the window, and Edward trailed after him, pulling on his coat and shaking his head.
James was already out the window and up on the roof; Edward could hear the soft patter of his footfalls above, feel the hot spark of his excitement fanning into a flame. He joined him soon after; the night was cool but soft, the sky clear. James took a deep breath, filling his lungs, before tossing Edward a grin and saying, “Let’s ankle.”
Edward nodded, and then froze, listening. James didn’t notice and was about to leap to the next building when Edward grabbed his arm. “Criss!” he hissed, and dropped flat on the roof, yanking James down after him.
He’d stiffened and made to jerk away when Edward first touched him, but at the mention of the name, he too fell like a stone, laying flat against the roof behind the ledge, where they couldn’t be seen.
Edward cursed himself as he lay there, listening, ignoring the grit that was biting into his cheek and the stink of roof tar that filled his nose. He’d been so intent on ignoring James that he’d been ignoring everything else, tuning out what he should have been listening for. This was the closest Criss had ever been to the library while he was there, only a few streets over on St. Charles and in sight of the building.
If he kept getting careless like that, he was going to be caught.
He lay still, listening hard, hearing James’s thoughts running ‘round in circles, hearing the thoughts of the passers-by, but most of all hearing Criss as he passed the library…and kept on going.
Edward reflexively released a long breath of relief. James looked at him. “Gone?” he whispered.
Edward nodded and shimmied over to the edge of the roof, pulling himself up to peer over the side; James did the same next to him. All clear; following the trail of his thoughts, Edward actually caught a glimpse of Criss’s back as he disappeared behind some trees. “That was close,” he said, standing and dusting himself off.
“Too close,” said James, and it was impossible to miss the accusing note in his voice.
Edward deliberately ignored it, mostly to salve his own pride, and attempted to mollify James by saying, “Well, it’s probably a good idea for us to leave for the evening, then; he’s been hunting us off and on since we’ve been here, and being this close to us, his gift might tell him that we’re here.”
James nodded in agreement. “Definitely,” he said decisively. “I always know when I’m close to my prey, even if I’m not really hunting them at the time. If he’s any sort of tracker at all, he will, too—we’d better scram.”
They took off over the rooftops, James leading, Edward following, not really paying much attention as they flew over the city, just wanting to lead Criss away from his safe little haven.
Now, if only he could get James away for any length of time. He snorted wryly to himself. Company was all well and good, but not all the time. He’d become spoiled by having his own quiet little refuge—the constant company was beginning to grate on his nerves. Or, if he was going to be honest with himself, it was probably simply James that grated. Edward was beginning to find him an incredibly frustrating companion: On the one hand, they’d had good times together, going out on the town and playing with Edward’s abilities, giving him a chance to test them, and he was someone to talk to—but he could be so…violent sometimes, so coarse and thoughtless. So single-minded in his pursuit of his own desires, and Edward couldn’t deny that he found it repellent, the eager, speculative fantasies he spun when he was near humans, the wild and frenzied excitement that would fill him up when he went hunting—
—just like now. Belatedly, Edward realized that they were not headed west on Cass Avenue, but had rather passed it completely and were still heading north. “Hey!” Edward called. “What are you doing?”
James slowed, let Edward catch up to him. “What? We’re going out.”
“That gin mill of yours is south and west of here—we’ve passed it.” He was being deliberately obtuse and he knew it—he knew exactly what James was doing.
“I need food, Edward,” James sneered. “That was the whole point.”
“Only in your mind,” Edward answered coldly, slowing to a stop. “I told you that I didn’t need to eat—and I know that you don’t either.”
“Okay, fine, so we can go for longer without it—but I want to eat,” James replied, stopping to face him, and his expression was smooth and flat, his mind ringing with the sound of “Barnacle Bill the Sailor”. He tilted his head and regarded him steadily. “Do you intend to do something about it?”
Edward’s fists clenched, and he pushed his mind forward, pressing, pressing, clawing through the song lyrics, and beneath them he could feel a swirling riot of anticipation and bloodlust, of dark amusement and thick contempt—maybe Edward would do something about it, show him just what he could do—just how he could cheat—with that gift of his—did James really think it could keep him out?
…But maybe he could; it was hard to hear what he was thinking, to know what he was going to do over the sudden roar of human voices in his head, all their thoughts pouring in on top of James’s as Edward extended his own mind out into the night.
He was fighting to hear James, but he could clearly hear Annette Shellwood fretting in her bedroom with her hair, it wouldn’t sit right, and the pins tugged and hurt her scalp, and Kirk Watson was looking forward to going home after a long day and relaxing with his watercolors, and Benito Rome was heading out for the nightshift at the factory, his lunch clutched in his hand, and the boss was gone, so things would be easy tonight, and Nancy Kempfner was walking home from the movie, she’d left in the middle of it, her mother had told her that Frank Gable was no good, but she didn’t listen, and on their first date he’d tried to get fresh and she’d left, and so here she was, trying not to cry as she walked home alone in the dark, and just behind her where she couldn’t see was Ellis Manns, and she had no idea, the stupid little bitch, wouldn’t know what hit her, she was little and young, that’s how like he liked ‘em, he’d bet she had big blue eyes that will fill with tears, and he knew she’d scream, how he loved it when they screamed—
A growl sounded in his throat, and James tensed, and Edward felt a spike of anticipation—and then a flash of surprise as Edward turned away and bounded northward, close to the edge of Hyde Park. He heard James follow, curious and slightly confused, and he nearly ran up his back when Edward skidded to a halt on the roof of the apartment building on the park’s edge.
There. He could see Nancy; she had her coat pulled tight around her, and he could hear her sniffles from where he stood above her. She was hurrying, because it was dark out and she was alone, and her feet hurt, because she’d borrowed Louise’s shoes for the occasion, she’d gone to all that trouble and he was such a jerk, what was she thinking, and he felt her eyes welling up, but no, she refused to cry, didn’t want to walk around with her makeup running, and he wasn’t worth it anyway.
And skulking in the alleyway behind her, following her with his eyes, was Ellis. His tongue darted out to moisten his lips, and he crept quietly down the side street to intercept her when she turned round the corner, it was quiet out and no one would notice, he could drag her back into the park and the bushes where no one would see, and he’d be safe, just like last time, and Edward saw and heard and felt it as he remembered last time, and he snarled softly, his fangs sliding out past his lips.
A few quick leaps and he was on the other side of the building, looming over Ellis from above. Nancy was turning the corner, and Edward felt Ellis’s excitement mount, and his stomach twisted in angry revulsion.
James had come up next to him, curious and wary, and he peered down over the side and saw him.
“This one is mine,” Edward hissed, and he was, the scum, he’d pay for this, stalking that innocent girl—just like Reggie had, wanting to hear her scream, and he saw where that got him.
James chuckled. (So much for the high and mighty) “Be my guest,” he said, amused, bowing mockingly and retreating backwards. Edward spared him a moment of displeasure before turning back to Nancy and to Ellis, and she was getting close, too close, it was time to act now!
Edward stepped off the edge of the building, the only sound the rush of the air through his coat, and he landed silent as a cat on the sidewalk below. He moved, coming up to stand right behind Ellis, his mouth near his ear, so close that he could smell the stink of him, the disgusting arousal oozing from his pores even as it filled Edward’s head, but he didn’t even know he was there until he murmured, “Hello, Ellis.”
The pig gave a strangled yelp, whirling around and stumbling backwards; Nancy didn’t hear and kept walking by, and Edward saw Ellis’s eyes dart towards her at the mouth of the cross street, no, she was getting away!
“Yes, she’s getting away, Ellis,” Edward said softly, and his fangs slid out from his lips, and he saw Ellis’s eyes widen. “But you won’t.”
Ellis broke, tried to run, and a swell of bitter amusement filled Edward’s middle and he fought the urge to laugh as he was suddenly in front of Ellis, right in front of him, but he was looking behind him and didn’t see and ran right into Edward, right into his arms, and he couldn’t even yell as he plowed into him, because Edward had him by the throat, cutting off his air, and how do you like being the prey, little man, how do you like it when it’s your turn, and he could feel his blood pumping, hear it, his terror was thick in the air and Edward could taste it, oh yes, and he would taste it and—
A piercing shriek cut across the night, in his ears and his brain.
Edward froze—Nancy?!—and whirled around, Ellis still struggling futilely in his grip.
And there she was—in James’s arms. He was holding her almost like a lover; her hands were beating wildly and pointlessly against his chest, her feet kicking, her face frozen in terror, her eyes wide and blue and filled with tears as she looked up at James, his fangs long and gleaming in the harsh lamplight from above, and he stroked her throat and leaned in close to her ear and purred, “Won’t you scream for me, darling?”
“No!” Edward threw Ellis away from him—he barely heard the smack and thud of his landing, nor the dazed thoughts in his mind, but rather flew across the pavement, seizing James by the arms. “What in the hell are you doing?!” he roared, flecks of venom flying from his fangs.
Beneath his clear fury, James was looking at Edward like he was insane. “What do you think I’m doing, dickless?” he snarled, the words thick with bloodlust and rage, turning back to the terrified girl and opening his mouth.
“Not her! Leave her alone!” Edward jerked him by the arm; Nancy cried out as James’s fingers dug into her flesh to keep his grip.
“She’s mine, asshole!” James snarled.
“No! Not this one!” he growled, his voice a deep and rumbling snarl from his own interrupted desire to feed.
“Why not?” Venom was nearly frothing from James’s lips, which were drawn back in an inhuman grimace as he fought again Edward’s restraining hands. “You wanted the other one—this one’s mine!”
Edward tightened his hold on James in fury and frustration and shook him. “She’s innocent, damn you!” he bellowed. “She doesn’t deserve this—she’s just a girl! I was saving her from that scum! Let her go!”
(Innocent? Saving?! What the hell…) “Is that what you were doing?” James demanded, incredulous, finally turning his attention away from the struggling girl in his arms. “That’s why you go all over town to hunt—you think you’re some kind of avenging angel?”
Edward bared his teeth. “I don’t kill innocent people!” he hissed.
James threw back his head and laughed, and Edward’s head rang with it, with his horrible amusement, even as his hands shook with Nancy’s terror. “You fucking idiot!” James howled at him. “You still think you’re one of them?” And he shook her under Edward’s nose, and he could smell her racing blood and hear her helpless cries. “You’re not, jackass—you’re a vampire—like me!” And he turned back to Nancy and grinned, panting and fighting against Edward’s desperate grip, and she was sobbing, begging now as James bore down on her.
(please please please don’t hurt me daddy please ohGod ohGod pleeeeeeeease)
“NO!” Edward grabbed him by the hair and wrenched him back; James yowled with pain, rounding on Edward (you sonofaBITCH!!), Nancy still tight in his hands (help me help me HELPME), but Edward saw his lunge, his swing, his intention in his mind, James was too blinded by outrage and hunger to keep him out, and Edward dodged. Nancy was dragged across the pavement, and she cried out, but her shrieks abruptly seemed to dim as Edward’s nose was suddenly filled with the burning scent of the bleeding scrapes on her legs. And James’s was too—Edward’s hunger doubled, trebled even, as James whirled on her again.
Dammit, no! Fighting back his bloodlust, Edward tackled him from behind, his arms and legs gripping him like clinging vines, and James roared in fury, shaking, twisting like a bull, one hand clawing furiously around his back and raking Edward’s face. And then he was leaping in the air, high and wild, and Nancy was screaming and BAM! He slammed himself—and Edward—back against the bricks, which buckled beneath them and Edward saw stars. His grip loosened just enough, and then James threw him off.
He felt the bones of his shoulder crack when he was thrown, but he ignored it, as well as the debris raining down on their heads, and leapt again, going for his face, clawing, scrabbling desperately, anything to get him off her, to let her get away, but James was fighting back, jabbering with incoherent fury, and he couldn’t get to him, Nancy was in the way, she had to get out. He saw it coming but couldn’t dodge; pain arced across his vision as James let go and swung his fist, catching him on the cheek, smashing the bone beneath. Edward swung back up and grabbed him by his coat and leapt, swinging him around, slamming him up and into the wall with the rocky crunch of breaking bricks and the snapping of his collarbones, and they tumbled in a heap on the ground, all three of them, beneath a hail of clay shards and flecks of mortar, and then James was back on his feet, baying with wild rage and Edward was snarling back, his hands clawed and his teeth bared, and Nancy…
Completely silent. She wasn’t screaming or crying or begging. Edward couldn’t hear her—not in his ears, and not in his head.
She was limp in James hands; James himself blinked, confused in his rage, before finally following Edward’s disbelieving gaze to the girl still in his grip. And then his face contorted with fury again. “You bastard!” he bellowed. “I was going to eat that!” And he flung her aside; she landed with a clatter in a stand of nearby garbage cans.
“No!” James nearly went sprawling on the ground as he leapt for Edward, because Edward was already moving, kneeling down on the ground beside her. “No! Nancy!”
She was barely marked, only the scrapes on her knees, a cut on her temple, and a small fleck of blood near her mouth. But her she didn’t move, her limbs limp, her neck lolling horribly, and her face frozen in a rictus of terror.
“Nancy!” He was shaking her now, even though dimly he knew that was the worst thing for a neck injury. She couldn’t be, she wasn’t, she couldn’t, they had…he had…James had!
An animalistic howl escaped him as he leapt to his feet and whirled on James. “You KILLED her, you bastard!” he roared.
“You killed her, you fucking asshole!” James bellowed back at him from where he stood in the street. “I was going to eat that, and you fucking ruined it playing the hero for a goddamned human!”
An incoherent scream of rage was wrenched from Edward’s throat, and he leapt.
James was ready for him; he jumped too, and they collided in midair—but James was heavier, and Edward found himself smashed into the side of the building yet again, the wall behind him caving in and the windows shattering, James pinning him up high against the side of the shattered wall and going for his face, but he seized James’s arms and twisted, tearing loose his grip from his arms and using the leverage and the wall behind him to throw him across the way and into the opposite building with a dreadful clattering crash, and then launching himself at him. James grabbed at him, and they plummeted down to the ground, locked together, bricks and wood and glass hailing down upon them, grappling, scrabbling, and Edward felt his skin tear beneath James’s clawed fingers and his teeth were out and he was coming and he was stronger and Edward was losing ground, he was losing—
They froze. Jerking away from each other, panting reflexively, their oozing wounds sealing themselves as they stood, they looked up the narrow street—just in time to see the back of Ellis running out onto the main thoroughfare. And Edward heard his panicked, gibbering mind, saw that he hadn’t passed out when Edward threw him, that he’d witnessed it all, had seen it all.
“You stupid piece of shit! He’s seen us!” James growled, Edward heard him preparing to run after him, to silence him.
(THERE you are you slipped up you’re MINE now!)
Edward seized James’s arm and was nearly jerked off his feet as he whirled, his eyes darkening, and he shook off Edward’s hand and he was ready to swing his fist—
James went rigid, and then his face contorted with angry fear. “You goddamned fucking idiot! We’ve been seen! If the Imperials catch us—”
“We have to get out of here!” Edward took off, desperate and wild, no, they’d get caught, they’d been seen, they’d…
He sprinted toward the east, running wildly, James close behind, and he could hear Criss hot on their heels; he had felt them nearby, earlier at the library, and he’d followed, but from a distance, and they’d been careless, and now he would have them, and oh, but they were in trouble, weren’t they?
There was a lowing horn in the distance. Edward looked out at the waterfront, panicking, and saw the barge being towed away, leaving the docks and headed south—out of St. Louis. “There!” he called, pointing, and then he ran, they couldn’t get caught, either one of them, not when they’d been seen, couldn’t let the Imperium catch them, had to escape!
They made it—barely. They leapfrogged through the boats and buoys that dotted the river’s edge until they landed on the barge’s deck. They dashed below, ducking and dodging the crew, setting the cargo of pigs to squealing in fright, before finding a secluded corner where they wouldn’t be seen, and they finally stopped so Edward could listen.
Criss was close—but his mind was receding. He’d reached the docks, Edward could hear that much, and he could still feel them nearby, but his gift wasn’t the strongest, and he was losing them; they were getting farther away and he couldn’t tell where they’d gone. He turned south, and Edward felt the knot in his stomach loosen as he started combing the docks—not looking towards the river.
He let out a sigh, relief crowding out anything else in his mind—until he was seized from behind and whirled around to find James mere inches from his face.
“You stupid fuck!” he hissed. “This is all your fault!”
“My fault?!” Blind wrath rose up to choke Edward. “You’re the one who attacked that innocent girl!”
“‘Innocent girl’,” James sneered. “She was food—that’s all!”
“She wasn’t an animal—she was a person!” Edward snarled. “I never kill innocent people—how could you just attack a child like that?!”
“A human’s a human—what do you care?”
Edward recoiled as if slapped. James’s lip curled. “You dumb shit—you think you’re some kind of hero? Or you think you’re somehow better than the rest of us ‘cause you’re only killing ‘bad guys’? Rescuing the damsels in distress, stopping crime, holed up in your little loft, sitting pretty and smug with sunshine coming out of your ass because you only kill the right humans—the bad humans? You’re a vampire—they’re all the same, they’re all humans, they’re all food, and they’re all nothing but your prey!”
“Shut up, you bastard!” Edward shoved him away from him; James went flying backwards and hit the hull with a hollow gong-note, and his eyes were alight with anger and he was coming towards him, but Edward ran. He dashed the length of the ship, setting the pigs to squealing again, barely keeping the wherewithal to avoid the crew, and managed to find another corner, away from James; he wanted to be as far away from James as possible, he didn’t want to speak to him, didn’t want to see him. But he could still hear him, feel his seething anger, his burning resentment, his frustrated hunger—and his scathing contempt.
(stupid mother fucking IDIOT stuck-up cocksucker thinks he’s human thinks they’re worth something not worth shit almost caught his fault his fault ALL HIS FAULT)
Images of the fight flashed across his mind, and he saw them, saw her, she was only a girl, and she was so afraid, she wanted to go home, she wanted her daddy, and she was dead—
A helpless noise, almost a sob, escaped him, and he fisted his hands in his hair, sliding down against the cold hull of the barge, with Nancy’s face swimming behind his eyes.
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