Chapter 16 : For the Best
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If things go to plan, the year will eventually get better.
He wanted to scoff at his own thoughts, he wanted to hear someone else try to reassure him with those same words so that he could call them out as a deluded fool. But he kept his mouth shut, because they were his thoughts and he couldn't afford to be a fool. His plan had to work and he'd make sure it would even if it killed him.
His family may have given up on him, but Nicholas Vega would not give up on them.
He stood up when the fireworks ended and the family had gone back inside; there was nothing else to keep him from the house and they were expecting him back tonight. If he didn't go in, he'd have to imagine whatever insanely stupid decision they had made and he'd done that enough since receiving Archer's message. His friend wouldn't say what it was, only that it was 'insanely stupid'.
The walk from the end of the garden to the house was too short for his liking and Nicholas was almost tempted to turn around and leave again, but Archer was stood by the door; he'd been watching, waiting for Nicholas to make his own way back rather than try to force him. He'd given Nicholas the peace he needed, where there were no rival groups and a potential war for power.
He couldn't turn from his friend, the one man who'd been nothing but loyal and good to him since they had met fifty years ago. Everyone else had turned their backs, believing the lies surrounding him, but not his parents and not Archer.
"So, what's the stupid thing?" he asked at the door, pushing the memories and the lies to the back of his mind. Now was not the right time to think of them; the right time would be when the vampire community was ready to hear the truth.
Archer gritted his teeth and gestured for Nicholas to follow him through the house. As they walked, he glanced around at a few of the occupants; they looked awkward and nervous, refusing to look him in the eye, but very few looked guilty. So, not everyone had taken part in whatever had happened while he'd been gone.
"I tried to stop the idiots, but they wouldn't listen to my warnings and it was kind of hard for me to even try and incapacitate all of them, so they succeeded," Archer growled, leading him through the hall and down the stairs to a small door that opened into the basement.
"Who led the group of idiots?" Nicholas asked, though he was sure he could guess.
"Who do you think?" his friend snapped. Nicholas bit his lip to keep from shouting back and nodded; of course, it was always Brody. The damn kid was too impatient. Archer softened a little. "Sorry, Nick. Anyway, Brody annoyed me so much, I put the kid in here with him."
Instantly wary, Nicholas frowned. "Him? Who is 'him', Archer?"
Archer grimaced, fearing for something, but Nicholas didn't fully understand why that would be. The younger vampire was not one to feel afraid, no matter what happened... unless he was around when Nicholas was in a temper. It couldn't be helped, his kind could lose control so easily, often over the smallest things, and Archer never complained about it, but he made sure he could stay away from it.
Brody had really fucked up, Nicholas knew that now.
Slowly, Archer pushed the door open and waited for Nicholas to step inside and see who it was for himself before speaking. "The idiot put him in here and I didn't know what to do, or where to send him, so I left him. I'm sorry if that was the wrong thing to do."
Nicholas could feel his control slipping, knew there was nothing to do but wait it out, but for first time centuries, he welcomed the release. He watched his hands shake as he threw the first thing he could find, not caring what it was. He tried to scream and shout, but the words wouldn't come out and it pissed him off even more. And he welcomed it all.
Nicholas let the anger go, rode it out like a nasty hurricane, until he could speak again. He turned to the man on the left wall, the only one chained. His eyes were wide and terrified as he waited for his punishment. Nicholas knelt down in front of him and he jumped back, he ran a hand through the man's already disheveled blond hair and he flinched.
"I should rip you to pieces," Nicholas murmured softly. "Fortunately for you, Brody, I'm surprisingly calm, which means I might kill you quickly."
"He came to us, Nicholas, I swear. He came with two others; his girl and the wolf guard," Brody whispered, his voice cracking, hoarse from screaming and a lack of blood. "I saw a chance to get information and I took it. I didn't think, I just acted. But I didn't go out looking for him, I promise."
"He came here?" Nicholas repeated, turning around to watch their new guest. Brody only nodded; Nicholas felt his head move beneath his hand. "Okay. Now I'm not as mad at you as I was; I won't kill you, Brody. But I'm still pissed, so I'm going to take it out on you."
Before Brody could protest, Nicholas's hand moved from his hair to his throat and twisted, snapping the man's neck and letting him fall to the floor. The break would heal soon enough, half an hour at the most, but already Nicholas felt better.
"Let him out when he wakes up, Archer. Give him blood and let him rest."
Satisfied that Archer would do as he was told, Nicholas sat across from his guest.
"It's always fun to watch you crack, Nicky," he laughed weakly. He needed blood, too. More so than Brody.
"Hello, Damian. Its lovely to see you again," he answered sarcastically. "Why did you come here?"
Damian's lip curved, a response ready, one that would likely get him into more trouble than he already was. He swallowed quickly, letting it drop and chose to tell the truth. He probably wouldn't be able to handle any trouble.
"We're starving, Nick," he muttered. "We're running out of blood bags, half of the clubs are closing down to avoid trouble, humans are avoiding the rest and we can't feed out in the open because the Aurors are all over the streets."
"Plus it's illegal in the eyes of the Council," Nicholas added unhelpfully.
"I came looking for you, I hoped you would help us. They tried to stop me, but I had to do something." Damian rolled his eyes and scoffed, but he put little effort into both actions. "I didn't expect your lackey to jump me."
It was quiet for a moment, a moment too long for Damian, who feared the worst thanks to Nicholas' bad mood, but it was all Nicholas needed to decide what to do. He just hoped that it was the right choice. He got to his feet and turned to Archer.
"Pack some blood bags, put them in that picnic cooler bag Cassandra likes and bring them to Damian," he ordered quietly, but in a tone he knew his friend wouldn't argue with. Archer nodded once and left the basement.
"You're letting me go?"
"No," Nicholas answered and Damian's hopeful look fell. "But if I know Erik, and I like to think I do, he called Elijah. Elijah has been in South America, so it had taken him awhile to get here; he should be coming for you tonight, maybe by sunrise. We don't want to waste his time, do we?"
"No," Damian whispered, trying to keep his face neutral. "Thank you."
He waited in the living room for Archer to return, one look scaring everyone else into going to bed; it wasn't hard for them to guess what had happened to Brody in the basement and they either wanted to stay out of the way or wanted to hide from the same fate. Nicholas was fine with letting them think that way. They had come to him, all wanting the same thing, but he didn't care for them; Archer and Cassandra were the only friends he needed and the only people he trusted.
Archer dropped down next to him, matted down his brown hair, so that his fringe fell over his eyes, and squeezed his eyes shut. They both wanted this to be over, but it was finally getting to his friend.
"What now?" he murmured.
"As long as I stay here, no one will come down no matter what they hear; Elijah can get Damian out quickly and we can go back to our plan," he said.
"When will this be over?" Archer groaned, letting himself drop to the side to bury his face into the cushion.
Nicholas smiled sympathetically, though the man couldn't see, and patted his shoulder. "When they have been stopped and the boy is safe."
Elijah wasn't a big man like Nicholas or tall and muscular like Erik and Nathaniel, but he was lean and he was strong and he was fast. No one knowing that gave him his advantage. He glanced at the address Erik had texted him, then looked up to the house; it was the same number and he could sense the vampires inside, could pinpoint Nicholas before he saw him through the window.
He wasn't surprised to find the front door open, but he remained on his guard and kept his movements quick and silent. Nicholas was asleep on the couch, his friend Archer across from him, and neither moved or seemed to sense his presence. He crept past, looking for a basement or a room out of the way from the rest of the house, knowing the two in the living room enough to know that they'd keep Damian away from the others.
He found it in the hall near the kitchen; a small wooden door in the corner, taking him down a set of stairs and then to another door. He found Damian easily, sitting right across from him. He was half asleep, his eyes trying to force themselves shut. He didn't seem to care that Elijah had come as much as he'd thought after being locked away for a week.
Damian grinned weakly. "He said you'd come. Nick."
"Did he now?"
Elijah's eyes rolled upwards to the ceiling, as though he could see Nicholas through the plaster, then he held out a hand to help Damian up. Damian grabbed the bag, muttered a thank you and got to his feet, moaning as he did so. He'd spent too much time on the ground.
Elijah nodded to the man asleep on the floor, chains open next to him. "What about him?"
"He's one Nick's, he was being punished. He was supposed to get out hours ago, but he fell asleep. Leave him," Damian replied.
They snuck out the way they came in, Nicholas and Archer still asleep in the living room, but Damian was sure he saw Nicholas' lips curl upwards just a little; he knew what was going on, it was playing out exactly as he'd said, and he was letting it.
They stepped outside just as the sun began to rise.
As soon as they got to the old hotel, Damian was able to pass Max the bag of blood before Alyssa clung to him. She whispered a grateful thank you to Elijah and buried her face into his neck. Elijah nodded but said nothing, moving through the lobby to the elevator, where Erik was stood waiting for him.
Erik opened his mouth to speak, wanting to thank him as well, but rather than words, a pained gasp escaped his lips when Elijah's fist collided with his nose. Everyone around them stopped and stared while blood poured from their boss' nose, into his mouth and down his chin. Max moved forward to help, but Erik waved him away, his eyes only for the one in front of him.
"Hello, Little Brother."
"Don't 'Little Brother' me, Erik!" he yelled. "What the fuck are you playing at?"
"Eli, please," he said, spitting out his own blood. "It's for the best."
"For the best?" his brother spat. "He's just a kid! You're going to kill him!"
"It'll work, I know it will," Erik promised. "It's been Seen."
Timothy seemed to be avoiding the sweet shop they were told he had frequented and Riley had feared Logan had told the boy, but Ted was able to convince him that it was probably something to do with the pack when they found him six days after Christmas. Timothy was on edge, watching his surroundings every few seconds, and they'd stayed back and followed. He knew he was being followed, but he never looked Ted and Riley's way and as long as they kept some sort of a distance, he wouldn't until they found a way to talk to him privately. There were too many people around, especially on New Years Eve.
Timothy lead them to an apartment building in the city; they checked the place in his file, but found nothing that would suggest why he would come here. So, they sat and they waited for him to come back out, watched the fireworks in the sky as the New Year was celebrated and 'January first' flashed green on the dashboard of Ted's car.
"Happy New Year," Riley whispered, just loud enough to startle Ted awake.
He rubbed his eyes and grunted, muttering that there was nothing happy about it given everything that was still going on. Riley had to agree.
"Are you okay?" he asked the man cautiously, not expecting him to answer now when he hadn't before. But Ted's mood had been rapidly growing worse since he'd caught the tears at his house and it was starting to worry Riley.
"Teddy, please," he said softly, ignoring the obvious lie.
They shared a look, one that promised Ted he could talk and finally be heard. Slowly, Ted sat up straight and turned as best as he could in his seat to look at his friend.
"Victoire and I have gotten a divorce," he told him bluntly. "We'd been talking about it for a while now, but that day when I came to you and you knew I'd been crying, that was when the divorce papers were sent to me. It just hit me that my marriage was over for good and I handled it badly. Why aren't you more surprised?"
Riley tried to act as though he was, his eyes widening when he thought they should, but then he rolled them and shrugged. He was sad for the man, that was true, but he couldn't be surprised when he'd always told himself it would happen. He wanted it to happen and that itself made him a terrible friend in his own eyes, but he never told Ted so. He would never hurt him.
"You're both so different. She is structured and possessive, to the point where she can be uptight and rude when things don't go her way," Riley answered him. "You are open and carefree and sometimes a little reckless. Neither personalities are bad, but you're just not suited for each other. You were brought together by society's expectation and you shouldn't have gone through with it, even if you did love each other. Because it wasn't the right kind of love and you know it."
"No, it wasn't," Ted agreed. "This is why I love you, Riley. You're never afraid to tell me the truth."
"Happy to help," he muttered, turning away to face the window. He didn't want Teddy to see that it wasn't what he wanted to hear; he wanted Ted's love to be for more than that. "It's been sorted quickly?"
"Yeah, I have a lawyer friend; he dealt with it for me," Ted said. "I'm keeping the house, Vic has officially moved into Shell Cottage until she can get her own place. There was no mess."
"I'm sorry," Riley said honestly.
Ted grinned, though it was strained. "Only for me. You don't like Vic."
"No. She's bossy and mean to me."
"Because she doesn't like you either," Ted told him. Riley already knew that. "She was jealous of you, of us spending so much time together. She was afraid you'd steal me away, said you wanted me. She was never quite comfortable with the fact that I'm bisexual."
"Bisexual doesn't mean cheat," Riley bit out. "And why would she think that?"
He turned to face Ted again, startled that his friend was watching him closely, a gleam in his eyes that told Riley he knew something big. It scared him. Then it was gone and Ted shrugged.
"Ask her. Talk to me or I'll fall asleep. Tell me a secret about you, I very much doubt that I know everything."
"Not much to tell. I can tell you about the vampires, though, things the books don't tell you," he offered. Ted leaned back against his seat to get comfortable, but looked more awake when he nodded. Vampires were a fascinating topic to Teddy, a topic he shared with Louis. "We were created over five thousand years ago, by a witch who wanted to save her family from a plague that had been sent to their island."
"Nicholas, her oldest, killed a child by accident. She was in the forest and she shouldn't have been. The witches she belonged to wanted vengeance," Riley answered quietly. "They took it out on the family, allowing everyone else off the island."
"And it worked," Ted said. "This woman saved her family, turned them all into vampires."
"It worked, but there were consequences; they were strong and fast, were unable to age and were hard to kill, but they were created with human blood in the spell, so human blood was what kept them strong. The thirst for human blood will never part a vampire, all we can do is learn to control ourselves. That is our curse."
"What happened to them, the family who created your kind?"
Riley smiled, a twisted and grim curve to his lips. "They're still alive. They ruled that island, they still do. They also rule the vampires."
"You have a royal family?" Ted asked incredulously.
"And our own government, it's called the Council. Someone has to keep us in a check, the Ministry doesn't," Riley scoffed. "The Vegas are good and just and kind. We're alright, Ted."
"Vega?" Ted whispered, his eyes widening. "I know that name."
Riley's new smile was more natural; he found Ted's growing surprise humorous. "You've met one."
Christmas was just for the Weasleys, but they celebrated the New Year with friends; the vampires and the wolves weren't going to stop that, they just took extra precautions. The party was as big and as fun as ever, nothing happened that would have disrupted anyone's fun.
Hugo counted down the minutes until he could leave, though. The after effects of the full moon had gone, he was no longer tired or nervous about people finding out. Louis' secrets kept his mind occupied until Dimitri had sent him a happy New Year text, promising to see him soon and answer his questions. Then all he wanted to do was go home and sleep the night away.
His wish was finally answered after one in the morning, when Hermione told him that she had work in the morning and was leaving if he wanted to come, too. He'd bitten his lip and nodded to keep his relief hidden and said good bye to Ron and Rose, who were staying at the party.
Hugo stepped through the floo first and kissed his mother good night, heading straight for the stairs. As he moved, he decided that he would call Dimitri in the morning and ask to meet; they'd have all day to talk. So, he was pleasantly surprised to find Dimitri sitting on his bed.
"I told you I'd see you soon," he whispered.
"What are you doing here?" Hugo asked quietly, making sure that his door was shut and locked before moving closer to him.
"I wanted to see you. I think I missed you, which is weird because I've never missed anyone before. No offense." He pulled Hugo closer, ran his fingers along the top of his jeans. "Do you want me to go?"
"No," he told him sternly, leaning down to kiss him. It started off soft and slow, gradually becoming deeper and harder until Hugo was breathing heavily, Dimitri pinned below him.
Clothes were ripped off and Dimitri rolled them over, his mouth pressed against Hugo's chest and moving downwards.
Hugo let out a groan, muffled by his hand. "Happy New Year."
The sun was just beginning to rise when Hugo woke up. He stretched lazily, careful not to hit Dimitri, and moved to lie closer to him. Dimitri responded by wrapping his arm around him and pulling him close, so his back was pressed to Dimitri's chest. With any luck, Rose had stayed at the Burrow, Ron was not likely to get up for some time and Hermione would leave him alone and go to work; they had all morning in bed.
Now to talk.
"Morning," Dimitri murmured sleepily. "No questions now, close your eyes. Ask later."
"As long as you answer." Dimitri grunted in reply. "Do you usually sleep now? Is this where the 'vampires sleep all day and burn in the sun' stories come from?"
"Maybe," he whispered. "It takes a long time to get used to the sun again, our skin is too sensitive; most vampires don't bother. They're called Undergrounders because they stay in during the day and come out a night. I am a Daywalker; I live on a human schedule, like you. But we're allowed to lie in. Now go to sleep. I'll still be here when you wake."
"Promise?" Hugo asked hesitantly, suddenly aware that he'd feared Dimitri leaving.
"Don't I always?" he smirked into Hugo's neck and squeezed a little tighter.
A/N: Finally, a new chapter. I hope you like it. Please let me know what you think. :)