Fucking finally, am I right? Sorry for the wait ❤
Quinn sat with a gaping mouth as his uncle’s earnest eyes stared up at him. Unconsciously he surveyed Q’s appearance; the man didn’t look a day over twenty five at a push. And yet Quinn knew that his namesake had been a handful of years older than his father.
Before he could formulate a question, the door opened. Quinn smelled trace scents of rosemary and the remnants of his sister’s perfume before he even saw the teenager.
“Kian,” Q said by way of explanation, and Quinn blinked.
“Izzy’s Kian?” he mumbled. The boy’s cheeks reddened and he looked at his feet.
“That’s him,” Q answered cheerfully. “Come on in. We have some ‘splaining to do.”
Kian skirted into the room, avoiding their eyes. While he busied himself with the kettle, head hanging low, Q cleared his throat.
“You’re not going to like anything you’re about to hear.”
“There’s a surprise.”
A hint of a grin. “Point uno. There are vampires. Many of them are bad, but in the way that people can be bad, not in an inherently evil sort of way. Point the second – you are one of them, sort of. That has a whole load of footnotes we’ll get to. Point trois is that I am one, and Kian is also mostly one, in a similar way to you.”
“This isn’t funny.”
“Trust me, if I was joking, you’d be groaning.” Q flashed sharp canines and involuntarily Quinn swallowed. “Your father was one once, Quinn. He found a temporary cure. Or Law created a temporary cure, more accurately.”
“For argument’s sake, say I believe you.” Quinn paused. “I don’t, but let’s say I do. How do you know all these things? Have you been creepily stalking the family when I know my dad would want to know you’re alive?”
Q stilled for a brief moment. His adam’s apple bobbed, and by the kettle, Kian fumbled with a cup. Quinn stared at them both and became aware of a gasping noise which betrayed crying. He stared at Kian’s shaking back.
Q’s voice became muted. “There are a collection of tyrannical vampires that call themselves the council and want supernatural world domination. No easy way to put it. It’s a lot to swallow, so let’s just say I couldn’t risk leading them to you and I have a rare talent that allows me to watch from a distance. As a vampire, my strength and senses grow, and so do other talents. I had a couple of premonitions when I was a human, and now I can control that to see possible futures.” His throat worked and a terrible look came into his eyes. “I can’t let you leave yet, because I need to figure out the best path forward. It takes a lot of work.” Q fell silent and struggled with his words. Kian glanced over his shoulder with a terrible guilt shadowing his face. “Consider me the top of their most wanted list. They deal with debts the way moneylenders do. I have the biggest of the lot, and it passes down by blood. We’ve been playing cat and mouse for decades and for once they outplayed me. And your parents payed that price.”
Quinn felt like waves were crashing into his ears. It took him painful seconds to realise that it was his heartbeat. He felt like he was no longer in reality, and the world faded around him. He didn’t want to trust this man but the shade of the eyes matched his own, and his father had always spoken highly of Q.
“Start at the beginning,” he said, his voice rough and faint.
By the time Law and Chase arrived, Ayr had wrapped his sisters in blankets and curled them up on his bed. Cara sat shivering nearby, acting as his shadow and trying desperately to get Ayr to join his sisters. He didn’t listen; he was filled with manic-like energy, and if he stopped cleaning or pacing for a second his whole body was wracked with shudders.
When the door opened he collapsed into Law’s arms.
“Come on and let’s get you some tea,” his uncle said, reasonably. Ayr felt himself be steered back into the living room. Chase brushed his hand over Law’s shoulders and went to fill the kettle, while Cara chewed on her nails and hovered behind him.
“I need you to tell me what happened,” he said softly, crouching down and curling cold fingers around Ayr’s. Somehow his eyes were dry, but it looked as if he’d aged years since Ayr had last seen him only a month before.
“There’s a letter,” Cara said, her voice breaking. She hurried to bring it to Law, who read it silently and then passed it to Chase. As soon as he was finished she went into a stumbling account of her meeting with Adam.
“What about Quinn?” Ayr croaked. It had been the one thing he’d repeatedly stumbled over on the phone. His parents were gone but his brother, what about his brother?
“I’m on it, kid,” Chase said, placing a warm hand on the back of his neck to steady the shaking boy. “I’ve got good friends in high places and better friends in low ones. What they can’t find out, I can hack.”
“Who are these people?” Ayr asked, gulping. “Why did they want mum and dad?”
Law gave a terribly long sigh and settled down for a long morning.
“The vampire council has been around for a long, long time. From the information I’ve pieced together, I think they emerged in Eastern Europe. Their history seems tied to the Scythians, but who can say for sure? They’ve been gaining ground since then, anyway.” His eyes darkened. “Most of Europe is under their control now. Supernatural races on the continent have to live like they’re feudal, on land that has never belonged to the council but now has their name written on it in blood.
“There are twelve… thirteen seats, technically. Twelve are filled. If the human world knew about them, they’d be in breach of multiple laws and agreements. They routinely experiment on the young of other supernaturals to create new or improved races; they slaughter families to make a petty point and they crush any insurgence with slow, painful cruelty. Trust me when I say that they’re a dangerous group of people, and you should be terrified.
“I went to them hoping to work off my father’s debt and keep the rest of my family safe. They wanted me badly, since I had all the workings of being the best damn Seer they’d ever had. But I was difficult, because they were awful people. And I took whatever punishment they wanted to dole out. Luckily I had two good friends.” For a second his eyes misted, but he shook it away. “I tried to escape before I was turned, but no dice. Then I figured that I could use my immortality to mess them up, so I learnt how they worked and what their plans were, and for several decades I’ve been a thorn in their side.” He rubbed his hands over his face. “Trouble is, they’re playing the war of attrition. I’m just one person, and every year they get further west. This is the first stage of their plans to take your little island here.”
Quinn stared at his uncle. “Why were we part of that?”
Humourlessly, Q smiled. “Because my brother was here, and they know I’m the first line of defence. If this country falls, that’s it. They get what they need to make the rest of the world fall in line. Nobody will oppose their genocide any longer.”
Quinn winced at the past tense. It was only his nails digging into his palms which kept him from collapsing against the sofa. “And you said I’m different – how?” He looked up at Kian who had been sitting on the floor, his back to the wall. Until then he’d been staring into space, but now he started and came back to the present. Quinn noticed the stark mark on his neck, and quickly looked back at Q.
“You all have the same tattoo as my dad.”
Sighing, Q rubbed at it. “It’s a Mark. A representation of how we’re owned by the council. Everyone they get to has the pleasure of obtaining one. Don’t be fooled into thinking everyone who has one is a vampire and dangerous, but know they’ve all had a run in with the council.” Q looked over at Kian and something silent passed between them. “Kian is their attempt at a half vampire. Replicating… a scientist’s research.” He cleared his throat. “He’s mostly a human with some perks. And you have always had the virus in you, passed down from your father. You’d have to ask your other uncle exactly how it works. I just activated it with my own blood when, ah, you needed some help to stay alive. Unfortunately, you’re exactly what they were looking for when they tried to get another half-vampire. You’re the real deal.”
Quinn struggled not to let the room spin around him as his namesake stood and stretched. “And what does that mean, exactly?”
“Doesn’t matter, because you’re not staying this way. If they get hold of you, and they’ll want to, then they’ll have the answer to a vampire with all the perks and none of the drawbacks. We want to push that back at least a decade or two, if we can.”
“Why does that matter?”
Q arced an eyebrow. “Because if they get the answer to their problem before then, we’re done. Trust the guy who can see the future, alright?”
Something in that made the connection for Quinn. “Shanna…” he breathed.
Q muttered, “And therein lies another problem.” He scratched his fingernails through the closely cut beard along his chin. “I need to start doing what I do best. Or second best, given the better half isn’t here. Kian will take care of you.” Q stretched up and jerked his head over to Kian, who pressed his lips together in a tight line but obeyed by drifting over to their guest. Quinn watched as his uncle slipped out of the room.
He tried to take inventory of himself. He didn’t feel all that different, but it was hard not to notice how his senses were keener. That, he reasoned, could easily be hyper vigilance. His heart was beating only slightly slower than average – at a steady sixty beats per minute – and pressing his tongue into his canines proved they were no sharper than normal.
And yet somewhere during Q’s explanation, he had started to believe what he was being told. Perhaps it was the expressions or the deep, genuine sorrow which had underpinned every lighthearted quip his uncle had attempted to make.
Kian fidgeted awkwardly in front of him. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “This was all my fault.”
Quinn narrowed his eyes. “How so?”
“I bit you.”
“But that was after…” His throat worked. “After the council had visited. None of that was your fault.”
Kian stared at Quinn and then realisation cleared the frown lines on his forehead as he realised Quinn had misunderstood. “They planned it all to happen like this. Your parents thought they were keeping you safe, but they’ve just made you vulnerable.” Kian saw Quinn’s confusion and pressed on. “Your parents thought they were removing the debt from your shoulders. They didn’t know Q’s debt was also marking you. The council didn’t care about your father’s debt. It’s nothing compared to Q’s. They just wanted them out of the way -”
“That’s my parents you’re talking about,” Quinn snapped. Kian flinched away from the radiating anger.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered, dropping his eyes.
“What is Q even doing anyway? How can he help?”
“He’s the only one that can help.” Kian’s voice was stronger than it had been all morning, and Quinn eyed him doubtfully.
“This is ridiculous,” Quinn muttered, staring at the ceiling. Water damage marked a corner. “Did he send you here to get close to my sister?”
Kian balked. “Yes, not that I knew the reason until now.”
“So he tells you to jump and you ask him how high? That’s devotion.” The sarcasm tasted like acid on his tongue.
“He saved me,” Kian said shortly. “He sent me to your town because he knew I’d run into her and we’d get to know each other. He didn’t tell me that was the reason. I didn’t know that your father-” Kian bit off his words and struggled to compose himself. “Had links to the council.”
“That’s not what you were going to say.”
“I didn’t know he was Quinn – Q’s brother.”
Kian opened his mouth, closed it, and then looked at the door with a frown. His long fingers curled into the sleeves of his hoodie. “It does you no good to know.” He stood up and prodded the fridge with the toe of his trainer. “There’s food in there.” He pulled out a thin book from his pocket and slumped back down into his original seat, though Quinn had the feeling he was just staring at the pages.
He pressed his back hard into the sofa, hoping the pressure would ground him. When it didn’t, he ground the heel of his palm into his eyes and struggled to hold back the tears. He couldn’t accept it was true until he heard it from a better source, but until then, he was stuck in some awful, torturous limbo that he wasn’t brave enough to escape from.
“Law,” Chase murmured, catching the attention of his husband. “I’m not sure being in here is good for you right now.”
Law sat in the room that smelled of his sister’s perfume and turned the journal around in his hands. It held nothing but gardening and shopping lists, but her beautiful, looping writing had brought him to tears all the same.
“I hate this,” he breathed. “This shouldn’t have been how it happened.”
Chase knelt down and took the book out of Law’s hands. It had a purple, leathery cover and a butterfly engraved in one corner. He placed it back onto the bedside table with care, and then wrapped his hands around Law’s.
“I know.” He struggled to stop his voice from cracking. “But the kids need you right now. Not that your grief isn’t important, but it has to be shelved, at least for a few days. Okay?”
Law nodded mechanically. He knew this. He knew all of it. He’d been operating on adrenaline since the phone call but now he needed another way to keep the deadening grief at bay.
“Any luck with Quinn?” He could barely whisper the name. The thought that his sister and brother-in-law had died believing their children would be safe, only for that to be a lie, was like a stab to the heart. Law needed to bring him home safely, and he was prepared to do whatever it took.
“Getting there.” Chase squeezed his hands. “The police found – found them. In a car, registered to their name.” He paused and waited, but Law looked steady. “Calling it a double suicide. The car was filled with gas from the exhaust.” Law’s throat bobbed but he said nothing. “That we already knew about it from a letter made them sure of their decision, but they’ll give us more information after an autopsy. They might want to talk to us if they find anything suspicious. There were strange marks on their wrists,” he added.
Law’s nostrils flared as he sucked in a breath. “Let’s concentrate on Quinn. He has to be our priority.”
“It won’t be much longer, I promise. But for now I need you to work with Shanna and Isabelle. Try to get them to eat something.”
Somehow Law pulled himself from the room of heavy memories to where Shanna and Isabelle slept, hugging each other, on Ayr’s bed. He settled down next to them and reached out to Isabelle’s ankle. “Girls?”
Isabelle stirred, her eyes fluttering open. The redness of them suggested she hadn’t slept much. Shanna didn’t bother responding.
“C’mon, let’s get something to eat.”
Isabelle didn’t have the strength to do anything but comply. She rose, zombie like, and was steered through the door and into the kitchen. Law gave Shanna’s shoulder a gentle shake. He knew her anxiety well, and hated to think what this had done to her – it had shaken him to his core, and he hadn’t had nightmares about it growing up.
Shanna yawned herself awake and shook her hand through messy hair. “Breakfast?” she asked, hopping out of bed with a flash of a grin when Law nodded. He eyed her back and committed himself to the question.
“Are you alright?”
Shanna didn’t even turn around as she shrugged a shoulder carelessly. “The worst of the shit has already come true. What more is there to worry about? Can’t do anything about it anyway.”
Law said nothing. As the door swung closed, he pressed his fingers against his eyes and felt the dampness beneath them. He’d always been fit and healthy, and Chase kept him young at heart, but this morning had him feeling every bit of his age.
Chase dozed in front of his laptop until a bright, cheery ping woke him up. He startled awake, almost knocking over his long cold coffee, and cast a gaze towards the window. The tips of Spruce trees waved in the distance, bending to the strength of the wind with unquestionable obedience. The sun dropped its way beneath the zenith and cast long shadows of the waving branches.
“So much for coffee,” he muttered, picking sleep out of his eyes with one hand and wiggling his mouse with another. His screen perked up and offered him some tantalising information. He read through the report with his jaw dropping lower and lower, until finally he had a single place name in answer of the most pressing question.
Chase immediately sat up straighter. “Law?” he called out, hearing footsteps in the kitchen and correctly identifying them as the light steps of his partner.
The urgency in his voice had been obvious. Law was in the room within a moment.
“Found him.” He didn’t try to hide the victorious smirk. The relief of this good news had made him dizzy – or was that the lack of sleep?
“Where?” Law surged towards him and scanned the screen, answering his own question in a second. “Stirling?”
“Not far from here,” Chase added. “Twenty minute drive, if that. But there’s way more to this.”
Law looked up and realised there was a whole report to read. He nudged Chase, who obliged by launching into a bullet pointed summary, holding his fingers out at the ready.
“One: he was seen held in the arms of another teenager on the co-op ATM camera not far from the centre here. Two: this kid’s records are perfectly falsified to give him a British dual citizenship and also, from my source’s assumption, cover up something that happened to – or because of – the kid a few years back. Professional stuff, and yet unlikely to be witness protection given his age and lack of adoptive family. Three: card details put him in Stirling, using a Tesco’s. Four: he picked up a key and had been at a nearby hotel for most of the day yesterday – it looks like he returned to this wee village just before dinner time – and CCTV puts him back there now.”
“Pre-meditated?” Law asked, loosening the shirt around his neck as fear tightened his chest.
“I’m not so sure,” Chase said. Silently, he pulled up the last texts from Kian’s phone.
“How many laws have we broken today?” Law murmured, shaking his head.
“Don’t wanna know, just be glad that digital surveillance means we can do this at all. He’s had similar texts before from an unknown number – usually different – and the only contact he has is just under Q.”
“Why does this mean it wasn’t planned? If anything, the texts are more suspicious.”
Chase held up a finger and pulled up a picture he’d grabbed earlier that day. The man had picked up a second room key and Chase had frozen the CCTV image at the perfect moment.
Law’s lips parted. “The tattoo…”
“The eyes,” Chase corrected, and Law’s own eyes went round. “Scarily similar shade. This is probably Q. I also think that stands for Quinn.”
A pause. “That’s not possible-”
“Occam’s razor,” Chase pointed out.
“Law, Lukas assumed his brother died. There was never confirmation of that. I can run the image through software that’ll pick up the percentage similarities with Lukas if you like, but at this point it’s a waste of time. I’m sure it’s a long lost vampire brother because apparently we’re in a bad young adult novel.” He remembered the situation was too serious for humour after a belated second. “Sorry.”
Law ignored the quip. “This could be bad.”
“They haven’t checked out yet. Okay, maybe they’re waiting for someone from the council, or maybe not. I think the latter. He has a nice face. I don’t want the handsome man to turn out evil.”
Law offered a smile at his husband’s poor attempt at a second joke. “He would have checked in with us right now.”
“There could be a lot of reasons why he wouldn’t.”
A moment of silence, and then:
“I’m going there myself.”
sooo now you know the truth behind the Mark, or that it doesn’t mean the same thing as the game uses them to mean. Hence why I’ve been giving some of the characters lovingly made for me the Marks, for our next generation.
I know this chapter was info dump heavy, but I hope things make sense, more or less. Let me know if I’ve explained something badly or if you have any questions that I haven’t thought to answer yet?