Her pale fingers, deep maroon colored nails finely manicured into needle like points, dragged over the side of his neck, raising pale pink lines on his skin. Simon didn't really like the way she made him feel. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up, and every cell in his body screamed to run. Run fast and far. But he could not move a single inch no matter how hard he tried. Her dark eyes held him in their trance, rendering him a pliant doll under her gaze. A pink tongue ran over her painted lips, and he saw sharp teeth glint in the dull light. She bit her own lip hard enough to draw a few beads of blood, eyelashes lowered coyly, brushing his cheeks as she leaned forward. Her cool breath exhaled against his mouth and nose, her fingers gripping the back of his shoulders, digging into the muscle painfully.
"Bite me," she commanded, her voice soft and silky. "And drink up, baby. You'll need it for what comes next."
No, is what he wanted to say. Stop. Please. But his mind felt fuzzy, and her words seemed like a such a great idea all of a sudden. He felt himself leaning forward the last few centimeters and digging his blunt teeth into her collarbone, the spot right above the neckline of her black and blue dress. Rich, irony liquid bubbled up into his mouth, dripping down his throat, and he came back to his senses when he heard her let out a pleased laugh. His eyes were wide and horrified. She smiled, sharp and triumphant. She grabbed his face between her hands, staring deep into his eyes before pressing her bloody lips to his. Simon felt her hands readjust themselves on the back of his neck and head, and his head was abruptly wrenched to the side. The vertebrae in his neck crunched loudly, echoing in the dark room. His limp body slumped against hers, and she smirked to herself.
The graveyard was washed pale with the streams of cool moonlight that came from between the spotty grey clouds. James and his cousin Matt were the only people still on the grounds. They wanted to get a bit of landscaping done before the sun rose and everything got hot. James patted down loose soil around the small rose bush, gloved fingers sinking slightly in the dirt with his motions. There was a low rumble, and the ground shook, pebbles skidding a few feet beside him. He frowned and turned his head. The ground trembled again. The dirt moved, and a hand burst from the earth like something out of a horror movie.
The groundskeeper stumbled back with a gasp, landing on his butt. The hand slammed into the ground, and it was soon followed by an arm and a head and a body. The young man, dark hair turned brown with soil, hurriedly crawled out of the hole he had made and landed on his stomach, panting, his chest heaving. His fingers clenched and unclenched in the loose dirt, and James saw his nostrils flare. His head snapped up in his direction when James pushed himself to his feet. The groundskeeper froze. The young man's were blown wide, the pupils hardly leaving any iris visible at all.
"He-hey. It's okay. Just don't come any closer, yeah, kid?" James said. "I'll get you some help. How's that sound?"
The young man panted for a moment, just staring at him. James relaxed and let his hands lower. Then, the young man lunged forward so fast he didn't have time to even blink, and his dirty hand wrapped tight around his ankle. James cried out as his foot was jerked out from under him, and he landed hard on his back on the ground. The breath was driven from his lungs, so he couldn't even scream. James wheezed, and the young man crawled up the length of his body, hissing at him, lips drawn back to show elongated canines. He whimpered when razor sharp fangs embedded themselves in his neck. James struggled against him, but it grew weaker and weaker as his blood drained out of him.
He didn't even stand a chance. The Fledgling lapped at the corpse's neck with a soft, satisfied purr, cleaning off the last droplets of his coppery blood with a crimson stained tongue. He heard a new voice call out 'James', and he looked up to see a man in overalls walk closer. The only thing running through the Fledgling's mind was the beat beat beat beat of his heart and the rush of food in his veins. He licked his lips and crawled toward the new man. A flashlight was shined on him, and the Fledgling hissed in discomfort. He lurched up from the ground and tackled the man to the ground, sinking his teeth into his neck as he yelled. It did not take long for him to become as dead as the other man laying a few yards away.
Raphael's attention was caught by a frantic choking sound, and what sounded like a mundane having a mental breakdown. In the middle of cemetery in the middle of the night. How odd. But it smelled wrong. The coppery tang of blood drifted to his sensitive nose, and he stepped closer on quick, silent feet. A boy who couldn't have been more than twenty at the absolute most, probably younger, alternated from shaking on the ground and grabbing at his hair, nearly spinning in circles as he looked between the dead bodies on either side of him. Raphael cocked his head and walked closer. The boy looked up at him from his spot on his knees, and his brown eyes were wide with horror, terror, repulsion. Blood was splattered all down the front of his grey T shirt, causing it to stick to his skin. Fangs peeked out from behind his lips.
"Wh-why - why can't I say G-" He cut off in a hoarse choke. "G-khh-G-"
"God," Raphael said. He lowered himself to a crouch in front of the boy. "It will take some time to regain the ability."
"Oh my G-" The Fledgling slammed his fists into the ground, bloody tears of frustration welling at the edges of his eyes. "Damn it!" He lifted his gaze back up to Raphael's frantically. "Am I - am I a vampire?" he asked. His voice was pleading, desperate.
"Yes," Raphael said. "You are."
A single bloody tear dripped down his cheek, and he grabbed at his hair again.
"I - I - I killed them! I'm a monster!" the Fledgling snarled, more to himself than to Raphael. Raphael remembered his own rebirth, and he had reacted similarly.
"Listen..." Raphael said gently. He reached out to touch his shoulder.
"Don't! Just - just stay away!" the Fledgling hissed.
He jumped to his feet and sprinted off into the dark. Shit. Raphael took off after him. The city at night was not a safe place for a newly reborn Fledgling. Especially a lonely, panicked one. Fledglings usually had an extra burst of strength and speed that tended to fade after a few months that was meant to protect them during their delicate transitioning age. But Raphael had been alive for nearly five decades as a vampire, and he had perfected his technique. He caught up to the Fledgling a few blocks away, knocking him out of his run. The Fledgling stumbled a bit and held out his hands to regain his balance.
"Hey. Hey," the boy said. He looked up at him with wide eyes.
"Where do you think you're going?" Raphael asked.
"I... I don't know," the Fledgling admitted. He shifted his bare feet on the ground. His eyes caught on a cracked van window, and he walked over to it. Raphael followed him as he looked at their reflections in the glass. He glanced back at Raphael. "I can see my reflection. Does that mean... that I'm not a - not a-"
"Vampire?" Raphael said. The Fledgling swallowed roughly. "You have a lot to learn."
The Fledgling turned away from him and began to pace. Raphael grabbed his shoulder, and he looked back at him with a growl.
"This can't be happening!" he said. He pulled away from Raphael. "Don't touch me! I don't have a heartbeat. I'm dead!"
"Undead," Raphael corrected.
"Y-you're a monster!" the Fledgling said. His eyes went dull, and his lip trembled. "I'm a monster." It came out as a broken whisper.
"Look. You are what you are now. Let's get you back to the hotel and get you fed," Raphael insisted gently.
"Hotel? What hotel? Who are you?" the Fledgling asked.
"Us vampires, we stick together. I'll explain how the Clan works when we get you safe, okay?" Raphael said. "And I'm Raphael."
"Did you do this to me?" the Fledgling asked.
"No. And I don't know who did either. It could have been any of dozens of our kind that could have Turned you," Raphael replied. He placed his hand on the boy's shoulder again and guided him toward the mouth of the alley. "Come along, Fledgling."
"Th-that's not my name," the Fledgling said. "My name is Simon." Despite his protest, he did allow himself to be led. Raphael smiled slightly and nodded.
Loose gravel crunched under his bare feet. His legs didn't ache, his lungs didn't burn. He was a physically unfit eighteen year old. He should be aching from running a few miles and walking ten more. But he felt nothing. The alley leading up to the doorway of the hotel was dark. Only a single lamplight lit the path, but Simon could see as if it were daytime. Normally, it would have been cool that he could see without his glasses, but his current predicament didn't let him feel anything other than numb. Raphael knocked on the door of building that looked abandoned. A sign hung from the side of the brick that read HOTEL DUMORT. The 'r' might have been an 'n' once, but it was chipped off with age. The little wooden slot in the door slid to the side, and a pair of dark eyes peeked out at them.
"Who is it?" the voice asked.
"It's me," Raphael replied.
"Raphael," a vampire with spiked black hair said in greeting, pulling the door open for them. "¿Cómo estás?"
"Good," Raphael replied. He guided Simon forward with a hand on his shoulder. Simon didn't know whether to shy away from him or lean into his cool touch. They both smelled like wet pennies to him, metallic. It was weird, and he still wanted to shove his finger down his throat and throw up everything in his stomach. He was just too nervous to do anything like that in front of the older vampires. "Fledgling, meet Matteo. Matteo, Fledgling."
"It's Simon," Simon mumbled.
"Hey," Matteo said, nonplussed. The vampire looked at Raphael as the he shooed Simon inside the door. "The usual deal?"
"¡Consigue un poco de sangre, por favor! Volantón está hambriento," Raphael responded in a smooth torrent of accented Spanish, jerking his head in Simon's direction.
"Ah, sí," the vampire said. He turned on his heel and walked off down the hall.
Almost all of what they had just said went right over his head. Simon was not fluent in Spanish by any means, but he was pretty sure that 'sangre' meant blood. And that made his mouth water, much to his disgust. Bile burned a trail up the back of his throat even as his stomach clenched with hunger. Raphael took him in the opposite direction into a large lobby type area. It was empty besides a middle aged blonde woman who he guessed was a vampire, too. She sat with her legs crossed under her on the floor, leaning against the couch, a book open in her lap. She looked up when they entered. Her book fell shut as she shifted her legs.
"Hey, boss," the female vampire said.
"Hello, Lottie," Raphael replied.
"Who's the new meat?" Lottie asked, blue eyes flashing.
"This is Simon. Fledgling, take a seat please," Raphael said, directing the last part of his words to Simon.
"Um, okay. Yeah," Simon responded. He sat down on the dusty gold colored couch in the farthest seat from the female vampire. The hairs on the back of his neck prickled.
"What did he do? Kill his Sire?" Lottie asked. She sounded genuinely curious.
His what now?
"No," Raphael replied.
"Sire? What's a Sire?" Simon asked. Raphael's dark eyes shifted to him.
"Your Sire is the vampire that Turned you. You would have had to have ingested some of their blood before you died and were buried," Raphael explained.
"I - I drank some vampire's blood?" Simon repeated. "And - and that's what made me... one of you?"
"Yes. I'm guessing that your Sire left you for some reason and just didn't come back," Raphael said. "Which is really a stupid thing to do. Fledglings don't know anything, and they need someone to help them learn. Without proper guidance, they will just get themselves killed. They don't realize that they're dead, and they walk into the sunlight and well... they're burning to their second death. Adiós, bebé vampiro."
"So the sun thing is true, then?" Simon said. It disturbed him beyond belief that he would never see the sun again. He guessed the saying was true. You didn't miss what you had until it was gone.
"Yes," Raphael replied. "You don't have to sleep during the day if you don't want to, but you do need to stay inside."
"Well-" Lottie began. Raphael cut her off.
"Bring Fledgling some fresh clothes and shoes," he ordered. She blinked.
"Okay. Yes, sir. I'm going," Lottie replied.
There was a clack clack of her heeled shoes as she walked out of the lobby. Simon looked down at his lap. It was sticky and covered in those men's blood. His skin crawled. Why couldn't this just be a nightmare? Why did this have to be real? He just wanted to wake up and have it all be a bad dream. He heard footsteps approach, and he glanced up to see Matteo come into the lobby with a tray of glasses. They were filled to the brim with rich red fluid, and he could smell the heady copper tang without even inhaling. His fangs jutted out from his gums, and they accidentally sliced into his lower lip as he clamped his mouth shut. He winced, his own blood filling his mouth in a slow trickle.
"Careful, please," Raphael said. He plucked a glass off the tray Matteo held, and he offered it to Simon. "Drink up. I know you must be starving by now."
Simon stared at the glass of blood, and his mouth watered. Anxiety sent wild little tremors through his body. Terror made his mind go blank. He knew, logically, that Raphael wasn't trying to hurt him. He was only trying to help. But Simon could not calm down. His stomach twisted in repulsion, and he moved over the arm of the couch. He retched almost violently. Thick, irony fluid, shiny and red, so red, slid out from his mouth onto the floor with a sickening splat. It wasn't actually that much, mostly dry heaving and bloody spittle, his body refusing to let up much of his newly acquired nutrients, but he was coughing and shaking and trembling so hard he couldn't think. The raw ache that came from throwing up made tears burn at the corners of his eyes. There was little clatter as Raphael set the glass down on the floor and knelt in front of him.
"Simon. Simon! I need you to look at me," the vampire said.
Raphael hadn't called him Simon when he spoke to him before, so it made him look up. The other vampire touched his shoulders and slowly pushed him back into a sitting position. He kept his hands on his shoulders. Simon trembled, the acidic taste of bile souring his mouth. He panted, and Raphael stared intently at him. Despite his blank expression, his dark eyes were gentle.
"It's okay. Está bien, pequeño. It's okay," Raphael said. His voice was smooth and soft. "Just calm down. Shh, shh."
"I... I don't want it," Simon hissed. "You can't make me."
"You need to, though. You have to drink. It will make you feel better," Raphael said.
"I just drank two fucking people. I don't need more," Simon shot back. He was disgusted with himself. And still his stomach was aching with hunger.
"I know. I know. But if you do not feed, you will Fade, and you die. Again," Raphael said.
Simon shut his eyes and shook his head, body trembling.
"I don't... want to. I killed - killed them," he whispered.
"It was not your fault. You were not in control of yourself. That's why you need to learn how to be. That is why we are going to help you. So this will not happen again," Raphael said. "If you do not build up your self control and tolerance, then you won't be able to function. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
"...yes," Simon murmured.
"Good," Raphael said. He smiled slightly and let go of his shoulders. "When you decide you want to feed, please let me know. For now, let's get you cleaned up."
Raphael walked back to the Fledgling's room with empty hands. He was worried about the young one, and he did not want anything bad to happen to him. He had only known Simon for about fifteen hours, but already he was so protective of him. That was one of Raphael's issues. Call it a big brother's instinct if you will. He could not help but get attached to the young ones, and he was fiercely protective of who he called his family. But this was a reason that many of Camille's old followers switched over to his Clan. He actually cared what happened to them. He might not show his emotions very well, but they knew that he cared. Even if he was tough on them, he cared. Always. Family was everything.
Even before he had Turned, this is what fueled a lot of Raphael's actions. Only now, he just transferred his energy into protecting his inhuman family. And the Clan was his family. He really did believe that. Every member of his old family was dead. Well... except for Rosa. But she was special. Different. And reaching the end of her own life. It hurt him to see her grow old, but he was happy for her. She had lived a full life of her own. Without him. Raphael still visited her in her nursing home, but she didn't remember him. That made his chest ache. At least he had his Clan.
The vampire regarded the door leading to the Fledgling's room with dark eyes. His sensitive ears pricked at the soft shuffling noise of feet inside. Simon still walked like a mundane even if his footsteps were lighter, softer, quicker. Raphael would teach him how to walk undetected later. A lesson for another day perhaps. He was a bit worried that the Fledgling would not feed, but he was sure that Simon would come around soon. He knew it was very difficult to switch from human to vampire, but he had hope that this Fledgling would be able to pull through. Raphael was sure he was stronger than he looked. Most Sires didn't just make their Child at random. They chose them very carefully. Unless they were one of those reckless fools, like the Bridge and Tunnel vamps. Dios, he hated their methods with a burning passion.
Raphael pushed open the door to the Fledgling's room, and he peered inside to check on him. Simon was crouched by the bed, trembling, head in his hands. His head snapped up when the door opened. The Fledgling's pupils were wide, leaving only a tiny ring of brown around the black center. Raphael had barely a millisecond to brace himself before he was slammed into the door by a hissing, hungry young vampire, his new fangs nearly sinking into his throat. If he still had to breathe like a human did, his breath would have been knocked out of him from how hard he had been into the door. Thankfully, he was not human, so Raphael just reached up with his hands and grabbed onto the Fledgling's shoulders. He pushed at him, just barely keeping him from latching onto his neck. The Fledgling was clearly not thinking straight, or he would have noticed that Raphael was not a very good source of food.
Vampires could bite one another and drink if they wanted to, yes, but it would have no effect whatsoever on their overall hunger. Vampire blood was not full of the nutrients that they needed to survive. It was more of a bonding thing than anything. And he seriously doubted that was what was going through the Fledgling's mind at the moment. Raphael used his own strength to flip their positions around and pin the younger vampire to the wall, baring his own fangs with a soft hiss. The Fledgling hissed, a harsh, violent sound, and struggled against his grip, but he refused to budge. Raphael stared intently into his eyes and had to all but press himself over the Fledgling to keep him from breaking free and biting him. The Fledgling was strong and stubborn, but Raphael could be just as hardheaded, if not more so if the situation required him to be.
"Simon! Stop!" Raphael said sternly. "No seas tonto. Calm down. Now." He sighed softly as some awareness came back in the Fledgling's brown eyes. His pupils were still blown wide, but he no longer looked quite as feral. Simon blinked at him, nearly going limp in his grip. He looked terrified, and a mess of emotions flitted across his young face. Raphael released his tight grip on the Fledgling's body and stepped back. "This is sort of why I wanted you to feed earlier."
"Oh my G-khh-" Simon choked on the word with a pained grimace before he tried again. "Oh my G-gosh. I mean, I'm so sorry. I don't know why I did that." The poor thing looked like he was about to cry again. Raphael's undead heartstrings were tugged at.
He could deal with anger and fear just fine, but crying? He hated it when they cried. It reminded him too much of his little Rosa, his hermana, and he never wanted to see her cry. No matter how old she got. The Fledgling was just like Rosa, staring at him with wide eyes and a trembling lip. He almost violently squashed the urge to just gather the Fledgling in his arms and cuddle him until he felt better. Simon was not his little brother. Most vampires hated being babied. All the ones he had met in his second life anyway. Which was quite a lot.
"It's fine. I promise," Raphael quickly assured him, letting himself smile just a little. "Like I said, you're still learning. It's not like you could have done much to me anyway, pequeño. Besides, new Fledglings are almost always very aggressive at first. Getting them well fed tends to calm them down."
"I'm sorry," Simon reiterated. He looked very dejected. "I really am a monster."
"Do not say that, Fledgling. You are better than that. And we will get through this. Together. ¿Sí?" Raphael said. "Drink a little for me, please? It would make me feel better if you fed just a bit. It doesn't have to be much. And you'll feel better, yes?"
"O-okay," the Fledgling answered him, his voice barely a murmur. The self disgust was still plain in his expression, but it was better than nothing. Raphael nodded and placed his hand on Simon's shoulder.
"Please wait here. I'll be right back, Fledgling," he said. Simon gave a small nod in response, and he moved back to the bed. Raphael walked out the door, shutting it gently behind himself.
Raphael handed Simon a glass filled to the brim with the semi thick crimson liquid. The glass was about half the size of the one that Matteo had brought to him earlier. Simon accepted it with hands that trembled ever so slightly, and the back of his throat clenched in anticipation. The coppery scent that drifted up to his way too sensitive nose made his fangs slide out, and he almost sliced open his own lip again. His mouth watered, despite the disgust he felt. Simon brought the glass to his lips. The clear glass felt warm. His pupils dilated at the smell of delicious blood.
Food, food, food, food.
Simon closed his eyes, fighting off the nausea that roiled in his stomach from what he was about to do, and he tilted the glass back, opening his mouth. Hot fluid - not as hot as the men's blood, his hindbrain noted, but close enough - filled his mouth. His extended fangs clanked against the glass as he swallowed. The blood slid down his throat, warming his chest and pooling in his stomach. It felt amazing. And Simon hated that. He didn't even realize that he was licking the inside of the glass hungrily until Raphael pried it out of his hands. His involuntary purr cut off, and Simon almost hissed at the other vampire before he caught himself.
What was wrong with him? It was like he couldn't control himself anymore, and he hated it.
"Do you want some more?" Raphael asked.
"N-no," Simon denied. He crossed his arms over his chest. His tongue flicked out to lick up the spot of blood leftover on his lip absently. He looked down at his sneaker clad feet. "I'm fine."
"Well, if you're sure, Fledgling," Raphael said.
"It's Simon," Simon insisted. Even though he kept feeling less and less like Simon lately. Like himself. He didn't want to lose himself.
"N-not that I'm complaining or anything, but why do you guys drink blood from glasses?" Simon asked. He rubbed the inside of his wrist as he wandered the halls with Raphael.
"Well, some of the others prefer to feed from bags. It gives them something to sink their teeth into. Me, I personally find that to be rather messy. Pegajoso." He grimaced. "Not really my thing. But to answer your question, drinking directly from the source is against the Accords, the set of rules that we are supposed to abide by in order to keep the peace," Raphael explained. "The source being, of course, a living mundane. You could feed straight from any other animal if you wanted to, just not mundanes."
"Sorry, mundane?" Simon interrupted with a small frown. Didn't that mean normal?
"Mundane is the term most of the Shadow World uses to refer to the normal human beings as. The ones without anything in their blood," Raphael replied.
"Yeah, I... I don't know what that means," Simon admitted.
"I'm sure you have heard of vampires as being 'diseased', yes?" Raphael asked. Simon nodded. "The same goes for werewolves. It's a demonic disease that gets into the bloodstream of a mundane and Turns them into one of us. You can thank the actual demons for that. Vampires are sterile. Werewolves are not. Warlocks are different. They just have a demonic parent, and they are born with their powers. They are sterile, too, but they live basically forever so it doesn't really matter that much."
"So no babies, then?" Simon said. Sure, he didn't actually want kids now, but it hurt having the possibility of having one later being taken away from him.
"No. No babies," Raphael agreed. "It is okay for a Downworlder to adopt a mundane child if they want to, though. So long as they pass whatever test the adoption agency gives any other aspiring parent, they can do that. It does not violate the Accords."
"What does violate the Accords?" Simon asked.
"Well, there are a lot of things to read in the Accords, but the main ones are that a Downworlder can't kill or, in our case, feed on one directly. Donated blood from blood banks and hospitals is fine. Downworlders cannot reveal the Shadow World to a mundane. There are, naturally, exceptions in extreme circumstances, but for the most part, that is a big no no," Raphael said.
"What happens if you do violate the Accords?" Simon asked him. "Who enforces them?"
"They call themselves Shadowhunters. They are Nephilim, descended from the angel Raziel himself. You can recognize them by the smell of their blood. It is very different from a mundane's. Shadowhunters also have these rather distinctive markings they cover their bodies with. Runes. They look sort of like black or red tattoos. They allow them to be better than mundanes. The Nephilim keep the Shadow World in line and keep the peace. Or so they say," Raphael responded.
"What do you mean by that?" Simon asked. The other vampire seemed to not like the Shadowhunters.
"They think they are so much better than us, that we are lesser beings. Más bajo que ellos. Just because of their angel blood," Raphael said. He shook his head. "Even though plenty of us have never even so much as broken a single law. It is easier to blame the Downworlder than to admit their own shortcomings. Pollas reales, la mayoría de ellos."
"Oh..." Simon murmured in response. So basically Shadowhunters were the magical police, and the Downworlders were the citizens. And there was still discrimination... okay, then. "What is the punishment?"
"Depends on what it is really. How severe the crime was and whether it was the first time or not. Whether it was a child or an adult," Raphael replied. "Harming children always results in a harsher punishment. As it should be."
That made sense he supposed.
"Will I be in trouble?" Simon asked.
"For those men in the cemetery?" Raphael said. He shook his head. "No, no."
"But I k-killed them," Simon told him. Guilt twisted his stomach into knots. Their lifeless bodies, covered in blood, flashed across his mind's eye.
"Yes. You did. But you are also a Fledgling. One without a Sire. As I mentioned, there are exceptions. Very young Fledglings get off with a warning so long as the Clan retrieves them before they do too much damage and takes them into our care," Raphael explained.
"They just let it go?" Simon asked in confusion.
"Not let it go... no. They will probably keep an eye on you to make sure that you do not make the same mistake again for a while, but they will not punish you for a first offence. You will be let off with a warning," Raphael said.
Simon swallowed around his tight throat and nodded.
"What are you doing?" Raphael asked him. Simon glanced over to where he was standing by the wall. He accidentally walked into the white statue of a woman and banged his elbow into it.
"Ow," Simon said, more as a reflex than an actual response to pain. It didn't really hurt, but he was a bit startled. He quickly grabbed the statue to keep it from falling over and hitting the wall. He steadied it with his hands. He saw Raphael cock his head at him from the corner of his vision, raising an eyebrow. "Oh, um, just looking. Looking around." Simon walked over to the large glass case and went behind it. He looked down at it. Dozens of priceless artifacts were visible under the layer of glass. "I mean, uh, all the cool stuff you guys collect." He lifted an old fashioned ceramic greenish grey bowl and peered inside. "Or steal." Simon brought it up to his mouth and made a noise into it. Raphael stared at him. He quickly set it down on the glass surface. He scratched the back of his neck awkwardly. "It's, uh, whatever. Cool."
"Leonidus the First has been trying to peddle that junk for years," Raphael told him, walking toward him. "Museums make you prove antiquities are legit these days."
"Yeah. Naturally," Simon agreed with a jerky nod.
"They're going to ask where you got it from. What do you say? 'It's not against the law to rob my own grave?'" Raphael said.
Simon giggled. He quickly covered his mouth, mortified. Here he was laughing in front of, well, essentially his mentor. His vampire mentor. Simon was actually thankful he was a vampire for once. At least he didn't have the blood in his face to blush like crazy. Raphael just looked amused, if the slight upward tilt of his lips was any indication. The other vampire gestured toward to the door.
"Now come," Raphael said.
"Where are we going?" Simon asked. He walked out from behind the glass case, and he went the way Raphael had indicated. Raphael came up behind him, moving to walk beside him.
"Now that you've had a chance to settle in, I thought it would be a good idea to start showing you a few things. You can practice them with either me or alone when I'm not here," Raphael replied.
"Gone? You're - you're going somewhere?" Simon asked.
"Well," Raphael said. "I am the leader of the Clan after all. I do have other responsibilities to handle. But don't worry, Fledgling. I will not be leaving you too much until you are more... let's say comfortable, in your own skin. But if I am not available, you can always ask one of the others for help. I'm sure they'd be happy to do so."
"Um... thank you," Simon murmured.
"De nada," Raphael replied.
The other vampire led him to a large open room with hardly any dusty furniture in it at all. The room was huge, and the ceiling was so very high up. Simon blinked when Raphael patted him on the shoulder and abruptly vanished from beside him.
"Raphael?" he called. Simon spun around at the feeling of a cool breath blowing against his neck. It kind of tickled, but it mostly freaked him out. Dark, intense eyes stared back at him. Simon jumped back a little. The Latino vampire smirked at him. "What the hell was that?"
"That, Fledgling, is what one of the few things I need to teach you. You need to be able to walk, run, and move without being heard or seen. By anything or anyone. Whether it is another vampire or a mundane or a werewolf," Raphael said. "Though more experienced vampires can tell if you are sneaking up on them."
"How am I supposed to do that?" Simon asked.
"Don't worry. I'll show you. But for today, let's have a little fun to start off. I want you to catch me," Raphael said.
"C-catch you?" Simon repeated.
"Yeah. Just catch me," Raphael said.
Now that Simon was actually paying attention to him, he noticed a slight blur to his feet as the other vampire turned on his heel. His own feet instinctively took off after Raphael, sprinting across the room. His newfound hypersensitivity to everything, which was kind of annoying and overwhelming for the most part, felt perfect in this moment. Simon ran past a few vampires in the hall, and they moved out of the way before he ran into them thankfully. Raphael turned around a sharp corner, and Simon could not see him when he got around it. He frowned and glanced around. His pupils were wide with the excitement of the hunt. His nostrils flared, the wet penny scent filling his senses, but he still nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard Raphael's voice.
"G-khh-" Simon scowled as he choked. "Fuck!"
"Not interested. But let's go again," Raphael said. He darted away. Simon ran after him.
Kick. Duck. Punch. Repeat. Dodge. Grab. Repeat. Raphael watched as the Fledgling's body slid away, sometimes dodging his advances, sometimes getting sent flying backwards. He didn't even flinch when the Fledgling landed a blow on his arm. Raphael latched his hand on the Fledgling's forearm, and he tugged him forward, so close their noses almost touched. Raphael shoved him backwards again, and the Fledgling let out a frustrated noise. He hadn't yet managed to beat Raphael. The Fledgling ran at him again, and Raphael smoothly stepped out of the way. He hit him in the side, careful not to hit too hard, causing the Fledgling to lose his balance and fall over. Raphael reached down to help him back to his feet.
"That was better, Fledgling. But we still have a lot of work to do. A few more times, and then we can call it a day, ¿sí?" Raphael suggested. The Fledgling looked at him, blinking, and he shook out his hands, falling into a fighting stance. That needed work, too, but as he had said, it was getting better.
"Let's go then," Simon said.
The Fledgling darted forward on his bare feet, lunging, and Raphael smoothly sidestepped his motion.
"You are insanely, fast, man," Simon remarked.
"Practice makes perfect," Raphael replied almost absently.
Simon made the next move. His fist swung out, but Raphael caught it, forcing him back and landing a punch to his stomach. The Fledgling grunted, taking the blow, and refocused. He had to duck or be hit, and ducking would leave him open to another hit. Raphael played around with blows that tested the Fledgling's speed, his strength, how quickly he reacted. He wanted to figure out his weak spots.
Raphael found the first opening, his leg sweeping out to knock the younger vampire's out from beneath him. Simon fell down, and even his attempted roll to ride out the impact didn't protect him from Raphael bearing down on him, wrestling an arm behind his back and driving his face into the floor. He steadied his grip, and then he bore down when the Fledgling struggled against his grip.
"You will have to try harder than that, Fledgling," Raphael told him. The Fledgling jerked against his hold, hissing lowly, but he grit his teeth and kept him in place. There was a long moment of strain as he attempted to force it, but then he subsided.
Raphael drew back and leapt up to his feet, already falling into a ready stance as the Fledgling hissed and surged to his feet, wheeling around to face him once more. Raphael stood still and ready while the Fledgling paced around him. The intimidating, ranging stride he was trying for stuttered just slightly, and Raphael's eyes dropped to track his gait. He had the slightest limp from his right leg. Perhaps that kick from earlier had landed harder than he had thought. He felt a twinge of sympathy. At least it would heal quickly. Raphael licked his lips, and he shifted on his feet, cocking his head at the younger vampire.
He smirked when the Fledgling moved to swing at him again, and he parried the blow with his forearm. This time he managed to roll him, and then they were wrestling, each of them scrambling to find a hold. With both of them on the ground, Simon lost the advantage of his height and reach, but Raphael briefly lost his nimbler footwork. He wrestled him down. Simon surged up again, and he pinned Raphael down with a grin, his fangs showing again with his excitement. With a grunt of effort, Raphael forced him back. They rolled again, and the momentum carried them until Raphael came up on top again. Dropping an arm across the Fledgling's sternum, he forced him down.
Raphael bared his own fangs when Simon hissed at him, scraping his fangs against the younger vampire's exposed neck. The Fledgling went still, returning to a gentle, pliant state. Raphael was more than certain that the Fledgling was still in Fight Mode, and he was no doubt not all there in the head yet. That's why he just waited patiently until Simon calmed down enough before he climbed off of him again. Raphael wasn't the sort of vampire that got offended terribly easily. He carefully ignored the dejected little purr that Simon made, and he helped the boy to his feet again.
"Again," Raphael said.
Raphael fought like water.
That was the best comparison Simon could come up with as the two of them circled across the open area of the training room, taking each other's measure. Raphael was fluid, always shifting - surging at the right moments, then retreating to gather his strength like a wave pulling back from the beach. He was murky and hard to read, and it took most of what Simon had at his disposal to predict his next move and counteract it. He wasn't always successful. Actually, more often than not, he wasn't.
Raphael came at him from the left with an open palmed strike, only to divert at the last moment and aim a sweeping kick at Simon's legs. He managed to dodge it but only just barely. He stumbled for just one step to regain his balance, his enhanced reflexes keeping him from falling flat on his face, and that was the only opening the older vampire needed. He caught Simon's shoulder hard and then backed away. Simon winced slightly, bouncing on the balls of his bare feet. He lunged at Raphael again, and he ended up on his back faster than he could say the other vampire's name.
This time the older vampire had used his foot to kick Simon's feet from under him, and in the process of him falling, Simon had somehow managed to pull Raphael on top of him. Raphael's metallic scent flooded his nose from the close proximity, and his dark brown eyes looked like drops of freshly spilled ink in the dim lighting. The older vampire was wearing just a short sleeve shirt and jogging pants for their training session, their bare arms brushing against each other. The position they were in, even with Raphael practically straddling his waist, didn't feel in the least bit sexual. It was just very... intimate, and for some reason, Simon felt safe. Which was kind of weird.
"S-sorry," Simon said sheepishly.
"It's fine. Don't worry about it," Raphael responded. "Come on. Let's get you fed." He smoothly moved off of Simon and extended his hand to him. Simon gave him an awkward smile and grabbed his hand, letting himself be pulled up.