There was something new in the air that night. A stirring that he hadn’t felt for decades and Jack stirred with it, crimson eyes snapping open as his arm flew out, fingers wrapping around the wrist of the hand that had been an inch away from touching his face. He bared his teeth, snarling at the intruder, even before he registered the pulse beneath his bruising grip. A human. A lowly, filthy human had dared to disturb his rest? He moved without thought, still faster than the human eye could follow even after all the time spent in slumber, his body protesting the sudden movement. Reaching with the intent of wrapping his hands around the human’s throat, comforting himself with the thought that at least it would make for a meal. Only to find himself brought up short as he a gun pressed against his forehead, and he froze, torn between fury and incredulity before he felt the first burn against his skin.
He jerked back, hissing and growling as he reached up, brushing fingers over his forehead and feeling burnt skin for all of a few seconds before his body began to knit itself back together. How long had it been since someone had managed to lay a hand on him? Since someone had dared to try? Time had lost its meaning a long time ago, but he knew that it was a long time, and he drew himself up to his full height as he turned his attention back to the intruder.
The lowly human…
Jack blinked, eyes darting between the gun that was still pointed at him with an impressively steady hand, taking in the veins of silver decorating the barrel, the faint glow from sigils etched into the butt of the weapon. An ancient language, one that most thought lost to time. Then he took in the long coat, threaded through with protective charms, and showing evidence of hard wear, and the leather armour underneath, well-worn but cared for. Not an amateur then, and he felt a stirring of excitement at the thought. It had been too long since he’d had a challenge. Several lifetimes in fact and anticipation swelled, a burning warmth in his otherwise dead body, as he let his gaze drift upwards. The face was shadowed under the brim of a ridiculous hat, but he could see the ember of a cigar amongst the shadows, and in the brief flicker of light he caught a glimpse of too-sharp eyes, and a face that had seen too much and yet enough, and Jack laughed.
“It’s been a long time since I saw one of your kind.” A hunter, a real hunter. He had thought that it was an art form that had faded away, remembering with no small amount of regret his first years as an immortal, and the beautiful dances he’d shared with the hunters that had sought to put him back in the ground. Some had been little more than children, a splash of blood to whet his appetite. While others had pushed him to the brink and beyond, and even now he could feel the pull of old scars, wounds inflicted with weapons designed to destroy his kind. None had come close to killing him, but there was a thrill in those battles, a bloodlust that he had missed even in the long years of his slumber. A bloodlust that he could feel rising now, crimson clouding the edges of his vision. “However, if you wanted to kill me, you should have done so before I woke up.” It was sad in a way, but the outcome was inevitable, and he felt a pang of regret at the thought that he might be about to end an era that he had thought long gone when the human finally moved.
“If I’d wanted to kill you then you’d already be dead,” the man drawled as he slowly lowered his weapon, flicking it back and using the muzzle to tilt the hat back, letting Jack get a good look at his face. He was younger than Jack had expected, especially for the confidence in his words. However, it was clear that it wasn’t empty confidence, because there was no hesitation as he met Jack’s gaze, no hint of the fear that usually met his presence even from the most experienced hunters. It intrigued him. The human intrigued him, and amused him, which was why he chose to ignore the threat rather than punish him for his impertinence.”
“So, what does bring a hunter down here?” Jack moved, slinking through the shadows, moving behind him in the blink of an eye. Testing him. Unsurprised when the human followed his movement, almost quick enough to be a challenge. “Treasure?” He mocked, gesturing around the spartan crypt that was his home, devoid of anything beyond the ancient, handmade coffin that had been his bed since he’d changed, the last gift…He… had given him. “Curiosity?” He shifted, flesh made smoke, gliding across the room, before reforming his body. He lifted his hand to his mouth, eyes locked with the Hunter’s as he drew a fang along the skin, not enough to drink, but enough to let blood well up, before holding it out in offering. “Blood?”
And there it was, the first quiver of…not quite fear, but uncertainty, or wariness. A shifting in the man’s experience and Jack’s eyes were alight with unholy mischief as he moved closer, practically dancing as he crossed the distance between them. “Is this what you want?” He half-crooned, shifting back to mist, darting behind the hunter before he could react this time and pressing up against him as he reformed, tongue darting out to taste the strip of flesh visible between the high collar of the coat and the shaggy hair. A shiver greeted it.
“D-Don’t…” The protest came a second too late, a little too hesitant and Jack smiled, letting the man feel it against his skin, delighting in the second shiver that greeted the sensation.
“Don’t?” He echoed, nosing at the man’s neck, entranced by the warmth of his skin. The life flowing just below the surface, the blood a siren song after so long asleep. When he had been younger, newly turned, it would have been enough to send him over the edge. It was strong, potent…as was the heartbeat, the Hunter still clinging to his composure despite the delicious shivers greeting his touch. It irritated him and intrigued him in equal measure. He didn’t want control and restraint, not from a Hunter. Not from a man that dared to press into him, leaning into the touch, and he snarled low in his throat, scraping his fangs across that warm skin, marking it, even as he pulled back. “Then I won’t,” he replied simply, voice and face emotionless even as he began to circle the Hunter, silent on against the stone floor, a predator stalking its prey.
The wound on his wrist was still bleeding, and he could see the Hunter was still transfixed by it, moving with him through instinct alone, eyes locked on the slow dripping of blood as it fell to the floor, a flash of colour against the cold stone. Jack lifted it, bringing the wound to his mouth and lapping at it. The blood warmed him, brought a flush of colour to his pale cheeks, his vision sharpening. He couldn’t sustain himself off his own blood, he’d tried that once upon a time, back when he had deluded himself that he could still be human. That he could still be a good person. But, it was enough for now, waking him, bringing him to life.
It also made him thirst for the blood in the man in front of him, and this time as he licked the wound, he sealed it, lips curling as he heard the muffled sound of protest from the human. “You could have had it you know,” he murmured, casually licking his hand, cleaning away the stray drops of blood. He didn’t look at the Hunter, he didn’t need to, his sharpened senses catching the way the man’s breathing had sped up, the steady drumbeat of his heart finally beginning to stir. “A taste for a taste.” Now he looked at the human, licking his lips, chasing the fleeting taste he’d had, and colour rose in the man’s cheeks. Jack chuckled, inordinately pleased at the reaction. How long had it been since he’d been able to play like this? Because this wasn’t a fight, it was a game, just like the ones his maker had played with him once upon a time and his mood immediately soured, the chuckle becoming a long growl. “But now,” he moved, lunging forward, faster than ever with the blood in his system. “Now, I think I’ll make you earn it.”
He heard the sharp retort of the gun, the flash of gunfire too bright in the dark space, and only a quick shift to the side stopped it from hitting home. A good shot. “But not good enough,” he growled, slamming into the human, feeling bones snap beneath him as they tumbled to the ground, the human shouting in pain as they rolled across the hard slabs. Ribs, he identified, catching he shift in the man’s breathing, but the Hunter wasn’t done yet and this time he was the one to howl, skin sizzling and burning, as a silver blade was forced deep into his side. It burned, the pain burrowing deeper and he welcomed the sensation, cutting off the noise he was making and grinning wildly as they came to a halt, the human sprawled beneath him, hand still wrapped around the hilt of the dagger buried deep inside him. “So, you do have a bite,” he taunted, snapping his teeth close to the man’s nose, before pulling himself back, taking the dagger with him.
He staggered slightly, the silver still eating away at him, but then he straightened as he reached for the blade, eyes locked with the Hunter. His hand sizzled, skin bubbling as he touched the hilt, but he pulled it free and held it up, studying it for a moment. It was an old weapon, an heirloom possibly, built to kill his kind if it struck the right place. And yet the man had gone for his side inside. Jack hummed under his breath, delighted to realise that they were both playing the game now, and he tossed it back to the Hunter, before letting him see the way his hand was already healing. His side would take a little longer, but already he could feel the pain fading, the burn easing. “However, it will take more than toys like that to bring me down.”
Fire and ice exploded in his shoulder, and Jack found himself staggering back, one hand on the wound, even as he stared at the smoking gun now aimed at him. Tricky bastard, he thought, unable to remember the last time a human had managed to move without his notice, before he stiffened, grunting in pain as he glanced at his shoulder. The wound was ringed with dying flesh, the silver scarring him, and he could feel the bullet burrowing deep inside, but there was something else. A chill that shouldn’t have registered in his undead body, a wrongness seeping through the wound and down his arm. Poison? No. Holy water. It was spreading, purifying his tainted flesh, a sickening fire taking root deep within his body, and he tilted his head back and laughed. It started as a brittle chuckle, an rose to a cackle and then a howl of laughter, even as he rocked from side to side, feeling his body desperately trying to repair itself. “Naughty…” He breathed, eventually getting himself under control enough to smirk and waggle a finger at the Hunter who had pushed himself back to his feet, and was staring wide-eyed at him, a hint of fear finally showing in his expression.
Jack disintegrated, laughing again as the bullet clattered to the ground. The sound echoed now, filling the room, bouncing off the stone walls, and the Hunter stumbled back, breathing heavily now. Jack let him, fading away into the shadows, becoming less than mist this time, until he was little more than a ripple in the air.
He couldn’t see the Hunter in this form, but he could feel him. The man’s lifeforce pulsating, and it was like the deep throbbing that came when you closed his eyes, and it felt to Jack that he could still see him, a vague, human-like shape mapped out in rivers of red. It would have been so easy to take him like this. To reach out and take that heart now beating faster than ever for his own. To slice through flesh and sinew, before the man could blink. To drain him dry, and silence the song that called to him even now. He hungered for it, but it would be too easy, and it had been so very long since he’d had fun like this. You have a strange idea of fun, my love, the voice echoed, a memory that couldn’t be silenced and Jack snarled at the memento of his past, the sound betraying his position.
Bullets rent the air where he was, and if he’d had physical form it would’ve hurt, and he almost mourned the fact that he’d missed out on that sensation. Almost. Because, the Hunter’s heart was racing now, and Jack could practically smell the defeat coming from him, the realisation of his failure, and Jack forgot the ghost of his past as he darted from shadow to shadow, moving closer. Here and there, he would reform part himself, trailing claws across the wall, letting material rasp against stone, revelling in the rising heartbeat, the ragged breathing as the Hunter fumbled with reloading.
“I like you,” Jack declared, materialising behind him, and immediately having to dart to the side as the Hunter turned and swung, trying to hit him with the butt of the gun. The air between them crackled with arcane energy, and Jack swayed closer, letting brush against his skin, even as he reached up and caught the next swing. “You’re better than that,” he admonished, fingers tightening until bone popped in his grip, the gun tumbling to the ground as the man groaned. It was a delicious sound, pained but not defeated, and Jack couldn’t resist squeezing just a little bit more, watching with fascination as some of the colour drained from the human’s face. But, not so distracted that he missed the next movement, twisting to the side, as the dagger, still covered with his blood slashed towards him.
He giggled, absolutely delighted when the Hunter swung for him again, still fighting him, still playing the game, and releasing the wrist from the punishing grip he reached out, catching the blade in the palm of his hand. The skin immediately burning and bubbling, but this time he didn’t flinch. “More,” he demanded instead, reaching up and slowly pushing the blade out, letting the Hunter retreat a few steps as he lifted the hand and licked at the wound. His tongue sizzling from the silver residue, savouring the pain, eyes alight with the simple joy of it. This was why, he thought. This was why he loved Hunters and their toys, the only thing in the world that could still hurt him, and he loved the dawning horror and terror, the realisation that the stories that had probably lead the Hunter to him had barely scratched the surface of his story. “More. Show me more…”
The Hunter was moving away from, his earlier composure blown to hell and Jack sighed, realising that he was slinking towards the steps that had brought him here. That wouldn’t do, not when it was just getting fun. And he stepped through the shadows, hearing the human break into a run and laughing, pity and delight flooding him, as he materialised in the entrance just as the Hunter reached it. Tutting Jack lashed out, letting a little more of his strength out to play this time, and sending the man flying across the room, where he landed in a groaning pile of tangled limbs. Jack’s nose twitched, catching the blood in the air, and a manic grin spread across his lips as he watched the Hunter dazedly pushing himself upright, blood trickling from a gash on his forehead. “Now, now, you can’t be leaving when we’ve only just got started,” Jack told him, before turning and lashing out at the stone walls that framed the entrance. This place had stood for centuries now, but it had never had to withstand his fury, and the rock crumbled under his efforts.
“NO!” There was a flurry of movement behind him, unsteady footsteps rushing forward and this time Jack didn’t even spare him a glance, still tearing at the rock and piling it up in the entrance, even as he lashed out with a strong kick. The Hunter went down hard, but not before burying the knife deep in Jack’s fire, drawing a startled cry from him. Still, he ignored the sizzling burn, as he put the finishing touches to the barricade, before turning around to face the Hunter who was staring at the piled rocks with a such a beautiful, despairing expression that Jack wanted to reach out and touch it. Instead, he reached down and removed the knife, tossing it into the far corner, before stepping forward, arms spread wide in invitation as he bared his fangs in a wide grin, almost giddy as he declared.
“Now, we have all the time in the world…”