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Sam always would have trouble sleeping. Memories were always locked away like that and they came out in dreams.
The nightmares, however, were worse when they contained that familiar face.
When he’d been human, he used to wake up in a cold sweat, but that didn’t happen when he was a vampire. Instead he was left to wake up to screaming. Hands shaking and teeth chattering and sometimes even biting his own lip.
He’d taken up residence in the tunnel below Myrnin’s lab. Myrnin allowed this mostly because Sam’s constant ranting near the machine that ran Morganville meant that not only had Frank been forced to deal with him instead of Myrnin, but Sam had also become far more comfortable intruding on the space down there than the cramped upper areas of the lab.
A ruffle of pillows and blankets was spread out around him. He didn’t need the blanket to keep warm, but they were a buffer between himself and the hard floor. They also sound-proofed the small area he’d claimed in the corner, even if only a little. There was no way to tell what time it was or how long he’d been sleeping. He was perpetually tired, so it seemed to make no difference.
He’d have to go upstairs if he wanted to eat.
And he had started eating. Sometimes the habit of living was so hard to break. And maybe, just maybe, there were a couple of things he wanted to keep around for. This place was dark, cold, and quiet. But he could see in the dark, couldn’t feel cold, and things were almost never quiet outside him anymore. People like Lady Grey, Claire, and Myrnin were … okay. He saw what they were doing and accepted that. He was guilty that he wasn’t fitting into his body as well as they seemed to want him to.
He pressed down his hair, ruffling it around. How long had he been down here? No, not this particular night, but living down here in general. Three weeks? Three weeks out of the five months that he’d apparently been a dependent of Myrnin. It was only going to continue.
During his time here, his birthday had come and gone with no celebration or ceremony. Not even a mention. But that was because Sam hadn’t told anyone about it.
He wasn’t aging anyway. He would always be just a few months away from thirteen but never getting that far. Was he bitter? You bet. But he was bitter about a lot of things.
He’d get over it. Maybe.
He rolled around on the ground, pushing at a couple of pillows and feeling around for the edge of the blanket. His scrambling fingers touched metal instead of concrete he pulled at the necklace until he could lift it up and see the claps so he could attach the familiar charm around his neck. It was the only thing that was ‘his’ anymore. Anything that was his from his old life, unless you counted the old pair of clothes which he’d just moved to a far area of Myrnin’s closet. The clothes he was wearing was either ones that had been bought for him or ones Myrnin had given to him, in which case they always seemed to be too big. They were okay if he wanted to go out, however.
It was harder to consider that they were his, but he was getting there. He rubbed a hand over the material, his senses picking up a lot more in the cloth than he would have otherwise.
He dragged himself into a standing position, shaking out his hair. It was the usual, slightly oily condition that it always was. Once again, he vaguely thought that he should wash it, but was well aware that he’d forget to.
“What time is it?” he said to the empty air. He could have done this upstairs as easily as he could of down here. Frank was just as annoyed to be woken either way.
“Four thirty in the morning good day and good night,” said the male voice, completely ignoring punctuation when he was too busy turning on a couple of the hulking machines lights only to shut them down again. Presumably to try and ‘get more sleep’. There were still the usual lights which showed that Frank was still doing his twenty-four-seven-hour job of keeping Morganville’s borders active.
“Thank you,” said Sam. Sure, the machine was a grouchy annoyance at best, but it wasn’t like he’d protested too much every time Sam had started talking to himself. The offered opinions from him were always useless, but at least they were a bit familiar in their downgrading nature of distaste. It wasn’t something Sam had accepted as being literal.
But he’d always been told to be polite and the habit died hard, even when the person (… he was never quite sure what to consider Frank) wasn’t worthy of the thanks in this case.
The boy started walking out of the room, hands in his pockets. He’d only wandered away from the long-trodden path to and from Myrnin’s trapdoor up to his lab. This path was easy enough to follow thanks to the signs he could pick up, but if that failed, it was the only tunnel with electric lights along the top of the ceiling.
The one time he’d deviated from the path he’d found himself almost completely lost. And there had been noises. Shuffling noises. That belonged to feet, he could tell. Even more as a vampire, he could tell. It was like a horror movie and it had taken him darting around before he’d run across this path again. He hadn’t moved from that set passageway since. Even though he glanced at the gapping, dark entryways off this main passageway. He still sometimes heard the shuffling, but it never came this far. He had to always remind himself that he was the most dangerous thing down here. That any protections Myrnin had put down or built himself around here were often for humans. Apparently, Morganville wasn’t very safe for or from humans, which seemed a bit odd to Sam, but then, sometimes not so much. Sometimes, when he was remembering everything correctly, feeling okay that was, he could remember what it felt like to be pushed down. Oh, he could be pushed, but when you were pushed, you so wanted to push back. To fight. That was what it felt like for the humans of Morganville. Sometimes rightly so.
The trap door was above him now, a ladder would usually descend from it, but it was one of those rope ladders that could be pulled in and out. It still looked like a jump that was way out of reach for Sam, but he breathed out, clenching and unclenching his hands before leaping upward. His legs kicked outward at the air, eyes already analyzing how he’d grip and push. One hand gripped an almost impossible hold between the crack of the ceiling and the door while the other pushed the door upward. His arm held his weight as he gained another grip, still quietly surprised that he could do this without feeling any strain on his muscles. His knuckles whitened and he stuck his head up through the opening, scrambling out using just his hands to drag him upwards. The lab was quiet, as usual, of course, but what else was new? He knew by now that Claire didn’t come till the evenings since she had a daughter to take care of and Myrnin usually lived alone. Since Lady Grey was off traveling and avoiding the Founder. Things like that. Sam was used to this quiet, when Myrnin was off who knew were and he had the semblance of having the place to himself. It was a bit of a change of pace since sharing a house with his older brother.
From the closet that the trap door was located in he wandered through the main part of the lab till he reached the partitioning wall that had been put in place to divide the main lab from the kitchen. He wondered, every now and again, how a kitchen had slowly arisen in a home of something that didn’t consume human food.
Food was basically what he was getting, one that would be of use to him, and when he’d finished with that it was back to the quiet of the room. Sometimes he would look over the tables and counters or try and help fight the losing battle that Claire raged against Myrnin’s encroaching mess. But today, after the reception of the worst of his bad dreams, it all seemed useless and like grey filament was around him. Nothing worth the time or effort it took to make this place livable or his life interesting.
So, instead he moved to one of the chairs, waiting for Myrnin to either wake up or for him to make his presence known. His head leaned back and he looked up at the ceiling, a breath of air fluffing out of his mouth as he gave into the habit of breathing. His heartbeat wasn’t something he’d figured out how to regulate and when asking Myrnin the older vampire had just said that he’d learn when he got older or wouldn’t at all. Like there was no sort of advice that he could give that would allow Sam to emulate what it felt like to be human.
So instead he was caught between breathing and acting human and the dead thing within his chest that wouldn’t move or speak to him anymore. A stillness in his body that had slowly and fearfully started to push aside what he remembered from being human. It was scary. A very scary feeling to understand that he wasn’t who he used to be. It was ridiculous to think that the ‘changes’ you got once you became a teenager were never really going to reach him. No acne, cause apparently that was bad, but he’d never payed attention to that. But he’d never see fifteen, twenty or thirty. Never be old either, but as things were now, he didn’t see anything too bad with the thought of old age. Dying, however, still scared him.
Two voices echoed in his brain then. “He made his choice when he became a vampire. That’s what we all have in common. Every single one of us.” Myrnin, back then. And then there was the other voice.
His head tilted to the side, nestling deeper into the cushioning of the chair. The other voice.
“Do you want to die? Do you want to die?” Sam’s shoulders hunched, eyes screwing shut. Dying was what every vampire had in common. He knew that. Every single one of them feared death. Maybe for various reasons, but they wanted to hang onto living with everything possible. He was no different. There was no way to shake that.
The voice hadn’t been threatening. It had been offering. Sam couldn’t remember how he’d answered or how he’d heard. Not right now. It was something that he avoided thinking about in all but the moment of sleep and just after he’d woken, since that was when it got past all his defenses and he couldn’t not think about it.
Because his eyes had closed and he’d been sitting and weakened and he hadn’t had hunger to wake him. So, everything pulled at him, echoing in his head and bring back the strong memories of what he had become.
Very clear, detailed dreams were the normal thing for vampires, but to be drawn into a similar one that he had just exited mere hours before was a hand that the universe had unfairly dealt him.
However, it was different from the time had he’d slept in the Glass House or the time that Myrnin had invaded his dream. Because this time he could see the owner of the hand’s face. He looked up the several heads to a carefully put together face. Pretty tanned skin, brown hair pulled back into a bun, eyes with the usual hardness under there, like the person he was looking at was used to cutting people off when she needed to speak. She.
He looked away, still feeling the fabric of the sleeve under his hand. This was a dream, in all its warped-ness. But in contrast, though he couldn’t always remember that it was a dream as he walked down the sidewalk he could still influence it in some way.
They weren’t walking down the street in his home town anymore. They weren’t walking toward a distinctly parked car or to a fixed point in his life that he knew he’d never be able to change, no matter how often he re-walked these steps. Instead, the washed-out sky turned from night to day, the pressure along his arm shifted from that of a t-shirt and jeans to a hoodie and sweatpants, baggy and covering all exposed skin. He was good at interpreting the reactions of the woman beside him, so he didn’t even need to have her ‘there’ to know what would happen.
She stopped walking, her grip on his wrist tightening and her lips pursing together. He didn’t need to look at her to know that. And all of this? He could have looked up, could have turned his face to the sun, but it was a life-less glowing ball in the sky that wouldn’t hurt either of them.
The street was that of Morganville’s and if they continued along it then it would just lead to Myrnin’s lab. Or if the dream woman beside him turned around, dragged him along, then the street would loop back to the arcade that Claire had shown him.
“Let go of my arm,” he said quietly, speaking to the ground but his words very clear nonetheless.
The woman seemed to be frozen, but she completed no such request. Sam strained at his muscles, wishing he could have been able to manipulate things in the real world as easily as he could flip between what he still wished he was and what he had become. His arm, which started out feeling pained at the amount of pressure he was putting into the fingers slowly drifted into the completely still feeling that now, in the real world, resided in it. “Let go,” he repeated, pulling his hand from her grip and beginning to walk toward Myrnin’s lab.
He caught drifting words as he moved. He couldn’t really tell what the woman would do under normal, real world situations, but he still heard the words. “Do you want to die?”
The same words. The request. Not to kill him, but to ‘save’ him. From what she had started.
He stopped, breathing a bit out. The hoodie faded, replaced by the t-shirt and jeans. For a second, he could feel the fabric of the woman’s clothing under his fingers again. But this time he continued walking, saying, “No. But I live under my own terms.” And the streets remained those of Morganville.
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