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almost but not quite alive by Carla

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Author's Chapter Notes:
This takes place during The Protector Series, somewhere early in "Darkness Falls" and does fit into the continuity more or less.

Written for for Christmas 2005. Thank you for adopting me into your family and making me your sister.
"There is something in your eyes flowing them over, stealing all the harmony which lives in me. Your hands are covering my tears. Oh, why? There's a sort of inner dance trying to seduce me feeling this anomaly which takes me." "Aeon" Lacuna Coil

Sometimes she feels like she’ll fall.

Sprite spreads her arms out wide, shoulder high. She’s wearing a leather jacket—stolen from Marko under the pretense that she gets cold and he does not, but mostly she wants to smell him, to feel him all around her—and the wind hits her so hard it threatens to rip off the arms.

The motorcycle is pretty small, and she’s sitting right up against Marko’s back, cradling his thighs with her own, and she can feel his shoulders shake as he laughs at her. She twists her fingers, draws designs in the fast-moving air, and yowls her freedom.

If she falls, she thinks she might just fly away, lifted to safety before she hits the ground.

Marko twists his hips, dips the bike to one side and the other. Sprite’s triumph turns into a scream, but she doesn’t really fear he’ll hurt her. Instead she drops her hands to his chest, her arms around his throat and shimmies with the bike, making it rock. Her hips roll against Marko’s ass, her breasts flatten against his back, and she can hear him groan.

He steadies the bike after that, doesn’t try to tease her again, and she flashes a wicked-sharp smile at the passing trees.

They’ve run away for the night. Marko is under orders to bring Sprite in for another family dinner, this time not with just Anna and Dwayne but with his entire vampire family, and though she played it off casual when he mentioned it, she is far more nervous than she lets on.

He is, too, or at least she thinks he is, because he won’t set a date, and he takes her farther afield each time they get together. Tonight he claims they’ll climb right into the sky, and as fast as he’s driving, and as steep as the road is up the mountain, she thinks maybe he’s serious.

Sprite leans back, spreads her arms again, and closes her eyes. She’d rather not see them take off, but she’s not scared to fly; if anything, she wants wings of her own, invisible or not, and wishes she would have been Infected by something less cat and more bird, though it was nearly impossible to suffer enough damage from one of the avian shapeshifters.

Marko drops one hand to her thigh for a long moment; she can feel the pressure without the warmth, and it is still strange that he feels nearly as cold as the air outside during winter, as the ocean in the dark on the longest night of the year.

“Where are we going?” Sprite yells to him over the wind and the roar of the engine. She knows she needn’t raise her voice; she could just lean closer and whisper in his ear, but that makes her want to take it between her teeth, and she knows the first time she bites it’s all over.

Anna came to her one night, when the rest of the vampires were off somewhere—Marko, when he arrived later, said Dwayne had claimed to need to talk to him, and then spent two hours saying twenty words—and laid out the rules. She’d been uncomfortable, and Sprite wasn’t sure if it was because of the topic or the company; she’d shifted her weight from foot to foot and had looked at her hands a lot, and the sky, as if either could give her the words she needed.

Sprite hadn’t made it easy on her, either, and at last Anna threw up her hands and walked away, Adam following at her heels like a trained puppy. They left Victoria to roll her eyes, crack a joke at their inability to communicate, and explain to Sprite teeth were special, biting sacred, and if she didn’t want to end up with an out-of-control vampire on her hands, she’d better play the game right.

She didn’t say how she knew so much, and Sprite didn’t ask, but when Anna and Adam came back for Victoria, she watched the three of them walk away, Adam’s arms across each of their shoulders, and wondered just how close they had really become. She didn’t tell Marko about their visit, and didn’t ask him what he knew, but she thought then the rules of relationships she understood weren’t anything like the rules of the supernatural community, the ones Anna and Victoria had told her, and the ones left unspoken.

Sprite shakes her head and opens her eyes. She doesn’t want to remember, doesn’t want to think about everyone else hovering at the edge of them, at the fringe of Marko-and-Sprite because they’re not quite a couple, but they more are than aren’t.

“Where are we going?” She lowers her voice the second time she asks, because Marko could hear her even if she whispered.

“You’ll see.” He laughs, twists his hand and guns the engine, and pulls the bike up onto the back tire; she knows what he wants and gives it to him, wraps her arms around him again and squeals, her breath blowing across his cheek.

He takes her into the night and into the sky, up the mountain until they clear the tree line and can look down at the city far below, its lights spread out between the base of the mountain and the sea, dampened by the fog and the distance.

Marko parks the motorcycle, and takes Sprite’s hand once he’s off; she doesn’t need the help to dismount, but he smiles just for her, his eyes bright between the angelic curls of his hair, and she clings to his hand and allows him to lead her to an outcropping of flat rocks.

They lay together awhile, her body cradled between his thighs, and Sprite basks in the silence. She can’t even hear him breathe, or his heart beat, because he does neither, and though she always thought it would be creepy, and she never understood how people—women—could obsess about the undead, she knows now it is actually peaceful, and more than a little wonderful.

Still, she is not disappointed when he speaks.

“What was your name?” Marko slides his fingers through her hair, twists the strands into curls which fall as soon as he releases them. She’s not Anna, she’s not surrounded by a cloud of golden glory, but he smiles at her, and she feels beautiful.

He’s asked her this before, and each time she tells him she has no other no name beyond the one he gave her, the one which is heavy with magic and the possibility of a new life. But the moon is just past full overhead and her blood is thick and sluggish in her veins and he holds her tight.

“Rachel.” Sprite tilts her head back and stares up at the night sky. It was foggy near the ocean, gray tendrils of condensation blocking out the view from the city streets, but here high above the town and the people, so high they’ve even broken out of the pine tree forest, she can see the stars, thick and jostling each other for control of the darkness which circles the entire world. “My name was Rachel, a good biblical name. My father was Michael.”

If he asked her a single question, she would have stood and ruined the moment, but Marko just stroked some of her hair out of her face, away from her cheeks, and watched her watch the sky.

“He thought Hunting,” even now Sprite can’t remove the capital letter or the importance, “was a calling, a spiritual path. He would pray before each Hunt, would ask for guidance and strength and luck.”

Mostly he asked for luck for her, for his Rachel, because he had come to accept his pending death—he hunted supernatural creatures who were faster and stronger and some nigh-on invincible, death was a part of the deal—but he wanted her to live at least long enough to have children—not grandkids but fresh Hunters to carry on the family name.

“We’re going to hell,” Marko says. He loops both arms around her, pulls her close to his chest. “No amount of rosaries can save us now, no matter how many times we confess. A billion ‘Hail Marys’ can’t save us now.”

“We didn’t do confessions,” Sprite mumbles against his shirt. “My father didn’t like the Church, said it didn’t do enough to stop the hell-spawn. That’d be you and me of course. He was one of the founding members of The Society of Believers, Guns and Ammo division.”

“Seriously?”

“Seriously.” Marko laughs and Sprite sits up enough to glare at him. “What’s so goddamn funny?”

“Nothing.” She can feel her frown deepen, eyebrows crease, lips purse. “Everything.”

“Whatever.” She half turns in his arms, stares over at his bike. It gleams in the moonlight and she considers jumping up and kicking it over. He’d be pissed, but she could strip and flee, and she was pretty sure her four legs could run even faster than he could fly, at least through the trees.

She’d just have to make it to the forest before he caught her. Strange thought, trees as sanctuary.

“I mean it.” Marko puts his hands on either side of her face and turns her to face him again. “I’m not laughing at you, nothing is funny, it’s just—everything. The Church calls us demons and claims to send us back to hell and it’s not enough for your father.” He laughs again, but this time Sprite detects the brittle quality to the sound.

She clamps her arms around his waist and hugs him too tight, but she doesn’t have to hold back her immense strength, not with him, and it’s not like she’s cutting off his air supply. She can cling and squeeze and grip him as hard as she wants, and she’ll never hurt him.

“Were you Catholic then?”

“Yeah.” Marko talks into her hair, and his voice vibrates her scalp. “I was a good little choir boy.”

Sprite can picture it, white robes and those curls lighter than they are now, more golden blond, and she thinks she wants him to serenade her, which is absurd because it would be best at sunset, the sun sinking into the ocean behind him, and not only would he be burnt to a crisp, she doesn’t like such romantic gestures anyway.

“My dad wouldn’t think just sending me to hell would be enough either,” Marko continued, his words unexpected. “If he still lived, I mean.” There’s a sadness in his voice, and his words are soft, leaving him defenseless. Sprite feels tears prick her eyes and she tilts her head back so she can look up at him, this beautiful cherubic demon man.

Marko’s eyes are dark, his grin lopsided, and the more Sprite stares, the more she thinks she can his past in a long line of bloody bodies, and maybe his future in the same. Marko reaches up, brushes his fingers across her cheeks, and she realizes she’s actually crying, though she thought she was under control.

“Don’t cry for me,” he admonishes her, “and don’t you dare cry for him. He was not a good man.” But Sprite knows it doesn’t matter, good or not, because she still misses her father, misses him like breathing, like the flow of blood through her veins, like the way she craves raw meat for days on either side of the full moon, and he was not a particularly good man, but he was her father.

Marko watches her watch him, runs his hands down her arms, and Sprite leans in closer and kisses him. His mouth his soft and chilled, and she traces his lips with her tongue, and then flicks it inside to tease his teeth, which remain dull and unable to pierce her and drawn blood.

When she pulls back, there’s a wildness to his eyes, and she can feel a fire build deep inside in response. It’s something like the way she feels when she has to get naked, is desperate to feel the air on her skin, and then fur spreads and covers and she springs faster than she’d ever dreamed possible.

Marko kisses her throat, and she only lets him because his fangs are still hidden and his teeth never touch her flesh. He runs his hands up inside her shirt, across the convex curve of her stomach, and he’s so cold she shivers and pulls the jacket tighter, trapping him inside.

She burns enough for the both of them, and her body heats the air and warms him until, when he traces his fingers along her ribs, cups the sides of her breasts, he almost feels like the blood he eats runs through his veins, he almost feels alive.

He brings his head back up, watches her still, and Sprite has lost her balance, lost all sense of her place in the world. She’d found a stillness to life, if not a peace because she’ll never be calm again, not really, not unless there’s a magical cure and she can grip her humanity with both hands and shove it beneath her flesh.

Even if there was, even if she found a miracle or wished on the correct star, she realizes she still wouldn’t be happy, not unless she loses her mind and her memory and doesn’t know somewhere in the world Marko exists, because even human and back with her father, her family, she’ll dream of him, dark, twisted fantasies.

Marko kisses her again, steals her thoughts and her sanity, and deep inside Rachel lies dormant, her grave covered by white roses, marked by a crumbling stone angel. She will not rise again, not even in Sprite’s dreams.
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