Gabriel stared up at the ceiling of his bedroom. He had kicked his duvet to the foot of the bed but he just lay there, his fingers drumming against his biceps. Becca had fired him. He now had nowhere to go. Lillian was either always over at Ben’s or the couple were hidden away in her room. And Ezra was on a mission – with all the stuff in the news, he now had a reason to be the Big Shot. So, he was busy out and about doing God knows what to try and help them out of this shitshow. Which left Gabriel on his own, struggling to find ways to spend his nights.
With a sigh, he sat at the edge of his bed and looked about his bedroom. He had never decorated. The walls were still painted a calming, stone grey and the only furniture he possessed was his bed, a wardrobe and a desk for his TV to stand on. Lillian had made a remark that the sparseness was so that he could up and leave them whenever he wanted. It had been a joke, but it had stung. The three of them had a complicated relationship. It had been him and Ezra for so long, and then Ezra had Turned Lillian and suddenly there were three.
He had nothing against Lillian. In fact, he thought her to be quite charming. He had been there in the first few months of her being born anew – which was when most trouble occurred – and she had fallen into the role of a progeny seamlessly. Ezra had watched over her like a proud father, teaching her how to manage her hunger, to compel when absolutely necessary, and how to heal. They had been a well-oiled machine back then, and still were. And this made Gabriel feel like a third wheel. Like he had been a mangy stray dog Ezra had found and nursed back to health, only to get bored of and buy a pedigree.
He knew those feelings of abandonment he quashed nightly weren’t just Ezra’s doing, but it was easier to be pissed off at him than the faceless vampire who had made him.
Gabriel shrugged on a pair of jeans and a navy long-sleeved t-shirt before heading downstairs. Ezra was in the kitchen sat at the table bent over a newspaper. Four more were stacked by his side. His lithe frame was dwarfed by an oversized red hoodie. He had one ankle up on his knee, his gym shorts exposing his toned legs. For a guy with such dark hair, his leg hair was surprisingly sparse. It was something Gabriel usually poked fun at. But by the scrunched up look on Ezra’s face, this was not the time to bring it up.
Gabriel eyed him as he took out a bottle from the fridge and poured some blood into a pan on the hob. The other vampire was so engrossed by what he was reading, he didn’t seem to notice his new company.
“So, we moving or what?” Gabriel asked casually, flicking on the hob.
Ezra’s eyes lifted to him and his thick, dark eyebrows furrowed. “What?”
Gabriel nodded to the paper. “With what’s going on… it’s getting worse, right? I’ve been seeing more and more videos up and… well… I’ve lost Becca and Julian…”
Ezra was watching him curiously, a crease of anger deepening between his brows. He leaned back on his chair.
Gabriel itched under the scrutiny of his gaze but he’d already started. He shrugged, trying to look casual. “I dunno, I guess my job was the only thing keeping me here.”
At this, the muscles in Ezra’s cheek rolled as he clenched his jaw. “You wanna leave?” His tone was sharp and accusing – challenging.
Here they were again, conversing the only way they knew how.
“Do you want me to leave?” Gabriel snapped back, standing to his full height.
They stared at each other for a long, drawn out moment. Both of them daring the other to look away first. This type of standoff, if not interrupted by Lillian, would usually result in an argument, and Gabriel’s dead blood was humming with anticipation. But instead, Ezra just shook his head, the tight lines of anger in his face shifting into concern.
“What’s gotten into you?”
Gabriel’s heart plummeted and he quickly turned to stir the blood in the pan. “Nothing,” he mumbled, clenching his eyes shut and cringing at how pathetic it came out. “It’s just… I have a lot of time on my hands now. I’ve been thinking a lot. I just-I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing with all this. I don’t know how to make myself useful.” He gazed out the window, at their small, decked garden. Lillian had wrapped fairy lights around the trellises and now they danced and winked at him.
Ezra sighed heavily. “You and me both.”
Gabriel switched off the hob, poured the steaming blood into a mug and turned back to his company. Ezra’s posture had wilted, he suddenly looked so pale and drawn out. His thick dark hair was mussed from a lack of brushing.
“How was poker?” Gabriel asked, lifting his mug to his lips and blowing.
“Not much poker was played.” He tried to slam the paper closed but it floated smoothly and silently back together so he slammed his palm over it for effect. “Silas is shit scared which is not a good sign.” He let out an angered puff of air through his nostrils. “He hides it well but I felt it. He then caught me snooping and was not happy.”
Gabriel bit down on his tongue and took a sip of his blood. Ooh Silas this, Silas that, he mimicked in his head. Oh, I’m so close to my Maker and I know what he’s thinking. He frowned, inwardly chastising himself for the ball of jealous rage swelling deep inside him. He hated it. Hated that it made him think so ill of Ezra. He knew the other vampire didn’t mean it. Of course, he was going to Silas for help, it was the right thing to do. The old vampire was great to have on their side. He had made Ezra into an incredible vampire – although he would never openly admit to thinking that. But every time Ezra mentioned his Maker, it only reminded Gabriel that he’s never had one. At least, not in a way that counted.
He took a seat opposite Ezra, trying to focus on the hot blood easing his hunger and not his misdirected bitterness.
Ezra grabbed one of the papers from the pile and slid it in front of him.
“Don’t know what to do with yourself? You can help me. See what’s in there about us.”
He’d been given the Hicklesbury Local and his lips quirked into a smile at the picture of the graffiti that covered the side of the Off License. Gary, the owner, sported a thick moustache and wore trousers that were slightly too short. This meant, to the bored youths of the village, that he was, without question, a paedophile. That was the premise of the vandalism.
“Well, it appears we’re not interesting enough for the front page,” he commented.
“Maybe not in this place but-” Ezra lifted his copy of News of the World, “everywhere else, we are.”
Gabriel’s smile fell away. Staring back at him was a blurry security camera still of a male vampire, blacked eyed and fanged, chomping on the neck of a young woman in some sort of alleyway.
“I don’t understand how this is happening. We’ve been around for centuries and just now they’re finding this kind of footage?”
Ezra lowered the paper and rubbed his eye with a tired groan. “Apparently our kind have friends in high places. Friends that usually make stuff like this go away. But now the press is giving people awards for speaking up and giving them evidence. I guess money talks.”
Gabriel flicked through the rest of his paper and found nothing vampire related until an article about how the local jewellers are bumping up the prices of their silver wares now that they were suddenly in high demand. He sipped at his mug, feeling the pressure of his fangs against his gums as he inhaled the hot aroma. For a moment, the sensation sickened him. The three of them weren’t monsters. But he couldn’t help feeling that at some point, and very soon, they really were going to be run out of this town by an angry mob with torches and pitch forks.
“I’d better head to work,” said Ezra, dropping his face into his hands.
Gabriel studied him. “You sure? You don’t look so good.”
He ran his hands down his face and sent Gabriel a dry, heavy-lidded smile. “What? Am I lacking my usual chipper glow?” He dragged himself to his feet. “Ah well, girls love a brooding barman.”
“Seriously, though. This-” Gabriel gestured to the mess of papers, “it’s getting to you, isn’t it?”
“It’s getting to everyone, Gabriel. But we’ve still gotta go through the motions. And saying that-” He twirled, sending the toggles of his hoodie whipping violently around his neck, and grabbed the back of Gabriel’s chair. “You better get yourself a new old man friend. Or old woman friend, to entertain your nights.” He pulled a face. “That came wrong. I mean, find another Julian. Preferably one you like and so will not eat. And also, one without a granddaughter that will turn you into a lovesick puppy.”
Gabriel sent him a sarcastic smile and drained his mug.
“We’ll get to the other side of this.” Ezra grabbed his shoulder and squeezed, an action that was equal parts comforting and belittling. “And hey, maybe the world will be a better place then.”
The two vampires turned to see Lillian sliding gracefully into the room in all her pink fluffiness. Ezra leaned overdramatically, one foot in the air, to check the empty doorway.
“No Ben tonight?” he asked, righting himself.
Lillian sighed. “We’re not joined at the hip, you know?”
“Could have fooled me.”
Lillian opened the fridge and grabbed the bottle Gabriel had already half-emptied. “He’s tired. Needed to get a good night’s sleep.”
“Makes sense. Good to know he has a breaking point.”
Lillian grinned. “I can’t help that I’m such good company.”
Ezra headed out the room, dropping a quick peck on Lillian’s temple as he did, “Can’t argue with that.”
Lillian poured herself a glass of blood, hers cold. She’d only been a vampire for twenty years so she hadn’t learned to despise cold blood yet. So far, she was a pure vampire. She’d drank from the vein only enough for Ezra to teach her how to drink in moderation but she had never ended a human’s life before. She had followed graciously in Ezra’s footsteps. That was not the case for himself. Gabriel had had to learn how to be a vampire on his own. He had been attacked and drained in his home city, Thessaloniki, back in 1910. The vampire must have used his blood to heal him part way because after Gabriel had died from blood loss, hunched up and alone in an alley with his trachea torn open, he had awoken, dazed and confused and covered in his own blood but with no wound in sight. He’d almost died – again- that morning when the sun had risen and had burned him to his bones on his own doorstep as he had tried to enter his home which he no longer had access to. He needed an invitation to enter his communal property.
From then on, Gabriel had had to create a new life for himself, learn about his new abilities and control his hunger; all without a guide. This meant, for the first few years of his new life, there had been a trail of mangled bodies left in his wake. He’d cleaned up his act once he learned to control himself, and had found the guise of care-nurse a good way to score an easy meal. Ezra’s disapproval irked him. Compared to the vampire he used to be; Gabriel was a saint. But the fact that he was even still standing meant that Ezra hadn’t disclosed his killings to his holier-than-thou Maker so he really couldn’t think Gabriel was that terrible.
For Ezra, his killings were all other vampires. Ezra had been Turned in a similar way. Attacked randomly in the night by a hungry vampire, but he was then kept and reared.
Silas was a ruthless Maker. To engrain the importance of being a ‘good’ vampire, the ancient had forced Ezra to kill his own vampire brothers and sisters when they stepped out of line – killing a ‘breather’ being the ultimate offence. Ezra had shared a story once, when they were both high off drugged blood, of him having to kill a dear friend, a vampire Silas had Turned mere months after himself. They had grown up together, so to speak, but she hadn’t been able to control her urges. Once she started feeding, she couldn’t stop. Not until Ezra had shoved a stake through her heart.
“Do we really need all of these?” groaned Lillian, shoving all the newspapers into a messy pile before taking Ezra’s vacated chair. “I’m gonna tell Ben to stop being his lapdog and going to the shop every morning to grab papers for him.”
“He’s just worried,” said Gabriel, leaning back. His eyes flickered to the clock on the wall. He should be starting his shift with Julian in ten minutes. A sudden stab of pain hit him when he wondered if the old man thought he’d abandoned him. He liked to think they found a good replacement care nurse. Julian deserved that.
Lillian’s eyes widened. “Yeah, don’t I know it. But we can’t do anything, right? It’s out of his control.”
Gabriel sucked a breath in through his teeth. “Don’t let him catch you saying that. He’ll think you’re losing faith.”
She smirked over her mug. “He’s not God.”
He tutted, shaking his head. “Blasphemy.”
She rolled her eyes and looked to the newspaper with the picture of the vampire in the alley. She gulped heavily and her jaw tightened slightly. He reached across the table and held her hand. Her eyes closed at the touch and she squeezed her fingers around his, a wordless plea that set his heart to ice.