There is nothing more that he hates than the smell of blood.
The air around him is thick with rotting copper, and it makes him gag as his knees creak, straightening. He stares around at the mess, frowning. He tries to recall last night’s events, but comes up blank—all he can remember is hot, wild rage.
Lucien toes at one of the bodies, his frown deepening as his nose wrinkles up, creasing his brow. His partner is going to murder him.
Lucien starts stripping the moment he enters his flat, tossing layers of clothes onto the ground as he makes his way through his kitchen, creeps along the edge of his handsome living room so as not to stain anything, and storms down the hall toward his bathroom. By the time he’s stepped onto the cold tile, he’s left a trail of leather and black behind him.
The only thing that remains is his phone, held precariously between his fingers. He grumbles something incoherent, reluctant to make the call, before finally hitting the phone icon next to Sam’s name and then jabbing his thumb against the speaker button. He’s got the shower on and running hot before she answers, “I’ve been trying to reach you for six hours. There was another—”
“Homicide, I know,” Lucien finishes for her.
There’s a long, angry silence on the other line that lets Lucien know she’d been referring to a different crime. “What the fuck did you do?” Sam finally snaps, and then the line goes dead.
Lucien figures he has about twenty minutes before she’s busting his door down, so he sets about cleaning the blood from his arms, scrubbing at his face and chest, as well. The water runs red, and he holds his breath as it drains away from him.
When he hears Sam’s key in the lock, he’s just stepping into a pair of loose fitting black pants that hang around his hips. “Were you at least productive?” she calls as she comes barreling into the flat.
Lucien hears the telltale sign of her tossing her piece onto the counter before he dares step into her line of sight, and he can’t help but sigh when he sees her. “Who was it?” he asks.
Sam rolls her eyes, shakes her head once before she focuses back on him. “Rough night?” she asks, gesturing to his chest.
Lucien looks down, his frown returning as he notices long, raised red marks down his front. “I don’t remember much,” he admits, tracing them absentmindedly. When he looks back up at Sam, she doesn’t respond, merely stares, hard, at the wall, arms crossed tightly over her chest. She’s been working late, and Lucien loathes that he’s added to her pile. He was supposed to be with her tonight, working the case with her, listening to their new damning call about a new damning homicide. Her dark, curly hair is in a large ponytail, and he knows it’s up because he wasn’t there to take some of the work off of her.
“I’m sorry,” he says finally, and though it takes a moment, Sam shrugs one shoulder.
“I’m over it,” she says before heading for his liquor cabinet.
She forgives him too fast, and it aggravates Lucien. It takes them weeks to explain away the bodies, and their current case is put on the backburner as their perp decides to take a small vacation. They work late and early, and every night when they finally leave, Sam is yawning and Lucien is hungry, and it nearly drives him back to homicide.
Finally, though, they catch a small break, an old piece of information that slides into the puzzle, makes it a little more whole, and they decide to take a night off, heading for their favorite bar near the station. Sam always looks a little out of place when they come here, with her brunette curls and brown eyes, her slim shoulders and soft face, and Lucien always tries to look a little more normal to help the wandering eyes that watch her. Coming from the station, he’s already dressed to look normal, in black trousers and a crimson button-up that Sam always comments on.
When he shrugs off his leather jacket now, she snorts and says, “Bit obvious, isn’t it?” before tapping the dark wood dotted with sparkles and smiling as the bartender takes notice. He’s got wildly colored hair, neon green and spiked up in all directions, dazzling orange eyes to contrast, and a wicked smirk.
“Lucien,” he says smoothly, “Hello again. Usual?”
“Yes, thank you,” Lucien says, settling into a stool. He tosses a glare over his shoulder as someone bristles behind him, and follows it with a quick remark, “Take your prejudices elsewhere.”
The dark, hairy man does, and so Lucien’s left bantering easily with Sam without having to watch his back. She gets whiskey, and then asks for something stronger. They talk about the case briefly before Lucien scrubs a hand through his dark hair and says, “Enough. We’re out to relax tonight. Dance?”
He’s already getting off his stool, and Sam protests loudly, knowing it will only curl attention her way, so Lucien grabs her hand and drags her off into the throng of bodies. They dance, and they’ve been here enough times in the last few years that some of the patrons have begun to accept her place here. The few nasty looks she does receive, though, are from a group of girls with fingers waiting to ignite. Sam just makes one of the obscene gestures Lucien’s taught her, and he cackles quietly into her shoulder.
Eventually, Sam is yawning, and Lucien knows they’re going to regret drinking so much in the morning, so he calls them a cab and pulls Sam out into the night. They’re leaning against the cool brick of the bar, waiting, when she turns her head and looks at him under the harsh streetlight. They’re nearly the same height, and so her head doesn’t tilt much. “How are you?” she asks, her gaze imploring.
“Fine,” Lucien says, flashing her a smile, “Been on the edge a few times, but I’m good.”
“No more bodies in your future?” she asks, and Lucien barks a laugh.
“Not likely, no.”
The cab pulls up, and Sam’s asleep halfway to her flat, so Lucien lets the driver know he’s fine and carries her up. He tries waking her, but Sam sleeps like the dead, and so it’s really no use.
Her flat has always felt more comfortable than his own, and Lucien smiles as he staggers in, the door snapping back harshly against the wall. He kicks it shut, adjusts his grip on Sam, and then takes her back to her room. When he’s finished, he stands in the living room, wondering if she’ll mind, before he shrugs and crashes on her sofa.
Two bodies drop in the span of one week, leaving Lucien and Sam to work overtime at the station, trying desperately to put together the pieces before they’re pulled off the case entirely. That threat had hung heavy in the air from their boss after the first one showed up, and now they’re working all hours. Lucien convinces Sam to go home some nights; he doesn’t need sleep as badly as she does.
When the second one hits, the FBI is called in, and Sam shows up swearing violently in the morning. “This is horse shit,” she snaps, neatly throwing Lucien his coffee. It’s black and sears his throat on the way down, but not because it’s too hot. “I can’t believe they’re calling in the fucking behavioral analysis unit, seriously. We can handle this. Yes, they’re ritualized murders, but that doesn’t mean we need a fucking shrink to deduce that. Jesus, we—Lucien.”
Lucien looks over at her, exhaustion making his movements a little sluggish. “You look awful,” she says, and Lucien frowns at her. He knows he hasn’t slept in a few too many hours, but he’d still gotten dressed properly and managed to fix his hair before coming in.
Sam sighs and grabs him by the bicep, dragging him out of his desk chair and over to the wall, where a floor length mirror is hung. She steers him in front of it, and he gives her his best deadpan expression. “Sam, seriously?” he says.
“Oh, shove off, and look.”
He does, and it isn’t exhaustion she’s talking about. His skin is sickly looking, paler than normal, and he can see how dark and angry the veins look beneath. There are shadows under his eyes, making his dark eyes appear haunted, and his mouth is nearly white. “When was the last time you ate?” she asks, “You look like a ghost.” Lucien opens his mouth to speak, but Sam beats him to it, “Go home, and get some rest. I won’t have you adding bodies to our pile because you’re not being human.”
Lucien nods slowly, and he tries desperately to follow her wishes, but he still ends up walking past his flat, hunger driving him onward. It’s been an eternity since the last time he felt bones crunch beneath his fingers, and there’s only so long he can go without craving it. His stomach churns in delight when he finds his victim.
Lucien stretches, cat-like, and jerks to a stop when his foot connects with something solid. “Fuck,” he groans, pushing upright.
His phone starts ringing as he starts counting. He answers it the second time round, and he can already hear the fear in Sam’s voice when she asks, “Where are you?”
“I—I messed up, Sam.”
She sighs heavily. There’s silence on the other line as he pushes to his feet and looks down at himself. He’s drenched in dried blood, and he tries to inhale through his mouth, but there’s blood splattered across his face, as well, and he can taste its rotting stench in his mouth. “How many?” she asks finally.
“Four,” he says.
“I’ve never seen you like you were yesterday. I should have known to walk you home.”
“This isn’t your fault,” Lucien says, a little too sharply.
“Isn’t it?” Sam says, and there’s nothing he can do to quell the quick, angry twist of fear deep in his belly. “I’m not going to say anything, asshole,” Sam amends, “You mean more to me than this job does.”
He’s not sure he believes that, and he’s not sure she does, either, so he says, “I’ll take care of it,” and hangs up.
“Took care of it, did you?” Sam says three days later, throwing a paper at Lucien. He expects it to land in front of him, but she’s furious enough that he’s still tasting ink ten minutes later when she’s steadfastly ignoring him, even though their desks face each other.
It’s not until he brings back lunch, something spicy and ridiculously colored, that she finally looks at him, her eyes narrowed to the point of hilarity, and says, “Fine. Explain.”
“I tried,” Lucien says quietly, “Everything worked out. How was I supposed to know there’s some creep ME that likes to look at dead bodies? I used my connection, and she was going to keep everything under the radar, but it appears her partner likes to come in early and look at the previous night’s victims. It’s harmless, usually, but he made a connection between the four and the last two.”
“I knew I should have walked you home. I’m such an idiot. You’re now required to call me until you’ve gotten into your flat from now on, got it?”
Lucien nods resolutely. “I’m sorry, if that helps.”
“We have to—”
“You better be fucking sorry,” the lieutenant says as he comes into their office, “Oh good, you’ve got it.” He lifts the paper from the corner of Lucien’s desk and shakes it open to show it to both of them. “What the fuck?”
“Sir, I don’t know,” Sam says quickly, “We’ve been working on the Pendulum case, and this just—”
“What did you call it?” Lucien interrupts.
“The Pendulum case,” Sam says, looking at him strangely, “That’s what it’s always been called.”
“No,” Lucien and the lieutenant say at the same time.
Sam looks abashed, but says, “Well, the markings look like a pendulum.”
Lucien ignores their lieutenant’s furrowed brow as his chair scrapes across the floor, already halfway to one of their boards. He yanks one of the pictures off and looks at it, closer, wracking his brains for its meaning. He shakes his head in disbelief. “I know who it is,” he says, looking at Sam, “They’re part of an underground—cult,” he finishes lamely, looking over at their lieutenant, “We’ll get everything together and handle this. And that—” he brandishes a hand toward the newspaper, “—that will go away quietly.”
“Make it happen,” the lieutenant says before he’s gone.
“What the hell was that?” Sam says, hurrying over to him, “How have you never noticed it before?”
“I didn’t think of it like a pendulum,” he says, grabbing another of the pictures and comparing them, “I knew it looked familiar, but I couldn’t place it. Sam, this—” he pauses, looking at her, and he knows what her reaction is going to be, but he says it anyway, “This isn’t something you should go near.”
“Oh, go screw,” she snaps, “I’m coming with you. What is it?”
“Not it,” Lucien sighs, “Who. Jasper.”
“Oh,” Sam says, frowning when Lucien looks up at her, “Okay. Let’s get ready.”
Sam claims they should have one last hurrah, and though the phrasing leaves Lucien wary, he agrees and shows up at her flat at seven on their day off. When he’s been let in, he immediately starts laughing at the spread she’s laid out in her kitchen, and she invites him to dig in. They spend the evening with good food and even better drinks, talking like they used to before Jasper and before he started losing control in worrying ways.
“Do you remember that time in ’04?” Sam reminisces later, when they’re curled up on her sofa, a record playing softly in the background.
Lucien laughs, nodding. “You were such a newb,” he says, and Sam guffaws. “Honestly, though,” Lucien says, flailing a hand at her that she catches and holds gently. Lucien means to continue, but he looks down at their hands instead, and his expression turns sad. “I wish you hadn’t got caught up in all of this,” he says to her hand, “I wish you’d never become my partner.”
“Don’t be daft, Lucien,” Sam says, tugging lightly until he looks up at her, “I wouldn’t have had it any other way. You’ve opened my eyes to this new and—wild world.”
“Wild,” Lucien repeats, nodding, “That makes it sound so tame.”
“Just promise me you’ll always have my back.”
“Always,” Lucien swears, “Particularly tomorrow night.”
“Does it have to be at night?” Sam bemoans, as she has been lately, “It feels like such a cliché.”
“Not everyone is as magical as I am, darling,” Lucien says, sipping at his drink and grinning over the edge of the glass at her.
Sam just rolls her eyes, and they dissolve into another conversation.
Lucien makes a last ditch effort to dissuade Sam from coming with, but she levels him with a proper glare, and he gives up. She arrives at his flat to prepare around three in the morning, and Lucien nearly loses his cool watching her ramble on about needing specific gear, but then she pockets a cross, and he starts poking fun at her. Sam retaliates by quietly admonishing his leather jacket as it’s clearly not good for the cold weather or to protect him, and therefore useless. He throws an unburnt stick of sage at her, and she complains loudly.
Finally, they make their way out into the brisk winter, and Lucien leads the way, hailing a cab and giving him directions that will take them ten minutes walking distance outside of their destination.
He never thought to prepare for what would happen if Sam got caught. He always thought he would be fast enough, and yet, living among humans has made him forget just how quick and chaotic Jasper can be.
They’re ambushed almost upon arriving, but Jasper lets them get in through the front doors, lets them believe they have some leverage, and then his goons spring out from the shadows, and they only take down a few before they’re being dragged into his grand dining room.
Jasper is sitting at the head of the table, with his blonde hair and dark eyes, grinning with a feral kind of hunger, and his laugh echoes around the room as he recognizes Lucien. He leans back in his chair, casual and at ease, before he says, “It’s been a while, son.”
Lucien spits blood in his direction, and says, “Don’t mock me.”
Sam is looking at him like she never has before, and it turns into unbridled terror as Jasper looks to her, and one of the goons starts pulling her over. She puts up a fight, screaming and kicking, and Lucien tries to twist out of his captor’s grasp, but the knife in his back digs deeper, and he gasps, fire singing through his blood as it breaks skin.
“Jasper, please,” Lucien begs, and Jasper holds up a quick hand, halting Sam’s progress.
“Come again?” he says.
“Please,” Lucien says, “I’ll do anything. Don’t harm her.”
“What does she know?”
“Nothing,” Lucien says, and his voice is steady, sure.
Jasper almost believes him.
“That’s cute,” he says after a long pause, “I truly thought you might have decided to be honest with me, even after all this time. Are you two—dating? Do you use biting as foreplay?” He turns his attention on Sam and asks, “Do you have any crescent moon scars, my dear? Do you want another, one you will never be able to erase?” Sam digs her heels into the ground, and Lucien sees her hand move before Jasper does.
As Sam wrenches a knife from a holster along her chest, Lucien shoves backward, lets the knife dig deep into his back, and then spins, elbow cutting smartly across the jaw of the woman behind him. She hisses at him in disbelief, but he just grabs her throat with hungry hands and rips her to pieces.
He hears someone hit the ground, hopes it’s one of Jasper’s, and lunges for a man running past him. They fall in a tangle of limbs, Lucien’s chin clipping off his shoulder and head snapping back. He groans and rolls when they crash down, but then he hears the man starting to get up, and he swings out a leg, catching him hard in the ribs. A gunshot rings out as the man shouts in surprise, and then Lucien’s on him, pinning him to the ground as his fangs slide out. He hears Sam inhale a second before his teeth sink into the man’s neck, and he tears at the flesh there. It rips, and he drinks hungrily, human blood pouring into his mouth and filling his veins with sharp, sweet relief.
It’s over in moments, and Lucien stands, wiping his hand across the back of his neck. Sam is dancing with a quick, sure-footed woman, knife flashing through the air as the woman tries to claw at her. Jasper is still sitting, but he’s sipping from a flute, watching them without much interest.
Lucien takes a step forward, and blinding pain shoots up his spine, forces his next step into a stagger so that he hits one of the chairs, holding onto it for support. He reaches around with one hand, fingers scrabbling against his jacket until he catches hold of the hilt of the knife, but it’s in too deep, and he can’t pull it free.
“I’ve heard holy water attempts to cleanse the blood when it enters the veins of a vampire,” Jasper says quietly, “Feeling any holier, Lucien?”
“Wrong religion,” he says, with as much force as he can muster, “I was raised believing in the earth, not—”
“The big man, I remember,” Jasper cuts him off, “The thing is, it doesn’t quite matter with holy water. That transcends typical religious rules. Sure, you can say His name and hold a cross, but get a pinch of that bad boy, and you’re as vulnerable as the rest of us. And then it gets interesting.” Jasper stands, holding up a hand, as Sam finally dispatches the woman.
Lucien looks over his shoulder. Others have started pouring in through the doorway, and he tries to face them, but his knees are trembling. “Sam,” he whispers.
She crosses to him quickly, grabs his elbow, and hauls him upright. “I’ve never seen you do that before,” she says, looking at his fangs, “That was kind of badass.”
Lucien flashes her a small, pained smile before he says, “Run.”
“I’m not leaving you, asshole,” she says, looking between Jasper and the others.
Jasper claps his hands together, silencing them. “That’s quite enough chitchat, my dear,” he says to Sam before returning his gaze to Lucien, “Do you know what happens if that holy water stays in your system for too long?”
“I’m sure you’ll enlighten me,” Lucien says. He takes his elbow from Sam and wraps his arm around her shoulders, as though it will help him better, but she takes the advantage to slide her hand down his back, fingers curling around the hilt of the knife. He squeezes her shoulder, and she waits.
“You’ll never go into the sun again,” Jasper says, his lips curling into a cruel smile.
“Make it quick,” Lucien says, and Jasper frowns.
Sam yanks the knife from his back, Lucien drops to his knees with a shattering cry, and Sam releases her clip on the gathered men and woman, vampires and humans alike. Jasper roars, and Lucien forces himself to his feet, crashing into Sam on the way to meet him headlong.
He learned to fight and think from Jasper, and he knows, without a doubt, that he has no chance against him fighting the way Jasper expects him to. And so, Lucien twists the knife in his fingers and sinks it deep into Jasper’s chest. There isn’t enough holy water to make much of a difference, but it distracts him for the fraction of a second Lucien needs to throw all of his weight against Jasper, slamming them against the wall.
“No!” Jasper’s voice rings out around the room as Lucien lifts a hand and smashes his fist through the window behind him.
Pale, golden rays of new light leak in through the cracks, and Jasper’s fingers claw into Lucien’s chest, sinking in and tearing long, angry lines open as he breaks the glass further. Sunlight explodes into the room, and Lucien throws them into it, crashing into the table.
Jasper screams, a horrible, unending shriek that will haunt Lucien’s darkest nightmares as he staggers back and looks over at Sam. She’s pinned to the wall, a hand clapped around her mouth as someone drinks from her throat. Lucien’s vision is darkening at the edges, but he runs toward her, barreling into her attacker and sending them both slamming through the wall, the last of his strength ebbing away as they fall, the dust settling. The vampire hisses below him, rearing, but Lucien takes his head in both hands and twists, listens with satisfaction to his neck breaking. A woman darts past him, running through the patches of sunlight until she can reach Jasper, but Lucien just hangs his head.
There are hands on him, and he tries to fight them off, but then Sam is saying, “It’s me, idiot. Let’s go. They’re not all dead.”
They drag each other out, Sam holding a hand against her neck and Lucien’s feet moving unsuccessfully beneath him. When they finally erupt outside, his skin doesn’t burn, and he drops away from Sam, sinking to his knees in relief. Sam settles opposite him, and he looks at her, her wild hair sticking up and covered in debris, blood coating her fingers at it leaks from her neck, and she laughs.
“I’m changing jurisdictions,” Lucien says, closing his eyes.
“Come on,” Sam says, knocking her fist against his shoulder, “We make a good team.”
He mutters something rude at her, so she leaves him for dead, and then smiles sweetly when he dumps into the cab next to her. “They’re going to be pissed,” Lucien says, looking back at the house.
“We’ll be ready,” Sam says, and he leans into her, tangling their fingers together.