To Fear the Dawn: Chapter 19
Warnings: Partial nudity (but again no naughty bits. I'm using Photobucket after all, lol!)
Charity felt a dizzying sensation and a visceral shock pass through her entire body. She knew in some part of her mind what had just happened... her husband had bitten her. Why had he done that? Was she dying?
No, surely he wouldn’t kill me, she thought. He said he loves me. Then the dizziness overpowered her, and everything went dark for she knew not how long; perhaps a few hours, perhaps only a few seconds. The next thing she knew, she was standing up straight and saw Reginald smiling at her. He reached out and stroked her cheek.
"How do you feel, my love?"
Charity held up her hands and saw her skin matched Reginald’s in hue. She ran her tongue over her teeth and felt the sharp fangs. She cried out, felt them with her fingers, and then looked at her hands again.
"What have you. . .Oh, Reginald!" she gasped, "What have you done?" She ran to the mirror and gasped in horror. She had no reflection!
Charity whirled on her husband, angry and sobbing. "What have you done to me, damn you!" Distressed, he tried to put his arms around her, and she pulled away sharply. "Don’t," she said in a terrible voice. "Don’t touch me."
"Charity. . ." he pleaded. "Please, my love, don’t be angry. Don’t you see? You are truly my mate, now. We are immortal, both of us. We can be together for always! I will never need to witness you aging and dying, for I could not bear that!"
"But you’ve turned me into a... Reginald, I’ll have to... I don’t want to do this!" she said, crying piteously. "I don’t want to have to kill."
Reginald held her and this time she didn’t turn away from him. "Charity, Charity. I know this is hard for you, but there is no loss without gain. Did you not say you wanted to mother my children? Do you not understand this is the only way you can?"
"I don’t want to have to kill." Charity said again in a small voice.
"You shall not." Reginald said to her soothingly. "You shall bestow life eternal."
"But how will I survive?"
Reginald held her close. "You will accompany me on the hunt, my wife, and I will provide for you. We will feed together."
He continued to hold her as tears slowly dripped down her cheeks. I’m still human enough to cry, she thought wonderingly, then she hid her face in her hands, sobbing anew. Oh, why did he do this to me? Just so we could have a family together? Reginald, I love you so much, but this... I don’t know if I can ever get used to this!
She cried for a time, but the swirling haze began to envelope her mind once more, and she found that she realized Reginald had Turned her because he loved her. He wanted to have a family with her. He wanted her to be able to create children that would belong to both of them, and this was the only way that goal could be accomplished.
She looked at her husband then, still watching her... his expression concerned and fearful. She touched his face gently and he took her hand and smiled in relief. Oh, how she loved him! She had already decided she could never be repulsed by what he was, because she loved him in spite of it.
How, then, could she be repulsed by herself now?
She took a deep breath, beginning to feel the power washing through her. Now that the initial shock of the transformation was over, she felt strong, vibrant... invincible.
"I am sorry," Reginald whispered, framing her face with his hands and leaning his forehead against hers. "I did not wish for you to become so troubled."
"I understand why you did it," Charity said softly. "For you, it is an act of love, and the only way you can have a family of your own." She sighed. "I, too, would do whatever I must in order to have a family."
Reginald held her. "You will not regret this, my love, and we will soon have many children together."
Stroking her new fangs with her fingertips, Charity mustered a wry smile. "Well, it looks as though we may need to use some unconventional methods now."
Reginald laughed with delight. "Yes, my love," he agreed. "Yes, but not this night. The dawn approaches and we must retire for the day."
He led her to the coffin chamber which, at some point, had been outfitted with a second coffin close beside the first. Had he been planning this all along? Charity thought wildly, yet she had little time to wonder. The first rays of the sun broke over the rim of the world and she felt a violent heat course through her entire body. "Reginald! It burns... !"
"Get into the coffin, quickly!" he said, kissing her lightly and diving for his own repose.
Charity did as she was instructed and the burning instantly stopped. Relieved, she closed her eyes and slept.
Vidcund pressed his forehead against the cold glass of the taxicab’s window and sighed sadly. It wasn’t only that Charity had married a vampire which hurt him; had she married anyone it would have cut him like a knife. The fact that she was now the wife of a monster, and probably a monster herself, only served to drive that knife, and his guilt, even deeper.
I can’t believe it. I just can’t believe that Charity is married... what am I going to do? I love her so much... .and I can’t let her go. Not like this! I just can’t...
If I had only told her how I felt about her from the beginning, none of this would have happened. I’ve no one to blame but myself, but by God, I’m going to fix it or die trying.
"Hanging in there, Vid?" Lazlo asked him, wedged into the back seat of the cab beside him and nudging him with his elbow.
"I guess so."
"Any ideas as to where we’re going to start tonight?"
Vidcund shrugged, rubbing his forehead where the window of the cab had left a mark. "I was thinking about setting up for the research teams that will be assigned tomorrow. We’ll need to designate lab stations; some devoted to the virus’ morphology, some to analyze the genome structure, and at least two to generate a pathogenesis on healthy cells from start to finish for observation."
"Oh, is that all?" Lazlo grinned. "Glad you’re giving us an easy night, there, bro."
"We have to do everything we can." Vidcund said with finality. "The sooner we find a cure, the sooner Charity can come back to me."
"Come back to you, eh," Pascal muttered darkly from the other corner of the cab, "and just what makes you so damn sure she’d come back to you?"
"Don’t start with me, Pascal." Vidcund warned. "I’m not in the mood. I’m serious."
"So am I," Pascal replied tersely. "Honestly, Vidcund... what makes you so sure she’d want to come back to you... to me... to any of us? She’s married. What makes you think she’s not in love with him and perfectly happy?"
"Because she... " Vidcund began, then stopped. He was so convinced Charity was being manipulated and coerced into this marriage that he hadn’t stopped to consider any other possibility. He turned away and stared out the window again.
"I don’t want to talk about it." he mumbled. "I just want to think about the research right now."
"Fair enough." Pascal said, and wisely let the subject drop.
The taxi let them off at the lab and they used their stolen key to get inside. "Last time we’ll have to do that!" Lazlo said happily as he swiped the card. "We’re going to be running this place starting tomorrow, you know?"
Vidcund didn’t reply. He led the way to the biological research section and methodically began opening all the lockers and refrigerators containing their samples and data and arranging them on a long table without speaking. Lazlo looked at Pascal and inclined his head toward their middle brother with raised eyebrows.
Pascal just shook his head. "Best let it alone." he said, and they both walked over to help.
The three brothers spent the remainder of the night organizing the research into several categories: virus morphology, virus replication, genome structure, pathogenesis, cellular effects, and antigenic analysis. They tried to set things up so as to require minimal explanation to the forthcoming research teams, although Vidcund knew he would still have a lot to explain. He knew people didn’t work well unless they were told exactly what they were working on, and it wouldn’t be easy convincing them they were trying to find a cure for vampirism.
When morning came, they felt they had everything sufficiently engineered so as to provide the most efficient research possible, and for the first time they didn’t worry about leaving the lab before it opened. Lazlo made some fresh coffee and soon after daybreak, as they expected, the Head of Research and Development, Melvin Franks, burst in and approached Vidcund, waving a sheaf of papers and looking fit to be tied.
"Curious! It says here you and your brothers have been given a research grant of an unlimited amount, you’re to be assigned research teams set up to your specifications, and given access to the entire laboratory with full privileges! Do you mind telling me what all this is about?" He was so agitated he actually shook and his face was red.
Pascal and Lazlo exchanged delighted glances. All three brothers really hated Melvin. He was one of those individuals whose only way of building himself up was to beat others down, and the Curious brothers had been, heretofore, one of his favorite targets. Too many times their suggestions had been ignored, their theories quashed, and their research projects dubbed "insignificant" by this man. Now it was their turn to give a little back, and they intended to make the most of it.
"Well, I don’t know," Vidcund said slowly, with the first hint of spirit he had shown since the previous night. "This is pretty top secret stuff, Melvin. I don’t think the government wants it to get around, if you know what I mean."
"And how, pray, are you three privy to anything top secret?" Melvin demanded. "I approve all the research projects around here! This is all supposed to come through me! How dare you go over my head! It’s an outrage!"
"For your information, Mel," Pascal said sarcastically. "We had to go over your head because previous experience with you has taught us we can’t ever get anything through it." Lazlo grinned at that and Vidcund chuckled, while Melvin’s face got even redder.
This wasn’t entirely true of course. The brothers hadn’t even considered going to the Head of Research and Development with their findings on the virus, feeling they needed to contact the authorities first. It had been the police who had bypassed the normal laboratory chain of command, but Melvin didn’t need to know that.
"Outrageous. Simply outrageous!" Melvin ranted. "Obviously there’s nothing I can do. I have no other choice but to approve this, but believe me, this... indiscretion... will follow you for the remainder of your careers here! Entry-level scientists like yourselves can’t expect to step on anyone’s toes and get ahead, I can promise you that!" With a huff, he spun on his heel and left the room.
"I’ll get you my pretty... and your little dog, too!" Lazlo mocked in a falsetto, then he gulped some coffee and said in his normal voice, "Jeez, what crawled up in Melvin’s skivvies this morning?"
"Nothing. That’s likely what his problem is." Pascal said. "Ah, forget it. We don’t need him. He’s the reason we’re still ‘entry level scientists’ anyway. Now that we’ve officially ‘gone over his head,’ there’s nothing stopping us."
"Yes, but he’s the one who will assign the individuals to our teams, isn’t he?" Vidcund worried. "What’s keeping him from giving us the most inept personnel in the lab?"
"You mean, personnel like us?" Lazlo quipped.
"You know," Pascal commented, "Lazlo could be right. Mel’s definition of ‘inept’ probably isn’t so bad. We’ll probably have on our team some of the most brilliant minds around here. Ones that he’s held back over the years like he’s done to us."
"I sure hope so," Vidcund said fervently. "I want this done. For Charity, for Nervous, and for all those others out there who didn’t intend for this to happen to them. Think of all the lives we’ll save. Not only theirs, but all their victims'."
"I know, Vid," Lazlo said. "I know."
They stood for a moment, coffee cups in hand, staring at their work, at all the preparations they’d made, ready for the teams and the additional facilities available elsewhere in the lab.
"I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t for Charity most of all, though." Vidcund said quietly. "I know that’s selfish."
"It’s not." Lazlo disagreed. "Most of the greatest medical discoveries in the world happened because someone loved someone else enough, Vid. It’s what drives us. There’s nothing wrong with that."
Vidcund nodded, then he drained his coffee, set the cup down decisively on a counter and stretched. "Come on, you two. There’s no time to lose."
To Be Continued.
Edited to add: dial-up sucks... I think I have it all put together correctly now... jeez...