Being a vampire had its advantages.
Seeing every infinitesimal detail-each hair on a bumblebee's body, the individual beats of a hummingbirds wings. I heard worms wriggling in the dirt. The ants rummaging through the grass, the way their mandibles bit down, crushing an insect, or a leaf. Deciphering the scents of different types of blood-animal, human, and magical.
On occasion, my extra-heightened senses were difficult to deal with. As I glanced around my room, seeing flecks of Christopher's blood everywhere, I thought I would be sick. Although Christopher was healed, his blood and guts (yeah, even guts, it was gross) were strewn on the walls, the comforter, him, the ceiling, the dresser, the carpet, and me. Everywhere.
Professor Pops took Daniel and Heathcliff to get buckets of soapy water. Gabe left, saying he needed to talk to the chayot about the latest developments. As he walked away, without saying good-bye, I sensed more going on with him.
The rest of us muddled around, trying not to touch anything while we waited. When Pops came back, we pulled on rubber gloves, and spent the next several hours cleaning. Dorian found part of a vein on the chandelier. But, as Professor Pops explained, we couldn't have a cleaning service do it.
"How would we explain what happened?" he asked.
We grudgingly agreed. When we finished, the room smelled of lime soap, chlorine, and something else. Something made with magic.
"What's the smell? It's created from magic." It seemed familiar, a scent I smelled long ago, but couldn't place.
Professor Pops gave me a cursory glance. "It's fairy dust. When mixed with water and chlorine, it completely eliminates any living tissue. I figured we should be especially sure we get everything."
"Yeah." I took my soapy sponge and wiped the wall next to my bed. "What else can fairy dust do?"
Pops looked up from his work scrubbing the carpet. "Depends on what it's mixed with. Fairy dust takes the strongest component and amplifies it a hundred fold. If it's mixed with gunpowder, it can be extremely volatile. Combined with chamomile and vanilla, it's soothing-deadly so, if you catch my drift. So it's important to be careful with it."
"Interesting," I said.
"Creepy, if you want my opinion," Sebastian said, helping Bart remove my bedding. As they walked to the door, Professor Pops said, "Stick the bedding directly into the washer with this." He removed a glove, pulled a vial of pink liquid from his sweater pocket, and handed it to Bart.
When we finished cleaning, Pops asked us toss our sponges and cleaning rags into a fire he built in the hearth in the living room.
"Get some sleep," Professor Pops told his amazing sons.
Sebastian, Bart, Salvatore, and Daniel trudged to the door. I noticed their shoulders slumped.
They must be exhausted, I thought.
"Hey," I called, and they turned around. "Thank you. For the help tonight. For keeping me safe. For everything." I blinked back tears, and smiled.
They answered with tired but genuine, "You bet." "You're welcome." "Sure." And, "Anytime."
When they were gone, Heathcliff said, "I've got to be to work in two hours, I'll just grab a quick shower." A shower sounded nice.
"Where do you work?" I asked, curious.
He swallowed, glancing nervously at Professor Pops. I turned my attention to the fire.
Secrets, my inner voice grumbled.
The living room smelled of sulfur, and magic. Flames licked the air in various shades of green, purple, and pink. Dorian, Heathcliff, Professor Pops, Christopher, and I stood around it, not for warmth, but comfort. Christopher placed a hand on my back, massaging lightly, filling my skin with tingles.
A fierce love for these men consumed me. I had to protect them.
Finally, Heathcliff said, "At a lab near the University, studying..."
"What?" Suddenly an image of Varden, with its spider webbed walkways, flickered through my mind. "Does it have anything to do with what Titan was working on in Varden? Combining science and magic."
Heathcliff's mouth fell open. "How did you know?"
Professor Pops shot Heathcliff a sharp look. Then he turned. "Sharra destroyed Varden not long after Silindra died. In the place the mountain once stood is nothing but sand." He gave me a pointed look, one I wasn't sure I understood. "We continue some of his work in the lab." He gave Christopher and I an equally sharp look. "Please, tell no one. We can't let what we're doing get back to Sharra. And others."
I zipped my lips with my fingers. "Not a word," I mumbled. Jeez. I wasn't one to blab secrets. Immediately, I clamped down those bitter feelings, unsure where they came from. If Professor Pops requested silence, it must be serious.
Pops fixed Christopher with a glare. "Vampire?"
"I won't say anything either, but you have to let me come by the lab sometime. I'd love to see what you're working on. Perhaps be of assistance in some way."
Pops regarded Christopher thoughtfully. "Deal."
Christopher nodded. "Good." He put his arm around my shoulders, but continued to speak with Pops. "I think we should speak with Kenmei right away."
Dorian chimed in. "Hunter, you might want to change first." He screwed up his face in disgust. I gave Christopher a once over. His white shirt was shredded. Dried blood stained his shirt, pants, and shoes. He even had some in his hair. I guessed I looked as bad. Dorian continued, "I've got some clothes you can borrow."
Dorian brought Christopher a pair of jeans and a gray t-shirt. "To match your purdy new eyes," Dorian quipped, batting his eyelashes at my Hunter.
I covered my mouth so I wouldn't laugh. Christopher's jaw flexed, and I sensed he didn't appreciate Dorian's witty sarcasm.
"Thank you," Christopher said, taking them. "I can pay you."
Dorian snorted. "Look at this place. Does it look like I need your money?" Christopher took his wallet from his back pocket. Dorian shook his head. "Consider them a gift." Serious, he continued, "If Snow is on your side, then so am I."
Christopher cleared his throat and nodded. "Much appreciated."
"Cool," Dorian responded, then disappeared into the kitchen. I heard the toaster go down, and knew he was cooking a blueberry bagel. His "go to" breakfast since we were ten.