Cassandra's Curse Ch. 05bysimply_cyn©
It had been six days. Nigel hadn't seen hide nor hair of his slayer and now he had hunted down Raj to have the vampire go chase the girl out of her nest. Why? Raj didn't know. Cass didn't answer her phone, didn't answer the door, didn't answer emails at all from Nigel. What made him think that Raj would be able to get through?
Raj stood on the sidewalk, looking up at the low lit windows of Cass's apartment. He had a handful of rocks. One by one he tossed them up at the windows making soft *tick, tick* sounds, trying to get Cass's attention. It was after hours. The doors were locked and the guard wasn't there. 'Sides, even if he was, Raj probably wouldn't have gotten in anyway.
Cassandra had been holed up before the steadily fed flames of her fireplace, curled up in a thick sheepskin and leather blanket, the chill of impending Winter staying just outside the small circle of her apartment. She hardly turned on any of the lights ... she didn't eat much ... she definitely didn't go out. She was through.
This good vs. evil way of life was too much. She didn't want any part of it anymore. She just wanted to turn back the hands of time to that day that she met Nigel so that she could just turn around and walk out the doors of the bookstore. The small ticking sounds on her windows were lost upon her as she just watched the flames consume the dry wood through half-closed lids.
The small stones weren't working. Nothing was moving in there. Raj snorted and dropped the few he had left and picked up a crunched beer can out of the gutter. God awful stuff. How humans could drink it he had no idea. The German ale he'd had in the past was so much better.
He looked back up at the windows and chucked the can toward one with a loud CLUNK and the impending crash of aluminum on pavement as gravity took its toll on the projectile. That should at least get some response. He really didn't want to break her windows.
Cass turned her head suddenly the sound at her window, her natural instincts taking over as she was suddenly on alert. But then as suddenly as it came, it dissipated back into the closed part of her consciousness as she turned her head back towards the fire with a soft sigh. It was probably Nigel and she really didn't want to deal with him right now. She didn't really know how many days it had been since she had seen him but there had been countless phone calls gone unanswered ... her doorbell had rang almost non-stop. She just wanted him to go away.
Again another CLUNK sounded on her window. Raj was getting irritated now. If the girl didn't pay attention soon he WOULD break her window. He couldn't very well go in without her invitation, and he didn't particularly care to anyway. A vampire in a slayer's den ... well, he'd rather not go there.
This was getting annoying and Cass had had just about enough. Tossing aside her blanket, she rose wearing long flannel pajama bottoms and a ribbed tank top that clung to her skin, her bare feet trodding across the hardwood floor to the window where she flung open the window to half hang out, her voice harsh as her voice echoed into the empty night "Nigel, what the hell do you want?!"
"Well, well, well. There is life in there. I was beginning to wonder if someone got to you before I did." Raj looked up at her and met her eyes evenly. "Such a temper too."
Cassandra's eyebrows furrowed as she stared down at the figure standing in the lamplight and it suddenly occurred to her that they were, in a way, repeating the first night that she saw him. Frowning, she spat down at him, unable to figure out why HE was there. "What the ... Raj! Why are YOU here?"
Raj tucked his hands into his trench coat and hugged is closer to his body, still looking up at her. He grinned rather cockily. She was so cute when she was mad. "It's cold out here... mind letting me in?"
She sighed heavily as her shoulders slumped. The last thing she needed was Raj here. He was the epitome of what she was trying to get away from, not to mention that cocky attitude that just made her want to get to know him even more. This was ridiculous! She ought to just tell him to fuck off but instead found herself shaking her head slightly, unbound raven tresses falling around her shoulders.
"Fine," she surprised herself calling down. "Buzz in and I'll let you up."
"You've got to invite me." He said it with a finality as he turned for the main door and mounted the few steps to the set of buttons. It took him a second or two to orient himself with the numbering system. English, 21st century ... right. He pushed the button that matched her apartment number, half tempted to push the rest just to see how many people he could get yelling at him and just grinned, refraining from the childish temptation.
Cassandra walked over and pushed the button that allowed the front door to unlock and spoke into the intercom softly, but somewhat irritated, "All the way to the top floor ... it's the only apartment here. Come on up" and then unlocked her own door, leaving it slightly ajar as she moved back some to watch the door, mostly out of a natural instinct to be wary.
When the door buzzed and unlocked he turned the handle and stepped inside. Nice place. He found the stairs and climbed all the way up as instructed, seeing the door ajar and he approached it to just in front of the threshold and pushed the door open a bit more. "Gonna let me in?"
Cassandra watched as his figure shadowed the doorway, her eyes narrowing some and then relaxed a bit as she stepped out of the shadows and waved him in as she made her way back to the soothing crackle of the fire place. "How many times do I have to invite you in? Just lock the door behind you" and after a moment, glanced back at him before she sank back down on the furs before the fire. "Please," she added after a moment's pause.
Raj stepped inside at the invitation and closed the door behind him, clicking the lock in place and turned back toward her. "I ... well, we, meaning ... well, you get the point. We can't pass through the threshold of a door without being invited by a human."
She glanced over at him as she pulled her legs towards her chest some, wrapping slender arms around them. "Yes, I know the routine ... just didn't realize how blatant I had to be about it," she said before turning her gaze back to the fire, staring at it a long moment before quietly adding, "Why are you here?"
"To talk to you ... a pretty girl like you shouldn't hide away like this." He leaned against the door, not really wishing to go any deeper into the slayer's den any more than he had to.
Cassandra glanced at him, her eyebrows furrowing at his comment. He never ceased to surprise her that was for sure. "Whatever ... you have a reason for being here. You don't even want to be here. That much is obvious" she retorted, noting the way he would hardly come in through the door.
"Should I want to be here? Obviously I'm not in the best of places for my kind. It's kind of like walking into a mouse trap and trying to steal the cheese without getting squished. I came to talk to you. That's all. Why haven't you talked to your Watcher? He's worried about you."
She just looked at the vampire for a moment, trying to figure out where HE fit into this whole puzzle and then turned her gaze back to the fire, her jaded gaze staring at the flickering dance of the flames. "What does it matter to you?"
He looked her over closer. "Girl ... have you eaten at all? You're pale." He pushed off the door and was going to approach her then decided against it and turned for the kitchen instead to have a look around.
Cassandra turned her gaze again to watch as he entered her kitchen. It didn't make sense ... none of it did. She knew, she instinctively knew, that he was connected to her Watcher and that Nigel had hidden something from her and yet, here she had to put her own life on the line for someone that couldn't even be honest with her. "What's going on, Raj? You're hiding something. Nigel is hiding something. And quite honestly, I'm sick of it."
"Me? I'm not hiding anything ... you just haven't asked the right questions." He was clanging around in her kitchen with her pots and pans. Soon after the sound of her gas stove clicking to life and sizzling bacon could be heard and the faint smell wafting toward her. "Nigel and I are good friends. Well ... were. Still are, just ... we don't talk much anymore."
She stood, crossing towards the kitchen, her face a cloud of confused anger and half hurt "Then how come he acted like he didn't know you? Why didn't he tell me? And if you don't talk much anymore, then why are you here concerned about whether or not I've spoken to Nigel?"
"He probably didn't recognize me." He flipped the bacon over and it started sizzling all over again as it cooked on the other side. "He left the country for awhile."
Cassandra just looked at him a moment, sighing softly as she slipped into a high back stool, watching the vampire cook in her kitchen, confused by the whole thing. "That still doesn't explain much" she said.
Raj sighed as he plunked two pieces of bread into the toaster. Then he opened the fridge to fish around inside to find her Miracle Whip. "It's a long story, Cassandra. He's probably the one to tell it to you since he was the most affected. Let's just say he and I became friends when he found out I was ... well, different. It caused problems for him. Lots of problems. It caused him to leave the country.
She drummed her fingers on the countertop as she watched him move about in her kitchen as if he belonged. She didn't even really know why she let him in ... she had wanted to just shut them all out and end that part of her life. None of it made any sense ... she didn't want to be a part of it but yet there was something about him.
"He's not here and you are. Just please ..." she sighed, reaching up to rub her forehead. She probably shouldn't even be curious about what had happened.
Raj took another deep breath, slathering Miracle Whip on the toast and he laid it on a plate before scooping the bacon out of the pan and blotting it before laying it on the bread. Again he was digging in her fridge to find some leftover cut tomato and lettuce, making a sandwich out of it. "Alright ... I'll tell you." He handed her the plate. "Eat first."
She looked at the sandwich and then the vampire, a look crossing her face as she pushed the plate back towards him. "I'm not hungry ... I'd rather hear the story."
Raj got a stubborn look on his face and put the plate in front of her on the table "Eat while I'm talking then."
She made a face the picked at the sandwich some, pinching off a small piece of the toasted bread and placed it in her mouth, mostly to pacify him as her gaze settled on him to listen, long legs crossing as she sat on the high-back stool, her foot swinging a bit back and forth.
Raj sat across from her, keeping his distance and giving her her space, crossing his hands over the table and looked down at them as he seemed to toy with the air with his thumbs. "It started a long, long time ago. I met Nigel on the streets one night after he'd had a hell of a time at some club or another. He was too drunk to care who or what I was. The way he was headed, I knew trouble was around the corner, so I led him in the opposite direction."
Cassandra listened to him, picking mostly at the sandwich as the fire crackled in the background, the shadows flickering on the walls and ceiling as she nibbled a bite here and there.
"I sat him down and stayed with him to make sure nobody got to him. He slept on that little park bench and I just kept watch over him until he woke up again. He was complaining about a headache when he did wake then asked where he was, saw me and practically had a heart attack."
Cassie couldn't help but chuckle a bit, hearing that. "Was he a Watcher at that time?"
"Yes ... he had no assignment then, however. He was still in training and a part of the council."
She nodded in understanding, glancing down at her sandwich as she lifted one corner of the toast to look at the bacon and then pushed the plate back some and leaned back in her chair, looking at the vampire as he spoke. "So how did you two become friends and how come he didn't tell me?"
"Well, once he figured out I wasn't going to eat him he calmed down enough to talk to me. Of course his first question was why. My answer was and still is the same ... I can'.t."
She turned her head some to look towards the fire and then unceremoniously slipped from the stool to move back towards the fire, stopping before it to gaze into the flickering flames as her arms crossed over her waist, just lost in her own thoughts.
"He made a habit of seeking me out. He found out I didn't fit in anywhere ... gave me a place to stay until he helped me rebuild my old home, or at least clean it up enough I could live in it."
Cass listened to him talk as she stared into the fire, the drone of the crackling and popping soothing.
"It was a mutual contract between us ... sort of an 'I'll scratch your back, you scratch mine' thing."
She turned her head slightly to look at him. "So you're saying that you are on 'our side' ... is that it?"
"I have been for a long time now. I don't kill my own kind unless I have to ... there are a few that I would like to kill but haven't had the chance. But yeah ... ridding the world of evil is kind of my goal."
She just looked at him as if she couldn't quite figure him out, part of her thinking he was full of shit as the other part wondered how he could be real. Then she turned her face once more back to the fire, not really knowing what to say in response.
"You need to eat, Cassandra. You're still pale. And don't give me the 'I'm not hungry' shit. I know better. You wouldn't even make a good meal. Your blood would be bitter. Eat."
Cassie simply ignored his words as she said, "I'm not cut out for this ... I think Nigel made a mistake," speaking quietly as she gazed into the fire.
"Mistake? No ... Nigel doesn't make mistakes. There's not much you can do about it. Cut out or not, you're stuck with it. You've got the power." Raj sighed. Every Slayer went through this stage; sometimes more than once. He knew it and he wanted to help her, but he couldn't do much except talk to her.
She lifted her hand, rubbing her eyebrows with her fingers, something she tended to do when she was lost or confused about something. "I don't want the power," she admitted quietly.
Raj stood up and silently approached her and laid a hand on her shoulder from behind. "You can't just turn the power in, Cass. It doesn't work that way. You were chosen from your generation. Why? Only the powers that be know. Sure, you could quit and walk away. But are you going to just let the world fall into chaos and let pandemonium take over?"
She turned her head slightly, feeling his hand on her shoulder and then sighed softly, her own hand snaking up to cover his as she turned her eyes back to the fire. "I just feel so ... alone."
He smiled a bit and squeezed her shoulder as comfortingly as possible. "Well, for all it counts you've got me. And you've got Nigel. You've even got Hope."
She nodded quietly, feeling his hand try to comfort her as she battled with the feelings that she had inside. She wasn't quite sure, honestly, what all was going on. She just felt lonesome and overwhelmed and suddenly helpless despite the power that had been given her.
He continued to talk quietly. "Nigel's and my friendship grew a lot in the years after. I taught him a lot of what he knows about my kind. I've given him chronologies of our bloodlines and he can trace who is who. He knew me as Raphael back then. For a long time that alias covered me ... kept me from the little peeping eyes all over that were trying to find me."
She listened to him, letting his words sink in as she tried to come to terms with the way her life had suddenly shifted. The warmth of the fire was soothing as well as, surprisingly, the company she found in him.
"Nigel took my case to a council meeting ... tried to tell them that I was good vampire and that I fought for their cause." His eyes darkened a bit and his hand tensed on her shoulder. "They told him that I was a liar and was simply tugging on his emotional strings. They told him he was wavering and becoming too emotionally involved with the cause ... that he was thinking irrationally."
Feeling his fingers stiffen on her shoulder, she turned her head some to look at him even as she thought of the way Nigel had looked at her in the same way when she mentioned that Raj, himself, was different from the other ones. But she knew she wouldn't admit this to him ... not yet at least.
"They prohibited him from seeing me. When I tried to talk to him he yelled at me and told me I was an awful, horrible creature and nothing more than a liar trying to destroy him and the council." He took a deep breath for a moment as he reflected back. "I was supposedly a spy sent by Pandemonium to infiltrate the weak Watcher and worm my way through to the council."
Cass turned completely to look at him, her eyes gazing into his for a long moment as if she could read him simply by just looking at him long enough. "What changed his mind about you then?"
"I was able to get through to him eventually that I hadn't changed and it wasn't an act or the plan of a spy. The council had put a price on my head for any of theirs and even my kind ... if any of my kind were able to remove me from existence, the council would have paid them handsomely."
She stared at him a moment, seeing that he was telling the truth and something in her just simply trusting him. "So if all that happened, how come he's still on the council and why did you two lose touch?"
"It was then that my alias was effectively destroyed. My kind had been looking for Lerajie for many years. Lerajie had simply vanished and couldn't be found anywhere. He was thought dead. Nisus found out I was alive and hunted me." He looked at her a long moment before adding, "Nigel's job was at stake."
In a gentle motion, Cassandra took his hand from her shoulder and sank down onto the fur on the floor to settle before the fire, urging him gently to join her as she listened to him. He watched her a moment as she settled, faltering momentarily when she silently invited him to join her and then slowly sank down beside her to sit.
She leaned back against the couch, her jaded gaze closing for a moment as she softly sighed, digesting it all. "I must sound like a whiney human to you ... complaining about not wanting to do this."
"Not at all," he reassured her. "I don't blame you one bit. I feel the same way a lot of the time, actually."
She opened her eyes to look at him, her head still leaned back against the couch as she sized him up a bit. "Nigel's been worried, huh?"
Raj's face and emotions didn't change. His eyes were dark, emotionless ... his face relaxed and unreadable. "Yes ... he's been very worried."
Cassandra stared at his unchangeable face, unnerved by someone that could hide emotions so well and then she wondered if he had the capability of having any emotions at all as she turned her head, her gaze locking onto the fire again instead of the blank, expressionless face sitting across from her. That was one thing she'd never be able to understand ... how someone could be so callous and cold.
"It's why he asked me to come and see you. It was the first time I've seen him on my doorstep in years and years. I actually didn't know he was back in town until that night at the cemetery."
She turned her face to gaze at him again, clearly confused. "Why would he ask YOU to come see me?"
"I ... I really have no idea. You'd have to ask him." Raj leaned back some to settle on his hands behind him. "We've been kind of distant ever since the council sent him back overseas for "retraining". I have an idea they brainwashed him into thinking I was evil again, or he made them think he was convinced and he's keeping his distance to keep from falling in again. I really did cause a lot of problems for him."