Nov 08, 2022
12 mins read
Her hands ran over my arms, checking for wounds.
“Have they even fed you? Mateo, why haven’t you fed your child? Their skin is so pale! I will make a call and bring you donors, mije. Obviously, this place has no idea what they’re doing, and your papi is apparently useless.”
She glared at her brother, thick brows pulled tight above her angry eyes. He looked at me and rolled his eyes, his arms folded over his chest.
This was exactly why I kept my work life separate from my family. Salma went overboard trying to nurse me back to health, and god help me if Ollie got in on it. I’d never leave the hospital if the two of them joined forces against me.
Usually, I let the ComRes medics patch me up before I went looking for a tasty meal, and then I went home once I was fully healed. My family never needed to know how often I got injured, because if they did … well. This would only get worse.
“Titi, I’m fine,” I said, pulling away. “¡Calmate, porfa! I’ll feed when I’m allowed to leave.”
Offended, she stepped back, one hand going to her hip. “I will not calm down! You nearly died!”
I shot her a pair of finger guns with a goofy smile. “But I didn't!”
Her eyes went wide. She took in a deep breath, blinking slowly, obviously gearing up to tear into me. She lifted her hand, pointer finger extended, and I could feel the sharp jab into my flesh before it could even make contact.
Yeah, no need to give her the opportunity to use that finger.
“Welp,” I said, cutting her off. I lifted my legs over the side of the bed. “This has been great, but I need to get out of here and get back to HQ. I need to know what happened to my team, and --”
With a sarcastic laugh, Salma’s hand slammed into my chest and forced me back into the pillows. Her old age made her significantly stronger than me, which was honestly just some real bullshit.
“I don’t think so, mije. You’re not going anywhere until the doctor tells you that you can.”
“You were just threatening to eat the medical staff.”
She waved her hand, dismissing my point entirely. I rolled my eyes, glancing at Mateo, who shook his head with a small grin. He knew exactly what his sister was like, and he clearly had no intention of helping me out.
“I would never eat medical professionals in their own hospital.”
“So you’d wait until they walked outside?” I asked, cocking a brow at her.
Mateo snorted a laugh, quickly muffling it when Salma shot him a scowl.
“I won’t dignify that with a response,” she bit out.
She started tucking the bedsheet around and under me, trapping my arms, and turning me into a vampurrito. I tried to wriggle my way out, snapping my teeth at Salma as she forced the fabric tighter around me.
“Nice try, pequeñe, but you’re not going to win this. You can either sit quietly until the doctor gets here, or I’ll make sure you’ll be drinking pigs’ blood for the next hundred years.”
“Can they make it bacon-flavored?” I asked. I was not going to let her know that that threat was actually kind of scary. Pigs’ blood was disgusting. I’d given other animal blood a try, purely out of curiosity, and I definitely ranked pigs at the bottom of the list. The world could be blood-dry except for pigs and I’d willingly waste away to avoid drinking that shit. It was a real shame, because pigs were great and genuinely awesome animals.
Their blood was just...awful.
Mateo burst into laughter.
Throwing her hands up, she turned to Mateo. “¡No estás ayudando, cabrón!”
He shook his head. “I’m not even gonna try helping here. You are absolutely on your own. Both of you,” he added, nodding to me.
“Useless, both of you,” she snarled, flashing fangs at her brother.
“Hey, I’m trying to be helpful!” I paused, and then said, “Just not to you.”
A knock on the door cut Salma off before she could continue scolding me, and we all turned to look at the interloper.
“Sorry, I don’t mean to interrupt --”
Sam stood in the doorway. Her hair was all askew, twigs and leaves still stuck in the curls, dirt and grass staining the knees of her jeans. But otherwise, she looked unharmed and mostly just hesitant to enter the room.
Why was she here? I didn’t want her here now!
I was wrapped up in a bedsheet like a naughty child, arms pinned to my sides, being lectured and threatened by my family, and she was standing there watching.
You know, I couldn’t really remember my time in school, but I was pretty sure I had never experienced that level of humiliation in the entirety of my existence. If blood could have rushed to my cheeks, my face would’ve melted from the heat.
Instead, I groaned and squirmed until the pillows behind me were on top of my face.
“Someone sit on the pillow and kill me, please,” I said. The words were muffled for Sam’s human ears, but Mateo and Salma could hear me perfectly fine.
“You don’t need to breathe, Bunny,” Salma snapped. “Stop being dramatic.”
I leaned forward, sitting up as far as the tight sheet would let me, sending the pillows tumbling off the bed. “Hey, glass house, you wanna keep throwing stones?”
Salma snarled, baring her fangs at me. I hissed back, flashing my own teeth.
“Sorry, should I come back later?”
I immediately stopped hissing, turning back to Sam. “No, it’s fine! Come in, please.”
Slowly, she entered the room, her eyes bouncing between the three of us as if waiting for us to pounce.
“I’m Salma, dear, Bunny’s auntie,” Salma introduced herself, holding out her hand. “That’s my brother, Mateo, Bunny’s sire.”
Gingerly, Sam returned the gesture, smiling. “Nice to meet you. I’m Sam, their dispatcher.”
No nonono, none of that, no getting friendly, I thought, frantically trying to escape the torture my auntie had inflicted on me. The sheet seemed to get tighter the more I fought. Did the woman have the power to control sheets? What the fuck?
I no sooner had the thought than I fell off the bed. My head bounced off the floor, sending bright lights dancing across my vision.
“Oh, hell, Seville, are you okay?” Sam rushed over, her hands reaching for me.
“Just leave me here to die,” I muttered, going limp in the tangle of sheets. I rested my cheek against the cold linoleum. It soothed the heat in my skin, and I just wasn’t going to think about how disgusting the floor likely was. It didn’t matter how studious the cleaning staff were, floors would always be germ city. But I was already dead, and no one could accuse me of being a germaphobe.
Note to self: clean out the old blood bags from the bedroom. They were probably forming entirely new societies under the bed.
Salma’s tsk practically echoed in the room. “Que dramático, mije. You fell less than a foot. You’re a vampire, for blood’s sake! Or are you trying to make the girl feel sorry for you?”
Sam froze next to me, and met my eyes with confused panic like prey suddenly realizing she was surrounded by predators.
Kill me, I mouthed to Sam. I made my eyes big and liquid, all but pouting my lower lip.
That served to break her out of the fear-trance my aunt’s words had sent her into, and she rolled her eyes at me before helping to shed the sheet-wrap, and pulling me to my unsteady feet.
“I’m glad to see you’re not dying anymore,” Sam said, politely ignoring my aunt’s comments. I sat on the hospital bed, rolling my sore shoulders and cracking my neck.
“Yeah, I’m pleasantly surprised about it,” I replied. “I’m going to assume that Frankie is safe at HQ, the others are alive and well, and you’re here to tell me I’m getting a century of free blood bags from ComRes for valor in the line of duty.”
Sam blinked, and crossed her arms. “You don’t pay for blood now, Seville.”
I waved that away -- realizing a second later that the gesture was identical to one Salma used.
“That’s not the point,” I said, filing the thought away to be Future!Bunny’s problem. I didn’t need to think about my aunt’s influence on my mannerisms right this second.
“I almost died, like...for good, Sammy,” I whispered, like it was a secret.
She glanced at Salma and Mateo before leaning to me, and whispering back, “But you didn’t.”
Delighted by her response, I grinned as Mateo burst out laughing behind me.
“Oh, I like her,” Mateo said, pointing at Sam. “Why haven’t I met you before? Where have you been hiding her, Bunny?”
My brain stalled out. How did I answer that? Well, you see, I have a very strict rule that prevents any kind of overlap between work life and home life, and also I was pretty sure Sam hated my guts before right this second.
What came out of my mouth was less helpful than that.
“I’m pretty dedicated to my work, so I don’t exactly socialize much,” Sam said, casually. She tucked her hands into the pockets of her ComRes jacket. “I’m not usually in the field, either, but tonight had unexpected issues that required my attention. Actually, speaking of, would you mind if I had a word with Seville alone?”
Mateo and Salma shared a look that I couldn’t read before Salma smiled at Sam. “Of course! Please, take your time. We’ll work out your discharge with the doctor, Bunny, and come back in a bit.”
With that, Salma led Mateo out, and they left us alone.
“Okay, first,” she started, taking a seat on the bed next to me. “Frankie is...well, I hesitate to say that she’s fine but she’s alive and relatively unharmed, physically. She’s distraught as hell, won’t talk to anyone, and keeps asking for you. Lila and Mugsy are both already healed and good to go. You took the brunt of the damage, as far as we could tell.”
I let out a relieved sigh. I’d hoped that Devon had been able to get the kid out, but anxiety had sat like a lump in my stomach until now.
“Good, that’s good,” I said, nodding. “Once I’m allowed to leave, I’ll come see the kid. Maybe she’ll tell me what the hell happened before we found her.”
“Hopefully. I’ve tried to talk to her, but,” she paused, bafflement raising the pitch of her voice, “she hissed at me? Like a cat? So I just let her be after that.”
I buried my face in my hands. Oh, for the love of -- the kid hadn’t been around me for a day, and she was hissing at people. I couldn’t remember if I had hissed at anyone while she was with me, but I couldn’t say I hadn’t with any level of confidence either. If I were a better person, I’d probably take responsibility for it, but I wasn’t so I kept my mouth shut.
“And in other news, Mrs. Sato wants to meet with us -- you, me, and Frankie -- to discuss the creature you fought. I don’t know if she knows what it is, but she was very insistent.”
“I suppose it’s only fair, since she’s the one that actually scared it off,” I said, happy to change the subject. “At this rate, it’ll be close to dawn by the time they discharge me.”
“I’ll set it up with Miyako for the evening, so just come in for your usual time.” She stood, turning to look at me with her arms awkwardly held at her sides. Then, in one deep breath, she said, “Also, I’m sorry I was a bitch to you about Frankie. I recognize now that I barely know you, and I had no right to judge you based on what I thought I knew. I’m also sorry for jumping down your throat when you found out that she was missing. I was wrong, and it won’t happen again.”
Before I could reply to that very quickly stated apology, she power-walked out of the room, passing Salma and Mateo on their way back in. She waved at them with a tight smile and left.
Mateo tilted his head at me, a brow rising. “What was that about?”
I blinked rapidly, staring over his shoulder where she had disappeared.
“Y’know, I have no idea.”