It was only then that he realised he was dead.
Pain and bleed and pain and hurt.
Mikey felt agony shoot up his spine. He threw himself back, screaming madly into the night. His eyes snapped open, just in time to see Lincoln's mad face. The evil boy tossed back his head and laughed maniacally. It echoed through the desert. Mikey clapped his hands over his ears and felt glacial liquid trickle into his fingertips. His own blood. Mikey gasped and wailed. No escape. No salvation. Just a slow, terrible death in this Godforsaken place. Not even Satan would step here. Lincoln continued his laughter and Mikey yelled. The noise was almost deafening, rattling the bones of everything within earshot. But still, no-one found him. No-one came. He was alone. Alone...alone...alone...the thought echoed through him.
Mikey closed his eyes and grinned hysterically. Death stayed off to the side, watching calmly like a spectator. His screams faded; he let go of the edge of life. Lincoln's laughs disappeared and so did he. He turned into a tiny wisp of steam, vanishing like the evidence of sunlight in a dark night. Mikey released ragged, agonised pants of pain into the air. Beginning to despair, the horrible truth found its way into his chest. Dead. As good as dead. He searched his brain for some sign that he hadn't wasted his life. A small smile melted over Mikey's lips. Her. His fingers reached the wounds to his head. Lightly touched them. Ran down the longest one as it feebly bled out his life. He stopped suddenly. There was another pair of hands near that wound. His eyes snapped open again.
"Ruby." He said.
Ruby shook her head sadly, and shrugged her shoulders. "Mikey?" She didn't say it like she knew him. More like she was reading a nametag. She was crying violently, so that Her shoulders shook with every sob and breath. Mourning. She embraced his head tenderly, and laid it into Her lap. Her fingers touched his hair, twirling it through those long, pretty fingers of Hers. Was Ruby just a mirage? He glanced up into Her face. There was no way Mikey could imagine that. He tried to speak, but She raised a finger to his mouth. All that came out was a dull, painful rasp. She smiled through Her tears and gazed down at him. Cradled his head against Her warm chest. Her hair dangled down around him like a curtain, and Her huge grey eyes filled his vision. Big, wet, beautiful eyes. Eyes that saw everything in him and loved it. She touched his face and began to cry again. He wanted to comfort Her, but he couldn't make his limbs budge. Tied down with invisible ropes of iron. He struggled against them, but couldn't even force his eyelids to blink. Held open with matchsticks of reverse gravity. He stared blankly into the air, so he could see the twist and break of Her face when She saw. Her perfect face distorted as the pain of loss hit. Her sobs grew louder. Ruby threw Herself onto his body and screamed. Her trembling became hard and frightened.
It was only then that it occurred to him: he was dead.
Ruby pushed herself out of the four-wheel-drive in anger. Midnight rage pulsed through her veins as she slammed the door shut behind her. Her eyebrows joined in the centre of her head and a frown that could melt anything twisted her normally-peaceful features. Muttering unprintable obscenities under her breath, she stormed about a hundred metres in front of the car. But she made sure to follow the weak splashes of light leaving the vehicle. The girl wasn't stupid enough to venture outside the light of safety without a vampire. She plonked herself down at the edge of the light cast on the barren dirt by the headlights. A thin strip of yellow and blue on the flat horizon told her that dawn was coming. Ruby sighed, suddenly remembering home. They'd find their empty beds soon. Empty and cold and lifeless, the laughter of hyperactive teenagers gone like a fleeting storm. Her thoughts drifted slowly to the two children tucked into bed. Clementine and Spencer. Would they remember her when they got older? She waited for a stab of pain somewhere in her throat. After a few minutes, her throat relaxed. She rubbed it absent-mindedly. Nothing came. No emotion at all. Just a dull ache of homesickness that filled her empty stomach and sloshed around audibly.
Ruby pulled her knees to her chin and hugged them tight against her chest. She drew mindlessly in the land with her finger. The dirt collected under her black fingernails and scratched and bit at the fragile skin underneath. One hot tear fell onto her cheek, but seemed to evaporate and disappear into the empty air. Not really knowing what was taking shape, she pushed one tiny groove into the dirt after another. A curved line. Another line joining to it in a sort of arc. Ruby gave a little 'humph' of confusion and admiration to her work. Her finger still twirled around in the dirt. It pulled away slightly and twisted aimlessly in the air. Ruby paused, only vaguely recognising the strange shape. It was unfinished. Gently, she ran her fingers through the coarse soil. A fringe? She smiled, anger forgotten, dissolving into the dirty, polluted, dry air. And though the noises, that surely indicated some kind of PDA, continued louder than ever, Ruby ignored them. She let herself lie down on the earth. The dust found her black clothes and left red-brown patches all over her back. Her lips soundlessly formed a word that she only just remembered then. One of the vampires. The quiet, cute one that said nothing but soaked up everything with his bespectacled eyes. Gee's little brother, the guy probably still in the car. Mikey.
He was at her side just after his silent name echoed through the plane. Like a haunting shadow. Or a hissing breeze. Never really acknowledged, but adding his part to the mystery and the landscape. The finishing touch on an abstract painting that few of them could figure out. Mikey bent his knees to kneel beside her. She turned to look at him. Mikey. Al's voice found her ears with its freezing fingertips and shot right on through to her brain. It was tinny and robotic. Nearly forgotten from the day before. "A connection. I just knew him. Y'know?"/. It poured out the other side of her ear and she turned, as if she could see it glimmer as it dissolved into the cold atmosphere. Ruby blinked and avoided his eyes. Nothing like that for her, of course. All she knew was an anonymous face [though it was breathtaking] and a name. Ruby had never even heard him speak. What if he couldn't? She snapped her head back up to meet his stare. He gazed down openly at her with eyes that had seen so much. /Too much. The same eyes that followed her all day and all night. Chased her through her mind. Shyly examining. Observing. Waiting. What did they see? He came in nearer, and Ruby found herself leaning back, lest he get any ideas. His breath was cold and fragrant. Those gorgeous eyes were extremely close. They seemed so much older, though the face that framed his bespectacled eyes was young. Eternally young. She opened her mouth to speak. Nothing came out. Perfect, soft silence. Even the slurping seemed less horrible. His cold body leaned against hers. Mikey smiled and touched her face.
"Ruby." He sighed her name hard into the hush. "I've waited so long."
Ruby stayed silent as he smiled at her expectantly. No. His soft hand stayed on her cheek. The other ran up and down her leg. He murmured in her ear. Like he'd known her forever. Well, he had/. Like some kind of ancient amnesia, she couldn't remember a thing about him. Except his eyes. From almost every poster that adorned her walls. At home. As the familiar [but slightly easing] pain twisted through her chest, she smiled grimly. She had her whole life to know him, but he wouldn't see it that way. After a few awkward moments, Mikey's stroking ceased and his hands simply rested. Her heartbeat throbbed under his fingers; surely it was making him thirsty! Shifted slightly. "Mikey?" /Like she was reading off a nametag... Ruby turned to him. His hands grew hard and unresponsive on her face and black-enveloped leg. He saw it in her face. Read it like a billboard in the middle of a desert. His heart shattered with a tinkling scream in his cavernous chest. She didn't - she didn't - Mikey shook her shoulder lightly, as if trying to wake her up from a coma. "Y-y-you-". His eyes glazed over like big white marbles. Mikey pulled his touch away, letting the warmth of the dirt flood Ruby's body. His gorgeous face wiped clean of all emotion. Froze over. Lifelessly cold and hard. She could've sworn she saw a tear drop. Then, Mikey jerked away and disappeared inhumanly swiftly just as the sun peeked over the horizon.
Leaving a cloud of red-brown dust behind.
Al pulled back after a few blissful moments. Her skin burned lightly with his touch. Her breath came in tiny little gasps and gulps. Everything was so perfect, under that dead, black tree and in the beautifully barren, ghoulish landscape. Silence that filled every crevice, every cavity and melted into its soul. Perfect. Lovely. Haunting. Some strange movement made their heads snap around to the endless horizon. The Sun poured out light over the dirt, exposing merciless brown earth and the bones of some unfortunate animal. Cast eerie, long shadows of death over the plane. It trickled over to Frank's face, illuminating his eyes so that they sparkled even more. His grin caught the sunlight, reflecting off his perfect teeth and onto her face. Their skin prickled under the Sun's stabbing, probing fingertips. But it was forgotten, as Al's trembling hands took his face and kissed it again and again. Each touch of her mouth was more desperate and hungry than the last. Slowly, her hands gripped him tighter. She wrenched her lips from his and smiled distantly. He looked up at her and stroked her hair. It was soft and gentle and left the nicest sensation of spilling freezing water down on her skull. She rested her head against his shoulder and lightly kissed his cheek again. "Well..." He breathed eventually, laughing a little. It sounded like a cough. She noticed he was shivering. Her eyes sought out his and she kissed him agai-
Ruby brought down her fist hard on Frank's head with all the gentleness of an atomic bomb. BANG! Frank jerked slightly and twisted around to find the culprit for all this pain. With watering eyes, he raised a hand to his cranium and pulled it down to his line of vision. Dry. And white. Absolutely no trace of blood or any indicator of an undignified demise. Al was already swearing her head off, about ready to kill that strange silhouette against the light that swayed like a tree in a hurricane. After a few moments of desperately waving his hand before his face, vision returned like another blow to his brain. He yelled in shock and glanced up at the two shadows rowing before the backdrop of sunlight. He only caught little parts of the screaming, two deep female voices shrieking unprintable profanities at one another. He snatched a glimpse of red glasses and straight brown-blonde hair. Ruby. Frank rose slowly, careful not to irritate his brain. The world twisted and bent. Fuck, she was strong. Through his confusion and nausea, he vaguely registered Al grabbing him and desperately pulling him into a recovery position. Trying to mumble some kind of thanks, he felt his stomach scream. Seconds later, Al was wiping the thin, grey, foodless vomit from her shirt.
"Charming." She said darkly, before disappearing in a blur of movement and returning with water and a bar of Cadbury [an: sucked in Ruby and Izz!]. She shot a murderous glare at Ruby [for her ideas of "supplies"], who still bounced on her tip-toes urgently. She bit her lip so hard that blood trickled down her chin and onto her shirt. Ignoring this coldly, Al busied herself with sitting Frank up. Propped against the tree, he rubbed his skull where Ruby had hit him. He gave her a wonky thumbs-up and groggily mumbled some form of congratulations, while Al looked on disapprovingly with narrowed eyes. Something nagged at the back of her mind. Frank was stabilized. Fed. Watered. Fine, apart from a headache that wouldn't disappear for a few days.
Her heart skipped a beat and she turned to Ruby. "Where's the other vampire?"
Mikey rushed as quickly as he could away from her beautiful shadow. No-one would see him cry. Not even the bones of that stupid animal. His legs moved in a blur underneath him as he forced the sobs down his throat. His legs hurt. His arms hurt. His heart hurt. In the forever that it hadn't moved, it had never hurt so much. Killing him with its silent screams of cyanide. The agony lay dormant in his veins as he forced his legs onward. Why was this place so familiar? Mikey pushed on. And on. And on. The dirt spread endlessly ahead of him, and the sobs grew too hard to hold down. They stormed up his throat, demanding freedom. Mikey halted, and dropped to his knees. He curled up and rocked back and forward like a mental patient, sobbing loudly. Why didn't she know him? WHY? He pulled up his puffy eyes to look at the sunrise. His skin tingled slightly in protest to this light. He wailed into the daylight that tortured him like a million needles. From the outside, attack from the sun. From the inside, attack from his soul.
He loved her so much. Ruby. The girl with the straight hair and the grey eyes curtained behind it. Her thin, red glasses, and when she looked at someone over the top of them with that murderous glare of hers. But, better still, when the glare softened into a smile. Mikey drew in a shuddering breath. Why should he live anymore? Anyone else would have to endure another 81 years of this agony; he had eternity for it to eat away at his sanity. He threw himself back on the sand, still crying. His tears rand own his cheeks and left tiny little rivers in the dirt. Mikey turned his head and watched the sun walk across the sky until his eyes stung hard. He longed to moan her name, to make it seem real, but his throat wouldn't let him. All that came out was a despairing "FUCK!", which made him howl louder and harder than ever before.
"Poor little Mikey. Rejected once more." Chuckled a voice from behind him.
Mikey spun around, his straightened hair flying around like a halo for a brief moment. The strands caught glitters of sunlight as he stood rapidly and cast the sparkles around the earth. It settled, the disco-ball lights vanished and then he could see a tall, handsome form in the half-light. He moved slightly, so that the light caught the full glory of his face. It was Lincoln. With one swift movement, he produced a knife and swept it up to his throat. No thought. No cry. No whimper. Mikey only dimly registered the slight pain and trickle of blood. Ruby's face was all that he could see. All that he cared about. Let him die. And they could walk hand-in-hand in Hell together. Mikey and the never-real-enough mirage of his imagined lover. Internally, he screamed in fear. Not of death, but of never touching, never seeing the real Ruby again. No mirage would ever satisfy this. Lincoln moved so close he was sure that the evil man would lay a kiss on him. His mouth stopped millimetres from his face, and his sweet breath reached his nose.
"Let's see how much they love you, Mikey-boy." Lincoln growled.
With that, Mikey fell to the earthen floor. Cold, silent...but this time, dead.