Neon lights flickered, sizzling in the damp night air. Cigarette butts littered the gutter. Damon clenched his hand, pulling back the lilac mist threading through his fingers. A cold wind tugged his coat away from his legs and he glanced at Phoebe in her thin sweater.
She caught her full bottom lip between her teeth and he found his eyes lingering on her mouth.
“So, do you trust him?”
He lifted his eyes to hers, indigo shimmering at the edge of his vision. “Hathath is a coward.” He raised his shoulders, the human gesture more familiar now. Glancing away from blue eyes shining pearlescent in the harsh light, he curled his lip at the empty car waiting expectantly at the pump. “The truth is a cold mistress, but steel is colder.” He turned back to her. “I believe him.”
Arms snaked around her torso and her shoulders shivered inwards. He pulled off his scarf with a frown. Stepping closer, he looped the dark wool around the back of her neck, drawing soft strands of hair out from underneath the folds. She smiled through chattering teeth. “Thanks.”
So close that her warm breath slid over his jaw, his hands lingered on the ends of the scarf, pulling it towards him. Her eyes widened and his gaze drifted down to her mouth again. Lips trembling with cold he didn’t feel. Releasing his grip he stepped back, running a hand through his hair. Indigo sparks fluttered from his fingers and he swallowed a curse.
“It’s only so your teeth don’t wake the neighbourhood. Next time, bring a jacket.”
A small smile played on her face as she knotted his scarf around her neck. He swivelled on his heel and strode towards the car. His mother’s voice rang in his head. You feel too much, Daemon. Do not waste yourself trying to better the humans. They are not real and will fade like sunrise into cloud.
Scratched panels and faded red vinyl seats. Hathath had chosen well. The car looked like many others in this tired suburb. Phoebe reached out and knocked on the hood, shrugging at the dull clang. He quirked an eyebrow and his lips tugged upwards. A smile spread on her face and he squashed his delight in surprising her. A mission. That’s all she is. Raising his hands he let lilac mist out to play. It writhed over the car and glamour shifted, the world shimmering in and out of sight.
Despite himself he cast a sideways glance at Phoebe. Her brows crinkled and her lip rubbed between her teeth again. But her eyes fixed on the disappearing car and he squashed a flicker of something like pride. This one, mother, this one might be different. Mist swirled and he wiped it away with a stroke of his hand. He knelt by the small casket lying where the car had been, nudging it away from puddles of rainbow streaked oil. Violet tendrils curled around his fingers, teasing at the brass lock.
A small snick as the tumbler moved and the lid sprang open. Darkness spilled out, heavy with the sharp scent of death. Phoebe yelped and jerked away. He frowned up at her. Red bursts sparked on her fingers and she thrust her arms out from her, jaw tight and eyes widening. He reached up and took her hand, stroking the red mist away. “Do not worry, Phoebe, what lies in the casket won’t hurt you. The darkness sings for me alone.”
Her collarbone stood out against her skin and the sparks died, crimson fading from her eyes. The box glowed warm under his hand and his fingers tightened on the lid, charcoal sludge winding around his wrist. He kept his eyes on her face until her eyes gleamed blue again and she focused on him, shudders wracking her shoulders. “That isn’t very reassuring, Damon.” Dropping her hand he lifted the casket, allowing the seeping heaviness to spread over his chest. “It should be.The darkness and I are one. It simply returns home.”
A wobbly sigh floated over his head. “You really suck at making things sound better.”
Black smoke spun a cocoon around him. Shadows merged with warm indigo and soaked into his skin. Memories assaulted his mind. Flashes of blood, terror, rage. He gritted his teeth to keep in the screaming. Tendons ran in raised cords down his neck. Fire spread along the muscles of his back as he tamed the beast that once dwelled in him.
He flung his head back, vision stained with midnight purple. The world spun and shimmered and inside him the beast rampaged. Through shaking darkness a bright glow of pure white smoothed and calmed. Phoebe. He dragged his eyes to find hers, deep within the light burning away the dark.
Her hands cupped his cheeks and breath flooded his lungs. His heart thudded into life. Pearlescent streams of light filtered into his mind, tying down the beast.
Trembling fingers stroked his jaw. Pain stabbed like needles into his eyes but he lifted them to hers. Her eyes were drenched with tears reflecting no light now but the spitting fluorescent bulbs of the station.
“I thought you said I didn’t need to worry.” Fear laced her voice and the beast strained against the delicate white tethers holding it down.
“I didn’t think you needed to. It has been many decades since I last held the dark.” He pushed himself to his feet, shaking off her hands at his elbow. “He guarded that which we need, else I would not have taken him back. Pick it up.”
He waved his hand at the casket when she frowned at him. “The amulet is safe to touch. Take it.”
She stooped over the now lifeless wooden box. His eyes drifted over her hair, threads of silver fire lingering in the dark strands. How is it possible she doesn’t know what she is? She straightened, holding the amulet dangling from outstretched fingers. Copper and emerald and blood.
A fierce glow shone in her eyes and she stepped closer to him, her hand going to his chest. “If this works, when we’ve finished, can you get rid of that creepy darkness thing again?”
He covered her fingers with his and searched for words, his mind a turmoil of bleeding shadows.
“I don’t know.”