Title: Living is Easy
Author: alyse
Fandom: Blade: Trinity
Pairing: Abigail Whistler/Hannibal King
Word Count: 50,000
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: none

Summary: Summer rolls in, hot and humid, and the trail of the vampires they hunt turns cold. When King suggests that they follow the rich to their playgrounds, where vampires like to play at being rich, Abby realises that a summer on the road doesn't just bring sunny days; it brings a stripped down King and nothing to distract her. One way or another, she's going to get burned.

Masterlist: AO3 :: dreamwidth :: livejournal :: insanejournal

-o-

Previous Part: dreamwidth :: livejournal :: insanejournal

-o-

The diner that George told them about would probably be described as 'retro', which means lots of red leather and highly-polished chrome. Abby's tempted to roll her eyes, especially when she spots the memorabilia hanging on every available wall, but she's behaving herself, or at least trying to behave like a tourist. Kitsch doesn't begin to cover it, but she's too damned hungry to care.

King, of course, loves it, which figures.

It's a good thing she's hungry, because when she pulls the menu open and catches sight of the prices, her eyebrows rise to her hairline.

"Oh, how nice to be rich," King murmurs from across the way. "Do you think they have an off-season menu or do they gouge the locals just as much?" He keeps his voice low, thankfully, and it's busy enough that their waitress bustled away as soon as she'd seated them, so at least he isn't overheard. She guesses it would be difficult to blend in with the privileged if they balked at a mere forty dollars for a burger.

Forty fucking dollars for a burger, even if it is hand-raised organic beef, and the fries are extra. Jesus.

"Relax," King says, tapping her foot with his under the table to get her attention. "I've got a nice, shiny new credit card with an exemplary credit rating thanks to Dex, and he's even promised to pay it off while we're away."

She grunts, her eyes still focused on the menu. They've got chicken subs (organic, free range, corn-fed chickens of course), which might be slightly healthier than their other options, but, God, she really could murder a steak. "How did you manage to swing that one?"

"Bribery," he said succinctly. When she looks up, he adds, "I told him that the longer we stayed away, the more likely it was that Hedges would survive you coming back. For some reason, he seems to like Hedges."

She gives him a long, steady look. "And where would you put Hedges' current odds?"

"Oh, about seventy percent, I would think." He glances up at her, his eyes twinkling for a moment before he returns his gaze to his menu. "And getting better by the day. Man, I could really go for a vanilla milkshake right now. Can't remember the last time I had one."

"When you were twelve?"

His eyebrows crease in a thoughtful little frown. "No, I definitely had one the day I finally got into Sherry McEwan's pants and I was... oh... at least sixteen by then."

She doesn't want to know, she really doesn't, but she can't help but grin at his ridiculousness. "Sixteen?" she asks. "Wow. Late developer, huh?"

"Never said she was my first," he shoots back, quick as a whip, and his smile this time is dazzling.

It's not fair that a grown man has dimples and, in spite of King's penchant for witticisms, she sees his so rarely.

The menu is a safer option and she turns her attention back to it, making her decision quickly.

The waitress materialises again as soon as she snaps it shut and she's starting to think, grudgingly, that maybe the prices are worth it if the service is this good.

"Can I get you a drink, honey?"

The waitress is her age, maybe a little older, but she's done something to her hair, pinning it up into a haphazard bun, and she's got the kind of world-weary look about her that's probably intended to make her look older, like a real old-fashioned middle-aged diner goddess, but that instead tells Abby that this is a frustrated actress in the making.

God, the decor wasn't enough? They had to go overboard with the wait staff as well?

"Milkshakes," King announces. "Vanilla, and make it two."

Abby gives him another long, steady look. "Coffee," she tells the waitress, her eyes just daring him.

She should have known better. King's never met a dare he couldn't go one better on.

His pout is adorable and completely fake. "Oh, come on, Whistler. Live a little, why don't you? We're on vacation."

She knows he's putting it on for the waitress, but then he smiles at her and for once there's something genuine in it, like some of the tension has leached from him during the drive up here. He's more relaxed than he has been for as long as she can remember, and for a second she could almost - wants to - believe that this is a real vacation, just the two of them with no stress, no drama, just days stretching out ahead of them with nothing to do. Nothing that they don't want to do.

She sighs, small and quiet. "Chocolate," she says, because she can't let King win entirely or he'll start to get ideas, like that he can wrap her around his little finger, and it doesn't help that he probably could.

King grins delightedly, settling back into the leather booth, one elbow resting on the back. "Now that's more like it."

"And coffee," she adds pointedly, just to hear him laugh.

The waitress smiles politely, her pencil tapping on her pad and waiting for them to finish whatever it is that they're doing. Abby's not sure what that is - if it had been anyone else, she'd have said flirting, but this is King and this is her, and she's never been exactly able to pinpoint what they are. She doesn't want to label it now, either, so focuses on the menu again, giving clipped, precise instructions to the waitress about her meal while King watches, amused.

"What?" she asks him when they've finished ordering and the waitress finally sashays away.

"Dressing on the side?" he asks, raising one eyebrow. "Seriously, Whistler?"

"Sometimes I like it, sometimes I don't," she explains with a shrug, wondering why she's even bothering. "What's the big deal?"

King shakes his head sadly. "Sometimes you're such a girl."

"Don't be a dick."

"Well, that's like asking me not to be me." He has a point. "Anyway, I need a bathroom break. Don't drink my milkshake while I'm gone."

She's tempted to flip him off but, given that they're in public, it's a temptation she resists. This doesn't seem the kind of place where that kind of thing would go unnoticed.

While King's taking care of business, she takes the time to look around the diner, carefully studying the other clientele. It's easy to tell who's a tourist or not, and they're all of a type. No frazzled parents and overly tired kids - most of them are college aged: bright, preppy and pretty girls with long hair and short skirts, and guys in polo shirts and khakis. Here and there there's some variation - a guy in shorts or a girl in a maxi-dress, someone a little older but still reeking of money and privilege - but mostly they all look like they come from the same mould.

And none of them are dressed like Abby. She's already attracting one or two pitying looks, at least from the girls - not that she gives a shit about that. Some of the guys are giving her interested looks, the kind of interested looks she's used to shutting down and shutting out. The kind of look that says that they have her pegged as a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, someone cheap and disposable, and if she's on her own then maybe she's easy pickings.

Assholes. She'll take King's brand of dickishness over that any day.

She ignores them for the most part, or at least the looks. The clothes she pays more attention to - it pays to blend in and she can see a shopping trip in her future, which is pretty much her idea of hell.

Joy.

King's back before any of the young and the ball-less can do more than cast longing looks in her direction and this time he slides into the booth next to her, ignoring her quizzical look. He's not exactly chivalrous - he has her back, sure, but as for defending her honour? He's more likely to hold her coat while she does that, and that's just one of the reasons she puts up with his crap. But on reflection, she supposes it makes sense. She'd instinctively sat facing the door with the wall behind her, meaning King had had his back to the door. That can't have been comfortable for him - she knows she'd have been twitchy as hell had their positions been reversed.

Plus, the diner is a little crowded. She supposes that sitting right next to her reduces the chance of anyone else being able to listen in on their conversation.

"So what are you thinking?" she asks him, and he startles a little at the question, like he'd been paying attention to the rest of the room and had forgotten she was there.

"Right now? I'm thinking I could really do with that milkshake."

She gives him another look. "About the whole bear situation?"

He shrugs, perking up when he spots the waitress heading towards them, tray in hand. She watches his profile as he gives their waitress - 'Charlene', Abby finally notices is on her nametag, and she wonders if that's for real or part of the whole diner 'experience' - a brilliant smile, one that she can't help but notice has Charlene smiling back.

"Yeah," he says after taking a huge sip of milkshake through the curly straw it came with. Abby stirs hers, waiting for the ice cream to melt a little. There's a distant look in his eyes for a moment and she's not sure whether it's memory or whether, like her, he's looking around the diner and wondering where they fit. "I think maybe a little digging might be in order. Not just animal attacks, but drunk drivers, boating accidents at night, that kind of thing."

"You think they're that unsubtle?" She finally takes a sip of her milkshake while she waits for him to answer and, damn, that's good: ice-cold, dark and rich.

King shrugs. "Maybe, maybe not. This isn't a permanent hunting ground, so they might feed to their fill and then move on. Guess we'll find out soon enough. For now I want food."

The diner has really good service - no sooner has he mentioned it than Charlene reappears, as if by magic, and starts placing platters on the table. Her smile for King this time is even brighter, more intimate - at least until she catches Abby's eyes and is all business again.

King really does know how to pull them in. Half the time, she's not even sure that he even realises the effect he has. The other half of the time she's pretty sure it's deliberate calculation on his part.

"So what's the plan for tomorrow?" she asks as soon as Charlene is out of earshot, hips swaying as she sashays away throwing a last, hopeful glance over her shoulder at King as she goes. The fries are just as Abby imagined - thick cut and steaming - and she pulls the bowl towards her, not bothering with her fork as she digs the first one out. She's beginning to think that this place is worth the money it charges, even if it won't do anything for her cholesterol levels. "Do some digging?"

He shakes his head, stealing some of her coleslaw. "I think we might be in for the long haul. Old fashioned detective work, you know? Let's find our feet first, not do anything to attract too much attention, get the lay of the land. Speaking of that..." He reaches up behind him, pulling some flyers out of a rack she hadn't even realised was there and spreading them on the table in front of them. "Let's figure out where the big tourist spots are, especially at night. Guess the lake's the big feature..." He pulls one of the flyers free and she cranes her neck to get a better look at it.

That brings her closer to King, and she'd forgotten how warm he was. In this heat, she's been staying away from him, but he smells a hell of a lot better than she expected after that long drive.

"You guys looking for things to do?"

She's been so wrapped up in King that she hadn't registered Charlene drawing back towards to their table, this time bringing the coffee Abby had forgotten she'd ordered. Or - more likely - she's made the rookie mistake of not registering Charlene as a potential threat, seeing her as a part of the scenery more than anything else, and she could kick herself for that.

"Sure," King says, all pleasant smiles and aw shucks attitude. "You got any recommendations?"

Charlene cocks her hip thoughtfully, making a production of it because she knows that she has King's full attention. "The lake's a good place to start," she says. "You can hire a boat, or a paddle boat if that's more your speed -" she gives King a grin he's happy to return "- and it's a hell of a lot cooler down there than it is in town. And the 'skeeters aren't too bad down there during the day."

"The little bloodsuckers are bad at night?" King asks, and Charlene smirks.

"They come out as soon as the sun starts setting, and they do like the lakeside. 'Course, there's not much to be doing down on the lake at night now, not since the town council put a stop to folks renting boats at night."

"Oh?" Abby asks, and not just because she's starting to think that maybe she needs to remind Charlene that she's actually there by becoming a part of the conversation. "Why's that?"

"Oh, you know. Couple of college kids get themselves drunk and killed out on the lake after dark. Hell of a mess that had to be cleared up - word is that the boat drove over them, cut into them real good. So now they've banned all night time pleasure craft from the water. I mean..." She treats King to another beaming smile, none of her attention on Abby even though it was Abby who'd asked the question. "With the summer being as hot as it's been, the water level's lower than it should be and now there's all sorts of things just waiting to catch you that last year you'd have clean sailed over. Not so bad in the daylight, you know, when there's people around and you can see where you're going and what's in front of you, but at night, it's just..."

"Lethal?"

"Heck, yes." Maybe Charlene realises that there's a little too much relish in her voice because she sobers up and is all business again. "Can I get you folks anything else?"

Abby shakes her head and Charlene gives her one of those fake, professional smiles with just the right amount of world-weariness in it, back in character after letting the young girl beneath it all shine through for a moment, and then heads off to deal with her other customers.

This time she doesn't look back, and Abby's pretty sure that's not relief she's feeling. She still waits until Charlene's out of earshot before she turns King's attention back to their conversation.

"You read the papers, didn't you?"

"Hmm?" King's look is all innocence as he picks up his burger, but she knows better than to be fooled.

"Night time boating accidents? You knew."

He gives her a slow, amused smile. "Busted. So, lake tomorrow?"

She's tempted to suggest tonight, because she's bored of coming up empty hunt after hunt, but King's right. They need to do some work on figuring out the layout of the land, and being out there in the dark in unfamiliar territory is an invitation for disaster, no matter how tempting it is to say 'fuck it' and just get out there and fight.

"Fine," she says. She's about to say something else - something about what the hell are they going to do all day by a lake - when something catches her attention.

Or someone.

The three guys who've just walked through the door look as out of place as Abby feels. There's something off about them - like the fact that they're not in the preppy outfits favoured by the rest of the clientele, and the arrogant way they stalk into the diner like they own the place despite being barely old enough to shave.

She doesn't need to spot the too light irises in their eyes or the pallor of their skin to immediately peg them as vamps, and it's like everything in her stops for a moment.

It's not fear. If she was smart, it would be fear, if not for herself then for everyone else in the diner. But this? This is more like a shiver of anticipation, something that slides up her spine, sets the hair at the nape of her neck on end, makes her fingers tingle.

King has frozen next to her, his burger at his lips. She can see him out of the corner of her eye and she doesn't need to be able to see any better than that to be able to picture the look on his face. She knows what it will be - it will be the mirror of the one on hers.

Christ, she's missed this.

She puts her burger carefully back on her plate, watching intently as the vamps swirl through the diner, loud and raucous, eyes glittering hungrily as they eye the girls, and the boys, and leaving scowls in their wake.

Charlene pastes on a professional smile and tries to guide them to a table but frankly she might as well have pasted an 'all you can eat buffet' sign on her chest and have done with it. They circle her, making low-voiced comments that Abby can't quite catch as they tug at her skirt, poke at her hair.

The woman looks close to tears by the time King rises to his feet.

He's not the only one, and that's the only reason Abby doesn't follow him straight away, holding back as she watches him unfolding from the booth, full of predatory grace as he straightens up to his full height. She's so used to his presence that sometimes she forgets just how impressive he is on first sight, towering over those around him, broad-shouldered and sleekly muscled.

He's not the first to reach Charlene - he's beaten there by a middle-aged man who has the look of someone who spends too much time indoors and maybe a little less time than he should at the gym, but has still managed to dress as preppily as everyone else. But to his credit, it doesn't stop him as he tries - in vain - to reason with what he thinks are probably just street punks and not the kind of beings who could rip his throat out without skipping a beat.

One of the vamps - the tallest of them - turns on Charlene's would be rescuer with a smile, something in it vicious enough to have the man stepping back, a look of consternation crossing his face at the creeping realisation that he might have bitten off more than he could chew. He stands his ground, though, and some part of Abby has to respect the attempt.

Of course, that's probably because he hasn't yet realised how fucked he is. Or how fucked he would be if King wasn't already neatly insinuating himself between the vamps and him.

There's something in King's smile, too, something that has the vamp's look of triumph - of an anticipation to match the one spiking its way up Abby's spine - fading slowly from his face, a thwarted kind of wariness replacing it.

Abby's seen this dance before and she's on her feet, heading towards Charlene, even as the vamp is exchanging brief looks with each of his companions in turn, his courage bolstered when he realises that they outnumber King three to one. Or so they think. But the fact he even checked, looking for backup, tells her that they're fledglings, not long turned. An older vamp wouldn't have worried about the odds, not the way they were used to their strength and their supposed superiority when confronted with human prey.

Because the only hunter they worry about is Blade and that's usually their first - and last - mistake.

"Now, guys," King is saying pleasantly as Abby reaches Charlene, placing a firm hand on her elbow and ignoring the way that the other woman starts in surprise as Abby starts guiding her out of harm's way. "What seems to be the problem here?"

King's eyes meet Abby's briefly, something cool and controlled in their depths, and she nods, letting him know that she has his back. She steadies Charlene as Charlene stumbles, her eyes wide as she looks back at King. There's no misreading the fear on her face, and for the first time tonight she actually looks her age, the 1950s waitress persona completely evaporating. She probably thinks it's a hold-up, or that the youths who've just sauntered in as though they owned the place are high on something, which might even be worse.

"Should I call the cops?" she whispers to Abby and her voice is too loud, attracting attention from all the wrong people. Abby eases her way between Charlene and the vamps in much the same way that King has done with Charlene's erstwhile protector, putting a human shield between the vamps and the rest of the diner. Her silver blade is a heavy weight in the small of her back and she knows there's no way that King came out unarmed.

It's not the fact that there are three of them that worries her, or even the possibility of collateral damage. She's fast and King's a hell of a lot more agile than a man his size should be. They could take these three down without breaking a sweat, as green as they are.

What worries her is that this is the kind of thing that attracts attention, and she has no desire to explain to the cops - or anyone else - why three people exploded into ash and dust as soon as she hit them.

Fuck. For all that she's been looking for a fight - to be able to take down some vamps and scratch the itch that's been plaguing her for weeks - she was hoping not to have to do it in public.

"There's no need for that," King says smoothly, his gaze holding the vamp's. "These gentlemen were just leaving. Isn't that right, guys?"

He has that tone in his voice, the one he gets so rarely. The one that pretty much has Abby's id sitting up and begging, all smooth confidence on top and ice-cold steel underneath. It certainly has the vamp hesitating, fingers clenching and unclenching nervously as he searches King's expression.

Maybe it really is King's tone or maybe it's a sudden realisation on the vamp's part that maybe, just maybe, someone will actually call the cops and they'll be in serious shit with whoever sired them for attracting this much attention - Abby doesn't know and can't bring herself to care - but finally the vamp jerks his head angrily towards the door and heads towards it, his crew following in his wake. He pauses right in the doorway to cast a malevolent look back at King and point a threatening finger in his direction. Abby's surprised when he doesn't draw the same finger across his throat. What the hell is it with vamps and their need for drama?

She watches the three of them leave, tromping across the parking lot but turning back frequently to glare through the windows back into the diner, before she looks at King. He raises an eyebrow at her, his expression speculative, and she nods minutely.

"Do you think we should call the cops?" Charlene asks nervously, her hands plucking at the fabric of her pale pink uniform as though she needs to de-soil it from the vamps' touch.

"No," Abby says firmly. "They've gone now and I doubt they'll be back. If they do come back, then maybe call the cops, but I suspect that they have more to deal with than three smart-ass kids."

"Did you see their eyes?" Charlene's would-be rescuer again, his expression faintly harassed and heading towards appalled as the adrenaline starts to wear off. "What the fu- heck was wrong with their eyes?"

"Contacts." King meets the man's flustered gaze with a cool sympathy. "All the kids are doing it, getting those weird contacts like they're in a movie or something. There was a kid in our local mall... when was it, honey? Last week? Had cat eyes in. Weirdest thing."

She nods obediently while still managing to give King a look that speaks volumes about the whole 'honey' thing. The man opens his mouth again, obviously not yet ready to let it go. She sympathises, she does, even if he's only got the slightest taste of how messed up the world can be, how the safe, sane 'reality' he thinks is the world's true face actually overlies the chaos underneath, but he needs to drop it before anyone really does call the police and they end up with dead, drained cops all over town.

The ones that aren't already familiars, of course.

"Thank you," she says, cutting him off before he can get started, and he blinks at her, completely thrown. "For stepping in. That was very brave."

He blinks at her again and then - surprisingly - starts to blush. "Someone had to," he says gruffly. "Kids today..."

He shakes himself, his embarrassment apparently overwhelming him, and then gives her and King a brief nod before heading back to this table and his waiting wife and teenage kids.

They're not the only diners still gawking. She and King are getting some looks before people slowly drift back to their meals. The fact that they do that at all amazes her - God bless the human capacity for self-deception.

She exchanges another look with King, a world of meaning in it, and he's as attuned to her as always.

"Can we get our meal to go, please?" he asks Charlene brightly.

-o-

It's easy to find the vamps, mainly because the stupid fuckers think that they're the ones who are 'lying in wait' for her and King. She soon rids them of that idea, slamming the back of her head into the face of the one who grabs her from behind, the taunting words - because they always taunt before they realise that they're not the ones doing the hunting - dying on his lips as she breaks his nose.

His voice isn't the only thing dying - he dies straight after that, impaled on her silver blade before his friend has even reached her. The second goes down as easily as the first, her knife sliding between his ribs. He dissolves into a shower of ash and embers, his scream lingering longer than the rest of him.

King takes down the third, punching him in the face several times before finally drawing a silver stake and driving it straight through the vamp's chest.

That ends predictably and King's vamp doesn't even have time to scream.

All in all, a good night's work, and Abby's feeling looser, more at ease, than she has for a long time.

"So," says King slowly, brushing the ash from his face and leaving a smear of it on his cheek. "What do you reckon? Back to the hotel or - since we never managed to finish our meal - what about a midnight picnic?" Sounds like a plan to her and she's suddenly starving again.

They eat their burgers at a picnic table, by the lake, and Charlene was right. The little bloodsuckers really do come out at night.

-o-

She sleeps as badly as she expected, and not just because of the heat. It should have been easier, now that she's a little less wired, her body singing in that satisfied, bone tired way that it does after a successful hunt. But that was before she factored in a half-naked King sleeping next to her, sprawled on the bed in nothing but his boxers and breathing deeply.

He throws off a lot of heat, but it's not the warmth of his body that keeps her awake, lying on her back staring at the ceiling, or the sound of the fan clicking and whirring all night. It's the thoughts whirring around her brain, the ones that tell her what a bad fucking idea it would be to close her eyes in case she moved a little closer to him, let sleep claim her when he's right there and her subconscious is a bitch in more ways than one.

She finally slips under in the early hours. When she wakes, the bed is empty but her fingers are curled into the sheet where it's still warm from King's body.

She pushes herself up, wiping at gritty eyes before she rolls over to blink blearily at the ceiling. The shower's running, which explains where King has gone, and the room is bright but with that golden quality to the light that suggests that it's still fairly early.

She'd look at her watch to confirm it, but it's on the bedside table and reaching for it is too much fucking effort for the way she feels right now.

The shower shuts off, and she sighs, putting the thought of dozing for a few more minutes out of her mind. By the time King emerges from the bathroom, still towel drying his hair, she's ready to push past him, clutching her clothes and managing a grunt in response to his cheerful, "Good morning."

At least he's hung the towels up, and she stands under lukewarm spray until she feels vaguely human again. She feels even more human when she comes out to find he's made her a cup of coffee, using at least two of the complementary packets the hotel provided to make it strong enough to satisfy her.

Sometimes she could kiss him.

He watches her with an amused smirk as she gulps it down, thankful that it's cooled enough while she's showered to let her get the caffeine into her system as quickly as possible. "What's the plan for today?" he asks as he pulls on his shoes, neatly tying off the laces.

"Shopping," she gets out between gulps, and if she wasn't still focused on caffeinating herself, she'd smile at the look on his face. As it is, she takes another long swallow and it's enough to get her brain into gear enough to add, "We stand out too much. We need to blend in better."

He blinks at her for a few moments, his brow creasing as he figures out what the hell she's talking about, and then a look of sheer horror crosses his face. She knows it's at least partly put on for her benefit but that doesn't stop her from grinning at it.

"Please God, Whistler, tell me you're not going to make me wear pastels. Or worse. Shorts."

So sue her if she immediately moves 'shorts' to the top of her mental shopping list, and he knows her too well because his look of horror morphs into an 'I dare you' glare.

Of course, he should know her better than that.

-o-

In the end they compromise, which means she gets to drag him to the resort's downtown area and the only shorts King agrees to buy are board shorts. He picks the most garish pair, of course, or at least as garish as it seems stores get in Twin Pines, which is about ten times less garish than King was probably hoping for.

He wears his best put upon puppy face the whole time she drags him around one of those upmarket stores he'd talked about, this one selling the kind of men's preppy outfits she'd seen last night with price tags that make her eyes water. She ignores him, sufficiently familiar with the game to play along just enough to make him feel wanted but not enough to make it worth his while to go for round two as she hands him clothes to carry and he puts most of them back again, sometimes even hanging them on the right rack. He leaves just enough in the pile he's carrying not to stretch this out any longer than either of them can stand, and not long enough to piss her off beyond recovery.

She hits the next store - women's clothing this time - in the same state of mind, determined to get out of the store before it gets busy and mentally cataloguing what she's already got back at the hotel against the fashions she's seen around her. Decision made, she makes a beeline for the skirts and shorts section. The shirts she's got will mostly do, because no matter what King thinks, she does occasionally buy things with flowers on even if she tends to wear no nonsense leather over the top of them. The choice when she gets there is quick and easy, too, mainly because no way in hell would she wear most of these outfits - denim for the shorts, because they're practical and are less likely to show blood and dirt than the white ones that seem to be everywhere, and shorter, slightly flared skirts that won't get tangled around her legs when she's fighting.

The only thing she actually bothers to try on is shoes, and even then she goes for plain white sneakers that cost far too much but are comfortable and practical. Not that there's much to choose from anyway - the store only carries a small range.

King stands on the side-lines for most of it, once again relegated to holding things, watching her with an amused little smile on his face as she sweeps through the store like a woman on a mission, which is probably an apt description when she thinks about. After about twenty minutes, when she pauses to take stock of what's in the pile - which King has abandoned next to her before wandering off - and definitely doesn't think about how many hundreds of dollars this is going to run to even though she's limited it as far as she can, King re-materialises next to her.

"Swimsuit?"

Damn it. She starts looking around for the swimwear section, assuming this place has one, pissed at herself for forgetting that when all they've been talking about is the lake and how that's where people congregate, when he holds up a suit in front of her.

It's a bikini, of course, skimpy and aquamarine and the cost about a hundred times more than is justified by the amount of fabric it contains, and she should have expected that. She gives him a look that speaks volumes, plucking it out of his hands and heading towards the relevant section to pick out something else. She settles for a one piece, something practical but pretty, and ignores the disappointed glint in his eyes as he follows behind her. Of course, given that it's King, it doesn't actually do anything to suppress him. The next thing she knows, he's holding up a top he's found, something white and gathered around the bust, with embroidered roses and thin straps.

She gives him another look but this time he doesn't just smirk back.

"C'mon, Whistler. It's cute and you'll look cute in it."

"Cute?" She leaves him in no doubt of her scepticism, but it doesn't faze him.

"Well, you could always go for the sequinned kitten shirt instead if you like." She follows his gaze until hers falls on the item in question. "I think that's really you, Whistler. There's just something about that kitten that's adorably cross eyed. Or do I mean 'creepy'?"

She pokes him in the stomach hard enough to make him 'ooof' and he laughs, his breath hitching as he fends off her next attack. Maybe smiling is indulging him too much - and she knows that letting him throw the white top in with the other clothes is - but, damn it, he looks good when he's happy.

"You're such a dick," she says, because it bears repeating, and he flings one arm around her shoulder companionably as he steers her toward the till.

"I promise I'll behave if we can get out of this hellhole."

"At least it's air-conditioned," she says absently, rubbing at her temple. The lack of sleep has left her with a low grade headache - not enough to hinder her but enough to drag at her steps a little.

"Okay. If we can get out of this air-conditioned hellhole." The smile she gives him this time is a little absent and he doesn't miss that. "Tired?"

"Yeah," she admits. "A little. Didn't sleep that great."

"Huh." For a second she thinks she's given too much away, but when she turns her head to look at him, the expression on his face is sympathetic, not considering. He shakes her gently. "We'll get out of here, head to the lake. Should be cooler up there and you can get some sleep."

"In public?"

Okay, maybe she sounds a little sceptical again, but King doesn't seem insulted, probably because he's too busy pulling his wallet out as they approach the very short line at the till. "That's what most people do in this kind of heat, Whistler. Sunbathe and sleep. Damn it..." He stops and looks at her, an irritated frown crossing his face. "Sunscreen."

She picks it out of the pile and waves it at him, raising one eyebrow. Yeah, okay, the makeup section in this store is expensive, and the sunscreen costs an arm and a goddamned leg, but she's just thankful that they even stock it. Being able to pick it up here means that she doesn't have to drag King to the drug store after, and dragging him around two stores in one day is pretty much her limit.

"Once again, I am in awe of your organisational skills. Seriously, Abby. We're talking terrifying here."

"I think we're talking 'full of shit' actually, but I'll take the compliment."

Her tone is dry but he still grins at her and it warms her up inside.

Which is the last thing she needs in this kind of heat.

-o-

There's something to be said about living like the rich, and Abby ignores the quiet, judgemental voice in her head, the one that whispers that she's growing soft and lazy. King's right in one respect - she needs to get some sleep during the day if she's going to be in any fit state to hunt at night and it's too fucking hot to do anything else. So why not fit in, laze by the lake and catch some sun as well as some zzzs.

But then King is tempting in more ways than one, and she's got to admit that it's a temptation that's getting harder to resist, especially bare-chested and wearing board shorts that hang low on his hips.

So it's not just her conscience that has her sinking into the clear, crystal cool lake, intending to at least do some exercise to feel better about sleeping for the rest of the day. The blazing summer sun has taken the edge off the run-off, but it still holds enough of a chill to catch at her breath and send goose bumps running up and down her spine, and maybe an ice-cold bath is just what she needs if she's not going to do something stupid, like look where she shouldn't or touch what's out of her reach, if she's got any sense. She takes a deep breath, sinking under the water so that it soaks her hair and then steadies herself, setting off and sliding through the water with ease.

She doesn't go far, careful to stay within a safe depth and close to the shore, because she doesn't know these waters and she's not stupid - at least not about this - but far enough out so that the splashing, cat-calling children don't come close enough to interrupt her. There's something peaceful about staying in that little bubble, isolated from the families around her, and she takes a few more strokes until she's further out, rolling over onto her back and staring up at the sky.

It's still early enough that the sun isn't directly overhead and the sky is an impossible blue, stretching out endlessly above her. It leaves her feeling small and insignificant, just a speck bobbing up and down in the water. It's a strange, giddy-making feeling, something twisting and lurching in the pit of her belly, caught up in the skip-skip beating of her heart. Her head is buzzing and the skin on her face is tight over her cheekbones when she finally rolls over again, closing her eyes and sinking down into the lake's depths until the water closes over her head again.

It's even more peaceful down here, but that isn't what drives her back to shore.

King is still sprawled on his back on the short pier that they've staked out as theirs, his arm thrown over his face to shield his eyes from the sun. He only moves when she pulls herself up onto the boards beside him, turning his head to squint at her in the golden sunlight.

"Good swim?" he asks lightly, and his voice is a low purr, sleepy and content.

She stares back out over the lake, roughly towel drying the ends of her hair. "Fine."

"Just fine?" He pushes himself up onto his elbows, peering up at her, a smile curling at the corners of his mouth and echoed in his eyes. "Come on, Whistler, you can do better than that."

Sitting has made the muscles of his stomach tense up, and she drags her eyes away from the outline of his abs, the way his skin gleams in the sunlight.

"You could try it yourself," she suggests tartly and his grin widens.

"I prefer to do my swimming in places where fish don't piss. Like, oh, the hotel pool."

"The outdoor pool," she points out. "Where there are still bugs and the amount of chlorine in the water could fell an ox."

Her words are like water off King's back. He just shrugs and smiles again, rolling over to pillow his head on his arms and stare out over the lake.

His shoulders are broad, as firmly muscled as his stomach, and this time she can't resist, letting her gaze wander down the line of his spine to his narrow waist, coming to rest on the dip in the small of his back and the V that disappears under his shorts.

He shifts and sighs and she starts, the blood rushing to her face when he turns his head to look at her curiously. "You're going to burn," she says, pleased at when the words come out steady and unaffected. "You need to be more careful."

But it's not him who needs to be careful, and she's the one who's going to get burned.

"Yeah, well," he says easily. "You kind of disappeared on me when we got here. Water that tempting?"

It's not the water.

The words hang on the tip of her tongue and she bites them back. "It's cool," she says. "Nice."

"Fish piss in it," he repeats, giving her a sly look and inviting her to play along. But she can't, not when he's sitting this close and wearing so little, and after a moment he sighs. "Do you mind?" he asks, and now she has no choice but to look at him if she wants to understand what the hell he's talking about.

He's waving the tube of sunscreen at her and she can't really say no, not without making a bigger deal out of it than it should be.

It scares her how much she doesn't want to say no.

He's still lying down and that makes it both easier and harder to do this. She's touched him before - of course she has - but not like this. She's tended to keep her touching of him to safe zones - his forearm, his shoulder - and for all that King's an extrovert, he's strangely non-tactile. This... This is a whole new world and she's not sure she's ready for it.

She settles on the deck beside him, squeezing the sunscreen onto her hands as she wonders where to begin - where it's safe to begin. She starts with his shoulders, and his skin is already sun-warm under her fingertips. She tries to keep it brisk, business-like, but there are things that catch her attention, that snag at her fingers and slow her down. His skin is soft, but not smooth - there are freckles and moles, dips and hollows, an acne scar on one of his shoulders and a faint pale line along one of his ribs. She remembers when that happened - a familiar's shotgun blast that splintered the door behind King and sent a shower of wood chips down on them - like she remembers how King had cursed and twisted to get the six-inch splinter out.

If she turned him over would she be able to map the rest of their time together, the small cuts and injuries, the things that make them the walking wounded more often than not?

She flattens her palms and slides her hands over his shoulder blades, down his biceps, and he lets out a low rumble of contentment. That catches at her attention, too, her fingers pausing a beat too long before discipline takes hold and she keeps on moving, pouring more sunscreen into her palms to cover her hesitation.

His shoulders are broad, but his waist is narrow and she slides her hands down his back, fingers curling along his sides as she heads south. Her mouth is dry, her breathing echoing loudly in her ears and she doesn't think that her sudden dizziness has anything to do with the heat. The faint scent of the lotion is heavy in the air, and underlying it is the scent of King, something so familiar to her that she thinks she might be able to pick him out of a line-up even if she was blindfolded. He lets out another sound, something light and amused as the muscles of his waist twitch under her touch and she runs her fingers over that spot again, just to get him to repeat that sound.

"No tickling," he murmurs sleepily, lifting his head to peer down his body at her.

She ducks her own head, covering the sudden skip of her heart with a light, "Oh, but it's so tempting."

"Just remember I'm doing you next," he says, and the idea drives the words straight out of her head.

She's reached his waist, and she makes sure that she gets the lotion into that tempting hollow at the small of his back, wondering if she dares go further, right down to the waistband of his shorts. If she doesn't - if she skips it because she's too damned cowardly, so little in control of herself - he'll burn.

She takes a deep breath, her head buzzing as she slides her hand along that patch of skin, where it's soft and vulnerable, sliding just the tips of her fingers under the fabric of his shorts to make sure she doesn't miss any part of him. His legs are easier, but only just, especially when she reaches the top of his thighs again and is confronted by that same dilemma.

"Okay," she says when she's finished, aiming for brisk but coming out breathless. "I think you're done."

He makes another one of those sleepy, contented sounds that goes straight to her stomach, and then lower still. "Want me to do you now?"

Just like that, he's struck her dumb again, and she has to swallow, hesitating long enough that he's sitting up and looking at her curiously before she can find her voice again.

"Sure," she says, aiming for nonchalant and missing it by a mile. She shuffles around until her back is to him and closes her eyes, trying to remember to breathe, trying not to flinch when he finally touches her.

His breath stirs her hair and that gives her enough warning to brace herself, his fingers landing firmly on her skin, not too hard, not too soft, but a steady firm pressure as he rubs the lotion in. She opens her eyes again, and the sunlight is dancing on the water, bright enough that when she closes them again, she can still see the patterns swirling behind her eyelids.

His hands slide up her neck, into her hairline, his thumbs pressing into the nape of her neck, and she lets her head fall forward, breathing through her mouth as the tension shivers up her spine and then evaporates, leaving her limp and pliant under his touch. He keeps it impersonal, never venturing outside her comfort zone, and the more proper his touch the more she longs for his fingers to stray. But the pressure he uses is firm enough that when his fingers finally leave her skin she sways back towards him involuntarily, like he's got a gravity to him and she can't help but be pulled closer.

"Okay?" he asks, and she nods, still silent, not trusting herself to speak. "Are you okay, Whistler? You seem a little..."

He trails off, leaving a gap that's just inviting her to fill it, and she finally swallows, saying, "I'm fine. Just a little tired."

"Ah." There's a world of understanding in that sound, and that means she can look at him again, safe in the knowledge that he hasn't seen through her, not yet. His eyes are kind, and she'd forgotten that he could do that, or at least that he could let it show when normally he hid safely behind a wall made up of equal amounts of wit and bullshit. He pats his towel, spread out on the decking. "Why don't you try and get some sleep."

She hesitates for a moment, long enough for him to sigh and reach for her, shaking her shoulder lightly again, affection on his face for a brief instant before he manages to hide it again.

"C'mon, Whistler. It's broad daylight. No one is going to try anything."

I might, she thinks, but she gives in, letting him tug her closer to him and stretching out on the towel he's pulled her towards. He balls their other towel up into a makeshift pillow, pushing it under her head as he settles down next to her, his feet dangling in the water as he stares out over the lake.

She doesn't think that she can sleep, not with King right there next to her, but his fingers come to rest gently between her shoulder blades, his thumb stroking a slow, gentle and mindless pattern over her skin, something intended to soothe, and she closes her eyes.

She drifts away to the sounds of summer and the broad, steady warmth of King's hand on her back.

-o-

That night they hit the bars, not the restaurants, and the rhythm of that is familiar even if the clientele is less rowdy than she's used to.

They blend because Abby makes sure that they blend, and King's hand is steady in the small of her back as he guides her in front of him, a perfect gentleman in appearance if nothing else. Here and there she catches a look as they wend their way through the crowd, a quick one-two as someone looks her up and down and dismisses her, the vague kind of interest you might have in a stranger and little more. She suspects that the reason that their gazes flit past her so quickly might have something to do with King and his closeness to her. Those interested in her have her pegged as spoken for, and those interested in King have more than enough to hold their attention.

Or maybe it's that she blends too well, not standing out the way that King does.

He looks good tonight, and she'd be the first to admit it. The grey long-sleeved shirt clings to him in all the right ways, and his pants are just tight enough. But then he always looks good to her, so maybe she's not the best judge. Whatever the reason for the attention, neither of them is out of place, and that should make it easier to spot the ones who are.

In theory.

It takes her all evening to admit that tonight they might come up empty. Abby is strangely okay with it. They can't be greedy, not with the number they took down the night before, and an evening spent with King is never wasted. No one else makes her laugh quite as hard as he can and the worry that she might be missing something - that they might be missing something - is easy to let slip away when she has King's sly smile and amusing anecdotes to keep her entertained.

Besides, she's not entirely sure whether Twin Pines could support more vamps than they've already dealt with, not without causing more of a stir than it did. The town's heaving, yeah, but it's not city sized, which she supposes is the point.

When she mentions this to King, he shrugs. "We've got our room for three more nights," he says philosophically. "We find more vamps here, great. We stake the fuckers. We don't, we move on, try somewhere new."

It sounds sloppy and inefficient phrased like that but when she frowns, King gives her a crooked little smile. "Look at it this way, Whistler. This time of year, being able to find an empty room is a clear sign that something is thinning the tourist population. So wherever we end up, chances are we're going to find something."

That's one way of looking at it, and it even has its own weird, morbid practicality about it. But then, King can be practical about the weirdest things. The small corner of the Honeycomb Hideout that he's marked out as his own bears witness to that. It's full of esoterica, the kind of stuff that most people would dismiss as flotsam and jetsam, but she knows King better than that. Sometimes she can see patterns in the things he's collected and if she can see the patterns then King can see the whole picture.

One of these days, he might even share.

"What?" King raises one eyebrow and his question startles her into realising that she's been staring at him while he talked, a small smile on her face.

"Just you," she says to cover it, hoping that whatever her expression is, it reads as 'fond' instead of... anything else. "You have an answer for everything."

He shrugs, letting his gaze wander around the bar, looking for anything out of place. "I'm just an eternal optimist, Whistler."

He'd have to be, really, after everything that he's been through. If he wasn't, she suspects he wouldn't be able to function. Sometimes she wonders if he has any idea how fucking strong he is. Most of the time she's convinced he doesn't.

His gaze finally drifts back to her, a slightly rueful look on his face that tells her that he hasn't spotted anything out of the ordinary, and then he gives her another one of those crooked smiles.

It's her turn to ask, "What?"

His smile deepens. "I was right about that top. It looks cute on you."

She rolls her eyes, if only to cover the small pleased smile that she can't help but let escape. "Like I said, an answer for everything."

He grins at her as he turns to face the bar, raising his hand to catch the bartender's eye and order them more drinks. It's busy in here, busier than she expected given the size of the town, but she supposes that there must be more hotels, more rentals than she's seen to support the restaurants and the expensive shops, and she lets her eyes track over the crowds automatically.

Someone's watching her.

She gets the prickle in the base of her spine first, and then the hairs on the back of her neck rise. She's too experienced to let any of that show, pasting a bored expression on her face, just a girl waiting for her boyfriend to buy her another drink.

She spots him eventually, the too pale guy standing by the jukebox. He's tall, hungry looking, and he doesn't blend. He doesn't blend because he's wearing black in the summer, because he's goth pale in a resort that's all about sun worship, because he's not clutching a beer in one hand.

He doesn't blend because he's not fucking human.

Gotcha.

She doesn't let on that she's seen him - and he'd had enough sense to look away before meeting her eyes - so she lets her gaze pass him by before she turns back towards King.

King is watching her, holding out her beer and raising one eyebrow quizzically. She slides closer to him, still conscious of that itch that tells her that the vamp's attention is back on her, and leans in, her hand resting on King's hip.

To his credit, he doesn't even twitch, but simply lowers his head towards her so that she can talk to him without being overheard.

"I think we've got a live one," she murmurs, more conscious now of the warmth of King's body and the faint scent of his shower gel than the eyes that are watching her. "Behind me, by the jukebox."

King's gaze flits briefly in that direction before returning to her face.

"Do you think he's made us?" she asks. "He was looking straight at me."

"I don't think so," King mutters, and his breath is warm against her ear. She fights the urge to shiver; the prickles running up and down her spine now have nothing to do with the vamp or the excitement of an incipient fight. "I wasn't joking when I said that top was cute on you."

She gives him a look, one that's slightly cross-eyed this close to him, and he grins, something fierce and predatory behind it. His gaze flicks towards the vamp again. "And I think he's lost interest now that he knows you have a boyfriend. Hate to tell you this, but I think he's checking out the brunette in the very tight top."

"Which brunette in a very tight top?"

King grins again, something delighted in it. "I wouldn't be able to say, sweetheart, since obviously I don't have eyes for anyone but you."

He's playing - she knows he's playing, but her stupid heart still skips a beat. She covers it, like she always covers it, ducking her head with a laugh and turning to look out over the crowd, which only coincidentally means she's looking towards the jukebox again. King's right - the vamp's lost interest in her now, his eyes tracking a giggling brunette and her friends as they make their way towards the exit.

It must be getting late. She hadn't realised how late - or how early - it was until she spots that the crowd is lighter than it was, people slowly making their way home, or back to whatever expensive guest house or rental they've got for the summer.

"Shall we?" King murmurs in her ear, his chest brushing against her shoulder as he leans in. "I think there's a party about to go on out there that we should have been invited to."

The vamp makes his move, and Abby starts to follow, King right behind her.

King doesn't place his hand in the middle of her back this time, and she misses it even though she shouldn't. For a second she's tempted to reach back for him, to catch a hold of some part of him and drag him closer until his warmth is back up against her again, and she reaches for her blade instead, just so she won't do something stupid.

The vamp pushes out the door, and she's only a few steps behind him. He glances back over his shoulder but King is right there, sliding his arm around her shoulders and leaning in towards her again. She leans back, closing her eyes for a moment, knowing it's stupid but unable to resist. When she opens them again, the vamp has lost interest and King steps away.

She swallows the bitter taste in her mouth, taking her disappointment - and it's so fucking stupid to be disappointed - and turning it into something useful, something focused.

The girls up ahead giggle, staggering a little drunkenly and the vamp's steps slow, as though he's torn between making a move on them and waiting until she and King are past, until he has no observers and can take his time with them. Her lip curls with disgust, the anger bubbling within her. Oh, she wants to take this fucker down, badly.

The girls turn the corner, heading towards Twin Pine's main street, and their laughter drifts back towards them.

"Excuse me?"

She has no idea what the hell King is up to, and neither does the vamp, who finally stops, turning slowly towards them. His eyes glint in the streetlights, and Abby fakes a stumble of her own, something to convince him that the girls aren't the only ones who've had a little too much to drink tonight.

"You got a light?"

Jesus. That's King's plan? She sighs and throws him a look, one that's half-pissed and half-amused. It's served its purpose, though, attracting the vamp's attention just long enough for the girls to disappear completely out of sight.

"I thought you'd quit," she says, finally deciding that playing along might be the best option.

"Aww, baby. Don't be like that."

"You're a little drunk," she announces, enunciating her words carefully in the way of the truly inebriated, and that seems to clinch it, the vampire moving closer to them and losing interest in his first intended prey. "You only smoke when you're drunk."

They're alone in the street, although Abby can dimly hear the sounds of the bar behind them. No intersections, so no traffic cameras, and it's not residential, so there's no one to disturb if the vamp has time to scream. She's not planning on giving him the time and neither is King. He moves past her, his hands patting at his pockets as though he really is looking for cigarettes, and Abby's watching closely enough to pinpoint the exact moment when the vamp decides that they'll do as tonight's prey. His lips curl up in a smile, something hungry and vicious, showing his fangs...

And then King punches him smartly in the face, hard enough to rock him back on his heels.

The vamp's hand comes up to cover his nose and the expression - from what Abby can see of it - is both surprised and frustrated. There's shock there, too, something almost hurt, as though he can't quite believe that this is the way his night is going to end.

He's seen nothing yet.

King steps back, shaking his hand to loosen the tension, and Abby makes her move. Her first kick hits the vamp straight in the chest, knocking him backwards - she was aiming for his head but her skirt is a little tighter than she thought. Her second kick sweeps his feet out from underneath him and he lands on the asphalt with a loud crack.

He's trying to push himself upright again when King kicks him in the head. Being a vamp, that doesn't put him down for the count, but the silver blade that Abby slams into his eye socket does.

He bursts into flame, his entire body collapsing into dust and embers.

Her heart is racing when she steps back, her breath catching in her throat more from adrenaline than exertion. The noise from the bar gets louder as the door swings open and more bodies spill out into the street, laughing and heckling, and King moves silently to stand between her and them, giving her enough time to slide her blade back into its hidden sheath before it can be seen.

The strap of her top slipped down her arm as she'd fought, and King reaches out, sliding it wordlessly back up onto her shoulder. His fingers linger for a moment, warm against her skin, before slipping away again and she shivers, feeling the ghostly imprint of his touch even after his fingers are gone.

Her mouth is dry and the racing of her heart now has nothing to do with the vamp she's just killed. Instead it's all about the look on King's face, steady and focused, strangely intense.

He takes a step closer, his fingers hovering just above her skin.

The laughter grows louder, footsteps drawing nearer, and King's hand drops to hang by his side before he steps back, moves away, and the moment passes.

She doesn't get much sleep that night, either, and it's nothing to do with the summer's heat.

-o-

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