*It goes without saying that Being Human US – the story and all related characters – belong to the rightful owners. I claim no ownership or association to the TV series titled Being Human, based on the BBC series of the same name.*
There Are No Such Things
"... even a monster can possess that most dominant of human emotion. Fear."
– Aidan Waite
Being Human US, S01E06
Every person I've ever met believes, to a varying extent, that everything happens for a reason.
Sometimes the reason is as simple as you were a dumbass and now you've got to pay. Other times the reasons go deeper, and you can feel in the soft grit of your marrow that there are other, greater powers at work.
Thinking back on that fateful night, I know now that I felt some of that.
To abuse another oft used expression, hindsight really was twenty-twenty. You can remember a moment and recognize the exact second that changed everything. See it so clearly; where your path diverged and the choices presented to you.
Take that well-lit road, safe, get home. Put on my pajamas and fall asleep to a movie. Go to work the next day, drink cold coffee and a sandwich for lunch. Live a life, never knowing the bullet I dodged. Never knowing how badly that evening could have ended.
Stay late. Lock up. Tired, take the short way home through a rain-glossed parking lot behind the bank. See a thing I had no business being a part of and suffer the consequences of that decision. I could have called a taxi. Could have waited for the last bus. Could have . . . could have . . . should have . . .
I have gone over that night, those final few minutes over-and-over again in my mind. Seeing myself through the memory, aware that I could so easily have chosen the other way and recognizing the futility of wishing for different.
My name is Ash Mallory.
I made a mistake.
"Oh, honey. You need to get laid!"
Now why did Jas have to go and say that?
Cheeks stinging with heat, I ducked my head down under the industrial sink. A wrench in my hand, heavy and warm. My friend and I were on the floor, behind the counter of a small bistro after hours. The lights were mostly off, because I didn't want anyone to think we were open.
It was late. Eleven at night. Eleven-thirty?
I wasn't sure; we'd been here a while.
Jasmine was holding the flashlight. Or she was supposed to be. Instead we were discussing my sex-life. Or the lack thereof.
Tuck-tuck. She knocked the head of the flashlight on the floor.
"I heard you," I said. I turned onto my back, sliding my upper-half under the stainless steel sink and wiggled the heavy drainpipe. A low, angry gurgling came from it. "I am ignoring you. See this? This is me pretending you're not here."
Jasmine snickered and very deliberately moved the flashlight beam down, leaving me in the dark. "How's that working for you?"
"Not well," I muttered. Through the gurgling I thought I could hear a trickle of water, so at least the thing wasn't totally clogged. Water was getting through. I grabbed the wrench and felt with my fingers.
"Look, all I'm saying is if a relationship is too much work to squeeze into . . . work . . . god, babe, you need a life . . . than need I remind you that we live in the glorious age of electronics? I mean really, you're making all this harder than it needs to be."
I was grateful for the dark under the sink. I really was. It hid the fact that my face was on fire. Very slowly I closed my eyes and took several deep breaths, praying for patience. Or for the floor to open up and swallow me whole. That'd work too.
What I said was, "Why do you care how often I get-it-on? As for the age of electronics, I really don't want to get personal with something that comes with a warning label and batteries."
"I care –"huge emphasis on the word "– because you, my friend, have given up."
Have not. I paused.
Frowned. Lowered my arm from where I was trying to pry the pipe open and glowered at Jas, sitting cross-legged in front of the sink. She was playing with the flashlight in her hands, sending the bright beam skidding here and there over the floor. "I didn't give up. I'm trying to run a business, so I'm – duh – busy. There's a difference."
"Mm-hmm." She sounded convinced. "What was wrong with Austin?"
I slid out from under the sink, tossing the heavy aluminum wrench on the floor.
Jasmine lifted blue eyes to mine. "Erik?"
"Enjoyed mining for nose gold," I said. "Especially over dinner."
Now here I just stared.
Jas threw up her hands. "Okay, so he had a bit of a gambling problem. But everybody needs a hobby."
I laughed. Jasmine Dalton had been my friend for longer than either of us could remember. Childhood. Toddler-hood. Baby-hood? Yes. Our parents were friends; our moms met at one of those birthing class seminars. But where Jas was the youngest of a brood of siblings – I was an only child.
And times like these, it really showed. She had no shame. Was embarrassed by nothing. Learned very early in life to speak her mind, and to speak it loudly, or risk never being heard.
She was pretty. Definitely no leftover genes there.
Honey blonde and eyes so blue that they didn't look real. Candy-blue. Turquoise. She was petite, coming in at an even five feet. She favored bold, jewel-colored clothes to match this radiant personality. She was like the sun.
Dark colors, soft colors, pastels. None of those worked for her, she was too big. Too bright. Silver bangle bracelets, or sometimes wood, sparkly beads and long rope chains. A dozen at once. Nothing in moderation.
I loved this girl. I really did. She was just so absolutely alive – unapologetically herself – that it was hard not to feel caught up in this energy. An aura of passion, a zest. A trend I'd noticed is that Jasmine tended to wear through friends pretty quickly.
Who has that sort of energy? Who could keep up with someone who exhausted them? Quick answer? She was worth it.
I mean, who else would drop everything to help a friend unclog a sink at midnight?
She waggled her brows. "Okay so maybe not a relationship, but there's something to be said for an itch-scratcher."
"So sayith the virgin," I muttered. "How 'bout we talk about your sex life?"
Jas huffed, all indignant. "I'm saving myself because I want to save myself. No rule saying you have to be a prude, too."
"You're not a prude," I assured her, sweeping my long hair up in a tail. Picked up the wrench and dove back under the counter. Jasmine lifted the flashlight.
"Sure I am. And that works for me. Not for you, babe, you gotta break out of that shell before you adopt a cat to compensate for the absence of company and a crippling loneliness."
I actually lowered my arms to pin her with a look of sheer disbelief. "Are you serious?"
Jasmine offered a sunny smile, eyes twinkling. I gave the wrench one hard yank and the washer finally came loose, spraying damp and bad smell all over my upturned face. I coughed and sputtered, pushing out from under the sink.
Jas tilted her head, looking quizzically down at the drain pipe. "What's clogging that, anyway?"
"A scrunchy," I said.
"Yeah, you know. Puffy elastic for your hair."
Jasmine giggled. "How'd that get down there?"
"I don't know but someone's in big trouble." Ugh. I so didn't want to reach inside the pipe but I kinda had to. I was not going to call a plumber for this. The smell was awful. Very carefully, I stuck my fingers inside the pipe hanging open and felt around. Particles of soggy food slicked my skin and I made a face.
Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.
There! A wet, spongy thing. With the tips of my fingers, I hooked the elastic and tugged slowly upward. It came out relatively easily, considering it had felt like it was lodged in tight. But so did the particles of food and soggy and stagnant water.
Black sludge like poop tumbled out, splattering the floor.
"That's gross," Jas remarked, real helpful.
Yes it was.
I was not keeping the scrunchy. I flopped it over the top of the trash hidden under the counter and pulled myself off the floor. Grabbed a roll of paper towel and handed it to my friend.
"Here, make yourself useful."
She balked. "You do not pay me for this."
I stuck my ucky hand on my hip and scrunched my face up to look annoyed. "I let you blather on about my sex life. You. Owe. Me."
She balked again. Slapped her hand over her chest and pretended to swoon, as if what I was asking her to do was just-too-much. She let her eyes roll up, showing the whites.
"Oh, grow up." I tossed the paper towel in her lap and Jasmine hooted with laughter. "I'm going to go wash my hands."
The night had grown cool, with just a hint of frost hanging over Boston.
The streets glossy and dark with a drizzle so fine it was more mist than actual rain. Beautiful and what I loved most about the city. The way the lights at night only seemed to enhance the darkness. Like a jewel. Glistening, polished glass.
My keys clinked as I stuck them in the door, locking the bistro with a quick twist. Jasmine waited while I did that. I was grateful for her company, that when I called she came right over. Not many people were so understanding about being dragged out of bed in the middle of the night.
"Are you sure you don't want a ride?" Jas asked. Bundled up in her coat and thick wool scarf, arms crossed against the chill. Glowing faintly in the yellow shine from a streetlight.
I rattled the door to the restaurant, making sure it was locked tight. Peeked in through the front window, checking that everything inside was as it should be. Dark and empty. Yep.
"I'm sure," I said and blew out a tired breath. "I like the weather."
"So you're going to walk?"
A stiffer wind whistled down the street, cold cutting straight through my thin denim jacket and raising the little hairs on my arms. I shivered.
Jasmine rolled her eyes at me. "Okay, fine. Walk in the rain and get all wet. Just call me when you get in, 'kay?"
"I will," I promised her. Exchanged a quick hug with my friend. "Thank you for being here. I know you have . . . um . . ."
"Have what?" she teased, sticking her tongue out. "Class first thing? You owe me coffee and somethin' sweet, we'll call it even."
I laughed. "That's fair. Deal."
Jasmine waved her hands, shivering in the icy mist and flounced down the street to where she parked her car. I stood and watched her unlock the driver-side door, slide inside and start the engine. She waved again as she drove past, red break-lights flaring briefly before she turned a corner and was gone from sight.
I inhaled the clear, cool night and tucked my hands inside my jacket.
My shoes clipped on the shiny dark sidewalk; caked in wet leaves and the glitter of city lights.
This particular stretch of road was a hub of smaller consumerism during the day, both sides of the street lined with business and shops. Hallmark stores, florists and cafés. People meandering and music.
But once the sun began to set, the night seemed to settle like a shroud broken only by the turn of distant traffic lights. Nights here were lonely. Silent.
I flipped the lapels of my jacket up over my neck, huddling down into my coat. Those first, unwanted prickles of unease creeping like a chill over my skin. I should have accepted Jas' offer of a ride, but it was too late for that now.
Frost was forming on my eyelashes. I wasn't imagining it, it was getting colder.
I didn't have far to go. Ten minutes to walk and I knew it would be toast warm once I got home. With the little space heater in my bedroom, clean pajamas and maybe a soothing tea before bed. Fall asleep to a book.
That sounded nice.
No, that sounded great.
The bank building loomed just ahead, showing I was already halfway there. This huge red-brick rectangle that towered over the surrounding businesses like a monolith. It's bright blue-and-white sign running down the length, radiant against the backdrop of roiling black clouds.
I sniffed and pulled my jacket more firmly closed, crossing my arms over my stomach.
Hesitated on the threshold of the bank, one foot on the slick grass bordering the bank's parking lot, the other still down on the sidewalk. I couldn't say exactly what stopped me in that moment. Why I paused, that knot of uneasiness coiling deep in my belly like foreboding.
I glanced back, over my shoulder.
Through a curtain of damp hair, my gaze swept the street. Bright-lit and open, as benign as could be with nothing to account for the nauseating lift in my stomach.
I kept moving, stepping over the grassy boarder onto black asphalt. Felt the brush of weightless rain on my face. My hand closed over the little can of repellent dangling from my keychain – as was my habit when cutting through the empty parking lot. Only this time I clutched the pepper spray a bit more firmly than necessary.
There were no words to explain what I was feeling. Paranoia. This prevailing sense that I was not as alone as it would seem. A streetlight flickered – that little hiccup in the yellow shine more sinister than was warranted.
I was already halfway across the parking lot when a scream jerked my head around. My shoes skidded on the asphalt, jaw clicking with fright. A hard, sharp bark of laughter rang out, trembling on the breeze.
Keep walking, flitted through my mind. Just keep walking.
I caught the shudder of a pained gasp, immediately choked off. The rough scrape of something heavy falling to the ground. My heart gave a solid double-tap, my whole body tingling as every nerve seemed to fire at once.
Fight or flight, I was frozen. Panic squeezed in my chest, forcing the air from my lungs while I just stood there. I listened hard, straining my senses to hear through the rush of wind in the ornamental trees greening the circumference of the parking lot.
I could smell my own rain-wet hair. The sudden silence more chilling than that initial shout. I slipped my phone from my jeans, dialing 911 with trembling fingers. Pressed the phone to the side of my face.
"Nine-One-One, what's your emergency?"
"Yes! I'd like to report a . . . a –"
A what? I knew what I'd heard. What do I even say?
"Ma'am," the male dispatcher said calmly. "Do you need police or ambulance?"
"Police," I whispered. "Wait, no . . . both. Send both. Someone's being hurt. I-I'm reporting an aggravated assault."
A sharp crack, like a stick snapping, jerked my whole body around. The shout that followed sounded hoarse, and it echoed mockingly off the tall buildings almost as if it were coming down out of the sky.
I gave the address of the bank, explaining that I thought the screams were coming from the back lot where the employees parked their cars. Out of sight of the street.
"Are you witnessing this assault?" the dispatcher asked me.
"No, I . . . didn't go back there," I admitted, teeth grinding in frustration. An ominous silence descended, broken only by the honk of a car horn in the distance.
"A cruiser has been dispatched. Are you safe where you are?"
I was standing solidly in the open, under the shine from a streetlamp like a treasure in a game. The bank was closed, as late as it was. Its glass doors shining blue-green. Empty and clean and despite knowing exactly where to focus my unease . . . I still couldn't shake the feeling that I was being watched.
I clutched my phone with both hands. "How long until the police arrive?"
"They're on their way now," the dispatcher responded.
I swallowed hard, hearing the evasiveness in his answer. Ten minutes? More? I said, "Thank you." and hung up.
It was never a conscious choice, but so few crossroads are.
I clutched my phone to my chest, shivering in this icy drizzle. Torn between a decision already made, and the whisper of something more.
I'm no hero. I wasn't brave. I called the police and that was as much as anyone could expect of me. That should have been enough. Whatever was happening just out of sight, so near that I could feel the tremor of malevolence like a physical touch . . . it wasn't my problem . . .
This was not . . . my problem . . .
I couldn't do it.
I couldn't keep walking and be okay with that.
I plastered myself to the wall of the bank building. The silence heavier than any quiet had the right to be. There were no shouts now, no evidence of life but for the rush of far distant traffic.
There was a whole city out there. People.
But here? I was alone.
My head so full of scents; wet concrete and grass, the sharper tang of metal from a chain-link fence sparkling under the hard shine of a streetlamp. The rain soaking into every crevice, every blade of grass. Through the tight fibers of my jean coat, so that the icy cold pressed right up against my skin.
I was in the dark now. At once a part of it, yet still somehow separate.
An interloper. I didn't belong here.
My heart a drumbeat in my chest. Pounding like it was trying to escape. The rush of blood tilting my vision. I already felt faint. Trembling on a wall, I squeezed my eyes shut hoping to hear the distinctive wail of police sirens but there nothing.
I sucked in a deep breath, shoring up my scattered courage and peeked around the corner –
– and froze.
I don't know what I thought I would find, but there were things I expected to see and then . . . there were things I did not.
A man knelt on the pavement, rain soaked into the dark denim of his jeans at the knees. Black hair plastered flat against a crystal pale face. On the ground in front of him were five glass bowled. His head bowed over them.
I couldn't tell if his eyes were open, but he was conscious.
The second man was a tall figure wrapped in an ash-gray overcoat that fell from narrow shoulders straight to his ankles.
Tall? Hell, there was one word to describe this person and that was 'long'. Every part of him elongated, he looked like a sketch of a man drawn by an artist with no sense of proportion.
He had such a long body; narrow and ramrod straight. Shoulders unbowed by the weight of his height. Long, long arms. Long hands in thick wool gloves, with stretched fingers. I didn't want to think it, but in my mind I saw an alien. Gray with those large, soulless black eyes.
I blinked, dispelling the image. He wasn't an alien.
He held in his hand a slim, curved slice of silver metal.
Cotton filled my mouth. Fear tasting like salt on my tongue. When I heard the shouting, I assumed there an assault. A man being beaten up, being murdered maybe. Something terrible but ordinary. This was something else.
Gray Coat circled around the man still on his knees, that length of silver clasped in his fist. I swept at my hair, pushing the heavy strands out of my eyes.
He lay his hand over the man's forehead, five long fingers closing firmly in place. He tugged almost gently, the gesture so at odds with what he was doing. Drawing the head back. Exposing the length of a pale throat slick with rainwater.
The silver knife arched up, lethally beautiful.
"N-no, no! Stop!"
I came out from my hiding place; the questionable safety of being just around the side of the building – brandishing my pepper spray like a weapon. Holding it out in front of me with a fair amount of confidence. Gray Coat paused, his knife halting in its fatal downward sweep.
Fleetingly, it occurred to me that he might have thought I was holding a gun.
"I said don't move!"
I can't see his face, I thought numbly. The man . . . his face obscured by a wide-brimmed hat. I couldn't see past the edge, giving the impression that there was nothing behind it. Not even the glint of eyes.
"Put the knife down, and get away from him!" I shouted helplessly, my tiny can of pepper spray snug in the palm of my hand. "The police are on their way."
I said it hoping to scare him.
What I got was the knife pressed to that pale throat, the very tip indenting the skin. A bloom of blood seeping up. Gray Coat daring me to do something about it.
A voice drifted out from the folds of that floppy hat; soft as a whisper. Solid as the asphalt beneath my feet, "Stray kitten without claws. Alone in dark places. What will she do, I wonder?"
He was laughing at me and the taunt couldn't have been any clearer. Helpless and alone in a very dark place, there was nothing I could do to stop him.
He dug his knife deeper into the man's throat. That bloom of blood spilling over, trailing slowly down the length of his neck.
There were still no sounds of sirens. Where were the police?
Dark eyes in a startling pale face, the man on his knees was watching me and it wasn't until just then that I even noticed. No passivity in his expression now, those eyes were focused and alert. A subtle lift around his shoulders. Muscles tightening.
He didn't seem to feel the pain of the knife cutting him; his gaze locked with mine and that fast I knew I'd made a terrible mistake.
The pepper spray slipped from my grasp, keys and the little metal canister clanking on wet asphalt. Dizzy from the force of the slamming in my chest, I would never clearly remember what happened next.
The dark-haired stranger came off the ground in a single, fluid sweep. The knife gouging a crimson line that bled almost not at all. Elbow slamming back into a body that suddenly wasn't there anymore.
I blinked and backed up, or thought I did . . .
I never saw it.
But I felt it.
I felt those long fingers tear into my stomach; felt the shock of heat that wasn't quite pain – rather a sensation of something being terribly wrong . . . and then how all the strength just went out of me. I was still reeling when my body folded on itself.
My ankles first, then collapsing at the knees and waist and I was on the ground wondering how I got there . . .
. . . followed by horrified realization as I looked down and saw what was done to me.
I'd been eviscerated.
A/N - I would like to thank missjanuarylily for making me the cover I'm using as my GUILT icon. Essentially the "Season 1" DVD cover for this fanfiction.
A note; GUILT is an almost full AU, and so it deviates from the canon timeline from the get-go. As this story includes vamp-Kenny, and is post-vampire plague, I'd set the events as season 4 onward . . . but that's only to give you a general idea.
I've returned Josh to his seasons 1-2 persona, and erased the months he spent trapped as a wolf.
Ramona (of season 4) doesn't exist in this fanfiction.
Sally's magical ability, which she inherited from Donna, has been scaled back tremendously and even though I loved the Suzanna plot in S4, in my story, she drowned two hundred years ago and that's where her story ended.