They've been walking for three hours through endless forest in silence. While Douglas seemed easy to talk to initially, Martin finds himself intimidated by the man now. As the minutes passed into hours, he seems to have turned more brooding, a darker facsimile of his original self. Of course, that might just be Martin's own mind.
He always had a habit of working himself up - overreacting to every little thing - before the destruction of humanity. Yet, when the apocalypse happened, he found that it's hard to overreact to anything. So he learned to control himself, learned to calm himself down and face his problems head on without a big production. Now, though, it seems his old habits are coming back.
As he limps along next to Douglas, he worries that he may have put too much trust in the vampire in exchange for having saved his life. He worries that perhaps the village isn't as benevolent as it sounds. He worries that he's a lamb being led to slaughter. After his last encounter with a vampire, it's not a far-reaching conjecture, after all.
He felt alright with Douglas while they were speaking. He felt, even, as if he was talking to another human. Now, as the silence continues to stretch on, he feels meaker, worried, and worst of all, fearful once again.
"I can hear your breathing getting heavier," Douglas says, voice slightly smug.
Martin closes his eyes for a brief period, working to calm himself down as best he can. There's no use in getting anxious at this point.
"Care to share your problem?"
Martin swallows and glances at Douglas. The vampire is walking backwards now yet still avoiding hitting anything in his path. He's watching Martin with a cocked eyebrow. Now that Martin can see his face and hear his smooth voice, he feels a little more reassured in regards to his original choice.
"I have a hard time trusting a vampire," Martin blurts out, completely unaware that that was what he was going to say. He nearly smacks himself; of course his mind thinks the best idea would be to alienate the man.
Douglas snickers and flips back around. "A healthy fear of us is good, I suppose. You weren't very scared of me before, though."
"Well you'd just saved my life," Martin says. "And you were a lot less...crazy than the last vampire I met so it threw me off."
"Ah," Douglas responds. "So you've met vampires before."
"Well..." Martin trails off, thinking back to the horrifying day early on in his new life. "I, um. I don't think met is the best word for it." Martin coughs, watching his feet as he walks and leaning against his makeshift cane.
"He was starving, apparently. He swooped in just as fast as you did earlier, killing my dad and at least ten others before he was contained. It was very early in our travels - just after we left England. Needless to say the addition of your kind after everything that had started to happen around us was a little terrifying."
Douglas looks at him and nods. "With so many humans before, we were able to hide. My personal coven never killed any humans for food, but others weren't so kind. Nonetheless, it was how we were able to stay hidden. When so many humans started dying or changing at once and we figured out that we can't feed on those creatures, some of us went a bit berserk."
They keep walking in silence.
"I'm sorry, though," Douglas says, surprising Martin with his tone.
Martin's brows furrow in confusion. "What for?"
"For your father," he explains, not looking at Martin. "I know what it's like to lose someone precious to you."
Martin nods but doesn't respond; it was a long time ago, comparatively. If he stopped to mourn every death around him, he'd be dead as well. There simply wasn't the time for such things anymore. Instead, he chooses to think over that statement as he limps on behind Douglas.
He'd never thought about vampire hierarchy before, never thought of their familial structure and what not. In fact, he hadn't had a single chance to contemplate vampires as he moved from town to town, hoping to reach safe woodland area to settle in with the rest of the people he was with.
A branch cracks under his foot unexpectedly and he trips, landing hard on his knee. He yelps as the action twists his already precarious ankle.
"Shit," he curses, holding his ankle in a loose hold and rocking slightly while he waits for the pain to recede.
Douglas is there in an instant, gently prying Martin's fingers away.
"It's fine. We can keep going. Really."
Douglas glances at him, then directs his attention back to the injured ankle. "It's not fine. Why do you insist we keep moving if you're so injured? This is a nasty sprain, not to mention the fact that one of those zombies grabbed you hard enough to bruise," he indicated the hand-shaped black mark at the base of his leg.
Martin purses his lips and looks away, cursing again.
Douglas stops his inspection and searches Martin's face. "You think I'm going to leave you," he breathes, cocking his head to the side.
"Well of course. Like this I'm a deadweight. Walking to Marcinkonys will take up to ten days and you said it yourself: there are other humans that you can go out and pick up." Martin closes his eyes to halt the threatening tears. It was too much to hope that he'd finally be safe.
He hears Douglas sigh as his hands leave his body. Martin nods, still with his eyes closed as he hears the distinct rustling indicating Douglas standing.
He's surprised, then, when Douglas's hands reappear at his ankle.
"What're you doing?" he gasps.
"It's your ankle that's hurt, not your eyes. What does it look like?"
Martin watches the scene in shock. "You're wrapping my ankle, obviously. But. Jesus is that real medical bandage?"
Douglas chuckles at the tangent and meets his eyes before going back to work. "The town of ours is well-stocked. Enough so that we don't have to conform to the recent human practice of killing off or leaving behind the weakest link. And even if we did, you're most certainly not one."
Martin draws in a breath, but has nothing to say in response. He just watches Douglas work. "I-. You're very good at that."
Douglas continues professionally wrapping his ankle. "I studied to be a doctor once. Went to medical school and everything before I was changed."
"When did that-"
Douglas cuts him off before he can finish his question. "All set," he says. "Although..."
"What," Martin asks dubiously.
"My professional opinion is that you stay off of it, at least for a little while."
Martin blanches. "How?"
"Well I'd carry you, of course."
Martin laughs. "No. No no, it's fine. I'm fine. I don't need...no. Thank you but I'll be fine, at least for a little while."
Douglas shrugs. "Your call. You know, not every vampire offers a free piggyback ride to a human they just met."
Martin quickly looks down as he feels his face color bright red. He shakes his head and stands, wobbling as he tries to calculate how much pressure he can place on his left leg without collapsing. He looks around, grabbing a sturdy stick as a makeshift cane.
"Let's go," he says, pushing forward and leaving Douglas to watch him limp away with a smirk still pasted on his face.
"Why is that," Martin asks, some four hours later when the silence is once again encroaching on his confidence.
"Why is what?"
"Why are you so...you?" Martin lifts a hand, indicating Douglas's entire being. "With me?" he continues, pointing now at himself.
Douglas glances at him as they continue walking. Martin determines that he may be hiding a smile, but it's impossible to tell from this angle.
"Are you wondering why I'm treating you so well or why I'm still carrying on with you?"
Douglas sighs and looks up, watching the night sky as he walks. "Because of how you fought - your bravery, I suppose."
"Bravery?" Martin squeaks. "Oh God...I'm not...I'm not brave."
"Hm but you are. But you're also a bit broken," Douglas responds, watching him from the corner of his eye. Seeing that Martin is still unconvinced, he continues.
"I heard a commotion in the city nearby - the city you ran out of actually. No screams, no gunfire, just the usual sound of a zombie horde on the prowl. When I reached you, you were just passing into the treeline. You were frightened, yes, but you were determined. You knew what to do and how to do it."
"Then," he says. "Then you hit that zombie (it left a nice bruise across your nose, by the way) but when you hit the ground, you didn't cower in fear. You didn't back up or try to crawl away; you fought. You've obviously never been trained in combat, but you've picked up certain skills that kept you alive.
"You were doing so well, even when a fourth zombie (unusual for a forest group, that) stopped your path. Then, after all that fighting, when you thought all was lost, you didn't cry and you didn't scream. Something about that made me want to protect you more than any other human I've met. You have a fighting spirit - you know what needs to be done to keep yourself alive yet you don't cry for your own life.
"Isn't that a bit sad," he asks, finally looking Martin in the eye. "My village actively seeks fighters, it needs people willing to protect themselves. I was going to save you no matter what but the one attribute that made me want to keep you with me was the fact that somewhere in the back of your mind, you've lost hope; though your conscious mind hasn't yet processed that."
"I," Martin starts, but is cut off by Douglas's raised hand.
"I've watched humans for over one hundred years now and one single thing that always sticks out to me is their hope. Being a vampire for so long, you forget what it's like to feel that spirit. When you know that things will almost always be perfect for you, you don't need to bother wondering and fighting. Yet humans - when faced with a mortal adversary they still fight tooth and nail.
"You, Martin, are a complete antithesis. You want to live when a fight is to be had, yet when you're about to die, you accept it without fail. You've faced so much tragedy...I suppose I even see a bit of myself in you. I've always admired the human spirit, and I want you to get it back. Perhaps because I can't, perhaps because I'm tired of meeting those other desolate humans out in this world, perhaps, finally, because I like you, though I can't exactly say why."
Douglas stops, turning to face Martin who's halted a few yards back. The man's eyes are moving back and forth, as if there's something extremely interesting on the ground, and his eyebrows are continually furrowing and relaxing.
The vampire moves forward and places his hand on Martin's shoulder. "I'm sure you're hungry."
Martin starts and holds a hand to his stomach. "I left all of my food in my last camp. I wasn't expecting those zombies to show up so quickly," he explains.
"It's fine," Douglas replies. He reaches into one of the pockets of his trenchcoat, pulling out a breakfast bar and a bottled water.
Martin gasps and whips them out of his hand. "No way. I haven't had un-canned food in months." He tears the bar open, smelling it before nibbling at it - trying to savour it as much as he can.
"It's not much, but there's not a town nearby that I can run in to."
"It's fine," Martin says, still chewing. "I've learned how to ration through this past year."
Douglas nods and watches him eat. "Might as well camp here, then. I assume you haven't had a good night's sleep in quite awhile."
Martin blinks and looks at Douglas. "Um...no. Even when I was in a group I usually couldn't sleep that well."
"Well try to now; you'll want all your energy for tomorrow's journey."
"Oh ok. Um. So are we going to switch watches or something?"
Douglas chuckles. "No. I'm a vampire, I don't need to sleep unless I've been injured."
Martin's eyes widen and he nods. "Right right. You know, I keep forgetting that."
"That I'm a vampire?"
"Mhm," Martin hums.
"Well you can rest easy with me here. I'll wake you if there's too much trouble."
Martin nods again, still obviously uncomfortable.
Douglas rolls his eyes good-naturedly. "I won't try to feed on you - scout's honor."
Martin tenses at having been found out, but slowly he relaxes and looks around. "Thanks," he says while scouting out a good place to sleep for the night. He settles on a patch of leaves, laying his head against a nearby log.
Douglas sighs and pulls off his jacket. "You really left everything when you ran, didn't you," he asks, rolling up the great trenchcoat and offering it to Martin.
Jumping when he turns to find the jacket in front of his face, Martin grabs it gratefully. "Thanks...again. This isn't necessary but...thanks. Um. Yeah, I did. I thought I might try to go back and get it later but I saw too many as I was running and knew I probably couldn't."
He yawns and lies down. "You're going to be alright?" he asks quietly.
"I believe you saw how I fought earlier - I'll be perfectly fine."
Martin lazily waves his hand. "Yes I know that. I mean...aren't vampires like...allergic to light or something? Aren't you supposed to stay in a coffin while it's light out?"
Douglas laughs. "God, no. I'm perfectly capable of walking around in light. We wouldn't be very good protectors if we weren't."
"Ah, that's good," he says, yawning again. He's silent after that, continuously shifting to try to find a comfortable spot until he's finally asleep. Douglas watches him the entire night while keeping an ear attuned to the world around them.
As always, reviews are appreciated :). School starts up here for me in about a week so if I get rather lax with updating, feel free to poke me either here or on my tumblr.