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Author's Chapter Notes:

I wrote ONH for NaNoWriMo 2006, so this here is novel-length fanfiction (though not as long as some of the tomes I've found while glancing around the site, heh). While the general rating is R for some adult content, it doesn't actually occur until about 40,000 words in. So if you mind the R-rating, you're safe reading up to a certain point when I'll put some warning tags. Don't be scared off by the prologue, this IS a Nick fic, he just doesn't make an appearance in the first chapter.


The rain fell at an almost impossibly horizontal angle. It splattered against the car, the windshield wipers of which were going at top speed as the car raced along the small, twisting highway. Within the vehicle a young woman struggled with the passenger beside her, and at times the car skidded back and forth, dangerously crossing the road's double solid yellow lines.

"Günter, no! I can't do it. I just can't..." she panted, exhausted from both the mental and physical effort of fighting him. "Please don't make me do this. Please... I can't."

Two big hands reached over and gripped her forearms. "You know we must do this, Lene. You must do this. It is necessary for our survival." His colorless eyes gave her a piercing look, "I cannot take them all. It is time for you to do some work on your own. You will listen to me because you owe it to me as your Savior," the man commanded. "You would be dead right now if I had not stepped in."

"I know! I never forget it, and I am not ungrateful." Her voice was high, crying, full of emotion. It contrasted sharply with his low, hard tone. "I owe you my life, but don't make me take another – especially not his." A sob went through her body as she saw the approaching headlights, faint and blurry in the wet night.

"It is time. He approaches." Günter kept a firm hold on her arms and mind.

"But..." She stopped pleading, though the tears continued to stream down her face. "Don't make me do this," Lene said one last time.

"Do it. Do it now!" With a hard jerk, he turned them into the oncoming vehicle. There was a crash and a very bright light. The rain continued to fall sideways, oblivious of the accident.

Günter strode down the white, sterilized hospital corridor, his hands stuffed into the pockets of his long, dark trench coat. As a child, Lene had once asked him, "Do you wear trench coats because they make you look scary?"

And he'd replied, "No. I wear them because they're stylish and warm."

He passed doctors, nurses, grieving vistors, but in spite of his striking appearance, few people bothered to take a second glance at the tall, hawkish man. Günter's hair was pure white, though he did not appear to be very old, and his pale eyes cut like sharp blades. He masked his presence well, however, through methods which he had long cultivated, and he was able to walk by most individuals without notice.

Günter used that ability now as he slipped past security into the private ward of the hospital and stopped outside the door of room 1116, where three young women were huddled together in intimate conversation. He leaned in close and listened to their exchange.

"...caught a red-eye from Florida. How long have you been here, Angel?"

"All night. They called Aaron first at the condo, then he called me. He's in there with Mom and Dad right now while Ginger's in the lobby. Can you believe it, Leslie? Mom and Dad're actually talking to each other."

"Hey," the third chimed in, "I'd be pissed if they didn't get over their problems and talk to each other. I mean, our brother is fighting for his life in there. What I'm more concerned about is why we can't all go in there at once. Screw the doctors! What if something happens? What if…" she trailed off as the other two stood there uncomfortably. After a moment, the woman tried again. "All I'm saying is that we all need to be in there, together. It's not fair."

"I know, BJ, I know..." The one called Angel threw her arms around her.

Günter practically stood on top of the trio because he had gradually inched forward as he listened, but none of the girls noticed. Though his face was impassive, a little trill of excitement went off inside of him at their despair. He would have stayed and fed off of their grief longer, but the door to room 1116 opened. Günter stepped back to allow a doctor to pass, acting like he belonged there, but the little man was so absorbed with the charts on his clipboard that Günter needn't have bothered.

A quick glance inside the chamber revealed a pale, bandaged figure in a large bed, surrounded by and hooked up to an array of complicated machines. Already, the room had been filled with balloons and plants to overcome the cold, impersonal hospital atmosphere in addition to a few personal affects from the patient's home – a guitar, an iPod, a mug from his favorite coffee shop. On a couch near the victim's bedside, a man and woman sat together, talking quietly.

Günter detached himself from the group of girls he'd been observing as a young man appeared in the doorway. /This must be the brother,/ he decided. /Probably the one they had called Aaron./ The blonde youth strongly resembled the one that Günter was after, but unfortunately, the similarities lied in appearances only. No one else in the family but his one target held the powers he sought, and so they were of no interest to him.

"Guys," Aaron announced as Günter walked away, "the doctor says we can forget about the visitor limit, at least for immediate family. They think," he paused, taking a deep breath as he choked on the words, "they think we'll lose him if he doesn't stabilize soon. So they want us all to be there... in case anything happens."

Günter strained to hear these last words from down the hall, and a smile curled his lips, though it didn't reach his eyes. There would be no stabilizing. Soon. His target would be dead soon.

He continued on down the hall to the open door of room 1503. The victim's family had generously offered to cover a private room for the mysterious Jane Doe whose car had collided with their son's. But in stark contrast with the previous room, the woman's chamber was small and bare. No visitors cried by her bedside, no cards adorned the table with get-well hopes. Günter checked the hallway to make sure it was clear and then shut the door. He drew close to bed where a small, dark haired woman lay comatose, and his eyes narrowed.

"Lene." Günter's eyes narrowed as his hand reached out and encircled her small, braced neck. "You may have thought you stopped me, but I haven't lost yet. I've sent him to Other World, and once he is dead, you shall be next. I have no use for anyone who defies me." His grip tightened on her throat. "Come, let us go to the castle."