Archive for January, 2015

5.29

The guilt from that dinner had clawed through my belly and had made itself a home, a home among the dead inside. I already had to much to atone for, and inside, there was a heavy, sick feeling clinging to my veins. My blood felt infected with a twisted paranoia that wasn’t from this world alone.

No, it felt like waiting, for something, someone? My lungs had turned to glass beneath each hesitant breath, my heart began its slow descent to hell with each tortured second. And despite this overwhelming, ever present weight pressing down on me from the other side, it wasn’t a place that I could reach.

I had tried in that week, but my closet attempt at almost slipping through left me jolting back to the warmth of this world. The sheer panic of leaving had left me struggling to find the right breaths, and disorientated and sure my heart was going to leave me in the corner of the room. After that i couldn’t bare to try again. This was where I had to be, I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving, not with this… Pressure on my heart.

So when my phone rang, close to two in the morning, with the sky painted black, absent of the stars, it wasn’t a wonder I was awake. Perfectly awake, despite the clear signs of exhaustion wracking my body. I read Sampson’s name, tensing inwardly, there’s almost a moment that I consider letting it ring, but it’s Sammy and he doesn’t bother me unless he’s forced to. And I can feel my insides turn to ice as I say his name, quietly, and anxiously.

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“Lark..?” His voice is strained, and thin, as though it physically hurt to put volume, and emphasis into his voice. The one word, one syllable tells me everything that I need to know. The hoarseness that was never present in his usually cheerful tone, made him sound like he’d gurgled razor blades for mouthwash. “I know you said not to call, but I had too, Lark. Please. Larka… Something’s happened.”

I sat there quietly, alone. Mother sat further up the hallway, with Sampson at her side. After how I had left things, after how I’d spoken to her when I’d seen her last, seen all of them last, I couldn’t bear the look of perfect torment on her face. It wasn’t the everyday sadness that she lived with, it wasn’t the anxiety that wore her down day in, day out. No. This was worse. It was final.

Father was in surgery, nick was in surgery, and she was out here. Stuck watching the flickering light above her head cast shadows against the perfectly white walls. Stuck breathing in the heavy, clinical scent of the busy hospital late at night. Stuck watching nurses brush by, silent grave looks on their exhausted faces. And stuck out here, while Lucian quite possibly took his last breath in the other room. The love of her existence dead, in the next room. The child she had raised as her own, dead, in the next room.

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My head spins, and a wave of cold nausea burns burns through my veins. The need to go to her, and be the perfect daughter who was always “fine,” and always insisted that “everything’s going to be fine,” was painful. And then the door creaks open and Nick’s large body is brought out in a bed, somehow looking tiny, fragile…

Crumpled underneath the white sheet, Nickolai was extremely pale, his eyelids dark, and shadowed. On his throat, and trailing down beneath the fabric of his gown, angry red scars ran livid, some in the shapes of bites, others clawed hands. Even in spite of the vampire blood they had no doubt given to him to heal his broken, dying body, his skin was speckled in light bruises. Whatever had happened, whatever had almost wiped out an entire battalion, almost wiped clean an entire battle field, this, right here, somehow made him the lucky one.

Time passes inside the hospital in a blur on silence, and watching over the almost dead. Father was brought out of surgery over an hour after Nick, with the same fragile, barely hanging on look. Seeing either of them, felt like I was choking, and couldn’t get enough air. I keep telling myself that we’re all soldiers and soldiers-

But all I can see is dad pulling me onto his shoulders when I was little, and complained that my feet hurt. And God be damned if I can’t feel the sun on my skin, and breathe in his familiar scent through the memory. And all I can think about is Nickolai sneaking me in cookies, and stories when I was a kid, and somehow knew that I couldn’t sleep. And I can see all the kind, selfless things they’ve done, and all the memories, and things they do for me, and I hate myself, because the memory of our last encounter, of the last ten, last hundred of them is like a slap across the face.

I rub my eyes, trying to get rid of the sandy, gritty feeling in them. In a daze, I raze my gaze over Nicks crumpled body. He had chords, and wires, and needles tangled over his finger tips, and wrists, and heart. The steady beat of the heart monitor couldn’t bring relief to the absolute self loathing situation I’d fallen into. This could be his last day on earth, and all I was doing i was thinking about myself, and driving myself to madness with the loss of the little things that he does, and doesn’t do for me, and the loss of what he is to me.

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Numbly, I reach for his hand, for the first time since I’d arrived. Squeezing onto it tightly, I can feel the gentle thrum of life in his warm hand. I tremble as I breathe a sigh of relief, but I can’t ignore the soft flicker of images invading my mind. Blood, and screams, vampires, and rebels just lambs to the slaughter. My eyes open hard and fast before I can see what he really wants me to see, because I already know, I can feel it in the bile of my mouth, and the sudden loss of balance. Arkin. It was always Arkin.

And his threat was here, in the room, and he was close. Closer than he’d ever gotten before, a shard of ice dangling precariously on the warm fibers of my heart. Every beat of my heart was his. I enclose my fists into the fabric of Nickolai’s pristine hospital bed, and tremble. My mind was racing, beating like a thousand frantic birds. I breathe out slowly, my breath catching on all the rough edges inside of me. Somehow, Nick had survived, a few others had survived.

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“You’re alive, Nick.” I whisper, my own voice sounded foreign to my own ears. Scared, little, fragile. “But I need you to wake up, I can’t do this by myself.” I withdraw my hands, and gaze at his face intently, trying to read the comatosed, blank expression of sleep. “I know that I’ve never asked before, and I don’t know why I am now, but I don’t think… I don’t think I can beat him. Nick. I don’t think I can win.” My breath shudders. “I see him though, in my dreams, and on the skin of others. And he’s coming, Nick, he’s coming, and with him only follows death. There’s a hurricane comin’, and I don’t know how any of us are gonna make it through the storm.”

As I leave the room, it leaves a painful scar in my chest. Somehow it felt wrong to leave him here, alone, and broken. But I force my feet to move, and follow the path to my father’s room. Dread filling my veins with every step. He was my father, he wasn’t meant to be here, bruised, and cut, and entirely pale. Weak with the weight of each breath. That wasn’t how it was supposed to go. Father was strong, stronger than me, and he’d been injured before, but not like this.

I stand on the opposite side of the door for what seems like hours, listening to the rythmatic beeping of the heart monitor. Despite the sinking feeling in my gut, it was comforting, at least he was alive, so no matter how he might look on the other side of this door, he was breathing. But somehow it didn’t make it any easier to open that door.

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I push through quietly, not quite realizing that I’m holding my breath. Slowly, I walk across the room, avoiding meeting my mother’s face, not that she could have possibly noticed my presence at all above the slow rise and fall of my father’s chest. His eyes were shadowed by darkness, and thin scars ran across the surface of his face. Trying almost in vein to restore him back to the living. Chewing nervously on my lip, I run my eyes across every inch of him, across the groves and indents from years of fighting, and discolored bruises. I almost bite my lip off when my eyes meet his neck, torn savagely apart, and stitched meekly back together. It was red and angry, and I could almost see the artery running beneath, and every pump of his weakened heart.

“Dad?” My voice is ragged, as I take Sampson’s now empty chair. He mutters something about coffee, something about Nick, but I barely process it. My eyes are fixed on my mother’s body, slumped over dad’, her breath shuddering with every sob that threatened to never stop again. Her usual flawless appearance was gone, replaced by a pale, grief stricken face, tears dripping down the sides. Even her hair hung limply at her shoulders. “How is he?”

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“He’s weak.” Mother’s voice is barely above a whisper. So quiet, I have to strain to catch any piece of information I can. “They’re both very lucky the support squads got there when they did, they’re very lucky that whatever did this was gone when they did get there.” She runs a hand over his, gently stroking his hand as if her life depended on it. “They weren’t sure, the surgery took longer than it should, he’s very lucky. He’ll wake up soon. I know it. Won’t you, Lucian.”

Her eyes don’t even soak in the image of me, all there is, is Lucian, my father, and her partner.

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“Dad…” I breathe out as I too take his hand, but the feeling is wrong. His skin is too cold, too off. It sends a jolt through my veins, and I frantically search his face, trying desperately to hold back the growing hysteria. I could see his chest rise and fall, I could feel the gentle thrum of his pulse under my fingers, under the grip that seemed to tighten unintentionally. “Dad?” Nick had felt alive beneath my touch. “Dad, please..” But he just felt, gone..” Dad, wake up.” Felt dead.

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I almost knock the chair backwards as I rip my hand away. Somehow I find myself on my feet, my head throbbing painfully. I felt dizzy, and as the world spun, my stomach danced. “Daddy, please, please wake up.” I mumble under my breath. My eyes fixed on his face, on his chest, on the heart monitor still reading a pulse. I reach back for his hand, hoping it was just my exhaustion leaking through, that I had somehow misunderstood the blankness. But the feeling of death hanging over him knocks the wind out of me. “You can’t be…”

Soldiers die.

People die.

My father-

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I notice the sound before I feel the pain. My mother withdraws her hand away from my cheek swiftly, blinking back at me, both in confusion and anger. The expression on her face is tortured, and I almost don’t mind that she’s slapped me, and that the pain radiated against my cheek. Fresh tears spill down her aging face as she bites back a sob.

“Get out.” She growls between the shuddering. “Just leave.” She hisses between the aching pain that took her breaths away. “I don’t want that in here.” Her eyes loosely fall onto my hands, onto the perfect white of my snowy head. “Your father is strong.” She mutters, turning away from me. “He’s going to be okay.” She falls to her knees by his bed. “Your okay, Luc. You’re going to be okay.”

I don’t want to watch her fall to pieces, and I know, if I were a better daughter, I would take her into my arms and offer some form of comfort. I’d apologize, and tell her I’d gotten it wrong, that my powers were a worthless inconvenience to all of ours lives. I’d promise her that dad would wake up, promise lots of things, about how things would okay, and that I would change until I was blue in the face. But I found myself walking out of the room instead. I don’t see Sammy until we’ve bumped into one another, and coffee stains the floor.

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“Lark-“

“You should say… Sammy, I think you should say goodbye.” I mumble out quietly, watching his face contort in confusion. I expect another slap, another verbal attack, but nothing comes. Eyeing him silently, as I brush my hair across my face, forming a white curtain against the red of my cheek. He nods without a word, as if he understands.

“Have you… You know, said… It?” He finally asks, the words causing him to wince. I shake my head softly, catching his gaze with my own. We were brother and sister, and yet we looked nothing alike, it was an odd thing to think about now. That he had gotten my father’s sun touched skin, and darkened locks. And those qualities that my father possessed would forever be lost without his boys. And that I had nothing of his to give to my child. “It’s going to be hard on her.”

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“It’s going to be hard on all of us.” I say quietly as I begin to walk away, but I think better of it to leave things as bad as they are. as bad as I had always left it. “For what it’s worth, Sammy, I am sorry.” I don’t want these powers either, I think desperately to myself, not like this, not for this purpose.

“If you want to apologize, apologize for not ending this war sooner.” He smiles softly at me, his eyes weary, and pained. Despite the fact he’d always been weak, pathetic Sampson, he was handling the entire situation better than all of us. Maybe he was stronger than I thought, stronger in a different way than all of us. “You don’t have to go. He’s your father too, Larka. You deserve the chance to say… If that’s how its going to go. Cl.. Closure.. And everything.”

“I don’t think she wants me here.” I whisper quietly, shooting him a grimace. “But she needs somebody right now, and that can’t be me, so you have to go in there. And you have to say goodbye, and you have to make it all right for her, or this will kill her too.” I run a hand soothingly down my neck, gently caressing the skin where my father’s throat had been torn out. “Goodbye Sammy.”

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I walk under the harsh light of the moon for a while, watching the sky slowly lighten, and the stars beginning to fade away. It hurt to breathe, each breath forced all the guilt and anxiety and loss to the surface, and each exhale found it sinking back into my bones. My ribs felt like broken glass piercing into my lungs, and heart with the slightest movement. Nick was alive, but my father would not wake up again, and my mind kept returning to that moment where my mother had snapped. It wasn’t the slap that had hurt, but the betrayal within those green orbs, and the torment she felt when she had finally looked at me.

I collapse into the underbrush struggling to breathe. If all I could do was summon ghosts, and know when death was close, then what the hell was the point of it all? Arkin would come, and kill, and conquer, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. Especially me. Dad was gone. My comrades, dead, and dying. And Cassiel, and Sammy, and mother, and all the people I wanted to protect were like sitting ducks. Defenseless, and weak, as fragile as glass.

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I focus on my breathing, desperately avoiding flashes of memory, but they come anyway. My dad, my father, just gone. The pain sears through my blood. I was used to people dying. I was used to them being ripped from me. But it didn’t make it any easier, it never did. Knowing the inevitability of it. Burying my father, a fact most children accepted. I feel eyes watching me as I slowly lose myself in tearless sobs.

And that’s when I see it.

See him.

And I know everything that has come to pass.

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“Dad!” I half whisper, and half yelp. I have to fight the urge to run to his arms like I’m five years old again, and he’s been away on business, and fighting. There’s so much that I want to tell him, and that I want to explain, and apologize for. And even more than that, I want him to stay, so badly that it hurts to watch his spirit walk close to me. “I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry-“

“It’s okay, Larka, I understand, baby.” He soothes softly. His eyes were warm, and comforting, the same shade as warm honey. “Everything that I ever did was to protect you, and this family. And growing up, there was so much I thought we had to protect you from. God if only I knew how strong, and determined you were, how little I needed to protect you from. I love you, lark, darling, I love so much, from the moment I knew that you were coming. But now my job is over, and I can’t protect this family anymore, you, or your mother. So I want you to, I underestimated you, and I don’t want to anymore. Baby, take care of your mother, god knows I’ve tried, so it’s time for you to take care of her where I can’t.”

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“But dad, dad, what if I can’t? I want you to stay, please, dad.” He takes me into his arms, and his skin feels like electricity to me. It flickers against me, not quite strong enough to touch me, but it’s more than enough. Somehow it’s everything.

Baby, I’ll always love you, and it pains me to leave this family like this. But my time is over. And this is not goodbye.” He smiles so softly that it hurts, because it is goodbye. For me, for us, and he’ll never see my mother again. “Your going to be a great mother.” He whispers, and then he’s gone. Forever. And it feels like I’ve had blade stabbed through my chest leaving a hole where he was meant to be.

*

I’d debated this monumental task that my father had asked me for two days straight, going over and over in my head. I didn’t know for sure that I could do it, until I saw her face at the funeral. She had crumpled into the dirt, crying soundlessly through the ceremony. In her eyes, it was like she couldn’t truly believe it. Like Lucian would claw himself out of the ground to give her comfort one last time. Like he always had, for her, for us, he’d always been there, always loved us, and knowing that he wouldn’t, claw himself out from that coffin hurt like hell.

The sickness in my blood only got worse, and every shadow I expected to see Arkin laughing inside of. My father had died because of him. The strain on his body after the attack, the strain on his heart, had been too much. The only consolation was that he had died in his sleep, that he couldn’t feel anything.

Nick I think had only managed to attend through stubbornness, he had woken up shortly after our father had already died, and I could feel the wrath of pain through him in each breath. His injuries were significant, but the only thing seeming to hold him together in place, to even stand among the graves of our fallen was grief, and anger. The sole desire to be able to say goodbye, something only he had missed out on, not that I would ever confess to seeing my father’s spirit. My power was just a burden, especially now, especially since I was locked out the hell I’d been sent too.

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After the funeral, I took my time walking back to my parents, now my mothers home. Somehow the energy of the place had changed so significantly in such a short amount of time. Where once it had been lively, and loud, and big enough for a family, it suddenly seemed empty. Nick sat outside, like he couldn’t enter a house where our father no longer existed. And the way the sunset lit his face, made my heart crack all over again.

“You know he saved me in the fight.” Nick says quietly, as though he only wanted me to hear it. It was a statement of pure fact. “Arkin came from the darkness, we weren’t expecting him that night. It was just a routine mission, we were supporting our troops on the front line, only a few towns over, not far from here at all. And he descended on us, all of us, like a bat out of hell. Larka, he killed our men, he killed his own, he didn’t care who or what was in front of them, only wanted their blood. He was possessed, a madman.” He pauses, his still face grimacing for just a moment. “I know that you know he’s coming, I can see it in your eyes. I know how afraid you are, I’m afraid too.”

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“Do you think that we can beat him?” I ask quietly as I move to stand in front of him. He eyes me curiously, his eyes set hard and rigid, his jaw squared. Our father had just died, his entire battalion almost wiped out, it was hard to believe that anyone, or anything could make a difference. Now all of Azazel’s lessons seemed distressingly embarrassing, I stood no chance against the Prince of hell, and yet I had too.

“I don’t really think we have a choice.” He says quietly. And then his eyes meet mine, all the fire and brimstone melting away for a brief moment. “She’s not doing well. Neither is Sammy, he can barely keep up with taking care of her, convincing her to eat, to shower, that he isn’t. I know that things have never been good between you, but if you could put it aside for-“

“I’ll do it.” I say softly to him, squeezing the tip of his finger “You definitely are his son.” I add on, forcing a weak smile onto my lips. They had both asked the same thing, that I watch over her. Nick didn’t only inherit our father’s looks, but he was so much like him it was almost startling.

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“Mama..” I hear, as I push the door to my parent’s bedroom open. “You must eat something, please.” Sampson pleads softly as she lies statuesque in the bed. Other than the soft in and out of her breath, she made no sound, no movement to indicate that she had even heard him, even heard me enter the room. “I remembered you liked this when I made it for you.” His voice cracks, I know that means both my mother and father had. There’s a memory at the surface of his skin, burning him half alive.

“Sammy.” I say quietly, and his head snaps to mine, as if he hadn’t even noticed my presence. “Go home.” I pause, seeing the indecision on his face, to which he was probably right. Mother and I hadn’t been together without tension, or some type of fight since I was nine. “Take Nick with you, I’m sure you could both use the company. Eat something. Sleep. I can take care of her.”

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As I sit next to her on the bed, I slump forward, biting onto my lower lip nervously. I couldn’t help but replay my father’s last speech inside of my head, and how it wasn’t goodbye, because obviously he believed in an afterlife where we would all be together again. And that guilt sunk through me like a ship. And it wasn’t my guilt, but the image of my father waiting at the pearly white gates or wherever he went, just waiting, waiting for my mother’s face, just waiting, for her, for me, and he’d never see our faces again. I used to worry that spending my eternity with my mother would be hell, but no, spending it with her in a world where my father no longer existed would be.

“Mother.” I say quietly, as I grab the plate off of the bedside table. I poke at the salad with a fork, trying to hold back the frustration, and anxiety eating away at me. I’d never been good with words, never been good at comforting anyone, or being there for them, I had never needed to. “The baby will be here in quite a few months, and I’d really like you to be there. I’m scared that I won’t be enough for this kid. I don’t know a single thing about babies, or raising them, or being a mom.”

She doesn’t speak of course, but she blinks back. Whether in response to my words, or just because she needed to blink I had no idea. I hold the spoon out for her, willing her to eat. Softly I smile at her, trying to apologize without saying the word out loud, not because she didn’t need to hear it, but because it would hurt to say, and she wouldn’t care. I’d never been a good daughter anyway, not when counted, and now? It was a pathetic attempt at changing, I didn’t even believe it myself. “I’m sorry.” I finally say. “I hope this kid isn’t anything like me, I don’t think i could bare it.”

In the confines of sleep, I arch my slumbering body, feeling the muscles tense and release with the pressure. I couldn’t move very far due to the comforting weight resting beside me. I didn’t need eyes to see, or scent to pick out the body next to me. All the anxiety, and all the fears seemed to be far away right now, as the weight on the couch shifts against me. Warm, and heavy. Pinning me down into the cushions, and wrapping the warmth of his arm around me. It was stupid, because somehow, even with my painfully human, painfully fragile Cassiel, I felt safe.

5.28

Safe against what? I’m not sure. It wasn’t like he could fight my demons, or stop me from becoming one, it’s not like it was in his capabilities to save himself. And yet, feeling his soft breath against my neck, and listening to nothing but the quiet snores upon his lips, upon the face that looked nothing more than exhausted, peaceful, and entirely far away from this war, I was untouchable.

Utterly ridiculous, of course, but somehow it didn’t matter.

The sound of my phone ringing wakes me to the bright light of day streaming through the open window. Despite the exhaustion creaking inside of my body, I dive to stop the sound from blaring.

“What..?” I grumble into the phone without bothering to check the caller ID. I yawn quietly, squinting my eyes at the growing light, sparing a quick glance to Cas in the process. Somehow, he was still sound asleep.

“Larka.” I recognize the voice instantly, my brother, Nick. His voice is low, and quiet, and even through the phone, powerful. The call of the alpha was coursing through his veins. “Do you know what day it is?”

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“Saturd-“

“-Sunday. And do you know what we do on Sunday, not that you’ve participated in a while, not that any of us really have, but that’s beyond the point. Do you know what tonight means?” He asks quietly, thoughtfully. Despite the smooth apathy of his voice, I can feel the ache behind it. I think groggily, searching through my brain for anything relevant. Until it hits me, in horror, that I tense up, and lean forward with a groan.

“Family dinner.” I say dumbly over the phone.

“Yes, and you’re coming.” He states matter of factly, but that tiny scrap of pain in his voice deepens, and darkens. “It’s the first time the five of us have all been off duty at the same time, in a long time, perhaps for a while too. Who knows when this opportunity will come up again? I’m not asking for a lot, just a few hours, be sociable, don’t rip anyone’s head off, easy.”

“Fine.” I sigh, already feeling the drags of tonight weighing me down. But with that touch of sadness and urgency present in his usually flawless voice, how could I refuse? It had been a long time, months upon months, since we’d all been forced into the same room together, and it could be a long time, if the opportunity ever presented itself again. My vision didn’t just feature Cas, and my grandfather’s death. And the rest of us were soldiers. But in no way did I look forward to it. Understood it, yeah, perhaps.

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I hang up the phone with another sigh, my eyes travelling over Cas who was now awake. “Am I that boring, already planning your escape?” He murmurs softly, his eyes still groggy with sleep, but with that familiar Cassiel grin livening up his face.

“I admit it’s not a good plan.” I muse softly, running a hand down his cheek. Hesitating, I pull my hand away slowly, and rest my eyes on the hardwood floor at my feet. The intimacy of the night was still present in my mind, in my bones, on my lips.  The tightness in my chest hadn’t entirely disappeared, and thinking about it, I couldn’t remember a time that the hole hadn’t always been present. “Family dinner.”

“If you need moral support.” He says, wrapping an arm delicately around my waist and sliding me back so I can feel the heat off of his body. He plants soft kisses up my spine before he continues. “I mean, I am going to have to meet them at some point.”

“You’ve met my grandfather.” I reply, my eyes boring into his, trying to understand what his angle was. I wasn’t close to my family, we all lived very separate lives, or at least I had. They weren’t something, or someones I considered in my everyday life, much less when it came to my sex life. “And my brother Nick. Isn’t that enough?”

He regards me through half closed eyes for a brief moment. “I would like to know where you came fro-“

“Well, when a mommy and a da-“

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“No.” He smirks up at me, pulling my face to his without touching his lips to mine. “I meant that they’re a part of you, and you’re a part of them, no matter how hard you try to prove that you’re not. They’re your family, I would have been proud to introduce you to mine, if, well. You know the story. But I think my mother would have liked you.” I scoff louder than I mean to, rolling my eyes, almost completely to the heavens themselves. “No, don’t make that sound. You’re strong, and beautiful, and lively, and vibrant, all the things that demons aren’t supposed to be.”

“So, you’ve rescinded the whole demon conspiracy thing?” I shake my head at him, torn between amusement and disbelief.

“Nope, but you’re the worst kind.” I raise my eyebrows. “The beautiful demon stealing the hearts of mortal men-“

I feign slapping him, but pull away too quickly. Beneath my lashes I watch him, trying desperately to decode his soft humanity, and that tiny knot in the pit of my stomach that I felt when we were both together and apart. I wondered how long it would take before he gave up on trying to convince me of my own humanity, that I too could love, and be loved. I only half roll my eyes at this. “The answer is still no, by the way.”

“And why is that, exactly.” He asks.

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“Because that would imply that you’re my boyfriend-“

“Father of your child, yes, boyfriend, no.” He laughs loudly to himself. There was no hint of anger, or resentment in the statement. I cringe at the words still, there hadn’t been enough time to comprehend that I would be birthing some parasite in the months ahead, that I would be, cringe, a mother. My heart races, and my stomach tightens in response. I couldn’t exactly hide the news either, any lycan would be able to tell by now, even god forbid Sampson. “Does that make me your secret lover?”

“Goodbye, Cas.” I sigh, pulling my boots on quickly before the panic could consume me. “It seems that you can amuse yourself without me.”

*

I knock on the door loudly, using the sound as a distraction from that thing inside of me, from the night ahead. A few seconds later my father pulls the door open, a small, tentative smile on his face. His eyes flicker ever so briefly down to my stomach before rising back up to meet my eyes.

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“Larka, how.. How are you?” His smile wobbles, before he catches it. Grinning wider, he steps out of the door way so I can enter the house. Dad softly places a hand on my shoulder a we walk to join the rest of the family. I had timed my arrival to just before dinner, so I could eat, get the pleasantries over, and leave as soon as possible.

“I”m fine.” I reply almost coldly, too anxious to care. My chest felt tight, but somehow, it still managed to get tighter at the sight of my mothers face. Before I sit down I give my father a meaningful look, meaning to keep his mouth shut about what he knows, and what Vivian doesn’t. I couldn’t bear to hear the questions that I wasn’t ready to answer, or the advice I certainly didn’t need.

“I hear that you’ve been doing some exceptional work in the field.” He continues, almost awkwardly, but only for a second. If he kept that up then mother would surely know that something was up. “Soon enough you’ll make captain like your brother here.” Dad smiles proudly over at Nick who was scowling in the corner of the room at me.

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“And when exactly will Sampson?” I reply through gritted teeth, plastering on a fake smile. I throw a cold smirk over Sammy’s way and he frowns like a lost puppy.

“You know, Larka, I almost swear I remember you saying you’d behave tonight.” Nick sighs, regaining his own composure.

The rest of dinner passes in the same awkwardness. It truly was a surprise that we hadn’t tried to kill each other yet. Mother was herself as usual, chastising us all from the length of our hair, to the scuff marks on our shoes. Which, by the small smile on her face, meant she was in a good mood, and believed all her worrying was just her being motherly. If that ever happened to me, just kill me.

It was an interesting thought though, albeit a terrifying one, but the image of me playing my mother, exactly as she was, and is. Terrified of her, our own shadows, refusing our blood the simplest of things for reason that probably didn’t even make sense to her, perhaps I would birth something that would keep slipping through the shadows of death too. Perhaps that would be enough to scare me too. But she was like this, even before my birth.

5.28 (8)

I hear it’s because she was held captive by humans, and made into a lab experiment. Or maybe because she loved a vampire who was the true definition of vampire, and psychopath. Or because she lost a child, her first baby, before it even took it’s first breath. It happened on live TV, I’ve seen the footage before, the video like a brand inside of my head like it was my fault that it had happened, she acted like I had to pay for it sometimes. It was hard to watch, even for me, someone who has killed hundreds of kids. Sometimes, knowing all of this, I didn’t blame her, other times, I could only wonder how she could have been so stupid, and how she could continue being so stupid.

“So this is really happening?” Nickolai’s smooth voice snaps me from my brooding. I eye him dangerously, willing him to shut up. Instead his eyebrows push together forming deep worry lines across his forehead. His golden eyes study my features carefully, before they settle on my stomach, my womb. They’re surprisingly warmer than I had imagined they could be. “You’re really, you know..?” I nod carefully. “This is sorta a big deal, ya know.”

“Yeah I guess.” I huff out quietly, my chest beginning to truly ache. I wanted to leave, to shut the door on tonight for good. Mother was too much, having a runt was too much, waiting for Arkin… “People have them all the time, whatever.”

5.28 (9)

“Larka. You can’t be like… You don’t just have a-” Nick’s voice stops before he dares mention the words that would change everything. The anxiety ran livid in his voice, across his familiar face, and buried itself deep within his eyes. And I stare back, mirroring that expression, afraid that he would mention all the things that I was afraid of. And I was afraid of so many things. “A baby,” He barely breathes. “Lark… This isn’t just some dumb phase that you can decide on a whim. It’s a real life, living breathing thing. And you’re not-“

“Not what? The right kind of material?” I hiss under my breath, hoping desperately that mother doesn’t notice the nervous hostility in here from the other room.

“You’re not there yet.” Nick eyes me seriously for a moment, and the second our eyes meet, I can feel every thought etched perfectly onto his face. I can feel his anger towards my V addiction, the irritation at my constant drinking, his anxiety towards my work, and the company I keep. There wasn’t a single thing that he had to say for me to understand all the tiny little fears that were being inflicted upon my pregnancy. “But you can’t just keep being, well, you. Because it’s no longer just you. You and Cassiel, you aren’t just going to be you, and then separately him. Because it won’t be. It’ll be the three of you.”

5.28 (10)

His eyes gaze thoughtfully over our father’s statuesque form in the room. Of course dad didn’t speak up, or weigh in his thoughts at all, it would have taken something truly astonishing for him to intervene. There had been times when I had wondered why he had remained so calm, and silent during my tyrannical tirades, and over the years I had begun to understand. The truth was, he was afraid to speak up because he thought he’d lose what little relationship that we had. Which admittingly wasn’t a lot.

Over the years I’d learnt to read his smooth face, and see the quiet anxiety built into the lines of his face. I wondered how much his face had learnt to hide, not only from me, but from mother too. I wonder if she had ever looked deeper into his eyes and read the same fear I could.

“Nick..” I breathe out quietly in warning. Despite all the fights that we had seemed to thrive upon, and all the pointless warnings, I knew that this wasn’t the role that Nickolai would have chosen to play. The enforcer. But we were so tightly bound together as blood, and of the same pack, those ties weren’t as easily cut as everyone elses. “This isn’t ideal… I know. Middle of the biggest war this land has ever seen and I’m thinkin’ of expanding the family. And I mean, I’m not… But. This is happening. And it’s none of your business whether I’m ready, or if Cas is going to be a part of it, nothing concerns you. It’s my life.”

“And doesn’t that get a little lonely som-“

5.28 (11)

“And what exactly are the two of you so fervently whispering about?” Vivian enters the room, eyeing us both suspiciously from the corners of her eyes. Sampson drags his feet in behind her, eagerly avoiding my gaze. She takes her place at my father’s side instantly looking braver than before. I wondered if he ever felt the burden of all the she had placed upon his shoulders. “Well?”

“It’s just a debate, sorry if we got a bit loud, it’s nothing to worry about.” Nick’s face pulls up into a controlled smile as he says it. But I can feel his gaze linger on mine for just the briefest moment before he moves across the room to take Vivian by the shoulders softly. “I saw you icing cake when I came in, are you hiding it or do I eventually get a piece?” He jokes.

As they pass me by, she asks. “Are you okay-“

“I’m fine.” My voice is sharper than I intended it, but I don’t apologize. Just by being related to her I was probably gonna screw this kid up entirely.

“I’m sorry.” Nick whispers under his breath to me.

5.28 (12)

“Larka, honey?” She smiles anxiously, the corners of her lips twitching. Her eyes were wide, and vibrantly terrified. Vivian was transparent, she always had been, even now I could feel her studying my every word, and movement, even the shadows beneath my eyes. Perhaps she thought that right now I might fall down dead only to wake up an hour later, maybe she thought Arkin himself would smash through the doors and haul me away. Nothing was too ridiculous for her fragile mind to concoct. “I know you said you were fine, but if you want to talk, you know I’m always here. I can be quite the listener if you gave me a chance.”

“Just don’t.” I state childishly before turning my back on her. Sighing deeply, I run my fingers through hair, anxiously combing out the knots. Vivian’s bloodline was poison, all anxiety and no restraint. No kid deserved that, especially not my little runt. I could never be like her, continuously repeating the words no, it’s too dangerous and maybe tomorrow.

“I’m sorry.” She bows her head as if to signal defeat, Vivian half turns before facing me again. The fact that she won’t let it go was beginning to grind on my last nerves. “But you know, you can tell me anything. Anything at all, and I won’t judge.” I roll my eyes at that. “Baby, I can tell something’s wrong, you’ve all been acting strange all night. Even I’m not that oblivious. Did something happen? Maybe at work, or between you and your boyfri-“

5.28 (13)

“No, oh my god, do you ever shut up?!” I groan in childish retort. I was an adult now, her reign over me was over, and I certainly didn’t need any of her half arsed lectures. Especially about all the things that she knew nothing about. “I’m pregnant! And you wonder why I didn’t want to tell you? You never stop. You’re just always on. Just nag, nag, nag, and don’t do this, and don’t do that-“

“Baby-“

“No.” I growl, fueled by my own words. I’d been here over an hour, stuck it through dinner, through the questions, and now this? I just wanted out. Just over an hour and I was practically looking for any, and every way out. How my father survived I had no idea. So I didn’t care if I took out casualties on the way, I just needed an exit. “You’re overprotective, and over involved.” The more I spoke, the more I just spoke. Barely without conscious thought of what I even wanted to say, but I somehow knew on instinct alone. “And mom, you don’t get it. And you never will. I wasn’t the one who died-“

5.28 (14)

“Well sometimes it feels like are.” The one who died, she means. Tears prick at her eyes, already turning red. She was yelling, emotions tearing at her croaky voice. Father is at her side, almost immediately, trying to hold her into him. “Larka, I’m your mother, let me in… Please. Whatever it is, whatever you’re going through, maybe.. Maybe I don’t have all the answers, but… If we talk about it, if you can open up to me, we can try. We can try having a real mother and daughter relationship. Maybe you’ll figure out I’m not the enemy. Please… Just sit down… “

“Lark, I’m sorry, it was none of my business, don’t go-“

*

But the time I’d stormed home, and opened the door into my dark, cold apartment, I’d burnt through all the heat, and anger in my body. I could see her face, mother’s, hear the cracking in her voice. I could feel the absolute frailty of her mind, maybe that was the one thing we had in common. We were both broken inside, both damaged, and soiled, and irreparable. And for the first time in life, I could feel the poison in her veins turning into something dark and cruel, and tonight, that had been me.

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Why did I have to destroy everything that I touched? And break everyone that I spoke to? My own mother. I had been a constant thorn in Sampson’s side, bleeding him out. I had worn down my father, and Nickolai to next to nothing. And now I had my claws firmly secured into Cas, and this kid. It was only a matter of time before I bled them dry too.

If there was time at all.

Since when did I have a conscience when it came to her, to my family? Since when did I care? And why did I have to? It only meant that when the inevitable did happen, which it would, I’d have another broken piece inside of me. And Cas? Didn’t I choose him?  Despite knowing the truth, knowing exactly how he’d die, and the fact that he’d die young, die soon. How could anyone love something so finite?

How could I?

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That night I fell asleep, alone, and into restless dreams. Time was a sieve.

And I was running out.

 5.27

“I should have been more careful.” I breathe out a puff of smoke with a shaky voice. My fingers tremble. My body aches. If you had of told me I was going to war, at least I would have worn a smile, a real one that stretched ear to ear. Because that made sense. I understood that. Not this…

This tiny little complication.

This massive, undeniable screwup.

“Oh god, what the hell am I doing…” This time I bury my face deep into my hands, breathing in the musty scent of the earth, and cigarette smoke. Wetness stains my eyelashes as momentarily cave in on myself. Straightening my body back out, I graze my fingertips over my stomach, gently feeling for the thing inside me.

I rest my fingers over the tiniest beat of a heart. I could feel it. This thing. This infestation growing inside of me. “I hate him. I hate his guts.” I growl to nothing, and no one in particular. In this empty graveyard, I was the only living person here, but I could feel the dead beside me. Watching. Listening. “I’m gonna kill him. And then, I’m gonna bring him back, and then I’m gonna kill him again. Cas, and his super sperm, God. I’m gonna end him.”

5.27 (2)

As I rant under my breath, I feel Aiden and Seth. I almost swear I hear them laugh, and feel them clasp my shoulder. They’re explaining the miracle of life in loud boisterous tones, and how beautiful motherhood is. But I can feel the question that only I can answer. Who even wants a kid? Could I even do it? Do I even want to?

“Who has a baby at the end of the world?” I groan into the wind, exasperation heavy in my voice. “A baby at all? Can I even be a mom?” I try to tick the idea over in my mind. I see myself as my mother and it terrifies me. I see fire, and guns, and blood, I see war, and a baby, and even I know those things don’t mix. “What right do I have to bring a kid into this fight? I’m not mom material.”

Excuses.
Whatever

I stare at the smoke in my hand before snapping it with a face full of regret. “I guess I can’t have these anymore.” Trying to quit smoking in the middle of the apocalypse, bright idea, like I’d even last the week. Another problem to add to the ever growing list. “Guys. I guess what I’m trying to say is.. I think. I guess I’m going to be a mother. Oh god it sounds worse out loud.”

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“Nope..” I mumble, finding my feet in a rushed, ungraceful manner. My hands hurriedly move to sweep the dirt, and grass that had attached itself to my clothing. Like that was the one positive thing that could come out of today. “Not today. No. Cas is gonna die and leave this thing with me to deal with by myself. I’m gonna kill him. Myself. And I’m gonna enjoy it.”

I storm away. I suppose that a hormonal pregnant lady is an actual thing, or I suppose I was just pissed off. And partially, mostly terrified. There were other options of course, other than spawning the damned insect. Adoption, as if there weren’t enough war orphans, and the whole pregnancy deal. I’m pretty sure I’d rather a screaming, crying, bratty kid, than have to listen to my mother’s half frantic pleas. There was also not having it, at all, but living in a town full of the occult, the entire town already knew. And Vivian might be a crappy supe, but if she somehow ever found out, no, God no, I’d rather the spawn. That, and I’ve killed enough kids this year, the idea doesn’t exactly appeal to me.

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Which left me with the problem of actually maybe dealing with the insect. Like as a mother. No smoking or drinking for eight months, or however long it took to kick the monster out of my body. I’d be off active duty by the end of the fourth month mark, and training would be on the ban list too. Coupled with the fact that I had the strange tendency to die. A lot. All before it even took its first breath. And then the crying would start. And never stop. Literally, all it would be for the first fourteen years of its life, til it was somewhat intelligent enough to hold a conversation, would be a walking, talking, eating, sleeping, poop machine. And somehow that would be cute. All taking place during the end of days, while I’m supposed to be hunting, and killing a pureblood.

Simple.

People had tiny devil creatures all the time, I’d be fine. Totally fine. Easy.

I don’t even notice Judd until I’ve crashed into his muscular arm, and almost knocked the both of us over. There’s a look in his eyes that I don’t quite understand, fear, pity, maybe even embarrassment. Something. I guess I hadn’t properly spoken to him in a while. Not since Ravenwood, not since I had to. I push the thought away, which was easy enough with that tiny heart beat making me lose my train of thought. “Judd.. I Uh.. I needed to talk to you.”

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“So talk.” His eyes linger on mine for an awkward moment before they fall away. I give him a hard stare before nodding my head. I had to get it over with, better now than later.

“I need you to arrange me a transfer, from the mercenary core to the interrogation unit for the time being. For a while.” This meant being removed from the combat list, which had to happen, at least until the parasite was removed. And I could spend more time experimenting with my powers, getting little bits of information about Arkin, and his attack. Which hopefully wouldn’t happen when I was eight months pregnant, and a bloated whale of a thing.

“Should I be expecting the wedding invite soon then?” His voice cracks ever so slightly, as his eyes linger on my stomach. Which of course he knew about. He was a Lycan after all, a captain no less.  I give him a defiant glare. “Is that all?”

5.27 (6)

“Are you angry with me, captain?” I state through gritted teeth.

“No, Larka, of course not. I’m happy for you, truly.” I can tell that he’s forcing the smile on his lips, and he can tell. “I just, I always thought that you’d come back to me. After Ravenwood, I thought that you needed time, to grieve, to grow up, and you did, all without me. And I’m glad that you could, but I guess I just miss my prized pupil. I do understand though.”

“Understand what?” I ask, retreating into a little ball of nerves. I pick my words very carefully.

5.27 (7)

“That you love him. That science boy. The smart one.” Judd releases a heavy breath, running a hand tentatively through his short hair. “After the funeral, and for a while after that, I saw you crumbling, but I tried to keep my distance. I knew that a big part of you blamed me for what happened and I wasn’t brave enough to hear it. I was the one that left you all there. Abandoned you all to the sharks in the promise of your careers, and ambitions. I left you all in deep water, and the boy, he was the dry land that only you could make it too. How can I ever compete with that? And now the baby too, I guess I truly have lost you now.”

“Seriously? What the hell are you talking about?” This time, he smiles at me freely as we wait for the elevator that never seemed to come. The parasite was bad enough, without him bringing their deaths into it, without bringing up old feelings, and new ones.

“That I love you.” He says it casually, barely even watching my reaction. “I mean, I know it doesn’t make a difference. Hardly. But things are so uncertain these days. I’d rather have said it for it to mean nothing, than to be lying, bleeding in a ditch somewhere wondering what if-“

5.27 (8)

I don’t think about it before I softly touch my lips to his. But Judd’s words are so toxic, so intoxicating. We’re soldiers,lost in the idea of death, and love, and all the tiny things that can save us. That can numb us. And so I kiss him, because I know that out of everyone in my life, he understands what we do, and the sacrifices we choose to make. I kiss him, because I know what it is to die, alone, and afraid, and to wonder if in the end any of it even mattered, if anyone would even care.

“Goodbye, Judd.” I breathe onto his face, onto his lips as he inhales my scent, and memorizes my lips. We both know that after this moment, nothing would have changed between us, and nothing will. Our lives will continue as normal, or mostly so. But perhaps at the end, one of us might not be so alone.

I walk into Cassiel’s home, almost like I own the place, like it might even be my home too. Watching him silently, I pause in my stride, and focus on the soft inhale, and exhale of his breath. The comforting rise and falling motion of his shoulders slumped over in concentration. The room was dark, and the curtains open, as though he’d been in that position for hours, memorizing tiny numbers, and assigning them meaning. The trickle of light from his lamp illuminates his hair, and he’s beautiful. Lost in those numbers, he’s beautiful.

5.27 (9)

And I’m a mess.

Crossing my arms, I sigh deeply. He was soft, and I was hard. I was the storm, and he was the calm, He was the light, and I was the dark. And yet, somehow, this was possibly the only place that felt like home. And this parasite, it was going to be the fire inside the both of us, the calm and the storm, the perfect and imperfect. The dead, and undead. And that somehow had to work.

“Cassiel..?” I call out quietly. My voice felt stuck in my throat, like a hard lump lodged where my voice box was meant to be. But I just couldn’t find it. Saying it made it real, more real than that heart beat, because it meant I’d made my mind up. It meant I was placing my bets on Cas, and this little bug, and everything else. When the rest of the world was still out there, kind of, when he didn’t even realise half of how messed up I was.”Cas, I kissed someone else.”

5.27 (10)

Was it honesty or sabotage? Growing up or the crippling fear of growing up? I can feel his spirit drain at my words, and the almost tangible sinking of his heart. His thoughts are slow, and muddled, confused. Hurt. “I just… I thought that you should know. So… Sorry I guess.” Is that the best that I could do?

“Did you sleep with him?” He’s slow, hesitant. Cold. And when his eyes meet mine there’s a thunderstorm reigning down hell in those familiar suns of his eyes. The sun that I’ve extinguished.

“No.” I reply.

“Did you want to?” I give him a hard look like he’s the one who’s screwed up.

“No.” The kiss was nothing to do with sex, or lust, or anything remotely…. Anything. Judd was a dying man, just like me, dodging bullets that got faster with every mission, and it was fucking terrifying. I didn’t kiss him for me, for my desires. That was the big difference between the two of us, Cas and I, was that he would never understand.

5.27 (11)

“Then why? Lark?” He buries his face into hands, inhaling the strong scent of cotton, and laboratories. It could be so easy to drop the self loathing, sabotaging bullshit and just let him love me. It should be so easy to give up on all the terrible things I hold in my heart and just let myself be. But I just can’t, and I know I should love him. I should want to. I should throw my arms around him, explain that dying is scary, and life is beautiful, and we’re creating it. But I can’t move past the stoney silence of the room. “Please, just talk to me. Explain it. Because if you can’t… Lark if you can’t-“

“N0. Cas. He just. He told me he loved me and I-“

“He told you he loved you and you kissed him?” No, definitely bad. By the ice on his face, it was definitely the wrong thing to say. “You what? You realized that you love him too-“

“No.” I growl impulsively diving down into the barrel of despair, and sinking into the clutches of anger. How could he not see it? Just see what I was saying? What was right in front of him? “I don’t love him. I won’t ever love him. That’s the poi-“

“Thank god you could spare his feelings then, darling. Thank god you didn’t just tell him to leave.” The pain is evident in his tone of voice, the anxieties that he’d let simmer, and boil in his silence. Commitment was the wound that I’d clumsily tried to heal, but love, the thing I should feel, that I should be able to say… If I did at all. Love, that was open wound with salt lining the surface, and I’d just emptied a bucket of lemon into him, into Cas. “I’m so glad that he means enough to you to shield from that truth, that you would kiss him, that you play pretend, even for just a god damned second.”

5.27 (12)

“Cas.” I hiss under my breath, trying in vain to slow my heart beat that was quickly sending a wave of nausea and dizziness to my head. Tonight wasn’t about the kiss, that was just a side effect. It was just a reaction. “I didn’t kiss him because I love him. Or because I want him. I kissed him because I don’t. I kissed him because he’s a dying breed, a breed that I’m not terrified to lose, a breed that I don’t have to remember by the touch of his lips. Or the scent of his skin. Or anything. I don’t have to wake up tomorrow with the sinking dread in my stomach that it’s the last time I’ll ever hear those words. Any words. At all. I kissed him because I’m not scared of that possibility with him. I didn’t react well to you telling me that, I know. I’m sorry. But what am I supposed to do when you’re entirely human, and entirely breakable, and entirely important to the rebellion, to the cure. To me. And to this… To the… To our baby. And if you don’t see the difference, if you don-“

“Baby…?” This time I give him a stony stare in response. It wasn’t supposed to go like this, although, there wasn’t supposed to be that thing to begin with. I didn’t even know if he’d be angry- Angrier with me for it, hate me completely or leave. we’d never spoken about it before, because it had never been an option. Not for me. So the words, the implications stole my breath in a frenzied panic. Dread hardens my every vein and artery, lathering it in dark visions of the future, with and without, Cas or no Cas. “We’re… You’re… Pregnant?”

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“If you don’t want it, or me, or… Or anything like that.” The confession weakens my resolve to the point I can barely find my voice. Anger was easy, simple. Fear was understandable. But this. Confusion. Uncertainty. Parenthood. “I understand. You don’t have to be a part of th-“

“Lark..?” His voice is soft, almost pleading as his trembling fingertips cup the underside of my jaw. The gentleness is enough to make me jump. Especially after what I’ve done, and tried to explain in incoherent angry mutterings. Even after what I’ve almost confessed to, to what I have confessed to. “Don’t… Please. You can’t talk like that.”

“But Cas-“

5.27 (14)

“No. It’s the end of the world, Lark, I can’t lose you over a kiss.” His breath is shaky as his hand cups the side of my face. My eyes lose themselves in the darkness behind my closed eyelids. I can’t bare to see his face, so hurt, so trusting, so beautifully broken. “I hate that you could do that to me, just kiss someone else. I hate that you lock me out all the time, and that I don’t understand you, and all the reasons for the things that you do. But I’m not ready, or willing to say that it’s over. I want to look forward to the future with you. With this.. With our baby. So if I’m not going to give up on us, on you, please, Larka, don’t lose faith yet.”

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“Don’t lose faith in me.” He breathes softly, voice thick with emotion. “I know your scared, I understand that now. And truth be told, I’m terrified of losing you too. So talk to me. About this. About us. Help me fix this. Please. I can forgive you, I can find a way to understand, if you can just let me. But you have to want this too. If we’re going to have a baby, if we’re going to make us work, then you gotta trust me, you need to let me in.”

“So…” I step away, trembling all over. Cas was willing to work on this, whatever we were. He was willing to forget about what a mess I was for another mistake. He somehow had another chance to give. Despite all my many screw ups, that I just seemed to keep making. Somehow he didn’t care, and I didn’t know if that was fair. But I had to shoulder the burden of losing him by myself, I had to wear that future branded in my skull. Neither of us were getting off lightly. Maybe we were both broken, both lonely, both terrified. “Let’s talk.”

5.27 (16)

So that’s what we did.