TRIGGER WARNING: Emotional Trauma and Child Undeath.
(Author Note: This was arguably the most difficult piece I have written for an NPC so far, and took me far longer to do than any other. I will not apologise for its length, but I will apologise for the feels. I hope you all get some sense of how it felt to write this as you read it. – Josée
Music: To the Moon: Main Theme, Uncharted Realms, Moonwisher, Born A Stranger, Tomorrow, Lament of a Stranger – Kan Gao
Everything’s Alright – Kan Gao and Laura Shigihara)
Merris thinks I’m asleep, but I can’t stop thinking. I can’t stop…remembering.
The last few nights have been stranger than most could ever think. I don’t think Merris was expecting me to respond to his question in the way I did. I don’t think he had ever really wanted to think on the life I had lead before he and Lucy walked into it. I do not regret my life as a ghoul, as much as people would probably expect me to, but I would hardly like to return to life like that; not that I think it would be like that with Merris as my domitor, but…
Helena, stop. Think about things before you spew this rubbish out.
What I mean to say is, I have lived a long time (well, maybe not for the Kindred around me) as a ghoul, and I did not wish to remain as such. I don’t think Merris was expecting such a response. I don’t think he really knew how to react. Well…would you? How could you react to something like that? He sat with me in the kitchen, his questions all regarding Lucy and her safety and security. I really do admire his focus. He was right; we couldn’t leave Lucy alone each day, not with the police looking for her and news outlets broadcasting her image everywhere, and then adding these mysterious people hunting her down into the mix. He seemed restless as he went to join her upstairs. I decided to stay downstairs and wash up; I didn’t think he really needed an audience while he was with her, and I think, given I had been the one causing his quandary, I felt like I owed it to him to give him enough space to think on it.
When I did go upstairs, it was heartwarming. He was sat there with Lucy on his lap, Lucy curled up under the duvet, her head on his left shoulder, and the tips of her fingers visible on his right. As he saw me, he lifted her gently and placed her softly on the bed. Had it not been for his pallor, anyone could have mistaken us for a run-of-the-mill family. As we left, and I gently lead him to our room, he explained that he had broached the idea of me joining him as a Kindred to Lucy. He explained that she had suggested that she become a Kindred too, which seemed to have taken us both as aback as each other. Neither of us were sure about that path, but Merris seemed to be giving it much thought. We both seemed to sink into a restless sleep, I’m not sure we really wanted to come to a decision.
The following morning, I awoke. I went to turn to Merris and then remembered not to. I daren’t look at him when he is asleep. When I was Deveraux’s ghoul, whenever I awoke next to him, I would hurry out just…because I couldn’t bring myself to look at him. With Merris…I wished I could. It was always strange waking up next to his icy cold body, having to remind myself that he was fine, just sleeping like the rest of us. I suppose it was my medical training kicking in; no-one should ever feel that cold.
I took Lucy out that day. I knew it was risky, but we tied her hair up, dirtied her face and she kept her head down for the trip. I think people presumed she was just another disenfranchised yob, skulking around the streets because she had nothing better to do. I asked her to play the part of the moody teenager, and she played it so well you’d almost think it came naturally. Everything went fine we popped into numerous clothes and shoe shops, buying new clothes for us all – especially Merris, whose wardrobe I’d noticed was greatly lacking in size. There was only one slight hiccough, where Lucy demanded to go into a local pawn shop. She seemed to know the woman behind the desk, as when she introduced herself as “Renardeau” she let her in to a small back room. I was allowed entry purely because Lucy refused to go further without me, and there was shelves and shelves of contraband. I don’t know how she came to know of this place, or how she knew about the hidden room, or got the reputation to get in…
She bought a new flick knife (again…I don’t know where she got the money, but I have learnt not to ask this terrifying young woman…) and then refused to leave without buying a new knife for Merris. She got so persistent about buying this specific pink and purple iridescent knife that she threatened to stab the poor woman if she refused to let her buy it. The woman just laughed but I raised my eyebrows. I’m not sure I want to know her past; she seems far too militaristic for my liking, sometimes.
When we returned home, Merris was just waking up. Lucy began to show him all the “cool” things that had been bought through the day. I threw a bag of clothes at him and told him to take a look, and Lucy ran up to him and handed him this knife she had bought. He didn’t seem too shocked by it (though I think he found the colour somewhat off-putting) and they both went to get changed. Before Merris did, I asked if he’d thought any more on the situation, and he responded quite noncommittally. He made a phone call shortly after and disappeared out, saying he was going to meet Daria Rose, and see if she would be willing to “give him a signature”, holding up his chequebook. Lucy sat with me and watched TV for a while, while I sat anxiously waiting.
Eventually, I think the waiting began to unsettle Lucy, as she began to ask, regularly, where he was. After placating her with TV and board games for a time, I suggested we go to my room and wait, suggesting we open the window so he could just fly straight back in. Lucy almost sprinted up the stairs and threw the window open, sitting staring out of the window. We sat together, silently for what seemed like an age, before the sound of wings was heard through the darkness, and a beautiful snowy owl flew through, into the room. Lucy squealed and started to fawn over Merris’ new form, as he stood up and brushed himself down. After a brief hug and quick chat, we sent Lucy downstairs, and I looked at Merris.
He told me that he had spoken to Daria Avery; which took me aback. I hadn’t known she was an Avery, or ever had been an Avery. She had given him her chequebook and her signature, which was surprising…but the conversation quickly turned back to the matter that had been weighing on our minds. Merris seemed to have made his mind up.
He said he didn’t want to do anything without Lucy being certain, but that he knew it would be safer for Lucy to know disciplines. I think we were both chilled, somewhat, to think that this was the best option for her. We sat together, and I tried to be as comforting as much as I could…but I knew the implications as much as he did. As we sat there, I asked what he was thinking, and whether he would be prepared enough for doing it. He told me he wasn’t really well-fed enough and I suddenly came across a thought. I had arranged for the vitae at the Court. Why couldn’t I arrange a small amount for us…for this…situation?
I told him to wait there, and I ran to my car. As I drove, I found so many things flashing through my brain. Lucy, me, work, Hunters, police, reporters, feeding, sleeping…our lives were about to change…no.
Our lives were about to end…because I had asked for them to.
I was somewhat sombre when I went to the local blood centre. I hung my paramedic’s jacket from my shoulders, feeling every bit the fraud I was, and spoke to Eric, another of Deveraux’s ghouls. Of course, he knew Deveraux was dead, but (it seemed) as though there was still some kind of understanding of the situation. I explained there was an issue at the hospital, and he nodded, handing me twenty transfusion packs without batting an eyelid. I thanked him gratefully and dashed out, partly to look the part, and partly because I couldn’t bring myself to look him in the eye.
I drove home, not paying attention to the road, my mind wandering to the situation I would find myself in at home. As I parked, I tried to regain some composure. I couldn’t show Merris, or heavens forbid Lucy, how I felt. I looked myself in the mirror and lifted my chin, pulled my shoulders up and took a deep breath. I climbed out of the car, brought the two cool bags out of the back seat, and walked in, every inch of my body straining with the effort of looking completely calm despite falling apart inside.
The walk up those stairs has never felt so long or so damning.
I placed the bags down in our room, in front of Merris, and told him they were there should they be required. I suggested that if we were to do what was planned, Lucy deserved her final meal to be her favourite. He agreed, so we sat at the table, me with a pitta filled with various meats and salad, while Lucy devoured a kebab and chips. I had a roly-poly with custard for dessert, while Lucy chowed down on a whole small birthday cake. Merris sat there silently, his gaze never moving from the table. I wondered whether he was feeling how I was; whether he was dreading the part yet to come.
As we finished, I asked Merris the logistics of our sirings. He asked where I wanted to be sired. I thought….there was no way I wanted to be sired in my room…I wouldn’t want to walk in and instantly think of that. I looked out to the garden. I hadn’t spent enough time out there since Deveraux had got his claws into me. Merris asked if the neighbours would be watching, and I reminded him of the time. As we walked out, Lucy began to get under our feet; just when she was least needed. Without thinking I told her Merris and I were having a “romantic moment”, which sent her scurrying. As we stood there, I looked around at the trees and flowers, remembering the sunny days I had spent sunbathing with a book; playing in a paddling pool as a child…and then I snapped myself out of it. With more courage and determination than I thought I ever had, I talked him through everything that was about to happen. I had seen Deveraux do it, I had been party to other embraces…I tried to keep myself cool and calm…as much as I could. He pulled me into a gentle hug…and then I felt him bite me.
It felt good, it always felt good, that was one of the perks of the kindred condition. But this time it felt better than it ever had done before.
And then I felt myself fade.
I woke up on the sofa, Lucy staring at me, terrified. She kept asking if I was okay. I nodded and gestured to her to come and join me. As I gave her a hug, my neck twinged, and I put my hand up to it. Pulling it away, I saw two smudges of blood appear on my fingertips. I pulled Lucy in as tightly as I possibly could, and pointedly glared at Merris who came across and healed it up. After a short time, we broached the subject of Lucy’s embrace. Merris thought it was best if we tried to be as honest as we could with her, and so we told her about the disciplines she could learn, and about not being able to go out in the sun, waking up at night and going to sleep in the morning…and about drinking blood. She kept repeating, when asked if she was happy with it all, “If you’re a vampire, dad’s happy. If I’m a vampire, you’re both happy.” I could see this breaking Merris’ heart word by word. Eventually, we saw ourselves going round and round in circles, so Merris asked Lucy who she wanted to embrace her.
I think her words shocked us both. She wanted us both to embrace her. We looked at each other, and I explained that it probably could be done…but that I’d never seen it tried.
Merris took Lucy up to bed, and I fed from some of the bags. As I walked in, I asked Merris what he wanted to do. I wished I hadn’t as I knew if he said he wanted to drain her I would override him. I didn’t want him to be the one taking the life of his own daughter. It would eat away at him too much. Thankfully, he said he wanted to “bring her back”…which made me half smile. The other half wasn’t smiling as I knew what that meant for me. I’d be the one…killing her.
As I looked at her, tucked up in bed…I could only imagine what this felt like to this, suddenly very small, fragile-looking, young woman. I could only imagine what it must have looked like, her father and her…well, for all intents and purposes, stepmother, standing by the door, looking at her, pensively.
I don’t know why, but I thought the best way to approach the situation was to treat her as another patient of mine; another person requiring aid and attention. I knelt by her bedside, softly telling her everything was going to be okay, that we would look after her and she would be safe, that we would be by her side when she awoke. And then, with this awful knot in my stomach; the type that you get when you wish there was an option other than the one you are about to choose, I looked at Merris, then Lucy, and then I closed my eyes, and bit down on her arm.
It felt strange, from the other direction. The pleasure was there, still, but it mixed horribly with my regret and sorrow, making me shiver; repulsing me. My hand rested on her wrist, checking her pulse. I knew I would know when she had gone, but I…I guess I wanted to feel like in some, weird, twisted way I was still doing my job. I guess I just wanted to feel like in some way, in any small, insignificant little way I was doing what I had vowed always to do, not just in my profession, but to Lucy and Merris. I had as good as promised to keep her safe and to stand alongside the two of them, going so far as to help them end my domitor’s life.
And then I felt her pulse get weaker…and weaker…
And then it stopped.
I looked over to Merris and said, in the strongest, most urgent voice I could. “She’s gone. Do it now. Now.“
He came across. I moved my hand to her neck and continued to check for her pulse. Even after he had pulled his head away and sealed the wounds, there was no response from Lucy.
Had my heart been beating, it would have stopped. I sat there; we both sat there, silently urging something, anything to happen. And then, just the slightest hint of colour came to her cheeks. Had we not been looking desperately for signs of…not life, but…well…unlife, I guess, we would never have seen it. I pulled my hand away, mentally facepalming. Of course she wouldn’t have a pulse…Merris didn’t…I…didn’t.
We knew she was going to be asleep for a while, so I took it upon myself to add some food dye to the blood she would be drinking; so she wouldn’t be awoken to that kind of harsh reality in a cruel manner. By the end we had yellow and green and purple and blue blood, sat in plastic cups, not bags. I also made some extra up for Merris, so he could drink with her…I knew he would probably be hungry after such an exhausting night.
As I returned, Lucy was just beginning to stir. Merris sat with her and I brought the tray in. The three of us sat there, and I passed her one of the cups. She seemed the most awake and energetic of the three of us. She kept badgering Merris and I about learning how to turn into animals, and grow claws and talk to animals. I was almost too tired; too emotionally drained to respond, so I tried to focus her on drinking alongside her father. Eventually we asked her to try and sleep “so her training could begin the following day”, and we moved into the room next door.
We sat and spoke about various things that night. It seems strange that after such an evening we should just sit and chat, as it was not what I’d expected. We spoke about the situation with the Gangrel priscus, I told him that the new Ventrue priscus had got in touch about a meeting, we talked about Daria, and Merris even rang his sire to tell her how she was a grandsire. He passed the phone to me and I spoke with Evangeline for a short period. She asked what was happening to my children, seeing as Deveraux was dead, and seemed less than positive about my response. She asked whether they were going to join Merris and I at any point, and whether I had “forgotten that Lucy wasn’t my child”. I handed the phone back shortly after. I had enough to think on without Evangeline, rightly, reminding me of others.
Most of all I needed sleep. And not long after the phone conversation, Merris and I curled up for the evening. I suppose in some ways it was a comfort to know that he was there, and that he had shared a similar, if not the same, evening to me. I guess it just helped, knowing I had him by my side…and that now, I could look him in the face as we woke.
And, oh, how that thought helped me sleep easy.