jesterladyfic: (jesterlady)
[personal profile] jesterladyfic


Chapter Six

It had been several hours since the vampires showed up. Nina was about to go crazy, but she was too busy keeping everyone else from going crazy. George and Mitchell were like pacing zombies and Annie had taken to popping from one side of the room to the other when she thought she found something. Eve was at least somewhat distracted and hadn’t looked scared of the ‘bad men’ for the last forty minutes. Before that, though, she had been somewhat inconsolable, crying and clinging to Nina. It made Nina livid to think something could do that to Eve, but there wasn’t much she could do about it.

The vampires were outside and it was getting close to dark, several of them had walked outside the barn as if to prove that they could. There were more of them than she’d seen at the hospital. They were all wondering what was going to happen when the sun went down. The vampires couldn’t come inside and the house was pretty heavily built, in many ways because of their attempts to make it werewolf proof. It was a double blessing now.

Mitchell said he didn’t think they’d do anything tonight, that it was a scare tactic, and Nina was inclined to think his hunch was right. She’d sent Tom to the basement to try and access his inner wolf.

So far Tom had transformed twice, only for a few minutes each time, and he’d never seemed to have the same grasp of his faculties as that first time. It took a lot out of him and she had Annie bring him a lot of food and she monitored his progress herself. Her first priority was Eve, but that didn’t mean she was going to ignore it if Tom went into shock or something from an overload to his system. She knew firsthand how horrible it was to transform and she couldn’t imagine doing it three times in one day.

Then again, if she could transform right now, she wouldn’t feel nearly as afraid of the men standing outside her house, trying to take her daughter away from her.

“We’re missing something,” Mitchell said, slamming shut his book. “This bloody book is useless.”

“What do you mean?” asked Nina.

“There’s too many parts of the prophecy missing,” said George, rubbing his temples. “The vampires don’t have all of it, neither do we. Apparently the War Prophecy was split into different parts and called the Skin Parchments - unnecessary barbarism, but I’ll try to move past it and go on - and scattered.”

“I took a picture with George’s phone when we were meeting,” said Mitchell. “It’s not the highest quality, I’ll grant you, but it’ll do. It gives me more than I’ve ever had to go on before. But it looks like there’s a piece missing and, granting the Old Ones don’t have it, I’m betting it will never be found.”

“So?” asked Annie.

“So we know there will be a War Child, we know something of what her powers are, but we don’t know her purpose, and there’s too many references to the phrase ‘to live and to die,’ for my liking.”

Nina could see why Mitchell was frustrated. She’d left the prophecy unraveling to him and George because they were the best two to be able to understand it, but she didn’t see how they’d be able to.

“What’s your next step?” she asked, trying to speak calmly.

“What Carl had is useless,” said Mitchell, running his hands through his hair. “I’m sure the Old Ones took it all or he got it from them to begin with.”

“So you’re giving up?” Nina asked.

“Of course not,” he snapped.

“I know!” said Annie, hopping a little. “I can go to the Other Side; there must be someone there who could help.”

George and Mitchell looked at each other and shrugged.

“It wouldn’t hurt…” said George.

“I don’t want you to leave, Annie,” said Nina.

“No need,” said Annie.

She turned to the telly and snapped her fingers, obviously for effect, but it suddenly turned on and there was the sound of static so loud it made Nina’s head ache.

“I forgot she could do that,” muttered George, shuddering a little.

“Long time, Annie,” came a voice through the static and as Nina leaned closer she could see a pale face with dark hair.

“Gilbert!” said Annie. “Is everything okay?”

“You tell me,” he said. “You’re the one reaching out.”

“I’m trying to get some information,” she said and gave a quick rundown of the situation for him.

“Sounds like fun,” he said, in the entirely inappropriate way the dead have of making light of circumstances. “Don’t know what help I can be though.”

“Well, someone there who’s dead must have some idea of what’s on the missing Skin Parchments,” said Annie. “Do a poll or something.”

“I’ll ask around,” said Gilbert. “I know each person that runs through here, luv, and I’ve never heard tale of them before.”

“Just try,” said Annie. “I mean, it can’t hurt and I need all the information I can get.”

“All right,” said Gilbert. Nina watched him close his eyes and flicker. She had no idea what was going on, but Annie didn’t seem concerned so Nina simply picked Eve up and began brushing her hair instead of wasting mental energy on curiosity. “No good,” he said finally, opening his eyes. “I will keep trying.”

“Thank you,” said Annie. “You know where to find me. Gilbert, this is really, really important. My whole family rests on this and you know how much they mean to me.”

“Too well, the whole of Purgatory knows,” Gilbert said, his tone light.

The telly flickered again and then turned off.

“There’s that,” said Annie, turning back to everyone. “If he can’t, I’ll go and knock some heads together.”

“Annie,” said Mitchell, his tone slightly warning.

Annie looked as embarrassed as a ghost could get and she nodded at him. Nina frowned. It was true that Annie had done quite a few questionable things with her powers over the years, especially when she had first really come into them, but she wondered just what Mitchell was referring to.

In the end it didn’t really matter, but it was a good reminder to Nina that there was more to their lives beyond this problem, and she was determined to fight for that. They’d all been through so much and she wanted the time to go through whatever else came their way.

“I’m going to keep looking,” said George and turned back to his books.

“I’ll check on Tom,” said Annie.

Nina and Mitchell exchanged looks and he gave her a forced smile before sitting back down, his fingers beating a frantic tattoo on his leg. Nina kept on combing Eve’s hair until she fell asleep.

***

When the sun finally dawned again, George let out a sigh. It didn’t really mean anything, but somehow the sun was a sign they had gotten through the first trial. The vampires didn’t like the sun. The Old Ones were back in the barn though men still stood watch around the house.

Nina had gone to bed with Eve at her normal time but George and Mitchell had stayed up with Annie while Tom slept the sleep of the exhausted. George could now hear the sounds of Tom shoveling food into his mouth and Nina giving Eve a bath. Funny how everything was so normal when everything was really the most horrible it had ever been.

“We need shuteye, mate,” said Mitchell. “I can’t go forever and I know you can’t.”

Wearily, George nodded and heaved his long frame out of his chair. He passed Annie in the hall and sleepily waved good night.

George had often experienced high bursts of adrenaline when he felt like he could conquer the universe and keep the feeling forever. It never did last, but he had never even had the chance to develop such energy this time. All the Old Ones were doing was watching but, while absolutely nerve wracking, it didn’t lend itself to any kind of burst of chemicals.

Mitchell was following George silently when he suddenly swore and George looked around sharply and then yelped.

“George, what’s wrong?” called Nina, her voice controlled but somehow panicked.

George gaped for a second before Mitchell elbowed him in the ribs and put his finger to his lips.

“Ugh, uh, stubbed my bloody toe,” George yelled back, wondering why on earth he was following Mitchell’s lead on this.

That little girl vampire, Hetty, was sitting on their roof, staring in the window at him and Mitchell and grinning.

“Be careful,” said Nina, her tone making him believe she didn’t quite buy it but wasn’t going to push it.

“Yes, Nina,” said George, shadowing Mitchell closely as they walked to the window.

“Fancy a drink?” said Hetty as they drew close.

The window muffled her voice considerably but George could hear her well enough.

“Naww, too early,” said Mitchell. “What do you want, Hetty?”

“Oh, just a chat,” said Hetty. “It’s been ages.”

“We were never exactly friends,” said Mitchell, clenching and unclenching his fingers.

“You were too young and impulsive,” said Hetty.

“And now?” asked Mitchell.

“You’re older and impulsive,” answered Hetty, flashing him a grin. “But never mind all of that now.”

“Why? What’s happening?” asked Mitchell.

“A good old fashioned siege is what,” said Hetty. “I haven’t been in one of those for bloody ever. But it’s a pity you’re involved.”

“Because?” Mitchell asked.

“Something’s bound to go wrong,” she said. “From us or them. You’re in the ultimate no win situation.”

“We wouldn’t do anything to hurt Mitchell,” squawked George, feeling slightly indignant.

After all, if they put up with him day in and day out for years, it was hardly likely they’d just throw all that investment away.

“Oh, it wouldn’t be you,” Hetty said, wide-eyed. “It’d be that precious daughter of yours. She carries the curse of the vampires and Mitchell does happen to be one in case you didn’t notice.”

“What does that mean?” asked George.

“Are you saying you know the reason she’s so dangerous?” asked Mitchell.

Hetty shrugged, the picture of indifference. George wanted to punch her.

“Let’s just say I’ve had time enough to put the pieces together. All I want you to know, Mitchell, is that Snow won’t rest until he has her. That little girl will break the world simply by existing. If you get near her…well, let’s just say, you won’t ever be the same.”

“Your bloody cryptic clues aren’t helping anyone, Hetty!” Mitchell said, thumping his fist against the wall.

George felt slightly alarmed. Mitchell was already affected by the presence of the Old Ones and now he was running on zero sleep.

“She’s just trying to rile you up,” George said, cautiously putting his hand on Mitchell’s shoulder.

It was tense as anything, but it relaxed slightly under his touch.

“Oh, she is,” said Mitchell, staring unnervingly at Hetty through the glass. “But this one always has multiple reasons for everything she does. I just don’t know what the other ones are.”

“I hope you figure it out soon,” said Hetty, “for your sake. Just remember, the War Child doesn’t know friend from foe, it can’t. You may save her only to die.”

Hetty jumped off the building. George blinked, unsure he’d seen what he thought he’d seen.

“Did she just…” he asked, pointing dumbly.

“She did,” said Mitchell, nodding grimly.

“Are you okay?” asked George.

“No,” said Mitchell. “I won’t be till this is over and, who knows, maybe I’ll be dead.”

“No,” said George fiercely. “That is not how this ends.”

“George,” said Mitchell, his intensity suddenly melting into a comfortable deprecation George was more familiar with. “You’re ridiculous, you know that.”

“Don’t be stupid,” said George.

“Can’t help it,” Mitchell said, shrugging. “Born and died this way.” He started to walk away and George caught his arm, worried about what fool thing Mitchell would do. Mitchell looked George in the eye and smiled. “It’s okay, George. I’m not planning on dying, but the best part is, if I do, at least I did it for the right reasons this time and I won’t have to live with this struggle anymore.”

George let him go this time and shuffled to his bed, checking under the bed and barricading the window automatically. He couldn’t get Mitchell’s words out of his head and his sleep, though quite immediate, didn’t feel that restful.

***

Nina wrestled Eve out of the bathtub and ignored the dramatic huffing coming from her daughter. It was like this every single time and she and George took turns because it was often so disagreeable. Nina had read lots of stories of innocent and fun playtime in the bath for children, but she’d never experienced it. As it was, Eve was finally clean and Nina helped her to get dressed. Eve was just at the stage when she was becoming interested in what she wore and wanting to do what she could herself.

“Ye’lo,” said Eve when Nina held up two choices of hair ties.

Nina finished the braid and inspected her work. She’d gotten quite good at it if she did say so herself. Annie had spent hours teaching her on a mannequin Nina had bought online when Nina had started freaking out about being the mother to a little girl.

“You’re my very pretty girl,” she said.

Eve beamed and Nina caught a sob in the back of her throat. Eve looked at her with curiosity and then hugged what she could reach of Nina.

“Okay, Mummy. Bad men go away.”

“Thank you, sweetheart,” said Nina, tucking her emotions away as they weren’t helping her do anything. “You’re so smart and helpful and kind.”

“Unca John says I’m radscal,” said Eve.

“Rascal,” corrected Nina automatically. “Yes, sometimes you are. Now, let’s go and get something to eat.”

Eve jumped from the counter and ran down the hall. Nina followed much more quickly than she would have normally. She didn’t want to let Eve out of her sight at the moment.

Annie was in the kitchen and swooped on Eve as soon as she came into the room.

Nina watched for a moment as Annie filled her daughter full of breakfast food.

“I’ve got her,” said Annie gently when she caught Nina staring. “You should clear your head.”

“It won’t do any good, I’m afraid,” said Nina grimly. “I do want to check on Tom though. Is he in the basement?”

“Yeah,” said Annie.

Nina nodded and headed for the basement. What she found was a cage full of werewolf Tom sitting calmly in the center of the room.

“Tom?” she said, moving to the door. The wolf’s head snapped toward her and he padded over to the door, sitting again. “Is that you in there?” Nina asked.

The wolf actually nodded to her. Nina was impressed and watched for a few moments as Tom ran in circles and then stopped, panting. He crumpled in on himself a few minutes later and began a transformation back to human form.

Nina turned away while he got dressed and then went inside the cage with him.

“Do you feel all right?” she asked, checking his vitals.

“Bit sore,” said Tom. “Feel fine otherwise.”

“Are you able to be in control the whole time?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he said. “I mean, it’s still hard and all, but I manage. Takes a bit of effort.”

“It’s quite amazing,” said Nina. “I’m worried it will wear you out though.”

“Naw,” said Tom. “Just need refueling. Annie takes care of that.”

“Be careful,” said Nina. “You’re needed for more things than this.”

“It’s my part, you know,” Tom said. “I got to do this and make it count. I can hold it now for as long as I want.”

Nina didn’t quite know what to say to that. Tom so often wasn’t clear about what he wanted, but she could see this meant something to him. What, she didn’t quite know.

“Do you want to try again then?” asked Nina.

“Yeah,” said Tom eagerly.

She left the room and took the clothes he tossed out to her. Within seconds there was the cracking and screaming she had unfortunately become so used to.

“Tom?” she asked the wolf. The wolf nodded and pulled back his lips into what Nina assumed was a smile. “You know who I am?” she asked. He nodded again. “Is it safe for me to come in there?” she asked.

The wolf didn’t hesitate but nodded again and put one paw on the gate expectantly.

Nina didn’t quite know what made her do it, but she stepped inside the cage with the wolf and kept quite still as he licked her palm, acting all the while like a puppy with his master. There was something wrong with the picture, but at least he wasn’t trying to chew her face off.

They experimented like that for a few hours. Nina made frequent trips upstairs to check on Eve and see what was happening with the vampires, but Annie said there was nothing happening and that the other two were still asleep.

Mitchell woke up before George, but it wasn’t mid-afternoon when George found his tousle head-ed way down to the basement and squawked loudly when he saw Nina sitting in the cage with Tom as a wolf.

“What the hell is going on?” he asked.

Nina rolled her eyes and got up, addressing Tom as she left.

“Change back, Tom, you’ve had enough for a while, you need to eat and rest.”

Bones cracked behind her in response and she left his clothes inside the door.

“Why would you go in there?” asked George, hugging her tightly when she got back outside.

“Because that was Tom, not his wolf,” said Nina. “It’s amazing, George, he can control it.”

“One hundred percent of the time?” demanded George.

“I admit there are some kinks to work out,” said Nina. “This is all very new and none of us knows anything for certain. But he’s been consistently in control and able to change on demand all day.”

“That’s bloody unbelievable,” said George. “It’s too much.”

Nina could see he was attempting to deal with the news but she didn’t want him to put his emotional outbursts on Tom.

“Just try and understand,” she said, speaking in a low voice. “That boy has been literally breaking his body to figure this out. He’s doing it for us, for Eve.”

George’s eyes softened and he looked calmer. He didn’t look happy, but he didn’t look like he was going to send anyone to detention either.

Tom came up awkwardly beside them.

“Pretty cool, innit?” he asked George. “I mean, the control and all.”

“Very…cool,” said George.

“It’s no picnic,” said Tom, “but it’s better than before. I think you two should have a go.”

“What?” asked George and Nina together.

Nina hadn’t even considered it really. It wasn’t a terrible idea, the timing was just poor.

“We don’t really know if it will affect us the exact same as you,” said Nina. “Besides, all of us can’t just be in comas or trying to control a wolf right now. There’s too much going on with Eve.”

“Right, right,” said Tom. “Didn’t mean now exactly. But come the time, you should.”

“Does it hurt less?” asked George.

Tom hesitated and then shook his head.

“It’s just normal-like. What’s different is after, when you’re inside your mind. The wolf be there, you be there. Can’t describe it, really. Just…it’s better.”

Tom smiled slightly and walked up the stairs. Nina watched him go with a thoughtful look. Better wasn’t exactly the clearest description she’d ever heard, but she couldn’t deny that the idea of being able to control what happened to her was appealing.

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