Author: Redemtion13 PM
In the wake of Lind, the College has once again taken its place as the protector of peace. Gracie works to rehabilitate her new charge as an old enemy prepares to strike. Sequel to Stradivarius.Rated: Fiction T - English - Friendship/Adventure - Chapters: 28 - Words: 75,115 - Reviews: 35 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 07-29-12 - Published: 07-10-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3040713
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chapter Fifteen - A Liability
The drive to the college was nothing more than a teary eyed blur to Gracie. With blood still leaking from Francis' chest despite her best efforts to heal him, she had been forced to drive. The car the Huntsmen had supplied them, before being brutally forced into the trunk, was a beaten down old clunker but it had gotten the job done. The road blurred through her still wet eyes, she had driven as fast as she could with Francis directing from the back seat, Naomi's head resting in his lap.
Naomi's eyes had finally opened after almost an hour of driving, but she did not speak. As she let out a horrible shriek that almost caused Gracie to lose control of the car Francis had calmly pressed his forearm against her mouth, wincing slightly as her fangs sank into his flesh and she began to greedily drain his blood. Wide-eyed Gracie had looked into the rearview mirror but Francis only shook his head. As a Werewolf the Vampiric virus held no sway over him. Leaning back he simply stroked Naomi's hair as she continued to drink for another minute before once again passing out. Slamming her foot against the accelerator Gracie ignored all rules of the road as her two friends continued to die only inches behind her. Fingers white against the steering wheel she only concentrated on making it back to the College, refusing to look back at Francis or Naomi until she finally saw the great walls. Letting out a choked sob of relief she drove the car straight through the grassy lawn, the tires tearing up the manicured grounds, and coming to a stop just before the great front doors. Slamming her hand against the horn she collapsed against the wheel, pressing her forehead against the cool leather. Faintly she heard the doors get pulled open and someone call out her name. Soft hands took her by the arms as darkness pulled her into its comforting hold.
Falling. She was endlessly falling. Tumbling into an abyss of nothingness that greedily sucked her in. But despite the feeling of free falling helplessness, she felt perfectly content. Actually, she almost felt safe. Though she continued to sink deeper and deeper into the sea of ink she did not feel out of control.
Taking in a deep breath she slowly spread her arms, feeling her descent come to a halt as she righted herself. Taking a careful look around she quickly realized she had been wrong. She hadn't seen it before, possibly because it was so faint, possibly because she had been falling too fast, but she was not in complete darkness. All around her were soft tendrils of crimson and white that danced around each other in the shadows. Weaving and winding they spiraled seemingly at random, sometimes breaking far apart to only to come back together so close, but they never touched.
The white shined brighter.
There was no doubt in Gracie's mind that the white was the dominate of the two. It stayed a constant stream, never flickering, never straying. It was a sharp contrast to the bloody crimson. Though it kept up with the white, its brilliance would shine for a moment only to flicker back to a dull state. At times she would almost lose it to the darkness before it would burst back, clawing for its place in the void.
As it began to flicker again she reached out to touch it when it abruptly flared up. Pulling back she watched as it continued to grow brighter and the silence was punctured.
'Tainted and unclean!'
She looked around, trying to locate the source of the noise but she was still alone. She knew that voice though.
'I didn't understand why, when I was younger, I felt so detached from everyone. I didn't hold value in anything. It all seemed so…pointless.'
That voice was different, harsher somehow. The kind of voice that made your skin crawl and your blood freeze in your veins. The kind of voice that you knew would enjoy watching you suffer. She shook her head, realizing the voices were still talking. Closing her eyes she strained to listen, but everything was becoming more and more convoluted. She could only grasp at bits and pieces.
'It was invigorating…I am like you… You can become a god of this world.'
As the claim echoed, the world around her quickly began to brighten even as Gracie gripped onto the darkness, pulling it around her. She couldn't leave yet. She didn't understand. She had to understand. Who was talking? Where was she?
But it was too late. The Darkness was gone.
Tender hands were moving across her ribs, pulling the deep set pain from her being. Her eyes felt so heavy she didn't even bother trying to open them. Going only on sense she felt the soft bedding under her and smelled the sharp smell of disinfectants. She was in the infirmary. Letting out a soft moan as her healer pressed slightly too hard she heard a sharp intake of air by the healer as she pulled her hands away quickly. Footsteps clicked away from the bed before quickly returning, accompanied by another. She felt someone sit down on the edge of her bed and a soft hand pushing the hair that had fallen onto her face.
"Gracie?" Sophia's voice was gentle. "Are you awake?"
"Mmmm" she groaned, just wanting to slip away to sleep again. Her entire body hurt and she couldn't seem to remember why. Letting out another groan she turned her head away from her grandmother as the older woman began to speak. She couldn't quite make out what she said. Letting out another moan she finally forced her eyes open, though in the dim light she could still barely see. Licking her dry lips she looked into the shadowed face of the Headmistress. "Why am I…?"
The end of the sentence never left her lips as everything struck her like a damn breaking against a storm. Sitting up she felt her ribs scream in protest but the pain couldn't stop her as she grabbed for Sophia's arm. "Naomi?"
The elder Witch gently took her hand and pushed her back against the pillows. "Naomi is recovering. The silver did a lot of damage, but she has been waking up for a few hours each day."
"Each day?" Gracie felt a wave of nausea roll through her body. "How…"
"It has been three days." Sophia said, hand already pressing Gracie back down as she sat up.
"But I wasn't even that hurt." Gracie rasped, taking a cup of water Sophia took from a nearby desk. "I know I wasn't."
"You were drugged." Sophia said flatly as Gracie choked down the water. "We don't know what it was, but it has slowed our ability to heal you greatly."
"Three days." Gracie echoed as water dripped down her chin. "Francis?"
"He is already walking around." Sophia shook her head. "He actually dragged his cot into Naomi's room. We attempted to remove him but it proved… difficult. In the end we found it better to simply leave him."
Gracie could still hear Francis' pained howl and see the way he had tore through the Huntsmen. She would not have tried to move him either. Relaxing back against the bed she gently lifted a hand to rub her temple. "What happens now?"
"Now you recover." Sophia said, standing up from the bed as her voice became brisk. "I want your team back up and running as soon as possible."
Gracie nodded as her eyes began to close as she settled into a slightly more comfortable position. Taking in a deep breath she began to drift off when she felt someone staring at her. Blue eyes flicking open she could still see Sophia standing next to her bed, face conflicted. It was a look that Gracie recognized all too well. The look that meant there was something Sophia needed to tell her but didn't know how. The look she had given her when her mother had been killed.
Sophia flinched slightly at her voice, eyes blinking rapidly as she tried to organize her thoughts. One hand moving to rub her arm she cleared her throat before finally speaking. "Gracie…while you were gone there was an incident with your friends."
"What happened? Did they get attacked? Was it the Huntsmen?" Gracie was now up again, words babbling from her mouth. What if they had gotten to Helen and Sebastian? What if they had attacked Strad? They wouldn't have been prepared.
"Helen and Sebastian are here and safe." Sophia replied softly, relieving some of Gracie's tension while only heightening the other. Curling her fingers into the sheets she waited as Sophia continued. "Strad… Strad has not returned."
She was almost completely out of the bed before Sophia restrained her, strong arms pushing her back against the pillows. "Let me go."
"Gracie." Her voice was sharp, enough to cut through Gracie's worry filled mind for a moment before she began to struggle again. "You are injured and in no condition to participate in a Hunt."
The words stopped her dead. Her grandmother did not say a search. She did not say a rescue. She had said Hunt. Pushing Sofia's hands from her shoulders she backed away from her elder, eyes wide. For a moment Sophia looked confused before realization washed over her features. Hand drifting to her mouth in shock the two women looked at each other before Sophia regained her composure. "I am sorry, Gracie."
"Why did you say Hunt?" Gracie asked. Her voice was soft, wavering. She refused to break eye contact.
"Why did you say Hunt?" her voice was rising but she didn't care. She could feel her heart begin to hammer against her chest. "Grandmother!"
"Strad has become a liability." Sophia replied, voice deadly calm though Gracie could see her eyes waver. "Until we know what has happened to him we have to take all necessary precautions. There is a distinct possibility Strad has regressed."
"That's bullshit and you know it." Gracie spat flaring up angrily at the accusation. "I would know. I can find him, I can bring him home."
"That is not your mission." Sophia shook her head. "The Huntsman is to remain your top priority."
"I won't just leave him. He's my…"
"Yes, you will." Sophia cut her off, hand slicing through the air. "You are a Peacekeeper Gracie and you will listen to me. No harm will come to Strad if he is found. They will simply bring him back. If he is still… himself, he will come willingly. If not…"
"Then what?" Her voice was filled with unmasked venom.
"Then we will do what we must."
She could hear the sadness in her grandmother's voice but she ignored it, letting anger fuel her. "Why won't you let me try to find him then?"
"Because you are emotionally compromised." Sophia snapped, traces of anger now in her voice. "You cannot think straight when you are around that boy. You become reckless and dangerous. Do you think I've forgotten what he once was? Even back then you left yourself open to attack!"
"Because I knew he wouldn't hurt me!"
"That is a chance I am not willing to let you take again!"
"There was no chance!" Gracie yelled. "He would never hurt me."
"Your trust in him stops you from seeing things objectively."
"I trust him because he deserves it."
"You are letting emotions dictate your thoughts." Sophia countered. "If your emotions control you, you become reckless, you make mistakes."
"He is a student of this College. Finding him should be a priority. " Gracie's fists curled painfully tight as she fought to bring her voice down. "My emotions have nothing to do with this!"
Sophia paused for a moment, taking a calming breath as she stared at her defiant granddaughter. She took in another for good measure before continuing, words carefully slipping from her lips. "He will never be what you want him to be."
The change in Sophia's tone stunned Gracie. Sitting back she waited as her Grandmother continued, eyes guarded.
"Strad." Sophia shook her head. "I had heard hints of how you felt about him, and I ignored them. I received reports, and I ignored them as well. But I cannot ignore what I have seen for myself. The way you act around him, the way you protect him."
"I protect him because he would do the same for me." Gracie protested weakly, though her voice was hesitant.
"You have done a great thing." Sophia continued as Gracie continued to look at her with uncertainty. "You showed more compassion towards him than he likely deserved, and because of that you saved him and countless others. But there is a fundamental difference between the two of you Gracie. He will never be fully mortal like you. The taint placed in him by Lind will always be there and it will always separate him from the world. You cannot protect him forever Gracie, and it's unfair to yourself to believe you can."
"I…" The words stung and Gracie couldn't even begin to understand why.
Sophia's hand found hers and gave it a gentle squeeze. "I know you care for him deeply and I will never admonish you for that, but I will no longer allow this relationship to continue to more than it ever should be."
"You!" Gracie sputtered for a moment as the meaning of her grandmother's words sunk in. Finally finding her voice she hissed. "You have no right."
"I am your grandmother…"
"But you are not my mother" Gracie snapped. "It is not up to you to decide who I have a relationship with!"
"I am not your mother." Sophia said softly. "But I will protect you as I protected her. And as long as you are a Peacekeeper of this College, you will do as I say."
The threat hung heavy in the air. For a moment Gracie prepared to continue the argument, but the finality in Sophia's voice was unforgiving. Gritting her teeth she spat the words out with as much disdain as she could muster. "Yes. Headmistress."
"Rest up and report back for duty then." Sophia nodded her head and started to walk out before wavering and looking over her shoulder. For a moment they held each other's gaze before she let out a sigh. "I promise I will do my best to make she he is not harmed."
"You better." Gracie muttered under her breath as she was finally left alone.