Okay guys. A lot of you said you hated the last chapter, and to tell the truth, I did too. I just sort of got overwhelmed and had to take a step back, but I can't leave something unfinished at all. After I actually finished the story, and had a little breather, it was actually a little bit easier to write. This revised chapter is a little bit closer to what I wanted the other chapter to be.
Every cell in my body ached. That was the first thing I thought when I woke up. My toes ached when I wriggled them. I clenched both my calves, then my thighs. Achy. It was worse than the morning after Mar had taken me to that Fat-Busting Aerobics Bootcamp from hell.
I opened my eyes, although they were so sore, it felt as though my eyelids were filled with sand.
"June?" Almost instantly, a pair of worried green eyes came into my view.
"Yeah?" I replied and Matty's face dissolved into a relieved smile. I struggled to sit up, attempting to ignore the fact that every muscle in my body was screaming in protest. Matty, however, put a hand to my shoulder and forced me to remain lying down.
"Where are we?" I asked, lying back down gratefully, my eyelids falling to half-mast.
"Somewhere safe," Matty told me, kissing my forehead. Warmth spread gently through my head calming the pounding there. "Go back to sleep."
"Okay," I murmured, halfway there already. "But you need to shave before I wake up again." He was still stroking my hair as I drifted off.
When I awoke again, I was alone. I sat up and took in my surroundings for the first time. I was lying on what could only be called a monstrosity of a bed, so big that if I was in the centre and stretched out my arms, I probably wouldn't be able to reach the edges. I was lying on the right hand side, however, as I seemed to be hooked up to an IV machine that had a half-empty bag of blood hanging from it. Heavy curtains were drawn across the windows, but several lamps on the walls were glowing dimly, preventing the room from being too dark.
I looked to my wrist. There was nothing but pink solid flesh between my lower arm and my hand.
"So it did work," I murmured to myself, relieved. Then I narrowed my eyes. "But what the heck am I wearing?" Somebody, most likely my brothers, had put me in a nightgown most grandmothers would have found conservative. Geez. Once twelve, always twelve.
I was still making faces at the high-necked paisley flannel sack when the door opened.
"June, thank god!" Elm came through the door, followed by Jess and the rest of my brothers.
"We were wondering when you were going to wake up," Jess said.
"Tiernay told us that you had woken, but we wanted to see it for ourselves," Elm expanded, smiling.
"Where are we?" I asked.
"A friend of Calc's," Elm explained.
"Are we safe?" I concentrated on my brother, trying desperately to ignore the angry waves the rest of my family was emitting. Hoo boy, were they angry.
"Dead as a door nail."
I raised my brows, both surprised and relieved. "How did that happen?"
He shrugged. "As I understood it, they did it something like out of The Mummy, locking him in the mortal shell and killing it. I don't know. Calc explained it, but it sounded very hoodoo nonsensical to me. Seemed to have worked, though."
"So you guys are all okay?" I asked, tears starting to fill my eyes.
"Totally," Jess said, looking torn between wanting to smile and wanting to scowl. "Except for the fact that we've been worried out of our minds about you and your harebrained idiocy."
They glared down at me (except for Elm.) I quavered a bit, knowing I had probably made them all furious.
"Here," Will said, thrusting something out at me.
"What's this?" I asked in surprise, taking the rectangular paper object. I expected more yelling and cursing and stomping, not a card.
"Calc made us write you a card instead of tying you up and locking you in your bedroom until you're a hundred and five," Ash growled. Ah.
"'We're damned pissed off,'" I read the front, drawn in neat handwriting that looked like Will's. I opened it and finished the message, "'But we're glad you're safe now.'" It was signed by everyone. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, so I did both.
"You guys," I blubbered with a smile, wiping away my tears with my hand. I opened up my arms. Immediately, my family hunkered down for a group hug as I bawled.
"Seriously, though," Doug said, still in the hug. "You pull this shit again, and I'm caging you."
"Oh good, my idea worked."
My family pulled away from me to see Calc, propped up against the door jam to my room.
"Calc, you're okay!" I said, relieved. My family pulled back, but found chairs or sat on the bed around me.
He raised a cocky eyebrow at me. "Of course. Did you have any doubts?"
"Where's the bracelet?" I asked.
"It's safe," he replied airily, waving his hand in the air as if brushing away a stray bug.
"Oh," I said, disappointment colouring my voice slightly. I was insanely curious about everything, but I knew how secretive Calc could be. My hands came together unconsciously.
He noticed and gave me a wry grin. "Go ahead. I'm sure you have a million questions."
I did, but for the life of me, I couldn't think of any of them. Luckily, Jess piped up for me.
"Why couldn't anyone heal her?" she asked.
He tapped a finger against his chin. "It's a demon bracelet, right? Demon magic comes from a different plane, and this bracelet was so powerful, I imagine it merely repelled all other magic." A lopsided grin spread across his face. "That's just my guess though."
"I had never seen those demons before," Ash said, rubbing his arm as if remembering a pain. "I had only seen the more animalistic ones. Those little fuckers were tough."
Calc nodded, all trace of the grin gone. "I don't know how much you know about the demon plane, but it's basically arranged in layers. Those animalistic ones you are talking about come from the outermost layer, the one closest to our plane. As you go deeper, though, the demons get tougher, smarter. I don't understand why they seem to be emerging now, though." He didn't seem to want to say any more on that subject.
"What happened after Matty and I left?" I asked.
Doug answered this one with a shrug. "We fought back the demons, Jess and Calc managed to permanently kill that guy holding you captive –"
"– which I'm still not quite clear on how you did that," I interjected.
"This long complicated thing that you probably won't understand, because I don't understand and I was the one doing it," Jess told me dryly. "Whatever. It worked."
"Anyway," Doug stressed, irritated at the interruption, "after that demon died, most of the little grey guys did too. We mopped up the rest of the DOIs, then rushed out to find Tiernay pulling a knife out of your chest and trying to force blood down your throat."
"Luckily, Calc was sharp enough to pull off the bracelet," Will added. "After that, they both healed most of your wounds, but you were still suffering from resurrection sickness, so we brought you here."
"It's been two days." Ash provided that dry comment as if the fact I got resurrection sickness was my fault. (Well, in a way it was, but at least I was alive right?)
"Wait, wait, waaaaait," I stopped them, holding up my hands, something clicking in my brain. "Whose blood was Matty trying to force down my throat?"
Jess looked sharply at me, catching on about what I was thinking, but my brothers all gave me slightly condescending looks.
"His, duh," Will replied.
After a bit more conversation, I got my IV taken out, although Ash threatened to tie me to the bed if I even thought of moving, replaced by a pitcher of blood and a glass in case I got thirsty, and my family left. I slept again, although it was a normal sleep, not a deathly one.
I awoke and was sitting up, debating about finding myself something to read when the door opened.
Instantly, I felt the room brighten. Matty walked in carrying his daughter in one arm and a large pink tote in the other.
"June!" Gabby exclaimed, wriggling to be let down. As soon as she was free from her father's arms, she ran up to the edge of the bed, then paused. "Daddy said you were sick. Are you better now?"
"Much better," I confirmed brightly, patting the bed beside me. Gabby looked expectantly at her father, who sighed and set down the tote before lifting Gabby up and placing her beside me.
"Remember what we talked about, Gabby," Matty said sternly.
His daughter nodded her black curls seriously.
"June is still not fully better, so we're going to play calm games today, right?" he continued.
"Yes," she replied, equally seriously. I couldn't stop the smile spreading across my face at their matching looks. "Can I colour?"
"Sure, sweetie," he said. He looked at me. "If you get tired at all, just tell us and we'll leave."
"No, no, I'll be fine," I assured him, feeling like an idiot, but still smiling all the same. He nodded, then proceeded to dig a pink Barbie themed drawing board, a huge box of crayons, and a pad of construction paper out of the pink tote before laying it on Gabby's lap. A smile quirked the corner of my mouth. This must have been how Will made my card.
"What do you say?" I prompted.
"Thank you Daddy," Gabby replied obediently.
"You're welcome, sweetie," he replied, brushing back her hair.
"Can I colour too?" I asked her as Matty pulled up a large armchair and collapsed into it.
She nodded. "But you have to use this colour," she declared imperiously, tearing an orange sheet out of her block of paper.
"Alright," I agreed, pursing my lips and trying to think of something I could draw on orange paper.
We drew in silence for a couple minutes until Gabby spoke first.
"Are you done? What did you draw?"
"A tree," I said, showing it to her slightly sheepishly. "What about you?"
"A kitty" she said, displaying a picture of something that resembled a four legged animal (although varying shades of pink and green) and her name written underneath in big, carefully studied letters.
"Can I have it?" I asked seriously.
"Yes," she nodded just as seriously.
"Here, you can have mine," I said, writing her name on top.
Her big brown eyes went wide as she took it.
"Daddy, daddy," she called, and we both turned to look at him.
"I think your daddy's asleep," I whispered.
"Yeah," she whispered back. "He's been real tired lately."
"He's been a busy guy." I said, smiling at his sleeping form. He had even shaved, something I hadn't actually meant in my semi-delusional state, but he did it anyway. "It's good he's asleep. I was worried about him."
"Do you love Daddy?" Gabby asked me suddenly.
"Yes." Popped out of my mouth before I could stop it. I debated about pulling back my words but decided against it. I didn't think I needed to lie about such a big thing to Gabby. "I love your daddy very much." I continued softly.
"Do you want to marry Daddy?" she asked.
"Well, maybe just date him first, but maybe after a while, maybe," I floundered, my cheeks flushing. I wanted to smack myself. She was four, for goodness' sake.
She scrunched up her face, inspecting me.
"Will you make us peanut butter and banana sandwiches?" she asked, deadly serious.
"Yes," I replied, nodding, also serious.
She thought hard. "Will you make his bed in the morning?"
"Will you let me have ice cream every night?" Her brown eyes shone.
"Your father may have some objections to that one," I said in a worried tone, then leaned right down beside her. "So we might have to keep that one a secret, okay?" I put a finger to my lips with a smile.
She giggled and nodded, doing the same.
"So? Do I have permission to date your father?"
She inspected me seriously, a strangely calm gaze for a four year old. I met it anyway.
"Yup!" she said brightly. "Take care of Daddy so Daddy can take care of me."
"I promise," I smiled.
Afterwards, I read several of the large books that Gabby had in her tote out loud to her as she sat curled in my side until there were two sleeping Tiernay's in my room. As I looked back and forth between the two faces, my heart was strangely calm. This is where I belonged.
"Is she bothering you?"
My gaze shot up to where he was standing beside the bed. I hadn't even heard Matty wake up.
"No," I replied with a soft smile. "She's great."
"I know." He trundled his daughter into his arms, where she snuggled her face into his neck. "I'm just going to go put her to bed." He then pierced me with that green gaze of his. "Then we need to talk."
"O-okay." I had a good idea what the conversation was going to be about, and honestly, I wasn't looking forward to it. I started wringing my hands nervously.
It was several nerve wracking minutes later that he returned. I was a wreck by then, nearly on the verge of tears.
"I'm very angry at you," he said, standing by the foot of my bed.
"Really? You don't look that mad," I replied with a nervous laugh.
"That's because I'm also incredibly relieved that you're okay," he stated, crossing his arms over his chest.
"I'm sorry I made you worry," I said, my voice quivering, although I still held my chin up. The unspoken words sparked between us. But I'm not sorry I did it.
He scowled. "It was the most idiotic –"
"It worked, didn't it?" I interrupted. Blushing, I looked to my hands for courage. "I mean, it made sense, didn't it? I had to stop my heart, and I am a vampire. After the bracelet was off, I would be able to be revived."
"And what if the bracelet knew you weren't really dead and hadn't come off?" Matty asked darkly.
The blood drained from my face as I looked up at him with wide eyes.
He sighed, his arms dropping back down to his sides. "You didn't think of that, did you?"
"No, I didn't," I replied honestly. "But really, I'm okay, right? I mean, you should have known that I wasn't really dead."
"You wouldn't have been the first," he replied bitterly.
Silence descended after that as I debated about what I could say to that. Matty walked over and poured himself a bit of blood from the pitcher, but merely swirled it around in the glass, watching the liquid stick to the sides and slide down.
"Remember I told you that I was with someone for a significant amount of time?" he asked.
"Yeah," I replied, trying not to pout. I didn't really want to hear about his ex-girlfriend, but I guess he heard me whine about Peter enough for me to reciprocate.
"Her name was Myra. I met her during the fall of Rome as we were escaping the Ostrogoths. Her husband and soulmate had been killed by a random soldier, beheaded. Despite her loss, she kept on, although she often talked about she felt empty, numb. I had fallen deeply, deeply in love with her, though, and was determined to fill that void with me. After all, I didn't really believe in soulmates; I figured she'd get over him eventually."
His fingers tightened on the glass, and I was almost afraid it would shatter in his hand. "We lived together for eight hundred years. Eight hundred years. Then one night I woke up to find her note and her burnt corpse out in my front lawn. She explained she couldn't get over the death of her soulmate, and she was fucking sorry. Then she stood in the sun long enough to burn to death."
I couldn't help my gasp.
He turned to me and his eyes were pitch black with pain and anger, and made me want to do nothing more than cradle him to me and stroke his hair, then march into heaven or wherever this… this Myra was and give her a darned piece of my mind.
"I hated her," he continued, his voice harsh. "I hated her for so long for leaving me. But I… continued. Eventually, my hate for her faded into like a dull ache in the back of my head. I just couldn't understand how she could love someone for that long, and not love me."
He fixed me with his piercing gaze. "But when I saw you stab that knife into your chest, I think I understood her a little better. It was so much different. When Myra died, it was like my heart shattered. When you died, it was like half my soul had been ripped from my body."
"I'm s-s-s-sorry," I blubbered, mopping up my tears with the sheet. My heart ached for him.
He dropped down onto the bed beside me and cupped my tear-streaked face in his hands. "I told you I don't believe in soulmates," he said, searching my eyes. "But with you… I want to believe. I know this is sudden, but I think… we might be."
I couldn't stop the laugh that bubbled through my tears. "Oh, Matty!" I said, pressing my face into his shirt. "I'm not sure whether I should laugh, or cry, or kick you for being an idiot."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
I pressed my lips to the corner of his mouth, feeling the muscles loosen slightly. "I've known we were soulmates since LA."
"And you didn't tell me?" He sounded generally angry.
"Would you have believed me?" I asked gently.
He grunted. "No, probably not." An uncomfortable look came over his features. "June, there's something I need to tell you."
"That you gave me blood when I was injured?" I guessed. At his look, I was pretty sure I had guessed right. "My brothers told me."
"It was enough for a Joining," he said quietly.
"Well, when we're both ready, I'll take my blood back from you, okay?" I gave him a large reassuring smile.
"God, how did I get you?" he sighed, then kissed me deeply. I pulled back slightly.
"I don't know if you want to kiss me," I told him. "I haven't showered or brushed my teeth in like three days. Also, Ash told me that he'd kill me if I moved from the bed."
"Then we won't move from the bed," Matty grinned.
I made a pretend shocked face. "We can do it in a bed? I always thought you were opposed to that."
"I'm for convenience," he replied, licking the corners of my mouth.
I wrapped my arms around him. "I think I can work with that." A gasp escaped my throat as his tongue dragged wetly up towards my ear.
"Mmm?" His lips were teasing the slightly pointed tip, causing shivers to race through my body.
"When we get home, do you think…" I paused biting my lip and gathering my courage, and for the first time said those eight little words that had eluded me all my life, "would you go out to dinner with me?"
He pulled back, looking confused, but then his face melted into that grin of his I loved so much.
"Sure June, I'd love to."