Author's Note - Here's a nice long one for you! I'm desperately trying to catch up to where I should be on my word count, and I'm less than 2k short of where I should be, so yay!
Dain couldn't remember the last time that he had felt so happy. He had Karrin by his side, awake and more alive than ever, and she was everything that he had ever imagined her to be, plus so much more. He had once asked Sera why she had married Matt after only knowing him for such a short amount of time, and Dain remembered laughing at her when she explained to him that it was a feeling in her guts that told her that Matt was the one for her. Dain had thought that it was a crazy notion at the time, but now he knew exactly what Sera had met. He had been drawn to Karrin when Anna and brought her to the church all those years ago, and now that feeling had been intensified beyond anything that he ever could have imagined. She was the missing part of him that he hadn't even realised was gone, and he never wanted to let her go.
Approaching La Placita, Dain and Karrin walked through the entry arch hand in hand, smiling and laughing as they walked across the courtyard and approached the rectory door. It was very early in the morning by now, and all of the lights were off. Dain held up a finger and shushed Karrin's giggles, as he didn't want Sera or Matt to interrupt them.
"Let's just sneak up to the roof, okay?" Dain suggested, and Karrin nodded. She was still unsure of navigating the building in the dark, but Dain led the way as if he could see perfectly, having had two centuries to memorise the layout.
Passing through the dining room, the lights were suddenly flicked on, blinding the pair of them.
"Got you," an unknown voice said, and Karrin cried out in horror as a young black man latched onto Dain. She had no idea what he had done, but Dain's eyes rolled back in his head, and his whole body went limp as he collapsed to the floor.
"Run," he barely managed to get out before he lost consciousness, and Karrin backed away as the unknown man turned his attention towards her.
"Don't think that you can escape," he said with a sneer, and Karrin wished as hard as she could that she could disappear from his senses. The shocked look on his face said that it had worked, and with a last devastated look at the prone Dain, Karrin turned tail and fled from the church.
Corrick was very proud of himself. His ability to knock out someone with just a touch of his hands had never really been a useful gift until now, and he felt extremely honoured that he could be of service to his Queen. For he truly did believe that Annaliese was the Queen of all of those who were like himself – immortal outcasts who had no real place in human society. He had been charged with watching over the little church that had been stolen away from Anna, and had seen how others of his kin came there to seek refuge, or to find answers, or just to generally escape from the human world. He felt pity for the ones who then tried to slip back into human society, because no matter how hard they tried, they would never belong there. They were better than humans, and the sooner they realised that, the better off they would be. Anna had taught him that, back when he had been nothing more than a shadow existing on the streets of New York City at the turn of the 20th century. She had taken him under her wing, and had given his life purpose, and Corrick felt nothing but gratitude and admiration towards her for it.
When Anna arrived at La Placita, Corrick was there to greet her, leading the way into the chapel and unlocking the storeroom door.
"They had no idea what hit them," he said proudly as Anna surveyed the pile of bodies that were Sera, Dain, and Matt.
A frown creased her pretty face. "But where is the other girl?" she asked, and Corrick's smile faltered for a moment.
"She, ah, escaped," he said, and Anna rounded on him with a glare. "She disappeared right before my eyes, like literary turned invisible. There was nothing that I can do," he explained in a tone of voice that begged for leniency. For all that he was grateful to her, Anna still had a wicked temper, and did not like to be disappointed.
Anna regarded him for a long moment, and then shook her head. "It doesn't matter. The girl is of no consequence; I have no interest in Dain's little toy. But tell me – how long will they stay out for?" she asked, turning back towards the storeroom, and Corrick breathed a silent sigh of relief.
"Ah, the better part of twelve hours," he replied, and Anna grinned.
"Perfect," she said, crouching down to peer into the face of Seraphine. "More than enough time to take away everything that they hold dear, just like they did to me."
The streets of Sydney were a hive of possibilities if you only knew where to look, and Karrin did indeed know. It had been five years since she had last been back, when she had first come to her senses on New Year's Eve. Since that night she had circumnavigated the globe, following the desire of her heart to see as much of the world as possible. When she was travelling, she wasn't sleeping, and that meant that the nightmares were kept at bay. If they weren't dreams of fire and of being trapped, then they were dreams of darkness, in which something lurked, trying to pull her down into it once again. In those dreams she could feel an overwhelming urge to simply give up; to stop living in this world, and it took every strength of will that she had to wake up. And so she resisted sleep for as long as she could.
She was wandering through the narrow cobbled lane ways of The Rocks on a sunny summer's day, slipping unnoticed into a café that appeared in a vacant spot between two buildings, and snatched up someone's half eaten and abandoned lunch. Strolling down towards the water, she stepped out onto the wide path that ran around the harbour front, and contemplated her next move. If she went left, she could follow the path underneath the Harbour Bridge, and around to Darling Harbour. If she went right, she could wander through the bustle that was Circular Quay, and watch the ferries come and go as she headed towards the Opera House. Decisions, decisions, with neither of them bad options.
Karrin decided to go right, stopping for a moment to watch a human statue scare the life out of a Japanese tourist, and then slipped down onto a pier to get a closer look at the ferries that journeyed around Sydney Harbour. People were milling around to board on of the green and yellow boats, and on a whim, Karrin slipped on board, completely unnoticed by the people around her. She had no idea where the ferry was going, and she didn't care. She could come and go as she pleased, with no particular place, and no one person holding her back. The world was hers to explore, with no strings attached.
As the ferry headed out into the harbour, Karrin stood at the front of the ship, her long blonde hair blowing in the breeze, obscuring her view. She decided that she'd get it cut at the first hairdressers that she saw, and then made a note to pick up some money from any buskers that she found on the way to pay for it. There was no shortage of buskers in Sydney. Looking out over the water, Karrin breathed in the salty sea air in contentment. How could she ever be happy with staying in any one spot when every day offered up a new adventure? She pitied all of the normal people with their mundane lives; they would never know the total freedom that she enjoyed, and Karrin never wanted to be tied down anywhere.
Karrin had no idea what she was supposed to do. She had run so far and so fast that she could hardly breathe, and she was choking on sobs as she sank down onto the ground in a back ally somewhere in Downtown. It wasn't the first time that she had ever been in trouble and had been forced to run, but before she just had herself to think about. She'd never had to worry about anyone else, and had had no attachments to any particular place. If she found herself in trouble somewhere, she would simply cut and run without looking back. But now there was Sera and Matt, and the church that they had said could be her home. And there was also Dain, and the thought of being away from him sent a stabbing pain through her heart that hurt worse than the burning in her lungs. She couldn't leave them; and yet she had no idea what she was supposed to do.
Pulling herself together, Karrin climbed back onto her feet and made her way back onto the street. She had no idea what street she was on, as she'd run in a bit of an erratic zigzag, afraid that the man who had so easily incapacitated Dain might be following her. Now she was lost in L.A. in the wee hours of the morning, whilst her friends were trapped and helpless. She had no idea what she was going to do, and no one that she could turn to. For the first time in her life, Karrin had people that she was concerned about, and a place that she felt attached to, and now someone had taken that away from her. She didn't know how, but she was going to make sure that that person paid for what they had done.
It was early afternoon before Sera started to stir, and when she opened her eyes she saw that she was seated on a couch in the rectory living room. The next thing that she noticed was that Dain was propped up against her shoulder, fast asleep without a care in the world. She couldn't see any sign of Matt, and she wonder for a moment how she'd come to fall asleep on the couch with Dain. And then she remembered.
"Ahh, so you're finally awake?" Anna said sweetly, and Sera finally saw that she had been sitting at the table the whole time, watching her. Leaning against the wall with his arms crossed was the black man in the hoodie who had knocked her out. He gave her a little wave, and Sera glared at him with all of the hatred that she could muster around her throbbing headache.
"What did you do to us?" she asked, and Anna smiled.
"Oh, I didn't do anything. You can thank Corrick for the wonderful night's sleep that you've had. He had a rather special knack for being able to apply just enough pressure to a person's brain to knock them out completely. Well, in a normal human I supposed he could probably kill them, but lucky for you, our kind don't die that easily," Anna said, and Sera wished that she had the strength to slap her. As it was, her body still felt too heavy to more.
"Where's Matt?" she asked instead, trying in vain to locate her husband.
"Oh don't worry, he's fine. He's still sleeping in the chapel storeroom. His particular gift could be quite troublesome for me, so I thought I'd leave him where he was."
"If you hurt him-"
Anna laughed. "I can't believe that you're the same girl that I met two hundred years ago, Sera. The same girl who detested men and all of their sleazy ways, and who would have sooner joined a nunnery than marry one. And yet here you are, so protective of this one man. Oh, how the times they do change," Anna said with a fake look of reminiscence, and Sera glared at her.
"It's different with Matt," she said, and Anna scoffed.
"Oh yes, because he's 'The One'. How pathetically touching," she sneered. "You know, I thought I'd found 'The One' too, once upon a time."
This time it was Sera's turn to laugh. "You were never in love with Dain, Anna. He was infatuated with you, and you exploited that, just like with every other man that you've ever come across," she snapped, flicking her eyes towards Corrick. "She's exploiting you too, you know? You're doing her bidding, and I bet you're not even thinking twice about it. She doesn't care about you; she's using you!"
The slap echoed around the dining room, and Dain started to stir at the sound. Tears were prickling Sera's eyes, and her cheek felt like it was on fire. Anna was glaring down at her, and Sera turned shocked grey eyes onto the girl who had once been her closest friend.
"I was going to give you a chance," Anna said, and Sera wasn't certain, but the hurt in her voice sounded genuine for once. "I brought the two of you're here because I wanted to talk to you, just like we used to. All I want is for things to go back to how they were before, but if you won't even listen to me, then what hope is there?"
"Absolutely none," Sera spat, tasting blood in her mouth. "After everything that you've done, and all of the pain that you've caused, things can never go back to how they once were. You saw to that on the day that you called Dain a monster, and asked me to turn my back on him. If you'd known me at all back then, you would have known better than to even try."
"Don't you think that I don't know that? Sera, you have no idea how sorry I am. I never meant to hurt you or Dain, but I was angry, and my temper has a nasty habit of getting out of control. That's why I had to leave – to get some perspective – and I'm so glad that you took such great care of my church," Anna said, and Sera hated the way that she said 'my church'. "But I'm back now, so it's time that you stepped down."
"Over my dead body," Sera snapped. "You only returned because Karrin showed up. Don't think that you can fool me, Anna. This is nothing more than your petty jealousy. You care nothing for this church, or for the people who live here."
"You're wrong," Anna said, and her dark eyes briefly flicked to the still-sleeping Dain. "You two were the first people like myself that I ever met, and I always saw you as family. I loved Dain, and you were like a sister to me. But family's fight – it's inevitable – but I'm here now to make amends."
"You don't make amends by having your hired thug knock us out," Sera said, not believing a single word that was coming out of Anna's mouth. The other woman was a master of words, and Sera had learnt long ago to always doubt first and to trust later. Otherwise, Anna would completely suck you in, and you'd end up just like Corrick – obeying her every whim, and not even questioning it.
At that moment Dain finally came to, and startled, he pulled away from Sera, his deep blue eyes racing around the room as he tried to work out what had happened.
"Where's Karrin?" he asked, and when Sera saw the murderous look come over Anna's face, she knew that she'd been absolutely right in saying that this entire situation was all because of Anna's jealousy over Karrin.
Unbeknownst to Anna, Karrin had found her way back to La Placita, and had been loitering in the rectory long enough to know that Sera and Dain were both fine, and that Matt was still locked up in the chapel storeroom. The man who had knocked out Dain was with Anna, and so Karrin took her chance to race into the chapel. The door to the storeroom was still locked however, and after staring at the lock for a long moment, Karrin slipped a pin out of her hair and set to work. Less than a minute later, the door swung open and Karrin saw Matt lying alone on the floor.
Dropping to her knees by his side, Karrin shook him from side to side, hissing his name in an attempt to wake him up; yet he wouldn't stir. Whatever the hoodie-wearing thug had done was quite affective.
"Okay, think Karrin," she said to herself. "What normally wakes you up, even from the deepest sleep?" she mused, and then an idea hit her. It was something that she had never tried before, yet she was desperate enough to try it now.
Karrin's ability to disappear was due to her being able to control what other people's senses could detect. To disappear, anyone looking at her would have their sense of sight altered. To be able to move around and to not make a sound, the sense of hearing was altered. Smell and taste could also be switched off, as well as touch, which was a great one to use for passing through large crowds unnoticed. But she could also heighten all five senses as well, giving herself unparalleled eyesight, or the ability to hear a single pin drop in a busy room, or to have the taste and smell of food explode across her senses. Touch wasn't generally a good one to heighten however, as it reached a certain point where it became incredibly painful to even be gently touched. But it could be done. To wake up Matt, she had decided to heighten every one of his senses, and hope that it was enough to bring him back to consciousness.
Karrin picked up his hand – so much bigger on top of her own – and focused on channelling her gifts into him. She could count the number of times that she had done this on one hand, and still have fingers left over, so she wasn't entirely certain that she could do it the way that she wanted to. She concentrated on the five senses of the body, imagining them to be pushed to their upper extremes, and when Matt's eyes flew open, she clamped a hand down over his mouth in anticipation of the scream that she knew was building inside of him. Like a switch being flicked, Karrin broke the connection to him, and she could see pure relief in his hazel eyes. Lifting her hand away from his mouth, she helped Matt up into a seated position.
"It's okay to talk. No one can hear us, or even see us for that matter," Karrin explained. "As long as you stay close to me, I can keep us both covered," she added, and Matt nodded slowly, wincing at the throbbing pain that shot through his head.
"What did you do to me?" he asked, remembering the deafening noise, too bright light, sickening smells, and the painful touch of Karrin's hand on his. Everything seemed so quiet and dull now in comparison to that blinding experience.
"I heightened all five of your senses to a point where it would normally be unbearable, hoping that it would be enough to wake you up. And hey, it worked," Karrin explained with a smile that Matt weakly returned, and then he frowned.
"But where's Sera?" he asked, not seeing her with them. Karrin bit her bottom lip.
"She's in the rectory with Dain. They're both fine, but Anna's with them, along with the guy who knocked you all out," she said, and focussing on the rectory, Matt could feel a wave of hatred and anger coming from his wife, as well as the sickening jealousy that he had felt earlier from Anna. Dain was projecting his own loathsome anger, as well as worry, no doubt for Karrin, whilst the fourth person that was in the room showed only a calm sort of peace.
"We have to help them," Matt said, climbing unsteadily to his feet. Karrin helped him up, draping one of his arms around her shoulders.
"Okay, but how do you propose we do that? Anna has a guy in there that can knock us out with a single touch. I only got away because I can disappear from his senses, but I've got nothing that can fight against what he can do," Karrin said, and Matt smirked at her.
"Oh, but I do, and I'm betting that's why Anna left me alone out here."
Corrick really had no interest in what was going on before him. He had been told to incapacitate certain people, and that's exactly what he had done. Nothing more. He was neither a friend nor a foe to Sera and Dain, and didn't really care too much about any personal vendetta that Anna had going on. All he cared about was pleasing his Queen; everything else was inconsequential.
And yet something about what Sera had said to him was nagging at him. The idea that he was being used for his gifts was unsettling, even though they were being used to help his Queen. The more his mind pondered it, the more it seemed to annoy him. Had Anna helped him in New York because he was like her, or because she had seen someone who could be useful to her? Did she care about him at all, or was it just his special ability that she valued? He hadn't thought that it mattered one way or another, and yet now he wasn't so sure. The more he watched Anna conversing with Dain and Sera, the more annoyed he became until he found himself striding towards her, hands clenched at his sides.
"Corrick? What do you think you're doing?" Anna asked as she caught sight of him out of the corner of her eye. She fixed him with her beautiful dark eyes, and Corrick floundered, trying to remember why he had been so annoyed with her. She was his Queen, after all. How could he have ever thought ill of her?
"I'm sorry, I don't know what came over me," he said, giving his head a shake as if to clear it. Anna frowned at him.
"You did remember to lock the storeroom when you brought Sera up here, didn't you?" she asked, and Corrick nodded.
"Of course I did," he replied, and yet Anna didn't seem entirely convinced.
"Watch those two. If they even so much as move, knock them out again," she said, pushing passed Corrick and heading for the chapel. Storming inside, she paused as she saw that the storeroom door was closed. Yet it was unlocked when she tried it, and Matt was nowhere to be seen. Letting out a string of curses – most of which were not in English – Anna stormed back towards the exit, only to have the heavy timber door slam shut in her face.
With Anna gone, Dain and Sera were left alone with Corrick, who had positioned himself threateningly close to them. They were stuck on the couch with the rather solid black man glaring down at them with his weird pale blue eyes, and neither one dared to make a move. However, as they watched, Corrick's face seemed to soften, and then crumple completely as uncontrollable sobs wracked his body. The next thing they knew, he was crouched down face first in a corner, rocking back and forth and crying his eyes out.
"Okay, what just happened?" Dain asked, and Sera looked just as bewildered as he did.
"Matt?" she called out tentatively, and a moment later her husband appeared before them out of thin air, grinning at his handiwork. "What did you do?" Sera asked, and Matt shrugged.
"Hit him with a rather extreme case of depression," he said rather cheerily, before he frowned. "Although, depression is a killer. We should probably keep him away from sharp implements."
"I didn't know you could disappear," Dain said, and Matt was about to reply when the rectory door slammed open, and Karrin rushed in.
"Okay, Anna's shut up in the chapel, but I'm assuming she knows that building really well, and most likely knows of another way out, so we should probably come up with another plan," she said in a rush, and Sera blinked at her.
"Yeah. Our first one was to rescue you guys, and it went rather well, actually. But now we're all out of ideas," she explained, and Dain rolled his eyes.
"Brilliant. Some rescue party you guys are."
"Hey, Anna's locked in the chapel, and our friendly neighbourhood security guard with the knock out hands is a weeping mess in the corner. I'd say we did rather well, all things considering," Karrin snapped back.
"You made Matt invisible, right?" Sera said, and Karrin stopped glaring at Dain as she turned towards the other woman.
"Yeah. Well, I actually just made it so that your eyes simply wouldn't register that you'd seen him, so he wasn't actually invisible. It's sort of what I do," she explained, and Sera nodded slowly.
"Can you do that to the rest of us as well?" she asked, and Karrin nodded.
"Sure. As long as you stay close to me, it should work."
"Should?" Dain asked with a raised eyebrow, and Karrin frowned.
"Well, I've never tried it before, as I've never had any other people to try it on. But hey, I'm game if you are."
"Oh, you're inspiring so much confidence right now," Dain drawled, and Karrin glared at him again.
"I save your arse, and all you do is complain. A simple 'thank you' would be nice," she said, and Dain opened his mouth to say something, yet Matt interjected.
"Guys, we haven't got time for this. Anna is that pissed right now that her anger feels like the flames of Hell," he said, and Dain smirked.
"Ah, Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned," he quoted.
"Yeah well, said scorned woman is gunning for us, so I say that we be elsewhere when she gets loose," Matt replied, and a small frown creased Dain's face.
"Good point. Sera, what's the plan?" he asked, and Sera gaped at him for a moment.
"What makes you think I have a plan?" she asked, and Dain's frown deepened.
"You were the one asking all of the questions," he pointed out.
"Yeah, but I hadn't come up with a plan yet," she shot back, and Dain rolled his eyes.
"Oh brilliant. So should we all turn tail and flee whilst we still can?" he suggested, and Sera shook her head.
"No. This is our home, and I'm not running away," she said. "Anna knows that Dain and I don't have any powers to fight back with, which is why she separated us from Matt. And I'm assuming that she knows nothing about what Karrin can do, so we have the advantage there."
"Okay, but advantage Anna – she knows this place better than anyone else," Karrin pointed out, and yet Sera shook her head.
"No she doesn't. The church that she had built was destroyed, and a new one was built in the same location, and was finished in 1822. And then that church was rebuilt in 1861, which is the church that we have now. Anna stopped in a few times over the years-"
"What?" Dain interrupted, having had no idea of her visits.
"-But she never stayed for very long," Sera continued as if Dain hadn't said anything. "Although she does know the chapel building quite well, no one knows this whole complex better than I do," she finished.
"Okay, but seriously, we need a plan," Matt said. "If that note of victory that I just felt is any indication, Anna's found a way out. We need a plan, now."
"Right. Dain, take Corrick outside and put him near the water feature. Karrin, make sure that they're not seen," Sera started, switching into the role of group commander. "Actually, see if you can make it so that all of us can't be seen. Matt, see if you can curb some of that rage."
"Sure. Does anyone have a tranquilizer gun handy?" he asked rhetorically, and Dain raised the hand of the weeping Corrick, who seemed oblivious to everything that was happening.
"I've got a stun-gun hand," he offered, and Sera glared at him.
"Can we be serious, please?" she snapped, and both boys had the decency to look sheepish, before Dain managed to drag Corrick to his feet, and shuffled his way out of the rectory with him.
"Hey Matt?" Karrin asked, her stomach dropping as a terrible thought struck her. "Did we check the chapel door that faces the street?"
Matt's face paled. "Oh crap."
"Dain!" Karrin yelled, racing towards the rectory door, Sera and Matt close behind her. Skidding to a halt, Karrin saw that Corrick had Dain in a headlock, with Anna standing just inside the archway into the courtyard. The larger black man kicked Dain's legs out from under him, and Karrin flinched as he gasped in pain with Corrick pinning him to the ground.
"Matt?" Sera said, yet her husband shook his head.
"Anna's influence over him is too strong for me to break through. There's nothing I can do," he explained as all three watched on helplessly.
"Now, I don't want to hurt anyone, least of all Dain," Anna said striding forward. "But I will have your full cooperation," she said, crouching down so that Dain could see her.
"Go to Hell," he squeezed out, and Anna patted him on the head.
"Now, now, there's no need to be nasty. Let's all just try to be friends, okay?" she said, addressing the group as a whole; and yet she flashed Sera a smile that clearly said that victory was hers.
"I won't let you do this," Sera said, feeling her body shaking in anger.
Anna laughed. "My dear Seraphine, I have already done this," she replied sweetly, and Sera could feel her anger growing. For once, Matt didn't step in and calm her down; he let his wife feel the full force of her own anger.
"This is my church now, Anna! It's my name that our kin associates with this place, and it's me that gives them a home here! This is a safe haven, not a battleground, and I'm the one who has been protecting it!" Sera yelled as the strangest sensation grew within her. Acting on some long lost instinct, she threw her right arm out towards Anna, and it was like the other woman was hit by a freight train. Anna flew backwards and out through the archway, and not stopping there, Sera turned her sights on Corrick, and he too was sent flying.
Out on the street, the passers-by stopped in confusion as the Latino girl and the black African man picked themselves up off of the ground, with the girl storming back towards the archway. Anyone looking in would have seen that the courtyard was empty, and yet the girl stopped in her tracks before she crossed underneath the archway, just standing there and staring inside.
In reality, Anna couldn't pass through. Every time that she tried, it was like the archway was a solid wall keeping her out. They were beginning to attract attention, and so with one last hateful glare at Sera, Anna stormed away from the church with Corrick following after her. Anna hadn't anticipated such an outcome, and she needed to regroup and think about her next move, for it was now painfully clear to her that a battle within La Placita was not one that she could win.
Back in the church, everyone was silent for a long moment after Anna and Corrick's sudden and rather forceful departure. Sera let out a long rush of air, having forgotten that she did indeed need to breathe, and then everyone was laughing. Matt hugged his wife, picking her up and spinning her around, and Dain pulled Karrin into an embrace as well, Kissing the top of her head in relief.
"I had no idea that you could even do that," Matt was saying, and Sera shook her head.
"Neither did I," she admitted staring down at her hands as if she had never seen them before. "I just got so angry that she was threatening the people and the home that I love, and then suddenly I felt this strange force within me, and I just knew what to do. I think it's like a protective force field, or something."
"Well, whatever it is, Anna sure never saw it coming," Dain said with a grin that Sera returned. "And we've all learnt a valuable lesson today – Never stand between Sera and her children."
"And since when were you all my children?" Sera asked with a laugh, and Dain shrugged.
"Oh come on, don't pretend like you don't see yourself as the mother hen around here. You're that woman who never had children of her own, so you adopt all of the needy little strays that turn up on your doorstep," he said, and Sera rolled her eyes at him.
"Yeah well, if you needy little strays want to keep your place here, then we'd better get the chapel open before the locals start getting annoyed with us," she shot back, and together they all headed towards the chapel.
By the time the afternoon service was held, not a single partitioner noticed that there was anything out of the ordinary about the church that day. And yet for the four immortals that called it home, everything had changed.