Chapter Eight

The following week passed in a blur of the mundane, with life at La Placita carrying on as if Anna and Corrick had never set foot within its walls. Sera and Matt went back to taking care of the day-to-day running of the church, with Karrin lending a hand. Dain went back to staying out of everyone's way during the day, and spending hours up on the roof during the night. Karrin would often sit with him, and they would pass the time with stories of their lives; and yet Dain seemed to be holding back from getting too close to her. Karrin didn't push him however, and simply let him take his time to work through whatever it was that was on his mind.

What was on his mind was Annaliese, and catching Sera in her office one day, Dain closed the door and sat down across from her.

"Is there something that I can do for you, Dain?" Sera asked, and Dain's face creased as he thought about what he wanted to say.

"Why did you not tell me that Anna had stopped in here over the years?" he finally asked, and Sera sighed.

"Because I knew how it would affect you," she replied. "She stopped in once or twice during construction and completion of the new buildings, and the last time she was here was 1868. She hasn't been back again until now, and when she was here, I told her to stay away from you."

"Why?" Dain demanded to know.

"Because you seem to lose the ability to think straight when she's around," Sera snapped in response, and then softened as she saw the pained look that flickered across Dain's face. "I know how much she hurt you before, and I just didn't want her to get close enough to hurt you again. You're not the monster that she says you are Dain, despite whatever it was that she saw in your heart back then."

Dain shook his head. "But it wasn't your call to make to keep her away from me," he said, and then kicked his chair back as he stood up. "I don't need you to babysit me, Sera."

"Where are you going?" Sera asked in exasperation.

"Out," was all Dain said in response, and then he was gone. Sera only hoped that he wasn't about to do anything stupid.

0.0

By the time that Dain was tired of wandering the city, the sun had set and he needed a drink. His feet took him to the corner of 4th and Main, where he found his favourite bar in the Downtown area – Bar 107. The drinking den was a typical dive bar, with kitschy paraphernalia as far as the eye could see, and more than a bit of an 80's theme to it that included video games, a photo booth, and a rather large unicorn statue wearing leg warmers. It was a place where the drinks were cheap, the staff were friendly, and the small dance floor was never empty. Dain's personal favourite was the cash only lounge that was hidden in the back, where all kinds of good fun could be had.

Pulling up a bar stool, Dain took a seat and ordered a drink. It was still early in the evening, and the only other people in the bar were the staff, a couple who were so engrossed with one another that Dain doubted that they even cared where they were, and a homeless man who was sifting through a bin for bottles. The bartender gave him his beer, not even bothering to ask for any money. From past experiences, he knew that Dain didn't have any, but that the tab would be fixed up in the morning.

Several hours later, Dain was drunk and the bar was packed. People were four deep waiting to yell there drink orders at the bartenders, and the little dance floor was a seething mass of bodies that were dancing along to the dated tunes. People were laughing and drinking, dancing and groping, and Dain was right in the middle of it all, losing himself in the moment. There was a girl who had her arms draped around his neck, with her ruby red lips kissing trails down his face, and Dain held her close, breathing in her rich perfume. He had no idea who she was, and yet it didn't matter. She was just another nameless girl in a bar that he could pass the time with.

Dain closed his eyes as the girl bit gently at his earlobe, whilst behind him another set of hands reached up under his shirt, tickling their way across his lower back. He spun around to face the new girl, letting the other one slip into the crowd, completely forgotten.

The new girl had hair as straight as needles, and as black as the night sky that hung down to her perfect hourglass waist. Her dress was black and gold, with a plunging V-neck that had to have been taped to her skin, with a hemline that was cut on a diagonal, showing off perfectly sculptured legs. Her eyes were dark like chocolate, done up in gold eye shadow and black eye liner, adding to the exotic look of her Latino features. Gold hoops hung from her ears, and a simple god heart was around her neck. Dain smiled when he saw it, reaching out to pick it up. It was a plain gold chain, with a solid heart the size of a thumbnail. It wasn't anything special, and yet it was the most genuine thing about her entire appearance. Everything else was for show; the heart was personal.

"I can't believe that you still have this," Dain said over the noise of the pounding music, and Anna smiled at him as she slipped her arms around his neck.

"Do you remember the day that you gave it to me?" she said close enough to his ear that the warmth of her breath made him shudder. "You were so worried that I wouldn't like it."

"I had to rob a good merchant to get it," Dain pointed out.

"And it was worth every effort to get it. You were always my favourite, Danian," Anna said, pulling back and gently planting a kiss on his lips. She smelled like coca and honey, and suddenly Dain was two hundred years younger and completely in love. Anna had been his entire world, and he had wanted nothing more than to make her happy. He loved to see her smile, and he knew that her kisses were only for him. She never allowed any of the other men as close as she did Danian. He was the first one to answer her call, and he would never leave her.

"You made me hate you," he murmured as they swayed to their own beat. All around them, people were jumping and bopping along, yet the two immortals were dancing as if they were listening to different music.

"I was jealous. I couldn't bare to see you with that girl that you created," Anna said, trailing a finger down the side of his face and ending at his lips. "The very idea that you could choose someone who wasn't real over me was infuriating," she added as Dain kissed her fingertips.

"But Karrin is real," he said; yet Anna shook her head.

"No she's not. She's a pretty little doll that dreamed of being a real girl, nothing more," she said. "Dain, your gift is very similar to my own. Where as I can convince people to believe what I want them to believe, you can convince people to be something that they wouldn't normally be. You talked life into what was left of that girl by spinning tales of the girl that you wanted her to be. But it isn't real – the true owner of that body is long gone, and Karrin is just a by-product of your gift. Nothing more," she said, and Dain felt a flicker of doubt rush through him. Karrin seemed so alive, and so real; could it all be a lie?

"I understand your gift, Dain. But what I don't understand is why you're tormenting yourself with her. Why are you holding onto something that can never truly be real? Is it guilt?" she asked, and Dain hung his head, resting his forehead against hers.

"I brought her to life, and I abandoned her for two hundred years," he said. "I could have done more to look for her, but I didn't. I'm a coward, Anna, who couldn't even chase after one girl because he was too afraid of what he had done. I made all of the pretences of looking, but I never looked very far, because I was afraid of what would happen if I found her. And then you left me too, and I was completely lost. I had no idea what to do, and so I did nothing," he said, and Anna shushed him with a finger held to his lips.

"You don't have to be afraid anymore," she said, pulling him close for a hug. Dain wrapped his arms around her, burying his face in her hair. "I know that you've waited a long time for me, but I'm finally back, and I won't let anyone stand between us ever again," Anna added, and Dain felt a surge of relief flood through him.

Annaliese was the girl that he had waited in Los Angeles for, not Karrin. As they continued to slow dance out of time with the upbeat tempo of the music, everything became so clear to Dain. Yes, he had cared for Karrin, and he felt responsible for her due to his involvement in her awakening; yet Anna was the one who had always held his heart. She was his entire world, and he couldn't believe that he had ever hated or doubted her.

0.0

"Dain?" Sera said, standing with her hands on her hips, peering down at the alcohol-reeking mess that was piled onto the couch. "Four hundred dollars? How in the world did you manage to drink four hundred dollars worth of beer, and still be alive? That bar only charges around four dollars a glass. You should be dead from liver failure," she said, and Dain groaned.

"I'm immortal, Sera. I can't die of liver failure," he said from underneath the arm that was resting on his face. He didn't want to move it, as it was blocking the harsh lights that were glaring down at him from the ceiling.

"You don't know that for sure," Sera pointed out, and Dain shifted his arm just enough that one blue eye could blink blearily at Sera.

"I think my rather stunning track record with alcohol should be proof enough," he pointed out, and Sera sighed, dropping her arms down from her hips.

"What am I supposed to do with you? I thought we were passed all of this," she said, and Dain licked his lips, almost gaging on the bottom of birdcage taste that was in his mouth.

"Apparently not," he replied, and Sera sat down next to him, lifting his feet into her lap.

"Do you want to tell me about it?"

Dain rolled his eyes. "No mother, I don't want to tell you about it," he snarkily replied, and Sera glared at him.

"Fine. But if you're going to get wasted, you could at least have the decency of dragging your sorry carcass up to your own room to sleep off your hangover."

"I tried," Dain admitted. "The stairs wouldn't stay still, so I gave up."

"You are hopeless. And you'd better not let Karrin see you like this."

"Why would I care if she thinks I'm a drunk?" Dain asked, and Sera frowned at him in disbelief.

"Because for whatever reason, she cares about you, and drinking to such lethal levels usually means that there's something wrong. Are you sure you're okay?" Sera said, and Dain was quiet for a long moment.

"No," he finally said. "I think that I'm going to be sick," he added, rolling off of the couch and stumbling towards the kitchen. As he threw up in the sink, Sera had the terrible feeling that something was very wrong, and yet with the state of his intoxication, she couldn't quite put her finger on what it was that seemed off about Dain. He had been distant all week, ever since Anna's failed take over of the church. Sera knew the history between Dain and Anna better than anyone else, and she knew just how badly he had been caught in her spell. He hadn't cared about anyone else but Anna until Karrin had come along, snapping him out of his narrow-minded devotion. If Anna had somehow gotten to him again, Sera didn't know what she was supposed to do to combat her spell. Dain couldn't be helped unless there was something else that he felt more attached to than Anna, and apart from Karrin, Sera had no idea of what else Dain would care so strongly for.

But this was all assuming that Dain was once again in thrall to Anna. He could have just needed a night out on the town, and was now horribly hung over. Sera said a silent pray that that's all his strange mood was. She had no idea what to do if it wasn't.

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