Dain had just come downstairs after taking his much-needed nap, wandering down to the dining room after discovering that Karrin's room was empty.
"Sera, have you seen Karrin?" he asked with a yawn, and Sera frowned.
"No. I thought she was still upstairs?" she replied, and suddenly Dain was wide-awake with his heart in his throat. Racing out of the door, Sera followed him out into the courtyard, where they both froze. Annaliese was standing rather awkwardly in the shade of a palm tree, watching the tourists and partitioners that were moving through the grounds. When she saw Dain and Sera however, she stood up straighter and smiled. Dain wanted to wipe that smile off of her face, but he just couldn't seem to muster the conviction to do it.
"What have you done with Karrin?" he demanded instead, and Anna sighed.
"Why do you always blame me whenever that girl goes missing?" she asked, and Dain's eyes narrowed at her.
"Because you're usually the one at fault. You tried to kill her!" Dain yelled, and several mortals hastily retreated from the altercation that was taking place.
"Tried, yes. Succeeded, no," Anna countered, and then sighed. "Look, she's perfectly fine-"
"Then where is she?" Dain growled. He wanted to stride over there and rip her apart, and yet he just couldn't seem to do it.
"She's left you," Anna said with calm surety, and seeing the total surprise and disbelief that was on Dain's face, she continued on. "Karrin came to see me, and told me that she was leaving town, and that I should come and be here for you."
"You're a liar! Karrin would never do that!" Dain yelled, and yet he could feel his anger tapering away. When matt stepped out from behind the palm tree, he suddenly knew why.
"She's telling the truth," the empath said, and Sera's eyes widened in disbelief.
"You bitch," she whispered, and then glared at Anna. "How dare you compel my husband!"
"Sera!" Matt snapped back, halting his wife in her tracks. "I'm not compelled."
"Of course you are, because there's no way that you would ever stick up for her!" Sera snapped back, and Anna laughed.
"Honestly, I couldn't compel Matt even if I wanted to. My power influences people's thoughts through their emotions, and Matt is an empath. I can't compel someone who has such a mastery over their own emotions," she explained, and this seemed to deflate Sera quite a bit, replacing her anger with confusion.
"Then why are you sticking up for her?"
"I'm not," Matt replied. "I'm just doing what Karrin asked me to do," he added. "She really has left, Dain. She's at the airport now."
"But she didn't want you to be alone, and so she sent me over," Anna finished, and there was nothing seductive in her words. She wasn't trying to woo him with her charms; she was just stating a fact.
"She said that she would be here when I woke up," Dain said in disbelief, and Anna smiled sympathetically at him.
"She lied, Dain. I don't know if you've noticed, but Karrin's changed. She's stronger; more confident; she's definitely not the girl that she was before. She wants to see the world, and she doesn't want to be held back by you," she said; yet it wasn't said spitefully. Dain stared at her in confusion. It had been over two hundred years since he had last seen the kinder side of Anna, and after everything that had happened, he was more wary of her than usual.
"And you expect me to believe that you came over here out of the goodness of your heart?" he asked, and Anna shook her head.
"I came over here to try and win back the man that I love, fair and square this time," she replied, and Dain walked right up to her, staring into her dark brown eyes and trying to detect any trace of trickery.
"What we had was never love, Anna. After being with Karrin, I know that now. I don't know what it was, but it definitely wasn't the type of bond that two lovers share," Dain said. Even now, he could still feel that something was connecting him to Anna, and yet it wasn't the same passionate heat that he felt around Karrin. It was more familiar somehow; like he had known her his entire life, and that it was just a given that he cared about her. But it lacked all of the fire that his feelings for Karrin contained. Why had she left him? He knew she felt the same about him, so why? It made no sense to him. And why send Anna here, of all people?
"She thought that you were a coward, Dain," the girl in question said. "But I know that you just don't like change; you like things to stay the way that they always have been, and that's okay," Anna added, and yet Dain was no longer listening to her. Her words had reminded him of something that Karrin had said, just a few short hours ago.
"Lissette is giving you a chance to prove that there is something worth living for in this world still. So don't let her down, okay?"
Dain raised his head up and looked at Anna. She was as beautiful as ever, and she was actually trying to appeal to him without using force. A part of him wanted to stay with her, where he felt safe and wanted. She was so familiar to him, and he stepped closer to her, reaching out to pull her close. Anna actually seemed pleasantly surprised, yet when he kissed her it was a simple peck on the cheek, and then he let her go.
"How am I ever going to stop being a coward if you don't challenge me?" he asked, and Anna blinked in surprise as Dain turned away from her. Without a word, he walked back into the rectory, leaving Anna, Sera, and Matt standing quite awkwardly in the courtyard. When Dain re-emerged several long minutes later, he had his leather coat with him, and headed straight out to the street.
"Dain, wait! LAX is a huge airport! You could at least-" Matt tried, but he was already gone. "-let me call Karrin first," he finished rather pointlessly with a sigh.
"Karrin has a phone?" Sera asked with a raised eyebrow, and Matt nodded.
"Yeah, I gave her mine," he told her. "I'm gonna go call her and let her know that Dain is on his way," he added, jogging back inside, leaving Sera alone with Anna. The two women stood silent for a very long time, until Sera finally spoke.
"So did you honestly only come here because Karrin asked you to?" she asked, folding her arms over her chest. Anna nodded.
"I was going to lie low for a bit, but that girl had other plans," she explained, and Sera nodded.
"If you do anything to hurt them, I will show you no mercy," she said; not threateningly, just stating a fact.
Anna smiled. "You always did like to be the mother of the group, Sera. But I made a deal with Karrin – if Dain chose her, then I would leave them alone."
"And now I'm telling you to leave this church alone too," Sera said. "I threw you out of here once, and I'm positive that I could do it again if you push me."
"I don't doubt it," Anna said, and then smiled. "You've had two hundred years of building friends and followers here; it's hardly surprising that you're powers have started to show. Dain's as well. For all his notoriety in these parts, many people still know who he is, and even devoted hatred is enough to spark some form of power," she said, and although it made sense, Sera frowned.
"That's what you've always told us – that devotion and faith leads to power – but what about Matt and Karrin? And your flunky, Corrick? I can hardly see him having a devoted fan base," she said, and Anna nodded.
"True. As far as I'm aware, Corrick has no friends," she admitted, and then sighed. "From what I know, those of us who are first generation children of Adam and Eve, Lilith and Samael, only develop powers when we have people who are loyal and devoted to us. However, later generations seem to be slightly different, in that they are born with a weak form of their power, which is strengthened over time by use, and by faith and belief from other people," she said, and then shrugged. "But this is all hearsay, anyway. The demi-god that told me was only speculating that that might be the case as the generations evolved into the ancient gods that human mythology is aware of."
"So in other words, you don't know anything for sure," Sera said dryly, and Anna smirked at her.
"None of us know anything for sure," she said. "But getting back to my original point – you've had two hundred years to establish yourself as the point of contact here for our kind, and as much as it pains me to say it, I would probably have a full-scale mutiny on my hands if I tried to take La Placita away from you," she admitted, and Sera could tell that she was finding it hard not to choke on her words.
"So you'll leave us alone then?" Sera asked, and Anna sighed.
"Sera, I have a summer house in the French Rivera, a quaint little cottage just outside of Dublin, and a rather modern loft apartment in New York that overlooks Broadway. This is not my only home, so yes, I'll leave it in your hands," she said, and then gave Sera a wave as she turned to leave the church grounds. Pausing in the archway, she looked back at Sera over her shoulder with a slightly melancholy smile. "I only ever want you all to be happy, just like we once were."
"But people change, Anna, and times move on. Nothing stays the same forever, not even us," Sera said, and with one last nod, Anna was gone.
Dain had no idea how to get to the airport. When he had left the church, he had run straight up Main Street until Spring Street diverged with it, and then had finally stopped, gasping for breath. Looking around, he didn't even know which direction the airport was in, let alone how he was going to get there. And then he saw the taxis.
"Do you take credit card?" he asked the first driver that pulled over for him.
"Sure, why not?" he replied with a shrugged, and Dain slipped inside, flashing him the credit card that he had swiped from Sera's office. "Where to, buddy?"
"The airport, and hurry," Dain replied, and the cabbie pulled away from the curb so fast that he threw Dain against the door. The ride to the airport was the most harrowing thirty minutes of Dain's long life, and he was very glad to be out of that car. The cabbie hadn't even bothered to notice that the credit card wasn't in Dain's name, and had instead smiled and waved as he pulled away, leaving Dain outside of the departures terminal.
Racing inside, Dain froze in his tracks. He looked left, and then right, seeing check-in counters for as far as he could see in either direction. There were people everywhere, dragging luggage, fighting with trollies, and wrangling their children. How was he ever supposed to find Karrin in such a mess? Surely there had to be some point where all of the people would have to gather to get to their planes? Rushing passed the check in counters, he moved further into the terminal, watching as people left their bags with the check in staff, and then all moved towards a doorway at the back. And that was where he saw her, leaning against the wall and watching the crowd. Her short hair was tucked behind her ears, hands shoved into the pockets of her jeans. Her satchel bag was across her chest, and when she saw him, she pushed away from the wall, walking towards him with a smile.
"Matt called and said you were coming," she said, and Dain frowned.
"You have a phone?" he asked, and Karrin pulled the little flip phone out of her pocket.
"Matt gave me his," she explained, and Dain shook his head.
"This has got to be the craziest thing that anyone has ever done," he said. "You sent Anna to me, of all people!"
"And yet you chose to come after me," Karrin countered. "Anna is your past, and you've been holding on to that. But this is your future, and I wanted you to fight for it. I don't want you to be with me because I was there at the church, and I was a better choice than Anna. I want you to be with me because I'm the one that you truly want."
"Don't you already know that that's the case?" Dain asked. "Karrin, I love you more than anyone else."
"But you still won't let go of the past," she said, and then sighed. "There's a plane leaving for Paris in an hour, and I plan to be on it. You can either come with me, or you can stay here. But if you do stay, I won't come back, Dain."
"What?" Dain said in disbelief. "I get the whole making me run out here to prove myself thing, but I didn't think you would be actually leaving!"
"I have to," Karrin said, reaching to touch his face, and yet Dain pulled away.
"Why? Isn't this enough for you?" he snapped, his eyes reflecting the pain that he was feeling.
"Is it enough for you?" Karrin countered. "Dain, you've been stuck here for two hundred years, waiting for me to come back. Now that I'm here, what's really keeping you in L.A.? Because I think it's your own fear of letting go of your past, and of leaving what you've become so comfortable with. You've had Sera and the church to hide away in for the last two centuries, and now you're afraid of walking away from it all."
"And what if I am? Is that such a bad thing?" Dain asked defensively.
"Yes!" Karrin said in exasperation. "You can't keep hiding in L.A. and letting the rest of the world pass you by. You told me once that you hated this endless existence; so get out there and find something in this world that you can love."
"But I already have," Dain said. "You."
"So then it shouldn't matter if we stay here, or if we leave," Karrin said, and Dain blinked for a moment as he thought it over. Karrin took the opportunity to reach out to him, taking his hands in hers. "If I'm what you love in this world, then you don't need to stay here anymore."
"But where would we go?" Dain asked, and something in his tone reminded Karrin of a lost little boy. She smiled up at him.
"At the moment? Pairs. But after that, we can go anywhere we like," she replied, standing up on her tiptoes to plant a kiss on his lips. Pulling back, she kept a hold on his hands and smiled as she walked backwards towards where the other travellers were filing through into immigration and security.
"But I don't have a ticket, or any travel documents," Dain protested weakly. He knew that it had always been himself that was holding him back, but still the thought of leaving everything he'd ever known for so long was terrifying.
Karrin smiled at him. "We don't need them; they don't even know that we're here," she said, and indeed people were walking passed them as if they didn't exist. "And once we're on the plane, no one will question whether or not we're supposed to be there," she added. "Trust me, I do this all the time. How do you think I get around?"
"So it's really okay? It's really okay for us to do this?" Dain asked, letting Karrin pull him along. She was smiling at him, and it was the most beautiful thing that he had ever seen.
"Yes, it's really okay," Karrin replied, and Dain closed his eyes for a moment as, in his mind, he pictured himself standing on top of a building, so terrified that he wouldn't be able to let go. One step, and then another, and suddenly Dain was flying, not wanting to ever look back again.
It had been just over a week since Sera or Matt had heard from Dain or Karrin, and even though Sera had wanted to call them numerous times, Matt had discouraged her.
"Leave them alone, and let them have their space," he had said, and Sera had begrudgingly gone along with it. But neither of them knew what had happened after Dain had left the church, if he had found Karrin, if they were now together, and if so, where they currently were. It was frustrating for Sera, but the arrival of her credit card statement made up her mind once and for all.
Reaching for the phone, she dialled Matt's old phone number, her finger tapping on her desk in annoyance as she waited for the line to pick up.
When Karrin heard the phone ring, she just stared at it for a long moment, before she remembered that she should probably answer it. It had to be either Matt or Sera; no one else had the number.
"Hello?" she said, holding the phone to her ear.
"Karrin?" the voice of Sera said on the other end, and Karrin smiled.
"Hi! How are you?" Karrin asked, sitting down on her couch.
"Fine," Sera replied, her voice a little tight. "Where are you? Is Dain with you?" she asked, and Karrin nodded, and then remembered that Sera couldn't see her.
"Uh yeah, he is. Well, he's not at the moment. He's ducked out to get some baguettes," she replied, and then noticed a slight pause on the other end.
"Baguettes? Where are you?"
"Paris," Karrin said happily, and then sat up straighter. "Oh, and guess what? I'm totally fluent in French. I had no idea until we got here, and I was listening to these two men chatting away, and I realised that I knew exactly what they were saying," she said excitedly, and then laughed. "Dain finds it frustrating though, because his French is extremely basic."
"So he went with you after all," Sera said, more of a statement than a question, and again Karrin nodded. "Are you guys happy? I mean, you know you always have a home here, right?"
"Yeah, I know. And we will come back, I promise," Karrin assured her. "And yes, we're both happy. I've never seen Dain so relaxed, like this huge weight has been lifted from him. I haven't seen his phony smile in days, and he laughs a lot more than he used to," Karrin told her, and although she couldn't see it, Sera was smiling with relief.
"That's good. I'm glad," she said just as Dain walked back into their hotel room, carrying two baguettes. Karrin waved to him, and then told Sera that he had just returned. "Good. Put him on for me," she said, and Karrin winced at the sudden change in her tone.
"Uh, Sera wants to talk to you," Karrin said, holding the phone out.
"You called her?" Dain asked, depositing the baguettes on the table. Karrin shook her head.
"She called me," she said as Dain took the phone.
"Hello?" he asked.
"The Swiss bank account, Dain? Really? You ran away to Paris with your girlfriend, and stole my Swiss bank account?" she yelled, and Dain held the phone away from his ear, waiting for her to calm down.
"Well, it's not like I have one of my own," he replied. "Besides, it could have been worse."
"How?" Sera said through gritted teeth.
"I could have taken the Cayman Islands account," he said with a cheeky smile, and if Sera had have been there in person, she would have throttled him.
"Two grand in a week, Dain! That money doesn't come out of thin air, you know?" Sera seethed, and Dain smiled. He knew exactly where the money had come from – Anna had brought her riches back with her from France, along with Karrin, and it had been invested and earned interest on ever since. Granted, Sera had also topped it up with her own accumulated wealth – you didn't live for countless centuries and have nothing, after all – but Dain didn't see what the problem was.
"So what was I supposed to do? Wander around Paris without a single Euro to my name?" he countered, and Sera grumbled down the line at him.
"You could have asked."
"It was kind of a snap decision," he admitted. Karrin was looking at him with worry, but he flashed her a reassuring smile. "I hadn't exactly been planning on coming to Paris, but I also had no idea how I was going to find Karrin, and the mortal world runs on money, which I don't have. So I made a decision."
"You should have asked," Sera repeated, and Dain sighed.
"I'm sorry," he said, and Sera could tell that, although he meant it, there was a smile on his face when he said it.
Sera sighed. "Look after Karrin, okay?" she said, and Dain laughed. It was such a delightful sound that Sera had never heard before, and although Karrin had told her as much, it was quite a shock to hear Dain laugh so freely, without it being sarcastic or bitter.
"She's been taking care of me. Did you know that Paris has this massive tower in it now?" he said, and Sera laughed.
"Yes Dain, that would be the Eiffel Tower."
"Simply amazing," he said, shaking his head in disbelief.
When Sera hung up the phone, Matt was leaning in the doorway, watching his wife with his arms folded over his chest.
"Couldn't resist calling them huh?" he asked, and Sera nodded. "So, how are they?"
"They're together in Paris," she replied, smiling as she remembered the happy, light-hearted tones of their voices. "And they're just fine."
Author's Note - Wow, what a ride! I got this finished at 50,441 words, and with 5 days to spare to boot! I can sleep again! lol, but all joking aside, this has been an amazing project to work on, and I have loved every minute of it. Thank you to Angelica for poking me for years, and finally convincing me to try out NaNo. I still think it's a totally crazy endevour, but it has been well worth it. I hope you all enjoyed this final update, and thanks for reading!