Say You'll Haunt Me
"Little variations on my page.
Little doors open on my cage.
Little time has come and gone so far.
Little by little who you are.
I can see the patterns on your face.
I can see the miracles I trace.
Symmetry in shadows I can't hide.
I just wanna be right by your side!
I will give you everything to…
Say you want to stay, you want me, too.
Say you'll never die, you'll always haunt me.
I wanna know I belong to you.
Say you'll haunt me."
- Stone Sour
Author's Note: Well, this is the end of the end, my dear readers. It's taken me four years, but this is it! This is the end of the trilogy that was never supposed to be a trilogy to begin with! I hope you've enjoyed reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing it, and thank you all so much for sticking with me this far! Reviews are, as usual, very much welcome. I know the series wasn't perfect by any means, and I wouldn't mind hearing your criticisms. I wouldn't mind hearing about what you liked, too, or your opinions on the ending, or the characters, or anything else you have opinions about.
Thank you all so, so much for reading! I hope you enjoy this final chapter. :)
The flames crackled in the distance as they consumed Raphael's body, but even though the funeral pyre burned in the center of the acres upon acres of property Antony's family had owned here for years, yards away from where they stood near the old farmhouse, Antony could feel the faint heat of the flickering fire, and for a strange moment, he imagined that it was his own body heat, his own long-lost humanity keeping his being warm and alive. If he were still living, would she still be leaving him?
He let his eyes wander from the pyre and turned his attention instead to where Torryn and Skylar stood next to him, wrapped up in each other's arms, solemn and silent. Jealousy flitted through him at the sight, but the longer he watched them, the more he could feel the…rightness of it. He and Torryn had fit well together, but she and Skylar…
They just meshed. They blended. They were right for each other.
And though it pained Antony to admit it, he knew full well that it had nothing to do with the warmth the man's body could produce, nothing to do with the beat of his heart that continued to thrum incessantly within his chest. Torryn wasn't with Skylar because he lived. She was with him because she'd been in love with him since long before Antony had come along.
He was the wrong one here. He was the reason they'd gone through the turmoil they had, and if he'd never come around, who knows what might have happened?
But Antony felt a smile tugging at the corners of his lips, and he guided his gaze back to the raging fire whose heat still tickled his flesh from those many yards away, and he sidled up to Torryn's other side, closing the foot or so of empty air that had separated — just like the foot or so of nothingness that separated them now, the flimsy words that stood between them. She didn't hesitate to rest her head on his shoulder the moment he was close enough, and he didn't hesitate to slip an arm around her waist, resting just below the arm with which Skylar still held her.
He would respect their relationship…to a point.
I won her over once already with my wicked charms. I bet I can do it again.
Skylar didn't tear his eyes from the pyre — Goodbye, Raphael. You were a good man. Thank you. For keeping her safe. — until he felt Torryn's weight leaving him, her body shifting just barely away from his, and he looked over to find her resting against the bloodsucker, whose eyes rested innocently on the flames. Really? How could he be spending Raphael's funeral thinking about this?
But there was an edge to his seemingly neutral expression, a remorse, a melancholy, signs that his focus was torn but not entirely off. Raphael was gone. This was the end. What more could they really do for him? What better way to let his memory live on than to continue his work of keeping Torryn and the others like her safe?
He felt an arm brush against his as Antony made his closeness all the more noticeable, and Skylar bit back a growl, his own attention torn now. He'd been willing to share her only for her sake, only when it had seemed to be the only answer, and he had no desire to give Antony access to her if he didn't absolutely have to.
He'd already won her, hadn't he?
He grimaced at the thought. This is what had caused most of their problems to begin with — viewing her as a trophy and not an autonomous being.
But still, he'd made his mark and won her over, hadn't he? That was good enough for celebration, he thought.
He glanced at the vampire, who offered him a smug smirk over the top of Torryn's head, and as realization finally hit him, he smiled to himself. Antony would take Skylar's place as the desperate man fighting his way in from the sidelines. Well, maybe not desperate, but…
The dance would begin again.
He let his gaze dip to the pendant that rested high on Torryn's chest, the small penguin he'd gotten for her for their one-year anniversary, before this whole hurricane of vampires burst in to throw everything into chaos, back when their trips to the zoo were some of their greatest memories instead of bloody battles against the undead and whatever else in the Arena. He'd loved her for a long, long while. Antony had no idea what it was like.
He turned his attention back to the fire, and slowly, his smile faded.
You won't take her from me this time, bloodsucker. She's made her choice.
Torryn gave Skylar's hand a gentle squeeze when he slipped his fingers between hers, but she didn't lean away from Antony's shoulder, didn't hesitate to slip an arm around his waist. As she watched Raphael's form fade away on the pyre, bit by bit, she wanted to cry, to wail, to give Raphael the heady mourning he deserved, but she was too worn out for tears. She didn't think she'd have the energy for it for years to come.
Too much had happened last night. Too much loss, too much misery, too much to be sorry for.
"Did you let his family know?" she asked softly, the words leaving her mouth before she'd even thought to form them.
"Why do you think they're here?" Antony answered in a soft murmur, and she followed his gaze to where a small group of werewolves stood, most of them young, barely college age. Lindsey and Madison stood at the forefront of the crowd, holding on to each other's hands for dear life as they pretended it didn't hurt, watching that man fall to pieces in that fire.
Watching one of the greatest men they'd ever known disappear forever.
"He was close to most of the packless Weres in town, but he didn't really have a family of his own," Skylar said, though his gaze remained on the fire, far from the werewolves who mourned nearby. They were all putting up a strong front, not a single tear being shed among them. Or were they just too exhausted to weep, as she was?
Antony smiled faintly at the nearby group. "But what better family could you ask for than this?"
"I wish we could've given him a real funeral," Becca said softly as she came to stand beside them, her arms wrapped around herself as the light of the dancing flames flickered in her eyes.
"I think he'd like to go this way," Torryn said, too tired to be angry, too tired to ask why she hadn't packed her belongings and left and not sure if she should've, anyway. She had every right to remain in Antony's coven. It should've been a crime to be as stupid as she was, but maybe she would prove to be more of an asset than a liability. Maybe. Only time would tell. "I know this is what I want when I die."
"Don't talk like that," Antony whispered, leaning down to place a gentle kiss on the top of her head, and she smiled halfheartedly.
We live in a world of monsters, and you want to pretend this topic is taboo? she thought, though she didn't dare speak the words aloud. Death is always waiting right outside our door. It's nothing new. It's nothing we haven't all faced a thousand times before. But…
She tightened her hold on Skylar's hand, her hold of Antony's waist, and she stared defiantly into the brightly burning flames.
I'll be damned if either of you go before me.
See you someday, Raphael.