Blood in Siberia
Chapter 26: I See Who You Are
“There’s no question that Maxwell is right. This is where the vampire was staked.”
One would think that I would feel vindicated at being right, considering all of the hell they put me through this morning. I wasn’t. Instead, I massaged my temples. This day had already been long, and it wasn’t even noon yet.
I woke up with the sun, totally unwilling to face the day. When I tried to bury myself under the furs, I felt something of a different texture touch me. It took some digging, but I unearthed a long black feather. Its presence confused me until I remembered my late night visitor. The knowledge that Silver Water was with me comforted me, and the thought that he could still be with me soothed my rough edges. I suddenly felt full of energy and ready to grab this mystery by the balls. I bitched at Sedici about breakfast as I dressed (tea and toast were not sustenance), and braided the feather into my hair for safekeeping.
Unfortunately, the day went downhill from there. Sedici was a stubborn asshole, and it blew my mind that no one had killed him yet. I screamed, threatened and cursed at him to either take me to Otto or to get Otto to come to me. He wouldn’t. So I went to the balcony and yelled as profanely as possible for Otto to get his ass up to me, pronto, or else I’d tell everyone he was secretly in love with Trowa. (Which was kind of pointless, seeing as everyone in Siberia probably heard me.) It worked. Otto reached us at a speed of mach one, and gave Sedici an ass-chewing that should leave his ears ringing for days.
I told Otto the vampire’s name. He had no idea who I was talking about. So we called G. G also had no idea. Otto and G then quickly made the rounds, and learned that no one had ever heard of Akai. This meant that they would need a location... which was now up to me. Great.
The next moment found me stretched out on the floor, blood trickling from my bitten finger. I ignored them as best as I could as I spoke to the gnomes. Silver Water was right. They knew exactly where Akai died... er... again, but that in and of itself wasn’t the issue. The issue was the gnomes didn’t like the werewolves, and didn’t want to help them. I had a hard time getting them to understand that by helping the werewolves, they were helping me. It took some more cajoling and fake tears to get the location, and after a few pronunciation tutorials I was able to tell Otto. Unfortunately, the gnomes weren’t willing to take the werewolves there. That meant they would have to make their own travel arrangements. I wished them a safe journey, until it was explained to me that they may have questions only the gnomes could answer. Since that was the case, *I* would have to tag along.
The rest of the vanity didn’t survive my tantrum.
G had already made the arrangements by this point. It was as Otto and I were making our way outside that I heard him sniffing me, particularly at my hair. Considering that I knew damn well I was clean, I was about to make a rude comment when he spoke.
“Aviator,” he murmured. “Smells very familiar...”
“The feather in your hair.”
Oh shit. I clutched at my braid. I totally forgot it was there. “Well, of course it’s from a bird. It’s a feather!”
I felt him tilt his head. “I know that scent...”
I shrugged. “I found it in my room. Probably one of your shape-shifters.”
“No, it is not them. This one is old. Very, very old.” He put his hand on my shoulder, stopping me. “I can smell your half-truth. Who is it? It is not the Alphagué’s mate.”
I tried to move, but he tightened his grip. He wasn’t letting go until he had an answer. I sighed. “A friend.”
“Right. And this ‘friend’ found his way to the top of the mountain? With our scouts on the lookout to ensure against such a thing?”
“Look,” I said, turning to face him. He allowed the movement. “He didn’t fly in, okay? And it’s obvious he didn’t take off with me, as I’m still here. Just... trust me, okay? He’s only trying to help.” Otto frowned. “Besides, he didn’t really want to be here anyway. He came because he wouldn’t refuse my,” I was hesitant to say it, “Call.” Great. Now I felt like a necromancer.
He was silent. “Who is it?”
I sighed. “Does it matter?”
“I can’t tell you, you’d never believe me.”
“No,” I said, and walked away.
Otto let it go, but I knew it wouldn’t be forgotten.
I wanted to pitch another fit when we got outside. For one, the Prince was apparently coming with us. That was something I didn’t think I could handle. I just didn’t know what to think of him anymore, and any sympathies I did have were crushed when he ordered me to be taken prisoner.
The second issue was our transportation. Apparently, we were going by reindeer. Reindeer. As in Santa Claus’ sleigh being pulled by. They weren’t cute and cuddly like Rudolph either. Oh no. These were wild reindeer, built like fuckin’ trucks and three times my size. There was no way in hell I was gettin’ on one of those things without a ladder, and a step ladder wasn’t going to cut it.
In the end Otto threw me on top of mine. Literally. We had to wait for me to get my breath back, and then we had to wait another minute for Otto to shake off having my foot introduced to his face. But once we were situated, we were off in a shower of powdered snow.
We had to stop a few times so that I could talk to the gnomes. Unfortunately, one of those times took me a while; it was hard to communicate through an icy ground. The morning turned further to shit, when I returned to find only three reindeer. I felt that that was odd since there were four when I went to talk to the gnomes!
“I was hungry,” Otto had said with a shrug.
“So you ate my reindeer?!”
He shrugged again. “You interrupted my breakfast screaming for me this morning.” He was completely unapologetic. I wanted to kill him. Instead, I was made to ride double with him. That was also hell. Holding onto him was like trying to hug a tree that was running away from you.
Finally, after hours on the flea-bitten, overgrown horses of hell, we reached the site where Akai died. I slid off the reindeer, nearly sick to my stomach. It was horrible. The site itself looked fine, ordinary even. No one would be able to tell that anything happened here. At least, not with your eyes. I didn’t know what the others sensed, but I could feel this... void there. It felt as if there was a bubble of nothingness in the middle of the snowy field. It couldn’t be moved or passed through. I could feel the energy of life parting around it, almost afraid of getting too close. It had such a feeling of wrongness to it that it made me nauseous. I tightened my arms around me and drew my braid over my shoulder. I wrapped my braid around my fist, trying to comfort myself.
“We came out here... why, exactly?” the Prince drawled, speaking for the first time since we left the castle. I could tell by the sound of his voice that if someone didn’t give him a suitable answer, there would be consequences.
“My Prince,” G started, “this is where the vampire was staked. Oburi was here with the Safe Haven. There may be some clue as to...” He continued to babble on but I tuned him out. I tried to keep my distance, lest the Prince said something to me. That would inevitably lead me to say something in return, resulting in my head being bitten off. Not today, thanks.
Nodding to myself on my plan to ignore the Icicle Prince, I walked toward the void as G’s voice droned on in the background. It was strange how the closer I got, the more it seemed to push me away. It wasn’t until I was in front of it that I got a mental grasp of it. I could feel the contours of the void. I felt its smooth texture, its frigid temperature, its revolting taste... all of it seemed to jump into my mind, filling me with as much sensory information as if I touched it. Then I suddenly understood. This was why vampires were called The Damned. This was what they left behind. Their existence was so wrong, so cursed, that even to destroy it left an ugly, tangible mark on the world.
I remembered times when Hilde took the long way home, or avoided a certain corner because of something ‘not feeling right.’ I now wondered if her feelings were due to some... supernatural incident. Was something like this instinctually felt by humans? Did we avoid certain alleys or corners not because it was dark, but because our gut told us to?
My gut was yelling at me to run away. My mind was screaming at me to find Oburi so that I could get the hell out of Siberia. My clairvoyance was neutral, ready to jump to my command if I wanted it to, willing to hold position if I didn’t. Coming to a decision, I reached out and--
It was like Yantis, but a thousand times worse. The electrocuted feel I usually have was now an electric storm. I couldn’t scream. Whereas the Yantis vampires were high, this vampire was alert and aware of everything. There wasn’t a kaleidoscope of colors and sounds, no distorted visions that colored his doom. I felt the stake rip through my body as it ripped through Akai’s. There wasn’t any sunlight that burned his essence into harmless nothingness like in Yantis. The agony I experienced came at twilight, as his damned existence was brutally ended by a wooden stake through the heart. Oburi’s determined growl echoed in his head as he died.
I collapsed bonelessly into the snow. My eyes were open, but I only saw Akai’s memories.
“Shit!” G swore, dropping to his knees next to me. “Duo, can you hear me?” I felt him grab my hand, but I couldn’t see into his mind. “Focus on me, Duo. Focus. On. Me.”
“Why is he bleeding from his nose?” Otto dropped down on my other side. “He is bleeding from his ears, too.”
“He touched the vampire’s foulness. Probably fried his brain. Duo, please respond.” I didn’t. “Damn. He’s stuck. We have to get him out of the area. His mind is probably looping the feedback over and over again.”
“Hand him to me.”
I felt myself being lifted and placed into somebody’s arms. It wasn’t a familiar hold.
“Otto, ride ahead and get my lair ready for him. G, you are with me.”
I heard a pair of hooves pounding away. Then I heard G manhandling the reindeer. I had started to cough when I realized it could only be the Prince that held me.
“Wait. G, help me turn him. He is choking on his blood.”
As they turned me this way and that, what I already knew mixed with what I just learned. My first experience of Oburi was from his point of view. It was beneficial since I got to see and feel how his magic worked. How I saw him on the inside gave me a mental picture of his outside. I imagined him as an ugly, eight hundred year old man with snow-white hair, rotting yellow teeth, spindly hands and a beard down to his ankles. I figured he wore a pointy hat with a body-hiding robe and elf slippers, and walked with a wooden staff.
I was so far off the mark it wasn’t funny.
For one, Oburi was young. Very young. I guessed him to be around eighteen years old. He was tall and toned, with a haircut that reminded me of Trowa’s; he had a short bang that hung slightly in front of his left eye, while the rest of his hair was left slightly longer. It had a natural bluish-purple sheen. The clothing he wore was very urban, and cool.
For another, Oburi was gorgeous. His skin was flawless, almost honey-colored. His full lips encased white teeth that shone brightly in the moonlight as he snarled. His green eyes didn’t exude the lunacy I knew to be swirling in his head. They were focused and knowing as the stake was driven through the vampire. The diamond on his forehead seemed to make his eyes sparkle all the more.
Wait a minute...
Upon closer inspection, I could see that the diamond was not seamless like it was on the Siberian Werewolves. It was crudely embedded into his forehead, appearing stitched into place. The rest of him wasn’t so smooth either. I could see hair-thin cuts across his face and lips from being filleted by the Prince. He didn’t seem to be able to hold his head upright either. He held his head slightly to the right and a tad downward, as if the muscles of his neck weren’t strong enough to pull his head up. One arm was a smidgeon shorter than the other, and at different heights. I couldn’t see if anything was wrong with his legs, but I couldn’t imagine a part of him being unscathed.
Worse yet, I could see some sort of pulsation coming from the diamond. It felt as if magic was radiating from his forehead.
Oh. My. God.
“G, he’s gasping.”
That was it! The diamond in his forehead was the Safe Haven! Holy shit!
“Duo? Duo, say something!”
“Why is he reaching towards me?”
Not entirely coherent, I reached towards where I figured the Prince’s forehead was. As gently as I could, I touched his moon. I was surprised to find that it felt like skin. It was cool to the touch, but flesh. “Haven,” I wheezed.
“Air.” I gasped. “Haven.” That was it. That was all they would be able to get out of me.
“Air haven?” I heard G repeat. “That doesn’t make--shit.”
“Get one of the trolls to get Otto,” the Prince barked, catching on immediately. “Tell them the search for the wizard needs to be intensified! I want him found now!”
G went off to do as instructed, leaving me alone with the Prince and a smelly-ass reindeer. The story of my life, I swear.
A few minutes passed in silence. Then without warning a hand touched my forehead and moved back into my hair. It lifted, started at my forehead and moved back again. After a couple of seconds, I realized that the Prince was petting me. It felt so good that I felt my eyes close. Akai’s memories were still there, but by focusing on the Prince’s touch I was able to ignore them.
“How do you know about Oburi? And why did the knowledge hurt you?” he whispered. He used his thumb to wipe blood from my nose. I heard him lick it off, and felt him tense. “You are not human.”
I didn’t answer. Not that I could anyway. I was Exhausted. See the capital E.
“Hmm. I knew Chang was keeping something from me.” He resumed his petting. “As I am sure that he is continuing to keep something from me. And I bet that something has to do with you.”
If he was going to keep blabbing at me, I was never going to fall asleep.
“Why is there a feather in your hair?” Slowly, he removed it from my braid. I started to stir, wanting it but too helpless to do more than wiggle. “You want this?” he asked me, and for some reason placed it in my hand.
That was enough. My affinity for Silver Water made me think of him, focus on the feather, and break the mental loop I was in. I blacked out, finally free of Akai’s memories and fell back into my own mind.
/ You did a good job, Duo. /
/ How am I doing this, Silver? /
/ Doing what? /
/ Talking to you? You’re dead, and right now my brain is fried. /
/ I do not know. I am not a clairvoyant, as I have said before. I bet the wizard could tell you. /
/ I don’t trust him, and I don’t want any favors. /
/ You are right not to trust him, but he has the answers you seek. /
/ So I should ask him in exchange for what? A kiss? Some ass? /
/ Who is to say he has to know? He is a wizard. Wizards are notorious for having libraries the size of cathedrals. Steal the information you seek. Barter his downfall with Otto if you have to. /
/ Damn. I didn’t know you could be like that, Silver Water. /
/ Now is not the time to play fair. Do what you have to do, for your own sake if nothing else. /
/ I’ll try. /
/ Please do. And remember Duo, that this is the supernatural world. Death is not always the worst that can happen. /
I knew instantly when I woke up that I would never be the same again.
I could feel things I had never felt before. For instance, I knew that it was night. I knew that because I could feel the moon’s energy on the Earth. I felt the power She gave her offspring. I could feel her pull on the ocean. I even felt the hold She had on me. It was as if She traced her fingertips along my skin, pulling my blood forward by her will instead of my heartbeat. I also knew something else. I realized then with sudden clarity that Wufei was right.
I wasn’t human. I was a magical creature.
I squeezed my eyes tightly shut and swallowed thickly. It was a painful thing to understand, especially since the realization was as subtle as being hit by a freight train. As a young child, I thought everyone could hear what others were thinking. It wasn’t until I was older that I knew that wasn’t the case, but my family protected me and guarded my secret with every fiber of their being. I was never singled out for it. Hell, Meizer had accepted me without even understanding what I could do!
Now I understood that I was different in a way no one else on the planet was. Even though werewolves and wizards were magical creatures, I was singled out from them because I was different even from other magical creatures. There wasn’t a Pack of clairvoyants. There was only me. The lone Duo.
I opened my eyes and stared at the ceiling. I allowed the tears to run down my temples, into the shell of my ears. Heero and I were bundled together like babes, safe and secure in the Prince’s lair. I was warm, comfortable and clean. So was he. I could feel Heero’s body as it repaired itself, the moon’s rays gently touching him as She coaxed his body to reverse the damage done to it. I could mentally hear, faintly, the ancient beating of his heart, and the weight of his years. I could sense that ‘something’ in his soul that showed he was born human, but ‘Made’ into a werewolf.
I also felt another presence. It was overwhelming, and would’ve crushed me if it wasn’t already holding itself back.
I slowly sat up to face the Prince. He was sitting at the edge of the dais, watching us as we slept. His shirt and pants were so dark they blended into the background, making his head, hands and feet the only parts of him visible. His eyes met mine, and... I didn’t know what to think. His expression was unreadable, but the storm in his eyes raged. What I couldn’t figure out was what they raged with. Was it anger? Was it sadness? Frustration? My ability had grown, yes, but I wasn’t ready yet to try and leap into their minds.
We stayed that way for a long time, me watching him watching me. Then he slowly stood and took silent steps towards me. When he was at my side, again we watched each other. I remained still when he cupped my cheek, and closed my eyes when he bent forward. With the utmost care, he kissed me. It wasn’t the deep, tonsil-devouring kiss that I would expect from him. Instead, it was chaste with painful intensity. I couldn’t tell if the tears I tasted were his or my own. I couldn’t separate my sorrow from his, or figure out whose pain was greater. His kiss seemed to say that he was tired and wanted peace, whether it be from his destruction or Wufei’s. My anger and frustration with him melted away, and without my permission I forgave him.
He gently broke the kiss before straightening. With a light touch to my head, he turned and walked out. I laid back down and watched him go until the darkness swallowed his form, and continued to watch until I fell asleep.
I woke some time later, and saw that the Prince had not yet returned. Not understanding why I had the impulse, I stood and wrapped as many pelts around me as possible. I didn’t know what the hell it was with werewolves and removing clothing from my person, but whatever. Scurrying as far away from Heero as I dared, I dropped to the floor to ask the gnomes for some help following the Prince. I didn’t get that far. Before I could even pick the scab from my finger, a hand closed around it. I looked up, right into Otto’s pupil-less eyes.
“Uh... hi.” I bit my lip. He was unmoved. “Yeah, see, I was, gonna, you know, ask the gnomes if they could, you know, take me to the Prince.” I blinked innocently at him. “Because, he, he kind of, seemed distraught earlier, and, you know, I wanted to make sure, umm, that he was okay.”
Distraught? Distraught?! I never used that word!
Otto didn’t comment, just took me to the throne room balcony where we found our elusive Prince. He was outside, sitting in the middle of a snowy courtyard. It was snowing softly, just a few flakes here and there, and the moonlight shone down on him. That, combined with his snowy white hair, made a beautiful scene.
What marred it was the dead infant he held in his arms.
The whole scene disturbed me. Sensing this, Otto took me back down to the bowels of the castle, explaining as we went. “Even in death, our bodies react to the moon. By immersing the cub in moonlight, it preserves the body. If this is done every night, the body can last for years.”
“It is difficult for a Were to not only become pregnant, but to reach term. Miscarriages are common. Even if the cub is born, he may not be a Were. He can be completely human, or a hybrid of some kind, with our healing abilities or lifespan. It just really depends on what genes come to the fore.” He sighed. “This was the first pregnancy in over a millennia, and that son of a vamp killed him.” We were back in the Prince’s lair. Before I could step away, Otto grabbed my arms and twisted me around. There were tears in his eyes. “Please,” he breathed, and I was thrown by the amount of emotion in that one word. “Please, help us find him. He has to pay.”
Embarrassed by his display of emotion, he turned and walked away before I could respond. I watched him go until spots started to dance before my eyes from staring into the darkness. Exhausted all over again, I crawled back into bed. Heero, already on his side, shifted closer until his chin almost rested on my shoulder. I sighed as I reached up and splayed my hand on his cheek, my thoughts and feelings a jumbled mess.
A/N:Chapter inspired by Bjork's 'I See Who You Are.'