It was nothing like when the twins had been staked.
A hideous sound emitted from Giacinta's mouth, like the horrendous cry of the banshee on a midsummer night. She gasped, and then she fell to her knees. Her skin grew dark and leathery and wrinkles formed like cracking pavement. A moment later, she breathed her last, flopping face first on the floor. And then the skin shrank in on itself, her hair floating from her scalp to flutter on the carpet, until she resembled an eons-old mummy.
Morgan stared down at her, showing no sign of remorse and no sign of guilt. Her four-year-old face was clear.
Cameron had to wonder what emotions and thoughts lurked behind that angelic façade. Had she felt nothing for the vampire who created her? Or had something else triggered this?
Morgan turned to stare into her eyes, her face shining with wisdom and traquility far beyond her years. "She killed Kieran," she said simply. Then she sniffled, full blown sobs threatening.
"It looks like the weather forecast was right for once," Remy murmured, materializing beside her. "Overcast skies and a chance of scattered showers dead ahead."
"Do you think you could be a little more sensitive?" Jessa hissed. She stepped away from the two of them, moving closer to Morgan, hesitating because she didn't know how to comfort her and didn't know what reaction her attempt would elicit.
Even Cameron glared at him. "And quieter?"
"I can be anything you want me to be, mes chères." Remy's voice held no repentance and no sympathy, but more than a little suggestion.
Those gray clouds of sadness rolled over Cameron and tears sprang to her eyes, falling slowly like rain just moments before a violent storm. "Can you be Kian and Kieran both?" she whispered.
Remorse shot through him. "No, chère," he said, reaching over to squeeze her hand, "but we know how you feel and we will always be here for you."
A tired sigh. "I don't know if that will be enough."
"It has to be."
And as true as that was, Cameron didn't want to hear it. She already knew Remy and Jessa would stay by her; she didn't need them to tell her yet again. What she wanted them to say was that the twins were fine. That it had all been a mistake. Even that she was only dreaming. She wanted them to lie, to pretend it was yesterday, the sun rising bright and sparkling diamond-like over the bay, and that the world was right again.
But no matter how many times she blinked, she was still stuck in that parallel world where the twins laid still and silent and so, so beautiful in death.
Heavy lashes casting shadows over sharp and pale cheekbones. Bloodless lips parted slightly. That gorgeous burgundy color dull where light fell, and even duller where it did not. Those violet eyes closed from when Morgan had been kind, while Death was not.
Death took, and did not care for those it hurt in its wake.
Death hurt, and let its laughter roll over the living in a capricious harmony of sound.
Death laughed, and did not notice those who lay half dead behind it.
She was half-dead, but it did not matter.
She realized she was crying, but the tears fell unencumbered over her cheeks, and she could not force them to stop, or to slow, or even to feel something other than this drenching pain. Their deaths were final, while hers was not. If she had died, she would have had another chance at happiness. But this left her shattered, because they would not come back. Gone, with no more chances.
It was so easy to wish that they hadn't died, but so hard to accept that they had. Odd, wasn't it, that their deaths seemed surreal, dream-like, because she didn't want it to happen. And then she did imagine this was just a nightmare. If it were only a nightmare, she would wake up. She would wake up and they would still be alive, and maybe she would be hunted, but at least she would have hope.
Now she had nothing at all.
She swallowed the pained lump rising in her throat. She was still kneeling, so close to them, so that if she reached out, she could feel the smooth marble of their skin and touch the sultry fall of their lashes. For thousand year old vampires, they looked remarkably like they were sleeping.
The thought did nothing to halt her tears.
Reaching out, she smoothed a hand over the rough wool of Kieran's sweater, pushing the heavy folds into oblivion. Into oblivion, much like the twins. Her hand convulsed, curling in that thick wool, clutching at a hope and a dream that had disappeared. Her other hand slipped over the flat plane of Kian's stomach. It rested lightly on his ribcage, loathe to let go, to stop touching them, in fear that they would simply disappear.
They looked remarkably like they were sleeping.
She let go of his sweater slowly. The material bunched around his heart, the gaping hole nearly invisible. She needed to see it, needed to remember it was there. She couldn't expect him to wake up, even though she wanted it so desperately. She pressed the wrinkles flat, but could not stop her fingers from digging into his supple flesh, clutching at his absent strength.
"Ow!" she gasped, feeling something sharp press into her finger. She snatched her hand away, bringing it closer to her face. Blood was flowing freely now, dripping sickeningly over Kieran's pale white skin. The ruby drops skimmed down like rain splattered against the window pane.
A piece of wood was lodged deep in her finger. The fragment must have broken when Morgan pulled the stake from his body. The tears were pouring from her eyes now, the pain only secondary, her vision clouded by tears. She reared back, sudden hysteria washing through her, and tried to climb to her feet.
Her body wouldn't obey her, and all she managed to do was lose her balance. She caught herself on Kian's body, both hands bracing herself against his chest, the blood smearing over his neat shirt.
And all she could notice was that they looked remarkably like they were sleeping.
She removed her hands from his body hastily, scooting back as if she might catch a disease from staying too close. Once she'd put what she considered a safe distance between them, she stopped, and simply looked.
Slowly, she stopped sniffling, staring down at them while her body and her mind went numb. They laid next to each other, arms draped limply and their heads lolling to one side. And eventually, her expression grew blank, devoid of all emotion, simply locked in a frightening mask of nothingness.
Reality ebbed in like morning tide, and she was stuck on an islet with no way of escaping. The cold water was washing up, submerging her, and she was drowning, drowing under that terrifying wave of feeling --
"Cameron!" The snapping edge of desperation in Jessa's voice pulled her from her trance. She lifted wide, horrified eyes to meet Jess,' the sky blue spinning with luminous paler specks. A moment later, her pupils nearly swallowed the iris.
Jessa realized with a start that Cameron was sinking into startled shock. She strode to where she knelt, then she slapped her. Barely a second later, Cameron blinked, and Jessa was relieved to see sanity now clouding those eyes.
Now Cameron really did manage to get to her feet, scrambling to her feet and nearly falling into Remy.
"We know, chère," he said gently and gathered her in his arms.
She buried her face in his shoulder, clinging to him. He stroked her hair soothingly and whispered comfort somewhere over her head, knowing it would fall on deaf ears. His other arm wrapped tight around her.
He threw one last piteous glance over at the twins' bodies...
And froze in shock.
"Chère," he whispered urgently as he began to shake her, his touch gentle, yet requesting her attention.
She clung tighter.
"Chère," he repeated, shaking her a little more violently. His tone now commanded her to respond.
Her head twisted back and forth, and she refused to unbury her face from his shoulder.
"Cameron Aderyn," he snapped, stepping away. She nearly crumbled to her knees without his body there to support her.
She raised her tear-stained face, one hand rising to brush the dampness from her cheek. "What?" she cried, desolation nearly overwhelming. "Just let me suffer in peace!"
"That is an oxymoron if I have *ever* heard one," he responded dryly. Then he smiled gently. "You can mourn all you want, ma chère, but first, I think you should look behind you."
She spun without consciously deciding to do so, her body carrying her around before she had time to form a thought or protest, and she stared hard at the twins, searching for whatever sign had given Remy so much hope.
If she had turned away a second earlier, she would have missed it. As it was, she blinked twice and rubbed her fingers over her eyes before realization dawned.
Kian's body shuddered on the floor in front of her... and so did Kieran's.
It took her a moment to remember that sometimes humans did that after dying, and another to remember that the twins weren't human.
"But... " She let her voice trail off at Jessa's disgusted glare. "It probably doesn't mean anything," she sighed. She whirled wearily toward the door, wanting only to be far from this pain and the evidence of her loss.
Remy shrugged, gesturing nonchalantly, and surprisingly, agreed with her. "Of course, you're probably right. It means /rien/. That strange violet light is a *perfectly* normal occurence when someone dies."
The sarcasm annoyed her, but sudden intuition told her he was telling the truth. Peeking over at him, she saw that he was both serious and exasperated. "You're not lying, are you?" she asked in a small voice, suddenly filled with doubtful, leaping hope.
That hope lit up her face, turning her eyes more luminous and bringing a rose flush to her cheeks. Her back straightened. Oh, if only he wasn't lying... She was almost afraid to turn around and see what was happening, afraid that it would stop and she would be left here alone, with only their corpses to keep her company. That Jessa and Remy would never allow that didn't even cross her mind.
She was still debating whether she should turn to look when Remy rolled his eyes and spun her around himself. He hadn't been lying. Definitely not. But she didn't understand what *was* happening either. She started to take a step forward until Remy stopped her.
"No," he warned, shock and pleasure drifting through his voice like billowing clouds, "don't interfere."
Their eyes met, quickly, briefly, and just a touch of understanding passed between them. "I can't interfere," she murmured. "I am part of them and they are part of me. It wouldn't be interference. Only joining."
The emotions in Remy's eyes dimmed slightly. "Still, I would prefer that you stay here, where you are safe." Before Cameron could open her mouth to argue with him, as he knew she would, he added, "Enough tragedy has happened today. Let's not add to it."
"Please," Jessa added, a hint of pleading in her voice.
Angrily, Cameron sat back to watch, wishing she could do something, anything, other than sit here helplessly while...
While the twins faded out of existence.
Taking a deep breath to calm herself, she finally stopped and looked, really *looked*, at what was going on in front of her. The twins had stopped convulsing and now they simply glowed. The pure violet light, so like the flame color of their eyes, hovered over them, swirling like enchanted fairy mists. It swept around their bodies mysteriously.
That unholy violet light pulsed stronger now, and oddly, it was curling and tripping over their limbs, weaving drunkenly and gleaming brightly. Cameron was suddenly transported back to fifth grade and Disney magic, sitting in the auditorium and watching the rain forest sparkle with magic. Except this wasn't the rain forest; it was a hidden room above the attic, in the middle of a huge city, with three dead bodies on the floor and no blood.
She was sure the police department would *love* to find out about this.
"Leave them an anonymous tip," Remy suggested quietly. The sarcasm was still present, yet somehow tempered, as if he was trying not to be too obnoxious. As though he realized just how deeply the blade of his words cut and how scarred she would become.
But, of course, that didn't matter, because nothing could scar worse than this, and because she had nothing left to lose. Any barbs he spoke fell harmlessly in that black pit of regret, piled precariously on so many others. She saw those vivid lights sizzling around the twins, and she was struck by how painful it was to remember her loss, as though she would ever be able to forget.
With a crackle, the lights stopped spinning. Hovering madly over the twins in a macabre dance and dipping casually to brush against their bodies.
"Goddess," Jessa murmured, staring at them scornfully, "I feel like I'm starring in a very cheesy, B-grade movie."
Cameron glared, but her attention was only distracted for a moment.
Ant then that light was rising, twisting and melding into a shattering stream of pure violet, and rising, still rising through those battered bodies. It poured upward like a river flowing backward and fused scorchingly, jetting through the ceiling, though leaving nary a mark.
The lustrous illumination grew ever brighter, so bright that Cameron had to shield her eyes. Then that light exploded around them like an imploding star in the dark night sky. A tiny fraction remained, swelling and gathering into a blinding ball of fire. Without warning, it shot down in the violet flame color of their eyes, into their bodies, where it buried itself deep into their hearts.
Her eyes were on Kieran, so she didn't see this. All she knew was that Remy grabbed her arm, squeezing desperately in excitement or horror, and that it hurt. She turned her head to snap at him, but then she noticed Kian, and realized that he had sat up.
Her breath caught, stuck in her throat like so many words she wanted to say but couldn't. "Kian?" she managed finally, too filled with hope to remember this was *not* possible.
He blinked, those gorgeously framed violet eyes focusing slowly into puzzlement. "Who?"
Cameron burst into a fresh round of tears.