Between a Rock and a Softer Place…and Another Rock

My mouth felt like the remnants of a dog toy, soggy and shredded. As I regained awareness, the banality was stunning against the memory of gilding from my dreams. I realized I clutched my left hand into a tight fist and drool wet my pillow. I groaned and a shape moved above me, dark hair framing its head.

“Hey, look who finally decided to rejoin the living.”

Lifting my head, I tried to wet my lips and found them puffy and foreign. The shape moved to press something cool against my mouth and I managed to drink a little water.

“Not too much,” the voice warned.

The glass was removed and I tilted my shoulder back to look up more fully. Blinking and wetting my lips, I was contemplating my surroundings when all at once, everything, and I do mean everything, in my body came into full awareness with blunt, inescapable pain.

“Shit!” was the first articulate thing I managed to say after a few moments groaning.

Morena sat on the edge of the bed. “Yeah, I imagine it hurts like a mo-fo. Doc said I should have a conversation with you first before I give you your meds.”

I lay flat back on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. “Was there a particular topic of conversation or would swearing do?”

I could see her shrug but didn’t really care as memory fled back. I fought not to bolt upright as I was certain it would either kill me or knock me unconscious. Instead, I took in a deep, shaky breath and tried to ready myself with the question first and foremost in my mind.

Morena was doing her part in the conversation. “Nick went home hours ago. Kid needed a break. He handled himself well but I think it’s gonna hit him hard and he needs to be near his family then. That Ritterreiter sure can clean a scene. Never seen a more thorough clean up job, at least not outside government work.”

I tossed her a look and she stopped talking, her mouth hanging open.

“Oh, shit, look, Sophie, it’s not what you think.”

I didn’t even try to bluster through some falsehood that I didn’t care. I did. I was furious, in fact.

“You have no idea what you’ve risked in taking blood.” My voice was too high, too thin, too entirely transparent, spoken in too many gasps around the pain. The very fact I couldn’t name the source of said blood all too telling.

She straightened her spine. “Actually, you couldn’t be more wrong. It was an accident and it happened to save both my life and Nick’s and two other innocent bystanders. Beyond the fact that I would’ve been left anemic if I hadn’t accidentally bitten his shoulder because it fucking hurt so much, I know he had no idea there was another threat, otherwise he wouldn’t have drained me.”

“What the…what?”

She sighed. “This wasn’t how I wanted to tell you. But I guess the how is less important than the why.”

She seemed so serious, more than her normal self. But that was all that the gripping pain would allow to seep through. What little intellect I had realized any explanation presently given would be obscured by my own dark emotions: pain and powerlessness. So I opened my left hand and held it out to her palm up. When she raised a brow in question, I simply said, “Pill first, explanation second.”

The one pill was really three (I waved the Xanax away, not really remembering what had occurred to lead the doctors to prescribe that) and after a few more sips of water through teeth I could barely unclench, I was sweaty and exhausted. Morena let me lie back and close my eyes for a few moments while I waited for numbness to settle over me.


“Where the Hell am I?”

I hadn’t realized I’d fallen back to sleep but I felt like I was running through the same gambit: Where was I? Why did I hurt? What time was it? Who the Hell was this Latina chick approaching me?

“Any better?” Morena asked.

“Yes, instead of shattering pain, it’s only thundering.”

She stood there, uneasy. But the drugs did their work; I hurt but found my empathy was intact and when I thought back to earlier, only patches of her words remained: accident, hurt, another threat, innocent bystanders. Some of the conversation from the hospital also joined in. Yes, the revenant.

“Seems like this might take a little while to tell. Want to sit down?” I offered.

She sat down gingerly, as if not trying to rock the bed too much. She rubbed at her thigh absentmindedly. She stopped when she saw I noticed.

“What time is it?” I asked.

“About midnight.”

I nodded.

“So,” she spoke.

“So…you said it was an accident.”

That seemed to put her at ease. What she told me felt practiced but truthful. It was her idea, giving him blood. He had warned her it would be to power him up, help him fight the bad vampire, and she had asked him to not use his abilities to mask how it really felt. So it hurt her but she felt it had been worth it in the end.

“I hope you mean that,” I said softly.

“It saved you, didn’t it?”

I took a breath. A few weeks ago, she was his girlfriend and she had warned me to stay away from him, that she had been wrong to contact me. Now she had given him blood so he would be strong enough to save me.

“I want to warn you, wish you’d known there was another way, but it would cheapen what you did. All I can say to you is thank you.”

She shrugged, seemingly more uncomfortable with my acceptance than my anger.

“And thank you for saving Nick.”

Her face perked up for a moment. And then the smile cracked her sullen face. “Jesper asked me to. I would’ve either way. That kid’s something else.” There was a bit of color in her cheeks I couldn’t discern which male was the cause.


As if we recognized the subject had been broached, the 3000 pound crate in the room finally acknowledged, Morena and I both looked back to where the crate sat safe against the far wall. While she began to rub her leg again, my face flushed at the disjointed memories and bits of stories knitting together.

“Fool!” was my prevailing thought about that vampire currently frozen in rigor dormitis. Because only a fool would rush into a situation knowing he was so unmatched, put other innocents at risk by taking their blood for some sense of chivalry that showed utter and complete lack of faith in my abilities without consulting me first.

“Fool!” I said out loud.

Morena snapped around. “What?”

“He must’ve been out of his mind to have no better plan than to blood dope up and take on a deranged Carpathian vampire in a straight up fight.”

My cheeks were burning, I felt such anger. I was alone in this quest of mine; I didn’t want casualties on my conscience, let alone those pretending to be knights in shining armor. That never ends well. I know deep down how that doesn’t end well. Nick needed a protector; I didn’t. My fate, whatever it was, was mine and mine alone and my faith along with my memories showed me that this life was one of many I had had. Nothing had shown me how to escape that cycle.

Morena was staring at me startled, not sure what to say.

“Untrusting, unbelieving, ignorant moron!”

Morena stood and grabbed my arm, simultaneously causing me to wince and releasing her grip. “Look, I’m not sure what just set you off, but you should probably calm down. Maybe you need that other pill, for now. I’m sure when given some time, you’ll feel a little differently about…last night.”

I threw a glare up at her. “And how can you condone it? He was your best ally to fight off the revenant and he was hell-bent on a suicide mission. In fact, if it wasn’t for your foresight of leaving me the Kukri, we both would’ve been dead. And not dead as in undead, dead as in eviscerated, decapitated, discombobulated dead.”

She let out a breath. A gasp, really. I hadn’t told her, or anyone yet, what actually had taken place in the hotel room or at the construction site. And it was clear, she thought it had been pretty simple, really. He’d had the strength, he’d fought the bad guy, defeated him, everything was fine.

I crumpled my hands into fists and shoved them into my eyes, trying to fight the wave of overwhelming anger and panic that was flaring up pain all through my body. No, this was not what my life or my memories were for. Pain and violence and death, dragging them around with me as if my beliefs meant nothing. I was supposed to be helping vampires, not pitting them against each other. The images were flashing through my head, the horror of impaled flesh, skin rubbed raw by cabling, and the sound of his shoulder popping and tearing.

“It’s…not…supposed to be…this way!”

Morena sank back onto the bed as my growls turned to tears, my breath heaving. I couldn’t get the gore out of my head, it kept replaying, the wave of it that had flooded my consciousness as I was succumbing to Skovasja’s wine rushing over me again, this time with no figment from my past to control it. And the screams…his voice in pain shouting…

Who, me? Naw, just a scratch or two.

And suddenly, it was ebbing away. I could breathe past the tightness in my chest just a little so I focused on that sound, that voice.

See? Already on the mend.

For a few seconds, there was a chin, stubbled with red gold whiskers covering it, just below lips formed in a smile…

“Sophie, you alright?”

I blinked the smile away from my vision and looked up at Morena. She leaned forward, showed more patience than I’d ever seen from her. Patience and something else.

“You kinda lost it there for a moment.”

My gaze moved past her to the crate. I felt my heart thud heavily. It was after sunset.

She followed my gaze again.

“Uh, yeah, was gonna ask you…shouldn’t he be up by now?”

I listened for it but the little hitch in her voice when she spoke of him was nearly gone, as if things between them had been resolved. For the closer, I was sure. They’d shared blood; what else could it mean? It was time to lock down these feelings, all of them, again. The rage, the fear, the desperate loneliness, the sense of iniquity, punishment for sins committed long ago for loving too much, for attempting to take too much joy from the world. Time to put all that selfishness away in the face of something I could hide behind: facts.

“Vampires sometimes use extended periods of rigor dormitus to repair damage, to let their cells recuperate. As it is, I don’t know…well enough to know habits, waking schedules…”

Somewhere down in the depths of the shuttered home where I had hidden what was left of my heart, the heart that had been made to endure the worst possible decision, to abandon her daughter, but had hoped to rise up again like the phoenix of old, there was a woman shaking her head at me, her gloved hands holding a small object.

She held it up for me to see, a token of some sort, it barely filled her palm. It was an oil painting, a miniature on ivory, surrounded by black pearls, on a golden chain but the details escaped me. As I focused in, I saw the dainty wrist above her hand bore a scar completely across it, too straight to be a natural occurrence. My eyes traveled up her forearm where there was another straight scar which ran up under her sleeve. It held my notice but her other hand slapped against the top of her palm, impatient with me. The vision of the miniature filled my mind and became distinct; I saw an eye, one I knew I should recognize, an inky eyebrow arced up above it, the iris a blue deep as the ocean.

I gasped, apparently in mid-sentence, repeating some mundane passage from my definitive theory on rigor dormitus.

“What is it?” Morena asked, startled. “What’s wrong?”

I met her gaze which brought me back to the present, dread over the miniature forgotten, replaced by necessity. She was afraid, therefore I couldn’t be. She needed me to be strong and my mind needed me to be vigilant.

“Nothing. I’m alright. Better than he’ll be when he finally wakes up. If you won’t be upset for the danger he put you in, than I will. Picking a fight with a Carpathian is one thing. Draining your confident to temporarily give you strength for fool’s errand is another. That’s no way to treat your friends. And considering he just fired me, I have plenty of words to say on the subject to Mr. Jesper, Vampire, when he awakens.”

2 Responses to “Between a Rock and a Softer Place…and Another Rock”

  1. Cool.

  2. jozdavis Says:

    This sentence: “Draining your confident to temporarily give you strength for fool’s errand is another.” I can’t decide which storyline I want to read next! 🙂 Keep it coming!

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