Pastels & Darkness

The sunlight was just beginning to turn to sharp darkness. The tall figure swayed awkwardly and leaned against the rough bricks making up the entry to Sanctuary. Her pastel colors paled yet farther as the elegantly dressed woman pushed against the "call" button.

A moment, a long moment later the video screen blinked on, its brightness momentarily blinding her. Helen Magnus appeared and focused on her visitor. "Grace! I'm so glad to see you. Do come in before you catch a chill." The walk-through gate swung open without a sound but she didn't move her body, only her hand. Her hand slapped the glass covering the video camera, blood streaking down towards the hard, cold ground.

Helen Magnus looked at her man-servant and said, "Quickly, fetch a stretcher and come with me."

When they reached the crumpled woman Helen reached out to help her friend Grace and grabbed her hand.

"No! Please, wait." Her voice small and brittle, "I have a bullet lodged near my spine." She wheezed as though her body were under a great weight.

"Grace, love, what have you done?"

**********

Hours later Helen pulled off her surgical gloves, cap and gown and stuffed them into the trash. Tiredly she poured herself some strong tea brought to her by her faithful man-servant.. The next thing she intended to do was to sit down and put her feet up. Before she could, her "family" as it were surrounded her and started asking questions. She waved them all away and sat in her reclining chair. Sipping on the tea she contemplated what to tell them. Ashley, Henry and her man-servant waited impatiently.

"I realize that you want to know about Grace. It would take a life–time to tell you all about her. Needless to say, yes, I've known her for a very long time. In fact she is my elder." She studied their reactions. She spoke softly. "She was some 50 years old when I was born. She found me when I was a youth and we became fast friends."

She drank some more tea, draining the cup. The man-servant was ready with another one. She handed him the empty one, "Thank you my friend."

Helen glanced towards the surgical bay and began, "Grace is an abnormal, but she's not a normal abnormal … she's an elf really."

Ashley frowned at her, "Mom, fairies and elves are just imaginary."

"Ashley I suspect because Grace looks normal, you think of her as a normal. She isn't. Bigfoot….was an urban legend, now he is here with us and is as real as you and I are. She does have remarkable abnormal abilities which I will leave for her to share with you if she chooses to. She's my friend first, and then my patient. It isn't up to me to tell you her secrets."

Ashley looked disappointed but nodded her head. "Is she going to be alright?"

"Yes, but she'll be here for some time." She paused talking and thought for a minute. A sleepy tired smile adorning her face, "And I will be very glad to have her here. It has been a long time since I saw her last."

The morning came quickly and although Helen had checked on Grace during the night several times she was eager to see her friend in the morning. She smiled thinking back on some of their exploits. She arrived at Grace's side and smiled broadly. Bigfoot was stand very much like a night watchman stand over her. She gently touched his arm.

"Thank you my friend." He nodded and bowed slightly.

"Now Grace, let's see how you're doing this morning." She dawned her surgical gloves as she did the night before and removed the bandage on her back. "My, you still heal so quickly don't you?"

A weak yet musical voice answered her, "Yes, but I owe my life to you once again Helen."

"Grace! You're awake already. I'm so pleased."

"Help me up, won't you?" Bigfoot and Helen gently rolled the injured woman over to face them. "Now, tell me how everything is going. And you young man," she looked at Bigfoot, "I'm certain I've not made your acquaintance before have I? And thank you for saving me last night."

The man-servant smiled in his sober way and introduced himself and by the way it was no trouble to rescue her; she was only in the front yard after all.

Helen was delighted. Grace turned to face her and the two souls hugged as though death were at the door. "Grace, where have you been? I've not heard from you for more than 50 years now. I worried you were gone." She grasped Grace's hands and waited impatiently.

Grace's smile faded. She didn't speak for the longest time. "I have been all around the world these last years finding many of the people, elfin and abnormals both. Much like you give sanctuary to all, I have tried to give aid where I can. Sometimes it's helping them learn to cope with this strange world we live in. Sometimes it might be medicinal practices or I have even gone to war with them. I can tell you our world has darkness in it, and it frightens me."

"Grace," She placed a calming hand on Grace's arm. " I know you too well, what's happened to you?"

"Oh sister, it's been hell." She stopped and stretched her back a little. "Ahhh… Even with my ability to heal quickly, I still hurt quite badly. And, as to what you ask, that is part of the reason I believe I heal slower than I have in the past." She took Helen's hands in her own. "I was held prisoner for 9 years 4 months and 22 days by a man who discovered I was elfin folk. He didn't do anything sexually; I think he had prostitutes for that from the screaming I'd hear."

"Could you help me to a comfortable chair?" Together they worked to move Grace to a soft chair in a lounge area.

Will walked around the corner, spotted the newcomer and stopped. "Hello? How is everyone this morning?" Acting the gentleman he nodded to the woman with the hospital gown on. "Hi, I'm Will."

"I'm known by my friends as 'Grace'".

"And by those who are enemies?"

Helen was taken aback by Will's rudeness. "Will…"

"No Helen, it's perfectly alright. Will, I have greater enemies like the Allies were enemies with the Axis. I have very few personal enemies."

"And why would that be would that be?"

She smiled in a feral manner and her large canines protruded to her bottom lip surprising Will. "They aren't anymore." She said simply. "Will, I am what Helen likes to call a 'normal abnormal'. I'm of the elfin folk as people like to call us. And really, I am an elf; we just don't like to advertise it." With that she lifted her rich dark brown-red hair over both ears and showed him. "See, we do have the ears." She smiled gently at the young man.

Grace took Helen's hands again. "He's a new one is he?"

Helen chuckled soberly, "More or less new, yes. 'As he says, 'Ashley and I bag and tag some of them for him.'"

Will removed his glasses. "Yes, well something like that. It's nice to meet you Grace. I'm sure I'll see you again soon." He favored her with an uneasy smile and left quickly.

Taking away her hands from those of her friend's, she grinned and smiled at her, poured tea for them both and fixed them the way they both preferred. Each woman grew silent. Bigfoot bowed out to give them privacy.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"Do you mean the captivity?" Grace replied in a harsh whisper. Helen nodded. "I know, 'in my own time, yeah?'" Again Helen just nodded. They needed no prolonged discussion and emotional counseling.

She took a sip of tea and began to share. "I was captive to a rather wretched and wicked man named Randle Nommed. He never abused me sexually as I've said. I think my being elfin was why he wanted me. But he beat me endlessly. He tortured me. He wanted to more about 'the people, the abominations' he called us. All abnormals, he was hunting us down with the intension of doing what he did to me to them… and then he killed them in the most horrible ways." She looked directly into Helen's eyes, studying them for a moment. "I never told him anything. All he the abnormals he found he found on his own. I think he just liked to punish me for not being like his other women. He found me beautiful, but I'm an abnormal; a demon meant to be punished and killed like a rodent."

Helen stopped her, "Let's talk about it more later on if you wish. I don't want you taxing yourself emotionally while you're healing. I've had my man-servant prepare a room for you next to my own." She smiled gently.

"Thank you. I appreciate all you're doing for me."

"We agreed not to owe each other for kindness, don't you recall?"

Grace entered the bedroom slowly admiring it's beauty, its celebration of life. "It's beautiful… and so full of life. I like it very much."

Helen helped her out of the surgical gown and into some nightclothes the man-servant had thoughtfully left out for her. As she did so she noticed that her usually smooth skin was rough and scared on her back. She was careful not to stare but made a mental note to talk to her about it later.

She helped her into the bed. She closed the heavy curtains and went back to Grace. She smiled. "I'm very glad you're here. I've missed you very much." She kissed Grace on the forehead and said, "Good night love. Sleep in peace. Nothing can harm you here."

Grace smiled a lopsided smile. "You spiked my tea didn't you?"

"Who me?" She asked in mock innocence. "Now sleep you." She gazed at her already sleeping friend and stroked her hair off her face and exposed her ears. "I always wanted ears like yours." With that she closed the door softly behind her.

**********

Grace slid out of bed and retrieved her journal and her favorite pen.

"I'm finally here at Sanctuary with my dear Helen whom I have deeply missed.

When the heart finally begins to feel
After the long dark and blue
The touch of light, startling, sharp, and new
Confessions of a life-
Made in a day
I want to give my life away."

And now, time for sleep. She was asleep again even as her head pounced on her pillow.

**********

Ashley walked up behind her mom and said loudly, "Hi mom! What's in the radar for today?"

"Shhh Ashley! You must be quiet, I've just put an injured friend to bed."

"To bed? It's like two in the afternoon. And who can hear anything through these doors and walls anyway?"

"Yes and I noticed you weren't in your room again last night."

"I was in there, just not for long." She played with the hilt on her favorite handgun. " I'm still having those dreams and when I have them I can't get back to sleep."

"Why don't you talk about them with Will? That is his 'thing,' as he says."

"Uh no thanks, I'll be fine. I just need some exercise."

"Ashley…"

"I'm careful mom. I just watched the city and ride my bike. I'm fine. And now I'm going to go and get some food I'm starving."

Henry sounded the abnormal alarm. It took Ashley and Magnus only a minute or so to arrive at his station. "I've got a report of a person melting into 'a pile of bones and pooh,' the report says. But that was from 2 weeks ago right? Today, I have two bone piles of pooh and they're across the old city from each other."

Magnus frowned. "So we either have two somethings or we have one really fast one. Ashley let's split up and gather some intel. I want to know if something is really going on or if these people have some new disease or…"

"… Aliens sucked their brains out!" Shy laughed at her own joke. "I've wanted to say that for the longest time."

"Ashley," her mother scowled at her.

"Ok, ok, I'm gone." Grinning she went to go get her stuff and check out the possible abnormals.

**********

Helen Magnus, genius, brilliant, intense, compassionate, fierce, loving and amazing… these are words you could use to describe her. She stood tall in front of a pile of meat, goo and bones. She squashed some goo as she knelt and slipped directly down on her hands and knees. "Ouch! Well I guess I don't need to worry about getting dirty." And she continued her work while Ashley added to the goo and bones.

"And that, is from number two."

**********
Helen smiled a motherly smile at her daughter before heading to her own room to get some clean cloths for Grace. Arriving at Grace's room the she knocked on the door. No answer. She knocked again, still no answer. Quietly she opened the door and softly padded across beautiful oriental carpeting. Helen placed the back of her hand across her friends' face.

"Grace," she gently shook her pressed her hand against her shoulder, "It's time to wake now."

Grace's eyes fluttered open then shut tight again. "Oh you know I hate mornings." She smashed her face into her pillow and rubbed. "Gods I love this bed." Peeking at Helen she said, "There's a lot of love here, I may never leave."

Helen chuckled. "It's tomorrow and I have wondrous things to show you." She couldn't contain herself and threw the covers back. "Come out now, I won't hurt you." She teased.

"Alright, alright! I'm coming. Will this be worth my while?" She asked with a crooked and slightly suggestive grin.

Helen grinned right back, "And woman, sometimes you have such a dirty mind." She took the cloths from the chair where she'd placed them earlier. "These, are for you. They're mine so they should fit unless you've gained weight in places I don't know about." She winked mischievously, "I'll meet you at the drawing room outside our doors." And she left.

**********

The "drawing room" was hardly a drawing room in the traditional sense of the word. Books were everywhere… and so were computers, and displays, and a extensive communications network.

Ashley, Will, Henry and Bigfoot were all arriving at the same time that Grace and Helen motioned Grace to A chair. "I know you're all wondering who our visitor is." She walked purposefully to Grace and said, "This is Grace. I've known her since I was 40 years old." She quietly paused and waited for Ashley to digest the news then began again before her impetuous daughter asked too many questions.

She approached me on the street one day and simply introduced herself and asked if we might have a drink while she told me a story. I don't exactly know why, but I agreed to go with her. We found a nearby pub and had a meal together. The next thing I knew we'd talked for hours and it was dark out. Before she let me leave she said, "Helen Magnus, I seek sanctuary with you from those who pursue and don't understand me."

"I asked her why anyone would be looking to harm such a beautiful woman. And then she said…" She looked at Grace…

"… I said I'm an elf and there are those who would try to steal away the secrets I and my body hold. I need a safe place. The word on the street is that Dr. Helen Magnus has an open mind and a big house." Grace could see they didn't believe her story. Helen had warned her that they might not believe her.

"Look here…" She pulled back the hair covering her ears and showed them her elegant ears. Shyly she put her hair back over her ears. "I have abilities that the normal human does not have. I look different and I needed a safe place while I heal and evade those who hunt me. I couldn't allow them to capture me and let them try to find out my secrets. Besides, I didn't want to be captured. I wanted a warm bed and I hoped that your mother could provide that." She nodded to Helen and met Ashley's eyes.

"Mom?"

"Yes, she was the first I offered sanctuary to and she quickly became my closest friend. I'd thought she died so you can imagine my surprise to see her here now." She smiled yet tried to hide the depth of her emotions. Grace knew how she felt.

Will waved his arm trying to break in the conversation. "She was the first you gave refuge to?" He looked at Grace. "You live forever too?"

"Maybe not forever, I'll find out when the end comes."

The big man-servant entered the room and when the room was quiet he spoke. "Henry needs to see you as soon as possible."

"Thank you." Helen said. She looked at Grace and beckoned them all. "Seems we might have work to do."

**********

"Welcome, welcome, come into my cockpit." He raised his eyebrows at the new woman but said nothing. "It looks like a blood sucker is not following the rules."

"Oh?" Helen asked.

"Yeah, and they had the nerve, or stupidity, to feed right behind the blood bank over on Manchester St. He made a real mess of it so I don't think the cops will think anything about it other than it's another mad killer."

"Henry you know how I feel…"

"…. About making fun of the cops, I was just implying they think everything's a mad killer, not that that's what they really think. Oh never mind."

"Have they retrieved the body yet?"

"Yeah."

"Alright, Grace, would you like to accompany me to the morgue?"

**********

With the man-servant driving, the women sat in the back seat and talked quietly. The Big Guy drove his lady and her friend without speaking. That is, until they reached the morgue. Three trucks were brining more bodies in. He called Henry.

Helen put her hand on her friend's arm, "I hope this isn't more of the same."

"Ma'am, I've spoken with Henry and all three of these murders were committed the same way. They were bloody and gory at least a pint or two of blood is missing."

Grace looked at Helen and nodded. "Let's go. Just like old times." Helen grinned. Accept for Ashley she'd been so lonely for so long. Only the elfin and vampire peoples live as long as she does. It's so hard to see loved ones die before you do over and over. Oh she'd taken a lover here and there, but they didn't know anything about her.

Quickly they crossed the street and entered the building housing the morgue. Entering the hallway outside the morgue they heard screaming. Helen's friend was the medical examiner, they had to hurry. She gave a gun to Grace.

Flinging the Morgue doors open she saw the biggest vampire she'd ever seen. Size didn't necessarily translate into power, but it could. The crew that brought all the bodies in were all dead. He didn't even bother with their blood. He was already engorged. What did he want?

He swayed drunkly and yet still stayed between the women and the medical examiner. She was terrified. "You have to trust me and try to be calm. Everything's going to be alright."

Grace tapped Helen's hand in a code they'd developed years ago. Helen was to go left, she would go right. Thankfully Henry had loaded all the guns with silver bullets.

The vampire looked at the women and demanded, "Which of you is Magnus?"

Without hesitation she indicated it was she. To her surprise Grace also claimed to be Magnus. "What are you doing?"

"Evening the playing field. Besides, like old times, I would give my life to protect you."

Suddenly there was a scream from the Medical Examiner as she was flung into a corner. The vampire screamed a hideous scream… and jumped…

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