A/N: Reading Dead and Gone has spurred me on a writing frenzy. What can I say? I've been inspired, reinvigorated . . . possessed? LOL! I hadn't planned on writing this just yet, but it sort of started writing itself in my head while I was doing laundry so I just had to get it out.
A big, HUGE, thank you to my beta's; Gallathea and Kristin. My stories wouldn't be the same without you guys.
As always, thanks to my friends over on the TB Wiki, and the Sookieverse. You guys rock my world, and to those writers there, thanks for making me strive to do better. Thanks to all those who have left me reviews on my previous fics, or put me on alert. You make me feel the love!
I looked around my house, so different now from the one I grew up in. I had to move, and it wasn't just because I could now. No, it was because I could not bear to live there anymore. I could not bear the memories or the ghosts of those I loved, and I certainly couldn't bear the ghost of who I once was.
About a week after the end of the fairy civil war, I was home resting and healing. Physically I was healed. His blood had seen to that. Mentally? I was mourning the deaths of both a family member and a friend, and trying to help Amelia with the funeral arrangements. More so, however, I was mourning the final loss of my innocence.
The physical scars of what Lochlan and Neave inflicted upon me were minor compared to the psychological ones. Despite everything I'd been through before—I'd been beaten, staked, raped, and nearly drained—I had maintained my sense of self. I had kept the core of my being, my optimism and faith in others. I could no longer do that. Everything else that had ever happened to me had happened for a reason. The reasons may have been shitty, but there were reasons.
I was beaten by the Rats because I had beaten them. I was staked because I stepped in to defend a vampire. I was drained and raped because someone had tortured my ex-boyfriend to within an inch of his sanity, and then I was trapped with him. All of these things made sense. At least they made sense within the confines of the crazy, supernatural world in which I reside.
Lochlan and Neave? Their actions existed outside all reason. What they did to me, they did purely for sadistic pleasure. They even told me so, after describing "the fun" they had with Crystal when they found her in Jason's truck, saying, "Now we're going to have some fun with you." Fun. They ate parts of my flesh, and then had sex while covered with my blood. They did not torture me for information. They did not even do it because Breandan ordered it, although he allowed it. They did it because it pleased them. It was something I could not wrap my head around.
It was the nail in the coffin of my naïveté.
I sat on the porch, drinking my coffee and watching the sun rise. I was still unable to sleep through the night. I thought of my great-grandfather's parting words. "The vampire is not a bad man, and he loves you."
At the time, I was unsure if he meant Bill, or Eric. Later, it occurred to me that everyone, including me, already knew Bill loved me. Niall's statement was unnecessary, and he was never one to waste words, even if they were at times cryptic.
I thought about that night together, the night Bill and Quinn fought. I closed my eyes and felt the quiet hum of his existence, nestled in my head . . . in my heart. I thought about everything he said, everything he did, and realized that he loved me. Yet, I had pushed him away, refusing to listen.
Then in the hospital, I lashed out at him. Angry that he didn't come when I needed him. Angry, frankly, that it was Bill, and not him, that came for me. I needed only to hear his reply to understand the depth of pain I caused him with my vicious words. "You're killing me. You're killing me."
I stifled a small sob as I remembered it. Did Gran think that when Rene took her life? Did she think I'd failed her? Did she wonder why I was not home? The thought brought a fresh set of tears to my eyes.
"The vampire is not a bad man, and he loves you." Niall's parting words made sense. I needed to give him a chance. He said he would explain, and that I would understand. Although as I now think back on that moment, I'm not sure if he was trying to convince me, or himself.
Either way, I was going to listen. I would try to understand, because I loved him and he loved me. I had been so careful about what I said to him that night, because I was scared, and overwhelmed, and confused by the feelings that flowed into me from the bond. He wanted to talk. He wanted to tell me how he felt, and I avoided the conversation. I was a fool. Now, I had to try to make it work. Niall wouldn't have wasted his breath otherwise. He wanted me to be happy.
As I set down my coffee cup and stood, I felt it. He was gone. Just like that. One minute he was here, the next he was gone, and I sat down hard. Once more the tears flowed as I mourned yet another loss. How could the hole in my heart be so big, when he had only resided there such a short time?
When I was finally able to, I rose and went inside. There was no one to call, and no one to share this grief with. I was alone in it. I went into the kitchen and washed my coffee mug, then sat at the table. I fell asleep with my head on the table, and was woken by the sound of a car in my driveway. I walked to the door and felt the unusual buzz of a familiar supernatural brain.
It was Mr. Cataliades, the demon lawyer and, dare I say, my friend? At least insomuch as demons have friends.
I invited him in, and that's when he told me his news. He'd been instructed to find me if it ever happened, as soon as it happened. I suppose he was notified magically, but I didn't ask. What did it matter? Gone was gone.
He had left me everything: all his holdings, his cash, his businesses, everything. I was stunned. I thought I had used up all my tears, but I found a fresh supply. These instructions had been made out long ago. He was ensuring that I was cared for, knowing that I would never accept help while he was in my life, but also knowing that I could not refuse him once he was gone.
I stared at the papers as I tried to take in everything Mr. Cataliades told me. I was now beyond well off. I would never have to work another day in my life if I chose not to. My mind reeled.
When the lawyer left, with instructions to call him in order to finalize all the transfers, I sat heavily on the sofa. I was exhausted, and I lay down, pulling Gran's old afghan over me. I smelled it, trying to find a trace of his scent, but it had been too long. I fell asleep while the tears still flowed.
When I woke, I felt a cool hand brushing the hair from my face, and tracing the trails of my dried tears. I looked up at him, and croaked, "Niall's gone. The portal is closed." In all the confusion, drama, and horror of that last day, I didn't connect the kiss my great-grandfather gave me with the continuing sense of well being I experienced as I healed. I had attributed it to the vampire blood coursing through my veins, but clearly he had forged a connection to me. It was magical, and healing, and ended as soon as our worlds were shut off from each other.
He already knew. Niall had come to him a final time. He never told me what they spoke about, and I never asked.
It was time for me to listen, and to understand, and to forgive. It was time for me to embrace a new life; a life born of innocence lost, and forged in pain, and yet one that still held hope, and love, and possibilities.
I took his large hand in mine, and looked into his blue eyes, seeing his love for me reflected there. I took a deep breath, and spoke.
"It's time we had that talk."