Terrifying visions filled Ami's dreams. She was too late. Hotaru had lost control and clutched Saeko's tiny body as she drained her daughter's blood. Usagi was near her, casually ripping Ramon apart as if she were opening a wrapped gift. Ami watched in horror as Usagi pulled her son's still-beating heart from his chest and bit into it. She screamed in agony as this horrifying scene unfolded before her.
Everything was silent. Ami found herself not in the blood-splattered firehouse basement but in her own bedroom, staring up at the ceiling as bright sunlight filtered through the curtains, casting beautiful colors to paint the white canvas of walls. Her right arm was in a cast while her left wrist was heavily bandaged. Blood flowed from a bag above her bed to an artery in her arm, restoring what she had given to Hotaru. She tried to sit up but a gentle hand pressed her back down to the soft pillows.
"You shouldn't try to move yet. You're still very weak from all that blood you lost. Try to rest." Oso said, softly.
She reached up and cupped his cheek in one hand, feeling the few days of growth there. "We did it."
He didn't reply, choosing, instead, to nuzzled her hand and bestow kisses upon her soft palm and fingertips before he, abruptly, let her go and stalked to the other side of the room, hooking a thumb to a pocket of his jeans while running his other hand through his hair. It was a habit he had whenever he was irritated, "What were you thinking?" He growled.
"What do you mean?"
"Running off to face Usagi alone like that, offering your blood to Hotaru, knowing very well what would have happened and the laws concerning it. God damn it all, Ami. You could have been killed. Did you even think about how this would have effected the cubs? Or Hotaru? Saeko almost watched her mother die and it's been all we could do to keep Hotaru from taking her own life."
"She's been refusing to drink her blood. Michiru and I have had to drug her and give it to her intravenously. I've had to get rid of any and all garlic in the house."
Ami nodded. Vampires were allergic to garlic and would go into metabolic shock whenever they consumed it. It wasn't a pleasant death.
"She blames herself, you know." Oso continued, working himself into a rant, "For all of this. She's apologized profusely to me and I don't blame her. Nobody does. We've had to tie her up so she won't try something while our backs are turned. She's trying to punish herself for what she did to you. She's Changed you, Ami."
Ami blinked, "What do you mean?"
"You know what happens when a Vampire bites another creature."
"She's turned you. You, Ami, are the first Vampire-Werewolf hybrid. Ever."
Ami looked confused, "What does that mean for me?"
Oso shrugged, "I have no idea. You're the first one ever, there's never been one like you before."
"But, surely, there has to be something-"
"No, honey. There's nothing. The Council has a long memory and even they don't know of anything like this that has happened before. I, myself, know very little about Vampires. They tend to be a secretive bunch. What I can tell you is that they're sterile. They can't have children, which is why the Red Brotherhood is such a threat. They are so close to eradicating the Vampire race. Since Vampires aren't allowed to attack humans, and they can't reproduce, they are always on the verge of extinction. As for anything else, I simply don't know. What little I do know for certain may be completely wrong in your case. You may have to drink blood, maybe not. You might have to drink twice the normal amount because of your body size. You may be able to consume garlic, maybe not. I simply don't know." He took several calming breaths, "Damn it all, Ami. What were you thinking? You know better than to tackle a mission on your own, especially one where you have an emotional attachment."
"What did you expect me to do, Julio?" Ami shot back, her own temper flaring, "Just sit here, wring my hands, and hope for the best."
"Yes!" He cried, "That's exactly what I expected, and exactly what I would have done."
She scoffed, "Oh, I very much doubt that."
"No, you see, because we would have let our emotions cloud our judgment. We'd have put not only our lives in danger, but the cubs' and Hotaru's as well. That's why I have an entire team of very well trained Night Stalkers at my disposal. The plan was to let the Stalkers take care of Usagi and rescue the cubs without us getting involved. You, however, decided to do your own thing, without sticking around to hear the plan, and put everybody's lives in danger." He sighed, "It makes me feel like you don't trust me to take care of things and, if we can't trust each other, this marriage is destined to fail."
Ami saw it now. He wasn't so much angry as he was scared. And, it wasn't her actions that had him so terrified, but their implications for the future of their marriage. He loved her, coveted her, worshiped her, and all that he asked in return was that she trust him to do as he felt was necessary to protect her and the cubs. It was a duty instilled in him, by his father, from the cradle. That she had not trusted him and had, instead, gone off on her own, nearly dying in the process and certainly changing the course of their lives, felt like the most painful of failure. She rose from the bed and went to him, bringing the blood with her.
"I'm sorry." she whispered, trying to keep the tears from her voice and failing. She pressed herself into his embrace, continually murmuring apologies for hurting him like she had. He was silent, simply holding her, thankful that she was still alive for him to berate.
But, she was still too weak from blood loss to be up and about for too long. This became apparent when her knees suddenly buckled. He caught her and carried her back to bed. "I look forward to having you again when you're well enough but, for now, you still need to rest and recover your strength." He told her, "I have to go and see to your children but I'll be back later to check on you."
She nodded and closed her eyes, amazed that such little activity had exhausted her so. She felt his warmth on her forehead as he planted a loving kiss on her temple, "Rest well, baby. Your bear has everything in hand."
Michiru and Makoto had left, taking Usagi's remains with them, on a private transport owned by the Stalkers, back to Japan, where she would be given a proper burial. It was always proper to respect your enemy's strength and see them into the afterlife with their due.
Hotaru had decided to stay behind, mostly to teach Ami about how to be a Vampire. She thought it a little strange to be teaching the woman who had tutored her all throughout her high school career. Her need for blood non-withstanding, she still felt terribly guilty about attacking Ami. Oso and the others, God bless them all, didn't lay an ounce of blame upon her shoulders but that didn't keep her from blaming herself.
It was the way Saeko refused to come within an arm's length of Hotaru anymore. The girl would abruptly leave a room whenever Hotaru entered or would go out of her way to avoid her Aunt. Hotaru couldn't blame her. Witnessing the Vampire's attack on her mother, which was nothing short of savage, must have terrified the girl, who had now convinced herself that the same fate awaited her. It hurt Hotaru to see the fear in the girl's eyes and to know that she was the cause of such distress.
Oso was in the living room, reading with Saeko before bed. The little girl was curled up in her father's lap when Hotaru entered the room and sat down, exactly as she had been instructed. Upon spotting the Vampire, sitting across the room and watching her, Saeko immediately tried to hide against her father. She whimpered something up to him that Hotaru couldn't quite make out. Neither could Oso, apparently, because he asked her to repeat herself.
This time, Hotaru heard her little niece clearly and what the little girl said nearly broke her heart, "Make her go away."
Oso quietly denied his daughter's request and began to read again but Saeko's terrified whimpers forced him to pause, once more. Hotaru, herself, was nearly in tears, wishing she had gone with her first instinct, found some wild garlic, and crawled away somewhere secluded to die. Oso had done everything in his power, short of locking her in a cage, to keep her from doing that.
Oso motioned for Hotaru to stay where she was and turned his attention to his child, "Let's talk about this and find out why you're afraid of Aunt Hotaru."
"She already knows." Saeko quietly replied.
"Well, why don't you tell her, just so we can make sure."
The little seven-year-old turned a scornful glare on a once beloved friend, "You hurt my Mama." The girl accused. The words stung not only because they were absolutely true but because the child had known exactly what happened, "You made her bleed and she almost died and, now, she might not be my Mama anymore because of what you did."
"No, Saeko." Hotaru objected weakly, wiping a few tears away, "That's not what happened at all."
"Yes, it is." The girl sneered, contempt filling her voice, "You're bad and need to go to jail for what you did."
"That's enough." Oso interceded, "Now, you need to apologize to Aunt Hotaru for your nasty words."
"No I won't." Saeko replied, stubbornly crossing her arms, "She's very bad and needs to go away and not bother us anymore."
With two of his fingers, Oso popped his daughter lightly across the cheek, startling the girl into silence, "Now, you listen to me, young lady." He said sternly, "We are not going to be rude and nasty to our elders, do you understand me? We will treat them with respect."
"No 'buts'." He picked her up and began to carry her upstairs, "You will go to bed, now. And, tomorrow, we're going to talk some more about your attitude. And you will apologize to Aunt Hotaru."
Hotaru stared at her knees, wanting nothing more than to flee the house and do as her niece had commanded and never return but Oso had specifically ordered her to remain in that chair, regardless of how the conversation with Saeko went, until he could return and speak with her privately.
She heard him enter the room but waited until he sat back down before she spoke, "She hates me."
"No. She's simply afraid."
"Of me." Hotaru concluded before pressing her forehead into her palm, "I hate this."
There was a grunt as Oso, who was beginning to feel his age, dropped to the floor and pulled Hotaru into a tight embrace. His little sister was in pain and he didn't like that, "Let it out." He urged.
Hotaru began to tremble as memories of the past month were brought to the surface. Memories of Usagi, of Haruka's murder, of the strong Michiru being reduced to such a frail shell, of attacking Ami, of Saeko's harsh but true words. All of these things had been locked away inside of her and revisiting them now brought a painful burning lump to her throat but she was stronger than this. She wasn't some child that needed to be held when life became too difficult.
"Let it out. You'll feel better."
She hadn't noticed it before but Oso smelled just like Haruka, who had a penchant for men's deodorants and colognes. She remembered her Haruka-papa holding her like this.
"Hime-chan, let it out."
That did it. Oso had used the pet name that her Haruka-papa had given her. How he knew it she hadn't a clue but it had done the trick and her defenses crumbled. In an instant, the stoic Vampire warrior became a small, frightened, girl who wanted nothing more than to be held and comforted. She gripped twin fistfuls of his shirt while she continued to fight a losing battle with her emotions. Her lips quivered as tears flowed freely down her cheeks to soak his shirt. She gasped back a sob, which fought it's way back out on the exhale.
"Good girl." He whispered, gently rubbing her back.
She was so angry at herself. Her failure had led to so much pain for, not only herself, but her loved ones as well. She was angry that her weakness had led to her weeping like a child in her friend's arms But, the sudden release of these painful emotions felt so wonderful, like a massive weight had been lifted from her shoulders and a great pressure released from her chest. And this, made her feel guilty. She hadn't been strong enough to keep control of herself, which made her even angrier.
As Hotaru began to calm, another presence joined them, embracing her from behind. She recognized the scent as Ami who, if the sleep-warmth was any indication, had just woken up. She could feel the bandages around Ami's wrist and the hard cast over her arm and was reminded of her failure to protect the cubs. Even though no one blamed her for what had happened, it was her failure and her's alone.
"It's okay." Ami comforted, "It's okay. It's not your fault."
"It is." Hotaru objected, "I attacked you and you wouldn't have had to come after us if I had protected the cubs from Usagi."
"I gave my blood willingly, so that you might live. I care about you, Hotaru, and I have no regrets about what happened. What happened, happened, and there's no use in being upset over it. We cannot change it so we must, simply, adapt and continue. I'm just glad that you and my children are all right. Besides, you can't kill yourself. I need somebody, aside from my useless husband, to teach me how to be a Vampire."
Hotaru gave a watery giggle, "Like, I'm sure, Oso said. You are the first Werewolf-Vampire hybrid so I very much doubt that I could be of much assistance and I'm certain that this will be as much a learning experience for me as it will be for you. However, I'm more than willing to help you."
"Wonderful," Ami proclaimed as she helped Hotaru to her feet, "In that case, we'll begin tomorrow. But, for now, you need to rest and stop with this suicide shit."
Hotaru smiled. She could always count on Ami to be annoyingly logical whenever it was needed most, "Yes, Ami."
Ami was already heading for the stairs, "I'm going to go and see my children."
"Honey, it's nine-thirty." Oso objected.
"And, how much do you want to bet that neither of them are sleeping." She said over her shoulder as she ascended up to the second story and slowly opened her daughter's door.
Oh how very well Ami knew her offspring. Indeed, Saeko was lying awake, staring up at the ceiling. The light from the hallway caused her to glance over,. "Mama, you're alive." she whispered in astonishment.
Laughing, Ami knelt to embrace her child, stroking the downy hair, "Why would you have thought I had died?"
"Well, Hotaru attacked you and there was so much blood and, then, it was like you were sleeping but you wouldn't wake up when me and Daddy kept calling you and Daddy said you had been hurt and lost lots of blood and you kept sleeping for days and days and I thought you would never wake up and Ramon kept crying but I'm a big girl and I don't cry." She informed her mother in the breathless manner of children everywhere before falling back into her arms.
"I heard what you said to Aunt Hotaru." Ami said, gently. "Don't you think you owe her an apology?"
Saeko always responded to her mother better than her father, "Weeerrll," she drawled, "I guess it was kinda mean but she deserved it for attacking you."
"Have you ever been really hungry?" Ami asked, knowing what the answer would be.
"Yes." came the reply, with just a hint of suspicion.
"And, remember when it was time to eat again, and you felt so hungry that you just ate everything and it didn't matter what it was?"
"Well, that's what it was like for Aunt Hotaru. She hadn't had any blood in a really long time and was really hungry. When I gave her that little bit, she didn't realize it was me and attacked, simply wanting to eat and not be hungry anymore."
"Oh. You see, I didn't know that." Saeko said, cocking her head and placing a hand on her hip, "I should go apologize to her right now."
Ami swept her daughter up on her way past, "Tomorrow, you can apologize but, for now, you have to go back to sleep."
"Mama," Saeko asked as she was tucked back in, "Are you sure you're alright?"
Ami kissed Saeko's forehead, "Yes, darling. I'm fine. I love you."
Ramon was dozing when Ami got around to him. For a moment, she considered leaving him alone but, as if sensing her presence, he sat straight up and stared at her. She sat down on the bed with him and ran her fingers through his hair, simply enjoying being with him.
"Mama," he said, at last, "Are you really Sailor Mercury?"
"Not anymore." She replied with a hint of sadness. "Sailor Mercury is gone."
"Is she gone forever?"
"Yes, baby. Forever." She pulled him into her arms and held him tightly, "But, I'm here and I'll protect you."
"No, Mama." Ramon objected, "You'll get hurt again. Besides, I'm a big boy and I can take care of myself."
For a moment, Ami was reminded of one of the last things her mother had said to her, before she died, and could now sympathize completely. It seemed like yesterday that she was making airplane noises to amuse the children while trying to feed them some unidentifiable mash. Now, they were talking, walking, and feeding themselves. The thought that they would, one day, no longer need her brought an ache to her heart. The only solace she could take was that that loathsome day was still many years yet. However, she was still reeling from the speed of the passage of the first seven years of her children's lives. She could only shudder at the premature thought of how quickly the next eleven years would go.
As she descended the steps to the ground floor of the house to rejoin her husband and friend, a small, disturbing thought nagged at her. Now that she was both werewolf and Vampire, would that mean that both the Silver League and The Red Brotherhood would be after her? Her inner sense told her the answer and she didn't think she liked it.
A/N: Dear reader, I have decided to take this topic a little further. It will be some time yet, as I want to work some more on my other half-dozen incomplete stories, but I will add a third and final installment to this story arc.