Author's Note: "Insomnium" Latin word meaning "Insomnia, Nightmare" This fic technically goes into the world of "AU", starting around 34 ½ minutes into "Awakening", or during the second to last TV segment. I hope you all catch where it deviates ;) Warnings for violence/strong themes. Thanks go to my wonderful Beta NoCleverSig for once again putting up with my twisted, dark, whumpish ways. It won't be the last time ;)
(Copyright 2011, MajorSam)
"What is this place?" Magnus asked, looking around the dark room. Afina touched the strange, gold markings on the circular surface in front of her. Suddenly the thick stone wall rose up like a doorway, revealing a vast hall. Magnus surveyed the area with shock and dismay.
"My court," the Queen preened. "My warriors. And they'll be very pleased with the blood donor I've brought them."
Magnus looked at her and felt her heart sink.
She quickly turned her head back to the entranceway, calculating. There were two or three dozen crystal caskets in each long row, and at least 18 rows. That many vampires could easily take out a city.
Her eyes were drawn back to the control panel Afina had manipulated. Symbols were flashing and Helen knew the process of their reanimation had started.
"Not as crude as the way you released me. Have I thanked you for that by the way?" the Queen smirked as she walked towards the doorway.
"I could always put you back in," Magnus shot back, immediately moving to the panel. She scanned it and couldn't believe her luck when she was able to easily break off a thick metal rod from it's base.
"Too late for that I'm afraid. The first seeds of a new Master Race." The Queen gazed upon her court as she spoke. "You're lucky to be witnessing it first-hand," she said as she turned back to face Magnus.
Instead of Magnus' compelling human features she was greeted with a metal rod to the cheek. Afina stumbled backwards, shocked that this a mortal could muster such force. Next thing she knew, the jagged edges of the rod were thrust cleanly through her, hitting the stone wall behind. Magnus kept her grip strong, knowing the blow was probably not enough to take the vampire down. Sure enough, the Queen simply smiled disarmingly at her, almost fondly. The vampire reached up to grab the rod with both hands. In the quickest move Magnus had ever seen, her fist flew across the rod's length to slam into Helen's face, sending her flying backwards onto the floor. The Queen wrenched the pole out of her and threw it to the ground.
"You should not have done that," said Afina, her voice cold as she advanced menacingly on Helen. Magnus stared defiantly back.
Through a winding hallway and several dozen feet up, Tesla continued his fruitless efforts to escape. Frustration mounted. Finally gloriously revamped and then flung into a hole? It was too insulting. He gave a halfhearted attempt at pleading with the Queen, appealing to their common ancestry, but soon realized it was hopeless. She was probably long gone, and even if she was still up there, she was pointedly ignoring him. He was observing his fine claws when a thought occurred and he looked up. Tesla closed his eyes and concentrated.
He frowned, and tried again.
His electro-magnetic powers were gone. He was just a vampire again. Much as he would normally scoff at such a statement, he found himself suddenly wishing he had his magnetic powers instead. Couldn't he have just gotten the best of both worlds? Who knew where that vicious cow had taken Helen, and what she was doing with her.
He needed to get out.
Magnus cringed as she was thrown up against the hard wall, the Queen's strong hands digging into her shoulders.
"I would have shared everything with you. All the wonders of a new age." The Queen made one last attempt at convincing her.
"While keeping me as your personal canteen?" Magnus retorted.
"In my time it was an honour to serve the Queen."
Magnus grinned at Afina's ridiculously overblown ego.
"Suit yourself," she sneered.
The vampire's grip suddenly tightened, and Magnus was pushed further up the wall, feet leaving the ground so that she dangled. One of the Queen's cold, slim hands moved up to bury itself in Magnus' hair. With a quick pull, she wrenched Magnus' head to the side, baring her throat. Afina could see Helen's jugular vein pulsing as she tried to stay calm. She could hear the blood pumping strongly through her human body, smell its richness. Afina leaned in; Magnus' attempts at throwing her off completely futile. The Queen's face hovered just above Magnus' skin, inhaling deeply before her tongue slipped out and gently licked her. The vampire made a small sound of approval, and in an instant, her deeply imbedded her fangs into Helen's neck, puncturing the thick vein and sucking out its treasures. Magnus couldn't help the gasp that escaped as she gritted her teeth to stop from crying out.
After a moment, however, the pain passed. Magnus found that the Queen was treating her… gently? Magnus' mind drifted to the one other time she'd ever been fed upon by a vampire, so many decades ago. She had agreed to let Tesla feed on her to calm down a potentially deadly situation. He had known how hard it was for her to let him do that and had fed as carefully as possible. Yes, he'd still almost killed her, but it wasn't really his fault. Why would the Queen be granting her the same mercy? Magnus suddenly stopped her train of thought. This woman was nothing like Tesla. Her motives didn't matter. What mattered was how the hell she was going to get out of this situation. The way her thoughts were starting to slow, the way she could actively feel her temperature dropping, did not help her hopes.
As soon as Magnus thought this Afina's teeth pulled out of her skin. The vampire's grip moved to her damaged throat and squeezed. In the next second Magnus was thrown across the room and her head smashed into the wall. She fell into a heap and found herself unable to get up, her vision blurry and her head pounding. She heard the turning of gears and the odd sound of crystal, crumbling on command.
"I'm sure after you serve my Court you'll be begging to be only mine," the Queen smiled as her slaves began to awaken. "I doubt they will show you the same mercy I just did." Afina licked her lips, savouring every drop of the strange immortal's blood. It was magnificent. In all her countless years, she'd never encountered such a taste. She had no doubt her warriors would not be able to show the same restraint as she.
Magnus forced her mind to focus through sheer strength of will, using the wall to brace herself as she stood up, staring in horror as dozens, hundreds of vampires began to awake. Their pale, perfect skin stood in contrast to their dark clothing. They couldn't be called anything but beautiful. Each person, male or female, was tall, slim, and extremely fit. Their clothing accentuated every curve of their lithe bodies. Magnus was surprised to see the diversity amongst the ranks. While they were all tall, the height varied by up to two feet, with the tallest man standing at almost eight feet high. Eyes ranged from light green to dark brown, and Magnus could spot almost every shade of hair possible. Their faces, while stunning, were cold as ice. Full lips were pressed into thin, sallow lines, turned downwards into frowns or sneers. Magnus had expected to find Aryan type arrogance in the vampires, selective breeding with prejudice towards a certain look, but it seemed one only had to be tall, attractive, and full of evil. No one spoke to each other. They didn't feel the need to socialize at the moment. They knew why they were awake; to start a new reign. They were focused, ruthless, and powerful. Afina sauntered to the middle of the entranceway into the grand chamber. One by one her minions began to rise. They had been waiting for their awakening for millennia, but it was like they'd gone to sleep only the night before. Each vampire, no matter their position in the court, was completely subservient to Afina. It was her time.
Seeing their Queen standing in the doorway, they sat up, sliding off their stone beds to stand, and awaiting their leader's command. Once every member was awake, Afina spoke.
"Welcome back, my brethren," she said, her deep voice echoing throughout the vast hall. As one, they bent down, bowing in reverence. "My brother Kalmin betrayed us. My reign comes hundreds of years late, but the traitor is now dead. Much has changed since our time; the state of power on Earth has shifted. We have a great challenge ahead of us. I look forward to it."
The vampires stood, hissing and growling in approval. They longed for a good fight after so long in stasis.
"But before we begin our conquest," the Queen continued, "We must regain our strength. You are all hungry?"
The murmurs turned into roars, and Afina smiled.
"I have procured for you a gift. A donor unlike any we've ever had."
Suddenly the tall vampire queen was beside her, gripping her arm and pulling her into the vast chamber.
"Helen is 158 years old, but not of our kin."
Magnus could see confusion fall over the faces of the vampires.
"As a young human she saw fit to experiment with our sacred blood. She turned herself into an abomination. She's spent most of her life as an outcast amongst her own kind."
Magnus frowned, wanting to dispute the fact but knowing she should keep silent.
"Her foolishness, however, will now serve to benefit us. I cannot express in words the sheer bliss of tasting her blood."
The hungry mob now started to stir, some even daring to take a few steps forward.
"I give her to you as a gift to commemorate my first day as your Queen. Remember my benevolence, and the next thousand years shall be more glorious than any we have had thus far."
With these words, Afina grabbed Magnus by the back of her neck, lifting her up and throwing her forward as if she were a baseball. The doctor landed painfully in the middle of the main aisle but quickly started looking around for avenues of escape. There were none. Magnus suddenly wondered where Tesla was. For all his vapid arrogance, he really was brilliant. Why hadn't he found a way to escape? She hated to be in a position where she depended on someone else to rescue her, but Tesla had never failed before, not when it really mattered. All around her the vampires waited, tense, hungry and wild, waiting for final permission. Still standing in the doorway with a smile on her face, the Queen nodded.
It took less than a second for the first vampire to reach Magnus. With an animalistic shriek his handsome face morphed into its true, twisted form and he dove down, implanting his teeth in almost exactly the same spot his Queen had. As expected, he showed no leniency or thought to her comfort. His bite seared with burning intensity, making her eyes water. Magnus moved her arm to punch him, hoping he would be distracted by feeding and thrown off, but her arm was now being crushed under the weight of another vampire. This one, also male, latched himself onto the other side of her neck. She could feel every millimeter of skin and tissue he tore through as his fangs sunk in and her life-force bubbled up to meet him. She suddenly felt teeth in her thigh, her calf, her stomach. Fear and panic welled up inside, and she fought with all her might, but they only kept coming. Hot tears coursed down her face. Her cries grew into screams as her clothes were ripped apart by teeth and claws, starving vampires desiring only to feed on human flesh. The air was alive with the sounds of their slavering jaws, sick sucking noises and her own screaming. She could smell their bodies, musty from stasis but now sweating with excitement. It mixed with the tangy metallic odor of her own flowing blood.
A thousand white-hot pokers embedded themselves so deeply into her flesh that her thoughts lost shape, melting into incoherency, aware only of the pain. Arms that were too strong tried to pull her towards them, only to have others grab at her from another angle. Someone tried to lift her up towards them but another didn't take kindly to this idea. Their arm shot out and pushed against her solar plexus, throwing her back to the ground. Three of her delicate human ribs were broken in the process. She was more helpless and fragile than a rag doll. Her limbs grew heavy and she stopped struggling despite the nagging voice in the far corner of her mind, telling her she needed to stay aware, keep fighting.
All she could do was lie there and be fed upon like she a piece of meat. She figured that the vampires' fangs were coated with some kind of substance that kept the victim awake as long as possible. The fear and adrenaline of a live victim kept the blood pumping, the juices flowing. They liked that. She felt her left shoulder dislocate as someone tried to stretch her arm past its capabilities, a set of fangs latching onto the finger it managed to find through the mass of bodies. By now she'd been lifted completely off the ground and could feel writhing figures beneath her, latching onto any free skin they could find. She was stuck, stifled, unable to breathe, imprisoned in a cage of inhuman flesh. She didn't know how she was still conscious. She would be eaten alive then discarded. Except she wouldn't. The Queen would keep her alive and she would continue to stay young forever, the vampires' personal fountain of youth. The specialty on tap. Their favourite vintage. Despite herself, Magnus started to laugh. The sound was weak and hysterical, but the Queen heard it.
"Enough!" she yelled, but the vampires were too far gone in their blood lust. She ran forward, throwing them off of her new pet. The human lay practically naked, her clothes either ripped and thrown aside or swallowed along with her blood. Afina knelt down, picking at the tatters, removing them so that every inch of deathly pale skin was revealed. She could barely see any. Countless bite marks marred the delicate skin, deep crimson, verging on black. Any actual skin stood glowing in stark relief, highlighted by the dim light. Her last few drops of blood slowly oozed from open wounds, sliding over some of the patches of pale, erasing them. The vampire frowned when her gaze reached Magnus' face. Her full lips were blue and her eyes were half-lidded and glassy, but that was not what angered the Queen. One of her subjects had been so desperate for food that they had tried to feed from her pet's face. The angry outline of a large mouth stood out against Magnus' right check, a chunk of skin ripped off when the diner had given up and tried to move on. Her people knew that a face was an inefficient place to gain sustenance. More than that, most vampire monarchs chose personal donors whose physical features they admired. It was forbidden to touch a donor's face. Afina narrowed her eyes on the obstruction, analyzing the size of the jaw, the spacing of the teeth.
"Brahtas!" she screamed. A bulky vampire appeared at her side, standing at least seven feet tall. Blood covered his mouth and chin, but his usually sour face looked even more displeased than usual.
"I am sorry, my Queen," he began, his voice rough and grating. He never finished his apology as Afina's claws embedded themselves in his chest and ripped his heart out. It beat for a few moments in her hand as his body fell boneless to the ground. When it stilled, Afina extricated her claws from its form and tossed it aside, leaning back down beside the finally unconscious Magnus. She retracted her claws and stroked the mangled cheek with her finger.
"Poor thing," she murmured. She brought her hand to her mouth, placing a finger between her teeth and biting down. The Queen's blood was sacred, and those watching were shocked that she would use her own. Afina placed her finger over the wound on Magnus' cheek. A drop of blood fell, hissing and steaming upon contact. The skin started to knit itself back together. A few more drops, a minute or so, and her face had been rebuilt. Magnus suddenly started, consciousness flying back to her with a jolt. She made a small sound in the back of her throat as the pain reasserted itself, exploding with intensity, making her wish she'd stayed unconscious…or died.
"Sssh," the Queen soothed, stroking her cheek again. Magnus tried to turn her face away but was too weak. Her eyes tossed and rolled as they tried to focus on the vampire's face, the vacillating image making her sick.
"I told you they would not be able to control themselves," Afina smiled, her voice low and soft. Wet tears leaked from Magnus' eyes again, and her body started to shake, in shock after the brutal multiple assaults.
"I can make it all go away," she crooned, "But it's not going to be any better next time." She moved her head to glance backward. Of the 400, 500 members of her court, less than a fifth had fed. A woman of Magnus' size had around 4.7 litres of blood in her body; just under 10 pints. After a loss of only 1.4 litres she was in serious danger, but they had sucked her dry. Even so, each individual had only gotten a sip of her, just enough to keep them going until they could find a full meal to themselves. The excitement and wonder of those fortunate enough to get that first taste only served to heighten the anticipation of the rest. Their Queen had found the rarest of prizes; an unending supply of pure, mouthwatering and unique nutrient. Magnus managed to narrow her eyes, pure hatred leaking out amongst the tears.
"Come now, Helen," the vampire admonished. "I gave you your chance. You were simply too stubborn to take it."
Magnus continued to shiver, trying to speak but failing.
The Queen took pity on her.
"But I suppose it's not your fault. You've never encountered a real vampire. You had no way of knowing how utterly inferior you were. Your hope, your little strategies on how to defeat me, were really quite amusing." Afina spoke as if this were a compliment. "I might decide to give you a second chance."
The Queen lifted her own arm to her mouth and bit into her wrist, opening up a sizeable hole. She moved her wrist above Magnus' mouth. Although practically comatose, Helen managed to turn her head, the Queen's blood trickling onto her newly healed cheek instead of into her mouth. The Queen gritted her teeth in frustration and grudging admiration. Her other hand shot out to grip Helen's jaw, forcing it to the center and squeezing so that her mouth opened. Blood dripped into Magnus' mouth and she gagged. As the warm, thick liquid slid down her throat she coughed, trying to spit it out but instead sending herself into a fit. She couldn't stop the coughing, her broken ribs grinding against each other as she tried to calm herself down. When she did, she let her mouth fall slack, accepting the Queen's healing. If she wanted to escape, she had to be strong, and Magnus had rarely wanted anything as badly as she wanted to escape now.
She'd only suffered through one feeding and already wanted to accept the position as Queen's aide. She knew after the second round, if the offer was still on the table, she would take it. She had no idea what the duties of a Queen's donor were, but once she was fully ensconced in the Queen's personal affairs there would be no getting out. Security around the monarch would be tighter than any she'd encountered for human-based operations. She wouldn't be able to escape.
The Queen watched closely as Helen's eyes started to go from glaze to haze. Without her realizing, Magnus had started to drink the rich blood in earnest, eagerly lapping up its intricate flavour. Afina pressed her wrist against her mouth and felt Helen's tongue caress her, sucking. The Queen's eyes drifted shut in rapture. This human would be instrumental in her rise to power. A perfect, beautiful tool.
Afina grinned widely as she pulled her wrist away, but Magnus' mouth followed, trying to latch on again. When she could lift her head from her broken body no further, Magnus gave up, falling back to the ground. She was unconscious in an instant, the regal blood flowing through her veins starting its work in her recovery. The Queen stood up, turning to her side and addressing Sarina, her lady in waiting, already faithfully waiting command.
"Bring her to my room," the Queen commanded. Sarina nodded her head and bent down, picking up Magnus' limp body. The smell of the human's blood pervaded her senses but she managed to resist. There was a reason she was honoured with the position of Queen's personal assistant. She followed her master out of the Great Hall, pausing while Afina pressed her hand against a small crevasse in the far right wall to reveal another long passageway. She trailed silently behind as the Queen led her way deeper underground.
Magnus woke weak, tired, and sore, but no longer in gut-wrenching agony. In fact, she was almost comfortable. She tensed her limbs experimentally, relieved that she could actually move them again but worried that she was naked. She didn't remember that happening. She realized she was lying on something soft, smooth, and squishy. She opened her eyes and found herself in a large room, smaller than the hall, but larger than the chamber she and Tesla had found the Queen in. She shifted her head to the side and saw a pillow. She was on a bed.
Magnus turned her head, frowning, to the other side of the bed. Afina was lounging casually on an ornate chair just a few feet from her side. Magnus continued to frown.
"This room will be your home until such time as we have secured our first fortress above ground," the Queen generously explained. Magnus was surprised that she'd been granted such a vast space to herself, and her surprise must have shown.
"Oh it's not just yours," Afina smirked, rising gracefully from the chair and walking towards the bed. "This is my personal bedchamber." The bed was massive. Afina liked to have space available for times she desired extra people to play with. She pulled herself up onto it, slinking on all fours towards Magnus, who tried to shuffle away but was too slow. The vampire's hands closed around Helen's wrists like vices, and her long legs moved to straddle her. Magnus noticed the Queen had changed and was now wearing an outfit that was even more revealing, if that was possible. The vampire moved her head down to Magnus' stomach, keeping her grip on her wrists. She gently placed her cheek against Magnus' abdomen, smelling her, running her lips over her skin. She dipped her tongue into the dip of her belly button, and then dragged it over to her left side. Afina rubbed her cheek down to Helen's hip. She traced the skin for a moment, then suddenly a hand let go of Magnus' wrist, flying to her side and dragging a sharp claw through the soft skin right above Helen's hipbone. Magnus' cry echoed in the large room, underscored by the sound of Afina's tongue lapping up the bit of blood that pooled along the slice, chuckling as she did. Magnus' heart raced with revulsion and apprehension. The vampire moved with the lupine smoothness of a cat, slowly drawing her body up Magnus' until they were face to face.
"You didn't think I wanted you just for your blood, did you?" she asked. Magnus bit down on her lip to keep from giving her a caustic reply. If Afina made one more comment about how enjoyable Magnus' shock was…
But the Queen didn't. She was already doing other things. Magnus squeezed her eyes shut against the rage, humiliation, and degradation she felt. At least it wasn't as painful as the frenzied feeding session. No, this was a different kind of pain…
This time Magnus woke up alone. Her body had fully recovered from both the feeding and her time with Afina. She felt her heart speed up as images from the night before started to play through her mind's eye, and she clamped down on her control. Before she could help it, she wondered if she had in fact spent two nights with the Queen. She cut that thought short, a cold shiver running down her spine as she quickly moved to self-assessment. Her skin was clean, and her hair felt fresh. She'd had patients complain about being bathed while unconscious, but Magnus had always insisted it was simply the best thing for hygiene and comfort when they awoke. Did modesty matter in the face of life or death? In the future she would at least be more sensitive to their reservations. If she ever had another patient, that is. She had to get out of this hellhole first. She took stock of the Royal Chamber. It was sparsely decorated, fabrics consisting mostly of purple, dark red, and black. Foreign technology was spread throughout, covered in the same symbols as the dais from which Afina opened the Great Hall. Magnus itched to figure out what the devices did.
Her thoughts were interrupted but the opening of a door. Sarina entered.
"The Queen summons you."
"The Queen can come get me herself," Magnus replied bitingly. With her amazing physical recovery, her inner strength was returning. She had a remarkable capacity for repressing traumatic events. She knew that later, down the road, they would come back with a vengeance to haunt her, but for now she had to focus on her goal. Sarina stood silent in the doorway, her face cold and impassive. There would be no reasoning with this one. Magnus quickly calculated the chances of beating her in combat, and found herself lackingds. With a sigh, she swung her legs over the side of the bed and hopped down. Her legs bit shaky. She was dressed now in an outfit of vampire like taste: Dark colours in fitting forms. They flowed comfortably as she moved and she knew if she did end up in a fight, not even the skirt would hinder her.
The pair walked in silence for several minutes. Magnus kept count of the number of branching passages, hallways, and turns they took, creating a map in her head. They stopped at the entranceway to the Great Hall where the Queen stood waiting. Magnus' bravado suddenly took a dive. The door to the Hall was closed, but she had a feeling it wouldn't be for long.
"Thank you for accepting the position of being my personal… canteen, did you say?" said Afina. Magnus flinched. Images popped up, irrepressible. It had taken a lot of persuasion, but yes, she remembered that she had, in fact, consented.
"Unfortunately you're still the only non-vampire here."
Magnus' heart was pounding.
"You must understand, dear Helen," the Queen implored, moving forward to stand before Helen, reaching out and touching her arm. "You wouldn't ask us to feed on our own brothers and sisters, would you?"
Magnus' eyes flicked to the hallway, which she knew led back to the entrance she and Tesla had found.
What happened to Tesla? Magnus thought. Please let him be alive. Please let him have escaped and gone to get help…
"Are you thinking about the mongrel?" Afina suddenly snapped. Magnus turned to face her again, worry and doubt clouding her eyes.
"That thing tasted so bad not even the hungry children wanted him," the Queen informed her. Magnus' heart dropped. He couldn't be dead. Not Tesla. He should be here, now, throwing sarcastic comments right back at the haughty bitch of a Queen.
"My people only want you."
Afina's words caused Magnus' anxiety to soar. With a few quick taps of her finger, Afina opened the door to the Hall. Several dozen vampires stood in a group at the entrance as if they'd been standing there, waiting, since Magnus had been taken away. Afina's hand came to rest at the small of her back, pushing her forward. Magnus' breath started to come in quick pants and gasps as she lost the battle with her own fear.
"No," she whispered.
Afina's hand moved up to the top of Magnus' dress and pulled sharply down. The material gave way with no protest, and Magnus knew it had been specially designed for her. The Donor. The Queen gave her a strong shove, and she flew into the waiting arms of the mob. The first set of razor sharp teeth dug into her flesh, and panic blinded her.
"NO!" she screamed.
She tried for a moment to fight them off but they had learned from the first group. Her bones broke under their hands like twigs.
"Nikola!" she cried. The Queen had never explicitly stated that he was dead. Maybe he was still alive, somewhere, maybe he would hear her. Please god let him hear her. It was hard to catch her breath through her own mindless screaming.
She awoke with a start, limbs automatically jerking, causing her to fall off the couch.
Her eyes flew open to see a merrily crackling fireplace across a plush carpet. She'd bought the handmade Persian rug in 1932. She was in the library at the Sanctuary.
She heard footsteps running across the hardwood, softening when they reached the rug.
"Helen!" Tesla repeated, dropping to his knees at her side. He reached out, gently gathering her in his arms and helping her to sit up, resting against the couch. Her chest heaved as she tried to breathe, gasping, confused. Her eyes flew wildly about, soaking up the details of her beloved library. She held onto the couch with one hand while the other flew to the sleeve of Nikola's crisp, grey shirt. She dug her fingers in, needing to feel the material between her fingers, grounding herself in reality.
Was this reality? Or was she in another torture-induced coma, waiting until Afina's vile blood sealed her up again?
Nikola saw her eyes, red and wild, skittering around and grabbed her face with both hands.
"Helen!" he said in a firm voice. She jumped, and her eyes flew to his. "What's the matter?" he asked in a softer tone. Helen worked her mouth, but couldn't find the words. Too many questions were racing through her brain.
"I was just getting a snack when I heard you scream out my name," he told her, causing her to frown. "I was hoping you'd suddenly realized your deep and abiding need for me and summoned me to your bedroom," he grinned. "But I see that isn't the case."
The words "summon" and "bedroom" had Helen suddenly gasping for air once again. Nikola moved his hands to her shoulders, his strong grip holding her still.
"Helen, calm down, it's ok!" he insisted, his playful mood giving way to worry. He continued to sooth her, running his thumbs softly up and down her arms as she got a hold of herself.
"Nikola…" she finally breathed. He was dismayed to see her eyes misting up. He'd never been comfortable with overt displays of emotion. It was so much easier to deal with everything using humour and sarcasm.
"That's my name, don't wear it out," he said, trying to hold onto any degree of levity. Her face crumpled, and a tiny sob escaped her lips. She didn't think she'd ever hear his smarmy comments again. In a fit of weakness, she flung her arms around him. Bewildered, he cautiously hugged her back. After only a few moments she pulled back, wiping at her eyes, composing herself.
"I'm sorry," she said. Her voice still wavered.
"Think nothing of it," he replied, wondering what the hell was going on.
"This may be a ridiculous question, but what day is it?" she asked.
They had entered the African tomb on a Thursday.
"Saturday the what?"
Her eyes opened, still questioning, and she cocked her head to the side.
She breathed out heavily. A dream. It must have been a dream. Vivid memories jumped up at her, mocking her with their detail, their realism.
"What happened after Afina threw you down into the pit?"
Tesla frowned. He didn't like remembering that embarrassing incident. Newly reborn and so quickly put to shame. Bah.
"Queenie took you off down an ominous hallway. I don't know what happened to you, but my quick wit and fabulous ingenuity led me to escape. I found you having a catfight with the bitch. I took over for you. You stopped the rest of the Goonies from waking up, and then gave her the map to Hollow Earth."
As he spoke, Magnus started to recall what had truly transpired.
"We started to run, and the whole place went kaboom. We hung around outside the crater for a while chuckling over our success, then we flew back to the Sanctuary. I think you must have hit your head at some point, because you were a bit disoriented on the flight."
Magnus frowned. There had been multiple instances when she could have injured her head.
"When we got back, I suggested you let the Giant one look you over, but you insisted you were ok. You cleaned up, came here to the library, and have been working on your notes ever since."
Magnus looked to her side and saw the coffee table, strewn with pages of notes on both vampire history and the map of old Praxian strongholds. She vaguely recalled wanting to go over the Praxian information, worried that another of their abandoned sites could have been overtaken by vampires still waiting in stasis. She thought of accidentally waking another self-obsessed vampire with designs on world domination, and her skin crawled.
"I remember now," she said, looking at Tesla's face, which had grown more concerned as she continued to stay silent.
"In retrospect, I probably should have been looked over when we got back," she admitted. He nodded.
"I think I did hit my head at some point. My memories are a bit fuzzy, but I think I fell asleep on the couch. I'm not sure when."
Tesla still didn't quite understand, a piece still missing from the puzzle.
"And why, exactly, were you screaming out my name?" He couldn't help a grin from resurfacing. "Is it too much to hope that my new vampire physique has driven you mad with desire, and so your subconscious supplied some dirty details while you slept?"
Magnus tried to offer him a weak smile, but failed quite miserably. She'd really rather not think about vampires for a long, long time.
"I'm afraid not," she said in a low voice.
Tesla could see that she was seriously disturbed by something.
"Do you want to talk about it?" he offered quietly.
Magnus looked into his eyes, surprised. There was no mocking in his gaze, he was genuinely offering. Her heart lightened, and she started to feel just a tiny bit better.
"No," she said, shaking her head. "Not today."
Would she ever be able to tell him about her dream? The deep loathing, and dare she admit, fear, she felt for vampires and everything they believed in? He was so happy, so excited to have his abilities back. She didn't want to hurt him. Though he had confessed his contempt for the Queen and her brand of world power, which proved that Tesla wasn't a vampire. Not really. He was something more. And beyond all that, the abnormalities, the gifts, he was her friend. She hoped that never changed.
"I think I need to be alone for a while," she told him.
He helped her stand up. She tried to stay strong, but his keen eye caught the waver in her legs, the tenseness of her body. He knew it would do no good to pester.
"I'll walk you to your room?" he asked instead. She smiled and touched his arm.
"No, thank you, Nikola. I'm not going to my room. I have some work in the office that must be done."
He started to protest, but the words died on his lips as he saw the corners of her eyes tighten. He wished he could help her. He knew her dream had been something about the tomb, the vampires. Whatever it was, it had affected her deeply. Maybe she would tell him tomorrow.
"Call me if you need anything," he finally said. She nodded, turned around, and walked out of the room.
The firelight danced across his black vest as he watched her walk away.
By the time she reached her office, Magnus had managed to calm herself. It was just a dream. A simple nightmare. It would fade in time, as they all did. Yes, some had stayed with her throughout her long life, but time had at least dulled the ragged edges. What she needed to do now, while it was still fresh, was throw herself into work. If she could distract herself enough during these initial aftershocks, perhaps the horror would never fully imprint itself on her mind. She was glad to see a stack of paperwork resting on her desk. She was feeling a bit lightheaded, and was glad to sit down in her comfortable chair. Her optimism grew as she read the first page on the stack; Annual budget overview. Perfect. She could lose herself in a world of numbers, often monotonous, but very important.
She leaned over to her left to switch on her computer and cringed, a sharp pain abruptly cutting into her side.
She frowned, sitting back so she was centered in her chair. She lifted the hem of her dark, blue cardigan gingerly, revealing skin that was a bit paler than usual. A red cut ran several inches along her skin, right above her hipbone.
Afina traced the skin for a moment, then suddenly a hand let go of Magnus' wrist, flying to her side and dragging a sharp claw through the soft skin right above Helen's hipbone. Magnus' cry echoed in the large room, underscored by the sound of Afina's tongue lapping up the bit of blood that pooled along the slice, chuckling as she did.
The computer screen wavered as Helen's world tipped on end and began to spin. She grasped the edge of her desk, gasping, trying to stay upright as she suddenly gagged, nauseous and dizzy.
Oh god no!
It couldn't have been real. It. Was. Not. Real. Nikola told her what had really happened, he wouldn't lie to her. And she remembered it… didn't she? She'd hit her head at some point and was disoriented for the trip home. She had probably just tripped during the journey from the crater to the jeep and had simply forgotten. A cut like that was easy to get.
Her breathing evened out. Yes, that's what had happened. She'd fallen and cut herself on a rock. No big deal. She eyed the computer screen, fully booted and waiting for her to log in. Work. She needed to work.
As Magnus typed in her password, the vampire queen's laughter echoed through her mind.
So, a happy little fluff piece, no! :p What'd you think? Did it really happen, or WAS it just a dream? Please let me know your thoughts via "Review" button. I had an idea to turn this into a huge grand adventure story where the vampires DO manage to take over some of the world, with Helen as their slave… Everything would be ok in the end, but still. What do you think? Interested at all? MSam