"Barnabas!" cried Julia, bending down to examine him. "Barnabas!" His skin was hot to the touch, as though he had a fever; his face was the colour of marble. "Barnabas!" she sobbed once more, her voice rising. She give him a little shake. Her hands fluttered over his chest like frightened birds, as she loosened off his bow tie, and shirt. She could feel tears prick her eyes, fear crawling in her stomach, and fought not to give in to her hysteria. She glanced towards the window, trying somehow to connect this with the coming of dawn, but the windows remained dark.
"Barnabas?" she questioned now, the tears she didn't want to shed, falling slowly down her cheeks. He remained unmoving, a grimace of pain still on his face. The points of his fangs, just showing through his parted lips.
"Oh, Barnabas!" she sobbed, giving in to her fears, tenderly touching his face.
Willie had remained behind as the other guests departed, helping Mrs Johnson tidy things up. Anything to delay his return to the Old House.
As he entered the foyer from the drawing room, he saw Carolyn still talking to that Nick Andrews fella from Wyndcliffe. They'd spent a lot of time together, during the wedding and celebrations, he'd noticed. He grinned to himself, wondering if Nick would be visiting Collinwood, often in the near future. He hoped so, Nick seemed okay to him, and if he made Carolyn forget her troubles, so much the better.
He walked on, headed towards the kitchen when the piercing pain caught him unaware.
He collapsed to his knees with a groan, as the pain washed over him. He tried to stand as the pain seem to fade, but just as he was about to regain his feet, it came cascading over him, like surf. What was wrong with him?
Fear consumed him, as the pain buried deeper through his entire body. Then a voice in his head spoke to him, a voice he knew well.
"Barnabas!" he croaked. The pain faded, and he understood everything. He climbed unsteadily to his feet, and swaying slightly, headed for the back door. He had to get to the Old House.
Barnabas tried to open his eyes, but couldn't. His entire body felt as though it were on fire. When he tried to move, it only seemed to make it worse. Lying still, he found that he could sense the place around him. He sensed blackness; a void, a place between two worlds.
He tried to speak, but it seemed too much effort. Where was Julia, he wondered. Was she here too? He pushed out, trying to sense her presence, and became afraid, when he couldn't "feel" her.
Julia! his mind screamed. Julia! I need you, Julia.
But there was no soothing reply to calm his growing fears. Where was he?
What had happened to him? Why did he feel as though his was burning? Why was he here?
He became aware of another presence in this Limbo World, his fear increased. Was it the being that had brought him here? Julia! Willie! His frightened mind cried out. Juuuuulllliiiiiaaaa!
The presence came closer, and he realised there was something familiar about this presence. It wasn't Julia, he knew that much, but it served to reassure him. As the presence came closer he recognised it for who it was, and his heart swelled. Could it really be? He dared not believe his eyes; it had been so long...
But when the presence reached out and touched him, he knew it was true. Her touch calmed the raging fires that caressed his body, with a lover's touch.
Peace came to his mind, and he sank deeper into the darkness.
Willie entered the Old House, without bothering to knock, and the first thing he saw, was Julia kneeling over the prone body of Barnabas.
"What happened?" he gasped, shocked.
"I don't know," said Julia, shaking her head. It was clear to Willie that she was in shock, and who could blame her? Hours ago, everything had been normal. Certainly Barnabas had seemed healthy enough. She looked at him curiously. "What are you doing here, Willie?"
"I heard him calling me," he tried to explain, pointing to his head. "In here. And I felt the most excruciating pain." he frowned, looking at Barnabas. "His pain, I suppose."
"But that's impossible, Willie," said Julia, shaking her head. "He hasn't said anything."
"You're forgettin' I was in his power once. Maybe, maybe there's still a kind of link between us. I mean, while he's a vampire…oh I don't know what I mean!" he admonished himself, running his hands through his hair.
"Did he take that solution I prepared?" she asked, suddenly.
"Yeah, course he did. Why? Do you think that's what made him sick?"
Julia stared down at the prone form of her husband. "I don't know!" she said, her voice rising again, and Willie knew that she was close to breaking down. He gathered her into his arms, and she leaned against him. A bad sign if ever there was one, he thought. "Maybe he wasn't recovered from the effects of his last illness," she suggested. "Maybe all the excitement and the solution were just too much for him to take?"
She was clutching at straws, and they both knew it. She felt helpless. She thought of earlier that day, when Willie had said that seeing the groom before the wedding was bad luck…well, it certainly looked as though he was right.
"He seemed okay when he took it, Julia. Looked forward to it, even," Willie tried to assure her. "I even asked him if he was okay and he said he was. Besides, he woulda told ya if he weren't. He knows how you kinda worry."
Julia glanced towards the window, and became alarmed at the growing pinkish light that was beginning to colour the night sky. "Help me, get him to the basement, Willie."
Together, they somehow managed to get his prone form down into the relative safety of the cellar, and the confines of his coffin.
His skin was more death-like than ever, and had grown cold like stone.
Julia began to fear that she had really lost him this time. That no matter how she tried, he wouldn't recover from this.
"It's like it was, when he reverted," commented Willie, and then wished he hadn't said anything, when Julia looked at him sharply. Her eyes were red and raw looking, something he'd never thought he'd see on Julia. "Explain, Willie," she pounced on his words.
"Well, from what you said happened, it's like what happened when he reverted. It happened so suddenly then too. One minute he was fine and the next he was just like this. Maybe this means that he might get better," he said, hopefully.
Julia turned to the coffin, reluctant to close the lid. She caressed his face tenderly, fresh tears threatening to fall. "You don't know how much I want that, Willie," she said in a choked voice. "Not just for myself, but for him too. Oh Willie!" she sobbed.
He went to her, and embraced her. She submitted, leaning weakly against his chest. And Willie felt his own hot tears running down his cheeks, not just affected by what had happened to Barnabas, but for Julia too. He wondered if it would be possible for anyone to find happiness at Collinwood.
Julia stood silently on the point of Widow's Hill, looking aimlessly out at the sea. She hadn't slept well, the pervious night. Every time she had closed her eyes, she kept going back to that stricken look of pain and fear on Barnabas' face.
She had checked on him several times, during the hours of dawn and now late afternoon.
She sighed, reflecting on how short her marriage to Barnabas seemed to be turning out. She had faced down his curse for so long and so often, that she had literally come to disregard it. Now, she was being faced with the reality. He had been so afraid that it would be her the curse would affect, neither of them had ever stopped to think that he might be the one the curse would finally take from the other.
She felt tears prick her eyes once more, and she fiercely wiped at her eyes. Weeping wouldn't bring him back, she knew that. But it still didn't make it any easier. If there was something she could do, she couldn't think of it. Test after test had revealed nothing. She couldn't explain it. She hated mysteries.
When the step came behind her, she ignored it. She felt little like talking to anyone. Especially as low as she was feeling right now. She was supposed to be on her honeymoon. She stared down at the ring Barnabas had given her, and felt her resolve begin to crumble. She loved him! And now he would never know just how much.
Her depression was forgotten as the owner of the steps behind, suddenly grabbed her from behind.
"Dane!" she protested, "I hardly…."
"I hope that you don't plan to call me by another man's name during our marriage."
She turned around to face the one man she had never expected to see standing before her.
"Barnabas!" she gasped. "How?"
He grinned, pleased with his surprise. "It's a beautiful afternoon, don't think? Too good to be alone."
"I don't understand."
"I don't understand it myself," he said looking down at her. "Only that I couldn't bear to be apart from you," he said growing solemn.
She stepped closer to him, looking up at him with frightened, wondering, questioning eyes.
"Is it true?" she whispered. "Are you free? Are we free?"
"I believe so, but only time will tell. The only thing I'm sure of is that I love you, Julia. And it was you that brought me back. You...and Sarah."
"My sister...came to me. She's forgiven me, Julia. After all these years, she's finally forgiven me. And now I've been given a second chance with you, and I'm not going to waste it."
She stepped into his open arms, and when he kissed her, she thought she'd never had anything so sweet.
The kiss ended slowly, and when it did, they headed towards the Old House. Julia had made arrangements for Barnabas' stay at Wyndcliffe, shortly after the wedding. But something told her, that Wyndcliffe could wait for a while.
A/N Watch out for the next story in this series, "Destiny."