Title: false façades
Summary: "Of course San Francisco is safe," says Mary-Lynnette, bouncing her Mace canister on her knee as if proving a point. "Don't worry about me."
Characters/Pairing: Ash Redfern, Mary-Lynnette Carter, and Blaise Harman.
Warning/Spoilers: Sex. Nothing explicit, though.
A/N: So, welcome to my new oneshot series! This will be focusing on our favorite Night World characters pre-, post- and during the Apocalypse. These will all be beta'd by the marvelously wonderful Faded Classic. Also, a lot of things are AU. Feedback is lovely! Feel free to request a oneshot of a couple or a character's future in this world. Some may not be included, as I have another story in this universe coming up, but go right ahead!
PS. Do not read this if you dislike character death with a passion.
If only. Those must be the two saddest words in the world.
~ Mercedes Lackey
It has been raining for the past two days.
The couple stumbles into their room together, drenched and fumbling. The woman reaches at the hem of her scarlet shirt and peels it off, bunching it up and tossing it somewhere in the corner of the room. Then she reaches for his shirt, breathless and demanding.
He can make out the color of her hair. A color so brown it's nearly black. It probably is black.
His mouth travels across her jaw as his hands slide up her stomach. His fangs scrape across her skin and she shudders, hissing something under her breath as she pulls his head back down for another kiss.
Her legs hit the edge of the bed and they tumble over.
Ash Redfern pushes away the whisperings of wrongness in his mind as he quickly discards her remaining clothing. He lowers his mouth and places open-mouthed kisses along her throbbing veins in her neck. He doesn't drink from her, though. She still has a healing pair of pinpricks on her collarbone.
"No human blood."
"Not even from the blood bank?"
"Not even from there."
She pulls away from his kiss to fumble with the button on his jeans. "I want you," she admits with a wicked grin that somehow makes him want her more. Wrongwrongwrong, a voice is screaming in both of their minds. You don't belong with each other.
He wraps his arms around her and kisses her again, lowering her onto her back. "You're a queen," he tells her, golden eyes flashing, "but you're not my queen."
She smiles at that. "And you're not my king," she whispers back, gray eyes crinkling in the corners. Her eyes are gray, too gray, the wrong color, but he looks at her almost-black hair and imagines that she has blue eyes instead.
And he lowers his head and captures her lips. She fights back this time—blood-red nails rake down his back, teeth nip at his lips, fingers thread through his white-blond hair and tug at the strands in a way that's almost painful. Soon they are together, fighting each other and the emptiness inside.
His kisses go lower. The girl arches into his touch and digs her nails into his shoulders as she closes her eyes. Gray eyes. Not blue.
In just a few more seconds, the girl's eyes roll into the back of her head and she starts to tremble. She yanks his head up and kisses him with bruising force, meeting him stroke for stroke. "Don't stop, Phil," she breathes when she breaks the kiss, "Don't stop!"
At the same time, he groans out, "God, M'Lin, yes."
When they are facing each other, spent and sweaty, she smiles at him. A few tears leak out of her eyes, and she turns on her side to hide them. Ash reaches over her and wipes away the tears with his thumb. "You're okay," he tells her quietly. It was the same words she'd said to him after he heard the news. "You're okay."
And he ignores the silver cord that has nothing but emptiness on the other side.
He watches the Golden Gate Bridge twist, break in half, and collapse into the water on live television.
He gets his phone out immediately and speed-dials her. He goes to voicemail. "Mare? Mare, are you okay? Mare? Mary-Lynnette!"
Three minutes later, an audible snap echoes around his room at Harmony, and he knows the silver cord between them has just been cut loose.
If there's one thing about Blaise Harman people should know, it's that she only lets people see what she wants them to see.
Her eyes open a few seconds later, all traces of tears gone, and flops over onto her stomach. "You're getting better," she remarks, peering up at him. "We came at the same time."
Ash props himself up on an elbow and stares out the window, watching raindrops crawl down the glass. "Thanks. I try," he says sourly. Blaise laughs. He changes the subject. "Your soulmate was Phillip North, right? That pipsqueak's twin?"
Blaise stops laughing and narrows her storm-cloud eyes. "Yes. He went with Thea and Jez to London to meet an enclave hiding out in Wales. They met two dragons burning down Big Ben and Parliament." She purses her lips and turns away. Then she takes a deep breath and looks back at him, her features proud and haughty once more. "They didn't stand a chance."
Ash swallows and looks back at the window. "Mare was on the Golden Gate Bridge. She said, 'Might as well see the sights while I'm here.' That was the last conversation we ever had."
Blaise clears her throat and rises from the bed, going into the bathroom. When she emerges, she wears a white bathrobe with a black dahlia embroidered on the breast pocket. She pads over to the desk and picks up a folder containing Iona's photos. "So we're supposed to get these delivered to Lady Hannah and co., and find the kid?"
Ash pulls on some boxers and joins her. Blaise tosses her inky black hair—black, not brown, but almost the same shade as her—over her shoulder and turns on the desk lamp, opening the folder. Iona Skelton is a remarkable photographer for a twelve-year-old, Ash has to admit. Unfortunately, she is also one of the Oldest Souls the world has ever seen. So, it is up to the two of them to hunt her down and bring evidence of the Apocalypse to Lady Hannah so she can show them to the still-disbelieving United Nations.
He takes the folder from her hands and starts flipping through the pictures. Some of her photos show the Golden Gate Bridge collapsing, second by second.
His throat tightens at the sight of them, and he tugs at the silver cord again. His plea is met with silence.
They also show buildings trembling and collapsing, cracks appearing in the road, and a shot of a dragon—its back to her—breathing fire upon a screaming mass. Other pictures show the sea coming up and swallowing beach houses. And the most horrifying ones are the ones featuring werewolves and shapeshifters chasing down humans.
"How did this girl survive this?" muses Blaise, staring at a photo of a werewolf on top of a dark girl that looks vaguely familiar. It is a picture taken from above, as if Iona was on the roof at the time. "Did she just hang out on rooftops?"
"Don't know. She has a male witch for a soulmate, though. I think they found each other last year. Turns out he's an Old Soul as well. I'm pretty sure they're on the run."
Blaise harrumphs, but sets the folder down. "Eight years old is a little young to be finding your soulmate."
Ash doesn't bother to correct her. Instead, he says, "The 'wolves will probably come on us tomorrow. Are you ready?"
She grins and gestures to her supplies on the desk, next to the folder. "I'm looking forward to it. Now, come on. We'd better get some sleep if we want to survive the mutts."
Ash agrees, and the two of them slide underneath the covers. He listens to a lot of things: the rain kissing the window pane, to Blaise's shallow breathing, for any signs that the 'wolves will spring them in their sleep. But Ash doesn't sleep.
He hasn't really slept since last March.
"I'll come back for you."
"I know you will."
"Be careful in San Fran, okay?" He lifts his head to glare at Morgead, who is leaning against the wall, ignoring them both. "Blackthorn. You'd better take care of her."
Mare pokes his chest. Hard. "I'll be fine. You're the one who's rescuing Poppy and James from a dragon. Just—don't do anything stupid, okay?"
It's a half-hour before Blaise stirs, and gets up as silently as a breath. If it weren't for the mattress springs creaking beneath her, Ash wouldn't have noticed. He watches through half-closed eyes as Blaise rounds the bed, sits in front of the window, and starts to sniffle.
Ash is stunned. He has been on the run with Blaise for over a month now, but he has never heard her cry. He silently kicks the covers off of him and gets up. Blaise wipes her tears away and stares resolutely ahead when he sits down next to her.
"I'm here if you need me," he supplies after several minutes of silence.
Blaise makes a face, then rolls her eyes. "I was at that base you took Poppy and James to, in Nevada, because Thea had somehow convinced me and Aunt Ursula that maybe being a damned Daybreaker wasn't so bad. That was when I met Phillip." She smiles an absent, rueful half-smile.
"We'd been together—if you can even call it that—for a month when you two went to rescue Poppy and James. I was getting bored. Some part of me thought that we weren't really soulmates, so I experimented with other guys while you two were gone."
"He caught me with another guy and chewed me out for it. I got scared. I got angry. I told him to go to hell."
Ash's lips tug up in some semblance of a smile. Of course she would do that.
Lightning flashes and rain continues to fall, but the Midnight witch doesn't flinch. Instead, she says flatly, "We avoided each other. And then, I started feeling differently. I began craving his presence again. So I waited for him to apologize to me. But I quickly found out that wouldn't happen. So I went to apologize to him, but Selene told me that Phillip had already left for London." She laughs humorlessly. "My last words to my soulmate were go to hell."
Ash smirks. "It does sound like you, Blaise."
Blaise rubs her eyes with the palms of her hands. "So now everyone is gone. Phillip. Thea. Grandma Harman. Hell, Harmony is probably destroyed already, and Lady Hannah going on to her next life."
He wants to offer her some comfort, wants to tell her that there's a shred of hope. But he knows there isn't. Jez was killed trying to defeat the dragons in London a year ago—and even if she had somehow managed to escape, she was definitely dead by now. The other three didn't matter anymore. Four less one and darkness triumphs.
"Maybe the next life will be better," he says instead.
She regards him through the corners of stormy gray eyes. "You know, you look a little like him."
"And you look a little like her." But you have gray eyes, and she has blue, so I know it's not real.
"I found out why you loved her. You didn't start by telling me how beautiful she was. If you'd said that I'd have known you weren't really soulmates."
Blaise's eyes flicker with something, and she smiles again, but this time he knows that it's forced. She stretches languorously and stands up. "Go to bed, Ash. I'll get you something to help you sleep."
He watches her pad into the bathroom and return with a bowl of milky-white liquid. "I bring it with me all the time," she confesses, handing him the bowl, "in case I have nightmares and can't go back to sleep. It guarantees a good night's rest."
Ash drinks it, but leaves some for her. He gives her back the bowl and crawls back on the bed. Blaise sets it down on an end table and moves to join him, but he grabs her wrists and shakes his head.
"Drink the rest. You deserve a good night's sleep, too."
Blaise frowns, but she obliges him. He wraps an arm around her shoulders and squeezes when she crawls into the bed, and pulls her to him. Blaise smirks at him.
"Don't be getting any ideas, now," she warns, turning on her side. "If we spoon, I'm kicking you out of the bed."
Ash scoffs and turns onto his side, facing the tear-splattered window. "Wouldn't dream of it," he mutters, his eyes already closing.
"You know, you've never really cared about anyone. But someday you will, and it's going to hurt. It's going to hurt a lot."
He opens his eyes to see thousands of stars twinkling above him. Waves crash from somewhere down below. Someone is laying on top of him, her hand clasped in his, her hair—smelling familiarly like peaches—splayed across his chest.
He glances down and sees Mary-Lynnette staring at him, smiling softly. Hi, she thinks in a murmur.
His breath catches in his throat, and he sits up. There is no question that this is a dream and that it will eventually end, but dammit, he never wants to wake up. "Hi," he replies.
Mary-Lynnette rests her head on his shoulder. For once, she isn't paying attention to the stars. He can practically hear the gears in her head turning. Then, she says, "I missed you."
An uncomfortable lump forms in his throat, and he squeezes her hand tighter. Her hand is warm, and he can hear her heart beating. "I love you."
"I know. I love you, too."
He doesn't say anything. He just pulls her into his lap and wraps his arms around her, resting his cheek on her head. His soulmate relaxes into his touch and glances up at the stars.
You know, I bet I can point out more constellations than you, she muses.
You might know their names, but I can see better than you.
Is that a challenge?
They spent the rest of the night pointing out stars and laughing. They talk about Mark, about his sisters, about Iona—anything but her death.
But eventually, one by one, the stars begin to disappear. The inky blackness of the sky starts to bleach. And Mary-Lynnette's feel, once so solid, is steadily getting harder and harder to grasp.
Ash pulls her to him and kisses her neck. "Dawn's coming," he whispers, resting his chin on the crook between neck and shoulder. Mary-Lynnette's lips curve up.
"Watch it with me?"
He watches the sunrise and struggles in vain to keep holding Mary-Lynnette. She eventually crawls out of his grasp and braves a smile. Her blue eyes—blue, not gray, blue—are watering. "I have to go," she says, brushing his face with her fingertips. Her caress feels like mist on his cheek.
He swallows and tries not to lean into her touch. Stay.
She stares at him for a moment, and glances up at the stars when he refuses to move. Her eyes narrow and her jaw tightens. Then she glances down and nestles back into his arms.
The dream continues to fade. He holds her until there is nothing left of the stars, the cliff, or her.
"Mare, we've got the whole Night World against us."
"I'm not scared. Are you?"
"Good. You shouldn't be."
He wakes up to see Blaise primping herself in front of the full-length mirror next to the desk.
Well. Some things never change.
He rolls over and goes back to sleep.
But this time he is not blessed with a dream.
Blaise kneels at a girl's limp body, pinned underneath a fallen tree, and pulls out a pair of dog tags from underneath her torn shirt. "Rashel Jordan. Does that name ring a bell to you?"
Ash nods, clenches his jaw, and looks away from the unrecognizable corpse. His gaze zeroes in on one body in particular: a limp black panther sprawled across the base of a charred, uprooted tree. A golden leopard lies underneath the pale roots, immobile.
Keller and Galen. Iliana's Last Resorts. And if those two are dead, the Witch Child must be as well. Great.
Claw marks are slashed into the bark of that tree and several others. The ground they walk on is soot and bones. Several other corpses Ash can't name lay scattered around the ground. Two shriveled horns are in Keller's burgundy-crusted claws.
At least they put up a fight.
Lord Thierry and Lady Hannah have been murdered by shapeshifters. The Inner Circle has been tracked down and killed, every one, except for Aradia. No one knows where she is. Ditto for Delos and his soulmate. Iliana is probably dead. Sarah Strange and her guard dogs have been kidnapped by Maya's hounds.
Good thing you're already dead, M'Lin. Otherwise they would've killed you, too, Ash thinks.
"They're coming," announces Blaise, wrinkling her nose. "I can smell them. Gross."
Ash glances at her. "Do you have it?"
She rolls her stormy gray eyes—gray, he reminds himself, gray, gray, gray—and reaches into her purse, pulling out two vials. She inspects one and tosses it to him. "One sip should do it."
What she doesn't say is we're dead anyway.
Ash takes the poison and uncorks it. He can hear the pants of Maya's hunting mutts behind them. "On three," he tells her. Blaise nods.
"I'll count." She tosses her hair over her shoulder, her features a cool and unperturbed mask. "For what it's worth, Ash . . . you were a good friend. Thank you."
Ash grins, trying to keep his hands steady. "Likewise."
A few seconds pass, and he hears them break out of the forest and into the ruins of Harmony. Maya trills victoriously, spooking birds and sending them flying out of the woods. "There they are!" someone shouts.
Blaise meets his gaze, her gray eyes as stormy as ever, and taps a single finger against her thigh. One.
"Don't even try to fight us. We've got you cornered. All of your little friends are dead," announces Maya. She sounds like a giddy child. Ash can hear her approaching, her soft footfalls in the grass barely audible.
Maya comes to a direct stop behind them. "Well," she purrs. "How sweet. The two last Daybreakers, making the final stand. But you don't have to die for a lost cause. Ash Redfern, Blaise Harman—you both are my descendants. You're family. I could find a great use for you. Join me, and you both will live." She puts a hand on both their shoulders.
Ash gives one last tug on the limp silver cord and tries to picture Mary-Lynnette's face. Blaise's eyes darken to a rain cloud shade of steel, and she cranes her head to look at Maya over her shoulder. "Maya? Go to hell."
And she drums a third finger against her thigh.
"Of course San Francisco is safe," she says, bouncing her Mace canister on her knee as if proving a point. "Don't worry about me."