A/N- Okay, so here's the next chapter of Tribulations! Um, yeah, let me tell you what's been going on with me. I did Twisting the Hellmouth's August Fic-a-Day and won—31 fics in 31 days ranging from 300 words to 3000 words per fic. I've done a reverse summer mini bang in the Supernatural fandom called "Don't Drink the Water." And I've signed up for an untold amount of bangs—both big and mini. I've recently completed the Supernatural Hardcore Big Bang with a story titled "Length of Chain." I've also completed a Supernatural Reverse Bang entitled "The Late Goodbye." I also did two Supernatural Reverse Halloween Micro Bangs. On top of that, I've been an artist for some other people's bangs. I've also turned in two drafts, one Big one Mini, to the CW Bang. I also signed up for Wishlist again. Busy busy in the world of fandom, not to mention my original fiction deadlines. Also, in RL, I recently started a new job and moved. So, if anyone was wondering where I was… I was at LiveJournal. Enjoy!
Chapter 1- Some Time Later
Summer. It seemed like it had taken forever for it to get here. And, now that Ria was finally fully aware that it was here… it was a little over halfway gone. In fact, her birthday—and this came as a shock more to her than anybody else—was tomorrow.
The rest of the school year seemed to do a fine mixture of passing both at a crawl and at speeds previously unknown to mankind. The school had done a memorial to Keisha—the story of her death being a tragic hiking accident, since no one would actually believe the truth. Ria and Isaac had finally decided to date, as odd as a concept as that was for her when she really stopped to think about it. After all, given the age difference—even the larger one that the general public was unaware of—it felt weird to refer to him as her boyfriend. And she was taking it slow, given their history—and yes, their age—so she couldn't call him her lover. And he already lived with her, but roommate seemed so impersonal. Most days, she just introduced him as "Isaac" and held his hand so people could form their own conclusions.
History class had gotten a bit easier for her, given the fact that she knew the truth behind her bitchiest teacher, Mr. Hamm. Knowing that he was really an ages old librarian for the vampire king, Dracula, really tends to get you some slack. Granted, not much. Honestly, like the truth behind her best friend's death, she could not really tell anyone. But it was still nice to lord that over Hamm in private every now and again. Not that she did not let seemingly innocent remarks loose in class to keep him on his toes occasionally. Only occasionally.
But, the best thing to have happened to Ria, aside from her relationship with Isaac, had to be her mother finally coming to her senses. It had taken almost the entire school year, but about one or two months previous, Sophy had finally dumped Darren. Ria did not know what had finally done it, but she did not care. Darren was gone, and it was good riddance as far as she was concerned. It did not seem to beat Sophy up too much either there at the end.
Aside from that, life had been fairly normal for Ria. As normal as it got for her. She continued with her training, going harder than ever before. Alucard—or Genya Arikado, as he was going by these days—had returned to Japan, but the two kept in fairly regular contact… much to Isaac's chagrin. She went out almost nightly putting down everything from freshly made vampires to animated skeletons. Nothing major, really. And, as soon as school had ended, Ria had decided that it was high time that she got a job, for the experience—and to have something to herself other than her vampire hunting… something she could actually talk to everyday people about. The café that she was so fond of hanging out at happened to be hiring right at the start of the summer, and Ria had gotten the job almost too easily. She had been trained to do every part of the job from the register, to the drink making, to waiting on tables. Often, Isaac liked to show up and teasingly harass her during work. Depending on the day she had had, these visits could be either funny or just flat annoying. And frequently, she kept her whip on her, which meant that Sara had taken up shop in a little-used corner seat in the café, sitting patiently until the end of Ria's shift.
"You are taking forever," Isaac whined now as Ria bussed down the table in front of him.
He did not even lift his elbow, forcing Ria to move awkwardly around him. She rolled her eyes.
"My shift is almost over. Just another fifteen minutes, okay?" she muttered.
Isaac sighed weightily, mimicking her eye roll. "It feels like I've been here all day. All... day. I don't know how you do it."
"Well, some of us have real jobs, not just sitting in front of a computer putting up items for sale that might cause their girlfriends to potentially have to kill the buyer."
He grinned at her, a mischievous look in his eye. "Ouch. Bad day, sweetness?"
Ria sighed. He kept trying out nicknames for her, and although she found most pleasant, it seemed as if he would never settle on one. Right now she was "sweetness." In five minutes, she might be "pet." Actually, if that was the truth, she would have to call him down. She did not like "pet." Too demeaning when she thought about it too long. She leaned up, stretching her back.
"Not really. We've just been super busy for some reason. It's only gotten slow like five minutes ago, when you showed up," she answered.
He put on a pouting face, but that playful look remained in his eyes. "Aww. Seems no one loves me but you."
His hand snaked up to the hem of the pencil-line, black skirt that was a part of the otherwise simple black-and-white uniform of the café. Before he could sneak a finger underneath, she whapped him with the wet towel, and he drew his hand back, hissing with pain but laughing a little.
"You're going to get me fired one of these days," she said.
"You could've just said 'no,' you know," he said, rubbing the red welt forming from where she hit him.
Ria ignored him, glancing behind the café's front counter to see the time. She sighed. There was still a whole ten minutes before she could clock out. Her eyes caught her co-worker, Katherine, who had been put on register duty. The girl—several years older than Ria, at least in her early twenties, but still retaining her youthful look—smiled and did an exaggerated sigh. Ria grinned and nodded. It looked like she was not the only one who was ready for this workday to end. She turned back to Isaac, not caring to spend her last minutes just talking with her boyfriend… significant other… whatever. Even the manager on duty was leaning against the counter with a vaguely dazed look on his face. And besides, Ria had worked her ass off during the rush.
"How was mom when you left?" she asked.
Isaac's playfulness vanished long enough for him to answer.
"She was still a bit nauseous, but nothing more than the usual stomach flu, she supposes. She felt fine when I left, was even up, humming while she prepared for dinner."
Ria nodded. Sophy had been kind of ill lately, and while it gave her much cause for alarm, no one else seemed as worried about it, including Sophy herself. They all wrote it off as some sort of stomach flu or something, but what kind of stomach flu lasted for two weeks? Isaac, when she had first expressed this concern to him, had suggested—after some internet research—that perhaps it was pneumonia. But Ria had had pneumonia when she was much younger. She had been confined to bed for two weeks, give or take. Everyone just kept brushing off the fact that Sophy seemed unable to keep food down lately, so Ria tried to best to keep her paranoia in check.
"Any plans after work, darling?" Isaac asked after a moment.
Well, 'darling' was nice. Ria shrugged. "I thought we'd go train a bit before dinner."
Without any warning, Sara materialized in the booth seat across from Isaac, her brows knit together.
"Ria, you know that you can ease up a bit. You've more than tripled your normal training regimen. You'll exhaust yourself."
Ria sighed, and Isaac glanced up at her.
"Sara chastising you about your training?"
"Good. Because she's right. You need to slow it down," he said.
Sara practically glowed in her triumph. Ria desperately wanted to argue, but she sensed that her mentor was not done yet, so she just stayed silent.
"You've barely any time for yourself, you know," Sara continued, almost on cue. "You're either at work, out training, or visiting Sergeant Stone. Now, I'm not arguing with visiting Keisha's dad. I really think that's the best of your new little routine… but you've barely spent any time with your mother. Or in your home at all, for that matter. The only reason, honestly, you see Isaac so often is because of the training, I believe. You need to calm yourself."
"I am calm," Ria said through gritted teeth, causing Isaac to snort with laughter.
"It's not your fault that Keisha died," Sara said softly.
Ria felt her heart thud hard against her chest. She whirled, muttering something about visiting Stone after work and having to clock out. She dropped off her short, white apron right after clocking out, confirmed that she was indeed off the next day, and jerked her head toward the exit as she leaned heavily on the glass door to leave. Isaac followed after.
The two them loaded in Ria's Kia Rio, and Sara materialized in the backseat, sitting so that she was clearly visible to Ria in the rearview mirror. She pulled out into the road, and the car was silent for a moment, before Sara finally sighed.
"I didn't mean to hurt you. But that doesn't make what I said any less true," she said softly.
Ria's lips pulled down into a deep frown before she glanced up at Sara, forcing a smile to replace it.
She wanted to say more, about how Sara had hit the nail on the head. About how Ria did still blame herself for her best friend's death last fall at the hands of Galamoth's followers. Sara was not stupid. She knew she was exactly right about Ria upping her training time. There was another moment of silence before Ria smiled at the others in the car.
"Everyone's okay with following me to Sgt. Stone's house, right?" she asked as brightly as she could muster.
"Of course," Isaac said, resting a hand on her knee.
"Yes," Sara said with a sigh.
She was not quite done with Ria, and Ria could spot that a mile away. But going to Benjamin Stone's house—Keisha's father—was working as a suitable distraction. Yes, it was another something Ria had added to her routine as a result of blaming herself for Keisha's death. However, that was only how it had started. Guilt was the reason for the first few visits that started late last fall. Then, one day, it had occurred to Ria that if she missed Keisha so badly, then it must be practically killing Sgt. Stone to be without his only child. So a sort of kindred-ship had formed. Now, she liked to think that they were just friends.
The car was still too silent for Ria's liking, and she had a bad feeling that she was the reason it was so down. Forcing another smile to her face, she tried her best to perk up the subject matter.
"I turn seventeen tomorrow," she said matter-of-factly.
Isaac smiled coyly, like that statement had been some sort of irresistible bait. His hand squeezed her knee, and she slid her glance off the road to a moment to catch the sparkle in his eye.
"Got any special plans?" he asked.
Ria's brow furrowed. Honestly, until that morning when she had woken up for work, she had forgotten about her birthday. She shrugged.
"Um… not really. I honestly thought I'd be spending the night training, especially since I have the day off," she said.
Isaac seemed a bit perturbed by that answer, and a small cough called Ria's attention to the backseat. Being that Sara was dead, there would really be only one reason for her to cough.
"I think you and Isaac should do something else," she said. "Something special. Perhaps a romantic dinner? I think that was sort of what he was hinting at, dear."
Ria wanted to facepalm. Of course that was what Isaac was looking so down about. She hated being so new to the whole dating thing. Every one of her previous relationships had been on an elementary level, back before hormones factored into things. She turned to Isaac and with the brightest smile she could muster, she playfully punched him across the arm.
"After dinner, of course. And cake. I must have cake. And none of that crappy whipped cream topping either. Real icing. It's my birthday. A frosted chocolate chip cookie would also be acceptable."
Isaac laughed. "And coffee, right?"
Ria shrugged. "That's a given."
Moments later, Ria pulled up and parked at Sgt. Stone's house. She walked to the front door of the rather small, nice house that would not have looked out of place in a suburban setting, trailed by Isaac and Sara. Her fist lifted to knock on the door, but just before her knuckles could connect, Sara cried out.
Ria whirled, finding her mentor with her hands wrapped about her stomach, doubled over.
"Sara? What's wrong?" she said, rushing to the ghost's side.
"What's happening?" Isaac asked.
"Sara looks like she's hurt," Ria explained.
Sara cried out again, gripping her translucent body tighter before, finally, the pain seemed to pass. Panting—out of habit, Ria supposed—Sara straightened herself.
"I don't… I don't know what happened," she said, as Ria floated a hand above her friend's shoulder, as if resting on it.
"I didn't think ghosts got stomach cramps," Ria murmured.
"It wasn't a cramp. It was like… like it started in my stomach and spread out. Like something was pulling at my insides… which, as you know, is extra odd," Sara said.
"Any idea?" Ria asked.
Sara shook her head as the door to the house opened. Benjamin Stone, dressed in a pair of jeans and a plain, army green t-shirt, his shaved bald head actually gleaming in the afternoon's setting sun, appeared in the doorway.
"Wondered if you were going to knock or just loiter about," he said with a smile.
"Just… talking to Sara," Ria said lightly. "May we come in?"
Stone sidestepped, waving them in. He motioned for them to get comfortable in the living room while he finished up whatever it was he was doing in the kitchen. Ria took her favorite seat, the fluffier end of the beige couch, as her eyes roved the room. Immediately, she knew that something was off. She had spent a lot of time in this room over the past several months, and one of the things that seemed to comfort her were the various pictures that covered the walls of Keisha. Now, not one remained. There were a few pictures of Sgt. Stone receiving honors or something during his military training… one that looked like some sort of graduation photo of himself… but none of his deceased daughter. This struck her hard, and she pursed her lips.
For a while, she and Stone both had what they had taken to calling "bad days." Days when missing Keisha was the worst, and those days turned out to be a bit destructive in some form or another. During one such bad day, Stone had even showed up to hunt some vampires down with Ria, Isaac, and Sara. Ria liked to kill undead monsters on her bad days as well… she also liked to randomly throw things at a wall. But it had been a long time since either one of them had had a bad day, or so she had thought. It was entirely possible, Ria supposed, that packing away all visible reminders of his daughter might have been a part of one of Stone's bad days. So, when the sergeant reentered the room, taking a seat in a recliner that faced the rest of the seats in the room, Ria decided not to say anything about it.
"So, how is everything? How's work?" Stone asked, crossing his dark-skinned arms over his chest.
"Oh, busy. We had quite a rush today. They tell me it won't be like that, not until evening shift, when school starts back," Ria said.
"Makes sense," Stone nodded. "And how's your mom? Still not feeling well?"
Ria shook her head, and Stone seemed to sense her anxiety, so he breezed right past that subject.
"Your mom called just a little while ago, saying she was thinking about making a cake for your birthday tomorrow. She thought about having a small get together or something, wanted to know if I wanted to come."
Ria smiled, sighing. "That sounds nice. Isaac and I were thinking about going out tomorrow too."
"Ah, yes. Will this be your first official date, or have the two of you been counting those training sessions?"
"I hope we've been counting the sessions, otherwise we're sadly behind on dates," Isaac drawled, and Ria elbowed him.
Stone laughed, sighing. "And, your uncle. How's he?"
"Oh, Uncle Jason's fine. He and my aunt are thinking of trying for a baby," Ria said, ending her statement with a little gasp.
Stone narrowed his gaze at her. "What's wrong, Ria?"
Ria pressed her hand to her mouth. "That's not… upsetting, is it? Talking about that?"
The military man raised a brow. "Why would it be?"
"O… kay. All right," Ria said, exchanging a look with Isaac.
Stone seemed just so… cheerful. Not that he was the picture of depression or anything. He had been, lately, dealing with things quite well actually. But this aloofness he seemed to be having was new, and even Isaac—who usually just let Sara and Ria go out to visit Sgt. Stone, as he viewed it as one of his self-named "Ria Things," defined as things that "Ria thinks that Ria needs to do, absolutely without question"—seemed to notice it. Shaking her head, Ria glanced over at Sara, who now had a hand pressed, daintily, against her forehead. The ghostly woman waved her other hand dismissively when she caught her trainee looking. Something was up, but Ria looked back at Stone, ready to move on and drop all of it.
"So, Mom's trying to put together a party for me?" she said.
Stone laughed. "Yeah, yeah. But who can blame her? It's not every day that your little girl turns seventeen. Granted, it's also not every day that your little girl fights monsters as a part of a destiny or whatever, but I guess that's a little harder to throw a party for."
Ria pursed her lips. There should have been a different tone there… a longing, maybe even a little bitterness. But he had been downright chipper. Ria glanced over at her whip-bound friend, seeing her grow increasingly worse.
"Um, we might have to go soon," Ria noted, locking meaningful eyes with Isaac. After the former forgemaster nodded, she turned back to Stone, adding, "There's just something I wanted to say before we go."
"Sure," Stone said, a little perplexed. "What?"
"The pictures… where are they?"
Ria gestured to the nearly bare walls, and Stone followed the move with narrowed eyes.
"What are you talking about, Ria?"
"The pictures of Keisha," she said. "I mean, having a bad day is one thing… but packing away all of her pictures will only hurt more in the long run."
She was by no means an expert in this sort of thing, but Ria had found—both after her father had died, then Keisha—that this seemed to be the truth.
"Ria… you're not making any sense," Stone huffed. "Who are you talking about?"
It was everything Ria had in her, right then and there, not to grab her cell phone and call a doctor. However, she stopped short, thinking that—given her luck—a doctor was not what she would probably need. A sorcerer might be closer. She all but shot up out of her seat, and she noticed how Isaac and Sara followed closely behind. With a smile, she tried to wave it off, and Stone seemed to buy it, standing with a smile.
"We've gotta go. Gotta get home," Ria said.
"Okay. Well, thanks for dropping by. Tell your mom that I'll be there tomorrow, definitely," he said.
They muttered a few more goodbyes before leaving the house, Ria trying her best to not run to her vehicle. The moment they were on the road, Ria shook her head.
"What the hell was that about?" she asked.
"Something's wrong, mystically," Isaac said.
"Yes. It can't be coincidence that I have that terrible pain sweep over me… and now it seems that Sergeant Stone can't remember his own daughter," Sara said.
"What do you think it is?" Ria asked, her grip tightening on the steering wheel, the full heat of her glare on the asphalt in front of her. "A forgetfulness spell or something?"
"I don't know," Isaac said. "I might be able to know more once we're at the manor, with my supplies."
Ria nodded and went silent for the rest of the ride, seething the whole way. God help the thing that was casting forgetfulness spells, she thought. Forgetfulness spells to make people forget Keisha… because when Ria found out who was at the cause they might find themselves begging for death. She all but rammed her car into the driveway outside Belmont Manor as the group piled out. They all stalked up toward the front door, taking the small set of stairs up to it two at a time, when Sara cried out again.
"Oh no," Ria said, her hand just above the doorknob.
"Something's… wrong… here… too," Sara groaned, doubled over in just the same way she had been at Stone's.
Ria shoved into her home as if she were expecting a horde of enemies to be waiting for her—which, honestly, would not be the first time. But, instead, she could only hear Sophy, humming from somewhere in the direction of the kitchen.
"Mom?" Ria called.
"Oh, Ria, you're home," Sophy said, meeting her daughter halfway in the dining room.
"Mom, is something wrong? How are you? Are you still sick?" Ria asked, almost attacking her mother with a hug.
Sophy laughed, returning the hug. "Oh, much better. And nothing's wrong. Why would something be wrong?"
Ria shook her head. "I'll tell you when I can explain it. Um… we're gonna go do a spell, okay, Mom? Because something is wrong elsewhere, and we need to figure it out, fast."
Concern flashed across Sophy's pale features the moment before she gave a curt nod.
"Okay. But be careful… magic is unpredictable from what I hear."
From Uncle Jason and Alucard, Ria mentally added, but she nodded, turning toward the stairs in the foyer, Isaac and Sara leading the way.
"Will you be done in time for dinner?" Sophy called after.
Ria was only two stairs up when she stopped. "I don't know."
Sophy pursed her lips, resting on the threshold between the dining room and the foyer. "Try to be, please? Darren will be over soon, and I've got some news I've got to tell you both."
Ria's eyes almost popped out of her head.
"What?" she asked.
Sophy arched a brow. "What is it?"
"When did you and Darren get back together?"
The look Ria got clearly asked the question, "Are you ill, mentally?" Her mother shook her head.
"Honey… we've never broken up. It's been almost a year we've been together."
Sara, Isaac, and Ria all exchanged looks. On a whim, Ria leaned forward on the banister.
"Mom… do you remember my friend, Keisha?" she asked.
Sophy pondered that question a moment before shaking her head. "No. When did I meet her?"
Ria wanted to vomit. She took a deep breath, counted to ten, and finally forced about the tenth smile onto her face that day.
"Doesn't matter," she tried to say as happily as possible. "We'll hurry."
"Okay," Sophy said, disappearing back into the kitchen.
"I'm seriously going to kill whoever's doing this," Ria hissed, stomping past Isaac on the way up to his room.
Once they were in his rather sparsely kept space, it took him only moments to gather all the necessary ingredients for the spell. He drew a handful of symbols on the floor with various colored sands, set up candles, lit them, and then sat cross-legged in the middle of all of it.
"And this will show you if a forgetfulness spell is in effect?" Ria asked.
"It'll show me if any spells are being worked," Isaac said. "If we can break them, we will, and then we'll get to work on stopping whoever did them in the first place."
At that, Isaac chanted, and Ria kept her eyes on Sara, who seemed a bit wobbly on her feet. Ria reached down, touching the Vampire Killer lightly, which she had disguised as a belt that day—the easier way to keep it on her at work.
"Do you want to retreat?" the huntress asked.
Sara shook her head. "No. No, I'm fine."
She was lying, and Ria could tell. But she did not press the issue as Isaac finished his chants. He sat still for a moment, eyes squeezed shut, before he finally sighed. Reopening his eyes, he shook his head.
"There aren't any spells," he said.
"What?" Ria asked. "That's not possible. Did you do it wrong?"
Isaac got to his feet, brushing off his black, leather pants. He huffed indignantly.
"I most certainly did not, Adriana Smith. Would you like to try?"
Ria rolled her eyes. "No. Thank you. No spells at all?"
He shook his head again. "Only our blood bond… otherwise, nothing."
"Then what the hell is going on?" Ria growled.
"I haven't a clue, sweeting," Isaac said.
Beside her, Sara groaned. "Oh… I don't feel well at all. It seems to be getting stronger, whatever it is."
Ria relayed that to Isaac, who frowned.
"Given the situation, I think we ought to skip dinner tonight. There might something bigger than a spell at work here. And, as I've mentioned before, my magicks are limited in comparison to some. Need a devil created? Then I'm your man. But… need something bigger and more powerful… there's only one man accessible that I can think to go to."
Ria nodded. "The Master Librarian. As much as I hate to say this… let's go visit my history teacher."
End Notes: And that's the first chapter. I hope it was properly exciting/confusing. Now, as I mentioned in my author's notes, I've made myself very busy as of late, and I'm still trying to outline this story. I know what happens in Tribulations, I've just got to get it all in order. Also, now that I'm looking back, I didn't mention that I'm also doing a Hurt/Comfort bingo card. I've got until Jan. 3rd to do a blackout—well, that's the standard that I'm setting myself to, anyhow. Also, if anyone reading this is also a Supernatural (the TV show) fan, myself and Slinky-And-The-BloodyWands are doing a community on LiveJournal called Supernatural Pairing Bingo that will go live in December. If anyone's interested in joining in, PM me and I'll get you the proper address. Otherwise, please review. I can't wait to hear what everyone thinks!