p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"emIf it falls apart, I would surely wake it/embr /emBright lights turn me clean/embr /emThis is worse than it seems/em/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center" /em/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center" /em/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center" /em/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"She dreams. Or at least she thinks she does - sometimes. She dreams of the night Esther's children sent her up in flames. The fire licks, dances, and then destroys. She can't breathe…/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"No, not that. That was not a dream. That was real./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"She dreamed Elijah wrapped his arms around her, held her beside a fire. Made love to her and then climbed inside her to fill the hole in her heart, and that - that was a dream. It could have been real once, if she had chosen. But the fire… that was all too true./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"Sometimes she dreams of Esther and isn't sure she dreams alone. The grass is too real, too rich under her hands, the soil too ripe. Esther remembers./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"Tatia can see herself in a field beside Niklaus. They're young, but not so young. He's smiling, watching her, and she looks… uncertain. There's doubt in her eyes beside the smile on her lips and she wonders that he can't see it himself, but then, he never could. His love was true./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"Esther says, "I'm sorry. I never meant for you to live."/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"She thinks, "I never wanted to die..."/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"It's not enough. Not for any of them./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"She remembers when her heart burst open. It's happened twice. The first time was an ecstasy of rain, heavy and pouring from the heavens, soaking into her skin, her flesh, threading through her pores until it reached the quick of her./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"And then she had grown – oh, how it emached/em - sprouting, tearing open her own skin just to stretch out a green hand to the joyous sky./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"The second was through a fugue of pain, agony unimaginable. Blood and sweat and tears and hope and hate and a piece of her soul gone forever. Lost./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"She dreams of a day when her branches will reach high enough, far enough, to touch that miraculous blue. And of a day when she will hold tight enough, be strong enough, to take back that fragment of herself. To hold it in where only she can ever reach it. A place inside, safe from the monsters./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"But then she remembers that even that isn't safe. They can even get you there./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"She should know. They still have her./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="left"Nik comes to see her sometimes. Or at least, she thinks he does. She can smell him, feel the air move as he comes closer. She can feel the heat on his skin, hear the rhythm of his heart. A monster's rhythm. Or is he a monster? He might not be yet. That comes later, she thinks. It's not now. Not yet./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"Cool hands brush the hair back from her face and she's sure – almost completely – that it's really him, the boy who loved her. He sits beside her and she listens to his heart because they'd long since closed her eyes and she wonders whatever happened to that boy./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"Sometimes he stays a while, and sometimes seconds only. He'll stroke her hair, hold her hand. Guilt, she thinks, but can't be sure. She's never sure of anything. Not then. Not now./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"She thinks, "Isn't anything real?"/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"The answer gazes back at her in Esther's eyes./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"Sometimes she dreams of them and she wants to believe it's not real. She dreams of blood and hate and anger and fear and a joy that sickens her to her very core. That makes her want to rend her skin, rip off her leaves and gouge out her eyes and bury herself forever in the dark of the earth./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"Even Elijah, with his high morals and firm belief, even he gives in to their monstrosity./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"Niklaus is in Rome with Rebekah and they have a party. Esther is there. Esther is always there when she dreams of them. And when they take turns feeding on a slave girl, Esther looks and says, "They're your children, too."/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"All Tatia can think is, "You gave them to me…"/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"She has dozens of children. They grew from her, fell from her, were torn from her. She bled for them, in red and in thick beads of yellow./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"She thinks, "I didn't want this…"/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"And something in her answers, "Neither did they."/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"She remembers a day, or she thinks she does, when they stood over her. Esther and their sons, and Elijah asked, "Why won't she wake?"/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"Esther said, "The spirits say she is trapped. Caught between life and death."/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;""But we are, too, aren't we?" The despair in Nik's voice was heart wrenching./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;""This is not the same, Niklaus. She was not the target of the spell, she was a catalyst. Something is keeping her here."/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;""What does Ayanna say?" Elijah took one of her hands in his and she shrieked into the void, struggling to do anything, emmove/em anything. It was before she had gone so far into madness that she no longer knew despair./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;""Ayanna says it is the will to live."/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"How wrong they were. How foolish. When they pressed their lips to hers, whispered lies, truths, meaningless nothings. Curled their long fingers inside her, beckoning and scratching at her insides, all in the hopes that one of them could call her forth. Summon her from the ashes./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"How stupid she was to think she had any power left. She couldn't unfurl a single leaf. How could she ever will herself to live?/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"She dreams of ages, and eternities, and hell. It must be a hell because how else could they all have become such horrors?/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"She goes mad without a single witness, dozens of times over. So do they./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"She dreams of Elijah, caught in the space between living and dying. Her ash in his heart next to the steel holds him down like drought. She's half way certain it's not a dream. Or if it is, it must belong to both of them because they lay in a near darkness she's never seen./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"His soul hovers and he dreams of her. Her face and body. He dreams of the scent on her skin and the heat of her, wet and slick as he pushes her down, pushes in. Tatia is there, real and alive under his hands, panting and sweating and her sap pounding and oh, yes, emyesssss…/em/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"Her hair rustles against the grass at her back and she looks up through the leaves of her sisters./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"His head lies heavy on her breast as he calls her name, "Tatia," and then, "Katerina," and desperately, hopelessly, "Elena…"/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"He says, "I'm sorry, beloved."/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"She whispers, "I know." And it's almost enough. If her hair didn't rustle and her skin didn't rasp and her blood didn't move in her veins like amber. If he wasn't as much a monster as she's become. If Niklaus hadn't loved her. If./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"She thinks, "We could have been happy…"/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"He says, "I love you."/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"Tatia sighs because he isn't speaking to her./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"Rebekah cries in her half-dead sleep, all the time. She hovers, oddly small, on the edge of true darkness and calls for her brothers. For Niklaus, who put her there, and Elijah, who left her there, and Finn, who has been there so long he's half forgotten living. She calls for Kol and into the darkness, so soft it's barely a whisper, she calls despairingly, "Mother…"/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"Tatia is her mother sometimes, or at least, she thinks she is. Esther tells her that's what she's become. So Tatia goes to her, wraps her arms around the seed of Rebekah's soul and says, "Shh. It's all right, darling, it's all right. Everything is all right, I'm here."/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"She murmurs meaningless phrases in any one of a dozen languages and feels Rebekah's breath catch and she's clinging so tightly it becomes impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"The hair under her fingers is golden and the head is on her shoulder, not her chest, but it's still a comfort to touch, a comfort to hold. It's still a daughter she holds safe against the night./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"It might be love, or something like it. It could have been love once./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"She thinks, "We could have been sisters."/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"Rebekah whimpers, "Please don't go."/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;""Hush now. Where would I go?"/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;""Mother…"/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;""Yes."/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"Rebekah dreams of a mother who holds her as though she is precious, one with kind words and slim, strong arms like wood. She dreams of a mother who didn't wait for her children to die to love them./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"Esther watches but doesn't intervene and Tatia wants to ask, "Weren't you their mother once, too?"/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"Not anymore./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"Elijah is there and someone else. A woman with a soft voice who says, "Oh my god… Elijah… is this…?" There's a tremble in the tone and something like fear, or hope. It's hard to tell the difference sometimes./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;""Yes."/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;""But how? Your mother killed her, didn't she?"/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;""She did, and used her blood, along with the essence of the white oak, to create us."/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"Tatia can smell salt and wishes she could see who is crying./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;""The white oak did this to her?"/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;""My mother did this to her," he corrects. "That spell was wrought with her blood, and through it, her essence was bound to the essence of the tree."/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;""Can she hear us?" The woman's voice breaks and Tatia gets her answer as to who is crying. But that doesn't wound her nearly as much as Elijah's next words./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;""I very much hope that she can't." He sounds so lost that for a moment she remembers why she watched him across the fields and used to smile. "For years, Niklaus and I tried to wake her. You've heard the story of Sleeping Beauty?"/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"The woman says, "Wow. I've never met a fairy tale before. Tell me about her."/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"So he does. He lies a little, or maybe she's been dreaming too long. And then he says a name she hasn't dared remember, a name she can't bring herself to know. The name of a dead girl./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;""Her name was Oksana."/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"Sometimes - every once in a great, long while when she isn't dreaming of monsters - she remembers love. Not too loudly, or too often, because she fears that if she clings too tightly it will escape her altogether. She remembers softly, in whispers, and grazes, and she hates every second because it always, always brings pain./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"She remembers silky strands of hair sliding through her fingers, over and over until she can barely feel them. Soft skin. Velvet lips. A head, heavy and warm on her chest. She remembers days that pass too quickly and nights that last forever. She remembers tears, and laughter, and rage, and joy – a love so strong she felt it might kill her and so sweet she couldn't bring herself to care./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"When those eyes found hers in the dark with naked fear, she felt sure she would kill for them; sure she would do anything, anything, to banish that fear. She remembers agony and an emptiness that never quite went away and a yawning, unspeakable terror that those eyes might close forever. She remembers lips on her breast and an ache in her chest and tiny fingers grasping at her hair./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"Oh, yes, Tatia remembers love./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"And she remembers how it ends./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"Mikael comes in her dreams as he came once before, with strong arms and a firm resolve. A hand claps over her mouth and she's screaming but no one can hear. A prelude, she knows now. A bad joke. She screams, and fights with all her strength, and it's just as futile as her efforts then. Dreams and memories and no difference between the two./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"She remembers Esther, a blade in one hand and her fate in the other, saying, "Thank you for saving my family."/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"Tatia can only watch, then as now, as that blade pulls back before driving forward, sinking deep in her chest where love used to live, and into the silence where her heartbeat used to be, a panicked voice screaming, "Mother! Mother!"/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"She learned what pain really was when she heard that voice. Dying would have been preferable. Naturally, they denied her even that./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"Tatia dreams of a meadow that doesn't exist with a dead child running through it, dark hair streaming behind her and a smile that could outshine the sun. She can't remember the last time wind touched her hair, or the sun touched her skin. She can't remember when she didn't dream of the lightless dark around her roots or the monsters her children became./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"The children her monsters destroyed./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"Her lightless dark is filled with blood. If she could grow them, her leaves would sprout black as their hearts. No wonder the gods left her to this purgatory with nothing but demons and the ghost of a life. No wonder she's damned, as surely as they are./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"She dreams of nothing, and it never lasts./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"Elijah is gone. The woman is not. She waits, because that is all she has left./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"In an hour, or a minute, or a century, the woman leans forward, and silky strands brush across her skin. Soft hands comb back her hair. There is a knife in her chest and it's twisting, shredding, and Tatia knows it's love./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"Here is her flesh, the piece of her soul she cast out, clothed in skin. Here is her body, her blood, her daughter, her love./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"Her heart bursts open for the third time and she reaches up to touch that hair. The woman is against the wall and screaming for Elijah before she can blink, and they stare at one another. An image and its reflection./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"When she looks into those dark eyes she sees fear. She would do anything, anything, to keep it at bay…/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"And then he is there, between them, and his eyes are full of something unspeakable. Hate and hope and love and fear and his arm held up, to shield… someone./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"Someone else. Someone not Oksana./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"He says, "Tatia?"/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;"She turns her head away, looks at her hands and cries because this, too, is just another dream./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"./p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"emThey'll get through/emembr /ememThey'll get you/embr /emIn the place that you feel it the most/embr /emWhen you're cornered/embr /emWhen it's forming/embr /emIn the place that you wish was a ghost/em/p
p style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'GNU Unifont', Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.800400733947754px;" align="center"Punching in a Dream || The Naked and Famous/p