Title: The Turning
Pairing/characters: Bering and Wells, Olivia Dunham, Claudia Donavan, Leena
Summary: Olivia has Seen the future, and it depends on Helena becoming a Vampire. Will Myka give in to her own desires or will fear divide them for eternity? (You should read this in that Lifetime Movie commercial voice btw)
Eternal thanks to: Webgeekist for the art and the beta, Kleptos for dying repeatedly and Loves for saying it was good.
WARNINGS: This is a story about vampires, and keeps some of Helena's backstory – especially the part where she killed the men who murdered her daughter, SO…trigger warnings for: blood play, attempted suicide, description of character death, (potentially) violent sex (though it is consensual I promise) and uh…other mature themes.
Helena gasped weakly as pleasure like a dark wave crashed over her. Her vision dimmed, the world blurring and running together like paint tossed carelessly on a canvas. It didn't matter though, sight was irrelevant. All that mattered was what she felt: the white hot ecstasy of Myka's fangs at her neck and the excruciating pleasure of Myka's fingers moving inside her.
Helena's heart was struggling now. She felt it flutter in her chest even as another orgasm took hold of her body, clenching muscle and shattering her awareness even further. Still human for a little while longer, she drifted on a high of sex and Vampire magic that many people would literally kill for.
She supposed, all things considered, it was a good way to die.
Soon though, Helena's breath began to rattle in her chest, the fragile silken cocoon of pleasure ripped back by white hot animal survival instinct. She did not struggle though. Instead, with a grip made weak and languorous she clutched at her killer, holding the Vampire to her – as if it made any difference. The arm that cradled her so tenderly could throw cars, and the slender body pressing her into the silken sheets could survive being hit by a semi.
Distantly Helena heard gentle words of encouragement and was aware of another body pressing close. Olivia, she realized, standing guard over both of them, telling her that it would be over soon.
Myka's fangs sank even deeper into her and Helena writhed weakly, whimpering in pain, in pleasure, in fear…it was all the same now. She could no longer truly feel anything physical; not her arms or legs nor the sheets she lay on. There was only the warm, heavy darkness that surrounded her, calling her like a lover.
The darkness that was Death.
Myka bit deeper, taking the last spark of Helena's life.
Death held out gentle arms and welcomed her.
72 HOURS EARLIER
A sleek black limo slid gracefully up to the curb, its mirror-polished surface reflecting the glittering - and glaring - neon lights of the Avenue almost like camouflage. Not that this particular car was in any way inconspicuous. Even if it didn't scream wealth and power, the Vampire symbols on the license plate and etched subtly into the door signifying it was an official Boston Coven vehicle would have caused heads to turn wherever it went. It wasn't often that another Coven made an official State Visit to a city beyond their own, and when they did, they often preferred to travel quietly.
Often, but not always. Sometimes it was good to hide in plain sight, to reinforce the mystique of the family Vampyr. Behind a curtain of myth and power, blood and Power, they were as legendary as they were beautiful, as frightening as they were deadly. And yet for the most part, the Vampire clans retained the mask of civilization. It didn't do well to upset the food chain after all. And there were things in the night more powerful even than the Vampires. Things that dictated the boundaries inside which the Covens could operate.
So tonight there would be public appearances and the tabloids and human press would fall all over themselves to gossip about this latest sighting of one of the most popular Coven Masters in the country visiting her most notorious "rival" and the mortals – and lesser Nightsiders – would be distracted for a while.
A distraction which served the purpose of many, including the occupants of the limo itself.
The car barely drifted to a stop before a rather boyishly handsome man with light brown hair and wire-rimmed glasses jumped out of the driver's side. Over black slacks and a pressed white Oxford, he wore a black leather shoulder harness with matching Sigs. Moving with the unnatural easy grace of his kind, the Vampire smoothly opened the back door of the limo, allowing another man to step out.
Eyes flicking around the crowded, noisy entrance to The Club, Peter met Lincoln's gaze briefly before turning to offer his hand to his the leader of the Boston Coven and the women they both served…and loved.
Hair cascading over her shoulders in a pale gold waterfall, Olivia Dunham emerged from the dim, matte black interior of the limo and nodded to Lincoln as she accepted Peter's hand. The ceremony was rather ridiculous but for appearance's sake she allowed it. Since it was a State visit, Olivia had forgone her usual, much more practical attire of jeans and a leather jacket. Instead her long, lithe body was clad in a low-backed red evening dress that plunged daringly low in front as well, the "V" clearly broadcasting that she wore nothing under the red fabric. Nor did she need it. A simple strand of diamonds glittered at her throat and the outfit was finished with a pair of matching red stilettos. Her pale skin was almost luminescent under the neon glare and as soon as she emerged fully from the car, the noise level of the waiting crowd went from "ridiculous" to "absolutely insane."
Imperceptibly, Olivia's shoulders tightened. She disliked State visits. She much preferred to come in the back way, slipping past the dancers and the bars and the masses desperately seeking something in the darkness until she could enter Myka's private rooms. Private shielded rooms. Olivia was one of the few Vampires with psychic abilities, and though her strength lay in telekinesis and precognition she had just enough empathic telepathy that The Club always set her on edge until she could adjust to the energy level. Especially when she had to walk through the throngs lining the entryway. Throngs that included the press – human and Other.
Flash bulbs went off, spiking her eyes with painful bursts of light. The Coven Master's hand tightened on Peter's arm and she felt more than heard him growl softly, his protective instincts kicking in.
Still, it was only a few steps and Olivia could manage this sort of thing – if not in her sleep – than as easy as breathing. Head high, posture regal and upright, she and Peter moved past the pressing crowd and were ushered into Myka's domain by bowing Were guards. Reporters called her name, hoping to get her attention, screaming questions.
Olivia ignored them all. Looking neither right nor left. She could sense their rising frustration.
It almost made her smile.
The transition from loud garish brightness to loud sensual darkness was as delicious as always. With a brief sigh, Olivia let go Peter's arm and flashed her partner and lover a soft smile. He raised an eyebrow and tipped his chin at the bar. Olivia merely nodded. They didn't need telepathy to communicate after all these decades.
Shoring up her mental shields, Olivia took in a deep breath. She scented blood, sex and the something 'else' that signified Fae, Were and human Magic on the air. It was intoxicating. Sometimes the Boston Master forgot the appeal of Myka's chosen source of income. It was always pleasant to be reminded. Rolling her shoulders, the blonde let the Hunter rise, just a little. The change, though slight, was still a rush – like finally letting a straining hound have more leash. In her mouth, needle sharp fangs lengthened. In her eyes, the pupil expanded, eclipsing the normally jewel bright color as she left behind the human and eased toward the Vampire.
The pulsing darkness became sharper as her senses heightened and full lips curved in a hint of a predatory smile. It didn't matter that she had fed recently, the energy in the air and the warmth of life in the room called to the Hunter, quickening her pulse.
Still, tonight was about business, not pleasure.
Licking her lips slowly, Olivia let herself indulge in a moment of regret before moving away from the entrance. As she made her way across the vast space, the crowds parted before her, like schools of fish before a shark. The metaphor was apt, for while there were many hunters tonight, a Coven Master like Olivia was at the top of the food chain and everyone who laid eyes on her knew it.
Beneath the calm, expressionless mask of civility, the Hunter thrilled.
The Club was multi-leveled, with dance floors, bars and 'play rooms' on each floor. The ground floor was general chaos, mostly human and Fae, and mostly dancing and drinking. It was dominated one on end by a large stage and lighting set that was currently dark, awaiting the next performance. The second floor held Weres, Fae, the Magic users and some of the younger Vamps. The top floor was really mostly just a lounge, and it was invite only.
That was the destination Olivia sought.
She was brought up short, however, when the lights on the center stage flared, flooding the area with gold and red. The blonde could feel the attention of the entire room shift and she knew one of Myka's girls was about to take the stage. Mostly human or Were, Myka's girls (and a few boys) were always criminally attractive. Olivia never did know where she found them.
Well, that wasn't entirely accurate. Olivia knew exactly how one of those dancers came to be at The Club.
She'd brought her here.
As if cued by the Vampire's thoughts, the lights shifted again and a whip-thin raven-haired woman in a sparkling blue, well, calling it a bikini was generous, stepped on stage. A very beautiful and very human woman.
Olivia sighed, the sound lost in the swell of cheers that rolled across the room, moving outward from the stage like a wave. Somehow she'd known it was too much to hope Myka had finally come to her senses and Turned Helena.
The sensual, pulsing call of the energy surrounding Olivia lost some of its appeal as the reason for her presence here tonight re-asserted itself.
The visions had been clear, and there was little time to waste. With a last glance at the stage where Helena was now holding court, Olivia moved off through the crowd.
Ascending the stairs to the top level, Olivia was bowed in by one of Myka's lieutenants, a younger Vampire woman with a shock of bright red hair and a brilliant smile.
"Hello Claudia," Liv greeted her younger 'Sister' with a hug that was returned fiercely.
"Hey Liv, man it's good to see you. Mykes will be up soon, I'm sure she knows you're here. Can I get you anything?" All this was said in Claudia's typical fashion, the words seemingly tripping over themselves to fall from her tongue. Olivia merely ran a gentle hand over Claudia's hair and cupped her cheek in a fond gesture, smiling gently.
"No thank you. I'll just wait here."
Claudia nodded and returned to her duties. As one of Myka's fledges, Claudia was bound by the law of the Covens to serve in Myka's Household for at least a decade. If the fledge and Master agreed, that decade could become an eternity. Fledges were the apprentices of the Vampire world, serving in various capacity in return for education in the ways of their kind, social standing, and monetary gain. Claudia, a bright young hacker/thief, had a brilliant future ahead of her, despite her tragic beginnings.
Claudia had been Turned by another Vampire, but he was not a true Master and his intentions were…dishonorable, perverted even. When Myka – at the order of the Council – had cleaned out his horrifying "Sanatorium" most of the fledges he had created had been utterly mad, nothing more than beaten and battered raving beasts with no control, and no trace of humanity. The Council had ordered them all put down before it became public knowledge that an unstable Master had been creating new Vampires.
Myka's wrath at the waste – and her grief at having to destroy so many – had been terrible, despite the hard truth that for most of them, Death was a sweet release from torment. Olivia remembered those days vividly and shuddered slightly with distaste.
Claudia, however, had survived. One of the last turned, and therefore least harmed, her mind was still intact and Myka had stayed her hand when she'd found the redhead, starved but still sane, hiding in an air duct, shivering and terrified. It had still taken years before the fledge was comfortable around anyone but Myka. Even now Olivia knew the young genius was only allowed limited contact with people Myka trusted. Still, it was impressive how much she had blossomed, and her skills with a computer were legendary. Whatever her scars, Claudia had found a home at The Club and Olivia smiled as the redhead twirled lightly on her feet, serving the one or two other patrons in the VIP area with a delighted flourish.
Turning her attention, Olivia walked over to the balcony where she could see most of the other floors and the stage where Helena danced, her body moving in ways that seemed only barely possible for the human form. Liv knew from experience though, it was not just her physicality that made her The Club's most in-demand dancer. It was the aura she projected; arrogance and challenge filling eyes as black as the sky outside and infusing every line of a body that was as much weapon as an object of desire.
That the people crowding the stage had no idea just how deadly the woman they lusted after was probably a good thing. That kind of fear had a very disquieting effect on desire.
Unless of course you were a Vampire…
H.G. Wells. Olivia shook her head minutely. It had been just over three years ago that Olivia Dunham had met the human on that stage.
The circumstances had been…different.
3 YEARS AGO (give or take).
Olivia stared out the front windshield at yet another block of abandoned apartment complexes and rundown warehouses. The streets were utterly empty. In the frigid winter air, not even a stray cat stirred, lending the desolate area a wholly unneeded aura of "creepy". The Coven Master's hands tightened on the steering wheel, causing leather and plastic to protest. They'd been searching all night and still nothing.
"I don't understand," Olivia said, the low, thunder-rumble of frustration weighting her voice. It wasn't like Broyles' intelligence to fail.
Beside her, Myka made a sound that was somewhere between a sigh and a growl. The visiting Coven Master was as tired of this chase as Olivia herself. Though Myka gave no other outward sign of frustration, the tight set of her shoulders might as well have been a neon billboard broadcasting her displeasure to her companion. The blonde couldn't blame her old friend. The search was wearing on them all.
In the back seat, Peter rubbed at his eyes. Her Second was as frustrated as they were.
"Come on, let's see if we can scent anything," Olivia suggested quietly.
Parking the town car, the three Vampires stepped out into the Boston winter night. The air was heavy and wet with the promise of snow and Olivia could feel the approaching storm just out of reach. She wanted to be done with this hunt before it reached them.
She wanted to be done with this hunt period. A part of the Coven Master was irritated that this had even fallen under her purview. Policing human crime was not the job of a Vampire. Especially not a Coven Master.
A glance at Myka's tense, trench-coat-clad figure, however, was a vivid reminder why they were all here.
Their quarry was a group of humans who had not been content to limit themselves to attacking their own kind. For whatever reason, the gang had started killing Vampires. Not just fledges and the New Blood either. They'd gone so far as to assassinate one of Myka's lieutenants. Killing Old Blood was at best a PR nightmare and a blood bath in waiting. At worst, the Coven in question might decide it was grounds for retaliation. Even occupation of the territory in question.
The human police had been utterly unable to get a reliable lead. The group left no tangible physical evidence and even word on the Street hadn't panned out. No one was talking. Even Fae and Were intelligence had been disappointing. And now Broyles seemed to have failed. It was very likely the humans they hunted were acting at the direction of a Magic User to remain undetected for so long, but their motives remained a mystery and that more than anything frustrated Olivia. Hunting was all about understanding your prey and so far, there seemed to be no rhyme or reason for the group's violence, leaving even the Vampires fumbling to catch up.
It was a most unfamiliar and unwelcome feeling for beings who were – if not the ultimate predators of the Nightside – then at least high on the foodchain.
Fortunately – for Olivia at least – Myka Bering was an ally and not a potential threat to her rule in Boston. When the killers had fled to (or back to, it was unclear where they originated) Boston from New New York, Myka and her people followed. The dark-haired Coven Master had appeared on Olivia's doorstep one night, anger burning in her eyes and a demand for assistance on her lips.
Even if they hadn't been friends and sometimes lovers for over five centuries, Olivia Dunham was not about to let anything threaten her territory. She'd agreed without hesitation.
The result of that demand, however, was that she, Myka and Peter were stalking though the oldest, decaying section of Boston on the coldest night of the year in an apparently fruitless search for a group of humans that should have been easy prey. Yet they were no closer to their target now than when they began several nights ago.
Even Vampire patience had its limits.
Walking around a corner and seeing only more desolation, Olivia was just about to order Peter back to the car when a sound climbed through the night, floating on the frigid air until it reached her ears. At the very edge of her human hearing came the unmistakable sound of a human scream. It rose into the still air like a beacon; rage and pain calling to the Hunter in her like blood in the water.
Liv turned to Peter, meeting her Second's startled gaze. He'd heard it too. A glance at Myka received similar assent.
"There," Myka pointed to a warehouse in the distance, confirming the blonde's own assessment.
As if choreographed, the three Changed together, claws extending, teeth lengthening, eyes darkening. That which was human was left behind and it was the Hunters who blurred across cracked and littered pavement with only a casual nod to the laws of physics.
Bathed in the warm darkness of The Club three years later, Olivia still had to work to repress the shiver at the memory of what she and Myka – she'd ordered Peter to stand guard outside - found when they'd wrenched open a side door to the warehouse and made their way through the rabbit warren of hallways and fallen shelves to a large clear space.
Once it had probably been some kind of factory. Rusted-out equipment and conveyor belts still stood like metal skeletons of a more prosperous time. The setting, however, was instantly forgotten as Olivia's heightened senses were assaulted by light…and blood. So much blood.
Freezing in place, Olivia nearly recoiled, even her predatory nature wholly unprepared for the scene in front of her. Her Vampire senses warred with her human brain for a long moment while she struggled to understand what she was looking at. Beside her, Myka made a horrified noise, slipping momentarily back from the Change toward human. When her eyes finally started making sense out of the bits and pieces that had once been men, Olivia almost followed her. Only the rising fear that they were facing a previously unknown threat kept the Boston Master balanced on the killing-edge.
That was when the soft tinkling of metal on stone shattered the fevered stillness. Even slight, the sound still echoed in the cavernous space. Vampire eyes fastened on a tiny movement in the shadows and a low growl beside her signaled Myka's return to Hunting form. For a second the two crouched, instincts taking over their actions, waiting for the attack.
It did not come.
A weak, shuttering sigh shook Olivia out of her crouch but it was Myka who started forward first. Moving cautiously, the brunette Coven Master skirted around the worst of the blood pools, apparently ignoring the men the entire city had been hunting who appeared to have been – at the very least – disemboweled and dismembered. On soundless feet Myka slipped toward the shadows at the edge of the area lit by portable flood lights.
Olivia stayed back one step, one eye on the rest of the room in case there was an attack, and one eye on the…mess. Whatever aspect of humanity left in the blonde was horrified. Now that there was no sign of danger, however, the Vampire was coldly, darkly impressed. She'd seen Demon attacks and rogue Weres do less damage. So whatever the Coven Master had been expecting to find in the shadows, it was not a single human female, slightly built with pale skin and slashing cheekbones beneath a fall of raven hair. She was dressed simply in worn jeans and a men's button down shirt.
Every single inch of her was spattered with blood.
Nor did all of it belong to her attackers. The metallic sound had clearly come from the razor blade the human had used to slash her wrists as it fell from nerveless fingers. She now slumped against a metal pylon, boneless and pale as a discarded doll.
Olivia could feel the life leaving the woman and for an instant, she was conflicted. Judging by the state of the bodies, the last had been dead at least an hour. The scream the Vampires had heard then, had come from this mortal, and even without her slight empathic Talent, Olivia could sense the anguish in the dying woman. There was a part of the Coven Master that felt she should stay her hand and let events run the course. Olivia Dunham had seen over five centuries on this earth. She knew well that sometimes, Death was a most welcome experience. Her human side felt pity for this poor damaged creature.
The Hunter wanted to give a standing ovation. And Olivia hadn't been human for a very long time.
She was also a Coven Master and needed answers. The death of an Old Blood was not something to be taken lightly and The Council would need to know if the men in bits behind her were truly the whole of the group they were hunting for. Olivia also needed to know how this mere human had tracked the men when no one else could. And she needed to know what was done to them. Although she could sense no greater Work – magic – of any kind, that didn't mean something hadn't been set loose by all the violence and bloodletting.
It wouldn't be the first time some greater Elemental took advantage of the carnage and used the Energy released by bloodletting to create a crack in the Realms and slip in to the Earth Plane. The last thing they needed was some un-leashed Demon running amok in Boston.
Olivia needed to be sure there was no threat to her people or her territory and she knew Myka would feel the same.
And…she owed this human a debt. Vampire politics and social hierarchies were complicated. This mortal had succeeded where two Covens had failed. That debt needed to be paid.
If - after Olivia had her answers - the woman still desired Death, Olivia would give it to her. But not like this. Not alone and freezing on a filthy warehouse floor. She would die honored, and cared for.
That was Their Way and Olivia could no more break it than she could walk into the sun at mid-day.
The Boston Master's internal musings, however, were cut short by a movement in front of her.
Myka, who until now had been silent and frozen, knelt down and reached out to brush a finger across the unconscious human's cheek.
"Olivia, I need the med kit from your car," the brunette said, and Olivia tilted her head slightly, startled. There was an urgency to the other Vampire's voice Olivia hadn't heard in a very, very long time.
The blonde was just about to call Peter to get the item in question when the familiar scrape of a shoe on concrete alerted her to his presence. Turning, the Coven Master smiled gently when her Second held out the med-kit.
"I thought you might need this," he said quietly, looking at the devastation around them with a combination of horror and hunger.
"Thank you," Olivia replied softly before holding out the kit. "Myka."
The brunette barely turned to take it. Her entire attention was on the injured human. Olivia felt a stirring of unease. It was unlike Myka to be so intensely focused on a person, rather than a problem. The blonde Coven Master, however, held her tongue, wise enough to know that now was not the time to voice doubts. Instead she watched as her companion moved with efficiency to stop the bleeding and close the woman's wounds with a low-grade healing charm before wrapping her forearms in a sterile bandage.
Olivia just hoped it would hold. Given how much blood the woman had already lost, the chances of her survival were…not optimal.
Finished, Myka unbuttoned her heavy wool coat and carefully bundled the human into it. Gently, almost tenderly, Myka then slid her arms around the injured woman and picked her up, cradling the slight human to her chest. A flash of something – anger, worry, Olivia couldn't decipher it – flickered across Myka's face and then it was gone.
Without a word, Myka started walking back to the car, leaving Olivia and Peter to exchange glances.
It was still hard to fathom that the lithe, vibrant dancer in front of Olivia was the same broken wreck she'd watched Myka place gently in the back seat of her town car while the blonde asked Peter to stay and take care of the…mess.
"Call Faith, get her to help you. Might as well make it look like a Demon attack," the Coven Master said wryly.
Peter snorted. "That's messy even for a Demon. Be careful Liv."
The Boston Master looked at the back seat of her car where Myka still cradled the injured human. Bundled into the Vampire's coat and unconscious she appeared tiny and frail. Almost like a child. Myka seemed to have forgotten anything else existed.
"I will be."
On the stage, Helena finished with a flourish and the crowd went insane. Olivia's attention, though, was fixed on another. If the Boston Master parted the crowds like a shark, Myka moved through them like a jungle cat, revered and feared and lusted after in equal measure. She was deadly beauty and her presence set temperatures soaring like a brushfire in the dry season.
Olivia smiled fondly.
Five centuries – give or take a decade – they had known each other. Turned by different Masters, they were nonetheless fledges together and served in many of the same Covens. Despite the difference in their Bloodlines, both women learned early on they worked well together, and so together, they helped each other rise to power. It was rare that two such powerful Masters remained true friends, and they had hidden that friendship well over the centuries so that it could not be turned against them.
In truth, the deception was relatively easy. The nature of Vampire politics was volatile to say the least. All Myka and Olivia did was reinforce it. Every now and then, one of them would manufacture an excuse to visit the other's City and cause havoc. Their fights (and the making up) were legendary.
And almost completely manufactured.
There had always been times throughout the years when one of them needed the release of unfettered violence and there were few they could safely engage without doing true damage. Both Olivia and Myka took their responsibilities to those who served them far too seriously to abuse them carelessly, and both were too cautious to engage a random Coven in the kind of petty wars some of their Kin seemed so fond of. That left each other.
So when Olivia walked into Myka's club, mounted the stage and gently swept Helena aside for a deep, passionate kiss, it was an excuse for Myka to protect her "property." The resulting fight destroyed so much of the interior of The Club that Myka just 'had' to redecorate.
The resulting face lift (and the mystique) skyrocketed The Club into New New York's premier night spot.
And when Myka sauntered into Boston and casually – and very publicly – insulted Peter, it gave Olivia an excuse for retaliation that just conveniently managed to tear up a construction site belonging to a potential rival trying to move in on the Boston Master's turf.
Occasional lovers, they were more often simply a shoulder to lean on. Despite the love Olivia felt for Peter and Lincoln, there were some burdens only another Master could share. Myka had come to Olivia often after the death of her Were lover, Sam Martino. Myka and Sam had been close. Much closer than Olivia expected when she'd first seen the handsome blonde Were. His loss hit the brunette Master hard and for a time, Olivia feared for Myka's stability.
Olivia had hoped that Myka's attention to Helena was a good sign; that she was willing to reach out and care for another once more. Yet – even given that whole mess with MacPherson and The Council – Myka's careful distance from the human she had so fiercely guarded and tenderly cared for that cold winter night remained firmly intact.
Well, Olivia mused darkly. One way or another that's probably going to change tonight.
As if hearing her thoughts, Myka looked across the crowded floor and inclined her head ever so slightly in greeting.
Olivia steeled herself as her old friend made her way to the stairs and strode gracefully up to the lounge.
She just hoped she wasn't about to destroy a friendship five centuries in the making…
Myka felt Olivia enter The Club.
She knew without looking the Boston Master had arrived; she could sense it, like the whisper of an artic breeze across her cheek. Myka licked her lips, savoring the fleeting sensation before continuing her prowl across the crowded floor. The Hunter nearly purred in pleasure at the thick, swirling, pulsing energy that surrounded her. The Club was her home, her hunting ground, her sanctuary and her castle. Though Myka had little desire to join in the dancing herself, she reveled in the combination of lust, Magic, need, Chi and wild human excitement that always filled the air. It warmed her skin like a dark flame and called forth the answering fire inside her. For if Olivia was the biting touch of Frost, Myka was the scorching heat of embers.
Or at least, she used to be. Before Sam.
Thoughts of her deceased lover were a discordant note, souring her mood and, as always these last years, bringing with them her conflicting feelings for a certain human dancer.
Snarling silently, Myka shook her head and turned toward the stairs. With any luck, Olivia would be here to stage one of their 'fights' and she could lose herself in the delicious red haze of violence.
Maybe this time it would be enough to assuage the hunger that had nothing to do with blood.
Myka's fist clenched around the cut crystal tumbler she had been holding, shattering it. Golden drops of Scotch mixed with shards of ice and glass, glittering as they fell unheeded to the floor of the lounge. Olivia, who had been expecting it, managed not to flinch.
Myka and Olivia were alone in the lounge area except for Claudia and as soon as the glass broke, the redhead vanished through the door behind the bar.
Olivia hadn't come to stage a fight, but Myka was seriously considering giving her one anyway.
"I don't think I heard you correctly," the brunette Master snarled, fighting down the Change. "Because I could have sworn you said that Helena "must" be Turned."
Olivia kept her features calm, drawing on long training to appear so unruffled. Her implacable expression yielded nothing of the regret she actually felt at broaching the subject.
"You heard correctly."
"Dammit Liv, we have talked about this, I will not force her into something that I…that she's not ready for. That she can't understand!"
"Have you even asked her?"
Olivia's reasonable question was met with a withering glare. The Boston Master thought she knew what was holding Myka back, but the time for slow revelation was past.
"No," Olivia cut her off forcefully. The uncharacteristic vehemence in the blonde's voice brought Myka up short. "It's time for you to listen. I have Seen Myka. Clearly. And in every future the outcome is the same if you two are not united."
She now had Myka's complete attention. As well she should. It was rare that Olivia's visions were so strong. Her precognitive abilities showed the future, but the future was never fixed. A single decision point could splinter what "might be" into a dozen different paths, each with their own braches and so on for eternity.
The more certain an event was to happen, the greater the clarity of Olivia's vision.
"There is a storm coming Myka. A threat unlike any we've faced. This isn't the trifle of MacPherson and his short-sighted scheming. I have Seen whole cities laid to waste, entire Covens wiped out, the Great Forest of the Fae burned to ash and Weres hunted like game. You have to understand. Something is coming that will upset the Balance and there is a good chance that even if we survive, we will have lost."
"You're not seriously telling me that our entire future hinges on me Turning Helena?" Myka scoffed. Underneath the anger and disbelief, though, there was fear, and the first notes of doubt.
"No," Olivia shook her head, voice softening now that Myka appeared to be paying attention. "No I can't see who wins, there are too many futures that hinge on too many small events. But I can see that if you and Helena aren't together, you will fall. Sooner or later Myka, you will be killed and we will lose one of our greatest warriors.
Myka turned away, slender shoulders rigid with tension. Whatever the Coven Master would have said, however, was interrupted by another voice.
"Might I offer an opinion?"
Both Masters startled, turning to where Helena stood – now dressed (though the term was generous) in a thigh-length robe of pale silk. Her hair tumbled loose over her shoulders and her feet were bare. She looked like she'd been pulled straight from the dressing room. Given the fact that Claudia was standing behind her practically vibrating with tension that was probably exactly what had happened.
"I figured she should be part of this discussion," Claudia spoke up, defiant young voice shaking only a little as she looked back and forth between the two Coven Masters and Helena. Helena, however, had eyes only for Myka. Considering what she must have heard of the conversation, the human appeared remarkably composed.
"There is no discussion," Myka snapped, and Olivia caught sight of a hint of fang.
"Agreed," Helena said softly, taking another step. Both of them seemed to have forgotten that they were not alone in the room. "Myka, if what Olivia says is true, should we not do as she says?"
"You don't know what you're asking," Myka nearly whispered and her voice sounded thinner and weaker than Olivia had ever heard it.
"I know that I cannot, I will not sit idly by and allow harm to come to you. Not if I can do something to prevent it," Helena replied firmly. The dancer stepped close enough to reach out and brush her fingers across Myka's forearm. "Would it truly be so terrible? To make me one of you?"
For just a moment Olivia thought Helena might have gotten through to her stubborn friend. For one instant she dared to hope…but a heartbeat later the blonde Master was biting back a sigh of frustration as Myka pulled away from the human. The remote, emotionless mask she was so adept at wearing fell into place and any last shred of warmth vanished from the Coven Master's countenance.
Turning away from Helena Myka looked sharply at Olivia. "Look again. Find another way. This one is barred."
And with that, she turned and strode away, gesturing impatiently for Claudia who reluctantly followed, throwing a pleading glance over her shoulder at H.G.
In the wake of their departure, the air seemed unnaturally cold. Olivia clenched her jaw and rubbed her neck, at a loss as to her next move. Perhaps it was time to talk to Pete, Myka's Second. He had warmed to Helena in the last year or so, especially after it was revealed that MacPherson had been using Magic to possess her.
Unthinkingly Olivia scowled. It was almost too bad the Magic User was already dead. He'd caused enough havoc for a lifetime and for a moment Olivia mollified herself by imagining slaughtering him brutally once more.
Her attention focused inward, a slight movement at the corner of her vision made Olivia look up at Helena. Really look.
Helena appeared…fragile. More fragile than Olivia remembered her seeming in years – not since Leena and Astrid had used their Mindhealing abilities to ease the rage she'd felt over her daughter's murder and set her on a path to true grieving and healing.
Catching the Vampire's gaze, the dancer's mouth quirked in a weary attempt of a smile before she looked down at her hands. "Well, that went splendidly. I suppose it's useful to know where one stands with one's employer, even if means one is despised." The words were said lightly, clearly meant as a joke. The weight of the pain beneath them, though, seemed to break the delicate syllables, dragging what Olivia realized was a desperate attempt at courage onto the floor to scatter amidst the shards of Myka's glass.
The Coven Master tilted her head, rapidly reassessing the situation. Silent, she watched as Helena fidgeted with the flimsy robe, delicate hands pulling the thin fabric tighter around her shoulders as if to ward off a chill. She looked, Olivia realized, utterly and completely lost. The Vampire blinked as realization flooded her and for a moment, she cursed her own blindness. Oh she'd known that Helena was attracted to Myka, but anyone with a pulse was attracted to Myka. The woman standing in front of her was not someone who merely had a work-place crush.
Briefly Olivia entertained the thought of just locking Helena and Myka in a room together until they came to their senses, but the Coven Master knew there was no such structure that could hold Myka in a rage, and they were running out of time. So, throwing the mental dice she stepped forward. With a gentle fingertip, Olivia raised Helena's chin. Eyes as dark as the Hunter looked back at her. There was no predatory anticipation crowding the very human irises though, merely empty heartbreak that tugged at something deep within Olivia. In another time, another place, she would step back and let events play out, watching as (hopefully) her two friends came to their senses and admitted their feelings. But as the saying went, desperate times…
"Myka doesn't despise you Helena. She loves you so damn much she's absolutely terrified."
Now it was Helena's turn to blink. Her face, however, betrayed nothing else of the shock she must have felt. Olivia was impressed.
"I," the human pressed her lips together briefly. "I am afraid I don't understand."
Olivia sighed softly and gestured to one of the leather couches. "Here, we might as well sit, this could take a bit."
The Coven Master waited until Helena settled gingerly on the plush couch, her arms crossed as if she were trying to hold herself together. Olivia resisted the urge to reach out to her again.
"What I am about to explain to you is not widely understood outside the Covens. Over the millennia we have always found it prudent not to let too much of our nature be common knowledge."
"Is that why your politics could give even the Mob a headache?" Helena managed dryly.
"In part," the Coven Master replied, her mouth quirking in a half-smile. The blonde wasn't sure why she was surprised at the hint of steel she saw in Helena's spine now. Vampires did not love the weak.
"Old Blood are different than other strains of Vampyr. We retain much of our humanity. The Vampire exists within us, but is not the whole of what we are. For the most part," here Olivia paused, debating how to explain their dual – but not divided – nature. "For the most part the human and the Hunter co-exist without interference. Both influence the other, but there is a distinction. The Vampire side of us has…let's say limited priorities. To feed, survive, to protect our territory."
"To fuck?" Helena asked, a hint of a smile playing on her lips. The human's earlier fragility seemed to have been put aside in the face of genuine interest. Olivia nodded, lips lifting in a brief smile.
"Gotta do something to pass the time," the blonde grinned wickedly and it startled a laugh from Helena. She really was beautiful, Olivia conceded before returning her attention to what – and how much – she needed to reveal.
"For the most part, when we form…emotional attachments…the Hunter has little influence. We care for friends and lovers with that which is still human. The relationships with our Coven are…more complicated, because they are governed by the Vampire's need for a structured society and our own 'territory,' but for the most part the Hunter does not love. Protect yes, possess yes, but that is usually the extent of it."
"Usually." Helena said. Olivia could practically see the humans' mind working.
"You know about Sam I assume?"
Helena nodded. "Who doesn't," she muttered softly, bitterness leeching into the words.
Olivia suppressed the twitch of her lips that might have been a smirk. Oh yes, Helena's feelings ran much deeper than she'd imagined.
"Myka Bering and I were Turned over five hundred years ago, and Sam Martino was the first time I ever saw her in love." At the flicker of pain on Helena's face, Olivia continued, leaning forward slightly to emphasize her next words. "When he was killed, it changed Myka, hurt her more deeply than she thought possible. But Myka loved Sam only as a human. The Vampire never claimed him."
Now Helena was still as a statue, dark gazed fixed hungrily on Olivia's face.
"I know what it is to love another with both aspects of your nature. It is rare, and sometimes it is terrible, because if you lose that person, it will destroyyou. Myka loved and lost and thought it hurt. Now she loves again, a thousand times stronger than before. You think she despises you? She doesn't. She is terrified Helena. And rightly so. That is what I Saw. In many of the futures you are killed – as collateral damage, as a deliberate attempt to weaken Myka – and she goes mad with it. Utterly and completely mad. And you should know better than anyone how much Myka Bering despises losing control."
The Coven Master fell silent, holding Helena's gaze. She waited for the shudder of revulsion, of fear. She waited for Helena to do what a sensible human would do when told that one of the most dangerous predators on the planet wanted them so badly their death would drive the predator into insanity.
It never came. Instead Helena's chin rose. Those delicate hands that earlier had picked listlessly at the silk of her robe clenched swiftly into fists.
In one smooth movement the dark-haired woman stood. Looking down at the Coven Master, the dancer nodded. "Thank you Olivia. I think, however, that what needs to be said next must be between Myka and myself."
Olivia agreed, but she spoke one last time, needing…something more, some sign that Helena understood what was at stake.
"It isn't wise to provoke us Helena," she cautioned softly. "If she Changes, when our instincts take over…she might not be able to hear you say 'no'."
Pausing halfway to the door Helena looked briefly over her shoulder. "I guess it's just as well I have no intention of saying it." And with that, the human slipped out of the lounge, disappearing through the door.
Alone, Olivia sighed and rubbed the bridge of her nose before picking up her drink and downing the last of it. She hadn't believed in a higher power in half a millennium and she doubted God gave a damn about their kind, but the Coven Master sent out a brief prayer to whatever benign force watched over fools who wouldn't admit they were in love and hoped the night wouldn't end in blood being spilled...unnecessarily.
Helena strode swiftly through the warren of rooms and corridors that formed the 'backstage' area of The Club, not bothering to return to the dressing room behind the stage. The denizens of The Club were all extremely familiar with each other's bodies so she saw no point in changing out of her skimpy robe. It wasn't even worth a raised eyebrow to see one of the Weres running around in nothing but fur (or skin) and while the dancers and staff were usually exempt, they had all seen members of the Coven or the guards brought back broken and bleeding from fights. None of the few people she passed – another dancer and a couple of lower ranking fledges – did more than give her a vague nod of greeting which Helena absently returned as she padded through the plushly appointed hallways that connected the infrastructure of The Club.
The farther from the bars and dance floors and play rooms she went, the quieter it became. Invisible to all but those of the Household, there was an entire infrastructure to The Club that was cleverly designed, well hidden, and very well guarded by means both physical and magical. Beyond the more 'common' areas where the business of The Club was conducted, there were rooms for guests of the Coven, workout areas, dining areas for the Household and the guards. If one climbed upward, there were greenhouse gardens that grew fresh veggies for the kitchens and the herbs any of the Sorcerers and Healers in Myka's employ might need for their Workings.
Moving quickly, Helena eschewed the elevators and instead took the stairs, palming the bio-lock that let her into the deeper levels.
Down, underground and into the magically shielded and heavily guarded areas beneath The Club lay the heart of the Coven. This was where the Vampires – and those closest to them – lived when not working. Spreading out like a subterranean city were beautiful banquet halls, an immense library, sparring rooms, security offices, communications center, housing, the Hospital wing, bathing rooms and the Ceremonial Chamber. And like a city it had its own defenses, armory and evacuation routes. Nor was it at all unusual in size. Most Covens had something similar, depending on the location.
Back here, where only the Household was allowed, the dark, foreboding color scheme meant to cow visitors and people who needed to be put in their place was abandoned. Instead the ceilings were high and the hallways wide. Warm lighting accomplished by mage-lights set in decorative glass holders glowed in a dozen hues of gold and provided clean, safe illumination while complimenting the soft earth-tones of the walls and carpet.
Helena's goal was Myka's private office. Unlike the dark, almost disgustingly opulent public room she kept above for State visits and meetings with people who needed to be awed, Myka's personal office was a warm, almost cozy place well hidden and shielded deep underground. From experience, the dancer knew it was where the Coven Master retreated when she needed to be alone or distract herself (and wasn't in a bloodletting mood). Myka did much of the bookkeeping for The Club herself and Helena had a feeling she'd find the Vampire bent over her massive blackwood desk, running numbers.
Turning a last corner Helena saw the polished cherry-wood door at the end of a short hallway. Approaching, the dancer did not pause. She knew on some level that if she hesitated, she might lose her nerve and the fragile opportunity that had been presented to her with it. The dark-haired woman could feel Time like a weight, pressing onto her shoulders and whispering in her ear 'hurry, hurry.' And if Olivia was right…there was more at stake here than just her heart. Yet as she turned the handle and strode into Myka's office, it was Helena's heart that drove her forward.
The dancer almost smiled as she was greeted by a familiar sight. Myka was indeed trying to bury herself in paper work and her expression upon being interrupted was pure human grumpiness. It would have been adorable if Helena's pulse hadn't been racing like a caged animal in her chest.
Helena strode into the room, pausing only long enough to gently shut the door behind her. The thick carpet was soft beneath her feet and the room was warmer than the hallways – heated by a mage-fire in a white marble fireplace whose flames flickered from red to purple to gold and all the shades in between. The wainscoting around the room was polished oak and the walls were a soft dusty red. A few black and white photographs punctuated the space but it was clear that the main purpose of the room was the wall lined with mahogany bookshelves and the heavy, squashy leather chairs in front of the fireplace. It was a simple space, warm but clean, clearly meant to be restful.
And seated behind her massive desk at the opposite end of the room from the fireplace was the Coven Master.
"I'm busy Helena," Myka snapped, the familiar irritation a good sign that the human side was in control. For now.
"No, you're hiding," the dancer shot back pitilessly.
A low growl rolled through the room like distant thunder. Helena stood her ground.
"I told you before, we are not having this conversation. Now leave." The last word was bitten off and Helena could see Myka's jaw clench. Her hand tightened around the Mont Blanc and the elegant instrument crumpled beneath the Vampire's strength. "Dammit this was my favorite pen," Myka muttered. The slight petulance was purely human, though, and Helena took a slow breath and stepped closer.
"Leave it Helena, please."
It was the "please" that nearly undid her. Such a fragile construction of sound to hold such weariness and grief and Helena knew that Myka was thinking of Sam. But Olivia's words were still fresh in her memory, a searing brand of meaning imprinted on her that Helena had no wish to escape. Steeling herself, the human continued her careful journey across the carpeted floor. A few more steps and Helena was almost at Myka's side.
Shaking her head, the Vampire rose abruptly, turning to walk past Helena. The dancer stepped in front of her, blocking the way.
Slender nostrils flared and Helena's heart sped even faster. This close she could see the tightness in the Vampire's jaw and watched with fascination as darkness swirled in forest-green irises. It was like watching a cloud pass over the sun and a blatant sign the Vampire was fighting the Change.
"Get. Out. Of my way," Myka whispered the words, but the thunder was near, a storm that had nothing to do with the weather making the air heavy with electricity until Helena imagined she could feel it dance across her exposed skin, raising the fine hairs at the back of her neck and nearly making her gasp.
Common sense said run. Survival instinct told her she should follow the Coven Master's orders and leave. Immediately.
Strangely calm, Helena stepped closer. She held Myka's swirling gaze as if it were a life line, and perhaps it was. Somewhere beyond her base instinct she knew that if she ran now, Myka's predatory instincts might well take over and she would be at the mercy of the Hunter.
"Why?" Helena took another tack, speaking carefully. "Why are you so afraid of this Myka?"
For a moment she thought the Coven Master might refuse. After all, Myka could brush her aside with less effort than it took to draw breath. And yet she stood, nearly trembling with tension. "Because you could get hurt!" The Vampire snapped back at last, her voice resonating harshly, still stuck somewhere between human and Hunter. Another pause and then, "BecauseI could hurt you…" she added softly, the words full of pain and past regret.
Somewhere inside Helena, something she'd thought long buried gave a tiny leap of joy. Still, her voice was steady as she continued. "If Olivia is right then I will be hurt anyway," the dancer lifted her chin slightly. She felt as though she were walking on a tightrope a thousand feet above a chasm. One misstep and she was doomed but the path before her was perfectly clear and she pushed forward knowing the point of no return was well behind her. There was no way to go but forward. "And if I am going to die, then frankly, I'd prefer it to be right now."
That got Myka's attention.
"Helena what…" The Coven Master trailed off, shaking her head in automatic denial.
"I will not be collateral damage," the dancer made the term a curse. "In someone else's war. And I will not allow my death to be used against you. If you won't let me be with you then kill me." Helena voice was sharp in the charged air, syllables falling like cut glass through the tension. But she wasn't done. Reaching out she took Myka's wrist. Helena was no longer thinking. Rationality had been left at the door and now she was pushed relentlessly by a tide of emotion; of need and longing that she had struggled against for so long now. Finally breaking through the oft-repaired dam of her control it dragged her onward, overwhelming her intellect.
Startled, the Coven Master did not resist as slender fingers closed around her wrist and Helena tried not to let the thrill of hope distract her. Yanking her robe to the side, the dark-haired woman placed the Vampire's hand over her breast. Just above her pounding heart.
The tips of Myka's claws – even extended only half-way – pricked her skin in warning. All the Vampire need do was close her fist and she could quite literally rip Helena's heart out; hands like weapons cleaving skin and crushing bone to tear at the fragile organ pounding so frantically in its mortal housing.
Helena leaned into the pressure, her gaze locked with Myka's.
"Go on. Do it. Kill me now," she ordered roughly, the words she had held back for so long now crowding her tongue, struggling to be given voice. "If Olivia's visions come to pass then my life is forfeit anyway. At least this way it will be quick, and at the hand of someone I care about. Someone I love." Myka stiffened but Helena pressed on, "Take my life Myka…it belongs to you anyway." The last was said softly, all her earlier ferocity draining from Helena as the truth fell at long last from her lips. She felt suddenly weary, as if she had carried a great weight for so long and only now that it was gone was she aware of the toll it had taken. "It's been yours since the moment you picked me up off that warehouse floor," Helena finished softly, feeling at once weak and lighter for admitting what she had hidden for so long.
Before her, Myka gasped softly. The roiling blackness receded from her eyes, but her claws remained at Helena's chest. The human reached up, covering Myka's hand with her own.
She'd never told Myka, but Helena had not been completely unconscious when the Vampires had arrived. Nearly, yes - she'd been running on rage for so long her body had little strength left even before she picked up the cold sliver of steel and sliced open her wrists. But she was still aware when a dark form leaned over her, touching her with kindness.
She had felt Myka's efforts to heal her wounds. She had known that someone was wrapping her in warm wool and picking her up. Her eyes wouldn't open fully but Helena remembered vividly the feeling of being cradled in strong arms and held to a slender body that burned with an unnatural heat.
It was as though someone had lifted her from the midst of a blizzard and tucked her in front of a crackling fire.
It had felt good. It had felt safe.
The dark-haired woman had forgotten until that moment what it was like to know anything but pain.
Helena Wells owed Myka Bering her life a dozen times over. If tonight was the night the debt was repaid, so be it.
"But I…you were awake?" Myka asked in wonder.
Helena merely nodded.
Against her chest, Myka's claws retraced, leaving only the tender pressure of fingertips. Beneath that touch, Helena could have sworn her heart skipped a beat.
"Shh, I know."
And Helena stepped forward, closing the last distance between them and pressing her lips to Myka's.
It was a gentle, sweet kiss; hardly chaste, but still careful. Myka's lips were incredibly soft and warm with the heat that only Vampires and Weres could hold. The Vampire's thumb stroked a tiny pattern on Helena's chest where it still rested. The tender touch caused the dancer to draw a swift breath and Myka took advantage of her parted lips, slipping her tongue between them to claim Helena's mouth. The liquid heat of Myka's kiss sent Helena's pulse to pounding once more but now it beat thickly between her legs, which were suddenly not particularly steady.
Myka chuckled low in her chest. An arm that could rip the roof off a car slid around Helena's waist, pulling her gently against the Vampire's taller body as her other hand shifted to cup Helena's breast, caressing tenderly where her claws had rested.
They kissed until Helena was left weak and gasping, pulling back to find that her arms were now twined around Myka's shoulders and she was leaning heavily on the Coven Master. Myka still held her gently, but it was the gentleness of steel or marble; careful but utterly immovable. Helena was pinned against the Vampire, the lengths of their bodies pressed together and only the barest separation of silk and leather parting their skin. The dancer could feel every breath the Vampire took and watched as the cloud passed over her eyes again, darkening them. It was like watching a thunderstorm approach and Helena shivered in anticipation, need like a frisson of energy racing up her spine to steal her breath. In response the hand at her breast flexed; still human but warning of something more, something possessive and hungry.
"Helena," Myka's voice was rough with lust and warning.
The human looked at the woman – the creature – who held her. Her gaze traced the beautiful eyes with their encroaching darkness and the winged brows above, trailing over high cheekbones and full soft lips. Yes Myka Bering was lovely, but Helena saw more than a pretty face with the eyes of a killer. She saw her rescuer, her guardian, her savior. And she saw someone else. She saw the person who shared Helena's own passion for the written word, who loved much of the same music and would quite happily spend an afternoon curled in front of the fireplace in this very room, sharing tea and soft conversation with a mortal woman who had lost her child and knew the far reaches of human madness. Helena saw the predator who had no compunction about tearing an enemy limb from limb and the leader who stood up to the Vampire Council on behalf of a starved, scared fledge with beautiful eyes and a way with computers. She saw a loyal friend and fierce protector. She saw the woman whose mere presence made Helena's heart lighter and whose touch was always, without fail, tender.
She saw Myka, and Helena loved her with every part of her scarred heart, with an intensity the human thought impossible since Christina had been killed.
Held against Myka, mere inches from potential death, Helena had never known such certainty. And so instead of speaking her answer, the dancer reached up carefully and drew her hair aside, exposing her neck and tipping her head aside.
"The first time," Myka swallowed hard and Helena felt a tremor run through the taller woman's body. "I can't stop the Change…" she didn't need to finish. Olivia had warned her. To be loved by a Vampire was to be claimed by them and until blood was taken, the predator's possessive instincts would rule. Helena had been at The Club for years, she had seen first-hand what happened when a Vampire truly lost control. Myka was giving her one last chance to turn back, to run away while she still could.
Helena merely smiled softly, letting herself relax completely into Myka's hold. Reaching out she slipped her fingers into the thick, curly, silky mass of Myka's hair and guided the Vampire's mouth toward her vulnerable neck.
"I told you, I've always been yours," she whispered to Myka.
For one long, taut moment Myka stood frozen…and then a liquid shudder seemed to pass through her, as if someone had tossed a stone into a glassy pond. The darkness eclipsed her eyes and Myka was gone.
"Yes. Mine," growled the Vampire.
The arm around Helena's waist tightened. The hand at her breast moved to cradle her head, holding her immobile.
Hot breath teased across her jaw.
Myka's fangs sank into her neck.
"Helena? Helena!" Someone was calling her name she realized. The voice sounded distant though, as if the speaker were in another room or at the end of a long tunnel, the syllables distorted and only barely recognizable as her name.
"Helena wake up please!" Urgent. The voice was urgent. Helena wasn't quite sure how she knew that since her thoughts came slow and sluggish, as if falling slowly through a filter of darkness and warmth.
"Helena please!" Myka. A name was matched to the voice. Myka was calling her name. And Myka sounded terrified.
"Hnghh," whatever Helena had intended to say came out a barely audible moan but the sound of relief that came from somewhere above her seemed to indicate this was a positive development. Sensation slowly penetrated the darkness surrounding the dancer. She was reclining, but not completely. Someone was holding her in their lap, fevered hands stroking her face tenderly. A soft brush of hair fell over her brow and cheek and she could feel the thin silk of her robe over her chest.
"Come on Helena, open your eyes," another voice spoke. Leena, Helena decided. The Sorceress was with Myka. The soft command made the dancer realize that her eyes were, in fact, still shut. It took far longer than it should have to rectify the situation. When she finally managed to gain the cooperation of her eyelids and her vision swam into focus she confirmed that she was, indeed, being held in Myka's arms, sprawled across the rug in front of the fireplace in Myka's office. The Coven Master was kneeling, wearing nothing but her own silk robe, hastily tied, and a concerned expression and she held Myka in her lap. Leena was kneeling in front of them with a relieved smile on her face and her staff and Working bag by her side.
Helena felt utterly boneless and tired; so tired that even breathing seemed to take effort. And yet she was not in pain. Despite the fuzziness of her thoughts and the complete blank in her memory she was suffused with a delicious lassitude, as if she had been lying by the greenhouse pool and now every muscle was liquid with warmth and languor.
Licking dry lips, Helena blinked. "What…happened?" She managed at last, looking up at Myka's worried face. The vampire's face was flushed and her eyes, though human, looked fever bright.
To her utter shock, Myka blushed and looked away. Even Leena had a secret grin on her face and bit her lip as it to keep from laughing. "Well,"
But whatever Leena was about to say was lost as Myka's thumb accidentally brushed the bite marks on her neck Helena had not realized were there.
The dancer cried out as her vision went dark again. Pleasure so sharp it was indistinguishable from pain swept through her like a brush fire, spreading out from the tiny wound as the Vampire magic still lingering in her bloodstream activated again. Helena's whole body bowed, muscles wire tight as an orgasm ripped through her, tearing a cry from her throat as her nerve endings overloaded. In the blackness behind her eyes lightning arced white hot and memory swamped her. Images, visceral and sharp came cascading down upon her until she was lost in it, unable to breathe. Dimly she heard Leena call her name but Helena was swept away on a tide of feeling and sense-memory and was unable to answer.
She knew exactly what had happened to her…
Myka's fangs were sharper than needles and she was careful as she pierced the tender skin of Helena's neck, breaking through to the waiting artery. There was only the briefest pinpoint of pain as her life force was pulled from her body, spilling forth like claret velvet into Myka's eager mouth. And then the Vampire's magic hit her bloodstream. Part genetic adaptation to ensure a willing food supply, part true, undefinable Magic, it spread out like flame, licking along Helena's nerves, down her spine and through her limbs; a brushfire on a parched prairie. The dancer whimpered, holding fast to Myka as her knees gave way and the pounding ache between her legs grew stronger with every beat of her heart. Instinct and need took over and Helena rolled her hips, pressing herself desperately against Myka.
The next thing she knew she was being shoved against the wall next to the fireplace, her shoulder blades stinging from the impact and a thigh like leather-covered steel between her own. Wave after wave of heat flowed out from where Myka's mouth suckled at her neck and Helena gave up any last pretense at self-control. Trapped between the Vampire and the warm, polished wood of the wall she struggled to ease the need that clawed at her. As if in answer Myka lifted her thigh and bit deeper.
Helena moaned, rocking against the smooth, warm leather encasing Myka's thigh that quickly grew slick with the proof of her desire.
Myka growled low and soft, the sound beating a gentle tattoo against Helena's skin, leaving an invisible design of hunger and need.
Helena clutched at the planes of Myka's back, feeling muscle shift beneath leather and skin.
The Vampire gripped the marble of the fireplace mantle and stone shattered like blown glass beneath her fingers.
After that Helena was left with mostly impressions, moments of heat and want and light amidst the dark: Myka's mouth, tender and urgent, soft lips and needle-sharp fangs. Myka's hands, possessive and hungry, unrelenting but achingly tender as they roamed her body, stroking, caressing, taking…
One moment she was pressed against the wall, the next Myka was lowering her gently across the rug in front of the fireplace and though the Vampire's movements were careful, the eyes that looked back at Helena were utterly, infinitely alien. The dark-haired woman lay, trembling and burning with need as clawed hands ripped aside her robe, exposing her completely to the Vampire's gaze. Myka braced herself above her and slid one hand up Helena's thigh, urging her legs apart. For just an instant Helena tensed, instinct sending a shiver of fear up her spine that couldn't quite cut through the haze of lust at the thought of what those claws might do to her…but the fingertips that caressed the tender skin of her thigh and traced the curve of her hip were wholly human, the razor sharp claws retracted.
Helena's breath hitched as she felt the evidence of Myka's devotion, proof that even in the grip of her predatory nature she was protecting Helena. The dancer looked up, at the fathomless eyes and the deadly fangs while those gentle, careful fingers traced delicate patterns against her skin and she couldn't breathe though the emotion crowding her throat. Deliberately Helena relaxed, rising her arms to rest above her head and letting Myka's soft touch part her thighs farther. The Vampire growled softly with what sounded like approval, and then Myka's fangs were piercing her breast and those gentle fingers were slipping inside Helena and she was lost once more.
She didn't remember when Myka had put on the toy, but she remembered the Vampire's hands pinning her wrists above her head as she positioned its blunt head against Helena's need-soaked flesh. She remembered the feeling of being pressed into the rug even as she tried to arch her back as the phallus was pushed into her. She remembered begging Myka for more as the Vampire moved so carefully and far too slowly for Helena's liking until the thick length was buried fully within. She remembered Myka's mouth returning to her neck and those slender hips rolling, drawing the toy out slowly before thrusting into her again and again and again.
She remembered at some point feeling the burning silk of Myka's skin against her own and knew the Coven Master had shed her clothes, but that had been just before a wicked tongue tasted her and a raw bundle of nerves and swollen flesh was sucked into a careful mouth…
After that all she remembered was someone calling her name.
Caught in the remains of the past, Helena was unable to breathe as the Vampire magic ripped through her body like a thousand volts of electricity. Fear crested and was swept away beneath another wave of excruciating pleasure. Her head swam and her chest tightened, lungs screaming for oxygen…
And then there was warmth and light, a hand on her chest and she could breathe again.
Trembling and gasping for air Helena felt tears at the corners of her eyes and caught the end of something Leena was saying to Myka, the Healer's voice low and angry.
"Damn it to Hades Myka she has enough Vamp magic in her system to get a horse high! What the Hell were you thinking?"
"She wasn't," came another voice, low and steady and far more amused than the situation seemed to call for.
Blinking, her vision steadying now, Helena looked up to see Olivia shut the door and enter the room. The Boston Coven Master was no longer wearing the red dress of earlier but had changed into a simple black shirt and fitted jeans. Moving carefully Olivia knelt down in front of Helena and Myka, brushing her fingertips across Helena's cheek before reaching up to cup Myka's chin, bringing the brunette's eyes up to meet her own.
"Your Coven Master has finally chosen a mate," the blonde spoke softly, but her voice carried the thunder rumble of the Vampire and the weight of a pronouncement.
"Oh," Leena's expression cleared and she blinked, clearly startled. Then she grinned. "Well it's about damned time. Alright Myka, Myka!" Snapping her fingers in front of the Vampire's face Leena effortlessly took charge of the situation. "Olivia, I'll need you to inform Peter and the rest of the Coven. Myka's going to be useless until the bond cements. And we'll need someone to prepare the Ceremonial Chamber for whenever Helena is strong enough. Myka, take Helena to your chambers. She needs a hot bath and a good meal. I'll be back in a while to finish healing those bites so every touch doesn't send her into a relapse."
Darkness already tugging at her consciousness, Helena was just barely aware of someone straightening what was left of her silk robe around her and then awareness fled once more.
Helena woke – partially at least – in the bathtub. She was submerged in hot water that reached her neck and steam curled gentle, damp fingers through her hair and over her face. She was also still being held. Myka was seated behind her in the giant black marble bathtub in Myka's personal bathroom. The Vampire's arms were around Helena while the dancer's head rested on the taller woman's shoulder. Helena managed an inarticulate sound of query but a gentle kiss to her temple stopped her.
"Shh," Myka whispered, "just rest."
Beneath the surface Myka's hands were smoothing tenderly over Helena's skin, the water making the caress nearly indescribable. Desire swelled low in her belly again but it was a gentle current and not the crushing wave of earlier. Myka must have sensed it, however, for one hand came up to cup Helena's breast, thumb stroking an already-peaked nipple as below the water, gentle fingers slipped inside her once more. Myka moved slowly, caressing but not thrusting, stroking Helena through her release and drawing out the tiny ripples that followed.
The last thing Helena felt was a gentle brush of lips over her shoulder before darkness reached up to claim her again.
The next time Helena woke it was dark and she was dry and warm. It took a moment for dulled senses to respond but she realized she was tucked into a ridiculously soft and large bed. Myka's, deduction said, because it certainly wasn't hers and the guest rooms weren't this nice. There was whispering at the door, a brief flare of light and then Helena heard Leena say something. There were soft footfalls and then gentle hands touched her back. Healing magic flowed through her, golden and beautiful and Helena slept again.
"Not that I mind but how long is this…hovering, going to last?" Helena asked with a gentle grin two days later. They were sitting up in Myka's bed where Helena had been staying since the night in Myka's office. Several good meals and a lot of rest had restored her to fighting form as it were, but Myka's almost overbearing protectiveness had not escaped the dancer's notice. It wasn't uncomfortable so much as confusing. Myka had always been attentive but this was…different.
The morning had been lazy and softly beautiful in a way Helena thought never to experience again. She woke in Myka's arms and allowed herself the luxury of coming to awareness slowly. The Vampire's hands stroked idly up and down her spine and Helena's head was pillowed on Myka's breast. The Coven Master was a stunning sight against the cream and crimson of her king-sized bed and Helena felt no need to deny the urge to let her hands wander over the expanse of pale skin offered up to her. For all her earlier ferocity, the balance shifted easily in Helena's favor and it was a remarkable feeling to watch the Vampire fall apart beneath her touch.
At some point, Claudia snuck in with breakfast, a grin that threatened to split her face on her youthful features. And after breakfast they had just…rested. Myka left once to get some paperwork for The Club and Helena took a shower and cleaned up a bit, but there was nothing pressing they had to attend to. Helena still tired easily (Leena guessed she'd lost over a liter of blood) and so they simply accepted the rare gift of each other's company. It had been so long since Helena had shared a bed with a lover and in truth, she could not think of a single one of her past relationships that the term "Love" could honestly be applied to. Even if the human had thought herself in love at the time, she knew now nothing she had ever experienced compared to what she felt for Myka.
Still, even given the circumstances, Myka's continued closeness was a bit out of character and so throwing the mental dice, Helena let her curiosity free reign.
The windows of the room were open to reveal a beautiful fall morning (the illusion courtesy of a collaboration between Claudia's tech and Leena's magic). Harmless "sunlight" streamed across the bed, falling on Myka's porcelain skin and highlighting the faint coloring of her cheeks.
"Ah…probably at least another few days," the Vampire admitted ruefully.
Helena raised her eyebrows. She'd been joking but the Coven Master's response suggested her observations had not been far from the mark.
"It's a part of the process. When we…take a mate," and now Myka really did blush and Helena's heart swelled. It was the most ridiculously adorable sight she had ever beheld and the human had to bite her tongue to keep from saying something. Fortunately, Myka seemed not to notice and continued. "We get more than possessive; we can be downright…needy. It does wear off eventually. Mostly," Myka finished rather awkwardly and looked away.
Feeling rather as though her insides had just melted into a pile of what Claudia would call "goo", Helena reached out and cupped her lover's cheek, raising her chin till jewel-bright eyes met Helena's own. The human's thumb swept softly over Myka's lips and the Vampire's mouth opened, teeth gently capturing the delicate finger before teasing the sensitive tip with her tongue.
Helena shivered, desire rising instantly.
"Is it always like this?" She asked breathlessly, forgetting whatever else she had meant to ask.
Myka's eyes darkened. "Yes…"
And they didn't speak again for quite some time after that.
"Are you really sure? Helena the Change…In a very real sense you die. Your life can never be the same afterward. Even for immortality…the price is high."
They were still curled together in Myka's bed, pressed skin to skin with Helena held close in the protective circle of Myka's arms. The "window" showed a nighttime city-scape – the exact view that would be seen from the top of The Club's roof actually. Helena dropped a kiss to the hollow of Myka's throat and looked up into her lover's eyes. The human took her time answering, sensing that Myka was more fragile than she was letting on. And in truth, Helena was as well. It was a terrifying thing to love someone so completely. Helena had simply had more time to adjust to the idea, besides…
"What life?" The dancer asked simply, letting Myka see the truth in her eyes. "The dancing? You know as well as I that was always temporary, a mere distraction and a way to, how did Leena put it, 'get back on my feet again.' I have no family any longer. The Club is my home. You are my home. I don't give a damn what the price is Myka. If it means your safety, if it means we can be together, I'll pay it."
The body beneath her relaxed slightly and a shadow that had nothing to do with the Hunter's darkness faded from Myka's sparkling green eyes. The Vampire reached up and brushed an errant strand of Helena's raven hair behind her ear and then slowly, slyly, she smiled.
"Well I certainly understand you not wanting to dance on stage – you won't be allowed to as a fledge for a while anyway – but as your Master, I will expect certain…private…performances."
The ridiculous line startled a laugh from Helena – a true laugh, deep and easy and free such that she hadn't managed for a very long time. And when she finally caught her breath and looked down she found Myka smiling too - that rare, beautiful smile that was so wonderfully human and delightfully unfettered; the smile Myka almost never showed anyone else.
"I'm sure we can work something out," Helena murmured against Myka's lips before kissing her slowly.
Eventually they managed to pull apart and then there was more discussion. They talked about the practical realities of what Helena's life as a fledge would entail…
"Not that I expect you to have much trouble learning to control the Hunter, but our law is ancient, and unbreakable. You have to serve in this Coven for a decade. After that, you can go where you please," Myka told her.
Helena nodded. She'd known as much just from common talk around the Coven, but she appreciated Myka being forthright about it. "And if where I please is to stay right here?" The Dancer asked softly.
"Then you stay," Myka replied firmly, slender arms tightening briefly around Helena in emphasis.
The human didn't say anything trite like 'I never want to leave,' but even as she laid her head against Myka's shoulders she could not imagine ever wanting to leave the safety of those arms.
They talked about the ritual itself…
"Olivia can act as our second if you are comfortable with her," Myka offered after explaining that the Second was necessary in case either the Master lost control, or the newly-turned fledge couldn't gain it.
Helena smiled fondly as she thought about Olivia's cool, collected presence. She couldn't imagine anyone else. "I am."
"I'll see to it then," Myka said easily.
They talked about Helena's plans following her 'retirement' from the stage...
"I've found myself wanting to write again," the dark-haired woman said, a wholly intellectual thrill skipping up her spine as her mind took off and raced ahead of her thoughts. "Truly I never thought I would, but Claudia's work combining tech with Magic has me endlessly fascinated."
Myka's smile was fond, but she feigned fear, cringing as she said, "Just don't blow The Club up alright?"
Narrowing her eyes Helena played along, pretending to consider the merits of doing just that. "Hmm yes now that you mention it I suppose a shielded workroom would be a prudent investment."
Myka groaned. Helena grinned and they both laughed softly.
They talked about many things of consequence and many that were frivolous and fell asleep just as the sun was coming up outside.
It was the last day Helena would see as a human.
Resisting the urge to twitch at her ankle-length robe of thick, un-dyed silk, Helena lifted her chin and continued her measured pace down the wide hallway. Behind her, Claudia and Olivia walked on bare feet, betrayed only by the barely-audible whisper of their own silk robes, though the Vampires wore deep crimson. Helena's own feet were bare and she was naked beneath the simple robe, a fact which made the dancer give a brief thought of thanks that these hallways were kept warm with Magic. This deep underground, the walls looked as though they had been carved from obsidian, though Helena knew that wasn't the case. They should have seemed eerie and foreboding and yet the magelight dancing across the mirror-like black surface was starkly beautiful. Beyond the light, however, the hallway was featureless.
Fortunately it was also short and the massive, gleaming steel at the end of it was open to reveal one of several Ceremonial chambers deep beneath the Coven. Helena knew that somewhere else on this level was an altar for Magic Work and other places the Vampires held – if not exactly sacred, then as close to hallowed as the Old Blood ever came.
As she walked the warm silk of her robe seemed to caress her skin and Helena had to stop herself from running her hand over it. It wouldn't do to fidget now. Even knowing the stakes, however, even having committed to what lay ahead fully, it was not until Helena came close to the doorway enough to see Myka standing in the middle of the Ceremonial chamber, her own robe of black silk about her, that the human felt her nerves ease just a little. She supposed she was allowed the faint tightness of fear. After all, in just a few more steps she would come to the end of her journey…and the end of her life.
A few more steps and they were at the doorway where Helena paused as she had been instructed earlier. She did not expect slim hands to take her shoulder, spin her around and pull her into a fierce hug, but Olivia was smiling and Claudia clearly didn't seem to think this was out of order so Helena gingerly returned the gesture.
"Good luck," the redhead winked and then composing her face into something resembling seriousness, she turned and walked to a waiting alcove next to the door. Olivia merely shook her head and stepped up to face Helena.
"Helena Wells, you have asked and been granted the privilege of entering the family Vampyr. This gift comes with a cost, hear now…"
Olivia continued but Helena found herself paying more attention to the smooth, low register of the blonde Vampire's voice than the actual words of the traditional statement. The Coven Master and Leena had instructed her in the – fairly simple – acceptance ceremony earlier in the day when she'd been prepared…
As far as rituals went, Helena had to admit, the Vampires had it right. She was currently submerged once more in blissfully hot water and Claudia's hands were in her hair, massaging her scalp as the young fledge washed the dark tresses thoroughly. The 'preparation' was also remarkably simple – or at least Helena's part was. Initiates were bathed and dried then anointed with oil. They wore no clothing and no adornments. No jewelry or scent was allowed either. A person leaving behind their human life and entering the immortal existence of the Vampire took with them only their bodies and what was in their minds and heart.
Finished with her hair, Claudia let Helena wash the rest of herself while Olivia continued her recitation of the affirmation Helena would have to give before stepping into the Ceremonial chamber. Until the affirmation was complete the initiate – Helena – could still turn back and refuse at any point. Once Helena stepped into the chamber and the door closed however, she was bound by Vampire law.
Standing up in the huge marble bathing pool, Helena let the hot water cascade off her skin as she twisted her hair into a thick rope, gently squeezing the excess water out before stepping from the bath. Claudia was instantly there to carefully dry her off with a thick white towel. Once her skin was dry (though her hair still slightly damp) Olivia slipped a heavy, uncolored silk robe over Helena's shoulders, tying it off gently and reaching up to cup Helena's cheek.
The Boston Master said nothing, merely held Helena's gaze for a long moment. The human returned it unflinching.
Apparently satisfied, Olivia nodded to Claudia. "Go get Leena. It's time."
Although Helena's role in the next part of the preparation was still simple, the actual ritual became significantly more complex.
Part of what made Old Blood different from their younger, (the Old Blood called them 'crude') cousins was genetic; the carefully preserved bloodlines carrying the strength and speed that went far beyond anything mustered by younger blood. Part of it, however, was Magic. Young blood vampires were considered a mere step above animals by the Nightside community. Easy to create, they had almost no control over their own predatory natures and were useful only when someone wanted to create cannon fodder. Indeed, young blood vampires had started as a twisted experiment by an Old Blood Coven Master looking to destroy a neighboring Coven's territory. He had succeeded but at terrible cost. Once set loose the young bloods could not be controlled. They had continued to feed and destroy and breed until they overwhelmed their creator's forces and eventually wiped him out.
That had been over a thousand years ago and despite the combined efforts of the Nightside community, young blood vampires still cropped up like rodents in the cities or wherever someone's arrogance overcame their common sense.
The key difference between an Old Blood and a young blood was the Magic used to bind the human soul to its body, so that even though the mortal shell did technically die, the soul and the intellect survived the transition to Vampire. The combination of genetics and Magic created a dual-natured creature that retained much of its human personality and will, ceding ground to the Hunter only when desired, or in times of strong instinctual drive – such as feeding, fighting, or as Helena put it so dryly, fucking.
Though in some Covens the Master cast the spell, in Myka's Coven Leena performed the rite.
The Sorceress' Work room was clean and simple, the bare stone floors swept and the long wooden bench on one side tidy. In the middle of the floor a complicated design had been sketched in colored chalk and several candles burned at key points. Olivia gave Helena's shoulder one last squeeze and then turned to wait outside, shutting the door.
Like most of the rest of the Household, the Workroom was warm, for which Helena was glad as she shed her robe yet again. Her hair was nearly dry and she ran a hand through it as Leena finished some last preparation at her work bench. After a moment the Sorceress gestured for Helena to step into the middle of the design.
"Don't worry," Leena said softly, familiar gentle humor tugging at her lips and making her hazel eyes sparkle. "It won't take long. And it won't hurt…though it might tickle a bit."
Then Helena had nothing to do but stand while Leena settled herself cross legged in front of her. Always practical, the gentle woman merely wore her custom attire of loose cotton pants and a jewel-toned silk shirt with flowing sleeves. Leena had never been one to don the more flashy trappings of some Magic workers and it felt oddly comfortable to see her tie her thick, curly hair back with a simple band and then settle. The Sorceress laid her staff across her thighs and took a deep breath, settling into a trance quickly. For Helena the waiting was not unpleasant. The floor was warm and the air was redolent of herbs, especially basil and lavender. The human concentrated on breathing and felt some of the tension bleed from her shoulders. There was a hush to Leena's workroom that went beyond even the shielded areas of the rest of the household, something that went beyond mere sound. It was peaceful.
The human's musings were cut short however, when Leena began to chant.
As a mere dancer at The Club, Helena had rarely seen Leena at Work. It was a novel experience to say the least. Though there was a tiny part of the human that admitted to being just a bit disappointed it wasn't more…theatrical.
Still, there was an intense beauty about the Sorceress as her head tipped back and the ancient words fell like distant music from her lips. Gradually Helena felt the air change, the peace of earlier slowly pushed back as energy gathered, drawn by Leena's will. The warmth remained but now it was thick and heavy, like a sultry summer night with a thunderstorm on the horizon. Even the floor felt different beneath the soles of Helena's feet; no longer solid stone but warm sand, and yet as she looked down, nothing appeared to have changed.
The chanting grew faster and Leena's eyes opened. Helena nearly gasped. Gone was the golden-green iris and inky pupil and in its place was left an icy-white expanse, featureless and without direction. The energy in the room crackled now like static electricity so that Helena was afraid to move; couldn't move she realized. Invisible bonds bound her in place and the fine hairs on her arms and the back of her neck prickled, not from fear, but from the hot electric charge that seemed to fill the air around her.
Still chanting Leena rose smoothly, placing her staff aside and picking up a small bowl Helena had not seen before. The words held no meaning for Helena but even the human could feel the Power in them, falling from Leena's lips, molded by her Will and bounded in the liquid syllables of the ancient language. White eyes seemed to stare through Helena as the Sorceress dipped her thumb in the tiny bowl and proceeded to press her finger gently to Helena's brow, her chin, the pulse points in her neck, her chest, her belly, her knees and finally her feet.
The smell of sage and something deeper and muskier rose and the air became almost pressurized for an instant, robbing Helena of breath.
Leena placed the bowl at her feet and said one final word. There was a straining pause, as if the cosmos had not yet decided to do the Sorceress' bidding…and then the oil on Helena's skin warmed briefly and vanished and the charge in the air vanished as if it had never been, the storm blowing over without a single thunderclap.
Helena, suddenly released from her invisible bonds, leaned over and breathed heavily for a moment. When she straightened, Leena was standing in front of her, shaking her head and leaning on her Staff. The Sorceress smiled at Helena's expression and the human was rather relieved to see her friend's normally clear green-gold gaze.
"See? Nothing to it," the darker woman teased.
Helena merely shook her head, rather at a loss for anything to say. Apparently a reply was not expected, however, because Leena held out her hand and helped Helena over the design on the floor. The candles had blown out in the final crescendo of Power and only tiny tendrils of smoke remained, dancing from their wicks. Deftly the Sorceress crossed to the work table and retrieved Helena's robe, helping the human slip it back over her shoulders.
"What do you smell?" Leena asked suddenly, startling Helena with the odd question.
Frowning the human considered. "Apples?" The dark-haired woman replied cautiously.
Leena's smile was bright and she nodded as if the answer was expected. "Yes you do. The Powers like you."
Seeing Helena's confused expression Leena merely laughed gently. "Don't worry, we'll have plenty of time to discuss Magic after tonight. Go on. Olivia will take you from here. And welcome to the family little sister," the darker woman said gently, stepping forward and wrapping Helena in an unexpected and fierce hug.
Shaking off the memory, Helena refocused on what Olivia was saying just in time to give the appropriate responses. The blonde Coven Master looked suitably solemn but a tiny sparkle in her eyes told Helena her wandering attention had been noticed.
Fortunately the dark-haired woman had a nearly eidetic memory and her part of the affirmation was simple. It really amounted to the ancient equivalent of acknowledging there were no refunds in this sale. Helena tried not to think about that as she gave her responses, however, since it always made her laugh and she recognized this was probably not the time.
"Then enter, and become one of us," Olivia finished. The Coven Master must have sensed the direction of her thoughts because she was clearly trying to hold back a smile as she held out her hands for Helena's robe.
As the warm silk slid over her skin Helena tried to steady her breathing. This was the last moment where she could turn back; the final line beyond which there was no retreating or regret. One final step and she would be committed forever, never to see the sun again, never to eat human food, never to grow old and feel the winter of her life closing in. Olivia and Myka had been clear. Tonight she would die and though her soul and mind would remain intact, they would be irrevocably changed and what emerged from the chamber would be a different person. A different creature.
The silk slithered down her arms and into Olivia's waiting hands and Helena turned and stepped through the open doorway. Behind her she was barely aware of Olivia shutting the steel door and activating the magic lock that only the Second had the combination to. If something went wrong, if Myka lost control or Helena could not gain it when she awoke, it was the Second's responsibility to make sure that nothing escaped from the chamber to endanger the rest of the Coven.
None of that mattered to Helena now though. She was looking at Myka where the Coven Master stood in the center of the room, clothed in black with her arms open in welcome. Unhesitating Helena crossed the stone floor and walked into that embrace, a silent cry of joy and relief ringing from somewhere deep inside her as slender arms came around her and Myka laid her cheek against Helena's hair. The human could feel Myka's heart beating beneath her ear and she closed her eyes, letting the steady sound become her anchor. It drew her gently back to the two days she'd spent in Myka's bed, in her arms, somewhere between sleep and waking with her head pillows on the Vampire's chest and those same strong arms holding her, keeping her safe.
And it took her back to that night in the office, to the way Myka touched her with tenderness even caught in the throes of a predator's need.
"We can still stop," Myka whispered, pressing a kiss to the top of Helena's head. "This is my Coven and if you don't…"
But what Helena might not want was lost as the human tilted her head up and caught Myka's lips with her own, silencing her most effectively. "I know my own mind Myka," she whispered after a moment, holding the familiar forest gaze steadily.
Myka smiled ruefully before sobering, her gaze almost burning in its intensity. "I know. I just…the thought of hurting you is unbearable."
"And that is why I love you so dearly," the human replied softly, letting her hands part the black silk of Myka's robe so she could caress her palms up the taller woman's back, pulling her close.
Something caught the edges of Helena's thought, however, and she paused, frowning. "Myka?"
"I am quite certain of my feelings for you, but both you and Olivia have said that the human emotions are not always…shared…by the Vampire. What if…" she trailed off, not quite able to voice the rest of the question.
"What if you only love me as a human?" Myka supplied softly.
Helena merely nodded.
Myka gave a small, liquid shrug of one shoulder. "The Hunter won't take away feelings you already have. So I guess the question you need to answer is, is this enough? If this was all you felt for eternity, would that be enough?"
And once more Helena answered with a kiss. This one, however, was neither soft nor gentle but hungry and searching and when Myka's arms tightened, a silk-clad thigh slipping between Helena's legs the human hissed, "Yes," against Myka's mouth.
They both had the answer they needed then.
If their first consummation had been fierce, even violent, what followed was its contrast. The Chamber was really nothing more than a beautifully appointed bedroom. A mage fire burned in a black marble fireplace and mage-lights winked in decorative holders along the black stone walls, but the space was dominated by a massive bed with a wrought iron frame. It was covered in crimson silk and velvet and delicate gauze curtains hung from the posts. Myka's robe became a careless puddle of shadow on the blood red quilt and then she was lifting Helena, laying her gently across the sheets and easing next to her. This time instead of the hard wood of the wall or the rough embrace of the rug there was only the welcoming caress of down and silk that warmed at the touch of Helena's skin.
What happened next could only be called seduction, although Helena was a most willing participant.
If she'd thought Myka capable of tenderness before, the human knew now she had only been shown the merest glimpse of the care the Vampire could take.
Helena gave herself up to that gentleness, to the sweet torture and the pleasure of existing in the space between heartbeats. Still-human hands mapped her body, not possessing but exploring the territory they had laid claim to already. Fingertips followed pathways only revealed in desire, from the soft swell of Helena's breasts and along the curve of her ribs to the planes of her stomach. That seeking, knowing touch skirted the edge of her hips and followed the delineation of muscle and the long clean lines of bone beneath fragile skin. From her ankles to her chin and every part of Helena in between, Myka staked a different kind of claim – one written in the language of feather-light kisses and slow caresses; stamped with the seal made of soft gasps and tiny noises of desire that were pulled from Helena's lips.
And yet the message was the same as before.
'Mine' said the liquid heat of a tongue in the hollow of Helena's throat.
'Mine' said the hands that slid along Helena's arms, guiding her wrists behind her head so the human was stretched taut and open beneath the Vampire.
'Mine' whispered the warm whisper of breath across Helena's neck before soft lips closed over the flaring pulse point, sucking gently.
'Mine' said the teeth that closed around each peaked nipple in turn, biting slowly until Helena writhed and whimpered in pleasure.
"Mine," growled the Vampire before she kissed Helena deeply.
Beneath the tender onslaught need rose in Helena like a crimson tide, sending her pulse crashing like waves against the ache between her legs. Desire was a hunger low in her belly and a fire that threatened to burn her from the inside out.
Helena shuddered as Myka's tongue teased across her neck and collar bones. The Vampire's lips dropped kisses like the petals of a flower to her shoulder and the hollow of her throat and the curve of her breasts. The human could sense the Vampire's own hunger like a shadow hovering over them, harbinger of a darkness that went far beyond the absence of the sun. And she could sense that Myka was holding back, waiting for something even now.
Gasping for breath, her hands curled weakly by her head Helena blinked, forcing her vision to focus. She saw Myka above her, pale skin set off by the blood red bedclothes and eyes as black as the walls of the chamber. One of the Vampire's hands was cupping Helena's breast, thumb stroking back and forth in a caress that made thinking nearly impossible. And yet still she waited. The muscle beneath the porcelain skin trembled and the hand not touching Helena fisted in the sheets, fabric giving way beneath razor-sharp claws.
It took the swirling of color in the darkness of Myka's gaze to make Helena realize she was trying to fight back the Change.
Reaching up the human slipped her arms around Myka's shoulders, tugging the Vampire down on top of her. For a moment Myka resisted, as immovable as if carved from marble, and then with a soft sigh of relief, she gave in. The feeling of hot skin against her own and the press of Myka's hips between her legs made Helena whimper, but she was just coherent enough to turn her head and whisper against Myka's cheek.
That liquid shudder seemed to pass through Myka and then she was shifting, one hand urging Helena's thighs apart as her mouth sought and found the tender skin of Helena's neck where blood rushed hot and thick and close to the surface.
"Please Myka," Helena whimpered, knowing what was to come, every cell in her body crying out for the promised release.
"Shhh love," the Vampire replied, and her voice rolled over Helena like thunder, even as those questing fingers gently parted aching, silken flesh and moved inside her.
Helena cried out softly as Myka penetrated her, deeply. Not in pain - she was slick with need and had been far too ready for far too long - but at the nearly overwhelming ecstasy of having Myka within her at last. And as she arched, head thrown back and eyes closed tightly, Myka's fangs pierced her neck and sought the artery.
The rush of Vampire magic into her bloodstream hit her like whiskey and honey and a slow deep fire. Helena's awareness of the room, of Myka, of her very body was eclipsed on a surging, pulsing tide of dark amber pleasure. And just like a tide, it ebbed and flowed, rising every time Myka moved inside her and sucked deeper at her neck.
Somewhere - in whatever part of her brain still had any capacity for rationality - Helena knew that she was being killed: that each pull of Myka's mouth took another bit of her life. But then the Vampire would stroke deep within her and the pleasure would crest again and Helena ceased to care.
Time slid sideways, powerless to leave its mark on the occupants of the bed. Helena existed somewhere between the sure possession of Myka's fingers and the hungry sucking of her mouth. Pleasure so intense it was almost-but-not-quite pain pulsed through her with each weakening beat of her heart.
Eventually, however, Myka's hunger began to take its toll.
Helena's vision, already blurry, began to go dark. Her heart beat faster, desperately trying to maintain a body that had been doomed from the moment she'd set foot in this chamber. Her lungs ached as she labored to draw in breath. She wasn't really aware when Olivia joined them. She'd lost the ability to focus by then and was trapped in an endless wash of thick, dark, amber-edged Power.
Someone was whispering words of encouragement in her ear and another pair of hands took one of her own where it lay limply on the bed as the pleasure slowly gave way to pain. Her body was fighting to stay alive and it was losing.
Her killer held her tenderly even as she pressed Helena down into the bed.
The darkness reached out to drag her down into eternity.
Death opened its arms and welcomed her home.
It was dark and warm. There was no time, and no space. It just …was. It was awareness without thought, being without feeling. No physical sensation existed here. She was dead and yet…she still existed. And just as curiosity came into being there was a soft light that grew and beckoned and though she had no form she moved toward it…
And then there was a wave of red, a river of blood carrying a tide of Magic. It trickled down her throat and slammed into her heart, forcing it to beat and shocking her lungs until they drew breath.
Back in the Ceremonial chamber, held tightly between Olivia and Myka, Helena howled, an animal noise of rage as her entire body bowed and she was born again in blood and death and Power. Every nerve-ending was on fire, every breath brought fresh agony, every beat of her heart stabbed like a knife in her chest…
And yet even as she screamed at this violation it faded, receding like the ocean to leave her weak and panting. Her limbs were not yet under her control and her sight careened unfocused with every thrashing movement of her head. Voices pounded at her eardrums like jackhammers and under it all was a cold, gnawing hunger that even now reached up to grip at her, threatening to drive her mad.
"Hold her!" the syllables were tacked together hastily and though the words felt familiar they broke apart before Helena's mind could make sense of them, scattering into nonsense inside her ears. She was being pressed down into giving softness but there were hands and bodies holding onto her and she struggled against them, mindless as a trapped animal… until suddenly a scent she had never experienced before reached her brain, taking over her awareness with all the subtlety of an anvil falling. Rich and coppery and hot it called to her like a drug sings a siren song to its victims. Helena ceased her struggles. No sooner had she identified the need than there was a wrist against her lips and hot, sweet blood was flowing into her mouth.
Instinct took hold and Helena latched on to that offering, sinking her fangs into the already broken skin, heedless of the pain she must have caused as she desperately worked to assuage her hunger. She must have tasted something so delicious once, in another lifetime, but all such memory was shoved aside in that moment as the hunger clawed at her and she fed, drawing another's life into herself, consuming it and making it her own; making her stronger; making her powerful.
Slowly the emptiness eased. Gradually the iron grip loosened and the silent scream in that darkest part of her mind quieted.
But just when she felt a kind of equilibrium approaching, the wrist was torn away.
Helena snarled and the noise shivered in the air, far deeper and more menacing` than anything a human throat was capable of. Before she could do more than protest, however, the intoxicating scent returned and she latched on to a second offering, greedily sucking at the proffered gift. The blood did more than fill her mouth – it overwhelmed her senses, an incomparable experience. It was like trying to breathe in the midst of a gale or stand beneath a waterfall. It did more than give her life, it made her feel alive. And as her hunger eased and her other senses slowly reasserted themselves, Helena realized that there was, indeed, Power flowing through the claret liquid. It slid down her throat with a burn like aged scotch and sizzled along her nerves like electricity. It was the last embers of a fire on a winter's night and a hot desert wind and she could feel herself grow warmer as it filled her, fingertips and toes tingling as if the limbs were reawakening.
There was something more than Magic in the blood though: something that called to her. Something that resonated deep in her mind like a single bronze note that rang, setting every cell in her body to hum in sympathy.
Something that was familiar.
Slowly her greed lessened and the note sang louder, drowning out what remained of the hunger.
Sight and sound and sense returned.
Helena was still on the bed in the Ceremonial chamber with her arms pinned to her side by Olivia and Myka straddling her hips while she held her bloodied wrist to Helena's lips.
Eyes – once the color of polished mahogany but now pools of obsidian – looked up, tracing the path from the still-bleeding wrist, along a slender arm and to a familiar face.
The bronze note grew louder, shimmering in the space between her heartbeats.
Helena met those eyes that were mirrors of her own and for just an instant it was as if her soul cried out in joy. And yet the cry came from somewhere far deeper and darker than what remained of her mortal soul.
Master, came the cry.
Maker, it recognized.
Myka, thought Helena.
"Mine," growled the Vampire.
"Let her go Olivia," Myka ordered, voice rough with need and emotion.
Helena was barely aware of the loss of restraint. All she cared about was reaching up to pull Myka to her, to press her lips to those of the woman she loved, to push her backward on the bed and explore the body that belonged as much to her as the woman beneath her. A new hunger rose, easily eclipsing the physical desire to feed. This was a hunger of the soul. A hunger to touch and taste and feel, to claim and mark and hold her mate close.
The Hunter had chosen.
"Yours," whispered Myka as she pulled Helena down to her.
Neither Helena nor Myka paid any attention when Olivia slipped from the bed.
The blonde Coven master shook her head ruefully as she wrapped a bandage around her wrist, but she was smiling as she adjusted her silk robe and walked toward the chamber's door. Keying in the combination she walked out to find Claudia waiting tensely. The redhead took one look at the blonde's grin however and threw her arms up as if to signal a touchdown. Her attempt to peer into the room, however, was stalled as Olivia grabbed her shoulder and pulled her around, wagging a finger at the fledge.
"Uh uh. Give them some time just to be together alright? You can go jump on the bed later. I'm sure they'll both be happy to see you. Now come on, we need to go get them a snack and I'll have to tell Pete and Leena. Myka's going to be utterly useless for a week."
Grinning like an idiot, Claudia gave a little bounce and then dashed on ahead to inform Leena and the rest of the Coven.
Behind her, Olivia shut the chamber door part way to give her friends the illusion of privacy – not that anyone would dare come down here – before turning to follow after Claudia. The Coven Master was already cataloguing the myriad things that would need to happen now that Helena was one of them and officially Myka's mate. And that was just the beginning. There was still a storm brewing on the horizon. Olivia could feel it just out of reach but threatening nonetheless.
There was much uncertainty ahead of them.
Still, as she strode down the hallway with the sounds of her friend's lovemaking following her, Olivia Dunham was smiling.