Evening all! I would very much appreciate any thoughts you have!

Lyrics come from Aqua's 'Turn Back Time' (Album: Aquarium). I hope you enjoy...
- Ki

Ouroboros Part One

Give me time to reason
Give me time to think it through
Passing through the season
Where I cheated you

The dream began as it always did.

She had dreamed him for eight hundred years. She would probably dream him forever. And every night, she lost him again.

Every time it was still her fault.

Pain and love were equal and opposite, inseparable as she and he had not been. She rose through a hazy atmosphere, sensation clearing into sights, smells, feelings.

In her dreams, the summer was eternal, the frost never to come, the dead brought to life. He lingered, pale, trapped by her need and her memories. She was the only one now who remembered, and when she was gone, he would be truly dead. For now, she wished him immortal - and he lived.

X - X - X - X - X

It was a cold night, but Talisa didn't care about that. Not when he was there, keeping her warm. She could feel his chest move as he breathed, hear the soft thud of his heart. It did nothing to ease her guilt. She didn't know why she was so wild when he wasn't there, or why she went to David for solace when he was gone.

No. That was a lie, but Tali didn't want to whisper the truth, even within the confines of her own heart. She was afraid he might hear. No matter what she did, Tali never wanted to hurt him, only to protect him-

A flush coloured her pale cheeks. Protect him? Protect herself, from his anger, from his sorrow and most of all from his disappointment.

What had started as a flirtation had become an affair and now Talisa was hopelessly trapped, caught in her own web. She loved him so much. He was her soulmate, her destiny, the better part of her. By far the better part of her.

Strange how David held her enthralled; how he dragged her back to him time and time again. The affair had been going on for longer than Talisa could think of, an endless whirl of dances and long, pleasure filled nights. Roaming his mansion and being waited on hand and foot, it was as though she became the princess of her own fairytale.

She met elegant people who didn't look down on her like they would if they knew she was just Talisa Alfaso, a village girl whose father worked as a labourer for them. David had shown her the high side of life and it drew her. She became a different person then, one that enjoyed the luxurious life of an aristocrat. She was shining, splendid, jewel-draped with him.

David showed her a life that her soulmate never could.

Oh, yes, her soulmate loved her, loved her with a passion and intensity Talisa would never have dreamed lay under his solemn extrerior. He trusted her implicitly - mistakenly, she thought - and if he lacked David's charm or flamboyance, that did not diminish his feelings for her.

But David y Pelathas loved her too, in his own curious way. He might never say it, but he couldn't. Birth and class divided them.

Her two men orbited her like the sun and the moon, never meeting. David was warm and open; against him her soulmate was beautiful but mysterious, shrouded in secrecy.

But she dragged her thoughts back to the young man holding her, gently brushing his lips across hers at her involuntary shiver, an action that only served to change the shivers to a more pleasant kind.

"You seem distracted tonight, Tali." There was no infection on his soft voice, and she couldn't help but feel his tension, the subtle tightening of his arms. He was being so odd tonight, even quieter than usual, insisting they come up here - where they could be alone.

"I was just looking at the stars," she said dreamily. "They have so few cares.."

He laughed quietly, just a hint of surprise in his voice. "That's unusually philosophical of you, sweet."

Her lips curved up. "What?" she mocked him gently in her husky voice, "Can I not think occasionally?"

"Of course!" he murmured in her ear, the warmth of his breath sending delicious shivers down her spine, "but it isn't exactly your style." Before she could muster indignity, he continued in the same intimate manner. "Did you miss me, sweet?"

"Of course!" she said, mimicking him . "You know how I wish you were not absent so often."

If he were not gone so often, she would not need David, she could wrench herself free of him. David's love was like a blanket that had made her warm at first, but now began to smother and choke the life out of her.

He shrugged slightly. "They say that absence makes the heart go yonder." There was an odd hardening to his tone, but the Talisa of then missed it and carried on her idle prattle.

"No," she laughed, "you know that is not right!"

Yet she suppressed a shudder of uneasiness, relieved their minds were not linked tonight, for his words held a sharp ring of truth. Had she not gone yonder without a second thought, nor even a first to anyone else?

"Just seeing if you were listening. You seemed to be under the moon's spell." She shook her head in denial. "Absence makes the heart grow fonder," he murmured in quiet contemplation. Again, the tone was different, no trace of love or humour in his voice. It made him sound dangerous, not the man she knew. A stranger and one she feared.

Tali tried to diffuse the darkening atmosphere with her light chatter, her only defence then.

"Yes, that is true!" she agreed instantly. "And as you are so often gone from me, soon the world will not encompass my love."

He gave a short, bitter laugh. "Oh, but my dear Talisa, they are right when they call you a witch!" he muttered, more to himself. "How you bewitched me."

"Please," she whispered, clinging to him, apprehension striking at her heart. "Why are you so strange tonight?"

He stood up then and shook her off. "Absence makes the heart grow fonder!" He parodied her high voice effortlessly, flinging back her words. She stood up slowly, sweeping her skirts about her and stared at him with eyes confused and forlorn. "Absence made Lord y Pelathas's bed warmer, I have no doubt of that!"

S he gasped and felt shock drain the blood from her face, her own body a traitor to her secret.

"So!" he said softly, the purring voice that of a predator. Their roles were reversed, he of the Nightworld and she the tremulous innocent. "It is true, sweet Talisa with your gentle words and lying eyes. My lady, my soulmate, my betrayer."

She reached after him, her fingers just brushing the rough cloth he wore before he was out of her grasp. Tali felt the situation begin to spin out of control and her head with it. How had he known? She had thought she had been so careful.

Goddess, help me! She prayed fervently, squeezing her eyes shut so she wouldn't have to look at his taut face. Make it go away, put everything back to how it was before I met either of them. Great Mother, help me!

Her eyes flew open, nails digging into her palms. From somewhere, Tali found the strength to look at him. Regret overwhlemed her, but too late. Far too late.

He turned and strode away, tipping his face up to the stars.


She tried to call with her mind, but he would not hear her. As if seeing herself from a distance, Tali watched as the girl stumbled after him, unable to stop the tears that streamed helplessly down her face and detested herself all the more for it.

What a fool she had been to imagine that any of David's wealth could measure up to this; only now she had lost him did she understood the wonder of what she had. His mind was a lake sealed by ice, implacable.

"Wait!" she cried.

He looked at her and for an instant she could see the agony in his face. "Spare me you false tears!" he spat.

It was the first outright violence she had ever seen from him.

She held her shaking hands out to him and lurched forward a couple of steps, mute.

Slowly, he moved to face her. The force between them was greater than love and greater than loathing. Even he could not resist. His eyes were wide now, the pupils huge and turning his eyes pure black, distorting his face.

Talisa had never known she could hurt him.

"Whatever I did," she said huskily. "I did loving you. What I feel for David...it is nothing compared with you."

"Do you think that makes it any better?" he said in a peculiar voice, tight with barely leashed emotion.

"I love you!" she screamed as she saw how she was losing him, that he was drawing away from her.

"You cannot love me," he hissed. "Not when you make a fool out of me with the whole village, when you lie to me, day after day, despite what lies between us. Why, Tali, why?"

She heard the desperation in that plea. Talisa covered her face with her hands for a moment, then looked up, gathering the courage to speak.

"David showed me another world. They appreciated me there, I was beautiful, and I was admired. People liked Talisa, not just for what she could do, but for who she was."

"They liked you for your pretty face," he snapped.

"It doesn't matter if they did," she said dully. "I was someone else, someone I liked. Someone I...I could never be with you."

He seemed to take a huge shaking breath. Then he looked straight at her, his eyes lifeless as glass. "So be it."

She barely had time to register his meaning before he was striding past her, towards the sheer drop that lead only to the pounding surf and jagged rocks below.

"No!" she screamed, throwing herself after him with a swiftness born of despair.

But it was too late, of course. It always was. For an instant she saw his face outlined, dazed and starkly white in the moonlight.

He didn't stop.

She heard the eerie silence, and the crazy pounding of her heart. Then the sickening thud.

Her shriek split the air in two as she dropped to the cold ground on her knees. Then there was just the soft wind rustling the long red hair splayed over her fallen form, and the sound of the surf, every wave a breaking heart, a mirror of her own.

X - X - X - X - X

Alisha Althasson woke with a little gasp. Her face was quickly composed, if somewhat pale, but an observer might put that down to the bumping motion of the bus.

So long, she thought, and she had lost him every night for eight hundred years. She stared out of the window at the passing landscape, trying to calm herself.

The dream had been so strong, as if she were reliving it for the first time, not the thousandth.

This life was no different. Alisha shifted restlessly in her uncomfortable seat, her long legs scrunched up against her bag. No. That was not true. The madness had not been there this time.

Always she had lived ignorant of what she had done until her sixteenth birthday. And then, as soon as the sun inched above the horizon, the guilt and horror of Talisa Alfaso had hit her with the casual devastation of a cyclone, driving her insane. But not this time.

This time, she had been born knowing she had destroyed him; through her indifference a man had loved her and lost her and died. Her soulmate. And whereas she had been reborn, he never had.

It defined her until she seemed mere shadow to the solid, visceral form of her past.

No longer a witch, she had still found her way to the Nightworld. She looked little like Talisa, a slender girl with long brown hair and eyes as cool and hard as sapphire. Her face was no longer a mirror for emotions; rather a mask, careful, concealed. If Circle Daybreak had thought her odd, most were polite enough not to comment.

As an agent for them, she had found some small measure of atonement. But she had tired of soulmates, of other people's happiness.

She had asked Lord Thierry to send her away. There had been compassion in his dark eyes when he agreed. He'd asked no awkward questions and expected no answers. In truth, they both knew she would not come back.

Ryars Valley, he assured her, would be somewhere she could settle. It was a town full of people who needed somewhere to disappear in. Quiet, tightly controlled by its Elders, it would be nothing more than a token assignment. And if she changed her mind - well, Daybreak was there. She knew the number to call.

She doubted she would.

There was nothing to draw her back. Her few comforting memories now were of her family - Talisa's family - who had adored their youngest child and cushioned her from the harsh reality of life. They thought it was for the best, but it meant that she had been spoiled - easy to see in hindsight - and more arrogant than her status required.

Alisha drifted off into pleasant daydreams of her childhood, the only safe sanctuary left. Of her mother's stories in her rich Irish lilt and her father teaching her to play cards. That had been where most of the money had come from. Her father had been a professional gambler and when the men in the pub were drunk enough, they'd bet anything.

And when he was a young man, a fool had bet his daughter, a raven-haired beauty with sweet blue eyes, and a tongue sharp with magic. She had been a sorceress and bequeathed Talisa her gift for magic.

The dream turned sour as so many did, her mother's death-bed flashing at her, the raven hair streaked with grey, her lips grim and lined by pain. That famous milk-white skin had become sallow, broken by sores and pustules. What remained of her voice was spent in screams, and later whimpers; until death swept in and left her still and silent.

X - X - X - X - X

She woke up to hear the driver's bass growl. "Last stop, lady. You got a walk to town from here."

It felt good to stretch her legs. She thanked him as she stepped off, throwing him a tired smile. "Any idea where I could find some accomodation?"

"Follow the road. First left. That'll take you to town. You be careful now," he said, and the doors creaked shut. With a rumble and clatter, the bus pulled away, leaving her alone in her new home.

Alisha turned her attention to her surroundings..and stared. Deadbeat desert town, never. Not with those beautiful fields - places she would have hunted in another life, maybe. Streams lay over the hills in a shining lattice. At the centre of the valley, the town huddled, a collection of low slung buildings split by the grey tarmac, hot air shimmering above it.

The warm sun restored her dream-jarred nerves as she began to walk. The transition from the countryside to the town was gradual, but she began to see signs of life. A woman crossed the street with her child grasping her hand tightly. Even from this distance, Alisha saw the smooth movements of the woman and the quick silent steps of the child. Had she passed them by, Alisha knew she would see the hunting sheen in both their eyes. All the people she saw, bar the odd one or two, had that predatory grace about them.

The whole town was populated with Nightpeople. More than she had been expecting, despite what Thierry had said. She had thought he'd exaggerated. Wrong. Very wrong.

She stopped in the nearest shop where a black dahlia was bold on the door. The shopkeeper was a young man, who at first guess looked to be no more than twenty or so. She wasn't fooled. His eyes had a certain, alien quality that spoke of age. A vampire.

She asked about a place to stay, pretending to glance at the displays but noticing his cautious stare.

He shook his head dubiously. "I don't know offhand, but I know a nosy parker who will. Jo!" he yelled. A young woman came through.

"What is it, Sam?"

Sam grinned and flicked his handsome head at Alisha. "This 'un needs a place for the night and I couldn't think of anyone."

The woman looked Alisha up and down sharply and she wondered at the wary expression on her face. She seemed to be searching for something, and Alisha's eyes focused on the black dahlia design on Jo's clothes. Of course, the woman was looking for signs of the Nightworld.

"A dahlia, isn't it?" she said. "Merry meet."

Jo's eyebrows raised slightly as she noted Alisha's stare. "Well, girl," she said curtly. "You haven't anything on you that says what you are, but you aren't human. I think."

"I am, but...I've seen a lot."

The woman nodded sharply. "Old Soul, hmm? We don't see many of 'em here. Someone chasing you?"

"Only ghosts," she said bluntly.

"You aren't the first. No one will ask here. I'm Jo Taylor, formerly Jo Weald." The woman winked. "This here's m'husband, who used to be Sam Blackthorn. But between you and me, girl, anyone asks you 'bout us, we're human. Your name?"

The note of authority in the woman's voice was impossible to ignore, and her kindly features decided Alisha. This was a new life, a fresh start. Why not be herself for once, instead of assuming any one of a thousand alibis?

"Alisha," she said shyly, almost hesitant of telling someone her name. "Alisha Althasson."

Jo nodded approvingly and she had the feeling the woman knew she was telling the truth. "If you want anything, you come and talk to us. There's a place you can stay, a couple of roads up. Girl there moved out." Jo leaned forward, a conspiratorial grin on her face and Alisha found herself smile back, a weary tired effort, but a smile all the same. And it felt good - but Jo's next words destroyed that. "Found her soulmate, they say."

The sorrow stung her like nettles. Even here she could not entirely escape it.

"That will do fine," she said tightly. "Can you tell me how much?"

"No...the girl left the house with her friends. You 'd best ask them. Hmm." The woman narrowed her eyes, obviously calling up faces. "There's Cougar, but he's a chip off the Redfern block and got their chip on his shoulder, too. His soulmate hasn't done anything to improve his temper. Chatoya Irkil, she's a fair girl, witch of course. And there's that 'shifter boy.Jepar Jubatus. Chatoya and Jepar are your best bet."

Cougar Redfern. Her eyebrows lifted subtly. That was the name of one of her marks. And the Irkil witch. As well as the shapeshifter. Watch and report, she had been told, but she'd had the feeling Thierry wasn't too bothered whether she did or not. He'd described Ryars Valley as low-risk.

"Any idea where I'll find them?" she asked.

"They're all at the local high school, just down the road." Jo chuckled. "Ask for Circle Strange."

That was - different. Circle Strange? It sounded like a cult or a club. Come to think of it, hadn't she heard something.? Alisha tried to remember, but nothing came to light. "Oh well," she muttered and trudged down the streets, towards her new life.

If only I could turn back time
If only I had said what I still hide
If I only I could turn back time
I would stay...

X - X - X - X - X

Thanks for reading :o) I'd adore hearing your thoughts.