Aliya woke to the sensation of a warm cloth being run over her forehead. She opened her eyes to see Vivaldi’s teary ones. She smiled faintly. “It was not as bad as it looks.” She told her quietly. The queen nodded, looking away. “Your fathers want in here badly. So does the cat and Peter White.” She rose from her seat, setting the cloth aside. “We can keep them out a little while longer if you want.” She handed her a glass of water.
“No,” she said taking a drink, “you had better let them in, just help me sit up and not look so beat up.” She sat up slowly, very sore. She could see why women did not go to the jokers for second rounds. She moved her hips and winced.
“No help for it, we are not a miracle worker.” She grumbled as she reached for the door.
“Send the fathers in first, please.” Aliya said, “And, Aunt Vivaldi, thank you.”
The queen nodded and left the room. Soon after, Blood and Julius walked in the room. She smiled at them and reached out her hands to them, remembering to late the marks left by the cuffs. They come and took her hands, both ready for murder. “It was not as bad as it looks, guys.” She said again, met with the same looks of disbelief. “Fine,” she said, “but they look just as bad.” She said with a satisfied smile and a mischievous look in eye. That made them feel a little better.
They pushed the sleeves up on the night gown that Vivaldi had put on her, finding more marks and some defined finger print bruises. “Stop,” she said, jerking away from them, a slow hiss coming out from the sudden movement. “It’s over and done now.” They stayed for a few more minutes before leaving, she did not care for the look that passed between them on their way out the door.
Before she could sit back again, Boris and Peter walked into the room. Peter took her hand and Boris leaned on the other side of the bed, gently kissing her lips that were really sore. Both of them looked as pissed as the two that just left. “Cut it out, guys. I’m fine.” She patted their hands, “Like I told them, it’s over and done, three or four time changes and I will be as good as new, promise.”
“Still,” the cat said, “was this really necessary?”
“Yes it was, maybe not like that, but people’s natures can’t always be accounted for. You can’t go hunting them down for it, either of you.” She looked at Peter too. “Besides, Daddy and Father left here to do that a few minutes ago, didn’t they?”
They both looked away sheepishly, still wishing they could go. “I would tell you to go stop them, but I’m too tired. Shoo out of here and let me sleep. I’ll get up in a little while and we can all have tea, provided you’re not fighting each other by then.” She said, slowly laying back down, pulling the blanket over her head.
“Aliya…” Peter started.
“Goodnight, guys, see you later.” She herd them grumbling as they went from the door. Smiling to herself, she drifted away into a light sleep. Somehow Aliya was unsurprised to find herself in the dream void looking at an irate Nightmare. “I’m supposed to be resting.” She told him annoyed.
“You’re hiding them from me.” He drew close to her, “I need to know that you are alright.”
“I’m fine, I’m just tired, so, let me sleep.” She said, holding still, knowing that she would wince even here if she did too much.
“I don’t believe you. Show me the truth.” He said.
“If I do will you go away?” she said sighing. She would have to learn how to get tougher. Though she appreciated everyone’s concern, it was irritating after a while.
“Yes,” he said.
“You could have used that eye of yours and seen anyway. Why bother me.” She asked as she slowly allowed her bruises to show. The ones on her wrists and arms were in plain sight.
“There are more, aren’t there.” His silver eye looked like boiling metal. She had never seen him like that.
“Yes.” She said watching him carefully.
“Show me.” His voice was low.
Aliya wondered at this new side of her old friend. Silently, she unlaced the bow at her throat and lowered the gown until it revealed the bit marks on the side of her breast and down on her stomach, but she remained relatively covered. The atmosphere in the void started to feel thick and his eye began to glow slightly. She shivered, feeling her power rising to meet his. “Nightmare?” she said quietly.
“Are there more?” He asked between clenched teeth, trying to control himself.
“Yes.” She said, “But I won’t show you anymore.” She told him. “Calm down.” She could not believe what she was feeling from him. For the first time she realized that he may be stronger than her.
He hissed. Nightmare jerked the eye patch off and looked at her through glowing eyes of liquid silver. She felt frozen as he moved closer. She could feel the power rising in him like lightning in a bad storm. “You’re even bruised on the inside.” He said looking away. “I should have went.”
“Why, it would not have changed anything. Like I keep telling everyone, I hurt them too.” she said, “I enjoyed it a little more than I thought I would. There was nothing that could have been done. Now this is over with and I am fine.” She said getting a little irritated again.
He came close and touched her cheek. “That’s why I should have been there, or at least should have warned you better about the curse you carry. Sometimes you lose control and because of what you are, you could hurt someone bad, but also yourself in the heat of the moment. You need to learn control.”
“You know from experience?” she asked.
He sighed. “I will tell you because you need to know, but I would prefer not to.” He slid his hand down her shoulder until he held her hand. “I was also a child of an outsider, the first, I believe. I am the oldest role holder now and will likely be until the end. The first time, there was three as well. Two from here and one outsider.” He stopped for a moment. “I nearly killed all of them, Aliya, but I wouldn’t stop. You have more control than I did, which I am grateful for, but you’re nearly as strong as I was in the beginning.” He squeezed her hand, “just please be careful.”
She touched his face. “I will.” Then she winced when she shifted.
He carefully tipped her head back thumb tracing her bottom lip with his thumb. He leaned down, his silver hair brushing against her face as he placed his lips on hers. He ran his tongue along them, silently asking her to open to him. Sliding her hands up his shoulders and around his neck, she allowed him in. Warmth filled her as he slowly fed her power, she could feel it moving through her like warm sunlight, easing her soreness. She felt a pull toward him, not to take, but to give to him as well. Confused, she pulled away from his arms, her eyes wide and glassy. Staring at him, she touched her lips.
Nightmare started to reach for her again, moved the vulnerability she showed to him. As he took a step toward her, she did something he never thought she would do. She ran from him sending herself out of the land of void completely. He stared at the place she had been for a few moments, a small smile playing on his lips. Then he also faded back to his body.
Gray was waiting when he opened his eye again, patch back firmly in place. “How was she?” He asked.
“She was bad, but not as bad as it could have been.” He looked across his desk. “I managed to heal her a little bit.” He said, smiling.
“What happened?” Gray asked, aware of the torch his boss had carried for her for a while now.
“I made her run.” He was thrilled.
“How is that a good thing,” Gray asked, handing him a cup of medicine that he was needing less and less here lately.
“Because if I had scared her, she would have took my head off, if I had made her mad, she would have shot me. Again.” Nightmare added, “But running means that she didn’t know what to do.”
“And that’s good?” Gray asked a little confused himself.
“It means, that she has more feeling for me than she thought.” He glanced at Gray, seriously. “It gives me hope that she will come to my side one day.”
Aliya sat strait up in her bed, causing Julius to jump. “Oh damn.” She said hopping out of the bed, immediately stating to pace. She realized that he had healed her completely, even the bruises were fading from sight. She was grateful but also shaken by what he had done. It felt like she was hurting, yet happy and sad all at the same time. And she did not like it. “Just wait,” she muttered, knowing that she was going to pay him back for making her feel this way.
“What is it?” Julius asked, watching as the marks on her body steadily lightened.
She turned to him just realizing that he was in the room, “Daddy.” She went to him and laid her head on his chest, his arms coming around her comfortingly.
“What happened, Aliya?” he asked quietly.
“Nightmare healed me.” She told him, “and….” She sat back on her bed, “he pissed me off.” She said with no heat behind it. “Maybe it’s because he is an incubus and I’m a succubus.”
“What?” Julius asked, shocked.
“Oh, I guess I need to explain.” Holding on to his hand, she took a moment to gather her thoughts. “The way that it works, I think is when a strong role holder has a child with an outsider it produces someone like me and Nightmare. Of course we’re the only two so far, so I’m just going on what I think happened. Anyway, through us, this place sustains itself. You all give off different levels of energy which is used, but you can’t give it off like we can.” She gave him a moment to take it in. “Unfortunately, I also discovered that we have to have multiple sources to do this because if I stay with one too long or too often, I can completely drain the energy from them.”
“I’m sorry” he said, hugging her. “I wanted you to be happy.”
“Who said I wasn’t happy?” she said “Its fine, really, just a part of who I am. Its better now that I understand it better myself. The only problem I can think of is in the future, I will most likely have to go to the jokers again.” She got up and pulled her blue dress out of the closet, laying it on her bed.
“Why?” Julius said, standing. Never would he let them have her again, not as long as there is a way to avoid it.
“Because, Daddy, sex sustains us too. I realized it just a bit ago, but that is why Nightmare has been so sick for so long. There is not enough energy to sustain him. I’m a little better off because he is stronger. For now.” She said, determined to at least be equal to him.
“I don’t want to know this.” Julius said sitting back in the chair.
Aliya laughed. “Its ok, Daddy, you can pretend that you don’t if you like. I just needed to talk it out, so thanks.” She patted him on the shoulder. “If everyone is still here, tell them to set up the table outside. I want to sit in the sunshine and have tea with everyone.” She pushed him out the door, “Thanks, Dad.”
A short time later, they were setting up everything outside. Vivaldi agreed to make tea and was directing the twins on how everything should be. Boris stood back, amused at how everything going on. He noticed that three men were coming his way with murder in their eyes, making him grin out right. Blood and Julius reached him a little before the rabbit. “Can I help you?” he asked pleasantly.
“I would think that we would not have to warn you to have care with her, do we cat?” Blood asked right out.
“How are the jokers today?” He asked, not even bothering to reply.
“Recovering, unfortunately. She was right, though. They were in almost as bad a shape as she was, before we got there. They were healing faster, however.” Julius said.
“So Elliot and I fixed that problem for them.” Blood said. “How is she really?” The hatter asked him.
“Healed, but we have a different problem now.” Julius quickly explained what she had told him either. The thought of her having to go back to the jokers was protested with threats of dismemberment.
“Not a chance,” Boris said, humor gone.
“No fucking way!” Peter said, angrily.
“What have you to say about it?” Blood asked him, eyes glittering.
“So, you were the first.” Boris commented.
“First and future, cat. Get used to it.” He sneered.
“I would have won you know. I was already her favorite before she got here.” Boris purred smugly.
Blood looked at Julius, ignoring the bickering. “How often and how many lovers would she need?” he asked.
“Damn, I don’t want to know this stuff about my daughter,” he muttered rubbing his forehead.
“It’s natural for her. I’m more concerned about who,” Blood said as she came out. He noticed how quick Dee and Dum came over and wrapped around her, making her laugh. Peter and Boris soon joined them and headed toward the table. “She has four so far, five if you count Nightmare. That should be enough to keep her away from the jokers.” He smiled slightly remembering the sound of Whites legs snapping.
“They will be up in about five time changes.” Julius said. “I will try to ask Nightmare later.”
“They will stay away for a while, but eventually they’ll try to pay us back," Blood said calmly, "well me anyway. I’m looking forward to doing it again.” They headed over to the table listening to the sound of Aliya’s laughter.
A few time changes later, Julius laid down and sent himself into the dream void. All of the role holders could, but they couldn’t control it the way that Nightmare could. He found the incubus there, already waiting for him.
“You wanted to see me, clockmaker?” he asked, his silver eyes following Julius as he paced.
“I do.” He said trying think of what should come first. “What did you do to Aliya when you healed her? She looks like she’s about ready to kill you.
“That is between us, I’m afraid. Next question?”
Julius sighed. “How many lovers will she need and how often will she need one?”
Nightmare laughed loudly. “That about killed you to say didn’t it?”
“Just answer the question!” He said annoyed.
“It depends on how powerful her lover is really. The more they give her, the longer she can wait. Right now she has relatively little control over what she takes in, so I would not let her stay with the same lover more than one time in every fourteen or so time changes. With one exception.”
“That meaning you, I suppose.” Julius asked.
“We draw off of each and are stronger than two or three role holders combined. It makes sense that we could stay with each other longer.” Nightmare told him a little smugly.
“Does that mean that she could have you for her only lover?” Her father said hopefully. The less there were the less he had to think about it.
“No.” He grumbled, “That would cause other problems we exchange power every time we touch. That’s part of the reason she kisses everyone the way she does. We would eventually kill each other if we had no other source.”
“One more and I’m done. Will five be enough to keep her from having to go back to the jokers?”
“Absolutely.” He said, glow flashing in his eye. “There is no reason for her to ever be with them again.” His voice was hard and determined.
“Good” her father said as he disappeared from the void.