Children of the Wild

Chapter 10

Epilogue

The day of the fire Lucy was shaken awake by Gabriel, and told to be at the meeting with the Hales downstairs in the basement. The only information that he disclosed was that it concerned hunters. Lucy was surprised it would take place so soon after what Michael revealed to her. She’d expected him to take his time telling everyone his dirty little secret, not get to it so soon. Then it occurred to her that maybe he hadn’t had a choice. Could it be that Michael had heard more from his family? If so, they could be in danger. Suddenly the hunters subject made more sense.

As Lucy neared the living room, she heard Laura rushing to go down the stairs. Lucy glanced at the clock and was surprised that her friend was up so early. As far as she knew, Laura wasn’t supposed to be up until at least eight.

She’s meeting him! Lucy thought with delight. Today could be the day that Laura put her big girl pants on and decided to come out to her family about her ‘not relationship’ with that guy. Although, Lucy was sure that Talia suspected something was going on with her daughter. Nothing went past that woman. And the only reason why Lucy even knew about Jared was because of some passing comments Derek made. That boy was so oblivious sometimes. He didn’t realize that his couch’s assistant was dating his sister. Sad, really. Lucy wondered what could have him so distracted. Oh, well, that’s a mystery for another time.

Meanwhile, Lucy couldn’t let Laura know what was going on downstairs with her family. It wasn’t rare for the Hales to hold meetings like this. The only difference was Laura's absence. Lucy wanted to say something but she made a promise not to tell anyone else. It wasn't her place to go against Talia and Michael’s wishes. Michael would eventually deal with the fallout and Lucy planned to be there for him as well as his children.

As Laura’s steps got closer, Lucy sat on the couch in the living room and picked up a book to read. Just as she opened it to a random page after making sure the book wasn’t upside down, Laura stopped by the stairs in front of the door, out of sight.

“Stop hiding, I heard you coming.” Lucy murmured, putting the book down and smirking at her friend.

Laura stepped from out of the shadows with a sigh and sheepish smile. “Good morning.”

Lucy put her coffee away and left the book on a nearby table as she looked up at Laura with a questioning glance. To avert Laura’s attention away from her, Lucy opted for a, let’s say, particularly low blow. “Sneaking off to see Romeo, uh?” Laura’s eyes widened for a brief moment, and Lucy felt a pang of guilt for mentioning it. At the moment Laura needed to get out ASAP. With a sigh, Lucy went on. If she was going to touch this subject she might as well do something to fix it. “Laura, I think you should stop worrying about it so much and just…”

“I know, Lucy. I know.” Laura cut her off raising her hand to get Lucy’s attention. “But please… just stop it. I'm nervous enough as it is.”

One pointed look shut her up. “Fine.” She said with shrug and waited patiently for Laura to say or do something. Then it dawned on her what Laura just said and Lucy wanted to break into a happy dance. Jared would finally know the truth! It wouldn't be long before everyone else knew and Laura could stop stressing so much.

Wait, if Jared was about to be brought in on the secret then that meant Talia had to approve. "Your mom..?" The panicked look on Laura’s face was answer enough. They just stared at each other while Lucy tried to convey her apologies and support. "I won't say anything."

“I’m sorry, Lucy, it’s just that I’m not ready to admit anything to my family yet.” Laura confessed, shifting uncomfortably.

Lucy beamed, which only seemed to make Laura even more nervous. Laura had this look on her face of a deer caught in headlights. She was ready to bolt. “Thank you, Lucy, really. But I have to go."

Happy, she dared to approach Laura to give her a bone crushing hug. Surprisingly, Laura kissed her cheek as they pulled away and even thanked her again. Usually Laura didn’t do hugs or any sort of emotional demonstration. Lucy held on tight and basked in the moment.

As they walked to the door together a horrible thought occurred to Lucy. What if Laura didn’t take care of herself because she didn’t think there was any danger? At the moment Lucy regretted not having fought harder to win her argument about telling everyone the news about the hunters.

“Just be careful, alright?” Lucy murmured when Laura was a few feet away just before she entered got in her car. It wouldn’t hurt to give some advice even if it made her sound like a mom. With luck, Laura would take it that way instead of asking questions.

The moment Laura heard her, Lucy noticed the way her shoulders tensed and she briefly turned around, eyebrows raised. “I’m just saying, you never know.” Lucy clarified, trying to play it off.

“Are you sure?” Laura asked, coking her head to one side.

Lucy rolled her eyes. “Yes, yes. I’m sure. Now, go have fun with Romeo.” She waved.

“Right…” Laura still didn’t seem sure. But she went, and Lucy let out a relieved sigh, glad that she hadn’t blown it.

For a few moments she leaned against the door after closing it, dread pooling in her stomach just thinking about how the meeting downstairs was going. Things were bad around here at the moment, her friendship with Laura could be at risk and Lucy couldn’t do much for either of her problems. Hopelessness was the worst feeling in the world. Lucy was familiar with the emotion perhaps a bit too well and knew how to deal with it temporarily.

Before going downstairs, Lucy went to the kitchen to refill her cup of coffee. Then, because she wanted to put it off for as long as she could, Lucy went upstairs to check on the kids. She looked in on Ian and Cora first. Those two were the most likely to cause trouble this morning. But they were fast asleep, curled up in their beds with the covers over them. Next was Chloe, Sophia’s niece. She, too, was asleep and smiling. Lucy couldn’t help but run a hand through Chloe’s soft hair. With long blonde hair, blue eyes, and fair skin, she looked angelic. Such a nice girl, Lucy thought, kissing her cheek before going back downstairs. Even though Chloe was almost as old as Peter, Lucy still thought of her as someone younger than that.

There was only a brief hesitation on her part for a moment before she opened the door to the basement and closed it behind her. Lucy hoped that they excused her tardiness. Either way, it wasn’t really her fault and Gabriel would fill her in later on whatever she missed. Everyone was gathered around the table in the middle of the room as they discussed the topic at hand. Some were sitting down while others remained standing up with their arms crossed. The common denominator on all of them was the somber look on their faces. It was then that the seriousness of the situation sunk in for her. The danger felt more real.

The conversation in the room automatically ceased the moment she stepped in around the corner, and the tension in the room became stifling. Lucy froze, not knowing how to react. From across the room Peter gave her a nod, spurning her into action. She sat down at the table next to her father and crossed one leg over the other.

“Well, what’s the word?” Lucy asked to no one in particular.

Michael cleared his throat, drawing everyone’s attention to the head of the table. He leaned forward on his seat, resting his elbows on the table before addressing everyone. “We were just discussing Gerard’s possible course of action.” He clarified.

“He’s a psychopath with narcissistic tendencies; I’m surprised he’s even functional at this point.” Lucy said matter of factly.

At least that’s what she’d gotten from the way Michael and her Imogene described him. Gerard was some sort of legend among the hunters as well as supernatural population and everyone agreed on one thing: he was not to be messed with if you valued your life.

If only a little surprised, Michael nodded.

“Gerard is very dangerous.” Talia went on, picking up where her husband left off. “As we all know, what happened to Deucalion last year wasn’t an accident. He went to see the Argents about peace, and he got stabbed in the back.”

Gabriel sighed. “We told him not to, but he didn’t listen.” He supplied for Lucy, who didn’t know all the details of the other packs’ visit last year. “He believed he could make a truce with the hunters to stop an all-out war that was sure to happen if things kept progressing the way they were.”

Peter snorted. “He should count himself lucky he didn’t end up cut in half.”

“Your lack of tact amazes me, Peter.” Lucy mentioned with a sarcastic smile that didn’t do much other than thoroughly amuse Peter. He even winked.

“He’s probably been planning something against us since then.” Talia supplied, and Lucy agreed with her.

Peter straightened up from where he'd been leaning against the wall clucking his tongue. "Your words couldn't be more true, sister." He began in a tone that implied there was a 'but' somewhere in there. "It's obvious. Almost too... easy, don't you think?"

Lucy hated it when he made sense and so did her father, it seemed, if his expression of resignation was anything to go by. "He's right. Gerard is too smart to lose the element of surprise. After what happened to Deucalion I doubt he'll come charging at us himself because that's what we would expect."

"We need to be prepared for anything." Lucy cut in. "Gerard is a corrupt hunter and will probably use less than conventional methods to destroy us. The Code is no longer valid, if it ever was for him. We need to watch over our shoulders more than ever."

Michael's expression darkened at that and his heartbeat increased a bit. His hands balled into fists in frustration. Whatever he was thinking about couldn't be good. Someone only got that haunted look when they were thinking about something extremely messed up. Given Michael's history with his father Gerard, this was almost guaranteed to be disturbing. Lucy didn't envy him.

"Gerard never did things the conventional way." Michael's tone was cold and detached, his expression stoic. "For years, he inculcated his twisted views on my siblings and me. He made sure we never doubted the danger any supernatural creature posed for humans. Monsters are meant to be put down like the savage animals they really are no matter what they look like. Even children, if we ever came across them. Because no matter what disguise they use to trick us, they're all monsters that deserve to die." The way he said it, it sounded like a mantra, something to be repeated over and over again until you believed it.

This sudden confession had everyone in the room stunned. Even Peter seemed rattled. The one that seemed the most disturbed of all, though, was Talia. She was looking at her husband with torn feelings, a mix between pity and compassion. Ever the empathetic one, Talia managed to significantly calm Michael down with one comforting touch to his shoulder. In response to his wife's loving touch, Michael placed his hand on top hers and smiled a little. With that simple lovely exchange between the two, the atmosphere in the room lightened a little and the midlife crisis was averted.

"Great." Lucy said. "We're basically back to square one. Peachy." She had to interrupt the moment. It was touching but they had more pressing matters to discuss.

Peter snorted. "Not really, we could--"

A whirring sound resonated from above them, cutting Peter off. The lights over their heads flickered a few times before finally going out, cloaking them in darkness that lasted only a few seconds before Talia turned on a few lanterns around the place.

"I don't like this." Lucy murmured to her dad. "Peter, did you forget to pay the bill or something? Please tell me you forgot." In her experience, the lights going out meant something bad was about to happen.

Gabriel and Michael exchanged some weird looks before springing up into action. They'd barely taken a few steps when suddenly a noise coming from the farthest, darkest corner of the basement startled them. No one else was supposed to be down there with them. The sound was followed by some movement along the wall. Lucy tried to track it by its heartbeat but there was none. Thoroughly confused, she glanced at her father for an explanation and was surprised by his expression. Gabriel's eyes were wide and almost fearful. Lucy panicked.

"What's going on?" Lucy asked, inching closer to her father. "What's that?"

Talia grabbed Lucy by the arm and pulled her closer to the light the lantern was casting around their now tight knit group. Everyone suddenly gathered closer together, each glancing around as another dark figure seemed to join the previews one. Whatever they were, the dark figures were jumping around the walls, and then the floor. At one point Lucy could have sworn she saw claws and sharp teeth on those things.

"We have to get out of here." Gabriel told Lucy, grabbing her by the arm and trying to steer her out of the room, only to be stopped by the dark blob the moment they stepped out of the light. "Damn it! Michael, we have to get the lights back on, now!"

Lucy didn't understand what was happening at all. The lights? Well, they were in the basement. The fuse box had to be somewhere down here. She told her father as much, and the moment Talia replied with its location, sparks flew from it.

"What the hell?" Peter said, and then cursed when some cables nearly hit him in the chest. "What are those things and how did they get past the wards?"

That's exactly what Lucy was wondering. "Dad?" She asked again, regressing a few years back when she was a kid and turned to her father for answer. Except that this time not even her father seemed to know what to do.

"They're Strigoi." Gabriel replied, eliciting a gasp from Talia.

"But I thought they only hung out around cemeteries?" Peter asked, inching closer to the group.

With her sensitive hearing Lucy picked up something going on upstairs. Several footsteps were heard around the house, followed by some... splashes? There was a shift in the atmosphere that just didn't feel right and Lucy instantly knew that they were under attack. It was perfect, really. While the heavy cavalry was trapped in the basement anyone could get in if the wards were down, leaving the rest of their family vulnerable.

"We have to get out of here!" Michael shouted, then charged out of the circle. The instant he was out of the light's range, the shadows attacked him somehow managing to slice him with their claws. Michael didn't stand a chance, he couldn't get a hit on anything. They weren't solid. They were shadows, dark and untouchable.

Suddenly Peter got a funny look on his face. He tilted his head to one side and looked up slightly, then out of nowhere a roar filled with rage and pain left his lips and he was transformed the moment he jumped into the midst of the fighting. Lucy couldn't stand still anymore, she stepped forward to help the werewolves, but her father pulled her back.

"Dad, we have to help!" Whatever Peter had heard, it was bad if he lost control like that. "Let's go!"

Gabriel tightened his grip on her. "We can't, Lucy. If you step out of the light, they won't attack you. They'll possess you." He pointed at the shadow that was single handedly beating the crap out of Peter, a very skilled fighter. "They're Strigoi, they prey on a Vampire's magic, using our bodies to gain form and walk around doing nothing but harm. If they possess us, we'll turn on them. You can't--"

Peter had been thrown right on top of the table, knocking the lantern, which shattered and spilled gasoline across the floor, starting a fire. The light emanating from the flames didn't make much of a difference, though, Lucy could still see just fine but after what her father had revealed, a fear unlike anything she'd ever felt before gripped her tight.

"Shit." Her father cursed.

That's when the smell of something burning hit Lucy's nostrils and she noticed the smoke coming from under the door leading upstairs. So that's what had gotten Peter into a frenzy. Lucy, too, sprang into action trying to get upstairs to the kids, momentarily forgetting about the danger she was in. Her sole worry was the children and everyone else in danger. Between the roars and grunts from the fighting, and the imminent threat of death, Lucy didn't think twice about the implications. Somehow she ended up being knocked down and pinned to the floor.

"Not so fast, little girl." That was Gabriel's voice, but it didn't sound right at all. It sounded distorted, as if the signal was somehow getting mixed up with another and two voices came through. "You're staying here for the party."

Lucy was abruptly grabbed by the hair and hauled up to her feet. She tried to elbow her way out of the grip but Gabriel pulled her arm back and broke it before dislocating it so that she didn't try anything else. "Dad? Dad, please fight it!" Please, let it be possible, she thought. If she got possessed she'd at least have a chance of breaking free.

The Strigoi chuckled in her ear and turned her around to watch as the other shadow threw Talia so hard against the wall that something cracked. Talia's body slid down the wall leaving a bloody trail behind. Lucy scanned the room for Michael only to find him pinned to the ground with one of the table's legs protruding from his abdomen while Peter tried to help his sister. Everyone was occupied or unconscious, leaving the second Strigoi free to do as it pleased.

"C'mon, Rem, take her already." Gabriel hissed. "We don't have much time."

Rem slowly turned to her grinning but instead of charging at her, it threw one last lantern to the fuse box, which short-circuited and caught fire. The flames instantly spread, inching up and licking at the ceiling. While Lucy stared at the flames in despair and hopelessness, the thing crawled to her feet. Much like the flames, it slowly climbed up her body. The thing left a biting chill in its wake followed by numbness. Lucy struggled to break free but the thing only brought her closer to its body, successfully immobilizing her. Next thing she knew, a slimy, cold thing was crawling down her throat and then everything went blank.

The things possessing Gabriel and Lucy exchanged malicious looks, then turned to stare down at themselves. Rem, the Strigoi possessing Lucy, started examining his new body, rolling her shoulders trying to get used to the feel of life. He took control with little resistance. It was great to be able to feel again. Usually vampires were smart enough not to get possessed and took precautions such as wearing charms of light to ward Strigoi off. To be honest, he didn’t know how long it had been since the last time he was in control of a vampire’s body. But he was sure as hell gonna enjoy it.

The heat building in the room was even pleasant, though he knew that he needed to get out of there soon before they burned. He’d have time to enjoy his new body later after he finished what he’d promised to that hunter.

“Let’s go, Rae.” Rem, said. He wasn’t worried about the werewolves at all. They were all incapacitated at the moment. Plus, he doubted that they would hurt the bodies he and Rae occupied. That was the whole purpose of possessing these vampires, they were friends with the wolves. “We got places to be...”

Rem super sped upstairs with Rae at his heels. After barricading the door to the basement, Rem waited for Rae to run outside to get their little gift for the werewolves. When he came back, Rem asked, “Is the entire house surrounded by it?” he tilted his head to one side while listening in on the kids upstairs. “We don’t want anyone making a run for it.”

Rae nodded, “It’s all ready.” He jumped a little when a part of the upstairs banister suddenly fell in flames close to them. “Everything is going according to plan. We just need to…”

“Lucy?” A small voice startled them. Rem turned to see a dark haired little girl around ten years old standing next to the burning stairs holding a boy’s hand. She was scared and shaking, coughing because of the thick smoke that was beginning to invade the whole house. “What’s going on?”

Rem schooled Lucy’s features and walked up to the little girl. Cora, Lucy’s thoughts supplied. She crouched next to the kids and put a hand on top of Cora’s shoulder. “Everything is going to be alright, Cora. Don’t you worry.”

Ian, the little boy, shook his head, staring behind Rem at Rae with suspicion. “Gabe, your eyes…”

Cora gasped when she also caught sight of Rem’s eyes. “You’re not Lucy!” She exclaimed and tried to escape Rem’s hold but a vampire’s strength was greater than that of a small werewolf girl.

“Let her go!” Ian yelled, tears gathering in his eyes as he lashed out. Pain spread from the scratch along Rem's arm where the little wolf's claws dug into his skin. For a split second, Rem could only stare as blood flowed freely. The feeling of pain was unpleasant. He'd missed it.

With a growl, Rem stood up in one fluid motion and grabbed the kid by the throat, squeezing it to cut off his airways. “I don’t have to listen to you.” He told the little boy and gestured for Rae to stand back as Cora started to attack him. “I can handle a pair of brats, Rae.”

“Ian!” Cora kept yelling. “Please, please let him go! Please!” Tears streamed down her face and coughs wrecked her body, but she never stopped trying to fight despite how futile her attempts were. The girl lacked self preservation.

It was so peculiar, these little girl’s determination to save her brother. Very bothersome. So he broke the boy’s neck once and for all, a small mercy to spare him the burning flames. Knowing from experience how that felt when he’d had take possession of other bodies, Rem felt like he’d done a good deed. He let the boy’s lifeless body drop to the floor, the loud thud shocking his sister who stopped fighting. She ran to her brother but Rem caught her, too, and flung her away to the back of the house where her body collided with a door that splintered under her weight.

“She’s not dead.” Rae said as an afterthought.

Rem shrugged. “The hunters will take care of her.” They’d done their job, incapacitating the older werewolves in the basement to perish.

The screams of said werewolves reached Rem’s ears and he grinned, turning to Rae, only to be punched so hard his body was flung against a wall. Pain spread from his cheek all the way to the rest of his body after the impact. His vision blurred a little and he could barely take a breath without feeling like something was stabbing him from the inside. Despite the unwelcome sensations, it was a glorious agony. After who knew how long, Rem could feel again. Rem blinked from the floor and looked up to see that the older vampire seemed to have regained control over his body. How unfortunate.

“You get out of my daughter or I will—“

“What?” Rem cut him off with a chuckle as he got up, hissing at the pain from where he’d been burned. “You’re not going to kill me. You’d kill your daughter, too.”

A moment later Gabriel had him up against the wall, holding him by the throat in the same fashion Rem himself had had the now dead boy. Except that Rem was sure he wouldn’t be killed and Gabriel knew it, too. “Damn you.”

Before Rem could reply to tell him that he already was, Gabriel grabbed a piece of wood and impaled him to the wall. The Strigoi let out a gurgled yelp of pain, his vision dancing with dark spots for a few moments before he was able to rein in the wrong sensation of the wood through his borrowed torso. It didn't take long. As he'd come to learn over the years, there was always a greater agony to experience.

The End of Part One

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