Chapter 5. // Val’s Surprise
After the video call, Raphael closed up the office and the group headed home, Val begging Grey to spend the night and she agreed; Taj and Raphael going home together, since Taj was basically kicked out for the night. “I don’t trust you and your perverted teenage boy ways.” Val had said, eyeing the boy cautiously, like he was diseased and would transmit it to her.
“I’m a mated man, lady!” Taj wanted to yell, but he swallowed his words and instead yelled, “I’m nineteen woman!”
Grey and Raphael stifled their laughter as the two bickered in the parking lot just outside the office. In Grey’s mind, music played and she sang and danced along with it, wondering if Lumi wouldn’t mind performing it with her.
I hate the headlines and the weather
I’m nineteen and I’m on fire
But when we’re dancing I’m alright
It’s just another graceless night
Forgetting herself in the moment, Grey was oblivious to Raphael, who watched her intently and grinned. She was brought out of her head bobbing and shoulder rolling when Taj laughed, and her face heated up, murmuring profanities under her breath as she walked away from them and towards Val’s car.
The two vehicles drove out of the building and in the same direction for a while, before Val turned left and the boys continued to drive straight ahead, pulling into Raphael’s garage a few minutes later.
As soon as the girls entered the house, Grey flopped down on the soft, comfy couch and curled herself up in a ball, shutting her eyes and murmuring “Good night.” to Val, who chuckled and flopped down on the couch next to hers, murmuring a reply before yawning loudly and letting sleep overtake her. To Grey’s surprise, she slipped into the darkness as well, but embraced it like an old friend.
At Raphael’s house, the same thing occurred, and Ursula shook her head at the two, who snored loudly and in sync. She left for bed after completing a request for Raphael, who wouldn’t stop talking about “Grey”.
She had no idea who that was, but she hoped that Obscura would tell her if they met up in the future. Ursula was elated; somehow, the bond was still there, even after Obscura succeeded in breaking it for his own safety. Whoever this “Grey” person was, they had no idea about the past and bond that Raphael and Obscura share, and they should just leave him be before they got their heart, or bones, broken.
Raphael had gotten the entire family excited about this “Grey” person, and they harassed him almost every day about meeting her. They begrudgingly agreed when he asked for more time, to let her get used to him, but nonetheless still asked about her.
Nodding to herself, Ursula drifted off into slumber, reminding herself to contact Mrs. Rossellini about her trip in the coming weeks.
Sooner than any of them would like, sunlight streamed into the houses, landing gently on their sleeping forms. Taj was the first to awaken, the sounds of clanking plates and the heavenly scent of bacon pulling him off the sofa and into the kitchen. Three women bustled about, setting food into plates for everyone else and cooking.
He walked up to one of them, wrapped his arms around her waist and rest his chin on her shoulder. The woman chuckled and greeted him, scooping bacon out of the frying pan and placing it in a bowl full of the delicious meat. “Good morning, Taj.” He grinned, planting a kiss on her cheek.
“Morning, Ula.” He removed his arms from around her waist and walked around the long counter, whistling lowly as his eyes fell on the masterpiece Ursula had made just the night before. “Oh wow. That’s beautiful.”
The older woman merely smiled, and slid a plate towards the boy once he plopped down on a chair. He quickly stuffed his face after thanking her, and the woman sighed, shaking her head, only to laugh when the boy looked at her and smiled, his cheeks puffed out.
Grey groaned as she was being shaken violently. Her eyes slowly peeled open and the woman who stood above her grinned, eliciting a grin of her own. She rolled off the couch and stretched her muscles, before being dragged off by Val to prepare for the day.
First, they ate breakfast. Then, Val shoved her into the shower, and hopped in herself after Grey was done. After brushing her teeth, Grey padded into Val’s room, to see the clothes she set out for her and stilled, shaking her head furiously at Val’s choice.
“Valentina Andromeda Chrystelle Rossellini! Please explain to me why there’s lace underwear and a body con dress?” Grey shouted, glancing behind her as if Val were right there. From the bathroom, the running water slightly muffled her voice. “You gotta feel sexy on your big day!”
Grey’s eyes drifted to the ceiling, muttering profanities and asking herself how she got into this mess. She slipped into her clothes, and the images started to fill her mind. Staggering to her phone on the charger, Grey checked the time, and her eyes widened, harshly whispering “Shit!” as she saw the digital clock.
She had lowered the serum’s dosage and increased its concentration as she began to spend longer nights in the office and needed to keep her image up. It now lasted close to twenty four hours before wearing off. But it seems today, she forgot to pack an extra syringe with her.
Her breathing got heavier as her skin rippled and the ink unravelled itself. She bit her lip harshly, drawing blood, to stifle the scream that wanted to slip off her lips. A wave of dizziness crashed over her and her knees buckled under her, dropping her ungraciously to the carpeted floor.
Grey’s senses heightened, and one by one, the other occupants of her body roused from slumber. She was certain that her eyes had the golden flecks in them. She could feel herself grow only by a few more inches, and her hair return to its natural cloudy gray colour.
The seconds ticked on painfully slow, but eventually, the dizziness subsided and she was back to her natural self; the Guardian she had trained to be millennia ago.
Walking to the full length mirror, Grey gulped, panic slowly pouring through her veins. “I have so much explaining to do.” She whispered, breathing deeply.
“Grey? Grey is that you?” a voice she didn’t think she’d hear for a long time filled her head, and involuntarily, she smiled.
“Alice. Yeah, it’s me.” The other woman chuckled, and Grey was beginning to feel nostalgic.
“I didn’t think you’d be back to normal so soon.” It was Grey’s turn to chuckle and she nodded, although the other woman wasn’t there.
“Me either. But here we are.” Grey could almost feel her smiling. She still stood there in front of the full length mirror in the lacy underwear. “How’s your mission going?” the other woman sighed.
“We just got back to Earth. It might take a couple of months, since they’re all spread out across the country, but once we get them we’re coming your way.” Nodding, Grey replied, “Okay. Don’t push him too much.”
Alice snickered, but promised that she wouldn’t. “Give my love to the kids. And good luck.” Again, Grey could almost feel her smile. “I will. Thanks, I will really need it. Good luck to you too; see you soon.” And with that, the connection dimmed down, but still pulsed, just like all the others; pulsing with life and colour.
Grey didn’t notice Val until she heard a strangled scream. Her head snapped to the door and Val, nude with a towel pooling at her feet, had pressed herself against the door, staring at Grey as if she were a nightmare brought to life. Grey felt the shock, the pain, the complete and utter betrayal roll off Val in tidal waves. She raised a finger at Grey, her hot pink nails shining in the light. “You better tell me the truth right now or I’ll have to kill you.”
Grey scoffed, a bitter chuckle bubbling out of her. “You couldn’t do that even if you really wanted to.” Grey was in Guardian mode: cool stance, no emotions and blank faced. A quivering Val, sliding down to the floor and shaking her head in disbelief merely said one word.
The smell of bacon wafted into his nose and he became aware of his senses. Taj waved a piece of bacon over Raphael’s face, snickering quietly as he called out, “Raphy. Oh Raphy my boy. Wakey wakey.”
His hand shot up and grabbed Taj’s, eliciting a pig-like squeal from him. Raphael burst out laughing, opening his eyes to see a fuming brother, who tried to wrench his hand away. Releasing him, Taj walked away, grumbling under his breath, and Raphael chuckled, standing up and walking into the kitchen.
The clear glass cloche that contained the beautiful white rose and what seemed like dew drops on the petals of the thorn-less flower stood regally on the counter. Raphael stopped in his tracks to admire the craftsmanship of Ursula, and likely a few other female cooks. It was almost like the first day he saw Grey: something beautiful and pure that should not be touched by the tainted hands of man.
Raphael quickly ate his breakfast, still admiring Ursula’s work and praying that Grey would like it. He did his usual routine, and glared at Taj who was still in the clothes from the night before. In under ten minutes, Taj was back in the kitchen, breathless but in a clean set of clothes. He drove to work faster than normal, and Taj had an iron grip on the handle above his door, and the cake. “Don’t you want to, I don’t know, slow down a little?” he asked worriedly, tightening his grip on both the handle and the cake as Raphael overtook a vehicle.
“Nope.” Raphael pressed the gas pedal further and their speed increased, Taj’s girlish scream drowned out by Raphael’s booming laughter.
He sped past the guard in the booth, startling him out of his seat, and careened around the corners until he stopped abruptly at the door to his office. Killing the engine, Raphael turned to his younger brother, who was still hanging onto the cake and handle for dear life, quivering and gulping. Before he could speak, the boy turned to him with wild eyes. “Do you happen to have an extra pair of jeans in your office?”
The man snickered but nodded, and pried the cake out of his younger brother’s grasp, then exited the car and entered his office.
He walked straight across, making a stop at his desk to pick up the two boxes, and entered Grey’s office, pausing for a moment. Just a few months ago, this place was empty and filled with memories of women trying to hook up with him; a few were successful, and he felt disgusted with himself.
Now, the office was filled with the soft colours Grey loved: blue, lilac, and ironically, gray. It now had memories of small talks and deep ones, late nights and laughs at stupid jokes, and all the little moments they shared that made his heart race. She was so innocent and pure; he feared that he might taint her if she got too close. But he couldn’t help himself; he needed her in his life now that he met her.
Raphael walked to her desk where a framed picture of her family stood, all of them making funny faces. He smiled softly, remembering his own siblings. Setting the items down neatly on her desk, he backed away into his office slowly, then shut the conjoining door. Just as Taj was exiting the bathroom, a new pair of jeans on, the elevator arrived and the two women exited. His blinds were open, and Raphael was on the verge of drooling up an ocean.
His slacks became painfully constricting, and he glanced down, groaning and rushing to the bathroom, slamming the door in Taj’s face as he laughed. Spending the day with her is going to be a lot harder than he thought, and he wished Val didn’t have immunity so he could hit her for making Grey wear that dress, knowing exactly what it would do to him. Ever since their fateful meeting, he hasn’t been with anyone; and doesn’t plan on being with anyone, unless it’s her. Raphael hit his head against the wooden door repeatedly, before deciding to deal with the matter. He didn’t have time for a two hour cold shower, which became an everyday thing now.
A knock on the door shouldn’t have startled him, but it did. He growled lowly when he heard Taj’s voice, which held false concern, and plenty of amusement. “You okay in there, big brother?”
“Yes. Now go away!” he responded immediately, and returned to the task at hand, ignoring Taj’s fading snicker.
TWO HOURS AGO…
Valentina Andromeda Chrystelle Rossellini has never been so flabbergasted in her life.
Her best friend, the person she has opened up to about everything, has kept this huge secret from her.
This; she kept this from her.
The other occupants of her body were stunned into silence. They had taken a liking to her, not only because she was the other half of her cousin, who was more like a brother to her; they liked Grey because she was a sweet, kind, loving person who deserved every single ounce of love bottled up in the huge man she was destined to be with.
Now, she’s a cold-blooded killer.
She recognised some of her runes all too well; others were like trying to conjure up an image, but have it slip away from you like running water.
Val sensed Grey drawing closer to her, and she held a hand out. “Distance. Please.” Sighing in defeat, Grey sat cross-legged on the floor, not missing the cracks in Val’s voice.
Val tried to keep her resolve and not cry, but the lump was already forming in her throat. Swallowing hard, the lump didn’t ease up, and Val nearly burst into tears right then. The woman she had grown to love like a sister sat there with a blank look on her face. She never would have thought that a person with such a sweet disposition could be what she was.
She watched her, the way the golden runes on her skin danced in the light, and the black and silver runes having a silver or white strip of light run across it in the early morning sun streaming through the open window.
Grey inhaled deeply, then spoke.
“About ten years ago, my father dealt with some bad people unknowingly. They wanted him for a job, and he refused them on the spot. They backed off, and things were okay for some time, then it started. We were tormented by them: break-ins and dead animals showing up on our doorstep, blood-written messages on our walls, and we had no other choice but to move to the countryside.
My mother tried desperately to sell her paintings to put bread on the table, since my father was fired from his job and no one else would hire him. My siblings and I were bullied at school; I took the brunt of it for them. It was hard enough for them knowing what was going on, that I didn’t want them to feel completely hopeless if they were being bullied at school.
Eventually, my father caved in and did the dirty work they asked of him before they knocked us off the social hierarchy. Once the first job was successful, everything went back to normal; my father got an even better job, my mother’s paintings were being sold as soon as they were completed, and we remained in the countryside, but moved into a slightly bigger house. Everything felt normal for a year, but slowly, my father was getting weaker. He was skinnier, and paler and was always busy or distracted; sometimes we wouldn’t see him for weeks.
My siblings and I always thought that we were the children of a Lycanthrope and a Vampire. My parents kept the fact that my mother was a half Siren and descendant of a witch, and my father was Turned, not a pure-blooded Vampire; and they were both Hunters.
It was quite the shock to us when we followed our mother to a hidden part of the house and found all the weapons and books and paintings. She had no other choice but to tell us since all the evidence was there, and everything I noticed about them before clicked together: the constant sneaking out late at night, the reason behind them wearing long clothes even in the heat of summer, wounds that randomly appear overnight. We felt just like you do right now: betrayed.”
Grey gulped, running a hand down her face. She didn’t look at Val when she continued.
“When we followed our mother and she told us the truth, she begged us to forgive her and our father from keeping it from us. We weren’t going to at first but, she cried and showed us the only note my father had sent since working with those bad people; saying how he wasn’t going to make it back home, and how sorry he was. We forgave them, and then my grandfather came and we had an ‘emergency initiation’. By the end of the day, my siblings and I were Hunters.
They needed us to track my father down. Those bad people were Rogues, and they were crashing multiple organisations for their files, then leaving no survivors. It took years. Every time we got close, they disappeared, then reappeared months later with a bigger attack than their last. We were getting frustrated, and my mother sunk so deeply into depression that I didn’t want to leave her alone for even a second. I mixed up a concoction from one of her spell books to help her feel better; she was mad at me for doing it, but she didn’t want me to stop either.
We got into Oxford six years ago when we tracked one of the Rogue’s children to that location. I would miss classes and pull all-nighters following the kid around, and tracking my father, and doing school work. I’d survive on coffee mixed with energy drinks, and runes to keep me awake and give me extra stamina.
Holidays didn’t feel like holidays anymore; I was pushing ahead with school to keep a front, and assisting with the tracking, and yes; I have killed. But they were evil. Eventually they would have shown themselves and no one would’ve been safe. Taking them down before they truly came out was essential. Plus, they messed with my family, so it was done with a smile.”
Grey hugged herself, swiping at the traitorous tears that escaped her eyes.
“Finally, we had found him. We thought those evil bastards were just oblivious, but they knew that we had locked on to him. They were baiting us. It was the dead of night, during summer vacation four years ago. That night was going to be a rescue mission. We found where he was being kept. It didn’t even look like him anymore; he was battered and bruised and looked like a pale bag of bones. We were disgusted; they used him as their blood bag; but the most worrying thing was that we were trapped. The man we loved was dead, and was being controlled by some necromantic spell and a voodoo doll. Don’t ask me how I know that; I just… knew.
They kept us there for months. But by some miracle, we escaped. Maybe it was they didn’t want anything from us, or maybe it was the Lycanthrope blood, or maybe it was because I had befriended one the guards, who was just as terrified and disgusted as the rest of us.
We were in Switzerland, high up in the mountains. The trek down was dangerous, and we were always on high alert, not letting our guard down for a second. Sleeping was done in turns, walking backwards too. We were petrified.
Thankfully, we had some friends in the country and they helped us once we got back to civilization. Physical recovery took about a week, but emotionally, it hurts just as much as the day I found the man who raised me in a cold, damp room controlled by some doll and a spell, when he was actually dead.”
She didn’t mean for the sob to wrack through her, but it did, and Val broke.
Whether or not Grey decided to continue her story, Val had forgiven her for keeping the secret from her; it was painful, and she deserved all the love even more than before. She got up and plopped down next to Grey, wrapping an arm around her shoulder and rocking her as she cried, while she cried as well.
It wasn’t a complete lie Grey told. It actually was the truth; a truth that happened to a different Katherina Grey Artemis Augustine in a timeline where she truly was, simply a hybrid of supernatural creatures, who hunted those who sought to cause harm to innocents.
She couldn’t tell Val the truth of their timeline, in fear of bringing the Mania upon her. It wasn’t time yet, and she had wiped their memories for that reason: it wasn’t the right time. Just a few more months, then she’d know the complete truth. But for now, this would do. She kept up the act, drawing on the pain of her alternate self to keep the tears falling.
“You don’t have to continue if you don’t want to. We’re running a little late anyway.” Val whispered, remembering the plan for the day. She felt like a terrible friend, having a person she cared about cry on her birthday on her bedroom floor. It was a while, but Grey calmed down and nodded, hugging her tightly. “Do you forgive me?” her voice was soft and broken, which in turn broke Val’s heart.
“Of course I do! I’m so sorry… I-I kept a secret from you too…” she trailed off, looking away guiltily. Grey spoke up before she could continue. “What? That you’re a hybrid? I can sense you, you know.” She said sassily, and Val glared at her, before the two burst into a fit of giggles.
They silently agreed to stand up and get ready for their day, doing each other’s hair and makeup in comfortable silence. Grey still felt guilt for not saying the complete truth, despite having a valid reason not to.
Before they left the house, Grey laid her hands firmly on Val’s shoulders and looked her straight in the eye. “There are still some things that I can’t tell you Val, but just know that it will all make sense soon. I promise; just don’t hate me for it. I have a valid reason not to.” Confused, Val nodded, and they drove to work in silence, the music from the radio comfortably filling in the space.
Val drove all the way up to the parking space outside Raphael’s office, and instead of going through the door just a few feet away like a normal person, they took the elevator down to the lobby. The entire ride down they argued, Val justifying that people needed to see her in that light blue dress. Luckily, it was long enough to cover up most of her runes, so she didn’t have to worry too much about that.
Grey rolled her eyes, and Val grinned childishly as the elevator doors slid open. Grabbing her elbow, Val led her to Olivia’s desk, and she ignored the stares, whispering, whistles and catcalls. Olivia’s expression made Grey laugh: her eyes widened to the point where she was afraid that they’d fall out of the sockets, and her mouth dropped open, her face flushing.
“Woah. What is the occasion?” Olivia asked once they were within earshot, smirking and wiggling her eyebrows. Grey rolled her eyes while Val answered enthusiastically, “It’s her birthday!” while pumping her hands and popping her hip out. Olivia squealed and ran around the counter to give Grey a bone-crushing hug, squealing, “Happy birthday girl!”
Even before Grey and Val reached to their parking spot, Grey could sense every person in the building, and what they were. Olivia was a Siren, along with a few others. There were plenty of Werewolves and Vampires, Fae, Mages and other shifters. The only Lycanthrope/Vampire hybrids were Val, Raphael and Taj.
Grey thanked her in between chuckles as they embraced, then Olivia released her and returned to her station. The girls signed in, and Val waved her off as she grabbed Grey by the elbow again while they walked to the elevators.
More staring and whispers and whistles and catcalls were directed at Grey before they were in another little metal box, going up to their office.
The doors slid open and they were greeted with the familiar sight. They stepped out and towards Val’s station, just as a loud bang echoed through the quiet office. Taj peeked out from Raphael’s office and grinned once he saw them.
“Well, well, well. Someone is looking mighty fine on their birthday.” He walked out and towards Grey, pulling her in for another hug, before returning to the office.
With her heightened hearing, Grey heard the soft knocks on a door, and Taj asking, “Are you okay in there, big brother?”, then Raphael’s angry, muffled reply, “Yes. Now go away!”
Turning towards Val, knowing that she heard as well, Grey asked, “What’s up with him?” to which Val simply shrugged and replied, “Beats me.”
Behind her, she heard Taj snicker and looked at him. He hunched over and clutched his stomach, bursting in to laughter. Grey shook her head, chuckling. “What is so funny?” Val asked, exasperated, and he calmed down to answer her, but wound up bursting into laughter again. The two women rolled their eyes as the boy dropped to the floor, laughing loudly.