Chapter 9. // I’ll be right back; maybe.
“Will you please stop freaking out?” Sage nearly swerved off the road, but that didn’t stop him from driving at breakneck speed to his passed out baby sister. His ear was pressed up against the phone, and Val would scold him for his reckless driving if she wasn’t as worried about Grey as he was. As long as they got there, she could deal with it.
“I cannot do anything but freak out! Everything was fine, and then, bam! She’s out like a light!” Sage would laugh at Raphael’s panicked tone if this were any other situation. “How far are you anyway?”
He felt unusually happy about how worried Raphael was; maybe it was because Grey spent so much of her life worried about him, that it was nice to know that he felt the same when the roles were reversed. “I’m almost there, just hang on.” Sage pressed the pedal further into the floor and his back hit the seat with the increase in acceleration.
“Alright, I wasn’t going to complain but, please be careful.” Val’s voice came out rushed and panicked, and Sage spared a glance at his Princess.
It cut deep that he was in love with her, yet, she never knew. It killed him when she was happy with a man that wasn’t him, yet, he couldn’t complain; he was her soulmate. She was supposed to be happy with the man.
What really dug his grave was that the bastard was a manipulative, abusive masochist who only wanted to overthrow the monarchy and rule the Westies with an iron fist. Sage ascended into the Heavens when he was the one to end that bastard’s pathetic life.
“Don’t worry, sweetheart. I just want to get there before anything bad happens.” Val gulped and nodded, placing a hand on Sage’s shoulder. He breathed deeply, and focused on the road ahead. The black vehicle, and a tall, bulky man pacing as if he were losing his mind finally came into view, and Sage braked, coming to a stop near him. The pair tumbled out of the car and followed Raphael’s quick pace to the rear passenger seat, where his sister’s cloudy gray curls tumbled out of the open door, her frame unmoving, not even to take in air. Sage started to feel the panic Raphael felt.
Sage began to inch towards her, but a deep gasp caused him to reel backwards. Slow, irregular breaths finally made Grey’s chest rise and fall, and the panic subsided minutely. Sage stooped down, gently brushing his baby sister’s curls. He smiled fondly, remembering their early years, and how he watched her grow up into a warrior; he couldn’t be prouder.
He turned to Val, and motioned for her to come over to him, cutting her off from her soft conversation with her cousin. She carried a small red bag, and placed it down at his feet where he fished out a cold towel to place on her forehead. Grey made a soft sound of protest, but it stopped, and she grew silent again. “What do you think is wrong?” Val’s voice was a whisper, carried off the gust of wind that blew.
“She, uh, she has something to do somewhere else.” The looks of confusion were understandable. “What do you mean ‘she has something to do somewhere else’?” it was Raphael’s turn to inquire, and Sage could feel him draw closer to the car.
“I mean, as Hunters, we can aid others in trouble by not being physically there. But sometimes, in serious situations, a person in danger could reach out to someone and switch consciences so they won’t end up dying. Dying in battle is honourable, but, there’s this internal competition to see who could live the longest and survive the most battles. Grey used to get pulled in a lot; this is the first time in a while since this has happened. Which is good, because last time, she almost didn’t come back.”
Raphael took a few deep breaths, hoping to calm himself and his other companions. Sage stroked Grey’s hair absentmindedly; Val stared at her best friend worriedly, and Raphael began pacing again.
Grey grunted as she swung the longsword, severing the head of the ugly, deformed creature that made the mistake of attacking her. She grew quite accustomed to being pulled into the bodies of heavily muscular men, and this time was no different. He had a few injuries, the most critical one being a deep gash in the back of his head. She had ripped of piece of the cloth shirt he wore under the thick armour strapped to his body, and wrapped it around her (his) head, and used a little bit of healing magic to ease the pain. It throbbed dully, and she hoped that it wouldn’t intensify as she continued to fight off the creatures.
Finishing off those near her, Grey slung the longsword across her back, and began sprinting up the rocky Welsh hillside. Its terrain proved to be more of a challenge than the creatures chasing her, and Grey was pretty sure that the gash to the back of her (his) head was from falling and hitting a rock. She used both hands as she nimbly climbed, using jutting rocks and tree roots to pull the hulking body upwards.
‘I wish I were back in my body. I could just use a few bounces, or even Teleport, and I’d be at the top already.’ She thought sourly as she felt the skin of her (his) hand split open and warm blood began to trickle from the wound. Ignoring it, she pulled herself up again, and a lake graced her sight. “Freaking finally!” Grey whispered, rolling along the flat ground and springing to her feet, wasting no time bounding to the dull pool of water.
The cloud filled sky opened up, and the moon shone brightly, making the pool glimmer. The screeches and screams started to grow louder, and Grey dreaded looking back, uncharacteristically afraid that she’d freeze and fail the mission. These creatures were similar to the Scavengers she had fought earlier that day, and she feared what conclusions she would come to if she dwelled on the matter.
She pushed the hulking body harder, huffing as she drew the longsword again. There was a slight quake in the earth as a stone column rose from the lake, almost like an ethereal Goddess rising to bring wisdom and blessings to her followers; unsurprisingly, the light of the moon was its spotlight. Grey dove into the water that chilled the body to the bone; she paddled with difficulty towards her target.
‘All this muscle and you can’t freaking swim?!’
She could hear several splashes in the water, and the screeches of the creatures. It was enough to make her paddle faster, despite the screaming of the man’s muscles. This close to the stone, the slot for the longsword was clearly visible; Grey raised the weapon over her (his) head and brought it down into place with a grunt, the sound of it returning to its rightful place echoing through the plateau.
The silvery moonlight turned golden, and the earth began to quake violently. Storm force winds blasted from the stone, pushing Grey backwards with waves taller than the bulky man. Turning towards the banks, she was surprised to see that the wind shot through the creatures: some of them exploded into viscous green-black goo, and the rest were elevated into the air and transformed into humans again, dropping to the earth gasping and disoriented.
The violent quake subsided as the stone descended into the water, the golden light turning back to silver, and the clouds parting to bathe the area in starlight as well. Grey didn’t have to swim back to the shore of the lake as the waves were enough to push her (his) rapidly tiring body there. She pulled the heavy body out of the water and collapsed to the ground amidst all the celebration.
She had eyes more beautiful than the glimmering lake in the moonlight to go home to.
Even as they drove home and put Grey to bed, Raphael continued to pace. Sage’s words did nothing but make him worry even more.
“She won’t leave us, right?” Raphael was met with silence, and he was afraid that he’d burst into tears. She made soft grunts in her comatose state, and each time, he turned towards her, hoping that her brown eyes would show themselves again.
The sun had bathed the sky in a fiery orange glow when Grey groaned loudly, struggling to sit up as her body ached in all the places the man, who she had yet to identify, had been injured. Raphael was at her side in an instant, gently pulling her up to rest against the headboard, and pulling the now warm towel off her forehead. “Mia regina, what do you need? Tell me, please.”
Grey pulled her eyelids back slowly, blinking tiredly and awaiting the effects of the conscience transfer. “Water.” She panted, wincing as saliva painfully prickled her dry throat. Twisting his body, Raphael grabbed a bottle of water from the nightstand and opened it with his teeth, and was about to bring it to Grey’s lips so she could drink, but her hand shot out and grabbed the bottle from him.
She gulped greedily, and Raphael resisted the urge to trace the path a few stray drops made from her mouth, down to the confines of her dress. “Do you have any more? And some food too?” her speech was rapid, eyes wide and dilated. Extreme hunger and thirst, jittery movements and lastly, fatigue, were all side-effects of the conscience transfer.
Uncaring, Raphael threw himself at her, kissing her face feverishly. Once he pulled away, her eyes were back to normal, and her cheeks were flushed. “Hi.” Grey whispered sheepishly, and Raphael chuckled, one hand pressed against the mattress, and the other against the wall to support his weight. “Hello, mia regina.”
Her cheeks reddened, and she glanced away, squeezing her eyes shut. “Katherina Grey Artemis Augustine, you are not going to cry.” She chided herself internally, suppressing a shiver when she felt Raphael’s hand brushing stray locks away from her face. The bedroom door opened silently, but someone clearing their throat loudly was what made them turn their attention to the door where Jett stood, holding a tray of food and looking slightly green.
“Sorry to intrude, but I came to bring my sister food. Please get off her before it becomes coated with my vomit.” Raphael was about to move, but he suddenly found himself staring at the ceiling, and a soft breeze blew across his face. Pulling himself up on his elbows, he looked towards the door in time to see Grey smack the top of her brother’s head; he winced slightly, and handed the tray over to her. “Thank you, baby brother.” Jett simply nodded and walked out of the room, pulling the door close behind him.
The dip in the bed made Raphael turn his attention to Grey, who devoured the food in under five minutes, burping loudly once she was done.
“That… was really impressive.”
The fatigue was quickly crashing down on Grey, and she only had enough time to grab and position a pillow before her head dropped and she was pulled into the dark abyss of unconsciousness. Raphael chuckled, shaking his head in disbelief before settling down next to Grey, pulling her snugly against him and drifting off into sleep as well.
Consciousness was slowly coming to her, and Grey hummed softly, revelling in the feeling of being held in a pair of warm, constricting arms. She inhaled deeply, the mixed scent of spices and cologne filling her senses, and she hummed again, pulling herself impossibly closer to the source.
A repeated feathery touch through her hair pulled her back into the abyss, which surprisingly wasn’t dark anymore, but filled with rivieras and canoes, and ancient, colourful buildings and narrow streets, and vineyards and grassy hills, and laughing and picnics and blue; lots and lots of the loveliest shade of blue.
“How is she?” pulling the bottle away from his lips, Jett looked towards his mother, who stood across from him. “She should be out by now.” The golden haired and unusually coloured eyed woman chuckled and nodded, answering her ringing phone.
Slamming her half empty bottle down, Val wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, and proceeded to walk out of the kitchen but was stopped by Sage asking “Where are you going?”, to which she responded like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “To check on her.” Nodding, Sage followed her out of the kitchen.
Jett never understood why there was such a thing as spending your life devoted to finding the other half of your soul; why the Gods separated the bonded souls was beyond him, but it pissed him off.
Neither he, nor Sage, or Ash and Cyan had found their true soulmates, but at least Sage was happy with Valentina. The one woman who came close…
He swallowed the lump in his throat.
A warm hand on his shoulder pulled him out of his morbid flashback, and Jett faced his mother, whose expression mirrored how he felt, or maybe he had a similar expression himself. Her calloused hand brushed the traitorous tears that rolled down his cheeks, a few slipping from her uniquely coloured eyes.
“I miss her, mom. I miss her so much it hurts.” His voice was a broken whisper and as much as he missed her, he hated feeling this broken emptiness in his soul.
“I know sweetheart, I know. Things will get better.” Theresa hugged her son, hoping that her words were true.
“Will it?” Jett wanted to ask, but he held his tongue, hugging his mother back tightly.
From the threshold of the kitchen door, Taj looked to Azula worriedly, and not wanting to disclose anything about his lost sister in fear that the Mania would consume him, Azula merely shot him a look that said “Later.”
He nodded, and pulled the girl into his side, kissing the top of her head. The pair stood silently as a mother comforted her grieving son: one not understanding why, while the other held back the tears they wanted to shed with him.
Val was thankful that the house was newly renovated. Grey’s bedroom door opened silently and she peered in, ensuring that the occupants of the room were either unconscious or not paying any attention to the door, then she silently slipped in, leaving the door ajar and Sage waiting in the hallway.
This new bedroom was easily five times the size of Grey’s entire apartment, and with the little Grey had, she couldn’t wait until they went shopping for new things. Soft snores filled the silence of the room and Val grinned mischievously, knowing for certain that it wasn’t Grey.
She pulled out her phone and started a video, taking large quiet steps towards the bed. “Aww, look at Raphy, all cuddled up and cute.” She whispered softly, rounding the bed to where Raphael’s back faced her, and Grey’s hair was the only thing visible, spread out across the pillow.
‘Okay, maybe he’s ignoring me, or he’s really out cold.’ Val thought, ending the video and tiptoeing out of the room, shutting the door as silently as she opened it. Sage’s hand in hers filled her with a happiness she never thought she would have; she lay her head on his shoulder as they walked back into the kitchen.
Raphael opened an eye as the door silently closed, Val’s scent slowly fading. He peeked down at Grey, who rolled onto her back, murmuring in her sleep. Her bottom lip quivered and her face contorted to express the one emotion he vowed right then and there to keep off her face.
He gently shook her shoulder as the minutes ticked by, and the emotion became deeper etched into her beautiful face. “Grey, my love, wake up. Wake up.” A sob wracked through her and Raphael shook harder.
“I... I’m so sorry, Papa. I-I failed you; I did, I’m sorry. Forgive me…” tears spilled from her eyes and rolled down, staining the pillow beneath her head. “I love you too, Papa.” She whispered, and more tears spilled as she cried, turning and burying her face in Raphael’s chest again. He held her tightly, slowly rubbing her back as more sobs shook her body. It was as if the mate bond was at full force; he had to steel himself from breaking down with her. Grey quieted after a few minutes, when her throat felt sore and her nose burned.
She pulled herself up, avoiding Raphael’s gaze by looking down at her bare fingernails, tracing the patterns of the sheets. “I’m sorry.” She whispered, and Raphael immediately responded. “Don’t you dare apologize to me.” He pulled her against him again, her head on his shoulder.
“My father was a Vampire. He and my mother met when she was out patrolling as one of the first Werewolves who was also a Hunter; and well, the rest is history. Boy meets girl, they fall in love and run away together, they have kids and live happily ever after. But four years ago, he died; and even now, he haunts my dreams, a testament of how badly I failed him. I-I just can’t stand to see him like that, you know; with empty black eyes and bone-chilling smile and-“she paused, swallowing the lump in her throat.
It wasn’t her dream; oh no. Her dreams are much crueller than this. But she was still drawing on her alternate self’s consciousness accidentally, and this happened. The message was still the same: I failed you.
Raphael stroked her hair, kissing her forehead and temple. His heart constricted in his chest, and he pulled her impossibly closer to himself. “You are not a failure, mia regina. You are not a failure.” He murmured incessantly, until it was the very thing the lulled Grey to sleep again.