He hadn’t felt it at first, reading over Sam’s post the same way he skimmed over so much of the board anymore. It was all just words on a screen, and he didn’t feel like talking to most people these days, even when it was important, even when he had something to say. But Sam’s post... the words lingered, unsettling and poisonous, until his hands were shaking. Suddenly nauseated, Peter stood abruptly with the vague thought to go splash some cool water on his face. The screech of his chair against the hardwood made him flinch. He made it two steps from his desk and dropped onto his hands and knees, vomiting onto the floor, but even then the sick feeling was still there, sweeping through him, cold and oily.
He remembered it so clearly - feeling that way, not wanting his soul back. The vampire Peter would have done absolutely anything to keep that spark of life and humanity out. The pain it had caused, the fear and hurt it had reveled in, that was all it knew. That thing was all rage and blood and that empty well of cold from within, blacking out his heart and spreading through him until he, Peter, was blotted out.
It felt so threatened by his fragile little soul. The demonic part of it saw its own end of existence. The part that came from him, from Peter… that part saw what would come after, the guilt, the fear, the anguish, the horror. That part had seen this. The vampire Peter would have rather burned away with its sire than have his fragile, fractured soul thrust back inside it, a tiny little light pushing the dark back out again. He wasn't sure which was more afraid of the other, the vampire of the human or the human of the vampire.
He was paralyzed, gasping for breath and staring sightless at the floor. Couldn't be human without a soul, broken or beaten or blackened though it may be. There was something just so intrinsically wrong about a person without a soul. Peter's skin didn't fit him right. His fingers scrabbled uselessly at the floorboards. He couldn't breathe. He couldn't breathe and he couldn't feel his heart beating and he couldn't, he just could not fucking do this again.
Life or death situations were a lot more terrifying in real life, he'd determined. He tried to follow that whole thing people said to do - give them what they want, don't do things to aggravate them, and they have no reason to hurt you, right? What a load of crap. The last thing he recalled was agonizing pain at his throat, trying to scream but instead gagging on his own blood as he dropped heavily onto the cold ground. The world had started to fade black and then...
Then he was in a graveyard. Gasping for breath, his eyes wide and panicked, Misha stared around at the dead grass and stone markers. His kidnapper/attacker was no where to be seen. The pain from his wound had all but disappeared, mere echoes of what it had been. Misha wrapped a shaking hand around his neck gingerly, protectively; you were supposed to apply pressure to stop bleeding, right? But he wasn't bleeding anymore. He felt where the wound should be and found whole, smooth skin, albeit still wet with blood, dripping thickly down to soak his shirt.
Still shaking, he held up his hand and stared at the blood on his skin, tipped his chin down and stared and the dark red stain spreading across his t-shirt. He didn't understand. He'd been hurt, badly, mortally, only seconds before. So what was this? He looked around at the empty graveyard again, the old weathered stones, the yellow, dying grass and weeds, and it finally hit him.
He'd died. He'd been murdered. He was actually, literally dead.
Misha opened his mouth and started to scream.
PRINCESS ADELINA + The Two Princesses of Bamarre
Addie started to come around slowly at first, only a vague sense of disorientation blending with pain. Then she remembered - Meryl! Meryl's time was running out! She had to move, she had to get home to the castle! Forcing her eyes open, she gasped as the full brunt of pain from her injuries hit her, restricting her breathing and making her head spin. Fuzzy and disoriented, she groped around with shaking hands for her little pouch of moily herb. Taking a flower, she put it on her tongue and almost immediately her head cleared and the pain receded some, allowing her to breathe once more.
After several slow breaths, the world came into full focus around her, and she frowned. She was not sure where she was. The last place she recalled with any clarity on her whirlwind escape from Vollys' lair was a sea of tall grasses all around her. But this place... it was not the open plains. Tall strange buildings rose up on all sides; she lay slumped against a hard wall on the hard paved ground. There was no road, just a narrow walkway, and judging by the decrepit wooden fence across from her, another tall, strange, brick building beyond that, she discerned that she was at the back of the buildings. How she'd managed to find her way to this spot without her boots smashing her into one of the solid structures and killing her, she didn't know. Perhaps her meddling invisible helper had guided her feet to just miss the building. Silently, she thanked it; it was not the first time that friendly spirit had saved her life.
Blood-biter, her sword, lay on the cold pavement just next to her, coated with mud and sand. Casting around for something to clean it with, she had nothing but her own torn and muddied skirts, but they would have to do. Meryl would scold her if she left the blade to rust. Wiping away the crusted mess, she found the blade smeared from hilt to point with dragon's blood. Addie smiled triumphantly at the sight. Vollys had plagued the kingdom for so long, hurt so many people, and had made a pet of her for far too long. She would be glad if the dragon was dead.
The smile did not last though; when she drew out her spyglass, thinking to check back at Vollys' lair and see if the dragon was indeed dead, or merely wounded and angry and surely coming for her... she found she could not find the dragon's cave. In fact, she could not find the Western Desert at all. Nor could she see Bamarre Castle, or the Sorcerer's citadel, or the Mulee Forest, or any other familiar landmark. She turned her spyglass to every direction, twisting the little rings to adjust for distance and to see through things blocking her view. There was nothing familiar. Strange cities with strange buildings, strange roads with fast-moving colorful things that she did not recognize speeding along them, carrying people inside them. Vast plains and forests and swamps lakes larger than any she'd ever seen, great rivers and distant seas, a mountain range far to the west that went as far north and south as her spyglass would let her see. And everywhere, large sprawling cities, all of them unrecognizable and utterly confusing in their strangeness. She'd never seen anything at all like this land she found herself lost in. It took several long moments for it to truly sink in that she was well and truly lost.
She couldn't afford this right now, Meryl's time was almost up. She had less than a day before her sister would die. She knew the cure, she just had to find out where she was and how to return to Bamarre Castle, and then her boots should bring her there within minutes. Then from there, she could take Meryl, whisk her off to the waterfall in the Eskerns, and save her.
Gasping at the pain in her ribs, Addie slowly started to clamber up, using the wall as support... and promptly sat back down again. Her seven-league boots were still on her feet, and the last thing she needed was to take a step into one of these odd buildings, or become even more lost. Stressed, frustrated tears gathered as she yanked off the boots and shoved them into her raggedy little bundle, pulling her sturdy riding boots on instead. Then she struggled to her feet once more and, clutching her things, made her way to the corner of the building. At the other end, she could see a road, more of those large, colorful, self-drawn contraptions moving past. She did not know what they were, and was nervous about approaching lest they prove dangerous. Internally, she scolded herself. She had just stabbed a dragon, and Meryl was waiting. What had she to fear now?
Mustering up her courage and strength, she made her way down the filthy alleyway to the street. All she had to do was find someone, and ask for help, and then she could be on her way.
T: Peter came into the library with Hana on his hip, moving towards Cas. "Guess who's wide awake!"
S: Cas smiled and said "Someone who should be asleep?"
T: Peter nodded. "Mmhmm. We've been reading." He shifted Hana's weight, hitching her up a little higher. "I need to talk to you, love."
S: "What about?" he asked, glancing at his daughter.
T: Peter hugged Hana a little closer. "About the thing from earlier." He looked at Hana too. "But I think a certain little lady needs to get to bed first."
S: "Her bed isn't in here, love," Cas said mildly. "Do you want me to take her?"
"I'm not sleepy!" Hana protested.
T: "I know, sweetheart, but it's way past bedtime," Peter told her. He looked to Cas again, smiling a little. "Maybe between the two of us we can convince her?"
S: "Maybe but someone needs to be in bed first. No sleeping in here." He got to his feet. "Do you want to tuck her in?"
T: Peter nodded. "Good plan. Come on, then, little love." He carried her out of the library, heading towards her bedroom.
S: "Can you read me another story?" she asked brightly.
T: "It's late, sweetheart. And we already read lots of stories," he reminded her. He brought her into her room and set her down.
S: "But I'm not sleepy yet," she pouted.
T: "I know, but you've got school tomorrow. You don't want to be tired in class tomorrow morning, do you?" He rumpled her hair a little. "Come on. Into bed."
S: "I don't want to go to school. I want to visit Erin," she said stubbornly.
T: "Don't you want to go to art class?" he asked, exaggerating surprise.
S: Hana thought about that for a moment. "I do.... but Erin is my friend."
T: "Tell you what," Peter said, "You get some sleep, and go to school, and your dad and I will talk to Uncle Sam and Aunt Jess about visiting Erin after school, alright?"
S: Hana considered it, making sure the deal didn't cost her what she wanted. Would that work for Erin? "Alright... but right after school. She's worried about the lady," Hana said firmly.
T: "Don't you worry about the lady, kiddo. We'll make sure Erin's alright." Peter petted her hair fondly. "Come on, then." He steered her over to the bed.
S: Hana climbed onto the bed and over the covers but she remained sitting. "I think she needs my help," she said.
T: Peter sat next to her on the bed. "You mean Erin? She'll be fine. She's got all of us looking out for her."
S: "Yes but... she's my best friend. Shouldn't I help?"
T: Peter studies her for a moment. "How do you want to help?"
S: "I want her to be not scared."
T: "She's got Uncle Sam and Aunt Jess with her right now. And I bet having you over after school will help."
S: "Do they know what to do if she has a bad dream?"
T: "Of course they do, little love." Peter smiled and wrapped an arm around her. "Didn't you hear? They're her mum and dad now."
S: Hana smiled at that. "I did! I was hoping she'd see it too." Hana reached out to hug Peter. "I think I can sleep now."
T: Peter hugged her and kissed the top of her head. "Good. Let's get you tucked in." He pulled back the covers, tugging them out from under her.
S: Hana crawled in between then, settling down, pulling her toy rabbit to her. "Uncle Peter?" she asked sleepily.
T: "Yeah, Hana?" He pulled the covers up over her, tucking them in around her.
S: "One day will you be my mommy?"
T: Peter froze, biting back the urge to swear out loud. He certainly hadn't been expecting that. "I don't know, love. We'll see." he finally said awkwardly. He didn't know what else he could say to a question like that.
S: "I hope you are," she said sleepily, eyes closed. "You'd be a good mommy." A moment later she was asleep.
T: Peter watched her for a moment, still trying to process that. Finally he sighed. "Goodnight, Hana," he whispered, and stood up, moving quietly to the door.
S: Cas was waiting there, a slight smile on his face.
T: Peter looked up at him and still couldn't think what to say. "Oh, what?" he asked, voice still soft as he passed Cas into the hallway.
S: Cas put an arm around Peter. "She has a point."
T: Peter grimaced slightly, pulling her door shut quietly. "Fucking hell, Cas."
S: "What's wrong, love? Did she spook you?"
T: "Just a bit, yeah." Peter pouted slightly. "She does know Mums are generally female, right?"
S: "I expect so. I think she was just thinking of Erin."
T: "Yeah. I guess." Peter said distractedly. He leaned against Cas, closing his eyes.
S: "Talk to me love," he said, kissing his hair.
T: "I shouldn't be doing this," he said softly. "I'm fucking terrible for this."
S: "Doing what love?"
T: "Being involved with Hana. Ellie too. I'm a terrible parent."
S: "Really? Is that why Hana wants you for a mother?"
T: "Cas," Peter sighed. "The only reason I've been able to manage with Hana is because I've kept telling myself that she's your kid, so it's not on me at all. And with Ellie, I've hardly even spent time with her. The other me, the one that's still so fucked up, he's the one that offered her a place and is looking after her, and I've been fucking relieved about it." He sounded disgusted with himself. "They deserve better than that."
S: "No, Peter. You're just unsure. So? That doesn't make you a poor parent. You're loving. That's what you need."
T: Peter shook his head slightly. "I've never had to be responsible for anyone but myself before. And that... hasn't gone well, most of the time." He bowed his head a little. "I want to do right by them. I just don't know if I can."
S: "You have help, love. You know that, right?"
T: Peter nodded. "I know that. I do. It's just... if something happens to them because I fuck up, it's still happened." He sighed again. "I'm sorry, I don't mean to freak out like this, just... it's been a long day, and then she just asked that out of the blue and I don't know what I'm doing."
S: Cas pulled Peter close and snuggled him. "You'll make mistakes. I'm make mistakes. Sam and Jess will make mistakes. But we'll also do other things. Things that help."
T: "I know." Peter nodded against Cas's shoulder, hugging him tight. "Cas. The thing from earlier. I think you're right, and I should see a doctor."
S: Cas kissed his cheek. "Is tomorrow soon enough?"
T: Peter hesitated, then shook his head. "I don't think so. It changed. It's not just a weird feeling anymore."
S: "What's it feel like now?"
T: "Like something is jabbing my insides with a stick every now and then," Peter said frankly. "It hurts. Not badly, or sharply, just sort of dull. But I don't know what it is." It was starting to scare him a little, if he was honest.
S: Cas held Peter close. "Let's go now," he said, himself worried now.
T: Peter leaned against Cas, clinging to him a little. "Yes, please."