Chapter 1: Prologue
Kitty had never felt particularly safe walking by herself at night. Past experiences had left her with a lot of fear about such situations; she generally preferred to avoid them.
But she also didn’t think she could endure any more of the freshers’ week bar crawl she’d embarked on that night. She wasn’t particularly drunk—only about 3 drinks in, over a couple hours—but the loud music, flashing lights and masses of sweaty, inebriated strangers had become too much for her.
It wasn’t that she didn’t like going out, from time to time, but rather that she struggled to really relax and enjoy herself when surrounded by so many unknown quantities. So many unfamiliar people whose actions she couldn’t predict or anticipate. It put her on edge, not knowing who may or may not be safe to be around.
It also wasn’t that she wasn’t enjoy the event, or the people—she introduced herself to a number of people from her course, including a girl from her own halls. She was nice, and Kitty was glad to know she would have someone to talk to and spend time with between lectures, not having many friends to speak of.
Though, she was hopeful that her social situation could improve, now that she was away from home. She could finally live her life for herself, without worrying about her parent’s reactions. She had found a part time job, and combined with her maintenance loan, she would be able to support herself and wouldn’t need to rely on her parents. She was thinking of cutting them off al together if she could. She felt free for the first time of her life, and she didn’t want them to ruin it.
She just wanted to live her life, without walking on egg shells or having to ask them for permission for every little thing. She was sick of living her life based on their feelings, of going out of her way to avoid their anger. She was going to live her life on her own terms, and make friends they hadn’t picked out for her, and she wouldn’t let them hurt her ever again.
Her parents definitely wouldn’t have met her come out tonight, had they known that was what she was doing. Even though she was 18 years old, at university, and most of her peers had been drinking at parties or family meals for years now. Kitty had little experience with alcohol, outside of a few rebellious, and ultimately ill-fated stolen liquor bottles her cousin had stolen for them a few years ago.
They’d had little arrangement between the two of them. It was their one little reprieve from their unpredictable, controlling and overall unhealthy family environment. They trusted each other, and only each other. At least, that’s what Kitty had thought. Until Anne had disappeared without warning, or even a note. Cut all contact with them. Without even telling Katherine.
Kitty had hated her for that, at first. But now, she thought she understood. And she couldn’t blame her. Their family was unbearable, and they had both wanted nothing more than to get away from it as soon as possible.
And now Kitty had done the same.
Utimately, Kitty had made the decision to head out while her night had still been largely enjoyable. She was beginning to regret her decision now.
The night was fairly cold, for September, and she didn’t have quite enough of a vodka blanket going for her to ignore the cold. The thin pink denim jacket she brought with her didn’t help much either.
Something about tonight just felt... off.
The streets were fairly empty, as she would expect at this time of night, but there were still groups of people milling about, going from bar to bar, catching taxis and heading for late-night takeaways.
Normally the presence of more people would put Kitty at ease. But tonight, nothing seemed to be helping her nerves. For some reason, she just had the deeply entrenched feeling that something wasn’t quite right.
She hunched her shoulders, putting her hands in her pockets and pulling her jacket tighter around her. Every little noise and movement was setting her on high alert.
Maybe it was because of what Maggie had said to her earlier. To be careful—”it could be dangerous one tonight.” She had liked Maggie but, who says ominous things like that? To people they’d just met? And how would she know that anyway? All of it was just so—odd.
Still, those words had clearly had an impact on Kitty, making her edgy, despite her not taking them too seriously.
She sped up, past her comfortable walking pace, eager to get herself back to the safety of her flat as soon as possible. Even the sound of her footsteps somehow felt wrong—
Because there was more than one set.
Except—were those even footsteps? They were too soft to be shoes, and who would walk around the city barefoot? The streets were still wet from the day’s rain, streetlights reflecting across the pavement. And they were far too light, and too quick to be a person. It sounded like there were two extra pairs of feet.
Panic flared in Kitty’s chest and she stopped dead in her tracks, wheeling around on the spot to see what was following her.
And then it lunged at her. Streaking forward from the darkness—all she saw was a mass of fur and teeth and sickeningly yellow eyes and then—blood.
Her own blood.
There was a searing pain in her shoulder as the thing sank its teeth into her. It stung, pulling and tearing, and the pain seemed to spread through her blood like fire.
Her heart and mind followed each other into overdrive and she struggled to fight back, kicking and yelling and screaming, willing it to let her go. She gritted her teeth against the pain sucking in a breath, barely registering her own voice as her body grew tired.
She couldn’t die here. She wouldn’t. She needed to understand. What was this thing? None of this made any sense with her understanding of the world. This didn’t happen.
Her breathing became more frantic and her throat hurt from yelling and—it let go.
Someone was there, She couldn’t make sense of anything she was seeing right now, but they seemed to be fighting the thing. Or at least, they seemed to scare it off, as the black-furred creature disappeared back into the night it had emerged from.
The figure came into view—a woman not much older than Kitty. She gently picked her up as she struggled to cling to her consciousness.
“Hey are you okay? I mean, stupid question obviously not–but can you hear me? Can you answer me?”
Kitty didn’t know how to respond—she made some kind of sound of acknowledgement- at least, she thought she did.
“Alright–look, I’m gonna help you, is that okay? You’re gonna be alright, I just need you to relax, and try to stay with me if you can. I know this must be confusing for you, but I need you to—”
Kitty was out cold before she could even finish the sentence.
Chapter 2: A Bad Case of Fresher's Flu
Maybe it's just a hangover?
Waking up disoriented, in a room you don’t recognise, with a sore throat and a throbbing head is a fairly common experience during fresher's week. It was something Katherine knew could happen, and did happen, to a lot of people. She expected it, even, st some point in the week. Plus, she wasn’t exactly averse to the idea, either, as long as she woke up in the right person’s dorm room.
But the rest of Katherine’s situation was not so common. The stinging pain in her shoulder doesn’t seem particularly normal, and Katherine doesn’t think that there are many first years who share the experience she had last night.
Christ, what had happened last night? What was that thing? Kitty didn’t understand. Her whole world view was being thrown into chaos. She knew what she thought that thing was. But it couldn’t be true.
It was ridiculous. Impossible. Insane.
But God, it was true, wasn’t it?
She was fucked. Truly, utterly fucked. What would this mean for her? Would she be dangerous? Would she be the same as the thing that attacked her? She had no idea how to navigate the new world that last night had pushed her into, and she hadn’t even started yet.
As she fell deeper and deeper into her thoughts, questions upon questions without answers in sight—the door of the room created open, and in came the only person Kitty though might be able to help.
She was tall, just a few inches more than Kitty, and in all honesty, not someone who’s room Kitty would mind waking up in, under different circumstances. She was pretty, with a gentle smile on her face. She had short hair and dark skin, and the oversized t shirt that seemed to serve as her pyjamas highlighted her toned figure.
“You alright there?” The other girl asked raising her eyebrows a little.
“Uhmm- Yeah, sorry- I mean-” She struggled to make eye contact, as the mystery girl laughed softly at her. She turned red. She mustn’t have been very subtle in her admiration.
Kitty became acutely aware of the deep, pulsating pain that seemed to reach every inch of her body. Like it was embedded in her bloodstream, tearing her up from inside. She clenched her jaw.
“M-my shoulder kinda hurts?”
“Don’t worry about it, I’ll grab you some paracetamol. D’you want anything for breakfast? Well, it’s more like lunch now.” She had a confident demeanour and an easy smile, that made Kitty trust her.
“Maybe just some toast? I-if that’s okay? I don’t feel great right now.”
The girl headed back out, closing the door softly behind her, as if she was somehow aware of the fact that every little sound seemed to ring impossibly loud in Kitty’s ears. Her senses seemed impossibly sensitive.
It couldn’t just be a hangover, surely. Kitty had had hangovers before—mild ones at least. There was no way she’d drank enough last night to be feeling this awful. So what was wrong?
Kitty had a inkling. But she really, really hoped she was wrong. That she was just wildly misinterpreting some completely ordinary occurrence.
A couple minutes later, the girl returned, with a plate stacked with an unnecessary amount of toast in one hand, and a glass of water in the other.
Just a few moments ago, the thought of eating made Kitty want to vomit. But now, she felt suddenly ravenous. She muttered her thanks and immediately began to make a dent in the pile of toast presented to her.
“So- I’m Anna, I do sociology, I’m in third year.” She looked at Kitty, prompting her to respond.
“I- Kitty, I just started doing history.” Anna gave her another smile and Kitty immediately felt at ease, and couldn’t help but return it.
There was a sort of heavy silence then, words that needed to be said, questions that needed to be asked but can’t quite find their way out yet. The other girl looked at her expectantly, as if waiting for Kitty to continue.
“Do you want to talk about what happened last night?”
Kitty let out a sigh of relief. “Please?”
“Where do you want me to start?”
Kitty thought for a moment.
“What was that thing?” Anna gave her a knowing look.
“I think you already know.”
Kitty cringed. That wasn’t what she’d wanted to hear.
“Yeah that’s fair.”
“How did you fight it?” As much as Kitty was incredibly invested in the conversation at hand, and the information she could get from it, she was still quietly tucking into her food as the other girl talked.
“Not very well" the other girl quipped. “But, yeah. Most people couldn’t do that. I’m kind of a slayer. I have better reflexes and a sort of in-built sense for the supernatural. Comes in handy but makes you a bit of a target. Vampires especially, they get very—”
“Vampires?” There’s a limit to how much nonsense Kitty can deal with in one day. “Please say you’re joking!”
Anna said nothing. Kitty stood suddenly, starting to pace the room rapidly.
“Oh God, what am I going to do? This can’t be happening, it doesn’t make any sense!”
“Hey—look, you’re okay. I know this must be pretty overwhelming, and it’s a lot to wrap your head around but I promise it’s not the end of the world. Just—the end of the world the way you saw it before.”
And there she went again, with her kind words and her kind smile and Kitty just had to feel a little better. Anna’s good at this, she thought.
“Will I... will I be like that? Will I hurt people too?”
“Not if you don’t want to. There’s ways to stop it. It... it’ll always happen in the full moon, but there are ways to keep people safe then. I’ve heard some people can even learn to control it. It can happen other times, too—when there’s heightened emotions, or when the wolf feels like it needs to protect itself.”
“Wolf.” Kitty repeated, softly.
She sat down, her mind processing a thousand thoughts more than it could deal with.
Slowly, and carefully, an arm wrapped around her, and began rubbing slow circles up and down her arm.
Kitty let out a shaky breath, and leaned heavily against Anna.
She was terrified, and every inch of her body was cracked with pain, despite the painkillers she’d taken. She hadn’t noticed when she began crying, but the tears were flowing freely now, as Anna whispered kind reassurances to her.
Kitty let out a whimper as the wound on her shoulder started to throb fully, in contrast with the sharp pain that pierced every inch of her. She trembled, and her body broke into a cold sweat as it fought against itself.
“It’s going to hurt, Kitty, I’m sorry. But I promise it’ll all be over soon, okay? And I’m gonna help you through this. We’ll find a way for you to cope with this, I swear. It’s okay, you’re okay.”
And she repeated those word like a mantra until Kitty almost started to believe her. She gently moved her so that she was laying back down in the bed again, and pulled the covers back over her.
Moving to sit next to her, she gently pulled Kitty's hair out of its ponytail, and began to softly card her fingers through it, quietly whispering the mantra under breath.
The action helped soothe Kitty, at least a little.
She only hoped the pain would stop soon.
Chapter 3: Slayers Gonna Slay
Maggie overthinks some things.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
This is all your fault.
Maggie wandered the streets, aimlessly. Guilt weighed heavily on her shoulders. It was dark and cold and wet and she would definitely have a cold in the morning. Her leather jacket and her hair were soaked from the rain. She should have been more concerned about her own well-being. But right now, she couldn't care less about herself.
You let that poor girl go, and she's probably dead now.
She should have known better; she'd felt that feeling before, she knew what it meant. And on a full moon night, no less. How could she have been so foolish? Why hadn't she kept a closer eye on her? Why hadn't she gone with her? Offered to buy her cheesy chips or something? That was an offer no drunk student could refuse.
She'd patrolled up and down the route from the club to their halls about five times now, and she still hadn't seen the girl—Kat—since she left the bar. Maggie was starting to worry. She should have done something to help. Something must have happened to Katherine, and based on the feeling Maggie had gotten from her earlier, she could already be dead. Still, she kept wandering. She had to do something, anything. The last time she had felt this way...It hadn't ended well.
Maggie knew from experience that this feeling meant only bad things. After all, this was what had happened with Anne. The last time Maggie had ever seen her alive. She didn't want Kat to die just like Anne had. It wouldn't be fair. It wouldn't be right.
Some excuse for a slayer she was. Anne had been twice as good as she could ever be. All Maggie had done was get people killed. She didn't know what she was doing; she wasn't prepared for this.
Maybe you should have taken Anne's place.
Maybe she should have. Maybe then that poor girl might be safe. Anne would be doing a much better job of protecting the city than she was doing. She had been the last bastion of defence the people had and now she was dead. She'd left big shoes to fill.
And Maggie wasn't good enough to fill them.
There were some other slayers in town, as far as Maggie knew. But they weren't active. At least, not like Anne had been. So it was all down to Maggie. And of course, Maggie had fucked it up.
How had things gotten so bad?
Maggie was supposed to be in training. She was supposed to be learning to protect people. And Anne had been the perfect mentor, always attentive and always knowing the best way to get results from her. She didn't shout or scold. Nobody had ever got Maggie to do anything right by shouting. All it had ever done for her was make her shut down. But Anne understood. She was encouraging. She talked Maggie through the things she did wrong, explained why they were wrong, and showed her the right way to do it. She was exactly what Maggie needed.
But that didn't matter now. Maggie had never finished her training and Anne wasn't there to guide her any more.
And God knows what had happened to Maria. They were supposed to work together—to be a team. But now Maggie was all alone against the creatures of the night. Maria had promised to be there for her, through so much, and now she was gone altogether. She used to patrol every night but she hadn't been around in over a year. She'd just—disappeared. Nobody had heard from her. Not a whisper.
She'd spoken to Bessie—a witch, who operated mostly from within her shop, one of those occult type ones that sold varieties of incense, pentagram necklaces and other assorted, maybe-magical items. But she didn't have anything to tell Maggie. Maria had dropped off the face of the Earth. And even Bessie couldn't track her down.
Bessie had tried to help Maggie in her efforts, at first. Had always been on hand to provide Maggie with whatever information she needed in her supernatural escapades. But there was only so much she could do for her.
And then there'd been Joan. There'd been slayers in her family, and she'd grown up believing she'd be one two. But it had never come about. No supernatural abilities, no razor-sharp reflexes. She was normal, by all accounts. But she'd trained, for years. She'd put herself through the ringer to try and keep up with the examples she'd seen in her childhood. And she was good.
But she couldn't replace Anne and Maria, either. She tried her best, and she was always strong right-hand woman to have in a fight. And she'd helped to keep up Maggie's training. But she still wasn't Anne.
Maggie worried too much. Joan wasn't a slayer, so when she was in the middle of the fight, Maggie felt responsible. She'd feel so guilty if anything happened to Joan because she let her be there. So she'd snapped at her, and Joan had been understandably upset. She never liked being seen as less capable. In all fairness, it had made Maggie feel awfully guilty. The hurt in her friend's eyes had been obvious. So now, while she still helped with training, Joan didn't come on patrols any more.
And Maggie was on her own, somewhat because of her own actions.
Anne had died on her, and Maria had just up and left. After everything they had done together, the promises to have each other's backs. They were gone. They'd abandoned her.
You're blaming them for problems you caused.
She couldn't help it. She couldn't do this on her own, and they were gone. They were supposed to show her how to do this, and now she had to do it on her own. And she was doing it wrong.
Things were getting worse and worse lately. And it wasn't just because of the lack of slayers. There seemed to be more and more attacks every week. Maggie couldn't keep up. Disappearances, mysterious murders. All increasing in their frequency. And Maggie had this overwhelming feeling of foreboding. Like her usual slayer's intuition, but as a sort of background radiation to everything in her life. A slowly growing, creeping sense of dread. Something was going on, she knew that much. But she couldn't figure out what or why.
And she didn't know how to do this alone.
How many more people are going to die because of you?
How many? None. Maggie was going to do everything she could to make this better. Whatever it took. She didn't care how much it hurt her in the process. She would fix this if it killed her.
Walking to the front entrance of her halls for the sixth time that night, she decided to change her approach. Digging her key out of her tight jean pocket—she was soaked through, and the wet denim was stiff—she headed up to her room, glad to find the rest of her flat were either out or already in their rooms.
Her room was illuminated in the soft green-ish glow of the assorted fairy lights Anne had bought her last year, when she'd found out she'd be heading to university. She sat at her already cluttered desk, and started making frantic notes. Everything she knew about Kat, any little detail she'd mentioned. She'd have to ask around tomorrow to find out which flat she was in, and if any of her flatmates had seen her.
She scribbles every little though she has down in her notepad. Which course Kat was one, and anyone she knew who was on the same one. Alternative routes she might have taken home. People who might have seen her on their way out. Anything she knew about local werewolves. She'd have to speak to Bessie tomorrow, too. See if she knew of any tracing spells. She would find a way to track the girl down. She had to.
She'd start by finding out what had happened to Kat. And then she would get to the bottom of what was really happening here.
Is Anne really dead though? Bold of Maggie to assume she can be killed.
Chapter 4: Anna von Kleve is a BNOC
Kitty finds out that Anna is THAT Anna, and we meet some new faces.
It was funny how much difference a day could make. Only yesterday, Katherine felt like she was on the verge of death. And now, as Anna had observed, she was practically skipping everywhere she went. Kitty couldn't explain it. For some reason she just felt good.
Perhaps it was the relief from yesterday's pain easing away. But it seemed that nothing could ruin Kitty's mood right now. She felt amazing, and the sun was out, even if it didn't bring all that much warmth. She and Anna were taking a slow, steady stroll down a street not far from where Kitty was staying, lined with pretty trees, whose leaves were just being tinged with brown.
They swayed gently in the slightly chilly autumn breeze, and Kitty finally understood why so many people said it was their favourite season. She wanted to frame this moment in time; to savour it forever so she could look back on it if she ever needed a reminder of what it was like to feel well and truly okay. It was like all the fear and the tension of leaving her family and starting a life for herself was gone.
Despite her unorthodox situation, Kitty felt more relaxed than she had in her entire life. Which, in fairness, didn't take much. She still feared what this new affliction meant for her, but the sheer relief of waking up without fire in her blood made her forget that worry.
They were going to meet Anna's friend, who apparently might know the location of someone, who might be able to help Kitty. There were a lot of 'maybes' in this plan.
Anna had a lot of friends, it seemed, which Kitty hoped would soon rub off on her. She'd never been great at making an impression on new people. She tended to be quiet, shy and reserved. And while they certainly weren't character flaws, these were not traits that tended to make people particularly popular.
But Anna did it effortlessly. She seemed to know one in three people they passed on campus, slowing slightly every now and then to shoot finger guns their way, reference an inside joke, or call them by an obscure nickname.
It wasn't until some tall, bespectacled Scottish guy hollered "Oi Cleves!" at her that Kitty realised just why that was. Anna was that Anna. Anna von Kleve. Kitty had heard her name so many times when talking to older students, because apparently she was a legend. People from all over campus knew her. From different courses, societies, year groups. And, of course, they all enjoyed her company.
She was legendary in both the party scene, and as a helpful member of a number of societies. Everyone knew her; everyone loved her, and Kitty could see why. Anna was kind; she'd already literally saved Kitty's life. But she also had this natural charisma about her that made her just about impossible to dislike.
"Oh my god!" Kitty turned to look at her companion.
Anna looked confused. "Yeah?"
"Anna, you're a BNOC!"
Anna gave her a sideways glance. "I'm a what? Kitty are you sure you're feeling better? You're not talking much sense."
"A Big Name On Campus-BNOC! I've heard about you, at freshers', I didn't realise you were the same person."
Anna let out a small laugh at that.
"BNOC? Is that what the kids say now? Am I that out of touch?" She feigned dramatically, then gave a cocky shrug of her shoulders. "But I see my reputation precedes me, naturally."
"Hmm, maybe I shouldn't have mentioned it, it's only gonna go to your head," Kitty hit back.
"Well it's a nice little ego boost, at least."
They finally came to the rust-red door of the shop where Anna's friend supposedly worked. As they entered, a little bell chimed, musically.
The shop was cute, kitschy. It was full of assorted, mystical-looking nick-nacks and it smelled of incense—cinnamon and spices. There was an oddly calming atmosphere inside the shop, it was warm and the light was orange-tinted and soft.
It reminded Kitty of Anna, in the way that it instantly made her feel safe and at home. It's like her walls immediately came down. She felt like this is what home was always supposed to feel like. It was like everything she had been missing with her family.
At the sound of the bell, a woman popped her head up from behind the counter.
"Oh, hey, wasn't expecting you this early, Anna. Who's this?" There was a slightly mischievous tone to her voice as she teased her friend.
She was the sort of person Kitty would usually be fairly intimidated by. She was taller than her, with her dark hair pulled back, and a full fringe. her make-up was well-applied, with dark red lipstick. She wore mostly black, and, all things considered looked like exactly the kind of person Kitty would expect to own a shop like this.
Despite the occult-like appearance of the shop, and the woman herself, Kitty felt comfortable in her presence. Anna flashed a small smile at her friend.
"Hey, Bessie. Sorry to interrupt your busy social life." Anna gave a little raise of her eyebrow, to which Bessie rolled her eyes.
"This is Katherine, she's a ...new friend." Anna shifted a little, awkwardly. Kitty hadn't known her long, but she'd gathered that it wasn't like her to lack confidence. "We need your help, it's about something that happened the other night," Anna continued.
"Tuesday night?" The other woman's demeanour shifted suddenly, and the jovial tone was gone from her voice.
"Yeah. Look, there's nobody else to ask about all of this. If anyone's gonna know what we can do, it's her. We need to-"
"She isn't going to want to see you."
"She's our only option." Anna sighed, "Look, I know you've heard people talking, too. And if she knows a way to control this we need to speak to her."
"She made it pretty plain that she didn't want anything to do with all of this." Bessie countered, moving round from behind the till. "She's done with it."
"I know that, it was clear from the way she disappeared on all of us right when we needed her, but right now Maria is the only person who might have a way of helping Katherine."
"I promised her, Anna. She wanted to get away from all of this."
This was what finally made Anna raise her voice, for the first time Kitty had heard her do so. "She doesn't really have a choice!"
There was an uncomfortable silence between them, and Kitty almost felt like she shouldn't be there. She tried to hang on to her lighter mood, but it was slipping through her grasp. She shrunk back slightly, trying to avoid drawing attention to herself. This was all because of her, after all. They were arguing because of her. She was causing all this unnecessary stress for Anna, and she barely even knew her-
Anna glanced back at her, reached out and gave her hand a light squeeze. The action was small, but it grounded Kitty in the moment, and gave her a gentle reassurance that she'd done nothing wrong.
"Please. I wouldn't be here if I had any other option, Bess."
Bessie hesitated. Her shoulders were rigid with tension, and her expression conflicted as she considered. A few slow, drawn out moments passed. She looked up, and let out a soft sigh. Then, she turned back to her friend.
"Fine. She's gonna be pissed, though." She moved back behind the counter, and pulled out some bright orange post-it notes, then scribbled down some details and folded it up, holding it out towards Anna, but didn't hand it to her yet. "First of all, you owe me one." She counted exaggeratedly on her fingers, "second, you tell her I didn't want to give you this, and finally, you owe her one, too."
"Promise." Anna's voice was sincere.
"She was really adamant that I wouldn't tell anyone."
"I know," Anna replied, softly. "She's your friend, she trusted you. You're really doing me favour, here, Bess. I'll tell her it was all me, I promise. And I'll-I don't know, buy her a drink or something."
Bessie let out an exasperated laugh. "You better be getting me one, too, Cleves."
"Drinks all 'round, promise!" Anna joked, as she waved Kitty towards the door. She turned to give her friend a serious look, "Honestly, though. Thank you."
The door gave another melodic jingle as they headed back out onto the street. And in spite of everything, Kitty felt her good mood creeping back in—a warm, rose-tinted feeling. The bounce came back to her step. Anna gave her knowing smile as she let the door close behind them.
The address Bessie had given them didn't turn out to be all that far away. It only took them about half an hour to find the street, and as the house numbers slowly increased Kitty felt an odd sense of excitement. This whole new side to the world that she had suddenly been plunged into was scary, sure.
But it was also amazing. It was something Kitty had never thought could truly be real, and yet here she was. A werewolf.
Okay, maybe that was a little too real. Still, she'd get used to it in time, especially if Anna's hopes about her friend's new knowledge were true.
From what Anna had said, this friend—Maria—was a slayer, like her. She had decided, rather suddenly, to pack up and leave the whole slaying business behind. If that was something you could actually do.
And, according to rumour, in her time away she'd had a number of run-ins with other werewolves. According to some, she'd discovered some secret weakness of theirs, and according to others, she might have even learned of a cure. The stories varied wildly, and they didn't come from the most reputable of sources. But they were the only lead they had.
And so, as they came to the door of number 43 Winscombe Drive, Kitty felt hopeful. Because she had to be. She didn't know what she would do, otherwise. She pushed away the slight apprehension that rose as Anna knocked at the old, battered door.
And, only a brief moment after they'd arrived, the door flew open. And the woman on the other side did not look happy. She held the door open, looking frustrated, and frantically motioned for them to come inside.
"In. Before I change my mind."
Chapter 5: Wolves in Sheep's Clothing
In which Anna is reminded that appearances aren't everything.
“Well?” Maria snapped as the two lingered awkwardly in her doorway. They startled slightly at her times and both hurried through the door.
This is bloody typical.
She pulled the door closed a little too sharply and then wheeled around to face them. How in the hell had Anna found her new address? She had gone to great lengths to make sure nobody would track her down. She wanted out of her old life and, after only a year or so of peace, here it was, barrelling through her front door.
She had good reason to be a little pissed.
“What on earth are you doing here? How did you even get this address?”
Anna looked sheepish at that.
Anna's friend was keeping behind her, clearly apprehensive of Maria. She was a bit younger than Anna, and seemed a little timid. Though, there was something else about her that was familiar to Maria.
She recognised the feeling immediately; it was one she knew all too well. And it only made her more frustrated. It was the last thing she needed to deal with right now.
“I’m sorry to barge in, Maria, but we really need your help,” Anna said carefully, ever the diplomat.
“God, please don’t say that, I knew you were gonna say that!” She sighed. She really didn’t need this.
“It’s about Katherine, here. The other night she had a bit of a-"
“No wait, don’t tell me. I already know where this is going, and this-" she sighed. “This is exactly what I wanted to avoid. I wanted to be done with all this...” she struggled to find the right words, “bullshit!”
“I know that, Maria, but you are the only lead I have, and I cant just leave her to figure this out herself! She has no idea what any of this means, or how to deal with it, and there’s only so much I can do to help.” Anna pleaded with her.
“You don’t understand, I can’t be involved in all of that anymore, I have- other issues to take care of.” Maria didn’t say what she wanted to say, which was that she had people depending on her, and that getting involved in all of this might put them in danger. Instead, she put it, rather inadequately: “Things have changed.”
“Please?” Katherine spoke up for the first time since the conversation had started. It was fair to say both Maria and Anna were caught off-guard by her interruption to their heated discussion.
Do not look the kid in the eyes. She told herself, in vain.
And then she turned to face Katherine, and as they made eye contact, Maria couldn’t bring herself to say no. She was so young. And Anna was right, she wouldn’t know how to deal with any of this, and God this was exactly what she didn’t want to happen. Plus, she sounded so scared. And Maria couldn’t blame her; she would be, too.
She let out a soft chuckle, and twisted her fingers through her curly hair. And in that moment, she reigned herself to whatever mess was going to come her way after this.
What have you gotten yourself into, Maria?
“Fine.” She finally said. “But- look, you- you owe me.” Anna laughed.
“Oh, I am well aware.”
And with that Maria turned on her heel, and headed into the house, signalling for them to stay put.
Anna and Katherine are left, slightly bewildered, in her wake.
Why in the hell am I going through with this?
She quickly headed upstairs before giving herself the chance to reconsider what she was doing. If she was going to go ahead with this stupid idea, she’d prefer to get it done quickly. Like waxing, it would only be more painful and make more of a mess if she took her time with it.
She flung open the door of the spare room, where the other two women were catching up with the latest episode of bake-off. They’d missed it on Tuesday thanks to... well. That was the crux of the issue, wasn’t it? They didn’t look all too happy to have been interrupted; not midway through bread week, it was practically sacrilegious.
Whatever, Maria would apologise later.
“Could you two come downstairs?” They looked at her, expressions of mild offence still on their faces. “Please.” She added with a sickly sweet tone.
Reluctantly, they both dragged themselves up from the slightly battered green sofa they’d spent most of the morning on.
“And, no offence, but–I really need you both to play nice.”
Anna and Kitty waited at the doorway in silence. They didn’t speak; neither of them were quite sure what to say. They both shifted uncomfortably in place, as the weight of the quiet settled onto them.
Anna tried to remain optimistic, for Kitty’s sake. But, truthfully, she was scared. She had dealt with werewolves before, yes, but that was in more of a “slaying" scenario. She didn’t want to hurt Kitty. So she didn’t know what to do.
She's heard of wolves who could control their transformation—but she’d never met one. The slayers who had trained her in her youth had told her it wasn’t true. And back then, she’d believed them.
She couldn’t fathom why they would lie to her, so she’d naively believed them when they’d told her that every wolf was some mindless beast—that they were too far gone as soon as the infection took hold.
But now she wasn’t sure they were right. And that had two implications. Either her education on these matters had been woefully inadequate, in which case much of her worldview could be entirely wrong. Or, they had been wilfully lying to her. In which case, her worldview was wrong, and there was something much more sinister going on.
She didn’t like either scenario.
Kitty looked nervous. Anna knew the girl was scared, despite her attempts to hide her feelings. And it was understandable. Only two days ago, her life would have been entirely normal. Not perfect, perhaps. Hell, it could have been awful. But it had been a normal, human life, with no otherworldly complications. And now, she was forever changed. And Anna couldn’t help but blame herself.
There was shuffling from upstairs, and then multiple sets of footsteps coming down.
Two? No, three. Anna wondered who they were, and why they needed to be there to help Kitty. What had Maria been up to this whole time she’d been absent?
The door to the hallway creaked open, and there was Maria, flanked by two other women. And, to be frank, they weren’t what Anna had been expecting.
The woman to her left was tall, dark skinned, with curly hair, pinned back from her face which was tinted blonde towards the ends. She wore a relax but oddly elegant canary yellow dress, with a thin gold crucifix around her neck. She held her head high, in a dignified manner, but she was looking at Kitty with suspicion.
The woman on her right was pale, her face framed by straight, blonde hair. She wore jeans, with a simple white shirt, and a long, pale grey cardigan which look, from where Anna was standing to be impossibly soft. She had a similarly guarded stance, and Anna was not happy with the way the both of them were regarding Kitty. They looked positively shifty.
What the hell was their problem?
Why were they looking at Kitty like she was some kind of threat? As if she had personally murdered their first-born child. Even more alarmingly, Kitty seemed to be returning their distrust.
What the fuck?
Anna’s confusion was interrupted by a low, rumbling sound. It took Anna a moment to realise what it was. And then she wheeled around to look at Katherine.
Who was growling.
In fairness, Kitty looked similarly surprised by her own actions. Still, she seemed to be standing by them.
“Kitty.” Anna stage whispered, out of the side of her mouth. “What are you doing?”
Reassuringly, though, Maria looked to be just as confused by the situation as Anna. In fact, she looked positively mortified as she turned, exasperated toward the other two women.
“Could you two not show me up for once?” She implored. They looked sheepish, but either of them relaxed. And neither did Katherine.
They appeared to be in some kind of stand-off, which Anna and Maria appeared to have no bearing on. In fact, as much as the two of them tried to redirect their attention, the three remained fixated on each other.
The three of them were tense, all waiting for someone to make a move. Anna was quickly coming to her wits end.
And then things clicked into place. The sound was not exclusively coming from Kitty. The reason for Maria's odd disappearance, and her apparent experience with werewolves. These were the wolves in question. That explained Kitty's bizarre behaviour, too, then. Just a response to new instincts she didn't have a grasp of yet. They all suddenly made sense.
Anna was more surprised than she probably should have been, as an experienced slayer. It's just that—well the pair looked like the polar opposite of what one would expect a werewolf to look like. They both looked sort of like... suburban mums or primary school teachers. It was like finding out your local librarian was a succubus; the two sides were hard to reconcile with each other.
Though, once again, Anna should have known better. At the very least, she should have learned her lesson not judge a book by it's cover after that old library had burned down.
The other two moved closer to Maria, standing slightly in front of her, protectively. Reflexively, Kitty did the same to Anna. Maria made eye contact with her, looking almost apologetic.
“Oh, for the love of God, I asked you to be nice!” Again, Maria looked horribly embarrassed by the actions of her companions.
Anna shifted slightly, and Kitty quickly moved in front of her. At this, the other two jolted forward, too. All three looked about ready to break into a fight, and Anna was well and truly out of her depth. In contrast to Anna’s confusion, Maria looked positively pissed.
The growling reached it’s peak.
“All right, that’s enough!” Maria had clearly reached the end of her tether. At the sound of the genuine frustration in her voice, the two strangers both moved back, looking slightly abashed. They were both still on edge, but they hung back, clearly aware that they’d crossed a line.
Kitty relaxed a little too. She looked at Anna, blushing with slight embarrassment. Evidently, she wasn’t sure what had come over her.
“Sorry.” Said the woman on the right, and the other gave a small nod and an apologetic smile to Maria.
Maria let out a small sigh, and steeled herself. She looked to the two women next to her, and then started: “Guys, this is Katherine,” they both still looked at Kitty questioningly, “she... she needs our help. The other night-”
Both women were suddenly focused entirely on Maria’s words.
“She was attacked. She’s new to all of this; she doesn’t know what she’s dealing with and-"
Before Maria could finish her sentence, both women’s demeanours had changed and—more importantly—the woman on the left darted forward. Anna tensed, desperate to be there in time to protect Kitty, this time.
But there was nothing to protect her from. The woman had thrown her arms around Kitty, and had her enveloped in a tight hug. Her shoulders were tense, but her expression was soft.
“Catalina,” Maria started, “bit much?”
Catalina didn’t budge. As sudden as the contact was, Kitty relaxed into the embrace.
Anna, through no fault of her own, was somewhat bewildered by this action. “Maybe we should, um... talk about this?”
Reluctantly, Catalina loosened her hold, and slowly moved away. But she stayed close to Kitty, looking at her with concern. In fact, she looked almost protective of her, a stark contrast to her earlier attitude towards the girl. Anna wasn’t sure yet what to make of this.
“So, you two are both-" Kitty began.
“Yes,” the blonde woman answered—Kitty didn’t need to finish, “I’m Jane. You were bitten, then?”
Catalina flinched at that. Anna made a mental note of it. She'd ask later.
“Y-yeah,” Kitty replied, pulling down the collar of her jacket to show the wound on her shoulder. It was still fresh, raised and red and angry. “Heading home on Tuesday night, I- if Anna hadn’t been there...”
Werewolves healed faster than normal people, Anna knew. It was difficult for them to scar—it only happened if one was hurt badly enough that their supernatural recovery couldn’t keep up. But the first wound would always remain. You could always tell a born werewolf from a bitten one on this basis. A born wolf didn’t have a scar.
Jane cringed at the sight of the wound. Maria looked mildly uncomfortable, too. Catalina kept her expression more veiled, this time. But Anna noticed the slight tremble her lip, and the look of pity in her eyes. The woman’s hand darted to her right hip, and rested there, gently touching the side of her torso.
Catalina spoke up this time. “So, yesterday you would have been-"
“In hell.” Kitty responded, deadpan. Though, there was a moment of pain that crossed her eyes.
Anna was sure she heard Catalina whimper then.
She must have done, as Maria moved over, and placed a gentle hand on the woman’s back. Catalina glanced at her, and Maria gave her a meaningful look. Catalina returned a half-smile, as they turned back to the conversation.
“So why do you need us?” Jane asked, clearly trying to centre back onto the discussion at hand.
Kitty hesitated for a moment. “Well I, I don’t really know what I’m doing. Anna said that people can't usually- control themselves when they change and, well I don’t want to be like the person who hurt me. I want to control it.” She finished with commitment, sure in her words.
Jane nodded, “I understand.”
She turned to Catalina, who still looked shaken. She looked at the other woman expectantly, who returned a hesitant nod.
Jane looked back at Kitty with a gentle smile. “Then it’s settled,” she said. “We’re gonna teach you everything you need to know, Katherine.”
Chapter 6: What survives Death
After her death, Cathy clings to her humanity.
We finally meet the remaining queens
Every day since she had died, Catherine Parr regretted her bargain. She should have known better than to trust the honeyed words of some mysterious man who'd appeared in her fading moments.
But she'd so desperately wanted to stay for her little girl. To hold her, to care for her. To be a mother. She was so fearful of missing that chance. She'd made a decision she would come to regret. But in that moment, when she had felt so cold, so dark. So numb and disconnected from the world. And a sweet-talking stranger had come to offer the chance to be there for her little girl—forever.
She had said yes.
And she had awoken somewhere new. In a cold, unfamiliar room. Without a pulse. It had felt, in it's way, like the grave.
When she cradled her little Mae to her chest it didn't soothe her. She wasn't warm. There was no soft rise and fall of her chest. She felt like a shadow of the woman she'd used to be. She had wanted to stay for her daughter, but she wasn't so sure now that she could give her what she needed.
She had only wished that her daughter would not grow up with a dead mum. But now here she was, dead to the world all the same.
And she and her daughter were stuck here—in this den of heartless monsters who, in Cathy's eyes, were dead in more ways than one. Her 'husband's' men were awful. They seemed to take pleasure in hurting people, and the way they looked at her daughter—the only true human in that old house—filled her with a protective rage she could hardly comprehend. She was an infant, and yet they looked at her with such hungry eyes. Mae normally stayed in their room now; it was the only way Cathy felt she was safe. And Cathy usually stayed there with her.
She may not have a pulse or breath any longer, but she would not lose her humanity. She would not stop caring; then she would really be dead. She needed to be a good mother for her daughter, and part of that meant not being a serial murderer. It was the main point of contention between her and her new 'husband.'
Because Cathy refused to feed.
And for them, that was everything. She wouldn't kill. And so she was a problem. The issue of the day. Repeatedly, he would try to persuade her, convince her to feed. Threaten her, even. But she would not be like them.
If nothing else, her humanity would survive this.
They'd presented her first with blood. Already cold, separated from the truth of the matter. It was supposed to ease her into it. Start with just drinking, then present her with the real deal. Build her up to the final act of killing. Take it step by step until she wouldn't think twice about ending a life.
And her refusal had thrown a wrench in her plans. Of course, Henry was still trying to play the part of a loving partner. Ruler. But Cathy could see his lies. The manipulation. He didn't care for her in truth; he only saw her as useful. But his men were not so subtle.
They had threatened her many times now, made awful comments about what they thought of her. They'd even threatened Mae. But Cathy knew none of them would have the courage to act on their words. Not without their leader's instruction.
Still, she wanted out.
She'd thought about just running away. She was allowed out on her own from time to time. It was the only reason she hadn't starved yet—she would take herself out to the woods and find a deer or something to feed from. It wasn't great, but it kept her alive. And nobody had to die for it.
But Henry and his men didn't exactly approve. And they made their increasing frustration clear to her every day.
She needed to get out-and soon. She wanted to just take Mae and get out of there at her first opportunity, but things wouldn't be that simple now. She'd gotten herself in too deep.
Apparently, she wasn't the first woman who'd been taken in by Henry;s sweet words and false promises. Cathy took the fact that these other women were no longer around as a bad sign. But, even worse, some of those earlier women had had children. Children who were now stuck in that awful old house with that awful man and his awful peers.
And as much as Cathy wanted to protect Mae, she couldn't leave them behind. How hypocritical would it be of her to take her own daughter out of danger, while leaving someone else's children to suffer the consequences.
There were three of them, and from what Cathy could gather they didn't share a mother. Henry's men didn't treat them with all that much respect (at least when he was absent). They called them names, which Cathy assumed from her patchy understanding of the supernatural, to be fairly offensive.
The eldest was the most distant with Cathy, but she also seemed to be the most maligned by Henry's companions, so Cathy felt an odd impulse of protectiveness toward her. They called Mary all manner of names, and while she never acknowledged it, Cathy knew she heard them. Their distaste for her seemed to largely stem from the fact that she wasn't undead, like them, but a werewolf—as was the youngest. She also bared the least resemblance to Henry; she didn't share his red hair or pale complexion, but had darker skin and curly light brown hair. These came from her mother, Cathy supposed. From what she saw, Mary took on a lot of responsibility for her father, but didn't interact with anyone much except for her siblings. She presented as cold and aloof, but Cathy could see the discomfort behind her eyes.
The middle child—Elizabeth—was closest with Cathy. She'd grown on her almost immediately, with the mischievous glint in her eyes, and her apparent ability to always be one step ahead of her father and his men. She would take care of Mae, sometimes, when Cathy needed to hunt, or to deal with her 'husband.' She bore some resemblance to her father, with her red hair, but there was a darker hint to her hair, and her eyes, which Cathy deduced came from her mother. She wasn't like the other two, but she wasn't like Cathy, either. She was at least somewhat human, Cathy could hear the blood pumping through her, but she didn't have the slightly odd scent that the werewolves had, Cathy wasn't sure what it meant, but Henry's men called her "half-blood." There was something inhuman about her, but Cathy wasn't sure how all of this worked.
The youngest seemed to be his favourite; a young boy with light red hair, similar to his fathers. He was the quietest of the three, with light footsteps which meant Cathy often didn't know of his presence until he was practically breathing over her shoulder. But he was also fairly small, even for his age, and the looks the other men gave him told Cathy that, despite his father's affections, Edward didn't live up to their expectations. In hushed whispers, they called him a "runt." They also called him "mutt", along with his eldest sister, which Cathy assumed was a dig at their supernatural status. Though, she wasn't exactly well-versed in the nuances of magical bigotry. It all felt rather stereotypical.
Cathy knew she couldn't just leave them there. They were kids. Even if they weren't necessarily all that close to her, she had a duty to them. If, God forbid, Cathy were to die, leaving poor Mae behind with those people, she'd want someone else to do the same for her little girl. And so, the way she saw it, she had a debt to those other women, whoever and wherever they might be.
So she couldn't leave just yet—she needed to find a way to take them with her. Or, at least to ensure they would be safe without her. So, for now she would bide her time; plot her course of action. She would tread carefully, find out everything she could about Henry, his operations, his people. She would figure out how it all ticked over, and find a way to jam up the works. If he wasn't going to change his ways, she'd find a way to work around him.
This was just another thing to test her humanity. And there was no way she was letting go of it.
It was about three months into her undeath when Cathy met the mystery woman. Or rather, when said woman ploughed directly into her when she was trying to hunt
"Christ, what the hell are you doing?" It wasn't the best first impression she'd ever made. But the woman who'd just bowled her over out of nowhere and without provocation while she'd been walking through the woods on her own was looking at her like she was the mad one.
She was pale, with dark hair, partially tied above her head. She was taller than Cathy, though that didn't take much doing, in honesty. She was also looking at Cathy with an odd mixture of curiosity and... what looked like fear.
"Who are you?" The woman asked, but she carried on at break-neck speed before Cathy could get a word in. "Why do you smell like him? I can feel him all over you, why is that?"
Now that she mentioned it; Cathy could sense it too. This woman—whoever she is—felt like Henry. And she was just as dead as Cathy; no pulse, no warmth, no rise and fall of the chest. Did this mean she was like Cathy? Had her turned her too? Come in her hour of need and promised her eternal life if she just did as he said?
And if that was the case, had she also been the mother to one of his children?
Cathy had so many questions, but it seemed all the woman wanted was answers herself. She looked at Cathy, impatiently.
Cathy didn't know where to start—but she didn't have to. There was a crack of twigs off in the distance, and both heads whipped round to face it. Cathy's heart dropped. One of Henry's men, coming to escort her home. And she hadn't managed to eat yet, which meant another day of hunger, and another step closer to giving in.
No. She wouldn't let herself begin to think that way. It would be far, far to easy to sink into it, and give up her own control. But that was exactly why she couldn't let herself do it. The easiest option was rarely the right one.
"Shit." She hears the other woman say, deadpan. And before she can inquire, the woman is gone. Cathy thinks about following her, but the woman clearly doesn't want to be followed. And if Cathy gave chase, Henry's idiot follower would only come after her, too. which, evidently, was exactly what the woman was running from.
That meant she had more sense than Cathy, at least. Cathy didn't run. She couldn't. Even though her mind was screaming at her; begging her to run, to get out of there and never look back. She couldn't. She knew that.
But that didn't stop the conflict inside her. As everything inside her was calling out to run, she stood firm. One of those awful minions of Henry's finally arrived to take her 'home.' She never bothered to learnt heir names; she made a point of it, actually. And she went with him, even while it killed her inside.
She had to. Leaving the children behind would be as good as surrendering every part of her that felt—every part that was human. She could never forgive herself for that. So she had to stay.
And when she got back, she was going to start asking questions. She was going to find out everything she could about those other women; about Henry and his entire operation. She would keep digging until she found something she could use. And then she'd get them all out of there.
They'd be safe, and if she had to, she'd raise them herself. Raise them to be better than their father ever could. Raise them with humanity, at least.
She was going to keep them all safe; because no one else would.
Chapter 7: Questions and Cuppas
Some questions are cleared up in the traditional British manner.
Sorry this one took a little longer, I got stuck mid-chapter! :)
But I'm building up a more solid plan for how each new chapter is going to pan out.
Fifteen minutes later, the five of them had settled in Maria's living room, over mugs of tea and a wide assortment of biscuits, courtesy of Jane. 'There's nothing that can't be improved by a cuppa,' she'd said.
"So, how are you feeling about what happened, Kat? It must be difficult," Jane asked, smiling warmly at her.
"It's... a lot, I guess." She started, "My whole world's been turned upside down and I don't understand anything anymore. It's funny. All I wanted when I left was for my life to change. I was so desperate for something different, I guess that's why they say be careful what you wish for."
"And this only happened a couple nights ago?" Catalina inquired, looking a little confused. "You don't feel unwell at all? It's only been a day, really."
"Since the full moon, yeah." Anna replied.
"Why? Is that not normal?" Kitty continued.
"No, it is." Jane's voice was rather blunt and matter-of-fact, but she gave Catalina a poorly-concealed look of pity, "A day is a pretty standard amount of time for recovery, as far as I know."
Catalina cast her eyes downward then, frowning as she began to bite her nails. Again, Maria extended a hand to rest gently on the other woman's arm. It didn't receive much acknowledgement, but Kitty got the impression that it was appreciated all the same.
"So, you can control it, when you change, I mean?" Kitty asked, "Who taught you?"
"Well, that was all Jane." Catalina replied, smiling at the other woman. She seemed to be relieved the conversation had moved on from the previous topic.
"I grew up with it, though." Jane interjected, clearly not too comfortable receiving praise. "It's much easier when you grew up with it all. You're accustomed to all the...instincts."
"But nobody ever had to teach you," Catalina retorted. "You figured it all out on your own."
"Well, I'd seen my brothers; I knew what not to do. I just worked back from there." Jane said dismissively.
"You were born like this, then?" Katherine's curiosity was peaked. She couldn't imagine living a life like this from the very beginning. To have never known normality the was Kitty had experienced it.
Jane looked a little uncomfortable.
"Yeah. Unfortunately, my family aren't exactly the best, though." She said, shifting awkwardly. "They were... sort of the bad example I learned from." Her gaze was pointed downwards, and Kitty could practically feel the tension in her shoulders from the other side of the room.
"Oh." Kitty struggled to make eye contact, worrying she had crossed a line she shouldn't have. "I'm sorry."
She'd only just met the woman, and she'd already upset her.
"It's alright," Jane's voice had grown a little quieter, though she was clearly fighting to keep her composure. "I came out all the better for it."
To reinforce her words, she took a single digestive from the pack, and aimed it at Maria, sending it sailing toward the other woman's head. Maria, in a moment of poor judgement, attempted to dive forward and catch it in her mouth, instead allowing it to hit her right on the nose, instead.
As she got up to return to her position on the couch, Catalina rolled her eyes at Maria. Still, a small grin made its way to her face anyway, and a light chuckle escaped her lips. Kitty just watched on in (pretend) horror with the realisation that these responsible adults, who were supposed to hold all the answers she needed, were not so serious as she'd initially thought.
"I despise you both." She said, in a deadpan tone. But the smile in the corners of her eyes betrayed her true feelings.
They were clearly close, all three of them, and Kitty wondered how long they'd known each other. She remembered Anna mentioned Maria having 'disappeared' more than a year ago. So had they met then? Kitty thought that it might have been the reason for her sudden change of heart with regards to being a slayer. After all, why would she want to fight the creatures of the night if one of them was her friend?
Must be the same way Anna's feeling now.
She looked over to her oldest friend in the room. Which was odd to think about. She'd only met Anna the other day, but the woman had saved her life, and had quickly become an extremely comforting presence to her. She almost felt as if she'd known Anna her whole life. Lord knows, she wished she had. She could have done with someone like Anna through her childhood.
"So how did it happen?" Maria blurted, suddenly. From the look on her face, Kitty could see it was a question she'd been desperate to ask, but had tried to hold back. The exasperated glare Catalina gave her only testified to this interpretation. Maria looked away, a little sheepish. "You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to."
"It's okay." Kitty replied, psyching herself up to recount what had happened. She had the sudden realisation that she hadn't actually told anyone yet. Anna had seen it, and they'd only had to tell Bessie the basic details of what had happened to her.
She told them about leaving the club, the awful feeling she'd gotten just before the attack, and the black shape that had leapt at her. She told them about how she'd tried to fight back, how it had only dug in deeper, how Anna was the only reason she'd lived. She didn't do it consciously, but she left out the odd girl she'd met at the beginning of the bar crawl. What she'd told her about being careful. She wasn't sure why she did it, but it felt right to keep it to herself, for now.
Once her recount of the story had come to a halt, and she had finally run out of words, she looked up to take in the expressions of the other women. Anna looked troubled, and Kitty understood why. She'd seen it; part of it, at least. She'd thought Kitty could die, of course it had been an unpleasant experience.
Jane was sympathetic; she looked like she wanted to pick Kitty up and wrap her in a blanket and give her a hot chocolate. Or maybe Kitty was projecting. But there was an anger there, too. Like she wanted to track down whoever had done that to her and deal with them herself. Maria's expression was fairly similar, if a little more fiery.
Catalina, in the meantime, didn't seem to want to meet eyes with Kitty. She looked almost in pain but her jaw was tightly clenched, and on a closer inspection Kitty could have sworn the older woman was shaking. Clearly, she was holding something in, but Kitty wasn't sure what. She had curled in on herself, subtly, and her hand was clenched around her side. Kitty decided not to ask questions.
A hand touched gently on Kitty's shoulder, and Maria looked at her solemnly.
"I'm sorry, kid." She said, softly. "That's... awful."
"Yeah." Catalina added. Her voice was fragile, and cracked. It was a harsh contrast to how confident and self-assured she had seemed at first. Something must have thrown her off-balance. Kitty wanted to get to the bottom of it, but she didn't want to pry into the personal issues of this woman she'd only just met.
So she returned a soft, but half-hearted smile to the other women. Talking about what had happened the other night had taken it out of her. It was odd, thinking back to then, before she knew about any of this. She had had no idea hoe drastically her life could change in that moment. She almost felt like an entirely new person.
It was odd, in a way, that she felt she'd come so far already. Still, the thought of actually changing for the first time loomed over her. She wondered what it would feel like, if it would hurt. Would she be able to control herself? The other had told her that they'd teach her, and they'd be there to keep an eye in case there were any issues. That didn't ease her mind much, though.
The conversation had hit quite a lull, now, thanks to Kitty's tale. The story had sobered them all, and the energy in the room had become much more subdued. The silence was a little uncomfortable, but nobody knew what to say. Kitty wanted to change the subject, to move on, but she couldn't think of any way to do so that wouldn't feel odd.
And then, suddenly—it was broken for her.
"I was bitten, too." Catalina's voice was bigger now, there was a clear resolve to it. Her shoulders were squared, and her whole body was racked with tension.
Kitty could tell she didn't want to talk about it. She almost wanted to tell her she didn't have to, if she wasn't comfortable. But she also had so many questions, and this was the first person she'd met who knew exactly what she was going through. She wouldn't even know where to start. And it was clear, from Catalina's demeanour, that despite her discomfort, she needed to say this.
Maria looked just as surprised as Kitty, in fact she almost looked worried. She put a hand on her shoulder, and gave her a look of concern. Catalina shook her off, and steeled herself to continue.
"It was about eighteen years ago, I think. On my-" She paused. It was clear she found the memory difficult to relive. "On my honeymoon."
Kitty was shocked. For the other woman to be baring her soul like this was surprising on it's own. But it felt like she was just finding out more about her. She hadn't even thought she might have been married. But then, of course that begged another question—what had happened to her partner?
Chapter 8: interlude i- 'Til Death do us Part'
We learn about Catalina's unconventional honeymoon, and find out why she's no longer a married woman.
18 years ago
Catalina had been excited for her wedding day since she was a child. In an abstract sense, of course. Always a perfect, white wedding, with her large family gathered, and some charming but ambiguous man at the end of the aisle. It hadn't felt quite so exciting in real life. But she still felt like she'd hit a milestone in her life, and Arthur was a sweet man. She couldn't have known, then, how things would pan out.
They'd been so happy with themselves, when they'd decided on their destination. Somewhere, quiet, rural. Not a typical honeymoon destination, but somewhere quaint, and pretty. A little coastal village in Wales, near the forests. It suited them, in a way.
She'd regret that decision later.
The peaceful walk they'd planned for their first evening had been quite forcefully interrupted, however. They hadn't had a chance to react at all, before the shape had barrelled out of the darkness, and latched its teeth into Catalina's side. She struggled, but it's jaws were strong, and it clearly had no desire to let go any time soon.
It was pulling, almost trying to drag her away. The teeth dug deeper, and her body froze up. Fighting back only seemed to be deepening the wounds, and in the back of her mind, she was aware that the creatures jaws were dangerously close to some of her more important organs. Her breathing was getting shallower, but she tried to fight back by clawing at the creature's face.
In the dark, she could just make out Arthur, desperately trying to pull the thing that was twice his size off of her. And he wasn't exactly a particularly strong man, but he was grasping at its fur and trying to shift it's weight, without much luck.
She could feel her efforts getting weaker, as she was losing more and more blood. Her limbs didn't seem to be responding to her intentions, and she was losing all feeling apart from those sharp, tearing teeth. She felt cold, her breathing becoming erratic. She felt her grip on consciousness slipping, and the teeth seemed to loosen. She heard a snapping sound and a struggle. And then she felt nothing. She must have died, she thought.
But then, against all of her expectations—she woke up the next morning.
Her side had been cleaned, and bandaged. But still very much painful. Faint morning light was streaming in through the open curtains, and it made her head ache and she screwed her eyes shut again.
She groaned in pain, and received a similar groan in response. She turned to see Arthur next to her on the bed. His arm bore similar bandages to her own.
"What the hell happened last night?" She didn't like to curse, but she didn't know how to even begin to process this situation.
"I don't-" His voice was forced, and cracked. "I don't know."
"How did you get us both back here?"
"With-" He shuffled, and winced in pain, "great difficulty."
She hesitated, then rolled over to rest her head on his shoulder.
They spent the next few days in that bed, neither of them able to do just about anything. On day five, the pain eased enough of Catalina to finally pull herself out of bed. She ordered food for the two of them—the only place that would deliver to their remote location.
She did everything she could to look after Arthur in those next few days, before they would have to pack up and leave. But Arthur would never see the end of the week. She wouldn't find out until later that Arthur had known more about what was happening to them than he let on.
Not knowing what else to do, she called Arthur's brother, hoping he might at least be able to help. And, with hindsight, she realised there was something off about him, too. When she'd seen Henry's eyes turn a haunting crimson before the wedding, she'd convinced herself her mind was playing tricks. Now, she was starting to believe that might not have been the case.
She couldn't make sense of all of this, it was so antithetical to everything she believed. She had started the week full of excitement, ready to begin her married life with a kind and caring man.
Instead, she'd been left widowed, cursed and stuck with tolerating Arthur's older brother. The more she got to know him, the more she realised there had been something wrong with the entire family. They had never quite been human in the first place. Whatever they had faced in the woods, Henry was a new kind of monster entirely.
It wasn't until later that Catalina really understood what had attacked her; and that was when she became the exact same thing. With Arthur gone, Henry had promised he could help her, protect her. But she was still left to go through her first change entirely alone. Confused, scared and in pain.
She didn't know what was happening to her, or even if she would survive it. And when the pulling and cracking of bones had ceased—she hadn't known how to control it. But it hadn't mattered; Henry and his associates found a use in that.
A werewolf was quite a boon to have on-side for a group of—what she'd now learned were—vampires. They were intimidating for others of his kind, apparently.
And, as much as she had been wary of Henry at first, he had offered her safety. And there was a familiarity to him; a piece of Arthur that she missed. Looking back, she would find it hard to explain, but she'd come to love him. She'd been thrown into this outrageous new world, and he was, in a way, her only connection to how her life had been before.
And then, only a few years after Mary had come about, his eye had wandered. She wasn't sure what she'd done wrong, but she wasn't enough for him any more. He had his eye on some slayer who'd been snooping around his territory. She began to think his issue stemmed from her 'condition.' He wanted someone he could make more like himself.
And as he grew more distant, and tried to cast Catalina off, she had fought back. After everything she'd been through, he was supposed to be her support. She wouldn't stand for that.
Which, for Henry, had been a step out of line. He had given her the ultimatum; either she left of her own accord, or he'd make her. She had gotten the point. She'd tried to take Mary with her, but it was made clear she wasn't to leave. And that was a regret she wouldn't be able to leave behind.
She'd found herself the next day, bruised and tired, thanks to his men—in the home of someone she hadn't seen in years. An old friend, against all odds. And, after so long, she was around someone who genuinely cared for her well-being again. And in hindsight, she realised the implications of how he treated her. Nobody who'd actually loved her would have cast her out so easily.
And they fell into a fairly comfortable routine together, over the next year. A rhythm that spanned the month, and let her relax without fearing she would hurt someone. And she felt valued, which she hadn't felt for a while.
It wouldn't be until years later, when they'd met Jane, that her wolf had become an extension of herself instead a separate entity she tried desperately to keep in check.
Things had improved, for the both of them, without him. But Catalina still had her regrets. And she'd find her daughter again, whatever it took.
Chapter 9: Down the Rabbithole
Cathy kick-starts her detective career.
To say that Cathy had some concerns would be putting it lightly. There was a lot at stake right now—ironic, given her 'condition'—and she didn't know who she could trust.
If you can trust anyone, that is.
She wanted to speak to the kids, hoping they might be able to help, or at least that she could keep them safe while she tried to find an exit strategy for them. But she couldn't be sure just how firmly they were under their father's thumb. And she couldn't risk one of them running off to tell him about her betrayal and jeopardising her whole plot.
She certainly couldn't trust Henry himself. The longer she spent around him, the more she got the impression that every word out of his mouth was a bare-faced lie.
If she was going to get to the bottom of all of this, she was going to have to start small. She didn't want to raise too much suspicion, or she could end up in a lot more trouble, and then there wouldn't be a snowflake's chance in hell of getting herself and the children out safe.
And so, she'd set out to learn everything she could about the supernatural, anything that might give her the slightest edge in achieving her goals. She had first tried looking through the numerous books Henry kept at the house—there was an entire reading room with wall-to-wall bookshelves, most of which concerned such matters. Normally, this would thrill Cathy. But, as she read more and more, she realised they weren't going to give her the answers she was looking for. After all, why would he keep that sort of information so close at hand, where she could easily find it?
She wouldn't find anything of use in those books, though she did find out a wealth of new things about how vast the supernatural world truly was. How many historical figures had been entangled with it, in some way or another. Some of whom were even still alive to this day, with no public knowledge of their continued existence.
Ancient tales and folklore that had been based in reality. It more than blew her mind—everything she had known was being proven untrue and it was quite the adjustment.
Still, if she wanted to find out more she'd need to look elsewhere. And it wasn't like she was going to find accurate information on the internet. Even if there was some correct information out there, it would be drowned out by the sheer volume of conspiracy theories and twilight fanfiction. She'd have to speak to somebody with more reliable information.
But who could she ask? She didn't know anyone outside of the 'family'. Maybe she could find a way to get one of the children to point her in the right direction without raising too much suspicion? It would be risky, though. She'd have to tread carefully. And she'd have to give some proper thought to who would be best to ask.
Edward was young; more naive. He might be easiest to persuade, but he would also be most likely to let something slip to his father. Mary was more responsible, but Cathy could tell she had a loyalty to her father; she seemed eager for his approval, though she kept up an apathetic and aloof facade. She couldn't trust that Mary wouldn't turn around and report everything to Henry without batting an eye.
So maybe Elizabeth. She was a smart kid, with maybe just enough of a rebellious streak that she might divulge something she shouldn't behind her father's back. Cathy could speak to her about any possible routes she could take to find better information.
She would avoid giving away too much about her intentions, but she still couldn't guarantee Liz wouldn't be curious. She'd just have to play it by ear. She'd do her best to keep Elizabeth in the dark, for now. Letting her know too much could get the girl in trouble, too, and Cathy didn't want that.
She cornered the girl later that evening, when she came down to visit, as she often did. Elizabeth liked to fuss over little Mae, and Cathy thought it might be good for the infant to interact with more people than just herself. They'd fallen into a little routine with her visits. It was sweet to see the two of them together, and she couldn't help but picture them in another life—one separate from all of this. One where they could all be safe, and human, and Cathy's heart would still beat in her chest.
It wasn't very realistic.
But a girl can dream.
She wanted to spend a moment there, to pretend that was the life she was living. She could almost imagine it, alone in her room with the two of them. She clung onto the thought, desperately, for a brief, shimmering moment. And then she closed her eyes, and hardened her resolve.
The girl looked up at her, cradling Mae in her arms as the infant reached out to grasp at her red hair. She babbled softly to herself, as Elizabeth ignored the pudgy little fingers pulling at her. It would have made Cathy's heart swell with joy, if it were still in use. Still, she couldn't hold back from smiling at the scene.
They sat in Cathy's bedroom, the decor in which seemed to be nearly a century old, but pristine, and rather lavish, at that. It made Cathy feel like she'd stepped back in time.
"Yes?" The girl looked inquisitive, and completely unfazed by Mae's ministrations.
"I- could I ask you something?" She wasn't sure how to ask, and realised now that dancing around the issue would be more difficult than she'd hoped. She didn't seem to be any good at this whole deception lark.
"Depends." She replied, her face a veil of neutrality. "What are you asking?"
Cathy tried to keep her cool—she needed to maintain an act of indifference. She couldn't seem too invested, or Elizabeth might grow suspicious. She couldn't risk her plans at this stage.
She thought carefully about how much to tell the girl. She couldn't just ask her, straight-faced, how to go about getting rid of her father. She'd have to start smaller. Perhaps she could ask about the woman in the woods. If Elizabeth knew something about her, it could be a useful lead. She'd seemed to know something about Henry, from what little Cathy could glean from her barrage of questions. And, if it turned out to be something she wasn't supposed to know about, it shouldn't get her in too much trouble, right?
"It's just- the other day, I met this woman, out in the woods. Well, I say 'met'- I was more accosted by her, and I was just wondering if you might know what that was all about?"
"I-" Elizabeth hesitated, and despite her usually guarded expression, Cathy could see some kind of recognition dawning on her face. She caught on to this, and quickly masked it with a curious look. "Could you tell me more? It's not much to go on."
Cathy took this as a good sign. If Elizabeth was interested in her encounter, she might actually be willing to help her. At the very least, she would be more likely to keep the entire situation a secret from her father.
"Well, she was... she asked me all these questions, about who I was, and she kept saying I 'felt' like Henry."
"Well, that's... odd." Elizabeth frowned. Cathy could tell she was holding something back, but she didn't want to push her too much, for fear the girl would shut herself off entirely.
"She wasn't wrong, though." She responded, "I could feel it on her too; I could feel him."
"You could?" There was something oddly vulnerable about her then. It was alien to Cathy, seeing the girl this way. It was the first time she'd properly let her guard down in front of her. "Can I ask you something?"
The tables have turned, then.
"Of course." She placed a gentle hand on Elizabeth's arm. Mae had fallen asleep against the girl's chest, and was gently shuffling her little limbs about.
"What did she look like?"
It wasn't exactly the question Cathy had been expecting, but it piqued her interest, so she answered with as much detail as possible.
Elizabeth had shrunk in on herself, holding Mae closer to her, almost defensively. She said nothing, her mouth pressed into a thin line. Cathy could practically see the girls mind racing.
"Elizabeth?" She tried to coax the girl out of her deep thought. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing, it's- it just-" She let out a deep sigh. She couldn't finish the sentence, it seemed. "I think I might know who it is, and if I'm right, it could be bad news."
"What do you mean?"
There was a knock at the door. It cut through their conversation like a knife and killed any momentum Cathy might have had in her investigation.
"I'll tell you later." Elizabeth's voice was matter-of-fact, and shut down any protest from Cathy. She stood, and gently handed Mae back to her mother, before moving to the door.
She opened it, and left without another word. Cathy was still reeling, but there was no time for that. Elizabeth shuffled out, and someone else entered. Cathy looked up.
Mary shut the door softly behind her. As if Cathy needed something else for her mind to over-analyse today.
"We need to talk." Her voice was quiet, like she feared someone might be listening. But her tone was firm. There would be no arguing with her. Before Cathy could answer, she entered the room and took a seat on the bed, opposite where Cathy sat.
Cathy was at a loss for words, she was already trying to unravel what Elizabeth had said in the back of her mind. Which made it all the more difficult for her to try and deduce exactly what Mary was so determined about.
The girl was pretty distant with her, in general. She'd only visited Cathy's room a handful of times, so they typically only met in passing. For the girl to suddenly be making such a sudden appearance, something must be wrong. That worried Cathy.
Mary didn't say anything, but her eyes darted pointedly downward, at the tiny bundle in Cathy's arms.
Cathy tensed. She held Mae tighter to her chest, tucking the child into the crook of her neck.
"I don't understand. What about her?" Her mind was on one track now, focused only on her maternal instinct, running through every possibility she could imagine threatening her child.
"I just wanted to ask you something."
Of course. More questions.
Wasn't Cathy supposed to be the one doing the investigating?
"Go on then." It came out a lot harsher than she'd intended.
"Her father. How well did you know him?"
Cathy winced at that. It was a soft spot, to say the least.
"I thought I did. I was wrong."
Mary nodded, sympathetically.
"But, could he have been-" She cut herself off. Cathy didn't know Mary well, but she knew it wasn't like her to dance around an issue. "What was his name?"
Cathy was caught off-guard by the question. "Um. Thomas. Thomas Seymour?" Just saying that name again makes her feel uneasy.
"Seymour?" Mary's eyes were shut, a deep-set frown on her face.
"Yeah?" Cathy responded. "Why?" She hated feeling like she was out of the loop; like the other person knew something she didn't. She'd been getting that feeling a lot, of late.
"It explains things, I suppose." Mary looked down at the infant, then back at Cathy. "He never told you?"
"Told me what? Mary?" Cathy's voice was becoming incredulous now, feeling completely lost. Clearly, Mary was privy to some pieces of the puzzle that Cathy was not.
"Mae's not human, either." Mary's voice was softer now, soothing, almost.
"That's impossible, I had her before I- I can hear her heartbeat, she can't be-"
"Not like you, Catherine." She looked mildly frustrated, but there was sympathy there, too. "Like me."
It took Cathy a moment to process what she was saying.
"But... how? That doesn't make any sense!" Mary shushed her as her voice grew in volume.
She felt like she was several steps behind Mary in her understanding and it frustrated her. Cathy wasn't a woman who liked being out of the loop.
"The Seymour family are werewolves. Have been for centuries. He must have kept a lot from you, Catherine."
If Cathy hadn't already been sitting down, she would have had to take a seat. Being that she was already sitting, she simply froze. She looked down at her little girl, and realised just how much she hadn't known back then. All her effort to make a proper life for her little girl; she hadn't even known she was never human in the first place. She'd been so blind.
Christ, how can you ever hope to find a way out of this if you don't even notice that?
"How did you know?" She turned her attention back to Mary.
"We can recognise each other; it's sort of instinctual. She's only just started showing it." She paused, then. "I'm not going to tell them. Just so you know."
"She isn't Father's, that lot already see her as disposable. Best not to give them any more reason." Mary explained, "I do want her to be safe, you know."
"Yeah." Cathy sighed, and stood up to placed Mae gently back in her crib. Mary followed.
Cathy laid Mae down as softly as she could, wrapping her protectively in the blankets as she stirred in her sleep. It wasn't often she would be out like this so easily, so she didn't want to wake her. And then a thought came to her.
"Does that mean she's gonna-"
"Not til she's older." Mary continued to keep her voice soft, and Cathy got the impression it wasn't just to avoid waking the baby. "Edward hadn't until a few months back, and he's seven, now. It's easier for us, from what I understand. Being born with it. Doesn't hurt so much, it's- gentler."
"Right. She will be okay, won't she?"
"Of course." Mary's tone was oddly soothing, in a way that seemed out of character. "Though, you might want to get her away from here as soon as possible. Just a tip."
She began to move toward the door, then. Before leaving, she stopped, and turned back to look at Cathy.
"You know, Edwards mother was a Seymour, as well." A soft smile crept onto her face. "They're cousins."
And with that, she turned, and shut the door as quietly as possible. Cathy turned back to her little girl, and gently stroked a finger through her short black curls.
"What are we gonna do with you, eh?"
She placed a gentle kiss on the girl's forehead, and retreated to her bed. She didn't really need to sleep any more, but she still could, and she preferred to. She needed it to break up her routine. If she spent all day awake, and then the next, and then the next—they would all blend together. And she would surely lose her mind.
She lay down, and pulled the bed sheets up around her. It wasn't as cosy now she had no body warmth of her own. She closed her eyes and tried to make sense of the day's events. She'd wake up in only a couple hours, and Henry's men would escort her out for a hunt.
For now, she thought about what Elizabeth had asked, and what it might mean. She clearly had some investment in the strange woman Cathy had met; perhaps she might see her again some time. And then Mary; she was still reeling from that. Thomas had lied about so much. And there were things Cathy hadn't even known about her own daughter. She was going to have to be even more careful now. Her little girl could be in danger.
But, from what Mary had said, Cathy got the impression she might have an ally, in that regard. She'd even encouraged Cathy to leave. Did Mary know something she didn't? It certainly seemed that way, lately. She might have to ask the girl to keep an eye on Mae from time to time.
As she drifted to sleep, Cathy's mind was fixed on one thought in particular; this might end up being a lot more complicated than she'd thought.
Chapter 10: interlude ii- Cold-blooded
In which Anne gets in way over her head.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
2 years ago
Anne knew what she was doing. She'd been a slayer for long enough; she could handle herself. And sure, Maggie worried, but Anne knew better.
Or so she thought, at least.
She knew, in hindsight, that her pursuit of Henry had been ill-advised. She'd seen it as the best way to get a read on him and to figure out what his plans were. He was making big waves in the local supernatural 'scene'. And, as the most seasoned slayer in the area, she felt it was her responsibility to figure out what his game was.
She'd been doing well, as first, in her investigation. But she'd gotten, perhaps, a little too involved. Romantically speaking. She hadn't intended for him to leave his partner, but things had escalated and Anne wasn't sure how to get back from that. Things had hit their breaking point when Elizabeth was born, and Anne realised she couldn't keep up the game any longer. She was playing with fire, and she wasn't going to let her daughter get burned. So she'd run away. She'd taken Elizabeth, packed up, and left town, for a while. Maggie had been upset, but Anne had promised to stay in contact; which she did. And they'd been safe. She'd done her best to give Lizzie a regular, human life, without the existential threat of vampires and the like. To give her little girl the best shot she could. She'd promised her. Promised her that she wouldn't let anything happen to her.
She should have left it at that. But then, hindsight is 20/20.
Instead, Anne had gone and thrown it all away. In fairness, she had done it for good reason. She had heard from Maggie that Henry had gotten wind of Elizabeth's existence. She couldn't keep hiding. Elizabeth was more important. If Henry knew, she wouldn't be safe, and Anne couldn't have him getting his hands on her. So, she'd gone to confront him.
Of course, things hadn't worked out quite how she'd hoped.
She tracked him down to his latest haunt- an old, fancy house on the outskirts of town. The kind of place where nobody knew who lived there, but they never thought to question it. It faded into the scenery almost, seeming less like a home and more of a backdrop. It seemed to repel attention.
Sneaking around wouldn't get her anywhere, so she'd sent him some correspondence. She asked, as nicely as possible, to speak with him about his daughter. She hoped this would get his attention. This meeting needed to be made peacefully at first. If he turned up alone, Anne would be able to hold her own. But if he brought his men with him, she didn't fancy her chances. She should have known from the eagerness in his response that something was up. He'd been all too willing to meet. Anne was smarter than this, but she had no other option. Not when Elizabeth was in the question.
What Anne hadn't known at this time was that Henry had not taken her rejection well. Anne skipping town without warning had enraged him, and had been quite the blow to his ego. Also unbeknownst to Anne, Henry had found himself someone else, in her absence. Someone who had given him a more viable heir. Which meant that he no longer needed Anne. And he was eager to to tie up that loose end.
Anne had arrived to their meeting place with confidence. She couldn't have known, then, just how much danger she was in. She did this all the time. Henry might be the high-and-mighty head honcho of his little coven, but he was still just a vampire. And she dealt with those every night, just about.
The place—an old building in the industrial area of town, which was marked for demolition soon—was empty. That set off some alarm bells for Anne. Could it be an ambush? Perhaps he was just running late. And she wouldn't put it past him to palm her off altogether. The cold nipped at her, and she wished for a moment that she hadn't sacrificed warm clothing for mobility. And for the slayer aesthetic, which was also very important to her. Her leather jacket wasn't providing a lot of protection, and the weather was, in Anne's humble opinion, a bit nippy. It wouldn't bother him, though. Cold-blooded bastard that he was.
She heard the scuffle of feet, and lo and behold, there was her old prince charming, flanked by some new woman. Anne would be offended, but she's been separated from him long enough, and their relationship had always been a little one-sided. She needed to focus on what was important, which was making sure he kept away from Elizabeth.
"Hello, love." He began. "It's been too long." His voice was too sweet, and it made Anne feel uneasy. Did he have something planned? She kept herself on high alert, just in case.
"Yeah, well. Had a bit of a crisis, didn't I?" She tried to project an air of bravado, as if nothing was wrong.
Henry grinned at that, and it made Anne want to punch him in the face.
"Yes, I heard. How old is she now? Twelve?"
"Thirteen." Anne could tell from the smug look on his face that he'd already known that. This was all an act, she could tell. he was hiding something, and Anne wanted this dealt with before she had to find out just what his ulterior motives were.
"I don't want you in her life." She was being blunt, yes. She wanted to make sure he knew there was no arguing with her, she wasn't going to budge on this.
Henry made a show of looking hurt. "Well now, that's hardly fair."
"You're a murderer." Her voice was full of vitriol, and she didn't care. He was a monster, and he'd had the gall to convince her he wasn't.
All the while, the new woman stood by his side, silent and passive in the whole affair. There was something else behind her seemingly blank expression, though. Something sharp. Anne wanted to know more about her, but she wasn't going to get involved in his business any more than she already was.
"You didn't mind it before." He was infuriatingly flippant.
"You lied to me!" Her frustration reached a peak, and she flung herself forward. The new woman moved protectively in front of him. Anne got the sense that she wasn't human, but she couldn't quite get a read on her just yet.
Anne let out a humourless chuckle. "Oh, leave it. This is none of your business."
The woman looked about ready to launch herself at Anne when Henry's voice cut through the tension.
"It's alright, Jane. I'll deal with this."
The woman stepped back, obediently. But by the look on her face, she wasn't happy about it.
Henry moved forward, placing a hand on Anne's shoulder. She played it off nonchalantly, but prepared herself for a scrap. Her hand moved slightly towards the left inside pocket of her jacket. Her stake was strapped to the inside. Old reliable. Made of hawthorn and passed down her family tree for generations. She'd rather avoid killing if she could, but if anyone deserved it, Anne reckoned it was him.
"I'm sure we can come to a reasonable agreement on this." His tone became gentle, soothing. He was talking to her like she was some irrational child. She would roll her eyes if she didn't think it might offend him.
She turned away from him, shrugging his hand off her shoulder and let out a long sigh. If he could make a show of it; so could she.
"I didn't come for an agreement, I came to make a point. I don't want you to see her." She kept her tone as level as she could, but the emotion was starting to come through.
"Well, that won't do at all." His words were too calm now. They had an eerie air of certainty to them.
"Yeah, well that's too bad because it's not your decision-" Anne's hand moved just a little closer. She was ready to fight if she was going to have to. But she didn't get the chance.
Before she could turn back to face him, her had an arm around her throat. She reached for Old reliable, only to have it wrenched from her hand by one of his men. She vaguely recognised him, but Anne had no will to properly remember any of their names.
God, she knew it was a trap. She fought back with everything she had, kicked at him, clawed at him, anything she could do. Every bit of her was flooded with fight-or-flight adrenaline, not for her own welfare, but for Elizabeth. Her daughter needed her. She had to keep her safe, to keep her separate from this life. In a moment that seemed to last forever, she pushed against him as hard as she humanly could. And then, in an instant, there was a white hot pain in her neck. She'd always known it must hurt, but she'd been lucky enough to avoid being bitten thus far. It burned, but it was cold at the same time. Every bit of warmth; of life inside her being sapped from her body. It felt like dying. It was.
She struggled with every bit of fight she had left. She carved long cuts in his arms with her nails, anything she could do. But the light started to fade, and she felt light-headed. When she went out, she had hoped it would be bold, spectacular. But this was quite the opposite. A slow fade. Cold and numb.
She clenched her hands as the feeling left them, and let out a shaky breath. Her legs gave way. She felt herself being set down on the ground. It was cold, but so was she, barely clinging to consciousness. It felt like a dream.
"You killed her."
She could hear voices, but she couldn't make sense of who they belonged to. This one sounded distraught.
"She isn't dead yet."
"She's not gonna last long like that!"
"That's none of my concern."
"You can't just leave her to die like that it's-"
"Can't I?" The voice held some hostility now, there was some ice in it's tone. "I hadn't realised you were an authority on the matter."
"I didn't mean-" The voice backtracked. "It's just... couldn't you let her live?"
The other voice gave an unsettling chuckle. "Let her live?" It paused. "You insist?"
"I suppose I could make an exception."
There was a scuffling sound. Anne tried to open her eyes but what little light there was was blinding. Something had a hold of her, and there was something cold placed to her lips. Cold liquid trickled down her throat, and then it was gone. The footsteps faded, and she couldn't be sure if they were leaving or if it was her that was fading away. Softly, the feeling left her body, and the fight left her. She let out a shaky final breath, and was still.
And then, despite all expectations, she woke up. In the same place she had resigned herself to sleep. There was nobody there. She was freezing, but she wasn't shivering. Something felt off, but she couldn't put her finger on it. She stood. Sunlight was coming through the gaps in the boarded up windows of the building. It had an orange glow; the sun was setting. She must have slept through the entire day.
Christ, what was going on?
Tentatively, she pulled herself into a sitting position. She had been on the brink of death, how could this be happening? She looked down at her hands. She felt odd. Powerful? Listening, she could hear all sorts of noises. The cars on the streets of the city. They should be fairly distant; not many people came to this part of town. But they sounded so clear to her. Everything did. And the light from outside was so bright. It was dark in here, or it had been last night. The doors and windows were boarded, and yet she could see perfectly fine. Realisation hit her and left her reeling. She had died last night.
The slayer is slain, and becomes the very thing she was fighting. She rolled her eyes at the pretentious idea. Steadily, she stood, and put a hand to the side of her neck to feel her pulse. Nope. Fuck.
There were small indentations where she'd been bitten. They were dry, mostly healed. Just scars now.
What was she going to do? She couldn't just go back to how things had been before. She felt hungry. She wasn't going to give that feeling a second thought—she wasn't ready for it just yet. She needed to get out of here, but she'd have to be careful when the sun was still out. Too much time in direct sunlight would only make that hunger worse, and she couldn't afford that. She didn't want to do something she would regret.
All worry went out the window. She had to get back to her daughter, whatever it took. She had to make sure she was safe, she'd promised her she wouldn't let anyone hurt her. Elizabeth was young, but she was old enough to understand a promise like that. In fact, her youth only made it more binding. She was thirteen; she wouldn't understand why her mum would lie to her if Anne broke her promise. She had to get home, she had to protect her.
Without a moment of hesitation, she left, and headed in the direction of home. She didn't take a moment to consider what a mess she must look—pale, gaunt and half-dead. Her mind was laser-focused to one specific thought. Elizabeth. She trusted that her hair would cover the bite, and she didn't really care if it didn't.
By the time she reached her door, she should have been tired. Of course, she wasn't. She didn't work that way anymore. She tried the handle, and the door swung open. She'd left it locked. The lights were off. She tried the switches but nothing happened.
She called out, praying for a response. Nothing. Internally, she was falling apart.
Please please please please please. Please let her be here, let her be okay.
She practically ran to Elizabeth's bedroom door, and threw it open. The room was empty, and looked almost untouched. Except—one thing was missing. A 'blanket.' One Anne had given her when she was around four years old. It wasn't really a blanket, but one of Anne's old sets of pyjamas cut up. Elizabeth had liked the material. She had spent a night screaming and crying with nightmares, and in a moment of madness, the only solution Anne could find was to stitch the pieces together, and give them to her.
Elizabeth had carried it everywhere for most of her childhood. Even now she was emerging into her teenage years, she still slept with it.
Oh god, she was really gone.
Anne couldn't bring herself to do much of anything. She fell to the floor. She wasn't sure how long she stayed like that. She didn't know what to do, there was no way to be prepared for this. Her little girl was gone. She needed to find her, but she didn't know where to start. She knew where she would be. But how could she get her back? Henry had swarms of men, and far more power than she could hope for.
It was hopeless. There was nothing she could do; she'd lost.
Elizabeth would never forgive her.
She had to get her back anyway.
Some background for Anne, because she's been out of the action for a while, but she'll be making a more grand re-entrance soon.