In the Wake of Loss
“Bring her,” Appius commanded to Eric.
“Eric,” my words came out a begging whisper, but the man who stood there only moments before searching for answers was gone. He shoved me forward and I almost lost my footing in the snow, but I caught myself and earned a scornful look from Appius who strode ahead of us.
“Silence her or I will.”
Eric’s eyes pleaded with me showing that there was still an inkling of kindness that resided within him. Still I couldn’t help but fear what was about to happen. I should’ve insisted that Eric go back to the palace when he found us, but I was too selfish, wanting this time alone with him. Somehow I would fix this and I would try desperately not to make it any worse for him. I didn’t see any way of Eric saving me this time and maybe, just maybe, I could save him.
We stormed through the silent night and I was determined to stay calm. It would not help anyone if I panicked. Obviously. Winding our way through the darkened hallways, the portraits stared down at me with scornful accusations. In defiance of their disdain, I dropped my mittens one by one so that The Doctor would have a slight chance of following.
I was glad I had when Appius stopped in front of a large oil painting of a stern general atop a rearing warhorse. He ran his fingers along the underside and it popped open revealing a hidden doorway. When we began threading our way down a long dingy flight of stairs, I started to get nervous.
Dear God…not another dungeon. What was it with me and dungeons? I tried to keep my breath steady, but felt like I was fighting a losing battle on that front. I remembered the last dungeon I’d been in and had no desire whatsoever to repeat that experience. But instead of a row of decrepit and stinking cells there was only a long pitch black hallway. It seemed to go on for hours, though in truth it wasn’t nearly that long. Since I wasn’t a vampire, I couldn’t see where we were going, though I was thankful for that. I didn’t imagine, despite the fact that it wasn’t a dungeon, that the walls were anything I needed to examine too carefully.
I heard a door click open ahead of us, thankful for Eric’s guiding hand on my back. I might have preferred that he swept me up and away from Appius, but that was doubtful to happen since, no matter how familiar I’d seemed to him, we’d just met. A torch was lit in the room we entered and I immediately wished for the darkness again. It may not be a dungeon, but it looked like one of those rooms designed for torture. I shoved at Eric’s hands, but he simply laid them instead on my shoulders and propelled me into the room. I risked a glance at his face and saw no regret written on his features. He had schooled his face into the calm mask I’d seen him wear a hundred times before when he sat on his throne at Fangtasia.
It really didn’t bode well for me.
“Leave her and fetch the boy.” Appius’ voice brooked no disobedience and Eric left, my shoulders missing his cool strength even if I wasn’t the actual recipient of it. Appius crossed the small room slithering around the simple wooden table and two chairs. I would’ve tried to run if I thought it would do any good, but there was no chance of escape right now, so I would bide my time. Daylight had to come eventually right?
He grabbed my hands none to gently, the right and then the left, and lifted them to the manacles that hung from the ancient chains suspended from the ceiling. Thankfully he didn’t chain my ankles as well so I had some freedom of movement. I wondered at that oversight, but didn’t press my luck. Limited though it was, it might come in handy later. I tugged at the chains binding my wrists hoping that they would be loose with age.
“This room has stood for a hundred years and no one has escaped its wrath yet. I do not think one pathetic human woman will stand a chance.”
I desperately wanted to punch Appius’ smug face. “You underestimate me Appius. Better men than you have tried to break me and failed.” I did not break after Bill when I really should have and I would not do it now.
“I am not here to break you,” was his only response as he turned his back on me and settled in one of the chairs. He sat motionless staring at me until I had to look away. “I am not sure how you broke my compulsion, but it does not matter. You will serve nicely as a lesson.”
Footsteps echoed from the hallway and I waited to see Eric’s return. Maybe the familiarity he was trying to understand would surface again and I could get him to help me. It was doubtful, but I could hope. Instead of Eric’s tall figure, a stooped and grizzled man with a grey and white straggly beard entered. He looked familiar, but I couldn’t place him.
“Grigori, what are you doing here?” Appius’ voice held a note of warning. I wondered what business the old man had with the vampire, but I wasn’t long in wondering.
“I saw Mr. Northman on his way for Alexei. It happens tonight, no? Otherwise you would not send for the child in the middle of the darkest hours. Am I correct?” His eyes lit up with a deranged excitement. “I do so wish to experience the turning.”
“Fuck what?” I practically screamed. My inner southern lady was horrified by the curse words that had slipped through my lips during this trip through time. The woman chained to the wall didn’t care.
Neither man paid any attention to my outburst. “Yes, I have chosen tonight though Eric is not aware of what is about to happen. I am not a man to break my promises Rasputin. You may stand in the corner and observe. You may not interfere.” The old man nodded and shuffled into a darkened corner.
Oh good grief. As if dealing with Alexei Romanov and the psycho vampire Appius wasn’t enough, I also had to deal with freaking Rasputin. How many other historical figures and crazy people were going to walk into my life? Wait just one cotton picking minute. Turning? They were going to turn that child into a vampire? They couldn’t do that. I couldn’t believe that Eric would be party to this, would he? Was this one of the many secrets about Eric that I had no knowledge of? I was having a hard time understanding, but I knew one thing for sure: I had to stop this. Alexei was just an innocent child.
The child in question bounded through the door with Eric trailing just behind him. He couldn’t be more than twelve or thirteen, but there was a look of glee on his face that I didn’t understand. The look on Eric’s face told me that he knew what was about to happen. I wondered what part I would play in this farce. I wasn’t gonna sit still and let them kill some kid though, that was for sure.
“Eric!” I called out to him, but he didn’t so much as look in my direction. He simply leaned against the wall behind the table with an air of nonchalance; as if things like this happened every day. A worrisome feeling built in the pit of my stomach. And then Appius backhanded me and I could taste copper as it spread from my lip to my tongue. Eric couldn’t have cared less, Alexei on the other hand clapped his hands together, a wide smile spreading across his face.
“Cattle do not speak do they Appius?” was his disturbing child’s response. I was beginning to think I’d have to reconsider the description of innocent where it pertained to him.
“No, they do not Alexei. Good. You have learned your lessons well.” He pulled a dagger from a sheath I hadn’t seen at his side. “Would you like to play with her a bit?”
His head bobbed joyfully and he lovingly took the dagger from Appius looking up for permission to go further.
“Are you watching Eric? This is what happens when you disobey a direct order from your sire.” He looked down into Alexei’s dancing eyes. “Go ahead.”
The boy crept toward me barely containing his excitement. Well I wasn’t having any of it and as soon as he was close enough I kicked out at him coming within inches of his face. A tiny sliver of guilt snuck up on me and I shoved it away from me. I didn’t care if he was a child; I wasn’t letting him come near me with that knife.
“Eric, hold her feet.”
I realized my unbound feet weren’t an oversight at all, but part and parcel of Eric’s punishment. He didn’t hesitate, but crossed the room and gathered my ankles in his viselike grip. I struggled momentarily, but it was useless and I needed to reserve my strength.
Alexei continued his creeping walk until he stood directly in front of me, the knife glinting off the torch in the corner. His reflection in the steel assaulted my senses. He looked insane in that mirror as if it showed me his soul.
“I am not quite tall enough to reach. If you would Mr. Northman?” Alexie gestured that he should flatten his back. Danger flashed in Eric’s eyes, but he obeyed. What fresh hell was this?
Alexei stepped onto Eric’s back and reached up with his small hand and took hold of the bottom of my sleeve, slicing down to leave my arm bare to my bicep. Dragging the knife down my arm, a trail of blood leaving evidence of the knife’s journey, I barely felt the pain initially; the knife was just that sharp. And then I screamed and Appius slammed the door against my cries. Alexei stepped down to admire his work.
I looked down, but Eric wouldn’t meet my eyes though I could feel his body shaking through his grip on my ankles. My blood dripped down pooling in the bunched up fabric. I watched as the dress absorbed as much as it could and then drop by drop it landed on Eric’s neck and ran in rivulets.
“It’s a good start, but if you are to be a good vampire, you will need to be willing to inflict pain. Remember that humans are beneath us. Do not spare them. How much you play with them will depend only on you.” More and more I was realizing that time space continuum be damned, I was killing Appius at the first chance I got. But for now I had to concentrate on Alexei.
He stepped onto Eric again and slid the knife down the front of my dress leaving me bared to everyone in the room. I really wished that I could cover myself, but before I even finished that thought Alexei was carving a line down the center of my ribcage. An icy burn flared in the dagger’s wake. I could see Rasputin in the darkened corner walk forward and sit at the table, his chin cradled in his chin as if he were watching an opera.
“Taste her Alexei. Blood will be your sustenance from this night on. I’d like you to see the difference in flavor between now and when I turn you.” I would have replied with something snarky if I wasn’t so focused on trying to control the pain.
His eyes widened in disbelief. “Is she for me?”
“Yes, she is for you. She will be your first meal when you ascend.” Appius wasn’t watching Alexei though; he only had eyes for Eric’s bent over form beneath the boy’s feet.
Alexei stood on tip-toe and placed both hands on my chest, the one still clutching the knife, its point just beneath my collarbone. He bent forward and I felt the rasp of his tongue lick up the line of blood. Stepping off of Eric, he seemed to be savoring the taste as if I was an inferior vintage of wine. My stomach gurgled and I shoved down the urge to throw up the contents all over him. I felt a rumbling that had to be Eric’s anger work its way from my feet upwards distracting me from my queasiness. Alexei surged forward cutting my other arm, licking the blood again, and then bent down, slicing my skirt from the bottom up. He was just about to begin cutting my thighs when Eric stiffened and released my ankles.
“Enough Appius, you have made your point. The girl needs not suffer anymore.” Eric’s rage surged into the room like a living thing.
Alexei began to pout off to his side and I was having a hard time fighting the homicidal urges raging through my bloodstream. Enough! I screamed inwardly and shoved the pain into the background. While they were all busy glaring at each other I jumped up and wrapped my legs around Alexei’s neck. Before I considered the consequences, I was done with this situation; I squeezed my legs together, twisted and heard the satisfying snap of Alexei’s neck. I might feel the guilt later, but right now I felt relieved when his body crumpled to the ground in a heap.
Everyone in the dank room went still. Three pairs of eyes focused only on me. Appius’ keening wail broke the silence. He went into motion immediately. Eric threw himself in front of him and Rasputin brought his broken body as quickly as he could around the table, trying to get away from the two irate vampires and the one dead child. Instead of trying to help me he left the room without a backward glance.
I tugged at the chains as Eric tried to hold back Appius from taking his vengeance on me. They struggled against each other. Appius’ eyes were wide with anger and he was even more terrifying, lending me a strength I didn’t know I possessed. I could feel the loosening of the chains. I continued wrestling against the manacles and could feel blood trickling down my wrists as the steel rubbed against my skin. I need to get free. I could see Appius beginning to gain the upper hand. I didn’t know how long I had before he would come at me and I was sure when he was free that he would kill me. I didn’t want to die in the past.
Scratch that. I didn’t want to die at all.
I needed to get back to my Eric. I needed to tell him that I loved him no matter what. I didn’t care about his past and having seen his, I understood why he was the way he was. Why was I always thinking about these things well after I should’ve?
Eric and Appius’ struggle had turned so that I saw Eric’s eyes and the sorrow within them.
“I’m so sorry. I should have done more. And sooner.” He took a chance and let Appius so that he could race to my side and rip the chains loose. There was nothing he could do about the manacles, but at least I was free. In the moments between Appius’ freedom and my own, Appius surged at me shoving me against the wall. Holding me motionless, his fangs sank mercilessly into my neck. There was a second when his eyes widened in surprise, but it passed quickly. I tried to get the chain wrapped around his neck to hold him off.
It was useless.
Eric latched onto his back and tried to pull him off of me. His gamble hadn’t paid off.
It was useless.
I screamed: for Eric, for The Doctor, for anyone who might save me in that moment. I just wanted to be saved. My hands scrabbled for purchase against Appius’ superior strength. Eric tried to help me pry Appius off me with the chains. I swore that if I lived I would beg Eric to teach me self-defense.
As my grandmother would say, it was too little too late. It was all useless.
I could feel my strength fading. Eric was frantic and I’m not even sure he knew why he was fighting so hard. His eyes caught mine and I saw recognition click for him. His roar of fury echoed against the walls of the room.
“You’re her.” He stumbled backwards, releasing Appius in the process. “How?” His voice was barely audible.
I didn’t have much time. Appius was draining me of every drop of life I had left. At least I could tell him…at least he would know…
“I love you Eric. I always have.” I saw his blood tears form in the corner of his eyes. He looked around frantic. His focus was drawn by the chairs behind the table. He vamped over there, grabbing one of the chairs and smashing it into bits against the wall. He picked up one of the legs and sped over to where Appius had me pinned. He didn’t hesitate at all. The leg plunged through Appius’ body.
He staked his maker to save my life.
I felt the jagged tip of the chair leg as it protruded from Appius’ chest a slim instant before he exploded into a pile of gelatinous goo. I was covered in it and I didn’t have the strength to care. I tried to care about the repercussions, but found I just couldn’t. My care was gone: except for my love for Eric. The chains clattered to the ground and then I sagged right behind them. Eric’s strong arms caught me and I couldn’t have explained how much it meant to me that I was going to die in his arms.
“I waited so long for you. I’d given up hope…”
My voice stuttered. “Never…stopped…loving you.”
“I never loved anyone else.” Eric’s voice broke as he leaned down to me bringing his lips softly to mine. I could feel his tears streaking down my face, but not much else. I could taste his sadness mingled with the softness of his kiss. He tore into his wrist and I felt the warmth of him flow into me. I tried to drink, but it seemed it was too late and his face faded from my vision.
He continued, “You gave me my freedom.” The shock he felt was written all over his face.
“Never forget that I love you.” The whisper escaped my lips as his wedding ring and the chain that bound it slipped from beneath my dress.
A grief-stricken howl sang me to my death.
He hoped that Sookie had learned to let her love out. He lost Rose before he had and he wouldn’t wish that pain on anyone. He stood studying the picture of the noblewoman in a pale pink dress in a long deserted hallway. He wished he didn’t feel so sad tonight and truthfully he was happy to help Sookie to understand that she had found her soulmate, but it left him longing for Rose’s smile and her special brand of humor. She had such a way of looking at the world.
He shook himself of his reverie. It wouldn’t help to stand here and reminisce. Life moved on despite our best intentions and he, better than anyone else, knew that. He stared, not seeing anything before him. Stuck in the past, he clawed his way back to the present. There was part of him that wanted to beg Sookie to travel with him. He was pretty sure he’d be able to get her back to her present, but he didn’t think she’d want to be without Eric for any length of time no matter what he could offer her in the way of adventure.
He felt someone creep up behind him and he turned expecting Sookie.
“Doctor,” croaked an ancient voice. “You need to come.”
The Doctor stared at the man before him trying to place him in his mental rolodex. It took him a minute, but he figured it out. “Rasputin! Oh goodness, I’m so excited to meet you.” His hand sprung out looking to grasp the old man’s, but he was denied.
“That is fine, but we must go. Now.”
There was something in his eyes that The Doctor couldn’t ignore and so he allowed himself to be pulled along in the old man’s wake. Something rushed past him and left him feeling a cool breeze.
“What is it man? Or am I just supposed to follow without questioning? I’m loathe to admit that I’m not very good at the not questioning. I could try for your sake, I mean you’re Rasputin for Gallifrey’s sake, but still. I don’t usually just follow along. So maybe you should give me a reason that I’m being tugged along behind you. Because we’ve not even officially met even though I do know who you are.” He paused, a look of panic on his face. “I probably shouldn’t have admitted that should I? I mean, it could mess up things.” The Doctor’s brow was too busy considering the ramifications of disturbing the space time continuum to pay attention to where he was going until he looked down and saw Sookie’s mitten lying helpless and forgotten on the floor.
Rasputin pulled open the General’s portrait and opened the secret door for The Doctor; leading him down the dark hallway. He started to feel uneasy, but continued on nonetheless. It must be important since Rasputin hadn’t said anymore to him since he started dragging him down the hallways.
There was a flickering light at the end of the darkness and The Doctor got an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. It must involve Sookie. What had she gotten herself involved in now? The old man disappeared around the corner of the room and The Doctor followed.
When he entered he found Grigori Rasputin bent over Sookie’s prone body lying discarded on the floor. His fingers were on her pulse as The Doctor tried to gather his wits. Both of his hearts thudded against his chest.
“Oh Gallifrey, no. This cannot be happening.”
He bent down with a quickness and used his sonic screwdriver to unclasp the manacles from around her wrists and wondered why she was laying there so unceremoniously. Where was Eric and why hadn’t he helped her? He didn’t know, but he would certainly find out.
Rasputin looked over at him. “She is not dead yet, I’d say she’s had vampire blood, but not enough.” He reached into his pocket. “I have some stored for Alexei,” his eyes skittered over to the dead child’s body, “though I need your permission to administer the vials. There is still no assurance that she will survive.” He took a breath looking into The Doctor’s eyes with unmitigated fear. He swallowed deeply and continued, “And there is the possibility that she will be turned.”
“Into a vampire?” The Doctor asked his voice quieter than usual.
The question tugged at The Doctor’s heart. What would Sookie want? Would she rather die than live forever as a vampire? He didn’t know. What would Rose have wanted? He paused his usual frantic movements. Did he know her well enough to even make that decision? Sookie was so much like Rose. Brash and innocent. Willing to brave the unknown for love. Unusually brave and capable despite their naivety. How could he make this decision for her? He held Sookie’s life in his hands.
He thought about Rose.
“Do whatever you must.”