Disclaimers: see Chapter 1
Chapter 10 Hallowed Crossing
Annie drove cautiously before pulling onto a side street and parking. Cerys pulled out her Glock pistol, checked it once again and patted her coat pocket, checking for the extra clips. The writer knew there was a long, lightweight sword behind the seat as well as a shotgun. The shotgun was for her, the sword for the Warder.
"I don't see anyone," Annie frowned.
"We're expecting Warders and Watchers," Cerys growled. "They've been trained for this."
"So the plan is I kiss you, let you go and watch you walk to the portal," Annie whispered. "Hoping nothing jumps out of the bushes at you and then wait for some Watcher to pick me up, right?"
"Annie, I'm sorry," Cerys resisted pulling the young woman into her arms. The Warder knew she just might break down and tell Annie to drive to anywhere but a portal. "You have to mentally accept this and break whatever it is that ties us."
"I thought I could," Annie fought back the tears and leaned her head on the steering wheel. "I really did but that was before you came back."
"I know but we have to try," Cerys said, her voice strained.
The Warder reached up with a small pocketknife to snap the light cover off the inside dome light and pulled the bulb out before replacing the cover.
Annie shook her head, amused. "Clever."
"That's us," Cerys tried to smile and then shook her head. "Let's get this over with."
"We haven't even talked much," Annie complained, her hand restraining Cerys' arm. "You haven't told me about what you'll do in your land."
"Annie," Cerys closed her eyes against the emotional pain. "You're not crossing over. You have a son to raise; a smart, handsome and very small boy."
"I know but maybe someday, when he's older?" Annie whimpered.
"No!" Cerys said firmly, hating herself and everything else to do with the situation. "Break it now! No thinking of a future in my world or yours! We'll both die if we don't."
Annie threw the car door open and opened the back door, grabbing the shotgun without a word. The slamming of the car doors confirmed to Cerys that Annie was upset.
Cerys swore a curse to several of her deities and opened her own doors to retrieve the sword. She stuck it inside her coat, unsheathed and ready to use. The Warder and writer knew the next few minutes were going to be the worst in their lives. It didn't matter that there might be a dozen vampires, Warders and Watchers waiting to kill them between the car and the portal. The hardest thing would be saying goodbye to each other and breaking that connection.
Cerys didn't want things to end on an angry note but if that's what it took to keep both of them alive, Cerys would do it. Jeannie had told her how bad Annie had gotten in her absence and the Warder wanted to prevent that. The healers in her world might be able to keep her alive but Cerys knew that the Terrain doctors wouldn't have a clue as to how to help Annie.
Cerys had to break the connection between them, even if it meant spending the rest of her life grieving and alone in her own world.
Annie's body language said that she was still angry and Cerys' resolve broke. She walked around the car and grabbed Annie up into her arms, kissing her passionately.
At first Annie resisted and then melted into Cerys' arms. After a moment, Annie leaned against the tall warrior.
"If our souls are bound, wouldn't we be together in an after-life?" Annie whispered, finally asking the question Cerys had been expecting and dreading.
"I think so, whether it's yours, mine or somewhere we don't know about," Cerys said gently. "Again we have the problem that I won't let you leave Travis."
"I know, I was thinking when we're old and gray that we might meet again," Annie bit back her tears. "Let's get this over with."
Annie turned out of her arms and Cerys fought off her own tears.
Annie let her body and mind go into automatic, shoving aside emotions as she followed Cerys.
They had parked on a side street just behind the hotel, across from Sutro Park. Cerys moved quickly down the well-worn trail leading from the bus stop to the statue of Diana with Annie behind her. They stopped momentarily at the statue, both of them reaching out to touch the base as they glanced around. There was only two ways to approach the portal door, from the ruins of the Sutro Baths or from the stairs leading down from the parking area.
Since they knew the Watchers had no idea where in the area the portal was, they expected to find teams watching any likely spot, including the ruins and the park.
Cerys ducked low, keeping her profile along the base of Diana.
"There," she whispered. "At the gates, behind the lions."
Annie could see two figures behind each lion statue that guarded the gates. She and the Warder looked around. Earlier they had looked at maps and found the likely places for portals, therefore, the likely places to find Watchers and other Warders waiting for them.
"If they don't intend on stopping you, why not just go down, do your Quantum Leap thing and be done with it?" Annie hissed.
"Because we don't know if they'll just let me go," Cerys complained. "There's always the risk I could come back and foul up their nice little treaty and plans."
"You think they want to kill us," Annie ventured.
"Yes, they killed Jeannie," Cerys pointed out. "That doesn't exactly make me trust them."
"Okay, the trail through the upper parking lot?" Annie suggested. It was a rough trail in the dark but all the other routes to the streets overlooking the ruins were in the open.
"They'll be on us the moment we hit the main walkway down there," Cerys pointed out. "You know there's bound to be more up on the ruins of the house."
"I know, and I know when we hit the bottom of the trail at the ruins I have to leave you," Annie muttered.
"I love you, Annie," Cerys said softly. "You will haunt my every waking thought and every dream at night."
"I thought you were a warrior, not a poet," Annie grumbled and then closed her eyes. "I love you too, enough that I want you to live and not as a vampire. I scouted the way the other day."
"I'll follow you then," Cerys nodded, pulling out her pistol and watched as Annie checked her own pistol but kept it in her belt. "You'll need that."
"I have to live here, remember?" Annie said calmly. "It won't be easy to explain shooting someone just because they were walking along in the park. I won't shoot unless I know it's a vampire or I know a Watcher is about to kill me."
"If someone shoots at you?" Cerys began to growl.
"If someone shoots at me then they're asking for it and it's called self defense," Annie argued. "I love you, let's do this."
Annie turned and fairly launched herself off the rise where the statue of Diana stood, hitting the ground at a run down the small embankment. She was across the pavement in a flash and moving to her left for the underbrush. The writer-tomboy heard Cerys behind her and then shouts from the park gates as someone spotted them.
Annie saw flashlights coming to life but she was in the trees with Cerys before the beams caught them in the open. The blonde wished they could risk a light of their own, it was suicide to try and make it down what little trail existed in this tangle. Annie knew that the park service had been clearing out a lot of the growth that existed for years but if you wanted to it was still thick enough to hide a body for quite awhile.
Seeing a flashlight beam cut across the brush in front her, Annie dived to the left and heard Cerys going to the right. Annie ended up under some bushes and bit her tongue to keep from crying out as her face was cut.
Flashlight beams flickered and legs came pounding down the hill along with curses and shouts.
"Where the fuck are they?" a voice swore nearby.
"Hiding in this goddamn mess!" a second voice snapped.
"Keep your eyes open!" Someone shouted from the main trail above. "We still don't know where the portal is!"
"Let the fucking vampire escape then!" the first voice suggested.
"Those two are too dangerous," the second voice argued as they worked their way down the hill.
"Cer?" Annie called softly as the voices below reached the parking lot.
"I'm here," Cerys called back, just as softly.
"They're between us and the portal," Annie grumbled.
"I know, change of plans. Let's get back to the car, drive right to the steps and I'll dash for it," Cerys suggested. "Hopefully you can get the car back out before they catch you."
"Okay," Annie agreed.
Going down an embankment in the dark when you weren't worried about noise was easy. Getting back up without making noise was harder. It took twice as long to cover the short distance back to the main walkway of the park. Both women crouched down behind a bench and watched for movement for several moments.
This time no one seemed to notice their mad dash across the pavement and up to the statue of Diana.
They knew the run up to the street was in the open but it would take too long to stick to the underbrush. Cerys nodded and led the way.
Once again, luck seemed to be holding with them and no shouts or flashlights followed them as they reached the car.
"Think this will work?" Annie asked as she started the car.
"Best chance we got," Cerys nodded. "They now think we're on foot and in that thicket back there. They'll be calling in the foot teams to search the area, probably the entire park."
"Let's hope they pull them back from the Bath ruins," Annie muttered and pulled the car out onto the street. She headed back towards the city until she could make several turns to get onto Geary. The main thoroughfare of this part of the city, it led right between Sutro Park and the ruins of the Bath before circling down to Cliff House. Another car coming down the road from that direction wouldn't draw much attention.
Cerys closed her eyes and said a quick prayer. She had no idea why her mother had crossed over or if there was some kind of plan in action except to get her through the portal before she was stuck in the Terrain realm as a vampire.
The Warder knew she didn't want to leave Annie. No, she couldn't leave Annie and live. She knew that crossing back over would mean her death. Even if Annie could break the connection enough to exist in this realm, Cerys knew she couldn't live without the writer, even with the help from the healers. Once back in her own world, she would continue as a Warder, fighting her brother's mad schemes and training new Warders until she fell to her grief during a battle.
Cerys knew it wouldn't take long. Fighters without a will to live didn't last long.
The car moved along at a decent speed and Annie made no motion that she was interested in anything in the area until she skidded to a stop at the stairs at the Cliff House side of the ruins.
"I love you, Annie," Cerys growled. She dived out of the car and hit the stairs in a mad race downwards, skipping every other one.
Annie pulled the car away quickly, watching for any cars following her. She could see flashlights in the upper parking lot and on the upper street that wound around to the Veteran's Hospital.
The writer whipped the car down the corner of the Cliff House and put it into a spin at the bottom of the hill, heading the car in the opposite direction, back the way she came.
"Sorry, Cerys," she muttered. "I have to make sure you're safe."
Annie saw several figures crossing the road with flashlights and drawn guns and sped her car up, the men barely dodging out of the way in time to avoid being hit. One of them fell heavily to the pavement, clutching his ankle and howling in pain.
The writer twisted the wheel of the car, spun into the gravel parking lot and opened the car door. Annie pulled out her Glock and headed for the stairs leading down to the tunnel, to the portal. She stopped and blinked in disbelief at what was happening below.
She could see Cerys down at the ruins, on top of one of the old walls, fighting off four vampires. Male vampires, which meant they weren't Warders.
Annie spun with her gun drawn as someone began pounding down the stair behind her.
"Stop!" a female voice shouted at her. Annie's eyes narrowed as she took in the sight of a very tall female carrying a sword. A sword that matched Cerys own weapon. "Friend!"
"Janska?" Annie asked.
"Yes," Janska nodded and rushed down to join Annie. "I'm going to help Cerys. You get to the portal and wait for us."
"The Watchers?" Annie questioned as they began rushing down the slick stairs.
"We had a talk earlier, they won't interfere," Janska promised. "They were followed by servants of my son; the Watchers don't like being used by vampires on either side."
"It was a trap?" Annie demanded, trying to keep her footing on the wet wood. "They killed Jeannie?"
"Yes, they followed me through another portal last night and followed the Watchers that spotted me. The Terrains killed Jeannine and all the vampires had to do was wait in the shadows and wait for Cerys to show up," Janska explained as they ran. "I need to help Cerys, I'm going over there!"
Janska vaulted over the railing and began a descent down the rest of the hillside. Annie nudged herself mentally to keep moving down the stairs, knowing that Janska wasn't going to make it; only a deer or rabbit could get down that cliff side!
Cerys growled and ducked the backhand stroke from one of the male vampires and dived over the slash from another one below the fragment of wall. The Warder landed hard in a puddle of pooled seawater and lashed out with her own sword, catching one vampire across the chest. Not enough to kill him, but enough to drive him back for a few moments.
The other three were on her before she could react. They were good, professional assassins, she surmised as one got through her defenses and cut deep into her left leg. Cerys howled in pain and slashed back but missed the vampire.
The Warder could hear Terrains at the top of the stairs; shouting at each other and at her but ignored them. She had no idea how or why there were four assassins waiting for her when she hit the ruins, all Cerys knew was that she was fighting for her life.
She got a good slash in on another one, taking his left arm off just below the elbow. He howled and pulled back in pain. Cerys grimaced as another sword found its mark along her upper arm.
Cerys had always known it would probably end like this, going down fighting her own kind in this weird dimension and accepted it. She just hoped Annie wouldn't see it.
The Warder screamed a war cry and reversed the sword in her hand and thrust backwards, ramming the blade through a vampire's chest. She ducked a sword strike from one in front, causing him to decapitate his mate.
Cerys turned the sword back in her hand in time to parry a sword blow as the vampire behind her crumbled into dust.
Annie saw something crashing out of the bushes at her from the cliff side and brought her pistol up, catching a vampire under the chin as he dove for her. Several shots to the head and he was reduced to dust in the bushes just beyond her. Annie kept running.
Another figure jumped onto the steps in front of her, grinning confidently as the writer skidded to a stop. Annie turned, as if to flee.
When the vampire grabbed her by the shoulder, catching her easily, he was stunned when she whipped around with a machete in her hands. He tried to get his hand up to protect his throat, only to lose the hand and his head.
Annie smirked as the dust spread to the winds. "May not be a sword but it works," she growled and began running down the stairs again.
Cerys caught the one armed vampire by surprise when she leaped over his crouching body onto the wall again. She lashed downwards with her sword before he could scamper away. She back flipped off the wall as he turned to dust. The two male vampires dived over the wall but one wasn't fast enough to get his sword up and Cerys rammed hers through his lower spine. She kicked him off her sword and blocked another stroke from the first vampire. As the other vampire fell forward, she jumped on his back and slashed with her sword again.
Cerys grunted with the sudden and unexpected feeling of a sword sticking through her. The Warder reached down and grabbed the blade, snapping it off before the vampire could pull it out of her. He growled in anger, pulled his broken blade out and moved to take her head with what was left. Cerys, hands bloody, raised her sword, one hand on hilt and the other on the blade, stopping his strike.
The injured Warder twisted, slashing with her sword at the vampire's kneecaps. As he fell with a scream, she slashed back in the other direction, taking his head off with one clean sweep.
Cerys tried standing up but fell over against the wall. She used the wall and sword to stand up and began working her way towards the portal. This was going to be a common sight, she thought, me coming through half dead and wounded.
She was near the stairs when three more vampires jumped her, knives flashing. Cerys thought she heard Annie scream from somewhere far away.
Annie made it down to the door that would soon be opening as a portal and leaned over the railing, watching Cerys try and get to the stairs that would wind their way to Annie.
The writer couldn't help but scream when three vampires dived out of the bushes, taking Cerys down under them.
Cerys realized she was able to move and looked up from the rough sea rock she was pressed against to see a figure throwing one of the male vampires over the side into the small grotto below. Cerys grinned, wondering how he liked his crab and if the crabs liked vampires.
From his screams, he wasn't amused to have his crabs alive and crawling all over him.
The figure, dressed in a long black trench coat, pulled out a sword and spun in a graceful move that Cerys recognized instantly as her mother. The sword cut through a vampire's neck easily. The remaining vampire looked at Janska as she extended her arm to her daughter. He looked into Janska's eyes and at Cerys' bleeding chest and ran.
"Mama," Cerys whispered, leaning against her mother for support.
"We have to reach the portal now!" Janska shouted over the waves. "You have to jump!"
Cerys opened her eyes and shook her head. It was too far, even for a vampire.
"You have to!" Janska insisted, shoving her daughter lightly.
"I'm wounded," Cerys protested.
"Do it!" Janska shouted, "your answers are on that side!"
Cerys growled at her mother, her fangs flashing in the moonlight but she backed up, giving herself a little bit of room to run.
The Warder could see Annie's disbelief as the writer realized what Cerys was about to attempt. Cerys launched herself into the air and knew at the last moment she was short.
Annie almost threw herself over the railing reaching for her lover. Cerys hit the railing hard and clutched at it as Annie grabbed for her coat and arms. The writer leaned over, latched onto Cerys' belt and yanked her lover over the railing, both of them falling onto the cold, wet stone.
A moment later Janska landed next to them, swearing about cold oceans.
Annie felt her hackles rising as the energy of the portal began building.
"You're here to take her back, aren't you?" Annie demanded, shouting over the waves.
She pulled Cerys into her arms as the Warder held her ribs.
"No, I'm not!" Janska shouted back.
Cerys opened her blue eyes wide in surprise.
Annie shielded her eyes, covering Cerys face with her arm as the portal opened and someone leaped through. The writer hoped they were friendly because Cerys wasn't up to facing any more vampires and she wanted answers from Janska.
Cerys looked up and blinked, trying to sit up as blood began flowing in a trickle from her mouth from a possible lung wound.
"Rysla and Kirklyn?" she asked.
"Who?" Annie demanded. They looked like something like Merlin out of a King Arthur movie with flowing robes with strange symbols embroidered along the hems and collar. "I thought only women good guys came through!"
"Kirklyn isn't a Warder," Janska shouted. "He's a Mage."
Rysla looked annoyed and raised her hands in a commanding gesture and Annie almost fell over on her backside when the sound of the ocean waves crashing mere feet away from them fell silent. She could see the waves crashing but there was no sound coming through.
"I've created a sphere where we may talk and work," Rysla explained.
Kirklyn knelt beside Cerys and ripped away her shirt to examine the sword wounds. Annie noticed that it was warm inside the sphere. The mage looked up at Janska and shook his head.
"It must be the hard way," he said as Cerys' eyes closed.
Janska knelt by her daughter's head.
"Cerys! Open your eyes, daughter!" she snapped. "I need you both to listen very carefully. The Watchers will be heading this way to ensure that you cross back over. We don't have much time for the portal to stay open."
"So take me through already," Cerys grumbled.
"What would you do to remain here, Warder?" Rysla asked calmly.
"Anything!" Cerys said fiercely, looking up into Annie's green eyes.
"Would you accept someone else's sacrifice for you?" Rysla asked.
"What do you mean?"
"The reason no Warder has ever been able to stay on this side of the gate is that it takes two mages to perform a dangerous spell," Rysla began. "It transforms the Warder into something more than Terrain, something less than a Warder vampire. Also, because it requires the willing sacrifice of someone."
"The cost has always been too high," Kirklyn stated. "No one would give up their life for another to stay in this realm and they couldn't find two mages willing to do it either."
"A mother would," Janska said easily, looking down into her daughter's face. "We have to hurry, she's getting weaker."
"Mother?" Cerys whispered. "No, please!"
"For my daughter, yes," Janska said firmly. "It's dangerous for everyone. One or both of you might die and I certainly will."
"No, Mama, please," Cerys begged.
"How?" Annie demanded. "She'll be able to stay and the Watchers will let her?"
"She won't be a vampire and she won't be a threat to them," Rysla answered. "She'll actually be able to help them."
"How does it work?" Annie snapped, noticing Cerys' eyes closing.
"It requires not only the willing sacrifice of a Warder but the willing blood of a Terrain, the soul mate," Rysla continued.
"That's easy, she's had my blood before," Annie said calmly.
"No, it works a little differently than that," Kirklyn countered. "The sacrifices must be together."
"Explain that," Annie said slowly, glancing over at Cerys' mother. What the hell were they talking about?
"Janska takes your blood and then Cerys takes Janska's blood," Rysla continued. "Janska will almost kill you and Cerys will kill Janska."
"This is too weird," Annie complained. "You're talking about the daughter drinking the mother's blood until she dies? And what do the wizards have to do with it?"
"Well, we really don't have the equipment for a blood transfusion but the end is the same," Kirklyn smirked.
"It is my choice and I made it before we ever crossed here," Janska said, placing her hand on Annie's arm. "Let me do this for you, your son and my daughter. She'll die without you."
"I can't live without her," Annie admitted.
"We must act now!" Kirklyn said, pointing at the flashlights working their way down the stairs at both ends of the ruins.
"Okay," Annie nodded. "She's unconscious, how can Cerys do this?"
"Once the blood hits her lips, she'll feed," Kirklyn said casually.
"You guys are weird," Annie muttered and nodded to Janska.
The older Warder walked behind Annie and slowly knelt behind the girl as she held Cerys' head in her lap. Annie tried not to shudder as Janska pulled her hair to one side and placed her hands on Annie's shoulders from behind.
"What about Trav if this doesn't work?" Annie whispered.
"Do you think you can live without my daughter? He'd still lose his mother," Janska said gently. "I truly believe this is the only chance you both have."
Rysla and Kirklyn stood up and held their arms out in an invocation stance and began chanting.
Annie's breathing quickened as she felt Janska move closer to her.
"You've been through this before," Janska said softly.
"Yes, just not with my lover's mother," Annie countered.
"Ah, the sexual arousal worries you," Janska smiled behind her.
"Well, it's a little kinky on this side of the portal, thanks," Annie complained.
"Don't worry, the spell takes that away, you won't feel aroused," Janska promised.
Annie frowned. "What will I feel?"
"Like you're dying and it's painful," Janska said honestly.
"Then get it over with," Annie countered.
The writer screamed and jerked back into Janska when fangs sank into her neck. Without the magic surrounding the bite, it was painful.
Janska caught Annie's wrists as the girl instinctively flailed. The Warder's vampire strength kept the girl still enough so she could continue to feed. Janska felt a tear escaping her eyes as Annie struggled against her body.
Without the magic, it felt like something was being ripped from Annie's body as her blood flowed out of her neck and into Cerys' mother. She quickly became light headed and felt her hands and feet growing colder. The bite was hurting, like having a dog grabbing a foot or a hand and refusing to let go. Annie heard someone screaming and realized it was her own voice she was hearing.
Janska wrapped Annie's arms around the writer along with hers and she continued to feed, holding the girl close as her heart sped up to an alarming rate. It was a delicate process, the judging of where the point of death came. Too many vampires misjudged, getting lost in the feeding, in the taste and joy of the blood and went too far. It was why Warders only chose willing donors and never took enough to cause danger.
Already the girl was barely conscious and hovering near that point. Janska pulled back, gauging the girl's strength and life-force. The call of the blood was so strong, Janska could feel the life of the girl in her hands. She lowered her fangs once more.
Cerys felt someone pressing some liquid to her mouth and snarled against it until the blood hit her tongue. The Warder wasn't quite conscious and little more than "alive." She sank her fangs into the offered wrist and began drinking.
The blood was so sweet, a Terrain's blood mixed with vampire blood, she knew.
Cerys started to pull back but someone grabbed her by the back of the head and held the wrist in place.
"Take it," a familiar voice urged. "Take it all, it'll be alright. Trust me, young one."
Cerys, reassured by her mother's voice, continued feeding, ignoring the chanting somewhere near her. She continued until the pulse became too faint to feel or hear.
Cerys opened her eyes and sat up slowly. Rysla and Kirklyn lowered their arms calmly as the Warder looked around.
"What?" she croaked out at the sight of her mother and Annie, neither one of them moving. The Warder spotted the fang marks on Annie neck and similar marks on her mother's wrist. "No," she whispered.
Cerys got to her hands and knees and crawled to Annie's still form and quickly checked for a pulse. "No!" she whimpered when she couldn't find one at the writer's wrist and only a faint one at her neck.
Then she scampered to her mother's side and found no sign of life in her vampire mother. "What have you done?" she screamed and turned to Rysla and Kirklyn.
Before she could confront them, Cerys felt an incredible pain hit her stomach, doubling her over. It was then that Cerys realized she no longer had any wounds, not even a scratch from the looks of her skin in the moonlight.
The Warder screamed and fell to the ground, clutching her stomach as every muscle in her body began convulsing and contracting.
Cerys opened her eyes slowly and tried to jump out of wherever she was as sunlight lit the room from open window shades.
"Easy!" a voice insisted and hands gently held her down. "The sun won't hurt you!"
Cerys looked up at a strange man holding her down and glanced around. A quick assessment told her it was a hospital and a fancy one at that. The room consisted of a comfortable easy chair, wooden tray instead of the typical steel. Also a thick curtain separating her from, what, probably another bed.
"Who, what, where, when and how?" Cerys demanded in one breath.
Breath? Cerys felt her breathing quicken in anxiety. "Breathing, I'm breathing. I'm human?"
The Warder quickly held two fingers up to her neck and was surprised to find a steady pulse. She glanced around the room again.
No, it was a Terrain hospital, complete with television mounted on a bracket to the wall.
"You're not quite human but you're not vampire either," the man explained. He pulled back and sat down in the easy chair, watching Cerys closely.
"I'm Jason Richards, Watcher Council Elder," he announced. "We found you unconscious and Annie almost dead at the ruins of the Sutro Baths. Watchers called for an ambulance as one of your kind explained things."
"Your race, whatever," Jason shrugged, his disdain for Alterians clear.
"And what did they explain, where's my mother and where's Annie?" she demanded, frowning at the IV in her arm, leading to a bag of clear liquid.
"That," Jason said, following her gaze, "is fluids to keep you stable."
"My mother, Annie, and the others?" Cerys demanded again.
"Your magician, Rysla said that the spell they did and whatever happened to your mother and Annie changed you somehow," Jason said bitterly. "You're not quite human but you're not vampire either. We'll have to do some testing to figure out exactly what you are and how you fit into this world. All the medical tests show that you're human but you have a healing rate that is triple that of a normal human and who knows what else."
"Annie!" Cerys growled, ready to spring out of the bed and yank the man out of the chair by his throat. The former Warder had the feeling she had the strength to do it.
Jason Richards stood up and walked around her bed to the curtain.
Cerys tried to get out of the bed when she saw Annie lying in a similar bed. The former vampire whimpered at how pale and frail Annie looked.
"She's still unconscious," Jason informed her. "First, you're in a private hospital run by Watchers for Watchers, Warders and our friends."
"Or prisoners?" Cerys asked, holding up her other wrist, the one handcuffed to the bed rail.
"That was precautionary," he shrugged but made no effort to remove it either. "We weren't sure what you would be like mentally. Next, your magician took your mother's body back to your side of the portal. One of them stayed here and will talk with you tonight about what your new life is."
"Mama? Her body? She's dead?" Cerys asked softly.
"She sacrificed herself in some magic thing to save you," Jason explained.
" She died for me?" Cerys asked softly and the man nodded.
"Annie?" Cerys whispered.
"She'll live, barely. Apparently, to work the spell, your mother drained her almost to death and then you drank the Warder's blood," Jason snarled. "The effects are permanent so it looks like you're stuck on this side."
"As long as I'm with Annie," Cerys said firmly.
"Ah, true love wins out over all?" Jason questioned, his voice bitter.
"I take it that it didn't in your life, Watcher?" Cerys snapped.
"No, it did," Jason said, his voice low. "We were walking along in Sutro Park when someone jumped us. A vampire broke both my arms and then tormented my wife and killed her very slowly in front of me. A passing police car startled him before he killed me. I was approached in the hospital by the Watchers."
"I'm sorry, Watcher, but I'm not your killer," Cerys said calmly. "I fight vampires like him."
"Want to keep your job?" Jason offered, surprising Cerys.
"What do you mean?"
"We're not sure what you are but your mage says you'll be faster than humans and can sense vampires," Jason explained. "You're already a trained warrior and know more about the Altercaulf realm than we do. Become our Vampire Hunter."
"She'll be your Watcher and your partner," Jason said. "Annie has already proven her worth in a fight."
"Jeannie and my mother?" Cerys demanded.
"The Watcher Elder that ordered Jeannie's death has been eliminated, he overstepped his authority ordering that attack," Jason frowned. "I am sorry about that, Jeannie is irreplaceable."
"No kidding," Cerys growled. "She has…had children, damnit!"
"The kids and husband will be taken care of. That's all I can offer," Jason said slowly.
"And my mother?" Cerys demanded.
"I'm sorry about her," Jason said slowly. "Your magic users said that she was an honored retired Warder and trainer. She must have loved you very much."
Cerys nodded, it was better than she expected and they still had Tech and the Rrom to fall back on if the Watchers were lying to them again.
"Let me think about it, talk it over with Rysla and Annie," Cerys said and Jason nodded, as if expecting that response. Cerys didn't bother asking to be un-cuffed and the Watcher didn't offer.
It was well into the night before Annie opened her eyes. Instead of the panic Cerys went through, Annie smiled as she looked up into blue eyes.
"It worked?" she whispered.
"Yes, my love," Cerys said softly, tears beginning to flow down her cheeks. "You almost died, my mother is gone but it worked."
"Your mother loved you very much," Annie whispered as Cerys leaned over to kiss her on the forehead. "Where?"
"A private hospital run by the Watchers. I think its cover is an insane asylum, which is probably not that much of a cover," Cerys muttered. "I've been offered a position with the Watchers and so have you. They even took the handcuffs off finally."
"Well, they don't know what I am yet except that I seem to be beyond human but not vampire," Cerys smirked. "They want me as their weapon, less than a Warder at times but better since sunlight doesn't hurt me and I don't need to drink blood."
"Darn," Annie smiled. "I liked the fangs."
"Annie!" Cerys squeaked in surprise as Annie grinned at her.
"Less explaining, save it for tomorrow," Annie demanded. "More kissing."
The ex-Warder looked deep into Annie's eyes and saw love and acceptance. Cerys was more than glad to obey her lover and bent to meet the lips she thought she had lost forever.
"Thank you, Mother," Cerys whispered, after pulling back slightly.
The soul matched lovers sighed with happiness when their lips met once again, this time without an ending or a "goodbye" in sight.
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