CH 17: In theory it works….in theory.
Clarion's face grew deep with worry as she took in her surroundings once Colin parked the car. She was polite and waited for Colin to open her door for her. She stood and looked around the abandoned warehouse district. She looked up at the grinning Colin. "Why do I feel like I'm the rat in a Martin Scorcese film."
Colin laughed. "I'm afraid you don't have that kind of luck Clarion."
She laughed as they begin walking to one of the less dilapidated warehouses. "That's good to know Colin." For a moment Clarion was actually feeling less anxious about her predicament until she was firmly gripped about the bicep and dragged into the warehouse and shoved into an elevator.
A blue eyed demon appeared at her side and held fast to her arm as she closed the cage and they rode up. A huffing and puffing Colin met them on the third floor when the cage doors opened. "Yosh…what are you doing….let's just talk. I thought we were talking." The tall woman glared at Colin as she gruffly ushered Clarion about and roughly forced her to sit down on the floor. Clarion was simply stunned as her mind raced with the same thought. ‘She's going to kill me.' Yoshi disappeared through an archway. Clarion looked around her and tried to focus on the fact that she was impressed with Yoshi's home and not the point that she was about to kill her. Clarion bristled as Colin came to her side.
"Gimme your shoes."
"Just take them off, respect and all."
"You're joking right."
"Play nice and maybe I can get her to calm down."
Clarion shrugged and slipped out of her shoes. Without warning a towel was flung into her face. Yoshi yanked her to her feet and gruffly led her to a bathroom. When Yoshi closed the door upon her exit Clarion sat down on the lid of the toilet seat and almost cried. Her hands shook as she turned on the water for the shower and as she got undressed.
Regardless of her circumstances, the steaming shower was welcome. Perhaps it wouldn't be that bad, if the brooding woman was allowing her to get clean. There was nothing Clarion enjoyed or wanted more after feeding than a steamy shower. Clarion let the water beat on her face as she tried to allay her fears and figure a way out of all of this. When she came out of the shower a pair of loose fitting jeans, boxer shorts and a t-shirt were folded on top of the toilet seat. Clarion eased into her change of clothes and then took a deep breath as she exited the bathroom.
As expected a stone faced Yoshi was waiting for her. Yoshi avoided all eye contact as she gripped Clarion about arm and led her to a bedroom. Clarion decided to try some conversation. "Don't have to be so rough you know." Yoshi gave no response as she forced Clarion to the floor next to a radiator. Two seconds too late Clarion realized what she was going to do. "Oh come on, Yoshi, handcuffs! Where the fuck am I going to go we're in the middle of nowhere." Clarion struggled, but she was too weak at this point to do much damage, so she found herself handcuffed to a radiator next to a perfectly comfortable futon in a dimly lit room. Clarion rested her head against the wall and sighed. At least she could hear them, since the door was simply a partition. She could hear Colin.
"What'd you do to her?"
"She's got me locked up back here!"
Clarion was all smiles as the large man entered the room. "Great mediating Colin."
"I'm sorry sweet pea. Brought you some water though." He popped the top on the squeeze bottle and placed it in Clarion's hand. At least she had enough slack to drink. "She needs more time than I thought to cool off."
"Where is she?"
"I left her out there, but she's probably going to go beat the stuffing out of her punching bags."
"Good you can let me out then."
"No key and aren't you strong enough."
"Funny wise ass." Clarion looked up to the ceiling and recited monotonously, "After feeding the Vampire is normally tired , as their bodies must adjust to the new metabolism brought on by new blood ingested. Rightly so, this causes fatigue in the Vampire which will be replenished later."
"You guys get a book."
Clarion rolled green eyes. "Colin you have to talk to her cause I'm not feeling too welcome here."
"Don't you have any kind of leverage?"
Clarion scrunched her brow. "What leverage?"
"You know lev-verage." He raised his eyebrows up and down.
"Oh. We didn't quite get around to that, seeing how I was trying to avoid this." She pulled on her cuffs.
"Really, you strike me as kinky."
Clarion laughed out loud. "I'll admit under other circumstances I wouldn't mind being chained to a radiator by my heated sort of kind of ex-girlfriend or whatever….but this is not quite what I had in mind for the first time."
"Does it ever go as planned?"
They both laughed. "It did for me once." Colin nodded. "New York City, 1924. They were extremely hot."
"Swedish exchange students, paternal twins, boy and a girl."
They shared grins of understanding. "Oh the tales you could tell."
Clarion winked. "I'm sure you've got a few."
Colin blushed. "Triplets, South of France, 1992."
"Ooh, recent. You dog."
"You ever had an Irish carbomb?"
Colin smiled. "Hell yeah, Guinness and a shot of baileys. Why?"
"Well you get me out of here and I'll make you one that'll explode inside your head for two days."
Colin laughed. "I think I accidentally stumbled onto that recipe the other night. No can do though."
"Can we work on the handcuffs at least?" Clarion pouted.
"Aw come on, lass. No need for the puppy dog look, you've got my vote. But I don't deal in pissed off Amazons."
"On paper it sounds like a good idea doesn't it?" They shared knowing smiles and then they quieted when Yoshi walked through the door.
Long strides carried her in front of Clarion were she pushed Colin out of the way and proceeded to stretch a piece of duct tape across Clarion's mouth. The red head began murmuring what were clearly curse words and pulling hard on the radiator.
Colin stood up outraged and pulled the woman to the side. "What the fuck are you doing?"
Ice blue eyes seared Colin's flesh with a glare. With two fingers she shoved the man into the wall and growled out, "Fuck off!" At that she stalked out of the room and neither Clarion or Colin moved until they heard the elevator squeak into life. Colin stood up straight on the wall and ran a hand through his hair. He reluctantly looked down at Clarion who was looking up at him with pleading green eyes.
"I'd love to take it off sweet pea. But um, the last time she used an expletive in my presence, she tried to give me a face lift." Clarion quieted her mumbles as she rested her head on the wall and did the only thing she could do: cry. Colin shifted from foot to foot as he knelt down in front of her. He wiped the fresh tears with his fingers and kissed her on the forehead. "Look, I'll go talk to her and I'll get you out of this I promise. You need to understand though she's in a really shitty place right now. Yoshi's lived a long time and she's had lots of rough patches. I think she was finally letting her guard down with you and then boom you turn out to be a Vamp." Clarion hung her head. "I know you didn't ask for any of this, but we're all in it now. Why don't you get some rest, you know you need it so no use fighting it. I'll bring you a blanket." Clarion only nodded as she watched Colin leave. When Clarion closed her eyes she fell to sleep almost immediately, silent praying that when she awoke this would all be a horrible dream.
It was less the soft rays of dawn that awoke Clarion and more the angry voices outside of the room. Actually it was just one voice; Colin.
Yoshi was kneeling on the floor facing the window as Colin stood over her, arms folded across his chest. She only just returned from where ever she ran off to and this was the first time he had the chance to talk with her. "Are you out of your fucking mind! Chaining her to the radiator and taping her mouth like she's some flipping war criminal. Have some decency for Christs' sake. Are you going to explain to me what you think you're doing or do we get to play charades?"
Yoshi breathed. "What do you want me to say?" She continued to stare out of the window.
"I want you to tell me what you're going to do with the girl?"
"She's not a girl."
Colin groaned. "You are so full of shit. And what are you the reincarnation of Mahatma Ghandi? You're so full of it and you're off your rocker!"
She turned her head in his direction. "What do you want me to say? That I don't know what to do. Or that I'm unsure about what the hell the scrolls and books mean and that maybe I should just go in their and put an end to all of this."
Colin fumed with anger as he walked around and stood in front of the woman. "You mean you're going to go in there and kill her?" Yoshi gave no answer. "Is that it Yoshi, tell me so I can know who to go home and pray for."
Yoshi looked down at the floor as she rested her hands at her hips. "I'll find out if she can tell me what the scrolls mean and if need be then…"
Colin howled with laughter. "So you're just going to pump her for information and then bleed her like a pig or something." He leaned over so that he was eye level. "You're fucking sick, you know that." They stared at each other in silence for a while until Colin finally stood upright.
"It's the law Colin."
Colin fought for words and only punched a hole through the wall for a response. He stalked back towards Yoshi and stood. "The law! Whose law, council law? There's no council Yosh, we're fucking it! We're all that's left. I'm not even sure if there's ten of us anymore. I haven't spoken to Ohai' in four decades and Makeet might be stuck in a glacier in the North Pole. This is it Yoshi, it just fucking us. We decide, we make the rules, we are law.
"You wonder why there's no council anymore, it's because of warped jackasses like you who let their good intentions and love of tradition pigeon hole them into one track realities. Yoshima, we have watched empires rise and fall and we have helped make some of those things possible. We have watched the world come full circle and back again. And you know what--things change. Things get better, they get worse, but they fucking change!
Colin stopped a moment to run his hands through his hair and look down at the woman who stared blankly out of the window watching the sunrise. "Yoshi there's not going to be a council or Hunters or anything if you don't pull it together. What the hell happened to you?" Blue eyes that hinted at color looked up at him. "Don't you dare try and blame Cheyenne for this. You were becoming this long before she died." Yoshi growled and raised off her knees as she turned her back to Colin. He only laughed and then kicked a love seat out of his way as he stood in front of her.
"I'm not going to argue with you over her, but you know what happened even if you don't want to say it and it's happening now. You just refuse to go outside the lines. You're just like those old prunes that ran that commune in Athens. I mean I loved some of those old bastards but they were prudes Yoshi, they were sticklers. They couldn't imagine coloring outside the lines. They were the kind of people that read the Bible and took every word literally. It never occurs to them that it's just a fucking story. It's meant to teach and inspire hope and love and brotherhood; not decrees for war, slavery, and oppression."
"Once upon a time you understood that, and you were all over the place. When they said you could only run the Gauntlet in two hours, you ran the sucker in one hour and without one target miss." He caught blue eyes and pleaded with her silently. "You know why you did it Yoshi, because you opened your mind. You looked beyond the page and made it happened. This warrants the same thing."
Yoshi lifted her head and spoke. "You like her?" Her voice cracked.
Colin managed to smile. "Of course I like her. She's an absolute gem. I'd take her home to my mum if I knew the woman. But liking doesn't have anything to do with it, well no that's a lie. I mean, I don't think she should be killed and I can't imagine for the life of me why you think she should be. And screw that ‘it's law' shit. You're running on hurt pride here and the fact that for the first time in a long time you can't explain something nor can you control it."
Dark locks shook as Yoshi shook her head. "It must be done Colin, there's nothing else to say about it."
Colin threw his hands in the air. "Fucking Christ woman! Listen to yourself. You're a shell Yosh, a fucking empty shell! You're starting to look your age. This is absolute bull shit, you just can't get past it. Either you can't believe you fucked up or you came close to having faith in something you don't completely understand and you're scared." Colin grinned some as Yoshi looked up at him for a moment. "That's it. You're scared and you don't have an answer." Colin raised his arms above his head and flexed in a mock display of triumph. "The great Yoshima Miakoda doesn't have the answer. The great Yoshima is stumped. The great Yoshima is starting to feel again. The ice queen is thawing as we speak. The-
Colin suddenly found himself on his back with a dagger at his throat. He laughed. "C'mon do it you shit, cause we're all dead anyway, do me the favor and kill me quick." Yoshi pressed the blade against his throat and gritted her teeth. "C'mon! Do it! You're going to be responsible for killing us all anyway. I think you should do it by hand." At that Yoshi sat up off of Colin and dropped her dagger at her side as she backed away and sat on her butt, legs askew. Colin stood up.
"That's why I have her…to stop it." Yoshi's voice was weak and strained.
"It doesn't matter. You really think killing her is going to solve our problem. So what, what if you do kill her and you kill the master too. Yoshi you've turned into a faithless, archaic old bastard. Who wants to follow that? It's a wonder you haven't taken your life, if you can even call it a life. As much as immortality may seem like a curse it's a blessing. We've seen so much and done so much, and on top of that we have the opportunity to affect the people around us. We can affect the world if we want, but you think it's a burden because you can't pull your head out of your arse long enough to enjoy your life." Colin shook his head as he regarded the silent woman who was visibly struggling with her internal demons.
Colin sighed. "Yoshi, if you want to go in there and kill that girl because you're afraid, then do it. Go ahead. But know you don't have my blessing and I'll not stick around and watch you piss your life away because you're too scared to live and breathe. I'll just go back home to Ireland and call up the rest of the gang and tell them we should go buy an Island in the middle of the ocean, and watch the world self-destruct, because the great Yoshima Miakoda has all the answers even when she doesn't have a fucking clue."
Colin walked to the doorway and stopped as he placed his hand on lever for the elevator. He turned back to the woman who stared out of the window, her quiet tears traveling down her face unbeknownst to him. "When you go in there and do it, you tell Clarion that I apologize for failing her and that most of all, I'm sorry that you failed yourself."
As they elevator slammed closed Yoshi fell forward, prostrate on to the floor and cried quietly; her hand gripping the handle of her dagger. Three feet away Clarion shook with anger and fear as she willed away her on tears and begin to think up a plan to get out.
* * *
CH 18: Open mouth, insert foot
What Clarion assumed was two or three hours passed in complete silence. Perhaps the sound of her rumbling stomach had been heard by Yoshi; who soon walked into the room with a tray. The tall woman sat the tray beside Clarion and did her best to take of the handcuffs without touching her. Yoshi tossed the cuffs on the bed and stood up. "An hour." With that she left in the same silent manner. Clarion looked down at the plate and didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Clarion wasn't sure what hurt more the fact that Yoshi wanted to kill her or the fact that she remembered what she liked for breakfast.
Clarion rubbed her wrists before she devoured the large chocolate chip muffin. For a second Clarion imagined that she might be able to rationalize with Yoshi, but she knew better. As the food and coffee filled her body, Clarion felt a surge of energy coursing through her body. At least if Yoshi cuffed her again, she knew she know was strong enough to break the cuffs. She smiled as she started on her second muffin and then stopped in mid chew as she looked down at the tray her food was on. Clarion smiled as she spoke quietly to herself. "This is going to be easier than you thought, ch¾ r."
Forty-five minutes later, Clarion stood up and shook the crumbs off her body. The only glitch in the plan was that she was barefoot and in shortsleeves, but they were merely technicalities. Clarion picked up the tray and held it to her side as she walked towards the partition. She took a deep breath and focused the energy gathering in her body. She knew without looking that her eyes had grown brighter with a glow of green. She touched her tongue to her fangs and breathed deep. Now or Never. She tapped on the partition. "I'm done."
Yoshi was there so fast Clarion almost missed her moment, but as the opening of the door left Yoshi's torso wide open Clarion acted. With both hands holding the tray she rammed the edge into Yoshi's gut several times, shoving the woman out into the main room of the warehouse. When Yoshi finally doubled over enough, Clarion brought the tray up with extreme force, connecting with Yoshi's face and driving her backward. Clarion stared down at the downed body of the dark woman in disbelief. She almost couldn't believe she did it. Clarion returned her breathing to normal, dropped the tray and scurried down the steps and out of the building. It was two miles to civilization and the gravel was going to be a bitch.
-- --- ---- ---
Yoshi didn't show a bit of surprise when Colin stepped off the elevator followed by the smell of alcohol. Colin raised an eyebrow as he sat down his twelve pack and looked at the woman who seemed as if she hadn't moved from the spot he left her in three hours earlier. Actually, except for the bag of ice she was holding to her nose she looked exactly the same, with her hair in a ponytail, black Akido pants, and a sports bra. Colin let out a laugh as he opened two beers on the counter and went and sat down next to Yoshi.
Without looking she reached out and took the cold bottle and proceeded to drink deeply. Colin eyed her with empathy and drank from his own bottle. "You want me to fix that?" He nodded at her nose.
"I can do it, but I just want to feel it for a while."
"You let me set it and you be feeling it even after you heal it." Colin smiled wickedly.
Yoshi dropped the bag and sipped from her beer. Colin raised up on his knees in front of the woman. He touched both his index finger and middle to the either side of her nose right on the bridge. He felt the bone carefully and then in one swift rush of motion he snapped her bones back into place. Yoshi sucked in air harshly as a sign of pain and then drank deeply from her beer as Colin moved away from her. They sat in silence and went through the twelve pack before either said another word to each other.
"You can't kill her Yoshi. I mean I'm sure she'd find a way out of it, but she's absolutely amazing. You do realize she should be dead by now." He laughed. "I'm not really sure how's she lasted this long."
"How amazing is she?" Blue eyes filled with color, glanced at a smirking Colin and then looked away.
"Well me and your boys did a little digging and it seems our little Clarion is no spring chicken. She's nearing 230. There are some fuzzy records in the seventeen hundreds but she shows up larger than life in the eighteen hundreds. But about her nine lives, it seems that Clarion Larieux was a cat burglar for nearly 30 years." Yoshi turned her head and arched her brow at Colin. He nodded and smiled. "You ever been to her place?" Yoshi gazed out of the window with a look of remembrance and then she nodded. "Look like a museum right?"
"Or a woman with good taste and money."
"Oh Yeah speaking of, Clarion's worth about 120 million dollars and that's just cash, bonds, stock, and the assets she accounts for. The Monets are real. Along with the Rembrandts, the Picassos, the Rodin's, Boucher's and whatever else she got her hands on. Our little Clarion's one heck of a lady."
"She's ours now?"
"Hey, I admit I'm head over heels in love. I'll keep her all to myself then."
Yoshi turned slitted blue eyes on Colin as the corner of her mouth curled up in a devilish smile. "Mine."
Colin laughed as he leaned back on his arms. "You never did understand the concept of sharing did you." He hopped up from the floor and cleared the bottles. "So what's the plan chief?"
Yoshi stood and faced Colin as he stood in the kitchen. "You trust me now?"
"No….I have faith in you."
"Because once upon a time, in a far off land, I watched a fearless young woman fight her way through at least three dozen men without out thought or consequence to bodily harm, just to save one ordinary man."
"He was my father."
"And you loved him."
"Still do." she whispered.
Colin walked over and put his hand on the shoulder of his friend. "If you believe in nothing else believe in his love and belief in you. I don't know what else to tell you."
"I sat here for two hours and tried to figure out what to tell myself. You're right I've got no clue what to do, I'm not sure, I'm hesitant, I'm confused, my mouth is dry, I've got butterflies in my stomach…and more than anything, I can' t seem to forget what her lips taste like."
Colin laughed and pulled the tall woman into a half-embrace and half-headlock. "You are insane." He released her with a playful shove and a sloppy kiss to the forehead. "It feels good to be alive doesn't it."
"Is this really what it feels like?" Yoshi looked doubtful.
"Why do you think I'm drunk all the time girl?"
"Because you're trying to ruin your liver?"
"Well in the beginning. But mostly because the next day when I ache all over and I can't remember who I'm laying next to, it's not so bad that I've been on this earth for damn near 830 years."
"That's awfully morbid and stupid Colin."
"So is base jumping off a cliff in Hawaii, but it feels damn good to hit the water and not break my neck."
Yoshi shrugged her shoulders as Colin began pushing her towards her bedroom. "What's that mean? I don't understand."
"Whatever, maybe it's a crappy analogy, who cares. You want to know what the point to life is?"
"If you say sex, sleep, alcohol I'm going to hurt you."
"While those are the most important things in life along with good food, no they're not the point. The point is there is no point."
Yoshi stopped in the doorway. "How can there be no point?"
Colin shook his head and moved into the room. "I mean there is a point, a point of chaos, and questions, and open-ended answers, and lots of things that individually don't make sense but as a whole create a grand picture."
"And you think I'm insane." Yoshi laughed as she walked to her closet and tried to tune out Colin's philosophy on life.
--- ---- ---- ----
Yoshi walked into St. Francis at two in the afternoon and sat down in the last row of pews, folded her hands in her lap and waited. At ten in the evening a grim looking Father Munez sat in the pew in front of her.
"You're not going to leave are you?" Yoshi shook her head. "What?"
"I'm looking for Clarion."
"Good for you."
Yoshi ignored his snide reply. "Father, can you help me find her?"
"I don't think that would be a wise decision." He turned his back to her and started to get up.
"I don't think it is either, in fact I have no idea what to say or do, I'm at a loss for strategy here."
Father Munez did not curtail the broad smile that graced his face. He sat back down and raised an eyebrow at Yoshi as he looked her up and down. "You're serious?" She nodded. "Hmm." Father Munez tugged at his lip at he searched for something to say. "Well, you've caught me off guard here. I'm a little unsure of what to do, hadn't planned for this."
"I didn't either."
"That's because you can't, Yoshima." He scratched at the scruff of his growing beard. "I'm intrigued and willing to help, but forgive me if I'm still a tad distrustful of your motives. Why should I help you at all, you're going to kill her."
Yoshi grimaced and looked down at her hands before she made eye contact with the father. "It's not like I want to-
Father Munez sat forward and started to get up and Yoshi grabbed his sleeve. She removed her hand as he glared at her and sat back down. "Finish."
She sighed. "I don't want to kill her. But at the same time I don't understand the scrolls, they're confusing. I don't know what to do."
Father Munez relaxed his suspicion as he listened to the dark woman's sincere musings. "What do you want to do?"
Yoshi shrugged. "I don't know that I know what to do." She shook her head. "I've lived for nearly a millenium and nothing has ever been this hard. I mean there was one or two other times, but those were different circumstances."
"It's never easy when it's the real thing." Yoshi looked at him with a question in her eye. Father smiled. "You look like you've spent your whole life waiting for something to bite you in the ass. This is it."
"So is this God's test?"
"According to theory this is all one big experiment anyway, so why not."
"That's not helping Father."
"I'm here to guide, not pass out cheat sheets." Yoshi sighed. "I ask again, what do you want to do?"
Yoshi took in the high ceilings of the Cathedral and breathed deep. "I want to buy a boat."
Yoshi grinned. "And, maybe an island somewhere and I want to sail around the world and visit the places I haven't seen in centuries and decades….and I want her with me." She avoided Father Munez's gaze as she dropped her head and looked at her boots.
Father smiled and moved his hand past free falling black hair and raised Yoshi's chin. "Do you know how to beg?"
"You want me to beg?"
Father chuckled. "I don't."
"Oh." Yoshi lifted her hand and brushed her hair away from her face. "I think I understand the concept."
"Amazing." Father shook his head. "Well your going to need to be prepared for some groveling, some pleading, maybe tears, and she's got a small temper."
"And she can turn a tray into a battering ram." Yoshi reflexively touched her nose. "Where?"
Father Munez smiled and stood. Yoshi followed suit. "Follow the path between the Roses and the Light, then go left at the fork."
"What? Can we not be cryptic, I have enough confusing language in my head."
Father shook his head. "No, I'm serious. Go to the cemetery, about a mile in there's a headstone for the Roses' on the right and one for the Lights' on the left, follow the path."
Yoshi blushed. "Oh. Sorry." She chuckled at her confusion and gave the father a lopsided grin. Yoshi walked with the priest and stopped at the door.
Father looked up into deep blue eyes with question and the smallest hint of amusement. "You want me to say a prayer or something?"
The acoustics in the cathedral picked up Father Munez's laughter and carried the genuinely delighted sound through the building. He stopped as a few worshipers turned in his direction. He cleared his throat as he ushered Yoshi out of the building with a giggle. He looked up at the scowling woman and apologized. "If it'll help--go in peace… yada yada yada, may the Lord have mercy on you…amen." He made the sign of the cross in the air and then touched Yoshi on the shoulder. He held his hands up in a boxing stance and spoke. "Remember, bob and weave. Bob--and then weave."
Yoshi smiled. "Sure thing Father."
* * *
CH 19: "I'm hitting my knees for you, Baby"
Yoshi found herself standing in front of a mausoleum when she got to the end of the path. She drew in a breath as she found a man-made fissure in the cement and forced back a slab of concrete. She closed the slab behind her and wasn't surprised to find that the room was dimly lit with torches hanging in opposite corners. Yoshi looked around the room and found no signs of life, but her ears picked up at the faint sound of movement below her. Yoshi placed a hand on her blade as she stepped around a large crypt and there she found steps that led down. She removed her hand from her sword and began to slowly descend the stairs.
Yoshi barely had time to take in the vault itself before Clarion rose from behind a marbled crypt. Angry green eyes focused on Yoshi, who stood at the entrance to the steps with her hands at her sides. "Get the fuck out Hunter!" Clarion's voice was strained from crying but it still harbored fierce anger.
Yoshi didn't make eye contact with the enraged woman as she held her hands up. "I mean you no harm Clarion, I just want to talk." In a blink of an eye Clarion moved from behind the crypt and was in front of Yoshi. She drew back her arm and slapped Yoshi hard across the face. Yoshi's head snapped to the side and she slowly brought her head back around to face Clarion.
Clarion shoved Yoshi with each sentence. "Leave now! Get the fuck out. Leave me be and let me go!" Clarion stopped pushing when Yoshi hit the wall. Clarion stood with her fists clenched at her side. She stepped back and breathed deep fighting the surge of energy in her body that was prompting her to let go of her human nature. Clarion looked down at the floor as she grabbed fistfuls of her hair and moved away from Yoshi. "Let me go, just let me go, let me go." Her voice cracked as she came to a stop in front of the crypt.
Yoshi glanced at the red-head and then looked away as she dabbed away a drop of blood with her tongue. She moved away from the wall, but made no move to get closer to Clarion. "Will you please just let me talk?"
Clarion threw up her hands and released a guttural scream. "What the fuck is there to say!?" She didn ‘t wait for Yoshi to answer as she walked around to the other side of the crypt declaring it as a barrier. "Absolutely nothing. There's nothing to say, there's nothing you can tell me to make this different. Stolova wants me dead, along with every Vampire on the fucking East Coast. And you," she thrusted her hand out in an accusatory manner, "you want to kill me because you don't know what to do with me and because it's law." Clarion laughed. "Fuck you Hunter! I can do bad by myself so I don't need your kind of help nor do I want it. Just walk away and let me go."
Yoshi grimaced in pain as Clarion's words assaulted her with the force of her fists. Yoshi tossed her head about as she looked about the room and tried to come up with something to say. She noticed the duffle bag in the corner next a bed that had recently been slept in. A small refrigerator stood in a corner beside a small table and a stool. Along the back wall, rested cardboard boxes and frame covers. This was Clarion's little hideway. For a moment, Yoshi wondered what treasures were in those boxes what else she was hiding away. Finally, she looked up at Clarion and managed to make eye contact.
"Where do you think you're going to go?"
"Anywhere but here, how about that."
"They'll find you."
"Let them come, I'll just keep moving."
"What kind of life is that?"
Clarion's laugh pained Yoshi in its mocking quality. "What do you know about a life? You live in the middle of nowhere and you don't see the people that are supposed to be your friends for decades." Clarion eased out from behind the crypt as her voice grew strong. "You live in your little world of books, swordplay, and traditional duty. What have you done but be stagnate because you're afraid to be wrong."
Yoshi frowned as she went on the defensive. "I'm sorry I'm not thief, is that what you want?"
Clarion howled with laughter. "I'm sorry you're not as well. Forgive me, oh great one, for not being a fucking upstanding citizen for two hundred years. Forgive me if I got bored!"
Yoshi drew in a breath and calmed herself. "I'm not judging you Clarion."
"Yes you are! Just like you judge us all. And you know what, I find it awfully hypocritical of you to stand there and question my humanity when clearly, it's you who is lacking it."
Yoshi stepped back as if she had been hit and Clarion dropped her gaze, thinking that maybe she had gone too far. Yoshi hung her head and bit at her lip as her mind raced. She turned towards the wall and kicked at it idly like a scolded child. When the room hummed with silence, she curtailed her want to sob and spoke. "Clarion, I-I don't know what to do. I have no answers, but I have to have your help. I want your help…please." Yoshi turned around and faced a scowling Clarion who clearly didn't know what to make of the dark woman in her weakness.
Clarion toned down some of the sarcasm as she answered. "And just like that, I'm supposed to just say, okay, let's go. I'm supposed to put my life in your hands and put belief in your want to save me. Bullshit. How can I have faith in the faithless? Yoshi--I, oh boy, for the life of me I can't imagine you telling me anything that's going to make me believe." Clarion sighed as she watched the tall woman struggle with her thoughts.
Yoshi let her head loll back as Clarion's words washed over her. She ran her hands through her hair and then wiped away errant tears as she dropped her head. Her mind filled with Colin's rants and Father Munez's bad joke. It was almost too much for the woman, but she knew if she didn't leave here with Clarion then this would be the end. Yoshi closed her eyes, breathed deeply, and cut her mind off as she let the words come without prompting.
Her voice was a whisper. "I-I need you."
Clarion leaned off of the crypt and arched a brow. "What?"
With her eyes still closed, Yoshi spoke again. "I need you. I-- need-- you. I, me. I want--I-I need you." Yoshi sighed and continued, oblivious to the slack-jawed expression on Clarion's face. "Just me, just for me. Not…ah. Fuck!" Clarion slapped a hand over her mouth to hold in her squeak of surprise. "Look, I need you. Fuck the scrolls, fuck Colin, fuck Father Munez, fuck Stolova, fuck the law, just fuck, fuck, fuck!" Yoshi let loose an exasperated breath and drew up her hair as she finally opened her eyes. Clarion just stared as she held her arms across her body, and held a hand over her mouth. Yoshi swallowed and knew she couldn't stop talking now.
"You're right, I have no faith. You're all absolutely right, I don't know what to believe or even how. But, I do have faith in you. I believe in you. That's all I have strength for right now, and to be honest it's only my faith in you that's keeping me going right now." Yoshi drew back her coat and pulled out her katana. Clarion stepped back more out of reflex than fear.
Yoshi flourished the blade with her right hand and then held the blade up horizontally with both hands as she touched the blade to her forehead and mumbled something unintelligible. She then dropped to her knees, bowed her head, and held the blade above her head. Clarion was unsure of what was happening or even what to do. In fear, she wanted to run from the tomb, but she held fast to her spot if only out of awe at the display before her feet. Yoshi's black hair scraped the concrete as she bowed her head. Her coat pooled out around her and she resembled to Clarion a knight in supplication as she held the blade out with both hands. After a moment of reverent silence, a strong clear alto broke the silence as Yoshi spoke.
"Clarion Giselle, I lay down my blade. I kneel at your feet to beg forgiveness and to beg of your mercy. In this, as in all things, my life is yours. I pledge you my honor, my skill, my duty, my core, all that I am, from whence I came to wherever you lead. As it is and as it should be, from beginning to end, alpha and omega: I give you my blade."
Yoshi whispered a stream of Japanese to herself and then she laid the katana down on the ground between Clarion and herself, placed her hands on her thighs and bowed her head. Clarion wiped at the tears that escaped green eyes and stared down at the crown of blue-black hair. For only the second time in her long life, Clarion was speechless, and the first time she did it on purpose. Clarion ran a shaking hand through red hair and let loose a breath that she didn't know she'd been holding. She had been prepared for a yelling match, maybe a scuffle, and the possibility that she might have to hurt the woman who made her ache with want on the inside.
Clarion had cremated and buried any hopes she had for her and Yoshi, so this was highly unexpected and unfortunately for Clarion she was out of smart ass comebacks. Clarion observed the silent woman kneeling at her feet and step towards her, so that only the width of the katana separated them. With just the faintest hint of shaking, Clarion placed a small hand on Yoshi's head and felt the woman shiver. Clarion firmed her touch, as she smoothed the dark locks away from Yoshi's face until she looked up. Clarion couldn't help but grin as teary green eyes fixed on teary blue eyes that were vibrant with life. Clarion continued absently combing her fingers through Yoshi's hair as she breathed out, "I accept."
Clarion took a step back as the breath left her body as Yoshi rose up onto her knees and embraced the small woman. Clarion giggled as Yoshi nuzzled her face in her stomach. Clarion reached around and released the pressure of Yoshi's hold as she knelt. Clarion held onto one of Yoshi's hands as she careful slid the katana out of her way. The two women grinned at each other and then Clarion began a two handed exploration of Yoshi's face. She drew her fingertips across the faint bruise on Yoshi's face.
Green eyes looked to the floor in shame. "I'm sorry I hit you."
"No you're not." Yoshi smiled. "But look on the bright side you were the first person to break my nose…in at least 50 years."
Clarion snapped her head up and her eyes went wide in shock. "Oh God, I'm sorry, really. I-I-
Yoshi touched long fingers to Clarion's lips and quieted the woman. "It hurt--a really really lot."
Clarion touched her forehead to Yoshi's and chuckled. She raised her head and planted a soft kiss on the bridge of Yoshi's nose. "A really really lot, huh?"
"Oh, yeah, spell it."
Blue eyes rolled with mirth. "Uh, e, x, something, ‘ting."
Clarion laughed aloud as she tousled dark hair. "Not too bright are you?"
Clarion lowered her voice. "C'mere idiot."
Both women leaned in and met one another in the middle. Warm lips latched onto one another without hesitation or tentativeness, but in the mutual understanding that precious time had been wasted. The passion that quickly built a week ago on Clarion's couch was revived with no fear of stopping. The women rapidly devoured one another as tongues met and their hands roamed freely across one another's bodies. Yoshi let her coat drop to the floor along with Clarion's shirt as she stood up with the woman attached to her body like second skin. In hindsight, it was true that the bed was three feet to the right, but Yoshi's mind was so swirled she could only make the two steps that allowed her to deposit Clarion ontop of the marble crypt.
If the marble was cold Clarion couldn't feel it as she pulled the tall woman down on top of her and begin pulling at the black t-shirt that was keeping Clarion from certain goals. Yoshi smiled as she broke their kiss and left a trail of heated kisses down Clarion's neck, across her torso, her bra, and down her stomach. Yoshi stopped when she reached the edge of Clarion's warm-up pants and looked up at Clarion with heated blue eyes. Clarion laughed as she saw a glint of mischief flash across Yoshi's face. "You won't ruin them, it's just buttons." At that, a stream of metallic pops echoed through the vault as Yoshi yanked away the halves of Clarion's pants with one sure tug. Adidas warm-ups went in opposite directions as Yoshi tossed the pants away and ran warm hands down the length of Clarion's legs.
Clarion shook with anticipation and arousal as full lips pressed themselves to the inside of her thigh and then she yelped in excitement as those same lips pressed against her center, with the cotton of her underwear doing nothing to cover flood of arousal. Yoshi left her newfound nest to drop soft kisses on Clarion's chest, neck, and lips. This time when Clarion pulled on her shirt they both felt a tug of resistance. Clarion raised a newly red brow. Yoshi looked bewildered for a second as she hovered over the prone woman and then slapped her forehead in understanding. "My dagger."
Clarion laughed as she pulled Yoshi down for a hard kiss. "Can we do without the weapons just this once."
Yoshi rolled blue eyes as she lifted out of Clarion's embrace. "But weapons can be fun." Yoshi stuck out her bottom lip in a pout.
Clarion groaned. "Later. Now off with the shirt." Yoshi smiled impishly and then removed her shirt. She couldn't help the blush that rose to her cheeks as Clarion stared openly at her bare breasts as if she was starving. Clarion licked her lips without chagrin as she took in the supple swells of olive colored flesh that were Yoshi's breasts. "So all those tight shirts keep you from buying bras huh?"
Yoshi shrugged as she dropped the shirt to the ground and snapped the strap on her knife. "I'm cheap."
Clarion flashed white teeth brazenly. "And I'm rich."
"So you'd mind?"
Clarion put her hands behind her head and looked oddly at the woman standing before her. "Mind what?" Yoshi tossed the tanto in the air and caught it at the hilt. Green eyes went wide. "You wouldn't dare, I paid thirty bucks for this bra."
Yoshi grinned and leaned down between Clarion's outstretched legs. "You should stop shopping at Victoria's Secret, then."
Clarion laughed and then got serious as she locked eyes with a blue that was colored with intense indigo. An involuntary shiver ran through her body as she reacted to the cold steel of the dagger laying across her belly. Black and red eyebrows arched in unison, as Clarion let out a deep chuckle. "You cut me….and to the moon Alice." Clarion shook her fist playfully at Yoshi, who shook her head in confusion. Clarion sighed. "You don't even own a t.v. do." Yoshi buried her head between Clarion's breasts and shook her head no, eliciting a giggle from Clarion.
Clarion stopped her giggle as she felt the faintest sensation of cold as the very tip of the dagger was skillfully dragged from her bellybutton to the satin bridge of her bra. Yoshi stilled her hand as they gazed at one another quietly. Clarion reached out and caressed Yoshi's face, stopping at her lips, and then gently pushed two fingers into her warm mouth. Yoshi closed her eyes to the welcome invasion and sucked on the unsolicited gift in quiet prayer until Clarion removed her fingers. "Twenty minutes ago, I thought you were going to plunge that dagger into my heart."
Blue eyes smoldered. "And now?"
"I know you'd fall on it for me."
Yoshi ducked her head and kissed Clarion as if she was about to disappear. When she stopped she gave a breathless Clarion no time to gather herself as she sliced through the material of her bra and then with two quick movements of her wrists Clarion's underpants fell away from her body. Clarion could do nothing but gasp. Yoshi gave her a lopsided grin and lost herself in Clarion's breasts. When she came up for air, she silently moved Clarion's hands form behind her head. She looked down into green eyes. "Trust me?" Clarion gave a lazy nod. Yoshi grinned and with a small twirl of her fingers she raised her dagger and then plunged it into the marble all the way to hilt. The crypt shook with force.
Clarion shivered, looked up and caught the glint of metal. "Impressive."
Yoshi raised a brow skyward and smirked. "Hold on to it."
Clarion snickered. "Oh really," she drawled. By the time she was done her sentence a head full of black hair was firmly planted between her thighs. Clarion sucked in sharp breath as a cool tongue entered her without warning. "Oh…my…god." She closed her eyes to pleasant feel of Yoshi's tongue landscaping her center and then they opened with a snap, as two long fingers made their presence known, and Clarion uttered the last coherent statement she would make for a while.
Clarion's sweat covered body shook with climax for the second time as she blindly reached down and buried her hand in black tresses. The dark woman eased herself away from between Clarion's thighs and rested her head on Clarion's stomach, that rose and fell with heavy breathing. Clarion opened her eyes slowly to greet Yoshi who was hovering over her with a cheesy grin affixed to her face. Clarion leaned up and nibbled on her lip. "You seem pretty pleased with yourself." Yoshi feigned innocence and shrugged bare shoulders. "You realize we've got about six hours till dawn and I only need two hours of sleep."
The tall woman laughed as she eased Clarion away from the marble crypt and gently laid her down on the bed to her right. "I only need one." Yoshi tickled Clarion with kisses as they fell onto the bed in a tangle of arms and legs. Yoshi stopped her ministrations when Clarion tapped her on the shoulder. "What?"
Clarion's head hung over the bed so that her neck was stretched out and everything in the room was upside down. "I was just wondering what's in my fridge."
"If I'm not eating, I'm talking."
"I guess I'll have to keep you occupied." The tall woman leaned over and lit into Clarion's neck with teeth and tongue.
Clarion moaned and laughed as a new wave of arousal surged through her. "Stop that. Let me up."
Yoshi let Clarion up with a groan and then watched as the naked woman skipped across the room to the fridge. Yoshi watched the sway of hips for a moment and then untied her boots. "So what's in there?"
"Well lot's of stuff….aha."
Yoshi tried to peer around Clarion but couldn't see inside the small fridge. "What is it?"
"Whip cream. Now take off your pants." The red head turned around with a large smile and held the can out like she was trying out for The Price is Right.
A dark eyebrow rose. "I need to take off my pants for this?"
Clarion laughed as she sauntered to the bed. "Well yes and hell yes!" Yoshi shook her head and quickly disposed of her pants. Clarion frowned. "I thought you'd be naked."
"Only in summer." Clarion shook with laughter as she straddled Yoshi and pushed her onto her back. "So what are we doing with that?"
"Stuff." Clarion licked her lips and eyed the sculpted body beneath her with salacious thoughts.
"Stuff?" Clarion nodded and proceeded to draw a whip cream arrow down the length of Yoshi's torso starting at her neck and ending at the recently revealed mass of dark curls, at the apex of her legs. Yoshi followed Clarion with her eyes, as the small woman removed herself only to sit behind Yoshi's head. "What now?"
"Admiring my work."
"Well my nipples are cold."
Clarion gazed at the taut brown flesh of Yoshi's nipples through heavy-lidded eyes. "They certainly are."
Yoshi opened her mouth to ask another silly question only to have her mouth covered by Clarion's heated and determined lips. Yoshi decided to stop trying to form a complete thought as she closed her eyes and felt Clarion make her way down her body, stopping to lick and suck all the important areas and even the not so important ones. Yoshi almost exploded at the mere feel of Clarion's hair as it brushed against her thighs, but the ecstasy of a familiar scent hovering above her caused her to not give in quite so quickly.
* * *
CH 20: ‘When I wake up tommorrow will you still feel the same'
All though the two women seemed intent on proving they could run on the barest amount of sleep, both freely collapsed into each others arms, just after dawn. True to form however, Yoshi rose after a little more than an hour of sleep, pulled on her boxers, and retrieved her katana to do her stretching routine.
On the swords' fifth pass through the air, Clarion awoke, but she made no comment until the dark Samurai brought her sword to her side ten minutes later. "Quite the workout."
Bright blue eyes turned towards the sleepy red-head, laying on her stomach with her hands under her chin. Yoshi blushed lightly as she grinned and then placed her blade on top of crypt, before walking over to the bed and sitting down. Clarion rolled over letting the sheet fall where it may, and received a warm kiss from the half naked woman. Clarion let her hands remain entwined in Yoshi's long tresses as the pulled apart. "It's morning right?"
Clarion smiled. "You can tell time by sniffing the air right?"
Yoshi chuckled as she took hold of Clarion's hand and kissed the palm. "My watch is in my pants pocket."
"Cheater." Clarion giggled and rolled back onto her stomach.
Without prompting, Yoshi eased back onto the bed and began an earnest massage of Clarion's back. The red-head moaned aloud , which sent butterflies through Yoshi's stomach. She dropped her voice an octave as she leaned over with her lips next to a small pink ear. "Keep that up, and we'll never leave."
Clarion wiggled her upper body at the feel of warm breath on her neck. With a smile she groaned out, "okay."
Clarion leaned against the wall with the pillow separating her damp back from the concrete. Her ankles rested on the edge of the bed with her legs spread in a vee. Between her legs and still twisted in the sheet was a sleepy-eyed Yoshi. Clarion lazily combed through the moist tendrils of Yoshi's hair that hung about her face as she leaned back on Clarion's chest. Yoshi shifted so that her feet were flat on the ground as she grabbed Clarion's small hands and wrapped them around her waist.
"You about ready to go sleepyhead." Clarion placed a soft kiss on a dark temple.
Yoshi sighed and squeezed Clarion's hands. "You realize I can't drive in this condition."
Clarion laughed. "Who said I was letting you drive? Besides do you know the way to New Orleans?"
"Give me a map and set me loose." Clarion squeezed the muscled woman resting between her legs and smiled from ear to ear. "Are you smiling?"
"How'd you know?"
Yoshi contemplated her answer with a shrug as she played with Clarion's fingers. "I can feel it." she answered quietly.
Clarion touched a hand to Yoshi's chin. "Hey look at me." Yoshi moved out of Clarion's embrace and crossed her legs under her as she faced Clarion. "Do we need to talk?"
Yoshi chewed on her bottom lip as she avoided sparkling green eyes. "I was thinking we'd just forget everything that happened before today and I'd just go through life worshiping the ground you walk on." Broad shoulders raised up and down as Yoshi picked at imaginary lint on the bed.
Clarion smiled and leaned forward, kissing Yoshi soundly on full lips. "You're so adorable when you do that, but that's not going to erase what's passed. And it definitely won't change that fact that I'm-
A large hand covered Clarion's mouth accompanied by Yoshi shaking her head. "Don't say it." Yoshi could feel Clarion pout in her hand.
Clarion removed the hand from her mouth and held onto it. Soft green eyes fixed on skittish blue eyes. "It's true." Yoshi sighed as she gently removed her hand and stood from the bed, visual searching the floor for her shorts and jeans. Clarion watched the woman with small concern. "You avoiding the obvious Samurai?"
Yoshi bent over in silence and pulled on her shorts. She held her jeans in her hands as she turned to face Clarion. "I know, I know." She stepped into her pants and pushed the button through the hole. "I'm not avoiding…I promise." She ran her hands through hair that easily reached the middle of her back. She arched an eyebrow comically and pursed her lips. "Maybe I should cut my hair too?"
Clarion sucked her teeth and kicked at the covers. "Yoshima!"
The tall woman blushed. "I'm not avoiding…I'm just delaying the inevitable." She smirked and Clarion shook her head. The tall woman walked to the bed and squatted, so that she was eye level with Clarion. She touched her forehead to Clarion's and both women sighed. Yoshi leaned back and smiled. "Hands." Clarion obliged and placed her smaller hands in Yoshi's. "So small." she said to herself as she looked down at the contrast of Clarion's alabaster colored skin to her deep olive skin tone. Blue eyes met patient green as Yoshi looked up. "I'm still at a real loss here as to what's supposed to happen. I'm out of my mind and I'm probably a little more on edge than I should be. Um, I'm not sure about lots of things right now, but I have no plans of losing you or sacrificing you to anyone or anything. All I know is what I feel and right now I feel like I'm 25. Hoo yah!" They both laughed.
"And I mean the first time I was 25, not the third or fourth. Everything is wide open and I'm scared out of my mind. I look at you and I think my heart is going to beat itself into stopping. I touch you and it's like having hot flashes." Blue eyes closed as she let go of Clarion's hands and tried to grasp the air. "I feel you all around me and through me and it absolutely pains me to think of not having you in my life." Yoshi opened blue eyes to stare into green eyes wet with impending tears. "I'm not answering your question am I?"
Clarion fell forward into strong arms as she bubbled with laughter. She wiped at her tears as she began to plant kisses on Yoshi's shoulders, neck, ears, face, and her finally her lips. Clarion leaned back and brushed her fingertips down Yoshi's face. "I forgot the question."
Yoshi kissed both of Clarion's palms and stood. "If you don't get dressed soon, I'm going to forget the question."
Clarion grinned devilishly as she dropped the sheet from her body and put her assets on display. "You threatening me ch¾ r?"
"Why no ma'am." Yoshi tipped the brim of an imaginary hat and winked.
Clarion's infectious laughter bounced off the concrete walls. "Zip your pants cowboy."
Forty-five minutes and a tickle session later, Clarion and Yoshi walked out of the mausoleum into the bright sun of mid-afternoon in December. Clarion covered her eyes with her forearm. Yoshi squinted as well, as she shouldered the duffel bag, and draped her long coat over her arm, in an effort to cover her sword and dagger, but also because it was warm. The dark woman groaned. "This weather irritates me so much."
Clarion laughed as she led them down a side path. "Hey in April we'll have a blizzard."
"Got that right."
Clarion continued to shield her face from the warmth of the sun as she meandered back towards St. Francis. "Sheesh, is this what real Vampires feel like when they step into the sun?"
Yoshi rumbled with laughter. "Yeah, but then you've got all that fire." She waved her hand spastically through the air to represent flames.
Clarion shook her head and quipped, "you think it's just the fire?"
"Well, no there's the melting and all the stuff that oozes out-
"Spew!" Clarion swatted Yoshi on her muscled stomach. "That's nasty."
Yoshi shrugged and smiled to herself as she watched Clarion shake out her hand. "So what's the plan?"
Clarion thrust a finger into the air. "First a shower and then we're off."
Clarion slowed her walk and looped her arm through Yoshi's. "The poor little Samurai."
Yoshi let out a snort of laughter. "You're just going to keep calling me that aren't you?"
Clarion stuck out a pink tongue. "It fits and besides, do you want me to call you puddins'."
The tall woman stopped in her tracks and focused serious blue eyes on mirth filled green. "You know I'd julienne your Monets right?" Blue and green eyes held fast until Clarion giggled and stood on her toes to nuzzle Yoshi's strong jaw, that was fighting a smile.
Clarion tugged on a firm forearm. "C'mon puddins'- The small woman yelped as quick hands snapped her bra. "Did I say that out loud." The two woman chuckled as they walked. "Let's hurry up, since I'm taking Ms. ‘Don't call me puddins' shopping."
Yoshi frowned and let out a little groan. "Why am I more afraid than I've ever been in my life."
"You're such a wuss. Now, come on, before we get there late and give Father a show." Yoshi ignored the salacious thought that sprang to mind and simply smiled as she allowed herself to be led back to the church.
* * *
CH 21: Highways, Bi-ways, and Past Lives
The December sun was providing a serious source of heat as the two got into Clarion's blue and white 66' GT-350 Mustang parked a block from the church. Yoshi took one look at the muscle car and knew that even if everything fell apart she'd have to keep Clarion just for the car. Yoshi was smiling from ear to ear as she threw her coat into the back seat and relished the feel of the warm leather on her back. She ran her hands lovingly across the dashboard much to Clarion's delight.
"I take it you used to have one of these?" She smiled knowingly at the dark woman who could only nod for the moment.
Yoshi pulled herself together and grinned. "I love my Camaro, but I miss my GT. I crashed it in Germany chasing some demon on the Autobahn." She chuckled at the memory. "All I wanted to do was talk to him, I swear."
"You can be a little intimidating sometimes." Yoshi grimaced. "But, I like it." Clarion leaned over and gave the woman a soft kiss on full lips that even in it's gentleness made the stoic woman woozy. Clarion smiled and then slapped the steering wheel. "Holy crap, almost forgot. Be right back."
With her eyes, Yoshi followed the small woman as she jumped out of the car and went to trunk. She watched Clarion open the door on her return and throw her jacket in the backseat, leaving her jeans and a snug white v-neck t-shirt. When she got into the driver's seat, it was quite obvious what she had gotten from the trunk. Yoshi smiled big as she examined the black cowboy hat that now adorned sheared red locks.
Clarion caught Yoshi's gaze and smiled. She tipped her brim. "You like?"
A short pause. "Yeah…yeah, I do. Makes you look like a hillbilly…I like it." She shot Clarion a blazing smile just to prove it.
Clarion grinned and stuck the key in the ignition. "I am not a hillbilly ma'am…I am a Southern Belle."
Yoshi coughed into her hand. "Yeah, and I'm Rhett Butler."
Clarion smiled. "Great movie."
Yoshi looked confused. "That was a movie?" Wide eyes turned towards the dark woman who was fighting the smile itching at the edges of her mouth. She touched Clarion's tense forearm. "Just joking."
Clarion shook her head and laughed. "Paybacks, you hear me. Pay…back!" Yoshi just shrugged and put on her seatbelt. Clarion smiled and started the car. Both women shook with energy as the engine purred to life. They looked at one another and just smiled. "Good sound isn't it?"
Yoshi rested her head against the head rest. "Damn good sound."
Clarion let out a small gasp. "I'm going to wash your mouth out with soap young lady."
A shrug of shoulders. "Is that bad?" she asked innocently.
Clarion laughed and pulled out of her parking space. "Well, since I like to give tongue baths, I guess not." She broke into giggles as blue eyes blanched in surprise and blood made a quick path to Yoshi's cheeks.
It had been a pleasant drive of an hour for the two women as they made their way south. Yoshi had successfully learned the words to three of the Dixie Chicks songs and Clarion was having just as much fun teaching them. After their first pit stop, Yoshi kicked off her shoes and looked inquisitively at the red-head in the driver seat.
Clarion felt eyes on her as she merged into 95 South traffic and glanced at a serious looking woman. "What's up, Samurai?"
Yoshi sipped nonchalantly on her water. "Just thinking?"
Clarion grinned. "My story, huh?"
"Yeah, I mean how did you.. I mean, uh.." She trailed off and looked at the floor.
Clarion rubbed the woman's thigh and smiled. "It's okay. Hey, I want to hear your tale as well."
Yoshi nodded. "Yeah, but I asked first."
Laughter filled the car. "Okay smartass. Well, this is a 24 hour trip, so I guess I'll give the abridged version."
" ‘Preciate your kindness ma'am."
"That southern drawl is getting better all the time ch¾ r." She winked at the dark woman and turned off the CD player. She spoke with flair. "All right you asked for it: The life and times of Clarion Larieux."
"My mother's name was Olathe. I'm sure she had a last name in the beginning, but when she was stolen from her home on the Ivory Coast, she was sold to an Englishman living in France. She survived him for eight years until her alleged obstinacy got her a one-way ticket to a newly acquired piece of real estate in the New World." Clarion glanced at the tall woman who had made herself comfortable in the passenger seat. She grinned and focused back on the road.
"I won't traumatize you with the random cruelties of my mother's life, but she lived through it on the account of my aunties." Clarion smiled wickedly for a brief moment, sharing a quiet joke with herself. "My aunties introduced my mother to the saving grace of Voodoo at the age of 19 and apparently her life got better from there. See Yoshi sometimes religion is helpful." She winked at the scowling woman and continued. "Anyway, maman met a strikingly handsome young Englishman a year later, and I guess she should have fled the moment he opened his mouth, but she was enamored. I never learned if it was some spell or something but according to my aunties it was love through and through."
"I like to imagine that he was attempting to kill her, but that he took one look at caramel colored woman and fell in love." Clarion shrugged as she finished, "after all who can resist an obstinate smartass."
The tall woman in the passenger seat stuck out her tongue in response. "So whatever, maman, the rebel that she was carried on a forbidden love affair with this refined Englishman and a year later, 1773 to be exact, I was born. I think she was really happy for all of five minutes after she gave birth and then she looked into the corner of the room she was giving birth in, she saw my father."
Yoshi's ears pricked up as Clarion's voice dropped low to feed the atmosphere of her tale. "To this day I applaud him for abstaining. I applaud him for controlling himself and not ripping my mother to shreds on account of all the blood." Clarion gave a quick look to Yoshi who drew in a breath of air sharply. "Like I said, she saw him and he froze. Green eyes all aglow, fangs wet with want. He of course attempted to do the only thing he could, which was run. My mother, bullheaded minx that she was stopped him." Clarion's voice hung in the air prompting Yoshi to ask ‘how' when Clarion paused too long. Clarion smiled and continued.
"She held me out to him. I was all bundled up and red and crying, but she laid me in his arms and I shut right up." Yoshi grunted. Clarion took her eyes from the road to acknowledge the woman. "What?"
"Must have been nice to be a family, huh?"
Clarion shook her head and moved her hand from the stick to squeeze Yoshi's hand in understanding. "You're getting way ahead of me, Stretch." Clarion cleared her throat and changed gears as she changed lanes. "I'd love to say we we're this weird Norman Rockwell family and I guess we were for about the 20 minutes that my dad held me. After that, all hell broke loose. No matter what crap Masters managed to put their slaves through, the slaves themselves formed a unit with one another. It was impossible not to and in the Bayou it was that closeness that helped a lot of slaves escape. Anyway, two of my aunts and another lady were the priestess in our community. That just means they presided over the religious ceremony, but back then it also meant that voodoo priestess was a euphemism for a ‘jumpy witch'. I mean it was beyond paranoia and superstition. These women had vibes about everything. When I would visit as I got older, I would just sit in a chair on my hands for fear that any movement would upset the balance of the universe." Clarion smiled and Yoshi chuckled.
Clarion let out a breath and stretched her neck, gaining a pop as her bones aligned. Yoshi shifted in her seat and extended her arm in order to massage Clarion's neck as she started talking again. "Where was I…god that feels good. Oh yeah, balance of the universe. So, the grapevine suspected that my father was a Nosferatu; and they were pretty much right. Of course this meant that I was probably a little one too, so this was no good." Clarion smirked. "It never ceases to amaze me to know that my maman had to practically run a marathon only a half an hour after giving birth." Clarion chuckled to herself. "It wasn't really 26 miles, but sometimes having the wrath of God put on you tends to exaggerate things." Yoshi only shook her head in quiet amusement as Clarion continued to speak with just an edge of sarcasm to her words, but always with pride. Clarion shifted gears and veered off the highway via an exit ramp. "I'll spare you the blood and just say the mob of do-gooders found my father and killed him. Maman escaped and through some magnificent storytelling and the aid of her big brown eyes she convinced an old crazy lady that lived out in the marsh to take me. And she did. She raised me, I grew up, got into trouble, she got me out of it, she kept me sane, she passed away, I moved on….and almost 230 years later here I am on my home."
Clarion tapped the steering wheel as she stopped at a stoplight. The two women sat in silence until Yoshi leaned back in her seat and arched an eyebrow at Clarion. "So that's it, the whole story."
Clarion gave a little shrug. "Well yeah. What else you want?"
"I don't get any childhood anecdotes, I mean at least tell me about the crazy lady you lived with."
Clarion laughed as she turned at the intersection onto a main road. "She wasn't really crazy, hell she was far from it. You ever heard of Marie Laveau?"
Yoshi thought for a moment and then nodded. "Self proclaimed ‘Pope of Voodoo' if I'm not mistaken, very powerful as well and the most famous."
Clarion tipped her brim at the grinning woman. "Well I lived with Mama Deauch« nt for 16 years and she was a very skilled woman. She just chose to keep her talents on the down low, if you know what I mean."
"Oh really. So she teach you some tricks?"
Clarion smiled suggestively as she pulled into a gas station. "A couple." She ran her tongue across her teeth as she caught inquisitive blue eyes looking in her direction. "Answer a riddle?" Yoshi nodded eagerly. Clarion cut the ignition and turned towards Yoshi. "What consumes, breathes oxygen, multiplies, dies, yet has no form?"
Blue eyes regarded sparkling green with question. Yoshi furrowed her brow as she thought. "I think I answered this question in Athens, I don't think I got it right."
Clarion giggled. "It's not a demon silly."
Yoshi grinned. "I didn't think so." She paused. "Then I'll say fire." She wore a smug grin which Clarion returned.
"Very good." Green eyes pulsed with mischief as Clarion made a fist with her right hand and then in a quick swirl of motion she blew on her fist and released a fist-sized fireball, that flared to a bright blue and then vanished. Clarion turned to a slack-jawed Yoshi who was pale in awe.
"How'd you do that?" Her words came out in a gush of air.
Clarion laughed and fixed her hat. "That's like you asking me what I put in my etÙ uffee. I'm not telling you, but needless to say grasshopper I've got a few tricks up my sleeve." Clarion wiggled red eyebrows and gave the still wide eyed woman a peck on the cheek.
Yoshi rolled down the window and whistled at Clarion's retreating frame causing the small woman to stop and turn, face red with blush. "Do I get the rest of the story?"
Green eyes rolled. "Yeah, go buy me some candy…and make it good."
Yoshi frowned and spoke quietly, "We're in a Texaco© ."
Clarion smiled and walked away, but not so far that Yoshi didn't pick up her reply, "you'll think of something."
Yoshi almost said something smart, but figured the red-head might hear it, so she just smiled to herself and went about her task.
Ten minutes later they were back on the highway, and after two hours of Stevie Ray Vaughn's greatest hits, Clarion finished off her pack of Raisinets and started talking. "So I take it you want the rest of the story?" Yoshi nodded. "You're extremely patient you know that."
The dark woman smirked and stretched her back. "You try sitting in a cave for two months in Siberia waiting on Colin and you too can learn patience."
Clarion made a sour face and shook as she imagined the cold. "You sure you want to know this, it's not a very nice chapter in my youth, but it is when I figured it all out."
"You didn't know from the beginning."
"Mama D knew, but she never came right out and said it, she was cryptic that way. But in every other way she assured me that I was very special and would figure it out one day. In retrospect, she made sure I didn't become an animal. She taught me to respect life and all God's wonderful creatures, even the mutations. In her words, ‘God don't make no junk', so if somebody told me otherwise, I had her permission to widen their horizons. That usually meant a bloody nose or a black eye, but it wasn't like living with ‘the crazy lady' afforded me many friends. We were too busy avoiding bounty hunters and folks that liked to captured freedman and sell them back into slavery and such." Clarion drew in a breath and then glanced over at intense blue eyes. "You sure you want to hear it, blood, guts, and all of it."
Yoshi grinned and rested her hand on top of Clarion's on the stick. "I'm not going to judge you, I promise."
Clarion smiled. "Well can I have a cigarette?"
"How can you smoke and shift gears?"
"I'm not that good, so you're driving."
Clarion lit her cigarette and launched her tale as soon as Yoshi pulled back into traffic. "I remember puberty and it wasn't that bad. But, ‘waking up' was ten times worse. Any woman that says she has bad cramps can kiss my ass. I'm getting ahead of myself so ignore that. It was two days to my 16 birthday when they came.
1789- Louisiana, pre-Baton Rouge:
For sixteen years the Bayou was a loving home for me. There was so much to learn, to see, to taste, to touch, to smell. I was constantly stimulated and constantly in trouble, which was hard to come by, especially when I knew more about where the Gators laid their nests and the number of snake species than people. It wasn't as if Mama D cut us off on purpose, but it served us both well, all though I wonder if we had have been closer to the plantations or the docks if things wouldn't have happened in the manner they did.
I walked barefoot through the high grass towards the outhouse, since I was supposed to be doing chores. I cinched my skirt up in my fists as I moved through the sticky sweet blades of grass and made my way to the edge of the creek. I was doing nothing but wasting time, tormenting the baby frogs and seeing how long I could wiggle my fingers in the dark water until one of those logs opened its eyes and showed itself to be a Gator. The sky appeared to be a passionate purple as the daylight and nightfall kissed one another and created dusk. This was the time of day that Mama D had taught me to relish the most. Sunsets were beautiful canvases and the glowing of the moon gave way to the open night, but it was dusk that held the balance of life in its tender arms. At dusk, life breathed anew with the coming of sleep and the promise of waking.
I smiled to myself as I lifted my head, and brushed curly tendrils of blonde hair away from my face. I could hear the bats expanding their wings, snakes uncoiling, Gators coming up for air, and even Owls opening their eyes. I released my reluctant playmate of the frog and let him join in the chorus of his kind, as their vibrato hum carried over top of the Weeping Willows. It was a wonder I heard the foot falls at all, but as they were heavy, as if burdened and three sets total. I knew it was trouble. My recent trip to the Quarter and the privilege of my alabaster skin tone had alerted me to the fact that bounty hunters were out and about.
I bundled my skirts and ran towards the house as fast as my short stride would allow. With each step I was reminded why I hated dresses. If it wasn't the grass slicing my ankles, or the heavy material itself, it was just that it was plain restrictive. I never did make it back to the house. Even as I felt callused hands grip me about the neck and waist I kept my eyes affixed on the house, looking for Mama D. I ignored the howling men at my back and my own tears. Even as I was knocked unconscious one thought remained constant: she abandoned me.
When I awoke, (I would later discover that two days had passed), it was to the unfamiliar surroundings of a hayloft. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes as I rose into a sitting position and felt the back of my neck for the gash I knew would be there, only to find a thin scab of healing. I didn't have time to consider the ramifications as I smelled a campfire from below. I remember feeling around in the hay and darting my eyes everywhere, searching for an opening, a weapon…a diversion. My only out was the barn door. I had to take my time climbing down the ladder on account of my sore limbs. I was ready to assume that I had experienced some horrible beating, but it was just the rush of adrenaline coursing through my small frame and beginning a process.
The door ahead of me started to open and I ran with everything I had, but he was simply too strong and I was just too small and too weak at the time. His eyes seemed so pale, void of color, void of light, and any saving grace. I saw thin chapped lips moving with force, as surprisingly well kept teeth appeared and spittle reached my face during his talking. It didn't really matter what he was saying, I knew what was coming even before I felt the irons around my wrist and even before he tore what was left of my dress from my body.
As I lay on my back doing my best to count needles of hay, everything burned around me. I could feel the heat of the fire at my side, the sweat that covered my face seemed to boil, his breath was hot as he hovered over me, and the body thrusting between my legs seemed to be searing my flesh. Even my insides burned. I had exhausted my tears and my throat was probably bleeding from use. He came to me that way for two more days and left me for dead on the third, because I refused to speak or react. I guess he assumed me dumb. I pulled my bare legs in to meet my naked torso and I stayed that way for at least a day. I kept my eyes open for as long as possible until they finally closed as the embers of the fire burned out--and I slept.
Whomever Clarion had been five days before no longer existed when I awoke. I didn't have fangs, my eyes didn't glow, and I wasn't aching for blood, yet. However, I ached for something far stronger than that at the time: vengeance. For me, it was the most foreign feeling in the world to be consumed with the energy of hate. Bu,t it was a tangible energy that fed my limbs and helped me to move. I walked strong out into the night with only the tattered remains of my slip on, but the feral glint in my eye promised anyone death if they came near me. I bathed in a river, stole some clothes, and just started walking. I could still smell him on me, so I just trusted my instincts and went were my senses led me.
I found his small plantation hours later and as I watched him from a tree on his property. I smiled in the thought that not only would I be getting rid of a smug son of a bitch who thought his money gave him rights, but I'd be freeing a handful of my people who would no doubt give me a medal, no matter my fair appearance or what I was.
I would like to say that it was not my finest hour. I would like to say that even now, so many scores of time later I am remorseful. But-- I can't. I was beyond rage and beyond hate. Sure he had taken so much from me, in the most unjust of ways, but more than that, I feared that Mama D let him. I feared she had just walked away and left me. All though, when I stalked him to his own barn two days later and followed him to his barn, it was not with anger at Mama D that I did what I did. I did it because it was the only thing that satiated me.
I remember those pale eyes growing wide in surprise at my presence, then lids lowering suggestively, his thin lips curving into a smile. He thought I was some fair haired girl concubine, but when I lifted my head pulling my hair away from my face, he saw his reflection in malachite colored mirrors. Whatever shock he went through in recognizing my face, it turned to mind-numbing horror as I grabbed him by his collar and hurled his 6'2" frame into a solid wooden beam. I walked towards his bruised body slowly and I could feel the warmth of a smile spread across my face. He was struggling to get up, but kept slipping on the hay, and could only manage to move backwards on his hands. I could not imagine that at 5'1" and just over a hundred pounds that I was that fearsome, but when I caught my reflection in the medallion around his neck, I suddenly realized with an almost painful relief that Mama D hadn't abandoned me-- she simply let me go.
I had never felt more beautiful in my life, as I viewed myself through his eyes. What a portrait I made, standing over his cowering body. Still barefoot; I wore a pair of trousers and man's shirt, with the sleeves pushed up to my elbows. I swept loose blonde locks away from my face and pushed them behind my neck where the rest where curtailed in a leather thong. Perhaps from a distance I looked like a fair haired stable boy, but he saw a monster. I wasn't the young girl that he savagely raped and left for dead, I was the Phoenix that arose from the ashes to burn a trail of fire across his path. And burn I did. It was not my purpose to use him as a pseudo-teething ring, but it provided a slow torture that kept me satisfied.
I trussed him to the cross beams, arms spread, legs hanging down like a suffering Christ-figure. Only he had been abandoned and he would receive no mercy from any god. I stayed there for three days and then I left him for dead. Years later I found out that had managed to live for another three hours after I left, even with his innards hanging around his feet. I fell asleep in the trees of the swamp, awaking as the moon hung high in the sky and lighted my path back home.
Long blonde hair hung in loose curls down my back as I stepped onto the porch. It was surreal how quiet it was. Everything went still around us, even the air. I stood on the step for a long time just looking at the woman in the rocking chair packing her pipe. We said not a word to one another as she handed me a cloth and pushed a basin of warm water in my direction. I used it to clean my face and hands and then I sat in the chair next to her. We both looked out into the light fog that rose from the swamp, and our hands locked together between our chairs. The frogs began their song again, the crickets jumped with life, and the Gators took their first evening breaths. We would sit there till morning talking, less about my heritage and more about the little things I needed to know, as I would be leaving come morning. That was to be the last time I saw her in the flesh.
When Clarion ended her tale, she had gone through a half a pack of cigarettes as the two women sat on the hood of the car, over looking the Atlantic Ocean in South Carolina. The taller woman leaned back on her arms, resting her feet on the chrome bumper and provided a human chair for Clarion as she sat between her legs and leaned back. They sat quietly for a while, not in an uncomfortable silence, but contemplative. The dark woman was trying to find a way to show support and her want to absolve Clarion of her pain. Clarion was beginning to wonder if she should just run off into the ocean and hope the tides carried her to a far off land.
It was Yoshi who managed to come up with the right thing to do, as she sat forward and wrapped Clarion in a comforting embrace. Yoshi buried her face in the curve of Clarion's neck and lost herself in the slowing pace of Clarion's pulse. Clarion felt her heartbeat return to normal as she felt Yoshi's life force move around her. She felt tears come to her eyes as she took in her surroundings. Here at her most vulnerable moment, Clarion had never felt more powerful and she knew that the woman cradling her could feel it too. It was just like when she had taken the hand of Mama D on the porch that night and life abounded around them.
Clarion looked at the waves that pounded the surf in time to the beat of her own heart, which matched the healthy rhythm of the woman at her back. The air hummed with energy around them as the two women entwined light and dark hands and shared the silence. They stayed that way for what felt like an eternity, but was only a short moment. It was a moment that both would have to return to when the time came. In that time it would become clear to both women as to what they felt in the air, heard in the surf, breathed in, and coursed in and around them in that moment. All though neither woman was sure enough to put their finger on it, for the briefest moment they both were aware of what was possible and perhaps inevitable: Balance.
END OF BOOK I.