Surrpppriissseee, last chapter to Salandra’s arc! (Yes indeed, this was an arc for Sal) It wasn’t certain till the last minute, but yes. Arc 7 is coming to a close here, and well…Enjoy the read.
Warning: Blood, possibly triggering, PG-14. And also a long chapter.
No one’s POV
The piano keys rang odd and sad in the mansion, representative of their player’s mental state.
Chase Grace, was only slightly uncomfortable in his mindset. It was subtle and difficult to explain, but it was enough to cause a change of rhythm in his playing.
He decided to get up and stretch his legs a bit.
He took in a thoughtful breath, surveying the empty room – one that seemed emptier than usual. The soft humming of the air conditionner was his only company. Salandra had voiced a plan to leave – a funeral to go to – and he had seen her exit in a blur of red and blue. He had even bought flowers for her to take to the funeral.
She hadn’t turned back to wish him a good day with a smile – however cold or arrogant it may be these days. Maybe that was what was setting him on edge.
A weird feeling building up inside him.
He headed for the kitchen, wondering if he should cook something up for supper. Salandra would probably be eating at the wake.
A cup of coffee was on the counter, along with a note.
Chase moved for the counter in amusement – and maybe a tinge of concern.
He picked up the note, attempting not to wrinkle it. It felt oddly precious.
Thank you for the rose uncle
The words were forced onto the top of the paper. They seemed innocent enough.
Then Chase unfolded it.
The house was creepily intimidating to Nikolas.
It shouldn’t be! This had been his home for – well his entire life. But right then, with the sounds and smells of thirty people occupying it, the place felt foreign.
“Lots of windows.” Tristan remarked as the group entered.
Nikolas found himself swallowing with difficulty under the imaginary weight that had come tumbling down onto him. James squeezed his shoulder reassuringly, and Nikolas gave a weak smile in response. He was already doubting his decision to come.
“Wow there’s a lot of people here.” Bianca remarked, peeking into the kitchen. “It’s a nice place Nikolas.” She said, in an attempt to soothe the mood.
“Yeah.” Was the only word Nikolas found he could say, as he started to feel the gaze of his family slowly turn towards him.
Nikita seemed to suddenly appear before him, a soft smile at her lips as she hugged her brother. “Hi Niko, quite the entourage you brought with you.”
“They insisted.” He replied.
“Well delight yourselves to some snacks friends, I want to steal my brother for a bit.” She said, and the group seemed to acquiesce – except Oscar, who eyed the young adult warily. “I won’t hurt him, jeez, stand down guard dog.”
That made Nikolas laugh – albeit weakly. “I won’t be long Oscar.”
Nikita led her brother upstairs, where the visitors hadn’t been allowed to go.
“Are you okay?” She asked, when they were finally alone.
Niko’s shoulders slumped. “No. I’m really not.”
“A lot of people we’re asking about you, but I told them to lay off a bit.” She warned him. Nikolas wasn’t surprised.
“I appreciate that. I just – I didn’t expect it to be so….and I’ve barely stepped through the door.” Nikolas groaned. It didn’t help that there were some news reporters outside – as if the Edmund Pallen Funeral was something worthy of news. Though, Niko supposed that considering all the magic talk surrounding his father and his heart, this really was something worthy of being news.
“I know.” She said, reaching over to grip his arms – in an effort to send him some strength.
“Niki, pa his dead. How did that even happen?”
Nikita let out a slow breath. “You heard how it was a heart attack right?”
“Well…I also heard from aunt Erin that he hadn’t been taking his medicine. The one she makes for him. She noticed them in his study.”
“This might’ve been self-inflicted.” Nikita said.
“Look I don’t mean to be mean – especially considering this is his funeral – but if this was really in some way his choice, then he was weak.” Nikita snapped.
“It’s not like dad died. It’s not like I abandoned him, I just moved out!” Nikita’s voice trembled but she recomposed herself. “Sorry. Um, I’m not keeping the house. I know you said you didn’t really care, so I’m selling it. I don’t really have the means to live here on my own and I don’t….want to. I’ve been selling a few things here and there, but I haven’t touched anything from your room. In case there was something you wanted.”
Nikolas couldn’t think of anything at that moment, but he greatly appreciated the thought. “I’ll think about it. So I take it, it’s been going well living with Maxwell?” Nikolas was having trouble doing something as simple as tease his ‘adulty’ uncle. That at least pulled out a self-deprecating chuckle out of him.
“Surprisingly. He’s pretty quiet and keeps to himself. I…get the feeling he’s dealing with his own stuff a lot. He’s not very open about it and I’m not that curious. He tunes me out a lot, so he never actually tells me to shut up. Someone, at last!” Nikita joked and her brother chuckled along. “Look, just know that I get how painful this can be. Especially since the family has never really seen you in the brightest of lights. I’m totally willing to cover for you if you need to high tail it out.”
“Nah, I’m good. I’ve faced literal monsters. I should be able to deal with the family.” Nikolas affirmed, more for himself than anything else.
“Family is usually the hardest monster we have to deal with.”
Uncle, I wanted to apologize and at the same time, I wanted to blame you. Would you be okay if I did both? Compromising at its finest.
Let’s start with the easiest of the two. I’m sorry I locked you out. But then again let’s be truthful, you were never quite open to me were you? You’re such a locked down figure. Me, strong Chase, nobody can pierce my incredible armor! Well apart from Amelia’s death that is. That sure hurt didn’t it. Your pain really shone through – it was quite beautiful to see. You should show it more. Maybe then you could move on with another lady.
I was so distraught over her death. I still am, so deeply. My mother was everything. She was spring, autumn, winter and summer combined. Without her, there’s no wall.
I’ve feel I’ve lingered on the pain of her death for too long.
After all, they said she hardly felt any pain at all when the time came – so why should I?
Nikolas had suffered through another hand holding session of a distant member offering their condolences. He was starting to feel like a doll. One after the other, all grabbing his hand and subtly insinuating it was all his fault. ‘It’s too bad Xavier can’t be here to mourn’ ‘Your family keeps getting hurt, is it ever going to end?’ ‘I hope you don’t feel too bad’
His hand was taken up by someone else, once again offering their apologies. A little more life came into Nikolas’ eyes as he recognized the individual.
“Tyzel? You’re daring to venture here? You know my sister is nearby.” Nikolas teased.
“I felt it was important to come say hi. You’re not an easy person to find Niko.” Tyzel smiled.
“Or so I’ve been told. It’s nice to see you!”
“Yeah, even with the current situation. I don’t know where you’re staying at now Niko, but you know you can come crash at my place whenever you want to right?”
“No I didn’t know that.”
“Well you can. Here,” Tyzel said, taking out an already prepared piece of paper with his address on it. “It’s a renovated warehouse that I’m occupying. So lots of space. The spare key is in the barrel.”
“Thanks,” Niko said, tucking it away. “I’ll make a note to stop by.”
Tyzel seemed to hesitate, before he reached over and hugged Nikolas. “It’ll get better.” Nikolas wasn’t sure where his proof was, but he was just going to have to take him for his word.
James made his way over, indicating to Niko that he wanted to talk to him privately.
The vampire signed the situation. A certain blue-haired girl was at the house requesting entry. James highly discouraged letting her in. Going as far as telling Niko he could make her willingly leave. Something about her was off, not counting her past behavior to boot. James hardly felt this was someone who needed to be around his grandson at the moment.
But Nikolas shook his head. “Ah, it’s fine. She lost her mother recently, I’m sure she just wants to pay her respects. She wouldn’t do anything – and especially not here, surrounded by all these people. I trust she’ll stay civilized.” Nikolas affirmed. “And if I feel she’s taking it too far, I’ll tell you I promise.”
James nodded reluctantly, his gaze grabbing onto someone across the room with a frown. Following his gaze, Nikolas spotted his uncle Benjamin.
‘Hopefully nothing.’ James signed. His son, Benjamin had been anxious and restless. Constantly looking over in James’ direction, before looking away. He clearly had something to say – but also clearly uncertain on whether he should. James wasn’t going to push for now.
That was an eloquent apology if I do say so myself. It’s the best I can offer you, and maybe this will cause you some level of pain that makes the extent of this writing worth it.
For, surely, the blame that befalls you can only bring you joy.
Because you called him. I know you were the one to do it. The man you spitefully call a BROTHER. He may be the source of all our problems, but the fact is you still willingly called him.
Did you not consider yourself a worthy guardian? Do you truly believe I am better off with that horrible excuse for a man!?
Well I happen to agree. You are far from a worthy guardian. But that was something I found endearing. I, at least, was free to do what I wanted.
My father? He’d sooner sign me up as a prostitute I BET.
But surely that’s not why I do it is it? Surely it cannot be on this one phone call.
No indeed, that merely released me.
It is my mother, and her holy soul that freed me. Even if, it was also my prison.
“Is it me or does Sal look…weird. Like is that face paint?” Lucas asked, as the two boys made eye contact with the blue haired girl. Sal had stationed herself at the windows, apparently content to watch for now.
“I don’t know.” Nikolas sighed. “She looks like she came here to make a statement.”
The distant cry of a baby had Lucas practically doubling over in pain.
“Still not used to brotherhood?” Nikolas asked.
“It’s really such a pain. Suddenly there’s crying in the night, diapers to be changed, and all out FAVORITISM. That baby is one pain in the butt and I’m still wishing it was never born.” Lucas grumbled.
“Don’t you think you’re taking this whole anti-brother thing a bit far?” Nikolas asked, finding himself grinding his teeth.
“Hardly. I didn’t ask for this.” He lamented.
“Nobody did.” Nikolas said, crossing his arms as he felt his fists clench.
“I’d just like at least the chance to sleep at night.” Lucas slumped. “My life is horrible, and I can’t imagine how it’ll be like when school-” The blond teen was cut clean by a punch.
The anger had unexpectedly built up inside him at Luke’s words. And as his friend groaned, doubled over in pain, Nikolas didn’t regret a moment of it.
Veronica felt the need to jump in then.
“Nikolas what is wrong with you!?”
“What is wrong with me?! Are you serious right now!?” Nikolas shouted – the room instantly quieting. Now he was starting to regret it.
“Oh no, my nose is bleeding…” Lucas moaned.
Oscar decided his presence was needed and jumped in. “What’s wrong is your boyfriend was downright DISRESPECTFUL and I demand he be tossed out immediately.”
“And I demand Nikolas apologize for punching him. He’s bleeding for crying out loud.” Veronica snapped.
Nikolas glared back. Why should he apologize? Lucas was being an insensitive asshole. It was entirely in his right to shut him up.
Sensing the growing tension, Arahelel decided to step in this time – before the adults felt they had to.
“Ok let’s just agree to disagree and separate.” She said. “Pretty sure mister here needs to get himself cleaned up.”
Veronica gave Nikolas another mean glare, but didn’t argue.
“Uggghhh it hurrrttsss, Niko you jerk.” Lucas continued to moan in the palpable silence.
A loud thump startled everyone. Salandra had gripped a wall and smashed her head into it so hard that her nose had begun bleeding.
“Oh look.” She said in a soft, disturbingly patronizing voice. “It actually doesn’t hurt that much. So how about you stop being such a cry baby okay Lucas?”
An uncomfortable silence settled under Salandra’s disarming bloody smile.
James locked eyes with Nikolas, who gestured at him that it was fine.
Erin also made an effort to lock eyes with Nikolas – to convey her disapproval of the situation. Clearly, this could, and should, also be blamed on Nikolas.
The teen in question grabbed Salandra’s arm, leaving the conversation – and letting everyone else return to theirs.
“Was that really necessary?” Nikolas demanded in exasperation.
“Woah, hi to you too.” Salandra huffed. “How are you holding up Niko?” She asked, more in disgust than concern.
“You can get cleaned up in one of the bathrooms.” He said, rolling his eyes.
“Are you kidding? I love the taste.” She said, licking her lips and making Niko recoil slightly. “That sweet metallic taste. Oh you can’t tell me you’ve never tasted your own blood and not liked it.”
Nikolas stuck to grimacing as a reply.
“Oh, right, my condolences Nikolas. Of all the people in this room, I am quite simply the most appropriate person to know your situation. And I’ve come to offer some much needed advice I’ve no doubt.” She said gripping his hand.
“Don’t touch me.” He said, pulling it away harshly.
“I might’ve been too forward.” Salandra carefully admitted.
“Well let me make amends.” She said, lifting her nose up slightly. “I’ve come to a revelation Nikolas, and I want you to be in on it. A revelation about death. You look like you could use a speech about death.”
Nikolas sighed and looked out at his friends – who he’d rather be at the side of at that moment. But at the same time…he felt an odd distance to them.
As he seemed to constantly feel.
He spotted Oscar from across the room, who pointed at Sal and showed Nikolas the huge stick he’d somehow acquired. A grin spread on Niko’s face as he shook his head. Okay, not constantly.
“Just go clean up.”
“Death doesn’t need to be painful.” She said, but Nikolas left, hoping that was sign enough.
James eyed Salandra Grace carefully from across the room.
This was hardly what James considered civilized. But Nikolas seemed to think it was all still under control. Apart from her unnecessary display, she was well behaved. She rotated from person to person, enacting conversations about various things – including the supernatural tensions. Her tendency to drudge up Xavier’s possible involvement in Edmund’s death wasn’t very well received, which resulted in her moving around a lot.
She smelled like a bomb to James. A manipulator and a faker. He was respecting Nikolas’ desires for now, but he had every intention to highly recommend that he never speak or go near her again after this. That was not the type of friend you wanted to have.
Though Nikolas believed this was all a result of her grief, James knew better.
The girl felt too confident, too assured, and too determined, for this to be a mere result of grief. If anything, grief might’ve simply given her an excuse to hide behind.
She wasn’t the only thing setting him on edge at this funeral – apart from the room full of judgmental people.
His son, Benjamin, was starting to rake on his nerves. James had no intention of approaching Benjamin himself, but he really wished the doctor would stop cowering under his inner conflict and decide on a course of action. If he still hadn’t by the end of the funeral – James might have to go confront him.
At least he seemed to think it wasn’t important enough to pull James away from his guard duty.
Something caught James’ eye in the window. He saw a figure moving outside, it passed so quickly he barely saw it – and worst part, he couldn’t feel any kind of mind outside the house – apart from the curious ones he’d already identified. He knew the location of all the beads that protected against his mind control. Did he hallucinate? This day was getting weirder and weirder. He decided he’d keep looking for a peeper either way. Just to be safe. He didn’t like the idea of his mind playing tricks on him however.
“Can you read minds?” The blue eyed teen asked James.
She was a selfish, disrespectful teenager that’s what. If she was an adult, he’d already sent her home for her attitude. She had luck, age, and Niko on her side.
“Oh right, you’re mute aren’t you?” She mused before continuing on her way.
James seriously considered how easily he could get away with sending her off. No one would be the wiser.
But he didn’t want to micromanage Nikolas. For now, he’d agreed to let Niko handle this – to an extent. James looked at the time, hoping this wake would come to an end already.
Nikolas was hidden in the study, wondering how much time was left to this torture. It felt like it’d been hours, but it probably had only been one. He’d already endured a lot of gazes, a lot of fake sounding concerns, and a lot of snide under the table comments. A lot of those came from his aunt Erin. She barely spoke a word to Niko, but the words she did speak, were cold and distant. Nikolas suspected that she thought of herself an ambassador for Xavier – since he couldn’t be here himself. Which could so easily be blamed on Nikolas.
The young teen looked around the depressingly empty room. His pa had practically lived in this space. When they were younger, Edmund would amuse himself at showing his children his collection of books and letting them type for fun on his computer. When they reached the age of sneaking in to play with his sculptures or to go on the computer without his permission, they started to get banned from here.
Jesse Lancaster joined him inside, with a purposefully overly dramatic sigh. “Family meet-ups are still just as painful. Everyone is so stuck up. You know, I have a friend who says we should be laughing at funerals, not dragging our feet.”
“That’s an interesting idea.”
Jesse appropriated himself the only seating in the room. “I completely agree, because or else these are just such a drag down don’t you think?”
“Obviously.” Nikolas absently replied as he squinted through the window. Had he seen something?
Probably one of those nosy people he’d seen coming in. Don’t they have anything better to do than crash a funeral?
“Nikolas where do you live now? I was asking my mom, cause you don’t live here and not with Nikita. Nobody really seems to know.”
“Well!” Nikolas smirked with a renewed vigor. “I live in an underground bunker with a secret group that does secret missions nobody knows about.”
Jesse gaped at him. “You’re not even lying.”
“Heh, they’re called the Dragons.”
“Are those four also from there? The ones that came with you?” Jesse inquired.
“Yup, Masak, Bianca, Ara and Tristan.” Nikolas explained, pointing them out through the doorway.
“Tristan looks my age…”
“So I could also be a Dragon?” Jesse grinned.
“Eh, they don’t accept brats.” Nikolas shrugged.
“I’m not really a full member yet,” Nikolas admitted. “So I don’t know if I can ask for more people. Or if I should even be advertising it.” He added the last part as a mumble.
“You should, I’d make an awesome addition to secret missions! I can tell when people are lying you know.”
“Yes I know.” Nikolas snorted.
“Alright think about it!”
Nikolas was eating from the buffet with tired slow methodical actions, when James appeared. His grandfather gave him a reassuring side hug. Nikolas got the message it’s almost over.
“I’m really tempted to leave.” Nikolas admitted reluctantly.
Oscar popped up from the under the table then.
“That’s COMPLETELY doable.” He declared. James nodded as well, both almost too excited at the prospect.
Nikolas hesitated, but then shook his head. “We’re nearing the end here, and I don’t want to leave Nikita with all of this alone. It’s just exhausting.”
“You don’t have to talk to everyone. Come hang out with the gang!” Oscar said. “Tristan’s been trying to convince them going outside would be awesome for everyone.”
“Maybe, I’m just going to go sit on the couch for a bit. Now that it’s empty.” Nikolas shrugged.
Oscar got up in a smooth motion, “I’m going to tell them I think it’s a great idea and to come convince you.” Oscar declared. It seemed his friend required some much needed fresh air.
Hmm, I’ve reread, and I don’t make much sense do I?
Well the important part uncle
Is that you feel responsible
For what’s about to happen.
“You’re still here Sal?”
“You’re horrendously rude. After everything we’ve gone through. Of course I’m still here. You were there for me.” She replied softly, but sharply.
“Yes you’re very there. Have you thought about going to see a therapist?”
“Maybe you should as well. I barely recognize you.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means beaten up and pathetic doesn’t suit you.”
“Your presence here was really so great.” Nikolas scoffed.
“Oh don’t be insulted! I’ve been there. Tragedy hits hard, but it’s okay, I’ve gotten past it and so can you. I came here for this.”
“No you came here, dressed in flashing red, I mean I wore neon green shoes and I considered that daring, and-and then you smash your face against a wall and I’ve had family members regularly coming up to me to ask me who the fuck you are.” Nikolas attempted to form a coherent complaint.
“Yes they’re all quite rude and fucked up aren’t they.”
“You know, I’ve tried being understanding. But I’m starting to be at my wit’s end here.”
“Don’t worry, it’s all coming to an end soon.”
“Are your hands glowing? Are the tattoos acting up?” Nikolas had asked Terrance whether a tattoo could affect someone like this – and Terrance had told him there hadn’t been a single case like that. Which was grumble-worthy if Niko had to admit.
“Are you showing an interest? Well don’t worry, this is entirely purposeful. I want them to glow. I’ve started something that can no longer be reversed.” She said.
“…Alright then. You do you, I guess.”
“Oh Niko, you’ve suffered as much as I have… I feel you and I are special. We’re cursed in a way.”
“Cursed usually implies death. I’m pretty sure you’re not using that term correctly.”
“I wished you’d given us a chance – but I won’t push.” She said in an apologetic voice. “I swear I won’t. I did act too forward, too desperate. I was a mess, but I’ve been reborn. Like a firefly.”
“Isn’t the expression, like a phoenix.”
“Maybe, but a Firefly is so much better don’t you think? I dressed up in red to symbolize it. We shouldn’t grieve death Niko. It drags us down. You feel it don’t you? You’re sinking into the couch, I bet, under the weight of everything.” She mused.
“Not all of it is from grief. Actually grief might be the one thing I’m missing.” He mumbled to himself.
“Ah! Then you’re perfect already Nikolas! You’ve already gone past it. This is wonderful! Oh Nikolas, come with me.” She said with an enthusiasm that caught him off guard.
“To the end of the world.” She grinned. “You and I, we’re too good for this world. And yet we’re subject to this cursed cycle of pain. I lose my mother. You lose your father. You reject me. You lose your second father. But it’s okay, we have the power to break it, before the world beats us down more.”
“Sal is there a point to this conversation?”
“Call me Firefly. That’s what I want to be.” She said.
Nikolas sighed and got up. Going outside was indeed a good idea.
Salandra followed his movement. “It’s okay, you’re just in denial again.”
“Let’s not get into that again…” He groaned, but his voice began to trail off as he noticed her arms rapidly beginning to glow.
“So I’ll show you, I’ll bring you with me, and you’ll see how right I am. Let’s claim the only thing we truly have control over.”
Benjamin had dragged James to the side in the end, with a panicked look that convinced the elder vampire that this really may be important. He may still feel hesitant around his father, but he knew this wasn’t something he could try and handle on his own.
“I tried to hold it in till later, but I have a really bad feeling about this. It’s about uncle Alec, and Zyla!”
James sighed, but nodded for him to continue. Benjamin had spent the entire wake obsessing over this – it was going to do him and James good to get it off his chest.
“You see, Alec came to my house not too long ago, badly wounded. He asked me if I could patch him up and I did, and while I did he told me about how grandpa Simon called him. Zyla apparently disappeared. He was acting crazy, mumbling things about them coming after him. It’s uncle Alec, I didn’t think much of his weird behavior. He ran off almost as soon as I finished with him, saying he was on his way to warn you. Warn you of what? I don’t know, and I still didn’t think much of it-”
Benjamin trailed off as he noticed his father was no longer listening.
Actually in the span of three seconds, James had gone from distracted, to worried, to panicked. Benjamin barely had time to register himself what was happening that James had already sped back to the wake.
“Sal what’s going on?” Nikolas asked worriedly, as the girl’s skin began to crack as well as glow.
“It does feel weird, I didn’t actually expect this.” She said with an odd little smile.
Maxwell and Nikita emerged from the crowd suddenly, grabbing Nikolas and pulling him back. He looked at them in confusion, but their blank stares told him all he needed to. His heart was pulsating as fast as the cracks on her skin.
“Sal whatever’s going on stop,” Nikolas attempted, as his sister and cousin pulled him further away.
“Nikolas, I told you,” He heard her voice as guests – bodies – started piling themselves between him and her.
“It’s been too late for a while now.”
Ashlynn read the phrase aloud, an unexpected wave of dread weighing on her as she did.
“The ones who were cursed, and still alive to tell it, described it as having,”
“Death following their footsteps.”
End of Volume 1 Arc 7