Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Crossing VII

The title up top means that this part is taken from the seventh part of my novel (pages 600-700, but not the whole 100 as that would be kind of pointless and a a waste of time. And I don't want to share that much.) This is the part I'm stuck at. Any suggestions on how to get unstuck would be fabulous.

Ral looked at the palace and his heartbeat doubled. Bella stood in the doorway, safe from the damaging rays of sunlight, eyes wide and tearful. He winced with each step he took and didn’t care; each painful movement was taking him closer and closer to her and that was all that mattered. When he reached the steps she moved into the sun for a moment, gasping at the pain, smoke curling from her unprotected forearms and she eased herself back into the shadows. She was shaking, arms wrapped around her middle and Ral could see she was wearing one of his shirts, and a pair of breeches.

“Bellandra?” He slipped into the shadows and she backed away from him. It was the exact opposite that he was expecting from her; he had anticipated having to catch her, hold her tightly and reassure her that he was there, living and breathing. This was something he was unprepared for and his brain was struggling to come up with something to do to fix it while slowly and cautiously knitting his link with Jack back together.

“Ralurick.” She worried her lip with her fangs. It was a nervous habit, one he hated to see her do. She was also still away from him. “Are you….alright?”

His knee twitched involuntarily and he worked hard to hide his wince. “Fine. A little sore.” It was an understatement but she didn’t need to know that. He’d never had to ask for a hug before and found the entire idea of doing such a thing a little ridiculous. Still, if it would get her in his arms so he could figure out why she was shaking so badly, he’d bribe her if he had to. “Hug?”

Bella hugged herself tighter and shook her head.

Ral’s eyes widened. Whatever was going on in her head at the moment was very, very bad. He took a deep breath. “Bella, what’s going on?”

She looked at him and literally wobbled. He took a step toward her reflexively and she took one back. His eyes deepened to hazel.

“I…I cannot do this, Ralurick,” she said softly, eyes impossibly wide. “I cannot simply sit here and wait while you come back injured or changed. I cannot simply wait for the day that you do not come back at all.” She almost bit through her lip. “I know that in your service to the Valisk you will put yourself in danger, it is what you do, what you have chosen to do and I cannot fault you in that. But I…I simply cannot…I cannot take the waiting for my heart to break permanently because you have gone and not come back.” A single tear tracked down her marble cheek. “I love you. I always will but I cannot…I cannot wait around for you to be killed unnecessarily.” She backed away, toward the door to the hallway to the living quarters. “I love you, Ralurick Emmett Maerton Maubrey Foster. I always will, but my heart cannot take this torment.”

Ral stood rooted to the spot, amazed his legs were steady enough to keep him upright. The main message that he’d been left with, the one that rattled around the inside of his brain, the single thing that had narrowed his vision to a pinprick was the fact that she, the love of his life, had just left him. Left him standing alone in the entrance hall to the palace in Esmin, telling him she loved him, and always would, but couldn’t bear the heartbreak that he would eventually bring her because of his status as Fithro Veinik. Absolutely floored, Ral stumbled back until his shoulders hit the doorframe and he slid to the ground, eyes fixed on the last place that she’d been. Before she’d left him.

Left him.

Jack was leading Keina by the hand when Ral’s raw anguish ripped through him, nearly dragging him to his knees. As it were his legs buckled and he squeezed Keina’s hand, an ache already forming in his chest. Something fairly significant had just happened and, while talking softly and affirming with soft touches and even softer words that the woman in front of him was his mother, he’d completely missed what had literally rocked Ralurick’s world. Jack was suddenly conflicted with the want to stay with his mother and the need to fix whatever had left his Fithro Veinik a shaking bundle of frayed edges in the doorway.

Kayley’s appearance in the doorway next to Ral solved a bit of his problem. She crouched in front of the vampire, placing a gentle hand under his chin so that he would look at her.

“She’s a brave soul for taking on a vampire who’s emotionally overloaded,” Keina mentioned softly to her son, watching Kayley talk softly to Ral.

“She is,” Jack agreed, thinking it would be more spectacular if she hadn’t had to do it before. If they hadn’t taken turns doing it for each other when things got completely out of hand. Then again, Bella had always been Ralurick’s ultimate calming influence, the surefire way to make him settle when it seemed life was nothing but utter chaos.

“English, Ralurick, please,” Kayley said, her hand still under his chin. He was muttering in Spanish and, in his distress, was forgetting to breathe. It wasn’t necessary for him, considering he was dead, but it was something he still did anyway, a habit as ingrained in him as sleeping at night.

“She left me. She left me. She left me…” Ral trailed off into murmuring so low Kayley couldn’t hear him but she knew it was the same phrase. She took a peek up at Jack who was clearly torn over who to stay with. Kayley took the choice from him.

“I’ll take care of him,” she said, moving her hand to place her palm on Ral’s neck. It was an intimate thing to do with a vampire but Ral settled more than he had when she’d first touched him, fine shivers running through his frame instead of making Jack feel as though he was going to shake himself apart. Their connection widened. Jack could feel almost everything; the most recent emotional toil that had wrecked Ral and then underlying exhaustion that was threatening to simply make the vampire’s body up and quit until it was given sufficient time to heal.

Jack ground his back teeth, hating the idea of abandoning Ral again. “Okay. Make sure he eats something and then take him back our room.” He looked between Kayley and his mother, deciding that that introduction was best saved for later. Kayley gave him a nod and refocused her attention on Ral, talking softly to him in Denlin. His blue eyes, uncharacteristically wet, turned on her and he muttered something almost unintelligible.

Kayley helped Ral to his feet as Jack took Keina in the opposite direction, intending on finding her a place to stay, still warring internally with himself whether or not to spend time with her and reconnect, or to try and bring Ral out of the downward spiral that he was slipping into. He kept the veinik in the back of his mind while he led Keina to one of the guest suites, promising that when Nayet knew she had arrived, she’d be moved to something better. He wanted to stay with her, get her settled, yet he needed to see what was going on with Ralurick. Once again the solution was taken from him when Keina kissed his forehead, and gave him a slight shove back into the hall, telling him they could talk later. He meant to protest. She shushed him with, “Go deal with the situation,” and then simply shut the door in his face. Jack stood there for a moment, staring stupidly at the brass knocker in front of his nose, and then backtracked through the mostly-built link to find Ral.

Ral was alone when Jack found him, almost to the kitchen, one hand braced on the wall for support, still shaking. Kayley was nowhere to be found.

“Where’s Kayley?”

“Said she had something to take care of,” Ral shrugged, pushing open the door to the kitchen.

Jack followed at a distance, giving Ral his clearly-needed space. “Hungry?” He slipped into Denlin because Ral was using it.

“Yes and no. Not really, but I know I should eat. Something like that.” He heaved himself up onto a stool and propped his elbows on the table.

“I’ll find you something.” Jack squeezed Ral’s shoulder and went to find the leftovers from earlier. He also grabbed a couple bottles of Vlad’s wine; if anything else it would help tip Ral’s body from running on fumes into sleep. If it didn’t, then Jack was going to have a very introspective and open vampire on his hands.

Ral’s eyelids were at half-mast when he returned and he went immediately for the wine, bypassing the food. He uncorked it with clumsy fingers, pouring some in a glass which he then slid to Jack. He took a long swig from the bottle and thumped it on the counter, folding his arms and pillowing his head on them. It didn’t take the Valisk much to figure out that his Fithro Veinik’s mind was a complete and utter chaotic mess.

“You wanna talk about it?” Jack sipped the wine and pushed the bowl – potatoes, chicken, and gravy – toward the vampire. “Eat somethin’.”

He turned his head, looking at Jack. “She left me.” He rubbed his head against his arms, trying to burrow into something familiar. “Said she’d always love me, but couldn’t stand the heartache it was e-every time I left. So she left me.” He snorted, a harsh, painful sound. “Was basically the exact same thing my mother said when she left me at… at Manny’s…” He tried to yawn and hold back tears at the same time.

Jack felt the loss nearly to his bones at how ragged Ral was; tired to where he couldn’t even hold his head up but devastated to the point that he wouldn’t be able to sleep even if his body had tried. He took another sip of his wine; Ral drained the bottle halfway. All he had to do was keep quiet, Ral would continue to crack, as painful as it would be to watch.

“Said she loved me,” the vampire repeated with a shake of his head. His lower lip wobbled. “She loved me…Oh, God, Jack, what am I gonna do?” The tears came in a rush then, tracking their way down Ral’s cheeks as he buried his face in his arms, shoulders heaving.

Jack scooted his stool closer and put a hand on the back of Ral’s neck, thumb rubbing in a combination massage and simple comfort stroke. With his mind he buffered Ral’s, sliding the vampire into one space and surrounding him, hoping to anchor him. Ral’s mind, still in tatters, went willingly for the most part and shivered, unaffected by the calm that Jack was hoping to project.

“We’re going to get through this, Ralurick Emmett,” Jack said, pitching his voice low. “We’re going to get through this. You trust have to trust me that that’s going to happen. Do you trust me?”

“Course I trust you, Jack,” Ral forced past the block in his throat. “But, God Almighty, it hurts like nothing I’ve ever felt before and I’ve died.” He leaned toward Jack; the Valisk scooted closer and allowed Ral to settle against his shoulder. Jack was forcibly reminded of the time when the Journeyway was attacked and the aftermath in the alley, holding onto Ral as he shook himself into a stupor. “And I’m dying again.”

Jack swallowed and rubbed the vampire’s shoulder. “Trust me to get us through this.”


The Valisk turned his head to look past Ral’s ear at Vlad. “Uh. Vlad. Hi.”

“Would some of the cold treat that I have made be welcome?”

Ral detached himself from Jack and swiveled to look at the hulking gypsy. He didn’t care his eyes were puffy and bloodshot, that he hadn’t slept in ages and hadn’t eaten anything longer than he could remember. Cold treat made sense and he asked hopefully, “Ice cream?”

Vlad broke into an easy smile and went to fetch a bowl of it.

Jack took another sip from his cup; Ral took a decent swig from the bottle. Ice cream and wine, fine ways to solve emotional problems. Jack was then hit with a sudden thought that it was almost like Helic had reached down from the Heavens and smacked him on the forehead.

“Tell me about her,” Jack said. Ral looked at him sharply so he clarified, “Tell me about the stuff – the good stuff that you two did.” He wasn’t after the nitty gritty intimate details; he just wanted Ral to remember the good times and try to temporarily forget for the moment that she had, for all intents and purposes, left him.

Ral’s face remained stony for another ten seconds and then softened. “There…we…” He paused to gather himself and swallow the seemingly unmovable lump in his throat. “We used to just sit. Sit and talk, like the world didn’t matter.” He took a small sip from the wine bottle. “It was back when we were at her castle, when we first met. After Vilasia pulled me apart and then stuck me back together. She held me while I cried my eyes out and tried to get myself back together again. Then I played piano for her for hours.” He smirked, a far-off gleam in his moist eyes. “That’s when I knew I loved her.” He played with the label on the bottle, falling silent.

“Kayley stuffed mud down my shirt when we were nine,” Jack said, finishing the glass and helping himself to the bottle in front of his vampire. “So I dumped some on her head.”

Ral snorted. “Love at first mud-fling.” He held his hand out for the bottle. “We went for a twilight stroll in Tenenmae one night.” He took another swig. “We passed this group of children – orphans, I think. Anyway, there were some hiding in the shadows and Bella just knew they were veinik. She convinced them to come out and – and we talked to them. They were so small, so scrawny, and she told them that it was okay to be different. That we were different. She’s a gem.”

Jack’s first words were, “I didn’t know there were vampires in Tenenmae” followed shortly by, “the gypsy kids we grew up with hated us, I think.”

“How could they hate you?” Ral handed the bottle over and quickly got it back. “You were probably, what? Six or seven?”

“They didn’t like us then, because we weren’t gypsy and we ran around holding hands all the time.” Jack raised his eyebrows, accepting the almost-empty bottle.

Ral looked over at Jack and then crossed his arms on the table, pillowing his head on them. With sad hazel eyes, he was the picture of absolute dejection and despite what Jack had been trying to do, there wasn’t any way for him to take Ral’s hurt from him.

Vlad appeared and gently placed a bowl and two spoons on the table in Ral’s line of sight. The vampire turned his head to the other side and looked up at the dark-skinned gypsy he’d been at odds with, smiling weakly. It quickly turned water and he turned his head back toward the bowl and Jack. Vlad reached and drew his hand back a few times before settling it lightly on Ral’s head and tousling the young man’s hair.

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"The difference between life and the movies is that a script has to make sense, and life doesn't."

-Joseph L. Mankiewicz