Neither should a ship rely on one small anchor, nor should life rest on a single hope.
I heard my name, as if through thick fog.
“Vik? Viktoria? Hey. Rise and shine, my valentine.”
I opened my eyes and found some silvery ones staring back at me, I turned my head and realized I was in my bed.
Well, Caleb’s bed to be accurate. The silvery eyes belonged to him, and he was inappropriately close, hovering over me.
Yup, that was what I meant.
He just couldn’t help being in my face sometimes. Literally.
Waking up to him almost on top of me was new though. As sweet and kind as he had been to me, I was still not a fan of him so much up in my business.
“Caleb …” I started with what was going to be another tongue-lashing about personal space, then remembered something much more important.
“Did I scream in my sleep? I had a seriously messed up nightmare.”
“No you did not scream, Viktoria, and it wasn’t a nightmare. Not even a dream. I didn’t know how else to approach this turn of events with you. Are you feeling all right now? You were unconscious for a while.”
I quickly slid out from under Caleb and off the bed, he tried to slow me down but I already jumped to my feet, so he settled for sort of blocking the door instead, thinking I wouldn’t realize it, when it was him who wasn’t realizing that at this point I would walk right through him to get to where I was going.
“Not a dream?! So it was real. Where is he? I want to see him! It’s him, right? I didn’t just imagine that, right?”
“Yes, it’s him, and yes he is real. He’s asleep now, very weakened and exhausted, suffered some sort of trauma, maybe a light head injury. I removed a bunch of ticks from him, hoping he won’t end up with meningitis. If not, and with some proper nutrition he should recover quickly and be his old self again before too long.”
“What, are you like a doctor now?”
“Once upon a time I was a medic, yes. I still keep up with the field for my personal amusement mostly. Never thought my – ahem – ‘hobby’ would come in so handy. I need your help, which is why I woke you. He needs sustenance, is half starved, but I do not consume the type of food he needs, ergo I cannot cook. I have very little knowledge of the food mortals eat. I was hoping to recruit you to prepare something easily digestible.”
“Yes, sure! Of course I will! But I want to see him! I need to see him. I HAVE to see him.”
“I understand, but not now, he is asleep. I had to clean some infected wounds on him and gave him morphine for the pain. It will take a bit to wear off. Once you prepared the meal, I will see he is awake.”
“How? He …. I am not just still dreaming, right? Confirm it again, so I know I have not gone totally crazy now, it really is him, right?”
“Yes, it really is him. I don’t know how either. He just showed up at my doorstep out of the blue a few hours ago now, very weak – barely able to stand – and mostly incoherent, babbling something about seeing you at the cemetery. I sat him down in the kitchen while I got him water and before I knew it, he was downstairs cowering in a corner refusing to leave, likely confused due to dehydration. Fed him the water, I was getting him a refill on it when you came down, so I figured I’ll share the exciting news with you. That didn’t go so well. After you collapsed on me, he keeled over as well, so I had my hands full with you both.”
“He collapsed?! You sure he’s okay?! I need to help him!”
“No. You need to feed him. Go and cook something strong, easily digestible for him, then I will take you straight to him. But remember, I need you to be careful with him, gentle. He is pretty dinged up. Also a word of caution: be mindful about whom you tell that he’s back, before his condition has significantly improved. I don’t know exactly what happened to him, but whatever he’s been through, it wasn’t good, he is very skittish and jumpy. It may well just be the shock. He needs time to heal without pressure. If word gets out about him being alive, you know the press will come. And frankly, nobody here in Forgotten Hollow wants that, myself and Lilith included.”
“No problem. He is alive, that’s all I care about. Do you think he recognized me? He acted so weirdly.”
“Like I said, he is pretty weak and confused, but yes, he recognized you. Very much so. You’ll see.”
Nervous and with shaky hands I went to work in Caleb’s kitchen, stirring together what I had from my own food that would make a strong broth and be easy to eat.
When it was done I just couldn’t wait for Caleb to show up again, so I stumbled down the stairs to the basement again to feed Blaine. There was no bed, just the two coffins. Hmm. Did Caleb put Blaine in one of those?
Oh well, it was Blaine, so fuck it, I say. I placed the soup bowl on the ground and got to work.
I never had to open a coffin before and evidently, it is not as easy as you would think. Finally, the damn lid gave way and I found Lilith, who opened her eyes. Oops.
“You mind?!” she growled annoyed.
“Sorry, I thought you were …. never mind.” I tried to apologize.
“The other coffin is my brother’s, obviously, duh!”
She exhaled audibly, then slammed her lid shut again from the inside, it echoed eerily off the wood-paneled walls of the small subterranean room. Oh great, she seemed to assume I was looking for Caleb to go lay in his coffin with him or something to that accord.
There went my reputation.
I started on the other coffin’s lid when I heard someone clear their throat behind me. I looked up without stopping trying to open the lid and saw Caleb, grinning.
“Now I really am confused, but also mildly excited. Is this the type of offer I have been hoping for? If it is, the answer is a resounding yes, although I think Blaine would mind.” Caleb sounded bemused.
“Argh, not in the mood for jokes now. I am looking for Blaine. Obviously.” I said annoyed.
“And you think you would find him in my coffin?” Caleb barely suppressed laughter.
“Well, if not there, where is he then? Don’t tell me you let him leave!”
“Of course not. He’s upstairs, in the room next to yours. He is awake now, I’ll take you to see him – unless of course, you insist on seeing the inside of my coffin first. I’d even let you lay in it. Might even join you, if you like.” he chuckled, obviously teasing.
“No, thank you. I already pissed off your sister while I was looking for Blaine.”
“Oh, fantastic. It will be a fun night then, disturbed slumber makes her an even greater bitch than usual.”
“I can hear you, you know?!” echoed Lilith’s voice from inside the other coffin.
“Aww, pity.” Caleb quipped back, snickering and little impressed, if at all.
Still smiling, Caleb put his hand gently on my back and turned me, then carefully directed me back to the stairs I had come down here by.
When we entered the room upstairs, Blaine was standing in the middle of it, looking confused, unusually frail and lost but unmistakably very much alive. My heart nearly stopped, then beat a million beats per minute.
I walked up to him, Caleb had taken the soup from me and left. I didn’t even register it, I was searching for clues of recognition in those mesmerizing green eyes. Tired eyes, not as clear and bright as I remembered them, but he probably had been through a lot. Oh yeah, this was Blaine.
“You came back to me.” Yup, that was the most intelligent thing that came to mind.
His eyes focused on me, an odd sound escaped him, obviously trying to speak, then he cleared his throat and croaked a single word.
“Always.” it was Blaine’s voice, even though it sounded strange.
“Oh my God you remember!” I almost cried hearing him remember the last conversation we had before he left, back on our porch in Sulani. (Read here: Chapter 6) Always)
“How could I forget?” his voice was unusually rough and husky, but when he put two fingers under my chin to look deep into my eyes, his other hand on my waist I almost lost my mind.
I launched myself into his arms, he stumbled back slightly, groaned a little in pain, but I couldn’t let go, holding him in a sort of death grip style hug.
I sobbed as I felt his arms envelop me, then his lips near my ear, and through the mounds of hair, his beard, long hair and mine I heard him say
I cannot tell you how long we stood there, but by the time I recalled he had to be starving, the soup had to be cold, probably already had ducks circling on it, that’s how long I think the hug lasted and I was still not really ready to let go. But for his sake, I did.
We went downstairs, slowly, my arm tightly wrapped around his waist to steady him as he clung onto the banister taking slow feeble steps, reminiscent of an old man rather than the young energetic one I had known him to be. Once we arrived in Caleb’s kitchen I stuck Blaine on one of the bar stools while I microwaved the soup, fed him everything I could find, which he greedily devoured as I watched, wondering if he had a hollow leg.
Blaine had always had a healthy appetite for as long as I had known him, and he had always been on the very slender side, but he was downright skinny now. Poor guy!
Once he was done, he got up to clean the dishes, just like he had the last night we had spent together, not like he went through hell for months. I took the dishes from him and stopped him.
“Blaine, I meant to apologize for my behavior at the cemetery. I thought it was you, but then knew it couldn’t be and I freaked. Really sorry. You smell and look so clean now …” I babbled, he had come so close to me and my brain refused to operate properly anymore.
“I know, babe, no need to apologize. Caleb cleaned me up, when he cleaned my injuries. Gave me clothes.” Blaine told me, obviously speaking was still hard for him.
It made sense that Caleb would not have scissors or a razor, vampire hair and beards never grew.
But they did bathe and wear clothing.
“How did you .. how … I … when….. where…?” I stuttered, unable to get one coherent thought together, let alone out. I could not stop staring at Blaine. As different as he looked, it was my Blaine. Very much alive.
“Not now, Vik. Took me so long to come to you. Just want you and to be happy now.” he sealed my lips with a kiss that made my knees weak.
When the kiss ended I felt a tingly sensation all over my body, butterflies in my stomach, my heart was pounding out of my chest.
“Why didn’t you go to the first police precinct you could find? They would have called me and I would have come to you right away!” I told him.
“Before I got out, all cartel, corrupt military and cops, none spoke much English. Didn’t know whom to trust anymore, just knew I had to get to you. Fast. Here.” Blaine labored out.
“You’re probably wondering about the Caleb situation, right?”
“Not really. He’s a good guy. Knew he would look after you for me.”
“I meant that I live here now.”
“Yeah, I spent all our savings trying to find you. Sorry. We have not a dime left, Blaine. Caleb offered his home to me, purely platonic, I swear. I never believed you were gone. I could still feel you. All this time.”
Blaine cracked a smile. Almost the familiar one, and followed it with something typical Blaine-esque to say.
“You can feel more of me, if you want, upstairs. May have to go real easy though … and I may need your help with the stairs.”
“I’ll even help you undress, you fiend!”
“Now we’re talking.” he chuckled, it almost sounded just like it always had.
“Blaine, I am the happiest girl in the world right now.”
“I see you are still wearing my ring.”
We made it back to my room, I helped Blaine take his clothes off, when I turned back from putting his clothes and shoes on a chair across the room, Blaine had fallen asleep, snoring quietly with a small, content smile on his lips, his feet still firmly planted on the floor. Poor guy.
I giggled, as I carefully swung his legs onto the bed, before I snuggled up next to him. Even in his sleep, he wrapped his arm around me, without ever waking up. He had gotten so skinny, the squiggly hair from the unkempt beard and hair and the deep rings under his eyes didn’t bother me at all, I had seen him worse before. My mother and I had helped him through a rehab at our home before, he had relapsed after being released from a rehab center when he and I were teens. In time I’d fatten him up, nurse him back to health, help him shave and cut his hair. The important part was, he was back in my arms.
“One thing I guarantee you, Mr. Cameron, you won’t be going anywhere without me ever again. Not even the bathroom from here on out! Three times now that I lost you. No more. Never again. I’ll be your new shadow now.” I told the fast-asleep Blaine.
His ‘answer’ was a loud snore as he snuggled deeper into my embrace.
And they said happy endings are not real.