His shoulder burned.
His arm hung limp and useless.
Robin could still feel the dagger’s piercing bite and drag on his face, inside his eye.
He could still feel the blood drip down.
Every bump in the road spiked his pain and caused him to moan.
And he couldn’t stop moaning.
After a while, it became a natural part of his breathing.
A slender, delicate hand stroked his hair in a gentle, soothing pattern, making sure to stay away from his forehead.
It felt good.
A voice sang an unfamiliar song in an unfamiliar language. It may not have been the most perfect voice. It wobbled on a couple of notes. But the voice had a light, sweet timbre that Robin found endearing.
Robin opened his eyes and looked up. He saw the fey in a patch of half-fog, half-clear. “Isellta…sellta…”
The fey stopped singing, but his hands stayed in motion. “Shh. It’s okay. We’re taking you to Raven’s place. He’ll find help for you. He’ll take care of you.”
“‘sellta…” Robin tried to roll over onto his side.
Just as Raven went over the world’s roughest pothole.
His arm jolted from its barely comfortable position, throwing shockwaves of pain up into his throat.
Robin arched his back and screamed.
“It’s okay.” Isellta readjusted Robin’s arm.
The vampire laid his head back down on the fey’s lap, gasping and moaning. His good arm flailed frantically, searching for something to grab on to.
“It’s okay.” Isellta grabbed it and entwined their fingers.
Robin looked up at him.
Isellta managed a slight smile. “I won’t leave you.”
Robin woke to a heavy, oppressive feeling in his chest. He glanced at the rocking chair.
It sat empty and still.
“You said you wouldn’t leave me. Darn fey. Darn, stupid fey!” He turned away from it in a huff.
The oppression sank into his bones. He could feel it inside the core of every one of his ribs.
It ain’t his fault, though.
Someone knocked on his door.
“I ain’t sleepin’.” He sighed. “Might as well come in.”
The door opened and the scent of apples and cinnamon entered the room before she did.
He sat up and rubbed his eyes.
Her scent grew stronger as she approached him.
He lowered his hands. “Mama.”
She sat on the edge of the bed.
She shook her head.
He crept closer to her.
“My mind is full of…questions and shocks and…”
“Mama. This about me?”
She shook her head again. “You’re only a small part of it. This place. How can you stand living with two other vampires?”
He shrugged. “They ain’t gonna bite me. Don’t see what the big deal is. We all have our separate hunting grounds. So, we don’t get in each other’s way. When we’re all here, though…” He smiled. “It’s like family. We fight. We comfort each other. We protect each other’s tailsides.”
His mind returned to that dream/memory. “They saved me.” He could almost feel his ribcage crack. “Isellta saved me. And how did I go thankin’ him? By yellin’ at him and bein’ mean to him and treatin’ him like garbage. And he didn’t deserve it. He never deserved all the stupidness I threw at him. But he stayed with me. And deep down, I wanted him to stay with me, but no! I had to be all stupid and temperamental and chase him away.”
His claws dug into his blanket. “Ain’t any surprise there. I’m always chasin’ people away.”
“What are you going to do about it?”
“It’s easy to sit still and beat yourself up for mistakes you’ve made. Believe me. I know. But, at some point, you have to just get up and do something about it.”
“I tried. He threw me into a freakin’ toaster and let me burn.”
“So? Maybe you caught him on a bad day. I’m sure even fey have bad days. Go back, Robbie. If he means that much to you, go back there and fight for him.”
“He don’t want me to fight for him. He don’t want me. I’m…I’m too…too ugly, too messed up, too…damaged for him. I ain’t good enough for him anymore. And I’m tired.” He flung himself back down onto the bed. “I just wanna sleep.”
Mrs. Hastings got off the edge and walked around to his side of the bed.
He curled up on his side.
My boy. My poor boy.
She kissed his head. “No matter how much has changed, you’re still my boy. I love you, Robbie.”
“Love you too.”
“Think about what I said.”
He sighed. “You get a hold of Antioch?”
“No. But your friend Raven will apparently contact him.”
“Well, he should. Stupid Raven shoulda done that in the first place. Stupid fungus brain.” He opened his eyes a peak. “You gonna hang around to see the big Let’s Dominate Antioch show?”
She shook her head. “I don’t think I’d feel comfortable watching that scenario unfold.”
“Can’t blame ya. Raven can get pretty skeevy when he’s in bad vampire mode. You don’t wanna see that. Trust me.”
“Skeevy? Do I want to ask?”
He shook his head. “You don’t wanna know.”