Father Landover said the after communion prayers and turned to face the happy couple. “May the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, be with you, and may He fulfill His blessing in you: that you may see your children’s children even to the third and fourth generation, and may afterwards have life everlasting, by the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth God, would without end. Amen.”
He picked up a golden vase-shaped vessel off the altar and carried it over to them.
Ambrose’s pupils widened as he recognized it.
Ambrose flinched as he remembered his last experience with holy water.
Olessa dripped a couple of drops on the back of his neck. It burned. His skin blistered and popped. It ate through his layers of skin, all the way down to his bones.
I can’t. I can’t. Don’t want to go back. I can’t go back. I can’t! I can’t!
“It’s okay.” Barbara whispered. “It’s okay.”
He shook his head and staggered up to his feet. “Holy water burns.” he said out loud. “Holy water hurts.”
Raven stepped forward. “It is all right, sir. He will not hurt you.”
Ambrose trembled and repeatedly rubbed the back of his neck. “I don’t want to go back there. I don’t want to. I don’t want to.”
Barbara stood. “You’re safe. I’m here. No one is going to take you away from me.” She put her hands on his face and forced him to turn towards her. “Do you understand me? If anyone tries to take you away from me, I’ll punch them. Hard.”
He managed a choked up laugh. “My Barbara.” He put his hands on top of hers. “Softness and iron.”
Father Landover cleared his throat. “This won’t hurt you, Ambrose.” he said softly. “This holy water is special. It’s for vampires. It won’t burn you, I promise.”
Barbara released him and knelt at the altar rail. She gave Ambrose an expectant look.
Robin came over and put his hand on Ambrose’s shoulder. “I ain’t gonna blame you for freakin’ out. I’d be the same if I were standin’ in your spot.” He said plenty more after that, but Ambrose didn’t hear him.
It will hurt.
It will burn.
Don’t let him hurt you.
Don’t let him imprison you. Olessa will come and take you away and you’ll never see Barbara ever again. You’ll be put on display again and long for the death that will never come. Hot. Tired. Cold. Hungry. Always hungry.
Barbara held her hand out to Ambrose.
But how could I leave her behind?
How could I leave her like this?
It would break her heart.
I would lose her for good. She would never forgive me. John would lose all respect for me. I would never be able to make it right in their eyes.
Ambrose took her hand and knelt at her side.
I’m here, kitten.
His heart pounded.
His muscles and nerves jangled with the need to run.
But he stayed on his knees.
Don’t let me go, Barbara.
Ambrose looked up at Father Landover and nodded. “I’m okay. Go on.”
Raven relaxed and Robin returned to his spot by the altar rail.
Father Landover dipped the aspergillum into the holy water, tapped the excess water into the vessel, and sprinkled them while repeating the blessing in Latin.
And it felt like nothing at all. Nothing but water.
Ambrose huffed out a relieved breath and smiled at Barbara.
She smiled back.
He held her hand all the way to the end of Mass.