The first time Danny gets punched in the face, she's 13.
It was after school as the hallways were emptying out. A group of 8th grade football players had cornered a 6th grader. They looked like giants surrounding him. Danny didn't know what was being said, but she knew she couldn’t stay sidelined when the 6th grader’s books were slapped out of his hands and he was shoved to the floor.
“Hey!” she yelled, striding up to the group. They all looked at her, struck by the peculiarity of her appearance. She was about their height, tall for a 7th grader, taller than all the girls. The group turned to face her, sneers and mocking expressions firmly in place. Danny pushed her glasses further up on her face.
“Back off gigantor!” shouted the would-be leader. Because 8th graders weren't all that clever. Danny didn't stop her approach until she was toe-to-toe with the kid; because even at 13, backing down isn't her thing.
“You back off! No way he did anything to mess with you,” she responds, face scrunched up furiously.
“Last warning freak. Back. Off,” he said, emphasizing the last two words poking his finger into her collarbone.
Danny grabbed the finger and wrenched it back in the opposite of the direction it normally went.
In that moment, the boy forgets that:
1) you’re not supposed to hit girls and;
2) you’re definitely not supposed to hit kids with glasses.
His right fist connects with the Danny’s left eye, hard enough to break said glasses.
The sensation was unlike anything Danny had previously experienced. It was as though an anvil had been struck by a heavy metal hammer between her ears. A high-pitched ringing filled her head, muffling everything around her. Quite against her will, her eyes filled with tears that didn't spill.
She didn't know it then, but the boys, 6th grader included, scattered immediately upon realizing lasting damage had been done to the girl.
The next thing she’s aware of is the face of her older brother, Thomas, peering directly at her. She realizes then too that the punch laid her out.
"Hey kid, you in there?" His kind voice had asked. Thomas was a 9th grader and he was her favorite.
"Tom," she said, awareness finally returning to her. The ringing faded and was replaced by the sense of pressure and pain in her face.
"Your glasses are broken, and you're gonna have a shiner," he said gently. She took his hand and he hoisted her up to her feet. "What'd you do to get yourself hit?"
Danny huffed, trying hard to ignore her pain. She removed the broken glasses and shoved them into the pocket of her oversized hoodie.
"They were bullying a 6th grader," she mumbled.
"Who?" He asked, grey eyes serious. Danny glared up at him until he finally sighed. He slung an arm around her shoulders and steered her out of the hallway, toward the school exit. It was their routine every day of school- Thomas met Danny at her locker and the pair of them walked home together.
"Fine, you won't tell me," he conceded.
"I won't tattle," she said simply.
"And you won't stop picking fights, will you?" He said incredulously.
"They were picking on him," she insists quietly. Thomas laughed lightly.
"Alright. Well if you're gonna run around protecting the small, we should probably show you how," he stated. Danny looked up at her older brother; his flaming red hair was cut short and his smile was reassuring. Freckles dusted his cheeks and the bridge of his nose.
"You mean you'll teach me to fight?" She asked, whispering. This was highly unexpected, and Danny was afraid that if she displayed too much hope, the illusion would vanish. Girls weren't supposed to fight, wasn’t that what people said?
"Not to fight. But more, how to take care of yourself and anyone else you need to in a fight," he said with a nod. He paused their walk and looked at her.
"I know why you did what you did Danny. You can't help yourself when you see people hurting, you have to help; it's one of the best things about you. But Danny, you can't start fights with people. That just makes you the bully. Throwing the first punch isn't nearly as important as throwing the last one. You get it?" He asked seriously. Thomas is wiser than many 9th graders. But Thomas also had younger siblings he’s always looked out for. These were all things he'd been taught by the older boys he hung out with and learned from. Danny nodded her head quickly, although the motion made her head spin a little.
"Good. Now let's get you home and get some ice on that eye," he said warmly.
Danny gets punched in the face more than once over the next four years, but it's not so bad as that first time. Once she got the hang of blocking and moving the occurrences were increasingly less frequent. She was true to her word to Thomas, she didn't start fights; but she got good at finishing them.
It turned out Thomas's advice was more than moral direction; it also helped Danny stay out of trouble. School administrators could hardly fault her when other students were the ones actually starting the trouble.
Danny grew taller and stronger. She played sports; volleyball and softball and cross country. And when he had the time to spare, she learned fighting and grappling from her brother and his older friends. They participated in such past-times as wrestling and boxing and were quite good. Danny learned as much as she could get away with.
Thomas died in the same house fire that killed their parents. He was a senior in high school. Danny was out of town that weekend, the rare sophomore on the varsity softball team at a tournament.
It was worse than any punch to the face, but it left her with the same high-pitched ringing in her ears. It was like television channel that suddenly cut out, dead signal filling silent air.
That's what they were. And nothing but Danny left to show they'd ever been alive. No house, no photos, no home videos. No clothing or holiday decorations. Just a blackened, smoldering pit to match the one in Danny's heart.
She doesn't cry about it, at least not where anyone can see. Her grades didn't slip, she still played sports. But she started fighting a lot more. It mattered less and less who threw the first punch. The cause didn't even have to be all that noble. As long as there was some perceived injustice, Danny let her fists fly.
School administration grew less patient and understanding as time went on. Counselors tried to talk to her, tried to get her to cope. They recommended all sorts of treatment and medications. Danny received the prescriptions wordlessly.
She flushed them down the drain.
The high-pitched ringing was still there, singing its empty, tuneless song in the back of her skull.
When graduation finally rolls around, the administration breathes a sigh of relief. Danny left for Styria, with hugs and promises to keep in touch.
She breaks those promises every day after her departure.
The Summer Society adopted Danny in the second semester of her first year. A senior had seen her throwing a male student taller than her (a rare find) across the mat at a women's self-defense session.
The senior had approached Danny and introduced herself, joking that it didn't look like Danny needed much more teaching on the self-defense front. Danny had smiled, but made it clear she liked training.
That, apparently, was exactly what the senior had wanted to hear and in just a month, Danny was a Summer Society sister. They taught her how to use weapons, because sometimes fists just weren't enough. She didn’t question the need; Silas had already proven itself dangerous enough.
The high-pitched ringing fades from the foreground as the semesters pass. It’s always there. But it doesn’t fill every empty space in her skull anymore.
Thomas would’ve liked the Summer Sisters. They keep Danny in check. They teach her how to win. They teach her how to win honorably. She begins to see there’s right and wrong and all of life in between. Things aren’t fair, but that is the very nature of humanity.
It isn’t a seamless transition. The summer before her sophomore year, the Summer Society president knocks a sword out of her hand and nearly breaks her staff on Danny's back she hits it so hard. The ones Danny is supposed to be fighting alongside against the president stop and stare wide eyed.
Danny lets put out a shout of pain she quickly bites off. The president looks down at the young woman she’s begun to see as a protégé with sadness.
“You’re not alone anymore Danny,” she says quietly as Danny writhes a little on the sun-soaked ground, trying in vain to get her legs under her.
“I know you have been for a long time. But you’re not anymore. You left yourself open to attack because you were unwilling to trust your teammates to protect you,” she said firmly. Danny shot her a defiant glare as she again tried, and failed, to stand up.
“I don’t need protection,” Danny hissed. The president knelt down near her, speaking softly so as not to be overheard.
“We weren’t made to go through life alone. I know that you have endured loss and suffering. You’ve journeyed alone for a long time. It will never make sense or be fair, what happened to your family. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t let other people love you and care for you. There will always be loss, but there will always be love too,” she said. And for the first time, and after long introspective seconds, Danny shed quiet, sad tears in front of someone else.
“I’m tired. So tired,” she murmured, no longer trying to rise. The president smoothed a long lock of red hair behind Danny's ear and smiled warmly.
“Then rest,” she said. And Danny, temporarily crippled by her own stubbornness, allowed herself to be helped and cared for. And to the most welcome surprise, she felt a little more human.
Summers ease into fall and into winters and springs. Danny meets Laura and feels stirrings of affection that go well beyond a crush. But Danny is still cautious. She knows she can trust but is careful. She tried to let the feelings develop further on their own. She made no assumptions, except that if something more happened with the freshman, it was meant to be.
The flip side to not pressuring Laura was also letting Laura live her own life. And Danny tried so hard.
But damn it if Laura wasn't reckless. Sure, Danny wanted to protect and help the girls on campus, missing or otherwise. But living with a vampire? Consorting with an ageless bloodsucking fiend? Trusting the vampire enough to let her loose? What was Laura thinking? Not to mention how much effort it had taken to catch said vampire in the first place.
And then there was Carmilla, the vampire, herself. Sarcastic, dark, brooding Carmilla. Initiate into the very evils of the university, daughter to the dean, and Laura was defending her? So sue Danny if it wasn’t in her natural inclination to find reasons to trust as readily as Laura did. Summer Society was all about opposing the things that went bump in the night.
But as suddenly as it had started, it ended. And what “it” was still remained a nebulous mystery. There were lingering stares and blushes and sheer mutual attraction. But “it” never got a chance to be. Because Laura didn't need another dad constantly trying to shelter her. It might as well have been a punch to the face because the high-pitched ringing was back and disorienting. For the first time in years Danny felt unbalanced and numbed to the world around her. How could the deprivation of the undefined “it” unbalance her so completely?
Couldn't Laura understand? It wasn’t about being her dad. It wasn’t that she didn’t think Laura could take care of herself. The tiny woman could, even if her methods were unconventional and her success largely tied into chance and sheer willpower. Danny just couldn't stand the thought of losing anyone else she loved, not if she could actually help it. But maybe Danny was destined to be too late and not enough. Maybe all the training and preparedness in the world meant nothing if your lot in life was to be a half-step off from everyone else around you.
If there was one thing she was proud of, it was keeping her broken heart away from Laura. Because the freshmen did not deserve it. Danny wasn’t ashamed of how broken she felt. She cared deeply for Laura, was on the precipice of acting on those feelings. But Laura was her own master. If deciding Danny wasn’t what she needed that was on her. She would not be allowed the satisfaction of knowing just how deeply she cut Danny.
Danny watched the videos, when she was feeling a little less raw. She been watching them before, but they felt different in the aftermath of her falling out.
She found it difficult to focus on Laura. Despite her best intentions, she missed the tiny freshman. She missed her enthusiasm and energy. Laura had a magnetic energy that pulled the bravery out of other people. It made Danny ache.
So instead, she focused on Carmilla. Sarcastic, dark, brooding Carmilla. It was helpful, having a screen and the passing of time between the vampire and herself. It made it easier to look at the creature without her prejudice coloring the entire encounter. The longer she watched, the more drawn in she felt. And despite her very best intentions, she saw the eighteen-year-old young woman beneath the centuries of undead life.
And no one was more surprised than Danny when she felt the stinging tears prick her eyes while Carmilla described her lost love and subsequent burying. Danny thought of her own family and how much love she’d known, even if it was for a tragically short time. Danny could never truly empathize with all Carmilla went through.
But she could understand loss.
She could understand pain.
She could understand that the things that happen to you have a way of molding you into the person you are.
Danny shut off the videos. She wasn’t sure what she was looking for while she’d been watching them and she didn’t know what to do with what she’d found. Empathy for the vampire? No, she wasn’t that generous. And her heart still hurt. But something she’d been too busy to see before.
When Danny bursts into Laura’s room, she wants desperately to see the freshman sitting at the computer. She wants the text to be some crazy scheme to get her attention. She wants Laura to be safe.
But Laura’s not in the room. It’s Carmilla sitting at that desk, looking frustrated and incredulous to what’s about to happen. For the first time, Danny sees purpose behind the vampire’s eyes. Yes, frustrated incredulity. But purpose and determination.
And Danny finds she has no problems taking orders from the vampire. Carmilla doesn’t dismiss her or send her away. For once, Carmilla is straightforward and give Danny the information that she needs. And moreover, Danny finds herself believing in Carmilla. Getting the Summers and the Zeta’s is a good idea. And if it means they find and save their friends, what room does Danny have to argue?
And Carmilla isn’t running away. She’s arming up. It isn’t just purpose in her eyes, but deadly intention.
And for some reason, Danny finds herself distracted as Carmilla gets ready to leave the room.
“Is that thing still running?” she asks, a hint of disbelief coloring her voice. Because of course Laura left it running.
“Yeah I think we’re supposed to be filming our soppy, heartfelt goodbyes or something,” she responds, with not nearly as much disdain as Danny thinks she intended.
And suddenly, Danny is filled with purpose too. There’s no time for distractions. She’s got work to do. She refuses to say goodbye on sheer principle. Because goodbyes are too permanent and she’s not showing up to die. She smirks slightly.
“Yeah, screw that.”
“Good call,” replies Carmilla softly. And there’s a moment, a pause, where for the first time she feels like she’s exactly on the same page as the person beside her, perfectly instep.
And there’s an unspoken agreement. They’re going to get Laura and kill whatever it is Laura insists is worth putting herself in danger for. And no, they won’t say goodbye, because they’re not planning on dying. But they know there’s a chance they will. A high probability in all actuality. And they look into each other’s eyes for a moment. And it’s not affection, not really, that they share. But kindred spirits acknowledge one another in the pause and for a moment, they’re one.
“See you at the violence,” remarks Carmilla, striding away. And Danny realizes quite suddenly that Carmilla intends to see this through to the end. She follows her out of the room because there’s work to do.
They defeated the Dean, all of them together. And disbelief colors the voices of all the participants in the epic retelling.
But Carmilla died.
And Danny was surprised by the sense of loss and sadness she felt. It wasn't empathy for Laura, although she felt that. And it wasn’t respect for a fallen comrade, although surely Carmilla was that.
Danny was acutely aware what various sorrows sounded like in her heart.
The loss of her family was like a low bass note, constantly droning. There wasn't a conscious moment to date in which Danny wasn't aware that they were gone. Losing Laura (even though, really, had she ever had her?) was like a high note, a melody that sometimes flitted in and out.
Carmilla was something in between, creating a harmony of emptiness, of all the things Danny had missed and missed out on. Danny felt the loss personally, and despite herself, regrets that the bloodsucking creature of the night is gone.
She doesn't spare a moment when Kirsch runs to tell her there's something in the pit. There's no hesitation as she jumps down. Perhaps there should’ve been. In her eagerness to hurry up, she didn’t check the Zeta's knots on her climbing rope. As she repels there’s a slip and for a moment there’s the stomach dropping sensation of free falling and then a sharp jerk. She slams into the rock wall, cracking three knuckles, smacking her knee, and scratching her head. No time for a helmet either, although she laments the absence.
After many swear words, she’s at the bottom of the pit. Her flashlight casts around for a glimpse of skin and then. There. She clears dirt and debris with her bare hands, tearing open the skin. Because, maybe, just maybe, she doesn't have to lose this time and...
There she is, there in the dirt and ruin, a flawless face with perfect skin. She could simply be asleep. Danny can hardly believe it. A part of her asks herself: is this really what you want?
There almost a selfish moment. A moment where Danny acknowledges she could be selfish. She thinks for a brief moment of everything she felt she lost because of this woman. But Carmilla isn’t responsible for any of it, not really. And in the brief moment she compares what life has been like without the vampire to what it was with her, and moves the climbing rope out of her way so she can lift the vampire up.
And of course this is what she wants. Not because it serves Danny's interests, but because it's the right thing to do. She thinks of Thomas in that moment, his kind face, the way he reminds her that it's up to her to stick up for anyone who needs it. The cost doesn't matter, because, really in the end, life just isn't about you.
Danny picks her up. She means to be gentle, she means to cradle her in her arms. But, well, sometimes gentle is difficult to manage when you're climbing out of a hole. Carmilla ends up fireman carried over Danny’s shoulder.
It takes her an hour to reach the surface.
Danny knows, without a shadow of doubt, that returning Carmilla to Laura is the right thing. And it's the knowledge that she's done the right thing that keeps her shoulders squared and chin up as she limps from the dorm building. Because it's been a long week and she's tired and her hands need tending.
She could bring Carmilla home. She could make sure she was alive and that Laura was okay. But she couldn’t do their reunion. Because it’s been a long semester and a girl’s got her limits.
Laura catches up to Danny when she's a few paces away from the dormitory. The only warning Danny has are what sounds like her name in a high-pitched squeak, giving her just enough to turn and brace for the sudden impact of Laura at her midsection. She winces and tries to breathe.
Laura squeezes Danny with all she has, and when she finally looks up at her, she has tears in her eyes.
"Thank you. There’s so much more I have to say, but I can’t even. Just- Thank you so much," she says quietly. And Danny smiles down at her.
"You're welcome," replies the tall red head, and she means it. Because it's worth the look in Laura's eyes. Laura seems at a loss for words as she stares up at Danny's face. It's up to Danny to pry her off, eventually.
"Go," said Danny. "Celebrate with her."
Laura had looked ready to say something, but, doing the right thing only provides so much strength. With a last, reassuring smile, Danny turns and limps back to the Summer Society House.
Danny is enjoying a quiet patrol in the forests of Silas when Carmilla comes to find her. It’s after midnight and the moon is almost new. She is sure that Carmilla means for her presence to be known and that is the only reason she is aware of the vampire lurking in the shadows.
“Carmilla,” she says, not breaking her quiet stride through the forest. Carmilla’s presence was no reason to change her routine.
“Do you think it’s wise, journeying the forest alone at night? You never what might be out there ready to harm you, particularly in these woods,” Carmilla remarked, falling in stride next to Danny.
“Like you?” Danny asked calmly. Carmilla chuckled a low, deep throaty chuckle.
“If I wanted to harm you, Red, you’d never see it coming,” she remarked. Danny knew better than to question the sincerity of the sentiment.
“I don’t doubt that. Fortunate you don’t want me dead then, huh?” she responded quietly.
“Fortunate indeed,” Carmilla said. They continued in silence for some time, enjoying the dark and the creaking of the forest.
“How old are these woods?” Danny suddenly asked, unable to curb the question. Carmilla looked up at her, scrutinizing.
“As old as the earth I imagine. It was already vast in my human youth. Although it wasn’t as dark then. Light things lived in the forest. More fairytale than horror story,” Carmilla remarked when she was sure Danny meant no harm by the question. Danny stepped over a log and wordlessly offered a hand to Carmilla to assist. Carmilla fought a small smile as she stared at the proffered hand. She could easily manage the log. And if she didn’t feel like it, she could teleport to the other side.
Danny knew this, and yet offered her hand, standing in wait. She gave away no hint of impatience. In fact, her expression was perfectly neutral. Carmilla grabbed her hand and allowed herself to use Danny to balance across the log.
“And they say chivalry is dead,” remarked Carmilla, looking up at Danny as she released her hand. Danny shrugged once and continued on her way. Danny, despite her natural disposition, could be patient. And she would outwait Carmilla until the end of the world if that’s what it took to figure out why the woman was there.
“You haven’t been around,” Carmilla finally said. Danny shrugged, not caring if Carmilla didn’t see her in the darkness.
“She misses you,” Carmilla offered.
“She has you,” Danny said. It wasn’t a snap, just a statement of fact.
“It’s not the same Red,” Carmilla said. Bitterness colored Danny’s smile.
“No it certainly isn’t,” she said. Carmilla grabbed her elbow to keep her from continuing into the forest.
“Are you going to tell me that there isn’t a part of you that misses her? I would be willing to bet that if she called now, you’d fly to her side to help her,” Carmilla remarked. Danny broke eye contact, because of course Carmilla was right. They started walking again.
“Things didn’t exactly get cleared up after everything that happened with your mother. We were a little busy with rising to the occasion of death and destruction,” remarked Danny.
“No, we were busy doing whatever we thought was the right thing in that moment. No one rises to the occasion, we function exactly where we’re capable of. And maybe things weren’t cleared up for you, but they were for me Red,” Carmilla said harshly, quietly.
“What in the world are you talking about?” Danny said tiredly. Carmilla scoffed and rolled her eyes.
“I’m not so callous that I can’t acknowledge when I’m indebted to someone, Xena,” Carmilla remarked.
“You don’t owe me anything,” Danny said quickly. Carmilla growled frustrated. She pulled Danny to a halt again.
“Listen, you oversized child,” she started. But then she paused, reigning in her dark temper. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly before speaking.
“I don’t mean indebted in the equal trade sense and I think you know that. I know what happened Red. I know that despite everything that any of us did to you, you climbed down a dark hole and brought me back. And you didn’t have to,” Carmilla said more calmly. Danny shrugged, scuffing her feet on the forest floor.
“It was the right thing to do,” she muttered, “Laura was so lost, so broken without you. I’d never be able to live with myself if I passed on a chance.”
“And that, Lionheart, is what I’m thankful for,” Carmilla said. Danny blushed slightly at the nickname.
“I know how much that level of selflessness can cost Red. It’s…more than I deserve. I’m not here to tell you how to live your life. I just wanted to say thank you. And to invite you around. If you felt like it,” said the vampire. Danny met her eyes and nodded slightly.
“You’re welcome. And, I’ll think about it,” Danny promised. Carmilla believed her, and disappeared into the night.
Danny was true to her word and did come around more often. It wasn’t much at first. She was unsure and felt awkward. But Laura was relieved to have her back. They began an easy friendship again. Carmilla was no longer the dark unknown and even she and Danny grew companionable.
And Danny would swear that she’d catch the glimpse of a panther on her patrols occasionally.
Danny is in the woods at the full moon months after Carmilla was revived when she receives her first punch in the face from a werewolf. In centuries to come, Danny would say "no, it wasn't really so much that I got punched as much as I was thrown hard enough into a tree to break it. And the throw stared with a fist to the face."
The Summers were on patrol again. And Danny is stupid sometimes. She'd heard a sound in the dark of the woods and investigated it herself. Her confidence had built up in the months since fighting the Dean and she was doing better. With everyone, most importantly herself. And apparently rekindling her friendship with Laura and beginning a friendship (Carmilla would shudder at the sentiment) with the vampire somehow translated into doing stupid things in the woods by yourself.
The werewolf – because without a doubt, this monster on its hind legs with fur everywhere, pointed ears, muzzle, and claws could not not be a werewolf – was drunk on the moon and in full rage. Terror seized her temporarily, but then fight or flight kicked in. And Danny Lawrence doesn’t do flight because baking down still isn’t her thing.
Danny fought as best as she could because really, she couldn't help herself. She was a born fighter. Logic screamed that she was woefully out of her element, but still, she pressed on.
She wasn't near being a match for the thing. The punch to the face was just the start. The blow had nearly knocked her unconscious and pain lanced across her back from where the tree met it. She stood and attempted a defense with the short sword, but it was pointless. Deep gashes bloomed on her body from collarbone to waist. She couldn't stand because the ligaments in her right knee were messily severed by sharp animal claws. Her hands were slick with blood and sweat and she couldn’t hold onto her sword any longer.
She did manage a good cut over one of the beastie's eyes; it wouldn't be able to use that one again.
Danny was sure this creature would be the death of her and was proven right when sharp jaws bit down into the forearm she'd raised to shield her face. Teeth bit down and impossibly strong claws had wrapped themselves around her neck. Her strangled scream was foreign to her ears. Nothing in her life had hurt worse.
In her suffocation, Danny spared the briefest thought over the fact that this monster would kill more members of Silas. And she was filled with regret over the fact she could do nothing to prevent it.
And suddenly she was breathing again, ragged burning breaths. Her body had crashed to the ground unceremoniously. Now the werewolf was screaming, howling, and then, yelping. And then it let out a scream that was abruptly silenced.
And then it was Carmilla. That flawless, perfect face, brows creased in worry and concern. Danny raised trembling fingers to touch Carmilla's face, but they were raw and bloody. It wouldn't be very nice to leave streaks of blood on Carmilla's perfect face.
“Danny, you stupid, crazy…what were you thinking?” started Carmilla but her voice broke. Her eyes raked over Danny’s mangled form and filled with tears.
“Hey Carm,” Danny rasped out. Carmilla shook her head and moved hair out of Danny’s face. It must’ve come free of its braid in the struggle.
"Let's get you home Xena," muttered Carmilla. But her voice sounded far off. Then, ah, yes, there it was, that familiar high-pitched ringing. Danny thinks that Carmilla might be telling her to stay awake but she can't tell. In that moment, she's disoriented and far away.
In what seems like no time at all, Danny is still disoriented and very near and aware and all she can feel is pain. Every cell in her body is on fire. She screams until her throat bleeds.
"Can't you do anything for the pain?" Yells Laura, helplessly wringing her hands and looking desperately at LaFontaine. They shake their head in frustration.
"I can't, her body keeps burning away any drugs I push," they exclaim, frustrated and desperate.
Danny doesn't know what's happening she just knows that with all her heart she wants it to stop. She bucks and writhes on what must be a hospital bed, unable to quell the heat that is her body burning her alive.
They'd cleaned her up in the few moments she'd been still. Her wounds are stitched closed and cleanly bandaged. Blood was wiped from her body, her leg set. Everything had gone about how you'd expect for what should’ve been a vicious animal attack. Except it wasn't an animal; it was a werewolf. And that bite wound burned hardest of all.
Cool hands, cooler than was natural, gripped the sides of her face. Her screaming turned to whimpers as she tried desperately to sink into the coolness. Cold fingers smoothed the creases in her forehead and her eyes snapped open.
Amber eyes met blood red.
"Laura, you and LaF need to go now," said Carmilla. Her voice was firm and tense. Her hold on Danny's face was secure.
"Carmilla," started Larua.
"Laura, she's going to Turn and you will not be safe when she does. Leave and bolt that door. I will get you when it's safe," insists Carmilla.
Danny can't possibly know, but Carmilla does- Danny's internal sense of good is warring with the monster underneath her skin. The monster wants out, Danny wants to keep people safe. And it's burning her alive.
"Carmilla, don't-" Laura tries again. Carmilla almost snarls at her.
"I won't let her hurt me. And I won't hurt her, but I can't take care of everyone, just go," the vampire all but shouts. It's LaFontaine that drags Laura out of the room.
Something in Danny must have known, must have sensed that the temptation was gone from the room. There were no more innocents there; only Carmilla. That bloodsucking creature of the night.
“Carm. It hurts,” Danny gasps out tightly, fear and uncertainty clouding her eyes. Carmilla is heartbroken for her in that moment. Because never before has Danny Lawrence looked like a child in need of comfort, but she does now. Carmilla keeps her face smooth.
"Stop fighting it Danny. You'll only make it worse if you do," says the vampire seriously. She releases Danny's face. Something in Danny hears Carmilla and listens.
But what she feels next is nothing, nothing, to what she experiences now. Before, the external was on fire. Now, it was the inside, and her insides were in agony.
Bones snapped and popped and rearranged themselves. Her shoulders broadened and her back hunched. Muscles expanded. The ruined knee stitched itself back together. Red-brown fur erupted from her skin. Tears leaked uncontrolled from her eyes as her face reshaped itself and grew a muzzle. Claws fought their way out hands and feet.
If Danny's destroyed throat could make a recognizable sound, it would be a grotesque fusion of a life and death cry. Because something of Danny Lawrence was leaving the earth for good. And something else was taking its place.
But for now, guttural howls spilled forth.
Carmilla watched, her expression still neutral. Danny twitched and writhed and fell off the bed and onto the floor. She curled up into herself while the agony consumed her.
After what seemed like an eternity, Danny's howls ceased and she lay panting and whining on the ground. Carmilla walked around until she was standing in front and over her.
Danny's bleary, now amber, eyes opened and locked onto Carmilla. The vampire squatted down, sitting on her ankles, staring at the werewolf unblinkingly, her expression unreadable.
An involuntary growl began to emit from Danny's throat. She struggled to all fours and lunged at Carmilla, claws going for her throat. Carmilla seemed to be waiting for this because, quicker than the eye could follow, she knocked the claws away and flitted out of Danny’s range. Danny turned, snarling her fury, and lunged again. She swiped with claws, chasing after Carmilla, and catching the vampire on a backswipe. The force of the blow threw Carmilla back into a wall. She landed on the ground as a great panther, hissing and spitting, and tangled with werewolf.
There were howls and growls and yowling as they swiped at one another and wrestled with abandon. The vampire made full use of her speed to avoid the attacks. A slightly guilty part of her was thankful human Danny had been so injured. Her werewolf DNA was still working on healing. She wasn’t sure she wouldn’t be overwhelmed by a freshly Turned wolf.
Finally she had enough, deciding she’d been more than generous in letting Danny have a go at her. Danny swiped at her face. Carmilla jumped forward, transforming in the air as she did. Danny wasn’t anticipating the change and misjudged the distance. Carmilla slammed into the wolf wrapped her own hands around Danny's throat. Carmilla tensed and slammed the creature onto its back, her death grip never wavering.
"You’re not the big bad wolf," Carmilla snarled at the werewolf. "You're no monster either. In terms of eternity, you're a puppy, and you will answer to me."
Something in Carmilla’s tone must’ve drawn Danny’s focus because she suddenly stopped fighting.
Amber eyes locked onto red again, and eventually, looked down first. Then (though, centuries later, Danny would deny it) the werewolf let out a sad, pained whine. And Carmilla pulled her hands away. And the werewolf turned its head to the side and let out a pitiful, heartbroken wail. And Carmilla saw Danny through the creature, felt her pain. And so she pulled the great werewolf’s head and shoulders into her lap as she sat on the ground. It-Danny-pressed her head into Carmilla’s stomach. There it whined and cried. Just like a puppy.
And Carmilla held it, murmuring to it soothingly, running her hands over the wolf’s fur, until the hold of the moon waned and, in a much less painful affair, it shifted back into the now sleeping form of Danny Lawrence.
Carmilla didn't release her even then, because she knew a little something about Turning. She understood just how different everything really was. And she knew that human Danny was just as afraid as werewolf Danny. And if she was being honest with herself, she knows that she would’ve appreciated being held when she’d Turned.
Laura didn’t wait for permission to come back in. As soon as the sun peaked over the horizon she let herself back into the room. (Who knew they'd ever need Silas’s werewolf proof rooms?)
She found Carmilla still whispering soothingly. Danny was asleep in her lap, her face tucked into Carmilla’s stomach, hands fisted into the back of Carmilla’s shirt. Carmilla was rubbing small circles into her back.
Laura sits next to Carmilla so that their sides are flush together. She runs a shaking, tentative hand over Danny’s hair. Danny murmurs in her sleep and tucks more tightly into Carmilla. There are dried tear streaks on Laura’s face.
“Everything sounded…awful,” she says quietly. Carmilla sighs.
“Werewolf transformations are excruciating. Especially the first time. The body isn't used to that sort of trauma,” Carmilla explained just as softly.
“Will she change every month?” Carmilla nods.
“And is she going to live, I mean, is she-”
“Unless she's exposed to a lethal amount of silver, she’ll live…indefinitely,” interrupted Carmilla. Laura swallowed and nodded.
“And will she be like the one that got her? So…violent? I…I didn’t think a person could bleed as much as she did and still survive.”
“That depends. The one last night was vicious, out of control. I think the associated human gave up trying to control it. If Danny gives up, then yes. She’ll be just as violent, just as hungry, just as mindless,” replied Carmilla. Laura shook her head emphatically.
“Danny doesn't give up, she would never. Especially not if she knew she might hurt someone if she did,” She said passionately. Danny stirred again and Laura lowered her voice.
“We won't let her quit Carm. Neither of us, not ever,” She said. Camilla looks side long at her, contemplating.
“You really care about her, don't you? You never stopped,” says the vampire. Laura's light blush confirms her suspicions.
“No I didn't, I just…I handled the whole thing stupidly. Selfishly,” Laura muttered. Carmilla nudges her gently.
“You're not selfish Laura. You had to figure out yourself,” She said neutrally.
“I hurt her though. A lot. And now that I’ve had time to think, I realize I may not have known her well enough to judge her motives. I was lashing out against the delivery, but I made some assumptions that weren’t fair. I don't regret you or anything, that's not what I mean,” said Laura quickly guilt evident on her features.
Carmilla nudged Laura with an elbow to quiet her, but was quiet for a time, still rubbing circles in Danny’s back.
“You don't have to choose you know,” She says evenly. She catches Laura’s sharp look. Camilla shrugged.
“I’m just saying, maybe it doesn't have to be an either or thing,” supplied Carmilla, voice still even.
“I’m not saying I want that, because, whoa, but more importantly, how in the world would you be okay with that?” asked Laura with unabashed incredulity. Carmilla shrugs again.
“Just something to think about Cupcake. I want you to be happy more than anything. Besides, even I can't deny she's a sight when she gets all righteous and rides into battle,” says Carmilla. And Laura chuckles softly kisses the side of Carmilla’s head.
“Things are going to be different now, especially with me being here for her first transformation. I don’t know what it’ll look like,” admitted Carmilla.
“We’ll handle it Carm. We owe her at least that much and even if we didn’t we would do it anyway,” said Laura firmly. Carmilla smiled.
“We will indeed.”
The high-pitched whine in Danny’s head is significantly duller when Danny wakes. She's immediately confused because nothing about her environment feels right.
She hears students walking and laughing on the quad outside. She's hyper aware of the softness of the sheets surrounding her, feeling as though every of fiber clings to skin. She smells everything. The aroma of lavender, parchment paper, blood, iron – no, blood.
Her brain fixates on the blood and suddenly she can't focus on anything else.
Her eyes snap open and she surges up, body protesting all the way, but god does she need that blood. A strong thin arm steadies her around the shoulders.
“Easy there Red. Here, drink this, but sip on it. Slowly,” commands the voice attached to the arm, handing her a large plastic cup filled with blood.
It takes every bit of willpower she possesses to not chug the blood. But she can't find it in her to defy such a direct command, not from this voice.
Nausea hits her after only a few sips. The body around hers seemed to be expecting this, because it pulled the cup away and replaced it with a waste bin immediately. Danny gripped the bin for dear life and emptied the contents of her stomach into it.
Hands, ice cold against her hot skin, pull her hair back and rub her back.
She stops heaving long enough to rasp out, “Carmilla.”
“Yeah Pup, it’s me,” replies the vampire. Another wave of wrenching hits her stomach and she dry retches into the bin.
Eventually she stops, swallowing on her poor tortured throat. Carmilla pulls the bin away and offers Danny a damp cloth. Danny uses it to mop up her face. Carmilla replaces the cloth with the cup of blood. Danny immediately recoils, but Carmilla puts her arm around her again.
“It’ll settle better in your stomach this time. Drink, you need it,” insists Carmilla. Danny, hands shaking rebelliously, takes the cup and sips. Amazingly, it does settle better and she drains it. Carmilla takes it from her.
Quite suddenly, the high-pitched ringing, dimmed by her need for sustenance and subsequent acquisition of that sustenance, becomes a cacophony of raucous noise rolling around in her head.
“Carmilla, that was blood. I just drank a whole cup of blood and I wanted it. And I can hear everything, and smell and,” Danny begins, speaking rapidly as panic rises up and engulfs her logical thought processes.
Her breathing gets short and she gets hot. The room is spinning.
Carmilla yells something, but Danny hasn’t a hope of hearing it.
Carmilla disappears from her line of vision, but then there’s a firm pressure at her back. Ice cold hands find the back of her neck and her forehead. That at least helps with the heat.
Someone else enters Danny’s swimming field of view. The hands on her neck and head anchor her and slowly, Laura’s blurry figure solidifies.
Her mouth is moving, but the sound exploding in Danny’s head doesn’t quiet to hear it. It’s always the last part to clear for her, the hardest to dull.
Eventually, Danny realizes that Laura’s giving instructions.
Breathe in for 2, out for 2.
Two and two. That was so hard. And so she tired. Laura’s relieved sigh of encouragement spurred her on.
They went on until Danny was calm enough extend the breaths to a four count, then a six, slowing her breathing and her heartrate.
“There you go,” murmured Carmilla in her ear. And the praise calmed Danny down. And that threw Danny off entirely. Nevertheless, she relaxed back against the vampire’s hold.
“You with us?” askes Laura, concerned.
“Yeah, I just, I dunno. I’m sorry,” said Danny quietly, terribly confused and embarrassed.
“You’ve had a rough night and nothing to apologize for,” said Laura firmly, squeezing Danny’s hands in her own.
“I, well, I know what happened, or I think I do, but, can you explain?” asked Danny quietly, eyes downcast. Carmilla released her hold of Danny’s head and neck but made no indication she would move away, allowing Danny to lean against her front.
“You were on patrol with the Summers. For some god forsaken reason,” these words were tense and ground out, “You went off by yourself. And you were attacked by a werewolf.” Danny’s head hung further. But she spoke.
“And you saved me,” she whispered.
“Yeah, I guess. I tried, but I, couldn’t get to you before you got bit. I’m sorry. I didn’t know, I couldn’t sense it was on campus,” replied Carmilla. Guilt etched on her face. Because she hadn't sensed the other immortal and felt as though she should have.
“Carm brought you to the school infirmary. Because apparently they have a werewolf exposure room. And you, uh, transformed,” supplied Laura apprehensively. Danny sat quietly for a moment.
“It was bad wasn't it? I remember, just pain and anger and… You Carm, you, you did something…”
“It was about on par with first time werewolf transformations. And I helped calm you down, yeah,” replied Carmilla.
Danny closed her eyes and leaned forward into her hands.
“I am so sorry. I fucked up, I never should’ve gone off, I can’t believe how stupid I am. And now I’m a danger to all of you. Carmilla you should’ve left-”
“Stop it,” Carmilla says firmly. And Danny stops.
“I would never leave you out there on your own with a werewolf. Nor would I leave you to die. And before the cupcake gets excited, no that isn’t a blanket life saving policy for every human,” says Carmilla making eye contact with Laura, who chuckles weakly.
“Why were you even out there?” asks Danny quietly.
“Yeah Carm, you never did say. You just came in with Danny,” says Laura, now curious. Carmilla clears her throat nervously.
“Well, um, you know I go out at night usually and sometimes go in the woods, and uh, it was Red’s shift so I figured,” she started fumbling around for words. Danny opened an eye and glanced back at her.
“How’d you know it was my shift?” she asks skeptically. Carmilla coughs again.
“Well, sometimes, you just figure things-”
“Oh my god,” interrupts Laura, a grin forming on her face as realization bloomed. Carmilla groaned and shut her eyes.
“You keep tabs on Danny when she’s on patrol don’t you? You look out for her, that’s so adorable,” says Laura. Now Danny is blushing and Carmilla’s head snaps up.
“No, I do not keep tabs on Red Rover here. That sounds too stalkerish and we both know I’m not Dracula enough for that shit. I just might, you know, be aware of when Red is on patrol and gravitate in the general direction in case…”
“In case I go toe-to-toe with a werewolf?” supplies Danny.
“Exactly,” nods Carmilla. It does nothing to wipe the shit eating grin on Laura’s face.
“You’re like a dark guardian angel. Or just a dark angel. Oooh, you’re Jessica Alba,” says Laura excitedly. Danny snorts.
“Enough! Okay, yes, I’m aware of when Danny wanders about on patrol, but obviously I wasn’t close enough to help anyone,” snaps Carmilla. Laura grows just a little more sober at that.
“Well that’s bullshit,” replies Danny. She moves so she’s leaning against the wall and can see Laura and Carmilla.
“You saved my life. And yeah, maybe it would’ve been better to die, but I’m not gonna, you know waste it. You fought a full-blown fucking werewolf for me. Sorry, you killed a full-blown fucking werewolf for me,” says Danny.
Carmilla rolls her eyes, but the half smile on her face turns the gesture affectionate.
“Don’t go soft on me Pup,” Carmilla says. Danny sighs with exasperation.
“This is a thing now isn’t it? Dog-related nicknames?”
Carmilla’s shot her a real smirk this time.
The days passed in varying speeds. Danny adjusted to heightened senses and strength. She took to long runs through the woods. Her endurance was largely enhanced and she could go on much longer than previous experiences. She told only her Summer Society president what occurred in the woods. Danny was pleasantly surprised when was allowed to maintain residence at the Summer Society house, provided she follow a full moon safety plan. Because apparently the Summer Society was prepared for even that contingency. The president had hugged her when tears had sprung into the taller woman's eyes.
"We look after our own. And I know you'd never allow yourself to hurt anyone," was all that had been said about it.
In some ways, life was normal. Danny attended classes, continued as a TA. She attended dinner and other recreational events with Laura, LaFontaine, and Perry. And of course Carmilla, whenever the vampire decided to grace the group with her presence. She trained with the Summers (although, considerations had to be made for her new and exceptional strength).
The largest change, however, manifested in her relationship with Carmilla. The vampire was still brooding and sullen, but any of her previous, left over malice had all but evaporated. Danny ran into her in the woods in the middle of the night regularly while she was on her runs. At first it was just awareness of the vampire's presence. Eventually, she would catch glimpses of a black panther hunting in the woods.
One night, Danny stops for a breather by a stream running through the middle of the forest. Carmilla, transformed back to her human shape, walks out of the darkness and sits at the base of a tree. After a moment Danny joins her, flopping back down onto her back. She's amazed to realize that the proximity isn't just comfortable, but a relief. Like she belongs there, next to the vampire. She looks up at Carmilla.
"You ever gonna explain what you did that night?" Asks Danny. Carmilla smirks.
"What makes you think I did anything Pup?" Asks the vampire. Danny rolls her eyes at the nickname but had long since given up being upset by it.
"You did something that made me...well, it wasn't that I didn't want to go on a killing rampage. I just didn't want to kill you. The full moon is two nights away Carm. I think I've earned at least some answers, don't you?" She asks gently. Carmilla sighs, and glances down at her.
"And what if you don't like the answer?" Asks Carmilla seriously. Because she feels that Danny might actually loathe the answer.
"I don't really have a choice in that regard. And I get the sense it can't be undone anyway. And based on what I've been reading, if I'm irrevocably pissed at you, I'll have a long, very long, time to get over it," responds Danny softly. Crickets are chirping and the night is pleasantly cool, cutting the day time's humidity. The sound of the stream is soothing, and through the trees, stars twinkle in a cloudless sky.
Danny hasn’t come to terms with the concept of immortality yet. She’s not ready to. But she has the time.
"Always the pragmatist," said Carmilla wryly.
"Stop avoiding the question."
"Fine. So you got bit early enough in the night that full moon still had enough sway over you to make you Turn. There wasn't any time to prep or find any, alternatives. A lot of times, new werewolves look for a pack to join. It's kind of sick, because most people who end up turning are left for dead; they never find a pack. But it's that animal instinct. Wolves crave pack. You Turned and I was in the room with you. So your instincts were forced to two choices," said Carmilla. Her tone was very practiced. Somewhere, somehow, in her three hundred plus years of life, Carmilla had learned werewolf lore and Danny’s interest was more than piqued.
"What choices were those?" Asked Danny. She felt the discomforting sensation of trepidation beneath her breast bone.
"One, you could've ripped me to pieces. Or tried. Thereby forcing me to defend myself," said Carmilla. And kill you were the unspoken words, but Danny felt the truth of them all the same.
"Or?" Prompted Danny when Carmilla didn't continue.
"Or force you to accept me as Pack. You see me as Pack, you don’t want to kill me," said Carmilla quietly. Danny sat still and let the implications roll over her for a moment. Carmilla hadn't just kept Danny from killing her that night, she'd made it so Danny would never want to kill her. There was an innate and intimate connection there, the connection that made Danny feel comfortable around the vampire. Made her feel at ease in her presence. But it was more than that. It was the reassurance that came from Carmilla's praise or approval or encouragement.
"It's more than just Pack isn't it? Because even pack mates will struggle for dominance. That didn't happen with us," started Danny.
"Never let anyone tell you you're not clever Red. We actually did struggle for dominance. I won and you, uh, you submitted," said Carmilla nervously. Danny looked up at her.
"What do you mean I submitted?" Asked Danny. There was no anger in her voice, only curiosity.
"You tried to attack me. I prevented it and forced you to yield. If you hadn't, I would've... I would've had to...or at least," Carmilla was stumbling over her words. Danny still wasn't angry, but she was getting frustrated now.
"Carmilla, just say it. It's not like anything can be undone," she said again. Carmilla huffed a sigh and shot a glare at Danny.
"Fine. The threat you perceived as a werewolf in that moment was submit or I'd crush your windpipe. But I didn't want to do that. I promised Laura I wouldn't hurt you, but when push comes to shove, choices-"
"Stop," interrupted Danny quietly. She sat up and looked at Carmilla.
"Killing me would've been the right thing to do. And I never would've forgiven you if I was allowed to continue as a monster. I'm still not convinced I'm not a monster. In fact, I know I am. And if for a second, you thought I was going to kill someone, including you, you need to kill me. You’re the only one who can," said Danny fiercely. Carmilla sighed.
"That's just it though, I don't know if I could Danny. And I won't promise to. I don't think you'll lose yourself, not if I'm around to help," said Carmilla. And now Danny was getting angry.
"You mean you won't kill me to protect Laura?" She asked harshly. Carmilla flinched and closed her eyes.
"If you'd asked me that a year ago, I wouldn't have hesitated to say yes," admitted Carmilla dully.
"Then what's changed? I'm far more dangerous now than I've ever been."
"I take it back, you're not clever," said Carmilla dryly.
"Fine, fine. Red, I can't just kill you. Shock though it might be to you, you mean something to me. You don't just kill people you care about," gruffed the vampire. Danny paused, because that was not the answer she was expecting.
"You...care about me?" She said softly. Carmilla rolled her eyes.
"Of course you idiot puppy," said the vampire.
"But why?" Asked Danny, incredulously.
"For a couple of reasons Red, though charming cluelessness isn't top on the list. For one, you dragged me out of that god awful pit and brought me back here. You gave me another shot at spending my eternity in a more worthwhile fashion. For another, Laura adores you, and I can't help but give a shit about the things she does. Danny, you are, for better or worse, an example of the best parts of humanity. You love when it hurts, when it doesn't benefit you in the least. You stick up for those who don't or can't for themselves. You have this ability to get people to follow you because you actually believe in quaint ideas like nobility, and bravery, and loyalty, and goodness," she paused. She'd been staring up at the sky during her rant. Now she turned to look at Danny.
"I did not come out here to give a speech. But Red, you are so worth caring about. I'm not human. You don't understand now, you can't possibly. But no matter what disguise you where, you will begin to feel immortality settle in your bones. And you will forget what it means to be human. And when you forget, you will become callous. Laura makes me less callous. Danny, you make me less callous. You remind me that there is still purpose. And I wasn't about to let some rabid dog take you away from me. Or from Laura, or the rest of the ginger squad. I made a choice. And I stand by it. You won't become a danger to anyone because I will not allow it." Carmilla finished her speech with a look of fierce determination on her face.
Danny couldn't keep still in the face of all these revelations. She hopped to her feet and began pacing, mulling everything over in her head, wondering how in the world she could've missed it. The more she pondered over the last few months, the more it made sense. The efforts Laura made to include Danny in things, hanging out with her one-on-one. Carmilla's seemingly innocuous literature recommendations and subsequent conversations. They talked more and fought less. There was a time she'd have willingly staked Carmilla through her undead heart, but the thought now had been that she'd kill anyone who tried. Her affections for Laura had never evaporated, just changed. And somehow, along the way, she'd picked up affection for Carmilla too.
And in the month since she'd Turned, all those hints were completely blown up. She found herself with Carmilla and Laura often, or just one or the other. They watched movies, did homework. Danny graded papers, Carmilla read, Laura found new things to fight at Silas. They took turns aiding or rescuing Laura as the situation demanded, sharing smiles or eye rolls over Laura's head.
They all but mandated that Danny was staying with them and beds got pushed together to accommodate the mutual desired closeness.
Carmilla sat up with her when her nightmares snapped her into panicked wakefulness. Danny pulled Carmilla to the roof when Carmilla’s nightmares found her. Laura read stories from old books and they sat in each other’s company, content to just exist. They were inseparable now, and entirely comfortable with the notion.
"Why did you come out here?" She finally asked, looking at the vampire. Carmilla sighed and stood to her feet. She walked over to Danny, standing just a bit too close and looking up into her eyes.
"I did want to talk to you, just not at you. And we hadn't talked about you Turning. And Laura said she'd stop talking to both of us until we figured our shit out," said Carmilla. Danny blushed faintly.
"And what shit is that?" She asked, voice dry. Carmilla rolled her eyes but smiled nonetheless.
"Not clever at all. Let me break it down for you Red. You and I are irreversibly connected. You will always feel a pull to me, and I will always feel a pull to you. And it will show," Danny blushed fiercely now. Because yes, the affection and attraction toward Carmilla had been very real.
"That's just because, I uh, Turned, right," she supplied. Carmilla smirked. She bunched her hands up in the collar of Danny's jacket and pulled her down slightly.
"Only in part. Because that connection never could've happened if there wasn't some level of attraction in your human self, first. Some level of...trust. And desire." Danny swallowed thickly, nervous, because Carmilla was so far from wrong, but this was not where she expected this conversation to turn.
"But, but Laura," breathed out Danny as Carmilla continued to pull her closer. And there was that damn smirk again.
"I told you, Laura wants nothing to do with either of us unless we talk. And well, I take that to mean she wants everything to do with both of us once we've figured it out," said Carmilla huskily. Danny's eyes locked onto Carmilla's. She couldn't know, but the blue was mixing with flashes of amber as want welled up inside of her.
"Do you really want to fight me on this?" growled Carmilla. And that did it.
Danny's mouth crashed against Carmilla's, all resistance, all fight gone, completely replaced with need and desire. And it was met with equal fervor from Carmilla. Danny's hands tangled in Carmilla's hair and Carmilla's fingers wrapped themselves around Danny's neck.
The sound in Danny's head this time is a symphony, drowning out all rationality and clear thought. It's not being underwater, it's crashing on the ocean. And pure orientation on only Carmilla.
Danny’s hands tried to roam Carmilla's body, but Carmilla's hands kept her rooted, limiting her, for the moment, until they finally broke apart, breathing hard, foreheads resting together.
"Not bad for a puppy," huffed Carmilla with a smile. Danny closed her eyes, breathing hard.
"What even is this Carm? What about Laura?" She asked quietly.
"Laura and I talked about it. She cares about you, she always has. And of course you and her need to talk. But she and I figured that with the longing looks and lingering touches are any indicator, that conversation would go fairly smoothly," Danny blushed furiously. Again. Because, yes, okay, she'd been physically closer to Laura than she intentionally meant to be, but Laura hadn't exactly shoved her away. And Carmilla hadn't protested, sharing some of that physical...
"I'm an idiot," mutter Danny. Carmilla laughed, her voice low and gentle. She shifted to wrap her arms around Danny, and Danny rested her chin on Carmilla's head.
"You're not an idiot, just a puppy. This is all new for all of us. But Danny, I need you to know something now, before you start over thinking everything later," said Carmilla.
"Trust is both ways. You chose to submit to me, whether you like that word or not, and I asked you to. That's not something I would've done for someone I didn't care about. I just don't want you to think that this," she squeezed Danny to indicate what she was talking about, "is intimately tied to you Turning. Really, it was the thought that you might die…The fact is I was tailing you in the woods that night and it wasn't the first time," she paused now, voice growing thick.
"I am so sorry I didn't get to you before he did. I would do anything to spare you this. I swear I tried to get there, but by the time I realized what was happening, it was too late, and"
"Carm, stop," interrupted Danny gently.
"You saved my life. I was so sure I was going to die, but I didn't. And I absolutely have you to thank for that," she said quietly. Carmilla was quiet except for a few sniffles. After a moment, she wiped her eyes on the front of Danny's hoodie.
"Hey!" Exclaimed the taller woman. Carmilla grinned devilishly up at her.
"Oh hush, there's no lasting damage. You ready to go back and talk to Laura?" She asked. Danny smiled ruefully and pressed a quick kiss to Carmilla's lips.
"I'm ready to go back, but I'll be very surprised if Laura's up," she said.
"Oh she will be. She knew I came out here with a mission. She'd want to know either way, you know if you weren't interested," replied Carmilla. Danny rolled her eyes.
"You didn't think for a second I wouldn't be interested," she said. Carmilla shrugged.
"You develop intuition after a while, you'll see."
Life changed pleasantly after that. Danny's talk with Laura was short and sweet. They apologized for the mistakes of the heart that often accompanied youth and inexperience.
Carmilla helped Danny through several vicious transformations. After four years, Danny realized that each month was getting easier, and that with Carmilla beside her, she began to retain her sense of self.
After six years, Danny made her first fully conscious transformation. Carmilla held her eyes the entire time. It was still just as painful, but the mindless animal rage didn't overtake her. When it was done, she exhaled a long breath, and let Carmilla run a gentle hand over her snout and head. Danny the werewolf nuzzled her back. It was the first time they realized they could start discussing a life away from Silas.
Though it took some convincing (because really, did anyone really need ten years' worth of undergrad and graduate school?) but eventually, they did leave Silas behind.