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I have wanted to know you, lover of books

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“I didn’t know where else to go.”

“Are you insane?!” Helena hissed at the figure swaying on the doorstep. She could smell the blood from here; had smelled it even before she’d opened the door, and fates knew what had enticed her to even do that. “You can’t be here!” She looked up and down the street to check that no one else was there; it was late enough that even the street lights were out, but, she thought grimly, when had that last mattered to her?

“I know what you are. Please.” The woman’s knees seemed to buckle for a moment, but she caught herself – not with her arms, those stayed resolutely wrapped around her wounded midriff, but by locking her knees, if Helena was any judge. “I’ve known for ages. I don’t care. Your store is… If I’m to die-” The woman made a sound halfway between sigh and sob. “Please,” she said again. “You can… you can drink. From me. I don’t mind. Don’t care. I just… love your store. Your books. Please.”

“Who did this?” Who are you bringing to my door with your trail of blood? Helena didn’t ask, but she knew that the woman – Myka, Myka Bering; a customer didn’t spend every spare hour and dollar in her store without Helena knowing her name – she knew that Myka Bering understood her worry.

When werewolves fought over territory, all the undead suffered; humans didn’t care who they retaliated against.

“Diamonds,” Myka gasped; her words came faltering now. “They killed Sa- Sam. Th-ey… I d-dropped a scent bomb. Before co-” she groaned with pain, then fell silent. Her face was white now in the dim moonlight, almost as white as Helena’s own.

Helena nodded; she could smell the remnants of clove oil, even if the scent of blood was overpowering. Clove bombs were the cheapest, but it had probably done the trick. “Fine,” she growled, and pulled Myka in and closed the door, making sure that the lock was secure and the wards were set.

Diamond Pack had killed Sam Martino and savaged his human girl; no surprise there. Sam was – had been, Helena corrected herself – one of the contenders to take over Dickinson Pack. Helena did not want to get pulled into that mess; the best bet for vampires was to keep their heads down and stick to deer and raccoons and whatnot, when werewolves fought. “I can’t help you,” she told Myka therefore.

“Not… asking…” The woman sounded softer now, and Helena wondered if it was blood loss or the presence of her beloved old books, or perhaps a perverse mix of both. “Just let… I’ll just be…” Myka blinked. “Where… Oh. I’ll… get blood… on… oh no.”

Should have thought about that before coming here to bleed out and die, Helena thought – but instead of annoyed, or even thirsty for the blood she smelled so clearly here where no air moved, she found she felt… sad. Sorry for this woman, this human, who’d fallen in love with the wrong man and gotten caught in something she had no chance of fighting, much less winning.

And then, in this place where air did not move, she smelled something else, and cursed. “You were pregnant?”

Myka gave a faint nod. “Was,” was all she said, looking down at her arms that still held together her savaged midsection.

Past tense.

Helena cursed some more. It made a grim kind of sense for werewolves, no matter if it was a succession fight or a territory fight. And Myka Bering could not have known what meaning pregnancy and children held for Helena Wells, for all that she claimed to know so much about Helena. “Come,” she said curtly, and led Myka to the threadbare old sofa. “Sit.”

The woman gave a groan of pain as she sat down; Helena got a whiff of fresh blood and suppressed a growl. “Can you… make… go away?” Myka asked, still in that strangely serene voice.

Helena knelt down in front of her, hands on both of Myka’s knees. “The pain?”

Myka gave the faintest of nods.

Helena gritted her teeth, then nodded too. “I’d have to-” She cleared her throat and pointed at her mouth.

“What does it matter?” was Myka’s reply to that, sighed and oh so weary.

It matters to me, Helena did not say. It will matter, because I have not drained a human in over a century. Because the last time I did, it broke my heart and I haven’t recovered from it. Because blood is truth, and I will know your pain, your thoughts, your everything – and you, Myka Bering, book lover, clever girl, with your smile and your curls and your mind oh your mind, I have wanted to know you but not like this not like this not like this.

“Please,” Myka said.

Helena took a deep breath she did not need and rose, easily picking up Myka in the process. Myka was loose like a ragdoll now; her arms fell away from her body, releasing another gush of blood. Helena sat down, settling Myka against her chest. Her fingers found the main artery easily and pinched it shut; her thoughts refused to connect the sensation of blood and warm slickness to the image of Myka’s face before her, so tranquil now, so tired, so trusting.

Myka’s eyes opened. She looked straight at Helena, unmistakably fully in command of her senses. “I’ve always loved it here,” she said in a low but clear voice. “And I’ve always wanted to do this.” She leaned her head down and kissed Helena full on the lips.

Helena tasted blood in the kiss and whimpered; her hand was in this woman’s entrails, for gods’ sakes, and yet this was most certainly Myka kissing Helena, not the other way around. It seared, it soared, it obliterated all of Helena’s higher thought processes; she sank her teeth into that plump lower lip and-

Oh.

Oh.

Oh, such love. Such love. Such love. Love that knew how the world worked, and loved it anyway. Love that knew the loved one was part beast, and loved them anyway. Love that knew the dangers it came with, and loved anyway. Love that accepted what had happened and what would happen, and loved anyway.

Love for the scent of books, for the texture of upholstery and decades-old wood, for conversations over tea and tomes, long past opening hours, on everything and anything and never anything personal. Love for quiet hours spent side by side, love for sitting still while the other puttered around, love for the old feather duster and the tinkly bell over the door. Love for black hair and white skin and lips redder than they should be.

Such love, such sorrow.

I wanted more of this. I wanted all of this. I never knew how; I only knew I wanted.

Bright hazel eyes like sunlight on moss – oh when had she last seen such a sparkle! – laughing mouth like the music of the heavens – oh when had she last kissed such supple lips! – lithe body curled around book and teacup, always careful, always lining up the boots just so – when oh when had she last held a warm, willing-

Myka’s body twitched in Helena’s arms; a hand that had curled into her hair during the kiss now slipped away as strength dwindled. Helena let out a gasp as reality intruded – the blood on her hand was cooling.

No.

No.

Helena’s eyes flew up to meet Myka’s – there was still a spark there, even if it was one of utter peace, utter acceptance, feelings that just as utterly eluded Helena. “No!” she said, out loud. Her fingers let go, slipped out from Myka’s insides – barely anything to quell there anymore; they were needed more urgently in a different place! They slipped on her buttons as she fought to open her blouse; growling, she gripped and ripped until fabric tore apart. She straightened; Myka, jostled, sunk forward, head lolling against Helena’s now-bared chest – not too late, not too late, a heart still beat, if faintly – Helena tore at her own skin but her fingers would not serve to cleave it; she sobbed in desperation, then found – faintly, faintly – the pulse on Myka’s neck, so conveniently present right in front of her; she sank her teeth in and Myka gasped with pain, mouth open on Helena’s skin now warm with her own blood, blood that sang to her, called out-

Myka’s mouth closed around flesh, sucked weakly; Helena’s hand came up to cradle, to steady, to encourage: more, harder, BITE-

Blood, now freed, sang through the both of them, farewell and welcome, curse and sacrament, burden and freedom, they were one, they were one, they were one.