I found love where it wasn't supposed to be, right in front of me, talk some sense to me...
You couldn’t stop thinking about it. Her skin was so warm. Not that she was some block of ice before but you never realized how cool to the touch she was until you could feel real, live heat coming off the hand curled up and wrapped in your own. There was real sweat forming a small crown on her brow and her nostrils were flaring up a storm as she pretended she wasn’t so incredibly out of breath.
You didn’t know whether to cry or giggle, whether it was beautiful or adorable.
You’d always found her perfect. Fangs and body temperature and no vital signs, it was all something you’d taken to be a simple part of her. You’d gotten so used to going to sleep to silence beneath your ear on her chest that you’d stopped thinking about it. Her kisses were always tinged with metallic tangs on your tongue and you’d learned it was a part of her.
But this was something else entirely. This was something you never knew you wanted or needed.
She blinked up at the morning sun as you stumbled together across campus, which was half in ruins. People were starting to wander out of their own escape holes from the pit. A few of them eyed you, they knew who you were, what you were responsible for. But you had eyes only for her and the heaving of her poor chest.
“You need a second there champ?” you ask with a smirk. She glares.
“Laugh it up. When I go into cardiac arrest after moving heaven and earth for you, we’ll see who’s laughing.”
“Excuse me? Who moved heaven and earth for who now? I got my heart ripped out for you.”
“Are you going to hang that over me? Because I will not be cleaning the shower drain every time you feel the need to harp on being clinically dead for like 5 minutes.”
All you could do was smile because everything was just so warm and centered in her chest. You probably shouldn't be joking about it. But if you two couldn't smile because of it all, what could you possibly do? It felt like something was tugging in her chest and tugging in your own, like this new heart knew you instinctually, like everything inside you was pulling to her in a way it hadn’t before. There would be no separating you now. You don’t casually break up with someone you died a horrific and, admittedly, painful death for. You were in it forever.
“Alright, I might take you up on that break,” Carmilla huffed, breaking your hand contact to place her hands on her knees. “I don’t want to hear it.”
You just let your palm sit over her back and rub as she heaved for air, forgetting her “badass disaffected” look in favor of not killing her brain cells a few seconds after they were truly brought back to life.
“Not that I like to agree with Lawrence,” Carmilla said in between gasps for air. “But maybe there’s something to be sad for working out.”
“I could show you some very effective yoga moves,” you drawled into her ear.
You heard her let out a small laugh and you kissed the back of her neck lightly and let her take her minute to breath. She eventually sat back up, holding her hand over her chest while you kept rubbing soft circles onto her back.
“Does this mean I’m going to get wrinkles?” she said breathlessly.
“God I hope so,” you said, nuzzling into her neck. The idea of watching her age, getting to see the woman she might have become if the Dean hadn’t stolen it all away from her was getting your stomach fluttering.
“You say that now but I have a very carefully cultivated reputation here.”
“Don’t worry, I’m sure history will remember you in all your seductress glory.”
Eventually she caught her breath enough to continue you walking and you didn’t challenge her to a race again. You walked, hand-in-hand across the campus as people milled about, finding friends or even hugging strangers.
“No, it’s fine, you didn’t need to wait for us or anything,” came a familiar, abrasive voice and you couldn’t help but smile.
You turned and saw Mel walking with Kirsch trotting beside her, the camera still in his hand filming with glee like it was a family barbeque.
“Sorry,” you shrug. “Had to get grandma over here to some fresh air to test out her sparkly new lungs.”
“My ‘sparkly new lungs’ are perfectly fine,” she said before swaying a little bit until you grabbed around her waist and caught her. Mel and Kirsch moved forward to get a steadying hand on her.
“Okay killer, maybe you need a timeout,” you said, gentling setting her down on the broken bench that used to be a favorite spot for you to have lunch in the quad back in that first fall semester.
“I forgot what stomach growling felt like,” she said, blinking and shaking her head to try and focus her eyes.
“I’m telling you, protein bar,” Kirsch said, focusing the camera in on Carmilla while she glared.
“Yeah, let me just pull my 12-pack of Power Bars out of my ass,” Mel said.
“She has a point,” you said, kneeling down and placing a hand on Carmilla’s forehead. “She hasn’t eaten in…a while. She could probably use something.”
“The old provision pile for the workers is just out there,” Kirsh said, pointing out of the quad towards the rec building. “It had these nasty cardboard meal bars or whatever.”
“Kirsch can you watch her?” you asked, brushing the back of your knuckles across her damp brow. Her eyes were closed as one hand clutched at her stomach. You felt horrible for her. As happy as you were to feel a beat beneath your hand, the biological adjustment period wasn’t exactly going to be easy on her.
“Sure thing, I can film her post-op interview.”
“This’ll make a great like, disaster movie. We can submit it to those fancy film festivals and stuff.”
“On second thought, just let me die of starvation.”
“Oh no you don’t. Just grin and bear it, I’m going to find you something to eat.”
You give her a last kiss on the forehead before stepping away and walking with Mel towards the rec building outside the quad. She was brushing of bits of dust from the pit and inspecting cuts she got on her arm during the scuffle.
“I can’t believe all that worked,” Mel said. “I thought for sure we’d be Babylonian god food.”
“Honestly? Me either,” you said, finally letting out a sigh and feeling every achy part of you. “Do you um—were you there when she—how did…the heart thing.”
“How’d your Corpse Bride become a real girl?”
“In so many words, sure.”
“Not really sure,” she said. “When the Dean went all god mode again she was talking to vampirella about sacrifices and life and then she just started screaming to ‘take it back.’ I guess her prissiness though she was doing Carmilla a favor by going all divine defribulator on her. It was pretty cruel if you ask me.”
You tried to swallow down the lump forming in your throat. You heard echoes of Carmilla’s voice in the dark. You heard her crying and yelling but it was fading so fast now that you couldn’t remember what she said. When you woke you still hard her tears on your cheek. The dean, Inanna, whatever she called herself, she’d given her daughter one last gift.
“She was the one who got you back, by the way,” Mel said as she opened the unlocked door which barely hung on its own hinges. “Three seconds with a heartbeat and she was already gambling it up the walking Halloween costume chick. Good thing she won.”
Oh, you were going to kill her.
For now, however, you grabbed a few things that hadn’t been looted out of the food storage, some meal bars and fruit that still looked good and half filled bottles of water.
As the two of you walked back, arms full with provisions, you heard yelling. You both looked up to see Carmilla on her feet, unsteady even from your vantage point. Kirsch had the hand not manning his camera on Carmilla’s shoulder, trying to gently push her back as she was inches away from the pale face of Lafontaine.
“—and you think that’s any different?”
“Look, I’m sorry that—“
“No, you’re not. You got what you wanted. You can leave now.”
“Can we just take a minute to—“
“No we can’t.”
Carmilla very nearly toppled over if not for Kirsch’s hand on her shoulder. Lafontaine put out a hand to try and help but she shrugged them off with force. You and Mel looked at each other. She rolled her eyes and nodded in their direction and you went trotting over, setting the pile of food down before stepping between Carmilla and Laf.
“What’s going on?” you asked, head on a swivel between the two of them.
“Nothing. The Ghostbuster was just leaving,” Carmilla snapped.
“Listen, I’m really—“
“No, you don’t get to say ‘sorry’,” Carmilla practically snarled. “She was dead, dead--“
“I know, I was there—“
“Oookaaay,” you said, putting a hand on both their chests and giving a gentle push. “Since I’m pretty sure the ‘she’ here is me, you can talk about me as if I’m here.”
“Laura, I’m so, so sorry,” Lafontaine gushed, their gauzed up eye staring out with nothing but deep, red darkness.
“Everyone just—chill out,” you said. “We just averted apocalypse and I, literally, came back to life which, side note, feels like waking up from the craziest nap you could imagine, and the last thing we need to be doing is arguing.”
“It’s not arguing,” Carmilla said. “It’s telling the mad scientist how it is because they guilt tripped us for days about possibly putting Betty Crocker in the line of fire but the second she was bright eyed and bushy tailed and you were cold on the floor they hopped off like they were going to pick up a pizza order.”
“That’s not what—“
“Enough, seriously. Please. For everyone’s sake and before Carmilla passes out,” you said. “Who’s right, who’s wrong. It doesn’t matter, we’re all here. We’ll deal with criticizing each other’s grieving practices later. Carmilla, eat something.”
You shove a wrapped meal bar into her chest and step back. Laf and Perry both frown and watch with confused eyes as Carmilla steps back with the food in hand. She unwraps it and shoves it into her mouth, tearing of a chunk with a bite and then looks like she immediately regrets it.
“I told you bro, cardboard,” Kirsch said, zooming in on Carmilla’s disgusted face.
“Why is Carmilla eating a Soylent bar?” Laf asked.
“That’s—it’s---well it’s really not complicated at all, it’s just—“
“Mommy dearest’s parting gift to Druisilla was some vital signs,” Mel said, biting into one of the good apples and tossing one to Kirsch who tore into it with vigor and said something about pre-workout carbs.
“You’re—you’re not…” Perry tried to say, stepping slightly closer to Carmilla.
“Mortal,” Mel shrugged. “It was actually pretty anticlimactic. One second she was sobbing and then next she was complaining about a heartbeat. A light show or some fog might have spruced it up.”
You rolled your eyes but couldn’t help but smile. Mel had an interesting way of showing affection and, brazen as she was, she and Kirsch had been the only ones there while Carmilla sat alone in the dark with your body.
“Everyone just grab a snack, take a breather, and relax for three seconds. We just saved the world and no one died…well, ish.”
You sat down next to Carmilla while Perry worked at trying any first aid she could attempt at Laf’s wound. Mel was humoring Kirsch at some round of thumb wrestling to keep him from his new found love of filming absolutely everything. You glared at Carmilla until she ate the entire meal bar and rewarded her with a kiss on the cheek.
“Please tell me my next meal will be real food,” she sighed.
“If we can find some.”
Even with the bad blood lingering between Carmilla and Laf and the still fresh wounds, you really couldn’t have wished for a better moment in time, than right then.
Carmilla’s body was still getting used to solid food again. She threw up only an hour after eating the bar and looked positively disgusted with herself.
“I forgot how awful that was too,” she gagged.
You held her hair back while she caught her breath.
When she felt well enough again, you trekked into a nearby town where Carmilla claimed there was a place they could stay, free of charge.
“I did not die to get arrested for breaking and entering,” you said.
“Again with the dying thing,” she huffed but winked at you.
“Where are we anyway? My dad really didn’t five me the whole grand tour of the college town near Silas because he was afraid I’d end up drugged at some club—oh my god my dad.”
You felt bad for forgetting about him in the wake of everything, but seriously, you had your heart ripped out of your chest at the end of the world. He couldn’t really blame you. Though you might leave that little detail out when you saw him next.
“Karnstein,” Carmilla said.
“The town. It’s called Karnstein.”
You narrowed your eyes at her but she looked at you dead serious and shrugged.
“Where do you think I’m from?”
She walked you through town and promised to show you shops and restaurants the next day after some much needed rest. You were too taken with how adorable the mountain village looked to notice where she was leading you until you were face to face with a glorious, stone chalet.
“Karnsteinschloss,” she said with her natural accent.
“Ha. Ha. Castle Karnstein.”
You took a good look at the place with new, more excited eyes. It was hold, even for the very modern garage and driveway. It still had stone archways and some spires. It wasn’t exactly a medieval castle but it wasn’t a two-story colonial in Rhode Island either. It was like an Austrian Playboy mansion—just hopefully minus all the models. Well actually…
“You going to stare or do you want to shower all that end of the world dirt off you?” Carmilla asked.
She’d moved to the garage door and was punching in some code on the keypad and the door opened.
“This is where you grew up?”
“Minus the entertainment system and the gas stove? Home sweet home.”
“Who lives here now?”
“No one. I own it, haven’t been here in years.”
She pulled at your hand to bring you inside. The garage was devoid of cars and she pulled you threw a door that lead into the fanciest mud room you’d ever seen before it let out into a hallway that was pristine, off-white. The walls were covered in expensive looking art and everything looked like some HGTV remodel. The suburban one-story you grew up in couldn't compare.
“Someone bought this place after my great-great-great-great-whatever died. A nephew or cousin or something, whoever got the title,” she said. “I broke in a couple of times and then eventually waited for that owner to die before I bought it at auction one day. It was kind of on a whim but it was a nice little getaway.”
“And how many girls have you wooed here?”
She turned to look at you with solemn, deep brown eyes. She stepped forward and took your hands into her soft ones.
“I never even brought Mattie here,” she said. "I wanted to show you, eventually. But we got kind of busy after Christmas.'
You wanted to cry because you almost lost this. You almost never got the chance to see this, to feel it. Fate and gods and all their riddles and rules very nearly ruined your chance at this with her.
“I love you.”
It was all you could think to say and she smiled as you leaned in and kissed her living, warm lips.
She dug out non-perishable food from the pantry because the only thing in the insanely huge fridge was bottles of water. She promised you could get real food from the store tomorrow. You did agree canned soup might be the best way to go for her newly hungry stomach. You tried not to stare while she ate. You'd seen her eat human food plenty of times--your food, actually. But it was never with a purpose. This meant something.
"So, tell me about all the terror you caused as a child here," you said, poking her leg with your toe.
"Would you believe I was the most well behaved daughter a count could ask for?" she grinned.
She nursed the soup for an hour or so, not finishing it completely but keeping it down this time, though her face looked a little queasy for the effort. After dinner she showed you around the house and into the master bedroom where you practically raced into the shower to wash everything that had happened that day off you. She showed in a guest bathroom and when you got out she was already curled up on the bed. You quietly walked over and laid down facing her. Slowly, her drowsy eyes opened.
You placed your hand over her heart and felt it beneath the skin and bone. It was beating up a storm and you clutched at her clothes as if trying your best to get to it.
It was like meeting an old friend again for the first time. You knew that heart and it knew you. You’d touched before, long ago, briefly. And now you were together again, truly feeling each other for the first time. And so you cried as you clutched at her. That heart was yours and it finally came home and you’d keep it safe forever.
That night, as you laid together, skin on skin and dazed from passion, you listened to it beneath your ear. You let it tell you all the things she was still too nervous to say. You memorized, in the night, all the melodies it could sing. You couldn’t sleep, you were to enamored with feeling the very thing you wanted most in the world beneath you, every few seconds reassuring you that it was still there.
Carmilla fell into a sleep easy, perhaps understanding true exhaustion for the first time in over 300 years. And you watched her, brushed her hair from her face, felt the cool gust of air every time she took a breath. Her heartbeat kept you company all through the night