Author Topic: Reconciliation  (Read 572 times)

William Hawthorn

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« on: October 28, 2019, 03:35:52 PM »
It was only October, but it was already cold in the Himalayas, where the snow-tipped mountains met the sky. With summer gone and winter fast approaching, even in the Paro Valley, it was getting wet and chilly. The mountains here were covered in thickly wooded forests, where humans were rarely seen, but some hardy wildlife prospered. Hunters here were few, except for a few rare predators, and of those, no one hunted at night, save the cats and the lone vampire who called these mountains home.

Even then, he didn't hunt every night. He'd trained himself to go days, even weeks without sustenance - all part of his self-imposed penance for what he considered his sins. His body had grown lean in the years that he'd spent here, until he had an almost starved appearance. He had no need for the meat of the creatures he hunted, but only the blood. When he could, he preferred to merely drink until his thirst was sated and then let them go free. When a kill was necessary, he often left the carcass where the villagers could make use of it, rather than leave it for scavengers.

He was careful not to kill the animals that were endangered. The monks had taught him that, and though they weren't sure what he was exactly, they knew he left from time to time to provide his own sustenance, rather than partake of their meager meals. In exchange for his stay, the monks were generously compensated by an unknown benefactor, which helped them maintain the monastery and keep it from falling to ruin.

This particular night was darker than usual. Though it was cloudless, it was also moonless - no light shining but that of the multitude of stars overhead. So many stars, it was impossible to count them all. Tonight's prey was a sheep, one of many on the mountain. It was too bad that the sheep was a favorite of wolves, as well.

Dark eyes watched him from the shadows, another predator out on the lonely mountainside yet not hunting for food. Sakura was well-fed, had made certain of that before venturing out onto the mountain tonight. She made no attempt to disguise her proximity to him, alert for the wolves that might choose to fight him for his quarry. He was gaunt, to her eyes, a far cry from the strong muscled man she had turned all those years ago. But he was alive. That was all that mattered.

It wasn't a matter of hunting the way wolves hunted, or even men. He was a sole predator with no pack to aid him, and no weapon other than that of his own teeth and wits. It was a challenge to hunt the wild this way; so much more so than preying on humans, who could easily wander into his grasp without ever suspecting they were in danger. But it wasn't so much about the challenge, as it was about survival. He was just about to pounce on the unsuspecting sheep, when he heard a howl in the distance and then another, and then his senses picked up something else - something strangely familiar. Something - or someone - he hadn't seen or heard from in over three hundred years.

She saw the moment he realized her presence, smiling faintly at the knowledge that the bond formed between them was not just a one way thing. But she was not here to spook him, or frighten him away, and so ... she stepped out of the shadows, into the low light, a small figure offering as little threat as she could manage.

It seemed the wolves would prevail tonight, as the sheep was quickly forgotten, along with his hunger, if only momentarily. He turned to face the living ghost in his presence, unsure if she was hallucination - a product of his hunger - or if she was something more. His senses told him she was real, flesh and blood, alive, but no longer human, just like him. He didn't speak. He couldn't remember when he'd last needed to speak. He only stood there and watched her, as silent and still as stone.

She approached slowly, as one might a skittish animal, coming no closer than was necessary to speak without disturbing the forest around them.

"Hello, William."

Her approach was not unlike the way he often approached the animals, with a hand extended, letting them know he meant them no real harm - it was only a little blood he needed, after all. But this was different. She might have been hunting him, after all, but she did not want his blood. Her name formed in his mind, on his lips, but no sound came out. Sakura, he whispered in his mind. But it couldn't be, could it? He looked too pale in the starlight, his eyes bright, but his face gaunt, his body too thin. There was recognition in his eyes though; recognition and wonder.

"They lifted the decree, William," she said softly, careful to speak in English. She had no way of knowing if he had retained his understanding of her own native tongue. "I have been looking for you."

The man he had been more than three centuries ago might have felt a rush of anger at the mention of the decree, but his time among the monks had not been wasted. He had learned to control his emotions, or at least, his rage. Whatever he had learned among them, he could not control the lump that formed in his throat or the tears that came unbidden to his eyes.

"Sakura," he whispered at last, his voice hoarse from disuse.

"Yes. Yes, it is me." But she didn't dare come any closer, not knowing how he would react to her from here on in. She could be moments from death, or from a new chapter in her long life. Only he knew which it was.

"Is ... it ... really ... you?" he asked, each word slowly enunciated, not because he'd forgotten how to speak, but only because he hadn't done it in so long. He felt his heart thumping in his chest, but he, too, remained where he was, afraid if she came any closer, she would evaporate before his eyes, proving her just a figment of his imagination.

"It is me," she promised him, trying not to let her gaze linger on how thin he had grown in his chosen exile. "I could not abandon my heart, my William. I have waited so long to come to you." She raised her hand slowly, her palm turned toward him, offering him the chance to touch her and be certain she was real.

He hesitated a moment, not because he was afraid, but because he still wasn't sure she was real, and then he stepped forward and stretched a hand out to meet hers, fingertips touching before he linked his fingers with hers. Her words found their way to his heart, and he couldn't stop the tears that streamed down his face.

"You are real," he said, only half-believing it.

Her small hand curled to his, lacing her fingers between his own, palm to palm, as her own tears began to fall from her sparkling eyes. "I'm real," she promised. "I'm here. I have missed you so much, William." She wanted to move closer, to wrap him in her arms and show him how real she was, but still she did not dare.

« Last Edit: October 29, 2019, 05:27:23 PM by William Hawthorn »

William Hawthorn

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Re: Reconciliation
« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2019, 05:27:57 PM »
"I ..." He started, stammering, not because he couldn't speak, but because he was in such a state of shock at seeing her again that he wasn't sure what to say. He wasn't even sure if she was real, but in all the time he'd spent at the monastery, he'd never had a vision as lovely as this one. "I did not dare hope to see you again."

"I told you I would come for you," she said, her voice thick through her tears, clinging tightly to his hand as though it were her only lifeline. "I never dreamed they would keep us apart for so long, but that's over now. I'm here, Will."

"It's over," he echoed quietly, as if he was struggling to either understand or believe it. If he understood her correctly, the decree to keep them apart had been lifted at long last, but was he to do now? What were they to do now? "You're really here," he murmured, reaching for her as he stepped closer.

No doubt he could feel her trembling as he stepped closer, tilting her head back in a way that made her heart ache with how familiar the motion was. "I'm really here," she promised, reaching out with her other hand to rest her palm against his chest, over his heart. "We're here. Together."

"It's been so long ..." he whispered, his voice hoarse with disuse, his throat tight with emotion. He trailed his fingertips against her cheek, brushing away her tears as he searched her eyes, remembering. "You're just as lovely as I remember," he told her softly, his own eyes shining with tears.

Her dark eyes reflected his face in the starlight, shimmering with the tears that would not stop falling. "I ... I have a home for us," she said, surprising herself with her eagerness to share this with him. "You told me about the hillside outside Inverness, in Scotland. I found us a home there."

"Scotland?" he echoed, surprise evident on his face. He'd expected her to tell him that she was taking him home to Japan, but after everything that had happened there, perhaps she no longer wanted to call it home. "I've waited so long," he said, his voice breaking on the words, before pulling her into his arms, not only so he could hold her, feel her close prove she was real, but so that she couldn't see the pain etched on his face and in his eyes. The long years of loneliness. Then again, she must have been lonely, too.

Pulled into his arms, she wrapped her own about his waist, hugging tightly to him, burying her face in his chest to breathe in the scent that clung to his skin, murmuring over and over again that she was there, they were together, and they need never be apart again. It felt like a strange, cruel dream, one she had dreamed so many times. She did not want to wake up.

There was nothing to say, and so he only just held her close, burying his face in her hair, breathing her in, as if perhaps the familiar scent of her would prove she was real. He had waited so long, never daring to hope she might come for him someday. It was only the news from England that kept him sane - news that assured him she was still alive and well and like him, waiting for the decree to be lifted.

"Julian," he said suddenly, pulling her away from him, but holding to her shoulders. "He's the one who told you where to find me."

"I searched for three years without luck," she admitted, raising her tear-streaked face to meet his eyes. "I went to him, three days ago. He and Anabelle arranged everything for my journey here, and our journey back if ... if you wish to come."

Though he didn't answer right away, his undead heart stuttering in his chest, there was no "if", only "when". Was he ready? Was three hundred years enough to quell the rage and hatred that had ended in blood and death and tragedy? The Council seemed to think so, but he knew the Council hadn't acted alone. Someone had asked them for mercy; if not Sakura, then someone else. And if it wasn't enough time, then perhaps it never would be, and they should have destroyed him instead.

"I want to, Sakura," he said, trembling fingers grazing her cheek to tuck a dark silken strand back behind an ear. Of course, he wanted to. But could he trust himself out there in the open world again? A world he'd lost touch with when he'd entered the monastery.

She couldn't hide the delight in her smile at his answer, but she knew that one hundred years in seclusion meant he had to relearn the world all over again. Her own shaking hand reached up to caress his cheek.

"We'll go home," she told him tenderly. "You can take your time readjusting to the world. Let me look after you, Will. It is the least I can do after all this."

"None of this was your fault, Sakura," he assured her truthfully. All she had done was try to save his life. How could he blame her or that? If anything, he was grateful. "I would like to go home," he admitted quietly. "With you."

"We can go now," she said, "or I can camp here on the mountain while you take your leave of the monks, and we leave tomorrow evening." Her fingers traced his gaunt cheek, a faint glimmer of concern finally showing through. "You need to eat."

All of that was important, yes, but not as important as the fact that she was really there, that at last there was a chance that they could truly be together. "All I need - all I've ever needed - is you," he told her, the barest hint of a smile on his face before dipping his head to capture her lips. It had been over three hundred years since he had last tasted her lips, and he intended to make up for lost time.

She was no less eager than him, though perhaps a little more in her right mind. But even the knowledge that they were on an exposed mountainside, surrounded by wolves, wasn't enough to keep her from returning his kiss with the same fierce intensity, the first kiss she had allowed herself since the night she had turned him to the dark so very long ago.

Despite the howl of wolves, he was in no hurry to rush that kiss - a kiss that rekindled the fire that she'd sparked in him over three centuries ago. But this was not the time or place to fully rekindle that fire. As eager as they both were, there would be plenty of time for that later. He reluctantly drew back from her lips, arms wrapping around her to hold her close, as he buried his face in her hair and whispered her name, as if saying a prayer.

Sakura went willingly into that embrace, more than content to be hidden from the world in the arms of the only man she had ever loved. A part of her longed to give him some of her own blood, to let him see her life as it had been without him, empty and purposeless, but she knew her blood might easily overwhelm his system. He was starving, she could tell, but she knew him well enough to know that he had done it to himself deliberately.

William Hawthorn

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Re: Reconciliation
« Reply #2 on: October 29, 2019, 05:28:23 PM »
There had been plenty of humans available to feed on, if he'd so wished - monks, guides, tourists, among them - but he had not come to the monastery to feed. He had come here for atonement and to learn how to control his rage and his hunger. Julian had taught him some of that before he'd come here, but the monastery had proven a place of peace, away from the chaos of humanity. And now she wanted to take him back. It frightened him a little, but he had never meant to stay here forever.

"I should have looked for you. I wanted to look for you, but the Council ..." He trailed off. It wasn't and had never been his own safety that concerned him, but hers.

She shook her head, understanding bright in her gaze. "It wasn't safe," she agreed quietly. "They would have had us killed rather than let us be together. But the members of the Council have changed in recent years, and so has their decision. You are not a danger to the world, William."

"No, and I am not a danger to you," he assured her, though she already knew that. "I love you, Sakura," he whispered in her ear. "I have always loved you." And with that, he kissed her again, as if to let that kiss prove his words.

She all but purred into his kiss, clinging to him once more as she surrendered entirely into his embrace. "I love you," she whispered against his lips, pressing kisses upon kisses to his mouth. "I will always love you."

He did not bother to ask her to marry him, as it no longer seemed necessary. She had found him and come for him, and that was all the answer he needed to know that she still loved him.

"I can be ready to leave whenever you wish," he told her, his heart swelling with joy at her declaration of love.

"It is a long hike back to the airfield," she warned him. "You should feed first." She smiled, rising onto her toes to kiss his jaw. "We can make it by dawn if we leave within a couple of hours."

"As you wish, Sakura-chan," he said, gently pulling away from her and offering her a formal bow, though he'd addressed her informally. The tiniest hint of a smirk upon his lips assured her that, despite everything, he had retained his sense of humor and not become bitter.

She beamed as he bowed to her, not allowing him to straighten up before she claimed his lips with her own once again. "I have missed you so," she murmured. "But feed, and say your goodbyes. I will wait."

His smile widened to hear her tell him she'd missed him, but how he'd missed her; how lonely he'd been without her. He kissed her twice more, each kiss a little deeper than the last before breaking away. The night wouldn't last forever, and they had a long way to go before dawn.

"I won't be long," he promised, touching a finger against her lips before turning away. He was gone in a flash of motion that was almost too fast for a mortal to see, but not for the preternatural sight of a vampire.

She watched him dart away with a faint smile, waiting until he was out of sight before returning to where she had left the pack she had brought with her. There was clothing for him in there - modern, warm clothes, sturdy boots. Clothing that would not draw attention to them when they reached the airfield.

Somewhere out there on the mountain, he was hunting for prey - easy prey. Something small and easy to catch that would appease his hunger, until he could properly feed. A hare, a quail, or some other small prey. He was only interested in the blood, leaving the carcass for the wolves.

And Sakura waited with quiet hope, breaking her stillness only once to intimidate a snow leopard out of attempting to attack her. Predators were so easy to dissuade, for a vampire. It provided a little diversion to pass the time.

As promised, it wasn't long before he returned, a little more color to his cheeks. Though he still looked half-starved, he was no longer had the ravenous appearance of a vampire who'd just woken from a long sleep. He licked the last of the blood from his lips, even taking a moment to silently thank the hare for its sacrifice.

"Here," Sakura told him, handing over the pack. "Julian helped me to find clothing that should fit you. The boots, at the very least. The path down the mountain is littered with sharp rocks."

"I remember," he told her, taking the pack and slinging it over one shoulder, a small frown on his face. "I should bid my farewell to the monks," he told her. It was all he needed to do really, as he had neither brought nor acquired any possessions here.

"Of course you must," she agreed with a soft smile. "Should I come closer to the monastery, or remain here? I do not wish to alarm those who have sheltered you."

"You can come closer, but you cannot go inside," he told her, though she probably knew that already. Tourists had become regular visitors to the mountain, but even they were not allowed inside - only the monks were privy there, and him.

"I know." She slipped her hand into his, turning to walk with him back toward the monastery. "This is a sacred place. I would not shatter their peace simply for the sake of a few minutes."

"It was Julian who arranged for me to stay here," he confessed. Of course, it was. Who else would have taken the time or the trouble to do it, despite his own troubles with Serena.

She smiled faintly. "That does not surprise me," she admitted. "He has always had time for his friends, even during the worst of his troubles."

"You are his friend now, too," William said, more statement than question. It was not so surprising, knowing it was Freya who'd made her - the oldest remaining female of their kind. In a way, they were all family, all sons and daughters of the same vampiric line that went back centuries.

"We are family, all of us," she said as they walked. "And much has happened in the last century. We are finding where we belong, and with whom. It has been a long road for many of us."

William frowned faintly, hearing something in her voice that spoke of her own suffering. "I'm sorry, Sakura," he told her. He had struggled to atone for the lives he had taken, but there was little he could do to atone for her own suffering.

She squeezed his hand, still smiling faintly at the path before them. "What I have done, I make my own peace with," she assured him softly. "My actions are no one's responsibility but my own." She tilted her head, sharing that smile with him. "And we are not alone anymore."

William Hawthorn

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Re: Reconciliation
« Reply #3 on: October 29, 2019, 05:28:40 PM »

"I could say the same for myself," he told her. What he perceived as his sins were of his own making and were no fault of hers, but he did not want to speak of that. What was done was done, and there was no undoing it.

What was a comfortable pace for them was more than a running pace for the average human, bringing them quickly to the gates of the monastery. Sakura raised William's hand to her lips, kissing his skin tenderly. "I will be right here," she promised him. "Thank them for me?"

"They have been good to me," William admitted, and he would never forget their kindness and generosity. They may not have meant to bestow wisdom on him during his stay, but over the years, the monks had taught him about patience, forgiveness, and peace. He smiled at the tender gesture of affection, his heart soaring once more to know she loved him still.

"I won't be long, darling," he promised her quietly, touching a kiss to her cheek before departing once again, the pack slung against one shoulder.

She sighed softly to herself as he slipped into the monastery, choosing this time to wait in the open. She sat herself down on one of the rocks that lined the sheer drop to the valley below, and gazed out across the starlit mountains. And she found herself weeping - not in sorrow, but in joy. She had found him; he had not rejected her. They were going home.

Perhaps he had not realized it yet, but there was a connection between a vampire and his maker, and as he said his goodbyes to those who had sheltered him for so long, he felt a faint wave of emotion that was and was not his own. It was not sadness exactly, but joy, hope, relief - a feeling he had not experienced in a very long time. When he returned to her, some moments later, he was dressed in more modern clothing, a look on his face that said he was unsure how he felt about this modern way of dress.

She felt him return before he came into sight, her face dried of her tears as she stood to greet him warmly.

"You will get used to them," she promised him softly, looking up to the monastery behind him. "And we will come back someday, to visit. This place holds many good memories for you. I will not keep you from it."

He opened his arms to her, turning them both to look back at the place that had given him sanctuary for over one hundred years. "I found peace here, Sakura," he explained. Peace, but not contentment exactly. That he could only find in her arms.

She went easily into his arms, resting her head against his chest as she looked up at the place that was known as the Tiger's Nest. "I hope you will keep that peace in your heart."

"I will try, my darling," he promised her, if only for her sake. But he had long ago let go of the rage and the hatred and the bloodlust that had caused him to seek refuge here, and though he had never been a religious man, he had learned from the monks about the sacredness of life.

She smiled, hugging him tight a moment longer. "Will you run with me, as we did once?" she asked, offering her hand in invitation. The last time they had run together, he had been human, and she had teased him with her speed. Now they were evenly matched.

"Run," he echoed, chuckling. "In these boots?" he asked, though his footwear was probably far more practical than the sandals the monks had provided him with. "Will you stay with me, this time?" he countered, waiting for an answer before taking her hand, as if it mattered.

She laughed, her first true laugh in a very long time, wriggling her fingers toward him fondly. "Wherever you go, William, I will be with you."

"I will hold you to that, Sakura," he told her. Now that she'd found him, he intended to never let her go. He would never allow anyone to part them again. Ever. He took her hand, smiling warmly at her, a hint of playfulness sparkling in his eyes, before leaning close to kiss her once more, and then he was off, pulling her along beside him as they sped along the mountain path, the stars twinkling overhead.

Her laughter sparkled in the darkness, a fading farewell to the monks who were awake to watch their friend leave them behind. The abbot nodded to himself, smiling as he turned away from the window, glad to have seen their visitor smiling as he went. Peace came in many forms, and not everyone could be wholly at peace in the seclusion of these mountains. To be able to smile like that ... that, too, was peace.