Actions

Work Header

territories

Work Text:

“You haven’t listened to a single word I’ve said. I’m done.”

 

She should have seen this coming. Far be it from innocent little cupcakes to grasp the moral and interpersonal complexities of a situation. Oh god, Mattie was going to have that smug fucking look on her face when she heard. All ‘I told you so, darling. Once you’re done playing, you eat your food.’ She could certainly be vindictive. Family curse.

 

She’d… break the news to Mattie tomorrow. For now, she just needed to be alone. Look at the stars. Maybe they’d remind her of her personal insignificance in the face of the universe in a way that didn’t feel like a knife to the gut.

 

 

… Why didn’t she just become the student representative herself? She’s the one conducting this whole idiot crusade anyway. Why’d she think pitting her up against her own sister was a good idea?

 

This was her fault. She’d been too afraid to nip their relationship in the bud to seriously question her motives. ‘Reterritorialize the monster in your own value system hard enough to produce your moral clone. Forget anything about the actual person, she’s a monster.’ Fucking—

 

Her fangs slashed into the blood bag. 

 

Refrigerated copper gushed into her mouth, overflowed from the gash, dripped through her fingers, pooled on the roof. Still not as vibrant as from the vein. Not as deliciously warm as L—

 

Ugh.

 

She spiked the thing to the floor.

 

 

Here she was. Losing herself in the endless black sea and its gleaming jewels above, lying in a shitty pool of cold blood below. Pathetic. A damned creature of untold centuries—a Countess, for Christ’s sake—moping because yet another girl couldn’t accept that she wasn’t just a geriatric with a hemoglobin deficiency, but a world unto herself.

 

It was so quiet. There were the screams of imbecilic Zeta partiers’ drunken confrontations with harpies, of course, but those had long faded from her mind. 

 

Silent like the tomb

 

She stiffened when the thought came to her, sitting up with a jolt. Not now

 

The door to the roof opened with a creak. A scowl tore its way onto her face. She swore, if that was L—

 

Oh. A distant, earthy scent of pines and sweat and fire suffused her vampiric senses.

 

…The beanpole?

 

“…What,” she spat out. It came out with less vitriol than intended. Dammit.

 

“Hey,” Danny replied. She waited for an explanation. After a few awkward seconds, she got one. “I… wanted to check on you?”

 

She put you up to this,” Carmilla hissed.

 

A frown. “She didn’t.”

 

She snorted. “Then what would you be doing here.”

 

Danny sighed. “You’re… not the only one she couldn’t understand, you know. It sucks.”

 

She paused. She’d not thought much of it initially, but…

 

“I care about you! Of course it’s my job to keep you safe.”

 

“… Get over here, Xena.”

 

At first hesitant, Danny crept over, towering over Carmilla’s seated form. She gestured to the ground next to her.

 

“Sit. Try to avoid the blood.”

 

Danny grimaced, but sat down.

 

Another silence, a place between awkward and comfortable. Carmilla lay back again, rolling out of her puddle. Danny pointedly didn’t make a comment about her hygiene.

 

“For all she preaches about ‘love’ and ‘justice’, she’s certainly abominable at treating the ones who love her with justice.”

 

Danny didn’t even try to deny it. “I don’t understand why. I thought it must be me, but…”

 

Carmilla rolled her eyes, poking the other girl with a sharp knee. “Don’t misplace your blame. Modifications hardly occur without sufficient reason, Brobdingnab. I was an idiot to believe otherwise.”

 

“Hopeful, maybe,” Danny countered, surprisingly charitable.

 

“You’d think after all this—“ she gestured into the air, vaguely, “—I wouldn’t dare be.”

 

“Yeah, well. You’re not as nihilistic as you claim to be, bloodsucker.”

 

She gasped theatrically. “How dare you, Clifford. I’m affronted.”

 

Danny smiled.

 

 

Okay, so maybe the big red puppy wasn’t that bad. She knows how to appreciate a girl who knows her way around a literary reference. Just watching the stars with her was… peaceful. L—

 

Laura didn’t really know how to appreciate peace. Always jumping into the next big struggle.

 

 

“Lawrence.”

 

The redhead blinked, looking down at her. Carmilla sucked in a breath she didn’t need.

 

“Thanks.”

 


 

“Matska—“

 

Mircalla—“

 

“You can’t just kill her because we’re not together anymore.”

 

“And why on earth not, sorellina?”

 

“Like it or not, she hasn’t done anything worth killing over. She’s under my protection.”

 

“Your—the little fleshbag that could has splintered your soft heart, and that is reason enough—“

 

“Mattie.”

 

A sigh.

 

“Alright, alright. But I told you so.”

 

“I know.”

 

A pause.

 

“Night on the town, then?”

 

Please.

 


 

She wasn’t entirely sure how she got this intoxicated with blood, but she certainly was. Her body was all prickly and warm, like a deep sleep half shaken-off under toasty blankets. She’d missed this. The blood haze of a good meal.

 

More pressingly, however, she wasn’t sure how she’d ended up in Danny Lawrence’s arms. Totally uncharacteristic.

 

“Elvira. Where are you… staying, now?”

 

Oh. Was that…

 

“‘Sfine, Xena,” she slurred into her arm. “Don’t needjur help. Rrreally.”

 

“You really aren’t giving off the impression you can get home safely. Where’s your sister?”

 

She giggled. “Off playin’ with her food.”

 

Danny’s brow crinkled. “Gross. Where are you staying?”

 

She blinked. “Stayin’?”

 

“Well, yeah, because—“

 

Oh. Right. She hissed.

 

“Fffuck. Nowhere, evidently.”

 

Danny frowned. “You can—“

 

“No.”

 

“W-what?”

 

“I don’t wantchur pity.”

 

A sigh. “Dead girl, it’s. Not pity. I just like to help people who could use helping.”

 

“Too damn nice for your own good.”

 

Danny’s eyes went distant. “Don’t I know it.”

 

She didn’t like this look on her. “… Fine. Let go.”

 

That drew Danny back to the present. She removed her arms from Carmilla, slowly. Carmilla nearly fell over the second she flew loose. She grabbed on to the giant’s arm for support. “Yeah, yeah. Take me to your bed, noble puppy. Get ready for your reward,” she winked.

 

Danny flushed a shade of red not quite her hair but close. It was kind of cute. But gross, because it’s Danny Lawrence. “W-what? That’s not…”

 

Carmilla rolled her eyes sluggishly. “Forgeddit. Whisk me away.”

 

And she did.

 


 

She groaned. Light. Eyes. Bad.

 

“Oh, shit. Sorry.”

 

Better. Ugh.

 

“What the hell happened, Clifford? Where am I?”

 

“My place. Summer Society house. You asked me to bring you here when you got too… blood-drunk?”

 

She squeezed her eyes shut. “Oh god, did we fuck.”

 

Danny’s breath audibly hitched. “N-no!? We didn’t?”

 

She nodded into the pillow. “Okay. You slept on the floor, then.”

 

“My back really did not agree with it.”

 

“You should’ve slept up here. Vampiric constitution trumps lower back pain, remember? I sleep like the dead.”

 

“You are the dead.”

 

“Certainly feels like it.”

 

She can feel Danny’s grimace. “Do… you want ibuprofen, or something? Does that work on the undead?” Carmilla rolled her eyes, shifting to look directly at Danny.

 

“Yes, beanpole, affective substances evidently work on me, given my current condition.”

 

“I’m just trying to help, you overgrown mosquito.”

 

“… I know. I’m sorry.”

 

A pause. “It’s okay. I’ll… go get the ibuprofen. Sec.”

 

She sighed as Lawrence shifted into the bathroom. 

 


 

The redhead had a lot of books. Carmilla liked this. It meant she could keep her mind off… everything with a good reread of Poe or Butler, or something.

 

If Danny cared that she had essentially camped out in the corner of her room by the bookshelf the past few days, she didn’t show it. All things considered, they were rather amicable for alleged enemies.

 

“I feel like my brain is bleeding,” Danny announced, walking in one evening. “Your sister is terrible.”

 

Carmilla raised an eyebrow.

 

“Silas board stuff.”

 

“You’ll dig yourself an even deeper hole than before trying to fight her. Mattie knows what she’s doing.”

 

“Do you know what she’s doing?”

 

“… Not particularly, but I know she won’t resort to killing anyone either of us care about for it.”

 

Danny blinked. “Why not?”

 

“I told her not to.”

 

“She listens to you?”

 

“Well, she wouldn’t want to make me sad.”

 

“What a high standard, Elvira.”

 

“Life is abundant, love is not. It makes sense to her.”

 

“What about you?”

 

“Save the meta-ethics for someone who cares, you redwood.”

 

“You totally do, though.”

 

Carmilla rolled her eyes.

 


 

Finally the stew of temptation and hurt proved too potent a cocktail to resist. Regrettably, she was checking Laura’s most recent videos.

 

She didn’t even get all the way through one—their breakup, broadcast to the entire campus, apparent-fucking-ly—before she was seething.

 

Who did she fucking think she was, broadcasting a spectacular form of misery to the world for sympathy?? Woe is her, Hollis the rejector, and she, the impudent one?! What did she know of this kind of loss—Carmilla had been buried for it!

 

“Wretched, callow… foolish, immature—ugh!” she spat, slamming her book back on the shelf. 

 

“Uh… you okay?”

 

Oh. Big Red. Right.

 

“I watched some of her videos,” she hissed, “Foolishly. Her Manichaean self-aggrandizement is. Painful. As if she were being victimized by my aggression rather than her own ignorance.”

 

Danny frowned. “She doesn’t mean to, you know.”

 

Her eyes narrowed. “Why defend her, Lawrence? She’s not going to love you back even if you follow her every whim. That ship sailed.”

 

Maybe she shouldn’t have said that. Lawrence’s eyes got cold and hard, like pale Arctic icebergs.

 

“Like she’s ever going to love you for who you are if you throw nothing but criticism and vitriol her way?”

 

Ouch. She… kind of deserved that one, but still. She swiped her bangs out of her eyes, deflating.

 

“I’m sorry. That wasn’t very… ‘shared rejection solidarity’ of me.” 

 

Danny exhaled. “It’s okay. Just… don’t say shit like that again.”

 

She nodded. “Okay.”

 

They looked at each other for a few seconds, before Danny averted her eyes.

 

“Want to… criticize film adaptations of classic literature with me? It’s for class, but probably fun to do.”

 

Carmilla blinked. “… Sure. Why not.”

 


 

“Carmilla, you did not meet Shakespeare ‘back in the day’. It didn’t happen.”

 

“How would you know, Clifford? Were you there?”

 

“Shakespeare died before you were born.”

 

“…”

 

“Forgot that I know things too?”

 

“… Damn.”

 

 

“You ate one of the Brontës?!”

 

“It wasn’t intentional, she just refused to leave without her sister! Maman insisted!”

 

“You ate a pivotal figure in English literature because your mother told you to?!”

 

“You don’t defy Maman, okay!”

 

 

“Deleuze’s insights on the intersection of ethics, desire, and immanence are important, Lawrence. You can’t just not study him.”

 

“Then you tell me what a body without organs is!”

 


 

Somehow, it felt strangely normal to be nursing a microwaved mug of blood at Danny’s window in the evening. Strangely domestic. She’d hardly been outside save for blood runs and hanging out with Mattie for weeks, which testified to just how comfortable she was there. Or alternatively how uncomfortable she was with the wary looks of the other Summers outside. 

 

(It’s not like she was going to kill anybody! … Unprovoked.)

 

It just made sense that she’d slide out of the newly-bought futon in the evening, snark away Danny’s disbelief at the hour of her rising, and grab some blood. It kept her away from other things. She was afraid it’d start to feel natural.

 

… Maybe that might be okay.

 


 

“You’ve been living with that irritable red one for a month? Why?”

 

“She’s no stranger to being hurt by Laura, Mattie.”

 

“Remind me why I can’t kill her, again?”

 

A sigh. “It’d make me sad. And you don’t want that, now do you?”

 

A wry grin. “Certainly not. There’s nothing going on with the ginger?”

 

“… No.”

 

“Are you sure?”

 

“Absolutely certain.”

 

“Let’s have a dinner, then. The three of us,” Mattie purred. “I want to know what it is about this girl that keeps you coming back.”

 

“… Okay. Don’t bite her.”

 

Mattie snorts.

 

“I’ll leave that to you, ‘Calla.”

 


 

“Beanpole.”

 

“Cullen.”

 

“Okay, that one’s just insulting, Danielle.”

 

Danny giggled. It was light, vibrant, and inexplicably warming, like bubbling magma within her entire body. Carmilla looked away.

 

“My sister and I are having dinner tonight.”

 

“You eat?”

 

She ignored that. “You’re coming with. Hope you have something fancy.”

 

Danny sputtered. “She’s—I—we’re literally preparing the materials to debate her out of her position right now.”

 

“Yes, with the descendant of that man who tried to fuck my corpse. So you’ve said.”

 

There was a beat of absolute silence.

 

“What?”

 

“Surely you didn’t think the old white man was ideal for your job, right?”

 

She could see the strategic gears whirring in Danny’s head already. “Still that clever mind of yours, Lawrence. You, me, Mattie, 8PM. Be prepared.”

 


 

“My, aren’t you ravishing. That suit is impeccable,” she purred, slipping an arm around Danny’s waist as they headed where Mattie was staying. Danny immediately went crimson.

 

“T-thanks. You too—you look, uh. Stunning.”

 

An easy smirk slid on her face. “Oh, do I?”

 

She enjoyed Danny’s sputtering, flustered response for a few seconds before having mercy. “We’re almost there. Try not to say anything too egregious.” 

 

Mattie met them with a Cheshire grin that only widened at the sight of Carmilla’s arm around Danny’s waist. Carmilla narrowed her gaze. “Don’t.”

 

“Don’t what, darling?” 

 

“You know what.” Mattie winked.

 

Carmilla inclined her head toward Danny, then to her sister. “Mattie, Danielle. Danielle, Matska.”

 

Danny blinked. “We already know each other.”

 

Carmilla rolled her eyes. “And now you officially know each other on non-homicidal terms.”

 

“Truly touching to make your acquaintance,” Mattie added, all business and charm. Danny slowly nodded.

 

 

It turned out that, despite everything, Danny and Mattie had common ground.

 

It just so happened that it was the most mind-bogglingly boring subject imaginable: economic theory. The two disagreed constantly, but didn’t seem to fault each other for it. Carmilla just sat by the sidelines, gnawing at her blood sausage with vague interest. Until…

 

“What’s with you plucky infants trying to get us all killed, anyhow? I hardly thought I’d see active defenses of eldritch mysteries among mortals when I came back to this godforsaken institution.”

 

Without blinking an eye, Danny replied. “The alternative seems to be your Merchant of Venice Corvae associates.”

 

Mattie rolled her eyes. “What’s a little flesh between friends?”

 

Carmilla huffed a little laugh. Danny looked to her, then back at Mattie.

 

“… What’s your endgame, then?”

 

“Ideally? Evacuate the student body and collapse the campus over the deific pile of tuna. The Corvae want to commence drilling in the pit, but I’ve headed them off for now. Not sure how I feel about it.”

 

Danny nodded.

 

“Oh, and kill that lie-peddling geezer you insist on fronting as your last line of defense.”

 

“For the whole necrophiliac thing?”

 

Mattie raised an eyebrow. “Yes. Do you have a problem with that?”

 

“… Honestly? No. He’s kind of disgusting.”

 

Mattie took a good look at Danny, as though reappraising a fine jewel. Danny shivered. Mattie turned to Carmilla.

 

“Didn’t think I’d say it, Carm, but you picked a good one.”

 

Both Carmilla and Danny pinked a little. “We’re not together.”

 

“Sure, sorellina,” Mattie said.

 


 

“Last night went a lot better than I expected,” she said, reading a book with her head in Danny’s lap. The redhead was grading papers on the bed.

 

“… How? We argued at every turn.”

 

“She’s my sister, Red,” she murmured. “We love a good debate.”

 

“I don’t think I convinced her of anything.”

 

“You convinced her that you care about me. Or at least dislike rich hereditary patriarchs enough to turn a blind eye. Either is a good look for Mattie.”

 

Danny hummed in response. Almost absentmindedly, she carded her fingers through Carmilla’s obsidian curls. Carmilla froze at the touch for just an instant, but then relaxed.

 

“I do care, you know. Even when you have a late night and show up here with a blood mustache. It’s nice to have someone who understands things.”

 

She looked up over her Tolstoy. “It is. You’re not so bad yourself, Xena.”

 

“Fangface.”

 

Carmilla winked, and went back to reading. Danny’s fingers scratched lightly at her scalp. She let out a sort of hum at the pleasant sensation. Mercifully, Danny didn’t seem to notice it. Purring? Really, Karnstein?

 

They stayed like that for a while. Then, somebody came barging in — which hadn’t happened since…

 

“Hey, Danny. Sorry to come by without asking but I need…”

 

The hand stroking her hair didn’t stop, though it did slow a little. She, however, was tense as a spring, unmoving.

 

Danny looked over at Laura and frowned. “Sorry, Hollis. I’ve got to get these papers graded as quick as possible. Tonight?”

 

Laura’s eyes flitted between Danny, her hand in Carmilla’s hair, and Carmilla, suddenly rigid and unmoving in Danny’s lap. She didn’t say anything for a moment.

 

“… Yeah. Okay. Text me?”

 

“I will.”

 

“Okay. Bye!” And Laura shot out of the room like she was fleeing for her life.

 

The second the door clicked, Danny set her grading pen aside.

 

“You okay?”

 

She didn’t respond. Danny swore, delicately taking the book out of her hands and laying it face-down on the sheets.

 

“Elvira?”

 

She shook her head faintly.

 

“Romantic ideal?” 

 

She couldn’t breathe. She didn’t need to, but panic still seized her like a vise, flooded her unmoving veins like a morphine injection.

 

“Hey, hey. Carmilla. Can you hear me?

 

“Because I think you’re better than your long history of murdering and callously discarding people?”

 

She shuddered, vaguely aware of her vision getting blurry and wet. Was she sobbing?

 

Warm, strong arms wrapped around her, pulling her close. 

 

“Mircalla. Hey. It’ll be okay. Promise.”

 

“Why on earth would you promise that, Danielle,” she heaved.

 

A hand returned to her hair, petting it lightly. She burrowed herself deeper into Danny’s arms.

 

She was much warmer than Laura.

 

“I’m promising it because I’m going to make sure of it.”

 

“Be careful helping a monster, Danielle,” she hissed. “You might get bitten.”

 

Danny squeezed her tighter.

 

“Is that what you think of yourself?”

 

She didn’t respond.

 

“Mircalla?”

 

“Why are you calling me that?” she murmured.

 

“Should I not?”

 

She took a heavy breath. “N-no, it’s okay. L-Laura was insistent on calling me Carmilla.”

 

Danny just held her.

 

“I’m here, Mircalla,” she whispered.

 

And she fell apart in her arms.

 


 

“We’re going outside,” Danny said. “You haven’t left this room for three days.”

 

“For good reason, Xena. Not as though there’s anything interesting outside but violence anymore.”

 

“What happened to meeting me at the violence, then?”

 

She snorted. “Fair.”

 

They were on the roof of the Summer Society building. The stars were much clearer than the roof of her mother’s apartment, closer as this was to the forest. They sat much closer together than the first time. The night was a comfortable sort of blackness.

 

“I think I’m going to quit the student rep position,” Danny said, suddenly.

 

She raised an eyebrow. “Why?”

 

“The more and more we dig, the less and less certain I am we’d be doing anything meaningful in getting rid of Mattie. She’s not your mother.”

 

“No,” she agreed, “she’s not. She’s more pragmatic than vicious.”

 

“Do you miss your mother?”

 

… “What?”

 

“Do you?” It didn’t seem accusatory. Just a question. She sat and stared at the stars, thinking.

 

“… All of you only saw her at her most bloodthirsty. She… could be shitty,” very shitty, “but she was family. Wicked smart, and she loved deeply, in her own fucked-up way. So yeah. Sometimes, at least. Others…” she trailed off.

 

Danny nodded. “I get that.”

 

“Do you?”

 

“Glaring deficits of love are kind of our thing, dead girl.”

 

She puffed out a slow breath, laying her head on Danny’s shoulder. “Not wrong.”

 

 

“…Clifford.”

 

“That’s you?”

 

“No, no. Wait. You’re 334.”

 

“Yes?”

 

“Clifford is a children’s show.”

 

“Outstanding observations.”

 

“You watched a children’s show and liked it enough to remember it.”

 

“I… have no idea what you’re talking about.”

 

Danny cackled. “You totally did, fuck!”

 

“I didn’t ,” she complained weakly. (She did.)

 

“God, Carm. That’s kinda adorable of you, not gonna lie.”

 

“Shut up. I’m a ferocious creature of the night.” She snuggled further into Danny’s shoulder.

 

“Whatever you say.”

 

 

“… You know you’re not controlling for wanting to protect the people you love, right.”

 

“What?”

 

She pressed her nose into Danny’s neck. She still smells just like a breath of forest air. “You’re not. That girl has the self-preservation skills of a headless chicken. Your concerns were valid.”

 

“B-but…” Danny suddenly seemed a whole lot more fragile. Like a glass statue, strong but brittle.

 

“I do the same damn thing, Lawrence. I know. I just get away with it because I’m bitter and abrasive.”

 

Danny took in a shaky breath. “You’re kind of a softy, you know that, Karnstein?”

 

“Don’t go telling anyone,” she said, pulling Danny into a hug.

 

She pretended not to notice the wetness growing on the back of her shirt, and squeezed a little tighter.

 


 

It seemed the big red dog was having a bad day.

 

Hadn’t left her bed to go on her morning run, hadn’t gone to class or done any homework, barely eaten anything.

 

It was uncharacteristic. She—wasn’t concerned, or anything. That would be weird. It was just… unusual. She tried not to analyze the feeling too much.

 

“You okay, Red?”

 

“I told Laura I didn’t want to be the student rep anymore.”

 

Oh.

 

“She had some. Infelicitous things to say about that.”

 

“… Shit,” she said.

 

“My thoughts exactly.”

 

Carmilla’s mind swam with possible claims.

 

“You’re not selfish for… choosing to do that. You’re just looking at the situation more broadly. Much smarter than charging blindly into a fight you don’t understand for reasons you can’t substantiate.”

 

“That’s not what she said.”

 

She blinked.

 

“She accused me of doing it because of you.”

 

… “Oh.”

 

“She’s never going to respect the things I believe in, huh?” Danny chuckled wetly.

 

“… Danielle.”

 

Danny turned to look at her, eyes like murky pools rimmed with blood. She carefully climbed into Danny’s bed and put her arms around her.

 

“I… care about you, okay? Remember that.”

 

Danny suddenly seemed dumbstruck, and a little awed. “Mircalla…”

 

She blushed. Just a little, honest.

 

“I care about you too.”

 

“… You loser,” she mumbled, ignoring the little frisson of something at the bottom of her stomach.

 

She pressed a kiss into Danny’s hair to keep her mind off the present.

 


 

How had she never noticed the way Danny’s hair looked like braided flame? Or how her eyes were like the sea—not at the tempestuous shores, but that calmness far out where the waters are blue and peaceful? Or the constellations of starry freckles that dotted her skin?

 

What—no, no, wait. Hold up. This was Danny. Danielle “I won’t let you hurt her” Lawrence. Who had threatened to stake her on a number of occasions for various non-causes. Her rival in…

 

Fuck.

 

“Hey, Carm.”

 

Oh god.

 

What,” she said, a little snappish. Danny frowned. 

 

Dammit.

 

“… Sorry. What?”

 

Danny slid a half-graded paper over to her. “Have a look at this? I wanted your opinion on it.”

 

 

“You TA an entry-level literature class. Why do your students keep bringing Foucault into it?”

 

Danny shrugged, smiling a little. Her sluggish vampire heart didn’t thump a little faster at the sight, no ma’am. Not at all.

 

She huffed. “They don’t even have a good grasp on Foucault’s method. It’s not well-argued.”

 

“It really isn’t,” Danny said, taking the paper back.

 

“Then you… didn’t need my opinion, beanstalk.”

 

“Thought you might enjoy it,” Danny said.

 

Oh.

 

She pressed a kiss to the white of Danny’s neck before going to grab some blood from the fridge.

 

“… I did. Thanks, sweetheart.”

 

Even (especially) now, seeing the edges of Danny’s blush from behind was worth it. Just in a different kind of way.

 


 

“So, how’s the lover doing, Carm?”

 

Mattie,” she pouted.

 

Mattie chuckled. “You make it too easy, darling. Honestly. She’s better than the last one, though. Knows when to quit. C—”

 

“No, you still can’t eat Laura.”

 

“Damn.”

 


 

So, maybe she had taken to not bringing her clothes with her when she went to shower. Maybe she liked seeing Lawrence’s mouth drop open at her wet, towel-clad form. Just a little.

 

Maybe she’d started interspersing the red nicknames and tall nicknames with drawling sweethearts and murmured babes and a few Danielles more than usual. It was hardly her fault if the combination of Danny’s shy smiles and blushes was an intoxicant.

 

Maybe she liked when Danny started flirting back like it was another of their debates, a duel of purrs and lingering touches and incomprehensible warm feelings. Maybe it helped her forget everything else god-awful in their lives.

 

It felt so good to know she was wanted.

 

Not the nonsensical ‘heroic vampire with a heart of gold’ delusion, or the ‘snarky nymphomaniac’ persona. Her. Mircalla von Karnstein, the vampire and the girl, both and neither and all of the above. A bit bizarre that it was Xena doing the wanting, after everything, but still so good.

 


 

In the end, it wasn’t the flirting that did it.

 

It was a nightmare.

 

A vile, recurrent nightmare that always surfaced at the most inopportune of times. A nightmare of being soaked to the bone in rotting blood, of feeling the maggots worming through her skin, of a world seventy-five years older than she remembered, of a hunger so soul-searingly intense it bled her consciousness away in favor of the resurgent mindless instincts and impulses at its core. A nightmare of when the only love she’d ever known was being called a monster after months of devotion, of when the only sympathy she’d received was not being killed on the spot.

 

The nightmare was never of her time in the tomb. It was always when she was exposed anew to the light, when she had to face it again.

 

She awoke with a scream and the feel of hands on her waist. She thrashed, overwhelmed with atavistic claustrophobia at even this small enclosure.

 

“—alla!”

 

“Mir—st—’s oka—“

 

“—‘m her—“

 

It was as though her body was another being, and she simply the observer, feeling from beyond its shape. 

 

“O-outside,” she gasped.

 

Somehow, being carried in Danny’s arms didn’t cause another attack. Maybe it was because they were warm and strong, unlike the smooth rigidity of the tomb. Maybe it was because the blood was on the inside, rather than covering her. Maybe it was because it was Danielle.

 

She felt herself being laid on the roof, felt herself see the stars overhead, felt their comforting eternal glimmer, absolving her of categorical imperatives and cosmic responsibility. Even pale and white, they burned her back down to her real shape: a small, eighteen year-old girl who became an immortal fiend. A simple substance. She panted breaths she didn’t need into the endless sky.

 

“L-Lawrence?”

 

“I’m here,” came the concerned reply, just above her. “Is there anything I can do?”

 

“Stay.”

 

“Of course, Mircalla.”

 

The sound of her own name grounded her, and slowly she faded back into existence. When the pangs of thought-consuming madness subsided into a general sensation of unpleasantness, she groaned and slid her head into Danny’s lap.

 

“… Sorry. Interment dreams.”

 

“You don’t have to apologize. It’s okay.”

 

She sighed. “It’s been decades. I should be over them.”

 

“You don’t have to hold up any fronts of imperturbability with me, Carm. It’s okay to not be okay.”

 

She was too drained to cry, or argue back. She just hummed a noise of response. Danny kissed her forehead, tender. The sudden gush of feeling that flooded her heart and chest and mind all at once in response to the sheer care nearly overwhelmed her all over again.

 

Fuck.

 

“Danielle,” she whispered, serious.

 

“You okay?”

 

She nodded against Danny’s thighs. “I’m going to say something. Please don’t take it as post-panic overstimulation, or whatever else might flit through your mind at it. That’s just its altitude.” A dry chuckle. “Okay?”

 

“Okay.”

 

She reached up, chipped black-painted fingers brushing against Danny’s jaw. “Danielle, I love you.”

 

Danny froze completely. The silence went on for a second too long. Unease began to spring back up.

 

“… Really?”

 

“Really. I didn’t know I could, but your BFG ways have won over my maidenly heart.” She tilted her head to the side. “I just wanted you to know. You… deserve to, with all the care you give me. Even when I just aimlessly wandered into your life.”

 

“You love me?”

 

“Yes, lackwit, I like-like, check yes on the kindergarten note, a hundred percent love y—“

 

Fuck,” Danny swore, all revelation and passion. “I love you too.”

 

“… Maybe you should do something about it,” Carmilla whispered.

 

Danny’s lips felt like home.

 


 

“It’s going to be okay, Danny. Really. I swear.”

 

“Are you sure? We don’t have to do this if you aren’t ready. I just—“

 

“I know, sweetheart. I’m ready.”

 

The two of them had walked across campus in broad daylight — certainly something Carmilla hadn’t done often recently. They stood before a familiar front door.

 

“Well, let’s go, then,” Danny said, still a little bit tense.

 

“Wait.”

 

Danny waited. Carmilla reached over and pulled her down by her sleeve. Her lips met Danny’s and an involuntary hum left the redhead.

 

“Whatever happens in here, Lawrence, I’m yours. Got it?”

 

“… Got it.”

 

She smirked. “Good puppy.” Danny twitched.

 

“Ready?” she finally asked.

 

Carmilla gripped the handle. “More than I’ll ever be.”

 

She pulled open the door to her mother’s apartment.