Actions

Work Header

No Other Shade of Blue but You

Chapter Text

The farmhouse door slammed back against the frame as Nicte pushed through it.

Abigail’s words died mid-sentence on her lips as Nicte kicked the door closed behind her, one arm holding a large brown bag and the other tucked around a large box of beer. She nodded at the ragtag bunch and pressed into the kitchen without a word.

The woman had been gone for five hours.

“Where the hell have you been?”

It was Scylla’s voice that broke the silence. Nicte opened the refrigerator door, pushed the items into the almost fully stocked refrigerator, and turned. She twisted the cap off of a bottle in her hand, held one finger up to Scylla and then turned the bottle up fully. Tally watched her throat work as she drank.  Abigail scoffed softly and crossed her arms, but Nicte threw a wink Tally’s way as she drained the bottle.

When she was finished, she took a deep breath and dropped her finger.

Abigail nodded and pushed into the kitchen behind her.

“There’d better be something stronger in those bags than cheap beer, Batan.”

She dug into the brown bag and whistled low as she pulled bottle after bottle of liquor from it.

Nicte merely leaned against the refrigerator and met the impressed gaze that Abigail tossed her way.

“Figured we may need refreshments. Don’t worry, there’s more than just alcohol.”

Nicte glided back into the living room, winding the scarf she was wearing from around her neck. Scylla watched her movements from her spot on the couch next to Raelle. Her gaze was steady as she leaned forward.

“Did you run into trouble?”

Nicte shook her head and tossed her scarf and jacket across the back of the couch next to Tally.

“No. I doubled back and forth a few times. There’s chatter in the streets. People are on the look out for us.”

Silence descended once again as her words weighed on the room. Raelle shared a look with Scylla and then pushed up and into the kitchen where Abigail was already pulling glasses from the cabinets. No one questioned how Nicte was able to procure things they had needed, but given her prolific life on the run for many years, Tally figured she knew how to survive likely better than anyone. And it wasn’t like they all couldn’t use the distraction of a drink.

Raelle and Abigail swept into the room, fingers tucked into the tops of glasses with dark liquid inside. Flashes of the same action came unbidden to Tally’s mind from a time long ago. Abigail and Raelle laughing, pouring drinks as M and Gregorio tried to outdo each other’s stories. The image dissipated when Raelle handed her a glass.

Tally locked eyes with her and smiled the first genuine smile in days. She expected Raelle to sweep her gaze away again, but her sister smiled back at her and winked. Tally felt warmth spread through her body with the familiarity of the action and nearly drank the drink in one go.

She felt Nicte’s dark eyes on her from where she stood, but Tally didn’t look at her.

They had been at the safe house for another five days. When Quinn had initially insisted to know how they were able to use this location, Nicte confessed that it was a local Spree hide out for wayward agents. Scylla had confirmed the existence of the places with an apologetic glance at Raelle, who merely squeezed her hand in reply.

Clearly some kind of understanding had been reached there, Tally knew, but they hadn’t exactly had much time to discuss much of anything since Tally had brought everything crashing down around them. She had seen how miserable Raelle had been without Scylla and had carried the guilt over their parting since Raelle had walked away from her, but the way they were with each other now spoke of something she wasn’t privy to. She was surprised to find that she didn’t mind not knowing the whole story. Another her would have beamed at Raelle for the action and demanded to know every detail. Instead, when her sister caught her eyes then, Tally had merely smiled until Raelle had turned her eyes from her.

It had been over two weeks now and there was still no official word from Fort Salem. Tally hadn’t known what to expect when Anacostia and Petra had sent them on the run, but she had hoped there would be official news every now and then. The silence had made everyone on edge. Scylla had taken to going into the woods surrounding the farmhouse off and on for most of the days, but she had come back every time without her crow and without news. Abigail had been pacing, adamant about making a move and mounting some kind of offensive. She wasn’t happy to be sitting still when there had been attacks on military bases across the country on the same evening that Fort Salem had been attacked. The Camarilla had launched a devastating first volley and the toll it had taken on witchkind was physically unknown to them. Tally knew the real blow had been dealt at Fort Salem, however. Sarah Alder had given her life, fighting to protect her soldiers until the last breath.  

Nicte had tolerated Abigail’s press for movement until she couldn’t anymore. When Abigail had angrily questioned Nicte’s willingness to stay still, Tally had expected a shouting match, a boiling over of two hot headed women determined to lead. Instead Nicte had crossed her arms and pressed Abigail about what exactly she would do if given the chance. Immediately, Abigail began detailing her plans for counter attacks. Every answer she had given, however, Nicte picked apart in moments. After the fourth time, Abigail had slammed out of the room. Nicte’s loud voice had carried her message down the hallway: an effective offensive is built on information and planning.

And that had become their plan much to Abigail’s chagrin. She had stopped arguing after that, but Tally could feel the pent-up energy radiating off her. Raelle had followed Scylla into the fields often and had at least taken to talking to Tally again, but Tally could tell that something was off. Her sister was incredibly gifted in speaking her mind, but it seemed as if she was struggling with a truth she wouldn’t name to them.

Not that Tally could say much as she was battling to express any emotion at all. Her soldier’s mask was firmly in place, and she was grateful for the comfort it brought her, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that it was not something to be proud of. She supposed she should be grateful that everyone had at least stopped trying to talk to her about what had happened. They must have thought she was doing better with the mask in place.

General Alder would be proud.

Tally was pulled from her thoughts as laughter rippled through the room. Raelle was smiling at Scylla as she animatedly recounted some ridiculous tale, but Tally couldn’t focus on the words. She could feel eyes on her and instinctively looked for Nicte. She knew the woman was a natural flirt, but she had taken to watching Tally more these days. Nicte had even begun reaching out to her more – a touch here, a squeeze of an arm as she passed - and while she was grateful for the moments of connection, Tally was uncertain of what to do with the confusion that it brought. She caught sight of the woman as she wandered into the kitchen. Tally watched her pull another beer from the refrigerator.

When her eyes drifted to her left, she found Khalida staring right at her.

Their group had fallen into natural pairings - Abigail and Adil. Scylla and Raelle. Hell, even Nicte and Quinn had taken to spending hours strategizing about the area and the best ways to stay off the grid. By some default, Tally had found herself in the young Tarim girl’s presence more than she ever had. She wasn’t unpleasant to be around, and Tally certainly loved children, but the girl’s demeanor was odd to say the least.

Tally wasn’t sure what she expected the young girl to do. She had lost her people and survived the witch plague somehow. It wasn’t like she had ever been one for children’s games, but the more she was around her, the more she began to suspect that Khalida wasn’t exactly who she said she was. The girl wasn’t helping that with her curious stares and cryptic statements, and this wasn’t the first time she had found the youngest member of their group’s eyes on her.

“Ok, ok.”

Nicte’s voice carried easily through the small house as she stepped back towards the living room, beer in hand. Everyone glanced her way as she ran a hand through her hair.

“Look, I know we all want to drink our troubles away, but I have a feeling we may need to be on the lookout tomorrow. There was too much going on in town. So, I say we try to get some sleep and then maybe Bells here will get to try some of her offensives tomorrow.”

Abigail downed the rest of her drink in one go and pushed herself off of the couch.

“Finally.”

Adil smiled up at her as she reached down and held a hand out for him.

“You don’t gotta tell me twice. I’ve got things to do tonight anyway.”

Raelle chuckled from the couch next to Scylla and shook her head.

“Yeah, little power boost never hurt anyone did it, Abs?”

Abigail shot her a grin as she tugged Adil to his feet. “You got something to add, Shitbird? Cause don’t think I don’t know you’re a little amped up yourself.”

She shot a glance towards Scylla who merely smiled, raised an eyebrow and leaned her head purposefully against Raelle’s.

Tally felt a smile tugging at her lips at the familiarity of the banter between her sisters, but the emptiness in her chest remained.

Quinn reached to gather glasses as Scylla stood and handed off both her and Raelle’s cups to the woman. She glanced at Abigail as Quinn turned to the kitchen.

“Just don’t forget to use a Silencing Seed. Small quarters.”

Abigail smirked at her, “Oh, I never forget.”

“On that note,” Quinn pushed back into the living room with a grimace, “I hate to bring this party down, but we have to think about watch.”

She glanced at Nicte.

“If you’re saying there may be trouble, we gotta make sure the wards are up. Maybe take four-hour shifts?”

Nicte nodded and drained her beer once more. “I can take the first…”

“I’ll do it.”

All eyes swiveled round to her as Tally leaned forward. She stared momentarily and then looked across at them all.

“What?”

Nicte merely tilted her head as she looked at her. Tally could feel her contemplating and defensiveness crept up her spine.

“Look, I’m not tired anyway and I have better Sight than anyone. Everyone can go do whatever they want to. Nicte, you’ve been doing recon all day, it’s fine. I’ve got it.”

Abigail pulled Adil towards the hallway. “Sounds like a plan. I can relieve you in four hours, Tal.”

Nicte shook her head, but her eyes never left Tally’s.

“No. I’ll relieve her. You all go, get some rest.” She turned a smirk towards Abigail. “Besides, tomorrow’s your big day, Bells.”

Tally watched as Abigail held up her middle finger and then pulled Adil on down the hallway. As the door at the end of the hall clicked shut, Nicte turned her gaze back around. Quinn was the next to peel off with a nod and shared look with Nicte.

“Ok, sounds good. You take second watch, and I can pull up the last one cause I’m an early bird anyway.”

She took a few steps towards the hallway before she doubled back. “Khalida, you can bunk with me tonight.”

The young girl nodded and stood. Raelle tossed a glance between Nicte and Tally and Tally held her gaze when she did. She could see concern on her face, could tell that something was bothering her sister. She saw it in the way she chewed her lip. The way the corners of her eyes pinched down. She knew Raelle better than she knew herself sometimes. But then her gaze shifted and caught Scylla watching Raelle watch Tally with a soft smile on her face. No matter what exactly was going on in her sister’s head, Tally wouldn’t let it take her away from happiness for the night.

Tally forced a smile onto her face as she stood.

“Go.”

She shooed the pair exaggeratedly as Raelle sighed. With a halting first step, Raelle darted forward and wrapped her arms around Tally in a quick hug.

Tally’s heart stuttered at the action. She hadn’t hugged her sisters in what felt like weeks and before she could register anything, her arms wrapped tightly back around Raelle’s shoulders instinctively. With a squeeze, she pulled away and ran one hand through her short braids.

“You be careful, ok? And yell if you need me. Seriously, Scyl and I will be right there.”

Tally nodded, too overwhelmed with burning emotion to speak. Raelle searched her face once more and then turned. Tally watched her go, one of Scylla’s hands on her back and the other reaching out to grasp Nicte’s arm lightly as they passed.

The room felt empty as Tally gathered her own jacket from the peg on the wall. When she pushed her arms into it and bent to tug her boots on, she felt a shift in the air pressure. She didn’t have to look up to know that Nicte was standing close.

“You going to be ok?”

Tally tugged her laces tight as she glanced up. Nicte was staring at her, eyes reading more on her face than Tally wanted to know.

She bobbed her head and stood.

“Yeah, just normal stuff. Walk the perimeter. Check the wards. Piece of cake.”

Nicte stayed silent, eyes once again sweeping across her face. Tally felt unease crawling up her spine. She wasn’t afraid of Nicte, they had fought in more ways than one over their time knowing each other, but there was something in Nicte’s gaze that she wasn’t used to. It was the same thing that had been open on Raelle’s face moments before.

Nicte’s eyes turned to sweep the room.

“Just be careful. I may be out early.”

Oh. She’s worried about me.  

For some reason, the thought stirred an uncomfortableness in her. Something flipped in her stomach and Tally ran a hand up and through the back of her hair. As she tugged it out of the top of her jacket, she shook her head.

“You need to rest. I’ll be fine.”

She watched a span of emotions roll in Nicte’s gaze, even as her face remained unreadable. Finally, the older woman nodded and stepped back.

“Let me know if you need me.”

Tally took a deep breath and turned to pull the door open as Nicte moved to leave.

“Red?”

Nicte was leaning half back from the hallway as Tally turned. She raised her eyebrows towards her, uncertain that words would come. She didn’t understand what was going on with everyone’s reactions to her tonight, but she wanted to get into the night air. Maybe it would clear her head.

Nicte merely sighed and tapped the wall twice. “See you in four hours.”

Tally watched as she disappeared down the hall. She listened as the door clicked shut in the distance and stood there in the sudden silence of the now empty room. She felt her expression drop from her face, mask suddenly back in place as she turned and pushed through the screen door.

The air was crisp as she stepped into the darkness and Tally took a deep breath of it into her lungs and closed her eyes. She reached back for the door handle and pulled it closed softly. The light was poor tonight as she opened her eyes, but she willed herself to relax as she stepped from the steps. Her feet crunched against the gravel as she called upon her Sight and scanned the wooded horizon.

“The Goddess works in ways that are not always understood.”

Tally spun on the spot, heart racing and eyes wide as a voice broke the silence.

She released the breath she had held in loud rush, adrenaline pumping, as she spotted Khalida silently standing on the porch. She had been certain that everyone had gone to bed. She hadn’t even heard the door open. How had Khalida managed to sneak up on her?

Tally stared at her, willing her heart to stop racing. Was she that easy to sneak up on?

“Goddess, Khalida, you scared me. I thought you went to bed.”

Khalida nodded as she scanned the surroundings herself. Tally watched as she turned to take in all sides of the property and then slowly rotated back to focus once more on Tally.

“There is no one. The wards are secure.”

Tally’s eyebrows pinched together.

“You have Sight?”

Khalida nodded and took a step forward. “I have many gifts, Tally Craven. It is how I know that the Goddess works in way that are not always understood.”

Tally liked the girl, she really did, but she could feel her frustration building. After the way she had been rattled by Raelle and Nicte, she didn’t want to lose her temper with a kid.

“Yeah, you already said that.” She turned and pointed towards the tree line.

“Thanks for checking, but I’m just going to do a quick walk around the perimeter anyway.”

She was three steps into the yard when Khalida spoke again.

“If your aunts had never been lost in battle, your mother would never have had such a burning desire to protect you from the Army and from Sarah Alder.”

Tally froze.

She had never once talked about her past to Khalida. She wasn’t even sure that Adil knew the details of her life, but somehow…

Her eyebrows pinched together as she turned slowly to stare once more at the young girl. Khalida merely stepped down the two front streps slowly and moved towards her with a serene expression.

“If she hadn’t been so insistent that you did not join the Army, perhaps you would have taken the dispensation she had secured for you. But then you would never have met your sisters.”

Tally couldn’t help the thought that raced to the front of her mind.

Never betrayed her. Never killed an innocent witch.

Khalida merely stared up at her then and her blank expression made the uncomfortable tingling crawl back up her spine once more. Everything was too much tonight suddenly and she didn’t know why.

“The choice you were forced to make will sit with you for many years but know that it was the right one.”

Once more Tally paused. Had she said that out loud?

Khalida merely stared at her serenely. Tally swallowed hard as the young woman’s words registered. Logically, Tally knew she was right. Penelope had been the carrier of the witch plague that night, but she had been impervious to it. With time they may have been able to study what made her resistant to its power, may have been able to use her powers to help all of witchkind, but time was a luxury they didn’t have.

Tally nodded softly and glanced to their surroundings. Words would not come, so Khalida merely continued.

“Penelope Silver would not have wanted to be the cause of death and pain. She had found her place among her kind and Sarah Alder …”

Khalida paused before a soft sigh left her lips.

“Time sometimes brings a weight heavier than grief. Know that what you did was a kindness.”

Tally wanted to rage, to snap at the young girl that she didn’t know what she was talking about. She had killed a young woman, a friend who had looked directly into her eyes and pleaded for her help. She had betrayed a woman that she understood in a way few others had ever known. How could this child possibly understand that?

Her thoughts spiraled to a halt, however, when Khalida cupped a soft touch against her cheek. She wanted to speak, but her normal words would not come unbidden. Instead, Tally stared wide eyed as the young girl searched her face.

“You have bore the weight of impossible choices – ones that have burdened every leader since the dawn of time. What you chose was life, Tally Craven. You saved countless with your choices. Even Sarah Alder.”

Tally’s heart rate picked up once more. She could feel the panic inside of her once again building.

Sarah’s forehead pressed against her own.

Penelope’s smiling face.

Khalida pushed forward then, and Tally gasped when the girl’s arms wrapped softly around her middle.

Khalida hugged her gently, but Tally stood uncertain of what to do with her hands for the first time in her life. She had never been one to shy away from physical displays of emotion, but she hadn’t yet been able to reclaim that part of herself.

It took a moment for her to register that the panic racing through her mind had receded.

In a moment’s notice, Khalida pulled back to arm length and stared up into Tally’s wide eyes.

“You will be whole again. You will find strength in this time, and you will remember joy, Tally Craven. You will be rewarded for your courage.”

“I don’t feel courageous.”

The whispered words were hoarse, and Tally swallowed against the scratchiness of her dry throat. She didn’t understand why she was telling a 12-year-old these things, but something about the young girl seemed to pull truths from her.

“The most courageous thing we can do is to examine our own truths. Perhaps you need to remember this.”

Tally stood stock still, eyes searching around her momentarily for someone, anyone, to push through the door. Anyone that could help her extract herself from the discomfort clawing at her insides at the young girl’s words.

Khalida merely held onto her, however, until Tally smiled a tentative smile and nodded.

“Thanks.”

The girl nodded serenely and stepped away. Tally watched her until the front door clicked closed behind her.