Her name is weakly whispered, sounding almost like an involuntary prayer, from behind her. Juliette turns around, not at the calling of her name, but at the recognition that passes through her mind of the voice that calls it.
“Cal?” she breathes out, similarly reverent, but with the taste of blood still fresh on her lips.
She had gone to sleep, not expecting a real dream, just more confusing flashes. In a way, she had gotten both.
When she was falling asleep earlier tonight, having cried out all the tears she could manage, she’d had to fight to resist the urge to turn her humanity back off. It hurt, yes, but Elinor sleeping just a few feet away was enough motivation to keep forcing that switch in her brain back, even as the memories flooded in and even as her river of tears ran dry.
Then, opening her eyes to unwelcomed dreams, she saw more strange flashes. They were becoming more frequent, though again, she had no idea why.
More random people. A group of teens wandering away from school. She stalks them into a restaurant. Follows the girls into the bathroom as they separate from the group.
They’re all dead on the bathroom floor in the next minute.
Blood soaks her mouth.
The next second, she heard Cal calling her name and suddenly the flashes were gone, and she was standing in this weird meadow, the taste of the teens’ blood still on her lips.
She sees the shock on Cal’s face as she turns to face her. Apprehension is next to flash across Cal’s face, before she catches herself and composes her expression into a deeply guarded stoicism that Juliette hasn’t seen from her since before they got to know each other.
Cal’s wearing a plain black tank top with black leggings and boots, and a black choker. She looks like the same beautiful girl that Juliette knows, though that shouldn’t be surprising considering it hasn’t actually been that long since they last saw each other. Despite how it feels like it’s been an eternity.
“Um,” Juliette starts, taking a step forward. Cal immediately steps back and Juliette stops, her hands instinctively coming up in a placating motion. “Whoa. Okay.” Cal’s eyes flick to her mouth, and Juliette realizes that her fangs are still out. She wipes at her mouth, blood streaking across the back of her hand as she tries futilely to wipe her misdeeds away.
“What are you doing here?” Cal asks. Her tone is clipped and unreadable, and for the first time in a while, Juliette can’t read her. It’s an unpleasant deja vu to when they didn’t know each other beyond the identities of girl I like that also wants to kill me and monster.
God, Juliette hopes that isn’t all she is to Cal now.
Juliette swings her arms awkwardly, gesturing at the plains crafted by the dream around them. “I don’t really control when I dream or what I dream of. It just kinda happens.”
Cal crosses her arms. “It hasn’t happened for weeks. Why now?”
Juliette doesn’t know what to say. “I couldn’t tell you. Fate works in weird ways, I guess?” she pokes, hoping for… something.
Cal scoffs. It seems that that wasn’t the something she wanted to hear. “Fate. Right.” Her eyes drift downward, to Juliette’s lips again, and for a moment Juliette’s breath catches in her throat. Then Cal says, “What’s with the blood, vamp?”, and that’s when Juliette remembers that this is all wrong. They’re wrong right now.
She instinctively wipes at her mouth again, but it just streaks more blood across her hand and face. Juliette stares at her blood stained hand. She feels blood begin pooling in her mouth, from nowhere, and she has to swallow it down to keep it from spilling from her lips. The taste of it as it travels down to her stomach sends a pulse through her chest, warm and inviting.
She licks her lips and Cal takes another step back. The realization hits her like a truck.
Oh. Cal is scared of her.
The guardedness in her stance, the coldness in her eyes, the careful steps back. The way her gaze keeps flicking down to Juliette’s mouth, not out of desire, but out of fear.
The realization makes Juliette let out a soft gasp involuntarily as she herself takes a step back. Her next words come out at a whisper; she can’t bear to say them any louder. “I’m- I’m sorry.”
Cal lets out an unbelieving scoff. “Apologizing again? I’ve already learned, you never mean what you say.”
Juliette shakes her head vehemently, tears beginning to prick at the corner of her eyes. “That’s not true,” she whispers.
“Isn’t it?” Cal asks, each word a stake into Juliette’s heart. “You don’t want to hurt anyone. You will never hurt me. That’s what you said.” Cal glares, the look in her eyes sending more pangs of heartbreak into Juliette’s soul. “All lies.”
Juliette clenches her eyes shut and looks down, her hands balling into fists at her sides. She forces herself to keep her eyes shut. She can’t look at Cal right now. Not when Cal is looking at her like that. Like she’s a monster. The wind blows a strong breeze, her dress flowing to one side as tears begin to fall.
After a moment of pause, Cal speaks again. “Who’d you kill?” she asks suddenly. “That blood came from somewhere.”
Juliette shakes her head again and whispers, “It’s a dream. I didn’t do anything.” She doesn’t look up. She doesn’t open her eyes.
She feels Cal stare at her for a few more moments and in those moments she wishes she would just wake up already. Let this dream end. She doesn’t want this connection anymore.
“Whatever,” Cal says, exasperated, and Juliette thinks she hears a hint of something more in her voice, but she brushes past it. Hoping will only make it hurt more. “Maybe you can be useful for one thing.”
Juliette opens her eyes at that, and she looks up to see Cal uncertain for the first time since this dream started.
“Your sister’s on a killing spree. Know anything about that?”
It takes a second for the realization to hit her. A vampire on a massacre? Elinor just got out of jail and caught up with her, she hasn’t been doing anything of the sort.
And she would never be so careless as to leave a trail of bodies.
Fuck. Fuck no. Please. A ball and chain locks itself in Juliette’s throat and sinks down to her stomach as the dread sinks in and her mouth goes dry. She gulps, hopes her face doesn’t show what she’s feeling as she shakes her head in response, not trusting her voice.
Cal’s eyes stay locked on hers, and not for the first time tonight, Juliette wishes the hunter would look away.
“She’s been killing people all up the interstate. Heading North. Do you know where she’s going?”
Juliette barely manages to gather the courage to respond. Her voice comes out weakly, “No. I haven’t heard from her.”
“You can’t even keep track of your own people. Do you know how many people she’s killed? Random people, people with families, friends.”
Juliette can’t take it. She breaks from Calliope’s deadlock stare.
“This is what I meant. A massacre, and you can’t even be bothered to stop your own family.” Cal circles around to where Juliette’s looking in the grass so that Juliette’s eyes are forced to meet hers once again. “ You’re monsters. All of you.”
With that final statement, Cal turns around and begins walking away, into the endless plains. Juliette can’t be bothered to try and stop her. She’s afraid of what other vitriol would be spewed her way if she did. So she lets Cal walk away, and her mind provides no mercy by ending the dream; no, she’s forced to watch as Cal walks and gets smaller and smaller, fading away into the distance, until she disappears completely.
Only then does Juliette let herself fall to her knees and sob.
Cal’s chest is tight as she walks endlessly through the grass field. She wishes this dream would just end already. She doesn’t hear Juliette behind her, but she has an idea of what the other girl must be feeling. Cal doesn’t let herself dwell on it, and like every other time in the past three weeks, she brushes Juliette aside.
Finally, after what seems like an eternity, she blinks and sees the plain ceiling of her bedroom instead of the endless fields and blue sky. She’s awake, and Juliette is gone.
Cal gets out of bed and ready for the day quickly after that, the inaction of lying in bed with her thoughts too much to bear. She brushes her teeth, puts on a plain shirt, her favourite pair of jeans, and black combat boots, slips on her silver jewelry, packs her backpack, and heads downstairs.
Her parents and Apollo are already eating breakfast at the table. They greet her as she comes down and she gives them the best smile she can muster.
“Breakfast?” her mother asks.
She shakes her head. “Nah, I’m gonna head to school early. Gotta ask one of my teachers about something,” she lies. It’s been getting easier and easier lately.
The reality is, she feels sick to her stomach from that damned dream. Every day is an uphill battle against her own thoughts and of course, just as she was getting near the top, Juliette appears in a dream to kick her back down.
Her family wishes her a good day, Apollo with a mouth full of food, and she heads out the door. She has to hold her tongue and resist the urge to talk about her dream. It’s not hard to do, because she knows that if she tells her family, they’ll question why the connection still exists. Not that she doesn’t question it too. She thought hating Juliette would get rid of it, but apparently not.
She knows they’ll tell her to use the connection, to try and get information out of Jules. Well, at least she tried. Kind of. It’s not like she expected Juliette to give any information up anyways.
Regardless, the dream had been strange. Cal couldn’t stop herself from staring at the blood dripping from Juliette’s lips. Why was it there? The dreams they experienced together felt real and usually reflected real things in some way, so what did it mean?
Did Juliette kill someone again?
It shouldn’t surprise Cal if she did. But it does. The thought sends another wave of sickness through her body.
She may have called Juliette a monster, but whether she truly believed it.. she’s still not willing to admit the answer to that question, even to herself.
Juliette said she didn’t know about Elinor. Could she be lying? Juliette and Elinor were very close, so it stands to reason that Juliette would try to protect her.
Cal doesn’t know what to think. Since the day she staked Juliette in that pantry, everything’s been complicated. Somehow, the simplest answer right now is the most complicated logistically speaking. Find out how to kill Legacies, then head back to Savannah and eliminate the Fairmont family. Then, move on to the rest of them.
Focus on that, Cal tells herself. Focus. That’s all she needs to do. Focus.
Perhaps stupidly—okay yeah, definitely stupidly—Juliette still lets herself hope after that. She wakes up with an ache in her back, the distinct tiredness in her eyes that comes after a night of crying, and an unmended hole in her heart that she feels burning through her.
It’s something she hasn’t felt in a while. She had forgotten how badly it hurt. It’s hard not to regret what she did last night as she was lying in bed when it hurts this badly.
“Oh sweet little, why did you do that?” Elinor calls from the other side of the room. She tuts as she walks over, already dressed in a silk blouse and full face of makeup.
Elinor is a good reminder. Elinor makes her remember why she did what she did. Juliette sits up and avoids looking at her sister. As if looking away will make it easier to confront the truth that Juliette doesn’t want anything to do with her sister right now. “Do what?”
Elinor grabs her by the chin and forces her to look her in the eyes. “You know what, Juliette. Why did you turn it back on?” The question is phrased more like an unspoken demand and Juliette’s big sister, her role model, the one she always wanted to be growing up, looks at her like she’s insane. “You were doing so well,” she says, turning Juliette’s face from side to side. “Now look at you. A mess, just like before.”
Juliette wrenches her face from Elinor’s grip. “Don’t touch me.”
Elinor makes a dissatisfied noise, but concedes. “Touchy. Good to see you haven’t lost all your edge.” She stares Juliette down. “But what should we do with you now?”
Juliette gets off on the other side of the bed and heads to the bathroom, not turning to speak directly to Elinor. “We can do whatever. You wanted to go back to Savannah, so let’s just go back.”
Elinor’s footsteps follow her into the bathroom until Juliette sees her standing behind her in the mirror, an imposing shadow. “Just like that, really? What was the point of coming all the way out here if you’re just gonna run back home to Mommy and Daddy?”
Juliette hesitates, staring Elinor down through the reflection. Elinor steps closer and puts her hands on Juliette’s shoulders, leaning down so their faces are side by side and Juliette can see clearly the similarities between them. They are blood after all.
“Let’s hang out a little longer, shall we? I’m in no rush to get home.” Elinor’s bloodthirsty eyes and the smirk on her face send a shiver running down Juliette’s spine.
She’s never been good at saying no to her sister. Even when she gets into these phases of hating her—make no mistake, they always wind up as just phases, no matter how hard she tries to keep the grudge going—she can’t help but agree with Elinor.
So she nods, and Elinor grins devilishly in the mirror.
When Cal gets home from school that day, Apollo’s already there. He’s sitting on the couch with a Guild laptop out, frantically typing. As soon as she comes in, he waves her over.
“Cal, c’mere. You need to see this.”
She drops her backpack by the door and heads over, eager at the prospects of a new hunt or better yet, new information about the recent monster nests that keep cropping up around Savannah. The Guild’s never been so busy.
Just before she can get a glimpse of the computer screen, Apollo puts a palm over it, covering the contents. Cal glares at him, a what-the-hell kind of look, and he says, “Before I tell you… You’re over the vamp girl, right?”
She slaps his hand away, responds with confidence even as a flash of the dream from last night passes through her mind. “How many times do I have to tell you yes before you guys believe me?”
He shrugs and a voice deep inside her mind goes, yeah, I don’t know either.
But he relents, and what she sees sends a shock through her system. It takes a second to even process it all but when she does, she has to lean closer to the screen to make sure her eyes aren’t deceiving her.
“Apollo, is that…”
“The supposed creation myth of monsters? Why yes, it is,” he says, seemingly still just as shocked as she is.
“Where did you- How…?”
He gestures at the Guild logo, so clearly yet deceivingly displayed at the top of the files he’s looking at. “It’s Guild material. It was hidden super deep in their databases, though. I think Theo’d be proud of how far I had to dig. But it is one hundred percent Guild information.”
Cal shakes her head in disbelief. “This info could be the key to killing not only Legacy vampires but a bunch of other hard to kill monsters. Why would they hide it?”
Apollo shrugs. “Beats me. What matters now is that we have it,” he says.
Cal stares at him. Can he really not see what this could mean about the Guild? “Apollo, this is big. Really big. If you had to go digging for this, that means they had to be hiding it for a reason. If they know that you were digging and found this-”
“Then they’ll be super grateful for the long lost research,” Apollo interrupts. “Look, I know you get all freaked out about this stuff, but come on. This is a win. Let’s see it as that for one second before we get all panicky about what the Guild might think. I mean look!” He scrolls down in the file, and sure enough, there’s a whole section on the creation myth of Legacy vampires.
It mentions something about a snake—the Emerald Malkia—and the power it grants, the way it’s passed through the generations, a primary Keeper taking responsibility over it for generations before passing the title…
Cal breathes and the realization sets in. This could be it. If they know how Legacies were made, then surely the key to destroying them must be related.
They could really find out how to kill Legacies through this.
She claps a hand on Apollo’s shoulder. “You’re right. Let’s not worry about that other stuff.” It still lies in the back of her mind, the implications of the Guild having this information but not sharing it, but she has bigger things to worry about right now. Like the fact that they just found the jackpot. “Let’s just keep digging through this. What have you found out so far?” she asks.
He grins and starts explaining as she sits down next to him on the couch.
The info she skimmed about the snake ties into a woman, the first vampire, Lilith. The Malkia created Legacies and seemingly still exists, its venom capable of providing great healing powers. Apollo explains the dense text on the page so that Cal doesn’t have to read it. It seems straightforward enough.
“My theory is that if the venom heals, the antivenom must kill,” Apollo says. “But this part about the snake, it doesn’t say much about how this whole Keeper stuff works. Or where we can find the snake, if there’s an equivalent in the wilderness…”
Cal snorts. “Somehow I doubt there’s a wild snake equivalent to their freaky magical vampire snake.”
“Hey, I don’t hear you sharing any bright ideas,” he fires back.
Cal thinks for a second, then says, “Antivenom is a good idea, but maybe there’s something else. Getting our hands on that snake is next to impossible if it has a dedicated protector at all times.” She takes the laptop from Apollo, scrolling through until she finds what she’s looking for.
“Here,” she says. The section title reads: LILITH’S DEATH. “First Legacy death. This has to have something.” She scrolls slowly through, absorbing as much of the text as she can. “It says the same weakness we already know, silver, but look at this.” She reads from the page: “Heart stricken with grief and strife, Lilith tore out her own heart and destroyed it. The severed connection between heart and body left her soul divided and unable to heal itself.”
Cal turns to look at Apollo. “I mean, that has to be it, right?” she asks. “It says it plain and simple.”
Apollo stares, gaping at the screen like a fish out of water, his eyes still darting wildly across the electronic text. “I’m starting to think you were right about questioning why the Guild just has this stuff hidden away.”
“I doubt the people we were working with knew about it. I mean look at this, it’s dated from centuries ago,” Cal responds, checking the publication date in the footer of the document. “Probably only the highest ranking members of the Guild know this even exists, and who knows if they know the contents of it.”
Apollo nods, “I did have to go pretty deep. It took weeks of trying to crack through the Guild’s firewalls.”
Cal closes the document and shuts the laptop, handing it back to Apollo. “If it was kept under wraps that deep… We can’t tell anyone about this, Apollo.” She stands up and locks eyes with him.
He stands up to be level with her and says, “Yeah. You’re right. Our secret?” He holds out a hand.
She grabs it and shakes it. “Our secret.”
Apollo tucks the computer under his arm. Before walking away, he looks to Cal and says, “This is gonna work, Cal. And we’ll make Theo proud.”
All she can muster in response is a nod. When Apollo disappears downstairs, she collapses on the couch and puts her head in her hands.
What the hell did they just uncover?
Hanging out, to Elinor, apparently means traveling back Northward and getting a nice hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. Juliette’s never been before and she wasn’t exactly focused on sightseeing while she was on her… ahem, killing spree, for lack of a better term, so Elinor tells her they’re going to the city to get her back on her feet. Whatever that means.
Jules has a not unfounded confidence that that means Elinor’s trying to get her to shut down her humanity again. She can’t exactly tell what “percent” she’s sitting at, the concept so new to her that even trying to consciously change it up and down takes a considerable amount of effort, but she at least knows she has it set high enough that she’s feeling real emotions.
Though maybe she should turn it down a little, if only to relieve some of the constant aching in her chest.
Still, she’s doing her best to resist the urge.
They head into downtown, eat a big delicious breakfast that does nothing for them nutrient or hunger-wise, but that Elinor passes off as being necessary for the day’s events. She gets them out of paying by using her weird powers that still nobody has any ideas as to the origins of, and then they head off to a nearby mall.
It’s basically a whole day of Elinor dragging Juliette around. Maybe she’s trying to annoy her into shutting off her humanity. She wouldn’t put it past her big sister.
While they’re wandering around a luxury clothing store that Juliette didn’t bother looking at the name of, Elinor stops in her tracks, staring at something across the store floor. Juliette nearly bumps into her back, mostly just tracking the floor at this point, but stops just in time.
“What are you looking- oh,” she says. She looks across the store, following her sister’s line of sight, and her eyes land on a bland looking white boy. Apparently he catches Elinor’s attention, though. “Are you going to…?”
“Hold this, sweet little,” Elinor says, shoving a bundle of clothes on hangers into Juliette’s arms before she can protest. Then Elinor’s off, gliding across the shiny floor tiling, and leaving Juliette alone with an armful of $500 blouses and dresses.
She sighs. Maybe she really is trying to annoy her. It’s certainly working. She goes to sit down on one of those boyfriend/dad benches and twiddle her thumbs, waiting for Elinor to return.
About twenty minutes pass by when she spots a familiar face walking through the mall just outside the store.
“No way,” she whispers under her breath, before it catches in her throat and a familiar feeling hits her as a heavy rock sinks to the bottom of her stomach, burning a hole through her chest as it falls.
Because walking through the mall alongside one of her big brothers, the one Juliette didn’t turn into a monster, is Calliope Burns.