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A Coffin of Starlight

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“Do we have a deal?” the words flew from Carmilla’s throat, burning like acid as she threw them at her mother. She screamed them again, muscles tense, crouched low to the ground, “Do we have a deal!?!”

The room was nearly pitch dark, illuminated only by the light of a crescent moon drifting through the bars of the windows in the high cathedral and illuminating the grotesque shapes of gargoyles perched in the rafters and the monsters standing far below.

But it was enough that Carmilla could still make out the haughty profile of the Dean, her neck arched high and her eyes seemingly an endless black. Scattered throughout the room Carmilla could catch glimpses of the others, twisting shapes and glinting fangs in the dark.

Her own fangs had slid out hours ago. When the first of them had fallen and she’d forced the rest to keep running.

Carmilla crouched lower, ready to spring, “Do we have a deal?” Her every muscle was screaming with a deep ache from running and screaming and trying to protect one too many humans. She had ignored their cries. All their cries.

Only one cry still mattered.

And she was ignoring that one too. So long as it keep going the words didn’t matter. Just as long as it didn’t stop.

“Carmilla, don’t you dare.” Laura’s voice was nearly hoarse but that didn’t stop her from straining against the pale hands that held her back, “Don’t you dare. Not again. You want to do something for me. You run. I love you. You live this time. Please. Don’t you dare make that deal. Not for me.”

Any illusion of loyalty to her mother was long shattered. So Carmilla took this brief moment between the frantic running and what she knew came next to memorize Laura. Objectively, her cupcake looked rough but Carmilla wasn’t seeing what was there.

She looked at Laura’s blood stained fingers and all she could see was every time they’d slotted so perfectly between her own.

She looked at the twisted angle of Laura’s broken ankle and saw only the way Laura’s toes had wiggled in the grass when they’d walked barefoot to a hundred different picnics.

She looked at the curve of Laura’s neck, straining against the bite of Will’s knife as drops of blood broke through the skin, and saw the day Laura had willingly let her feed to save Carmilla’s life.

She looked at the dirt and grime and sweat on Laura’s face and thought of every time she’d gently kissed those cheeks, that forehead, the button nose, her soft lips.

She looked into Laura’s seemingly endless brown eyes and saw her own reflection looking back at her. An altered reflection. The reflection she saw in Laura’s eyes was of a girl coated in love, who was somehow worthy to give and receive love from one of the world’s greatest treasures.

She would not let that reflection die.

“Carm, please,” Carmilla saw Laura’s lips move but could have sworn that the words drifted from the safety of a dorm room a thousand years ago. Always carried on a trail of tears, “You know.”

Carmilla’s lips twitched into a small smile, letting the tears fall for the first and last time, “I love you too, cupcake.”

#

The box was as cold as Carmilla remembered and she swallowed as they nailed the last corner in place. Last time she had fought. Last time she had gone kicking and screaming into the Earth until she had nearly drowned in a sea of blood as it flooded her every sense.

But this time she lay quietly. This time she had a reason to be still. Someone to do it all again for. Carmila stared straight up through the small hole in the lid of the coffin. Soon, blood would come pouring through the opening and splash across her chest.

But for now she could just make out the last twinkle of stars.

They were certainly taking their time with the blood. Last time it had been almost instantaneous. Mother had to have anticipate her offer. One life for another. Carmilla had known the Dean longer than anyone, she knew what the woman wanted. Killing Carmilla was sweet, killing her without letting her die was better.

Finally the tang of blood drifted through the coffin. Even knowing it would drown her, the fresh blood smelled sweet to her senses. Like an alcoholic going back again and again to the bottle.

Carmilla frowned as the scent increased. Fresh and familiar.

The stars disappeared as something dark covered the hole and blood began draining inside, splashing off her chest in little tear drops. Carmilla jerked backwards, smashing her forehead into the wooden lid as she realized what was drowning her.

Who was drowning her.

Danny. The ginger giant had been the first to fall as they ran through the cathedral, foolishly chasing danger when they should have turned tail and fled. They had thought themselves invincible. Vanquishers of The Light. Bearing ancient swords and wooden stakes.

The kids they’d come to save were dead before they even cleared the tunnels and reached the twisting graves of long dead monks. Danny’s eyes had flashed at the corpses and with a fire in her eyes that surpassed any Carmilla had seen, Danny had leapt forward with bellowing cry. Only to be cut down midstep.

And now Carmilla was drowning in it. Drowning in the warrior’s blood. The girl she’d forced them all to leave behind as she literally pushed the humans back up the stairs. Screaming at them to run. Now Danny’s blood coated Carmilla’s chest, dripping down her shoulders where it pooled in the bottom of the coffin to lap at the backs of her arms.

This hadn’t been part of the deal.

Still Carmilla forced herself to lie still. Blood was blood. Danny was hours dead. Laura was alive. Carmilla had watched Will knock her out and deposit her cupcake in the grass just outside the cathedral.

When the next scent hit her nose she realized the truth. The had collected all the corpses.

Carmilla’s nose filled with the tang of water on a metal sink as they dumped Perry on her. There was a purity to the scent of her blood that Carmilla hadn’t anticipated as she gritted her teeth through the tin-like tang. The blood crept up to coat the tops of her arms in red. Perry had just made it up the first flight of stairs when she was snatched from behind and disappeared into the dark. She hadn’t even gotten a last word. A last look. Carmilla hadn’t even noticed she was gone until it was too late.

But Laf had noticed.

Her Mother was pouring faster now and Laf’s blood joined the coffin quick enough to mix with the lingering scent of Perry. As Laf’s surprisingly heavy scent, like cherry hot iron in a blistering forge, poured over Carmilla it was their scream that she remembered. The howl of pain. Inhuman. Carmilla had turned only in time to see Laf’s empty hand hanging in the air, grasping at fingers that had been whisked away.

The science nerd had caught her gaze only for a moment and before Carmilla could stop them, Laf had sprinted back down the stairs. Now their blood was pooling over Carmilla’s chest, lapping waves against her neck.

Carmilla had taken a pair fangs to her leg in order to stop Kirsch and Laura from going after them. She’d smashed through three vampires, barely seeing through her haze of tears. Dragging her cupcake and the puppy behind her.

Dragging them up and up. Down hallways and up stairs. Racing through the maze of tunnels, unwilling to let go of the two hands she had left. The one in her right too big but squeezing tightly. The one in her left aligning perfectly with her own. Both warm. Both alive.

She’d thought them safe when they’d reached the basement of the cathedral. No vampires had attacked for at least a few flights of stairs. She paused to let them breathe. The deep gasping breaths that only the living need to take.

Suddenly she’d been thrown forward, crashing into Laura as the large hand had pressed heavy and warm on her back and flung her away. The warmth of the puppy’s paw on her skin, his last touch, faded away as Kirsch’s blood rained down on her face in small droplets. His blood was the earth. Deep and constant with an overwhelming strength forged in copper and steel.

Carmilla had leapt to her feet, pulling Laura behind her. She didn’t pause as she punched the vampire in the face and leapt over Kirsch’s body. Impaled on the silver stake meant for her. Even when she heard him gurgle weakly behind her, she didn’t turn. But his last words lingered as his blood crept up to cover her chin, “Keep going bros.”

Carmilla’s face barely peeked out of the pool of blood as her friends scents curled around her in a cacophony of memories. Then the blood was moving. Sloshing. The movement of the coffin enough to form small waves that coated her face in a layer of red before receding and returning. Time for the dirt.

Then, Carmilla’s heart froze as, “Don’t you dare hurt her!” came whirling through the air.

Laura.

The cupcake had come back. No. Laura had been outside. Carmilla had made a deal. If Laura had stayed she would have been safe. She couldn’t have come back. No. No. No.

Carmilla strained against the coffin. Slamming her shoulder into the lid again and again as she let every power she possessed from superstrength to superspeed work in her favour. Her hands pounded at the lid, letting the rough wood tear strips into the skin on her hands. She broke her toes as she kicked the lid, uncaring of the pain as she kicked again and again. Carmilla gulped down the blood surrounding her. Letting it strengthen her.

Tasting her friends on her tongue.

She heard screams and knew they were her own. A hundred times louder and more ferocious than they’d been the first time she’d tried this. A roar of sound that said nothing and meant everything. She forced the cry out. Ignoring the strain on her throat and spluttering past the blood in her mouth.

It was a whisper that stopped her roar.

“Carm,” Laura voice was so close that they could have been lying in bed, Laura’s front warm against her back.

“Laura,” Carmilla’s voice was desperate, “I can’t get out. You need to run. Go. Now. Please. Just run. This is all worth it if you just go. Go and don’t come back here. Ever. Just go be happy and I’ll be fine and,”

“Carm,” Laura’s whisper almost sounded like a prayer, “Carm, she’s dead. I got her.”

Carmilla froze. Her fists expanding in flat hands that she pressed against the lid of the coffin where she imaged Laura must be laying.

“The others?” Carmilla asked.

There was a pause before Laura replied, “They ran off once she was gone.”

Carmilla’s mind couldn’t quite keep up but she could still focus on the important things, “And you’re okay?”

Something wiggled in the thin splinter of light coming through the hole in the coffin. Reaching up, Carmilla let out a small sob as she brushed Laura’s finger. Her cupcake bent the digit, linking their index fingers together.

There was a smell leaking into the coffin that buzzed familiar in Carmilla’s mind but she couldn’t focus on it. Laura’s finger was in hers. Laura was okay.

“They’re all dead,” Laura’s words were strangely calm, “she just left them in a pile on the floor.”

“We’ll bury them,” Carmilla squeezed her eyes shut against the tears, “and we’ll never forget. We’ll find a spot on a hill with some trees and we’ll plant those everlasting roses that Laf made over their graves.”

The new smell in the coffin increased as Laura’s finger moved lightly against her own, “Carm,” Laura said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t think I’m going to be able to get you out.”

“It’s okay.” Carmilla took a shuddering breath, “You’ll need to find someone with a crowbar. Last time it took bombs to get this thing open.”

“No Carm, I-,” Laura’s voice broke, “I’m so sorry. But I can hardly move. I - Carm - I got her. But she got me.”

Then the scent hit Carmilla in the face like a cannonball. Blood. More blood. She could suddenly feel it dripping through the hole in the coffin, pooling between where her finger was hooked to Laura’s and drifting down her arm.

Blood that was born in the center of a star as the vibrant pulsing of light and energy whipped it straight across the universe to drench time and space in starlight. Blood that twinkled and pulsed and tasted like a good book on a sunny afternoon as the person you love laid next to you and did nothing more than trace patterns across your palm. Blood that she’d tasted on her lips and knew in her heart.

Laura’s blood.

“Laura, no,” Carmilla knew she should push Laura away but found herself gripping the finger tighter, “Get up. Get outside. Get help. Go to the hospital. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.”

Carmilla broke at Laura words, her cupcake concerned for the wrong person, “I’m so sorry Carm. So sorry I can’t get you out of there. So sorry.” Her words were floating vaguely now. Smashing into Carmilla’s heart like Laura’s dripping blood was pounding into her chest. “I love you Carmilla Karnstein. I love you. I’d do it all again. Every second, even the ones where you were just an annoying broody vampire roommate who wouldn’t take her hair out of the drain and stole my yellow pillow.”

Carmilla’s throat closed as she choked on the tightness in her chest and in her lungs. In her soul. She strained against the coffin. Begging for a way out. To take Laura to a hospital. To somewhere safe. She’d even bite her if she had to.

Before it was too late.

“Laura,” she sobbed, pressing her forehead against the lid and lightly kissing Laura’s finger.

“it’s okay Carm. It’s okay.” Laura’s whisper was fading as the blood pouring into the coffin thickened to a deep red, “I love you.”

“I love you too, cupcake.” Carmilla whispered back, her nose filled with the scent of burning stars.

And then, even though she couldn’t see it, couldn’t see that last glimpse of starlight twinkle on her cupcake’s face. Carmilla heard Laura’s smile, “I know.

And Carmilla was alone.