DHL/Q collection

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DHL/Q collection

Post by Babywhatsyoursin on Thu Feb 26, 2015 1:42 pm

Guess I will start posting my collection here.

The blog that I'm pulling from is my shadowflame611 tumblr blog.

I'll also eventually post on Ao3.
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Prompt: First Night

Post by Babywhatsyoursin on Thu Feb 26, 2015 2:27 pm

My fics always contain potential canon spoilers.

I do not own The Strain or related characters.

Prompt courtesy of one of frozenoverblackballoon's tumblr musings.



There was a pheasant strung up along the far rafters, body swaying lightly in the draft. A wedding gift. Already feathered and bled, Quinlan watched his new wife pause to stare at the tattered remains, her eyes darkening just the slightest before he gaze fell upon the young girl. Then the slavewoman began to flay the thing, cutting deep in to splintered bone, utilizing all she could of the carcass.

With quick, sure movements she tossed the bird in to a boiling vat, set to cutting root vegetables. Her eyes never left her work, slender back always turned toward the dhamphir, her posture businesslike but he could still smell her anxiety. She emptied half a tin of grain in to the pot with trembling fingertips.

The child, exhausted from the day’s events, sat on the bench and dusted her dirty toes against the smooth floor boards. She lay her head on her arm and rolled a smooth rock along the worn rivulets of the table.

Quinlan remained cast in half- shadow, satiated for the moment by the steer he had just drank, wondering how long before his muted fascination with their mundane activities would stave off thirst. Already, he could hear the low thumthum of his wife’s heart, accented by the higher and faster pitch of her daughter’s.

Finally the food was done, and the child eagerly poked her nose over the rim of the bowl before taking a too-large, rounded eating utensil. She cautiously sipped the broth, and Quinlan felt an unexpected surge in his chest as her eyes lit up with glee, “Momma, this-“

“Hushkt!” Her mother’s sleeves were rolled up past her elbows as she scrubbed at a dirty cooking vessel, her pale skin far more rich in appearance than that of any vampire. Naturally flushed, and even the angry burn marks appeared beautiful in their own right.

The girl watched her mother through wild locks until the woman continued, “dinner first, then bed. We have duties in the morning.”

The girl set herself to finishing her meal, eyes dancing over the far shadows as her sharper human vision took in the pale plains of Quinlan’s cheeks. Looking curious, she opened her mouth as though to speak, but her mother noticed and descended upon her babe.

“You’re finished? Good. Bed, now.”

Quinlan was left alone in the warm kitchen, a statue, thinking to himself. He took the girl’s bowl and placed it in the dirty basin. Taking the filthy rag in his own clawed hand, he set to finishing what his wife had started, stacking the clean items on the table when he realized he wasn’t entirely sure where to put them.

He carried the dirty water far out to where the animals wouldn’t tempt a break-in, relishing the cooled air against his burning throat.

Could he do this? Yes, he thought he could. There had to be a way; perhaps he could become accustomed to the way of life here. He would, at least for her lifetime, forsake his darker nature in favor of reaching toward uncharted territory.

He would be a simple man. Make an honest living, and provide for this raven-haired slave in all the ways he knew how.

A burning sensation jolted his mind back to the task at hand, and he rattled his stinger as he drew closer to the scent of woman, impatient with himself. He would have to take care to hunt far beyond their neighbors.

The fire was down to embers when he returned. The tiny home was dark save for the flickering light leading down to the basement, where he’d pushed aside the dusty shelved to deposit bedding. He saw better in darkness anyway, and glanced at the child’s sleeping form as he descended the stairs.

She heard him as he neared the bottom, straightened herself, wearing just her shift. Hair pulled over one shoulder to reveal soft, pulsating skin on the opposite side. She stood ridged, a woman welcoming her master to bed, face a stone mask of neutrality.

Hands fluttering to his own waist, he allowed the peasant robes to slip off his skin, revealing much of his save for one detail behind the loincloth. He watched her as she chewed her lip, trembled at the sight of him, and a thought occurred to him then as he watched her teeth work.

“Please do not make yourself bleed.”

She recoiled to the sound of his voice as though he had slapped her. Perhaps not the best thing to say on the beginning of their first night together, but Quinlan doubted her reaction would have been much different if he confessed to her a love he had yet to feel.

Slowly, deliberately, she stopped her nervous gnawing, relaxing her pink and plump lower lip to yield an almost bored expression.

He studied her a moment longer before finally stepping forward, closing the space. She trembled, feeling his ambient heat, stinking of barely concealed fear and panic.

He moved his hand in an alien gesture, parting her hair, meaning to cup her cheek, to comfort her. To show her he would do no harm. But his digits just barely brushed her jawline before she reeled back, falling in to a submissive position on their bed with her belly and thighs exposed, and he had to remember to dig his heels in before he followed along with an instinctual reaction of his own…

Her eyes were wild with fear, unconcealed, as though he had just ripped the veil off her pretty face. “Please,” breathy, husky, begging, disobeying orders in a way that would surely get her beaten. “Please… don’t. Please.”

Quinlan stared down at her, the dominant one in all ways, a ‘man’ over his woman. He kept his face neutral even as something twisted painfully in his chest.

He tried to reach for her again, opened his mind to send her words of comfort, but she scooted further away, tears in her eyes.

There would be no reaching this woman. True that he could force himself upon her, but…

He turned, took his robes and dressed quickly. Ascended the stairs, passed the sleeping child without acknowledging her presence, all the while still hearing his wife’s rapid heartbeat.

Was it his imagination, or was her pulse mocking him? ‘stupid, stupid, stupid…’

Monster.
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Prompt: Poppa Q and digging up old memories

Post by Babywhatsyoursin on Thu Feb 26, 2015 2:37 pm

The result of more Tumblr musings with TeamQuinlan

Potential spoilers. Do not own The Strain or related characters.

This fic was written shortly after I finished The Fall.




Quinlan did not feel the need to bear witness to the inevitability of the last Ancient’s demise.

He slipped from the cavernous halls of the New World vampires quietly, while the remaining demigod conversed with the hopelessly aged yet admittedly ruthless professor. Easily distracted, the humans were completely captivated by what the vampires had already accepted, so filled with dread for their mortal lives that they anxiously clawed at whatever could be distantly perceived as hope.

Were he not so focused on his own tasks, Quinlan may have taken a moment to feel pity for these people, doomed to live the rest of their short lives beneath the heady gaze of the Seventh.

He had his orders, a last request of the dying Wise Ones to whom he had employed himself the last seven centuries. The death of the first ancient, in the Old World, had been alarming in it’s own right; for Quinlan, the knowledge of the loss of the strigoi he had worked so closely with had caused him to pause. There was no true sadness, no real pain for the Final Death of those who certainly would not miss him were the situations reversed. Still… they had been efficient, had been allies. The sudden lack of support left a daunting void.

He was the only one left. No doubt even the other halflings had perished with their fathers.

Indeed, even without these final orders, Quinlan knew what he had to do. There was no question as to what his next move would be. He had never forgotten his own personal vendettas, as the ancients had worded them, no matter how many years passed.

His bag was where he had left it, placed so that he could scoop it up and sling it over his shoulder on his way out. He moved with quick, powerful strides, nearly silent as he descended to the garage and entered his vehicle, tossing his belongings in the passenger side.

Truly, there was no safe place left in this city. Given his own needs, he had identified several places to move among as personal headquarters. He could not afford to be seen- though realistically he probably would be seen. Then he would be immediately identified as one of the few remaining threats, and there would be attempts to eliminate him. He had gotten this far in life by skills he had learned, and though he trusted his instinct, the masses he was up against were unlike anything he had ever faced before.

Finality was fast approaching- he could taste his own demise. Entering the bedroom of an apartment with the previous occupants long out of the city, he took a moment to reflect upon the idea of dying, tested the failsafe walls of his resolve. He secured the area, only needing this one room, his focus partially distracted from the task at hand.

No more endless nights, no more long days. He would no longer feel the dry ache of his stinger in the presence of a pulse. No more strigoi hunt, no slaying. If he succeeded, he could give his endless life purpose, could perhaps soothe the dull throb in his chest whenever he allowed himself to become too pensive.

The contents of the bag were evacuated on to the tattered brown bedspread, and as was his habit he immediately sorted his various weapons of choice in to neat lines. Of course everything was here. Everything he would need during this initial period of time, while he made his assessments and readied himself. Everything, and then some.

His fingers closed around an item so familiar, something that had accompanied him on his travels throughout the centuries. Normally, Quinlan did not consider himself materialistic; items in this world had a tendency to rot, to turn to dust, and actually meant so very little in the long run. After all, the sum of all the riches in the world could not buy true experience; that was earned. Wisdom through hardship.

This was dangerous. He could not afford to be distracted. And yet, he removed his thick leather glove anyway, brushed his fingers lightly along the yarns woven tightly along the wooden doll’s torso, feeling the frayed knots in the fabric.

The doll was, in all honesty, a homely mess even in it’s brighter days. Quinlan made for an efficient warrior, a decent farmer, and, until the end, an attentive husband and father. But he was no craftsman. Even so, he was willing to try, carving the modest profile of a girl’s face in to the wood, winding the body with yarn he had spared from the sheep.

Despite it’s shabby appearance, he had been rewarded tenfold for his work with a smile and hearty embrace on the day he had presented it to the child, just as he was readying himself to retire for the day.

From that point forward, his daughter would often rush to him with stories of the adventures the two of them had. The doll even accompanied the girl on her daily duties.

Dangerous, his instincts whispered to him as he brought the thing to his face, touched his lips to the object as he inhaled. Don’t, a lesser part of himself growled as he imagined it still carried their scent-



The air was heavy this time of year, humidity causing the atmosphere to have a palpable thickness to it, as though it could be parted with a knife. The darkness of night did little to relieve what his wife and daughter often worked through during the day.

He insisted that they both sleep in the basement during nights like this, while he was away. The ambient heat of his flesh caused them more discomfort, and so they never retired downstairs straight away after he was up. He began to rise earlier because of this, tolerating the last few hours of light while the cold ground absorbed the remnant heat of his presence, airing out the room for his women.

“Da,” his daughter said one night, through a mouthful of bread, “one game tonight?”

His wife, with the long dark hairs nearest her forehead wet with sweat, looked at the girl with muted impatience. “It is far too warm for Da to be worried with that tonight,” she reminded the girl, “he has much to do to prepare for drought.”

The child looked so disappointed that he accommodated her without much thought, as usual.
One game, he allotted, grunting as he pulled on thin leather boots. After you’ve finished supper.

He was gathering the pails to prepare for a trip to the well when she found him, running barefoot through the grass which was already strung with dew. He barely had time to place the items down before she was upon him.

“Momma said not to keep you,” she spoke in to his ear, with her arms around his neck as he was crouched to her level. She never complained about his heat, sought him out regardless. The doll poked him in the back of his scalp.

He waited for her to pull away, tucked a wet strand of her hair behind her ear.
Remember that you have your own duties to do tomorrow- mother wants you to be rested.

“I’ll wake up just fine!”

What would you like to play, then?

She frowned, made a show of looking back and forth before exclaiming, “You hide!”

He smiled, tilted his head at her in question
. How will you find me in the dark?

The girl brandished her doll before her, holding it up with both hands for him to see. “She will help!”

And so with her eyes firmly closed her obliged her, climbing up a tree some twenty feet away with ease, watching as she loudly announced the hunt began. She held the doll out before her like a compass, marching on dirty little feet as her human vision, built for the light, swept semi-blindly across the scene before her. After a few minutes, he had to drop down and switch his hiding place in the direction of her wandering, positioning himself so she could feel his heat.

She paused at the barrel, knowing she had him cornered, arms tight at her side in anticipation of what came next. She whimpered in mock fear as she tiptoed toward her father, then squealed in delight as he abandoned his hiding place and whipped toward her, gathering her in to his arms and spinning.

“Okay, now-“


Ah-ah! We agreed on one game!

“No, that was half a game! Now it’s my turn to hide!”

Of course he caved, agreed that fine, but this was it, after this it was time for bed. She nodded solemnly, then handed him the doll.

“Use her. Like she showed me!”

He showed her he understood, held the thing out as though it had the capability to find her just on intuition. She made him close his eyes and without even truly realizing he tracked her pulse across the field to some nearby shrubbery.

He pretended to search before he finally “found” her, feigning his own surprise as she jumped from her hiding place and wrapped him in an embrace.

Now-

“Carry me home?”

Dear, it’s so hot- but she looked crestfallen, and he took her in his arms, mentally berating himself for spoiling her so.

“Don’t run,” she said, with her sticky forehead on his shoulder. “Just walk regular speed, okay?”



He willed himself to say her name, to whisper it in to the nothingness surrounding him, with nobody around to hear how ragged he must sound, even telepathically. The action caused a familiar constricting feeling, a rubber band around his chest, and he found himself yet again wondering if this is what it felt like to be human, to suffocate. He moved his other arm, grasped the doll between the two hands that had killed so many since the death of this child—his child.

So many had died, and until very recently he could not see an end to it, kept going simply because he had nothing else to lose, and it mattered not how many times he slipped to that rocky bottom where the only way to go was up.

Soon, he told himself, rubbing his thumb over worn wood, where the doll’s face had been. He was so close. He would avenge them and put a stop to his father’s mad rampage.

Then maybe- just maybe… he would be allowed to see them again.
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Oneshot

Post by Babywhatsyoursin on Thu Feb 26, 2015 2:44 pm

As always, spoilers.

Do not own The Strain or related characters.




As time passed, life began to settle in to a pattern.

His woman was one matter. Communication between the two had dwindled to only necessary exchanges, which were very rare.

The land offered a different type of challenge. Though it was well in to spring it seemed that winter still had it’s claws dug deep in to the soil. The matter was exacerbated by the thick tundra grasses with clinging roots which needed to be removed to expose rich loam beneath.

Quinlan was a sizable man, and boasted significant strength. Still the ground fought his attempts to shape it, and it took over a week for him to till an area large enough where he felt satisfied. The labor was difficult, but a welcome change from previous occupations. After a few grueling hours Quintus would remove the scratchy fabric of his top and let the cool night air lap at the heat rolling off his back.

He would work through the night. He hunted several times per week, traveling both along the coast and inland as he stalked his prey, taking care to put distance between his new home and proverbial dinner table. He would return most mornings and wait quietly for his wife to rise, then slip past her to the depths of his basement quarters, surrounded by yet more dirt and perfectly content in that.

—-

The child came down with fevers, and she expressed her discomfort with copious tears and cries for her mother. Still so young, she was unable to fully communicate her needs verbally and could not mentally manage her malaise. She slept in fitful naps, and often woke diaphoretic and shaking, her tiny hands open in a silent plea for comfort.

The wife held her child as she was wont to, hands stroking through matted hair, feeling the sick heat of her daughter’s skin. Her desperation mounted with passing days. She spent much of her free time pacing the floors of their quarters, mumbling in her native tongue. Her efforts were proving futile. None of the old remedies were taking effect. Despite forced feedings, the child’s tongue grew sluggish and dry. The rings beneath her baby’s eyes darkened, her skin sinking deeper in to her sockets. Despair began to gnaw at the woman’s heart as hope began to fade.

By the third night she was so overcome with grief that she ignored her master as he stood in the doorway. Her white-knuckled hands wrung the sheets as she prayed feverishly. Tears stung her eyes as she appealed to any god who would listen for her surviving beloved, the only anchor of sanity she had in this uncertain world.

That night Quintus postponed his tireless field work to travel farther up the coast than he had hunted before, his swift legs carrying him the miles without rest. He came across a group of trading caravans and offered some of his war-won gold for herbs, which the vendor swore would help. The dhampir reached forth with his mind, brushing mental fingers lightly against this human’s aura, searching the man for signs of deceit.

He left some medicine boiling in a small pot that morning, said nothing as he passed his wife and retired for the day to a still-warm bed.

He woke again to the muted sound of tiny footsteps tapping above his head. At the table, the child sat sipping plain broth. There was the faintest touch of color returned to her dark skin, and her heart, naturally a few beats faster than an adult, had slowed to a less alarming rate. An improvement. Not cured, but better.

She looked up at her guardian, eyes still foggy, and smiled.

He reached forth, aware that the mother was watching them from the hearth, and laid his comparably enormous hand on her fragile head. The child remained still, watching him, her smile unfaltering, until he withdrew and instructed her to finish her meal.

Quinlan then set to readying himself for the night of work ahead, pulling on his filthy boots, aware of his wife’s attention. Was he imagining less animosity from her? She had not openly faced him like this before, watched him with frank curiosity from across the room.

He left his women without further exchange and returned to the fields. He had picked up seeds to sow the night before from one of the caravans, but was honestly unsure at what point he should go about planting them. Admittedly those days he had a little too much pride to ask.

—-

Too soon the sun began it’s daily climb, and it’s influence pushed Quinlan back to the confines of his home. The absence of his wife and the child in the kitchen area was somewhat concerning. He extended his senses and found them to be in the basement; descending, the child’s hummingbird heart rate combined with his wife’s heavy mental distress made him increase his pace.

The woman turned to him with a wretched look on her face. She sat with the child’s head on her lap, stroking her pale forehead. Quinlan stood there a moment, observing the scene, before making his decision. He pulled a heavy coat from a large chest against a far wall, slung it over his shoulder on the way up the stairs and back out in to the abrasive light of morning.

If there was one thing that Quinlan had learned over the past centuries, it was that time was one of the more powerful forces on the planet. He knew enough to realize at this point that he had been naïve. He was unlikely to find the satisfaction he so deeply craved in a relationship that was forced. He lived under the constant influence of the woman’s dismal acceptance of their matrimony, and her fear of him.

His role had changed quite dramatically. His responsibility was no longer directed to the field of battle, but to two women. He had no want or wish to live lavishly; though he could certainly afford it, he had already been the honored guest in many castles. Here, he could create life rather than destroy it. Could nurture something. Build a life of his own. Even if he could not win her heart, he was determined to have her respect through his commitment.

But true respect was not so easily earned, especially in the face of fear. He often heard whispers from mind. Beast, she thought when he turned his back. Demon. She did not know how deep the truth of her assessments ran.

The slavewoman watched the door for several long moments, her dark eyes glazed over with exhaustion. She shifted her weight on the bed, leaning over her child, adjusting the blankets. The babe barely stirred beneath her touch. Swallowing a lump in her throat, she leaned forth and pressed her lips to the girl’s sticky temple, inhaling.

She did not want to move the sick child. It must be morning; her so-called husband seemed to have an aversion to light, and mechanically went about the same predictable work-sleep pattern without much deviation. In all honesty, he never asked much of her. However, leaving the babe here unattended with him was not an option. That is, if he would allow her to stay.

She did not know exactly what he was; she was unable to read, and had spent a considerable amount of time combing through the memories of her childhood, of home, trying to find an explanation. She had heard stories, diluted in her memory, which may fit his description. Possibly.

An unknown demon was the worst kind. Until she knew his true nature, she would die before she allowed the girl to fall victim. It was a rule inscribed deeply in to instinct: a mother protects her child at risk of her own well-being.

Descending footsteps announced his return, and the wife straightened. He moved without preamble across the room, straight for them. Instinctively she moved to cover the child from sight. He paused, unmistakable deep voice echoing eerily in her mind.

Come. We must go.

Without further explanation, he took her by the arm and brought her to her feet. Bending at the knees, he lifted the child in to his arms. Acting on impulse, the woman grabbed at her husband’s firm forearms, attempting to pry her precious one from harm’s way.

He shook her off as easily as he might a ragdoll. Enough. She needs help. Gather provisions for yourself while I settle her.

—-

If he waited till dark, the caravans would have chance to move even farther away. Quinlan did not know how long they were staying in the alcove, or how long they had already been there. Regardless, it was imperative that he act now. The dhampir was well-acquainted with death. Sickness was a secondary effect of war. Humans gained a certain scent to them the faster they circled the proverbial drain. The child reeked.

He pushed the horses to a faster pace. They tossed their heads. Beasts had never been completely at ease with him, and these animals could sense his mounting impatience. He would be much faster on foot, were it not for the obvious baggage. Behind him, the woman eased herself to a more comfortable position to combat the rattling of the trailer.

The sun set and rose again. The creature driving the front pulled his hood tighter over his eyes at as the light heightened to noon, hunched forward. The growling sounds he made were more guttural, punctuated with frequent clicking sounds of agitation. The child stirred in her mother’s lap. She dribbled water on to her cracked lips.

It was late in to the second evening that the horses finally halted. Weight shifted in the front as Quinlan dropped to the ground. He pulled a filthy burlap sack from his wife’s side. It shook with the tinkling sound of coin.

Wait here.

There were campfires in the distance. The wind carried the voices of men. Her husband had disappeared almost instantly, melting with the shadows. He was gone for a while. The girl coughed weakly.

She heard the telltale clicking of his throat before she saw him, and stood beside the wagon. He materialized from beneath the trees on the far side, away from the direction of the men. There was an odd rigidity to his stance as he seemed to regard her from several meters away.

She could not contain the question from pouring fourth. “Are those men doctors?”

His silence was deep, unnerving. Moonlight kissed his pale skin, brought his face out in startling contrast against the dark fabric of his hood. She became aware of an almost animalistic air to him.

“Did they give you more medicine?”

Still nothing. Something was amiss. Their exchanges had always been short but polite. Was he ill?

Her stomach sank. The travelling had rekindled the dying embers within her chest, giving her grasping hands purchase as despair threatened on the horizon. The past few days had been a constant seesaw. The first round of medicine seemed to work.

Defiance flared within her, and she straightened her back as she faced him. She would not give up. They had come too far for this nonsense. She pulled a light shawl from the “provisions” she had packed, and turned to leave.

“Very well. I shall speak to them myself and see if they can-”

His grasp startled her, fingers bent around her bicep like hot iron. The words died in her throat, ended in a small moan as sudden terror deflated her courage.

He let go as though her reaction burned him.

The vendor receives his goods from a medicine man located across the waters. It is a half day’s sail.

She withdrew from him and his abrasive heat, took half a step back and bumped her hip in to the wagon.

More travel?”

He said nothing, fixed her with a red-eyed stare. This close, she noticed the faintest red flush across his cheeks.

She trembled, though not with fear of his wrath. “She will not survive another trip!”

I will leave the decision to you. However, I believe she will not survive without further intervention.

“That vendor of yours could be leading us astray!”

I have my methods of determining honesty. He believes this is the child’s best chance.

Her gaze turned, fell across the sleeping babe. She shifted nervously on her feet.

“How does any of this benefit you?”

You are my wife. She is your child. It is my responsibility to ensure your health and safety, to the best of my ability.

“But why?”

He ignored her question. You must make a decision.

—-

The boat, of modest size even without the dhampir’s presence, was easily influenced by the more powerful waves. It rocked precariously, lurching in tempo with the ocean’s demands. Quinlan sat at the stern, attempting to force his focus anywhere but his current predicament.

His focus flitted across his company. The child slept, her breathing even. The fisherman sat at the front and directed his vessel, seemingly unperturbed by the ocean’s rage.  His wife sat vigil over her child.

Everything beyond this loose piece of driftwood was a vast, empty, swirling nightmare promising a fate worse than death. The boat tilted, and he dug his fingers in to the wood. His talon, gone a few days without being properly filed, sank several centimeters in to the hull as he held on. There was a pounding in his head, between his temples; the earth his vampiric brethren fancied called to him shrilly, drawing white-hot nails of agitation up his spine.

If he could vomit, he probably would have. As it was, he was having a hell of a time keeping himself from clicking and hissing his discomfort. Though Quinlan fancied himself stoic in the face of many challenges, he had always found bodies of water particularly erosive to his resolve. To add insult to injury, the apparent lack of structure on this flimsy boat was truly challenging to his endurance.

Over an hour had passed, and he hunched over, misery beginning to slip through fissures running deep in to his normally cool composure. His stinger twisted painfully, and more than once he reflexively tensed his throat and scraped thin sores in the roof of his mouth.

From her perch, the dark-haired woman observed as the creature slumped in his seat. Even in a time of apparent weakness, it held a regal air to it.  Slumped shoulders, and yet the strength rolled like a palpable force off his back.

The ride back to land was proving to be a bit more rough compared to their first short sail. Still, she had experienced much worse. It was obvious this creature was not used to such journeys.

They had traveled far. She had been, as always, wary of her master’s intentions. However, as her recovering daughter slept soundly to the side, tucked securely in the safest part of the boat, she began to wonder.

His body always sang to her in the strangest ways, warned her instincts of great pain with prolonged contact. Yet, it was rare that she truly felt threatened by him. She knew him to be a great warrior- she had heard legends of such Ghosts. But the stories clearly stated that such creatures had always feasted on their prey—body and soul— with great appetite for suffering. This one sensed her displeasure, and consequently kept his distance. He provided. He had only once asked for something in return, and accepted her refusal.

She thought, at first, that perhaps the creature had taken her as a caretaker for her daughter’s virgin soul. It might even explain the trouble they had underwent this journey. Yet… there was a stirring within her, a human feeling, which reached forth and suggested otherwise. As she beheld this creature, growling softly to itself, too proud to fully embrace misery, she experienced a moment of lucidity, a brilliant note of clarity.

For the first time, she identified with her husband.

The creature, the Ghost, the man- it was sitting, disheveled, afloat on a raft of rotting driftwood… alone. The loneliness was not limited to a physical sense. No- this was a shadow, a mark upon his soul, a burden carried, a visceral feeling of separation which set him apart from so many.

Not too long ago, she had felt something similar. A victim of gruesome raiding, she had held her squalling child to her tear-stained bosom as they dragged her lover’s body from the cells. She was familiar with what it was like to feel so separated from any semblance of home that the only way to escape insanity was to retreat within.

She had asked him why he endured the obvious pain of their travelling. He had opted not to answer. Her assumption was that his intentions were malicious. In hindsight, such thoughts seemed rather unkind. Did he not provide for them? Was she not safe from others in his presence? His attempts at farming were clumsy; she had used her own limited knowledge to attempt to rectify some of his mistakes in the field. But he was obviously putting much effort in to their land.

He kept them well-fed. Respectfully kept his distance. Left small sweets for them on the table, which she had always tossed away.

And now, here, he had dragged them along through miles of rugged terrain to save the life of the one most important to her. Had spent a hefty sum of gold to ensure the medicine man did his job (though intimidation might have worked just as well).

During the one night they had stayed, she caught a glance of him out pacing in the sand along the shore. He did not like the water. Did not like the sun. Yet he had endured both- for them. He had called them his “responsibility.”

Her vision blurred at the edges. She swept a thin wrist across her eyes and stood.

Quinlan distantly sensed movement, and pulled his attention toward the bow to watch the woman leave her child’s side willingly for the first time in days. The coming eve gave his eyesight greater focus; her raven hair whipped frantically in the salty wind as she half stood, sliding her hand along the boat’s side to steady herself as she approached him.

This sudden change of behavior was so unlike her that his initial response was to glide his psyche over hers. He tasted nothing sinister in her intent. On the contrary… his curiosity was fast retreating, replaced with confusion. Coupled with his current state of malaise, Quinlan’s mood was far too sour to want her company. He drew himself up sharply, righted his legs so that his feet were settled more firmly on the deck.

Back, woman.

She flinched in the same way she always did when he spoke to her, but seemed otherwise undeterred from whatever she was bent on doing. He growled, drawing the noise from deep in his chest; an international sound of warning.

Her response was to narrow her eyes and stubbornly continue, though at a slower pace. He pried his talon from the boat’s side and pounded his fist in to the wood for emphasis.

Enough! Return to the child.

Still, she pressed forward. Extended her arm to him.

For some reason, an unfamiliar sense of anxiety washed over Quintus. Reacting on instinct, he drew his shoulders back and extended his neck. His jaw unhinged with a painless cracking sound. With his mouth this far open, the growling sound emanating from within gurgled loud enough for the fisherman to glance nervously back.

She was quaking as she finally reached him, within easy range of his stinger. Her trembling fingers touched his taut cheek. She traced a line down, and the cool feeling of her touch drained the tension in his shoulders. After a moment, he eased his mouth closed.

He watched her. For the first time in so many years, he was completely unsure how to react. Her dilated pupils betrayed her fear even as she held his gaze. Her touch moved back up his jaw- a comforting gesture?

She opened her own mouth then, tilting her chin up slightly. His attention redirected to the pulse in her neck for a moment.

Then she begin to sing, the smooth alto of her voice escaping to the wall-less space beyond them, the alien language causing something in his chest to twist almost painfully.

She finished her song. Holding his gaze a moment longer she wet her lips and retreated back to her child’s side, settling to the familiar picture he had grown accustomed to the past few days.

His hand went to this throat. He felt many conflicting sensations. He needed to separate- to ponder this reaction away from the source, and yet could not.

The remainder of their travels were conducted at a much easier pace. By her suggestion, they traveled only by night. The dhampir and his human wife settled back in to their usual state of silence. The child’s voice joined them once again, strengthened by the food in her belly.

The mother lay with her babe in the wagon, pointing to the stars. She told her stories of her people, legends illustrated by pictures in the velvet sky. As he listened to her voice, Quintus absentmindedly rubbed his knuckles up and down his sternum, remembering the strange, almost painful sensation he had experienced on the boat.

He wanted to feel that way again.

He wanted to hear her sing.

—-
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