Authors: Nicole R. Taylor
Gabby's voice broke through her silent reverie and she blinked hard. "Yes?"
The witch frowned and said, "I asked you what I should do."
That's right, Gabby was at the manor because she was worried about her power. She'd promised to help her come to terms with what had happened and to help her understand. Since Aya had dispelled the darkness from her, she'd hardly practiced at all. The fear that followed her hadn't escaped Aya's notice; she was overly sensitive to these things. She leant forward and looked at her pointedly. "You need to let your power back in, Gabby. That's the only way forward."
"I know." She sounded reluctant, like she didn't believe her own words.
"I know it's hard. Believe me. I know all about power and control." Aya frowned as Gabby shook her head. "The darkness is gone. It's not coming back."
"I know that," Gabby shrugged. "It's just… It's too much responsibility. Being this." She gestured to herself with shaking hands.
"I never asked to be a Celestine, but I was born to it. And I never asked to become a vampire. You play the hand you're dealt, Gabby. It's all we've got."
The young witch was wringing her hands, her apprehension reverberating through her. "Yeah."
"You mightn't have asked for it, but you have it anyway. It's too great a gift not to be used for
"It's a lot, Aya. I can't just dive in headfirst. A little at a time." Gabby seemed to know what she was talking about. All she had to do now was take her own advice.
"It's a start," she agreed. Aya was oddly quiet for several minutes. This struggle Gabby was going through? She'd seen it too many times to count. With great power came great responsibility and not all who had it thrust upon them wanted it. "You have a kind heart, Gabby," she said finally. "Whatever happens, I know you'll do what needs to be done."
"Whatever?" she sighed. "Even if I have to resort to doing something bad?"
"Sometimes you have to choose the lesser of two evils."
"But, you'll be here to help me." The struggle she was having with herself was evident from the look on her face.
Aya shook her head. "I won't always be here."
"What do you mean?"
"At some point I will have to leave. You know that right?"
"There are no buts. Things might be…" she struggled to find the right words, "different, right now, but I still have a duty."
Gabby nodded, seeming to understand. There were other witches that needed to taste her revenge and others who needed her help as well. Where that left this thing with her and Zac, she didn't know. Perhaps it was foolish to hold onto this feeling of love, even though the witches had told her the opposite. When she had gone to see Sophia after Arturius had taken Gabby, the old witch had shown her a vision of her past. A moment in time she had forgotten.
The moment when she had first met Zac.
He had been entirely human and she felt it then as she felt it now. She loved him. She loved him so much it hurt.
Aya couldn't help but think that it was stopping her from fulfilling her twisted promise. She couldn't ask him to leave his brother and his home. Not after everything he'd been through. Her life was
for him. One day she would have to leave and he would follow unquestioned. She tried to ignore the thought that had been eating at the corners of her mind for the past few weeks. Did she really want him to?
ya hadn't seen Zac all day.
When she had woken that morning, he was long gone and she felt strangely bereft. She fought the impulse to seek him out, instead occupying herself with assisting Gabby and wandering through the forest, trying to sort out her own confused mind. Needless to say, she hadn't gotten anywhere. She had also avoided looking for Tristan, knowing that anything he had to say wasn't going to be good and right now, she didn't want to hear it.
The only thing that was obvious was that she had a very hard decision to make.
When she could bare it no more and when the sun had dipped below the horizon, she went to Max's, where she knew Zac would be. Pushing through the door, she felt his presence immediately. It was more familiar to her than even her own family had been. He consumed her and maybe that was part of the problem.
Looking away from where she knew he would be, she caught Tristan's eye. She hadn't noticed he was here, what with her silent pining over Zac. Walking towards him, he raised an eyebrow.
"I thought I would have seen you before now," he said, hand clutched around a beer.
"I haven't come to see you," she sneered, not sitting down.
Finally, she looked up and saw Zac sitting at the bar with his back to them. Even if she couldn't feel his emotions, she would know exactly what they were. His head hung low over his glass and his shoulders were hunched. Zac was a hard man and didn't often show anything other than annoyance or anger. Right now it was the second of the two and his posture meant he was trying to keep it to himself. Aya knew that he'd registered her presence, but he acted as if she didn't exist. And he would know that she understood exactly what he was doing. He didn't know how to say whatever it was he was angry with her for, so this was how he reacted.
"He's angry with you, Arrow," Tristan stated the obvious, taking a draught of his beer.
Aya knew she'd done something wrong, something for the life of her she didn't understand. She could think of a few things and it could be any one of them, but her gut was churning over one particular misdemeanor.
"You never were good at relatin' to people," the knight continued. "If you intend to keep him, you should do somethin' about it."
She walked over to the bar and
her hand lightly on Zac's shoulder, never one to back away. For a moment it looked as if he wasn't going to move. But, he got up from the stool without a word, her hand falling away. He led her to a booth at the back of the bar, obviously conscious that Tristan was watching them out the corner of his eye.
Sliding in next to him, she threw a warning glare to the knight, who shrugged and turned away, letting her know that he wasn't eavesdropping. If Aya found out that he had, he'd regret it.
Zac was staring at her with those unusual green eyes of his, like he was trying to think of the right words. After a moment he said, "What do I have to do?"
She knew what he meant, but she asked the question anyway. "Do about what?"
He snorted and looked away with a shake of his head, knowing full well that she was stalling. She could never get anything past him.
Aya frowned, not knowing what to say. Even she didn't understand why she couldn't just let go and give herself to him.
All of herself.
It wasn't like she hadn't done it before. But, Zac was different. He knew things about her that no one else
he'd seen things that she would usually compel away. Then there was that thing with Arturius, when her power had turned on her. Who knew what that had triggered inside of her? If she let go for one second, then she was afraid she'd lose control. And Zac made her forget about herself.
Zac turned his face back towards her, his jaw set. She felt the tension that was building as his leg pressed against hers. He grasped her hand with his right under the table, letting his left trace the inside of her thigh. "Aya, I want
of you." He lent closer, his lips brushing against the corner of her jaw. "Why won't you let me? What aren't you saying?"
"Zac," she said uncomfortably. "We're in public."
He pulled back sharply, breaking all contact between them and she suddenly felt cold.
"We've been together for months. There hasn't been a moment we've been apart," he said quietly. "I need some time to think about this."
"Come back to the manor with me," she whispered.
"And what?" The faint trace of a sneer pulled at his lips.
"We can talk without so many ears listening." She glanced across the bar where Tristan was talking to a pretty girl, but still had one eye on them.
she had glanced at and rolled his eyes. "You know I think Ser Lancelot is a fucking idiot." Tristan's shoulders lifted as he let out a laugh at this, giving away that he was still eavesdropping. Aya knew that the knight was well aware of Zac's feelings and wasn't surprised that he took the opportunity to rub it in.
"Zac," Aya scolded. "Please. This isn't the place to be talking about these things. Let's go and we can talk about it."
"That's the problem," he said, looking at his hands. "I can't think straight around you."
She stood up and held out her hand.
He sighed and took it, allowing her to pull him up. "You can talk your way out of anything."
"Not with you."
She led him by the hand from the
blindingly aware that Tristan's eyes followed their departure. She would have to question him later.
They lingered on the dark street around the corner from the bar, memories of her first night in Ashburton in a hundred and fifty years flashing through her mind. That lane to their
was where she'd saved Zac's life from a pack of werewolves that had jumped him. She'd lost control and tore them into tiny little pieces.
"It's complicated," Aya said, breaking the uncomfortable silence that had cropped up between them.
"Explain it to me, Aya, because I obviously don't understand." He used her name condescendingly and it hurt.
"How can I explain it, when I don't understand myself? I love you," she said, almost pleadingly. "Please."
"Really?" he shook his head. "I can't think straight for want of you, Aya. You drive me mad. Why won't you let me touch you? What are you afraid of? That I'm going to end up like the werewolves you so unashamedly ripped apart?"
"No!" Except that was exactly it.
She looked at the vampire she'd fallen so madly in love with and pushed away the uncomfortable thought that she was driving him mad, that their love was driving both of them mad. The pain and confusion on his face tore her apart and she didn't know what to do. She couldn't just give herself to him. All their problems wouldn't just magically disappear if she did. It would tear them apart.
"Your silence speaks volumes," he snorted.
"You won't touch me again, will you?" she whispered as he looked away into the darkness. That was something she was afraid was going to happen and it looked like it was going to anyway.
"It's not about that and you know it."
"What aren't you telling me?" He snorted, shaking his head when she didn't reply. "What can I do if you won't say anything? Whatever it is it's obviously screwing this up, Aya."
"I-I don't…" Why couldn't she say it?
"You don't trust me."
She looked up at him with wide eyes. "Of course I do."
"No. You don't. If you did, then we wouldn't be having this conversation."
He was right. For the first time in her life, Aya was lost for words. Zac was the only one who had ever had the guts to call her out. She'd walked through two thousand years building a reputation for brutality and unrelenting chaos. She was someone who was
and here was Zac pulling her back down to earth. Aya had never felt so small in all her life. And it was a feeling she deserved.
"What's changed?" he whispered, his green eyes searching hers. "For the life of me, I can't work it out."
She opened her mouth to say something, anything, but nothing came out. A strange sensation stung her eyes and she realized she was fighting back tears. Zac didn't seem to care and without a word, he turned and took a few steps then disappeared into the night.
Deep down, Zac knew that something had been wrong for a while. Aya hadn't been the same since she had woken after her wounds had healed from her fight with Arturius. He'd disregarded her aversion to their intimacy and trusted her to work it out. He didn't want to think about it. Instead, like the fool he was, he let it fester until it pulled them apart. He'd finally told her exactly how he felt and she had pushed him away. Again. He shouldn't be surprised, but it didn't stop it from hurting any less.
It wasn't about sex, not by a long shot. Even he wasn't that much of an ass. It was about trust. Always had been. She was hiding something and didn't trust him enough to just confide in him. Whatever it was-
- he would stand by her, he'd help her. But, what could he do if he didn't know?
When Zac felt Tristan approaching the dark corner where he sat behind the bar, he groaned inwardly. Of course the Irish bastard would take this opportunity to sink his boot in right where it hurt. The knight's obvious claim over Aya hadn't gone unnoticed. In fact, he'd made it clear on several occasions and it had only been
"What the hell is your problem?" Zac glared up at him, when he neared.
"Just wanted to pass along a few friendly words of advice," the knight shrugged, leaning against the wall.
Zac snorted, seriously annoyed, and turned to face him. "I don't need your advice. You might be a billion, but I know exactly what I'm doing."
"Oh, I don't doubt it."
"Spit it out, Tristan. I haven't got all night," he hissed, not bothering to mask his dislike. He was going to hear it if he wanted to or not. Better to rip it off like a band-aid.
"We were companions for a very long time," he said, a note of mockery in his voice. "She can be unpredictable and manipulative and she may say that she loves you, but it hasn't been the first time she's uttered those words."
On his feet in an instant, he grabbed the front of Tristan's shirt and pushed him hard into the wall, his face inches away from the knight’s. Scowling with an all too familiar fury, his eyes began to change, the edges consumed with blackness, his irises still iridescent green as he tried to keep himself under control.
"Calm down, Zac," Tristan held his hands up defensively. "No need for the theatrics, my friend."
Zac's breathing was heavy, his jaw clenched tightly, as he held himself back. A minute passed before he roughly pushed Tristan away, turning to the darkness of the empty lot behind the bar.
"You're not welcome here, Tristan," he said as he composed himself. "As long as I am here, you shouldn't be."
Aya tracked Tristan down to the motel on the edge of Ashburton later the next day. The knight had a lot to answer for and she couldn't put it off any longer. She needed to know Regulus' intentions. If he was coming here, then she had to be ready to lead him away or stop him before he could execute whatever it was he was planning.