Last Lady of Lună (S1, E9)

Season Content Notes: abduction, blood, sexual content

I looked around the kitchen, at my five sotii, and sighed. Benj was right. The bonds were hurting. All of them. The bond with Marcus, my first, most of all, but he may not have noticed, think it was just part of his magical ‘flu’.

“Look, I’m not handling things well. I’ll try to do better so it doesn’t spill on all of you. I’m just… I guess I’m a bit overwhelmed right now. I knew I’d never have normal sotii — not when anyone I bonded with wouldn’t have grown up with the clan. I’m lucky one of you even knew that the vampire clans existed.”

I nodded to Leyla, who’d convinced the others to believe me. She smiled back, and I let myself feel the pull of that smile. The urge to hop down off the counter and go to her. Did she feel it too?

I looked away.

“And I knew tracking down whatever’s left of our clan wouldn’t be easy, but it’s still frustrating to do nothing but fail hour after hour. So I guess I’m acting out a bit.” I tried to smile. “I’m surprised Emil hasn’t pulled me up short yet, actually.”

Vincent started to say something, then stopped. He, Leyla, and Benj looked to Marcus. Karen was still digging through the fridge.

“Nastasia,” Marcus said after a moment, “we’ve been running blind for a week. I should have sat down with you the first day. We all should have known a lot more about what is going on here. So I’d rather not see anything pull you up short.”

I blinked. “Running blind? I don’t understand.

“When I brought you here, you said we would talk the next morning, but we never did. I waited, and when I did go to you, needing to feed if nothing else, you were curt, distant. No more laughing, no more teasing.

“Professional, you said.

“I told you to tell me what you needed, and I would see to it, but you never did. None of you did. You just… started shadowing me, standing watch. Being bodyguards.” I blinked once and widened my eyes, holding back tears I would not let them see. It wasn’t their fault I had let myself hope for more.

“I thought you wanted distance. I’ve been trying to respect that.”

Next to Marcus, I saw Benj rub his chest, and I winced, remembering what he’d said about feeling the bond. I didn’t know much about how the bond worked, not nearly as much as I should. But he was feeling something, so I needed to find some calm.

It was harder to call on Lună during the day, so instead I focused on breathing, finding my center, the core everything ephemeral orbited around.

Karen came out of the fridge juggling a bunch of fruit and a pitcher of iced tea. I’m not sure how she carried it all to the island without dropping anything, but I guess someone who catches knives for fun can do stuff like that. I hopped off the counter and turned around to pull some cups from the cabinets.

“What does sotii mean, ma’am?” Benj asked.

I nearly dropped the last cup. “I…” Fuck.

“You didn’t look it up?” Karen asked, pouring tea for everyone. “It took me a bit, but you have to spell it with ‘i’, not ‘e’. I think.

“I could be completely wrong, though. The Romanian is pronounced differently and… well, I get stuff wrong a lot.” I was staring at her, shocked, terrified even, and she smiled at me. “I wouldn’t mind being right, though. If, you know, that isn’t out of line or anything. No offense.”

Butterflies. Those were honest to Lună butterflies in my stomach now. I ducked my head but couldn’t help smiling back at her. “I couldn’t ask,” I told her. “I had no right to even think… I needed bodyguards and blood. Anything else is…”

“It’s okay,” she said, “I never know when it’s okay to ask stuff either.”

I have no idea what would have happened then if Marcus hadn’t cleared his throat. “No, Karen, it didn’t occur to me to look it up. I didn’t think Google translate had a setting for ‘vampire'”

“Oh! Sorry, Marcus. I should have said something, huh?” She paused. “Oh. This is going to be one of those awkward social things, isn’t it.”

I covered my face and nodded. “Yup. Really awkward.”

She patted me on the shoulder and turned to give Marcus his tea. “It’s Romanian. I think. Nastasia hasn’t actually said if I’m right.”

“I’m pretty sure you’re right,” I muttered. “If not, this is going to be even more awkward.”

I did not see Benj and Leyla giggling. I heard them. I’d have been pissed, but I’m pretty sure if I was them, I’d have been laughing too. I did see Marcus trying hard not to smile. I doubted any of them would be amused in a moment.

“It’s Romanian, well, a Romanian dialect,” I said, “there isn’t any ‘vampire’ language. Though most of the surviving clans came from Romania before it was Romania. The way we speak, it doesn’t exactly line up with the modern language.

“Sotii still means basically the same thing, though.” I took a deep breath and made myself look at them. “It means spouses.”

Stunned silence, of course. Well, except for Karen, who smiled at me delightedly.

I didn’t understand Karen. I don’t think I ever will. But no matter what weirdness I’ve thrown at her, she just… accepts it, and I guess that’s all I really need to know. Having Karen there made me strong enough to weather what came next.

“Spouses,” Marcus finally growled. “Spouses. You expect–”

“No!” I cut him off. They had reason to be angry with me, and I knew it, but I would not be blamed for what I had never done. “I expect nothing,” I spat, embarrassing myself. I couldn’t look at him, at any of them. “I hoped… maybe.”

The pain and hopelessness of those three words broke through the dam, and words came spilling out of me.

“If we survive, we are bound together for centuries,” I said, “and yes, I hoped that maybe someday you might… wish that. Want more.” I swore. “I’m not human, but I do have feelings, and there is no one else for me. I told you that.” Unable to stay still, I started pacing the kitchen. “And you felt what it was like to share blood. That’s why you’ve been bleeding into cups for me. Isn’t it? Because you don’t want to share that.

“Have I complained? Have I even said anything? No. You set your limits, and I accepted them.

“I needed — desperately — help to keep my clan alive. I didn’t — don’t — expect anything else. No more than what I told you, what I asked for. What you agreed to give.

I stopped and glared at them. “I will never ask for what you don’t wish to give.”

Tipping my head back, I looked up through the skylights. Marcus hated those skylights Mama had put in all over. ‘Weak points.’ I just wished it was night so I could see Luna.

“I’m not even supposed to have sotii yet,” I murmured. “I’m supposed to be flirting with the humans of my clan, learning what it means to be clan leader, getting drunk with my friends…

“Well, I got to do that, at least.”

I looked at them again. Everyone but Karen had their faces locked down, showing nothing. “You’ve got a lot of reasons to be pissed with me, and I won’t apologize for doing the best I can to survive. But I sure as hell never wanted to trick you or force you into…

“I didn’t tell you that ‘sotii’ means ‘spouses’ because I was afraid you would think I expected it. And I knew better.”

Karen made a sound of protest, and I smiled at her, afraid to believe, afraid of how the others would react, but not willing to refuse her. “I thought I knew better.”

“Karen–” Marcus started, but this time Leyla interrupted.

“What did you expect?”

Before I could get my thoughts in order, Karen replied. “I’ve never even had a girlfriend, you know that? You are my family. You gave me a place to belong, but I’m lucky to find someone cool with my weirdness for casual sex, never mind a relationship. I expected to be alone. Especially since we all knew higher would likely break the team up as soon as they forced Marcus to retire.” I was staring at her open-mouthed when she reached for me, her hand shaking a bit. I took her hand immediately and gripped it tight.

“I’m sure there are all kinds of reasons why Nastasia did something wrong and I should be upset. Or at least, you all are upset, and she says there are.” Karen shrugged, “You know I’ve never understood all of that. Why is this wrong, but assuming I’d want to join a team was okay?”

Marcus went pale and said, “Karen…” again, but in a completely different voice.

She shook her head, “It’s okay, Marcus. I’m glad you brought me onto the team. It’s just…” she trailed off and looked at me.

Somehow — maybe Lună was whispering in my ear — I knew what to do. I let go of her hand, went over to the knife block, and pulled out a well-used carving knife.

“I don’t have a ring,” I said, offering the knife to Karen, “and it isn’t K-bar. But this was my mother’s favorite.”

Karen didn’t even look at the knife. She just took it, put it carefully on the counter, and kissed me.

Yes, of course I bit her lip.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.