Meant to get this up yesterday, but I struggled to polish it/get it where I wanted it to be. Today’s piece will be going to A Vampire’s Bride, courtesy of an awesome prompt from Our Write Side’s Master Class series. Once again, one of the prompts fit perfectly with where I wanted to take the story next. “Unanimous descent” will serve as both theme and title of this slice of Ariella and Niklaus’ life. Enjoy!
CW: Blood, some gore, potentially sexual situation
We’re on another hunting trip.
This time, I lose track of him as he chases down a mountain lion. He’s gotten comfortable going into full-vampire mode around me, not bothering to cover up his animalistic tendencies or slow down for my benefit. As frustrating as it sometimes was to have to track him down, a part of me is relieved that he feels confident enough around me to do that. Stopping to catch my breath, I take a look around, trying to orient myself within the forest. I can’t see the castle through the trees anymore, but I can hear a river nearby – maybe a few yards to my left.
There’s no use getting myself lost trying to find him – eventually, he would find me – so I head in the direction of the river. Despite the gruesome scene I experienced the first time I saw this river, I find the body of water creates a sense of peace in me. Even as I recall the panic that bubbled inside me at the sight of Soren and the others about to hurt Niklaus, I can’t help but feel at ease. Unslinging the crossbow from my shoulder, I find a boulder near the edge of the river to climb onto and sit while I wait.
For a long time, all I can hear is the rushing of the river. It lulls me into relaxation and I almost allow myself to lay back on the boulder and close my eyes, until a cry of pain breaks through the rush of the water, and I sit up with a start. Are my ears playing tricks on me?
No – there it is again. This time the cry is clearer. It’s less of a strangled sound of pain and more like an actual word.
I push myself from the boulder and land hard on the ground. Ignoring the pain in my legs I launch back into the thick of the trees, trying to follow the cry to its source. I’ve never heard him make such a sound but I know it’s Niklaus. The panic is thick in my throat and I’m unable to call back to him. Somehow, I manage not to trip as I continue running, blood pumping in my ears in time to my frantic heart. My lungs burn by the time I find him.
He’s on the ground, leaning against the base of a tree. Beside him, the limp body of a mountain lion. The lion’s blood trails down his chin and neck, mingling with his own as it blossoms through the white of his shirt. A single, silver arrow protrudes from his chest. I brandish my crossbow, immediately searching the area for whoever did this.
“G-Gone.” Niklaus’ voice breaks my search and I drop the crossbow, running to him and dropping to my knees beside his body.
“Dammit. Niklaus…” I’m frantic, my hands moving all over him but unable to do anything. There’s nothing I can do. It struck him in the heart – it’s a miracle he’s still alive.
“Ari-Ariella.” He lifts a bloody hand up to my cheek, and it’s obvious he’s putting every ounce of strength into the movement. I’m already crying but I don’t realize it until he brushes a thumb across my cheekbone. I wipe his face clean of the lion’s blood, revealing a sad smile on his lips. “It’s…okay. You can…you can go home.”
My heart constricts at his words, stomach sinking at the thought of losing him. I lean closer to him, holding his hand to my cheek as I move, before lightly pressing my lips to his.
“Niklaus!” I jolt upright in the darkness of the four poster bed, face extra dry from the tears I must have shed in my sleep. My chest hurts, and I’m breathing heavily, as if I’ve just run a marathon. Beside me, Niklaus sits up immediately, turning to me, his eyes the only light in the dark. As his features come into focus, I see the concern on his brow, the care in his eyes. My mind takes longer than it should to register that it was just a nightmare.
“Are you alright?” Again, with the casual touching. His hand comes up to touch my cheek, not unlike he did in my nightmare. He notices the dryness there, the remnants of tears and his confusion and concern deepens.
“I’m…” I take a shaky breath, trying to dispel the fear still lingering from the nightmare. “I’m okay – just a nightmare.”
At the word, he immediately pulls his hand back. Confused, I reach for it to stop him, holding it with both my hands on my lap.
“Was it…was it about me?” His voice is soft, and although he’s asking the question, it doesn’t sound like he wants to know the answer. Actually, it sounds like he already does.
“Yes – but not the way you think.” My grip on his hand tightens, because I know he’s about to try to pull away again. “We were hunting. I lost track of you, and then I heard you scream. When I found you again someone had shot you with a silver arrow through the heart. You were dying… I…” My voice catches in my throat, and I can feel the tears coming again. I can’t get the image of all that blood soaking through his shirt out of my mind. As if to dispel the thought, one of my hands wanders up to his bare chest, right where the arrow would have been.
He stiffens slightly when my hand meets his skin. I keep my eyes on my hand, unwilling to look up at him. Despite the dark I know he can see me clearly, so I do my best to hide my expression. His breath hitches when I press my palm to his chest.
“Ariella…” His voice strains with the sound of my name – a warning. When I don’t move, his free hand comes up to grab mine. For a moment I think he’s going to push my hand away, but he simply covers it with his own. Before he speaks, he clears his throat. “I’m right here.”
He sounds like he wants to say something more, but he stops himself. I’ve stopped crying, but every once in a while my breath still shakes. Niklaus pulls his other hand from mine and takes my chin in two fingers, tilting my face up to look at him. We’re closer than I thought, and even through the darkness I can see his eyes clearly. I’m acutely aware of how close his lips are to mine. My heart pounds with something other than panic now, and I’m sure Niklaus can hear it.
His hand wipes away the remaining tears, and I find myself closing my eyes and leaning into the touch, my body scooting closer to his. Before I realize what’s happening, I’m in his arms. He’s pulled me close against his chest and back onto the bed. My face nuzzled against his neck, I steady my breathing. Even though we sleep together every day, he’s never held me like this before – never done more than just briefly touch me before withdrawing into his personal space and falling asleep. If he couldn’t hear my heartbeat before, he definitely can now.
“Niklaus?” His sudden closeness, while I’m not complaining, catches me off-guard.
“Hm?” His hum vibrates through his chest, sending a shock through me. One of his hands slides into my hair, combing it through his fingers.
“Do you still think I’m afraid of you?” I’m not sure where the question comes from, but I can’t stop it once it starts.
“No.” His hand stops moving in my hair, and instead slides down to rest on my arm.
“But you think that might change.” My arms are tucked between us, and my hands twitch with the need to reach out to him again. I don’t, instead holding my hands together to fight the impulse.
“Yes.” He wraps his arm around me tighter, pulling me closer. My body is now flush against him, and I can feel myself growing warmer, the blush rushing to my face. “Sometimes I think it should.”
“Why?” I pull back slightly to look at his face, even though in the dark I can only make out his eyes. In a bout of bravery, I let my hand wander up between us, my fingertips sliding along his chin and jaw. His eyes close, and his jaw clenches under my touch. Niklaus fights the groan in his throat, but inches his face closer, pressing his forehead to mine. “You won’t hurt me. I’m safe with you. And the others…” I trail off, wondering how to word what I want to say, “They know better. None of them have tried anything. They hardly even look at me anymore. I think they’ve gotten used to having me around.”
I let my fingers brush against his bottom lip, and he tenses more. His hand grasps my elbow, stopping me from moving. It seems like he’ll pull away, but he doesn’t. Instead, he only shifts to hold my hand instead of my elbow. He kisses my knuckles, keeping my hand against his lips.
Some part of me, I suppose the part that’s still bitter about the whole arranged marriage to a vampire thing, screams at me to stop. What am I doing? He could kill me – since when do I feel safe in a vampire’s embrace? When did I start falling in love with him? As soon as the word crosses my mind, I know it’s true and a whole new panic erupts in my chest – would he ever feel the same way? I do my best not to let my thoughts through, but can’t help worrying my lip with my teeth, or the way my heart’s pounding again.
“You’re scared again.” His voice is a murmur, as if he’d been close to falling asleep. “If it’s not me, then why?”
“J-Just remembering the nightmare.”
Niklaus’ eyes open again before he pulls back to see me better. Can he tell I’m lying? Will he call me out on it? Rather than give him the chance, I slide myself closer to him, tucking my head under his chin again. The sudden movement catches him off-guard and for a moment he’s completely still. Is he even breathing? He seems about to pull away when his hand goes back into my hair, combing through it a couple of times before it slides down my spine, hovering at the base and coming back up. I bite my lip to suppress my reaction, but I can’t stop myself from shivering.
“Is this okay?” His voice is a breathless whisper, full of apprehension and anticipation.
“Yes.” The word leaves me like a sigh, and as much as I want to tilt my head back and kiss him, I don’t. I’m falling fast, surely faster than normal given the circumstances, and the last thing I want to do is upset him or push him away because he probably thinks me loving him is reckless. Again, my heart pounds at the thought of rejection, but I push the feeling away. After all, he’s holding me like this. That has to count for something.
Poor girl’s fallen hard and fast, and looks like Niklaus is having more trouble than usual keeping his hands to himself. I smell a tragedy in the works, but I really would rather give them a happy ending, so we’ll see what happens. Everything is still up in the air for now.
Friendly Reminder: #TuesFlashFicTrain round 4 is waiting for a start! Give the prompt a look and see what story you can set off 🙂
As always, think happy thoughts!