On my way back to the hospital, I noticed how windy it was. There were storm clouds rolling in, and the night was a lot darker. I hoped that if it did storm, it wouldn’t keep Justin up. I parked and walked back into the hospital, where it was mostly quiet and very few people were around. I followed the signage as I made my way back to the pediatric ward, eventually stepping off an elevator into a dim hallway; it seemed that they turned the lights down at night in order to save power and create a sleepy environment.
After a short walk, the hallway got even darker, and I came to a sort of crossroads. All the directions I could go in seemed pretty dark, but which one led to Justin’s room? I carried on straight ahead.
“If they were going to black out this area, they could have at least closed the doors or put up barriers,” I muttered to myself.
Almost as if in reply, the doors into that hallways shut. Why didn’t the hospital check for people before doing that? I sighed and continued on.
“Nurse Jasmine?” I paused and listened more closely. I swear I’d heard a female voice whisper my name.
I shook my head and was about to move along when I noticed a form moving across my periphery, as though from one room to another. But it was only three feet or so tall. Was there a kid lost in this hall?
“Ms. Anderson? Hey, are you–”
The door to one of the small side rooms up ahead opened with a whoosh, and I closed the distance to peer inside. It was some sort of exam room, fairly similar to most pediatric facilities, complete with a painting of teddy bears. The difference was, the people in there weren’t children.
“Oh, pretty Emory,” a voice said. Its owner was a woman in a gown of black velvet and green lace, her bodice tight and revealing. She wore a choker of black silk with an emerald skull and matching earrings, and her ebony hair was piled high on her head with intricate braids and buns. Her skin was pale, her lips a deep scarlet.
She sat on the exam table. Beside her stood the horned imp I’d noticed a moment ago; I was relieved that there wasn’t a lost child wandering around, but I had to get her and the imp to leave immediately.
“You’re not welcome here,” I told her.
“Is that any way to talk to a princess?” she replied with a pout.
I narrowed my eyes at her. “You’re not a princess. Go back to your master and tell him to stop bothering me.”
“I could be your princess, though,” she said. “We’d make such beautiful children together.”
“I don’t want children,” I snapped, “least of all with you.”
More pouting. “You’re too pretty to be so mean.”
“Did you really come here just to proposition me?”
“I only wanted to offer to unite our bloodlines,” she simpered.
“Never,” I growled, making it clear that my tone was final.
“You would be so much more powerful if you sired heirs with me.”
“You and I both know that’s a lie, Lisbet.”
“Your grandfather wants you to believe that, but until you’ve had me, you’ll never know.”
“I prefer it that way. Now get back to your home before I call upon my grandfather. He will not hesitate to rip your throat out for trespassing here.” I glared at her, determined to do whatever it took to ensure she left.
“I had your father, you know,” she told me in a sultry tone. “He understood how wonderful it would have been for Thorne and Draco to unite.”
I was infinitely glad that he’d never been successful in that, either. My mother deserved better than him giving in to Lisbet’s temptations, and an attempt to mix the bloodlines wasn’t worth the risks involved. The shadows grew thick around me, and I didn’t take my eyes off of her.
“You can’t stop staring at me, can you, Emory Thorne?”
“I’m only watching to make sure you leave.”
There was a thunk in the hallway, and then the sound of nails on tile– or was it claws? Lisbet leaned forward as though curious as to what was out there.
“Such wild energy you have, Emory,” Listbet noted, still trying to sound suggestive. “Why not use it on me rather than risk damaging this place of medicine?”
“The rights of the Thorne bloodline have been set out by a pact of blood,” I recited; ancient words that my grandfather had made me memorize. “Just as the rights of the Draco, the Raven, and the Lyon bloodlines have been written.”
“Again with the pact?” she sighed. the imp beside her was starting to look worried.
“To trespass upon that which belongs to another bloodline is to forfeit life and liberty and honor, and the punishment for it may be as great as tenfold.”
“Ridiculous,” she groaned. Still, she got down from her perch and started moving towards a pitch black corner. “Do be careful, young Thorne; in your virility, you just might summon more than you intended.”
“Leave,” I commanded, this time more forcefully.
A moment later, she and the imp were gone. The shadows lightened just a little, and I realized that I would have to release the ones I had called on my own before the halls could go back to the soothing dimness I’d seen earlier. I listened carefully to make sure nothing else lingered because of the shadowy encounter, then hurried straight to Justin’s room.
Nurse Jasmine was there, checking his IV bags one last time before heading back out to the nurse’s station. She’d already brought him a miniature dental care kit. Justin didn’t care too much that the toothbrush in it was more juvenile; what really mattered was getting the horrible taste out of his mouth. He’d taken some medicine as well, which seemed to be helping him already. Ms. Anderson stayed just a little longer to chat, then left to go home and get some sleep.
Once it was just me and Justin in the room together, I sat on the bed and he curled up in my lap. I pulled the dinosaur blanket over him and let him lie on my chest until he fell asleep to the song I hummed for him. I was again tempted to lie down alongside him, but I didn’t want to tangle myself in his IV. Once he was deeply enough asleep, I laid him down and slid out of the bed.
It seemed that every time I thought that being with Justin would be as simple as loving him and being there for him, something else happened to remind me that I wasn’t like everyone else. I was human, but my grandfather wasn’t– not entirely. He was many things that I wasn’t, but the few things we had in common were positive traits, and he really did care about his family. The this was, he couldn’t deny his nature or his position, so the ways in which he showed he cared were different.
I stared out of the hospital room window as I thought. Grandfather had warned be about Lisbet ages ago. Her master had ideas of his own– ones that went against the blood pact and that would plunge all four bloodlines into chaos. We weren’t certain whether that was why my father had changed to become so cruel, but we couldn’t rule it out as a possibility. Not only did I have no interest in her, but she was a threat to everyone I loved.
“He is so delicate.”
I turned, forcing down a gasp. There was my grandfather, long white hair, regal clothing and noble features, leaning over Justin’s bed and watching him sleep. He glanced at me, unmoved by my wide-eyed expression.
“I can see why you are so protective of him.”
“Don’t wake him up,” I hissed.
He stood up straight and gave me the faintest of smiles. “That’s just how your mother said it when you were a baby and I came to visit. I didn’t ever wake you, though.”
“He’s not a baby,” I snapped.
“I would hope not, knowing the kind of love he feels for you. You should be careful with your own voice, though.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Why did you come to the hospital?”
Grandfather beckoned me deeper into the shadows of the corner. I could feel the cold there, and I could smell the other-worldly scent of the shadow portals. “Did I ever tell you that it’s harder for sound to travel through the shadows? You’ll still need to keep your voice down, but this should be better for you and him.”
I peered out beyond the shadows; I could still see Justin asleep in the hospital bed, but his back was to us, and I hoped he wouldn’t wake up and think that he was alone. “Are you going to answer my question?”
“At first, I was going to come because I felt how weak his life-force had become,” Grandfather told me, “but that was going to be later in the night. I came now because of what I sensed in the shadows.”
“I should have warned you sooner about how dangerous it is to call the shadows here.”
“In the hospital?” I asked. “Or anywhere in Cody?”
Grandfather sighed. “This is why I wanted you to live with me, at least for a few years.”
“I can’t just disappear off the face of the Earth,” I told him. “Maybe one of your offspring could have gotten away with that a century ago, but not with modern technology.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say it’s so impossible. I’ve heard of a few individuals who went missing and then returned safely.”
“That’s just it: I don’t want to be missing. I don’t want to be one of those weird stories. Besides, Justin needs me,” I added. “So let’s focus on what I can do, which is to let you visit from time to time and teach me what you can.”
He gave me a knowing smile. “From anyone else but you Emory, that headstrong approach would invoke my wrath.”
“I’m that special to you, huh?”
“I cannot deny it,” he replied. “Now, as for hospitals… most people regard them as places of healing. For me, however, they are hubs of life and death. The lives here are very delicate, Emory, and death attracts monsters.”
“And monsters cause more death,” I muttered.
He nodded. “I took you to The Crypt because it was safe. Even places with a history as rich as Harvard’s are safer than the hospital when it comes to what lurks in the shadows.”
I nodded, and I was certain that he’d caught on to my nervousness.
“I know why you were gathering so much darkness,” he added, speaking much more softly. “I shall send an envoy to Lord Draco tomorrow to remind him that he is responsible for ensuring that nobody from his bloodline comes anywhere near North America.”
“Would he even care?”
“He respects the blood pact,” Grandfather said. “He may be curious about would would happen if the bloodlines mix, but he knows what lines to not cross.”
“Heh… okay. I have to admit, I’m surprised that you didn’t take her out as soon as you knew it was Lisbet.”
His expression grew dark. “Between keeping the peace– and our secrets– and wanting to see what you would do, I decided that she would have this one warning. Her master will make it clear to her that if she comes near any of us ever again, her life will be forfeit.”
“Grandfather… I don’t know if I can be the one to–“
“You would,” he insisted, “for your beloved prince.”
The very thought of Lisbet threatening Justin had my heart racing. “You’re right,” I gritted out. I had to stop thinking about what I would do to her, so I changed the subject. “Justin is practically starving.”
“I know,” he said. “He was a little stronger when he was with you the other day, but now…”
“He declined so rapidly…”
“He can recover from this,” Grandfather assured me, “but he needs you.”
I wiped my hands over my face and sighed. “I can help him, but he’s likely to have problems again if I’m not around. But with me… I don’t want him to have to worry about monsters or…” I shook my head. “Maybe it was a mistake to let him get so attached to me.”
“You’ve had years of friendship with him; most of them were before I began to tell you the truth about myself. He wouldn’t give up your love and friendship in exchange for safety, Emory. Truth be told, he probably feels safest of all when he’s with you.”
“Only because he doesn’t know our secrets.”
“I have a different perspective for you,” he said, getting up to gaze at Justin’s sleeping form again. “If you break his heart, it won’t matter to him why you push him away; his life may as well end in that moment. If you stay with him, he will be well-guarded.”
“By you?” I asked, wanting to pull him away from Justin.
“Yes…” he breathed. “But also by you, and by all of my bloodline, whether or not you accept my offer.”
“If I stayed with you,” I reminded him, “it would mean leaving Justin.”
“It doesn’t have to,” he whispered. He reached down to brush Justin’s hair out of his face. “Your beloved is always welcome with us. Not like this, though… not while he is starved. I’m sure you can imagine what would happen.”
“You’re not turning him.” I wanted to shout, to growl, to demand– something to let him know that my decision was final. “And you will not take so much as a sip from him.”
“I would never do that, Emory,” Grandfather replied, just as calm as always. “Even if he gave me his consent, he has nothing with which to feed me. I promise you, I have never even considered the possibility.”
I watched him for long moments as he stayed silent, gazing down at Justin, the rise and fall of his breathing, the tiny movements he made in his sleep.
“He’s probably dreaming about you,” he eventually whispered. He finally pulled his gaze back to me.
I nodded and stepped forward. “Maybe…”
Grandfather laid his hand on mine. “He’s so small… Only a year younger than you, but…” He pursed his lips worriedly. “To think that this is what happened because his mother was so unprepared…”
“I know,” he whispered. “I know, you know… She did what she could. Listen to me: he got this far in life because of you, Emory. He’s safest with you. The warmth and friendship you’ve given him are his greatest treasures.”
“You want me to stay with him,” I noted.
“I want you to not deny your place in his heart if you love him. Don’t worry about anything else but love.”
“Fancy talk for your kind,” I pointed out.
He gave me a long, serious look, then turned back towards the shadows. “It’s because I love you that you have the freedom to choose your own path, no matter how much I want you by my side. Do not doubt that I love my other children as well.”
“Are you going back to your newborn?” I asked him.
He gave me a warm, fond smile before disappearing into the shadows. It was good to see this sentimental side of him. He used to be so stoic that he seemed cold and uncaring. I knew he’d had to be, but more often than not, it made it difficult for me to get close to him. But now… Now he was there for me, even if he couldn’t be the one to heal my beloved Little Moon.