Flame Rose - Part Two

© Anna Qureshi, 2000

Disclaimer; The characters in this story as well as the theme and background belong to Whitewolf and Spelling Productions. I lay no claim to them and in no way do I intend to infringe on their rights. I make no profit from this story. The song used is Sarah McLachlan’s ‘I love you’, which can be found on the cd "Surfacing". My use of it is not intended to infringe on her or Arista’s rights. The book Cash refers to is Plato’s "Symposium". All comments to annqureshi@ivillage.com.

The blood was much more red than on television. And there was so much of it. Single drops rolled slowly down the wall, still not dry. It looked almost like graffiti. It sounded like it too. Bloodbrother. The tag written on the wall of the claustrophobic cell seemed to send out a message that had very little to do with the dead man lying on the floor. She had seen dead men before, her grandfather had been buried only a month ago, but this was different. Grandpa had died from heart failure, this guy had had his throat ripped open and his blood used as finger-paint. The scent of blood and the small space filled with people was getting to be too much, she had to get out. Almost frantic Sasha turned towards the exit and tumbled into the person standing behind her. Looking up the apology on her tongue died. Starkweather, the guy who had been in the cell, with blood smeared all over his hands and sweatshirt. She knew there wouldn’t be time to cry for help even as she opened her mouth to scream but she did it anyway. Starkweather grabbed her and threw her against the wall. Desperate to get out of his reach she showed away from the cool concrete and came awake sitting up in her bed at the compound. Closing her eyes she rested her head on her drawn up knees. Of course. That was how she had known his name when she hadn't known anything at the hospital. It had all been a dream. A nightmare that left her with sweaty palms and lungs that were burning in the attempt to draw in breath. Slowly she lifted her head trying to tell herself to be calm. Then she opened her eyes and was faced with the dark room. At her grandpa’s house she had had a nightlight ever since the accident that killed her parents. But not here. Here there was only darkness and the deep almost unnatural silence that seemed to pervade the house. A city kind of silence which was really an absence of sound rather than the calm silence of the wine country where she grew up. Now the silence added to the menace of the darkness which became filled with shadows that seemed to grow and reach out twisted hands for her. She tried to tell herself that there was nothing there but knew that she wouldn’t get anymore sleep no matter how hard she tried. Edging to the side of the bed she quickly grabbed the dress she had discarded earlier and pulled it on before she threw back the covers and flew across the bed tearing open the door and quickly closing it again behind her.

Cash would take care of her and not laugh, she thought then came to a stop as she remembered that her uncle’s security chief had gone out earlier that evening checking in on her and saying that he probably wouldn’t be back until morning. So now what? She couldn’t make herself go back to the bedroom even though she knew she was being silly. Then the sound of quiet voices coming from the room on her left caught her attention. Of course she could go stay with uncle Julian for a while. Knocking on the door she suddenly realised that the other voice had been female and that she was probably interrupting Julian at a bad time. The voices fell quiet.

"Come in."

Hesitating a moment Sasha decided that she could just tell him goodnight then go down to the library and get a book to read or something. So she opened the door. Julian was standing by the bed in the act of removing his shirt and Lillie was reclining on the bed wearing nothing but a pale pink silk night-gown. No second points for guessing what she had interrupted. Julian abandoned his shirt buttons and walked towards her.

"Sasha is everything alright?"

Looking into her his eyes she forgot all about her excuse and blurted out everything about the nightmare. For some reason that seemed to make both Julian and Lillie concerned and they came to stand on either side of her. Julian put his arms around her.

"Poor Sasha I wish you hadn’t had to see what happened at the hospital."

Julian exchanged a look with Lillie behind Sasha’s back.

"It’s okay Uncle Julian. I guess I’m just a little bit shook up still. And I’m worried about Cash. Why did he have to go out? Is it to find that guy? You don’t think that guy will try to come here do you?"

"No, of course not. Cash is out to take care of some business for me. Starkweather wont come anywhere near the Compound. I promise."

Lillie kissed her cheek.

"Why don’t you stay with us tonight."

Julian watched as Sasha turned to Lillie with a shake of her head that suddenly stopped as her eyes got a slightly glazed look.

"Yeah, okay, that’ll be nice", Sasha said.

The two Kindred led the young girl to the bed and helped her slide under the covers before Julian leaned down and kissed her forehead. When he got up Sasha’s eyes were shut and her breathing showed that she was sleeping soundly.

Lillie moved to her lover and put her arms around his waist. "Did you make her forget?"

"No, I would have to erase this whole day to make sure she didn’t catch on to something. I don’t want to do that unless I have to."

"You may have no choice in the matter. By letting her live here with us you’ve chosen to expose her to the risk of stumbling across the Masquerade. Even if we keep erasing what she sees at some point that wont be enough. Especially not with someone who has Sasha’s personality where the strength of her mind might force us to bury the truth in her memory because erasing it is not an option."

"But what else could I have done. I’m all that she has Lillie. And she’s not nearly as strong as she pretends. Just a seventeen year old girl, who has lost every person that was ever important to her."

Julian walked back to the bed to stare down at his great-great-granddaughter.

"Besides, she was always my favourite. Evelyn would have liked her."

Lillie kept her face calm though she wanted to spit with fury at the mention of Julian’s dead wife. A woman that until recently she had been happily unaware of. But maybe ignorance was the wrong approach to getting this woman out of Julian’s memory once and for all like she had got rid of Alexandra Serris and so many others.

"Does Sasha look anything like her?"

A distant look entered Julian’s eyes and a slight half-smile played on his lips.

"Not exactly. Evelyn’s hair curled too, though not as much as Sasha’s and sometimes Sasha smiles the way Evelyn did. But that’s all. Their personalities are much more alike. Evelyn was half-French and half-Irish. She loved to argue and never lost. Mainly because she had a temper to match. I remember once when the Mayor’s wife refused to let a woman with Creol blood gain admittance to the New Orleans Ladies Club. Evelyn decked her. Thank God the Chief of Police was her brother or I would have never been able to keep her out of jail. Maybe that part of her personality was genetic…and it just jumped a few generations down to Sasha."

Lillie smiled at that.

"Well, my Prince, it looks like your blood is safe for tonight. So why don’t we seek some rest for ourselves."

Julian watched as she lay down next to Sasha and curled her body protectively around the young girl. Then he continued undressing and climbed in on the other side.

"How long did you make her sleep?" Lillie asked.

"Until we wake ourselves."

"Then I bid you goodnight my Prince."

Julian raised himself on one elbow and leaned across Sasha to kiss his lover.

"Goodnight fair lady…"

***

Finished. Thank Caine Julian got Starkweather. Maybe now he’ll listen about Sasha. Cash gently shook his head at that last bit. The Prince was no more likely to be reasonable about his blood than he had been before Starkweather had come along to threaten the Masquerade. And Cash still hadn’t managed to find out which one of his people was responsible for Starkweather’s creation. That was another problem. Running a hand through his hair Cash scanned the back garden for any of his clansmen but it was 3 a.m. on a Saturday and they must all be on duty or not at the Luna Compound. He had a feeling that at least some of his clansmen knew more about this thing with Starkweather than they were telling him. It had to be a test of his authority. Stevie Ray had ruled with wisdom and tolerance, but only up to a point. Anyone who’d stepped beyond that point had tasted their sire’s fists. Cash grinned to himself. During his first week as accepted Kindred he’d run into Lorraina and the two of them had broken into Goth’s haven and gone through his alchemy powders to see if there was anything ‘funky’. When Stevie had finished they’d both been hurt enough to have to stay in bed for a week. So the clan was waiting to see how Cash was going to react. Unruly, rebellious street-kids that they were they weren’t going to pay respect to someone who couldn’t defend them with his fists. Cash made a mental note to spend more time with his clan. Undoubtedly there would be differences to spot now that he was their leader rather than their equal. Still thinking about his clan Cash stepped inside the guesthouse he was currently occupying in Julian’s back garden and stopped dead.

"Sasha."

"Hey, Cash. It’s been a while."

Why does she always have to talk like that cat that got all the cream? The stray thought entered Cash’s head as he looked her over and felt himself go hard.

Noticing the direction of his look Sasha smiled seductively.

"See anything you like?"

"Ehm, eh, yeah it’s a real pretty dress that you’re… like…almost wearing."

Which was true. The miniscule piece of black stretch velvet that wrapped itself around her like body paint looked real…pretty to Cash’s mind.

"You think so Cash? Maybe you’d like to see what I’m wearing underneath it?"

Wearing!! Since when did perfume count as clothes! Cash nearly said his thoughts aloud, but really there was no need to give the witch any more fire power than strictly necessary.

Sasha walked closer to him until she stood near enough to feel his body heat, without actually touching him. Somehow that was even more seductive. The eternal lure of temptation. A seventeen year old girl (he’d overheard Julian say) with the body of a siren, the temper of a banshee, the wanderlust of a gypsy and a loyal heart. Everything he’d ever wanted.

All of a sudden he heard himself saying; "There’s this book I read that talked about true love. It said that once we all had four arms and legs and two heads. And we were happy, so the gods became jealous and Zeus sent down lightning to separate the whole into two halves. Now people wander the Earth looking for their other half…" With a shake of his head he half turned away from her feeling slightly embarrassed; "I…I don’t know why I told you that."

Then he felt her arms slide around him. Felt her lean into him and hold on real tight. "Cash, let’s go for a ride."

He turned and smiled down at her feeling the tiredness melt away. "Yeah, why not, little ride in the night never hurt nobody…"

***

The bike tore through the streets of San Francisco. People went past in colourful flashes as they wove in and out between cars on their way down Van Ness Ave., going through SoMa and making for the Bay Bridge, taking great care to ignore every single intersection. The speed was exhilarating, the big machine throbbed with power and challenged them for domination at every turn. The surroundings went past so fast that the world seemed to shrink to just the two of them riding the bike through the night. Body against body, the wind whipping around them alternating between tearing at them and pushing the bike to go even faster they flew across the bay high up on the bridge. Sasha threw her head back and laughed wildly. This was the life she loved. Some people craved the rush of competing bike against bike and car against car, but she wanted the freedom. The freedom of speed and strength that the bike combined, the knowledge of what she could make this powerful machine do. It didn’t matter whether there were any other motorists out there, it didn’t matter if anyone saw how good she was. She wanted to fly through the skies, challenging the elements every bit of the way, fighting them until she won. As Cash took a turn-off for I-880 she grinned to herself. It certainly looked like she had found the other half of herself like Cash had been talking about. The thought wiped the smile off her face and she held on tighter, pressing her body closer to his and resting her head against his strong back. There was a centre of calmness in her stomach which slowly spread throughout her body. She’d only shared a few kissed with Cash, yet she knew without a doubt that he was different from any of her other boyfriends. What they had together was different.

***

"Cash are you sure that that guy from the hospital is all gone?"

"Yeah, I’m sure. Why?"

Heading out to the water they’d taken a right near Fruitvale south of Oakland. Cash was looking out at the bay, but Sasha was staring at the ground taking her time before answering.

"I’ve had these dreams. It’s no big deal, but I just can’t seem to get him out of my mind."

Still looking away she shrugged trying to look like it didn’t really matter. But she didn’t try to stop him when Cash put his arms around her. He made her feel safe. It was crazy she knew, no one could keep you one hundred percent safe, yet with Cash that was exactly how she felt.

"Julian knows the cop who found him. He’s dead Sasha. There’s no way he’s ever gonna come back."

Relaxing a bit she raised her head and smiled impishly at him.

"But I might still have a bad dream Cash. Maybe you should spend the night with me just in case. You know, be my bodyguard."

The seductive emphasis she put on the word bodyguard made it sound almost dirty and he felt his whole body tighten at the images that came into his head. He wanted to taste her so bad. Not as a Kindred but as a man. He wanted to taste her skin and bury his head in her hair. He wanted to rub his scent all over her body so that no man would ever doubt that Sasha was his woman. He wanted to loose himself in her until the world became filled with her scent, her taste, her touch. Sasha. Lowering his head he meant to take it slow, meant to savour the softness of her lips. But the moment his lips touched hers he lost control of his need and the kiss became hungry and filled with an almost brutal desire. He was vaguely conscious that Sasha moved to straddle him, but the kiss never broke.

***

…we meet at the lights, I stare for a while, the world around us seems to disappear…

Sitting curled up in the window sill Sasha stared down at the court-yard where Cash was working on his bike with some of the other security people. She got a funny feeling inside when she looked at him, or thought of him. A happy feeling. She loved him. Having thought about it all last night she still couldn’t explain to herself how it had happened. It hadn’t been real when she’d thought she was in love with someone before, she could see that now. Before she had gone out with someone ‘cos she had thought they were cool. Once she’d even dated a guy ‘cos she wanted to get a chance to drive his bike. Of course the bastard hadn’t let her. But with Cash it wasn’t so much that she wanted to be with him, it was more that she needed him. Sometimes it felt as if he was the only one who truly knew her, as if they’d known each other before they even met. She wished he’d take his shirt off, but instead he and the other guards moved into the shade. Maybe she could sneak into his house later and make him take it off there…always assuming that uncle Julian didn't think up something for him to do. She had to talk to Julian and soon. She and Cash belonged together, and if Julian couldn't face that, well the world was a big place.