The halls of the museum
were dark, quiet, nearly sepulchral in their dust-moted silence.
Sappho moved silently, slipping in and out of the shadows as she neared
the Egyptian hall.
She clutched a map of the galleries in her hand. It showed a staircase leading down from the Egyptian room to the dark storerooms in the basement.
She knew leeches liked the dark.
But she didn't know that some of them could be awake during the day.
She reached the large doorway, a banner over it proclaiming the Mysteries of Egypt. She would have to traverse the gallery itself to reach the small, locked door marked 'Staff Only Beyond This Point'. That was where she was sure she would find the vampire, lying in dead sleep until nightfall.
She didn't know some extremely old vampires could move during the daylight, as long as they kept out of it.
She silently edged her way along the wall into the gallery itself.
Just inside the entrance, a large black statue of Annubis stood, guarding the afterworld for eternity in basalt. Sappho ran toward it, across the few yards of open hallway. When she made its shadow, she ducked down and absently brushed hair from her eyes. Then she made ready to dash the remaining yards into the gallery, putting her hand on the cold marble floor to push off with a burst of speed. The others were already in position - hopefully they didn't get lost - she thought.
She could see the brown wooden door. It looked strangely out of place in an Egyptian temple of the dead.
Her hand encountered not cool stone but warm liquid instead.
She stared dumbly at the red blood on her fingers for a minute, feeling her body grow cold and hard and tired.
Then she looked up.
He lay across Annubis' lap, feet and arms hanging from the statue, bent backwards at such an abnormal angle she knew him dead. She stood, and looked directly into his sad green eyes.
His body was a mass of blood, impossible to tell whether he was cut or skinned. She felt bile rise, forced it down, and checked for a pulse in his hands, then in his neck.
She checked back and forth, back and forth, for long minutes that ticked away with the big overhead clock and sent shivers through her.
And she felt what she had known she would feel.
She stumbled away then, knowing if the leech had wanted her dead, she would already be. Because no leech had left this bloody taunt here. The gallery had closed at five; it was now just after seven, and the sun had set less than twenty minutes ago. No, one of the leech's helpers - humans so debased or addicted they sold their birthright for the cheap drug that was vampiric vitae - had left this grisly taunt.
And that meant the leech itself was either far, far away.
Or upon her now, here.
And neither one really mattered. She would die, or she would kill, and it would all mean the same in the end.
It would all be ashes.
She had reached the other wall of the gallery, a reproduction of the soul's journey into the afterlife with the scene of the weighing of the heart against the feather of truth, when she heard the sound.
It seemed to come from afar, echoing off the marble and basalt and obsidian of the room, and crawling it's way slowly into her ears.
She heard his voice, and, turning slowly, saw his hand raise and beckon to her.
Everything became so clear and still, she moved as if she were dreaming. She saw the light gleaming off the silver wolf's head ring he wore, the fire that burned inside his eyes, the play of shadow and light on his shirt.
"Kill me,” was all he said.
And then she knew, beyond doubt, what had happened here. She saw nascent fangs poking through his soft lips. She knew what he was becoming, that soon the hunger would overtake him and he would be lost forever to Gaia.
He was lost to her already, but she would be damned if his soul would be lost as well.
She closed her eyes, letting hot tears of brittle rage run down her face, and when she opened them again, he had climbed down and come to stand before her.
"I have loved you," he whispered softly, "and now you must do this one thing for me. I would do it for you, if things were different."
But the truth of that did not make her obligation any easier.
The clock above them, in old Central Station, ticked off the minutes. It was now four thirty-seven, and Tommie knew the end of the tale would be told in one final deep breath of words. He sat quietly and allowed Sappho the dignity of weeping for all that could have been. He offered his handkerchief once more, but said nothing. He knew she had never told this story to another living soul, and would bury it again when she had done telling it to him.
Two hours later, when the 'Gnawers had completed their sweep of the museum and grounds and found nothing but the evidence of a leech now gone, they searched out Sappho.
Orvis came upon her suddenly, as she sat in the hall of the Egyptian kings, back against the painting showing Osirus waiting for the final judgment, the slavering beast ready to consume the untrue heart of the deceased, beneath the impassive gaze of Annubis. She held the Fianna cradled in her arms, crooning softly to his dead body. Orvis reached out to her, and she allowed herself to be led from the hall, from the museum and back to the cairn
The wounds to her spirit they could not heal, however, and three days later, when she finally broke her silence, it was to call her pack leader with the news that she would be coming home after all, that she'd had enough time away from her cairn and her city.
Her pack alpha was pleased, but puzzled by the change in her voice. When asked, Sappho merely told her she was "Fine" and let it go. The alpha did the same.
And so, when the first moon cycle came, and she missed her courses, she thought nothing of it. She attributed it to stress, to sorrow, to a thousand things.
Then came the second month, and the third, and finally she had to go, fearful and misty-eyed, to one of the old Theurges who 'knew people' to arrange a procedure. The old one had looked at her with pity and shame, and had told her that she had waited too long; there was nothing to be done for it now. There was talk of fostering, and Sappho let it roll over her, for she had nothing left inside to feel with.
Her heart had died too, in the echoing hall of the Egyptian kings, and been judged and consumed in flame. And some part of her had stayed there, sitting on the floor, singing lullabies to the brave warrior who had died at her claws.
She looked up at Tommie, eyes blood red from weeping, and looked at him as if to ask his understanding.
"And so now you know, the young one - the Get, as he believes himself to be, is my son. And he is the most...distasteful ... among Garou, for he is metis. I had thought perhaps, he would be free of the taint of deformity, but it seems that the twistings can show up in body ... or in mind. Garou do not eat flesh. It is abomination to us."
She dried her face, breathed in deeply, then squared her shoulders and raised her head to stare him full in the face.
"If you must do this, then you will do it quickly. He will not suffer."
In tone, her voice was detached, frozen. If Tommie hadn't had part of his mind on her sub-conscious, he might have thought she was discussing the weather. But a part of her, the deep flowing part of her, howled with pain and anger and perhaps.... was it....
Tommie kept his poker face, nodded quickly and coldly.
"Yeah, he won't suffer. No reason for it - one shot, one kill."
She flinched as he said that, but never wavered from her gaze.
Then, sensing perhaps how much she had said, and how much she had left to say, she rose stiffly from the table, took one last pull from the bottle, and with a curt "G'night" over her shoulder, she pushed through the doorway and was gone.
Tommie sat, alone, in the circle of light cast by the lamp hanging over the table. He poured himself another drink, sat quietly sipping at it until the glass was empty, then pulled his jacket from the chair back and headed out, into the night, to find a bit to eat before sleeping in the morning.
No wonder she's bitter, he thought, making his way through the labyrinthine turnings of the subways and access tunnels Julia called home. Boo got most of the luck in that family, and Sappho got most of the heartbreak.
Then he paused and thought back, to the night he stood on a windswept hill in Montana, looking over a simple makeshift cross stuck into the ground overlooking a burnt-out spot in the forest.
It had been about three months after the boys had shown up on his doorstep, bruised, battered and confused. He had questioned them extensively about the trailer park, where they had last seen their mother alive. He had sent out feelers among the wraiths to learn the fate of the people who had called it home.
And when it was safe, for there was nothing he could do for any of those still living, and even less to do for the dead, he came to see what he could see.
He came to touch the trees she'd touched, to walk the dirt she had trod upon, to try and fit the pieces of the puzzle of her back together again.
And his search had led, ultimately, here, to this hill, and this makeshift memorial, half-buried in the snow.
Kneeling closer to the object, he saw that someone, probably a Garou, had scratched words into the crossbar, and that the marker itself was hung with feathers, bones and crystals. He had to sweep the snow from the letters to make out what it said, but his supernatural sight had no trouble picking out the symbols.
The Garou signs of wisdom and glory, carved on the ends of the arms of the cross, flanked her name, put out in both common letters and Garou glyphs. Beneath it, running down the upright, someone had scratched the words