"I wish I knew then what I know now,
But I'd probably do the same.
I get the feeling it's planned out
From the cradle to the grave.
Sometimes the weight is more than I can hold.
I'd rather fail than never really know.
If it takes forever, I will die trying.
If it takes forever, I will die trying.
I will die trying."
- Art of Dying
Author's Note: Well, this is it - for this sequel. I went into this story fully intending for it to be the last, but there's just too much left for these characters. As such, I've already planned out a good chunk of a story to follow this one, and there will finally be a resolution between these three. I would be honored if you would all continue the story with me, but I'll completely understand if you've had enough of the back-and-forth between them all! Either way, enjoy this final chapter! Reviews are welcome, as always, and the sequel will begin sometime next week, if things go according to plan.
Thank you all so much for reading!
Something felt familiar about this place, Torryn realized when she awoke to a white ceiling and the faint stench of dog on the air. Had she really been here before? Or was her weary mind tricking her into a feeling of safety?
Slowly, she sat up, and the moment a grunt of pain left her lips at the light throbbing in her abdomen, she heard footsteps in the hall beyond the open door, faster than she thought possible. Antony swept into the room just as Skylar rose to his feet from a crouch at the end of her bed, and both looked to be in much better condition than she'd remembered after the battle.
"Don't move too much," Antony said softly, pushing her carefully back down with a gentle hand on her chest. "You took so much damage that the healer couldn't mend everything at once. He's been healing you in shifts over the past couple of hours, and you've still got one to go before you can get up."
The healer? So that's why she recognized this place. This was the very bed Skylar had lain in after their battle with Caesar, the battle that had nearly killed Skylar and had killed Antony. Plus, it explained the faint dog stink. The healer had been a werewolf, if she was remembering correctly.
"I'm fine," she protested, but she knew better than to rise again with both men watching her so intently. "I mean, compared to before…"
"You almost died, Torryn," Skylar said lowly, and only now did she notice his death grip on the rounded footboard. "Again."
Antony shot him a glare full of stern reproach. "You weren't nearly as close to death as you seemed to think," he said as his eyes returned to Torryn, the rebuke leaving them as softness took over. "You were going into shock, but —"
"Just admit that you dragged her into a war that you couldn't win," Skylar snapped, turning on Antony. "Admit that you almost killed her."
"If I recall," Antony began, his voice tight and his gaze eerily calm upon Skylar's face, "you were the one who pulled me from the house while she was still inside. You were the one who left her there to die."
"That was Becca's fault!" Skylar shouted indignantly. "I thought Torryn was already out! I thought you would've made her get out!"
"And I thought you would have!"
Skylar stormed toward him around the foot of the bed, their noses inches apart by the time he stopped. "She's your responsibility, you prick!" he bellowed. "And how can you say that she was going into shock like it was no big deal? How can you say that she didn't almost die? You didn't see her! She wasn't in your arms! You didn't feel her slipping away, or see how scared she was, or —"
A hard shove sent Skylar staggering back, Antony following close behind to slam the boy into the wall at his back with a single hand. "No, of course not," he snarled, his voice low and throaty. "She was too busy with you, because you don't know when to back off of another guy's girl."
Finally, Torryn leaped from the warmth of the bed and forced herself between the two men, knocking Antony back with a lighter push than she'd expected to have to use. "Seriously?" she said, annoyed, and her mood only soured further when she felt Skylar's hands on her hips. She knocked them away and glared at him over her shoulder. "I've been awake for a minute, maybe, and you two are already having a pissing contest? Over me? Like I'm not even here? Well, fun fact: I don't need either of you!" She felt Skylar's body tense behind her, and she watched with sick satisfaction as hurt creased Antony's brow and clouded his eyes. "Amazing, isn't it?" she hissed, appalled. "Neither of you have ever even stopped to consider the possibility, have you? Oh, of course not. I'm the damsel in distress, after all. I have to have a man!" She twisted to glare back at Skylar, whose mouth hung open in shock, then turned back to Antony. "Well, guess what, boys. I'm not sure if I want either of you anymore." Solemnly, she shook her head, stepping out from between them so that she could regard them both at once. "I love you both more than anything else in this world. I would die for either of you, and I've proved that too many times already. But if all you're willing to do for me is scream at each other over who deserves me more, I don't think either of you are worth my time right now."
For a moment, they were silent. She looked between them; they looked between themselves, aghast. She couldn't bring herself to admit that she'd never thought about this possibility, either. She couldn't bring herself to admit that the idea of not having both of them in her life like this tore her heart in half. But what other choice did she have? Polyamory was an intriguing thought, but it was never seriously on the table, not for them; and if they couldn't both have her just the way they wanted, they would be locked in this very same shouting match every time they ended up in the same room together. They'd proven that repeatedly. It was either an unsuccessful three-way relationship, eternal shouting…or this.
"Torryn, I'm not sure if this is the right time to be making this kind of decision," Antony said gently once his shock had worn off, but when he reached for her, his hand unsteady, unsure, she knocked it aside decidedly.
"I think…" Her voice cracked. She swallowed and tried again. "I think the decision's already been made. We can talk about it more later, all three of us, but for now —" Pain suddenly swelled in her stomach, and before she even had the chance to outwardly wince, she fell to her knees and doubled over, blood spewing from her mouth like projectile vomit.
"Torryn!" the men cried in unison, and the room suddenly shook beneath heavy footsteps, further rocking Torryn as her world spun.
"I told you to keep her in bed and relaxed!" a deep voice roared, and a man suddenly dropped into view, bringing the scent of dog with him as he knelt before her. "How hard is that!"
The ceiling suddenly came into view, and she felt the unyielding firmness of hardwood against her back. Cool air wafted over her aching stomach as her shirt was pushed up, but the chill was warded away by a warm, rough palm, flush against her skin. Heat tingled through her, soothing to an unearthly degree, and though she could feel bone, blood, and tissue wriggling around within her abdomen, it wasn't particularly unpleasant. With each internal shift, with each fresh spark and tickle of warmth, her pain ebbed just a hair.
Barely a minute had passed by the time she could fully focus on the faces hovering over her, and all that she felt inside was the ghost of pain along her ribcage. She forced her gaze to the less familiar of the men who crowded her, the one with the dark hair hanging in his bright eyes. "Hi," she said breathlessly, holding a hand out to him. "I don't think we've properly met before. I'm Torryn."
His expression remained grim and reserved, but he took her hand and gave it a light shake. "Raphael."
"Like the archangel. Fitting," she said as he hauled her to her feet with a tug, rising with much more grace than she'd ever expected from a werewolf. Then again, she didn't really know anything about their kind, did she? She stumbled slightly, but his broad, solid chest kept her from going very far, and with a gentle grip on her elbows, he set her upright.
"You seem a little bit out of it," he remarked, still holding on to her arms. "Are you feeling all right? Is there something I missed?"
She shook her head, and it helped her mind to clear. "I'm all right, thanks. Are my parents here?" she asked, tilting her head back to look up at his face. 6'5 was just too damn tall.
His hands left her arms. "If you mean the guy who came here riddled with vampire bites and the lady who won't stop watching him, yeah. They're downstairs, waiting for you."
"Is it all right if I go see them?"
"As long as you're not feeling any pain, nausea, weakness, or what have you, you can do whatever you want. I would just recommend not getting nailed in the ribs again, if you can help it," he said dryly.
She smiled in spite of herself. "Will do." She started away from the group as Raphael turned toward Antony, demanding payment none too gently.
"I can cover it," she heard Skylar say as she passed through the door, and Antony's shout of "Like hell!" followed her down the hall. Her heart ached as she left them behind, both physically and romantically, but some part of her saw it as the light at the end of a long, torturous tunnel — a blank slate, a new beginning, a chance to make all of the wrongs she'd committed against both of them right.
"I heard what you said," Becca remarked as Torryn stepped off of the final stair and into the living room. "Good on you, chick." She grinned, patting the empty cushion on the couch beside her, and Torryn sat down without a word.
"What did she do?" Torryn's mother, sitting with Ripley — fully healed and completely lucid, thankfully — on the couch opposite her, asked, dark eyes overflowing with curiosity.
Becca's twinkling eyes never left Torryn as she said, "Finally told those immature little boys where to shove it."
"Really?" Ripley said, calm as ever as he studied Torryn. "You left the vampire and made it clear that you won't be giving the human a chance?" She nodded, and his head tilted slightly to the side. "You're sure that's what you want?"
She opened her mouth to blurt the truth — no! — but Becca spoke before she could. "For now." Her eyes slid to Torryn, a mischievous smirk on her face. "Just don't take too long. You know I've got my eye on one of them, and neither of 'em are going to wait around forever." But Torryn knew what that smirk really implied.
Get 'em both, chick, she said to herself in a mockery of the vampire's voice. Make 'em realize what their own selfish, alpha-male stupidity drove away this time. Make 'em deserve you. Then take 'em back and get some.
She grinned, unabashedly admitting to herself that most of that was her own desires being forced to the surface. "Yeah. I'll keep that in mind." Her smile fell at the sound of footsteps thundering down the stairs, and desolation clawed its way back into her when both Antony and Skylar met her eyes but promptly shied away like wounded animals.
Neither of 'em are going to wait around forever, Becca's voice echoed in her mind.
They need to sort themselves out before I can be with either — or both — of them, she told herself, watching as they looked anywhere but her.
"So, we kicked Caleb's ass," Skylar said, looking at Becca, then Torryn's parents. "Can we go out for ice cream now?"
"I vote we go home and get some well-deserved rest," Antony said, not bothering to look at anyone.
"I vote you all get out of my damn house," came Raphael's rough voice from the stairwell, but while the others chuckled, Torryn felt all the warmth drain from her body.
Where was her home now? What did she do with her life now that she wouldn't be the lover, food source, and body guard of a master vampire?
I think I need to sort myself out, she realized; then, with growing panic — I think I might have made a mistake.
Becca's hand rested on Torryn's arm, and the gentle touch was all that stood between her and uncontrollable sobbing. "It'll be okay," Becca's sage expression seemed to say. "You just pwned half of a vampire army and its undead leader. You can handle something as simple as your damn self."
Taking a deep breath, Torryn nodded to herself. She turned her gaze to the two men standing at the bottom of the stairs, and though she could still feel uncertainty lurking at the back of her mind, the heat of excitement trilled through her.
This would do them all good, and she knew it. If they were deserving of her, if she was deserving of them, either of them, this would all work out in the end. And if not…well, she'd just have to fight harder for it.
She turned to Becca with a half smile, and the vampire patted her arm as a grin spread across her own pale face. "Well, let's get going, then. The future is wide open now, and we need to figure out just what the hell we're going to do with it."
"I think I might take up vampire slaying," Torryn joked as she and Becca rose to their feet. "Maybe save some more Progeny along the way."
Becca chuckled. "As long as you don't come after me, I say, do whatever makes you happy."
Raphael stepped forward, an arm outstretched, and Torryn's eyes widened when they landed upon the half of her grimy dagger that remained on his palm. "Maybe you can use this," he said, and she took it, speechless, her eyes never leaving the damaged remnants of the blade that had saved her life so many times.
Suddenly, she grinned, her eyes flicking to the healer. "Well, I can sure as hell try, can't I?"
She could do this. Improving her relationship with Antony, fixing her relationship with Skylar, creating some sort of meaning in her life independent of either of them…
She could do this. She could do anything.
Hell, maybe she really would take to kicking undead ass for the sake of her fellow Progeny…