I softly groaned as I suppressed the urge to bang my head repeatedly against the wall until my brain stopped working. I couldn’t believe I was here. Again.
Back in what I could only describe as a nightmare.
Why oh why oh why did I ever think it was a good idea to put J and Heather in the same room? Again.
The first time they met, we had only been one pool of mud away from a full on bitch fight.
It’s not that they weren’t polite, no, on the contrary. They were both so polite that I had no doubt the corners of their mouths hurt from smiling so broadly. But underneath the polite words and the sweet sentences, there was an undeniable sharpness that could’ve cut all the tension hanging in the room.
Not that I blamed any of them.
After all, J and I never officially broke up. But then again, we had never really broken up before. We always just took breaks from each other, but one way or another, we gravitated back to each other. I knew it, she knew it. The end never meant the end.
So when I left, I wasn’t sure if J knew I wasn’t coming back. Maybe she thought I would. To be honest, I thought I would.
But then it just didn’t happen. And after all the time that had passed, J must have figured it out, but still… Even though I had convinced myself that J was relieved that we were over, I knew she had waited for me to come back.
I just never did…
And now here I was, ten years later, asking her for a major favour while shoving my new lover in her face.
If she had done that to me and I didn’t have Heather, I would probably have been just as catty. Maybe even more.
But there was a Heather. Not just a Heather. The Heather. Although she didn’t enjoy having an article in front of her name. She said nobody did that but I could have sworn I read in a history books that some people did enjoy that.
But that was beside the point.
Heather and I hadn’t really talked much about my dating past. I mean, she had only been with one other guy, but I had had my share of both women and men over the years.
It’s not that I didn’t want to tell her or… Wait, no, it was exactly that.
It somehow just felt… Unbalanced and unfair. I was her first great love, while my first big love had passed through my life many years ago.
I had already experienced many romances and many tragedies, while she would be going through them with me.
And somehow, I just didn’t know how to tell her that. I wasn’t sure how to tell her I had already loved and lost, many times over.
But I couldn’t avoid J. Not as a topic and not in person. After testing me, she insisted on seeing Heather and conducting some research on her as well. Although I trusted her judgment as a doctor completely, part of me wondered if it was the scientist or my ex who wanted to see Heather.
As they met, it became soon very clear it was mostly my ex that wanted to examine Heather. The way they acted towards each other was just so weird. It was clear Heather was threatened by J and our past, but that being said, J definitely felt threatened by my blondie as well.
I only barely survived their first encounter and now we were back for more. Because I had no choice.
We had no choice.
In the two weeks that had passed, I had had more difficulties with running from her world to mine. I had managed to avoid biting Heather again, but once in a while, every other sound apart from her heartbeat would disappear and it would make me crazy. It took me a lot of self-control and discipline to stop myself from attacking her and just taking her for myself.
I had become so wary and cautious that I had barely even touched or kissed her.
And that too had taken a toll on us. She noticed how distant I was and of course, she took it personally. But she knew it was for the best. She could tell from the look in my eyes. She knew I wasn’t always in control.
So to help me, she had been colder and harder towards me, which wasn’t exactly very pleasant. But it was necessary. It would keep me away from her.
I shook my head and sighed. After everything we had gone through, after all my attempts to catch her, now I needed to push her away from me.
Before any of this happened, I had been careful. I always knew I was stronger than her, but I somehow managed to get my lust for her under control. But it wasn’t that what we should’ve feared. My lust for her was bound by my love for her.
But the hunger… There was nothing that truly bound my hunger except for my self-control. And even then, I couldn’t rely on it. I wish I could, but I knew it was too unpredictable. We couldn’t take any chances.
Heather being distant and cold actually helped with the hunger. But it slowly ate at our relationship.
Our worst nightmare had actually come to pass.
The good part was that as I was growing hungrier, I was also growing physically weaker. I think that was the only reason I managed to stay in control of my body.
And if all of that wasn’t hard enough on us, it didn’t help that she had to meet my drop dead gorgeous, stunningly beautiful and smart-as-a-whip ex. Who, by the way, did everything she could to make Heather uncomfortable.
After all the non-spoken threats, I was surprised Heather held her own. I might have buckled if Heather’s ex was this aggressive and territorial towards me.
I guess she must really love me.
Oh well. At least they didn’t get along. That would have been even more unbearable. The idea of J and Heather flirting with each other just made me nauseous to my core. So I quickly shook that idea away and focused on the daggers they shot with their eyes.
It hadn’t taken J long to finish all her tests on Heather and after only a week, we were back in the lab, waiting for the test results.
At least, that is why we were supposed to be here. J and Heather had taken it as a new opportunity to exchange more rude comments and somehow J was even snippier than always.
She was practically breathing fire.
I guess the results must’ve been worse than expected, because I could just hear the blaming tone in J’s voice as she directed her angry words at Heather.
That alone told me I was in trouble. J had found something that had to do with Heather and it wasn’t good. She was frustrated and she was unleashing all of that on my girlfriend.
Which was all the more worrisome. If it was something small, she would’ve catapulted all her stress onto me. The only reason she wouldn’t attack me, is cause she was afraid. Afraid for me.
‘ Ladies! Can we cease fire for just a moment and can you tell me what is going on?’ I yelled, grabbing both their attention.
Heather quietly apologised as J just glared at me, probably angry that I addressed them both in the same sentence.
‘ J… Can you please tell me what has gotten you so on edge? What did you find out?’
She threw one last nasty look at Heather, before pulling out a form that had written classified over it. Like that would stop people from looking at it. Not.
‘ This is not good news.’ she muttered, wrinkles appearing around her eyes that made her instantly look older. Even older than she actually was.
‘ I figured. Give it to me straight.’ I blew out, shaking my head and putting my game face on. I needed to be strong now.
J pulled up her perfectly shaped eyebrow and there was a slight tug on the corner of her mouth. I could tell from that slight smirk what kind of remark she wanted to make.
‘ Nevermind that, just tell me what is going on.’ I quickly waved away her unspoken joke as I didn’t have the energy to deal with that.
‘ Alright then… Well. Guess there is no reason to sugarcoat it. You are sick.’
‘ Okay. I figured… What kind of sick?’ I calmly said, taking in a deep breath. I knew there was something wrong with me, hearing her confirm it was just a relief by now. At least it meant I wasn’t imagining things and going coo-coo crazy.
‘ There is no word for it. It is unprecedented because well, the source of the virus wasn’t available before you came in contact with… That.’ she answered, sneering out the last word as she directed it towards Heather.
‘ Me? What did I do?’ Heather defended herself, an insulted look appearing on her face as she racked her brain, wondering what she possibly could’ve done wrong.
‘ When you two had the… The… Sexual intercourse. Your bodily fluids mixed and as you know, although we vampires are descendants from humans, our DNA does have a different make-up. Not only that, we have lived apart for so long, the way we process viruses and bacteria is very different.’ J explained and I could just see her shift uncomfortably as she spoke about Heather and I having sex.
I nodded. ‘ So…?’
‘ Although having a different immune system is usually a good thing, with you two, this is not the case. By having a sexual relationship with each other, a virus that Heather carries, which is completely harmless to her, has infected you. This infection is directly attacking key points in your system. You must have noticed that your muscles endurance is lowering and that you are losing control over your heightened senses. But that is not all. I can only speculate, but I don’t think it is a far stretch to assume it is going for your vitals. It will raise your temperature, break down your muscles, and in time, it will go for your brain.’
At this point, Heather and I had become speechless as we looked at each other. I could see disbelief and denial in her eyes as if she didn’t want to take J’s word for it, but we both knew this was true. It explained everything.
I loudly swallowed and directed my attention back to the doctor. ‘ So what about the… Ehmm… The hunger?’
J awkwardly scratched the back of her head and flipped through her file. ‘ Well… That is… That is something entirely else. We can only assume that this virus has triggered something dormant inside of you. You went so long without +fluids, your body was craving something. Anything. And I guess that Heather’s blood was the next best thing.’
‘ I have been drinking plenty of fluids and it does help a little, but sometimes… Sorry, Heather… Sometimes I still get possessed by an unquenchable thirst…’
My ex nodded thoughtfully as she rubbed her chin. ‘ The blood must have the effect of a drug. You can still some of the hunger with the fluids, but you will keep craving her blood. After all, a couple of drops of her blood will give you more energy than any +fluids ever could. This is something we have been examining in a bigger lab, so am still waiting on the details on that.’
I hid my face in my hands as I processed this information. I had hoped that enough fluids would keep my hunger at bay, but knowing that it could break through at any moment just scared the hell out of me.
‘ But you can cure it, right?’ I asked with a small voice.
A doubtful look appeared on J’s face and she scratched her ear, her telltale sign more bad news was to follow.
‘ Well, here is the thing…’
I held my breath, silently praying for good news. It had to be good news. It just had to be. But I knew it wasn’t.
‘ This virus would have been treatable since we have Heather and her antibodies, but unfortunately, the virus has mutated due to your genetic make-up and our bodies resistance.’
‘ Which means?’ I asked, willing my voice not to tremble. I couldn’t give in to my fears. I couldn’t allow it.
‘ It means… That finding a cure won’t be so easy.’
I shut my eyes, taking in this new information. ‘ But you will find it, right?’
I threw a quick look at Heather who had been remarkably quiet. All the colour had left her face and I could see the white around her eyes. She was in shock and I couldn’t blame her.
I knew her well. Apart from J blaming her, she was probably also blaming herself, even though she couldn’t have known.
‘ I am afraid I have more bad news… This virus is smart. And… How do I put this… There has been a cross contamination between you two. The virus started in Heather’s body as something harmless. By having sexual intercourse, it transferred to yours where it was no longer harmless. It attacked you and mutated. Then, I am only guessing now, you two shared bodily fluids again and the mutated virus ended up in Heather’s body. Now, the good news is that the mutated virus is still harmless to her, although I can’t be sure what effects it had on her. But I do know it took on new qualities and further mutated as it got back into your body. So we are dealing with a highly adaptable virus that is circling in between you two and every time you exchange fluids, there is a chance for this virus to become even more and more complex. It is using the two of you to keep transforming itself. And for some reason, it is only attacking Aria, while Heather is staying perfectly healthy.’
I gulped. Wow, this was even worse than expected. I guess at least it wasn’t attacking Heather. That was probably the only good thing about this whole ordeal.
‘ How long will it take to cure me?’ I asked, crossing my fingers in good faith although I couldn’t remember the last time that the gods had granted me a wish.
‘ It could be years…Or longer… And this virus is strong and it works fast. The decrease of your bodily functions is going down. Rapidly. And even if we find a way to cure you, I can’t say with certainty that the damage done will be repairable.’ J breathed out, a soft look in her eyes that I could only describe as pity.
‘ You mean I might be stuck with a weakened body for the rest of my life?!’ I exclaimed, hoping that wasn’t the case. Our world wasn’t made for weakened bodies. In fact, there were no weakened bodies here. That was just the best part about our race.
‘ Yeah… About that…’
I swallowed a lump and prepared for the worst. ‘ What?’
‘ Well, your body is working to fight it off. It might just take care of the virus by itself. I doubt that your body will allow this virus to completely take your strength and mobility.’
‘ But it is taken a big toll on you. A very big toll. In fact, you are paying it off with your life…’
I felt a lump form in my throat as I coughed out words I was almost afraid to hear out loud. ‘ Am I dying?’
As soon as those words left my lips, I could see J clench her jaw. A fiery look appeared in her eyes and she decisively shook her head. ‘ Not on my watch. But that being said, it is shaving time off of your lifespan.’
‘ I am losing years?’
She scrunched her nose, an old habit that she did when she was highly annoyed and pinched the bridge of her nose. ’ Not just years… You are losing decades… And fast.’
‘ Decades? What does that mean for me?’ I asked, still not really understanding. I wasn’t dying, but I was still losing years? So how was that different?
At this point, J let out the heaviest sigh I had ever heard come from her lips. This sigh was heavier than when her uncle died, or when the funds for her primary research got relocated, or even when I had broken up with her.
Her eyes traveled from Heather to me and from me to Heather again. And while they previously held contempt for my girl, now they were filled with compassion. Which could only mean more bad news.
‘ I don’t really know how to say this… If we can cure this, you might be stuck with a slightly weakened body for the rest of your long life. If your body fights harder than the virus, you might keep quite a lot of your normal powers and it won’t cost you too many years… But the more likely end result is that both your body and virus will work at the same rate. It probably will be able to stop the virus, but not fast enough. You will not only lose a lot of your strength, you will also lose a lot of your life.’
I groaned as I listened to my options. None of them were really favourable.
For the first time after hearing all this information, Heather chimed in.
‘ What does this mean exactly?’
With a pained look, J answered Heather’s question, but I could tell she had to spit the words out with great effort. ‘Aria is turning into a human.’
I jumped up in surprise as Heather next to me bellowed in anger and frustration.
‘ Sorry, but that is my professional opinion. All the signs are pointing towards the same conclusion. You will probably not die from this virus, but if we don’t find a way to neutralise this quickly, it won’t be long before you are physically just as weak as a human.’
I let my head fall in my hands as I let out a long sigh. This could not be happening.
‘ Can’t you do something?’ I asked as I cleared my throat, hoping I didn’t sound too scared. I couldn’t afford to be scared right now. I needed to pull myself together so I could console Heather.
She looked so small from here. Her whole frame was jittery and the desperation was clearly visible in her eyes. She seemed spooked, like a deer in headlights. She was softly muttering to herself and wringing her hands as if in a trance.
I waved my hand in front of Heather, but she didn’t react. She had shut off. There was more muttering and I got the sense she was trying to self-soothe although it didn’t seem to be very effective.
I decided to give her some space and turned to J again. I needed answers and I needed them now.
‘ We haven’t had enough time to study this virus. Anything we give you could trigger it to mutate further or strengthen it. I promise you, I will try to figure out something as quickly as I can, but for now… There is nothing I can do.’ J spoke, her voice firm and calm. For a moment, it reassured me.
But then J turned her back towards us both and her head shrunk into her shoulders as she leaned on a table. Her hands were gripping the workbench so tightly that I saw her knuckles turn white.
‘ NOTHING!’ she suddenly yelled at herself as she slammed her forehead so hard into the metal table that it left a visible dent.
‘ J!’ I gasped, running towards her in concern. ‘ Please, don’t do that…’ I whispered as I pried her hands from the table and took them in between my own, rubbing them. I urged her to look in my eyes and I carefully touched the reddening spot in the middle of her forehead.
She flinched away from my touch and took in one deep breath. She straightened her white coat and fixed her frazzled hair and right under my very eyes, she somehow managed to pull herself together.
Again, I couldn’t help but feel jealous of her perfect self-control.
She let out one sharp breath and when she opened her eyes, all hints of fear and weakness gone.
‘ I will make this right.’ she firmly stated, turning her back towards me once again.