They were watching Catia’s fangs again as she spoke. Their gazes drifted down when she opened her mouth, and they met her eyes again on a pause, a little too purposefully. Over and over again. Catia touched one tooth with her tongue and glanced uselessly at the mirror behind their little table. She could guess at how each fang must cut her smile, twist her expression. But she had never seen them.
Before they had sunk in below her other teeth, her reflection had started to smear. In low light, she was nothing but an annoying smudge. The sort of thing that made her want to spit on the glass and scrub it with her cuff. In brighter lights she was a shadow that should not exist. Disconcerting. Stomach-turning, and impossible.
She had avoided daylight for months, just to keep herself believing that she was more than that shade in the glass. And to keep the others from seeing the strange way her skin bent the light even under their eyes.
And yet, the most irritating aspect of coming back from the dead was that no one believed she hadn’t gone evil.
Catia closed her mouth, and smiled gently. To keep her teeth from showing. To keep from making it obvious how orchestrated a movement it had been.
Addard blinked quickly, as if shaking something off. Tamar considered the table.
“It all sounds possible enough,” Fynn said, quick and sharp and smooth, as always. She saw more denial in his expressions than she used to.
“Many things are possible,” Dale said, leaning against the table, chin on folded arms. Her tone was not cutting, but she gave Fynn a sideways look which might have slit skin. Death, it seemed, was possible. And worse things.
Tamar shook her head a little at the younger woman. Then she looked at Catia, the way she might have done before. Conspiratorial. She faltered after half a moment.
“The Constable here says he has more than enough room to hold them until a trial,” Catia said. She could feel her lips slide against her fangs on every word. The tips must have peeked out on stretching vowels. She hesitated for just a moment between sentences. “He just doesn’t have the men to send after them.”
“The stars know we have proof enough that they’re feeding,” Addard said. He looked at Catia, and tried laughing. Fynn, at least, chuckled with him, a little louder and a little brighter.
“But six of them?” Dale asked. “To our four?”
“There are three of them that can’t be older than twenty,” Catia said.
Dale granted her another cutting look. She was breathing proof of the power of youth, and breathing proof of everything youth couldn’t yet imagine. Catia was tempted to give her a cheekier grin.
Dale seemed to sense it, and her eyes narrowed. “And what did the Constable think, talking to you about bringing them in?”
Catia’s stomach soured. Every thought seemed to freeze, along with the air in her chest, and the thin blood in her veins. Then she did, grin, slowly, with both fangs on display. “He did find it odd,” she said. “It was good to have an interesting conversation with a Constable again, instead of following the same old script, signing the same useless contracts.”
Dale looked instantly apologetic. She murmured something repentant, while the others looked a little more serious.
“Cat,” Tamar said. Too precise, too planned.
Catia turned to her and lifted her chin a little.
“Tell me that this isn’t revenge,” Tamar said.
Catia took a deep breath. It was.
Oh, it was.
For months of waking to aching bones and a turned stomach. For a body that had betrayed her. For an anger that replaced all contentedness in a single instant. For that same anger, which bit her hard when she forgot to stay indoors, forgot to slide past mirrors, forgot to breathe and didn’t even need the air. For days which were still hinging on some creature’s idiot desire, its instant whim which had decided not her life, but her eternity.
She felt as if she had slept away the last few months, angrier at the time lost, and angriest at not being able to call any of it a dream.
She was not going to age. Not going to die. And everyone at this table would continue on into whatever came next, without her.
Catia had been quiet too long. Fynn’s jaw was setting into something hard. Addard had leaned back. She blinked at both of them. It only took a moment to realize that there might have been a second meaning to the question, that none of them would have even dared to speak out loud.
Because they, wanderers by nature, had left her behind for a few months to rest. Had left her alone at that wrong moment.
“It is not revenge,” Catia said, without another thought. And it was as sincere as a heartbeat, and altogether a lie.
I’m a thief! I stole a line of this piece from my friend, Kid. Be sure to stop by her blog to read the original story. Then take a peek at all the other thieves, who may or may not have changed after their first death.