*It goes without saying that The Originals – the story and all related characters – belong to the writers, cast and crew of the show. I claim no ownership or association to the TV series titled The Originals. This was written by a fan solely for the enjoyment of other fans.*
The high black water, a devil's daughter
She's hard, she's cold and she's mean
But nobody taught her, it takes a lot of water
To wash away New Orleans
Band of Heathens, Lyrics
I was escorted out of the police building.
This did not surprise me; Espinosa thought I was a reporter. Better that than the truth. I didn't think he'd appreciate finding out I was just some girl who wandered in and proceeded to interrogate a cop.
He took me out the side, bypassing the reception where I'd spent the majority of my morning and when that reinforced steel door clapped shut behind me I knew why. There was a crowd gathered around the front entrance.
Despite the heat rising off the pavement it was a tremendously beautiful summer afternoon. I lingered on the brick paved sidewalk and let the breeze tangle in my hair, left to tumble loosely over bare shoulders. Torn between a strange sort of optimism and the disquieting sense that whoever was making off with all these people were working off some sort of list.
He didn't know it but Espinosa had given me exactly what I'd come for. None of this was random. I suspected but I needed to be sure. The question now was what the hell was I supposed to do with that information?
I accomplished something today. Why did I still feel so defeated? I knew why.
New Orleans was not my home and with my return-flight tickets already burning a hole in my luggage the responsibility weighed too heavily. Like a knot in my chest, tightening. Exhaustion swept through me. I turned my face to the sun.
The tang of red curry and cedar wood flavored each slow, deliberate breath. The air in my lungs warm, heavy, and something occurred to me in that moment that I should have realized sooner.
My eyes fell open gaze drawn unerringly to the man standing across the street; patient as if he'd been there the entire time. Elijah. I was not surprised to see him and distantly, I knew that I'd been aware of him for some time.
He was a vision there in the shade thrown by a swaying palm. Dappled light caressed the high, hard curve of his cheeks, the chiseled line of his jaw, and a thrill of attraction sizzled through me.
Leaving and yes, I would leave, the decision was out of my hands – was not uncomplicated. My body was moving before my mind had even made its decision. I crossed the street.
"Are you following me?"
Elijah moved out from the shelter of the tree, leaving those dappled lights to sway and dance on the sidewalk without him.
"No, see, you say that but I find myself questioning that smirk."
The side of his mouth quirked higher, even as he eased into a softer smile. "Am I smirking?"
My god the man was dangerous. It wasn't only the enticing timber of that lightly accented voice or the quick humor that rose in response to mine. In five seconds of talking to him I related more with Elijah than I had in thirty-minutes with Espino –
A deafening roar! cut me off mid-thought. Literally mid-thought. My mind seized at the slam of concussive force and –
It took a minute for the facts to register.
I was on the ground. My ears were ringing. Dazed. I was dazed; staring up at a clear blue sky stained by clouds the color of soot.
No, not clouds. Smoke.
My gaze swept the front of the police building and the blown out windows. There were people, figures appearing from a cloud of sand and debris and a taste like dust filling my mouth. I coughed weakly, clearing the back of my throat.
I tried to move and only then noticed the weight pressing down on me. My hands flattened against a steel-firm chest. I must have thrown my arms up in instinctive defense, as if that would stop the concussive sweep of an explosion and Elijah –
– my god, I hadn't even seen him move.
In the time it took me to realize something was happening he'd already knocked me to the ground and kept my head from thumping the concrete when he did. That was his weight, his chest, his body he used to shield me from the worst of the debris raining down from above.
An explosion . . . an explosion . . . I could hardly wrap my mind around it.
Elijah lifted his head.
"O-oh my god!" I yanked my hands out from between our bodies. "You're hurt. Are you hurt?"
His eyes were bloodshot. Not red but crimson, darker color leaking into the whites and for a frantic second I wondered if I was wrong and Elijah hadn't shielded me from the explosion but that I might have actually caught him as he was collapsing on top of me.
I didn't think he'd been hit but I . . . I . . .
Without thinking I combed my fingers through his hair and yes, it was just as cool against my skin as I imagined it would be. No stickiness. My fingers slid easily through tumbling strands, coming away coated in dust but no blood.
"Look at me."
I thought he'd resist, keep his eyes squeezed shut but when he turned his face to mine his eyes were normal, clear. My fingers convulsed in his hair.
Elijah eased off me in a single live motion.
I struggled to sit up but a whirl of dizziness had me swaying. Elijah probed at my forehead, infinitely gentle. His hands were strong; fingers cool against my sweaty skin. God, he was close . . . so close. I inhaled the delicious flavor of his cologne over the richer, spicier scent of his skin.
I swept at his hands and then touched my own face, feeling a stickiness there that wasn't sweat.
"There's blood on your shirt."
"I have other shirts."
No doubt. Over the confused wailing of people, I heard the scream of sirens. Ambulance was coming. The whoop of a police cruiser as the car eased out of the department's back lot, not having to go far. I pulled my hand away and saw that blood slicked my fingers.
"Head wounds always bleed more." He tipped my chin up, staring into my eyes with the practiced efficiency of someone who actually knew what to look for. As if to himself, he said again, "You're alright."
He brushed his thumb lightly over the tender spot just over my eyebrow and god, if I didn't feel his touch straight through to my bones. A current of emotion slid into me, too complex to call it relief and I pulled back.
"Don't do that."
He didn't ask what. Elijah let his hand fall away.
With perfect timing, the ambulance arrived. Red and white lights flashing emergency. Their sirens deafening, but they shut that off as they were pulling up to keep from adding to the pandemonium. He'd shaken me. I scrambled off the ground, stumbling a little as my mind continued to tilt.
The first of the paramedics swung out of the ambulance.
In the distance I could hear the scream of a second ambulance coming. Elijah was staring in that direction, listening, and with the tight line of his jaw clenched he looked both fierce and beautiful. His gaze hard with focused intensity.
My heart turned over.
He glanced at me.
I stared right back, searching his eyes for what I was sure I'd seen . . . but still, nothing. They were clear. "Are you sure you're okay?"
Something I couldn't name flashed across his face. A flutter, like the beat of baby wings fanned in my mind and this time I didn't flinch away from it. Wasn't as startled by the sensation. My heart drummed in time to his, or was that his heart beating in my chest?
There it was. Reality snapping into place. I spun around, staring at the chaos with fresh focus and saw what Elijah had been looking at. Yes, the entire front of the police building showed damage and that didn't include the busted windows but it was the ground in front that drew my eye.
Slabs of asphalt pushed up and out, forming the lip of a crater in the middle of the street. It looked like something erupted from beneath, hot air hissing up through fractured cracks. I coughed. The air smelled – and tasted – like dust. Like pulverized pavement.
There was no smell of natural gas or sewage.
I had that thought in the same instant it took me to remember that this was New Orleans, not Seattle where I was born. A city below sea level would have a drainage system in place, but no sewers. No subterranean network of pipes to burst, firing high pressure gasses into the air.
Not many people seemed too badly hurt. Even those still on the ground were slowly picking themselves up. I touched my face, lightly tracing the tender spot. Just a scrape.
The second ambulance was just now turning the corner, lights flashing like lightning in the sudden dark as heavy clouds passed in front of the sun. Strong hands closed over my elbow, holding fast when I would have started walking.
Not safe. It wasn't safe . . .
My attention swung from Elijah, his hand cool and dry in the crook of my arm, to where the paramedics from the first ambulance had gone and from there . . . my eyes met fury manifested. There was no other word for it.
There was a girl – a woman – kneeling in the rubble in front of the police department's shattered door, arms and hands shredded by glass. Bright lines of blood ran over smooth, tight skin starkly contrasting the emergency red of the bags the paramedics threw down. Neither one of them began to tend to her, though she was right there.
She didn't seem to notice.
What I saw in that instant was rage. Absolute fury. Very slowly, the girl pulled her lips back to bare white teeth and I swear I half-expected to see fangs glistening. It was such a primal thing to do, so animal. It froze me.
But she wasn't looking at me.
Elijah's hand tightened on my arm. That flicker of emotion; that clean, bright swell of feeling vanished as suddenly as if he'd flicked a switch
I licked dry lips. "Who is she?"
"She . . . is one best avoided." No shit. That woman had murder in her eyes. Elijah turned me around, "Will you be alright if I leave you here?"
"They'll want to talk to us. Are you even allowed to leave?"
I really had no idea. But it stood to reason that wandering off without talking to anyone was not the thing to do. The wind picked up, blowing currents of dust and sand over the broken street.
We both watched the paramedics lift the body of a woman onto a wheeled stretcher. The brunette with the death-stare rose with them, graceful as a dancer. Like me she wore blue jeans, though hers were torn at the knees.
Spots of blood stained denim that'd molded to the shape of her legs. A slab of busted concrete tipped under her feet, rocking her but she didn't trip over it. Didn't even really seem to notice. Her focus now on the two men in black EMT uniforms carefully maneuvering the stretcher over uneven ground.
Elijah said, simply, "I won't be missed."
A/N – I would like to thank fanficqueen306 for introducing me to "Hurricane" by Band of Heathens whose lyrics I'm using for the quote at the top of this chapter. Howwww do you keep finding these songs? lol