by Fanny Adams
"That woman your partner is involved with--Ann Holly--there's something you ought to know about her."
The voice, low and a little scratchy, made Bodie's skin prickle. "Mikal?"
"So, you remember. How are you, Will?"
"I thought you were dead."
Mikal's chuckle raised goosebumps. "Not entirely."
"After all this time, did you call just to discuss my partner's new bird?"
There was a silence, a long one.
"You still there?"
Mikal sighed. "There's more to it than that, I promise you. Can you meet me somewhere?"
"Why not come here?"
Another long pause. "If you can ask that after we talk, I'll come."
Bodie felt a surge of irrational fear.
"Meet me at eleven-thirty outside that all- night laundrette at the end of your street."
Bodie glanced at his watch: ten-twenty. "Why so long?"
"Indulge me." The line went dead.
Still playing at cloak-and-dagger; bloody typical. Bodie set the handpiece in the cradle and, despite his annoyance, he smiled. Mikal was a strange man; always had been. But he was an exciting man as well, and a dangerous one, which accounted for a good measure of his attractiveness. The memory Bodie held of Mikal was warm and sensual.
He fixed himself a drink and sat down to wait the hour Mikal had asked for. Of all nights for Mikal to surface again--it never rained but it poured. The Holly thing had gotten out of hand, Ray had picked this night to resign.... Bodie shook his head and sipped the whisky. It wouldn't last; Ray was unpredictable at times, but he wasn't stupid. Still, Bodie didn't feel up to dealing with Mikal on top of all the rest of the nonsense he'd been through in the last few days.
He thought about Mikal. In Africa, among the other soldiers, he'd had a reputation as a chancy bastard. He had the devil's own luck, as well--never even wounded until the firefight in which he was supposed to have died. They'd never found the body--the bastard had been alive all this time....
And among the natives, Mikal's reputation was more sinister. They hated and feared him for reasons that Bodie had never understood, and which Mikal would never explain. The odd thing was that Mikal, of all the soldiers, never had much to do with the natives. He kept no native mistress, paid no local boys for their favours with cigarettes or rations, never took part in the frenzy of rape and robbery that sometimes took place after a fight. And yet, their distrust of him was immediate and inexplicable. It was the same wherever he worked. Once, while not actually asking Mikal the reason for their dislike of him, Bodie remarked that the natives didn't seem to like either of them very much.
"Some tribes think that blue eyes are the sign of a vampire," Mikal told him. "You have any guilty secrets, Will?" Even then it hadn't seemed too funny.
Bodie thought about the time a village shaman laid a curse on Mikal in full view of the company, and Mikal hadn't allowed any of the others to stop him. "That would mean I believed he has power over me, wouldn't it?" he asked sweetly. "And he hasn't." He watched the ceremony which took place just outside their camp, sitting on the ground smoking cigarettes, bare to the waist under the merciless sun. He said nothing, did nothing to hinder the rite, and yet the shaman became more and more agitated, stammering and knocking over bowls and fetishes. The villagers who had accompanied him were visibly upset, and even the soldiers who watched were unnerved.
"Cold bastard," the German said as he stared at Mikal.
"Strange 'un," Higgins agreed. "Good fighter, though."
There was a ripple of agreement, and several of the men went off to their tents. The only person who seemed to be enjoying the show was Mikal.
Strangely, a few nights later, the shaman died. Bodie had never before allowed himself to wonder about that little coincidence, but now it nagged at him as he waited to keep his appointment with Mikal--Mikal's ghost said a little corner of his mind.
He thought of the night he'd met Mikal in a bar in Capetown. Mikal had been dancing with the most beautiful woman Bodie had ever seen. They were a striking couple--she, long-legged and golden blonde, as tall as Mikal and exotic as a tropical flower. Mikal had the grace of a hunting cat and was as fierce as one. His near-black hair was cropped short and his dark green eyes were alive with humour, his mouth seemed made for both desire and malice. He had a face that might have been carved from bone; so beautiful that women envied him.
It was a little past eleven when Bodie left his flat and walked down the street towards the laundrette. It was cool out, but pleasant, and Bodie enjoyed the bite in the air.
Again his mind snaked back to days of endless heat and light, to the day when death came for the first time to sit on his shoulder. He had been eighteen, and on that morning, in a meaningless skirmish, he had killed for the first time.
At first the act left him strangely untouched as though the men they were fighting were so many tin soldiers. Unreal, expendable. But the night was hard and sleep wouldn't come. Or when it did, it brought dreams of dying men, tin soldiers falling, bleeding, crying out against the death that followed them with Bodie's face.
He got up, went out to clean his rifle. Mikal came and sat beside him.
"Something new today," he said in his lightly accented English. "You killed someone."
Bodie was vaguely embarrassed. He nodded.
"Feel good?" His voice was low, seductive.
Bodie was startled. Was he supposed to feel good about it? What sort of man was Mikal? He took refuge in silence.
"No? Yes? Someone won't see the sunrise because of you, child." Mikal unlaced his boot and shook a pebble out of it. "What makes you tick, I wonder. Runaway? Yes, you look like a fugitive. Mama's boy? No. No, that's not you. Piece of ass?" Mikal grinned. "Occasionally, eh? Well, so have most of us been at some time or other." He slipped the boot back onto a long, narrow foot and began to relace it. "Tough guy? Juvenile sadist? Dreamer?" He glanced at Bodie. "Close, am I? Not what you thought it would be, is it?" Bodie shook his head.
"Want to quit? Go home?"
"No." He reassembled his rifle in silence as Mikal watched.
"Want to go to bed with me?" Mikal asked.
"When I finish this," Bodie replied without looking up. His heart was beating very fast.
"Fine. You know where I sleep."
The memories of that first coupling were nearly lost to Bodie, but what he did recall was that afterwards he cried for all the people who would never see the sunrise because of him.
"Sometimes you have to do this," Mikal said. Nothing more.
The next day Bodie moved his things into Mikal's tent.
The laundrette was cheerful and warm with damp, scented air. Bodie spent a few minutes leafing through the magazines that lay about.
"This isn't a library, mate." The night manager stood over him, piebald but attractive in a punkish way.
"I was waiting for a friend."
"It's not a waiting room either. Pity you didn't bring a bag of dirty clothes, innit?"
"I'm off," Bodie assured him with a grin.
"Come back when you need something washed."
Bodie moved on down the block, and waited outside the office of a turf accountant sandwiched between the laundrette and the alley. As he waited he heard some noise coming from the alley, muffled and indistinct, but sounds that put him on his guard. Silently, he slipped around the corner and made his way down the alley.
It was a cul-de-sac bordered by the buildings on either side and a low wall at back. He saw three men in the dim light; two standing and a third kneeling between them. He couldn't see their faces.
"Ah, that's right darlin'," one of them slurred. As Bodie moved back into the alley he could see that the speaker was holding a knife to the throat of the man on his knees. "Suck it f'me an' I'll stick it up yer arse f'you. Yeh...."
Bodie drew his gun, took a deep breath and stepped out of the shadows. "You won't have the chance," he announced. "Freeze!"
The tableau exploded into action, one man vaulted the fence. The man with the knife snarled and jerked his hand upward, and his victim gave a strangled yelp. Then he kicked the kneeling man away and made for the wall.
"I'll shoot!" Bodie yelled, but another voice rose in the darkness; one he was accustomed to obeying. "NO!"
The second man jumped the wall and disappeared into the night.
"Jesus," Bodie breathed. He ran to the side of the victim and lifted him up. "Mikal...."
Mikal pressed his hand to his right ear. Blood ran out from under it. "What are you doing here?"
"Me? What the hell is going on?" He hauled Mikal to his feet.
Mikal spat in his hand and pressed it against his ear again. "I said eleven-thirty. You're early."
Bodie stared at him in utter disbelief. "Thanks for saving me from a fate worse than death, Bodie."
"We both know there is no such thing. And if you hadn't barged in I'd still be in one piece. Have a handkerchief?" Bodie shook his head.
"Oh, well." He wiped his hand on his jeans.
"How badly did he cut you?" Bodie asked, reaching out to turn Mikal's head. He wanted to assess the damage, but Mikal pulled away. He looked very different, Bodie realised, yet not a day, an hour older. In fact, with his hair grown out to his shoulders, and an earring in the ear Bodie could see, he looked much younger than Bodie remembered.
"It's nothing." Mikal zipped his jeans. "Anyway, I'm glad you came. I needed to talk to you."
Bodie's mind reeled at the man's coolness. "About Ann you said. What about her?"
"She's a vampire."
Bodie blinked. Of all the things Mikal could have said: she's a criminal, an addict, a call girl, a murderer or even, she's a thoroughly nice woman; this was certainly the last thing Bodie would have expected. It was as if, in the space of a few seconds, the world had been turned upside down. It hurt him, though he couldn't quite say why.
"You never change," he remarked with asperity as he holstered his gun. "Do you want to go to hospital?"
"No, I want you to listen to me."
Bodie walked away from him. "When you say something worth listening to, I will. If you want a ride home...."
Bodie stopped, cursing the instinct to obey, and the voice that commanded him even after all these years.
"I didn't expect you to believe me right off, but I did think you'd hear me out."
"You were mistaken. It must be a new experience for you."
"I can make you believe."
"You can try," Bodie spat. He continued walking toward the street, and suddenly he was caught from behind and spun into the wall with such force that the wind was knocked out of him. Two separate instincts warred for a moment, but the older, more intimate one kept Bodie from striking back.
"You will listen," Mikal whispered. "I told you about Ann because I want you to help me stop them from being married. It would be a mistake of unimaginable proportions."
Bodie rubbed his shoulder where it had hit the wall. It'd be a gorgeous shade of purple in a few hours. "Why should you care? Even assuming I believe you, which I don't, I fail to see what difference it can make to you."
"I owe it to her father," he said, but Bodie recognised the evasion for what it was.
"You know Holly, then?" What he needed--and it didn't much matter how he got it--was evidence to clear Ann, or to hang her.
"Her real father. You didn't know, did you? Her mother made the same mistake Ann is about to make and paid dearly for it. Our kind doesn't mix well with yours."
It took a few moments for the implication to reach Bodie. "Our kind? Oh, right. If I buy the story about Ann, I'll buy it about you. Sorry." Irritably he pushed Mikal away. "I shared a sleeping bag with you for two years and though you have some nasty habits, blood- sucking was never one of them." He tried to sound offhand and cynical, but memories of things never quite explained kept knocking against a locked door in his mind.
Mikal stared at him for a moment or two. "No? Perhaps not. Look, take me home, will you? I live a ways from here and I don't feel up to walking the streets looking like I've been mauled by a bear."
This time he held still while Bodie inspected his injury. There was a shallow cut around the lower half of his left ear, but it was no longer bleeding. "Not as bad as I thought," he remarked, though something about the injury nagged at him. It was the wrong shape and size for the way he thought the man had cut Mikal. Still, things had happened so quickly....
"Hurt like hell, though. Where's your car?"
They walked down the street in silence. Once in the car Bodie asked, "What do you know about Ray?"
"Quite a lot. I've been watching him since he met Ann."
The admission made Bodie uneasy. "I find that hard to believe."
"You think he should have twigged? He's only human," Mikal said, with an unpleasant smile.
"Who d'you work for?"
"Myself. My interest in Ann is personal."
"And in me?"
"The same," Mikal admitted warming somewhat. "I've missed you."
The flat was cluttered and untidy. "Fix yourself a drink. I want to shower."
"I should think so," Bodie muttered. He picked his way through the mess to what appeared to be a drinks cabinet. There were several bottles, all very old, and one clean glass. He chose the brandy and sat down on a battered leather couch.
Despite his annoyance, he began to feel the old fondness for his eccentric friend. This room was like Mikal's mind: books on every subject from ghosts to gardening, a chessboard with a game in progress, an unstrung bow and some ratty arrows stood in the corner. There was a lute and a bodhran, maps of 16th-century Europe, a chessboard with a game in progress, paper plates and dirty glasses, an African mask and bits of pottery. Nothing seemed out of place here, not even the small stuffed purple cow that played "The Farmer in the Dell."
"You found brandy. I thought I was out."
"It was in the cabinet."
"No wonder I couldn't find it. And a clean glass! Are there any more?" He was pristine in a white robe, his long dark hair draped with a towel.
"What a pig you are," Bodie complained, irritated at finding Mikal still so desirable.
Mikal took the bottle from Bodie. "You referring to my housekeeping or my personal habits?" He took a pull from the bottle. "What a night. Do you have any cigarettes?"
"I quit a long time ago. You ought."
"Won't hurt me."
"Oh, that's right; you're already undead." He watched as Mikal rooted through several piles of clutter. "What the hell are you looking for?"
Mikal barked in triumph and held up a crumpled pack of cigarettes. "I thought they were in here somewhere. Want one? No?" He pushed a pile of books off the couch and stretched out on it. "I realise it's difficult for you," he said, lighting a battered cigarette and inhaling with real pleasure.
"You're incredible!" Bodie shouted, finally at the end of his rope. "After all these years, you call up with some cloak-and-dagger bullshit about Ann, I rescue you from being gang-banged in an alley and you tell me that you and Ann are vampires. You're goddamn right it's difficult for me. It's fucking impossible. You're round the bend!"
"You don't believe because you've never seen a vampire; isn't that it?"
"No, it's not, and don't you dare patronise me," Bodie replied with bad humour. He drained his glass and grabbed the bottle from Mikal. "I suppose this is lousy with vampire germs?"
"You haven't changed either." Mikal did not appear to be amused.
"I didn't come here to discuss my shortcomings." He longed to grab and shake Mikal; to pull him off the couch and out of his smug self-assurance, and shake some sense into him. But Mikal was one of the few who commanded Bodie's respect despite some regrettable lapses. "Either you tell me what this is all about or I turn the whole mess over to my boss and he'll get the truth out of both you and Ann."
Mikal's face changed. "Mention to anyone what I've told you and both Ann and I will be gone before you can come for us." He was ice cold and deadly serious. Bodie believed him.
"Then why don't you just take her away now? Wouldn't it be easier than trying to break up her romance with Ray?"
"She'd just find herself another one. She has to accept what she is."
"Pretty hard to do when no one else will, eh?" He set the bottle on the floor. "Why did you bring me back here? What is it you want from me?"
Mikal stretched, catlike and languid. "There's an obvious answer to that," he observed.
"Try the real answer."
"Will, it's all mixed up with...."
"Don't call me that," Bodie snapped, his nerves scraped raw.
Mikal grinned. "Which of the endless variations of your name shall I use this time?"
"Everyone calls me Bodie."
"But I'm not everyone." He waited for a response, got none, and shrugged. "Very well, Bodie. Part of it was to convince you that what I've told you is true. Part...I HAVE missed you. I recall everything about you, down to how you taste and smell." He leaned close and brushed his hand against Bodie's cheek. "I had hoped," he whispered, "that if we met again you'd want to...."
They kissed, briefly, temptingly.
Bodie moaned. "You make me crazy."
"It's mutual. Come to bed?"
"Mikal, I can't." Mikal kissed his ear. "You're making this hard...."
"Exactly what I had in mind."
Bodie pushed him away. "Look! You're suspect. How can I justify...." Mikal kissed him again and something ignited between them in a single bright flash of light and heat and energy. Bodie forgot what he was about to say and leaned into the kiss.
"Again," Mikal murmured, and this time the kiss was very nearly the end of Bodie. "It's been so long."
So long? A lifetime. "I must be mad," Bodie sighed.
"Isn't it wonderful?"
It was everything Bodie remembered and more. The memory of Mikal which he conjured when he was alone and lonely, was nothing to the reality of the perfectly beautiful body, warm and alive in his arms. And it was different now because what was happening between them was an act of passion between equals. For the first time Mikal urged Bodie into the dominant role, allowed himself to be possessed; thoroughly used and thoroughly satisfied from the look of him afterwards.
"You've been practicing," he said with a weak laugh.
"I didn't think vampires did this sort of thing," Bodie said after a moment of silence. Mikal groaned. "You started it," Bodie accused. "You're the one who wants me to take this vampire nonsense seriously."
Mikal rolled away from him and groped for the pack of cigarettes. He lit one and lay back against the pillows. "I can give you proof," he said quietly. "You don't believe because you've never had evidence; am I correct?"
"I don't believe because there is no such thing."
"Don't argue in circles," Mikal snapped.
"I suppose so." Mikal could always make him feel like a sulky child.
Mikal stroked Bodie's chest. "What nice skin you have." His long elegant fingers tickled Bodie's neck. "I protected you too well, didn't I? I was so careful when we were together because I was afraid you'd leave me." He kissed Bodie's cheek, his ear, his throat just below the ear. Then there was a slight sting and Mikal's arms closed around Bodie like a vise.
For a moment Bodie struggled against the unexpected strength and the attack which he knew he had provoked. Then he sank back and shut his eyes. It felt strange, he decided, but not frightening or painful after the first few moments. There was something in his mind, something strange yet familiar. Mikal? Stillness brushed his thoughts like pale wings and he knew, for the first time in his life he knew beyond doubt that he was loved.
Had he wanted this? Had he denied all Mikal told him to make this act inevitable? Something like sleep seemed to be creeping up on him and it was hard to think. His body felt heavy, his mind light as though they could detach, one from the other, and part of him could fly away with Mikal.
He was dying. Strangely the thought brought no fear.
He opened his eyes. Mikal was poised above him, a frown creasing his smooth, high forehead. How young he looked. "How old are you?" Bodie asked. The question came out as a rush of breath, barely articulate.
Mikal smiled tenderly. "Older than you are, child. How do you feel?"
"Wonderful...tired." He rubbed his cheek against Mikal's.
"I'm a weak man," Mikal admitted. They kissed and there was an odd, metallic taste on Mikal's tongue. "I could have killed you. Christ, why couldn't I have spared you this?" he murmured, pressing his face against Bodie's shoulder.
Bodie's thoughts were scattered, his body still sated and heavy. He struggled against the lethargy and tried to sit up, but a sharp pain in his temples knocked him back. "Christ!" he hissed, rubbing his forehead.
"Headache?" Mikal pushed Bodie's hand away and replaced it with his own. "My fault," he admitted. "I took too much. I didn't want to stop."
"And then you die. Remember the German?"
Bodie thought back with some difficulty and conjured up the image of the soldier from Essen who had cut his wrists with his bayonet, slashing them from palm almost to elbow. When they found him he was drained. His skin, even with the baked-in African tan, was bone white, bleached and drawn. There was a terrible beauty to the memory. "Did you have something to do with that?"
"Only in the end. He was very nearly dead, and the smell of blood was so strong that I went in and drank." Mikal turned away.
"No sprouting fangs and all that?"
He shook his head. "Dead is dead. You have to be born like this."
"Like Ann." Bodie believed now, and it hurt terribly.
Mikal nodded. "And she's having trouble adjusting." His smile was rueful as though he appreciated the understatement.
"I should think so." Ignoring his headache, Bodie sat up and wedged a pillow behind his back. "Tell me; will she...have they...done this?"
Mikal rubbed his thumb against the sore spot on Bodie's neck, then licked the pad like a fastidious cat. "I doubt it. She takes blood to live, but she probably doesn't feed on people who know her. We're usually careful about things like that."
"Like drinking on duty," Bodie muttered.
"More like mixing business with pleasure. Don't worry." He cupped Bodie's face with his hands. "If she loves him, she won't hurt him." For a moment truth hung above them like a sword, ready to sever all but the memories. Doyle.
"So now you know," Bodie whispered.
"It wasn't a surprise." Suddenly he was brisk and businesslike again. "I've been watching Ann and she's still paying for her meals."
"What?" Bodie recoiled involuntarily.
"There are people who sell their blood to us." Bodie was revolted and his face must have shown it. "Not so long ago you were happy to feed me," Mikal reminded him softly. He touched Bodie's face and Bodie knocked his hand away. "There's nothing so dark and sinister about us apart from our thirst. Ann's no criminal."
"How did you...."
"I'm sorry. You were completely open to me while I fed. We can't afford to be criminals- -it's impossible to remain anonymous while breaking the law."
"I suppose you're going to use vampire philosophy to convince me that you're just like any other human being except for one little thing which isn't really so important...." He kicked the covers off and climbed out of bed. "Where the hell is my shirt?" he shouted.
His anger was all that was holding him together just then and he tried despite the pain he saw in Mikal's eyes, to hang onto it. "Why the hell not? Why should I stay?"
"Because I don't think you know how much I love you. If I had more to offer I would have done the day we met. As it is...." He made a little gesture of dismissal. "I suppose it ceases to be important in light of...." He drew a great, shuddering breath and his head drooped. How small and lost he looked in the centre of the big oak bed. "You should go now."
"I thought you were dead," Bodie told him. "I lay in that cell in the Congo and I thought about you, tried to imagine you empty and still because it was the only way I could accept what was happening to me. I didn't mind the rotten food or the bugs or the beatings because I'd lost everything that made sense to me. I'd lost the only thing that mattered. How could you make me suffer like that? You say you love me; that I don't know how much you love me. When did you ever show it?" he demanded. He pulled his shirt on and leaned against the wall, staring out into the empty street. The old ache was back.
Mikal came to stand beside him in silence for several minutes. Then he said, "Sometimes I forget what it is to live in an eyeblink of time. I'm sorry if I hurt you. I never meant to."
"How can you stand it? Immortality, I mean. Our mortality is part of what makes us human." Again, he found it impossible to hide his distaste, and Mikal responded to it as an animal might to a threatening gesture.
"Human?" There was a mirthless smile on his face. "The pinnacle of evolution?" The sarcasm in his voice made Bodie cringe. "Do you really think you're so special? Child, child...don't waste what little time you have left to you," he snapped. Bodie was paralysed by the desire to stay and a need to leave. "Do you want me to finish the job I started? Mikal asked harshly.
"Christ, I could kill you, cheerfully!" Bodie shouted. He grabbed Mikal and spun him around, catching Mikal's face between his hands. "I hate you and I love you and I don't know which is wor...Oh God!" Mikal's injured ear had come loose in his hand and blood was oozing thickly down Mikal's neck.
"Calm down." He pulled away to inspect the damage in the bedroom mirror. Bodie's stomach churned as he watched Mikal reposition the ear and wipe his own saliva around the edges of the wound. "It hadn't quite stuck yet," Mikal explained with a rueful smile. "I'm sorry it had to happen to you. We heal fast, but not that fast. Will, you've gone green. Sit down."
He disappeared for a few moments and when he returned he was holding the brandy bottle in one hand. The other hand still held the ear in place. "Drink," he ordered. "Never mind the vampire germs."
Bodie took a long, steadying pull. "Did I hurt you?" he asked.
"No. Do you feel pain?"
Mikal stared at him; understood at last and shivered. "What even the taking of blood couldn't accomplish. I've become alien to you, haven't I?"
Bodie nodded. He had a strong sense of shifting physicality, as though, in the last few minutes, Mikal had been remade. "Do you?" he insisted.
"Yes. Just like you." Mikal seemed disturbed. "Shall I tell you about my pain? We can't escape into death the way you can. Shall I tell you about the time they tried to burn me as a witch and I had to wait until the fire burned away the ropes before I could escape?" His eyes seemed to have flattened out, and they were looking faraway, back into another time, seeing the flames again. "Have you ever begged for death?" he asked quietly.
Driven by a need to understand how something so comfortingly familiar could change so, Bodie's hands stroked the body that had given him such happiness. "You should have scars," he observed.
"We don't scar. You'll never read our lives on our bodies, Child. We don't get sick, we don't die...we eat, drink...fuck," he said with purposeful coarseness. "When we feel like it. Anything else?"
"What were you doing out in that alley tonight?"
Mikal's smile was unnerving. "As you said, I was on my way to being gang-banged, though if you want to argue semantics, they thought they were doing a rape, but I know better."
"Boredom." He tilted his head and stared at Bodie. "After ten centuries, wouldn't you be a little bored?"
"You're rationalising," Bodie accused, but he laughed in spite of himself.
"Perhaps. I've done things you can't imagine. I expect I'll continue to do them."
"You're a stranger," Bodie observed sadly.
Mikal bit his lip and turned away. "And we never cry," he said.
"I need to understand."
"Nothing. You need to understand nothing. When Ann leaves Doyle, I will leave this place. I doubt you'll ever meet any others of our kind. You and I will never meet again. Shall I tell you about that pain?"
"You don't have to," Bodie reminded him. "I already know all there is to know about it."
Mikal crawled back into the bed and curled up around a pillow. "I feel so empty. It's a hazard of immortality; to watch the things you love grow old and die over and over...." He shut his eyes. "'Because in thee I love, O my loved lord, / what thou best lovest, be not therefore stern: / souls burn for souls, spirits to spirits cry! / I seek the splendour in thy fair face stored; / yet living man that beauty scarce can learn, / and he who fain would find it, first must die.'"
Bodie knelt on the bed. "What was that?"
"Part of a sonnet written by Michelangelo to his lover. I have known the great and the small and all that is ever left is pieces of what they were."
Bodie lay down and wrapped his arms around the smaller man. "Was that bit written for anyone I know?" he asked, and felt Mikal's laughter.
"It's a little piece of real immortality, isn't it? Look for my face in the Sistine chapel." He rolled over and stared at Bodie. "You aren't the only human I've ever loved, you know."
Mikal snorted with laughter and kissed Bodie's cheek. "Sometimes I wish I could just get the dying over with. Not just yet, though. What a coward I am."
"I thought you said...."
He tugged at Bodie's shirt. "That we don't die. We can be killed though. Separate my head from my body and I will die. The same for any of us." He hauled Bodie's shirt over his head and threw it into a corner. "I've just given you a terrible weapon against my people. Will, promise me you'll never use it against Ann."
"One myth with some truth to it?"
"Virtually the only one. Promise me." Mikal's hands were restless on Bodie's body.
"What is it about Ann? What's so special about h...." He could see it in Mikal's eyes- -the concern, and it occurred to him that he could learn to hate this woman. "How can I promise something like that. What if she hurts Doyle?"
"She won't. Promise me. If ever you cared for me, promise...."
"ALL RIGHT! All right. I promise. Christ, what's she got to make you both so protective?"
Mikal didn't answer immediately. He rubbed his face against Bodie's chest. "For tonight, for the last time, forget what I am and love me--Mikal--once more," he begged.
"I will love you all my life," Bodie admitted, pulling Mikal into his arms. "Though part of me is relieved that you're going."
"You know why, don't you?" Bodie asked.
Mikal nodded. "If things could be different.... Never mind. It doesn't pay to play 'what if?'"
Her flat seemed terribly empty suddenly; as if, by his going, Ray had taken the substance from Ann's life.
"You're young yet," her father had said, "you're going to have trouble adjusting."
I should have told him, she said to herself. Her hand clutched the pillow beside her, and a little of Ray's scent drifted up to her. Lies on top of half-truths couched in evasions. Her whole life was a lie, she realised, beginning with her conception. Her mother had married Charles Holly knowing that she was carrying another man's child, and knowing what that child would become.
Oh, Mother, Mother, what did you do?
Not for the first time she wished that she had never met Ray Doyle. She wouldn't be in pain now, wouldn't be contemplating the end of an affair that never should have begun. Yet, she recalled the moment of their meeting more clearly than any other part of her life.
She'd thought, for a moment, that they'd come for her--learned her secret and sent armed men to bring her back; to study...dissect. Her worst, most constant fear.
Ray walked towards her all calm efficiency dealing with the Innocent Bystander, and in a second there was the sharp crack of a pistol and the sweet smell of blood. It had been days since she'd fed and fear and hunger made her snappish, nervy. Ray's presence was like salt in a wound, but with the help of a few stiff drinks, she managed to numb herself sufficiently to seem irritable but otherwise normal.
Later, though, after the police had done their jobs and the body had been removed, after the excitement died down and Ray left her flat, she went into the hall and, with a quick glance to make sure she was alone, she scraped her nails along the carpet and tasted what was left of the dead man. His blood, stale now and cold, mixed with carpet fibres, with dirt. She could taste his desperation, feel his hatred in the moment just before his own death when he would have taken another life. Ann couldn't cry for him.
Then she went out to buy a meal from one of the "cattle" as some of her people called them. She always preferred to pay for her meals; she was not a hunter.
Ray was. He spilled blood more casually than any of her people might. He wasted the most precious thing in life, the greatest sacrament. And yet she loved him.
"It's a human failing; we all need to be loved."
It was funny then, but now it haunted her. Human. Who was she trying to kid?
She sat up in bed, drawing the duvet over her shoulders. Perhaps she loved him because he was a hunter. He was everything she ought to have been. Perhaps she loved him because she hoped through him to have access to all the things she needed to be.
Almost without thought she reached for the phone and dialed his number. She would tell him tonight; make him believe. And she would make him realise that it made no difference between them. What she was was less important than what they felt for one another.
There was no answer and though she was never one to procrastinate over unpleasant tasks, Ann was vaguely relieved that the moment of truth should be postponed for a time. This, she realised, would be the most difficult thing she had ever done.
I should have told him from the beginning. I should never have allowed this to go so far.
That's what her father had told her too. "Don't let this become serious," he'd said. "It doesn't pay to mix with humans." Ask Mummy if that wasn't true. Her few years of marriage to Charles Holly had been a living hell for her as well as for her daughter. And Holly had never even guessed at Ann's mother's secret. He thought she was having affairs.
"What can you expect?" he'd ask. "It's typical of a woman who'd marry one man while pregnant by another."
Ann, listening in the dark, had hated not Holly but her mother, her own self, and the faceless man who had fathered her.
And years later, when he had a face, she'd hated her father for telling her that she could never have the husband and family she dreamed of.
"You don't know what a little miracle you are, child," he said to her. "We don't breed often; children are rare and wonderful things among us. Don't waste all that wonder on a human."
What did he know? She detested him.
She showered and called Ray again. Still no answer. Where had he gone? Was he still angry about that business with the letters? He had seemed content when he left her.
Why would anyone want to be in love? It was a bloody awful feeling. She let the phone ring and ring.
Not for the first time did Bodie think that this was a lousy way to make a living. He didn't come out and say it--that was Ray's territory; Ray was the shouter, the complainer, the one who worried at problems until they got solved. Bodie was the one who put up with things until he ran out of steam; then he walked away from them.
And Ray was worrying at something just now. Bodie was willing to bet it was Ann and her possible involvement in Holly's drug ring. Of course, if Mikal could be believed (and Bodie saw no reason why he shouldn't be), Ann had no involvement of any sort with Holly. She wasn't even his daughter.
Did Holly know that? Had he even thought of Ann in the last years? Did he know her secret?
Bodie curled up in the back seat of the car, arms wrapped around his torso for meagre protection against the damp chill of a late October night. October. Halloween. He smiled in wry appreciation of Mikal's timing. What better time to find out that vampires do indeed exist and that you've loved one for years? What better time to find out that your partner is in love with one? There was a nice symmetry--your partner, with whom you are in love.
And which was worse? Vampires or queers? Who would Ray prefer to have in his bed? Bodie could hate Ann Holly without really trying very hard. Why did she mean so much to Mikal and Ray both?
It would probably be impossible to sleep, Bodie decided, just before he dropped into a fitful doze.
Ray woke him by pulling open the door and letting him flop out of the back seat into the damp grass. It was freezing cold and from the twinkle in Ray's eye, Bodie could tell that his partner was in a foul mood. The more cheerful Ray seemed in the morning, the rottener his disposition was likely to be.
Why is it always my fault? Bodie wondered just before the sound of a light plane claimed his attention.
And when he finally had time to think about it again, he was running after Ray who had run after Ann who...well, god knows why she was there.
Christ, he resented her like poison. She owned a piece of everything he loved. She'd hurt Ray. She was a liar, she was....
Ray shoved him away. "Piss off. Mind your own fucking business. You know what she said to me? Said: 'I'm one thing, and you're exactly what you are.' Maybe she was right about us," he said, and not for the first time.
It was almost funny, Bodie reflected as they walked down the street together. 'I'm one thing and you're exactly what you are.' Just like Mikal. It might have been funny if it wasn't Ray who was hurting so.
"She didn't mean it," he said, without thinking. "She was upset."
"Of course she was upset!" Ray shouted. "Don't be so bloody stupid."
And, after a few minutes of silence, Ray asked, "You think that was all it was?"
What could Bodie say to that hopeful face? "Sure. Birds are always gettin' excited over nothing." Keep it light, offhand.
"What do you know?" Ray growled, picking up the pace. "You think women are like tissues; use it, throw it away."
The sheer, bloodyminded unfairness of the accusation hurt terribly. Stung into harshness, Bodie put on his macho stud front. "Aren't they?"
"Not women like Ann. She's special."
"Upper class, you mean," Bodie countered before he could stop himself saying it.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing. Never mind."
Ray stopped short. "No. Tell me."
"You like classy birds, is all. Don't have much use for...." Too late he realised that what he was about to say would offend Ray.
"My own sort?" Ray asked with a dangerous sweetness.
Ann hadn't much use for her own sort either. A matched set. "That's not what I meant," Bodie lied.
"All right, yes." He was making things worse. "I'm off," he muttered.
Ray was startled. "You wot?"
"I'm not much use to you just now."
And the look on his face made Bodie want to embrace him; there, on the street, in front of the whole world. "Want a drink?" he asked.
Life, Bodie reflected, was a lot worse than most people realised.
"And so I ran away. I thought you'd be pleased." Ann did not look at her father as she packed her clothes. "You were right."
"Though it might surprise you..." He broke off and looked out the window. "Have you heard from your mother lately?"
"What an odd question."
"You think so?"
"You never cared much about her before," she accused.
He turned and she cringed from the expression in his green eyes. "What do you know about us, child? What do you think you know about any sort of love?"
For a moment she was caught in his gaze, seeing, for the first time the man behind the strange facade. How battered he was, how old...and how well his blood hid the marks of that life.
"I don't think I can bear this life," she whispered. She closed her suitcase and sat down beside it.
"It's not what it used to be," he admitted. He poured himself a drink, offered her one but she declined. "But for someone with a sense of adventure...."
"I have none. Never did."
"Where will you go?"
"I don't know." She was feeling impatient; with him, with herself. She wanted him to go away and let her think.
"If I might be allowed to offer some advice?"
"Fatherly advice? No thank you."
"No, as a friend; or, if you can't accept that either, then as one of your own kind with a few years of experience? Don't leave here until you feel threatened. There are so few places we can be really safe. This is one of the better ones."
She thought about it for a few moments. "I want to see mother again. Perhaps I won't emigrate though, just visit." She opened the suitcase and tucked her nightdress into a corner. "Tell me something: did you ever love a human?"
He looked away again. She was beginning to learn that it was meant to keep her from seeing too deeply into his soul. "I've loved many of them," Mikal told his daughter.
"What hurts most," Ray said for the twentieth time, "is that she didn't even try to understand."
Bodie just listened. It was what he did best; the only thing he could really offer Ray just then.
"I wish I could see her again and make her understand. She wouldn't even have to stay with me, just listen to me and understand that what I did I did for us."
"Maybe if you wait until she cools off?"
"Maybe." He stared into space for a while, conducting an imaginary dialogue with Ann. Or so Bodie assumed from the expressions that crossed Ray's face.
"I should go see her now."
Bodie's stomach did an unpleasant turn. "Thought you were going to wait," he said.
"No, no reason to wait." Ray drained his glass and stood up. "No time like the present." He was just the tiniest bit drunk which wouldn't sit well with a woman like Ann, Bodie suspected. Part of him was pleased.
"Come with me?" Ray asked.
"You don't want me there."
"Yes I do. Moral support. Be a mate, mate." Ray grinned and punched Bodie's shoulder.
There was no use protesting; Ray couldn't take no for an answer...from Bodie at least. "Let's go, Goldilocks, see if we can't win back your lady love." //Souls burn for souls, spirits to spirits cry// This could be the end of their partnership, he realised. Whatever happened between Ray and Ann that night would be a sort of turning point for Bodie. With a physical shrug he shook off a pervasive sense of gloom. Whatever happened he could handle it.
Hadn't he always?
"'s Ray, love. Can we come up? Only, Bodie's here too. Want to talk to you."
She turned to Mikal with a look that was half fear and half desire. "What should I do?"
"Let them in." So. The moment had come. "Let them in, child. It's a night for secrets." He touched his ear, now completely healed, and he smiled.
When the door opened, Ray looked past Ann and saw Mikal, and he scowled. "Who's that?"
"Ray, please.... Bodie, come in. Let me introduce you. Ray, Bodie, this is Mikal."
"Mikal and I already know each other," Bodie said in oh, such a quiet voice. Ray and Ann both stared at him. Then Ann turned to stare at Mikal.
"You never told me," she accused.
"It has nothing to do with you."
And, as she began to catch on, she flushed. "I see."
"What the hell is going on?" Ray demanded.
Mikal chuckled. "Oh, dear, I think a great many things might be said tonight that are better left unsaid. Sit down, won't you?"
"Look, I came to see Ann, not...who are you anyway?"
"Presently, presently. I'm a member of her family, not a secret lover...of Ann's."
Bodie perched on the arm of Mikal's chair. "I never expected to see you here."
"She called me. How are you feeling?"
"Physically? Just fine, thank you."
Ray ignored them. "Ann, can't we talk privately?"
She nodded and led him into the bedroom.
"What do you suppose she'll say to him?" Mikal wondered aloud.
"Much the same thing you said to me, I expect. If she tells him the truth at all. Which I rather hope she doesn't," he added more to himself than Mikal. "What a day this has been."
"She's leaving here; perhaps for good."
"Because of Ray?"
"What do you think?"
"I sense your fine Italian hand in this. Member of the family? Since when?"
"I'm her father."
After the first shock, Bodie wondered why he hadn't guessed. "Well. I expect you think I've got obtuse in my old age."
Mikal fondled his thigh. "Nothing of the sort."
"They might come back."
"They might," Mikal agreed, but his hand continued its languid exploration, moving up to Bodie's groin where his trousers were growing taut. "It's like a wildfire," he murmured. "Why can't I ever keep my hands off you?"
Bodie shut his eyes and moaned softly. Mikal always knew how to get to him.
"I thought I'd never see you again, Will, and here you are to torment me." He turned and pulled Bodie down beside him so that they were wedged against each other in the overstuffed chair. "Kiss me. Forget them and kiss me."
They kissed for a few minutes, Bodie half- wishing that it was Doyle, and Mikal wholly aware of that wish.
"I can't forget," Bodie whispered against the seeking mouth. "I'm here for Ray's sake."
Mikal sagged against him. "Does he know that? Does he appreciate you?"
Bodie wanted to protest, but in the end he had to tell the truth to Mikal if not to himself. "No."
"What a fool."
Doyle or me? Bodie wondered. "What will she tell him?"
Mikal shrugged and ran his long fingers through Bodie's hair. "Why did he come here?"
"He wants her back. Whatever else he says, he wants her. Would she stay?"
The tension in Mikal told him that she might.
"If she stays...." Something in his mind was shrieking. "I'm going to leave."
"Where will you go?"
"I don't know. Where will you go?"
"I don't know either."
"Shall we go nowhere together?"
Their laughter was cut short by Ray's reappearance. He said nothing. His face was carefully neutral, but his eyes betrayed something very like anger. "Ray...."
"I suppose you have a secret or two to spring on me as well," he spat, his eyes on Mikal the whole time.
"Nothing a reasonably bright human being wouldn't have guessed already," Mikal said rather nastily. He ran a hand through his long black hair.
Ann was in the doorway; she looked as though she'd just gone through hell.
Ray turned on Bodie. "Do you have any idea what she just told me?"
It was horrible; Bodie wanted to laugh. He physically stifled the urge to laugh in Ray's face. Nerves, he decided. "I can guess."
"Can you? I suppose YOU believe that they're vampires."
There were any number of replies he could have made, but Bodie, goaded by the icy sarcasm, settled in the end for the bluntest one. He stood up and peeled down the neck of his polo.
Ray gasped audibly. "That's sick."
"I realise it's difficult to accept, Ray, but...."
"There are none so blind as those who will not hear...or something," Mikal quipped. "Ann...are you all right?"
She nodded. "You were right," she said in a surprisingly firm voice. "About a great many things." She went back into the bedroom and closed the door with a bang.
"I take it the wedding is off?" Mikal asked sweetly.
Doyle stared at Mikal for a moment. He looked as though he wanted nothing more than to wipe the man off the face of the earth. "It's what you wanted, isn't it?" Ray asked him. "Among other things."
"How perceptive you are. I must say it surprises me."
Bodie grabbed Mikal's arm and hauled him to his feet. "Excuse us a moment, Ray." He hauled Mikal into the kitchen. "What's wrong with you? Why are you antagonising him?" Bodie demanded.
"I'm not antagonising anyone."
"You're antagonising me for a start! Christ, Mikal, the girl he wanted to marry just told him that she's a vampire."
"He didn't seem very put out by it. And then you took it rather well as I recall."
"I'm used to your strangeness."
Mikal laughed. "I suppose you are. You're staying with him." It was not a question.
"I don't see many other options opening up."
Mikal rubbed his eyes and sighed. "I suppose it's for the best," he admitted. "You'd grow old and die, and I'd be alone again. I hate this life more every day." He paced the tiny room, examining the contents of drawers and cabinets. "I'll tell you a secret, shall I?" he asked as he explored. "I've never loved another of my kind. Only humans. Why is that, do you think?" He peered into a canister and replaced it on its shelf. "Why can I only love the butterflies? The creatures that live for a season? Ann's like me, I think. She loves Ray's humanness as much as she loves him." He turned and looked Bodie in the eye. "I'm tired of living like a parasite. Why don't you say something?"
"What do you want me to say?"
"Nothing." He walked up to Bodie and put his arms around the man. "Just be with me for a moment. I love your heat." He laid his head against Bodie's shoulder. "I love the beat of your heart."
The single tear that trickled down Mikal's face was a surprise. "You lied to me," Bodie said gently as he wiped away the tear and licked the moisture from his finger. Salty, warm, wholly human. "You said your sort couldn't cry."
"I said we didn't. We don't often."
Before Bodie could reply, he heard Ray calling him from the other room. He tensed and Mikal pulled away.
"His master's voice," Mikal snapped.
"Don't. Let's not hurt each other tonight."
"Go on then."
But before Bodie could leave the circle of his arms, Mikal kissed him once more. "You are loved."
He was released and propelled out of the kitchen.
Ray was standing in the doorway of Ann's bedroom when Bodie emerged. He was speaking quietly. When he heard Bodie, he turned, and the expression on his face was no longer angry. Rather, he looked sad.
"I'm going," Bodie told him.
Ray said nothing, but turned and followed Bodie from the flat without another word to Ann.
The silence between them made Bodie uneasy. Finally when he could stand it no longer he said, "Why don't you say something?"
Ray seemed to consider for a few moments. Then, "How long have you known?"
"A few days."
"Oh. How long have you known him?" Ray asked.
"A dozen years or so. We were in Africa together. I thought he died there."
"You were lovers?"
"I didn't realise."
"You weren't meant to."
This last was greeted with an unnerving silence.
Once home, Ray seemed more at ease. He told Bodie that he was going to fix them something to eat. It was only cheese on toast, but it tasted good to Bodie who realised that they hadn't eaten more than the odd biscuit or candy bar all day.
"Would you tell me why you didn't want me to know? About you and Mikal or...anybody else."
"Why didn't I tell you that I like to sleep with men sometimes?" Bodie took a deep breath. "In the beginning I was afraid it would make a difference. There didn't seem to be a good time to tell you or a good way to do it."
"I was afraid you might ask awkward questions."
For a moment Doyle held his gaze, then he smiled. "Like: 'How do you feel about me, Bodie?'"
"Like that, yes."
"Why would that be an awkward question?"
"Because I couldn't answer it."
"Because you love me?"
"You're relentless, aren't you? Yes. I love you." The cheese dripped on the table and he swore.
"Even though I'm relentless. How tolerant you are."
Bodie pushed his plate away. "I may love you, Doyle, but I also want you. It's not quite as easy to be magnanimous about a sexual obsession, is it?"
"Obsession? Bodie.... You're too dramatic for your own good sometimes."
"Please don't make light of this."
"I don't mean to. It's been a difficult day for me." He began to laugh. "I have a talent for understatement, don't I? I expect that I'll say all the wrong things to you tonight, and make you angry. Shall I make one blanket apology right now?"
Bodie scowled at him, but it was difficult to be angry with Ray when he turned on the charm. "Sod you, Doyle," he muttered halfheartedly.
"What's it like?"
Bodie was unaccountably annoyed. "You're not that naive, Doyle. You have to have some idea of the mechanics...."
"That's not what I meant." He touched his own throat. "I meant the, um...the other."
"Oh, that. It was a surprise."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I hardly had time to analyse the situation," Bodie snapped.
"You mean that was the first time you'd done it?"
"Well, how am I supposed to know?" Ray yelled. "I'm discovering a lot of new things about you tonight."
"I feel as if I'd been run over by a lorry," Bodie admitted. He carried his plate into the kitchen. "Ray, what's going to happen?"
Ray ran some hot water and left the dishes to soak. "With us?"
"At all. What about Ann? You love her don't you?"
He wasn't prepared for the answer Ray gave him.
"Don't know for sure anymore. Oh, it's not this vampire thing; I hardly believe it anyway."
Bodie was about to protest, but Ray stopped him.
"I expect it's true, but my mind hasn't accepted it yet. That's not the problem, though. When I told her I loved her, just before she told me what she was, she asked me why. Why did I love her? I couldn't think of anything to say, Bodie." He looked more bemused than hurt. "I wanted to say that she was special, that she was my other half; I wanted to say all those things that lovers say to each other and I couldn't because they didn't seem to make sense.
"Then she told me her secret and I laughed at her. I didn't believe it at first and I said that I had to love her for her sense of humour if nothing else. She insisted and I went on laughing until it occurred to me that she was deadly serious. She told me that if I didn't believe her we had no future. It was then I began to worry about her. I thought she was mad until I saw...the...." He tapped his neck again. "I just don't know how I feel about her. I still want her," he admitted.
"You probably do love her," Bodie told him. "You're just rattled."
"I don't think so. You know," he said as he added a bit of dish soap to the water and began to scrub the plates, "I'm happy to know that she 'asn't gone round the bend. Better a blood-sucker than a loony, eh? What rattled me was you."
"It's as if everything about you has changed, yet nothing has. Give us a hand, will you? Fetch a towel from the cupboard." He rinsed the plates and handed them to Bodie. "Nothing frightens me more than having something I count on jerked about. You were always like the rocks at Stonehenge--solid, enduring.... Say something, Bodie."
"I never have been able to sort you out. One minute you're raving, then next you're doing the dishes and telling me what's wrong with our relationship."
Ray laughed and took the towel away from Bodie. "I'm just trying to get things back on an even keel. Makes me feel more normal."
"It's all an illusion."
"Probably, but it makes me feel better. If I said I was willing, would you take me to bed?"
Bodie was stunned. He suspected that this was partly an attempt to forget Ann; but at the same time it was like a dream come true. "Is it something you're likely to say?" he asked carefully.
"Would you do it?" Ray asked again. It was one of those terrible moments when Bodie could read nothing in his partner's face. Doyle could have been serious, he could have been facetious, he could even have been malicious. There was no telling.
"Don't know," he said carefully. "Depends."
"Think about it," was all Doyle said.
He did think about it. And in the end all he could say was, "I thought you wanted things back to normal."
Doyle stared at him, and what Bodie read on his face was a surprise. There was exasperation there and open affection. "You figure it out, Bodie. I'm going to bed." He wiped his hands and left the kitchen, flipping off the light as he went. "Don't take too long thinking," he called from the next room.
Stranger things had happened, Bodie decided.
Dear Mikal, (She'd never be able to call him father.)
Mother sends her best. She's working for a fashion designer here in New York and seems to be quite happy. She's told everyone that I'm her sister.Yours,
There are quite a lot of us here...you'd know that, wouldn't you? Sometimes I hear your name mentioned and it startles me. I don't know why. Did you know that you are famous? In our circles, that is.
I like this city; I think I'm going to settle here for a time. I've had a job offer (mother arranged it, I found) and I believe I'll accept. I must be developing a sense of adventure.
I've been dating too. Does that surprise you? Did you think after that scene in my flat on the night Ray left that I'd shut myself off, immerse myself in my work? Did you think I'd 'drown in self pity'? I expect I might have done just that, at least for a time. But after you left--several days later, in fact-- Ray came back to see me. There were apologies on both sides, and not a little embarrassment. Then he asked me about you.
I wasn't quite sure what it was he wanted to know. He asked me what sort of a person you are, and I had to admit that I barely knew you. He seemed concerned. He wanted to know about you and Bodie. (By the way, I wish you'd told me. That was a nasty surprise. Don't ever do that to me again.) Finally I said that there was nothing else I could tell him. It was then he asked me to send a message to you. I said I couldn't promise until I knew what the message was. For what it's worth, here it is:
"You have all the time in the world and we have so little. Please don't take that from us."
I don't pretend to know what he meant. Perhaps you understand.
Don't lose touch. Mother would love to see you again, and for my part, I think that we need to spend some time together.
-- THE END --