Monday, April 26, 2010

Without You I Am Lost

There was a pulse-pounding beat in his head, a drum roll of raucous sound that filled him from tip to toe and made it painfully hard to think. Hard to breathe.

No, wait, he didn’t breathe anymore. He was dead, dead, dead, just like his father…

No, no, don’t think about him.

Those thoughts lead to him.

He lifted hands – hands stained with blood he could never wash away now – and tangled them in his hair as a low, painful whine seared its way up his throat. The hunger burned in his belly and pounded in his head and it was all he could do to stay and not leave his dorm on campus.

If he did…he would kill.

But it hurt so much…

And he was so hungry

The drum roll in his head increased, pounding as fast as it could, and his stomach wrenched sideways. He could feel the fangs now, digging hard into his lower lip, and knew he was about to lose. The hunger was about to overtake him and he was going to be lost again.

His times of freedom were getting fewer, their time shortening by leaps and bounds. Soon…soon he wouldn’t come out of the bloodstained haze.

Soon…soon there would be no him. Just the hunger.

A shudder rippled through his body then, making him convulse in agony, and he lost it. The hunger roared its way into control and demanded to be sated.  And his shivers suddenly ceased as he stopped fighting and rose with liquid grace, a chilling smile stretching his mouth.

There was a pretty brunette in the next dorm over who liked to walk at night.

She would be perfect.

He licked his lips in anticipation then strode for the door, his previous regret and distaste forgotten. The hunger in him and his own weakness had thwarted his control again…and he was a cold killer once more.

Edward woke with a strangled cry, tearing himself forcibly from the dream-slash-memory and into reality. He rolled over, desperate to feel contact with another body, but discovered the other side of the bed was empty. Stomach plummeting, he scrambled out of bed as he heard the staccato sound startup in his head.

He staggered through the apartment to the kitchen, wrenching open the refrigerator door. Inside an ice bin filled with packets of discarded blood from hospitals and blood banks greeted him and he hastily grabbed two of them. Without quite focusing on just what he was doing, he poured each into a separate mug and shoved one into the microwave while he drank the other cold.

The chilled, sludgy plasma tried to choke in his throat, his body wanting to reject it, but Edward forced himself to swallow. He managed to get it all down by the time the microwave dinged and dropped it in the sink.

As he wrapped his fingers around the other mug, he leaned back against the counter, trying to relax tense muscles. He lifted the mug to his nose and breathed in the scent of warm blood but part of him snarled in distaste. It wanted fresh blood, straight from a vein, but he couldn’t…

He broke out in fresh shudders at the thought of tapping a living vein, fear of turning back into what he had been rising in his belly, and swallowed half the mug in one go to still it.

Edward slowly relaxed after a few moments, taking slow sips from the mug. The warmed-up blood calmed the hunger quivering in his belly and stilled the staccato rhythm in his head. Part of him, though, was never satisfied.

Sighing, he lifted his eyes and noticed there was a fresh note stuck under a magnet on the freezer. His lover’s broad strokes spelled out a simple note that he knew well: “Gone out for a bite, Mico. Remember Roma.”

A smile touched his lips then, as it always did when that note was left. He always recalled his first few true years as a fledgling vampire in Rome with the one he wished had been his sire with ease.

Still though…

He needed him here now. The memory was still so close and he wasn’t strong enough to be rid of it entirely himself.

Taking a step forward, Edward tugged the note from under the magnet and, leaning against the refrigerator, pressed the paper to his nose. His lover’s scent clung heavily to the paper and, while not him, he could use it to banish the memory briefly.

Never for long though.

“Where are you, Eli?” he asked quietly, a desperate whine underlying his voice. “I need you.” He leaned his head against the freezer door and focused on the all-too human action of just breathing in an effort to calm himself.

Then, as though his words had summoned him, there was a warm hand pulling the mug from his hand to place on the counter. Moments later those arms were wrapped around him and Eligius breathed against his ear, “I am here, Mico,” and then Edward’s knees buckled.

“The dream again?” questioned the Roman as he leaned slightly backwards so Edward rested against him.

It was all the younger vampire could do to nod in response and Eligius growled something in Italian that had him regaining his balance for long enough to turn around. Edward wrapped his arms around the taller man’s neck and buried his face in his chest, breathing in his scent and burrowing in as close as he could. Eligius happily obliged him, drawing him tightly against him, and rumbled in a quiet voice, “I am here now, Mico, my carus. And you know I will not let you fall back to that.”

“I know,” Edward breathed and a shudder raced through him. He felt his lover tighten his arms then and say, “Come. Let us go back to sleep.” A nod was all the younger could manage and he ended up being half-carried back to the bedroom.

Eligius tucked him in like he was a child – which Edward was in comparison to the Roman’s two thousand plus years – then slid in next to him under the blankets. He drew the blond towards him, wrapped an arm snugly around his waist, and pressed a kiss against his temple.

“There now,” he rumbled in a low voice, the one Edward loved because he could feel it vibrating through his entire being when they were close like this. “Here we are, safe and sound in our bed, and nothing can touch us here.”

Edward nodded then shifted slightly, scooting downward so he could tuck his head under Eligius’ chin. The older vampire chuckled and rested his chin atop his head comfortably in response to the movement.

“Nothing can touch us,” murmured Edward.

Eligius made a noise of agreement. “Never in our own sanctuary. Now sleep, mmm, Mico? I will watch your dreams like a hawk.”

He wanted to giggle at that suddenly, thinking of how like a hawk Eligius did look with his hooked – well – Roman nose but stilled it. Instead Edward closed his eyes, breathed in the comforting scent of the one who had saved his life not so long ago, and drifted away.

And one thing he could rely upon with Eligius there was that he would never dream of those days before he had been there for him.

Bad Things Don't Always End in Tragedy

Since the karaoke debacle weeks before Beoir Àite had been strangely, almost eerily quiet even during the night when it was frequently filled to the brim. The Slayer Clans had been just as quiet since the deaths of several of their own months before so they were not the culprits behind this silence.

No, almost every usual patron of the bar was avoiding it due to the still blazing temper of one blonde Welsh bartender against one foolish young fledgling who had managed to talk her into the entire debacle. Those that had witnessed the aftermath were steering clear and they had warned off almost everyone they knew.

The lack of customers did nothing to improve Elizabeth Bannon's temper, of course. Not that she needed the money, what with having been around for almost eight centuries - but she liked running her bar. She liked having bodies in the seats, breathing or not, and listening to the chatter of conversations.

She liked giving her kindred and their allies a place where they could gather in peace.

And now it had been ruined.

Beoir Àite did have a handful of occupants: some of its most loyal customers. And, of course, her faithful Viking bouncer, Erik Braed, who had never missed a day of work since the bar's opening in '79. Even their presence could not lessen her temper, however.

The five men - all vampires with the half exception of one - were seated at the counter, their eyes focused on the whirlwind behind the counter who was cleaning glasses with enough fury to break everyone one-in-four. Only one of them knew enough Welsh to understand what she was growling in a continuous string not quite under her breath and was looking a little green under the gills. A few of the others knew fragments of the language but actually knowing the translation wasn't needed. Her tone spoke volumes.

Eligius Vitus glanced to his left at Darien O'Connell, who still looked a little green, then as his right to Erik Braed, whose forehead was wrinkled heavily - a sign that the bouncer was looking for words to say to his boss. As the eldest of them - and the lover of the one who had caused the problem - he took it upon him himself to speak up.

"Lizbeth," he rumbled quietly but with the same tone he had once used to command men when he was alive. She snapped around towards him, her words cut off, and he held up a hand. "If you keep raging like this, cara, they will continue staying away. It is you they are frightened of."

Elizabeth opened her mouth, blue eyes angry, ready to protest his words but Darien - still looking a little green - spoke up.

"He's right, Liz. I've known you long enough, cousin, to know how people fear your temper." At her incredulous look, he glanced at his compatriots for support and they all nodded.

"So...what do I do?" she asked.

"Close the bar?" offered the carrot-haired Paul Outterridge from Darien's left.

From Erik's right, the werewolf-turned-vampire Walter Leitzervein growled, "Go kill?" in his broken, heavily German-accented English. The bouncer next to him muttered, "I don't think that's the right course, old man." Walter responded with an eyebrow arch that obviously translated to 'Who are you calling old?' towards the elder vampire then shrugged in Elizabeth's direction and turned back to his drink.

"I believe," said Eligius slowly before their dear bartender could get up in arms, "that closing the bar would do you good. Give them a week without you and they will come running later."

Elizabeth let out an exasperated puff of breath at that then asked, "And what am I supposed to do during this week?"

The Roman grinned brightly at that and Darien interjected, "I think by that smile he is suggesting you stay at home." The Irish vampire then smiled slightly himself as he tacked on, "And perhaps stay in bed with Eiyshi for the whole of that time."

"Ah," sighed Eligius, "that is a good idea, meu amicus."

The blonde looked between the five of them then sighed, her shoulder slumping as she shook her head. "All right, all right, I'm going." She pointed at Erik as she rounded the counter and growled, "You don't let them break anything, you hear? And lock up when you're all done here."

"Of course, boss," rumbled Erik. "Now go and relax. I'll make sure the children behave."

"Good luck," was her parting shot before she vanished through the door, flipping the sign to 'closed' as she went. As soon as she vanished up the stairs and they could no longer hear the sound of her boots, all five men breathed a collective sigh.

"Hopefully with a week of wild sex she'll calm down," grumbled Paul into his glass, breaking the silence. The others stared at him for a moment then Walter burst out laughing, followed a moment later by Erik. Darien and Eligius chuckled quietly, shaking their heads in amusement.

They spent several hours there, merely talking (and running off the occasional would-be customer who thought they might get free alcohol without Elizabeth's presence), until Paul left, grumbling about drinking too much. Walter followed him not long after, having gone long past even his considerable limit due to his two supernatural halves, and Erik had left to carry his friend home with a pointed look to the last two. Darien had nodded, relaying that he would lock up, and then it was he and Eligius alone in Beoir Àite.

"So," he finally said, "tell me the real reason you're with Edward. He may amuse you but that's no reason to be with anyone." His green eyes lidded as he peered under his bangs at the older vampire. "I've only been in love twice in my life but I know what it looks like. And you honestly love him."

Eligius frowned, the motion deepening the lines on his face, causing him to suddenly look more than the thirty-and-six years he had been when he was Turned. He lifted a hand to run over his face then sighed before saying softly, "I do love him."

Darien sat silent, waiting because he could tell that was not were the Roman was going to end.

"I taught him everything he knows, did you know that?" At the younger vampire's slight shake of his head, Eligius continued, "He was a child during the '50s and '60s and knew where his attractions lay by the time he was fourteen. By sixteen he had his first boyfriend and his father...he was not pleased to put it lightly. My Candeo, he tried to change to please his father, tried to find some attraction to girls. He kept coming back to boys, however, and when he thought he was safe to pursue one, he wasn't at all."

"He was at college, with someone he thought he loved, and his father came up to 'check' on him. To make sure he was playing 'straight'." Eligius shook his head and Darien felt his heart clench, knowing where this was going. "He was not pleased and...he hurt him. Took him away from the boy, down a dark alley, and tore him down with words and fists. Which is when Cael Ward found him."

Darien stiffened at that name, not having known that was Edward's sire. For a Kivana, the weakest of the six vampire Lines, Cael Ward had made a name for himself as one of the toughest and cruelest of their kind even in the modern age. And he was sweet, goofy Edward's sire?

The Fates were having a laugh when they orchestrated that one.

"What happened?" he asked softly.

Eligius smiled, the lines around his mouth drawing up tightly, before he answered. "Cael killed his father. Tore his head from his shoulders right there and spattered Candeo with his blood. Then he took him - in all ways possible." For a vampire of over two thousand years, who had seen almost as much war and death as any of the Elder vampires, Eligius' expression was one of a haunted man. "Meu amicus, he brutalized him so much that when he Candeo was not himself."

"And Cael abandoned him," hissed Darien, knowing full well that vampire's modus operandi. Every vampire knew it but Kivana let it slide because she was a little scared of him herself and wouldn't even ask aid from her twin in taking him down.

"That he did. Because his last mortal moments were being beaten and berated by his father for attractions he could not control, he forced himself to forget. He spent months after he was Turned and abandoned, hunting young brunette girls, stalking them, attracting them to him like moths to flames, and killing them. Almost fifty bodies across one city and two towns in Washington before I came across him."

"He was mad," breathed Eligius as he continued talking. "Wild with rage at his father and consumed by the terror of what he had become because of how Cael Turned him. Oh if I could but get my hands on that pezzo di schiuma I would tear him apart with my bare hands for what he did." He heaved in a deep, unneeded breath, and shook his head. "It took time but I managed to coax out the real Edward, my poor Mico. Convinced him that his father had been wrong, that being attracted to the same gender was no sin, no crime; by Jove, if it were all of Rome would have been in flames before the Empire got off the ground!"

"After that he became what he is now?" asked Darien as the Roman chuckled softly to himself.

The older vampire shook his head negatively. "Not quite. It took a great deal to change him. To begin the healing of those wounds Cael and his father caused." With a bitter smile, he picked up his forgotten shot glass and tossed back the whiskey in it. "He is...different...when we are alone. The flamboyancy is a shield to hide those half-healed wounds."

"And his lack of fear in the face of Liz's wrath?"

"When one has faced what he has in such a short life, our Lizbeth's minute wrath is little to fear," answered Eligius with a shrug. "You know as well as I that she was not really all that angry."

Darien nodded at that. "True."

They sat in silence for a long moment then Eligius asked quietly, "Do you understand now why I am with my Mico, meu amicus?"

The Irish vampire thought back over all he had just heard. Edward had been tormented and turned into a monster for a very short period because of his fears. He could sympathize with feeling like a monster; he had felt like that for half of his life. And Eligius had saved him, had brought him back, had shown him that he could be the person he once was and love those he wanted to love. The Roman had taught him what it was not only to be a vampire but to be human.

No wonder Edward adored him.

And seeing what he had done...Darien couldn't blame Eligius for falling in love with the fledgling Kivana.

"I understand," he finally answered just as quietly.  "What you did..." He trailed off, leaving the words 'I wish someone had been able to do the same for me' unsaid.

Eligius seemed to sense them, though, and clapped him warmly on the shoulder as he slid off of his barstool. "I think it is time for us to go home, Darien. My Candeo is likely back from his work and I feel the need to hold him close after speaking of the past. And you, I think, need the arms of your lady friend as well."

Darien blinked then his cheeks flushed at his reference to the fierce little mortal detective he had gained a strange relationship with since saving her life (and his own at the same time). Then he nodded and slipped to the floor with a smile.

"Yes, I think we both need our respective lovers," he said. "I...thank you for being honest with me."

Eligius smiled as he opened the door and said, "You are meu amicus, I am always honest with you. And to fully understand him, one must hear that story." He then bowed his head and muttered, "Goodnight, Darien," before he disappeared up the stairs to the street level.

"Goodnight, Eligius," answered Darien. He then rinsed the used glasses, turned off the lights, and locked the door before he mounted the steps himself. As he reached the street, he reached for his cell phone and pressed the number one speed dial.

"Rana?" he said quietly as his somewhat-girlfriend answered. "Can I come over? No, not for that. I just...I learned something tonight and I... Yes, I am a big scaredy cat and I need my brave detective to protect me." There was a pause then he repeated, "What did I learn?"

Tilting his head back, Darien looked at the night sky and answered, "Bad things don't always end in tragedy."

Karaoke is Not for Vampire Bars

"Baby, it's the way you make me, kinda get me go crazy never wanna's gotta be you."

Darien shook his head and turned away from the ongoing debacle upon the stage that had been set up at the other side of the bar.  Beoir Aite was a haven of safety for vampire, wolfkin, and in-the-know humans that weren't trying to be slayers and it had been turned into a horror show.  In addition to the small stage that had a karaoke machine sitting on it there were blindingly colorful streamers dangling from the ceiling, glitter clinging to the floor and tables (and, by proxy, the customers), and cheap disco balls bouncing lights around the room.  It was no longer the plain place that many of them had come to know since his Bloodsister's second child had opened it in 1979 with the occasional bit of music playing from a stereo behind the counter.

Instead it felt like a bar from the '70s, only with music that spanned generations.

"I can't control it anymore; I've never felt like this before.  Mmm, you really make me lose my head, my hungry heart must be fed."

Leaning on the counter, he cast a pitying look at his bloodkin behind the counter.  Elizabeth had her white-blonde hair bound up in a messy pile atop her head - a sign that she was not taking this well - and there was Murder in her pale blue eyes as she savagely cleaned a glass.  The entire time her gaze was fixed across the bar at the current singer, who was not only belting out the Backstreet Boys in a voice that was not meant for singing but was the entire reason her bar was like this.

A low chuckle turned Darien's attention to the vampire sitting next to him.  Of everyone currently in the bar still torturing themselves, he was taller and broader than everyone with the exception of the hulking form of the bouncer, Erik.  Short black hair grew in wavy curls on his head, lending a softness to the hard, heavy figure of his forever thirty-something face and body.  He chuckled again and murmured something in Latin before saying in English, "At least my Mico tries."

"Now I know why I was born; you feel my feelings one by one.  Can't see the world I'm walking through, cuz baby I see only you, oh yeah."

"Effort," noted Darien with a shake of his head, "is about all he has, Eligius."

Eligius Vitus smiled at that and said, "Yes, but that is something, is it not?"

He started to answer but another line being belted out loudly as well as Elizabeth slamming the glass she had been cleaning down on the counter stopped him.  The glass cracked and then crumpled from the force she had struck it with, leaving a slight circle indent in the top of the scarred counter.

"Baby, it's the way you make me, kinda get me go crazy, never wanna stop."

"That's it," she snarled.  "I have had enough."

Darien and Eligius both turned their heads, following her as she rounded the end of the counter and headed across the bar.  If he had wanted to, Eligius could have stopped her as he was the oldest vampire in Beoir Aite at the moment but he simply picked up the glass of juice from in front of him and took a sip as he watched impassively.  After a long moment Darien looked from him to the raging Elizabeth who had literally torn through a table to reach the stage faster.  As she tore the mic from the singer's hand in the midst of the last lines, he noted, "Y'know, I've always wondered something about you and Edward, Eligius."

The older vampire arched an eyebrow and, as Elizabeth snarled threats that had a handful of vampires and wolfkin sprinting for the door, Darien continued, "What in all nine Hells made a stoic like you get with the most flamboyantly homosexual member of Kivana's Line?  I mean, he's wearing enough glitter to light up the room."

There was a long moment of silence as Eligius looked across the bar at the ongoing debacle.  His lover Edward Harlow was not only the youngest vampire in the bar at just over five decades but was also wearing a glitteringly gold and white spandex suit that would have made even Freddie Mercury reconsider wearing it.  There was enough golden glitter on his skin to, as stated, light up a room if a light was put on him, and his tawny mane of hair was styled like an '80s hair band member.  And he was somehow grinning goofily through Elizabeth's tirade of death threats to put off a few more customers into leaving.

"What do you see in him?" asked Darien, honestly curious.

For a moment he didn't think Eligius would answer but the big vampire sipped at his drink then did just that.  He turned, leaning against the counter, and smiled as he gazed at Edward with obvious affection in his dark eyes.

"He amuses me," he answered with that same smile.  " Candeo, he looks good in his outfit, no?"

Darien blinked then said, "You are a strange, strange man."

"With a handsome, limber little man in my bed, yes."

Green eyes narrowed and Eligius blinked innocently back at Darien as the younger vampire muttered, "You're just trying to give me bad mental images now, aren't you?"

"Never," responded Eligius seriously.

For a moment there was silence between them, only punctuated by Elizabeth's continuing tirade towards the silent Edward, then he added, "Why, is it working?"

Darien groaned and shook his head before saying, "Damnit, I hate you, Eligius."

"I know," replied Eligius with a slow smile.