This is a hell of a day. First of all, I wanted to get to the monastery as soon as possible, of course. Sean’s phone call in the morning was all I needed to feel the urgency of this, and I must admit that I am also quite curious as to what – and whom - to find in a San Francisco monastery. Being my own employee in one way or another, and constantly working overtime anyway, I had hoped to get some hours off, drive there, check things out, get back to the ward and carry on working.
You know how it is, things always turn out to be quite different from what you planned. All of a sudden, we get one case chasing the next one, as if there’s a conspiracy against me, and most of them are in such a state that I can’t leave them to my colleagues for even an hour. It is in fact as if the entire City decided to play up today. Maybe it’s the full moon again. I am not keeping a record of things like that; but I probably should do so. Don’t they always talk about the birth rates exploding at full moon? And there might be a grain of truth in all those werewolf stories, too; I should ask Julian about it.
Anyway, I have to stay and postpone my little excursion. Hence, instead of driving to my sanctuary, I am doing my work just like I’m supposed to do, if but a bit more nervously than usual, and while I’m dealing with the paranoid and the insane, I find myself looking over my shoulder quite frequently, as if the doctor is the one who’s cracked most: a nice and this time utterly fitting cliché, come to think of it, and I must pull myself together in order to get rid of the impression that even the patients have come for my head.
In a free minute, I call the operator to find out Chao-dai’s phone number. This turns out to be more difficult than expected. First of all, the kind lady wants to know what kind of monastery it is. I had no idea that they have so many of those strange cloisters around, and that they are even sorted by religions, sects, what knows I, names I’ve never heard of before. When I tell her that I don’t have a clue, she is patient enough to go through all of them, or probably makes the computer do this for her after I finally manage to spell the name right. I wonder why she hasn’t had the idea in the first place.
In the end, after almost a quarter of an hour of meticulous research, we come to the conclusion that this special monastery either doesn’t exist or that the mysterious people living there don’t have a phone. The former can’t be because Sean has already been there, but the latter would make some sense. If you’re living in a monastery, you’re doing this for some reason. Making long phone calls, or even short ones, might not be part of their philosophy. This realization is certainly logical, but it doesn’t brighten my mood. It makes my day, really. But before I find the time to get angry, I hasten to set to work again, so that I can finally find the time to get off.
Right when I’m about to grab my bag and jacket, the hospital manager pays me a surprise visit. He is in a much better mood than my humble self, especially now, comparatively spoken, but he doesn’t notice my expression, and instead starts chatting with me as if we’ve been old friends. He thought he should drop in just because he was nearby and thought it would be a nice idea to look how things are improving. We talk about the future of the hospital, and especially of this ward here, and I discern certain hints that he is quite impressed with my work and would like me to stay and all that crap, which is all very fine and flattering, but keeps me from saving my head, which in turn would be an important requirement for keeping things as they are.
Believe it or not, he leaves two full hours later, leaving behind an utterly annoyed Dr McKay. Now I know everything about his private life, including almost all his relatives, his dental history and his stomach problems. Furthermore, we made a ward round so that he could look at all the little children, scaring the shit out of some of them by his good-uncle joviality, but that is just fine, too, because it’s my job to mend it. And this is what I do for the next hour, right after he’s left.
Jeez… It’s almost dusk already, and I haven’t even had the time to eat something. The knowledge that this won’t kill me makes me smile faintly, but it isn’t truly reassuring. I need my strength for the fight; if this comes to that. Nonsense, I need my strength to get to Chao-dai. But I feel so fucking tired. It won’t do any harm if I lie down for just an hour, will it now? And then, if I don’t hear from Daedalus meanwhile, I’ll be off to the monastery, I promise myself.
The sun is still up when I rent my car, using the face and identification of Mr. Forrester. I've taken precautions by feeding and wearing sunglasses, but still, after a long time of constantly spending my days below ground, the daylight feels hot, almost burning, on my skin.
No matter. I'll be safe for a while, and until then the sun will set.
But soon, I'm presented with another problem. How do you search a city like San Francisco for someone you don't know from Adam?
I couldn't even explain the sense of difference I had with Callum; all I know is that whatever makes him not-human now is something that can't be detected by normal human senses. I have some small ability with the discipline of auspex, and I can only hope that it'll be sufficient to detect my target – provided that he or she is even in San Francisco at the moment. And when I find that person, I have to make them trust me and give me the necessary information, or accompany me to Callum and give it to him.
Doubt assails me, but I fight it down ruthlessly. Callum's situation is my fault. I won't rest until I find someone who can help him. I twist Harold's face into an ironic smile as I circle the streets. Simple as that.
If I were a mortal who can't be killed, where would I be? Out in the open, or in hiding? Mortal scientists would be after me hunting me for my secret if they knew I existed. I'd probably be wearing a mask of my own and try to act inconspicuous, but I'd be bound by all the constraints of mortal life like needing to eat, drink, find companionship. I'd be good, or evil, or a mixture of both. In fact, I could be anywhere.
I growl. This is like finding a needle not in a haystack, but in a stack of many other very similar needles.
Finally, I resolve to search all the places where many people gather. The tourist attractions, the Pier, downtown, the park, street cafés, malls. It is a time-consuming and not very promising course of action, but I can think of no other at the moment. Rather than withstanding the sun, the problem will be maintaining my Mask for long enough.
Another problem, I soon find, is resisting the lure of the many mortals I encounter. So many impressions of individual fates, tragedies, frailties, but also of personal triumphs and happiness! Listening to them, watching them, soaking them up as I must if I am to find my target, I'm hard put to keep myself from being distracted by them.
In the end, when I find my target, it is by sheer coincidence.
It has long since gone dark. Walking along an alley leading me from one night club to the next, I suddenly hear something I haven't heard in decades – the ringing sound of colliding sword blades. When I find the source, I discover that it is exactly what it sounds like – a duel fought with swords.
And both combatants give off that subliminal feeling of being something other than human. With immense relief, I melt into the shadows to watch.
They have found a secluded place here in this crowded town, and yet anyone could hear the sound of their fight and come investigate, just like I did. So I can't help but wonder, why would they risk discovery by settling whatever dispute they're here to settle with swords? A blade is not exactly an easy weapon to conceal.
And they're both skilled. I soon realize that this is not a mere settling of a dispute – it is a fight to the death.
I've hardly reached this conclusion when one of the combatants drops to his knees, impaled by his enemy's blade. The other man pulls his weapon back out, draws back and beheads his adversary with one stroke.
Suddenly, the air begins to crackle with energy. All my senses shout at me to find cover.
From the fallen fighter, an amorphous glowing non-corporeal thing rises amidst discharges of energy and sounds like rending and tearing. Bolts of energy discharge into objects, walls, the earth, street lights, and cars – and into the victor, who throws back his head and screams. The glowing shape approaches the screaming man and disappears into him.
A wave of atavistic fear hits me as a lightning bolt discharges into a car next to me and sets it afire, and my instinct to flee will no longer be denied.
No manhole in sight -
explosions all around me, fire!
fire, hot, too close, need to get away -
no way out except up...
up a brick wall, bits of mortar ripped out beneath my talons, but there's enough purchase to reach the top...
Suddenly, all is silence.
Still clinging to the wall, I try to still my heart that's still galloping me towards frenzy even as my fear-crazed sight returns to normal.
The surviving fighter is picking himself up off the street and retrieving the fallen man's sword, turning to go.
I drop down from the wall I've scrambled up. "Wait!" I call after him, fading back into normal view.
He turns around.
"I need to talk to you!" I raise my hand in appeal, and as I see my taloned fingers I realize that my Mask has failed in all the excitement and I'm confronting this skilled swordsman with all my Nosferatu ugliness.
I freeze, both to calm myself completely and to prevent provoking him further. Although I don’t doubt my ability to fight someone who is still essentially human, even if immortal, it wouldn’t serve my purpose if we met as antagonists. After all, I'm here to ask for his help, not to browbeat him into it.
However, he doesn’t attack. His whole stance is that of someone who has traveled the widths and depths of human existence, who won't be swayed from his course even by the appearance of someone who looks like me. He'd go through me if I stood in his way, but he wouldn't attack me just for being what I am.
Confident in my assessment, I take a moment to look at him properly. He's very handsome with his tall and broad-shouldered physique, his long black hair and brown eyes; I'd even go so far as to say that he's classically beautiful. In fact, he embodies what, back in my Breathing Days, we used to consider the ideal of masculine beauty.
He, however, is done looking at me. "Aperxesde Daimone," he finally says, almost wearily and strangely casually, given that he apparently takes me for a demon he wants to banish. It's almost as if he's been through this before, and not once but several times. But I find it makes sense to me. Of course he would think me a demon considering my appearance, and a fighter such as he would not be afraid even of the denizens of the netherworld.
Abruptly, he turns to go.
"I’m not a demon," I call after him, still off-balance and afraid I'll lose this chance. "I want to talk to you. Please don’t go." I realize I’m speaking ancient Greek again in response to his use of the language. Also, there’s something familiar about this man, like a very old memory prodding at me.
He continues to walk away, and I see no recourse but to use a brief burst of supernatural speed to move ahead of him and block his path. I can’t let him leave, for Callum’s sake.
Of course, he is startled, and anger blazes in his dark eyes as he utters a brief oath at my appearance in front of him.
"Listen to me," I plead, "I need your help."
That's as far as I get before he comes at me, apparently to push me aside. I grab hold of his hands to immobilize him and the sword he’s still holding, when suddenly, close as I am now to him, memory falls into place. "Agaros?" I ask, amazed. Can it be?
He ceases his attempt to shake off my hold and looks at me, resignation still evident in his expression. "Very well, demon," he says, "if you won’t leave me alone, then end this!"
And he hands me his sword.
I stare at it, and at him. "Agaros," I say softly, "I’m not a demon. I remember you." But then, looking into his eyes and seeing the rage still there, I realize that it’s useless. We need to take this reunion elsewhere. "Please come with me. We can talk, and then we can decide what to do." Agaros is still looking uncooperative, so I try smiling at him. "We’ve met before, Agaros, more than three thousand years ago. I’m Daedalus."
For a long moment, he merely looks at me. Then he opens his mouth to say something, but nothing comes out. Suddenly, he engulfs me in a hug that holds more than a hint of desperation. "Daidalos," he whispers urgently, "help me."
The ancient pronunciation of my name evokes memories I had long since buried, of blue skies and white buildings and mortal worries of reputation and destiny, but I push them aside ruthlessly. My concern now must be for the man who is holding on to me so desperately, his fighter's stance abandoned and his weapon in my hand. All the fury has left him as he surrenders to me, whom he took for a demon only moments ago.
I realize that maybe Agaros and Callum might just possibly be able to aid each other. "Everything will be all right," I soothe him, holding him up and leading him out of the alley even as I try to remember where Harold left his car.
It is now quite dark, so I risk being seen with my true face rather than confuse Agaros with a shape change. The car’s tinted windows make discovery unlikely. Even so, I further minimize the risk by avoiding the main streets. It still only takes a few minutes to reach the hospital.
As we approach the building, I notice my passenger suddenly growing tense. "Agaros," I say softly as I pull into a parking spot, "it’s alright. You’re safe here."
"There’s someone here," he growls. "I’m warning you. If this is a trap..."
"I swear to you, Agaros. It’s not a trap." I get out of the car and open his door for him.
"Very well," he says indifferently.
I let him precede me so I can hide myself from normal view without him noticing should we meet any of the hospital staff. Always before, I entered the hospital via the sewers to avoid being seen. It’s strange to use the "official" entrance and the elevator.
Fortunately, we encounter no one, and finally the door to Callum’s private quarters opens to reveal my young friend sitting on his bed holding his head.
"Och, ma heid," he moans as he looks up.
Instantly, I’m concerned. Ignoring Agaros, I step forward. "What is it, Callum?"
He smiles. "Daedalus. Hey. Nothing, just a headache. And it’s gone now," he adds in a surprised tone. Then he notices Agaros behind me.
Before I can make the introductions, Agaros growls, "This is but a boy. I don’t fight boys."
"I’m glad to hear that," Callum answers him with a disarming smile, "because I can’t fight. But maybe we can talk."
The two of them are looking at one another, appraising.
"Callum, he’s like you. This is Agaros."
Callum nods, keeping up his polite smile.
"Actually, I’m going by the name of Marcos now, Daidalos," Agaros informs me without taking his eyes off Callum.
"I see." I can also see that I’m no longer needed here, so I leave the two of them to themselves.
To my amazement, Marcos follows me to my office. He slinks behind me like a beaten dog, and we come to sit down on the sofa, one keeping to each corner, establishing a polite distance. He seems to anticipate that I’m about to do something strange and suspicious to him, and although he has the air of a broken man, there is still some kind of invincible pride in his pose, some ancient awareness, waiting for me to make the first move. I know that this move shouldn’t come out wrong.
It makes no sense to tell someone who is in such a state of mind that he is in rage, or hurt, or that he should calm down. The appropriate reaction you usually get for this is, they either get mad at you, or they simply beat it. The only thing that works most of the time is to play by their rules, and then to let it grow on them, slowly. Hence, I propose to talk, still unsure if what he means by talking is what I have in mind, too.
He answers almost automatically: "Youh, I like talking to you. I always like to talk to a handsome boy." And he stares at me with what is supposed to be a leer, maybe out of an old habit, but comes out as an empty gesture.
I answer his look with an open smile and his words with a suitably empty phrase. "Why, thanks. I always like it when strong and powerful men make smart compliments." And I wink an eye at him, not feeling very sure if it’s the right thing to do.
His eyes narrow just a bit, but he obviously doesn’t take my seemingly helpless attempts to flirt with him as inadequate behaviour, for he is much too convinced of himself. Instead, he leans forward and puts his hand on my arm, watching my reaction. When I go on grinning as if I am only too glad about this move of his, he suddenly seems to feel uncomfortable and retreats to the safety of his corner.
I let one, two breaths pass before I talk again, "You must have come a long way, Marcos."
"I have." He eyes me suspiciously now, unsure what I’m about to say or do next. To my utter surprise, I'm enjoying this thoroughly, although I know that I shouldn’t let myself be carried away by this momentary superiority I experience. It can change all too soon.
I say, "I presume you haven’t talked to a shrink like me often, but I can assure you that I won’t play any psychological games with you." It is a blunt lie, but I feel I can risk it.
This seems to pull the right trigger, though, for his cheeks are blushing slightly now, and his superficial easiness is more and more replaced by some kind of edginess. "No one plays games with my mind. I am quite assured of myself, thanks all the same."
"Of course you are." I try to be honest and calculating at the same time. "Who would be, if not you." I let the words sink in, then add: "And yet you’re here now."
"As I said…," he starts, then stops abruptly and looks at me, and I can see that the emotions he’s still hiding are close to the surface now. His voice is hoarse. "Could it be you lured me here?"
I smile once more, this time in order to provoke him. "Me? Lure you? Why, Marcos, I’m honoured, but I don’t think I’d have the power to do so. A man as experienced as you are…"
"Stop it!" He interrupts me. "None of this!" And he finally allows his anger to show.
I have him where I wanted him. Now I can work with him. "You’re angry."
Marcos stands up, and for a moment it looks as if he’s about to leave the room. But, as I thought, he does nothing of the sort. Instead, he starts the habitual up-and-down stride of the annoyed and mighty, muttering to himself rather than to me, "Angry. I am. I’ve been angry for so long. It just won’t stop, whatever I do. It won’t stop!"
"Marcos, please sit down again," I retort. "I’m here. I can help you. All you have to do is trust me."
He stops in his tracks, but he won’t sit down; not yet. "You want me to trust you." His fists are clenched now, a good sign if you ignore the fact that the next thing might be them hitting you. "I’ve trusted others, and none of them survived! How could you help me then!" His voice sounds a bit animal now, but just so much as not to worry me. "I trusted them, and they betrayed me! No one can help me! Not even you!"
Suppressing the urge to get up and take him into my arms to comfort him, I remain seated, saying nothing. There he looks at me. I smile, just a little bit, not to scorn him, but as a sign of reassurance. Then the rage washes off him, just a little bit, and he shakes his head to himself, "I’m a fool. I behave like a fool, too. How would you… You don’t need to watch this."
"Yet I do. And what I see is nothing but an angry man. Angry and hurt. I would like to know more about you, and more about what trust and friendship mean to you."
A sigh escapes his lips, almost a sob, but he controls himself, forcing his breathing to calm, and sits down by my side again. Then he shakes his head once more, in what I call the "Greek fashion", and forces a grin. "You are astounding, Callum McKay. Watching me like this, still unafraid."
"But I am very much afraid of you, Marcos," I reply. "Don’t be fooled by my expression, it’s just a mask I wear."
"A mask? So, why don’t you take it off?"
"I might. But as long as I’m in control, there’s at least one of us. Why don’t you take off your own mask, Marcos?"
For a moment, his anger seems to override his will to talk to me, but he fights it down once more, "I could be offended now. But feel free, boy. If you want control, that’s what you’ll get." And with this, he leans back, waiting.
I am pretty sure that we will talk about the important things quite soon, but I must make my site safe by establishing a little bit more contact between the two of us. Time to change the subject. "You have a wife and children?"
There it is again, the sad smile. "I have. A wife. She won’t remember me, but then, I don’t know if she’s ever known me. The children are not mine. We cannot have children. Our marriage was based on love." He gives a harsh laugh. "It was a joke, from the very beginning."
"You don’t love her?"
"I loved her, at first. Things can happen. Feelings can change."
I could talk about feelings now, but this will have to wait until we’re there. "How many children?"
"Eight. Three boys and five girls." The answer comes automatically, even a bit proudly. "Two of the boys must be of age, now, and the girls…" Then, just as suddenly, he stops and turns towards me, grinning, "You do not want me to talk about my children, are you."
"Not necessarily. But I want to listen to you."
"I thought we had that kind of talk already."
"It’s up to you, Marcos. I’ll listen. If you wanna talk."
Now he closes the distance between us, and I can feel the heat radiating off his skin. He smells of his natural most intriguing musk and sandalwood and, God, he looks gorgeous with his tussled black mane, dark skin, brown eyes, rippling muscles, all the Greek clichés nicely combined in one big temptation. His voice is appealing, too. But it isn’t the first time I’m tempted by a client, and this time I dead sure I won’t follow the call. So I just answer his stare until he goes on speaking. "I haven’t talked like this in years, why should I start now?"
"Because," I inhale his scent deeply to show him my approval, "you haven’t talked like this for years. Besides, I have a task for you in mind, but I won’t tell you about it if I’m not convinced that you’re up to it." I expect him to say something like, ‘A task? Me?’ or the like, but none of it happens. He remains quiet instead, giving a slight nod to himself, and waiting for me to continue."This outburst of rage, does it happen to you very often?" "What do you mean?" "Has it happened to you before?" I repeat. Marcos seems to have come to a conclusion, and relaxes a little while answering: "It has, several times. But not for so long a time, not before." This makes me go on a bit bolder, "So – what are you gonna do about it?" "What do you mean?" He actually smiles.
Again, I patiently repeat my question. "What are you gonna do about it?"
"I don’t know." he shakes his head Greek fashion again, and adds: "You think I’ll find out while talking to you?"
"You might find out just that, yes."
Marcos leans back just a little bit, so we can look each other into the eyes, and says: "So, we talk."
Having delivered Agaros to Callum (and having told myself sternly not to eavesdrop), I feel at a loss as to what to do with myself. It is early evening, Callum is busy, so I wander up and down the hospital aisles for a few minutes, trying to put everything in perspective.
If all works out as planned, my dearly loved Callum will soon find out the facts about his new existence. I can only hope that he’ll continue to let me be a part of his new life rather than move on to brighter – and more beautiful – things. And judging by the fact that Agaros, whose very name means beautiful, is part of this world, I can’t help but wonder if Callum won’t be drawn to that and lose whatever blinders he’s been wearing to finally see me true.
Agaros. When I last saw him, millennia ago and on another continent, he was worlds removed from the angry, resigned man I encountered in that dark San Francisco alley. Back then, he was general of an army of Spartans, full of life and fight and possessed of an infectious smile. His men where proud to serve under him, and they loved him. He was irresistible.
What could have happened to him?
His immortal life, certainly. It is no easy thing to remain while all else passes, friends and lovers and even the cities and lands and rivers if you're around long enough. But, come to think of it, who is to say that Agaros wasn't immortal already when I knew him? Only with my Kindred senses am I able to tell the difference; when I was still human surely I couldn't.
No, it must have been something that happened recently, something Callum may be finding with his transcender's senses even now, and will probably cure him of. Then they'll build a relationship of teacher and student, and when Agaros regains his former charms, Callum will probably forget me. After all, what am I, compared to this man? I'm forced to hide in the shadows, slink around in the sewers, manipulate the world from below, and occasionally deliver Final Death to my fellow monsters, while Agaros stands in the light and led men into glorious battle to shape the history of mankind. He's as radiantly beautiful as I am ugly. No comparison. No competition.
Realizing I’m about to slip into completely unfounded depression, I give myself a mental shake. No need to borrow trouble.
Well, I’m here now, in the hospital, so I might as well use the time to bring what help I can to my children.
Little Johnny is still having nightmares. Like many children, he’s convinced that there are monsters under his bed. The easy solution to this problem is to tell him that there are no monsters. Of course, I can’t tell him that. I’d feel like a complete hypocrite. Besides, who would believe a man with fangs and talons, who doesn’t breathe or eat and looks like a monster, claiming that there are no monsters?
So I tell him that only a few monsters are really evil. Most are nice once you get to know them. And besides, they are more scared of him than he is of them. And the ones under his bed, who must be really tiny to fit under there, are most certainly not evil.
It’s not an ideal solution, but I’ll have to leave that to Callum.
Little Mandy only wants to be held. That, at least, is something I can do, and it will save Callum some time. She hasn’t been able to talk about what affects her so without breaking into tears, and then all she does is cling to whoever is close, for hours on end if we let her.
With an aching heart, I cradle her small body, her blonde little head buried in my shoulder. The first time I held her, she complained very softly about my cold hands, but this doesn’t seem to be a problem anymore. When she’s beginning to relax, I softly sing to her, using the powers of my Clan to calm her and put her to sleep.
Next, little Daniel.
As usual, his face lights up in greeting as he sees me. Compared to the other two, he looks cheerful and happy, and I realize that soon there will be no need anymore to let him remain here. We'll have to find him a good family that will be able to support and nourish his talents. It'll be a sad night to see him go, more so than the other children who didn't need us anymore.
"Daedalus," he says, suddenly subdued, "please tell me I can stay with you? Callum said that now that I'm well again, I'll have to be adopted, and he can't do that, so can you adopt me? Please?"
Once again, I'm at a loss for words, struck dumb by kindness.
"It's all right," he says, switching to ancient Greek. "I already figured out that you're a vampire. I don't mind. I love you, Daedalus. Let me stay with you. Please?"
I stare at him. "Child," I stammer, "I'd love to take you in. But it wouldn't be wise." I grind to a halt, searching for words.
"Why not?" he demands. "I bet I could learn lots of things from you. And I can be quiet, you wouldn't even know I'm there."
I smile sadly. "Trust me, I would always know you're there. The point is, you need to be among humans, Daniel. You need to learn about them, not about me. You need to travel, to experience the things you're reading about in your books." I gesture to his small library, full of books about cultures ancient and recent.
He looks at me out of big blue eyes. "Please."
I close my eyes against his pain. "I'm sorry, child. We will find someone for you, I promise. We won't let you go into an orphanage. I will take you in for the duration if that happens. But ultimately, you need someone who can teach you all the things I can't."
"You've already taught me to pronounce Attic Greek correctly," he says softly, and I realize he's right. After listening to me for a few nights, he now does sound like someone who lived two and a half thousand years ago, not like a modern scholar who learned the language from books. "Who else could have taught me that?"
I stare at him, an idea forming in my mind.
It is thus: And because it is almost epic, I will put it into a little mini-epos.
He came from another world. Out of the depths of the Greek wilderness, the ragged cliffs of an island long dead, the Minoan warrior rose to meet his final combat. He was filled with rage, a relentless fury about a death he could not fight, the loss of a friend he had not been able to keep. The Spartans, they say, were made of dragon teeth sown into a battlefield satiated with blood, and indeed, if anyone was worthy of this title, it was Marcos.
He stalked the world, trying to clench his thirst for revenge, yet unable to find comfort in the losses he caused. For ten years now, he has been on this futile journey of his, never coming to rest, never leaving his wounds to heal. When he strode along the Golden Gate Bridge, he was about to meet his one opponent who would bring this journey to an end.
Thing is, he never met this special opponent, his thirst for revenge not being of the sort that could ever be satiated. It was just another head he took. But then, he met Daedalus. My beloved Nosferatu friend could not help him, but he brought him here, and I could help him go through some of the stages that have made him feel that way for the last couple of years. Now he is sleeping, and I think he’s found some peace.
It is almost dawn, and I haven’t had any sleep, but I will start as soon as possible with the children today, because once Marcos is up again, I won’t find the time to talk to them. Something in my mind tells me that the next session with Marcos will be a long one, and what is more, one that won’t be interrupted.
Caring for the children has kept me busy all night; I'm surprised to feel dawn approaching. Maybe there's still time to find Callum and find out about the things he learned. I'm as curious as I've ever been about this new... species, is what I should probably call it.
Approaching his private quarters, I'm assailed by the thought that maybe he's not alone. Agaros had a certain reputation back when I knew him. Granted, he didn't look like initiating an affair would be the first thing on his mind, but I still hesitate before knocking.
Callum answers immediately, which instantly dispels my doubts.
"Oh, hi, Daedalus," he greets me as I enter. "I was just about to hit the sack."
"Do you have a few minutes?" I don't want to keep him from his sleep, but my curiosity will surely keep me up all day if I don't get at least some answers now.
"But of course, dear."
Once more, his unconditional affection for me almost flattens me. So far, repeated exposure to it doesn't lessen the effect, and I wonder if it ever will. "Have you learned anything to help you from Agaros?" I ask, fighting to keep my voice steady.
He looks confused. "What? Oh, Marcos. That’s his name now. Yep, quite enough actually."
Oh yes, Marcos. Reminding myself to stop using the old name, I look at Callum with undisguised eagerness. "Will you tell me about it?"
"In a nutshell: I’m immortal." He interrupts this startling revelation by stifling a yawn. "They chop off heads, collecting the energy that makes us go on and…" I nod as he trails off. Apparently, it was one of those fights I witnessed when I met Agaros – Marcos. "I will need someone who can teach me how to fight," Callum goes on. "With a sword. Just imagine. It’s just as Sean told me, everything. So… I bet I’ll be calling at Chao-dai’s some time this week, for he’s the one who shall be my teacher. Dramatic, uh?" He smiles at me, looking torn between making light of his new life and being intimidated by it.
I seize the one point of importance. "Are you in danger?" It certainly sounds like it. And if that duel I saw is any indication...
"What? Oh, no, not immediately. I’m still a cub, ya ken."
That almost makes sense, but in any society there are people – beings – who don't play by the rules. I vow then and there to protect him, at least for as long as he still can't protect himself. No sword-bearing immortal will get close to my Callum while I'm there to prevent it.
Starting now. I look around his living quarters, thinking about spending the day here. I can easily stay awake for a few more hours, and should he be attacked later, I would rather face Final Death myself than let Callum be killed while I rest and do nothing.
Callum's hand on my face interrupts my thoughts. Gently, he turns my face towards him. "You’re worried about me?"
I look into his eyes so close to mine. "Swords were mentioned. And the chopping off of heads. Of course I'm worried."
He smiles his loving smile that still has the power to stir my heart into beating. "How sweet."
No one has ever called me that before.
"D’you wanna stay?" he breathes, his hand still on my face, not letting me look away. "With me?"
"Yes," I force out.
And then I smile, all thoughts about Agaros or even hiding my ugly teeth discarded, and, wrapping Callum in my arms, I lift him up and carry him to his bed.
It is only until later in the day that the full extent of my folly becomes apparent to me. Now that Callum is asleep at last, I realize that of course I can't spend the day here, in this easily accessible room where any mortal may walk in and see me at any time. I should have known that immediately, and I feel an upsurge of anger at myself. Obviously, Callum not only inspires me to make rash decisions, he also keeps me from second-guessing myself.
Or even from thinking clear thoughts. Gods, it must be almost noon already, and I feel like I'm only now becoming aware of the enormous risk I'm taking. I begin to disentangle myself from him and look around to find my clothes, but then I pause to look down on his naked body.
Did we really...?
A visceral memory assails me, of his hands and mouth on me, evoking pleasure so intense as I only ever felt it back in those nights when killing for blood was not an offense punishable by Final Death. Oh, the ecstasy of completely draining a vessel – I had thought this incomparable feeling was forever lost to me when I swore to uphold the Traditions and joined the Camarilla all those centuries ago.
Callum... he touched me – and -
If this is what sex is about, then I instantly forgive Julian for all his transgressions. Even more, I'm going to pester him until he accepts my most humble apology for every scornful thought I ever had about his dalliances, of which there were many. Scornful thoughts, that is. And dalliances too, certainly.
He touched me, put his hand on me, and then he moved his fingers -
I finally locate the rest of my clothes and sit back down on the bed to slip on the leather inlays that protect my shoes from my talons. They're in a sorry condition and will have to be replaced soon. Strange. They usually last longer than a month, but considering how much I've been up and about these last weeks, I probably shouldn't be surprised. Behind me, I hear Callum stir in his sleep.
He put his... mouth on me... and sucked -
The hems of my pants are dirty. Strange. I can’t remember when that happened. We used Harold’s car coming here, and I haven’t been traveling the sewers since. Be that as it may, I certainly can't go to Julian looking like this... or smelling like this. We're both covered in... body fluids. I can't just put on my clothes. I look over to the bathroom door. Maybe a quick shower...
Which is where I first felt Callum's body close to mine, and his hands on my -
There's a taste of blood in my mouth. Did I...? No. I bit my own hand at one point; I remember that.
On the heels of this memory follows a confusing impression of myself lying on top of Callum, and of pleasure so acute that the memory of it overwhelms all else, but I seem to recall rhythmic movement, and Callum's hands gliding down my back, parting my -
I growl. Stop this, you ugly, lovesick fool! You're up on the surface, you're alone without backup, it's day, you've got to stop this pathetic behavior and move!
I finally scrape up the presence of mind to take a quick shower and dress without becoming distracted again. Callum has slept through all of it – he must be exhausted, and I feel remorse for further keeping him from his rest with my purely selfish needs.
And yet, I know I would do it again. I need him. I love him.
To be continued...