Sparkling blue eyes, crisp like rushing water—Saoirse stood before her lover. She reveled in his strange appearance; his inflamed nostrils and enlarged, pointed teeth. She reached up and felt his face and wondered how his cold touch had never alarmed her before.
“I won’t ask you to stay,” he maintained. “I won’t ask anything of you.”
Saoirse stood firm while taking in every inch of him. His hands were patiently sitting at his thighs, his head tilted toward her. She listened to him breathe, watched the way his body opened and closed in again. His melody captivated her inner senses and drove her desires—just as it always had.
“I’m not afraid of you,” she gleamed. “I knew you were different. I’ve known for a while.”
The vampire hid his eyes momentarily, then he returned to her. “I hope you understand. This isn’t something I can easily share.”
“I’m not upset, Lucius, really,” she furthered. “I’m fascinated.”
Lucius lifted Saoirse’s hand to his lips and pressed her skin to his for a long pause. There, in their bedroom, Saoirse sat with her toes twisting inside her socks. She could feel him breathing, feel the warmth of air flow between their bodies. “May I?” he requested. With a nod, Saoirse watched Lucius’ canine teeth slowly protrude into sharp points that he then licked with his tongue.
Rotating her hand to see the inside of her wrist, Lucius neared her skin for another kiss. The room was darkened due to the walnut woodwork and steel-gray walls. From the corner of the bed—where Lucius sat—cloud light raged in. Hovering only inches from her skin, Lucius could smell her blood, hear her tender pulse beat with anticipation; his eyes closed and his voice murmured. Quick and sharp, his fangs entered her; the pain followed seconds after.
“Make me like you,” she whispered to him as he drank. Lucius thought about it, but then lifted his mouth and licked his lips. The wound—two small holes—sealed over without a scar. Saoirse’s eyes befell his face, then followed through to the floor. Her brow soft, her shoulders limp; the moment disappointed.
“Now isn’t the time,” he cleared, standing and leaving the room. He remembered the last time she asked. It wasn’t long after he revealed himself to her.
“When will it be?” she asked, gentle as she followed him. She looked over her wrist and wished she could still see the mark. In the bathroom, as Lucius rinsed his lips and checked the mirror, Saoirse wrapped her fingers together at her waist. She watched the watery blood swirl in the sink, then drain down as the moment was all gone.
“I’ll know,” he replied without looking to her, leaving the bathroom and her in silence.
“Don’t be like this,” she purred. “Don’t put your wall up.”
“I’m not,” still, with eyes to the magazine in his hands. He sat on the couch and slouched in. Saoirse examined him. His jeans were dark, socks deep blue. He wore a buttoned blue shirt beneath a navy sweater. Even if he had dripped, no one would see.
At the balcony door, Saoirse grabbed her long, knitted, open sweater and stepped outside. The crisp air of February was fogged that day, the sun held deep behind the abyss. She breathed in the air and wondered what it would feel like to be the same as Lucius. To see colors in the atmosphere, to smell the air in dimensions; she thought about the sun and the night.
Between the waving curtains, she could see him reading. He always read. She wanted to commit, but his hesitations grew with each passing day. Then, watching as Lucius flipped the page, Saoirse thought of other things she hadn’t yet considered. During their time together, she hadn’t seen him angry. She never saw him harbor some hidden strength, nor had she witnessed a moment of desperation due to hunger.
“Can you survive without it?” she inquired, stepping back into the apartment. Lucius looked up with a tilted gaze. His eyes listened, beaming to her in a steady flow of curiousness. “I’ve given my blood a few times, but only when you want it. It never seems like you need it.”
Of course I need it,” he cleared. “I can’t survive without the nutrients, but, no, I don’t need much.”
“Do you live long?” she went on.
Putting down the magazine, Lucius realized he hadn’t told Saoirse his story. “I was born in 1624,” he said; Saoirse’s mouth opened like a blossom.
“That’s amazing,” she smiled, stepping closer to the couch.
“I’m the oldest in the area,” he informed. “That I know of.”
Standing with the cool air hitting her skin, Saoirse shivered. Lucius looked to her, registering her humanity with complacent eyes.
“Come here,” he spoke, folding the magazine and putting it on the side table. Saoirse pulled her sweater tight around her waist and crossed her arms. Her feet slid on the floor as she approached him, falling into the thick fabric at his side. With an arm around her dainty frame, Lucius pulled Saoirse close.
“Why do you keep refusing me?” her eyes begged an answer from below his chin.
“I know you aren’t ready.”
“Were you ready?” she countered, following him as she had before. Lucius opened the cabinet and pulled a glass from a rack made of acacia wood. He then slid open the wine drawer from below the counter. The cooled, separated drawer was suddenly lit by a glowing blue light. Lucius pulled a bottle of Pinot Grigio from the far left and then closed the drawer. He set the bottle on the counter and it started to fog. With both hands firm on the counter, his body leaning to the marble for support, Lucius closed his eyes tight.
“No one asked me if this was what I wanted,” he nearly whispered, only opening his eyes once his words had settled. “No one gave me a choice.”
Silence coated the two as the apartment grew dark; the cloud light had almost entirely faded. Lucius took hold of the bottle and pulled the cork from the top. Only a third of the wine remained. He poured half a glass, replaced the cork, then replaced the bottle. When he lifted the glass to his mouth, Lucius took in the air around the liquid, noting the exotic aroma in his mind. He could smell each grape, smell the leaves from the vine, feel the warmth of the sun from the fields in California. Then he sipped.
“Who did you drink from before me?” Saoirse’s words cut the air like a knife. Lucius, nearly choking, swallowed hard.
“Excuse me?” he fought to clear his throat.
“That’s a long story,” he said, leaving the room and reclaiming his position on the couch.
“I don’t mean long before,” she followed. “I mean in the fall.”
Lucius drew in a slow breath, then he set the glass onto the side table. Saoirse could see his temples flame as he clenched his teeth tight together. She plopped beside him, eyes wide and eager.
“I do,” she clipped his words.
Lucius exhaled through his nose and then turned his body in her direction. Without looking her in the eye, he spoke. “I have a friend.”
“A mortal friend?” curiously asked. The vampire nodded, then matched her gaze with his own. Saoirse tilted her head.
“I met her two years ago,” he furthered. “She’s discreet, kind, and wants only to help.”
“And what does she get in return?”
“Health,” Lucius completed with his signature tone, one of depth and dimension. After a strong, concentrated stare from the mortal, one that made him certain his words weren’t clear, Lucius explained. “She has multiple sclerosis. My blood keeps the degeneration at bay.”
Saoirse licked her lips and nodded. The kindness Lucius held was one major reason she had fallen for him. “How often?”
“Once a week,” he leaned back. “I give her a vial of my blood; enough for her to take at will. She allows me to drink from her wrist.”
“For two years?”
“And you’ll continue?”
Saoirse rested her shoulder to the back of the couch and exhaled. “I want to do that,” her words fell delicately over his ears. “Help someone. Give them hope, make life easy, easier at least.” The corner of her mouth turned up as she thought more of the possibilities. Lucius moved up, placed his elbows on his knees and studied her face as she drifted further in thought. “Yes, I think I do,” she went on. Her hand wrapped in his as he grew eager; mouth open, eyes shifting. “Lucius, make me like you.”
“Saoirse,” the vampire spoke carefully in the darkened apartment. Lucius’ eyes scanned for the woman, listening to every sound no matter the intensity. “I’ve brought you something.”
Walking from the bedroom, Saoirse entered Lucius’ view with swollen eyes. Her hair was tied back, her lazy attire was well-worn. She desired sleep, but the pain kept her from any form of peace.
“Is it another mechanism?” she taunted. “Another toy?” her voice brittle, her eyes perked with a slanted smile. She tiptoed toward him as her fingers traced the wall. “Rope?” her brow raised as Lucius lowered his head. “Chain?” she laughed after a pause of silence. With a wrinkle over her nose and tight eyes peering intently, she uttered through her teeth, “Medication?”
“I’m finished with all that,” Lucius returned, hurried and unable to face her. “I brought you something… fresh,” he cleared, his eyes just then finding hers. In the faint light coming from the window, from between the heavy curtains, Lucius could see new scratches on Saoirse’s arms. “What is this?” he demanded rushing to her. “What are these?”
Saoirse grinned as tears slid down her face. Lucius pulled the woman—not mortal, not vampire—to the door at the balcony. He forced the curtains to one side and raised the woman’s arm high into the light. She jerked and turned her head. Her eyes pinched tight; a wave of pain flooded the area behind and around her eyes. Lucius paid no attention to her moaning as he examined her body.
“Will this ever stop?” he breathed. “Will you ever be the same?”
“I’m very different,” the woman mouthed to him. Her voice was light and cool, whispering from somewhere Lucius had not yet been. “You know that.”
Her arms still tight in his hands, Lucius dragged Saoirse to the couch and sat her down. She coiled into herself as she looked to the gray outside. Hurried, with complete focus, the man opened the door to a young woman.
“I’m not sure this is smart,” he whispered to her.
“I’ve done this before,” she returned. “Not only for Joss, but for Jack, too.”
Lucius thought to himself for a moment before nodding. He closed the door behind the woman and then approached Saoirse. “I’ve brought a friend for you,” he told his love. “Her name is Ariadne.”
“You can call me Ari,” she cleared with a smile as she sat beside Saoirse. It was the first time the woman had laid eyes on a mortal since receiving the virus. She had never heard the sound of a heart so loudly in her ears. Never tasted the scent of human from the air alone. It interested her, intrigued her mind.
“She’ll let you drink, it’ll help,” Lucius furthered. “The virus only takes you so far,” he knelt before Saoirse, but her eyes were still fixed on the mortal. “You have to drink the blood for nourishment. Remember?”
Saoirse slowly turned her head to face the vampire, and as she did, a tender grin crept across her face. Lucius copied, then looked to Ari to know that she was ready. Removing her jacket, the mortal revealed bare arms from the elbows down. Her olive skin was warm as Lucius took hold of her wrist. The pumping sensation, the rush of blood—it tore at his innermost desire and his fangs slid outward.
Ari’s eyes gleamed in amazement to the world she couldn’t believe was true. She waited with patience as Lucius lifted her wrist to his mouth and inhaled her mortal air. Though it was long passed, he could smell the caramel syrup used as topping at the coffee bar. He could smell the persimmon and sandalwood from her lotion, the strawberry jam she had eaten for breakfast. His grip tightened and her pulse increased.
Saoirse hadn’t yet developed fangs. They were growing, it would take time. But Lucius was there to help. He bit down on Ari’s wrist in an effortless motion that gave her nearly no pain. She tipped her head back, her blond locks waving down her back, and bit her lip. When Lucius lifted, the crimson flow dripped down his chin. His eyes opened, fully black and deep, and he looked directly to Saoirse with a force that made her cave.
Lifting the mortal’s arm toward his love, Lucius waited for Saoirse to drink. She hovered over the liquid while Ari continued to slumber in a trance of bliss. No longer thinking the same as she had months before, Saoirse concerned herself with only the end result. No more wondering about strange abilities, or the emotions that followed. She wanted to feel vibrant and strong as she once had—better.
“Thank you,” Saoirse mouthed. Lucius understood her pain, but even his transformation wasn’t as intense. But now he felt relief, believing Saoirse could heal and recover once the nourishment began.
Steady, without hesitation, Saoirse took Ari’s wrist to her mouth and pulled the blood from her flesh. For several seconds, she drank as if thirst had riddled her for days. And in part it had. Lucius couldn’t take her into the open city, she was too unstable. But here, in their home, he felt that she was safe.
“We’ll be late,” Lucius called to his love. In the bedroom, Saoirse had just put her earrings in and was scurrying to find her lip gloss.
“I’m ready,” she yelled back, rushing into the living room and taking her coat from Lucius’ hands. As she turned to face him, he kissed her lips with strength and a lasting pause.
Walking quickly down the sidewalk, large snowflakes caked on Saoirse and Lucius’ hair and coats. Running toward the pub, the edges of their pant legs turned dark with moisture. At the entrance—typically full of flower baskets and little tables in the summer—Lucius held open the door and Saoirse stepped in.
“Lucius!” a man from a table against the far wall called out. The pub was full of people, laughter and the smell of food. Lucius went toward the man with a grin he couldn’t contain.
“Dimitri!” Lucius boasted then took the man in his arms. “Saoirse, this is Dimitri, an old friend of mine,” the vampire introduced them.
“It’s so beautiful in here,” Saoirse spoke, her eyes following the woodwork of the pub.
“Where’s Helena?” Lucius asked.
“Just up there,” Dimitri eyed the bar. His date, a woman with short dark hair and round cheekbones, turned to face her companion with a gracious smile. Saoirse continued to take in the splendor while a commotion took her attention.
At a table near the door, a tall man with loose brown hair and tawny eyes stood just as a glass shattered across the floor. The pub grew silent, save for the murmuring music overhead. At the bar, the woman tending drinks gave a glare to the man sitting on the last stool. Without break, he rose and approached the man who had created the mess.
The noise slowly filtered back in as the two men walked outside. Saoirse eyed the bartender once more and watched as she inhaled with frustration and worry.
“Traveling again?” Lucius asked and then drank from his glass. Helena had brought four tall beers to the table.
“He has a list of… what is it, two-hundred cities?” Helena laughed. “He wants to visit them all within the year.”
“Sounds exhausting,” Lucius went on, and everyone but Saoirse laughed. Her eyes were still fixed on the bartender. With Lucius’ hand taking hers beneath the table, her concentration finally broke.
“Have you been abroad lately?” Dimitri asked his friend. “Revisited Europe? Rome or Sicily?” the man pushed with sharp eyes. Lucius kept his composure, though the breadth of his nature—his very existence—was a secret to the one he loved. Dimitri drank a long drink and then changed the subject.
“Yes, it is packed in here tonight,” Helena agreed with him. “But it is New Year’s Eve.” Again, the smiles encompassed the group. Again, Saoirse’s attention was elsewhere. She watched as the bartender exchanged words with the man she had entrusted to handle the situation. The table where the commotion occurred was now vacant.
“I’ll be right back,” Saoirse whispered to Lucius, then she discreetly followed the bartender to the bathroom.
In the small bathroom, with only two stalls and a tiny sink, Saoirse closed the door and crossed her arms. She waited for the woman to step out of the stall and then she spoke.
“What is he?” Saoirse swallowed.
“Sorry?” the bartender returned. She went to the sink and washed her hands, but Saoirse didn’t move from the door.
“I know you know,” the mortal furthered.
“I think maybe you’ve had enough for one night,” the bartender reached for the handle, but Saoirse made it clear she wasn’t moving.
“I ask because I’ve seen it,” Saoirse explained. “I’ve seen the veins darken, the pupils dilate. I’ve seen those blackened eyes peering back,” she swallowed again. “I know he’s different. I know what he is.”
The bartender—Naomi—leaned back and breathed out. “Then you know to keep it to yourself.”
“Lucius,” Saoirse cried out in the night. The bedroom curtain blew in the spring wind as Lucius woke. “Lucius,” again she cried out, this time with strain in her voice. He quickly left the bed and met her in the bathroom. There, over the toilet, the woman was spitting up blood. “I don’t feel—,” her words cut as she choked up blood. Lucius took in a deep breath and pulled her hair from her face.
“It’ll pass,” he swore.
“It doesn’t feel right,” she mumbled as her shaking hand gripped the edge of the sink. She lifted her body up from the floor, then fell to her knees and into his arms.
“Just sit here,” he told, leaving toward the kitchen in a rush. When he returned, he had a small glass jar of blood. Saoirse shook her head and pushed the container away. “It’ll help, I promise.”
“I can’t,” whispering, the woman’s eyes were wet and pink. “I can’t.”
Lucius sat at her side and held her until she felt sick again. He took the white towel from the bar above the toilet and wiped her face. Then they sat together again. After the uneasiness passed, Lucius offered a bath.
“You’re too good to me,” Saoirse spoke in the steam of the closed room. Her pale, freckled skin hid beneath milky water. Lucius lifted the loofah from the water and slid it over her back as she closed her eyes.
“I’ve caused you this pain,” he corrected, his tone sharp.
“You didn’t force this upon me,” she declared. Turning to face the vampire and his solemn gaze, Saoirse let a smile show through before the uncertainty crept in. “Do you regret it?”
Lucius’ eyes landed on hers steadily and with purpose. “I will never regret making you mine.”
In the bedroom, Lucius set Saoirse into the sheets and covered her tight. After sliding beside her, the vampire wrapped his arm over her body and pulled her close to his chest. There they lay, tangled and afraid.
The morning sun rose and sent a glowing golden light into the bedroom. Lucius’ eyes opened and stared directly out the window. Holding tight to Saoirse’s cold hand, Lucius’ eyes swelled. His entire bedroom was aglow; warmth flooded over his skin and over his face. He pulled her hand to his mouth and let the tears fall as he kissed her skin. Still, he was unable to look at his love. To know that her delicate heart was not strong enough to cradle his poison.
“Aren’t you handsome?” Saoirse spoke up in a crowded bar. Far from his apartment, Lucius had chosen that October night to venture deep into the city. There, with a sound he hadn’t heard in a long time, came a woman with flowing strawberry locks and glistening blue eyes.
“Ireland?” he ushered in her direction. With a smile, Saoirse’s eyes captured him with little effort.
“And you’re from… let me guess,” she teased. “Manhattan?” In her hand, she twirled a short glass of fizzy, pale-yellow liquid.
“Currently, yes,” he agreed. She leaned her head and examined his face. His eyes were comforting, bringing her in deep and keeping her still. Cheekbones high and slender, lips perfectly plump, as they should be, she imagined.
“Uh,” he hesitated. Years had passed since he remembered his original home. All the people had gone. The society completely changed. Statues altered, landscapes renewed, gods forgotten. “Argos, in Greece.”
“Far from home,” she popped, then lifted her glass for a long sloshy gulp.
“What is that?” Lucius raised a brow.
“A sunbeam,” she purred. “It’s tart, but sweet.”
Lucius leaned in and took a long sniff. “Grapefruit and… honey?”
“Come sit with me,” she compelled.
“I don’t want to bother you,” Lucius smiled politely with a flick of his brow.
“You look lonely,” Saoirse asserted. “You’re too handsome to be alone.”
Lucius blinked heavily, leaning away from the wooden post that had held him up for over an hour. He could smell the ingredients of Saoirse’s sunbeam from the air she breathed. An hour later, in the darkened bathroom, while the music of the bar drummed through the wall, Saoirse whispered in Lucius’ ear, “Don’t stop.” The vampire tasted Saoirse’s neck as his hands traveled over her body. “Don’t ever stop.”