The morning sun filtered in over Lou as she lay in Jack’s arms. It was unusually cool for September, but still it was Lou’s favorite time of year. The park was in her mind then, and even though she knew she’d have to wear something warm, the day would be beautiful.
“Why doesn’t the sun bother you?” she asked the vampire.
With a moan, the man nestled in tighter to her body and kissed her bare shoulder. “It does, but only when I’m starved.” Lou gazed out the window and watched wispy clouds flow under the cerulean sky. “I’m not a monster from the devil’s mind. And the sun isn’t a weapon of god.”
Lou glanced to the ring on her finger and smiled. “Do you have a ring?”
“It’s in the top drawer,” he spoke. Lou couldn’t see his eyes from where she lay, but he was looking to the dresser.
“Is it like mine?”
The vampire kissed his mortal’s shoulder again, trailing down her upper arm. She closed her eyes and reached up to feel his hair in her hand. “I know there’s things you won’t tell me,” she whispered. Jack lifted his lips from her body and watched as she rolled to face him. “I want you to know that it’s okay.”
Jack’s eyes lifted to the wall and then he rolled to his back. The silence ate away Lou. She pulled the sheet over her chest and leaned onto him.
“I didn’t mean to—”
“I hurt you,” he whispered. Lou’s eyes searched his face for answers, but he was still. “You won’t ever remember it.”
“I can’t let you feel that pain again. I won’t.”
Lou swallowed hard, then stood from the bed. Jack couldn’t face her, he couldn’t look over the body he adored. His eyes kept to the window and to his thoughts that now clouded his mind.
“Did you feed too long?” Lou queried. “Did you drain me? Were you trying to,” and she paused. The thought of him turning her into a creature like himself gave her chills. It would forever link her to him, no matter how many times he chose to flee from fear of harming her. She would always feel him close, know his nearness unlike any other. And what nearness would it entail. She understood from Eli’s desire to seek Mara that the emotions and sensations of a vampire ran strong.
Jack, curious to her thoughts, caught Lou’s eyes with his own piercing onyx stare. His slender lids creased tight, irises fixated, whites brighter than cloudlight—Lou felt her heart skip. And then he was up and out of the room before she could say a word.
Clothed and hair brushed, Lou stood at the window watching birds swirl around the air. The city seemed calm, but her mind couldn’t rest. She didn’t want to talk to Jack about the incident, she didn’t care what had happened or why he had to save her by his blood. She wanted to know why he was afraid to make her his own.
Buzzing from the dresser drew Lou’s attention from her thoughts. A text from Ari read, “Flowers ready! Let’s get lunch and pick them up.” Footsteps from the hall, closing in, slowly making their way toward Lou; the mortal stepped back to the bathroom door and held her breath. In her heart, she believed she knew what he was about to do.
“Can we talk?” Jack spoke lightly as he stepped up and paused. Lou shook her head. Another step close and Lou retreated. “Are you afraid of me?” Lou shook her head again. Jack’s mouth sealed tight as he exhaled through his nose. Lou, seeing one possible outcome, fled to the bathroom and locked the door just as Jack pressed to it in a loud thud.
“Open the door, Lou,” he spoke without infliction.
“I can’t, you know I can’t.”
“Why are you scared?” he assumed by the brittle tone in Lou’s voice.
“You know why,” mumbling, Lou pressed her forehead to the door opposite Jack’s hand.
“Let me in,” the vampire whispered. Silence answered him. “Lou, let me in.”
“Make me yours,” Lou spoke through the wood. Only a vampire’s ears could clearly hear her words. Jack, feeling the weight of uncertainty flood his veins, stepped away from the door. His arms and hands were heavy, his legs grew numb. The words he longed to hear for so long were there, pleasantly swimming in his ears, warming his cold heart. And as a whispering wind encased his ears, his lover’s voice echoed deep in his mind, “Or let me go.”
Jack stomped to the door, taking the handle with precision and breaking the lock entirely. Lou stood inside the room, glossy tiles of blue reflected on her skin as Jack took in the sight. Blushed cheeks, sore eyes; Lou was in pain.
“I know you want to run,” she spoke. “I know you’ll take it all away again,” her words stammering, fighting for breath. “And that’s fine. But don’t come to me again if you do,” her head shook. “Don’t ever come back.”
Jack, without a sound, breathed in the air surrounding their bodies and could taste the sweetness of his lover. All that he adored, the strawberry gloss she often wore, the lingering scent of rich ristrettos, the salt from the docks weeks ago—Jack captured it all in seconds. The vampire closed his eyes and made his decision. One step into the room where Lou stood and Jack had the mortal on edge. Lou’s heart pulsed erratically, her mouth dried.
The coldness of Jack’s touch embraced Lou’s face with delicacy. The mortal shuddered with waves of uncertainty. Jack’s hand left a soothing sensation, yet his presence filled Lou with fear.
Jack’s hand slid down Lou’s arm and took hold of her wrist. He wrapped his fingers over Lou’s skin and clamped tight. With his other hand, Jack traced the veins on Lou’s inner arm until they glowed in the shadowy room. Lou watched the blood circulate from her elbow down to where Jack held. At his thumb, blood pooled beneath the skin. Lou curled her fingers in and then out as a numbing coolness spread through her skin.
Glancing to the vampire before her, Lou realized Jack’s eyes were swollen, his nostrils, too. The scent of her life—what made her alive—filled the mind of the creature who now held her tight. Often, she had forgotten that he was different. They could go to dinner, walk in the park, visit friends, all of which were completely ordinary. Nothing brought his vampirism into light except when he needed nourishment. Never had she felt his strength like she was now.
Humming, Jack’s voice crept from between his lips and into the air. His moans, his desire to have her blood appeared to overwhelm his every sense. Human nature, that long lost reaction to inhumane actions, was fleeting fast. Her hand numb in his, her eyes locked to his onyx stare; Lou waited for him to act.
Sharp points emerged from below Jack’s upper lip—the sharp tips of vampire teeth. Lou drew in a steep breath that made her lungs tingle. If she tried to stop him, it’d be nearly impossible; his nature was in control now. As he lowered his head to her wrist, her heart jumped sending pulsing rushes of blood—more blood—right to his fingertips.
“Be still, little bird,” he murmured as he gazed up to Lou. The mortal swallowed with a tight jaw and gave a rapid nod. She could see the light from the window shimmer off Jack’s eyes. She knew that he was performing an act of great responsibility, great meaning. And that he was doing it all for her.
“Make me yours,” she whispered. Jack’s eyes shot straight up to hers, then he quickly lifted her wrist to his nose and inhaled. Jack opened his mouth and bit down on her flesh without hesitation. All of the blood that had pooled at his fingers was then smeared over his mouth and falling to the floor. He drank deep, pulled all that he could from her vein, and he enjoyed himself.
Lou watched with anticipation as her vampire’s skin brightened and his eyes darkened. She waited for the moment when she would feel the poison—Jack’s poison—flow through her skin and into her veins. She wondered if it would stop her heart, if her body would give out. Jack continued to drink, quicker and with more volume in each gulp. Lou watched on until weakness overcame her limbs.
The mortal ran her fingers—cool and without sensation—through Jack’s hair and he paused. Lou began to speak, but instead fell into his arms. His strength renewed, Jack lifted his mortal and carried her to the bed.
“Sleep, little bird,” he whispered in her ear. The wound he had just created was slow to heal. Jack took his place at Lou’s side and examined her skin. Blood had clotted beneath the skin, but the bite was nasty and tore through her flesh without care. Jack hadn’t left a scar on a mortal in years. He hadn’t felt such passion, such desire in so long he’d almost forgotten the drive.
Jack watched Lou sleep, watched her dream. He ran his fingers down her long hair, caressing her face and her neck. She slept peacefully and without pain. And as the vampire remembered saving the mortal from her death that fateful winter night, tears fell from his eyes.
The feeling of a kiss, lips pressing down to her own, woke Lou. Laying in her bed, the sting of a hangover filled her head.
“I thought you’d never get up,” Ari laughed. The woman sat on the edge of Lou’s bed with her legs crossed.
“What happened?” Lou sat up and rubbed her eyes.
“Well, you called me last night from the pub. I brought you home, but you were really drunk,” Ari laughed again. She stood and went to the kitchen for a glass of water. Lou, however, didn’t remember the night just as Ari explained. Flashes, memories from what had happened flooded her mind. She was at the pub, talking to people she couldn’t quite remember. She was arguing with someone—a man.
“Was I alone?” Lou furthered.
“Yeah,” Ari handed the water to her friend and walked to the window.
Ari exhaled and crossed her arms. “He stopped coming by,” Ari mumbled. “He won’t answer my calls.”
Lou leaned forward and squeezed her eyes shut. “Parker?” she questioned with uncertainty.
Ari nodded. “I don’t understand why, but I feel like… like he and I had something. Not just love, or passion, but a stronger bond. A reason to need each other.”
Lou tried to remember Parker’s face, rubbing her head as it throbbed, seeing the bandage over her wrist for the first time. “What is this?”
“Oh,” Ari turned to face her friend. “When I got to the pub you already had it wrapped up. It was bleeding through so Ryan cleaned it up. I tried to ask you about it, but you wouldn’t listen.”
“Why was I there?”
Ari shrugged. “I don’t know. I got a text from you.”
Lou set her feet on the floor and sighed. “The flowers…” she trailed.
“The flowers,” Lou repeated with a burst of anxiety. She tore at the bandage on her wrist as Ari argued the reasons to leave it alone. “That jerk!”
“Who?” Ari followed Lou to the bathroom where Lou ran cold water in the sink. She rinsed her wound and could barely make out the two distinct spots where Jack had pierced her skin with his teeth.
“I can’t believe him,” Lou went on as she took a towel from the wall and wrapped her arm. “I can’t believe he did it again. And that… I actually remember.”
“Remember what?” Ari followed Lou to the kitchen. Near the door sat two pairs of sandals and a pair of running shoes. Lou slipped on the sandals and rushed to open the door. Ari, however, slammed the door shut with her hand.
“Get out of the way!” Lou shouted.
“You were really messed up last night,” Ari’s eyebrows perked up. “Whatever you think happened, might not have. You should seriously rest.”
“I’m not hungover, Ari. I was used.”
“What do you mean? Did some guy—”
Lou shook her head and crossed her arms. “No, of course not. I’m fine, it’s just… I can’t really explain it right now.”
“Then I’ll come with you.”
“I know they haven’t taken your memories,” Lou whispered to Ryan as he leaned on the bar with his elbows. Ari had gone to the bathroom and the pub was nearly empty.
“I don’t know what you mean,” Ryan stated and then looked to the couple adjacent to the bar. They were drinking Long Island Iced Teas and eating an onion blossom.
“She’s one of them,” Lou pointed directly to Tatiana, who was standing in the kitchen behind Ryan. “You might have been threatened, sworn to secrecy, or whatever he asked, but I know you’re on my side.”
“Yes, and I’m on hers,” Ryan looked to the bathroom. “She isn’t feeding that monster and he isn’t using her either. It’s not a hard choice Lou.”
Lou looked down at the melting ice in her glass of soda. She stood from the bar and found Tatiana staring with big eyes. “You might have saved Ari this time, but it’s who she is. She’ll find another Parker.”
“Another who?” Ryan stood tall. He turned to Tatiana and she quickly looked away. “Parker?”
“She doesn’t even remember him.”
“I do,” Ryan’s eyes seemed to glaze over, as if he were lost in thought.
“Was it Jack? Did he take it all away?” Lou pressed. “Did he hold her still while she begged to remember? While you watched from your stupid corner?” Lou’s voice carried until the couple adjacent to the bar turned to see. Lou covered her eyes with her hand and then started to laugh.
“What is it?” Ari stepped up behind Lou.
“Ask Ryan about Parker,” Lou insisted. “He knows more than you’d think.”
Lou then left the pub and walked down the street alone. She took in the sun and paused to feel the wind. Then she realized she was near a familiar building. And even though she wanted to storm inside and shout at Jack, she refrained. He had made his choice, a choice she didn’t see coming. And even though it was one she offered, it hurt no less.
Lou’s door burst open that evening and a distraught Ari blew inside like a storm. “I hit him, Lou. I hit real hard.” Lou jumped from the small loveseat to find her friend pacing around franticly. “I mean, hard. But of course, she was there to save him.”
“My brother. My fucking brother!”
“Did you hurt him?”
“Of course, Lou. I hit him with the bat he keeps behind his bar,” Ari spat out and then plopped onto the loveseat. With a heavy exhale, Ari rubbed the hair from her face. “I started to remember things. Things that I, I had even kept from you. Last year, I knew all about Jack. I was asked to be quiet, and I listened.” Ari sat back and shook her head. “I’m so sorry, Lou.”
“It’s okay,” Lou sat beside her friend.
“No, it’s not.”
“How did you remember?”
Ari leaned back and closed her eyes. “I asked him about Parker like you said. He seemed really upset. But I kept asking. The more I thought about him, the more I could recall. And then that witch Tatiana came out and told me to leave. I was so angry at Ryan. He just stood there while she said what she wanted.”
“Why did you hit him?”
“I remembered what Parker was. Ryan wouldn’t admit to it, he wouldn’t admit to Tatiana being one either. So, I had to prove it.”
Lou leaned back and laughed.
“It didn’t look too funny, Lou.”
“No, I’m sure it didn’t,” Lou agreed, still smiling. “But, you hit your brother with a bat to prove that his girlfriend was a vampire. It’s a little funny.”
Ari grinned. “It’s unbelievable. So, are you going to confront Jack? Wait,” Ari leaned up and grabbed Lou’s arm with force. She lifted the sweater sleeve high and looked over the wound. “He did this to you, didn’t he?” Lou could only nod. “Is that why you were mad?”
“No. I was mad because I thought he was going to give me his poison. Make me his own. But instead he left.” Ari and Lou both found themselves staring off to the wall. Again, they laughed. “What about Parker?”
“Honestly, I don’t know,” Ari’s brow lifted. “I really want to see him again. But I have no idea where to start.”
“I think I do.”
Eli opened his apartment door and then slammed it shut upon seeing Lou.
“I know you won’t talk to me,” Lou shouted. “That’s why we’re here to see Naomi.” After a moment of silence, the door creaked open.
“He’s not far from here. He’ll never let me see the sun again if I let you in,” Eli muttered with his eyes honed to Lou’s.
“The sun’s overrated,” Naomi smiled from behind her vampire lover. She flipped her jacket on and stepped out into the hall. “Don’t wait up.”
“I’m so happy to hear that we’re not alone,” Lou exhaled. The three women were sitting at the dock with their toes in the water. The city glistened in the water, lights bouncing from gentle waves, shades scattering out into the darkness.
“I think it was the third or fourth time he drank from me,” Naomi recounted. “Every time—I know remember—he would erase the memory. That last time, though, something stayed with me. And when I saw him again, I knew it all.”
“Did you tell him?” Ari begged.
Naomi shook her head and looked to the water. “Not at first. Eli’s, well, he’s not like Jack,” she smiled. “Eli loved Mara for a long time. Even though he used me as an escape, and mostly since she couldn’t feed him, I wasn’t very important.”
“You are now,” Ari completed.
“Yeah,” Naomi agreed with a long exhale. “But it took time. It took a long time. The good news is that he can’t take the memories anymore.”
“He can’t?” Lou gasped. Naomi shook her head. “You remembered everything from then on?”
“I did,” Naomi leaned back on her palms and looked to the stars. “But I still don’t remember everything from before.”
“Does it bother you?” Lou asked, her eyes large and searching.
“Not really,” spoken with the realization that she hadn’t known her feelings before, Naomi shrugged. “I guess I’m just happy. I just want to be happy.”
“Well, I’m not,” Lou snarled.
“Neither am I,” Ari chimed.
“Both of them?” Jack nearly choked on the ice in his glass. Eli, with an uneasy glare, nodded, then he gulped from his glass. “Do they know? How’d they find out? They can’t know,” Jack rambled with varying faces of uncertainty and confusion.
“They’ve become immune,” Eli advised.
“No,” the taller vampire refused.
“They showed up at my door without an inch of doubt. And they told Naomi everything.”
Jack shrugged, shaking his head and frowning at the idea.
“She always flies home,” Eli laughed to himself.
“You damn coward!” a soft-hearted voice captured Jack’s attention. “I thought you were planning a wedding. Now I hear you’ve set her free?” Joss jumped into the bar stool at Jack’s side and stared to him with furious eyes. Jack peeked around the pub to find it empty, and he promptly sighed in relief.
“She wanted to change,” Jack’s eyes trailed to the floor. “She never needed to for me.”
“But you know how this ends,” Joss argued. “She ages while you go on as you are. We’ve seen it too much. Why are you denying yourself this pleasure?”
“You don’t understand.”
“Oh, but I do,” Joss leaned back and crossed her leg. Ryan approached the vampire and waited for her request. “I’d like an Americano, please,” Joss asked. Her smile caught Ryan by surprise. “I’ve let lovers go so many times, Jack,” she put her hand on his arm. “I always thought it was best. But it isn’t always.”
“And you never felt guilty for taking their life away because of it,” Jack tightened his lips and glared up from below his brow.
“That’s not why you set her free,” Joss wisely gathered. Ryan then set the glass of red and clear liqueur in front of the vampire woman and received another beaming smile.
“Of course, it isn’t,” Jack mumbled.
“Of course,” Joss repeated, followed by a long sip from her straw.
“Then why did you?” Ryan asked. Eli stared on, Joss waited. Jack leaned over the bar and brushed his lengthy hair back, even though it would fall over his temples again.
“I told her once. You can ask her.”
“Jack, I just want a little space,” Lou declared as she stood beside her car.
“Don’t say that,” Jack pleaded. “Please don’t say that.”
“You know I can’t do this. You know it hurts me too much,” Lou furthered. Snow was falling in large flakes over their bodies as Jack stepped toward his love. “I can’t be with you as a mortal. I won’t go through that again.”
“No, I know,” Jack agreed, still stepping closer. “It hurt me, too. I never thought it possible. But making you a vampire isn’t the answer.”
“Jack,” Lou dropped her arms at her sides and stared to the man she adored. “I can’t get pregnant as a vampire. That is the answer.”
“What if you want children someday?”
“Then we can adopt.”
“And then what? Tell them what we are? They’d hate us,” Jack snarled.
“There’s options,” Lou huffed. “It’s better to give a home to someone real, rather than to hope for something imaginary.”
“You could easily have a child with anyone—any mortal man.”
“That’s not what I want,” Lou tossed her handbag into her car and shut the door. She stepped up, further into the street. The pavement, dampened by early snowfall, now iced over in the freezing air. At the end of the road lay a wasteland of sorts. It was the edge of town, the dark part of the city. No lights reflected in the strange, overgrown brush. No life thrived in the echoing shadows.
“You don’t want me,” Jack gave a cheeky grin as his breath expelled in the atmosphere. Even the cold creature was warmer than the night.
“Of course, I do,” Lou spat back. “Why are you against this? Are you afraid you’ll kill me?”
“Don’t say that,” Jack quipped.
“Are you scared that I won’t survive?” Lou pushed, taking another step into the street.
“Scared you’ll need to bury me?”
“Lou!” Jack cried out, but not to cease your words. This time, the sharp squeal of tires occupied Jack’s mind and stuttered his heart. The vampire reacted, quicker than any mortal could, but not quick enough. The vehicle slammed into Lou’s car and pushed her body out into the road. Jack was at her side, kneeling and begging for her to open her eyes.
The mortal coughed and blood spilled from her mouth. Her nose dripped crimson and her hand trembled as she sought out the man she loved. Her voice weakened as she spoke his name, but Jack shushed her quick. Still, he could see clearly the words I love you on her lips.
Jack did not hesitate to tear into his wrist and feed the healing blood to Lou. At her ear, Jack whispered, “You once saved me. Now I’ll save you.”
October closed in and the leaves were brilliantly orange. Everywhere she looked, Ari could see reminders of the man she had now fully remembered. Scanning faces at the pub, the bistro, the market—it didn’t matter where she was, Ari was always looking for Parker. Walking down the street under a sheer mist, Ari’s eyes shifted back to a face that seemed familiar. Nearing the man standing still, eyes focused on her alone, Ari found a peace that she long forgot.
Ari froze before him, remembering all that they had shared. The chase, the struggles, the chaperoning—Ari couldn’t help but grin. Parker, there in the flesh, real as she had hoped, examined her face and her hair. Nothing had changed and it pleased him. He then reached out with an open hand. Ari understood him and placed her wrist into his palm. He lifted her sleeve and explored her hidden skin. There were no marks on her at all.
People walked passed the two, stepping down the sidewalk without a clue as to what was happening. No mortal in the area realized how close they were to a vampire, or how powerful his pull over his mortal was. No mortal would understand unless they had experienced what Ari had. And it was complicated in the least. A vampire such as Parker would not settle for an ordinary mortal. He desired attitude, spunk—a personality that could challenge his order. And Ari sought the order of a man who would not easily allow his plans to change.
Parker took Ari’s hand there in the mist and together they walked opposite the crowd. They walked until they arrived at Ari’s door. All the while not needing a single word to convey expectations and obedience. Parker grinned, though.
A knock hit Lou’s door around midnight in late October. She was awake, watching an old film about love, and somehow was not startled by the knock. At the peephole, she found a face she almost couldn’t believe.
“You don’t have to let me in,” Jack mumbled. “I just came to say goodbye.”
Lou stepped up to the door and listened. “What do you mean?”
Jack drew a momentary grin and then swallowed. “I’m leaving New York for a while.”
Lou stepped closer to the door and could hear Jack let out a long breath. “Where are you going?”
Jack shook his head. “I haven’t planned.”
With a nod, Lou looked at the chain bolt and started to reach up.
“I want to thank you,” Jack whispered. Lou’s hand held the metal chain as she listened. “You saved me once,” Jack went on, and the words struck the mortal with a memory. The icy pavement stung her back, the pain in her chest was real enough to cause her to cringe. “It was the first time I met you,” Jack spoke, and the pain of the accident vanished. The memory then replaced by one Lou tried to gain for some time.
“You waited for me?” Lou spoke with a smile on a night from the previous summer. The market was aglow in the night, open all hours for those night owls such as she and Jack. “I didn’t mean to stare,” she giggled as she approached her car.
“I didn’t mean to wait,” Jack fumbled. “I was curious.”
“Why weren’t you bothered?”
“By a little blood?” she smiled. “Blood never bothers me,” the mortal waited as Jack opened her door for her. She set the bag of groceries down on the car seat and stepped back to shut the door. “Does it bother you?”
Jack laughed. “Not at all. But then, I don’t see it like you do.” Lou peered up curiously at the man before her and watched as his eyes darkened and his nose slightly swelled.
“What are you?” she whispered. “Your eyes… they’re magnificent.”
Lou, in her current reality, gasped at the memory. She had always gotten parts of it, bits from dreams and other times when things like a wild scent would send her imagination soaring. But she never had the full memory.
“How did I save you?” she demanded. Her hand clumsily, unsteadily slid the chain over and she flung the door wide. Jack, however, was not there. The mortal ran through the hall, down the stairs and to the street, where she spotted a tall man in black walking away. His shoulders pressed in, his head held low. In her bare feet, she ran. “Jack! Jack, stop!”
The vampire turned slow to see Lou, to breathe her air, to taste her mortality. He faced her with sore eyes and a tremble he had never felt.
“You lost our child,” Jack whispered. “It hurt you, more than the pain of dying. I won’t let you feel that pain again.”
“Child?” Lou breathed. Jack could barely nod before a tear fell from his eye. Lou’s eyes glossed just as quick. “How?”
“I don’t know,” the vampire shrugged and raised his brow. “It happened and within four weeks it was over. It wasn’t natural. It could never survive.”
“Are you upset with me?” Lou bit the inside of her cheek as she struggled to keep the tears back.
“No,” Jack assured. “Never,” he neared Lou and took her face into his hands. His touch gave her all the reason to know the memories were true.
“Then why? Why not let me be like you?”
Jack released Lou’s face and slowly slid his fingers down through her hair. “Because you saved me.”
The words of the memory took Lou back to that summer night once again.
“I’m a vampire,” Jack told the mortal on their first encounter. His teeth sharpened outward and gleamed in the artificial lights. His nose inflamed and his eyes fell darker still. “Does it scare you?”
Lou took in the sight with wide sparkling eyes. She moved around, as if to gage him in every shadow and in every light. She stepped close and then backed away. She reached out, but paused.
“It’s alright,” Jack urged, and Lou resumed her motion. She placed her hand on the vampire’s face and could feel the coldness of his skin. She gasped with elation, her mind opening to the fantastic world before her. “Why aren’t you afraid?”
“How could I be?” she gaped. “You’re a dream. You’re surreal.”
“I’m a monster,” Jack interrupted. Lou’s excitement turned to intrigue. She leaned away and examined the man with sharp eyes. “And tonight is my last.”
“Will you spend it with me?” Lou lifted her chin and waited for his reply. “If I can show you a reason to stay, will you?” Jack’s nature subsided and he, the man, the likeness to any other mortal, stood there without a reason to object. “If you end this night and I haven’t given you a purpose, then you can go if you truly want.”
Jack shifted his weight to his left and folded his arms at his chest. “Why do you care what happens to me?”
“Because that’s what we do as humans. We care. And even though you aren’t the same person you were… however long ago,” she grinned, “you still have a humanity living at your core.”
“I saved you,” Lou recalled, now in her current reality. The wind lifted her loose hair over her bare shoulders and she shivered. “I still save you, don’t I?”
“Every single day,” he spoke with a voice that was having trouble holding steady.
Lou knew then that she would need to be his mortal—his human—for however long it took until he could find the peace he needed to stay. He hoped it would come soon, but something always set him back. Something had always gotten in the way.
Jack took hold of Lou and pressed his lips to hers without care to time or the presence of others. He then followed Lou to her apartment and spent the evening as he had that first night last year.
“You’re still an asshole for leaving,” Lou stood firm before caving into a smile.
“I know,” Jack’s mouth turned up as his eyes grew black—onyx at the core and glistening like a distant star. And as the dice fell into a perfect straight, Lou jumped up and ran to her bedroom and awaited Jack to seek her out.