It had been a while since Damienne had been pleasantly surprised by a man. The fact that Alic had done so was enough to make her smile as she watched him walk away down the alley. A small sharp pain tugged at her inside: a warning. She shrugged it off, but stood still in the darkness, her last bit of stubbornness against her self-imposed loneliness. A decision reached her eyes and she stepped briskly up the alley back towards the Church.
She was secretly relieved when she saw Alic standing at the door, his young face with its old eyes turned up to look at the stars. The sight reminded her how truly young he still was and softened her heart even more. She approached him, softly calling his name. "Alic?"
He brought his eyes back to earth and looked at her.
"Hey, thanks. I just wanted to apologize for leaving you to deal with my problem like that..." She looked uncomfortable, as if needing help were an ill-fitting piece of clothing.
"No need to thank me," he replied gamely. "I did it because I wanted to." Then it was his turn to look uncomfortable. "And....sorry about...just before."
Touched by his sudden shyness, Dee smiled warmly. "It's ok. I'll just take it as a compliment." Letting the awkward moment slip by, she changed the subject, though an urgent memory of his sudden kiss threatened her concentration. "I would have killed that guy if you hadn't stopped him. I wish he understood that he wasn't doing me any favors," she sighed.
Alic nodded his support. "People just don't understand. He might learn in time and he might not." He watched Dee's face as her thoughts rolled across it. A twinkle lit his eyes and he grinned. "So...was it any good?"
Still lost in her thoughts, she blurted out," What really pisses me off is to have this guy think he can KNOW what I'm gonna do!" She stopped in confusion, looking at his grin. "Huh? Good?..." She felt overly warm and wondered if she blushed.
"He doesn't. You shouldn't even worry." He wondered if anyone really knew her. Then in a teasing tone, "Yeah...any good?" He grinned again.
Dee met his eyes and stammered. "Oh, well...um, yeah..." She looked away feeling faintly ridiculous. The feeling passed with his voice.
"I'll have to keep that in mind for next time." When she looked at him again he was smiling and she relaxed.
"Oh?" she said with mock coyness, "You think there's gonna be a next time?" An open invitation lit her emerald eyes.
With a childish grin he answered, "Maybe...."
SMT & NB 1997
Reaching Out: Part 2
Deciding not to waste the crisp October night, Dee offered to show Alic around Dallas. She was glad when he agreed. He took her arm in a gentlemanly manner then asked, "Who's bike?"
She thought it over for a moment then handed him her keys. "I got room on my hog..." Trust flickered in her eyes like a match flame in a draft.
"That sounds good, " Alic answered as he accepted the keys and escorted her to her Harley. His smile was bright as he took in the fine machine. "You sure know how to pick them," he said, getting on and waiting for her to join him.
Damienne got on the back, feeling strange in the unfamiliar position. As if feeling her hesitation, Alic let the engine rev in a throaty roar and told her, "Don't worry, I won't crash it." Dee blinked back violent memories of a body in flames and held him tightly. He guided the bike confidently through the streets then asked over his shoulder "Where to?"
Already going through the list of places in her head, Dee commented that she knew some good biker hangouts. Alic grinned in agreement and she gave him directions to one of the quieter places. "I think you'll fit in just fine there."
"If not you can always protect me," he teased.
His lightheartedness was catching and Dee found herself grinning back as she answered, "Oh yeah, like you need protection." Her grin turned rueful. "Actually, I'm kind of enjoying having a shoulder to lean on a little for a change."
"Don't we all at some point?" he replied.
Alic turned a corner and she realized they were nearing their destination. They chatted a bit about their span as kindred, noting that they were some of the youngest in Dallas and joking about 'the old farts' as Alic called them. He pulled the pearl Springer up alongside the few other bikes out front, dismounted then offered Dee a hand.
"Some of them are so out of it," she was saying as she took the hand she didn't need. " I don't know how I'll stay with the times, but moving around seems to help."
"Ya got me and the Malks to help you," he said. Something about the way she took his hand made him feel a bit stupid but he ignored it.
Dee nodded toward the neon-lit doorway. "Actually, it's these places that keep me up.
"I figured as much," he answered as he led the way in and searched for a place to sit. Looking through the uncrowded dimness, Alic spotted an empty table and moved towards it. He looked around and noted all the necessities of bikers hanging out. A jukebox stood against one wall, older rock blaring out of it at just the right level of loudness. A pair of pool tables took up a large space in the center of the room. A row of dartboards was against another wall towards the back of the place. A couple of video games and pinball machines were squeezed in near the jukebox. "This is a nice place..." he commented appreciatively.
"Yeah, I like it when I don't want to shout." Dee told him. "I had enough shouting for tonight."
"Yeah....quite," he agreed.
Damienne glanced at the jukebox. "Do you like older music? I'm sort of a hippy..." The word made her feel old next to him.
"Some of the old stuff." he said, but he was eyeing the pool tables. "Pool?" he asked her as he walked towards one of the tables.
"Sure," she said, digging in her pocket for some bills. "Just let me get some music on so I can think." She smiled at him.
"Sounds good enough to me," he said and began racking up a game.
The Doors' "Take It As It Comes" accompanied Dee as she returned to the pool table, took one of the cue sticks and chalked it. She didn't notice him studying her as she moved, her attention focused on the game laid out before her. He looked away as her gaze came up, but not before she caught the look in his eyes. "So," she smiled, "You any good at this?"
"I used to be," he said.
She grinned and lined up the break. "I still am." Alic walked up beside her, returning the grin. She looked up at him. "I make a few bucks now and then..."
He watched her prepare to shoot, commenting, "I'm sure of it that you do...I would be more likely to lose a few." His attention wasn't so much on how she played pool.
Her shot was clean, though no balls were sunk. Alic dragged his attention away from her legs to take his turn, mentally chiding himself for staring. Lining up his own shot, he couldn't see the way she watched his youthful muscles in action, admiration plain on her face. She didn't laugh out loud when he scratched the shot. Instead, she asked him about his arrival in Dallas. He moved aside for her to take her turn, brushing against her as he went.
She told him about how she had met 'Tyrone' while she chose her next shot. He teased her about her 'luck.' She mentioned that Tyrone had been pushy then too. "I really didn't think he'd follow me here though" she said as she slammed the cue into the victimized ball, frustration slipping out. She missed the shot. "Damn, must still be hungry, can't shoot right..."
A thought gnawed at Alic's brain, but he brushed it aside. "Yeah, must be." He looked over the table for a shot. Dee stood back, absently swaying to the music while she waited. He took his turn, grinning in success as one of the balls finally disappeared into a pocket. She realized she was staring as he leaned over for the next shot, a miss. She grinned and strutted with the music, making her way around the table for her turn. She stole a glance from under her bangs as she leaned down to shoot and caught him muttering to himself about distractions. He walked up beside her just as her shot went neatly in. Dee grinned and slipped past Alic, just out of his reach as she moved on to the next shot. His eyes remained fastened on her hips as she moved.
Her voice called his attention back. She was asking him if he had done much traveling. He rubbed his chin thoughtfully as she made her next move with firm assurance. "Well, San Antonio, New Jersey,...and my trip to Dallas. But that's it." He moved very near her, leaning down to take his shot when hers missed. She remained close as she asked him if he'd ever been to California. Their talk turned to Anarchs, but their minds weren't really on it as they tried to watch each other's faces. An unfamiliar twinkle lit Dee's happy eyes in answer to Alic's warm smile.
Their talk shifted to Dallas and its prince while Dee quickly found and made her next shot. The subject of Tyrone reared its head, but Alic brushed it aside. "He'll be back you know," Dee said, a grim look in her eyes.
"I know. But when the time comes to deal with him, WE will." The calm assurance in his voice soothed her. "For now, let's do what you said and enjoy the night."
Dee gave him a playfully malicious look. "Damn right, and I'm gonna kick your butt at this game!"
He leaned against the pool table, smiling widely. "You think you are!"
She brushed softly past him as she headed for her next shot. Her passing sent a tingle up his leg. His nearness felt good to her. She hadn't realized how much she had missed Brujah company. She tried to tell him, but he didn't need her explanation. He understood the anger that lay always just below their skins, waiting to burst free like a caged animal. She knew other kindred felt it too, but her most recent friends, Malks, were difficult to understand, and while she enjoyed their company, it often left her feeling like she'd just read a complex book through a broken mirror. Alic leaned up from behind her and whispered in her ear, his hand lightly brushing along her ribcage just as she took her shot. She shivered and grinned, though she fumbled the shot.
"Didn't I tell you not to miss?" He was still close, still whispering. Dee turned towards his voice and his lips reached hers. She snatched the kiss then spun out of reach, grinning at the frustration on his face. He stood there biting his lip next to the now-empty place she had occupied the moment before.
"So where's your sire?" she asked.
He suddenly tasted blood on his tongue. "In hell."
A worried look flashed across her face. "Sorry..." she said.
"No need to be sorry. If he didn't deserve to be there I wouldn't have sent him there." A troubled look rode his face and tugged at her curiosity. She asked him why he'd done it. Alic looked away blankly, but hurt was plain in his voice when he answered. "Because of what he made me. For everything he had done. He was evil."
Dee's face took on a look of stunned horror. "You mean you didn't choose this life?" Pain for him hit her as she looked into his young face.
He met her eyes with a stoic expression. "I didn't have a say in most things in either of my lives. I was damned as a mortal...and I'm damned here," he told her. His expression softened as he looked back at her. "It's all a matter of opinion. Right now I can say that I'm happy." He walked towards her.
Damienne sighed. "I was at first, then he died. I haven't been really happy since.." She tried to smile at him, "Until now."
He smiled and took her arm in gentle support. "It means a lot to know that. But I don't know if my soul will ever be at rest."
"I know," she said. "It never will, that's our part of the curse."
He nodded understanding. "As mortals, it was our curse. Wherever we go, we won't escape it."
Dee stiffened in his arms as if his words had touched something that hurt. Fear flicked across her face. "I guess that's why they chose us for their brood. We fit the pattern somehow."
Alic eased his grip, not wanting to scare her, misunderstanding her fear. "But as long as you are happy..." He met her eyes, trying to see what she tried to tell him there. He released her and turned away, heading for the hallway. She followed, their pool game forgotten.
Her voice was soft behind him. "But it's hard to lose them."
He turned to look at her, a mixture of happiness and pain on his face. "Your words are too true," he agreed.
"I haven't stayed close to anyone since J.., my sire died. God I killed so many then..." Her expression was turned inward as she staggered through the haunting memories.
Understanding dawned on Alic and he said," And you ask if the blood will ever wash away?"
She tried to explain. "I'm afraid of that happening again, so I run, or stay...separate."
His arms closed on her again. "What is the use of this life if you can't go through those experiences and the pains again?"
She looked up into his eyes, hoping to make him understand. "I wake dreaming of faces I can hardly remember, Alic. It doesn't go away. And since we don't die, it NEVER goes."
He held her close, speaking softly, "I wish I could help..." Her kissed her again.
She returned the gentle kiss, enjoying the moment's peace. "Just don't feel bad if I run, ok?" she asked as she pulled away.
"I never will." he promised, slowly locking his lips to hers, savoring the moment. Sliding his hand along her waist, he guided her back into the hallway where he pressed her body between his and the wall. She relaxed against him, accepting his passionate kiss and the stroke of his hands on her face and body.
"I think we should get out of this bar," she suggested eventually. He nodded and let go, waiting for her to take the lead. She brought them back to the bike, taking the keys herself this time. Not wanting to go back to the cold musty warehouse currently serving as her haven, she asked where he lived. He was glad to agree when she asked if he minded that they go to his downtown apartment. His arms felt good wrapped around her waist. She glanced down at the angel and demon dancing across her gas tank and smiled.
"Hang on!" she shouted, then thunder split the night as she roared away, leaving a trail of rubber to mark her place. Alic held her tightly as she hell-rode through the streets, following his shouted directions. Dee reveled in the arms around her waist and the rush of the wind as it flew past them. Alic felt a sense of peace with himself he'd never felt before. Never had he looked forward to the next moment and enjoyed the present so much.
SMT & NB 1997
Burying the Torch
As dusk fell, Damienne awoke with the beast burning in her veins. A nervous excitement lit her eyes, giving them the luminous brilliance of the emerald gems they resembled. She rose in a swift fluid motion and stretched. Glancing about the shadowy warehouse, she made sure all was undisturbed. When she felt secure, Dee pulled her few possessions out of hiding. She rifled through an old backpack full of cassettes, smiling when she found what she wanted. She put the tape into a small portable stereo and turned it on. Next she went to the saddlebags she always kept packed and pulled an item off the top of a bundle of clothes. She laid it neatly over the seat of the pearl Harley Springer. Her eyes danced across it in satisfaction.
With Judas Priest blaring from the box, she put the leotard on. Bright blue flames covered her legs and ended in contrasting tongues over a red and orange glow that spread from the tops of her legs up to her breasts. From there, bright yellow hands of fire reached sharp fingers over her chest and shoulders then blended orange streaks with the jagged yellow edges of the sleeves that fluttered around her elbows. Dee slowly raised her arms then spun a bright streak across the dusty floor of the warehouse. At the far side she stopped, dropping into an animal crouch. She surged upwards with the music and tossed her head back, her pale gold hair flying out as if it were part of the flames embracing the rest of her.
An image of Alic's face came into her mind then blurred into another. The beast howled within her as she fought back bitter memories of loss and rage. With suppressed ferocity, she returned to her bike, kicked it to roaring life, and headed into the brisk Halloween night. On the lookout for trouble, Dee hoped she'd find some.
As she rode, Dee let her racing thoughts rest briefly in the tender place that held her sire's face. Though she found it hard to say his name, she shaped it with her lips and strove to see him as he'd been during their travels. With effort, she forced her mind past the flames of his passing and back to their first meeting. A wave of old love washed over her as she saw him again watching her dance. She had felt beautiful under his gaze. His pale blue eyes had echoed a need and loneliness she had learned to live with until he'd reflected it back at her like some insane mirror. That had been her last night as a mortal. As if in retreat from the pain woven into his memory, Dee's mind jumped to the present. She thought about Alic. He seemed very unlike her sire. Alic was smaller and so young but something about him struck a familiar chord in her. She tried to grasp it but like smoke it slipped past the fingers of her thoughts, teasing her cruelly. Frustration goaded the beast and a growl rumbled at the back of her throat.
A sudden squeal of tires and blinding light jerked her away from her wondering. A moment of panic gripped her as she reflexively whipped her bike to the side of the road out of the path of the oncoming car. She put her foot down and pivoted the sleek hog around, just avoiding laying it on its side. A bottle flew out of the car's window and shattered on the street followed by jeering laughter. Dee's will broke along with the glass. Fire consumed her thoughts as she twisted the throttle and flung herself after the weaving car in a screech of tortured rubber.
In scant seconds she caught up with the careening vehicle. Fury transformed her features into a hellish mask that sent shudders through the drunk girl in the passenger seat. Damienne's lips curled back in a snarl that bared her fangs. The girl began to scream. The driver glanced around, fuzzily trying to see what his passenger was screaming about. When his eyes met the demon green of Dee's angry gaze, the man went pale. Suddenly sober in the rush of adrenaline, he put his foot to the floorboard. His casual street sedan was no match for the vampire's customized motorcycle and she paced him easily. After a quick smashing sound, the girl suddenly went silent. The driver looked on in horror as Dee's hand closed so hard on the girl's throat that her fingers sunk through the flesh like soft butter. The pungent smell of blood gushing over her fingers only strengthened the call of the beast. Damienne released the corpse and brought her reddened hand up to her mouth.
Terror filled the man as he fought to control his speeding vehicle and his lurching stomach. He slammed on the brakes, hoping to turn and flee in the opposite direction. The monster flew past him and then in a squeal of tires spun around in continued pursuit. The heavy car did not respond as well and started to fishtail. After a breathless moment in which control seemed possible, it went spinning away until it slid head on into a telephone pole. The impact threw the girl's body through the windshield to land in a crumpled heap on the sidewalk. Smoke rose from the smashed front of the car, followed by small tongues of flame. Dee came to a stop near the body and parked the Harley. In a flash she reached the car and was hauling the unconscious man through the jagged glass of the broken windshield. The flames leapt higher from under the wrinkled hood of the car, but Dee hardly saw them in her rage. The man began to groan as she dragged him towards her bike. Abruptly she stopped walking and spun on him. His fluttering eyes had only a second to reflect his horror before she sank her fangs into his neck. She greedily slurped the life out of him then dropped his body there in the street. The flames finally drew her attention, but she felt nothing. She could faintly feel their warmth as they climbed above the car. She watched them perform their hypnotic dance, then turned her back on them. A thunderous boom rang out and the darkness was sent fleeing into hiding as the car exploded behind her. Damienne rode away, a spark shooting into the night.
A little while later she stood in the hallway of a rickety old apartment building. She knocked on the door and waited for Alic to let her in.
The sound of knocking had Alic on his feet, heading for the door. Trick-or-treaters? No, couldn't be. He lived in the worst part of the most desolate area in Dallas. No one would think about trick-or-treating here. If they did it would be easy bait. But then Alic remembered trick-or-treaters were children, not adults. Could he stoop that low? He didn't want to find out.
Alic walked across the wooden floor, his boots sounding his footsteps. Reaching the door he put one hand over the metal grip in his holster and the other hand moved for the doorknob. A turn and the door slowly moved open. Damning himself, he knew he should have asked who it was. Alic was about to shut the door just when he saw Dee, bathed in blood standing in the hallway.
"Dee," he said, surprise, exhilaration and surprise again at the fact that Dee had come to his apartment but was covered in blood. It wasn't hers at least, he told himself. "What the hell happened to you?"
Damienne walked past Alic and headed for somewhere, anywhere, to just lay her body. As Alic watched her move towards the brown leather chair he looked her over again. She wasn't injured except for a few scrapes. However, she looked exhausted, as if she had spent all her energy and was ready to collapse. There were few things that could do this to a Vampire. What was it though?
Inspecting Dee again he pondered how a woman could look so attractive through the mess that she was. Maybe the blood turned him on, or it was just that Alic had a twisted mind. Both of them probably. Either way he wanted to bring her close to him, and touch her. When she stood looking at the chair, in contemplation of sitting or standing, Alic walked over and rested a hand on her shoulder. "Dee, what happened?" Turning to him, her face bore a pained expression. Something was bothering her. Alic dug in deep, to somehow be able to empathize with her. But this empathy was all too new for him. What was wrong? As Dee tried to feign a smile he lay her down on the chair. All the options started to flush through his head. Her silence did not help. Then it became obvious.
"Did you rage?"
Dee tried to nod; to say something in reply, but all she could do was muster a weak sigh. Alic took it as a yes and continued.
"This isn't your blood Dee. Who's is it?"
Either not wanting to answer that question at the time, or just not hearing it Dee replied to the first. Looking up, her eyes interlocking with Alic's, an image of a devil's angel was painted in his head. Leaning in he drew back the urge to kiss her. With a bitter laugh, Alic stopped in his tracks. Breaking the gaze she looked down at her bloodied hands. The answer was obvious, the beast had won. Or had it not?
"You know what you are Dee. There is no use in denying what is inside of you."
Dee looked back up at him. In her weary mind, the nagging familiarity finally fell into place. The way he spoke to her, honestly and with simple facts comforted her even though their message was without hope. In his eyes and words she found acceptance.
"We all are a monster." The words came out of Alic's lips hard, sketchy. Unnatural. But they were what he felt and the truth. "Mortal or Undead. You can't always contain the beast. There is no use damning yourself and holding a grudge against yourself forever. You'll only let others bring you down. You know who they are Dee."
As he spoke her bloodstained hand moved up his arm and to his face, touching his cold cheeks. She imagined they were warm, that he was alive. Maybe this was a dream. No, it wasn't. It hardly mattered to her. She just needed his voice to anchor her back to herself. Slowly, the guilt and sorrow withdrew from her mind and were replaced with an uneasy peace. She clung to the thread of his voice like a drowning man to a life preserver.
"......sometimes it takes people a long time to figure out what and who they are. You know what you are Dee. You know who you are. We can't live in regret of our actions all the time. It will happen again." Boiling inside of himself Alic felt like a fool. He felt weak explaining his thoughts on the way the Vampiric life worked. To anyone he would. That machoism was holding steadfast to his words. He damned every slip and err as he spoke. However, he wanted her to know....... for he held her close. Could you not live an undead life with love? Or was this all just a fantasy made up by his own denial that he would some day fall to the beast himself. Damnation he thought.
Both of them leaned in, lips meshing together. If they were to be defeated by the beast Alic knew they would go down together. For now they lived their fantasy. The hunger would wait. Subsided it was.
NB & SMT 1997