The driver’s name was Marisol. She was thirty-two with long dark hair, curly in a way different from Starr’s, and she smiled from the side of her mouth. Her left knee would bounce a bit if she talked while driving, and after a few minutes of being left to silence her slender, french tipped fingers would begin to beat a rhythm on the glossy black plastic of her steering wheel. After the first hour of talk, Michael knew that she had a five year old daughter named Jamilla and a husband named Hasan. He found out that she collected comic books, and had learned the habit from her older brother. He learned that she liked the colour yellow, and if she had her choice she’d always pull over for dinner in a Wendy’s before a McDonald’s. He realized she hated reckless drivers.
“Dios Mio!” She swore under her breath as a rusted out pick-up truck swerved dangerously between lanes. She took her own speed down a notch and fell back, preferring to put some distance between herself and that asshole. Her ETA could go to hell.
It made Michael smile softly, his eyes barely open but still able to see clearly through the darkness. He’d returned to the back of the bus after a few hours talking with her and adopted a guise of sleep, head tilted back and body lax like the rest of the passengers. As with most the drivers he’d met, Michael could tell she liked the solitude and quiet of the night shift. He wasn’t about to spoil it for her.
Next to him his travel companion sighed and opened his eyes. Ice blue and piercing, they turned to regard Michael with their customary intensity, but unlike years past they were now tinged with a familiar affection and good humour. Michael opened his own eyes fully in reply, but didn’t sit up, shifting only enough to half slide half fall onto the man’s shoulder, wiggling a bit to fit against him comfortably.
“Get any sleep?” The man asked, reaching up with the hand not trapped under Michael’s body to comb at his hair.
Michael shrugged. “Drowsed a bit. Not real tired.”
The man chuckled a bit and settled his hand on Michael’s neck, his gloved fingers cool against his skin. “Does this mean you’re finally getting with the program?”
His question made Michael grunt something that wasn’t quiet an affirmation and roll his eyes. He didn’t have to sound so proud of himself.
For several minutes there was silence save for the general noise of the road, and even that seemed muted this late at night. Cars whistled and rumbled as the shot by on the opposite side of the highway, semis groaning and rattling as they did battle with the wind. With the window opened a crack they could smell diesel, rubber, and the water in the air. Humidity was high right then. It made the bus feel musty and smell faintly of wet dog.
After a time David asked sweetly, “Did you have fun talking to the driver?” and Michael scowled and punched the man in the shoulder. He took issue with his tone.
“Don’t mock me.” He grumbled, but he paused before replying seriously. “She seems nice, but tough. Not just for show like I’ve seen in some of the other drivers either. Like she’ll help you out whatever way she can but she takes no shit and won’t let you take advantage of her kindness.”
“You like her.” The man teased, causing Michael’s scowl to deepen.
“No reason to-”
“David,” His voice held familiar warning. David knew damn well this was a disliked topic of conversation, and he bit his tongue. “We’ve been down this road before. I started out on this... thing with you. There will only ever be you. I’m not looking for someone to replace Starr, I’m happy with you, so stop it with the fucking insinuations.”
David said nothing, laughter threatening to break out if he tried.
“Besides,” Michael added after a beat “I’m old enough to be her father.”
That did make David laugh, made him ruffle Michael’s hair and fight to keep his mirth quiet. “Kid, I hope you’re seriously not letting age get to you, because I’m old enough to have fucked you’re granddad’s mum.”
Michael sighed and thumped David’s chest with his fist. “Shut up.” He muttered, and turned his face against a leather shod shoulder, determined to ignore the bastard if he was going to keep being a dick.
Eventually David’s laughter petered out, and he gazed at the top of Michael’s head with a quirk of a smile on his lips.
They’d spent so many nights like this. Buses, trains, even a couple planes when they’d wanted to put in the effort to fool security. Over the years they’d managed to put miles and miles of country behind them, always traveling by night. They’d gone north to Washington, zig-zagged out towards Minnesota, crossed the great lakes, and headed to Maine. After moving along the coast to New York, they’d cut back down and across to Arizona, and sauntered their way into to Texas, where they’d spent the last few years loitering in Austin. The drivers, conductors, pilots were always different. There would be new upholstery, new technology, new roads every time, but the nights were always the same.
The passengers would drop off one by one into sleep, until only David and Michael remained. Having been given the run of the place, for the first hour David would usuall do something sinister to amuse himself while Michael would take the time to speak with whoever it was chauffeuring them. Eventually then the two of them would retire to the back, lounging and drowsing as they watched the blackened miles go by.
“You haven’t fed.” David observed, wiggling a bit to get his trapped arm free, then laying it companionably across Michael’s shoulders.
“It’s not that long of a drive. I’ll feed when we get to New Orleans.”
Michael’s words, muffled against David’s coat, made him frown. “We don’t know the terrain Michael. How do you expect to find good hunting grounds?”
A sound of disbelief came from the younger man and he pulled back enough to look David in the eye. “Really? You don’t think we can find a few tramps and junkies who won’t notice a missing pint or two?”
David opened his mouth to argue but Michael shook his head. “No, and Marisol’s more observant than most. I don’t think she’d just let me flit from spare seat to spare seat, especially if she saw me necking with unconscious strangers.”
He had a point, David had to admit, but it still made him frown. “I could do what you do, go talk to her a bit and distract her.”
“You’re only good at talking if you want to put someone on edge. You’d just make her suspicious and then she’d notice me all the easier.”
“I could lay on the charm, make her ignore you.”
Michael looked thoroughly unimpressed. “Please don’t distract her. She’s driving. She’ll kill us.”
“You mean she’ll kill them.” David reasoned, gesturing broadly at the bus, it’s seats mostly filled. “We’ll be fine.” It sounded like a fine plan to him, but Michael wouldn’t budge.
“Yeah, and we’ll be walking the rest of the way to Louisiana. Give it up David, I’ll feed when we get there.”
Knowing he had lost David shrugged and muttered “You’re missing out; That blonde one over there is AB negative...” His voice trailed off suggestively but Michael just grunted a laugh and settled back against David’s shoulder.
“I think I’ll live.”
Technically, no. David thought, but it was a trite comment so he didn’t give it voice. Instead he settled back in his seat and watched as rain began to splash against the window, forming drops which rolled sideways against the force of the bus’s forward progress. It made him smile, glad that the weather was cooperating. While they’d given themselves some leeway between arrival and sunup for finding shelter, it was nice to have the added assurance of cloud cover to look forward too. They always tried to travel in bad weather, but there had been close calls over the years when both weathermen and experience had been trumped by the fickle wills of mother nature.
Who knows? If the storm was strong enough perhaps they would even have time to scout out a temporary hunting ground and meal for Michael. The real work of finding a new nest and new grounds would come the following night, but Michael was right. New Orleans was hardly short on vagabonds with blood to spare.
Relaxing in his seat, David’s eyes became hooded and his expression distant. In his mind he went over what he remembered of the city for the thousandth time. He revisited the french quarter, walked the piers and beaches, envisioned the streets and neighbourhoods as they had once been. He smelt the stinking river and the bayous, heard voices speaking creole and accordions playing Zydeco. He tasted a well remembered prostitute’s blood on his tongue. There was a seed of excitement in him, growing all the more as they neared the Louisiana border. Excitement of a new hunt, a new adventure, a new place to show to Michael and watch him grow as a creature of the night.
It was the same everywhere they went, David’s non-existent heart beat quickening at the thrill of being able to take Michael to places he remembered from long ago travels with Max, sharing good times past and replacing bad memories with new ones. Memories of him and Michael on the town, memories of fearing no one, of being the gods of their own destiny. It felt good to be a vampire, better than it ever had before.
He could still recall the darkness of being under Max’s thumb, and though the events through which he and Michael had first gotten to know each other were painful at best to recall, David would never go back and change them. Because when all was said and done, after the smoke had cleared and his brothers’ dust swept away, Max had been gone, and Michael had been his.
For better or for worse. He thought with a bite of dark humour, stroking Michael’s shoulder through the younger vampire’s t-shirt.
“Are we there yet?” Michael grumbled hoarsely. With a smile David took Michael’s face in hand and gently tilted it back, allowing him to lean in and kiss the younger with a quiet intensity, full of promise and fire.
“Not yet.” He whispered when he pulled back, his grin widening and his lips drawing back enough to expose his fangs. “Soon.”.
Michael’s own fangs glittered in the flash of a passing headlight. A slow, spreading, toothy smile was his answer to David’s grin. The night was quiet, but they both felt the promise of things to come. Another city was near: another kingdom to rule, another world to take apart.
Even if Marisol had looked up from the stretch of rain darkened road illuminated by her headlights and glanced in her mirror to check on the back of the bus, she would have seen nothing. Not even shadows to match the quiet laughter creeping out of the dark.