This is a gift; it comes with a price. Who is the lamb and who is the knife?
-- Rabbit Heart by Florence and the Machine
Mendoza's drained body dropped to the floor in an unceremonious heap as Henry wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, smearing the blood partially across his cheek. His wounds had started to heal courtesy of Celluci's blood but now they disappeared completely, leaving smooth, unblemished flesh behind. He tore a strip of material off his already tattered shirt and wiped his mouth and torso to remove the worst. Perhaps it was a little prissy but he hated the idea of anyone seeing him so disheveled, especially Vicki...or Celluci. He closed his eyes for a second, drawing on eight hundred years of control before stepping back into the corridor. Vicki was staggering towards him, burdened down by Celluci's weight, and Henry hid the remorse he felt for the animalistic attack on them both even though he knew it was not truly his fault. He could not help his nature.
He had been tortured, beaten...worse than starved because Mendoza had drawn his life blood from him to feed the Monsignor's own addiction to immortality. When Vicki handed off Celluci without any fear, Henry felt strangely humbled. She had seen him at his worst and yet still she trusted him with the life of one of her few true friends. Yet, what humbled him more was Mike Celluci's reaction. He didn't flinch as Henry shouldered under his arm and wrapped his own around Celluci's waist, taking his weight from Vicki. Only a few minutes earlier Henry had attacked him, sinking fangs into Celluci's vulnerable throat and sucking the blood from him as fast as the artery could pump it. Only Vicki's pleas had penetrated the fog brought on by desperate hunger, forcing him to stop feeding long before he'd had his fill. He could still taste Celluci's blood, so clean and sharp compared to Mendoza's. The difference between drinking fine wine and sour vinegar.
After almost five hundred years Henry could sense the fast approaching morning and he knew he could not wait for Vicki, aware that she wanted to clean up the mess left behind. But then, he also knew that she did not expect him to wait. What she did expect was for him to look after Celluci and he owed her that much, and more besides.
Celluci was a big man--taller and broader than Henry--but with his vampire strength restored, Celluci weighed hardly anything to Henry. He walked quickly to the car parked outside and dropped Celluci into the passenger seat, moving swiftly to the driver's side. Henry could feel the prickling sensation of the dawn and put his foot down as hard on the gas as he dared, hoping he wouldn't be pulled over by a police patrol because then he would have no choice but to abandon Celluci and head for his penthouse at vampire speed.
With great relief, he pulled into the parking lot beneath his building, leaving the car parked next to his own in a space reserved for a guest.
Throughout the journey, Celluci had remained silent with his cheek pressed against the passenger window, not responding to any of Henry's questions. He wasn't unconscious but Henry could sense his growing lethargy. In the lights of the parking lot he looked too pale with a sheen of sweat over his face. Henry could hear his rapid heart beat and knew he was going into shock. He needed to get Celluci up to his penthouse quickly, to start treating the symptoms of hypervolemic shock before Celluci suffered major organ damage.
The elevator was fast and yet it seemed to take forever to reach his floor. His concern rose a notch when Celluci made no complaint when Henry picked him up and rushed along the corridor, keying the biometric lock in seconds and locking the door behind him. Uncaring of the mess, he dropped Celluci onto his bed and pushed a pillow under Mike's legs to raise them. He recalled taking at least 2 pints of blood from Celluci before Vicki's words had reached him. Had it been more than that?
You're killing him!
"O-Negative," he murmured. Not the rarest of blood types but certainly not the most common either. Over his long life he had tasted all the different types and the regional variations and Celluci's was his favorite. Of course it made it far harder for Henry as O-negative humans could not receive any blood type in a transfusion except their own even though they were universal donors. Moving with vampire speed, he stripped off Celluci's coat, jacket and dress shirt, cleaning his hands and Celluci's inner arm before grabbing IV equipment and a unit of O-negative blood from his private store. The needle slid into the vein easily and Henry watched as the transfusion began.
By now the sun was rising and the shutters had come down automatically as soon as the light hit the sensor. Henry turned on the lights even though he could see extremely well in the dark, knowing it was more for Celluci's benefit, in case the man started to come round and panicked. The weight of the new day felt heavy on Henry's shoulders despite Mendoza's blood filling him and he flopped down onto the large bed beside Celluci, settling onto his side to watch over the almost comatose human.
After fifteen minutes with no signs of increased distress, Henry started to relax a little. He moved to the bathroom and cleaned himself up properly, shucking his dirty clothing and re-dressing in comfortable sleep attire before returning with a bowl of warm water and a washcloth.
"I suppose I should make you more comfortable too."
Celluci smelled off, as if he had not changed clothes since the confrontation in the sewer. It occurred to Henry that this was a strong possibility, but that meant Celluci had been actively searching for him with Vicki since his abduction. Despite the rescue and the blood, he didn't owe Celluci anything because it was all Celluci's fault in the first place for placing that strange device on his chest. If not for Vicki then Henry might have drained him completely in revenge, or left him behind.
Looking down at him now, Henry was glad he had not given in to either urge.
As gently as possible, he stripped off the remaining clothes and after a moment's hesitation he placed them in his laundry basket. Celluci wasn't going to be moving much over the next two or three days, which gave him plenty of time to get the suit dry-cleaned and the rest laundered. He stared down at the naked man for some time, mesmerized by the smattering of golden hairs that grew thicker and darker as his eyes moved down the strong body from chest to groin. All humans were beautiful to Henry because of the blood flowing through their veins, but Celluci was more than just a body. Although Henry hated to admit it, he liked him if only because Vicki loved and trusted her ex-partner. For a moment longer he watched the rise and fall of Celluci's chest before it occurred to him that Celluci would be feeling the coolness of the room.
It took only a moment to maneuver the semi-comatose man under the covers, being careful not to dislodge the IV. Gently, he wiped away the blood trail on Celluci's neck and cleaned the bite wound. Bruises were starting to form because Henry had been frenzied in his desperation for blood, sinking his fangs in deep and drawing the blood hard and fast with none of the finesse that he reserved for sips from willing females.
A thump on the door made him flinch and Henry was not surprised to find Vicki in the corridor beyond. She brushed past him without invitation but Henry shrugged in acceptance.
"How is he?"
"He's in the bedroom. He needed a blood transfusion."
Alarmed, Vicki barged straight through but froze on the threshold, looking tense and concerned. She seemed to pull herself together and moved quickly to the bed, sitting down on the edge and pushing back some of the limp hair that had fallen over Celluci's face.
"Is he going to be okay?"
The intimacy of her touch made him wonder if she and Celluci had been lovers once.
"This is all my fault. Mendoza convinced him that he was protecting me from you. Once he realized the truth, he didn't stop until we found you." She reached out and touched Henry. "I couldn't have found you without him."
Henry nodded because he had already guessed as much.
"You know you made me miss my deadline."
He saw her frown a moment before recalling that he had been working on his latest graphic novel before she had begged him to help her with the Wendigo. "Sorry."
"That's it? Sorry?"
Vicki shrugged but he could see she really was sorry, and for more than just the missed deadline. He sighed, knowing he'd have to contact his editor tomorrow and ask for a extension, but at least he had an idea for how the next graphic story would end. Henry sank down on the other side of the bed.
"The transfusion will take a few more hours, nice and slow to be on the safe side."
Vicki looked him over carefully. "If you need to sleep then I'll watch over both of you."
He had to admit that the past few days had taken a lot out of him and even Mendoza and Celluci's blood had not stripped away the fatigue, so he nodded again, accepting her offer graciously. "Wake me when the bag's empty."
Henry slipped off his robe and climbed into the bed, stretching out alongside Celluci but leaving a wide-enough gap between them. He closed his eyes and let the world fade away.
His eyes snapped open hours later to find Vicki fast asleep in the chair she had drawn up beside the bed on Celluci's side. He glanced up at the bag and noticed that it was almost empty but he could hear Celluci's heart beating in a steadier rhythm, and the man looked a far better color too. Henry debated hanging an extra unit of blood but he could see that Celluci was much improved and was sleeping comfortably. Carefully, he removed the IV but was unable to resist lapping at the few droplets of blood from the puncture wound before placing a band-aid over it.
Celluci didn't move at all; still caught in the grip of a deep and restorative sleep.
With inhuman speed, Henry picked up Vicki and set her down on the couch in the main room before drawing a blanket over her. He closed the door behind him when he returned to the bedroom and got back under the covers, closing his eyes and immediately slipping back into a dreamless sleep.
When he next awoke the sun was setting. Beside him, Celluci slept more easily and Henry noticed he had a change of bandage over the puncture wounds at his throat. Vicki must have entered while they both slept but his vampire senses had not kicked in. He wasn't sure if that was a good or a bad thing. He noticed something else, an aroma in his apartment of cooking food. In all the years he had lived here he had never used the kitchen except to store a supply of blood for emergencies. With no one to eat it, any fresh food went off so he usually kept it to the minimum, just enough to make it look as if he was the modern day bachelor with empty cupboards, in case he needed to fool anyone. It was certainly not enough to make a decent meal so Vicki must have left the apartment and come back, or had Coreen deliver groceries.
For once his curiosity was not enough to draw him from his room, mostly because he had something far more interesting right beside him.
Henry couldn't resist spending a minute or two simply looking at Celluci. His blond hair lay dark and limp against his skull but his skin was no longer the same sickly pallor from the night before. Celluci moaned softly, as if the weight of Henry's gaze was pushing him up from the depths of his sleep. His pale eyelashes fluttered until Henry could see slits of blue surrounding enlarged pupils. After his eyes had opened fully, he stared at Henry in confusion, brow furrowing and still pale lips parting slightly. The urge to kiss him almost overpowered Henry but he held back and smiled instead.
"Welcome back, detective."
Celluci blinked the sleep from his eyes and stared around the bedroom, slowly becoming aware of where he was and the fact that he was naked beneath the silken sheets.
The door opening had both of them staring at it to find Vicki standing on the threshold.
"About time you both woke up." She walked in carrying a tray, and the heady aroma of a hot meal filled the room. "Think you can sit up, Mike?"
He hesitated for a moment, still confused by what had to be a strange situation but Henry could see the trust he placed in Vicki. He saw Celluci gather his strength and try to pull himself up but his arms began shaking with weakness immediately. For a moment, Henry wondered if he should have given him that second unit of blood after all.
"Let me help."
Not waiting for an answer, he helped Celluci sit up and pushed several pillows behind him for support. Vicki placed the tray on Celluci's lap before he could complain at the manhandling.
"Eat. You need to build up your strength."
Henry hid a smirk as Celluci immediately picked up the spoon and started eating. Both humans were head strong but it was apparent that Vicki was used to getting her own way more often than not. It took several shaky spoonfuls before Celluci's mind caught up with the events from the past few days, and he turned to Henry in horror.
"You bit me," he accused. "Son of a bitch! You bit me."
"Any port in a storm," Henry sent back.
Strictly speaking that was true but now he had tasted Celluci's blood, he knew he would want him first, even given a choice between him and Vicki. There was a reason why he preferred to sip from women instead of men. He had far more control when taking from females than from males. Admittedly, the circumstances last night had been exceptional, but if Vicki had not been there then he might easily have drained Celluci simply because his blood was so exquisite rather than solely for revenge. He truly could become addicted to him whereas Mendoza's vampire-tainted blood had not been half as pleasant, though it had replenished him. Henry still needed to feed and would make his excuses soon.
"I called in and told your new partner you'd come down sick and needed a few days off," Vicki stated almost conversationally. That she gained no complaint from Celluci was proof enough that he still felt weak.
Henry watched as Celluci spooned in another couple of mouthfuls, noticing the tremors in his hands. Following Vicki's lead he said nothing that could embarrass him as he had a feeling Celluci wouldn't like anyone pointing out his weakness.
"If you let me have my clothes back, I'll get out your hair as soon as--"
"Your apartment has damp. You should stay here a day or two longer. Shouldn't he?" Vicki turned questioning eyes to Henry. "You can work and keep an eye on him at the same time."
"My apartment is fine."
"It's a dump, Mike." She turned again. "Henry?"
Henry threw his hands in the air. "Sure."
Vicki stayed with Celluci while Henry went out to feed. When he returned several hours later, Henry wasn't surprised when Celluci decided to sleep while he worked. Their truce was an uneasy one at best, especially without Vicki's presence to keep them completely civil to each other. Henry crawled into his side of the bed as the sun rose, sleeping soundly through the daylight hours. When he awoke at sunset, Celluci was still asleep beside him and, once more, Henry was caught by the beauty and vulnerability of the man. Mottled bruising colored his throat around the bite mark but it was healing quickly. His breathing and heart rate were back to normal too, and Henry knew he was well enough to leave. The covers had been kicked aside leaving most of his body visible.
Looking back, Henry was uncertain as to what made him skim his fingers along the exposed skin from shoulder to hip, or what made him lean over Celluci and inhale his scent before pressing a soft kiss against his lips. What he hadn't expected was Celluci opening his eyes and staring at him for a heart beat before kissing him back. He rolled on top, balanced on his forearms above Celluci as the kiss deepened, feeling Celluci's hands smoothing down his body, cupping his ass and drawing them even closer together. He could feel the hardness of Celluci's erection pressed against him and they rocked together, sliding against each other in strong thrusts as Henry's teeth grazed the already marked side of Celluci's throat. He wanted to taste him again, wanted to savor the richness of him. Hot blood flooded into his mouth as he bit down, and Celluci...Mike...bucked up hard against him, crying out in pain and pleasure as the warmth of Mike's release flooded between them. Resisting the urge to take more, Henry pulled back and let the pleasure roll over him and through him. He took a moment to ride the high of release before leaning in to lap at the small trickle of blood from the re-opened puncture wounds. When he pulled back, meaning to question Mike, he realized Mike had exhausted himself and fallen back asleep.
Mike was gone by the time Henry returned from feeding, and when he saw Mike again, neither of them acknowledged that single moment of passion by silent mutual agreement. If anything, the rivalry between them over Vicki's affection became stronger as each of them denied the feelings existing between them.
Months later, it took watching Mike kiss Vicki passionately before saying goodbye with the intention of leaving forever to make Henry realize that it was never just about Vicki. Almost five hundred years of existence had taught him nothing of human or vampire psyche after all; not even his own. After that one moment of passion all those months ago, he had denied himself the chance to have Mike directly, instead taking unconscious pleasure in Mike's continued existence as part of his eternal life through Vicki. In his delusion, he had seen Mike as simply part of the Vicki package, assuming he would always follow her, and therefore would always be with him.
As Mike walked away, Henry realize that he had wanted to use his wealth and power to take both of them from Toronto, to protect both of them, but until this moment he had fooled himself into believing it was Vicki that mattered. Now he realized that he needed to have Mike in his life just as much as he wanted to protect Vicki from Astaroth. They each played an important role, reminding of his humanity and all that was worth saving in this world, and he loved them both. But if he had to make a difficult choice between them then it would be Mike. And he was shocked to realize that it always had been Mike.
He barely heard Vicki's refusal to go with him. When Christina first turned him she had told him she was giving him a great gift but today, more than ever before, he realized that immortality came with a high price--the loss of those you loved. Yes, he had forty life times ahead of him, perhaps many more than that. But just like Mike, he had only one life to live with his mortal lover because after that he would lose him. Unlike Lee, he doubted Mike would be reborn and returned to him as his soul mate, and the territorial instincts of the vampire would tear them all apart if he turned him.
Henry knew he was going to lose both of them eventually. But not today. Not Mike.
Leaving Vicki in tears, Henry raced along the corridor and down to street level, catching up with Mike and jumping into the passenger seat of his car before he could start the engine and drive away. Mike sighed and dropped his head onto arms braced over the steering wheel.
"You've already got everything so what more could you want from me?"
"If you mean me as in a tasty meal, then go ahead. Bite me."
Henry smiled. "No. Though a sip of you at just the right moment could become very addictive."
Mike raised his head and turned slightly to stare at him. "And what moment might that be?"
"When you're lying in my arms, head thrown back, and crying out in passion."
Henry could sense the blood heating Mike's face.
"I thought that was a one time mistake. Heat of the moment, and just pretend it never happened."
Henry smiled sadly. "I thought so too. And I was wrong."
"Is important to both of us. But until you walked away, I had fooled myself into believing she was the most important person in my life."
Mike rubbed his hand over his face and Henry could see the exhaustion written there. "This has not been the greatest day." He looked up. "I lost my job. I lost my girl...and I lost you as well."
"You haven't lost me."
"I thought you were leaving."
"I am." Henry smiled gently. "And I want you to come with me."
"I thought you asked Vicki--"
"I did...because I assumed you'd come with her."
"I can't leave here. I have a kid."
Henry sighed. "The ties that bind us." He sighed again. "Then I'm staying too, for as long as you stay with me."
"Is a life time long enough?"
"No. But it's all we have."
Henry reached out and cupped Mike's face, sighing in pleasure when Mike leaned in and kissed him. Perhaps they didn't have forever, but he was going to do everything in his power to make every moment with Mike worth living.