At the terrified shriek of, "Eve! Help me!" Eve bolts out of bed, grabbing a dressing gown on her way. Adam remains behind for a moment or two, staring at the black-out curtains and trying to calculate the time -- five a.m., perhaps, minutes before the summer sunrise? -- and then reluctantly he, too, climbs out of bed and pulls on a dressing gown.
He finds them in the living room: Ava pacing back and forth and wringing her hands like the ingenue in a melodrama, and Eve kneeling beside the sprawled body of Ian, slim fingers pressed to the side of his throat.
Adam crosses his arms.
"I"m sorry," Ava sobs. "I'm so sorry. He was so sweet I thought -- and then he wasn't moving anymore -- I can't do it, I'm not strong enough--"
"Hush," Eve says simply and looks at Adam. "I have to finish it or let him die."
"Finish it." It is agreement, not permission. She has never needed his permission for anything.
Eve nods and bends her head to Ian's throat. He is pale and still, but Adam can still hear the sluggish thump of his heart and see a faint twitch in his fingers as Eve clasps his body and bites into him. If Ava has already drained him to this point there will be little blood left for Eve to work with. She will need more before they sleep.
"Adam," Ava whispers, touching his arm, and he steps away enough to make it clear how unwelcome her touch is. "Adam, I'm sorry. He was so sweet. He tasted like peaches."
"You don't remember peaches," Adam says -- she is older than he and he barely remembers peaches -- and then says, "As soon as the sun goes down tonight, you're out."
They glare at each other, her wounded bird act dropped in her anger. Eve pulls her mouth from Ian, her lips a slash of scarlet in her pale face, and says simply, "Not now," before biting into her wrist and pressing it to Ian's mouth. "Drink, dearest," she murmurs, "it will make you feel better."
His lips work a moment before he grabs her arm and begins to suck from the tiny wounds.
Adam has to look away. It's not the first time he has watched Eve perform the change, but he still finds it strangely intimate, like spying on someone in the bath. He can hear Ian sucking on her wrist, making tiny moans as if eating a fine meal after too many days of hunger.
"She's so good at this," says Ava in awe.
"Go to your room," Adam answers. His head is pounding. It's too early in the morning for any of this.
"Adam," says Eve and he looks back at her. She is still kneeling beside Ian, her wrist pressed to his mouth, and he is still holding her wrist to his mouth. The way she pets Ian's hair makes Adam's heart do an odd little flutter, and he thinks, Madonna and child. "Stay with me."
"I think it's better that I get you some blood."
"Very well." She turns her gaze back to Ian, her free hand gently stroking his hair.
"Oh, yes, me too!" says Ava.
"You just gorged yourself on a full-grown man," Adam responds. "You'll be fine for days."
"He made me sick to my stomach."
"Good," Adam says and goes to fetch Eve some blood.
He returns with one glass, which Eve takes gratefully. By now Ian is replenished, and lies against her breast like an exhausted lover, his eyes closed, cheeks pink as if he has a fever. Eve drinks the blood, her eyes closing in bliss, and Adam perches on the end of the sofa to watch them.
He has no idea how he feels about this new development. He likes Ian, he's glad Ian's not dead, but he never bargained on Ian being anything more than a wall between himself and the zombies.
"We all need to sleep," Eve says once she's drunk and opened her eyes again. "It's almost dawn and we're all tired and on edge."
"Ian should sleep with me," says Ava and takes Ian's limp hands. He opens his eyes enough to look at her in confusion.
"Ian will sleep with us," Eve replies. "You have no idea how to tend to a new vampire and the first few hours can be critical."
"That's final, Ava. He will need our help."
"That's no reason for him to share our bed," said Adam, alarmed at the prospect. Of course he's wondered, he wonders far more often than he follows through ... but the idle thought of Ian in his bed is a far cry from actually bringing him to it.
Eve's tone is firm. "He's not waking up alone."
Adam waves a hand in acquiescence. Eve has always found the practice of burying a new vampire and letting them dig their way out of their graves barbaric, and the revulsion extends to letting a vampire wake up alone in a crypt or even in a morgue examining table. The death of the body could be traumatizing, as could the first days of the change, when the senses are overloaded with preternatural strength and every living creature is a potential meal.
Without Eve needing to ask, Adam wraps Ian's arm over his shoulder and hauls him to his feet. Ian is more like someone who's had a few too many at the pub than someone who just hovered on the brink of death, and he smiles at Adam beatifically. "Hello, Adam." He touches Adam's cheek in a tender caress.
Adam just raises an eyebrow at him. Behind them, Eve says, "We're going to get some sleep now, Ian, dearest. Don't worry. Everything will make sense later."
That's a big promise, Adam thinks, but dumps Ian in their bed without comment and crawls in after him, limbs shaking with weariness. Neither he nor Eve bother to take off their dressing gowns, and they curl toward each other like a pair of parenthesis, Ian a sleepy phrase between them.
* * *
At sunset the next night, Ian wakes the entire household with his shouts. He struggles against invisible hands while Eve and Adam both try to calm him. "Sh, sh," murmurs Eve, "you're safe, no one is attacking you. All is well. Sh, sh."
She breaks through his panic finally, and he turns his face to her, eyes wide, cheeks plump and flushed, the new fangs digging carelessly into his lower lip. "Eve."
He looks at Adam, names him: "Adam."
"Yes," Adam says.
"Her room," says Eve gently.
"Soon to be on the road," adds Adam.
"We'll deal with that later," Eve says to him, and says to Ian, "How do you feel?"
Ian doesn't pause to think about it. "Hungry."
Adam looks at Eve. She kneels in front of Ian and puts her hands on his knees. He touches her cheeks with his fingertips.
"You are so beautiful. Your skin is like ... pearls ... milk..."
"Ian," she says, "Ian, my dearest, what's the last thing that you remember?"
He smiles as if with fond memory. "Kissing Ava."
"And after you kissed Ava?"
"And then you..." He looks at her in confusion, the dreaminess gone. "And then you were biting my neck. Then she--" He shakes his head. "No, she bit my neck. And then you did, and then --" His chest heaves and he looks back and forth between them. "And then--"
"Sh, dearest," Eve says, stroking his hair, which has gone from soft and curly to wild and dry as straw. "Breathe through it. There you are, my lovely boy. Don't be afraid."
Adam watches them, alert to any sign of danger from Ian towards Eve, but Ian only gasps for a few minutes and clings to Eve, his face pressed against her shoulder, and then he takes a deep breath and lifts his head. "I died."
"Your mortal body died," Eve says. "You still exist."
"I still exist," he murmurs, and then says again, "I'm hungry," rather plaintively.
Eve shivers as if it brings back memories she would rather leave forgotten. She begins, "Adam, will you," but Adam is already climbing out of bed and belting his dressing gown tighter around him.
"All three of us should feed," he answers and leaves the bedroom. Ava, he thinks, will still be full from drinking Ian the night before no matter what she says. And she will be on the road as soon as he can get her out the door.
Adam returns with a Thermos of O neg and three glasses. He pours servings for himself and Eve -- Eve taking hers with a delicate hand, gaze on Ian -- and Ian, whose eyes grow enormous at the sight of the blood.
"That's not wine."
"No, it is not," Adam says, "and I am not going to sugarcoat things for you. You're a vampire now, Ian. Ava drank your blood and drank too much, so Eve changed you into a vampire rather than let you die. You are no longer a mortal man. You are a vampire." He taps the glass with the side of the Thermos. "And this is what vampires eat, so drink up."
"Adam," Eve says, "please try to be gentle with the boy."
"I have no intention of coddling him." He sits on the edge of the mattress, his own glass in his hand. "I've always been convinced it's better to shock a new vampire than to lead them by the hand."
"I'm a vampire now," Ian murmurs, frowning as he takes the glass. "Huh. I always thought vampires were just a story."
"Very few things are just stories," says Eve.
Ian sips, his face twisted in revulsion -- and then the blood hits his tongue and he tilts his head back and drinks, and then licks every drop of blood from inside the glass.
"Oh, my," murmurs Eve, and smiles when Adam glances at her sharply.
Ian slumps against the headboard, his eyes closed, lids fluttering. His slim chest heaves. "It's like ... acid," he says. "But better. It never gives a bad trip, does it?" He peers at them. "It only ever feels good."
"The good stuff feels good," Adam says. "Blood from the random zombie snatched from the street may not. Blood contamination, you see. All the toxins of the modern age can be lethal to a vampire. Your blood made Ava sick."
"Oh." Abruptly Ian looks miserable. "I'm so sorry."
"Well," Adam says. "You couldn't know." Ian, he decides, is not going to go berserk and harm Eve, and so it is safe for him to drink.
* * *
When he comes back to himself, Eve and Ian are nowhere to be seen. Adam sighs and goes to the guest room to deal with Ava, where he finds Eve as well, standing with her arms crossed and her expression determined as Ava packs her things between sobs.
"You made her do this," she accuses Adam.
"Eve merely agrees with me," Adam says. "You show up uninvited, enter my home without permission, nearly kill my assistant, and drink far more blood than I can spare. Good riddance."
"But where am I supposed to go?"
"Back to Los Angeles," says Eve, not unkindly though her tone is firm. "You're far happier there. There must be others willing to look after you."
"But I want my family!"
"Find Mother, if that's the case," Eve says, and Ava bursts into a fresh bout of weeping.
Still, she toddles down the road with her suitcases under her arm, and Adam doesn't breathe freely until she's gone. "It's for the best," he says to Eve, whose frown has yet to relax. "She's too careless."
"Someday it will be her doom." She turns her gaze to him, and he runs his thumb over her mouth until she exhales and leans her head against his hand. "But you're right. She was only inviting trouble."
"Speaking of, what are we going to do with Ian?" He closes the front door and wraps his arms around Eve's waist.
She reaches back to hold his face. "We can't let him loose. He doesn't know anything. He'll hurt someone or hurt himself."
"We can't keep him, either."
"You mean you don't want to keep him." Gently reproachful.
"Are you saying you do?" said Adam, surprised.
Eve tugs him through the house to the music room, where Ian has picked up one of the guitars -- the Gibson -- and is stroking it lovingly, as if the smooth wood were silk covering the curve of Ava's hip.
"I'm saying," Eve murmurs, "there are worse things than having company after I go back to Tangier."
Ah. That. Adam scowls and goes to the sofa to take the guitar from Ian's grasp. "You'll ruin the finish."
"I'm sorry, Adam," Ian says, chastised, and Eve gives Adam an exasperated look and perches on the sofa beside Ian.
"Don't let him cow you, sweet boy. He's overly possessive of everything. If you'd like, I can teach you how to read objects for their history."
"Oh, yes!" Ian says.
"It takes a very long time to learn," she tells him. "But once you master the technique, nothing material can hide itself from you. It's marvelous, all the old things in the world."
"Teach me," Ian says. "I want to learn everything. My mind feels like -- man, I don't even know how to explain it -- like it's gotten bigger."
She laughs and glances at Adam over her shoulder. "We'll teach you everything we can think of. Won't we, Adam?"
Ian says, "Okay," and then pauses, his head tilting. He crawls off the sofa to the floor, and then crouches down, ear to the floorboards.
"What do you hear, Ian?" Eve said.
"Chewing?" He listens harder. "Little creatures, tapping and scurrying. Oh!" He jerks back.
"Car engine," Adam says, and is proved right in a moment as a car roars down the street outside -- drag racing in a presumably abandoned neighborhood, Adam supposes.
"It's so loud." Even so, Ian's tone is full of wonder.
"Everything will be too much for a while," Eve says kindly. "Scent, vision, touch -- it will overwhelm you if you're not careful."
Ian kneels up. "How do I be careful?"
Eve looks at Adam, waiting for him to answer. Adam sighs. "We'll show you," he says wearily, and Eve kisses his cheek. "If he proves to be troublesome, he's out."
"He won't be trouble," Eve says. "Will you, Ian?"
"I'll try not to be," Ian says, looking nervous, but then he crawls to the table where he and Eve left their goblets and turns one this way and that to make the pattern catch the lamplight and cast prisms against the wall.
* * *
Ian's car is still at the club. The three of them climb into Adam's car to fetch it, and it isn't until then that Ian says, "It's too bad Ava had to go back to Los Angeles. I liked her."
"You'll see her again," Eve promises.
"She's like a bad penny," Adam mutters.
Eve turns in the seat so she can speak more easily to Ian. "When you want to find someone, one of our kind, before you fall asleep think about them as deeply as you can. You'll dream about them, and they'll dream about you, and somewhere between the two you'll know how to find each other."
"That's so cool!"
"It's a damn nuisance," says Adam. "Who wants visitors in their dreams?"
"Curmudgeon," Eve says fondly. She tells Ian, "Don't mind him. Immortality has loss its shine."
"I see," Ian says.
A few miles pass in silence. Eve rubs the back of Adam's head with soothing fingers.
Ian says, "But how could immortality lose its shine? I mean, you're immortal. You can do anything. Go anywhere, be anyone. The world is open and you have enough time to explore it all. Oh, my God," he says, once more in a tone of wonder, "that's how you saw Eddie Cochran. You didn't see it on Youtube. You saw him perform live. How long have you been a vampire, Adam?"
"Too long," says Adam.
"Shush," Eve says. She tells Ian, "Adam was changed almost four hundred years ago."
"Four hundred years," whispers Ian, awed. "And he's bored already?"
"Yes," Adam says, and then frowns when both Ian and Eve laugh as if it's the funniest thing they've ever heard.
* * *
Eve suggests they go to Ian's flat next, so they follow him through livelier streets than Adam's neighborhood to a private school that had been converted into apartments. In the courtyard between the two buildings that make up the complex, they walked past a statue of the school's founder. Someone had put sunglasses on the statue's face and tucked a long glass bong into the crook of his arm. There are other offerings at its feet, like flowers and bags of candy.
"Hey, Mr. Bellanger," Ian says as he passes the statue, and pats its foot fondly. Adam and Eve, walking hand-in-hand behind him, glance at each other, and Eve smiles and removes her sunglasses.
"Your mascot?" she asks Ian as he unlocks the door to a stairwell.
"We all talk to him," Ian explains. "The students who live here leave him presents in exchange for good luck on their finals." He holds the door open for them, and then leads them up the circular staircase to the third floor. He unlocks the door of one apartment and holds it open for them again, and when they both hesitate he says, "I promise there's nobody in there you'd need to explain things to."
"It's bad luck to enter someone else's house without permission," Eve says. "Whether mortal or immortal."
"You have my permission to come inside," Ian says grandly, sweeping a bow like a hammy extra out of a movie about the court of France. Eve strides inside just as grandly -- but then, Adam thinks as he trudges behind, there is no place where Eve is not at home, whether court or hovel or the cluttered, messy apartment of a rock'n'roll kid with blacklight posters on the walls and dirty socks by the sofa.
"Sorry," Ian mutters and scoops up his laundry. "I didn't think I'd have company tonight."
"You may want to arrange to have this place sublet," Eve says. "You'll be staying with us for a while."
"A week," Adam says.
"We can't teach him everything he needs to know in a week."
"I don't want him with us longer than a week."
Ian stands still, looking from one to the other uncomfortably, his hands full of clutter he had picked up in an effort to make things tidy. Eve gazes at Adam mildly, her hands in the pockets of her jacket.
Adam says, "Your mother could take him."
"I don't know where she is."
"I'm certain you could find her."
"Adam," Eve says, "I don't want to foist off Ian like a red-headed stepchild. I could take him back to Tangier with me, if you don't want his company."
"Do you have a passport?" Adam says to Ian, and Ian drops the clutter with a quiet squeak.
"Sorry, sorry," he mutters, kneeling to gather it up again.
"Behold the creature of the night," Adam says. "I'll be in the hall." He leaves the apartment, angry and unsettled by it. It isn't Ian's fault Ava nearly killed him. Like always, Eve has taken it upon herself to clean up Ava's messes, make her excuses, and let her trip on her merry way while everyone roiled in the problems she left in her wake.
He leans against the wall, and then slides down to his haunches, his chin on his chest and his hands shoved in his pockets. It could have been worse, he reminds himself. It could have been much worse.
And at least it was Ian instead of some rocker kid off the streets. Ian is a known quality, not a random factor.
The door to the apartment opens and Eve comes out. She crouches in front of Adam and puts a hand on his shoulder. "We have a frightened, overwhelmed young man on our hands," she says quietly, "who is coping with the fact that he's undead with remarkable grace. But he's going to think he's nothing but a burden if you keep acting this way, and I won't have it, Adam."
"Your mother could teach him," Adam says. "She did a beautiful job with you, and Ava has only lived as long as she has because of the foundation your mother gave her."
"I'm touched by your faith in my family," Eve says dryly and rises smoothly to her feet. "Ian is almost packed. Will you be nicer to him, please?"
"Are you going to insist we keep him?"
"I am going to insist you not make him run away."
Adam sighs and rises, too. "Very well. I'll be nicer. I'll even make him feel welcome."
"Good boy," Eve says, linking their arms, and smiles brightly when Ian comes out of the apartment with a backpack slung over one shoulder and a battered overnight bag in the other hand.
* * *
Adam puts Ian in the guest room, where Ava slept the night before. "Close the curtains completely. They'll protect you from the sun."
"So that part's true?" Ian says, not pausing in his unpacking. "Vampires can't go into the sunlight. What else is?"
"We cannot go onto sacred ground," Adam says. "We can be hurt by symbols of faith."
"We are not, however, repelled by garlic," Eve says from the doorway. "Nor do we need to compulsively count grains of spilled salt or seeds."
"But we can be repelled by salt," Adam says. "As well as running water. And we can be captured by cold iron, and killed by being pierced through the heart by any wood but evergreen."
"But no one knows that anymore," says Eve. "The old ways are lost, or, at best, diluted by entertainment."
"So Buffy the Vampire Slayer is just a story?" Ian says, disappointed.
"Buffy is a story," Adam says. "There were vampire slayers. There may still be, but as far as we know the last one died a century ago."
"Folktales, now," Eve says. She comes into the room and puts her hands on Ian's shoulders. "Good night, sweet boy." She kisses his forehead. "Sleep well. We'll feed again tomorrow night."
"Good night," he says, looking dazed, and then his eyes go to Adam as if in expectation.
He says gruffly, "I'm not kissing you. Good night," and leaves them. Whatever Eve has to tell Ian, she can do so in private.
He is in bed when Eve finally joins him, and lays her head on his chest. He strokes her hair.
Eve murmurs in the dark, "He's a good boy."
"Yes," Adam says, surprising himself, and Eve chuckles and kisses his chest.
"Sleep well, my love. Sleep sweet."
* * *
Like Ava, Ian proves to be an early riser. Though his footsteps are now light instead of plodding like the rest of the zombies, Adam can hear Ian moving through the house, and only has enough time to wonder what he is seeking when Ian knocks softly on their door.
"Come," he says without opening his eyes, and Ian cracks the door open.
"There you are," Ian says. "I thought you might be awake already. Is there anything you need me to do tonight, Adam?"
"We'll be up soon," Adam says and pushes the bedding aside with a frustrated grunt. "We're up now."
"Don't get up just because I am!" Ian says, alarmed. "I can wait."
"No, no, it's sunset. We should start our night." He nudges Eve, who sleeps on through this undisturbed. "Shouldn't we, darling?"
"Sunset," Eve murmurs. "Yes."
"We'll be along."
"I'll be in the music room," Ian says with a nod, and closes the door soundlessly.
They both are quiet for a few minutes. Adam thinks Eve has fallen back to sleep until she says, "Ian seems to think the rest of his life will carry on as normal."
"There's no reason why it shouldn't, once he knows how to behave around the zombies."
"Did yours?" Eve says in a wry tone, and finally pushes the covers aside. "He's young. People will notice he hasn't aged at some point. They'll realize they never see him in daytime. They may start counting their friends and acquaintances who have disappeared -- because you know as well as I that it's impossible not to slip at least once, especially in the beginning."
"Or he could slip next week and reveal the entire masquerade," says Adam. "Yes, I know. But once we teach him to be careful, there's no reason why he can't go on earning a living as he was."
"Procuring things," Eve muses. "That is a rare talent."
Adam snorted. "It's no talent. It's just knowing the right people."
"Which is also a talent." She dresses while they talk, and she turns to Adam now as she twists back her hair. "Meeting people and having them in a position to do you favors, that is a genuine talent, one that will likely help him survive." She sits on the edge of the bed. "I dreamed of my mother last night."
"Oh?" says Adam, neutral.
"Yes," says Eve. "She is in the desert. Such an odd choice, but then I suppose it reminds her of home."
"Does she wish to see you?"
"I think she does."
Adam pulls up his knees at that, pretending to be casual. "Will you go?"
"Not yet." She moves closer to him and drapes herself over his shoulder. "Not yet, my love." They stay there for a moment or two, huddled together, and then she kisses his shoulder. "Come. Ian's waiting for us and I'm sure we're all hungry."
* * *
They drink the last of the O neg, and Adam says as he watches the drops fall from the Thermos, "I suppose there's no helping it. I need to get us more."
"Who do you get it from?" Ian whispers, his fascinated gaze on the drop that lingers on the lip of the Thermos.
"I have an arrangement with a doctor at one of the local hospitals. He gets it from the blood bank. It's been screened for diseases and toxins, so it's nothing but pure blood." He hands Eve a glass and she murmurs her thanks, but doesn't drink.
"There was a time 'pure blood' was merely a matter of bloodlines," she says as Adam gives Ian a glass and takes up his own. "No one of 'pure blood' could be corrupted by peasant stock. But in those days I would have far rather drunk a peasant who lived on nothing but food he grew himself than any aristocrat, with their gout and too much sugar."
"I'm going to miss sugar," says Ian as they clink their glasses together, and they all drink.
"Or maybe not," he murmurs when they all open their eyes.
* * *
"You're using a lot of blood lately," Dr. Watson remarks as they exchange cash for blood. "Experiments not going well?"
"My experiments are going as well as can be expected," Adam replies. He pauses on his way out. "I may need more soon."
"I'll do my best. I can't promise anything."
"No," says Adam, "You never can."
It's a pity, really, he thinks as he drives home, that Ian will likely never know the thrill of hot, fresh blood drunk from a fragrant neck -- a warm, trembling body in your arms as you drink up their life -- only the impersonal coldness of blood drunk from a glass. In the old days, Adam had pursued his prey for days before he finally took the bite, and he would know his prey intimately, their likes, their loves, their little foibles, their habits... it had been a seduction, a dance, even if his partner never knew it until he appeared in their bedroom or a dark alley or a hayloft, to take what was his.
Adam sighs. There is no thrill to this. Just a drive out, a conversation with a man who thinks he has some sort of power, and a drive home.
Perhaps someday, depending on the way the world turns, he'll have to teach Ian to hunt. Adam feels a strange stirring at the thought.
* * *
"Plasma," says Ian.
"What?" says Eve, propping herself on her elbow. They are all lying on the floor of the music room, listening to Ian's iPod through Adam's makeshift stereo equipment -- a position Adam found Ian and Eve in when he returned from the hospital, and he decided to join them rather than ask how they arrived at this method of passing the time. He's not certain what conversation passed while he was out, either, but Ian has been amusing them since Adam returned with guessing what vampires could drink if they had no access to blood. So far, he seems to be reluctant to accept there are no substitutes.
"Coconut water," Ian says earnestly. "I read emergency medical crews can use it instead of plasma, when there's no plasma available. So I thought maybe vampires could drink it, too, when there's no sources of blood around."
"I imagine not," Eve says, lying down again. Their heads all rest on the same floor cushion, and Adam has to admit it's both more comfortable and more companionable than he would have thought. Ian and Eve have struck up a friendship that he finds sweet -- but it's only natural with offspring and maker. Vampires who share blood are often close.
He closes his eyes, trying to picture his own maker, and can call up only his piercing Rasputin-like eyes, and the scent of his breath like the muggy air of Venice in summer -- the year Adam was changed was the year that the plague killed so many, vampires and zombies alike. He supposes his maker is still there, lurking in abandoned buildings along the canals where he waits for the occasional unlucky tourist to stumble across his lair. Or perhaps he, too, has taken the cautious route and no longer hunts, only procures.
"Maybe we should go get some coconut water and find out," says Ian. "There's a convenience store down the road. I could pop out and get some."
"No," Adam mumbles. "Not tonight, anyway. One excursion is enough, and I don't want to spend the rest of the night vomiting if you're wrong."
"Some other time, then," says Ian.
Eve takes both their hands. "Ian," she says, "I know it's difficult to shed all the trappings of mortality in a night, but this is your new reality. There is blood and the steps we must take to acquire it. There are the precautions we must take to protect ourselves from the world of day. There are no substitutes, there are no shortcuts. There is only the night and our world in it."
Ian looks at her, and then moves, quiet and quick, to kiss her mouth. Eve looks startled but not affronted, and Adam smothers a smile at Ian's suddenly terrified face.
"Sorry," Ian mutters and started to get up from the floor. "I don't know what -- I'm sorry, Eve, I'm sorry, Adam --"
"Come here," says Eve, "of course you want kisses, come here," and Ian goes back to her. "It's all right, you see," she murmurs and kisses him sweetly. "It's quite all right."
Adam thinks he doesn't know about quite all right, but he has no objections as Ian and Eve kiss and murmur, and when Ian reaches back to grab Adam's hand and pull him closer, Adam moves closer.
Ian still smells of life -- his life, anyway, cigarette smoke, whiskey, patchouli oil and dank, underground clubs. No burial earth, no embalming fluids. It's good. Adam closes his eyes and inhales the scent of Ian's skin, and thinks, It's good.
* * *
Adam wakes to the muffled sound of the front door closing. He groans and nudges Eve, who sleeps on peacefully, her arms wrapped around herself. The blackout curtains were still covering the windows, making it impossible to guess the time.
He says, "Ian?" without expecting a response, and there is none. Adam gets out of bed, stretches, yawns, and pulls on a dressing gown as he goes through the house, calling, "Ian," a few more times.
He opens the front door and goes down the steps. The sun is almost set, pink and orange on the horizon, and the sky overhead is dark and spangled with stars. So little light pollution in this part of the city -- which is why he likes it, but it can make one feel isolated. He supposes that's why Ian is wandering around, testing the edges of his new life.
Silhouetted against the sunset is a slim figure of Ian, beautiful as a young tree. He looks like he could walk into the starlight and keep walking among the worlds.
Adam hears Eve's quiet feet coming behind him, and then feels Eve's hand in his hair. He murmurs, "Look at Ian."
"I see him."
"Yes, I know."
Adam looks back at Eve. "I'm not sorry we took him in, but I do wonder what will happen when he decides he's ready to leave."
"I suspect we won't find that out for a long time to come," Eve says. "He seems to be happy with us." Her arms slide around Adam's waist and she hugs him to her. He leans against her and she kisses his temple.
"I have never wanted anything so much as I wanted you," he said quietly, "but I want -- something --"
"Ian is a lovely boy," Eve murmurs. "I understand completely."
Adam relaxes, and wonders at himself because of it. Well, then.
Ian comes back to the house as the sun sinks completely behind the horizon, and he smiles as he climbs the steps. "Stretching my legs," he explains. "What are we doing tonight?"
"I think Adam has something in mind," says Eve, and gives them a smile as enigmatic as the Mona Lisa when Adam raises his eyebrow at her.
"I do," he decides. "Tonight, we're going to make some art. Come along, my beauties." He climbs the steps and leads them back into the house.
* * *
They take candles, blankets, changes of clothes, Eve's and Ian's phones, and a camera Adam had devised himself, out into the fields between Adam's house and his nearest neighbors. It takes several minutes to set up the candles to get the light Adam wants, and he takes pictures even before the light is perfect -- of Eve holding a candle and looking up at the sky; of Ian holding his legs to his chest as he gazes at a grouping of candles pushed into the ground at his toes; of their two hands, Eve's slim and graceful, Ian's equally lovely though far more used, with his bitten nails and ragged cuticles.
"When I was a boy," Adam tells them, "we used to play with the camera obscura -- a way of taking pictures by exposing a pinhole of light in a box. There was little variety -- you had to wait an entire day to take a picture, so you couldn't get pictures of people, for instance -- but the principle always fascinated me. I've always wished I had more of a hand in the invention of photography. I think I could have made the process much smoother in the early years."
"We must show you Adam's wall," Eve says. "His friends and lovers and proteges, all of them lovingly memorialized."
"Not always lovingingly," Adam admits. "Some of them, we parted under less than glorious circumstances."
"Byron would have lived much longer if he'd listened to you," Eve says comfortingly. "Shelley, too."
"Fools, the lot of them," murmurs Adam as he bends to look at their composition: Eve with her back against a rock they have covered with a plaid throw -- MacGregor tartan, if Adam remembers correctly -- with Ian resting against her, her arm wrapped around his head. "You look like -- not a Madonna and Child, but something like it."
"La Pieta," Eve says.
Ian turns up his head to look at her. "What does that mean?"
"Mary and the slain Christ, as they are often represented in art," Eve says. "An unholy family, in our case."
"Yes, like that," Adam says as he takes their picture. Ian leans his head against Eve's neck again, looking utterly innocent -- their poor sacrificial lamb, Adam thinks, but like Isaac he was reprieved at the last moment. And what had that lad thought of his twice-given life? Had he enjoyed himself as much as Ian seems to be?
"I didn't think photography was one of your areas, Adam," says Ian.
"I have many areas." He comes from behind the camera to move their faces closer together, and says, "Close your eyes," to which they both obey. Without her lively eyes, Eve looks like a statue herself, pure and cool. Ian still has a little blush to his cheeks. They both have sharp cheekbones and full mouths, hair in different shades of gold, and Adam knows when they open their eyes both sets are blue and deep as the night sky.
Separate, their beauty is striking. Combined, their beauty is staggering.
Adam pushes the camera aside. "I'm done."
He kisses Ian first. He wonders at that for years to come. But it is a good kiss, sweet and lingering, and then he kisses Eve and it is as their kisses always are, consuming, filling him with wonder and gratitude that of all of their kind, Eve chose him. Ian watches them with hungry eyes, his hands on their faces, and he in turn demands kisses, touches, which are given freely and happily. The quiet field is filled with the sound of Eve's laughter, with her delight at the eagerness of her men to please her and each other. The candles cast their shadows against the rocks and distant trees.
* * *
Eve's phone rings. "It's Kit!" she says and answers the call, wandering into another room as she says, "Kit, my love, how do you fare?"
Lying on the floor with his lute, Ian making a marvelously comfortable pillow under his head, Adam barely listens. They'll talk about mutual friends and news of their city, and perhaps Eve will propose that Kit should join them in Detroit -- Adam chooses not to wonder why the prospect sounds actually pleasant--
"Oh," says Eve, all the cheer gone from her voice, and at that Adam sits up. Ian perks as well. "Oh, Bilal, of course. Of course. I'll be there as soon as I can. I will. See you soon. Tell Kit I'll be there soon."
She hangs up her phone and looks at her men, and says simply, "I have to go. Kit is dying."
"Oh, Eve, no," breathes Ian, and Adam thinks No, too, but only gets to his feet.
"Let's get you packed. You may be able to leave tonight."
She nods and starts dialing a new phone number. Ian follows Adam into the bedroom and asks him in a low voice, "You're letting her go alone?"
"I've never 'let' Eve do anything," Adam replies. "She does, or she does not. Something to understand about Eve -- either you help or you get out of her way."
Ian mulls that over. Adam packs Eve's clothes. Ian says finally, "But you won't go with her?"
"Not this time. You don't have a passport and one of us needs to stay with you."
"I'm not going to do anything stupid, Adam."
Adam pauses, looking at him. "Probably not," he says, "but it's still a bad idea to leave you on your own. Eve will be back once Kit is -- is looked after."
"Poor Kit," Ian says quietly.
"'Poor Kit'? You don't even know him."
"No," Ian admits, "but Eve likes him. He must be pretty awesome."
Adam smiles to himself and says, "He's wonderful. You're right."
* * *
The sun is against Eve getting there quickly, but she's able to book a flight that will get her to Paris by sundown and to Tangier before sunrise. When the cab pulls up in front of the house, Eve kisses them both goodbye and tells Ian, "I leave Adam in your hands, sweet boy. Be certain he gets plenty of kisses every night."
"I will," says Ian, and they both smile at Adam.
"I function quite well without kisses," Adam replies, but it seems that he says it mostly because they expect him to.
It's hard to watch her leave -- how many times has he watched her leave? So many, too many, and he knows he will many times more -- but then there's Ian's hand on his back, comforting Adam with its slow, circular caress. "The sun's going to rise soon," Ian says softly. "Want to go to bed?"
"Yes," Adam says, though he doesn't move from the steps until the rear lights of the cab are out of sight.
* * *
"You've never told me how you met," Ian says.
They sit in a 24-hour diner, coffee cups and plates of pie in front of them to give them the illusion of normalcy. Adam has driven past this place many times and written it off as nothing special, but Ian swore, "It's a great place, just great, I've wanted to bring you here for months," and so here they are.
Adam had to admit it's rather pleasant -- lively, for the time of night, full of zombies in raptures over the made-from-scratch waffles and fresh sandwiches stacked high with organic lettuce and locally-cured bacon. Ian is still human enough to miss the taste of food, because he follows each server with his eyes as they pass their table with full trays, and he picks at his pie with his fork as if he's forgotten he can no longer digest it.
"Eve and I?" Adam says.
Ian nods. "Because she's, like, your soul mate, right?"
"My soul mate," Adam murmurs with a slight shake of his head, and holds the coffee cup to his lips as if he'd take a sip. The ceramic surface is warm, the scent of the coffee rich, and he holds it there a moment longer, merely inhaling. Coffee is something he has never tasted, but the scent alone makes him wish he could.
Ian is smiling at him, in such a way that he lowers the cup to ask, "What?"
"I like seeing you enjoy things," Ian says simply and stabs a cherry with his fork. "Tell me more about Eve."
"Eve," says Adam contemplatively. "She's likely in Tangier by now."
"I just want to understand how this is going to work. I mean, if she likes to live other places than with you, does that mean I should stay with you and keep you company? Or are we going to go meet her somewhere after -- after Kit passes away?"
"I don't know what she'll want to do after that." He traces his thumb over the surface of the cup. Smooth, the way manufactured things are now, no lumps in the surface but also no traces of the artisan's fingers as they shaped the cup on the potter's wheel. He misses little touches like that, he realizes, and someday the world will be devoid of handmade things and Eve's gift will be rendered useless. "She was a lady in the household of a minor noble. I played music for him. She would dance."
Ian leans his head on his hand, for the moment his pie forgotten.
Adam says, "She would transfix the entire household. People wrote poems about her beauty, her grace, but none of them could capture the way she danced." He closes his eyes, remembering -- her skirts swirling around her, her feet bare, the ankle bells she wore, the gold bands on her arms, how she would laugh.
He had been captivated by her laugh, by her light, merry feet.
"Were you a vampire then?"
"Yes." He opens his eyes again. Ian watches him curiously, wanting the story. "I had been changed a few decades before. It was easy to hide, then, to be seen only night. I had been living the shadows for years, moving from one minor nobleman's court to another's, when I saw her." He picks up his coffee cup again.
"I bet you fell in love at first sight," Ian says. "That's the best way, when you feel it in your gut."
"Or your cock," says Adam dryly, and is amused to see Ian blush. "You're not the first man to feel that way about her. You won't be the last."
Ian lowers his eyes a moment, then meets Adam's boldy. "I wasn't thinking about Eve." Adam raises his eyebrows and Ian says, "The first time I saw you--"
"No," Ian says, "I want you to know. The first time I saw you, before I even knew who you were, I thought you were beautiful. The most beautiful thing, the most beautiful man, in all of Detroit. The first time I saw you I wanted to touch you." He picks up his coffee cup and almost sips, and then puts it down again. "You can laugh at me if you want."
Adam clears his throat. "I won't laugh."
"So this -- this whole thing -- I'm okay with it. I'm even okay with being a vampire, because that means you won't hide things from me anymore. I like that you're open with me now. I like Eve. I like learning things from her. But I -- I'm most okay with you."
Adam doesn't know what to say for a moment or two. "Eve is my soul mate. You're right about that. We've been married for longer than this country has existed."
"I know. I get that. But if there's room for me -- well, here I am."
"Yes," murmurs Adam, "here you are." There is room for him; without discussing it, really, without thought, they had moved aside and resettled around Ian until he was fully entrenched. Not just their student or their prodigy -- their partner, the third point. There is a reason, Adam thinks, that the triangle is the sturdiest object.
Adam mashes the slice of blueberry pie with his fork, and spears a few berries on the tines. "You know, I have never tasted these. They were discovered after I was changed."
"They're delicious," says Ian. "They're sweet in a gentle way. Not tangy, like cherries, but kind of earthy-sweet. They taste like how blue looks." Adam looks at Ian in surprise, and Ian ducks his head. "I like blueberries."
Even though he knows Ian can eat the blueberry pie no more than he could eat the cherry, Adam switches their plates.
* * *
When he kisses Ian that night, he thinks Ava was mistaken. Ian doesn't taste like peaches at all. He tastes of earthy-sweetness and blue.
* * *
Adam wakes to the sensation of Ian's fingertips slowly stroking his open palm. He flexes his fingers, enjoying the sensation, and doesn't open his eyes until Ian says softly, "So I just figured something out. That wooden bullet you asked me for, that wasn't for an art project."
Adam watches him. Says nothing.
"Wood through the heart." Ian sighs.
"Immortality is easier for some than others," Adam replies. "It has always been easy for Eve. She finds joy in everything. I ... have to look harder."
"You won't have to look very hard while I'm here," says Ian with the confidence of the very young, and he gathers Adam to him as if he could extinguish Adam's doubts with his slim body and sweet skin.
He's not far wrong, really, Adam thinks as the kisses begin. He's not far wrong.
* * *
On the third night away, Eve calls, looking worn when Adam switches to the video interface. "I arrived in time to say goodbye," she says, and Adam reaches out to stroke her cheek on the screen. "He drank contaminated blood. I suppose the young man was just too much to resist."
"Are you coming back?" He can't ask if she's coming home. She is home. Her books, her clothes, her bed, her friends -- it is her corner of the world, and he would only be its guest.
He shakes his head.
"I don't know yet," Eve tells him. "There is much to do here, to dispose of Kit's belongings properly. Bilal will take care of much of it, but there are a few mementos I'd like to collect. There are things that shouldn't be lost."
"Should we come to meet you?"
She smiles at him with the corner of her mouth. "We?"
"Ian and I. What?" he asks when she goes on smiling.
"You like him."
"I've always liked him."
"But you like him now."
"Yes," admits Adam with a sigh. "I like him now. You're right. He's lovely. I wouldn't even object to him staying with me a while longer."
"Good. I don't want you to be without company until I can finish things here. I think it's time to move on from Tangier," she said with a quiet sigh. "It's time for a new view from my window."
"Back to Detroit?" Adam asks, barely daring to hope.
"I've had more dreams of my mother. I think I should visit her before I settle anywhere."
"So you know where she is, then."
"Sedona," Eve says. "She likes the vortexes." She pauses. Adam leans his head on the arm of the sofa. "Perhaps you should meet me there. It's only a few nights' drive from Detroit."
"Send your things here," Adam urges her. "I'll make room for your books."
She regards him tenderly. "I will," she decides. "And you and Ian must meet me in Sedona to visit Mother. She'll want to meet him."
"We will," Adam says.
"You're much happier," Eve observes after a moment longer. "I'm glad."
"I seem to have come through the crisis."
"He makes you happy."
"You make me happy. He... makes me take myself less seriously."
"I'm glad about that, too. Give him kisses from me and tell him I miss him, will you? And I miss you. We'll see each other soon."
"We will," says Adam, and after they have kissed the screens a few times and ended the call, he finds Ian to do just that.
* * *
It's a few days' wait for Eve's belongings to arrive. Adam doesn't unpack anything beyond her clothes -- they will need to breathe a while before she can wear them, and they may as well be ready for her -- because she will want to decide the order of her books and arrangement of her belongings. Ian goes through a few of the boxes, whistling and exclaiming and asking for stories, and Adam finally tells him, laughing a little, "You just have to wait for Eve to come back, I've never seen half of these things before."
Meantime, he prepares the car for a long journey, and Ian helps him use the computer to plan a route where they can find hotels before sunrise every morning. They won't stop often to see tourist destinations. Most of them will be closed for the night, anyway, though Ian mourns the chance to see giant dinosaur displays and record-setting balls of twine. "I've hardly ever been out of Michigan," he says with a sigh.
"You'll see the world eventually," Adam promises. "Paris is best at night, for instance.
"Paris," Ian says dreamily. "Though I think I'd rather see London and Abbey Road."
"Also a good place to see at night," Adam says. "I've recorded sessions there.
"Tell!" Ian demands, and so they pass much of the night with Adam recounting the heady days of Abbey Road and Saville Road.
* * *
"Road trip!" says Ian as they take to the highway. Adam doesn't know how long they're going to be gone and so they both have packed for a few weeks, with instruments and black-out curtains in the back seat, enough cash to get hotel rooms with no questions asked, and only a vague idea of where they're going.
But it's all right, because the highway is empty and so Adam can go as fast as he pleases, and the air is cool when he rolls down the windows, and Ian has made a playlist on his iPod of rockabilly, folk music, early rock'n'roll -- girl groups and Elvis and Bob Seger and Woody Guthrie.
Happiness, Adam thinks, is the taste of blueberries in your mouth and Elvis telling you to Viva Las Vegas and someone whose company you enjoy in the passenger seat.
If Eve weren't waiting at the end of the journey, he would suggest they keep going until they run out of road.
* * *
They don't speak much the first night, aside from Ian's rather haphazard navigation. The second night, Ian says, "What's she like, Eve's mother?" as he takes his turn driving.
"A harridan," says Adam, then says, "No, that's not fair. She's older than Eve. She's not the first vampire, but she may as well be. She was once worshipped as a goddess and won't let you forget it."
"Sounds ... complicated."
"So very. She doesn't like that Eve and I are married. She says you can't marry till death do you part when you're already dead."
"Till life do you part," Ian suggests.
"I would like to see the magic that would need to take place in order for that to happen," Adam replies dryly.
* * *
In a small motor court in Texas, Adam pulls aside the blackout curtain and peers out the window. The prairie stretches from horizon to horizon, as big as the world if you didn't know how vast the world could be. Still, the sight makes Adam's heart do something like beat, and for a moment all those songs about lots of land and starry skies make perfect sense. You could lose yourself in a sky that big. You could find what you were looking for, too.
Speaking of... like he had done so often in Detroit, Ian is down the road, walking toward the sunset. His stride is an easy lope, his shadow long on the road. Adam wants to call him back -- Don't go too far! -- but he can't bring himself to. When Ian wants to walk away, Adam will not make him stay.
It's all terribly metaphorical, he thinks, wry at himself, and sets about taking down the blackout curtains so they can resume the journey. They will be in Sedona by dawn. He's eager to see Eve. He doesn't even mind that Eve's mother will be there, with her disapproval and ancient ways; she is, after all, family, and in the end, that's all anyone has -- the ties of love and blood.
Ian returns to the motel parking lot as Adam is folding the curtains into the trunk of the car, and he smacks a kiss on Adam's mouth. "I think I love the desert," he announces, and takes Adam's face in his hands to give him more kisses.
"Come now, stop that," Adam murmurs, though his treacherous hands find Ian's waist easily and hold him by it, not letting him step away until they both are good and ready. "There's time for that later."
"Eve said to make sure you get plenty of kisses, and I feel like I've been slacking." He gives Adam one more, sweet and lingering, and steps away. "Okay, now I'm ready to hit the road again."
"Child," says Adam. "For that, you have to drive."
Ian grins at him and takes the keys, gets into the driver's seat and starts up his music. Adam gets into the passenger seat and leans back his head, and once they're on the highway he closes his eyes and puts his hand on Ian's thigh.
* * *
They arrive around four in the morning. The house is a low hacienda, outside of the city proper, the desert dark around them for miles and quiet save for the occasional coyote howl. Wall sconces are lit on either side of the gate in the wall that surrounds the hacienda -- not exactly a welcome, but not forbidding them entry, either.
Ian turns off the engine. They both sit.
"Here we are," Ian says belatedly. "Do I call her Grandma?"
"I would call her by her name," says Adam.
"And how are we going to explain the -- the three of us?"
"You really must remember that monogamy is a modern invention," says Adam.
"Right," Ian says. "I'll try."
"Someday," Adam says, "and I'm telling you this now in case it comes up sooner rather than later, but someday you're going to want to leave us. Follow your own path. Find your own soul mate, perhaps. And I want you to know now that it's all right to want that. It's all right to go, when the time comes."
Ian looks at him, all frank innocence, and then leans over the seat to kiss him. "Silly Adam," he says simply and opens the driver door to get out.
But you don't understand, Adam wants to tell him. You're already always walking away.
Ian rings the bell. A moment or two later, the gate opens and there is Eve, framed in the gateway. That is all the impetus Adam needs to get out of the car.