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Blood Ties

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Blood Ties

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Blood Ties: Prologue
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"I could well imagine that I might have lived in former centuries and there encountered questions I was not yet able to answer; that I had to be born again because I had not fulfilled the task that was given to me." ~Carl Jung

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Chapter 1

 

1769, The Kelvin, The Torres Strait, Australia

The Kelvin’s run aground, the keel torn and the tropical storm adding to the damage. There’s not much time left and the main danger now is that the life-boats will sink taking the last of the crew and passengers.

The greatest hazard in these parts is not the weather but the shallow water, and Winona Kirk considers the irony that her husband should have led an expedition to chart this strait of water to prevent future losses, yet here here they are, ship-wrecked on an invisible sand bank.

Soaked through and shivering with cold, she fights back the sobs, knowing that George is wrestling with the sails, fighting to keep the ship upright and provide shelter for the boats against the wind, and to give them the few precious minutes they need to break away. It’s the only way Winona and their unborn child, all of them, will survive.

Twenty five lost already, washed overboard or drowned below decks, and she watches in horror as another wall of water the size of Saint Paul’s hits the life-boat, then George is returning to struggle with the ropes to release it into the sea. His face is chalk white and resigned in the flash of lightening, determined they must live whatever the cost to him. Three boats splintered to the size of match-sticks, two in the water heading away, and hers the last.

She doubles over as the pains almost lift her, her bare feet sliding on slimy boards. No one dares look at her, no one says it, but she knows they blame her, a woman on board caused this by her presence.

“George,” she manages, her voice lost in the moans of the wind, though she knows he cannot hear her. “It’s coming, our baby’s coming…”

The lifeboat hits the water, bashes once against the keel and men spill, then right themselves around her, working oars, shouting to each other, their mouths silent gapes in the howling storm.

The ship’s doctor places a calming hand on her shoulder and guides her to the back of the boat where a rough tarpaulin will act as her birthing bed. But she resists, wanting one more precious moment to look at George. She sees him blinking against the salt water in his eyes, not tears she’s sure of that, and then she mouths, “I love you,” and allows herself to be settled, her last vision of her husband turning, rope in hand before he lashes himself to the wheel. She bears down and screams in pain, unable to fight against this other power of nature, the moment their child should choose to be its first.

Blood Ties: Chapter 1

 

1790, New Orleans

Leo can tell he’s being watched. He’s certain of it; over the past two days the same tall figure vibrates in his peripheral vision like a mirage, yet each time he looks, the dark blond hair, the rustle of fine clothing, turns to shadow.

He’s beginning to think it’s a by-product of the booze; bourbon, wine, Chartreuse: a self-inflicted poison flooding through him, burying him so as he can barely see his hand before his face. Yet he still can’t forget.

Leo’s unshaven cheeks loll on the whore’s pock-marked jaw, the scars ineptly concealed by arsenic and powder, and his teeth catch the skin of her throat and collar bone. A heady scent of sex, tobacco and stale sweat escape worn velvet when he fumbles drunkenly for her corset, her giggles reverberating through his bones.

She doesn’t slap his hand away, yet admonishes him, and informs Leo he’s not as much a gentleman as he looked at first sight with his fine clothes and fancy words. Leo’s not one to disagree; those days are behind him. He exists in the gutter now, as much a vagabond and a nobody as the rest of the cut-throats and wastrels haunting the docks in the dead of night.

He pretends he doesn’t understand her hybrid mix of French and Creole; instead he huffs and presses her hard against the wall, fumbling through the layers of her skirts, fingers numbed by alcohol clasping at her in as much of an effort to keep himself upright as to gain access to more skin, the need to hide and to feel warring in him still.

The girl suddenly grows rigid against him, chocolate eyes wide and unblinking, fixed on a point over Leo’s shoulder. She draws a sharp breath, hissing through her teeth. He feels a prickle of warning in his scalp, then adrenaline jerks through his limbs and he recoils from her, but without the support of her legs clamped around his waist, he struggles to stay on his feet.

He doesn’t dare turn lest he catch sight of whoever, or whatever, might have materialized in the thready mist, unusually cool air doing little to help the bourbon fever in his skin. The sensation he’s being watched, hunted, grows more intense but, he can’t see so good anymore, and when he tries to speak, the words leak from his mouth in slow motion, the sound of a windup toy in its death throes.

“Some other time, ma'am.” Leo attempts a half bow, the movement flooding his head with weight enough to take him to the bottom of the Mississippi. “I have a more pressing… engagement elsewhere.” A bed, anywhere he can pass out until the coordination needed to raise a glass to his lips returns.

Leo straightens awkwardly, pushes long hair from his eyes with trembling fingers, releasing a faint smell of vomit as he does so. It’s hardly surprising – his stomach’s raw, stripped of its contents countless times since…and Leonard almost quashes the image, the one of his father’s deathlike paleness, of blood on pressed cotton, of eye sockets deepened by months of pain, and how David McCoy begged for his end. How the hallucinations plagued and terrified him even as the overdose of opium – at Leo’s hand - eased the poor wretch to his end.

A sob shakes Leo to his boots when he thinks of how far he’s fallen. Once he was a healer, a doctor, his role in life to cheat death. Damn mess he made of that, Leo thinks bitterly for the hundredth time since he stumbled from his bed at nightfall. His murdering heart was given no chance to heal when, six months after David passed, Leo received just punishment for his crime, the loss of his wife in child birth.

All the love he once felt is now focused on the bottle. Leo craves booze; anything to help him forget, obliterate this, this remembering, until sleep and or inebriated unconsciousness claim him.

“Monsieur?”

Leo’s head jerks and he growls at the whore’s look of compassion. Human kindness, pity, care for others a fucking weakness. This is where they’ve got him: broken, bent and spineless under harsh moonlight in a world where suffering always takes the good ones.

He braces his hands on his knees, staggers, and the whore holds under his arms, huffs him up. “Monsieur, you mus’ come with me, is not safe here for someone like you.” She glances over his shoulder again, narrows her eyes then looks back into his soul again. Too kind, too caring.

He wants to explain he can speak French, she doesn’t need to… then he freezes when he feels eyes boring into him, when cold spice and a decaying floral aroma flood his nostrils. He shivers, hears a sniff at the back of his neck and cool lips trailing a hair’s whisper from his clammy skin.

His head jolts again and he crumples to the dirt at the same time as a muffled scream, a gurgle of terror erupt from the whore’s painted lips.

At first he can’t move, even as his mind screams for him to run and save himself, held in place by an invisible force like clambering thorn covered vines, wrapped around his limbs.

The staccato beat of his heart and the fire coursing through his cock break through the fog in Leo’s mind and bring him momentarily to his senses, giving him the strength to shake off the spell which binds him.

Head spinning, he shakily pushes himself up and stumbles half a dozen paces past the whore’s motionless, supine form. He moans and scrubs a shaky hand across his face in a pathetic attempt to erase the image of her lifeless eyes staring obscenely, of her throat torn and leaking blood as if a wolf had feasted on her, the gold coin he gave her fallen to the dirt.

He feels a chill touch to his heart, frosty fingers trailing down the back of his neck, twisting in his hair pulling his head back and exposing his throat, then easing away his shirt. A siren’s voice, bourbon sweet and alluring, seductive like death itself, seeps into his mind and blankets his thoughts and protestations.

You want this? Choose me, Sawbones, choose life.

“No!”

Then all is blackness.

 

+++

 

When Leo wakes, he fancies cool fingers stroke his eyebrows and trace the line of his jaw; he can smell flowers, cloying and sweet. He lifts his hand to his eyes as if batting away a stubborn mosquito, then when his hand drops to the bed-clothes and slides against satin, he panics, thinking he’s in a coffin. His eyes shoot open, to see he’s in a sumptuous room. He remains still, taking stock of his surroundings, gaze skittering from shadows dancing on avocado green walls, to the glow of candle light burning in mirrors, and playing against the chandelier above the bed.

He struggles to sit, but he’s overcome with nausea, so collapses back into the womb of pillows and cool cotton at his head, groaning in discomfort.

He can hear a piano sonata playing in a room below him and recognizes the tune, a Mozart adagio, tragic and beautiful, having him wonder if he is indeed present at his own wake. He burrows deep into the pillows, wanting to muffle the music and even the slow tic of the clock nearby; all sound is somehow too abrasive and painful to his ears. His face is awash with perspiration as he struggles to escape the oppressive volume of crackling wood in the grate, even the rumble of carriage wheels in the street.

He wonders at how his senses seem heightened, as if he’s escaped death, the mundane becoming extraordinary and newly appreciated, when everything was almost snatched from him on the docks. And he’s surprised this is a relief when he thought that all he wanted was to die.

His scalp prickles like needles alerting him to a presence in the room; he knows that when he looks he’ll see those eyes, belonging to whomever it is who’s been pursuing him. “Where the hell am I?” he manages to say.

“You’re safe,” comes a voice, quiet and modulated, from his right.

When Leo turns his head, he’s met with glittering blue, and a smirk which fills him with such instant irritation he has to close his eyes, breathe deep, and fight the instinct to flee.

“Who the hell are you? I didn’t ask to be safe, nor to be brought here.” It’s true, Leo’s courted death, he realizes now; he wanted to die, too cowardly to do it by his own hand, so he sought out darkness and danger among the cut throats in the inns and docks – searching for an end to his pain.

Leo’s self-professed ‘savior’ is a composed, handsome youth in his early twenties, wearing a slate gray velvet frock coat and britches. His hair is tied elegantly at the nape, legs in white stockings and wearing patent shoes, the buckles highly polished and gleaming in the warm light of the candelabra. But there is something disquieting about him, about his appearance and manner, in the way he is regarding Leo proprietorially.

“You cheated death. I saw that whore’s pimp in the shadows, knife in hand, ready to cut out your heart for a few gold coins,” the youth says with a hint of amusement.

Leo does not dare ask what became of the pimp, and he remembers the poor woman’s dull stare where she fell, how her throat had been savaged by an animal. His instincts scream for him to stand, telling him to run as if his unwanted host had something to do with that heinous crime.

Then the youth speaks again, a simple command which leaves Leo overwhelmed with unaccountable weariness and unable to move, let alone run.

“Rest…” spoken softly but with unmistakable authority, so Leo must obey. It’s as if the mattress itself is moved to obedience when it appears to sag beneath him and hold him like fly paper. Leo’s eyes fall shut again, peaceful sleep beckoning, and he can no more fight the inevitable than a drowning man can the weight of one hundred fathoms above him.

When the faintest scent of cut flowers wafts past Leo’s nostrils, he wakens again and his eyes open wide, startled by the sudden close presence. The youth is leaning over him, his face in shadow, and a corona of gold framing his head. He speaks close to Leo’s ear, yet he can feel no breath or warmth.

“Stay, Sawbones.”

In the blink of an eye, where once he was close, now the youth has returned to his chair beside the bed sitting, legs crossed and straight-backed, as if he had never moved, as if Leo had imagined him so close moments ago. The unnatural suddenness, the speed of his movements, like the dart of a humming bird, have Leo thinking he is in the presence of a sorcerer.

And if there is magic here, it surely comes from the youth’s eyes. His pupils are large and rimmed in blue, making the centers appear blacker than the darkest night, and they contract and grow wide again while he gazes upon Leo. Fear pulses through him, alerting Leo that he needs to escape, that he must somehow force himself to blink and shake off the hypnotic gaze which pins him in place, the intent of a predator regarding its prey with consummate calm.

“What the hell is this? Why am I in bed?” Leo scans the room, spies a door ajar, and wonders whether he should run now, or wait for a more opportune moment.

He should feel a throbbing in his temples from the drink, should be paying for his excesses; instead he feels clear headed and alert, and a curious energy, as if the day before never happened.

The youth contemplates him, his smirk becoming broader by the minute, and Leo feels conflicting irritation, disdain, disapproval and something drawing him to the man – an almost tangible force, so his emotions boil up to the surface, making him sweat and breathe heavily. He becomes convinced, while he examines the handsome face before him, that his actions are no longer his own, that he is somehow being compelled and molded by the man before him. He appears ordinary but on closer inspection, the pale skin is almost translucent; it’s a trick of the light no doubt, but Leo is sure he can make out the veins at his throat, adding to the sense that he is not in the presence of an ordinary being.

“Well, are you going to goddamn-well answer me?” he demands finally, ill-humor winning out as ever when he speaks.

The youth uncrosses his legs and rubs his chin with a flutter of ivory lace at his wrist.

“You can stand now, if you’ve a mind to.” He looks Leo up and down, adding to the feeling of mild violation, as if he’s been recently bought and the youth’s inspecting his purchase. His cheeks burn at the thought and, to his fury, his cock pulses. Why should his body be crying desire when he has never felt such a perverse reaction in the presence of a man? It’s yet more evidence that he is no longer entirely master of his own will, that he is somehow being compelled to respond in ways he would not were he free.

Yet he can move a little. He begins to lower the sheets until he is startled to realize he is dressed in only a night-shirt, and where the cotton is bunched around his waist he sees that his thighs are covered in light bruises and the shirt sticks to his belly as if he has experienced ejaculation in his sleep; and though this cannot be possible, he is sure the youth had something to do with this. Flushing with shame and incomprehension, he makes to wrap the sheet around himself, cursing under his breath. Then his hand moves to his throat in reaction to a tingle of pain and he feels a mild swelling – now, he must run now.

However, before he can stand, he’s thrown against the head board by an invisible force, a blast of cool scented air which leaves him winded and stunned into immobility. Before he can take another ragged breath, the youth is beside him again, swift and silent as death.

“What are you?” Leo manages to stutter.

Rose petal pink lips hover close to his, and Leo trembles, watching transfixed at how the youth’s tongue flickers to moisten his lower lip, afraid to look away. The depth of those eyes fill Leo’s field of vision, as if he’s fallen off the side of a great, becalmed ship into a vast, warm ocean. His eyes are hypnotic and Leo knows now for certain he is not in the presence of a man, but a devil waiting to take his soul. It must be so for when, a moment ago, he imagined the youth rolling towards him like a giant wave, now, in a blink, he is returned to his seat, his feet up on the bed, hands braced behind his head.

He ignores Leo’s question and says instead, “You’re just like your father, you know that?” His slim calves flex as he rotates an ankle idly.

“My father? How do you know of him, boy?” it’s almost a whisper. The question’s such a surprise, that Leo’s overwhelmed by curiosity, his fear subsiding a little, so he sags back onto the bed, pulling the sheets tighter around himself. He can see no clothing anywhere in the room and for now he will have to bide his time. Perhaps talking is the best thing – the youth appears to be happy enough in conversation, and perhaps Leo’s suspicions that he has been violated in his sleep are ill-founded, his reason scarred by alcohol and grief till he thinks everyone means him harm. Perhaps he fell on the dockside, too drunk to register his injuries until now. It would not be the first time.

“I’m not a boy, Leonard McCoy.”

“You sure look like one to me…”

The youth’s feet hit the floor and he sits up straight in the high backed chair. Two long fingers play with the lace at his sleeve while he considers his answer and he can’t seem to take his infernal eyes off Leo for a goddamn second. Finally, he steeples his fingers, then drops them to his thighs.

“Your father saved my life. He gave me life.” His eyebrows are thick and dark under his dark-blond hair and they draw together now.

It’s a simple statement and Leo scrunches his eyes closed, perhaps to force back tears while also wishing this man child be gone when he opens them. When he looks up, he sees that his companion’s eyes are downcast, framed by dark lashes; he seems younger, less smug and the vibrant smile has disappeared.

“What in god’s name do you mean by that?” Leo harshes out.

“Perhaps if I tell you my name…”

“Well tell me, damn it; why the mystery?”

“Mystery,” the youth echoes thoughtfully. There is more mystery in this world than you can conceive of.” He runs his thumb across his lower lip and Leo fancies his teeth gleam in the candlelight like glass.

“No doubt, you fool, but tell me your name.”

“Kirk.”

Ah. He heard his father talk often of the Kirks; until recently he’d kept a correspondence up with the surviving family.

His father often regaled visitors to their home with tales of the ship-wreck he endured on the Torres Strait, of how they thought all was lost until they were discovered, and brought home from that remote part of the world, he to Atlanta and the Kirks to settle in Iowa. He remembers how, as a boy, he thought he’d lost his father; he was but two years old when David was believed dead, but Leo was not too young to forget the sense of loss in his household, nor the joy when his father finally returned, six years later, thin and wild-looking after his ordeal.

And now he’s lost him again.

And Leo’s brought back to the moment he held the glass of laudanum and brandy to his father’s lips, the dose lethal, guaranteed to send him to eternal sleep in minutes, and he convinced himself it was the act of a devoted son; he could have pulled back, he could have said no, instead Leo drove forward. This is why he drinks; he lost his strength that day, the desire for forward momentum in his life dying with David, and finally killed off when his wife and un-born child were taken less than six months later. And now, simply by stating his name, this man has thrown feelings at him that Leo thought he’d lost for good: curiosity, anger and giving a damn – right back in his face.

Leo frowns, and endeavors to compose himself. He runs a hand through his hair and searches for the ribbon there, loosens it then reties his thick, annoying, womanly locks and folds his arms.

“So, you lost your father too.” His voice is gruff, unable to hide the feeling in his throat.

George Kirk’s son nods. Then he brightens, jumps to his feet and slaps Leo’s arm. “Still, it would take more than losing a father to crush the spirit of one James Tiberius Kirk.” The smile is false; Leo doesn’t know Kirk but already he feels he can read him and he fancies there’s a shadow of uncharacteristic insecurity that passes across his face. “And my friends call me James,” he finishes with a coy eyebrow arch.

“Well, I’m not your friend, Kirk,” Leo says pointedly.

“Yes, ‘friend’ seems a little, how shall I put it? Prosaic – for what we already are to each other.”

The spot on Leo’s neck itches at these words and he wishes he had a mirror to examine the slightly swollen skin he can feel there. He recalls the mess concealed by the sheet and for the first time he thinks he remembers: there’s an after image, as if he’s gazed upon the sun – a memory of having been, indeed, touched by this youth (at least in his dreams), of being kissed and held down by him. Kirk’s words: ‘what we are to each other’, fill him with an inexplicably comforting yet terrifying sense of being owned. He cannot explain why this feels fitting, since it goes against everything he knows to be right, against all decent behavior.

He raises his knees, bunching the sheet to conceal his arousal, and attempts to speak as if his being semi-naked in a room with a man he’s never met before, a man who is as likely his captor than his savior, is not something to be remarked upon. After all, if he is wrong, if it was just a dream, how can he explain himself, how can he even broach such a vile subject?

“My father spoke of your family, yes.” It is a fair attempt at a casual tone, most irritation purged from his voice.

“We didn’t visit, although my mother spoke of him often too,” Kirk smiles, his tongue chasing his words, disappearing back behind his teeth, making Leo’s breath hitch in his throat. Leo tracks the movement of Kirk’s fingers as he stands and loosens his cravat and steps towards him. “Although I saw him once, just before he died.”

Saw him? What do you mean, Kirk? I was by his side night and day, what did you do, fly through a window?” Leo snorts at the thought. He scans the room again for some clothing, a robe at the very least he can cover himself up with.

“There isn’t one, I made sure of that,” Kirk says.

“Isn’t what?”

“A robe.” That goddamn smirk again.

“How did you…?” Leo’s certain he didn’t say it out loud and he feels the blood drain from his face, wondering if Kirk is, perhaps, a clever showman rather than a supernatural being. Indeed, he looks like a dark angel: hair golden, face partly in shadow, unlike an ordinary man...but it cannot be; he’s thinking like a church-going, superstitious old woman, not a scientist, the medic he is, the man who explains everything with reason. And where science does not have the answers now, Leo believes that one day, always, it will provide them.

But Kirk seems determined to keep him in a state of confusion.“I read your thoughts,” Kirk says with a casual tone more appropriate when examining clouds and remarking on the possibility of a storm.

“You’re an idiot.”

“Your father was the idiot, Bones. I could have saved him.” Kirk’s voice rises in volume, and it might as well be a lion’s roar for how it assaults Leo’s eardrums. He has the look of a hawk waiting to launch itself for the kill, eyes glittering, menacing, like he wants to hurt something. A candle stutters and spits in the candelabra above them, then goes out with a sigh.

Though Leo is ice cold with fear, again he can’t drag his eyes from Kirk’s face, utterly in his thrall, unable to speak when, to his horror, he sees that his captor’s forehead has grown in size, and his eyes seemingly glow gold with anger. And though his rational mind struggles to make sense of the transformation, how it must be a trick of the light, fever perverting his vision, Leo believes that this is a demon, but a young one who’s hold over him is intermittent, for how else can he explain how one moment he can move, another he can’t?

He feels the tie of Kirk’s compulsion over him loosen a little so he can speak and is able to shift in the bed.

“How? How in hell’s name would a jumped up schoolboy expect to save a man dying of the plague?” he says, some part of him wondering if it is indeed sensible to challenge such a creature, but then Leo could never stay his mouth. Yet despite the demonic appearance, he can feel in his bones that Kirk would not cause him harm, that while he has him here against his will, he can be reasoned with.

“But he didn’t die of the plague, did he, Bones? We know how he died, you and me, although your mother poor Eleanor, handsome woman, thinks David gave up the ghost in his sleep.”

Leo shakes with sudden rage and shame, and the need to punch that smug face, take away this boy’s confidence and sassiness, in the same way he’s had his own amputated and dashed by loss and death. “He…I…”

“You like to play God, you medics, taking away and giving life at whim, like supernatural beings.”

“I don’t damned well like it, well that’s not why I do this; I just, it’s who I am, dammit. I fix people, I’m a doctor…”

Kirk watches him, his eyes narrowed, but expression impassive as he listens, face returned to normal...perhaps Leo did imagine it after all. Perhaps he has lost his reason and faces a lifetime in an asylum.

“I wasn’t able to save him, he was dying, he…” Leo’s voice breaks as he recalls the papery feel of his father’s skin when he held his hand, the light fading in his eyes. “He asked me; how could he fucking ask me?”

“How could you say no?” Kirk’s voice is a probing whisper; he’s closer, and Leo feels the mattress shift under his weight. Leo backs up instinctively and turns his head away, even as he hungrily breathes in the scent of cloves, of wild water, of… “You always want to help, don’t you, Leo, and it’s a strange world we live in when helping involves killing...”

Somehow Leo struggles to his feet so he towers above Kirk, his limbs tangling in the sheets. They drop to his ankles when he swings his arm back and socks Kirk hard in the face. It’s been many years since he boxed and damn it feels good to hurt for once: inflicting pain can never be a disappointment, so much easier than taking it away.

Kirk half slips off the bed and manages to right himself. And to add to Leo’s fury he chuckles and rubs his hand across his jaw, leaving a smear of blood across his chin from the split lip. Leo flexes his fingers, shaking his hand to get some feeling back.

“What in the name of God’s so funny?” He looks down at Kirk’s smirking, annoyingly handsome face, and notices he’s not as blemish free as he’d first thought: there’s a slight scarring to his jaw, a weaker left eye, maybe.

Leo feels a cool touch to his thigh and he glances down to see white fingers, translucent nails, resting on his skin. His eyes catch Kirk’s: his pupils are wide and black, with a golden tinge to them, encircled by aquatic blue as if the sun itself had reversed into darkness. They widen even as Leo stares into their depths and he finds he cannot look away, cannot deny that he wants his touch, though he is a man, and this is wrong, perverse, and he will be damned for it. Truly he has been spellbound by this incubus who has found some dark part of him, unearthed a desire he did not believe was possible in a man of standing like himself.

“What are you doing?” he manages to ask, mouth dry yet not moving away despite the magnetic pull on him easing a little; he admits he is unwilling to shrug off the sure touch.

He feels the slide of Kirk’s clothing against the length of his body as he stands, stretching to his full height, the heels of his shoes making him two hand spans taller than Leo in his bare feet.

“I’m doing,” Kirk says, leaning close, hot house breath on Leo’s cheek, settling on his skin, “exactly what you want me to.”

As if to test that he has free will still, Leo moves and places his hands on Kirk’s shoulders; he pushes him away a little and cants his head so he can scan Kirk’s face, purposefully avoiding his eyes, for it is from here the chains on his reason come forth, he knows that now. He can feel Kirk’s hand still at his thigh and, to his mild horror, his own, unexpected erection bobbing against the cotton of his night-shirt.

“But I don’t know what I want you to do,” Leo exclaims when he feels Kirk’s other hand slide under his nightshirt, around to the small of his back, stroking the swell of his buttocks.
Part of him still has the strength to fight this breach of propriety, this miscreant with no respect for social mores nor decency – yet Leo leans in to the touch and Kirk smiles knowingly, continuing to stroke his skin, to touch him in ways no one other than a whore has done before.

Then he notices and inhales sharply; the cut on Kirk’s lip has entirely disappeared and healed. At the same time, he realizes that Kirk’s chest does not rise and fall in a normal rhythm although he appears to breathe sporadically. He notices too how Kirk’s teeth are gleaming, whiter than sun-bleached bone and his canines are longer than they were, like a wolf’s; surely he has woken into a dark fairy-tale.

Kirk is not held back by any doubt over whether two men should touch in this manner; words like ‘sin’ and ‘wrong’ apparently have no hold over him. Eyes like a flame, he unlaces Leo’s nightshirt, pulls it over his head and tosses it onto the bed.

Leo does not move nor resist, burning with fearful desire himself, caught like an insect, but he realizes with a tremble, willingly so. And perhaps Kirk is indeed right, he is able to read Leo’s thoughts, for his dark lashes flutter demurely and he nods slightly then leans in to press his lips to Leo's. Strong hands pull him close, the ruffle on his shirt rubbing at Leo's chest, the lace of his sleeves dragging across super-sensitive, naked skin.

It’s a liberation; Leo realizes he's never felt so alive. There’s an acuity to his senses as if he's imbibed a dangerous potion which makes him able to smell everything: the cologne on Kirk's neck, the wick of every candle in the room, his own goddamn skin even; and the underlying musky note of arousal from both of them. Perhaps it's the contrast between his near constant inebriated state over the past few months since he abandoned his practice and fled to New Orleans, to run into the arms of whores and gamblers; whatever the reason, now he feels like a man breaking the surface of water just as he feared his lungs would give out.

"I did this to you," Kirk growls into Leo's hair as if, yet again, he's reading his thoughts. "Igave you this. If you stay with me, let me heal you, you will always feel everything, hear the slightest sound, the grate of a rat's teeth against wood in a faraway room, the flutter of a bird's wing above you, the slightest shift of a building; you will know everything, taste everything, and understand what it is to be truly alive...to live like a god, not a mortal man."

Kirk's fingers tighten on Leo's limbs as if he's holding him up from collapsing back on the bed; and it's true, he's lost all strength and desire to resist. As if some force was dragging each cell in his body and soul towards a flame, to burn and consume him.

"I don't... don't want this, " he manages to growl, even as Kirk's fingers run down his belly to tease at the hairs at its base. He feels a sweet breath on his neck; it holds the scent of forests and rivers, not of a man. Leo knows he should feel afraid but all he feels is acceptance, a pit of fire in his belly and a sudden surge of animation so that he can take control of himself, not to run away, but to dive into this wickedness. But if this is so wrong, why does it feel so right? So he doesn’t shrug off Kirk’s advances, instead twisting one leg behind Kirk's britches and runs the arch of his foot up a muscled calf.

Kirk continues in his exploration of Leo's neck with his tongue, little moans and growls punctuating each touch, and the gentle administrations become stronger, more insistent. His teeth scour Leo's skin while he continues to tease with cool fingers at Leo's belly, then the tops of his thighs so that, to his own surprise, Leo grinds out irritably, "Touch me, dammit, touch me!" All doubt burned away by the sensations welling through him, a forest fire, a mortification of his flesh, coursing through his skin and belly and cock, laying waste to any resistance, leaving him to rise from the ashes anew.

With an animal growl, Kirk responds by turning him about and throwing him onto the bed sending a host of candle flames into a flicker, an external manifestation of the waves of want and need running through Leo’s every fiber.

He doesn’t dare glance down at his cock, too afraid of the reality of his sudden, unexpected desire, but at the same time unwilling to give up this touch which has him arching off the bed in anticipation.

Leo takes Kirk's wrist and pulls him forward so he sprawls, still fully clothed, on top of him, the fabric making him sigh with lust and annoyance, when all he wants is skin and tongue and teeth.

Kirk's hair is loose and they struggle for dominance as Leo twists his fingers in its softness, using the grip to drag their mouths closer. Kirk's mouth is insistent and his lips hungry as he searches for Leo's tongue with his own and draws him in, sucking on it and moaning with an air of desperation which surprises Leo.

"Fuck, so beautiful, " Kirk groans, taking a moment to contemplate Leo's burning face, "You will look magnificent at my side, we'll be the envy of the the world and it will be ours for the taking." Then before Leo can ask him what the hell he means, Kirk is fumbling at his fly and guiding his erection into Leo's hand.

His cock is long and pale and smooth, the tip moist and pink with arousal. Leo gasps and pulls it flush with his own and Kirk leans up on his arms so he can watch as Leo manipulates the two together, their moans filling the room. He locks eyes with Kirk who collapses onto him, flattens him to the bed and rolls his hips against Leo's while peppering his face with wet, hot kisses.

Then some sense struggles to the forefront of the clouds in Leo's mind and the fire in his loins. He remembers what Kirk said to him earlier. "What do you mean, you did this to me? Did what?"

"Remember how you were near collapse on that dock, Bones, ready for any pimp or rat to take you apart; I picked you up, healed you and brought you here."

Leo loosens his grip, trying to push Kirk away so he can think. "Healed me, how? What are you talking about, I'm not, I wasn't sick."

"You were drunk, Bones, drunker than any man has a right to be and still walk. You were sick of life, the greatest gift of all, and you'd lost all sense of self-preservation; so when I saw you on the point of collapse, I gave you my blood."

Leo stiffens. “What blood? What the hell, I’m not a fucking bat and how…?"

"The tiniest drop is like a thousand nights sleep, the most potent aphrodisiac, the answer to all life's questions. It’s my gift to you." He kisses Leo’s shoulders, covering the moles one by one with reverent kisses.

"You're out of your mind, that's not possible." Leo shakes his head, looking up at the wanton figure before him who insists on confounding him more with every word and action.

Kirk sits back on his heels, his cock jutting out before him, and raises his thumb to his mouth, shaking free the lace cuff so Leo can see. He presses the pad of his thumb to a long canine, and when he pulls it away, Leo can make out the darkest droplet of blood sitting on the porcelain skin.

"I did this," Kirk guides his thumb to Leo's lips and frowning nods. "Take it; I've not given it to any other; this is a gift, this is life."

Leo huffs and shakes his head, twisting his fingers in the sheets. "I'm not an animal." he says.

"Neither am I, nor human as you understand it." Kirk forces his thumb gently between Leo's lips so it touches the tip of his tongue, and Leo grabs his wrist, vacillates for half a breath, aroused beyond comprehension. He does not know why he feels he must do it; he’s sure Kirk is controlling him, compelling him, but do it he must. He holds Kirk steady and allows his thumb to enter fully into the warmth of his mouth.

He cannot describe the taste, it's like all the fine wines he's ever tasted yet none of them, like absinthe in its scent, yet unlike it; one droplet feels like an entire meal inside him, and he's satisfied and hungry all at once.

Kirk hisses with arousal at the sight, and watches him through hooded eyes. For the first time, it crosses Leo’s mind that the reverence and adoration with which Kirk looks at him is as if he’s under a spell of his own.

Leo breathes deep the faint scent of lilies which seems to accompany this alluring demon; he closes his eyes, sucks and sucks and allows the sensations to ripple through him, the droplet of Kirk's blood like heated oil under his skin. He gasps in surprise as Kirk takes his cock in his hand and clasps it against his again, their limbs tangling awkwardly around each other.

When Leo comes, it hurts, the intensity of feeling turning him inside out, eviscerating him so he's surprised he doesn’t see an actual wound on his belly once his breath returns. He sees that Kirk too has ejaculated all over his stomach and chest and he wonders why this does not fill him with disgust.

Kirk smirks at Leo and his eyes glitter. "Magic," he grins, "and you're a man of science, how do you explain this?"

Leo cannot speak for some minutes, too loosened and satiated – magic indeed that he should be lying with a man and it feels like the most natural, fitting thing in the world. He sighs as Kirk’s hand strokes his face and brow, a look of fear passing across his features as if he too suspects this must be a dream from which they will soon awake.

Leo licks at the cool fingers then takes Kirk’s wrist so he can lower his hand, unable to take much more sensation.

"And this was what you offered my father? Your blood?"

"Well, not only, " Kirk says, looking to the side. He jumps up and tucks his cock back into his clothing, staring at Leo intently all the while. "I have to leave, it's almost dawn."

"Why?" He's loose and sticky and has a thousand questions, all fear and doubt gone.

Kirk sighs and shrugs, "I have a great deal to explain, Bones, but I'm not going away. I'll come back if you want me?" He frowns and again, Leo is struck by how young he looks. "We can be together," Kirk adds mildly, turning to the window and looking towards the street.

He straightens his jacket, fiddles with the cuffs of his shirt again and leans over Leo, passing his hand under his neck and angling his head so he can lean in and kiss him. His touch is gentle, tender, as his tongue sweeps across Leo’s, leaving the impression of himself for Leo to hold onto until their next meeting. Leo sighs raggedly suddenly fearful Kirk will not return, though he would not admit it for all the gold in the New World. Kirk looks at him fondly and brushes a stray lock of hair from Leo’s eyes. “Now sleep. You will need to recover your strength back.”

"I don't understand any of this, " Leo breathes when they part, feeling an irritating sense of missing this strange creature even when Kirk's still standing before him.

“We’ll talk tonight.”

+++

 

“Monsieur?”

Leo forces his eyes open and sees a youth with curls like cupid leaning over him.

“Who the hell are you?” He covers his eyes to shield them from the sunshine streaming through the window.

“I am Pavel,” he says with a nod, his accent foreign, Russian perhaps, a certain pride in his tone. “My master instructs me to assist you with your every need.” He cants his head and Leo sees abrasions on his throat, twin pin-pricks as if he has been bitten. The medic in him, so long subsumed, rises with long-unexperienced concern for another.

“Are you hurt boy? What’s this on your neck?” Leo sits up, reaching for the youth’s skin, but he steps back shaking his head.

“I am not injured, sir, I am marked.”

“Marked?” Leo reaches for a velvet robe on the chair beside the bed and searches the room for signs of Kirk. “What marked you? Sounds to me like you’re a slave not a free man.”

“We are in La Nouvelle-Orléans where there are many kinds of slaves and freedmen too. If this is slavery, I give it freely,” Pavel says with a small smile, stepping away from the bed and turning his back so Leo can cover himself. “You wish I should draw you a bath? You will need to be prepared for our master.”

Leo blushes. “No man is my master, Pavel.” Even as he says the words, he feels a flicker of want at the memory of the night before. He ties the robe around himself and steps to the window. It’s a warm day and the street is busy with everyday people going about their business, all, he thinks, oblivious to the strange goings on in the town house they pass by. “ Nevertheless, I would appreciate a bath, thank you.”

Pavel dips his head and makes for the door.

Leo calls after him. “Are we alone in this house?”

“Yes, sir, until tonight when the master... returns. He may bring guests with him.” Pavel extends his hand to pull the door open and as his sleeve falls away, Leo sees more marks on his wrist, and he looks away quickly lest Pavel sees he’s noticed. The marks bring back the memory of Kirk’s teeth on him and he flushes, feels himself hardening, wondering if Pavel experiences the same with his master. He feels an unaccountable jealousy at this thought, disliking the idea he might be part of a collection of playthings.

“Pavel, am I free to go?”

Pavel looks at him knowingly. He indicates the outside world with a gesture towards the noise of carriages and cries from traders in the street. “The only thing that keeps you in this house is yourself, doctor. You may leave and if you do, Mr. Kirk has given me instruction to allow it.”

“How do you know I used to be a doctor?” He has told no one of it since he arrived here.

“Mr. Kirk,” Pavel says with a bright eyed smile.

Leo realizes that the answer to most questions he will ask from now on, at least as long as he stays a willing captive in this place, will be the same – Mr. Kirk.

+++

After his bath, Leo eats a light brunch of sweet black coffee, fresh figs and pecans, and molasses topped cornbread; then he takes up Pavel’s invitation to explore the house.

It is but a few years old, modern and built in the latest Spanish style, the colony having been taken from the French for many years now, and the original simple, wooden houses lost in the great fire being replaced with those of brick, decorated with elaborate ironwork after the latest fashion.

Walking across a courtyard, flanked by balconies, Leo’s heels click against the brick paving. They pass a simple fountain, three urns, one on top of the other, with a soothing flow of water spilling into a pool covered in flowering lilies, and surrounded by terracotta pots.

He brushes a rosemary bush with his hand as he passes, bringing the scent close to his nose, inhaling its spice as he follows Pavel to a metal staircase to one side. It leads to the roof top, to a large terrace where there is a dome with just space enough for the two of them to step inside. It is a small observatory, the telescope an indication that Kirk must be very wealthy to afford such luxuries. It’s also evidence that Pavel is a permanent resident in the the house since he becomes particularly animated when Leo rests his hand on the instrument, and bends his head to look at the sky as the evening draws close.

“I hope one day we will build wessels that can carry us to the stars as ships brought us to the New World!” His eyes shine at the thought.

Leo quirks an eyebrow, humoring him. “Yeah, well, stranger things have happened, son.”

“I am not your son.” Pavel shrugs his shoulders, frowning and waves his hand towards the door. “We leave now, thank you.” Leo’s inadvertently offended him and he sighs though he makes no attempt to back track – while he may feel re-born and remarkably light considering his experiences, he resists an attempt to appease the boy, unsure whether he should trust him.

He follows Pavel through the elegant mansion in silence, listening to his chatter as they traverse long, lantern-lit corridors and into rooms that are a feast of bright, tropical color – such as the sumptuous dining-room with its mango-colored walls – so different from the classic style of the Atlanta homes he’s used to. They reach the picture room and he discovers that Kirk’s quite the magpie, not paying full attention as Pavel points to various portraits on the walls, pieces of ‘pwiceless’ furniture and cabinets packed with porcelain figures.

It is around this time that he begins to feel a hunger, an emptiness which is curious since he ate a short while ago. As they reach the door to the next room, Pavel pauses. “This is music room,” he says with a bow, pushing the tall, slim double-door open. Leo walks past him and it is here, when he sees the piano, and the harpsichord by one wall, that his discomfort begins to make sense. Kirk’s presence is very strong in here and suddenly Leo feels his absence keenly.

He walks towards the piano, and as soon as he runs his fingers across the keys, his nostrils twitch at the scent of lilies in the room, though he can see none.

“Did you play this, when I was...when I was first brought here?”

“Was me, yes. Kirk plays piano too – he a virtuoso, I am just a...” his voice trails off and he watches Leo walk about the room, peering at the pile of sheet music scattered haphazardly on top of the piano. Then Pavel adds, “Violin is his best. I hope he plays for you later – it brings tears to a man’s eye. You will see.”

A few hours before he came here, Leo doubted he had one more tear left in him, but somehow he cannot bring himself to disagree, even privately, with Pavel. Kirk has exhumed so much feeling in him already, what would a few tears be after all that?

He swallows and makes to leave the room, trying to say as casually as he can manage, “When is Mr. Kirk expected?” He remembers that incandescent gaze, how penetrated and controlled he felt, how he was compelled to act in ways he didn’t know he ever could, and he feels less than whole, sure that only that demonic touch can bring him to a sense of order again. He clears his throat, confused, aroused, and hoping Pavel cannot see how unsettled he feels.

“I do not know,” Pavel says curtly.

They pass through the courtyard again and the sky has darkened now, releasing the perfume from the host of flowers decorating the yard and balconies overlooking it; night blooming Jasmine snakes up a trellis, and they pass a pot of what Pavel informs him is Casablanca Lily which opens after dark.

“You’re a botanist as well as an astronomer?” he tries finally, brushing a long fern with his finger tips.

Pavel shoots him a suspicious look. “No. Was previous owner.”

“And what became of him?”

Pavel ignores the question and continues the tour in silence. Finally, when they reach the library his chest swells. “Books are Kirk’s,” he says with obvious pride. “He reads.”

“I can see that!” Leo gives a low whistle when Pavel lights a series of lamps. He runs a hand along a shelf, gazing up at stacks reaching to the ceiling. There are no windows in the room, each wall instead taken up with floor to ceiling shelves, books, a desk, reading lamps and a luxurious day bed near a table with a flask of whisky and a tray of tumblers. There’s a violin in its case leaning against a camel-back chair to one side.

“You wait here for Kirk,” Pavel says with a click of his heels.

“How long will he be?”

“When he has finished.”

The boy doesn’t clarify what he means by ‘finished’ and leaves Leo, pulling the door to him.

+++

Leo wakes to the feel of Kirk’s tongue plundering his mouth, and the press of his body between his thighs – Kirk’s skin is uncharacteristically hot and his tongue tastes of copper and spring water. Leo struggles to breathe, pulling his mouth away, but Kirk drags him back by the hair, whispering his name, growling words that would be poetry if they weren’t so filthy and profane.

He feels strong hands hold his hips, shift him on the sofa so their cocks rub together through their clothing. The medical books beside him thud to the floor and Kirk chuckles against his lips. When Leo runs his tongue along his canines, Kirk thrusts hard against him, growling, “Sawbones, my Bones, mine...”

Leo pants and moans as loudly, wrapping his thighs around Kirk’s back, so fucking glad that this sorcerer has returned though he’d not admit it in a month of Sundays.

They’re enveloped in the warm glow of a lamp, a womb of gold in the darkness of the room as they rock against each other while Kirk licks Leo’s face with a soft, moist tongue, then sanctifies his eyelids with kisses and runs his hands through Leo’s hair.

Though his face is in shadow, his eyes glow like burnished gold. Leo lifts a hand to Kirk’s forehead and explores the bumps there, and he feels his scalp go cold when the demon that his lover is, becomes manifest. Kirk stills as he senses his hesitation and draws Leo’s fingers into his mouth, licking the pads, then his palm, dragging his teeth along Leo’s wrist, sending flames of feeling throughout him, assuaging fear with tenderness.

Kirk brings his free hand to Leo’s throat, spreading his fingers possessively across what he knows are bite marks since comparing Pavel’s reddened wounds to his own after his bath.

“You’re mine, Bones, mine.”

Leo’s about to protest, but only manages, “Dammit, Kirk, I’m not…” and then he feels Kirk’s teeth slicing through the skin, a sensation of ecstatic pain making him groan and cave in completely as they both shudder their releases into their clothing, rocking against each other through the ecstatic tide, until Leo sees pin pricks of light behind his eyelids.

+++

Kirk refuses to let him bathe, but waits patiently until Leo has dressed in fresh clothing, a wardrobe of finest suits in the latest fashion at his disposal.

“I need you to wear my scent for a few days,” he says nonchalantly from a chair while he watches Leo tie his cravat. “It will protect you from others like me. There are not many in New Orleans yet, but the ships bring so many travellers each day I must take precautions. This way they will not dare touch you – they will know you are mine.”

Kirk has yet to explain what precisely he means by ‘like me’ and Leo dares not ask, afraid to know too much and break the spell, perhaps coming to his senses.

For now, it is all he can do to separate himself physically from his ungodly lover, sitting on the other side of the great dining table opposite Kirk, who smirks in amusement when Leo says grace first. Kirk pours himself a glass of wine, sipping slowly, watching Leo’s lips, hands and throat as he devours a feast of suckling pig, okra, greens, and grits and grillades, washed down with a glorious red that has him sighing in appreciation, though it cannot touch the divine taste of Kirk’s blood. Even so, his senses remain heightened and he can taste every nuance in the food, every infernal grape in the wine.

He is disconcerted enough by Kirk’s burning gaze to ask finally, “You do not eat?”

Kirk raises an eyebrow. “I fed earlier, did I not?” Then he chuckles, his eyes crinkling when Leo flushes brightest red at the memory of their coupling in the library.

“You are a demon,” he accuses, pointing a finger at him. Kirk does not flinch, merely shrugs a brocade clad shoulder.

“Let us smoke outside.” he says. “It is a fine evening, unless you wish to eat dessert?”

What can compete with the taste of Kirk? Leo thinks idly, and follows him through the painted, shuttered doors to the courtyard. There is no sign of Pavel, nor any other person, and Leo wonders who prepared the food he enjoyed, but he doesn’t ask as talking is a hindrance to what he wants to avoid delaying any longer: Kirk’s hands upon him.

Surrounded by the scent of jasmine, they sit on a metal bench on plump cushions and Kirk tugs at Leo’s cravat, bringing their mouths close but not touching, teasing Leo, no doubt reading his mind and amused by how much Leo wants and needs this.

Leo raises an eyebrow, narrowing his eyes and turning away. “You tease me,” he says simply. “I am not a plaything.”

“Come,” Kirk laughs, his voice as melodious as the fountain nearby, as intoxicating as the evening flowers, “You are jealous.”

“Of whom?” He must have read how he’s wondered about Pavel. “No, I...I merely do not comprehend the nature of your relationship. Why would I be jealous, I’m not a swooning virgin.”

Kirk tugs at his sleeve, cocks his head to the side, amused by Leo’s discomfort and embarrassment. “Pavel is young, homeless and orphaned. He has a brilliant mind like no other I have met – I provide him an education, shelter, he provides me with...” he waves a broad palm and his words fade into silence.

“You lie with him?”

“He craves the bite – there are many like him. They follow my kind like acolytes – I treat him with kindness, and he amuses me with his ideas. Many would abuse him, not I.”

“But the marks?”

“They are his choice, I can...I do not need to take advantage of one so young and brilliant.”

“But, Kirk, I...” He looks down where Kirk has dropped to his knees and is smiling from between Leo’s thighs. “What in damnation are you doing...oh...” and his words fade when Kirk lowers the front flap of his britches to free his cock.

“At last you’ve stopped talking,” Kirk grins and when his mouth descends in one movement on his entire length, Leo no longer has words fit to make sense of his experience at all, so he grips Kirk’s hair, bucking into his mouth, giving himself over to need and sensation and eschewing all reason. Again, questions are replaced by moans and gasps as the devil tortures him to new depths of corruption and ecstasy.

+++

Kirk left him in bed some hours later, and despite Leo’s protestations, insisted that he must attend to business.

“At this hour?”

“Bones, I have... things to attend to, I will return when I have...finished.”

Leo did not ask what he meant by that, and he realizes now, dressed in only his night-shirt, while he stalks the balcony overlooking the courtyard in the dead of night, that he has done himself an injustice.

He’s noticed how when Kirk is near he loses all reason, but when he leaves, and his influence wanes, after a few hours the questions re-surface in his mind and he becomes more and more uncomfortable with his confinement in this great house. He has become a concubine, it seems, a toy for his new master, and while he is treated well, pampered even, and in no danger of harm, his life has no purpose other than immediate gratification when they are consumed by each other.

He misses Kirk, it is true, but now he is certain it is because of the ungodly spell woven over him, making him hunger for his master’s presence. It feels real, this wanting that can only be filled by Kirk’s touch, but it is the hunger of the worthless, of those who cannot hold their drink. Yet he cannot, he fears, give this up, drawn to Kirk against his will at some level, but the craving so painful he cannot bear it.

He’s followed a distant sound to this remote part of the house on the far side of the courtyard, where after his tour he has had no reason to enter, though he is free to roam as he wishes. It is the room closest to the gate into the street, he notes, as he tiptoes along the balcony.

He can hear cicadas and can see bats circling the lamp which lights the courtyard – they seem to be the only living creatures awake other than himself. New Orleans is uncharacteristically quiet tonight, apart from the distant sounds from the docks which are ever busy with their new cargoes of slaves, and cotton. He knows the quiet is in part an illusion, and his thoughts reflect how isolated he has become from the world, a world which appears not to miss him and continues well enough without his presence.

When he reaches the balcony outside the room, he sees a woman’s shoe lying on its side outside the door. It makes his scalp prickle and he’s not sure if it’s fear he feels of what he will find inside, or that he will be discovered snooping.

Kneeling, he examines the key still in the lock, realising this is the only key he’s seen in the house thus far; if it’s a room which is locked by day yet open at night, he will once and for all discover what Kirk’s business is when he leaves him alone. He ignores the feeling of dread, knowing he must plow on whatever it is he will learn, the first touch of forward motion he’s experienced in so long, he thinks grimly.

He has no doubt that Kirk will be in there, doubtless with a woman: the owner of the shoe; he’s counting on the fact that they will be too preoccupied to hear him. Nevertheless, he takes great care, his nimble surgeon’s hands put to good use as he eases the key out of the lock and rests it on the balcony. Kneeling, he pushes his hair away from his face, aware he’s sweating, and leans to the keyhole, closing one eye so he can better make out what’s in the room.

He can see a man from behind who he knows is Kirk, the blond hair and broad shoulders unmistakable. He’s jacket-less, in his shirtsleeves and waistcoat, his hair loose and falling about his shoulders in straight, thick swathes. Leo’s throat constricts in equal parts fear and jealousy when he realizes Kirk’s kneeling on the floor between a woman’s stockinged legs, loose and fallen wide apart, her other shoe, dropped to the rug behind him.

He feels a shock of arousal when her moans reach his ears, which is replaced by incomprehension when he takes in how her hands are held so loosely at her sides and her head lolls back, a twist of red hair undone and hanging down powdered ivory skin like a rope.

There is yet another sound and he brings his ear to the key hole, trying to work out what is happening; it’s like suckling... he sees the back of Kirk’s head moving up and down slightly, like it was on his person only hours earlier in the courtyard; he realizes these are not kisses, that in fact Kirk is feeding from her. His damned enhanced senses bring also the unmistakable stench of blood and he watches mesmerized as Kirk lifts a hand from her thigh and strokes her hair like a lover, his rings glinting in the candlelight. The slight movement to the side shows that he is transformed, his forehead larger as he nuzzles his teeth into her inner thigh, working his free hand inside her bloomers, rubbing at her nub. How well he knows that feeling, the mingling of pain and ecstasy, the to and fro of giving and taking, and he’s filled with self-disgust and bitter arousal at the memory.

Kirk must have heard Leo gasp for he suddenly sits back on his heels, loosening his hold on his victim so she falls back onto the chaise-longue. Her skirts are hitched around her waist and she’s concealed from view again when Kirk turns his head to the side. His pale skin appears gold and shadowed in the dim light, his eyes are hooded and he twitches his nose, turns his head to look over his shoulder. “Bones,” he whispers, but Leo can hear him as clearly as if he’s pressed his evil lips against his ear, the infernal voice awakening both fear and longing in him.

He stands and takes a step backs from the door as silently as he can manage, but the door’s flung open startling him. Kirk holds a candle and his face is chiaroscuro beauty as he frowns looking unsettled by Leo’s presence. “You came to find me, Bones...” a note of worry in his words.

Leo steps to the side and looks around Kirk into the room, unable to comprehend the horror of what he’s witnessed, sure the girl is beyond saving for she lies so limp where Kirk left her.

Kirk steps in his path catching his arm. “Bones, Leo I can...” And Leo twists to loosen his grip then he stumbles on the girl’s shoe and falls. Kirk kicks the shoe off the balcony and extends a hand to help him rise, but Leo slaps it away and rights himself, determined to flee this scene of debauchery and murder, to escape from this monster.

He manages one step before Kirk has a hold of him and his body is lifted against the wall. He kicks out landing one blow against Kirk’s unyielding frame.

“Let me go! You are Bluebeard himself, let me go!” he hisses, as Kirk’s hands hold him firm and possessive. Then Kirk lowers him so his feet touch the mahogany planks below. Leo’s panting and he struggles when Kirk guides his face, turning his jaw with a warm finger, warmed by the blood he realizes in horror.

One pull on his free spirit by those infernal eyes and he’s hard already. He must not let this torrent of desire take hold again and allow the current of Kirk’s power to pull him under, or he will have given up once and for all. He inhales the scent of death through the open door, fixing his eyes on Kirk’s mouth where there is a spill of blood drying on his jaw. And Leo fights, fights with every ounce of goodness and humanity he has left in him.

“I don’t want this, leave me be, Kirk, leave me, dammit!”

Kirk sighs with a shudder and eases Leo away to scrutinize his face. While Kirk’s expression is assessing, filled with want, something else creeps across the landscape of his eyes now returned to their usual Atlantic blue, his pupils contracted. At the same time as he loosens his grip and Leo drops to his knees exhausted, his head slumped forward.

“You’re mine,” he hisses, even as Leo is convinced Kirk has released his spell.

Leo rubs his face with the back of his hand, glaring up at him and hisses, ”If I am, it’s not willingly; you’ve captured me, compelled me, though I know not how you are able to do so. I’m no better to you than a mouse to a cat, something to play with and torment at will.”

“You do me an injustice, Leo, I’ve given you a choice...” Kirk slumps against the balcony rail, his eyes imploring and moist with tears. “The choice I was never given...I want you, Leo, I want you by my side for all time. I can do this, I can give you eternal life so you too can live like a god.” He folds his arms and looks down at him, waiting, chewing at his lip still stained with blood.

Leo daren’t look at Kirk again and he lurches to his feet, running to his room. Kirk follows and watches as he dresses hurriedly.

“I had made preparations for us to sail to Paris; it is different there, more accepting, more bohemian – I’d hoped we could be happy there.”

“And you would end my life, like the poor woman in that room?”

“She is nothing to me, Bones,” he says, advancing towards him, “but I will give you a new life, one that can never end.”

Leo picks up his coat, the very same one he wore when Kirk found him that first night, and throws it across his arm. “You fiend - you took her life from her. You are an executioner.” He pushes past Kirk and turns for one final look at the man who, for a few twisted days, he thought he loved. “I can’t be with you although my baser side craves it, needs it,” he rubs a thumb across the tears soaking his cheeks, “I’m better than that, James, I cannot take life. I cannot watch you do it either. You can console yourself with this: you once said life is the greatest gift, and when you found me by the docks I’d lost the will to live; it is not what you intended by taking me in, but you have at least made me want to live again and for that I thank you.”

He runs to the courtyard taking one last glance up at the open door where a few minutes before his heart, and Kirk’s, were dashed by the stark and horrible truth of what a farce they have been existing in.

Before he opens the gate, Leo pulls on his coat and he feels something in his pocket; he draws out a purse filled with coins. He weighs it in the palm of his hand and considers leaving it on the stone bench for Kirk. Then he realizes that Kirk gave him this because, in some way, Kirk’s love for him is selfless, and his assertion that choice is everything is more important than being with Leo against his will. This purse means he can leave New Orleans - means he is free.

And though Leo is sure Kirk won’t follow, he runs, literally for his life, and towards it, the sound of his demon lover’s single wail of anguish as he closed the gate behind him ringing in his ears and cutting into his heart as he races across rain soaked streets towards the docks.

+++

Leo stands on the deck searching the windows of the houses and buildings overlooking the quay, as well as the faces of the those mingling on the pier for he knows not what. He watches morosely as a line of slaves is unloaded from a ship and is glad to leave this place.

He wonders if Kirk followed him, hoping to prevent his departure, and he fancies for a moment he can see a figure silhouetted on the dock. With a pang in his heart and despite everything, he looks down at the ladder and wonders whether he has time to return, whether he is indeed doing the right thing in leaving; but he’s bought passage bound for St Louis and he knows he must go on. He will return to his profession and a productive life, though his heart is truly broken and he leaves the greater part with a demon.

Then, he sees Kirk for real; he emerges under a street light; his hat’s in one hand, and the other is by his side, white skin soaking up the little light there is so that he looks like a fallen angel, lost yet ever beautiful.

Kirk holds his gaze across the water – a short distance that might as well be an ocean. Leo watches with tears in his eyes as Kirk breaks eye contact with him, how his gaze drops to the slats of wood at his feet, to release Leo one last time. Then he turns and walks away.

Leo drags his feet to the other side of the deck, inhaling deeply the sharp scent of the waters of the Fleuve St. Louis, turning away from New Orleans, shivering slightly in his shirt sleeves, but it’s as much excitement as relief; his lungs fill, and his eyes take in the beauty of the lightening sky, the sugar candy stripes heralding a new day.

+++

Kirk hides from the dawn and watches the boat from the safety of his carriage until it disappears from view. He wipes the tears from his face, then smears his bloodied hand on the black velvet curtains, hissing when he accidentally nudges them open and sunlight momentarily touches his knuckles, setting his skin on fire until he can beat them down against his coat. He licks at the blisters until they smart no longer.

“I’ll find you, Sawbones,” he whispers. “I’ll find you and make you mine if it takes ten lifetimes of searching, I’ll find you again.”

With that, he raises his cane and raps three times at the ceiling until Pavel cracks his whip above him and the horses pull away.

End of Chapter 1