It was not until ten years after my death that I learned the full extent of Henry's regard for me.
During that time, we dedicated ourselves to the pursuit and eradication of those Southern vampires who would continue their awful task with the cooperation of weak-minded men, and styled themselves knights. Additionally, we attempted to address the pernicious evil that was Jim Crow. Henry had many bolt holes and hiding places similar to the one where he took me upon our first meeting. On occasion, he would insist that we take some respite from our labors in order that we might recover and further hone our skills.
On this day, we were laid by in a shelter lying to the north of Vicksburg, where the Mississippi took a gentle bend, pushing up some low hills. We found ourselves tumbling like puppies, reveling in our speed and strength. I had thrown off the cares and grief that had beset the last years of my life and found myself returned to the aspect of a young man of twenty-five, both in form and spirit. For his part, I believed then that the acquisition of a companion had diminished Henry's ennui brought on by his extended life.
As it happened, I gained the advantage of him and pinned him to the rough boards of our dwelling. He laughed up at me and I thought to chide him for his cheek, letting my fangs extend and nipping at his neck.
I had intended it merely as a tease, a play on our deadly natures, but I misjudged the distance and nicked one of his delicate veins with my fang.
All at once a marvelous flavor burst over my tongue, so full of too many things to name or separate in that bare instant. All my instincts urged me forward to discern the source and formation of the taste, but only my iron will and my regard for Henry kept me still.
"My apologies, my dear friend," I said. "I fear I have trespassed on your good nature."
"You give no insult," he replied, turning his head to the side and arching his neck in an intoxicating manner. "Take what you will."
"Henry!" I expostulated, stunned by his gesture.
"I trust you as no other, Abraham."
Seeing that he was serious and offered himself openly, I agreed to his suggestion. Bending my head, I took care this time, delicately opening his vein. At once the flavor that had so intrigued me returned, heady as any brew, but far more complex, as though it were full of Henry’s emotions and memories. Here I found a sense of the many years Henry had endured alone, the losses of the ones he loved, and his determination to maintain the Union.
As I lapped at the thick liquid, I understood that I must have tasted this once before when Henry made me, but I had no memory of that event. That thought led to another – that blood was as necessary for a vampire’s survival as it was to a human’s. The gift that Henry allowed me therefore was of incalculable value.
My enjoyment of it may have been perverse – here was a substance that belongs inside the human body and to take it as I was doing would result in death in any living man. But Henry willingly let me seize his very essence inside myself.
Overwhelmed by the intimacy of him allowing me to have the one thing that sustained his life, I pressed more closely against him. Henry responded by curling his fingers through my hair and holding me in place.
To my dismay and shock, my body responded to Henry’s touch in an altogether unacceptable manner.
I did not doubt that vampires, despite being in a state of unlife, were still subject to the desires of the flesh for had I not stood outside many a whorehouse while my prey finished his carnal business? And yet, I had not felt any stirring in my loins since the death of my son Willie, which was perhaps for the best as Mary was unable to succor any need of mine since that time. Certainly since my own death I had given no thought to any urges other than a burning desire for justice and vengeance.
But there could be no doubt that the blood I stole from Henry's willing veins traveled quickly to my nether regions, swelling and filling that long-neglected flesh.
I stopped sipping at the nectar from Henry’s neck, and tried to disentangle us with the idea of removing myself and hiding my body’s inappropriate response.
But Henry stayed my action. “Don’t fret, Abraham. I have loved you for over sixty years. You may have anything you desire from me.”
I stared deeply into his eyes, but could find no trace of the disgust that I expected, only acceptance and the affection he claimed to feel for me. The taste of his blood was too seductive to resist and I bent my head to his neck again.
The connection was established once more and I groaned without thought as the rich blood flowed over my tongue. I rutted against him like some helpless boy in the first throes of desire whilst he murmured soft words of encouragement and enjoyment in my ear. My lusts reached their ultimate conclusion in a burst of red that covered my vision. Panting and trembling at his side, I withdrew my fangs from his neck. Henry eased me through my crisis with his gentle hands.
When I had somewhat recovered my composure, I rolled to my back and told Henry, “I wish to reciprocate.”
Turning my head to the side, I offered my neck, more trembling overtaking my frame as I contemplated what I was about to surrender. Henry studied me for a moment, and then acquiesced to my request, perhaps understanding that I could tolerate no inequality between the two of us, other than those that existed naturally due to vast differences in our ages.
Henry pressed his mouth to mine, tongue flicking out to sample his own blood that might still linger on my tongue. I returned the kiss, enthralled with both the gesture and the taste of him. He pulled back carefully, and slid his mouth down my jaw to my neck.
So sure was his command of his bite that I barely felt the contact when my vein opened. Instead, I felt a tug that seemed to be connected to my insides as he took the blood I had so recently stolen. Immediately, I sensed the same deep emotional association between us that I had experienced when I likewise took blood from him.
At that moment, I understood how much trust was required to submit to this removal of that one thing that sustained me. The tugging sensation intensified, along with a burst of knowledge that Henry could, if he chose, acquire more blood than I could endure losing and thus end the life that he had given me.
I faced this prospect with acceptance – who better than Henry Sturges to decree whether my existence continued or terminated? He had every right and I would never argue otherwise.
This further surrender of both my mind and body resulted in the renewed tumescence of my manhood. Back arching as pleasure flooded through me, I cried out, some wordless plea that Henry yet understood. He situated himself so that our groins made contact, and accordingly we rocked together while he captured my life force.
Henry brought us both to the ultimate peak of our pleasure and then I drifted in a daze of weakness, not knowing then whether I lived or died. Such is the way of it between the two of us, and has been down the years since that day.