The late Thursday night 2 train heading downtown was nearly deserted. In one car near the back of the train, a handful of people were scattered across the rows of seats, sprawling over spaces designed for two or three. Only two people sat together, sharing a two-seat bench: a man and a woman, both tall and fair and dark-haired, both dressed up, and very young.
"You had fun?" he asked. "Honestly?"
"I had a blast, honey. Your aunt's a trip. Even if she isn't really your aunt."
"Dawn is just as real as you or I am, Kerry."
"I mean… uh, you know, she's really my aunt, as far as I'm concerned. Even if there's no genetic relationship."
"That's sweet." Kerry smiled. "And I can see why you'd want to claim her. I mean, that meal was amazing! And her travels!"
He smiled and took her hand in his. "Yeah. She's done some cool stuff."
"I'll have to go out and buy one of her books tomorrow."
"I can loan you one."
"No, no. I want to subsidize more of those amazing dinners. Maybe I'll get invited back."
"Oh," he replied, "I think we can arrange for that regardless." They kissed at that, and sat smiling at one another for a while, dazed with happiness and his aunt's red wine.
"And maybe next time," she said in a voice that managed to be both hesitant and teasing, "I'll meet some of your other relatives as well. That'd be nice."
He pulled away a little at that, his eyes refocusing on the window behind her. "My family is… it's complicated. They take some working up to."
"But your aunt –"
"Is about the most normal relative I have," he said firmly. "And besides, she's the only one in New York. The rest of them are all out in California."
"And they never come here?"
"They don't get a lot of chances to travel." The boy smiled. "I don't think they would've dealt with my coming to New York at all if Aunt Dawn wasn't here. You know she's calling them right now to tell them everything about you."
"And that doesn't bother you?"
"Not so much. I'll call them and report in on her tomorrow." One eyebrow arched up his forehead in wry amusement, and she giggled and leaned in to his shoulder. Another station came and went.
"You know, Connor," she said, after the doors closed, "if you wanted, you could come out to my mom's house for Easter dinner. I know she'd like that."
"I would too." He placed a gentle kiss on the top of her head, at the part of her long straight brown hair.
"And then over the summer, maybe . . ."
The doors at the front end of the car opened with a bang. Three people walked in from the car ahead of them, a woman and two men. The woman was slight, a pale wraith in a black lace dress, but the men with her were large and grim-faced and exuded menace. They moved down the train together, the woman in front and swaying slightly as if she were dancing. The other passengers all tensed a bit and pointedly looked at something else.
"I'm hungry," the woman pouted. She spoke with a thick London accent of a sort that belonged to another time.
"Plenty to eat right here," the man on her left said.
"Yes," she said. "Lots of lovelies. And the stars are singing tonight." She grabbed one of the subway poles and swung herself around it in a circle. "So pretty."
Kerry grabbed her boyfriend's arm tightly as the woman came closer. He stared studiously at his burgundy wingtips even as his breath got shallower.
"Your face is like my daddy's." Connor looked up with a start at that, taking in the heart-shaped pale face that stared quizzically down at him. "But you smell like Grandmamma."
"Connor?" Kerry's voice had faded to a squeaky whisper.
He pried his arm free of her grip and stood. He was easily a head taller than the strange woman, and the two men stepped closer, protectively.
"Oh, no, this one's all mine," she told them. "And he's scared, aren't you, love? I can smell it."
"Drusilla." Connor said flatly.
"Connor? You know her?'
"We've never met," he said without looking back at his girlfriend. "But I know who she is."
"Grandmamma was never so scared of me," Drusilla continued. "It's such a nice smell. Like rain in an alley. Do you taste like her too?"
The boy's eyes widened a bit at that, but he kept his face impassive. "I'm not for you, Drusilla. We're not going to play."
"But I want to," she said petulantly. Her hands pulled at the edges of his black wool jacket, ran down his torso. "Daddy says that family blood is the sweetest. That's why he ate up all of mine. It's my turn, isn't it?"
"No, Dru, it's not."
She came in closer, her body shifting to fit the planes of his shape and her face shifting to its demonic form. "But it's such a lovely day for games." She reached her arms around his shoulders and ran her tongue up the side of his neck. "Such a lovely taste, sweet little brother, and you could play with me forever."
Connor pushed hard against her, and she stepped back a half-pace. "If you try anything here, Daddy will be very angry with you, Drusilla. You know that."
"He's not my daddy anymore. Just yours."
"He'll hurt you." Connor's voice was a low growl. "If you bite me, he'll find you, wherever you are, and he'll hurt you, and it won't be fun and it won't be nice. You know that. Do you remember when he burnt you?" Drusilla made a small animal noise in the back of her throat, and her hands fluttered protectively to her face as it shifted back to human. "That was bad, wasn't it? They told me about that. But when Daddy gets through with you this time, you'll be begging for him to just burn you again, because it would hurt less than what he's going to do."
Drusilla wailed and covered her face with her hands.
"Boss, should we just kill him for you?" asked the man on the right.
"No!" she cried. "We can't."
"That's right," Connor said. "You can't." The train was pulling into Times Square, a maze of connecting subway lines and dark passageways. "Get off this train, Drusilla. Leave, and don't come back, and don't look for me, and then you'll be safe."
"Nasty little boy!" she sobbed. "I didn't want you anyway!" The doors opened and she ran out. The two goons looked at each other for a puzzled moment and then followed.
Connor stood in the same impassive position until the doors chimed shut again and the train pulled out of the station. Then he took a long breath and collapsed back into his seat, bent over almost double. "I think I'm going to throw up."
Kerry reached into her purse and pulled out the paper bag her morning pint of orange juice had come in. "Breathe into this. It's supposed to help."
"Thanks." He took it without looking up and did as she suggested. It was a few minutes before he sat up again and saw her face blotchy with tears. "Are you OK?
"That woman… her face! Connor, what was wrong with her face?"
"Her face? Uh. Uh, I didn't notice any –"
"And she wanted to bite you?"
"Kerry, sweetheart – crazy people! Who knows what goes on in their heads, right?"
"But it didn't surprise you. You threatened her! And… 'Daddy'? Who's 'Daddy'? Oh, Connor, she wasn't your sister , was she?"
"No! God, no. Really. Look, I know that was weird. Believe me, I know. But she's gone now, honest, and it's no big deal, and –"
"You are lying to me, Connor Angel. I don't know what the hell is going on, but I know that much."
The boy slumped back in his seat, leaning his head against the pole that went from the end of the bench to the subway car's ceiling. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
"And you don't even have the decency to lie about that too." She started to cry again, and he looked utterly defeated.
The train continued through the tunnels, wheels squealing on the turns. Finally, the girl wiped her face and closed her purse with a loud snap. "I should go."
"No. I should – I need to… This is just too much right now, Connor. I just want to go home."
"OK," he said softly. "OK." He reached for the inside pocket of his jacket. "Why don't you take a cab the rest of the way home? I'll –"
"I am perfectly capable of getting home by myself." She stood and pulled her coat tightly around herself.
The boy stood to let her pass. "I'm sorry," he said again. "Of course you are. I just… be careful?" She nodded. "And, uh, we'll talk."
"Sure," she said, eyes watering again. "We'll do that."
The train was pulling into the Fourteenth Street station, and he walked her to the nearest set of doors.
"Thank your aunt for me," she said.
"I, uh, I will. Kerry…"
"Good night, Connor," she said firmly. The doors opened and she stepped out on to the concrete platform.
"Kerry. If you see that woman, or those guys…?"
The doors shut again. He put one palm flat against the glass panel at the center of one of the doors and stood there, watching her, until the train moved in to the tunnels again and he could see only his own reflection in the dark.