It was Thursday when Carl first saw the poster. He had, contrary to his expectations, found it harder and harder to cope with sunlight and had retreated to only giving nighttime lessons. He was only out and about this early because Christopher was a good student, and it wasn't his fault that his piano teacher was "ill", Carl's cover for anything and everything to do with his vampirism. All Christopher really needed was some self-belief; he was having a crisis of confidence before his grade eight exam, nothing that wouldn't pass.
Carl had spent a pleasant afternoon listening to his best pupil playing Beethoven and Scarlatti and correcting where necessary, which wasn't that often. The only small matter that needed attending to was to tell Christopher to play with a softer touch.
So it was with a sunlight-induced squint and no small amount of pedagogic pride that he returned to their flat. He was puzzled to see a sky-blue poster in the window. He hadn't put it there, so he presumed that Daniel had. Daniel had always been fond of local bands and up and coming comedians, and promoted them where possible. The only thing was that the man on the poster looked a little too old to be either a comedian or a solo act, unless he played some sort of jazz, and jazz was not Daniel's kind of thing at all.
Carl stopped to read it. While the minimalism of the design appealed to him, just the candidate's name and picture, the Tory torch logo, and 'Vote Fox' written large underneath, it was still a poster for the Conservative party. He hadn't noticed it before because it had been dark when he'd been going to and from the flat for the past few weeks. Daniel must have forgotten to mention it.
That still left the question of why it was up there. Carl assumed that Daniel had put it up for a friend; Daniel had enough of them that wouldn't think twice about asking him to put up a poster for their chosen candidate.
Carl opened the door to the smell of bolognese, and was suddenly ravenous. He loved Daniel for any number of reasons, but that he'd cook after a hard days teaching if Carl was also out would have been very high on the list at that moment.
They ate most of the meal in a companionable silence, after the exchange of the usual greetings. It was only after he'd eaten the majority of the bowl that he even thought of the poster again.
"I couldn't help noticing the poster in the window. Is a friend of yours on his campaign team?"
"No, I thought I'd show my support." Carl was confused. "It's only for the next couple of weeks, until after polling day. I know you don't like clutter. It's not a problem, is it?"
"No, I'm just amazed I didn't notice it before." Carl also felt, well, he wasn't sure how he felt, a mixture of confused and embarrassed that he hadn't known Daniel's political preferences. Because that kind of thing was important to a person, and yet, there was this whole area where Carl knew nothing of Daniel, despite them being together for six years now.
He wanted to believe that the reason he didn't know was because it was never an issue before now, rather than selfishness on his part.
They'd lived in Vienna till 2000, he'd seen the Millennium in at home, with the somewhat unwilling company of dear Mitchell, and over there it was simple, because Daniel couldn't vote, and all Carl wanted, all anyone he knew wanted, was for the Freedom Party not to get enough votes to get any sort of power, so there was no reason for Carl to know.
Still it bothered him.
It continued to bother him the next day, when they went out for their traditional Friday pint with Daniel's colleagues. They were a mixed bunch, teachers in all kinds of disciplines, and there was some discussion about the upcoming election, mostly that news about it saturated television coverage and that they'd be sick of it by the end of May.
Everyone was predicting a Labour landslide, but, and here was the thing Carl didn't get, it wasn't like Daniel's position on any of the major issues was that far from that of the others, even Bill who was a fully signed up member of the Labour party.
Maybe Carl was just making too much of it, he remembered when the Tories were all about Margaret Thatcher, he still called her 'Maggie Milk-Snatcher' in his private thoughts because even beyond his beliefs, he'd had such fun after that strike, but the Conservative party might have changed. Not that he could tell anyone that, or even try to explain how he felt and maintain his cover as Daniel's thirty-something partner. Daniel's colleagues already thought him more than a little strange; he didn't need to add to that impression, so he stayed quiet.
It was late when they got back, dark enough that Carl couldn't see the poster. Daniel made them a cup of Horlicks each.
"What's wrong? And don't try to tell me it's nothing, because whatever it is has been eating away at you since yesterday." That was Daniel all over, he considered people's feelings.
"It's almost nothing." Daniel smiled. "I didn't know you voted Conservative, and I think it's not having known that bothered me." It wasn't a complete lie. They'd always promised no lies, and keeping his promises was important to Carl. He believed that the reason so few other vampires managed to get and stay clean was because they had no reason to. If you quit blood you were seen as an oddity in the vampire community, and only welcomed back in once you'd failed. But Carl had Daniel, being close to him kept Carl human, and, above and beyond all of that, he loved him so very much.
Carl had always sworn that he'd never use his much greater age as leverage in arguments, never patronise Daniel.
Right now, it was a difficult promise to keep. He couldn't understand it. Not one bit of it.
Daniel was the kindest and best man he knew. He gave money to charity, donated old clothes and signed petitions. He stayed in public education despite better offers and even ran the after-school hockey club when the PE teachers couldn't make it, because otherwise the kids would be unhappy. There wasn't a mean bone in his body.
How could someone like that support a party that stood for a reduction in state support?
It wasn't like Carl could very well turn around and ask Daniel why. It would be rude.
He tried to put it out of his head.
Carl made it through to Sunday morning, mostly because on Saturday he'd been dragged along to the year nine's rugby match that Daniel was refereeing. It was always touch and go whether it was more likely that one of the parents would try to intimidate Daniel or if it would be one of the over-grown thirteen year olds they had playing at lock that would try to be threatening. It always failed, but he came along anyway, someone had to be there to support the referee.
Carl was even contented when they travelled up to visit Daniel's parents. They were good people, and Carl didn't know whether he preferred Daniel's mother's Sunday roasts or the sound of their local church choir.
They were driving home when Carl just had to ask.
"Do they know, about you being a Tory?"
"What do you think they vote?"
It made a sort of sense. In his youth there had been good, kind, unfortunately misguided people who were monarchists. Now he was older, there were good, kind, deeply misguided people who voted Tory.
While Daniel was at work, and before his own lessons began, Carl took the chance to research at the local library, which he was definitely going to use as an example of a public good that came from taxes. His argument was going to be water-tight.
Five hours later, with his time of leaving coming upon him quickly, he was less convinced. Not of his beliefs, Carl knew he was right, deep in his bones, but he couldn't find any way of proving it. He'd debated with Voltaire, and even if he'd never won an argument, he'd managed to keep up, yet he couldn't convince the most reasonable man he knew of something that he was so sure of.
He left his thoughts to settle for the night, as he went to teach.
The next day, he called Mitchell.
"Hello, Carl. How've you been keeping?" They exchanged brief details of their lives. Carl suspected that the reason Mitchell hadn't kept in close contact with him was because he'd fallen off the wagon, but Carl didn't want to cast aspersions, and it was possible that he had been as busy as he said. Carl wished he could be certain that the reason he didn't know was because nothing had happened rather than Mitchell keeping everything to himself. Carl was always here to help.
"So, Carl, social call or other things?"
"Social call, mostly, just wondering what you thought of the election."
"I haven't really." Mitchell could hear the tutting down the phone. "What? I've been busy, and it's not like it matters anyway." This time it was 'tsk'ing. "Come on, it's the truth. I've got a choice between being overworked and underpaid, or the other two, where I'd either be sacked or taxed so much that it'd barely be worth it."
"Probably, if I can be arsed to vote."
"You should vote, you know."
"I'm a vampire, I'm not even sure I'm supposed to." Mitchell might have had a point, Carl shouldn't even have been able to vote, he wasn't a British citizen, whatever his papers might say, and maybe voting was only for the living. There were various people amongst his 'community' that he'd be far happier knowing hadn't voted.
The conversation trailed away, Mitchell asked after Daniel and Carl tried not to enquire too deeply into how Mitchell had been living his life, the usual thing that happened when they talked.
Daniel came home to find Carl cradling his copy of 'Discourse on Inequality'. He wasn't reading it as such; he merely had it open in front of him, and occasionally stroked a page. That was never a good sign.
"You've either been thinking, or you're due at a recital with eight-year old violinists. And I think you would have told me about that."
"You're right, I've been thinking, about what you said."
"I thought you might have been."
"And there are all these reason why I don't understand the way you vote, all good reasons not to go for the Conservative party, but I know you'll already have thought them through." Carl strongly suspected that, while Daniel's voting choice was partly out of circumstance and how his family voted, he must also have thought about, if not because Carl had badgered him. "The only one I can't explain is why you'd vote for them when they were so determined to keep section twenty-eight."
"I'd love to be able to say, 'but Edwina Currie tabled the first motion to get rid of it', and even though it's true, I know that's not the point. I don't like their policy on that, and a few other things, but if you think you can find a party where you agree with everything they say, well, I say good luck to you. Are you really trying to tell me that you don't think the Lib Dems's policy on nuclear power is terribly short-sighted?" Carl nodded his agreement, he could see where they were coming from on it, but it wasn't like they could rely on oil forever.
Daniel continued, "so there's things, where I disagree with the party that I vote for, but then, so does the entire liberal wing of the party. It's not like it's some screaming gay-hating monolith. I do see your point, though. How can I justify voting for them given that? It's quite simple. There's things I think are more important, and, sure, section twenty-eight is a horrible bit of legislation, but, excepting when I get stuck with PSE lessons, it doesn't really affect me, and there's things that do affect me everyday where what I think the Conservative party plan to do is a lot better than what we've got now. There's more to me than being a gay man. I'm a teacher, and that matters to me. The Conservatives are the only ones who seem to want to do anything about the horrible mess the national curriculum has become. I think it was a good idea to start with, make sure everyone knows the basics, an agreed set of basics, but now, every time I turn around there's a new initiative, and everything's got to be planned down to the minute. How many times have you come home to find me asleep on my lesson plans? They're so complicated to write that you end up almost doing exactly the same thing year after year, and that can't be good for the people you're teaching, because what works for set 2B this year might not work for them next year. I want to be able to teach everyone as well as I can so they can be as good as they can be. There's not a lot of difference between what we believe, but there's enough that I can't vote against what I believe in, any more than you can." Daniel took Carl's hand up, he felt thrillingly warm in comparison, "I know you're not asking me to, but I want you to know that this matters as much to me as it does to you."
There wasn't much that Carl could say to that, save feeling very embarrassed, so he put the book down. "I'm terribly sorry, I didn't mean to suggest ..."
"Don't worry about it. I'm used to it. I got more stick at uni for being a Tory than I did for being gay."
That would have been the end of the matter, except Carl had always liked symmetry in both buildings and decorations, and Lib Dem yellow and Tory blue didn't clash too badly.
Anyone who walked past the flat for the last two weeks of electioneering would have seen two posters, evenly spaced, placed exactly so that neither caught the eye more than the other, a sign of a house fairly split. Daniel hadn't minded, he'd even helped Carl with the last tiny movements to make sure the posters were level. It was a compromise they could both live with and enjoy.