‘Vampires du Grand Nord Blanc’
[Vampires of the Great White North]
Characters : Edward Nygma, Jonathan Crane [Scriddler]
Synopsis: The man’s face wasn’t the only unusual thing about him, but Édouard would find that out soon enough. Vampire/Canadian AU.
Part One. Ontario, Canada, early 1900s.
The trip down to Ottawa usually needed to be made.
It was rather far from the logging site nowadays, but when it was time for a consensus it always came down to the same. The locals were as used to them as could be by now, if such a thing were a possibility. Édouard was not quite interested in anything other than his drink and his meal, though he had been known to carouse with the best of them. Not this night, however. His mind had been turning as usual to the inevitable end of winter, and with it the need to return home. It was still some time away, but it occupied his thoughts all the same. The whiskey had not quite drowned the discontent as he’d hoped it would. What could he achieve if only his father’s demand for his labour over the spring and summer were no longer? Édouard would gladly have felled all the white pines in the province if it would have solved that dilemma for him. As it was, all he could do was wait quietly for the inevitable and spend the days upon the field, longer even than those in the forest, waiting for the coolness of fall to descend once again so he had an excuse to leave.
His eye was picking out the signs of a brawl when he felt a presence behind him, and oddly he felt compelled to turn his head and look. A man stood there, taller even than Edward was, dressed in a black chesterfield coat and homburg which both left barely more than the glint of his eyes visible. And glint they did, in quite a disarming way: Édouard was struck by the unearthly pale blue of them. They seemed nearly… magnetic.
The man gestured to the seat next to him with one hand, encased in a black glove. He said something that Édouard did not bother to pay mind to, as his words were in English. He understood enough of it to get by but had come upon the realisation long ago that it was advisable to pretend he did not. The man tapped the fingers of his left hand upon the countertop and then said, in French, “Are you alone?”
His accent was so poor Édouard considered maintaining the charade, but felt again a strange and unusual compulsion to merely shrug and return to his stout. The man sat, placing his hat down in front of him. It had concealed a great quantity of fading brown curls with grey winding through them here and there. The man was the palest that Édouard had ever seen. He had a somewhat pinched face, with prominent cheekbones and thick brows shadowing those strange eyes. They seemed slightly deep-set, though it may have merely been an illusion cast by the half-circles of grayness beneath them. He had a long nose that culminated in a soft bulb and which led the eye down towards lips so thin and colourless they barely existed. Édouard’s lines of work had led him to have seen a great many unusual faces, but this man had one of the strangest yet. And his pallor told Édouard he was not a man who was forced into anything he found not to his taste. He swallowed back the remainder of his drink and put a hand up when the bartender reached for the empty stein. He no longer held any desire to drown his sorrows, as it were.
“Jonathan,” the man next to him said, holding one hand out. Édouard took it cautiously. It seemed unnaturally cold, especially in this fire-warmed room. “Édouard,” he said, and when his eyes met those of the other he was somehow unable to look away or release his fingers.
“You’re with them?” the man asked after a moment, looking out over Édouard’s compatriots. He nodded.
“It’s our day off.”
“And you live around here?”
Édouard’s lip curled. “Not when I don’t have to. When the season is done I return to Trois-Rivières.”
Jonathan’s brows lowered. “Season?”
Édouard decided not to let his whiskey go to waste and downed it. “I’m un bûcheron. We work only when the weather is cold. The sap runs in the warmer months.”
“I’m not familiar with that word.”
Édouard pushed his drinkware away from him. “The English is… lumberjack.” God, what a clumsy language.
“Oh,” Jonathan said, seeming surprised. “A dangerous and thankless choice of profession.”
“There isn’t much else to choose from,” Édouard nearly snapped. “And I have seasonal work. My father’s farm is back in Trois-Rivières.”
“I have not yet been that far north,” Jonathan mused. “Perhaps I will have reason to travel there some day.”
Édouard felt compelled to add onto his words for some unfathomable reason. “We come here most every weekend. Just passing through yourself?”
“Yes and no,” was his answer. “I will stay a while but no longer.”
Édouard had to laugh at that. “It seems your plans are well in order.”
“And yours?” Jonathan leaned forward slightly.
“What of them?”
“Have you any for tomorrow?”
Édouard cast a long look at him, attempting to gauge his intentions. Édouard had been extended many an invitation by many a man, but none quite so old as Jonathan seemed to be. He was quite strong, of course, and handling himself would no doubt be simple if Jonathan’s intentions were ill. “Not really,” he answered finally. “What did you have in mind?”
“Nothing much,” Jonathan responded. “I would merely ask you to agree to meet at my home. I should like to speak with you further and it is quite rowdy in here.”
Édouard glanced over at the stirrings of a brawl somewhere near the door. “All right,” he said, sitting back on his stool. “Whereabouts are you?”
Jonathan described to him the approximate location, which he knew vaguely of. It would be a good walk from the inn where they were, but it might be nice to pass a quiet evening with a fresh face. Once Édouard had made clear he understood the location Jonathan stood up, burying his curls once again beneath the hat. He extended his hand a second time and Édouard took it. “Tomorrow, then, Jonatan,” he said, and if he were not wrong Jonathan looked almost… amused.
“Jonathan,” he said.
“That’s what I said,” Édouard told him, irritation creeping into his tone. “Jonatan.”
Jonathan smiled and slid his hand into his coat pocket. “So you did.”
Édouard spent the next evening at Jonathan’s home, and he had to say it was quite pleasant. He had to put the man down as a little odd, however, when he remarked after the chill in the sitting room and Jonathan seemed to have no idea what he meant. The fireplace was well-stocked, at least, so Édouard took care of that himself as Jonathan watched, seemingly as though he were observing an action he himself had forgotten how to perform. The house itself was quite nice, though kept very dark, and Jonathan did not offer him much more than an indication to follow into the sitting room. It was simply furnished, with the highlights being a chair, couch, and well-filled bookshelf, but it was more than Édouard had ever had. The fireplace was a splendid stone construction, if a little underused. Édouard used a match to light the kindling and carefully lent life to a fresh fire.
“Where have you come from?” Édouard asked, looking behind him to where Jonathan was standing. He blinked for a moment, almost seeming to come back to himself.
“Oh,” he answered finally, “no one place. I have passed through a great many cities. But I suppose you meant my origins, which… have you heard of Louisiana?”
Édouard shook his head. Jonathan nodded to himself. “It is a state a long, long way from here. I – “
“America,” Édouard interrupted, frowning at the logs in front of him.
“L’anglophonie,” Édouard said. “I’ve heard America is full of them.”
“That would be true.” Jonathan sat down next to him upon the carpet. “In Louisiana there are many French people, and it was they who taught it to me.”
“Your French is terrible,” Édouard said bluntly. “Your grammar is poor and your pronunciation almost enough to make me want to speak English.”
This opinion had been known to be the origins of many a fight with Édouard as the not-quite-reluctant challenger, but Jonathan only laughed in gentle amusement. “Perhaps they would say the same of you,” he said.
“That’s how you would know they are wrong.”
Jonathan then began to tell Édouard of Louisiana, not really of his life but of some of the things he had seen and done there, and for the most part Édouard, uncharacteristically, remained quiet and listened. Jonathan’s voice was pleasant and soothing, and he had not realised it had lulled him into sleep until he came to recognise a gentle pressure around his back. He opened his eyes to find that Jonathan had guided him against his shoulder. He sat straight and rubbed at his face. He had expected this, but not so soon. “I should go,” he murmured, and Jonathan’s hand was solid, suddenly, on the arm nearest him.
“That is not a good idea,” he said. Édouard frowned at him.
“Why – “
“You know not what lurks in the darkness,” Jonathan told him. “You should remain here. Rest assured I will leave you be.”
He was somewhat insulted Jonathan did not think he could take care of himself, but he was quite tired and the walk would be dark and cold. He looked about him. The couch would do, he decided, and he moved himself upon it. Jonathan’s motion to stand was swift and fluid. “I will bring a blanket,” he said, “and I will watch the fire for you.”
Something about that seemed odd to him, but it took him until Jonathan’s return to deduce what. “What of you?” he asked, accepting the heavy quilt that Jonathan brought to him and ensconcing himself within it. “Aren’t you going to bed?”
“Oh,” Jonathan said, as though such a thing had never occurred to him before, “no, no. I prefer to sleep at dawn. It is… more convenient for me.”
It sounded like the least convenient thing Édouard had ever heard, but he’d already concluded Jonathan was a bit odd. And so he only nodded and settled his head into the cushion that had been at the edge of the couch and watched as Jonathan sat down in front of the fire again.
In the morning it took Édouard a few minutes to remember where he was, and why, and another handful to recall what Jonathan had said. He would be asleep now, then, and Édouard would do well not to wake him. It seemed impolite to leave without a farewell, but Édouard had to rejoin his fellow labourers quickly so that he would have transport back to the logging site. So he stole into the kitchen and took rapid stock of the cupboards to see if he had time for some quick meal before he left.
There was nothing. Nothing at all.
He frowned at the neatly piled dishes. Covered in a fine layer of dust all. Jonathan grew more and more odd by the moment. The faucet worked at least, and Édouard turned the spigot and poured some water into a glass. He made a face at the taste of it. A bit off, but likely a consequence of a rarely-used set of pipes.
After he had rinsed the glass out and replaced in the cupboard he took his leave, closing the front door with great caution. Seeing the sun brought the realisation both that he needed to hurry and that all of the curtains in Jonathan’s house had been drawn tight from the moment he had entered it. He glanced behind him.
He hoped he would find Jonathan again in the inn that weekend, for there was a great deal about this man he found himself with a desire to know.
After that it was back to yet another long, monotonous week of logging, and all that could be really said for it was that now he had something to think about to pass the time: Jonathan. He had made it fairly clear that he intended some degree of a relationship between them, but Édouard still would have liked to know just what that was going to be, and the closer the date grew to their potential reunion the more he wished he knew. He’d found that these things always worked out for the better if both parties were aware of it. But Jonathan was already so difficult to get information out of that Édouard was unsure if he would even receive an answer if he asked. He scarce knew the man and already he had the impression Jonathan would merely smile and change the subject. That was… well, it was kind of exciting, now that he was actually considering it, but –
A sharp pain in his arm brought to his attention the fact that the saw he’d been using had bucked on a knot and taken a strip of flesh out of his arm, and as he clamped his gloved hand over it he had the dull passing thought that at least his sleeves were rolled up and he would not need to patch this shirt again. The foreman was nowhere to be seen so the man nearest to it called out to Édouard to go find something to wrap his arm in and come back, which he nodded and set out to do. On his way to the bunkhouse he lifted his glove to check the wound. It was ragged and moderately wide, but not deep. Not the worst injury he’d ever incurred, not by a long shot. He wrapped it tightly in a strip of cloth from a shirt too worn to repair and tied it off as best he could with the wrong hand.
When he returned to his place the man who had been working the saw with him shouted, “Can’t you have your accidents on Sunday nights like the rest of us?” and Édouard rolled his eyes and took up his end of the saw again without bothering to answer. It was a good thing Édouard was going to meet Jonathan again that evening, else Édouard just might have shown him an accident later that Sunday night…
Édouard had enough time to become mildly intoxicated – though, granted, that only took him about ten dedicated minutes – and seriously consider inciting a brawl with the even more intoxicated man who had insulted him that afternoon before Jonathan appeared, at which time he entirely forgot what he’d been irritated about and dropped the requisite amount of change on the counter so he could leave. Jonathan said nothing, only led him outside to an actual horse tied to the post, and once he had climbed up himself he indicated for Édouard to follow. He of course knew how to ride one – his father had several, though more of the workhorse variety – but he didn’t believe he’d ever met anyone who owned one merely to ride it to and fro. Jonathan seemed quite good at it, for the ride was smooth and Édouard did not have a terrible amount of trouble keeping his balance. Jonathan either did not have a saddle or had removed it, because all that was upon the horse’s back otherwise was the saddle blanket. “I didn’t know you owned a horse,” Édouard said once they had returned to Jonathan’s home and the other man was tying the beast up along the side of the house. Jonathan paused in his trip to the front door.
“Well I could hardly have walked up here from Louisiana,” he said, seeming entirely puzzled, and Édouard decided to leave it there.
Once in the house again Édouard again had to start a fire, seemingly from the exact same ashes he had left behind the previous week, and he frowned to see this but said nothing. Perhaps Jonathan just enjoyed the chill. He could not say he’d never felt the same during a long shift logging when he seemed to be far too warm even as a fresh blanket of snow was falling around him. Jonathan again stood behind him as he did this, and afterward he asked, “Have you played a game called chess before?”
Édouard shook his head. “I’ve heard mention of it.”
“Excellent,” Jonathan said, and he moved to a cabinet in a dark corner of the room and removed an intricate wooden box. It unfolded to reveal a collection of carved wooden game pieces, and when turned over it served as the board. Jonathan showed him how to the rules went and Édouard took to it quickly, beating Jonathan at it within the hour. Upon this Jonathan sat back and observed the board thoughtfully, and it came to Édouard that perhaps his victory had been a little less than earned. Unsure he wanted to know that, Édouard still asked, “What is it?”
“You are quite intelligent,” Jonathan answered with slight preoccupation. “I am a little perplexed as to why you spend all of your time labouring when your mind holds your true strength.”
Édouard fingered one of the pieces he had captured. The wood had been sanded very smooth. “There is not much a man can do with intelligence that does not have an education to accompany it.”
“That is a shame,” Jonathan said quietly. “Your father impressed upon you the importance of the farm?”
Édouard did not really want to talk about that. He gathered his remaining pieces from the board. “He impressed upon me a great many things.”
He hoped that Jonathan would be able to guess what that meant and, if not, that he would keep his lack of understanding to himself.
“It seems something should be done about that.” Jonathan’s voice was still soft, and for some reason Édouard found himself smiling.
“Perhaps one day,” he said, though he already knew he could not bring about such a thing. Leaving during the cooler months was the most rebellious thing he had ever done, and it was not much considering he still returned afterward.
“Your arm,” Jonathan murmured then, causing Édouard to glance down at it. Ah, calisse. The cloth was fully soaked with fresh redness.
“Would you happen to have a rag around?” Édouard asked, and Jonathan nodded and exited the room. He returned in short order with what was much less a rag than it was an exquisite silk handkerchief. After staring at it a moment Édouard shrugged and reached for it, and as he unwrapped the linen Jonathan reached out and fingered the wound. “It’s nothing,” Édouard told him, pressing the handkerchief to it and winding the cloth back around his arm again. “I wasn’t paying attention and the saw slipped.”
Jonathan didn’t seem to be listening. His eyes were locked on the blood drying on his fingertips. A little insulted, Édouard said, “Jonatan?”
Jonathan’s attention was sharply drawn. “Yes?”
“What are you doing?”
Jonathan slowly rubbed the blood on his fingers with his thumb. “I… pay me no mind.” And he left the room again, presumably to clean his hand. His return, however, was marked with something else: a clean cloth and a wet sponge. Édouard looked at him in confusion as he knelt beside him and held his hand out. “Give me your arm.”
Édouard did so, without being entirely certain why, and Jonathan removed the soiled cloth and set it aside. He gently applied the sponge to the wound on Édouard’s arm until the place there was very clean, and then he wrapped it slowly in a piece of white cloth and tucked the end in with marked attention. “You should be careful,” Jonathan said, both of his hands settled softly on Édouard’s arm. “An infection would see you quite ill, and then you could not come to see me.”
Édouard smiled and opened his mouth to respond that it would take a little more than that to prevent him from doing anything, but before he could quite to do Jonathan had leaned forward and kissed him. It was so very reverent that Édouard was shocked into immobility for a moment, but once he had gotten over that his hands were moving nearly of their own will into the base of Jonathan’s curls and he was pressing his own lips against Jonathan’s with much less elegance but quite the same enthusiasm. Jonathan’s gloved hands, delicately placed around his waist, were the surest grip he had ever felt, and he allowed Édouard his moment of insistence before guiding him gently back, lips caressing his in a way both loving and agonisingly deliberate. It was not long after that Édouard learned that Jonathan was an excellent lover – far more so in fact than anyone Édouard had yet known – and the experience was somewhat brief but with so much of the reverence that Jonathan’s first kiss had held that it seemed to last much longer than it truly did. Édouard needed some minutes to catch his breath and it seemed so did Jonathan, for he remained with his body lowered close over Édouard’s, motionless, until a crack in the fireplace drew Édouard’s attention and seemingly brought Jonathan back to himself. He got up and left the room, and Édouard took this as an opportunity to gather his wits a little. He got up and moved to the bookshelf, eyes sweeping over the titles quite literally. He frowned.
“You may take one, if you like,” Jonathan said from across the room, and Édouard shook his head.
“They’re all in English.”
Jonathan’s laugh was as gentle as his smile. “There are as many great works in my language as in yours and it seems a pity you will never know them.”
Édouard thought he would rather be felled by a tree than acquire the ability to read that ugly way of arranging letters. “I’ll try to survive despite my ignorance.”
Jonathan came up close beside him, and even though they had just done a great deal more than that Édouard still felt a thrill, somehow. “Surely one of these appeals to you. You must know some words.”
“I wish that I didn’t.”
Jonathan shook his head and laughed, sliding one long finger atop a dark blue spine and tipping the book out of the shelf. “I believe you will not mind this one.”
“Jonatan, I told you, I cannot read –“
“But I can,” Jonathan interrupted, and though Édouard found it patently ridiculous that he should be read to at his age he decided to go along with it if it pleased Jonathan. He meant only to highlight how silly and childish the whole situation was when he lay down on the couch in such a way that the only place left for his head was Jonathan’s lap, but when Jonathan slipped his long fingers into Édouard’s hair and began to gently rub at his scalp he rather thought perhaps he had been thinking of this in the wrong way.
Édouard’s English was far below that of the book, so he had no real idea of what was happening inside of it, but Jonathan’s voice was so measured and soothing that he did his best to pay attention. After a while, though, he slept, and he woke only for a few minutes to find Jonathan again tucking the heavy quilt around him. “Jonatan?” he asked, his voice quiet. Jonathans smile was soft.
“Hush,” he said. “I must rest myself. I will see you in the afternoon.”
Édouard wanted to make the argument that he did not have to leave, but he was still much too asleep and Jonathan had already gone.
Édouard returned from town late that day to find Jonathan in the sitting room. He was deep in the chair facing the fireplace with his eyes closed and the back of his head leaning into the high back of the seat. The fire had burned out not long ago but the room already carried a light chill. Édouard knelt down in front of the ashes to get it going again, glancing behind him once he had begun. Jonathan had always been pale, but his skin now seemed nearly translucent. And the curtains were still drawn, Édouard noted with some confusion. “Jonatan?” he asked.
“Are you well?”
Jonathan’s smile was genuine but weak. “A bit of fatigue is all.”
“You didn’t rest?”
Jonathan shook his head. “I slept fine. It is… something else.”
Fire given fresh life, Édouard stood and turned to face him. “Which is?”
Jonathan’s eyes considered the flames ahead. “How might I say it… my diet is quite specific, and opportunities to acquire it have been scarce of late.”
Édouard had never heard of such a thing. As un bûcheron it was practically his duty to consume anything and everything that was placed within arm’s reach. “What is it that you eat?”
The nonchalant wave Jonathan attempted with his hand was more of a tired flutter. “I will take care of it in due time.”
Édouard was still intensely curious and was ready to ask further but just then Jonathan began telling him of another state he had once lived in, this one called ‘New York’, and he was much too enamoured with this new part of Jonathan’s life to remember to pry.
They mostly talked for the remainder of that day, because despite his reassurances Jonathan seemed too weak and tired to do much more than that. In fact, if the light in the room had not been so sparse Édouard would have ventured to say he actually seemed physically older than usual. But that was a ridiculous thought and so he kept it to himself.
Throughout the next week of work Édouard spent most of his time thinking about Jonathan, partially because he had nothing better to be considering and partially because he was genuinely fascinating. He seemed to have fit more into his life than any one man had had the right or the time to do, and Édouard had no real idea of his age but he could not be older than his late forties. And yet he had made reference to spending many years in various cities across the vastness of the budding machine that was America. Well, what was Édouard to know, really. He had hardly gone farther than from Trois-Rivières to Ottawa and back again. When your world was so narrow everything else seemed impossibly wide.
Moreso than usual, though, Édouard’s thoughts were preoccupied with the approaching end of the logging season. He had a bare six weekends left to see Jonathan before it ended and he had to return home. He did not want to, but he did not have too much of a choice. He was, quite basically, not much more than a labourer and would be so until his body decided it had had enough and rendered him barely mobile. He considered many times the idea that he could ask Jonathan if he would take him along to wherever he was going after this, but ultimately decided every time it was a poor line of thought. Jonathan seemed fond of him, this was true, but he was so cagey about his life and what he even did for a living that Édouard rather thought he would not want much more than sporadic company found in towns where migrant workers passed through according to the position of the sun.
If Jonathan asked, however…
When Édouard saw him again the next Saturday, he seemed better, though not by much. He was still unusually pale and his fingers trembled over the chess board. He still found the need and the strength to set himself upon Édouard later, and despite knowing of his weakness Édouard found it very hard to tell over the duration of the act. He had had these relations with his fair share of men and women over the years, both quite experienced and much less so, but Jonathan… his skill was nearly supernatural. Once he had caught his breath, he asked after the finesse that it seemed to Édouard several lifetimes would be required to accrue, and his question was met only with the bare curl that was Jonathan’s smile and the answer, “In due time.”
The next afternoon saw Édouard attempting to impress upon him that there were a mere five weekends remaining in their time together. He simply needed to know how Jonathan had acquired so much knowledge about so many things merely by passing through as many places as he had! Jonathan must have been quite tired indeed, for he made the decision to relent even though he had refused only hours ago.
“Very well,” Jonathan answered. “How shall I say it…”
Édouard folded his hands together, aspiring to look patient.
“I have had a great many years to develop such skills,” Jonathan said. “More years than you have seen, or you will ever see.”
Édouard’s brows grew troubled. “I don’t understand.”
Jonathan considered the fireplace. It seemed to lend an unnatural gleam to his eyes, which Édouard as always found difficult to look away from. “Have you never wondered, Édouard, why we convene only in the evening?”
“Why we have never consumed a meal together?”
“Why I have knowledge a single man should not have acquired within a single lifetime?”
Jonathan regarded him with an odd air of patience. “None of this, taken together, means anything to you?”
Jonathan always looked so very pale, even in the life-lending light of the fireplace.
“I…” He looked around him, feeling as though he should have known what Jonathan was attempting to convey. There seemed something of a fog muddying his thoughts. He returned his eyes to Jonathan, who was smiling gently at him, and Édouard suddenly realised he had never seen Jonathan’s teeth.
He swallowed, because he felt he was supposed to. He was not afraid, or repulsed, or otherwise upset by this revelation. But Jonathan only continued that thin smile of his and looked back into the fire. “Ah, you’ve figured it out,” he said, somewhat to himself.
“A vampire,” Édouard said. Perhaps if he said it aloud he would react properly. But no; his feelings had not changed. He had no desire to cease seeing Jonathan, or to tell anyone what he had learned. Nothing felt any different. Nothing at all.
“Indeed,” was Jonathan’s response. “Will you be taking your leave now?”
“No,” Édouard answered. Almost upon instinct, his fingers brushed his neck. “Have you – “
“I have not.” Jonathan folded his hands together and looked to Édouard. “To others? Of course. To you? I have let you be.”
“It must have been… tempting.”
“Of course it was. You are a very healthy young man. The desire to feed upon you is strong. I will admit I have fantasised the taste of you many more times than I care to count. But I will not, if that is against your wishes.”
“Against my wishes?” Édouard asked. “Why would it be one of them?”
“As a courtesy,” Jonathan clarified. “I treat you well, do I not? I say this not to coerce you, but as something to consider. I ask you for nothing but the spare evenings you are able to give to me. If you were willing to allow me the privilege of… well. You’ve already made your position. I shall not – “
“Wait,” Édouard interrupted. “What does it involve?”
Jonathan settled his shoulders into the chair. “Very little. You allow me your throat for but a few moments. I take enough to slake my thirst and not a bit more. We continue with our evening. It’s all quite simple, really.”
“And that’s it?”
Jonathan’s answer was accompanied by a nod. “It is.”
“All right,” Édouard told him. “I’ll allow it.”
“You don’t have to.” He was very calm and measured, as though he had explained this many times before, and upon consideration he probably had. “I can find – “
Édouard’s fingers had already loosened the collar of his shirt. “Come.”
Jonathan’s weight, as always it did, seemed negligible when he sat down close to Édouard upon the couch. One set of long fingers slid through the back of his hair as the other stroked the side of his throat. “It will be but a moment,” Jonathan purred into his ear. “You are doing me a gracious favour.”
“You could have asked me,” Édouard whispered. Jonathan’s previous comment about his diet made complete sense now. Jonathan’s hands now were every bit as tender as they were when he was caressing Édouard’s naked body in the midst of intimacy. Jonathan’s lips pressed against his throat in a soft and reverent kiss.
“I prefer to wait for the offer,” came Jonathan’s voice, low against his skin. “Everyone is more comfortable that way. Now hush a moment.”
His fangs were cool against Édouard’s throat, and though he had seen much worse pain throughout his life he still could not help but gasp as Jonathan’s teeth sank into his skin. It was an ache both sharp and deep, and the sucking sensation in his neck was unpleasant enough that he pressed the fingers of one hand into the meat of his thigh. Jonathan’s hands had gone a little tighter and his nose had begun to press against Édouard’s jaw, and sudden fear of this escalating beyond his control spiked through his chest. Almost as though he had noticed this, Jonathan pulled away from him. Édouard’s hand pressed itself against the fresh wound, and he noted somewhat distantly that his skin seemed cold suddenly and the residual blood against it oddly warm and obscenely wet. Jonathan took hold of his shoulders and gently laid him down on the couch. He moved Édouard’s hand away from his neck and softly ran his thumb over the marks he had left there.
“My apologies,” he murmured into Édouard’s ear. “I had been anticipating that since first we met. It was better even than I had hoped it to be.”
Édouard could not quite form any thoughts just then. He lay passively as Jonathan brushed aside a portion of his hair and pressed his lips to his brow. “Thank you,” he whispered against the skin there. “Now I will leave you to rest. You will experience some weakness when you awake, so exercise caution.”
“You don’t have to leave,” Édouard found it in him to say, and he thought Jonathan might have smiled at that.
“I will return. Now rest.”
Édouard was so much a danger to himself and to everyone else that when he came to work the next morning he was sent to the bunkhouse to lie down. He felt weak and cold and he did not have the strength to do much more than sleep for the rest of that day. Still, when Saturday arrived and he was crouched in front of the fire in Jonathan’s sitting room, he again offered up his throat to Jonathan.
“It would be a great deal easier for me not to refuse,” Jonathan admitted, “but only if you are certain. I have been told it is not pleasant. And I must apologise, for last time I took more than I meant. So much caution is required that when I have someone so willing in front of me it is more difficult to be careful.”
“I would appreciate it if you were,” Édouard said as Jonathan came to kneel softly next to him. “I cannot mysteriously be too ill to work every Monday.”
Jonathan kissed the nearly faded marks on Édouard’s throat. “I cannot tell you how grateful I am for this.” And it was indeed much more swift than the first time; Édouard barely even felt Jonathan’s fangs within his neck and the feel of the extraction reminded him immensely of how it felt to take one long, solitary drink of water after having had none for some time. When Jonathan moved back Édouard looked at him a moment.
Jonathan nodded and the tip of his tongue touched his lips. “I have no desire to make you ill a second time.”
Édouard found himself needing to rest for a while after, despite the brevity of it, and when he woke Jonathan read to him again. He found that he highly enjoyed it and felt quite irritated with himself for nearly discarding it originally. Listening to Jonathan’s calm and measured words, even if he didn’t understand most of them, was a simple joy.
Their remaining weekends were spent in much the same ways, other than the one occasion where Jonathan allowed Édouard to make love to him instead of the other way around. Édouard simply never got tired of listening to him speak. He still did not know how old the man was – though certainly much older than he’d thought – but he had seen and done so much that Édouard rather thought that he could listen for the rest of his life and still never hear all there was Jonathan could say. And allowing Jonathan to feed off of him was really not so bad. He was always as pleasant and brief about it as he could possibly be during such a thing. On their final Saturday Jonathan remained quiet upon his chest after their intimacy had concluded.
“The culmination of our time approaches,” Jonathan said after a moment. Édouard’s eyes upon him were sober.
“You’re leaving as well?”
Jonathan’s shoulders shifted in what might have been a shrug. “There will be nothing here for me when you have gone.” His smile was almost tight as he shifted back onto his knees, and Édouard followed him in sitting. “And it is best I do not stay in one place too long.”
Édouard stared with pensive anticipation at his folded hands. He did not know if he should speak his thoughts, but what had he to lose?
“What would I need to do to come with you?”
Jonathan’s eyes on him were intent. “That is a decision of a magnitude I fear you cannot grasp.”
“What would I need to do?” Édouard repeated, with more conviction. Jonathan sighed.
“You would have to allow me to turn you. I would not be able to live alongside you any other way. The temptation to drain you is already quite immense, as well you know. And that is with a mere two nights every week. Even one more would magnify the risk a great deal.”
“And then I would… be like you.”
Jonathan was considering him intently still. “You would. And recall, Édouard, that forever with a man is a long time. You may find yourself regretting your choice sooner than you think.”
He wouldn’t, he thought immediately. He wouldn’t regret it. But to be a creature of the shadows until the sunset of the world itself came to be… he found his hands clenching together with great force.
“If you are not certain,” came Jonathan’s voice through his thoughts, “than it is not a choice.”
But Édouard already lacked a choice, in that he either took this fresh and fleeting path or he returned to Trois-Rivières and dreamed of the escape he had let slip through his fingers.
The decision was crystalline. “I am certain,” he told Jonathan with as much conviction as he could muster, and Jonathan seemed nearly sorrowful.
“I do not think I should – “
Édouard grasped his arm. “Please.” And to a great relief he had not known he would feel, Jonathan nodded.
“But not here,” he said. “We will meet again at the inn tomorrow night. The… experience can be quite disconcerting, and you know that place better than this. It will be easier for you. And a change of environment may well lead you to change your mind.”
“Tomorrow night,” Édouard repeated, having no intentions at all to do any such thing. “I will go back there now. It might assuage suspicions when the both of us vanish at the same time.”
Jonathan’s farewell was a brief but sweet kiss to his brow, and Édouard hurried to the inn and acquired his usual room. Sleep did not come quickly. He wished he’d asked Jonathan to do it this night instead, but no. Jonathan wanted to give him a chance to change his mind and he would take it even though he knew he would not, as a sign of respect. Jonathan was taking a risk, agreeing to take Édouard with him and so draw double the attention to himself, and Édouard wanted to reassure him as much as possible it was not so great as he feared it might be.
When Jonathan arrived Édouard was standing at the window, looking out, and when the knock came at the door he closed the curtains and moved to let him in. Jonathan looked about the room.
“Are you sure of your decision?” he asked. “This is impossible to take back.”
“I am,” Édouard answered firmly, and he lay back on the bed.
Jonathan removed his outergarments and made his own way atop the blankets. He knelt above Édouard then, caressing his throat with that same reverence he always did. He was looking down upon Édouard with some… troubled need, almost. “What is it?”
Jonathan’s fingers brushed the long-healed place where the original marks had been. “I have desired this for so long.” He leaned down and pressed his face against Édouard’s neck. “But I may have you only once,” he continued in a whisper. “Only once may I drink the full of you in. It seems as though I should continue to wait.”
“You can’t,” Édouard reminded him. “We do this now or we part ways forever.”
Jonathan’s kiss against his neck was soft and sweet. “An impossible decision.”
“We can’t have both.”
Jonathan’s cool breath came against his skin as he exhaled. Édouard closed his eyes.
Jonathan’s teeth seemed to sink almost lovingly into his throat. His hands were so very soft against Édouard’s head and shoulder, and the first few moments were so gentle he barely felt it. It was very nearly enjoyable, until Jonathan suddenly gripped him with a force Édouard had never before seen from him and his brow was grinding against Édouard’s jaw. The pain brought on by this act that he had come to know so well was sharper than ever before. Jonathan was not tasting him this time, no; he was consuming him with a great and violent desperation. His life as he had known it was being drunk out of him, sucked with incredible need into Jonathan’s throat. It seemed as though Jonathan was never going to cease feeding on him even as his strength waned and his thoughts slowed and his body lost the ability to care. His breaths came heavily but all else he was truly aware of was the unnatural force that was Jonathan’s teeth pressed deep into his skin. He had a dim awareness of Jonathan finally pulling away from him – and not out, not this time, away so that he was left with ragged tears upon his neck – and he dully opened his eyes to see Jonathan sitting with his head against the wall, jaw slack and lips caked thick with Édouard’s blood. He was staring into the distance, deep in some sort of heady rapture, and it may just have been Édouard’s vision failing but it seemed that some of the gray had faded from his curls and some of the lines had been smoothed from his face. His eyes slid closed with a relieved slowness, and that was the last thing Édouard saw before his own lids lowered upon their own will.
Édouard awoke to a searing pain across his face.
He squinted, rolling onto his side and out of the beam, eyes confusedly searching out the window. The curtains had been pulled open.
He sat up in puzzlement, rubbing his eyes. “Jonatan?” he called out. Why in heaven’s name had he opened the -
He looked about in sudden realisation. Jonathan had gone.
No. No, he couldn’t have. He had just left for a while, that was all.
But that couldn’t be possible. The sun was streaming fully through the window. If Jonathan had left, it must have been hours ago.
He sat with the blanket bunched about his waist, a sudden dreadful feeling pooling in his stomach. And... and something else as well. An ache, deep in his belly. He knew instinctively it denoted a hunger more visceral and insatiable than any he had faced before. His hands drew themselves into fists.
He couldn’t have left. He couldn’t have -
Édouard tore aside the blanket with accidental violence and stumbled out of bed. His hands were shaking with the truth he could not quite confront, but he felt... robust. There was some unknowable strength flowing through his veins now, and he could not say he was not glad of it. But he would sort through all of his impressions later. Now, he needed to find Jonathan -
He dressed quickly and went to the washbasin to scrub the last vestiges of sleep from his face, but even as the water flowed between his fingers he could only stare into the mirror in shock. For the glassy surface told him he was no longer there, and even though he could see his hands and the clear liquid they were failing to hold he had the sinking feeling that, perhaps, he wasn’t.
He shook the wetness from his fingers quickly and ran them through his hair. He then whipped open the door and made haste down the stairs.
The keeper at the counter was the very same as the night before, and Édouard blew out a grateful breath. “Sir!” he called out, anxious hands clutching the edge of the counter, “The tall man that entered here last night. Do you remember him?”
“Of course,” the innkeeper said.
“Have you seen him?”
“I have not,” came the answer. “But when I went outside this morning I noted that one of the horses was gone. Perhaps he took his leave?”
“No,” Édouard whispered, whirling around and moving quickly to the front door. He pulled it open but could not sight the horses, for the sunlight bore down upon him and forced him back inside. He slammed the door shut again and looked down at his hands.
“Are you all right, lad?” the innkeeper called. “You seem unwell. All of your colour has gone.”
Édouard looked back over his shoulder, but his voice held no answer and his eyes sought only the tender flesh of the man’s fleshy throat.
“Thank you for your help,” Édouard told him curtly, and made his way up the stairs before he gave into this fresh and cloying desire.
He pressed his back to his closed door and covered his face with his hands. Jonathan had gone. Jonathan had done this to him and left. His chest heaved in upset. “I did this for you,” he whispered into his palms. “And you abandoned me.”
No. No, that could not be -
He stepped to the window, to find what he was not sure, but was forced to turn away as the light seared his skin. Calisse! How was he to return to work in this -
He froze in sudden realisation. Jonathan had taken that from him too. Édouard could not work like this, could barely live like this. What was he to do? What in God’s name was he to do? He had been foolish to hinge his future on the whims of a single man!
Édouard tore through the room then, searching for any sign of that accursed monster who had stolen his life from him. The drawers held nothing, nor did the bed or the curtains or - there! In his coat pocket! A piece of paper, folded over in the centre. He snatched it up and unfolded it with a trembling hand, holding it up to the light from the window so as to see it better. When he saw what was written upon it a fury he had never felt before pooled in his chest.
Jonathan had penned the note in English.
Édouard opened the door to his room again and accosted the first person he saw descending the stairs into the bar. “Wait! I need to know what this says,” he demanded. This man paused and turned around, thankfully accepting the note Édouard was thrusting into his hands. He looked down at the paper in puzzlement.
“If you are truly ready,” the man read, “then you will come find me.”
What a vicious, terrible game he had tricked Édouard into.
“What does it mean?” the other asked, handing Édouard the paper back, but Édouard did not have the inclination nor the words to answer. He re-entered the room he would not be able to leave before nightfall and made his way to the window without stepping into the light streaming through it. He could scarcely breathe. To condemn him to this and then mock him for it? How had Édouard judged this man so utterly wrongly? What even did he do now?
There was only one thing that came to mind, and it would be dangerous indeed. But Édouard no longer had a single thing left to lose.
“I will find you,” Édouard murmured beneath his breath, clenching the paper into one fist, “if it takes me all of this eternity you have damned me to.”
And he drew closed the curtains with great violence.
To be continued.
Specially dedicated to Vogel because seems I stumbled upon half her hopes and dreams with this lol.
Édouard can’t say Jonathan’s name properly because the English ‘–th’ does not exist in French. I didn’t have them meet in Ottawa because I live here, it genuinely was a logging town back in ye olde days that lumberjacks went to to get fucked up on their day off. Édouard is speaking Quebec French and Jonathan is speaking Cajun French – or pretend that’s what’s happening, because I don’t know either language very well. Édouard is a bit of a dick about other languages because some French people are Just Like That and he’s one of them.