The bar was dark, suiting Fox's mood. As soon as he passed the threshold, he was embraced by the heat of dancing bodies and the throb of the bass, the stereos emitting enough vibrations to make the walls shudder. Everything was black and blood-red, reminding Mulder of the chambers of a heart. Plush couches and chairs were the same inky red, overstuffed to the point that they seemed ready to burst, even bleed.
The establishment had passed through many hands over the decades, and had been through many incarnations: a sultry Prohibition-era speak-easy; a trendy, yuppie wine bar; even a brief stint as a honky-tonk haven. For the past year, it had operated under the name 'The Crypt,' and its subterranean location certainly bore out the logic of its nomenclature - but the crowd here was most definitely alive. Fox felt the familiar tingle of excitement as he pressed his way deeper into the unknown. Here, he was nobody, and there was a freedom to that; the crowd and the night held the wonder of limitless potentiality as he checked his identity at the door. To what would surely be Scully's horror (not that he ever planned to tell her), he had opted to leave his service piece behind in the hotel safe. Dressed in a torn white t-shirt and black jeans, both dabbed with (he hoped) washable fake blood, he was not on duty tonight, and a bureau-issued gun, aside from being difficult to conceal in this attire, would've spoiled his murder-victim aesthetic. It was Halloween, a time when the veils between the worlds was at its thinnest, a time to revel in the danger and the fear, the inevitability of death, the universality of mortality... or, something. Whatever. For Fox, it was a time to enjoy being scared by men in hooded masks and women in garish make-up, harmless specters of adult-themed fun, rather than the true monsters which so often occupied his time.
As his eyes adjusted to the light, Mulder began to notice the details in the décor: the fine curlicues of silver paint glinting in the muted flash of the strobe lights, like streaks of lightning in a witch's hair; the black-on-black murals on two of the walls, barely discernible in the brief moments of illumination; the rich finish of the ebony dance floor. All around him, people were letting down their hair after a long week of who-knows-what, knocking back drinks, whispering in strangers' ears, sharing jokes with old friends, and, above all, checking out the talent. Glamorous enchantresses danced with bloodied butchers; zombies shimmied with warlocks; gothic princesses sipped mixed drinks with indescribable monsters. Upon seeing a classic 'little grey man' brush past him en route to the restroom, Mulder had to smile. An oldie but a goodie, he thought to himself.
Fox glanced at the chalkboard menu behind the bar, trying to decipher its blood-red script, before deciding to be adventurous and let the barmaid choose his drink for him. She gave a wicked grin, well-worn with use, and fetched him a green, frothing potion in a charming metal goblet. He took a cautious sip, the spirits within burning his throat at first touch; the woman beside him laughed, almost cackled, and as he shifted on his barstool to get a better look at her, some of the concoction slopped onto his shirtfront. It glowed faintly, and the woman reached out to touch the stain, Mulder's solar plexus instinctively tensing at the unexpected but not unwanted contact.
"Humans are so messy," she said, and he was immediately aroused. Her voice was a sensuous purr, full of taunting promise, and the lips emitting those words were ripe and red.
"Humans are? As opposed to..?"
He hoped the woman would pick up on his playfulness. She took the bait.
"Well, vampires, of course," she meoued.
"Of course," he said, nonchalant. Raising his goblet, he saluted. "To vampires."
She raised her glass, filled with some smoky-gray liquid on ice, meeting his toast. "To victims."
He swallowed hard, willing the drink to stay down, fighting the urge to choke as it burned him. She downed the rest of her drink, then placed her cold hand on his, leading him to the dance floor.
"I'm not much of a dancer," he admitted.
"I'm not much of a drinker, but here we are," she teased. "I'd rather dance than drink."
Mulder was fine with that, an excuse to get closer to her body, the body with curves in all the right places, hugged tight by sleek PVC from shoulders to mid-thigh. Her black hair refracted the light, and he was hypnotized by her moves, her form becoming one with the music. It was all he could do to try to keep up. This place didn't seem likely to play any slow songs, so Mulder did his best to keep the rhythm, to bring his body into contact with hers while not disturbing her groove.
Somewhere in the shadows, Fox sensed they were being watched. He had little on him worth stealing - a few rumpled twenties in his pocket, a hotel room key, and his fake civilian ID, carried in the vain hope that someday he'd get carded (it'd been a few years since the last time). The emergency contact number on the ID was the only legitimate piece of information - a direct line to Scully. He prayed no one ever had to use it; if they did, he hoped he was dead, rather than having to face her and explain his predicament..
"You're overthinking this, hon," his new friend jibed. "Just let go. Do whatever feels.. natural," she advised. The way she emphasized that last word made Fox think of all the base, 'natural' things he wanted to do to her and with her, and he sensed that provoking that line of thinking had been her intent. He obeyed, letting his body move, not as gracefully as hers, but well enough. She moved closer, winding her arms around his neck, her hand, still chilled from the drink, brushing against the back of his neck. He imagined how it would feel to have that hand grip him, torturing him with icy fingers..
The song changed, and the woman turned to face away from him, dipping down, sliding her hair along the length of his body with ease before working her way back up again. He was hard, and painfully so; it had been too long since he'd had release, and even longer since he'd had release with another person present. He envied the floor's view as her skirt threatened to expose her secrets to it. Her dress was so tight, and no panty line was visible; besides, with PVC, one needed one's skin to be able to breathe.
Facing him once more, the woman - Gd, he hadn't even asked her name! - hovered an inch from his lips, inviting him to meet her mouth. Mulder did so, and sensed a shift in the energy, like the air was buzzing now. Her kiss tasted bitter at first, but her flavor mellowed into a candy sweetness, and he was hooked. Those cold fingertips dragged sharp nails down his t shirt, scoring him through the fabric. His nipples were hard, too, and as she tweaked one exploratorily, he groaned into her mouth.
"Mm. The sensitive type. My favorite," she remarked, leading him to one of the couches in a corner. Upon seeing her approach, a seated trio scattered into the shadows. Mulder wondered at that reaction, prompted without a word from his date, but dismissed it; little Mulder was taking over the decision-making for now.
"I didn't ask your name," he fumbled, trying to be at least a little bit of a gentleman.
"Veronica. Ronnie," she amended.
Okay. A ballsy girl, going by a masculine nickname. A woman who knew what she wanted and took no shit; he could respect that. He had to think for a moment to recall his fake name; Robert something-or-other. "I'm Rob."
"Rob?," she asked, looking unconvinced.
"Yeah. But my friends call me Fox."
She seemed to like that name better, for she kissed him again. Her fingers twisting his nipple worked like turning up the volume on his libido, and he was putty.
"Well then, Fox.. Do you always play the victim, or just on Halloween?"
Her lips fluttered down his cheek, bussing against his jaw before landing softly on his pulse point. "I.. uh.. huh?"
She kissed him, and pinpricks of light burst behind his closed eyelids. He moaned her name, unsure of what was happening, unsure of whether or not he'd survive, and unsure as to whether or not he cared.
Fox did something then which he hadn't done since he was a boy of sixteen, upon the occasion of sucking on a girl's nipples for the first time.
He came in his pants.
Barely having time to register that he'd just blown his load in a hands-free orgasm in a busy bar, Mulder felt Ronnie being bodily lifted up and away from him. Her teeth took a little bit of him with her, the pain rushing in on the tail end of the pleasure, making him doubly woozy. Fox's fingers drifted towards the source of the pain, coming away slick with blood. It was dark, so much darker than the fake stuff on his clothing, and there seemed to be a fair amount of it leaving him...
"Oh, for fuck's -- Come on!"
A male voice now, breaking through the fog of confusion. Strong arms, picking him up as if he weighed no more than a bag of feathers, cradling him. Mulder could hear no heart beat but his own, despite his head lolling against the stranger's chest.
As the man moved through the bar, people got out of the way. Ronnie's voice was audible, no longer nice or inviting, squalling and cursing as a door opened, then closed with a bang so final, it was like the sealing of a tomb. The Crypt, Mulder, he chided himself; you had to pick a bar full of wannabe vamp-freaks called 'The Crypt..' Then, blessed unconsciousness overtook him.
Mulder drifted in and out. He was dreaming that someone was carrying him, at unnatural speeds, over multiple city blocks. He was imagining that someone was tending to his neck wound in his hotel bed, cursing as they tried to staunch the flow. He was hallucinating that the stranger licked the wound, followed by an immediate numbness and the cessation of bleeding. It was a long, intense, vivid dream, with more pain than Mulder would've liked, but it ended at last, with the apparition uttering, "Three days," before closing the door behind him. Mulder slept and slept, like the worst hangover coupled with the most horrendous bout of food poisoning, waking every few hours to chug water and void his insides before crawling back to bed. It occurred to him on the eve of the third day that he had only booked the room for two nights; either the hotel staff were extremely lax in monitoring guests' comings and goings, or someone had paid for an extra night. As he forced himself to shower, his legs still unsteady, Fox decided it was the latter, and he could think of only one likely suspect: the stranger who had rescued him from an unknown fate.
"You know what she was going to do, Mulder," he said to the man in the mirror. The steam swirling behind him looked like ghostly smoke, or unearthly fog in which any number of horrors could be lurking. "She was going to drain you, right there on that gigantic aorta couch." To her credit, she had given him some major warnings. Then again, what hot-blooded man would take that whole 'vampire' guise seriously, especially on Halloween?
A gentle knock on the door forced him to grip his towel more tightly at the waist, Mulder moving to the peephole and trying to focus his vision. A pale man in a cream-colored suit, his hair pulled back neatly into a queue, stared at him as though he were fully visible through the tiny glass orb. His face was impassive, unhurried, unconcerned, and Mulder had an irrational desire to do or say something to try to provoke a response from that marble façade, to make him break. He dismissed the notion as insanity.
"Who is it?"
Mulder was still weak, and in no mood to drop his towel to fight for his life.
"The Good Samaritan. I come bearing gifts."
Mulder smelled it then - the delicious aroma of hot food. His bowels having emptied themselves repeatedly of what seemed to be a lifetime's worth of waste over the last few days (maybe he could market vampire-bites as the new colonic), Mulder was famished. Peering again, he noticed the corner of a white take-out bag waiting expectantly by the visitor.
What was it they said about vampires and inviting them in?
"Don't do it," he muttered.
"Excuse me?," the voice asked, casually. Politely. A polite vampire? A concerned citizen? Other?
Mulder knew he was being stupid. He also knew he was hungry, and that this - this - person - had saved him. If he meant Fox harm, surely he would've done it already?
"Okay. I'm.. I'm inviting you in," Mulder said, easing open the door. He wished he'd had a ready quip with which to follow it up, but his mind could focus only on the handsome man carrying food into the room.
Handsome? Boy, that bite must've been a doozy.
Mulder moved aside for his rescuer, then shut and locked the door behind him.
The man leaned against the desk beside the bed, facing Mulder and the rest of the room. Fox couldn't recall what the visitor had been wearing on Halloween, but somehow he didn't look quite right in such sleek, modern attire.
"I don't believe we've been introduced. My name is Louis."
The stranger - now not entirely a stranger - extended a hand, and Mulder stared at it for a moment, struck dumb. The nails were longer than average for a man's, and finely tapered. They appeared to be natural, not store-bought. Fox, still clutching his towel with one hand, extended his other in greeting. "Fox."
Louis seemed amused by the name. "Fox by name, but not by nature. You bear the name of a wily predator, yet you walked right into a trap."
Fox shivered, suddenly cold. Louis watched him with a measured gaze as Mulder rooted around for a clean shirt, pulling it on with sluggish hands. Mulder felt as awkward as a teen having to change in front of his peers for gym class. How curious.
"Forgive my lack of manners; I never went to finishing school. As for the other night, I'm still not sure what happened, but the one thing I *do* know for sure is that you saved my ass. For that, I thank you."
Louis had snorted slightly at the 'finishing school' remark, but the merriment in his eyes died away as swiftly as it had risen. It seemed he was remembering the incident. "Yes. I saved you, and you're welcome. I'm very glad to see you survived. The fever is usually too much for people to bear; you must have a great deal of fighting spirit." He set the bag down, then leaned against the desk as if he belonged there.
Mulder detected a hint of genuine admiration in Louis' voice, although most of the words were oddly cool and detached, as if the speaker referred to distant events and unfamiliar creatures.
Louis tucked his hands into the crooks of his arms, as if showing he posed no threat. "Please, Fox, sit. Eat. I've brought you chicken. How appropriate for someone of that name."
Mulder pulled a chair away from the wall, leaving several feet of space between himself and his guest. Louis handed him the bag of fried goodness, and as Mulder took hold of it, each of them with a hand on the bag for a beat, it felt as though some sort of power transfer was taking place. Louis was testing Fox's trust, and Fox was showing that he was willing to place his life in the man's hands once again.
"I don't suppose there's any point in offering you some?," Mulder deadpanned, biting into a greasy drumstick.
Louis' head barely moved to shake 'no.' "We are above such games, are we not?"
Mulder chewed and swallowed. "Indeed."
Several minutes passed, with only the sounds of Mulder's ravenous, uncouth consumption of chicken. Louis, though slightly repulsed by the whole spectacle, did his best to mask his disgust.
When Mulder felt the gnawing in his gut begin to abate, he dropped the bone into the bucket and wiped the grease from his fingers onto the towel. "You've saved me twice now. I can't help feeling there's going to be something you want in return."
Louis looked down at the floor, his eyes tracing a path through the chaotic print of the carpet to Mulder's bare feet, then up his legs to the point where the towel obscured any further view. "If only you'd been so perceptive on the night in question," Louis quipped.
Mulder sighed. He waited. Louis did not disappoint.
"I haven't told my story to another mortal in so many years. The last time I tried.. Well, it didn't achieve the result for which I'd hoped."
"I'm sorry to hear it, Louis. What's that got to do with me?"
Louis pushed off from the desk, his hands sliding into his pockets as he began to walk. Mulder noticed that he moved with an unnatural grace, like a catwalk model, although he looked too well-fed for the world of haute couture. Every step was sure; every 'casual' movement, meticulously planned. Calculated. Predatory.
Louis turned on his heel upon reaching the wall nearest the door. "You want answers. You.. chase down the monsters of this world; you pick at the threads of life's mysteries. Anything humans can't readily explain or contain, the.. X Files."
Mulder's brows arched in surprise. "Seems like you've already got the background story. And?"
Louis paused for effect. "I have some of the answers you seek, and you - you have something I want."
Mulder felt a ripple of something akin to fear, but which more closely resembled anticipation. "Chicken bones?"
Louis laughed. Fox wondered if the man knew how devastatingly beautiful he looked when his face abandoned its seriousness. When serious, there was pain there, pain and loss, hopelessness and regret; Mulder wanted to plumb those depths, to know that pain, to lessen it somehow. His smile, however, was golden like the sun, golden like his namesake, Louis XIV.
"Companionship, for a time. That's the first need."
Mulder considered the possible implications of keeping company with such a .. man. "Oh? There's more?"
Louis looked pained once more. "Yes, Fox. All creatures, great and small, must eat. You have your pizza, your Chinese take-out and fried chicken. My appetites are not so easily attended to."
Mulder waited. "Say it. I wanna hear you say the word out loud."
After an interminable silence followed by a slow exhale, he complied. "Blood."
An unusual arrangement
Mulder found himself gagging slightly. Too much food, too fast; too much grease; too much horror..
"First things first," said Agent Mulder, stalling for time. Had Louis been fattening him up for slaughter? Trying to put him into a food coma? Had he been drugged? A bit late to think of that now.. "That nightclub, the Crypt. What's the story there?"
Louis did not flinch. "It's a club for all sorts."
Mulder burped, felt the chicken trying to repeat. "'All sorts,' as in, humans and non-humans?"
Louis nodded. "Not just on Halloween. Every night is Halloween for some. You already know of my kind; you've dealt with some of them before."
Mulder conceded this. "I've never come that close to being killed by your kind." A thought occurred to him then. "What happened to Vero - uh, Ronnie?"
The vampire shrugged. "I handled her. She crossed a line, and she was punished."
A mental image of Ronnie, stripped naked and chained by all four limbs in a deep, dark dungeon, screaming with all the fury of hell, entered Fox's mind.
"Not a bad guess," said the visitor.
Mulder shouldn't have been startled at the invasion of his private thoughts, but it did unsettle him. He knew he'd have to be more guarded.
"What I propose is not nearly so harmful, though it is not without risk. Some of the people who go to the Crypt are looking to be used by the damned in one way or another. Some offer their own blood; others procure blood sources, willing or otherwise.."
"Trafficking? You're telling me there are people who - " Mulder ran a hand over his three-day stubble, as if he could wipe away the distaste of such evil.
"I'm not here to condemn or condone what my kind do to survive. I'm here to give information."
"And to take my blood. After I nearly died from what SHE took from me." Mulder's toes curled protectively inward, feeling aware of how exposed he was, being half-dressed and still weakened from his ordeal.
Louis drew nearer, but did not seek to block or crowd Fox in any way. "I would not be so reckless. Ronnie.. Ronnie was not of the soundest mind and soberest judgement in life, and, sadly, the dark gift has done little to temper her impulsiveness. For one thing, vampires are not meant to drink alcohol; it brings out our baser natures, even more so, perhaps, than it does in humans."
Mulder took small comfort in the 'drunk as an excuse' explanation of things. "Ah. So a teetotaler such as yourself would be better able to control the, uh, sucking of the life-force from a human feedbag, huh?"
"You haven't even asked about the rewards in store for you, the benefits of such an arrangement."
Mulder was incredulous. He found it difficult to hold Louis' gaze for any length of time, and shifted his focus to the vampire's immaculate nails, which were currently resting on the desktop. "Sorry, I'm still kinda stuck on the minor 'vampire in my hotel room fed me chicken and now wants to feed on me' detail. Ok. Assuming I agree to this little.. deal - what's in it for me?"
He looked relieved. "In exchange, I tell you everything I know, all that I've experienced and witnessed over the centuries - ghosts, demons, witches, vampires, aliens, werewolves - "
NOW he had Mulder's attention. "Aliens?"
Louis blinked. "Yes, of course. Even the ancients had their lore, their crude depictions of flying crafts and visitors from beyond. It's only natural that in the course of several hundred years, I'd encounter some entities not of this earth. Not of this galaxy, even."
Mulder felt that buzzing again, so similar to the pleasure of Ronnie's mouth on his neck. Why wouldn't other-worldly beings sometimes cross paths? Humans ran into long-lost friends by happy accident all the time, even after being separated by decades of time and thousands of miles; why should it be any different for those who were not human?
Aliens, though? What possible interactions could extra-terrestrials have or even HOPE to have with the undead of this planet?
Louis gave a cryptic half-smile, and Mulder became acutely aware of his pulse quickening at that slight gesture. He told himself it was the thought of getting one step closer to meeting the little green (or gray, or whatever) men from beyond, but some part of him, some small, brutally honest part, whispered that that wasn't all.
The vampire, taking a risk, easing into Mulder's personal bubble, held out his hand.
Fox stared at the hand of death.
Louis waited, statue-still. He was not disappointed.
Mulder gripped that hand, feeling it cool and smooth, like marble - but supple. *Living* marble. Only, it wasn't alive.. Gd, his head hurt.
"Deal," said Fox, rising to stand, to face the being who was offering to be his guide into uncharted territories of paranormal experiences.
Louis had once been fond of omens, 'signs,' and other romantic notions, likening them to conspiratorial nods and winks from the unseen forces of the universe. It had been some time since he'd looked for any; perhaps he was overdue. As the two of them shook hands, Fox's towel gave way, tumbling to the floor with a hushed thlump.
Fox stood before him now, half-naked, vulnerable, gripped in a vampire's hand.
If that was a sign of things to come, Louis welcomed it.
Deeper into the unknown
Louis had deemed himself well past any vestige of mortal modesty. Sex was a commodity among his kind, of course - sex with one another to assert dominance or forge alliances; sex with humans as a means to an end (sometimes a permanent end for the mortal party).. He had seen thousands of men and women in every conceivable form of dress and undress, and was certain that no human's physique would ever offer anything more than a passing moment of mild surprise.
With one accidental movement, Fox Mulder had shattered that certainty.
Fox bent down, fishing for his lost towel, muttering oaths. Louis detected his blush, not by the color, but by the warmth it emitted. Fox was still feverish, but this was heat of a different kind. Louis, for a moment, felt almost alive again. Fragments of memories resurfaced, some recent, most, very old. The most vivid was the time he'd caught a well-to-do New Orleans family's youngest daughter in a compromising position with a liveryman. It had been only a matter of months since Louis' change, but the boy's mute horror at being discovered, his hair disheveled, his mouth slack and pink and void of any possible defense, had thrilled Louis more than the near-naked form of the girl. That hot, wet, raw member, still proud, refusing to abate, had beckoned to Louis nearly as much as the young man's life-blood. It was in that moment that Louis had begun to comprehend just how much his nature had been altered. Not only did he now need the blood of the living in order to feed his body, but he craved the beauty, the power, the consumption of their essence - physically and sexually.
Mulder was no stable-boy, but he had something of that shame and that energy, the drive which led him into the night, into the Crypt, into Ronnie's arms, as reckless as the man of long ago in his pursuit of pleasure.
Louis knew that Fox was just as relentless in his pursuit of information, and it was this thought, and this thought alone, which made him push aside the stirring already threatening to overwhelm his senses. It would not do to frighten Mulder at this early stage, and his body was in no condition to handle the enormity of the pleasure Louis was capable of giving.
"Now, now, you mustn't be embarrassed. It's nothing I haven't seen before," he teased.
Mulder's lower lip jutted out adorably. "Yeah, well, unless that's where male vampires take blood, I'm gonna keep it covered from now on."
Louis quashed his disappointment. "Any part will do. Shall we begin? Are you feeling rested enough?"
Mulder turned his back on his guest, rifling through his carry-all for a pair of boxers. Maybe that wasn't the best posture to adopt with a vampire in the room.. "Just gimme a sec to get decent, okay? I'm already uncomfortable with this arrangement as it is."
Louis waited. His hunger wasn't the worst it had ever been, but it had been the better part of a week since he'd fed, and the curious drawing sensation in his gut, like someone pulling violin strings far too taut, had begun to nettle him. He'd feel much better, and, he hoped, think far more clearly, once he'd eaten.
Mulder, now dressed enough to avoid further unintentional exposures, sat on the bed. Louis walked with measured steps to meet him.
My, but he was tall up close. Tall, and, although not very broad-shouldered, imposing.
"I figured.. I figured I'd lie down, y'know, in case I .."
"Faint?" Louis was amused at the thought of Mulder being such a light-weight; after all, this was only going to be a little snack, a veritable amuse bouche.
"Yeah. So you just.. You gonna count to three, like a nurse when they give someone a shot?"
Louis shook his head, his hair brushing against his back. Mulder wondered what the man - uh, vampire - would look like with his hair down. For someone who'd been dead for, how long had he said? Centuries?, it was in remarkably good condition. Fox would have to ask what shampoo he used - but then he considered that perhaps it was feeding on HUMAN BLOOD which gave him such a glossy mane...
"It's best to just let it happen without too much thought."
Mulder shuddered, recalling Ronnie's jibe that he'd been overthinking things. He'd clearly been *under*thinking things that night..
Louis let Fox get into position on his back before kneeling down by the side of the bed. His fingertips traced Mulder's inner arm from shoulder to wrist, swirling patterns on the skin just above the wrist-bone. It seemed he was feeling for something, some ideal spot from which to -
Mulder felt his wrist in that grip, firm, yet not menacing. He knew it was in his own best interests that Louis restrict his movements, as pulling away would only cause more damage.
Louis' lips were soft, his tongue tasting the salt of Fox's skin, and then the fangs were there, entering his flesh almost apologetically, almost ashamedly. Fox wondered in that moment what it would be like to be so powerful, to be immortal, and yet to be dependent upon lesser creatures. Didn't vampires' need of humans make them less, well, powerful?
Louis kept his word; he didn't take much. Mulder felt the beginnings of something building inside of him, but that promise was snatched away as the fangs withdrew. It had stung, even burned a little, but not as he'd feared.
Louis licked his lips, although there was little blood to be seen there. Mulder remembered the feel of the vampire's kiss on his wrist, and how the juvenile portion of his brain had focused on that moment being the gayest thing he'd ever experienced.
"Got it down to an art, huh?," Mulder asked, flexing his arm, feeling slightly sore at the bite-mark, but otherwise okay.
Louis seemed to need a minute, so Mulder just rested, listening to his own breathing. When the vampire spoke, there was warmth there, and gratitude.
"I try to be.. considerate of those who share themselves with me, yes. Minimize their pain."
Maximize their pleasure, he added, though not aloud.
Mulder took a moment to answer. "Shall we what?"
Louis helped him sit up. "Leave this place, of course. You've given me something I need; now, I shall give you something you need. But not here. For that, we'll have to go off the beaten path."
Mulder shrugged, pulling on his pants, stuffing his few belongings into his bag. Strange, how easily the two of them were already coming to trust one another. There was almost a child-like quality to Louis, though not a silly, mischievous aspect; more of a quiet, introspective air, a hope of finding a friend just by being oneself. "Guess it wouldn't make sense to wait 'til morning, right?"
Fox hoped he wasn't setting himself up for disappointment - or worse.
He hoped he was about to experience something truly amazing.
And, he realized as the two of them made their way into the night, he hoped that Louis would find something less tangible than blood, but just as precious, in their time together.
Mulder should've been more surprised to find himself befriending a vampire. What surprised him more, however, was that there was a car waiting as they emerged from the hotel, the driver's face concealed by the night and by tinted glass.
Louis, ever the gentleman, or at least some twisted version of one, opened the rear door for Fox, allowing him to enter first. Louis followed, and the door clicked softly behind him.
The interior was spotless, the same cream color as Louis' suit, yet it felt old - or "classic," as a car enthusiast would've stated it. Mulder wondered about the driver, and about Louis' relationship to them, if any; the thought tickled on the fringes of jealousy for a moment, but the feeling was fleeting.
"So quiet," Fox remarked of the car, just for something to say, something to fill the space between the two of them.
"Yes. When something is running at its peak, it tends to be quiet, almost silent."
Mulder sensed another meaning there, and Louis went on to elaborate.
"You are trained to hear the approach of danger in human form, but, as you know, the best and most ruthless people are almost silent in their approach."
Fox had to concede that. "True."
Louis considered him for a moment. "The academy didn't train you to note the approach of other beings. Had I so chosen, I could've intervened at the Crypt, or entered your room while you slept, and you would most likely never have sensed my presence until the precise moment when I chose for you to become aware of it."
Fox wondered, then, how many times he'd been in the presence of supernatural danger, and been unaware. How many times had death passed him by?
"You humans see the world in such black-and-white terms: devil or angel, man or beast. You forget, or choose not to know, that all life forms have the same basic needs, the same drives. Your kind claim to have drawn up the framework of the natural order, placing yourselves at the top of the hierarchy. But the hunter can become the hunted, and every creature, however powerful it may be, is bound to have at least one weakness."
Fox leaned forwards slightly as the car eased its way around a turn. "Oh? And what's yours?"
Louis accepted this question. "Loneliness. Even the lowest beast seeks a mate, some for life, others for but a season."
A moment passed as Fox marveled at the vampire's apparent willingness to bare his soul - or the equivalent. He pondered how many companions Louis had had over the years, and what might have happened to each of them.
"It's alright. I know what you want to ask."
Fox shifted in his seat, irritated with himself for being so unguarded. "Have you had many companions?"
Louis shook his head. "That isn't what you wanted to ask."
Fox tried again. "Okay. Have you ever had to.. dispatch a fledgling? Is 'fledgling' the right term?"
"It's one of the terms. And, yes - a few."
Mulder gave that time to sink in.
"Over time, I've honed my screening process. Anyone who becomes a liability is terminated. Nothing personal, you understand; it's simply a matter of survival, of protecting my interests."
Fox found his voice was lower than normal, though Louis' hearing seemed especially keen. "You sound like a corporate type, a businessman."
Louis accepted this. "Death is my business, is it not? As for comparing me to one of those greedy plutocrats, you insult me, sir; I believe I preferred it when you equated me with a mindless beast."
Mulder sat back at that, although it was said with a hint of jest. He searched his recent thoughts, finding that he had, indeed, briefly imagined Louis in animal mode, silently stalking prey and pouncing without warning. He felt sorry for the thought.
Louis touched his fingers to his chin, gazing out the window at the passing night as though he could see it clearly, while Fox could not. In a voice so soft, Fox had to strain to hear it clearly, he confessed, "The ones who most want to be turned, usually make the worst proteges. It is only the ones who are loathe to give up their mortality who are able to truly appreciate immortality. … In the course of our time together, Fox, you must face a lot of your own unanswered questions - but above all, you must learn to detect the approach of my own kind."
Mulder looked him full in the face. "Why above all?"
To this, his companion gave no reply. The car had pulled up in front of a locked gate, beyond which lay a sprawling landscape of trees, crumbling buildings, and, at the far edge of the property, the river.
Louis exited the car first, coming around to Fox's side to open his door once again. Mulder turned to thank the driver, but Louis' hand on his shoulder stayed him.
The car slid silently into the night, its tail lights disappearing from view.
"He wanted to kill you. He is old and losing his grip, but he is still powerful."
Louis stated this as if it were nothing of great importance, a casual observation. Mulder felt himself tense, though whether from the words or from the touch, he couldn't be sure.
"The driver wanted me dead? Why?"
Louis sighed. "For food. For sport. For spite. Does it matter?"
His guide began to approach the gate, Fox stumbling to keep up.
"Yeah, I happen to think it does. Knowing *why* somebody wants me dead gives me a chance to plan my defense."
Louis looked back at him, his hands still working the lock, unwatched. "I won't always be around to save you."
Fox felt a twinge of panic and regret at those words, as if Louis was going to leave him now, here, lost and alone.
"Come. We have only hours until morning."
The gates barely creaked in protest, Fox following his companion into their enclosure, watching as his tapered fingers swiftly replaced the lock behind them, penning them in.
Backwards and forwards
Louis led Mulder over the cool grass, his footfalls making no sound. Fox wanted to explore the grand house, and he felt confident that Louis could let them inside, able to override alarms and remain undetected - but this was not on Louis' agenda. Their path, instead, wound around the perimeter of the house, taking them to a small family cemetery. Fox felt as he was moving backwards through time, the newest graves taking up the space closest to the house, and getting progressively older as the two of them headed toward the family boat-slip. Louis seemed completely at ease in such darkness, while Mulder had to squint to make out what lay just ahead of him, the flashlight app on his phone proving too narrow and dim to be of much use. Somewhere beyond the graves, on the other side of the trees, lay the Mississippi, and Fox knew that there were likely many more dead here, their graves lost to time, or, in some cases, having never been marked.
"You are correct, my friend," Louis said softly. "There are many more dead here, unmarked, unmourned. The family who lived in this house during my lifetime were known for their cruelty and violence; I could tell you stories of duels, of jilted lovers gone mad, of murdered slaves and of suicides.. But that is not why I brought you here."
Mulder found his voice, wondering why he had kept silent for so long. Was he afraid of waking the dead?
"Why *are* we here, exactly? Was this ever your home?"
He immediately regretted implying that Louis had any part in the wicked landowners' history, but Louis was not so easily offended.
"Not in the sense that you mean. Not as.. a resident, or even an invited guest. I spent a certain number of days here on the property, borrowing a mausoleum.. Ah, that one, by that tree."
Mulder looked. Even in silhouette, it was impressive. "Why not your own place?"
Louis laughed softly. "My companion at the time was.. difficult to live with. We quarreled; I left - but only for a time. I always went back to him."
Fox didn't flinch at the use of 'him,' and Louis was pleased. Humans could be so prudish and judgmental about these things at times.
"Right. Your weakness: loneliness."
"Perhaps. Or perhaps I did love him, in my own dark, twisted way. It's of no matter now."
They walked along in companionable silence for what seemed like an acre or more. The gravestones had become sparser and less grand, until they had simply stopped, and the tree-line had begun. Here, there was life: an owl's soulful hoot, rustling vegetation, the drone of countless crickets playing their violin legs for the moon. It was beautiful. Louis enjoyed appreciating his awareness of the place's beauty.
"It was here, a few years ago now, that I first saw the lights in the sky."
Louis pointed to a small opening between some of the tallest trees, their tops forming a vague circle.
"I've seen so many strange things in my time. I know humans have devised all manner of aircraft, but these moved in unusual ways. Instead of going forward in a straight line, like an airplane, or hovering, like a helicopter, this craft moved equally well in any direction, turning with ease. Up, side to side, backwards, forwards, even diagonally. All of this happened without a sound - and, remember, I have excellent hearing. The lights changed colors in a distinct pattern: red, green, blue; red, green, blue."
Fox could imagine the slave quarters of long ago lined up near the river's edge; he could hear the water just beyond the trees. "Lights? No offense, but, lights could be explained away by any number of - "
"No! Listen. That was only the first incident. I had become so jaded, having seen so much, and this, this was something new. A mystery, when I thought there to be none left to discover. I've spent time in the company of witches, ghosts, psychics, occultists of all creeds and none; I've met sentient beasts, meditated with mystics, and witnessed every natural and unnatural act of which human beings are capable. I'm telling you now, as sure as I stand here, I have encountered beings from another world."
Mulder got goosebumps from head to toe, the earnestness of his guide's voice prompting a rush of adrenaline. Louis, for the first time since they'd met, seemed reluctant to broach a subject, and Fox felt that they were getting to the crux of the matter.
"I came back the next night, and the next. I forgot to feed, and, once or twice, I almost forgot about the dawn, so mesmerized was I by the craft, its lights and movements. By the fifth night, there were two others, identical to the first, all moving in sync in complicated maneuvers, flawlessly executed. I was like a child with a new toy, and I felt that, somehow, they were there for my benefit, and mine alone. I believed they were revealing themselves to me for a purpose, and I longed to greet them, to see if they, too, were lonely, trying to make sense of this existence."
Fox let his eyes scan the treetops, the passing clouds, and the many stars visible overhead. He knew there was more to the story; there must be.
"Yes. It was some time during the second week that something changed. One of the crafts deviated from the routine, flying lower than the other two. I felt that someone onboard was looking for something - a place to land, perhaps, or a specimen to collect. I remember watching the lights approach, noticing that within those lights were colors I'd never seen, in life or in unlife - and then - nothing. When I awoke, I was in a dark room, unable to move."
Mulder didn't dare interrupt.
"I was not naked, although I was dressed in unfamiliar garments. They were white, like hospital scrubs, top and bottom. My restraints were loose enough to allow me to flex my ankles and wrists, but, strong as I am, I could not rise. I remember hearing a buzzing sound, like the magnified chattering of thousands of ants, and a being approached me, holding a metal cup filled with liquid. As it was brought to my lips, I could smell that it was blood."
Fox resisted the urge to make a crack about how few airlines provide complimentary refreshments these days, but Louis heard it telepathically, his face scrunching with disapproval.
"I know how I must sound to you. I've seen the typical abductee on your television shows, and in your tabloid newspapers; I know the outlandish claims they make."
Mulder sighed, feeling guilty for his line of thinking. "I get paid by the government to deal with all kinds of outlandish claims, Louis, and in my experience, the truth is often stranger than fiction."
After a few moments of awkward tension, Louis resumed his account. "I sensed that the being wanted to communicate with me, but I could not read its thoughts. My skill with reading minds is not perfect, even among humans, but this creature's mind was impenetrable to me. I resisted the urge to show anger or fear, focusing on keeping my words and actions as calm as possible. As I drank, I felt invincible, as if I could leave my body at will and go anywhere, do anything. The euphoria was remarkable, and I experienced no hunger for several days afterward. It was the purest blood I'd ever tasted, and as I finished it, I wondered if I'd ever find its equal."
Fox tilted his head, listening, really listening, to his companion's tale, his tone, the wistfulness there. Whatever Louis had experienced had moved his deeply, and it was real to *him.* That did not, however, prove that it was an alien encounter...
Louis' words, despite being several feet away, seemed to brush against Fox's neck, curling like smoke into his ear. Mulder did listen, slowing his breathing, holding every muscle in his body taut. There was a buzzing sound somewhere in the distance, and he wondered why he hadn't noticed it before, then decided that Louis' hearing was much keener than his own. 'Buzzing' wasn't quite right; this didn't sound like an animal or an insect - it was more of a mechanical hum or whir, and it seemed to be just out of view.
Louis raised one arm, pointing upwards toward the open space among the trees.
Red, green, blue. Red, green, blue.
The craft moved, its parts shifting and interchanging with ease, reconfiguring itself into new shapes while hovering in one spot. If this was military, then the government was truly holding back its best tech in combat. Aircrafts couldn't remain in one place in the sky; they had to move backwards or forwards, up or down. Mulder felt chills taking over his body, his mouth opening and closing in mute wonder as he stared. Red, green, blue. Red, green, blue..
There was a moment of absolute silence, followed by a roar, like ten thousand pages of paper being torn at once. Mulder felt his head hit something soft and yielding, felt the weight of another body covering his own, and braced himself for death. The noise was excruciating, his temples throbbing, but then there was a different pain, two small pinpricks on the unmarked side of his neck, followed by the bliss Ronnie had once given him. Louis drew slowly, carefully, just enough to counteract the pain of the ruckus, and as Mulder swooned into happy delirium, the craft departed, and the forest was quiet and still once more.
Louis looked down at the unconscious man cradled in his arms, the one whose fall he had broken, and whose life he hoped, once again, to save. Mulder's eyes were closed, but his face was faintly glowing, his lips curled in a satisfied smile.
He was no Lestat. He was no Armand. But, in his own way, he was beautiful.
Those two words blazed before Louis' eyes as if burned into the earth in front of him. He shook his head, and yet they stayed.
Mulder needed shelter and safety, and Louis needed darkness; the sun would soon rise, and the unearthly visit seemed to have lapsed time, or, more likely, simply made him lose track of it.
As the vampire carried his human cargo back towards civilization, he replayed all that had happened. The visitors had never behaved like this before; what did this new turn of events mean? Was that an attack, or an attempt at communication? An experiment, perhaps?
Every few yards, he gazed down at the man, hoping to see signs that he was rousing. Mulder seemed to sleep, and Louis wished him good dreams.
Perhaps that was better. Let him come to in the safety of a bed, thinking it all a dream.
But the fresh bite-marks, Louis.
"You fool," he chided himself aloud.
He'd done it for Fox's sake, to ease the pain - but it was not entirely altruistic. He had to own that.
"You're getting too attached; remember, this is all temporary - this man, this place, even the visits."
A part of him rebelled against this.
Could nothing stay? Could nothing be his, truly his, for all time?
"You fool," he repeated.
As he carried Mulder into the night, Louis wondered how his story had become so complicated. Was he the hero, helping Mulder on his quest, or was he the monster, leading him into harm's way?
"Again," he said
This hotel was a definite step up from the last one, and closer to the site of the "unusual activity," as Louis now referred to it.
Mulder had awoken mid-morning, ravenously hungry, with fuzzy memories of the night before. A glance in the mirror refreshed his recollection, and he knew that Louis had saved him yet again. A round of room service helped him gather more of his thoughts, and by late afternoon, having showered and changed (how had Louis carried him AND his bag here, unseen?), Fox felt human again.
He had no way to get in contact with Louis, but he was fairly certain the vampire would show up after sunset. In the meantime, Fox wanted to stretch his legs and get a little bit of air before dark, when his sight would become almost useless.
The neighborhood was comprised of shotgun homes, mostly well-kept, although some showed signs that they'd definitely seen better days. Mulder felt fairly safe here; the area seemed safe enough, and as long as he didn't make too many twists and turns, he'd find his way back to the hotel, no sweat.
Finding he still had his wallet (guess aliens and vamps didn't have much need of cash), he stopped at a local restaurant to indulge in some Creole cuisine. The crawdads unnerved him slightly, their beady eyes staring out, unseeing, at the man preparing to devour them, but he consoled himself with the fact that he, too, was part of the food chain, his free hand rubbing at his neck self-consciously.
Mulder wondered if he'd acquired any superpowers from his UFO encounter. He tested himself for a variety of skills: spoon-bending (no movement); telepathy with the man seated at the next table; hypnosis on the waitress (no luck there, either; she pretended she didn't even speak English).
Having paid the bill, Fox began his short walk back to the hotel. It was now just past sunset, and he didn't want to keep Louis waiting. Mulder tried not to read too much into the fact that he was almost as excited at the prospect of seeing Louis again as he was about going back to the plantation. Maybe Scully had been right; maybe he really did need more friends. If he was so lonely that he was looking forward to hanging out in the woods with a vamp, then..
The hands on his shoulders from behind should've sent him into autopilot, his self-defense training kicking in - but instead, not being able to see his assailant made him hesitate.
A mixture of emotions flooded Fox's body when he heard the familiar voice. "Do you see what I mean? You must learn to sense our approach."
Fox didn't want to lump Louis in with those other vamps, the ones who hunted and killed without conscience. He didn't -
"I am different in some ways, yes, but I am also like them in many ways. Never underestimate my powers, or my .. nature, my essence. I am what I am."
"And what you are makes no excuses?," Fox lyrically prompted.
Louis turned him around, facing his fury. "Any number of my kind walk these streets, not to mention the others: were-people, shape-shifters, and mere humans who mean you more harm than you know." A pause. "You must not hesitate to act, or you will be lost."
"Like you acted, saving me last night, AGAIN? And what the hell was that, by the way?"
Louis shrugged. Gone was the sleekly modern suit, and in its place was one from a long-ago time, or at least an excellent copy of same. It seemed more appropriate than anything Fox could have imagined him in. He tried not to play mental dress-up with Louis, tried not to picture him removing or changing clothes..
"Are we time-traveling tonight?" It was not a joke.
"I figured you would want to go back. I advise against it. I don't know what changed; the visits were normally so.. benign. Perhaps they objected to me having someone else with me."
Mulder arched a brow. "Jealous aliens?"
Another shrug. "As I've said, I can't seem to communicate with them, get a read on them. I don't know. I just know that whatever happened last night put you in danger, and that there are other places I could take you, other ways to - "
Mulder shook his head. The vampire's shoulders slumped momentarily, resigned.
"Very well." Then, "How many more days of leave do you have now?"
Mulder did the mental math. "After tonight? Two."
The word drifted in on the breeze, threatening him like rays of sunlight. "Alright. This is your.. vacation, and we made a pact, so I'll act as guide. Just know that I take you back there under protest."
Mulder smiled, knowing he'd gotten his way.
Louis had noticed the camera bag Mulder thought was artfully concealed beneath his coat. Mulder had not noticed the flask of coffee Louis had concealed beneath his, and the two set off for the gates once again.
The wait was long. Louis offered the thermos of coffee at the beginning of the third hour, and Mulder took it, gratefully.
"I'd offer to share, but I figure, y'know..," he teased.
"Coffee never held much appeal for me in life, and I like it even less now. It's so horribly bitter; I don't know how humans can stand it."
"Well, you never had it the way I make it," Mulder volleyed back. "Besides, it's the caffeine buzz and the heat, the warmth, that takes it over the edge."
Louis wondered about that - being warm without drinking blood, feeling euphoric without taking life. "Yes. Yes, I can see how that would appeal."
Mulder enjoyed his coffee. "So, how can you call these beings benign, I mean, after they kidnapped you?"
Louis scanned the skies. "They did me no harm. I was released, and I'm here to tell the tale. Many have been less hospitable to me."
Fox wanted to ask, but it felt too personal. "I guess humans suck sometimes, huh? Intolerant. Easily panicked. Self-righteous."
His companion met his gaze. "Not just humans."
The night was peaceful, Louis reclining on the grass, Fox sitting beside him. Mulder thought that this would be a good spot for a picnic during the day, or even for a romantic stroll with a woman at night. Then again, the threat of wild animals and all kinds of other.. creatures might spoil the mood somewhat. On the other hand, having an immortal bodyguard made Fox feel safer out here than he would've felt being alone. On the OTHER other hand, someone like Louis might distract his lady friend..
"Do vampires date?"
Louis was startled, pushing himself up onto his elbows. "Why? Are you asking?"
Mulder wondered if Louis had been this witty in his mortal days. "Wow. You're not really my type, Louis, but I'm flattered that you'd even consider the offer."
The vampire leaned back once more, wondering if the winking stars were mocking them. "I've.. dated, casually. For one reason or another, my entanglements have not lasted long."
Louis felt shy, but couldn't blush. "Some of them. Few and far between. So much to explain; so many obstacles.."
Fox heard his loneliness again. "It's not much easier for me. I can't risk telling women about my job, my real life, sometimes even my real name. Most wouldn't get it, and if any of them tell tales.."
"Yes," Louis agreed. "The truth is - can be - dangerous. So you see why I can't afford to let anyone get too close or stay around me for too long. You understand me."
A lone bird flew overhead, its silhouette even darker than the sky. A bird? No; a bat.
Louis cursed himself as a fool, but only in his own mind. Two more nights, and the arrangement would end.
As if remembering that himself, Fox cautiously offered Louis his unmarked wrist. "It's only fair; I mean, you brought me coffee.."
Louis reached for the offered gift, then withdrew. "I can't. It's too soon; you need time to recover."
Mulder laughed. "That's what *she* said."
Louis took a moment to comprehend the innuendo, then shook his head. "How crass."
"What? Come on, we're both men of the world. This is like.. a stake-out. The two of us, waiting on somebody to show, cracking jokes, having a snack.."
Louis searched his face. "If you're sure it won't.."
Fox offered the wrist again, and Louis held it like the precious thing that it was. He could hear Mulder's heart beating faster in anticipation, could smell the coffee in his veins, already sensing how it would taste.
Mulder made a slight grunt as fangs pierced his flesh, but he held still. Louis took just a few draws, not wanting Mulder to swoon. This had the unintended effect of making Fox stiffen in his slacks, with no release to follow.
Louis had to look away, Fox's lap so close to his line of sight. Mulder adjusted himself as discreetly as he could, clearing his throat.
"So is that a universal response to being bitten? I mean, does it impact everyone the same way - men and women?"
Louis was embarrassed yet again. "I don't usually ask, but, most people.. most people seem to take a certain amount of pleasure in the experience."
Mulder considered this. "Like, how much pleasure? To the point of orga - "
"Pffft," Louis cut him off.
"I'm making you uncomfortable," Fox stated, and Louis did not deny it.
Mulder felt his arousal abate, but only somewhat.
"What's it like when two vampires get together?"
That image was less immediate, less relevant. Much safer.
"It's.. It varies. It can get very passionate, almost violent. Other times, it's gentle, like a.. like.."
"Comforting," Mulder suggested.
"Yes. The need to be with someone who understands is a powerful driving force. It's less about tender feelings and more about empathy."
He could hear Lestat calling him sentimental, telling him to shut up. Why, after all these years, was he still so damn needy?
"I don't think you're needy," Fox said, and Louis stared at him.
"Did I - Did I speak?" Louis was incredulous.
"No. But I just.. I got the weirdest feeling.."
Just then, something rustled the treetops high overhead. Both men rose to their feet, searching for the source. A bright flash, although not as brilliant as the night before, lit up their immediate surroundings, and Louis reached up to catch something as it drifted down.
He held it between his hands, showing it to Mulder.
"What is it?"
Long strands, sticky and fibrous, stretched between the vampire's fingers. "Angel hair."
Mulder touched it, finding it did not disintegrate. "I've read about it, but I've never.."
Louis envied him his glee, his delight in something so simple. Their hands were touching now, Mulder oblivious, Louis, painfully aware.
What a pair they made, turning in circles as more of the luminous substance rained down on them. Fox's camera was forgotten; he was buzzing, alright, but coffee wasn't the cause.
Louis escorted Mulder back to his hotel recklessly close to dawn. Mulder was still pulling strands from his clothing, marveling at the stuff.
"Can we do this again tomorrow night?"
He knew what Mulder meant. Already, so soon, he had learned what Mulder wanted, and it was his pleasure to give it to him.
A part of him, however, wanted Fox's words to have another layer of meaning.
"Of course. I must go now," he said, as if Fox would ask him to stay, even if that were possible.
As he made his way to his own temporary quarters, Louis mused on Fox's face.
"Again," he murmured.
Again, and again..
The following two nights yielded far less than the ones preceding it, at least as far as unexplained phenomena were concerned.
On a more.. personal level, those last two nights bore greater significance for the parties than either had anticipated.
The woods seemed like home to Mulder now, part of his mind absently toying with the idea of leaving the modern world behind and cloaking himself in foliage and shadows for the rest of his days. Nature was as good a place as any to seek out the "unnatural" or "supernatural," perhaps even better than looking for it among civilization. He envied Louis at times; there was most certainly a beauty to the night, a quieter, more subdued luminescence to things than one found during the day.
"Never envy me," Louis said in response to such thoughts. "I'd give most anything to see one more sunrise. My world has its pleasures, true, but yours.. Yours has freedom. Yours has a light, a warmth, a vibrance which I shall never know again."
The two of them delved a little deeper into one another's pasts to fill the hours of waiting, with Louis chronicling some of his great losses. Mulder couldn't imagine how anyone could bear such grief for a mortal lifespan, let alone for centuries. The way his companion spoke of Claudia, it was as if the pain was still fresh, still raw.
"And what of you, Fox?"
He knew that it was only fair to be as open as his friend had been.
Mulder told Louis of his sister, of the origins of his endless quest for the truth, his struggle to balance the desire to believe with the need for objective proof and the scientific method..
"Well, you've now had multiple experiences in these woods," Louis pointed out. "Does that count as reproducible results?"
Mulder thought about it. "It's all happened with you here. How do I know it isn't something internal, or something you've manipulated somehow?"
Louis sighed. "You give me too much credit. All this, an elaborate ruse to lure you to do my bidding? Do you really think that makes sense?"
Fox looked up at the sky, seeing only stars. "Not really. Just, it's a variable. If I came here alone, would I get a visit?"
The vampire placed a hand on his friend's shoulder. "If you came here alone, I'd have to rescue you from your own foolishness."
Mulder let that hand linger, feeling that he should recoil, or make a sarcastic rebuff, or be on his guard. He did none of those things, and the hand slid away and down his arm of its own accord in due time. As soon as they separated, Fox felt the absence of that touch.
Louis declined a feed on the penultimate night, but accepted on their final meeting. It was then, while Mulder was in a semi-blissful state, that Louis tried again to get an answer to a question which had been bothering him for days.
"Other than your sister, is there no person who means more to you than the general teeming mass of humanity? What about your partner, the doctor? What was her name?"
Fox slid his eyes over to Louis, knowing the vampire knew damn well what her name was. Saying it here felt like writing her name in a book of death, condemning her in some way, and so he hesitated.
"Dana. I almost always call her Scully."
"Ah. To distance yourself from her, perhaps?"
Too perceptive by half.
"Did you never - ?"
Louis did not complete the thought. A slight sound somewhere to the left of them, still several yards off, had alerted his attention.
"Do you trust me, Fox?" The voice was taut, questing, and sweet.
Mulder choked out a whispered "Yes," sudden fear gripping him by the throat and making his mouth go dry.
Louis looked at him, his eyes earnestly pleading. "Then RUN."
Fox sensed the urgency there, resisting his will to stay and help protect his friend from danger, letting his baser instinct of self-preservation take over as he hurtled his mortal form through the night. The most unearthly growls and shrieks emanated from the place he had just left, but Mulder did not dare even a brief backward glance, fearful of losing time, and of what he might see.
Everything ahead of him seemed impossibly dark without his guide, his legs suffering scratches and bruises as he tore over tree roots and crumbling headstones. On and on, until he could see the house looming before him, a house which now seemed to be watching, a great box holding innumerable terrors.
Louis had not secured the lock, and Mulder fairly wrenched the gate from its hinges in his haste to escape.
He ran, lungs burning, eyes watering, gullet groaning for air, until he found that the sidewalk was thick with tourists, the lights from entryways and business signs were swimming in his vision, and he slowed, doubling over as he recovered.
A passerby asked if he was alright, to which he could only nod, weakly.
The last few blocks to his hotel were dreary, adrenaline fading, exhaustion creeping in. Louis had not taken much blood, and Fox wondered if his restraint had been in anticipation of danger.
Mulder locked his door behind him, placing furniture against it, fire codes be damned. He wanted to stay awake, but knew that Louis was highly unlikely to pay him a visit now, even if it were possible to do so. Fox eventually drifted into a fitful sleep, cursing the dawn, hating the thing that most of nature loved: the sun. He would have to leave New Orleans, without full answers, without proof, and without his companion.
That word again.
He wondered about his friend in his down time, and in between filling out endless reports at work. He looked for signs everywhere, for hints of vampirism in every new case. Fox began to notice men with a similar gait or build to Louis', men with long hair, and men with a taste for bespoke suits.. None of them bore that face which had become alarmingly dear to him in such a short span of time.
"You idiot," he chided himself a dozen times a day. Mooning over a vampire like some teenage girl with a celebrity crush. No; it was worse than that - like a naïve young woman with a penchant for bad boys, ones who could destroy her life, even end it. Fox told himself that Louis was older than him by centuries, and had seen many humans come and go; Mulder would be one more, just one face in an endless stream of passing acquaintances. The man probably had a new companion already, and at that thought, a pang of jealousy stopped Fox in his tracks.
The one person in whom he most wanted - no, needed - to confide - Scully - was also the person Fox least wanted as a witness to his embarrassing, confusing emotions.
As things happened, he had little choice; it seemed fate was about to force him to tip his hand.
Scully walked up to his desk with purpose, concern etched on her comely features.
"What's up, Scully?"
"There's a rather odd.. gentleman, and I use the term in the old-world sense, asking for you. He's being held at - "
When Mulder heard the name of the psych hospital, he grabbed his coat. It was no place for anyone to be imprisoned, living or undead. She hadn't said a name, nor given a description, but the 'gentleman' remark had conjured Louis in his mind's eye like a specter. "Let's go."
"Mulder, we have to - ". She knew that stride. The man was on a mission, and she could either follow along and keep up, or taste his dust.
"Guess we're going to the psych ward," she muttered to no one in particular, wondering if they'd keep Mulder for observation.
Mulder was trying not to panic on Louis' behalf. Scully was trying not to panic on her partner's behalf, but he wasn't giving her any information which might assuage her concerns.
Given Fox's emotional state, he had handed her the keys, a fact for which she was grateful. Mile after mile, every time she glanced over at the man in the passenger seat, he was agitated, and her need to know threatened to get the better of her temper.
At last, with half an hour's drive left to go, he began to open up.
"I met someone while I was on leave."
Scully gripped the wheel, her fingers tightening reflexively as she sought to block out the myriad meanings his words might convey.
Sensing her train of thought, Mulder tried again. "Not like.. I mean, there was a woman, at a nightclub, but that was a dead end. This guy intervened on my behalf when the woman crossed a line."
He hoped she hadn't picked up on his hesitance in phrasing the end of that admission. Scully resisted the urge to express surprise that, when it came to women, Mulder had a line which could be crossed.
"He offered to show me around, to introduce me to some unusual phenomena he'd discovered in the area. Since I owed him one, I went along with it. Seemed lonely, you know? We hung out a few times."
Mulder burned with shame at his lies of omission, but the truth of it was, there were no words with which he could adequately describe his relationship with Louis, nor explain the need to be in his company. He felt it, even now, even with the passage of time. Had it ever truly abated?
Scully chose her words carefully, keeping her tone lightly curious, rather than demanding. "And did he hold up his end of the bargain, Mulder?"
Mulder. Not Fox. Louis called him Fox so often, and it felt right; it felt -
"Yes. He took me to one of his old haunts, a place that meant a lot to him in his past. There were lights in the sky, Scully, moving in every direction; no man-made craft would've been equipped to perform the maneuvers I witnessed."
Saying it out loud, it sounded foolish, but he knew it was real. He KNEW.
"Anything else I should know?" Scully had almost missed the off-ramp, dazed by her partner's revelation, and by his certitude.
Ah. The oft-debunked, sticky sky-stuff, usually found to be spider webbing, or plant-based material, or some other terrestrial thing.
"We were covered in it, Scully. So much of it just rained down on us. It stuck to me - like, like cotton candy, or silly string." Mulder remembered something then. "It didn't seem to stick to him, though. It just sort of.. rolled down his body and onto the ground."
Dana noticed Fox's voice had lowered as he described this mystery man's body, the reverent tone, the awe. Only a few miles until they reached their destination.
"There was something out there that last night. One minute, we were talking, just, waiting for something to happen, and the next, he heard a noise and told me to run. I did. That was.. that was the last time I saw him."
Scully wondered why Fox wouldn't say his name. She knew it, of course, from the call report, but it was odd for Mulder to omit it over and over, like he was afraid to say it in her presence.
Like it was too private, too personal.
Her gut clenched, and she felt breathless for a moment, though couldn't fathom why. She wasn't prejudiced about that sort of thing, but this was MULDER, the ladies' man, for crying out loud. He was acting like a teenager crushing on an unattainable popular kid at school.
"Well, I'll reserve judgement until we've talked with this.. uh.."
Mulder looked at her, wondering why she was torturing him this way, what she was hoping to learn or achieve. "Louis," he forced past his lips. "Louis de Pointe du Lac."
Sympathy for the devil
Scully wasn't surprised that Mulder had gotten in over his head in spookiness during his vacation. Strange phenomena always seemed to seek him out, although she was worried that this Louis character was a charlatan out to use Mulder for unknown ends, rather than a genuine guide to supernatural hot-spots. More than that, she was hurt that he hadn't thought to mention any of his.. vacation experiences to her, making it seem as though he'd had an uneventful and pleasant trip to the Big Easy. Didn't he trust her?
Willow Vale had a miserable reputation, and always seemed to be one violation away from being permanently shut down. 'Hospital' seemed too grand a term for it; it was criminally small, and, as such, noticeably overcrowded to even a passing visitor. Mulder seemed not to notice, hurrying to gain admission to his vacation friend's room.
To his relief, the room had no windows, although Louis flinched upon the door opening and admitting light from the hall beyond. Mulder did his best to cast a shadow, saving Louis from that intrusion.
Her partner broke protocol, turning to her with pleading, apologetic eyes. "Just a few minutes alone with him first. Please, Scully."
She looked over her shoulder at the orderly who was busy pretending to be non-plused about a visit from two federal agents. "Mulder, this is highly irregular, and poses a greater security risk than if both of us - "
He patted her upper arm, tossing out a "Thanks, Scully; I knew you'd understand." With that, he entered the room and shut the door behind him.
Louis relaxed against the wall, relieved by the return of the darkness, and happy - if happiness were possible in such a place - to see Mulder alive, well, and standing in front of him. How many days of fevered dreams had it taken to conjure him in the flesh?
"I'm glad you're safe," was all he could say at first. Saying it seemed to strengthen him somewhat, though he was weak from lack of blood.
"Thanks to you, yes, I am." Safe, but not sound; how could he be? How many nights had he wanted to hear those tapered nails tap against his bedroom window, or to feel the brush of those lips on his wrist once more? He was well on his way to needing his own cell here.
"I was on my way to see you."
The admission thrilled Mulder, and then, in an instant, racked him with guilt. "How'd you end up here?"
Louis looked lost, gazing back at events only he was privy to. "I was careless. In my haste, I erred, drawing attention to myself. I was caught on bureau property, and when I couldn't produce proper identification or a satisfactory reason, I was brought here to rot. Humanity has not evolved as much as they like to believe, has it?"
Mulder realized that Louis would know better than any human historian about the horrors of mental hospitals through the ages. "Did you .. uh.. disclose your, um.."
Louis shook his head. "No. Luckily, the nurses have been preoccupied with other patients, and so have not had time to do my physical examination. I thought it best to leave my.. status, as a surprise for them."
Fox wiped some of the tension from his face with his hands, grateful that no one had tried to take Louis' pulse or draw his blood. How long had Scully been shut out of this conversation now? There wasn't much time..
Mulder rolled up his sleeve, the buttons on his cuff having given up long ago. "Here. Be quick."
Louis looked up at his visitor in wonder and amusement. "No sweet-talk? No foreplay?"
Fox laughed at the absurdity of the situation, of his life. "Please. You look like death."
The vampire leaned forward, his fabric restraints forbidding his arms from reaching out. Mulder positioned his wrist against Louis' mouth, and within seconds, he felt the first stirrings of that old pleasure rising within him. He understood now how a human could consent to such risk again and again, how the rush was addictive, the reward immediate.
"I had not eaten in days. They have labeled me as 'difficult,' as well as photo-sensitive."
Despite his weariness, despite his gloom, some part of Louis still wanted to survive. If he stayed here much longer, that would not be possible.
"I'm thinking, I'm thinking," he assured his friend. "I'll find a way to get you out of here. Just give me a few minutes."
Louis nodded towards the door. "Your partner is fuming. I'm sensing a redhead?"
"Yeah. She's a real ball-buster, but I love her."
Louis tried not to take that to heart; humans spoke of 'love' so freely and casually. They loved ice cream, they loved their pets, they loved their coworkers..
But could they love vampires?
Scully wasn't sure what to expect, but a chiseled face, startlingly expressive eyes, and skin as pale as the moon were certainly not on her list.
If Mulder was going to spend his private time in the company of other men, Scully would've at least pictured him choosing someone young, healthy, clean-cut..
Then again, Louis did have a certain je ne sais quoi about him, as she soon discovered. He seemed to almost.. glow, even in the dimmest light.
After interviewing him for several minutes, both agents had agreed that Louis posed no threat of harm to himself or others, but there was still the small matter of his trespassing on FBI property..
"I have someone in legal who might be able to find a loophole," Scully reassured them, excusing herself to make a few phone calls.
Once alone again, Louis pressed Fox for an answer. "I was going to ask you that night: you and her..."
Mulder looked directly at Louis, a bird staring into the eyes of a swaying cobra. "Nothing. Never. Not likely."
Louis seemed amused. "I'm not so sure about that last part, but, alright, Fox. If you say so."
Mulder sat down beside Louis, leaning his head against the wall. "You must be exhausted."
"It is hard to sleep in such open space, yes. How odd to miss being confined, to miss the silence of the grave.."
On cue, one of the other residents let out a blood-curdling scream.
"What happened that night?"
Louis closed his eyes for a moment. "Ronnie showed up with a couple of friends, wanting revenge. I knew we were outnumbered, and that your bullets would only help with two of the assailants."
Mulder was surprised. "She brought humans?"
"Yes. They fought valiantly. Stupidly, and unsuccessfully, but valiantly. Devotees are often fiercely loyal to their master."
Fox was still stunned. "Why risk it all for someone who can't die? I mean, not by the usual means. Right?"
"My kind can die, but, yes, you're right - not in the usual ways. And I can't answer that, not having been a devotee myself."
That wasn't entirely true; hadn't Lestat once held Louis in his thrall? And he was also rather conveniently forgetting Armand...
There was something else tickling at the edge of Mulder's understanding, but he couldn't quite grasp it.
"I don't get it. If she had others willing to be her source of food, why would Ronnie still be angry about losing me? I mean, she didn't even need to kill to eat."
Louis dropped the bomb.
"She wasn't planning on killing you, Fox. That act, while regrettable, would not have necessitated my intervention."
Fox looked at him, wanting to know, needing to know and hating himself for it. "Then why? Why did you save me?"
"She planned to turn you, Fox. That, I could not allow."
He was struck dumb.
"There are rules about public kills, and she deserved punishment for bringing you so close to the point of death, but I read her thoughts, Fox. She was going to turn you, right there, and, after two abysmal failures, I have sworn never to facilitate or witness such an act again."
Turn him? No more daylight? No more Scully? No more sunflower seeds?
"Blood and darkness forever and ever, my friend."
Scully returned, taking in the sight of her partner seated beside a beautiful man in a straightjacket, and letting the moment pass without comment.
"I think we've found our get-out-of-bedlam-free card," she chimed. "Louis, is there any chance you'd be willing to state under oath that you were attempting to protect an endangered specimen of the blue-tipped bat as it strayed onto federal property?"
That seemed like it would open Louis to more questions, and he didn't exactly seem like an eco-nut.
"What else you got?," Mulder prompted.
"Uh, let me check my notes.. Was your trespassing an act of protest against the recent passage of the FBI Adult Cyber Entertainment Shutdown, or ACES, Act?"
Louis tried not to laugh; adult what what now?
"Okayyy, I'll take your confused silence as a no. How about invoking the Tribal Rights Act of 1873?"
Mulder drew a blank, but, to his surprise, Louis nodded, deeming it as acceptable.
Scully looked relieved. "Great. I'll get the ball rolling."
Fox turned to his friend. "The what now?"
Louis explained that he had reason to believe that his family tree contained some inaccuracies, or 'whitewashing,' and that his full-blooded French forefathers had intermingled with some tribal women in their earliest colonial days. If Louis had tribal blood, he could argue the right to seek redress of his grievances from the federal government.
"One minor detail, friend: You can't let them take DNA from you to back up your claim."
Louis shrugged. "I'm only entering a plea and earning my freedom; I'm not going to show up for court."
"So what happens once we get you out of here? You just, disappear again?"
"What would you like to happen, Fox? More adventures?"
Mulder's hands itched to pull at the straightjacket, or to smooth Louis' hair, or to..
"I don't know. I just don't want it to end.. like this. There must be more; maybe here, away from New Orleans, away from Ronnie and her friends, it could be different."
"More sky-gazing," Louis breathed. "And if nothing happens?"
Fox dismissed this. "Something will happen, Louis. Something always does."
He had already almost lost his friend to the violence of another vamp, and then again to callous and clueless humans. Fox wasn't ready to let Louis out of his sight - not yet.
Maybe not ever.
The plea had been accepted, and a hearing was set - a hearing which Louis had no intention of attending.
Mulder had insisted on Louis going home with him, which unnerved Scully to no end. It took all of her self-restraint to resist calling him that first night, but she had consoled herself that she'd have plenty of time to question him once he arrived at work.
As soon as the cardboard carrier of coffee had come to rest on her desk, Scully had started in on him. "How's the houseguest settling in?"
Fox met her gaze. "Good morning to you, too, Dana."
She took a sip, fortifying herself. The coffee was too hot, but she refused to show it. "So come on, now that he's out of earshot - tell me what's going on. You know I'll support you in.. whatever this is, but I need to know what it is I'm being supportive about."
Mulder sipped his own drink; it seemed he hadn't slept much, and his shirt looked un-ironed. Wasn't that his shirt from yesterday..? "He's as comfortable as can be expected, yeah."
Dana was adorable when she made that almost-pout. He'd often thought of telling her so.
He sat down on the edge of her desk. "What do you want to know?"
She tried to see into him, past the cockiness, past the nonchalance. "Who is he to you? Why are you letting someone who just got out of a psych ward stay in your home? And don't start with the UFO stuff again.."
"He's been a great help to me, Scully. It's like he's a conduit for alien contact, and I don't want to lose access to that. As for the psych ward, you heard him - he wandered onto the wrong property looking for me. It was a mistake."
She was unconvinced. "I backed you yesterday, as a friend, and to get that man out of a hellhole, but you're going to have to give me a little more to go on than that."
He seemed to be replaying something in his mind, a conversation, perhaps, or an interlude.
"He's a friend, alright? I can have friends."
"He knows so much about what you do, now he knows where you live.. How do you know this is safe? Convince me."
Mulder wanted to; truly, he did. "There are things I can't explain - "
"Can't, or won't? Come on, this - this isn't like you. You look at him like you're under a spell, and the tension between you two is - is - well, it was so thick I could hardly stand being in the same room with the pair of you."
Mulder pulled himself back into the present moment with difficulty. "I like having him around. I'm an adult, and it's my home. My rules. Maybe if you got to know him, you'd understand. Can you give him a chance? Interview him about his experiences?"
Scully was mollified, but only somewhat. An interview by someone who didn't know him would be more objective than anything Mulder could do at this point.
"Are we treating this situation, this 'Louis' person, as an X File?"
Fox considered it. "Just.. Ask him your questions, and take your notes. We can decide from there. Okay? But, Scully, please listen - I mean really listen - to what he has to say, without judgment, and without dismissing him outright. I love you for being so careful, but a little faith, a little trust, would really help here."
"I'll try. Are we heading over there now?"
"Now? Uh, no.. Now's.. not a good time. He prefers to sleep during daylight hours."
Scully set down her coffee, staring at her partner.
Mulder rose, ready to get to work. "Seriously. Where's that, uh, chupacabra file we've been working on? Let's do some follow-up. The day will fly by before you know it, and then the real fun can begin."
Mulder had cleared out an old footlocker as a makeshift coffin for his guest. Louis had seemed glad to be out of the psych unit, but still a little .. off. They'd spent a little time talking, but Louis had become withdrawn as the night wore on. Fox had put it down to exhaustion, and had headed to bed himself. Still, just knowing Louis was there, in his home, had made him feel something he wasn't ready to name. When had the stuff of the average man's nightmares become so warm and appealing?
Fox knew he couldn't get by on so little sleep as a habit, but it was tempting to stay up, just to be in Louis' company. He hoped Scully would come to accept his presence in her partner's life and home, however temporary the arrangement might be.
He'd fallen asleep, entering strange dreams of lights in the woods, and of running - although what or whom he was running towards remained unclear.
Scully had run through two audio cassettes and over a dozen pages of legal pad, and Louis seemed indefatigable. From sundown to almost midnight, she had interviewed a man who claimed to be, not a human, but a vampire. His tales of love, loss, and what she viewed as probable lunacy, were certainly entertaining and moving, but Dana Scully was not convinced that he was the genuine article. A talented actor, perhaps, or a delusional drifter, but a vampire? A vampire who'd met were-people, meditated with shamans, fire-danced with voodoo queens, and been abducted by aliens? Come on.
Mulder had remained silent throughout, letting Scully ask all the questions. At last, she had reached her limit. Mulder had excused himself to hurry after her.
"You can't let him stay here. I mean, you just can't - "
"He's not a danger to me. He saved my life - more than once."
"So you've said. That's the part of the story I didn't ask about. What happened?"
Mulder told her - about Ronnie, and The Crypt, and the alien attack/message/blinding-pain episode..
"Fantasies. There are disorders which make humans crave blood, and make them photo-sensitive, and there are doctors who can help with the symptoms. As for the lights in the woods, there are - "
"Excuse me for interrupting," said a calm, mannered voice from behind them. How had she not heard him opening the door, or sensed his approach? "If I take you there, and you experience these things for yourself, firsthand - will that convince you?"
Scully had mostly seen Louis seated, or restrained; standing now, as he was, even at a distance, he seemed intimidating. Powerful. She told herself she was being ridiculous.
"I.. Seeing isn't always definitive proof, but, yes, firsthand experiences are preferable to.."
She lost her train of thought. It was as if his gaze held sway over her, and Scully realized that Mulder's hand against her back was helping her remain upright.
"He trusted us with everything he is and everything he's been through," her friend murmured into her ear. "You've trusted me with your life, and I've trusted you with mine. Please, take this leap of faith with me."
She looked from one to the other, feeling her will bending to theirs against all logic. You fool, she told herself.
"Alright. I'll see if the office will grant us permission to investigate this.. supposed phenomena. I'll have to move some other cases around.."
Louis' eyes glowed in triumph, but it was not mocking. Somehow, that nettled Scully even more than gloating.
"I suppose we'll have to travel after sundown?," she asked, peeved.
Louis nodded, grateful.
"Unless.." Mulder offered.
"Unless what?" Scully knew she'd regret asking that question.
Fox's eyes slid towards the open doorway of the guest bedroom, lingering meaningfully on the garish purple footlocker occupying the floor.
"I can't believe I'm agreeing to this..," she breathed.
"It would cut down on travel time," Mulder pointed out helpfully. She could slap him sometimes.
Louis waited on her to respond.
"I'll.. I'll tell the bureau we need a van. For.. investigative equipment. Alright? But this doesn't mean I believe any of this."
She looked at her partner, then at his guest, with meaning. The two men exchanged a look, one heavy with meaning to which she was not privy.
That feeling again, the feeling of being in the way, began to push her towards the door.
"I'll see you bright and early at work, Mulder," Dana said, emphasizing 'early.' She knew he was unlikely to heed her implied advice of going to bed at a decent time.
Louis chimed in. "Goodnight, Agent Scully. And.. thank you."
Manners, she thought. Who ever would've suspected any species other than humans could have manners? It was a sarcastic thought, of course - wasn't it?
"Uh, you're welcome, Louis. Good night."
The trip wasn't for another few days. Mulder was glad of it, glad to have Louis all to himself for that time, with only work to disturb it. Well, that and his guest's inability to stay awake during the day.
They spent hours talking, Louis asking questions about various cases, Mulder asking about LIFE, about history, art, and music, traveling the world through his friend's eyes.
Louis was especially fond of music, and Mulder was happy to let him indulge in the wonderful world of technology in order to access it. The home stereo system was a delight for his guest, and he'd soon listened to every disc Mulder owned.
Two days after the interview, Mulder arrived home to find Louis on the computer, scowling at the screen.
Louis moved aside to let Mulder see. "I'm looking for a piece of music, but I don't know where to find it."
"What's the name of it?"
Louis had spelled it for him, and Mulder had found the track on YouTube. As the song filled the apartment, Louis had been visibly moved.
"It's beautiful. French?"
Mulder had showed him how to replay a song, and they'd both sat and listened to it twice through before Mulder had asked what the lyrics meant.
Louis had translated them into English, and Mulder had felt something shift inside of him, softening, opening.
* from 'Douce Dame Jolie' *
* "Alas, I am left begging for hope and relief,
For my joy is at its end
Without your compassion.
My heart desires nothing but to be in your power,
And still your own heart renders it no relief..
But your sweet mastery masters my heart so harshly,
Tormenting it and binding it in unbearable love..
And since my malady will not be annulled without you,
Sweet enemy who takes delight of my torment,
With clasped hands I beseech your heart that forgets me
That it mercifully kill me, for too long have I languished." *
Mulder felt that the sense of longing in those words was too close for comfort, and said nothing.
"When you left, Fox, I felt the loss of you. It was like an illness, although it's been centuries since I was truly sick. I was feverish, delirious, weak. I had never let myself be captured by humans until the night I went looking for you in the wrong place and at the wrong time."
Fox nodded. "I did wonder how you'd been caught. Maybe.. part of you wanted to be?"
Louis mulled it over. "Perhaps. I was .. desperate."
Desperate? Desperate to find HIM?
"But you're better now, right? I mean, you still seem a little off, but, you're not, you know.."
Louis looked at the window, seeing things Fox could not. To Mulder, it was all inky blackness; to Louis, it was life and movement, and it called to him. He would not answer - not yet.
"You need rest," he said instead. "You have work. Important work. Chasing down monsters."
It was said with humor, but there was regret there, too.
"First I think I'd better feed my personal monster," said Fox, proffering his wrist.
Louis examined the skin there, frowning. "I don't like to revisit the same wounds too often; it leaves scars, as well as risking infection."
Mulder searched his face. "Okay. Uh.. Any suggestions?"
Louis swallowed with difficulty. "The neck is easiest, but it's also highly visible. Would it cause issues at work?"
Fox laughed. "I've covered up hickeys before, so, no, I don't think most people would care."
Louis could think of a certain redhead who would almost certainly care, but he was hungry, and Fox was willing.
Louis' strong hands guided Mulder to kneel before him. In his borrowed clothing, he looked every inch a modern man from his feet up to his neck, but the face, the face gave him away as the product of another time, and as something more than human. The contrast was jarring, just as Mulder's golden-tanned skin against Louis' pale flesh was jarring - and yet, somehow, beautiful, too.
"Come here. Come to me, Fox."
Such simple words, yet they thrilled the supplicant as he leaned forward, feeling the caress of a hand on his nape, fingers closing around his neck to hold him still. Louis waited, listening to Fox breathing, hearing the music of his heartbeat, the thrum of life within his veins, and then his lips were close, pressed to the skin, so gently.. gently..
Fox braced himself, his hands resting on Louis' knees, but a small sound of disapproval from his friend led him to allow his hands to fall to his sides. The anticipation was awful, his blood itching to be free, his skin craving that piercing once again. Louis' tongue traced the jugular, feeling the pulse teasing him, and then the fangs slid home, Mulder cradled within strong arms, held upright by the desire to be taken.
The draws were slow, and Mulder felt the heat building, building, until he was almost there..
Louis, however, needed to stop before that release came. As the fangs retracted, Fox imagined he felt a kiss on the wound, easing the burning pain, then another, and, yes, once more, undeniable this time. Louis placed a final kiss atop Mulder's head, stroking the man's hair with his hand, murmuring nonsense as Fox's eyelids drooped.
"To bed with you," Louis said, helping Mulder make the short trip down the hall to his room before tucking him in.
As Louis' form filled the doorway, taking in the sight of the limp body of his host, he remarked,
"There's so much more I could teach you, so much more to see and feel - and aliens may be the least of it."
With that, he left Mulder to his rest.
Mulder barely slept. He toyed with his food. Scully became more and more concerned for his well-being.
Fox, however, had never felt more alive.
The night of the song, as he began to refer to it, had been a turning point for the two friends. Mulder's body had overridden his mind, showing him the way, the way to find what he had never dared imagine he needed.
"Every time I see you, you look more and more like a ghost of yourself," Dana remarked, urging her partner to take more than a few bites of his food.
Mulder pushed it away, mildly repulsed.
No. Not a ghost. A vampire.
"I'm fine, Scully. Just looking forward to the trip. I'm excited, you know?"
She couldn't wait for the trip to be over, so things could get back to normal.
They'd get back to normal, right?
Sundown had become a sacred time for Mulder, watching Louis rise from his death-like slumber. His eyes were always cloudy upon wakening, but focusing on the familiar seemed to clear them, and seeing Fox's face oriented Louis in an instant. He remembered why he was there, and how lucky he was.
Louis told Fox over and over, when his mouth was not otherwise engaged, how much he had been missed, how strong the cravings had been, how deep the longing.
Fox ate it up. If this was slavery, if this was submission, he welcomed it. If Mulder's blood was Louis' drug, then Louis' praise and affection were Mulder's.
Louis had learned the art of seduction, first as a human, then as a vampire. There were key differences between the techniques, but the rewards, the sensations, the ecstasies, were largely the same. Vampires experienced pleasure on a heightened level, but the mechanics and the psychology behind attaining that pleasure had definite parallels.
He knew that Mulder must not be rushed, and that he must come willingly, or not at all.
It started with caresses before, during, and after a feed, but within a few days, Fox was seeking him out for touch with no purpose behind it, no blood drawn. Living in such close quarters, exchanging experiences and secrets, it seemed so natural to enter one another's space.
Louis found it fascinating to watch Mulder go about his normal household routines. Mortal Louis had paid little attention to the daily necessities, having few memories of his own past habits - hygiene, dressing, going over the books with his overseer. Watching Mulder do laundry, cook, make coffee, study his case notes, even sleep - these were all pleasurable for Louis. It pleased him that Fox was comfortable enough now to allow himself to be observed in this way, and Mulder enjoyed feeling watched, feeling that he held such fascination for someone so powerful.
Where was his modesty? Where was the shame he'd felt that first night in the hotel, when he'd inadvertently let go of his towel, exposing himself to Louis? Fox wasn't terribly vain, although he was aware of his desirability based on the number of women (and men) who had pursued him, but he found himself becoming bolder in his stride, more deliberate in his movements and demeanor.
Like a hungry cat watching a bird, Louis could not look away, could not so much as blink.
Mulder, tired and sweaty, his body aching from a run, began to undress for a much-needed shower. This time, however, he did not retreat to the privacy of his bedroom.
This time, Louis watched as Fox pulled his heather-gray t shirt away from his torso, discarding it on the floor. The sheen of his sweat was now fully visible, heightening the natural coloring of Mulder's skin, and the mixture of fresh perspiration and pheromones was as tantalizing as the scent of blood.
Fox lowered his sweatpants, kicking them away once they'd reached his ankles. His boxers were all that remained, and, with a loaded glance over his shoulder, Fox removed them, too. Louis was reminded of peaches, a fruit for which he had cared little in life, yet now found himself craving.
Upon reaching the doorway to the master bedroom, Mulder had looked behind him, finding Louis studying his every move. One hand reached out, open, beckoning, and Louis had followed, haltingly, unsure.
He did not need showers in the same way humans did, as his body produced little natural scent, but the water was warm and inviting, and it would not harm him. How long had it been since he had participated in such a normal, human activity? Mulder, already naked, had the advantage over him, and Louis urged himself to push aside any qualms about the strangeness of the situation, to pursue this invitation to whatever ends Fox had in mind.
Mulder watched Louis through the rising steam, the vampire's body revealed little by little, seeming to materialize from the mists. He was pale, paler than Fox, but his skin was smooth, his muscles defined, and his body remarkably beautiful.
Fox had moved the shower curtain aside to admit his friend, who had stepped carefully over the side of the tub, keeping his distance.
Mulder had turned to face him, his boldness up to this point suddenly faltering. Now what?
Louis had reached out one hand, tentatively, placing it over Fox's heart, feeling it stutter beneath his touch. So warm. So wet. So alive.
Mulder had reached up to touch Louis' cheek, literally facing his fears. This.. thing, this connection which had been building and building, which did not yet have a name, had led them to this point. So alike, and yet, so different, Mulder wondered if Louis' body would respond as his own human form was responding. A lingering gaze told him it was so.
Louis' hair turned darker when wet, making him seem younger and more vulnerable as it clung to his skin. He was ancient, yet timeless, immortal, yet vulnerable. Louis turned his face into Mulder's palm, placing a kiss there, tasting the water he did not need, the sweetness of it blending with the salt of Fox's skin.
Mulder didn't need to complete his confession; Louis knew.
"I'm flattered," he said, meaning it.
They did little more than touch, the soap and water serving as a buffer and an excuse, each of them getting thoroughly clean. Only when the hot water tank had run out did the two of them leave the shower.
Mulder knew he was being a tease, but he also loved the fact that Louis stuck to the unspoken limits to which he was clinging. Like the tides obeying the moon, Louis' attentions would go to a set point, and no further. Fox felt powerful, as if his guest's restraint was a sign of how much Louis wanted him - enough to deny himself, enough to suffer this torture until Mulder took pity on him.
"But your sweet mastery
Masters my heart so harshly,
Tormenting it and binding
In unbearable love.."
Fox knew he must've imagined Louis reciting those lines. The vampire's lips had not moved, and yet..
'Love' was too much. Lust, Fox was familiar with; desire was safe, temporary, satiable. Love was greedy, always wanting, always taking more -
Like a vampire.
Louis had been on his knees, toweling Mulder with care, not wanting to irritate his mortal skin. Looking up at Fox, he had found the answer to a question still unvoiced.
He rose, facing his host. Mulder leaned in, and their lips met, all fear of tasting blood or death dissipating in that kiss. Still, Louis exercised restraint, fighting all that he was feeling, leaving the kiss almost chaste in its gentleness.
Mulder felt the same rush as he experienced during Louis' feeds, and this time, he wanted to follow it to the end.