"Owww! Shit...." I gasped as the first of three needles penetrated my skin. Getting shots in the throat is not my idea of a good time. "Take it easy, Fei Lynn!"
"Oh, quit being a baby, Skyler. It's not that bad. It's hardly a sleep cycle's worth of damage." She said. Fei Lynn was a twenty two year old Asian vampire, with an additional twenty two years in darkness. You could ignore the dark glasses, shaved sides of her head, and multiple tattoos on both arms...which she displayed proudly with a black wife-beater t-shirt. I could even ignore the multiple piercings in her eyebrows, nose, and lips...many more in each ear. And I had gotten used to ignoring the clouds of habitual cigarette smoke in her establishent. But the SHOTS? I'll NEVER get used to the shots! She picked up the second syringe, and as soon as she lifted my chin to give me another injection...I cringed involuntarily and moved away from her. Frustrated, she put the syringe back down. "C'mon, kid, are we gonna go through this again? What are you doing to me here?"
"I told you, I don't like needles."
"Oh, boo hoo! Well, you picked the wrong profession then, because if you wanna do this and come out clean, you're gonna have to sit back and let me work." She told me, and as she picked up the syringe again, I tried to relax a bit more, and slowly lifted my chin for the next injection into my neck, right where my pulse could be felt. "You're such a whiny little halflife sometimes, you know that?"
"You can be a real 'bitch' when you wanna be. Do you know that...? OWWWW!!!!!!" She jabbed me extra hard that time, and I’m pretty sure she did it on purpose.
"If I were you, I wouldn't be insulting the lady with the sharp, pointy, objects." She took it out, and used a gauze pad to sanitize the tiny wound. Then turned to prepare the next injection.
"I wish there was another way to do this." I said.
"You wanna be a 'Noc Dealer', you've gotta be clean. Especially this time. You're dealing with a heavy disease, my man. You bite into that donor, and you'll end up being one sick puppy for the next 30 days or so. Not to mention it'll put your business on permanent hold until the virus works its way out of your system. Nobody wants to be crossed over into darkness by a diseased vampire. If the rumor got out that you were turning people while you were tainted, you can kiss the idea of any future 'clientele' goodbye. So sit back, take your shots, and smile while I do my job."
'Noc Dealers'. That's what they call us. Vampires who make a nice little bit of pocket change off of offering the gift of immortality to humans at a set price. Depending on your customer list, reputation for successful crossovers, and word of mouth...a vampire could charge a LOT of money for what they do. Pimping out the vampire experience for thousands of dollars a pop. Some Noc Dealers even provide sanctuary for their clients while they crossover, if they have the expanded facilities to do so. I haven't gotten quite that far yet. But I'm working on it.
Unfortunately, I crossed over when I was only 16 years old, and halflife's have a hard time getting noticed and respected in MOST underground vampire circles. Other than ones run by other halflifes that is. Being a minor and even approaching a human for much of anything creates a feeling of apprehension and paranoia. Most adults are frightened by the idea of getting caught with someone under 18, creating a level of trouble that they don't want to be involved in. So I've mostly been reduced to getting the scraps left behind by other Noc Dealers, or humans referred to me by other vampires in the area.
But this particular request....
This one was different.
"You ready?" Fei Lynn asked me about the third injection.
"No, wait...can I just...take a break or something?"
"It's gonna hurt just as much right now as it will ten minutes from now. But suit yourself." She said, and put the syringe back down while I tried to build up the courage to take that last shot.
Fei Lynn is what most of us refer to as a 'Bloodsmith'. In my business, it's always an advantage to be hooked up with one that you trust. And despite her rough methods, she's very good at what she does. Bloodsmiths are available to help us vampires out whenever we become infected from one of our crossovers or from a donor that we've fed upon recently. They can bleed us out, and correct the problems that come from blood related issues. Whether it's sickle cell, hemophilia, heavy clotting, or anemia...right down to good old fashioned alcohol poisoning and high cholesterol. I wish I knew how Fei Lynn was able to do all that she does, but that's a science that I don't really understand. The last time I took a biology class was back in the mid 80's, for crying out loud. All I know is that the humans that can afford to pay our prices want a relatively 'clean' vampire to bring them into the world of the nocturnal...and Bloodsmiths make sure that happens. Before AND after the bite.
My client this time...as many of the scraps I've been given...is infected with the HIV virus. And even for us vampires, the concept alone is frightening. Not only are we in danger of having our own temporary blood supply tainted by the virus until our next feeding, but the dangers of spreading it further through our daily lives in darkness would keep us in a state of isolation for weeks. Not to mention that there's no 100% guarantee that the crossover would even cure them once they woke up. And yet...for Noc Dealers looking to build up a new market for our business...we'd be willing to take the risk. While there are some humans that are just looking for the supposed thrill and power of being one of us...seeing us as sexy and mysterious creatures to be envied and admired...most of the people seeking out our services are either sick, in serious trouble, or suicidal. Providing them with a new existence is what we do. A new world. A new life. And depending on your own personal morals while conducting the transaction...we can glorify or condemn this lifestyle however we see fit. Some vampires give all the appropriate warnings and force customers to obey a waiting period before they make such a permanent decision. Others? Well...those slick talkers are just looking to get paid. To hear them tell it...being a vampire is the most exciting roller coaster ride ever created. An adrenaline rush for the senses that would last for the next century, easy. I don't do that. People need to know about the down side too. They need to know...how painful a life in eternal darkness can be.
"Are you ready to go, Skyler? Or are you gonna nurture your ridiculous phobia for a bit longer?" Fei Lynn asked me, turning her music up.
"Can you at least turn your cyberpunk hardcore tunes down a bit while you give me the shot?" I asked.
"It's NOT cyberpunk music. It's GOOD music! And the answer is no. It helps me focus. So are we gonna do this thing or not? I've got a midnight appointment coming, and you are gonna run me into some serious overlap if you don't hurry up and take this last shot."
"Fine...just...take it easy, ok...?" But before I could even finish my sentence, she stuck me hard in the neck and pulled it out, slapping the gauze on the wound without mercy. "FUCK, Fei Lynn!!!!!"
"Quiet! Quit being a brat! You're cuttin' into my smoke break." She said, leaning back in her chair.
"You mean you actually take a break from smoking?"
"Big talk, now that the injections are done, huh?" She smiled, lighting up once again with a smile. "So, you remember to come see me right away once the deed is done. Got me? I've gotta bleed that shit out of your system and get some clean, dead, blood into you to hold you over until you can get a decent kill in."
"Is it gonna be that bad?" I asked.
"We're talking HIV, kid. Doesn't get much worse than that. I'm gonna have to damn near drain you to the point of starvation to get you right again. If you wake up without a temporary dead blood supply...the thirst is gonna have a pretty vicious hold on you. Don't want you slipping into a bloodlust, unannounced." She told me. "That would make you jump on me the second you opened your eyes..and I'd hate to have to hurt you, cutie pie." She grinned. Then, with another drag and blow of her cigarette, she looked into my eyes and asked, "Tell me something, Skyler? I mean...an HIV crossover is a pretty risky job for a Noc Dealer just three years in the game. You could make yourself some big bucks off of something like that. We're talking HUGE profits here! A human trying to escape a potential death sentence is willing to pay almost anything...and I KNOW you know that."
Still rubbing my sore neck, I asked her, "And your point is?"
"My point, halflife, is...why are you doing this job for free?"
My eyes met hers, a wicked smirk on her face. "How do you know about that? You’ve been spying on me?"
"No need to. A bloodsmith's haven is the vampire equivalent of a beauty shop. Sometimes hearsay and gossip is all we've got going on at night. My clients fill me on on certain things." She took another puff, and asked, "So are you gonna tell me the real deal, or what?"
"Do you really care?"
"I'm intrigued. It's not really your style. Despite that soft spot you got in that big heart of yours...it's not like you to miss out on such a grand opportunity."
"Yeah, well...this one is different, Fei." I said...remembering days long gone.
"I see." She hesitated for a moment, now pouring herself a small glass of whiskey. "Is it family?"
"No. Not family."
"Good friend? Somebody you knew when you were human?"
"Can we not talk about this?"
Fei Lynn's smile widened considerably. "Ahhhh...it's love, isn't it? Gotta be."
"Maybe. But only indirectly." I said softly.
She raised her eyebrows. "In-tresting."
Fei Lynn continued to stare at me until I caved in. "Don't let this become a piece of your tawdry bloodsmith gossip, alright?"
"Wouldn't dream of it." She smiled. "Now, spill."
I took a deep breath, my memories...murky and dark...being brought to the surface once again for the first time since 'he' found me. "I was...recognized. Ok?" I started.
"No shit! Are you for real? By WHO?"
"Someone I knew over 20 years ago. Someone...'special'." I told her.
"Yeah." I sighed. "He was...so much older looking, you know? But...I could tell it was him easily. His eyes gave him away. He always had the most amazing blue eyes. No way I could forget them. His name is Jonathan."
"How did he find you?"
"By accident, really. Bumped into each other near Buckingham Fountain. He recognized me right away. I took off running, but he found me again later."
"I take it he had help?" She asked.
"Naturally. The ‘Long Dark Foundation’ program did the research for him. They led him right to me." I told her. "I'm not mad, though. To be honest...it was really...comforting to stare into those eyes again."
Fei Lynn leaned forward with interest. "So, what did you do when you met him again? What did you SAY?"
"Well, I kinda had to explain why he was 38 years old and I was still 16. What had happened, and...where I've been the last 22 years. I mean...I could have just told him that I wasn't who he thought I was, and assumed that he would have thought himself crazy before coming to any other conclusion...but I think we were too close for that excuse to work. At least...we were 'once upon time'…before things got 'difficult'."
"Wow. You've never really been the romantic type, Skyler. I think I'm liking this side of you."
"Sometimes..." I said, "...Things happen that shut you off to the idea of love. And for good reason."
"The plot thickens." She said, leaning back to hear some more.
"When we were both in high school...I mean...ugh...I had a CRUSH, ok? At first it started out with him just being really cute...with this curly blond hair and bright blue eyes...and I used to watch him. I remember not being able to take my eyes off of him for a second whenever he was around, you know?" I said. Wow...thinking back, it was like I could still smell the arousing scent of fabric softener on his shirt. I could still see the glorious shine of the pearly white teeth in his smile. Amazing what the mind remembers in those lightly misted moments of a life long gone. "But I never thought that I'd actually get a chance to...'be' with him, you know? It never crossed my mind, back then, that it was a possibility."
"Ahhh, straight guy, eh?" Fei Lynn asked.
"Yeah...so he says..." I mumbled, and her eyes opened wide again.
"No way! Are you saying you scored a hetero boy for sexy time??? That is so SOLAR!"
"You would think so. But...it wasn't meant to last, I guess." I told her. Some of those darker memories now coming back to me in full color. "The first time Jonathan kissed me...sighhh...I thought my knees would give out and drop me right to the floor. I dunno...maybe I 'pressured' him. Maybe I kinda forced myself on him. I just...I wanted him so badly that I couldn't think straight. We kissed...we made love...and for a couple of months, we got together to laugh and 'play' as often as humanly possible. But...while I was walking around, lost in love, thinking that I had a real boyfriend..."
"He just had a good friend...with occasional 'sex' as an added bonus, huh?" She said.
I nodded sadly. I could still remember the feel of his naked skin against mine. I could still hear the whimpers he made when I slid his hardness into my lustful mouth, my tongue circling his rigid shaft as I put my whole heart into making him happy. And when he entered me from behind...when my tight muscle clamped down on him and sucked him further inside my anal walls...the moans that he released in my ear were more than enough to make me believe that he had found paradise in the body that I had, so freely. given him total access to.
It seems that I was mistaken.
"We were...'together' for a few months. I fell deeper and deeper in love with Jonathan until I could barely stand to be away from him. I began to want more of a commitment, and he began to wonder why I was being so 'clingy' when were just....fuck buddies. You know? 'Helping each other out' from time to time. I was so blinded by my emotions that I didn't even realize that he didn't feel the same way about me as I felt about him. And that...once it was out there in the open...it hurt me to my very core." I told her. "Even though he made it clear that we were just friends with benefits...I kept wanting him to come out and just be HAPPY with me. A part of me still feels like he really loved me. Even after all these years...I know that he had to feel SOMETHING for me in order for us to engage in the love affair we had at the time. Nobody kisses as gently, or strokes as tenderly, as he did without feeling something intimate for his partner. ‘Fuck buddies’ don't snuggle together for an hour afterward and watch the rain outside our bedroom window. ‘Fuck buddies’ don't rub noses after sweet tongue kisses and smile passionately before connecting their lips again. I know he felt something for me...but...it wasn't love. Not the definition that I was familiar with, anyway."
"So, I take it you went two your separate ways?"
A bitter taste seemed to fill my mouth instantly...and I tried to explain. "Jonathan stopped talking to me. He distanced himself from me immediately once he realized that I was still head over heels in love with him. I had never been so hurt in all my life. I walked around heartbroken for weeks, wishing I could have his love back for just a few hours. Just something to...make me feel whole again. But to no avail." I said, almost choked up at the thought of those dark days...missing the intimate sensation of his gentle touch. "So...I desperately began to search for someone else who might be able to...I dunno...make the hurt go away, I guess."
Fei Lynn asked me, "Search for someone?"
"Yeah. Anyone, really. And the first boy that I approached with an 'offer'...turns out that I read his signals wrong."
"Yeah. BIG ouch." I agreed. "Not only did he reject me, but he outed me to everyone who would listen. My parents found out, wanted me out of the house...my friends abandoned me because they didn't want to be known as the guys who went soft on the gay kid...and my former 'boyfriend'...?" I hesitated as the arsenic of the lost love flooded my system once again. "...Well...Jonathan was upset that I came out of the closet without telling him first. As though I had done it on purpose. He didn't want to ever speak to me again. Didn't want anything to do with me. In fact...he told me to cross the street if I ever saw him in public, or he'd kick my ass. I guess he didn't want to have our secret little relationship come out in the open. So that was that. The end of one life...and the beginning of this one."
Fei Lynn nearly choked on her cigarette, and began sputtering and coughing while she tried to catch her breath. "Wait a minute? You're telling me this jerk is the REASON you crossed over in the first place?"
I nodded, now sliding down from her operating table so that I could get ready to leave and make my 'appointment' on time. "I didn't have anywhere to go. No family that would take me in, no friends to speak of...I certainly couldn't go back to school. The whispers were deafening. At least that's what I thought back then...when I was just a teenager and every problem I had seemed to be magnified a million times worse than what it really was." I said. "Don't get me wrong, my problems were...significant, sure...but looking back on it, I wouldn't have given up my life for it. I would have been smarter about it all." I reached in my pocket and pulled out a roll of money. "What do I owe ya, Fei?"
She waved her hand and told me, "If you're good for an occasional freebie, then so am I. Besides, I'd feel bad taking your money...considering the circumstances."
"Thanks, Fei." I looked at my watch and noticed that it was getting close to midnight. I didn't want to be late. "I should go. I'll come back and see you tomorrow night to bleed me out, alright?"
"Sure thing, kid." But before I could leave, she said, "Hey hey hey...wait a minute, you still didn't tell me why you were doing this for free."
"Sometimes...even when it guts you internally to hold on to it..." I said. "...The love stays with you. No matter what. He needed a favor...and as far as my heart is concerned, he can have one."
"So...that's IT? C'mon, Skyler! He rejects your love, stops talking to you, THREATENS you...and one day he just happens to recognize you and what you do for a living in darkness, and it's all swept under the rug? He just figures that he can tell you he's sick and you'll come to his noble rescue without draining him dry?" She asked in disbelief.
"Almost...yeah. But not quite." I told her, opening the door to her basement office.
"Not quite? How so?"
"It's not Jonathan that's sick." I said, and with that, I walked back out into the night air, enjoying the site of the silver moon before heading off to meet Jonathan by the old high school. Funny how life comes full circle some times.
It wasn't quite midnight yet, but when I arrived, I could see a black Chevy with tinted windows parked just outside the gate. Jonathan was at least fifteen minutes early. I guess this was serious enough for him to be somewhat punctual.
I have to admit...it made me tremble slightly to think of actually...'talking' to him again. I spoke to him briefly before...when we set up this arrangement of ours tonight. But it was hardly at length. And was so awkward that I could barely think straight. Now...given the time and the silence to speak, I didn't know what I would say. I didn't even know what I would feel. Am I still angry? Still hurt? Still heartbroken? Do I want him to feel guilty for ruining my life? Or do I want to forgive him...and experience the comfort of closure for the one open ended fiasco that I had left over from my previous human life? So many thoughts. Not a single one of them connected to anything sane in me. But, as long as I was here...I might as well get on with it. If only for business sake.
I approached the vehicle, and saw Jonathan turn off the headlights before stepping out to see me. He had kept himself in good shape. Still pretty slim, but now with a 30+ year old heft to him. His once luxuriously blond curls, the ones that used to hang so lovingly around his young face, had now been neatly trimmed down to a more suitable 'business-friendly' length. A shade of stubble was now covering his chin. I could remember when his face was as smooth as the surface of an ice cube. Yes...unlike me, Jonathan had grown up. Matured. Developed. But his eyes? Those charming blue eyes never changed. They still had the power to make me weak in the stomach. Laying my eyes on him again made me realize that not a single day had passed between us as far as my heart was concerned.
"Skyler?" He asked nervously, his stare still locked in a state of astonishment as he looked at the exact same boy that he had left behind in high school.
"I'm here. I said I would come, so..." I started, but found myself unable to look him in the face. Something about being close to him again made me realize that the pain of losing what I thought was his love...hadn't really gone away. The ache was still there, like a rusty nail in my heart. "...Ahem. So...I'm not gonna, like...charge you, or anything. I mean...it's a favor."
"Thanks." He said, now looking down at the ground as well. "So you're a uhhh...what do you call it?"
"A Noc Dealer. Short for 'nocturnal'."
"And you turn people like me...for money? I mean, like...that's what you do for a living?" He wasn't trying to be insulting. I think that he just couldn't think of anything else to talk to me about.
"You must make a good living off of it."
"I manage." I said, wishing that we could just get this over with. It felt as though the air itself was getting uncomfortably thin between the two of us.
"So..." He stumbled. "...Wow...you look exactly the same as you did in high school. It's literally blowing my mind right now...seeing you like this. Say, do you still have that scar on your arm from that time we tried to climb into your bedroom window so your parents wouldn't know you were coming home late from..."
"Let's not do this, Jonathan. Ok?" I said, breaking him off before he even brought back the memory. "Those days are gone. If you need help...then I’m here to help. Let's just get to it."
He seemed sad, and leaned back to reflect for a minute. "It's not just about a 'favor', Skyler. There are things...words...that I've been meaning to say to you for a long time. Words that I always felt you deserved."
"Funny, I thought getting beaten up, humiliated, abandoned, and kicked out of my house was what I deserved. After all, someone as 'sick' as I am can't be worth much more to anybody, right?" I said.
"Psh! Confused, he says."
"I was SIXTEEN..."
"And that gives you an EXCUSE?" I said, feeling the emotion well up in the back of my throat. "Look at me, Jonathan. Take a good look. How long do you think it took me to trade in the daylight for a life of eternal darkness after you rejected me? Huh?" He seemed so ashamed, but even though I felt bad for him, I didn't want to. "I trusted you. I loved you, Jonathan. We...we were so good together. I felt so...used when you left me out in the cold like you did. And you never once regretted it, did you? You never looked back, not even to see if the damage you had done to my heart was too much for me to handle."
"You're wrong about that, Skyler. I regretted it. I thought about you all the time, and by the time I had come to my senses, you were gone."
"Don't give me that bullshit. You're not GAY anymore, remember? No more kisses, no more sex, no more cuddling up on the bed in our sock feet to watch TV. It's obvious you didn't want to love me, and you sure as hell didn't want to be seen with me, so what makes you think I'm gonna believe that you were twisting and turning in your bed at night...thinking of ways to save me from falling apart?"
I still remember the way Jonathan used to shiver when my lips slid his throbbing length into my mouth. The way his thighs would tense up and his stomach would suck itself inward with an involuntary gasp as my tongue dragged across the bottom of his sensitive shaft. My fingers playing with the soft hair on his balls, while he tried to keep from exploding too fast. He might have denied the emotion involved, or might have tried to fool himself that imagining a girl's face between his legs was the cause of his arousal...but deep down, we both know that it was ME that was giving him that orgasmic sensation. Deep down...it didn't matter what his sexuality was. Not when we were together. Not when we were making magic, just outside of the view of everybody's judging eyes.
"Skyler...I know that...what I did was wrong..."
"No. What you did was FUCKED UP!" I hissed at him. "The only thing you did 'wrong' was thinking that I'd forgive and forget just because you happened to feel guilty about it." I wish that it was anger that I felt. Anger had purpose. Anger made sense. But instead...all I could feel was pain. And the re-sparking of a flame that I thought had long died out.
"You're right." He said. "You're absolutely right. I was...scared, ok? I didn't want to be different. I didn't want my father to find out about us. I didn't know how to handle what was happening to me. I wasn't...a homosexual, Skyler, but...something was different about you and me. And the closer I got to falling into that trap...the more people started to whisper. Back then...those whispers meant my whole LIFE was in jeopardy. My future, my family, my friends....everything."
"So you traded MY future in to take its place. Is that it?" I said, an emotionless tone in my voice. "You wanna know what hurts the most, Jonathan? If you had just stuck by me...if you could have just...BEEN there, I might have been ok. The whole WORLD could have hated me and it wouldn't have mattered. Because at the end of the day...all I wanted was you."
As Jonathan lowered his head again, I saw a single tear drip from his eyes, and I felt a sense of self hatred for wanting to go over and hold him. I should DESPISE him! I don't even know why I'm DOING this. It just makes me feel like an idiot to even be in this position, my heart beating just for his benefit again. Letting him in. Giving him the chance to abuse it like he has so many times before. But...what can I do?
The love you give to somebody you truly care about...you never get it back. It's theirs for life. And all you can do is give them more of it...in the hopes that in some small way, they'll be willing to give it back someday.
Unable to help myself any longer, I took the first step forward. Slowly. Cautiously. And I approached Jonathan as he brought a single hand up to cover his face. Reading his thoughts was more of an accident than an intentional scan...but what I saw there showed me a true sense of remorse. A burden of guilt that he had been carrying with him for two decades now...and a desire to make things right, without ever having the opportunity to find me in the light...ever again.
I allowed myself to embrace him, my arms going around his waist as he cried on my shoulder. He had grown so much taller than me now, his body such a different 'shape' from what I remember. But the scent was still there. The warmth. The very essence of him. The aging process hadn't changed his spirit at all. I could still feel it, alive and flourishing within him. Perhaps there was a part of me that needed to forgive him. That needed to simply tell him what he did to me and somehow realize that things...might have been different for us. If it wasn't for that stupid three letter word that seems to label boys like me for life...and send even the best of friends and family running for the hills. In a different world, in a different time...it might have been ok for us to explore our gay feelings more openly. To really give our unorthodox relationship a serious shot, without the unhappy ending. But...then again, maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part.
"I'm sorry, Skyler! I'm so so sorry! For everything. For EVERYTHING!" He sobbed, and the emotion was so overwhelmingly genuine that I began to cry myself. My face turned red from the strain, and I sniffled as I held him tight up against me. "If I could go back and make a change I would. You've got to believe me."
"I know, Jonathan. I know." I said, and as we slowly parted from our hug, I noticed a slight 'jump' when he looked me in the eyes again. I must have crying more than I thought, and the tears were breaking the mask of my optrix lenses...allowing him to see my glow. He was a bit frightened by the supernatural sight of it, and I tried to dry my eyes quickly to keep from causing him any further discomfort. "Sorry. Sometimes...they do that." I straightened up, and Jonathan tried to regain his composure. But I could tell that,even though he was aware of our existence, he was NOT used to seeing anything like that. Not at all. "So...are we ready?" I asked, trying to get my business mentality back into place, removing as much emotion as I possibly could...considering the circumstances.
He sniffled again, and hesitated for a moment before answering. "Um...so...what do I do, exactly? I mean...how does this happen?"
"Well...first, I take him with me to a safe location. Very clean, I promise you. I sit down, and I have a talk with him about what it means to be one of us. What he'll have to give up, what he'll have to do to survive. It won't be easy...but if he decides to crossover anyway, then we move on to the next step."
More tears ran out of Jonathan's eyes, but he tried to stay strong. "Ok...so...the 'next' step. And that is?"
I looked him directly in his eyes as he braced himself for my reply. "The next step is...I deliver the bite. I've been taught by expert dealers on how to make a clean bite and balance out the toxins so that there aren't any major complications. I drain as much blood as is necessary for him to..." I didn't want to say it directly, so I gave a more professional term. "...expire." Another trail of tears slid down his face, but he wiped them away again.
"I'm sorry. Go ahead."
It made me so miserable to see him hurting. I almost couldn't STAND it. "I uhhh...I take him to a private, sun proofed spot, and I give him some shelter while the transformation takes place. Usually takes three or four weeks for a crossover to complete its cycle, give or take. It really depends on him, I guess. Everybody's experience is different."
"Painful?" He asked me.
"Yes...very..." I answered, almost feeling a pinch of shame myself.
"And what are the odds that this...'crossover' thing will cure him?"
Again, I had to be honest. "With HIV...with any sickness really...the odds are in his favor...but not by much. Sixty percent chance. Sixty five maybe. It's a delicate thing to make a guess about." It wasn't what Jonathan wanted to hear, but for now...I was the best chance that he had. "I promise you...I'll give it my best shot. He should be fine."
"I hope you're right." He said. "He's uh...he's only 15. I think that...I always 'suspected', you know? That he was like you. I could just see the signs. It was like...looking at you and me all over again." Jonathan sniffled, glancing back at the car. "He didn't have to hide something like that from his mother and I...but...I guess I never really made and effort to make him understand that it was ok to be different. I let him...watch TV and listen to media bullshit and I allowed him to believe that he couldn't just be honest with us about who he really was." I could remember the feeling. Clearly. The only thing worse than being confused...was being alone. "He started...finding other boys on the internet to uhhh...'be with', I guess. Hiding out and running around in secret. Then...this one guy...some college kid...decided he wanted to take a golden opportunity to sleep with a teenage boy. They got together...nobody was being 'safe'..." Jonathan's tears began to flow freely once again, and it hurt my soul. "It seems he had been sleeping around with guys online too. And one of them...just so happened to be 'sick'...and..."
I put a hand on his shoulder, and I said, "Don't worry...I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that your son is alright."
And that was exactly what all of this was about. A favor...for someone who once meant so much to me. Jonathan hugged me again, and we held on to each other for as long as we could. "God dammit, Skyler...you have NO idea how much this means to me! It's a debt that I can't ever repay."
"You repaid it...just by allowing me to hold you one last time." I whispered. And then he moved away from me.
"Do you...do you wanna meet him? He’s a great kid. He really is."
I nodded, and Jonathan gestured for his son to come out of the car. The passenger side door opened, and out stepped a young boy that was not only the spitting image of his father when he was younger...but he may be a few steps beyond him in the looks department. It was a strange moment of deja vu as his golden curls came into view, his youthful lips shivering a bit in the night air. The most amazing thing was...he had his father's eyes. Just as blue, just as alluring...it was almost like falling in love with Jonathan for the first time all over again.
The boy had a slim build, and an almost girlish sensitivity that was displayed just in his aura alone. He timidly walked over to us, and stuck out a shaky hand to greet me. "Hey..." He said, just above a whisper.
He was gorgeous. Just like his father was, and yet with a certain flair of beauty all his own.
"Hi...ummmm..." I looked to his father for an answer.
"Jonathan." He said. "Jonathan Jr. to be exact."
"Hi, Jonathan Jr...I'm Skyler." I said, and the boy seemed to blush in front of me.
"Is this the one you told me about, Dad?" He asked bashfully.
"Yes, he's the one." And then Jonathan's eyes met mine, almost with a hint of the infatuation we once shared. "He was the ONLY one. And he was definitely worth it."
The boy gave me a weak smile, still shy about meeting me for the first time. And when I smiled back at him, he took a step back to hide a bit further behind his father.
That's when Jonathan asked me, "So...this 'thing' you do...it's permanent, isn't it?"
Slowly, I nodded.
"And...will he be able to...visit me...or...?"
"Not likely. We have...'laws' in darkness. They frown on people going back to anything rooted in daylight. You understand, right?" I hated to tell him that, but it was the truth. Revisiting your human life was a recipe for serious trouble. Especially for newbloods, still so emotionally attached to a life that doesn't belong to them anymore.
"Ok. I understand." Jonathan turned to his son, and both of them began to cry profusely before hugging each other close. "Can you...please give us a minute?"
I nodded. "Of course. Take all the time you need." I walked away to give them some privacy, but watched from a distance as they said their last goodbyes. It was heartbreaking to watch. Almost like Jonathan was saying goodbye to his own childhood, manifested in flesh, and giving him the chance to live the life that he never had. To watch it play out in person...was an experience that I will never forget.
Once they were finished, he brought Jonathan Jr. over to me personally, and then gave me another hug, kissing me gently on the forehead. "Please...please take care of my boy, Skyler. Teach him. Look out for him. Make sure that he gets the love that he deserves." He said. "I wouldn't trust him with anybody but you."
My eyes began to tear up, and I held onto my Jonathan one last time, releasing years of pent up regret and pain...feelings that I just didn't have any use for any more. I exhaled one final time to free myself of the demons that had taken up residence in my soul since the day he went away, and I whispered, "I'll take care of him. You have my word." And I cried some more as I felt his arms begin to let me go.
Broken...lost...Jonathan walked back to his car, and tried to keep from looking back. The last thing I remember seeing was his crimson tail lights disappearing off in the distance, as Jonathan Jr. cried in my arms.
Perhaps this was a new chance for all of us to start again. Jonathan, his son, and myself as well. What I lost in Jonathan in the past...I now had sobbing gently in my arms, searching for the same love that I once thought was out of my reach. Life definitely does have its little ironies. Fate plays games, cupid is a BAD comedian, and father time still conquers all...even in our world. But what really matters is whether or not we get in on the joke, and allow ourselves to become amused by it.
I'll watch over him, Jonathan. His very creation is a gift, and I'll guard it with my life. I promise.
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