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by Apache

Implied or Graphic Sexual Situations
No Violence

This is a sequel to 'Echo'.  In 'Echo,' which happens about sixty years in the future, Vachon ran into Tracy after not seeing her since 1995. 

If you're going to hang with mortals at all, one of the first things you learn is Don't Look Back.  You don't want to know.  You *really* don't want to know.  What happens to mortal lives... you wouldn't wish it on a dog.  And it happens to almost all of them.  The vampire Time, our only competitor, drains them more evilly than we do, giving them flourishes of pleasure and great drinks of pain.  Stay away, don't get involved.  But if you do, when you leave, you stay gone.  Don't look back.

Like everything else, I've had to learn that one the hard way.

And like with almost everything else, I backslide.

Eighteen months had passed since I'd accidentally rediscovered Tracy Vetter.  If vampires could have fresh scars, she'd be my only one.

So why'd she call?  Might as well ask, why'd I leave her a number?

~ ~ ~

It gets easier and easier to cross oceans.  I was in Switzerland this time, and six hours later, no danger of sunlight at all, I was in Toronto.  Of course, it helped that I finally put together a bank account. Which is to say, Knight foisted one on me.   Jav is a rich kid now.

So there I was at Tracy's house.  I listened in the garden for a minute, heard only one person inside, and let myself in.

She was in her living room, feet up and asleep on the sofa, with classical music playing on the radio.  The lights were on, and illumination was not kind to her.  She's even older than she was before. //Right, genius, time goes *forward*... even for you.//

She's barely this side of the grave.  In the inanimation of sleep, with breathing barely moving her chest, she looked dead.  Why did she summon me to see this?  I don't want to remember it.  I made a noise.  I think I didn't want to touch her.

It woke her.  And as soon as the eyes flashed open, there was Tracy.  Those old, piercing eyes, a version of the Tracy I had known sixty-some years ago.  A new memory I had been carrying around and enjoying for a year and a half.  And I'd known she was still alive-- because I'd been checking Toronto databases for obits.  A little too frequently for my peace of mind, really.  I knew about it when she showed up at charity banquets or bridge openings.  I even sent her flowers once, anonymously, in a particularly weak, nostalgic mood.

She accepted my presence there as if she'd been expecting it.  The thought made me smile:  of course she had.  One call, and wouldn't the vampire want to show up?  The thing is, I knew she'd do the same for me. Truth to tell-- I'd almost forgotten, but she did do it. She sat at my deathbed once until I sent her away.  Deathbed... this sofa.  This framework of bones with so little flesh still left on it, the fragile house of Tracy's spirit.

"This isn't about coming across," she said immediately.  The change in her face showed me the change in mine:  did she see that I was dreading it, hoping for it, or both?

I nodded, and waited.  My silence didn't seem to bother her.

"I want to give you something, if you want it," she said, pushing herself more upright.  She looked at me carefully.  Two bodies, one a young man's, one an old woman's, a pair of lying masks, containers that told no truths about what lay within.  Tracy's eyes...

"I don't want to offend you... so if I'm .. if it does offend you...?" she started.

I just looked at her.  The blue eyes gave me a funny look back.

"I don't have long to go," she said.  "And it occurs to me..." she looked away.  She was embarrassed.

"Trace..."  She needed a little help or something, just to talk.  "What?"

"My blood," she said with an odd promptness.  "I want..."  She pursed her lips.  "Look, when the word goes around that it's a matter of weeks, everyone and his brother is going to be here.  Which will be terrific, really--"

She fell silent, but it was clear she was picturing it.  She does have a lot of family, something else I found out from the databases. Children, grandchildren, dozens of cousins of various degrees, and she has been the hub of that family for many years, the one who'd have all the kids to her house on the lake for the summer months.  Lots of old pictures in the Toronto Star of Mayor O'Brian sailing with the kids, Mayor O'Brian showing the kids her office... Mayor O'Brian being sworn in for a fourth term by her daughter Judge O'Brian-Addison, with some grandchildren there...

Mortal life.  Tracy threw me out of her world, got married, and had a complete mortal life.  Tracy's body that I wanted to possess as a vampire lover had borne mortal children who had gone on to bear other mortal children.  Flower to seed to flower to seed to flower: mortal life.  Last year, she taunted me with its happiness... but also wished that happiness on me.  //Break a vampire's heart on your way out, Tracy...// And then she said I'd been the love of her life.  That she thought about me all the time, all through that life.  That no man ever touched her heart or her body like I had.  //Break a vampire's heart on your way out.//

She pulled herself out of her thoughts and swung her eyes up to me.  "--but I never gave you anything," she said softly.

//That's a fact,// memory chimed in.  //Unless you count a long run of unhappy dreams over a period of decades.//

"That night... you said it was good," she said.  Her eyes were shining at me like blue beacons.  I swallowed.  Now we were back in the last century.  She meant I said drinking people to death was good.  Taking the heart.  That it was like nothing else.  I did say that, and it is.  And we didn't get to do it much then, and almost never now.  She went on, probing a little with her tone of voice, "that it was like no mortal pleasure..."

I nodded.  I knew what was coming now.  She saw me get it.

"Take my heart, Javier," she mangled my name yet again. "If there's any pleasure in it, I would like to give you that."

Tracy Vetter is asking me to murder her.  If I want to.

"I guess I should tell you... I do have cancer.  I don't know if that would make me... taste bad?"  She gave me a quizzical look that had a lot of her youthful humor in it.

I mouthed the word 'no,' and shook my head a little.  We were both getting amused here.  Good thing, or it would have been unbearable.

"For that matter," she continued the thought, "I'd be willing to let you fatten me up with sweets or champagne or ... I guess even paprika or something if you liked."  She started smiling.  "I never thought to ask you if we come in flavors... chocolate?  Cinnamon?"  She made a wry face.  "I hope you're not going to ask me to drink beer for a week, though. And I suppose garlic chicken is out for the duration..."


No mortal ever offered me this.  Some have given me their deaths because they wanted to die, some have quit fighting to make their ends easier, some have even gotten an erotic kick out of the pain and the possession-- but the food has never before turned to me and said, "how would you like me, vampire?  Scrambled or over easy?"

I sat down on the sofa next to her, said "Tracy" and then couldn't resist picking her up.  This has to be a careful procedure... her bones are frail as a bird's, now.  But to hold her a little, feel the human warmth with the skin of my arms, be that close to the heart with its slightly irregular tapping-- the thin white silk of her hair, the apricot fragrance in her blood, changed with her age but still the essence of Tracy-- Screed, in his last illness, "Smell her, V-man:  fruit in her veins."

"Vachon... is it something you'd like?  I really don't mean this as a joke.  The family..."  she lifted her gaze, and raised an old hand to my cheek.  "What a pleasure just to look at you," she said.

I swallowed again.  I wanted her to know the full scope of it.  "It hurts," I said.  "A little, not too much.  You'll feel it.  Sometimes... some women take pleasure from it."

She smiled.  "Go out on a thrill?  Nice thought..."

Better be candid.  "I'd have to take your body away."

"Oh."  Nope, she hadn't anticipated that one.

"Evidence," I said.  "The technology's so good now... they could tell it's not the teeth of any known animal."  In fact, the Enforcers have been pretty busy for the last couple decades. Police agencies all over the world, even in places that used to be vampire free-lunch zones like northern Thailand, opened forensic files on the strange large-animal 'bites'-- and then it got worse:  they started sharing their research.  So the tiniest bit of carelessness these days is death.  The real death.  The one where Jesu Cristo Pantocrater frowns down on you and says, 'go to Hell, vampire,' and makes it stick.

If any of that is true.

She nodded.  Her eyes flicked away.  "It'll give my family a lot of pain."  Her lips tightened, and I thought that was it:  back to the world of the deathbed, the handholding farewells, the fancy public funeral for Mayor O'Brian, the speeches... Her eyes came back to me.

"But I never gave *you* anything," she said.

//Well, those dreams... and a memory of desire that still eats at my guts now and then.//

Tracy thinks all that Jesus stuff is true.  For her, the last straw was when she saw me burn from touching a cross.  Why that did it, I never knew.  But she threw me out... I almost drained her that night, but with my fangs an inch from her neck she looked me in the eye and told me I didn't want to, and it was true.  And now she's offering it freely.  A drink without a sin, though she won't put it to me that way.


"Right now?"  I heard my voice crack.  "You want it right now?"

Her eyes widened.  "Is there... I mean.. do you have rules about how to do this?"

I laughed.  The weird panic that had flared let go of me.  "No, we don't have rules."  Then it didn't seem funny after all.  "It's..." I was looking for the words-- looking anywhere but her eyes.

"So sudden?"  Shrewd observation.  The mortal takes the vampire by surprise.  Always one of Tracy's virtues, starting the night we met.  "Vachon, it's up to you.  You don't *have* to."

Desire rushed through me.  My fangs dropped, my eyes turned.  She rocked back with instinctive fear, then leaned forward.  "Vachon?  You still there?"

"Yeah, Trace." I pushed the hunger back-- but it was instructive. Bottom line, the vampire always wants its blood, first and most.  And live blood, the heart, the death -- it's been a long time.

"Oh, wait... let me see the fangs, please."  I rolled my eyes.  Women.  Pandora's box.  "I mean, if you can let me without biting me right that instant."

"Sure, Tracy."  Theater of the absurd.  The vampire dropped his fangs and the old lady looked at them, even touched them.  The knives that were going to kill her.  Tension built up in me.  "So lady, you going to buy this horse or what?"

She was up to it:  "Looks pretty old to me, mister.  Long in the tooth, you might say."

I laughed, and she jerked her hand away from the motion.  Right...  you want me to sink these teeth into your papery neck, but you don't want to die with a cut on your thumb?  Does she really understand what she said, what she summoned me here to do?  What I am?

I pulled away; saw her confusion as my face turned serious.  "I'll do it, Tracy, but.."

"No," she said immediately.  "Don't get me wrong.  This isn't for me."

Her eyes were very wide open, very strong.  "Understand me: this isn't my first choice of how to go. It's going to cause everyone I love a lot of pain-- more even than I knew.  This is for you.  If you don't *want* to, absolutely just-for-you want to, then no.  I didn't ask you here to do some painless angel of death routine.  I didn't even ask you here so I could die in your arms.  This is for Vachon -- something Vachon would have liked when I knew him."  She was staring at me hard, blue searchlight eyes in the pale, bony old face.  "Want it?"

It blasted me.  Desire rocked me:  for her blood, but not for her death.  My eyes closed. //You want to know what I want?  I'm a vampire, Tracy Vetter Mayor O'Brian, and I want vampire things.// My eyes opened to find her watching me acutely. //I want you to know Vachon -now-.//

"Come across," I said, as unemotionally as I could.  "That's what I want."  In that moment, I wanted it as much as I had when she was young and golden.  Theater of the absurd.

She, at least, had a grip on her senses.  "'Course not," she said instantly.

//Pain, pain, mortals, get to know them and it's a one-way ticket to pain.// "I'll let you know," I said, and took off.  At vampire speed, so she wouldn't even be able to watch me go.

~ ~ ~

I'd gotten back to Spain the first time just in time to see the last of my generation of mortals die of old age.  That was, the ones who'd lived to old age.  Most of them had died well beforehand.  There was a man called Dominguin who'd taught me the gentle strains of the chitarra, the only sweet thing in the rough life of a tanner's boy.  He'd been gone thirty years, was barely a memory in the minds of old men who talked about his songs, about the duende that hung in the air when he played.

Some of those old men had been boys I knew.  Stole wine from the priests with, got laid by the tavern girls for the first time with, back in the summer days when our balls dropped and the first hairs pushed out like little shoots of grass on our scrawny chests.

Looking at them was a graphic picture of what would have happened to me in a mortal life -- if I'd been lucky.  But of course, I'd been unlucky. I died in the dirt in the New World, slaughtered by a heathen.  The old men remembered the wine and the fucking. They had heard of the fate of Javier Dionysios Vachon y Gaytan.

At least, they thought they had.

My father, well, I didn't want to see him anyway.  In his grave was where I'd always wished him. It suited me fine that he was there.  But my mother... she died a terrible death, and I felt misery for the first time as an vampire, thinking how easily I could have freed her from pain. And Luisita, the one sister I loved.  Had died.  Brutally.

That was a man I would have killed, but he was dead already. So I killed his son, whispering that it was for Luisa-criada, Luisa the housemaid of whom he had never heard, that he should give that gentle, wise girl my greetings in the cloud palace of El Gran Senor.  And drank him like wine, a hot happy revenge.

Wonder if he got there, Heaven.  The cloud palace I will never see, Paradiso, home of the sky king on the golden throne I imagined as a boy.  They told us... angels singing everywhere, rivers of honey, every happiness you can imagine... Here I was back in my own birthplace remembering this nonsense word for word, drinking the blood of my neighbors' grandchildren-- happy, happy.  God's blood, as the English used to swear, 'sblood, !como mi vida fue un gran placer en los dias pasados!-- what a great life I had in the old days.

Even in Europe, it was easy in those days to feed, that cardinal joy of the vampire night.  Black soaked with red... very Spanish, the vampire life.  The Spainard's Santissimo Salvador of the bleeding heart will understand us.  Even as his left hand gestures to send us all to Hell, he will know what our obsession was-- why I did all that I have done.  He is the Christ of gore, of conquest, the very sound of whose name rips silk and tears the soul to a bloody weeping.  That Jesu, that carpenter's son, wellspring of the great river of Christian blood-- he will understand the vampire who sent him the firstborn of a sister's unpunished murderer.

That he will send me straight to Hell if he ever gets his hands on me, I don't doubt.  To comprehend is not to pardon, or so the priests have always said.  --Though did not the good Christ himself spill his blood into a cup and order his best friends to drink?  There are, I discovered, vampires in old Palestine who believe he was one of us, and that he found a way to turn, to be mortal and live in the sun.  That the pain of the cross is some spell of his.

Does it matter?  I don't want to know.  I know I burn; as far as I'm concerned, that's sufficient information.  The trick for me is not to die.

So far, so good.

~ ~ ~

I only went as far as Tracy's roof, but she wouldn't know that.  I perched up there with my chin on my knees, arms wrapped around my legs, black hair, black clothes, a small chunk of barely perceptible vampire whose heart and mind were a wild, rioting chaos. I listened while the old lady levered herself upright off the couch, and walked three-footedly into her kitchen.  A human step, a human step, the cane... so slow.  She poured liquid.  She drank.  I heard her swallow, heard the small gurgle of her stomach receiving the liquid, heard her heart, heart with its finite number of beats left...heart she offered me.

Do I want to kill Tracy?  Do I want see her in death, lifeless, no spark, not just a question of waking up the unpleasantly inert old woman, but gone to where I will never go, and with my fang marks on her neck until the skin decays?  Or is destroyed...  do I want to worry about finding an incinerator, weighting the body down in water... whatever?  The body.

If Tracy is what I can kill-- what's left over?  The soul?  That thing she protected from me at the expense of loving and being loved?  That nothing?  I want the rest, the courage, the humor, the resilience, the desire to know... the desire.  I want the hair that dimmed to white forty years ago, the skin that dried out, puckered, and folded on itself.

I could kill her for getting old.  She didn't have to.

The bluntness of her:  "it's not my first choice."  For me, is her gift a gift?  A wound? I can say no.  I can leave.  I'll always wonder, but I won't have to know, and if I do it, I will have to always know. //Know the exact savor of that blood, that apricot and callalily river you ached to drink from.  Whose scent is fresh in your nostrils, just slid across your palate moments ago... //

The mere thought brought the fangs down again.  A little reality check there:  it doesn't matter what I figure out.  Unless I run right this minute, the vampire is going to have what it wants.  My immortal blood thirst is tired of the bottled, the bland, the dehydrated, flash dried... a live one.  A freebie.  When she even hinted at it not happening, the vampire jumped out to claim its own.

The blood of old women still runs hot.  It hits your mouth with the same savage burst of flavor and heat as any mortal's.  A different wine, but not a weak one.  It would be good.  It flares in your body and heats you like anyone else's. It would be so good.  Even so, there haven't been many old women in my last four centuries.  The ones there were, were suffering.  Some of them, managing to have awareness of me, were glad to have the death.  Others were delirious, comatose.

None of them offered to eat cinnamon for a week first.

It's Tracy.  And I will have to remember, for as long as I live. She won't:  she has the easy part, she just dies.

OK.  It's Tracy.  Whatever I can have, I want.

I went back down to ground level.  The waltz-time sound of her footsteps had trailed to the bedroom I'd been in before.  I went there.

"How do you get in?" she said a little grumpily.  She was sitting on the edge of her bed.  The liquid in the glass was straight Irish whiskey, and the glass was full.  She saw me looking at it, and smiled. "Mickey was a bit of a lush, and I got to like the stuff," she said.

She changed the subject.  "Did I hurt your feelings?  What was that about?"

I shook my head, and snorted.  "It's about stuff you've decided never to know.  That I think you should want to know."

She smiled.  "Oh, that stuff."  She shrugged her thin shoulders, slowly, carefully, not setting off the tender nerves in her back.  "A benefit of growing old, dear, is not needing to know everything."

"Old?" I said.

She smiled at the teasing irony in my voice.  "Old," she insisted. "Going to the end of a full arc of life."  She raised her eyebrows at me. "How far did you get?  Twenty, twenty-five?"

I shook my head slightly.  "Five hundred and fifty-three, Trace. Don't doubt it."

"Then you should know," she said.  We looked at each other, and then both let it go.  Her eyes blurred.  "Actually, sometimes it took a considerable effort to avoid learning something I didn't want to know. But that's an important skill for a mayor."

"Lady Mayoress," I said, and sat down next to her.

She smiled again.  "I was entitled to a stately procession, if I ever got to London on City business.  But I never did."  She looked at me. "You've probably seen real ones, haven't you... back then?"

//Oh, why not.// "I saw Queen Elizabeth once," I told her.  "Wearing a horrible red wig.  She was in a boat on the Thames, being rowed somewhere."

"Did you want to bite her?"  It made me laugh. //Mortals.//

"It crossed my mind," I admitted.  "Too many witnesses."  She looked at me, not sure whether to believe me.  I raised my eyebrows.  "We stay out of history.  Most of us, anyway.  Too dangerous."  //And then there's LaCroix.//   I grinned.  "Wellllll-- there is one of us-- I don't know exactly how many wars he started just for fun and smorgasboard, but... a lot, I think."

She nodded, serious and awestruck.  Then, delayed reaction, giggled a little.  Eighty-seven, and her giggle didn't sound stupid or artificial.  Just part of her.

Something in me snapped.

"Now, Tracy," I said, and slid over to her.  Her eyes went very wide.  "Okay," she whispered.  "Make sure, okay?  No mistakes."  I nodded, but my hands were on her, and the implacable hunger owned me.  Every minute I spend with her I want her more; bringing her across to have more of the easy, delicious, pleasure of her company, never mind the passion that her love might be, was going to be harder to resist with every word we said to each other.  My hands were running over the skin of her neck, into her hair, letting it down, feeling it slide over my palms and through my fingers.  Her eyes were huge, accepting, trusting even; mine were vampire.  I leaned in to kiss her, fangs out, drank in the smell of her living blood for the last time, kissed her mouth, kissed strong eyes that were now slightly shadowed with fear but not flinching and not closing. The lack of control was welcome, having the terrible hunger just carry me, because I could never have chosen a moment to strike.

It happened.  She flowed into me like a great river; her heart and my need felt each other, the hunger reaching through her to find and drink in the whole life-- oh god bliss oh god-- fruit in her veins, like flowers in a fire... She didn't make a sound until just at the end; just a little moan and a gasp that might have been "bye," like an afterthought.

Why didn't I say I loved her?  Why didn't she say it to me?

You can't get it all... there's a little.  The hunger let go of me.  I was holding the frail cage of bones in my arms, and Tracy was, to all mortal eyes, dead.

To mine...  My body, full of her mortal blood that it had ached for, so many years ago, was screaming "Do it!"  So easy to open your wrist, drip the new life into her throat.  Her neck, her scrawny small neck with the two puncture wounds, and the blue eyes wide open, the pupils widening even now, black swallowing the blue, color of my sky swallowing the color of hers....

~ ~ ~

My first teacher in the mortal lesson was Constanza Maria Inocencia Albaranar y Diaz, called "Almacita" in her family.  At fifteen, she was an exquisite, smallboned girl blessed with black-as-midnight hair, flashing dark eyes, a flashing smile, a modest shy surface above a passionate heart.  She gave me her first kiss, virgin child of a minor hidalgo family whose other members would never have given a Vachon a decent word.  Her nickname meant "little soul," and she seemed like one, delicate as the lace at her neck.  I meant to enjoy her, and then deprive them of her company, taking her purity into myself.

All through one sweet summer of warm nights, I sang to her, married her scent in my mind with the fragrance of the orange grove that was blooming into the evening.  I hunted many miles away, so not even rumors would begin about the stranger in the village, except those of his exotic sickness.  I even took care to be seen eating and drinking, and endured the pain these foods caused my body. And then, come the fall, at the last moment, I ran away from my plan.  I left the little soul alive, left Spain for France, carrying my hunger far enough away to save her from the weak moment I knew would come.

Twenty years later, just twenty years, I went back to Granada thinking to find a mature, passionate lover who might wish to live in my night-- and found a shrew gone in the teeth, a woman whose children shrilled and shrieked at her, whose husband whored with village girls every night.  Her flesh was pasty and lumpy, her face pinched or blank, her passion soured into anger.  Almacita was long dead.  She had become one of those who recite the sayings of their mothers...

One lesson didn't do it for me.  Change the name, I did it again.  And again.  Old World, New World.  Men I liked to play cards with, chase girls with, make music with.  Women I adored.  Go back a couple decades later, you're going to find them dead inside.  Or hurt by all the failings:  a childbed turned to raging infection and screaming death, a wagon accident that broke the lower half of the body, betrayals, divorces, bankruptcies.... broken bodies, hearts, spirits; broken hopes, desires that were fulfilled and proved to be miseries.  It makes you feel like there's really no point in leaving them alive.

And you could never tell them that.

I can't look some girl in the eye and say:  let me take you now, while you're beautiful and strong and full of pleasure, because you're about to be racked by the teeth of the vampire Time.  Take the word of another, lesser vampire:  my way is kinder.

To Tracy Vetter I offered the other thing, not death, but unlife.  She wouldn't take it.  Damn her for it.

Damn her for still being in Toronto, for having a granddaughter so much like her it twisted my heart just to look at the girl.  Damn the child for having a different name, so that there was no warning.

Damn Tracy for her happy life.  For saying: try to become mortal, Vachon.  This is better, pain and all, this is better.  Take the word of a mortal who loved you.

Damn Tracy for making me happy like this.  For pouring her life into mine at last, giving me the mortal death I had wanted from her so many years ago.  Giving me the ecstasy that sates the red hunger, her heart that came into me, joined my life -- damn her for refusing to let me give a life back.

I had her in my hands...

One hand's thumb and fingers moved opposite each other in a motion I was shown five centuries ago, and Tracy's neck was snapped.  No vampire. //'No mistakes, okay?'  Okay.// So she had said she loved me.  And I was saying it back...

The irises had slackened so the pupils almost engulfed them, just a thin china-blue ring around the dark open eyes of death.  No more Tracy. Travelling to whatever she believed in... it just looked like gone to me. It made me angry with her one last time, and I hugged the bony body against mine, feeling its heat beginning to fade, so much of it already swallowed into me that for these few minutes we had almost the same warmth, were almost alike.

 //Both dead,// I thought bitterly.  //A curse on you Tracy for pulling me so far into your world of the living.  A curse on you for not leaving me happy in my night.// I was rocking her a little, as I've seen mortals do with dead loved ones many thousands of times.  I think I was feeling something like what they feel... who knows.  It's been more than five hundred years since I was one of them.  Whispering to her, "why did you have to leave me?  Why wouldn't you stay?"

The rest... it's a pretense, a mask, an acting job whose lines change with the argot of every generation so I'll still fit, still pass... blink, the phrase is "milady rabbited," blink it's "she took French leave," blink it's "she gave him the air," blink and it's "I totally blew him off."

"The deal went south..." Only in movies do the same people say the same things over and over.  In my world, the same people learn to say different things-- for their own safety. "Where's the black bird now?" Bogie's dialogue.

I realized why that came into my mind.  I set Tracy's body aside and went over to her computer.  Fortunately, she hadn't voice-locked it. Once it activated, I fed it a disk and recited the commands I'd heard her give a year and a half ago.  And pulled it out -- her one relic of me, the video image of us acting for a stupid television program whose producer, it turned out, was trying to have Tracy killed.  It was the only evidence in her life that I had ever been there.  Once downloaded, I erased it.

I probably should have destroyed the whole system, to be properly cautious, but I couldn't bring myself to make more than the minimum of wreckage.  Even if they found the erasure and brought the file back up while trying to unravel the mystery of her disappearance, they'd think she just kept it from vanity.  They wouldn't look for Javier Vachon.  They certainly wouldn't look for a Javier Vachon who looked exactly as he did in a film from 1995.

I put the disk in a back pocket, and picked the body up again.  It weighs  almost nothing...  I looked at the eyes.  Mortals like to close each other's  eyes in death; they hate the look of it; they fear it so badly.  That's right, you're gone.  Just gone.

It rattles their religion, looking at each other dead.  We go to ash, a neater end. And I'm not afraid of the blackness in dead mortal eyes.  I didn't close Tracy's eyes.  This is her death, the last thing.  She gave it to me.  The eyes are just part of it.

One more thing.  Where?  In Toronto, pretty easy, the Lake and a rock...  Not Tracy! my heart screamed.  And I sat down, cradled the body, and sighed.  "You're going to make it hard for me to the very end, aren't you?" I whispered to her.

I took her north.  A few centuries ago, I knew these woods from the ground, knew the man-trails that had been beaten wide from deer trails.  I hunted here, took my fill of French and English soldiers and it didn't make a damn's worth of difference to history.  Who's still here? The French and English.  Who's gone?  All the tribes...

Who's still here?  The vampire.

I made Tracy a rock cairn in a place so remote it shouldn't get found.  Breaking our laws again... because if it does get found, in time for someone to examine the marks on her neck, I have a date with the Enforcers.  Symmetry.  I should have killed her the night we met.  //So the night you killed her...//

It also meant a day in the ground, no time to get back to Toronto before sunrise.  Digging in, as I had on my very first morning, as I did so often during years in the woods, appearing at the campfires only at night and welcomed as something strange, not human, but a proper part of the night world, a life I never had in Europe.

I floated up to the treetops before I went into the ground, just wanting to get the lie of the land, make sure there were no cabins or power cables that I had missed before.  Nothing that would bring men anywhere near.  Nothing that would let someone get interested in two fresh graves...  No. Nothing.  Just stars, trees, mountains, achingly beautiful.

It hit me, hovering:  why hadn't I shown her this?  She even mentioned it last year: "you never took me flying."  Tonight, why hadn't I thought of it?  After hundreds of years, why couldn't I think to offer this woman who marked me so strongly the one pleasure she would have accepted from me?

I started weeping then.  No sobs, just tear after tear pouring out of my eyes, tears tinged with Tracy's lovely fresh blood that even now was heating me, vampire body swelling with its strength like a flower opening its bud under spring sun.  Her blood w as great.  It was a real gift.  I was crying like a child, no, like a man, as if grief were my work and I was going to do it well.

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