Seeing the sunrise after the longest night of the year used to bring a sense of hope to York. It was a promise that no matter how long the darkness lasted light did again return. A promise he used to cling to and believe in. Hope felt too thin in recent years, even if he saw it in the eyes of his coven mates, it never seemed to touch him any longer.
He stayed, past the sunrise, to break his fast with them. They were friends, some old, some new but friends. Friends he hadn’t told the entire truth to, even if the high priestess stared at him sometimes with a look of knowing behind her dark eyes, nothing was ever said. The closest they’d come was when the high priest had taken him aside, once many years before, and offered to step aside. The man was trained enough, gifted enough, to know that York was stronger and further along the path.
Leading even a coven of friends, held no interest for York. He’d comforted the man and refused the title without denying the properness of the offer. Since that point, his place in the coven had been solidly, if not officially, as the elder, the one even the leaders turned to for advice. It wasn’t a position he was entirely comfortable with, even after so many years.
York bided his time and stayed silent. The years slipped away and white gradually was appearing in hair once dark as smile lines crept onto the faces of his friends and York remained unchanged. Every year, every time the night gave way to dawn and returned for another turning of the wheel, some small bit of hope dimmed in York. It left him torn between gratitude for the friendships he’d found and the hollow melancholy of all that he’d lost.
None of it mattered, they were used to him being more silent than talkative and as they shared tofu bacon and whole grain toast the group warmed him. By the time he’d finished his second mug of organically grown and fair trade coffee, some of the emptiness had burned off and he was smiling at their jokes and stories. Some of that softening must have touched his eyes because the group around him responded.
“So, how about it, Chene? You and that fellow of yours consider kids?” Willow, a woman with wide hips and strong shoulders tossed out, poking York in the shoulder as she went by.
He winced a little but hid it. “My fellow? He’s almost like a child himself. If he ever grows up, maybe we’ll consider it.” He smiled softly but that was about as much speaking of his personal life as he ever did.
“You’d make an excellent father,” the high priest, Hawthorn, added.
“Shows what you know.” He teased back. He was tired and the coffee was only making him jittery and both were combining to thicken his accent. If he wasn’t careful he’d be speaking in French and be too tired to notice. “I should go.” He announced, downing the last swallows of coffee and standing. If there were ever a morning that could make him say too much, this would be the morning. The only option was to retreat.
“Very well.” Hawthorn nodded and rose to embrace his friend. They’d long since learned not to debate or fuss with their Chene.
Hugs and kisses were exchanged along with promises for the next full moon. York snagged his long wool coat and hurried out into the snow. The sunlight was almost blindingly bright, bouncing from so much white. He squinted against its glow and hurried the four blocks to the subway entrance. Things were easier from there, no one looked twice at anyone on public transportation. He hopped the train that would carry him from the quiet single-family-home neighborhood back into the more industrial and dirty city and back home.
Normally, he tried to be away from the loft less than a day. Macy tended to get into trouble when left alone too long. Once, he came home to an orgy. A couple dozen men and women he didn’t know had all been naked and writhing about and he’d found Macy in the center of it all like some perverse ringmaster. Another time he’d returned to find the kitchen burned and blackened. He’d never gotten an explanation for that one, something about an experiment that had gotten out of hand. The oddest had been the time he’d returned to find marshmallows leading to the bathroom where he’d found their soaking tub half filled with the same. Large and small, but all white, the tub had become a springy sweet mess. He’d found Macy naked playing in them and that mess had been forgivable because the sex had been outstanding.
So he braced himself for anything when he reached their warehouse. The neighborhood had mostly been industrial when they’d bought the building but now it was almost entirely high-end apartments. They could have put the building on the market tomorrow and made ten times what they’d paid for it but they held onto it because Macy liked the space. No amount of logic or pointing out that two thirds of that space sat empty worked to change his mind.
York typed in the key code that unlocked the main door, which led to the industrial elevator and another keypad that took a different key code. The lift stopped and he pulled the heavy doors open, braced for the worst that he might find. From the elevator he had a good view of most of the loft, the space was open with the kitchen to the left and a sprawling living area lined on one side with tall windows and on the rest with bookcases.
There were no naked people. No signs of fire either and York started to slowly unwind from the fear of the unknown. As he stepped from the elevator and pulled the doors shut behind him he almost smiled. There weren’t even any odd smells in the air, not of perfume or smoke or the sweet smell of candy, he spotted no hookah pipes or bongs or other odd instruments of drug use. The apartment looked just as he’d left it.
Maybe, just this once, Macy hadn’t caused trouble while he was out. Maybe, instead of some odd scene that his mind never would have thought up, this time he’d find Macy quietly reading. He tried to picture Macy sitting quietly, reading, and failed. Maybe he was asleep already, curled up in their bed, the covers warmed around him. That would be a real treat, to come home and just be able to slip into bed, snuggle close and fall asleep.
He slipped out of his coat and hung it on one of the empty hooks set into a length of old wood that they’d placed by the door for that reason. Of course, Macy’s coat wasn’t hanging there, it was most likely tossed over a chair or dropped on the floor. Even without the coat, there was no doubt the man was home, York could sense the vampire and Macy was there.
On the off chance that Macy was in bed, hopefully asleep, he walked lightly to the spiral wrought iron staircase that led up to the second floor that covered about half the space they’d remodeled into a livable apartment. It gave the primary living room a cozy feel yet still left most of the space with two story tall ceilings and plenty of airy space. Even on the iron steps he made as little noise as possible because it appeared the second floor curtains had been pulled which was a good sign that Macy was asleep.
The curtains had been a necessity. Not so much for Macy because once the man got to sleep he slept like the dead but for York who had spent too many years waking up with the sun to suit the lazy sleep in life Macy preferred. They’d installed thick heavy curtains along the wall of tall windows which dimmed even the brightest summer sunshine down to a hazy glow but that still crept in and woke him up.
The next layer of defense was a line of curtains they pulled across the open railing that looked down onto the living space below. Macy’s habit of sometimes going several days without sleep and watching cartoons at all hours of the day or night while restlessly waiting for sleep to catch up made those curtains necessary. It also kept the light from the rest of the loft’s windows from creeping in.
When that hadn’t proven strong enough to hold back York’s stubborn habit to wake at the first rays of light, they’d installed a third set of curtains, this time, directly around their bed. They’d actually had the bed made curtained off, with a wood ceiling peaked over the four, thick posts. The bed was huge and could sleep six easily, four if they tossed and turned, or eight if they were real snuggly. There had been occasion since they’d had the bed built for needing that much space. With the curtains pulled around the bed, inside felt like another world.
As the spiral staircase carried York up onto the second floor, it was obvious the curtains at the window were pulled closed but the other two sets were still open. Which still didn’t rule out Macy being in bed and it wasn’t until he took the last step up and was fully on the second floor that he saw what surprise awaited him this time.
Clothing lay scattered about the open floor, York instantly spotted Macy’s leather pants, tossed over the back of a chair. On the floor near by was his black latex shirt, turned inside out from having been quickly pulled off. In the center of the room were his favorite boots, kicked off and left to fall and socks too lay like limp feet beside them. The coat Macy was wearing this winter dropped by the door to their bathroom.
None of it was unusual, even when they went out together Macy had this habit of dropping everything when he got home. Like a dog shaking off water, his clothing just seemed to splatter everywhere and it was a habit York had long outgrown being annoyed at. Only this time, it wasn’t just Macy’s clothes. Near the stairs sat a cheap nylon backpack and dropped around and amid Macy’s clothing were items that didn’t belong to either man. A thin jean jacket, a cheap baggy pair of pants, an old worn t-shirt, ratty sneakers all lay wherever they’d fallen.
The owners of lost clothing were right where he expected to find them, on the bed. Macy sat at the foot, long, pale legs folded in front of him in a show of flexibility that would make most yogis flinch. He wasn’t naked but instead stripped down to a pair of yellow flannel boxer shorts with black smiley faces printed all over.
“Welcome back!” He announced cheerfully but his eyes stayed on the other occupant of the bed. “Have a good ritual thingy? Chant and fuck and whatever it is you do?”
“Macy…” York started, not really surprised or upset that the other man had found someone to sleep with while he’d been gone but surprised that he’d speak so loudly and risk waking his lover. Only, as York got closer he saw how young the man in the bed looked, barely older than a boy and the bruises on his face. “Jesus Mace! I’m gone for one day and you bring some beaten kiddie whore home to bed?”
Macy swung around to let his legs dangle from the edge of the bed. “What?” He asked innocently. “I was horny and he’s tasty.”
York drew a long slow breath, ran a hand across his eyes and tried to push aside what short temperedness was from exhaustion. The hand ran up over his head and the extremely short hair that was growing out from when he’d shaved it bald a while ago. When he thought he could move without going into a screaming fit he started forward and began gathering up the scattered clothing.
“God, look at these clothes! I bet he has lice.”
“No one has lice anymore.” Macy teased, watching York fuss and waiting for him to explode.
“Okay, maybe not but crabs! If he gave you crabs I’m not taking care of it and you sure as hell aren’t touching me until you’re clean.” He crouched down to gather up the dropped latex shirt. When he stood up Macy’s arms wrapped around him, the man had climbed from the bed and across to embrace him without making a sound.
Macy nuzzled the side of York’s neck. “I didn’t fuck him.” He purred and just so gently rubbed his half aroused, flannel covered length against the ass of York’s jeans. “Was waiting for you.”
He wasn’t going to give in that easily but neither was he willing to pull away from those strong arms. “Why is there a teenage whore who’s been beaten half to death bleeding in our bed?”
“He’s not bleeding, silly. I cleaned his wounds.” Macy demonstrated by licking the back of York’s ear.
“Why is there a teenage whore who’s been beaten half to death in our bed?”
“I was horny.” Macy repeated and rubbed himself against his lover again.
All that did was annoy York as much as arouse him. He snorted and pulled from arms that could have stopped him if they’d wanted to and continued gathering dirty clothes. “When aren’t you?”
Macy actually tilted his head a little and thought about it. “Good point, but you weren’t here and the loft was so empty.” He whined.
That stopped York where he was folding the leather pants to hang them back up. “You were lonely.”
That earned a small shrug of a pale shoulder. “Horny.”
But York knew better and it was really kind of sweet when he thought about it. “Okay, horny, so you tarted yourself up and went out.”
“Yeah but it was all lame posers, got bored and went to walk in the snow. Saw a couple of guys beating the snot out of that kid but they…”
York held up a hand. “Don’t care, just skip to the part where your brain went on vacation and you brought him here.”
All teasing jest disappeared from the vampire. “He’s tasty, York, really, really tasty, like you but a different flavor. I’ve never tasted anything like him. I was going to take him to the hospital, dump him off, but I need to know what he is.”
York turned and slid a free hand to the back of his lover’s neck and pulled him in for a quick kiss. “That makes more sense.” He broke the kiss and picked up the last of the kid’s clothing. They were worn, dirty, bloodstained and showed signs of being torn. “Let me take a piss and I’ll see about healing him.”
A bright smile landed on Macy’s face. “I’ll make tea!” He hurried off to the stairs; happy faces bouncing on his ass as he went.
York just sighed and shook his head before heading to the bathroom to empty his bladder and splash cold water on his face.
He made it back to the bed before Macy returned with tea and it gave him a chance to look the boy over without his mercurial lover. The kid wasn’t bad looking, in a young, poorly fed way. Under the bruises his skin had a light olive tone but the hair that fell against the pillow in twisted drying tendrils was brown with golden tones in it. A small cleft split his chin and his eyes looked a little small, narrow but he had one of those faces that the boy would grow into and be a solidly handsome man.
Macy had stripped the kid, which given how wet his clothes still were, was a really sensible idea. More then that, his lover had wrapped the kid in one of their old sheets so he could be tucked into the warm bed without the risk of him bleeding on or dirtying up their good sheets. It was a small sign that Macy wasn’t quite the twit he often acted. The boy’s wounds appeared mostly to be bruises and blunt damage with only a few that had split the skin open and those were sealed up and healing. What worried York the most was the damage to the kid’s head, when he pried an eyelid open the pupils were uneven.
“I did that too.” Macy held the tea out. “Hasn’t woken up yet.”
“Not surprising with this head wound. Hospital wouldn’t have been able to do much.”
“But you can fix him, right?”
York shook his head. “Yeah, I can.” He took a sip of the honey-sweetened, green tea before setting it aside on the night stand and sitting down next to the unconscious boy. He reached out with the thin tendril of power and brushed it against the other’s energy. “Huh.”
“Huh?” Macy asked back, crawling onto the bed with his own mug of tea. “What the hell does that mean?”
“Means he’s odd.” He stroked out with a touch more strength and saw violet. York blinked his eyes and shook his head to clear the sharp flash. “Very odd.”
“Wake him up so I can ask what he is!”
“Shut up and let me work!” He snapped back but without any real anger. He was almost as curious as Macy was and didn’t want to delay longer. With a slow indrawn breath he dropped his mind down to the level he needed, a skill that had taken a lifetime to learn and now was as easy as snapping his fingers. He reached out and gently laid a hand on the boy’s forehead. When that produced nothing remarkable, York gently settled his other hand on the boy’s belly.
Healing was a complicated spell but one he’d had too much practice with. He’d always been good at it, skilled in it’s art, but it required both the will to focus and the courage to surrender. Not everyone could be healed or should be and it being a healer meant letting go and becoming merely a focus for the power.
As soon as the power touched them, joined them, York had no doubt the boy would heal. He was strong, stubborn and a fighter. He didn’t want to be hurt or die and his body latched onto the offered support like a pit bull. It sucked his breath away, pulled him in and consumed all York offered. He lost all sense of time or self and merely flowed, feeling pain subside, tissues heal, damage retreat below his hands. It was humbling and yet at the same time made him feel powerful, made him feel like he could do anything.
The power began to retreat, the boy’s body had absorbed as much of the spell as it needed or could and it was time to back away. Only, as York was withdrawing, he saw something. At first glance, it looked like a knot work of energy, tied up with the kid but as he pulled closer the knot work took on an almost faceted jewel look. He’d never seen anything just like it but he’d seen something horribly similar.
Curiosity got the better of him and even though he knew far better than to poke at something he didn’t know or understand, he poked anyway. It was just the smallest of nudges, a tap on the tense node of energy and for a second nothing happened. A soft whisper was returned and York felt it wash over him, felt it identify him as the same person that had offered the healing. Just as softly as it had touched him, it retreated. York was baffled but figured there was time to learn more, later, like after a good long nap.
Only as he was retreating that soft whisper returned. There was a moment, a single second when York could have refused it but he saw and sensed no malice in the touch. On a whim, he allowed the contact. The touch this time wasn’t a gentle tap or a soft request for identification, it engulfed him. It was like suddenly being dropped into frigid cold water, water so cold that it felt like knives.
York struggled, fought, but may as well have been helpless. The ice solidified around him and shattered, turned to gentle flakes of snow that seared as they landed; seared and burned and burst into flames, sizzling the cold away and burning. That’s when York understood and saw, it was all just raw, pure, unfocused energy. Strength like he’d only felt or seen a handful of times in his life was knotted into the scrawny, dirty boy.
Once he understood, he stopped fighting. It was a gift, the boy, unconsciously, was offering him repayment. There was no fighting that, not without hurting the one he’d just healed. The energy was undirected and blank, unfocused and simply offered for him to absorb into his own person. Which York tried to do; however the sheer, raw amount offered was too much. He felt like a flashlight that had its nice, simple C batteries removed only to be plugged into a live 220 wire. His last solid thought as the power swept him away, was that this was going to hurt.