This story was originally printed in CODE 7, VOLUME II, published by Bound in Leather Press in 1982. All 4 Code 7 zines are available again through Agent With Style. Her web page is: http://www.agentwithstyle.com, or you can email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Special thanks to Daphne G. for translating this story to an electronic format.
Terri Beckett author with Chris Power of TRIBUTE TRAIL—see www.speculationpress.com for details! Comments about this story can be sent to: kmankatz@CandW.ky
It's not easy, being a cop. Especially when you're a cop with certain . . . tendencies, say. I knew all that when I joined up - but I figured then that I could cope. After all, what I was wasn't my choice - it was something I was stuck with, like the color of my eyes. And I'd learned early not to give myself away. We have to learn that if we're going to survive. More than most people, we live a lie of concealment.
I got through childhood without realizing how different I was. It didn't really hit me until I was in my teens - right after my bar mitzvah. I think I was fourteen when I made my first connection. It scared the hell out of me, too - I didn't know what was wrong with me, what kind of perversion this was, what kind of unnatural monster I was . . . The whole route. I tried to ignore what I felt, tried to ignore the craving, the need that grew with every passing day of abstinence. In the end I got sick, which was inevitable. The doctor thought it was shock over Poppa's death, and said I was anemic. Which I was, but not in the way they thought. Anyhow, they said maybe a change of scene would help, which was why I was sent out to LA. My uncle's invitation. It was Uncle Al who guessed what was really wrong with me, and explained it all . . . because I was like him. It's not exactly a hereditary thing - in fact, it's pretty rare to have two in one family - so I was lucky to have a relative for my mentor.
Anyhow, he took me under his wing, so to speak. Warned me about the dangers - the persecution our kind have had to endure down the centuries. Taught me the things I'd need to know. He even took me with him a few times when he went cruising. I thought I'd be in the way, but I guess having a kid with him acted as a kind of camouflage. I learned a lot on those trips. Had my first proper taste of the real thing, too, courtesy of a guy who kept my uncle supplied. Aunt Rosie thought we went fishing. She didn't know, not being one of us, and he never told her - never used her that way. It went against the unwritten code of our kind. Family are taboo. Not only blood-kin, but close friends, lovers, mates - all share that immunity.
And that code is the root of the problem. My problem.
The army gave me plenty of scope. More than I could handle, in fact, though of course I wasn't the only one. There are ways we have of identifying each other. But although the army had a lot to offer as a career, and many of our kind chose it for that reason, it wasn't what I wanted. That was already decided, and had been for a long time. I was going to be a cop, like my dad. Uncle Al tried to talk me out of it. The chances of discovery - and the consequences - were horrifying, he said. I didn't care. I'd thought it through, and it was still what I wanted to do.
It still is, in spite of everything. It worked out fine - except for one thing. It happened during the Academy training. The Perfect Throat. And B-negative blood. I suppose everyone has their fantasies, but I never knew what mine were until the reality was there in front of me. His name was Kenneth Hutchinson. Hutch. My friend - dammit, my best friend - and eventually, my partner.
I fought it. I had to. He wasn't for me - it went against all the rules. But if I couldn't have him, I didn't want anyone. The old tricks - sublimation, the secret cruising when the urge got too bad, the quickies in some dark back alley, both my pick-up and myself anonymous - they weren't enough. I dreamed of him, of what he'd be like - and I knew that finally I'd have to tell him.
It isn't the easiest thing to confess. I'd never talked about it before except with Uncle Al - it's not a subject for casual conversation - and I just didn't know where to start. Or how to start.
There are a lot of misconceptions about us - some of them we've started ourselves, for our own protection. Some are folklore - and some are the kind of sensationalist lies that the media spread around. We've had a lot of publicity, not all of it bad, and quite a few real good PR men. Amazing what people will believe if you just put it to them the right way. The business with the mirrors, for example. I mean, that's just dumb when you think about it. How the hell would we manage to shave?
Sorry. I was talking about Hutch. I knew he didn't suspect anything, because he doesn't have a superstitious bone in his body. Even when we ran into that psycho-killer, Rene Nadasy, he never turned a hair. Made fun of me when I bought all that "protection" - he wasn't to know that garlic has no effect, or crosses. Or that it wasn't my neck I was worried about. But Nadasy wasn't a rogue, which was what I was scared of - just another crazy. Hutch never thought otherwise, and I wasn't about to disillusion him. Not yet. But it was killing me, being with him all day and most of the night - 75% of the time, like he said to me once.
I wasn't rowing with both oars; I even tried to go cold turkey, kick the habit, but the need drove me back to the streets. I guess the strain started to show even before that business with the plague. I knew I was safe enough - diseases like that can't hurt us - but he was mortal. Even now, I don't like thinking about it. I nearly lost him. It came home to me just what he meant to me, and in a weird kind of way that was more of a shock than the blood-lust. I loved the guy. All right, I was in love with him. We got feelings, too, you know.
We were sitting in his apartment, the night after we saw Judith off at LAX, celebrating his recovery with a few beers. He was still talking about the Russian village where they live to be a hundred and fifty or something like that - and I knew this was my chance to tell him . . .
"You really wanna live to be that old?" I said, trying for casual.
"Oh, c'mon, Starsk." He smiled at me, opening another can. "No one wants to die, right? Not when there's a choice. It's just most people don't get a choice."
Well, I never got a choice, either. But I could give him one.
"Hutch -" But the words stuck in my throat. I couldn't say it, not straight out. He'd never believe me. He'd laugh.
Oh, shit. I'd come this far . . . So he'd laugh. So what?
"You can outlive all those old prunes in wherever it is, you know."
He looked at me, and he didn't laugh, just smiled, gently. "Sure, babe. We're gonna live forever, right?" The note of sadness in that soft voice made me flinch because it had come so close, this last time. I couldn't stand for it to happen again. "Starsk - I think we're both drunk. Maybe we'd better call it a night."
I can't hold my liquor. None of us can. Some kind of metabolic imbalance, I guess. Usually I know when I've had enough and I quit - but not this time. Before I knew what I was doing, I'd said it.
"Vampires can live four, five hundred years, Hutch, unless some public-spirited citizen kills 'em first."
He blinked. Twice. Then grinned.
"Oh, get serious, willya?"
"'S true," I said, willing him to sober up enough to understand. The grin widened and he started to chuckle, head thrown back, throat - that beautiful throat - bared. I felt the need stir in me and swallowed, hard. "Hutch, I know."
"Wha'?" He was still giggling. "Ah, Starsk - thas silly . . ."
"What's silly about it?"
"Vampires're a - a myth. Don't really exist. C'mon, who're you tryin' t'kid? Huh?"
"I'm not joking." I kept my voice level, though I don't know how. "You gonna ask how I know, partner?"
He looked at me with his head tilted slightly, like he was trying to figure was I drunk or raving or what. Then, "'Kay. You tell me how you know."
Moment of truth.
"Because that's what I am."
He'd been half-expecting that, I guess, because he grinned and started giggling again. But it must have gotten through to him that I wasn't laughing.
"You mean . . . you're not kidding, are you?" His eyes were fixed on my face. "You're - you are a . . ."
"Jesus H. Christ." A pause. Then, "You mean you -"
"Uh -" He looked at his beer can, started to take a drink, changed his mind - he didn't know quite how to take this, that was for sure. "Starsk - this doesn't figure, you know? All the stories -"
"Just that, babe. Stories. We started most of 'em ourselves, for camouflage. Or we'd never have survived." He was still reeling mentally - I started trying to explain, hoping he wasn't too stunned to take it in. "We're not that different, Hutch. It could be a genetic thing - like a mutation - no one is sure. What causes the XYY syndrome? Or hemophilia? Yeah, if you discount the heredity factor, it's not a lot different from that. We need other people's blood to stay alive, too."
"How do you . . . get it?"
"There are suppliers." I shrugged. "They sell it to blood banks, don't they? Well, some of them sell to us, though they may not realize it. No different, as far as they're concerned. We pay premium rates."
"No, I mean - do you actually . . ."
"Bite?" I closed my eyes, swamped by need. It had been days . . . I knew how it would be: the smooth warmth of his skin against my lips, the living pulse beating so close to the surface . . . sweet resistance of flesh, my teeth piercing for the rich wine of his blood to feed my strength, renew my life . . .
"Starsk?" A hand touched mine where it was clenched on my thigh. I opened my eyes. He was on his knees in front of me. "You don't have to say any more, babe. You should have told me before, y'know? We're partners. Friends. And you've been taking this - need - to strangers. You should have told me."
"Hutch . . ." My throat felt thick, constricted.
"Partners, Starsk. Aren't we?"
"That's why I couldn't - can't - We don't, Hutch. Not someone we - care about."
"Why not? Does it do any harm? I wouldn't die of it, would I?"
"No - but once I had you, I wouldn't want anyone else. And you'd get to be like me. It's not reversible. You'd be a vampire, too."
His hands still lay on mine, his eyes steady on my face.
"No big deal," he said softly. "You'd do the same for me."
Would I! Hell, I'd give him my heart's blood, to the last drop!
He loosened his collar. "Will it hurt?"
"I won't even leave a hickey," I promised, trying to lighten up, to get control, because I was shaking like it was my first time. I wanted him so bad I ached, but I wanted to make it good for him, as good as I knew how.
He slipped so naturally into my arms, as if we belonged together. The two little moles on his neck were like guides - I teased them lightly with my tongue, nibbling, making myself wait, prolonging the tingle of growing anticipation - this was no back-alley quickie . . .
"Don't tease, Starsk." His voice was husky, breathing quickened. "Do it, huh? Please?"
My teeth met the delicious yielding crispness of his right carotid artery, the blood leaping to answer my hunger - warm, velvety, salt-sweet, better than I'd ever dared imagine.
I never understood before how it felt to want to drain a supplier, a donor, completely - it's only the rogues who do that, and give the rest of us a bad name - but with Hutch I felt that desire for the first time. I wanted all of him, everything. I wasn't that much of a fool, though. I took just enough to ease the craving, but when I raised my head, licking the flavor from my lips, he didn't move for a moment.
"Hutch?" I said cautiously. This would be the hard part - the disgust, revulsion, horror . . .
He looked at me, eyes heavy-lidded and drowsy. Smiling. "Does this mean I'm a vampire, too?"
"Not yet." I found I could smile back. "Soon. If we -"
"We will. When will I know?"
"Oh, you'll know."
He grinned, and I noticed how prominent his canines were. He was going to be a natural.
"Good. Because I want to return the favor."
The way he said that sent a shiver running through me. I'd never felt that way before, either - never wanted to be bitten in return, to feel strong teeth in my throat, the exquisite draining rush . . . His fingers drifted across my lips, down my neck, around to twine in the hair at my nape, and he was pulling me close, his mouth on mine, and I was tasting him in a different way.
Guess I ought to explain that although the bite of a vampire is supposed to have sexual connotations, I'd never gotten my rocks off biting a girl. Oh, sure, I've bitten plenty of them, but I've been careful to keep the two things - food and sex - strictly separated. The old taboo again - I only sleep with girls I care about, and that makes them off-limits.
Only I'd broken one taboo already with Hutch, and the way things were going I was going to break another one pretty damn soon.
By the time I broke that kiss, we were on the floor and he'd managed to get rid of most of our clothes, which was a neat trick because I hadn't even noticed. I pulled back far enough to get my breath - maybe an inch - said, "What are you doing, babe?"
Which was really a dumb thing to say under the circumstances. He stroked his hand up the inside of my thigh and said softly, "Making love to you, Starsk."
It sure was a day for surprises.
"Hutch," I said, gazing up into summer-blue eyes that smiled dreamily down at me, "you tryin' to tell me you're gay?"
"Not trying, Starsk." Those clever fingers were exploring, caressing, probing. I moaned something incoherent. Heard him chuckle, fluttering against my belly as he bent his head. "Gonna show you. There's more than one kind of impalement . . ."
I was having trouble breathing, let alone speaking.
"But - you never told me -"
"We all have our secrets, partner."
Don't we just.
Oh, wow . . .