Emil was in love. Or thought he was.
I had been the first to take his virginity, the first to whom he gave himself. Now, I held his love in my hand, freely given me.
This one was enough to make a Slovene with German blood and Austrian titles roll his eyes and wish he still hibernated behind the face of a mountain on the Austrian-Slovene border.
Emil was a fine specimen of German, French, and Italian miscegenation. Definitely a fine specimen -- with intelligence, both latent and trained. And he couldn't wait to have me alone so he could bend over and have me in him.
I could do far worse than Emil Paulik. Logically, I understood that. I had no commitment to anyone living, not that anyone would understand. I had identification, and Europe was again my playground. The world was. I should forget Sergei and accept what Emil so freely offered me. I could do no better.
But the incoherent whisperings of Sergei's soul were my constant companion as November lengthened towards December. When I found my Grand Duke and held him in my arms, fully aware of our past, I would have that past as well as the present and the future. Emil would never be able to offer me that. He began now, while Sergei Alexandrovitch carried most of my past with him.
"Josefina grows suspicious, Karli," he told me as he traced the curvature of my lips with his fingertip.
"Do you still sleep with her?" I asked without realising the Pandora's box I was opening.
"Not much. Perhaps once a week."
I opened my eyes and gazed admiringly at this man who would ride me until the four horsemen rode if I permitted it.
"She forces me..." He smiled wryly. "She finds ways of catching me unawares. I surrender to her so there are less arguments."
"Gott im Himmel!" I grunted.
"It's only you I want, Karli."
I suddenly recognised the control over me he had come to exert through non-resistance. I sought to make light of my realisation. "And my five hundred francs a week."
I knew immediately I shouldn't have said it. What was barely more than a jest to me were an insult to him when it came to the agreement between us.
His face slackened as if I had struck him with my fist. His hand fell from me as he began to turn away from me.
"Emi..." I tried before he turned his back to me.
"Emil!" I called as he sat up and began to shove himself off the bed. I reached out to him, having to use my supernatural speed to reach his arm before he could move away.
"Let me go." He turned back to me, his eyes dead when they met mine. "Please, sir."
Scheiße und Blut! I had used much the same line with a lad in Paris a hundred years ago and he thought it was funny. Mistresses of whatever gender had certainly changed in the past century.
"I didn't mean to hurt you," I told him and continued to hold his arm. I saw the tears glinting in his eyes. "I was attempting to be humorous," I offered in explanation. "Obviously, my joke fell flat."
"Under a fully loaded lorry," he mumbled.
"Will you forgive me?"
His eyes still seemed dead, but he studied my face in the near dark of the bedroom. "I need the money, Karl. I have to keep up the rent on my flat." A tight, fearful smile crossed his lips and disappeared. "Unless you're willing to let me move in with you."
My heart shuddered. My eyes blinked.
Move in here? Live with me? See me avoid the sunlight when it again carried heat which was one of the two things that could kill me? Know me for what I was?
With Sergei Alexandrovitch's spectre practically howling about the garret all the time? With me waiting for his third incarnation so we could again be together forever and ever? Gott im Himmel! Never.
I forced my love from my thoughts. Emil still watched my face, waiting for me to answer. I realised finally and fully I was in an unpleasantly tight dilemma.
My hand slipped down his arm to grip his hand. I reached out to the other one and took it as well. I kept my eyes away from his smooth chest, forcing them to stay on his eyes watching me. The smell of his perspiration and of our sex was still ripe on him. His manhood remained tumescent, the emotional pain I had just visited upon him as yet an insufficient shock to have it curling in on itself.
"It's been only a month, Emil."
"Four weeks and five days," he corrected me, not moving his gaze from me.
"And we agreed we wouldn't do anything precipitous."
"You said that." His eyes narrowed. "Where is this lover of yours? Does he hold you in chains?"
He pulled away from me and turned to face the wall, leaving me to appreciate his legs, his back, and nicely rounded cheeks. "He's why you don't want me to live with you," he hissed with sudden realisation.
He turned back to face me, his eyes again glistening. "All I am to you is a piece of arse to hold you over until he returns!"
I stared at him in shock. He had pinpointed exactly my intent. Or what I was trying to retain as my intent as I grew used to Emil Paulik, came to enjoy his abandon, and learnt to care for him as a person. Trying, but not succeeding very well.
"I think I had better leave, Herr von Maribor," he mumbled in defeat, his hands reflexively covering himself.
"Don't do this, Emil," I begged, my voice neutral as I struggled to find an approach that would diffuse our impasse.
His face became a bitter smile. "You've already had me three times this week, Sir. May I have the rest off?" He picked pieces of his clothing from the floor.
"When next week should I return, Herr von Maribor?" His voice was unnaturally calm as he stepped into his Y-fronts and covered his buttocks.
"Why are you doing this?" I asked in exasperation.
"Doing what, sir? Surely, I've given you five hundred francs of pleasure this week. Especially as I'm but your whore until your lover comes back to you."
He buttoned the top and last two buttons of his jeans before he turned back to me, pulling an undershirt over his head. "When we were setting our arrangement, you did say once or twice a week, didn't you?"
I nodded numbly.
"This is Wednesday – would the same day next week be okay with you?" He held up his hand. "Only, I won't be able to stay as long I have been."
He pulled on a flannel shirt and studiously kept his attention to buttoning its sleeves. "My studies are beginning to fall behind."
Numb, I watched him leave the room. Moments later, I heard the door close behind him.
* * *
Sergei whispered incessantly, disturbing my sleep and ruining my feedings. I even sent the unkempt rent boy I hired in a moment of frustration out in the cold with a hundred-franc note for nothing. I had not even seen his chest.
Where was the bastard who was now always whispering to me? His memory and his promise had destroyed a beautiful relationship as it budded. I doubted Emil would return to my garret on Wednesday – or collect his weekly rent.
I had hurt him.
I had insulted him. His heart and his honour.
He was a proud young man from a world and a culture I did not yet fully understand.
How did I convince Emil Paulik to accept the comfortable relationship we had developed over six weeks while still holding myself for Sergei's arrival? In Emil's mind, he had given himself to me because he loved me. Our late evening and early morning hours had become comfortable ones in which we sated our sexual appetites, but also ones in which he explored his own nature even as he linked it to me.
I slowly came to realise that I had accepted his gift of himself. It was my duty to help him now.
I could mislead him. I could tell him I would accept him as my lover and allow him to severe his ties to the life he had built before I lowered the shields he had long ago erected to protect himself. I could even mislead myself as I deceived him. I could tell myself that Sergei no longer mattered to me, that Emil was enough.
He was enough.
Only, there was Sergei Alexandrovitch, alive again and in Zürich, unconsciously gibbering his presence to me.
And there was no way I could allow young Emil to live with me.
I would not mislead Emil Paulik. Deceit was a vice I either had never learnt or had forgotten. And the best way to keep him as whole as he was when he agreed to our first assignation was the truth. I could not allow him to separate himself from the friends and relationships he had built for himself. Shutting himself off from his past left him rootless and I offered him no new roots.
It was Wednesday night, or early Thursday morning – a week after I had hurt him and he had not returned. I decided to give him until the weekend, until Saturday evening. He would be through the first throes of his anger by then, and the first scab would have settled over his hurt, binding it enough that it wouldn't bleed over the two of us when we again saw each other.
What could I do to help him heal himself more completely? I had no answer to that as the first light of the morning stirred the molecules of the eastern side of my building. I lay across my bed, relegating the how of my fulfilling my responsibility to Emil Paulik to the blind, dreamless sleep that was the closest thing to death I could know naturally.
I prowled the city's streets near the waterfront but not along it. After the presence of the gendarmerie in the Plattpromenade sent me further afield to feed, I found the middle-aged losers haunting the city's business district once society's shapers left their offices. It had been a surprise to find such easy, but pleasant, hunting.
These derelicts used alcohol, cheap wine and schnapps, to destroy themselves – instead of the heroin their younger associates in the park used. They were also far more plentiful than those lost young of the park. Yet, their lives were as close to ended as were those of the youths who had fed me.
Alcohol entered my blood and affected me, unlike heroin. It induced a pleasant euphoria in me but left me with no unpleasant aftermath as it did these lost men and women of the streets. It also did not leave my mouth tasting sickly sweet.
There were so many. I didn't have to kill. I could fill my hunger on two or three. The next morning the derelict was up and about, only a bit weaker than he was the day before. There was no sudden increase in that population's deaths to draw official attention. My feeding habits were no longer in danger of exposure.
I smiled as the bearded, unwashed man stumbled towards me. My dinner came to me here in the commercial heart of the city across the river from the university; I no longer had to hunt.
"You have a centime, mister?" he mumbled when he was upon me.
"A centime and not a franc?" I asked pleasantly and watched his eyes light up appraisingly. These derelicts were so easy.
I pulled a note from the pocket of my jeans and, realising it had been Emil who forced me to modernise my wardrobe, smiled. I continued to smile as I watched the man stagger away, all thought of Emil gone. I was a lion watching a weakened gazelle and dreaming of -- what?
The drunk neared an alley. I saw no one who would see us. I was beside him before he could pass the entrance, pulling him into it.
"Hey! I ain't got nothing," he cried clutching the franc note I had just given him in his fist.
"I don't want your money," I told him as I pulled his neck warmer from him.
"You...!" He glared angrily at me. "I got no use for you faggots. Go find yourself a woman. Leave me alone!"
I soothed his thoughts and bared my fangs. He stepped deeper into the alley at my urging. Fear rode his thoughts even as I made them languid.
I sank my fangs into his dirt-encrusted skin. Not deep, but deep enough.
He still clutched the franc note in his fist when I left him, his eyes glassy and his head lolling on the dirty bricks of the alley.
When I rose late Saturday afternoon, I missed Emil. I missed him more than I missed him the evening before. I had become used to him by the first week of December, even comfortable with him. I recognised that I was close to falling in love with the student from the Universität Zürich.
I struggled with that as I showered. Why shouldn't I open my past up to him and let him make his own decision about me? If he loved me as a man – as a mortal – he might well love me as the monster his society had painted me when it once believed in my kind. If he knew what I was – and still loved me -- he could live with me. I would be in no danger from him then.
I could love him. I was already to that point -- or nearly so. He was attractive enough to be seen where I would take him. He was cultured enough he would enjoy the world of theatre, symphony, and opera. I could play the piano for him. The home we could make for ourselves would be one of mental stimulation and of good sex.
Away from the world he had always known. Into one he knew nothing about. One in which he would grow old and die – unless I shared immortality with him. A home that had growing anger and hurt until that sharing – whether agreed or coerced.
Emil Paulik would watch his family and friends grow old and die after that sharing. He would be in a world in which he would know he could never truly be close to any mortal, except when he killed them or simply fed upon them. He would have to end his youthful friendships and become an emotional recluse.
I learnt from Sergei Alexandrovitch that most vampires committed suicide as their families began to die. Decapitation and heat are the only alternatives to life we have ever had. All it takes is exposure to a cloudless summer day and the long minutes of agony to end vampiric life.
Or the brief moments of hell it takes to burn away flesh in a crematorium.
I supposed today's maladjusted vampires would choose a crematorium; it would be my own choice. But, in past centuries, the most common choice had been religiously inspired, bigot-lead peasants beheading the suicidal vampire.
Most of us could not live with our still new immortality as we watched loved ones die. I may well have not been able to if it hadn't been for Sergei Alexandrovitch.
Could Emil handle that impulse to destruction that was so much a part of immortality? Even with me at his side? Loneliness had proven to be a monster difficult to tame once immortality was introduced to humanity.
Whoever my Sergei had become in this life would have his loneliness already tamed as part of the spiritual knowledge he would have when his spirit reawakened. He would know to trust me as he did his own instincts. It would take him years to totally assimilate that knowledge and become comfortable with it, but it and I would be there for him as we became an integral part of him.
As I walked through the night to Emil Paulik's flat, I knew what I should do. For him and for me. My own pride, however, demanded his memories of me be better than they were. Then, too, I was probably needed to alleviate the obvious problems that existed when a woman wanted a man who desired other men.
I reached out my senses to the flat before knocking at the door. To use Emil's newly acquired American expression, I scoped it out. I had no desire to intrude. I certainly couldn't enter the man's rooms without his or the girl's permission. That was for his own good, as well as mine. I knew what I'd be entering, what he potentially would be inviting me into.
I knew I was on the cusp of playing games with the protocols that forced vampires such as me to be ethical in their dealings with mortals. I had never come this close to testing those rules that had been my code of conduct through nearly 135 years. Now, though, I would see him. Here, in his flat. If he failed to invite me inside, I would make him want to do so. I would make his Josefina sleep with no memory of my presence. Whatever. So that I could make him understand what was best for him.
There were three of them inside! Emil and the woman who lived with him -- and a strangely blank male. Only through Emil's mind was I able to know he was American.
I froze, my fist nearly to the wood of the door.
I reached beyond the door again for their thoughts. Emil still hurt at what he saw as my rebuff, but he was past his initial burst of pain. He was even laughing inside the flat at something the American said, even as he hoped his application was accepted at the bookstall on campus. They were drinking cheap Chianti and eating the woman's freshly cooked kugels.
The three of them seemed to know each other. Again, I attempted to touch the American's mind. Nothing. He was a cipher to me. Emil felt the wine he had already drunk and was being extremely careful. I touched Josefina's thoughts.
The American's name was Thomas MacPherson, an exchange student from the Universität Maryland. I had her look at him, to appraise him.
I felt her blush, thinking she could be interested in the American if things didn't quickly change with Emil. I smiled at her hedging, judging his long, well-developed legs.
This Tom MacPherson had thick black curly hair, almost unmanageable. But she could imagine running her fingers through it, feeling its silky smoothness. He had a lean face, full lips, aquiline nose, a high forehead, and piercing blue eyes. His skin was pale but dotted with freckles. His shoulders were wide and his chest deep beneath his sweater and she remembered he was a swimmer as an undergraduate at his university in America. She imagined undressing him with no help from me.
I could imagine the rest as well as she. Better.
I looked for the reason for their get-together and found this Thomas shared two classes with Emil. Josefina was mildly suspicious Emil would keep dinner going long enough he could feign being too tired to satisfy her need when she finally had him in bed – as he had already done every day this past week. She liked Thomas, but she wished he'd leave.
I left her thoughts as she wondered with whom Emil was sleeping, mentally ticking off women she knew from the university, women he knew, women they both knew.
I pulled out my wallet. I frowned when I found only a thousand francs there. Emil deserved more than that for what he had given me. I jotted a short note asking that he meet me late Monday afternoon at my garret and told him it was most important. I left the note wedged between the door and the jamb.
We would meet as civilised men, perhaps over whiskies. Civilised and relaxed, we would treat our situation as adults. If necessary, I would ease his thoughts enough he could again enjoy his Josefina as well as remember me fondly. And I would give him a sum equal to his five hundred francs a week through the remaining school year. Monday I would draw enough money from my account to settle my account with him.
Ach! The best laid plans of mice and men . . .
* * *
I slept well that second Sunday of December, knowing I was doing the right thing for Emil, secure in my new identity, and well fed by Zürich's derelict population. It was after dusk that I awoke. It was the most peaceful awakening I had had since finding myself in a stone crypt cut into a mountain that faced my ancestral Slovenia.
Once I was finished with Emil, I could devote myself to finding Sergei Alexandrovitch. Once found, he and I could go about determining the rest of our lives only peripherally affected by the mortal world among whom we necessarily found ourselves. Unless the American monsters were successful in rising to power.
I hummed a catchy air by Schubert as I pushed myself from the bed and stretched in the darkness of my bedroom. Still humming I strolled to the bathroom and ran warm water for my shower.
I dressed slowly, permitting myself time to feel the coarse denim of the jeans against the naked skin of my thighs, groin, and hips. Jeans were developed by a Jew in the American West for cowboys. I smiled, wondering if the thousands of past cowboys and millions of young people in the world of 2005 who allowed themselves the sensual pleasure of Mr. Levi's rough but durable fabric knew he was Jewish.
The caress of denim against my naked manhood as I moved through the flat was enough to keep me tumescent. The soft whispering of Sergei Alexandrovitch's spectre loose somewhere in Zürich helped keep my thoughts on my reactions to the denim.
I sat in the lit living room, relishing my serenity now I had my life once again organised and listening to Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik on the tape deck Emil had convinced me to buy.
I was aflight on memories of my mortal youth, carried along by the musikmeister's fleet music when someone started pounding on the door.
I pulled myself back to reality with irritation. The hammering on my door continued. My irritation growing, I stepped across the room and flung it open, ready to wither even a gendarme with my gaze.
Emil stood there, his fist raised to slam again against the wood. I saw only him, his hurt and anger written across his face. Fear touched his countenance as he recognised me, fear mingled with embarrassment.
"Emil!" I said in surprise. "Do come in."
"No!" a muffled cry rose from behind him on the darkened landing.
"Why did you come to my flat and leave this fucking note?" Emil demanded and blandished a piece of paper, righteously indignant, not hearing his companion's cry.
"I wanted to settle things between us in a civilised manner," I said and heard his companion's groan of pain as he crumpled to the floor.
"Who is this with you?" I asked, stepping out onto the landing and starting towards the stricken man.
"He..." Emil paused, caught between the anger that had brought him and the inexplicable collapse of his friend.
I lifted the unconscious man and carried him into the garret past the Swiss youth. I recognised the curly black hair and wide shoulders from Josefina's appraisal of Tom MacPherson from the evening before.
Emil watched from the doorway as I laid his friend on the sofa. I touched the unconscious man's swirling thoughts. There was nothing on the surface of them that explained his collapse or his unconsciousness. I delved deeper as I knelt beside him. And touched the thoughts percolating up from his soul, lacing their way through every other thought.
I sat back on my haunches and stared.
"Is he going to be all right?" Emil asked, now past the conflict between his anger at me and surprise at his friend's collapse, and entered the flat.
"Shut the door," I told him but did not take my eyes from my Sergei returned.
"What's wrong with him?" Emil asked again as he shut the door. He approached the back of the sofa, concerned for his friend.
"Why did you bring him?" I demanded.
I glanced up at the man I was almost willing to give myself to and mentally shuddered. How could I ever consider doing that with my Sergei so close? How could I hurt so completely any man as I nearly had this Emil Paulik?
"I was afraid of you," he managed, his face reddening with embarrassment.
"I loved you and you – all you wanted was to fuck me." He looked away, avoiding my eyes watching him. "Then you left that note. I was afraid to see you alone. I was afraid you'd get me in bed again."
I rose. There was nothing wrong with this Tom MacPherson but his recognition of me. It had taken Würther two days of unconsciousness for his incarnated spirit to awaken and establish its recognition of me throughout him.
Apparently, Sergei Alexandrovitch's spirit had learnt well that time; this Tom MacPherson was well on his way to having recognition of me as part of his very being. He bordered on consciousness already.
"Does he know you and I were intimate?" I asked as I lowered myself into my chair, continuing to stare at the unconscious man, studying this incarnation of my Sergei so I could know him as well as he would know me.
His hesitation pulled my eyes to him. I scowled as I realised Emil had become pale.
"He knows?" I demanded.
"Karl, I was so hurt when I left here Thursday morning," he mumbled as he slumped against the nearest wall. "I went to his flat. I couldn't stand the thought of Josefina knowing – and I had to talk to somebody."
I nodded and forced myself to smile. "Please, Emil, be seated. Would you like a whisky?"
He nodded numbly and moved around the sofa to the chair across from mine as I reached to the bar and poured a glass for him.
"I needed to understand how I had managed to foul everything up so badly," he continued as I handed him the whisky.
"He knew you were seeing me before?"
"No. But he knew I earned extra money by renting myself out on the promenade. I had told him about that once when he complained about being so poor – back in the summer, just after he arrived at the university."
"And you told him about our arrangement? About our relationship?"
He nodded. "Tom isn't gay – that's why he wouldn't go down to the promenade. But he understood. He's from some city in America where there is a similar park, and many of his friends earned money the way I was doing. Some of them were gay. That's why I went to him – he would understand better than anyone I knew."
"Apparently he did understand. He was there at your flat last night."
He looked at me with startlement. "How did you know that?"
I sighed. Now I had Sergei Alexandrovitch again, this youth and what we had was a part of my past. He deserved an explanation, however. He deserved the truth. I hoped he could accept it.
"I read your mind -- and Josefina's. Before I wrote the note."
"Read our minds?" He stared at me suspiciously.
"Emil, you've known me less than two months. I hope, however, you know I would never set out to hurt you, even though that's exactly what I did." I shook my head slowly, disgusted at myself.
"You're going to have a very hard time understanding what I have to tell you. You'll have an even more difficult time accepting it. I'll start with what I am."
"What you are?"
I nodded. "I'm almost 160 years old, Emil." I watched his brows rise at the statement. "I'm a vampire," I said before he could object.
He laughed. "You almost had me going there, Karl," he said, his humour momentarily stronger than his hurt.
"I am." I opened my mouth and extended my fangs. "I won't hurt you, I promise. But you must understand this part of me to understand everything else. Will you hear me out and not be afraid of me?" He nodded dubiously, staring at my extended eye-teeth.
My nose grew into a snout as fur covered my body. I could no longer sit on my buttocks and thighs. My ears grew long and pointed as my skull grew to slope directly above my eyes.
I hopped down from the chair, padded across the room, and sniffed at his feet as he stared at me, my tail wagging. I licked his shoe with a wolf's long tongue. I barked at him when he instinctively pulled his hands away from his legs. The look of horror on his face satisfied me and I returned to my chair.
I shaped my body into human form again and smiled across at him wryly as I reached for my Y-fronts lying on the chair's cushion. I dressed as rapidly as a vampire is capable using preternatural speed.
"See?" I asked as I turned back to face him.
"Mein Gott!" he mumbled, afraid his voice would fail him, and gulped down his whiskey. He continued to stare at me.
"I have never hurt you, Emil -- not physically. I am not about to start now," I told him to reassure him.
"I've seen you in daylight."
"In the late autumn – when the heat of the sun is weak. Even then, I must cover myself. Summers, I must stay away from sunlight altogether."
"That's why you wouldn't let me move in with you?"
"Why?" He paused looking about the room. "Why didn't you simply possess me? Maybe kill me? Or make me like you?"
"I grew into manhood when honour and duty still meant something," I explained. "I contracted with you – I was honour-bound to stay within the agreement of our contract."
"But I fell in love with you. It was more than our arrangement. Totally different."
"And I was in danger of falling in love with you. After you left, I thought of exposing myself to you and, if you wanted me still, making you like me."
"I'd have done it," he answered slowly. "I – I'd still do it."
The word was a slap against his face.
"I couldn't," I hurried on, "it wouldn't be fair to you, Emil. Most vampires become suicides because they cannot stand the loneliness and melancholy that is our existence."
"I'd have you."
"And no one else. Friends grow old, family members die. Daytime activities are no more. You have plans and hopes for your future -- those would all be for naught. Besides, I wouldn't be there to lessen your pains."
"Why the hell not?" he demanded. "If I'm willing to be gay for you? A vampire for you? You owe me something in return. That's what love is supposed to be about. Two people helping each other."
"That's true, Emil. But I have a lover."
"Scheiße!" He turned to look at the unconscious Tom MacPherson. "I've heard that one before."
"You've heard it, but you didn't understand it before."
"Who is he?"
"He's lying on the sofa right now," I answered.
He turned to face me. "Tom? He isn't gay."
"All men are bisexual, Emil. We are born with bodies and minds to enjoy sex, to make it a recreation."
"Unmöglich! They're keying in on the gene that makes us gay or not."
"I was born and became a man in the age of reason -- before the church had learnt to explain away one reality after another under the guise of science. Before reason and science became too complicated for the proletariat and farmers to understand."
"What does that have to do with this?"
"The simplest among us – they have always been the weakest link in a society based on reason and intellect. They are the least educated and the most animal of humans; and they are the most susceptible to simple explanations. Hitler proved that, even in a society that boasted that almost all its members could read and write."
"No, hear me out. The church and its minions have concocted pseudo-sciences, simple explanations for complex problems and situations. And the simple man believes it. A gay gene? Assume there is one – one more likely that enables man to enjoy his sex instead of simply enduring it to procreate.
"It's a simple answer to a complex reality. I can go to almost any young man in Zürich and offer him several hundred francs and anonymity – and he will permit himself to be buggered. With but a little preparation and foreplay to lessen the fear religion puts in him from an early age, he will be aroused by the experience – though he's not done it before."
He pondered that thought and, I suspected, put it into his own context. After long moments, he seemed to accept the possibility of what I said. "Okay. So, given we're bisexual to some degree, how does this make Tom your lover?'
"Do you believe I'm a vampire?" I asked as prelude.
He stared at me a moment. "I had better. I've never seen another human with fangs like yours. And I can't imagine a human changing to a dog and back."
"Then, there is something else a bit less difficult for you to accept – reincarnation."
"Reincarnation?" He laughed nervously.
"At the first anniversary of the creation of the German Empire, I met a young Russian nobleman who was a member of the Tsar's embassy to that event. We fell in love."
"In 1871?" He stared at me in disbelief.
"I was twenty-three years old."
The disbelief remained on his face as he counted back. "You're saying you were born in 1847?"
"The year before the uprisings in Vienna that ended Mitternicht's hold on power and brought Franz-Josef to the throne."
"Sergei Alexandrovitch and I found ways to meet in most of the capitals of Europe the next two years. He was a curious man and one who did not like the thought of growing old. Somehow, he found a vampire who had fled the Paris Commune that followed the Prussian occupation of France and made his way to Odessa. He bribed him to give him immortality."
Emil rolled his eyes, trying not to believe me even as he remembered my demonstrations.
"I visited him in 1874 in Odessa and came back to Vienna stricken with some disease. I was at death's door and had only hours left to live when he arrived. He gave me his blood, making me a vampire as he had become."
His eyes lighted with understanding. "This Sergei guy is Tom here."
I nodded. "He first died in 1905 during the Bloody Sunday riots in Petrograd. He came back to me in 1935 as a young curate at the church on my lands in southeastern Austria. When we fled the Nazis in 1940, they killed him. Now, he lies there, returned again to be with me."
"How did he die the first time?"
"Some Cossack decapitated him in the riots."
"And the second time?"
"You can die from bullet wounds?"
"I don't think so." I shrugged. "I only know of decapitation and extreme heat."
"So, how did he die from bullets the second time?"
"He refused to become a vampire when he was a priest."
"But he slept with you?"
"And he loved you that time too?"
I nodded again.
"What happens if he won't become a vampire this time?"
"I don't know, Emil. In large part, that would be up to him, but I suspect the first tinge of arthritis or heart attack would make him willing again to be young forever."
Emil assimilated what I had told him, gazing all the time at the youth still unconscious on the sofa but beginning to stir. "Why have you told me this?" he asked finally.
"So you would understand why I cannot be your lover."
"What're you going to do to me?"
"Nothing." I chuckled. "Or, rather, I'm going to give you 14,000 francs tomorrow when I can have visited my bank – as a token of my friendship for you."
I frowned then, remembering I was leaving him exposed as a homosexual and alone now that I had Sergei Alexandrovitch. "I can make you forget me and what we had. You can return to Josefina and live comfortably with her."
"I want to remember you – and what we've had, Karl," he mumbled as he looked down at his hands. "I want you to remember me too. I want a chance to win you if things don't work out between you and Tom."
"Really?" I stared at him. "And you wish to retain this gay awareness you've acquired?"
He nodded. "I want us to stay in touch wherever you are."
"You won't as you grow older and know I don't."
"I'll still be holding onto the hope you'll give me what you plan on giving Tom."
"Immortality or love?"
I sighed. "I can only give you immortality now – and I had rather you wait until time has healed the wounds I've caused you. Then, you can be sure."
Tom groaned and I touched his mind. In amazement, I found him at the brink of consciousness already. I found confusion as well as awareness of what I was and what we had been. I also found resistance to that awareness.
He felt me and immediately I again sensed only the blankness I had found when he visited with Emil and Josefina. The American youth stirred on my sofa.
The assimilation of his awareness was far faster and more complete than it had been when this soul had been Würther.
"I think he'll be able to walk in another few minutes, Emil. He's rebelling against his knowledge of our past." I smiled at him and felt my tiredness. "I'll carry him out to the landing, but you'll need to help him home."