The Blue Maiden
Cory gazed down the road as it wound its way through the Irish countryside. Right now, there was little to see, as an evening fog was firmly entrenched. Overhead, the full moon was bright enough to shine through the enshrouding mist. The air was still, but it still crept up through Cory's shirt and sent shivers through him.
Finn was supposed to meet him, but the boy was always at least twenty minutes late for everything. Cory had hoped Finn might make an exception for him. He wished he had brought a jacket, though hopefully Finn would keep him warm when he arrived.
Cory sighed. Finn was beautiful. Finn was the most beautiful male in town, hell, in all the neighboring towns as well. Cory had felt like he'd scored the winning goal in the World Cup when Finn said yes to going out with him. Why he'd ever date a scrawny pup like Cory, he'd never understand, but Cory wasn't about to question it.
Something moved in the corner of Cory's vision - a flash of something blue. He took a step in that direction and called out. "Finn, that you?" There was no response. "Colin? Ya out there trying t'scare me? Taber? Fergus?"
"How'd ya know I was here?" asked a voice behind Cory, making him jump. He turned on his heel to see his friend Fergus, sitting on his bike. Fergus was another attractive boy, but Cory's heart was set on Finn.
"I didn't, Fergus. I saw someone out there and thought it was one of you lot tryin t'put a scare in me."
"Maybe it's Finn," Fergus said. "He likes ya, ya know. You should ask him out." Fergus didn't know about the date. None of Cory's friends knew about it. "What are ya doin way out here anyway?"
"Had t'get out an' think a bit. Me da is goin after me t'settle down an' get a boyfriend again," Cory lied. It had become so easy to lie lately. Finn didn't want everyone to know his business, and Cory couldn't resist doing anything Finn asked.
Fergus smiled sweetly. "Ah, Cory, ya poor bastard. I agree with yer da. Ya deserve a decent, attractive man. Yer, a nice guy."
And yet Cory noticed that Fergus was single and not offering. "Thanks, Fergus," Cory said simply. "Well, I won't keep ye from getting home t'yer supper. What's yer brother cookin tonight?"
"He's off t'Paris for a week, so supper's whatever I can piece together," Fergus said with a chuckle.
Cory sighed. As annoyed as he was at Fergus for not suggesting they go out, he couldn't let his friend starve. "I'll talk t'me da. He'll insist you eat with us till yer brother gets back."
Fergus tilted his head and looked at Cory oddly. "Ya really are a good guy, aren't ya?" he said. He grinned, and his smile would have melted Cory's heart if he weren't in love with Finn. "Alright, call me when ya know for sure." With that, he started pedaling and rode off into the fog.
There was a crunch on the gravel behind Cory, and Finn stepped out from behind a bush. "Thought he'd never leave," he said in a breathy baritone. He had the body of a rugby player, but the face of a porn star. His sandy brown hair fell playfully into his powder blue eyes, and when he laughed, he showed perfectly straight teeth, with just a hint of canines a bit longer than the rest.
"Thought you'd never get here," Cory teased. "How much of that did you hear?"
"Enough t'know we can't see each other till later for the rest of the week," Finn said. "You really are a soft heart for charity cases."
"I'm not really all that..." Cory never finished the sentence, because Finn shut him up with a kiss. Fireworks went off inside Cory's head, and his body filled with a heat that made him forget the chill from earlier. He raised his arms up and put them over Finn's shoulders, both to embrace the man, and to support himself, as his legs seemed to want to buckle.
As Finn pulled him around the bushes and behind the roadside wall, Cory noticed a hint of blue out of the corner of his eye. He peered over, but it was just some lady crossing the road in a blue dress. What was happening here was more interesting to him than a...girl? He whipped his head back to see if she was still there, but she had gone.
"What is it?" Finn asked, staring in the same direction Cory was looking.
"I just saw a girl in a blue dress," Cory stated. "But there are no more girls, are there?"
"Probably just a cross-dresser," Finn replied and finished pulling Cory off the road and out of the sight of and possible passers by.
A few hours later, they emerged. Cory was grinning. He turned to see that Finn was in a bit of a pleasured daze. "I think ya need help gettin home," Cory told him. "Ya look half drunk."
"Drunk on you," Finn said softly as he moved closer.
Cory put a hand on Finn's chest to stop him. "We both have work in the mornin', Finn, or I'd do this all night. But I do wanna see ya again, an' soon."
"I'll have lunch at the diner," Finn said, reaching up to stroke Cory`s cheek. "We can't do anything, but at least I can see ya."
Cory snorted. "Like I have anything besides sex that ya want."
Finn turned his head to the side and slowly let his hand move away, almost like he was dejected. "Ya don't know everythin' about me, Cory. We can't be public yet. I canna tell ya why, or for how long. But I can tell you this: Cory Quinn O'Reily, I love ya more than me own life, and I'm more excited about the day I can tell that t'the world than you are." Cory stood there, dumbstruck. Had Finn just said what Cory thought he'd said? That had sounded real. The world started to dim.
When things started to become light again, Cory noticed first that the world was more yellow and brown. He looked around to see that it was from the glow of the lights in his room on the woodwork. How had he gotten into his own bed.
"Oh good, Cory. Yer waking up," he heard his da say. He turned his head and saw his only remaining relative. His da was a fit man, with a large amount of gray dusting his dark hair. The man had never missed a day of work in his life, and the physical labor showed on him. His face was square, but soft and warm at the same time. He was a good man, and a good father.
"What happened, da?" he asked.
"Ya passed out," his da said. "Right after Finn told you he loved you. Ya take after yer ma like that," he added with a small chuckle.
So that's what had happened. Cory was relieved he hadn't been attacked or... "He told you what happened?"
"Don't worry, Cory. He swore me to secrecy. Ya don't know how happy I am that you really are datin' someone. The men in our family are decent, upstanding' men, but when they fall in love, they become great men - every time."
"What about you, da?" Cory asked. "Are ya gonna fall in love any time soon?"
"I loved yer mother, Cory," he said, placing his hand on Cory's shoulder. "Before she passed, I promised her I would wait three years before I moved on."
"I three years all the good ones will be taken," Cory told him. His da laughed.
"They very well may be, Cory," he said with a warm smile. "Speakin' of good men, Finn said he'll see ya at lunch tomorrow. He also mentioned Fergus needing decent meals while his brother's away. Ya can call him tomorrow and tell him there will be an extra plate at our table for him all week. G'night son." With that, he turned off the lights and closed the door, plunging the room into a comfortable darkness.
Finn had told Cory's da that he loved Cory. Finn loved him. Cory passed out again.
The diner at mid morning was a calm place. Only a few regulars were ever in there at the between breakfast and lunch. Most of them were old men who played cards or chess, or even checkers, while they talked and joked with each other. Cory liked them. They gave the place a warm and inviting feel.
On the other hand, there were also Taber and his boys sitting at the counter. They didn't start working until after eleven in the morning, so they killed time in the diner. Normally, they would be harmless, but the diner had a new boy working behind the counter while Cory went to the tables and took orders. The new boy, Danny, was cute. He was small, slim, and pretty, but still too innocent to see the razzing that Taber and his boys gave as playful flirtation. Danny thought they were bullies picking on him. Cory knew better, but was hoping for Danny to catch on and not be so skittish.
Taber himself was a brute of a man. Tall, lifted weights regularly, and handsome in a cocky sort of way. He reminded Cory of Gaston, from Beauty and the Beast.
Colin, on Taber's right, was more of a shy boyish type. Without Taber, he was actually pretty sweet and charming, even if he wasn't the most beautiful around. He was rather plain looking, which became cute in the right sort of light, or when he was being himself. Colin only associated with Taber because they worked together, and he'd probably get a lot more guys if he weren't always standing in Taber's shadow.
On Taber's left sat Patty, a garden variety sycophant. He worshipped Taber, and mimicked whatever Taber did or seemed to want him to do. He was a skinny thing with a beak-like nose and bad skin, but he could have been a million times more attractive if he'd clean himself up. He might have even been reasonably cute. Now, though, he was dirty, scraggly, and leering openly at Danny.
Cory put the last of the breakfast dishes into his bin and carried it behind the counter, placing himself deliberately between Danny and Patty. "Danny, could ya take these in back an' start em please," he told the boy. "I'll cover the counter." Danny nodded quickly, took the bin of dishes, and scurried into the back. "Cut it out, Patty," Cory said when Danny was out of earshot. "Yer makin' the boy nervous."
"Dry up," Patty grumbled. He would have said worse, but he knew better. Cory could kick him out for being exceptionally rude, and had done so in the past.
Cory decided to play nice. He reached over and placed his hand over Patty's. "He doesn't know yer playin' with him," he told Patty when he finally looked up into his eyes. "He thinks yer all bullyin' him."
"Yer head`s up yer arse," Taber replied. "He loves it."
Cory turned on Taber. "Stop bein' a belligerent arsehole for two seconds and actually pay attention to how he's reactin' and you'll see for yerself." Taber glowered, but kept quiet. Cory noticed Colin trying not to smile. Colin knew Danny was scared of Taber and Patty, and the fear stretched to Colin himself by proximity.
Cory gave him a slight nod and moved to the other end of the counter where Seamus was sitting down. Was it lunch already? Seamus was a coppertop with a quick smile, but sad eyes. He always looked like he was about to cry, even when he was laughing.
"Seamus!" Taber called out, heading over to them. "Howya doin'?"
"Fine," Seamus replied. "Doin' just fine." He still looked sad.
Patty joined us as well, leaving Colin at the far end of the counter talking to Danny. The two of them were both smiling. It looked like Colin was flirting, and Danny was blushing and grinning like an idiot. Good for them, Cory thought. Maybe Taber and Patty would lay off if Colin was dating Danny. Probably not, though.
"I hear yer fuckin' around with some hot piece of arse," Patty said to Seamus. This was news to Cory. Though he'd never have pried with such crude language, he was now curious as well.
"We know the bloke at all?" Taber asked.
Seamus giggled a little, still looking sorrowful. "Yeah, it's Finn," he said. Cory gripped the counter.
"Our Finn? Tall, handsome, officer of the law Finn?" Taber asked.
"Aye," Seamus said. "That'd be him. Started datin' a week ago. Surprised the news took this long t'travel."
"Have ya slept with him yet?" Cory asked, determined to get to the bottom of things. He was starting to feel sick to his stomach.
"A few times," Seamus said. "He's a wicked ride."
"Knew ya two would end up together after The Change hit," Colin said as he walked up to join the conversation. Danny was waiting on someone else. "Ya were always the best of friends. It'd only be natural."
At that point, Cory zoned out. He might have waited on some people or just stood there, he wasn't sure. He just had to wait a while for Finn to arrive so he could find out why he'd been lying.
Finn never came in.
At the end of Cory's shift, he walked out of the diner hollow inside. He passed on into his house without a word to his da, and fell onto the bed. "Cory, could ya ring Fergus an' invite him over?" his da asked.
Numbly, Cory picked up the phone. He dialed Fergus's number by heart and waited for his friend to pick up. After the fourth ring, a familiar voice answered, but it wasn't Fergus.
"Hello?" Finn asked.
"Finn?" Cory said, more confused than ever. "I must've dialed wrong. I was tryin to ring Fergus for supper."
"Cory, this is Fergus's house. He never made it home last night. His bike was found about a hundred meters from where we...talked. I've been here all day workin'. I even missed lunch," Finn said, the last part said in a hinting voice.
I took Cory a few seconds to get past his anger at hearing Finn's voice to realize what he'd said. "He's gone?"
"Yes," Finn said. "Vanished. He got off his bike, but his trail only goes about ten yards int'the field. It's like he just disappeared from that spot."
"That tranny I saw," Cory said. "Did ya find her?"
"There were no signs of anyone bein' out that far but Fergus. But I'll still ask around t'see if anyone's seen a girl in blue. I have t'go report that so we can act on it as soon as possible."
"Finn?" Cory said to stop him.
"What is it, Cory?" he replied.
Cory steeled his heart so he could say what had to be said. "I heard yer datin' Seamus - that ya been fuckin' him."
"Fuck," Finn said, but nothing more.
"So it's true," Cory said softly.
"I can't talk about this right now, Cory," he said. "We'll talk later." Then he hung up the phone.
Cory stared at the receiver, tears welling up in his eyes. He heard a shuffle and looked up to see his da. "I heard everythin', Cory," he said. "I'll kill him meself if he tries t'come in here."
The night was calm and still. Cory sat on the damp grass, looking over the countryside. He'd gone out to clear his head, and ended up walking clear across town. He knew not to go into the same area he had been in last night. The north road that led to Fergus's place was currently off limits. Finn would still be there. No, now he was on the southeast road, or at least huddled behind a wall looking over the hills. No one could see him there except the residents of the nearby house, and no one seemed to be home there.
He'd been out there since before the sun set, and he had no plans on going anywhere in the near future. After a couple hours of sitting in the dark, he saw her appear clearly. The girl in blue just popped into existence in the middle of the field.
A light turned on in the house near him and, through the side window, he saw Colin walk in. When he looked back, the girl in blue was gone. He was seriously creeped out, and ran to Colin's house. He knocked on the door and darted inside as soon as Colin opened the door. Once inside, he closed and locked the door, then sat against it.
"Ya look frightened out of yer wits," Colin said. "What's out there?"
"A girl in blue," Cory said, panting. "She just appeared out of nowhere. When ya turned on yer lights, she vanished again."
"There are no girls any more," Colin said. "Must've been a man in a dress."
"I'm telling ya, Colin, she wasn't natural. She was glowin'."
Colin looked at him sideways. "Ya telling me ya saw a ghost?"
Cory nodded. "I saw her last night, too. Over near Fergus's place. She walked into the fog."
"Lots of people walk into the fog," Colin said. "Not that unusual."
"Ya don't know," Cory said, shaking his head and curling himself into a ball.
"Know what? Cory, what has ya so scared?" Colin walked over and put his hand on Cory's shoulder to calm him. It just made Cory jump.
"Fergus rode his bike past me last night. He rode into the fog where the blue girl was." Cory shivered. "He never made it home. They found his bike about a hundred yards past where I saw him. He's gone missin'. The blue girl took him."
Cory looked up to see Colin turn pale. "Don't tease me, Cory," he warned. He felt a tear slip out. "Yer not jokin', are ya? Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Fergus is really missing? And you're seein' ghosts?" Cory nodded.
There was a pounding on the door behind Cory. He screamed and jumped away, spinning to face the door. "Who's there?" Colin called out.
"It's Finn," came Finn's voice. "Cory's gone missing. Have you seen him?"
Colin opened the door and pulled Finn inside, then closed and locked it behind him. Finn's look of surprise melted into relief when he saw Cory huddled on the floor. "Oh thank the Lord yer alright," Finn breathed. "I thought we had a second disappearance. I couldn't've forgiven meself if you'd gone missing because of me. I was half in a panic when I heard...what's goin' on, Cory? Yer white as a ghost."
"He saw the blue girl outside on the hill," Colin said softly.
Finn's eyes went wide. "She was over here? We had three other people that saw her last night. She kept appearing and disappearing. They're calling her the Blue Maiden."
"Well, she's outside here somewhere," Colin said. "I'm going t'call Danny and see if he's alright. Let him know not to go outside for anythin'. I'll call Taber and Patty, too, I guess. Cory, you need to call yer da and tell him yer ok. Finn, you should call Seamus an' warn him. Wouldn't want yer boyfriend t'get snatched away." Cory groaned and began sobbing. "What's going on, Cory? Did ya see her?" Colin peered frantically around the room and out the windows, looking for the Blue Maiden.
"No, this is my fault," Finn said.
Colin narrowed his eyes at Finn. "No one makes that sound unless their heart's been destroyed," he growled. "What did ya do t'poor Cory?"
"Ya have t'promise ya won't breathe a word of this t'anyone," Finn said. "This can't leave this room, period."
Colin's eyes narrowed more. "If it's a secret I can live with keepin', fine. If not, no deal." Cory just sat there shivering and watching the two of them. "You'd better have a fuckin' spectacular reason for making Cory like this."
"I told Seamus not t'say anything' until I had a chance t'talk t'Cory. He's too impatient."
"Tell Cory what?" Colin spat out. "Ya need t'get t'the point."
"I'm not datin' Seamus," Finn said calmly. "He's tryin' t'get into a group in college in London. They won't let him in unless he's datin' the hottest guy around. It's like an initiation rite. I told him I had t'discuss it with Cory first, but he just had t'blurt it out t'everybody like an arse."
"An' Cory fits in...," Colin lit up. "He's yer real boyfriend, isn't he?"
"More than that," Finn told him. "I love Cory. He's me life. Seein' him this way kills me inside."
"So he didn't know about this arrangement with Seamus, an' he heard... Fuck, Finn. No wonder the boy's a mess." Colin bent down and held Cory. "It'll be alright, Cory. Finn loves you. He's not datin' or sleepin' with Seamus. He's yers an' yers alone. Cory, look at me." Cory turned his head to look into Colin's eyes. Something about them made him calm down. He could actually hear what Colin was saying. It was a lie. Seamus had been lying. Finn loved Cory, not Seamus.
"Finn...," Cory breathed. Suddenly Colin was gone and Finn was bent down near him.
"I'll be in the kitchen makin' phone calls," Colin said.
"Colin," Finn said, turning his head to see the man. "Thank ya." Colin nodded and left the room. Cory could hear him picking up the phone and the soft beep of numbers being pressed. "Cory," Finn sighed. "I'm so sorry, Cory. I love ya so much, an' I hurt ya more than words can fix." He reached out and pulled Cory into his arms. Cory started sobbing silently, hurt and relief warring within him to see who would win. Relief finally won and Cory leaned into Finn, breathing his gentle cologne, feeling the soft cotton of Finn's t-shirt. Finn's strong arms, wrapped around Cory, sent warmth through his body that had just been shivering from an internal frost. "Cory, I promise ya I'll never hurt ya again. I love ya, an' I don't want t'lose ya. Seeing ya hurtin so bad... I'm so sorry. So sorry. Cory, I..."
Cory leaned up and pressed his lips over Finn's mouth and held them there until Finn understood and started kissing him. Cory could taste salt. Finn was crying as they kissed. Cory pulled back and gazed into Finn's eyes. "I don't deserve ya," Finn said with a cracking voice. "I don't deserve ya an' I can't live without ya. Can ya forgive me?"
Cory placed his head against Finn's chest. "When the mess with Seamus is resolved, an' we can be together for real, I'll be able t'forgive ya. I love ya, Finn, but the trust is broken. Only you an' time can fix it."
Finn pulled Cory in tighter. "Then I'll fix it, I promise."
They sat like that for a while. Colin was kind enough not to disturb them. In fact, Colin had been silent for a long time. Cory sat up straight, then jumped to his feet. With several quick steps, he was at the door to the kitchen, Finn was right behind him. "Sweet Mary, mother t'God," Finn said behind him.
The kitchen had an outside door, which was standing open. Colin was gone.
"He's gone, Finn," the officer said. "We have twenty men patrolling the area. Colin's vanished, just like Fergus. There's no sign of tracks outside, either." Cory was sitting on Colin's couch, huddled, with more inner chills.
"Can ya give me any more detail on the Blue Maiden?" asked the officer who was questioning Cory.
"Now that Cory's found, we're back down t'three disappearances," said Finn's officer to Finn.
"No, sorry," Cory replied, then went back to listening to Finn and his coworker in the next room.
"Three?" Finn asked. "Who else?"
"Mr. Perkins's dog was found wanderin' the streets. His leash was on, but Mr. Perkins is missin'."
"Fuck," Finn said. "Mr. Perkins was over forty. It doesn't fit. Fergus was seventeen an' Colin was eighteen. If the Blue Maiden was takin' young men, we'd have something' t'go by. So what's the common factor?"
"The surroundin' towns aren't missin' anyone," the other officer said. "It's just us she's hittin'."
"Small comfort," Finn said. "When an' where did she get Mr. Perkins?"
"His dog was found at eight," the officer said. "He was over by the diner."
"So far, two of the victims were taken near their homes. If we take that as a pattern, then we can assume Mr. Perkins was taken near his home as well," Finn said. "The dog would've had t'walk t'the diner, so Mr. Perkins would've been taken at about 7:40. Colin went missin' sometime between 9 an 9:20. That leaves enough time fer the Blue Maiden t'get from Mr. Perkins's house t'here."
Cory walked into the kitchen. "Sorry Cory, but ye'll have t'wait in the other room," the officer said. "This is police business."
"8:05," Cory said.
"What, Cory?" Finn asked, looking at him. He had his police face on - all business. He was still beautiful.
"Colin's clock said 8:05 when I came in," Cory said.
"An what does that have t'do with anythin'?" the officer asked, obviously annoyed.
"It means that Cory saw the Blue Maiden before that, on the hill out there," Finn said, sticking up for Cory. "It blows me theory."
"I'm still not ready t'believe she didn't just drive from one place t'the other," the officer said. "Hell, I'm not even ready t'believe she's even a she."
"She teleports," Cory said.
"Cory," the officer warned.
"Shut it, Barney," Finn told him. "What exactly did ya see, Cory?"
"She didn't walk anywhere," Cory said, staring at the wall, picturing the entire scene in his head. "She faded in quickly on top of the hill, from nowhere. It was only about a second for her t'get there fully. And I only turned me head for a few seconds when Colin's lights went on. When I looked back, she was gone. That's when I ran for me life." Cory tipped his head.
"Cory?" Finn asked. "What is it?"
"The back door was open," Cory said. "Colin was just comin' home and didn't have any time t'get t'the back door to unlock it. Was the door broken in?"
"No," Barney admitted. "It was just unlocked an opened. Ya tellin' me Colin unlocked the door an let her in?"
"I'd wager good money that he not only unlocked the door, but he also went out there t'her," Cory said. "Fergus walked away from his bike int'the field, Mr. Perkins dropped his dog's leash, and Colin left his house, where he was safe, all t'go t'her."
"And yer sure of all this?" Barney asked.
"Fuck no," Cory said. "I'm just puttin' clues together in the only way they make sense t'me. I'm not sure of anythin', but I`m convinced I`m right."
Officer Barney snorted. "Yer wastin' our time, Cory. Yer ideas are delusional. None of it makes any sense."
"Does anythin' in this case make sense?" Finn asked the man. "Three men vanish silently int'the night without tracks or a struggle. A girl in a blue dress, who several people say was glowin', appears an' disappears int'thin air, also seen by several witnesses. What makes ya so ready t'dismiss teleportation an' mind control from this? If ya ask me, Cory's explanation takes the least amount of mental gymnastics t'make fit." At that moment, Cory felt a sense of pride well up in him, side by side with a greater love for Finn. Finn was sticking up for him. This was boyfriend behavior.
"Come on, Cory," Finn said. "I'll drive ya home. I don't want ya out at night alone."
"Neither do I," Cory replied.
They entered Finn's car and Cory immediately slid his hand over to Finn's thigh. For some reason, he felt like he shouldn't lose physical contact with him. "You took me side in there," Cory said when they were safely driving.
"I took the side that made sense," Finn replied. His gaze softened, though. "I love ya Cory, but I still have t'think for meself. Barney wasn't helpin' in there, an' me theories were fallin' through. You were the only one who said anythin' that stood up t'the facts."
"So I actually helped?" Cory asked.
"Aye, that ya did, lover. That ya did." Cory's hand slid farther over, toward the lump in Finn's jeans, making the car swerve a little. "Careful, ya little beastie, or I'll drive us off the road," he warned, grinning.
They made it to Cory's house without incident, but when they drove up, Finn took a sharp breath. "No. Please God, no," he said.
Cory followed Finn's gaze and saw that the lights were on and the front door was open. "Da!" Cory yelled, sprinting from the car. "Da! Ya in there?" He continued to call out as he went from room to room, but no one answered. Finn was doing the same.
"I'll check outside," Finn said.
"Ye'll do nothin' of the sort," Cory commanded. "That blue bitch ain't takin' ya as well. We go together or not at all."
Finn turned and stared at Cory, then kissed him. "Yes sir. Yer the boss." Cory led them outside and around the neighborhood, shouting the whole time for Cory's da. "He may be out lookin' for ya still," Finn supplied. "When Colin vanished, we never got around t'callin' him. Let me call the station. They'll send people out t'help."
They went inside and Finn made the call. Within twenty minutes, the police who they had just left at Colin's were now at Cory's. Cory sat for several hours with Finn next to him while the officers canvassed the neighborhood looking for Cory's da, and asking neighbors if they had seen him. As time wore on, Cory was more and more convinced that his da was really gone. When the police left, only Finn was there to keep Cory company.
"I'm not leavin' ya alone at night till this is over," Finn told him. "So, ya comin' over to me house, or do we stay here?" Cory was going to argue that he wasn't in the mood to mess around, but he realized he didn't want to be alone at all. Having Finn with him would be nice as well.
"Let's just stay here," Cory said, huddling deeper into Finn's arms.
Over the next week, more people vanished. Some nights only one or two went missing, and one night a full seven disappeared. Seamus vanished that night. During the days, Finn and Cory would go to their respective jobs, but both of them would come back to Cory's house before dark, and they never left each others' sides during that time. If a call came in for Finn to go out after dark, Cory came as well. The other officers all brought their partners along as well. Everyone had taken the hint. Those who didn't have partners were now staying with each other, just for protection. They had even gotten the word out to the rest of the town to stay indoors after dark, and not to let anyone they cared about out of their sight.
A few were still slipping through the cracks nightly. Some would go into the bathroom and come out to find the person they were supposed to have been watching was gone. Some would step out for a smoke and never come back. Some just flat out ignored the warnings and stayed alone. Those were the ones who no one knew about until the next day. One boy, sixteen, told his little brother that he saw the Blue Maiden outside to scare the boy. So the little brother hid. The older brother wasn't there the next day.
It did turn out that there was a commonality in the victims. None of them were younger than sixteen, and none were over sixty. It wasn't much to go by, but it was all they had. The other towns around them were still unaffected, but a visitor from the next town was taken from outside his car in the evening while unloading a chair he was going to have fixed. That told them that it wasn't the people of the town that were special to the Blue Maiden, but the town itself. Several people had packed up their things and were now staying with family in other towns. As to the Blue Maiden herself - most of the townspeople were seeing her outside their windows now. There were no non believers any more.
"Ya'd think people would understand the rules of the Blue Maiden's game by now," Barney said, his boyfriend actually handcuffed to him. It had seemed silly to Cory at first, but now Cory was thinking it was a decent idea. They were out at a house on the outskirts of town. One half of the couple left the sofa and went into the kitchen to get them both drinks. When he got back, his partner was gone. So he called the police, and then went outside to find his mate. The police arrived to an empty house.
"Ya'd think a lot of things about people," Cory said. "But ya'd be givin' them too much credit. Most of `em wouldn't call a tree a tree if all they'd ever seen were bushes, no matter how many times you told `em it was a tree. They think what they choose to think and do what they choose to do."
Cory's new cell phone rang. Everyone who stayed in town had one now, and everyone else's numbers were programmed into them for quick access in emergencies. He opened it to see Patty's name. "What is it, Patty?" Cory asked, concerned because Patty would never call him unless something had happened.
"It's Taber," Patty said. The two of them had paired off to watch each others' backs. "He got mad at me and said he'd be goin' off t'the diner. He's not answerin' his phone either. Please, Cory, I'm scared."
"He left you alone?" Cory asked. Finn turned his head and his face was a mix of shock and anger. "Never mind that," Cory amended. "Are you hiding properly?"
"Aye," Patty said. "The doors an windows are locked, and I'm in the closet."
"Good," Cory said. Finn was already pulling Cory toward the car. "Finn an me are comin' t'get ya. Don't come out of there unless you hear one of our voices. I'll call the diner next."
As they pulled out of the driveway and sped down the road, Cory called his work. "Danny," he said when the boy picked up the phone, "is Taber there?"
"Aye," Danny replied. "He just walked in. Patty's not with him, Cory. What's goin' on?"
"Taber left Patty alone at home. We're on our way t'get him. Make sure Taber doesn't do another damn fool thing like go outside alone again."
"Will do," Danny said. "Anythin' else?"
"Just be careful," Cory said. "If it comes down to ya keepin' Taber from doin' somethin' stupid an' keepin' yerself safe, ya pick yerself, alright?"
"No problem," Danny said. "Bye." Danny would be true to his word. He also had his da there acting as his partner. His da would back him up.
They pulled into the drive of Taber's house, where Patty was staying. The doors were still closed and locked when they arrived, which was an excellent sign. Cory knocked as Finn kept a lookout, keeping his hand on Cory's shoulder the whole time. "Patty, it's Cory an Finn. We're at the front door."
It was less than ten seconds before the door flew open and Patty was hugging Cory. "Shall we go find out why Taber's bein' such a colossal arse?" Finn asked.
When they got to the car, Patty went around to Finn's side to get into the back seat. Cory's phone rang again: Danny. "What's Taber doin' now, Danny?" Cory asked.
"Cory, don't go t'Taber's. Patty was taken. I don't know who called ya, but it wasn't him. When Taber saw Patty was gone, he ran fast as he could over here so he wouldn't be alone. Damn fool thing t'do, but he wasn't bein' an arse about it."
Cory's stomach dropped out. He turned quickly to see Finn. Halfway up a nearby hill, Finn stood with the Blue Maiden. Cory wanted to run to them, but he was frozen in place. She placed a kiss on Finn's mouth, tipping him backward. As he tilted, his feet left the ground until his was lying on the air in front of her. She stood before him and placed a hand onto his chest, and the other covered his groin. As she caressed him, he began to fade. Cory still couldn't move, but he felt hot tears running down his cheeks.
Both of them finally faded out, and Cory could move again. He let out a long, slow wail. He dropped to his knees and screamed into the air, the collapsed, sobbing.
"Cory. Cory. What's goin' on?" Danny asked. After not saying anything for several minutes, Danny tried again. "Cory, tell me what happened."
"Finn's gone," Cory whispered. The Blue Maiden appeared on the hill in front of him.
"We're comin' t'get ya," Danny said. "Hide in Taber's house."
The Blue Maiden walked closer, taking her time. Cory wasn't going anywhere. What was the point any more? "Don't bother," Cory said. "She's here. I'll be gone in less than a minute."
"Run, Cory!" Danny yelled. Cory couldn't respond. His mouth was pressed against the Blue Maiden's lips. He felt himself floating back, completely relaxed, into sleep. The world began to fade around him.
"Cory, wake up," Danny said. His voice was calm, like a parent telling his child it was time to get up in the morning. Cory shook his head to clear it. He turned and looked around the room he was in. He was lying on a cot in the town hall. There were cots filling the large room. People he knew were in them all. In the cot next to him, Finn was sitting up. "We thought ya might want t'see him first," Danny told Cory with a smile.
Cory looked over at Finn. He was beautiful as ever, but... "Why?" Cory asked. "Why should I want t'see Finn first? First of who? What happened t'me?"
"Ya don't remember?" Danny asked. He turned to Finn. "Finn, do ya remember the Blue Maiden?"
"The who?" Finn asked. "Cory, what's Danny talkin' about?"
"Ya've both lost yer memories," Danny told them. "Up ta'a few weeks before the Blue Maiden started capturin' folk. Everyone she took is the same. I'll explain later. First, I think I can fix somethin' she broke." He beckoned to Finn, patting the cot next to Cory.
"Finn's in love with ya, Cory," Danny said. "We didn't find out until the disappearances started. After that, the secrets didn't matter so much and ya both told us the whole story. An' Finn, Cory had no trouble fallin' for ya once ya kissed him. Go ahead an' kiss him now, he'll let ya."
Finn turned and looked at Cory. "Is he right?" Finn asked, leaning in closer. "Could I kiss ya an' get away with it?" He kissed Cory and life flowed through him. He threw his arms around Finn's neck and pressed deeper into the kiss.
"Sweet Mary," Cory heard Danny say...below him. He broke the kiss and looked down at the same time Finn did. They were floating about six meters off the cot. "Looks like the Blue Maiden left something behind." They lowered to the cot and landed gently.
Cory leaned his head against Finn's chest. It felt so natural there. "Yer amazin' Cory," Finn said softly, holding Cory close. "I'm never lettin' ya go." Somehow, Cory knew he'd keep that promise.
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