The Call


by Aidan Boyle
1298332180|%e %b %Y, %H:%M %Z|agohover (updated 1299397254|%e %b %Y, %H:%M %Z|agohover) | 0 comment(s)

“I envy humans sometimes, simply for their ability to just get royally pissed.” It’s well after midnight, which means it’s only midday for Aidan. He stands in front of the picture window of his loft, one hand braced against the window frame, the fingers of the other hand pressing against the glass as he looks out on the twinkling city lights of London. The blue-tooth earpiece hooked over his ear means he doesn’t need a hand to juggle a mobile. “It is so bloody hard to get drunk when you’re a Vampire. Not to mention expensive.”

Laughter comes through his earpiece, soft and low, sultry like a warm southern night. “Yes, but don’t the other perks count for something?” The voice carries an American southern lilt.

Aidan lifts an eyebrow although the delightfully lilting voice on the other end of the telephone — and halfway across the world — can’t see the response. He turns away from the window and stalks across his living room, plucking the mostly empty bottle of scotch from the sofa table where he left it. “Oh no, Celeste, you don’t get to try that silver lining, light at the end of the tunnel approach with me. The perks do not outweigh the fact that I’m not nearly as drunk as I want to be right now.” He dumps the remainder of the bronze liquid into the nearby glass.

“But if I know you, you’re well on your way.”

“‘Course I’m well on my way. Getting drunk is an art.” Aidan lifts the glass to his lips and takes a swallow. “I’ve had years of perfecting my art.” Just not enough Scotch in residence to reach a pinnacle. It’s a sad state of affairs when he’s practically depleted his own alcohol stash and still listing more toward lightly buzzed than completely inebriated. He makes a note to add liquor — lots of it — to his grocery and restock requirements before toasting himself and tossing back the rest of the scotch.

Aidan hates this. There is a buzzing in the back of his head, a humming trill that he can’t escape. There is an itch between his shoulder blades and a tingle moving beneath his skin that he hasn’t been able to ignore for days upon days. He’s tired to distract himself with cooking, with hunting, with shagging, and — yes, too there was that nameless, faceless girl two nights ago whom Aidan has already forgotten about as a casualty of being what he is. No, not even the blood has been enough, that life force of pure joy and bliss, sweetness and nectar — to get him back where he needs to be.

”And to what are we drinking ourselves into oblivion for tonight?” The voice echoes with a mixture of heavy amusement and a hint of curiosity. ”Straining against the shackles of being a part of humanity?’’

That is an acceptable and necessary convention for self-preservation.” The words flow easily from his tongue, and make sense. Yet another annoying reminder that he’s not blissfully pissed. Aidan leaps over the back of the black leather sofa and drops onto it. He gives a glance at the empty glass still in hand and tosses it to the side. Though he doesn’t pay attention to where it lands, somewhere in the back of his mind, he does register that he does not hear the sound of shattering glass.

His head rolls back as he leans against the sofa, and his eyes focus on the duct and pipework running exposed along the ceiling. “I am crawling out of my skin. Nothing is satisfying to me, and believe me, I have tried everything.” Aidan swings around, stretching out on his back, his legs dangling over the arm of the sofa, “It’s like I’m being suffocated and poked with hot irons and there isn’t a bloody thing I can do about it. But get drunk. And clearly, I’m failing at doing that as well. I’m trapped in a cage and I can’t get out of it because I can’t see it. Do you have any idea what this feels like?”

The smokey chuckle on the other end of the telephone line makes him scowl. ”You’re chafing in your gilded cage with silk sheets?”

“A cage is still a cage.” Aidan’s eyes harden, his scowl deepening. The faint traces of annoyance color the edges of his voice.

”Aidan, the door to the cage is open. You wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“I called you because you’re supposed to understand.” His disappointment is clear. “I was obviously mistaken.”

”Sulking does not become you. You’re over three hundred years old, not fifteen.” There’s a shuffling and rustling, and Aidan can hear the dulcet female tones drop and fade as his target for telephone distraction speaks to someone in the background before addressing him again. ”Really, Aidan, what’s this about? You’re so obviously having some sort of crisis that blood and sex can’t solve for you.”

Aidan glares into space, and sets his jaw. He half raises his hand to disconnect from the call. He’s suddenly gone from mildly disappointed to frustratingly annoyed: annoyed with himself for having a moment of weakness and calling her; annoyed with her for seeing things so clearly and knowing him so damned well.

Among the arts and skills that Aidan has perfected in his long lifetime is the ability to carefully modulate and weigh how close he gets to others whether they be Vampire or human. Kim’s been by his side for more than a decade and despite how much he’s come to rely on her, and how well she thinks she knows him, there is still a carefully maintained distance. There is a wall there that he will not breach, and Kim remains just outside that inner sanctum, protected and cared for because she belongs to him and not because of any crap leftover human echoes of emotional sentimentality. But there have been a few that Aidan has been just careless enough to allow past that wall and it chafes at him. Mostly because it invites the assumption of weakness and stupidity and Aidan is neither of those things.

Celeste is one of those privileged few.

He can hear her on the other end of the telephone, still patiently waiting him out. There is a shuffling and rustling of material. No doubt she is making herself comfortable and settling in for a long-distance telephone siege. She knows that he will either disconnect the call or eventually speak again, and that’s almost as annoying as Aidan’s visual image of her reclining patiently with an amused smirk on her face. Aidan racks his mind for a third option, simply so he can win this round and do the unexpected. It’s childish yes, but he admits that he’s sometimes childish and spoiled and he doesn’t like losing.

The silence hangs between them for what seems like hours but Aidan rationally knows is no longer than perhaps ten minutes. By then, he’s losing interest in the stalemate, and the deafening silence is as annoying as is the unscratchable itch that has crawled under his skin.

“You should come out to London.” Aidan breaks the silence with the invitation. “I need the distraction and we always have such fun together.” There are layers of innuendo and double-meaning in his words, and he can’t help but smile. He thinks at first that it’s not the reason he called her, but then reconsiders. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Aidan is certain the invitation was simply waiting for the right moment.

It’s her turn to hold her silence for a few beats. ”Are you sure you aren’t drunk?”

“More positive than I would like to be,” Aidan concedes.

”Then you’re crazy.” Aidan sits up sharply, the words and tone taking him by surprise. Before he can ask what she means by that, she continues, ”You can’t call me out of the blue after five years and expect me to drop everything just because you’re having a mid-century crisis.”

There are so many responses Aidan can give to that. He plays each one rapidly through his head, tastes them on his tongue. Finally, he settles for evasion. “Five years? Has it really been that long?” The Vampire knows exactly how long it has been. However, when you’re over three hundred and can measure your life’s stages by centuries, five years is like five days, or five hours is to a human. Modern technology means that it’s been five years since they’ve spoken; it’s been nearly two decades since he’s seen her.

”You know that it has been.”

“Ach well, time flies when you're immortal and pretty,” Aidan slips easily into his native accent, the words dancing playfully across his tongue and lips. He’s doing it on purpose, of course, no denying it. Evasion and charm are his weapons of choice when dealing with Celeste, when she’s reading him far, far more easily than he would like. She’s always been partial to the accent. He props his feet up on the coffee table and leans back again. “What have you been doing with yourself these past five years? Wait, don't tell me. You're still writing those bodice rippers?”

A beat of silence followed by an amused but long-suffering sigh. ”They don't call them bodice rippers anymore.”

Aidan frowns across the telephone connection. Not exactly the response he was hoping for. Maybe she’s not as fond of the accent as she used to be. “And why not?” He doesn’t really care, it’s merely another tactic to prolong the conversational detour.

”Believe it or not, the genre does actually earn a modicum of respect these days. The covers which earned the lovely name are now much more artistic and tasteful overall.”

A satisfied smirk tugs at Aidan’s mouth. Getting her to rise to that bait was just as easy as Aidan remembered. It was reassuring to know that somethings had not changed. “Too bad. I liked the bared shoulders and rip-away dresses. Much more truth-in-advertising. Told you immediately that you wouldn't be reading any high brow literature.”

”Now that we've detoured and insulted my career choice, can we get back to the matter at hand?” There’s a fine thread of exasperation radiating through her voice. ”Why did you call me, Aidan?”

The more than three centuries old Vampire straightens again at the unexpected turn in conversation. It’s only fun if he has the upper hand, and he no longer does. At times like this Aidan remembers that he taught her everything she knows. I taught her too well. “You know it’s been a gas playing catch up, but if you're not interested in coming out for a visit —”

“What's her name?”

“Pardon?” Aidan’s voice holds all the innocence of a blushing, virginal bride.

“I know you’re going to find this hard to believe, but I do have plans for this evening. It’s still early over here in the States, so let’s stop playing around. You met a woman who blew you off and you can’t stand it. This isn’t another one of your obsessions is it?” Celeste doesn’t say it aloud, but there’s an under current to her voice that clearly says, ‘We know how well those turn out.’

“No, of course not.” The lie flows smoothly from his tongue without Aidan pausing to think about it. “She’s not that interesting.”

”Of course not.” The reply comes as quickly and easily as Aidan’s. He suspects that she doesn’t truly believe him. ”You just can’t stand it that someone wasn’t swept off their feet by your immeasurable charm.”

“It’s not natural.”

Celeste’s smoky laughter carries to his ears again. “You’re such a sore loser. It’s perfectly natural. Not everyone is going to be won over just because you bat your big baby blues at them and flash them that rakish grin. Sometimes you have to work for it. If you have a problem with that, then compel her and shag her or feed from her or whatever and get it out of your system before you make a mess of things.”

“I’m not going to make a mess of things. I like London and my life here.” Aidan’s almost insulted to hear her even suggest such a thing. Only almost, because though he will never admit it aloud, he knows that there is a good deal of truth to her words. “Besides, I really don’t want to piss off the Master of the City, so I clean up after myself.”

”The problem then?”

“I don’t think I can. Compel her. I think she might be one of yours.” It is the first time that Aidan has admitted this aloud. Kim does not all the details; Kim knows precious little beyond his desire to find the mysterious and lovely Grace. He knows that he doesn’t have to spell it out for Celeste; though she inherited none of the ability or talent of her mother or aunt, that sort of skill still runs strong in her family line.

“She’s either that or a witch.” It’s added as an afterthought, but it’s anything but. Aidan knows that if she’s some type of mind-reading telepath, it will be a battle of wills and minds to cloud hers. If she’s a witch, that’s a whole different set of problems and Aidan has dealt with one pissed off coven in his lifetime. That is one more than he prefers.

“And oh yes,” Aidan drawls with slow considered patience. “I think she knows what I am.”

”Aidan, I think you should leave this one alone. I know it’s all a game to you, but just let this one go. Be a gracious loser, honey, and just walk away.” The humor and warmth vanish from her voice in the blinking of an eye. In his mind’s eye, Aidan can see her — lips pursed, perched on the edge of her seat or pacing across the room with her arms folded across her chest.

“Cel, you do know that I can’t do that, yeah?” He pauses and lets her take those words in. “Not that it matters. I don’t even know how to find her.” And there is the crux of it, the part that really grates on his nerves. The game started but has been left unfinished. The one thing worse than losing is not finishing.

”I’d say that’s a good thing.”

“You’re supposed to be on my side.”

”I am on your side.”

“You know, I would find that a lot more believable if you were here with me, and not giving me a lecture from across the pond.”

”I can’t come to London now.”

Aidan pretends that he doesn’t hear her. He’s very good at not hearing things that he doesn’t want to hear. Besides, this is Celeste. She’ll give in eventually out of sheer curiosity. “Call my personal assistant, Kim. She’ll help with the arrangements.” He snaps his smartphone up from its cradle and begins typing in a text message, “I’ll text you her details as soon as we hang up.

“It’s been great talking to you, luv. Can’t wait to see you.” With a tap of his finger the blue-tooth is disconnected and the text message is sent. Aidan smirks and tosses the mobile onto the coffee table as he stands.

A quick check of the clock reveals that it is still early. He’s suddenly in better spirits and thinks it’s time for a little hunting.


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