Deprivation, Part 9.
Devin lay awake in bed, ignoring the rising sun for the time being. It was probably... what, six? Seven? Whatever the time, it was too early to be up, as far as he was concerned, but his mind was turning a little too actively to let him go back to sleep.
Allistair slept on beside him, lying on his side with one arm draped across Devin's midriff. With his pale blonde hair spread across the pillow, he looked like how Eros must have looked to Psyche, the mage thought privately – supernaturally beautiful, almost angelic. It was hard to imagine that, not too long ago, this creature had killed people for sustenance. No chance of that coming to pass again, though. With Allistair's maker Jason gone, there was absolutely nothing forcing him to take lives any longer, now that he no longer needed to drink human blood to survive.
The memories of killing Jason Garamond didn't sting quite so much anymore. Several weeks' distance from the incident had helped Devin put it in perspective. He had felt that what he had had to do was little better than murder; now he saw it as something more akin to putting down a rabid animal – something potentially cruel done for the greater good. Allistair had been right; the older vampire was a monster that would continue to kill until he was destroyed himself. He had enjoyed his vampirism, meaning that there was no chance he'd ever be "cured" like Allistair.
Allistair... Devin sighed silently. He didn't exactly regret giving in to the vampire on that ill-omened night, but now he wasn't really sure where they stood, and if there was something that drove him batty, it was uncertainty.
Allistair had more or less come to live with the mage in his rented house, quietly keeping him company while he pursued his research on Faerie blood. The pale man stayed in the house during the day to avoid being seen by the townspeople, but he often persuaded Devin to go with him on walks in the woods and fields at night. Being able to abide sunlight hadn't diminished Allistair's love of the stars in the least, and the depth of his knowledge of astrology – and even true astronomy – was a fascinating surprise to Devin.
He supposed it was because it proved that the vampire had a scholarly inclination in at least one field. The spirit of true scholarship, Devin had discovered many years ago, was something that could be shared, even across widely different topics. It was the understanding of the depth of someone's desire to learn, he decided, that could be reciprocated, overriding even total ignorance of the subject matter at hand.
Intellectual fellowship... that was something he had known and missed. But Allistair shared other things with him as well, things that were new to the reclusive, withdrawn mage. He was still struggling, even after several weeks, to understand the feelings that Allistair was stirring within him. He had heard the truism many times that love was impossible to define, but he'd never realized what that really meant. What he felt was more of a welter of emotions all jumbled together, rather than one singular feeling. Was it love? He hadn't the damnedest clue.
Allistair, at least, was ready to acknowledge it as such. He hadn't been demanding, hadn't pressured Devin into saying those dangerous three little words, but he seemed content. The vampire had none of Devin's reservations, and willingly said he loved the young mage. Not often, because he knew it made Devin terribly uncomfortable, but often enough to reassure the mage of the intensity of his feelings.
It wasn't likely Devin would ever admit it, but Allistair's declarations warmed him in some strange way he couldn't define. For the first time in a very long while, he was oddly... happy. Of course, there were still issues to be concerned about... like finding a full cure for Allistair, if it were possible... but that wasn't enough to burst the bubble the mage was currently riding on. Truth to tell, he really didn't know how to handle happiness. He kept having uneasy feelings that it would be abruptly taken away from him.
He shivered slightly as Allistair's hand moved lightly over his abdomen. The vampire made a sleepy noise, his lips curved in a tiny smile, but he did not wake.
Sharing a bed with someone – that was another thing Devin was trying to get used to. The two of them slept together in the most literal sense, but hadn't actually made love again since the strange night Jason had been killed; under more normal circumstances, the mage was still too gun-shy to be really casual about physical intimacy.
Unsurprisingly, Allistair didn't push him. Even in the face of his "victory" – Devin turning to him for comfort – the vampire still trod carefully with him, knowing, like a naturalist stalking some elusive beast, that the slightest aggressive movement might frighten him away.
The day after the fight with Jason, Devin had painfully related some of the crucial events of his past to an attentive and sympathetic Allistair, who finally came to understand what it was they had in common. In light of that knowledge, the vampire seemed to grow even more determined to fully win Devin over. Devin guessed that Allistair wanted to protect him... but on the other hand, most of their relationship up until that point had hinged on Devin doing most of the protecting...
Wasn't that how a relationship should be, though? Each of them being there to save the other? Maybe that was why Allistair was so gratified to find out that Devin did, indeed, need comfort and a feeling of safety. It made things between them much less one-sided.
At any rate, they seemed to be stuck with each other, now. The mage wondered how long it would take him to stop waking up every morning surprised to find Allistair next to him. Did the vampire have any trouble getting used to this? It didn't seem like it, but who could know?
"Someone's very pensive this morning," Allistair's voice murmured in his ear, as the formerly exanimate hand resting on his stomach ran ticklingly up his chest. Devin shuddered and lightly smacked Allistair's hand away. Unperturbed, the vampire continued, "What are you thinking about?"
"Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," was the flippant reply.
"Deep thoughts for so early," Allistair murmured, curling up against him and resting his head against the mage's chest.
"You're worse than a damned cat," Devin complained, putting his arm around the man regardless.
"I purr, too," Allistair replied. Devin could tell from his tone that he was grinning, and only snorted in reply.
They lay in comfortable silence for a while, not feeling the need to say anything to express their shared contentment. Finally, Allistair asked quietly, "Really, though, Devin, what were you thinking about so seriously?"
"Pretty much what I said before," the mage answered with a slight shrug. "Just... how things have changed, I guess."
"I hope you've concluded these changes are for the better," Allistair said with a little laugh, propping himself up on one elbow to look at Devin's face.
"Oh, I'm still trying to decide about that," Devin replied with a smirk.
"Why, you ungrateful – " the vampire growled, trying not to smile. "I'll change your tune yet, you bloody bookish know-it-all..." Putting action to words, he leaned over and kissed Devin in a way that literally took his breath away. After Allistair drew back, the mage stared at him for a bemused moment, then shook his head and rolled over, sitting up on the edge of the bed.
"Ah... getting up already?" Allistair asked in a somewhat petulant tone.
"If I don't, I may not get out of bed at all this morning," Devin muttered, only half-joking, as he stood and stretched.
Allistair chuckled softly. "That might well be true," he said smugly. "Best escape while you can."
The mage did exactly that, heading out into the kitchen to start his much-needed coffee. The aroma of the dark grounds reminded him of Allistair's strange lack of hunger for any food, blood or otherwise. They had discovered that while he could eat and drink in small amounts, he felt no true need to do so. It was very odd, and privately, Devin was very concerned. Even the full-blooded Faerie needed sustenance, to the best of his knowledge. What was Allistair becoming?
As if summoned by the thought, the pale man slipped quietly into the kitchen and gravitated towards Devin like a pin to a magnet. This happened more or less every morning, so the mage just let out a long-suffering sigh as Allistair's arms slid around him from behind.
"Good morning," the vampire murmured into Devin's hair. "I forgot to say that earlier."
"Heh." Devin closed his eyes for a moment and let himself relax. Being held was unexpectedly nice, he had found.
"What are you going to read today?" Allistair asked, relinquishing his hold on Devin so that the mage could prepare his breakfast.
"I haven't decided... maybe Severn's tract on innate Faerie magic," Devin mused as he scrounged around in the refrigerator. "Or maybe more of the Averigne vampire slaying stuff."
Perhaps the greatest windfall from defeating Jason Garamond – besides freeing Allistair, of course – had been obtaining many of the vampire-mage's precious books. Several days after the old vampire had been killed, the two of them (well, three, since Luciel came along out of curiosity) had taken a trip down to Cambridge to Jason's house. Allistair had solemnly offered Devin any of Jason's magical volumes that he wanted, as proper payment for his work and as the hard-earned spoils of a life-or-death fight.
After choosing a handful of useful-looking tomes from the array of rare titles Jason had collected, Devin had told Allistair that he might be better off selling the books, rather than giving them away.
"If I needed money," Allistair had replied, "there are plenty of other things here that I could sell. I owe you my life and my freedom, and those have no price, so please... take what you want."
Feeling somewhat chastened by the vampire's gratitude, Devin had chosen several more books. He also, with Allistair's permission, took several rather dangerous-looking artifacts with him to study under safer conditions. They were things that should not be allowed to fall into the wrong hands, and if there were more vampire-mages around, their hands were definitely the wrong ones.
Devin still had not told Allistair of his inherent magical abilities. That latent power was the reason Devin had insisted that the vampire keep some of his maker's belongings, but the mage just didn't feel like worrying about a student just now. It was already confusing enough dealing with Allistair as first a client, and now a lover. Maybe after this cure business was settled... but until then, Devin felt like he already had his hands full, and then some.
Allistair had quite willingly let Devin help him sell some of the other magical items Jason had collected over the years. Besides the things that Devin had insisted Allistair keep, there were plenty of other trinkets to sell to the numerous magic users of the Isles. By no means destitute to begin with, the young vampire now had a comfortable amount saved to live off of, if he decided to avoid the normal world for a while. He had already been missing for the better part of a year; it would be incredibly difficult to explain a sudden reappearance.
Still, since he could move about by day now, there was no real reason why Allistair couldn't take up his freelance photography again, if he wanted to. He would probably be better off relocating, of course, but a long absence could be attributed to illness or grave personal matters – both of which were truthful reasons, in a way. And then... there was the looming issue of what the two of them would do, once Devin decided that Allistair's cure was complete – or as complete as it was going to get – and headed back to the States. Devin had to go back; he had a comfortable home and many, many magical relics and items that would be a gigantic hassle to move. Also, as lovely as the Scottish countryside was, Devin was beginning to miss the bustle of a humming metropolis. He wasn't selfish enough to ask that Allistair return with him – in fact, he wasn't sure how he felt about the possibility of them continuing to live together. It was... weird.
"Devin?" From Allistair's tone, it sounded as if he'd been trying to get the mage's attention several times.
"Uh, sorry. What?"
"Just wondering where you were, is all. You've been stirring your coffee for about five minutes straight," Allistair said with a slight grin.
"Er... oh." Looking almost accusingly at his mug, Devin brought it to the table, where Allistair already sat. "Sorry, having a head-in-the-clouds day, I guess."
The vampire's smile widened slightly. "Tomorrow's the summer solstice, you know... maybe it's getting to you," he suggested. "The Faerie blood and all..."
"Is it tomorrow?" Devin asked with mild surprise. It didn't seem like that much time had passed, but...
"Mm-hm." Allistair made a sound of affirmation. "You know, it's a good excuse to take a break from studying..." he began coaxingly.
"Hah. How is the 23-degree tilt of the Earth reason for shirking?" the mage snorted.
Allistair's platinum hair swung from side to side as he shook his head. "You're such a workaholic. What difference will a day make, honestly?"
"If I started saying that every day, nothing would get done," Devin scoffed. "And the sooner we figure this out, the better, right?"
"True enough," Allistair admitted. "But... I swear, I don't understand how you can keep up this driving pace and not crack." He reached out and gently placed his hand over Devin's, resting on the tabletop. "I know that you wouldn't be in such a rush if it wasn't for me, but..."
Devin winced, not from Allistair's touch, but because the vampire was right. As a rule, he liked to keep himself busy, but he usually did not relentlessly pursue a single topic in this way unless there was a time constraint on the work he was doing. This, though... almost subconsciously, he felt like he had to find Allistair's cure as quickly as possible, before something terrible happened. It was an extension of his general feeling of impending doom.
Still, he wasn't one to crack under pressure. No, his... fragility... was of a very different sort.
"I'm not gonna 'crack', so don't worry about that," he said with a snort. "Look... we've just got to keep going with this stuff. If..." he faltered, then forced himself to go on; his shyness was starting to irritate him as much as it must have annoyed Allistair. "If you let me get through some of these articles today, you can have me after sunset." At the vampire's amused look, he hastily added, "I mean, we can do something you like." Realizing that that was still terribly ambiguous, he tacked on lamely, "...Okay, don't take that farther than I meant it."
Allistair grinned mischievously. "Well, how far did you mean it?" Before Devin could stammer a disclaimer, the young vampire chuckled softly. "You're so easy to tease, you know. But, well, you know how people traditionally celebrate Midsummer..." He wriggled his eyebrows in a comically suggestive way.
"Yeah, well, I'm not a big stickler for tradition," Devin muttered, feeling a hint of mild panic.
The playfulness in Allistair's smile was replaced by a tinge of disappointment, or hurt. "I am just teasing you, Dev... You know I wouldn't force you to do anything you didn't really want to do..."
Sometimes, Devin's cynical side wondered if Allistair "forcing" him into something might actually help to erode the large stumbling block in the mage's mind, but... the only way to find out, of course, would be to let it happen, and since Allistair was really much too empathetic to do such a thing, the likelihood of that hypothesis being tested was fairly slim.
"I told you before," the mage said quietly, turning his hand underneath Allistair's so that their palms touched, "I trust you. I just..." He couldn't bring himself to relate his own frustration with himself, and simply shook his head.
Allistair looked at him intently for a moment, then clasped his hand. "Heh... actually, all I really had in mind was a walk, maybe watching the sunset." The vampire loved the astonishing colors in the sky as the sun went down, and the gradual fade into star-shot darkness.
"Sounds like a nice plan to me," Devin said with a little shrug, withdrawing his hand and rising from his chair. "And since that's settled... time to get to work."
Heh, I've been working on what I thought would be chapter 9 forever, but now it's gotten too long, and I've had to cut it in half. This story will never end XD
This is the first time in quite a while I've started writing things that I would actively consider "mushy"... romantic ;) There's a fine line between good sentimentality and sappiness, and I'm not very sure of where that line is, and whether I'm staying on the right side of it or not... eh ;) And the next part has even MORE of it. What am I setting myself up for? oO