Deprivation, Part 2.

As Devin awoke, his hand flew to the side of his neck where Allistair had bitten him.  There was no sign of a wound, and he no longer felt light-headed from blood loss.  Apparently Luciel had healed him while he slept.

He slowly looked around his small room before calling his guardian, waiting for his mind to fully wake up.  The little cottage was definitely a smaller space than he was used to, but since he lived alone and kept his things neat, the lack of room wasn't much of an inconvenience in a vacation home.

There was only one window in the bedroom, with the heavy drape tied back on one side to let in the late morning sun.  As he looked out at the sheep grazing in the fields, the mage wondered if Allistair had watched him through that very window, or if he had simply watched Devin interacting with the townspeople.  Either way, the fact that the vampire had been observing him, sizing him up, was a little unsettling.

What did the man really want from him?  He was open-minded enough, when all was said and done, to consider helping a vampire find a cure for that peculiar affliction; he had no real problem with that -- aside from concerns for his own safety.  Clients who considered you a source of food were to be considered high-risk.

But that wasn't the real problem, in Devin's mind.  No, that distinction was left for Allistair's behavior.  Why, oh why, did the damned vampire have to kiss him?  What did it mean?

He couldn't help but compare Allistair's actions to those of Sikhander ul-Naga, but past the surface, any similarities seemed to dissolve.  Sikhander had done ...something... to Devin that lay somewhere between seduction and rape, all to assault his self-confidence.  Allistair, on the other hand, had made no such forceful overture; indeed, compared to Sikhander's demands, the vampire's single stolen kiss was more like a quiet question.

It was a question that Devin wasn't ready to answer.  There were so many reasons to just ignore Allistair on that account.  First and most obviously, he was not eager to get close to a vampire.  Stories of vampire and human lovers always ended badly -- how else would  they end?  Humans would eventually grow old and die; vampires might be slain or lose interest. Worst of all, the vampires might turn on their human paramours and either kill them or turn them into vampires themselves.  Even the latter led to inevitable unhappiness; from what he knew, very few vampires were on good terms with their makers.

Those were not circumstances Devin ever wished to find himself in, even if he were interested in Allistair.  But he was always wary of any emotional bond, be it with humans or otherwise...  He sighed heavily.  This was a door he hated to open, but he had come this far in his mental wandering, so he figured he might as well cross the threshold he usually avoided.

Why did he shy away from attachments?  The answer wasn’t really that complicated.  The pain he had felt when the Naga had killed his master – the only father he had ever known – had sent him into a despair that only Luciel had been able to abate.  Devin did not want to experience that kind of agony again – and an affair with a vampire was sure to end in some tragedy.

Even more recently, his strange interlude with Sikhander had left him… not scarred, but scared.  If a demon could so easily seduce him, what did that say about his character, about his desires?  He knew that Sikhander had been trying to undermine his confidence, but even so, he couldn’t shake his doubts.  Was he somehow twisted and strange, so much so that he gave himself over to be Sikhander’s plaything without much of a fight?

He was not willing to enter a relationship with anyone until he has sorted all of his confusing feelings out.  Of course, the mage reminded himself with a mental wry smirk, he could be reading Allistair’s actions entirely wrong.  Perhaps the kiss had meant nothing… but that did not seem likely.

With another loud sigh, he summoned Luciel, who appeared in the doorway, an expression of curiosity on his face.

“How are you feeling?” the angel asked in gentle concern.

“Better.  Confused.”  Devin shrugged.  “I need some advice, I think.”

“You?  Advice?” Luciel feigned a shocked expression, then dropped it when Devin mock-snarled.  “Of course, Devin.  What’s on your mind?”

The mage described the incident from the night before in its entirety, struggling at times to convey his feelings about what had occurred.  Luciel responded much more strongly to emotion than to narration, so he would gain a much better perspective of Devin’s situation that way.

As Devin concluded his story, the angel wore a thoughtful expression as he watched his protégé.  “So are you still going to take Allistair’s requested job?” he asked in a neutral tone.

“I never agreed to do it in the first place,” the mage half-growled.  “And…well, you know me.  I want to know if a cure is possible – but I’m not sure I should have anything more to do with him.”

“Understandable,” Luciel nodded.  “Let me tell you what little about Allistair that I observed.”

“All right…” Devin said somewhat dubiously.  Luciel’s observations were often quite different than Devin’s, but they were very seldom wrong.  However, Luce had only been in Allistair’s presence for a few minutes – what could he have learned?

“I think you need to know, first of all, Devin, that Allistair was telling the truth when he said he was sorry for hurting you.  It seemed like he had…lost control of himself for a moment, and he was truly contrite.”

Devin nodded, closing his eyes for a moment.  “I found that I believed him…he sounded so…hurt, I guess.  But even so – I can’t work with someone who’s liable to take a bite out of me when the urge strikes him.”

“Of course not,” Luciel agreed.  “I would like to think that after an initial slip like that, he would be on guard and better able to control himself…but I don’t know enough about him to judge.”

The mage only snorted in reply, gesturing for Luciel to continue.  “What else?”

“Well…I’m not precisely sure of the details, but it seemed as if your blood gave him something…much like it did to Sikhander.  That may mean trouble for us.”

Devin nodded grimly, remembering how his blood had empowered the demon thane.  “I should have thought of that before he bit me,” he admitted, “but I was just concerned that he wouldn’t drink me dry.  I was a bit more worried about my safety than whatever was happening to him…”

“And you didn’t want to have to hurt him,” Luciel asserted, one eyebrow raised.

The mage looked at his guardian incredulously.  “What the hell are you getting at?”

Luciel smiled at his bristly protégé.  “I know how you react to strangers in general, and to threats in particular.  I think that if you had not taken the time to speak with him a little, you would not have hesitated to destroy him when he attacked you.”

The mage scowled, unable to refute Luciel’s words, or his unspoken implication.  “He’s… I’m curious,” he finally admitted.  “A vampire who wants to be cured?  I’m not really well-versed in vampire lore, but I’ve never heard of such a thing.  Even if they’re unhappy at first, they fall into predator’s habits soon enough…”

Luciel nodded.  “He is an interesting case…” he agreed, his tone still carrying a suggestion that Devin didn’t care for.

“Do you have any more illuminating observations?” the mage asked acidly.

“One rather worrisome one, I’m afraid,” Luciel said, his demeanor becoming solemn.  “I don’t know if you remember, Devin, since you were nearly unconscious, but… he saw me.  Saw me and spoke to me.”

Devin did, in fact, remember that strange little interlude, but it had slipped his mind until now.  “Yeah… and he said that he didn’t gain that power from becoming a vampire…  You think he’s a mage?”

“I don’t believe he’s ever been trained, but he seems to have a hint of the power,” the angel mused.  “It’s a very obscure aura – as it would have to be, for you to not notice immediately.  I think that if he had any training at all, he wouldn’t have come looking for you the way he did.”

“Yeah, because the wards you have over me are like a big freaking sign saying ‘Do Not Touch’, and any mage should be able to see them clear as day.”

“Precisely.  If he were a mage, you’d be easy for him to find, but he would have known to approach you with a bit more caution than he did.  Unless he’s totally playing dumb…”

“I don’t think that’s the case,” Devin said reluctantly.  “And you could tell if he was lying, right?”

“Unless he’s a much more powerful mage than you, yes.  But then, if he was, why would he come to you for help?  So…” the angel gestured for Devin to complete the thought.

“So if he really wants help, he can’t be a mage… and if he’s really a mage, he’s not contacting me for help.”  The mage smirked.  “But we’re in agreement that he doesn’t seem to be lying?”

Luciel nodded.  If he were a powerful mage, he could perhaps lie aloud to us about his intentions, but strong emotions are, of course, much harder to hide, especially from a spirit.”

“Strong emotions?  Like his wanting to be cured?” Devin asked, tilting his head to one side as he thought about it.

“Among other things,” the angel said in an evasive tone.

Devin scowled; Luciel was only using that tone to provoke a question.  Why the creature insisted on these occasional bouts of verbal dancing, he would never know or understand.  “What kinds of other things?”

“Devin...Allistair was, as I said, very sorry to have harmed you.  But it goes a bit beyond his intense dislike of his own nature.”


“It was you, specifically, that he was so unhappy to harm.  He...” the angel looked up at Devin’s expression of incomprehension.  “The way he looked at you, before he left...”  He seemed reluctant to finish the thought.

“Spit it out,” Devin growled impatiently, quickly getting tired of Luciel’s hedging.

“He looked absolutely heartbroken,” Luciel finally murmured.  “Certainly he knew that you would survive, but I think he was greatly afraid that he had lost you.”

“Lost me?”  The mage’s voice was flat.

“ in, you would have nothing more to do with him.”

Devin knew that Luciel wasn’t just referring to the job that he might be performing for the vampire; this was confirmation from Luciel’s observations that Allistair’s interest in Devin was something more (or perhaps less) than professional.  The angel’s hesitation to explain was justified – this wasn’t something Devin particularly wanted to hear.

He sighed, wondering how much of his earlier thoughts he wanted to discuss with Luciel.  He certainly trusted the angel, but he was, and always had been, wary of sharing his heart with anyone.  “Look – Luce, you know I...don’t know a lot about these things...  Is there a way I can just...discourage him?”

Luciel’s answering smile held a certain curiosity.  “Well, if he was just some man you met in the pub, I’d say just act uninterested.  But...”

“But what?” Devin asked cautiously.  He was afraid that the angel was going to assert that Devin was, in fact, “interested” in Allistair.

But, Allistair seems more...steadfast...than that.  I don’t think dissuading him would be that simple.”  The angel shrugged helplessly.

Devin rubbed his eyes, then held his hand against his forehead.  It was going to make work difficult if his client had romantic designs toward him – and that was without factoring in Allistair’s vampirism.  As uncomfortable as Devin was with his own emotions, he was even more so with other people’s, and he didn’t look forward to facing Allistair again in light of this conversation.

“How do you think he’s going to get in touch with me again?” the mage asked in concern.  Being surprised in a dark corner by an overly friendly vampire was something he would rather avoid.

“He seems the polite type – he’ll probably come to the door some evening.  He likely won’t approach you in the village,” Luciel mused.

“That sounds about right,” Devin agreed, running a hand through his hair in a slightly stressed manner.  “So I guess we can look forward to a visit in the near future.”

“Hmm.”  The angel made a noncommittal noise.  “Have you decided to help him, then, Devin?”

Devin considered his words before he replied, not wanting to sound too eager.  “More than anything, I want to know if such a cure is even possible.  If it is – and if I can do it – then yes, I’ll give him his remedy.”  He paused.  “He seems to want it so badly...”

“Yes, he is quite desperate,” Luciel agreed with a nod.  His serious expression dissolved into a smile.  “I’m glad you’ve chosen to help him, instead of shunning him on account of his affliction.  Help him if you can, Devin.”

The mage made a sound of irritation that was not quite a growl, but said nothing.  His expression, however, was distant, indicating that his mind was already at work.


Part 1 Back to the Office Part 3

I guess this is the first time I've spent any length of time exploring what's going on behind Devin's gracious manner ;)  It needed doing, so I hope I managed to do it decently.  I've been told frequently (and I already know it, too ;) that I need more details, and while details of setting drive me batty at times, I honestly enjoy details of characterization...  It's just that sometimes I get too caught up in the action of the story that I skip things. ^^;  This time around, tho, I intend to do a lot more inner-workings stuff, at the expense of a much longer story. ;)