CHAPTER FOUR: HUNGER
The Nomad leaned back languidly in the comfortable airplane seat and regarded the group with hooded eyes. Things were going according to plan even with Dr. Marstand’s heavy-handed attempt to interfere. He looked over at Flynn. Dr. Marstand’s warning of danger – of the Nomad being dangerous – had had quite the opposite effect that the old Dean had intended for it to have. Flynn was now even more determined to go to Hamilton with him.
Poor Charles! What a hash he made of it!
It was not entirely a surprise to the Grand Master Vampire that Flynn should react in this way. Darkness had touched him and when darkness touched someone, it seemed to make them into greater risk-takers. Some even said they were suicidal in a way. They flung themselves into danger as if it was going out of style. Flynn had existed quietly until now, preparing himself for this moment when he had his chance to face that darkness. But now that the time was upon him, Flynn would live fully and amazingly and then … he might die. Like a falling star burning ever brighter as it crashed to Earth.
Flynn’s pretty face was upturned looking at the screen as David began the presentation. Though the empath had said that they all knew the near history of Hamilton, David proceeded to rehash it in case someone hadn’t done their homework. They were also all academics. They couldn’t help themselves.
But there’s nothing academic about this for Flynn. This happened to his family. This happened to him.
The Nomad rested his chin on one hand while he stretched the other hand across the table. He was just a few inches from Flynn’s own outstretched hand. He could feel the young man’s body warmth. What would Flynn think about the history of his hometown laid out in stark, scholarly terms? Would he be able to keep his cool -- and his secret -- for very long? How soon would he ask himself the obvious: were his parents victims of the darkness or servants of it? But Flynn’s expression did not reveal his thoughts on this matter and the Nomad’s mind began to drift to Alex and Demetrius despite his best intentions. His fledglings were never far from his mind.
He had promised himself not to let his two lives cross. He was Professor Fall right now so he couldn’t just wander over and see Alex and Demetrius. He had to focus on the expedition, his students, the darkness. But his fledglings were so close! In the same town! A mile away! Not that distance was really an issue for him. He could phase anywhere in the world. Phasing was an ability that allowed him to simply step through thousands of miles of in a moment. He was never farther than a thought from them.
And that was probably how he suddenly found himself in Sanctuary, the nightclub run by Demetrius and where he, Alex and Demetrius’ fledglings lived instead of in his office sorting reference materials. He hadn’t meant to phase, but he had done it anyways. His very thoughts had betrayed him.
The club was packed. It was always packed. People vied to get into it no matter where in the world Demetrius opened it. London, Paris, New York, Rome and now Arkham. Sometimes it was in a sleek, ultra-modern setting, other times a grungy warehouse, but this time it was in an old Victorian home with a spectacular lawn facing the sea.
Beautiful people flooded the interior of the club. The air was redolent with the scent of perfume, sex and blood. He felt his eyes flare crimson and instead of seeing the people, he saw only their arteries and veins and hearts. The music’s heavy bass beat up through the soles of his dress shoes just as their hearts beat the blood through their bodies that sung to him. His fangs extended.
That was when he realized he wasn’t in his Nomad outfit of all black. He didn’t have his hood on. He was Xavier Fall now, but he was in the vampire world. Luckily, his outfit actually allowed him to fit in at the club. He had on faded, ripped blue jeans that hugged his ass and an untucked white button-down shirt, half unbuttoned, with his sleeves rolled up to his elbows showing off muscled forearms. He wore only a necklace made out of black cord with a simple silver coin on it. It was stamped with the supposed likeness of Judas. He found that amusing somehow.
But being in Sanctuary as Xavier Fall was the ultimate crossing of lines. He needed to leave immediately, but then he saw Alex.
His newest fledgling was weaving through the crowd of dancers. Their sweat-slicked, toned bodies swayed suggestively around him. Longing looks were sent Alex’s way. The young man was gorgeous. He had blond hair so pale in places it almost looked white, cerulean blue eyes, high cheekbones, an expressive mouth and a strong jaw. Alex stood six feet tall and was well built. So the looks of desire could have had nothing to do with his being a vampire, but being a vampire meant that Alex was that much more alluring to the humans in the room than he otherwise would have been. Alex, of course, had eyes for none of them. He loved Demetrius Black with a singular passion.
Even now Alex wasn’t in the club to dance and lose his body to the beat of the electronic music and the hearts all around him. Instead, he had chosen to help out Jamal, the young man who worked one of Sanctuary’s bars. Alex’s hands were full of dirty glassware that he was returning to Jamal to be washed. His vampiric grace allowed him to completely avoid the drunken, high people who reached for him, wanting him so desperately. Alex twisted away from the massive arms of a hot man near thirty wearing a custom gray suit probably worth more than Alex’s mother had made in a year as a waitress. But Alex didn’t even turn his head towards the rich man. He didn’t even sniff the air to enjoy the coppery scent of blood.
He shouldn’t be working tonight. He should be dancing. He should be seducing these humans. He should be learning to take one down to the VIP area and feed from them!
The VIP area was in the basement of Sanctuary where only a few chosen were taken. Everyone vied to get down there, thinking it was where the bottle service was completely free and sexual orgies were commonplace. The humans weren’t wholly wrong. Those things did happen, but the VIP area was really for the vampires to feed from many humans without having to drain any single one to satisfy their hunger. The humans remembered none of the feeding, instead, their memories were altered to recall only that they had had the most spectacular time. The only vampire who could not partake in this orgy of delights was Demetrius. He had been a dhampir before the Nomad had made him into a vampire, and now he needed to feed from other vampires or he would become ill. Alex had eagerly offered himself to be the sole donor for his lover’s thirst.
Which means that Alex is really feeding for two. Yet here he is stocking glassware! the Nomad thought with a flare of annoyance. Demetrius should have been making Alex feed. Except Demetrius is his lover not his Master. I am.
Guilt flared in his chest and before he realized what he was doing, the Nomad had crossed the dance floor, the dancers parting for him like the Red Sea supposedly had for Moses, until his front was pressed against Alex’s muscular back. The Nomad shocked himself as he buried his face against Alex’s neck and drew in his fledgling’s scent. A tension that he hadn’t known he was even carrying drained out of him as soon as he did so. Alex stiffened at his touch at first, but then immediately relaxed as he realized who it was.
“Nomad!” Alex cried as he turned in the circle of the Grand Master Vampire’s arms to face him. That was when he realized the Nomad was not dressed like himself. His eyes went wide as saucers.
“Xavier,” the Nomad correctly softly. Hopefully, no one had heard Alex’s cry. “You must call me Xavier when I’m … like this. Or Master, of course, works for any occasion. For all anyone knows, I could be your daddy and you my boy.”
The last had Alex’s lips tugging into a grin. “I only call you ‘Master’ when I’m annoyed with you, remember?”
“Oh, right. I had forgotten. Then Xavier it is,” the Nomad said. He started drawing Alex out onto the dance floor even as Alex began to question his being there.
“What are you doing here? I thought you said you were really busy with your other – uhm, with the expedition. Not that I’m complaining! I’m glad you’re here. But is everything all right?” Alex’s expressions were fascinating to watch as they changed from concern to happiness back to concern again.
“Everything is fine. I – I was just checking in on you. I won’t be able to do that when I’m in Hamilton. The nights there will be purely for ghost hunting or whatever. So I thought I should come now when I can. Make sure that you’re feeding properly, which I see you are not.” The Nomad placed his hands on Alex’s powerful hips and started making the young man move with the music even as he did the same.
“What are you – I’m not a good dancer! Really!” Alex resisted his efforts to make him dance at first, but then his hips began to do that liquid glide that only vampires can truly achieve.
“You are a vampire, Alex,” the Nomad murmured into the shell of his ear. “That means grace and sex and danger. Own it.”
The dancers moved away from them, giving them a circle of private space on the packed dance floor. The Nomad knew that he and Alex made an incredibly beautiful sight as they danced. The arousal in the room climbed and his fangs truly ached then. He wanted to feed, but he wanted to dance with Alex more. Why wasn’t Alex hungry? One look into his fledgling’s eyes told him that Alex was hungry, very hungry, but resisting it.
Such a will in one so new to his Second Life. He will become so formidable as he ages.
But Alex shouldn’t have to use that iron clad will. He should be feeding. He should be wild with his new life and powers. Instead, he wasn’t.
“Are you okay?” Alex asked again. His blue eyes were staring into the Nomad’s.
“Why do you keep asking me versions of that question?” The Nomad actually dipped Alex then. The back of his fledgling’s head nearly brushed the floor.
“Hey!” Alex laughed in surprise as the Nomad brought him up to standing again. His fledgling leaned against the Grand Master Vampire and seemed almost breathless. “Seriously, N-Xavier, what’s wrong?”
The Nomad was going to answer ‘nothing’, but instead he found himself saying, “I was missing you terribly. I had forgotten how bad it is in the beginning. I was mad with grief about Demetrius when I wasn’t with him. Yet I was able to resist, but with you I can’t …” He broke off.
He was surprised at the emotion in his voice, the tightness in his throat. Masters stayed with their fledglings normally 24/7 during the first years. It was said to be just for the fledgling, but the Nomad knew better. It wasn’t just the fledglings that needed the closeness. The Masters did, too. He needed it.
Alex’s expression softened and for a moment the Nomad felt what his fledgling tried to hide: he felt the ache, too, except it was far deeper, but then his access to Alex’s feelings on that matter was cut off.
“I missed you, too,” Alex was saying simply. “And Demetrius has as well. He’s been stalking around when he’s not with me muttering in Russian. It’s always bad when he mutters in Russian.”
“My moody fledgling,” the Nomad laughed.
“He really hoped that you were going to stay, but of course you have important things you need to do,” Alex quickly qualified and gave him a smile like it was no-never-mind that there were more important things than him to the Nomad. But that wasn’t true. Alex and Demetrius were his real life.
But the darkness calls me …
“Alex,” the Nomad began, his forehead furrowed.
“You don’t have to explain. You don’t have to say anything,” Alex said. “I do understand. You want to keep us safe and … and you have another life. You value that life.” An impish smile crossed Alex’s lips. “With Flynn and his pert ass.”
The Nomad chuckled and patted Alex’s very pert ass. “His ass is nothing compared to yours.”
“Don’t let Demetrius hear you say that or see you grope me. Missing you or not, he’ll toss you through the next available window!” Alex tossed back his head and laughed, then he said, “Speaking of Demetrius, we should meet up with him. He’s out back and –”
“Wait,” the Nomad said, not allowing Alex to pull him off the dance floor quite yet. “Why aren’t you feeding?”
“What? I am. I mean I had some bagged blood earlier and –”
“Bagged blood?” The Nomad’s gag reflex kicked on for a moment. “Why? There is plenty of fresh blood all around us.” He gestured at the toned, sculpted beautiful humans dancing around them.
Alex’s gaze slid past him, but he didn’t linger on the dancers. “Well, after the Judge, feeling his soul leave his body and all when I fed from him… well, I just couldn’t –”
Alex was talking about his first kill. The Judge who had been the father of Alex’s stepfather, a man who had tried to sexually molest Alex’s younger brother Peter. Alex had walked in on the crime in progress, accidentally shot his stepfather in the scuffle to get him away from Peter and then the Judge and his son had attempted to put Alex in prison to cover up the stepfather’s crime.
“What do you mean ‘no’?” Alex asked with a faint smile.
“You aren’t going to avoid feeding,” the Nomad said. His hands were on Alex’s shoulders now keeping the young man in place. They weren’t dancing, but none of the humans around them noticed and they couldn’t heard what they were saying either thanks to a little vampire trick he was using to blind them to his and Alex’s presences. “Demetrius should know better than this, but he is letting sentiment get in the way. You are feeding for both him and you. Plus, with your unknown ancestry that causes you to desire Peter’s blood …”
The Nomad let the sentence hang. Alex paled. When the Nomad had transformed Alex into a vampire something unexpected had happened. Alex’s eyes had turned red like the Nomad’s did, most vampire’s eyes turned a gas light blue, but there had been more oddities. Alex’s strength had been phenomenal and his desire for blood – for his little brother’s blood – had been extreme, almost to the point where Alex had gone feral and had to be put down.
“I know, but I … I can’t …” Alex swallowed hard.
“How does it feel when Demetrius feeds from you?” the Nomad asked, realizing that he had to make Alex realize feeding was not a bad thing and quickly.
A dreamy expression crossed Alex’s face. “It’s … great.”
“Exactly,” the Nomad answered with a twitch of a smile. “That’s how the humans will feel that you feed from them. You aren’t going to kill them. You’re going to take a little blood from a whole bunch of them. They’re probably going to cum when you do it. Everyone gets what they want.”
Alex’s white teeth bit lightly into his plump lower lip. “It’ll feel good to them?”
“Of course,” the Nomad said.
“But what if I can’t stop?” Alex’s blue eyes were huge.
“It’s called Chasing the Last when a vampire can’t stop feeding before a human is dead,” the Nomad said with a shrug. “It happens.”
“But that’s killing someone! That’s taking their life and –”
“All humans die,” the Nomad interrupted. “All of them, Alex. That is their nature. How they die is the only thing up for grabs. And being fed on is probably the most pleasurable way to go.”
“I don’t want to kill anyone! Their lives are short! It makes them even more precious!” Alex protested.
The Nomad fought not to roll his eyes. Alex was so very young. “I will be with you and will make sure you don’t kill them then.”
“Every night?” It wasn’t Alex who asked that, but Demetrius.
The beautiful Russian vampire was standing behind them. The Nomad swung around to face his first fledgling. Demetrius’ face was unreadable. His blue eyes glowed faintly in the darkness of the club. His long, auburn hair tumbled down his front. He was letting it grow long again.
Beautiful. Moody. Angry. Hurt. All of those things you are, Demetrius.
The Nomad’s chest clenched. He could not satisfy his need for Demetrius by reaching out and holding him like he had Alex. The Russian Master Vampire would not allow it. By abandoning him right after the Nomad had turned him – even though it was to keep him safe – in Demetrius’ mind, the Nomad no longer had the rights of Master to him.
“Will you be here every night?” Demetrius demanded, his massive arms crossing over his chest. “Or will you leave us again?”
“Xavier?” Flynn’s voice cut through the memory and brought him back to the airplane.
The Nomad’s head jerked towards him. The young man had actually reached over and covered the hand he had stretched out on the table. The touch felt so warm. He could feel the faint whorls and ridges of Flynn’s fingerprints against the back of his hand. For a wild moment, he thought of grasping that hand and bringing it up to his face and sucking on the pulse point at the wrist.
“Are you okay?” Flynn’s voice was low so that no one else could hear.
David was still droning away about the Incident. The Nomad blinked and settled himself more comfortably in his seat.
“I’m … I’m fine,” the Nomad said and his voice sounded rusty.
Flynn studied him for a long moment. “Are you sure?”
This was eerily like Alex’s questions to him. Could Flynn have the sight like Alex did? “Yes, why do you ask?”
“You just looked …” Flynn seemed like he was debating what word to use and then he obviously came to the decision to use it. “You looked grief stricken.”
“Grief stricken?” The Nomad attempted to smile, but he knew it fell flat.
Other than his unsuccessful twitch of lips, the Nomad did not move. He knew this preternatural stillness always unnerved humans, though it seemed not to bother Flynn so much as concern him. Grief stricken? Was he feeling that way? Perhaps.
Or will you leave us again? Leave us. Leave us! LEAVE US!
The Nomad blinked. Flynn stared into his eyes, but not in the fuzzy, lustful ways humans normally did when they looked at a vampire. Flynn’s eyes were clear and insightful. They were filled with concern. What did he look like? Were there tears pricking his eyes? That was absurd! He was quite fine. No one could know the wounds he carried inside.
Flynn pitched his voice even lower, “Is there … is there anything I can do?”
He hesitated, but finally said, “No, Flynn, truly, I am all right. I just was thinking of some people close to me that I had to leave behind.”
“The three months will fly by and you’ll be back with them,” Flynn said as if he were the older one between them.
Three months for a vampire is a blink of an eye yet right at this moment, it might as be forever.
“I’m sure it will,” the Nomad murmured. He shook himself. He had to focus on the here and now. He could not allow himself to wallow in what could not be changed.
David finished up the introduction on the Incident, ending with, “Since that night, there have been an estimated 115 disappearances in the Ghost Half since then yet none of these disappearances have ever been officially acknowledged to be connected to the Ghost Half.”
The Nomad suddenly sprang to his feet, “Now that David has refreshed us on the Incident, let us speak of Hamilton’s unwritten history.”
“Which is?” Jaela’s asked in an amused rich voice. She had crossed her shapely legs and was bouncing one leg on top of the other.
“That this is not the first time that half a town’s worth of people has disappeared in the area,” the Nomad said, his eyes flickering amongst the group. “Based upon the scanty information David and I were able to dig up, this is the fifth mass disappearance.”
“Mon dieu! But how has no one realized this before? The cable news endlessly loops when a single person goes missing when it is a slow news day. Surely this would give them ratings galore!” Isabel cried.
“It is odd, more than odd. It’s inexplicable,” David was the one to answer her. A slide appeared on the screen showing an image of the map of Wisconsin with Hamilton located in the far northern forests, he said, “But that’s not the only inexplicable thing about this place.”
“The history of Hamilton is a history of two things.” The Nomad held up one finger and then another as he counted them off. “One is disappearances. The other? Is hunger.”
Everyone stirred uncomfortably in their seats. The way he had said hunger one could easily imagine a clawing starvation. The Nomad wondered then if David was hungry. Surely with Corey’s bubbling personality around he would be filled to the brim. For his part, the Nomad’s teeth ached. But though Flynn smelled quite a bit better now, no longer like stale Cheetos hidden under a filthy cough, he would not be feeding from anyone on the expedition or from the town. He would phase to other places to eat. While he could use the Vampire Seduction to make people forget the feeding, it would just be too risky with the darkness nearby.
David cleared his throat and said, “Starting in pre-Columbian times --”
“We’re going that far back?” Flynn interrupted. He clearly wasn’t happy about the fact that they seemed to be investigating, what to him undoubtedly looked far afield from the events fifteen years ago.
“Yes, the disappearances have been reported since the time of the Paleo-Indians, the first inhabitants of what is now known as Wisconsin,” David explained. “The tales of whole groups of people vanishing without a trace were handed down through the ages until they finally were told by the Siouan tribes to the European explorers.”
“That’s … unexpected,” Flynn said.
The Nomad watched Flynn’s throat as it worked when he talked. His fangs ached more and he snapped his gaze away from the young man. Luckily, Alex was deeply asleep yet or he would have been teasing the Nomad mercilessly for his distraction by the pretty boy he intended to watch face the darkness and potentially die.
“What did they say happened to everybody?” Corey asked. He had now propped himself up on a pillow. His socked feet still wiggled on the arm of the couch.
“There were lots of explanation from kidnappings by evil spirits to the earth simply swallowing them up,” David said.
“Oh, dear David is burying the lede,” the Nomad said with a faint grin.
“I’m not burying it exactly, Xavier,” David said. “I just don’t know if I agree with it.”
“Agree with what?” Flynn asked.
“Remember that I told you that the history of Hamilton is a history of two things. First the disappearances and second the hunger. Except I think the two are connected,” Xavier said.
“How so?” Jaela asked, her dark eyes narrowing.
“One word,” the Nomad said with a smile growing on his face even as David shook his head. “Wendigo.”