Kats (wildrider) wrote,

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Keep your fire burning

Seen at the bottom of an Op-Ed piece in the NY Times:

Barack Obama is the president of the United States.

Because most readers of the NY Times won't know who this guest writer is, I'm assuming.

Yesterday morning I was getting into my truck when I heard the familiar and distinctive sound of a raven's voice. I waited, because I could hear him getting nearer, and then he wheeled around close to the house and came back to perch in the pine tree in the neighbor's yard. I watched him for a while as he hopped from branch to branch. The mockingbirds regarded him warily, prepared to defend their turf (which that tree has always been), but he eventually flew off toward our backyard. I lost sight of him behind the fence, and then had to go to work. Is keen.

The other day at the gym (actually last week -- I've been VERY slack this week), in their always mostly lame music mix playing on the loudspeakers, there was a strange pop-rap mix of, of all things, "The Lonely Goatherd" from The Sound of Music. It freaked my freak.

I loaded my Showtunes playlist onto my iPod and have been listening this week. One problem with iPod playlists is you can't shuffle them easily without shuffling everything (at least, not on my old one); so I've just been listening straight through, alphabetically. This means, in some cases, two versions of the same show back to back. Sometimes this is nice (Oliver! screen version and the 1994 Oliver! revival are one example); and sometimes it makes one show reflect badly off the other; in particular, Evita -- the movie version is very nice on its own, but directly after listening to the original stage recording, not only is Antonio Banderas decidedly not Mandy Patinkin (although really not too bad in the role), compared to the powerhouse vocalist that is Patti Lupone, Madonna sounds like a little girl auditioning for American Idol. (That "not being Mandy Patinkin" has so far been my only complaint about everything I've heard from the new version of Sunday in the Park with George...)

Chapter Eight

Despite her protests, she went with him after he pocketed their room key, down the stairs and
out to the car, where he shrugged on his greatcoat before carrying their luggage up to the room so
Bonnie could dig out her sweater. They found a lot of people were out and about on the streets,
looking in the store windows and talking, some stumbling a little, everyone dressed like Sean
Patrick did normally. She wanted to take him back to their quaint little room and play around
some, but for a change he was more interested in seeing the sights than he was in sex. He peered
in the windows of buildings, he paused on the wooden sidewalks and looked up at the stars, and
finally they reached an open saloon, which had the unlikely name of "Big Nose Kate's."

"She was Doc Holliday's girlfriend," he said to her when she commented on it. "Lotta stuff
changed around this place. There was a big fire a few months before I came, took out a good part
of Allen Street out there, and it was all cleared away and rebuilt by the time I got here. This
place was hard to keep down." They made their way to the bar and ordered drinks, her usual
Scotch and his Jack Daniels on the rocks, and found a table where they could sit while Sean
Patrick seemed to just drink in the atmosphere more than the alcohol.

"So here we are, Sean Patrick. Are you going to tell me what we came for?" she asked,
grinning at him over the rim of her glass.

"Yes, here we are," he said, stretching out his long legs under the table and sitting way back,
crossing his ankles. "It was late July, 1882, when my daddy decided I was the best man to ride
out to California to round up a herd of good stock horses to add their blood to ours back home. I
was riding out with my buddy Luke, one of our hands, and we were planning on making a few
stops along the way, then bring back the horses by train. It wasn't just the business Daddy was
wanting for me to do, something for me to get my hands right on, but it was his notion that I was
going to get a little of the wild streak out of me. I think Daddy didn't want me to take the Grand
Tour you know, go to Europe and all that so he was trying to get the travel bug out of me.
Figured, I guess, if I did some traveling around the country, working for him for a while, I'd get
into working for myself, get into being the next head of the family. It probably would have
worked." He leaned forward, elbows on the table, and said, "It might have worked, if only she
hadn't seen me playing poker that night."

"She?" asked Bonnie, feeling her mouth go dry despite the Scotch. There was an air of
menace about Sean Patrick as he said that pronoun, and a darkness came over his expression
unlike anything she'd ever seen in him before. His jaw tightened, his mouth settling into a fierce
line, as though he were about to aim a gun and fire a bullet through someone's heart. "Who is

"'She' is the vampire who made me what I am," he whispered, the expression getting even
more vicious. "She calls herself Amanda. I know she's been a thousand other names, made
dozens of other vampires to be her constant companions. I was playing poker over in the
Occidental Saloon and she saw me there." He sat back again and finished the Jack Daniels in his
glass, then shook himself and shrugged. "You'll get the rest later. Let's enjoy some of tonight."

"All right," she said. "It is kind of nice traveling together. I'm having a good time." She
spoke as lightly as she could, hoping to head off the black mood she could see starting to come
down over him.

"Good." He forced a smile, and Bonnie squeezed his hand supportively.

It was pleasant to sit and chat just as they did at home, only out in public where no one at all
knew them. She relaxed with the Scotch, watching when he took a seat with a set up of the Old
West game faro, a game that the dealer said was "one of the most complex and competitive
games played in Tombstone in the eighteen-hundreds. It caused more gunfights than booze or
women." He grinned at those who stepped forward to play, including Sean Patrick, who set
down a hundred-dollar bill to buy into the game and settled into his chair.

Bonnie sipped her drink and watched in confusion as she tried to work out the rules of the
game. Sean Patrick played faro as well as he did poker, although it seemed to Bonnie there was
more luck involved in this one. Sean Patrick seemed to be the only one besides the dealer who
really understood what was going on. He left the table with his hundred and three more besides,
impressing the dealer and everyone who was watching.

"Good God, son, it was like you lived back then or something," said the dealer with a laugh,
counting out Sean Patrick's winnings.

"Just a historian," replied Sean Patrick with a grin that wasn't quite his own. "Gotta keep
your eyes on the cards, that's all."

"You weren't counting them, were you?"

"No, sir, not that," said Sean Patrick, throwing his hands up. "I play clean, honest to God."
He put one hand on his heart.

"Hard not to believe that face, isn't it?" the dealer said to Bonnie.

"Oh, he's every bit as honest as his face implies," said Bonnie in reply, laughing a little. She
wanted to get Sean Patrick back to the room where she could try and see if she could get him into
a better humor. "I don't think he could cheat if he were set up for it and you were looking the
other way. He's the most honest person I think I've ever met in my life."

"Good to know, good to know."

Sean Patrick hugged her shoulders and winked, both at her and the dealer, as well as the
waitress that had been serving them, before steering them both out of the closing saloon and back
down the street toward the bed and breakfast. "I know it's early, but we can get to bed now, I
think," he said, "play around a little for a while," he winked at her again, "then get up early."

"You can't go outside," she cautioned, glad he was being flirty again.

"No, but there's plenty I can do in the shade," he said. "We can explore whatever side of the
street keeps me out of direct sunlight." He hugged her more, pressing her against his side, "And
that makes sure Mrs. Brennen doesn't think we're weird, you know, if we go out a little during the

"I suppose. But you will be careful."

"Oh, yes, I promise."

Waking up in the early afternoon was a little strange, Bonnie knew, but still Mrs. Brennen
didn't say anything as she served them a nice midday luncheon, sandwiches on crusty nice bread
filled with thin-sliced steak and nice hot horseradish for her, barbecue sauce for him, with thick-
cut fried potatoes and coleslaw, a down-home meal that Bonnie could have had every day of her
life. Sean Patrick ate like he normally did, stuffing down food as though it had just been
invented, wiping out his sandwich and sides with a lot of dill pickles and then a gigantic slice of
Mrs. Brennen's "world-famous chocolate cake" and a big glass of milk. He pleased the older
woman tremendously with his appetite, as well as his extravagant compliments, which had
turned them into the favorite guests of the bed and breakfast, behind the fast-speaking but
friendly New York doctor and his wife and the young couple from Illinois.

"You were the youngster who wowed everyone at the faro table last night, weren't you?"
asked the New Yorker. "I watched some of that game. Never saw anyone play that before."

"It's not the most common game," said Sean Patrick, "but it's not completely unfathomable.
Just takes a little study. Say, what's the weather like today?"

"Been better," said Mrs. Brennen. "A little cloudy, and it's still cold. Don't think it'll warm
up too much today."

"Ah, well. We'll make the best of it," he said, but he was smiling, and Bonnie knew it was
because it meant he could wear his heavy leather coat without raising any eyebrows, and here his
wide-brimmed cowboy hat wouldn't make people look twice at him. They were free to go out
into the afternoon with only a little risk of sunshine touching his sensitive vampire skin.

They were able to make good use of the scurrying clouds to get from the bed and breakfast to
the Birdcage Theatre, escaping into its darkness to look with interest at the crumbling,
deteriorating walls. "And you know what? It wasn't even built when I was here," Sean Patrick
whispered to Bonnie. "I completely missed it." She looked up at him, trying to see if he was as
chipper as he'd sounded at lunch. In the dusky light of the theatre it was hard to tell. His eyes
looked distant and sad.

They looked into what remained of his Grand Hotel and the Occidental Saloon, walking up
Allen Street and back down Fremont and to the car. "We'll drive up the cemetery."

"So what's up there?"

"The rest of my story," he answered. "Hop in. Let's head on up."

"You really know how to show a gal a good time," she teased.

The cemetery was further out than she remembered, but Sean Patrick said the same thing he
always did about Las Vegas, "I bet you anything that someday that town is going to be all the
way out here."

"I don't see it," she said. "Who would want to build so far out of town?"

"It won't be one day. Mark my words, honey. I am never wrong about these things. I've
seen it happen too often. My house was miles and miles from San Antonio when I was born."

"That was a hundred years ago."

"And in a hundred years, our house went from standing alone on a half-million acres to being
lucky we manage to hold onto a few hundred, with more and more getting sucked up by people
every year. One of these days, and I tell Matt this all the time, the city will take the last of our
lands. We may still own 'em, but other people will be living on them and working on them.
There's a pasture I used to fish and ride that's a high-rise office complex now. It's progress, and
there ain't a damned thing, pardon, anyone can do to stop it."

"Well, I'll believe it when I see it," she said, as he turned up the drive once again to the
building outside of the cemetery. The setting sun was peeking out from the clouds, but Sean
Patrick was able to avoid it, going directly into the small but extremely crowded tourist shop that
led to the entrance of Boot Hill Cemetery. Picture postcards, showing scenic views of the
mountains, the high desert, and the cemetery itself, all its colorful tombstones, filled racks
surrounded by fake Indian crafts and real Indian jewelry, leather moccasins and hideous
scorpions encased in lucite; really, mostly the same junk she'd seen in every tourist shop in Las
Vegas her whole life. It was the postcards that caught her eye, but Sean Patrick caught her
hand and led her outside, into the cemetery itself.

"Doesn't it cost anything?"

"I keep tellin' you, honey, it's a real cemetery. People are permitted to view graves,
especially people who have relatives buried here," he responded. "They make their money in
donations and that gift shop. Come on. It's right over here."

He walked her through the gravel paths, past the cheerfully macabre tombstones such as
"Here lies Lester Moore, four slugs from a .44, no less, no more." He didn't look sideways at
those, but lead her directly to a very simple wooden marker which read, "Sean Patrick O'Connor,
1863 - 1882. Texan." The stones that covered the grave, like all those around it, rose in a simple
mound, impossible to tell if they had ever been disturbed. A hawk circled above them, clear
against the early dusk sky. She shivered.

"There you are, Bonnie." His voice was flat and expressionless.

She stared at the marker, then at the man next to her. "What happened next?" she asked

"Amanda took me to her hotel room at the Grand," he said, huddling in his coat with his
hands tucked deeply into his pockets. "She seduced me. I really thought I was something else
again, nice, high-class lady like that taking me home. But she'd already figured out I had money,
and it was the money she wanted. She seduced me and she turned me into a vampire after asking
me if I wanted to see the world. Hell, pardon, of course I did. She didn't say 'do you want to be
a bloodsucking monster?' She also didn't make any promises about anything. She left me laying
there, in a vampire coma I couldn't come out of once the sun rose "

"But you get around just fine in the daytime," said Bonnie, stating the obvious.

"I do now, but I couldn't then. The sun came up, and I went out like a light. I couldn't do
anything. The hotel staff found me when Luke raised the alarm about me being missing. He
knew I wouldn't have just disappeared without telling him. They found my apparently-dead
body. Luke wanted them to keep me until he could have me shipped to Texas, of course, but it
was August. No one had any ice, no place to keep a body. So they decided to put me in the
ground as fast as possible. Luke had all my money, so he bought me a suit and a coffin, put me
in it, and then boxed up all my things and the rest of the cash to ship it back to Texas. He was
going to ride back fast as he could with his horse and mine.

"He just didn't count on me climbin' out of that grave," he gestured to the ground. "Which I
did, of course. And she was there, waiting for me. Told me she was sorry, she got caught out by
the sun and had to take cover. I believed her. Then. I thought I didn't have a choice." His voice
took on a harsh, bitter tone. "Anyway, I broke into the mortician's place and stole back my stuff,
then into the stable and stole my horse, then Amanda and I took the train back to Texas. I
introduced her to my family as my wife, but couldn't keep from them what I was, especially since
Luke had wired them he was coming home with bad news. Said later he couldn't just tell 'em in a
telegram. I'm sure glad he couldn't. I got home first and was able to take care of everything.
Most of my family accepted their favorite son as a vampire."

"Most?" she asked.

"Almost everyone," his voice somehow got even sadder. "My great-grandfather, he was
proud of me. I guess for Apaches becoming a 'nightwalker' is a great honor. Daddy was happy
about it, too. Mama was a little scared, Catholic upbringing was stronger than her Apache blood.
But my baby brother, Michael, he was never really too happy about it. I went with Amanda to
Europe, and when I finally got free of her and came home, Michael had severed ties with the
family. I never saw him again." He stopped talking for several moments, his jaw tightening and
blinking several times. "I gave up my inheritance, gave my place in the family to Matt, and
became essentially the second son and favorite uncle. So there it is. That's how I became a

"So there's no one down there?" she asked softly.

"Nope. Just an empty coffin with a broken lid. Of course, it's probably completely decayed,
you know. It was pine. And the suit Luke bought me didn't fit, too short in the leg. I was glad I
was able to steal back my own clothes. I would have hated to be stuck with that suit. I got rid of
it as soon as I could. Now come on. I saw something on the way in."

Bonnie trailed after him back to the gift shop, where a lot of the tourists had already left,
leaving only a few diehards and the clerks, one of whom was an older fellow with a sharp,
interested face. Sean Patrick went right to the front desk and pointed to a hand-drawn "wanted"
poster which showed a rendition of an attractive woman. "That's her," he whispered. "Amanda.
Luke described her as my killer."

Bonnie stared at the cold, expressionless face and shivered again, as she had when Sean
Patrick first mentioned her. The hand-drawn eyes seemed as intense as if they had come from a
portrait, much more real than the police drawings she saw on television when they were looking
for someone based on some eyewitness description.

"Wanted for the murder of Texan Sean Patrick O'Connor. REWARD," the poster read.

"How much was the reward?"

"Luke didn't know how much to say. Daddy told me he would have put up fifty thousand,
and that was like a million back then," said Sean Patrick.

The older clerk, who had been watching them, came up and said, "I never forget a face, son.
You've been around here before."

"Not lately, sir," replied Sean Patrick.

"What's your name, son?"

"Sean Patrick O'Connor," he said, apparently not even thinking about it as the name that was
on the tombstone outside and the wanted poster on the wall. At the shocked look on the clerk's
face, he automatically grinned and continued, "I was named after my great granddaddy out there."
He gestured toward the darkening cemetery outside.

"Ah ha! And you look like him, too. That's where I've seen that face." He bent down to
reach under the counter.

Bonnie looked up at Sean Patrick, startled. "There's a picture of you?" she mouthed. He
gestured her to hush as the clerk reappeared, lugging a book filled with sepia-toned
daguerreotypes, mostly horribly macabre photos of dead people, either laid out in state or in their
coffins, although some, like children, were posed. "That's horrible!"

"It was popular back then, honey," said Sean Patrick, looking at the pictures as the clerk
flipped through the pages. "Photography was new, and folks wanted keepsakes of their lost
loved ones."

"But the children! That's... it's just..."

"Sometimes it was the only picture the family ever had of the child," said the clerk. "Poor
families couldn't afford to take pictures of their kids, until they paid the mortician to do it for

Sean Patrick nodded. "Yep," he said.

"Here it is." The clerk stopped and turned the book toward them.

Bonnie stared at the picture of Sean Patrick, laid out in a narrow pine coffin, his face just as
she'd seen it when he was deep in his vampire sleep, the one where he didn't wake instantly, and
his response during the day was minimal; he called it a "vampire coma," Bonnie tried not to
think about it much at all. She knew how they would have mistaken him for dead, although she
never thought he really looked dead, even when he was like that. He'd worn his hair short then,
clipped up close around his ears, no sideburns, and a long, curled moustache. Very much like
any of the men that were emblazoned on all the posters in Tombstone, Wyatt Earp and his
brothers and their contemporaries.

"He was a dandy-lookin' fella," said the clerk. "Height of fashion."

"Yep," said Sean Patrick again, just as laconic as he often looked, which wasn't his usual
style at all. "My granddaddy was just a kid when he died," he embellished. "He never came
home again."

"I like to learn as much as I can about the folks buried in this graveyard," said the clerk.
"Not just the famous residents, but all those ordinary folks, the ones who died normal instead of
gettin' shot or hung. I couldn't find anything about what killed your great-granddad."

"They don't know," said Sean Patrick. "Never did find out."

"How come they never posted the reward? Never came and took him home?"

Sean Patrick wasn't the world's best liar, but somehow he managed to slickly pull a story out
of thin air, "My great-grandmama decided that the dead should stay buried. She had a son to
raise and a ranch to take care of, and figured as long as he was buried Catholic, he could stay
where he was. She was more concerned that his kit never made it home."

"There's a story about that, too," said the clerk, pulling a notepad from behind the gruesome
picture of Sean Patrick in his coffin. "I read it somewhere and made some notes. I guess there
was a break-in at the mortuary the night he was buried, the thieves made off with everything the
poor fella owned. I guess it was the gal what killed him, getting the stuff she missed out on. No
one knows anything about her," he looked at the wanted poster, "couldn't find another thing
about her. Oh, and the fella's horse was stolen, too, and another horse with it."

Sean Patrick looked sideways at Bonnie, his lips twitching slightly. Bonnie covered his hand
with hers and returned her attention to the photograph. Sean Patrick and the clerk continued to
chat for a while, until the younger of the two clerks locked the doors behind the last of the
tourists who had left. "I suppose we ought to head back to the B-and-B," said Sean Patrick.
"Have some dinner."

"I am getting hungry," she said. "This whole town smells like steak."

"That it does. There's nothing like a town full of steak restaurants to get the appetite going,"
said Sean Patrick. "Mr. Grimes, I wanna thank you for all the info you got on my family."

"And thank you, too, son. I always wanted to know about the rest of the O'Connors. Texans
didn't come out this way too often unless they were just on their way through."

"Well, he was just passin' through," said Sean Patrick. "He was aimin' to get to California
on business when the mystery lady stopped him cold. It was a shame, wasn't it?"

"Sure was. He couldn't have been too much more than twenty."

"Nope," said Sean Patrick. He shook Mr. Grimes' hand, then the younger clerk let him and
Bonnie out through the front door, locking it behind them. "It gives you a strange feeling, honey,
standing on your own grave," he said.

"You dug your way out?" she asked.

"Yeah. Fortunately the combination of brand-new vampire strength and my own sense of
preservation just made me want out enough to get there. I broke through the lid of the coffin and
clawed my way up through that mud. It had rained, and this dust turns hard and heavy, like red
clay. And then there's those rocks piled on top. Plus that suit. The coffin was too short, too.
They weren't worried about my comfort, you know. So I was crammed into a box with my knees
cinched up and my elbows crammed into my ribs and I was lucky I could move at all."

"Can you even buy clothes in a store like a normal person?" she asked, sliding her arm
around his waist and bumping her hip against his long thigh. "You have legs longer than my
whole body."

He chuckled, a ghost of his old expression coming across his face. "I can once in a while
find pants that fit, but it's rare and I like to wear them long because of my boots. Finding a forty
inseam is a tricky prospect."

"I've never even seen a forty inseam."

"Yep, and you have to look long and hard for 'em, too. Let's go find that steak dinner, and
then maybe we can think about starting back."

"How far can we get?"

"Oh, far enough. Or we could spend another day in Tombstone. Either way. Food's good
here, at least, and we haven't really done any shopping."

At the restaurant Sean Patrick ordered a gigantic rare T-bone with a baked potato. He ate
almost the entire basket of garlic bread while Bonnie ate saltines, as she usually did, waiting for
her filet. That was one thing about Sean Patrick as benefactor, he never minded when she
ordered filet mignon or lobster or anything else expensive. In fact, he'd already ordered a bottle
of wine to go with their meal, in addition to the beer he was drinking, and he didn't say a word
about her ordering the best Scotch the place served. She was getting used to living like this.

"So what do you wanna do, honey? Head back tonight, or take another day?"

"If we leave after dinner, we should be able to get all the way to Phoenix," she said. "I've
never really seen Phoenix."

"Hmmm. I'd still like to see more of Tombstone, but I will admit it's hard to really do the
tourist stuff when you can't get around easily in the daylight. We've already seen the entire
shady side of the street." He sat back when the waiter delivered their steaks, then picked up his
fork and knife and started slicing bites, reaching for the salt. "I guess we can head out, then.
Provided Mrs. Brennen doesn't mind us pulling stakes, so to speak, in the middle of the night."

"Provided we leave before ten, I don't think she'd mind. We did arrive about the same
time," said Bonnie.

"That's why I love Las Vegas. It keeps a vampire's hours." He mashed up his potato with
the lump of butter that had come with it, along with the sour cream and chives. "Bonnie-girl,
you've been a mighty good friend to me. I've never been able to come here alone, but I've
wanted to. I've wanted to stand there again, and remember that night. It was a time I both
wanted to forget and am glad I never did."

"You're a good man, Sean Patrick."

"I do my best."

She impulsively reached across the table and gripped his hand. He smiled so his eyes
crinkled and he squeezed her hand in his.

He drank almost the entire bottle of wine and simply seemed to relax into his chair, listening
to the music being played on the stage by the house four-piece band. His ankles were crossed
under the table, and he gave no indication at all that he was interested in leaving. In fact, Bonnie
guessed that what he really wanted to do was join the group on stage. He was humming along
with the song, his lips curled up slightly on the sides, his fingers tapping on the glass he held in
his hand. She wished he would, the music would do a great deal to lighten his increasingly black
mood, but he made no move to do anything at all. Bonnie decided she might as well relax, too.

Instead of making any moves to return to Las Vegas, Sean Patrick sank into the worst
depression she'd ever seen him in, spending three days sitting bundled in the coverlet from
the bed staring out the window at the street below, drinking and smoking. The first day he
went down to dinner with her, but that was the last time. He seemed to forget about her and
everything else, and Bonnie had to find ways to entertain herself, which included a lot of
shopping, since she hadn't brought a lot of clothes with her. She also made several long-distance
calls to the girls back home, letting them know she was all right and checking in on the house
and Sinatra. She tried to keep the tone light, pretending they were merely extending her vacation,
especially since both Joyce and Julietta appeared to be deeply jealous. They teased and said she
had nothing to worry about, they'd keep her place entirely in order. "And your little kitty is fine.
He's a darling. If you're not careful I'll have to take him home with me," Julietta said.

Bonnie didn't want to run into anyone at the bed and breakfast, since everyone asked her
where Sean Patrick was, and how could she explain? But it was better sitting alone in the bar
than with him in the room, where it was much lonelier. She fretted not only about her home and
her cat, but she worried about Sean Patrick himself, because she was pretty sure he'd not eaten
anything, blood or otherwise.

The room was dark when she slipped in, but she could see the glow of his cigarette, a fiery
ember against his black silhouette in the window. His hair was getting lank. "Sean Patrick?" she
whispered, and turned on the light.

He blinked, turning away from the window to regard her. "You think I asked for this?" he
whispered, his unused voice rasping slightly. "That I wanted to be this? She didn't ask. She
made me a monster, took my whole life, my legacy, away from me and never once considered my
feelings about it." His eyes started to glow, his fangs extending. "I never asked for this!" He
jumped at her, moving faster than she could blink, and grabbed her arms, pulling her close. "I
didn't want to ever be anything more than what I was. I was happy, damn it!" Tears made his
glowing umber eyes sparkle strangely. Bonnie had never been afraid of him; oddly, she wasn't
afraid now. She started to reach for him, to touch his face, wipe away the tears, but he pulled
away, made a horrific hissing noise between his fangs, then grabbed hold of the open window
and leaped through, disappearing into the darkness.

Bonnie hastened to the sill and looked out, but she could see no sign of him. He'd vanished
into the night.

She tried to sleep, but found she couldn't. She worried about him, what his melancholy
might lead him to do, but there was nothing she could do. Even the bars closed, so she couldn't
get another drink. She could hear some revelers somewhere, a party, but didn't dare go too far
out of the room in case he came back and needed her.

The sun was nearly up, making Bonnie frantic, before the door opened and he came in. He
ducked his head sheepishly when he saw she was up, and blushed. He looked better, making her
guess that he had, indeed, fed; she didn't want to know any further details. "Are you all right?"
she asked.

"Sorry," he muttered, then sat down on the bed next to her. "Did you get any sleep?"

"I was worried about you," she replied. "You fed?"

"I ran out to the main road, found a truck stop. Truckers stopping for the night are usually
good for a pint or two," he replied. He rested his elbows on his knees, his hands dangling idle
between his thighs. He twined his long fingers together. "I'm sorry you had to see me like that,

Bonnie put her hand on his knee. "It's all right, you know. I have to take you as you are."

He gave a dry laugh. "No, you don't. You signed on for the best of me, not the worst. That's
not your job. You're supposed to have fun, happy me, not morose, annoying me." He sighed, his
shoulders slumping. "Trust me, I know what I can be like. But when I get like that, I swear, no
matter how mad I get at myself, I can't snap myself out of it." He leaned against her. Bonnie
snaked an arm around his waist. "I know I said I didn't choose to be a vampire, I didn't want it.
But God, Bonnie, I wouldn't change it if I could. I couldn't say honestly that I haven't been
happy, because I have. If she hadn't made me, I'd be dead now. I'd have missed so much."

"So you're mad at yourself because you enjoy your life?" she asked, bumping his side with
her shoulder. It made him smile, a ghostly shadow of his real smile, but she could tell he was
going to recover now.

"Yeah, I guess it sounds stupid."

"Not really. She took a lot away from you, even giving you so much. It's hard to hate it and
love it at the same time, isn't it?"

"Sometimes it's hell, Bonnie. I got my life stolen from me, but in return I got to see my
nephews and nieces grow up. I got to see progress. But then I saw my little brother grow old and
die. I'm watching my nephew grow old. People I love, they get old and they die and I'm just
here. Endlessly here. On one hand, I lost the chance to be a husband and a father, to be the
patriarch of my family, to grow old with my children around me. On the other... I may get to see
a man on the moon. Sometimes it just tears me to pieces. Coming here was a mistake."

"Maybe you needed it," she replied. "Maybe you needed to get all that out."

Sean Patrick turned and rested his forehead against hers. "You're a mighty good woman,

"Let's get some sleep," she suggested. "You'll feel better."

He did feel better. It was as though the last few days hadn't happened at all. As they got
ready to leave, Sean Patrick flirted outrageously with Mrs. Brennen and left her an enormous tip
for the staff, who had kept them in clean linens and good breakfasts the whole time they'd stayed,
even through his 'dark period.' Then they packed up the Plymouth and headed out into the night.

The moon had gone and they drove under a black velvet sky strewn with a million stars.
Bonnie leaned her head on the window watching them, distracted once in a while by the lights
that reflected from the dashboard on the glass. She dozed off once, hearing the song shift
suddenly from Dean Martin singing "Return to Me" to the Beatles warbling some tune she didn't
know, but it wasn't really a bad song. "Where are we?" she asked, sitting up and stretching.

"Somewhere between Las Cruces and El Paso," he replied.

Bonnie blinked. "Texas?"

"That's where El Paso is," he readily agreed.

"But that's the wrong way," she protested, frowning. "Why are we going to Texas?"

"Well, it occurred to me, honey, that we were more than halfway home as it was, so why not
go all the way?"

"But MY home is in Las Vegas," she said.

"We'll fly you home from San Antonio," he relied carelessly. "I'd like to introduce you to
my family."

Panic crawled up Bonnie's throat from her stomach and started to strangle her. "Meeting the
parents" was for wives, for girlfriends, not for the mistress. She was supposed to stay in the
shadows, hidden, and true, he didn't do things quite the same way as other benefactors might,
still, it was just wrong, wrong, wrong, so very wrong, she could not meet his very proper and
high-class family, she couldn't, even if they did send her Christmas cards. "No, I can't," she
managed to choke out.

"Nonsense, honey." He reached across the vast distance of the front bench seat to pat her on
the knee. "You'll be fine."

"The mistress does not meet the family," she said. "It's just not done!"

"It'll be done this time, honey," he replied, in that "I have made up my mind" voice that
Bonnie had never yet been able to argue with. "Just enjoy the ride. We should make O'Connor
land before sunrise."

Tags: chapter eight, random stuff, vampire and me

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