Coffee with a Vampire
Summary: In which Barnabas loves someone and isn't a jerk about it.
When Barnabas sees her, it's like someone crept over his grave in silk slippers. Her chestnut hair, her fine and dark eyes, and the shape of her that's further revealed to him in the shocking knee-length hemline which American girls favor.
He must fight his instinct to immediately cloak her.
It is her.
His enhanced peripheral senses indicate to him that it is not her, but his heart assures him otherwise.
He would've snatched her up, too, if not for the meddling ghost of Ben Stokes taking charge of his servant Willie Loomis who knows Barnabas's designs on the innocent girl.
"For shame, master. Had you not learned your lesson? High and mighty blue blood as you reaving and raping like a low-down curr. The Collins curse is your selfishness. You had to have your women. Was your entire family worth the price of lovins?"
Willie spits rum from Stoke's silver flask into Barnabas's face and roars in hellish laughter as the spirits and the scorn boils Barnabas's eyes.
He is dead, yet he is not immune to hauntings.
Barnabas Collins becomes a regular at the coffee place where she works. With Joe Haskell working later hours and earning more money for them to be married, Maggie Evans does not object to humoring old Mr. Collins with late night coffee. Especially with the baying of the dogs, Maggie is comforted not to be alone at closing time.
Though she can't explain it, Maggie feels that nothing will happen to her in this man's company. He is serene, polished, and the aura of his presence in the empty café fills the space and pushes out possible encroachments on his elegant sphere. Plus, he's a big tipper.
Maggie stifles a yawn when old Mr. Collins lapses into a meandering ramble on the starlit canals of Vienna.
"I must sound like a doddering grandfather to you," Barnabas sadly concludes. His confidence falters and he clutches his cane ever closer. "I could not possibly keep your interest."
"Not at all, Barnabas!" Maggie rushes to assure him. "I love hearing about your experiences abroad. Why, I hardly run into strangers except when visitors pass through."
"Young lady, I detect boredom. On this point, you cannot deny that I have overused the novelty of my recent arrival to hold your attention. Our conversations have lately been running in-congruent to my standards of mutually pleasing exchanges. It is not you, but I who have been in poor form. We've had many conversations about my old fashioned customs and my history and my interests, but I haven't extended the same courtesy towards you."
"Oh, me? What would you want to know about little ol' me?" Maggie asks, self-consciously fingering her ponytail. She sits further back in her chair as Barnabas weighs her with his full and undivided attention.
"Miss Evans, you haven't volunteered much information about yourself. I think by your trade you have developed excellent listening abilities and are predisposed to allowing others to dominate conversations, which is admirable, but I want to know anything about you that you're comfortable sharing."
"Thank you, Barnabas. Gosh, I'm not sure where to start. When I'm not working, I'm at home with Pop and I like to blow off some steam at the Blue Whale when work and Pop are winding me up."
"Tell me about your Pop," Barnabas says and Maggie doesn't need to hear it twice before she launches into a braggart's rant about her dad's talent for capturing anything with his brushes and knives.
For all that her old man's temperaments and unexplained moods can try her nerves when she wants to have a normal conversation, Maggie is proud that her Pop is an accomplished painter and that he makes money by creating beautiful works.
"Your father is clearly a unique individual who possesses originality and the diligence to execute his vision," Barnabas comments. "Not every man is of his make. Not every man can make a living on originality and vision."
"I couldn't do that," Maggie says. "Believe me, I don't have a lick of artistic talent in me. I couldn't make money being my own boss like how my Pop does."
"Why not?" Barnabas asks. "You're a quick and bright young thing. I'm sure that in a full house, you remember orders and can quickly calculate cost of service with taxes and split a bill with correct sums amongst difficult customers. You can do it smiling. These are sale-able skill sets."
"I never thought of it that way," Maggie admits. "I just pour coffee and bring out the hot plates and wash up at the end of the day, and then the time goes by. I prefer to keep busy."
"Smart young lady," Barnabas insists. He puts his coffee cup down and brings his hands together, fingers in a steeple, as he looks right through her. "What are you doing in this coffee shop? You could be in college in this day and age."
"Me? College," Maggie snorts. "I wasn't exactly valedictorian in my high school class."
"Were your marks very poor?" Barnabas prods.
"No," Maggie says.
"Then it was a question of opportunity and accessibility," Barnabas responds. "I observe no deficiency in your mind, your heart, or your spirit. You are a person who has potential but by caste have not been gifted with circumstance and connection, and that is not a sin, my dear. Please don't feel ashamed of yourself before me. I wish to remark that there must be more to Maggie Evans, and I mean to be her friend and supporter."
"Supporter?" Maggie asks. She's fisting her hair in her hands which have become restless. Her throat is dry and her coffee is cold.
"Miss Evans, if it's money that's stopping you from going to school to receive higher education or training for a better line of work, I would be overjoyed to help you," Barnabas offers. "I am one who was born under wealthy stars, yet I squandered my potential. I could have had paradise on earth, but in brash youth I damned myself with foolish decisions which irrevocably limit my happiness. Due to my scheduling constraints, I enjoy few pleasures. It would be a pleasure and not at all burdensome if you accept financial support from me to embark on your studies. I believe there is a community college which offers general electives, if you haven't found your calling in life."
He lifts his cup and his fingers undulate about it as though he is scrying a magic looking glass. His ring glimmers hypnotically.
"However, if it's your dream to serve the fine citizens of Collinsport with the strongest brew and to mete your hours by meals and orders, then I would be a happy customer knowing that my young friend is living exactly the life she wants for herself."
"Why?" Maggie asks, her feelings sticking in her throat. There is no more coffee to drink; she retreats behind the counter taking their empty cups to the wash basin. She takes deep breaths, relieved to be away from his eyes and his mouth speaking her own desires to her.
"Why would you help me? Why would you give me money? Do you want something?" Maggie says, though it mortifies her to think that a gentleman such as himself might be taking advantage.
"I would help you, Miss Evans, because it would make me happy to see you closer to your dreams," Barnabas says. "Money is an object to me, but a person's dream is ephemeral, transient, a wisp that cannot be bought. I understand that when an older man offers financial assistance to a young woman of lesser means, their arrangement is invariably scandalous. I would not debase you or participate in your damnation. Your caution is warranted, and if you ask to never be alone with me again, I would accept that as your wish while I invest in your continuing education. I would maintain a formal distance and make no casual demands on your time. Knowing that I do not seek devious ends, do you or do you not want to get an education?"
"Yes, I've wanted to try," Maggie admits. "I've wondered what it's like if I could've gone to school with my girlfriends."
"But if I took your money and paid for tuition, when would I find the time?" Maggie reconsiders.
"Close your eyes," Barnabas says. "Excuse me, if I may, please close your eyes."
Maggie obeys and she clings to the counter while facing darkness.
"Picture yourself going to school. What would you be learning?"
"Typing," Maggie says immediately. "It would be best for me to learn typing if I can earn higher wages in an office. I could work in any office if I could do typing. I could do typing at home when I have children."
"Is that what you want?" Barnabas asks.
"It's what I would do given half a chance," Maggie replies.
"Would you do typing even if you weren't paid?" Barnabas asks.
"What? No. It's so dull," Maggie says. "To be listening to men talk and to put it in letters is boring, but I could do it for more money and an easier life."
"Then what do you picture yourself doing for pleasure?"
"Why does it matter, Barnabas? People don't go to school to have fun. And I'd be a great old girl in my classes with all these babies fresh out of high school."
"On the contrary, my dear. The college also offers cooking classes, or language studies, or music lessons. You could do theater arts, and I would not consider my money wasted. I myself am considering independent studies in modern American history. For my own pleasure."
"You're thinking of going to college?" Maggie asks. He was already such a smarty.
"Yes, at my age, I am thinking of letting a younger man tutor me as though he were my superior and I am the subordinate," Barnabas confesses. "I know so little of this land and its peoples. My ignorance humbles me."
"So then what do you want? After I go to school and finish a class or two?" Maggie demands. "I don't believe you don't want anything back."
"Well…" Barnabas hedges.
"I knew it. Out with it, Mr. Collins. Or I'll never believe anything you say ever again," Maggie commands.
"Very well, Miss Evans," Barnabas relents. "I want to be your friend. I've grown attached to you and think of you as my own. If it were the young Mistress or Miss Winters who I see toiling in a shop with no future prospects of independence and security, I would not stand aside and let them go on an existence of redundant drudgery. I would see them educated or practiced in feminine disciplines. I would see them using their potential as free-born women. By their coin and their vote, they may shape their lives without being cowed by anyone."
"I- I'll think about it Mr. Collins," Maggie says. "I'll stop by the college sometime and look at their programs and see what fits me."
"You'll do it by next week," Barnabas instructs. "The deadline for registration is next month and I want you to research all options and plan your schooling around your daily routine. Think nothing of the tuition."
"I wish you wouldn't talk to me for a week then," Maggie says.
"You mean, I ought not stop by and have my usual cup for a full seven days?"
"Well, no," Maggie denies, not wanting to detract business from the shop. "I mean that for a week you mustn't mention college or classes or learning to me. I don't want to stress about school before I agree to any classes."
Barnabas is at once delighted and in mourning when Maggie tells him that she will take French for a semester, just to see how she would do. It is everything that he can do not to whisper to her in the tender language which Josette spoke to him.
When he asks her why she desires to learn, Maggie tells him: "I remember growing up and watching Jackie Kennedy on the TV talking French. She is classy and sophisticated. I want to be more like her."
When Maggie stutters to him in French, her stilted consonants and warbled vowels are a reminder to Barnabas of whom he addresses. He speaks to her slowly as though she is a child instead of as a beloved daughter of Martinique. To watch her struggle and persevere through each mangled sentence becomes an endearment to him.
He calls her Maggie when thinking to himself.
Barnabas can't resist bringing Maggie a bouquet of jasmine when she tells him that she passed the oral portion of an exam. "The language lab is frustrating. The recorded voices sound like stuffy accented robots! And the headphones leave a crimp in my hair and it's tight on my ears…"
"En francais, Mademoiselle Evans," Barnabas teases her. She tosses a clean linen at him.
"Monsieur Snoot," Maggie calls him, snorting and laughing.
Her pride at her own progress is infectious. Barnabas feels like he is the one who aced the exam and he tries to tuck in his fangs when he mirrors her grin.
"J'aime les fleurs," Maggie coos over her bouquet and he watches her tuck one sprig of jasmine over her ear.
"You should grow your hair longer," Barnabas says. He immediately regrets his statement, and his casual manner of speaking to her as though he was forcing intimacy.
"No, I'd look like a hippie," Maggie says, flipping her hair dismissively. "Jackie Kennedy keeps her ends neat."
"It is my opinion that you are becoming your own lady. One day you may find yourself in the company of high-level socialites and look them in the eye and show them that you are their equal."
"As if I would ever find myself at a ball," Maggie disagrees. She takes the jasmine out of her hair and sighs as she shreds the flowers into petals in her chapped hands. "And what would I wear? What would I say?"
"You would introduce yourself as Miss Maggie Evans of Collinsport and extend your lovely hand in friendship," Barnabas suggests.
"And then what?" Maggie asks. "I'm sure I wouldn't say the right thing after that. What if they're mean to me? Turning up their noses at me?"
"Try speaking to them as you would at the bar," Barnabas suggests, with a glint of mischief in his eyes. He plucks one flower from her bouquet.
"I can't just tell them that I want a drink and they can all go to hell."
"That's precisely what you need to say," Barnabas concludes. He puts a fresh bloom in her hair, careful to keep his cold fingers from contaminating her peachy skin.
"Mr. Collins, you know better than I do. That can't be how things are done."
"Knowing better has not always compelled me to better action," Barnabas advises her. "Be yourself no matter where you are, and you would be the bravest woman I know, walking in truth and beauty."
"Oh, you," Maggie hoots. She turns away from him, but not quickly enough to hide from Barnabas the private pleasure blooming on her cheeks and her lips.
One time, Barnabas catches her on the tail end of a fantasy love novella about a blood-sucking demon named Angelus and a girl who slays demons.
Maggie asks if she may finish the chapter she is on while Mr. Collins sips his coffee like a good man.
"Explain the book to me," Barnabas says because he can't resist this opportunity to discover what Maggie would hypothetically think of his monstrous nature. "Is Angelus despicable to you as a creature of the night?"
"No, Angelus isn't like that," Maggie says. "He is handsome and dark and doomed to wander the earth hungry for blood, but he doesn't hurt anyone on account of the gypsy's curse. He drinks pig's blood which is cold and nasty because he's awful sorry about the people he's killed. He's good now. That's what I care about."
"And what do you think of the human who loves him?" Barnabas asks. He feels like he is on the cusp of secret knowings.
"I don't see how they could be together," Maggie says, breezily driving a stake through Barnabas's heart. "It'd be nice for Angelus if she becomes like him. Young and beautiful forever, but then what? To never enjoy a day out. No picnics. No beaches. Oh, how good it would be for me to lie in the sand and play in the ocean."
Barnabas's eyes glaze over at the sunny daydream with which Maggie unknowingly tortures him. A vision of Maggie—Josette! – arising from the ocean clad as a young Venus perks him up better than the coffee.
"Might I borrow your novel once you've finished?" Barnabas requests.
"If you want," Maggie says, averting her eyes. "There's some love scenes, just so you know. I don't want you to be offended."
Barnabas gags as he knocks back a full glass of cattle blood. To his surprise he chokes down the entire serving, and tells his servant Willie that he is relieved of hunting duties until further notice.
"He's good now. That's what I care about," she whispers into his conscience. He will never see what Maggie looks like on green grass or hot sand. Eternity has its downsides.
The blood is unfortunately more palatable than the fantasy novella which he borrows from Maggie. Barnabas makes a mental note to introduce Maggie to annotated English literature, and to wean her off the dross of American thrillers.
Tonight is the last night that Maggie closes up the coffee shop. By Monday morning, Maggie starts at a tax firm, and she has a pressed suit hanging in her closet. Barnabas tries not to mourn too deeply the loss of their late night ritual of speaking cozily to one another. Joe Haskell's diamond shines on her finger, and Barnabas must save his strength for the wedding reception.
"Why did you help me after all?" Maggie finally asks Barnabas. "I just shut my yap and went to school, but now that I've got my typing certificate and I can sort of order pizza in French, I've got to know the real reason for why you chose me."
"Have you ordered pizza in French?" Barnabas asks, feigning puzzlement. "Is pizza not an Americanized version of rustic Italian fare?"
"You can't put me off, Barnabas. Tell me why. I know you now and I can tell how when you're talking in fancy circles, you're spinning my wheels on purpose, and getting out of a straight answer."
"You want the truth?" Barnabas asks. "It's a sad tale from once upon a time. I am ashamed of myself."
"If it's from a long time ago Barnabas, you've had all that time to figure out what happened and accept it. Tell me."
"You look like my fiancée," Barnabas reveals to her. "The resemblance is unsettling, and my eyes have seen much. But they haven't seen you. Because of your undeniable resemblance, I decided that we would be connected. I could not let you by with nary a friendly word, nor a cautious one."
"Oh, Barnabas. Did she have brown hair like me? Same eyes?"
"Yes. Down to the lash, you look like the woman I love."
"What happened? Why didn't you get married?" Maggie questions.
"Our love was sabotaged."
Maggie shakes her head. "I've heard this story before. Did a little blond thing happen and then your fiancée broke the whole thing off?"
"How did-?" Barnabas is beside himself. He dares not hope that Maggie is perhaps Josette in a different time and their regular prolonged interactions finally stirs within her a memory of their love. How it would torture him if her first recall was of his indiscretions.
"I used to go with my sweetheart in school. We were steady. I wore his jacket. I was going to introduce him to Pop over dinner, but then—he had a fling with this white-headed blond from a rival school before we met," Maggie confides, making a face. "They were talking again while he went steady with me, and I tossed his jacket. That was that."
"Ah," Barnabas stammers. He is dismayed when she quickly blinks through her misted eyes.
"I've distressed you. Let's do talk on pleasant matters," Barnabas says placatingly.
"I want to talk about it now. I never talked about it before. My friends never brought him up again. I thank God that Pop didn't meet him and doesn't know how humiliated I was. Men, why do they prefer blondes."
"Are you still in-?"
"No, God no. Joe is in love with me and I'm in love with him," Maggie affirms with conviction. She honks her nose on a napkin and balls it up in her apron pockets. "I just remembered my old sweetheart and how sad I was when I found out about him months later after we stopped seeing each other."
"What happened to your former sweetheart? Did they hasten into an elopment?" Barnabas was dying to know.
"He was drafted and he didn't come back," Maggie says, and her face crumples.
"They didn't find his tags," Maggie chokes out, and she weeps in a way that she only can in private when Pop is snoring drunk.
"I liked him so much and it was like losing him all over again when I heard the news. I thought I was miserable when I pictured them together, but what happened to him was much worse. I didn't really want him dead!"
Barnabas stands over her and holds her around the shoulders as she sobs from a deep and quiet hurt that she hasn't shared with anyone else.
"To lose your lover twice," Barnabas hushes into her hair. "I am sorry for your loss."
As he murmurs soft things, Barnabas becomes stricken with yearning to gift her the stars and the moon and the futility of his longing as she already has the stars and the moon, and the sun. And a ring.
Maggie pats his arms. "I'm not the one who should be bawling. I'm sorry about whatever happened between you and—"
"Worry not over the shadows of my past. You light up my present as my most cherished little friend. Your achievements bring me aloft, and though I am pained to witness your suffering, I quench my anguish by drinking in your sorrows. I would not be a deserving friend if I placed conditions on my happiness when you are in my company. Thank you for your confiding in me."
Maggie's smile wells up in her eyes and does not quite make it to her lips, but her expression as he hints at his true feelings about her is what Barnabas imagines that all the angels in heaven would look like if God were to permit him entrance.
"You're a good friend Barnabas."
For all eternity, Barnabas would fondly recall the tears glimmering on her thick lashes as she gazes up at him adoringly, her arms open to him as he comforts her.
After toasting to the newlyweds' health and wealth, Barnabas surrenders to Maggie an aged Collins heirloom. He brings it unwrapped in a gift bag. Maggie peeks.
"This could've gone for a pretty penny if you sold it to Mr. Harvey at the antique place."
"No, my dear. A treasure like this can only be given to a beloved friend. Promise me that if you choose not to keep it, that you pass it on to someone whose friendship you cherish as much as I value our friendship, if not to one of your children." He nods to the groom respectfully.
"Alright, I'll take it. An authentic treasure," Maggie says. "Thank you for coming to our wedding, Barnabas."
"Should you require a quick cash loan free of interest, you would simply call on me before pawning off your valuables," he tells Maggie in private later when they're dancing.
"I wish you could've given me away," Maggie confesses as Barnabas guides her through a slow twirl.
Sam Evans had hit his last bottle for good prior to the wedding champagne. The Evans' eldest neighbor had the honor of walking down the aisle with Maggie and her bridal jasmines.
"My dear, that would imply that you belonged to me. Were I in that enviable position, I would not relinquish my claim," Barnabas says, drinking her in while keeping his touch light and maintaining the utmost distance. He wants to believe that it is not the champagne rouging her cheeks.
"I can see where your love troubles come from," Maggie says in a flat long-suffering tone, breaking eye contact to look about the reception hall. "You can't say anything you want to me just because I like your present."
"If I may make a recommendation, perhaps tuck your gift on a higher shelf when in your child rearing years. It's very French and very breakable."
"Oui oui Monsieur Snoot," she agrees, and his surprised laugh delights her. His laughs are rare and golden like a shy sun that Maggie teases out of gloomy skies.
The melody of Josette's music box would become a salve for insomniac nights from fighting with Joe and nursing her babies, and the memory of coffee with Barnabas would come upon her as moonlight through a dark cloud.
Collinsport is thriving with an expanded school district and many diverse businesses competing for a chance to invest in their town thanks to competent members of city council, which includes certain Collinses. More and more young people stay with the new money and the middle class and small business owners flesh out a prosperous population, expelling street drugs and organized crime.
Barnabas Collins the III lays a jasmine wreath upon a fresh grave in Eagle Hill.
"If you don't mind holding this, my dear," Barnabas excuses himself as he leans his cane on her headstone.
He spreads out a picnic blanket and sets upon it some fine china and gold spoons with a lantern as the centerpiece. Silver matches the china better, but was out of the question for one such as Barnabas. He pours coffee from a thermos into two china cups. One cup is emptied into the soil.
"I offer you this drink as an apology for the distress I've caused you and the Haskell brood when I faked my death. It's my own blend," Barnabas begins before reporting to her news of her surviving family.
It feels as though little time passes when Barnabas leaves off on their ever-lasting conversation. Ultimately, Barnabas does find peace in the grave.
A/N: I don't own Dark Shadows or Angel.