I.


"My lover is still my lover, even if he shares a bed with another."

—Cyan Stainthorpe.


Twisted expressions etched on armies of weathered statues. Anything form ghoulish agony to maddening pleasure. Deities, of three-headed creatures and serpentine tongues, lost to time and men. Only a handful worshippers exist today. Plying gifts and sacrifices to obscure fallen gods. Rigid rituals carried out, as it was back in the days.

All done in obscurity, hidden from the eyes of contemporary denizens. Their fantastical beliefs, Lysander doesn't judge. Society, the one that reigns supreme over the fragmented lands, is merciless to religions they cannot comprehend.

Once, their ghastly appearances disturb his diamond-reinforced nerves. That feeling is flighty, escapes from his being. Even before he has the wits to obey. Now, it stirs him. Cocoons him with nostalgia's blanket. That too, doesn't last. They don't sway him, like they did the first he chanced upon them with his youth-tinted vision.

Prop against the feet of a toddler-size vixen-eyed statue, is a displaced rectangular clock. Its hands ticking time away.

Everything is timeless. Untouched by the hands of modernity. Paintings of another god (bat-fanged and hawk with a man's head, surprisingly his favourite) performed miracles, titivated every smooth surface. Millennia-old artwork with enough colour to enchant appreciating eyes.

Silk webs spiralled from piles of tomes and lexicons, tangled with edges of dust-coated wooden shelves, up to the decorated ceiling. Oddly, it stops short from extending its tendrils to his 'artistic' touch to the forgotten temple's many altars.

Crimson red blots so insignificant to the eyes, dotted along the walls in wild angles. A relic from his blissfully ignorant youth days. Indiscernible unless one seeks for it.

This is not one of his many moments where he muses about his past. Lysander returns his wandering gaze to a dog-eared paperback. Shifts his long body into resting comfortably on cracked leathered-armchair. His legs dangling over the armrest. Reaches the floor, short nails scrap against ancient stones. Leaves erratic scars marring the pristine sandstone.

His self-imposed solitude ends, with swan-like grace tapping echoes in dark corridors heading to his little haven. Footsteps, tinged with clumsiness.

"They're here, aren't they?" Lysander starts, lazily taking his eyes from Neil Gaiman. His sigh bounces in splintered directions. His forehead wrinkles, as their eyes—hauntingly ruby—meet.

She's not one with exceptional beauty. Not quite like the exquisite roses, Heidi and her little red dress. Or lilies, like Irina with her prairie-golden hair.

Underneath that ashen pallor, lies the vestiges of skin russet—kissed by warm sunshine penetrating Borneo's canopy green. Not quite the angular Caucasian cheek, but hints of Asian's influence. Her eyes—once was mahogany brown—now strikingly claret. Long eyelashes that could get him to grovel. Lysander's a man not easily move to his knees. Even when the circumstances calls for it.

She's west and east altogether. Product of two clashed worlds. Neither one nor the other, she suffered under the prejudiced eyes of two races. Time's kind to her, for she fits well within the melting pot called diversity.

(But he loves her anyway. She's his imperfectly perfection.)

Her lips, full and loving, parts to a smile. She takes two steps, in heels she couldn't conquered despite she predates its creation. Casts her feathered eyelashes at the wall nearest to her. "Just about so, they've touched down. Or so the airport tells me."

Lysander shoots a cursory glance at the clock. His brain races a mental calculation for an estimation. "That gives us about two hours? From the town to here, on top speed."

"Sounds about right," she agrees. Her black fingernail tracing red swirls on a deity's carnelian necklace. Her hair, obsidian like midnight skies bereft of moonlight and stars, always messy—all tied and looped in braids.

Cyan's never one to favour flashy gowns. The one-piece dress hanging on her lithe frame, he remembers, she acquired in a German flea market. Not high-end stores that littered Paris or Milan.

He marks the page, shuts the book close. Pushing himself out from the chair, Lysander walks up to her. Leans against the wall, his eyes fall on her tantalising collarbone hidden away by her figure-hugging burgundy dress.

"Think they would travel with their robes," he questions, pointed fingernails scratching against his perpetually unshaven jaw, "Honestly, the cloak's going to make it harder to distinguish them from the monks."

"Don't be so rude," she admonishes, and yet those lovely lips mirror his grin. She hooks her index finger underneath his chin, tilting his head upwards. "My eyes are here," she comments, not a hint of annoyance anywhere in her husky tone.

"What?" Lysander lifts a brow, shrugs. "I can't help it, if that's the truth," he grins, impish like the devil's help incarnate.

"Careful now, not all of us have some sense of humour," she warns, eyes his blue shorts and basketball jersey, "Sarcasm is the number one cause of premature deaths in vampires."

He ties his hair into a half-bun, the ends spilling onto his neck. A habit carried from his human life, to keep his hands busy, "So I've been told."

"I think a change is in order," she says, tucks a loose strand behind his ear. Her fingers brushing the side of his exposed neck. Instantly, she reads all that secrets he locked in the deepest recesses of his mind, buried under a mask of indifference and the occasional jesting.

(If he abandons his impeccable sense of decorum, succumbs to his desire's temptation—she gladly accommodates. For that is Cyan and her need to fulfil another's wishes knows no bound.)

A moment to enact his desires passes without any protest or action. They lock garnet-eyed stare. Lips sealed, desires suppressed.

Cyan presses soft kiss to his cheek, "Kassia will not tolerate tardiness," whispers she, into his ear. The last serves as a gentle reminder, despite the frustration taut in her raspy tune.

"I will," he says, playful as always, "soon."

She twirls around, heads for winding corridor. Cyan pauses, tosses a glance over her shoulder, "Wear your best suit."

"Which one?"

He fleetingly recalls arrays of century-spanning tuxedos, preserved as best efforts allowed. He crinkles his nose in distaste. Tedious work spent to seeking for the tux that doesn't disappoint his audience.

She opens her mouth to protest. Cyan sighs. Her gothic-lined lips curling into a smile, "You know what? Just wear one that looks good on you."

"Then we are of luck that black tuxedo never went out of style."