Authors note: This is a one-shot microfic, set a few years after Eli and Oskar's escape from Blackeberg. It is not a happy tale. It is not, in any shape or form, what I would want from an official continuation. I have not read Let The Old Dreams Die, so please, no spoilers.
I would love to hear your views, criticisms, complaints, applause about the story, style, and content. It will be abundantly obvious that I am not a professional writer, I have no real ego where my writing is concerned, so feel free to say what you feel.
He considered her for a long while, knowing that she would wait for his addled mind to come to a conclusion. If there was one thing he was sure about, it was this, she was infinitely patient. He struggled to find the words, words that wouldn't hurt. Even though he knew she could tear him limb from limb if the fancy took her, this was not his concern. Physically, she was so much stronger than him, possibly stronger than she had ever shown him. But inside, where it mattered, she was vulnerable. She had spent so much of her life using people for her own ends, that she had lost touch with what it was to need someone purely for what they were, and not for what they could do for her. And that caused her problems, and misunderstandings, and emotional surges.
He was drunk, and he knew it. She knew it. The stench of dribbled beer and whiskey rampaged through her heightened olfactory system like Vikings on a raiding spree. There was another smell mingled within the alcohol. A less familiar, but all too obvious smell. It annoyed her that he could be so careless to lose control like that. A drunken word here, a whispered secret there, could bring their whole lives crashing down about their heads. Yes, she was annoyed, but that was as far as it went. She knew full well what addiction was like. The times she had lost control to satiate the burning within her veins, to make it stop, to become ... normal again. She couldn't truly resent him for that need to feel normal. With her it was stay alive, to perpetuate the monster that she was. With him it was to forget, forget the monster that he had become.
"Yes, I spoke with someone".
"Yes, a woman". He took a moment to steady his swaying vision, so that he could look directly into her eyes. "But you know that already. You can smell her scent".
"So why ask?" Pleased with himself that he hadn't fallen into the trap of denial, despite his inebriated condition, he allowed himself to feel a little smug satisfaction at his intellect. But he was a little too smug, and it showed in his words.
They both knew why she had asked that particular question, he had wanted to let her know that he was onto her little game. Although for Eli it was no game. So with an acceptance of the rhetorical nature of his counter question, she ignored it. She disguised the hurt that his barely hidden triumphalism caused, and quietly continued.
"What did you talk about?"
"Stuff … nothing … y'know, the usual."
Lacking the mental willpower to maintain eye contact he let his head fall, to rest on the back of the chair in which he was slumped. His gaze followed the damp patches on the room's high, dilapidated ceiling. He silently speculated the odds on whether or not there were several dead bodies hidden below the floorboards of the flat above. He dismissed this thought as Eli spoke again.
"No, I don't know. Tell me".
He was too far gone to be able to pick up on the little things that gave away her state of mind. The fact that she was talking quietly didn't mean that she was exactly calm. He didn't need to be sober to realise this. It had been a long time since he had heard her raise her voice to anything above conversational levels, even when he had let her down, disappointed her, hurt her … again.
"Y'know, ..." he slurred, " … the weather ... the state of public transport ... the election".
"So, she interested you?"
"Then why …?"
"Because she was there ... and you weren't".
That last part caught her off guard. She stopped idly playing with the braided cotton bracelet he had made for her just two days previously. Almost instantly he regretted saying those last three words, but it was far too late now, the damage was done.
He looked over to see her eyes lower towards the floor. Those sad grey eyes that he loved so much. He cursed himself for his stupidity and selfishness. His false pride had made him careless, and in turn had caused his fall.
He was fully aware that she couldn't just mingle with people as he could, and it was pathetic of him to throw it in her face during a moment of conflict, as if to underline a failing on Eli's part. At night, once the Sun had sunk below the horizon, she was afforded a few hours of freedom. Even then, in the dark, when it was safe to venture out of the flat, she preferred to be alone with Oskar. The sleepy town, their playground. She mostly kept away from the locals that braved the poorly lit streets, her social awkwardness would get her noticed, and remembered.
It was seven years on from when she had first met Oskar. Back when they both had the same goal as far as people were concerned. Her a twelve year old vampire, him a twelve year old bullied child, the two of them trying not to be noticed, trying to be invisible.
But things had changed since then, Oskar had changed.
"I'm sorry I ... I didn't mean that".
"Yes you did" She replied. Resigned to the all too obvious truth ... she was no longer his world.
"No, I really didn't".
He had recently been seeking out the company of others during the daylight, she could tell by their essence on his clothes. It was an activity she had asked him to keep to a minimum, but it had been getting more and more frequent over the last few months. She had smelled the same people on him repeatedly, and he had lied to her. Claiming that they were shop keepers or waitresses that he couldn't avoid coming into contact with during the day. A raised heart rate and inability to maintain eye contact told her he was lying, he was a lousy liar. This ineptitude for deceit, on Oskar's part, had brought a strange sense of ease to Eli. It meant he still had a conscience, he still cared. But she couldn't let it continue.
Having risen from the floor, Eli stretched. Her joints cracking loudly. She reached upwards, on tip-toe, fingers splayed as if grasping for the ceiling. Oskar caught a glimpse of her cotton swathed buttocks as the thin sweater she was wearing rode up with her efforts. Forbidden fruit.
A slowly sobering Oskar watched as she gradually closed the distance between them. Her progress was deliberately unhurried. Eventually coming to a stop in front of his chair, she stood there looking at him, silhouetted by the shadeless, sixty watt light bulb that hung dejectedly from a crumbling plaster mound.
In his vision, she was a single homogeneous void, a total absence of light, with an almost tangible dark force emanating from within her. He didn't need to be able to see her face, her features were indelibly etched into his memory. The cruel march of time passing her by, leaving her unmarred. Eternally youthful, innocently beautiful beyond measure.
The focus of his vision settled upon the faint light reflecting back from her retinas. A cold, white light. Her eyes, portals to seemingly boundless recesses, as old as time itself.
"Do you … do you ever you regret meeting me?"
"Never". A dagger to his heart. "Do you?"
Truth be told ... sometimes ... he did, but he would never tell her that. "You saved my life. How could I regret that?"
How could he possibly convey the utter hopelessness of his love for her. He was hers, in deed, thought, and mind. But whoever had dealt his hand had condemned him to a love that could not progress. To a love that was limited to moral quandaries and mortal boundaries. It was his constant thought that he would die, and they would be separated again, it ate away at him. He lived that thought every day, and it was slowly destroying him.
Eli knelt down onto the floor in front of his chair and lifted his hand from its resting place. Planting Oskar's knuckles against her cheek she cradled the hand carefully against her alabaster skin.
"I'm lost, Eli. I don't belong to this world any more. I talk to people, and fool myself that I am like them, but I'm not. If they knew what I have done for you, what I will continue to do, they would tie me to a post and set fire to me. I'm not entirely sure that I would try to stop them".
"You said you were happy with me. You said we were soul mates".
"Soul mates? I really said that? A soul? Ha! I doubt I have one of those any more, if I even had one to start with".
She turned his hand so that his palm was caressing her jawline, and leaned into it. Was she trying to comfort him or gain comfort for herself, or both?
"I love you Eli, but I am getting older and you are not".
This was met with a puckered brow and a sorrowful expression. She knew what was coming next. They had been over this a hundred times or more. He was stubbornly possessed by this idea, and soon the day would come when he would no longer be placated. She feared that he would force the issue, one way or another.
"No, I will not do that to you. I will never do that to you".
"But Eli, it's the only way".
Pushing his hand round behind her neck and gripping it firmly, he forced her to make eye contact. "You want to watch me get old and decrepit?..."
"Is that what you want?..."
"Is that what you really want?"
With barely any effort she swiped his hand away from her neck before lunging towards his face. Only to stop a mere inch away from his nose. In a low growl that she hoped would leave some kind of impression, she slowly responded "Stop. Asking. For that. It's. Not. Going to. Happen."
Too drunk for his own good, he countered with "You keep saying that, but by the time you've realised it's the only way, it'll be too late … I thought you loved me".
Softening, she cupped his cheek in her tiny hand "It's because I love you, that I refuse".
She watched Oskar's expression changing as he was struggling with conflicting thoughts. His bad moods had been getting darker and more frequent, and Eli wasn't sure she could help him. In the absence of Oskar's voice, Eli's mind was cast back to when they were first alone since leaving Blackeberg. Properly alone. Hundreds of miles from anyone they had ever known. Alone, together.
During the early months Oskar had blossomed. He had risen to meet every challenge presented to him. From finding appropriate accommodation, to providing her with food. Her first meal, after leaving the train and travelling only at night with Oskar, was in fact, his own blood. Eli had wanted to find a tramp to drain, but Oskar had insisted that it was far too dangerous, and not to mention far too gross. The tramps smelt worse than she ever did. He offered her his blood, she reluctantly accepted. She didn't want to hurt Oskar in any way, but it seemed important to him that he made this sacrifice. Oskar didn't even ask how she would do it, he just seemed to trust her implicitly. She had done this before, taken blood from a willing donor, without killing or infecting them. It was risky for her, letting people know what she was, but she hated killing for food.
She recalled the time they had broken into a health club and had climbed up onto the flat roof of the pool. She could have easily carried him up there but he had wanted to prove that he could do it himself, he had managed it, and she had been impressed. They had stood there for about an hour simply observing the night life of the town below, the myriad street lights that seemed to be reflections of the stars that shone above them in a clear sky. He had reached out and curled his hand around hers and almost imperceptibly had said "I could die right now, Eli. I'm just... happy. I've never felt that before". She had turned and looked up at him, and when he faced her she had simply smiled. A genuine smile, and that was reward enough for him. She had smiled, not realising that she had just missed the genesis of his depression. He had decided that giving up his mortal presence was a small price to pay if it meant spending hundreds of years with Eli. A small price indeed.
With a sigh, Eli climbed fully onto the chair and settled on top of Oskar while straddling his chest with her naked legs bent. Her face towered above him, he glanced up to see a calm but immensely sad expression. His breath caught in his throat as it hit home that he had, once again, upset her. But it is not an Eli that has been hurt that he sees, it is an Eli full of sadness and resolve. She has to act in order end his fatal obsession. No good will come of leaving it to fester, it can't be ignored any longer. She sees that now. She would not pass her infection onto him, how could she? How could anyone commit a loved one to a living hell. A hell that slowly leeches all humanity from you, and leaves you nothing better than an animal. Oskar had saved her from that fate simply by loving her for what she was. He had brought her back from the brink, but she was still broken. So very broken. She wouldn't sentence him to that, to a living death. She couldn't bear the thought of him suffering for the rest of time, she would rather see him dead. She would rather sentence herself to lose what he had given her and return to being an emotionless pariah.
He raised his arms in order to hug her, to show in some measure that he was sorry for hurting her, again. She deftly caught his arms and pinned them carefully but firmly against the chair. He didn't understand, his face a study of confusion. He wondered if she was going to speak. He waited, but she continued to stare silently into his eyes.
His brow furrowed, but he stayed there, in a curious state of anticipation. After what seemed like only a few seconds, but was actually considerably longer, he tried to reposition himself, to get more upright in the chair. Insistently, but with tangible affection, she kept him pinned. He could sense her total lack of hostility, her empathy. It was very disarming, very ... peaceful.
He had wanted to say something, but it had completely left his mind, and he didn't seem to care. He forced his eyes to leave her gaze, which was never an easy thing for him to do, but right then it was harder than usual. At the very moment he managed to free himself from her piercing grey regard, he sensed a slight deflation in her mood. He was a little flattered, but he shouldn't have been.
Eli sighed internally. She had felt him succumbing to her mind but he had inexplicably just looked away. She remembered the very first time they had met, she had him caught like a rabbit in a car's headlights. All she had to do was bite and suck and she would have sated the hunger that was ripping her apart. Instead, he had stroked her cheek. With the contact came his thoughts, and she saw herself as he saw her. A thing of wonder, of beauty, and of intrigue. These notions had been so alien to her that she had been completely taken aback. But that was then, and now there was real need to subdue Oskar in order to limit the pain ... for both of them.
He notices how healthy she looks, and how free from detritus her hair is. She has showered. He can smell the soap. He also feels how much heavier she is than he remembers, not that she has sat on his chest like this for a long time. Even though, he is enjoying the contact.
He suddenly realises that he can't feel his hands. They are totally numb, both of them. Glancing down he sees, as if for the first time, Eli's powerful hands gripping his upper arms. His skin beneath her hands is white and devoid of blood, and the ache is only now making its presence known. His mind wakes up and wants answers, "Why is she holding him so tightly?", and "Why have I only just noticed?" He trusts her implicitly but he is still perturbed.
A quiet, sad voice from above beckons to him, "Oskar?"
"Huh?", he looks up to see his angel's cheerless smile. And is instantly captured again.
His mind, no longer his own, is soothed and comforted.
His body floats gently in mid air, within the all encompassing tendrils of a Weeping Willow. A babbling brook is nearby, he can hear its quiet gurgling. Eli is there with him. All pain forgotten. All regrets chased away. The sun is shining brightly and Eli looks happier that he has ever seen her.
Once she is convinced that Oskar is beyond waking, she relaxes her grip on his arms and slumps forward. With her hair framing his face she breathes in his scent, savouring it, memorising it. She can feel his shallow breath on her cheeks that are now wet with tears. A sob escapes her throat and she straightens before she has the chance to yield to the many voices in her head yelling at her to stop this insanity.
She slowly climbs off him, leaps gracefully from the chair and lands silently on the floor below. Her naked feet pad across the cold hardwood floor to his bedroom, where she collects a blanket from his bed and covers him with it.
She has a lot to do, and not many hours of darkness left.
He is twelve years old and, of course, so is she. They are alone in the world, and they wouldn't have it any other way. They don't need anyone else, they have each other. That is all they need, that is all they'll ever need. Each other.
Eli stands behind the chair that contains a recumbent Oskar. She moves the blanket enough to uncover his face and neck. His head is facing to the side. She leans over and gently kisses him on his cheek and whispers "I will always remember you". Brushing an errant cluster of hair from over his eyes, she manages to force out a broken "Alw-a-ys".
She turns to him with a suddenly serious face, and says "I must leave, for you to live. If I stay, you will surely die. Good bye, Oskar".
"What?" But she is gone, and his world becomes dark and foreboding. He is alone, so utterly alone.
He slips to the ground, hugging his knees, while a bitingly cold wind brings snow. He hears her voice as it swirls within the squall, her last words to him are "Remember me...", and all time stops.