June 22nd, 2009. Key West, Florida.
They've been dancing around one another. Whether or not they meant to, it was always the same.
"Hey- Abe was here not too long ago! I didn't know you guys weren't travelling together anymore. What a shame…"
"You just missed Abe, y'know that? I swear, it seems like he walks out and you walk right on in."
"Abe's coming over today too. Why don't you guys ever show up together, for once?"
It never fails to make Henry feel a little more than awkward. How close he's come to meeting the man that had left him all alone.
Heaven only knows how painful that might be.
Henry raises his fist and raps his knuckles against the door. Paint chips off and he can hear footsteps against the hardwood floors inside the house.
He almost turns around and walks away. Almost.
"Henry," Marlena answers the door, "come in."
Her voice is mainly neutral, as always, and her eyes milky and unseeing.
She moves farther into the house and he has no choice but to follow the wiry redhead. He closes the door behind himself.
Marlena navigates the house with the ease of years of living within.
"Watch that loose floorboard." She says, seconds before Henry stumbles on it. She laughs lightly, a tittering, gentle sound and it calms him, however momentarily.
"You should know that Abraham is going to visit shortly after you. You might even run into him if you leave the way you just came. I suggest going out the back-just through the kitchen, there- and cutting around.
"I know things are tense between the two of you. They have been for some time." Marlena opens the door to the sitting room.
Henry's brow furrows and he pauses in the doorway, "How did you-?"
"You should be able to guess by now, Henry. I know a lot of things." She smiles in his direction, unfolding a table cloth and shaking it out before laying it over a small, circular, wooden table at the near-center of the room. She pulls out one of the two chairs.
"Take a seat."
Henry obliges, but as he sits, he says, "I didn't come for a reading, Marlena. I came to visit."
"Yes. But how long has it been since you've let me read your palm anyway?" Henry doesn't answer, because he has a feeling that Marlena knows the exact amount of time that has passed. She settles across from him.
Henry holds out his dominant hand and Marlena takes it in the both of her's, turning it so that the palm is open.
She palpitates her fingertips against his wrist, feeling out the veins, the life times they have survived. Marlena traces the lines on his hand, making small 'hm' sounds.
Nothing Henry doesn't already know.
"You're so lonely that it hurts. This line here," she indicates it, "speaks volumes to me. You feel destined to die alone. But that point in time is still so obscure. I can't possibly tell you what comes. I won't be alive when you die,"
Henry's chest aches.
"Difficulties lie near for you. Something is going to cross your path that changes you, although how much it changes you or what it is, is a different story." Marlena stops abruptly, index finger resting on his pulse point.
"Your heart longs for him."
"You miss him. Which is obvious. How can you not miss someone you've spent nearly half of your life knowing?"
Marlena falls silent, her dead eyes focused so eerily on him. Henry stops breathing, blinking more than is strictly necessary. His nostrils flare slightly.
"Why are you here Henry?"
"I came to visit." He repeats.
"That's not all you came to do. You came to inquire about Abraham's well-being. You wanted to know how he is. You do this with everyone that sees Abraham on a semi-regular basis. But you can't talk to him. You can't bring yourself to do it."
"Marlena…" Henry breathes. He wants this to stop. It's too much. If he's ever doubted Marlena's skill, he doesn't know why.
He pulls his hand from her grasp, standing and running it through his hair. She sits at the table, stoic, with her fingertips pressing against the table top.
"I- I can't-." He breaks off and takes a deep, shaky breath, "I must say that your abilities are true. Contrary to the popular misconception about psychics."
She smiles at him indulgingly, "Thank you."
Marlena stands, pulling the cloth from the table swfitly off and folding it neatly.
A triplet of knocks comes from down the hall. Marlena turns toward Henry, "The back door."
It's all she needs to say to him before sweeping from the room and down the hall. Henry makes his way to the kitchen quickly and doesn't hesistate before opening the door and sneaking out.
Henry waits around the side of the house until he hears Marlena's placcid, "Abraham. Come in."
When the door swings shut, Henry strides from around the house, across Marlena's front lawn and looks either way before crossing the street and disappearing between two houses.
Henry sits out on his balcony, his knees folded in front of his chest, as he watches the ocean ebb and flow through the wrought iron bars.
Seagulls cry in the distance and the smell of salt is overwhelming to the senses. A light breeze rolls through. Henry knows this is supposed to be calming, supposed to be beautiful. But for all the world, he can't see why right now.
His head hurts like he's been gnashing his teeth, been hit in the head with an aluminum baseball bat. His eyes hurt like he's been crying- or on the verge.
Henry misses being able to cry. It was messy and gross, yes, but it was relief. The downside of being a vampire and being unable to cry is the residual ache one still feels. An ache around their eyes, spreading back into the temples and lingering. But there are no actual tears. No relief of sadness, no matter how weighty.
He breathes deeply, but it does not help the constricting against his chest. Henry's stomach roils and squelches audibly with hunger. He'd have to feed tonight. The thought causes him no shortage of discomfort. It's been that way since he was turned.
Henry removes his sunglasses and presses the heels of his palms against his eyes until sparks flare behind them. The ache does not cease when his hands drop.
Henry hefts himself up to stand with a soft grunt, sunglasses still in hand. He walks back inside, leaving the venetian doors to stand open with the shoreline just out of reach.
He walks over to his closet, pulling out an aged leather jacket and shrugging it on over his black t-shirt.
It's only 5:30 and the sun is nowhere near setting but Henry needs to get out. He's going to drive himself nuts in the silence. He pushes his sunglasses back onto his face before leaving, not bothering to lock the door. After all, there is nothing in his home that cannot be replaced.
The people rush past Henry in either direction. Each time someone bumps him, it feels like being pounded down by falling bricks. The sun is setting, now and it makes the ocean look like a painting that someone sloughed their hand down while still wet- oranges and pinks and purples and blues all bleeding into one another.
Someone bumps into Henry rather roughly, almost knocking him over the side of the boardwalk.
He catches himself on the guardrail, and whips his head around to catch sight of a hunched figure, looking over his shoulder at Henry. With eyes black as coal.
Henry's breath catches in his throat. He's seen neither hide nor hair of any other vampire in the Key West area. Nothing since the day he moved here.
His body goes rigid and he searches the throngs of people. He can't believe he was so oblivious, having retreated into his own head so much that he didn't notice the half a dozen other vampires around him.
Something's not right.
Henry hurries up the boardwalk, keeping an eye out for more of his kind. He realizes that whatever's going on, it's probably going to happen soon. The sun is setting and it won't be long before it drops completely below the horizon.
He passes three more vampires in the span of thirty yards.
Henry feels sick. Sick to his stomach and it has nothing to do with how hungry he is.
He continues to walk until the sun sets, growing more and more tense as he passes inumerable people.
He expects the hit when it comes; he's grabbed by the collar of his jacket and slammed so forcefully against the boardwalk, the wood splinters. People scream and scatter everywhere.
Henry is pulled up again by his jacket and he seethes. It's a cowardly thing to attack one's opponent while their back is turned. Just as it's cowardly not to give them a chance to fight. (It's also cowardly to ruin someone's favorite jacket but that might just be Henry's personal bias.)
He slips out of his jacket and turns to face the bewildered vampire, still holding the empty garment. Henry grabs the other creature by the front of his shirt and bodily throws him over the side of the boardwalk, onto the beach. As soon as he's made that move, other vampires rush him, eyes black and fangs extended. The panic increases as people catch sight of the vampires.
He counts quickly and he knows he won't be able to take them all down. Henry would have to make a break for it, distract them and run.
They were here to kill him, he knew. But he had an inkling that it had to do with his work against the drug cartel in Miami. (Vampires have been behind the drugs in Miami for a long while, now.) Otherwise, they'd have left him alone. Vampires are like spiders, if you don't poke them, they won't bite you.
A short, portly vampire charges him, snarling and spitting. Henry dodges him only to be grabbed by another of his kind. He struggles but the other vampire's claws press to his throat and the rest close in around him. Henry can feel the cool breath against his face, smell the fresh traces of blood. He strikes up with the heel of his palm under the other's chin, knocking his head back. His grip loosens and Henry gets out, grabs him by the head and twists, snapping his neck. He pulls, beheading the vampire by hand.
More vampires attempt to bring him down but Henry manages to elude them. Though, each strike he takes and each he makes wear on him, his hunger making itself painfully apparent.
Finally, a vampire plows into Henry and slams him back against the boardwalk, holding him down, drawing back her clawed hand and- the damaging hit does not come.
Henry opens his eyes, he hadn't realized he'd closed them, to see that the vampire has lost her hand. Gone.
Before she has time to make a sound, however, a large hand comes out to grasp her by the throat and throw her off of Henry.
He looks up at the imposing figure of Abe, standing in a defensive position in front of Henry, protecting him.
"Abraham." He breathes.
Abe looks down to Henry then back up at the quickly advancing group. He yanks Henry by the upper arm to stand and says, quietly, "When I say so, run."
Henry can only nod.
"Run!" Abe hisses, and they take off, back the way Henry had come.
The vampires chase after.
"Why- why are you here?" Henry asks, avoiding running into people as they flee.
"I came to save you. Shouldn't that be obvious?" Abe replies and they stay silent until they lose the vampires tailing them.
They come to a narrow alleyway, wires and cables thread between the two buildings near the top and the sounds of the boardwalk are muted and distant. Abe leans against one wall while Henry rests his hands on his knees. He lets out a long breath.
"I haven't run like that since Stonewall!"
They take one look at each other and burst into breathless laughter. When their hysteria dies down, the silence is awkward and begs to be filled. Henry is the first one that speaks, the first one that moves.
He stands up straight and almost tackles Abe in an embrace, fisting a hand in his shirt, pulling him as close as possible. He buries his face in Abe's chest and just breathes.
After the adrenaline rush, his body feels shaky, unstable and he trembles a little.
"God, you don't know how hard it is without you…" He doesn't say anything else. He can't possibly say anything else.
Abe doesn't say anything at first, he just weaves his arms around Henry, pressing his hands flat against the man's back and holds him.
"Look at us," Abe murmurs softly, at last, "Can't be away from one another for more than 3 years. Doesn't that make us pathetic?"
"No it doesn't."