After, he finds a girl named Gabrielle on the streets. There's no dimly lit tavern; it's not some romantic encounter on the edge of town where he'd bumped into a maiden watching the moon rise. There's no pretense or flowery language to paint a prettier interpretation of their circumstance.
Henry prefers not to dress up his actions. It makes it far too easy to lose sight of what you really are.
Gabrielle's a whore, and she's blond like Edeva was; they usually are. When the centuries pass and he can recall his dead wife's name no longer, he holds a grim certainty that they'll still be blond.
Henry smiles at her from across the road, earns an impish grin in return, quick and pretty, as he approaches. He says, without preamble, "If you come home with me, we can fuck in my bathtub."
It would have to be his bathtub, because some moron who doesn't know the first thing about the first thing, who tried to take on a vampire while falling-down-drunk, who apparently has a death wish and can't be bothered to use whatever passes for a brain behind his deep-set eyes, beneath his dark mess of hair – well, that moron is currently unconscious in his bed.
Henry cleaned him up a bit, picked out the errant splinters from when kid's face was forced through the planking of that moldering pier. He soaked up the blood with boiled towels and careful restraint, and watched him sleep for a quarter of an hour just to make sure the fool was still breathing.
On the street, with Gabrielle, Henry thinks about strong, delicately proportioned hands; the angle of a hip bone from trousers slid too low; severe ankles, cool to the touch, that reminded Henry to leave a fire going before he went out.
How he's pale, but not like Henry is. Skinny, but threaded through with the kind of muscular definition that comes from long days of hard labour. Shoulders like he'd worked the plow, maybe forested.
He thinks about cool kisses, or ghosting his fingertips into the hollow of his belly, his ribs. The dip of a bone-white (but not paper-white) clavicle. But it's the wrong time for that sort of thing, and Henry has a greater agenda.
He propositions Gabrielle with a five dollar coin, to show he's generous, and a bottle of gin, to show he's a good time and a good sport. She doesn't take much convincing, and Henry has no problem with prostitutes. He actually quite likes them; they, at least, are honest about the things they do. And it's not like there's a disease in the world she might have that he could catch.
Abe is not one to be driven away with insults or hard truths or harder work. Henry puts him through his paces, and Abe comes up bruised and panting, weak in his arms and legs because Henry won't let him rest, but he still comes up. He does everything Henry tells him, and swings his goddamn axe until his palms blister and bleed. Henry intends to make him swing it until they're calloused and strong, until nothing on this earth can hurt him.
In the woods, he teaches Abe about hatred. He's very careful here, he's trying to drive home the fact that it can't carry you; it isn't enough. Love isn't enough, because it's just the same, just something that flips around inside you, an ouroboros that twists and bites down on its own tail, now belly up, now belly in. You turn it over and over and you're never sure if it's inside or outside, if you just want to kiss your wife again or kill her murderer in the slowest, most agonizing way you are capable of.
Then he teaches him about truth, and Abe braces his legs; draws back his weapon; shoulders tense and straining, he whips it through the summer air in a perfect, serene arc.
The tree explodes outward, and the pieces fall around him like ashes, like devastation from a tornado. Like he's become, for a few bare seconds, a natural disaster.
There's a moment, just the smallest flicker of a perfect future, where Abraham could topple nations. Where they could walk the world in tandem and no one could be greater.
It makes Henry salivate. It makes black blood rush to his face, makes his jaw tighten and bloom, makes his teeth start to elongated with the possibilities, with how that kind of future would taste –
But then Abe falls back a step, breathing hard. Wipes the perspiration off his forehead with the back of his wrist. The sun, high above him and filtering through the forest canopy, colors his cheeks and forearms gold. The edge of his nose, the pale place beneath his lip. He almost glows.
All of the hunger, the great rush of grandeur, bleeds out until it's just Henry standing there, watching him. Tracking the glossy streaks of sweat, each tiny droplet, as they slip down over Abe's collarbones. Bead along his hairline.
There's no one around for miles. It would be easy. Abe's watching him, loose and pliant from exertion. He's even smiling.
Instead, Henry simply says, "Again."
He insists on fighting in the dark because it's something Abe should learn, but it's also becoming increasingly difficult to maintain any kind cover.
It's hardly a fair fight, and Henry beats the hell out of him until Abe can't force himself to his feet, can't go another round without leaning heavily against the wall.
Henry gets his hands all over him, there, in the dark. Suffers through Abe's soft remarks about how cold he feels, bears the smell of Abe's sweat, the blood from his split lip, in silence; even as Abe tucks his long body close and lets Henry haul him into the house.
It's claustrophobic, it's goddamn low-hanging fruit, and Henry can't keep this up.
But Abe's almost ready. He is.
So Henry sends him away.
His prostitutes, after that, are all brunette.
There are decades between them, a handful of years to Henry and a lifetime to Abraham, when he makes his case.
Henry doesn't say, I won't lose you. I've saved you too many times for that.
He doesn't say, I'd be all alone on this earth. Don't make me walk it by myself.
Instead he appeals to Abe's sense of duty, all the good they could do if they were together, if Abe would allow this. How, just because something is hard, doesn't excuse you from getting it done.
His appeals fall on deaf ears, and Abe leaves with Mary for the opera. He presses his journal into Henry's hands, and it's the first time he's done this.
Henry starts to read it even as they pull away, and he doesn't stop. He reads it cover to cover, and wishes he'd been selfish. Wishes he'd said, You won't be tired anymore, Abraham. Because that's something Henry's forgotten through his long life, but it's also something he never learned: How a body becomes soul-weary, how eventually you welcome death as an old friend. Because you've done your time, and now you can lay to rest.
He reads the journal, and there are only two things he takes away from it:
That he already knew every other thing in the world about Abraham Lincoln's life.
And that Abraham Lincoln loves him.
The funeral is one of the worst experiences of Henry Sturges's long existence. It's raining, overcast and gray, and the coffin is closed. Mary Todd is so out of her mind with grief that she hardly recognizes him when he goes to her after.
"You have to bring him back," she says, her voice even in a way that signals the eye of the storm, or the calm just before. A hurricane holding its breath. The last chords of a love song before the drums call all the young men to war.
"He would never forgive me, Mary," Henry says, and it weighs so heavily in his stomach – the guilt, the anger, the self-loathing because he could have saved him. Because he meant to make himself Abe's keeper, and he couldn't protect him this one goddamn time.
"I don't think you understand, Henry," she says, and she raises her eyes to his face. There are whispers of mania undercutting her voice. "You have to."
"Mary," he tells her firmly, settling his hands on her slumped shoulders, "He forbade it. I can't. I won't."
She fists her small, wrinkled hands so hard that they bleed from where her nails cut into her palms. He embraces her, and she goes stiff. And then she beats her hands against his chest. And then she sobs into his neck.
"You're a monster," she whispers harshly against his ear, and he hums softly into her hair.
"I know," he says.
When she leaves – when they all leave, everyone who loved Abe, everyone who respected President Lincoln; when Henry is finally alone – he kneels beside the fresh grave. Presses his palms into the loose dirt. He doesn't pray; there are no answered prayers for vampires. But he doesn't have to.
It doesn't take long. An hour hasn't yet passed before Henry's got Abe's body in his arms. He's cold, and too light for how tall he is. He's very, very dead. His head is a mess, but Henry isn't squeamish. You don't really get to be when you're of his persuasion.
He presses his lips to the space just below Abe's ear before his teeth ease out slowly, before the heat floods his face, before he sinks his fangs into that same spot and allows his curse to become a gift. Because yes, Henry Sturges is a liar. And he's selfish. And he's taking what's his.
They'd put Abe in his best suit, and they'd buried him with his hat in spite of the mess. He'll like that; they'd cleaned out the worst of the blood. It's almost as good as new.
The change is instantaneous, pale skin smoothing and tightening over old bones. Abe wakes up screaming, because half his head is gone and regeneration hurts like a bitch, but Henry loops his arms around Abe's chest and holds him through it, offers soft reassurances in his ear like he's a child, like he's that same idiot who drank himself into a stupor to work up his courage. To fight a losing battle.
Really, the man is hopeless.
"Henry," Abe gasps, and it's not the voice of an old man. "Henry, what have you done."
"I had to," he replies softly, and Abe looks up at him, stricken. Then, eyebrows raised, he glances down at his hands.
"I – I feel," he says, gathering himself back to his knees. "I'm – young?"
Henry laughs, "No, Abe. You're just dead. And prettied up a bit." He studies the fine lines on Abe's face, the last traces of his heavy wrinkles; how the age spots have faded, how he breathes easy and, when he stands, does so in one perfect, fluid motion.
"You're an ass, Henry," Abe says, offering his hand, and Henry takes it. Allows Abe to pull him up to his feet.
"I expect you'll forgive me at some point," Henry says. "You can't stay mad at me forever."
It's a question, too. He's testing the waters. It's something Henry has to face, because Abe didn't want this. But maybe he could work up to it.
"I assume this means you read my journal," Abe murmurs, tilting his head. He looks shy, almost. Awkward. Moves his hands like he doesn't know what to do with them, like he wishes for something to hold, or wield.
"I did," Henry says slowly. "But it didn't affect my decision."
"I see," Abe says carefully.
"Do you?" Henry asks, and reaches up. Curls his fingers around Abe's neck, pulls him down to height.
But it's Abe who kisses him first, cool lips and perfect, gorgeous hands tentative and searching over Henry's face, tracing the shell of his ear, the horn of his shoulder. Kissing him like Abe's been meaning to do it for the past thirty years.
So that answers that.