Don't Tell Dad the Babysitter's Undead
Tracy arrived home in the hour before dawn. She entered the bedroom, and moved immediately to the windows to close the curtains against the encroaching sunrise. Her apartment was pretty much the way she had left it, although the bowl of popcorn had been knocked from the nightstand and the few remaining kernels littered the floor. Tracy just gazed at the vampire and her nephew curled together on the bed, and shook her head in wonderment. The two of them looked so peaceful, she didnít want to disturb them. Pete certainly didnít look any the worse for wear from being left in the hands of a 500 year old bachelor. Vachon had kept his word, and had taken special care of her nephew. An acute pain gripped her chest as she realized that this scene was but a tease of what she wished for in her heart of hearts, down in a depth very rarely plumbed for fear the fragile dream would shatter without any hope of repair; this domestic scene was beyond her reach, and only an extreme circumstance had afforded a glimpse of what her life might be like to have Javier and a family. Tracy committed the vision to memory, thinking that if she could look back in the coming years and choose any one instant that solidified her trust in Javier, this would be the defining moment.
As she studied him, his nostrils flared; the vampire had picked up her scent. Vachon opened his eyes, burnished gold, but the color faded to familiar brown as he recognized her and the other-than-usual surroundings as her bedroom. Vachon unwound and levered himself off the bed with very little movement, taking care not to jar the child sleeping next to him. Pete stirred and squirmed a bit, but did not wake. Tracy beckoned to the vampire, and he joined her in the living room. She had already snapped the drapes together, sealing out the slowly increasing light.
As Tracy turned to face Vachon, she hugged herself and shuddered. "I need a shower."
He rolled his eyes at her suggestively, and crossed the room to her side in the blink of an eye. His hands landed gently on her shoulders, but she stepped back out of reach, miserably conscious of her grimy clothes and sweat-dampened skin and hair. His arms fell to his sides, but his expression was neutral and apparently unoffended.
"Bad one?" he asked.
No words would come close to describing the horror that had assailed her eyes at the scene of the crime, so she merely nodded.
"I should go," he told her.
Jerking his thumb towards the door, the vampire followed the direction of the gesture with another blur of motion. His mortal host trailed him at a slower pace, but her long legs carried her to his side within moments. He reached for his jacket, but she intercepted his hand and shook her head.
"You can stay." He hesitated, until the raw need evident in her next word convinced him. "Please." She kept a tight grip on his wrist until he nodded his consent.
Tracy had intended to jump in and out of the shower, not wanting to remain alone for so long, but once the hot water washed over her, she found it impossible to leave its comforts so quickly. She emerged from the bedroom about half an hour later, dressed in a faded pair of leggings and matching tee, looking much more relaxed. Vachon had settled himself comfortably, and was waiting for her on the sofa, reading Peteís book, of all things. He placed it on the coffee table as she sat down beside him. She picked it up, and caressed the cover. "This was my favorite book when I was little."
"I can see why - itís full of magical creatures," he teased lightly.
The blush rose again, tinting her flesh pink, though it was barely noticeable beneath the flush left by the hot shower. The vampire took a deep breath, drawing in the mingled scent of red raspberries lingering on her skin, and apricots from her warm blood. She was desirable to vampire and man alike at that moment, and he wasted little time in demonstrating his nascent desire. He pulled the book from her grasp, tossed it aside, and enfolded her within his arms in one smooth maneuver. One cool hand traced the outline of her shoulder blades through the thin tee-shirt, while the other lifted to tangle in her silken tresses. Vachon pressed her to his chest with an insistent but gentle pressure, taking care to gauge his strength to her fragile mortal bones. His mouth found hers, slightly open and inviting, and his fangs descended between one human heartbeat and the next. Tracy shivered with a matched desire, and she melted into his embrace. She ran her tongue caressingly along the length of one sharp canine, exploring the danger, bringing a moan of pleasure from Vachon.
A sharp vision of the murder scene shattered her rising passion. Tracy stiffened and pushed against her supernatural loverís chest. Vachon released her immediately, struggling to return his eyes and teeth to their human masquerade. He managed to keep the hurt from showing on his face, but he couldnít quite keep the vulnerable tone from his voice.
"Youíre still afraid."
"Itís not you," she said by way of apology.
"Thereís only me here, Trace."
Raising her hands to her face, she scrubbed her eyes in an attempt to wipe away the disturbing vision. "Itís so horrible," she whispered in a small voice.
He reached for her, once more encircling her in his arms, but it was purely for solace. She drank it in, still amazed that he offered her everything a mortal would, and perhaps more. "Tell me."
A wracking shudder passed through her slender frame. "Not yet -- I canít..." Vachon tightened his embrace, whispering, "Shhh, youíre all right" and other such words of comfort into her hair. Reclining back against the arm of the sofa, he pulled Tracy down with him. He didnít know how long he merely held her, rocking her a little when the dry sobs ran through her. He softly hummed a cuna, a lullaby, and she snuggled against him, her head cradled on his chest. The sobs subsided and her body relaxed, breathing deepening and heartbeat slowing into the lazy rhythms of slumber.
The vampire fought down the keen pang of hunger her human vulnerability had brought out in him. He was not at all close to the point where he would lose control, but lately just the sight of her was enough to whet his appetite. Taking her would give him great pleasure - for a moment, but bringing her across would keep her at his side for as long as they could make it work. Joining her to his world would be so easy, but the fear of her displeasure, her censure, kept him from doing the deed. Another look at her features, slightly puckered with adult worries but still child-like in mien, reminded him of the small boy who had warmed to him so readily; both wore a face of pure trust. He found he could not betray that faith. Javier and Tracy had passed a massive hurdle in their relationship this very night, and vampire and man alike had no wish to jeopardize the progress they had made.
Vachon, never one to dwell on introspection long, shrugged mentally and folded the thoughts away for another day. Molding himself more comfortably to the willowy length of her, he whispered, "[[Gracias, querida,]]" into the gentle curve of her ear, before slipping into sleep himself.
Many hours later, after the rest of the cityís day-shift inhabitants had found their collective ways to work, Tracy awakened. Taking care not to move too abruptly, she noted her surroundings with wonder. She was conscious, at that moment, of the extent of her trust in him. Even though she had left the apartment with some little doubt nibbling away at the back of her mind, his assurances had been enough to calm her anxiety so much that she was able to sleep, and sleep deeply with no nightmares, within his cool embrace. In fact, she was quite aware that she always slept better, easier, more peacefully in his arms. This realization was yet another step in her journey towards full, unqualified love.
Shifting slowly, Tracy reached up to tangle a hand in his hair, caressing the soft curls and enjoying the silky feel of it as it sifted through her fingers before playfully tugging it to awaken him.
He cracked one eye open, giving her a roguish ogling, then allowed the other eye to join the roving feast. "Har-har!" he cried in a mock pirate accent. "What tasty dish has come into me arms?"
"Oh!" she gasped in her best imitation of a damsel-in-distress. "I am but a small morsel, milord, and would fain be released."
They chuckled, very comfortable with each other and their play. Still, Tracy knew better than to tempt fate. She unwound from her curled position atop his chest, and he gave her a reluctant assist. In the relative quiet of her apartment, her stomach took that opportunity to growl loudly. Her eyes flew wide in surprise and dismay.
"Hungry?" he asked impishly.
That look came over her eyes, the one he ascribed to her overwhelming curiosity about him and vampires in general. "Your stomach doesnít growl, huh?"
In answer, he growled deeply from his diaphragm, but softened the rumbling to a contented purr by the time it cleared his lips.
"I guess it does, at that," she commented merrily.
Poking him in his stomach, she made good her escape, coming to a stop in the kitchen. Vachon followed in her footsteps, taking up a position by the side of the sink. Tracy was busy putting up the kettle for tea and heating a saucepan of milk for hot chocolate, so Vachon occupied himself by poking into the nearest drawer. This one was filled with kitchen gadgets, and he came up a minute later with an egg-beater. He amused himself by spinning the handle and watching the rotors turn, his head tilted whimsically to the side.
"Are you hungry?" she asked tentatively, over the whirring of the beater.
His hands stopped playing with the gadget, and he just gazed at her with an intensity she found rather unnerving; his eyes were limpid yet glowed with need and desire. She held her ground, even though his appearance had edged into the realm of the vampire. He took a step towards her, the egg-beater abandoned and completely forgotten in favor of a much better sport. The hunger faded in seconds, but left her nerves atingle and his young face troubled.
"Not enough to matter," he answered finally in a tightly controlled voice, with just the hint of an unnatural vibrato.
Tracy studied his face so intently that he shifted uncomfortably. "Is it too much responsibility?" she inquired with an inspired burst of insight.
"What?" he asked tensely in return.
"Putting all my trust in you."
He pressed back against the counter-top in an unbridled desire to escape, his hands curled under the edge. Hearing the counter respond with a creak of stress, he loosened his grip and hooked his thumbs into the pockets of his black jeans, trying to recapture his former insouciance.
"Sometimes," he answered honestly.
"I canít stop."
"I donít want you to."
A fleeting smile spread his lips slightly and momentarily brightened his eyes, as he returned her gaze just as intently. They remained locked in that pose, each wanting to make the next step, but neither knowing what that step should be, until Tracy realized the kettle was whistling for attention. She broke out of the trance with a start, cleared her throat, then moved to the stove to turn off the jet. He picked up the beater and twirled the rotors a few times to get her attention.
"So, Trace - what exactly is this thing?"
Relieved to have something mundane to talk about, she replied lightly, "Itís used to whip things, especially eggs."
"Ah," he said as he stuffed it away into the wrong drawer. He had enough exploration for one day. "You know, your brother is going to see the latest murder on the news. What is he going to think about you leaving Pete with me?" he asked, echoing her earlier misgivings.
"Iíve been thinking about that," she responded, chewing on a fingernail.
"Come up with any solutions?"
The phone rang, and the piercing sound startled her.
"Hey, Trace. Everything okay?"
"Oh, hi, Tom. Sure."
"Your case is all over the news. Last night looked rough," he offered sympathetically.
She pushed the threatening memories out of her mind. "I know, I was there," she said quietly.
"Pete?" he asked with some concern.
"A neighbor watched him," she lied. She could feel Vachonís astonishment and shock, but couldnít spare her attention.
"Oh, thought so," he said, with a tone of relief. "That nosy one - Mrs. Applebee, eh?"
"Yeah, thatís her. I think she monitors the police band," Tracy embellished. "She was over here even before I had my gun on my hip."
"Hmmm. Nothing like concerned citizens." He gave a small chuckle. "Iíll be by to pick up Pete in about an hour."
"Iíll be here."
Tracy pressed the OFF button and set the cordless aside. Looking across to Javier, she noted one of his thick eyebrows was raised in apparent amusement.
"Well," she hedged defensively, "I donít think my family is ready for you."
"Uh-huh," he replied, nodding in comprehension.
Tracy spooned some loose tea into the pot of water, letting it infuse, then mixed some cocoa into the heated milk and stirred it until the color evened out. She felt Javierís eyes on her, and she stammered out, "Um - you know, Iíve always wondered, is that hypno-thingie harmless?"
Javier was surprised by the question and how little it related to the rest of their conversation. He wrinkled his brow and regarded her with a puzzled frown, but replied with a quick bob of his head.
"Are you sure? How do you know?" she pressed.
"In 500 years, Trace, Iíve never seen anyone have a bad reaction."
"Youíre absolutely sure - I mean - really, really positive - ícause I wouldnít want... Heís only..."
Vachon gripped her chin between thumb and forefinger to stop the nervous chatter, and studied her face. It had taken him a few minutes, but he finally figured out where Tracy was headed. "You want Pete to forget?" he asked. Her expression was miserable, but she nodded her consent. Before she could ask, he assured her again in a voice tinged with sadness, "No, it wonít hurt him at all."
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