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Falls Like Rain

7.1. The Soul's Dark Cottage

The soulís dark cottage, battered and decayed,
Letís in new light through chinks that Time has made,
Stronger by weakness, wiser, men become
As they draw near to their eternal home
Leaving the old, both worlds at once they view,
That stand upon the threshold of the new.
   --E. Waller, On the Divine Poems [1686]

Tracy blinked the sleep from her eyes, forcing them to focus, as she looked toward the windows. She was momentarily puzzled; she didnít recall closing the casement window or twitching the curtains together before falling asleep. A cool breeze had kept the room a comfortable temperature during the wee hours before dawn. As the sun rose, so did the heat and ambient level of light so that when she awoke the room was darkly bright and the air was warm and close. She had slept through the worst of the August heat, but she knew from experience that sleeping with the windows closed and no air conditioner in late summer was as close to a death wish as she wanted to come. She rolled over with the intention of opening the windows to get the air circulating once again and her eyes tracked across the room to the chair wedged into the opposite corner. Vachon was sprawled in what seemed a rather uncomfortable position, fingers interlaced over his stomach and bare legs crossed at the ankles. Tracy caught her breath at the sight of him. He could have been a god, though no deity from her imagination had ever worn a plain black tee-shirt, or lounged in such an awkward position on such an ordinary chair.

Tracy vaguely remembered a promise of a ride to work, but she never thought he would spend the day with her. She crawled to the end of the bed and sat, arms around her drawn-up knees, watching him for many long minutes. Javier was so still, his chest barely rising with the infrequent intake of breath. He had obviously closed the window before falling asleep, to prevent an errant breeze from blowing the curtains aside and allowing the deadly light to penetrate the harboring darkness. The chair was the only piece of furniture in direct line of the early morning sun; Tracy wondered if he had noticed the swath of faded flowers along the cushion and rounded arm. She glanced to the window and back to his sleeping form. She was still amazed that his trust extended to sleeping in her presence with only a thin panel of cloth between him and destruction. Tracy shook her head in dismay. She could never top this show of faith. Or maybe she already had, by taking him into her heart, her soul and her body.

A yawn caught her unawares, nearly cracking her jaw with its violence. Usually, six hours of sleep were enough for her to function, but the night had been more active than usual. She smiled to herself. Active: what a term for what the two of them had shared. She shook her head in disbelief at the remembered passion; she rarely abandoned herself like that.

Tracy blew her lover a soft kiss, then crawled back up to her pillows. She tumbled down into sleep as soon as her head hit the bed. It seemed someone called to her only a minute later. The wind shaped her name, as tenuous and insubstantial as a ghost. Spoken barely above a whisper, she could not hear it distinctly; she struggled to make it out. She pitched to and fro on a dream sea, but managed to grab onto the voice calling out to her and use it as a guyline back to full awareness. The shift from sleep to a waking state was sudden and abrupt. The hand on her shoulder steadied her.

"Whoa! Whereís the fire?" Tracy turned towards the source of the voice, her eyes a little wild and disoriented. "Trace? You okay?" he asked with some concern. When she didnít answer immediately, he drew his own conclusions, though he leaped in the wrong direction. "Are you afraid, Tracy? Did I hurt you?"

She blinked and focused on him. "Oh, God, no," she sighed at last, regaining some of her scattered wits. "Iím sorry." By the bruised look still etched on his face, she could see he wasnít entirely convinced. She took his face in her hands and brushed the doubts away with a fleeting kiss on his lips. "Iím sorry," she repeated more firmly. "I was dreaming I was on a ship in heavy seas, and someone was calling my name. It was so real -- I didnít know where I was for a minute."

The tension fled from his body and his features flooded with relief. "My fault. I shouldnít have shaken you."

"Well, there are better ways to wake up," she hinted boldly, as she leaned forward provocatively. The words she heard coming from her own mouth shocked her, but Javier brought out a side of her few had glimpsed.

His eyebrows rose into the shock of dark hair which spilled over his forehead. He retreated to the bedroom door with a burst of vampiric speed, his questionable virtue more or less intact. "Come on, get up," Javier cajoled from a safe distance. "Youíll be late for work." Tracy bounced around on the bed, which had a very interesting effect on certain body parts, and presented him with her stiff back. "Comon, Trace - I squeezed some oranges for you; they smell really sweet," he enticed.

She turned her head over her shoulder and the sight of him sent a thrill coursing along her nerves. Any thoughts of responding in an immature fashion slid right out of head. Instead, her much-suppressed seductive nature decided she must lick her lips slowly, in a most malapert manner.

A dark craving rose in response to her open invitation, and Javier was hard-pressed to resist. Once he had tasted a mortalís blood it was oh-so-difficult to deny himself the finish. He took a hesitant step back towards the bed; hunger had seized control of his movements. Fighting off the deadly desire he stopped his approach with great effort, silently repeating Ďthis I shall not doí over and over, like a mantra.

Tracy lost her provocative expression and regarded her lover with a smile that quickly faltered into a worried frown, afraid she had pushed the envelope a bit too far. She wasnít sure of the limits of his control, but a misjudgment on her part would most likely cause her untimely demise. She was too young, and there was so much she wanted to accomplish; death was not an option for her, and she would not let murder be an option for him.

Vachon was disappointed, yet relieved at the same time, to see the passion drain from her eyes and posture. She had no idea what it cost him to be human for her, and he was sincerely glad of that fact. Though he had frightened her with the intensity of his gaze and his silent approach, she gamely tried her best to wipe the fear from her face, forgetting his inhumanly sharp senses that needed no expression to read. He had to do something to make her comfortable again and to regain his own precarious balance. Javier allowed a large grin, rare for him, to light up his face. Tracy responded with one of her own, as he hoped she would. She turned to face him, completely unaware of the impact of her large blue eyes and ingenuous smile.

Following human instincts which hadnít been exercised in many scores of years, he jumped onto the bed and tackled Tracy down to the pillows, harnessing a strength that could easily crush her. Ignoring her yips of surprise, Javier placed playful nips along her hairline and spine. Tracy convulsed in giggles; he had discovered a vulnerable ticklish spot and his lips exploited his position to advantage. He let up briefly and Tracy took the opportunity to flip over, quickly hiding the sensitive area. She snaked her hands up and dug her fingers into his ribs in retaliation. His grin just widened impishly; he was patently immune to her attempts to tickle him. Their eyes met and held, Tracy studying her lover through narrowed lids. The gaze turned intense, not at all frightening, but something important was communicated. Javier only shook his head slightly, his hair trailing across her bare breasts. His smile was her world; it filled her vision as his mouth covered hers once more. He slid his hands beneath her, lifting her, his fingers finding that ticklish spot by pure chance. She giggled against his lips, the passion dissolving in a fit of laughter. Javier rolled over and lay beside Tracy; a few chuckles escaped his throat as well, her gay mood quite infectious. She turned on her side and half-reclined against him, letting his broad chest take most of her weight. She swept the hair away from his cheeks and shoulders in a loving caress, an excuse to run her fingers through the thick curls. Placing a kiss on her fingertip, she laid it thoughtfully against his lips.

"Iím beginning to realize how difficult this is for you. It wonít be only your fault if ... something happens." Tracy swallowed. "I know I push you too hard sometimes, but I forget. And I donít know your limits. Iím in the dark. All I know is how much I want to be with you."

Her voice was barely above a whisper, but Javier heard each word distinctly, as if she spoke directly to his soul. He could think of only one way to show her his control. His eyes flared into gold with the speed of a match being struck, and just as quickly winked out like an altar candle being snuffed by a brass hood. He kissed the finger still against his lips, then leaned up and kissed her lips with whatever humanity was still within him after all these centuries. He pulled back after a moment suspended in time, his hand still tenderly cupping her cheek. "Thank you, Trace," he murmured softly.

In a lightning change of moods, he slapped her lustily on her bare bottom and moved her aside with inhuman speed and strength. A moment later, they were both on their feet, a pace apart. Tracy pouted, not at all pleased with the turn of events. She folded her arms under her breasts, lifting them, and tapped a toe on the rug.

"Now, now, none of that," he scolded with mock severity, ignoring her display with difficulty. "Time for work"

As he turned to lead the way to the kitchen she tripped him, using the winning moves from her Academy wrestling days to pin him to the floor. Tracy had her own tricks and she was the last person to be outdone. She smothered his protests (which were not nearly as convincing as they had been earlier) with her mouth, and soon quite different noises were heard. Javier bowed to what had become inevitable, yielding to her desires, hoping his control would hold. They made love, and it was how Tracy had always imagined it could be between them: light, playful, fun. She had no worries he would lose control and hurt her; she felt safe and loved. Javier locked the vampire deep within and just enjoyed her trust, warmth and gaiety; in fact, he just enjoyed Tracy.

They made a game of removing what little clothing remained. She shivered a bit as he peeled away the skimpy underpants. "Youíre a little chilly," she complained, but in good humor.

His hands raced over her smooth skin in quick, yet breath-taking caresses. Javier even found that elusive ticklish spot again. "Youíll just have to find some way to warm me, querida," he replied, his lips hovering over her small, firm breasts. He was normally a quiet man, and sparkling wit was beyond him at this point as all his concentration went into loving her as a mortal might.

Tracy wouldnít allow giggles to come between her and her other pleasures for a second time. A wicked grin spread her lips as she guided him into her body, nipping teasingly at his ear and throat, unaware of his struggle. His breath caught, and he stretched his jaw to the side in anticipation of a bite that wouldnít come from a human lover. Their laughter combined as they tumbled back and forth across the throw rug in a mock wrestling match, his strength easily supporting her and locking them together. Looking at the couple, blond hair and brown tangled together much as their bodies were entwined, it was hard to say who had the better hold. Javier was older, stronger, and more experienced, but Tracy had youth, determination and training (not to mention those seven trophies to prove her prowess) on her side. When they finally fetched up against the overstuffed chair in the corner, Tracy was on top, triumph and passion mixed in her grin in equal measures. Javier allowed her to catch her breath, and to bask momentarily in the victory, before renewing his attack. He thought he heard her say "Give," against his lips, her voice breathy with barely suppressed laughter.

As the mock wrestling match came to a close, Tracy stiffened in orgasm, eyes rolling upward beneath half-closed lids, and a moan of pure pleasure bubbled up from the depths of her. Though he was still so cool inside her, a visceral warmth radiated outward from their point of contact, tinting her body in a rosy glow. Her play had so distracted him that his lips trailed icy fire across her breasts instead of his teeth being buried in her throat drawing out her life; he had denied his own orgasm. The first time they had made love weakened his resolve, made him reckless; he wouldnít risk her life so foolishly again. Her climax battered his senses acutely, through the heat of her flesh, the rapid pulse of her heart and the scent that is part of every woman. Though the feelings were nothing compared to the intake of blood, a mere thimbleful of water when measured against the ocean, he could make this small sacrifice for Tracy, without sacrificing her life. Yet, he knew he would pay dearly for this one moment of indulgence.

They parted soon after, Tracy still beset by girlish giggles. Rising up on her elbows, she glanced over at the bedside clock and gave a little gasp of surprise. Nearly an hour had passed since Javier had awakened her. Oops! she thought. Looks like Iím gonna be late for work after all. She chuckled to herself. The Captain would not appreciate the obvious lie sheíd have to give to cover her tardiness, her skills in that area somewhat lacking as Javier had earlier pointed out, but she could hardly tell him she was rolling around her bedroom with her boyfriend who just happened to be a vampire. He would accuse her of watching too much of The Jerry Show in her off-hours. The Captain wouldnít be that far off the mark; her life was currently way closer to one of Jerry Tateís shows than she felt comfortable with or cared to admit to anyone, most of all herself.

She pushed the thoughts aside and turned her attention back to the man beneath her. Although she had had several lovers over the past few years, that word still filled her with a tangle of emotions she had yet to sort, particularly when applied to a vampire. She never knew quite how to handle these intimate situations, especially when at the end of a singularly torrid scene. Grandma Vetterís advice invariably came back to her in such moments. Tracy had been named for her, but she was much more than just a namesake. The younger Vetter had inherited the elderís pragmatism and meticulous care. So when faced with a daunting task, she always asked herself, "What would Grandma Vetter do?" and proceeded from there. Her grandmotherís sage words replayed in her mind: "Tracy," Grandma Vetter had told her in a voice shaky with old age, yet bright with good humor and remembered passion, "a man, no matter who he is or where he hails from, always appreciates a woman who appreciates him." While a touch sexist, this wise counsel had never failed.

Tracy gazed down at her lover with a soft smile and liquid eyes, then dropped a quick kiss on his nose. "Thank you, Javier," she said lightly, "you were wonderful."

"Hey, anytime, Trace," he replied in kind. He moderated his matching grin of pleasure, keeping his lips pressed firmly together over fangs that had budded against his best efforts. "Work now?" he asked hopefully.

"Yup," she agreed grudgingly, lifting off him. And if her hands were wont to linger on his sensitive flesh as she climbed to her feet, he exercised an admirable amount of restraint and only helped her stand.

"Go on, get dressed. Iíll make you a sandwich before we leave. You can eat on the way." Although this plea was one of desperation on his part, he would not let the emotion color his words or voice or expression.

Her eyes widened. "You mean, youíre really gonna fly me to work?" Javier only winked and nodded. "Iíll be done in 20 minutes," she promised readily as she headed into the bathroom.

By the time Tracy had taken a quick shower and dressed for work, Javier had dressed himself and put together a sandwich with all the fixings. He even convinced himself that the hunger was put to rest. He pulled on his leather jacket and was opening the living room window as Tracy clipped her holster to her hip, shrugged into a wind-breaker and grabbed the brown bag he had packed from the kitchen counter. She moved smartly into his arms, and in a second they were airborne. Sheíd barely had the presence of mind to eat what he had thoughtfully prepared; though she had reached her hand into the bag, the aerial view had so captured her attention as it did each time he took her flying that she promptly forgot the food. They landed out of sight behind the station-house only a few minutes later. Tracy sneaked a peak at her watch; amazingly sheíd be less than ten minutes late for her shift. With any luck, the Captain wouldnít even notice. She stepped out of Vachonís arms, checking for any witnesses to their unorthodox arrival, but the parking lot was empty; he probably knew that before they landed. As she turned back to thank him, a stiff breeze from the speed of his departure pushed the hair from her face.

"Donít forget my car!" she called to him, waving her arm. She shook her head and frowned; he was back to his old self.

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