Distance isn’t the sort of thing I’ve ever really thought too much about. Granted, a lot of the time thinking wasn’t so much first on my list of things to do, you know? But distance. Always was just one of those random words that pop up now and again. Flashed some fang for a laugh and gramps over there? Kept his distance, didn’t he? Rang up that demon who lived in the flat upstairs in Jolly Old back a few decades and still owed me a favour or two? Called him long distance but the wanker wouldn’t accept the bloody charges. And that trip from Prague to New York in a fucking shipping crate, because my loony of a sire wouldn’t be trusted not to blow cover or drift out into the sunlight in her weakened state? A hard bloody distance to travel.
Now it’s all I think about some days. This distance, the worst sort. When the distance between your bodies dwindles to less than nothing but the one between your hearts has never been greater.
I know. I know . Don’t need to remind me how it was with Dru sometimes, when Daddy’s charms were all she could see or when she’d look at me with vacant eyes like she couldn’t grasp what it meant that I loved her more than life. More than blood. Difference is, though, for all her fractured mind and instability, she did love me. She gave me what she could and gave it willingly. Just wasn’t in her to love as I did.
As I do.
I knew that, even when I didn’t want to know it. But her? I know she can. I’ve seen it, from a distance of course. I’ve also watched her fall apart because of it.
She lets me close, she does. Comes back again and again, takes me into her body and moves under me, over me, around me like the beautiful, sensual creature she is. And in the moment I can pretend that it doesn’t matter that her body’s here but her mind—her soul—wishes she were anywhere else.
There’s an instant just before her body starts to shudder, a second before she crashes us headlong into simultaneous bliss, when I see a spark, some little light in her eyes that says maybe, maybe , she’s not so distant after all.
But in the afterward—afterglow , when such a thing is allowed to exist, is fleeting at best—it’s back again to the wide-open eyes unwilling to see what a bloody brilliant thing we’d have, if only she’d let me as close to her heart as I am to her body.
She cares. Whatever she says or does to try to prove to me otherwise—to fool herself, I think sometimes—I know it. She’s hurting, feeling too much, so she’s trying not to feel it at all.
You know all that, or at least you should. A blind man could see it.
But I know my girl—my girl— and sooner or later it’s all going to come to an explosive head, and there’s bugger all I can do to stop it.
I keep trying to love her. She lets me sometimes, when she’s fed up with the others but won’t admit it, or when she’s just too knackered to fight it. Those brief windows of time when slow and tender replace hard and fast, I imagine that chasm between us closing just the tiniest little bit.
And in the next breath, she’ll have taken that away, too.
My heart burns for her. My entire being does. So much it’s frightening and I wonder if I’ll turn to ashes waiting for her.
Because as long as she’s keeping her distance, she’ll never truly be mine.
I can’t let him in. I won’t. I meant what I said—he’s convenient. A warm—er, cool?—body in the right place at the right time. It doesn’t matter what he thinks he feels, because it isn’t real.
It’s not. Because if it is, that means the vampire’s more alive than I am.
If it’s real, that means he’s real, and we’re really—
No. No. It’s just like I said—convenient. It’s not like he’s not getting something out of the deal, right? It figures he’d get what he wanted and still ask for more.
That’s not fair. He’s, well, something. I keep trying to remember how it was when I first came back, when the only times I felt like me were the times he was there.
I can be alone with you here.
What I didn’t say was that I could be me with him here.
Sex ruins everything. God, you think I’d know that by now, right? It’s freaking amazing, but now nothing’s okay. Nothing.
And God , sometimes he looks at me and something inside me just wants to reach out.
But I can’t.
Because whatever it is that I think I see, it isn’t really there.
Because he’s not real.
I can’t let him be real.
So I keep him at a distance.
Because I don’t think I’m really real anymore, either.
I never thought I’d end up here. Never in my lifetime and bloody well not in hers. Now that I am, it’s nothing like I dreamed.
And believe me, I dreamed a lot.
It could be the soul that makes me see how much I truly didn’t deserve her. I realize now how precious and terrifying this is.
Her curves are familiar beneath my hands and the scent of her tickles my nose with something like nostalgia. But her eyes, all open and looking straight into mine without even a hint of the barrier that’s always there—they’re strangers to me.
It took me a good minute to understand. Even when she finally got it through that thick, gorgeous head of hers what it means to me to love her, even as she curled into my side and let her weary body rest, I didn’t get it.
I don’t think I dared to hope.
She’s let me in. At bloody last, the walls she worked so hard to build between us are gone and it’s just us . Us without pretence. Without distance.
Fully clothed and closer than we’ve ever been. To each other or to anyone.
And it terrifies me more than loving her has.
Because I know I don’t deserve her, and I know, come the final showdown, that I’m not going to make it.
He said once that you always hurt the one you love.
It was always the other way around for me. The one I loved always ended up hurting me, until him. I didn’t want to love him. Didn’t try—tried not to—but I did.
I hurt him because of what he made me feel.
Scratch that. It’s confess your darkest secrets time and I know damn well I hurt him because he made me feel, period.
Physically, yeah, we both did our share of that. But the emotional hurts I think were worse and so much harder to get past. It’s not like I didn’t know it, and maybe in a sort of subconsciousy way I was trying to hurt him before he could hurt me. Because, hey, isn’t that what always happens?
He did love me. Lack-of-soul and all, he did. He really, really did. But I wouldn’t let him.
And I sure as hell couldn’t let him see me falling for him. So I fell from grace instead.
He still loves me and I know I’ve done nothing at all to earn that.
The best part is—and oh yeah, if you’re thinking that’s sarcasm to hide what I’m feeling, you’re so right—now that I get this, really get it, I think it’s too late for us.
God, I want to. I want to tell him, want to make love to him so he can see that I finally understand.
But I’m tired. I’m so tired and scared and if I could hide away in a cupboard and never come out again, I think right now that I would. I’m not scared of him. The time for that is in the distant, parent teacher night-crashing past. And if we’re still at that self-honesty kick, I wasn’t afraid of him anyway, not when it came to us.
I’m afraid of me. I was back then, too. Afraid of what it meant I was if I fell in love with another vampire and this one without a soul to justify things. Now, I’m afraid that I just can’t ever be what he deserves.
What he did for me…
I don’t know if there are words to describe something like that. The distance he’s come from who he was to who he is…
He’s my champion. My heart. Last night I let him in. I let him close.
I want it so much that my heart aches and I realize that I can’t. Not now.
But God, do I want to.
Loving her has defined me and my sordid existence for what seems an eternity. To a fellow who’s seen a hundred plus years, it’s saying something when a mere six of knowing her would make me throw away a century like it never mattered at all.
I’ve finally figured out that to love her, I’ve got to let her go.
It kills me that she’s out there somewhere and I’m not where she is. I wonder sometimes if she misses me, thinks about me, dreams of me like I do her. Sometimes I hope so, and others I want to spare her that pain.
But mostly I try not to think about her at all.
It never works.
I wonder, would there be? Pain? I know what she said. Bloody believe it, too—there was no mistaking that look in her eyes. But with me gone she won’t have the burden of loving a monster. It’s better, I reckon, if she believes me dead.
I always hated the distance between us when it was of her making. I hate this distance now, a different sort again but no less heartbreaking. Sometimes I want to say sod it all and just go to her, so badly my fingers shake and I can’t hardly stomach the scent of blood.
But it’s for the best. She doesn’t need me, and this way I’ll have gone out a hero.
I know I’m a bloody coward, but it’s all I’ve got.
Her champion, always.
Even from a distance.
I thought it was hard, seeing him every day and being too much me to do what I really wanted. I remember how my heart pounded when I first saw him each morning or evening or whenever he decided to leave his basement sanctuary. Those last weeks I found as many excuses as I could to go down there and see him away from all those suspicious eyes upstairs. Sometimes we’d sit and talk and other times we’d share silence that was both comfortable and so much not. He probably felt it, too. So many things unsaid between us—things we’ll never get to say to each other and things I whisper to him during these long nights when I can’t sleep, hoping he can hear me.
I remember how my feelings for him kept getting deeper and deeper the longer I kept them hidden, even if, apparently, I wasn’t hiding them so well from anyone else. I thought I knew what it meant to love somebody. It wasn’t like I hadn’t been there before. But loving him changed everything.
I hate regrets. I hate that I didn’t tell him sooner, that I didn’t take the chance when I could have.
I regret that he never got to feel me loving him.
And now he’s gone and there’s an ache inside me where he should be.
I’m being serious here. I didn’t mean it like that , except, well, my body does ache for him, too, but not even close to as much as my heart does. Or my soul.
I’m so proud of him. Prouder than I’ve ever been of anyone or anything in my entire life.
I miss him so much.
Wherever he is, I hope he knows that.
It figures that no amount of time or distance could scrub away my recognition of her. Months have passed. Long, life-changing months in which I’ve done my best at failing to forget her. And now, standing outside the door to Fred’s lab, it’s like I’m right back in sodding Sunnyhell, lurking stalkerish beneath her tree with my face turned up toward her open window just to catch a hint of her scent.
Was the vibes I felt first, that which tells us creatures of the night there’s a slayer afoot and we’d best scamper off to do our evil elsewhere. Not just any of them, either, but her . The others, they all feel the same, though the little jailbird’s got her own unique signature or what all. But her . There’s no mistaking the way she raises the hairs on my neck and send shooters of exhilaration down my spine. It’s like the taste of human blood or the sizzle of sunlight on undead skin—unforgettable.
Her scent came next and now I’m frozen here, on this side of the sodding door while she’s on the other, listening to the sound of her laughing with the worst sort of barmy, won’t-go-away grin plastered on my face.
Christ, I don’t think I’ve heard her laugh like that in years. She sounds happy .
Should I go in? Bollocks! My head’s buzzing with all sorts of crazy things and I’m fighting the urge to either barge right in and kiss her breathless or start pacing a groove into the floor of the hall.
Making up my mind for me, she’s opened the door from the inside and there she is, staring at me with such intensity I can’t tell whether she’s gonna stake me or pin me to the wall and, well, stake herself.
Hell, this doing nothing’s un-bloody-bearable, and suddenly now my feet are moving and so is my mouth.
Oh my God, it’s really him.
Even when I got Fred’s call, I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t let myself, just in case. I didn’t want to spend the rest of the day with that horrible feeling I get after hearing some British guy who sounds enough like him to fool me for a few seconds, or chasing after a bleached blond in a long black coat only to find, in the end, I was just being stupid and hopeful for something that’s never going to happen.
So I didn’t believe it, until I felt him.
I’ve always had so-so luck with sensing vampy vibes—it’s gotten better over the years but it’s never been my biggest strength. Him, though? I’m not really sure when it happened, but I always knew when he was close.
Close like he is now, standing just outside the door, and I can’t help but remember that time when the two of us were standing on opposite sides of a different set of doors. We were in such a bad place then and I’m really hoping this blast from the past is really only the memory it should be, because now that I know he’s here, there’s no way I’m gonna let that door stay between us.
Why’s he not coming in? He’s probably being an idiot as usual and trying to figure out how to hide.
Because yeah, back amongst the living for months and not telling me? Big no-no.
I should be furious with him, I know. I was at first, until Fred explained a few things. It’s my own fault, really, that he thinks I’m better off without him. I spent so much more time on that side of the fence than I ever did on the other.
God, he’s taking too long! That’s it, I’m opening that door and damn it if he thinks I’m gonna let him get away!
I can’t move. Can’t hardly breathe. Because he’s there. So very much there.
He’s never looked more beautiful to me. He’s also never looked sadder.
It’s intense. The staring. The saying so much without saying anything at all.
I can see it in his face that it hasn’t been easy. I can also see that he doesn’t dare hope for anything, and it’s more heartbreaking a feeling than when I believed him gone forever.
Because there’s no one but me to blame for putting that look there.
He’s speaking now, breaking the silence. My name, maybe? Hello? But I can’t hear anything except my pounding heart.
Somehow the distance between us has vanished and he’s kissing me. I’m kissing him.
Nothing else matters now. He’s here. I’m here. I can feel the pain melting away just like I feel my body and my soul melting into his.
It took us so long to get here. So horribly long to come so far.
And I’m never, ever letting him go.
The End (…but really, the beginning)