Now here's the same scene as it replays in one of Adin Swift's dreams. His account is, of course, first-hand. This is from Obsessed.
* * * * *
The birthday boy feels good. Has a nice little buzz going, making his brain seem downy. No prickly thoughts. All day he’s been surrounded by good wishes, love and laughter. The party guests have enjoyed themselves. He and Celia have been proud and happy hosts. Only a few people in attendance are even aware of his past.
Better yet, any reminders of that past remained mostly in the background and went unnoticed—vampires lurking in the woods like smoke, then shooting, harmless as sparks, into the blue-black sky. The birthday boy is glad he didn’t have to see them. He’s especially glad his guests weren’t subjected to them.
He’s not like those creatures anymore. He’s mortal again.
Throughout the day, a realization kept striking him. God, I actually turned thirty. From this October on, each birthday will indeed make me a year older. It’s a fact of his life now, one he still finds hard to believe.
Stepping from his well-lit house onto the unlit patio, he smiles at the way he staggers. It’s graceful. This, he thinks vaguely, must be another odd little remnant of what he used to be—a creature who was cousin to the air.
He goes to the grill and turns it off.
A tall, solid column rounds the corner of the house and gradually emerges from the engulfing darkness. The figure is his friend, Jackson, and he’s zipping his fly. This man has his own kind of grace, distinctly grounded and distinctly masculine.
Adin’s stomach suddenly goes gymnast and does a quick flip. It never fails.
"Oops, there’s the master of the house," Jackson says. "I’m glad you didn’t catch me pissing on your shrubs."
The birthday boy grins. "Why? Did the fucking things turn flamingo pink and start speaking in tongues?"
"There’s nothing enchanting about pee, Adin."
Jackson is entirely mortal and always has been, but he isn’t part of the mainstream. He’s an Adept, a practitioner of High Magic, a modern-day Merlin. He’s the only person Adin now knows who’s out of the ordinary. And he’s very out of the ordinary. They’ve been friends for a decade. It was their "otherness" that brought them together.
Jackson strolls up to him. "Content?" he asks, clapping Adin on the shoulder.
"Indescribably. And made even more content by that liter of gin and tonic I consumed."
Jackson’s husky laughter is muted, as if in deference to the silent night. "It’s a landmark occasion, my man, your first real birthday in like a gazillion years. Even if you end up with JDD tonight, you deserved to celebrate. Besides, getting head tomorrow morning is going to feel super fine."
"Jack Daniels Dick. A woman once diagnosed me with it. But you don't have to drink Jack to be afflicted."
Now it’s Adin’s turn to laugh. "What makes you think I’m going to get head in the morning?"
"Get head, get laid, get some kind of lucky. I know it because Celia can’t keep her hands off you. Hangover relief is always a good excuse for sex. Not that the two of you need one."
"Not that we do." Adin puts a hand on Jackson’s shoulder. The two of them are nearly the same height. "I can’t thank you enough for that incredible frame you made. Your work is exemplary. Really top-notch."
Jackson cups his forearm and gives it a squeeze. "My pleasure. It was a logical present. I figured now that you can be photographed, you’d need a frame to put your picture in."
That prompts a chuckle. "You’re right. Anyway, Celia and I were impressed as hell. We’d like to have you do other things for us."
Their banter comes to a strange, skidding halt. On its heels is a silence packed with unspoken confessions. Neither man removes his hand from the other’s body. Instead they lean into a spontaneous hug, arms going around backs. Their cheeks graze briefly, scruff against scruff. Adin lets his hand roam the contours of Jackson’s back. They’re pronounced, even through his clothing. A rolling landscape.
It’s an awkward moment. They’re bumbling through indecision. Jackson’s hand slides into Adin’s hair, fondles it, grips it. Adin feels the tug at his scalp. He gets the distinct impression Jackson is going to kiss him. They’ve never kissed. His lips part slightly, go slack and soft, become receptive. He’s waiting for it, wanting it. The breath in his lungs feels like something solid.
Then Jackson pulls away and clears his throat. "Memories. Sensory memories," he mutters. "What a bitch."
He’s recalling last spring…
It’s the only encouragement Adin needs, this moment of vulnerability in Jackson. The man never shows weakness, is always in control. Now, though, he’s remembering their brief period of abandon. And it’s affecting him.
Adin splays a hand on Jackson’s chest. Before he can think about it, he says what’s on his mind. "Why don’t you spend the night with us? In our bed, I mean. I doubt Celia would mind. She’s been hot for you since she met you." He tries to smile, but the smile doesn’t quite fit. Still, he keeps going, trying to make the proposition casual even though it isn’t. The hunger that’s simmered in him for ten years is breaking into a full, rolling boil. "What’s a ménage among friends?"
The darkness makes Jackson’s face difficult to read. His eyes, though, are shining. Then he blinks, extinguishing that brightness for a split second. "Sounds like you mean it."
"Yeah. Why not? Hell, we all enjoyed ourselves when—"
"That was different," Jackson says curtly, still looking at him. Maybe there’s disbelief on his face. "Shit, Adin."
He turns away and drops into the nearest chair, his legs spread wide. He rolls his had back and clamps his hands to either side of it. "No, it wouldn’t be right. Especially not on this occasion." He expels a long breath. "Jesus. What made you suggest that?"
Adin steps over to him and squats between his parted legs, hands resting on Jackson’s knees. "The fact that we like each other?"
With a wan chuckle, Jackson lowers his hands to the chair arms and brings his head forward. "Yeah, we sure do."
"So what does that tell you?"
"It tells me to tell you to stop kneeling between my legs, because—"
"Because what?" Adin asks quietly.
Jackson wags his head. "You know, you should be a stripper."
"Why? I can’t dance worth a crap."
"But you’re a superb goddamned tease."
"I’m not teasing you. I’m dead serious."
"So am I." Jackson rises from the chair. Adin, too, stands. "Go back to your party, my friend. Eat, drink and be merry." He gives a friendly pat to Adin’s arm. "Then make love with your very lovely lady."
"You’re not leaving yet, are you?"
"No, but soon. I’ll pop in and pay my regards before I go."
"I wish you’d reconsider."
"I already have."
Hands in pockets, Jackson saunters into the yard. Adin watches him for a moment before re-entering the house. He feels confused and frustrated and disappointed.
Copyright (c) 2008, K. Z. Snow