*Usual disclaimers. I’m just playing with someone else’s toys.
I was really hungry. Ravenous, in an eat-a-horse kind of way. I wanted loads of carbs and fat and protein. Like after slaying. After laying. Same difference apparently. So I made a limping run for the restroom (you try riding on the back of motorcycle when your bladder’s full) and when I came out I found him in a back booth, his legs all sprawled out taking up the whole bench – you know, in that way men do – I mean, even though he’s a vampire he’s got that whole man thing going on. His arm was stretched along the backrest, long fingers dangling with the so-out-of-fashion black nails. He didn’t slide over. I figured it was my cue to sit across from him. I ordered pancakes, eggs and a chicken fried steak with gravy. Then, just because, I added an extra side of hashbrowns to the order and the biggest orange juice they offered.
Spike had coffee, which he kept saying tasted like shit, but kept drinking it, kept letting the waitress refill it. I wondered idly if he’d ever tasted shit. I wouldn’t have been surprised. I didn’t ask. We weren’t doing much talking because we didn’t want to talk about IT and what IT meant especially after we weren’t going to do IT ever again or anyway, I wasn’t, but then I came back, kept coming back, and it was starting to piss him off but not enough to stop.
Four hours of incredible IT and now we just looked out the windows, watched as the cars pulled into the lot, watched as the people started drifting in. It was after two in the morning. The bars were closed. This was where people came, all loopy from alcohol. Loud, obnoxious college kids. The hip and the cool, straight from the clubs. Musicians with all their equipment in the trunks of old Plymouths or Chevy vans. Middle-aged guys from convention hotels, their arms around women their wives would never know about. And us. Watching. Not talking. Looking at each other then looking away. Every so often the muscles in my thighs would spasm and he’d glance at me like he’d felt it too. Then a swallow of coffee.
My orange juice arrived. I gulped it down and asked for another. It was a burn in my empty stomach, and the sugar was a jolt. Finally, my breakfast. The waitress grinned and asked, “Sure you can handle all this, honey? Looks like your friend here could use a bite.” She winked at him. He gave her one of his slow, predatory smiles and she froze for a second, just blinking her eyes. Maybe she’d noticed the stillness, the pallor of his flesh. Lack of reflection in the window, always a big clue. But if she did, she handled it the way most people handled it. She decided to ignore it. She refilled his cup, hands shaking a little. Then she moved onto the next table. I put the paper napkin on my lap, buttered the pancakes and poured syrup all over them, smushed the eggs and hashbrowns into a gloopy mess. Salt. Pepper. I reached for the ketchup, and started to pour. I caught him watching it dribble out over the mess on my plate.
“This from the guy who pours blood over Cheerios.” I scooped up a forkful of deliciousness and slowly put it into my mouth savouring the flavours and textures as they mingled there. Food always tastes so good after sex. I don’t know why.
“The cereal is just to make me feel full,” he muttered. Then louder, “I’m never full.” One knee started to bounce. “Fuck. I hate this. It’s discrimination is what it is!”
“What?” I said looking around for whoever was being discriminated against. I could right that wrong easily enough. Unless he was implying that vampires were somehow being discriminated against and that might be a problem. Demon-rights? Affirmative action for the un-souled?
“Not even a little section cordoned off from the rest where we can smoke and drink our coffee in peace,” he continued. “No. We have to stand outside, all huddled and shameful—“ Oh, cigarettes. “What’s the world coming to when a fellow can’t even smoke his fag in a public restaurant?”
A group of homosexuals looked over and then started laughing. He sneered back, gave them the English version of rude finger salute. I’d only recently learned it was rude.
He was probably as famished as me.
“Want some ketchup?” I asked helpfully.
“No.” He crossed his arms over his chest, slouching and sprawling even more. He looked more like a grumpy little kid than what he was. It was cute and sort of irritating at the same time. I decided to distract him.
“When I was about nine,” I began, talking with my mouth full and not even caring, “I had a friend, Justin. Not a boyfriend, just a boy who was a friend, right? We used to play together.”
“I’ll bet he loved dressing Barbie’s hair, too. Later you were stunned to discover he turned out to be gay.” The gay guys shot us a glance again. Said something about rough boys and leather. I wanted to tell them how rough he was and how they couldn’t handle it. Wanted to tell them how he got all clingy afterwards—
“Wrong,” I said. “This game involved sword fighting. Plastic swords. I wasn’t, you know, the Chosen One back then. My name was Princess Ariel but I disguised myself as a boy—“
“Ariel? Tempest? Or the Little Mermaid?”
I gave him my best – duh, what do you think – look.
“What? Sword-fighting mermaid? With the tail and all?”
“Well, no, I had legs of course. See, Ariel used to be a mermaid, but then became a real girl, but because I was a girl they wouldn’t let me fight in the Crusades—“ He looked both bored and annoyed, which was how I knew he was confused. “Okay, never mind, we’ll skip the complicated Let’s Pretend backstory – it has nothing to do with what I’m telling you. This is a story about ketchup blood.”
“You have my interest.”
“Thought I might. Anyway, we decided to make our sword fights more realistic. We needed the gore.”
“Uh huh,” I said, taking up a forkful of egg, potatoes and ketchup. “But we didn’t want to get in trouble because, as my mother had pointed out, ketchup stains are stubborn stains, almost as bad as mustard. So we took the bottle of ketchup out to the tool shed where no one could see us. I lifted up my shirt and he squirted a line of ketchup across my belly, the plan being that he would then quickly pretend to slash me with the sword and I would groan and clutch my gut and die dramatically. It was my turn to die, see.”
“Nice of you to take turns like that.”
“It was a more civilized time. Anyway, the ketchup started dripping down my stomach to my pants. I panicked. The pants were new. I was trying to hold back the torrents of ketchup but there was too much, it was all over my fingers. We were laughing, you know, because it was so funny how it wasn’t working the way we thought it would. I started licking my fingers and then, for some reason I suggested he should lick it off my stomach.”
I glanced up. He’d leaned forward. Hands wrapped around his cup. I had his full attention. “Naughty little Slayer,” he said. “And did he?” His voice was low and husky.
“Yup. We ended up nearly naked, squirting ketchup on each other and licking it off.” I cut into the chicken fried steak and shovelled it in. I waited for the laugh. I mean I expected him to laugh and make a suggestion about ketchup. Honestly. A wicked grin at least. I didn’t get it.
“Is this your attempt at allegory?” he asked.
“Huh?” I said, my mind scrambling around for the definition of “allegory.”
“Surely there’s some moral lesson you wish to impart here.”
It always makes me uncomfortable when Spike stops being crude and goes intellectual on me. “Nooo, not really.”
He cocked his head, clearly not believing me. “Did you and Justin get caught?”
“Did you do it again?”
“I thought not,” he said quietly. “I’ll hazard a guess at what happened next. You started avoiding each other. Stopped playing games together. Maybe one of you made some cruel remark about the other while in front of all your chums – oh nothing about your little secret. Something hurtful though. And then no more swordfights. No more fun. And all because you indulged in little ketchup licking.”
The next bite of steak didn’t go down quite so easily. “That’s not why — this has nothing to do with you and me! I thought you’d think it was funny.”
“It’s adorable. Precious, really.” Precious is never a good word when he says it. He leaned across the table suddenly and I drew back. “You think they’re never going to find out?” he whispered. “You think when you get home smelling of cigarettes and booze, none of your pals is ever going to figure it out? I can tell you right now that every demon in my neighborhood knows what we’ve been up to. We reek of it. In either camp, we—“ he pointed his finger at my chest, then his, “are an abomination.” I tensed at that. At the thought that he was sneaking around and trying to hide it just as much as I was when he supposedly loved me so it shouldn’t matter, or at least if he was hiding it, he should be doing it for my sake, not his own reputation. Then I thought, god, I am a bitch.
“All we’re doing is playing with ketchup,” he said. And he sounded so tired.
“That’s all we’re doing?”
“That’s all you’re doing. I can give you the real thing. I can give you blood and passion and everything in me a thousand times over, but you don’t want it—“
“So what you really want is to turn me, is that it? Make me like you?” It was stupid and crap and really obnoxious of me because of course I knew that’s not what he meant. He knew I knew it. The muscle along his jaw started jumping like when he’s about to go into game face and he got out of the booth real fast, hitting the table with his knees, pounding the top with his fist as he stood up. Then he threw some money in front of me, bills crumpled, coins scattered.
“My turn to buy, right? I’ll be out having a smoke.”
If I were Spike, I probably would have left me there to find my own way home. But he didn’t.
He never does.