by LindaMarie

"The man of shadows thinks in clay
Dreamed trapped thoughts of suffocation day..."
--"Mask," Bauhaus

Some days Giles isn't quite himself. "The beast is much closer to the surface in those like us," Ethan once told him, one hand sliding sinuously between his shoulderblades. "Pain is a drug, Ripper. One we can't live without." The concealed razor flicked out between two fingers and snicked down part of his spine. "With it, we grow strong, you and I. Without, we fade to nothing."

Some nights Giles dreams of his youth, those years defined by hallucinogenic haze and fear in the air so strong you could taste it. Some nights he dreams of that single sweet moment when Ben's breathing stopped beneath his hand. Often he wakes up with his pulse beating fast, too worked up to get back to sleep for hours.

Sometimes Giles can feel the beast stirring underneath his skin, the predatory instinct welling up. He can remember what it was like to trace the fresh scars on Ethan's abdomen with his tongue, and know that he had made them. That they were his, and so was the body on which they were carved. He conjures these memories all too easily, it seems, living in them for increasingly waking moments. Some days he drowns in his past, feeling the blade in his hands and the metallic sigh as it slides through thin skin. He remembers the prick of the needle, the hum of the tattoo machine, the ache of rope tied too tightly.

Giles lives in a state of contemplation, seated in familiar rooms on worn chairs. She has been gone three months now, and her friends' lives continue. Giles' house is comforting if he keeps the lights off and the phone unplugged. He feels old in his human frame, rusty and creaking when he moves too fast. Giles pretends not to notice as he lets his head rest on the soothing, cool floor.

The furniture has been cleared. His arms stretch out to his sides, legs pulled out straight below in a crucifix pose. The sounds of Ben's death throes echo in his mind as he closes his eyes. This is as good a place to dream as any.

Giles can remember eating the heart of the sacrifice, in imitation of ancient tribes. The blood dripping down his chin would remind him of his own mortality, make his hunger more fierce. Nondescript lust and urge, making the knife slash again into cold viscera, making the sound of Ethan's incantations fade into the background. Soft drums pounding with his pulse, he felt alive, young, strong.

Some days Giles wakes up afraid of himself. Today is not one of those days. He lifts himself off of the tile, feeling stiff muscles protest. Leaning heavily on the table, briefly, he licks his lips and tastes the memory of copper. He shivers at the sensation.

"Today," he says to the dusty shelves around him, "is an end to mourning."

Within an hour the curtains are open, and bright sun shines through. He showers, shaves, and stands nude in front of the open closet. His hand reaches reluctantly for dim tweed, but pulls quickly back. "No, not yet." He selects instead soft dark cotton and nondescript denim.

Sometimes he has thought about returning to her house, running a hand over her bare wall or trying to catch her scent. He always decided against it, but today he is in his car and on the way.

The house is soon to be sold. The other, the one he knows and yet not, will go to live with her father when the summer ends. She answers the door on the fourth knock, cheeks flushed as if she, too, has only recently awakened. Her body is young, but there is something ancient and terrible in her eyes. Nothing has changed, yet he views her with new perspective.

"I wondered when you'd come you want...anything?" she asks slowly as he enters the foyer and climbs the stairs.

"I'd like something of hers. Come up, and I'll show you."

When he hears her breath behind him, he turns swiftly and shoves her hard into the wall. She falls, more from shock than weakness, and one of his knees is in her solar plexus and his hand gripping her chin. Their eyes meet, and he hears Ethan's voice in his head like an old Victrola recording: "They ate the heart, you see, because it contained the soul. In doing so, one absorbed all their pain, their pleasure, their life. By eating the hearts of their kin, they were extending their souls' existence."

His hand slides up to muffle her mouth and nose as her eyes just stare on with mute...understanding?

Her body shudders and is still. Giles leans down and takes a single nip of one earlobe, just a quick bittersweet taste, then mutters the memorized spell, making a sign with one hand. The body beneath him sifts to fine sand. He rises to his feet, and leaves out the back way.

Today Giles returns home to a dreamless sleep. Tomorrow he will visit the cemetary for the first time since her death. He will wear tweed.


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