It was just gone ten o’clock on Christmas Eve. Glasgow city centre was heaving with revellers. The area around George’s Square was particularly busy. People in party mood spilled out on a regular basis from the pubs and restaurants into the public space which was, as always, made festive with lights and Christmas themed tableaux.
Christmas was not a good enough excuse, as far as Lieutenant Shona Stewart was concerned, for a pissed stockbroker to try urinating on the war memorial. She had given the man such a thorough bollocking that he was unlikely to risk unzipping in a public place ever again.
As he staggered away, Shona stood by the subtly and tastefully uplit cenotaph. She was breathing hard. Her blood was racing. Her anger still boiled even though the troublemaker was long gone. She looked down at the wreathes that still adorned the flagged area in front of the Lutyens inspired obelisk a month after Remembrance Sunday. Some of them were a little worse for the weather, with the dedications on the cardboard centres fading, but they still made a splash of respectful colour against the limestone.
She reached down and picked a discarded cigarette packet from amongst them and threw it towards a Glasgow City Council rubbish bin nearby. Her aim was accurate. The offending litter was disposed of.
“Nobody gives a damn,” she whispered to herself. “No respect.”
Even Christmas was just an excuse for drinking and stupidity. She watched as a group of pissheads lumbered past singing lyrics to We Three Kings that were so crude even a woman who had spent a significant part of her life in barracks was embarrassed to hear them.
She jumped visibly and turned to see Darius standing close behind her, his hand outstretched as if he was about to touch her.
“You fucking blood-sucker!” she yelled at him. “What are you doing creeping up on me?”
“You’re so wound up,” he said. “You’re disturbing the aura around here. What’s up?”
“Nothing’s up,” she responded.
“You’re wrong about that.” Darius grinned and reached his arms around her shoulders. “We’re up. On the roof.”
Shona blinked and gasped. She was no longer standing by the cenotaph. After a disorientated moment she recognised that she was on a flat section of the roof of the City Chambers just behind the central pediment.
“How did you do that?” she demanded.
“I can move faster than light after dark when my powers are strongest,” Darius answered. “I’ve been up here for an hour. Just looking out over the city, feeling the aura of it.”
Shona looked around. It was certainly a spectacular view. She could see his point. But it was rather creepy the way he did it. She turned back to him. He was dressed in a long black leather coat that made him seem even taller and more slender than he really was. His pale face seemed luminescent in the half-dark. He was just standing there, but it was too easy to imagine him crouched behind the pediment like a bird of prey about to pounce.
And she wasn’t sure she appreciated being the one he pounced on.
“It’s a bit cold here,” he added. “Come on up to my lair.”
Before she could protest he reached out again and when she blinked again she was standing in the recess beneath the cupola at the very top of the baroque tower. It was surprisingly warm out of the wind, and peaceful, too. The noises of the city were still there, in the distance, but they were separate, remote.
“Well, at least there’s no pigeon crap,” she conceded as her eyes grew accustomed to the darkness.
“The pigeons are scared of me, for some reason,” Darius replied. “I come here a lot. It’s… my special place.”
“Special place?” Shona laughed harshly. “A special place is… Well, it’s not…”
Darius reached his arms around her shoulders and pulled her into a kiss. She didn’t resist. She never did when he took the lead any more than he did when she made the first move. But when one of them made a move the other would always respond. She generally accused him of exuding some kind of vampiric pheromone that broke down her resistance, and he certainly had to be doing that now, because she had not been in the mood tonight, and if she had been, she wouldn’t have chosen to do it in such a place. But as the kiss lengthened she surrendered to fast, hard, brutal sex, still standing, her slacks hurriedly pushed down around her thighs, her back pressed up against the wall of the recess. She groaned as Darius’s fangs punctured the flesh on her left shoulder and he drank from her. That was the unique feature of their sex life, of course. She always let him feed during their intercourse. He never took a lot. But it was, curiously, her way of making it a mutual act. She received his bodily fluid in the usual way. She gave of her own body in the unusual way.
Afterwards, they fastened zips and buttons and Darius reached into his coat pocket for a sticking plaster to put over the puncture on her shoulder. He noted that she still had a plaster covering the wound from a passionate night in his bed in the Torchwood Hub last week, and there were several fading bruises around her neck and shoulders as testament to the intensity of a relationship that was barely a month old yet.
“I should be ashamed to use you like this,” he said, stroking one cold finger across her neck.
“You don’t use me,” Shona replied. “I’d never let you if I didn’t want it… I use you. For sex. The blood… is your reward for satisfying me.”
“We’re a psychologist’s wet dream,” Darius conceded. “Analysing why we’re so attracted to each other. You’re still a hard nosed, cruel bitch and…”
“And you’re still a filthy, blood-sucking vampire…”
But when she kissed him again, it was surprisingly gentle. Darius sighed and held her tightly, sliding down onto the floor of the stone recess so that they half-lay with their arms around each other. He felt her body heat transferring to his cold flesh until he almost felt like a warm-blooded Human being again. That was an even more precious gift to him than the blood that he could feel energising him.
“I love you,” he whispered. He always did. And he meant it.
She never said it to him. He wished she would, but it wasn’t in her vocabulary.
At least not her spoken words. Now that lust had been satisfied on both sides, her body language was the language of love.
The hard-nosed bitch was in love with the blood-sucking vampire. The vampire was in love with the hard-nosed bitch. Nobody knew that. Among their colleagues, it was well known that they were having sex. A new sticking plaster on her neck in the morning was always met with knowing looks even if nobody said anything out loud. But everyone assumed that it was just about sex.
Both of their mobile phones bleeped annoyingly, disrupting the warm moment. They automatically reached to check the text message they had received.
“Somebody tell Munroe we don’t need half hourly bulletins,” Shona complained. “She’s only having a baby, for Christ sake. It’s not a military campaign.”
“Probably feels like one to Toshiko right now,” Darius replied. “Her labour started five hours ago and still a long way to go.”
“She’s perfectly all right. She’s in the maternity hospital, surrounded by doctors. Including Owen. Nothing to worry about.”
“Never said I was worrying,” Darius answered defensively. “But she’s a friend. And she’s suffering right now. I’m allowed to feel empathy.”
“She chose to get pregnant, and for the second time. She knew what to expect.”
“You really ARE a hard-nosed bitch, aren’t you, Shona,” Darius said, though he smiled as he said it as if he hung upon every cold word she uttered. “Did you never have any maternal feelings?”
“Any feminine emotions at all?” he added.
“Of course I have,” she replied in a slightly irritated tone. “Look, I’m not one of those confused people who needs to go to Thailand and come back with a penis….”
“I’d still fancy you if you did,” Darius told her. But that maybe wasn’t the most tactful thing to say right there and then. She scowled and pulled away from his embrace. He put his arms back around her again and she didn’t protest, but some of the tenderness was gone and he regretted that.
“I’m a woman. And I’m fine with that. But being a woman doesn’t make me weak or stupid or incapable of doing anything a man can. And I don’t yearn for motherhood in order to be fulfilled. I’m not a brood mare. That’s what I don’t get about Toshiko. She’s an intelligent woman. Really intelligent. She’s written all those programmes for monitoring UFO activity and possible rift movement and she adapts all those alien gadgets. But she’s happy to get knocked up…”
“I don’t think knocked up is exactly the word for it. She and Owen are an item…”
Shona shrugged as if a man in her life wasn’t her idea of fulfilment, either. Darius knew she did feel something for him, even if she didn’t put it into words. But he had no illusions that she would ever let him call her his woman.
“Those aren’t very appropriate thoughts for this night, anyway,” he added. “When the world celebrates a birth…”
“Like hell!” Shona responded. “For a start, only the section of the world that believes in Christianity. And…” She waved towards the dazzling view of Glasgow city in festive mood. “This is supposed to be one of those sections, but all anyone down there is interested in is getting drunk and making a public show of themselves. What does any of that have to do with anything remotely close to religion?”
“They celebrate,” Darius insisted. “Even if they have lost the plot a bit.”
“What’s it to you, anyway?” Shona added. “You’re a vampire. Since when did they celebrate Christmas? Aren’t you supposed to belong to the other side?”
“I was Human once. A long time ago… I was born and raised in Lithuania as a Roman Catholic. As a young man, I lost my way… I fell into darkness… and becoming Undead was the price I paid for my folly. But I do not belong to any ‘side’. I am not ‘unholy’. I don’t have a problem with churches and crosses or holy water. All that was invented by men to demonise vampires and justify our destruction…. Unclean, ungodly. But I’m not. I’m no angel, either. But I know right from wrong. I know the darkness from the light. And even if I can only walk in the dark I do not belong to it.”
Shona looked at him keenly. Every so often, if she pushed his buttons in that way, he would reveal something about himself in a deeply passionate way. They were confidences that he did not share with anyone else. Even his Lithuanian origins were a secret he had divulged to her alone.
“I’ve seen Christmas for over two hundred years,” he reminded her. “I’ve always tried to keep it in some way. It has changed. It does seem to have lost its meaning for many people. But not for me. It is still a special night. I have no use for drink, or for rich food. Nobody would give me presents. But I can give thanks this night…”
“Thanks for what?”
“For getting through another year without being turned to dust… for the friends I have… for… somebody to share this Christmas Eve with.”
“I didn’t have any choice,” she pointed out. “You abducted me. I don’t even know how to get down from here unless you let me.”
“That’s true. Well, I’m thankful that you aren’t screaming and kicking and demanding to be let go. I’m thankful that you want to be with me here, alone, with nothing to disturb us.”
He held her close to him again and kissed her cheek softly. She let him. It was a strange way to spend any evening, let along Christmas Eve. But it was pleasant in a way. She liked being with him. And he was one of the few men she would let hold her in that way.
“Don’t you have any family, Shona?” Darius asked after they had sat that way quietly for a while, listening to the sounds of Glasgow celebrating Christmas. “This time is supposed to be for family…”
“I’ve got an uncle,” she admitted. Now he was pushing her buttons and she revealed what she usually kept to herself. “He was one of the founder members of U.N.I.T… a big man in the army. He’s supposed to be retired now, but he still does stuff… off on fact finding missions. I got a Christmas card from Peru, of all places.”
“What about your parents?”
“My father was in the army. He was a colonel… He died in Northern Ireland when I was thirteen. My mother went to pieces. She couldn’t cope at all. I ended up in a children’s home. It was… ok. Clean beds, food, clothes… what else did I need?”
“A little bit of love,” Darius thought, but did not dare to say out loud.
“I joined the cadets when I was old enough, the regular army, then U.N.I.T. I didn’t need family. I had the army.”
“Did you miss your father?” Darius knew that might be a dangerous question, but he asked it anyway.
“No. He was a bastard. He never really wanted me. Probably because I was a girl. But if you dare try to make anything of that… I’m not trying to live up to daddy’s disappointment or any psychological crap. I like being a soldier.”
“I never thought…” Darius protested. “I’m not judging you, Shona. You made your own choices. That’s all any of us can do.”
“You didn’t choose to be a vampire.”
“No, but I’ve chosen what sort of vampire I am. And… I’ve chosen you.”
“I chose you,” she contradicted him. “For sex. That’s all.”
Darius smiled his enigmatic smile. She kept up the pretence even to him, but he knew she cared for him more than that.
“Well… if it’s just sex you want, I suppose I might be able to offer more than that quickie earlier. No biting this time…”
He slid off his coat and spread it on the floor of the recess. Since he didn’t feel the cold it was merely a fashion statement anyway. He pressed her gently down on it and leaned forward to kiss her. She responded the same way. He felt the slow release of pheromones as she warmed to his overtures. He looked forward to pleasing her slowly and unhurriedly, and with love on his part if not hers.
Then he felt her stiffen and her eyes grew wide with fear. He felt the presence of somebody else close by. In an instant he was standing, putting his own body between hers and the stranger who blocked the entrance to the recess.
“Darius Petkus!” said a cold voice with a thick European accent. “What have we here? Have you fallen off the wagon after all? Were you going to celebrate Christmas with a little turkey dinner?”
“Get away from her, Vilius,” Darius replied coldly. “Don’t you touch her. She’s mine.”
“Oh, come on!” Vilius answered. “Share and share alike, isn’t that a Human saying? And you were always so fond of humans. You kill your own kind to protect them. But if you’ve turned to feeding like a natural vampire, then surely there’s enough for an old friend to share.”
“We’re not friends, Vilius,” Darius responded. “Shona… keep away from him. He’s…”
“He’s a fucking blood-sucker isn’t he?” She stood up and stepped closer to Darius.
“Keep back,” he warned her. “He could rip you apart like a sheet of paper.”
“He can try,” she replied. “Who is he anyway?”
“One of the killer vampires I’ve always tried to fight. I thought I had him sixty years ago in Prague. I disposed of his gang… burnt down their headquarters and their vile bodies with it. But he escaped. I at least thought never to see him again. But the world is a smaller place these days. A vampire doesn’t have as much trouble travelling great distances as he used to…”
As he spoke, Darius reached into his pocket and drew out a long, thin stiletto. His hand moved fast as he stabbed at his foe. But Vilius moved faster. His hand was restrained. He was forced to drop the stiletto. A hand to hand fight ensued. The two vampires were evenly matched. Shona pressed herself back against the wall of the recess as they bared their fangs and snarled. She saw inhuman reddened eyes and clawed hands that scratched at each other’s faces.
Then Darius lost his footing and Vilius seized the advantage as he pressed him over the edge of the recess. His clawed hands were around Darius’s neck.
“Die, Petkus, for ever. Then I will take your Human and make her my eternal slave.”
“Nobody makes me do anything,” Shona cried out as she brought Darius’s stiletto down at the back of the vampire’s neck. She withdrew it and stabbed again. And again. The third time she fell back as Vilus’s body glowed red from within and then exploded into black, foul smelling dust.
Slowly, Darius picked himself up from the ground and stepped towards her groggily. Even those few steps were too much for him and his knees buckled under him. He fell into her arms. She saw the wounds around his neck. Vilius’ talons had dug deep and cut him badly. His face was lacerated, too.
“Don’t go and die on me,” she said. “Not after I killed my first vampire for you.”
“I’m… not going to die,” he answered. “Just need… rest. Need…”
“I know what you need.” She slipped her left shoulder out of her jumper and pressed his mouth against it. She felt his fangs puncture her flesh for the second time tonight. The first had been for sexual pleasure. This time it was vampire first aid. He took slightly more blood than before, but not as much as she would have been willing to give.
It was enough. She watched as the deep cuts on his neck and face mended before her eyes. He sighed deeply and curled his arms around her shoulders as he clung to her.
“You saved my life,” he said. “You must love me.”
“Don’t get all sentimental with me,” she answered. “I saved you because the other blood sucker wanted to turn me into one of you. At least I can still go out in daylight with you as my fuck buddy.”
“Good enough,” Darius conceded. He wasn’t dead. He was in the arms of the woman he loved. An enemy who had dogged his life for decades was gone for good. All in all he had reason to be thankful.
And it was Christmas Day. Across Glasgow church bells, famous and not so famous, tolled the midnight hour. As the last one died away Shona’s mobile phone rang. So did Darius’s, but the screen was smashed in his struggle with Vilius. Shona took the call.
“It’s Munroe,” she said. “Toshiko’s had a baby boy. It’s seven pounds two ounces and mother and baby doing fine.”
“And don’t pretend you don’t care,” Darius replied. “I can see in the dark and you’re grinning like mad.”
“I’m pleased that there were no medical complications, that’s all,” she responded. “Wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Still don’t think motherhood is a big deal.”
As she closed the call, the phone beeped again signalling a text message.
“Dougal and Sandy are at the Hub ready to crack open a bottle of champagne if we want to join them.” She reported. “Munroe is heading there before going up to his son’s house for Christmas Day.”
“Do we want to join them?” Darius asked.
“Not yet.” Shona decided. “There was something we were doing before we were interrupted. Definitely no biting this time, though. You’ve had your share for tonight.”
“Mmm.” Darius smiled. “Merry Christmas, Shona,” he whispered as he pressed her down onto his leather coat and kissed her.
“Merry Christmas, blood sucker,” she answered, because some habits died hard.