Jack pulled up the collar of his coat and turned his face into the wintry wind. It was very cold up here on the roof of the Century Wharf apartments, but cold was what he wanted. He liked the sting of it on his cheeks.
His feet had automatically brought him here after he left the Hub. It was where he had usually walked in the evening for this past year. It was only when he reached the foyer that he remembered that Garrett wasn’t home. He hadn’t been for three days now, and he hadn’t even been able to say what he was doing or where he would be. The pangs of loneliness mixed with worry about Garrett’s assignment tugged at his heart and made him hate the buzzing, exciting downtown Cardiff he had walked through to get here, the city that lay below him in the lights that reflected off the darker swathe where the river Taff flowed into the Bay.
Usually the sight of it enthralled him. Tonight, he just wanted the city to piss off and leave him in peace.
Of course, the best way to get that peace was to step off the roof. The pain as he landed on the tarmac below would be brief, and then he would have several hours of oblivion before he came back to life again.
He didn’t want to do that. He wasn’t suicidal. Just lonely.
He had been lonely for most of his life. Usually it didn’t bother him. But whenever he had become less lonely by becoming close to somebody, the wrench when they weren’t around was all the harder. And that was his problem, now. He had become so used to being with Garrett, taken him for granted, in a way he told himself he wouldn’t.
He always told himself he wouldn’t fall in love. Then he went and did it.
He never learned.
“Jack!” He nearly fell off the roof in shock as he heard his name called. He turned and stared at the tall, dark haired figure standing a few feet away. He was wearing an ankle length black leather coat that suited his slender figure. His dark eyes and thin red mouth in a face so pale it was almost luminescent made him compellingly attractive.
“Darius!” Jack smiled warmly as he stepped towards him. “Oh, you’re a sight for sore eyes. It’s been….”
“Decades!” The slender man laughed softly.
They embraced. Jack kissed the pale cheek. It was cold. So was his own. But Darius was always cold, winter or summer.
“That’s all I get? A peck on the cheek?” Darius teased. Jack laughed and turned his head until their lips met. They French kissed amorously for a long, long time before Jack found it necessary to take a breath.
“I… suppose you’re hungry?” he said.
“Starving,” Darius answered. “Would you mind if….”
“Come on downstairs,” Jack answered. “In the warmth.”
“Nice pad,” Darius said as Jack let him into Garrett’s apartment. “Yours?”
“No. It’s… It belongs to… my boyfriend. We’re… going steady, you could say. So… I don’t mind feeding you, Darius. You know I’ll always let you have a bite when you’re desperate. But no sex. That was… other days, other times.”
“That’s ok,” Darius answered him. Jack brought him into the drawing room with the big picture window overlooking the same view he had from the roof. They both took off their coats. Jack slipped off his waistcoat and set that aside, too. He put a towel over the back of the sofa before he sat down and started to unbutton his shirt. Darius sat beside him and stroked his cheek with a cool finger, working down over his jaw, caressing his throat and pushing the shirt back off his shoulder. Jack closed his eyes as Darius’s mouth closed over his jugular and he felt the fangs puncture his skin. He rested his head against his old friend’s chest and noted that of all the men he had loved, two stood out, one because he had two hearts, the other because he hadn’t got one at all - at least not one that had beaten for over two hundred years.
A minute or so later, Darius stopped feeding on him. He leant his head back. Jack opened his eyes to see the elongated incisors retract as he licked a last drop of blood from his lips. He put his hand to the double punctures in his neck. They were still bleeding slightly.
“Does your boyfriend have a first aid kit?” Darius asked. Jack pointed to the dresser by the kitchen door. Darius fetched it and put an elastoplast over the wound. Then he went into the kitchen. He returned a few minutes later with a hot cup of coffee and a wholemeal cheese and pickle sandwich for Jack.
“You need to replace the protein,” he said. Jack grinned and ate the sandwich. He drank the coffee. His neck felt a little stiff, but it would heal. It always did.
“You must have been hungry,” Jack said when he had finished his own food. “It feels like about two pints.”
“I haven’t eaten for a week. I’ve been travelling, keeping my head down. I’m grateful, Jack.”
“You’re always welcome.” He reached and kissed him on the lips, noting the slightly sweet taste on his tongue after feeding. “It is good to see you again. How have you been?”
“You know how it is. Good days, bad days. Some bloody awful days. It gets fucking lonely at times. But I don’t need to tell you that. At least…” He looked around the room. His eye fell on a framed photograph on top of the TV. Jack and Garrett at New Year, their heads close together for the photograph. “You’re doing ok for company, just now?”
“Yeah.” Jack’s smile widened. He showed Darius his hand. On his little finger was a pewter ring. A man’s style Claddagh ring with the two hands holding a heart. “He gave it to me for Christmas. I got him a watch, inscribed, ‘all my love’.” The watch was in Garrett’s bedroom drawer, in fact. The mission he was on meant he had to leave anything personal and identifiable behind. But it was still a token of his affection. They weren’t engaged or anything so permanent. But their Christmas gifts to each other had been symbolic of their relationship standing the test of time – or absence.
“I’m glad for you, Jack,” Darius told him. “Even though I'm a bit disappointed about the sex. You were always a sensational lover.”
“Yeah, you too.”
“Remember… 1973. Halloween night. You and me and Alesha.”
“Alesha!” Jack laughed. “Oh, yes. I remember her. The most beautiful pair of legs I ever set eyes on. Chocolate brown skin and an afro you could suffocate in if you weren’t careful. I remember the hottest threesome. I shagged you both. You shagged me. Then…the two of you had me for a late supper. Drained me dry. When I woke up, you’d put me to bed and were shagging on the living room floor.”
“You joined in again and let us snack on you afterwards. Our all night buffet and hot lover at the same time.”
“It was fun,” Jack acknowledged. “Alesha… is she still…”
Darius shook his head sadly. “They got her in the ‘90s. Poor girl. She only ever wanted to have a good time. She never killed for her food. Like me, it was always volunteers.”
“Yeah.” Jack remembered how he had first met Darius, in London, in 1885. It was a party in the home of the eldest son of Lord… Jack forgot exactly who he was the son of, but he was a bored socialite, waiting for his father to drop dead so he could inherit the title and money. Meanwhile he got his kicks from decadent parties that involved drink, drugs, sex and a vampire who took a bite out of each of the guests just for fun. Jack had gatecrashed the party and was stunned to find out what was happening. Later he had followed the blood sucker, intending to kill him. Instead he went back to his crypt for a mutually pleasing night in which Jack discovered he rather enjoyed the heightened sensation of sexual intercourse and having his blood sucked at the same time.
“Remember the time when I went too far and drained you?” Darius said. “I was devastated when you died in my arms. I was trying to get rid of your body when you woke up. It had to be the first time a vampire ever got frightened by his victim rising from the grave!”
They both laughed. Jack leaned back on the sofa. Darius laid his head on his shoulder. He enjoyed the feel of him there, even though his cold, undead body, without heartbeat or respiration, was so different from when he and Garrett cuddled in that same place. He was very fond of Darius. They had never ‘gone steady’. Sometimes they didn’t see each other for years. But when their paths crossed it was sensational.
“Are you in town on business,” Jack asked. “One of your hunts?”
“Yes,” Darius answered. “But I won’t get in your way.”
“We might be able to share information. Your work and mine are not so different. And I know Cardiff. You’re new in town.”
“I can handle it, Jack,” Darius insisted. “It’s better that way. Vampires clean up Vampire shit. Humans don’t get to worry about it.”
“Ok,” Jack conceded. “You got anywhere to stay while you’re here?”
Darius smiled meaningfully.
“That’s why I came looking for you. I thought you might let me stay with you.”
“Not here,” Jack decided. “It wouldn’t feel right… not when Garrett’s out of town. Besides, this apartment is south facing. Even with the blinds closed you would hate it in the morning when the sun comes up. I’ve got a better idea. Let me get dressed and then I’ll call a cab.”
“Hey, wow!” Darius enthused as they descended the pavement lift. “How come I’m the vampire but you have a deluxe underground crypt?”
“This is the Torchwood Hub,” he answered proudly. “That’s Myfanwy, our pet pterodactyl. She’s a bit fractious at the moment. Her adopted eaglets have all flown the nest and she’s feeling bereft. Poor old girl. That’s the boardroom, Owen’s autopsy room. Stay clear of there. And this is my office. My bedroom is underneath.”
He brought Darius down to his lair. That was a rare thing in itself. Ianto was the only lover he had regularly slept with down there. The only other he had taken to his bed in the Hub was Terry, the amphibious alien who he had enjoyed for a short while. Even Garrett had never spent the night there.
Which was why it didn’t feel wrong when they undressed and climbed naked into the bed together. He still didn’t want sex with Darius, but he was happy to press his warm, living body against his cold one until some of the warmth transferred to him. They kissed lovingly for old time’s sake.
“If you’re hungry again,” Jack whispered. “The plasters are in the cabinet by your side. Next to the shaving kit.”
“Thanks, Jack,” Darius answered. “Goodnight, lover.”
Jack woke uncharacteristically late the next morning. It was nearly eight o’clock. He was usually up and about hours before that time. He turned over and saw that Darius was sleeping. Jack kissed him on the cheek and slipped out of the bed. He went to the shower cubicle. He noticed as he showered that Darius had been hungry in the night. He had three more pieces of plaster on his shoulder and neck. He peeled them off and examined the pin prick wounds and the bruising around them. They looked like love bites. They were, for that matter. He gave the blood willingly and with love for an old friend. But he couldn’t help wondering just how he would explain it to Garrett when he got back.
If he got back. The hollow feeling came back as he thought of Garrett. He pushed it away. He had work to do.
He dried himself and dressed in clean clothes and went up to his office. The lights were on in the hub. The team were all in. He could smell Ianto’s coffee machine getting started on the first batch of the day. Gwen was in her corner. She waved and smiled as he passed. Toshiko turned to look at him.
“Are you ok?” she asked him. “You’re very late up. And you look a bit pale.”
“Nothing that Ianto’s coffee won’t cure,” he answered. He noticed that she had the infra red scan of the Hub on screen. “Were you spying on me?” he asked jokingly.
“Checking that you were in. Just in case of problems,” she answered. “Funny thing, though. I think the programme needs calibrating. Look at this.”
She ran back the last twenty minutes or so of the infra red scan. It showed a vaguely Human shaped figure in bed. Then the figure moved and a cooler infra red image indicated him showering.
“But look,” she said. “For about five minutes it showed a sort of imprint of you still in bed. It faded away, slowly. But it looked as if somebody was in bed with you.”
“I’m such hot stuff my sheets take that long to cool down,” he joked. Toshiko laughed and accepted that as an excuse.
“Is Owen in?” he asked as Ianto appeared at his side with coffee. “I need a word with him about the alien remains from yesterday.”
“No,” Toshiko answered. “Alun checked the overnight police reports as usual when he got in and there were two suspicious deaths that he thought might be in our remit. Two bodies – both completely drained of blood. Owen went to the hospital to pull rank and do the autopsy himself.”
“Oh, fuck!” Jack swore. Toshiko scowled at him for doing so within Etsuko’s hearing.
“Problem?” Ianto asked.
“No, not exactly. Just… keep me posted on that. I’m going to be in my office most of the morning I’ve got a shi… A hell of a lot of paperwork that I let pile up yesterday. I’d better crack on.”
“Take it easy, boss,” Ianto told him. “You look kind of pale. I hope you’re not coming down with something. I remember the last time you had flu. It wasn’t pretty.”
“I’m fine,” he assured him. “Don’t worry. I don’t need you to play nurse this time. Besides, Alun would be jealous of the way you played it. Things you can do with a thermometer!”
“He’s joking,” Ianto assured Toshiko as Jack went back to his office. “All I did with the thermometer was take his temperature.”
“At least he looks happier than he did last night,” Toshiko noted, then turned to her day’s tasks.
Jack forced himself to work on the paperwork. But his mind was never truly on it. He was still thinking about Garrett from time to time. He was also thinking about Darius a lot. The temptation to go down into his lair and create some interesting body heat patterns on Toshiko’s scanner was strong. Maybe not actual sex, because he didn’t want to do anything that would hurt Garrett, especially not while he was on active duty. That was too much like what his wife did when he was MIA. But he felt a deep yearning for Darius’s kisses and caresses.
He was also a little worried about that report of people drained of blood. He had a bad feeling that it had something to do with the reason Darius was here in Cardiff.
Darius didn’t want Vampire business to be Human business. And Jack agreed with that sentiment.
But what if the Vampires didn’t?
His fears were compounded when Owen got back to the Hub just after lunch. He called everyone to the boardroom and showed them the evidence from the two autopsies he had performed as well as the police report about where and how the bodies were found.
“They were tipped out of a bin wagon onto the city dump,” Owen explained as the video display on the wall showed bodies half buried in rubbish. “The wagon had emptied commercial bins in the city centre around the back of Castle Street. The two men were formally identified as Dewi Bythell and Bari Gwynne of 27 Dinsdale Street, Butetown. They’re….”
Ianto yelped and gripped Alun’s hand. Everyone turned to look at them.
“We know them,” Alun said. “They’re a couple… like us.... We see them socially sometimes. At a club we hang out in. Dancing…”
“I’m sorry, guys,” Owen said. “I’m afraid they’re in the Torchwood weird shit arena. They died of blood loss. But the only wounds on their bodies were two small puncture marks on the neck.”
“Oh, my God!” Gwen exclaimed. “You’re not serious? You mean… they’ve been vampired?”
“I don’t want to put that down as cause of death,” Owen said. “It sounds so ridiculous. I’ve spent all morning trying to find another explanation.”
“Why?” Jack asked. “We’ve got files on people who were turned to piles of dried carbon by an alien who sucked the life out of them at the point of orgasm. We’ve had a Human sized preying mantis that eats her victims’ heads, shape shifters who like to eviscerate their prey, alien worms that eat their way through brain tissue, people zapped by cybermen weapons, and all sorts of unlikely deaths. Why is it so hard to determine that those two poor sods were killed by a vampire?”
“Because… vampires are just fiction. Dracula, a dirty story written by a barmy Irishman who fantasised about women going down on him.”
“Dracula is fiction. Vampires are real,” Jack said. “They’re rare these days. But they’re real. Very real. And… Shit… look… just… everyone stay put for a minute. I need to…”
Jack jumped up from his seat and ran from the room. The others looked at each other and wondered what was going on with him.
They were no less puzzled when he returned a few minutes later leading a tall, attractive stranger who looked very nervous about meeting them all.
“It’s ok,” Jack encouraged him. “These are my team. They don’t bite.” He pulled up a chair next to his own and invited him to sit.
“Jack… what… who…” Gwen looked at the stranger and couldn’t help smiling at him. He was very good looking, though rather pale as if he didn’t get enough sun. He looked lost, despite Jack’s assurances. Gwen tried to look welcoming and friendly to him.
“Guys,” Jack said. “This is Darius. He’s a vampire.”
There was a collective gasp. Gwen’s welcoming smile faltered.
“A vampire?” Owen repeated. “A fucking vampire? What’s he doing here? Why isn’t he locked in the vaults or… turning to dust with a stake through his heart.”
Darius shook his head and spoke quietly to Jack. The others vaguely heard him say the words ‘bad idea’.
“He’s in town on business. He’s in the same sort of work as us, sort of.”
“He hunts aliens?” Tosh asked, unable to take her eyes off Darius.
“He hunts killer vampires. The ones that prey on humans and cause the sort of prejudices Owen is displaying right now. And come off it, anyway, Owen. Ten minutes ago you didn’t believe in vampires. Now you want to kill one without even hearing his side of the story?”
“Gwen, Tosh…” Jack appealed to the rest of the team. “Alun… Ianto…”
“A vampire?” Alun began. “He… drinks blood?”
“It’s the only way I can live,” Darius told him. “But I never kill… I never take by force. I drink only from willing hosts.”
“Who volunteers to give a vampire their blood?” Toshiko asked. Then she saw Jack’s expression and remembered how pale he had looked earlier. She remembered the infra red image that looked as if there were two people in his bed. It all started to make sense. “Jack… you… Oh, tell me you didn’t….”
“Darius is my friend,” Jack said. “He was hungry, cold, tired. I gave him food, warmth, somewhere to sleep for the night.”
“Did you shag him?”
“That’s none of your bloody business, Owen,” Jack snapped. “Stop it, now. All of you. Darius is on our side. He’s a good guy. Just… believe me or… or get the hell out of here. If you can’t trust me after all this time…”
Gwen looked at Darius again. Her curiosity got the better of her.
“How did you become a vampire? Were you born that way or…”
“I used to be Human,” he said. “I was attacked by a vampire. New Years’ Eve, 1790. He drank my blood until I was almost dead, then he forced me to drink his. That’s how it works. I was… mortified. I wished he had let me die. I refused to kill… to be like him. He… chained me in his house and kept me as a sort of ‘pet’, feeding me on his own blood after he had gorged on his victims. Fifty years I lived that way. Until I found the strength one day to kill him and make my escape. But by then, I hardly recognised the city outside the house. I didn’t know what to do. After a fortnight wandering the streets, I was starving. But I couldn’t… I wouldn’t let myself become one of them… a predator. I… found myself in a red light district. I found that… people didn’t just want sex. They wanted satisfaction in any way it could be got. There were men, women, too, sometimes… who looked for vampires to bite them… to drink from them. For kicks. I… became a sort of vampire prostitute. It was a low way to live. But at least I lived. Except it wasn’t enough, just to live. I wanted… needed… to do something about the ones who killed. Humans think all vampires kill. It’s not true. There are… at least there used to be… a lot of us who tried to get by without doing that. So I became a vampire killer. I hunted down the bad ones, so the rest of us could live in peace, so people would stop hating us. Two hundred years later, there are a lot less of us. Humans purged most of us from Europe in the 19th century – good and bad alike. Which only made the few that were left more cruel, more murderous. And made it even more important that I stop them.”
“But that means you kill your own kind,” Toshiko said. “Isn’t that….”
“I do it to protect your kind,” he answered. “You’re the one with the baby? Don’t worry. I wouldn’t harm a hair on her head. Or you. I’m here to protect you all from those who would.”
“He means it, doesn’t he?” Alun said to Jack. “He really wants to help?”
Gwen reached out and touched Darius’s hand.
“You’re cold, sweetheart,” she said. “Is that normal for you?”
“Yes. I have no heartbeat. No blood circulates. So my hands are cold. My face is bloodless and pale. I feel warmth in others, though. Your hand… is warm. You feel… nice.”
Gwen let him carry on holding her hand. It felt less cold as her own heat transferred to him. She reached out and touched his face. It was strange. He was flesh. He was alive. But so very cold.
“You’re… a friend of Jack’s?” She looked from Darius to Jack, then back again. “So, you’re a gay vampire?”
“It’s a cruel enough world to be gay in,” Ianto pointed out. “Without a whole heap of other prejudices on top of that. How do you manage?”
“I have a few precious friends, like Jack, who make the world a bit less lonely,” he answered.
Ianto nodded. He understood that sentiment.
“So….” he continued. “Jack, how did you think he could help us with this case?”
“I didn’t,” Jack answered. “It’s his case. We’re going to help him.”
That was a startling notion. Owen began to protest.
“It’s no different from you sharing autopsy reports with Martha at U.N.I.T.,” Jack told him. “Or me giving Garrett a tip about something that falls in his ballpark. Darius… think of him as another agency with a related field of expertise. Now, where were we? Gwen, you have the police file to show us?”
Gwen let go of Darius’s hand and stood up, slightly flustered, caught out by the return to the point after meandering off it for so long.
“It’s not much to go on,” she admitted. “Just details of what the two men had in their pockets… that sort of thing.” She passed around paper copies of photographs taken of the personal effects. They included wallets with money and credit cards intact, proving robbery wasn’t a motive, keys, ID cards from their workplace, a packet of condoms, and a small piece of paper with some kind of reference number on it.
“Wait…” Alun reached into his pocket for his own wallet. He pulled something from it.
“It could be something. Look… that piece of paper. It’s the stub from a ticket. I’ve got one like it…”
Jack took the piece of glossy paper with a serrated section that would be ripped off at the door. It was a free entry ticket to a new nightclub in the city centre.
“After Dark? Your kind of thing, boys?”
“No, not really,” Ianto said. “That’s why our ticket is intact. Neither of us fancied it.”
“They were being given out at the bar we were in the other night,” Alun continued. “I just stuffed it into my wallet with my change and forgot about it. But… Dewi and Bari were there. They must have gone.”
“It’s off Castle Street,” Ianto pointed out. “Where the bins were collected from.”
Darius quietly took the ticket from Jack and looked at it carefully.
“After Dark,” he said. “When vampires come out to play. I think I should check this place out.” He looked at the ticket. “Do you mind if I use this? It’s valid for the rest of the week.”
“Feel free,” Alun answered him. “But… check the small print. It’s couples only. You need a friend to go in with you. That’s one reason we didn’t go. We thought it sounded like a swingers club – you know, swapping partners or something. We’re so not into that. Didn’t think Dewi and Bari were, either. Maybe.…”
“Count me in,” Jack said. “I’ll go with you. Just as an observer. To watch your back, if anything tricky goes on.”
Darius looked doubtful.
“I understand your reason. But they’ve already overstepped the boundary. Two Humans are dead.”
“Darius….” Alun said. “You’ve known Jack long enough. You know you can trust him. We trust him. We’d like to trust you, too. Take Jack with you and find the ones who killed our friends, please.”
Darius looked at Ianto and Alun. They both looked back at him, keeping eye contact with him. He seemed to have charmed the two women. Owen was at least saying nothing, mainly because Jack wouldn’t let him. Ianto and Alun were half won over. He nodded and reached to touch Jack’s hand.
It was a long time until after dark, yet, though. Jack went back to his paperwork. The others went on with their tasks. Ianto and Alun went out to do a drive-by, to see what the After Dark Club looked like in daylight. Darius sat in Jack’s office, quietly. Or he tried to be quiet, at least. Jack noticed that the others all found excuses to come into the office from time to time, and they all looked at him.
Even Beth came in around four o’clock. Granted, she did deliver an envelope with documents from Whitehall that had just come into the office by courier. She asked Jack if he wanted coffee, and glanced at his friend.
“Owen said he was… does he… can he… drink coffee?”
“Ask him yourself,” Jack told her. “He won’t hurt you. Don’t treat him like some kind of freak show.”
“I….” Beth laughed softly. “Jack… I went to the pub with Ray last night. I’m the last person to….” She turned to Darius. “I’m sorry. But… can you drink coffee? It’s no trouble….”
“I cannot digest any kind of food,” he answered. “But a glass of iced water would be appreciated. Water… is necessary to my metabolism.”
“I’ll do that,” she told him and went off to the kitchenette.
“Only at Torchwood,” Jack said with a smile as he opened the envelope and read the report it contained. “Only at Torchwood could we have a receptionist who goes out on a date with a Wolfman. Against my advice, I might add.”
Darius looked at him quizzically. “The wolf part I could live with,” he added. “The man part of him is a gormless twat. She can do better.” He grinned. “You should take her out on a date. You know how to treat a girl.”
“I’d rather have you,” he answered. “I wish tonight wasn’t business. I’d love to date you again, Jack. Just like the old days.
It felt like a date, anyway. Jack had to admit that as they walked along Castle Street, looking for the club.
“The boys said it was near the end of the street,” he said. “It has a rear exit on the alleyway where the bins are kept and an old-fashioned external fire escape to the back. The public area seems to be on the ground and first floors with private quarters, possibly the owner’s living area, on the top floor. But it was all locked up tight and shuttered when they were there in the afternoon. They had no way in short of breaking and entering.”
“Sounds pretty normal,” Darius agreed. “Except…”
They looked up at the front façade of the After Dark Club. It was rather stylish, being made of grey smoked glass panels that reflected back the lights of the street. The Words “After Dark Club” were stencilled onto the glass and roughened to be non-reflective.
Jack looked at the words, then at the reflected street in front of him. He had forgotten until now that Darius didn’t show up in mirrors. Something Bram Stoker did get right about Vampires. He tightened his grip on his hand, just for reassurance as they approached the door and presented their ticket.
The doorman admitted them and they walked through a quiet foyer with more of the dark glass and black textured wallpaper creating an interesting ambience. The music was quiet there, and a few people hung around by the cloakroom and the toilets waiting for friends.
Inside the club itself the décor was more of the smoked glass and black. There was a dance floor with the usual lights flashing as people danced. Around it were tables, leather couches, a long cocktail bar with several men in black ‘After Dark’ brand sweatshirts serving. There was a gallery above, which obviously took up most of the first floor. There were clubbers with drinks looking down at the dance floor or sitting at more tables up above.
Darius found a place for them to sit while Jack went to the bar and bought two iced waters. He was surprised to find he was served them politely. Usually barmen got a bit iffy about serving water, and generally over-charged. He mentioned that to Darius, just in passing.
“That’s because they sell a lot of it,” he replied. “I’m not the only Vampire here.”
“How do you know?” Jack asked.
“I can sense them. But look in the glass – the place only looks half full in the reflection.”
Jack glanced at the reflection of the dance floor and saw he was right. People seemed to be dancing up close and personal with invisible partners.
“There are so many Vampires in Cardiff?” Jack was alarmed. How come he didn’t know? He knew about all the weirdness in this city.
“That rift that you look after,” Darius told him. “It’s a bit of a draw for us. The energy it gives out… it’s a sort of a high. A visit to Cardiff is like taking the waters in a spa.”
“And most of them are on the wagon, like you?”
“You should know that, Jack. Better than anyone. Only a very few Vampires kill. Most live on animal blood. They do deals with abattoirs, or if they’re lucky, they find a friend at the blood bank of a hospital. We try not to draw attention to ourselves. Even though the days of ‘grab a pitchfork and torch and storm the castle’ are long gone, the prejudices are still there.”
“I blame Hollywood,” Jack said. He was being flippant, but Darius agreed. Very few films featured a Vampire who just wanted a quiet life.
“So…” Jack said as they sipped their water. He looked around and noticed other water drinkers. “He’s a Vampire? The one in the red shirt?”
“Yes. His partner is Human. I think they’ve got the same set up as us. He probably only feeds once a week. To give his lover chance to recover inbetween. But it’s done with love.”
“Those two girls…” Jack continued.
“Both Vampires,” Darius replied. “Probably looking to hook up with a couple of virgins and have them for the first time. That happens a lot. There are some Vampire couples here, too. They just come for the iced water and the dancing.”
“How do they know?” Jack asked. “To come here. I mean?”
“‘After Dark’. When Vampires come out to play. It’s sort of an unwritten code word. A place where we know we’ll be safe. Only a few things don’t ring true here. Like giving out tickets to humans, for a start. That sounds like entrapment. Luring innocents in. Put that with the two bodies that have already turned up – and the club only open one night, yet. Somebody here is a killer.”
“Who?” Jack asked. The obvious question.
“I don’t know, yet,” Darius answered. “It’s early. Why don’t we mingle a bit? Are you in the mood for dancing?”
Jack grinned. Dancing was a word with a double meaning in his own century. Darius didn’t know that, though. He was just asking him to come out onto the floor and move his body in time with his and enjoy himself. Jack liked the idea. He liked that people looked at the two of them and thought they were a beautiful couple. He liked the slow dances when he hung his arms around Darius’s neck and pressed close to him. He liked when they kissed for the whole of one number, only stopping when Jack remembered he did have to breathe.
Jack felt a tap on his shoulder and looked around as one of the stewards in the black sweatshirts pressed something into his hand.
“Compliments of the management. The best looking couples get invited upstairs to the VIP Lounge.”
He looked at the ticket he had been given. The VIP Lounge opened at midnight. He looked at his watch. There were ten minutes. Time certainly did fly when he was having fun.
“Do you think….”
“Yes, I do. Let’s check out the VIP Lounge.”
A steward checked their pass at the bottom of the stairs. Another one did the same at the top. They were directed into a room that screamed ‘decadence’. Red and black were the colour scheme. Silk hangings covered every wall. The ceiling was blood red. The carpet was jet black deep pile. The long couches were red and black. A wide, low table in the familiar smoked glass had a half a dozen silver ice buckets with champagne chilling and cut glass dishes of caviar with thin savoury biscuits to eat with it. There were plenty of chilled bottles of a top brand mineral water for those for whom the luxury nibbles held no attraction.
Jack ate some of the caviar and biscuits but left the champagne well alone. He stuck with the water along with Darius as they made themselves comfortable on a couch. There were another dozen favoured clubbers enjoying the VIP treatment. Jack noticed the Vampire/Human couple he saw earlier, and the two Vampire girls, who had now split up and were each with a young man. They looked like twins, and probably only just about old enough for the over-21 rule in most Cardiff nightspots. Jack wondered if they really knew what was going on around here.
If they drank any more champagne, they wouldn’t know what planet they were on, let alone that they were in the presence of the Undead.
“Good evening,” said a sultry voice as one of the silk hangings parted and a woman stepped into the Lounge for whom the word ‘Vamp’ might have been coined. So could the word ‘voluptuous’. Her figure hugging black satin dress left nothing to the imagination. Her hair was jet black and hung down to her waist. Her eyes were dark and looked even darker with the black and grey shades of shadow and mascara. Added to that, carmine lip colour made her pale complexion even more pronounced. Jack looked at her and looked at Darius with an obvious question in his eyes.
“Yes,” he whispered. “She’s definitely a Vampire. Eastern European, at a guess.”
“I am Davina Lohmeier, she said as she walked around the room, behind the couches, stopping to caress the necks of each of her guests with finely manicured hands. “I am the owner of the After Dark Club. I welcome you to my VIP Lounge. Don’t be scared to let your hair down… enjoy… each other.”
At that, she smiled widely and revealed her elongated incisors. Around the room, Vampire men and women did the same. Their lovers carried on eating caviar or drinking champagne as their necks were bitten down on. The two young men were drunk enough not to protest when the Vampire girls took their first bite.
“Virgins,” Darius whispered as he slid Jack’s shirt back and pressed his mouth against his flesh. Jack felt his skin punctured so that it bled a little, but Darius didn’t drink from him. “Got to look like we’re for real,” he said. “But I don’t want you feeling weak if we find ourselves in trouble.”
“Good idea,” Jack whispered back. He curled his arms around Darius’s shoulders and enjoyed being close to him like that. He kissed his cold cheek and carefully watched what Davina was doing. She was prowling around the room, catlike, again touching each of the guests in turn. Some she leaned closer and spoke to. Jack shivered slightly when he felt her cold hand on his cheek and her voice whispering close to his ear.
“You’re very pretty,” she said. “I’d love to entertain you in my inner sanctum.”
“Sorry, lady,” he answered and raised the hand with Garrett’s Claddagh ring on. “I'm spoken for.”
“Ah, shame. I hope he enjoys you later.” She moved away. Darius leaned back, reaching for a moist wipe from a silver container on the table. It was soaked in antiseptic – a thoughtful consideration for the Humans who were enjoyed by the Vampires. Darius made wiping the wound a part of the loving experience, kissing Jack tenderly as he did so.
Everyone had finished snacking on their lovers for now. The Vampires slaked their thirst with water. The Humans went on with the champagne. Jack couldn’t help thinking that some of them were being a bit foolish. After giving up blood they should have taken some of the caviar. It was high protein and would help them recover. Champagne on top of blood loss would make them ill. But he wasn’t sure anyone was in the mood for a health lecture.
“Where’s my brother?” One of the twin virgins suddenly called out, disturbing the happy mood. “Conor? Where did he go?”
The young man swayed dizzily and his words were slurred, but his distress was obvious.
“Don’t worry,” said the Vampire girl he had been happily kissing until now. “Your brother was chosen for Davina’s Inner Sanctum. He’s fine. As for you…” The Vampire girl and her friend both bore down on him. The young man screamed.
“No,” he cried. “No, don’t. I don’t like it. I didn’t know… I was drunk… I didn’t know what you were doing the first time. I don’t want to…”
“No, stop!” Darius jumped up from his seat and ran to pull the two women off him. “He’s already been bled once. Two of you at him will be too much. Especially for a first timer. Jack… look after him. I'm going to get his brother.”
Darius strode towards the curtain that closed off the ‘Inner Sanctum’. As he did so, he withdrew something that had been concealed beneath his shirt sleeve – a long thin stiletto – just the steel, no handle, easy to keep in a specially made sling that went on his arm. He stepped into the inner sanctum half expecting the brother, Conor, to be a lifeless, bloodless corpse. He was sure Davina was the killer.
He was rather surprised to see her trying to wake Conor from a drunken stupor.
“I only took a drop from him,” she said as Darius moved closer. “He must have had way too much to drink before he came up to the Lounge. I haven’t hurt him. He passed out cold.”
She looked worried. Darius studied her closely, wondering if it was an act.
“You’re not a killer?”
“What?” she stared at him. “What do you mean? Killer… I’ve not killed a Human since I was turned, seventy years ago. I don’t need to. I get plenty of blood from the party-goers.”
“Then it’s somebody else here,” he said. He turned as somebody outside screamed. “He’ll be all right,” he said. “Put him so he can’t swallow his tongue or choke on his own vomit and…”
There was another scream and Jack yelled. Darius ran back into the lounge to see the two Vampire girls with their fangs extended and their eyes red. They had Jack in their clutches, trying to bite down on him. He was struggling against them. Everyone else was screaming now, Vampire and Human alike. They were falling over each other to get out of the door and run downstairs. All except the brother of the comatose Conor.
“Your brother is in there. Go and stay with him,” Darius told him as he wielded his stiletto again and ran at the two women. He pulled one away from Jack and looked at her face. He recognised the signs of a killer - the maddened eyes, the bloodlust. These were the two that had taken Human life once already in this town. He didn’t hesitate. He plunged the stiletto into her heart and then pulled it straight out again before slashing the throat deeply, half decapitating her.
“No!” screamed the other as he let the body fall to the floor. “No! You murdering bastard!” She turned from her attempt to rip Jack’s throat out and launched herself at Darius. He was surprised by her strength and the viciousness of her attack. He found the stiletto wrenched from his hand and turned on him. He screamed as the blade ripped into his side. He fell backwards onto the plush carpet and the Vampire leapt upon him. She pulled the stiletto out of his side and raised it to stab him through the heart. Darius knew there was nothing he could do to stop her. He was a dead Vampire.
Then in what would have been a heartbeat to anyone but a Vampire, he saw Jack stand up behind her with a champagne bottle in his hand. He smashed it against the table and plunged the jagged edge into the back of the Vampiress’s neck. It wasn’t a death blow to one such as her, but it disabled her long enough for him to grab his stiletto out of her hand and plunge it into her heart. In one smooth movement he slashed her neck and finished her off.
“Are you hurt?” Jack cried out as he pushed the dead Vampiress off him and knelt beside him. “Darius, are you hurt?”
“Yes,” he replied. “Yes. I’m hurt. I’m losing blood. I need help.”
“You’ll get it,” he promised. He lifted his friend in his arms and looked around. He couldn’t take him down through the nightclub. It already sounded like there was a riot down there as the VIP guests ran for it. He headed for the Inner Sanctum.
“Where’s the fire escape?” he asked as he saw Davina trying to comfort the young twin and his still comatose brother.
“That way,” she answered, pointing to a blacked out window. “Please… I didn’t know they were killers. I wanted… After Dark… a safe place for our kind…. I didn’t…”
“I’m coming back, tomorrow,” Jack said. “In daylight. I’ll be having a long talk about that. But right now… I just….” He felt Darius groaning in pain. He had no heartbeat. He had no blood circulation. But ironically, he was losing blood and he would die just like a Human if he kept on losing it. Bleeding to death was a cruel way to kill a Vampire. The kind way was the stab through the heart and the throat cut as he had done to the two killers. Jack pushed the window open and climbed through onto the fire escape. He moved quickly down. He wasn’t entirely sure what he would do when he got to the bottom. They had driven into the city in Alun’s Audi. It was parked in the NCP car park on Westgate Street. But he would have to carry Darius, bleeding profusely, through the late night clubbing crowds to get there.
“Jack!” He almost thought he was imagining it when he heard his name called. He turned as he reached the ground and a torch dazzled his eyes. Then Ianto came forward and helped him to bring Darius to the SUV, parked in the back alley next to the rubbish bins.
“How did you.…” he asked as they got him into the back seat and Alun and Ianto buckled up in front before driving off as fast as they dared.
“You don’t think we were going to leave you without back up. We’ve been driving around the block waiting to come in if things kicked off in there. Then we spotted you coming down the fire escape. Is he ok?”
“He needs help. Is Owen at the Hub, still?”
“Everyone is there,” Ianto answered. “But what can Owen do for a Vampire? Surely….”
Jack didn’t say anything. He kept his hand pressed over the ghastly wound in Darius’s side. His friend’s face was paler than ever and he was shaking with fear. He didn’t want to die. He had lived more than two hundred years but he wasn’t through with life, yet. He wasn’t ready to find out what lay beyond it for one such as him.
“Six minutes, boss,” Ianto said to him as Alun used alien technology to make all the red lights green ahead of them. “Six minutes till we get to the Hub. Owen is on stand by.”
“Six minutes,” Jack repeated. “Hang on there. Six minutes. Just hang on.”
“Don’t think I’ve got six minutes,” Darius replied. “Losing too much…”
“Here,” Jack said. He pulled up his sleeve on his right arm and pushed his wristwatch out of the way. He pressed his wrist against Darius’s lips and felt him puncture the vein. He drank desperately, trying to replace what he was losing. It was as good as a transfusion for him. Jack only hoped he had enough blood in his own body to keep him alive.
By the time Alun brought the car into the garage under Bute Street, Darius was still hanging on. But Jack was almost finished off. He looked as white as a sheet and he collapsed into Ianto’s arms when he opened the back door of the SUV.
“Is he…” Owen asked as he and Alun reached to lift Darius out and onto a stretcher.
“He’s dead,” Ianto answered. “He gave him all his blood to keep him alive. He said you have to stitch the wound. He’ll be ok as long as you stop the bleeding. He also said… to remind you of the Hippocratic Oath. No matter what you think about Darius… about what he is… your duty is to save him.”
“I know my duty,” Owen answered. He and Alun carried Darius. Ianto brought Jack straight through to the medical room, ignoring the gasps of horror from the women as they passed them by.
Ianto laid Jack down gently and sat with him as Owen set to work on Darius’s wound. He knew Toshiko and Gwen were standing above, looking down at them anxiously, but he didn’t look up at them. He didn’t look at Owen and Alun helping him. He looked at Jack. He stroked his pale, cold face and hoped. They all did. They had seen him come back to life time and again from the most terrible injuries and painful deaths. But every time they wondered. Could this be the death he couldn’t beat? Could he actually recover from having every drop of his blood drained from his body?
“One day, Jack,” Ianto whispered sadly. One day, we’ll lose you for good. But… please, not tonight.”
It seemed to take longer. Nobody had, of course, ever timed it. But Ianto was sure it was taking longer. Maybe replacing all that blood was harder than mending his heart when he had been stabbed through it or replacing layers of skin when he had been burnt to a crisp. Maybe….
“Oh, thank God!” Ianto cried out in relief as he felt Jack’s pulse race and his heart beat and heard his ragged intake of breath. Jack sat up, gripping his arm for support and looked around.
“Is he…” he gasped.
“I don’t know,” Ianto answered. “Owen’s doing his best.”
“I’ve done my best,” Owen contradicted. “I don’t know… I mean I can’t exactly put him on life support. No blood pressure. No heart rate to monitor. How am I supposed to tell if he’s alive or not?”
Jack pulled himself upright and stepped across to the operating table. He looked at Darius. His eyes were closed. Owen was right. There was no way to tell if he was alive or dead.
“Wake up,” Jack whispered and bent to kiss his lips. He heard the others gasp as Darius reached out a cold hand and ruffled his hair as the kiss lengthened. Jack leaned back and saw his eyes open, his thin lips smiling.
“Thanks,” Darius said to him. “For… everything.”
Jack spoke to Davina, manageress of After Dark the next day, in her office with blacked out windows where she conducted business. He was satisfied that she just wanted to run a club where people who lived a different sort of lifestyle could enjoy themselves. The killer Vampires were not known to her. He told her he would permit her to continue doing business in Cardiff as long as no more bodies turned up. Davina accepted those terms.
Darius stayed with him for three more blissful nights before he told him he had to move on. He’d heard there might be his kind of trouble in Glasgow. Jack had a word with Gwen, who spoke to Rhys, who arranged for a van and driver to take a piece of valuable freight to Scotland.
“You look after yourself,” Jack told him as Darius laid down in the cushion lined box. “Don’t get yourself killed for another century or so.”
Jack leaned over and kissed him lovingly. Then he put the lid on the box and sealed it. He saw it safely secured in the van.
“He’ll be ok like that, won’t he?” Gwen asked as they all watched the van drive off.
“He’ll be fine,” Jack answered. “That’s first class travel for him.”
“Will we see him again?” Toshiko asked.
“He said he’d drop by next time he’s in town,” Jack said. “Meanwhile, I think it’s time everyone went home.”
They did. Jack looked around the silent Hub and sighed. After the past few days with Darius for company, it felt a cold, lonely place again. He turned down the lights and headed out. His feet automatically brought him towards Century Wharf. He thought he might sleep in Garrett’s bed tonight. It would feel better than being alone in the Hub.
As he drew close, he noticed there was a light on in what he was sure was Garrett’s apartment. His heart beat a little faster as he let himself in and waited for the lift to come. It seemed to take ages to reach the right floor. By then Jack had thought of a dozen unpleasant scenarios. There could be burglars in the apartment. It could be Garrett’s colleagues come to itemise his personal belongings because he had been killed in action and they had to do that when an agent was lost.
He could have just miscounted and it was the wrong apartment.
He unlocked the door and stepped in. The apartment was warm. Somebody had turned up the central heating. There was music coming from the drawing room. There was a smell of fresh coffee. He stepped into the kitchen. Garrett turned and smiled at him. He had his mobile phone in his hand, about to call him.
Moments later they were kissing passionately. Jack hoped he didn’t notice the Vampire love bites that hadn’t yet healed. He meant to tell him the truth about his sweet, platonic interlude with Darius. He had made up his mind about that in the past days. But not until he had drunk a cup of coffee, eaten some take out food, and made glorious love with him at least twice.