Chapter Eight
Duncan was roused from his sleep by a slight shifting of the mattress.  He peeked open an eye, ready to close it if Alex noticed that he was awake. She did not look over right away.  She pulled on some clothes, careful to not make any more noise than necessary.

She turned to glance at him then and Duncan quickly closed his eyes, relaxing his muscles.  He knew she wouldn't go if she found him awake.  He'd discovered this last week when he had started planning.  Duncan wanted her to go because, this time, he was going to follow her.

Duncan had decided to check up on her for one simple reason.  After she attacked him in the dojo two weeks
ago, she had began to leave more at night.  Before she
would go two or three nights a week.  In the past couple weeks, she'd been going every night.

Duncan knew that the two events were connected.  He
wanted to trust her, he really did, but it was getting out of hand.  He couldn't talk to her about it because she just closed up and beat a hasty retreat.

There was something else, too.  He knew she had been
doing this for quite a long time even though he'd only
noticed probably the last month or two.  It was in the
way she did everything the same, as if she tried other
ways and this one worked best for her. Duncan was a light sleeper, it didn't take much to wake him.  If Alex had gotten out of the bed as often as he suspected, he would have been aware of it unless there was something else keeping him asleep.  Every night, he and Alex had either coffee or tea
before they went to bed.  Duncan had started to suspect that she was drugging his.  His suspicions were elevated considerably since he had stopped drinking the drink and he was able to wake up.  He knew something was going on and it was bad, otherwise, Alex wouldn't bother with all the precautions.

He heard the door close softly, her footsteps moving to the stairs.  She avoided the elevator because it was noisy.  The moment he heard her on the steps, he was up and throwing on clothes.  He would not lose her. Duncan stayed in the shadows as he followed Alexandra.  He didn't really need to bother.  She rarely looked behind her.  He figured that she had stopped being so careful once she was out of the loft
because he never followed.

She was moving quickly out to the street, but not so fast that he would lose her.  He saw her turn her head when someone passed, watching them as they looked at her, taking in her magnificent beauty.  Then she would shake her head and move on.  This confused Duncan. Why was she looking at them as if searching for a certain face, then not finding it, moved on?

She seemed to know right where she was going for she
did not hesitate in her turns or in choosing what street to go down.  Duncan memorized every step they made just in case he ever had to come back.  She walked for nearly half an hour before she abruptly turned down an alley.

Duncan knew this was the end of the road because Alex
nodded her head.  He moved to the opening, peering
around the corner, careful to keep his clothing silent. There were crates in this alley, illuminated by a light above a door.  There was a movement in these crates and Duncan saw that it was a young man, probably in his early twenties.  He was handsome if dirty, and it was obvious that these crates were his home.  The man looked up as Alexandra's shadow fell
over him.

Duncan's chest tightened as she reached out a slender
white hand to the youth.  The man took her hand allowing her to draw him up before her.  The expression on his face was one of a follower meeting his God.  He looked nearly entranced as she pulled him closer.  Alex's other hand came to rest on his cheek and she whispered something that Duncan couldn't hear.

Duncan's whole being felt it as Alex began to kiss him.  The band around his chest tightened, stealing his breath.  Not that he was breathing anyway.  So this was why she left in the middle of the night.

This was why she was so secretive about it all.  He wasn't enough for her.  All the love he tried to give her and it wasn't enough.  The misery that realization brought him nearly shut him down entirely.  He had no more love that he could give.  She had all of him and it wasn't enough.

Though Duncan wanted to, he couldn't tear his eyes away.  His heart seemed to revel in the pain the sight was causing him.  Seeing her doing this was more agonizing than it was to see her dead.  When she had been on floor, her life over, he knew that she had left the world loving him and only him.
Duncan saw Alex's head in the man's neck, her fingers on the upper part of his arms, white as they gripped him.  Duncan found this odd in the part of his mind that was still thinking.  Why was she holding him so tight?  It wasn't as if he was resisting, he thought bitterly.  Then he saw the youth's face.  No longer did it contain that look of utter ecstasy.  Something was very wrong.

His eyes were wide, the pupils had taken over the iris, the whites around it seemed much more dominant than usual.  His mouth was open, his jaw looking as if it had lost the strength to hold it up anymore.  His skin was deathly pale and Duncan knew from his first look that he was very tan.
Duncan was at a loss.  What was she doing to him?  If
he could have willed his frozen feet into action he would have gone over and stopped this whole thing.  As Alex raised her head and looked to the side, he knew that he was too late.

Duncan's mouth dropped as the man's had of its own will.  He was sure that his sanity had followed as well.  The man's neck was red with blood, not torn, but bleeding still.  Alex let him slide from her grasp where he hit the ground with a dull thud.  She was saying something to him then, words that Duncan couldn't hear, nor did he want to hear.  Alex had just
killed this man and he wasn't quite sure how. Alex turned around then, her face coming into the light.  As he saw that lovely face, every ounce of his self control went into the street drain.  She was smiling as she sighed contentedly like most people did after a good meal.  Her normally white teeth were stained with blood, her eyeteeth so long, longer than
any normal person had, longer than she normally had. Her eyes were illuminated like a stained glass window at dawn..

With a terrible blow to his soul and his beliefs, he knew and he understood all the lies.  A vampire.  No wonder he could never feel her.  She was not his sort of immortal.  Oh no, she was something else entirely. She was a creature that he had never thought to exist, something that was heard of only in
movies and stories.  Of course, so was he, but he wasn't this.
He forgot to be quiet then and his breath began to tear out of him, painful in his closed throat.  He was certain that somewhere he had stepped over the line that separated the world from hell.  He was in the latter right now.  He was far from a religious man, but this was too much for anyone. "Oh God, help me," he whispered.

She saw him then, her own eyes widening, her mouth closing.  If he had been in his right mind, he would have noticed the absolute horror and shame in those eyes, heard the small gasp that flew past her lips. Her own breaths quickened, matching his.  With alien detachment he saw the surprise and shame on her face, followed by panic.

"Duncan....I." There was no way to explain her way out of this and she knew it.  She took a cautious step toward him, her hand outstretched.  Duncan backed away in disgust, too horrified to do anything else.  Her face grew agonized, as if his backing away from her was the worse pain in all creation and her hand dropped to her side.

"Don't look at me like that, please.  Let me explain," she started.

"No!" he interrupted, his voice unnaturally thick and

He stumbled backward from her, tripping over debris.  He didn't pay attention to that.  He had to get away from here.  This wasn't Alex, it couldn't be.  He must have followed the wrong woman.Alex grabbed his arm, overpowering his struggles to get away from her.  His eyes were wide with fear as he jerked his body, trying to get loose.  Alex knew that it wasn't because he was afraid of what she would do
to him.  He was terrified of everything he has ever believed in coming to an end.  He had never seen a monster like her, not even with his long life.

 She never wanted him to find out like this.  In fact, she hoped that he wouldn't ever find out.  He had believed that she was like him, only slightly different, and that had been fine with her.  When they first found one another again, she was going to tell him, get it all out in the open.  Then he told her of his past and she knew she could never tell such a pure
soul about her appalling secret.  He knew now, though, and it was obvious that this wasn't something he could accept, the reaction that Alex had always feared. She'd lost him.There was a chance, though.  If Duncan really did love her the way she thought, there was always the possibility he could accept it, if never agree with it.  She understood that fine.  Only one other person in her life had ever supported her nature, urging her to become all that she could.  Methos.

"Let's go home and talk about this.  Right now you're in shock and you can't think straight," she told him, her voice much calmer than she felt.

Just like that first night when he had let her go of some other will than his own, he followed her, knowing that she had something to do with that.  His mind had no intention of going with her, but his feet were moving. Along the way, neither spoke.  There were only footfalls, hers gliding and smooth, his plodding and jerky.  Reality was circulating through his body, answering all the lies.  That is why she went out every night, that is why she never really ate with
him, that is why she could not be detected, that is why she changed.  So many questions resolved with only one answer.

He looked over at her, not surprised to see her face calm and detached.  She was thinking just as he was, thinking of how exactly to get him to understand. Duncan tried to think from her point of view.  He loved her.  He had loved her two hundred years ago and he loved her now.  She had been a vampire all that time and he did not know it, but he loved her, even with all her odd behaviors. Why should that change now that he knew?

Duncan used the silence between them to return to his senses.  Once his mind had gotten past the reeling shock, he found that he still believed in her.  He would be damned if he was going to forget all the good times they'd had with each other without an explanation.  He owed her and himself that much. After all, she was his angel.

True, what he had seen was something out of his worse
nightmares, but he knew Alex.  She was not the horrible creature out of myths.  She was kind and caring, something a person couldn't pretend to be their entire lives.  There had to be something else. Not once in all his years had he ever suspected that vampires really existed.  They were creatures that were invented to scare children and tantalize adults. Now, here was proof that they did indeed exist.
Strangely, he wasn't overwhelmed by surprise anymore.
After all, his kind existed, didn't they? and
immortals were as much a myth to the human race as
vampires.  This simple fact gave Duncan what he felt
was a bond with Alexandra.

Once back at the loft, they moved to their separate places.  Duncan leaned against the counter, arms crossed.  Alex paced in front of him, her hand to her head as if she were in pain.  She looked up at him every now and then, but basically her eyes were on the floor.

"Why didn't you tell me?" he asked quietly, breaking
the tight silence.

Alex looked at him as if he'd proposed killing him."Tell you?  I couldn't tell you, Duncan," she cried, incredulous.

Duncan didn't get excited.  Right now, that was the last thing he should do.  After all, he'd gotten excited in the alley and he'd gone temporarily nuts. He wasn't going to let that happen again. "Why not?" he asked calmly. The laugh that came from Alex's mouth had no humor. It was sharp and bitter, a sound that Duncan had never heard from her before.  She raked an agitated hand through her hair and turned on him suddenly.

"There is something you don't realize Duncan and that explains why to everything," she told him, still evasive.

His eyes burned into hers as he asked, "What don't I realize, Alexandra?  You tell me so I can understand why you lied to me when I've done my best to be honest with you."

Her chest heaved as she pulled in her breath, giving away the extent of her agitation. Alex's hands grabbed two huge chunks of hair near her temples."How can you be so damned calm?" shescreeched. "Tell me."

Alex stopped her movement, letting her hair fall around her.  Duncan's face was neutral, not understanding, but not damning either.  He was willing to hear her out, which was much more than she expected after his reaction in the alley.  It was more than most people had ever been willing to do.
Alex took comfort in this realization and her tense body relaxed a little.  Things could still turn out all right.  All it would take is the truth and he deserved to hear it now.  After all, he could have just walked away.  Taking a deep breath, she steeled herself, and stared into his eyes.

"You're good, Duncan.  I knew that since the first moment I met you that you were one of the few people in this world that were good naturally, not for a few moments or a day, but forever.  You live to destroy evil, in your case, the immortals who aren't out to make the world better for everyone.  You always try to do the right thing, like the hero of fairy tales."

"On the other hand, I am not good.  I am everything that you are against, my own nature makes me evil beyond all else.  Where you are light, I am darkness. I live in it, I flourish in it, I belong in it.  You believe in people, the good inside of them, no matter what terrible things you see.  I don't.  I've always
believed that everyone is rotten to the core with only
a few good moments.  That always made what I have to
do so much easier.  I use people for sustenance, but
you are friends with them.  I've never really had

"When I met you, Duncan, I figured you were like all
the rest, but you so quickly changed my mind.  I was
in love with you and it was the scariest thing I'd
ever had to encounter.  You were so loving and
trusting, but I was so afraid to get too close.  When
I finally let it all go, it was too late.  I was murdered in your world and there was no turning back. I couldn't tell you the truth.  You would leave me." Alex's shoulders slumped, a ragged breath passing over her lips.

  "If you could have seen the look on your face in
that alley, of utter revulsion, you would understand
why I could never tell you that I was a vampire.  I
was afraid you wouldn't be able to handle it, that you
wouldn't love me anymore.  You aren't a hypocrite and
you couldn't stay with someone whom you knew fed off
of people like some animal.  I am terrified of losing
you because of what I am, something I will never be
able to change, no matter how hard I try.  I love you
above all else, Duncan, but I will never be able to be
anything else than what I am," she finished, a sob
catching her words.

Duncan knew she wasn't lying anymore.  She had laid
open her soul for him, given him a good look and she
wasn't closing it.  That told him that she was willing
to talk about everything now and Duncan wasn't about
to let it pass.  Besides, he didn't want to let her
go, but he had to know everything."What really happened that night, Alexandra?" he asked, knowing she would know the night to which he was referring.

Alex sighed, knowing the question had been coming. She turned and sat on the couch, facing him.  With a toss of her eyes, she motioned for him to join her.  Duncan didn't move from his position of leaning on the counter.  A flash of pain crossed her face, but she only shrugged.  She sat forward, her elbows on her knees.

"I was starving that night.  I hadn't been able to feed before the ball because you were with me.  Lady Reiter noticed that I wasn't feeling well, so she had a steward lead me up to a room.  I'm not sure exactly what happened then.  I guess I just lost control and fed off the young boy.  I had no intentions of killing him, but someone had come into the room.  Normally I would have heard, but my mind was so fuzzy.  I still don't know why.  Anyway, someone grabbed me from behind, throwing me away from the boy.  Before I could
react, I was stabbed through the heart," she told him.

"Who did it?" he asked.

Alex looked up at him, her eyes shadowed. She shook her head slightly, her shoulders lifting in a shrug. "I don't know," she replied.

Duncan wasn't sure, but he thought she was lying about that.  She knew, but wasn't going to tell him yet.  It wasn't important anyway.  That had been two hundred years ago.
Duncan thought back on all the horror stories he had ever read about vampires and tried to match them with Alex's words.

"The stake through the heart didn't kill you?" he asked.

"No.  Contrary to belief, not much can," she replied, a slight scoff in her voice."Anyway, I woke in the church where you had me taken.  I didn't know what to do.  I couldn't go back to you because...well what would I tell you?  I figured it
would be best for both of us if I left.  Obviously someone knew who I was and had every intention of wiping me off the planet.  I caught a boat to France, figuring the men who would do the funeral wouldn't tell you about my missing body so as to not cause you any further grief," she relayed. Duncan smiled bitterly, his eyes going cold.

"And left me, just like that," he added.

Alex looked up at him sharply, her eyes wide with
disbelief and anger."What other choice did I have, Duncan?  You know something, you weren't the only person hurt by all of this.  Leaving you was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.  All these years, you have never left my thoughts, my heart.  I naturally assumed that you had been dead for quite a long time and all I thought about was the time that I lost with you.When I came upon you in that alley, before I knew exactly who you were, I was going to feed off of you. I had just returned from a long trip on a bus, and I was weak and starving.  A person already down was perfect.  Then suddenly, I knew that you weren't any normal person.  I could feel your presence, your soul, things that leave immediately once a person is dead. I thought either fate had reincarnated your wonderful heart into someone else or that the person there was a man much like yourself.  Then when you recognized me,I was so confused.  I thought that maybe you were like me at first, but it didn't take me long to rule that out.  Beside the fact that I've never felt you, vampires can detect one another as you immortals can, you were too good.When you naturally assumed that I was like you, but with slightly different acquisitions, I went along with it.  I was so deliriously happy to have you back, that I would have pretended to be an angel for you.  I just had to be careful when I went out to feed is all," she told him.

Duncan stared at her, his mind warring with his heart. "What about all those nights you went out?" he asked.

Alex shook her head, a bitter smile curving her lips. "That was pure cockiness.  At first, I would make you sleep.  I would put a suggestion in your mind to ensure that you didn't wake when I left.  After a while I stopped doing it.  When you started waking up and asking me about it, I knew I should have resumed my earlier pattern.  I didn't, though, when you never followed me.  I simply got careless," she explained.

Duncan latched on to her words tightly, taking them one step further.  If she could make him sleep, what other things could she make him do?  His anger and hurt was being replaced by simple curiosity and even fascination.  The acknowledgment of this shocked him. The fact was that he just wasn't afraid of her anymore.  She was his same old Alex, only now he knew more about her.  He was beginning to accept all of this, and he was rapidly becoming ashamed of how he reacted in the alley.  She was only doing what she had to do.  He was no better.  She was right, he was not a
hypocrite.  He committed murder quite often, but like
her, it was only because he had no other choice.

"Tell me about what being a vampire means.  What can you do that I can't, what can't you do?" he asked her.

Alex looked at him as if he were crazy for a few moments, her head cocked.  Duncan knew he was doing a complete 180 on her, but he wanted to know more.  He found that he still loved her, but he wanted to be aware of all aspects of her so he could be sure of what she was and what she did to keep living after all these years.  He wanted to be sure that he never put her in any danger because if his ignorance.

"I don't have to worry about sunlight, contrary to the legends.  After so many years, I've built up a tolerance to it.  Garlic and crosses have no effect. I don't sleep in a coffin, I don't look for virgins, I don't get any power from the dirt of my homeland.  If I had to do that, I would have been dead many, many years ago.  Where I was born is now beneath the sea.I have a reflection as you well know.  I do not need
to be invited into a place to come inside.  Animals are affected by my presence, but we merely stay away from each other.  They know that I will not hurt them."

"Not much can kill me.  A tremendous loss of blood can severely weaken me and leave me open for other attacks.  If my body was to be drained of blood, something only another vampire could do, I would most likely die if I could not immediately replenish it.  In a certain way, being impaled in a vital place could quite possibly kill me because my flesh can't heal around something.  Usually, if I were staked, someone removes it and the healing process begins.  Such as the night you found me.  Possibly severe dismemberment, such as my head, Barry Manilow records...." she trailed off.

A ghost of a smile crossed her lips at her humor, evoking a broader grin from Duncan.  He admired Alex's ability to joke even in the face of utter seriousness.

"So in a way, the thing that would kill me would kill you?" he asked.

Alex shrugged.   "Maybe, but I have many more advantages than you.  Remember when we were fighting downstairs and I was more than you can handle?  Well there is a reason for that.  I am very strong, much stronger than you could probably imagine.  I could crush your skull like a grape.  I am also extremely fast.  When we were wrestling, I used only a very small fraction of my strength and speed.  What ppeared lightning quick to you, was slow and leisurely to me.  I normally move in a blur when I am hunting.  You can only feel a gust of wind as I pass. That is normal for me," she explained.

Her use of the word 'hunt' caused a chill to run down his spine.  It carried no revulsion, it just reminded him of how different she was from any other thing he had ever known.

"Are there more?" he asked her, afraid to know.

Alex laughed shortly, a laugh which contained no

Duncan knew that Alex wasn't going to clarify that for him any further.  That was okay, though.  He wasn't going to let her in on all of his immortal friends either.

"What about when you attacked me the way you did. What was that for?" he asked.

It the question she had been hoping to avoid.  It was evident in the way she looked away from him, a deep sigh passing her lips.  Before her eyes had skipped away from his, their azure depths had filled with guilt.  Duncan didn't want her to feel that way.  After all, no harm had been done.

"I was so hungry, Duncan.  I hadn't been feeding well because I knew that you were starting to get suspicious.  I went out that day, but I couldn't bring myself to feed.  I don't know why, but I felt like I was doing something horribly wrong to you.  I truly meant nothing by fighting with you.  I just wanted to have some fun.  I sometimes forget my strength.But when I cut your lip, I lost control.  I tasted that small smear of blood and instinct overwhelmed me.  I will tell you now that I have very strong control over myself except when it comes to that.  The need just consumes you, overriding everything else until all you can see and think of is that blood.  Vampires are very weak when it comes to their hunger.  When I put that small amount of blood on my tongue, the beast in me took over.  Your blood is so sweet and old, like fine wine.  It was so clean of impurities that it was a reflection of how people used to be thousands of
years ago.  It's a miracle you were able to stop me.  Otherwise, I would have killed you.  Well, no, not killed you, but drained you for a while.  I couldn't live with myself if that happened," she explained.

Duncan could understand what she was saying to him. His blood would be the perfect elixir because he could carry no disease or strange bacteria.  She would not have stopped.  Duncan also knew that Alex had allowed him to push her away that time in the dojo.  If she was as strong as she said she was, there would have been no escape.  Some part of her kept his memory in her mind enough to fight the thirst for blood.

"How often do you have to take blood?" he asked.

"To keep things safe, I will feed three or four times a week.  I have gone nearly three weeks without blood, but it wasn't by choice.  A long time ago, I was captured and left in a cage that I couldn't break out of.  I had nearly dug a hole in the floor when a friend let me out. I have always made it a rule to feed when I am hungry, no other time," she told him.

"Do you kill your victims?" he whispered, remembering the young man in the alley tonight.

"Not if I can help it.  Killing is not necessary for what I do.  It is true that there are some who kill for pleasure, but I am not one of those.  There are others who like to have fun with what they must do to survive and that is where you get the mess and the deaths," she replied.

"What happens to your victims?" he questioned, his eyes a little suspicious.

"They are just fine." Duncan stared down at her,wondering at how she could be so calm about leaving people alive that knew what she was.  Alex caught onto his thoughts, knowing that if she explained it, there were going to be some terrible revelations.  Then she threw all caution to the wind.  Now was the time to tell him everything.  Never again would she get such a perfect time. "I have a lot of power with my mind, as I told you. I can influence minds weaker than my own.  Most humans fall into this category.  Some very psychic people don't.  I tell my victim to forget me and the night's
events and they do," she stated simply.

Her words explained quite a few things for him. "That is how you got me to come back with you."  It was a statement, not a question.

"Yes.  I always swore to myself that I would never probe into your mind.  I silently promised you to never invade your secrets.  That promise was broken  that last night together.  You were in bed, staring at me as I got ready for the dance.  Your mind was sleepy and lazy, and I took advantage of it, not really knowing what I was doing.  There was so much in your mind, so many thoughts and sights, but I attributed
them to your penchant for reading.  Then I hit a hard
shell around the rest of your memories.  I know now
that it was the secret of your immortality you were
hiding so carefully.  If only I had broke through that
shell, I could have known and we could have stayed
together, but I refused to invade your deepest
secrets.  I wanted to give you that much."

"Was that the only time?" he asked.

With a sigh, she whispered no.  Alex knew that she
was opening a box that could destroy the fragile
camaraderie between them now, but she wanted him to
know it all.  For both of them.  Her eyes dropped down
in guilt and shame, not wanting to look at him as she
told him.

"After my 'death', I did not leave right away.  I went to your home.  You were sitting in that red, high-back chair that you loved so much, right in front of the fire.  Just staring at nothing, everything,demons only you could see." Alex heard his sharp intake of breath, but she didn't let it stop her.  Oh yes, she'd gotten his attention now.

"I watched you for a while from the window near the
trees, the dance of flames on your beautiful face, on
the near empty brandy decanter on the table.  I knew
it had been full just that morning.  Then I saw the
glass tipping in your hand, the liquor threatening to
slosh over the edge.  There was so much pain on your
face, yet there was nothing, like you were dead.  I
saw that you were crying.  That struck me harder than
anything else.  You never seemed like a man who would
cry.  Not because you were insensitive, but because
you could handle anything."When you fell asleep, too drunk to keep your head up, I stole inside.  I was kneeling before you when you woke suddenly."

Duncan stiffened sharply at her words.  She had to look up at him.  He was commanding her to.  His eyes were filled with terrible disbelief and anger, warm cinnamon turning to flat lumps of coal.  Then his features became pained, his mouth falling open.  It tore something in Alex, something very deep that hadn't been touched in quite a while.

"I saw you?" he asked finally, his voice deep and

Alex took his cold hands in hers, needing to touch him, trying to hold on in any way.  Her vibrant blue eyes stared intensely into his, wanting him to steady himself.

"Yes, Duncan.  At first you thought it was a dream, but then you touched me..."

He had not changed his clothes.  The shirt that had been so pristine in its whiteness was now dark with dried blood, her blood.  Her heart constricted as her mind brought forth a picture of his arms around her motionless form.  She could not remember the events of the night after her death, but she knew that he had held her, tears falling onto her face.  His hair was mussed, and in his sleep he would have looked like a small boy if not for the stains on his cheeks.  They
were from his tears.  Then his face was coming to life, his eyes opening.  Alex had awakened him.

His groggy eyes settled upon her, at first unfocused, but they cleared.  There was no surprise there, only the pain.  The half smile on his lips formed by the drink wavered.
"So you've come to haunt me for not saving you," he
slurred thickly.

Alex watched the fire-light play over his relaxed face, licking flames reflected in his eyes, making them glow brightly.  Those flames gave his eyes a false life.  Without the fire, he would look dead and she knew it.

"No," she whispered.

That he blamed himself for all of this hurt her more than knowing that it was all over.  Duncan would have to carry the pain all of his life.  Being mortal, that wasn't long, but it was all the more reason to enjoy life.  She knew that it would take her several life times to come to terms with losing Duncan, but she had that time.  He did not.

His head fell limply against the cushions, lolling weakly. "Go 'way.  No dreams.  Brandy promised no dreams," he babbled to himself.

Oh God, she moaned to herself.  She never meant to hurt him, not ever.  Duncan wasn't the type of person that ran to drink when there was a crisis.  At least, not until now.  All the strength that had held him through his life, the dignity that he carried was gone now.  All because of her.

"Duncan, I am not a dream.  Duncan!" she barked sharply.
He looked back down at her, his eyes still unbelieving.  He stared at her as if she were an oasis in the desert, but he would not believe that it wasn't a mirage.

"You're dead.  Saw you with my own eyes. These ones right here," he replied, his finger resting on his nose.  It hadn't made it to his eyes.

"Duncan, please.  I haven't much time..."

His head began to toss against the sides of the chair, denying her very presence. "Nope.  Alex is dead.  Dead, dead, dead..."

His free hand flopped out sloppily and it struck her cheek, not hard.  It was a mere brushing of their flesh. He froze, his eyes snapping wide open.  They came to rest on the painting he had commissioned of her.  He stayed that way for several moments.  Then slowly he looked back down at her, almost afraid to look.  Alex saw the shock in his eyes and heard it as his hand slackened, releasing the glass of brandy.

It shattered on the floor, the shards of glass and drops of brandy glinting in the fire like hard diamonds or shed tears.  The sound cut through the haze that had been holding him away from reality. "Alexandra."

Her name carried to her in a long moment on a rush of
air, smelling sweetly of brandy and bitterly of pain,
brushing over her face like a breeze in hell, pure
ecstasy.  Their eyes drifted shut in one motion,
reveling in the fact that she was here.  Alex looked
again first and what she saw pierced her heart, a
million times more painful than the chair leg had

One tear was trembling on his long lashes, a diamond
against a sweep of black satin.  Then it was falling,
moving down over his strained face, catching on the
ridge of his upper lip.  For a moment it stayed,
holding on like the rest of his stupor.  It pitched
forward and bounced onto the full pillow of his lower
lip.  Alex reached out and caught it on her  finger,
cringing at its heat.He had won the fight with his drunken haze.  He was aware now.

  Alex moved forward then, resting her head on his
thigh, knowing that he was a little more sober now.
She put her hands on either side of his waist,
squeezing him gently.  Please, let him be able to
handle this, her mind pleaded.  She knew it was a lot
to thrust on him.  She had been taken from him only a
few hours ago.  He had not yet come to terms with that
yet and here she was, a complete and total paradox.
A deep rush of pleasure filled her as his hand closed
over the crown of her head, hesitant at first.  Then,
finding that she was not some trick of his eyes, he
buried his fingers in the thickness of her hair,
pulling almost painfully.  Alex didn't feel it.

 "Yes.  Yes, my love."

Duncan's fingers pulled strands of her long hair away from her face, his skin deliciously warm on her flesh.  Alex was lost in the heady elixir of familiarity, knowing that only this morning they had laid this very way in bed, but her cheek had been on his bare chest, her legs entwined with his.  She had been alive in his world then and everything had been just perfect.  Now all of that was gone.  Only this morning.

"How is this possible?" he whispered, more to himself
than to her.

Alex refused to let herself look at him.  If she did, she would crumble and tell him everything.  She could not do that.  She would not draw him into her world. He did not deserve that at all.  She would have had to leave him eventually anyway.  She wouldn't be able to stand seeing him grow old and she would not do the one thing that would keep him by her side forever; change him.  It was better this way, she tried to convince herself.

She wasn't succeeding. "I had to see you again," she whispered, trying to get him away from his earlier question.
"You aren't dead?" he asked, hesitant.

Now Alex did look up at him.  It was a natural question after seeing her dead, but that is not what she wanted him to think.  It would be harder for her to leave.  It was already hard now that she saw all the hope and faith in his face.  It was all for her.  She had to leave here.  If she did not she was going to fall apart.

"Duncan, listen to me.  I love you.  Nothing can change that, not even death.  I didn't want to leave without telling you that," she told him, looking away when her voice cracked.

"Why do you want to leave, Alex?  If you love me, stay with me," he pleaded, his voice small and wavering.

Alex had never seen Duncan look quite so young.  All his defenses had been stripped away and now he was open for her to see.  She did not like what she saw.

"Oh, Duncan.  I don't want to leave, but I cannot stay with you.  I'm dead here," she explained As drunk as Duncan was, he didn't understand the full implications of the situation.  He wasn't wondering how she was able to be here anymore, he wasn't letting into his mind that she was dead.  He believed she was given a favor by God to see him one last time.  That
was fine with her.  Less pain and confusion for him.

A noise sounded overhead, barely audible even to her.  Someone was up there.  Duncan's manservant, no doubt.  He would be on his way down to put his master to bed.  He was not drunk and would not forget that Alex was dead.

With a sigh, she got to her feet, the cold hitting the side of her face that had been against Duncan's leg, reminding her that she was alone now.  Duncan reached for her, but his hands only brushed against the skirt of her borrowed dress.  He was looking at her in panic.  He knew she was going.

"I must leave now.  But please, remember this; I love you, with every fiber of my being.  Your love made me whole again, if only for a short time.  I'm not going to let you remember this evening, but you will always remember that I love you.  I couldn't erase that anyway, I can't break something that pure," she told him.

Alexandra bent over Duncan then, her lips taking his in what she knew would be their last kiss. The taste of brandy and emptiness was on his mouth, forgotten as he opened to her.  The kiss was by far their most passionate, most meaningful, Duncan also seeming to know that this was it.  Every ounce of love that was in her being poured into him through their
merged mouths. When Alex moved away, she saw that his
eyes were closed, his breath shallow.  His hands were clenched and trembling.

She stared at him then, not moving or breathing.  She
memorized every feature of his face, every nuance of
the shadows.  It was time to go and Alex knew it. What had been a dull ache of  dread now ballooned into flaring flame of realization.  Tears flooded her eyes and his form blurred and wavered before her.  Oh God, she moaned inside.  She wanted to stay so badly.   She loved this man like she had no other.  Not even the only man who knew what she was.  Duncan had made her enjoy life again.  He had showed her that there were things out there that deserved to be noticed.  He had changed her views of mortals.  He loved her
unconditionally, because it made him feel good, not expecting anything in return.He had made her feel human.

 "Good-bye, my love.  My Duncan."

As she turned to go, Duncan's eyes came open. Through the sheen of tears they focused on her retreating back.  His mouth worked, trying to find the words to bring her back, but he knew it was useless. She had to go and nothing he said or did would stop her.  Not even the truth of himself.

"Alexandra," he whispered, the sound a low moan of

Then he was drifting into sleep as Alex's suggestion melted over his mind, coating all other thought.  When he awoke, much later, still in his chair, he could not imagine how a long strand of dark brown hair had found its way onto his thigh.  He could not explain why the room still smelled of her skin or why his lips tasted of her.