Out of the Shadows, 1


copyright 1994 by A. Y. Chilton (Firefly) and Anne Fraser

THIS STORY RATED NC-17 FOR VIOLENCE, LANGUAGE AND SEXUAL CONTENT.

Chapter I

The three of them had arrived in New Orleans, setting up their headquarters
in a house Evan had rented during the day while the two vampires slept in
the back of the limo.  It was an unexciting house in an unexciting
neighbourhood.  Privacy, not flashiness, was what Evan had wanted.  Now it
was dark, and Alex and Gideon had explored their new surroundings and
pronounced them satisfactory.  The two nosferatu and the Nameless immortal
set out for the part of New Orleans where things were happening.

"The place is full of vampires," Alex commented, his interested gaze
following two young ladies.  "You can scent it."

"Smells like marijuana, creole cooking and swamp to me," said Evan with a
sniff.  "But from all reports, there are quite a number of you  here." His
eyes, too, were admiring the view, and he wasn't looking at the historic
sites.

"Gentlemen," said the third member of their party, "Do you think you can
keep your mind on business long enough to _find_ those other nosferatu?

"We are not here for pleasure."  Baron Gideon Redoak shivered, although it
was not cold, and he would not have felt it if it were.  "This city has a
feel to it that I do not like."

The other two looked at each other and shrugged.  Alex mouthed the words
"wet blanket", but Evan refused to acknowledge that he understood.

"Let's split up," Alex suggested.  "We'll meet back here at dawn."  He
grinned down at Gideon, who was almost a foot shorter than he was.  "And
no, I won't forget that we're supposed to be looking for vampires."

He and Evan were both gone before Gideon could object to this plan.

The Baron sighed.  He felt very lonely, and not just because his companions
had deserted him. Where was he?  The street was lined with clubs, each of
which seemed livelier than the last.  Gideon had heard jazz music before,
and liked it enough that he contemplated going into one of the clubs.  Was
he kidding himself?  In his tailored suit, with his English accent and
polished manners, he'd stick out in one of those places like a cultured
rose in an herb garden.  But a popular nightspot was a likely place to find
nosferatu, which was what he was supposed to be doing.  He wouldn't find
any by standing in the street, or going back to the house.  And perhaps...
there might be someone, equally lonely... it had been a long time since
someone had shared his bed.  The physical need was almost as pressing as
the emotional.

Some strange quality in the music coming from one club seemed to speak to
him, call his name.  A band called the Shadows was playing, according to
the notice, and the name tickled his fancy.  He could not resist the call
of the music, and went in, convincing the hostess to seat him at a table in
the pool of darkness where the house lights did not quite reach...

The Shadows were winding down the far side of a long, almost languorous set
when Rene du Baisser felt the first inkling of the other's presence. It
didn't particularly surprise him, for New Orleans these days was the Mecca
for a recently-fledged, increasingly young, and often transient immortal
subculture. Since Rene had arrived a week ago, he had on several occasions
sensed or seen young vampires, but none of them showed any disposition to
get anywhere near him.

Well, that doesn't surprise me, he thought, ironically, as he breathed the
last pleading notes of Callina Leluvo's "Water Stones' through the shining
saxophone. I've got this reputation. Our kind doesn't frighten easily, but
I seem to scare them.

Two thoughts struck Rene equally as the audience let their appreciation of
that set be heard. First was his recognition of the feeling he'd been
getting ever since he arrived here - that sense of killing, that certain
sort of kill, something almost familiar about it? And secondly, the other,
who was - ah, beyond the spotlights, there in the pool of shadows...

Not a young one. One of Marcel's or Mordaunt's peers; perhaps he has seen
Marliese...

Rene just now was as lonely as he had ever been, but he had learned in the
last few years to endure it rather than to build barriers against it as he
had when he was younger. Calli  had taught him the folly of that...Lately,
he'd had to admit that he missed Marliese, with an ache that never quite
went away. And he no longer could pretend, as he once had, that all his
mortal feelings had died in him; he knew better. He knew his love and his
longing for that connection had grown as he had grown into the power of his
changed blood. But if he gave in to her, moved back to San Francisco,
shared the house old Gunther Hasse had left to Marliese, he knew he would,
before too long, want to return to his solitary ways. Despite his love,
that was the way he was. He couldn't change it, and he had stopped trying.
He just endured the solitude he once had preferred, and, like any mortal,
anticipated moments of future happiness.

Chapter II

On his way into the club, Gideon had noticed a few young vampires, but
they'd avoided him.  Was his suit *that* out of place? he wondered wryly.
He'd purposefully let his hair grow and dropped his usual late-30's
business executive appearance, but the young ones were not fooled.  They
knew him to be an elder.  Puzzling.

He turned this enigma over in this mind as he sat in the shadows and
listened to the music.  What was it about the song being played that spoke
to him, tugging at his heart and mind?  The saxophone player drew his
attention, for no reason he could name.

No reason, that is, until the set ended.  Gideon added his polite applause
to the round of appreciation.  The saxophone player had set aside his
instrument  and was coming towards the table where Gideon sat in relative
darkness.  The light was enough, however, for the vampire to see several
things.

The musician was quite striking in appearance, his skin like polished
mahogany and his hair a soft shade of charcoal.  He seemed to exude a
sensual aroma of warm fruit that was subtle and very pleasant.  He was
wearing a grey silk shirt and black pants, and was only two inches taller
than Gideon.

He was a vampire, young and yet...

As Rene walked slowly toward that table where that lone figure still sat in
near-darkness, he could see the cut of the fine clothes, the perfectly
groomed, lustrous, rather long dark hair. Other infinitesimal clues told
him that this immortal was not an American. English, maybe.

The other rose at his approach and inclined his dark head in something like
a bow. Rene, to whom such courtesy seemed to come naturally, returned this
gesture, then seated himself across the table. The one votive candle
flickered tinily in its red glass cup.

"I'm Rene du Baisser," he said softly. "Playing in this town where my
mortal father was born, where he first learned to play the trumpet. He told
me of the funerals, the way they'd play the dead to rest down through the
streets with the music of vivid life. I'm still doing it."

The other's dark eyes glowed briefly. When he spoke, Rene realized he'd
guessed right about him being an Englishman, although the accent wasn't
quite the same as any other he'd encountered, and there was something a
little different in the way he pronounced certain words. But English
without a doubt, and, judging by the speech, he had learned the language
many, many years ago.

"I am Gideon Redoak...once Baron Redoak, but such titles no longer signify,
do they? I am visiting New Orleans with two companions; I have never been
here before. But your music...something about it called to me, and I
followed it to you. You are not the first young one I have seen here, but
none of the others wished to speak with me; they avoided me as if I
affrighted them."

Rene smiled at this echo of his own experience, and he warmed imperceptibly
toward the soft-spoken Baron. "Indeed, they have run from me as well. I
cannot think why. I hope it is no reflection upon my playing!"

They laughed quietly over the phenomenon of the young ones; then fell
silent. Tentatively Rene reached out with the focused beam of his thoughts,
and though Redoak flinched a little at this unexpected intimacy, he relaxed
and let Rene touch his mind; opened himself somewhat reluctantly to that
almost impersonal regard. He felt that he could trust this vampire, and
then the intimacy of Rene's mental touch was not  unwelcome...  Then, he
reached out in turn. Du Baisser was receptive.

"And I hide nothing from you," remarked Rene very softly, after a few
moments. "I am happy to meet you, Baron Redoak. It is pleasant to encounter
one's own kind and arouse something other than fear."

Gideon bowed his head and smiled.  No, fear was *not* what he felt.  A
little of the loneliness had eased, but slowly awakening desire was taking
its place.  Rene was very attractive ... with difficulty, he made himself
answer.

"It does not surprise me, du Baisser," he said, "that you inspire fear in
lesser creatures.  You are very powerful for one so young.  I am much older
than you in years and in the Blood, yet I feel your strength."

He saw du Baisser smile.  The other vampire seemed unaware of the double
meaning of the compliment.  Gideon leaned forward, keeping himself from
brushing Rene's fingers with iron self-control. Why did he feel this sudden
urge to touch this man?  There'd been others whose company he'd shared
without sexual desire stirring.   However enticing this musician might be,
surely he was not ... interested.  There'd been a woman in his mind, a
beautiful woman.

And yet Gideon, celibate for a long time, found himself wanting...  the
loneliness flared, aching. The Baron sighed and reconciled himself to
looking without touching, although surely that beautiful skin felt like
silk... no, stop it.

"Have you," Gideon asked softly, as much to distract himself as to question
the other, "heard of the Brotherhood of Darkness?"

"No," the musician answered quietly.  "Unless they are connected with the
Council of Vampires?"

It was Gideon's turn to look blank and shake his head.  "I have never heard
of the Council," he said, intrigued.  However, something warned him against
pursuing it just yet.  "But this is not the time nor place to discuss such
things.  Tell me, my friend, what was that melody you played that drew me
here?  Why did it speak to me so?"


Chapter III

"That song?" said Rene. "Ah, you are a sensitive soul, are you not, Baron?
So many hear it, yet never truly hear it. But it was written by one of us,
and its pathos is our own. Of course it called to you. As we play it as an
instrumental, you would not know the words of it, yet they reveal the heart
and soul of their creator, and the truth of her immortal nature."

He smiled a little distantly, as if seeing someone beyond the shining oak
and brass and drifting smoke in the bar. Then, very quietly, he sang:

"Goodbye to the streets and cinder diamonds;
the smallness of my stairway/backstreet world.
Goodbye to the lovers I have known,
but for you whom I will love again,
My friends have turned to stone
As I pass through...

And will your eyes be gentle
And will the evening blue
to deepen through the meeting
Of my coming back to you..."*

At the first notes, all the fine hair on Gideon's neck rose in silent
recognition. Vampire music, vampire sorrow. He could no more have walked by
this club without entering, seeking the source of this music, than he could
now turn his back on his changed nature.

"I would someday love to meet the immortal who wrote those words," he said,
when he could speak once more.

"She is my child...Callina," answered the musician. Gideon felt the surge
of emotion beneath Rene's calm speech, as though a torrential river ran
invisibly through that utterly controlled soul. There was love there, and
it was not, despite Rene's apparently fathomless reserve, a love that
excluded. Rather, it was a love that had opened the doors in Rene's life,
and no matter how long ago he had made this child, those doors were open
yet...

Meeting Rene's somewhat wry, gentle gaze, Gideon suddenly knew that despite
the beautiful woman he'd glimpsed in Rene's thoughts, the musician was not,
would not be repelled by the desire he, Gideon, was feeling.

And Rene, returning Gideon's dark, old-too-soon regard, felt the longing
and the desire which the Baron might never reveal, and with his unerring
psychic voice he responded. He sent no words, just the picture in his
mind...

...It was a room somewhere in this old city, a nameless room, with its
twelve-foot ceilings, antique lace curtains riffled by a rainy breeze, and
the twilight rustling of birds in the oak tree that had somehow grown up in
the little courtyard just beyond the windows. But there in that room the
two of them might find out why they had met; why Calli's song had called
them together out of the night.

Hear me... see this, said Rene silently. I know what you want, and what you
need. Once I could not have answered you in kind. But long ago, my child
taught me to love where love beckoned. She was only mortal then, but she
taught me well. There is no love that cannot speak its name, not for our
Blood, friend Gideon...

Gideon heard; Gideon understood, and felt swift tears of gratitude rising
in his eyes. For once he disregarded his dignity, his disguise; he let his
true and gentle nature be seen... He was young again in his ancient blood,
young as Rene was and would be forever young, in the joy of love asked-for
and received...

"When, Rene?" he said in a thread of whisper. "For it has been long... much
too long for me. I have been alone, and I tire of my solitude."

Rene smiled, a real smile. Calli would have recognized that smile. The
Baron certainly did.

"So do I," he said. "And it can be whenever we wish. This music is done for
the night; I am free to make another kind, if I will..." He laid one hand
over Gideon's.

Only one thought rose to the roiled surface of Gideon's mind. Oh, gods, he
thought. His skin really does feel like silk...

Then the door of the club slammed open, crashing into the wall behind it,
shaking the beveled glass in its oak frames. Heads turned, startled cries
like those of birds surprised at dawn filled the room.

In the square of warm night air stood a tall, sinewy young man, slim-hipped
and broad-shouldered, looking no more than nineteen. He wore black leather
jeans and a sleeveless black shirt. His ginger-colored curly hair spilled
in glorious profusion around the face of a fallen angel. Against his will,
Gideon started to stand up. "He's one of us...he's in some kind of
trouble..." he said. He was startled to feel Rene's grasp on his hand,
dragging him back into his seat.

"Sit down, Baron," said Rene in a tone Gideon hadn't expected. "You don't
want to know this one. He's not in trouble. He is trouble."

*This song is called 'Water Stones'; this is the second verse and chorus.
It was written in early 1968. AYC