Shaun came back the next morning, missing dawn by mere minutes, to find Honey sitting at the folding card table and chairs he used as a kitchen set. She was eating one of the microwave French bread pizzas and drinking a can of beer. Her scalp gleamed dully under the industrial fluorescent hanging from the ceiling, the skin there seemed to have finally lost that angry red color from being stuck under unwashed, matted hair for so long. The radio had been tuned to local news, and she reached over and switched it off as he came into the apartment and locked the door behind him.
For a few seconds, they only stared at each other. Honey seemed to be studying him. Shaun was tired and hungry and really wanted this moment to end.
Finally, she took another bite of her pizza, made a face, and swallowed it down.
“You’re really not going to bite me, are you?” she asked.
Shaun sighed. “No. I’m really not.”
He’d been over and over this with her for the past week. Ever since she’d woken up, really. To be sure, he’d never actually gotten to the core of why he’d never bite her: that the very idea of slowkiss was so weird and alienating to him it made his skin crawl. The idea of keeping a human around and occasionally feeding on them, and what? They like it? They stick around for that? You’re friends with this person you’re slowly killing? What was he supposed to do, go to the movies with them? That was the part that he truly didn’t understand. That a human might actually like living like that. That they’d want it. Familiars, sure, he understand that in some twisted way. They wanted to be vampires and thought they’d get there through what was essentially indentured servitude. But slowkiss?
But he hadn’t told her any of that because he didn’t know how to explain any of it without sounding weird and hysterical. Shaun had simply kept telling Honey that she was free and hoping she’d eventually get it and leave.
One week, no luck.
“If you really want me to believe you,” she said, almost making him scream, “you need to tell me how you’re getting blood.”
You don’t want to know that, he thought. The urge to keep humans out of vampire affairs was practically primal.
She raised an eyebrow at his silence. “You have to be feeding somehow. You’ve got good color and you’re not wasting away. And I’ve seen the jars of blood in the fridge. Did you really think I wouldn’t notice them if you stuffed them in the vegetable crisper?”
Shaun sat down on the other folding chair. “I wasn’t hiding them, exactly. I merely thought the sight of blood would put you off your appetite.”
Honey rolled her eyes. “Spare me. So, come on. Spill it. I’m not going to believe you’re not going to attack me at any moment until you tell me where your food comes from.”
This is simple, Shaun thought. Lie.
“Most blood banks and hospitals know about vampires,” he said. “Blood bags ‘fall off the back of a truck’ every night.”
Honey stared at him for a few seconds, blinking slowly. Then she slouched down in her chair, moaning lightly.
“Ugh, you are going to bite me.”
“What? No! I just said-”
“You just said a total lie! Everyone knows those blood bags don’t do shit. Something about how they’ve been processed, or, fuck, I don’t know, the blood has been out of the body for too long. A vampire drinking those things is like a bunny rabbit eating iceberg lettuce. Sure, they get a full belly, but eventually they’ll starve to death.”
“Fine. I lied. I thought that would sound better. The truth is…I go after animals. Whatever I can-”
Honey lifted her hand into a thumbs down and made a wet raspberry noise.
“Please stop. We both know if you were drinking animal blood regularly you’d be completely bugfuck by now. I once knew a vampire who thought if he actually drank bat blood he’d get to fly. He started speaking in German – a language he did not know, by the way – and then tossed himself off a fifty story building. They were scraping him off the pavement for hours and he was still blathering in fake-German.”
She took a swig of her beer and put the bottle back on the table a little too harshly. Inside the beer foamed and ran up and down the side.
She’s not using a coaster.
“Fresh human blood from a human. A living human. That’s the only way a vampire can sustain. Maybe you can drain ‘em and stick the blood in jars, but that only lasts for so long. Days, maybe a week.”
She shouldn’t know all this! Much less be talking about it like we’re going over old recipes!
“So, tell me how you’re getting blood, or I’m going to continue to believe you’re just lying to me about being free and any second now you’re going to freak out and stick your fangs in my neck.”
“Bad people!” he spat out.
Honey crossed her arms in front of her. “Bad people?”
“When I show up in a city I do a little legwork and find the people who should have been in prison a long time ago but keep getting away with whatever they’re doing. Organized crime, abusers, people who prey on kids, the odd serial killer. Those are the people I go for. And then, yeah, I attack them and rip their neck open and drink their blood until they’re dead, except for the blood I save for the nights in between. Is that what you want to hear?”
“Yes,” Honey said, fanning herself. “Honestly that is such a relief to hear.”
“You’re a vigilante type, why didn’t you just say that in the beginning?”
“Because…of the part…where I’m actively killing people?”
Honey made a face and waved her hands in the air. “Oh, no, you’re killing people, I’ve never heard of that concept before. Get out of here with that. And you’re killing bad people? Like, shit, why do I care then?”
Shaun opened his mouth but it turned out he didn’t know what to say. Closed it. Opened it again.
“Has anyone ever told you you’re very damaged.”
“All the time.”