He wasn't entirely sure, but the foot didn't seem to belong to him. I was entirely sure it wasn't his, but I was unable to tell him so and could only watch in growing frustration as he flexed the toes and wondered why the floor seemed so much closer than it should be. The height difference was throwing him off. The body was only a few inches above five feet and for someone that had grown up in a skin much taller than that it was a very disconcerting change. His thoughts drifted lazily past, one surfacing here and there for me to taste and wish I could yell at him, tell him that he'd missed, and to get his soul back into his scrawny, naked body sitting in the middle of the living room.
"Oh," Martin finally said, shocked at the sound of his borrowed voice, "There are boobs."
And he raised his his hands to touch them in amazement before Jeremy snatched hold of his wrists and stopped him.
"Yes," the vampire said, "They're not yours. You missed."
I'd been wanting to tell him that for the past three minutes now, but seeing as it was my body that the druid had accidentally thrown himself into I could only watch and get angry. The intended vessel – a mouse - sat a few feet away from Martin's naked body in a circle drawn with chalk.
Drawn indoors on the hardwood floor. Men.
Martin put his (my? our?) hands back down by his side and took a deep breath in borrowed lungs. I could feel his surface thoughts settle down, like ripples fading out on the surface of a pond. There was another strange sensation, like a sort of tingling all underneath my skin. It was almost unbearable, like quivering needles were shot all through my muscles and I wanted to scream and start tearing my skin off. This was Martin's magic? I found a new respect for druid. I had long thought the only downside to his calling was having to figure it out on his own and having to get naked for any complicated bit of working.
The sensation surged, like a tidal wave of heat washing across the skin, and was then gone. I tried to flex my fingers and found that they didn't respond. It was unnerving, like the signal from my mind was just vanishing into empty space. Martin opened his eyes and I could see Jeremy again, staring intently at my face.
"There's a problem," Martin said, "I can't get back."
The first debate was on what to do with Martin's body. We agreed to move it upstairs to his bedroom and take it to the hospital to be put on life support if he couldn't return soon enough. It would be awkward explaining why Martin was in a coma but the local hospital was used to awkward injuries and uncomfortable visits by this point. Having two vampires in town does that. The second debate was on what to do about the entire situation and I desperately wished I could be in on that one. Martin was very nervous as he talked and whenever his hands strayed towards his chest Maria would cough significantly and he'd put them back by his side again. I was glad she was keeping an eye on him for me. It was bad enough having him in control of my own body, to say nothing of having him fondle it.
"I'll need to talk to some experts," Martin finally said, "This happened when I learned to turn into a bear too. Getting there is always easier than getting back."
"Experts... meaning the fairies?" Jeremy asked.
"Yes. I, uh, I should go alone. I'm not sure how they'll react to a vampire, even if I'm the one in control of it."
"Can't Tess kick you out?" Maria asked. Martin stiffened and fear suddenly surged across his mind.
"Please don't," he said and I assumed it was for my benefit, "Tess, if you can hear this, please don't try that. You probably could toss me out very easily at this point but it would just put my soul out into the nether as easy pickings for all sorts of horrible creatures."
We had killed some of those horrible creatures in the past. I was suddenly thankful my first reaction at finding Martin's misplaced possession had been one of calm bemusement.
"How far away are the fairies?" Jeremy asked.
"That's a trick question. Why?"
"I want to go with you, at least part of the way. You have no idea how to use a vampire's body."
I could feel Martin's reluctance. There was also an undertone of fear and I realized with surprise that this was an old fear. A very old one, built from the days when we first met and Martin was merely a casual acquaintance that we regarded with the careful indifference of our kind. Vampires did not make friends easily or carelessly. We outlived too many friends to be frivolous in our affections. But Martin had persisted and I discovered that in the doing so, he had put himself against Jeremy's rather forceful personality and habit of using intimidation to keep people at a distance. I had grown used to it over the centuries. Martin had not known its intent.
It scared him. Deeply. He was afraid of Jeremy in a way that had been ingrained from the start of the relationship and it had never quite subsided. His druid senses told him what we were, told him that we were predators and that somewhere underneath the words, smiles, and shared laughter there was a beast lurking and waiting.
So he acquiesced. Not because he wanted to but because on a subconscious level he was scared not to. I was shocked and embarrassed, more so at this than the thought of us sharing bodies temporarily. Did Martin know I was picking up on his thoughts like this? Should I tell him once his soul was back where it belonged?
We left the house as soon as the sun set. Maria was coerced into staying at home, supposedly to guard Martin's body. Jeremy explained that we knew we had some enemies out there and he wasn't comfortable leaving Martin helpless. She knew he was trying to keep her out of this. And she didn't like it, but she agreed. It helped that Martin told her that her favorite weapons were anathema to fairies and would be very offensive to them. Normally she would set her jaw and dig in for a fight but this time she just nodded and agreed. I think it was because Martin was using my voice. Maria and I had a bond.
Martin took off down the street. I could tell he was just wandering aimlessly and that this was deliberate. He avoided thinking about which direction he chose and picked streets and alleyways at a whim, steadily leading us towards the outskirts of town in a twisted and convoluted path. Jeremy demanded to know what he was doing – once. Martin snapped for him to shut up and that was it. The druid was working. I could feel his skin tingling again and wondered what it was he was doing exactly. But his focus on keeping his mind blank was too good and I picked up on nothing.
Well, there was the hunger. But I was so used to it that I didn't even think about it, not until we were on the very edge of town where the buildings were isolated and remote. The streetlights had petered out and Martin was marveling over the clarity of the night in some distant part of his mind. He wasn't used to a vampire's body. It should have been a warning to us both.
There was a human walking along the fenceline that bordered a field. A lone house sat as the only beacon of light in the night. There was a dog with him and he was smoking. He didn't see the vampires in the darkness. I saw him. Jeremy saw him. Martin saw him and smelled him and heard the blood thrumming in his veins.
And the hunger roared up. I was used to the sudden surge of need, that sudden wash of desire, and I braced myself to its demands. But I was not in control now. And Martin was caught unprepared and the familiar fear lept to the forefront of his mind, that gut-level instinctive terror of vampires. It caused his reason to desert him and the hunger rushed in to fill that empty space. Instinct took over.
He was on the man in seconds. There was a startled cry from Jeremy and the dog retreated, torn between whining in terror and barking. Martin knocked the man to the ground, one hand digging into the skin around his collarbone and pinning him to the wet earth of the field. I could hear his blood accelerating in his veins. I could see his pupils contract in fear.
Fangs pierced the vein. Sweet blood filled our mouth, heady, intoxicating. It washed away the hunger and the terror. It was soothing and reassured Martin's frenzied mind that everything was going to be fine, that everything was perfect – so long as he kept drinking. I could feel the body going lax as it eased into the bliss of feeding. I could feel the man dying.
"Martin, that's enough," Jeremy said evenly from behind. There was an edge of caution in his voice. "Martin!"
Martin snarled soundlessly, a convulsion of the throat and nothing more, like a wolf guarding its kill. The man had passed out and still his blood continued to flow. A thin stream of it slipped out from the corner of the lip and slid down the chin and across the chest, staining the collar of my shirt. Then Martin was thrown aside, slamming into the fence and cracking the beams in two. He landed in a pile of broken wood and grass. The dog yelped and ran for it.
Jeremy crouched between him and the unconscious man. He was hunkered down like a predator, waiting for Martin to move. The druid swept into a crouch, lips peeling back from the fangs in a feral snarl. Hate battered at the edges of his mind. Hate and need. The hunger hadn't given up its hold yet.
"Martin," Jeremy said, "Where are you?"
An old trick to talk young vampires down from bloodlust. I pushed the hunger away instantly. Years of discipline. This would turn out okay. Jeremy wouldn't let Martin get to the man and finish him off. There was nothing to be afraid of now.
"Martin, look around you. Where are you?"
Jeremy's voice was stubbornly insistent and the demand lodged itself in Martin's mind. He hesitated and looked down. To the side. His eyes focused on the retreating dog and the warm safety of the house in the distance. The glow of the town's lights on the horizon. That simple act of taking stock reasserted some part of his conscious mind and he started to push through the bloodlust. I could feel the fear returning as well. He stood up, shivering, casting wild glances at the shattered fence around him.
"Oh God," he whispered, "Did I? I-I didn't mean-"
"I know," Jeremy replied, "This is why I wanted to go with you. How do you feel?"
"God. Like I'm drunk."
"That will pass. You shouldn't have trouble with the hunger now though, since you just fed. Keep going and find the fairies. I'll stay here and take care of this man."
Martin nodded. He was having trouble thinking clearly. I wished I could grab him – physically – around the neck and shake him a bit until he came to his senses. As is, I had to settle for imagining doing it to him after he got back into his own body. Maybe with a bit of cursing for flavor. Cursing in Latin.
The druid stumbled off. He was really not paying attention to where he was going now. Behind us, Jeremy was kneeling over the unconscious man and taking out his cellphone. Another awkward visit to the hospital. I hoped he wasn't too badly hurt. We weren't supposed to drink to the point they required a transfusion. Hopefully Jeremy could smooth this over with some phone calls to the vampire elders. It was amazing what loads of cash could do for a situation.
Martin didn't notice when the lights vanished. The moon and stars were still there but any modern light was gone. The glow on the horizon was black and the distant pinpoint that was the farmhouse simply blinked out. I felt fear of my own growing. There was an odd scent in the air – like burning. Like a forest was on fire with all the soot and smoke removed, leaving only a clean scent that wasn't entirely unpleasant behind. Then Martin was brought to a halt because there were people around us, arranged in a semi-circle with hoods pulled up to hide faces in shadow.
No, not people. Fairies.
They looked human. They didn't smell human. I was bewildered. I wasn't sure what my senses were telling me. There wasn't even the familiar hunger to classify them as predator or prey. They simply were and that did not fit into my view of the world.
"Martin," the one in the middle of the circle said. It was a male voice – I think.
"My apologies for trespassing like this," Martin replied, quickly dropping to his knees and bowing his head. He bowed low, putting his hands on the ground and almost touching the earth with his forehead. "I did not know what else to do and this impacts more than just me."
"We know," the fairy replied serenely, walking forwards. I could only see the hem of his robe. "That is why we responded so quickly. Else we would have let you struggle and find your own way. But this body you took..."
His fingertips brushed the top of my head. My head. I shuddered at the touch and felt a distinct separation now – Martin's thoughts were cut off from mine and I could no longer feel his emotions. I was alone and laid bare before the fairies and they looked at me with cold eyes and alien thoughts. The fairy lifted his hand and the sensation was gone and once again Martin and I shared the same body.
"Perhaps before we would have shunned you for involving these immortals," the fairy said. He seemed to be sighing. "But there are so few and you are still so young. This is the fourth mistake I allow you."
Now there was amusement in his voice. I wondered what the first three mistakes were and made a note to ask him when I got control of my body back. The fairy continued speaking.
"It is a testament to your friendship that Teresa has not cast you adrift. A vampire allowing another to control their body is unheard of. We respect that."
And then he knelt and gripped Martin's face between both hands. There was that horrible tingling sensation but this time it came from somewhere other than Martin. It had a sense of wholeness to it, that the maddening twisting was somehow right. I no longer felt the urge to claw at my own skin but neither did I find the sensation pleasant to endure. It simply was. Then I was pressed flat against the ground on my belly, limbs limp and sprawled about me and I was sucking in a breath of air I did not entirely need.
Martin was gone.
I trembled as I got to my knees. For a moment I considered staying there, as Martin had, but I told myself that I too was an immortal. An equal, of sorts. I got to my feet, swaying, and found the fairies still ringed about me. I met the eyes of their leader. He stared back from eyes so dark I almost thought they were empty sockets.
"Where is he?" I asked. My words came with difficulty.
"I have him," the fairy replied, "and will escort him back to his body myself."
"He'll be alright?"
"Yes. Now turn and go. We do not like intruders upon our land."
I hesitated. The fairy gave me a severe glance, predator to predator. I was not welcome here.
"So, Martin is... can he see me?"
"Yes." The fairy was curt. He wouldn't be patient for much longer.
And I gave the fairy a disdainful look, grabbed both breasts with my hands and bounced them twice, then stuck out my tongue and spun on my heel to stalk off.
If Martin's friends were going to be pissy to me than I wanted him to know exactly what he was missing out on.