She watched him walk on the beach, careful to keep hidden for now. She had to make sure this one was right for her.
He walked closer to her hiding place, and she barely restrained the gasp. Such loneliness.... such pain....
She would bide her time... study him a bit longer.....
But she would have him.
Pain that deep held the promise of many meals to come.
MacLaren licked his lips as he put the glass down and opened their front door, silencing the pounding. "Hullo?"
Helen blinked at him. "We have reservations at La Paloma in half an hour and you're not even dressed!"
Blinking, MacLaren looked down at his pajamas. Then he smiled. "I'm no' Davy, Helen."
"Oh?" Then she blushed, laughing. "Oh! You're his cousin, right? The one from Scotland?"
"That's right. I'm in my sleeps cause I work nights and just got up." He smiled. "I'll go get Davy for you."
"Thank you, I appreciate it," she smiled.
MacLaren walked into the bedroom and lifted both the blue and green jackets out of Davy's hands. "Hey!" Davy gasped.
MacLaren settled a red jacket over his double's shoulders. "You've reservations at La Paloma in half an hour. Your date's here."
"She's here? Am I okay? I-I mean..."
Peter chuckled. "You're fine. Get going." He and MacLaren followed Davy out of the bedroom.
Davy kissed Helen on the cheek. "You look absolutely lovely, my dear."
"Thank you, Davy-- you look nice, too. Are you ready to go?"
He crooked his arm for her. "Most definitely."
Helen put her hand in his arm and smiled at MacLaren. "It was nice to finally meet you. Oh, by the by, you might wanna get rid of the tomato juice."
MacLaren's eyes flicked to the glass on the table. The volume of red liquid was noticeably lower. "Tomato....juice?"
Helen nodded. "I think it's going bad. It tasted almost like blood."
"Let's go, shall we?" Davy said hastily. They made their departure after hasty goodbyes.
MacLaren walked over and picked up the glass. "Next time I'm putting this in the refrigerator." He drained it in one gulp as Peter grinned at him.
Mike came down the stairs -- or more accurately, staggered down the stairs. Peter gasped and grabbed his arm while MacLaren literally flew to the bathroom.
As Peter guided Mike to the couch, he asked softly, "What is it?"
Smiling his thanks at MacLaren, Mike downed the aspirin the vampyre brought him. With a sigh, he leaned his head against the back of the couch and closed his eyes. "That chick...."
"Helen," Peter nodded. "Davy's date."
"Davy likes her a lot," Mike whispered, shaking his head sadly. "But she's scared of him."
"Scared of him?" Peter gasped, mindful of Mike's headache. "Why on earth ---"
"I was afraid of this," MacLaren sighed.
Mike opened one eye and looked at him. "Okay, hotshot, you said that when these things started showin' up in us. Spill it."
"Davy's Gift," the vampyre said gently, "has begun to exact its Price."
La Paloma wasn't the most expensive Mexican restaurant in Malibu, but it was good enough to rate waiters and sit-down service. As they were led to their table, Davy caught himself surreptitiously scanning the restaurant, studying the people.
With a mental shake, he brought himself back. Enough, Jones, he chided himself sharply. Put away the Weapons-Master bit and just relax. You're at a nice restaurant with a lovely lady -- focus on HER, not on everyone else!
"Davy?" Helen asked. "Where did you go?"
"My mind went on a little jaunt," he told her truthfully as he pushed her chair in. "And it left my body quite in the lurch." He moved to his own seat and took her hand. "This is nice."
"I... I'm glad." She smiled a watery smile and toyed with her napkin.
"Helen?" Davy squeezed her hand after a moment and her eyes rose to his. He smiled. "Now whose mind's gone on holiday?"
"Sorry," she said, disentangling her hand and picking up the menu. "My, such a variety... What would you like, Davy?"
"An explanation would be nice."
Helen looked over the menu at his confused, hurt expression. "An...explanation?"
He nodded. "You've been colder than an iceberg towards me all evening long. Have I done something to upset you?"
Heaving a sigh, she put down the menu. "It's not that you've done anything, Davy..." she began.
And a woman screamed to the accompaniment of breaking china and glass. Before he could even think, Davy was on his feet and moving toward the scream.
He was nearly bowled over by a wild-eyed teenage boy. Recovering his balance, Davy ran after him, seeing the night deposit bag clutched tightly in the boy's hand.
Once more, Davy didn't even think. One hand unbuckled his leather belt with the ornate buckle and slid it from the loops, while the other one unbuckled his watch from his wrist. Not breaking stride, he swiftly tied the watch to the free end of the belt, then whirled the contraption three times before letting it fly.
Somehow, he'd perfectly balanced both ends, turning a belt and watch into a very efficient bolo. It wrapped around the would-be thief's calves and brought his flight to a screeching and painful halt.
It was over in seconds. La Paloma's manager retrieved his moneybag, the police had their man in custody, and one of the cops handed Davy back his makeshift bolo. Davy shook his head at himself as he broke it down and donned his watch and belt once more.
As he buckled his belt, he turned and smiled. "Helen!"
She was standing behind him -- and she wasn't smiling. "Davy...."
His smile faded. "Helen, what's wrong?"
"I can't do this," she blurted, her voice thick with tears. “What if you turn that skill on me?"
Davy blinked. "Helen... it's not like that...."
"I've already called a cab,” she said shakily. "I can't do this, Davy. I can't." Tears fell as she spun on her heel and walked away.
He just stood there, staring after her in mute disbelief.
Every Gift has a Price, rang through his mind in MacLaren's voice. A Weapons-Master is a rare and precious Gift -- but the Price is high.
Davy bowed his head and for the first time, felt the crushing pain of this Gift's Price pressing down on him.
"It's been days," Peter sighed as he looked out the window at Davy's morose form down on the beach. "I'm getting worried."
"It takes time to get over someone you care about, Peter," Mike said without thinking. Then he flared bright red. "Big-Mouth Nesmith -- open mouth, insert leg."
Peter shook his head, grinning. Mike blushing was a rare sight. The grin faded as he looked back down the beach. "I wouldn't be so bugged if he'd not stopped talking."
"Not talking?" MacLaren groaned as he came out of the bedroom. "Oh, that's not god at all."
"Talk to him?" Peter asked.
A nod, and the vampyre launched into the night.
"Would you like to go flying?"
Davy looked up. MacLaren was hovering next to him, in full vampyre mode.
"Come on, it'll clear your head." He held out his hands.
Slowly, Davy shook his head and curled up tighter.
With a sigh, MacLaren touched down beside his double and resumed his human features. "Davy..."
"Davy... your Gift's Price..."
Davy shot to his feet and jammed his hands in his pockets. "Some bloody Gift." His voice was rough from days of silence. "So where do I go to give it back?"
"You.... can't, Davy."
"Watch me." And he stormed down the beach.
With a heavy sigh, MacLaren watched him go.
Another set of eyes watched Davy go as well -- eyes the color of the ocean. Davy's loneliness rolled off him in waves, and the feelings were absolutely delicious!
The owner of the ocean-colored eyes slid from her perch and into the water, a plan already forming.
She had to have that luscious loneliness. That soul-deep sadness. That enduring emptiness. She just had to!
Properly maintained, the small man's powerhouse emotions would keep her fed for months.
Davy walked along the beach, lost in his own thoughts. It took him a few moments to realise he was hearing singing. Cocking his head, he wondered where it was coming from.
Once he had the direction, he followed it. The song was in a language he'd never heard before -- it sounded like a combination of an operatic aria and the most melodic rock ballad he'd ever heard.
It was absolutely beautiful.
When he turned the corner round an outcropping of rocks, Davy stopped short, arrested by the sight before him.
She sat on the rocks, the waves seeming to worship her as they broke upon her bare feet. Her sea-blue minidress was damp from the spray and clung in all the right places. She looked out over the breaking waves; serenading them in her pure, clear soprano as she combed her long pale blonde hair with a coral comb.
She turned and smiled at Davy. Still singing, she put down her comb and held out her hand toward him.
Davy moved toward her, reaching out for her. He began to remember Helen, her public rejection of him -- the pain, the loneliness, the embarrassment, the pure emotional....pain.
It swelled within him until his entire being, his entire reality was nothing but the emotional pain. The closer he drew to her, the more pain he felt. Tears were rolling down his cheeks, he could feel himself drawing hitching breaths -- but it took a few moments to realise the sobs in his ears were his. The closer he got to her, the worse it hurt -- but he couldn't seem to stop himself.
She was still singing. As he came closer to her, the agony flowed into her. Her face became a picture of pure bliss.
Twin screams rent the air inside the Pad. MacLaren started awake and automatically whirled to check on Peter.
The bed was empty. Made. He looked over at the clock: seven PM -- after dark. He ran to the living room, where Peter was finishing a scream.
Peter was on the couch, shaking. It appeared he'd dozed off watching TV and a dream had jolted him awake. MacLaren took in his paleness, trembling and sweating and asked, "One of your psychic dreams?" Even as he asked, he was pouring orange juice to counter Peter's hypoglycemia.
Peter nodded, holding the glass with both hands as he drank. "Davy..." he whispered.
"What about Davy?" MacLaren asked gently.
Peter shook his head. "Pain...agonizing pain... emo-emotional agony..."
At that moment, Micky came down the stairs supporting a visibly-hurting Mike. "We got aspirin into him," he told MacLaren softly.
Mike held onto the railing and raised his eyes. "Pete? You...dream?"
"About Davy, yes," Peter said, drinking the last of the orange juice and setting the glass on the table. "He was on the beach ... in horrible agony..."
"Go," Mike said sharply. "Get out there -- now."
"Now?" Micky asked him, puzzled.
Mike nodded painfully. "He's in agony... right now."
There was no hesitation. Not even for a second. MacLaren shot through the open back door. Peter, full in what they affectionately termed "Daddy-mode", was right behind him, arms and legs churning as fast and as hard as he could make them go.
Pure bliss suffused her features and warmed her down to her very bones. It was all she could do to keep singing, keep the suffering man moving closer. It would have been so easy to stop the song and surrender to the ecstasy she felt.
But if she stopped singing, Davy would stop moving. That was the last thing she needed. Once she had him in her literal grasp, she would take him to a cave and seal him in. Then she could feed from him as often as she chose.
Oh, yes, she thought giddily. Oh, yes, he is DELICIOUS... This one will sate me for MONTHS before I reduce him to a dried-out husk on the waves... The note she hit changed to a low, ecstatic moan at the thought.
The song resumed, and so did Davy's pain-filled, laborious walk. Her song rose in notes of triumph as she reached for him and he reached for her. Their hands were a mere whisper apart now.
All that was needed was for Davy to take one more step. Just one. Consumed by emotional pain so severe it had robbed him of the ability to think rationally, Davy's foot raised to take that final fateful step.
A blond blur slammed into Davy, knocking him sideways into the sand. A pair of strong legs wrapped around Davy's waist and strong hands gripped his shoulders, rolling both of them away from the rocks.
Shocked, Davy blinked into his rescuer's face. "P...Peter?!"
She stood with a roar, then began to sing again, a smile spreading. Two delicious meals -- the blond had a darkness as luscious as the small one.... Confidently, she sang louder.
Pain crossed Davy's face. His head began to turn toward the music once more....
CRACK!! Peter moved with the speed of a striking snake, slamming the heels of both hands into Davy's ears with all his strength.
Davy screamed as the singing and the waves' crashing vanished behind a constant indefinable roar. "Peter, what did you just do?!" he screeched, unable to control the volume of his voice.
Peter shook his head and pointed to where the singer was. Davy followed his finger and screamed again, scuttling backward.
The beautiful singer had completely changed. With the roaring in his ears masking her spell, Davy saw her as she truly was. And what she was wasn't even remotely human. From the waist up, she was vaguely a humanoid woman, but her hair was stringy and sea-foam green. From the waist down, she was a gigantic snake. Her eyes blazed coral fire and her huge fanged mouth gaped open.
She lunged toward the pair, but found herself lifted, carried, and dropped onto the sand. Whirling, she saw MacLaren descend beside her. In a rage, she lunged at him, only to have him fling sand onto her.
Before the others' eyes, her hand withered slightly where the dry material hit it. Peter looked at Davy. Davy looked at Peter. In unison, they nodded.
And in unison, they lunged toward the struggling pair. They flung handful after handful of sand on the creature, feeling the air itself vibrate with her screams of pain and rage.
Her skin became dry and leathery. Her movements became feeble. MacLaren forced sand down her throat, and then he nodded at Peter.
Peter nodded back and raised his hands to his head, removing the earplugs he'd been wearing. Davy blinked at him and began to smile. "So that's how you were able --" he shouted, still unable to truly hear.
Smiling, Peter nodded. "Is it over?" he asked MacLaren.
"Almost," came the answer. "Go get the others. We need to bury her -- make sure no water can touch her. Then it'll be over."
"How're you doin'?" Mike asked as he sat beside Davy and handed him a cup of tea.
Davy smiled his thanks as he took the warm mug in both hands and sipped it before answering. "Better," he said, his accent thick from fatigue. "At least I can hear again."
"Sorry about that," Peter grinned sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck. "I had earplugs for you, but there just wasn't time..."
"I know," Davy sighed and sipped his drink again. "I can still hear that music in my mind. It hurt so badly, but I couldn't stop myself...."
"That's the way her kind's brand of magic works," MacLaren said, snagging a bottle from the fridge and sagging into the chair as he drank deeply.
"Her kind," Davy said softly, shivering at the memory of her true form. "MacLaren, what was she?"
MacLaren took a deep breath and let it out in a whistling sigh. "A type of vampyre called a siryn."
Micky frowned. "I thought there was only one kind."
"No, there are several. A siryn is one that cannot survive on dry land. Their food isn't blood -- it's strong negative emotions. They find loneliness and pain very appealing."
Davy winced. "And thanks to my being a Weapons-Master---"
"You're the blue plate special," Mike sighed. "MacLaren, there has to be some way to counteract his Price."
MacLaren frowned. "Counteract?"
"Yeah, like we counteract Peter's with food and Mike's with aspirin," Micky said. "Speaking of which, I need to get more when I go to town tomorrow."
"And yours by our friendship," Peter said, earning him one of Micky's sunniest smiles.
"Friendship..." Davy said thoughtfully.
Peter nodded. "Friend..." Then he began to smile. "Guys... your friendship eased my pain...do you think--?"
They looked at each other, then one by one, they hugged Davy without saying a word.
Even stoic Mike.
Davy wept healing tears. The Price he had to bear suddenly seemed ---
Out on the beach, the tide swelled to its highest level. The sand cairn fell to its sweeping fingers.
The twisted, broken shell beneath it moved with the force of the waves. It shimmered and then began to glow as the water lapped over it.
When the glow died, a half-snake, half-human child opened its eyes and sat up, babbling.
She laughed in pure delight as the waves lifted her and carried her to the ocean, closing at last over the greenish-blonde head.
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