Paul Viersan was driving away from a satisfactory meeting with a new client – a senior executive at a General Motors who wanted to keep his savings out of the hands of the taxman – and he felt moderately pleased with himself.
Life was going well, with money rolling in at a satisfying pace, and Denver relatively undisturbed by what was showing every sign of being the beginning of Gehenna. The only problem in his life was Rachel.
She says she can’t escape me, he thought. Has she ever thought that I can’t seem to escape her? Probably not, he decided. Rachel was a very self centered being, and not given to thinking of anyone but herself and her needs.
Damn it all. I wasn’t ready for her memories to return just yet. Paul winced at his memory of the past week. After Rachel’s enlightenment, she had alternated between blaming him for her entire situation and desperately clinging to him for support. He felt his control of the situation slipping and that bothered him.
His own selfish needs of this situation were very simple. He wanted Yvette Collier, a woman who he could shape into his own protégé – strong, powerful and beholden to no one but him. Now his dream was evaporating and he could see only one way to save it – but he wasn’t going to follow that course unless she asked him. Yvette had to tread this path by herself, to become truly strong. He couldn’t manipulate her situation any further than he already had, not without her permission.
His car’s phone chirped, demanding his attention. As always, he gave quiet thanks for hands-free phones, as he had nearly driven into a tree any number of times when trying to close a deal while clutching a celphone behind the wheel. Paul expected it to be the man he had just left, or perhaps one of his informants calling in with news of the Toreador art show that was happening that night.
“Paul?” It was Rachel, her voice faint and distant. He could hear noise in the background, a white noise that he couldn’t identify, but it was Rachel’s tone that caused a prickling of alarm.
“Yes, Rachel.” He replied calmly.
“Paul. I need…” her voice trailed away for a moment, struggling for words. “I’m running a bath.” She said suddenly, her voice stronger but brittle. “With jasmine oil. I’ve always liked jasmine…” again, her voice trailed away.
Paul wondered if this was another outbreak of hysteria, or something more. Heeding his instincts, he made a U-turn and began driving towards Rachel’s home, almost twenty miles away.
“Yes, I know you like jasmine.” Paul said levelly. “But why are you calling at eleven o’clock at night to tell me this?” Silence. “Rachel?” he asked sharply.
“I’ve got some flowers, tulips, in a vase by the sink,” She replied, her tone detached. “Red and purple ones.” Rachel continued.
“That’s nice.” He encouraged her. “I didn’t know you liked flowers.” Keep her talking. “Did you get those today?”
“Yes, this afternoon.” She replied. “They’re next to the knife.” Her voice cracked on the last word.
“What knife, Rachel?” Paul asked, as he accelerated and kept an eye on the radar detector mounted on his dashboard.
“It’s one of my throwing knives.” She replied, voice trembling. “It’s the sharpest I’ve got, so I don’t think it’ll hurt too much. Certainly not as much as when my fingers were torn off…” she mused.
Shit! Paul abandoned the rules of the road and pushed his car as hard as he could. It would still be at least another five minutes before he reached her home.
Rachel’s voice was a thin whisper of despair. “I don’t want to do this. But I just can’t cope.”
“Rachel, I’m driving over to your place right now.” Paul’s voice was fierce. “You mustn’t hurt yourself.”
“Why not?” she asked, sulky and petulant. “Everyone else has. Even you. Just living hurts.” She sighed.
“Why not? Because I’m asking you not to.” He honestly didn’t know what else to say.
“There’s nothing left for me,” She declared defiantly. “I’ve been betrayed and ruined and I’m not even me anymore. I can’t pretend to not know what I do. I can’t be what I was before and I can’t be anything else. You shouldn’t have let me remember.” She accused him, suddenly angry.
“It wasn’t something I had control over.” Paul half-lied, taking an off-ramp too quickly and just barely missing a battered pickup truck as he turned onto the main road. The always-calculating part of his mind took note of her words, and knew that they would be remembered when most vital.
“For once.” Rachel sighed. “Were you laughing at me, this past year?” she asked suddenly. “I think I’d like to know, before…” The churning noise in the background – running bathwater, Paul assumed – ended suddenly.
“Before I knock down your door and shake some sense into you?” Paul growled angrily. It was the wrong thing to say, he was sure, but his temper was fraying.
“That would follow form.” Rachel agreed solemnly.
“Damn it, I didn’t mean that.” Another half lie. “No, I was not laughing at you. I never did.” That much was true. “For once in your existence, Rachel, will you pull your head out of the sand and believe me?”
“I always have.” She whispered suddenly. “It’s why I hated you so much.”
Encourage her to hurl invective at me, he decided. She’s always enjoyed that, and it might keep that knife out of her hands.
“The world hates an honest man.” Paul agreed. “And I made you face truths about yourself that you weren’t going to admit otherwise.” Unbidden, a memory of one of their nights together before Rachel’s wedding, came to mind and demanded to be savored for a moment. Yes, and some admissions are more enjoyable than others.
He could hear her trembling. “You convinced me to choose the truth.” Scorn dripped from her voice as she recalled games of choice in Toronto, Lyons, Oakland.
Almost there - he was on her street now. “And you’re wiser for it, Rachel.”
“Sadder, wiser, but not exactly older.” She laughed a brittle little laugh and sighed. “Are you coming?” she whispered suddenly.
“Yes, I am.” How did I suddenly fall under her control? He wondered.
Paul pulled haphazardly into the driveway of Rachel’s modest house and ran for the front door. The car was left behind, door open and engine running, and Paul didn’t give it a second thought.
Viersan made good on his promise to knock the door down, shoving it in with one brutal push and before the door was even fully open, trailing shards of frame and lock behind it, Paul was inside the house, striding towards her bathroom.
The scene was as she described. The meticulously tidy room was full of steam and the scent of jasmine. A cheap glass vase was filled with a dozen tulips on the counter, a black-bladed throwing knife gleaming dully at its side. Rachel herself was sitting on the edge of the tub, wearing a satin bathrobe with a wireless phone at her feet and an expression that mingled relief and fear on her face.
Rachel reached a hand towards him, and then thought better of it, pulling further into herself, instead
Paul stood there for several seconds, staring down at her and thinking quickly. Rachel watched him silently, her eyes dark and face drawn.
“Get in the tub.” He said suddenly.
Rachel was startled. “What?” She had expected fury, or a scolding. Not this.
“You heard me. Get in the tub.” He repeated. “You’ve gone to the trouble of drawing it, so you might as well take it.” He noticed a faint blush on Rachel’s face. “It’s far too late for modesty. Get in.” he ordered.
Not knowing what else to do, Rachel shrugged off her robe and climbed into the deep bathtub, unable to suppress a slight sigh at the feel of warm water on her skin.
“Good.” Paul nodded, looking around for a suitable vessel. The toothbrush mug, he decided. Tossing the steel tumbler’s lone occupant into the sink and taking it in hand, Paul kneeled down beside the tub. Rachel watched curiously as he pulled off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves and dipped the toothbrush mug into the bath water.
“Lean back. Close your eyes.” He warned her, pouring the warm water on her head. Rachel didn’t see much point in arguing, so she followed Paul’s directions as he soaked her hair.
“Why are you-“ Rachel’s curiosity finally broke the silence a minute later.
“Shush.” Paul chided her, lathering shampoo into her hair. “I’m just giving you a bath. You don’t need to know why.” He felt her tremble slightly at that and wondered if she feared one of his old games. “You need to rinse that.” Paul decided. “Just lean back into the water, it’ll be easier.”
Rachel followed his directions, sliding down into the tub so that she half-floated, face up, eyes closed and she gently swayed as she rinsed her hair.
Moving quickly, Paul placed one hand on her forehead, another on her chest and pushed her face beneath the water. A moment of frozen shock was replaced by a fierce struggling as Rachel fought to bring her face back to the air, but Paul had the advantage of leverage and strength and he easily kept her down, ignoring the water that soaked him and his clothes. His expression – could she have seen it – was calm, and his lips moved slightly as he counted seconds to himself.
Twenty seconds later, he released the struggling woman and allowed her to sit up swiftly, gasping and coughing for air.
Before she could say a word, Paul declared. “Not quite so ready to die, are you?”
“That’s different.” Rachel rasped, unthinking, but Paul could see realization dawning on her face even as she spoke.
“No it isn’t.” Paul contradicted her. “If you really want to die, it wouldn’t matter whose hand does the killing.”
Rachel stared at him, horrified at what he had just done to her, but understanding his point. She muttered a curse, her face crumpling into tears.
Paul sighed. “The world hates an honest man.” He repeated, moving to pull Rachel out of the tub.
At first, she flinched away from his touch, but a moment’s persistence won out, and she allowed him to take her out of the water and wrap a towel around her. She leaned against him, still crying despite her best attempts to compose herself, and Paul wondered if this might be the time to break one of his own rules. No, he decided. She has to think of her own solutions.
Paul led her out of the bathroom and into her bedroom, sitting her down on the bed and wrapping a blanket around her.
Rachel stared at him, eyes wide, finally speaking to him in a voice raw with emotion. “Make me forget.” She asked hoarsely.
“What?” Paul couldn’t believe he had heard her correctly. Was she actually asking what he had hoped for?
“I can’t be her and me.” Rachel muttered. “She was a vampire, and I’m not. She hated you. I don’t. I can’t be both of us, it’s driving me insane.”
Paul nodded. “Go on.”
“I hate it, but I’ll lose my mind if things stay the way they are.” She declared dully. “Make me forget Rachel. Make me Yvette again.” She took a deep breath and forced the words out. “Your Yvette.”
Paul struggled to contain his expression of triumph. She is! She’s asking me without coercion. The choice is entirely hers!
“Why?” Paul asked quietly, having already agreed to it in his heart.
Rachel sighed. “You looked after me, for a year. No,” she amended. “You helped me. You tried to find a reason behind my amnesia, you found me work, you tried to rebuild my personality-,” a slightly twisted smile at that, “Albeit in your image.” She lost herself in thought for a moment. “You were shaping me, weren’t you? That lost potential of ’41.” She guessed.
Paul nodded. There was no point in lying.
“I thought so. And all week I’ve been thinking that being your…apprentice… is the best option I have. The old Rachel hated you like poison, and I keep trying to hate you, for everything I remember…but I can’t.”
Paul didn’t care about Rachel’s meandering reasons behind her desires but he was willing to let her talk them out.
“I’m glad.” Paul admitted, sitting down beside her. “I want Yvette back, too. She was happy, in her way.” And entirely mine.
“Could I…could I have some of my memories.” Rachel asked wistfully. “My father, my brother?”
Paul nodded. It would be tricky, but not impossible.
“That would be good.” Rachel sighed, closing her eyes. “I was very happy, then.”
Paul watched her drift into an exhausted sleep, and finally he could allow himself a smile of satisfaction. Rachel’s hysteria and inability to cope with emotional stress had served him well, as it always did. Within a few days, he would have his Yvette again…
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