Patricia And Michael

        Patricia's mind whirled as she sat in her basement, waiting for Michael.
        She still barely understood what had happened. The last thing she clearly remembered was sitting in a bug-ridden transient hotel in Berkeley, drinking cheap vodka and swallowing sedatives she had taken from her office before fleeing the imminent arrival of the police. She had written a few bitter, regretful words on the pharmacy bag and was waiting for oblivion. Oblivion would mean a cessation of the memories of anger, a flashing knife and the spatter of blood that had marked the end of Patricia's nascent career as a surgeon. 
    Oblivion arrived, but not in the form she expected.
        He said his name was Michael. He had walked into the room like he belonged there - although his immaculate, expensive clothes suggested otherwise - and told her that he was going to help her into a new life. He had leaned close to her as he said that - “A whole new life, Patricia.” She had wondered, in a vague way, how he knew her, why he wanted to help her. Then something happened, he did something to her...the memories returned reluctantly.
      She had awoken in this basement. He was waiting for her then, too. Patricia was uncertain how much time had passed, but Michael's clothes were unchanged, so she hoped it hadn't been long.  Through her fear and the questions she wanted to ask, she was aware of one thing, her hunger. She could barely think because of it.
        And then...his bloody wrist held before her. The blood had smelled good, tasted, pungent and real. She didn't want to think about it, but the image remained, hovering in her mind. The slightly metallic, ambrosia slipperiness of it as she had swallowed. She knew she wanted more.
      And he said he was coming back. He promised he'd give me more. He promised, he promised. She kept telling herself. Her thoughts darted without focus. Will he be back soon? How long has it been? 
        Vampire, vampire, vampire. I'm a vampire, he said. I drink blood, I know I do. I did.
Panic welled. Oh Jesus, no. Let this be a morphine dream. Morphine… Oh God I need... She groaned aloud.
      Her thoughts whirled away as she became aware of another craving similar to what she knew was bloodlust. But unlike the need for blood, this yearning was all too familiar. The empty needing that withdrawal brings. She had tried to quit sedating herself several times in the past, but the empty ache, the hypersensitivity always drove her to return to medicated numbness. Patricia curled up tighter against herself. The whisper of pipe buried in the wall grated against her ears, the scrape of furniture above her was a painfully loud shock. I can hear everything. She closed her eyes against enclosing walls. I'm seeing too much. I know too much. 
        “What do I do now?” The sound of her own voice surprised her. It sounded too loud, unfamiliar, wrong. “What do I do now?” she repeated, louder. Maybe Michael would hear her. Maybe he would come and give her more of what she wanted. Maybe I'll wake up. “What do I do now?” She was shouting now. “Michael! What the fuck do I do now I'm a monster?
     The cellar door opened. Silhouetted in dim light - even that hurt Patricia's eyes - Michael looked down at her.
     “You do whatever you like, Patricia.” his voice was soothing and Patricia relaxed slightly, despite her disquiet. “That's the point. I said I'd give you a whole new life, and I did. You're only a monster if you want to be.” Michael descended the stairs. “Do you want to be a monster?” he asked her mildly.
     Patricia shook her head violently, retreating into silence.
     “Of course not.” He smiled warmly, comfortably sitting down on the floor beside her, silently assessing her.
     Although she was hardly better than the wreck he had carried out of a filthy hotel room, he knew that would change  – under his tutelage, of course. The Embrace was always difficult for his childer and Michael felt ready to deal with any problems this fledgling might present.
     Staring back at him, Patricia saw a man apparently in his late thirties, his expression intelligent and alert. Short brown hair framed an oval face that was saved from effeminacy by a strong jaw. There was something almost feline in his manner, a sharpness to his eyes, but it was beyond Patricia's understanding - for now.
     “You're scared, aren't you, and confused?” a slightly paternal - possessive, Patricia thought - tone, now. She nodded again. “Well, I'll be taking care of that, very soon. Trust me.” Patricia didn't know what to think about that, and she certainly didn't know what to say. 
        Michael noticed her silence. “You're going to have to speak to me eventually, you know.” He was still smiling indulgently. He stroked her cheek. “But your face speaks volumes. It tells me of your hunger.” His hand moved down her jaw, across her chin. “I know a lot about hunger. For blood…and other things.”
     Patricia's eyes widened in alarm. How much does he know about me? “I know a lot about you, Patricia.” Patricia blinked, surprised. Could he hear her thoughts, too? No answer was forthcoming. “More, I think, than you know about yourself.” he continued. “Especially of your need to cause pain.”
     A small whimper escaped Patricia, fear and surprise on her face. Michael nodded - as if this reaction had been expected - and leaned in close to her. “I understand that need, and I can help you, in many ways,” he insisted. “If you need blood, Patricia, and I know you do, you're going to have to cause pain to get it. From me, from anyone, that's the way it is. Pain brings you blood, and blood brings power.” He was even closer now, whispering in her ear. “If you need anything Patricia, you have to take it.” His head turned slightly towards her. “Show me you can do that.” 
     Patricia gasped, a weak, strangled sound. What is he trying to do? She could sense the answer, but she didn't dare face it. 
       ”Show me that you can cause the pain and take the blood,” his voice was still gentle, but the command was unmistakable.
     The last vestiges of rational thought fled. Patricia sank her fangs into her sire's throat and drank. Michael groaned involuntarily and she felt a frission of satisfaction. Finally, something she understood.
     This time, she was allowed to slake her thirst entirely. Still not sure of why she knew what to do, she licked the wound closed, and leaned away. Her mind was still awhirl, but at least he had taken care of one of her overpowering cravings. Gratitude easily overwhelmed disgust, Patricia realized.
     Michael's collar was stained by a trickle of blood that had escaped her, and he seemed somewhat paler, but Trish wondered if that was her imagination. She smiled at him.
     “Thank you, Michael.” She said, finally.
     He smiled back at her, not bothering to hide a triumphant expression. “You're welcome, Patricia.”



        Patricia shook. Several days had passed since Michael's last visit, and it had been longer than that since had swallowed her last Valium. She was irritable, hungry and bored. The boredom struck her as faintly ludicrous, but it couldn't be denied. The basement in which she was confined was a featureless, furniture-less box and the copy of Gray's Anatomy that Michael had thrown down the stairs two nights ago wasn't her idea of light reading. She had memorized most of it years ago, and the passage of time had not make the dry text any more engaging. Even tearing pages out of the sizable book and creating increasingly complex pieces of origami had failed to alleviate her boredom for long.
     When is Michael going to come and see me again? She wondered. Is he ever going to let me out of here? He said he would, but he didn't say when. Patricia felt slightly guilty at doubting him. Michael seems to know what he's doing, she grasped at the reassuring thought. I've got to trust him. I haven't got anyone else. The idea of being alone didn't bother her. It hadn't throughout her isolated childhood and detached adolescence - it wasn't about to, now. But she was hungry!
     The basement door opened. Speak of the devil; she almost smiled as she looked upwards.
     Michael wasn't alone. Trailing behind him down the cellar stairs was a young boy, no older than eighteen. He and Michael were a study in contrasts. As usual, her Sire was immaculately turned out - he does love those Versace suits, Patricia thought wryly - and his sharp eyes missed nothing. Trailing behind her, the dead-eyed youngster reeked of dried sweat and bad living. Patricia wrinkled her nose at the odor and wondered if her sharpened senses would ever dull. 
     “Good evening, Patricia.” Michael greeted her politely.
     She nodded a scant acknowledgement. “I suppose so. Who's that?” she asked.
     “Ah, how perceptive you are.” Michael congratulated his childe, ignoring her frown of irritation. “This is Dave.” Michael turned to him. “Sit down, Dave.” 
        The boy did so, apparently unperturbed by the cold concrete floor, and stared dully at Patricia. She saw dark circles under his eyes, standing out against pale skin. She also noticed his malnourished build and long sleeves hiding skinny arms. Oh no, she thought, Michael didn't...
     “You might have noticed, with your keen medical eye, that David here isn't in the best of health. Did you?” Michael's tone was playful.
     “Yeah.” Trish replied quietly, hoping her disquiet wasn't obvious.
     “Tut.” Michael shook his head. “You should speak clearly, Patricia.” he reproved.
     “Is it that important to you?” she asked.
     “Yes it is that important.” Michael replied, a hint of steel in his voice. “Words are the core of thought, and thought of action. Speak sloppily and your actions will be sloppy also.” He pronounced sententiously.
     Patricia nodded. Agreement was easier than any alternative. “Alright. So what's Dave doing here?” His predicament interested her far more than any of Michael's philosophies. 
     “I found Dave in Oakland, begging for enough change for his next fix.” Patricia inhaled sharply. “Something wrong, my dear?” Michael asked her. “No matter.” he continued. “He thinks I've paid him for some perverted purpose of my own. Not so. He's here for you, Patricia.” Patricia retreated a little at that statement, not liking the hard undertone to Michael's banter.
     Meanwhile, David said nothing throughout. Instead, he stared into space and occasionally shivered. Michael reached into a pocket in his overcoat and withdrew a paper lunch bag. Both Patricia and David stared at it.
     Michael crouched down in front of the young addict. “Now, David, this is for you, a little treat.” he dangled the bag like one would tease a dog with a treat. “Good stuff, I promise you.” Michael handed the bag over and smilingly watched as Dave opened it with shaking hands. Some small items spilled onto the floor, items Patricia recognized immediately – the small baggie, a metal spoon, a lighter. “Now,” Michael spoke while Dave cooked a dose with focused determination, “if you need a hand, just ask Patricia. She'll be happy to help.”
     Michael stood and looked at Patricia expectantly. She had moved towards the other two, torn between disgust and curiosity. “All yours, Patricia.” Michael declared.
     “You don't're not expecting me to...?” she couldn't quite ask the question.
     “Expect? I expect nothing, Patricia.” he replied easily. “What you do is up to you.” Michael faced her. “Like I've said before. I know a lot about you, and I pride myself on anticipating my childer's needs. Isn't that considerate of me?” He smiled.
     Patricia didn't know whether to laugh or scream. “Kill two birds with one stone, is that it?” she asked hesitantly. She was torn between disgust and admiration. Her growing hunger was making the decision difficult.
     “Yes!” his pleasure in her statement was clear. “That's it exactly! Take care of all your needs at once. The blood, the drugs and the pain.”
     Trish barely heard him. Her attention was fixed upon David's clumsy attempts to find a vein that hadn't collapsed. Then she was next to him, sitting beside him. “Let me help.” she insisted. She pulled a shoelace from his sneaker, improvised a tourniquet upon his arm and raised a vein. “There.” She took the needle from David's shaking hand and injected him. David sighed and closed his eyes. “All better.” Patricia sighed sympathetically; she knew exactly how he felt. “You poor idiot.”
     Patricia looked up at Michael, who had looked on with silent approval. “I'm supposed to feed from him, is that your plan? That's awful.” she snapped. But not so awful that you're sure you can refuse, her inner voice taunted.
     Michael's face hardened and Patricia tried not to recoil from his sudden anger. “I can't be your supply forever, Patricia.” He told her bluntly. “You have to learn sometime. That time is now.”
     Despite the craving howling within her, she couldn't give in, not like this. “No.” I can’t do this. She ignored that tiny voice that suggested otherwise. Not like this. I can’t!
     Michael scowled slightly. Instead of cajoling his childe any further, Michael reached into his pocket once more and turned back to blissed-out junkie. “Excuse me, Dave, this might sting a little.” With a fast motion, Michael drew a razor blade across Dave's face, cutting deeply into his cheek. Both he and Patricia flinched.
     “Hey,” Dave muttered, momentarily shaken out of his haze. “That fucking hurt.” Blood flowed freely down his face.+
     “Don't be a child.” Michael told him harshly. “If you can stick needles in yourself every day, that's nothing.” David looked sullen, but didn't reply. Trying to wipe the blood away only smeared it further. “The bleeding will stop soon.” Michael glanced at Patricia.
     “That's unfair,” She accused, hoping that indignation could overcome the other ideas that dwelt in her mind.
     “Not at all,” her sire disagreed. “I'm stimulating the appetite of one who has gone off her food. I thought it would help you.” His tone was reasonable, entirely at ease. Patricia closed her eyes, and wished she could shut off her other senses as well. The scent of blood was dizzying.
        “What's another dead junkie?” Michael asked airily. “He lives on the streets, he begs for quarters for heroin. He's just another waste of space, of no use to anyone. Except you.” Trisha began to shake at her sire's words. “Make use of him.” Michael urged.
     “No, no, no.” she whispered desperately, feeling her self-control slip.
     “Think of your hunger, Patricia. It must be fierce, by now. You've got to do something.” 
     “Please stop, please...” Bloody tears leaked past her closed eyes.
     “It's not me that's doing this to you. It's your hunger, your need. Only you can stop it.” He was relentless, insisting.
     Patricia bit the inside of her lip and tasted blood. Something broke loose inside her and, with a groan of disgust, she tore into the throat of the oblivious addict.
     Just a waste of space, she told herself as she drained the boy. No-one's going to miss him. And if she told herself that enough times, she knew she would believe it.
     A minute later, she pushed Dave's body away and waited for herself to return. She felt calmer, soothed by blood and heroin. Her shaking ceased, her over-sharp senses retreated leaving her with something like peace. Wiping her mouth on the back of her hand, she looked up at an approving Michael. She realized that she was glad to have won his approval, that it was something she really wanted.
     “Well done, Patricia.” he smiled. “It took a little longer than I thought, but well done. Your new life is beginning. I'm looking forward to teaching you.”

(A few months later)

        His blood was stale. It tasted more like motor oil than the food of the gods, but the young man's body contained substances that Trisha needed and she couldn't bear the thought of looking any longer. Hunger had easily overcome disgust, as it had overcome Patricia’s reluctance to defy her Sire’s order that she remain in their shared haven. If he had shown a little more consideration, or trusted her enough to hunt on her own, then she would have gladly tolerated his restrictions.
        Hearing steps on broken asphalt, Patricia jumped back and glared at the intruder.
     Michael, unruffled, perfect Michael. Patricia stifled a moan of despair at the sight of her Sire. She had hoped to elude him for at least a few more hours - maybe a day. 
        Her sire seemed quite unsurprised at what he saw - his bloody-mouthed childe crouched over a dead transient. “Patricia, I'm crushed.” He sighed, slightly theatrical. “Have I spent all this time training you, only to have you to run away and suck on dead junkies?”
     Patricia didn't say anything. There was nothing to say. Sitting on the ground, she felt calm for the first time in too many nights. She felt the damp gravel beneath her bare feet and listened to the absolute silence. She had learned to generally enjoy the quiet, but she realized she had to say something.
     “I don't want to be your pet vampire,” she muttered, not looking at the one who had created her. “Another charity case adopted for your amusement.”
     “Oh no, Patricia, not you.” Michael crouched down next to her. “You're very special to me.” Despite the earnest sincerity in his voice, Patricia shivered. “But you need me, you really do.” He insisted, “I've been trying so hard to help you, to make you the best you can be. But you keep running away. How can I help you if you're not here?”
        “I really don't like your idea of help.” Is that really true, Patricia? She wondered. Where would you be without him? Just another dead, drug-addled doctor. But what kind of existence was this?
     “That doesn't matter.” Michael replied firmly. “One must be cruel to be kind. You need me. You wouldn't be able to survive without me. You understand that, don't you?” His tone became wheedling, trying to charm a smile from his charge. “I'm the only one who really appreciates your talents, your flair.” He laughed quietly. “I suppose I'm your patron.”
     “Patronize, certainly.” Trisha grumbled.
        “Don't be resentful.” he warned her. “It's only for a while. Until you can cope on your own.” 
     “When will that be?” she demanded. The supposedly exotic life of a vampire had proven trying under Michael's ever-watching tutelage. It wasn't that Patricia hated her sire - she couldn't - but that she knew there was so much more she could be doing if only he would let her try.
     “Soon, very soon.” he assured her. “Providing you don't make a hobby of killing your prey. That's not very sporting, you know.”
     “I didn't mean to.” a defensive whimper.
     “Of course not.” Michael nodded. “It's just another bad habit to break.” Patricia tensed at that, but he ignored her. “So come home. I have a surprise for you.” his tone was conspiratal. 
     “Another month in the basement?” Patricia asked glumly.
     “Haven't you gotten over that yet?” Michael sighed, a note of genuine irritation in his voice. “How many times must I tell you that it was necessary? This is a different surprise. I promise.” He stood up, hand extended. “Please come along. It's getting late.” Patricia sighed, took his hand.  It's not like I really have another choice, Patricia thought as they walked away from the body under the bridge, and I really do trust Michael. Maybe I should have a little more faith in him...


        As soon they entered their shared haven - a townhouse in Berkeley - Patricia knew she was in trouble. The absent smile that Michael had worn during their walk home disappeared when the front door slammed. He hadn’t said anything as they had walked away from the filthy underpass where he had found her, but Patricia could almost hear the wheels in his mind turning, carefully planning something. She almost wondered what it was, but realized that she didn’t want to think about it that much.
     Michael removed his coat and hung it up on the back of the door, turned to face her.
“Go to your room, Patricia.” he told her, his voice mild. “I’ll be up to talk to you presently.”
     Patricia tried not to betray her nervousness as she turned from him. Punishments from Michael were usually swift and greatly inconvenient - being sent to bed without dessert was not one of his usual tactics. This was something new. Or is it anything? She asked herself desperately as she climbed the stairs. He couldn’t have been surprised, could he? He might just be bluffing. She sighed internally. If I keep thinking that, maybe I’ll believe it, she admitted.
     Her room was bare, stark even. Nothing of her former life had come with her when Michael had brought her here, and she had seen little reason to acquire anything other than essentials.
     A neat bed with hospital corners (some habits never die!) rested at one end of the room, across from the door. A single bookshelf rested above the bed. Most of the books on that shelf were well-thumbed medical texts, with the occasional volume of American or European history. Across from the bed, near the door was an old writing desk, more decrepit than antique. Patricia’s journal lay open upon the desk, with a ballpoint pen lying across the page. A crocheted rug made a bedraggled attempt to cheer up the room and failed.
     My life. Patricia shrugged. She had never had much time for physical things, other than the tools she needed for her work. Those were kept elsewhere, out of sight. She closed the door and sat down upon her bed, picking up the copy of the Oxford History of England that she had left on her bedside table. Perhaps she could distract herself with the story of someone else’s life. She doubted it, but chose to try, nonetheless.
     A few minutes passed, a half hour, and Patricia began to enjoy her book, nerves temporarily forgotten. A knock sounded at her door and her anxiety returned.
     “Come in.” She told him. Why does he knock? He doesn’t need to and he knows it.
     Michael entered the room, closed the door behind him, as if he feared eavesdroppers. He had doffed his customary tie, loosened his collar and rolled up his shirtsleeves - the very picture of a man ready to go to work.  He sat down next to her on the bed and took Patricia's hand in a gesture of friendliness that upset her more than any threat.
     “Patricia.” he began. “You misbehaved this evening, and must be punished.” He spoke matter-of-factly. It was not a situation that was to be debated.
     Patricia nodded. Like so many times before, she couldn’t look away from his direct gaze. It’s so easy for him!
     “I do this, like everything, so that you might improve, be better than what you are. You understand that, don’t you?” Patricia’s understanding seemed important to him - although she couldn't fathom why. Instead, she just nodded again. “Good.” Michael was apparently satisfied.
       Michael fixed her with a stern glare, a sign that he was giving an order that could not be refused. “You’re going to remain aware through your punishment.” he told her firmly. “No matter what you want, you’re going to experience this fully, until you have my permission to retire.”
     Patricia tried to rebel against this, realizing that something dreadful was going to happen. She turned her face away, only for Michael to take her chin in hand and force her to regard him once more. She hadn't seen him that intent since...I don’t want to think about that... “You are going to remain aware through your punishment,” he repeated. “Do you understand?”
     Patricia knew that understanding this order wasn’t what mattered to him, obedience was. Realizing that - as too often before - she had lost what little free will she had in their relationship, she nodded. Fear shook her now, and she desperately tried to distance her mind from what was happening, even while she tried to anticipate what her Sire had devised for her this time.
     “Good.” He nodded, outwardly pleased. “Let’s play a game.” he said, suddenly light hearted. Patricia frowned, worried by this. “If I were to tell you to go next door, to the work room, what do you think would happen there?”
     Patricia hoped he wasn’t about to send her to the workroom. She knew exactly what kind of work was done in there. 
     “Come on, you have a lively imagination. Tell me what you think,” he was teasing her, like this was any other day. But Patricia didn’t want to speak, fearing that anything she described would be her punishment.
     “I think you’re going to use those things in there against me,” she whispered.
     “Things?” he smiled at her discomfort, a calculating expression. “Interesting how you can call them tools when your hand wields them. The possibility of them being used against you changes your perspective somewhat, doesn’t it?”
     Patricia couldn’t reply to that.
     “I think you’ve become canalized in your way of thinking, in your way of perceiving.” He commented. “That might be my fault - partially, at least. Your horizons need expanding. Close your eyes, Patricia.”
     She did so, wondering what game he was playing now. Michael took her hand again and led her out of her room. What?
     “Don’t open your eyes.” he cautioned her. “Or I’ll cut them out.” She believed he would - like Sire, like Childe and vice versa.
     Michael led her back down the stairs to the ground floor of the house, into what she knew was the kitchen. He maneuvered Patricia to the middle of the kitchen and she felt him step away. Patricia’s bewilderment grew.
     A long moment’s silence passed. Finally, “You can open your eyes now,”
     Carefully, she did so. The familiar sight of their well-decorated kitchen met her eyes. All seemed in order - a few dishes in the sink, a glass or two upon the polished granite counters and the stainless steel fixtures gleaming unmarred by coupons or other detritus of breathing life, as Michael called it. What now? Patricia wondered.
        Michael stood before her, smiling wryly at his childe's cautious relief. “You see, Patricia. Things don’t always turn out the way you expect them.” he told her. But his smile faded. “And the work room is not the only place where violence can occur.” He slapped her suddenly, spinning her around and down to the floor. Patricia cried out in pain and fear, tried to scramble away from her heavy-handed sire.
     He moved beside her, pulled her to her feet almost gently. “And the hand that gives can also take.” he added conversationally. Michael’s left hand twisted into her hair and her head was slammed violently into the countertop. Patricia felt consciousness slipping away.
     “Stay awake.” he reminded her. Remembering her orders, Patricia healed the worst of her wounds, shuddering at the sensation of displaced bone moving through her flesh.
     Michael swung her against the opposite counter, the hard stone biting fiercely into her back. Patricia wiped blood from her eyes and saw an expression she had never seen before upon her sire's face: he was angry. Patricia realized that she was in even deeper trouble than she had anticipated.
     Michael's left hand was still in her hair while his right hand fumbled in the sink next to them. A kitchen knife that had been left to soak by his ghoul, Thomas met his questing fingers.
     “Another lesson, Patricia.” he told her. “When tools aren’t available, use whatever things come to hand.” The knife was dragged across her face, gashing it open. Patricia couldn’t help remembering the heroin addict Michael had slashed in the same way to encourage her to feed, over a year ago. But retreating into memory or insanity wasn’t going to work. As the knife cut into her throat, she sensed the depth of that wound and partially healed it. She realized that she couldn’t waste her strength healing her wounds completely.
     The knife clattered to the floor and she was thrown down after it. Desperately, she reached for it - after all, Michael had put no prohibition on resistance. She was kicked halfway across the tiled floor, and skidded on her back until she was stopped by a heavy dining table.
     Michael was next to her within a moment, one knee on her stomach. He looked down at her and then around the kitchen, apparently ignoring her for the moment. An idea seemed to occur to him and he removed a butane lighter from his pocket. Patricia couldn't help noticing how fitting an item it was for her sire - all sleek shining metal and aesthetic sensibility.
     The lighter's flame burned brightly in front of her face. Patricia felt The Beast howling for release, the need to flee. Chuckling at her obvious fear, Michael shook his head and extinguished the flame.
     “And there are some things that a person should never do.” he concluded, as calmly as if he had been discussing the weather. “Who do you obey, Patricia?”
     “You.” she whispered. She knew it was the answer he wanted to hear and she would say anything to get away from this.
     “Who do you love, dearest?” He asked.
     “You.” the half-lie tasted foul. Patricia still couldn't determine what disgusted her more - Michael's behavior, or the fact that she still couldn't hate him for it.
     “And obey me you should.” he replied. “I’ve done so much for you.” he slapped her again. “But you’re not done learning yet.” he added fiercely. “Not for a long time, childe.”


        Michael's right hand gripped Patricia's hair. His left forearm was firm across her throat and she was fervently glad that she didn't need to breathe. His grip was a choking one.
     Michael had surprised her as she had entered the house, suddenly accosting her and holding her against the inside of the door. Their haven was dark, but Patricia could see clearly by the fog-diffused moonlight sliding through a picture window on the other side of the room.
     Patricia regarded him silently, wondering what real or imagined sin she had committed now. Michael did not seem outwardly angry, but his moods could be deceptive. His usually well-pressed clothing was rumpled, and Patricia noticed his unusually wide irises. Is he high?
     “Be quiet.” he whispered. 
        Patricia thought the order was somewhat redundant. A faint, almost conspiratal, smile was on his lips. He silenced her potential questions with his hand. “Shh. Listen.” He urged. “Hear that?” he asked her, a moment later, moving his arm away so that she could speak.
     Patricia frowned in confusion. “I hear some things.” She answered carefully. “The freezer's making ice, the furnace is on, and a car just drove by outside.”
     Her sire nodded. “Good. I was afraid that you would say that you heard nothing.”
     Patricia noticed the smell of blood on his breath. He must have hunted recently, she decided. “Are you drunk?” she asked.
     Michael stared at her for a long moment, and smiled. His fingers traced the invisible line of a long-healed wound on her face. “I'm glad that's gone.” He told her quietly, moving even closer to her and tilting her face up to maintain eye contact. Patricia disliked the painful strain Michael was putting her through, but more uncomfortable yet was the realization that she was trapped. She desperately wanted to know what was going on, but she was too afraid to ask.
     “I'm almost sorry it happened.” He added.
     “But not quite.” Trisha replied, the memory of the wounding bitter in her mind.
     Michael nodded, silent. His grip in her hair tightened perceptibly. They hadn't been this close to each other since her Embrace two years ago. He must be drunk she thought desperately.
     Michael pulled Patricia's head back, exposing her throat and her fear blossomed. She closed her eyes and hoped that she would live through whatever he planned to do to her.
     Michael leaned over her and kissed her throat. Patricia suppressed a gasp of surprise. His action was entirely unexpected, and Patricia didn't deal well with unexpected situations. Michael's hand slid out of her hair and wrapped around the back of her neck. His other hand rested against her cheek. He kissed the length of her throat, across her face and brow. Patricia could feel the faint warmth of the recent hunt in his skin.
     Patricia wondered how she was supposed to respond. Was this some new twisted game of Michael's, or genuine affection? She was inclined to believe it was the former. After all, he had shown more predilection for games than loving behavior.
     Michael's mouth met hers and, after a moment's hesitation, Patricia decided that he wanted her to respond in kind, and did so, stifling feelings of unease and distress. She even tried to hold him, but he held her arms to her sides. She tried to free herself, even while they kissed, only to realize that he was serious in his intent to restrain her.
     Their kiss ended. Michael's mouth moved across her left ear, back down to her throat. He released his hold upon her and moved his hands across her body. Despite her lingering fear, she couldn't help responding to him. Her life, even before death, had been without physical affection, sometimes from choice, but usually not. It was something she had always missed - even in her altered state...
     Again, Patricia tried to embrace her sire, and again, he held her back. She stood on tiptoe to kiss him, mimicking his earlier actions across his throat and ear. He held her tightly to him, a quiet moan escaping him as she bit at his ear. She hadn't meant to be quite so firm, but his reaction excited her. She bit his neck, pulling her teeth across the flesh. He gasped, his hand on her arm tightening convulsively. She smiled to herself as he allowed her to continue. How well he knows me...
     Michael moved her away from the doorway, pulled her up the stairs and into his bedroom. He pushed her down on the bed, made her lie back. He straddled across her, pinning her arms down beneath his knees. He still smiled as his fingers brushed her face lightly, a gentle touch. Patricia turned her head, caught his fingers in her mouth and bit down upon them until she tasted blood. Michael's eyes flashed, but Patricia couldn't decipher the expression in that hooded, intent gaze. He moved his fingers away from her and, keeping her gaze, carefully licked them clean. He kissed her again, allowing her to taste the blood on his tongue. Patricia moved her face against his, forcing and bloodying his tongue further against her own sharp teeth. He moaned against her and pushed his tongue further into her mouth.
     Now Patricia could taste the alcohol and other unidentified substances in his blood. He's not drunk. He's wasted. She was stunned by this. She had never known Michael to be in anything but less than total control of himself.
     Michael's hands moved over her body, carefully unbuttoning her blouse and tracing patterns on her exposed skin. Patricia struggled to reciprocate. He stopped and stared at her, his gaze a parody of his usual sternness. She stifled a laugh and belatedly realized that she had some limited movement beneath him. With some effort, she raised herself and managed to seize one of Michael's shirt buttons with her teeth. With a wrench, it was torn free and she awkwardly spat it to the ground. Michael didn’t comment, nor did he stop her as she continued to tear his shirt open.
     Patricia managed to remove Michael's top buttons in this way, but the lower ones were too difficult. She would have to fold double to reach them, so she fell back, stifling a scowl of frustration. Michael chuckled and leaned over her, kissing her face and allowing her access to his throat and chest. She kissed and sharply bit him, enjoying the gasps she provoked and the marks she left behind.
     Michael shuddered and caught her face in his hands for a kiss of painful ferocity. She tried to move away from him, but couldn’t. He didn't relax, nor did his pressure lessen and she could feel his fingernails digging into her flesh. She struggled against this sudden aggression, but he held her firmly in place until she realized that her only freedom would be in acquiescence. She relaxed and let him continue. He immediately pulled away, his face flushed. He nodded slightly, an acknowledgment of her realization.
        Patricia took advantage of Michael's closeness to pull at his not-so-neatly tucked-in shirt with her mouth. She succeeded in pulling it free of his pants, but she still couldn't worry any of the remaining buttons free. She resumed her exploration of his body, her tongue tracing the patterns left by her teeth, deliberately aggravating existing wounds.
     Michael pushed her back down onto the bed and finished what she had begun by unbuttoning and removing his shirt. Patricia waited for his next action. He moved slightly, tugging at her open blouse. He allowed her enough freedom to remove it and her bra, but firmly returned her to her pinioned position.
     He kissed Patricia's throat and breasts, his tongue pushing against her and causing involuntary moans. She could feel Michael's legs above her arms, holding her down, and clutched and twisted the fabric of his pants. 
     Dizzy with pleasure, she bit hard on his shoulder and his blood filled her mouth. She allowed herself one mouthful and licked the wound closed. She moved across his chest, tearing his skin almost gently with her fangs and lapping at the blood that welled out. Michael's moans, of pain or otherwise, encouraged her further. She felt his teeth sink into her side, copying her action. There was pain, but also a satisfaction. Patricia moved against him, desperately wanting the freedom that she knew wasn't permitted.
     Michael moved upwards slightly, straddling her waist, and reached behind himself for Patricia's jeans. As he unbuttoned her pants, she carefully pulled open his own slacks the only way she could. Michael paused to watch, but not help, her efforts. She was able to undo the zipper, but nothing else. She heard him laugh and he slid away from her to lie fully on top of her. He pushed her arms back so that they folded under her own body and she didn't resist.
     They kissed once more. Her body arched under his, even as he held her down. His hands twisted in her hair again and she groaned at the sensation, pulling against him to increase it. He pushed her down onto the bed and stroked her body, massaging her breasts, sides and stomach. A moment later, he removed her jeans and underwear, adding them to the pile of clothing on the floor. His own pants soon followed.
     Michael took Patricia in his arms, holding her tightly to him as he kissed her face. He entered her suddenly, without warning, and she cried out in surprise and pleasure. She finally disobeyed him and freed her arms to hold him.
     All movement ceased as he grabbed her hands roughly and pulled them over her head. Alarmed, she looked at him, and saw that he wasn’t angry, merely determined. He held both her hands in one of his and reached to the floor. He removed his shirt from the pile of clothes and quickly tied her hands together, using one of the sleeves to bind her arms to the head of the bed. Patricia struggled briefly, certain that she could break this bond, but she chose not to.
     Michael moved slowly against her. Patricia groaned, frustrated and aroused. Michael's hands were upon her again, pulling her hair, stroking her skin. She bit savagely where she could reach, his mouth, neck and chest. Their pace increased and Michael's hands became rougher, scratching against her skin. His kisses became assaults, biting her as roughly as she bit him. Blood on their bodies mingled and stained the sheets.
     They both knew that the moment was coming and they tore into each other's throats as they came together, the pleasure of The Kiss and orgasm mingled.
     They were quiet for a long time afterwards. Patricia relaxed against her bonds and underneath Michael's body. The ingestion of Michael's tainted blood left her feeling dizzy and drunk.
     “Wow.” She finally muttered, feeling that was wholly inadequate.
     She felt Michael's smile against her neck. “Indeed.” He replied.
     Some kinds of captivity can be tolerated. Patricia realized. But this cannot become habitual...
     The memory was not allowed to linger for long.


(18 years later, Christmas 1994)

        The rec room was what Kim liked to call Patricia's workroom. Blank cork-lined walls, linoleum floor, dim lights and heavy curtains, the curtains were very important. As usual, the room was almost empty, save for Patricia herself and a body, bound to her “worktable”. The table was a slate-topped laboratory table, with a few extra things bolted to the surface here and there. Recreation was the last thing on Patricia's mind when she was in this room, and this moment was no exception.
     When Justin said he was going to give me a Christmas present, I didn't expect anything like this. Bound to her scarred worksurface, Patricia's sire stared dully at the ceiling, paralyzed by a stake through his chest.  The heavy steel wire wrapped carefully around him and the table were an additional precaution. The wire had to be carefully placed, to bind him firmly, yet leave certain areas free.
     An old memory surfaced, from a different, yet similar room. Michael's smug, paternal smile “You're going to have to talk to me, eventually, Patricia.”
     You always talked too much, Michael. She thought angrily. She smiled. Not now, though. The smile faded, replaced by contemplation. I'll have to talk to him, and I know I've got his attention right now.
     “It's been a while, Michael.” she wished she didn't sound so nervous, the old fear remained. Why couldn't she duplicate that easy arrogance of his that she remembered? “I was hoping you were dead. I had heard rumors that you'd joined the Sabbat. I wonder if that's true. Oh, I know you can't answer me now, not yet. But you will.” She approached the room's only closet, opened it, began removing things. A card table, a battered grey briefcase.
     “Eighteen years I make it. Eighteen years since I found that little note from you. I memorized it, you know. 'To my dearest Patricia. I'm so sorry to tell you this, but I can no longer stay with you. It just isn't fun anymore. Thank you for the good times. Love, Michael'.” she stopped for a second, looked at him. “I always wondered what your definition of fun was. And love, for that matter.” She couldn't hide the bitterness in her voice. He had been the center of her short unlife, and his abandonment had devestated her.
     Patricia placed the card table near the work table, put the briefcase on top of it. She leaned over her sire, looked into his angry eyes. “I resented that, you know. That you knew so much about me, and I knew nothing about you. I resented it terribly. I think it's time for me to get over that. I think it's time I got to know you better.” her eyes became cold “Every part of you.”
     Patricia returned to the open briefcase, pulled out a gun, a heavy automatic. She held it in before Michael's eyes, so he had a clear view. “This contains phosphorous rounds,” she told him bluntly. “And Kim is sitting in the hallway with a similarly loaded shotgun, just in case you were thinking of causing a fuss.” It was the best precaution she could think of...
        A moment passed. Now or never, she steeled herself and removed the stake from Michael's chest with her free hand.
     He didn't even look at her, but immediately starting struggling against that which held him. Trish watched him carefully. He wasn't frenzied, merely furious. It was unimportant, she knew the wire would hold; she had tested it on Kim.
     He tried for a few short seconds and then stopped. Turning his head to see his childe, he said “I gave you a new life, Patricia, don't begrudge that.” even now his voice was calm, almost soothing.
     Patricia was suddenly very afraid that she would fall under his spell again. She forced herself to remember what that new life had meant, what he put her through.
     “Don't be stupid.” he said sharply. “You've enjoyed every bloody moment of it, Patricia, even when you played the martyr.” She stiffened angrily. “The bond may be broken,” he almost smiled, despite his situation. “but I still know you.” Patricia was silent. She realized she hadn't grown up much at all since he had left her. He could still manipulate her.
     “I gave you everything you ever wanted, Patricia.” he continued easily, almost wheedling. “I saved your wretched life and gave you a shining new one, full of blood, pain and opium dreams. I gave you what you really wanted, and left you so you could enjoy it without worrying about- “
     “Bullshit.” she finally broke through her shaken silence. “You left because you were bored. I wasn't fun anymore -”
     “And how you resented that.” he snapped back. “You couldn't bear the thought that you might not be the center of my attention.” he told her coldly. Is that true? 
        Patricia wondered. The question was quickly dismissed. Doubts would destroy her. “Attention like that I could live without.” she replied in a voice thick with anger. “The attention of an affectionate slavemaster...” her words trailed into silence, captured by another memory, one of pain suffered at his hand. “Who do you love, Patricia? Who do you obey?”
     “It was necessary.” he said simply. “A disobedient child must be punished.”
     Get out of my mind!” she screamed.
     Not even a twitch of surprise. “I can't help it if I overhear.” he paused. “But I do remember that...incident, even without your reminder.”
     “A cherished memory?” she muttered, bitter at the memory.
     “Essentially. I considered it an object lesson: children will always find ways to be disobedient.”
     Patricia quelled the urge to scream at him again. “Well, I'm not your child anymore.” she said evenly. She returned to her case, looked through it.
     “Kim!” she shouted. “Get in here!” 
        Moments later, Kim entered the room, carrying a shotgun. For once, he was wearing normal street clothes, his mincing manners abandoned for the moment. Patricia had made it abundantly clear that if he misbehaved during this encounter, the kind of pain she would subject him to would not be enjoyable. Kim closed the door behind himself and stood in front of it, gun at the ready. “Good boy.” she smiled. “Keep that up until we're done.” Kim nodded, realizing that it was best if he kept silent. Trish's threats had a way of staying in the memory.
     Patricia carefully donned a pair of heavy latex gloves. “You did teach me a lot.” she told her sire. “I remember it all very well. I still have a tendency to latch onto male authority figures...fortunately the latest one can't stand it. He's shown me the error of my ways.” she shook her head slightly. “I suppose you thought were helping me, in your own way.”
     “I'm glad you understand that much.” Michael watched calmly as she placed a variety of surgical instruments on the card table. She returned the briefcase to the closet and pulled out an old fashioned steamer trunk, grunting slightly with effort. She hauled it over towards the work table. He noticed that Kim seemed to blanch a little when she opened it. He couldn't see its contents, but he could guess.
     A tape recorder was removed from the trunk and placed on the table. Patricia carefully went through the actions of plugging it in, placing a new tape in the machine and turning it on. Then she took a Polaroid camera from the trunk and took a picture of her sire.
     “It's a habit I picked up a few years ago.” she said simply, watching the picture develop. “It's so I can remember what they look like when I'm done. Sometimes I let them keep it. It depends what happens.” Michael recognized the slightly dreamy tone of her voice, and worry began to gnaw at him.
     She held the picture out to him, like she had shown him the gun. Even worried, he had to smile at how ludicrous he looked, fine dark suit rumpled and chained up like the monster Patricia believes I am. His sense of humor could always be depended upon for its odd timing.
     “Will you let me keep it?” he strove to keep the worry out of his voice.
        “You won't need it.” Trish told him. “Yes, you can assume the worst.” she continued. “I might as well tell you what I've got in mind.” Now she was pacing back and forth across the room. “I often whiled away boring nights fantasizing about what I'd do to you if you were ever in the position you're in now.
     “I thought of everything from watching you burn in the sun to bonding you to me and making you my slave, but I think what I'm going to do will be the most satisfying, and beneficial to Kindred society. I thought you might appreciate that.
     “I've always been curious about Kindred physiology, a natural extension of my old career, I think. But I haven't been able to research the subject as much as I'd like.” she glanced towards her lover. “Even Kim can only take so much - or perhaps it's just that I can't bring myself to do certain things to him. You, however...I'm curious about the color of your heart, and now I'm going to find out.”
     She donned an apron and took an extension cord plugged in a nearby outlet to the table. Watching her carefully now, he saw her remove an instrument that he didn't recognize, but knew would hurt.
     “This might make you a little queasy, Kim. Or jealous.” she smiled at him. “But I'm afraid you have to watch, you can't take your eyes off Michael. If he gets free, shoot. If you hit me, too, well, that's life. Shoot again. Understand?” Kim nodded. “Good.” She returned her attention to Michael. “You can shout all you like, dearest, the room's soundproof. Kim and I have confirmed that.” She glanced at a clock on the wall. “Starting at seven thirty PM, December 26th.” she announced for the tape recorder. “An exploratory study of vampire circulatory systems.” The bone saw buzzed and Michael's fear blossomed.
     Unconsciousness, when it came, was a welcome relief.

        Awareness did not return slowly. Michael was awake. He tried to sit up, and felt the heavy wire wrapped around him. Turning his head he saw a coat stand with a blood bag tied to it, the needle in him arm. The bag was almost empty. How did I..? He remembered and allowed himself a moan of remembrance.
     Trish's face, calm, almost serene, as she cut him apart, making dry comments towards her tape recorder. He wondered how much time had passed. He realized, belatedly, that his wounds were healed. The dreadful hole in his chest was a memory.
     Looking further now, he saw Kim standing at the door, shotgun still at the ready. But his clothes had changed, same jeans but different shirt.
     “Trish!” Kim shouted. “He's awake.”
     Glancing at the clock, six forty PM, Michael realized that at least one day had passed.
     Trish entered the room, wearing different clothes and a new apron. She regarded Michael carefully and nodded. “You're stronger than I thought” she told him. “You took less blood than I expected. I'm glad. My supply is rather limited.” Michael chose not to comment on that.
     “I learned a lot last night.” she continued, placing a fresh tape in the recorder that still sat on top of the trunk. “Not the least of which being that you can actually raise your voice, in the right circumstances. For the whole time I knew you before, I never heard you shout.”
     “I never needed to.” he said dryly.
     “I suppose not.” she shrugged. “I was such a good little girl.” she smiled, an echo of past smiles she had once given him. “I always did what you told me.” she almost sighed. “Those were simpler times.”
     Gods below! Don't tell me she's reminiscing now! Michael thought desperately.
     “Simple, brutal times.” she finished. “Thank god they're over.” She giggled softly. “For me, at least.” She took a chair that Michael hadn't noticed from a corner up to the table. She sat next to him, one elbow resting on the surface next to his ear. “I only wish I could do to you what you did to me. I didn't inherit your skill for mind fucking.” 
        “I think you underestimate yourself, Patricia.” he said carefully.
     “Always so formal.” she commented. “It was always Patricia and Michael. Never Trish, or Patty. Never Mike.”
     “Politeness is very important to me. Patricia was your given name, so I call you Patricia.”
     She brought her forearm down on his throat, hard enough to hurt. “Always lecturing me, Michael.” she hissed. “I hated that, too. You're too damn pedantic for one in your current position.”
     He glared at her, her face very close to his. “Untie me.” he insisted suddenly. Patricia recognized his attempt to control her, was wildly scared for a moment, and then laughed when she realized she felt no compulsion to obey.
     “Oh, nice try!” she clapped her hands. “I hadn't thought about that! Kim would have had to kill us both!” she still laughed. “It seems I've outgrown you in at least one way.” she gloated.
     Michael struggled against his bonds again. “Release me!” he demanded, allowing all his anger at this indignity and abuse to saturate his voice. 
     Trish stared at him coldly, all humor gone. “That was better, but it still isn't going to work. To quote the one who brought you here “get used to it”.
     She stopped for a moment and consulted a sheet of paper that she removed from her apron pocket.
     “Today's schedule?”
     “Exactly. But I'm not done talking to you yet. Conversation is so difficult when one is holding tools.” she moved her chair a few feet away from the workbench and sat down once more. “So what was I supposed to learn from your little object lesson, all those years ago?” she asked him, tucking the paper back into her pocket.
     Why return to that? He wondered. “You had broken a rule, and gone out without my permission. Not only that, but I had a body to dispose of, too, and that was most inconvenient.” He told her. “It wasn't as easy then as it is now.”
     “That's not all of it.” She said flatly.
     “And why not?” he asked mildly. He decided he would tell her the truth, but she should have to discern its existence first. Still playing games, Michael. The unconcerned part of his mind was curious at that. “You broke a rule, you were punished. That's all there was to it. And I
learned that I can't expect perfection from a childe.”
     “I hardly think the punishment fit the crime. There has to be more to it than that. What you did to me was out of proportion for truancy. What were you trying to teach me?”
     “Haven't you figured that out yet? Really now, Patricia, I know you're not that stupid.”
     She became angry. “Don't give me any more reasons to hurt you.” she snapped. “I hadn't planned on subjecting you to open flame, but that can change.”
     “And don't you try to change the subject.” he snapped back, his irritation overwhelming anxiety. “Has your resentment eroded your ability to think? I'm sure you know why it all happened, you just want to hear me confirm it. Alright then, I'll tell you.
     “To be efficient at what you were learning to do, it was important for you to understand the nature of pain. You had to know what it was like to be in agony, wanting nothing but release, and not getting it. Without that knowledge, you'd never truly understand what you were doing to the kine. You'd never reach your full potential without such understanding.
     “I saw the opportunity to teach you that and took it. You obviously think I went too far, and we disagree on that point. I did nothing more than what I thought was necessary. Nothing.Now don't tell me you hadn't realized that.
     “And what you enjoyed.” she added. “I wasn't too far gone to notice that. In fact, I shouldn't have been surprised. It was just another way to demonstrate control. Absolute control. I still think it was too much.” she said quietly.
     “Motherfucker.” this quiet curse came from Kim.
     She turned on him. “Did I ask you?” she shouted. Kim shook his head, startled. “When I want your fucking opinion, I'll beat it out of you.” she snarled, then stopped suddenly, eyes wide. “Oh, Kim.” her voice suddenly trembling. “I'm sorry. I'm sorry.” Kim didn't reply, he just looked at her, still startled. “I didn't mean that, really.” she was almost crying.
     “Trish, it's alright.” he assured her, looking past her towards Michael. “Just stay focused, okay?”
     She pulled herself together. “You're right, of course. Thank you, darling.” She returned her attention to Michael, who watched with interest.
     “Don't look so smug, darling.” she warned him. “You're in for a real treat tonight.”
     A trip to the steamer trunk produced several tools Michael recognized. “Tonight we're doing something a little different, but similar, of course. Starting at six fifty two pm, December twenty seventh.” She announced. “An exploration of the kindred pain threshold, or 'how to nickel and dime a vampire to torpor.'“ she laughed lightly.
     The tools were placed on the card table, and Trisha walked around Michael for almost a minute, assessing him.
     “I think we'll start on the feet.” she told him. “It's a good place to start. Lots of nerve endings. Of course, I've never quite understood how electrochemical signals travel through what is, for all intents and purposes, a dead body. Another thing to go on the list to study.”
     As she spoke, she pulled Michael's dark leather shoes. Whistling tunelessly, she removed his socks. Then she reached for a pair of pliers on the card table.
     With skill that surprised even Michael, she quickly extracted the nail from the smallest toe on his left foot. The pain was also surprising, and he bit down hard to prevent crying out. Trish paused, looked up at him, raised an eyebrow, and then continued. When all of his toenails had been removed, she moved on to the soles of his feet with a scalpel.
     His resolution to remain silent didn't last long. She had transformed his feet into a bloody mess, and was now working on his hands. He had attempted to heal his wounds, only to be clouted with the bloody pliers. “You'll heal when you have my permission.” she told him harshly. “Or I'll rub salt into your feet when I re-cut them. This is supposed to be a cumulative study.” Michael believed her threat.
     “Still with me, darling?” she asked him absently, an eternity later. A groan as she broke one of his fingers was her answer. “Oh good.” she replied, breaking another. “You know, I'm really very impressed. I always knew that the Kindred body could take a lot of beating, but this really has surpassed my expectations.”
     Another crack, another groan. “Oh dear. I'm out of fingers.” she observed idly. “Time to move on to the face - that's the usual routine.” She took a scalpel in hand. “I'm sure you've read Oedipus Rex.” she commented. “The situations are comparable, if not entirely similar, I suppose.” a swift movement removed an earlobe. Pain in new area caused a hoarse cry. Trish's smile grew marginally.
     “If I had to pick a literary reference to illustrate our relationship, I'd be more inclined to cite Poe.” her scalpel's sliding exploration stopped. “Although, to be entirely contemporary, I heard a song the other day that made me think of you... Really quite catchy. I'm sure the Toreador have their eye on that fellow, if we don't beat them to it.” She paused. “But listen to me babbling away. I've got work to do.”
     The other ear was entirely removed. Another low moan from Michael. Anything louder was impossible.
     Michael was surprised that he was still conscious. Now he craved oblivion, and understood the immense hatred Patricia had kept for him since her Embrace. He almost regretted choosing her, but something deep inside, away from the outer pain, cackled at the irony and regarded his childe with just a touch of pride.
     Consciousness finally fled when she gouged out his eyes.

        Several days had passed this time. Once a night, Patricia would enter, hook up one or more blood bags to the improvised IV stand, check the needle and leave. Kim would stay, watching him.
     The night before she had come in carrying a small party hat and whimsical smile. She placed the hat on his head and patted his cheek.
     “Happy new year, Michael. I brought you a present.” he said nothing, merely stared at her, desperately trying to guess what kind of 'present' she had in mind. “I thought you deserved a treat, since you've been such a good boy.”
     “You're really enjoying this, aren't you, Patricia?” he asked wearily.
     She looked surprised. “Yes, of course I am. You should know that, after all, you taught me.” she paused. “Anyway,” she continued. “what with you're being a good boy and all, I thought I'd give you something nice.”
     “A night off?” Again, he wondered how this humor had survived.
     “You've already had three.” She was still smiling. “Now, open your mouth and close your eyes, and I'll give you a nice surprise!” she sang out. “And if you don't,” she added, “I'll get the jaw blocks out, so play along, please?” she wheedled.
     Michael almost sighed, but he didn't want to appear even weaker. Even after all that had happened, he still clung to an image of himself that no longer applied to his present company. He closed his eyes and opened his mouth.
     Blood poured in, blood from Patricia. He wanted to turn his head away, spit it out, but his hunger for sustenance, any sustenance stopped any refusal. Greedily, thoughts of image gone, he gulped down all the vitae that Trish would let him have. It wasn't nearly enough. He regretted that she hadn't been stupid enough to place her wounded wrist to his mouth. Then he might have been able to take what he wanted.
     He licked the last drops from his lips and opened his eyes to see Trish licking at her own wrist, healing it. He felt slightly light headed and belatedly remembered her addiction. Fortunately, he was no stranger to tainted blood, and he hoped that his decades of debauchery would save him from an embarrassing upset.
     “That's my present, dear. I thought a connoisseur like yourself would enjoy it. That and it’s a little payback on what you gave me all those years ago.” she added. “‘Pain brings blood, and blood brings power.’” she quoted.
     She stroked his cheek again. “I saw that your fangs haven't regrown yet. Perhaps that blood will help.” she mused. “I gave your teeth to a lupine of my acquaintance. He was quite grateful.”
     “I'm sure he was.” Michael muttered, enraged.
     “Well, I hope you do get them back soon, because I'm going to start bringing your food to you au naturelle. I can pilfer only so much from the blood bank, and I don't intend to make a habit out of giving you mine.” She shrugged. “We'll see.” she walked away. “Goodnight, Michael. Don't forget that tomorrow is another day.”

The following night, Trish stopped her work for a moment and looked at her sire.
     “I had a little epiphany after I visited you last night.” she told him.
     “Wonderful, I'm very glad for you.” he gasped. “If you want to talk, could you...”
     “Oh, how silly of me.” she removed the dissecting instruments from in and around his arm. “You may heal that, if you wish. I don't think there's much to be learned from the ligature.”
     Michael did so, and felt his constant hunger grow even more. “So, what was your epiphany?” he asked her politely. Anything to delay the pain.
     “The object lesson. Something about your explanation bothered me, and I think I've put my finger on it.” She touched his nose with one bloody finger. “Shall I tell you?” he nodded. “I admit that you taught me about pain, there's no denying that, and I'm sure you learned that even your 'perfect childe' was wont to misbehave. But I think you learned something else. Something you couldn't stand.”
     “And what's that?”
     “That my truancy proved that you no longer had complete control over me. Until that point, I didn't even dare think without your permission. My attempt at running away was the only thing I did to defy you. I think that must have really pissed you off, hence the severity of my punishment.
     “You weren't hurting me for killing someone, or running away. It was for the much greater crime of demonstrating that you couldn't control me, body and soul, like you really wanted to.
     “That's what you wanted, wasn't it? Someone to be a complete slave. A person who could do terrifying things, but not without your permission. My defiance drove you berserk. That bullshit about the true meaning of pain is just a justification.”
     Michael didn't say anything, tried not to look at her.
     She continued. “And I think it was something you had been wanting to do for a long time, anyway. You may pretend to be above desires, Michael, even while you controlled mine, but you're not.”
     She didn't say anything after that, not for a long time. Suddenly, her pensive mood evaporated, and she jumped up from her chair.
     “And with that in mind, I'm going to have some fun tonight.” she announced.
     “You've been having fun all week.” he told her.
     “Oh no, that was research.” she informed him. “Conducted to improve all Kindred. No, tonight I'm going to have fun.”
     She turned off the tape recorder. “I wonder if a vampire can survive flaying?” she asked.

Summer, 2006

Patricia fumed as she climbed the stairs outside her house. So much for having a good time. She had been hired to find the truth of a particular gangster’s story but, unfortunately, he had broken after only the minimal discussion. She felt dissatisfied and unfulfilled.

She liked the new haven that her childer had bought. The separate entry to the “mother in law” unit granted her a little more privacy as she came and went, although – ironically enough – privacy from her childer was a of diminishing concern.

Turning on the light as she entered the flat, Patricia knew something was wrong. Pushing the door open quickly, she stepped inside and braced for something to happen.
     It didn’t. Patricia felt a little foolish. She stepped into her apartment and looked around. Nothing seemed to be disturbed. A light blinked upon her message machine, so she crossed the room to listen to the machine.
     “Hello, Patricia.” the man’s voice on the tape was too well known to her. “I’ve heard rumors of my death at your hand and I thought I had better discuss them with you. I should be reaching your place right about...” the voice trailed off and the machine clicked to a stop.
     “Now.” This came from the other side of the room. Patricia turned, saw him sitting on her sofa and something shut down inside her mind.
     “You’re dead. You’re trespassing. Get out of my house.”
     Michael laughed. “Is that all you can say? No how are you, what’s new?
     Patricia looked at him carefully, her hand wrapped around the straight razor in her pocket. His aura was the same muddy psychotic mess that she’d always known. The face seemed to be his, too.
     “I was free and you came back...” she shook her head. “Get out. I don’t care why you’re here. I don’t care what happened before. Get out.”
     Before?” he still smiled. “Ah, yes. That Anarch came looking for me. It seemed easiest to let him have me, after a fashion.”
     “But...” Patricia bit her lip.
     “It’s quite easy to engineer a duplicate. Fleshcraft is not that difficult and minds are surprisingly easy to empty and refill.”
     “No.” she shook her head violently. “No, I don’t buy that. too much.”
     All the little things, yes.” Michael nodded. “Of course he did, otherwise you wouldn’t have been convinced. I assure you, he was merely a well crafted duplicate, controlled from afar.”
     Patricia believed him. She usually did. “But...why? Why are you here?”
     “You seemed to find my death very cathartic.” Michael got up and examined the small ceramic jar labeled Sire on her mantelpiece. “Although I didn’t know you could be sentimental.”
     Patricia wanted to smash him. “I thought it was funny.” she muttered.
     “Very droll.” he agreed, examining the grainy ash inside. “Poor Michael.”
     Patricia picked up the phone beside her and began dialing. In a blur of movement, Michael crossed the room and ripped the phone cord out of the wall.
     “No.” he said flatly, all smiles gone. “I’m staying for a while.”
     Patricia moved towards him, her straight razor snatched from her pocket flashing through the air. The blade cut him once, across his throat, before he caught her right arm in his hand. He held it tightly until the pain forced numbness into her fingers and the blade dropped to the floor.
     “That hurt.” he told her, his voice still flat. The wound healed within seconds and his grip tightened further, until Patricia thought the bones would crack.
     “Please.” she gasped. His grip loosened somewhat, but he didn’t release her. “Please leave.” She begged. “Just go.”
     He looked at her for a long moment. “I can’t.”
     “Why not?” she asked carefully. “What do you have to do?”
     “I want to talk to you.”
     She resigned herself to the situation, much to Michael’s satisfaction. “So talk.”
     “As I said, my apparent death seemed quite cathartic for you. I had hoped that we could have a civil discussion now, but it seems I was wrong. I’ve missed you.”
     “What?” Patricia didn’t know whether to laugh or scream.
     “I’ve missed you.” he stroked her cheek with his free hand – careful not to relinquish his hold upon her.
     “After what you did...” Patricia trembled.
     “I regret some of that.” he admitted. “Especially what happened early in our association. I handled it badly.”
     “Oh, thanks. That makes me feel so much better. What did you miss? The slavish devotion, or my dependence on you for…” she scowled. “Everything?”
     Michael didn’t reply, at first. Patricia tried to move away, to put some distance between them, and failed.

        “I never really controlled you.” he told her. “You always disobeyed.”

“So you’ve missed my spirit of rebellion. Great. You want a rebel, go somewhere else.”

Michael moved suddenly, slamming her against a nearby wall. Patricia gasped, shocked and hurt.

He held her in place and gazed silently at her. Patricia felt a nagging sense of deja vu, but couldn’t identify why. The silence stretched out until she thought of screaming, just to break it.

Finally: “I didn’t say you were a rebel. You said it yourself – slavish devotion and dependence. Of course I enjoyed it. But you did, too. You were disobedient, but only because you wanted to be caught. You could have left me.” He told her. “You had every opportunity. You chose not to go.”
     “That’s not true.”
     “It is.” Michael insisted. “You could have left me at any time, but you chose to depend upon me. That’s why I finally had to leave you. You couldn’t grow up otherwise. Although you haven’t really changed all that much. Look at your childer.”

          “What do you mean? They… They’ve been good for me.” In their way.

          “They cleaned you up, you mean? That’s true, but you just swapped one dependency for another. Or are you going to claim that you fed from them in a mere moment of weakness?”

          Patricia stared at him. “How do you know about that?”

          He smiled “Oh, my dear childe, your mind is still an open book to me.” His eyes glittered. “Or perhaps this is all a dream.”

        Patricia looked down at her shoes, at the sofa nearby, sometimes glancing upwards, but reluctant to look at him, refusing to believe her eyes. Is this a dream? She asked herself. Is my floor really this color? How can I tell?
          “You’re still a junkie, Patricia. But this time, you’re far more aware of what’s at risk with the addiction on offer. I think you need me, Patricia. Real or not, you need me. Why do you think I’m back from the grave?”

Patricia couldn't think, every possibility tempted chaos.

“I don’t know. To force change?” She shook her head, confused and frightened.

“To force change.” He murmured. “That sounds interesting. But don’t be so doubtful, dearest.” Patricia flinched at the affectionate term. “Haven’t you always said that you enjoy change? That it energizes you? Maybe you’ve become complacent.” Again, the predator appeared through the urbane mask. “I could be your agent of change. You’re not the only one who’s learned some new tricks in the past few years.” He promised.

Abruptly, he let go of her, and waited for her reaction. Patricia swayed a little, but didn’t move. She felt rooted to the spot.

You always took...” her voice trailed away, tired and uncertain.

“Nothing you couldn’t give. Nothing you didn’t want to give.” He said simply.

“How could you know?” she felt tears smarting, wiped them away clumsily.

“Of course I knew, Patricia.” Michael touched her face again, wiping away a bloody smear beneath her eyes. She wanted to run, but felt powerless to move. “You could have left.” He insisted. “You always had that ability.”
     “I don’t believe you.”
     “That's as may be, but you want me back now. For one reason or another.”

Patricia bit her lip, trying to find words for half-formed reasons and fears. “It’s been so long...” she said hesitantly. “So many things have happened.”
     “I know.” He agreed. “You had such great potential.”
     Memories of how he had brought that 'potential' to flower flooded Patricia. She felt no regret - she couldn't regret the past any more than she regretted feeding - but the memories of Michael's charming, implacable, control caused what remained of her composure to shatter.

“Please, let me go.” she begged finally.

“And now I don’t believe you.”

She fell against him, uselessly slamming her fists upon his chest, like a child in a tantrum. “Let me go!” she repeated. “Leave me alone! Make it-“ She stopped, suddenly aware of herself, of the indignity of her situation, but Michael wasn’t about to let her off the hook.

“What? Make it what? Make it all go away? Make it better?”

She started at him suddenly mute and desperately frightened - of Michael, of herself, of the tiny voice within her mind that still wanted them to be together.

“Poor Patricia,” she wondered how he learned to feign pity so convincingly. “Look at you. Two fine childer, respected by your peers and with a reputation that some kindred would kill to have, but you can’t be happy unless you’re miserable about something. I didn’t take your joy, Patricia, I gave it to you.”

“No. That’s not true.”

“Of course it is! Look at you now! You haven’t felt this alive in months, I’m sure of it.” He grabbed her by the shoulders. “Tell me I’m wrong.” She couldn’t meet his gaze, even when he laughed, apparently delighted. “Oh, my dear, you do want me back! And it’s so very nice to be wanted.”

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