Blood Contingency 13

It neither astonishes me nor vindicates any concrete expectation that the area in front of my apartment is devoid of figure or motion; my thoughts on the matter have been such a mess that his presence or his absence there seems equally feasible. I unlock the door and enter, flipping switches in motions no different than usual, finding everything inside no different than usual. I hang up my jacket and keys, remove and put away my gear, and move toward the bedroom to shed my shoes and tie with no particular haste. The only thing setting this evening apart from any other is the fact that I’m not very hungry and therefore giving little thought to what I’ll have for dinner… and perhaps a heart-rate just slightly quicker, more anticipatory, than on most nights.

At the bedroom door, however, before I have a chance to reach for the light, I’m greeted by sight and sound simultaneously unexpected and exactly what I was waiting for: “Your week’s up.”

“I have to admit,” I say, going still in the entry to the room, “I’m not surprised to find you breaking and entering.” So much for needing an invitation.

He’s seated on my bed with his jacket lying beside him. I note systematically that he doesn’t appear to be armed: his short-sleeved dress shirt is open halfway down his chest, its white material too translucent to disguise much of anything underneath. His unearthly eyes seem to glow as he looks me up and down and gives a monosyllabic laugh that conveys no amusement whatsoever. Slowly he stands. “Do you remember me?”

I can’t look away. Even with the jacket removed, he’s exactly the same as a week ago, and yet there’s something utterly riveting about him that wasn’t present before. Can it be merely the fact that I’m anticipating an end to the confusion and perhaps the whole strange situation, that I’m eager for answers? No, it’s something more. In that inhumanly beautiful face, above that slender, muscular body advancing smoothly toward me, eyes like that are enough to nullify completely any concept of heterosexuality a man might have about himself.

That isn’t why I hesitate answering his question, though. Yes, I’m caught up, all of a sudden and for no reason I can pinpoint, in his mysterious attractiveness, but in addition to that I feel I do remember him. I can’t recall anything specific about him, but he’s so familiar I could almost… well, I don’t know what. I don’t know, and therefore I don’t know what to say.

He stops just in front of me, and it’s all I can do not to reach out and seize him. His eyes, holding mine, seem to convey an uncanny amount of emotion, but I can make little sense of the turmoil they reveal. He’s hopeful… darkly, hopelessly hopeful… but what else, I can’t tell.

The heavy silence doesn’t need much time to become oppressive, but somehow I feel that to answer, to crush that desperate hope, would be even worse. I don’t need to speak, however; he can tell just by looking that I haven’t remembered whatever he wants me to. Slowly his expression hardens, the hope dimming. “You never were much of a spiritualist.” It’s almost a mutter, equal parts disappointment and… fond acceptance?

Abruptly I want him… so clearly, so intensely I simply cannot restrain myself. I want to be with him, to be close to him, to touch him, hold him, make love to him, be one with him forever, and nothing else in the world seems meaningful or even real. My hands, almost of their own volition, move to clutch at him, to pull him against me, and through the incomprehensible haze of longing and desire that’s overtaken me I’m vaguely startled at how cold he feels. But should that really be a surprise at this point?

“Calm down.” His voice next to my ear is a whisper so husky it nearly qualifies as a growl. “I’m not seducing you today; I just want to make this easier.” I get the feeling — how, I probably wouldn’t know even if I were more lucid — that he wants me as much as I suddenly want him, but his frigid hands have taken hold of my wrists with shocking strength and kept them still. Cold breath moves along my neck, sparking an intense, prickling shudder through my entire body.

My instincts war within me: the more wary screaming to push him away, to break away myself, because when I feel his lips part against my skin I know what’s coming next; the more hedonistic replying that nothing that feels this good, that I want this desperately, can be bad; and the most logical replying that, while, yes, it can be bad, it can’t be that bad because vampires aren’t real.

They all snap silent as his fangs pierce my flesh. There is a stab of pain, a cold, tugging sensation followed by a slow spread of burning heat, and then… nothing.

I don’t know how long the blackness lasts; it could be moments and it could be hours. It’s like traveling through a tunnel, assuming there exists a tunnel that strips you of not only your sight but of every other sense as well as all presence of mind. On one side everything was, if not precisely normal, at least framed in a context I’m familiar with and could try to sort out eventually; on the other, as I emerge from the sensory deprivation, everything is chaos.

I remember. In a tumultuous rush, the living of an entire lifetime in an instant, I remember everything — Japan, my childhood, the wars, the Shinsengumi, my life as a spy, my wife and children, and Sano… Sano…. Sano….. I remember what happened to us, to him, to Takani, the bizarre events of those last weeks, what he did and what he wanted… I remember it all, and all at once; and as I struggle desperately to make sense of it, to calm and order my frantic mind, and most of all to reconcile it with America and the current millennium and everything I think I know about myself, I’m fairly sure I’ve gone insane. I’m probably babbling, too, out there in the physical realm that I’m barely feeling at the moment.

His arms are around me. That’s the first thing I realize as I begin to come to my senses. I’m sitting on the bed now, still in deep shadow in a room whose blinds are closed and lights turned off, and he’s holding me. The gesture is purely for physical support, and at the moment I’m so torn by various emotions and so lost in my fractured state of mind that I can neither enjoy nor wish to escape his presence.

“Sanosuke…” I gasp after who knows how long, calming further but still severely agitated. “How…”

“We live forever with people who live over and over,” he replies coolly. His arms drop from around my shoulders, and I feel very unsteady on the edge of the bed, as if I might topple and fall right off the world. “Eventually,” he goes on, “we get the ability to make you remember your past lives, if we want. Some assholes do it just to torture their victims, or make them feel like death’s better than the insanity of remembering everything all at once… but I’m not quite to that point yet. Though I did work pretty hard to perfect the technique.”

I don’t really hear his answer — don’t grasp his meaning just yet, at any rate; I’m still struggling within my head. It’s more than anyone should have to take in so suddenly, more than I can assimilate quickly or even, I fear, at length… the one thing I can think to do is try to ignore most of it and only give thought to what I absolutely have to. Though this is easier resolved upon than done.

At that moment I realize that what I’ve thought of as a ringing in my ears is actually a ringing in the room, and that the glow in my eyes isn’t just a remembered light from Meiji-era Japan. Not fully aware of what I’m doing, but glad to have something to cling to of the existence I thought I knew — my life, the ‘real world’ of my current consciousness — I reach clumsily for the cell phone that is the source of the sudden light in the room. How it came to be on the bed rather than in my pocket as it was before I’m not sure; perhaps that gives some clue as to how long I was in that tunnel.

It’s my girlfriend calling, but there’s no way I can answer in this state; she would think I’ve gone crazy, and I’m not entirely sure I haven’t. I can’t quite manage to reject the call, though, with fingers that aren’t obeying my commands very precisely just yet.

The next moment I’m on my feet, throwing the device back down on the bed, face aghast and a hand raised as if to ward off a blow. Above her number, naturally, her name appears… I seldom bother with individual ringtones, but I do keep everyone in my contacts organized…

Saito, Renee

“Oh, my god…”

I would declare this a coincidence — my reeling mind is already protesting that it’s a common enough surname — if not for the ensuing bitter statement out of the darkness near my nightstand: “Yeah, she called a few minutes ago too. Funny who fate decides to toss together, isn’t it? Though actually, far as I can tell, it’s people’s souls that find each other… someone you had some connection with in a previous life’s more likely to find you than someone you didn’t. This one’s less fucked-up than some I’ve seen… Yahiko and Chou ended up married a couple of lives down the line.”

I’m not sure whether it’s more startling to find that Sano is still here, that I’m apparently dating my own something-great-granddaughter, or that all of this is suddenly making so much sense to me. Yahiko… Chou… the names mean something, despite a large part of my mind wishing in a panic that they didn’t. And Renee is…

“I hope you’re happy,” I say in an effort to speed the process of regaining my mental stability, but unfortunately it comes out as something like a snarl. “I’ll never be able to look at her the same again.”

“Happy?” Sano wonders, skeptical and more bitter than before. “Yeah, right. But satisfied that I won’t have to watch you happily in love with someone else again? A little.”

“You’re not like I remember.”

“No shit. A hundred fucking fifty years’ll do that to you. Not to mention constant rejection.”

I sit down on the bed again, on the opposite side now from him, and lean my head in one hand. Though I open my mouth to speak, nothing comes out; I simply don’t know what to say next. I’m remembering his cold, blank face in that cellar, his despair when he awoke, and, most significantly, my own feelings at that time.

All the emotions from those days are coming back, slower than the memories but no less overwhelming. Sano… I… loved him… I loved him and I lost him… or perhaps he lost me…

Maybe I still love him.

God, that is just too much to think about at the moment.

“Rejection?” is what I finally manage to come up with. My tone still isn’t very steady, but I’m beginning to feel readier for a real conversation.

“I think you’ve had enough shock for one night,” he replies. Despite the slight sound of sympathy in his voice, yet it’s colder than anything I remember Sano saying back then; but I get the feeling this is normal for him now. ‘A hundred fucking fifty years’ indeed…

I turn to look at him. He’s standing with arms folded, watching me, the glint of his eyes in the darkness dimmer than it was before. “Sano…” I begin, though still with no clear idea what to say. I have two lifetimes now in which I can’t recall ever being so stymied.

“It’s OK,” he says softly. “You have a lot to think about. I’ll give you a few days, and then we can talk.”

“Sano,” I repeat, more decisively this time, standing and facing him. “I want to know–”

“Yeah, I’m sure there’s a lot you want to know,” he cuts me off brusquely — another tone I don’t remember hearing from him before. “But not right now. You’re gonna have a choice to make here after not too long, and you need to be in your right mind for a while first.”

“What choice?” I ask, though the thought that I really don’t need to is already stirring in the back of my head.

And he’s gone.

I don’t even hear the apartment door open and close. Apparently vampires have the ability to silence locks and latches in addition to their own movements. Or maybe he can turn into mist.

Oh, my god, he’s really a vampire.

Of course he’s a vampire. I was there for that. A hundred and thirty-some years ago.

I slump back down onto the bed and again put my head in my hands.

This is overwhelming and beyond agitating, and right now I don’t know how to deal with it. Two lives are suddenly jumbled together in my head, two different senses of self, and, though it’s all clamoring for attention, none of it is what at least part of me feels I should be thinking about. Not while considering the fact that Sano — Sano, whom I remember full well now, whom I loved — has been alive — undead, I suppose, is the correct word — for all these years and has sought me out after so long in another country, another era, another language, another ethnicity… for what?

Just as I was able to put together a set of theories about the situation over the last couple of days at work — a set of theories I’m now much closer to believing in their entirety, as far as I’m capable of thinking about them at all — I feel I can theorize with a fair degree of accuracy what he wants from me now, what choice I’m going to have to make. The look on his face as I died in his arms — the horror and despair and frustration — is such a painful and deeply ingrained memory I almost can’t believe I ever lost it, hundred and thirty-some years or no, and I know what it is he wants.

But I almost can’t handle thinking about my own death like that.

And… how many times must I have died since then?

With a deep, desperate breath something like a sob, as if my body wants to remind itself and my mind that I am still alive, I collapse onto my side on the bed, curling up and closing my eyes. The first two fingers of one hand have somehow found their way just to the left of my trachea as if I were taking my own pulse, running up and down over the two sore spots on my neck, feeling the dried blood there as if it’s brail spelling out a readable message. But it tells me nothing… nothing that isn’t totally overridden by everything else that’s bombarding me, that is.

Memories, many of them seemingly conflicting if not downright impossibly contradictory, shuffle like semi-transparent cards in front of my mind’s eye, overlaying each other and blending improbably together into an incomprehensible mass comprised of two childhoods, two young adulthoods, two manhoods, two different set of police protocol — oh, that’s annoying — two worlds in which I’ve lived, two languages I suddenly speak, two lifetimes’ worth of beliefs and attitudes and recollections. And Sano’s face is superimposed across the whole — Sano’s handsome, enthralling face in all its variety of expression: his sometimes goofy pleasure, his ready anger, his more serious moments still with eyes sparkling, all of it so easy yet so intense… even the more modern aloofness, coldness, bitterness… I can’t stop seeing them. I can’t stop thinking about him.

But I can’t think exclusively about him, no matter how much part of me wants to, no matter how much that seems the only way to stay sane at the moment. The rest of it simply can’t be ignored. It all has to be worked through before I can decide what I think about Sanosuke and what’s happening now, the turn things have taken. If I, Joseph, am going to get on with my life, Hajime will have to be integrated. And I, Hajime, am strong enough to deal with this without going mad. Obviously Sano thought so, or he wouldn’t have burdened me with a past incarnation; he did specifically say he wasn’t doing it to torture me. There’s some irony in this thought, but that’s thirty-five years into the story and has to be put off until I get back around to it.

For now, I’m starting on February 18, 1844. Not that I have any memories from quite that early, but I will work through this as methodically as I can from as early a point as is relevant. I will put it all in place so I can move forward and make the choice I have to make, possibly the most important one of my life. Of this life, anyway.

I already have the beginnings of a dire migraine, and a sense of sorrow growing in the pit of my stomach that’s more than a little like nausea. I suspect these symptoms will only worsen as I lie here thinking and remembering and sorting, and I’m certain that when I call in sick to work tomorrow, it may be Sano’s fault, but it won’t in any way be a lie.

Previous (Part 12) | Chapter Index | Next (Part 14)

8 Replies to “Blood Contingency 13”

  1. HEY. I FINALLY GOT AROUND TO READING THIS! YES. (I am SO SORRY IT TOOK SO LONG)

    WELP, I know a lot of things got revealed, BUT SO MANY QUESTIONS HAVE COME UP TOO. AND, did I get this right– Saito somehow, one way or another, did he find Sano too late? Or something??? Like he’d already been attacked? And then idk, something happens in between, but Saito ends up getting killed somehow afterwards??? Aaaaaaaa— I WANNA SEE WHAT HAPPENED.

    Ah, must admit I felt so tense reading the whole chapter. Like, I was glad they finally got some form of reunion, but there’s still the nagging bit of “but from what”? What was the last thing that happened in the other life? And Sano’s sorta cold and almost seemingly tired attitude about it, like he’s hopeful, but it’s almost a guarded kind of hopeful, puts me on edge. Like I feel like there’s something I’m still missing about what happened and what kind of emotions they had about what happened. And the choice he’s giving Saito, I’m guessing would be whether he turns him or not? I think?

    Great chapter btw, You’ve gotten so much across, but still left me EVEN more curious now about what happened. “two different set of police protocol — oh, that’s annoying —” had me laughing. :’D I love how you’ve characterized Sano. You could definitely feel the years of experiences from his current self compared to how he was before. It’s still definitely him, but there’s a sorta more tired maturity from it too(?) And really great job on portraying what it’s like to suddenly get a whole different life dumped into your head. I thought it was really well handled. You got the confusion across very believably and interestingly. And how random bits of emotion or memory just surface a little stronger than some and such. And you’ve got Saito’s character down very well while that was going on too. And how’s he’s going to deal with it sounds very much like him.

    Thanks for this chapter! It was well worth the wait! Keep up the awesome work!! So curious what happens next!!!

    PS: yay, I’ve graduated. c:

    1. Congratulations on graduating!! I bet you’re still reeling, though! You going to draw some lovely arts of Saitou and Sano now? :D :D :D

      OK, I am very happy that you are so interested in and curious about the events in this story. Very very pleased that you’re so caught up in all of this. Unfortunately, the answers to all your questions are spoilers, so that’s really all I can say XD

      I’m glad you liked the “police protocol” line. It almost seemed a little too lighthearted to include in a scene like that, but I couldn’t bear to leave it out, heh. And I figured that would be something that would jump out and bug Saitou.

      Also I’m glad you liked the description of trying to assimilate a former lifetime’s worth of memories. I think in reality it would be far worse and more difficult than I’ve written it here, but I kinda want him to be able to get on with life and the story, you know? That’s something I think we do a lot of in fiction — gloss over the real effects of things in order to continue the story sooner rather than later XD

      Thank you so so much for your comments; I really appreciate them! You had me thinking about this story off and on throughout the day at work, and that’s always good for coming up with details for future parts! Thanks again!

      1. Thank you! And yep definitely! Currently slowly trying to get over my silly art block here… It’s a pretty terrible one. And yea, my mind totally just shut down the whole of December and early January…. But I definitely wanna finish the ones I’ve got sketched. c:

        Haha darn it, that’s fair enough. And I’m glad you left the line in. It was too good. <3

        And that's true. But for what it's worth, you've still done pretty well in writing it despite that. :D <3

        You're welcome. And I'm glad. c:

        Also, I'm sorry I've been AWOL a lot recently as well. Just been having trouble juggling things here (been trying to catch up on so much I've put off since school aaa). But I think I've stabilized now sorta. ^_^;

  2. SAISA-SENPAI!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHY. OH MY GOD!!!!!!

    Okay okay okay okay. I mean, okay first of all. Just beginning this comment from an artistic standpoint, the way this was written was just gorgeous. Like that’s all I can really say. It’s gorgeous, enthralling, emotional, and beautiful wrapped up in suspense and mystery and angst and… Honestly??? Honestly, now. This is the best work of fiction I have ever read in my entire fucking life and the fact that it’s about Saito and Sano is just leaving me speechless?? Wtf?? Like in my numerous comments, I’m always saying you’re an amazing author but this story and this chapter just takes the damn cake. Holy shit. I wish I could write like this!!!! I LOVE YOUR WORK!!!

    And oh my GOD, the whole soulmate part to this story????? In another comment I left you a few months back, I was talking about how the whole soulmate thing is such a huge draw for the Kirk/Spock fandom. The trope can be gimmicky but K/S does it in a way that isn’t. There’s also the concept of mind-melding to share memories. I love these plot devices. They’re not things I expect to find done well elsewhere, and I never ever ever expected I’d read a saisa fic where I get both of these things. BUT HERE WE ARE.

    I just. Holy shit, when I was saying “imagine Sano chasing Saito across many lifetimes” earlier, I WASN’T ACTUALLY BEING SERIOUS. It was just a friggin “what if” situation. BUT OH MY GOD????? My heart completely BREAKS for him all over again because it’s actually real. I can’t even. He loves Saito enough to follow him over multiple lifetimes. I CANNOT EVEN RIGHT NOW.

    And Saito, with all these memories of two lives in his head…with these feelings for Sano and having no one to help him through this right now. I’m in pain and I’m suffering and NOTHING is okay. AAAAAAAAAA

    This comment was barely coherent. I’m sorry. I’m shook. tl;dr: this story is amazing and you’re my favorite author ever.

    1. I’ve never had someone tell me a story of mine was the best work of fiction they’ve ever read before! Wow! Thank you! I’m so glad this story is working for you so well!

      I’m also glad it can provide you with some of your favorite aspects of stories from your other fandom :D That’s not something I expected either (not least because I don’t know that fandom XD), but I’m happy to have unwittingly obliged!

      Yes, this story setup is very much an AAAHHHH THEY LOVE EACH OTHER SO MUCH sort of thing, heh. And that’s the reason for the need I mentioned several parts back to establish their Meiji relationship so definitively. I’m sure it’s been done elsewhere, but I personally have never encountered vampires combined with reincarnation in order to have a situation like this, and the potential for this sort of tragic I’ve-always-loved-you scenario is vast.

      Once again, I’m glad the tragedy is working, and I’m extremely glad you’re still enjoying the story so much. Thank you for reading and for all your wonderful comments! (I’ll get to the rest of them after work sometime.)

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