The Parting Glass

The Hideaway - Elmont, New York - June 1973
The Parting Glass - @Eoin

 More humans crowded the bar than Gavin could ever remember seeing at this place. The Hideaway wasn’t for the average man, but there were always a few who thought they could brave the smoky darkness and live to tell the tale. Place was infamous in those days. A supernatural hangout before those places grew in popularity.

 But today? Its reputation didn’t seem to matter. Men in their blazers and women in their sundresses smoked endlessly in the underground bar, drinking whatever they were served. A crowd three people deep hassled the bartender, yelling at the shifter who provided the Paynes with occasional bits of intel for the last 70 years. They screamed for Secretariat and toasted the ‘magnificent machine’ who’d just taken the Triple Crown for the first time in 25 years. Gavin remembered the 1948 race, too. That horse’s name escaped him.

 He’d never been a gambling man, not in the monetary sense. Nor was he a race man, as so many around him clearly were. The single, tiny television set high above the backsplash of the bar replayed the race over and over. News stations abandoned all pretense that there were better things to talk about. Gavin wanted to hear about the war. Seemed like the humans would forget about that until the morning.

 That rusted hope that a drunk human might also get him drunk hung in his mind as the cellar door opened for the tenth time in the last hour, letting in the glow of street lamps for a moment before slamming shut.

 People turned to look, but Gavin’s cousin wasn’t in the mood for talk, by the look on his face.

 By the time he reached Gavin’s table near the back, Gavin could read him like an open book.

 “Yeh didnae find the lass?” He didn’t wish to provide an alternative and just let the question hang in the air.

It was a bitterness alcohol could once have assuaged, his countenance twisting with agony's paintbrush, the deepened lines turning to concrete as he pushed past the shoulders canalizing the alley that led towards the bar. Some people merely stared, but most did their best to shift out of the way as he passed, disheveled appearance upturning the nose of some of the more affluent patrons. Amusement may have touched him if it had a way to pierce the sorrowful lead, but as it stood, Eoin could do ought else but grimace while everyone around him cheered.

Iona. Fucking Iona.

Despite the curse, there was a plea, the desperation safely hidden by the wordless, as he approached his cousin, shaking his head in response, strands of greying hair falling over his eyes. "Nah." He inhaled, and looked around, gaze narrowing before it returned, hand transplanting itself to the bar top without purpose. "Trail went dead in Columbus. Been reworking what I can o'her steps on my way back, but nothin'."

All this noise for a goddamned horse.

"Yeh find anything'?" He didn't wait for a response before continuing, with Gavin, finding his walls to be paper thin. "What the fuck was she thinkin'? She's going to get herself killed, yeh keen?" With a shove of a boot, the chair beside him splintered, wood spinning away to land disgracefully across the room. A hand smoothed over his unkempt beard, turning away without waiting to see who would notice his outburst.

"What do I do now?" He looked towards the other reaper for a plan. An idea. Anything that could spark an ember of hope.

 Not even the bartender said a word at the broken chair. No one who mattered had even seen, though a fellow rubbed his torso and was spinning in place, shaggy hair flying. But a few drunk patrons already stepped on wood splinters and other passing feet kicked pieces under tables. Soon, there was nothing left of the thing, but the shattered back. After last call, it’d be remarked upon, cleaned up and forgotten. Gavin watched this faraway drama play out, listening to Eoin finish his report.

 “She kens how t’keep goin. Yeh know that” Gavin told him in a normal voice. Thankfully, they didn’t have to shout to hear each other. Still, he leaned closer, covering his mouth with a hand. “But I tol’ you then, and I’ll remind ye fer sake yer sanity. She was never gonna keep it up.” Shaking his head, he went on. “This wasn’t her war. This wasn’t her choice. We picked for her because she was young, and we were feckin just as lost as she.” Gavin leaned back, hands out, begging Eoin to look around. “Yeh try bein’ a woman now, eh? Dunnae matter if you’re alive r’dead. S’a different time, Eoin.”

 “As to wha’ I found out,” he continued, saying more words in this monologue than he’d said in the previous two weeks his cousin had been away. “Maryanne doesn’t give a shite.” One of their contacts in the city. “Said Iona came to her with some story about a cult in the Midwest. Told her we’d be meeting her there. Load of shite as we well know.” Someone nearby lit up a cigarette. Gavin stared at it, wistful. “And ye? What do ye do? Nay, we. We do nothin. We do as we’ve always done. Unless yeh’d rather quit, too? Go after the lass?” This didn’t sound like Eoin, but being dead didn’t stop anyone from being a hothead.

 Least of all a Payne.

Although it was what he wanted, hearing sense was a difficult pill to swallow, with every word, pressing the lump, and opposition, downwards in his throat so his wits had a chance to regain their footing. Worry clawed at him with the same need as bloodlust, but with enough time, he would find a means for temperance- control. Pressing both hands against the counter, he leaned downwards and closed his eyes, without physical need, taking a long, steady breath before he rose to follow his cousin's hands, nodding briefly as his nerves stilled enough for him to sit.

"Nah," he said languidly, freckles, blue gaze, and a wild smile playing like a loop in his mind, "She won't be found until she's good'n ready teh be... Yer right. She was never gonna keep it up." Gavin's word's pricked like a splinter, the truth of them poisoning his reasons for anger...But he was right. She didn't have say then...well, he could sure as fuck hear her now. "Suppose'n I didn't give her much of a choice but te disappear." He knew. He'd always known. Iona was kinetic- dissatisfied to follow a pace she didn't set. Perhaps he should have been grateful she stuck around for so long, but as the thought tried to root, it shriveled like a slug who'd had the unfortunate pleasure of encountering a bucket full of salt.

"We," he said, punctuating the the inherent apology in the word with a steady hand on his cousin's shoulder, "Keep doin' what we always have. Mam's not gonna be happy, but she'll understand, ye keen?" He pulled his hand away and briefly moved his fingers through his hair, voice finally shedding its conflicted skin, "Suppose'n my Uncle won'na have much else teh say yeh already haven't highlighted." Eoin offered a small smirk, and turned away to glance at the television disinterestedly, "I owe yeh one fer that."

"So, which are yeh thinkin'?"

Maybe the goddamn horse would prove useful after all, the disorganized sound of merriment intimating the potential taste of spirits. And fuck, they could both do with a drink.

 With every step into the future, the potential for contact with the many rotting corpses of their family increased. Sure, they went back every decade or so to remind the others that yes, they were still kicking up dust in every American city with even a mutter of some human mucking the place up. No, it wasn’t time to stop. Yes, they had enough to eat. No, they didn’t need any money. But the ten-year reunions inched closer to monthly checkups from random city payphones. Gavin didn’t like it, preferring the silence to focus on their projects and to remember that this was no penance, only justice.

 Eoin’s hand on his shoulder served as a reminder that two weeks of questions and going to ground in derelict cellars were over, even if his words made it plain that there would be explaining to do down the road.

 “Le’s wait to tell ‘em. I dunna ken if she’d do tha’ herself, but we should exclude ourselves. What could they’ve to say to us that they could’nae say to her?” A fantasy, maybe. But they were what they were in a world where their kind was more the stuff of horror, not reality. Their pallor bothered no one in this place, and their quiet voices caused no one to look at them. “But I wonder if she’ll want t’cut ties altogether.” Gavin looked over at his cousin, eyes tired. “She put us in a mess.”

 Breakfast put him in a slightly better mood, reminding him that yes, they did have to eat tonight. “S’much fuss over a horse,” Gavin observed, leaning back in his seat, getting a better view of the whole place. The chaos only made sense if you talked of war or breeding stock. Who cared if your stallion was the fastest in the country? That seemed a poor measure of his value. He could run around a track thirty-something times. Okay, but what was his wind? Could he take you at a gallop for several miles? Their brief time out West made Gavin more than a little skeptical of fancy racehorses.

 “Say, was tha? Nae, over there.” He smacked Eoin’s forearm with a balled fist, pointing subtly down the length of the bar to a man towering over an obviously-drunk woman near the far wall. Bound to be some degenerates out this evening—there was always at least one.

"Can't argue with tha." It was her mess to clean up. Her news to deliver, but even as he thought it, Eoin felt pulled to intervene. "Sides, little more responsibility would do her good."

Eoin nodded, cheek sucked inward as he considered the implications of his cousin's words. Cut ties altogether? No...she wouldn't do that. Couldn't do that. Iona could bare her teeth all she fucking wanted. Bark and snap. Bolt out the door. Eventually she would come back with her tail tucked firmly between her legs. "The wants always been there, Gavin'. S'follow through we have teh worry about." A woman screamed playfully across the bar, the man she was with hoisting her upwards and into the air for a kiss that only made sense on screens.

"But not yet. She's impulsive...She'll get herself inteh trouble and need us to shade her again. Dinnae ken how long that will take...'Suppose time will tell. And times somethin' we have a lot of these days."

When he felt the bump against his forearm, Eoin followed his cousin's gaze, eyes narrowing as he watched. "Aye...that'll do." The celebration was winding down, and people's wits along with it, alcoholic accelerants shoving forth varying degrees of ugliness. "There's two now," his jaw tensed with displeasure, both men leading the woman out the door as she deliriously asked who they were.

"Mind the revolver," he said, already following them, having noticed the weapon neatly tucked under one of the degenerate's suit.

 "Aye. See it," Gavin replied as he rose, sharpening his gaze on the piece as they left their seats in the bar, thoughts of Iona and her departure almost forgotten in the face of a meal. They'd feel better for one, Gavin knew. He pushed himself through groups of furious reveling, smelling beer and liquor everywhere, eyes on the small clutch of humans as they climbed the steep stairs to the outside.

 Gavin had to physically move several people from his path, ignoring their stuttering protests, before taking the stairs two at a time to reach the door. Outside, he scanned a thinning crowd, nose too full to follow anyone by smell. The sight of the men's suits disappearing into an alley caught his attention, and he picked up his pace to find them.

 A different world. Right. He thought, cursing his earlier words. This looked an awful lot like the same world dressed up in different clothes. But maybe for his cousin, it was. Freedom of expression that she'd not known before. And she couldn't be caught drunk in a bar under the care of two strangers, so there was that to soothe Eoin's mind.

 Gavin stopped at the mouth of the alley, hearing smatterings of protest from the woman.

 "Oi!" Gavin called out, positioning himself in one half of the entrance. "Ken you oughtta know better," Gavin said, knowing well that they wouldn't have a clue what he tried to say.

Eoin followed seperately but in tandem, waiting until Gavin had drawn the pair's attention before closing the distance, hand immediately pulling the man's revolver from its holster. With a flick of his wrist, bullets fell from chambers, the metal tossed aside as fangs appeared. Black eyes oscillated between the two but never strayed as he spoke, the alcohol in their veins no doubt clouding their vision and slowing what surprise had already impaired in their reactions.

"Run, lass."

As soon as she turned, Eoin sprang, teeth pushing past flesh as a sturdy palm suffocated a scream, the surge of blood pulling in a tide of energy and euphoria. It was a fault in their species- the moment when a shark's eyes would roll to white.

Eoin didn't see the switchblade until it struck out to reach his cousin.

 Eoin had done his bit. The pincer attack was an old favorite. Thankfully, the woman was so addled that she wouldn’t remember much of this night. A good thing. She stumbled past him, breathing heavily and shuffling in her heeled shoes. Eoin struck, but Gavin turned away, walking backward into the alley to join the fray. He wanted a sense of calm—assurance that no one else would walk by and catch a glimpse. Bloodlust gripped him like an iron fist, making him grind his teeth and take a few more steps.

 The sound of the blade rang like a bell to his senses, and he spun around in time to knock it away with the palm of a hand. It clattered to the ground, but Gavin felt pain radiate from the spot. The sludgy, black liquid within him pushed out of the cut, and Gavin curled his hand around it, growling indistinct words in Gaelic before savagely backhanding the other man with supernatural speed.

 Blue eyes waxed to golden. Fangs shot down from the roof of his mouth. He dragged the unconscious sod behind a recycling bin and began to eat from the slowing vein at the man’s throat. He surfaced for a moment, looking for Eoin, blood dripping down his chin and goatee.

 “Yeh still worried about her?” Gavin asked.

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