By Indri

SUMMARY: William after he died. NC17. Spoilers for "Fool for Love". Written May 2002.

When he comes to, he's lying on his back with a thick taste in his mouth. He feels giddy and strange and wonders if he's coming down with a cold. A voice, a woman's voice, with more than a touch of Bow's Bells in it, says, "Wake up, sleepyhead." The voice is so close that he thinks he ought to feel her breath on his face and, sure enough, when he opens his eyes, her nose is only an inch from his own and he's staring into the most beautiful blue eyes and at the sweet mouth of the woman who, ah, tore his throat out just before he passed out.

But that can't be right. He presses his fingers to his neck and finds---well of course he finds that his throat is still there and that there's no trace of a wound. He must have dreamt that. He tries to recall the events of the night before, to piece together why he's now lying (fully-dressed), with his arms folded on top of him, in a (hotel?) bedroom he doesn't recognise with a woman he can't quite remember having met. There was... the party... Cecily... Maybe he got drunk. You're supposed to forget things if you get drunk. Or if you're drugged. Maybe the woman drugged him. Yes, that might be it, because all the colours in the room seem slightly off and too crisply in focus, and he can hear too many things at once, all sorts of nonsensical thumps and layered whispers and scurryings, and the scents of the room are too strong: wallpaper glue, furniture polish, and something that might be perfume or incense, very strong.

Yes, so the woman drugged him, and stole his purse, and found that there was next to nothing in it, and so kidnapped him and took him to a hotel room. No, that made no sense at all.

So, he got drunk or drugged and met this woman and took her to a hotel room which he clearly didn't have to pay for in advance, where he hallucinated and passed out. Still not good, and still not all that plausible, but he had been really upset last night and had in fact considered throwing himself under a train, so there was really no telling what he might have done.

The woman's lips and eyelashes look very dark next to the pallor of her skin. She's sitting on the bed, one hand rubbing a wrist, where she seems to have a small wound. She moves her hands to either side of him and lowers her head even further, to brush the tips of their noses together. "Sleeping Beauty has slept until almost dawn," she says. It sounds like an admonishment.

He can feel the swell of her bodice against his chest. He looks up at her and thinks, what can it matter? So he leans forward a little to press his lips against hers. And he's slightly startled to find how firmly she kisses him back and how she's parting his lips with her tongue to show him how to kiss properly. It's a little awkward to begin with, but he's soon getting the hang of it. Really getting the hang of it. And by then they're lying side by side, with one of his hands on the small of her back and the other in her hair, and she's running her fingers over the contours of his face. Which is when William finally realises he isn't wearing his glasses.

He sits up with a start and his hand automatically reaches out for where they should be on the bedside table. He panics a little when he can't find them, not because he needs them for anything except reading, but because they're quite expensive. But the woman's annoyed at this and determinedly pulls him back down onto the bed. Well, he thinks, getting back to kissing her, there are worse things. Never you mind.

Light has started seeping around the thick curtains by the time the woman breaks off the kiss (what was that his schoolfellows had told him about needing to break off to breathe? that was rubbish). She starts undoing her hair. And William has time, once again, to take in his surroundings: a fireplace filled with an arrangement of dried flowers (still surprisingly strongly scented), a writing table with some spindly Sun King chair, and a heavy Queen Anne wardrobe. Everything is still surreally clear. Even at the far end of the room, William can still make out the tiny patterns in the wallpaper, little purple swirls that start to swim in and out of focus if he stares at them too hard. The giddiness has gone, but William still feels at the mercy of his overloaded senses. Even his body feels wrong, somehow, too relaxed and not at all weary. The ache in his back that he gets from his desk chair seems to have vanished and it's as if he's aware of every single muscle that his body possesses---it appears he has quite a few. He wiggles the toes of his left foot.

He thinks that if he left now, he could probably get home before anyone would miss him. He could sneak out of the hotel, work out where he was, find the railway. But he lacks the motivation.

And this opium dream of a woman is sitting now with her back to him on the bed, her loose hair swept forward off her neck because she'd like him to undo her dress. So he pulls himself upright and slowly undoes each hook, peeling the cloth away little by little until he's reached her waist. There's a long white V of corset revealed underneath, and he runs his thumbs up along the line of it and her spine. He's a little surprised by his boldness, but well, he's never been in this position before, has he?

Then she stands, so he can undo the hooks below her waist, which is when he realises that she wearing neither petticoats nor drawers. Round, white and slightly mismatched cheeks of flesh are revealed under his fingers. She steps out of her dress (she's still wearing her boots) and goes to hang it next to several others in the wardrobe. The gas is still lit. He thinks, don't you want to turn the lamps down? but he doesn't say so because he's trying to get a good look. She bends over to unhook her shoes. He tilts his head slightly, trying to see if he can make out any details between her legs. And---oh God!---he can.

Suddenly he decides it's a good time to start taking off his shoes and coat. He pulls off his tie too quickly to notice the stains on it and unfastens his cufflinks. But the woman comes back to the bed then and prevents him from starting on his shirt buttons. She's facing him and for the first time William can see the smooth expanse from collar bone down to her constrained breasts, the corset concealing her from aureole to just below the navel. Then there are her hipbones, channeling down around a triangle of hair towards the lines of her sex, and her slender legs and feet.

She sits with her back to him once more, so he can unbind her from her last piece of clothing. And William does so, pressing his lips against each revealed piece of flesh as he goes. He doesn't know if this is the sort of thing he's supposed to do, but she seems to like it, arching her back a little and throwing back her head so that his head is covered in her dark hair.

Then the garment is shrugged off and she turns to him on all fours, smashing her lips to his so he can't get a good look at her breasts. But then she sits back on her haunches and reaches for his right hand (the wrong one, he's left-handed) to stroke up and down her body while her fingers undo his shirt. Her skin is cool and almost resilient, very smooth to his touch, which isn't quite how he had imagined a woman would feel, but what would he know? And then suddenly it's his back that's arching, because her lips and teeth are on his chest and she has her hand on his trouser buttons, sliding her hand along his shaft so that he cries out. And she wrenches his trousers from his legs and throws herself along the length of his body, her lips on his mouth, her nipples teasing across his skin. His member is lying flat against his stomach, and she glides the lips of her sex up and down over it, without actually opening herself. And in a moment or two, before he's realised what's happening, he's spent over himself and is panting hard, but she doesn't seem to mind. She just rolls over so that her back and rump are on top of him, rubbing the fluid dry. Then she flips him over onto his front and starts biting gently at his buttocks as if she's going to eat him, before pressing her sex against his cheeks and rubbing so hard that his face is mashed into the pillow and he feels her spending after a minute.

And he thinks, come on now, I have some idea what to do, and he rolls her over onto her back and kneels between her legs. She opens herself wide, her feet flat on the bed, holding the lips of her quim open with her fingers. He moves forward, trying to push himself in, but she won't let him do it all at once, just the tip first, then slowly pushes herself up and over him. The sensation is actually more pleasurable than he thought the human body could stand. He really doesn't seem to be able to control his movements any more: she pulls him down so he's pressed on top of her, just thrusting, and the pleasure is so blinding that he honestly can't tell if his eyes are open or closed, there's just the sensation of him inside her and the sound of her moans in his ear. Then, quickly, it's over, and she's grinding so hard into him that he's in pain. He's pretty sure he cried out.

They lie next to each other, without uncoupling, kissing and touching each other more gently. He could swear that he can see actual love in her eyes. "My sweet darling," she says, in that odd little voice of hers. "My darling prince." She seems very happy with him for some reason.

He drifts off to sleep for a while, only to awaken to find himself flat on his back and the woman riding him once again. Which is when he decides that she is in fact a succubus and that he's clearly lying in some opium den with his hand down his trousers. And that, he thinks, after he's climaxed once more and she's nuzzling her face into his neck, is something he ought to do much more often.

Because it wouldn't be such a bad way to spend his life, would it? Outwardly withering but inwardly leading that rich inner life of his that kindly schoolmasters used to excuse his poor attention span. Of course, it would upset his family, but with any luck he'd be too drugged up to care. He quite fancies this, endless couplings with this beautiful, dark-haired woman, even if he doesn't know her name. He'd ask if she had one (maybe succubi don't) except he thinks that would break the spell, as if knowing her name would make the colours in the wallpaper fade and the room grow dim and shabby.

After some time, he slides out of bed, leaving her fast asleep and curiously still under the sheets. It has to be past midday. He knows they should get something to eat, but he's not really hungry and he's excruciatingly tired. He walks up to the window, thinking he might at least find out where they are, but his hands start to ache strangely as he reaches to pull the curtains apart. He sighs---better not push it---maybe this will break the spell too. So he climbs back into bed, wraps himself around her, and sleeps naked for only the second time in his life.

When he wakes again, there is a bath of hot water sitting in the room that the woman has somehow procured. She's leaning over it, dipping in her chin and blowing bubbles. "All the waves go away when you're not looking," she says.

"Is that so?" he says, taking a seat next to her on the floor.

She looks cross. "You don't believe me."

"I'll believe anything you say tonight," he says. This makes her happy and she goes back to blowing bubbles in the water. He leans forward to kiss her neck, but then she rears her head up suddenly and hurts his nose. "But if you're chained in the bath then you'll get hungry," she tells him with a very serious expression.

He laughs. "I would imagine so."

She flicks a little water into his face and William retaliates with a splash and pretty soon water has gone everywhere and she's pulling him on top of her and inside her once again. And William thinks, why don't poets write about this, sod daffodils and clouds, although maybe poets do, they just don't publish it. Because he knows he's supposed to enjoy this---pleasures of the marriage bed and all that---but no-one had really conveyed to him just how good it was. Why in God's name has he never done this before?

At some point they do manage to separate long enough to wash up. It's dark outside and William reflects that his family will have called in the police by now. There will be a constable in the drawing room, trying to comfort his mother, carefully choosing his words to explain that perhaps a young unmarried man who goes missing on the weekend after a party will probably turn up unscathed. And his mother will be reacting angrily and saying that her son isn't that sort of young man.

And he isn't normally, is he? But everyone must have a breaking point and he thinks he's just reached his. Cecily was clearly the last straw. He was wrong about her, but so what? He he seems to have found the right woman now. She hasn't asked about his job or his later financial prospects or given a damn about what he's been wearing.

He supposes he could always send a telegram to his mother: NOT DEAD STOP BACK MONDAY STOP STOP WORRYING STOP WILLIAM. Except, well, maybe he won't go back on Monday, not if this woman's still here. Who cares about bloody wool importation tax anyway, except the six people who own Scotland and the mighty Merino Lords of the colonies? Who gives a toss? That bastard Robinson and the lot of them, they can do his work for him, they can go hang.

But he doesn't have enough money to go on a proper bender, whether he's hallucinating or not, and he's starting to get peckish. He honestly can't remember eating anything since yesterday afternoon. Perhaps he could sell his cufflinks and his watch and buy them a day or two until the banks open.

They dress and go down the hotel stairs. Miraculously, no-one demands any bills be paid as they go out the front door.

It must have been a hot day, because the smell is even worse than usual. But there's another scent to it, one he finds impossible to place. He runs his tongue over his teeth, as if that will help him any. The scent is, well, the best analogy he can come up with is rare roast beef, possibly cooked with claret. It's making him hungry.

He takes his paramour's hand and leads her in the direction where the scent is strongest. It seems to be coming from one of those music hall tavern places. He's never been in one before, but he thinks that the place is probably a good idea. There should be some cheap grub there and no-one going to mind that his shirt's all rumpled and his collar is missing or that he hasn't got a hat.

The place is less busy than he thought it would be---he'd heard they were packed on Saturday nights. He gets himself a beer (might as well do this properly, he thinks, although he doesn't often drink) but the woman shakes her head when he offers her something. She seems more interested in looking at the crowd.

They sit together at a small table while William drinks his beer. "We'll get something to eat in a minute, alright?" She nods. Up on the stage a man in a ridiculous check lounge suit is singing to a piano accompaniment:

"So I mourns for the loss of the girl I love, And I don't know where to find her; She's gone away from her turtle dove, With a nasty organ grinder."

"It's probably just pies they've got," he says, not really familiar with the menus of these places. "Or we could go somewhere else."

She leans her head on his shoulder and takes his hand. "Look at all the dancing people," she says.

William looks around them, but can't see anyone dancing. "I don't think I heard you right," he says. He finishes his beer.

"It's too crowded in here," she tells him. "I don't want to eat here."

"Alright," he says, "let's go then. Do you know where? I don't know this part of the city."

She giggles. "I know where." And she runs her finger over his lips and then leads him out of the building. He follows her around a corner, past a tobacconist's and a haberdasher's, and down an alley. She pushes him into a deserted doorway. "Stay here," she says.

Then she steps out and moves towards the main street, but staying within the alley proper. A policeman walks past and she says, "Sir?" The constable takes a few steps into the alley. "Do you know what your time is?" she says.

And with a motion that's almost too fast for him to watch, she whips her hand out and seizes the man's throat, pulls him closer and twists his head---William can actually hear the snap of his spine. The officer's hat goes bouncing over the cobblestones to land near William's feet. The succubus picks up the policeman as if he were some sort of a doll and carries him over. Her face has changed into that of a monster.

Which is when he finally remembers: vision---glory---baby fish---"Oh yes!"---his throat---pain---her wrist pressed against his lips.

She sinks her teeth into the peeler's throat and the scent of the blood in the air makes William ravenous. He feels a strange sensation come over his face, and when he reaches up to touch his forehead he can feel ridges. While she drinks, he looks at his long pale fingers, clear of paper cuts or even ink stains. He pushes them experimentally against a door, and feels it yield and crack under the tips.

"I've saved some for you," the succubus says. So he kneels down next to her and takes the warm corpse from her arms, presses his lips to the wound on the officer's neck. And he drinks.

"Will you sing mermaid songs for me?" she asks when he looks up.

He's feeling giddy again. "I don't know any."

And he looks down at the dead policeman in his arms, and thinks, this had better be delirium. But then the body rolls off his knees and William finds himself looking at his fingers once again. He stands up, makes a fist of his hand, and punches straight through the door. He inspects his knuckles: there's a few splinters, but no real damage done. He grasps the door using the hole he's made and pulls the door clean off its hinges. It narrowly misses his companion's head and goes sailing off down the street to land at the other end of the alley.

He looks at his hand. He looks at the woman (and she looks like a woman once again). He looks back at the door. He says, considering, "That was great."

The door he's pulled off leads into the backroom of a clock and watch maker's. On a whim, he steps in, his succubus following. There's a table covered with half-built watches and pieces under repair. These lie on black velvet cloth, next to fine metal tools and someone's abandoned teacup and paper. Through a part-open door he can make out the front room: there are shelves filled with mantle clocks and other types of timepiece, a hundred pendulums swinging, tick-tocking in as many different cadences. To his new ears, it's a cacophony.

He pulls his own watch out of his pocket and puts it down on the table. It's a shabby piece next to the others and it hasn't been ticking since he woke (he didn't wind it last night). He considers pinching himself a new one when the newspaper catches his eye.

"That can't be right," he says. "It can't be Tuesday."

"It is Tuesday," the woman says. "You slept a long time."

So the police will be looking for him in earnest by now and his family must fear that he's dead. Someone else has done two days' work for him at the office, assuming that his work needed to be done at all.

He picks his watch up, and squeezes it tightly. He is slighty disappointed to see that he can only dent it. So instead he throws it into the other room so that it smashes into the face of a carriage clock: glass and cogs go flying. He picks up a poker and starts laying into things as hard as he can. His girl laughs and claps her hands, little clouds of glass exploding everywhere around them. He doesn't stop until every last timepiece in the shop is broken.

It's over. He's free. He doesn't have to go home.

After that they go on a bit of a spree. She picks up some jewelry; he gets a better pair of boots. They kill a confectioner and then sit throwing the jars against the back wall of the shop. William helps himself to gobstoppers while his succubus sucks the sherbet out of the sherbet lemons, carefully placing each eviscerated sweet back in the jar.

Later they break into one of those private gardens that the posher streets have and she cuts his hair. He figures he'll be unrecognisable to most of the people he knows now that both glasses and flop-top are gone. He spends some time blowing his loose hairs from her bodice until she begins to giggle. Then he lays her down on her stomach in the damp grass and starts to undo her dress. He looks at the stays beneath and wonders if she can just flex her torso and have the whalebone shatter: something like that can't hold her in. And besides, he wastes precious minutes getting the thing undone every time he wants at her breasts.

"There's the moon," she says, pointing and kicking her feet. "It speaks to me."

"And what does it say?"

"That I chose wisely and well."

He starts on the corset. "Am I an incubus now too, then?"

"Not an incubus," she says, matter-of-factly. "A vampire."

"I'm some sort of South American bat?"

"No. You're an evil, evil spirit that roams the Earth hunting and biting." She's adopted this melodramatic, grand guignol tone that William can only find funny.

"Hunting and biting," he repeats, sliding his hands over the skin of her back.

"I was wrong earlier," he says, as she sits up to take off her garments. "I do know a mermaid song. Shall I sing it to you?"

"Do," she says.

So he sings the verses he can remember, while she unbuttons his clothes:

"She came at once unto him,
And gave him her white hand,
Saying, 'I have waited long, my dear,
To welcome you to land.

'Go to your ship and tell them,
You'll leave them all for me;
For you're married to a mermaid
At the bottom of the deep blue sea.'"

It was only some days later that he learnt about his in-laws.


Note: The man in the music hall is singing The Organ Grinder, with lyrics by G.W. Hunt. Married to a Mermaid is a song dating from 1740 which was still popular in the late 1800s. There are many variant sets of lyrics.

Send feedback to Indri