When Melissa woke up, Lazarus was not with her. She looked around through bleary eyes, half sitting up, yawning.
‘Lazarus?’ she muttered sleepily.
‘In here.’ He replied from the living room. Melissa untangled the covers from her limbs and stepped out of the bedroom. And didn’t get any further. The living room floor was scattered with newspapers and Lazarus was perched on the edge of the sofa, staring at the screen of the laptop. ‘Looking for a new night shift job. But the bloody humans and their money problems... recession!’ he swore and cursed the greed and stupidity of the race. ‘Nowhere is looking for a night guard anymore. Not even universities or anything.’ He looked up at Melissa, frustration and anguish lighting his pale eyes. ‘Don’t make me stay at that job with him.’ He pleaded.
‘You say that as if it were my fault!’ Melissa frowned at him as he threw his head back, head butting the back of the sofa.
‘No... But you’re hardly gonna change your mind about letting me kill him, are you?’ He shook his head and looked back at the screen.
‘No, I’m not going to change my mind about it; you can’t just give up like that!’ she walked over to him and cleared a space on the sofa for her to sit next to him. He let his body relax, sinking into the sofa, letting the laptop slip a little. Melissa caught it and put it aside. She draped an arm across him and kissed him softly.
‘I can’t work with him, it’s bad enough he lives just down the corridor. He was sent just to torture me, wasn’t he? Wasn’t he? He looks like Gabriel, yet is an insufferable little prick. How can he be an angel with the mind of a lowlife like his?’ Lazarus slapped a hand to his face and groaned.
‘Well you don’t have to work with him, do you? I mean, it was just a one off. You’ll be on your own route again after that.’ Melissa said trying to comfort him, but he just shook his head.
‘He’ll hound me. He wants to know all about you, and I can just tell, he will bug me for weeks to come yet, unless I find a new job. And I have to find it now. Or I will go mad.’
‘Can’t you just ignore his questions?’ Melissa asked as though it were the most obvious thing in the world.
‘You don’t understand!’ Lazarus pushed himself up, dislodging Melissa’s comforting arm. He began to pace, doing his best not to hit something.
‘Then explain to me!’ Melissa cried, Lazarus’ behaviour making her anxious. He stopped pacing and turned his pained eyes down to her where she sat.
‘Just imagine for one moment, you are me. Nearly four hundred years ago, the love of your life –at the time, you understand – got in your way on the full moon, and you ripped him apart just as easily as you would open an envelope. His face, his memory then haunts you for the next three centuries and you become an alcoholic because of it. And then some amazing woman comes into your life and manages to start healing you. Just as you think there’s some hope in your life, someone moves in nearby, and he looks exactly like your first lover. It brings all your buried emotions and memories up, just at the thought of him and you almost expect him to act the same, to be the same. But he’s not, he’s such a lowlife that it’s an insult to those memories that flood you each time you see him.
‘You see when he asks a question, part of me is convinced still that it’s him, and like the fool that I am, I have to answer. Because it’s him. In my mind. Do you see now? Does that clear up anything?’ Lazarus ran a hand through his hair, trying to stop himself from losing it completely. Melissa sighed.
‘Now, being me, seeing you like this. What do you think I can do? Don't you think it pains me to see you like this knowing I can't do anything about it?’ she watched, exasperated, as he dropped into a crouching position, tugging at the hair around his temples, biting back a hurt growl.
‘Of course. Of course it hurts you, but you don’t have to work with him, feeling like that, halfway between illusions and memories and reality.’ He spoke more to the floor than he did to Melissa, and he lifted his head, releasing his hair, using his hands to support his face.
‘I don’t know what I can do! I don’t know what you want me to do!’ Melissa stood up, gripping the top of his left arm, pulling him up gently. He wrapped his arms around her as though she were a life buoy.
‘Let me hurt him?’ he suggested with a weak laugh that breezed through her hair. The brown strands fell back into a curtain before his face, their scent teasing his senses.
‘You know I can’t do that.’ She whispered.
‘Can’t or won’t?’ he challenged, his brow furrowing irritably.
‘Can’t! He’s an innocent; all he’s done to you is annoy you!’ she pulled away and held him at arm’s length, making him look her in the eye as she spoke. ‘You can’t kill everyone that annoys you, or else I would be dead too!’ her eyes narrowed, ‘in fact I have nearly been. Twice!’ she growled, rubbing her neck gently and Lazarus closed his eyes, the memory paining him as much as his recollections of Gabriel.
‘He makes me hurt, Melissa. It goes beyond him being an irritating person.’ He said tenderly, swallowing hard, fighting the desire to simply break down and cry, to buy out the off-licence and hope it killed him.
‘Would you want the memory of killing someone again? Especially someone with Gabriel's face?’
‘Don’t...’ Lazarus moaned quietly, shaking his head. But Melissa continued:
‘To see pain and hurt in an innocent human’s eyes as you maul them?’ her eyes were hard and determined when Lazarus opened his again.
‘Would it really be so very different to the memory I already have of Gabriel dying at my own hands?’
‘No,’ she admitted, ‘but you will have to relive it twice over.’ She dropped her hands from his arms and he sat down on the sofa, bent over, resting his elbows on his knees.
‘I would feel about as much guilt for Connor as I do for Logan.’ He said coldly. ‘The way he talks about you...’ he snorted and looked up.
‘Just because he’s fallen in love with me?’ she queried.
‘Love? You think what he feels is anything more than an animalistic desire? What he feels for you is little more than lust.’ Lazarus spat the words out contemptuously, amazed at how blind Melissa was proving to be.
‘And what is love?’ she argued, curious for the answer.
‘At the very least having some kind of respect! You haven’t caught me trying ham-fistedly trying to get in your pants! Because I respect you! I enjoy your company, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you, but I will wait until you are ready, at least. It’s supposed to be mutual consent, isn’t it?’ Melissa simply nodded. Lazarus gritted his teeth.
‘So what are you going to do?’ she asked, folding her arms across her chest. Lazarus shrugged and looked at the clock.
‘I’m late for work.’ He muttered, getting up.