Franklin floated on a sea of mirrors and illusions; he needed an anchor to keep the walls from closing in on him. With one hand he gripped the heavy old desk to keep the room from dematerializing from his grasp -- or to keep him from jettisoning into space. With the other he pointed toward the door.
"Piss off," he growled.
Vixen put up her hands defensively, soothingly, "Now I know this isn't an easy thing for you to accept. Hell, it wasn't an easy thing to ask of you. I know your history with Alonzo, and believe me you are the last person I would ask..."
Franklin felt his stomach lurch inside him, a combination of fear, rage, and something much like contempt writhing away inside his guts. He gripped the desk so hard he split a fingernail, but he didn't feel it. Instead he kept his focus on a particular knot in the ancient grain of the desktop just below his chin and grit his teeth to keep the trembling at bay. He whirled around and screamed at her, "I TOLD YOU TO GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE, VERMIN!"
Whether it was the hurtful epithet he called her or the way the pain in his voice caused his throat to constrict his words into something very near The Voice, Vixen stopped dead in her tracks, recoiled even. One hand fluttered to her throat and she tilted her head to the side,
"Oh, Robert," she said sadly, "please. For me."
A cold sneer cut a jagged line across Franklin's face, "For you? Like I owe you something? Go to hell, you undead skank. The only thing I owe you is a few hours with a UV lamp. Now get the hell out of my house before I open the blinds."
It was nighttime, so opening the blinds would let in only the orange street light outside, on the corner.
But the meaning was clear. And it was hurtful.
Vixen brought her hand to her lips to stifle a building sob in her mouth, then she threw her handbag at him, "Screw you, you ass!"
Franklin deftly knocked the bag aside and yelled, "You can cut the act; I know your tear ducts died with your heart after the second bite on your carotid!"
She choked down a sob and made her way toward the back door. Franklin didn't bother to look if there were tears on her cheeks. He pointed again to the door. He kept his roiling emotions under control and said, calmly, "Leave. Now. I mean it, Ireland. Get the hell out and go back to being Satan's harlot."
She slipped back into the night without making a sound. Her departure was so stealthy that he almost might have guessed that she was still in the house with him, but he knew she was gone. He scent was already beginning to dissipate, that combination of her natural aroma mixed with some exotic perfume which Franklin found nearly intoxicating. He bent over to pick up her bag from the floor, and then unzipped it in case she had left inside a hand grenade or a swarm of locusts to remember her by.
The contents were light, but then again it was a small clutch. What did he expect, an Uzi? A folded slip of paper, which unfolded turned out to be a bank check for ten grand, a small unmarked key, and another small square of paper: a wallet-size photo. When Franklin turned it over in his hands his knees became rubber and he sank to the floor with tears in his eyes.
It was an aging photo of him -- a younger him, smiling and carefree -- and Ireland, in her pre-vamp days. Her eyes were so pure and her smile genuine. They were both inexplicably happy. Held in their arms between them was a boy of five, who giggled and stared at some point behind the camera. The boy had dark hair and shared his mother's purity and his father's carefree smile.
Gideon had been his name.