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Burn Your Kingdom Down

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Hal dreams of a white horse, a red shield, of peasants bowed in fear. Blood flows from their torn throats and the eyes that watch him pass are lifeless.

He wakes up gasping, to a pounding on his bedroom door.

 “Hal, our shift starts in half an hour. Get outta bed, will ya?” Tom is shouting.  “C’mon, mate, ya missed brekkie and lunch!”

Hal closes his eyes and tries to control his breathing. The pounding continues. He gets up with a muttered curse and flings open the door. Tom’s fist is still raised to knock on the door yet once again, but he breaks out into a smile when he sees Hal. “Sleep bad, didya?”

Hal is very pointedly trying not to rip Tom’s head off. “Yes, Tom. I did sleep poorly. The wakeup call was fittingly irritating, thank you.” His teeth are practically clenched, and Tom’s stupid face doesn’t drop the smile.

At the café, towards the end of their shift, a ten year-old throws up his burger on the floor Hal has just mopped. His mother, rather than be appropriately mortified, starts screaming at the child for wasting the 2 quid. Tom steps in to ask her as politely as he can to calm down, but Hal just stands there and thinks of the white horse and his red shield and dead peasants in supplication. He knows that Fergus was right, that he could saunter into any vampire council in the fucking entirety of Britain and it would be handed to him out of deference. He thinks about ripping into the mother’s throat to silence her, of blocking the exits and gorging himself on the blood of every human in the establishment, even the ten year-old. He isn’t entirely sure if Tom is secretly stashing another stake around the place, but he calculates that by the time Tom might manage to act he could already have drained the woman and may be strong enough to kill Tom as well. He imagines killing Tom, of strangling him, and the strange feeling of being utterly frightened seizes him. Tom, in Hal’s daydream, looks neither frightened nor hateful but disappointed.

Hal is brought back to the world by Tom’s hand on his shoulder, warm and grounding. “Alrigh’, mate?” Tom looks concerned, large dark eyes searching Hal’s face.

“Yes. Sorry, Tom,” Hal says and quickly moves to go get the bucket, trying not to think of those eyes staring at him in disappointment.

Back at the house, Eve is already asleep, and Annie joins them to watch “Antiques Roadshow.” Hal sits in the middle; Annie’s coldness on his left, Tom’s warmth on his right. Tom seems to have no qualms about sitting close enough to touch arms, skin to skin, and Hal is slightly panicked that he is not more panicked about Tom’s touch. But it’s Tom’s slow, paced breathing and the warmth of his skin (hotter, Hal thinks, than an average human’s) that stops him from telling Tom to move off.

Halfway through the episode, Eve starts up a crying fit, and Annie rushes off to calm her down, telling them not to wait and to go ahead and guess on the French pottery. Tom stays exactly where he is; skin still brushing Hal’s. Hal tries to let it go, but after what he estimates is about two minutes, he says to Tom in a low voice, “The sofa is free. You can slide over. I’ll take Annie’s seat.” He is trying to seem calm.

Tom looks at him with his eyebrows furrowed. “Somethin’ wrong? Is this a vampire-werewolf thing then?” He doesn’t seem hurt, just concerned, and Hal hates him for that easy worry, free of malice.

“You are too close,” He says in response, trying to keep his voice level.

Tom’s eyebrows rise this time. “What is it wiv you and touch, Hal?”

Hal just shoots him what he hopes is a look that appropriately says to drop the subject, but Tom continues. “It’s not like a macho thing, righ’? Wouldn’t have sussed you to be worried ‘bout that, livin’ so long and seein’ so much an’ all,” Tom shrugs as he says it and Hal snaps.

Tom and Annie are his friends, but they don’t understand the way Hal needs them to. Tom, especially, pushes Hal in ways that frighten and infuriate him. The monster in him fucking hates the simple and separable monster in Tom-- the way Tom can let the hunger out and then shut it off and still smile at Hal and touch him like it doesn’t mean a bloody thing, like it is easy. This is what Hal thinks as he snarls and grabs Tom by the collar with both hands as he straddles the werewolf’s lap.

“Let it go, Tom. You are entering territory in which you are not welcome. For your own sake, let. It. Go.” Tom can feel his eyes go black, his voice dropping to a level that has made men stronger and larger than Tom shiver.

Tom just looks at him, not frightened and not about to pull a surprise stake from the sofa cushions. “Sorry, mate. Seems to me like you could use tha closeness, sometimes, is all. Ya get caught up in your own head.”

There is nothing funny about the way Hal laughs at that. “Think, Tom, for a second about what touch and closeness has meant to me. Skin, and sex, and blood, and hunger. The things I am trying to keep myself from, and you are threatening all of it,” Hal is trying not to yell.

Tom just watches him, but his mouth sets in a hard line. “It might be keepin’ you clean, mate, but all I’m sayin’ is it might be drivin’ ya mad too. Look at yourself.”

Hal laughs again, leans down to rest his forehead against Tom’s, and takes in the steady beat of his heart, the hot skin. Werewolf or not, it’s intoxicating, makes Hal’s head spin. Tom stares at him, uncomprehending, and Hal can’t help but laugh once more. “You’re so warm, Tom. D’you know what you remind me of? There was this redheaded girl I killed once, in 1941. Hair that looked like fire when the light caught it and skin so warm it felt like biting into sunshine. That’s touch, for me, Tom,” Hal is murmuring this into Tom’s ear and Tom shudders, his heart picks up.

Maybe it’s Tom’s smell and warmth and heightened heartbeat that causes Hal to bend down further and press his mouth hard, violently, on Tom’s closed lips. He’s not certain, even later. But Tom opens his lips, out of shock, and Hal takes it, head rushing and tongue searching and he can feel Tom responding, stirring and making soft sounds and it is as good as blood on his tongue, the feel of Tom underneath him, kissing him back. The stubble of another man’s chin isn’t entirely foreign to Hal, but it has been a very long time, and he only kisses harder. It doesn’t scare Tom, who rises up to meet him, whose hips start moving and seeking friction under Hal’s. They both are hard, Hal realizes, and when Tom outright moans, Hal’s lips detach from Tom’s mouth and he begins kissing down the man’s neck. Tom is not scared of what would usually be an inevitable bite, and only digs his fingers into Hal’s hair in automatic response. Hal’s hands move up and under Tom’s shirt, holding him tighter to his body. They are like starving men, deprived of touch and sensation, who now can’t seem to get enough. Only when Tom groans louder and very distinctly grinds his erection into Hal’s hip does Hal realize how far they’ve gone.

Shit, he thinks, and pulls back. Tom stares at him, breathing heavily. He’s flushed, and there’s a light in his eyes that Hal can only code as lust. He is also very obviously, unashamedly hard.

It nearly kills Hal to swallow and say in a shaky voice against the werewolf’s neck, “I’m sorry, Tom but…god, if I don’t…if this goes any further I will end up, ah, ‘plucking’ your virginity here on a sofa that should have died with the 70s.”

Tom sighs and leans his head back. “Knew I should of never said that thing ‘bout virginity bein’ like a flower.”

They both stare at each other and start laughing, genuinely and with real mirth, until a sigh interrupts from behind.

“You know, I told Tom no bringing girls home if he was going to live here, but I did not anticipate that this would be a problem,” Annie is sitting on the bar and trying to look annoyed, but failing to. The corner of her mouth quirks up a bit and they both groan.

Hal rolls off Tom, who gets up and sheepishly looks away from Annie. “Ah, sorry.”

The vampire is trying not to die (again) of embarrassment on the spot. “Well,” he says, staring pointedly at somewhere other than Annie’s face, which is trying to suppress a grin, “I think I am going to my room for the evening.” With as much dignity as he can possibly gather (really very little), he turns to Tom and says, “Good night, Tom.”

The other man tries not to break out into a smile too and just says, “’Night Hal.”

The next morning at breakfast, Annie is still smiling, and Hal is still trying his best not to be mortified. He feels a hand on his knee and recognizes immediately that it belongs to Tom, who doesn’t stop gulping down cereal for a second. Hal knows, for one instant in an extraordinarily long lifetime of terror and violence, he is safe.