Dave Strider, vampire hunter, is used to standing outside grandiose, ancient castles while the wind howls in his ears. He is used to scaling skyscrapers while thunderstorms rage and cracking the security systems of massive hives of opulence. He is used to the wind whipping his hair and chill gripping his bones. The weight of his sword, the leather of its grip, the force it takes to thrust it through a sternum- Dave is used to all that.
He is not, however, used to standing at the door of a fairly standard, if upscale, apartment on a partly cloudy day and finding himself face to face with the guy he sees at the computer store all the time, who he’s supposed to meet for lunch at some offbeat deli on Wednesday. That’s a new one.
“Sollux? Huh. Do I, uhh… Do I have the right address?”
“If that thilver thword meanth you’re a vampire hunter kind of guy, then I guethh tho.”
“Hmm. Well then.”
He runs his eyes up and down his mark, trying to discern how aggressive he might be or how powerful he is. He tries to cling to a sense of routine and save some face. He finds Sollux’s eyes again, though, and there’s a subtle glow to them. He hears a strangely syrup-sweet voice pour from his lips.
“Dave, why don’t you jutht put the thword down? You’re going to make a methh that neither of uth ith going to want to clean up. If you’d like, you can come inthide for thome coffee, or you can even head home. Surely you have thome thingth you’d like to get done today.”
“Really? Mesmerism? Really?”
“Ahh, fucking shit. Motherfucking thunglathheth.”
“You’re a goddamned amateur.”
“Cut me thome thlack, I haven’t really been at thith long.”
“What, the whole ‘eating people’ bit?”
“Dave, can we have thith converthation inthide?”
Sollux pinches the bridge of his nose, above where his glasses have slid down. He screws his eyes shut and heaves out a sigh. Dave’s fingers wrap tight around the sword’s hilt and his bicep draws tight. He shifts his weight and
Sollux sidesteps to let Dave in the doorway.
He sits on a rich beige sofa, sword laid neatly in front of his feet. The vampire from the computer store walks out of the kitchen with two cups of coffee, with a half-gallon of milk hooked on his pinkie and a bowl of sugar balanced in the crook of his elbow. Dave bounces his heel, not so much conscious of the gesture as he is of the ripples that wobble across the coffees’ surfaces when Sollux manages to settle them on the mostly plain, wooden slab of table.
Dave chews the inside of his lip. His toes wiggle in his shoes. He tries to count the number of wrinkles in his knuckles by feel alone. He watches his coffee being prepared for him in slow motion, wondering when he ever said shit about how he prefers that his coffee taste more like ice cream than bean juice. He yanks a stray string from a hem of his usually shadow-colored Underarmor. In the eco-friendly lighting of Sollux’s living room, it just looks the kind of gray that gets pretentious names in mail-in catalogues to mask that it is, by definition, the least interesting color.
“Do you need any more milk?”
“Ok, no, what the fuck?”
Sollux furrows his brows and screws the cap back on the milk jug.
“Thuit yourthelf, rudeathh.”
He hauls himself back to the kitchen with a far greater show of effort than could possibly be required of a strength-stealing immortal. Dave appreciates the flair for the dramatic. The hunter twists himself on the couch to see naught but the vampire’s hunched back as he looks for a better spot for milk in his fridge. His bare toes squirm a bit against the likely chilly tile.
“Are you hungry? I have thandwich thtuff.”
“Dude, do you actually eat food?”
Finally, Sollux rounds on him. A single, angular brow is arched as high as muscle permits. His arms dangle limply at his sides and Dave thinks he could not look less impressed.
“You’re. A. Vampire hunter. And you don’t know if vampth actually eat normal food? Who’th calling who an amateur?”
“Hey hey, no, skinny, I just slay ‘em. This quaint, pre-eradication coffee bit is new to me.”
“Oh, tho you ARE thtill planning on killing me.” Sollux shrugs and turns back to the fridge while Dave’s confusion still crackles in his ears. His cheeks burn and his fingers itch for the dagger strapped to his thigh. This is taking too long. “Anyway, there’th ham and thalami and thome really good turkey in here, if you want it.”
With one arm, Dave silently lofts himself over the couch back. He slips the knife at his thigh out of it’s sheath, talking over the hushed sound.
“You’re spending a lot of time with your back to me.”
“And with your eyes closed.”
“How obthervant, mathter athhathhin.”
Sollux sighs and Dave slips closer. Each press of foot to floor is slow and silent.
“I’m already fucking tired of thith immortal bullshit.”
Dave snorts. This answer is hardly new. He winces at his own idiocy, though, for betraying his new location. Sollux doesn’t react, though, still peering into the fridge. Dave is beginning to wonder if he’s really even looking at anything in there anymore.
“My firtht love ith dead. My thecond ith married now and pumped tho full of Botox, she’th aged lethh than me.”
This earns a hearty eye roll from Dave. Again, he is blindsided with the mundane. Talking about lost love in an upper-middle class apartment over coffee and sandwiches. Dave can’t handle it any longer. This job needs to get done and he needs to get paid so he can go back to stabbing high-collared egomaniacs in cliffside cryptmansions right through their rotting chest cavities.
“If you’re in here, I either get another chanthe at romanthe, or I get to quit keeping up with thith bullshit unlife and watching my shitty life get shittier.”
Dave puts a hand to Sollux’s hip, lips to his neck, a knife point to his chest.
“I came here to do a job.”
The vampire cranes his neck, baring it to the hunter, as he leans his chest into the silver point. Brown, deadened blood beads around it.
“Then do it.”
Dave’s grip flexes around the hilt.
“How old is she?”
“Forty-three. Not even a rough forty-three. She’th beautiful, but she’th tho thcared not to be. If she’d ever found out, she’d have wanted me to turn her.”
“Forty-three? Sounds like someone’s a cradle robber.”
“Ekthcuthe you. I only have two yearth on her.”
Dave nearly drops the dagger.
“Did I thtutter?”
“No, as in, you’re forty-five? As in, five less than fifty?”
“What the hell of it, Dave?”
“Jesus shit, I was going to go on a fucking date with a forty-five year old. Crusty Christ in a pleated reindeer jumper, that shit is fucked up.”
Dave tucks the knife back into its sheath and sighs, rolling his forehead against the back of Sollux’s neck and gripping gently with the hand still on his hip.
“How wath thith not bothering you earlier, when you thought I wath fucking older than women’th thuffrage?”
“Bang a centuries-old creature of darkness or hook up with a bloodsucker who could have gone to high school with your dad?”
“Well, when you frame it that way…” Sollux pats at the hand at his hip and smiles. “Tho do you want a thandwich or not?”
“I guess a salami sandwich would be kind of nice right now.”
In just a few minutes, Dave finds himself back on his target’s couch, sandwich one hand, moral quandary in the other. Across from him, Sollux nibbles through some mayo-slathered gourmet turkey. Their ever-cooling coffees have been keeping each other company in the middle of the table. It feels so starkly casual, so overwhelmingly normal. Normal has never been a luxury Dave could afford. Staring at the monstrosity in the chair across from him, in tacky 3D glasses and an unfortunate yellow shirt with a clay-brown stain in the middle, he faces some uncomfortable questions.
“Hey, uh, Sollux?”
“Did you… Well, were you… Did you want to get turned?”
“Oh, hell no.” His mouth is still full of sandwich. His now-noticeable fangs are mayonnaise-glued with bread and Dave thinks it equally grotesque and charming. “Uthed to get headacheth all the time. You know, when I wath alive and- You don’t want to hear thith.”
“If I didn’t, would I ask?”
“Thorry, you want to kill me. I didn’t think giving a shit wath part of the program.”
“Well looks like you’re wrong, asshole. So story time. Go.”
“Yeah, headacheth. All the fucking time. I finally went to get them checked out. Turnth out I had a tumor-“ Dave swallows hard, choking on nothing, “I wath doing thome big shit with computerth and I guethh the doctor knew it and he told me I didn’t have much time. He thaid thomething about how it wath unaktheptble or whatever and then, all of a thudden, I wake up with holeth in my neck. I go back to work, a little paler, but it’th not like that’th even notitheable at a computer corporation. I mothtly work from home now, tho I don’t have to worry about looking 20 when I should be a hell of a lot older. I thlap thome grey dye on my templeth for the annual meeting and everyone jutht athhumeth I look good for my age.”
Sollux takes another bite of sandwich, but Dave’s appetite is gone. His stomach is churning. He’s used to local nobility thirsting for more power or small-time politicians craving power. They kill people and it’s evil and it’s their fault and it’s simple. He isn’t used to sad, half-dead computer nerds frogmarched into immortality for the sake of science. His chest aches.
“Tho do I get to die yet?”
Dave throws his sandwich on the table and shoves his hands through his hair. This just isn’t a thing he can do anymore.
“No. No, Sollux, you do not get to die yet. Fuck you. Fuck the hell out of you. I’m not going to kill you, you asshole.”
Again, Sollux’s brow scoots as high as it can manage on his forehead.
“You are confuthing ath ballth. I thought we had thith all figured out.”
“I can’t do it, okay? I can’t kill you. It’s just not a thing that I am capable of doing. I can’t look at you and be that close to you and jam a knife in you.” Dave’s fingers wrench in his hair and he grinds his teeth.
“You didn’t seem to take issue with it earlier.” Sollux jabs a near-skeletal finger at the stain in the middle of his shirt.
“As you may have noticed, you are not dead.”
“Well, not entirely, no.”
“Oh, FUCK you! Quit that fucking bullshit!” Dave lurches up, arms in the air.
“What bullshit?” Sollux demands, rising to his feet.
“This stupid shit where you make me feel so fucking horrible for you, I can’t breathe. I don’t want to kill you, I want to pet your fucking hair and tell you everything is going to be okay. THAT bullshit.”
Sollux softens. More than that, he droops. His bony shoulders fall and, long as his arms are, Dave is concerned his hands are going to slide right to the floor. His knees sag like he almost can’t stand anymore under the weight of pity. Dave lets his own hands fall to his sides and he walks around the table. He offers his arms and Sollux half-falls into them. Bony arms wrap around his middle and he can feel the sad vampire doing his best just to breathe. He sneaks a kiss into overgrown dark hair and pipes up again.
“You’re still doing it. The bullshit.”
“Fuck you.” It’s muffled against his shirt, but unmistakable.
“So, are we still on for Wednesday?”
“What about the job you have to do?”
“I think I can stand to get written up just this once.”
Dave stands in the middle of a rather nice living room in an entirely respectable apartment, arms wrapped around someone skinny and sad and fascinating. He sways gently and it shakes loose some of the melancholy. He isn’t used to any of this whatsoever, but he’s beginning to find he’s rather adaptable.