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Death is something that’s never crossed Niall’s mind with any kind of credible certainty. It doesn’t have anything to do with his age (eight- according to his parents- nearly nine when he’s asked directly), because being so young has nothing to do with anything. Niall knows what it is. What it means. He’s heard the other children talk about it around town, especially when Bedelia Camlin’s father dies from something called ‘cancer.’ He’s not sure what’s so scary about it, but all the grown-ups seem to whisper it like it’s a naughty word, faces pinched in a kind of worry that Niall doesn’t like because it sets him on edge, the idea that grown-ups could be scared of something.

 

Still, Niall tries not to dwell on the fact that his family won’t always be with him. Like Bedelia’s father, they too will leave. One day, even he won’t be here. He sees Bedelia at school with tear tracks ingrained on her face. Hears when the other children cry out in fear about the possibility of losing their own loved ones. Niall doesn’t like to deal in possibilities, though. Doesn’t like to think about a future he can neither fathom nor comprehend, because he’s here now and now is a pretty nice place to be.

 

He’s surrounded by those who care about him, and he likes school and sunny days. Likes watching the wind direct the tall grass in whichever direction it fancies. He loves the green hills and even the overcast skies. Spends his time playing in the crystal clear creeks and catching pond frogs before graciously letting them go. It’s not for everyone – he learns when he invites Bedelia one day in an effort to cheer her up, watching her shriek and run away from all the jumping frogs – but he knows it’s for him.

 

In the summer, school ends and Niall feels the sun on his skin in acknowledgement of the fact. Children are laughing all around him, thoughts of death no longer plaguing their minds, and when he sees Bedelia give a tentative smile towards the sky, he feels like what was broken is beginning to heal itself, time being the mending touch.

 

Summer means spending time with his grandmother, because his brother Greg is old enough to look after himself while their parents are at work, but not old enough to look after Niall, his mother had said. He thinks it’s terrible that his parents don’t get summer holiday like he does, and instead must continue to work. Niall’s okay with it, though. He likes spending time with his Nan, because she lets him sleep in and gives him treats that he has to keep as their little secret. She’s always up for an adventure, his Nan, and Niall knows there are plenty of adventures to be had when he’s with her.

 

She accompanies him to the pond and brings a long stick with a net on the end. Better to catch frogs, she tells him, and Niall rolls on the ground, head thrown back and choking on laughter because his Nan looks ridiculous with her pants puffed up and pulled to her knees as she takes huge steps in the water, stilling completely, net poised to strike.

 

He giggles, and when they make their trek towards home, she blames his loud laughing fits for not catching anything that day. She doesn’t even get mad over the fact that Niall is practically covered in mud, clothes drenched and sagging, making him feel heavier than he is. She tells him that if he catches pneumonia he’ll have no one to blame but himself, and if he tells his parents about her involvement in this particular adventure, there’ll be no more treats for him. Niall dutifully recites ‘Cross my heart and hope to die,’ before offering his pinky to her in a sacred pinky promise.

 

Niall’s met enough people in life to know that his Nan is special. She always listens to his ideas, never turns one down. She prompts him with questions about what adventure they’ll have next before he’s even broached the subject, and her genuine excitement is infectious, along with her laughter. Niall likes to think he gets it from her. Her wonder in life and how she finds joy and humor in the smallest thing. Laughter is the best medicine, she likes to tell him, and Niall heartily agrees.

 

When she hugs him close later that night during their goodbyes, Niall inhales the scent of her deeply. She smells like the perfume she wears regularly, along with the phantom smell of smoke. When he tells her as much a kind of sadness takes over her warm wrinkled features.

 

“Your granddad used to smoke,” she tells him quietly, “and my parents before him. Nasty habit. Hard to quit and even harder to get out of your clothes, it seems.”

 

Niall’s never met his granddad. Like Bedelia’s father, Nan’s husband had died, but he’s ok with having just Nan. She’s enough for him. She makes him promise he’ll never smoke, and once again, Niall crosses his heart, hopes to die along with the usual pinky promise they share.

 

Niall waves goodbye until he can’t see her anymore, his Nan doing the same, even though they know they’ll be back at it tomorrow.

 

The summer passes slowly in just the same way. Long summer days spent catching frogs at the pond, rolling down the green hills by the McNary’s place, tall grass whacking them during their descent. And afterwards they find peace in petting the goats that roam the land, lying in the fields and naming the shapes of the clouds as they float by when they get tired.

 

Niall can’t think of a better way to spend his summer than just like this. Even asks his ma if it’ll be okay to spend some weekends with Nan as well.

 

“But that’s the only time she gets a break.” His mother objects, the “from you,” is clear, even to him. But his Nan, bless her, insists that weekends would be an absolute must. What better way to have adventures. She teaches him many things during their time together. Like how to mend the holes at the knees of his trousers. She patiently instructs him on how to thread a needle, her hands too shaky to give him a demonstration. He gets it, after his eleventh attempt.

 

Niall learns how to cook, always insisting he help his Nan whenever she’s in the kitchen and he gains a love for food that he never had before. An appetite his Nan doesn’t mind taking care of, seeing as she usually only cooks for herself these days. She teaches him how to garden, that one can provide for themselves off of the land alone. He learns patience from her, and a love for life he never knew.

 

The sky is threatening rain on one occasion, but they’re still outside, still ‘taking in the day,’ as his Nan likes to say. Niall’s trying to show her a particularly shiny rock when she clutches her chest, a hacking cough erupting passed her lips. Niall is motionless, his expression morphing into something panicked, he can feel it.

 

Something’s wrong.

 

She’s still coughing when Niall rushes over, rubbing her back in endless circles. He hopes it helps, as it has always had the ability to soothe him. Nan wheezes as she tries to catch her breath, waving her hand in nonchalance as if it’ll calm Niall’s rising fear. When she’s able to breathe somewhat normally again, she looks at him with a bright smile, and he feels it like warm water chasing away the cold.

 

When he asks if she’s okay, if she’s well, her answers are the same. Fit as a fiddle. Niall isn’t sure what that means, but he’ll accept it. His Nan would never lie to him. It happens again, but not always so severely. She coughs sometimes, but Niall does too. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re sick, ‘just clearing the throat,’ Nan likes to say. Niall begins to think of it as normal, and he doesn’t comment on it much these days, just offers to make warm tea.

 

It’s nearly the end of summer when everything changes. They’re making their usual trek back to her house when she stops along the path, Niall continuing on a minute before he realizes she’s no longer with him. He skips back, taking in the paleness of her face. She looks almost blue. She isn’t coughing, but it doesn’t look like she’s breathing, either.

 

“Nan,” He nearly cries, voice shrill with anxiety. She’s clutching her throat like it’ll help, and Niall doesn’t know what to do. They’re all alone. How is he supposed to help?

 

She nearly collapses to her knees, but Niall’s there to steady her. It’s the most nerve-wracking time in his life. He just stands there, holding her up and rubbing her back, praying it’ll be enough, and by some miracle, it is. She comes out of it slowly, pulling in gulps of air that has Niall shaking in relief. He gives her the time she needs before pressing her with questions.

 

She somehow manages to race around them, not giving him anything to hold onto in the middle of the night when he’s lying awake, playing the scene in his mind over and over again. She’d even made him pinky promise not to tell anyone and he doesn’t know what to do anymore. All he knows for sure is he’s scared. Terrified, really.

 

It doesn’t happen again until a few days later, when everyone is gathered around the dinner table for their customary family dinner every other Sunday. Niall’s relieved in a way, because he doesn’t have to keep it to himself anymore. The other adults will see and take care of everything. They’ll know what to do.

 

They clearly don’t, he learns, as chaos ensues around him, a kind of slow motion scene filled with terror and sadness. Niall wants to close his eyes and refuse to watch, but he can’t. Not anymore. They’re on their way to see a doctor, he hears, because the adults might not know what to do, but a doctor certainly will. He almost tells them that if they rub Nan’s back and just let her breathe she’ll be fine, but he made a promise.

 

He waits in a bright room surrounded by uncomfortable plastic chairs while the broken Television plays static on repeat. He stays, even after his mother insists that someone take him home. He can’t leave Nan. He can’t, and he doesn’t. He stays, even as his eyes begin to droop and the uncomfortable plastic of the chair becomes too harsh on his limbs, throat dry and eyes itchy. He stays when no one tells him anything, whispering to themselves about things he knows Nan would want kept quiet.

 

He stays when his mother starts questioning him, asking about how long she’s been like this, how he would know better than anyone because of all the time they spend together. Niall doesn’t say anything. He keeps his promise to Nan, because it’s not his secret to tell.

 

Niall isn’t sure how much time passes, only vaguely aware that he’d been asleep when he hears an unfamiliar voice talking with his father. He sits up when the doctor leaves, seeing the sleeping forms of his mother and brother, his father’s head in his hands as his body shakes and heaves. He stays quiet when their eyes meet, and a kind of resignation sets in his father’s features.

 

“Nan’s sick.” He says, but Niall already figured that out for himself.

 

“She’ll get better though, now that she’s here.” Niall says, so sure of himself, because that’s what the doctors are for.

 

“No.” He’s told brokenly. “She won’t get better.”

 

Niall’s never given much thought to death. That is, until it takes his Nan. He doesn’t give it much attention when he’s first told she’s dying from something he can’t hope to pronounce or remember, because she’s not gone yet. She’s still there with him, and she seems happy whenever they’re together, even if her cough interrupts them during a laugh, or she needs help breathing from machines. He doesn’t think about death when she’s still next to him. Still warm to the touch with the scent of her perfume and smoke clinging to her, familiar and so very comforting.

 

He gives it some thought when they’re lowering his Nan’s casket into the wet ground, the skies opening up as if they were connected to the tears leaking from Niall’s eyes. He thinks about it when he realizes he’ll never hear her laugh again. Never go on adventures with her. Never look at the clouds the same…

 

He thinks about it when it begins to pour, how the whole town is practically in attendance, because there wasn’t a soul within a twenty mile radius who didn’t love his Nan.

 

Bedelia looks at him with a kind of emptiness in her eyes that he somehow knows his own mirror back. The children will talk again, about the fear of losing their own families like those other kids from class had. In that way, Niall finds comfort in her presence. An understanding from someone outside of his own family.

 

He thinks about death when the ground is put back together over Nan, swallowing what was left of a special lady he can’t ever forget. He thinks about it when his mother leads him away, when he’s waving at her gravestone until he can’t see it anymore, knowing she can’t wave back.

 

He thinks about it when his cough comes back.

 

*-*-*

 

Niall would be embarrassed for them if it wouldn’t make him a hypocrite. Then again, Harry and Louis are being loud enough for even human’s to hear. He chuckles when one such woman and her child pass the older vampire’s house from the quiet street below. On an exceptionally loud moan, she directs wide eyes towards the manor before hurrying past, pulling her child behind her.

 

Niall’s been waiting for over an hour, and who knows how long ago they actually started. He’s on the verge of barging in, but he’s the one intruding on them, after all. As weird as it feels to basically be eavesdropping on them fucking, he doesn’t want to leave and come back. They’ll most likely go again by then.

 

And there’s the fact that he doesn’t have anywhere to go.

 

That thought wipes the smile from his lips, mind wandering as time slips away. He doesn’t realize it’s quiet for a couple of moments, but when he does, he’s rounding on the door, fitting his spare key in the lock.

 

He follows the sound of rustling sheets up the winding staircase to one of the spare bedrooms. When he reaches it, the sight of devastation brings him to a stop. The door is off its hinges, pillows thrown carelessly throughout the room. The antique wooden bed frame lies in a pile of splinters while the duvet looks to be torn to pieces. In the middle of it all rests a deflated mattress, and on top of which, Louis and Harry are a panting tangle of limbs.

 

If appearances weren’t enough, the smell would be. A mixture of sweat, come, and blood is all it takes to make Niall’s pupils dilate and put an itch in his fangs. It’s all too familiar but the setting is wrong, enough so that he’s able to soothe the rushing of his blood and calm the pounding of his heart.

 

Harry acknowledges him first, giving an awkward little wave as he situates the somewhat undamaged sheet around them. It’s not in the name of modesty, because everyone knows Harry has no fucks to give on who sees him naked. It’s more that he knows Niall doesn’t want to see it.

 

Louis’s still got an arm over his eyes, a light sheen of sweat covering his skin while his fingers card through Harry’s disheveled curls. He’s aware enough to call out a greeting.

 

“All right, Nialler?”

 

Niall tactfully ignores the question.

 

“Why are you in the guest bedroom?” He blurts, just something random that popped into his head to keep the attention off of him for another moment. Harry giggles.

 

“You think this room looks bad, you should see ours.”

 

Niall snorts, looking down when he sees Dusty weaving between his feet and dutifully leans down to pet the feline.

 

“Took you long enough to finish. I’ve been waiting for ages.” He says absently and hears Louis chuckle from across the room.

 

“I never rush sex. Harry would be upset.”

 

“I would.” Harry smiles in agreement.

 

“Enough about us,” Louis sighs, sitting up and letting the sheet pool in his lap, “you look a bit pale, mate. What’s wrong?”

 

As soon as Louis brings it up, Harry looks worried. Niall already feels his eyes surveying him, looking to fix what’s broken.

 

“You haven’t eaten yet? Are you hungry?”

 

Niall shakes his head. Doesn’t even want to think about eating when his mind can’t focus on anything but the lingering hurt he feels.

 

He’s usually so good about guarding his thoughts, but when Harry’s distressed expression turns into a defensive one, he knows he’s slipped. The younger vampire is out of bed and in Niall’s face in seconds, modesty be damned.

 

“Why are you hurt? What’s happened?”

 

“Don’t crowd him, love,” Louis calls from the mattress, eyeing them worriedly, “he’ll tell us if he wants.”

 

Harry looks like he wants to ignore his maker, but not much time passes before he takes a step back and plops down on the broken bed. Louis reaches for him, tugging him back until they’re wrapped up in each other again.

 

“I don’t want to impose-“

 

“Nonsense.” Louis interrupts, waving away Niall’s worry.

 

“I need a place to stay.”

 

They’re quiet for a while, and Niall can practically hear them communicating telepathically, before deciding not to leave them speculating.

 

“I need some time away from Zayn.”

 

The shock on their faces would be comical if this were any other situation.

 

“I uh…I don’t want to talk about it.”

 

Louis nods minutely, his grip on Harry’s waist visibly tightening for a moment. “You can have the guest room. Not this one, obviously, but any of the other ones you want.”

 

Niall nods in gratitude. “Thank you,” he sighs, the stiffness in his shoulders dissipating somewhat.

 

“Do you want me to help you get settled? Or do you need some time to yourself?” Harry asks kindly and Niall feels his heart swell.

 

“I didn’t really bring anything.” He reveals, “I’m kind of tired. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll just try to sleep.”

 

Louis nods. “We’ll be here if you need anything.”

 

“Thank you, guys.”

 

“Stop thanking us and give us a cuddle!” Louis demands, Harry laughs while they both hold their arms open. Niall can’t resist. He collapses into them, not caring about their nakedness while he drowns in the feeling of being held.

 

When he gets to the spare room down the hall, he enters quietly and closes the door behind him. It’s foreign and unsettling, knowing that this isn’t home and Zayn’s not going to come in at any moment, ready and eager to tear Niall apart before painstakingly putting him back together with more love than Niall could ever hope to withstand. He’s not going to be held tonight, can’t even remember the last time he slept alone.

 

It was his choice to leave, though. Zayn didn’t force him. Niall can’t think about him anymore. Too exhausted to think about him, really. The room is chilly but he doesn’t get under the blankets when he falls onto the bed. Just closes his eyes and allows sleep to take him.

 

-*-*-

 

“I feel bad.” Harry whispers, practically beside himself with restlessness. “We have to do something. We need to fix this.”

 

Louis sighs, unable to keep the fondness out of his eyes when he looks back at Harry (who’s practically ripping his hair out in anxiety).

 

“I think this is one of those things you can’t intervene in,” Louis voices, trying in vain to tidy their bedroom. He’s going to have to buy a new frame and mattress. He’ll also need to get a new bed set. Make that double for the spare room as well.

 

“But I don’t like seeing Niall miserable,” Harry admits. “It’s not right. Like…seeing a dolphin out of water.”

 

“I know, Kitten, but it won’t last, I promise. Zayn and Niall will be okay.”

 

“How do you know?”

 

“They’ve gone through ruts before, like us. They just need to cool down and talk.”

 

Harry sighs. “I still don’t like it.”

 

“You want everyone to be happy, though.”

 

“Is that so wrong?” Harry pouts and Louis envelopes him in his arms, leaning up on his toes to kiss Harry’s brow, watching it smooth out when he smiles.

 

“Of course not, darling. It’s one of the things I love most about you.”

 

Harry feels his heart swell with affection as he curls around Louis protectively. “Love you too.” He breathes into Louis’ hair.

 

“Good,” the older vampire says cheekily, “now help me fix the bed. It’s your fault it’s like this.”

 

Harry scoffs, mock-insulted. “Excuse me, rude. My fault? You’re the one who practically threw me-“

 

Louis’ hand covers Harry’s mouth, effectively silencing him.

 

“Niall doesn’t need to hear about it.”

 

“I think he already did while he was waiting outside.”

 

“It’s still your fault.”

 

-*-*-

 

Death is always on Niall’s mind when days pass into weeks, and weeks into months. The years pile on, seasons dying and being reborn. All too soon, his parents are inquiring about what he’ll do, get a job or attempt UNI. He still thinks about his Nan, and even though he can’t remember everything about her, he tries to only focus on the way she lived, on the times she made him feel like more than a child. But he can’t think about her without thinking about her end. About how she would clutch her chest or her throat when she couldn’t breathe like it would help.

 

Because that’s what Niall has to do now. It hits him with all the force of the unexpected, and he’s left clutching at his ribs down by the neglected pond, spots dancing in front of his vision. No one’s around to hold him up, so he sinks into the soft dirt that’s awaiting his descent and gives a sigh as it cradles him when he lands into its embrace. He wakes up sometime when the sun is setting, cold and sore but breathing easier and much more calm. There’s no one here to rub his back and hold him steady. No one to keep this secret for him.

 

Somehow, he’s always known. Since the days when him and his Nan would both cough, sharing looks and small smiles, brushing it off before Niall would get up to make them both tea. He’s known that he’s so much like her, from their laugh to the crease in their brow they both get when trying to concentrate. And, as it turns out, Niall’s inherited her illness as well. He thought he’d have more time. More time to pretend otherwise, that he’ll be okay. More time to put off death, even though it’s always with him.

 

Getting up is a trial in itself. His shoes slip in the mud that now covers his clothes, and it only adds to the weight that’s already rested and made a home for itself on his shoulders. A memory flashes in front of his eyes. His Nan wading into the pond, pants pulled high in an effort not to get wet as she swings a net around comically, Niall laughing and squirming in the mud, too happy to care that his mother will give him a lecture when she sees him.

 

He stands there for a moment, swaying in place and unsure where to go from here, because all he can see now is himself lying in his Nan’s hospital bed, connected to her same machines that breathe for him until they can’t anymore. Until he’s being swallowed by the same dirt at her gravesite.

 

It comforts him as much as it terrifies him. Death has become familiar in a way. He knows what awaits him, what to expect. He thinks about his future, about his family finding out. Hospital visits, his father telling him he’s sick, and he’s not going to get better. He thinks he could laugh in those last few months, just like his Nan did. He thinks he can be brave, even in the end.

 

Just like she was.

 

-*-*-

 

Niall wakes slowly in an unfamiliar room, remembering almost painfully why he’s here. Why he’s alone in this pitch black place that doesn’t smell like Zayn and him combined. He lays there for a moment, duly listening to the sounds of Harry and Louis moving downstairs, whispering quietly to each other. If Niall wanted to spare the effort, he’d be able to discern exactly what they’re saying. But he doesn’t and he can’t. Can only speculate, sure that it’s for the best.

 

He lays there for a long time, unsure of what to do, what he should do. He’s supposed to be tending the bar at Arcanum in a few hours, but to hell with that. Zayn will be waiting at the club, ready to try and mend the problems he’s created. Or would he? Would he try to fix everything, or would he yell and accuse him that this is all his fault? Or, even worse, would Zayn ignore him? Pretend nothing is amiss and act like he isn’t affected by what’s become of them. The thought feels like a knife twisting inside his chest.

 

No, he won’t go to Arcanum, and he doesn’t want to see Zayn and find out what the conclusion to such an effort would be. He doesn’t want to eat, doesn’t want to see Harry and Louis, waiting just downstairs for him. Even though the two of them have offered him this sanctuary, he knows what he’ll see in their eyes, and Niall isn’t sure if he can stomach anyone’s pity but his own quite yet, either. He doesn’t want to leave this room, or this bed that feels foreign and smells only of him.

 

So he doesn’t.

 

Niall resolves himself to stay put. He deserves a break, and even if he remains motionless and wallows in self-pity and well crafted anger which directs at his maker for being so stupid and reducing them to this, then it’s his damn choice. Zayn can be too dumb for his own good, but Niall is counting on him wising up from his mistakes, and realizing the outcome of his senseless actions has brought nothing good in regards to anything and everything.

 

Niall feels wonderful about his decision and burrows further into the pillows with a soft sigh. The only thing he decides to put effort into is finally getting underneath all the blankets in a desperate hope that it’ll chase away the chill he’s acquired.

 

It doesn’t help.

 

-*-*-

 

The cat clings to Harry while Harry clings to Louis, fighting his fluttering eyes as the older vampire runs his fingers through his curls, his other hand drawing shapes on his back.

 

“I don’t think he’s going to come down tonight.” Harry whispers, trying to be courteous since their guest has fallen asleep again.

 

“I think you’re right, kitten.” Louis sighs, his face marred in a frown. Harry reaches up, smoothing the lines of his forehead until his maker looks down at him, his expression much more soft and to Harry’s liking.

 

“His energy is different. His…presence,” Harry says with a look of concentration as he tries to find the right words, “I hardly recognize him.”

 

“Once this is resolved, I’m sure everything will go back to normal and Niall will be happy again.”

 

“Then I hope it gets resolved fast.” Harry mutters, a melancholic feeling taking over him.

 

Louis places his fingertip under Harry’s chin, gently urging his lover to look at him. Harry does so from between his curling lashes, and Louis can’t help himself. He places a soft kiss on the corner of his boy’s downturned lip, feeling as it curves upward in more of a smile.

 

“Everything will work out, love. I promise.”

 

“I know.” Harry sighs, caressing his fingers over Louis’ collarbones. “I just don’t like being stuck in the in-between.”

 

“Are you so eager for the happy ending?” Louis teases, watching as Harry’s smile shines brighter than the sun.

 

“I’m a sucker for a happy ending.”

 

“I’ll make sure you get one then, pet.” Louis promises.

 

-*-*-

 

His family doesn’t take it well at first, but Niall watches them go through the five stages of grief, and wonders why he never went through the same. He’s always had this kind of acceptance about it. Raging and bargaining against the inevitable just seems like a massive waste of time. They come to terms with it, eventually, and Niall feels better knowing that they’ll get passed it. Greg’s married now with a baby on the way, and he just knows somehow.

 

Everything will work out.

 

Niall doesn’t go to UNI, and he doesn’t get a job. He goes to the hospital instead. He stays in a room, very much like the one his Nan stayed in, and he stares out the window while he’s hooked up to countless machines and put through innumerable test. Different faces filter in through the door as the days bleed into each other.

 

His Nan was able to live with this well into old age. It seems he won’t have that. He’s going much quicker. Deteriorating much faster, the doctors tell him. And Niall almost laughs outright, because that’s just par for the course, isn’t it? He’s more upset over the fact that they don’t want him to leave the hospital. That he’ll most likely die in this cage of a bed tethered to beeping machines that signal how he can’t keep himself alive without their help, and show just how fast he’s dying.

 

He’s given ten months. Ten months before his lungs shut down. Ten months of his body waging war with itself until it kills off every part of him. He’s given a death sentence in exchange for hope, but there wasn’t ever any hope to begin with. Niall’s known he’s dying for a long time, after all, and just because he’s given a time limit doesn’t give him a reasonable excuse that he can find to start being angry now.

 

Niall thanks the doctor, one of four he has, and sits in the quiet aftermath when he’s left alone. He wonders if this is supposed to feel like closure. Wonders what he’ll tell his family when they visit next. He stares out the window at the overcast sky and can hear the wind even through solid walls. He thinks about that summer with Nan, and how it had felt endless. It might not be such a farfetched idea to think that maybe he could have that again. An eternity of endless summers with his Nan once he’s dead and buried. If he gets an afterlife, that would be his idea of heaven.

 

It hurts to think about for too long. So Niall thinks about death, instead.

 

-*-*-

 

The next night, Niall rises reluctantly; peeling the past couple of night’s clothes off, and yearning for a bath. He takes a moment to stare at the pool they claim is a tub and moves slowly to turn on the faucets until it’s at the temperature he desires. Carefully, he steps in, positioning himself until he lays comfortably against the cold porcelain and deals with the way his skin reacts to it. Eventually, the water covers him like a blanket, and he lifts up his feet in order to use his toes to turn the faucets off.

 

He stays still, and yet the water still sloshes over him, a constant sound like the rolling waves that batter against his homeland. Niall misses Ireland. He misses his family and knows he can never see them again. He misses the pond where the frogs still jump, and the way the wind would move the tall grass of the fields. He misses his Nan. Her voice, her smile, her smell. He misses going to her house and even her gravesite.

 

He misses Zayn.

 

Niall submerges himself completely over that thought. He forces himself to the bottom of the tub, even though his body wants to float. He stays there, only the sound of the water in his ears. He has no need to breathe, but even in his state, water can still damage the body, and he’s too tired to waste energy on healing. Reluctantly, Niall surfaces, not yet ready to face the all-encompassing misery that being away from Zayn has caused. Even if it is his maker’s fault. He wonders if Zayn feels as devoid as him.

 

He hopes so.

 

-*-*-

 

Zayn has never known pain like this before. He can’t really remember what being human felt like, but he remembers dying. The death all vampires go through when the change occurs. He remembers that pain, but it dulls in comparison to this. A part of him wants to be angry at Niall, for forcing this upon him, but it isn’t his child’s fault. The responsibly must fall with him. He didn’t think any of this through, and as a result, he’s caused this separation between them. This…isolation.

 

Zayn stares at nothing and everything at the same time. He hears the familiar sounds of Arcanum, but he cannot hear its heartbeat. Niall was what gave this place life. Niall gave it a pulse and just as easily severed it when he left. He can see the people that crowd the bar and dance floor, but he cannot see the one thing that matters. He can’t smell the familiar scent of moss and cedar wood that has clung to Niall since the change.

 

Everything within the reach of his senses angers him. It makes him feel like his enhanced gifts have been dulled like the edge of a sword that cannot cut. But worst of all, he can no longer feel Niall. His child is no longer in his head. That soothing connection that has always been with them since he made Niall is no longer there. Every time he reaches out for it, he’s left with a terrifying emptiness. There’s nothing. When Niall left, he took that with him, deliberately blocking Zayn from any kind of contact, and it feels like it’s killing him.

 

If that is what Niall wants, then Zayn won’t deny him. If that is what will make his love acknowledge him again, then he would bring him the sun on the back of his burnt body if it would please him.

 

You’re very dramatic, did you know?

 

The whisper of a memory floats through his mind to taunt him, the familiar lilt of an Irish accent has Zayn feeling like he’ll crumble. He can be dramatic, but Niall is the only one who would ever dare call him out on it.

 

Niall’s the only one.

 

-*-*-

 

Zayn hears Niall before he sees him, let alone introduces himself. He somehow winds up in a small village in Ireland, old enough to be on his own but terribly lonely. He can still feel Louis, and even Liam, but he needs something more. He needs a companion. Someone who can help pull him into the new century. Someone who can show him what this new world has to offer when he can’t even find one reason not to go to ground and sleep until he wakes up in a time that he can better understand. He needs someone that will make him feel again. He’s so very tired of being numb. So very tired of being alone.

 

He’s not sure how or why he does it, but he seeks his meals out in one of the hospitals in the quaint little village. Sometimes he comes to those who are in so much pain they would give anything for it to end, so he gives them that. He gives them peace as much as he can. Other times he has to use his influence, sure in the fact that he does more harm than good by doling out false hope like a merciful angel of death, only to shatter the illusion by flashing golden eyes and sharp fangs. Zayn keeps to the terminal ward, which is why it’s so odd when he hears it.

 

Laughter.

 

He’s sure he’s hearing things, but there it is again. Loud and strong with just the slightest hint of a wheeze. Zayn follows it like someone possessed, the sound of happiness sending him on a tailspin until he can find it and prove that it’s real. That he actually heard it.

 

Zayn does find it, lying on a bed in room 105. He watches raptly while a boy with brown hair and shockingly blue eyes plays with a young infant. He laughs, so carefree when the child does something humorous, and Zayn falls a little bit, because the blue-eyed boy is dying, but he’s still enjoying life more than he; a vampire with life eternal, ever could.

 

He can’t help but be envious. Zayn wants to harness that joy. He wants to have that kind of bravery, there’s no other way to describe it. Zayn doesn’t have the patience to count how many machines the kid is hooked up to. Needles and IVs piercing his pale and delicate skin, and even from here he can see how difficult it is for him to breathe, face pinched every now and again, but he puts on a brave face. Doesn’t let the others see.

 

Zayn can’t take his eyes off of him.

 

He stays there, until the couple says their goodbyes with promises to return before taking the infant with them as they leave. The happiness slowly drains from the boy’s face, but it doesn’t disappear entirely and Zayn is fascinated.

 

“Are you gonna come in, or just stand there being creepy all night.” The blue-eyed boy suddenly calls out, and Zayn isn’t aware he’s been caught until those eyes meet his from across the way. “You’re very dramatic, did you know?” He says with a grin, much to Zayn’s confusion.

 

“What do you mean?” Zayn asks, staying where he is.

“A bit dramatic hiding in the shadows, innit?”

 

Zayn isn’t used to being seen unless he wants to be, but he pulls away from his dark secluded corner and enters the boy’s room, trying not to fidget too much and forcing his hands to remain at his sides rather than wringing them nervously.

 

“I’m Niall.” The boy introduces himself with an ease that baffles Zayn, even as he finds that he enjoys the lilt of his accent, though it’s strained. In the breaths between the introduction, Zayn can see his throat spasm, chest constricting as he attempts to take in enough air on his own.

 

“Zayn.” He says simply, voice quiet with disuse. He can’t remember the last time he spoke to anyone.

 

“Nice to meet you, Zayn. Now that we’re no longer strangers, you wanna tell me why you’ve been hanging outside my door for the last hour?”

 

Zayn feels like his body breaks out into a cold sweat, and he doesn’t have an answer that is acceptable, so he blurts out the first thing he can think of.

 

“You’re dying.”

 

Niall knocks him off balance when instead of looking offended and demanding he get out, he simply smiles.

 

“We’re all dying, I’m just going a little faster than others.”

 

Zayn doesn’t fit into that sentence. He won’t die, not the way Niall thinks he will.

 

“It’s just…you seem okay with the idea.” He admits, and maybe that’s why Niall perplexes him, because even though he knows he won’t be alive for much longer- a month, if Zayn’s senses are right- he’s not behaving like the others he’s encountered have.

 

“There’s not much you can do when you’re dying.” Niall admits. “You can hate the idea, or you can be okay with it. I chose the latter.”

 

“But why?”

 

Niall gives him a small smile. “I’ve known that I’m dying for a long time now.”

 

“So, you’ve had time to come to terms with it?” Zayn questions, desperately trying to understand.

 

“I’ve had time to realize there’s nothing I can do about it.” Niall corrects, but Zayn doesn’t like that response.

 

“What if you could?”

 

“I can’t.”

 

“But what if you could?” Zayn presses, knowing he’s upsetting the boy, but there’s something about him that makes Zayn want to know more. For the first time in a long time he feels curiosity, intrigue, confusion. He has so many questions.

 

“I don’t have time to think about ifs, dying doesn’t work like that.”

 

“You sound like you’re giving up.”

 

“I’m a realist these days.” Niall says in answer, and Zayn feels the corners of his lips tug up in a small smile that feels foreign on his face after so long without it.

 

“What about before, then? What were you before you knew you were dying?”

 

The room gets quiet, but only for a moment.

 

“I was an adventurer.” Niall answers truthfully with a wistful smile on his face. None of Zayn’s questions have been answered. If anything, he has even more.

 

“I don’t understand,” Zayn admits, “what kind of adventures? You’re so young.”

 

“I’m twenty-two, I’ll have you know, and you say that like you’re fifty.” Niall giggles. Actually giggles, and Zayn slips up before he even realizes he’s talking.

 

“I’m much older than fifty.”

 

Niall loses it, coughing more than he’s laughing, and Zayn is by his side instantly, grabbing at the cup of lukewarm water a nurse brought in a while ago. As gently as he can he holds it to Niall’s lips and slowly tips it back so the boy can drink which Niall does so gratefully, motioning when he’s had enough.

 

“Better?” Zayn asks, worry creasing his brow, relief filling him when Niall nods.

 

“I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in a long time, partly because it’s not good for me, but you’re really funny.”

 

Zayn feels a pleasurable flush cover his body. No one has ever called him funny before, and the fact that Niall thinks so makes him preen all the more. If he took the time to think about it, he would be worried how the opinion and feelings of a boy he just met mattered more to him than the last decade of his life.

 

“You’re very nice.” Zayn replies, happily returning the compliment, satisfied when a bright smile takes over Niall’s face.

 

“I’m glad I got to meet you.” Niall declares with a blush before holding out his hand to shake. “Friends?”

 

Zayn looks down at the offered hand before looking back up at Niall’s face. As gently as he can, he takes it into his own. “Friends,” He answers firmly, feeling warm all over when Niall pulls him into a soft hug, wrapping his trembling arms around him. Zayn already knows he’s in trouble, because he doesn’t want to let Niall go, how’s he supposed to stand back and watch the blue-eyed boy die?

 

-*-*-

 

Niall steps out of the tub knowing the wardrobe will be well stocked with clothes that’ll meet his needs. He’s colder than usual even after the warm bath. He hasn’t eaten in; what is it, three days now? He needs to feed, even though Zayn’s always the one that sees to that. He can take care of himself now, though, and he heads downstairs towards the sound of Louis’ voice soothing Harry, hoping that whatever room they’re in, there’s a fire going that’ll warm his icy skin.

 

The others quiet when they hear he’s close, but Niall can’t find it in him to be annoyed. They’re already facing the exact direction he’s coming from when he enters the sitting room, a fire thankfully ready and warming the air.

 

“Hello.” Harry greets with a big enough smile that Niall’s sure it hurts his face trying to keep it up.

 

“Hey.” He smiles back, the expression familiar and foreign all at once.

 

“Any plans?” Louis kicks in, trying not to look too interested and failing. Niall loves them so much, even if they can’t be subtle if their lives depended on it.

 

“Yeah, I was actually gonna try and get something to eat.” He answers, looking around the room like a meal will magically present itself, but Zayn isn’t here, and he’s going to have to do this without him.

 

“Splendid,” Louis exclaims, getting up like they’re all about to leave, “do you want me to drive you?”

 

“Drive me where?” Niall asks confused, watching as Harry’s face tightens before he answers.

 

“Arcanum?”

 

Niall’s speechless, and when he does try to form words, he’s not sure he makes sense.

 

“That’s not- I can’t…I can’t go there.”

 

Harry’s already nodding vehemently, looking to Louis and giving a sharp shake of his head.

 

“Whatever you need, Ni. Just say the word.” Louis soothes.

 

“I need to feed.”

 

“But not at Arcanum.” Harry helpfully supplies. Louis agrees, and they’re both quiet while they patiently wait for Niall to tell them what he wants.

 

“I,” It’s just, Niall doesn’t know what to do, “…I’ve never done it.”

 

They’re both confused, it’s easy to see, but Niall doesn’t know how to say it so they’ll understand. He knows if he had enough blood in his body to spare, he’d be blushing right now.

 

“I’ve never eaten without Zayn. He takes care of me.”

 

It seems to dawn on them at the same time.

 

“Oh. Okay.” Louis says, looking to Harry for help.

 

“Do you want to go hunting?” Harry asks, almost like the suggestion is a delicate matter, one that if Niall declines, Harry won’t ever bring up again.

 

Niall nods, almost unsure. Things were easier when Zayn would offer his neck, having just fed but willing to have Niall take that life out of him in order to sustain his own. It was easier when he was serving drinks at the club, blood was always in supply, and he absently wonders who Zayn’s getting to cover the bar while he’s-

 

While they’re apart.

 

“I can show you.” Harry breathes out smoothly, and Niall knows this is strange. He’s older than Harry but in this, he’s the one with less experience. Harry had been on his own for nearly a year. Had to fend for himself in order to survive, and Niall knows he’ll be an amazing teacher.

 

“Thank you.” He says, and he’s aware he must be freaking them both out with his quiet sadness, because this is so unlike him even he doesn’t recognize himself. But he’s never really felt like he’s been ripped in half, numb until everything hurts too much.

 

Louis’ claps his hands together with a small smile he directs at them both.

 

“Shall we, then?”

 

“Babe,” Harry says pointedly, a flash of expressions crossing his face when Louis looks at him in confusion, “Weren’t you going to take care of that thing you were just telling me about?”

 

“The thing?” Louis frowns, an obvious question in his voice before the deep blue-green of his eyes light up in remembrance. “Oh, right, the thing! I nearly forgot.” He moves in close, kissing the corner of Harry’s mouth while they look at each other with enough love it nearly breaks Niall’s heart. “Thanks, kitten.”

 

It hurts so much Niall has to look away. He’s not jealous of them or resentful. He just knows what he’s missing, and it serves as a reminder when he sees them like that.

 

“I’ll leave you both to it, then.” Louis says, pulling away even though they both look like they would rather do anything but be apart, and Niall feels guilty for being the cause.

 

“Be safe.” Louis says from the door, expression serious, but there’s also a hint of pleading as he stares into Harry’s eyes.

 

“Always.”

 

Niall and Harry are silent, listening to the sounds that Louis makes as he leaves the manor. They stay that way for a few moments, close enough to each other that Niall can feel the heat from Harry’s body, the other vampire obviously well fed.

 

“You two aren’t fooling me, you know that, right?” Niall asks, unable to keep the smile off his face, not really happy, but not all that sad, either. Harry flushes easily, and Niall feels his hunger surge and ache.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“You obviously sent him to talk to Zayn.”

 

Niall can feel Harry’s mortification hitting him with surprise.

 

“I’m so sorry, Niall.” He nearly cries, pulling him in for a hug. Niall slaps at his chest half-heartedly.

 

“Why are you apologizing, you big oaf?”

 

“He didn’t go to ask Zayn what happened between you two, I promise. It’s none of our business.”

 

“Don’t you think I know that?” Niall mutters into Harry’s curls, relaxing into the younger boy’s arms.

 

“I just- I want to make it right.” Harry actually sniffles, like he’s crying on Niall’s behalf, even though he has no idea what went on between him and Zayn.

 

“It’s not up to you, silly.” Niall whispers, wrapping his arms tightly around Harrys middle and hooking his chin over his shoulder.

 

“You know I’m always here for you, right? Anything you need, I’m here.”

 

“I know.” Niall sighs. “That’s why I’m here.”

 

“I’m glad you are.” Harry admits. “I’m not glad about what’s happened,” he feels the need to say, as if it wasn’t already obvious, “I’m just happy that we can be here for you.”

 

“Me too.” He says honestly, with his whole heart. He knows he’s not okay, and that he misses Zayn so much it feels like it’s killing him, but he’s felt like that for a long time, even when he was still in Zayn’s bed.

 

But somehow, with Harry wrapped tightly around him and Louis off to try and make it right, he knows in his bones that he’ll be happy again.

 

 

-*-*-

 

Louis enters Arcanum on edge, already feeling the impact Niall’s leaving has had on the place. It feels empty here, even with all the colliding bodies that move effortlessly to the music. And what terrible music it is! Louis has to fight the urge to cover his ears, wanting nothing more than to drop to the ground and rock back and forth until they turn that off. It sounds like screaming and crying to his sensitive hearing. Like anger and sadness, love and loss.

 

This is fucking it, Louis thinks. This has to be rectified so he doesn’t end up burning the place to the ground. He really likes it here, after all. Harry likes it here too. This is where they met, where they fuck sometimes, he would be upset if Louis resorts to drastic measures, so instead he resolves to make it right. Niall has to come back. It’s wrong here without him.

 

The bartender looks one step away from a breakdown, shattering more glasses than he’s serving, while a line of angry customers circle like sharks when they smell blood. There are vampires and humans alike getting out of control, and a DJ that looks like he’d rather break all of his precious equipment then play one more song on the set list he’s obviously been given. He looks like he’s about to cry as he stares at his glowing laptop screen.

 

And where the fuck is Zayn? He’s usually in the thick of it. Running everything so it goes smoothly, the way he likes it. Louis seeks him out, following the familiar scent of him, the presence he takes up in his mind guides him until he finds his first child, spread on one of the tasteful couches towards the more secluded part of the club, growling at anyone who gets to close.

 

Zayn doesn’t have to look up to know he’s there, staring at him from across the way until he’s close enough to bump into the expensive leather shoes that stick out from the younger vampire’s crossed legs. Louis is reminded of shields and armor forged from fashion and expensive taste.

 

Zayn doesn’t offer him a seat, but he doesn’t demand for him to leave, either. Louis counts it as a win, and takes his place on the opposite couch, knowing from experience that he can wait Zayn out. His child needs to open up to him on his own terms, and if he doesn’t want to, Louis won’t ever force him, but he will wait, because Zayn will never ask for help if he can avoid it, but he will tell Louis what’s troubling him, almost demanding his maker to make it better.

 

“How is he,” Zayn asks, gaze focused on the rafters as if he can’t bear to look away. Louis knew he would be able to smell Niall on him, was almost counting on it.

 

“He’s doing about as well as you are, I would imagine,” Louis comments, looking around at the near chaos surrounding them.

 

“He’s the one who left, so probably better than I am.” Zayn mutters petulantly.

 

“He had reason to, didn’t he?” Louis says before he can check himself. It’s none of his business, and even though Niall’s staying with him, Zayn’s still his child. He doesn’t want to make him feel any worse, and through their connection he knows just how much pain Zayn is in right now. He can pick up Niall’s distress mentally, but he can feel Zayn’s.

 

The younger vampire sits forward, curling in on himself as he wrings his hands in a nervous habit he’s had since he was human.

 

“He did.” He answers quietly, the words nearly being carried away by the horrible music along with the angry rising voices of patrons around them.

 

“Are you going to sit here and wallow until this place goes to shit,” Louis growls out, standing up before Zayn can answer.

 

“QUIET!” He yells, his voice magnified enough to be heard over the music, carrying all the strength of his power and age. Everyone turns to look at him, Zayn groaning as he lets his head fall back against the cushion.

 

“Everyone leave! You,” Louis growls at the DJ, “turn this shit off and go.” He commands, somewhat quieter but no less authoritative. They both watch as humans, vampires, staff, and patrons alike, all file out until they’re left alone.

 

“You’re making me lose money,” Zayn huffs.

 

“You don’t need it.”

 

They’re quiet again. Zayn stares at nothing, Louis stares at Zayn.

 

“What do you want me to say,” Zayn demands, he sounds defeated, and Louis wants to comfort him so much it hurts, but Zayn needs to get his shit together.

 

“We don’t have to talk about Niall, Zayn. I only came here to let you know he’s safe and okay, everything else is none of my business. But I do have a few things to say about the way you’re handling your business. You’re not handling it, is what I’m trying to say!”

 

Zayn crosses his arms over his chest, acting every bit the spoiled child. “It’s not your concern,” He says, his face clearly showing he knows it’s the wrong thing to say even before he’s finished.

 

Louis almost throttles him. He wants to punch something until it bleeds. He wants to do damage, but he won’t, because words can hurt too.

 

“Oh really?”

 

Zayn obviously knows what’s good for him, because he remains silent.

 

“Who manages your books, Zayn? Who’s bloody responsible for you? You were doing nothing to stop what was going on tonight, absolutely nothing. What if someone got hurt? What if things got so out of control someone was killed?” Louis seethes, and he’s satisfied that he’s got his child’s attention, and that Zayn actually looks shocked at the idea.

 

“You know, it wouldn’t affect just you if that happened, right? It would fall to me when you fuck up.”

 

“I’m old enough to take responsibility for my mistakes.”

 

“What about Niall? Is he old enough?”

 

Zayn’s eyes glow a rich gold, fangs flashing at the thought of something happening to Niall.

 

“Does that not sit well with you?” Louis presses, knowing he’s pouring salt in the wound, but if anyone is going to make Zayn realize that shit needs to be taken seriously, it’s Niall.

 

“This doesn’t involve him.” Zayn tries, but Louis’ already there to call him out.

 

“Of course it involves him. Niall depends on you! Do you know he hasn’t eaten in three days?”

 

“What? Why? You haven’t been feeding him?”

 

“We didn’t know how long he’s been going without. Apparently, he doesn’t even know how to hunt.” Louis finishes pointedly, watching as realization dawns on Zayn’s face.

 

“Christ,” he whispers. “Where is he now?”

 

“He’s fine. Harry’s taking him out.”

 

Louis is almost surprised by the following outburst he receives.

 

“Out! Out where? To do what?”

 

“To hunt,” Louis enunciates, thinking it obvious, but Zayn’s already shaking his head.

 

“He can’t, he- Niall doesn’t like to hunt.”

 

Louis has a million questions, all of which are desperate to tumble out, but he keeps himself in check.

 

“It was mainly his suggestion. Harry didn’t force him to.”

 

“No, I know Harry wouldn’t-“

 

Zayn still seems shell-shocked, but Louis can’t fathom why, and he’d never enter Zayn’s mind to examine his thoughts with the sole purpose of being nosy. Not anymore, at least. He’s learned that it’s the fastest way to shut Zayn down, mind guarded until he decides to trust again. Which. Can. Take. Decades.

 

“Zayn,” Louis presses softly, watching the younger vampire gather himself before turning to look at him, “Niall’s going to be okay. You know I wouldn’t have let either of them leave if I wasn’t absolutely sure.”

 

Zayn looks like he’s seconds away from breaking, but he looks Louis in the eye and nods instead.

 

“I can barely feel him,” he whispers, and he looks so small in that moment, so much so that it’s the first time that Louis resents feeling bigger than someone.

 

“Is he blocking your connection?” Louis can’t help but ask, even though he doesn’t want to press anymore than he already has.

 

Zayn nods and Louis can’t help but sympathize. If he was that disconnected from Harry, he doesn’t know what he’d do. They’ve been apart while they’re fighting, sure, but never like that.

 

“I don’t understand.” Louis can’t help but say, because he doesn’t. Nothing makes sense. Niall and Zayn love each other just as much as Louis loves Harry. It shouldn’t be like this.

 

“It’s not his fault,” Zayn admits wetly. “I blocked him out first. For weeks, I kept him out, never saying anything, probably making him think he’d done something wrong. But it was bearable because we were still together, you know? Still close. Now- I feel like a ghost.”

 

“Babes,” Louis whispers, not sure how to fix this. He can’t understand why Zayn would intentionally severe that connection with his mate, even if temporarily, he still did it voluntarily.

 

“I can hear you,” his child says indignantly, but Louis’ thoughts are asking all the questions he needs in order to begin to help. Louis takes the fact that Zayn’s opened up about it as permission to voice his concerns.

 

“So, you’ve been abandoning him mentally,” Louis says without filter, feeling somewhat bad when Zayn winces, “for weeks.” He finishes, watching his child give a small nod. “You were okay with causing the both of you pain, because it was bearable as long as you were physically near?”

 

Zayn nodded again, staring at his hands while wringing them. Louis puts his hand on both of Zayn’s, physically stopping him.

 

“Now he’s gone.” Zayn finishes for his maker. “He left and I can’t even feel him anymore.”

 

“But why did you do it in the first place? Why would you keep yourself closed off like that without even explaining? You had to have known something like this would have happened?”

 

Zayn shakes his head, taking in a deep breath when he settles. “I thought I’d have more time to fix it. To explain.”

 

Louis is so lost and Zayn can tell.

 

“You’re going to punch me if I tell you.”

 

“I’m might punch you if you don’t.” Louis lies, but Zayn knows it’s an empty threat.

 

“I’ll tell you, but you can’t say a word.”

 

Louis agrees easily, because it’s not his secret to tell.

 

-*-*-

 

“Have you been in Ireland long?” It’s the first thing Niall says to him when Zayn visits the following night. At the confusion that crosses over his features, Niall gives a small, but labored, laugh.

 

“You’re obviously not from here, I was just wondering how long you’ve been visiting. If you’re leaving soon.”

 

Niall says that last part with a touch more than curiosity in his voice. He sounds invested.

 

“You don’t want me to leave.” It’s not a question, but Zayn is still confused.

 

“Hospital rooms can get lonely, having a friend is nice.”

 

Zayn can almost ignore the pain in his chest those words cause, but not quite.

 

“I’ve been here a few weeks.”

 

“Do you like it?” Niall asks, a kind of pleased smile overtaking his lips even though he hasn’t heard Zayn’s answer yet.

 

“I do. It’s beautiful here.” He replies honestly, never taking his eyes off the boy. “Peaceful.”

 

“How long are you planning on staying?”

 

“For now,” Zayn raises an eyebrow and looks out the window as he thinks of an answer. “I’m not sure how long I’ll stay, but I know it will be a while until I leave.”

 

Niall looks at him in incredulous humor. “That doesn’t make any sense. Is it a riddle?”

 

Zayn shakes his head, a smile of his own overtaking his features. “I don’t know very many riddles.”

 

“I do,” Niall states as he shifts delicately on his bed until he’s more comfortable. “you’re a riddle.”

 

“Me?” Zayn chuckles.

 

“You. You hang out in hospitals at night and stare into stranger’s rooms. Do you have family here? Is that why you were lurking yesterday?”

 

“I don’t lurk.” Zayn mutters trying to sound offended and failing.

 

“You definitely lurk.”

 

Zayn ignores that and thinks of what to say and how to say it in a way that it doesn’t upset this amazing boy he’s grown attached to in such a short time.

 

“I was visiting someone yesterday, but not family.” He decides on, trying and failing not to wring his hands together.

 

“And why’d you wait outside my room like that?” Niall asks, more curious than amused now.

 

“I heard you laugh.” Zayn answers, looking up from his hands as he finally lets them fall. “It was…strange, hearing joy in a terminal ward.”

 

A small smile lifts the corners of Niall’s lips, a delightful flush gracing his cheeks that makes Zayn want and yearn. The boy shrugs as if the comment didn’t fluster him and Zayn couldn’t ever hope to look away.

 

“So I was a riddle to you as well? Happiness in a terminal ward.”

 

“You confuse me.”

 

“As all good riddles do.” Niall giggles, clearly enjoying this analogy.

 

“Yes. I think you’re the best riddle of all.”

 

“A conundrum.”

 

Zayn’s face hurts he’s smiling so much.

 

“You’re enjoying this a lot.” He nearly laughs.

 

“I enjoy talking to you.” Niall admits freely with an openness that Zayn hasn’t been in the company of for a long time.

 

“As do I.”

 

“Then enough of riddles for now, have you enjoyed Ireland?”

 

Zayn is at a loss. “I’ve seen very little of it, but what I have seen is lovely.” He answers, sighing when Niall looks pleased.

 

“Then I’ll tell you all of my favorite places and you can visit them when you find the time.”

 

The “without me,” is implied, because Niall won’t be here for much longer, and leaving the hospital in that time is out of the question.

 

“I would like that.” He decides, because any way he can learn more about Niall, he’ll happily take.

 

Zayn listens raptly as Niall speaks of a pond. One that he used to visit regularly with his Nan. He talks of soft mud and jumping frogs, of gentle breezes that move the tall grass just so. He tells of the way the water looks reflecting the moon at night, and how he thinks it’s the most beautiful place he’ll ever hope to see.

 

“You promise you’ll go?” Niall asks, his lids blinking every other second with how tired he is.

 

“I promise.” Zayn swears, marveling at how easily it rolls of his tongue with his sheer intent to keep his word.

 

He looks at Niall and he sees only the purist of innocence, an innocence he’ll go to his grave possessing. But if Zayn were to pluck him out of death’s grasp, he would undoubtedly corrupt that innocence, but at least, Niall would be alive. And maybe, just maybe, he would want to claim Zayn the way he wants to claim Niall.

 

-*-*-

 

Niall is starving. Beating hearts fill his ears, the sound of blood rushing through easily severed veins as Harry walks next to him on the sidewalk, a sea of people coming from every direction. Has the night scene in London always been so crowded? People going to clubs and finding places to eat, getting off work or just heading in. It’s maddening. There’s too many of them for Niall to think straight. He just wants one.

 

Harry grabs his wrist and the action is calculated, but it does the job. It calms him, keeps him steady and focused.

 

“Come on.” He urges, leading them into a side alley, secluded and devoid of people.

 

“This is kind of counterproductive.” Niall points out, because the end game is still to get him fed.

 

“It would look kind of shady if we were to grab someone and force them into the alley, right?”

 

Niall shrugs.

 

“Just listen, yeah?” Harry suggests, but Niall has no fucking clue what he means.

 

“What am I listening for?”

 

“Find someone out there whose thoughts you can hear the loudest. It usually means their mind is open, not that guarded and easy to influence.”

 

“You want me to Influence someone?”

 

“Yeah,” Harry repeats, “plant an idea in their head, like, they want to come down this alley and they want to find you here.”

 

“That sounds creepy.” Niall groans, making a disgusted face while Harry looks at him unimpressed.

 

“It is. You’re literally luring someone down here with the intent to suck their blood. It’s as creepy as it gets.”

 

Niall can’t help but giggle. He knew there was a reason he wanted to always keep Harry around.

 

“Concentrate.” Harry encourages and Niall scoffs.

 

“I know how to influence people, Harry.”

 

The younger vampire leaves him to it, and Niall stretches his mind, picturing it like the clouds of a storm covering the sky. He hears everyone within that radius, and it feels like millions of thoughts coalescing with his own. He focuses on finding the loudest voice before he becomes overwhelmed, and it’s strange at how easy it is.

 

Niall zeros in on that mind, cooing and encouraging it closer, giving out praise when he’s obeyed. Harry is a quiet presence near him, comforting in its physical proximity but doing nothing more to break Niall out of his trance.

 

Niall can hear the human in the alley now, ambling along until the order that’s been given is carried out. Niall opens his eyes, somehow knowing that the human won’t run away screaming, even though he’s no longer putting out his influence.

 

The boy is young. Maybe no older than Harry when he was turned, but that isn’t why Niall hesitates. Even Harry can tell that something’s off.

 

It’s the smell, and Niall wants to double over and vomit because even though he hasn’t eaten in days, he feels he could dispel everything in this moment.

 

“I can’t.” Niall nearly chokes out, and Harry’s there beside him, rubbing his back and attempting to soothe.

 

“It’s okay,” the younger vampire whispers over and over again, trying to calm Niall as he shakes violently in his arms, “we’ll get someone else.”

 

“I can’t.” Niall cries, because he hasn’t thought about death in a long time, but he can smell it on the kid. “He’s dying, Harry.” He nearly sobs, because Niall knows what it’s like to be human and dying. He knows.

 

“We’ll find someone else, Niall, you have to feed.”

 

“I can’t, he’s going to die. They’re all going to die.”

 

“You’re not going to kill anyone, Niall, you’ll only take a little.”

 

But Harry must know Niall won’t eat anything, not like this, because he’s already moving them out of the alley, heading in the direction of Louis’ manor.

 

Niall should’ve known he wouldn’t be able to do it. He knows why he never attempted it in the first place. Nothing’s changed. Zayn always understood. Always took care of him.

 

He doesn’t realize he’s been saying those words aloud until his voice breaks, dry throat cracking and causing discomfort. He’s so hungry, he feels deflated, like he’ll fly away with the first strong wind. Harry’s carding his fingers through his hair, and they must’ve made it back to Louis’ because they’re on a soft bed in the familiar guest room. It’s so warm and comfortable with Harry whispering sweet nonsense to him, that Niall can’t help but drift off, even with the intense hunger gnawing at his insides.

 

His own voice follows him down into sleep, mumbling the same thing repeatedly.

 

“Zayn always takes care of me.”

 

-*-*-

 

Zayn visits Niall every night, sometimes bringing him food that’s far more superior to that of what the hospital serves, which Niall likes to constantly complain about. Zayn loves to watch that big warm smile spread over his lips, so he takes to bringing Niall treats every night. It’s not always food, even though Niall really loves food.

 

Sometimes it’s things he’s collected over the many years he’s been alive, and he gives Niall priceless works of art that he gladly hangs up around his room in order to make it look less sterile and more alive. Niall appreciates the art, and Zayn talks to him for hours about the stories behind them. He tells of kings and queens, princes and thieves, emperors and sultans. Empires being forged and destroyed. He speaks about his past and the many years he’s lived, of all that he’s seen.

 

He tells Niall all of it, even if the boy believes it fanciful storytelling, Zayn doesn’t lie. Not to Niall, and somehow, the boy gets it.

 

“So, you were royalty?”

 

“I guess you could call it that.”

 

“What would you call it?”

 

Zayn thinks for a moment. “I never really thought of myself as a result of my parents titles. I just thought of myself as…myself.”

 

“And you had a big family?”

 

“The biggest.” Zayn says with a smile. “Parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, all would stay with us.”

 

“In your one-hundred room palace?” Niall says in amusement and Zayn swats him playfully.

 

“It was bigger than that.” He laughs. “They continued to build throughout the ages, until the elements tore it down.” He finishes, voice going somber.

 

“You sound like you were there. Like you lived it,” Niall softly wheezes.

 

“Would you believe me if I said that I had,” Zayn asks, because he wants Niall to see him. All of him.

 

“Maybe,” Niall admits, so quick and easy it has Zayn’s lashes fluttering, “Depends.”

 

“On what?” Zayn asks curiously, wondering just what he’d have to do to get this dying boy that he’s so taken with to believe in the unbelievable.

 

“If you can prove it or not.”

 

“I can prove it.” Zayn promises, watching the delicious shiver that travels down Niall’s body just from the tone of his voice, the smell of desire that radiates off of him nearly puts Zayn in a frenzy.

 

“Go on then.” Niall responds, breathless enough that Zayn feels a hunger he hasn’t had in a long time rise up inside him.

 

“I’ll prove it, but not today.”

 

“Chicken.” Niall mutters, but Zayn lets it slide gracefully.

 

“You’re not ready yet.”

 

“Sure,” Niall growls sarcastically, “by the time you deem me ready, I’ll be dead.”

 

Zayn’s stomach turns at those words, and his voice is unwavering when he answers.

 

“Not quite.”

 

-*-*-

 

Harry is practically in tears when Louis finds him in Niall’s room later, the blonde sleeping peacefully in his lap. He doesn’t look too good though, and Louis knows the trip wasn’t successful. He wants to curse under his breath and throw tomatoes at Zayn for being so stupid, but he can’t and he won’t because it’s not his place. Zayn may be his child, but like human parents must, his child is grown and can make his own decisions, even if they are bloody ridiculous.

 

“What’s happened, love?” Louis whispers, but Harry still motions for him to stay quiet while he expertly extracts himself from Niall’s hold. They both exit the room as quickly and silently as possible, heading far down the stairs and into their favorite sitting room (the one with the comfy chairs and the plush rug that Louis had Claimed Harry on). They both go towards that rug on pure instinct, Louis needing to wrap Harry up in his arms, and Harry needing to be held.

 

“Tell me, pet. What happened?”

 

Harry sniffles against Louis shoulder before explaining.

 

“He was doing so well, he had a hold of everything until he saw that the one he influenced was so young, but not only that, he was sick. He was dying, and Niall just, he couldn’t. I kept saying that we could find someone else, but it was like he was broken, you know? He kept whispering how he couldn’t do it anymore, how all of them were going to die but Zayn knew what to do. Zayn would take care of him. Even when we got here, he wouldn’t stop saying it until he fell asleep.”

 

“Fuck.” Louis whispers into Harry’s lips, kissing him softly in the hope that he could calm the younger vampire down.

 

“He still hasn’t eaten, Louis, what are we going to do? You talked to Zayn, right?”

 

Louis nods and runs his fingers through Harry’s curls until his mate gets impatient.

 

“And? Did he tell you what’s going on?”

 

Louis hadn’t even been thinking about what Zayn had confessed until this moment. He can’t tell, he promised.

 

“He uh, explained some things, yes.”

 

“Okay, well?”

 

“Everything’s going to be fine. Just a misunderstanding.”

 

“A misunderstanding?” Harry says unimpressed, and Louis loves him so much because he’s pretty sure he gave Zayn that face exactly.

 

“Yeah, Zayn’s gonna make it right as soon as possible, promise.”

 

“You didn’t see him before,” Harry whispers hauntingly, “I don’t think it’s gonna be that easy.”

 

“Neither of us knows what Niall and Zayn have going on in their relationship. What’s normal to them what’s not. We never knew Niall hadn’t hunted, so it’s safe to say that Zayn will know what to do better than us.

 

“You know what’s going on but you’re not telling me. Why?” Harry demands, pulling away, and Louis already knows he’s done a bad job at trying to district him from that particular fact.

 

“What do you mean?” He stalls.

 

“You know how this whole mess started but you’re not telling me. How come?”

 

“It’s none of our business.” Louis tries again.

 

“And yet, Zayn still told you.”

 

“Why do you want me to tell you so bad?” Louis asks, his hands waving around erratically.

 

“Because I want to know what’s going on with my friends. I want to help.” Harry insists, and even though it breaks his heart, Louis still can’t tell him.

 

“I just told you Zayn’s going to make it right, I promise.”

 

“You don’t trust me, is that it?”

 

“That’s just silly.” Louis scoffs.

 

“Is it?” Harry glares, and Louis eyes bug out of his skull. He can’t even believe they’re having this conversation.

 

“I can’t believe we’re having this conversation.”

 

“If you trust me completely why are you keeping this from me?” Harry demands, pouring his presence into Louis’ mind before Louis promptly shuts him out. Harry looks like he’s been slapped and Louis’ heart is in his throat.

 

“I see.” He says tersely before looking at the grandfather clock behind Louis’ left shoulder with watery eyes. “I’ve got to get to the bakery.”

 

“Harry.” Louis says, and continues to call after his mate’s retreating back once he extracts himself from Louis’ hold. “Harry, it’s not like that, okay? It’s not what you think, kitten, come back.” He pleads hot on his heels until Harry slams the front door in his face and disappears into the night. “It’s really dumb.” He says to the door, feeling anger towards Zayn for not only messing up his own relationship, but Louis’ as well. He stays pressed against the hard wood of the door before he opens and locks it behind him, hoping the cold night air will clear his head as he walks.

 

-*-*-

 

“Are you finally done with being chicken?” Niall asks, trying to sound like he’s mocking Zayn, but he’s wheezing so bad he only manages to sound pathetic.

 

“You don’t sound pathetic, don’t think like that.” Zayn sighs from his place at the foot of the bed. Niall stares at him a minute and Zayn watches as he blinks and his vision clears.

 

“So, are you going to tell me how it is you’ve lived damn near a thousand years?” Niall asks, exhaustion taking over his features. “Or are we just going to ignore that particular elephant in the room?”

 

“There are multiple elephants?” Zayn asks, looking around as if he’ll see them all, relishing in the way Niall gives a soft chuckle over his antics.

 

“It’s for my own piece of mind, so I don’t go to my grave thinking you were an impulsive liar this whole time.”

 

“You have questions.” Zayn states, motioning for Niall to commence in asking them.

 

“I have oodles of questions.”

 

“I will give you oodles of honesty while I answer them then.”

 

They share a quiet laugh, Niall’s more strained than Zayn likes to admit. They sit in silence while Niall appraises him, almost as if he’s afraid to ask any questions now that he’s been given the chance. Zayn watches as he gathers himself, taking a deep; albeit, stuttered breath before bringing his eyes back up, blue meeting gold.

 

“You say you’ve lived a long time. Are you immortal?”

 

Zayn’s lips curve up into an almost pleased smile before he answers.

 

“Yes.”

 

“So you can’t die?”

 

“I didn’t say that.”

 

A frown creases the middle of Niall’s brow and Zayn desperately wants to smooth it out. He refrains.

 

“Isn’t that the definition of being immortal? Never dying?”

 

“Amoung others,” Zayn answers easily. “I can live as I am now, eternally, but there are ways to kill me, though they are few in number and difficult to carry out.”

 

“Like what?”

 

“Like not eating,” he admits easily, “but even that could take several lifetimes.”

 

He watches the confusion spread over Niall’s young features and marvels at the fact that this innocent creature has yet to reject anything he has to say.

 

“What else?” Niall whispers, a kind of anxious curiosity running rampant in the ocean of his eyes.

 

“When we are young; my kind, that is-“

 

“There are more of you?” Niall blurts out, immediately looking embarrassed. “Sorry to interrupt.”

 

“No need to apologize,” Zayn says with amusement, “and yes, there are others like me. When we’re young, we’re susceptible to a great many things. Hunger, the severing of our limbs, bleeding out, sunlight…”

 

“Sunlight?” Niall almost whispers.

 

“Sunlight.”

 

“You sound like a particular kind of fictional creature that can be found in abundance in the teenage section of any bookshop.”

 

Zayn can’t help but laugh, his eyes gazing upon Niall with a fondness he doesn’t feel for many others. Niall returns his gaze, and Zayn sees affection directed towards him as well.

 

“All fiction can be inspired by non-fiction.” He says simply, enjoying the way that Niall snorts, fighting off laughter as he shifts his position on the bed until he’s more comfortable.

 

“I’m not sure I want to ask any more questions. Some mysteries should remain a mystery.”

 

“Why? Do you think I’m crazy?” Zayn asks. He hasn’t gone searching in Niall’s thoughts for answers. It wouldn’t be any fun that way if he had an edge over the boy. This way, he remains surprised, and they’re more equal in a relationship Zayn eagerly wants to forge.

 

“I wouldn’t say you’re crazy, no.”

 

“Delusional, then?” He presses with unhidden mirth.

 

“I can’t tell if you’re playing with me, or if you actually think what you’re telling me is true. Or, any other possibility for that matter.”

 

“Do you trust me?” Zayn whispers, watching as Niall’s features soften.

 

“Yes.” He admits so easily it nearly has Zayn crumbling with gratitude.

 

“Don’t be afraid.” He commands and pleads all at once. He remains at the end of the bed, keeping his distance in case the boy wants to run but has nowhere to go.

 

He watches Niall as Niall watches him and a kind of rumbling excitement bubbles in his stomach over the thought of being seen. It leaves him breathless, knowing that Niall will be allowed to know him. All of him.

 

“Don’t be afraid,” He whispers again, allowing his eyes to flash a glowing gold. He takes in the boy’s gasp and the way his body tenses, but Niall makes no other sound besides that. He doesn’t scream or cry, and Zayn feels a relief so great it almost collapses him.

 

“I could show you more, if you’d like.” He offers calmly, watching Niall as he swallows and closes his mouth.

 

“Do it again.” He says, the barest hint of sound, and if Zayn didn’t have enhanced hearing he wonders if he’d be able to pick it up at all.

 

Zayn acknowledges the request by carrying it out. Once more, his eyes flash a brilliant gold, and once more, Niall’s jaw drops.

 

“How-“

 

“I already told you.”

 

“You’re a…”

 

Zayn laughs, he can’t help it.

 

“Why don’t you want to say it?”

 

“It’s a silly word isn’t it? A silly thing to say.” Niall laughs as well, albeit a bit manically.

 

“It is silly.” Zayn agrees, hoping to put the boy at ease.

 

“It’s a little unbelievable, all things considering.”

 

“I could show you my teeth, if you’d like.” Zayn grins, watching and hearing the way Niall’s heart beats faster, pulse quickening beneath his vulnerable, delicate skin.

 

“Show me.” Niall whispers, a husky quality taking over his tone.

 

Zayn obeys, lifting his lips up in a kind of snarl, putting the sharp points of his fangs on display. He feels his own heart quicken when Niall shuffles closer, maneuvering his body until he can inspect Zayn’s teeth at the angle he desires.

 

“They look just like normal canines.” The boy marvels. “Only, maybe the slightest bit longer. Sharper.”

 

“You thought they’d be obnoxiously long, like in the old Dracula movies?” He laughs, his heart warming when Niall does the same.

 

“I don’t really know what to think right now.” Niall admits before his curiosity gets the better of him.

 

“Is the holy water thing true?”

 

Zayn nearly snorts. “No, not at all.”

 

“And you can see your reflection?” Niall asks, a wide smile breaking out over his face at how offended Zayn looks at the idea of not being able to.

 

“Of course I can, I take pride in my appearance.”

 

“It’s a nice appearance.” Niall blurts, a bright red blush taking over his cheeks at his words that has Zayn feeling like he can’t breathe. God, he wants Niall. Wants all that blood rushing to the surface and the boy it belongs to.

 

“W-what about crucifies?”

 

“They don’t burn to the touch, and I actually like going in churches. I’m not struck down whenever I enter.” He admits freely, his eyes taking in the way Niall searches his mind for more questions.

 

“Do you sleep in a coffin?”

 

“I sleep in a bed.”

 

“What about garlic?”

 

“It smells somewhat strong when you have enhanced senses, but it doesn’t repel me.”

 

“So none of the old myths are true?”

 

Zayn thinks about it for a moment.

 

“Sunlight can burn us to ash, especially those of us that are young. If you’ve lived as long as I have, you gain a tolerance for it, though exposure for long periods of time can be draining.”

 

“You can go out in the sun?”

 

“My maker can. I haven’t tried it. I see no need.”

 

“You don’t miss the sun?”

 

Zayn shakes his head. “I prefer the night. I always have.”

 

“You have a maker? Someone who made you a- you know?”

 

Zayn’s smile widens when he nods, wondering if the curiosity will ever leave Niall’s eyes.

 

“I do. He’s the oldest of my kind I’ve ever met.”

 

“So, you wanted to be immortal?”

 

Zayn sighs, running through old memories locked away in his mind. Recalling a time when he was human.

 

“It’s complicated.”

 

“Is it bad between the two of you?”

 

“No, not at all. Louis is one of the most important people in my life. And I can sympathize with his choices. He was…very lonely when he made me. He was seeking a companion.”

 

“Did you want to stay human and he ignored your wish or did you want to be…changed?”

 

“I wanted to be human and I didn’t.” Zayn whispers. “I didn’t want to leave my family, but with status like ours and in those days, I was the target of many people. It wasn’t exactly what I would call living.”

 

He watches as Niall fights off a yawn, the hours growing late and into the morning.

 

“You’re tired,” he points out, “we can pick this up tomorrow.”

 

“I’m not sure if I can handle waiting until tomorrow night.” Niall admits sheepishly, the questions he still has burn a hole on the tip of his tongue.

 

“You’re more curious than afraid. Why?” Zayn asks, his own curiosity getting the better of him.

 

“I trust you not to hurt me. And I care about you, a lot. I want to know everything I can about you.”

 

“We have time.” Zayn promises. “I would learn what I can about you, as well.”

 

-*-*-

 

Niall wakes slowly to the air around him shifting. Someone’s left the window in his room open, and now he’s cold and feeling entirely too weak to get up and close the damn thing. It’s a hardship just to turn over in order to bury his head in the pillow, inhaling deeply and letting out a happy sound when he smells Zayn.

 

 

Niall bolts upright, and there he is, leaning against the far wall next to the open window, golden eyes glowing in the barely there light while he watches him, remaining unmoving even when he’s caught, which means it’s what he wanted to happen, so very unlike the first time they met.

 

Niall drags the blankets to his chest, he’s completely dressed but under his maker’s gaze he feels exposed. Niall wants to cry for help, feeling reckless and unhinged enough to do it.

 

“Harry’s got a late shift at the bakery tonight, and Louis’s gone.” Zayn informs him calmly. No one will hear you he says inside his head, silky and smooth like he’s always belonged there. Niall wants to strangle him. What gives him the right to snoop around in his mind when Zayn’s practically got his on lockdown? Has for what’s felt like ages.

 

“I’m not trying to shut you out, babes. I swear.” Zayn pleads, his calm façade slipping and Niall wants to lose himself in him, just a little. But then he remembers himself, remembers that Zayn did this to them. It was his choice.

 

“Really?” Niall questions, feeling hysteric and the definition of a loose cannon. Zayn comes closer, and Niall does lose it.

 

“Really, Zayn!” He yells, bounding off the bed and heading to the door because he can’t hear another second of this. But Zayn’s already there, blocking the way out. “I’ll jump out the window, Zayn, so help me-“

 

“Would you just listen to me for a minute?” Zayn demands as he grabs Niall’s wrists and pulls them into his chest, bringing them painfully close. A kind of burning anger is flashing behind his eyes that Niall’s sure he’s never seen before. His cock takes an interest and he curses his body while surprisingly feeling grateful to Zayn, who doesn’t mention the smell of spiked arousal in the air, even though his nostrils flare like crazy, as if the older vampire can’t get enough of Niall’s scent.

 

“I’m listening.” Niall says, slightly more breathless than he’d like, not even attempting to break Zayn’s hold on him.

 

“I’ve been shutting you out because I’m trying to keep something from you, true.”

 

Niall knew all this, but hearing it confirmed from Zayn’s very own lips makes him want to curl into a ball and cry until he can’t do anything anymore.

 

“Stop it, babes!” Zayn almost yells, the distress in his tone is what pulls Niall out of his grim thoughts, fingers tightening around Zayn’s hands. “I was trying to hide something, yes, but it doesn’t mean it’s a bad something.”

 

Zayn is quiet while he waits for Niall to process that bit of information, which does take some time, actually, because Zayn is full of shit. Of course it’s a bad something. What else would it be? Why else would he feel the need to hide it from Niall?

 

Zayn sighs in defeat, allowing Niall’s hands to drop from his own before taking a step back and Niall has to fight the urge not to grab him again and pull him back.

 

“Why do you always assume the worst?” Zayn asks quietly and Niall want’s to ruin him. Wants to tear him apart so that Zayn resembles what Niall is feeling.

 

“Why do I assume? I should assume it’s a good thing when you cut me out of your mind and leave me alone to pick up the pieces!”

 

“I haven’t cut you out, okay, I’m just guarding myself.”

 

“That’s not what it feels like, though, does it, Zayn? How did it feel when I locked you out of mine, hmm?”

 

Zayn steps back like he’s been sucker punched in the stomach.

 

“Why won’t you just let me do this? I’ve told you it’s not bad, that it’ll be clear soon enough. I’m trying to do something for you but you just won’t let me. You thought leaving me would be better.”

 

It’s Niall’s turn to feel like he’s been struck down. He’s so hungry and dizzy and Zayn smells so fucking good. But it’s not right. What else could he have done, but leave? Zayn blocked him out, was barely speaking to him, and didn’t even tell him why. What had he done to deserve that? What else was he supposed to do?

 

He’s swaying on his feet but before he even comes close to falling, Zayn’s already there to catch him. He’s always been so good at that.

 

-*-*-

 

Niall knows what it means when his chest feels tighter and his throat closes up that much more. He knows because he watched it happen to his Nan. It’s time, he thinks, but he won’t die in a hospital bed.

 

He can’t.

 

The door to his room creaks open and he feels relief because it has to be Zayn. He needs him now, more than ever. Zayn’s apart of the plan. Only, it’s not him. It’s Bedelia, the girl whose father died, and who he tried to cheer up by catching frogs. The girl who held his stare at his Nan’s funeral and knew exactly what he was going through. She’s a woman now, but the tear tracks ingrained on her cheeks are still the same, only this time, they’re for him.

 

Niall isn’t thinking clearly, but he feels like death follows Bedelia, like maybe she is death, or a warning of it to come. He’s oddly comforted by that fact, because even if she is death, she’s deeply saddened by her job. It’s why he tells her.

 

“I’m not ready to go.” He wheezes, and more tears come forth, leaking from her bright hazel eyes.

 

“I know.” She gets out, voice almost as raspy as his.

 

“I need to do some things before I leave.”

 

She looks at the clock that ticks above the door, eyes probably too blurry to see.

 

“You have some time, I think.”

 

Niall knows what he looks like. Pale and reed thin, throat too tight to allow solid food through. He’s changed. A husk of a human so unlike what he once was. And yet, she looks at him like she can see him still. Zayn never knew Niall outside of this hospital room, so he has no comparison. But Bedelia knew him in those days, even still, what he’s become doesn’t scare her.

 

“You’ve always been there.” Niall says, not really knowing what he’s trying to convey, he just needs her to know.

 

“So have you.” She whispers, and Niall wants to cry with her, but if he starts now he’ll never stop.

 

“I want you to know that I’m glad you were. There. With me.”

 

“I feel the same.” She smiles, pushing her long hair over her shoulder.

 

“I’m going to miss you.” He admits, because he will. She’s always been at the edge of his vision. A constant in his life.

 

“We’ll see each other again,” she reveals with such certainty, that Niall really does begin to question whether or not she is death personified, coming to take him away. And why not, if vampires exist?

 

Bedelia comes close and plants the gentlest of kisses on his forehead, tears leaking down from her eyes to curve over his cheeks as if they were his own.

 

“See you, Niall Horan.” She whispers against his skin, turning for the door as he gives his reply.

 

“See you, Bedelia Camlin.”

 

-*-*-

 

Zayn comes just as the sun sets, and Niall knows he doesn’t have much time. Zayn seems to realize it too, if his frantic movements are anything to go by.

 

“Take me away from here.” Niall pleads, knowing Zayn will do it. He has to.

 

“It’s going to hurt.” Is Zayn’s answer and it’s not said in the hopes that it’ll deter Niall from doing this. It’s simply said as a warning. Niall’s too weak to brace himself as the older boy begins to take the needles and IV’s out of his arms. It doesn’t hurt so much, but he catches Zayn’s eyes glued to the small drops of blood that leak out of the open wounds.

 

The rest of the machines are easy to untangle himself from, and soon, Zayn’s got him in his arms, one hand firm against the curve of his back while the other holds up the backs of his knees. He feels like a bride about to be carried over the threshold, and the thought of that prompts him to spill all of his secrets and regrets.

 

“M’never gonna get married.” He nearly whines with how much admitting that hurts.

 

“Don’t say things like that.” Zayn pleads.

 

“I’ve never even held hands with someone I like. How pathetic is that?”

 

“Stop it.” Zayn begs, the air around them seems to be going by faster than it should. He seems to already know where Niall wants to go, which is nice, since he can’t seem to remember.

 

“I wish I was brave enough.”

 

“You are. You’re the bravest person I know.” Zayn counters, eyes focused anywhere but on Niall.

 

“Wasn’t brave enough to tell you how I feel, was I?” Niall chuckles at his own cleverness, the air is thin here, though, and he coughs violently in Zayn’s arms.

 

“Tell me now.” Zayn whispers, his eyes look wet.

 

“I think I’m in love with you.” He cries softly, his chest heaving painfully as he holds onto Zayn with all his might. “I’ve never been in love before, but…I’m sure I love you.” Somewhere between all the stories and stifled laughter, questions and truths, he really did fall for a beautiful stranger. “Will you hold my hand?” He asks innocently, like he’s afraid of Zayn denying him.

 

“Of course, babes.”

 

Niall smiles warmly when Zayn’s fingers lace with his own. He closes his eyes as he sinks a little more into the warmth of Zayn’s skin. “Now I can say I’ve held hands with someone I’m in love with.” He coughs.

 

“I love you too, Niall. You know that, right? I love you so much, Jesus!” Zayn sounds distressed suddenly and Niall realizes why when he hears how much he’s gasping and wheezing, yet he still manages to form words.

 

“You love me?”

 

“So much.”

 

Absently Niall realizes that they’ve stopped moving and he peers down at the familiar headstone with his Nan’s name on it. He smiles softly at the words, and wants to reach out and touch, but he’s far too tired. He’d wanted so much to see it one last time. To let her know he was here with her. That he would see her again real soon.

 

“How’d you know I needed to be here?” Niall wonders, not even irritated when Zayn answers cryptically.

 

“I can hear you. Your thoughts.”

 

“You never told me you could do that.” Niall almost grumbles, sounding so put out, Zayn almost laughs.

 

“I would rather talk with you than pull answers out of your head, I promise.”

 

Niall gives a contented sound as he burrows deeper into Zayn’s chest.

 

“Take me to the pond, please.” Niall’s told Zayn about it and its location so many times now the other boy could probably find it in his sleep. Niall thinks he blacks out because he’s there faster than he remembers it taking.

 

“Put me down?” Niall asks sweetly. “Wanna put my feet in the water.”

 

Zayn does everything Niall asks of him, even things he doesn’t, like moving his legs for him until they touch the cold surface of the pond while blanketing him in the warmth of his body so it chases away the chill. Niall shivers, only the flimsy hospital gown protecting him, and Zayn’s body heat, of course.

 

“Love it here.” Niall sighs, it’s beautiful and he’s chosen it as his place to die, hoping he won’t sully its beauty with his death.

 

“Come on, love, don’t think like that.” Zayn suddenly says, sounding choked, but Niall doesn’t see what’s so bad about the thought.

 

“Zayn?” Niall suddenly cries, sounding panicked. “Hurts.” He whimpers when his throat constricts and he feels like he’s being strangled. It’s even harder without all those machines trying in vain to breathe for him.

 

“I’m here.” Zayn chants. “I won’t let you leave me now that I have you.”

 

Niall knows what Zayn speaks of, but he’s never asked for it. Never even broached the subject with Zayn that he’d rather be immortal than die a human. Zayn wouldn’t do it though. Not without Niall’s permission. Though the idea may be tantalizing; spending eternity with Zayn, he’s accepted death. Always has. It would feel like cheating to turn back now. it’s a nice thought, all the same.

 

“You know, I’ve never even kissed anyone.” Niall reveals even through all the pain that’s doing its best to take his breath away.

 

Zayn doesn’t have to ask, just seals his lips over Niall’s, and it’s warm but wet at the same time. It’s lovely and perfect and even though Zayn is trying to breathe into him, Niall knows this is it, and it’s such a nice way to go. He’s got the boy he loves with him at his favorite place for one last time. It’s selfish, no doubt, but it’s everything he wants, and while Zayn attempts to push air into his lungs, he in turn expels what he has left of it inside.

 

His head gets heavy and Niall doesn’t ignore it when his lids drift shut, something he can’t fight pulls him under all the way, sweet oblivion welcoming him with open arms.

 

-*-*-

 

Louis doesn’t mean to go to the bakery, he really doesn’t. And he certainly doesn’t mean to pick the lock as quietly as he can in order to sneak up on Harry. It just works out that way. Harry struggles and reaches for a pan before Louis’ caramel scent hits him and he relaxes into his hold.

 

“You could have knocked instead of breaking in, you know.” Harry mutters in exasperation, but Louis knows he’s happy to see him.

 

“Would you have answered?” Louis asks, curious.

 

“I might’ve made you beg first.” Harry says honestly and Louis can’t suppress the growl that escapes, watching with satisfaction as Harry trembles. He’s got flour in his hair and chocolate on his cheek and all Louis can think about doing is eating him up, every last inch of him.

 

He takes care to play that thought as loud as he can and Harry reads it loud and clear if his difficulty swallowing is anything to go by. Harry’s got a strict ‘No Sex in the Bakery’ rule that Louis has set as his lifelong mission to break if it’s the last thing he does, and he thinks tonight could be the night.

 

“I can hear you, you know, and you’re still not forgiven.”

 

Louis groans pitifully. “I haven’t even done anything.”

 

“That’s exactly right, Louis. Good job.”

 

“You were being nosy, Harry. You tried to use your place in my mind in order to deliberately learn information that I already told you had nothing to do with you.”

 

Harry flushes so pretty that Louis can’t even gloat that he’s got Harry right where he wants him. The tables have turned.

 

“I’m ready to admit that I was childish and…nosy.” He says distastefully. “I just don’t like us keeping things from each other, even if it’s not our business. I wanted to help fix things, is all.”

 

“I know, love, which is why I couldn’t tell you at the house. Niall’s there and you’re easier to read than a book.”

 

“Heeey.” Harry interjects voice as slow and thick as syrup.

 

“You would’ve given away the surprise and felt terrible about it, I know you.”

 

“Surprise?” Harry whispers conspiratorially, and Louis pulls him closer to whisper it into his ear completely unnecessarily. Harry giggles and squirms against Louis’ body, even though Louis has finished telling him and is now whispering naughty things that he wants to do to him, knowing that he’ll get a reaction. Harry doesn’t disappoint. Louis can hear and practically see the blood rushing through his body in order to travel down to fill his cock. God, he can smell it.

 

“Aren’t you still worried that Niall will pull it from my mind?” Harry asks on a moan as Louis sinks his sharp teeth into his neck, not enough to break skin. Not yet, at least.

 

“Zayn’s already there with him. He’s gonna spoil it early because of how upset it’s made Niall.”

 

“It would upset anyone.” Harry mutters, and Louis loves him so fucking much, so he says so.

 

“Fucking love you, kitten, you have no idea.”

 

“Love you too, daddy.” Harry whimpers as the older vampire manages to shove a hand down his tight trousers. “But you know we’re not having sex in the bakery, right? There are rules against this for multiple reasons.”

 

“I’m not listening.” Louis says as impetuously as a child, and Harry can’t help but throw his head back and laugh as Louis yanks his jeans down in one smooth motion.

 

-*-*-

 

Niall wakes up on the softest of clouds, the sweet smell of honey surrounding him. He’s not sure if he’s ready to let this dream go, but he eventually finds himself blinking his eyes open and trying to wake up enough in order to discern how it is that he’s floating on a cloud while covered in honey.

 

Only, the cloud turns out to be the bed in Louis’ guest bedroom and the honey smell is Zayn. Niall almost sits up so fast he sees stars, but Zayn has a strong warm hand on his chest, gently lowering him back down before he can cause damage to himself.

 

“Take it slow, babes.” He whispers softly and Niall wants to collapse into him until Zayn convinces him that everything will be alright.

 

Exhaustion and hunger take up all of his attention so that he can’t really remember why he shouldn’t be indulging Zayn right now, and he’s definitely sure he shouldn’t be allowing his maker to hold him.

 

“You need to feed.” Zayn says suddenly, and Niall can feel how warm he is, the flush of his skin revealing that he must’ve just ate. Drank his fill with the purpose of coming here, offering everything to Niall, knowing he probably wouldn’t survive otherwise.

 

“I went to hunt today.” Niall slurs, his own body feels like it’s failing him. It’s a familiar feeling.

 

“I know, love. Louis told me.”

 

Niall knew that’s where Louis was going when he left earlier that night, and he can’t even find it in himself to be mad.

 

“Couldn’t do it.” He wants to cry. He feels so hopeless, never able to do what his nature requires in order to survive. “He was dying, Zayn, and all I could think about was my Nan. Me. Everyone is dying.” And Niall’s young voice echoes in their minds without saying a word.

 

I’m just going a little faster than everyone else.

 

“You’re here, babes. You’re not going anywhere.” Zayn says firmly, no room for argument as the older vampire grabs his face in both hands and forces their eyes to meet. Niall knows he’s frantic and overwhelmed, but Zayn knows how he gets when confronted with the mortality of humans. A mortality he nearly succumbed to.

 

Zayn shushes him, rocking them back and forth as he coos sweet nothings, reassuring Niall that everything will be okay. That he never has to hunt or take from humans what he could never give back. Niall calms slowly, tongue licking along the delicate skin of his maker’s neck while Zayn encourages him to bite down.

 

“Come on, Ni. Do it, please.”

 

Niall isn’t one to resist Zayn when he begs, so he sinks his teeth into his throat and cries out against the warm broken skin as Zayn’s blood fills his mouth.

 

He didn’t realize just how starved he was until he feeds. Zayn’s blood is rich and strong, addicting like alcohol and rich like chocolate. Niall can’t get enough. He bites down harder when the wound beings to close, nearly cutting off the flow of blood, and relishes in the soft cry of pleasure his maker gives him. Niall climbs on top of Zayn to rest in his lap, looming over him as he curls back into his body, teeth attaching back into his skin.

 

Niall is completely overwhelmed. It doesn’t have anything to do with being able to feed, but it does have everything to do with Zayn. Zayn, who is now back in his head, loud and comforting, making himself known while welcoming Niall back into his own mind as well. Niall could sob he’s so relieved to feel them together in this way again. They’re apart of each other, connected in a way that they could never hope to pull away from.

 

Zayn writhes beneath him, his body lurches up into Niall’s, and he knows with certainty that they would be fucking if their clothes weren’t in the way. Niall grinds his hips down and isn’t disappointed when he feels the line of Zayn’s cock against his cheeks. He whimpers, wanting nothing more than to spread himself for his maker while he drains him.

 

Zayn should’ve stopped him ages ago. Should have made him pull back before he takes too much, but he lets his child take everything he needs, and that has Niall whimpering with so much pleasure he forces himself off of Zayn’s neck. He knows he would’ve fallen off the bed if Zayn wasn’t already catching him and pulling him back into the warmth of his chest.

 

-*-*-

 

Niall is pulled away from the arms of oblivion when his wrist is torn into. He’s almost too weak to open his eyes in order to see what’s happening, but the pain is sharp, and it pushes him enough that it gives him the strength to do so.

 

His eyes flutter for a minute, vision swimming and trying to adjust.

 

“Zayn?” He croaks, because his life feels like it’s being pulled out of him instead of slowly blinking out like the dying light of just a moment ago. He’s confused for a minute, his concentration blown away because he isn’t being cut open and left to spill in the mud like he thought he was.

 

He’s being opened up and swallowed, the heat of Zayn’s mouth in the middle of it all, and Niall can’t look away. He’s trembling, but even that subsides as his life is siphoned out of him.

 

“Zayn.” He whispers again, like an answer to his previous question. He can’t think, so he doesn’t. Can’t look, so he closes his eyes. He can barely breathe, so he lets Zayn take that too.

 

Zayn doesn’t take the offering though. He pulls Niall to him, shaking his shoulders without bothering to be gentle, it’s so unlike him that Niall’s eyes snap open.

 

“Come on, babes.” Zayn shudders, and Niall’s eyes are drawn to the blood seeping from a cut along the curve of Zayn’s shoulder. He doesn’t feel repulsed, like he thinks he should as he’s brought steadily closer. He feels…

 

 

“There you go.” Zayn sighs as Niall’s lips close over the wound without much coaxing.

 

The taste explodes on his tongue, not coppery at all, and he finds himself biting down harder, wanting to open Zayn up more so this feeling never ends. He’s never felt this sated and unfulfilled at the same time. The blood soothes something inside him, thicker and more than he’s been able to eat in awhile, the feeding tubes always so thin and with such a low amount of the slop they had called food in order to keep him alive. So in this way, he’s satisfied, but there’s still something growing in him. Something that doesn’t want to release Zayn, no matter what.

 

Pain crashes into him suddenly, and Niall tries to throw himself back, even as Zayn holds onto him tighter. Inescapable.

 

-*-*-

 

Zayn watches over Niall. It’s been centuries, but even he vividly remembers how painful the change can be. Though they live on, the body dies, frozen in time never to alter again. It’s not a pleasant process.

 

It kills him to watch Niall writhe on the ground in agony, and he wonders how Louis had the strength to do this twice when he already feels like he’s breaking.

 

Niall screams, and Zayn wants to kiss everything better, but he can’t. He must watch and wait, which is exactly what he steels himself to do, until Niall cries out his name. He lowers himself in the mud next to his mate and clings to Niall almost desperately while he thrashes. The stillness of the pond does nothing to ease his pounding heart, and he just wishes it’ll be over soon.

 

He’s not sure how much time passes, but he knows the sun will be up in only a couple of hours. If the change takes much longer, he’ll have to move them, but he knows how much pain that’ll cause Niall and hopes it doesn’t come to that.

 

-*-*-

 

Niall comes out of it slowly. His heartbreaking screams quieting to pitiful whimpers before dying off into wracked sobs and hiccups. Zayn holds him through it, not sure if he’s squeezing too tight or not when Niall murmurs softly.

 

“S’not tight. S’perfect.”

 

They’re connected. Niall’s already there, at the forefront of his mind, reading his thoughts as if he’s been doing it his whole life.

 

Zayn can’t remember ever feeling so grateful. Niall’s going be okay. He’s going to come out of this just fine.

 

They stay like that for awhile more, until Niall rises to his feet with an ease that Zayn can tell shocks him. The difference in him is so startling that Zayn feels like he can’t breathe. Where he was once skin and bones, he’s now filled out. Muscle takes the place of withered limbs. His flesh no longer looks sallow and bruised, and instead is smooth and silky, like milk. Soft to the touch, no doubt. Even his hair is thicker, brown and shiny and Zayn wants to run his fingers through it so badly.

 

He’s the most beautiful creature Zayn’s ever laid his eyes on. He watches as Niall looks around him like he’s seeing colors for the first time, and in a way, he is.

 

“Everything is so green.” He whispers, and Zayn feels like he sees it too. He hasn’t appreciated his enhanced gifts since his own change, but right now, with Niall here, he feels like he’s seeing everything for the first time, as well.

 

Niall’s head snaps to the pond when the sound of a jumping frog catches his attention, louder and clearer than he’s ever heard it before. He stares, rapt as the water settles on the surface, reeds rustling in the sudden wind.

 

“It sounds like music,” the newly made vampire breathes, and Zayn can’t take his eyes off of him. Niall is truly captivating. He doesn’t smell like sickness anymore. Death was always wrapped so tightly around Niall, permeating his natural scent. Moss and cedar, Zayn decides. He smells like nature and sunshine.

 

It takes him a minute to realize Niall’s looking at him for the first time since his change, eyes flashing an ocean blue in the dark.

 

“I can hear you.” He says, still taking care to be quiet, knowing he’ll disturb the gentle creeping life in this sacred place if he’s too loud.

 

“I can hear you too.” Zayn admits, his face filled with awe at seeing Niall like this, so alive and strong.

 

“You’re in my head.”

 

“You’re in mine.”

 

“Zayn,” Niall struggles, “what did you do?”

 

Zayn gets up and pulls them close together, not sure if he’ll be able to let go. But he knows the sun will be up soon, and he needs to get Niall somewhere safe before then. He needs to explain as much as he can before sleep claims them.

 

“Couldn’t let you die.” Zayn says in answer, and watches as Niall struggles with it. Zayn is well aware of the acceptance he’d given death. How he’d embraced it, and he only hopes that he’ll embrace a new life with him. Niall breathes out a sigh before nodding, even though it’s so easy to tell he’s full of questions. “We need to go.” Zayn adds, relief flooding him when Niall follows easily.

 

-*-*-

 

Harry tries and fails to find a comfortable position on one of the many long metal counters that grace the staff only portion of the bakery. He gives up and lies on top of Louis instead, the smaller vampire letting go of a grunt from the added weight.

 

“Heavy,” he complains only for the sake of it before wrapping his own naked body around Harry’s.

 

The silence is comforting almost and Harry feels himself drifting, so very tired all of a sudden, when Louis shakes him a little.

 

“Hey kitten?” He questions, waiting for Harry to muster a response. His maker always hates it when he doesn’t give him his full attention. Predictably, Louis shakes him more insistently so Harry opens his eyes and graces him with a smile.

 

“Hmm?”

 

“We had sex in the bakery. Broke your rule, didn’t we, darling.”

 

Harry should’ve known Louis only wanted to gloat. He wants to reach for the nearby cream and pour it all over Louis, and that actually makes him want to go again, so he disregards that idea, ignoring the way Louis’s chuckling into his shoulder at the thought.

 

“Well, since we broke it, guess what we get to do now, baby?”

 

Louis preens at the endearment, doesn’t make a fuss anymore when Harry says it, even though he used to for the sake of his pride.

 

“What?” Louis asks, and Harry can tell he already doesn’t like the sound of where he’s going with this.

 

“We get to clean and disinfect this place from top to bottom.”

 

Louis makes a gagging noise and Harry is so in love with him.

 

“But we didn’t even make a mess!”

 

Harry pointedly looks at the actual big mess they made and Louis’s smile turns wicked.

 

“Much,” he amends.

 

“Come on,” Harry says, smacking his plump arse, “you’re actually going to help, and by help, I don’t mean sitting around and telling me when I’ve missed a spot.”

 

“But that’s how I clean.” Louis whines, more for show as he stands up.

 

“Not this time,” Harry mutters, jumping off the counter and looking for their clothes.

 

“Can we clean naked?” Louis questions, that mischievous glint in his eyes.

 

“If we do that, you won’t get much work done.”

 

“And you will,” Louis challenges, already wiggling his arse, setting Harry’s blood on fire.

 

“That’s my point, Lou.”

 

Louis shrugs, the corner of his mouth high in a smile that takes Harry’s breath away.

 

“Good luck finding your clothes, then.”

 

Harry should’ve known Louis would hide them.

 

“Fine, we’ll clean naked, even though that seems like it defeats the purpose.”

 

Louis makes a happy noise when he’s won, but Harry’s won too. Louis’s cleaning, after all.

 

Relationships are all about compromise.

 

-*-*-

 

Before, Niall had felt like he was floating on a cloud, now he feels heavy, weighted down at the bottom of the sea. It’s not a bad feeling, not at all. It’s amazing.

 

Zayn is motionless on top of him, and Niall panics for a minute because he doesn’t think he’s breathing.

 

“M’breathing.” Zayn mumbles into his hair, and Niall feels his heart calm and swell at the same time. He wraps his maker up in his arms and holds him close, feeling stronger than he has in weeks. Zayn, is another story. He’s been nearly drained, and moves easily when Niall repositions him, no resistance.

 

“You let me take a lot,” Niall whispers and a small smile curves on Zayn’s lips.

 

“Nearly all of it.”

 

“Jesus.” Niall hisses, because the way Zayn takes care of him, how he’s willing to give everything he has makes Niall unbelievably hard. He snakes a hand down to the seat of Zayn’s pants, feeling for his arousal and freezes when he can’t. Zayn usually gets so hot when they do this.

 

“I, um…I already finished.”

 

Niall’s eyes widen, and he can’t believe he didn’t smell it until now, too busy feeding to pay much attention.

 

Niall doesn’t move his hand from Zayn’s spent cock, and instead shoves it down his trousers and beneath his pants to feel the cooling wetness of Zayn’s come.

 

“Fuck, Ni.”

 

“Tell me what you’ve been hiding from me?” Niall pleads, even though he has Zayn’s dick in his hand, like he’ll do something about it if Zayn doesn’t comply.

 

Zayn shows him. Opens his mind up so Niall can see what he’s been trying to keep to himself.

 

It’s the pond, the same pond in Ireland that he would go to with his Nan all the time. The one where he would catch frogs and have adventures. The same pond Zayn turned him at.

 

“I don’t understand.” He says, confusion putting a crease in his brow. Zayn reaches up with weak limbs, smoothing Niall’s frown away with gentle fingers.

 

“I’ll explain everything at home.” Zayn offers tiredly. “I promise. We could go now and I’ll tell you everything.”

 

Niall is tempted, but he needs to take care of Zayn first before they can go anywhere.

 

“In a minute, babe. Come on. Up you go.”

 

Zayn protests, but Niall easily pulls him up so he’s situated astride Niall’s thighs, an arm supporting his back as he’s pulled close.

 

Niall brings Zayn’s head to his neck, encouraging him with praise and gentle words, moaning happily when Zayn bites down, taking back just a little of what he’s already given.

 

Niall sighs, and this time his hand is there to feel Zayn’s cock fatten up. They’re both hard now, and Niall doesn’t want it to end quite yet. He bites the opposite side of Zayn’s neck, trying not to give into the urge to pass out over how intense it is.

 

They end up rutting against each other, Zayn finding the strength to push Niall down into the mattress before coming down on top of him, reattaching his fangs into Niall’s supple flesh. He slots in perfectly between the younger man’s hips, running his fingers through bleach-blonde locks.

 

Niall whines and humps up against him, eyes cloudy when he can open them. Zayn releases his teeth, full enough off their shared meal.

 

“Wanna come, babes?” He asks on a growl, and Niall nods so fast his head must hurt with it. They haven’t been like this since Zayn’s locked him out, and he knows they won’t last.

 

“Do you want me inside you?”

 

“More than anything,” Niall whispers, watching as Zayn hurries to give him exactly what he wants. It’s a rushed endeavor. Jeans and pants shoved down to knees and ankles while Zayn spits in his palm, moving to spread the rushed lubrication to the rest of his hand when Niall stops him.

 

“No fingers, please. I wanna feel you.”

 

“Fuck.” Zayn hisses, rushing to get his hand around his cock so he can quickly get inside Niall’s quivering hole. When he does, they both blank out for a moment as white noise envelopes their senses.

 

“I’ve missed you.” Zayn whispers, his eyes finally open and gazing into the pleasure that plays over his mate’s face.

 

“And I’ve missed you.” Niall manages to get out before Zayn begins thrusting and a moan is the only form of communication he can give.

 

Niall’s fingers tangle in his maker’s hair, pulling viciously when he wants to go faster, always faster. Already he can feel the pressure in his belly, demanding to be released. Zayn leans down, his mouth hovering over his own while they breathe into each other.

 

“Gonna come, Ni.”

 

It sounds like a question, but it isn’t. He nods anyway, hindered when Zayn’s teeth sink into his throat. Niall comes undone. He arches his back while he cries out with his release, feeling like a guitar string that’s been tightened far too tight, having no other alternative but to snap. Zayn fucks him through it, his teeth still attached to his neck. He doesn’t let him rest until his own orgasm follows.

 

They’re panting, wrapped up in each other when Niall whispers to him, sounding much more submissive than he was a moment ago.

 

“Take me home, please.”

 

Zayn feels his heart expand and he has to pull Niall closer.

 

“Alright babes. Let’s go home.”

 

-*-*-

 

Louis and Harry enter the manor almost cautiously, already able to tell that Niall is no longer in the guest bedroom.

 

“Everything must’ve worked out.” Louis says with a happy smile, and Harry can’t help but return it before his nose scrunches up in distaste.

 

“They could have waited until they got home to do it. Smells like jizz in here.”

 

Louis’s so surprised he laughs quick and loud. “They’re probably just paying us back for all the times we’ve fucked in their office at the club.”

 

Harry pouts, before going to open the windows. “We’ll have to purge that room later. For now, we should have loads of sex, maybe it’ll make me feel better.”

 

“I’m all for making you feel better, kitten.” Louis grits out, already pulling off his clothes. Harry giggles as his maker advances before taking off down the hallway, squealing as Louis chases after him. Louis doesn’t mind. Harry always lets himself be caught, no matter how far he runs.

 

“Why are you chasing me?” The younger vampire yells back breathlessly, the happiness in his tone makes Louis feel warm.

 

“Because you’re running!” He answers incredulously, laughter bubbling out of his throat.

 

Harry miscalculates a step and Louis catches up to him easily, picking him up clear off the floor even though Harry’s bigger than him, he’s still able to spin him in circles like he weighs nothing.

 

“I win, now give us a kiss.” Louis grins, fingers tangling in Harry’s curls as he pulls him closer. Harry’s tongue is already out passed his lips before they meet, and Louis takes care to suck it into his mouth.

 

Harry keens into the kiss and pushes frantically against Louis in an effort to get more.

 

“I- I’m still sticky. From before.” Harry stutters, causing Louis’ eyes to flash blue.

 

“From the strawberry sauce?” It had been an okay lubricant in the heat of the moment at the bakery, but he didn’t realize how fucking hot it would be, even now.

 

Harry nods like it’s a secret, not ashamed, but almost embarrassed to say it, cheeks turning a beautiful shade of red. “Feels funny.”

 

“Daddy will just have to lick it all out until you’re clean inside, hmm?”

 

Harry trembles in Louis arms, shaking like a leaf from anticipation, lust, and need. “Please, daddy.” He begs, but Louis is already sweeping him up and moving upstairs.

 

“Gonna fuck you in our bed this time, kitten.” Harry arches in his arms at those words, needing it so bad.

 

The movers had been in earlier, so they have a new frame for their mattress, and Harry’s glad they won’t have to sleep in another guest bedroom. Louis tosses him onto it and Harry laughs.

 

“Careful. You don’t want to break the bed again when it’s so new.”

 

“Don’t care.” Louis growls. “I’ll break all the beds if it puts that look on your face.”

 

Harry always does get a little spacey when Louis gets rough. When he handles him like a moveable doll, his only purpose being to pleasure his maker.

 

“Fuck, baby, you’re making me so hard,” Louis gasps, easily hearing Harry’s thoughts. He pulls Harry’s boots and socks off before yanking his jeans down until he’s free of them. Harry isn’t wearing any pants, and the smell of strawberry syrup mixed with precome hits him like the sweetest of smells.

 

“Jesus.” He mutters. “Take your shirt off, love. Let me see you.”

 

Harry rushes to comply, but his trembling fingers are no match for delicate button holes.

 

“Let me.” Louis growls, ripping at the fabric until it separates with a sharp tearing sound.

 

“That was expensive.” Harry huffs, all attempts at sounding indignant ruined by the sharp spike of arousal that leaks off of him over Louis’ actions.

 

“I’ll buy you another. A hundred more if it’ll please you,” he licks like a promise into the sensitive skin of Harry’s side, inching ever closer to one of Harry’s many delectable nipples.

 

“You please me well enough, I should think.” Harry gasps cheekily, arching into Louis’ mouth as he sucks on a puffy nub. Louis sinks his fangs into the skin as punishment, relishing in the way his lover cries out. He soothes the bite with languid licks of his tongue before moving on to the next nipple to repeat the process.

 

By the time Louis is on his fourth nipple, Harry is sure he’s lost his mind. The bed is a mess with his constant writhing, his thoughts all but deserted him and the only thing anchoring him to the physical world is the man responsible for stripping him of all sense. It sounds very much like an impossible feat.

 

“Your mind gets very poetic when I’m in the middle of devouring you.” Louis hums from somewhere between his thighs, a combination of tongue and teeth driving him mad. He doesn’t even remember him moving and can’t help but shiver even more over that particular word and what it means. Devouring him is something Louis is exceptional at.

 

All thought ceases when Louis seals his lips over Harry’s hole. His trembling entrance does its best to take Louis in deeper, even though all he’s doing is sucking around his rim. He hasn’t even got his tongue in him yet, and still Harry is so greedy.

 

“Relax, love. Let me take care of you.” Louis whispers into his skin, but he knows that even though he’s already had the younger vampire once tonight, Harry can’t calm himself. He writhes and he shakes, desperate and full of need for his maker. A kind of unquenchable thirst they’ll always have for each other runs deep in their veins.

 

As Louis predicted, Harry seems to grow more frantic and restless with his words. His limbs struggle against Louis’ hold, and he does all he can to force him deeper. Louis decides to comply, only because it quickens his blood like nothing else to see Harry so greedy and eager for him. So very willing.

 

“Alright, kitten, alright.”

 

Harry moans loud and wanton when he finally gets his way. He can feel his eyes roll up in the back of his head the moment Louis’ tongue thrusts into him. Then it’s like the waves of the ocean, sometimes lazily rolling up onto the sands before slipping back into the sea. Other times it’s fast and hard, like the waves of a storm, but at all times it does nothing but drown Harry in sensation.

 

Louis’ tongue offers no reprieve. He swirls it inside his tight passage before making a sharp point in order to spear him with it. Harry’s throat protests each time he cries out. His body locks up on itself and he’s sure he’ll come from just this. He wants to.

 

“You like when I eat you out, kitten?” Louis asks, emerging from between Harry’s legs. Harry can barely find the strength to open his eyes, but he can give Louis the obvious answer to a question he’ll never grow tired of asking.

 

“Always.”

 

“You taste like strawberries, love.” Louis hums as he swirls the tongue that had been inside of Harry just seconds ago around his own lips. “When I think I’ve got it all I find more.”

 

Harry mewls weakly, rubbing his hot cheek against the coolness of the sheets beneath him.

 

“Should I stop?” Louis asks, a kind of satisfied tone to his voice that sets Harry’s nerves on fire.

 

“Don’t you dare.” He demands, relishing in the way his maker laughs against his skin, sending chills down his spine.

 

“As you wish.”

 

Harry’s back arches off the bed when Louis’ tongue returns, and like every time, he swears he sees stars as he welcomes a part of Louis inside his body.

 

A familiar pressure builds up inside him while his fingers lace in the softness of Louis’ hair. He tries to be gentle, but Louis doesn’t always like gentle hands, and Harry’s control over his own body can slip so fast at the hands of his maker. His fingers tug and pull, and the sounds he pulls from Louis’ mouth sends vibrations of pleasure coursing through his own skin.

 

“Please.” Harry begs, and Louis is there to hold him.

 

“It’s okay, kitten, you’re almost there.” He says, so sure of himself. And he has every right to be. He knows Harry’s body as intimately as he knows his own. “Let go, baby.”

 

Harry doesn’t need any other encouragement. His body unfurls and his orgasm crashes over him as he releases against his belly, Louis’ tongue continuing to thrust inside as he convulses. Harry’s cock pulses once more and another string of come finds itself hot on his skin as Louis’ tongue and teeth catch on his rim, prolonging his pleasure.

 

“Beautiful, love.” Louis happily praises, gathering up Harry’s come on the same tongue that forced out his orgasm. Harry feels as if he has to look away, too sensitive to keep watching, but somehow he manages, knowing his cock will remain hard rather than getting soft over Louis’ display. This is probably what his maker had intended.

 

Louis soothes him and sends him to the edge all at once. He gently pushes Harry’s damp curls back with one hand in order to place the sweetest of kisses on his forehead, while the other shoves two fingers inside his slick opening. A sound mixed somewhere between a sob and a moan rips its way out of Harry’s throat, passed spit-slicked lips to ring like bells in Louis’ ear.

 

Louis peppers soft, sweet kisses across Harry’s cheeks and in the crevice of his eyes, where his lashes meet the upper parts of his cheekbones. He travels down to the strong line of his jaw just above where his throat trembles and doesn’t hesitate to add a third and fourth finger until his angel is a mess in his arms.

 

When Louis finally withdraws his fingers from Harry’s hole, he wraps them around the younger man’s weeping cock, marveling at the heat of it in his hands. He studies its thickness and wonders at the way it twitches in his grasp. His weeping slit captivates Louis for some time until he can no longer resist the urge to run the barest hint of a fingernail over the opening. Harry reacts to it like a bolt of electricity passes through his body over the sensation. A cry of pleasure and pain is born and dies on his lips, echoing through the halls of the manor.

 

Louis shushes him while offering unending words of praise as he moves Harry into a more comfortable position in the center of the bed. He takes care to push Harry’s legs up, knees pressing against delicate shoulders in a move that exposes his love and opens him up.

 

“Look at me, kitten.”

 

And somehow, Harry always finds the strength to do so.

 

As soon as their eyes connect, Louis pushes in, a slow, but purposeful, thrust that doesn’t relent until he’s buried completely inside the younger vampire.

 

“That’s it. There we are.” Louis struggles to get out, eyes fluttering as Harry’s passage grips him tight. Harry is even more undone by their coupling, as he is every time. The sensations he feels along with the act itself never seems to lose its affect on either of them, but Louis delights especially in witnessing the way it transforms Harry into a writhing, desperate and beautiful mess.

 

Louis grips Harry just beneath his knees and hoists his legs even further apart just as he pulls out, only to slam back in. Harry grunts at the welcomed intrusion before the sound turns into a pitiful whimper. Louis tries to focus on the noises his lover makes. Counts the thrusts in the way Harry lets out mewls and moans. He concentrates on the vibrant green of Harry’s eyes that are steadily being swallowed up by the black of his pupil, only the thinnest ring of mercury green remaining. He watches as both eyes dilate when he hits that sweet spot inside Harry that he’ll always be able to find. Louis fucks Harry as well as makes love to him, soft and sweet and fast and punishing.

 

“Please.” Harry whispers through the familiarity of his pleasure. “Please.” He begs again, and though his begging will always quicken Louis’ pulse, he would never deny Harry anything.

 

“I’ve got you, love.” He says reassuringly, losing count of how many times he’s repeated those very words. The sharp cut of his hipbones snap against the soft skin of Harry’s arse, and Louis’ hands find themselves gripping the mounds of flesh to push them together. Harry nearly screams as his passage tightens around Louis’ thick cock, watching as his maker’s eyes roll back in bliss from the forced constriction. He’s constantly hitting Harry’s prostate now, and this won’t last much longer.

 

“Want to come again, pet?” Louis growls, and Harry can feel his head nodding frantically even if he can’t form words.

 

“You’re close already, aren’t you?”

 

Harry nods again, a broken moan finding its way passed his lips.

 

“Hold yourself tight for me, love.” Louis says gently, and Harry could almost forget it’s an order due to his tone. He doesn’t think he can stand it, but somehow his hands move awkwardly down in order to push his cheeks together around Louis’ hard cock. The sensation crashes over him with too much force, and Harry can feel his hands falling away before he can make them do otherwise.

 

“Here, love.” Louis says patiently, grabbing Harry’s limp limbs and positioning them where he wants them before adding an insistent pressure until Harry is able to do it himself.

 

“That’s it,” Louis praises, “very good, kitten. Always so tight for me.” And it’s true. Harry is always unusually tight, even though he has near constant sex with his lover, his hole never loosens. Vampire healing, maybe. Louis is addicted to that tightness, and making Harry push his arse together until he’s even tighter is going to be the death of him.

 

“Gonna come in your tight hole.” Louis grunts, pounding into Harry with abandon. He doesn’t care that Harry’s hands have long since fallen away, and he doesn’t care that he’s going so hard that he’s pushing their bodies so far up the bed that Harry’s head is centimeters away from knocking into the headboard. He cares that Harry’s got tears in his eyes, and his cock is leaking so profusely he’s making a mess. He cares about the screams Harry gives him freely, and the love that pores out of his soul. He cares about this moment and the countless others that will undoubtedly follow.  

 

“Gonna come, love. Fill you up again.”

 

“Wanna come.” Harry whines desperately, a kind of panic in his eyes that Louis quiets and soothes.

 

“I know, darling. You will. I promise.”

 

And with that, Louis speeds up and loses his rhythm. They move together like one being, Harry wanting to come with Louis inside him, but Louis has other plans. He finds his release in the cut off breaths that emit from Harry’s trembling chest. The way his too-pink lips tremble and quake with their struggle to suck air in. He finds it in the warmth and acceptance of his lover’s body. In the way he’s solid and liquid and fire and air. He comes inside Harry’s quivering hole and swears it lasts for an eternity. It seems he becomes poetic in moments such as these as well.

 

Harry’s shaking his head when he comes back to himself, and he feels Harry’s need as if it were his own. An all-encompassing urge to give Harry everything he wants fills him, and Louis embraces it like he always does.

 

“Come on, love.” Louis urges, lowering the boys legs in order to swing his own over Harry’s waist so they’re flush together in a much different way. The feeling of Harry’s weeping cock as it bumps impatiently against the curve of his arse is heavenly. “You need to come.”

 

“Louis.” Harry mewls, a kind of delicious suffering in his voice just as he whispers the words that have Louis heart beating faster. “Daddy.”

 

“Come on, baby. You can come, you just have to get me ready first.”

 

When Harry groans, Louis can no longer fight off his smile. He can be cruel sometimes, but only in the best possible way.

 

Harry reanimates with a kind of strength and determination Louis didn’t think possible in his state. He hoists Louis higher up in his lap, and Louis is captivated as, one by one, Harry sucks his own fingers into his mouth. He couldn’t look away even if his life depended on it as his body is set on fire once more.

 

“Is this getting to you?” Harry questions as his tongue snakes out to wrap around the length of his middle finger.

 

Louis rolls his hips and closes in until his cock is pressed deliciously against the muscles of Harry’s stomach.

 

“Does it feel like it’s getting to me?”

 

Harry groans, large hands gripping the plumpness of Louis arse as he massages the flesh. He feels Louis harden against him while his own cock slips into the crevice of his cheeks and presses insistently at his hole.

 

“It seems I am equally affected.” Harry gets out on a choked-off breath.

 

“Perhaps you should do something about it.” Louis grits between his teeth, feeling a kind of thrill go up his spine at the reprimanding look his lover gives him. Harry’s fingers are at his hole before he’s even realized they’ve gone, and he can’t help but suck in a sharp breath. The saliva has dried somewhat, but it doesn’t stop Harry from pushing in that first finger and it certainly doesn’t stop Louis from moaning in pleasure at the intrusion.

 

“Jesus, look at you.” Harry sighs into the charged air around them, his index finger delving deeper inside and curving cleverly until that perfect spot inside Louis is nudged. His eyes fly open and his lips part to mewl in approval. Harry never loses sight of that spot. He thrusts in and out, always coming back to rub over the bundle of nerves, sending shivers up his maker’s spine.

 

“Another. Please.” Louis begs, and Harry easily obliges.

 

“Fuck.” Louis cries out, long lashes fluttering over the sharp edges of his cheekbones and it captivates Harry like nothing else. “Your f-fingers are so big and so fucking long,” Louis nearly yells, as if he’s accusing his lover of something, and knowing Louis, he probably is.

 

Harry smirks as he adds another in quick succession, causing a constant shiver to wrack Louis’ small frame.

 

“M’ready.” He insists greedily, and Harry’s smirk widens into an easy smile.

 

“I think you need more time.”

 

Louis’s eyes are murderous and glowing a bright, brilliant blue as he turns them on Harry.

 

“I think you better get on with it if you know what’s good for you.”

 

Harry lets out an unaffected laugh as his fingers pull out of Louis’s hole only to snake around his body and pull him closer.

 

“You’re resorting to threats now, are you?”

 

“Whatever it takes to get my way.” Louis murmurs, a seductive note in his melodic voice. Harry feels like he can’t breathe when the smaller man leans over him, licking a wet stripe from the corner of his lips to the center of his cheek.

 

“You catch more flies with sugar than vinegar.”

 

“You would have me be sweet, then?” Louis asks with amusement as he pulls back.

 

“Maybe.” Harry answers with equal mirth. His breath catches as Louis flutters his eyelashes flirtatiously, an innocent smile matching his innocent tone of voice when he speaks.

 

“Please, Harry. Please? I need you. Fuck me now, please. Say you will, kitten. I’ll be good, I promise.”

 

It takes Harry an embarrassing amount of time to gather himself before he’s hastily agreeing with raspy words and hasty movements.

 

“Yes. Fuck, anything you want, Lou.”

 

After that, it takes no time at all until Harry is fully inside his maker. His body shakes from the feel of it, and he desperately tries to calm down. He can’t think about what he’s doing, and instead has to concentrate on the way Louis’s chest expands and contracts against his own as he takes stuttered breaths in and out. He tries to count the eyelashes on the lids of Louis’ eyes. An impossible number as well as an impossible task with the way the older vampire’s eyes keep trembling open and closed. In the end, he can’t calm himself, and should’ve known from the start how futile the effort would be.

 

Once Harry deems it time, he begins to set a slow and steady pace, listening to the way Louis’ breath hitches with the slightest of movements, the head of his cock constantly pressing into the smaller vampire’s prostate. Louis lets him have his way for a moment, but it isn’t long until he’s lifting himself up on quivering legs in order to slam back down at a brutal pace.

 

“Someone needs to teach you how to relinquish control.” Harry gets out through gritted teeth, sweat running down his brow.

 

“Who’s going to do that, you? You would teach me how to give it up…or would you make me?” His voice sounds challenging, and Harry is happy to rise to the occasion.

 

“Both.” Harry maneuvers them until he’s got Louis on his back while he hovers over him. They look into each other’s eyes until Harry forces Louis onto his stomach, not much leverage in his current position. No real chance to control the pace.

 

Harry drapes himself over Louis’s soft body, and reenters him with an ease that makes him want to cry. His hands find their way to the back of Louis’ neck, and he holds him down, pulling back until he’s able to watch and appreciate how Louis’ plump arse jiggles when his hips slam against the globes of his cheeks. He feels close just from witnessing his dick disappear into his maker’s shiny, pink hole, and even though he wants it to last, he won’t turn away.

 

Louis is making these little ‘ah ah ah’ cries as Harry fucks him, his scrunched up face full of pleasure pushed into the pillows and mattress. Harry tells him how beautiful he is. Takes up a mantra of constant praise of everything he loves about Louis while he rocks easily into him. They’re both close, Harry can feel it, and with all the clarity he has left, he leans down and sinks his teeth into Louis’ neck.

 

When they come, it has to be milliseconds apart. A rush of blood, sound and bright, white spots makes up a combined feeling as they breathe against each other and gasp for air at the same time. They call out their names like a question and an answer and all the while they cling to each other as if the rolling waves will pull them apart.

 

It takes countless seconds, but when the rush has calmed, they share an exhausted laugh and hold tightly to the other. Harry brushes his nose against the already healed skin where he’d bitten Louis, smiling at the way he shivers.

 

“You were a very good teacher.” Louis grins tiredly, and Harry returns it readily.

 

“I learned from the best.”

 

“You most certainly did.”

 

They’re quiet for a moment, and when they can once again hold each other’s gaze, Louis whispers seriously, “I love you.”

 

“I love you too.” Harry breathes into the serene air between them, moving into each other until he’s got Louis’ lips against his own.

 

Once Louis’ flush against Harry’s back - the younger vampire preferring to be the little spoon - he places his mouth over the freckle on Harry’s right shoulder blade he happens to have an affinity for.

 

“Did I give you your happy ending, kitten?” Louis asks, and even though he can’t see it, he knows Harry’s smiling right now.

 

“You did,” he replies, voice raspy from exhaustion and their lovemaking, “and so much more.”

 

Louis presses his own pleased smile into Harry’s neck and wraps his arms around him tighter. They stay like that longer still, until sleep creeps up on them. They succumb to it willingly, wrapped up in each other, tangled, with their limbs entwined.

 

*-*-*

 

Zayn leads Niall carefully through their house, bypassing everything until they get to the back door where he pauses and turns until he can look into his child’s eyes.

 

“I really am sorry, for all the pain I’ve caused you.”

 

Niall nods easily, because in the grand scheme of things, he’s not sure there’s anything Zayn could ever do that would make Niall turn away for good.

 

“I forgive you.”

 

“I only did it, because I wanted to give you a gift.”

 

Those words take Niall by surprise. Not once did he consider that that would be the reason for Zayn’s departure from their connection. He knew he was hiding something, but like Zayn had accused him, he assumed it was nothing good.

 

“No, no.” Zayn soothes, coming in closer until their foreheads touch gently. “It’s not your fault. We both have been very silly, I more than you.”

 

Niall watches as Zayn takes a steadying breath, but he cuts him off before he can continue.

 

“I’m sorry as well. I jumped to conclusions and abandoned you. It was very impulsive and cowardly.”

 

Zayn shakes his head, a small smile gracing his lips. “It was human. I would have done the same.”

 

They hold each other for a moment longer and Niall practically purrs as Zayn leans forward to place a gentle kiss on his cheek.

 

“Come, I have something to show you.” He takes the younger vampire’s hand and leads him outside.

 

When Niall’s eyes land on the center of the gardens, he can’t believe what he’s seeing. It’s almost like he’s been transported, back to the happiest days he had in Ireland. He can hear his Nan’s laughter mixed with his own, and even from a distance, see the jump of a frog across the pond water. It looks just like it did the night Zayn turned him. Just like it did when him and his Nan would have frog-catching adventures.

 

It’s perfect.

 

He doesn’t realize he’s crying until Zayn wipes away his tears.

 

“I wanted to surprise you. I know how much you miss this place. How much you miss home. I wanted to bring a piece of it to you, so I had it replicated.”

 

Niall feels like a well has burst inside him, and all he can do is cling tighter to Zayn. He’s recreated the very place he felt the happiest when he was alive. The same place he wanted to die in, but instead it became the place where he was reborn. The place where he became Zayn’s and Zayn became his.

 

Niall moves numbly as his maker leads him near to the water’s edge, and they watch frogs and tadpoles alike create ripples upon the surface. He remembers his first night as a vampire, and recalls just what he said.

 

“Everything is so green.” He whispers, watching as Zayn’s eyes soften with the shared memory. “It’s beautiful.”

 

“You like it?” Zayn asks, a hint of insecurity seeping into his voice, even though he can feel how pleased his child is through their connection.

 

Niall pulls Zayn close enough so that the older vampire can see the tears of joy in his eyes.

 

“I love it. It’s amazing. You’re amazing, fuck, I love you so much.”

 

“I love you too.” Zayn sighs, relief taking over him when Niall’s lips meet his. The blonde laughs against his mouth, pulling Zayn further in until they’re practically in the water, mud caking their jeans.

 

“Wanna catch some frogs?”

 

“First one to ten wins.”

 

“You’re on.”

 

Niall doesn’t think about death anymore. He hasn’t for some time. Despite who he was and what he is now, it has no hold over him. He remembers the life he had and thinks only of living. Now, more than ever, he has hope of a future he never thought he’d have. Thanks to Zayn, they have all the time in the world.