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Eliot doesn’t show his marks.

Plural.

It comes on him late, and that’s something to be grateful for. When the first mark manifests, sitting right on the topmost rib on his left side, an elegant black, peach, and purple swirl of color that is just an abstract and intricate melange of color and shape, he’s already twenty-three, and in the Rangers, good at his job, the best, and completely at a loss as to what it means. There are no drunken shenanigans in the previous six months to explain it, and besides that, it doesn’t really look like a tattoo. He isn’t sure what it looks like, exactly. It’s abstract, no pattern or symbol to it. He tries to wash it off, half-thinking it’s some kind of joke, but it doesn’t wash and it doesn’t eventually wear off. And he’s certain there is some meaning to it, a feeling he can’t explain to himself, and which he never mentions to anyone else, which, if he had really thought it was some sort of practical joke one of the other guys had pulled on him, he surely would have. He has no idea why, but the urge to keep it to himself is strong. He ignores it for weeks. He’s a soldier, content to be that and nothing more.

Except. He can’t ignore that he’s faster, that he can see better in the dark, that he is stronger than he should be. He tells himself that he’s just getting better at his job.

So his first blood meal, when it happens, happens on the job, and is shocking in its relative simplicity.

He remembers it later only in snatches and blurs, a routine hand to hand fight with an enemy combatant, Eliot more than his equal, and when the man goes down Eliot stares at him lying at his feet, blood pouring from the knife wound on his shoulder, and the craving is suddenly a driving necessity. He remembers the feel of his teeth against his lower lip, longer, sharper, and he remembers falling to his knees over the man, and he doesn’t remember the feel of biting, but he does remember the hot spurt of blood in his mouth satisfying something deeply coiled around the base of his brain, remembers the way his senses had heightened and clarified, so that by the time the rest of his team has started to regroup, he can hear them on the headset, calling his codename, and is able to pull back, stop. He remembers staring at the man, still breathing, if a little pale looking, and then, as if by instinct, remembers leaning down to lave his tongue against the punctures visible above the knife wound, which dwindle and vanish before his eyes.

He has never been a talkative one, so the way he is reeling when he rejoins his unit isn’t immediately obvious behind his usual laconic front, and he had taken the time to clean the blood from his mouth with a sterile alcohol wipe, taken from the pocket where he keeps emergency medical supplies, which smells so strong to his heightened sense of scent that he nearly loses his first feeding to an almost apocalyptic gag reflex. He grimly keeps it down and keeps his head down, while myths and half-forgotten speculations of long ago writers jumble around in his head as he tries to get himself under control.

It’s harder because he’s abruptly aware of the smell of all the blood, both the blood of the enemy and the blood of his fellow soldiers pulsing at their throats and wrists, though that is all he is. Aware. He doesn’t feel any kind of blood lust or craving, doesn’t want to hurt his men, doesn’t feel the need for more blood.

His teeth have returned to normal, had done so even as he’d licked away the marks on his victim’s chest.

Eliot is generally a calm man, a man of action and reaction, the discipline of the Rangers removing the need for any kind of deep contemplation of what he does, but this shakes him to his core.