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Lose Yourself

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The thing about being a vampire was, Steve was bored most of the time.

After a lot of spell casting and consulting ancient tomes and fellow magic users, Wanda had assured Steve that this was a curse, a temporary state that they could fix, but as for what the wizard had meant by his parting words, Wanda couldn't tell.

"Only when you lose yourself, will you regain yourself," the wizard's voice had echoed in Steve's ears as the spell came into effect. Then, the sunlight filtering in through the windows had started to sear his skin, sending him cowering in the shadows.

The words were ominous, but his team assured him they would figure out what they meant. The solution was out there, and sooner or later, they would find it. Steve never doubted that for one second.

For the time being, Steve was stuck, and he was bored. He couldn't be allowed outside, not like this, but it wasn't as if he was restrained and locked in a cell. No, he had an entire guest floor to himself in the Tower. He had a bedroom, which he spent most of the daylight hours in; he was resting more than usual, because the sun being in the sky made him drowsy. He had a kitchen, which he had little use for, since all the nourishment he needed came from the supply of blood bags that he had in the fridge. He had the large lounge and the beautiful view over night-time New York from the windows, and he had access to the Tower's entertainment system, which meant practically any movies, shows or games he could think of. He had art supplies, he had a small gym set up in one corner of the lounge—and he was bored.

He'd used to be able to see beauty in small, everyday things, but now, he felt like the world had suddenly lost all of its appeal. Everything was humdrum and lackluster. After a week, he came to the conclusion that there was nothing to be done about it, no way to dispel the boredom, because this feeling was simply a part of his vampire nature, and there was only one thing left that wasn't bland.

In this drab, undead existence, the only thing that still piqued his interest was—life.

The other Avengers visited him daily, despite his pleas that he'd rather be left alone, that he'd manage, that he wasn't safe for them to be around. They could defend themselves, they said. They couldn't understand the amount of restraint it took for Steve to keep his hands and fangs off them. They wouldn't accept the fact that if he slipped, Steve could take down almost any of them.

Whenever someone living stepped into the room, it was as if a faded black and white image had suddenly been turned into vivid 3D video. Everything was more detailed, more bright, more vibrant—most of all, the blood surging in their veins. He had had good senses as a super soldier, and the vampirism had raised them to an entirely new level. He could smell their blood, like an exquisite wine, see it throbbing at their necks, hear each heartbeat, more melodious and enchanting than any music could ever be. It took every ounce of self-discipline he could gather for him not to follow that siren call.

He had always been an impulsive person, and a physical one, and he wasn't sure if he'd ever had to face a more difficult challenge. He would have fought any enemy under the sun rather than this beast within him. He thought it was only because his visitors were his team, his friends, that he could keep himself in check. These were the people he was most protective of, who were most important to him. The conflict between wanting to keep them safe and wanting to sink his teeth into their flesh was what helped him hold on.

So, he would greet his visitors, and chat with them, ask them for the latest news, tell them he was all right, and assure them he didn't need anything, all the while doing his best to ignore the lure of their blood, until they left, and everything became dull and gray again. Every time, he felt bereft, as if he had let the most wonderful thing in the world slip past his fingers, although he also sighed out of relief, knowing his friends were still safe from him.

He both feared and craved these visits, and hated himself for longing for them, because he shouldn't want a thing that was so dangerous to the people he cared about.

Of course, when the day finally came that he couldn't hold back anymore, it was a visit from Tony.

Out of all his teammates, Tony was the one whose presence was the most difficult to cope with. He wanted to protect Tony, fiercely, but he had also been drawn to Tony long before he became a vampire. He'd never admitted it to anyone, barely even to himself, and half the time he was as irritated as he was attracted, but there it was: he wanted Tony Stark. Before, he had wanted to pin Tony to a wall and kiss the breath out of him. Now, he wanted to do that, and then kiss Tony's neck, and taste the life flowing in his veins.

That day, when Tony walked out of the elevator, it was as if someone had upended a bottle of cologne. The scent of his blood was stronger than ever, making it entirely obvious it was Tony long before Steve could set his eyes on him. When he did, he realized why: there was an open cut on Tony's forehead. It didn't look like a serious wound, and any tinge of worry Steve might've otherwise felt was drowned by a wave of overwhelming lust. The blood almost seemed to glow, the single, fat drop of red sliding down Tony's skin towards his cheek the most brilliant thing in the entire room.

"Steve?" Tony asked, frowning, but Steve barely registered it.

Tony's voice was an insignificant background noise, drowned by the rush of blood in his veins, the bewitching beat of his heart—which grew faster and even more enticing as Steve moved in, his hands closing around Tony's wrists, where he felt the same rhythm, Tony's skin so warm and alive against his own, cool palms. He bent closer, his eyes half-lidded.

"Steve!" Tony exclaimed, louder now, alarmed.

Steve licked the drop of blood from Tony's cheek, following the trail upwards to the cut on his forehead, and pressed his mouth against it, savoring the taste of it. It was wondrous, and yet, it wasn't enough, the bony plane of Tony's brow too unyielding, the trickle of blood too slow. He needed more, wanted it more than he had ever wanted anything in his life, though he knew he shouldn't. At the back of his mind, there was still a small voice of reason, screaming at him that he mustn't.

"Don't stop," Tony said, or so Steve thought. He couldn't believe it, half thinking he must be hearing what he wanted to hear, because he could also tell without doubt that Tony was frightened. But he wasn't fighting back. He wasn't pushing Steve away.

"I know what you want, Steve," Tony went on, the tone growing stronger as he spoke. "Do it. Go on. It's all right. I'm all yours."

With the irresistible thirst Steve already felt, it was too much to hear Tony say such words. What little was left of his self-control scattered entirely.

Steve slid his lips down to Tony's neck, his fangs exposed, and pierced the delicate, soft skin.

Drinking cold blood stored in plastic bags had done nothing to prepare him for this. It was the difference between MREs and a seven course meal in a Michelin star restaurant. This divine nectar he now tasted was sweet and warm like hot chocolate on a winter's day, refreshing like a glass of ice-cold lemonade in the summer, intoxicating like absinthe to the unaccustomed, and all the more amazing because it was Tony's, the life of the very man he had wanted for so long—

It was Tony's, the blood that he was drinking in, sapping the life out of Tony's veins, it was Tony's pulse that was fluttering beneath his lower lip—

Oh, God, what was he doing? What was he thinking? He couldn't! He was hurting Tony!

Horrified and nauseated at what he had done, Steve let go of Tony and stumbled backwards.

The room was spinning around him. Everything felt wrong. His legs suddenly gave way, and he hit the floor hard, his vision blurring out.

"Steve! Please be okay, Steve, come on," Tony was pleading, his hands on Steve's shoulders.

Steve blinked and looked up, finally managing to bring Tony's face into focus. It looked different. Something had changed. It was as if something were missing.

"Steve? Are you with me?" Tony asked urgently.

Steve licked his lips, with the lingering tang of... Blood, just regular blood, a familiar, metallic taste that he could in no way describe as pleasant. His tongue did not scrape against fangs. He was himself again.

His fangs were gone, and the cut on Tony's forehead was just a cut again. The bite marks on Tony's neck, two little pinpricks with tiny droplets of blood, were not alluring, but made his stomach turn, because he knew he had done that to Tony.

"Tony, I'm so sorry," Steve said.

"It's okay, it really is," Tony said. "That's why I came here in the first place. Yeah, I was thinking we'd do it in a slightly more controlled manner, but the idea was the same. See, we fought the wizard again today and found out how to break the curse. 'Lose yourself', as in, give in to the beast, let go and do the vampire thing. He must've known you'd resist it with everything you'd got."

"And I failed," Steve said sullenly. Even if it had broken the curse, he was still mad at himself. "I hurt you."

He sat up and reached to brush his fingers over the marks at Tony's throat, then to rest them over the pulse point. It no longer felt tempting, but it was reassuring: strong and steady, perfectly healthy. At least his vampire self had had the good sense to go for the vein and not the artery. Things could've been so much worse.

"I'm fine, promise," Tony insisted. "They'd take more blood in a regular donation."

"Still not okay. I could've killed you!" Steve said, the very idea making his newly found breath catch at his throat.

"You wouldn't have done that. I knew you wouldn't. I trust you," Tony said. He took hold of Steve's hand, and brought it to his lips, pressing a light kiss over the back of it.

At that soft touch, a shiver of want ran through Steve that wasn't predatory, but very human, and yet, it felt equally dangerous. Surely this was just Tony being his usual, charming self. He couldn't possibly be flirting with Steve. Certainly not minutes after Steve had literally tried to suck the life out of him. He couldn't be, and yet he was looking at Steve, eyes hooded, a cautious smile on his lips, and Steve didn't know how else to interpret this.

"I've got to confess," Tony said, his voice softer and more tentative, "that I kind of enjoyed it."

Steve cringed. "That's because I was a vampire. I must've been doing something to you. Hypnotizing you," he said, the moment of hope gone and the horror and disgust of having violated Tony like that back in full force.

"Not because you were a vampire," Tony said firmly, "but because it was you, Steve." And there was that look again, the one that Steve couldn't believe. Could Tony really be saying what Steve thought he was?

Steve had spent years hiding his feelings from Tony, and today, he'd almost done the most unimaginably horrible thing. Tony could've died without any clue of how much he meant to Steve. Even if he were misinterpreting Tony's words, he felt like Tony deserved to hear the truth. As difficult as it was, and as much as Steve feared the rejection that was all too likely to follow.

"Tony, I have to tell you something as well," Steve began. "The reason I lost control like that. It wasn't just that you were bleeding. It was because it was you."

As Steve spoke, Tony's smile grew wider, as did his eyes, his face lighting up, and Steve was ever so thankful that he was a living, breathing human again, and could appreciate that beautiful look for everything that it was.

"Does that mean," Tony said, and placed his hand at the back of Steve's neck, "that if I did something like this," he bent closer, so that their foreheads touched, "it'd be all right? Because I'd love to have your lips against my skin in a slightly less threatening context."

Once more, Steve was overcome with such irresistible desire that there was no way he could hold it off—but this time, he didn't have to.