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Sleepwalker

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Drake met the vampire while cruising Tahoe casinos and bars and hot dog stands. Drake was in Stateline because Ash wanted to see the tree that killed Sonny Bono. Drake would have appreciated seeing Cher in Vegas instead, but skiing and tree-spotting was cheaper and their travel fund had pretty much vanished in Italy. Ash had hooked up with a cocktail waitress two days into their week and they hadn't even been to the slopes yet.

It was six months after the big Outing, and you'd see vampires on TV shows and in papers, but they didn't stand out in the street. Turned out they looked just like people most of the time, and the fangs only came out when it was down to business. So Drake didn't know this one was at first--he really just saw tall and leggy, bad bleach job, gorgeous smile. The vampire was standing outside a shop handing out fliers. Drake only took one because he wanted to look closer. It was for some kind of titty show at Harvey's. Classy.

"Boobs aren't really my thing," he said, cocking a hip and giving the vampire an eyebrow. The vampire looked down at the fliers and up at Drake again. Intense eyes. Like, either a serial killer or the world's greatest lover intense.

"Right," the vampire said with a little laugh, and that broke the intensity immediately, leaving just an impression of warmth. "Mine either, actually. But I sing in this. I don't have breasts?"

 

Drake found out the vampire was a vampire midway through the my place or yours part: he was pointing vaguely down the street trying to remember the name of their hotel when the vampire said, "You should probably know something about me--" and Drake said, grinning, "You're gay?" and the vampire said, "That, and also a vampire."

Fangbanging was the new cocksucking as far as society at large was concerned, and now everyone, gay and straight, was invited to the moralizing party. There were also rumors going around that vampires could hypnotize people. Right now, caught awkward and confused and almost literally pinned by this vampire's piercing--uncomfortable word choice, only possible word choice--stare, Drake had no problem believing that.

The vampire blinked and leaned back a little, letting Drake take a breath. "It's okay if that's not cool with you. We're all just trying to get used to this..." He waved his free hand around in the air, then switched the pile of fliers over so he could gesticulate with the other hand, too. He was wearing a ton of rings. Some looked silver, but that couldn't be right, right? Unless that rumor actually was bullshit. "Uh, integration situation," the vampire finished. "It's new for everyone."

"Vampires work at casinos?" Drake said. It seemed unfair that people--creatures of the night--people who were immortal had to work.

The vampire looked a little reproachful. "We're trying to integrate into human society. And I'm not super into sleeping in crypts or whatever you think we do. I love Buffy as much as the next man but it wasn't a documentary. I don't even have a demon face." He pulled up his lip and showed teeth: perfectly even, white, blunt, human teeth. "At least those guys had sex, though."

Drake used to own Anne Rice's entire oeuvre before last year when he got rid of his books as part of letting go of the possessions that shackled him. This was the first vampire he'd had a chance to look at really close up, and it was good to confirm that they didn't seem to be made of marble--in fact, the vampire was soft rather than sculpted and had sort of troubled skin with freckles everywhere. His hair showed about an inch of darker reddish roots. He looked like a hot, human guy that Drake wanted to take back to the room and fuck through the rest of the night.

He met the vampire's pretty blue eyes and said, "I'm cool with it. I mean, I'm down with integration."

*

Being back home felt weird for about a month. He really had sold most of his shit before leaving, and his mother had filled up his old room with tons of boxes and canvases and various junk from the garage to make room for the Stairmaster she'd bought. He had yet to see her use it, but there it was.

"Christy, why didn't you put the Stairmaster in my room and leave this shit downstairs?" he asked her while they were trying to unearth the bed.

"Then I'd have no excuse."

He loved his mom, but obviously it was time to get his own place. He and Ash found a sweet little shoebox in the Marigny that had great light in the mornings and was close to a bakery and a gay bookstore and Ash's other best friend.

He fucked a couple more vampires but he'd obviously had beginner's luck in Tahoe and didn't want to get a reputation without the satisfaction. He had recurring, intense dreams about his vampire, different settings but the same plot, the same emotion. First they'd happen once or twice a month, and then even more frequently as the summer wore on. He awoke from them sweaty and hard and digging his fingers into his throat over the healed bitemarks.

Ash started calling him Mina and snickering a lot. She'd slept with a vampire too, but clearly didn't get the full whammy. "I can't believe you're obsessed with this random hookup and you didn't even ask his name," she said. "Don't think I don't notice all the Variations On A Freckle you're working on. You're not as deconstructed as you think."

Painting abstract studies of mysterious casino-employed vampires didn't pay the bills, of course, so Drake started working at a bar on Toulouse that had started out as a tourist trap but sunk into a gentle twilight existence as the go-to spot for ungracefully aging bohemian alcoholics. He never saw any vampires there. There was a stash of TruBlood in the fridge, but they just tossed and replaced it once a month when it passed its sell-by date.

His vampire had told him vampires could taste the blood group, and that TruBlood tasted weird but not as gross as animal blood.

Drake asked, "Is it like, I don't know, Diet Coke?"

"I don't know," the vampire had said, frowning. "We didn't have Diet Coke when I was human."

Drake hadn't asked how old the vampire was. He looked mid-twenties and didn't act like he was misplaced from a period movie but that didn't mean much--Spike and Angel never acted their age either, although Anne Rice vampires kind of did. Twilight vampires just acted like obsessive-compulsive stalkers.

At one point, Drake remembered, it had crossed his mind to ask, right when he'd first dropped to his knees and unzipped the vampire's jeans. He had a really pretty dick, big enough to silence Drake's inner size queen, cut. That was when he was going to ask, because cut meant this vampire wasn't, like, a hundred years old. That was as far as Drake got, because it was a really pretty cock, and when he put his mouth on it, the vampire made a gentle, breathy sound and pushed his hips forward--not aggressively, but not politely either.

He could be Jewish, too, anyway. The crosses and holy water things had been debunked in the media already, but the idea of a Jewish vampire was kind of funny in the context of pop culture vampires. When he brought that up to Ash, she told him to move on to real guys, really, it's not funny anymore, and set him up with a kid named Brandon from her Thursday evening dance class.

Drake dated Brandon--blond, tanned, not too bright but pretty funny, and enthusiastic in bed--for seven weeks. It wasn't bad, and waking up hard and sweaty and buzzing was easier when there was someone there to nudge into a morning quickie.

Then Brandon wandered into the bar on a sleepy Tuesday afternoon and started right out the gate with, "Shibby told me about that vampire."

The regular Drake was pulling a beer for, a middle-aged white guy called Ned with a honking yankee accent and a sallow round face like an August moon, made a hilarious this-should-be-good face and Drake rolled his eyes.

Brandon was looking kind of flushed under the tan. "That you banged," he added, for clarification.

Drake pushed the glass across the bar. Ned with the moonface had settled onto a stool and didn't seem like he was going to shuffle back to the table by the window where he'd left the Moleskine notebook he never wrote anything in.

Drake looked at Brandon. "Can I get you something?"

"You didn't tell me that you're a fangbanger," Brandon said.

"It's not full time so I didn't bother putting it on my resumé."

"I don't wanna listen to you make jokes about fucking the undead," Brandon said. He had nice hazel eyes--big, kind of wideset in a way that made him look innocent and full of wonder. "You know it's an abomination, right? You're damning yourself."

"Wow," Ned mumbled into his beer. "Drama."

Drake thought about the vampire's eyes instead. The vampire didn't look innocent or full of wonder, at least he hadn't when he was leaning over Drake on the hotel bed in Stateline. He'd looked fascinated and intent and hungry. He kissed hungry, too, first without teeth and later, when he was fucking Drake, with sharp, sharp points. On his mouth before he went for the throat, his fangs scraping over Drake's tongue, and there was a gush of cool liquid and a flavor like a drink Douglas Adams might have invented, alien and bright and burning the inside of Drake's mouth. He didn't even realize what it was until he saw the red smear on the vampire's lower lip, the cuts where the fangs had pierced.

Drake had heard rumors about vampire blood, too. He thought they were probably true. He could feel it like a low buzz, spreading downwards, outwards. He tipped his head back and the vampire sighed with something like gratitude and bit down.

He blinked at Brandon and waited. Brandon looked like the lack of arguments and yelling was throwing him. Drake felt like he had to concentrate too hard on Brandon to even remember he was there. Thinking about the vampire had that effect somehow. Distracting.

"What's wrong with you?" Brandon said, getting kind of loud now.

Drake shook his head and made an effort to stop dwelling on what it felt like to be pinned under the vampire, how gentle his hands had been, how relentless.

"I've slept with three vampires," he said, watching Brandon's eyes widen. "One of them made an impression. It's not that weird. I didn't sell my soul."

"Wow," Ned said again.

*

"Sorry about Brandon," Ash said later, when they were appropriately buzzed and lying on the saggy couch in the living room. "I'm gonna kill Shibby."

Shibby was actually the source of the sweet green weed they were smoking right now, so Drake didn't feel all that hostile towards him. Also, the guy was the kind of pothead who couldn't remember his own address to recite if you asked him, so relying on him to keep a secret was just going to lead to tears anyway.

However: "You made me have sex with a guy who thinks vampires are a disease and he's the cure, Ash. He actually said that. He's a member of that weird church!"

She laughed for a really long time at that. Drake put his head on her chest and got bounced up and down until she shoved him off.

When she was done he said, "Thanks for taking my trauma seriously, bitch."

"Fuck you," she said and started digging for her lighter again. "I didn't even know he was weird about that shit. I guess I need to vet them more carefully."

"You just need to not set me up with freaky bigots who lure me in with their blowjob skills."

"No, what I don't understand is how you could be fucking this guy for that long without figuring him out at all."

Drake sat up and frowned at the coffee stains on the table for a while, because that was actually pretty weird. He tried to remember what he and Brandon had talked about.

Maybe they'd talked about art--but that seemed unlikely, considering that Brandon had nothing but a fucking Water Lilies poster in his apartment and Drake suspected it had been left by the previous tenant.

Probably about TV shows or something.

"What?" Ash said, poking him in the shoulder.

Drake could probably recite every word the vampire had spoken to him. He'd said, "Feeding is part of sex for us," before even letting Drake unbutton his shirt. "But it's not about killing, it's not like that. It's like opening a deeper connection."

Ash kept poking him. "Drake! Stop spacing like a freak, asshole."

"Yeah," Drake said, dragging himself out of the memory of running his hands over the vampire's chest, asking him how come he was breathing, and the way the vampire laughed and said, "I can't talk without breathing. Or sing. Or move around." He hadn't said he would die without breathing, though.

"God, you're getting weird. Are you sure that vamp didn't put the whammy on you?"

Drake shrugged. All things considered, he probably had. "What did the blood taste like to you?" he asked, because somehow he'd never thought to ask her about that before. Maybe his vampire had some special extra wham going. "If you tasted any, I mean."

"What?" she said.

"When you fucked. It doesn't taste like blood usually does."

She goggled at him, making crazy gestures with her hands and the joint she had been trying to light. "Are you demented? What the fuck, Drake! You drank its blood!"

"Well, he drank mine," Drake said, leaning back to avoid getting clocked in the face. "It's about connecting."

She grabbed his hands and pulled him back and stared into his eyes for way too long. Her hair was a little dirty and tangled, he noticed, day-off hair. There was a fleck of ash stuck to one of her eyelashes. "Drake, baby," she said firmly, squeezing his hands. "You have gone completely insane. Repeat after me--"

"Ash--" he said, rolling his eyes and trying to yank his hands free.

"Repeat after me! I will not fucking connect with vampires who are trying to make me one of their minions! I will not connect with fucking vampires who are trying to make me into a minion!"

He jerked back with more power and managed to jerk himself right off the couch. He got up and stomped to the other side of the room to get a little breathing room, but she followed him and got right back in his face. "Seriously, you don't know what that shit can do to you."

"Do you?" he asked. He did know some things that shit could do to you. Like make him feel he was having sex with every nerve and every organ in his body instead of just the usual ones. Turning an orgasm into some kind of astronomical event.

It was probably pretty stupid to think it was good for you.

*

A while later there was a thing on Fox News about how vampire blood was becoming a new party drug. People were calling it V, of course, because you can't have a party drug without a snappy street name that would look good in ironic Helvetica on a perfume bottle. Authorities were working with reps from the vampires to deal with the trend. Ash kept giving Drake significant looks for three straight days until he thought he was going to have to move back in with Christy just to get away.

A vampire came into the bar on a Saturday night and ordered A neg TruBlood. The vampire was just an ordinary vampire, a sour-looking guy with thin brown hair and huge bags under his red-rimmed eyes. He looked like every other dude in the bar nursing a vodka and blow hangover with some hair of the dog, but the other patrons stared like they'd just seen Jesus Christ throw back a shot. The vampire only stayed long enough for Drake to heat his drink in the microwave, ignoring everyone really obviously. Drake smiled at him and asked if he wanted anything else.

"No," the vampire said without smiling back. He finished the bottle in one take, shot it back across the bar and left. As soon as the door closed behind him, the crowd started chattering like old ladies after church. Drake felt like he'd been transported from New Orleans to some backwater up the river.

Then the manager, who'd kept a bar for over thirty-five years, came out from the back and stared at the empty bottle and shook his head and said, "The world is just fucking nuts, kid. Fucking nuts."

*

Drake felt like he was waiting.

He had lunch with Christy every weekday unless he'd painted through the night before, and she had started making noise about his glum face and asking him why he never updated his facebook anymore.

"I thought you weren't gonna do the mom thing anymore," he said. His quarter Muffuletta leaked olive oil onto his shirt.

"It's a habit I just can't kick, baby," she said. "See? You're dribbling like you did when you were little. It's like you never grew up. Want to call me mom again? Tell me what you're working on."

"Variations On A Freckle," he said, although to be honest he'd now moved on to eyes. There was a quality to the vampire's eyes that he was finding really challenging to fix in paint.

He usually told Christy everything significant that happened to him, which seemed to be a rare thing for people his age--Ash had never told her parents shit about herself, and they still didn't know she was no longer a virgin or into girls or friends with a fag or any of those things--and she knew about most of the guys he'd ever fucked and most of the times he'd done something stupid while high, but he'd left the vampire experiments out. Not because he thought she would judge him, but because she would be scared. She was pretty chill about vampires in theory but when it came down to it they scared the fuck out of her.

So he'd kept what happened in Tahoe on the down low even though it was pretty much the most significant event that whole year. Like a whole new world in just one night, stupid as that sounded. Goa or Bangkok or even being in Rome during the Italian vampire legislation riots seemed like big deals because they were, but they were big deals that happened a long time ago. The vampire stayed so fresh in his memory that he could rewind every moment like a Youtube video in his head.

"A vampire came into the bar Saturday," he said now, and it felt like he was trying to tell her. Approaching from the flank.

She made a little gesture like she was trying not to cross herself. "What happened?" she just asked, though. She didn't like that she was afraid of them, he thought. She wasn't the kind of person who hated things she was scared of, but so many other people were, and loudly. It made sense to be a little ashamed to have anything in common with those people.

"Nothing, he just drank a TruBlood and left. He was just some guy. Everyone was acting like they'd never seen a vampire before, though."

"There are these other clubs where they go," she said a little fretfully. "And where people go too."

"They're people, mom," he said.

"I know, I know. You know what I mean."

"Nobody would have known he was a vampire if he hadn't ordered a vampire drink."

"Do you think they're sexy?" she asked, like she'd been thinking about asking that for a while. "You used to read a lot of vampire books."

And he blushed. He was not normally a blusher, but here it came creeping up his face like a Technicolor announcement: I WANT VAMPIRE DICK.

"They're not like that," he said. "They're not all mysterious and sparkly. They're just people who... live for a really long time and can't go out in the sunlight."

"Wow, are you ever a liar," she said and laughed. Then she stopped suddenly.

"Don't," he said.

"Drake."

"Christy."

"Drake."

"No."

"You know," she said, somewhere between tense and amused. "I was talking to Ashleigh the other day and she hinted darkly that you were pining for someone."

"Oh, god," he said. Someone was getting a lump of coal for Christmas this year.

"Baby, you know I'll just be stuck freaking out and dreaming up horrible nightmare scenarios if you don't tell me..." She was smiling but she meant it.

He put down the sandwich and wiped his hands carefully before leaning forward and turning his head so she could see the faint, white scars on his throat. The bite had healed in under a day, closing up and turning from angry red to pale pink in hours, and a week later it already looked years old. Just before sunrise, when he was leaving, the vampire had kissed the wound and whispered, "You don't have to worry about it."

Christy did look worried, hand clapped over her mouth and her eyes wide and suspiciously shiny. It only took her a moment to get it together, though. "Are you safe?" she asked.

"This is like coming out all over again," Drake said, resisting the urge to squirm or put his hands over his face or some other tic of embarrassment. "It was in Tahoe, it was one time." It didn't even occur to him that he was technically lying until he'd already said it. At some point he'd just stopped counting those two other vampire guys. They'd been like any other semi-shitty lay, just more prone to chewing on him. They hadn't offered him any blood in return, and the bite marks they'd left on his thighs and wrist had taken uncomfortably long to heal even after he'd put Neosporin on them.

"One time almost a nine months ago and you're still--"

"I'm not pining, Christy." Just to do something with his hands he picked up the sandwich again and took another bite that almost choked him, and also dribbled more oil onto his shirt. Somehow talking about the vampire, even in the most vague way, was so much weirder than spilling graphic deets on sordid backroom hookups. "It was just really intense," he hedged. "Good intense. He was a really sweet guy."

"Sweet," she said incredulously.

He thought about the vampire's smile and the way he'd stayed until the sun was almost up. "You can stop looking at me like I'm crazy anytime, you know. The fucking vampire was really sweet."

"I believe you!" she said, holding up her hands. "And if Fate wants you to be together, you'll be together. You weren't put on this Earth to be unhappy, baby."

*

The dreams started changing. First it was mostly that they got longer; getting the feature from the porn shop versus surfing Xtube. Mindblowing marathon dreamsex almost nightly seemed like a good deal, but it mostly served to leech more color out of the real world. Then the mood shifted and the dreams were slow and comfortable, lying in the vampire's arms and listening to his voice, running his fingers lazily over the vampire's cool skin.

By October, sleeping was like plugging into a virtual reality.

"It's like when I was on Paxil," Ash told him. "Crazy dreams every fucking night. And boy, do you need a man."

That was probably true. One night the vampire was singing quietly, sitting on the edge of the bed. He had a clear, high tenor that drew cold tendrils down Drake's spine.

"Now he's singing," he told Ash. "My subconscious has invented the perfect man for me. And it's also writing songs. I could hum it for you."

She made an ew face and said, "Maybe you should see someone about this. At least come out with me this weekend. Let's pretend you haven't lost it yet."

She was working in a boutique this fall, and snuck Drake some ridiculously sequined shirts off the sales rack, and they went to The Pub to dance like idiots. The sequins were like catnip, apparently, because guys kept buying him drinks and feeling him up on the dancefloor. He didn't have any vampire flashbacks at all until he was in the bathroom getting a blowjob from one of them. He looked down and realized he'd picked a tall, broad-shouldered guy with Curt Wild hair. He could swear he'd been eyeing up someone entirely different, a stunningly pretty black boy in bizarre neon green leggings, but when he staggered back into the club he saw the leggings and the boy that was in them still on the floor, grinding with a guy Drake fucked one time before he left for Asia.

"Now I'm losing time," he yelled at Ash when they were getting more shots. "I'm picking up people I don't remember meeting. And I've slept with too many people in this club."

In the small hours that night he dreamt that the vampire was standing in the door of his room. The vampire was leaning on the doorframe. He was wearing crazy club makeup, rainbow paint around his eyes going towards his temples, heavy Audrey Hepburn eyelashes, mouth pink and glossy. His hair was dark and shiny, slicked back in some mad Vegas Elvis pompadour.

Drake had never spoken in these dreams, although the vampire had, but now he said, "Adam, wait," as if they were in a play.

The vampire smiled at him with his glossy mouth and didn't move.

*

In the early afternoon, when Ash was groaning into her coffee and Drake was on his second Coke Zero, he said, "Now I've made up a name for him and everything."

"Is it Lestat?" she said and leant her head in her hands. "Your rock star vampire fantasies are getting embarrassing, you know."

So he didn't tell her about the studded leather jacket the vampire had been wearing, because that detail was pretty much the definition of embarrassing rock star vampire fantasy.

*

It would probably have kept getting more embarrassing, except on Monday evening, after a really long and dull shift, the vampire came into the bar.

Drake was killing time prying old Scotch tape and rusted thumb tacks off the board by the register while Ned, of the moonface and the fallow Moleskine, was telling him about the beat novel about New Orleans he would be writing if he weren't such a bum.

"I can feel it right here!" he said, thumping his chest with a fist. "Right here, kid. And it's stuck like a fucking hook. Like a harpoon. I'm a whale. Hunted by Japan!"

Drake pulled down a couple of yellow, crusty newspaper clippings about the bar. They were nice reviews from 1992 and 1996, but unfortunately they'd had some kind of Chartreuse-related accident and were no longer legible.

"You ever been to Japan?" Ned asked, waving his glass in Drake's general direction. He'd been nursing the dregs for long enough that Drake suspected he was broke. "I always wanted to go. Whalehunting aside."

"Yeah," Drake said. "Just for a few days, though." Japan was an expensive shock after Thailand and India, so they'd just stumbled through Harajuku in a daze and headed back to less developed markets.

"Fuck me," Ned said, sounding impressed and envious.

"That's okay," Drake said. After Japan, it'd been Cambodia, and then Laos for a second, and then they'd counted their cash and decided to do Europe before they couldn't afford even sleeping in a dumpster in Paris.

Ned finally drained his glass and focused his watery eyes on Drake. "How old are you, anyway? You look about fifteen. Know how you know you're old? Everyone looks like a fucking teenager. Fuck, I can't imagine how the goddamn vampires feel. You know how the fuckers won't admit it but they have to have guys that are five hundred years old. Five thousand. Goddamn. Fifty-five was a bitch to get through already."

Drake couldn't say twenty-two had been a bitch to get through. All things considered, they'd been easy years.

Ned said, "I feel like a Tom Waits song."

Drake said, "That's funny, because I feel like an Evanescence song."

"I have no clue what that is, but it's gotta be more cheerful than The Piano Has Been Drinking. I wish I could blame the piano." Ned tapped his fingers along the bar, playing a drunk wood piano, and elbowed the glass onto the floor.

One of the other patrons golf-clapped and Ned did precariously balanced bows to unenthusiastic, beery cheers while Drake got the brush and dustpan. It was five minutes before nine and Mike hadn't even showed up yet for his shift.

One of the shards had dug itself in between two floorboards, of course, so Drake was crouched on the floor trying to wedge it loose without shredding himself when the door opened. He heard the small motley crowd around him go silent in one breath. The cowbell on the door clanged dully.

He gave a final, annoyed yank at the shard and his grip slipped, of course. The edge sliced deeply and painfully into his palm, of course.

"Sweet lord of fuck," he muttered, clenching his fist around the cut. Blood was dripping onto the floor, leaving bright red spiky circles on the scuffed wood. His Evanescence song had a music video.

He looked up and the film stuttered into slow motion.

The vampire's hair wasn't swept back, but it was glossy black and cut in punky, uneven layers. He stood like a blackbird in a flock of sparrows, his eyes fixed on Drake.

Drake stared back.

It was starting to get ridiculous, but he couldn't unfreeze.

Then Ned dropped down clumsily to kneel beside him, huffing and muttering, "Aw, shit, kid, I'll help you with that, come on," and the vampire stopped posing and crossed the ten feet of floor between the door and the bar apparently without moving his feet.

Ned made a choked sound and fell back onto his ass. The vampire ignored him.

It wasn't so much a music video, Drake thought distantly, as it was the Phantom of the Dive Bar. The vampire, in two shakes of a really gothic lamb's tail, had grabbed his wrist and pulled him to his feet. Ned was making whimpery noises somewhere on the floor.

The vampire smiled a little nervously and said, "I think you might need stitches in that."

Drake gaped at him for several seconds. His hand had started to throb dully, and he could feel blood trickling between his fingers. The vampire's smile trembled faintly.

Drake said, "Is your name Adam?" and the smile widened into a grin.

"It is! You're Drake, right?" The vampire--Adam looked down and added, "I'd shake your hand but you're covered in blood."

Somewhere behind him, Drake heard Mike calling his name, lazy drawl maybe a touch less lazy than normal.

"We should leave," he told Adam. His knees felt wobbly. He felt like he'd just put on 3d glasses. "Um. To get... stitches." He hoped his face communicated 'stitches... in your bed' rather than 'Emergency Room'.

Adam was still staring at Drake's bloody hand. The smile had melted into a vague pout.

"Yo, Drake!" Mike was calling again, and Drake heard Ned and a couple other familiar, nervous voices squeaking a desperate "shutupshutup" at him.

Adam's eyes cut quickly to his and back to the blood again, and the bizarre, wet click of the fangs coming out sounded grotesquely loud.

There was a chorus of sibilant gasps from the peanut gallery, and Drake reacted with jerky, uncoordinated speed and twisted his hand out of Adam's grasp and slapped it over his mouth to cover the fangs, hissing, "Shit, not here!"

Then he felt pretty stupid. And when the vampire's tongue swept over the edges of the wound, like he had fallen into water boiling coolly at ten thousand feet, or a glass of champagne, or a pond full of curious koi fluttering their kissy mouths and gently waving fins over every inch of his skin.

Eventually he returned to the regularly scheduled world. Adam had stepped back out of reach, apparently after propping Drake up against the bar. The fangs were tucked back wherever it was they went, but as Drake watched he licked a slickly crimson smear of blood off his lower lip.

Curious koi? Drake thought. He could see the beginning of a painting, something murky and rippled, but with sparks of bright orange or red...

"Jesus, Mary and Joseph," he heard Ned whisper. "It's a vampire."

Drake curled up his fist again. The angry pinch of pain in his hand gave him something to focus on other than the mysterious singing vampire of all his wet dreams showing up to hang out with him at his place of employment. He managed to stand up straight without leaning on the bar.

"Um," he said. "Hi, Mike. You all set? I'm gonna, you know. Go."

He turned around to look at Mike behind the bar. Mike was staring past him, of course.

"Right," Mike said.

"Can I have a bottle of O positive first? For my friend. Take it out of my tips, uh, and pretend we drank it here, whatever."

"Huh," Mike said. Mike was a robust, ruddy-faced and normally completely unflappable guy. He looked flapped right now.

"TruBlood, Mike," Drake said. "For the vampire. Who is hungry."

He didn't know if the vampire was hungry, and if that was the case, Drake had a pint to spare anyway, but it seemed like a good idea to bring up the whole 'we don't eat people anymore' concept.

"Holy shit, Drake," Ned said. "That fucking vampire just sucked your blood."

"I didn't mean to scare anyone," Adam piped up suddenly, coming up next to Drake. He was smiling again, disarming and cheerful. "I apologize for the dramatic entrance. Let me pay for that drink, Drake."

Mike jerked back a step and then made a dive for the fridge, digging for the bottles in the back.

"Did you just suck the kid's blood?" Ned asked.

"Not really, no," Adam said gently.

"He did, though," someone called from the back. "Dracula!"

"Oh, for fuck's sake," Drake said. "Nobody's drinking any blood. He's a friend. We're going now. Have a nice evening."

He grabbed the bottle of TruBlood, immediately regretting using his right hand, of course, and nudged Adam into motion with his elbow. Adam was quirking his eyebrow very eloquently, but it was absolutely time to book it right now.

"Hey!" Mike called.

Drake stopped and wished he had eyes in the back of his head so he could roll them at Mike without turning around.

"Uh, are you coming back?" Mike said. "I mean, what am I gonna tell Wagner?"

Drake said, "Tell him I will be in at one like it says on the fucking board."

"Right."

As soon as they were outside in the sticky warm October dusk, Adam leaned in a little and said, "I'm really sorry about making a scene."

He smelled the same as the last time they'd met. It was distracting, almost more distracting than all the other distracting things about him. Drake craned his neck and kissed him, because really, what else was going to happen here? After months of ridiculous dreams and Variations On A Freckle.

"I dreamed about you," he mumbled.

"I'm sorry about that, too," Adam whispered back, but then he wrinkled his nose and said, "not really, though. It wasn't completely on purpose, I mean, I got a little excited, and then we ran out of time. I wanted to think about you. Every once in a while."

"Where are you staying?" Drake said. He felt stupidly giddy, and his hand still throbbed distantly. He needed to have sex with Adam immediately. Later he would think about what Adam said.

"With some friends from--"

"Come home with me," Drake said, more breathlessly than he intended. "I like the hair, I dreamed that too."

"Really? I'm glad you like it. I was trying to go for something a little-- well, less football asshole than last time we met, anyway. That was really my least glamorous period since sometime during the Carter administration." His smile was guileless and dazzling. "You look really great, too. Really... fresh."

Drake felt dizzy and horny and a little sticky rather than fresh, but who was going to dispute a compliment from a vampire wearing leather and painted-on jeans? Not him. Adam had dyed his eyebrows black, too, and he was rocking some really intense and complicated smoky eye deal with shades of blue and green.

They were still right outside the bar and Drake suspected they had an audience, but he found it hard to care. Adam had to bend to kiss him. Drake wanted to climb him like a tree. He wanted to wrap his legs around his hips. He wanted to sink his teeth into his neck.

"I was just going to ask you out," Adam said a little indistinctly, his lips still touching Drake's. "I don't really-- You're the first living boy I've wanted to date since-- Since I could date living boys, I guess."

"Vampires didn't hook up with not-vampires before?"

"Oh, of course we did," Adam said, letting go of Drake to wave his hand dismissively, "we hooked up, for fun or a snack or to pass the time. I mean something a little more meaningful."

Drake looked up into his crazy intense eyes and the feeling of being pinned and frozen returned. Something a little more meaningful, he thought, meaningful, meaningful, meaningful. What the fuck was meaningful to a creature that would live forever?

Adam stepped back, putting up his hands, saying, "Not like that, I'm not trying to recruit you," as if Drake had said something, "I just want to... I want to enjoy the company of someone who isn't my-- who isn't part of my world."

"I didn't think you were," Drake said quickly, easily. It hadn't really occurred to him, but now the idea was there, of course.

Adam was still talking, though. "The community is really insular, really segregated and, like, both strictly hierarchical and full of factions and politics, and made up of a bunch of people who don't have anything in common but... what we are, and that's not really much of a reason to hang out."

"Like your high school class," Drake said. He'd been okay in high school because Ash was both crazy and really hot, so Drake became somewhat untouchable just by virtue of being her friend. He couldn't think of anyone else in his class that he would want to spend time with ever again.

"Ugh, I didn't even have that much in common with my high school class," Adam said, pulling up his shoulders as if remembering some long-ago humiliation. Drake wondered how long ago that had been.

The street was pretty quiet, just the sound of cars from a block away, and the soft murmur of voices from inside the bar. The patchy cloud cover was dirty orange around the black wells of night sky. The last remnants of twilight were gone. Drake's hand, curled in a loose fist, felt sore and sticky.

"Come on," he said to the vampire.

*

The apartment was dark and quiet. Drake pushed the door open and turned to Adam. "I don't have to invite you in, do I? Is that one true?"

Adam actually looked sheepish and tugged at his ear before he said, "Um, yeah, actually that one is true." He walked up to the doorway and stopped there like the world's most fabulous Jehovah's Witness. "I don't know how it works. I just can't somehow."

Drake was standing close enough to touch, just the invisible barrier of the doorway between them. Adam still looked a little embarrassed, although it was fading.

"I can see some recreational uses for this," Drake said, inching even closer. He wasn't a natural tease, but he could work a suggestive side-eye and smirk, a cocked hip and subtle headtilt. Adam blinked and his eyes slid from Drake's face to his throat, down his body, up again.

"Please ask me in," Adam said, and the words were soft but his eyes were not.

Drake took a step back, and another. He toed off his sneakers and kicked them aside. The door was wide open to the unkempt garden, and when he pulled his shirt over his head, the damp night breeze shivered over his skin like cool fingertips. Adam had become a dark silhouette in the doorway, a few patches of light suggesting his high forehead and aquiline nose.

Drake was going to paint this as soon as he could.

The apartment behind him was filled with the little sounds that make a silence more oppressive--the hum of the fridge, the squeak and tick of Ash's Swiss cuckoo clock.

He put his hands on his belt buckle. In the doorway, Adam made a small, frustrated move, and it occurred to Drake that he was standing in his empty house, taunting a vampire.

He blushed in a hot flash, starting in his chest and washing up over his face.

"Come on," he said. "Come in."

He expected another superspeed whoosh like in the bar, but Adam just stepped over the threshold and closed the door behind him. The sounds of the world, cars, voices, the branches of the half-dead red oak scraping at the roof, stayed on the other side.

Drake's own breaths sounded loud and irregular, and he tried to settle them, counting in his head as Adam took off his coat and put it on a fucking hanger like this was some early afternoon social call.

In the dreams, Adam had been a solid, comfortable presence, soothingly familiar and visible, freckle by freckle, all his moves known and predictable. The reality was, Drake realized, a deadly stranger with potential superpowers that even the government didn't know that much about.

He spoke before he even knew he was about to: "Did you put a whammy on me?"

Adam stopped in the middle of unbuttoning his waistcoat--he was actually wearing a waistcoat like he was Lestat. Lestat might be too gothic to rock that many sequins, though.

Drake said, "I kept dreaming about you, all this time. I dreamt your name. I dreamt your makeover."

"I'm sorry," Adam said, and Drake remembered him saying that before. "It's the blood."

"The other vampires di--" Drake started, but then Adam was right in front of him like a gust of thundery air, not touching, but close enough that Drake should have been able to feel his body heat if he'd had any.

Oh.

Heat or no, he was overwhelming like this, looming a little, too there too suddenly. Drake was amazed he hadn't jumped back and screamed, but he was stuck in place again. The skin on his arms and chest crawled into surprised goosebumps. He drew in a breath he didn't quite have lung room for.

"You do have a choice," Adam said, and Drake swayed a little, feeling precarious and unmoored even though he couldn't quite move his feet, and then he swayed forward and crashed softly into Adam, grabbing his shoulders, his neck, pulling him down.

Kissing him brought back the dreams and the familiarity; there was no shock or strangeness, nothing but that cool mouth, welcome hands on his face. Drake felt overheated and vibrating in contrast, and wondered what that felt like, if a vampire touched a human like you put your freezing hands around a cup of coffee. He tried to coordinate his hands to get the sequined waistcoat off Adam and get to more skin but the forgotten cut snagged on something and burst into new, startling pain.

"Wait," Adam said, but Drake followed his mouth greedily, curling his fist around the cut--it wasn't excruciating, just an annoying, unwelcome distraction. "Wait."

Finally Adam just shuffled Drake against the hallway wall like he was a doll, pinned him there with his chest and his hips and his long legs. Drake had been manhandled before, he sometimes liked really big guys, but vampire strength was like getting caught in machinery, completely unyielding.

"You're bleeding again," Adam mumbled against his face, "stop moving." And he took his hand off Drake's face and lifted it to his own. Drake heard the fangs come out, and then he realized what Adam was doing.

He opened his mouth automatically even as he was saying, "What--"

Adam said, "Just a mouthful, it'll fix that, it's okay," and Drake drank. The taste was an explosion--he remembered it but he'd forgotten at the same time, it was too big to hold in your memory. He dug his blunt teeth into Adam's wrist, he could feel the steady pulse under his tongue, his mouth clamped against the skin. The blood was barely lukewarm, but as soon as he swallowed it settled like fire in his stomach, fire that spread in leaps and gusts through his body. His skin tingled. His cock twitched.

"It's not to turn you," Adam whispered soothingly, totally superfluously, "just a fixit, it's okay."

"Oh, fuck me," Drake gasped when Adam gently wrenched him loose, "what the fuck..." His lips felt swollen, his mouth was craving something more, something, and he craned his neck to kiss Adam again, push his tongue against his and crash against his teeth. The fangs were still there like needlepricks that didn't hurt, and under the crazy electrical taste of vampire blood he could feel the mundane copper penny tang of his own. It didn't matter, and Adam didn't bite down or back away, just kissed Drake slowly and thoroughly, exploring.

Drake felt filled up with fire, and wild, and like he couldn't quite tell where the edges of his own body lay. He scrabbled at the stupid waistcoat and felt something give under his fingers. Adam laughed into his mouth, muttered, "I just got that, it's a one of a kind--" and it was gone, rattling to the floor, and the shirt under it was gone, and the t-shirt under that.

"What are you, a fucking nesting doll?" Drake accused between breaths, his voice coming out slurred and indistinct. "This isn't Minnesota!"

"I don't feel the heat," Adam said reasonably, backing off enough that he could unbuckle Drake's belt--his fingers were warmer already, he was absorbing Drake's extra heat or something. Drake couldn't stop himself from making sounds, shoving his hips forward.

"Oh Jesus," he panted, his dick felt fucking enormous right now and Adam's hands were fleeting and not staying where they should stay. "I need, I need," he couldn't stop saying, and Adam kissed him again, and he felt the fangs retract and fuck that was weird.

Adam put a hand in the middle of his chest to hold him still, and slid down to his knees gracefully. Drake thought about the fangs and shivered, banged the back of his head against the wall, locked his knees so they wouldn't buckle and dug his fingers into Adam's thick, coarse hair, pushed his hips forward again, slid his ridiculously hard dick into Adam's cool, dangerous mouth.

"I'm gonna die," he mumbled like his mouth had detached itself from his brain, his tongue slipping around the words like it didn't know them anymore, "I'm gonna die of sex."

Adam lay a heavy iron arm over Drake's hips and did it his way, leaving Drake writhing powerlessly against him and yanking at handfuls of hair. His way was brilliantly straightforward, though, no showing off, just hard and steady and purposeful. Drake was a tight bow of need, arching towards a snap, and he felt his eyes rolling back and the thick metal taste of his own blood in his mouth again as he came, biting down on his lip without really feeling it.

Adam caught him when he crumpled, gathered him up gently, stroked his sweaty face and hummed something soothing and satisfied. Drake let his trembling body relax into a puddle and turned his face into Adam's shoulder.

"It's not gonna be enough with one round," Adam said, sounding just a touch smug. "That's a side effect."

"Mph," Drake tried. "Ungh." After a while he found his voice enough to say: "It wasn't going to be enough with one round in the first place."

He could feel what Adam was talking about, though. He was still practically knocked out, bobbing in the wake of a whirlwind orgasm, but no part of his body or brain was ready to roll over and go to sleep. There was a gnawing insistent more more more building already, something wild stirring again.

He had to laugh, because he didn't think he could get to his feet but he needed some fucking dick like he needed to breathe.

He must have said some of that out loud, because Adam laughed, too, his breath cool and sweet on Drake's hot skin.

He made it to his feet when Adam just picked him up and propped him against the wall, and Drake could regain his motor control enough to wriggle his jeans off. He thought about asking if swallowing come was unhealthy for vampires since they didn't seem to eat anything but blood, but got sidetracked by Adam shimmying out of his jeans.

That would put the spring back in anyone's step. The mirror-sharp quality of his memories of the night in Tahoe hadn't faded with time, or turned jumbled and distorted like memories usually did, so Drake knew exactly what was under the artfully distressed black denim, but all the fucking same Adam's long, sleek legs and gorgeous cock made his mouth water and his breath catch.

He was debating internally whether he should mention his room with the bed in it, or if it was a waste of time and he should just get down on the hallway floor and take the carpet burn with the satisfaction, when Adam cut the discussion short by displaying his freaky vampire powers and somehow--it's what it felt like, anyway--throwing Drake around the corner into his room and onto the bed.

He landed softly, but still lay there breathless and stunned. Adam slipped smooth and sleek between Drake's spread thighs, his cock nudging heavy and eager against his ass.

Drake must have made some kind of face because Adam made one back, a little bashful for a second. "I know," he said, his half-smile a glimpse of white in the murk. "Showing off."

"Don't mind me," Drake said, settling into the mess of pillows and sheets, stretching out luxuriously, canting his hips and pulling up his knees. "Saves me the trouble of walking. How'd you know which one was mine? Super sense of smell or what?"

The smile grew into a grin. "Your roommate has a sign with her name on her door."

She did--although it was strictly speaking not a sign, it was a painting that Drake had done for her sometime back in freshman year of high school, each letter in the shape of a naked girl. That was her happy lesbian outing present.

"She'll love you," Drake said, not letting his eyes fall shut even though Adam was running a hand down the inside of his thigh. "She'll want to keep you."

"I won't be hers to keep," Adam said, mouth against Drake's ear. His thighs flexed against Drake's and their hips met.

Everything slowed to a delicious honey drip of mouths and skin and the soft creak of the bed. Drake could have taken it rough at this point, he would have taken whatever was coming, but Adam made it last, used his mouth until Drake was ready to fucking cry for more, until he felt like nothing but fluttering hungry nerve endings.

It was the kind of sex you only believed in while you were reading your mother's terrible historical smut novels. When Adam bit him, it was just another point of pleasure.

*

It was like the dreams, lying with his head on Adam's chest and listening to his improbable vampire heart booming steadily. Adam was warm and soft like any boy now, just a nice, sweet boy that had taken Drake apart and put him back together without leaving any cracks. Drake listened to his heart and thought about painting, and thought about the dawn coming.

"Where are you gonna go?" he asked.

"I know some guys," Adam said. "I just need a safe place for the day." He was running his fingers through Drake's hair, over his neck. Drake still didn't feel sleepy; he could probably start over in about five minutes, but the need wasn't crazy anymore, more like a slow-moving want.

"What are you--"

"I'm thinking about doing something," Adam said, and Drake snapped out of his lazy train of thought. "I read somewhere that they're going to allow vampires--it's probably for shock value, but fuck it. I'm thinking about auditioning for American Idol."

Drake shoved himself up on his elbows to stare at him.

Adam stared back, wide-eyed and guileless. "I'm sick of being a bit-player. I don't have to hide anymore. I mean, why not? I can do it because... I can.

"I had to look you up first," he went on, touching Drake's face lightly, rubbing his thumb across his cheekbone. "You stuck somewhere. I wanted to ask you out, ask you to take a chance. And, you know, I don't have to hide anymore. I can take you places. Have you ever been to LA?"

There was a question in there that probably shouldn't be answered like this, sex-filled and slow-brained in the last hours of the night, but Drake thought he wouldn't change his mind.

"I have not," he said, "but I've thought about it."