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Moon Above, Sun Below

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The first time Armand had decided to come closer, he distinctly heard Daniel's uneasy thoughts tumble forth at the shock of the icy preternatural flesh. Their guest was of no importance; Armand scarcely realized someone else was even in the room, but he felt the mixture of arousal and repulsion, of love and fear when he'd grabbed Daniel by the cock and helped push him towards climax. Cold hands, Daniel was thinking. It had startled him. And it made Armand remember that first night with Bianca, when Marius had coached him to drink more, to kill another, because if you aren't warm you'll frighten her. It had been so long ago as to seem like another life. Perhaps it was.

 

So the next time, he repeated Marius's ancient advice. He'd even risen early to do it, leaving plenty of time for Daniel. He found filthy wayward children, ones with ashy blonde hair and gray eyes, and found himself thinking of his pet during the moments of rapture, the way Daniel often thought of him. And once he was nice and warm, feeling the blood way down to his fingertips, he'd roused Daniel with coffee and cigarettes and insisted they go find a new partner.

 

There had been a point after getting to know Daniel somewhat, after they'd crossed a certain line and spent too much time together, that Armand had gone back to read Louis's book once more, self-consciously this time, wondering what a mortal might glean from it, what pre-conceived notions Daniel may have formed. Then he read it again and again. Louis had never been gifted with telepathy, but there had been clues in the story; he had a vague understanding that it was possible. Sometimes, amidst the endless broadcast of Daniel's thoughts, Armand wondered if he even realized the volume, the transparency. Armand certainly had a habit of relying on it too much in conversations at times; he was sure he'd probably given it away before by answering questions that hadn't been asked out loud, or surprising Daniel by knowing some well kept secret. Most of the time it amused Armand, and not in a spiteful way, but because it was yet another endearing human frailty. It was an unfathomable phenomenon to Daniel's mortal mind; surely he knew on some level, but he hadn't made an attempt to veil himself, or communicate outwardly. Armand found this curious.

 

The sexual encounters had started slow, maybe you could call them tame, all things considered. And although Daniel liked to think it was some grand manipulation on Armand's part, Armand would never have started it if he hadn't caught the erotic images flashing through Daniel's mind when they first saw the cocktail waitress. She was the first. Armand watched Daniel's eyes follow the hem of her skirt up around the curve of her hip, over the flat stomach and finally resting on the generous swell of her bosom, the fleshy cleavage nearly bursting out of her top. While Armand listened to her heartbeat, and zoned in on the little blue veins he could see through the milky white skin of her breasts, Daniel was envisioning pinning her against a wall, hiking her skirt up around her waist, and fucking her until she was dripping and shaking and screaming his name. Interesting.

 

"You want her," Armand said, quietly, and Daniel had started as if he'd been caught jerking off. But there was no judgment, no reproach, so he tried to say it again. "You want her?"

 

And so within the hour they were in Daniel's hotel room, the one Armand had chosen for him, with a gorgeous view of the city and every possible amenity, and she was on her back on the enormous bed, her ankles locked behind Daniel's hips, breasts bouncing as he slammed into her over and over.  Armand watched from the corner, trying to recall this feeling, the memories distant and unimportant in comparison to blood. But, as a mortal, he hadn't known any better. It had been the pinnacle of physical pleasure. He thought about blood, and how Daniel tasted, and tried to imagine that it was what Daniel was feeling as his body joined with hers.

 

There had been others, a veritable parade of women. Armand chose the ones that Daniel chose. And although his desire and need for sex had been dead and buried for half a millennium, he was very much enjoying the sight of the glistening heated skin, the sound of the dual rapid heartbeats. Especially because it was half Daniel's. And the taste of Daniel afterward, the salt still thick on the surface of his neck, blood gushing because the boy's heart was still pounding, convinced Armand that this was satisfying for each of them.

 

He enjoyed the state Daniel was in when it was all done, though at times he seemed forlorn and conflicted, it was the heat and the softness, and the breathless little way he'd moan against Armand's bite, and the adoration that was pouring silently from his mind as he relented in his utter exhaustion. It might have all started as a curiosity, as another fascinating human exhibition, but after a time there was no denying that his motivation was carnal vampiric need. 

 

Then one night, as Daniel sat on the corner of the bed and the girl's head bobbed vigorously up and down in his lap, he looked up and stared straight into Armand's face. And as he tangled his fingers into her hair, guiding her pace and lifting his hips towards her until she spasmed and shuddered, Armand saw himself in Daniel's thoughts. The image was distinct, vibrant and bold, and it was his own auburn curls in Daniel's hands, and his own eyes looking up, flickering gold in the lamp light. Armand sat up straighter in his chair, the thirst sudden and strong.

 

He waited, though. That had been the tradition so far. Let Daniel go first, watch him work himself into a state, and feed after. Daniel first. But the urge, the hunger, had accelerated the game. Shortly after, when the two young things were properly in the bed, Armand listened to their every thought, scanning Daniel for more images. Hers were more obvious, how curious. He was fascinated that she had some last shred of shyness, even at this stage, and wouldn't just tell him what she wanted. From the dark corner of the room, Armand offered the helpful suggestions. 

 

"Daniel," he said softly, "pull her hair."

 

"Daniel, turn her over and take her from behind."

 

"Daniel, why don't you touch her clit so she can finish?"

 

After she left, and Armand had pet the sweaty hair away from Daniel's forehead to look into his eyes, he searched again for thoughts, for images. Please, please, Daniel was thinking. Please what? But, he knew, and with a little smile he gave Daniel the Blood from his tongue this time. Armand had yet to take his drink, but he wanted to reward the boy. The performance had been resplendent.

 

"Have you ever been with a man, Daniel?" he asked when he pulled away, and nuzzled the flesh of the boy's neck. Daniel seemed a little dazed, in the thick of the swoon, and when Armand sank his teeth in he knew he'd get the answer to the question, having planted the thought there. And the images poured through with the blood, the tender, awkward exchanges and nervous curiosity. And of course, the most recent development: the memory of his own fantasy, of Armand being the one to fellate him. And how the fantasy had embellished on the actual events, the way he'd imagined Armand's glossy nails digging into his thighs, and taking breaks to use his hands while staring up into Daniel's face, his lips swollen and pink and glistening. Armand wondered if that's what his eyes really looked like to mortals, that ethereal, that magical, or if Daniel was exaggerating. From beyond the fog of this delusion, he heard the tiny human whine, so frail, and the heartbeat had just begun to slow. It took all his willpower to pull away, just wanting to live in Daniel's thoughts, in his blood, a little longer. But not wanting to live without him, either, not wanting to hurt him too badly.

 

"We'll get you a man next time," Armand said, and gave the wounds a gentle Blood Kiss to heal them. "I want to watch someone fuck you." 

 

But with the men, Armand had shifted his approach, his involvement. He began using their new friends as conduits, overtly so. Perhaps they'd been conduits the whole time, he couldn't say when the line had been crossed between curiosity and genuine pleasure. He began to completely direct the escapades, starting the moment they reached the hotel rooms. Each time he could hear what Daniel wanted, and what he needed, and he put it to the side. 

 

"Daniel, why don't you take off your clothes and kneel on the floor," he said, and settled down into the chair in the corner. Daniel cast him a suspicious glance. The fuck are you doing? he was wondering, but not asking directly. Armand just smiled and watched. For all Daniel's feigned annoyance, he was visibly aroused already. And then, as their guest thrust against Daniel's mouth, Armand pulled more suggestions from the stranger's head. "Daniel, use one of your hands. Jerk him off against your mouth. Why don't you massage the pressure point right at the base of his dick. Take him a little deeper now." And as Daniel's heart pounded, and the sweat began to shimmer on his forehead, Armand's thirst began to pitch.

 

Keep telling me what to do, Armand, keep telling me, I'm yours, I'll do anything. Armand rested his chin against his knuckles and watched carefully. He could feel the desperate quality of Daniel's thoughts in that they weren't directed towards him, weren't deliberate. And that was so interesting, too. As the guest grabbed a handful of Daniel's shaggy hair, hard enough to make the boy squeal, he caught another flash of himself out of Daniel's mind. The boy's eyes were closed, but he was seeing Armand there again. Armand's strong white hands tugging at his scalp, Armand's hard cock so deep in his throat that he was gagging and coughing. Armand, Armand, he kept thinking. 

 

"That's enough, boys," Armand said softly. "Daniel wants you to fuck him now."

 

The guest lifted Daniel by his upper arms, planting a quick messy kiss on his wet mouth, just for manners, before giving him a rough shove onto the bed. Daniel sprawled backwards and looked over to the corner. Armand leaned back into the shadows, seeing the mental images again. Daniel was fetishizing the unusual preternatural strength, picturing that Armand would pin him down helplessly, pin his wrists down and fuck him in complete abandon.

 

As you wish, beautiful boy, he sent over silently.

 

"Daniel likes it rough," he told the guest, who was disrobing. "Daniel, perhaps you should prepare yourself. I don't think our friend is going to be gentle."

 

Daniel's eyes were glazed and hooded as he looked over towards Armand's voice, not quite able to see him in the shadows. But as the guest finished undressing, Daniel was reaching for the lube on the side table, pouring some out into the palm of his left hand, then dipping his right fingers into it after discarding the bottle into the sheets somewhere. He stared towards the shadows as he reached between his legs and began to spread the gel around, like an anointment. Good job, Daniel, Armand said to him, and the vampire's silky voice in his head caused him to moan as he pushed his fingers inside himself. Armand could hear Daniel's heart pounding a little faster and could already taste the extra body heat in the air. With his right hand he continued to massage and stretch himself, and as the guest came towards him he reached out with his left hand to spread the rest of the lube on the man's cock. 

 

The guest grabbed Daniel by his thighs and dragged him roughly closer, then took both of Daniel's wrists and pinned them together over his head. There was little warning before he entered, hard, not bothering to be sweet or practice ritual, just pounding mercilessly and immediately. Daniel cried out and arched his back, hips rising to meet the thrusts. The guest gave him a hard slap on the back of the thigh as he fucked him, pulling all the way out only to push in again. Daniel's whimpering was bordering on frantic, his heart racing. The guest leaned down and pressed his forearm against Daniel's throat, and Armand's heart increased in time with the boy's as he struggled to breathe. The blood bloomed in his cheeks, entire face going pink for a moment before the other man relented. It had made the hair stand up on Armand's arms. Daniel would never be in danger, of course; Armand could've slaughtered the man before either of them knew what was happening, but that brief moment of fear, as he struggled and suffocated, had set his teeth on edge. 

 

As he continued to hold Daniel's wrists above him, crossed over on top of each other, he used his other hand to grab Daniel by the face, fingertips pressing hard into the soft, warm flesh of his cheeks, turning his head so that they could see each other. Daniel's eyes were glassy and stared ahead dully, but not for lack of pleasure. It was because he was somewhere else in his mind. It was the hotel room, sure, maybe the same one. Maybe the same bed. Surely he was still in the moment, but it was different. He was seeing Armand over him, seeing the timeless youthful face, the gold eyes boring into him. Armand's effortless strength pinning him down, and Armand's dick penetrating him over and over. The man would pull completely out every few thrusts, to tease him, and Daniel would squirm and moan, then throw his head back against the pillow and cry out when he was impaled again. 

 

Armand's throat felt dry when he went to speak, and he gave his head a little shake to focus again. He cleared his throat. "You should bite him," he said to the guest. "Right on his neck."

 

So the man did, and Daniel screamed, and though the human bite paled in comparison, and was more of a dull, blunt ache, he was conjuring the sharp feeling of Armand's tiny fangs, remembering how the shock usually bolted to his core, to his spine, to his cock, and he felt the swoon anyway. There were tears in his eyes as he screamed, feeling the orgasm uncoiling in his groin, his gut, shooting to the bottoms of his feet and up and down his vertebrae. The cum spurted out over his abs, body going limp beneath the stranger, mind swirling in aftershock as he went through the motions until the other followed suit. 

 

It was a simple matter of spellbinding the guest, befuddling him just a bit to have him leave as soon as he could get his clothes on. Daniel was still sprawled and spent on the bed as Armand touched the man's lower back, whispering suggestive things to his ears and guiding him to the door. Though their playmates had never spent the night, he usually didn't rush them out this fast. But he could still hear Daniel's heart pounding, and the thirst had him shaking. Once the man was out the door, Armand was at the bedside with vampiric speed. Daniel hadn't been able to even see the movement, it was as if he'd just appeared. 

 

One hand immediately went to the cooling, sticky seed on Daniel's stomach, while the other weaved into his hair, steadying him as he leaned in for the taste. His fingers made idle circles on the boy's belly as he kissed and suckled the skin on his neck, feeling the pulse against his lips. There was so much slick sweat on the skin, which Armand lapped up, taking a moment just to breathe in the scent. He could hear Daniel's heartbeat beginning to slow, but Armand's was only becoming more rapid. When he finally went to take the drink, and felt the first salty stream of blood shoot into his mouth, he saw the images again. The fake memories. This time they transcended the barrier somehow, and the feeling of Daniel's blood in his body, lighting up every nerve, seemed somehow in tune with the old carnal human feelings. He was seeing the fantasy again, the two of them, no stranger involved, no one else. Armand was the one pinning him down, their bodies fused, and Armand could feel the orgasm everywhere like it was blood filling his whole body, and he had to lean over and put his mouth over Daniel's so that he couldn't scream out, and he was fucking the boy hard, too hard, and he knew if it were real he'd have shattered a regular mortal's hips, but it was all just the illusion. And Daniel was shuddering all over, his stomach muscles fluttering as he came, and Armand felt like maybe he came, too, but wasn't sure how it was supposed to feel anymore, but the blood was warming his whole body, tingling everywhere, and he knew it was so much more fulfilling than sex had ever been, and--Armand--he could taste blood in Daniel's mouth, and there were no real rules to this sex and orgasm business because he didn't have to stop, still thrusting, a hand down to hold Daniel by the hip for leverage, and--Armand, stop--the heartbeat was pumping draught after draught against the roof of his mouth, and--

 

"Armand…" Daniel was saying, and it was so quiet at far away, and Armand pulled away, pulled out abruptly, and in the real world he was still drawing on the boy's neck, and Daniel was getting weaker, weaker… Armand please stop it's too much.

 

He sat back with a gasp, rolling over onto his back, their shoulders touching. For a long while he just started up at the ceiling, panting as Daniel had been panting. The Blood was playing tricks on him, making him see shapes and patterns where there were none, mind still swimming with the erotic images. When he caught his breath he finally turned and looked over to see Daniel's profile in the soft light. He was drifting off, exhausted and drained, but his fingers twitched at his side, seeking Armand's. Armand obliged. He gave the boy a soft kiss on the forehead and realized he'd fallen asleep without ever having his own taste of blood. But there would be tomorrow.

 

"What was sex like for you?" Daniel asked the next night. They were in the Egyptian wing of the Met, and Armand was leaned forward to look over a case of pottery, his hands clasped behind his back and head tilted to the side. These ancient artifacts always alarmed him somewhat, reminded him of himself in a way, but made him feel even lonelier.

 

"It was sex," he muttered. He moved on to the next case. Something about the entire breadth of human history enabling creators, historians… it made him think of Marius. 

 

Daniel wasn't entirely articulating what he wanted to ask. Armand could sense the frayed threads of the questions, could hear them, but wasn't ready to answer. He wanted Daniel to really ask.

 

"I guess I mean…" Daniel trailed off. "Do you miss it?"

 

"No."

 

There was a tangle of images in Daniel's head as they moved onto the next room, Armand carefully skirting the pools of harsh artificial light. But there he was, thinking about it again. It was as if the stranger had never been there. The physical body had become a simple surrogate. Daniel rubbed his jaw, thinking about the way the stranger had forcibly grabbed his face, but the mental image was Armand. Armand's gold eyes narrowing down at him. And then he sensed that Daniel was becoming uncomfortable. His pulse was quickening. 

 

Finally Armand turned to look into the boy's face, and cocked an eyebrow at the sheen of sweat that had come over his forehead. Daniel was shifting his weight uncomfortably from side to side. His cheeks were turning red.

 

"Are you aroused, Daniel?" Armand asked blandly.

 

"Fuck off."

 

Armand leaned in close to Daniel's ear. "If you don't stop looking at me like that I'm going to get hungry," he whispered. 

 

Later, on the second floor surrounded by European paintings that were at least a little closer to Armand's age this time, Daniel finally asked.

 

"I guess I'm just curious what you were into. You know. When you were alive," Daniel's huge eyes were sweeping across the paintings, feeling a little overcome by them. These are as old as he is, he was thinking. This is where he's from. 

 

Armand gave him a half smile and a quick kiss on the temple. "I liked pain," he whispered. "I think they call it S&M now."

 

Daniel couldn't help his surprised and abrupt chuckle. "Seriously?"

 

"I was raised by a vampire, what do you think?" Armand was half-joking but he could tell he'd made the point to Daniel that he wasn't going to elaborate on that part. He was thinking about how it had felt to sit for Marius, the blue eyes studying him intently as he strove to save all the details to canvas. Had any of those paintings survived, the way the ones in this room had? 

 

In the cab on the way home, Armand reached out and put his hand over the crotch of Daniel's jeans in the dark. "Do you like being tied up?" He asked the question as a taunt, because no sooner than the words left his lips, the images blossomed in Daniel's mind. It was too easy to provoke him. And before Daniel could answer, Armand laughed darkly under his breath. "That's a yes, then."

 

He retracted his hand once he felt Daniel's cock stirring to life, sliding to the other side of the backseat so that they weren't in contact at all. He turned his head and gazed up at the skyscrapers, the glittering lights of the city. I'm going to tie you up when we get back, he told Daniel. In the corner of his eye he saw Daniel's back straighten up. I'm going to tie you up and go find someone to come fuck you, and when we come back you'll be waiting and ready like a sacrifice.

 

Up in the room, Armand was on him the moment the door closed. If they were both human, the entwined limbs would've surely toppled them to the floor, but Armand kept them upright. He bit at Daniel's lips, kissing him until they were bruised, offering him the Blood to heal them before he left. Without the proper preparation, he'd had to rely on silk neckties to secure Daniel's wrists to the headboard, but it worked. Daniel seemed to enjoy the feeling of the silk against his skin. Once he was secured in place, Armand went about the room, tidying up for the guest, giving himself a once over in the mirror to fix his hair. 

 

"Wait. Armand," Daniel said, with a little squirm.

 

"Yes Daniel?"

 

"You weren't… were you serious about leaving me here like this?"

 

"Yes Daniel."

 

The headboard thudded gently against the wall as Daniel squirmed again. Armand looked up at him through the mirror and smiled before slipping back out into the city night. 

 

And this was the night Armand had come closer. He'd wondered if Daniel would be tense and unamused when he finally returned with their new participant, but immediately upon entering the room he could see the erection straining against the boy's jeans, and the flood of pride and… love… was a sincere surprise. He almost forgot to focus on the usual sexual chemistry in the air, so great was this surge of affection. He'd taken his usual seat in the corner, and directed the guest to suck Daniel's dick a little bit, because he'd been such a good little slave waiting for them. When Daniel began to moan too loud, Armand suggested to the guest that maybe they should gag him. As with the impromptu restraints, this hadn't been something Armand had prepared for, so he rummaged through Daniel's clothes until he came back with a scarf, and handed it over for the guest to secure around Daniel's mouth, knotting it tightly behind his head. With his arms pulled back at that angle, Armand could see every muscle and bone of Daniel's torso when he'd arch his back. Every rib peeking through the skin. While the guest fucked him, and the muffled cries floated through the room, Armand couldn't stop thinking about how good it would feel to just break the entire ribcage apart, spread him open, drink straight from his heart. 

 

The guest was pinching at Daniel's nipples, and the boy shot Armand a look. Even though Armand was hidden in the shadows, their gazes met. It wasn't confrontational or accusatory. Armand may have been facilitating harm and danger, but it was an act, and if it ever became too intense or took a bad turn he would've been happy to annihilate the offender. And likewise, though Daniel feigned panic and acted like he wanted to escape, Armand knew better. Daniel was staring at him to conjure the images again. He was loving it. He'd been so inflamed by the museum tonight, and was seeing Armand in centuries past, trying to truly imagine what it had been like for him, trying to picture Armand's ruddy human skin, this same sweet face that had been frozen just the way it was, piecing together details of the rooms and the furniture by what he'd seen in the paintings. Orange glow from oil lamps catching the red highlights of Armand's hair, cold stone rooms. No Daniel, they were quite warm, Armand told him. We had large fireplaces.

 

"Pull his hair," Armand told the guest. Daniel's voice went up an octave. I used to like it when they'd pull my hair. 

 

This time, instead of taking the usual masturbatory look at himself in Daniel's mind, he wondered if he could try the guest. He leaned back and settled himself, taking a slow deep breath and closing his eyes before transporting himself into the other man, trying to see Daniel through this stranger's eyes. And there he was. Right below him. He was looking off to the corner, still, at Armand's actual physical space. But the way it stretched the tendons of his neck, the delightful angle it made of his jaw, were enough. And Armand could feel the heat and the pressure and the nerves through this person, feeling Daniel from the inside, how hot and tight his body felt, how the blood had risen up to color his skin. And when the stranger pulled Daniel's hair again he saw the way his chest looked from there, nipples at attention, ribcage visibly contracting, and Armand nearly lost the signal. When he saw the outline of Daniel's lips straining against the scarf he shook himself back to reality. His hands were gripping the arms of his chair and he could feel the wood splintering beneath his fingernails. And it was time, he couldn't stay away any longer. The line was going to be crossed now.

 

He stood and kicked his shoes off, crawling into the bed, slithering up to Daniel's side, one hand grabbing his thigh and holding his legs open further. He kissed Daniel over the scarf. It was becoming damp now. Without the guest noticing, he bit through it to puncture Daniel's lip, drawing on it hard to get it through the fabric. Just a taste, but that was enough.

 

And when he grabbed Daniel's cock, he heard the immediate startled reaction. It was arousal and repulsion at once, love and fear. Cold hands, he was thinking, and it had surprised him. It was one thing to fantasize about and another thing to actually experience. And there was the heated arousal, the need, and his mind was still putting forth a confused jumble of yes Armand please yes I'll do anything don't stop fuck please yes Armand Armand, while simultaneously what am I doing this is wrong this is a dead thing he is a dead thing. But Armand remembered having those thoughts himself. He remembered those warm nights in Venice, and Marius's strong cool fingers all over him, and the impossible mix of guilt and pleasure that he couldn't parse. And here it was time to pay it forward. Five hundred years later and it had come back. He took a gentle bite at Daniel's earlobe, not to cut him, just to tease him, and stroked at his cock. He propped himself up on his elbow so that he could stare down into Daniel's face. And suddenly it was as if there was no third, this person was so inconsequential, and Armand found the whole thing so curious, so human, but he felt that affection come back and realized that if Daniel wanted it, Daniel would have it. He pumped harder, taking mind to keep at a human speed, kissing at Daniel's neck now, feeling the pulse against his lips. He was remembering being alive, being in these situations, in rooms like the ones in the paintings, blindfolded, fucked, violated in a multitude of delicious ways, and he knew that Daniel wanted the Blood, and remembered how this all began, and wondered if this had been a good idea, and maybe he should never have gotten involved like this, because--

 

But then Daniel came, and the volume of his voice overpowered the gag, and the cum splashed over his own abs, and Armand's hand, and he didn't let go as the guest increased his pace, pounding him so hard that Armand would be surprised if the boy would be able to walk tomorrow, and he knew the softening cock was so painfully tender, but he didn't let it go. Too much too much Armand oh god, but he didn't stop until the guest did.

 

He allowed the guest a minute to collect himself, to catch his breath and excuse himself to the bathroom to clean up, and while he knew it was impolite to send the person away so quickly after that, he didn't think it mattered, because this person was never going to remember. Armand didn't even rise from the bed. "You had a great time tonight, you're tired and you're going to go home now, and tomorrow you won't remember our faces," he said, and the guest's eyes went a little glossy as he hurried into his clothes and slipped out.

 

Daniel was still restrained and Armand curled up against his chest. The cum on his hand was starting to cool, and he rubbed it between his fingers. Then, not knowing why the idea came to him, he put his fingers to his mouth and tasted it. He wasn't sure what to expect, if his body would reject it, or if it was another human offering that the Blood would accept. And the taste wasn't quite like blood, but it wasn't like poison either, and when he went to lick more of it off his palm he saw the images again, the fantasies, and he felt it warm all of his nerves. Hmm. He looked over and met Daniel's eyes, pondering this. Wondering how he'd never known, wondering if it was chemical, scientific, if cum was enough like blood that it was fine. And wondering if he should push the experiment further. He leaned down and began to lick it away from Daniel's flat stomach. As he made himself busy cleaning the boy up, drinking in these strange erotic transmissions, he could see Daniel's dick getting hard again in his peripheral vision. He lifted his head and raised an eyebrow. Daniel was whimpering quietly.

 

"Maybe I should take your gag off," Armand said. Daniel nodded. "Will you be quiet if I do?" He nodded again, emphatically. Armand shrugged as if this weren't the most scintillating conversation he'd had in years, but reached gently around Daniel's head to untie it. He gave him a quick kiss, knowing that Daniel could taste his own semen, then repositioned himself so that he was straddling Daniel's hips, hovering on top of him. He struggled again against the restraints, the bones in his shoulders rolling gorgeously. Armand could feel Daniel's hardon pressing up against his pants, against his useless equipment. Daniel's eyebrows were knit together in frustration.

 

"Do you think I should take care of that for you?" Armand asked. His mind flashed on that first time he'd caught onto Daniel's fantasy, with that girl, and Daniel seeing Armand's head in his lap instead of hers, Armand's glassy nails digging into this thighs. Maybe it was time. "I'll try not to bite you," he said with a chuckle, and deliberately flashed his fangs for a moment. He rolled his hips, forcing his weight against Daniel's cock, enjoying the little squeak that came from the back of Daniel's throat.

 

"You've been a good boy though, let's take care of you first," he said, and bit through his own wrist, taking care not to drip any of the blood on the way to Daniel's mouth. And Daniel strained against the restraints again, the headboard shaking and bumping into the wall for a moment, and he wasn't doing it on purpose, it was just the way his muscles were seizing when he had the Blood in his mouth. Armand ground down against Daniel's cock again as the boy drew on him, and he was getting harder now, and he was whining and moaning against the gushing wound. 

 

Finally he came up for air, letting go long enough to gasp for a long breath, and Armand retracted his wrist before Daniel could try to get it back. He had nowhere to go, couldn't reach on his own, still tied down like a gift. Armand rubbed at the healing gash with his other hand and smiled warmly down at him. It was so sweet the way he was struggling. Adorable, really. He allowed Daniel to suck the remnants of blood off his thumb, wiped away from the healing wound, before retreating again. 

 

Armand slid away, slid down Daniel's legs so that he could lean over and press his lips against the soft head. Cold, Daniel was thinking again, but he didn't say anything out loud and didn't complain. And Armand flashed to Marius's voice, in the dark, telling him Remember then that it was love, and he had to take the plunge to distract himself, because he didn't want to think about Marius anymore, not right now. He took care to guard his fangs with his lips, being so careful not to cut the boy, not to mar this precious part. Daniel's hips rose and although he was, on the inside, marveling at the strange sensation of a cold blowjob, out loud he was saying "Jesus Christ Armand fuck don't stop, fuck," and Armand knew that if Daniel hadn't been restrained he would've put his hands on the back of Armand's head, running his fingers through the auburn curls and making a show of guiding the pace, even though he would never truly be in control. 

 

In time, Armand could feel the warmth spreading on the inside of his mouth. For some reason he hadn't accounted for that, didn't expect that Daniel's body heat would permeate him this way. He'd never done this to a human before, it had never really occurred to him. But aside from the evolution of sharp fangs, the inside of his mouth was mostly unchanged. Still soft, still wet. If he strained in his memory he could probably remember some of the technique, but it was easier to lift the tips out of Daniel's thoughts. He could read the boy's mind to choose a rhythm, to find which spots he liked the best, to know when to reach up and use his hand.

 

It didn't take Daniel long, and the orgasm erupted like a broken artery, and how had it been five hundred years and he'd never known he could drink it? It didn't quench his thirst the way blood did--in fact, it was making him hungrier--but it gave him chills all over, and the heat from his mouth rose up into his cheeks. Interesting. Curious.

 

He took a moment to kiss the soft skin inside Daniel's thigh, rubbing his cheek against it, and his whole face felt a little warmer so Daniel didn't have to flinch away, and this was the first time he'd ever bitten at Daniel's femoral artery, and he was bleeding so hard and fast that he might faint if Armand took too long. But it was quick, just a taste, over so soon that he was trembling when he finally lifted his head.

 

Daniel's face had gone soft, sleepy. It was the aftermath of the taxing orgasms, also the loss of blood. Armand finally untied him, and kissed him, and massaged the strained shoulders and pushed the sweaty hair away from the boy's forehead. 

 

"Thank you, Daniel," he said softly into the shell of Daniel's ear.

 

But then he left. Daniel was drifting off, anyway, and he took a moment to tuck him in, and dim the lights, and then went out onto the fire escape and up to the roof, taking to the sky. He needed the cold air on his face, in his hair. He needed to kill something.

 

He didn't return for three weeks.

 

Daniel hadn't left the hotel, and Armand knew because he could hear the boy's thoughts from all over the city. He could feel the confusion and faint throb of rejection like a heat constantly at his back. It was enough of an absence that Daniel was irritated, maybe a little hurt, but he wasn't losing it yet. He hadn't taken to binge drinking or neglecting himself yet. Maybe he was starting to learn Armand's patterns and knew not to be surprised. Whatever the case, it filled Armand with an uneasy feeling of guilt. The situation was becoming too familiar to him, and he remembered how it felt when Marius used to disappear like this. He remembered how it tormented him towards the end, the way his Master had revealed the preternatural nature bit by bit until there were almost no secrets left. And he remembered that first night with Bianca. He didn't understand why Marius was prodding him so much earlier, but had learned that arguing went nowhere. He'd been so glutted on blood, his skin so hot that he felt alive again, and she never knew the difference as she squirmed and gasped between them. 

 

If Armand waited any longer, Daniel was going to start falling apart again. And that truly wasn't his intention. He remembered that feeling well. 

 

Perched atop the ledge of the Citigroup Center, he rolled his shoulders and tried to brush his hair away from his eyes to no avail. The wind was throwing it wildly in every direction. To one side he could see the 59th Street Bridge, and ahead he could see the sparkling Chrysler Building. If he turned and looked down in the corner he could catch the spires of St. Patrick's. Hard to explain that these modern things made him feel as alienated as the relics in the museum had. It was something that Daniel was never going to understand. 

 

Cold hands, Daniel had thought. A hazy veil of red came over Armand's vision for just a moment, and he turned his head down. Just the wind. 

 

With Bianca it had become a ritual. Marius hadn't even known about some of the other times, as far as Armand could tell. Bianca had seemed like such a miracle at the time, and when he kissed her and touched her, there had been nothing but love. Even after he'd told her the truth he abided by this ritual, and she'd never known him to be any different from the warm mortal boy he'd always been. And he'd never felt hungry, never felt compelled to hurt her. 

 

From the skyscraper he could hear and feel the voices of the usual victims. People who were secretly begging for him, without even realizing it. But he scanned for certain types in particular, and he could hear them down by the village. He saw them in each other's eyes, illuminated by the small fire in the filthy underground hovel. Blonde young men, their faces skewered by jewelry, in fashionably ragged clothes. Punks, Armand thought they were called. He would have to ask Daniel about it later. 

 

It was early still, the sky over New Jersey still faintly orange. He'd have plenty of time to dispatch these young men and make his way back to his paramour. Plenty of time for them to go find new playthings, because Armand felt ready to return, ready to explore this more.

 

The boys were hiding in one of the underground chambers off the M train tunnel, somewhere beneath the Bowery. Armand could see the paths well enough, the tracks, the holes in the walls through which the boys had come. The idea of a mortal doing this seemed absurd, but perhaps that was part of the package, and why he wanted them.

 

There were three, each similar in appearance, slight young things like himself, and they were mesmerized enough that he was able to take his time without the others running away. And how interesting that for months he had been amused that Daniel fetishized him so, and here he was with these frail beings beneath his warming hands, and couldn't help doing the same. The smell of cigarettes on their clothes went straight to his gut, their hearts fluttering in fear like little birds. When he cradled the backs of their heads he was cradling the back of Daniel's head, and when he drank and drank he ignored the images in the blood, the stories of abandonment that would normally have cut him to the quick. Daniel was too heavily on his mind. Daniel's messy bangs in his face, his big eyes taking in every detail of a painting, the shy way he'd smile when Armand urged him to flirt. And his fear and fascination, his revulsion. And the need, always the need. It was always so frustrating to take the Little Drink from him, and if Armand could pretend he wasn't completely enamored he'd also pretend it wasn't even worth it. It hurt that he wanted to devour this boy so badly, to drink and not stop. Wanted every part of him. 

 

He didn't bother disposing of these bodies. They were already so hidden underground, and he suddenly couldn't wait anymore. He took the smaller boy's jacket--it fit Armand well and was covered in self-affixed spikes and patches. There was a half pack of cigarettes in the pocket. They weren't the kind Daniel usually bought, but he wasn't sure what the difference could possibly be.

 

Daniel was still in bed when he let himself back in through the fire escape, the way he'd left weeks before. He crept through the suite soundlessly, letting himself into the kitchen area to start the coffee. It had been a lot of trial and error to learn how to make coffee, with a lot of critique from Daniel. It was hard to know if it tasted good when he couldn't taste it, but it smelled right. He watched Daniel sleep from the doorway while the coffee brewed, seeing the way his brow furrowed and twitched in dream. He looked stressed, which was normal enough. He needed to shave. Armand silently entered the room and chose an outfit for the boy, laying it on the chair in the corner for him. When the coffee was ready he added the usual amount of cream and the unusual amount of sugar which Daniel preferred. He put it on the bedside table and lowered himself down onto the mattress, slipping in under the covers.

 

His skin was warm now, nearly feverish, and Daniel didn't start this time when Armand reached to touch him. Instead came a sleepy and pleased moan. If only he knew the sacrifice for this feeling, what it had taken. 

 

"Daniel," Armand whispered, and slid closer, their hips touching, one hand reaching around to grab Daniel's ass while the other brushed his hair away from his face. The leather jacket squeaked as he moved. "Wake up, I made coffee."

 

"What are you wearing?" Daniel asked without opening his eyes.

 

"I found it."

 

Daniel cracked one eye and smirked. "You're a creep, you know that?"

 

But his mind was saying So glad he's back.

 

He gave Daniel a slightly-too-hard-to-be-playful pinch on the backside before rolling away and standing, leaving the covers pulled back. He grabbed the steaming coffee from the nightstand and held it by Daniel's face.

 

"Have coffee. Get dressed. I want to go out."

 

"That jacket looks dumb on you," he said as he sat up, grabbing the coffee and sipping it. God he looks sexy as hell. Armand raised an eyebrow.

 

"How's your coffee, Daniel?"

 

"It's okay." It's almost better than sex. 

 

Armand laughed and grabbed the clothes he'd set out, tossing them onto the bed. "Get dressed, come on. There's a Primitivism exhibition at the MoMA, we should go. I want to see it."

 

"Calm down, I have to take a shower first. Do you see my cigarettes anywhere?"

 

He pulled the crushed half pack from the jacket. "I found some."

 

Daniel shrugged and took one. He narrowed his eyes as he lit it, studying him as he took the long first drag. After he exhaled, he sipped the coffee again. Such a small jacket. Whose jacket is it? Whose cigarettes?

 

"They're no one's. Come on."

 

Daniel held the cigarette and coffee mug in one hand, and Armand came forward to pull his other arm. Some of the coffee sloshed out onto the bed sheets. Daniel couldn't help laughing.

 

"Okay, okay. I have to shower though, give me a minute."

 

"So go shower!" Armand went ahead of him into the bathroom and turned the faucets on. He tested the water with his hand, not really sure if it mattered because Daniel's skin was bound to be so much more sensitive. It took a minute to warm up, for the steam to start filling the room.

 

"Your cheeks are red," Daniel said from behind him. He was shirtless, arms crossed over his chest. He blew a ribbon of smoke out of the corner of his mouth before coming forward and tossing the cigarette butt into the toilet. Armand was distracting himself with the temperature of the shower water to avoid Daniel's gaze, but Daniel came closer and reached for his hips. He slid his hands underneath Armand's shirt. Warm skin.

 

At the feeling of Daniel's fingertips circling his nipple, Armand finally turned and looked into the boy's face. There was wonder in his expression, and excitement. Had Daniel ever touched him like this before? No, not yet. And he seemed to be riveted by the unusual feeling of such soft skin over such an unnaturally hard body, as if the muscles were made of steel. Armand remembered this well, the way he'd marveled at Marius. Of course, naïve child that he'd been, he'd thought Marius something mystical, that he was a magician. He'd never had the sense of being in the company of evil the way Daniel did. Daniel reveled in it. And while Daniel was usually inflamed by the dual sense of arousal and horror that came from being so attracted to a dead thing, the novelty seemed to be melting away. For months he'd been performing this sexual recital, and he wouldn't pretend that it hadn't gotten him off, that Armand's steady and cool scrutiny hadn't encouraged and stimulated him. He was finally starting to catch on that he couldn't. Armand would know. Armand always knew.

 

"Why did you leave?" Daniel asked. He tilted his head down to kiss Armand's cheekbone. Warm. The tension was leaving Armand's frame, shoulders slacking a little, posture loosening. But Daniel knew he wasn't going to get an answer. 

 

"Is the water too hot?" Armand asked. He gently removed Daniel's hands from his body and in the same sweeping motion, pushed down the waistband of Daniel's pants. Daniel reached past the shower curtain to feel for himself.

 

"It's fine."

 

"Good, you should shower. Then we go." He went to leave the bathroom but Daniel grabbed him by the collar of the stolen jacket. 

 

"Stay," he said. He pulled Armand closer, and he knew that Armand had allowed it. "Stay, you have forever to see the MoMA. Let's just stay here."

 

"I want us to find someone," he protested, but he even heard himself that it didn't sound convincing.

 

"No, Armand. No one else."

 

Daniel pushed the jacket away from Armand's shoulders, and all the spikes and studs made a clattering noise when it hit the tiled floor. He reached up under Armand's shirt again to push it up and over his head, the collar catching the unruly red curls and spilling them back down in a cascade. And the normally too-white skin was so pink, so healthy, and he could feel the heat coming off of it. Whose jacket, whose cigarettes? Whose blood was this?

 

Armand's face had transformed again into that haunting look of despair, one that Daniel had seen before. It made him look so fragile and young, but not young at all. A look of sadness so profound could never be from someone so young. It was the burden of so many lives, so many centuries. He crushed Armand against his chest, a hand holding the back of his head. "Let's just stay here," he said again. 

 

He slipped his pants the rest of the way down, and began to unbuckle Armand's belt. "Come on," he said, and unbuttoned the jeans, slid Armand's pants down as well. Armand grudgingly kicked them the rest of the way off, kicking his shoes off also. He pulled the shower curtain back and gestured for Daniel to get in. 

 

"Fine," he said, "sure."

 

They'd showered together before, but never like this. In the past it had been those times that Armand had found him drunk and had to clean him up, had to clinically scrub every part of his body, shampoo his hair in the gentlest way he knew how. It had never been when Daniel was this alert. So he was surprised by the way Daniel couldn't keep his hands to himself, and the passion with which he was closing in to kiss. Their tongues were moving against each other, but no blood this time. Didn't need it. Armand wasn't so  much on edge from the usual hunger, and Daniel, for once, had put the fetish aside. 

 

Even so, there was the same strange dynamic at play, and Daniel was grinding against Armand's body anyway, their cocks rubbing against one another, Daniel's growing harder and Armand's not responding in the slightest. Daniel didn't seem to mind, though. In fact, Armand was picking up that he was excited by the feeling anyway, the newness of it. Armand had to crane his neck upwards slightly to reach Daniel's mouth, trailing one hand up and down Daniel's spine, pushing his hair back with the other. Daniel was making low noises in his throat. Yes, Armand, I fucking want you, just you.

 

Without warning, he spun Daniel around by his hips, fast enough that he would have fallen if they were both mortals, slipped. His body knew this instinctively and he felt the stab of adrenaline from above his kidneys, his palms slapping against the tiles as he went to catch himself. Armand was kissing the back of his shoulders now, his left hand reaching between Daniel's legs, hovering there over the wet pubic hair. 

 

Please touch me.

 

"No," Armand said. Daniel wiggled his body, trying to force Armand's hand. 

 

I want you so bad, please.

 

"Say it," Armand hissed.

 

Daniel whimpered as Armand slapped his ass. The sting blended outwards nicely against the hot water. Armand removed his hand completely to grab the soap, and rubbed it between his two palms until it bubbled, then put it back. He began to stroke slow circles over Daniel's chest with his left hand while the right went down over his ass again, rubbing the sore spot for a moment before going further, lower, and feeling for the opening with his fingertips. Daniel's back straightened when he felt Armand's prying digits, but relaxed again when they pushed through, his head lolling back, voice bordering on a whine. And though it had been a long time, Armand was remembering all the tricks, and remembering how it felt, and he felt Daniel's body quicken when he finally hit the right spot, and Daniel's thoughts were becoming a frantic mess of gibberish. Right there, right there, don't stop, and Armand laughed lowly against Daniel's ear as he moved his fingers faster against Daniel's prostate, torturing him with preternatural speed. He pinched at Daniel's nipple with his other hand, hard enough to elicit a sharp cry. It sounded like genuine pain, but he could still hear the steady internal stream: Don't stop, fuck, Jesus Christ, fuck Armand.

 

When Daniel went to go grab his own dick, Armand snatched his wrist away, squeezing the delicate bones in an iron grip, pressing it against his chest so that he couldn't move. "No, Daniel," he said. "You're not allowed to do that."

 

He was trembling all over now. Please let me, please let me, I have to. Touch me, suck me, anything. Even the pitch of his thoughts sounded frantic, like he was weeping.

 

"Say it," Armand said. He slowed his fingers to an agonizing pace, tightening the grasp on Daniel's wrist enough that he felt the bones grinding against each other. 

 

"Please, Armand," he cried.

 

"Please what."

 

"Please will you suck me?" he was gasping for air.

 

And he heard the ancient conversation in the deepest part of his mind as he whirled Daniel back around, milking the prostate still while he dropped to his knees. You're not my slave at all, are you? He'd asked his Master. And Marius had almost laughed.Yes, I am, if you must know.

 

His mouth was so hot this time, almost like he was alive. Preserved with Marius's Blood forever just the way it had been. And as he worked Daniel's cock with his tongue, with his other hand, as he massaged Daniel's balls and tasted the pre-cum, he could hear Marius again. This is what I want of you. 

 

Daniel cried out loud enough when he came that Armand was sure the neighbors heard. It made him smile a little around the softening cock. He slowly withdrew his right hand, and rubbed up and down Daniel's thighs to coax out the orgasm. The hair on his neck raised again in that predictable way when he swallowed, as it had last time, and he felt it tingling all over. 

 

Remember then that it was love.

 

As Daniel came down from it, still shaking a little, he allowed Armand to scrub his shoulders, and shampoo his hair, and accepted the tender gentle follow-up kisses without trying to escalate them again. Warm mouth. Warm smiles. 

 

Armand dried off easily enough afterwards, really only needing to pat himself down, but he took the time to wrap Daniel in a large towel, and throw a robe around his shoulders, and slicked the damp hair back from his forehead so that he could stare into the bright, clean face. And Daniel was softened and sated enough to dress without argument, and didn't resist when Armand still insisted that they go to the MoMA. The museum was closed for the night, but Armand wasn't concerned about that. He promised it would be fine. He'd only begun to scratch the surface of revelations, hadn't showed Daniel a fraction of the Gifts he had. Daniel was amazed by the way Armand could unlock the doors, and disarm the security, and he absorbed silently the way Armand's demeanor changed as he studied each sculpture, each contrasting modern painting. There was something so large at work here that Daniel wasn't quite grasping yet. But he wanted to grasp it. The antics could distract him, so could Armand's eccentricities and demands, but he knew he wasn't going to understand until Armand would bring him over. How else to grasp the span of time in this way? How else to find in Daniel a true partner, true lover?

 

"No," Armand said, and his eyes were so soft again, so sad. He took Daniel by the hand, the flesh still warm from before, and walked him out of the museum, down the brightly lit streets like they were a regular couple. His skin even still retained the faintly ruddy complexion. 

 

In no hurry they strolled downtown, the storefronts becoming seedier, darker. There were predators all around, but Armand was walking with ease, paying it no mind, and Daniel basked in his confidence. It was fascinating that no one even attempted to bother them; even though he looked warm and human, there was still such an ethereal grace, and the poise of undeniable power. Eventually they passed Bryant Park, then Herald Square, then headed down into Chelsea. For a long time they didn't speak.

 

But then Armand stopped in his tracks, and had his head tilted, staring into a store window that seemed to have him hypnotized. The neon sign turned his eyes red. No matter how humans progressed, and how bold society had become, he could still be surprised by things like this. He stepped closer to the glass and surveyed the display. The mannequins in leather and harnesses, the shiny vinyl costumes. A part of him that was raised pious, that had slaved away over ikons, couldn't believe what he was seeing. But the part of him that was a continual observer was thrilled.

 

He turned to Daniel and grinned.