The paper's amongst the others he has to sign to be on X Factor for more than a casual appearance, unassuming except for a note Liam's lawyer attached to the top saying READ ME in huge letters. Standard stuff when he first skims, but when he reads a little closer and looks up a couple terms online, he gets it.
It's a vampire release form, "removing liability from all parent companies" should Liam get all his blood sucked out.
He frowns as he taps his pen on the desk and his finger trails the words on the page to make sure he didn't miss any. He didn't have to sign one the last time he made it on the show. He wasn't on for long, sure, but everything else looks much the same, and he thinks it means he'll have more extended contact with a vampire. Or multiple vampires. Maybe one of the judges, but it seems more likely that the ones he'll see are in his newly-formed band.
Once Liam's checked everything, he thinks on it before he signs. For about five seconds. After all, every school he's been to has had vampires, he's had them in classes, he's seen them going into the standard feeding rooms at lunchtime, and he's raced them. The vampires at school were never the bullies. They were too busy trying to stay alive.
He draws his pen across the release with a hasty slash and forgets about it.
Liam doesn't think about it again until the day Zayn arrives at the bungalow at Harry's stepdad's. Liam has been eating with the other lads, to the point where Louis and Niall threw crisps at each other for a good hour one night, so he doesn't think about the mini fridge in the kitchen until he sees Harry pull a blood bag out of it.
"Sorry," he says when Harry rummages around the kitchen drawers for a straw. "Can I?"
Harry shrugs. "If you'd like."
Liam opens the fridge door, a wave of cool air hitting his face. There aren't many bags inside, and the ones there have a big stamp with a date two days in the future on the front. The blood looks fine, as far as blood goes, all oozy and dark red. Liam reaches out, but he stops just short of touching one.
"Can only get it once a week," Harry says, sticking a straw into the top casually like it's a juice box. "Loses its magical powers after that."
"Hey! Time for eating?" Niall pushes between them and gets a bag. "You're going into town tomorrow, yeah?"
Harry nods. "Louis said he'd drive."
Liam tries not to stare too much, but he mostly fails. Two vampires in the same band. What are the odds?
"Can't imagine what we'll do if we ever tour," Niall says, leaning on the wall as he plays with his straw. "It has to be a lot harder getting fresh supplies on the road."
Harry pulls off his straw and bites at his lower lip with a frown. It's amazing how Liam ever missed that he was a vampire, now that he sees him with fangs out and blood lining his lips. His skin's a bit more see-through than Liam's, or most humans, and Niall's looks the same, if a different shade. Their eyes are a little darker, too, almost like they don't catch the light in the same way.
"There's plenty of vampire musicians," Harry says, but his frown doesn't ease up.
"Probably have thralls as far as the eye can see." Niall sighs wistfully. "Heard Lady Gaga has four. Probably uses them as furniture during the show."
"She's not a vampire, and that's objectifying. My mum and sister are human, you know."
Liam doesn't think a row's going to break out - Niall's grinning, and Harry looks more thoughtful than angry - but Louis and Zayn come inside with the smell of smoke clinging to their clothes, and everyone's distracted by Louis's racket. Mostly Liam. Louis goes straight for Liam's nipples, and while it's annoying, at least he's too busy frowning and trying to slap Louis away to stare at Niall's blood bag for long.
"What's this? Your blood?" Louis asks, nudging at the fridge with the toe of his shoe when Liam finally manages to dislodge him. "Don't know how you live off that stuff."
Harry shrugs. "Better than burning to death outside."
Louis shudders dramatically and slings his arm round Liam's neck like they're actually mates. "So, Payner, as my fellow token human, you want to take guarding the crypt at turns?"
Liam looks between Louis and Zayn. It's easy to see now that Liam knows to look; Zayn's got the skin in another shade, and he bites his lip with slightly longer canines.
"You mind?" Zayn asks quietly when Liam doesn't say anything.
"What? I...no, of course not." Liam shoves Louis's arm off, scowling. "I just didn't know. Did you want me to know?"
Zayn shrugs. "It's all right."
"But you hadn't fed around me. And Louis..." Liam scowls his way. "That was very rude, what you just did."
Louis waves a dismissive hand. "He said he didn't care. It's not like he's going to feed on you anyway."
It's only when the kitchen goes silent that Liam realises Harry and Niall had been talking something else for a bit. He's got their full attention now, as well as Zayn's and Louis's.
"Did I say something?" Liam asks.
"Something mental?" Louis says. "Kind of."
Zayn elbows him.
"Nah, it's just most people don't volunteer unless they're getting something else out of it." Niall takes a sip out of his blood bag. "Money, orgasms..."
Liam's cheeks feel like they're on fire. Harry reaches out to pinch him.
"Aw, look at his face," Zayn says fondly. He's smiling brightly, so Liam can't really manage a frown back. But he should get some control of the situation.
"Come on, let's practice. Only got so much...oof!"
The lads tackle Liam before he can so much as finish the sentence, and they don't really do anything that night besides chase each other outside. Even with the way the light reflects off Harry's eyes sometimes, or the way Zayn disappears into the darkness, or Niall clutching his blood bag, it feels normal. Right, even.
The water in Spain's blue and warm and gorgeous. Liam and the others aren't the only ones playing in the waves. Louis takes turns climbing on top of shoulders, and when Louis's staring at Liam like he's next, Liam awkwardly makes his excuses and steps out to go to the loo, saying he'll meet them back at the house. The others follow behind him to sun on the beach, which apparently is fine for vampires as long as they've kept up on their blood. Harry and Louis are chatting, Zayn grabs the book next to his towel, and Niall smiles winningly at some of the women passing them on the beach as he dries off.
Liam pauses at the top of the sand. If they make it to the live shows, they won't have many quiet moments like this. It's what he wants. But it's a bit scary, too. He shakes his head and turns toward the toilets again.
He makes it back to the house first and showers, but he hears when the others make it back because they're loud. They're even louder when he's not part of the group somehow. He can't hear what they're saying, but they're laughing and probably throwing their things around and making a right mess of things.
He goes out in a towel, and they're all in their trunks or some state of nudity. Harry, of course, is completely naked and hugging Niall. Zayn and Louis are chatting, and Louis's leaning on one of the beds, rubbing at one of his wrists. Liam nudges him when he passes by, and Louis falls onto the bed dramatically.
"Watch it, Payne," he says, pointing at Liam, and Liam rolls his eyes as he goes for his clothes and turns his back on Louis as he pulls trousers on. He hears Louis ask for a hand up, hears Zayn laugh about how heavy Louis is...and then he hears a loud thump.
Liam turns, and he barely has time to see Louis on the ground, eyes rolled into the back of his head, colour completely missing from his face. He's not passed out, and he's not convulsing, but they're calling his name, and he's not answering.
"Liam." Zayn's right in Liam's face. "Find someone to call an ambulance."
Liam nods, his head heavy on his neck, and runs out the door.
He dashes down the halls, which is probably why Zayn told him to go, but other groups are filming interviews, so it takes him longer than it should to find an assistant that will look at him long enough to talk, much less make a call. Liam can barely get any words out of his throat, tight as it is, but filming stops when he gets them out. He leaves the crew scrambling to find the set nurse and runs back.
Niall's biting his nails by the closed door of their room and looks about two seconds from tears. He grabs Liam and holds him back before he can go inside.
"What's happened?" Liam asks him.
"He..." Niall takes a gulping breath. "He stopped breathing."
Others are coming down the hall. Niall looks at them, panicked, and Liam really doesn't understand, so he goes out of Niall's loosened grip and ducks inside the room again.
When he gets inside, Harry's kneeling by Louis's feet, eyes angry and red in the way eyes get when a person cries. He's holding Louis's ankles, and Liam stares for a moment because it's obvious Louis isn't moving much, but Harry looks more like he's propping himself up as Liam stares. Louis's wrist catches Liam's attention next with a puffy red bite mark on the inside, far bigger than the rare vampire bites Liam has seen unbandaged. And then up top...
Up top is Zayn, cradling Louis's head in his lap, holding his bleeding wrist to Louis's mouth.
Liam's seen a lot of blood this month; none of the lads are shy about drinking around him or Louis any more, now that they've shown they don't care much. Still, this is the first time he's seen vampire blood, and it's darker than Liam's blood would be, kind of the dark red that human blood can get when it's old. He knows from his classes at school that there's magic involved, something that allows them to have blood that travels more slowly without killing them, but he never paid attention. He should have done.
"Come now," Zayn says softly. His free hand's stroking Louis's forehead, brushing Louis's fringe out of his eyes. "Just a bit, Lou."
Liam holds his breath.
Zayn laughs all of a sudden, shaky and relieved, and presses his wrist closer to Louis's mouth. Liam frowns - he can't see anything - until the arm with Louis's bite reaches up and grabs Zayn's wrist, keeping him there. Louis's starting to regain colour, even in his hand, which was getting a blueish tint.
Harry puts his arm over his eyes and sobs, and Liam drops to his knees and lets Harry hug him hard. Harry's muttering into Liam's shoulder about being sorry, that he didn't know, and he doesn't pull away when Liam starts brushing at his curls.
It's different here, on the floor. He can see the trail of blood dripping down Zayn's arm, see Louis's mouth working on the wound, see the fangs behind Zayn's grin. A flush goes through Liam, and it's relief. Probably.
One Direction is down to four while Louis goes to hospital to make sure the change took properly and to get his first human feed with supervision. The group should be practising, especially since Louis might not make it back in time, but they can only seem to stare at the ground. They've done their camera time, spun it to sound like a minor injury - not even television can force a vampire to disclose - and have little to do but wait.
A car pulls up before Liam worries too much, and everyone turns to see Louis come out of the car. Well, Liam does; the others rush forward, Harry slightly slower than the others, eyes wide and terrified. Louis's nearly bowled over by them.
"All right, lads, all right." Louis's laugh is loud, maybe a little too loud, but the smile is genuine. He ruffles Harry's curls and tips their foreheads together for a moment, and Harry laughs a quiet sob.
"I'm fine, you nitwits, has Simon called for us yet?"
"No," Liam says.
Louis looks at him, and Louis's got the skin now, the darker eyes. Liam has to suppress a shiver because it's not that different, he knows it's not that different...until it is. How awful does it make Liam to be scared, to have his heart beating faster in his chest just from the sight of Louis?
"Guess you've got crypt duty for a while," Louis says quietly, eyes moving like he's taking in all of Liam's face.
Liam exhales a shaky breath. He ignores the way his skin crawls and runs for the group, butting Louis in the stomach with his head. Louis laughs in surprise.
They make it through to the live shows, and they have to go home and wait.
It's odd for Liam with his parents, having no extra fridge with blood or mattresses on the floor to share with the others. He finds himself calling the lads on the regular just to chat, and he's not the only one. Harry in particular calls him first sometimes, and they don't talk about anything, but Liam finds himself reassuring Harry without using the actual words. He would say what he's thinking, what the doctors said about allergic reactions to vampire saliva being extremely rare, that no one could have known, but every time Liam comes anywhere close to saying anything about Spain, Harry steers the conversation away.
Harry does tell him when he goes to visit Niall in Mullingar for a week, and since Liam's been living on the vampire-related pages of Wikipedia, he searches Niall's area just to see what he can find. It turns out it's also related to vampires; half the town were made into thralls thanks to a bloke that fancied himself Dracula attacking people and poisoning water supplies. It doesn't explain why Niall's a vampire, but if Liam's hesitant to talk about what's on the beach...well, asking someone how they died is certainly off-limits. It's terrifying.
Zayn, now that he knows Liam a little better, talks a little about what it's like to have saved Louis.
"Don't use the old terms," he says in one call like it's nothing. "Covens don't exist any more, so I'm not his sire or anything. But."
He pauses, and Liam says, "But?"
"I start laughing now and then, or I get worried, and it's not me feeling it. Bit odd, but not unusual, I guess."
"So you're never alone."
"No," Zayn agrees, voice warm. "Suppose not."
The first order of business at the contestant's house in London, after there's bed claiming and an initial tidying by Liam and Niall, is food. They eat an actual meal that Liam can share, but there's no blood bags for vampire dessert - vampires need blood direct from the source at least once a week, and while Liam bets that all of them went to one of their local centres before flying out, Louis in particular needs to be cautious.
"I'm coming," Liam says when the others are getting ready to go to the designated feeding room. He frowns when they all stare at him. "What? You're all going, and it's not like it's dangerous."
"You wouldn't have come before," Louis says, a little prickly.
"Don't you want me around?"
Louis stares off to the side and hugs Harry when Harry hugs him, but Niall bumps Liam with his hip. "You're a brave one, Liam James Payne."
"Or uninformed," Zayn says, but he's smiling.
The others pile out, and Liam lingers until Harry calls, "You coming, Liam? Won't wait on you."
Liam jogs to catch up.
He isn't sure what he'll see when they make it inside, but it's oddly disappointing: there's only some chairs and a middle-aged woman sitting in one with her legs crossed. She's looking at her phone and seems very bored. She only raises an eyebrow when she sees all of them. "Am I doing all of you, then?"
Niall laughs outright, and Harry gives him a disappointed look. Louis takes the opportunity to step up and extended his hand. "Just me today. What's your name, love?"
Charisma isn't a vampire thing - Liam has seen Louis treat most people they meet like this - but it's still kind of fun to see her lose her composure and flush as Louis settles in the chair next to her. She extends her arm without being asked for it, and Louis drags his fingers over the soft flesh on the underside while they chat about...some kind of advert Liam hasn't seen. Okay.
Harry and Zayn are talking in low voices, so Liam edges closer to them to listen in.
"...good at it, isn't he?" Harry's asking. "Took me years to get that smooth."
"I don't believe that," Liam says. Harry beams at him. Zayn's smirking a little. "You neither, Malik."
"Never said I had any problems," he says in that way that implies he thought he was completely bollocks at it, and winks.
Niall leans over Liam and says, "Look, here he goes."
"Isn't a production, lads," Louis calls in a normal voice, and the woman next to him laughs as he lowers his mouth to her arm. He even gives it a little kiss, cheeky arsehole that he is.
It takes about two seconds, when Liam thinks back. Blink of an eye. Vampires don't need much; they just need it fresh, with life. But while it's happening, Liam can't breathe, and it's like that film, The Matrix. Time slowing down, things spinning around...
Well. What he sees is Louis open his mouth, a glint of canines that were never that sharp before, and a flash of bright red as blood comes up to the surface. Liam sees Louis's eyes flutter, and Liam's breath is shaky and loud enough in his ears to drown out all else. Everyone can probably hear, god.
But the others aren't looking at Liam. They look at the woman in a measuring way - not that hungry, predator stare like all the films say - and they look at Louis, gazes hungry and...fond? Intense, definitely. Either way, Liam isn't on their radar whatsoever.
The moment ends, and everyone's thanking the woman - Pamela, as Liam finds out when he shakes her hand and checks to confirm. She looks good, barely like she lost blood at all, and the bandage Harry puts on her arm is holding well. The others slap Liam's back, and Louis's, and they all hug on the floor for a bit because, well, that's what they do.
Still, when they get up to leave, Liam lingers behind, staring at the chair Pamela left behind like it will tell him what it must be like to have their eyes on him during a moment like that. It doesn't, of course, and he hurries along to whatever's next on the schedule.
But he wonders.
Liam sees them all feed on people before the first live show.
Zayn he actually saw in Spain before Louis's accident, and he didn't pay much attention at the time. The others hadn't been around, and Liam had been texting with his mum about how lovely the beach was. In London, he watches carefully as they all mill together in the designated room, and it's only then that he gets what skill it takes for a vampire to feed; Zayn doesn't flash fang, doesn't let blood drip, and the PA who's on the rota doesn't so much as blink when he first bites.
Harry doesn't seem as good at it, and it's only when Liam asks later about the moments he takes to find the veins that he finds out why - Harry was revived in an A&E after a car wreck at the beginning of the year, so he's been at it barely longer than Louis.
"I can bite faster," Harry says with a shrug. "But I don't want it to hurt."
Niall isn't the neatest of the lot, although he's the best at cleaning after, but he clearly knows what he's doing, and it's watching him that makes Liam's breath come the shortest. Niall looks like he really enjoys it, eyes fluttering when he first bites down, soft appreciative noises coming out of his mouth as he sucks. It isn't until Niall finishes that Liam realises he's dragging his fingers across the denim of his jeans and biting on his lip as he watches; it's probably a little creepy to do, as a mate.
But that time, Liam catches a glimpse of Harry and Zayn watching him instead of Niall. Louis's still pointedly looking at no one, arms crossed in front of his chest, and so Liam has to look at him instead and pretend that he isn't curious just how Harry and Zayn watch. And to will that itchy feeling under his skin to go away.
The screaming fans appear straight away, and if Liam found vampires overwhelming, it's nothing next to the fans.
It's wonderful getting to sign through gates and take pictures with girls who wouldn't have looked at him twice before, and he knows how that sounds, but he really means it. He can't imagine why getting to chat with him makes a girl's day, but it does, and that's wonderful.
All of them soften a little bit about it. Harry very seriously listens when they talk about their performances and smiles, and no wonder they all love him best, when he smiles like he does. Zayn seems overwhelmed sometimes, and he has to retreat alone with his iPod when they get some free time, but his eyes sparkle in a way that Liam hadn't seen before the shows. Niall bounces between groups, doing his best boybander poses that he told Liam he practised when he was first into Justin Timberlake. Even prickly Louis doesn't snap as much these days. If he'd had to have an accident, it could have been at a worse time than when he was surrounded by kids his sisters' ages.
But Louis leans over after one session and whispers to Liam, "They wouldn't like me as much if they knew, would they." It isn't a question, and Louis turns away without expecting an answer, which is lucky. Liam doesn't know what to say back.
A couple weeks in, it's getting chillier outside, and Louis is still feeding several times a week. They all still go whenever they're not being pulled away for an interview or rehearsal, and Harry starts holding Louis's hand while he feeds. The distance the guys kept between each other mostly felt polite before, but when Liam sees the two of them cuddled together, Harry fondly touching Louis's hair, it seems a bit silly.
They move a couch inside the feeding room, but Liam hangs back on the far arm no matter who's feeding. He's not the only one; whichever staff member got enlisted is usually in their own chair with their arm extended. Liam doesn't think it's because the person getting fed on enjoys it a little too much, but Liam has to strike a balance. He's there for the others, but he doesn't think they want him that there.
He just ignores the leering smiles from Niall and the smouldering eyes from Zayn and pretends they can't read him as well as they obviously can.
Total Eclipse of the Heart is Harry's suggestion. The theme during the song is Louis's.
"Don't think most people give it much thought," Louis says casually when everyone else falls quiet, in that way where he isn't very casual about it at all. "How vampires are just humans who died."
"You're sure?" Zayn asks quietly. Liam looks toward him, but his face is blank, so if he's feeling anything in particular from Louis, it's impossible to read.
Louis nods, and then Niall sits on his lap and nods. When Liam looks at Harry, Harry beams in a way that says he and Louis have discussed it already. Which makes sense, if Harry came up with the song.
"But we won't..." Liam bites his lip before he adds the "win" at the end of the sentence. It's horrible to think. The worst that can happen to him is he'll go back to his original plans. He won't be one of the vampires that was on the telly, he'll just be the human with them. Forgettable.
He looks around at the others sprawled in the bunk beds, and his stomach twists. Going home without an album deal is much, much worse than it would have been at the beginning of the month.
But they're going to do it their way, which is why he says, "It's a brilliant idea," and they go on with red-rimmed eyes and fake blood in various places. Liam has a dripping bite mark on his throat, and when he asks Louis while in makeup if it's okay, Louis outright laughs and ruffles his hair. Liam has to get his hair fixed again, but it's worth it.
They go on to their usual ear-piercing screams, and when they're talking to the judges, Harry casually says, "Some of us are vampires, and we wanted to show the others out there they're not alone", and that's it. They can't hear a single other thing under all the shrieks.
They stay in the competition that week, and for weeks after. The blogs think the fans like the tragic element or something, and whenever they try to go out in public, they're swamped. It's absolutely brilliant.
Less brilliant is that the volunteers for blood feeding have dried up. Not disappeared - there's three or four that show up repeatedly - but enough that Louis's drinking less. Makeup tries to cover it as best they can, but while no one's entirely sure who the vampires in the group are, no one doubts about Louis from week five on.
"Is there anything we can do?" Liam asks Niall when he gets a chance. Niall's plucking around on a guitar. "It can't be comfortable."
"It's not like he'll burn or anything." Niall doesn't look away from the guitar. "I know what you're thinking."
Liam laughs nervously. "Didn't know vampires could read minds outside films."
"You really want to be tied to us for the rest of your life?"
He doesn't say the word "thrall", but he doesn't have to. It doesn't mean what it would in the old days, serving a coven and living in a castle dungeon and never seeing his family again. Liam's not sure what it would mean, exactly, but...
"That's why I've been doing all this," Liam says, waving at the stage. He can't help grinning. "Nothing less."
Niall sets the guitar down gently and hugs Liam hard. Liam grabs him back.
It's unsaid at that point, but judging by the way the others look at him with something...waiting, they all know what Liam and Niall talked about. It's a good kind of waiting from Harry and Zayn, probably.
Louis corners Liam before they leave the feeding room the week before last. Literally corners - he crowds Liam against the wall, comes close enough that Liam can feel the post-feeding heat coming off Louis's skin. Liam's not thinking so much about anything besides how close they are, but seeing Louis's dark eyes and red-stained mouth and fangs makes Liam's breath come short. It would be so easy for Louis to lean in, to bite down...
"You know my family's been getting calls?" Louis asks in a quiet voice.
"'Burn the vampire' is the most common. Some people get creative with stakings, taking the head off." Louis clenches his jaw for a moment, and he only relaxes enough to say, "My sisters hear it at school."
Liam's breath comes short. "Oh, Lou, I'm so..."
"Don't. That isn't why I'm telling you."
Louis takes a second, probably to think, and his face is fading into something more...not human, even if that's Liam's first thought. More like the Louis Liam is used to seeing. Something a little more pulled back. The fangs are gone, and his skin's closer to Liam's. Liam doesn't think when he grabs Louis's hand, but Louis jerks a little.
"You have a choice," Louis says finally. "You can still leave. Promise me you'll think about it."
"You can leave too, Lou."
Louis meets Liam's eyes. "Promise me."
Liam nods, and he squeezes Louis's hand one more time before letting go.
They don't win, and Liam's as ready for it as he can be, but he's gutted. He's less ready for Simon calling them together and offering them a record deal, although, looking back, he isn't sure why. They made it to the finals. People like them.
They move into a hotel room before the wrap party, and they all go and have a laugh, but Liam goes back early. He's tired, but there's something under his skin all the same. He thinks maybe he'll go for a run before he goes to bed.
But when he gets into his exercise clothes and uses the loo, he finds the others waiting on the bed in his room. Harry's lying cradled between Louis's legs, Louis's lying against Zayn, Zayn's got his arm around Niall's shoulders. They're so tangled together, if Liam didn't know where to look, they'd almost look like one big knot.
"What happened to the party?" he asks, pulling his earbuds out.
Zayn shrugs. "Got bored. Thought you might want to watch a movie."
"You have your own rooms now. You don't want space?"
"There's plenty," Niall says with a grin.
Louis pats a spot on the bed next to him, and Liam goes over slowly. There's something else going on, and he's not sure what...
...until he sees something in Zayn's hand. His eyes narrow as he reads the side. "Red Epi Pen?"
"For vampire allergic reactions," Harry says, sounding more wise than usual. He squeezes Louis's hand, and Louis squeezes back.
"We don't have to do it now," Niall says. When Zayn nudges him, Niall adds, "At all, even. But we're prepared if you still want to."
Liam takes a shaky breath. "Only if Louis's all right."
Louis's eyes meet his. "You've thought about it?"
He has, as much as he's thought about anything these past weeks. His life has changed so much in every way possible, and this is just another change. A commitment only slightly more serious than the papers they'll be signing over the next few days before the Christmas holidays, and even then, the bond can fade with distance. He hopes that won't happen any time soon.
When Liam nods, Louis says, "I'm here, aren't I?", and he tweaks Liam's nipple.
Liam smiles meekly and bats away Louis's hand. "Then who's first?"
Niall raises his hand and edges closer. "I will have you know that there is a grand ritual in becoming a thrall. I believe the old-timer word for it is 'orgy', and that might be a big goal, but we will do our best to meet it."
He lays a big sloppy kiss on Liam's cheek, and Liam laughs. "What really happens?"
"You drink some of my blood, I drink some of yours, and after that..." Niall's eyes are twinkling even as they darken with hunger. "Whatever you need."
Liam shivers. Niall holds up his arm in question and bares his fangs, and Liam nods.
Dark blood wells to the surface when Niall bites into his skin, and Liam's close enough that he can smell it. It's like the human blood they drink all the time, metallic and rich, but as Niall extends his arm, there's a darker smell underneath, something Liam can't explain. Maybe it's the magic that all vampires have. Is that something he could smell?
When he leans in and looks to Niall for confirmation, he gets a small nod and smile in return. It's probably the most serious Liam's ever seen Niall. Liam ducks his head to lick over the wound experimentally.
The blood tastes like blood. If it was plugged into a wall. Liam feels like his hair stands on end as he wraps his lips around the wound in Niall's arm and sucks; his eyes, which had fluttered closed naturally, shoot open. It's all he can do to swallow a couple times instead of breaking off and running around the room. Niall pulls back before too long, and Liam runs hands through his hair.
"You never said..." he gasps. "Wow."
Niall giggles and ruffles Liam's hair, and Liam giggles, too. Only it's not coming from him, exactly? He looks to Zayn with a raised eyebrow, and Zayn nods knowingly. Definitely wow.
"Now my turn," Niall says.
Liam nods eagerly and taps the side of his throat. "Here?"
Niall leans in, and Liam throws his head back. It's more natural than it should feel, letting them into his space. He shakes with the combination of blood in his system and the idea of Niall's teeth sinking into his skin, fisting his hands in the duvet like it'll settle him some...
But Niall pulls back. "Maybe later. I had a different idea."
He grabs Liam's wrist and strokes it with too-careful care. Liam snorts, but he lets Niall pull it up. "One per person, is that it?"
"Two arms, two legs," Niall agrees, and he bites down.
Maybe it would hurt normally, getting the teeth in his skin. But with every cell in his body singing, and the knowledge that they're finally letting Liam take care of them all, it feels nothing but good when Niall's fangs pierce in. He even cries out when Niall starts to suck and what would be radiating pain is a flush through his whole body.
"You all right?" Zayn asks, leaning in close.
Liam nods, gasping as Niall drinks. He flails out his hand, and Zayn takes it. The contact feels amazing. Liam can't help rubbing his palm against Zayn's, and after they do that for a moment, Zayn closes his other hand on top of Liam's. He's braced by all the lads now: Niall at one hand, Zayn at the other, Harry and Louis behind. He's never felt anything like it.
Niall pulls back after both an eternity and a second at the same time. The tingle fades, and Liam pulls Niall into a hug.
"That wasn't so bad, was it?" Niall asks, grinning when he moves back.
"Could've been worse."
Liam and Niall giggle at the same time.
"Now that is just bizarre," Louis says.
"Me next." Zayn has a small knife that he's using to cut into himself, and Liam looks with a frown over at Niall's wrist. Which is already healed up.
When Liam says as much, Niall says, "You too," and taps Liam's wrist. It's true; the wound is healed. The scar is still easy to see, but it looks weeks old at least.
"Magic," Liam says wonderingly.
"Pretty much." Zayn holds up his arm, and Liam goes in before too much blood spills.
It's different sucking Zayn's blood, much like drinking a cuppa with sugar is different than a glass of wine. Liam finds himself rolling the blood on his tongue, feeling the thick texture of it, which is never the sort of thing he thought he'd ever do. Then again, he never thought he'd be drinking blood in the first place. Life is strange.
Unlike with Niall, Liam feels the exact moment Zayn appears in his head; Zayn is how the blood tastes, warm and rich. Liam smiles when Zayn smiles, and Niall's happiness peaks as well. It's so much he could burst.
"It wears off," Zayn says, even though he hasn't had any of Liam's blood yet. "Doesn't go away entirely, but it won't be distracting."
Liam pulls off and licks his lips. He offers Zayn his other arm, and Zayn laces his fingers with Liam's for a moment, squeezing. Zayn smiling is like staring into the sun; he has the sweetest face.
"Liam really likes you," Niall says, lolling on the bed with a grin. Liam's not the only one who has to adjust.
"Like you, too," Zayn tells him because he's a charmer like that. Niall playfully punches Zayn's leg as Zayn puts Liam's other wrist to his mouth.
Zayn getting his teeth in Liam feels somewhat how it looked when Liam watched him feed before - no pain, just spreading warmth, like burrowing under a blanket. Liam runs a hand over the back of Zayn's hair while he drinks, and it tickles his palm more than before, but it's still more than Niall's jolt.
When Zayn pulls back, Liam's lids are drooping, and he stifles a yawn with one hand.
"He going to be all right for us?" Louis asks.
Liam gives a thumbs up at the same time Harry says, "Absolutely. Just watch."
He slips away from Louis and straddles Liam's lap, pushing him gently down. As Liam goes, the exhaustion eases, and he's left staring into Harry's intense gaze with his breath caught.
"Kiss me," Liam asks without thinking about it. When Harry looks surprised, Liam thinks about it and nods. "Please."
Harry smirks, and it's funny how sweet he looks until he knows he's gotten what he wants. The satisfied side is just as enticing as the cute one, and when Liam's lips meet Harry's, Liam hums happily. It comes out a little squeaky, sure - he's not usually like this with his mates - but it's certainly happy.
When Harry breaks away to suck on the birthmark on Liam's throat, Zayn comes in for a turn. He hovers without openly asking, and Liam grabs him by the back of the head and gently pulls him in. Zayn kisses sloppier than he drinks, and Liam shouldn't be delighted by it, but he is. It's nice to see him lose control in something.
Liam's only distracted when Harry tugs at his sweatpants. He jerks away from Zayn, and Harry holds up his hands. "Just for access. Won't do anything you don't want."
"It's fine, I just..."
Harry lays a gentle kiss on Liam's thigh. "Only this for now."
He bites, and should it be in that order, taking blood before sharing blood? Liam worries during the initial thrill of pain, but it feels like the connection to Niall and Zayn push back in a warm, buzzy haze, and Liam has to fight not to writhe under Harry's mouth. Harry's stroking his hands on Liam's legs, and maybe it's because Harry hasn't shared yet, but Liam can feel every drop of his blood as it leaves his body and crosses Harry's tongue.
Niall crosses into Liam's view, and he pats him on the arm. "I think I'll kiss you after you drink," he says, matter-of-fact. "Lick Harry out of your mouth."
Zayn's nose crinkles. "That's disgusting."
"You're not licking into someone's mouth when you kiss them. Not if you do it right."
"You obviously haven't done much kissing, Malik."
Harry bounces back up the bed, and Louis shoves him over until he falls over Liam's chest. Liam laughs as much as he can with Harry's bony elbows in his stomach.
After they collect themselves a bit, Harry bites into his wrist and offers it to Liam. Liam takes it. Placing his lips against the wound is oddly familiar now, and even though Harry's blood is sweeter than either Niall or Zayn, Liam's now used to the thicker texture of the blood, of what it's like to take a few mouthfuls easily and feel someone else in the back of your head.
It's nothing like he thought it would be. It's better.
Just like Niall promised, after Liam pulls away from Harry and shares a thank-you peck with him, Niall comes in for an enthusiastic kiss. He doesn't exactly lick into Liam's mouth, but he does flick his tongue around and groan, probably at the taste of blood. Liam can taste nothing else now.
But he doesn't forget Louis, sitting silent behind him. He turns away from Niall, and there Louis is, looking small and oddly young. His skin is still the most vampire-like, thin and showing off his veins.
Liam takes his hand, and Louis lets him, even if he doesn't look his way.
"Let me help you?" Liam asks quietly. Louis needs the most, and now that Liam has the others' blood in his stomach, he should be able to give Louis as much as he needs. That's how it's supposed to work, anyway.
Louis shakes his head. "You first."
He moves his lips around dramatically - he has problems getting his fangs to drop, sometimes - and rubs at his mouth when they finally do. It's never occurred to Liam before how good Louis looks as a vampire, since he's been so concerned with Louis being a vampire, and an ill one at that. But even the illness hasn't lessened his curves, or dimmed the keen look in his eyes at everything, and that's the look he turns on Liam when he bites into his own arm and makes a quiet little noise.
"You all right?" Liam asks.
Louis waves him away with his free hand, gnaws for a moment at his skin, and finally pulls his wrist out of his mouth. "Not very good at it yet, I'm afraid."
"You're fine, Lou," Harry says, leaning on his shoulder. "Not any worse than me, anyway."
Zayn takes Louis's other side, and Niall flops onto Liam. Liam feels all the others in his head, happiness flaring as they look at each other. If he'd had any reason to doubt any of this before, it's gone.
He reaches out and cradles Louis's bitten wrist. "Can I?"
"Might as well," Louis says, but his voice shakes quietly.
Liam takes more care with Louis than he did with the others. He leans in slow so Louis can break away if he wants, and he kisses the uninjured parts of Louis's wrist before he licks the blood trails Louis created. The wound is more jagged than the others, and Louis makes what sounds like a vocalised gulp when Liam finally drinks properly. Liam still keeps it light, partially for Louis's peace of mind, partially because Louis's blood tastes the most human of the lot. It's a little harder to stomach, but it's more satisfying in a way. Maybe it's what it's like when a vampire drinks from a human.
When Liam can tell he's had enough blood, and he can feel something in his head that's a little uncomfortable at the same time as being happy, he lies back on the bed. He sees his dick poking up against his boxers, and even though it's not like he's surprised, he flushes anyway. Seems rude to have Louis suck his blood through his thigh when Liam could poke his eye out.
Niall drops a hand onto Liam's thigh. "Next part might be easier if we get you off, yeah? Louis can take his time that way. Go for the throat."
Liam's dick jumps, and he covers his face with his hands. It's one thing to kiss, but...he wants to help. Not to be desperate for everyone's hands on him.
"It's okay," Harry says, petting Liam's hair. He feels...amused? It's simpler telling which is which when they're touching him. Feels better in general, really.
When Liam lowers his hands, Zayn's staring at him and licking his lips. And that's it.
"Lou," Liam says, breathing hard. "You have to drink or I'm going to mess my pants before we get anywhere."
Louis laughs and straddles Liam's chest. The discomfort's gone, from the feel of things. It's changing into something else, something more...turned on? Yes, turned on; when Liam strokes his thighs with his hands, the feeling of Louis laughing in his mind turns into something hotter, sharper. Liam can feel his dick going from half-mast to full behind Louis.
When Liam says, "Please," his voice comes out deeper, more desperate.
"You like hands or mouths?" Harry asks, shifting down to Liam's legs with Niall and Zayn.
Niall nods knowingly. "Sick."
The next part Liam only puts together from hazy memories in pieces days after the fact (during his family's Christmas dinner, to his mortification). Everything happens at once, and it's so good and so overwhelming that Liam ends up grabbing hold of Louis's back and staring between the others and the ceiling and just feeling.
But he generally thinks Niall wraps one of his hands, skilled from guitar and who knows what practise, around Liam's dick and strokes in slow motions, keeping up with the mouth that's on the head. Harry definitely takes a turn sucking - he pops off to smile at Liam with redden lips at one point - but Liam's pretty sure Zayn does some as well, and he never sees it with his eyes, but he can just picture the way his cheekbones look as he sucks, the way his eyes flutter shut and he just enjoys it. Liam knows, from the sense in his head pulsing and cresting, that he jerks himself while he helps Liam, and maybe some other time, Liam will get to help.
What Liam is absolutely sure about is when Louis finally leans in and bites into Liam's throat. The smell of Liam's blood hits his nose as if it was the first time he bled, and he's so in tune with Louis that it's like Liam's getting full and stronger on his own blood. It's that as much as the contact to his dick that has him coming, and as he drifts off at the end, the come on his stomach feels as warm as the blood on his neck.
"...much blood on the sheets, did we? We're terrible vampire rock stars."
"We're brilliant. No victimising the fans."
"No, just members of our own group, Harold."
Liam cracks an eye. "Can't be a victim if you're willing, can you?"
The mattress shifts under him, and Liam yawns and stretches; he's dressed again and wrapped in a blanket. Full service. He only freezes when four heads lean in, and they're all looking at him. Just like he always wanted.
"Any reason you're all still awake?" he asks the others to hide the little shiver that goes over his skin.
"Watching you, of course," Louis says, and Liam shivers again. Louis's washed his face, and he looks almost like he did before. He really must have taken his fill. "Crypt duty."
Liam laughs and takes Louis's hand. "Come on. Lots to do later."
Louis falls next to him, and they pile around Liam. He falls asleep again just moments later, warm and happy in both mind and body, and with only little scars to tell the story of the night he had.