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He doesn't dream much anymore.

He can't tell whether it's a side effect of that, or just the result of his messed-up sleeping schedule. When the show is on break he stays up all night, then crawls into his room with the boarded-up windows and sleeps until twilight, and it's a hundred times more restful than tossing and turning while the moon is bright and the other night-things out creeping.

Sometimes he thinks he would sell his soul (if there's anything left of it) for one good dream about sunbathing on a grassy hill. Or crunching into a fresh BLT. Or watching the prow of his boat slice through the waves ahead. (The movies get it all wrong: he hates the sun, sure, but he's scared of the ocean.)

What he gets instead, when he dreams at all, is a preview of what would happen if he let instinct take over.

The flying is nice. That's something, at least. Rushing above the skyscrapers in a swarm of eyes and wings and radar-dish ears, or floating insubstantial down the streets and letting the city breathe him in and out.

And so it goes until he catches the scent of prey. A flash of movement and he's off, grinning from every shadow until the victim begins to run. The chase is no contest; the whole point is to make the poor thing dizzy with adrenaline, heart thudding and lungs burning until it hurts to scream when he finally pins it down. It screams anyway, of course, fighting with nails and elbows and heels, still struggling as he sinks his teeth into its neck and lets the hot blood spill into his mouth.

It's not like human dreams, where the stranger only turns around at the end to reveal a familiar face. He knows who he's going to kill from the moment he smells them. It's Jon about half the time, which is surprisingly low (or would be, if he thought about it), given that Jon is the only human whose taste he knows from reality.

There have been a few animals. An unlucky pigeon that landed on his windowsill (he's still not sure how he moved that fast); a stray dog (never again, never again, only because Jon had still been pale from the last feeding). One of the news reports suggested he might have control over vermin, but all he managed to summon was a flood of cockroaches, and not even playing The Lion King at top volume was enough to sell him on that meal.

These days he buys armloads of plushies, sprays them with whatever animal blood he can get his hands on (they've cracked down on dealers since '99, but there are a couple of butchers willing to do it under the table if he recites the Lord's Prayer first), and slingshots them across the apartment. It takes the edge off, and was worth the high-powered vacuum he had to buy to clean up all the fuzz. He's thought about asking Jon to throw them, to make it more spontaneous; but he doesn't want Jon to see him like this, at once carnal and pathetic, losing himself in bloodlust while tearing through the seams of a button-eyed teddy bear.

Stephen attacking a stuffed rabbit

Of course he's thought about asking for the rest of it. He holds back on that too. Waits quietly as Jon swabs down the crook of today's designated elbow with rubbing alcohol (ridiculous; it's not like he's rabid or anything) before resting it on the arm of the couch. (Most of the year the mark is hidden under long grey sleeves; in summer he wraps it in gauze and blames the Red Cross, and they both pray nobody calls to check.) Drops to his knees, bares his fangs, and bites into the vein with clinical precision; Jon's heartbeat jumps, but he clamps the arm in place and sucks gently until his hypnotic effect begins to take hold.

It wouldn't be so mellow, if Jon agreed to play along. It would be faster; messier; far more painful at first, almost euphoric as it went on. And he knows with aching certainty that he wouldn't be able to stop after a pint.

He quashes the thoughts as he pulls away, licking the wounds to help them close. There's a separate scar on Jon's forearm, a pale circle from a ring of flat ghoul's teeth, and he runs his tongue over this too: it's healing, he plans to say if Jon asks, although in truth it's purely possessive. He needs to reassure himself that he'll never let anyone else get that far again. That Jon is his kill.

Jon doesn't ask.

So Stephen volunteers nothing, except a cursory thanks for the donation, and hopes he won't have to dream tonight.