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The Art of the Blood

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As a medical man who has plied my trade under many adverse conditions - and often in countries with customs and practices of their own that range from the enlightening to the appalling - I am quite used to seeing the accoutrements of earlier times as well as barbaric implements of torment once understood to be helpful when they were, in truth, anything but. Yet there are some that disturb me more deeply, because as much as modern medicine understands them to be museum curiosities at best, there remain those who cling to them, to their own detriment, and I would never wish to allow anyone in my care or my affections to harm themselves with such folly.

I rarely questioned my dear friend Sherlock Holmes on the provenance of any of the strange array of items that littered our rooms in Baker Street. He was, if I may be frank, a packrat, as well as a hunter who enjoyed collecting trophies of his insatiable curiosity. Some of his items were gruesome and some sinister in aspect, being souvenirs of heinous crimes and criminals, whilst some were of medical or biological interest. I was disturbed most greatly by those which seemed to have some connection to Holmes’s own vices and self-abuses: his injecting needle in its morocco case, of course, and perhaps this wooden box I had just found. It contained three glass vessels with brass valves, and a weapon of brass with scalpels and blades. From a glance it could be taken for a set of old drinking glasses with an odd knife, yet I knew it to be a bloodletting kit. I could tell that it was old, and from its scratches and stains, well-used.

Surely Holmes would not resort to such methods upon himself, would he? The cupping method was a practice with deep roots in antiquity - even the Muslim doctors had used it and believed it endorsed by the Prophet himself. The practice seemed to sweep the world, and had been popular even within living memory. Surely Holmes, of all people, would not believe in the ancient theory of the four humours, nor would he be inclined to…

There was no time to put the kit away when I heard his footsteps and the opening of the door. He would know that I had seen it, so I resolved to meet his gaze and question him. As Holmes entered, I left the kit where I had found it, and made my way to my customary chair, glancing about the room so as not to give the impression that I had an unhealthy preoccupation.

He watched me, his alert hawk’s-eyes taking in every flawed detail of my subterfuge. He knew me well enough not to miss the nervous tic of my cheek and the tremor of my hand.

With a sweep of his gaze, he let me know that he had seen all, and was making a choice to spare me by refusing to address my real concern. He hung up his greatcoat, loosened his shirt cuffs, and made himself comfortable in his usual seat opposite me beside the fire. “You’re wondering about my life before you knew me,” he said calmly. “You’ve been especially curious on that score of late.”

“How did you know that?” I asked, humouring him, deflecting.

“Your eyes wandered to my Stradivari violin. You often look at it rather intently even when it isn’t being played, and yet you demonstrate a reluctance to touch it. I have often wondered if its great value alone accounts for that, or if there is something else about it that puts you off.”

“But that’s incredible!” I ejaculated. “I had only so briefly glanced at it!” This was not the angle I had expected him to take, and I foolishly hoped it would lead to no dangerous subjects after all.

“Yes, but there are glances and there are glances, my dear.” His grey eyes glittered with mischief - and, did I dare to dream, flirtation? “You don’t seem to doubt that I deserve to own it - you esteem my playing rather higher than I myself do - but I suspect you may treat my tale of acquiring it from a peddler for fifty-five shillings to be rather tasteless in the way it strains credulity. I noticed that when first I told you the story, and then I distracted you from the question with anecdotes of the great Paganini whilst plying you with the reddest and richest of clarets. I’m sure you thought I was attempting to lead you down a garden path.”

“Holmes,” I said. “Have I accused you of lying before?”

“Well,” said he, “if you had done in that case you would have impressed me, for you would have been correct. But credit me this - I was indeed trying to guide you to the truth, even then. Yet I knew that if you found the Hebrew broker story hard to believe, then how much more would you struggle with the reality, for it is a far more bizarre tale - and, I must tell you, one I would never confess to a man I did not trust with my darkest secrets. I did not know you as well then as I do now. My immediate deductions do not always penetrate into a man’s soul at first glance.”

I sat back in my armchair, taken aback by this rare admission of Holmes’s own limitations - and by the implication that he had now judged me ready to hear the full truth. If I allowed myself the time to dwell upon the matter, I could be carried too far away. Instead of losing myself in hopeless conjecture, I leaned forward and affected a jovial manner, though I’m sure to him I was transparent as a bee’s wing. “If you adjudge me ready to hear the full account, old boy, I am all ears. The fire is warm and crackling and I have no pressing business.”

“Very well,” he said, and seemed to take a moment to collect his thoughts. Suddenly he unfolded his whole lean frame and seized his Stradivarius from the chair where he had carelessly tossed it. He held it at length with his long arms, gazing at it, and then he took it with him as he returned to his customary seat, letting it lounge across his lap as if it were a cat.

“I was not always a healthy child, and my life was more than once despaired of before I reached majority, as I think you know,” he said. “When I became a young man, I resolved not to take my life for granted, and my natural inclination to avoid society was at war with my drive to learn as much about the world as I could, ere an end which could come at any moment. During my university days, I entered a deep melancholy after the tragic aftermath of the Gloria Scott affair, and it was beyond even my powers to pull myself up above the waves. A family physician advised me that the climate of the Continent could be beneficial for my health, and also rewarding to my interest in the arts, particularly music. Of my interests in crime, of course I had said nothing, but I suspected there could also be good research opportunities in that field as well. So in my twenty-first year, I undertook a journey. I could go on at great length, but I’ll just say I took as many opportunities as I could to hear and meet the greatest musicians of the age. I persuaded one of the greatest violin masters of all eternity to take me on as a student.

“He had many eccentricities, including the use of that bloodletting kit which you found so upsetting. Did you think I would allow you to change the subject so easily? I spoke of the violin because the two are closely connected.”

So Holmes had indeed spotted my fascination with that cursed object. “He was quite devoted to all sorts of queer remedies from the time of his youth, and from practitioners in arcane and unsanctioned arts that he met in his travels. His health had always been terrible - and indeed, he died in 1840.”

I took a moment to turn this over in my mind. I reflected upon Holmes’s claim that he had given me hints. I did indeed possess enough wit to remember that Holmes had permeated my wine-sodden mind that previous evening with tales of a great, more-than-slightly mad, and usually-half-dead violin master who had died in 1840.

I closed my eyes for a moment, composing the precise words which I would use to walk into the conversational trap that Holmes had so clearly set for me. With a long-suffering sigh of the type that I had learned from elderly female house servants, I simply said flatly, “I reject where your hints are leading me. You are nowhere near old enough for that to possibly be true. You were born in the mid-50s, I’m very certain.”

“’54,” Holmes said calmly. “You are not wrong. And I am not lying. I did indeed study for a brief time in the mid-’70s under the great Paganini himself, who died in ’40. And of course it was from him that I have my fiddle here.”

He emphasised his words with a sharp pizzicato, and lowered his gaze to it. His avoidance of my eyes, I know now even if I did not then, was not the shy dodge of the liar, but that of the teller of a jarring truth who wants to allow the person to whom he has told it the privacy of absorption of a world-rocking thought. For all that Holmes was a bohemian spirit whose manner was often considered rude and shocking, he also could show a most exquisite sensitivity.

I forced myself to breathe deep, bringing into my lungs air filled with grounding scents - the wholesome wood smoke of the fire, the lingering hints of tobacco that permeated the rugs and walls, a tantalizing whiff of meat from our dinner’s leftovers, whisky from the sideboard, and the pomade-and-wool-and-skin scent of Holmes. I fancied I could smell half-century-old residue on that thrice-damned kit of false medicine, all wood and brass and glass and crust. “A moment, if you please,” I said with feigned lightness, and rose to pour myself three fingers from the decanter. Thus fortified, I sat back down and waited for Holmes to tell me of his old teacher’s condition - and what Holmes gave up in order to work with him.

“As you know, Paganini suffered from consumption of the larynx, and eventually lost nearly all the use of his voice - even more so, then, did he rely upon the sound of his instrument to convey his moods and his thoughts. Yet he had found that the drinking of blood, ideally human, could restore his voice and soothe his pain for brief periods. For a time, he used this kit primarily on himself. After his death and return, as you must have guessed, his own blood no longer served this purpose nearly as well, and he was forced to seek other sources.”

“After his death,” I said, laughing softly. “He was a vampire, then.”

“Yes, of course. The sad story of how his body lay in a house unburied for years, for no Roman priest would consecrate him? A fiction with a grain of truth. My physical health at least had greatly rebounded when I met the master in the South of France in ’75; we both had grasp of the French tongue well enough to converse with each other when he could speak, and I could read his notes when he could not. I was not so incompetent in my playing that he would refuse to hear me, and so we had a brief period of…mutual advantage. Though I don’t mind saying, he could be tyrannical and terrifying. Yet he was a good teacher in his way, and not always unkind.”

“Mutual advantage,” I said, turning the words over and over in my mind, and contemplating Holmes, always pale and thin even at his liveliest. “I take that to mean that you let him—“ I could not even finish the thought in words - my voice felt stolen and choked even as the great master’s must have been.

“Yes,” Holmes said, his eyes gleaming in the firelight. “He kept me well fed, and paradoxically enough, when he drank from me it had the effect of increasing my appetite to such a degree that I became more robust than I had been, not less. And - Watson, please understand, the confession of this must never leave this room. It has taken me a long time to study your nature enough to know that you will be only slightly scandalised by this - at first, we used the kit. I drew blood from myself, as he taught me, and then he toasted me with strangled words of affection, and drank from a cup. Later on, I allowed him - more intimacy. The kit was laid aside and I let him suck his sustenance directly. I let him use his mouth; I let him put his fangs in my neck and my wrists and my thighs. And I confess, I found the experience frighteningly pleasurable.”

“I have encountered this…in my practice,” I choked. “I am not one who denies the existence of the undead. As you must know, I am a man of science and I know what is real, and I have seen the effects . . .”

“Yes, I know,” Holmes said with a droll calm that frightened me all the more considering the weight of his words. “It is not a common phenomenon, but it is not so rare that denials ring easy. Of course a well-travelled military and medical man must have seen with his own eyes that it exists. For my part, my long hesitation in telling the full tale had to do not only with the art of the blood, but with the suggestion of . . . inversion.”

I let that word ring in the air. “I have also encountered that before,” I said carefully, my mouth dry as the Maiwand sand.

“Yes,” was all Holmes said to that, and the tiny, barely-there, easily-missable upturn of one corner of his mouth was sufficient to drive me to another two fingers of Scotland’s second-greatest contribution to civilisation after Robert Burns.

 

***

I passed a restless night, as I had done so often since Afghanistan. Dingy London dawn began to peer through the curtains, and I shut them with a vengeance, praying sleep would at last come upon me. I was beset by visions of Holmes as a blooming youth, his agile and supple hands learning the art of the violin from one of its greatest players of all time, every sinew and vein celebrating his return to health. Would Paganini have disdained Vivaldi? To me, Holmes would have been the embodiment of the “Spring” in the Four Seasons, frisky and untamed. Vigorous and lithe and full of hot blood, enough to spare for a parasitic master.

I thought of the dreadful bloodletting kit and I imagined Holmes learning all its intricate workings to draw blood from his lean, long limbs. He would approach it with the same odd scientific sensuality he had for the beakers and burners of his chemistry studies. I had witnessed him injecting himself with his damnable drugs - I had seen the penetration of the needle, his faint flinch of pain, and the soft bloom of the red flower in the glass, heard his soft, slightly ecstatic sigh as artificial bliss began to rise within him. I shivered to think of how he might have writhed and moaned as the great violinist’s unnatural sharp teeth pierced the thin white skin of his throat and drank at the font of his life. Did Holmes feel fear, knowing a vampire could easily kill by simple gluttony? Did he give himself up to it? Did it enhance his delight, to dance between death and bliss?

There is pleasure in a vampire’s bite; that is known, though not spoken of in polite company. Some say there is an intoxicant in their saliva, some say the rapture of the victim is purely sexual while others say that it is more like to opium or, blasphemously, religious ecstasy. From what I have seen it may all be true. Physiological symptoms of erotic arousal are extremely common and for some, climax is said to result on some occasions, even without so much as the touch of a hand. A well-fed vampire is fully capable of participating in sexual congress, just as they can eat or drink things apart from blood if they wish.

I recited medical facts to myself and attempted in vain to keep them dull and dry, but they were all too drenched in forbidden desires as I imagined young Holmes with a dark, wild-styled head bent over him, offering himself, parting his limbs - he drank from your thighs, Holmes, was that detail absolutely necessary? Dark hair, white skin, the leak of emissions red and white. Did supple, skillful violinists’ hands wander over each other, enhance the pleasure with grasps and caresses, making music from carnal instruments? Did hungry mouths do more than was necessary to feed?

Against my will, these visions gave me the cockstand of a much younger and healthier man. Was it necessary for Holmes to tell me of his pleasure, and of the nature of his desires? Yes, yes of course it was, I lamented as I took myself in hand. I do not abase myself in this fashion as often as I once did - and the nature of the fantasies that inflamed me served as a rebuke to my belief in myself as a moral man. Yet now all those thoughts of shame did nothing to calm the fire in my loins or slow the speed of my desperate hand.

 

***

“And Paganini never attempted to…turn you?” I asked cautiously in the violet twilight of the next day. For it seemed to me that Holmes would have been unlikely to refuse him, had that been the great master’s wish.

“Quite the contrary,” Holmes said. “There were times…in the dark of the night…when I contemplated mortality in the ways that only the young and foolish can misunderstand it. I feared to lose my youth, my brilliance - I resented so deeply the fact that even a long human lifetime is pathetically short compared to the time it would take to gather all the knowledge that interested me. I could not bear to think that someday a morning must dawn without my eyes to see it, that there would be new innovations in deductive reasoning - and the crime to challenge it - that I would never know. That the world had gone on before I was born, I accepted as an obvious truth, but the fact that it would continue beyond my death, I could not accept. And I envied him. I desired him, yes - but perhaps even more strongly I desired to be like him. I begged him. He refused.”

I nodded. It may perhaps have been an appalling sentiment to express, but I was neither shocked nor unsympathetic. Who among us has not wished to avoid the hand of death? Who has not wished for just a little more time? I have been closer to death than many, and when the moment most dreaded seemed imminent, I’d like to claim now in hindsight that I was at peace, but that would be a most damnable lie.

Selfishly perhaps, I was relieved that Holmes was still mortal.

“And did he say why?”

Holmes chuckled. “He said it was a most dreadful condition and he would not wish it upon me, for he was a kind soul still. It was a flagrant lie and I’m certain he knew that I knew it. Later, he confessed to more selfish and more honest motives. He liked me easier to control than I would be if I ever came to rival him in physical strength and arcane power. He preferred the taste of mortal blood, as all of his kind do, and liked that I was perhaps more generous with it than I should have been. And in one extremely rare moment of what in him passed for self-effacement, he told me that while I could not hope to exceed his playing in my lifetime, if we were both immortal there was a chance, however slight, that I might do so in a few centuries. He’d rather see me dead.”

***

I did not ask Holmes about the bloodletting kit again. And he did not put it away. He left it sitting openly in the parlour, for me to gaze upon - and of course, to think about.

The day must come when it would be moved again. I did not believe Holmes had used it since departing from his old master - so imagine my shock when one day I found him on the settee, with the kit laid out before him, and one sleeve rolled up to his elbow. He had been awaiting my footsteps to present this tableau, I was certain. Before I could stop him, he began the process - the many-lanced scarifier at work on his soft inner arm, already scored and marked from his drug injections. Every instinct screamed in me to prevent him from self-injury; every instinct, that is, but the one to stare into his calm grey eyes as he performed the procedure on himself with a practiced air, placing the round glass bowl over the scratched and wounded patch, and heating it with a match to draw a seep of warmed, rich redness from his injured skin.

“Holmes -” I said, sitting quickly, driven down by the weight of conflicting feelings and sensations I did not have the power to sort or resist in that moment.

“Hush,” he said with a little smile, watching the drip, drip, drip, until he had accumulated enough to satisfy him. He rose - quite steadily, to his credit - and took one of the glasses from the sideboard, and poured his blood into it, lifting it to the gaslight to see it settle to his satisfaction. As a two-finger glass of fine liquor - but crimson, not amber. He placed it directly on the table where I sat, right before my eyes.

The hearty, vibrant colour of the red liquid in the glass held my gaze in an iron grasp. Stop staring, I told myself. Stop staring. It is unseemly for a doctor to be so entranced by blood, a commonplace sight in my profession. Rarely was it presented in such a fashion, however. And if staring at the glass kept my eyes from ravenous perusal of the hotter, fresher strain still in Holmes’s captivating veins and arteries, then I must choose the lesser of two evils.

“No need to hesitate, my dear,” he said. “You know my cruelty takes other forms than this. Would I pour you a glass of brandy from the decanter on my sideboard, place it in front of you, and then deny it to you? Of course not. This is no different.”

I was stunned as the full implication of his words sank in.

“Yes, yes, Watson,” he said dismissively. “Of course I knew. You understand by now that I’m very familiar with the condition, close-up and long-term if not first-hand. You bear the sun better than some others I have known, but then of course that can be explained by the circumstances of your turning. The kindred of the bright desert and tropical climes have greater resistance to the sun than those in the cloudy, gloomy North, so naturally you might inherit that trait from your sire. You contracted this condition under duress, in an unforgiving place: Afghanistan, I perceive, most likely in the time of your most severe wound, and I do recall your speaking of the enteric fever that nearly carried you off.”

I cleared my throat. Truly, I had no secrets from him. “Not ‘nearly,’ I’m afraid. As you’ve deduced, I did…die. Temporarily.”

“Well, I’m grateful for that,” Holmes said, with sincere good humour. “I much prefer having you here than not. Though, of course, if I had never met you I would not know what I was missing. I would only know that something important was.”

He made a gesture at the glass. Did he understand the profound effect his gift - his permission - would have upon me, and upon our partnership?

From all that he had told me, and all that he had not, I little doubted that he did. His eyes were expectant and gleaming, and it seemed to me he was impatient for us to share this arcane and potent form of intimacy. It was not his old master he missed so much as those sensations that could be duplicated in no other way.

With only the slightest tremor in my hand, I took the glass - still not chilled to congealing. I toasted his health and mine, and I tasted Sherlock Holmes. He was heaven upon my tongue, as I knew he would be. His eyes fixed upon me and glittered as I drank his essence, draining down to the last precious drop.

“I taste good to you, then?” he said, and for the first time I truly understood that he might have been unsure. With his blood singing into my veins, refilling me, I saw at last his own hopes and fears, and I cursed myself for my selfishness.

“Divine,” I said, and I leaned forward, praying him to see how much I wished to reach out for him with all I had, in every way.

“You - you should still visit the butcher you have the arrangement with,” he said, softly and carefully. “He will know that your…circumstance has changed, if you disappear completely from the furtive ranks at the back door.”

“I will still take some livestock blood, Holmes,” I said firmly. “I will not drink only from you.” How could I tell him that not only was I too proud to parasite myself upon one man, who had already given me so much, who gave me so much every day of our lives, but that I would not want to cheapen the sacrament of the gift by requiring it for gross sustenance?

“Of course,” he said. “So long as you understand that…I want you to.”

The thickness of the longing in his words, their utter sincerity, rocked me to my core. I was now grateful for the glass I had already consumed, for if I had been truly hungry I would have ravished him without hesitation. Carefully I rose from my chair, and he stood to approach me. “You will allow me ... greater intimacy?” I asked. One cannot be too certain in these matters.

“With all my heart,” Holmes said, and his graceful hand rose to cup my cheek. His thumb stroked through my mustache and impishly lifted my upper lip to watch the progress of my canines growing to fangs in anticipation. “Remarkable,” he said with reverence. “I never tire of watching it.”

The reminder that he had experienced this before, from another, was both a cold squeeze to my heart and a reassuring reminder that he likely would not fear me as would one whose veins were virgin territory. Still, the gallop of his heart was deafening to me as my predatory senses awakened - I could hear his blood rushing like a swift stream in the spring thaw.

So concerned was I about his fear that I was taken rather by surprise when one of his hands snaked around my lower back and pulled me close to him, hips to hips, and he let me feel where so much of his blood had already gone, awakening his prick with swelling heat.

His eagerness set my own senses racing harder and for a moment I had to draw back, closing my eyes against the openness of naked desire in his. There was no way to shut off his intoxicating scent. With a deep breath - I still took it out of habit for it helped ground me in my body and recall what it was to be human - I leaned forward again. I could not bear for him to imagine for one moment that I could ever reject him.

With trembling hands I loosened his collar and began to work my way down his shirt buttons. “I…would not care to stain your shirt, Holmes,” I said. “If I am careless.”

“I already have done, Watson,” he said, and his hand trembled as he showed me a blood stain where he had bared his arm for the lancet, and the marks and welts still remained. “Perhaps I should…remove it all together?” Beneath his lust and his small fear, he smiled. Truly, he still flirted, I had not read that wrong. His wounds, slight as they were, held my gaze for a little too long.

“That would be for the best, I think,” said I, helping him peel the shirt from his shoulders as he shrugged his braces off, admiring the lean bones and muscle which shifted beneath his fair skin.

“But I know that you would never be careless with me, Watson.”

“No,” I whispered, my hands at his waist as I gazed at him. “Never.” Slowly, I caressed him upwards, pausing at his taut and slightly shivering chest. Looking to him for permission, which I quickly received, I let my fingertips skim his rose-brown nipples and felt him shudder and groan slightly as they peaked against my touch. I leaned in towards him, and, trembling, I let my hands rise up to curl around his neck. His pulse hammered in my palms. He stooped slightly to draw me closer to what I sought.

His hands braced upon me for support as my mouth touched the skin of his throat for the first time. I kissed him there - slowly, savouring. I let the hairs of my mustache tickle him, and I let the wet warmth of my tongue soothe and arouse him. I was so, so terribly ready to bite, and to drink. But I held in my arms a tall, shaking man who had already bled himself and was often given to overestimate his constitution and push himself beyond the limits. “It’s best done reclining, Holmes,” I whispered. “Let me hold you still in my arms, let you lean on me … let me make you comfortable … let me bring you pleasure.”

“You’re concerned I might swoon,” he said.

“It’s not unlikely,” I said, and I gave him just a taste of the sharpness of my fangs, brushed quickly and lightly across the side of his neck where his pulse hammered.

“No,” he conceded. “I imagine it isn’t. I am nearly there and you’ve barely touched me.”

So I guided him down upon the chaise longue and arranged him with his long legs draped over mine, his head and torso arched winsomely upwards, and I crawled to meet him and gather him against me, shedding my own shirt so as to feel his warm skin restoring heat to mine. For the first time, I kissed his mouth, and held myself back, trembling with that effort, as his tongue explored my mouth, skittering bravely around my fangs’ sharp points. Should he prick himself, I could not guarantee my restraint.

“Now, Watson, please,” he said, a high note of desperation piercing his cool bravado. Boldly he grasped my hand and pulled it to his loins, where he was fully hard and no longer able to restrain the needy cant of his hips. I took pity on him and loosened his trouser buttons and cradled his soft-skinned, hot and heated flesh. He bit his lip and bent his neck. I sniffed at his throat with the utmost reverence.

“I am more afraid than you are, Holmes,” I murmured to him as I stroked him. The vulnerability he was showing me made me ache to confess. “I have only rarely drunk from humans … and never before from one whom I …”

“Ssshhh,” he murmured. “Tell me later. For now, show me. Take what you want from me, and give me what I crave.”

I pushed at him a little with my head, nuzzling the dear fine hairs at the nape of his neck, inhaling the ambrosia of his pomade and his scent of tobacco and bay rum and his musk of desire. Instinct guided my hand on his cock, and my mouth on his throat. He gasped as I sucked at him with my lips, and he bucked upward at first and then went very still as my fangs gently pierced him. He gave a little shiver and groan at the sweet pain as the first pulses of his coppery, savoury essence beat against my tongue, intoxicating me.

His long hand covered mine on his cockstand as he took control of the pace there and let me focus only on my drinking, pushing lightly with my tongue to beat back the rush, lest I take my fill too soon. His erotic frenzy made his blood surge up into me, and loath as I was to waste a drop, a red trickle escaped my mouth and dripped down onto his shoulder.

I closed my eyes and allowed myself to sink into the trance rising up all around me. I was full of Sherlock Holmes in every capacity - every sense was full of him, and his delicious blood traveled from my mouth all through me, warming my sluggish heart and filling my own cockstand, rutting now through cloth against his warm hip. I could feel the flow of air in his lungs, of seed in his groin; I fancied I could hear that great mind whirring like a well-oiled engine, flooded with bliss. I felt the wiry strength of him straining against me as he fought to go faster and I fought to keep us slow. One of his hands curled up behind my head and pulled my hair, pressing my face harder into the crook of his neck as his back arched towards climax, and his growling cries echoed through my chest and my skull.

I took little sipping licks of him, savouring him. I succumbed to temptation to drink deep and suck hard, and then with a cry he reached his crisis, his hot white strands of his peak spilling over our clenched interlocked hands. As he sank down against me, curling and shrinking, I lifted that hand to my mouth and tasted of him that way too, white and thick mingling in my mouth with the red and thin.

His ecstasy reminded my own body of its manhood as his blood restored my vitality, and I thrust against him without shame. He read my motions then, and quickly shimmied his trousers down enough that my own stiff cock could rest in the groove of his firm arse, and he rewarded me with a countering grind.

I kissed his neck again and again as I took my pleasure, and his unrestrained delight caught fire in my loins so very quickly. My emissions are not what they once were, but I still was able to anoint the smooth plane of his lower back with something of the reward of a living man’s favourite labour, enough that he felt it and sympathetically moaned to feel my joy. My tongue soothed the twin wounds of my fangs - I had been careful to bite low enough that a cravat could conceal the marks in public. Now I had to take care of him. He would need to rest and replenish, and be fed on lean meat tomorrow. He had not fainted, but he was pale and weary, and sweat covered him like morning dew. “To bed with you, Holmes,” I murmured, still unable to refrain from kissing the site of his generosity, to stop caressing his chest over his peaceably slowing heart.

“And you with me?” he murmured.

“Yes,” I said. “I can doze by night if I must, and I will not leave you.”

“You may have to carry me. How strange it is, that I know you have removed weight from me, and yet I feel heavier. The torpor of satisfaction is a dangerous state, my dear.”

“Of all the dangerous states we find ourselves in, it is now my favourite,” I said, smiling against him. “And I am fully capable of carrying you now that I am fresh-filled and you rather drained.”

I demonstrated this, and he allowed me.

“I should like to have this every night,” he muttered drowsily as I tucked in beside him.

“You know full well you cannot,” I said. “I am the glutton, but you are greedy.”

“Three deadly sins tonight already, and now I’m feeling fully slothful,” he whispered, as I drew him close to me. Men’s tongues are often loosened in these moments, well I knew, and often things are said that are later reconsidered. Yet said they must be, for they have a momentum of their own.

It was in that spirit that I promised him that I would drink my full fill of him when he grew older. That I would give him in turn that gift and curse he had asked for and been denied so long ago, if he still wished it. When frost begins to touch his hair and stiffness swell in his joints; at the first sign of age’s chill, he must know that I would not let death take him away, if he still had any wish to remain in the world and by my side. An immortal love is not always the bliss it seems, but if any two ever were to have such a thing, it must be he and I.