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Vampiric Theory for the Newly Changed

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It was sort of an accident that they met. Jens Fiedler had been sitting in the hospital bed, handwriting notes from a reference book.  An intravenous strapped to his arm relieved him of a pint of blood.  The speed and efficiency of it was fascinating, and soon enough, the nurse, Ms. Gold, was removing the needle with gentle hands and taping a bandage into the crook of his arm.

“Just come with me and wait in the front for half an hour, Jens.  Procedure, you know,” she said kindly as Jens packed up his schoolwork.

He'd been giving blood more often nowadays, every two months, the shortest time he was allowed to wait before donating again.

“You know, if you wanted to donate more often, we could always ask Emily if she can spare any restorative .  Then you could donate up to once a week,” Ms. Gold said. 

Jens shook his head.  “The only way to get restorative is by being selected, and I'm not risking my life on the hopes that any vampire that gets me will keep me around instead of drinking me dry.”

Liz shrugged.  “O+ is a pretty good blood type to keep around though,” she said with cheerful skepticism.

“Well I don't want to spend my life at the mercy of someone who has the right to kill me if I bore them either,” Fiedler said lightheartedly, not really thinking about the words.

Liz laughed, Jens’ pint of blood swinging in her hand.  “I suppose you have a point.”

He was at the counter talking to Ms. Gold as she filled out the blood donation paperwork, the pint set loosely down next to her ledger when a grizzled old man walked in and slammed a wallet down on the counter.  Jens shifted sideways to make room.  The man seemed not to notice.

“You do blood donations here?” he asked. 

Ms. Gold nodded mutely. 

“How much a pint?” His voice was gruff, coming deep from behind the collar of his coat.

“I need to see some ID first, and you need to state if you have specific blood type needs.”

The man leaned over the counter, and Ms. Gold flinched.  He had expected to be ID’d, Jens realized, noticing the ease of which he procured his passport from within his coat.

Ms. Gold held the passport up to check if the worn picture at the top matched the man in front of her.  Her hand shook ever so slightly.  She nodded, passing the passport back.  “You wouldn't happen to have a license, would you, Mister Leamas?”

The man, Leamas, sighed, opening his wallet.   “Got my license suspended for a few months, so it’s back here for a while,” he muttered. He flashed her a card.  She nodded. 

“Blood preference?  Any allergies?” 

Mr. Leamas shook his head.  “I don't get hemolytic reactions anymore. I'll take anything .  No allergies.”

Ms. Gold looked over to the bag she had just collected from Jens.  “A pint of O+ is one hundred and fifty,” she said, “or I could find something cheaper-”

Jens blinked.  He didn't know that people boughtthe blood, he had thought it was given out.

“No I’ll take it,” Mr. Leamas seemed to be in a hurry.  He handed over the cash with a sigh.

Ms. Gold finished writing in the ledger, then gingerly handed the bag to Mr. Leamas, who blinked.

“Still warm.  Wonderful,” he said, with genuine gratitude.  Ms. Gold smiled.  Mr. Leamas held the bag up.  “Cheers,” he said, licking his lips.  “Do mind if I,” he paused, eying the open, empty lobby, eyes passing over Jens.  It was midnight.  “Or should I go outside?

Ms. Gold froze but managed a polite, “You can stay here, of course.” She gulped.

“Thank you, Miss…?”

“Elizabeth Gold, but everyone who comes here calls me Liz.”

The man nodded politely and then grimaced, exposing perfect white teeth.  He held up the bag of Jens’ still warm blood, the end with the plastic where excess air had been vacuumed out.  Long fangs shot out, puncturing the plastic.  Air flooded in.

Jens jumped at the sight of the man’s fangs. They were longer, sharper and thinner than he’d always imagined a vampire would have.  They looked more like mandibles than fangs though, slanted outward rather than resting against the man’s bottom lip.

He caught Jens staring. “What?  Never seen a bloodsucker before?” he asked, tearing a wider hole in the bag with practiced ease.

Jens blushed.  “So what if I haven’t, Mr. Leamas?”

The man snorted.  “Don’t be obscene with “Mister”.  Call me Leamas.”  His tongue darted into the bag, twisting around in the thick liquid. Jens saw Leamas’ Adam's apple bob as he tilted his head back, mouth full of blood.

It was odd to see how Leamas’ tongue would lash up the sides of the clear bag, gathering as much blood as possible with practiced ease.

The man, vampire, Jens reminded himself, paused for a moment, taking a breath.  His lips were a brilliant scarlet.  He licked them a long while .  “Almost like drinking from the source,” he said with a smile.  It wasn't meant to be terrifying, but Liz shied away from his gaze, no doubt imagining Leamas drinking straight from ‘the source’. “Although the donor ought to eat more before donating.  Nevertheless, very good.”

Jens didn’t know if that was supposed to be taken as a compliment.

Leamas closed his eyes, tilting the bag back.  Jens watched in fascination, as the entire rest of the pint passed down the man’s throat in the span of thirty seconds.  His tongue flicked up and down the insides of the bag, cleaning it quickly and effectively.  It was disgusting, but fascinating , like an insect’s legs as it drowned in amber.

Leamas set the bag back on the counter, retracting his fangs slowly.  A small trickle of blood slid down the side of his face.  Jens’ blood.  The vampire’s tongue darted out and licked it up.

He smiled.  “That wasn’t so hard,” he said, looking around as if for the first time.  “You said an O+ donor?”  Liz nodded mutely.

Leamas nodded quietly to himself. “Interesting.  How often do they donate?  Who’s licensed on them?  Must say thank you.”

Jens’ face was burning. 

Liz pursed her lips.  “The donor gives voluntarily, a pint every two months. Hasn't been selected either.”

Leamas’ worn face raised an eyebrow in genuine surprise.  He laughed. “There are people who voluntarily donate?”  He shook his head, mocking a childish idea. “Odd how they don't have someone licensing.  Could hook them on restorative.  ‘Donate’ more.”  He sounded skeptical at the very idea of voluntary donations.

“Shame they weren't selected,” Leamas sighed, adjusting his coat.  “A pint every two months,” he shook his head.  “What a waste.”  He looked up at Liz, who was looking guiltily over at Jens.

“Hmm-” Leamas turned to the student next to him with an inquisitive hum.

Leamas’ eyes went immediately to the neck, skipping over the eyes and all the unspoken social rules.  The eyes raked down, catching a glimpse of the bandage in the crook of Jens’ elbow.

“Ah,” he said, raising an eyebrow. There was a carefully measured silence. “You're the donor?” he asked. 

Jens turned his head to the side, avoiding the vampire’s eyes.  He nodded silently.  What a waste.  Licensed on me. The man’s words bounced around his head.  A waste because I'm not licensed

Leamas winced.  “Jesus, stop showing off your pulse to me,” he said, halfheartedly, as if he couldn't tear his eyes away from where the veins beat visibly in Jens’ throat.

Jens automatically slapped a hand to his neck, blushing.  “Do all vampires think of humans as food, or is it just you?” he asked bitterly.

“Yes,” Leamas said simply.  “You can have a human friend, but that doesn't stop them from having blood, does it?”

Jens frowned.  He honestly didn't know what to say to that.  That was wrong, wasn't it?  “I’m beginning to regret donating,” he muttered.

Leamas rolled his eyes.  “As if donating a pint every two months is going to help anyone.”

“Well that’s as often as Liz’ll let me donate because it takes-”

A long sigh.  “If you want to donate more often, then get some restorative.”

“But I don’t know any vampires- and anyway-”

“Give me your arm.”  It was a light command, and he knew something strange was about to happen if he did, but Jens stuck out the arm with the bandage anyway. Just to see what would happen.  He was also scared of saying no.

Mister Leamas,” Liz called out furiously.  “Don't you dare touch him, or I will alert the authorities.”

Leamas blinked.  “Consent Act of 1921,” he recited, “I don't need a license to-”

Liz’ face was stony.  “That’s for interspecies marriage, not-”

“Well that’s not specifically in the law now is it?”

“He hasn't even consented, Mister Leamas, so-”

Leamas looked back at Jens, who was feeling hot and cold all at the same time.  “What… what were you going to do to me?” Jens asked.

“Not bite you of course, just-”

Jens stuck out his arm again, flinching.  “Fine, just don't get your mouth anywhere near me.”

“Jens, you don't have to do what he says,” Liz warned.

“I'm just curious, Liz,” he replied. Fascinated. 

Leamas snorted, fingers avoiding touching Jens’ skin as much as possible.  His fingernails found a purchase under Jens’ bandage and he ripped it off easily, as if he'd done it a thousand times.

Ow,” Jens said, grimacing.  Liz watched on disapprovingly.

“Shit, your pulse is strong,” Leamas remarked, keeping Jens’ hand outstretched by holding the sides of Jens’ wrists between two fingers.

“Why're you being so careful?” 

“So Liz Gold here doesn't think I'll lose it at the touch of a pulse,” Leamas growled, tossing the bandage onto the counter.  There, nestled in Jens’ arm was a small tiny red hole with already browning blood smeared around it.

Almost unconsciously, Leamas’ fingers darted to his tongue, wetting it, then down to the arm, wiping up the blood.

Jens let out a small squeak at the coolness of Leamas’ damp fingers, blushing as they darted back to the older man’s lips.  Leamas licked his fingers almost indecently. 

Liz looked like she was about to intervene.

Leamas smiled, fangs sliding out slowly.  Jens suddenly became very, very afraid.

“Don’t bite me,” he whispered, so quietly that only Leamas could hear him.  His back was to the counter, so Liz didn't notice anything wrong- well, not more than what was already wrong.

Leamas laughed, shaking his head. “Humans,” he said, as if it was an old joke.  Jens could see thick beads of something clear gathering at the fine points of Leamas’ fangs. So they must slightly hollow, to allow the fluid to pass through. Jens vaguely wondered where a vampire’s body would produce its various poisons.  Then, Leamas ran his finger over the points, gathering the clear liquid on his thumb.  It looked like water.

Then his fangs retracted and he lowered the hand to Jens’ arm.  There was a premature scab where Liz had injected him, which Leamas scratched with a fingernail.  Blood welled up again, and Jens saw Leamas’ pupils dilate.  The vampire wiped the blood away with his second finger and then flipped his hand over, smearing the clear substance over the small cut.

“What was that supposed to do?” Jens asked, As Leamas’ bloody finger flew up to his mouth again, savouring the blood.

Leamas reluctantly let go of Jens’ arm, fingers pressing on the sides of his wrist a moment too long, feeling his pulse.

“The worst administered dose of restorative I’ve ever given,” he said. 

After a few moments, Jens felt a slight bubbling spread up his arm.  It… tickled.  It almost itched in a way that made Jens want to move around, like coffee a bit, he thought.

 

Leamas noticed, nodding.  “Speeds up your regeneration.  Replaces the red blood cells much faster, so there are no negative consequences of overfeeding-”

Jens felt sick.  Overfeeding.  “When will I be able to give blood again?” he asked vacantly.

“Five to seven weeks, because it was such a small dose.”

He felt weak.  He could donate sooner- and it hadn't even hurt- he could-

“How much of that, restorative, would I need- to donate once a week?”  Don’t do this.  Don’t.  Don't. A vampire can kill.  Don't give yourself to that. 

“Larger dose taken directly,” Leamas said with an oddly morbid smile, “through the jugular.” 

Jens nodded, his thoughts far away. He must have looked incredibly dazed. He felt Liz’ hands around his shoulders, steering him to a chair, berating the greying vampire.  “He’s barely more than a child, he has a life other than donating blood-” and then to Jens, “You do notneed to donate if you don't want to.  You don't have to accept jugular injections, you don’t have to accept restorative at all, hear me?”  ‘Jugular injections’?  Is that really what they call it?

He sat in silence as Liz fussed over him and Leamas watched from beside the counter, upon which the empty bag’s plastic gleamed in the hospital ward’s gentle, half dark light.

There was a question.  Donating a pint every two months won’t help anyone.  It will help more than no one.  Not enough to help anyone.  So what, I just ask a passing vampire to bite me?  Trust a vampire not to drink me half to death and slit me open to lick the rest off my insides?  Vampires should be treated equally to human beings.  We are equal.  They are equal.  We are one and the- Shut up, Jens thought to the corrosive mental buzz of the State and the law.  Vampires think of humans as food.  We are inherently unequal.  The State rectifies, but it does not change the fact of nature- Shut up, he thought again.  It doesn't matter.  All that matters is whether I will accept a bite from a vampire.

“I’ll be off,” Leamas said gruffly, and Jens looked up.  He wasn't sure exactly of what to say.

Leamas caught his eye and he bit his lip, thinking.  “You eat too little,” he said finally, as he strode across the room.  “You can't live off water, chicken stock and potato forever, Jens.”  He paused. “Jens is your name, right?”

Jens nodded.  “Goodbye,” he said as the hospital doors shut, and Leamas strode out into the heavy, blustering summer night air.

Liz muttered something angry, and Jens laughed. 

“See you in five to seven weeks then,” Jens said, lightheartedly.

Liz looked a bit unsure.  “So you’re actually thinking about restorative now?”  She sighed. “Just don't let that man’s words get to you alright?  You don't owe vampires a single thing.”

Jens nodded vacantly, humming.

 

---

 

Jens came to the hospital straight from the post office.  It had been four weeks and five days since he’d last been to the small outpost ward. It was just beginning to fade from twilight to pure night as he approached the building.  The blood transfusion center was on the ground floor, blue tinged lights flooding out of its square Stalinist windows.

He opened the door, slinging his bag off his shoulder.  Usually he spent longer at the post office but uncharacteristically, this week he hadn't received any, and so only had to write one letter in return.  He walked to the waiting chairs by the counter and took a seat, opening up a book he'd taken out of his bag.  He was the only one there.  Jens supposed Liz was around the back, thrice-checking the blood stocks and ledgers.

“So you're a law student?”

Jens almost yelped, but instead, the book he'd been reading slipped from his hands, falling to the floor and losing his page as he jumped. 

“Calm down,” the man said, bending down to pick up the book.  “It’s just me,” he said.

Jens’ chest heaved.  His heart was palpitating at the rate of one who has been frightened back from the dead.  He took a breath, breathed a quick, “sorry, didn't see you”, and then noticed who it was.  His voice caught in his throat.

“You are Mister Leamas, are you not?” Jens asked after a moment, recognizing the eyebrows and hair streaked with grey, like an old wolf.  It was a facade, the question, as if Jens could have forgotten who had gotten the idea into him that he should hold out his neck like a lamb for slaughter.

Leamas’ eyes, which had been eyeing the rise and fall of Fiedler’s chest, flicked up to his face.

“Yes.”  Leamas smiled a little oddly.  “And you're Jens, as I remember, O+, underfed, eats too many potatoes, pulse like you would not believe,” he said.  “What are you doing here?” he asked.

“Donating a pint,” Jens replied.

Leamas’ smile hardened.  It was as if the past month had never happened.

What a waste.  “And I was going to see if Liz knew…” he swallowed.  Don't swallow, now he’s going to- and now he's looking at your neck, idiot. “If Liz knew any vampires who might be able to donate some…” he really didn't want to admit that what Leamas had said before had gotten to him.  “Some restorative,” he finished.

Leamas nodded slowly, biting his lip. “Well.”  He said, then seemed to pause.  “As for me, I'm here to buy a fortnight’s worth of-”

“How often do you feed?” Jens blurted. Feed.  The word twanged oddly on his tongue, as if his mouth hadn't quite figured out if it was palatable or not.

“Depends,” Leamas answered, blinking at the question.  “Once a fortnight is pushing it, otherwise you start noticing how little lies between the artery and the top layer of skin.  Once a week is healthy, twice a week is normal if you're rich, and sometimes active duty and restorative surgeons get three pints a week.”

Horrifying, how much blood that was, but Leamas explained it so logically. 

“So how many pints are you buying today?”

Leamas smiled widely.  Too wide and toogenuine.  He had regular looking teeth, every single one a pearly white. “Two, as my job requires me to drink at least one pint a week.”

Jens nodded slowly.  The silence stretched.  “Can I have my book back?” he asked. 

Leamas seemed to have forgotten that he'd been holding it.  He held it out for Jens to take. 

It was an accident, but their hands touched.  Jens was painfully aware of how the pulse through his hand must feel to Leamas.

He saw Leamas twitch, heard him suck in a breath of air.  A long, long silence.  “You said you wanted to donate more on restorative?” Leamas asked, voice careful.

Jens nodded, putting the book back into his bag.

“How often were you thinking of donating?”

“Once a week,” Jens muttered, blushing. He'd been unable to shake Leamas’ words. If he was going to get restorative, he might as well donate as much as possible.

Leamas breathed in deeply.  “And you don't know any vampires?” 

Jens hesitated.  “No,” he said.

“Well, if you're willing to donate blood, and also receive restorative through the jugular, why not do both at the same time?”

Oh.

“I-”

Leamas looked at him.  His eyes were dark, full of things Jens had never known. He was the only vampire Jens knew in the city.  You knew what you were getting into when you decided to get bitten.  And at least Leamas was not a complete stranger to him.  I'd trust him with my blood more than a stranger,he reasoned.

“That sounds like an… interesting arrangement,” Jens managed.

Leamas’ eyes glanced down at Jens. “Would you like to step outside?” he asked bluntly.

“I-” donating blood to Leamas is the same as donating blood to a stranger. “You know what, I think I might.” 

He left his bag and jacket on the waiting chair, and followed Leamas outside. 

“There’s a park just around the corner,” Jens said, pointing down the half-lit street, but Leamas shook his head, gesturing to an alleyway between two houses. 

“Here is closer,” he said, darting into the shadow of the mouth of the alley.  Jens knew that this was just the sort of alley in which most murders occurred, but he had a feeling that if Leamas had wanted to murder him he would have just told Jens so.  He seemed to be very forward.

They paused halfway through the dark space.  “I feed very,” Leamas searched for the right word, “enthusiastically.”

Jens nodded.  He had no idea what that was supposed to mean.  Everything was dark, and he couldn't see Leamas’ face.

“Do you want me to use sedative? It will hurt less, and make you more complacent.”  Those last words made Jens’ fingers twitch.

“Not this first time.  I'm curious about how it feels.”

Leamas laughed derisively. “Curious,” he repeated. 

Jens allowed him a few more seconds to laugh.  He realized that the whole situation was reckless.  Like a lamb for slaughter.  Why was he so ready to let Leamas, a man, a vampire, he had just met potentially drink him dry?  He wasn't really sure if he could still back out, and he wasn't sure if he actually wanted to. 

Leamas seemed trustworthy enough. And Jens also had faith in what Liz had said all those weeks ago: O+ is a pretty good blood type to keep around.  It could be fed to any other blood types, he was valuable.  He gulped.  Don't think of yourself as food.

The chuckles faded.  Silence, then-

“May I?”  Leamas was oddly polite.

“Yes.”

Barely had the words passed his lips then he was slammed against the damp alley wall, quick, heavy fingers racing to unbutton his shirt.  One, two, three buttons came undone.  The next moment, Jens felt his arms being forced up, thin wrists both pinned to the wall with one of Leamas’ own.

As Leamas pulled the shirt off him and over his arms, Jens could feel the other man’s tongue rolling over his neck, searching and softening the skin of the smaller man’s throat.

Jens was too shocked to even process the idea of crying out.

Leamas tossed Fiedler’s shirt behind him.  Jens could feel the cool autumn air tickle at his back for an instant before Leamas’ hand shoved him back into the wall, other hand moving to forcefully cup his head, ensuring Jens would be unable to move his neck.  And then he began to kiss, lips moving with an insatiable hunger up the back, the side of his neck, trying to locate where Jens’ frantic pulse was strongest.

Eventually Leamas stopped his searching, lips pressed hungrily slightly to the left of the cup in Fiedler's collarbone. His tongue searched around inside, too eager to begin feeding.

Feeding.  A spark of fear flared in Jens’ stomach.

Leamas’ mouth was so soft- and then Jens felt something cold push deep into his neck.  And then the pain flourished like a thorny flower.  Jens flailed wildly, his arms over Leamas’ back trying to escape, but he was pinned against the wall, one of Leamas’ legs between his own, his head held utterly steady under the vampire’s practiced fingers.

And then Jens began to feel the inner tug of the blood flowing out of him.  Of course, some part of him realized, the hollows in the teeth must also be able to suck up blood.  Jens continued to struggle, but Leamas slammed his back into the wall again, making the world spin for a moment.  Jens was terrified.  He knew the fangs were still in him, but they had adjusted to his body heat- they no longer felt like alien ice pricks but a part of him.  No!

Leamastook a breath, laughing into Jens’ shoulder.  He felt something hot drip down his chest.  A hand flattened Jens’ shoulder against the wall, giving a better angle.

And then the things buried in his neck, so close to his windpipe moved. Leamas was twisting his fangs around inside of him, carving deeper, wider holes in his throat.  Don't kill me, don't kill me.

And now the tongue curled itself down the insides of these gaping holes, adding pressure, squeezing the blood from the flesh and licking it up.

Jens shuddered against Leamas’ body. His knees seemed a bit weaker. Leamas pressed harder against him, mouth clamping more strongly around the open wounds.

Leamas paused, loosening his heavy grip on Jens face and shoulder, and letting him slide down the wall.  Jens tumbled, his body weight pulling itself from Leamas’ fangs, which remained dark, sickly copper filling the air. Blood dripped like honey from his lips, his fanatic smile. 

Jens felt too weak to move.  Was it over yet?  Leamas lowered himself down to where Jens was slumped pathetically against the base of the wall. 

“More delicious than I remembered,” he said, teeth flashing in the night.

He lowered his lips to where blood welled up uncontrollably, fangs slipping back into their grooves, as if they belonged, as if they had always been there.  Jens convulsed, legs jerking under Leamas’ and arms pushing uselessly against the other man’s ribs.

Leamas’ tongue darted into the gaping holes, causing the liquid to overflow, some of it even dripping across Fiedler’s shoulder, Leamas’ hungry lips having not completely clamped down. 

Everything seemed a bit tilted, Fiedler decided. 

And suddenly, Leamas cut deeper, except this time, Fiedler felt the strange pressure of a liquid being fed into him, and then a light bubbling.  The restorative. 

Everything was still for about three minutes.  The restorative raced through his veins, shooting him through with gentle pins and needles.  And then Leamas withdrew his fangs with a slow and sticky slch.

Fiedler was still dazed and bubbling full of restorative, so he barely noticed the long gentle licks Leamas drew up his skin.  Waste not want not.  The tongue cleaned his shoulder, his chest, and then Leamas heaved Jens up so he could clean his back.  Finally he returned to the two deep trenches in Jens’ neck.  Scabs had already begun to form, products of the restorative.  Carefully, Leamas wiped up the last of the blood, licking his lips with a twisted smile upon his face.

“That wasn't so hard now, was it?”

Fiedler was numb.  He… wasn't exactly sure what he felt or what indeed he shouldfeel.  He tried to speak, but his neck gave a horrifying twinge.  He felt, for the first time, the nasty scrapes along this back and arms from when he had slid down the side of the rough wall. Jens tried to move his arm, but it started shaking too badly and he dropped it.

Leamas was unbuttoning Jens’ discarded shirt.  “You'll be able to walk normally tomorrow,” he said.  “If they live, humans are always scared of missing work the next day.” He gave a short laugh .

If they live.  If. Was it an accident or did he letme live?

Leamas pulled a roll of bandage and gauze from a pocket, stretching it and wrapping it across Jens’ chest.  “You really ought to eat more,” Leamas grunted, tying the end rather than sliding it beneath the folds, to avoid feeling Jens’ pulse through his chest.  Was he not sated ?

Leamas gently slid Fiedler’s arms through the shirt sleeves then began to button it up, as if Jens was some kind of doll.  Jens supposed that the comparison wasn't that far off the mark.  The collar of his shirt tickled as Leamas did it up.

The vampire gritted his teeth as he pulled Jens to his feet, the smaller man leaning on him, limping, head lolling feebly.  “Christ, your heartbeat is loud,” Leamas muttered.  He seemed to be trying to sound annoyed, but it kept giving way to gentle amusement.

They limped together a short way, back to the industrially lit hospital.  Everything was very quiet.  Fiedler couldn't make his neck move, and it rested comfortably on the side of Leamas’ arm.

“Held back today,” Leamas said, heaving Fiedler through the door.  “Didn't want to wreck the clothes.”

That was Leamas holding back?  Jens shivered against Leamas’ coat.  The other man seemed to notice.

Jens silently thanked the heavens that Liz hadn't returned from behind the desk. 

“I don't think you should be giving blood in this state,” Leamas said, sitting him down in a chair by the door, and going to get his school things. 

Jens watched, still somewhat shell-shocked, as Leamas returned.  “Come back next week.”

“I-” Jens whispered.  God, it hurt.  “I don't know if I want you to drink my blood again.”  It was odd, Jens thought.  He wasn't usually so forward.

Something froze in Leamas’ content little smile, making it false.  His teeth shone a gentle pink.  A pause.

“I see.  May I ask why?”

“I thought it would be more methodical, surgical.  Just drawing blood from a more important artery,” he paused, but Leamas seemed reluctant to understand the implication behind the words.  “You feed… enthusiastically.”  Fiedler breathed Leamas’ own words back at him.  “And it hurts.  And-” Jens had no idea what to say.  I'm scared, but I have no reason to be.  Leamas was giving him everything he’d asked for.  He wasn't dead, and he could donate next week.

Leamas nodded slowly, words echoing Jens’ thoughts.  “You're alive, and you have a week-dose of restorative, and I've had my food for the week.  We’re even. It can all end here.”  Something in Leamas’ eyes glittered hungrily.  Of course he didn't want it to end here. 

Jens noticed Leamas’ hand was resting on his wrist, but was too weak to flinch back.  He could feel his own heartbeat pumping blood from his chest with defiant fervor, as if determined to push whatever remained of Jens’ blood around his system even more strongly.  He could only imagine how that must feel to Leamas.

“Hold on,” Leamas said, changing the subject.  “I’ll be right back.”  He stood up straight and walked off, disappearing down a corridor.

Jens breathed deeply.  What the hell did he do?  What was he supposed to do now? 

Leamas returned carrying two full plastic cups of water.  Jens made to reach for one, but his hand merely shook weakly against the side. Leamas gave a kind smile and set the rim of a cup against the student’s lips.  Jens gulped the cool water gratefully, some of it spilling down the sides of his lips. That made Leamas smile even wider . 

Jens finished both glasses of water, then closed his eyes for a moment. 

“I think my keys slipped out of my pocket when we were in that alleyway,” Jens said, each word an effort. 

Leamas frowned.  “Huh,” he said. 

“I can't walk.”

Leamas blinked.  “Oh, right. I'll go and check if they're there.” Jens couldn’t rotate his neck for fear of a fiery twinge, so he closed his eyes, listening to the sound of Leamas opening and closing the door and disappearing into the night.

Leamas made his way briskly to the alleyway, scouring it to find the missing keys.  He looked for five whole minutes.  More than enough time to search and not find the keys.  Sighing, he returned to the building, walking in to tell Jens, what a name, to check his pockets, laugh at how weak his hands were, and then check his pockets for him.

There was no one in the seat in which he had left the human. 

Alec Leamas began to laugh.

 

Chapter Text

The week passed impossibly quickly for Jens.  After limping home after diverting the vampire, he had been shaking so hard that he had collapsed at the tiny kitchen table. Water, water, he had reminded himself. Replenish the blood you lost- you gave willingly.  His mind was stumbling over its own thoughts as he had shakily lifted the glass to his lips. 

He looked guiltily at his schoolbag.  He couldn't bring himself to study right now. 

Outside, the new autumn wind slapped the window, making a faint tapping noise.  Jens felt very tense.  What if the vampire had followed him home?  What if he'd come back to drink the remaining ten pints of his blood?  What if-

Jens spilled water over himself, he was shaking like a leaf.

He glanced down the short corridor to the two bedrooms.  They were both dark.  God, he was so scared. 

He almost got up from the table, but found he couldn't.  His knees shook even while sitting down.

He tried to sip his water again, this time managing.  He downed the whole thing, reaching for the nearly brimming jug on the table.

Jens didn’t remember falling asleep.  He only realized that he had when his alarm went off in his bedroom.  He stood up, not thinking, and walked over to his bedroom, half lit in the morning blue dawn. 

He realized he needed desperately to go to the bathroom before he realized that he was walking normally. 

It was as if-

Jens rushed to the bathroom.  There was still the possibility- maybe- maybe- please be a dream.

He lurched inside, spinning to face the mirror. He looked fine.  He was healthy.  No blood.  No-

He saw something white peeking out from under the collar of his shirt.  With dreading fingers, he undid the top button.  A white bandage stretched across his chest, expertly wrapped for minimal discomfort.  A small patch at the top was slightly pink.

Jens buried his head in his hands, moaning.  Oh God, he'd-  he’d really-

It was an odd thing.  Jens knew that he was sitting on the toilet, gazing at the tiny, tiny shower, but sat there, recalling vividly the way that Leamas- the vampire, he corrected, had positioned his hands on the side of his neck, two fingers slipped behind the ear, two on the cheek, the thumb deep under his jaw, pressing against the pulse, keeping his head- his neck- utterly still.

And then the alarm in the kitchen went off, and Jens had to get ready for school.  He nervously pulled on a dark shirt to hide the bandages, buttoning it up uncomfortably up his throat- feeding. Delicious.

Jens breath fled him.  His fingers stumbled as he pulled on his trousers, his socks, his only pair of formal shoes.  Shit, he hadn't done the required reading.  He could try and do it on the bus… his heart raced.

A lurid, joyful soft laugh.

Jens looked around the abandoned apartment. Just making sure that no one was there, he thought to himself.  He checked his room, then the other, bare bedroom.  He closed both their doors, gathered his bag, went out into the hallway, and locked the apartment door.

He thought about what had happened the night before.  Shocking, the fervour with which the vampire had lain into him, but honestly, Jens should have expected that.  And he was still alive wasn't he?  And he'd got what he wanted, hadn't he?

He spent the bus ride glaring at his assigned reading.  He swore he was reading the same paragraph over and over again.  He swore he was reading the same paragraph over and over again. He swore he was reading the same paragraph over and over again.

He snapped the book shut.

The week passed in a blur.  Schoolwork and evening biology classes kept him from thinking too much about Leamas in particular. 

On Wednesday morning, his voice no longer twinged whenever he spoke, so he removed the bandages.  To his surprise, all that remained of the vampire’s teeth were two small slitlike scabs.  Jens prayed that he wouldn't scar- if anyone found out that he'd let a vampire-

And then the rest of the week swept him away.

Finally Friday rolled around.  The beginning of a new weekend in which to fill.  

He finished the assigned work by Saturday morning, then he thumbed through the letters he had received that week.  A postcard with lush German countryside with a castle in the background, perched on a hill made him smile.

Kommen Sie nach Oberstaufen! the card proclaimed as Jens flipped it over.  Large, loopy letters smiled up at him.

He set the letter aside, to read later, and opened the others.

Oh.  It was his biology semester grades.  He'd forgotten those came out the week before his normal ones.

He winced as he glanced at the test and presentation percentage grades.  Low eighties, a few mid-seventies.  He slid the page back into its envelope, picking up the postcard again.  He smiled.

He wrote a letter.  The usual, How is school?  Are the teachers nice?  Did you resolve the issues you had with whats-the-name and so-and-so?  He neglected to ask the obvious questions, the what are you learning, is the food there nice, how are you feeling?

Then he added the barest what was going on in his life.  Yes, school is going fine, but my evening classes are a bit shaky.  I'm getting enough sleep, don’t worry.  He said nothing about what happened last Sunday.

He signed at the bottom, an untidy sharp but loopy mess where only the letters ‘J’ and ‘F’ could be deciphered.

Then he wrote another letter, to his aunt, then one for his cousin with much the same content.  He folded them all up and slid them into their coarse paper envelopes. 

But now what was there to do?  His mind turned to where he knew Liz would be waiting for him.  Maybe… maybe he could ask her politely about Emily.  Maybe. 

He packed up his things, slipping the letters into his bag.  The post office was a three minute walk from the blood bank.  The word ‘bank ’ seemed oddly appropriate.

He went to drop off the letters first, as if they burned and he had to get rid of them.  Then he arrived at the hospital outpost. 

“Jens!” Liz called from behind the counter, “It’s been a while!”  She hadn't known he’d been here last week.  She'd been gone the entire time that- 

He repressed a shudder at the memory that rose up like bile at the back of his throat.  Instead, he flashed her that boyish, dashing smile that he knew worked so well.  “It has,” he said, approaching the counter.  “Listen Liz, the reason I came today is because I was in the neighborhood, and I wanted to ask you about something before I give blood tomorrow.”

Liz bit into her peach, nodding for him to go on.

 

---

 

He gave blood the very next day.  Just a pint.  He wished he could give more, but there was no restorative to heal himself with.  As he waited the obligatory half an hour after the donation, he thought about the conversation with Liz and sighed.  Nothing felt right. 

It was two weeks later that his demons, rather, demon caught up with him.  Or rather he caught up with it.

He was just leaving the post office when he spotted two men trailing down the sidewalk.  Jens recognized the coat of one of them, even from behind.

Jens wasn’t quite sure what made him do it, but he strode along behind them, just to make out what Leamas and the other man were saying. 

“You should feed.  We could go to my place, I'm sure I've got a bottle or two left from last month,” the new stranger said.  He was short and walked like he was wandering, hands in his pockets. 

“I don't like that stuff you keep.  It's been refrozen too many times, and that kills the taste.  I want it fresh.  Dammit George I need something living.”  Something.

Jens sucked in his breath.  Suddenly he remembered his past experience with Leamas with a biting clarity.  Before, it had seemed hazy, just another experience that probably wasn't that bad anyway.

You should feed.  Jens shuddered, but for some reason kept walking.  He needed something. 

A long silence as Leamas seemed to be contemplating something.  “Can’t get this boy’s taste out of my mouth.  It's unnatural.  Everything else just tastes bland.  I-”

Jens’ blood froze.  They were talking about him.  He kept walking.

“You hunted without your license?”  There was a dangerous edge to George’s voice.

“I'm running with the Consent Act.”

George shook his head.  “You have to be careful Alec, the Consent Act only goes so far, and you don't have a valid license, and even if you did, he wasn't selected.”

Alec.  Leamas’ name was Alec.  Leamas, Alec. Alec Leamas.  Alec.  Alec Leamas. Alec.

“Well he said yes, and we were both doing each other a favour, so I don't see what's wrong with it.  I'm afraid I went a bit too far- I just got carried away.  He has a pulse-”

“Everyone has a pulse Alec.”

“But it’s so loud, George.  It-  It’s like he is living, really living for something.”

“Would you have let him live if you were allowed to license on him?”  George asked cautiously.

“Yes.”  There was absolutely no hesitation in is voice. 

“Jesus Christ,” hissed George, as if Leamas had said something terrible.  “You must really like the taste of him.”  He made a noise of disgust, as if Alec’s affections meant something horrible.  “I pity him.  But at least he wasn't selected. At least he can still say no.”

“You disapprove,” Leamas said.  It was a statement.

A silence.  “Don’t be childish.  I can understand keeping the boy alive for a steady supply of blood, but -”

Leamas sighed.  “Watch what you say, Smiley.  Anyway it's probably over.  He left, alright?  He’s fine. I gave him a week-dose.”

George Smiley whistled.  “Jesus Christ.  Did he save your life or something?”

Leamas was silent for a heartbeat.  “No, I just-”

“Look I know I sound like a hypocrite, but it'll better if you just think of him as food, alright?”  Smiley sounded like he was wearing a pained smile.

Alec Leamas sucked in a breath.  “Shit, I forgot about you and Ann.  She still with Hayden?”

“Last I saw her.  It's the taste of his sedative I swear-”

“Hayden’s just a fanged ballsack with a body hanging off the end,” Leamas reassured him.

George laughed extremely loudly. 

Leamas brought the subject back to Jens. “Anyway, as I’ve said, it’s over. I scared him away, and I shouldn't go looking for him.”

“How awfully adult of you, Alec.”

Another pleasant silence.  Jens continued walking quietly as far behind them as he could while still listening to their conversation.

“I wish I knew why he donates!” Leamas finally exclaimed.  “When I was his age I hated two things- Nazis and vampires. Now I-”

“Watch who you say that around,” Smiley said bitterly. “Someone might get offended.”

Both of them made noises of disgust.

They entered the train station, and Smiley waited as Leamas bought a ticket. 

“See you tomorrow after work?” George asked, as he walked Leamas to the platform.  Someone checked Leamas’ ticket and he went forward, Smiley staying behind.

“If Control doesn't send me off to Paris or something then of course.”  He left, not looking back. 

Smiley turned with a faint smile on his face. He looked up and saw Jens standing behind him, so obviously listening to their conversation. 

Jens panicked.  Oh God George would get mad and then he'd kill him oh God this was terrible-

“Do you need something?” the man asked politely. He had a kind, fatherly voice.  He was smiling as if he wanted to genuinely help him.

“Are you a vampire?” Jens blurted.

George Smiley winced a tiny bit, glancing from side to side as if afraid someone would hear.  The man at the ticket booth appeared not to notice, and the rest of the station was empty. 

“Yes.  Do you need to see my license?” 

Jens shook his head.

“Do you know Leamas?”

Smiley frowned.  “When did you start listening to our conversation?”

“When Leamas told you he didn't like how you kept refrozen blood in your fridge.”  Jens’ voice shook.

“So you know I know Leamas.”  Smiley took a curious step forward, Jens took twice as many steps back.  Smiley stuck out a hand as if to stop him from running.  “What do you need from Leamas?” he asked, as if speaking to a startled horse.

“I need to ask him something.”  It was true.

George’s frown became a look of blank realization. “You're that boy, aren't you? Jens?”

“What’s it to you?”

Smiley sighed.  “You heard everything.  Leamas gave you a week-dose.”

“A weak dose?”

“Week.  Seven days. It means an average human male will regenerate one meal’s worth of blood and its red blood cells in seven days. We approximate a meal’s worth to a pint.”

Jens nodded, wait no don’t be drawn in by his bloody fun facts- a part of him wanted to laugh.  ‘Bloody’ fun facts- Concentrate!  “So what if he gave me restorative?”

“So you are the boy,” George said.  Jens blushed, but Smiley went on.  “Vampires don't giveweek-doses unless they have a guarantee of your blood because of how hard it is to regenerate the restorative.  Leamas doesn't have that guarantee because of his license, the lottery, and as I'm sure you just heard, he seems ready to just let you leave even though he doesn't want you to.”

Jens was struck dumb.  Then, last week, why had Leamas-

“He must see something special in you,” Smiley said in that kind old voice.  Such a very human voice.

“How do I find him?”

“You want to go to him?” Smiley asked incredulously. 

“He's the only one who’ll give me what I need, Mister Smiley.”  He said it simply.

Smiley gave him a concerned frown, biting his lip. “He's fed off you before-”

Fed.

“Surely you know well enough that Leamas likes to soften up his food,” George said sadly.

His food.

“Play with it.” Don't do it, the tired old man seemed to be saying, “He plays with the ones he keeps.”  He’s dangerous.  “He's like a cat with a butterfly.”

“I need to find him,” Jens said.  He needed Smiley’s help.  He needed to appeal to, if not his head, then his heart, “George.”

Smiley gave in with a sigh.  “You can still catch him if you take the next train. Three stops.  It's about an hour out of town.  He's going to a restaurant called The Mutton Shoulder.” 

Jens nodded.  “Thank you,” he said.

Smiley watched him buy a ticket and pass to the platform in fascination.  The next train pulled in to the quiet station. 

He had been about to ask a question, but then had stopped himself. It would have ruin the magic of the moment, if he'd asked if Jens’ pulse was really as strong as Alec had said it would be.  He shouldn't know whether Alec was right or if it was the product of a mind in lo-

And then he stopped himself again.

 

---

Leamas ordered an entire bottle of red wine along with the steak pie. 

“Will that be all sir?” the waiter asked. 

“A shot of venous blood to go with the wine,” Leamas told him.  He was starving, and even though he required a license to consume blood at a restaurant, he asked out of habit.  He was starving.

The waiter paled.  A small flutter of hope rose in his chest.  Don't ask for my lisence- don't ask for my license- 

If he was served blood without the establishment checking the license, then he could get away scott free- lawyers pushing the blame onto the restaurant’s staff for not checking.  The waiter needed a push.  Proof beyond the license.

Leamas smiled, letting his fangs slide almost embarrassed from his gums.  The waiter went white.  Jesus, he must be a new hire, Alec thought. The Mutton Shoulderwas well known for its vampire patrons, which was why he used to come here a lot.

The waiter’s voice shook.  “Alright, I’ll see if we still have some arterial-”

“Venous.  The dark stuff,” Alec said.  God, he hadn't been here in months.  Had the owners replaced all their useful staff? 

The waiter squeaked out an “of course” and hurried away.

The food came, smelling wonderful.  A moment later, the shaky waiter came out, carrying a bottle and glass in one hand and a brimming shot of dark liquid, setting them all down gingerly in front of Leamas. 

“Thanks,” he said as the boy sloshed the wine in the glass.  He sniffed the blood.  Warm. “This yours?” he asked, eyeing the waiter up and down.  The scents were similar.

“Almost.  It's my sister’s.  She’s the donor tonight.  Only one pint until they move on to someone else.  They made her eat lavender and sweet grapes.  I hope you… enjoy.”  He almost mangled the last words, so obviously difficult for him to get out.

Ah.  Well that certainly did explain the shakiness and fear of being asked to bring out blood. It must be odd to serve up a siblin g, he thought as the waiter retreated.

He picked up his knife and fork, beginning to cut into the meat pie, trying to retain self control and not guzzle the entire shot immediately.  Hot steam poured from the piping hot pastry.  It needed a little time to cool. 

He turned his attention to the wine, swirling it around in the glass gingerly.  He took a gentle waft.  Wonderful. He picked up the smaller glass and one of the spoons he’d been given, that were common in restaurants frequented by vampires: a tiny wooden one.  Metal spoons interfered with the coppery taste of blood. 

He dipped the spoon in the liquid and licked it. It was indeed very fresh, but it wasn't- it didn't compare with the blood he’d- get over it.  He doesn't want it, get over it. 

He tried to focus on savouring the blood. Yes, there was the gentle freshness of rosemary along with the natural sweetness of grapes, but there was also the gentle taste of mild fish and the sad aftertaste of acid.  Was everyone underfed?

He sighed.  Good blood, very good.  Nothing fancy of course, but still, smooth on the pallet.  But it was missing something.  A face?  A slim, sharp-  shut up.

There had been a taste to Jens though. Something odd about it.  You can tell a lot from someone’s blood.  His tasted like love and guilt and the same meal for weeks.  He tasted underfed, but the meals that he did eat were always healthy.  There was no trace of the cheap American sodas, and he didn't taste like he treated himself to coffee or ice cream.  But somehow he tasted determined- truly alive.

“Do you actually eat regular food?”

Someone sat down in front of him, and Leamas didn't fully notice, stuck in the daydream as he was.  But then he saw.

He stared out from lovely dark eyes with their shadows beneath them.  His eyelashes were unbearably long.  He had dark hair that half curled at the end, easy enough to flatten out if need be.  Locks of it tickled his ears and the side of his face.  His face.  It was a symmetrical assemblage of bony juts and hollow gaps, giving Leamas the impression he was talking to a starving marble statue.  The sharp jaw slid onto a neck.  Leamas knew he shouldn't look at it, but it moved and suddenly he couldn't look anywhere else.  Hunger had eaten away all the soft curves, leaving the inner workings of the neck painfully, fascinatingly, beautifully, deliciously visible.  Each breath was like watching the insides of a clock tick, each pulse was like the seconds hand.  He was hungry. 

Look away. 

And so Leamas did.  He looked down at the base of the neck, at the collar bone and its surrounding hollows.  The cup of his collar visibly rose at every pulse, begging to be noticed, to have fangs explore.  There were grooves on the sides as well, and as Alec stared at them he realized he wanted nothing more than to slip his tongue around the back and underneath the collarbone, to feel how close his fangs were to that beating heart, to have this life so nearby him.

He wanted nothing more than to feed.

“Do you?”

“Mm?” Leamas hummed in a daze.  He wondered if he'd fallen asleep at the table and if this was a dream.  He blinked. It wasn't.  Jens was actually right there in front of him.  His breath sped up a hair. 

“Do vampires really eat human food?”

Leamas worked hard to contain his surprise.  He remained looking half-bored, and even managed to look like he had been expecting Jens.

“Not how you do,” Leamas said, as if picking up a conversation they'd just left off.  “We eat for pleasure.  The taste. Vampires can't absorb nutrients that aren't already in the bloodstream.”

Jens was seated on the edge of his seat, easily able to shoot up and make a dash for the door.  He was sweating slightly, a bit out of breath.  His elbows perched on the table, arms crossed in an ‘X’ over his chest, fingers digging into the opposite shoulders.  “Interesting,” he said, offhandedly, but Leamas could see in the way he leaned forward and eyes seemed to widen that he’d piqued the student’s interest.

“We can taste different flavours of blood as well, depending on what the food ate,” Leamas found himself saying.  He noticed the short tightening of Jens’ face at the word ‘food’ but went on anyway.  “Sometimes we spice food or drink with blood to give it a little nourishment, like with this wine.  It's popular to thicken red wine with venous blood, or rosé with arterial.” He stopped. He shouldn't be telling a human this.

There was a heavy pause in the conversation.  Jens shifted in his seat, a bird ready to fly if Leamas got to close. 

Damn.  Those bony shoulders showed through the pale white shirt.  Leamas wished he couldn’t see through the boy’s clothing as well as he did.  He could see the rise and fall of the thin chest, the-

“Christ,” Leamas said, “you look like a skeleton.”  He pushed the steaming pie away from him, sliding it to Jens’ side of the table.  Jens uncrossed his arms, exposing his lower arms.

“But, it's your-”

“Damn it Jens, did I not just tell you I don't needyour human food?”  Leamas flashed his teeth, fangs peeking out.  Jens shivered slightly.  “Besides, what kind of scum would I be,” Leamas began, “If I ate that in front of yo u?”  He shook his head incredulously.  “Jesus Christ,” he added.

Leamas passed the knife and fork across the table.  For a brief instant as Jens took them, obviously avoiding physical contact, Leamas had the most overpowering urge to plunge the pronged fork into the crook of the boy’s arm like a syringe, and sip-

And then the fork and knife were in Jens’ delicate hands.  He cut the top of the pie open and was about to explore the contents with the fork when he stopped.

“This- this hasn't got… bloodin it, does it?” he asked nervously, eyeing the dark sauce.

“Not human.”

Jens nodded and lowered his head to the plate as he scooped a small lump of meat into his mouth.  His eyes never left Leamas’ face.  Maybe he thought the moment he stopped looking at the vampire would be the moment Leamas would lunge forward, fangs plunging for a vein-

Leamas blinked.  He wanted to ask a question, but he needed Jens to eat.  It almost hurt to see how thin he was.  Last time he'd been this close everything had been too dark to appreciate with his eyes just how slight his food was.  He'd felt it though.

Jens ate carefully.  Slowly.  Leamas could see in his eyes that he was holding back, trying to be polite.  If you wanted to pretend to be a socialite, you would have raised the fork to your lips, not bent over your food like that.  Leamas sighed.  “Jens,” he said, and a flash of panic ran through the boy, “You need to feed.”  A twitch at ‘feed’.   “Don't stand on ceremony, and don't hold back.  Just eat.”

Jens nodded nervously.  Alec was pleased to see he began eating with more gusto.  And still those large, deep eyes never left his face. 

Leamas let him feed.  Eat.  That was the proper terminology.  He shook the thought away.  He bit back a dozen questions, resolving to ask Jens when he was full. 

To distract himself, he toyed with his wine.  He wondered if Jens drank. 

He spooned a quarter of the shot into the glass as Jens watched, fascinated.  Leamas was certain that he knew what that dark liquid was.  He swirled the glass gently, watching in amusement as Jens’ eyes went round and round, hypnotized by the slow, purposeful, rhythmic movement.

“Wine is like an old person- you don't shake them, you’re delicate with them.  Tastes better that way.”  It was worth breaking the pleasant silence for the tiny twitch of Jens’ fingers.

Leamas drank and Jens ate in silence.  There was only half a bottle left by the time Jens’ eating slowed. Alec noticed, smiling slightly.

“Why are you here.”  It was a command, really.  Not a question.

Jens shrank back.  “Because Mister Smiley said you would be here,” he said in a steady voice. He had a beautiful dribble of sauce drying where it had spilled from his lip.  He looked like a child playing vampire with its food, terrified when it realizes that vampires really are real.

Leamas ran a tongue over the edges of his human teeth, watching Jens squirm in discomfort.  He calculated it.  Trains came to this stop every twenty minutes, so Jens must have caught the very next train.  That meant that Smiley must have run into him by the train station, but it alsomeant that, since Jens had known that Smiley knew his whereabouts that he must of seen them together.  “I don’t like being followed,” he said.  Jens wouldn't be able to tell if the tone carried a threat or not.

Jens’ face flushed a pale pink as blood rushed- don't think about that.

Leamas languished in the silence, pouring out yet another glass of wine.  He could feel the pull as Jens twisted the ends of the table cloth under the table.

“I- I came to ask if-”

Something sparked in the pit of Leamas’ stomach.  Jens couldn’t possibly- could he?  Pleasure wormed its way into Alec’s mouth, making him smile.

“I asked Liz if her friend Emily- she’s a vampire who lives across the hall from Liz- could give me restorative.  She said only if Emily could drink me, and even then only a small amount.  She said that Emily told her that restorative reserves only regenerate when a vampire drinks blood, so she'd need collateral.  And-  she's a stranger, and I don't want a stranger near my throat alright?” 

Leamas smiled a dangerous smile.  “You’ve met me exactly twice,” he said.  “Am I not a stranger?”

“Less so than Emily.  And I know Emily has problems controlling herself when she… when she…”

“Feeds?”  The word rolled from Leamas’ tongue with indecent pleasure.

Jens was deathly pale.  “And you’ve well… you’ve-”

“Fed on you,” Leamas said.  His voice was even more sickly alluring than before.  He licked his lips hungrily.

The student shivered.  “Yes,” he said in an utterly defeated, submissive voice.  “And I’m still alive.  Odds are that you'll… that you'll let me stay this way.”

Leamas started to laugh quietly.  Of course he would.  He bit his bottom lip in anticipation.  Of course he would.  He could already feel the warm blood trickling down the back of his throat, the tastethat he could not shake.  Alec was already imagining the weakening twitches as Jens’ strength faded, the-

He took a breath.  “Of courseI will leave you alive.”

Jens gave a shaky nod.  A silence.  A long silence that stretched.  Leamas was determined to remain in control; he would not break the silence.

And then Jens gave in.  “I’m sorry I ran.”  Last time.  When I told you to find my keys and ran, he seemed to be saying.

How odd.  The prey apologizing for trying to save itself.  Coming back, offering its neck.  As if Jens owed him something.  He was such an odd person . 

Leamas laughed.  “You're very strange, Jens,” he said. 

“How so?”

Leamas wanted to laugh hysterically.  There were not enough words to express how much of a walking paradox Jens was.  Why do you donate?  If you donate to vampires willingly, why are you terrified whenever I toss out the word ‘feed’?  If you're so scared of someone drinking you dry, then why come back to me of all people? Leamas was by no means the most vicious eater, but he wasn’t Smiley, who would drink from a neck or a blood bag with equal indifference, as if someone had offered him a pint at a party and he was just drinking to be polite.

Instead, Leamas merely twisted his lips, taking another sip of thickened wine.  The lavender and grape blood tasted bland.  “You don't act like other humans at all,” he finally said.

Jens frowned a bit at that, but a tiny quirk of the lips told Leamas that he was flattered. 

They let the silence sit for another moment, and then Jens asked, “May I ask you something?”

Leamas smiled.  The boy was marvelous, and for the life of him, he couldn't figure out why.  He nodded, forcing down some more wine.  The world was pleasant around the edges.

“When can you give me more restorative?” he asked.

Leamas gave a small chuckle.  “I could give you some right now, but there's a complication.”

Jens looked impatient.  “What complications?” he asked quickly.

“I’ve not eaten a full meal for three weeks.  Little things like this,” he held up the glass, “have kept me from cracking and hunting without a license.”

Jens bit his lip.  He probably wanted to ask why.  Leamas would not give him that opportunity.

“Surely you don't wantme to get carried away do you?”  Leamas said with a sharp smile.

He saw fear leak into Jens’ eyes as the boy no doubt remembered him alluding to the blood-thirsty craze that could propel a vampire into murdering those around it in starved desperation.  The only reason Leamas was not balancing on the edge, salivating wildly, clawing nails into himself under the table to stay concentrated, not leaping over the table to rip out Jens throat to drink nine pints then slit him head to toe to drink two more, was because he’d had three small drinks in the past three weeks and one at Smiley’s earlier that day.

Leamas had iron self control, especially for a vampire, but even he could not be sure that he would not lose control if he was presented with a neck held out willingly.  Jens’ blood was too tempting.

“When… When would be a safe… time?”  Jens asked.  His voice was meek.  God he needed to feed.  He needed to feed on that.

“When did you last give blood?”

“Two weeks ago.  As soon as I could after-” Jens voice hit a snag.

“I’ll only take a small sip next week, but give you a week-dose.” If I can spare it.

Something glittered wonderfully in Jens’ eyes.  Leamas tried to take a closer look, see what it was, but it was gone as soon as it had come.

“How about the end of next week?  I'm going for drinks with a friend this week, should ensure that I don't overfeed.”

Jens flinched at the word ‘overfeed’.  Alec wanted to whisper that word over and over in his ear and then feed off the veins just under the boy’s jaw and-

He poured himself another glass of wine, scraping most of the remaining blood shot into it.  He swirled the spoon in the wine almost viciously and then drank.

Jens thought for a bit.  “How about Friday?” he asked timidly.  He looked embarrassed, and Leamas thought he knew why. 

“Excellent planning.  So you don't have to wear bandages to class,” he said. 

Jens blushed. 

“You choose the place.  After all, you're the one who wants this.”  I need it.  I need it too.  I need to feed on you, I-

Leamas bounced his leg gently under the table.

“How about that park near the hospital?  That's usually empty at around eleven.”

Leamas nodded, glancing at his watch.  “Speaking of the time, it’s late.  You should go home and sleep.”  It came out as an order.

Jens nodded mutely, stumbling out a “Thank you-”  He gulped, and Alec saw how his neck moved when he was afraid.  “For everything.”

He stood up and practically fled the restaurant.

What an odd little human Jens was, Leamas thought with a little smile.

He sighed, calling the waiter over to get the check.  He would need to have a pint of Smiley’s disgusting refrozen blood to keep him from going over the edge.  Would you really be going to such troubles to not drink him dry if you had your license and he'd been selected?  Leamas really didn't want to know the answer .

 

---

 

Jens walked as calmly as he could to the end of the country lane. The Mutton Shoulderwas at the top of a hill overlooking a small village. Jens could see the train station from here.  The moment he rounded the corner- the moment the restaurant was out of site- he began to sprint as fast as he could down the hill.  He didn't exactly know why- well he did: he didn't want to be eaten by a starving vampire, but he didn't have a concrete, rational reason that he was terrified out of his mind.

Part of him realized that it was perfectly normal to be scared, but that was absolutely no comfort whatsoever.

Jens almost tripped over a stone, panicking for a moment before he could right himself.

He promised not to kill you, and that's the only thing that matters.  The only thing.  This is what you want.  You want to donate.  You want to help.

He reached the train station, paid for a ticket, then got on. 

As the train rattled along the tracks past the blue grey darkened countryside, he thought about the odd vampire, ‘Alec’ Leamas.

On the one hand, Leamas hadn't been lying when he'd said he fed enthusiastically.  But at the same time, from what he had overheard him saying to Smiley, it seemed Leamas had a soft spot for him.

Jens didn’t quite know if he felt touched, but he did know that he had to exploit Leamas’ weakness to get what he wanted. 

It actually surprised him to find that he didn't mind Leamas’ company when he wasn't at Jens’ throat at all.  His personality was a bit morbid, but humourous as well.  And he'd answered Jens honestly.  And he was interesting.  And he seemed to want to care for him.  And Jens had so many questions he wanted to ask him.  And-

He almost wanted to-

Get to know him better?  He thought incredulously as the idea popped into his head.

Well… actually

Yes.

 

 

The week passed in a blur, helped along by the strangest feeling of anticipation despite the knowledge that Leamas would lay into him like a wolf into a deer’s stomach.

He found biology was getting a little easier, although he was still rather hopeless at it, but law was going well.  Strangely, Jens never had to pull an all-nighter.  He finished his assignments with efficient ease. 

It wasn't as if he could procrastinate- Jens didn’t really keep hobbies, or at least, all his hobbies were not single-person affairs. You couldn't tell yourself a story.  You couldn't go feed the ducks by yourself.  Well, he still fed the ducks, Jens admitted, but it wasn't really a hobby.

If he had one indulgence it was in calligraphy.  He loved the smoothness of excellent penmanship, which he possessed.  He supposed it came from rewriting his notes so many times to study.  It made writing letters enjoyable.

Jens yawned, wrapping up his short essay and sliding it into his folder with a sigh.

And all of a sudden it was Thursday night, and he was laying out tomorrow’s clothes.  He took his old shirt, the one he wore so as not to stain his others.  Jens wondered if it would be a good idea to wear… He had one pair of trousers that outlined his legs… nicely.  Jens blushed.  He'd promised himself he wouldn't wear those.  Those had been a joke gift

But maybe if he endeared himself to Leamas enough, he'd get more restorative.  Or it'll get you killed.  Jens realized he couldn't walk that fine line in between just yet.  He shoved the dark trousers back under his other clothes, choosing instead some of his normal brown ones.  They were too short, coming a bit too far up his ankles.  He hoped Leamas wouldn't notice.

Jens slept lightly that night, at times twitching at dreams of cold hardness buried in his throat, the twist,the force with which Leamas sucked his blood, at times dreaming of the large salty meat pie with its heavy gravy and the words “He must see something special in you” floating around.

He awoke five minutes before his alarm was supposed to go off and lazily got dressed, buttoning up his pants, and because his mind felt fuzzy around the edges, he left the top button of his white shirt undone.

Class ended at four thirty.  Fiedler usually left with the teachers, at five forty five.  As he waited outside one of their offices, he wondered what the hell he was supposed to do from six to eleven.  Five hours in which to worry.  He could even go back home for a few hours.  Or he could wait at the park.  There was a small lake there.  He could feed the ducks, except he’d need to go back to the apartment to get bread .  Not worth it, he thought.

He dawdled, getting off the bus a few stops before he needed to and arriving at the park at seven fifteen.

He walked twice around the entire place, its large trees with thick trunks in either side of the winding, well kept paved path that wound around the lake.  After a while, he sat down on one of the park benches.  It was almost eight and beginning to get dark.  The fall leaves trembled beautifully.  They were like the fingers of an expert pianist, itching to flitter along the ivories.

The bench had several carvings in it, hearts with names inside. It made Jens smile a little.

At some point, he set his school bag on his lap and hugged it, bending over it to rest his head on the top.  He drifted in thought, strangely half asleep in the peaceful park. This was pleasant.

He didn't know for how long he hugged at the bag, but at some point, he peeked his head up.  The park street lamps were lit, spilling shimmering reflections over the water like oil. Vaguely he wondered what the time was. If it was past eleven, then he thought he might just go home. 

He glanced to the side and the sight of a figure perched on the other side of the bench hit him like a bucket of ice water. 

Jens flinched away, about to make a dash for it when the figure leaned back and was illuminated by the night glass glow. 

It was Leamas.  His hair was neat, and he was wearing a different coat this time, darker.  One leg was crossed over the over.  He had been fiddling with something on a chain, but as he saw Jens move, he dropped it back under his shirt.  A brown paper bag rested against the back of the bench.

“Didn't want to wake you,” Leamas said.  “It’s only ten forty five.”

Jens couldn’t help but scoot to the opposite extremity of the park bench, putting his bag down in between him and Leamas.

“I’ll tell you what's in my bag if you tell me what's in yours,” Leamas said with half a smile. 

“Homework,” Jens said quickly.  “Textbooks too.  Pencils. Paper.”

A duck splished quietly in the pond in front of them. Leamas picked up his back and reached inside, pulling out thick bread crumbs. 

“I think I have the better bag,” Leamas said, tossing the bread into the dark water.  There were more splashes. 

“Take some.  Eat it, if you don't feed it to the ducks,” he said, holding out a handful of bread to Jens.

Jens threw it to the ducks numbly.  “When did you get here?” he asked.

Leamas shrugged.  “About an hour ago.”

“So you’ve been watching me sleep.”

The breath caught in Leamas’ throat, as he stumbled to try and find a palatable answer.  “Well, yes, but think of it as protection while you sleep.  Maybe my presence acts as a deterrent to thugs and murderers. Wouldn't want to wake up in a morgue, do you?”

Jens smiled a bit in the half dark. 

Leamas tossed another breadcrumb.

Jens bit his lip.  “Do you want to do it now?” he asked.

Leamas glanced down at his wrist.  “We still have… seven and a half minutes.  Time to back out, if you…”

“No, I want to do this.”

Leamas laughed, putting down the paper bag.  “I’ll keep feeding them when we’re done then,” he said, indicating the ducks.  “Leave your bag here, we’ll go to that tree.  I don’t feel like cleaning up a bench if you thrash around more than last time.”

Jens nodded.  They were actually doing this.  They were doing this.  Oh my God I'm actually doing this.

He got up on shaky legs and stumbled behind Leamas to the nearest tree.  A thick, leafy affair whose foliage was a bright red in the dim lighting of the street lamps.

“Are you sure you want this?”

Jens took a shaky breath.  “Yes.” 

Leamas nodded, smiling like a grey wolf.  “Take off your shirt.”

Jens shivered, even though it was barely cold.  He didn't want to take his eyes off the vampire so he began to unbutton the shirt rather than pull it up over his head.

The cold air painted patterns down his back, raising his hair as Jens tossed the shirt on the ground.  He crossed his arms over his chest as if it would protect him. 

Leamas seemed to be about to say something.  Jens was very thin.

“Stand up against there,” Leamas said, indicating the side of the tree facing the lake.

Jens did so, almost tripping over the thick roots as he walked to stand, his back facing the massive trunk. 

Leamas followed, and when Jens turned around, he found the vampire terrifyingly close.

Leamas pushed the center of Jens’ chest into the tree trunk with a forceful palm.  His back made a soft thump and air rushed out from between Jens’ lips.

“Your pulse…” Leamas breathed in deeply, as if already savouring his food.  His food.

Jens winced, jamming his eyes shut.  He expected the hard plunge of fangs-

But they didn't come.  Jens opened his eyes. 

Alec placed slid the palm downwards, placing his hands on either side of Jens’ ribcage, slowly and deliberately, as if he knew how much he was making Jens panic.  Jens couldn’t move-  Leamas forced a knee between Jens’ own.  

Jens looked up at him, breathing terribly quickly.  Leamas was beginning to lean forward ever-so-slowly. Jens squirmed.

Leamas laughed.  That sickly hunger was in his voice as he bent over, delicately sliding his cheek over Jens’ neck.  He felt it twitch.

Jens winced as he felt Leamas’ mouth open against his neck, as his tongue rolled over the skin.  Please, just do it now-

He jerked as the fangs slid through his skin.  Jens actually thought he could hear his skin break. But then something odd happened. Something was pulsinginto his neck rather than out.  It wasn't restorative.  It was the opposite of the sharp bubbly pricks, it was like a trickle of calm was flowing through his veins.  His shoulders were relaxing, but Jens didn’t want them to relax- he needed them to protect his neck.

Leamas’ tongue curled lovingly over his collarbone even as this new poison seeped through his veins.  Jens whimpered.

“What- what are you doing to me?” he asked in a tremoring whisper, so quiet he almost didn't know if Leamas could hear.

A wet laugh bubbled on his throat.  “Just a little sedative to keep you from thrashing around like a fish,” he muttered, hot breath making Jens’ skin tingle.  “Wouldn't want to slit your own throat by accident, mmmh?” Jens felt the hum through Leamas’ Adam's apple, resting on his chest.  His skin prickled.

“I don't- I'm scared-”

A shudder of pleasure ran down Leamas’ back and he rolled his shoulders, pressing them into Jens’ own, pinning his soft back into the rough bark of the tree.

“Don’t worry,” Leamas crooned, “the sedative will start to affect your head soon.” 

Jens panicked, legs kicking on either side of Leamas’ knee, trying futilely to jerk his neck off of Leamas’ fangs.  But the sedative was winning.

Jens felt the muscles of his neck relax as the serum traveled up his veins.  It felt wonderful, and that was what scared him.  His head slumped forward, all tension gone, resting perfectly over Leamas’ shoulder.  He felt the vampire’s breathing make his head rise and fall. 

And then Jens supposed the sedative reached his head. Slowly, he calmed, his mind succumbing to that same lovely feeling of mild contentment that swirled in his veins. This wasn't so bad.  It was even pleasant when he began to feel the long pull of Leamas’ fangs and mouth as they drank his blood.  Everything was simply wonderful.

Leamas felt Jens go a beautiful limp against the tree and smiled, knowing that Jens’ lips would be drawn in a distant smile as if remembering a fond memory.

Jens was warm against him, pulse a rhythmic take on the butterfly wing flutter. 

As he shifted his fangs forward to hold the wound open so his tongue could roil in that sea of blood, Leamas shifted his hands.  Jens’ arms were not flailing.  They fell loosely by his sides.  With a smile, Leamas eased his fingers in between those perfectly spaced ribs, feeling the now relaxed breaths.  His skin was warm and alive- 

Leamas shivered in pleasure, fangs accidentally jerking to the sides, widening the wound.  Blood bubbled as it began to trickle down Jens’ chest.  He wanted to lick it up.

Gently, he eased Jens’ head backwards and to the side to expose more of the neck.  The boy’s smile seemed to deepen a fraction.  The smeared blood painted Jens’ neck all shades of scarlet, like a piece of art not meant for sharing.

A branch snapped nearby, and Leamas froze.

“Hello?  Is someone there?”  A gruff voice.

The fangs retracted with a sickly sliding sound and the tongue hurried to clean his lips.  Leamas pressed himself into Jens’ body to hide the mess of his neck.

Leamas brought his hands up to cup the sides of Jens’ face, fingers running through his hair.  He pressed his mouth to the other’s hollow cheek hungrily  , trying to find Jens’ lips in the dark with his tongue.  He found them, his own lips sliding across Jens’ face to close over the human’s mouth, tongue between lips, running over teeth.

Jens did nothing, his mind still far away in gentle peace.  He was impassive as Leamas made all sorts of soft, wet noises in his mouth with his lips and tongue, as if the vampire were getting ready to devour him.

The footsteps through the crunching leaves neared.

Leamas forced himself further into Jens’ chest, his mouth- His pulse.  Leamas’ fingers curled into Jens’ sides.  Oh how lovely.

“Who is that?” The voice was hard and suspicious.  It was beside him.  Whoever it belonged to could see him.

Leamas pulled himself slowly away from Jens’ lips, his tongue lingering a moment too long.  Jens’ mouth was just as soft as the rest of him.

He turned around.  There was a policeman standing there, holding a baton.  “What are you doing?” he demanded. 

“We’re trying to have a moment,” Leamas said, in a slight French accent.  No one loves the French.  To top the image off, he played Jens like a puppet.

Leamas tickled the base of Jens’ neck, and he let out a lovely little giggle.

The policeman backed away, embarrassed and angry.  “This isn’t some goddamn hotel room,” he said in disgust. He tried not to look at Leamas, “Next time, find somewhere else to fuck your girlfriend.”  He stalked off angrily.

Leamas chuckled darkly as he lowered himself back down to Jens’ neck, prying his neck to the side again.

Before his fangs slid out however, he hawked up and spat, pink saliva glistening between the leaves in the lamplight.

“Where were we?” he muttered to himself as he dipped his head to Jens’ neck.

He felt a soft twitch as his fangs slid back into their grooves.  He took a long, delicious drink before remembering his promise to Jens. 

I’ll only take a small sip next week, but give you a week-dose. 

He'd had almost half a pint.  That was barely enough to whet his appetite. And in exchange, a week-dose- almost everything he had left. 

But for Jens, for that intoxicating human whose blood stayed on his lips, the memory of whose pulse would make Alec miss his train stop… For Jens it was worth it.

He wanted to believe that it was because he knew Jens had no one else to go to.  He wanted to believe that he was only giving restorative because he had tied Jens so tightly to himself that he effectively had the guarantee of his blood.  While that was all true, Leamas couldn't help but feel that there were other reasons.  He didn't want to explore them.

Bitterly, he twisted his fangs one last time, hungrily sucking up the blood, and then he let the restorative loose in Jens’ system. Leamas held Jens steady like this, hands flattening the human’s neck and shoulder to the trunk, for the full time it took to release a week-dose, fingers still digging hungrily into the pale skin. 

Alec finally withdrew his fangs ever-so-slowly.  The sound was delicious.  The human shivered slightly, even though he was limp as a doll.

Leamas finally drew back, pulling away from where he'd pinned Jens to the tree.  The human slumped, having not the will, the strength or the support to hold his body up. He tumbled forward into Alec’s arms.

Alec caught him.

A limp body is not light, but this was one of the lightest limp bodies that Leamas had ever held.  He had marks on his back from where the tree bark had dug into his skin as Alec had pressed against him so tightly.  He held Jens by under his armpits as he dragged him back to the bench. The student’s ankles trailed in the leaves.  His trousers were too short.

Gently, he eased Jens onto the bench, wiping a bloody hand on his jacket to clean it and setting the boy’s schoolbag on the cool ground.  He propped him up in a sitting position. The human’s head lolled back, exposing his Adam's apple.  Leamas wanted to take a bite. 

Sighing, Alec ran his hands up Jens’ thin arms. He could feel every bone in the boy’s shoulder.  His pulse beat on, a constant temptation. 

Leamas began to lick him clean.  He could feel each rib as a jut against his tongue, feel the dip that came just after the collarbone.

As his tongue curled around the closing wounds, Jens finally managed to regain the willpower to speak.

“Did you kiss me?” Jens’ voice was barely more than a whisper.

“Yes.”  Alec bent his head to Jens’ chest, feeling the muscles tighten ever so slightly as his tongue slid over them.  The sedative was wearing off. 

“Why?”  Jens’ voice was still loose, words flowing easily and beautifully like water.

“I don't have my license, and you couldn't prove that you’d consented because you were sedated,” Leamas said between licks.  There was a hard spot of blood that had dried high up on Jens’ chest.  Leamas pressed his lips to the area and began to suck, tongue feeling around to leech the blood off him.

Jens let out something that could have been a whimper or a giggle at the feeling.

Leamas toes curled at the sound.

“Why did you spit afterwards?”

Leamas blinked, halting sucking dessert off Jens’ chest. He didn't think the boy had noticed that.  Leamas thought he wanted to hear a laugh again.  “Your mouth tastes disgusting,” he said flatly.

Jens started to shake with silent laughter.  He took a breath and then- that laugh.  It was like ever-changing music the way it was sharp and clear and soft and long all at once.  Jens couldn’t stop giggling and Alec couldn’t suppress that strange bubbly feeling that flitted up and down his chest.

Jens’ chest rose and fell, wet tracks glittering in the lamplight. His neck cackled in a beautiful rhythm, the muscles loosening and tightening like late clockwork.  God, Leamas thought.  God.

“Why did you sedate me?” Jens asked eventually, sounding a bit more sober as his laughs turned sour and pathetic.

Alec hesitated a fraction.  “Sedative has two purposes, and one of them is to keep the… person still, so they don't flail around and slit their own throats,” Leamas explained. “You might have hurt yourself.”  You sound weak.  “And you're no use to me if you're dead,” Alec added.

Leamas finished cleaning Jens’ chest and sat down next to him on the bench.

Jens didn’t move, although that didn't mean much, seeing as he was still pumped full of sedative.  “What’s the other purpose of the sedative,” he asked calmly.

“To keep the human from running away,” Leamas said, almost hating himself.  That's not why I did it-  Don't act weak.

“You should know, Leamas,” Jens said distantly, as if about to fall asleep, “that I won't run.  I won’t run,” he repeated .  “Don’t worry…”

His head teetered, slumping to the side slowly at first, then a little quicker.  With a little thump, Jens’ head was resting in Alec’s shoulder, and his breathing was the slow, long, in and out of someone who has spent all day worrying but can now finally relax.

Jens was asleep.

Leamas felt something hard string up the back of his ribs.  I won’t run. Why?  Jens should be running.  Why had he said that?   

Jens felt very warm against him.  Alec wondered what he was supposed to do.  Take him home?  He didn't even know the boy’s last name.  He looked down briefly at his bag.  Surely he must keep an ‘if found, please return to’ address? 

Leamas shook himself.  No.  He shouldn't know Jens’ address.  It could prove to be too much of a temptation for him, half-starved vampire that he was.

Should he wake him up then? 

Leamas could feel the gentle press as Jens’ lungs expanded.  He was warm, and the water was gurgling quietly, and the lamps were glowing happily.  He didn't want this moment to end.

Should he?

Do it.

Don't be a weak old fool.

Do it.

Maybe he doesn't want-

Do it.  No one will see.

Leamas tilted his head ever so slightly, resting the side of his head against Jens’.  His hair was an angel down soft against his cheek.  What a lovely, warm pulse.

Leamas wrenched himself away.  He was salivating, his fangs itched to slide out.  What was wrong with him?

The two sat in equal silence and equal stillness, facing the splashes of light that spilled across the lake.

 

 

It was morning when Jens opened his eyes.  The sky was an early morning grey-blue.  His head was resting on a jacket.  That wasn't his jacket.

He sat bolt upright, staring around.  Leamas was sitting at the edge of the lake, on a rock, looking pensive.  He sprinkled some crumbs into the water, watching as the ducks ate them up.

“Good morning,” Jens said.  He felt that he had to say that.

Leamas smiled a bit, then returned to crumbling bread into the water. 

“What is it?” he asked.

“You're very peculiar.”

Jens guessed what he was thinking.  “I won’t run, Leamas,” he said.  “You have what I need, and I have what you nee-”

“Why do you need it?”  Alec had stopped tossing breadcrumbs into the water. 

“To donate.”

“Why donate?”

“To help people.  If I can survive without a pint and they can't, then why not?”  His argument made sense, but it didn't explain the desperate fervor with which Jens sought restorative. 

“That can’t be the whole reason, surely.”  Leamas bit the inside of his cheek. 

“Surprisingly Leamas, not everyone is as selfish as you seem to think.”

Leamas burst out laughing, scaring all the ducks away in a flutter of frustrated wings. 

Jens blushed, smiling just a bit.  He was happy he could still make people laugh.

“But, one thing, when we do this again,” Jens said, his lips drying all of a sudden.

Leamas’ eyes gleamed at the word ‘again’.

“I-” he hesitated.  He didn't want to risk losing Leamas as a source of restorative, but he couldn't- “Please don’t sedate me.  Please.

Alec Leamas registered the terror in that voice, and this time he drew no pleasure from it.

He nodded.  Words would sound hollow.

Alec opened his mouth.  He's just food, don’t-

“Then next time, if you really want a next time, please try your best not to move.”  Leamas imagined Smiley sighing and giving him a short tskHe's just food Alec.  “Just relax while I drink, alright?”

Jens shivered, even though he was wearing his shirt- Alec must have put on his shirt for him- and he shivered even more.  “I’ll try,” he said a bit unsteadily.

“Good.  Same time next week?”  Alec asked. “Wait no- we don’t want to get caught again.”

“Where else is there to go?”

My place has all the right knives to reach all the most delicious veins.  “We could go to that restaurant you followed me to. They usually let people take their humans out back after a meal.”

Jens looked sick.  “You mean that there were othervampires there that night?” he asked, horrified. 

Leamas laughed again, standing up and walking over to join Jens on the bench.  “Of course. Not every restaurant serves blood, and in some countries, vampires and humans aren't allowed to eat together at all.”

Jens bit his lip.  “I don't want to go there.  Please.” He know that ‘please’ would do the trick, that Alec wouldn't be able to resist a ‘please’ for something that simple.

“Alright.”

“We could do it here again but be less conspicuous,” Jens suggested.

“I eat messily.”

“But-”

Leamas gave Jens a look.  It was terrifying: animalistic, hungry and unforgiving.  Leamas ate messily.

Jens’ words died in his throat, and he looked down at his knees, leaning away from where Leamas sat. 

“We’ll talk about it over breakfast, Jens,” Leamas said. Leamas said the name delicately, as if afraid to mangle it.

“Breakfast?”  Jens asked. Was Leamas-

“It’s six thirty, I know a few places that’ll be open by seven-”

“Are you inviting me to breakfast?”  Jens asked, completely bewildered.

“Of course.  You need to eat.  And drink. Lots of water,” Leamas put awkwardly. “I’ve seen Selieve-tasting humans in better health than you.”

“Selieve?”  Jens asked. He had no idea what Leamas meant and wasn't sure he really wanted to know.

“Selection Eve combined into Selieve.  We all go to each others’ houses with food and have a taste of everything.”

Jens felt sick again.  The very thought of selection made his stomach churn, and he thought he knew just what kind of food ‘we all’ brought.  He desperately forget the concept of ‘Selieve’, so he pulled Leamas back to their original topic.  “I’m perfectly healthy.  I get enough vegetables-”

“Stop playing mother with yourself because it's not working. Your blood tastes like the last time you were full was last year.”  Leamas didn't notice the slight tightening of Jens’ jaw.

“I’m fine.

Leamas’ eyes narrowed.  “Do you wanted to tell you how useless donating unhealthy blood can be? Do you-”

Jens winced, covering it up with a pained smile.  “Oh good.  At least I can be sure that you don't actually care about me,” he said.

“So you’ll come?”

Jens’ shoulders drew in a hair.  “I didn't bring any money,” he said.

Leamas rolled his eyes.  “Obviously I’d be paying, Jens.”

Jens gave in with a sigh.  “Alright,” he muttered lamely.  “Where are we going?”

They ended up at a lovely Austrian style café that took up half a square.  A fountain played in the center.  Leamas got them a seat inside, and clicked his fingers for a waiter to come over.

“What would you gentlemen like this morning?” the waiter asked, clicking his pen.

Leamas squinted, taking a hard look at Jens’ face.  “We’d like a hot chocolate and some pressed apple juice.  Do you serve Kaiserschmarren this early?” he asked.

The waiter frowned.  “I think we should do.  I'll let you know.  Is there anything else you would like?” he asked.

“If you still serve those éclairs I’ll take one.”

The waiter nodded, scribbled something on his notepad and recited the order.  Leamas smiled politefully, and the waiter left.

“I don't like éclairs,” Jens said guiltily. 

Leamas grinned.  “Well it’s a good thing that the éclair is mine and the Kaiserschmarren is yours then,” he said.

Jens gaped.  “I-” He was speechless.  His chin looked weak and he buried his head in his hands.

Oh God, Leamas thought.  God I made him cry.  “Jens? Jens I’m sorry-”

Jens shook his head, and Alec was relieved that no one else was at the restaurant yet.

“No-no…it’s… no one has-  I haven't had Kaiserschmarrn in years, and no one-  and you're supposed to be a vampire, and you're being so- and-”  Jens’ voice trembled.  Alec didn't know what to do.  He couldn't exactly pat him on the back, what with him being a vampire.  Jens could take the physical contact the wrong way.

“Hey, hey.” That was the tone you were supposed to use, wasn't it?  “Talk to me.” People needed people who would listen to them, right?

Jens shook his head.  It rolled side to side, forehead resting on the fists that lay on the edge of the table.  “No it’s fine.  This just happens sometimes-  I’ll,” a rasping shudder of a breath, “I’ll be fine in a few minutes, just give me a few minutes, I just need a few minutes, I-”  And then he lapsed into uneven breathing.

Leamas sat mutely at his end of the table.  This wasn't supposed to happen.  Shit, how had it all gone so wrong?

Jens’  head lolled pathetically.  His shirt wasn't fully buttoned up, Alec’s mistake, and he could still see the red marks on Jens’ neck.  He felt absolutely horrible.

You're supposed to be a vampire.  There was so much in those words.  Jens had sounded conflicted, as if he hated himself for thinking the obvious: you’re a vampire.  Your gain comes at my loss.  You're not supposed to be kind.

Alec wondered at the reason for that self-disgust ed tone.

The drinks came, and Jens sat up.  His face was flushed and his eyelashes looked very long and dark. 

The hot chocolate was steamy in the cool autumn air.  Leamas took a discreet sip of apple juice, then slid the cup over to Jens.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.  I've not been sleeping much recently, it must be getting to me.”  Jens’ voice was cool and collected as he smoothed the whole thing over.  “Thank you for this.”  It was genuine.

Leamas gave him an odd look.  Jens had seen it before, that face that said, no child should look at me like this.

Jens was painfully aware of how he affected surrounding people, always aware of how they saw his eyes.  Sometimes it was fun, to see the cashier look away at the supermarket or see the mother across from him in the bus twitch nervously.  It was not as fun to see how much Alec Leamas seemed to care about him.

“How did you know I liked hot chocolate?” he asked, genuinely curious.  He took a sip.  It was delight.

“Children like sweet things.  You are a child, therefore you like sweet things.”

Jens rolled his eyes.  “I’m almost nineteen.”

“Child,” Leamas said sarcastically, crossing his arms.

The food came a while later, hot Kaiserschmarrn sprinkled liberally with powdered sugar with large pots of fruit compote to dip the fried cake in. It smelled wonderful, like it was cooked in a cozy little inn in the Austro-German countryside, the kind nestled in the wide, green plains sheltered by mountains and forests.

Leamas thought Jens was about to cry again at the sight of how big it was.  “Go on. Feed.”  Jens winced.  Oh right, Alec thought, humans prefer the word ‘eat’.  Nevertheless, Jens dug in anyway, forking down the Kaiserschmarrn. 

“You’ve got raspberry compote on your chin,” Alec pointed out. It had trickled down the side of his mouth.

Jens smiled.  “I’m a vampire, Mister Leamas,” he said with eerie cheerfulness.  Red dribbled down his chin, and his tongue darted out to lick it up.  Leamas wasn’t exactly sure why, but he felt something warm bubble in the base of his stomach. 

“What are you doing this weekend?” Leamas asked, smiling. The éclair tasted too sweet today, he decided, setting aside the rest of it for Jens.  He was curious as to how such an odd person spent his time.

Jens shrugged.  “Homework. Study.  Mark a few essays for the professors.  Walking in the park maybe?”

Leamas frowned.  “That’s bland.”

“What is?”

Leamas raised an eyebrow.  “The fact that you do nothing interesting whatsoever.  Come on, surely you must do something?  A hobby or habit, perhaps? Friends?”

Jens frowned, as if worried.  “When you put it like that, my life seems dreary, but I really do enjoy university, so-”

“What year are you in?”

“Third, becau-”
Leamas licked his lips.  “Now thatis interesting, for someone of your age.  You must be brilliant- what do you study?”

Jens shrugged.  “All sorts. Technically Law, but I take courses in History, Russian and Economics to,” he made a long dramatic hum, as if telling a story, “‘supplement’ my degree.”

Leamas laughed.  “You sound exactly like a communist friend I had about twenty years ago.  Needed to understand the Soviet Union completely, so he taught himself Russian and Economics.  Probably knew all of Lenin’s speeches by heart.”

“How old are you?”  Jens asked.  He looked so innocent with that slightly open mouth and gentle upturn of the eyebrows. He wanted to change the subject. The way Leamas talked about politics was too strange.

Leamas laughed.  “Too old for marriage, too young to die,” he chuckled. 

Jens gave a broad smile, chewing his food. 

“So you're a humanities type.  I thought with all the blood donations you'd be studying medicine.”

Jens swallowed the Kaiserschmarrn.  “I take biology classes twice a week in the evenings,” he said.

Leamas’ smile broadened.  “Of course you would,” he muttered. 

Jens ate in silence for a while.  He could feel Leamas’ eyes on his neck, watching it swallow.

“And you?” Jens asked finally, the stretching silence too heavy to bear.  “What do you do?”

“Me?”  Leamas sounded surprised.  “Well I do a hell of a lot.”  He paused, leaning back and rubbing his chin, remembering.  “Work is technically from nine to five, but usually goes from nine to eight.  Once every month or so I get sent off to Switzerland or Sweden or some other place for a couple weeks, all for abysmal pay.”  He laughed.  “Week to week, I usually go out for a drink with Smiley if he’s in town, then I head down to this restaurant a couple nights a week where I help advise the chefs. Teach two classes on the weekend for that.  I also-”

“You cook?  You teachcooking?”  It had been the very last thing Jens had been expecting.

Leamas shrugged.  “Food is delicious, what can I say?”

Jens remembered with a shudder the dark alleyway.  More delicious than I remembered.  He forced down another bite.  “When you say food, do you mean-”

“Human and vampire.”

Jens didn’t have time for disgust, his automatic response was to ask the question, “How do you prepare vampire food?”

“Well, there are a variety of different methods, so it's a bit difficult to explain, but it is the process of controlling the flavour of a human’s blood.  Maybe I’ll show you some day.” 

The back of Jens’ neck prickled.  Whatever horrors comprised vampire cooking, he wanted nothing to do with. 

“Many people enjoy it,” Leamas said, seeing the sour citrus sting in the boy's eyes.  “And it doesn't really matter.”  Then, as Jens continued to look apprehensive, he said, “So what will you do today?”

“Homework.  Study. Read, I suppose.”

Alec sighed.  “Do you never bore of work?  Don't you want the spark of something new?”

“Well if I'm learning, then that issomething new,” Jens said defensively, stabbing the fork with the Kaiserschmarrn deep into the compote bowl.  “And alright, maybe sometimes it bores me, but there's not much else to do.”

Leamas shook his head.  He seemed to think of an idea, then dismiss it, then reconsider .  “You're very odd,” he said finally.  Then he moved to a new topic- an old topic.  “Where do we meet?”

Jens frowned.  “We could go to my-”

“No,” Leamas interrupted sharply.  His tone was sharp, but then, realizing how it made Jens flinch, the hard lines melted into a soft smile.  “I don't want to… be tempted,” he said.  The truth was hard to admit, but he saw Jens nod, as if in approval.

“I suppose we could go to mine, but,” Alec shook his head. He had too much tempting equipment lying about the place.  He couldn't risk accidentally gutting the boy, or finishing half a pint to find out that he’d scooped out the insides of his cheek with a serrated spoon to consume it. “I don't know if you'd be safe or comfortable in a stranger’s house.”

“I’ll do it.  You aren't allowed to kill me, so I have faith in the law and our deal.”

“You're good at pretending to be an adult.”

They both laughed.

 

Chapter Text

The next week dragged by, but not unpleasantly so.  Jens’s terror for his safety had dulled a little more at the breakfast with Alec.  He was sure now that Leamas wasn’t bent on sucking him dry.  Not that it couldn’t happen of course, but still.  Fear has never been the most rational urge.

Classes seemed to take longer, not that he minded, but sometimes he might nearly think that he wanted to be somewhere else. 

He wanted to talk to someone, and, pathetic as it was, Leamas was perhaps the only one he could converse with.

Letter writing took longer now, for some reason.  Or maybe his studies were going by faster.  If anything he often found himself, pen out, about to write about his day but remembering that he shouldn't really.  He didn't want to make anyone worry.  He didn't need his aunt’s charity, didn't need her to come down from the countryside to check on him every week like she used to.

He found biology extremely troublesome to study for.  He couldn’t seem to focus on the subject, especially since he wasn’t very interested in biology anyway.  There was a reason why he’d chosen the humanities over the sciences.  Reasonably, one couldn’t argue with science, but the humanities were quite debatable. It made them dangerous.  Jens had known that he would be of so much more use defending what he believed in rather than advancing what most people believed in.

He sighed, setting aside his anatomy chart.  Could he memorize all two hundred and six bones in the human body?  Of course he could.  Did he really want to? 

He sighed again, deeper this time. 

Someone’s in loooooooooooooove… came the singsong childish voice from his imagination. He cracked a small smile.  Of course he wasn’t.  He was just…

He let his mind wander a bit.  For the first time in ages he actually thought about vampires.  Of course lately he’d been thinking about them a lot, but he hadn’t recaptured that curiosity of his youth the,so why are there different types of fangs?  What do they do?  Do vampires need to drink water?  How do you make a vampire drunk?That he had had a passing obsession for when he was younger and didn’t understand exactly what vampires meant.

But all of a sudden he had a treasure trove to confirm all of all his childhood stories.  Jens wanted to ask Leamas if Dracula was real. 

He glanced at the clock.  Was it midnight already?  He’d only looked away from his notes for a few minutes- well, obviously more than a few minutes it seemed.

Then he remembered that it was Thursday.  Well, now it was Friday- which meant he’d be meeting Leamas after school today.  Despite his terror, still a very large and sharp acorn rammed down his throat, he felt vaguely excited.  It must have been the breakfast Leamas had given him, he decided.  A murderer didn’t buy his victim Kaiserschmarrn. 

Morbidly giddy, he finished his homework fast and went to sleep. He opened the spare bedroom out of habit to check that the windows were shut.  Good, they were.  Not like they would somehow magically open, but then again, habit is almost as irrational as fear.

He woke up twelve minutes before his alarm, as he often did when he was nervous for an exam.  He dashed off a quick breakfast, packed a hasty lunch, thinly sliced cucumber between bread, and then hurried to get dressed.  It wasn’t often he got ready all out of order.

Almost embarrassedly, he slipped on his formal school blazer and tugged a scarf from the hook by the door, knotting it around his neck so it formed a pretty little knot at his throat.  He could dress however he wanted, sure that he would have time to remove his clothes before Leamas began to-

Feed. 

Somehow he’d gone the entire week without thinking about what exactly that word meant.  He suddenly felt much more afraid. 

He pushed the thought aside at the memory of Leamas saying that flavour could be imparted to blood by eating certain foods.  Should he try and make an effort for Leamas? he wondered. He bit his lip angrily and hurried out the door.  Of course not.  He could barely afford to eat anyway, how was he supposed to be able to find the money to chew on raw herbs?

His classes dragged on incessantly.  One two hour class seemed to stretch on for three, and Jens was about to go into the courtyard to eat when he remembered that he still had another class before lunch. 

For some reason he kept staring out the window, looking at how the bright red leaves shook in the wind and the spiral patterns they blew into the cobblestone courtyard two floors below.

And then finally, it was over. 

They had eventually decided to meet in the park again, then take the bus to Leamas’ flat in the city.  To Jens’ pleasure, they had decided to meet earlier, almost straight after school.

It was with an odd mixture of dread and anticipation that he arrived at the same bench, passing the tree in which he had scraped his back against only a week previously.  Leamas was already sitting there, reading a book, which he snapped shut at the sound of Jens’ shoes crunching through crisp fallen leaves.

“What’re you reading?” Jens asked nervously.  He didn’t know how to start talking exactly.

“Culinary dictionary.  Need to figure out what to cook.  It’s in French.”

“Parlez-vous français?”  Jens’ stomach bubbled.

Leamas broke into a smile.  “T’as un accent canadien,” he said, then added, “Et tu peux me tutoyer.” He had only the smallest of accents, but it was so slight and Leamas spoke his words with so much care that Jens couldn’t place it.

Jens bit his lip a little at that.  “Vraiment?”

Leamas rolled his eyes, but then stopped, looking like he’d been slapped in the face by a slight, but unexpected breeze.  “Oh right.  You don’t even know my first name.  Of course it would be silly to-”

“It’s Alec, right?” Jens asked.

Leamas blinked, then opened his mouth as if to speak.  Then he shut it.  Then he reopened it.  “Smiley told you, didn’t he?  That one time.”

Jens shook his head, feeling a spark of fear in his stomach. Had he made Leamas mad?  He most surely hoped not.  “Actually, I overheard a lot of your conversation.”

Alec groaned.  “I’ve been made a fool of by a human child,” he muttered in mock-prayer.

“If you want, my last name is-”

“No!”  The cry was sharp.  Leamas was suddenly frowning.  “Don’t tell me your last name.  In fact, don’t tell anyone your last name.  Imagine if someone looked your address up in the phone books.  Some unsavoury characters might turn up for a savoury meal, including me if I get desperate enough.”

It sent chills down Jens’ spine.  It was meant to scare of course, to act as a deterrent to sharing his personal information, but all the same, Jens wasn’t sure if he would be able to answer the door to his own apartment again without wondering if it would be his last time.

They started walking back through the park, taking a silent moment to watch the leaves flutter like dry red feathers into the smooth surface of the lake, rippling it slightly.

They neared the edge of the park and could see the still new-looking bus stop where the browning dust and gravel path blended into the paved sidewalk.

“So why do you need a french cookbook?” Jens inquired.

“To decide what to make for dinner, of course.  I won’t have you starving, and I want to see how I can improve your flavour.”

Jens shuddered.  “Do I have to Leamas?  Can’t we just-”

Leamas looked at him, eyes flicking down to his neck for a fraction of a second.  “Jens, European preparation of blood is very centered on the idea that a healthy human produces better quality blood.  What I’m planning will only be beneficial to your health, I can promise.”

Jens’ shoulders relaxed a bit.  Only a bit.  “As long as you keep your end of the deal,” he said quietly.

The bus was just pulling up.  Leamas nodded and gestured for Jens to go first.  Stepping into the bus, Jens reached for the handrail. 

He felt Alec’s hand on his back.

Jens dashed up the stairs, away from Alec’s hand.  It had been a comforting warm against his back, but it terrified Jens.  All he could think of was the way his back had been pressed so tightly against the wall, the tree.  He didn't know if Leamas’ hands wouldn't act purely out of hunger- was confused at what the touch was for.

They took seats at the back of the bus.

Jens took the window seat at the back, then cursed silently as Alec sat down in the seat next to him.

He was trapped.  He tried to stare out of the window, blushing furiously. 

Alec leaned over, whispering dangerously near his ear. Jens winced at his closeness. Thoughts begun flooding through him, oh God he’s going to suck my blood in public- don't eat in public-don't chew with your mouth open-

“How was your week?” he asked, adjusting himself in the seat. 

In reality, Alec wasn’t that terribly close, but Jens flattened himself against the window.  “Schoolwork. Letters.  Reading, sleeping,” he said, then remembering his manners, he asked, “And you?”

“Week started off terrible.  The usual office tension, gossip and affairs is rather stressful, and I kept wanting to leave it all and fly off to America or somewhere else quiet and new and horrible,” he said.  How could he lounge like that in his tiny bus seat? Jens wondered.  “Cooked the most disgusting slop all week,” Alec continued, “Disgusting sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner because the job is so busy and I'm always getting distracted lately.  At the end of the week I almost got into a fight with my boss,” he added.

Jens gave a little laugh, leaning against the cool glass of the window.  “Tell me about that,” he said.  His small smile looked like a flower blossom.

Leamas felt the fire flare in his chest.  “I was talking with one of the Czech translators and he let slip this sort of- The people at the top, well, there’s this- it’s complicated, but the boss is… trusts this man, this piece of shit, and well, he’s a piece of shit, obviously, and the boss had come down for a visit, so I go to have a word with the him and it gets rather heated.  Well.  I got heated, he just got cold.”

Jens nodded.  The way Leamas’ sentences spilled out like he was telling a dramatic story was so engaging.

“So you translate?” he asked.           

“We do all sorts of work but I suppose translating is part of it, yes.  Personally, I don't do much of it, I help direct foreign branches of the office and help negotiate contracts.  Sometimes it is quite a bore.”

Jens nodded along.  He wasn't looking at Leamas, but he could practically see the way he rolled his eyes from the colour of his voice. 

Someone came and sat next to Alec at the back of the bus. Leamas shifted over, uncrossing his legs.  His thigh rested against Jens’ own. 

Jens was so, so sure that Leamas could feel his pulse through his clothing.  He was sure that that was the reason Leamas’ was flexing his fingers over his knee. He was certain that that was why Leamas remained silent for the rest of the bus ride.

Jens was apprehensive of pulling his knee away.  At least Leamas wasn't actually doing anything to him now, but he couldn't help but imagine that if he pulled away, Leamas’ long, forceful hands would claw into his leg, pulling him back as long slanted fangs slid out, plunging towards his neck.  The bus was packed with people- witnesses- but that did next to nothing in alleviating Jens’ fears.

“This is us,” Leamas said suddenly , standing up as the bus slowed down.  They both squeezed past the woman sitting next to Alec and into the aisle.  There weren't too many people standing, and the two hopped off the bus.  Alec’s jump had a sort of giddy excitement to it, like a child jumping over a puddle.

He pointed to a new building.  The fact that it was new wasn’t really important- everything was new, but it looked like a tall concrete block, with holes carefully sliced out for windows.  Jens supposed it wasn’t that bad.  From the outside, it looked more respectable than his own dingy apartment building. “That’s my place,” he said.

They walked around the corner and into a lobby, adequately lit, with a long counter with receptionists and a baskets of fake fruit and flowers. Alec gave a receptionist a little wink and she blushed.  “She doesn’t know I’m a vampire,” he whispered as they called the elevator. The button glowed a clean white. Jens felt odd.  It seemed clean enough, but at the same time, he felt that the place was cheap for some reason.  At least, it wasn’t the sort of place someone who had the resources to nurture as large a hobby as cooking would live.  It had both a cleaner and less comforting atmosphere to it.  It smelled oversprayed with air freshener and cleaning product, and lacked that broken-in feel that Jens’ building had.  Come to think of it, Jens’ thought his building had more of a broken feel.

They stepped into the elevator.  The moment the doors slid shut, Alec said, “Me too.  It’s like living in a hotel: everything’s dead, and no one knows anyone.  Too clean.” He’d guessed perfectly what Jens had been thinking.  “But I suppose I can bear it if only to arrive at work on time.”

They got out on the third floor, and Leamas led Jens down a brightly lit carpeted hallway.  They stopped, Leamas’ keys jangling as he unlocked the door- Jens forgot to see which room number it was- and swung the door inwards.

Leamas gestured for Jens to enter, which he did.  Leamas’ apartment was enormous to Jens’ eyes, and immaculately furnished.  There was a long sofa stretched in front of a window that looked out onto a small balcony, two leather armchairs gathered around a clear coffee table, and a long bar that separated the kitchen from the living room.  Through the glass cabinets, Jens could see countless glasses of alcohols, from a tiny bottle of something amber coloured, to an enormous bottle of vodka, half empty.  He hoped Alec used that for cooking.  He walked past the kitchen and into the sitting room, looking about.  Looking back at the kitchen, past the bar with its three high stools, Jens saw a wall of gleaming culinary instruments.  Knives to spoons to long fondue prongs to odd sorts of blades that he had no clue as to the purpose of.  He glanced at the living room.  There were two doors on the side, both open.  Jens could see one was a well-lit bathroom, bathed in gentle greens and blues, the other was a bedroom.  That was a large bed.

A stack of books rested on the coffee table, deep bookshelves lining the wall across from the bedroom.  Two layers of books could be easily placed in the shelf with room to spare. He took a look at Leamas’ titles and the little knick knacks collected on the shelves.  He tried to avoid looking at the photographs.  There was a small metal figure of the eiffel tower on one of the lower shelves, glinting a dull brass.  There was a long row of matryoshka dolls, completely empty on a higher shelf.  There was an old record player on the shelf, along with a row of LPs.

There were large posters on the wall, ones that advertised illustrations of laughing, dark haired french women in short skirts for a movie, or a print of jazzy interpretations of music made into curving shapes and pointed edges filled in bright colours.  It was all very cultured, Jens supposed, eyeing the stylized script at the bottom of one.  J’ouvre mes yeux au coucher du soleil, one of them read.

Jens frowned.  The whole place seemed too neat, too organized, as if someone had deliberately crafted the aesthetics of the place.

Alec did seem… financially well off, despite any suspicions Jens had had .

With a small laugh he noticed a the framed poster.  A tall creature with a bald white head and long pointed ears stared out at Jens.  The sharp lettering proclaimed Nosferatu, then in smaller letters, The Vampyr.

He heard the door click shut behind him.  He heard it lock.

Jens turned, suddenly afraid.

“Oh you saw that,” Leamas said with a smile, tossing his keys onto the dark green marble counter .  “Gift from Smiley.  He loves the old films.  And irony.”

Jens gave a laugh.  “I think I saw it a couple of times.”  His face fell a fraction.  They’d rerun it at the cinema once.  He’d remembered being so scared and gripping the arms of the people next to him.  He’d seen it once almost two years ago too. It was even more terrifying watching it alone in the dark, surrounded by people he didn’t know.

“Almost shit myself watching that film,” Alec said, misinterpreting that look on Jens’ face.  “Even though the vampirism’s tame by our standards.”

“I think the past tense is ‘shat’, actually,” Jens laughed, slipping his bag off his shoulder.  He'd come straight from the university after all.  “Can I leave this…?”

Alec nodded, taking the strap from Jens’ outstretched hand. “What do you keep in this? Smuggled potatoes?” he asked, plopping the heavy bag down next to one of the leather chairs.

“I'm at university, Leamas, I do have work, you know.”  Jens felt a little odd actually calling Leamas his name out loud.  It was like acknowledging he was a person.  Which he wasn't.  He sucked blood.  But he was. He had to be a person.  Vampires had to be people.  But they suck blood, the small, insistent part of him said.  Jens shoved his inner conflict out of mind.  “Alright,” he said, neck prickling with fear, “will we start now?”

 

Leamas didn't look up from where he was standing.  He'd moved behind the kitchen counter, and was washing his hands.  “No, I'm going to enjoy feeding tonight.”  He looked up.  “You are too, don’t worry.”

Jens felt cold all of a sudden, and sat down in one of the armchairs, then got up again.  “Can I go to the sofa?” he asked.

Leamas was biting his lip hungrily as he lit the stove.  “Of course.”

Jens picked up his bag and went around the couch, slumping back into it, his bag pressed tightly to his chest.  He felt very, very weak.  Alec was going to prepare him like a dish.  Season him.

He numbly pulled out his anatomy chart and closed his eyes.  The bones of the hand are…

With his back facing Leamas and the clear window showing the darkening grey sky sprawling in front of him, Jens could almost believe that he wasn't in any danger at all.

He took a deep breath, leaning back.  Leamas had promised that everything would be alright.  If he closed his eyes, Jens could even believe he was sitting in the living room, reading in happy silence as dinner was prepared.  If he didn't think about what a monster Leamas must really be, everything seemed an odd comforting.

Leamas sighed, all the ingredients laid out before him.  It was six thirty, so dinner might be ready at ten, and then Jens would need some time to lie down-

He wrinkled his nose.  It would be late by the time he’d finished feeding.  Would anyone miss Jens?  No.  The boy must have made excuses in case everything might go like last time.  “I think we’ll be done rather late,” Leamas informed him. 

Jens gave a hum from the sofa.  “That’s alright,” he said.

Leamas looked at the back of the boy’s head.  His dark, Aphrodite curls were outlined against the greying sky through the window.  His hair must be warm and smell like a winter cabin when it's snowing, like creamy, minty hot chocolate, like how the idea of Austria smelled.  No.  he was just projecting that onto Jens.

He set to work, slicing the onions and carrots, simultaneously tossing the mushrooms and thin slices of butter into a pot and leaving it to cook slowly.  He added the sliced vegetables to a different pot, one with oil.  He took a wooden spoon and stirred idly.  After a while, he added the chopped up bits of fat, leftovers from that week, and watched as they sizzled and crisped at the bottom of the pot. 

He placed the large hunks of meat in the pot, watching as they cooked.  Now he just had to make sure they didn't burn and then add the spices and the-

Shit, he'd forgotten the wine. 

Panic.

“Jens?” he called over the counter.  He saw the dark hair flounce as Jens turned.  His mouth was slightly open.  “Would you mind going and grabbing a bottle of red wine from the rack next to the bed?  It’s in the bedroom,” he added unhelpfully.

Jens frowned as if to ask, me?

“They’re the bottles nearer the bottom,” he prompted.

Jens got up, wobbling like he was on a tightrope, and made his way into Alec’s room.  Leamas prayed that he hadn't left his usual mess on the bed.  God, please don't let any of my underwear lying on the pillows oh God-

“They’re the dark bottles, right?” came the voice.

“Yes,” Alec called, “Pick any bottle,” he said.  He needed to add the wine and herbs quickly otherwise the flavour would be too- it would burn.

Leamas heard the clink of bottles.  Any red would do, although preferably not something too expensive.

Jens emerged, tilting the bottle from side to side, examining the colour through the darkened glass.

Leamas winced, holding out a hand over the counter. “Don’t disturb the wine.  They’re like old people, remember?”

Jens blushed a little, handing Leamas the bottle by the neck. He sat up at the counter, as if afraid Leamas was going to ask him something else.

Leamas looked at the bottle and almost hiccuped.  Pinot noir.  Of course it would be the only red wine that went with fish instead of meat, the wine that was impossibly expensive, that-

But the meat was about to burn. 

With a twinge of guilt, for this bottle had been an anniversary gift from his in-laws, he got out the corkscrew and pried the stopper from the bottle.

“Did I get the right one?”

“Well, not really.”  Leamas had to be honest.  He couldn't let Jens live a lie like that.  “Actually you chose perhaps the wine that goes with this the least,” he said, liberally pouring the wine into the pot, splashing in a handful of herbs.

Jens went a deep red.  It made Leamas want to-

“But thank you for choosing this one.  I never end up drinking the fancy ones, and they become sacred almost, and you never enjoy them.”

Jens’ lip trembled ever so slightly as he gave a confused look.

Please don't cry again.

“I mean,” Alec clarified, “Thank you for choosing this wine. I wasn't going to drink it even though it's a wonderful one so thank you for letting us both enjoy it.”

The look of guilt slowly receded from Jens’ face, as he eyed the Pinot noir. 

Leamas stirred the contents of the pot, turning down the fire under the mushrooms.  “Want a glass?” he asked.

“I- uh-” Jens blushed again.  “I don't drink.”

“Shame,” Alec said, reaching behind him and opening a cupboard without looking, drawing out a deep, curved wine glass.

“It'd be fun getting drunk on you,” he muttered, liquid gurgling nicely in the base of the glass.  It had the watery consistency of arterial blood, but the rich colour of venous.

“You can get drunk on blood?” Jens asked.

Leamas grinned, peering into the pot of mushrooms.  “Of course.  If there's enough alcohol in the blood, I could get buzzed or even well, funny story-”

“Tell me,” Jens said.  His voice was soft.

“There was this Russian bloke Smiley and I shared at this bar once, absolutely massive, I swear he had twice the amount of blood of a normal drink there.  It was great, we passed him between the two of us, Jesus we were all so drunk, must’ve had a good three pints.  He kept taking shots of vodka in between jokes.  He passed out after two pints but… what a man.  What a night, what a drink.”

Jens’ face was a bizarre mix of horror and amusement.  It was beautiful to see both in his eyes.  Shut up. “Did you,” he hesitated, mouth dry, “kill him?”

Leamas took a long sip of his wine, a wolfish smile half submerged in the deep red liquid, staining his lips.  He took a long, languid swallow.

“You did, didn’t you,” Jens said in a disgusted whisper.  He leaned back.

Leamas took another swallow, setting the glass down.  “I didn’t.  It’s not fashionable, and laws exist against that sort of thing.  But it’s interesting that you think I would.” His lips were very red.

Jens blushed again.  Leamas tried not to think about how that meant that blood was rushing to his face and-

He stirred the stew, smelling it.  He covered it with a lid.  “Should I add the mushrooms now?” he mused aloud. 

Jens laughed uncertainly.  “I can make a sandwich, Leamas, and that’s the extent of my abilities. How should I know?”

Alec rubbed his chin, gaze flicking from the simmering pot to Jens. He was looking at Jens’ neck. 

Don’t swallow- don’t swallow,Jens thought,he’ll look at your neck even more and he’ll rip it out with his eyes.  His mouth felt terribly dry.

Slowly, Leamas tipped the mushrooms into the pot.  “I can let it stew for an extra hour,” he said in a dangerously low voice, slipping a cover over the pot and turning down the heat. He put the pot that had had mushrooms in it into the sink, letting the tap’s water run into it for a few seconds with a steady shhhh.  Jens backed away.  Even though the counter separated him from Alec, it wasn’t enough.

Leamas took a long sip from the wine glass, draining it. “It won’t make me drunk, but it still burns,” he said.  There was barely concealed laughter in his tone as he leaned back against the wall, surrounded by a halo of specialty knives and other unique cutlery.

There was a clickshas Leamas set down the empty wineglass on the marble counter.  “Now that the nourishment is taken care of, we can move on to your body.”

“What?”  Jens’ word was sharp and terrified.  Alec had said he would feed- God he was using that word now- after dinner.

“Take off your shirt.”  Alec was moving out from behind the bar.

“You said- you said no sedative,” Jens choked out, backing up into the coffee table.

“Trust me Jens.”

He shook with the fear of the unknown, unbuttoning his white school shirt and exposing his pale chest.  He thought he knew what his body looked like to Alec, thought he knew the paths along his neck and chest his eyes would take, over the arteries .  He knew he was thin, knew that it made his veins stand out, that his skin was pale and it was easy to see through.  He could feel the hunger like heat, radiating off Leamas and making Jens’ skin burned as he blushed.

“I won’t drink yet.  I promise.  Trust me,” Leamas said, speaking as if he were talking to a frightened animal. 

Jens let his shirt slip off the shoulders.  He folded it numbly, a reflexive, habitual, comforting, defensive action.  He looked at the ground, seeing Leamas’ shoes come closer over the clean wood floor. He closed his eyes.

 

“I’m just going to rest you on the floor.  Do you like music?” Alec asked.  He dipped Jens back as if they were dancing, rotating him and holding him and lowering him to the ground next to the coffee table.  Jens was shaking.  The moment his back touched the floor, he curled up into a ball.

“I listen to old music.  Piano, classics,” Jens said numbly.  God, what was going to happen to him?

No.  It didn't matter.  He had to do what Leamas wanted, otherwise he wouldn't be able to give his blood to the vampire anymore.  A pint for Leamas was a pint for someone, was a pint that Leamas wouldn't have to get at the blood bank- there would be more blood at the blood bank if Leamas didn’t go- more blood for the others. He resigned himself desperately to whatever cruelties Leamas was about to inflict upon him.

Leamas stood up and Jens heard the shuffle of something sliding out between two books.  “Do you like jazz?” Alec asked.  A crackle as the needle ran around the empty ring.  A quiet groove floated through the apartment.  Leamas sighed.  “It’s not everyone’s music, I know, but it was a gift.  I should use my gifts more.”

“What’s the name?” Jens asked.  The relaxing rhythm contrasted starkly with his own panic.  Maybe if he kept Leamas talking-

“One Note Samba,” Leamas said, sitting down next to where Jens lay on the floor.  He rolled him onto his back.  The ground was cool.

“What are you going to do to me?” Jens asked.  His fists were curled, knuckles white against the fabric of his school trousers.

“It’s just to help you to relax.  If you’re stressed, your blood has an  aftertaste.  You need to pass the acids that are stored in your muscles.”

Jens turned his neck to look at Leamas.  His eyes held reservoirs of confusion.  “What-”

A warm, dry, calloused hand rested on the small of his back. Jens shivered, his shoulders tensing up to protect his exposed neck.  He curled even tighter into a ball.

The pad of Leamas’ finger worked into the long muscle next to his spine.  Instinctively Jens loosened, wriggling under Leamas’ touch with a small yelp.  It tickled. It felt strange and alien, the way the pressure would give way to a light, loose sensation that zinged, making him want to giggle.

What the hell are you doing?  Jens tried to huddle into a ball again but couldn't.  He shouldn't be enjoying a feeling like this, the touch of a person he didn't even know, he shouldn't be enjoying the touch of a vampire.

“Hah!” Jens yelped, wriggling under Leamas’ firm hands that were gently holding him against the floor.  The cause of his sudden outburst had been the feel of strong fingers massaging the muscles between his ribs. 

“You’re more ticklish than a six year old,” Leamas muttered, moving his hands up so that they rested high on Jens’ ribcage.  His thumbs pressed into the muscles of his back, kneading the knotted muscles against Jens’ bird bones, loosening them.

He hated how relaxing it felt.  He hatedwhat he was feeling, the soft sighs that Leamas was teasing from his lips through the puppet strings in his back. 

Leamas kneaded on either side of Jens’ spine, only going up to his shoulders.  He seemed to want to save his shoulders and neck ‘til last.  Jens shuddered.  It was as if his neck were dessert.

It was less of a chore to inhale now, his breathing came loose and easy as he was pressed against the cool wood of the floor.  Jens closed his eyes, feeling all his tension simply unwind.  Leamas had such wonderful fingers.  He hated that most of all.

A two knuckles ran up to the middle of his back, teasing at going higher, towards the neck.  God, he wanted more.  Leamas’ fingers slid down and down and-

Jens yelped, thrashing on the floor in surprise. 

“What?  Are you really that ticklish?”

Yes.  He was. Because no one had ever touched-

“Mister Leamas,” Jens said, Alec not failing to notice the use of ‘Mister’, “pleasedon't touch me there,” he said.

Leamas said “alright” and left the muscle that joins the hip to the bottom alone, fingers pressing down the backs of his thighs.  Jens hadn’t known he’d been so tight there. Then again, how could he not be, what with his work and… everything.  He worried too much.

Leamas shifted, his fingers slowly exploring the juts and hollows of Jens’ lily-white knee through his trouser leg, then slipping down to knead his calf.  It felt. So good.  Damnit.  There was the first sensation of buzzing tickle, then the steady pressure that treaded the line between softness and pain that Jens supposed was pleasure.  He almost didn’t want Leamas’ hands to move on with their work, almost muttering for him to keep playing.

He pulled up a foot, bending Jens’ knee gently.  Like a prince, Leamas gently pulled off Jens’ shoe, pulling the triple-knotted laces free slowly and easily.  Jens heard an odd intake of breath as he felt Leamas’ hand tighten over his ankle.

“If you don’t start wearing socks, you will scar the back of your ankle,” Alec said slowly, feeling his achilles tendon, which was no doubt red and raw from where it scraped against the back of his shoe.  Jens was glad the vampire couldn’t see him blush- oh God he couldbecause he wasn’t wearing a shirt and the flush was no doubt spreading to his neck.  He didn’t want to admit that he hadn’t worn socks because they all had holes in them. 

Alec felt around the jut in his ankle with one hand, still cupping his hurt tendon with his other hand , then around on either side of Jens’ achilles tendon, near the base.  Even so far away from his heart, the boy’s pulse was addictive, dangerous and terribly intoxicating to feel.  His fingers slid delicately around the curve of his foot, thumbs running firmly over the arch.

Jens actually shrieked.  He jerked his knees up at how tender his foot was, that a simple touch was too foreign a feel for him.  God, Leamas was right, he thought, he really wasticklish.

Leamas laughed.  “Here, give me your foot,” he said, “It’ll feel wonderful once I’ve finished.”  His voice seemed playful almost, in contrast to all the other times Jens had heard him speak when his tone was always hard and bitter.

“Your restorative for my foot,” Jens said, as if it were a joke, but really trying to convince himself that all he did want was the restorative.  Well, the feeling was nice, wasn’t it? he asked himself.  If I’m going to go through all this, he shuddered, preparation, I might as well enjoy it.

He twisted around so that he was belly-up, propping himself up on the backs of his elbows so he could see what Leamas was doing.  Jens lay his foot in Alec’s outstretched hands. They were warm.

Alec gently massaged the arch of his foot, a small grin winking at the foot as Jens’ toes curled as he tried to stay still.  Oh what a beautiful feeling!  It was like pain but in the other direction- hard, light, soft, and prickly all at once.

Leamas moved to the ball of his feet, eliciting a quiet “Hah” from Jens.  His other leg kicked a little as Alec massaged where the muscles connected to the delicate-feeling bones. 

Alec slipped his fingers between Jens’ toes and Jens began to giggle- God, why couldn’t he stopit was all just so-  He giggled and giggled until he couldn’t breathe, knees swaying from side to side. He tilted his back and laughed as Alec swirled his fingers around the edges of the bottoms of his toes.  He thought out of the corner of his eyes he could see a broad smile lighting up Alec’s lips.

“Everyone likes the French method,” Alec said with a small laugh to match Jens’ giggles.  He gave the arch of Jens’ foot another pass with those strong hands, then leaned forward to get to his other leg, fingers playing around Jens’ other knee.

“What’s the French method?”

“Well,” Alec ammended, “This isn’t the full French method, it’s more akin to a French-Swedish-”

“What’s the French method?” Jens asked again.  He knew enough to tell when someone was trying to keep something from him.

Leamas squeezed Jens’ calf nervously, trying to ignore the lovelyway his pulse sped up beneath his touch. “The underlying theories and values of French cuisine,” he began at last, sounding as if he regretted every word, “Are that strong emotions have different flavours and that… euphoria is the most coveted taste.  So in order to elicit feelings of euphoria, French vampires often,” Alec swallowed. He did not want Jens to get the wrong idea.  “They often place the human in a controlled environment, controlling their food, drink and activity to maximise joy.  That’s why it’s so hard to get French-style blood over here- it’s hard to keep humans fed on their favourite food, especially when it’s something expensive like caviar, and chefs often have to hire helpers to keep the humans… occupied with pleasurable activities.”

“Pleasurable activities?” Jens asked.  Why would you need someone to come with you if you went on a day trip through the country?  Or to the seaside?

Leamas’ skin felt like pins and needles, except the jabs were soft and bubbly rather than sharp and painful.  Oh Jens, he thought, how innocent you really are. “Pleasurable activities,” he repeated, in the tone of voice that indicates heavy insinuation.  “They’re usually more pleasurable than just massage,” he prompted.  Jens still looked confused.

“Acts of intimacy,” Alec added.  Surely Jens would know what that- oh God that odd look in his eye- oh God, he didn’t know.  Leamas had the sudden urge to bite the boy’s forearm, to press it warm and close to his lips.  He was so very young. 

“Jesus, what do they teach you in school?”

“I’m afraid I don’t understan-” Jens yelped as Leamas’ thumbs kneaded into the arch of his foot.

Leamas sighed.  “The French theory implies that making love is the most effective way to elicit euphoria, therefore making it one of the most commonly employed methods of increasing flavour.  Need I give you the plainer version?”  

Jens froze, staring down at his bare chest and then to Alec, then to his foot which the vampire held delicately between his dry palms. The side of his upper lip was raised in horrified disgust.  “You mean like… making… love?  As in-”

“They fuck,” Alec said, keeping as straight a face as possible.

There was a moment of completely violent silence.  Leamas tittered and burst out laughing.  It was odd to see him like that, Jens thought vaguely, still in shock from the information, Leamas was sitting on the floor like a childhood friend, wearing all the trappings of a working adult.  His shoes were still on even.

Jens still didn’t move.  “Wait, so was that a joke or…?”

“Jesus Christ, Jens, you’d think you were born a week ago!” Leamas said, laughing loudly.  “French style recipes sometimes call for ‘two hours of rigorous stimulation’, what else is that supposed to mean?”

The look of disgust widened until Jens’ entire face looked like it had been sprayed with lemon juice.  “But that’s-”  Jens’ eyes widened and he looked back at Leamas.  “Were you going to-”  He was panting, tugging his leg from Leamas’, eyes wild like a caged animal’s.

“No, of course not!”  Alec assured him.  He shuddered. He barely even knewJens.  “I was acting on the other part of French theory- healthy, happy body equals a healthy, happy mind, and both can, to some degree, be achieved through-”

Jens looked a bit sick.  “Touch?” he prompted.  “Massage?”

Alec nodded, with a small “That’s why it’s more Swedish- similar to French but with no sexual incentive” letting Jens take a long minute to think everything over. 

Finally, the boy who was so young and yet seemed to know so much sighed, eyes dark and hazed, offering Leamas his leg.  “Go ahead,” he said, “I expect a week-dose of restorative for playing your games.”  Leamas twitched at the almost indifference and sudden coldness in his voice.

He began to slide his thumb over the top of the foot, feeling all too easily the ridges of Jens’ veins.  There was blood in there.  Oh, and it was so close.  Leamas realized he was salivating, and carefully shifted his fingers to work their way around the boy’s delicate toes.

“What’s the German method then?” Jens asked after a while. His voice seemed to have lightened slightly.  He wondered how German blood cuisine lined up with its regular cuisine.

“It values purity above all else,” Alec said, looking up at Jens as if entranced, “Humans eat nothing but the plainest sustenance and drink nothing but water to reveal their true flavour.  Sleep and exercise is used to keep them at full health- their peak flavour I suppose, but no attempt is made to alter their mental state. Personality and emotion is… sacred to them, I suppose you could say.” 

Jens blinked, his chest feeling slightly warmer all of a sudden. “That sounds nice,” he said, truthfully. Alec ran his fingers over the tops of Jens’ toes, evoking a tiny, involuntary giggle.

“May I do your hips?” he asked tentatively.  After seeing Jens’ reaction to the idea of French style blood cuisine, Leamas was extremely hesitant to even think about it, but they were one of the most important parts to massage due to their overuse as muscles. There were a lot of points of tension in the hips.  “I promiseI won’t-”

The corner of Jens’ lip curled.  He was too good at hiding his emotions.  Alec could see at least a dozen thoughts and feelings roilingbehind his eyes, shifting too fast for him to even guess what they were.  “Yes,” he said, as if it were obvious.  “Just because the idea of French vampirism is repugnant, doesn’t mean I will stop you if in the end we both get what we came for,” he said jovially.  His tone was light.  His expression was not.

“I’m sorry,” Alec said.   “I shouldn’t have told you,” he said.

Something was so sincere in the snap of his voice that Jens softened.  “No, Leamas.  It just a bit of a shock to me.  I’m afraid I do not know the specific ethics of vampirism.”

Leamas still felt a slight tingle of unease.  “If you want, I can stop-“

“No!” Jens interjected.  Then after a short moment, he said, “You were right.  It does feel… very… nice.”

There was a long silence in which Alec felt something warm bubble in his stomach.  A small smile crept up his face. 

He trailed his fingers gently down Jens’ sides, feeling the keyboard of his ribs and evoking a shriek of laughter.  Leamas could not contain his smile.  What was it about the boy that gave him such joy?  Usually, he was methodical about such preparations of a meal.  Certainly he had never smiled so genuinely when preparing a human in the fullFrench style, an ordeal which often took up entire weekends.  He’d merely been a hungry professional willing to play a part solely to increase flavour.  He’d always considered playing with his food to be beneath him.

His hands rested on either side of Jens’ hips, thumb lightly pressing into the muscle next to the jut where thigh met groin.

Oh, the pulse, Alec thought, his thoughts almost completely flooded with burning hunger, a lust to feed, to consume the source of his ecstasy.

He rolled his thumb over the muscle, hearing with euphoria the tiny little “Nnh-“ that escaped Jens’ throat.

Pressing more firmly, he unknotted the tension in the lower stomach and hips.  Leamas flipped over his hand, working into Jens’ tissue with two knuckles, the curve of his hip bone sliding neatly between them as he massaged up and down.

Jens let out a momentary gasp as he felt himself relax almost involuntarily.  He blushed, embarrassed at being manipulated so.

“Where did you learn to cook?” he asked, as Leamas’ fingers slid up into his stomach.  Questions covered up the fact that he was self conscious, how thin he looked, how poor he must look to Leamas who had an apartment of this size all to himself, which was arranged with such care and cleanliness.

The jazz record in the corner stopped playing and Leamas stood up, his fingers swirling a moment longer over Jens’ stomach.

“I had friends who worked in the kitchens of this big manor house out in the country, and they taught me the love of the culinary arts,” Leamas said with a chuckle, rifling through the selection of records he had.  “Of course, that was all human food.  I didn’t-“ become a vampire until later, he finished, even though his voice had died. “Chopin, Mozart, Beethoven or Tchaikovsky?” he asked, changing the subject quickly, “Smiley keeps buying me these old records even though he knows perfectly well I can’t stand half of it.”

“I choose?” Jens asked, curling back up now that Leamas was not there to prise him open like a clam with those strong fingers of his.

“It’s all for your flavour,” Leamas joked.  Jens bit his lip at that.

“Tchaikovsky then,” Jens decided finally.  “One of his springtime sounding ones.  The ones where it’s lovely the whole way through.”

God, Alec thought, listening to the soft voice that described music with paint strokes of emotion, If only he could listen to Jens speak this way for hours.

A thought occurred.  He quickly set the record onto the half-busted gramophone and sat down next to the young man, resting a hand on the center of his chest, where the sides of the rib cage kissed.  Another hand pressed behind his back, cradling him.  His heartbeat was so strong there, Leamas was glad he’d had of Smiley’s frozen blood earlier in the week.  There would have been no resistance offered to the all consuming urge to drink the delicious boy, to slit him apart until he had drunk every last dropof blood.  It would have been horribly messy, but oh-so worth every last lick, even if he were executed for it.

Concentrate.

Yes.  He wanted to know, wanted to know…

Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers echoed throughout the apartment.

Jens’ heartbeat softened, became peaceful as blissful music filled the air.  Leamas let him just breathe for a moment, feeling the sweet push and pull of Jens’ breath against the palms of his hands like twin tides.  The pulse.  Jens’ pulse lay a pretty melody alongside Tchaikovsky’s flowery dance of a piece. 

The word ‘beautiful’ was too shallow an assortment of letters to pin down the emotions in the moment, but the word ‘beautiful’ was all that Leamas had.

Jens cradled in his arms, one of Leamas’ knees helping to prop up the human’s torso while the other slipped under Jens’ bent knees so that the boy lay between the cross of the vampire’s legs, Leamas bent his head to rest his chin over Jens’ collarbone, wanting to feel the sweet music through his face.

Jens involuntarily twitched away from him, breaking the buttery colours of the music with his panicked heartbeat.  Leamas leaned away, regretting having interrupted the music and determined to tease it back.

The hands at Jens’ chest slid up to the collarbone, stroking its well defined curves absentmindedly as Alec listened to the music, listened to Jens.  All the while, music wafted through the gramophone, a warm crackle occurring every dozen or so seconds.

It was not exhilaration that permeated the room, not anything as violent as bliss or joy, but it was the peaceful current of contentment akin to the experience of falling asleep to a long rainstorm in a warm home.

Leamas trailed patterns over Jens’ skin in time to the melody. He hoped the moment would be merciful enough not to end.

As if his plea reached down through the ages to a spiteful Tchaikovsky who rewrote the notes in jealous fury, the song died.

“Do you have any Liszt?”

Alec vaguely remembered the name.  “No, I don’t think so.  Shall I continue?” he asked.  He wanted to hear Jens say ‘yes’.

“Yes please,” the boy said, with the voice as innocent as a pretty but uncoveted flower, no incentive to speak so sweet and purely, not to draw or attract, merely because that’s just how he was.

Alec wanted to squeeze the petals for its juice.

Leamas curled his arms gently around Jens’ sides, flipping him onto his back so that his flat chest shone up at him.  He rubbed all along Jens’ chest, eliciting hiccups of laughter while his stomach muscles twitched with giggles.

“S-S-Stop,” Jens wheezed, and Alec’s fingers flew off him as if the boy’s skin were hot iron.  “I can’t breathe-“ Jens continued, bursting back into raucous giggles.  He was so very different than the young man at the hospital. 

Eventually he calmed down and was alright with Leamas fingering the muscles just below the collarbone.  He looked vaguely sad.

Whatever song was playing ended, to be replaced with a more thoughtful, tragic song.

“Are you alright?” Alec asked, sitting the boy up and turning him around to start exploring with fingers where he would not let fangs pierce just yet- that slender neck. He needed Jens to be alright- he was desperate to feed on blood that tasted like the boy’s laughter.  Leamas was starving.

“No.  I’ve shown you too much of myself, all so that you can have a few pints.”  Jens was dejected.

Leamas, who’d thought Jens had been enjoying himself, started. He didn’t know what to say.

“No one has made me laugh like that for years.  It’s-“ the young man seemed frustrated.

“Well you know what they say,” Alec said, the words slipping out by accident, “The closest relationship is between the Feeder and the Food.”

Leamas’ mouth snapped shut.  Shit, he hadn’t meant for that to come out- it had been an accident-

He expected a stinging slap.

He received a ring of hollow laughter instead.  “Were you ever human?  You sound as if you were born with a cynical view on humanity one can only find in vampires,” Jens said, his problems seemingly forgotten. Unbeknownst to Leamas however, Jens already knew the answer.

“No.  I was turned yearsago.  Smiley, the bastard, he was the one that bit me,” Leamas said, the movement of his hands slowing and eventually stopping on either side of Jens’ neck.

Almost unwillingly, the young man rolled his shoulders to indicate that he didn’t want the pleasant pressure to end. 

“I should tell you some other time, when I’m not so focused on your,” Leamas’ voice caught in his throat as he remembered- “your flavour.”

Evidently uneasy, Jens distracted himself with another question. “Where do vampires come from?”

Alec leant forward so that- no he shouldn’t, he might accidentally- he breathed in the smell of the hair at the back of Jens’ neck.  He pressed his fingers deeper, unwinding the knots of muscle around the boy’s throat like some bizarre parody of strangulation.

“Well when two vampires love each other very verymuch, the bloody stork-“

Jens made a noise of disgust.  “That’s disgusting,” he said.  “I mean how were vampires created?”

Leamas corked an eyebrow as if to ask if the question was serious.  The long, expectant pause told him it was indeed serious.  “If you’re religious, then we’re demons or angels, or lost and vengeful spirits.  If you believe in this new religion, science, then we’re just a different species of human, or even a different species altogether.  No one really knows, and almost no one really cares.”

Jens hummed.  “Are there many nice vampires?”

Leamas laughed.  How entertaining Jens was!

“Define ‘nice’,” he said.  It was more of a question for the sake of asking a question, the kind that Jens certainly enjoyed.

“Are there perhaps kind, elderly female vampires who live out in the country and bake donated-blood cookies when their vampire grandchildren come down for the weekend?”

Leamas felt oddly touched for some reason.  “I’m sure they exist,” he laughed.  He nuzzled the back of Jens’ neck almost by accident, feeling the muscles under his fingers tense.  He wanted… so much.  He was-

His fangs slid out a thin inch, a reaction similar to a human’s mouth watering.  Leamas felt himself lick his lips.

No.  The food wasn’t ready yet.  There were still hours left.

Control yourself.

He pulled away, continuing to massage Jens’ neck.  It was impossible, absolutely impossible to tear himself away from that pulse.

I’m starving, Alec almost said.  Just to see if Jens would twitch, if his heart rate would go up.

He resisted the urge, but nonetheless he pulled the boy into himself.

There was a shift.  It seemed the boy was thinking, thinking, calculating his odds like a seasoned gambler.  Whatever odds there were, he seemed to take them.

Jens shifted slightly and rested himself practically in Alec’s lap, ass slipped gently between Alec’s thighs.  What the hell, why had Jens let him do that?  The boy rested his back against Alec’s chest.  He could feel that intoxicatingly warmth through his work clothes.

Jens hummed.  “I think you could become a very kind vampire,” he said in a low, singsong voice.  He sounded exhausted, but still slightly on edge, as if he knew just how badly Leamas wanted to cut him open.

“I’m glad you think so.  Just rest.  I’ll wake you when dinner’s ready if you fall asleep.”  All the bitterness had left his voice.  Jens suddenly did seem like just another tired student on the evening train, glancing warily up from a book to check they hadn’t missed their stop.

He hummed.  “I can trust you?” he asked.

“I promise not to drink while you’re asleep.”

“I don’t trust you thatmuch.”

“We had a deal.  And you weren’t selected.  I don’t break the law.”

Jens snuggled his shoulders deeper into Alec’s chest, a quiet plea to keep unwinding all his tension.  “How did you lose your license?” he asked, with the voice of a toddler who’s just about to fall asleep.

“I’ll tell you over dinner.  Rest.”  I’m hungry.  I’m starving.  I want to cut you into pieces.  I want to slit your throats and drain you into a bottle and age your blood like wine. I want to carve the veins out of your neck and-

He breathed in the smell of Jens’ hair, feeling the slowing of his pulse as he drifted off to sleep. 

What kind of misguided trust must the boy have?  Or on the contrary, what kind of desperation for his restorative?

Slowly, Leamas slowed his massaging, but his fingers lingered around Jens’ neck.  How lovely.

If the boy played his cards right and didn’t get selected, he could get any vampire under his thumb.  Just the taste of his breath was enough to send his mind spinning down dark alleys, of a gluttonous party where one two humans had walked in and two sets of bones and a mangled heap of dried flesh had been carried out.  If Jens played the law, if he offered a vampire a taste for something in return, his flavor for a favour- well he could manipulate anyone with that taste of his.

He needed to let go.  The dinner might be ready soon, and the sooner they finished eating, he could-

Leamas shuddered at the thought, Jens’ limp frame lolling between his thighs. 

In a burst of self control, he scooped up the boy and carried him over in front of the window, laying him gently on the sofa.  He grabbed a blanket from over the back of it and spread it over the unconscious figure. He tucked in the ends as if he actually cared.

The smell of the stew wafted through the apartment, and Leamas went to check the stove. 

The stew made his mouth water more than it already was.  With obsessive fervor, he began preparing the cheeses they would have afterwards, working on slicing off the rinds with such deliberation that anyone watching would know he was trying to fill up the time.

 

Jens’ eyes flicked open.  He was alive. Good, he thought, that was always a plus.  Biting his lip, he was startled by his own jibe.  It wasn’t just his body that felt loose but his sense of humour as well… Incredible. 

He gave a quiet sigh.  He had hoped that his pressing into the vampire would earn him an extra dose of restorative.  Jens was certain that he could get what he wanted from Leamas if he applied the right sorts of pressures, but figuring out what exactly those pressures were was the real problem.  Jens doubted if Leamas actually enjoyed his physique, so he decided to capitalize on the one thing he knew Alec could not refuse: Jens’ supposed “flavor”.

Whatever it was, Jens had seen what it could do to Leamas, the irresistible desire it enticed.  And with that desire came the necessity to restore it must come the moral obligation to repay the donor, Jens had reasoned.  It wasn’t as if he’d ever been wrong before.

The smell of lovely dark meat sauce filled the room, and Jens peeled up from behind the sofa’s back.

Leamas was busying himself behind the counter, moving to the sound of soft jazz in the corner.  How odd that Leamas would have jazz.  What an oddly American thing.

On impulse, he ran a hand around the back of his neck.  Nothing. So his trust had paid off after all. 

He slid off the couch, folding the blanket.  Then, he put on the shirt that lay over the backs of one of the chairs.  Leamas smiled as he approached.

“Rest well?  I was about to come wake you actually.”

“Yes.  I’m alright.  I don’t usually sleep so much, what with school and all,” Jens explained.  “How long was I asleep?”

Alec grinned.  His eyes would not leave Jens’ face.  “An hour and a half?  Maybe two.  How are you feeling?”

Jens flashed the vampire a smile. “Delicious,” he said.  A joke.

Leamas’ eyes still burrowed into him as his smile widened hungrily.  He didn’t laugh.

Nervously, because he wanted to get that look out of Leamas’ eyes, Jens asked, “So what happens now?”

Alec blinked, then looked away as if he really didn’t want to.  He passed Jens a glass of water.  “Drink,” he said.  “You should go to the bathroom before we eat.”

Hoping that the gleam in Leamas’ eye at ‘we eat’ had been just his imagination, Jens took the glass and tottered off to the bathroom.

He returned about fifteen minutes later, to find that Alec had set the table and laid out bowls full of steaming food and spoons and forks and knives and oh there were too many small and gleaming bits of metal.

Alec indicated he should take the seat. Next to him.  Right.  Next to him.

“I hope you enjoy it,” Alec said. Then, when Jens didn’t move, he said, “Go on, eat.”

Anxiously, because he wasn’t sure exactly which piece of cutlery to use, he used a knife and fork to cut into one of the hunks of meat that lay piping in his bowl.  It came apart easily under Jens’ gentle knife.

It was dreadfully delicious.  Jens knew that he could eat this food until he was sick, until he threw up.  He scarfed it down, sucking the sauce out of the tender meat, then biting it to release the lovely juice.  He began sucking again, before realizing that- that was exactly what Leamas would do when hefed. 

But Jens kept going.  He didn’t care, since the meat was so exquisitely delicious.  Maybe that was what Leamas felt.

Grinning, Alec handed him a hunk of baguette that he’d laid out on the table. 

Nodding his thanks, Jens took it and mopped up the thick brown sauce, pushing it into his mouth hungrily.  Bits of meat were stuck in his teeth, horridly irritating but wonderful at the same time since he hadn’t had that sensation in a long time.

“Like it?”

Jens nodded vigorously through a mouthful of bread.  He realized that he would be full very soon, but resolved to keep eating.  The food, the food wouldn’t be there forever.  He had to eat it now before it was gone.

Before he knew it, his plate was empty. Next to him, Alec had only speared one square of meat on his fork which hovered over his own plate.  He hadn’t eaten at all, having spent the past few minutes gazing, bewitched, at Jens as he ate.

Alec bit back a, when was the last time you ate?

Jens wiped up the last dregs of Boeuf Bourgignon with a morsel of bread.  “May I… May I get some more?” he asked.  Alec nodded, his eyes still locked onto Jens’ own as the boy stood up and walked around the counter, using the large ladle to spoon out more food into his dish.

Jens returned to the seat next to Alec. Leamas felt the air brush against his face as Jens sat down.  He smelled faintly sweet.

Leamas’ stomach growled.

The boy’s eyes flicked over to him nervously, then down to Leamas’ untouched food.

“You’re hungry,” Jens said simply. 

Leamas bit his lip.  “You should eat.”

Jens caught the distraction, but went with it anyway.  He began to eat again. 

Leamas’ mouth was watering, and his stomach was clenched in frustration, starvation.  Jens was lapping up the sauce, sating himself, feeding, which made Alec want to suck him dry.  Once Jens’ plate was half empty, Leamas realized he couldn’t bear it any longer. 

He picked up his plate and scraped most of his food onto Jens’, giving the boy his bread as well.  His fangs ached to slide out.

“May I start?” Leamas asked, setting his dish down.  The portion was minuscule.

Jens caught his meaning.  “I…” He looked back at his food.

“You can keep eating,” Leamas assured him. 

Jens hummed indecisively. “Alright,” he said finally.  He turned back to his food, dropping his shoulders slightly and exposing his neck.

“I’m going to have to take off your shirt again.  So that your blood won’t stain.  Is that alright?”  He talked about Jens’ blood so casually it was unnerving.

Jens nodded, biting into another piece of meat.  If it weren’t for the delicious food, his expression would have looked like one of someone about to be violently ill.

Leamas reached under Jens’ arm, easily undoing the buttons with one hand.  He slipped the shirt off Jens’ shoulders and then off his arms, the boy pausing his feed for a moment to remove his wrists and hands.

Getting up, Leamas walked to the counter, picking up the bottle of Pinot Noir as well as a glass.  He poured a glass, setting it in front of his place. 

Alec sat down.  A beat.

He leaned over, and Jens froze as he felt Alec’s skin gentle over his, like they were stepping out together to the cinema, and he was resting his head on Jens’ shoulder in the dark theater.  A beat as well as a heartbeat.

Warm breath, then lips smothered itself over Jens’ delicate neck.  This time, Alec didn’t feel around with his tongue.

Jens winced at a sharp prick, but then, once the feeling ceased to be alien to him, he relaxed and raised his spoon again.  It didn’t cause too much trouble: Leamas had sunk into Jens’ right shoulder, and Jens himself was left handed.

Despite feeling the soft pulling of blood, Jens found himself oddly at ease.  Soft jazz was playing in the corner, and there was delicious food.  He drew the heaping spoon up to his lips, not wanting to disturb Leamas’ feeding- feeding- by bending low over the bowl, and began to chew.

Alec moaned.

Jens froze for half an instant, contemplating the foreign sound being worshipped into his skin.  Then, just as he lowered his spoon for another helping, Leamas’ hand moved, sliding up, over his chest, to rest over his heart.  The pad and joint of Alec’s thumb stroked just under Jens’ collarbone. 

He’s just feeling my pulse.  He’s just-

Determinedly, Jens finished another bite.  At his swallow, Alec shivered. 

Ah.  So it was the movement of his neck that made Alec… do whatever he was doing.

Jens took a long sip of water, listening to it slide down his own throat.

A sudden tightening, of stronger fingers and deeper fangs, pressed at Jens for an instant.

Jens realized just how powerful he was.

Smiling slightly into his glass, he tilted his head slightly more to the side.  The dim light illuminated the workings of his neck.  Leamas would owe him for this.

The sounds.  Leamas’ lips opened and closed like a fish’s, making soft noises like a half-starved animal against Jens’ skin.  There was a heavy slurp, indecent but almost laughable, like two dogs fucking.

And then Leamas seemed to pull himself back together.  He drew in a long draught and then slid his fangs out so gently that Jens would never have known they’d left save for the soft sucking sound.

Jens let out his frozen breath, letting his shoulders drop.  Everything had seemed so still while he was being fed on.

Glancing over to Leamas, he was surprised to see the vampire leaning over his plate, fangs still bared. Slowly, he opened his lips and blood- Jens’ blood- spilled out.  There was so much blood in a mouthful, Jens realized, as he watched his own blood drip out of Leamas’ fangs and pool with the meat.

Leamas looked over at him, absentmindedly picking up a fork.  His lips and surrounding face was a bright red.  He looked like he’d been kissing a scarlet-dipped paintbrush.

Jens thought his arm felt oddly cold. It seemed impossible that the blood on Leamas’ plate was his own.

“Eat,” the man said.  “It’ll make you feel better.”

Jens picked up some more bread, chewing as he watched Leamas eat.  He seemed to be enjoying mixing the blood into the sauce and then biting into the meat. 

Catching his glance, Leamas asked, “Would you like some?”

Jens, ever curious, incurably curious even, shrugged.  He winced at the slight jab of pain in the crook of his neck, but used a spoon to scrape a bit of sauce from Alec’s plate.

He tasted it.  He tasted his own blood.  There was something more wrong with it than just the metallic taste- thathe could bear.

Jens spat, dribbling bloody spittle down his chin.

And something unexpected happened. 

Alec shifted, bumping noisily into the table, and in an instant his straightjacket fingers had clamped around the back of Jens’ head, and leaned over pressing their faces unbearably close.  Jens could hear the vampire’s breath as he sucked and licked, mouth crawling up the line of bloody spittle.  Leamas licked about Jens’ lips a while, and then he leaned back in his seat as if nothing had happened. 

“Waste not,” Alec said jovially, stabbing a die of meat on the end of his fork.

Jens just sat stunned for a few seconds before it occurred to him that the world would keep going without him even if he sat completely still.  What an odd experience.  He would like to come back and remember it sometime.

“Is there dessert?  Or are you the kind of cook that derides that sort of thing in favour of cheese?”

“We’re going to have both,” Leamas decided, his red smile genuine.  “And I haven’t had a full pint yet.  I wanted your flavour to change.  Different courses you see.”  He broke off a bit of bread.

Jens nodded.  He supposed that for vampires, hearing this sort of thing wasn’t as horrific as it sounded.

He jumped a bit when Alec pressed the morsel of bread into the cut to keep the blood from spilling.  The vampire’s hand pressed firmly all around Jens’ shoulder.

Jens continued eating.  The food the food the food was heavenly.

There came a point however, where he had to set down his spoon, feeling immensely full.  Leamas’ fingers still pressed the bread to Jens’ neck.

They rested a while, leaned back in their chairs, and talked of little little things.  What did Alec think of the political climate? 

He was like a faded mirror, When was the last time he’d seen a good film in the theaters that had really made him think?

“Really?  But Casablanca so easily illustrates the American-“

“It was obvious that Rick was going to turn out all right and the romance just confused everything.”

“You have no taste.  It is a fascinating study on American compliance to the horrors of a fascist regime.”

“You’re a communist.”

Everything went a little silent. Jens himself wasn’t sure why Alec had that faint glint of surprise in his eye. 

“Of course.  Aren’t we all, really?”

Leamas laughed and gave a little nod, and Jens thought that the surprise might have been a trick of the light.

Eventually, Leamas pulled off the bread, all soggy and wet and looking like a piece of heart.  He sucked it loudly, then dabbed at the wound again, rolling it around in Jens’ blood like it was olive oil.

Jens wanted to ask where Alec was from. He seemed too worldly, sitting there, gnashing Jens’ blood between his teeth and his American jazz twinkling in the corner, to have been born anywhere near here.

“You like cheese?” Leamas asked through a mouthful, “I’m sure you prefer cheese to chocolate.”

Jens shook his head, eyes far away. He used to pretend that he was so sophisticated as to prefer cheese, but lately, the last few years… “Chocolate’s for me,” he said, “But that’s not to mean I don’t like cheese.”

Alec hummed, painting his lips with the bread.  They glistened like moving water.  Jens tried not to notice them, he really did.  What was wrongwith him?  “Well I’ll go get out the brie, and then I’ll have another sip and then I’ll have a little drink and then you’ll have some lovely Belgian milky blocks I’ve been saving and then I’ll have another drink and another sip, how’s that?”

Jens nodded mutely.  He wasn’t really sure if he had a choice.  After all, it would be all to easy for little Jens to vanish off the face of the earth without a trace, leaving nothing behind, really, but a splitter splat of blood and a few letters to people he barely knew.

 


 

  The cheese was absolutely wonderful.  Leamas had managed to get Jens laughing, and so it was through hysterical sober laughter that Leamas pressed his forehead to the side of Jens’ neck, as if he’d collapsed there out of laughter.

“How…how,” Jens wheezed, still laughing despite the sink of fangs into the holes they oh-so belonged in, “How... am I supposed to taste different?  Isn’t blood just… blood?”

“I’m not a scientist, how am I supposed to know?”

“Yes, you’re a… a lawyer?  You said something about contracts on the bus-“ A little note of something hiding budded in Jens’ voice. 

Leamas laughed, diverting the question.  “You’re studying for law school yourself, aren’t you?”

Jens blushed as he slathered sweating brie all over a chunk of baguette.  “Yes,” he said.  “I’d like to work as a prosecutor, if I’m able.  I want to uphold the law.”

A moment of unexpected silence.  Then Leamas laughed and laughed, slipping off Jens’ neck and leaning back.  The chair rocked.  He looked like Jens had said the most absurd thing in the world. 

“You’re just,” Leamas gasped, “Such a wonderful personality!”  He dove back for a light sip in Jens’ neck, spitting it all into an empty wine glass.  As he poured the lovely dark red, he continued, “Every time I think I know something, there’s always something more to surprise me.  And I know absolutely nothing about you.”

Jens shrugged. “You could ask, you know. Mightn’t tell you the truth, but you could ask.”

Alec blanched. “No, no, you wouldn’t want that. If we start getting into all that I might be able to find you if I started looking.  Not safe for you.”

Jens raised an eyebrow.  “Why not?”

“Jesus Christ Jens, don’t trust me more than I trust myself.”  When Jens continued to look confused, he added, “Say I knew your last name.  I could look you up in a phone book, find your address, and then one night you’ll be sleeping and then I might come in, not having eaten in an age, and by the next morning you wouldn’t be sleeping, you’d just be a mess splattered into the bed.”

“I could just,” Jens muttered, “nottell you my last name or address.”

“Won’t stop me. Names of friends, names of places you go, the number of the bus you take to school,” Alec said.  Then something in his eyes flashed, as if he’d said too much. “Point is,” he amended, “The less I know, the safer you are.”

Jens felt cold all of a sudden.  Leamas didn’t trust himself not to murder him.  His voice shook as he said, “Well then, I… Alright.”

“I will ask one thing though,” Alec said, voice gurgling into his wineglass.  Jens chewed his lip.  “Biology.  Why biology? Law and Biology?  Want to be a doctor?”

Giving a little chuckle - Alec’s questions felt like poking the tip of a pencil through a paper – Jens shrugged.  “It’s interesting enough.  I don’t have the mind for memorization though.  Yet, I mean.  I mean, I have to learn all the jargon and-“

“Bring your work over here.  I know you brought your homework, you’re just that kind of kid.”  Leamas was leaning back, pouring another glass and swirling it. To delay the inevitable swoop-in-sip-spit of his blood into the glass, Jens went over to his bag, which rested against the side of the couch.

He cupped one hand to his weeping neck, feeling the hot stick slime in between his fingers. Gingerly, he drew out the thick packet- he’d been filling out the names of the bones in the hand, but the other pages showed all the other major bone concentrations in the human body.

Leamas had cleared away a spot, making sure the table was clean and dry.  “Here.  You eat, I take a look.”

Shrugging and doubting that Alec, who seemed to be far removed from the sciences, with his jazz and his job, would give him anything beneficial, Jens set the packet down, all the while cradling the blood trickling out of him.

Leamas flicked through the booklet that was mostly devoid of labels.  “When’s this due?”

“Tomorrow.”

“How long did it take you to do,” he indicated the half-filled first page, a diagram of the hand, “this?”

“About three hours,” Jens said guiltily.  He couldn’t label human anatomy to save his life.  They’d just started the unit last week, for crying out loud.

Sighing, Alec got up and went to his office, returning a few moments later with a sheet of blank paper and a pencil.  “Write the alphabet twice, upper and lowercase.  Then your name, first name only, then the phrase ‘Alec please help me with my Biology homework’.”

Jens laughed, his face brightening.  “You’re joking, aren’t you!  What would be the point of that?  You don’t-“

Leamas winked. “Do it.  Trust me.”

Bemused, Jens did as he was told.

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ

abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz

Jens

Alec please help me with my Biology homework why do I even have to write this

Leamas pulled the paper and pen from Jens, the paper sliding with that satisfying hishh.

“Why do I even have to write this,” Leamas read aloud in a crisp voice.  He snorted.  “Cursive. Of course you write in cursive.”

“Who doesn’t?”

Leamas snickered.  “Smiley.”

Jens laughed along with him.  “What are you going to do with my handwriting?”

“Help you with your Biology homework, it says here.”  Leamas flicked open the booklet and clicked his mechanical pencil.  He began to scribble in the labels for the bones, the muscles, the ligaments, for fuck’s sake.

Jens’ jaw dropped as Leamas finished jotting down the proper terms for the hand in under a minute.  He flicked over the first side of the paper and began to scribble fervently on the second, labeling an arm now. 

“Are you a…? Biologist?” Jens asked in wonder, as Leamas dashed off another page.  The speed of his writing was mesmerizing.  Wait-

Leamas paused, glancing up.  His gaze caught on the fingers Jens was using to stem the flow of blood.  “Pass me your hand, please,” he said.  Jens obliged, having noticed that-

“The handwriting.  That’s- I-“  The long cursive spidery flick across the page was identical to his own. Wait no, that wasn’t quite right, the L’s were too wide, and the words were slightly too sharp.

“What about the handwriting?  It’s the ‘x’ isn’t it?  Yours are so odd.  Oh, and the L.  And the D. Practice makes perfect, so I suppose I shall have it down once I’m done.”  Leamas took the hand in his left – he was writing with his right – and brought it up to his lips.  His tongue curled around Jens’ pinky, tugging it into his mouth.  Jens closed his eyes, surprised for a long moment by the warm slip-slither of Leamas’ tongue rolling around his finger, the soft insides of his cheek pressed into his finger.  Leamas moved to the next and the next until he’d gotten to Jens’ thumb.  Hot wetness languidly rolled over the muscles and into the lines in his hand.  It. Jens blushed.  That shouldn’t… feel… the way that it did.  It shouldn’t feel like someone cared.  God, it was just a hand, why was he getting like this?

Leamas was still completing the packet with one hand while sucking on Jens’ like a child with an ice-lolly.  He flicked over a page, then another.

“How come you can just,” Jens asked, “copy my handwriting?”

Leamas scribbled in ‘Iliac’, then said, “Oh, just a thing.  You know, how people collect butterflies, or friends or lovers. Stamps.  Used to charge my friends for it; ‘Oh Alec would you mind terribly writing this report for Professor So-And-So, I’m going out with What’s-The-Name tonight to have a really good time’, the usual.”

Jens snorted. “And how do you know so much about human anato-” A terrible silence.  “Oh.”

Alec smiled. His teeth were stained a brilliant, bloody red. 

 

After knocking out the thick packet in about twenty minutes, Leamas broke out the Belgian chocolate and milk.  Snorting, he’d filled Jens’ glass partially with half-and-half and the rest with whole milk on the account that he was sick of seeing the poor victims of modern times looking like they’d had their insides scooped out.  The chocolate, having been chilled in the fridge, ‘like how the British do it’ Jens’ noticed gleefully, broke with crisp snaps. 

Jens bit into the chocolate, discovering to his delight that it had the crunch of hazelnuts inside.  How absolutely wonderfully lovely.  He wished everyone else were here.

Leamas was staring at him again.

Jens looked up from where he was staring wistfully, mood dampened, into his milk glass. The cup had to have been made from pure crystal.

“Do you mind if I…?” Alec asked.

Jens pushed himself to smile.  “Of course. I owe you the food.”

Leamas was gentle this time, sliding out of his chair with his cup of milk in hand.  For a moment, for one sick and wonderful moment, Leamas wanted to-

He wanted to widen Jens’ wounds, make them spurt. Then he would pour the milk into the cuts, watch the creamy pink swirls blossom and overflow and slick all over Jens’ rose-white skin, lick it off like-

Shut up. You sick animal.

Leamas knew that he not by any means the most sadistic vampire of the bunch.  He could rattle off a dozen vampires that embodied the most vile lust, and one in particular that no cruelty seemed beyond. He was however, acutely aware of how easily he could succumb to those base actions.  He’d indulged in them many a time- in those days when Vampire Law was temporarily suspended- when splitting a human end to end, hanging the bodies over buckets so no blood would be wasted, when returning broken bodies, bones split to suck out the bone marrow, wasn’t a war crime if you were on the right side. 

He wished he could have the appetite of someone like Smiley, he thought, gently running a finger around Jens’ gash.  Smiley, he thought, Smiley was alright.  Smiley should be the one that everyone dreams of. Maybe, he thought, maybe it could be like that.  Just for a day.

The sound of snapping chocolate popped alongside the record as Alec dipped his head as if in veneration.  His lips rested on the heavy gash.  Leamas sucked gently, like he was trying to suck the juice from a grape without crushing it. 

Jens munched on his chocolate.  He tasted like wonderful places, nestled villages, dirt roads wandering beside the river and the fields, those magical towns that specialize in beer brewing and chocolate making.  For the first time, Leamas thought he knew where Smiley went behind his eyes when he talked about hisGermany.

Slowly, because he didn’t want this to hurt, Leamas let his fangs slip out again. Restorative, prick prick.

Jens was filled with the most wonderful feeling.  The bubble of chocolate and milk contented him immeasurably, heightened by the wonderful zingof restorative.  Leamas chest was warm, pressed into his back like that, and his body felt all lovely and loose.  He could go to sleep here.  Jens let out a long happy sigh, and Leamas began to lick him clean.

“I would make something more delicious, make your blood taste like the sea, but good mussels are hard to come by around here.”  Leamas sighed.  “Maybe next time?”

Jens hummed a slight agreement.

 

“You should go,” Leamas said at some point, handing the boy his shirt.

“Yes.  I have another Biology lesson tomorrow morning.”

“Evening classes and weekend classes. Impressive.  Don’t forget your homework.”

Jens blushed. “I should probably actually learn them, rather than you doing it for me.  I do need a degree.”

Leamas laughed as Jens collected his things.  “Do you want me to ring a taxi?”

Jens laughed, “Just like an Englishman, you are, wanting to call a, what do they call it- ‘cab’.  I didn’t bring money for a cab, so I’ll be alright on my own.”

Translation: I don’t have enough money for a cab. I’ll have to be alright on my own.

Leamas hesitated.  “I’ll call one up.  It’s too late, the busses aren’t running, and I don’t want you getting run over by some jumped up little shit who’s had something to drink other than milk.”

“I’ll be fine,” Jens said.

“You might be a big boy, but that doesn’t make you unkillable.  Let me call a taxi.”

Eventually, Jens gave in with a happy, slightly relieved sigh.

Waiting outside for the cab to arrive, Alec asked the question. 

“When are you free next week?  I can come to the park- we could go out to a restaurant- alone, with Smiley, whatever you want.”

Jens wanted to scream, I can’t afford my own food, but stopped himself.  Leamas seemed to know exactly what he was thinking.

“My job, you know, they subsidize work lunches.  I might just go with Smiley, bring you along, talk a while and call it a business meeting.”

A weight lifted from Jens’ mind.  “That sounds wonderful, but-“

“Don’t worry. We’ll go somewhere human.  We won’t drink you there.  In fact, Smiley won’t have any at all.  We can come back here afterwards.”  Leamas seemed to have everything figured out. 

Jens bowed his head in thanks.  “I suppose it would be a waste of a good opportunity not to join you,” he said, beaming. “Friday?”

“Friday.”

They shared a few light words about nothing-weather-nothing and then the cab arrived.

 

Chapter Text

Jens woke up late the next day, jerking up from his bed into which he had tumbled the night before at the sharp stab of panic.  Biology lesson.  Biology lesson.  Glancing at the time, Jens swore and scrambled out of bed.  Scabs pulled around his neck, itching and feeling miserably tight.  He felt loose everywhere else however, as if his body found it hard to amass any nervous tension. 

It was 10:10 AM by the time Jens had scrambled out the door, taking the stairs down to the ground level three at a time.  Practically sprinting to the bus, Jens felt the back of his shoe dig painfully into his ankle.  No socks again.  Oops.

Miraculously, Jens arrived at the university exactly four minutes before the class was to start.  The professor was talking about something-something and so he took a seat at the back. Leamas hadn’t been wrong exactly when he’d joked of Jens becoming a doctor.  It would be nice to practice medicine, Jens used to think.  He’d never particularly subscribed to the sciences, but over the past several years he’d developed a – fervent passion – a desperate need-need just like this whole blood donation business.  He’d needed to become a doctor.

He wasn’t thinking straight, he decided.  After handing the professor the completed assignment with a twinge like plucking a guitar string, he took the worst kinds of notes.  He wrote everything down, word for word- his hand skimming over the paper so fast he thought it might tear.  He wrote down everything he heard, listening to nothing.  The world was buzzy, wasn’t it?  I hope lunch comes soon, I hope lunch comes-

Days and days happened, and Jens was there for all of them.  Class was equally present, and he was never marked absent.  And then it was Friday.  Friday with Leamas and Smiley and himself. 

Smiley was supposed to enjoy the arts- cultured, he was.  Jens didn’t particularly feel any desire just at the moment to converse, and he felt a little fuzzing-buzzy at the thought of Alec himself.  He really wasn’t sure what he wanted.  A friend perhaps?

I don’t really need one, surely, Jens thought as he stepped off the bus.  It was this restaurant he remembered, that was the one Alec had suggested last week.  The strap of his bag cut into his shoulder.  Despite the cold and autumn crunch underfoot, his underarms seemed oddly slick.  Nervous? Him?  He’d already established that Alec was not out for his blood… in the conventional sense.

Supposing that he should really just wait outside because this place looked like the kind of place that politicians frequent, and he was most certainly not dressed as one of those, Jens sweated in front of the resaurant’s front window.  God, he really wasn’t thinking straight.  His thoughts resembled some chunky mass that flowed like sewage- blocking and horrid. And it kept going round and round in circles, almost as if it kept going round and round in circles almost as if he couldn’t think straight. 

His gaze drifted to the middle of the street, cars rolling past his line of sight to the tune of some old waltz maybe- dum-ba-ba, dum-ba-ba, car-ba-ba, car-ba-ba, car

“You’re that boy, aren’t you?”

It was like shifting his weight on thin ice- Jens felt like he’d snapped into an arctic pond.  This person-person-person – how many hours of sleep had he gotten last night? – this person… Like a garden dweller… some small, watching animal… a mouse perhaps… a mouse with glasses.  The man cleared his throat and swallowed.  A frog.  Toad? What was the difference between a toad and a frog?  George. 

“Mr. Smiley!” Jens blurted.  “It’s you.”

“Indeed.”  But he sounded like a tired old mouse, oh yes, a mouse with greying whiskers doing his taxes, he did.  “I take it Alec- Leamas rather, has not arrived?”

“No, I thought Alec would be with you.”  Jens accidentally mimicked the world-weary tiredness in his voice.  You sound so old and tired.  A child could make fun of you for that. 

“Oh, he’s got you calling him Alec?” Jens decided that he liked Smiley.  His tone was curiously devoid of judgement.

“Mmhmm,” Jens nodded.  “Any idea where he is?”

“Might still be at work,” Smiley said, then at Jens’ furrowed brows, “We work in different departments, you see.” 

Jens nodded that sort of- that sort of slow, un-der-stan-ding nod that he’d had much practice with.  “So do you work in translation or something else?” he asked.  He thought he saw the edge of Smiley’s eye twitch.

“No, no, just regional management, all that,” Smiley said, or at least, that was probably what he said.  Jens himself perceived his meaning as something vague, cloudy and foggy and unclear and –

“Hello, the two of you,” came Leamas’ jovial tone. 

Jens felt a familiar hand clap around his shoulder, felt how the thumb rolled-

And then somehow all three of them were sitting down, and there was a menu, and there were soups and salads and “I’ll take the fish of the day please” because that was the only dish he knew how to pronounce without making a fool of himself.

Jens felt like an intruder upon some unspoken conversation between Alec and Smiley. They were sharing looks, obviously discussing Jens himself. 

“So,” Jens said, and both heads turned simultaneously.  In that moment, as both their eyes flicked to his eyes, to his neck, to his eyes, he understood that both Leamas and Smiley were vampires. “How was everyone’s week?” he asked. The awkward question made him feel like his whole inside was an eye that had just been squirted by lemon juice.

Smiley looked oddly disdainful as he glanced up at Alec, who was saying, “This week was rather interesting actually.  Nearly got into a fight with ickle-“ he glanced at Jens “William, and then I caught,” another glance, “the boss discussing what he’s planning for Karl.”

Smiley wrinkled his nose like a mouse.  “Christ, Alec let’s talk about something else.”  And then he turned and looked Jens in the eye.

“Do you have any idea what you’re getting yourself into?”

It was such a direct question.  Like cornichon after cheese fondue.  

“I-“

“George!” Leamas spat, but Smiley silenced him with a look, turning back to Jens.  They were in a niche booth, with a vampire on either side of Jens.  He felt his palms start to stick on the cheap seat’s fake leather.

“Answer the question,” Smiley said quietly.  “Do you have any idea what you’re getting yourself into, this deal you have between Alec?”

“No.  But I trust in the law and Alec’s decency.”

Smiley sat back, nodding.  “Good. You’re not an idiot.”  The grey in Smiley’s hair seemed to darken as he leaned back out of the light.

Alec gave a laugh, showing teeth.  Teeth. “I never ended up telling you how I lost my license, did I?” Teeth.

Not feeling too fragile, Jens propped himself up on his shoulders to listen.  “No, but you could tell us now.”  Smiley’s reaction to his response had given Jens a burst of arrogance.

Leamas flashed him a dashing smile.  “I drank the blood of someone I wasn’t licensed to,” he said casually, his gaze holding Jens’ own, “A pretty little boy, I suppose.  That was before I spilled him in an alleyway, tore him open.  The sight made two Policemen sick.  For the autopsy, they didn’t even have to make any cuts.  Fucking delightful.”

Everything froze.  Jens didn’t think there was any warmth in the world for a heavy second.  But then the corners of Alec’s eyes crinkled – warmth – another smile-

“I wouldn’t worry, Jens.  You are not a Nazi, and you did not rape and kill a little girl in an alley behind a bus-stop and walk away as if you did not care.”  Alec’s voice was flat and far away for an instant. 

Jens felt the world rush back into place and he blushed.  “I’m sorry for assuming.  I-  I understand.  I think.”

Smiley rolled his eyes.  “You and Alec make such cheery company,” he muttered sarcastically into a glass.

Jens and Alec both laughed at the same instant.  With a thrill, Jens felt Alec’s hand grab onto his own under the table. The older man’s thumb squished into the round muscle just below Jens’ own thumb.  Fingers searched higher – a warm, dry hand – and around the wrist they went, feeling for the pulse.

For some strange reason, Jens didn’t mind.  Part of it was the sly amusement at having Alec need him so.  Alec was dependent on his pulse.  His slave. His.  He could do anything he wanted… but the moment lasted only an instant before Jens felt another rush of contentment; Alec’s hand was nice and warm and comforting and friendly and-

“So Jens, how do you feel about your school?  You are in school, are you not?”

“Yes, just the university.  It’s interesting.  I do law, but I take supplements in Russian and Biology, among other things.  It’s all so very interesting.”  Jens felt like he could talk for hours about those subjects- if Smiley asked the right questions.

“Any professors you take a liking to?”

Jens nodded vigorously.  “There’s one who used to lecture about Stalinist interpretations of law as compared to now, and then for this paper I’m doing, my advisor lectures in the history department as well as the law department so I get to learn a bit about Soviet law too…”

“Any that are politically interesting?”

“What? You mean extremist?  No I don’t think so…”

“Challenging then?”  Smiley asked casually.  Leamas flashed his friend a look.

“I suppose some of them make me question the workings of the law, and ethics is always a touchy subject- the tradeoff between rights and security and all that-“

Smiley gave that slow and understanding nod that Jens had used earlier, smiling gently.

Alec was stirring ice around in his glass.  “You know,” he said, “I thought you’d be up each other’s asses talking about German cinema and literature by now.”

Smiley’s eyes lit up, despite the jibe about his rear.  “German literature you say?” He stared at Jens, dark eyes glittering. An adorable mouse.  “How do you feel about Goethe?”

Leamas rolled his eyes, hand squeezing Jens’ wrist under the table.

“He’s wonderful.  Takes you… into…” Jens made a motion with his free hand and Smiley seemed to understand.

Leamas groaned. “Not you too Jens…”

“Shut up Alec, you know nothing about words,” Smiley blathered nonchalantly.

Jens laughed.

Eventually, the food came.  It smelled wonderful, and Jens was happy of the pleasant noise that flooded the restaurant for it covered up the growl of his stomach.  Alright.  Alright, he thought, Start from the outside, work your way in.  Finger over the handle of the knife, don’t hold your fork like a spoon, do not, under any circumstances, hold your fork like how they do in America.

“So you both,” Jens said, indicating Smiley and Leamas’ dishes, “Aren’t having any,” heavy pause, “you know,” pause, “with that?”

“Well, seeing as you’re here and they don’t serve it here, then it’s a bit rude,” Smiley said kindly.

“Like bringing your own wine to a restaurant,” Leamas added, tucking a napkin down his shirt with one hand; he was still holding Jens’ wrist with the other.  “Insulting, unless it’s straight from the source.” Another squeeze of the wrist. “But even then… it’s just not done, especially not in such a human restaurant like this.”

Jens nodded, fiddling around his fish on the plate.  Smiley had gotten some sort of stew, and Alec had gotten a plate of pasta with some kind of mystery meat. 

As Jens took a bite, Smiley said, “So do your parents know you’re here?  What do they think of you and Alec’s,” he chewed around his words like they were fatty bits of meat, “relationship?”

Jens was… so glad that he had his mouth full at that particular moment.

Surprisingly, it was Leamas who stepped in.  “Now, George, don’t press Jens about all that.  I don’t want to know anything I could use to… track him down,” he said darkly. 

Then he squeezed Jens’ wrist and a smile bloomed on his lips.  “Did you like the dinner last time?”

Caught off guard for an instant, Jens choked on a fishbone.  Smiley reached out to pat him gingerly on the back; Leamas’ hand was unwilling to leave Jens’ wrist.

Smiley passed him a piece of bread, which he gulped down like medicine to clear his throat. 

Once he’d recovered, Jens was very red. “Yes, yes, of course,” he said, “I can’t believe that you actually make such good food- and that it’s human food-“

The conversation bubbled pleasantly for a few moments.  The next time he had a chance for a bite, he bit into the white fish with soft teeth, painstakingly feeling out the bones with his tongue. 

“And then we all ended up in this pub in the middle of nowhere, and by God, the light was absolutely fantastic-“ That was Alec talking.

Jens tried to discreetly spit out a needle-bone. 

Fish.  Why had he gotten the fish.

The afternoon faded into golden early evening and Jens had begun to feel strangely tired. Alec had let go of Jens wrist so that they could both use both hands, but now his fingers crawled unconsciously over the seat towards the boy. 

“I think it’s time we head out, George.  Lots to get on with tonight.”

A blank stare as Smiley turned to Jens.  “Are you… staying the night?”

“No,” Jens blurted, looking oddly at Leamas.  “Why would I…?”

“I was planning on taking you to a pub.  Near my other place, but not the one you came to me in the first time.  It’s a little out of town.  Didn’t want you drunk around the train.  You know.”

“People could be expecting me tomorrow,” Jens said.  They could.  It wasn’t really a lie that way.  “And I don’t- I don’t plan on drinking.”

Alec shrugged, only slightly put out.  “Where do you want to head then?”

“Might I suggest taking a walk around the park?  The lights on the water at night are stunning around the bridge, and practically no one goes there.”  That was Smiley.

Leamas flashed Jens a grin.  “We’ve been there before, but never to the bridge.  What do you say, Jens?”

Jens flushed. It would have been extremely rude to refuse a second option, he knew, and so he said, “That sounds alright. Now?”

“Sounds good.”

And all of a sudden Jens was pulling on his coat and Alec was spiriting him away to the park.  He only half remembered the bus ride there, and wasn’t really paying attention until the two of them found themselves all alone in the dark, little twinkles of light skipping over the water as it moved like a glacier under the bridge.

“Shit, George was right,” Leamas said, bunching his hands into his pockets and staring out into the deep, deep dark, “The light really is stunning.”

Jens hummed a bit.  “Say, Leamas,” he began.

“Alec.”

“Say Alec,” Jens corrected.  “I’m feeling a little tired.  Do you think…?” The question hung unsaid.

“Of course. Sorry.  Just, it’s such a nice night out, I thought I might keep you out a little late.”  His hands withdrew from their pockets.  “Would you prefer somewhere else?  Other than the neck?  I know sometimes it makes it hard to sleep.”

Jens was still staring out at the water.  The light from the rows of lamps on either side of the river splashed onto the water, glittering like golden diamonds, gold and diamonds.  He felt full.  He had somewhere to go.  There was only one person with him.  Everything just seemed so… perfect.  “Would my arm work?  Like giving blood at the doctors’?”

His own phrase made him wake up.  Of course he knew that it would work-

“Of course. Pass me your arm.”

Jens did, and felt the sweet tickle of Alec neatly rolling up his sleeve.  He folded the stiff fabric of his shirt over itself and over again.  The light was so nice, and it wasn’t too cold at all and-

Leamas lowered his lips to the crook of Jens’ arm.  His lips tickled, so Jens giggled.

Alec couldn’t help but notice how soft the boy’s skin was.  “May I?” he murmured into Jens’ flower-like arm.

“Mm-hmm,” Jens said, as if in a daze, although Alec had no intention of sedating him. He froze for an instant as Alec’s fangs pierced his skin, then he managed to relax.  “That feels so odd, you know,” he said, “It’s like having a syringe in my arm, I can feel it, but there are two.”

Jens felt Alec squeeze his hand between both of his.  Everything was quiet except for the waltz-ish slosh of water.

 “When I get home, I think I’m going to be nice and happy,” Jens rambled.  “Might write some letters, do some work if I want to, and if I don’t want to then I won’t do it because today has been such a nice day, you know?”  He sighed contentedly as Leamas continued to suck the life from him.  “You’ve made my day so much better, you know.”

I know, I know, I know, Alec’s warm hand seemed to say.

 

He arrived home almost an hour later, still gently happy and confused and distracted by everything.  Sitting down at his desk, he pulled out a fresh sheet of paper.

 

I hope you’re doing well.  I’ve made a new friend.  He’s a bit older, but he’s helping me with my biology homework, so he can’t be too bad.  He buys me food too, so I always look forward to going to see him (don’t worry, I pay him back!).  All today I was so tired, because I stayed up late worrying about

 

And then he was an absolute wreck.  Tears splattered everywhere, so even the dry ink began to run.  He wailed, making grotesque faces like unfrozen gargoyles. Messily, he scribbled in,

 

Why haven’t you written to me? 

 

As if all the exhaustion had thudded down again about his shoulders, Jens stumbled to bed, his pillow as wet as Alec’s lips had been-

He had a dream about the vampire.  In it, Jens was sitting again at that Austrian café, chatting avidly to Leamas about… something. 

“How do you find the coffee?”

Jens took a sip.  It was thick and rich and not scalding hot.  “It’s perfect,” he sighed.  Suddenly overcome by a fit of coughing, Jens raised a pure white napkin to his lips.  Blood spattered across it, and Jens dropped his coffee cup in surprise.  Red spilled over the equally white tablecloth, and Alec laughed and laughed and laughed.

“It is perfect!”  Alec’s voice melted into the idea of the words as Jens shook at the table, which had somehow become his bed.  He was sitting in the niche- the corner of his room that was bordered by walls on two sides and his bed on the other.  Far off, outside the door to his room, down the short hallway, past the cramped, empty kitchen, someone was banging at the door.

“I say!  Is everything alright in there?  We heard screaming -  Hello? Hello!  Hello?  Will someone please come to the door or I’ll call the police!”

Jens dragged himself to his feet, moving as if through molasses.

And suddenly the ground had become thin newsprint, unable to sustain his weight.  With a harsh ripping tearing gnashing, Jens tumbled through the floor of his apartment at full speed, torn pieces of the same article darting around him like piranhas, black and white photos sharp as teeth.

Jens lurched awake.  Stumbling to the bathroom, he retched.  His head had barely cleared the toiled bowl when he vomited.  An odd slosh filled the apartment.  Oh, how he wished Leamas were-

Did he just think that?

Yes, yes he did.  And he didn’t regret a single thought. 

Oh, how he wished Leamas were here with him…

 


 

The next week, Jens arrived at Alec’s apartment unduly excited.  He rapped at the door and rocked on his heels as he heard Leamas’ footsteps approach.  The door cracked open revealing a somewhat blank-looking Alec.  His clothes were sharp as always, a well-fitting suit cut close to his form, and his hair was neatly brushed, but his face looked like it was blasted into ice. At the sight of the boy standing in the door however, his eyes brightened, and he pulled Jens into the flat by the wrist, smiling gaily.

Jens propped up his things, bag, shoes, books, neatly on the floor just next to a dresser before turning back to Alec.  The vampire had his back turned to him, humming gently as he shut the door.  “How was your week?”

Standing up straight, Jens smiled proudly.  “I came first in Biology for the first time ever.” 

Alec’s face positively lit up in delight.  He clapped Jens on the shoulder.  “Congratulations!” he cried out.  “I prepared a pre-emptive celebratory dinner!”

Jens looked up into Leamas’ shining eyes.  “What is it?”

“Mussels, red sauce and linguine.  I know how hard good mussels are to come by.”

Jens couldn’t stop grinning for some reason.  Alec was like… a friend.  A real, real person!  That made him feel all warm inside with hope.  “Muscle, blood and nerves, you sick cannibal,” he laughed.

“Well it was selfishly motivated,” Alec admitted.  “I quite wanted to see what the sea would do to the taste of your blood.”

Jens didn’t even shudder.  Leamas’ casual attitude had taken the edge off his fangs, it seemed.  “Goodness, I haven’t had seafood in…” he counted in his head.  “At least three years.”

“Wonderful. What would you like to do afterwards? Or would you just like to stay for dinner?” 

Jens was incredibly content; Alec’s words carried no obligations, no strings. “Mmm-Staying would be nice,” he said, “I brought my books,” he added.  “To study.”

Laughing, Leamas let his hand fall from Jens’ shoulder.  “Shall we eat?”

Leamas pulled out a chair, sat Jens down in it, his hand resting an instant longer on the boy’s arm.  The table gleamed with shining silverware, crystal glasses, and large pale plates like moons.  With a pasta fork, Leamas ladled a heaping mass of golden linguine onto Jens’ place. Then, he spooned a thick garnish of sauce along with several dark shells from which flame-orange mussels peeped shyly. 

“Wine?” he asked.

Jens hesitated. “…Alright.  Wait no, no thanks.”

Alec smiled, an eyebrow raised.  “For a moment there, I thought you had given in to vice.”  He chuckled gently as he served himself then sat himself down. “Tell me.  How are things going?” he asked.

Jens hummed noncommittally.  “Oh, it had ups and downs, like every week.  This is certainly an up, don’t worry.”

Leamas delicately twirled his pasta into a silver spoon.  Oh!  How Alec loved how Jens would watch his hands oh-so carefully, mimicking his every move. 

“This is… so… good,” muttered his companion, licking up a split! of tomato sauce on his lip. “Please teach me how to cook someday.”

“Next time I can wait, and we could make it together, sound good?”

“Excellent.”

“Now,” Alec began, “Without telling me anything distinctive, tell me everything about yourself. I feel rather famished for your personality.”

Jens burst into laughter, like tinkling rain.  “Really Alec, I trust you enough with my neck every week.  What do you want to know?”

“Mmm…” Alec made the indecent noise into his wineglass.  “Nothing really, I just wanted to have something to talk about with you other than your schoolwork.”

A long noodle slipped off Jens’ fork, hanging out his mouth like a child eating spaghetti for the first time.  Before he could stop himself, Jens slurped it up.  It flicked red sauce everywhere. 

“You dirty little vampire!” Alec cajoled.  Oh how he loved to see Jens’ smile.

All at once, Jens perceived the ringing of a telephone on the counter to the left of the stovetop.  Alec froze for an instant, then picked up, turning his back on Jens with a guilty smile.

Although he could hear the buzz of a voice, Jens couldn’t quite make out what the person on the other end of the line was saying.  Leamas tapped a finger angrily on his thigh, sighing.  He hummed in agreement, then disagreement, then with an overwhelming growl of frustration-

I am with a friend of mine from around here at the moment.” 

The line went quiet, then Jens heard over the sweet bubble of sauce that the voice had started up again.

Two weeks?  You will have to provide food and accommodation.  And hurry up with a licsence.”  Pause.  “I will check in with you tomorrow.”

The line went dead, and Alec pressed the phone back into its holder and turning back to the boy across the counter.

“You speak English?” Jens asked, completely thrown.

“Mmm,” Leamas said pensively, rubbing his chin.  “A little.”

“You sounded like those people in the movies.  Like a real gentleman!” Jens chuckled.  ‘A little’ English?  Jens doubted it was just ‘a little’.  “Are you sure you aren’t British?”

Leamas laughed, and the curious look in his eyes melted away for an instant.  “Does ‘Leamas’ sound like a British name to you?” he asked playfully, spinning the contents of the pot.

“Irish maybe? Not German of course…” Jens frowned. “You’re not telling me you’re French, are you?”

Alec cracked a smile.  “Everyone hates the French.”

Suddenly, in the glow of Alec’s grin, Jens had the most uncontrollable urge to jump up and-

“May I take your hand?” he asked stupidly.  He felt a bubble of giddiness pop inside him when Alec handed his hand over without speaking.  Handed his hand.  God, Jens, you’re so funny. Leamas’ palm was dry and warm. Jens found himself running fingers over the back of it, feeling the veins that stood out.  “So are you French?  I feel like I may have to take back several rude comments about them if you are.”

Leamas shrugged, with his other hand wafting the steam that hung over the sauce to smell it like a scientist.  “My father was a Frenchman, but I never really knew him.”  Jens could tell in Alec’s tone that he was a little unsure of how much he wanted to tell Jens, so the boy backed off, reasoning that he could easily pry it out of the vampire at a later date.

“Well I’ve heard the French cook well, and so do you!”

“Oh no!” Leamas spluttered hilariously, “You’ve unmasked me as a French spy merely by eating my food!  C’est incroyable!

Jens burst out laughing, relinquishing Leamas’ hand.  “Alec stop!”

Alec locked eyes with Jens, his next words dripping with the classic French dismissive and derisive accent, “Ah, you een-educated swine Canadien, Eet’s absolutely een-crrrrreh-dee-beul.”

Jens choked on his giggles, going all red.  “Alec-Alec sto-s-stop I can’t breathe,” he wheezed.

“I suppose you’ll start calling me Alec Léamas now,” he said, still smiling. 

Unable to respond due to his acute case of the giggles, Jens slapped the counter repeatedly with an open hand.

“You know,” Alec said after a moment, “I think it’s done.”  He turned off the cooker fire and poured the rich, creamy red sauce into an awaiting receptacle.  “À table, Jens!”

Il faut qu’on lave les mains, Alec,” Jens said, laughing.  His Canadian accent made Leamas want to… God, he felt so bubbly, like a child on Christmas. He and Jens washed their hands at the same time, in the same sink.  Alec put his hands beneath Jens’.  Their ribs were touching so comfortably that Leamas could feel Jens breathe.

After sitting down next to each other, Leamas served them both.

Bonne appétit, mon-“ Alec caught himself from rhyming just in time.  If he had called Jens ‘mon p’tit ami’ well… that would have been…

“Yes!  Bonne appétit!” Jens said, evidently not realizing what had almost happened.

They tucked in with much praise for the flavor on Jens’ part. 

“You take the mussel shell, and use it,” Alec said, clicking it like a castanet, “To pull out another one!”  He demonstrated: Leamas used the shell like tweezers to pluck a bright orange globule of flesh from another navy blue shell.  He let it dangle above his lips before catching it on his tongue.  Jens watched and mimicked, fascinated.

Alec remained like a gleefully starving animal.  He felt the faint ache around his jaw, a twinge of hunger.  His mouth could almost be watering.

Eventually, Jens set down his fork.  “You must be hungry,” he said.  His slim fingers reached up to unbutton the shirt that so tightly hugged his throat.  Alec swallowed, mouth watering. 

“May I?” Leamas asked carefully.

Jens nodded and stood up, fingers working at their buttons.  A collarbone began to present itself as Jens slipped the shirt off over his shoulders. 

“Have you lost weight?” Alec didn’t think it could have been possible.

“Maybe… I’ve been very busy this past while.  Lot of things going on… School, the like.  Keeps me up at night.”

Alec tsked, getting up and moving forward slightly so they were standing almost chest-to-chest.  “You need to eat,” he stated, stooping his head slightly so that his lips rested in the cup of Jens’ collarbone.  His fingers curled around the boy’s shoulders. 

He bit.

Fangs burst the skin, and Jens gave a loud yelp of pain.  Alec was tempted to inject sedative, but decided against it, thinking of what he had promised Jens.  Leamas gave a long, strenuous suck, blood filling his mouth with blood like it was warm, thick cream.  He forced Jens back, back, back, walking him blindly until they pressed against the cool wall.  Jens made a pained noise which Alec tried to soothe by stroking his arms with his thumbs. After another gulp, Alec withdrew his head from under Jens’ chin. 

He spun the boy violently around like a puppet, bending him in half over the dinner table and twisting his arm so that the shoulder blade protruded.  The weak spot, the delicacy, was exposed.  Leamas slid his fangs deep into the boy’s back.

Oh the blood back here was so tender! Leamas marveled.

“NnnNgh!” Jens cried out in surprise.  His voice was smothered, cheek pressed so snugly against the table.

Leamas paused, worried, but Jens wriggled slightly and continued, “No, no, you can go on, I’m just-“

“Ticklish?” Alec laughed into Jens’ lily-soft skin.

“It just hurts a little,” Jens said, voice suddenly calm.  “But it’s what you need, and I also need it-“  Jens voice broke off, as if he’d said too much.  Alec paid it little mind and sank his fangs deeper, lapping up the blood that welled on Jens’ back.

A few minutes later, Alec withdrew after pumping restorative through Jens’ veins. The boy stood up, immediately a paradigm of self-control.  He said nothing as Alec bandaged his weeping wounds, and pulled on his crisp shirt quickly. “I must be getting home,” he said finally, “I have a lot to do tonight.”

Alec was puzzled.  What had come over Jens to make him so giddy one moment and then so cold the next? “Same time next week?” he asked.

Jens nodded, aloof, then walked straight out of the apartment.  The door snapped shut quietly, leaving Alec wondering what he had done wrong.  What was it? Jens wanted him to drink his blood, surely, and yet…?

Leamas’ gaze floated around the room listlessly, falling upon a battered bag on the floor.

Chapter Text

Jens stalked out of Alec’s building angrily.  God damn it, why couldn’t he just- enjoy this!  Everything had been going perfectly fine until Alec had- had laughed into his skin as if- as if- as if they were lovers. Self-disgust welled up in Jens’ throat. Alec was a vampire.  A vampire!

Jens imagined trying to explain himself to Leamas:

“I think of you as a-“  A what?  A friend? A father?  Even adding ‘lover’ into the list of things Leamas may-or-may-not be only confused the matter.  On top of it all, Jens had promised himself that he would neverlike a vampire.  Except-

Jens felt tears well up in the corners of his eyes- no- no- no- not here, not in public-

He glanced around, afraid someone would see, but there was only one other person sharing the night with him, a heavyset man wandering along behind him.  Jens immediately felt a prickle run up his neck. He would prefer being in a crowd to being almost-alone.

He glanced up. Damn it, he couldn’t cross the road; the signal said he couldn’t.  Well, he thought, he could because there were no cars around this late at night, but then that would look a little rude, wouldn’t it?  As if he was trying to avoid this other man.  Which he was, of course.

Jens paused at the crosswalk- the little man in the lightbox glowed a dull red in his swimming vision.  With a horrid feeling, he heard the man stop behind him.  Please don’t talk to me, please don’t-

“Turn around.”

Everything went cold.  Jens revolved slowly, tears spilling from his eyes. 

The man was heavyset, in a large coat.  He had a red face, as if he was accustomed to being drunk.  He smelled sour, like how Jens imagined rotting milk would smell. A knife gleamed in his fist, long and jagged, like a horrible smile.  Jens backed up slowly- no sudden movements- and the man followed, trapping him in an alleyway.

Jens’ back thudded against the damp walls.  He felt through his thin shirt that it had been raining.  Everything was all so vivid all of a sudden, the light especially. Traffic lights shimmered in puddles on the floor.  With a sickening irony, Jens saw that the little man had turned green.  Dim gold streetlamps glittered along the edge of the man’s knife.

“Hand over your wallet.”  The voice was a low growl.  Instinctively, Jens reached for it, but then stopped short.  He’d left it in his school bag.  He’d left his school bag at Leamas’. 

“I- I don’t have it-“

Bullshit!” the man spat.  It began to rain again.  The knife jerked around in the air, splashing light everywhere.

The bubble of fear in Jens’ chest exploded, and he found himself screaming, “Someone help! Help!  Help me!”  He remembered what his mother had told him in case this ever happened- “Fire!  Fire!  Fire!

“Shut your fucking mouth-“ the man launched forwards, his heavy fingers groping for Jens’ throat.  He fell on the boy, dragging him down the wall and into the thick puddle scum of oil that made the water go all rainbow.  Jens gagged on his own words as he thrashed around like a fish out of water.  All he could hear was the loud, but not too loud, plish-schloshof puddles forming.  Everything was going black and in contrast all the lights were becoming brighter- the little green flash in the corner of his eyes, the golden streetlamps, the knife that the man was holding between his teeth as he strangled the life out of Jens.  And suddenly everything began to dim.

He was being choked- he was dying- the world was burning in a sea of all consuming tar as the fingers tightened around his neck-

Suddenly, he felt his attacker wrenched from him, popping buttons off his shirt as those forceful fingers tried to grasp at Jens’ collar.

Jens flipped over, retching.  Air.  Air. He could breathe.  It felt like ramming the sharp end of an icicle down his throat- wonderfully cool and shocking, but painful.  Oh God.  What had happened?  He coughed looking over his shoulder behind him.

There was a man in a heavy coat pinning his attacker –his would-be murderer– to the damp, dark sides of the alley wall, knees pressed into the other man’s thighs, hand shoving the back of his head into the wall, stunning him. The hands slammed into the attacker’s shoulders so that he was completely flattened against the wall with its condensation dripping down it like watery slime.

There was a loud but dampened popping nose and the man screamed. It was a high pitched squeal like that of a pig.  To Jens it smelled like someone had splashed liquid copper on the ground: everything smelled and tasted metallic.  His eyes widened.  He knew what it must mean.

There was a wretched scraping sound , softened as if it were coming from underwater. Under blood, Jens realized.  He gave a relieved, hysterical laugh.  He recognized that coat, those shoes, that bag slung over a shoulder.

The scream became horrible, cutting in and out as blood bubbled up Jens’ attacker’s throat.  Jens saw with, well he wasn’t exactly sure what that emotion was (he wasn’t sure he’d forgive himself if he acknowledged the possibility of it being some sick and twisted pleasure), but he saw dark liquid bubble, spill and glisten from the attacker’s mouth, dripping out with the intensity of a homely garden fountain.

His entire body flailed pathetically like a fish, arms spasming like he was being shot with lightning.  The man continued to screech like a broken violin as Jens stumbled to his feet, still breathing like he’d never really lived.  Maybe he should stop Leamas.  But… Leamas was feeding on someone else not him, so that was… good… but then Jens remembered-

“Leamas, Leamas, Alec!” he rasped, his voice chalky, “Alec your liscen-” Jens stumbled closer and Alec turned his face from the crook of the murderer’s neck.

Jens slumped against the wall, slick with the rain that was pelting from the sky. Leamas had torn his attacker’s neck open with his teeth.  Of the skin, there was only a mangled mass of flesh, slit to one side.  The wound itself was dark with blood, but Jens could see the exposed strings of muscle and ligament twitching horribly beside Leamas’ face.

Oh God.  Was this what Leamas looked like when he, Jens shivered against the cold stone, fedon him? 

Leamas’ face was contorted into a cruel, sickly grin, teeth stained something dark and metallic.  His entire face was spattered with the other man’s insides.  There was a lump of flesh hanging pathetically, skewered on one of Alec’s long fangs, bits of the sinew hanging back down like some perverse, mangled umbilical cord into the man’s neck.

The muscles of the killer’s neck spasmed as he tried to scream. There was only a soft fountain gurgle through the sound of heavy rain.

Jens twisted around, head tipping forwards as he vomited.

 

 

It was all very brisk.  Jens snatched his bag from Alec’s shoulder and tore off into the night.  After shouting after Jens, Leamas drove the attacker to the hospital.  Once he returned home, he called Smiley to explain everything.  He was greeted by a sigh.

“Did you at least disguise yourself when you dropped him off at the emergency room?”

“Of course.  No one knows it was me.”

“He didn’t get a good look at you?”

“’Course not.  I’m not an idiot.”

Another sigh.  “I need to tell Control about this one.”

“Shit.”  Alec paused.  “Alright. He won’t pull me out though.  No one knows it was me.”

“I’ll have to explain your situation with that boy.  Jens, wasn’t it?”

“What’s he have to do with it?”

“Oh come on Leamas, do you expect me to believe you risked your cover just to save some human?  Of course it’s about Jens.”

Alec went cold.  Control- if he knew- there was no telling what he could do- or even what he was capable of doing.  “Fuck- George, don’t tell Control.  Don’t you fucking-“

“I’m doing my job, Alec.  Control needs to know about this whole mess so he can smooth it all over.”

“Damn you George.  If they find out who he is, then he’s not safe. That’s the last thing I want.”

“Well maybe you shouldn’t have torn out a man’s throat, Alec, because you’re fucking up this entire operation!  What if the police had come?  What if they still come, mmm?  Asking questions about vampires in the area?  All because of some worthless human!”

“That’s why Ann left you.” Leamas was in a blind, cold fury.

Silence.

“You don’t really give a shit about the human race, do you George?”

The line went dead.  Alec didn’t have it in him to regret his words yet. It had been all talk- George thought more of humans than Leamas did himself. 

 

 

Once home, Jens fell onto his bed, too tired to even pick up his pen to write a letter.  Oh God, how was he supposed to explain all this?  He prayed that the fingermarks around his neck wouldn’t bruise. 

It had all been so frightening- Those hands, and then Leamas’ face when he’d come to his rescue.

But Alec had saved his life.

Jens woke up the next morning feeling strangely giddy, as if the previous night hadn’t been ruined at all. He trusted Leamas completely now. And he was sure that whatever they turned out to be, friends, family or lovers, that they would continue to help each other no matter what.  Jens was surprised at his own optimism. 

His good mood persisted throughout the week, and it was only heightened when on Wednesday he received a letter. 

 

Dear Jens,

Sorry I haven’t written in a long time!  Everything here is just so busy!  All my friends and classes are wonderful over here, so I really wish you could come over for a weekend so you could meet everyone!

This week has been truly amazing.  One teacher said I would make a good doctor, so I was very happy, and then on Tuesday (that’s today!) that kind man came to see me for the first time in months.  He was so very nice, we went out into the countryside to talk about how I was doing since I came to school here.  He was most kind.  I want to introduce you to him some day because I’m not sure if you two have met yet. He’s like a grandpa, but he wears foreign suits instead of old wooly sweaters.  We talked about you for a little bit too (all nice things!).  I think he probably is someone important, because he brought me a box of French chocolates.  All my friends wanted to try some so in the end I only got to eat three! They do drive me crazy sometimes. 

How are things?

Ok!  I have to go! Biology starts in ten minutes!

 

Jens smiled at how the writing suddenly became rushed and messier at the end.  He sipped from his glass of water and checked the clock.  He wouldn’t be late for school.

 

 

When Alec opened the door, he let out a cry of joy.  “Jens!” he exclaimed, pulling the boy into a tremendous hug.  “Oh, you’re safe, thank heavens!”

Jens let himself be pressed against the fine fabric of Leamas’ work clothes.  “Why were you so worried?”

Alec’s face turned serious.  “Well I thought after you were attacked-“

“You worry too much,” Jens said, hugging Alec back.  The physical contact was comforting beyond belief.  “But I think we do need to talk about what happened last time.  From before.”

Alec corked an eyebrow.  “Hmm?” he asked as he let go of Jens and drifted towards the kitchen, holding the boy by the hand.

“When I ran out on you.  I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have.”  The apology came easily because Jens knew that it wouldn’t hurt their relationship at all.  And he meant it.

Leamas shrugged.  “Don’t worry about it.  I don’t think I understood you well enough to know what it’s alright to do with you.  Idodrink enthusiastically.”

Jens nodded. “It’s just, lately,” Jens bit his lip. He was going to tell him.  He was going to tell Alec. “I’m-just-not-sure-what-the-two-of-us-are-I-mean-I-don’t-know-if-we-should-be-hugging-or-kissing-or-if-I’m-just-supposed-to-lie-down-and-be-your-food-“

In an instant, Leamas had him in a hug, hands patting the boy on the back.  “Oh Jens,” he said softly, “Jens, even Idon’t know what we are, only that I want to hug you and kiss you and make you feel like the best person in the entire world.  And you certainly aren’t just food.”

“So…?” Jens was smiling like a fool as tears shimmered in his eyes.

“Jens, if you want to kiss, I am more than happy to kiss.  If you just need someone, because I know that you’re hiding some heavy sadness from me, I will do anything for you, alright?”

It was as if Jens’ soul had lit up.  Suddenly there was a spark in his eyes, and he smiled.  “Then let’s make dinner,” he said, then, as if daring himself, he lay a happy kiss on Alec’s cheek.  “I’m kissing you as a friend, you understand?” he said.

“Better than you know,” Alec said.  “Just friends.  Friends who do odd things together.”

Jens nodded, blushing furiously.  After another moment, he managed to calm down, returning to his previous, aloof demeanor.  “What’s got you in such a sappy mood, Alec?” he asked.

“Hmm?”

“’I will do anything for you’?”

“Oh,” Alec said sheepishly.  “This past week I’ve been rather worried about you. Smiley’s been telling me I’m going soft.”

Jens flashed him a wry smile.  “I don’t think you were so soft on the other man.”

Leamas’ eyes darkened.  A flicker of fear twisted in Jens’ stomach.  “I would have done more than just rip his throat out,” he hissed.  “I would have cut his spine out of his body-“

Jens went all red again and he slapped Alec’s wrist.  “Stop it!” he cried out, “You’re going to ruin my appetite!”

Blinking, Leamas’ face returned to its normal grizzled expression.  “Fine.  Do you want to learn how to make sandwiches?”

“I know how to make-“

Alec rolled his eyes and showed him the food laid out on the counter.  “I meant real sandwiches.”

Jens’ eyes widened.  “You’ve bought baguette, you complete Frenchman!” he cried.

Alec showed him what to do: first, he would slice the bread horizontally and slip both sides into a toaster.  Then, once it came out all crispy and warm, Alec would spread a thin layer of jam onto both sides of bread. 

“Do you like turkey?” he asked, cutting a large slice of breast from a bird next to him. Jens nodded.

Alec laid the turkey between the slices of bread then cut a heavy slice of brie cheese and slathered it over the white meat.  Jens’ mouth watered.

“Isn’t brie… rare?”

Alec nodded, but did not elaborate.  He crunched the sandwich down and laid it on a plate.  He piled a small amount of salad next to it, and handed the plate to Jens. 

“Sit up on the counter.  We’re going to be informal tonight.”

Jens did so as Alec slowly prepared another sandwich.

“Do you celebrate Christmas?” Jens asked suddenly. 

“A little. Usually all my time is taken up with Selieve.  I work with some of the people who are responsible for selecting, and it gets hectic.”

Jens bit into his sandwich, determined to enjoy it despite the discussion that was about to occur.  “It’s December…thirteenth, right?” he asked.

Alec shook his head.  “That’s winter selection day.  Technically, Selieve is selection day’s eve, so the twelfth.  But when we have Selieve parties, it’s generally around the end of January.  It gives us time to find our selections and take them home with us in the month before, because usually selections come out around New Year’s.  There’s another selection day in the summer, but we don’t celebrate it quite so much.”

Jens remembered having a vague impression that the celebrations were akin to a human wine tasting.  Not wanting to pursue the issue, he said, “This sandwich is very good.”

Leamas cracked a small smile.  “There’s a restaurant I went to once.  Sandwich was so nice, I stole their recipe.”

Nodding, Jens asked, “So what are we going to do?”

“Don’t you have homework?  Biology?”

Jens went all red.  “It’s cheating if you help me.  I need to learn for myself, right?”

Alec shrugged. “I don’t think you really want to become a doctor in either case.”

Flashing a nervous smile, Jens tried to change the subject again.  “So, Leamas.  Tell me about yourself.  I seem to remember you promising to tell me the story of how Smiley bit you.”

Alec’s eyebrows arched.  “Did I now?”

Jens nodded solemnly.  “You called George a bastard too, if I remember correctly.”

Letting out a heavy breath, Alec said, “Well alright then.  Like most children, I detested my parents for being old fashioned asses, so I decided to show them I wouldn’t be like them by enlisting in the army. I’d been stationed near the front for about six months when we were pinned down by artillery fire.  Was rather sad, actually.  We were all in group tents when it happened, you see, so when the bombing stopped, all the pieces would be grouped together and you really couldn’t tell who’d been who,”

Jens managed to keep munching his sandwich despite the gruesome image.

“About five minutes into the thing, we were all running around trying to get away from wherever they were, when explosions started coming from the rear, because we were idiots who had managed to get ourselves surrounded.  Something exploded to my right, hitting one of our trucks.  Shrapnel caught me right in the stomach and my group decided to leave me.”

At Jens’ horrified look, Alec laughed. “It was by mutual agreement.  It was the right thing to do.  If they hadn’t left me behind, they would all have died.”

Jens still felt uneasy and mildly guilty.  He hadn’t even been in Europe during the war- he’d been learning how to say “je suis”, “tu es”, “il-ou-elle est”, “nous sommes”, “vous êtes” and “ils-ou-elles sont”. “How did you-“ Jens asked, unable to say the word ‘survive’.

“The main group went on and their guns went quiet where we were.  I heard explosions to the south just as everything became all sort of comfortable.  I was resting against the blown-out truck tires when I heard footsteps approaching, and well I thought ‘Alec it looks like you’re going to get lucky and die quickly.’”  Leamas filled up a glass of water and took a long sip.  Jens twitched almost impatiently.

“But it turns out it was some of our scouts or special branch or whomever.  They’d come from behind the lines just for us.  One was Smiley, and there were two others; Bill and Jim.”

Jens’ mind raced.  “Like the Bill you and Smiley were talking about?”

Leamas uttered a sharp laugh, his eyes sharp.  “You’re very bright, you know.”

That was all the confirmation Jens needed.  “And so… you really aren’t German?”

Leamas’ eyes flashed.  Jens felt his stomach drop.

“I just mean… You said that they were on your side, and Jim and Bill are not German names, so I assumed- and-“

“I was always an anti-fascist.”

Jens wasn’t sure what he was supposed to assume: was Alec a German defector?  Were Jim and Bill just Germans?  He decided not to probe the vampire until another time for fear that Leamas would stop telling the story completely.  “Go on,” Jens said.

Leamas shrugged.  “Bill suggested they put me out of my misery, and Jim was about to do it when Smiley took pity on me.  He hasn’t changed much since then, come to think of it.  He sort of squatted down in front of me, and talked to me like I was some deranged animal that needed calming down.  Of course he had good reason; I was blabbering my tongue out about something or other.  He asked me if I wanted to live, and I said yes, I’d do anything, and then I saw his fangs come out.”  Alec gave a hearty laugh.  “I practically pissed myself!  There was nothing more in the world I feared more than ‘those bloodsucking fucks’- and the only thing I hated more were ‘those Nazi fucks’!”

Jens nodded. He’d overheard something of the sort by the train station earlier.

“But I couldn’t manage to say the word ‘no’, you see, because I had this feeling that if I refused, then all three of them would leap on me and-“  Alec jerked his hands up to his neck in a wild gesture, fingers spasming like too many spiders’ legs over Leamas’ exposed flesh – a desperate and hungry motion.  Jens knew exactly what that meant.

“And that would have been even worse, considering there were three.”

“You knew that Bill and… Jim were vampires too?”

Alec gave a half-nod.  “They didn’t have their fangs out at the time, but when I saw Smiley’s I saw they had this look in their eyes.  They weren’t looking at my face, they were looking at my wound like it was orange juice!”

Jens nodded and hummed for Alec to go on.

“It was at about this time that I begun to pass out.  Smiley started swearing, and my head dropped onto my chest.  I felt his fangs at the back of my neck-“

“Cold,” Jens supplied. 

Alec beamed at him.  “Ah yes. Of course, you would know all about the feeling.”

“What actually happens- I mean- If you don’t mind me asking- how exactly did you become a vampire?  Is there a special magical-“

“No magic, just another serum we excrete from our fangs, although it regenerates much more slowly than restorative or sedative.”

Jens nodded in mild horror, as if he was imagining a scene playing out in his head.

“It’s almost like a virus.  It,” Alec frowned, searching for more poetic words, “By some process, it transforms human blood into vampire blood.  The human body then needs some time to adjust, which may manifest itself in… temporary madness, a thirst for blood, et cetera.  Usually very messy, and you don’t want to be a human when it happens.” Leamas lapsed into silence, remembering how it had been for him.  He briefly registered a similar look on Jens’ face.

“I was lucky that the bodies around me were already dead.  I think-  That was the only time I’ve ever felt like an animal, felt like an animal and wanted more.”

Jens was absolutely white.  “Tell me some other story, could you Alec?  I don’t like all this blood and gore.”

“I’m sure you’ll be a wonderful doctor,” Alec said playfully, and Jens blushed.  “What sort of story?” 

Jens shrugged. “Nothing too scary,” he replied. “I’ve been rather jittery this past week, because of,” Jens looked at Alec meaningfully, “last week.”

Leamas nodded. “Well this one time, Smiley and I were backpacking across Ukraine-“

“Why Ukraine?”

Alec’s eyes flashed.  “We were young.  I had just become a vampire and wanted to know just how far I could push myself. Smiley came along to make sure I didn’t fuck up, so to speak.”

“Fuck up?”

A frown. “Fall off something tall, accidentally go on a rampage and all that kind of fuck-up.”

Jens nodded understandingly.  “Sorry, go on.”

“And we stopped in this tiny little town to get some typical borscht and vodka, to this tiny little restaurant where we both sat down.  We’d left all our things at the tent you see, because it was a ways away from town, but Smiley had brought a smaller bag with the essentials: passports, visas, travel papers, the usual.  So we sit down at this small pub-ish place and start eating and drinking and enjoying the warmth, because we were sitting real near a fire.  And then the door opens and here come three police officers.”

Jens leaned forward. 

“And they stood in front of the fire so that we were in shadow and all cold, you know?”

Jens did. He could almost feel the shadow pass across the fire, feel the coldness thrown across him.  “Uh huh.”

“And the policeman starts talking… In Ukrainian!  And then, since George made those eyes like he didn’t understand, he switched to Russian.  They asked us what the hell we were doing there, and they had their hands on their batons like they thought we were going to make trouble or something,” Alec snorted, as if the idea were preposterous.  “Now back then, George was shit at Russian, but he explained that we were tourists from Germany, come over for a summer’s worth of frolicking with the pretty Eastern European ladies, et cetera, et cetera.  We showed them our IDs, visas, maps, everything.  They obviously had nothing on us, and were pretty embarrassed by it too.  I offered them beers on me for their troubles if they’d tell us why they’d been so intent on strapping us up, and what do I hear but some remarkable tale about gunmen running loose in the countryside-“

“What?” Jens asked, frowning.

Alec nodded. “Yes.  Apparently a few nights previously about fifty miles from where we were, there’d been some sort of infiltration:  everyone was on the lookout for two American spies who’d been parachuted in.  I remember saying to George, ‘Americans!  Craving attention so much, they can’t even keep their spies unnoticed!’  I remember all five of us having a heavy laugh at that. Fun times.”

“And then what happened?”  Jens was expecting something more.  Alec, he thought, would be the height of excitement. 

Leamas shrugged.  “We went back to the tent, but George suggested that we keep watch, just in case.”

“Did the Americans come?” Jens asked, feeling childish for being so engrossed by Alec’s tale. 

“We heard noises in the night, but I don’t think it was them.  Scared George shitless though.”

Jens burst out into laughter.  Giggling, he asked, “So where were you going in Ukraine?”

Leamas shrugged.  “We wanted to travel north a while, and get to see empty Russia.  Smiley more than me, if I’m being perfectly honest.  George had a friend up in Moscow called Karla, and I was hoping we could go there for a while and see all the architecture, Red Square, all that, but George wanted to stay in the countryside.  He liked the snow and the birch trees, I think.  And I also think he took too much stock in those sayings, you know the ones.  ‘You can only find yourself when you’re all alone, because you’re the only one there to see’ and all that.”

Jens nodded along for another few minutes, then accidentally yawned. 

“Tired?” Leamas asked, smiling lazily.

Trying not to sound skittish, Jens replied, “Mmhmm, I feel like sleeping, but I,” he paused, “Um… I don’t want to go out while it’s dark-“

“Of course. Take my bed, and I’ll take the couch.”

Letting out a relieved, “Thank you,” Jens protested, “No- I can take the couch, but-“

“Mmh?”

“I can’t sleep very well.  Not since last week.  I was wondering if your sedative could, you know, like anesthetic…?”

Alec nodded. “Are you sure?” he asked.

Flashing a weak smile, Jens said, “And you can drink some blood as well.  Win-win.”  A nervous giggle.

Leamas shrugged, then tilted his head.  He was on his feet, and so was Jens.  As Leamas advanced, Jens tilted his head back so that Leamas could place his mouth snugly over an artery while leaning his chin into the crook of Jens’ neck.

First Jens jerked, then he became still, then his body found some loose quality and he sagged into Alec, who held him up with his calloused hands.  Alec withdrew, pulling Jens off himself and lay him onto the sofa.  Jens’ eyes gazed up blankly at Alec as if he didn’t recognize him.  Leamas closed Jens’ eyes gently, quietly relishing the feel of warmth on his cheeks.  His fingers trailed down slightly to rest at his neck.  Oh, the pulse.   

He stared into Jens’ face for a long time.  What sort of life must he have lived to not know where the boundaries of father, lover and friend ended? 

What sort of life have lived that I can’t tell if he’s a son a lover or a friend?

 

 

Jens woke the next morning to the sound of frying eggs.  Everything seemed surreally perfect, as if he’d been allowed to relive a golden moment from his past. 

“Good morning!” Alec called from the kitchen, seeing Jens peek up from behind the back of the sofa.  “Hungry?”

“Starving,” Jens called, grinning.  As he sat down at the table, he said, “I had the most wonderful sleep, Alec.  I don’t think I dreamed, but I was the most relaxed I’ve been in years.”

“Years?”

Jens nodded. “I’ve been very stressed ever since my second-to-last year of high school.  So many things all happening at once.”

Sitting next to the boy, Alec wanted to extend a hand to ruffle his hair.  He did so, which caught Jens by surprise, although he didn’t mention it.  “Vampire school’s the same.”

Jens didn’t look surprised at the existence of a ‘vampire school’ but he did lean forwards as if he wished to know more.  “What is a vampire school exactly?”

“Well it’s for vampires of all ages, so that they can learn how to be with humans. Control themselves.  Often, once you’ve graduated, you can choose to pursue a degree in some vampire-related subject.  For example, I know that even though Smiley has the perfect fangs for medicinal practice, he ditched that in favour of a human degree in German Literature.”

“Of course,” Jens said, smiling.  “Are there many vampire schools around here?”

Alec shrugged. “Well, there’s usually one well known school per country, which in this case is the Röntgen Institute in Bavaria. However, due to the current political situation, they are working to create a new school and move some of the students from the West to the East.

Jens blinked. “Oh,” he said, a little surprised. “That’s…”

“They tend to take their time with these things.  Vampires are very slow.  It comes from having an elongated life.  Anyway. Is there anything I can do for you this morning?” 

Jens was thinking.  He’d been thinking long and hard about asking Alec ever since he’d gotten home the week before and shivered himself to sleep in fright at the memory of the whole world going black around him.  “Well, Alec,” he began, “I was wondering what you’re doing next Saturday.”

“The tenth? Not much. I doubt I’ll be invited to anything except the usual after-work pub-hopping, but no one minds if I skip.  Why?”

Jens blushed. “I was thinking you could come over to my place for a change.”  He tried not to add, School ends next week, and I can’t be left alone.

“I’m not sure that that’s wise.  If I know where you live-“

“Oh come on, Alec,” Jens said, “You could have killed me about a dozen times already, and anyway,” he added, “I owe you my life in any case.”

Sighing, Leamas shrugged in resignation.  “Alright. But come here first rather than giving me the address now.  I want you to be able to back out.”

Jens nodded vigorously.  A piece of scrambled egg spilled out the side of his mouth.  Leamas leaned over, hands on either of Jens’ cheeks.  “May I?”

Nervously, as if he’d never done this before, the boy nodded, and Alec pressed his lips into the side of his mouth, pulling out the egg with his tongue.  An impersonal gesture for a kiss.

 

 

The next week, Jens arrived at Leamas’ door beaming. 

“It’s Friday,” Leamas said, confused, when he saw Jens tapping his toes together on his doorstep. 

The boy’s eyes widened, and he smacked his head with a palm.  “Damnit!” he cried.  “I forgot-“

“It’s alright. I don’t have anything planned,” Leamas said, “Or at least, I don’t have anything planned that I wouldn’t mind cancelling.  Give me a few minutes.”

About five minutes later, Leamas’ fancy door was clattering shut, and they were sliding down in the brightly lit elevator. 

“How was your week?” Leamas asked, eyeing the rather crisp clothing Jens had on.  

“Oh! Today was the last day of school. I just need to revise for the exams we have after break.  The semester doesn’t end until February!”

Leamas let out a chuckle, and he caught Jens’ eyes for a very long time.  I want to eat you.  He blinked.

“Alec?”

“Mmhn?”

“This might sound absolutely… never mind.”

“No, tell me.”

“You’ll just laugh…”

“Tell me anyway.  I’ll like you just the same.” Leamas said.  They were in the lobby, almost to the glass doors and out onto the deserted street where the bus came every fifteen minutes.

“…I was wondering if, when we got to my house, if you could… be all,” Jen gulped, “romantic?”

Leamas saw the boy redden.  He really wasjust a boy.  “Of course I will.”  My, Leamas thought.  Jens must trust him a lot more than he had thought.

Jens breathed a sigh of relief.  “I just don’t know what it’s supposed to be like.”  He blinked, feeling something bitter well up inside.  Why was he letting Alec- a vampire- know him?  He hated when he told others about himself.  It made him feel like he was naked on the edge of a cliff during a thunderstorm.  The worst. He set it aside as Alec said, “Are you sure you want me to know where you live?  It means I know where you live.”

Jens burst out laughing.  “I just want to try some things,” he said.  See? Part of him said, I’m only using him.  He’s not important to me, I just want to see what happens.  And I get what I want at the end.

They hopped off the bus about thirty minutes later.  Leamas blew out white clouds of air in the winter freeze.

 

 

They stepped out of the bus and into the cold winter air.  Leamas saw Jens puff a trail of hot air from the hood of his coat as he guided him down a mess of labyrinthine alleys.  They walked for what must have been fifteen minutes until they stood in front of a dilapidated concrete building in the style that comrade Stalin had have approved of when it was first built.  Jens showed Alec up some old, grimy steps.  Leamas made sure not to touch the railings for fear that they were coated with the same dirt and oil that slicked the floor. 

“My place is on the fifth floor,” Jens said once they had reached the third floor.

“And your family is alright with a vampire in the house?”

“What they don’t know won’t hurt them,” Jens laughed, but his neck was tight.

They arrived on the tiny landing which looked out upon the road below and had a scenic view of the equally decrepit building opposite.  A streetlamp flickered dully, and Leamas could see that even in winter, moths fluttered around it.

Jens’ door was brown, with a cheap brass handle and a peephole at eye-level.  On the outside it only had two locks, but once Jens had fiddled with the keys enough to open the door, Leamas saw that the inside had another three.

They stepped in and Alec pulled off his heavy coat while Jens did the same.  Well, Alec thought, that was his cue, remembering Jens’ odd request.

Coming up behind the young man, Alec maneuvered Jens against the wall, turning him around and pressing his shoulders into the twisting grandparent-like wallpaper pattern gently.  He adjusted his knees so that Jens’ hips were between them.  There was nothing but surprise in the young man’s face. 

“I’m trying to be romantic, Jens,” Alec said, leaning in.  Did Jens want them to kiss?  Jesus Christ, what was he doing?

Jens’ palms were pressed into Alec’s chest.  Pushing.  His eyes looked absolutely frantic.

Leamas stepped back.  “I’m sorry,” he began automatically.

Jens doubled over, looking sick.  “No, I’m sorry.  This isn’t working.  I hate this. I can’t do this.”

“What’s wrong?” Leamas asked. 

“Everything!” Jens cried out.  “Sometimes I feel like I want to touch you and hold your hand- and then others, I can’t bear the touch of anyone, least of all a va- Least of all you! It’s disgusting!”

Leamas noticed how Jens had almost said ‘vampire’.  He tried not to hold it against the boy. 

“Maybe later,” Jens said delicately, trying to calm himself down.  “I’ll show you around the house?” he suggested, cooling off remarkably quickly.

Jens lived… well, whatever Leamas had been expecting, it wasn’t this.  In front of the door to the apartment, there was a square table with a clock on it, piled neatly with books and an interesting arrangement of candles.  The kitchen was similarly placed to Leamas’ own, on the left, but there was no room for a tabletop bar.  Just past the table was a fireplace and a small couch, no coffee table, then immediately, windows.

“And down there, there’s the bathroom and my room,” he added, waving down a short corridor and going back to the main room.

“What about that other one?”

“What?”

“There’s another room.”  Alec pointed. It was the one at the end of the short hallway whose door was shut. 

“Oh, I just don’t use that one.  It’s an extra bedroom.”

“Then where does your family sleep?”

Jens froze for the briefest instant.  He had been fussing over the tea kettle in the open kitchen, but his sudden lack of movement caused him to spill boiling water over his finger.  “Scheiße,” Jens swore quietly.  Leamas approached him from behind, and Jens turned, sucking his finger.  There was a ruthless hardness in the young man’s eyes. Yes, he did look like a young man now. “Well, I don’t live with them anymore. It’s better to live alone, I think. I can concentrate on my studies.”

Leamas nodded slowly.  He wanted to believe Jens, and he could tell that he wasn’t necessarily lying, but at the same time, he couldn’t help but ponder a few new mysteries.

This apartment was in perhaps the poorest district of the city, where money was tighter than a hangman’s noose, so why was Jens wasting his money paying for a room he never used?  And if it was merely an apartment for him to study in, then again- why the extra room?

Jens seemed to see these thoughts playing out in Alec’s mind, and his jaw tightened. 

“Please. Make yourself at home.”

“I’d like to help with cooking, actually.”

Jens laughed, waving a hand over to the fridge.  “I hope you like feta cheese.  I have some left over from this week.”

“I can make Greek salad.”

“Have you ever been to Greece?” Jens asked, interest piqued.

“Once, with a friend of mine before he died.  It was like being in a movie.”

“I’m sorry about your friend.”

“It’s alright. He wouldn’t have liked what’s happened since he died.  This whole Germany affair.”  Leamas brought the cheese, cucumber and tomato to the counter beside Jens, who was busy brewing the tea.  He poured a conservative amount of milk and sugar into both glasses, then slowly poured out the steaming liquid.

“Here. Let’s do this at the table,” Jens suggested, bringing the cups to the small wooden thing.  Once there, he exchanged the tea for the books and moved them to the floor by the fire.  Alec brought his vegetables and a cutting board.  He noticed the little candles, arranged individually into a row of nine. The first one’s wick was charred, but not the others.

“You’re Jewish?”

Jens twitched and looked away, putting another set of books down.  “I don’t really-  I’m not… I just…”

“Jens, Jens. Calm down.  I’m not a Nazi.  I just thought that it’s very sweet, alright.  All the candles in a row like that.”

“Are you Jewish as well?” Jens asked hopefully.

Shaking his head ruefully, Leamas said smarmily, “Sadly, my eternal soul officially belongs to the good old Roman Catholic Church.”

Jens threw back his head and laughed.  Leamas suddenly became shaky and uncomfortable as his breath involuntarily sped up. 

“Jesus Jens, I know you’ve been purposefully covering up for me these past few weeks, but please,” Leamas said, averting his eyes, “Stop showing me your pulse. It’s…” It’s so alluring that I might just suck you dry in your own home.

“Oh. Sorry.”  Jens lowered his chin. 

“Thank you.”

“How much does it bother you, exactly?” Jens asked, genuinely intrigued.

Suddenly the atmosphere lightened as Leamas began to laugh.  “You like girls, Jens?”

He made a non-committal noise and a little shrug.

“Well it’s like a naked woman throwing herself at you, pleading with you, ‘fuck me, fuck me Mister Leamas, fuck me please!’ and you don’t have to, but you want to so badly.”

Jens made a face.  “Exactly!” Leamas cried. 

“Well I’m sorry for inadvertently throwing myself down your throat,” Jens said, causing Alec to cackle.

They made dinner with what was left in the apartment: Spanish omelet and some hybrid soup somewhere between French beef stew and borscht.  It seemed that no lack of ingredients could stop Leamas’ food from tasting delicious. 

Jens sighed, realizing that the moment had finally come for Leamas to eat as well. “Might as well stretch out my neck, hmm?” he said, leaning back in his chair so that Leamas could see under his chin. This time, Alec did not look away. 

As if under a spell, the vampire rose from his chair and walked slowly around to the back of Jens’.  After having his shirt removed for him, Jens felt white fingers dig into his shoulders, then creep towards his neck as if to strangle him.  For an instant, Jens was transported back to the damp alleyway with its tarry vision, but then one hand reached a little higher, fingers digging under Jens’ chin, just like that first night when Alec had sucked his blood.

Again, the fangs were cold at first, then they acclimatized to his body heat.  Again, Jens couldn’t help but notice how soft Alec’s lips were as the vampire whispered: “Your pulse…

“Wh-why the sudden obsession with it?” Jens choked out- his voice was just about to give up, he could tell.

“It bothered you before when I mentioned it.  So I didn’t.  But it is truly lovely,” Leamas whispered.  “Vampires would kill for you.  I know would.”

They both tried to laugh, but Leamas accidentally sprayed blood from his mouth and onto Jens’ nearly-clean plate.  Jens gave a little laugh at the mess.  Leamas could feel the vibrations through the flesh of Jens’ throat and he clamped his lips over the gashes even tighter, sucking harder.  Eventually though, he remembered, he had had a pint.  Almost reluctantly, he injected the restorative. Jens wriggled slightly.

Once he was finished, Alec withdrew his fangs and licked Jens’ back clean with a mechanical methodology.  He walked over to the coat rack, withdrew bandages and tended to the slashes in the boy’s neck.  Yes, he did seem more of a boy now. 

Leamas stood up.  “I think I’ll get going then?” he asked.  He wasn’t exactly sure what the protocol was.  Usually, his victim was dead, and Leamas never had to ask permission.  When Jens had come to Leamas’ house, Jens could decide to leave whenever he wanted.

A flash of terror passed over the boy’s eyes.  “Wait-“ he said, a bit too fast.  “Don’t go.”

“What is it?”

“I can’t sleep. I won’t be able to sleep. I-“  Despite his bravado earlier, suggesting for Leamas to be ‘romantic’, Jens was somehow finding it hard to ask him to stay.

“You need me to sleep next to you?” Alec guessed.  This was horrifically cliché, to say the least.  He could almost believe it was a dream and that he’d wake up any moment in a dark cinema to find the credits for Casablancarolling.

Jens gave a nod, looking like he was about to be sick.  “The couch.  Not my bed. I couldn’t stand it-“  It was as if the act of seeking comfort from Leamas was so heinous that Jens couldn’t bear to sully his own bead with it.

“Alright,” Leamas said, like he was trying to calm a horse.  “I won’t even take off my socks,” he added, anticipating the meaning in Jens’ eyes. 

“Thank you.”

 

Leamas went over to the tiny couch and settled himself down in it.  How odd, he thought, how the most beaten, torn and weathered old couches were always the most comfortable.  He put his feet up and had to assume a crouching position to be able to fit.  And Jens expected to fit both of them on this?  Rather than the bed?  Jesus.

Jens did some homework quietly while Alec perused the books that littered the floor around the couch. 

“Do you ever stick to just one book at a time?”

“Uh uh,” Jens hummed, and Leamas heard the scribbling of his pencil.  “Too many things to think about that I don’t want to think about just one for too long, mmm?”

“Hah.  I like your little annotations of Das Kapital. You should become a policymaker some day.”

“Thank you.”

Eventually, the speed of Jens’ scribbling slowed, and Leamas knew they were both getting tired. 

“Leamas, I’m getting tired,” Jens said, and Leamas gave a small hum of sleepy laughter.

Jens perched himself awkwardly on the edge of the couch, curling up by Leamas feet, half of his body hanging off the end of the sofa. 

“You expect to sleep like that?” Leamas asked drowsily.

“Not with you taking up three quarters of the couch,” Jens hissed.

“Just lie on top of me, I don’t bite,” Leamas protested.

Jens’ only reply was a pointed silence.  Alec giggled in spite of himself.  After a long sigh, Jens stretched out until his body rested on the edge of the couch. He nearly slipped over the edge, but Leamas grabbed his thigh.  They both froze.

“If you could remove your hand-“  Jens’ voice had that nervous timbre that made Leamas want to slit his throat.

“Jens. To sleep in the same couch, you will have to compromise.  I’m full, I won’t drink you.”

“Fine,” Jens grunted, swinging his legs over Alec’s so that he was resting in between Alec and the squishy backing of the sofa.  “Have enough room?”

“No.”

Another sigh and then Jens hugged Leamas’ legs to his chest.  Leamas was very grateful that the young man couldn’t see his face. It was burning with suppressed hunger. He could feel Jens’ pulse through his legs and through his back, where Jens’ feet pressed into the back of his shirt. 

“Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

 

Chapter Text

Alec woke up on the floor.  The previous night, he had waited for Jens to fall asleep before carefully extricating himself from the couch.  The boy’s pulse was so intoxicating that Leamas had feared he would suck Jens’ blood in his sleep.  He was still wearing the clothes from last night. 

Another banging at the door.  That must have been what had woken him up.

“Fiedler!” Bang-bang-bang.  “Fiedler, they’ve delivered the mail to the wrong flat again!”

Leamas, half awake, stumbled over to the door, pausing only to look at Jens.  He was sprawled on the couch, one leg dangling over the back, another over the side, both arms spread like the points of a star.  His mouth was open, and his hair was a glorious mess.

Running a hand through his own hair, Leamas hurried to the door and unlocked it. Damn, why did Jens have so many latches and locks?

“Hello,” he said, having finally managed to open the door.

“Hello. You’re not Jens.”  It was a middle aged man with tufts of greying hair floating around his head.  A bald patch spread down his head as if someone had cracked an egg over his skull.

“No, I’m his,” Leamas gave a brief smile, “Uncle-in-law.  He is sleeping.”

“Ah,” the man said, “Good to hear that someone is looking after him.  Everyone in the building cares very much for the boy. When he wakes, do give him these letters.  Blasted postmen keep delivering the letters to the wrong floor,” the old man gave a wheezy breezy chuckle.

“Thank you very much.  I’ll tell him you came around.”

“Take care,” the man said, then shuffled back to the stairwell.

Leamas shut the door, pondering what he had heard.  So.  Jens’ last name was ‘Fiedler’.  Jens Fiedler. Fiedler.  It was an interesting name.  Not one that would begin with a ‘Mister’, but ‘Fiedler’ would go very nicely behind a ‘Professor’ or a ‘Doctor’.

Out of sheer habit, he glanced at the letters.  A bill, one letter from some place in South Bavaria, another from Dresden, and two from Jens’ university.  After accidentally memorizing the return addresses, Leamas suddenly realized that Jens must be more intelligent than he’d thought.  Studying at Humboldt was no small achievement.

“Jens, you should be very proud,” Leamas said in a low voice. 

“Mmmhnn?” came a groan.  The young man on the couch rolled over, nestling comfortably in a corner of the sofa. “D-you say m’name?” he muttered, evidently still half-asleep. 

“Yes,” Leamas said, leaning over him.  “What would you like for breakfast?”

“Caviar and champagne,” Jens murmured, eyes opening a fraction.  “I couldn’t possibly do without the bare necessities.”  

Leamas snorted. 

“What were you saying before?  About pride or something?”

“I didn’t know you went to Humboldt University,” Leamas said enthusiastically. “You should be proud of your scholarly-ness.”

“That’s not a word.”

“It is now.”

Jens sat up. “Marx and Engels went there, what can I say?”

“Einstein too, you know.”

Jens had shaken the sleep from his eyes by now and was suddenly on high alert.  “How did you know I go to school there?” he demanded.

“Saw the letters you got this morning,” Leamas said, his tone sounding as if he’d only accidentally seen the mail.

“I have letters?”  Jens was on his feet, rushing over to the table where Alec had dropped them.  He picked them up, expression leaving his body as if Jens’ ghost had floated out his body to somewhere far away and somewhat more pleasant, then the moment was over as Jens reluctantly put them down. “I shall have to read them later. Did you say something about breakfast?”

Alec nodded. “I hope you don’t mind if I make egg again.”

“By all means, go ahead.”

 

After breakfast, Leamas said his goodbyes.  Jens almost felt guilty at wanting him gone as he rushed back to the table and opened his letters.  Right. Semester grades were out.  They all looked good.  There was another letter from Oberstaufen too.

 


 

“What do you do to stay fit?” Alec asked.  They were at a small restaurant just outside the park.  It was the next Saturday, a time they had both agreed on: midday or thereabouts.  They had wanted to go somewhere a bit closer to the city center, but Leamas had run into some Hans-Wilhelm-Dietrich-Röhmor other.  Jens had been standing off to the side, trying not to draw attention to himself, but had caught the man’s little laugh and invitation to lunch ‘on me’ before Alec had almost-too-politely refused, saying that they were actually going to the park just now, sorry.  Jens much preferred the park.  Someone was playing piano not too far from where they were sitting in the sun’s gentle heat.

“I run or swim in the pond,” Jens said, “Not too often.  Not in the winter.”

“You look like a good runner.  Have the right body shape,” Leamas remarked. 

“I’ve had a lot of practice.  When I was a child we used to have the races at school, and I would come usually in first or second place.”

Leamas patted Jens on the shoulder gingerly to avoid feeling his pulse.  “Well as it so happens, I run as well.  Would you like to come with me after lunch?  We could run back to my place.”

Jens agreed, twisting spaghetti around his fork as he smiled.  Leamas didn’t seem like a particularly fast runner.  He was sure he would be able to beat the older man in a race for sure.  After spending the obligatory hour before exercising walking lazily around the park, the two meandered back to the bridge where Alec had taken Jens before. 

“Alright. Ready… steady…” Leamas hesitated another half-instant more to throw the other man off, “Go!”

Jens let Alec take the early lead, as he wasn’t quite so sure of the quickest route to the man’s house.  Although he was slower than Jens knew he could run himself, Alec’s speed impressed him. 

The two sped down a high street and then jay-walked- or rather jay-jogged across Wilhelmstraße.  Jens ran abreast of Leamas, every few seconds glancing over to check the other’s face and pace.  The vampire’s strides were quite a bit longer than his, but Jens felt that he’d be able to last for at least another ten minutes. 

As if he had read Jens’ thoughts, Leamas sped up, forcing Jens to match his pace.  They were at a fast jog now. 

Leamas raised the speed seven more times in the next seven minutes.  Jens was too strained to be impressed, and he focused all his energy on cutting one foot through the air after the other.  He dimly noticed that they were only a few blocks away from the house.  They sped over the roads, and Jens was thankful that only a handful cars came this way so far into the day or they would have been run over a dozen times.  He hurt so much and in so many places that he couldn’t even feel it.

Jens saw the door to Leamas’ building.  Now!  he thought, If you are going to overtake him it must be now!  Jens flung himself ahead of Leamas, throwing himself foot after foot towards the door as if he were possessed.  His feet were moving so fast that Jens wasn’t sure he’d be able to stop. 

He touched the door.  Slammed into it actually.  It was one of those doors that said ‘pull me’ in obnoxious red paint.  “I win,” he wheezed, holding onto the door for support.  He was sweating horribly, and only now did he realize that his tongue tasted like blood.  He hadn’t run like this for years. Determined not to get cramps, he pushed away from the door so that he was leaning on the wall beside.  He made to walk in little circles to wait for Alec, but stopped dead.

Alec was beside him.  “You win,” he said in his normal voice.  He was barely sweating.  Barely. 

“Ahhhh… hahhh…” Jens breathed, “You’re…hahh… very fa…aahh… fast… so..soooooo fa-AH-AH-ALEC-”

Leamas had elbowed Jens into the wall, pressing his neck upwards as if he were about to slit it. 

“Your pulseJens.  That’s all I wanted,” he growled.  His voice was low and had that air of quiet around the words that made the rest of the world go silent.  Jens couldn’t see the man but he could hear the sick grin that just dripped from his lips. The air around his neck was warm and wet.  He could feel the vampire’s breath- now his lips- his tongue slipping down to the beat that was pumping through his veins.  Pumping through his veins faster than it had in years, because that was the fastest he had run in years.  Your pulse Jens.  That’s all I wanted. 

Jens was so short of breath that he couldn’t make a sound.  Another hand, another set of fingers, pressed into his collarbone, thumb digging into its cup.  And he could hear his own heartbeat- it was everywhere.  He hoped that it wasn’t his fault.  He hoped that Alec was doing this because he was a vampire, because he wanted to, because he was sadistic and horrible and just like all the other vampires. He hoped it hadn’t been because of some small mistake he could have made.

Fangs burst into the side of Jens’ neck, spilling blood down his back like he was sitting underneath a waterfall.  He could feel Leamas slide them out so that he could lick and suck and-

“Why are you crying?”  Leamas’ voice was concerned.  Jens couldn’t see his face because his head was tilted back too far, but he could imagine Leamas’ eyebrows furrowed with worry, blood staining his lips as if he’d been drinking fruit punch but had laughed and spilled some down himself by accident.

Why are you crying?

Countless impressions that he couldn’t say with words tore at the fringes of his consciousness. He wanted to shout the truth at Leamas but wasn’t sure how.  And, because of the impossibility of communicating what he was experiencing, Jens did the only other thing. 

He screamed. 

He screamed and screamed and screamed and SCREAMED AND SCREAMED AND SCREAMED AND SCREAMED AND SCREAMED AND SCREAMED AND SCREAMED AND SCREAMED AND SCREAMED AND SCREAMED AND SCREAMED AND SCREAMED AND-

 

“Don’t slam the door, young man.  It’s bad for the hinges.  Comrade Stalin is not sacrificing his health and worry for you to break down the things he provides,” came the warbling voice through the door. The clinkle of keys rattled outside.

“Don’t come in!  You’re not allowwwwwwed!” Jens whined, leaning his back into the other side of the door to keep the Jewish babushka from coming inside.

“But I have the key, so of course I’m allowed.”

“NO!” Jens shouted, banging the door loudly with his elbow. 

Silence.  Then, “If you can’t solve my riddle, then I’m allowed.  If you do…” The sentence trailed off.

“Hmmph,” Jens pouted, “Fine.  But if I win, then I won’t do any of the a-rith-me-tics!  And Mami and Papi will leave me alone about ma-the-ma-tics!”

“Or I can give you date and almonds and hot milk,” the babushka chuckled through the lock. 

“Or that!” Jens amended snobbishly.  “What’s the riddle!” he demanded.

“Flat as a leaf, round as a ring, I have two eyes, but cannot see a thing.  What am I?”

Jens stepped away from the door.  He performed all the actions that he had seen people make while they were thinking.  Frowning, smoothing an invisible little mustache and pacing to and fro, he hummed. “Is it… one of those… those deep-sea fishies?” He’d read about it only a few weeks ago.  They had two eyes on one side of their head.

“Nope!  Now you have to let me in,” cooed the old woman.

“No-no-no!  I get three tries!  Three!” Jens shrieked angrily.  “Is it the number eight!” he yelled into the door. 

The babushka told him, again with a smile in her voice, that it was not the number eight, because the number eight was not round like a ring.

“But the number eight has two rings!” Jens kicked the door in frustration, and the old granny scolded him.  “I get one more guess!” he whined, stomping his feet in the way only children can.

There was a knock at the front door, and, forgetting everything, Jens unlocked the one to his room and rushed down to answer it. The granny laughed and hobbled after him.  Jens was passing the coat rack, and his eye caught the glint of cheap iron buttons on Papi’s great grey overcoat.  “It’s a button!” Jens shrieked, forgetting all about the door and running up to the babushka.  “Ha-ha! I don’t have to do the a-rith-me-tics!”

“No, no,” the old woman said with a chuckle, “I will give you dates and almonds and hot milk, but you promised to do your mathematics.”

Jens stuck out his tongue.  Someone was banging the door.

 


 

 

He was in a bed.  Everything was warm and soft and alright.  He felt at last that he belonged.  Jens had been a good little child and this was his reward.

He realized that the light was on over him and he grunted a little ‘please turn that off please’, but he couldn’t actually say the words.  It sounded like he was just breathing very raspily. 

“Don’t speak.  Your voice needs rest.  Don’t strain your neck.”

Whose was that voice?  It sounded familiar.  He would have to open his eyes to see who it belonged to.  Luckily, the man rendered the painful action unnecessary. 

“It’s me, George Smiley.  Alec had to leave.”

Why?

“He went to the park, but he didn’t want you to wake up in the hospital all by yourself.”

So he was at a hospital.  Hospitals, the death of human nature, the bed where Vampirism was allowed to fester.  He wished that this bed didn’t feel as comfortable as it did.

“He was crying, you know.  I’ve only seen him do that once before, when he came out of court after getting his divorce.  His wife had won custody of his little boy and would never let Alec see him again.”

Jens was too tired for his mind to protest. Why couldn’t Smiley just let Jens hate Alec in peace?  Just let it end…

“He wanted me to tell you that he’s sorry. He said that he’d gone too far and he’s going to leave town for some time.  He doesn’t want to hurt you.”

But that did hurt.  Jens felt an entirely different pain building in his throat, just behind his Adam’s apple.  He really wasn’t sure what to feel, and he was so tiredof having too many things to feel.  Jens wanted so badly to go back to his and Alec’s golden days, walking in the park and cooking and joking about biology assignments. Another part of him wanted Leamas to suffer.

He wanted him to suffer for time and time again betraying Jens, for taking his blood without warning.  But he was a vampire, Jens thought, it was only in his nature… and Jens had agreed to it after all…

He led you on.  You thought it was a friendly game, to race.  But all he wanted in the end was your blood. 

“I didn’t mean to make you cry.”  The words snapped Jens back into himself like being stung by a backfiringrubber band. It sounded so much like Alec’s ‘why are you crying?’.  Jens shrugged as if it didn’t matter, his eyes still closed. He heard Smiley sit back down in his chair and had the sudden desire to ask where Alec was going.

“In the end, he cared for you,” Smiley said. It was meant to reassure him, but only had the effect of splitting him apart like he was an insignificantly small, unstable little particle, drifting helplessly around somewhere and looking for something else to break.

 


 

 

Alec was sitting in the park.  He found it odd that the outside world could be so pleasant while the inside one seemed in a state of perpetual atomic warfare. Strange too was the fact that he seemed to be blending in with all these pleasantries.

Sitting in one of those wrought iron garden chairs that someone had brought outside for the common good, Leamas watched lazily as a new family came to sit by the water, enjoying what remained of the summer sun before winter truly set in.  Optimism radiated warmth more than the sun.  That wasn’t to say that the sun was particularly cold that day; it was rather warm for autumn.  Children were playing in packs, a ragged ball pinging with soft hollowness against a tree trunk every now and then.  Leamas thought they might be re-enacting recent football matches.

It was bizarre.  There was something about the scene that he wanted to claim for himself. Best to forget about the whole business anyway. 

The nurse had assured him that Jens would be fine, that he would be out of the hospital in just a couple of hours.  He’d given the story that he’d been ravaged by a vampire in an alley, then rushed off the moment George had arrived.  He’d been a goddamn mess because he had absolutely no excuse to…

It had been a sort of game, really.  They’d walked to the restaurant by the park and Alec had been in a greyish sort of mood from that conversation… and something about it had irked him, made him hungry.  Made him want to play a game he’d used to play.  Make the food work itself up until blood practically burst out of the vein. It was a delicacy parts of Africa, particularly Ethiopia.

It was fun to run alongside Jens.  For about half the while that they ran abreast of each other, Alec thought he wouldn’t mind doing this every week.  His lengthy training made sure that he wasn’t outstripped by the boy, and he couldn’t help but smile as Jens had pulled ahead of him in the final few seconds. 

He had seen the visible twitch in the side of Jens’ neck.  The movement, the life, he’d needed it.  Leamas was disgusted that he couldn’t even muster up any remorse for the action. Even now, he fantasized about the way the vein had burst, splattering his face with its vitality. 

But then he’d seen Jens’ tears and asked what was wrong, and that had been when the boy had begun to scream.  Alec had quickly given him his restorative, but nothing could bring Jens back from what seemed to be the brink of insanity.  He wouldn’t stop screaming, and Alec didn’t know what to do,and so he had impulsively cracked the back of Jens’ head against the wall just hard enough for him to pass out, but not hard enough to give him a concussion.  He’d rung up Smiley, and they’d driven Jens to the hospital while Alec changed out of bloodied clothes in the backseat.  They’d both felt very, very hungry.

The children had decided to play by the water. Not in it, for the weather was too cold, but they poked down inside it with long sticks and flicked splashes of the muddy water onto one another.  They were laughing.

Suddenly slightly nauseous, Leamas stood up, walked out of the park, stood on a street corner, and hailed a cab.

He was dropped off on an unobtrusive street corner, where he placed a short call at an already run-down telephone box. “I’m so tired,” he said into the mouthpiece.  “Think I need a short holiday.  Do we have any family in France?  Wouldn’t mind staying there for a few weeks.”

The person spoke without hesitation, as if the two really were cousins.  Although maybe twice-removed cousins.  “Yes, I think your nephew Guillaume is staying in Paris.  Are you coming to work on Monday?”

“No, I really want a holiday.  Could you put it nicely to the boss for me?”  Alec pressed the phone down after giving a curt ‘Thanks’ to his contact on the other line.  He was getting out of here even if it meant strangling Control.  Alec couldn’t bear this place any more.  He waited in the booth a moment longer, then stepped out to catch the bus that was just pulling up.

He got off at the stop nearest his apartment. 

 


 

They let Jens out of the hospital several days later.  Smiley had begrudgingly told him that he wasn’t sure where Alec was.  Jens himself wasn’t sure if he wanted to know.  If he thought about it long enough, Jens could arrive at either end of the spectrum.  He could either hate the vampire or conversely, he could wish Alec would come back. On the one hand, nothing had ever caused him so much dread that he had been shot back into his own memories before as Alec’s latest feeding.  But on the other, Jens couldn’t stop hoping that it had been an accident, a misunderstanding.  He was sure if he could just talk to Leamas… Maybe everything would work out.  At the moment however, Jens was just numb. 

On the day they let him out, Smiley paid one of his increasingly sparse visits.  He suggested they stick to crowded streets, which Jens seconded instantly. He was still haunted by the rough texture of Alec’s building wall scratching his back, no one being around to see or stop it.

“Look here,” Smiley began, “I think it would be best if you forgot all about vampires for now.  I know you and Alec had some sort of arrangement, but you should go back to your life from before.”

Jens gave a nervous, self-deprecating laugh. “What life?”

Smiley smiled understandingly, making Jens wonder how much the older man knew about him.  “Get a job over the holidays.  Go to school. Meet people.  Get a girlfriend.”

Clenching his fists in his inside pockets, Jens bit his lip.  Why did the back of his throat have to hurt now? “Find some friends?  I’d like to know how,” he muttered.  Something bubbled in his chest.  Friends. “I thought Leamaswas a friend,” he spat, thinking of how the last time he had seen the man he’d had to be taken to the hospital, “But I suppose all you vampiresare just the- the same!” he snarled quietly.  The last few words stuck in his throat.  To compensate for the weakness, he hissed something he had realized in that hospital as he had waited for someone, anyone to care about him: “He was only ever kind when he wanted me for food.”

“Be reasonable-“

Jens’ voice rose in volume.  “You know what?  Fuck you.  Where’s Alec, for God’s sake?  Did I hurt his feelings with all my crying, ah?  Or maybe, maybe,he doesn’t give a damn!” He wasn’t exactly sure what made him do it.  Perhaps it was that Alec had once implied he’d given even half of a damn about him but it had been days since he had turned on Jens and Alec hadn’t come to see him once.  Maybe it was that everything was just so complicated that he just wanted to forget everything.  As his anger imploded, Jens sneered and pushed Smiley into a brick wall with both hands. Passers-by made noises of surprise and parted like the goddamn red sea.  “You and Alec and everyone else can go fuckyourselves because I neverwant to see you again!”

He stormed off, the crowd sliding shut behind him. Jens left Smiley in the street all alone, surrounded by dozens of people.  Slowly, the foot traffic swelled again, and Jens’ fading silhouette was born away from him like an autumn leaf in a stream.

Smiley, knowing all too much, hoped that he had seen the last of the young man.

Chapter Text

It was winter, and snow blanketed the entire city, hushing all parties involved save for the few children out playing in the streets and the parks.  Fiedler was out and about, as he usually made his business to be on Saturday mornings.  After sighing over the fact that the snow was too deep to bike to work in, he pulled on his heavy boots.

Fiedler checked his bag: keys, clothes, textbooks, gloves, pencils- Good, he had everything. He strode outside, buttoning up his jacket as he went.  He arrived at the post office at 6:15.  The sun hadn’t risen yet, but the entire place bustled like a beehive.

“Fiedler. Good.  You’re here.”  That was his boss speaking.  Fiedler hadn’t expected to be working at the postal service for as long as he had, so he had never bothered to learn the gruff man’s name. 

“Roland is ill for the foreseeable future.  Don’t think he’ll come back.  I want you to sort all the deliveries going to Magdelenenstraße from now on.”  And just like that, he seemed to have been promoted. 

Fiedler’s job was dull.  He was to sort the mail by the region of the city, hand any suspicious letters to a colleague who would scan it for biohazardous material, fissile material, etc… Then the letters were loaded onto trucks which would zip around the city.  Magdelenenstraße was a large receiver of mail.  Lots of institutions were there.  Like the boss said, a lot of firms.

He liked the challenge of it.  Fiedler became uncannily good at reading even the most gruesome, knotty handwriting. He also learned about the excess flourishes in calligraphy and how to replicate them.  It was like a puzzle.  Often, the same people would deliver to the same areas of the city every day.  He found it comforting to see.  An old granny living out the edge of town writing to her niece, he imagined sometimes, or a son to their father who was in hospital. 

Other days, they were short handed, so Fiedler would get on the official postal moped and zoom over to Magdelenenstraße, where he was always inevitably assigned, and delivered buckets of mail.  He got to know the people in their firms quite a bit.  At times when they were even more short-staffed, Fiedler would take an entire truck down there and park it in one of the buildings’ lots.  The institution would come and collect its’ share of the mail (practically all of it), while Fiedler scooped up a handful and jogged door to door. 

It made good money too, he supposed, although any money seems like good money if you’re used to having no money. 

All the people at the postal office were older men and women.  He was by far the youngest one there, the ‘one young person who still sees the value of paper mail instead of that blasted telephone!’. His shift often ended between three and five in the afternoon, where he would then bike over to the nearby school where he taught middling size extracurricular classes in practically every single subject.  Monday was Mathematics, Tuesday was Science, Wednesday was English, Thursday was Communist History and Politics.  Friday used to be Science, but as it was Friday, barely anyone had ever turned up. This was only during the holidays, he had promised himself.  Afterwards, he needed to focus on university. 

A faint smile appeared on Fiedler’s face as he thought about school.  His shift was over and he was just in view of the newly built building.  Today was English.  While his pronunciation didn’t match a native speaker’s, it was still much more intelligible than the average German’s, owing to his time spent in Canada.  That soured his mood slightly, so he endeavored to forget about it.  Once he reached the schoolyard, Canada could not have been further from his thoughts. 

“Herr Fiedler! Herr Fiedler!”

It was one of his students.  They were all about ten years younger than he was, ranging from eight to twelve.  The older students had other teachers, ones who were paid rather than who volunteered.  The student tugged on Fiedler’s jacket.  He was fair, blond and had blue eyes that at one point Fiedler might have killed for.  He smiled faintly.

Ja, Willy?”

Meine Schwester ist heute nicht hier, also hat meine Mutter gesagt, dass ich dir Entschuldigung sagen soll.

Fiedler nodded. “That’s alright,” he said, “We’re just going to do talking today.  Did you read Nick Knatterton?”

The boy nodded quickly, spilling out a little “yes!”.

Once in the classroom, Fiedler discovered that the class size today was ten children. He was very impressed, and above all, he was proud.  It was a holiday, and yet here all these children were.   He squatted, ruffling the hair of one child. 

“Hello everyone!” he said in English.

“Hello Mister Fiedler!” chanted back the children.  His strategy was to only use English, no German.  They would learn better that way. 

“Today we are going to pretend to be in Nick Knatterton.  We are all going to switch every five minutes so that we all can be Nick Knatterton.  Does everyone understand?”

“I understand,” said all of them after a few moments of processing. 

So they acted out the events that had recently been run in the magazine Quick. Once everyone had had a turn calling out the catchphrase “I am concluding!”, Fiedler suggested that they switch to a different activity.

“You all are very smart students.  Can you tell me what the word ‘smart’ means?”

In the front row, a young girl with curly brown hair put up her finger.  Fiedler looked at her for a moment too long, something niggling at the back of his brain.

“Yes, Johanna?”

“I think…” she said, her voice trailing in that sweet, youngish way, “It means… when you know a lot of things.”

Fiedler beamed. “You are right!” he said, neglecting to mention that to be smart required more than just knowing ‘a lot of things’.  “Now, since you’ve all been so smart, do you want to learn words about,” he permitted himself one German word, “Schnee?”

The class cheered.  “We get to go outside!  We get to go outside and play with the Schnee!”

“The English word is snow.”

“Snow! Snow!”

At this point, several people entered the room.  The Head of School, the senior janitor, and yet another flawless Aryan, who Fiedler didn’t recognize but seemed to be some building inspector, judging by his brownish uniform.  He felt that he should recognize him, but Fiedler supposed that the man was just so averagely Aryan that he could pass for any of the other ones he knew.

“Do carry on,” called the principal in hesitant English, “We are just taking a tour of the school.”  The janitor waved, the third man flashed a comforting smile.

“We are just about to go outside,” Fiedler said to the men.  Then, as he herded the children out of the classroom he told them, “Say hello!”

Everyone said hello in English.  Fiedler noticed that the new man’s pronounciation matched his own.  They all walked down the corridor and out into the courtyard.  A foot of snow greeted them.  After slipping on his gloves, Fiedler bent down and scooped up a fistful of the white fluff.  “This,” he said, forming it, “Is a snowball.”

“Snowball,” a few of the children repeated. 

“Every time you throw a snowball, you have to say ‘I’m throwing a snowball at’ the person you are going to throw it at.  Understand?”

A few children shook their heads.  Fiedler looked back; the three men were still watching the class.  It made him nervous, so he leaned in and repeated in rapid German, “Jedes Mal, wenn Sie einen Schneeball werfen, müssen Sie sagen: "Ich werfe einen Schneeball auf die Person, auf die Sie werfen wollen. Aber sprechen Sie weiter Englisch.”

Everyone nodded.

“Ready, steady, go!” Fiedler called, and suddenly everyone was packing snowballs and tossing them at each other. 

“I’m throwing a snowball at Roland!”

“I’m throwing a snowball at Johanna!”

 “I’m throwing a snowball at Ava!”

 “I’m throwing a snowball at Willy!”

Fiedler took this opportunity to slip away to the men standing at the edge of the courtyard. He raised a hand in a sort of wave.

“Hello, Herr…” the new man said in English.  His accent really was phenomenal.

“Fiedler. Jens Fiedler.”  He gave a shy smile; he wasn’t really sure what else to give. 

“Herr Fiedler. These kind men were just showing me around the school facilities.  I didn’t expect classes to be in session so near Christmas!”

Fiedler relaxed.  “They come from disadvantaged families.  Some are orphans, others are being raised by a single parent, situations like that. During the school year, they have a hard time keeping up with their schoolwork because of struggles at home, so I teach them part-time during the holidays.”

“You teach them English?” The man quirked an eyebrow.  Again, Fiedler felt that he had seen the man before.

The headmaster butted in.  “Not only,” he said in his faltering accent, “Herr Fiedler teaches the children English, Maths, Science and History all out of the goodness of his heart.”

“You do this for free!”  The blond man raised an eyebrow.  “Whatever for?” 

Fiedler’s smile glazed his face as he tried to think of an appropriate answer.  “Well, I think that’s what the community needs.  I already have a source of income which keeps everything paid for, so I don’t see the point of accumulating much more for myself.”

The man nodded and the headmaster patted Fiedler on the back, saying, “An angel. Fiedler is an absolute angel.”

At that moment, Fiedler felt a spurt of confidence, so he asked the newcomer, “Where did you learn to speak English so well?”

The man shrugged.  “I’ve had a long line of very good teachers for about the last decade, some of them native speakers.  And you?”

“I spent some time abroad when I was younger.”

“One question I do have for Herr Fiedler,” the man said, turning to the headmaster, “Why teach English instead of Russian in this school?”

The principal turned to Fiedler.  “Well,” he began falteringly.

“While I’ve taken several Russian classes at university, I don’t speak the language as well as I do English.  And I believe that English is just as important for the children to learn.  Our friendship with the Russian people is very strong, but it is not so with the English or the Americans.  If we can communicate with them, then we can convince them that we are not as terrible as they think we seem to be.”

The blond man’s smile was growing wider with every word.  He turned back to the headmaster.  “Herr Fiedler is very good, don’t you think?”  Both the principal and the janitor nodded, smiling while the man laughed.

“I say, do I know you?” Fiedler asked the man.  He was having the most bizarre sense of déjà vu.

The man frowned.  “I doubt it. I work down near Magdelenenstraße, but-“

“Ah!” Fiedler exclaimed.  “I go there frequently, so I might have seen you out and about.”  They exchanged half-smiles at the things they had in common.  Fiedler didn’t have time to ask any more questions, because at that moment, he heard a chorus of about ten little voices shouting, “I’m throwing a snowball at Herr Fiedler!”

He turned around just in time to be pegged right in the face by a clump of loosely packed snow.  And then all of a sudden, the kids were on him, wrestling him to the ground and trying to bury him in snow.  Fiedler was too surprised to even laugh. 

“Well,” said the headmaster loudly in English, “I think we shall be continuing the tour!” The class visitors left Fiedler floundering in the snow, trying to push little Willy off his chest.  Every time he opened his mouth to laugh or ask them to Please, please get off, one of them would drop a tiny snowball into his mouth.

Eventually, Helga from the orphanage came around to pick half the children up.  At her arrival, the children leapt off Fiedler and hurried towards her.

“Can you take me home today?” Ava asked, but Helga shook her head sadly.  Fiedler trundled over, trying to scrape all the snow that was now encrusted in his jacket. The woman laughed as he approached and he smiled, abashed. 

“Christ Herr Fiedler, you look rather cold!  Would you like to come back to the orphanage with me to warm up?”

He shook his head.  “Have to take care of these,” he said, indicating four of the children.

“Ah!  Is no one else at school?”

“No, they all took the day off.  Snow, and… all that.  You know.” Fiedler realized she was looking at his face very intently.  He must be a burning red, he thought.  “I’m going to drop them off.”

“Well you should come around for coffee afterwards.  I know I’ll still be there,” she chuckled. The two said their goodbyes, and Fiedler squatted down to talk to the four remaining children.  Their parents, or more accurately their legal guardians, had dropped them off in the morning with a different teacher, but often he would have to be the one to take them home.  He examined the remaining faces.  Ava, Erich, Willy, and Clara.

Alles klar!” he said, switching back to German, “whose house is nearest?”

Ava raised her hand, grumbling.  “But I don’t want to go home first…” she complained. 

Willy put his hand in the air proudly.  “We can go to my house!  Grandmama will make us all hot chocolate!”

“Does anyone want to go home first?” Fiedler asked.  Faced with the hot cocoa of Wilhelm’s grandmother, no one did. “Alright!  To Willy’s house first.”

They traipsed across town.  At times, Fiedler had to carry Erich, who was a very weak and skinny boy for his age. Finally, they arrived at Willy’s house, a bright little house that felt like a cottage the moment Fiedler entered. They had hot cocoa, he chatted with Willy’s grandmother until she began to ramble about her dear beloved son going off to war, never to return again…

The rest of the troupe crossed back over to drop off Erich and Clara, who were siblings but lived in different houses.  Thankfully these were only a few blocks apart.  Finally it was just Ava left.  Ava with her brown hair and small smile.  The two held hands as they crossed the road. 

“Where’s your house?” Fiedler asked.  Usually, Ava’s big brother would come from the factory to pick her up, but today he had been sick and hadn’t gone to work at all.  Ava thought for a moment. 

“Uhm… If we go to Wilhelmstraße, then I’ll know how to get there,” she promised.

Fiedler felt odd as they walked through the park.  Children were playing on the shallow pond that had frozen over several days ago.  As they hurried across Wilhelmstraße, Fiedler began to feel like a ghost, only able to retrace his steps.  They were going towards that tall block of apartments he had avoided for the past few months.  As the white façade came into view, Fiedler asked Ava, “Is that your house?”  He pointed.  To his relief, she shook her head and pointed further down the road to a more run down looking building.  Fiedler dropped her off, then hurried on past, eager not to pass in front of The Vampire’s building again.

 


 

 

Alec Leamas, or as he was known here and now, Pierre-Marie Surpont, was sitting idly at a café.  It had been raining the night before, so there was no one else in the foggy, chilly Paris air.  There was a newspaper spread across the table, and he was examining the recipes column. He would love to make a salad with kidney beans.  A man walked by, his shoes making a pleasant sound on the shiny ground.  Leamas could smell the cigarette smoke from here as he took a seat at the far table-for-two. 

A waiter came out and offered Leamas some orange juice. 

Est-ce-que vouz-voudrai commander quelque chose à partir de la menu?

Leamas gave a weary sigh, one appropriate of a man who had just come from his morning run. “Ah ben…en fait oui.  Donne moi quelque moments…” he hummed, eyes raking down the menu which lay open on top of the newspaper.  “Je voudrai la p’tit-déj Anglais, s’il vous plait.”

The waiter smiled a tad coldly at that.  French cooks don’t like to be made to cook British food.  “Bien sûr, Monsieur.”  Then he went to take the order of the other man. Alec already knew what he would order, and it wasn’t on the menu.

The waiter went back inside, and Leamas started the age-long wait which would hopefully culminate in breakfast in one form or another.

The food came, a delightful half an hour later.  Leamas’ eyes bored into the newspaper as he spooned his scrambled eggs. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the other man being served a deep red drink and a plate of spaghetti and red sauce.  It was so early it was barely light out.

“A little early for spaghetti, isn’t it?” Alec asked, coming up beside him. 

The man looked up.  He had a freckled complexion and bloodless face.  His hair was cut military-style and he wore a well-fitting suit.  His only distinguishing feature was his nose, which appeared to have been broken in that very French sort of way.

“Just got off a flight from Brazil.  I was very hungry so I came to this, my favorite restaurant.”

“Ah, vraiment?” Alec asked.

“What do you want?”

“No, no, nothing.  Just a little curious.  I thought I’d seen your face before.  In the news?”

The man seemed to relax.  “Yes, I work in Parliament, so that would explain it.”

Leamas nodded and took a seat next to the man.  He gestured at the glass.  “What’s that? Watermelon juice?”

“No.  Beetroot,” came the reply without hesitation.  “I have certain dietary needs.”

Leamas chuckled, picked up the glass and downed it in three swallows.  The other man stared at him in fear.  “And is your red sauce ‘beetroot’ as well?” Leamas asked, smiling so that the other man could see the tips of his teeth for the barest instant. 

To his credit, the other man acknowledged the sign, flashing his own fangs back at Leamas with minimal surprise.  In fact, he seemed somewhat relieved.  “What do you want?”

“Just the company of someone like yourself.  Like myself.”

“Ah.”

“And the name of your Soviet handler.”

It was at that point that all hell broke loose.  The man, Nicholas Verdun, flicked the plate of pasta up into Alec’s face, then overturned the table.  The taste of blood in his mouth stunned Alec temporarily, but he urgently shook the noodles from his face and sprinted after the man.

It was six in the morning and Alec had already gone for a run.  As they neared the corner, Leamas’ backup rounded the corner and Verdun yelped and instead of running down into the perfectly-positioned alleyway where an operative was already lying in wait, he darted across the street, into one of the medical research buildings. 

Merde!” swore the man who had just come around the corner.  “I’ll go around the back.  Stairs. You take the conventional stairs.”

Leamas smiled grimly at Guillam’s awkward French.  Although he was a native speaker, the man had only dropped in a week or two ago and hadn’t fully adjusted yet.  They ran into the building, flashing false Interpol badges at the receptionist.  Guillam took the emergency exit stairs while Alec panted out a “Shitshitshit” up the regular ones.  He saw Verdun disappear two floors above him through a door which clanged shut. Leamas’ thighs burned.  “Fuck!” He roared, pulling the heavy door open.  Verdun craned his neck to see Alec, yelped slightly, and darted down a side corridor.  Leamas slid on the marble floor, turning the corner and finding himself face to face with an empty hallway.  He was going to have to check all the rooms. 

Locked-locked-locked-locked-

He pushed open one door-

“Oh, sorry,” Alec said, blushing as he saw surgeons standing over something covered on an operating table.

He began bashing in the locked doors.  Nothing, nothing, no-

The door to the room he’d just kicked in came smashing back, and Verdun caught Leamas in the face once again.  Boy, was he a terrible agent.  Verdun leaped over Leamas’ body, (to Alec’s surprise, he was lying on the gleaming marble) and dashed back the way he’d come.  Leamas got to his feet, stumbled a ways, tripped on flat ground and stood up again.  He heard the slamming of a door and then a screech.

Alec jogged zig-zaggedly over to the emergency exit and fell on the door to push it open. 

Guillam had Verdun’s neck between his teeth, fangs sunk in to the very gums.  The fugitive’s flailing was already becoming weaker as Guillam pumped him full of sedative.

Slowly, Guillam lowered him to the ground, slipping the neck off his teeth.  “Putain, tu bois quoi là?  Fuck, what’ve you been drinking?

“Alright, but how do we get him back to headquarters?”  Alec asked, pointing at the Frenchman on the ground.  He was following his own train of thought. 

“Jean has a cab,” Guillam suggested, catching his breath.  “We should get him back pronto, because of Haydon.”

Leamas rolled his eyes.  “I don’t see why Haydon’s always sticking his nose into everything.”

“He wants Control’s job, everyone knows that.”

“Peter, no one in the entire world would want Control’s job.”

Guillam harrumphed a bit at that, but shrugged as if he could admit that Alec was right. 

They hauled the man up.  Although restorative stored in his body was already healing the wounds in his neck, there was no saving that expensive suit.  His clothes looked like the victim of decapitation.

“Wait,” said Guillam, leaving all the weight to Alec, who swore.  The younger man crossed into the main hallway, then went into one of the side rooms, returning with a stretcher.  Leamas dropped the body unceremoniously onto it, and the two vampires hauled the third down the emergency stairs.  They stopped another flight down to get labcoats and facial masks and a large cloth to cover the body in.  No one stopped them as they walked out the front doors of the building.

They walked awkwardly to the side of the road, and then Guillam made several discreet hand signals and a car started moving slowly from the end of the street. “That’ll be Jean”, Peter explained.

Guillam realized that it wasn’t Jean the moment the back window started to roll down and a long metal tube extended out of it. 

“Get down!” he shrieked, just as muzzle flares burned into the dark morning.  Leamas saw spatters of red slash up Guillam’s white coat, but knew that the bullets weren’t for him.  Another dozen shots.  Someone a few streets away screamed in alarm.

Leamas vaguely remembered throwing himself down into a dip beside the road where the medical facilities had allowed a few patches of grass to grow.  He awoke to find the paramedics around him, picking Guillam up, rolling over the now-dead body of the Soviet mole in the French government.

 


  

Fiedler had written several Christmas cards.  Of course, these were for people that he knew celebrated the holiday, as he did not.  But now he felt… he felt like he should write one more.

 

Dear,

 

He crossed out the ‘Dear’.

 

Dear  Leamas,

 

I’ve always heard that it is a Christian tradition to forgive.  These past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about our previous relationship.  I think I should still like to meet with you, but I cannot live as someone else’s food.  I know what you’re going to say, that by donating blood to you, I’m essentially donating to others of your species, but I don’t want will not live my life at your mercy.  As your friend, and nothing more.  If it fails, if all you’ve truly ever wanted is my pulse, my body, then I’m afraid that I want nothing more to do with you or your type, ever again. 

If we meet in a café by happenstance, then maybe we can say hello and exchange stories like old friends, but if you seek me out, then know that I will despise you for what remains of my life.

 

With forgiveness,

 

J

 

That afternoon, Christmas Eve, he traipsed down to the other side of town to deliver the letter.  Riding Leamas’ elevator alone made him feel oddly asymmetrical, as if the whole world were about to flip sideways.  Once he got to the door, he slid the note through the letter slot.  The moment the paper tipped out of his grasp, Fiedler felt horrible.  Hollow, like an empty spitting pot.  He shouldn’t have said that.  He shouldn’t have-

Face burning, he returned to his apartment and began to sob quietly.

 

Leamas.

 

I’m sorry about my last letter.  It came out very harshly, and I wish we could straighten it out in person.  Needless to say, there are many things that made me write those words, but all I meant by it was that I don’t want

I’m not sure how to say it with words, exactly. 

When would be a good time to meet?

 

Regards,

 

J

 

It was the next day.  Christmas day.  He hadn’t had much planned.  Nothing at all really.  He would have had a nice, pleasant read, but books sickened him for some reason, and he’d read them all already.  He tried to go for a walk, but everyone was huddled up in groups, laughing merrily as they strolled to one another’s houses to visit their mothers, aunts, grannies, and sisters. 

It had been at that point that Jens had thought, He’s my only friend in the world.  The only one.

After the thought flashed through his mind, it was followed by a hot stripe of anger.  And he wanted to-

Rape me?  Of course no-

He as good as did-

And the way he eats-

Fairy-queer-poof-

I don’t want to th-

None of the thoughts would let themselves finish, and so eventually he was left in a sort of silence.  All alone. So he’d pushed that letter into the slot.  He wondered why Leamas hadn’t answered yet.

Later on Christmas day, he found himself going back to the apartment, with a few words scribbled on a napkin.

 

Leave me alo

Don’t take advantage of me.

 

He had friends. He must have someone.  He started hanging around with Liz again.  He just dropped in on in the blood bank, half to feel the memories of Alec, to get them over with, and she waved him over to the desk. She kept inviting him to dinner, so he accepted.

He also accidentally slipped into a half-relationship with Helga.  He would smile and she would smile and they would share something, but it never went further than hugs on a Friday when they knew it would be two days until they next saw each other. 

At the post office, he would stay on with the boys sometimes, ask where they were going for schnapps that night and then join them.  He didn’t drink, but he smiled along with them awkwardly, pretending to go along.  See? Everything was just fine. 

Occasionally however, he would find himself writing to someone else in the margins of his books.

No.  He was fine without Alec.  He was happy.  He really, truly was.  Nothing was wrong, and everything was going wonderfully.  When school started up again, he would be great friends again with great friends and teachers of his.

Fiedler finally visited the park, the bridge where he’d let Leamas drink from his arm. 

Goodbye Alec, he thought into the night, I forgive you and goodnight.

Chapter Text

 

Guillam lived. But just barely.  Luckily, they couldn’t have been closer to a hospital if they’d tried.  Haydon showed up at some point, cursing up a flurry, blithering about some sort of leak in one of their outposts near the Franco-German border that had caused the ‘tremendous fuckup’.  Fearing that Alec was blown, Cambridge Circus ordered him to lie low in Paris, pending relocation.  He found it particularly nasty how Haydon had used the incident as an opportunity to maneuver himself into the top Paris job, but that was Bill for you, wasn’t it.

About a week later, the apartment was bombed by ‘anarchists’.  Leamas had just returned from buying fish when the explosion had sent shards of the wooden door to bury themselves in his legs and arms.  He was still in hospital several weeks later, seriously annoyed that the bomber hadn’t even had the guts to come and finish the job. The problem with hospitals, he thought, was that it gave him too much time to reflect on opportunities lost and his own mortality, two things that he abhorred like a child. 

Not all opportunities are lost, he kept reciting to himself.

And so it was that he sent a few letters each week to the boy in Berlin.  Leamas felt embarrassed that he had almost forgotten the name, even as he remembered his address perfectly.

 

Jens,

I know how you must be feeling, and I am deeply sorry.  While we were running, I lost control.  This must sound very insincere to you, but I promise you that I cherish our…

 

Leamas realized that he sounded absolutely stupid, but he continued writing.  At some point, he gave the letter to a nurse to have it posted.  It still sounded stupid, but it was better than nothing, he knew.  That had been his first letter.  His next few were quiet.  He shared a little.

 

Jens,

  I’m in the hospital still.  They’re giving me blood transfusions the human way, which I found very funny the first few times.  It’s very late where I am, and every Friday the staff all have a party.  I started walking again today, so they let me join in with them.  I’m not too drunk to write this letter though.  How is Berlin?  I hope you had a merry Christmas, even if you don’t celebrate it.  I hope your family could com[smudged]  Sorry, Bertrand’s just came to sit next to me.  He’s more drunk than I am.

 

Jens,

It’s torture to be in a hospital.  I’m not allowed out, and the whole place either smells of sickness and death which makes me want to kill anyone I meet just to get all the smell over with.  Otherwise, the place smells of blood.  It makes me so hungry, and very lonely.  If the others in my ward found out about my ‘condition’, then I suppose it would be the end for me, socially I mean.  But all this blood.  Makes me itch.  Sorry, the nurse just came with human lunch.  She doesn’t know anything.  All this bloodAll this blood makes me realize why so many vampires choose to become doctors.  Why, if I had better aim and George’s temperament, the government would give me as much blood as I wanted for free for providing my anesthetic and restorative. 

 

Jens,

I’m so tired.  That particular sort of tired you get when you’ve been forced to do nothing all day so all your insides start moving like a warm, giant slug.  I hate slugs.  In vampire literature, all the dramatic poets call humans slugs that are full of blood.  Have you ever stepped on a slug?  I haven’t, but I imagine it pops like a slushy ballon.  Ballon.  Balloon. Baloon.  Ba  I think I just misspelled balloon/baloon/ballon.  Two O’s?  Have you ever spelled something so many times that you’re not sure what it is and if it really exists?  They gave me some morphine this morning…

 


 

It was still Christmas.  Fiedler was just leaving Leamas’ apartment when the first few snowflakes began to whisper down into the city.  Fiedler pulled his scarf tighter around him, but the afternoon itself was not too cold, so he walked leisurely back to his own flat.  There were a few people out, bustling around in groups and having snowball fights and playing loud music from open-  Goodness, that music must be twenty years old at least!

 

Mir ist so nach dir

Mir war schon gestern so nach dir

Und mir wird immer nach dir sein –

Am liebsten wäre ich allein …!

 

Fiedler blinked.  His parents used to play Leo Monosson, the singer, quite frequently in the days before they were forced to leave Germany.  His father in particular enjoyed his voice the most in the family. ‘That’s a Jewish singer’ he would mutter, rubbing his chin and thinking like one of the great intellectuals.  ‘He deserves our attention.’

“Hi, mister!”  It was a young woman, hanging off the arm of a warmly clad man.  They had split off from a large group of adults who were busy throwing snowballs from snow leftover from the day before. A couple, Fiedler supposed they were. The instrumental part of Mir ist so nach dir floated from the brightly lit house that he had seen them exiting.

Ja, Fräulein?” 

“Would you like to play also?  We’ve split into teams, but the other side has seven while we have six.”

Fiedler was shocked, but quickly recovered.  He briefly considered saying no thank you I’m actually very busy, but that was a complete lie, and he had nothing to do. “Of course!” 

They assembled little snow forts, behind which the adults and children all crouched.  Fiedler, being a lousy shot, was in charge of assembling snowballs. The adult team (Fiedler learned that they had split into children and adult teams) had formed a sort of assembly line for them.  Greta and Stefan, the couple, laid down suppressive fire, while Fiedler and Lizzie assembled.  The other three adults, Josef, Margarethe and Harry dashed up to the childrens’ fort to dump snow on their heads. 

It all ended when all seven children dashed out from behind their snow wall and smashed the adult base to bits.  They made sure to drop snow indiscriminately down every item of clothing.  Grudgingly, the adults admitted defeat, and Grandma Anna called them all in for hot chocolate.

Fiedler was about to depart when Lizzie said, “No, no, that’s not fair, Jens, sending you out into the cold when you’re soaked through!  Are you having Christmas somewhere else?” 

Blushing because of her tone and from the cold, he replied, “No, I’m not-“

“Well then you must stay for dinner- at the very least to get you nice and warm!” interjected Greta.

And that was how Jens Fiedler found himself sitting at a table laid for nineteen: seven adults, seven children and five assorted grandparents from all sides of the family.  They were reasonably well off too, judging from the soft, whipped, creamy music pouring from an antique gramophone.

Jens found himself tacked on at the end of the table and pouring out answers to these kind strangers. 

“How old are you?” 

“I’ll be nineteen in January.”

“Where are you from?”

“Well, my family moved here from Bavaria when I was very small-“

“Where is your family?”

“My aunt and cousins are still in Bavaria-“

“But do you have parents living with you?  Do you have any brothers and sisters?  I have three, Mimi, Ava and Maria!”

“I used to, but they passed away in a terrible accident a few years ago.”  It was so easy to say.  It was so easy to say.  IT WAS SO EASY TO SAY!  All of a sudden, surrounded by caring strangers and warm music, Jens felt that he could do anything.  It was all alright- everything could be alright- how was he past it? How could he just be- happy!  He was so happy and light!  He thought he felt his parents smiling.

“Are you at the university?”

He nodded, smiling widely.  “I take courses in Law, mostly.  I know it sounds rather old-fashioned, but I want to make Germany a better place for everyone.”

All the parents tapped their glasses laughing good-naturedly.  Jens briefly wondered if he had not died on the way back from Alec’s apartment, frozen to death in a drift of snow, and had by some divine confusion had accidentally gone to the Christian heaven.

Although he refused all their alcoholic drinks, Jens still felt a sense of joyous looseness around his character, a good-naturedness that comes with being with others.  He wanted to remember this feeling forever, down to the way that little-Fritz, with his gap-toothed grin would ask his namesake, “Grandpa Fritz, please pass the duck please!”

Jens left, with a standing invitation to return whenever he pleased.  Lizzie waved him goodbye from the window all the way until he disappeared into the dark night.  He got back to the apartment at eleven and fumbled with the keys for a few minutes in his exhaustion.  To his happy surprise, he found a letter, not from the usual addresses.  It was addressed to Jens Fiedler, and it had been sent from Paris, France. 

He opened it. It was from Alec.  Perhaps it was the euphoric context of the evening, but Jens smiled.  No religion could claim it was because of them, but today had been his happiest day all year.

 

Jens,

I know how you must be feeling, and I am deeply sorry.  While we were running, I lost control.  This must sound very insincere to you, but I promise you that I cherish our relationship, whatever it really is. 

I’m writing to you from Paris because I requested a transfer.  At the time, you were in the hospital, and I wasn’t sure if you were going to make it.  When the doctors said that you would, I knew that I couldn’t let it happen to you again.  I took myself out of the equation to protect you; you must believe me on this.  I hope you understand.

On the train over, I thought about you. Our roles are confused and I didn’t know what you were to me.  We’ve known each other only a few months, and we have kept so much of ourselves hidden all that time.  But I know you, I’ve had you between my teeth, and you know me, you’ve seen me for what I can be when you peel away all my lies.  I think that now, we are so close that I cannot even think of you as anything other than a friend.

 

Alec Leamas

 

A wave of relief came over Fiedler as he reread the letter.  I cannot even think of you as anything other than a friend, and that was perfect.  Everything, or almost everything, was alright now.  Leamas hadn’t received his scathing letters, some was forgiven, and the vampires were far away, where they could not hurt him anymore. 

In the morning, he awoke to the familiar call of, “Jens, Jens Fiedler, they’ve delivered the mail to my flat again!”  Jens rubbed his eyes of sleep and walked awkwardly to the door. 

“Hi.”

“Your mail.”

“Thank you.”

“If you ever need anything, our home is open to you.”

“Thank you. Thank you so much.”

Another letter, sent sometime last night.  He recognized the handwriting.

Tomorrow, I have a very big test, so I don’t have much time.  It’s been ages since I’ve sent you anything, but all the teachers say that I should focus more on my coursework.  Mr. Staunton wants me to be top of the class, and I feel that I owe it to him since he’s paying my tuition.  I wish he could have helped you out too, Jens, I really do.  I miss you so much.  Please come visit sometime.  People are starting to say that they’ll split the border soon, so it’ll be much harder to have visits. 

After we finish our exams in a month, I think Mr. Staunton is going to take my entire class on a field trip to Berlin!  He says it’ll be from the 25thto the 28th.  I think it’s so we get exposed to ‘culture’.  But it also means that we can celebrate your birthday together!  I’m desperate to see you again.  See you in the New Year!

Everything was going so well, Fiedler thought as he made his way to work.  Everything was wonderful and happy.  That morning he’d written kind replies to both letters, and the sun had shone brightly through the quiet snowfall.  It was all so perfect, even though he felt as though he was missing something very small.

The mail never stopped for Christmas, the day after Christmas, or any of the other day of the year.  The State ploughs on, and Fiedler with it.  Between December 25thand 31st, the children he worked with were allowed some mite of a break, so Fiedler spent his spare time reading, writing, revising and taking long walks in the snow with Greta.  On the day before New Year’s, he trundled over to the blood bank to donate.  Liz welcomed him with open arms, as she always had done.  It was all normal, but Fiedler couldn’t wait for school to start back up again and fill his days with rigid, structured thought.

Somehow, miraculously, his relationship with Alec budded again.  Mail between Berlin and Paris wasn’t too slow, so they would often send each other a letter or two a day and get a response the next day. Fiedler got an odd one about Alec’s drinking habits, one about how much he hated being cooped up in a hospital (oh, how Fiedler could relate) and a strange one about “balons”.  In turn, he shared how he was doing, his new life, job etc… They reconnected as if the two had been apart for years and their trauma had been allowed to cool.

One day, Fiedler took a sort of leap of faith. 

Dear Alec, he began.  He had never used ‘dear’ for Alec before.  Never. 

 

Dear Alec,

I was wondering when you would come back.  I must admit that I find life a lot less memorable when you’re not around. What sort of business do you have in Paris? 

 

He sent the letter just like that, paying postage for only three sentences.  Well, Fiedler thought, for Leamas, it was worth it.   

He didn’t receive a reply for days, which was longer than usual.  Fiedler began to feel slightly anxious, fearing that his dear-three-sentences-Alec had upset the vampire somehow.  After an eternity of waiting however, he finally received a reply.

 

Dear Jens. 

                       

My old job had just moved to Paris for a bit, but I hope to return soon after New Year’s.  My boss over here is even worse than the one over in Berlin, if you can believe.  I’ll drop by when I get back, but until then I won’t be able to get a message to you.  Miss you,

 

Alec

 

Dear-three-sentences-Jens, Fiedler thought as he read the thing for the fourth time, dear-three-sentences-Jens.

 It was on New Years day that Jens received another letter from Alec, which he hadn’t expected.  Like a little gift.  It was a postcard.

 

                                   

 

Fiedler flipped it over, noting the tiny ‘Zurich’ on the bottom. 

 

Jens.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Switzerland, but everyone’s been trying to sell me Swiss cheese as if I’m some American tourist.  One man tried to sell me a goddamn clock.  I have about enough room in my suitcase for one pair of clothes and three sets of underwear- where will I put this masterfully fabricated work of art, eh?  The people are nice, but it’s difficult getting women and conversation.  I might be delayed here for some time.  Expect me back on Jan. 12, but be careful; it’s selection season.  Don’t get yourself noticed by anyone.

 

Fiedler noted with a little smile how ‘be careful’ and ‘anyone’ were darkened. Leamas had obviously gone over the words multiple times in pen.  Selection season.  Fiedler shook his head slightly.  He doubted he’d ever be selected.  That would be the most impossible coincidence to occur.  And besides, he was perfectly un-noticeable.  No one in the government or anyone with enough power to pull political strings would even want himof all people. 

Fiedler snorted quietly, then flipped the postcard back over for him to look at the image.

 


  

It seemed to take forever for January to get a move on.  Fiedler was supposed to go back to school on Monday the 16th. Alec was supposed to get back the week before that, and then the school would be coming late in the month. Fiedler couldn’t wait.  But for some reason, the date seemed stuck in the single-digits.  No amount of time-filling studying or reading or sleep seemed to change the fact. Once, he stayed at the school for what seemed like two entire days, but in reality was only a couple of hours. He was submerged in a boorish, honeylike substance, which wasn’t even relaxing enough to call sweet.  Finally, after three entire months, the date changed from Jan 9 to Jan 10. 

All of a sudden, Fiedler realized that he had to get the place ready for Alec’s arrival. Should he cook?  He needed to practice.  He thought that there was a recipe book somewhere in the tiny closet- maybe he should make something with pasta.  Pasta was special, wasn’t it?  But Alec had high-end tastes.  And bloody tastes.  He walked over to the closed and began rummaging through all the old bookish things there. There was a leather-bound green book in the corner, and underneath it-

Hah!  The recipe-book.  Fiedler felt a pang as he brought out both the green book and the cookbook and wiped the dust off of them on his pants leg.  They would have familiar writing in them, he was sure, even if he’d never seen the green book before.  It looked like a secret.  He placed it on the table to save for later as he began to flip through his mother’s cookbook.  Her handwriting looped in the margins.

The book fell open easily to one of the recipes near the end.  Sauerbraten.  Pickled roast.  He remembered how his mother always used two full mugs to keep the book open to that page every New Year.  He ran his eyes down the ingredients list as phantom smells twirled around him, and he was transported back into the past where he had to flatten himself against one wall of the hallway as his mother bustled past, hands swathed in cool towels, an ancient porcelain dish that radiated heat swinging past his face.  “Watch out, Jens!”  rang out her nervous giggle as she caught sight of his father at the end of the hallway.

Fiedler, Fiedler tried to blink the tears from his eyes as his fingers traced the circles of dry coffee at the top of each page where his mother had set the mugs. He’d make this for Alec.  But he’d have to start today.  Get everything pickling.

Before he started to pull on his winter clothes to go to the stores.  He’d have to get into West Berlin for the ingredients of the marinade.  He doubted they’d have any bay leaves or gingersnap cookies in stock in this half of the city.  And it would be more expensive than usual, to buy things from the other half. 

Well!  He thought optimistically, I haven’t used any of the money from the post office for anything but food this far!  His savings really did build up, without any expensive hobbies to devote them to.  He felt giddy as he glanced back at the table and the green book.  He decided that it could wait until he got back.

It was dark by the time he returned, arms screaming from the weight of his heavy canvas bags filled with beef roast, spices, onions and carrots.  He’d also bought canned red sauerkraut.  Already, the spark of excitement was glittering between his eyes again. 

Following the directions to the letter, Fiedler prepared the marinade and brought it to a boil in a saucepan.  Eventually, he cut the heat and let the smell waft around the room.  He was making it according to the book, meaning that it would probably serve a small army, but Fiedler wasn’t much bothered; he could happily eat the leftovers of this for weeks.  As he waited for it to cool to room temperature, he sat at the table and took up the little green book and flipped open the cover to the very first page… This is me!  My diary. I hope I can fill this one up so that it looks like I’ve written a whole book.  If you find this book, please return it to my home address on the fifth floor of…

 Fiedler snapped the book shut.  Air from the sudden movement wafted into his face, carrying the book’s scent directly to his mind. He wasn’t sure what the fragrance meant to him.

Chapter Text

Everything was perfect again.  It was six thirty, and Fiedler was sure that Alec would probably arrive at nine.  Or at least, that’s when they were going to eat. He was in the midst of laying the marinated meat into the heavy brown pot as carrots and celery sizzled away quietly beside him.  Once the meat had been adequately arranged, Fiedler transferred the vegetables to the pot as well, then poured the marinade over the dish, finally covering it with the pot lid.  He wiped his brow. 

He had two hours before he needed to make the sauce.  Quickly, he laid the table for two, using his best cutlery and unchipped plates.  There was a little time to read a journal he had picked up at the library; normally he preferred robust books that discussed the past in relation to the past, but the title of this one had caught his eye, as it had professed to chart out the future of Germany.  As Fiedler began reading, his eyes swung over to the other, green journal resting on the table.  He tried very hard to focus on jargon like ‘neo-colonialist power-structure’.

With a sigh, Fiedler dropped it and picked up the diary instead.  He began to read, a sad, faint smile growing on his lips as he remembered each day.  Two hours hour passed in a flash, and he hadn’t even gotten to pages marked with 1950 yet.  He was beaming as withdrew the meat from the pot and arranged it on a large dish which he then covered and set on the table.  Fiedler eyed the clock. It read eight thirty eight.  Good.  He had time. Carefully, Fiedler loaded the roast onto a large dish, which he quickly moved to the dining table.  He covered it, but not before the smell of roast beef wafted throughout his entire apartment.

Then, Fiedler poured the oil and fat that had dripped off the roast into a saucepan and began crumbling gingersnap cookies into it, stirring gently.

There was a soft knocking at the door.  Insistent.

“Door’s open, Alec,” he called.  His heart beat faster as he wondered if Leamas had changed his hair at all, but he tended the sauce dutifully.  It was going to be perfect, and for that it required absolute concentration.  He heard Leamas come in and take off his coat. 

“Hullo Alec,” Fiedler mumbled.  The sauce was floating through him, the familiar smell confusing past and present. “I didn’t expect you over until at least nine.”

Leamas let out a small exhalation of a laugh and walked over to ruffle Fiedler’s hair. It felt… nice. 

Suddenly, Fiedler felt something cool trace over his shoulder, as if he’d put on a shirt that’d been in the coolest bottom drawer.  Then the world burst into white-hot agony as something closed down over the skin like the jaws of an alligator.  He yelped, dropping the wooden spoon into the saucepan and staggering backwards into Alec.  One hand jerked Fiedler’s neck to the side, while the other pushed his fingers away from his neck.  Fiedler was pushed forwards, until his face was directly over the simmering pan.  Plit-plit-plit- His blood spilled into the pan, where it began to sizzle.  It smelled like home.

The alligator chewed, gnashing Fiedler’s skin.  Blood dripped with renewed speed as he continued to struggle uselessly.

Fiedler wasn’t even sure when his vision began to fade, but he felt as if the pain was being leeched from his skin at the point of impact, bringing with it a cool darkness.  Rest, at last. 

 

He was sitting at the dinner table.  The clock read nine fifteen.  Fiedler was slumped backwards in the chair, head hanging to one side as to expose where the pain had been.  There was a napkin tucked into his shirt collar.  The red sauerkraut was arranged artistically in a clean white bowl, even thought Fiedler had no memory of ever opening it.  Thick, dark red gingersnap Sauerbraten sauce was in a small pot. The main dish looked glorious in the center of the table. 

And there was a man opposite him.

It wasn’t Alec Leamas.

He held the cutlery with an upper-crust grace, carefully slicing the tender meat with his second finger extended down the line of the silver knife.  Dazed, floating, Fiedler saw him nudge a small amount of sauerkraut onto the back end of the fork, which was speared into a cube of roast.  The man lifted it to his lips.  Fiedler felt his cool blue gaze on his own face as if it were an autumn wind.  Even as the man placed another slice of roast into his mouth, his eyes never left Fiedler’s face. 

“I started eating without you,” the man said.  His tone was not unfriendly.  Fiedler tried to sit up, but found that staying still was lovely and relaxing, as if it were the warm haze before waking from a big sleep.  He settled for a slow, stumbling whisper.  “I…I know you,” Fiedler said.  His neck throbbed, but didn’t hurt.  

The man nodded carefully, light gleaming on his pale hair. 

“You were inspecting the school,” Fiedler muttered.  “And… And…” He frowned.  “And I saw you once.  I was with Alec, and you talked to him.”

“You are very good, Jens Fiedler.”  The man gestured to him with the end of his fork.

Fiedler’s eyelids fluttered as they strained to stay open. “And… Are you a vampire?”

“Of course. Do you feel my sedative?” A small smile had crept into his voice.  “I gave you quite a lot to keep you calm.”  He answered Fiedler’s unspoken question.  “I wanted to deliver you this myself.”  He reached into his formal jacket and pulled out a cream-white envelope. 

Fiedler twitched, trying to reach out to take it.  The sedative lulled him back into a daze.  The vampire gave a little chuckle.  “Ah.  I forgot.  I will read it aloud to you.”  He withdrew a letter and unfolded it.  “Comrade Jens J. Fiedler, the Committee of Bi-annual Selection is writing to inform you of your selection as a blood donor.  As of the reception of this letter, you have been tasked with the sustenance of a marginalized section of our community.  Below are the details of the vampire overseeing your donation:” The man smiled, interjecting, “That’s me.”  He cleared his throat and continued, “Dr. Hans-Dieter Mundt, confidential physician for the Ministry for State Security.  Blood type: AB+, Feeding license: yes, Donation allowance: three pints per week.  You will be contacted shortly by your donation overseer.  Thank you for your service to our great country.  Signed, the Federal Minister of the Interior, Karl Maron.” 

Fiedler shook silently.  He wasn’t sure if it was the sedative, or the sheer impossibility of the situation, but all of a sudden he just couldn’t stop giggling.  “Alec,” he wheezed, “Alec told me not to get noticed by anyone in the government,” he continued to choke out, “And you, you’re, you’re in State Security!  Of all places!“ he broke out into another fit of giggles. 

The man, Hans-Dieter Mundt, smiled again reassuringly. “Alec Leamas and I are very similar.  I am sure we shall be better suited to each other than you and he.  After all, us true Germans must stick together.”

The sedative made Fiedler feel that Mundt was being truthful.  Mundt would protect him, keep him safe, and warm and…

“Why did you choose me?”

“Herr Fiedler, you must know that the selection process is all due to chance,” Mundt said.  His lips were in an amused grin, as if he were telling a joke.  “But I am very grateful that fate has placed a person with your talents, connections and… background under my supervision.”

Again, warmth flooded Fiedler’s veins.  He was happy that Mundt was happy.  It made him want to do Mundt a favor.

“Why didn’t Leamas get me?”

 “Leamas is a dangerous man.  It is fortunate that I intervened before your relationship continued.  He selects his victims and reels them in with kindness before he drinks them dry.  Do you know why his license was revoked?”

Fiedler found it difficult to open his mouth.  It was just nicer to hear Mundt speak.  He didn’t want to interrupt the compelling music.  He managed, “Because he killed a Nazi who killed a little girl, no?”

“He has misled you, the treacherous snake,” Mundt said, still pulling Fiedler’s eyes into his own.  “To an Englishman, all Germans were Nazis.  Just after the war had ended, he killed my good friend. In a back alley where he was trying to revive a dying girl.  He tore Franz apart.  There was hardly anything left.  The boy he killed was like a little brother to me.  It has taken almost a decade to prove that Leamas was the murderer, and even then, he still walks free.”

Thoughts swirled painfully, sliding up next to each other and whispering terrifying realizations into Fiedler’s ears. 

“I’m sure you of all people understand how it feels, considering your history.”

Of its own accord, Fiedler’s throat tightened. A tear slid down his face, and Mundt smiled sadly.  “Come. My home is legally yours now.” 

Somehow, the mental fog swirled in a distracting way, and Fiedler found himself standing.  He believed Mundt.  He straightened up and suddenly a sharp pain lashed through his neck and he snapped back to his senses.

“Leamas wouldn’t kill me.” Fiedler knew that.  He knew it as a solid, immovable fact.  He frowned.  It felt as if someone had made mincemeat of his shoulder- as if they were still making mincemeat of his shoulder. “Leamas would never purposefully harm me.  We’re friends.”

Mundt’s eyes were chips of ice.  He brought a silver knife with him as he walked to Fiedler, still holding it with one finger down the edge.  “I see I did not give you quite enough sedative,” he said.  His voice was still eerily friendly.

Before Fiedler had time to move, Mundt had pulled him in close to his own body.  The hand with the knife whipped around Fiedler’s back as if to pat it consolingly, but in an instant Fiedler felt the cold serrated edge dig into the same wound, reopening the hastily-formed scab.  He screamed, wailing like a child as Mundt pressed his lips gently over the wound and Fiedler felt something sharp stab downwards into him.

And then, the tingling began.  A pleasant feeling trickled into the wound, and Fiedler felt relaxation radiate from the long fangs buried up to the gums.  His thoughts slurred.

“You can trust me, Fiedler.  We Germans must stick together,” he intoned.  Although wet with blood, his voice was like sand in an hourglass.

Fiedler’s head lolled back, exposing more of the neck, a symbolic offering of trust to the vampire.  He thought that Mundt was right. 

“You’re right. I trust you.  Don’t worry Herr Mundt, I trust you,” he babbled stupidly. He flinched a little as he felt the fangs tear out of his skin, realized that his eyes were wet, even though he knew that he trusted Mundt at least as much as he had trusted Leamas and that Leamas would have also given him restorative.  His thoughts weren’t connecting together properly, it felt. Liquid spattered up the walls.

Mundt supported him down the stairs, whispering words of encouragement.  Once they were outside, he settled Fiedler into the private car and told the driver to go on ahead.  He patted Fiedler’s uninjured shoulder.

“I’ll follow in a different car.  I’m going back upstairs to clean up and bring the food.  Your roast is delicious.”

“Thank you.” 

Finding it amusing how those under the influence of his sedative spoke completely normally, even though they themselves were under the impression that their voices were dreamy and disjointed, Mundt smiled. 

 


 

Leamas arrived at the train station at ten.  It had been difficult, sneaking back into Germany, and even more nerve wracking to get back into Berlin.  After the debacle in France, Control had forced him to go back to Germany.  A promotion to Head of Station in West Berlin had been the carrot, while a dingy London desk job had been the stick.  He’d slipped all around Germany, trying first to enter through the border with the Netherlands, but someone had tipped off the Germans to his arrival.  It had been all he could do to hitch a lift down to Luxembourg, then there had been a few uncomfortable train rides to Switzerland.  He’d sent Jens a placatory postcard from Zurich a few days before he’d gotten on the train.  First to Munich.  At the station in Munich though, there’d been some unsavory men in bowler hats and a warrant out for a man fitting Leamas’ description.  And they hadn’t even been in East Germany yet!  The nerve.  He’d supposed there was a mole somewhere, but didn’t have much time to consider it.  At the very least, the Germans would know that he was heading to Berlin, so he played switcheroo and bought a ticket to Liepzig.  He’d gotten off at one of the service stops, snuck aboard a train going to Dresden, hidden for several tense hours among piles of coal as the train was searched, then made a dash for the train to Berlin.  He arrived at ten. 

Trouble was, he looked like a smudge of soot trying to blend into a pasty white background in this attire.  So, all he could do was act confident and pretend to be one of the men who shovel coal into the engine.  He left at ten fifteen with the other workmen, and traipsed back to his apartment, muttering railway jargon under his breath as confirmation of his identity to anyone trailing.  It took him another thirty minutes to reach his apartment, as he doubled back and forwards multiple times to shake any tails he may have picked up. 

He couldn’t just walk into the building wearing the sooty clothes and pretend to be Jean de Verger, the pretentious Frenchman whose name he had bought the flat under. Jean de Verger wouldn’t be caught dead with a mite of grease on his fingers.  Instead, Leamas decided that it would be safer to climb up to his room from ground level.  Only after thirty feet of semi-stable piping and fire escape rigging did he acknowledge that it was a somewhat shitty idea.  He managed to pull himself through his window after unlocking it with a hidden key that he had kept in one of the flowerpots that adorned the minuscule balcony. 

As he stripped himself naked and ran himself a shower, Leamas shifted nervously.  He’d promised to drop in on Jens the minute he got back.  It was ten thirty two.  He got into the shower and scrubbed himself red.  What was he going to wear?  Hell, what was he going to tell young Fiedler?  Sorry? Let’s be friends?  Hmmm?  He scrubbed his hair with ferocious intensity. 

It was eleven by the time he’d pulled on his best set of clothes and hailed a taxi. The attendant at the desk was flabbergasted when he walked out the doors, as she hadn’t seen him going in. Well, at least she wasn’t going to call the police.  He got out of the car several blocks from Fiedler’s place, then spent another ten minutes or so following normal procedure for losing a tail.  He didn’t want anyone finding out about Jens. 

He arrived on the fifth floor of Jens’ building slightly nervous.  He wondered if Jens would really be the same.  Hopefully not.  He hoped that Jens would be better. 

He knocked, then instinctively tried the door.  It swung open easily.

“Surprise, Jens.  It’s me, your least favorite Count Dracula,” he called.  It smelled like pickled roast, which made Alec’s toes twitch in excitement.  Jens’ apartment let off an air of excitement and joy.  He stepped into the house further, walking past the little coat rack so that he could see the dining table and part of the kitchen.

He stopped.

Blood covered everything.  It was spattered all over the walls, it painted the stovetop.  The floor was slick with red.  The dining table, while slightly better, looked like someone’s throat had been cut on it, or a mad artist had thrown their paintbrush against it. There were stripes of red rolling down the wallpaper behind the head of the table, still fresh and wet.  There was a meal for two, barely eaten.  And there was a man sitting at the table, cutting slowly into a slice of meat. A napkin was tucked into his shirt.  It had gone a deep, venous red.  Apart from that, he was completely clean, hair brushed neatly, parted asymmetrically, eyes gleaming cruelly.  He sat on the chair like it was a throne.  On the wall behind him, blood arced out like a sadistic halo.

Hallo Leamas. Ich hatte das seltsamste Gefühl, dass du heute Nacht hier her kommen würdest.”

“Funny that,” Alec snapped in English, “Because I had no clue that your insufferable ass would be here tonight at all.”

“Calm down, Leamas.  We both know that you won’t kill me, and I’m feeling in a generous mood, so I’ll grant you the same.”  As always, his English was flawless.

In an instant, Leamas’ fangs were out, and he’d reached into his long coat for his pistol. He pointed it at Mundt.  From eight feet away, there was no way he could miss.

“Try me, you Nazi fuck,” he growled.

“Think about it, Alec.  I’m too valuable.  You are not.”

“Don’t call me Alec.  My friends call me Alec.  Scum like you don’t call me Alec.”

“The little selected boy, little Herr Fiedler, he called you Alec.  And he’s just as scummy as I am.”

Leamas thumbed back the trigger.  “Where is he?” he demanded.

“Under my supervision.  Permanently.”

“Bullshit.”

Mundt produced a formal letter with a flourish and began to read, voice rising with mounting glee.  “Comrade Jens J. Fiedler, the Committee of Bi-annual Selection is writing to inform you of your selection as a blood donor, et cetera et cetera, below are the details of the vampire overseeing your donation: Dr. Hans-Dieter Mundt, confidential physician for the Ministry for State Security, et cetera, thank you for your service to our great country.”  The last words dripped with malice as he turned his eyes back up to look at Alec. 

Leamas felt faint.  He burned. “You-“

“It was not too hard to secure the boy for myself.”

“And why did you want to do that?” Leamas asked, forcing himself to control his breathing, his face.

“I always like to win three ways,” Mundtsaid.  “The first is that Fiedler is my leverage over you, the incentive for you to swap your alignment.  Moscow center will no doubt promote me if I become your handler.  It works to both our advantages if I climb the ladder and see to further places. The second is to punish you.  An eye for an eye.  For killing my little Franz, I get to take your little Jens. He is a good replacement for my last protégé.  Clever, dedicated, and not a terrible cook if I may say so.”  Mundt plucked the pot of sauce from the table and used a spoon to drizzle some onto the beef.  At this moment, the scent of blood hit the back of Leamas’ throat with an almost tangible thud.  His mouth began to water for the blood Jens had splashed on the walls.  “The third is because what you told Smiley was true. He does taste like a dream.”

Leamas detested how true Mundt’s every statement was.  Of course Jens’ captivity would solidify Mundt’s position.  Of course it would be benefit the intelligence effort. Of course Mundt would rightfully take Jens after Leamas had murdered the old Nazi’s lieutenant.  Except ‘Little Franz’ had killed over and over, whereas Jens was just a boy.

As if he had guessed at Leamas’ thoughts, Mundt sneered.  “You’re disgusting, Leamas.  Fiedler and Franz are the same age.  How different are they really?  Everything Franz did was because I had him under sedation. Fiedler has an extremely low tolerance to me, so it will not be long before he is the same.  He may even assist me willingly, as I will not treat him like a child.”  The words were more human than anything Leamas had ever heard from between the blond man’s lips.  They stung Alec like physical blows.

“He would never join you willingly.”  Leamas hissed.

“No?  And you trust him?  He has painted a true portrait of himself to you?”  Mundt asked.

Leamas snarled out an affirmative. 

Mundt began to laugh, and it didn’t seem that he could stop.  Leamas kept the gun pointed directly at the other man’s face. “He’s told you nothing,” Mundt said finally, casually reaching into his inside jacket pocket and drawing out a small green notebook.  He waved it at Leamas.  “Take a look at this.  And then in the bottom drawer of Fiedler’s dresser.  And then in the spare room.  He has not been honest with you.”  With that, Mundt stood up, tugging the napkin from his throat and revealing pristinely clean clothes.  He strode past Leamas, pressing the soft green book into the greying man’s hands.

Leamas wrenched the book away from Mundt, snarling, “I challenge you.  I challenge you to a duel for the boy’s life.”

Mundt’s eyes flashed, but he gave a lazy smile. “What do I have to gain from a duel?” he mused aloud. 

“If you really want me to report to you- to become a mole for you to play this shitty version of chess, then we’re going to have to meet some time.  And it might as well be when I’m ripping your fucking throat out.”

“Very well. What say you we meet in the forest in three days time. You know the place.  We will bring our seconds to discuss rules, consequences and… prizes.”

“Deal,” Leamas said, instantly.  If he didn’t do all in his power to save Jens, then the boy’s death would be on his hands, even if it came by Mundt’s teeth.

Mundt saw a little something of this in Alec’s eyes, and he chuckled quietly.  “Poor, defeated Leamas,” he said, walking over to the door, “in three day’s time, I’ll make sure Fiedler will not want to see you again,” came the cool voice. 

And then the door clicked shut.

Leamas’s shoulders dropped.  He had just done something incredibly, incredibly stupid.  To take his mind off the impending duel, he opened the book Mundt had handed him.  A diary. Jens’?  He closed it carefully.  He padded over to Jens’ room.  The bed was made.  He opened the cupboard.  Clothes. Numbly, he thought that it looked like a hotel.  He turned and reassessed his assumption.  There was a chest of drawers combined with a vanity on top.  Bits of paper and half-opened notebooks littered the thing. Leamas looked.  The majority of them seemed to be to-do lists: milk, cabbage, eggs, salt, criminal law essay, return Russia book TOMORROW!

Leamas smiled a bit at that last one before bending over to pull open the bottom drawer. It was full of newspaper clippings. He pulled them all out and moved to sit on Jens’ bed.  Most of them were from Neues Deutchland and had titles such as:

“Lenin’s Legacy”: A Poorly Executed Satire

Outrage! Riefenstahl Walks Free

Socialism’s purpose in New Germany

 

Leamas reached the bottom of the pile. 

 

Tragic Crash Kills Prominent Intellectual

 

Leamas blinked. The author of this article was different, and chronologically it was the last: published January 27th1950. He blinked once again and groaned. “Jens, why didn’t you tell me?” he whispered.  He stared at the picture: a tall man with dark hair, heavy eyebrows and a thick moustache stared mischievously out from the paper, an arm slung around a shorter woman with long dark locks and deep, dark eyes.  They wore secret smiles, as if they had just made a joke about the cameraman.  Their hands were clasped together tightly, as if they’d known that they didn’t have much time.

 

Tragic Crash Kills Prominent Intellectual

Yesterday evening, Oszcar N. Fiedler, 47, and his wife MarionFiedler, 44, were crossing Wilhelmstrasse in their car when they were hit by an oncoming coal truck.  Police report that bystanders were the first ones to respond, pulling the Fiedlers’ child from the wreckage and performing first aid.  The father, mother and child were taken to the hospital for immediate medical assistance. Both Fiedler and his wife died while receiving intensive care.

Oszcar Fiedler was a prominent political theorist and literature critic with a longtime column in Neues Deutschland.  He was a member of the KPD since 1918 and was exiled to Canada with his family from 1934-1945.  Upon his return in 1945, Fiedler joined the SED and worked with our newspaper. During this time, he authored The Threat of Coexistenceand Art: From Brown to Red, both of which were heralded as novel interpretations to world politics and the arts.

Neves Deutschland deeply regrets the passing of Herr Fiedler and his wife and wishes his family a swift recovery from this tragic accident.

 

Mood darkening, Leamas flipped through the green diary to January of 1950.  The last entry was January 25th 1950. Then there were several blank pages, and the diary continued as if nothing had happened. 

 

January 25th 1950

 

Tomorrow, we’re going out on a day trip to see cousin Rudi and auntie Tessa.  I haven’t seen Rudi for years, and he’s even younger than me.  Auntie Tessa is very nice too, but she’s not in the family because I don’t think Uncle Robert was allowed to marry her because she has bright yellow hair.  I don’t understand very much about it, but Papa and Mami still like Auntie Tessa because she took care of Rudi even when Uncle Robert died.  I hope they have nice cake at Rudi’s…

 

Leamas slowly pieced it together.  So Jens and his parents had been travelling to see family when tragedy struck.  Idly, Leamas kept flipping through the pages until his eye caught on Jens’ own name. 

He stopped dead as something pulled at his heart.

 

Tuesday, January 23rd, 1951 

 

Friday is the first anniversary of the accident. I feel so horrible for Jens that it’s on a Friday, because he has nothing to come back to on a Saturday and Sunday.  If it had been on a Tuesday, he could ignore his sadness because he has classes to prepare for.  But I hate how he hides in his books and uses his school like his fortress.

He does his Math for weeks and then, since there are no other problems, he finds more problems to do- Science, Economics, History, English, Law.  He likes History, English and Law the most. They keep him the most distracted, I think.  He can pretend that once he finds the correct answer then they’ll come back.  He knows he could spend years finding the correct answer to a Math problem, but he could spend an entire lifetime trying to find the correct answer to what extent Britain’s industrial empire was a result of inhumane colonist exploitation.  It makes time longer, longer so that he believes that it’s just a very, very long day and everything will be back to normal once he just figures out this one… insignificant… problem.

But it’s been an entire year, and he’s still distant from me.  I always thought, on days like this where I’m all alone in the dorm room because everyone’s gone downstairs for dinner, I’ve always thought that he blames me for what happened.

It’s his birthday in four days, and I can go visit him then.  My guardian angel is taking me on a bus to Berlin on the day so that I can spend Friday night and the weekend with him.  I hope he’s alright.

 

This diary did not belong to Jens. 

Leamas glanced at the newspaper clipping.  Police report that bystanders were the first ones to respond, pulling the Fiedlers’ child from the wreckage and performing first aid.  Child.  Just one? Things fell into place and broke apart. Dazed, Leamas stumbled to his feet and over to the spare, lonely bedroom.

The walls were awash with light pinks and blues with streaks of purple where each colour met the other.  Leamas saw the Fiedlers lovingly painting it themselves with swirls and stripes and soft polka-dots.  There were handprints in blue, ranging from tiny to large.  They stretched to the ceiling.  Leamas could not look away as he imagined Jens stealing into this room after dark and placing his hand over each palm-print.

The bed was pastel yellow, like a quiet buttercup. The sheets were all mussed up, as if someone had slept in it only last night.  Upon closer inspection however, Leamas found that a thick coating of dust covered the sheets, and moths had bitten into it in several places.  The cupboards were all empty.  Above the bed hovered several hanging mobiles.  One had all the stars and the sun and the moon, another had barnyard animals, another had musical notes and letters.

There were windows in this room too.  Their curtains were just as yellow, but faded more from sunlight.  The view was calming somehow.  I would put my child here, Leamas thought. He knelt on the soft, carpeted floor. It was marked with all different stains. Alec drew some comfort in the thought that Jens might have vomited on this carpet a dozen years ago.

But Jens was gone.  Jens was gone, and it seemed that Leamas had barely even known him. 

On the way out of the room, he spotted notch-marks on the door frame.  Heights. At the top, about as tall as Alec, was ‘Oz, Dec 1949’.  Oz for Oszcar.  At the level of Leamas’ chin, he saw ‘Mari, Dec 1949’.  In the middle, at about eye-level for Leamas, he saw ‘JJ, Jan 26 1955’, then slightly lower down, ‘JJ, Jan 26 1954’ then for 1953, 2, 1, 0. Leamas winced.  January 26 was the date of the accident.  Why was Jens torturing himself like this?

He looked further down, wondering if the green diary had belonged to another family member, but all the dates prior to 1950 were all distorted by a multitude of lines.  Jens must have measured himself every week, that’s how close the hashes were.  Consequently, the overlap of loopy writing indicating the date he had measured himself made most of the readings illegible. 

“I am sorry you didn’t get to measure yourself this year.  Oh God, I’m…” Leamas’ throat burned and he choked.  “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Discuss the origins of vampires’ fangs with relation to two schools of thought.

 

Many Sanguinologists theorize about the connection between external factors and internal factors on the development of a vampire’s fangs. Semyon Balyugin puts forth the theory that the type of fangs a vampire has is related to the being’s internal personality.  There is further debate as to whether this personality is due to nature or nurture factors.  In contrast, the Quebec School of Sanguinology believes that secretions of the transmitting vampire determine the type of fangs the new vampire will receive. The host’s body familiarizes itself with those genetics and when recreating vampire traits use those as a model. The Quebec School acknowledges Balyugin’s argument, but explains that humans who become vampires naturally share the same traits with those that have secreted the most into them by mere exposure.

           

There are several classifications of fangs identified by both Balyugin and Hernstadt.  State the characteristics of each set of classifications.

 

Long fangs and Short fangs:  Short fangs reach to the chin at the longest, while long fangs can extend past the jaw.

 

Straight fangs and Curved fangs: To avoid piercing the skin, straight fangs generally extend outwards rather than downwards.

 

Thin fangs and Thick fangs: Thin fangs are needle-like, whereas thick fangs resemble those of the archetypal vampire from human media.

 

Smooth Fangs or Ragged Fangs: Smooth fangs are the default type, as they do not harm the vampire with them.  Ragged fangs however are a mutation that was discovered recently in Western Asia and North Africa.  Ragged fangs are in fact a misnomer.  They are better described as jagged, as they have multiple sharp protrusions like a serrated knife.  Most ragged fangs are only so on one edge.  When first developed, these fangs are painful to extend and retract. However, over time, there is a restorative buildup in that area of the mouth which greatly reduces the pain.  

 

Compare and contrast the benefits of various fang types.

 

Generally, vampire surgeons have thin, straight, smooth fangs, imitating syringe needles.  This helps them in their occupation.

Vampires with long, thick fangs should be cautious when drinking from humans, in case their fangs pierce too deeply.  Similarly, vampires with ragged fangs should exercise caution in feeding as

 

Time up, pencils down.

Chapter Text

 

Dim sunlight was filtering through the curtains when Fiedler woke.  He saw the early morning cool of dawn, and thought for an instant that he was back in his own bed.  The illusion was perfect, except for the fact that these bedsheets were white, not navy blue.  He jolted upright and felt a twang in his shoulder.  Glancing down, he saw several layers of new bandages.  Otherwise, he was in the same clothes as the night before: shirt, trousers, dark blue socks.  He peered over the cliff of the bed to see his shoes.  As he swung himself down, Fiedler nearly tripped.  The bed was much higher than he was used to.

The real confusion only set in once he explored the large country house.  It was large, but its insides had all the trappings of a cozy cottage: pale drapes, flowers in vases, doilies, desks, big old wooden doors and a soft smell of ersatz coffee.  The kitchen was small in relation to the rest of the house.  When Fiedler peeked inside, he saw a kettle on the stove and the screen door to the yard propped open.  Little flecks of snow whispered into the house, bringing cool air.  He stood there for a time, but then his forehead began to feel cold and he retreated quietly.  Navigating the maze of rooms, he finally found the front door and his shoes.  Carefully, he slipped them on, knotted the laces, and pulled the door open.  Snowflakes swirled inside, onto the carpet.

“If you’re going to go out in to the cold, I might as well come with you,” came a voice.  Fiedler whirled around, mouth already forming a scream.  Mundt was leaning out of a door.  Behind him, Fiedler could see shelves upon shelves of books.  He was smiling like a concerned teacher.  It was disarming.

“Please don’t eat me,” the thought bypassed Fiedler’s filter for social protocol and emerged straight from his lips.  Memories were filling up his vision, as if he were underwater in a swimming pool and there was a leak in his goggles.  “I’m going to run away from you if you try.”

The same, confused but concerned smile.  “I can run faster,” he said.  “But if you come in the library,” he gestured to the room he was in, “I couldn’t risk getting blood all over the books.”

Numbly, Fiedler walked into Mundt’s room, his face burning.  He would escape, he promised himself, just as soon as Mundt wasn’t watching.  He had no problem believing that Mundt could run faster than he could, but if he had a big enough head start, Fiedler was sure he could lose the older man in the growing snowstorm.

The library was enormous.  It had several windows on one side, a fireplace in the other, a few buckets of sand, and hundreds and hundreds of books.  Mundt gestured for Fiedler to sit in one of the musty armchairs. 

“I hate seeing people like this,” Mundt remarked, sitting down opposite.  He crossed his legs, leaned back in his armchair, and touched his chin thoughtfully. 

“What do you mean?”

“You are like a rabbit.  You don’t fight back.  It is pathetic.  I hate seeing people with such remarkable potential beaten down this way.”

“Well, I suppose it doesn’t help to be harassed by vampires, does it?” Fiedler retorted. 

“That is better.”  There was a long silence.  “Leamas kept you like a rabbit.  I cannot understand why you continue to defend him.”

“He was kind to me,” Fiedler said.

“He kept you in the dark, exposed you to danger, and he kept you weak.  He did not teach you how to fend off vampire attacks, he did not teach you where to run when in danger, and he did not teach you how to fight.  He fed on you like you were a lamb, and you like him for this?”  Outrage poured from Mundt’s voice.

“So what?  You’ll do me any better?” Fiedler snapped.

“Of course!” Mundt exclaimed.  He sat down behind his desk and pulled one of the books from a shelf beside him.  “I don’t want to keep you weak.  I want to encourage your development.  For the Party, for humanity, et cetera.  Leamas would have you waste your talents under the radar, as a simple lawyer, but you have the potential to be something greater.  I want to help you up the ladder.”

Fiedler felt awkward still standing, and he didn’t quite understand what Mundt was saying, but he mustered up the courage to splutter, “What if I don’t want to be anything greater?  What if I don’t trust an individual who attacks and kidnaps me?”

“I regret my use of force,” Mundt said easily, leaning over the desk as he slid the book towards Fiedler.  It was a thin textbook. 

Fiedler muttered the title aloud.  “Vampiric Theory for the Newly Changed.”

“It is an old book, but it’s a very good resource for those with questions, and you have many.”

“Is this supposed to buy my compliance?” Fiedler asked through clenched teeth.

“When you put it like that, everything sounds like coercion.  I just want you to satisfy your curiosity as a demonstration that I mean you no harm. I read in your file that you enjoy learning.  You can read all my books, if you’d like.  They are on vampirism: history, vampire law, vampire biology.  I don’t think you’ll find such detailed research materials anywhere else.” 

Won’t get this material anywhere else.  Fiedler felt a bear trap snap shut around him.  He was trapped by the promise of knowledge.  Fiedler’s eyes widened, as did Mundt’s smile.  The vampire seemed to have guessed Fiedler’s train of thought, for he said suddenly “Like I said, it was all in your file,” he said.  “Only I can give you what you need.  What you need to ease that conscience of yours.”

“I’m not doing this for me!” Fiedler shouted.  Realizing his outburst, he muttered something under his breath.

“Of course not,” Mundt said.  His mouth was all teeth.

Jens knew now that he would not leave.  Not with Mundt’s library here.  “What do you want in return,” he asked, his voice hard and barely a question. 

“Your loyalty, and all that comes with it.  According to the law,” and here Mundt recited the clause from memory, “A human life, once selected, is the vampire’s to end at the time of their choosing.” Mundt looked Jens in the eyes, “But I promise that I will not kill you.”

“Deal,” Fiedler said immediately, and stuck out his hand.

And Jens Fiedler shook hands with the devil. 

 


 

Fiedler was sitting in the study, sideways in one of the armchairs as he always did now, a notebook nestled on his knees and a book held above his head to read.  Once he came to a noteworthy passage, he would sit up properly, take the note, then resume his relaxed position.  Mundt’s pen scratched consistently from the desk. The snowstorm had continued, forcing his to catch up on several reports. 

Mundt had encouraged learning, as well as Fiedler’s questions, so he now knew that Mundt was the doctor who sawed patients into pieces and sewed them up again to extract information.  Mundt had also confided that he was about to receive a promotion, was about to be privy to the bigger picture rather than being just a cog in the wheel of things. Fiedler had been nervous when Mundt had told him that he was an interrogator but had calmed slightly when Mundt had told him that the cutting up for him was not so much inflicting pain, but injecting his sedative, which lowered the prisoners’ inhibitions. Fiedler was further shocked when Mundt told him that as his apprentice of sorts, he expected Fiedler to become an interrogator as well, even though the young man had no sedative to speak of. “You’re smart, Fiedler.  I’m sure you don’t need it.”

Mundt had been clear and open about everything so far, which made Fiedler feel truly cared for.  He was trusted.  Alec had never trusted him with information.  They had always dodged around it, or Alec had told him that the knowledge was too dangerous for him.  Fiedler was slightly bitter at him for that. 

Fiedler turned the page of his book, and came across a very noteworthy passage.  He hummed slightly as he read it, then closed the book and turned to Mundt.  The older man had stopped scribbling, evidently anticipating a question.  He smiled kindly.

“I was just doing some reading about the different types of fangs, and I was wondering what kind yours were.  I didn’t get to see them when we first met.”

Mundt nodded. “Mine are long, curved and ragged.”

Fiedler raised an eyebrow at the last one.  “But I thought that only native desert and jungle tribes had that kind of fang.  Pardon me for saying so, but I don’t think you are native African or south Asian.”

Mundt nodded indulgently, smiling a little.  “I’m rather new at being a vampire,” he began, seating himself across from Fiedler in a worn old armchair.  “Many are hundreds of years old, but I only received my gift in 1942.  I was part of Rommel’s North African campaign and received gunshots here and here,” he pointed to his stomach and to his ribs, on the opposite side of his heart. 

Fiedler shifted uncomfortably in his seat. 

“You are Jewish, yes?  My allegiance during the war displeases you,” Mundt noted.  Fiedler was silent, although his insides still squirmed. Mundt sighed and leaned forward. “What you must understand is that we were all Nazis back then.”  He leaned backwards, into the chair, muttering, “I fought like a true patriot, and I told them to fight the good fight and to leave me behind.  I thought it would be the end, but much to my surprise, I woke up being tended to by a Bedouin clan of vampires.  They had given me their blood, and so I became one of them. I don’t know why they picked me.” He trailed off, nostalgic for the hot, dry wind that made wood crackle in the wind.  “I’ve often wondered why nomadic herders like the Bedouins have my ragged fangs.  They’re rather messy,” he said, smiling.  “But at least in my experience, the constant cutting of your own skin increases restorative production- it helps you stay alive in the trickiest of situations, and helps the food as well.”

Fiedler nodded, fascinated.  “Is that why you work for the Stasi?  Because you produce more restorative and sedative?”

Mundt clapped his hands.  “My God, Fiedler, you are the first person to figure it out so quickly!” he exclaimed in obvious pride.  He stood up, and beckoned for Fiedler to follow him out of the study and to the kitchen, where he produced a clear glass jar from one of the cupboards.  “It’s time for a practical lesson,” he said, stretching his mouth into a manic grin.  Something in his face moved, as if muscles behind his cheekbones were suddenly flexing.  From Mundt’s gums flashed a new set of white teeth, cutting through his own skin as they extended past his jawline.  They were curved down, like the teeth of a saber-toothed tiger.  However, the edge pressing up against Mundt’s cheeks and chin had a serrated edge, as if fishhooks had been lined up along it.

Mundt indicated the points of these ‘hooks’ with a finger.  “For most vampires, sedative only comes out of the tip.  But as you can see here,” Mundt moved the jar underneath his chin, “Mine comes from all points.  The end result is more sedative, and faster injection. Additionally, the ragged shape is also excellent for torture.”

Fiedler nodded in fascination as clear liquid dripped into the jar.  After several minutes, it was brimming with pale pink liquid- some of Mundt’s blood had dripped into the jar as well.  The vampire capped the thing and then, wincing, retracted his fangs.  He hurried over to the sink awkwardly, bending over it as if he were about to vomit. The fishhooks had torn gashes on both sides of his mouth as they had withdrawn.  As Fiedler watched, blood splashed into the tiny sink. 

After the bleeding had stopped, Mundt led Fiedler back into the reading room for a slightly more serious conversation. 

“Tomorrow, I need to be back in Berlin on urgent business.  I will trust you to stay at the house.”  His voice was slow, and his eyes were meaningful, as if silently warning Jens of the consequences of disobedience. 

Even so, Fiedler was tempted to use the day to run, but with no idea where he was and in the middle of winter, escape was tantamount to suicide.  And Mundt had all these books… “What sort of business, if I may ask?”

“Someone has challenged me to a duel over a matter of great importance.  It’s set for tomorrow.”

“Oh,” Jens said.  “But you have ragged fangs, so isn’t that unfair?”

Mundt, nodded, smiling wickedly.  “For some reason, that never stops them from trying.”

 


 

The next day, Fiedler awoke alone.  White piled up high against the windows and shone into the room.  He had the whole day to himself- it was almost like usual.

Jens spent a long while looking out of his window.  Snow was still coming down- if he left now, his tracks would be gone by the time Mundt came back.

 Hesitantly, he went out into the corridor and downstairs. 

Mundt had made breakfast for him- nothing much, just simple bread, butter and jam, but Jens ate it appreciatively.  On instinct, his eyes raked the rest of the kitchen as he got up.  There was a note on the side counter that read, in an almost unreadable scrawl:

Fiedler-

I am leaving soon.  There is bread on the table, and coffee on the stove.  I always drink mine black- there is no milk.  No tea either. 

A word from S to Y was crossed out, but then the note continued:

I shall be back after dark.  My library is yours.  Feel free to explore the house.

 

Jens checked the pot on the stove.  Coffee. It was so black that when he stuck a spoon into it, he couldn’t see the tip after a few centimeters.  And it was stone cold.  And there was no milk.

Cold coffee meant Mundt had been out for at least… six hours.  Fiedler checked the clock.  It read ten.  That meant Mundt must have left the house at five in the morning.  Mundt would be back before dark.  Assuming that the duel would take place in Berlin… and that it would last, say, two hours, that meant the drive there would be at least three hours, possibly up to six in this weather.

He had enough time to run.  There were countless little hamlets between here and Berlin.  Jens would probably find one before Mundt returned or he froze to death. But that was a lot of ifs. 

I’ll need clothes, Jens thought.  Fiedler got himself some water, then traipsed back upstairs.  Just as he reached the top, he remembered that there hadn’t been any winter clothes in any of the drawers or cupboards- until he got back to his flat, Fiedler only had two sets of clothes.

Stepping onto the landing, he saw a door standing open further down the hallway than his own room was.  He’d been in such a daze going downstairs that he hadn’t realized that the door to what must be Mundt’s room was open.

Mundt would definitely have warm clothes, Fiedler decided.  But even so, he was hesitant to just walk in, and he paused just at the door’s threshold.

His room smelled of fresh bread.  Fiedler saw that the bed, an affair too big for one but too small for two, was mussed- the pillow had a dent that looked like it had been punched, and the duvet was scrunched up on the right side.  Mundt must have gotten up from the side nearest the window then, Fiedler thought idly. Light filtered softly through the translucent white curtains and onto a dresser.

Jens stepped in.  The room was not what he’d expected.  There was half a glass of water on the bedside table, a thick stack of red-marked pages that seemed to be application drafts of some sort, and one of the dresser drawers wasn’t closed all the way. 

Moving over to it, Jens saw an old photo of four people standing in front of an enormous sand dune wearing swathes of cloth that covered everything but their hands and their faces.  Two of them were women, with long, thick and heavy braids spilling out from beneath sun hoods.  From what Fiedler could see from the black and white photograph, they all had dark skin and dark hair, save the middle man, who held a baby goat in his arms. With a start, he realized that it was Mundt, beaming up at him from underneath robes of his own.  His hair looked white, as did his teeth- he was obviously in mid laugh.  Fiedler raised one eyebrow and then looked away, glancing at what else the room might have of interest.  

There was a sock tucked behind the stack of drawers for some reason.  That made Jens grin.

Carefully, he tiptoed over to the cupboard and opened it.  There were two very soft suits of German make, and one slightly fancier one that looked foreign.  Shirts- did Mundt ever wear any that weren’t white?  Trousers… huh.  Suspenders. Jens shivered a little when he saw a shiny, black leather trenchcoat, and he pushed its hanger nervously aside with the tip of a finger.

Ah. There.  Oh, the coat was perfect: long, with waterproofing on the outside and fur lining the inside.  Fiedler pulled it out and felt down into the sleeves- he couldn’t believe it- the fur went the whole way.  Oh, and it was also snow white.  It was perfect to sneak away in.  Fiedler hugged it to his chest, looking around at Mundt’s room.  The walls were painted a pastel turquoise-blue.  It really was a nice place, he thought as he left, being sure not to close the door behind him.

He was almost at the front door when he remembered to go back for some books.  As he entered the library, he started making a mental checklist.  Obviously, he’d need Vampiric Theory for the Newly Changed, one or two on biology, maybe there would be one on the history of vampire science…

Before he knew it, Jens was nestled up in an armchair, white coat draped over Mundt’s vacant chair.  He’d found a book about vampire customs on Mundt’s usually-tidy desk, and the temptation had just been too much. 

 As he read the introduction, Fiedler kicked off the shoes he’d put on so that he could curl up properly.  Later, he thought, he’d leave later- this chapter looked interesting.

Vampires kill each other. Like humans, they can do it from emotion, but like animals, they may do it for food.  Whether this means they are closer to animals or humans is one of the major debating points for philosophers.  The respective arguments will be found in later chapters.

Just as for their human counterparts, dueling was a common practice for vampire nobles in centuries past.  In fact, due to vampires’ prolonged lifespan, the tradition remains alive today.  Even after the invention of firearms, fangs have remained the only weapons permitted.  The remaining rules are simple: the winner is either the one to pierce their opponent’s neck, successfully sedate the other vampire into unconsciousness, or kill them, depending on an agreed ruleset. 

A now outdated rule is that the victor has the right to drink the loser’s blood. By the renaissance, this rule had come to be associated with humans’ cannibalism, and while drinking vampire blood is essentially the same as drinking human blood, the stigma of drinking from another vampire caused this rule to gradually fall out of practice. 

Of course, the ruleset generally favors certain types of fangs:

The recently discovered ragged fang is generally banned from modern duels, as it has the advantage in almost any fight.  Its points secrete more sedative, and easily spill more blood than the more common fangs.  For this reason, ragged-fanged vampires are rarely challenged to duels, and in competitive dueling, are banned from certain tournaments. 

Jens was fascinated.  He glanced over at the fire that Mundt had thoughtfully lit before he’d left, checking that the coals were still hot.  There was barely a glimmer left in the hearth. Jens closed the book halfway, biting his lip.  If he were to go, it really should be now.

But was there anything to be lost by staying at Mundt’s?  The vampire had promised him everything he could dream of, and had sworn never to kill him.  Mundt wasn’t a cold machine- Jens had seen his room.  And the vampire had all these books.

With a sigh, Fiedler got up and got another log to lay in the fire.

 


 

Leamas was cold.  There was a foot of snow on the ground already, and even through his heavy boots and two layers of socks, his toes were starting to go numb.  He gritted his teeth, glancing over to where Smiley shuffled along beside him, his face hiding the same emotions under an impassive mask.

At least Mundt looked just as uncomfortable as Leamas felt.  As they approached each other for the formal declaration of a duel, Alec saw that the other vampire was shivering in his cream-white overcoat.  His pale skin was marked with red blotches from the cold that covered his cheeks and nose. Mundt's lips were so chapped and cracked that when he approached, Leamas could see that they bled.

As the enemies neared, Leamas made a disgusted noise.  “Dick move,” he chattered to Smiley, “to wear white.”  He shook his head.  “What an asshole.”

But for all that, Mundt stood tall, confident and proud, coat and scarf flapping in the wind.  A tiny bit of his golden hair peeked out from under his heavy hat.  Behind Mundt scurried his second, a round, rolling rat of a man who introduced himself with a sausage hand and the name  ‘Peters’.  Mundt himself did not deign to speak to them.

Miffed, Leamas did not speak to Peters at all, and retreated while he and Smiley agreed on the terms of the duel.

Eventually, Smiley trudged the ten paces back to Leamas in the snow, grunting in a low voice even over the howling wind, "I managed to negotiate it so that it's not a duel to the death, only unconsciousness.  Both Peters and I will assert the integrity of the duel. The stakes are as follows: if you win, Mundt will renew your license and give you Jens.  If Mundt wins, then you will work for him undercover as his mole in the Circus.  Name names.” Smiley lowered his voice dangerously. “That’s what I agreed with Peters. But he doesn’t know of Mundt’s… true loyalties.  I expect Mundt’s true demands will be much… steeper.  Do you accept?”

Leamas nodded numbly.  He was prepared to agree to anything to protect Jens.

Smiley looked as if he were about to be sick.  “Good luck,” he muttered, and turned to face Peters, who was looking their way.  George gave the round man a miserable thumbs up.

Shivering, Leamas shifted from one foot to another to keep limber.  He spun his arms around in circles and tried to keep warm.  In contrast, Mundt unbuttoned his long coat to reveal a snow-white shirt beneath. His bulky boots and trousers came off too, to be replaced by tight-fitting counterparts.  Amidst the thick flurries, he stretched like a cat and twisted from side to side like a snake.  After one final stretch, the two combatants were ready.

It was time.

They lined up back to back in the middle of the snowy clearing.  Smiley and Peters retreated like shadows into the circle of black trees.  They were black teeth ripping the sky, Leamas thought.  Damn was he cold.  Mundt must be worse though, surely.

“Ten paces!” called Peters. 

It’s time.

Leamas trudged away from Mundt.  Seven, eight, nine, ten…

“Turn!” it was Smiley’s turn to shout.

Leamas spun around, ready for anything.  Mundt was there- he could barely see the man through this snowstorm- dressed all in white as he was, but he was there, and looked to be the required twenty paces away.

“Begin!” both Smiley and Peters chorused. 

Something flashed in Mundt’s mouth- a smile with teeth suddenly dripping with blood, but the vampire didn’t move, merely began to trace a circle with his feet. Alec mimicked him, maintaining an equal distance between them.  Slowly, his fangs slid out of his gums.

Although it gave him an advantage when it came to mobility, Mundt was essentially naked in this weather.  He would be weak.  Technically, Leamas could even win if his opponent passed out from the cold.

“Jens is adjusting well to me,” came the slithery voice from across the circle.

It’s bait, some part of Alec thought, don’t listen to him.

“I only had him for one day when he pledged his absolute loyalty to me.”  Mundt continued treading a circle, but the radius was gradually decreasing.  Leamas wasn’t sure if it was he or the other vampire who was moving closer to the other. 

Over the roar of the wind and anger in his ears, it was difficult to concentrate, especially as his mind brought up images of all the things Mundt could have done to Jens. 

The snow was so thick, and the wind started to whistle and whittle at his eyes.  Mundt’s white garb all but disappeared in the blizzard.

“If he ever looked at you with half the admiration he gives me when I answer his questions…”  Mundt chuckled, “Then it is easy to see why you fell for him.”

Something in Leamas snapped.  He did not immediately lunge forward- he knew when he was being baited, even when it worked- but all thought of leaving Mundt to collapse from the cold left his head. He was going to sink his teeth into the fucker’s throat if it was the last thing he did.

They circled a few more times, Mundt’s quiet cackling oozing through the air.  All Leamas was waiting for was an opportunity.

Then, Mundt stumbled, evidently having tripped over a tree branch or rock buried under the snow.  Leamas’ eyes flashed.  Mundt was weak, from cold and from circumstance- it would be an easy victory.

In a flash, he darted forwards, using his considerable strength to leap across the now-tiny circle rather than wade through it.  Mundt was off balance, but as Leamas came soaring through the air, the vampire’s face turned up to smile at him, fangs and all. 

The worst part about being airborne, Leamas thought as he flashed down at Mundt, now quite certain that Mundt’s stumble had been a trap, is that it’s near impossible to change direction.

Mundt’s arms reached out, deftly grabbing Leamas’ wrists.  In one fluid motion, Mundt raised himself out of his crouch, pivoted, and levered Leamas’ still airborne body over his shoulder in a devastating judo throw. 

Leamas tried to roll out of Mundt’s range as he fell, but the snow cupped and cushioned him as he hit it, trapping him in a two-foot deep Leamas-shaped hole.

He had to get up.  Otherwise Mundt would-

A shoe rested on his chest.  Looking up it, Leamas discovered that it led to a man clad all in white with pale hair and ice-blue eyes.  Even as he registered the face as Mundt’s, the man knelt, jerked Leamas’ coat and shirt open, and leaned in as if to kiss him.

Leamas tried to snap his head away, but a cold hand held his neck firmly in place.

Mundt’s fangs sank deep into the slope between Leamas’ neck and shoulder with a hiss of triumph.

Alec let out a sharp gasp and froze.  He’d lost the duel.  He’d...

“My true demands are as follows,” Mundt murmured wetly into Leamas’ flesh.  “I demand the right to drink your blood, Leamas,” he paused, lips making a horrible sound over the wound, “And I demand the right to sedate you…” Having sunk his fangs in to their full depth, Mundt’s human teeth bit down and carved into Alec’s shoulder.

Leamas screamed- long and hard, the sound so painful in his own ears that he didn’t realize Mundt had unclenched his jaws.

The man snarled in a tantalizingly slow whisper, “I have the right to make you feel as powerless as Franz did when you killed him.  But will not let you escape into death, Leamas…”

All the air had leaked from Alec’s lungs now, and he had begun to feel an odd ticklish trickle ooze through him.  The sedative!  Leamas tried to pull away in anxiety, but for some reason, he could summon up neither the anxiety nor the strength.  After a brief instant, Leamas slumped into the snow, body utterly relaxed.  His head lolled and his eyes rolled lazily.  How could he have thought himself cold before? He wondered, even as a small smile of ecstasy crept onto his face.

“Yes,” Mundt crooned, “Sleep.  Sleep as I drink to your nightmares.”

The pull of blood resumed, and every time Mundt drew it in, Leamas’ vision became a little bit darker, and his body enjoyed the sensation of Mundt’s fangs a little bit more- God, he needed it- needed it- nnnhgh-

Dimly, he heard shouting, "Mundt!  Mundt! Stop!”, and then the dark figure over him was suddenly torn off.  The flesh of his shoulder tore, spurting blood all over the snow and all down Mundt’s purest whites.

“Peters! Hold him down!” that was Smiley’s voice. There came an answering grunt from the bulbous man who had Mundt’s hands pinned behind his back.

Suddenly, Smiley knelt over him.  Leamas had not the will to move- this feeling was just so lovely-

“Fucking shit,” Smiley breathed, checking the wounds on Leamas’ neck before pressing a cloth over them, “You’ve lost so much blood!  The bastard is a savage, an animal!” he screeched.  He slipped his hands under Leamas’ armpits to start dragging him back to the car.

“You’re a sick fucking cannibal!”  Smiley roared at Mundt.  Leamas thought he was delirious- Smiley had never raised his voice, not for anything- not even at Ann.  “We need to get you to a hospital,” Smiley continued to Alec in a frenzy.

“Herr Mundt! Herr- Mein Gott!” Peters looked aghast as he wrestled the vampire backwards and around so he could see why Smiley was making all the fuss.  “Mein Gott, Herr Mundt!

"It is my right,” Mundt snarled, still thrashing in Peters’ grip.  His eyes were so wide with fury and excitement that the whites showed all around his pale irises. 

“You’re sick,” repeated Smiley.  “Sick!

Smiley began to haul Leamas away, but in doing so, he caused a twinge of agony to shoot through Alec’s body.

He blacked out.

 

 


 

 

Jens heard the front door open slowly, heard the thump of boots being placed in the corner, heard the unzipping of a coat, then steps outside the library.  The door opened.  Jens tried to pretend he was too deeply buried in his book to notice.

The door opened, and Jens took it as his cue to look up.  Mundt looked pristine as usual, in a brand new white suit.  In one of the bags, Jens thought he saw other clothes, but those were stained with blood.  Mundt himself though looked pristine- there was not a scratch on him unless you counted how his lips were cracked from the cold.  Fiedler took it to mean that Mundt had won his duel. 

“Decided not to run off?” Mundt asked, tiredly, striding in and swinging several bags onto his desk.  Mundt gestured at the coat Jens had been going to take to escape.  Its white shell and fluffy interior was still over the back of a chair.  Fiedler burned, knowing that the best course of action was to tell Mundt the truth.

 “Herr Mundt.  Accept my apologies.  I promised my loyalty, and then I planned to run away.  But I am still here,” Jens said.  Mundt walked slowly towards him, carrying another bag.  There was a gleam in his eyes, and just as Mundt came uncomfortably close- to kill me- Fiedler closed his eyes. 

Fingers slipped through his hair, ruffling it slightly.  “Fiedler,” Mundt said, “Relax.  I assume you went through my room as well?” 

Jens’ eyes opened.  “I… yes.”

“Good.  Did you find the sock?”

Jens gaped. “Yes,” he said numbly, “it was behind the drawers.”

“Tell me more,” Mundt commanded briskly, and Jens gave a detailed description of the room.

Mundt beamed.

Jens gritted his teeth.  “So it was a test?  This whole thing was a test?”

“Of course,” Mundt said, “And you have passed magnificently.  I am glad.  Here,” he said, handing over the bag he’d held loosely in a forgotten hand. 

Shaking his head and unsure of whether to be angry, nervous, or proud, Jens took the bag. There was a coat in it, somehow warmer and fuzzier on the inside than even Mundt’s had been.

“My coat would not have fit you,” Mundt explained.  “And you like to go on walks.”

“How did you know I wouldn’t run away?  That I still won’t run away?”

Mundt shook his head, giving a bemused shrug at the same time.  “In time, you will rise to be my second.  That means I shall trust you with my life.”  He sat himself down behind the desk, putting the other bags on the ground and crossing one leg over the other knee.  “So, if I am going to trust you, I might as well start somewhere.”

 


 

They were in Mundt’s study again.  The snow had finally stopped, and Fiedler reckoned that they would be able to return to Berlin proper within the next few days.  Sighing, he leaned to the side, into a more comfortable position.  It was several moments before Fiedler realized that the scratching of Mundt’s pen had stopped.  Fiedler turned to look at him.

Mundt’s face looked like that of a corpse.  His face was devoid of emotion, and his eyes were cool without being painfully cold or intense.  It had been a week since Fiedler had arrived at the cottage.

“You’re hungry,” Jens said. 

“Yes.” Mundt’s voice was hoarse.  “Let’s go for a walk.”

Fiedler nodded slowly, and slipped a bookmark between his pages.  “Leamas told me that it’s dangerous if vampires don’t feed for more than a week,” he began, “And you haven’t fed on me since that first night.”

“Leamas has no self control,” Mundt growled, pulling on a heavy coat.  “And I had a sip of something that day I was away. But it was,” he inhaled a rasping breath, “Insufficient.” They were in the entrance hall now, and Fiedler was pulling on a scarf.  “There’s a bench by the pond,” Mundt said, pulling the door inwards.  Snow dust blew in even before Fiedler could make it out. Then, the two were standing on the doorstep.  They shuffled through the knee-deep snow and up a small incline to the top of a hill overlooking a small lake.  The ice was thick enough to skate on.  At the peak was an enormous mound of snow, which when Mundt brushed down with a naked hand revealed an old wooden bench. 

“Sit.”

Fiedler sat, removing his scarf with clumsy familiarity.  Vampires were always so commanding when they were hungry, he noticed. It was annoying.  Fiedler was surprised at that.  If he’d given his opinion on vampire behavior a month ago, he would have said it was frightening. 

The sun peaked out from behind a cloud, causing light to glisten off the frozen pond. After hours in the relative darkness of Mundt’s study, the brightness burned Fiedler’s eyes.  He closed them, welcoming the relative coolness.  “No sedative,” he said, remembering what he had said to Alec.  Even from his limited studies, Fiedler had gleaned that each vampire’s sedative could have a different effect.  From what he could remember about Mundt’s, it made him more susceptible to suggestion, which he most certainly did not want.

Fiedler heard a grunt of satisfaction from the vampire behind him.  “Such a clever young man,” Mundt chuckled.  He could practically hear Mundt’s unspoken, I chose you well

  “Are you hungry, or just content to salivate?”  Fiedler’s mouth was too quick for his reason to hold back the words.  Ever since he’d began learning from Mundt, he’d found his tongue sharpening and lashing out if he wasn’t careful.  Mundt had said that he was finally growing a spine.

When Mundt didn’t respond, Fiedler couldn’t help but add a quick, “Hurry up, it’s freezing out here.”

A knife plunged through the back of his shoulder.  Before Fiedler even had time to register Mundt’s fangs as anything other than something else in his body, the vampire jerked his head, pulverizing Fiedler’s flesh. 

G-nnNhH-auuUUUgHH!”  Fiedler screamed.  He doubted an amputation would hurt as much.  His breathing was shallow.  The pain continued, white hot, but consistent.  It’s not that bad, he thought, it could be worse-

And then it was.  Mundt’s lips had closed around the wound, and his human teeth were now chewing Fiedler’s skin- crushing it between the molars to release more blood.  Fiedler kicked, pushing himself further into the back of the bench.  Mundt twisted again, likely to get a better angle.  Fiedler cried out again, trying to pull away this time, but Mundt’s hands held him firmly.

“Heaven-“ Fiedler rasped.  His knuckles were white as he fought through the agony, above and below, he couldn’t do this once a week-

“Give me the damned sedative!” he shrieked at another gnashing of fangs and teeth.  He shivered at his own words, twitching again when he felt the first rush of Mundt’s venom.  The pain receded almost instantly, and Fiedler finally felt warm despite the winter snow piled around his boots.  He closed his eyes, leaning easily back into the bench.  See? He thought wearily, it could be worse.  He never even noticed the world fade to black. 

“Mmm?” he was aware that he was mumbling, and that there was something covering his face. One arm twinged, so he used the opposite hand to push it away from him.  White light flooded into his eyes as if it were gushing from a showerhead. He blinked profusely. 

“You should sleep more, you know,” came Mundt’s voice.  “You don’t want to reopen the cut.”  He was sitting in an armchair in the corner wearing reading glasses and frowning at a report.  The red pen in his hand stood out sharply against the whiteness burning through the window.

“Mehmn blehg…” Fiedler muttered, and he pulled the covers back over his head.  The sheets were white- so it wasn’t his own bed then.  The sheets smelled like a museum, like old cloth painstakingly taken care of and cleaned.  An institution all by itself.  It was warm, and so he slept.

 


 

 “It’s going to scar,” Mundt said, “But as long as you keep your shirt on, no one will be able to see it.”  Was that… a hint of regret in Mundt’s words?

“It’s like I was in the war,” Fiedler said sarcastically, forgetting completely about Mundt’s role in it.  The older vampire gave him a stern look and Fiedler lowered his eyes.  “My apologies.”  At those words, Mundt’s seriousness melted a fraction, and he asked, “Do you trust me?”

“That’s a very out-of-the-blue question,” Fiedler remarked, stalling until he could formulate a proper answer. 

“I need to make sure,” Mundt said.  “I would like to give you a job, an apprenticeship of sorts.  I am a doctor by training, you know.  But I need to know if I can trust you.  Trust you with all of my knowledge, and trust you to be truthful.”

Fiedler nodded slowly.  Did he trust Mundt?  Leamas hadn’t liked the former Nazi when they’d met before, but on the other hand, Mundt had been just as kind to him as Leamas had.  Then again, there was also the fact that Mundt was a former Nazi- not exactly Fiedler’s cup of tea. But, Mundt had held off feeding, had employed enormous self-control, and he had actually seemed to give Fiedler a choice in the matter.  Because Leamas had done somewhat the same in the beginning, Fiedler was unsure of which vampire was the better in the end.  And then he remembered Mundt’s books.  Leamas had always, always kept him in the dark. He’d lied about being British- he knew that now- so how much else had been just another falsity?  Fiedler had learned more about vampires and medicine in his few days with Mundt than he’d ever learned from Leamas.  He sighed.

“With all due respect, Mundt, you’re a vampire.  Does a sheep ever fully trust a wolf?”  Fiedler looked down to avoid Mundt’s stare.  “Even so, I think that I have more of a reason to trust you than I had with Leamas, at first.  You’ve trusted me with your knowledge, so I think I shall reciprocate.”

Mundt gave a small sigh of relief.  “Good,” he said finally.  “Pack up your things.  We leave for Berlin tomorrow.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Leamas and Smiley were in military-issued snow gear, white camouflage, cross-country skiing across the German countryside.  Mundt had a lodge somewhere near here… That was the latest intel from the Circus at any rate.  That’s where he would have taken Jens, he was sure.  Smiley was along for the ride as well, although he was really there to steal any useful intel from Mundt’s private residence more than anything.

Mundt had won the duel, yes, so Leamas had no right trying to free Jens.  But fuck that.  Mundt wanted to use Leamas as a mole to advance Britain’s own goals, but he was going to be damned if he got Jens trapped in all this secret business.  He had trusted no one else with his plans to free the boy except Smiley, whose heart was too much in the right place for anything but a go-for-broke rescue mission. 

Suddenly, Leamas raised his hand in a fist, signaling for them to stop.  “I think I see it,” he called to Smiley, pointing to a large mound of snow with windows and a driveway that had been mostly cleared. They extricated themselves from the skis and trudged down to the house.

“You brought lock picking equipment, didn’t you?”

“Oh no!” Leamas spat sarcastically.  “I’ve left the bag in Berlin!  We shall have to go back and get it!”  A moment’s pause, and then, “Of course I’ve bloody-well got the tools.”  They shuffled over to one of the ornamental windows, and Leamas withdrew several long metal rods from a bag slung under his shoulder and began to pick the weak window lock.  He got it after only two tries, which was incredible seeing as how numb the snow had made his fingers. 

The window creaked open, and they both tried to climb inside as quietly as possible. Then they were creeping down the corridors and poking their heads into every room.  Each was dark and cold.  They convened in the kitchen before breaking into the bedrooms, for which they would need lockpicks.  “Before we go waking our Nazi friend up,” Smiley said soberly, “You need to see this.” He opened a cupboard, revealing stacks of jars containing clear liquid.  Leamas took one and swooshed it around in the glass to test its viscosity. 

“It’s his sedative.”  Leamas’s eyebrows gnashed together like thunderclouds.  He shivered, remembering how it had made him moan in pleasure as he’d lain on the operating table after the duel.  “Gross.”

“I bet all my money that Jens has been ingesting this with every meal,” George said gently.

“And water too,” Leamas added bitterly, “It’s his modus operandi to win them over with serum first.”

“That’s why I wanted to warn you,” Smiley said, laying an arm on Leamas’ shoulder, “Even if he’s not taking the drug with his food anymore, Mundt will have ensured that he is loyal to him naturally as well.  He won’t be the same person you remember.”

“Jesus,” Leamas said, rubbing his forehead.  “let’s just break in already.”

They broke into the largest bedroom without a sound.  Moonlight fell through the darkness and lay over the bed, whose covers were pristine.  No one was there.  Leamas nearly swore, but restrained himself until all the rooms were confirmed to be empty. The library was sparkling clean, but the small guest bedroom looked broken in: the navy blue covers were rumpled and the cupboards were open.  The bed was the perfect size for one little underfed German boy.

Leamas was furious.  “He wanted us to find this,” he growled, throwing down his lockpicks with a clatter. 

Smiley gave him a sympathetic nod.  “Might as well look for intel while we’re here.”

They did, even though there was nothing to glean.  The library had a good collection of books on vampires, but nothing that Leamas himself did not also have back at his country house in England.  George made a disgusted noise.  “Should we even bother cleaning up after ourselves?” he asked finally. 

“Be on the safe side,” Leamas mumbled.  He was trying to process the fact that he might never be able to get Jens back. This had been his last hope- there was no more plan after this. 

The two thieves carefully cleaned up, making sure to re-lock the window as they left. No one would be back before the snow melted, they felt confident, so there was no need to go covering their tracks. 

“I’m sorry,” Smiley said as they strapped themselves back into their skis.  Leamas tried to shrug, but George caught the look on his face.  “Oh, Alec…”

Leamas pressed his head into the other man’s shoulder and sobbed.  “He did this for me, don’t you see?”  No one could see his tears all the way out here.  Not in Cold like this.

“If only I could go back to that day…” he muttered.  “I would never have killed him.”

 


 

 

 Berlin, June 1946

 

Alec was cleanup crew.  He supposed it had been too much of a hope that Germany would just pull its pieces back together by itself.  Although now that he looked at the situation more, he wasn’t sure that France, Britain, the US or the USSR were doing more than pulling Germany apart like two slices of cheese pizza.  Leamas was there to monitor the whole thing, make sure that Nazis received their dues, justice was upheld somewhat, and to generally assure the international population of Germany’s eventual improvement.  And there were some people that he had to watch.  Closely and carefully.  Officially they’d gotten off scot-free when it came to war crimes, but …. Well. 

He was tailing this man, Franz Weisshardt, a tall, proud young man with slicked back brown hair, tanned skin from weeks in the Mediterranean sun, and a temper like lightning.  Officially, Franz had never even been a Nazi, but Leamas’ employers knew the man was under Hans-Dieter Mundt’s thumb, and he had the body type that made the Wehrmacht uniform fit like a glove.  He’d killed too, supposedly.  But then, working for the sort of people Leamas was all too familiar with, that just came with the job description.

The Circus had a special policy for people like these.  One with no second chances or room for rulebreaking. 

Presently, they were touring the red light district, although all the real red lights had been blown out or repossessed.  This didn’t stop Franz from finding an extremely good romp.  Leamas, loath to go in himself and not really minding if he lost the tail for the rest of the night, waited patiently under a makeshift awning across the street.  The heat from the day was quickly evaporating, and Alec found himself glad that he was wearing a discreet overcoat and hat.  At some point, it began to rain, and Leamas lost himself in the insistent rap-a-tap splat of the rain knocking on the thin metal sheet above him.  He whistled away the time.  Surely Franz couldn’t be having sex for this long.

Thankfully, his man exited the store a few minutes later, and when the door swung open, sensuous music leaked out alongside a trickle of cigar smoke. Then, Franz began to sway down the road to a tune only he could hear.  Wondering briefly if the mark would even notice if he walked about a foot behind him, Leamas assumed a casual pace and remained parallel to Franz as he walked along the other side of the road. 

God, he lived for this; the slick and shiny road, the fading gold streetlights, the murmurs of people who lived their secret lives at night and made the shadows bulge and sink, but most of all, the chase. 

The mark shuffled down another block towards the bus stop.  There was only a woman sitting under the light, rain soaking her wool coat.  Leamas slowed down to cross the road, watching the two figures bathed in yellow converse. The smell of a pulled pork sandwich with… applesauce wafted towards him. For the first time in several months, Leamas wished he were human.  He wished he needed food that smelled as good. And then everything went wrong.

The Circus had a special policy for people like these.

 

In the statement to the police that she gave later, Andrea König described what happened in vivid, horrific detail.  She and Franz (she learned that was his name only later of course) had struck up a small conversation about the public transport system.  She was beginning to like him just a little, and he had started to lean in a little deeper when she choked on her sandwich.  She explained that she had been in a rush to swallow because Franz had asked her what she was doing out so late at night, and the chunk of apple had just gotten stuck.  Seeing her weakness, or maybe in an inebriated version of help, Franz had stumbled into her and pressed his body uncomfortably onto her breasts.  When questioned as to whether Franz’ misstep had been from drunkenness or from some lewd desire, Andrea was unsure to the point of bursting into tears. 

What happened next however, led the police to assume that it was perversion.  Franz had spun her around so that her face smacked into the lamp post and began to jerk himself up and down against her back. The verdict seemed clear until Andrea noted quietly that Franz had grabbed her around the base of her stomach rather than her genitals.  One police officer noted that the young man may have been trying to save Andrea’s life, but he was soon hushed by another who grunted that in the dark and through the haze of drink, Franz would not have been able to tell a stomach from a vagina in any case.  He had heaved her up and down, dislodging the apple and smashing her head into the pole. König had lost consciousness for several seconds and had slid to the floor, trying to regain her breath.  This meant that she hadn’t seen the terrible thing that attacked Franz.  She came to her senses minutes later, but by then, Franz’ body had already been dragged into the alleyway not twenty feet away.  She could hear the noises.

It was horrible, she said.  She’d stumbled up and walked over to where she heard them, Franz and the creature. She peered around the corner.

Black blood. That was her first impression.  In the dim light, it seemed that Franz was covered in slick black blood, like oil or tar.  It pooled on the floor, making a mirror of the ground that was already dark, wet and shiny.  Franz’ head was tilted to the side, eyes staring wide and empty into Andrea’s own. A creature nuzzled the man’s neck, and König shuddered as she saw Franz’ spinal column between a set of flashing teeth. No- that must have been her imagination.

She backed up, trying to look anywhere.  Bits of Franz were missing.  An ear. His hand was barely hanging onto his arm by the bone.  His knee was bent inside out. 

Unsurprisingly considering the circumstances, Andrea fled.  When police arrived on the scene an hour later however, they could find no trace of blood, only a body that could only be described as a ‘corpse’ in the sense that it had once been a living, breathing person.  Now it looked as if someone had detonated a bomb inside a man’s stomach.  But no blood. That’s how they knew it was the vampires.

Only two mysteries remain.  Who was the mysterious attacker?  Some ten years hence, new evidence smuggled away from the Circus by Mundt’s clever hands proved it to be one Alec Leamas.  And what of the other question?  Was the dead boy a rapist? Or was he just a young man trying to help?  Whether Franz Weisshardt was one or the other, only he ever knew.

 


 

“Don’t say that,” Smiley was muttering.  They were in Berlin.  Some bar. Leamas had lost count of how many drinks he’d had.  Lots. He’d just finished explaining Mundt’s elaborate, three-point, triple-checkmate revenge plan to George. 

“At the time, I knew for sure he was going to do something to her,” Leamas grunted.  “But now?  Jens is a good kid.  Franz could have been a good kid who got drunk and unlucky.  I always assumed that he was as bad as Mundt.”

“Franz was far gone by then-“

“And Jens?” Leamas was suddenly furious.  “How soon until he’s ‘gone’ too?”

In response, all Smiley could do was drain his glass.

 


 

Selieve was January 12, but it wasn’t until the twentieth that Mundt made his move.  It came in the form of a letter that morning, addressed to Smiley’s cover name while he was visiting Berlin. 

 

Dear Mr. Friedrich Keisel,

 

Herr Hans-Dieter Mundt hereby requests the pleasure of your company to celebrate the bounties of the selection system.  Please join us for a night of tasting, as well as sampling traditional foods.  Each guest is invited to bring one other person of similar character to the festivities.  Additionally, consider bringing several others who may be shared around among the guests so as to truly take advantage of this Selieve celebration.  The event will be held on Tuesday, the twenty fifth of January of this new year from sunset to sunrise.

 

Please respond below with your availability, as well as the names of those you plan to arrive with, and any dietary restrictions .

 

Below it was a loopy piece of calligraphy that Smiley could only assume was Mundt’s signature. Immediately, he took it to Leamas.

“That goddamn son of a bitch.”

 

Chapter Text

Officially, they worked for a branch of government that didn’t exist, to ensure economic stability in the eastern sectors of the city.  Unofficially, what they did was much, much more.  Mundt took Jens down to one of the floors below ground level on their very first day.  The floors above ground level, while they were Stasi offices, were mainly concerned with data chugging and accounting. Numbers and other more easily solved problems. 

They’d gotten out of the old elevator and stepped into a brightly lit corridor with cheap linoleum floor and walls that looked freshly painted but still secreted moisture like sweat.

“This is where I work,” Mundt said that first time. Jens had seen worse, and for a government building built so recently after the war, he hadn’t even seen much better. 

“It’s very clean,” he noted, to Mundt’s approval. 

“We retain cleaners who come twice a day.” Mundt slowed his pace for Fiedler to catch up to him.  “Now,” he began.  “Your job begins today.  Your knowledge of biology has been deemed sufficient enough to shadow me for the first week or so, then you will undergo your observation and hopefully become an interrogator yourself.”

Jens swallowed, but nodded.  After all, it wasn’t as if the people under the knife would be innocent now, would it?  “We begin immediately?” he asked.

Mundt nodded and opened up a door with a splayed hand. 

Jens expected a dim room with moisture dripping from the ceilings, grey concrete walls, the odor of piss.  He was surprised to find that it was just an office with a desk in the middle, completely clear save a few utensils, some bookshelves lining the walls stocked with heavily used manuals and encyclopedias and several lamps littered around.  There was also an armchair in the corner, acting as a miniature waiting area. 

As Fiedler had been looking around the room, Mundt had gone and sat at his desk and was rifling through the drawers.  He flourished a paper and took a pen from the desk. 

“Herr Mundt, I don’t understand…” Fiedler said, “I thought we were going to interrogate…?”

Mundt flashed Fiedler a swift smile and gestured for him to come watch.  “No. First rule is that there must be paperwork for everything.  Observe very closely as I fill out form V067.  You will have to file quite a lot of them in the future.”

Painstakingly, Mundt went through every part of the form, and Fiedler, with his lawyer’s mind, found it intellectually stimulating. They filled it out, and then Mundt pulled out another form, V003, and took Fiedler to a room on a floor even lower than Mundt’s office. 

This time, there was the stench of urine, the dim, single light, the hunched over prisoner in the steel chair that he had been expecting.  Following Mundt’s example, Jens ignored the softly groaning prisoner and followed the vampire to a table laid out with sharp tools.  More than half of them looked like kitchen utensils.  Mundt pointed to one that looked like a corkscrew and explained how to use it.  He did this with the rest of the tools, after which Fiedler felt more than a little sick. 

“You have the V003?”

Jens hummed in agreement.  He didn’t trust himself to open his mouth just right now. It was a thick form, about ten pages, and was a checklist of some sort for all the ‘operations’ that they could potentially perform on the prisoner.    

Mundt picked up a thin knife and strode towards the prisoner.  “The procedures when we use knives, the boxes are on the first two pages,” Mundt said, and stabbed the man in the thigh.  “Non lethal is first page, top half, and procedures where we leave the instrument in are marked with an asterisk.”

Catching on quickly despite his growing numbness, Fiedler asked, “R-right.  And this is a stab wound, not a slashing wound, so that would be procedure… Basic Piercing.”

Mundt looked giddy.  “Oh Jens, you’re quite possibly the best protégé I’ve ever had.”

Although Fiedler knew that glowing pride did not sit well with the room’s current mood, he nevertheless felt extremely warm and excited himself.  He sidled a little closer as Mundt began to demonstrate another ‘procedure’ with the same knife.

“Fiedler, don’t get blood on the form, or we’ll have to fill it out all over again,” Mundt warned as Jens approached.

About twenty minutes after they’d started, the prisoner was beginning to look like a pincushion.  He’d barely made a noise since they’d started too.

“Erm, Herr Mundt, I expected more… resistance from the prisoner.  Is it always like this when we try to extract a confession?”

Mundt gave a devilish smile when Jens said ‘we’. He’d won one way. 

“Of course.  But normally, we’d draw it out, use a wider variety of techniques.  Prisoners generally don’t stand more than a few knife wounds before dying, so I’ve had our man pump him full of my restorative for us. After all, we don’t want to waste perfectly good test subjects, do we?”  At this, Mundt tilted up the prisoner’s head so that Fiedler saw his face for the first time.  The man’s eyes were glazed and a foolish grin was fixed on his lips despite the blood covering him and the grime that filled in his wrinkles.  Full of sedative to bursting point, it would seem.

Mundt looked at him thoughtfully.  “I think that’ll be enough for today.  I’ll coach you through the theory of turning an agent once we clean up.”  And at that, Mundt went back to the instrument table and started to wash his hands in the sink.  Somehow, despite all the filth and gore oozing everywhere, his suit had remained miraculously clean.  Fiedler was surprised.  Even he had a few spatters on his trousers when Mundt had demonstrated a Basic Slash technique, and he’d been five feet away!  “When you get to be more advanced,” Mundt continued, “I’ll let you kill the prisoners so that you can get a feel for it, but right now, you’re too inexperienced,” Mundt said matter-of-factly as he strode up to Fiedler.  “One side of your collar is up,” he remarked in the same tone, and Fiedler flushed pink in embarrassment as he rushed to adjust it. 

The next day, Mundt was more inventive.  Using the space provided at the end of the checklist to log alternate methods, Fiedler recorded how Mundt slashed the bottoms of the prisoner’s feet, provided socks soaked in rubbing alcohol and used the influence created by his sedative to make the man walk around the room.  Even Mundt’s pain retardant couldn’t stop the man from whimpering with every step.  When Fiedler mentioned this, Mundt laughed.

“Without it, they scream so loud that you can barely think, let alone hear the confession!”

Fiedler forced an awkward smile onto his face.  He much preferred the other method Mundt had talked about the previous afternoon: psychological manipulation.  He was particularly interested in one scholar’s theory of cultivating a relationship with the captive in order to exploit it later on.  It seemed less painful, and it felt more like guiding the counterrevolutionary to understanding of the grand revolution. When he’d voiced this opinion to Mundt, the older man had ruffled Jen’s hair with a twinkle in his eye.  “I keep forgetting how optimistic you are at heart.” 

Each day, they returned to a nice urban flat on the very edge of the Soviet sector.  It had pale blue walls, caramel-coloured wooden shelves, several artfully framed photographs of Mundt and a man around Jens’ age who he learned was named ‘Franz’.  Fiedler had a whole room to himself, and although his bed was militarily stiff, the covers were thick and squishy; perfect for burying himself in.  He quite liked Mundt, when he thought about it. The only thing that irked him even slightly was that he could no longer write letters to...  But, in retrospect, there were more important things to do at this point. 

Every morning, Mundt’s driver would arrive to take them to work.  Mundt smoked, but wouldn’t have Fiedler cracking open one of their tinted windows in case of snipers.  Fiedler had thought it a joke for a few days, but then he saw Mundt kill someone with his teeth- feed on someone else- a British mole that reminded Fiedler eerily of Alec.  Since then, he had never doubted that the man would have enemies of that caliber. 

 


 

“I’ve told you everything,” the man mumbled in English.  His face was bright orange with blood in this light, save for where rivulets of sweat had carved their way through the grime.  His dark hair was plastered to his head, and all his clothes had been torn off.  Fiedler noted that he had Alec’s build almost exactly and wondered if Mundt had chosen the man deliberately. 

“Is that so?” Mundt’s voice changed when he talked to prisoners and the condemned.  It grew lower, hoarser, a menacing rasp that made Fiedler’s hair stand up on end.  Every time he heard it, he grew more relieved that it was not directed at him.

“God, I swear, I’ve told you everything!” the man’s voice broke, and it was as if a spell had ended.  Fiedler didn’t see anything of Alec in him anymore- Alec would never… be so weak! 

“On your life?” Mundt whispered, nestling his chin around the prisoner’s neck.  Fiedler knew the shift in tone instantly, from dangerous to starving.

“I swear on my life Mu-“  But the man never finished.  Blood spurted out onto the concrete floor as Mundt clutched the sides of the steel chair. He used it as leverage, seeming to force his entire face into the prisoner’s throat.  His fangs had gone all the way through.  Fiedler leapt back in alarm despite his foreknowledge of the outburst.  The prisoner’s mouth kept opening and closing like a fish, hacking up blood. Ferociously, Mundt bit and chewed and clamped onto the neck wound, a horrible guzzling, retching growl issuing from his throat.  Fiedler had backed into a corner, and hadn’t noticed that he’d begun to whine as he clutched his clipboard with a fresh V003 to his chest like a shield. 

Mundt shoved the chair sideways, toppling it.  He got down on his hands and knees, fangs bloody in the dim light and, using one of the standard issue procedure knives, slit the man from elbow to hip. Everything- everything spilled out, and all of a sudden, Jens found himself glad that his memory had become blissfully short.  He hid his face for a few minutes, but the noises he could not see made it more terrifying, and so Jens peeked, just the once once.  Mundt had forced his entire head into the corpse’s ribcage, gulping sounds still all too audible. 

Jens was crying.  He didn’t realize it until his eyes refocused on Mundt, who was standing in front of him, the tallest man in the world.  He hadn’t even noticed he’d slid down the wall.

Mundt’s face was wild and alive.  His hair, once so blond it could have been white, was red, as was everything in his face save his eyes.  Yet somehow, those eyes were the most terrifying of all.  They were Mundt’s regular twinkling blue, solidifying that he had not been overtaken by some animal hunger.  The same eyes that Jens might find bewitching while he watched his mentor read by the fire in their little apartment with its blue wallpaper. 

“I know I must look like a mess,” Mundt said unapologetically.  His shirt had been white once.  The tie, purchased dark blue, was dark, black even.  Nothing Jens saw was without a reddish tint.   

Jens said nothing, for all he knew was that he might be next. 

“I can see that my feeding distresses you.” Mundt’s tone was ever-so-slightly ashamed.  He’d taken pity on the boy.  “And I know I must look like a mess,” he repeated.  “So run along to my office and get me a fresh set of clothes.  Look in my drawers.”

Jens was still frozen.

“Unless you would like to stay and watch me eat?” 

Jens shook his head frantically, but for some reason, his legs didn’t work.

Mundt sighed and kneeled down, curling soaking red arms around his chest to help him up. 

Jens burst into tears again, and as Mundt helped him up, he buried his face in the vampire’s wet shirt.  His sobs were incomprehensible, but Mundt just pulled him closer, stroking his upper back gently.  His fingers crept up to the back of Jens’ neck and rested lightly on a vein for several seconds.

“Run along,” Mundt repeated quietly.  Jens pulled away, half of his face bright red from where it had touched the vampire.  But before he could escape Mundt’s grasp completely, the other man pulled Jens’ head up to his hungry blue eyes.

Pulse racing, Jens came to the conclusion that this must be a dream of some sort, so he closed his eyes to see if he would wake up. Mundt’s hot tongue slid up and down his face.

“Jens, I’m very fond of you,” came the low voice, “I don’t want you traumatized by my feeding behaviors, so would you kindly run along and fetch me some clothing…”

Jens found Mundt’s office easily enough.  It was very clean, and the drawers were organized perfectly, but his hands were shaking too hard to open them. Half-covered in blood, he stumbled and sat at Mundt’s desk quietly, trying not to think.  Succumbing to tears in a matter of minutes, sobbed into the wood and hugged himself.

It was the second time in his life that Fiedler had seen a man die so brutally, and it was not easy to see, nor remember.  “At least it’s not me,” Fiedler muttered over and over.  He meant it, sickening as it was.  He would rather it were anyone else than him.  Anyone else…

“Jens.” His name startled him, and he looked up.

In the boring light of the office room, Mundt’s bloody face and clothes looked nearly comical.

“Jens, I would never feed on you like that,” Mundt said ardently as the boy continued to weep. 

“You killed him!”

“I know.”

“You killed him like they died!  Like they died!”

At this, Mundt bit his lip and strode over.  “Stand.”  Fiedler did. Mundt hugged him again. 

“Like they died…”

“Shhh… It’s something you have to get used to around here.  Serving our country is not always easy, Jens.”  Mundt was frowning slightly. 

Jens continued to be a mess for half an hour, at which point Mundt finally took pity on him. 

“Go home. Take some spare clothes,” he handed Jens a set from the drawer, for he was half covered in blood from Mundt’s embrace, “Take a shower- it’s two doors down on the left- and I’ll call you a driver.”

Although the water could barely be considered warm, Jens stayed under the deluge for half an hour.  Eventually, his sobs faded, and his eyes fixed on the same mar in the concrete for the remainder of his shower. 

Mundt’s clothes were slightly too broad in the shoulder for him, and he had to roll up the trousers several times before they reached his ankles.  Mundt had also given him a comb, and feeling slightly more alive, Jens swept it back and parted his hair just how Mundt did every morning. His eyes were still red, but there was little he could do about it. 

Fiedler returned to Mundt’s office feeling slightly better.  It was easier to forget the violence when he wasn’t covered in blood. He opened the door without knocking and walked in on Mundt toweling down his hair with one hand while a pistol was aimed directly at Jens’ heart.  Mundt quickly put the gun down.

“Sorry,” he said, using both hands now to squeeze the blood from his hair.  “Knock next time- you gave me a fright.”

Fiedler nodded slowly, wide eyed. 

Mundt eventually gave up, resigning himself to having orange hair for the rest of the day.

“Mundt, you know me very well,” Fiedler began.  “Why did you have me watch you tear that man apart?”  He was trying to talk in the theoretical, as if he were writing a novel about someone who had seen something terrible.  It helped to believe, even for a few moments, that this wasn’t actually real life. 

“I need to make you used to it, and this is the only way.  I’m trying to help you past your early trauma so that you’ll feel comfortable in an occupation where you will have to deal out so much violence.” He took his head in his hand.  “I know I sound like I’m manipulating you somehow, but Jens- you have to understand how genuinely fond of you I am. I want nothing more than for you to be simply the best agent that State Security has to offer.”

And there Jens was again, glowing with pride after Mundt had made him witness a murder. At this point, Mundt noticed Fiedler’s hair.  He smiled. “No need to imitate me,” he said, ruffling Jens’ locks up.  “Be your own person.”

Alec had never said that to him. 

And just like that, Mundt had solidified his first victory.

 


 

 

Mundt came home that night to find Fiedler resting in the armchair, staring straight ahead.  “I’m sorry,” he began.  He truly meant it.  But if the young man was to become the best, he had to see the worst.  Or rather, get used to seeing the worst.  Become prepared to dothe worst.  “Tomorrow it will be easier, I promise.”

“And if I don’t want to?  If I don’t want to do this for my country?”

In an instant, Mundt was looming over him, one hand on each armrest, and eyes wide- livid. “Jens, please don not say things like this,” he rasped.

“Why not? I never thought I’d have to see a disembowelment again, and now you’re asking me-“

“I will have to slit your throat in this chair.”

That stopped Fiedler dead in his tracks.  “What?”

“People don’t just leave the Stasi when they are the head interrogator’s protégé.”  Mundt’s blue eyes were like lightning.  “Due to the selection process, I have full responsibility over every drop of blood in your body, meaning that if you become a liability by leaving, it is my duty to end your life.”  He locked eyes with Jens.  “A duty which I assure you, I will do with pleasure.”

Fiedler’s eyes were wide.

“I care for you, which is why I will make it quick.”

This couldn’t be happening.  Fiedler took an extended blink, and when his eyes reopened, Mundt’s fangs were out, and a sad look dulled his eyes.  Jens knew his only course of action was surrender.

“I’m sorry Herr Mundt.  I spoke out of turn.  Of course I shall continue my apprenticeship with you.  Forgive me for my emotional outbreak.  I am not used to this.”  Fiedler lowered his head forward, exposing the back of his neck in a gesture of submission.

Mundt sighed in relief.  “Thank you,” he muttered gravely.  Then, playfully, he slapped Jens’ cheek.  “But don not be so formal.  We’re friends!”

Fiedler nodded slowly, as if unsure whether or not to take Mundt at his word. 

“Speak candidly.  I can’t help you get out of this violence that you despise, but I can at least be of some comfort.”

Fiedler rubbed his temples.  “Does it get easier?”

“Yes.”

“Is this how your mentor taught you to kill? By making you watch so often that you began not to care that it was you holding the knife?”

“The war was my mentor,” Mundt said, shaking his head.  “For me, and my generation, killing comes naturally now.  It was an accident that the war inflicted on us. Even before I was turned, murder was as easy as it is now.”

Fiedler’s eyes dropped.  “Sorry.”

Mundt pulled a chair from the small kitchen table up beside Jens’ armchair to sit down in. 

“It’s just,” Fiedler began again, then paused.  His voice weakened.  “I’m very afraid Mundt.  I’m terrified.  Oh,” he cried out, “Don’t take it personally, but I hate vampires despite my own reasoning.  Your disease causes you to do nothing but mutilate and destroy!”  For years he’d been trying to make excuses, to rationalize any form of tolerance for them, but after the day’s events…

Mundt nodded sagely, as if conceding a well-earned point.  “May I take your hand a moment?” he asked.  Fiedler gave it easily, allowing Mundt to hold it between both of his own and lean back in his chair. 

“I doubt I’ll be able to change your mind with one conversation, but if it’s any consolation, vampires are generally in control of their own hunger in all cases save two.  Firstly, when they haven’t eaten in three weeks or more- but then what human could say the same if they’d been without food for three weeks?”

Fiedler shrugged.

“The second is the Nascent feeding.  It is the most brutal of all.

Jens corked an eyebrow in semi-recognition.  “I’ve never heard of it…”

“When a new vampire is ‘created’, they enter a frenzy where they must, at all costs drink at least seven pints of blood- it varies depending on the new vampire’s weight, but it’s generally enough to kill several humans.  If the vampires don’t drink enough within an hour or so, they die.” Jens’ eyes were wide as Mundt continued, “The vampires themselves are so lost in these moments, that very few have recollections of it.  During this phase, the vampire is almost invincible; impervious to pain and hungry enough to do anything, to anyone. When I was changed, I woke up in the middle of the desert all alone.  It’s a sacred site for the Bedouins, seven columns standing straight up in the sand.  I woke up there, and I realized that they had saved several other members of my group, had tied them to these enormous stakes, and I… how I must have gone around to each of them-“  Mundt shook his head.  “I know to you it must seem odd for me to have nightmares, but I have only one. I don’t remember how I killed my group, but every time I sleep I imagine a new way.  Only one thing is consistent: they all know it is me.  They beg.  ‘Hans, Hans, no!  Don’t do this!  Fight it Hans!’”  He gave a hollow laugh.  “You know the like.”  Mundt coughed.  “Besides those two times, I don’t believe vampirism is the problem.  The people allow themselves to take part in violence.  They choose.  Maybe they overdo it due to hunger, but it’s the person’s choice, not the vampire’s.”

“So all vampires, present company excluded, are just sadistic assholes?” Jens said to lighten the mood.  Mundt’s speech had given him much to think about, which had probably been the man’s goal all along.

“Nope,” Mundt said in an equally jovial tone, “I’d say I savor violence and gore even more than Leamas, and he particularly has a reputation for being twisted.”

Fiedler started at the mention of his old friend, but he shrugged it off.  “Well maybe vampirism creates some chemical imbalance which promotes violence-“

“And I would not want it any other way Jens!” The only way Jens was able to suppress a renewed outbreak of tears over what Mundt said next was the playful tone he said it in.  “After you left for my office, I ripped open the man’s ribcage and ate his heart!  And it was the most excitement I’d had in several months,” Mundt exclaimed, squeezing Jens’ hand enthusiastically. 

Jens turned green.  “Please don’t talk about it right now, it makes me uncomfortable.”

“Sorry,” Mundt said, “You seemed to be handling it so well.  You’re the first one that’s been able to form more than one coherent sentence twenty four hours after your first exposure to extreme violence.”

“Well, it’s not my first time, is it?” Fiedler said, almost cockily.  Mundt’s praise had completely reversed his nausea.

“No, I suppose not.  I can only hope that senseless cruelty will one day delight you as it delights me.”

“Not likely.”

“Don’t count on it,” Mundt replied with a knowing smile.

“I’d like my hand back now, thanks,” Fiedler said mildly, tugging it from between Mundt’s. Just as Leamas had undoubtedly done, Mundt felt the loss of that delectable pulse profoundly, and it took several seconds to restrain his primal urge to open Fiedler up from chin to groin.

“Legally, I could eat your entire hand,” he joked, standing up to prepare for bed, “and the government would be just fine with it.”

“Biting the hand that feeds you?” Fiedler added, laughing.  “And you call yourself fond of me!”

“More than you know, Jens,” Mundt said, “more than you know.”

 

Mundt had to coax Fiedler into the car the next morning with the promise of another book, this one a student’s thesis on the differences between human and vampire anatomy. Mundt even let him read part of it while he filled out the day’s forms.  Although he had countless questions about the research, Mundt had let slip that he was reaching for a promotion to deputy head of State Security. While Fiedler had found the notion baffling (for were Mundt to be successful then he, Jens, would most likely get whiplash from being catapulted to the top of the social ladder so quickly), he chose to remain quiet and let Mundt focus on doing his best work whenever possible. 

That day, Fiedler was allowed to handle Mundt’s tools for the first time.  Their test subject this time was a young lady with dark blonde hair.  Although her appearance had been expertly cultivated to divert attention and simulate weakness, Fiedler spotted certain steel in her eyes and jaw.

Mundt started her off.  Sick as it made him feel, Fiedler couldn’t help but marvel at the man’s expert handling of the knife and how easily he seemed to be able to get answers.

When he’d gotten the most essential information, he handed off the knife to Jens with an encouraging smile.  “Ask her about the American she met for dinner on Tuesday,” Mundt whispered as he passed. 

Fiedler felt cold as he walked around to face the woman.  She flicked her hair back defiantly.  “I’d like to ask you a few questions about a man you met for dinner earlier this week,” he recited, glad that there was a wooden table between them.

The woman grunted.  “I meet a lot of men.”  Her face was streaked with sweat and tears, but she had regained most of her composure.

“Tuesday night? The American,” Fiedler clarified.

“No idea what you’re talking about.”  Behind the lady, Mundt nodded to Fiedler, who took one of the woman’s pale hands in his own. He trembled at the thought of what he was about to do.

“I don’t like being lied to,” he began lightly enough, then carefully, he slipped the tip of the knife into the webbing between each of her fingers.  The worst part about it, Fiedler found, was that it was like cutting into a lemon.  A little hard at first, but soft in the middle. It squirted a little too, and he felt bitter and sour, like waxy citrus skin.  And then she screamed, and Fiedler realized that in fact the screaming was by far the worst.  When she struggled and tried to pull away, he held her hands firmly, not out of any conscious desire to increase her pain, but rather as a defensive reaction.  Mundt nodded encouragingly, giving Fiedler the strength to finish one hand’s worth of cuts.

“Is there anything you wish to say?” Fiedler demanded.  He hoped that she didn’t hear the shake in his voice. 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” she cried. Tears dripped down her face. Maybe, Jens thought, maybe she’s innocent…

“I was afraid you’d say that,” Fiedler said.  “Give me the other hand.”

“No!  No, I won’t let you!” she sobbed, reminding Jens of himself just the previous day.  For an instant, he hesitated, but then he caught Mundt’s eye.  If he got this over quickly, got her to tell him about the American, then he wouldn’t have to endure this any longer. 

Fiedler snatched her uninjured hand as she wailed. 

Eventually, she calmed so that Fiedler could speak over her.  He made a show of preparing the knife again to cut between her fingers.  She twitched. “I don’t know anything,” she whispered. “I-“

Fiedler flicked the knife down, piercing and pinning her hand to the table.

God, he thought, I never want to hear this sound again in my life, as long as I live.

The experience was only made worse as she tried to wrench her hand away.  Blood squirted, flicked onto Fiedler’s face by an invisible paintbrush.

Screaming, she tried to remove the knife with her free hand, but the cuts between her fingers burned when she moved, and she bent over the table, sobbing.

“The American? Tuesday.”

She was breathing hard.  “I… yes… I remember… He was a CIA spy!  I didn’t get a good look at him!  Please…” she blathered.

At this point, Mundt stood up, clapping for Jens.  “Bravo,” he said in a low voice.  This time, it didn’t make Jens feel so warm, only sick.  Mundt placed himself so that he was visibly back in the role of head interrogator, while Fiedler remained seated, staring at the woman.

“Did he have brown hair?”

“Yes,” came the moan.

“Tanned skin?”

“Yes,” she cried.

“Tall? Portly?”

“Yes!”

“Did he have a silver watch?”

A noise of assent muffled by tears and an elbow.

“And a coat made in Paris?”

“Yes…”

“So you saw the label?”

“Yes...”

Fiedler’s eyes widened in sudden realization, and he stared wide-eyed at Mundt.  Mundt’ caught the glance and gave a lazy smile.

“Wait,” Fiedler interjected.  “But earlier you said you didn’t get a good look at him.”

Terrified silence.  Not even a hoarse sob. 

“But you’ve also said that you saw his French label!” A bit of Fiedler’s nausea had been forgotten- this was just like his Law classes in cross-examination back at Humboldt University, familiar and, even in this setting, strangely comforting.

Mundt beamed at him, and for an instant, Jens felt his own happiness bubble.  Mundt’s hand moved in what Fiedler assumed was another clap, but it was too fast, his arm extended too far-

The knife that Jens had not seen made a tiny red line just beneath one of the woman’s ears.  Then the cut erupted in a fountain of spewing blood.

Fiedler screamed in alarm as Mundt darted down to place his mouth over her carotid artery.  Using the knife, he deftly cut the prisoner free from her chair before she registered what was happening.  She kicked once, twice, and then Fiedler saw the telltale signs that Mundt’s sedative had taken hold.  Her eyelids fluttered, her mouth opened slightly, and she went limp in Mundt’s arms. Unable to look away, Fiedler glanced up at Mundt’s face.  He could see in the woman’s neck, raised sections of skin, and knew that Mundt’s fangs must be beneath.  When she went limp however, Mundt fumbled with her body, a hand cupped a breast briefly and accidentally, and his mouth disengaged briefly with her skin.  As if from a kinked hose, blood sprayed everywhere. 

To Jens, it felt as if all of it had splattered onto him.  Everything was hot, sticky and made him ill.  Mundt let out a laugh, then resumed, latching back onto the wound. Paralyzed with shock, Fiedler could only watch as Mundt bore the woman, the innocent woman, who had said yes to anything which meant relief from her torment, down to the floor. 

All colour had drained from her face now, and Fiedler knew exactly when she passed from unconsciousness to death, for Mundt gave an excited shiver and his darting teeth became all the more vicious. Knowing a little more about vampires now, Fiedler believed that he was rushing to drink her dry before the blood congealed in her veins.  A sick way to imagine it, he supposed, but then again, the actual sight was far more gruesome. 

“The intestines are longer than I thought they would be,” Fiedler said.  He was barely keeping it together, and found that speaking helped distract him.  If he just imagined that Mundt was a cat and the woman was a ball of string…   

Kindly enough, Mundt left her face intact.  She had perfect skin.  Fiedler could see the top of her spinal cord through what remained of her neck, and like the prisoner the day before, Mundt had pulled open her ribcage and was dining on what he’d scooped out of it.  The stomach and liver he’d left intact.

“Could make a nice paté?” Fiedler asked numbly when he noticed that last fact. 

“Not much blood in it,” Mundt said into the carcass, “And cannibalism is frowned upon nowadays.”

“Huh,” Fiedler said, walking over to the table with all Mundt’s tools, selecting a bucket and promptly throwing up in it. 

Mundt looked up from the woman’s leg.  Blood dripped down his chin.  “Are you alright?” he asked, even as Jens retched twice more and tempted up another few ounces of sick. 

“No,” Jens muttered, spit dribbling down his face, “This is horrible.  I don’t know if I can do this every day, Mundt-“  From across the room, Fiedler heard a crunching, ripping noise and was glad that all he could see was the bottom of the bucket, however disgusting the ex-contents of his stomach was. 

“Catch.”

Fiedler turned on instinct, reaching to catch the ball-sized object.  It was wet and slimy.  A heart, still warm. 

“Hold it for me,” Mundt said, halting Jens’ immediate urge to drop it. 

Don’t cry, don’t cry…

A few minutes later, Mundt had his fill and stalked over to Fiedler.    “In our line of work, you’re going to have to get your hands dirty,” he began. “Crush it.”

Fiedler’s vision blurred, but Mundt gave him an encouraging nod, so that he was finally able to squish the organ between his hands. Blood leaked and splashed into Mundt’s cupped hands, and Jens pretended that it was a damp, slimy sponge.  He closed his eyes as his fingernails scraped the heart.

 

He looked like a murderer with his hands stained so red.  Fiedler had lost feeling in his body minutes ago, and stumbled forward at Mundt’s direction to wash his arms in the basin built into the wall. 

“The lesson here, is that sometimes, the prisoner really is innocent,” Mundt began.  He flashed Fiedler a brief smile.  “The way you find out is by… ‘cross examining’ I think is the law term, no?  She said she did not have a good look, so I asked her about specific details.  If she just says yes yes yes to stop the pain, then you have what the Americans call ‘a dud’.”

Fiedler arose like thunder from his stupor. “Then why did you kill her!?” he exploded.  He was furious!  If that had happened to him-

With a roar, Jens lunged at Mundt, grabbing him by the shoulders, nails viciously cutting into the other man’s shirt.  “How could you let this happen!  We’re supposed to be defending people from injustice- not torturing the innocent!” He smashed his elbow into Mundt’s cheekbone. Mundt did not even attempt to stop him. “How…?” he trailed off, as Mundt continued to gaze pityingly into his eyes.  Jens’ anger broke, and he found himself sobbing uncontrollably into Mundt’s chest for the second time.  “Why is it like this?” he whimpered.  “Why is nothing ever fair?” 

“She was guilty of other things.  She worked for French intelligence- she was an enemy of the people, regardless of if she dealt with the Americans.  But sometimes, you will have to judge whether someone truly is innocent, or if they’re acting.”

 

Fiedler was sitting in the armchair.  At home. Hah, he thought it was home now. It certainly was more calming to be here than in his empty apartment full of stale air and sour memories. 

“Is it easier?” Mundt asked, looking up from his work.  “To hurt?”

Fiedler bit his lip, wishing for once that he wouldn’t have to speak the truth.  “Yes.” It had been much easier to cut into the woman than he could ever have believed.  Like she had been like dough.  “And it makes me scared, Mundt,” he admitted, “Only monsters care less the more they see horrible things.”

And Mundt got up and came over to pat Jens on the back.  “Just because we do our job, it doesn’t make us monsters,” he said softly.  “We are the bravest in the country, because no one else has the courage to do what must be done.”

Jens sniffled.  “How can you believe that?”

Mundt gave him a sad smile, pulling him closer. “I don’t,” he said.  “But you do, and that’s all that matters.  You’re learning these things because you’re the only person who fervently believes in this revolution and will do whatever it takes for it to succeed.”

Fiedler blinked some tears from his eyes.  Why did Mundt have to be right about everything? 

“Doesn’t stop me from being scared,” he muttered. 

“It gets better, I promise.”

 


 

 

The next day, Mundt had a special treat.  “Today,” he said, leading Fiedler into the interrogation room, “I’ve brought a surprise for us.”

Fiedler was greeted by English in an uncouth accent. “Oh, fer fuck’s sake!  I’m to be a training-“ the rest of what the American spy said was lost in another spewage of swears. 

“Fiedler, meet Agent Hansen.”

Fiedler gave a brief nod to the man tied up in the chair.  To his surprise, the man returned the nod, but with a quiet, “Fuck yerself.”

“He’s a vampire.”

Immediately on guard, Fiedler didn’t realize he’d jumped back from the man until Hansen gave a short laugh.  “Scared are ya?  Well if you think you can get me to talk-“ the man was interrupted as a blade erupted from his shoulder.  Mundt had stabbed him from behind. 

“As you’ve surely read,” Mundt said nonchalantly, “Vampires have a higher pain tolerance than regular humans, as well as greater healing powers.  While most believe that this makes our job harder, I prefer to look at it on the bright side: it is more fun.”

Fiedler, over his initial shock, frowned at Hansen.  Slowly, Mundt twisted his knife, withdrawing it with an angry shout from the American.  Just as Mundt was about to raise his hand to deliver a crippling slash, Jens had an idea. It was mostly spiteful, which he wasn’t proud of, but he wanted to prove to the vampire that he could be just as competent as Mundt.

“Wait, sir. Can I try something?”

“Of course.” Mundt smiled like a wolf.

Jens took another steel chair from the wall and set it down in front of Hansen.  He took a knife, removed his jacket and undid one button of his shirt, the better to expose his neck.

Then he sat. “Mr. Hansen,” he began, “Have they fed you at all since you’ve arrived here?”

Suspicious, Hansen said nothing, so Mundt filled in, “No. It’s been three days since he’s last fed.”

“You must be hungry then,” Fiedler said, sitting palms up so that the prisoner could see his veins.  He rolled his neck, exposing the pulse.  Alec had said that it was impossible not to notice.  Perhaps he could use it to his advantage.

“I can wait here all day,” Fiedler lied, “but you still need to eat, and you won’t get food without answering just a few simple questions.”  He twiddled the knife idly in his hand as he let Hansen stew. 

“I can go for weeks without drinking a drop, human.” He snarled, exposing long, yellow fangs.

As if I don’t know, Fiedler thought callously.  He played with the knife a little more, then-

“Ahk-“ he hissed quietly.  He’d accidentally cut his finger on the blade.  It swelled up like an enormous bead.  Fiedler let it catch the light beautifully for an instant, enjoying how Hansen’s eyes had gone wide and unblinking, and then sighed. “What a pain.” Fiedler sucked the finger.

“Oh, fuck you.” Hansen spat.  Although he seemed as unshakably rude as ever, the way his eyes followed Fiedler’s hands hinted that he was teetering.  Fiedler was just about to offer him a deal that he couldn’t refuse when Mundt stepped in front of him. 

“Let him sit, Fiedler,” Mundt said.  “Let him consider.”  But his eyes said meet me outside.  I need to tell you something.

“Very well, Herr Mundt.”  Fiedler got up and followed the vampire out. 

The moment the door locked shut, Mundt stumbled against a wall, taking a long breath.

“Mundt?” Jens was alarmed.  “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing- just needed a moment.”  Fiedler was by no means a good interrogator yet, but even he could spot the lie.  Then, he noticed how Mundt’s eyes also followed his fingers, how their clear blue irises would sometimes dart up to his neck- Mundt’s cheeks were flushed with embarrassment even. 

“Christ Mundt, was I too good?” Jens said incredulously.

Mundt put one head in his hand, massaging his temple. “Jens, if you’d have gone any further with your plan of temptation, I would have…” he trailed off with a hard smile.

“Would have…?”

“Ripped your heart out of your chest and squeezed it dry?  A number of things.  No wonder Alec abused you so, a slave to temptation that he is!”

Fiedler was shocked. 

“Jesus Jens, I am salivating!” Mundt exclaimed.

“But… you weren’t this mad about my blood back in the country house,” Fiedler muttered, frowning. 

If it were possible, Mundt flushed an entire shade darker.  His lips tightened.  “Well, I suppose I was not as fond of you then as I am now.  Perhaps you’ve clouded my judgement.”

Fiedler had no clue what was happening, but was impatient to get back to the task on hand. 

“I really should get back in there soon or I’ll lose momentum.  Do you need…?”

Mundt looked aghast.  “No, no- don’t give me anything.  You’ve seen what happens when I get carried away.”  It took nearly visible effort, but at last Mundt said, “You go back in there and continue your plan.  Shout if anything goes wrong.  I don’t trust myself to be in there with you.  I can… wait.  Here. You go.”  Mundt got a bit choppy and fumbled with the keys to the door. Quite unlike him, Fiedler thought, reentering the interrogation room.

“Hungry?” he asked, going over to the table.  There were some disinfected syringes there that he knew how to use from his days at the blood bank.

“I’m always hungry,” Hansen growled. 

“Good.”

Chapter Text

The drive home that night was very quiet. Mundt stared with laser focus into the back of the driver’s head while Fiedler stared out the window.  It was only once the door to their home was safely locked behind them that Mundt spoke for the first time.

“Fiedler, I have to know.  Are you still in love with Alec Leamas?”

Jens was shocked.  He’d never actually figured out what Leamas was to him, but he knew most definitely- “No, Herr Mundt, I don’t believe so.  If I was once, then I’m not now.”  And that was the truth, he thought.  “Why are we talking about this?” he demanded, eyes narrowing.  “If you still think I’ll run away-“

“No,” Mundt said, turning away to hang up his coat. “It’s not about that.”  He turned.  “And what of your feelings towards me?” he demanded.  Jens smiled sharply at him for daring to probe the subject so inexpertly.

“Don’t you mean your feelings for me?” he asked, raising one eyebrow.  His smile turned from dangerous to deadly in an instant. 

“I enjoy it when you smile like that,” Mundt said. It made his stomach do a somersault.

“And I enjoy it when you answer my questions,” came the retort.  In the few moments between Fiedler’s elaboration, Mundt had time to reflect on how much Fiedler had grown.  Less than a month ago, he’d been meek, timid and submissive, whereas now that his sharp mind had been recognized, Fiedler’s tongue was as sharp and bold as Mundt’s fangs. 

“You must have thought I missed all the signs,” Fiedler said, his back ramrod straight.  “The eyes dilating, the increased rate of breath, your fear of getting so close that you won’t be able to control yourself- You must think I’m a fool.”

“I would never make so grave a mistake,” Mundt said casually. 

Jens was silent, waiting for a final admission.

“I like you,” Mundt gave. 

“You like me?”

“I love you,” Mundt amended, almost tripping over the words.

Silence. 

“You’re intelligent,” Mundt went on, “So smart that every time I look at you I could cut myself.  Every time I talk to you, I get stung by your wit, but I just can’t seem to close my mouth.  At the beginning of our acquaintance, I thought little of you; I was convinced that as a human, your place was so far below my own.  But it’s only been a few days, and I know that already, you’re a better man than I am.  And you? I’ve seen the way you act as well. Every time you read about something interesting, you look up to where I sit at my desk and grin.  I’ve forced you to watch horrendous things, and still you place your faith in me.”

Jens opened his mouth.  “I… trust you.  Completely. More than I ever trusted Alec. But I’ve never felt love towards anyone, I doubt.”

“Are love and trust not the same?”

For the first time, Jens was at a loss for words. He’d never even considered that possibility.  He was suddenly full of bubbling excitement.  Mundt had not said a word about his blood in his outburst- he’d won the vampire’s heart, so to speak, completely based on personality- which was the exact same way that Mundt had won Jens’.

“You’re an expert in everything you do,” Jens began. “You’ve been to places and seen things that I can’t even imagine.  You always have time to help me- you trust me to help you- you trust me to one day be as good an intelligence officer as you are, despite everything.”

“If respect is love,” Mundt said, “Then I’m in love with you.”

“And if trust is love,” Jens echoed back, “Then I’m in love with you as well.”

Mundt smiled faintly.  “So we’ve cleared up this potential misunderstanding?” he asked.

“Yes,” Fiedler replied, bubbling quietly.

The house seemed to press in a tiny bit- it was a little cozier.  The air warmed too, just a fraction.

They went about their business for the rest of the day as usual.  Jens pored over a book in Mundt’s study while the vampire filled out lengthy prisoner reports.  At night, their cook prepared sandwiches which they both wolfed down like workaholics during lunch hour, then Mundt joined Fiedler in reading until it was time for bed.  The two went into their separate bedrooms and fell asleep more easily than before. 

 


 

 

Quite by accident, Jens’ final exam and the service’s deadline to appoint a new deputy fell on the same Wednesday.  That Tuesday, they both returned in less than joyous moods.  Fiedler paced.  Although he knew that he would have only have to successfully perform a full interrogation without Mundt’s help, he felt uneasy.  Surely, the examiners would spring something on him, especially as he had a knack for getting the prisoners to talk without using any specialized tools. 

Mundt too seemed nervous.  His expressions were more rigid than usual, and he’d put his and Jens’ usual banter on hold.  Preoccupied as he was however, Jens didn’t notice Mundt’s anxiety until it was time for bed.

“Is something wrong?”

Mundt shot him a glance.  “Not necessarily,” he said.

“I’m taking the final test tomorrow," Fiedler said, rolling his eyes, "I can spot a lie by now, Mundt.”

A small smile.  “I’m worried about my application for Deputy of the Service.”

Fiedler raised his eyebrows.  He’d not believed that Mundt could ever be worried.  “I’m sure you’ll-“

“Don’t patronize me,” Mundt hissed.  “I’m frustrated at the moment- I don’t need you to play nice just because I’m your superior.”

Fiedler brushed it off with a roll of his eyes. “Trust me,” he began.  “You’re the most clever, wily officer the agency has. The only way you wouldn’t get the job would be if Comrade Mielke has a secret twin with his exact same qualifications.”  He laughed, and Mundt spun around.  There was a longing in his eyes. 

“And how about you?  Are you not nervous about your exam?”

“Of course I am! I’m terrible at biology!” Fiedler said, laughing nervously this time.

The electricity chose that moment to blow a fuse. All the lights went out, even those of the streetlights outside.  Mundt cursed. “Fiedler, do you know if we have any firewood?”

Jens sighed.  “We were supposed to get some this Friday.  I would run to the shops, but they’re probably all closed at this hour. Maybe-“

“There’s no use for it.  We shall have to make do with candles for light, and then we will both share my bed to conserve heat,” Mundt said, businesslike.

“Share a bed?” Jens looked mortified in the barely perceptible moonlight.

“It’s the most efficient way,” Mundt continued.

“Of getting into my pants?” Fiedler asked innocently.

Mundt made a noise of disgust, and Fiedler felt a rush of pride- camaraderie.  “Alright!” he said, without even a hint of apprehension.

           


           

Mundt cracked his first genuine grin of the night.  Fiedler had been relieved, yet also surprised to discover that Mundt wore matching baby blue striped pajama top and bottoms.  He felt awkward sleeping in an old shirt and boxers while lying next to that.  They were under several thick blankets, but Fiedler was still shivering.  At this point, Mundt had asked, “Fiedler, have you ever actually wanted to make love to someone else?”

A long, long silence, in which Jens realized that Mundt had seen the entire world in him.

“I’ve thought I wanted to, but never really.  Almost… with Leamas, but I caught myself just in time.  The thought of it does not interest me.”

Mundt nodded. “Then I expect we are much the same in that.”

“Why the sudden question- the sudden subject matter?”  Nervously, Jens snuggled deeper into the bed; there was a wall of pillows separating he and Mundt, to prevent their legs from touching accidentally in the night.

“Because,” and Mundt said this with the air of someone about to pull a gift from behind his back, “I wanted to propose something that we’d both understand a little more than intercourse.  A trust exercise.”

Fiedler raised an eyebrow in the dark, staring resolutely at the ceiling.  “What, now?” he asked incredulously.  When Mundt gave an affirmative noise, Jens protested, “Tomorrow, I have a life altering test-“

“Oh, you’ll pass with flying colours- I’m in no doubt.  Trust me.  And anyway! What were you going to do about the test, seeing as we have no power?”

Jens thought. Yes, without electricity, there was no light by which to study from, and trying to find a candle in all Mundt’s drawers in pitch blackness was out of the question.  In addition, Mundt was fond of him.  He in turn was also fond of Mundt, meaning of course that he’d trust him with his life.  And if this were really a trust exercise, or even some form of personal test of loyalty…  

“You’ve maneuvered me into a logical corner,” he conceded.

“In vampire culture, particularly in those countries that still possess vampire nobility and intermarriage of houses and all that nonsense, there is a ritual used to prove the devotion of one person to another.”

“I love knowledge.  Get to the point,” said Fiedler.

“Do you trust me?” Mundt asked in a tone full of mystique and ritual.

“Of course-“

Jens didn’t even notice Mundt move.  One moment they were swaddled in bed, the next, pillows were scattered on the floor and Jens found himself beneath a vampire. In the near-darkness, Fiedler felt hot blood drip onto his neck and knew that Mundt’s fangs must have emerged.  He was not pressed beneath the vampire’s body, but could feel Mundt’s body heat from mere inches away.  Then, something brushed against his throat. 

The sensation was akin to the point of a needle sliding across Jens’ neck: no pain or actual spilling of blood, just a tiny, tickling sensation running up and down in sensuous circles and coming to rest on his Adam’s apple.  The feeling it gave Fiedler was so strange that he couldn’t help but squirm.  His knee brushed up against Mundt’s inner thigh. 

“Careful,” he murmured, drawing his fangs up and behind Fiedler’s ear.  It tickled ridiculously.

“Mundt-“ Fiedler said.  He knew that if he twitched even the slightest bit, Mundt’s fangs would sever something vital.

“Trust me.”  To Fiedler, those words felt exactly like balancing on a cheese wire. He had never felt so awake.  Never so cold, never so warm.

Mundt pressed something into the palm of his hand.  Feeling its cool edge with his fingertips, Fiedler realized that Mundt had given him a short knife.  “Do it. I trust you,” he whispered. 

Slowly, Fiedler traced the point in mirror circles over Mundt’s own blood vessels.  His cheeks burned, his body flushed with power.  “Are you an angel?” Fiedler breathed, not really caring for comprehension nor an answer.  Mundt didn’t deign to respond either.  For several minutes, their razor-sharp points hovered across each others’ skin in distant ecstasy until the sun came, and the moon was no more.

           


 

 

The next day was his test, and as Mundt had said, with only a little prompting, Fiedler had passed with flying colours.

 


 

           

Only a few hours later, a memo arrived at the vampire’s office.  Someone Mundt knew, a certain human working with the ‘Soviet Friends’ had recommended him for the deputy position.  Consequently, Mundt had been promoted.

Fiedler was skimming the official appointment notice, remarking the penmanship.  “Who’s ‘Karla’?”

Mundt smiled like the wolf he was. “If I told you, I’d have to kill you.”

Fiedler rolled his eyes. “We’re on the same side now,” he complained. 

Mundt shrugged casually.  “Karla is quite simply the most dangerous being alive, now that Stalin’s body has cooled.”

Fiedler raised an eyebrow, surprised at Mundt’s disrespect for the departed leader.  “What makes him so?”

Mundt shrugged.  “He’s human,” he said, as if that would explain it. 

Fiedler’s eyebrow crept up even higher.  “Oh?”

“It’s easy to guess at a vampire’s thoughts.  Underlying all motivations is the primary desire to feed.”

“Humans need to eat-“

“It’s not the same.  There have been humans who fast for their religion- some that have even starved themselves to death just to prove a point.  But have you ever heard of a vampire who’s done the same?”

That stopped Fiedler’s argument cold.

“You never know with humans.  With vampires, at least one thing is certain, and that is their weakness.”

“You speak as if you aren’t a vampire yourself,” Fiedler hedged. 

Mundt gave a low snarl, fingers gripping his armrests like claws, and when he spoke, it was as if he were spitting venom.  “I didn’t ask to become a vampire.”  He paused, then, “You have no idea what it is like to be a slave to your own hunger.  It drives you mad until you lose all control and must eat.  That’s why new vampires go into a frenzy, devouring everything in their path: they haven’t fed in their entire lives.”

Fiedler shivered.  “Could we move on to a different subject,” he said, tactlessly. 

Mundt blinked, started, then looked away from the young man, guilt written plainly on his face.  “Yes.  I am sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“Well, how are you going to celebrate?”

Now it was Mundt’s turn to cock an eyebrow. “Celebrate?”

Rolling his eyes, Fiedler drawled, “Celebrate your promotion, obviously.”

Mundt’s eyes widened, and a grin split his face. “Well, I was about to tell you of something much like that, but it positively slipped my mind. I was thinking of having it on the twenty-fifth.”

Fiedler’s face darkened.  “That’s the day before-“

“Exactly.  I was hoping the festivities would help you keep your mind off of more serious matters.” Mundt looked Fiedler in the eyes. 

Sighing, Fiedler gave a smile and bit his lip in determination.  “You’re right, of course,” he said, “What sort of party are you thinking of?  Would it be your promotion party?  Or are you planning to give me an early birthday surprise?” He asked with a shrewd grin.

Mundt tilted his head from side to side, then asked, “Have you ever heard of a Selieve party?”

Chapter Text

“You know Mundt, I don’t think I’ve ever seen shoes so shiny.” 

They were outside the city limits, in an enormous mansion that Mundt had borrowed for the occasion, the kind with creamy white walls, mysterious gardens and gigantic French windows.  Fiedler was dressed in new, expensive clothes that probably cost more than his entire apartment. 

Mundt laughed. “If you’re impressed by the shoes, just wait until the real guests arrive.”

And then they did.  Fiedler gazed as, one by one, figures emerged from black government cars and taxis and even a party in a horse drawn carriage.  They paraded up the mansion steps, men in suits that were slimming and soft to look at, and women in all sorts of dresses that could have shown up any bride at her wedding.  He stared in well-concealed awe as Mundt showed them in one at a time, bowing like a gentlemen and kissing knuckles. 

“And this here is Bill Haydon,” Mundt said for Fiedler’s benefit, gesturing to a man of average height, with curly, boyish hair.  “In England, where he comes from, they don’t have a selection policy, and yet our Bill has never had any trouble finding a donor,” he trailed off, gesturing at the lady dressed all in red who was slung on Haydon’s arm.  She drew every single vampire’s eyes as she and Haydon strode into the main hall.  Fiedler studied her closely, confused.  Then he looked at Mundt.  His eyes had dilated ever so slightly, and his nostrils were flared.  Licking his lips, Mundt’s attention flickered back to Fiedler, and he explained, clearly trying to pull himself together. 

“She’s having her… cycle.  Any vampire with a sense of smell will be drooling.  I doubt she’ll last the night.”

Fiedler raised an eyebrow.  “Is it legal to kill her?” the question was blunt, and a few weeks ago, he wouldn’t have even contemplated asking it.  But he was stronger now. 

“Only if she’s been selected. Although, I’m sure she won’t mind severe hospitalization. Haydon has a way with people.”

Fiedler nodded very slowly, eyeing the back of Haydon’s head warily. 

“I wouldn’t worry about him,” Mundt reassured, “Especially since you will not be around our special guests at midnight.”

“I won’t be?” Jens raised one eyebrow.  Mundt had never kept anything from him.

“When the clock strikes twelve, vampires latch on to whichever human is closest and don’t let go.  I didn’t tell you in case you got yourself all worked up over it.  Forgive me.”

“Of course I forgive you.  What must I do at midnight?”

“Go upstairs, to the library.  Everything should calm down within twenty minutes or so.  I shall come get you.  Bill Haydon won’t get his British teeth into you, I can promise you that.”

Jens nodded seriously, then, a question occurring, he asked, “So this party isn’t just for East Germans?”  He found it odd, as he’d assumed it was a government big-wig get-together.

Mundt shrugged. “Selieve parties happen only in Communist States like ours, but it’s common practice to invite all the vampires in your acquaintance to the celebration, no matter where they live. Hence Haydon, et cetera, et cetera…”

All the vampires?” Jens asked.  What if-

“This time? Yes, all of them,” Mundt confirmed, flashing a wolfish grin over Fiedler’s shoulder. 

Jens turned around, his heart racing.  There, on the pale gravel, bathed in the light from a thousand panes of glass, two familiar figures were emerging from a taxi.  “Oh Mundt,” he breathed, “You really, really didn’t have to…”  He wasn’t sure if the feeling in his stomach was excitement or dread.  Both of them made him want to throw up.

“Should we give them the impression that we are, as they say, ‘chummy’?” Mundt suggested.

 


 

A stream of cars trickled into the countryside for the Selieve festivities. For miles and miles there was nothing but deep, dark greenery, until they cut out of the woods onto an extensive lawn.  At it’s end, a belle white mansion glittered enough to make the moon jealous.  Every window threw light onto the grass, and the sounds of music and laughter echoed agross the grounds even from hundreds of feet away.

In their non-descript taxi however, our two heroes pointedly did not take in the night’s beauty.

“Alright, let’s go over the plan,” Leamas repeated for the umpteenth time.  “Smiley, you’re on lookout; Nazi distraction duty in case Mundt gets suspicious.  I’ll get Jens alone.  Our meeting’ll probably be upstairs, so I’ll lower him out the window with the fabric,” he patted his ‘bulging’ stomach with a fierce grin, “whether he be willing or unconscious.  You,” he pointed at their driver seriously, “Will grab him and get him to the car, at which point I will go back downstairs, grab Smiley, and get the fuck out before anyone is the wiser.”

Smiley grunted in acknowledgement, as if he hadn’t already heard Leamas’ spiel fifteen times.

“We’re here,” the driver said in a low, quiet voice.  “Best of luck, sirs, and enjoy your evening.”  He tipped his cabby’s hat and winked.

Leamas grunted as he swung himself out of the seat.  His feet alighted on stony white gravel while twin crunches from behind told him that Smiley had also gotten out.  As the car drove away, Smiley gazed up at the scene. 

“He really went the whole nine yards, didn’t he?” Smiley asked.

The mansion was not only enormous, but grand.  It had a vaguely rectangular construction, but the myriad balconies and white marble columns and high-arching French windows that spilled light out onto the gurgling fountain in the middle of the lawn prevented the house from being blocky and anything but elegant.  On either side of the white mansion stretched gardens, that somehow managed to keep their beauty even in the depths of winter.  Evergreens were arranged artfully, with baubles and lights adorning them just enough to remain minimalistic and classy.

“What an arse,” Leamas murmured as they both strode up the driveway and to the ornately lit steps.  Their shoes made full clacking noises as they ascended the distance towards the grand oak door.  It swung open, revealing their hosts for the evening, backlit in mellow, yellow light. 

Fiedler, dressed in a crisp black suit, a white shirt and polished black shoes, stood to Mundt’s right, smiling.  Mundt in turn was wearing a jacket, vest, shirt and trousers of purest white, complimented with pale brown leather shoes.  They seemed to be joking with each other.  Fiedler’s expression was excited, and he was evidently explaining something animatedly to his companion.  Until that moment, Leamas had never known that Mundt had the capacity to smile in a non-gloating manner.   Theyounger man glanced down at his watch.

It was very expensive, Leamas noted, a clean, metallic, unclunky grey thing that seemed to magnify the cleanliness of both his and Mundt’s appearance.

The image was further made pristine in contrast with the rest of the party’s attendees.  Although most of them had worn white (Leamas was sure they had all done so on purpose), it had evidently changed over the course of the evening: In one corner, he saw Bill, another one who had been invited from Leamas’ “company” laughing outrageously, his entire cream-coloured jacket stained a dark red and sticking to his skin.  Vampires sported various spatters and drenches, many of which were aesthetic.  All it did was make Leamas’ stomach grumble.

Through an open doorway that led to an elaborate sitting room, Control (ergo “Mr. John Penfield Staunton” for the duration of the evening) was sitting deep in a couch, lighting a cigarette all alone.  He puffed out a plume of hot, coppery smoke as he swirled a thick glass of wine in the other hand.

“Well our pal Jens seems to be getting along rather well with Arse-Dieter Mundt,” Smiley whispered to him, obviously lowering himself to Alec’s own level of humour as to cheer him up.

Leamas turned glancing back at the pair.  They were laughing together.  Instantly, a tiny volcanic flare of fury erupted in Leamas’ chest and he looked away. “This is our one chance to get him out,” he muttered to Smiley, “So try not to stare.  We have no idea what kind of hold Mundt has on him.  Hell, he might even rat us out if he suspects-“

Smiley shushed him violently.  “I could say the same to you.  Don’t talk to him until the last possible moment.”

A crowd of vampire women in white ball gowns obscured the vicinity for several seconds, and the pair were forced to wait as if at a red light. 

When the flock of dresses passed, Leamas saw Jens standing not five feet away from him, eyes wide with surprise as he stared.

“Remember the plan,” Smiley warned with purposeful irony, then, trying to hide his shit-faced grin, he promptly left.

Alec stared at him.  He hadn’t seen the boy- no, the man, in months.  Not since that accident in the park.  Fiedler seemed more whole now, somehow.  He’d filled out a little, so that his skin no longer hung off his bones like a collapsed tent.  The dark clothes fit him well, and there was a sparkle in Fiedler’s eyes that Alec had seen only rarely.  There was something odd about those eyes now however.  They knew more, had seen more than one of Jens’ age should have to- even more than before, that is.  Leamas felt the breath leave him as Fiedler’s gaze brushed over him, seeming to analyze him more thoroughly than a border-crossing guard.  Not just anyone could look at a person like that, and know him so thoroughly.

Then, the moment was over.  Fiedler gave Leamas a tiny, acknowledging nod, and turned away, only to be swallowed by another wave of people.

Fighting down the rising lump in his throat, Alec glared around the room, searching for the punch table.

Damn.  He needed a drink.

 


 

 

At nine thirty sharp, the doorbell rang.  As it was Mundt’s party, he went to answer, pulling the enormous oak door inwards with a flourish.  “Ah!” he cried like a fairytale prince.  “The delegation from Röntgen has arrived.”  He ushered in the group comprised of people of all ages; judging by their looks, Leamas picked out a young jewish girl with mousy brown hair, an old babushka with a limp, a pair of twins with skin as dark as the night’s sky, a young married couple and a teenage boy with slicked back black hair. 

Fiedler, who had slunk into the entrance hall behind Munt like a shadow, went completely white.  His head snapped towards the newcomers, then to Mundt, who began to turn to him.  His eyes bulged and his mouth gaped, opening and closing like he was a fish out of water.  He fainted.

Mundt caught him in a deep swoop, cupping him from behind the shoulders with one arm. He leaned over Fiedler’s face and whispered a phrase.  “It’s alright.  I’ll take good care of her tonight.”  He was still smiling. 

The newcomers saw nothing of this, as Control had hobbled into the entrance, looking very much the old philanthropist.  Everyone, especially the children, crowded him for hugs.  Leamas, already baffled by Mundt and Jens’ interaction, was startled to see Control beaming from under his wrinkles and accepting these strangers’ love and affection.

“Ah, Alec,” he said finally, once the littlest girl had finished hugging his waist. “I’d like you to meet the students I’ve been sponsoring at the Röntgen Institute.” 

Leamas nodded, trying to spot Jens out of the corner of his eye, but it had appeared Mundt had already dragged him off.  His anxiety spiked.

Control began to introduce the students.  “This is Nadia,” the babushka gave him a wide, gap toothed grin, exposing two thick fangs, “This is Werner and Heidi,” the couple gave him abashed smiles, “Farid and Nimah” the twins gave shy twitches of the lips, “Charlie,” the teenager gave a casual wave, “And last of all-“

“Thank you so much Mr. Staunton!”  The youngest girl, the one with long brown braids was bouncing back and forwards on her heels.

“And this is my ward,” Control said finally, squatting down so that he was eye to eye with her, “little Miss Christa Fiedler.”

Oh, Leamas thought.  Oh. Oh, fuck. 

Chapter Text

The children were fawned over, while the adult students began to mingle with the other party guests.  Bill Haydon was the first to come over and kneel at Christa’s side. 

“Well aren’t you a pretty one!” he exclaimed, stroking one of her braids.  She smiled nervously, unsure of what was expected of her.   

“Back your grabby fingers off her,” snapped an older woman, brushing Haydon aside as if he weren’t there.  Alec recognized- Heavens, that was the Countess of Rostock, one of the oldest vampires in Germany.  In her white, frilly dress, she looked small, with wrinkles aplenty.   They did not sag however, and she looked not the least frail for someone nearly two hundred years old.  Haydon faded away almost immediately as if he’d been standing next to a poisonous snake, and the Countess led Christa to one of the sofas.  Alec went to sit down next to Control, who’d resumed sitting in the same armchair, and tried not to look like he was eavesdropping. Thankfully, there were a handful of other people in the living room.

“Is this your first time at a Selieve party?” the Countess asked gently.

A murmur from Christa.  Leamas thought it sounded affirmative.

“Ah, so you’ve never been to a Selieve ball.”

“Miss, I’ve never been to any ball.  This will be my first one.”  Christa did not sound as Alec had thought she would.  Although her voice was light and pretty like a sweet summer breeze, it had a snap to it that conveyed confidence.  His heart panged when he realized that both she and Jens had inherited it from their parents. 

The Countess laughed.  Leamas was surprised to find her usually strict tones blend into something grandmotherly.

“Oh, we’ll find you a wonderful partner for your first time.”

“Actually, I’d prefer to choose.  My brother is here, you see.”

“Ah, he is one of us?”

“No, but I saw him earlier.  Mr. Staunton says that he’s a friend of the host.  A Mister Mundt?” she probed. 

The Countess let out a sigh.  Leamas felt the same, and when the she next spoke, he heard her forced optimism.  “Ah, yes, yes.  I think I saw the young lad when we came in.  For the ball however, it is traditional to dance with one of our own. Only rarely does one accept to dance with a human, except when grander feelings are involved.”

“Well I am still human,” Christa countered lightly, “I still fear death, eat normal food, and sleep.  I just have a… more varied diet, is all.”

“My dear, may I see your fangs for a moment?” The Countess countered, her grandmotherly strictness sharpening into something a little too sweet. 

Leamas didn’t see it, as his high-backed armchair faced away from them and towards the fire, but he imagined Christa shrugging nonchalantly as her fangs popped out from between her lips.

“Ah,” the Countess sighed, and all seemed to be forgiven.  “Now these are proper fangs.  Classically short, well sharpened tips, and not too thick around the base. What finely-bred vampire turned you?”

“Mister Staunton,” she said, but it came out as “Mih-ah-Soh-ah.”  Leamas had to keep in a snort.  The Countess must have been holding her lips open to examine her fangs.

“Such excellent pedigree,” the Countess exclaimed, “Unlike our host, who earned his teeth from poorly bred savages,” she lamented.

“Ack-glark,” Christa said. 

Just then, the small orchestra in the other room stopped, and began tuning their instruments anew, each player practicing a different bar of music.

“It’s time,” the Countess said.  Hearing her hard shoes on the wooden floor, Leamas busied himself looking occupied as the Countess led the youngest Fiedler by the hand into the ballroom.

Leamas lingered a few minutes more, pondering what he had heard.  So.  Control had a lot to answer for, if he was right in his deductions. 

On his way out of the living room, he almost smashed into Jens.  The two collided, and each of them half had out a “Sorry” before they recognized each other. 

“Oh,” said Leamas.

“Well,” said Fiedler.

“Fancy meeting you in a place like this,” Leamas joked on reflex.

“Mhmm.”

“I didn’t know you had a sister.”

“Well,” repeated Fiedler, “That was sort of the point, wasn’t it.”

“Listen-“ Leamas began, spilling his words out, “We need to talk.”

“One might assume that we are,” Jens said, “already talking.”

“Not here.” He risked a glance left and right.  “In one of the rooms upstairs.  At half past midnight?”  Leamas was practically pleading.

After considering it for a long moment, Fiedler finally nodded.  “There’s a library upstairs.  I suppose you need to explain yourself, or you’ll never clear that Christian conscience of yours,” he said with a little smile.

“There are many things to say,” Leamas hedged.  “I-“

“Ah, I’ve seen you two have met,” came a smug, haughty voice.  Mundt had just emerged from a bathroom. 

Leamas’ breath caught in his throat.  This was the first time he’d seen Mundt up close since the duel, and the after-echoes of Mundt’s sedative hit him like a brick- like it was a drug he’d tried to go cold-turkey on.  As a vampire, he’d never been exposed to sedative, and so he hadn’t built up any sort of immunity whatsoever.  That only made it worse:

Alec’s stomach fluttered, and he felt a horrible urge to slide up against Mundt’s body with a bare neck.  Leamas’ shoulders unconsciously relaxed, as if his muscles remembered the utter pliability they’d had under Mundt’s firm hold…

Eugh, Leamas thought, barely managing to push aside the sexual fantasy starring Mundt in the lead role.  So this is what Haydon does too, I suppose.

Mundt flicked his head back, bouncing his golden curls away from his face and tilting his chin up so that he seemed to be looking down at Leamas.  It was an obscenely condescending gesture, and Alec had to fight down another bout of submissive attraction.

Son of a bitch knows exactly what’s going on in my head, Leamas thought.

“I would shake your hand,” Mundt said dryly, “but as you can see, I’ve just washed them.”  He waved them in front of Alec’s face, sprinkling water into his eyes.

Jens let out a whisper of a chuckle and covered his mouth. 

By the time Leamas had recovered from both the insult and the water, Mundt and Jens were already heading into the ballroom.

“Petty arse,” he muttered under his breath, and stalked after them.

 

Leamas plomped his rear firmly in one of the cushy chairs in a corner, fuming.  There was still little less than two hours to go until he could get Jens alone, and no good way of spending that time.  At this party, full of ladder climbers, vampire nobility and East Germans, he was definitely a persona non-grata, particularly after losing a duel to the party’s host.  No one would dance with him.  No one would so much as look at him, and if he was caught in the corner of their eye, they would turn their lips up as if at a bad smell.  Haydon, Prideaux and Smiley didn’t get those looks.  But of course they were all born vampires, weren’t they?

Idly, watching Mundt elegantly dip a vampire in the middle of the dance floor, Leamas wondered if he too felt an outcast.  He’d kept a small file on Mundt, so he knew the man had been turned some time during the War, and that he had ragged fangs.  Maybe that was worse, he supposed, but then again, all these wealthy, mighty vampires had shown up for his party, so they weren’t inclined to snub him.

Leamas felt snubbed himself.  No woman would come up to him to begin polite conversation, essentially ensuring that he would not dance.  He slouched in his chair, arms crossed over his chest in an adolescent hunch.  He gazed stonily down at the polished wooden floorboards.

“Erm,” came a hesitant voice, “Well, would you like to dance?”

 


  

Fiedler sipped from his wineglass as he watched several dancers swirl in the center of the room.  As he did so, several party guests turned slowly to glance at him out of the corners of their eyes.  Confused, Fiedler’s eyes flicked to Mundt, who stood a dozen feet away, talking to Mr. Staunton and another human, whose name Fiedler gathered to be some Karl Riemeck or other.  Mundt was also staring at him. 

Wondering why they were talking, Fiedler flashed Mundt a look and a corked eyebrow. In response, Mundt pointed to Riemeck behind the human’s back and then to his own neck, making exaggerated gulping motions which highlighted the veins in his throat.  Fiedler tilted his head back in a signal of understanding and promptly put his glass down on a nearby stool. 

He’d never been to a party so large before, and although he’d learned how to dance from his father, he’d only ever practiced a few times.  Not that it would matter anyway.  No one was going to ask the food to dance, he thought idly.  Mundt had already danced with everyone.  Absolutely everyone, in fact, and Fiedler had been content to watch him move elegantly across the floor for at least an hour.  Now that Mundt was busy socializing between dances however, Fiedler had become bored.

His gaze wandered over to the girl who’d been in his every thought for the past five years, who he’d always imagined in the corner of his eyes.  Jens blinked, eyes raising as he made out her figure on the other side of the room.

“She has a knack for breaking social protocol,” Mundt said, sliding up beside him. Fiedler almost jumped in surprise. He’d thought he was being discreet in his gaze.

After recovering, Fiedler said proudly, “She follows her heart, and to hell with whatever gets in her way.”

“She has spark.” Mundt nodded appreciatively, then more quietly, he said, “And I have much to learn from her.” A pause, and then Mundt extended a formal hand.  He tilted his head to the side and asked, “May I have this dance?”

Fiedler opened his mouth.  Then closed it, then opened it again.  He was trying desperately to come up with some witty, bantering way to say ‘why yes, of course’, but then his eyes widened as he realized that the corners of Mundt’s mouth were tight, his eyebrows were slightly closer than before, and that Mundt was tapping two fingers of his unused hand against his thigh.

“You’re nervous,” Fiedler said, astounded. 

No doubt about it, that was a blush. From Mundt.

“So, is that a no.”  Mundt stated it as a given.  His features glazed over, and he started to drop the offered hand.  Jens knew from experience that people could hide it well when their soul is being crushed.

Jens’ hand snapped out, grabbing Mundt’s wrist and bringing it back up, palm open.  He placed his free hand in Mundt’s grasp. “I would be honoured,” he said in earnest. 

“Don’t pity me.”

“It’s not pity. I was just surprised before was all. I didn’t expect you to go so far, out in the open like this.”

“It’s pity,” Mundt rumbled, “Despite all your excuses.”

Fiedler swatted at him lightly, but Mundt reacted instinctively and batted the hand away easily.  His usual air of composure and sleek danger had returned instantly.

“Stop whining and dance,” Fiedler said with a grin.

Mundt looked surprised, and numbly swung Fiedler out onto the dance floor.  As Jens got the dance back into his legs and arms after so many years, Mundt’s icy exterior melted into something quietly bemused.

“You know, Jens,” Mundt said, grinning foolishly, “I don’t think I’ve ever been dipped before.”

Fiedler, busy focusing on his footwork, managed to say, “Sorry, my father only taught me the man’s part.  I’d be a fumbling mess otherwise, making us both look like fools.”

“We’re both men.” Mundt stated.

“Nothing slips past you,” Jens managed, biting his lip in concentration, “that’s why you’ve been promoted.”

Mundt laughed, loud and wild, causing people to stare.  Causing even more people to stare than had been before.  A couple next to them even stopped dancing altogether.

Jens swung him into another dip, suddenly aware of how itchy his clothes were.  “I am prepared to drop you,” he said, leaning over Mundt.  “For calling undue attention to ourselves.  You know how I dislike audiences, but I am prepared to embarrass you in front of all your friends if you continue acting like a child.”  Although his voice was clinical, but Fiedler’s eyes were twinkling.

“Try me.” Mundt said, “Everyone is already watching.”

Fiedler pulled Mundt back up to his feet and spun him around to get a look at everyone. To his dismay, he found that Mundt was right.

“Just how taboo is this?” Fiedler inquired in a low voice.

“Apart from the fact that humans are too low in rank to dance with us?” Mundt began with a twitch of his lips, “It is very simple.  If someone asks for a dance with me, then they are lower in social rank. When I ask someone else to dance, they are of higher station.  It is an indication of respect in many ways.”

Jens’ spine tingled, remembering exactly what Mundt meant when he said respect.  His face started to warm up. 

“As this is my party,” Mundt went on, as if talking about the weather, “It is customary for everyone of importance to dance with the host, meaning that many of the highest ranking nobles have had to ask me for a dance, as I have been rather ‘busy’ with my guests and haven’t the time to go ask them.”

Jens tried his best to keep to the rhythm of the music, but he was getting hot and cold shivers.

“They asked me.  They respect me.”

A long moment, to contemplate.

“You asked me to dance,” said Jens, in a horrified, touched whisper.  As they spun, Fiedler reflected that this was the most meaningful gift he had received.  He enjoyed the night so thoroughly that he never even thought about tomorrow.

“I respect you more than all of them,” Mundt said.  And he grinned, having played a trick on the entire world.  “My last dance,” he finished in a low voice, “is the most important one.”

 


 

She looked as bright as the moon, and just as unabashed.  Her brown hair was neatly pulled back, and her hands rested easily on her hips.  Her dress flared up and out around her hips as if she were standing in an enormous upside-down flower.  She looked as if she were about to tell him off.

“Me?” Leamas asked, feeling something push in his chest, like a cracked egg overflowing. Someone wanted to dance with him. Someone thought he was worth dancing with.

“Well, yes of course!” she laughed.  Leamas noticed that, like her brother, Christa Fiedler had the propensity to begin her sentences with ‘Well’.  She grabbed Leamas by the hands, and pulled him to his feet. 

Surprised, he stumbled forwards, onto the dance floor.  Childishly, she took him by both hands, and skipped around him, making him dizzy.  Around them, dancers stepping in careful, complex patterns tried not to stare.

“I don’t know how to dance,” she called to him over the music.  “Papa never taught me!  But my first dance is the most important one, and I want to have it here, tonight.  And you’re the only one here who looks as nervous as I feel!” she giggled.  “We’ll look how we look together!”

Leamas just spun in her arms, dumbfounded by her perceptiveness. Christa’s twin braids whipped around behind her, surreptitiously smacking into one of the vampires behind them.  He let out an anxious laugh. 

Oh well, it was not as if his standing could become any worse.  They skipped and danced and hopped and twirled unprofessionally and childishly in every-which direction.  By the end of the song, a few strands of Christa’s hair fluffed out from her head in a wispy cloud, and a trickle of sweat ran down next to her ear. Even so, she was ready to boogie.

“Isn’t your brother here?  Wasn’t he your first dance?” Leamas asked, as a slower song started up and they swung off the dance floor.

“He’s here, but he’s being distant as usual, and someone once told me you become steadfast friends with the first person you dance with, so it’d be a shame wasting it on someone I already know.”

Leamas got the impression that she could list off a dozen different reasons, but he interrupted her.  “You’re a lot like him,” he muttered.

“Oh, you know Jens?” she inquired, her voice stumbling as if she’d lost her balance. 

“A good friend of mine, before he fell in with this Mundt character.”

“You too? Doesn’t anyone like Mundt?” Christa queried as they swung by the desert table.  They grabbed blood-dipped strawberries.  “Which one is he?” she asked, sinking her teeth in.

That was one thing Jens would squirm at.  He’d never been comfortable thinking about their food.  Leamas wondered how he and Christa had ever gotten along.

“Mundt’s that one over there.  In white. With the blond hair.  The one talking to Jens.”  Leamas turned away from the pair the instant he was done speaking. 

Christa squinted, then tilted her head back appreciatively.  “Wow,” she said.  “He’s quite handsome.”  She even licked her lips.

“Uh huh,” Leamas said, blandly.  So she and Jens weren’t completely the same after all.  He’d never be so overt.

“Oh, heavens,” Christa exclaimed under her breath, grabbing Leamas by the shoulder to spin him around.  “Look!”

She pointed to where Mundt was standing, and Alec’s jaw dropped.

Mundt was leading Jens onto the dance floor, the crowd parting in their wake.  The two looked striking- Mundt seemed to be the only one still wearing untarnished white, and beside him, clad in black, Fiedler stepped up confidently.

Leamas was clenching his teeth so hard that it hurt.  What the hell had Mundt done to him?

Mundt’s shadow dipped him easily, then spun him around into a swirling yin-yang that made onlookers dizzy.

“Why is everyone staring?” Christa whispered, “Granted, I’m jealous too, but..?”

Leamas just shook his head in disbelief.  What political move was Mundt pulling now, by snubbing all these people?  Was it a ploy to undermine the nobility in accordance with the principles of communism or some other ideological bullshit?  Mundt didn’t seem the ideological type though. He seemed the money type.  But where would be the profit in this?

Although Alec could not pull his eyes away from the pair’s hypnotic dance, he saw Christa’s shoulders heave in a sigh out of the corner of his eye.

“Papa never taught me how to dance,” she pouted. She wiggled her nose like a mouse, then muttered, “Lucky.”

Jens dipped Mundt one more time, and Leamas’ heart stopped.  The whole world slowed down, and Alec saw the two men’s faces clearly in the shimmering light. 

Jens was smiling.  Not sly, calculating or shy, but an ugly, full, real smile.  Some of his teeth were showing, and his lips seemed askew.  It made Alec feel as if his skeleton was a puppet, and someone was pulling back on strings around his ribs.

And Mundt…

Leamas had never seen anyone look so bubbly in their whole life.  Mundt’s eyes were wide, afraid to blink in case Jens vanished. His lips were parted ever so slightly, as if his flawless skin were sculpted from the same marble as the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. 

The expression verges on orgasmic, Leamas thought, nastily trying to spin a little humour into the situation, and I hate it.

The song ended, and the pair stumbled into the crowd like confidantes into bushes. 

“You alright?” Christa asked, as she pulled her eyes away from the dancefloor.

“Always,” Leamas said, itching his face, “Just have something in my eye.”

Christa hummed, touching a finger to her lip.  “So you know Mundt, huh?” she asked.

“Better than most,” Leamas replied, flicking something invisible off the end of a finger. “Why?”

“Well, I suppose Jens’ll try and introduce us the moment he’s done avoiding me, and I like to do my homework, especially on handsome young men.”

Alec raised an eyebrow.  “How old are you again?”

“Old enough,” she said, giving him a sly wink.  “I’m sixteen,” she said, rolling her eyes playfully.  Her eyes shifted into puppy-like cuteness.  “Please can I meet Mundt?  A real first-dance-partner would introduce us.”  Her eyebrows did something that made Leamas melt like a chocolate truffle up an armpit, and he finally conceded.  Although he was loath to let Mundt’s nasty little Nazi fingers anywhere near Christa, it would let him keep an eye on Jens, assuming the boy remained at Mundt’s heels like a shadow. 

The crowd was unbearably thick, so Christa suggested that they simply dance across the stage to get to the others. 

“I want to try twirling you, since I’m not sure I’m strong enough to dip you like Jens could,” she chattered.

Leamas remembering the pieces of her story he’d pieced together in Jens’ apartment, was in the mood to humour her.  Plus, it was not as if his social standing had a lot further to fall. 

“Very well,” he said, “But not too many of them.  I don’t want to reach our destination only to vomit all over Mundt’s lovely new shoes.”  Please, he thought pettily, whatever god makes everything that I say won’t happen come true, please be watching.

“Sure thing…” she laughed in bemusement.  “You know, I never even asked for your name!” 

Leamas thought about giving her his assumed name- the one written on his invitation. 

“The name’s Alec Leamas.”

“Ooo, how exotic,” she said, taking his hands and brutally swinging him across the floor. “French?”

He couldn’t help but laugh.  “You know, Jens said exactly the same thing.”

“Eugh,” she said,  “He’s always ahead of the competition, isn’t he.”  She cleared her throat significantly.  “Well, I suppose I’ll have to out-do him in sheer twirlage,” she mused, then led Leamas into a spin that lasted the whole forty feet to the end of the ballroom. 

“Bravo, Miss Fiedler!” called a voice, accompanied by loud claps.

Recognizing the voice as Mundt’s, Leamas, who felt vomit coming on, tried to aim his feet towards it.  Maybe, if he got the trajectory just right, he could get some sick on Mundt’s trousers too-

“Leamas,” came a gentle voice.  Firm and gentle hands eased him upright, and kept him from knocking Mundt over like a bowling pin.

He looked up to stare Jens full in the face.  “So when’s the wedding?” he asked, stupidly.  The world needed to stop spinning, and it needed to do so now

“Jens! It’s been ages!” 

Leamas regained enough of his senses to see Christa tackle-hug her brother.  A wave of pure discomfort shivered up Jens’ body in a wave, even as he started to return the hug. 

“Hello, Christa.”

“’Hello, Christa?’ You stop writing to me for a month and you come back with ‘He-llo Christa’?” There was no anger in her voice, only a genuine tease.  “It’s been so long!  How’s everything?  How’s school? How’s-“

Alec had seen machine guns fire less rapidly than her questions.  Jens shifted uncomfortably on his feet, evidently about to begin a lengthy explanation that began with ‘Well…’, but Leamas butted in. 

“The reason we came over here was to introduce Christa,” Jens jerked when he heard Alec use his sister’s name, “To our gracious host.”  Leamas gave Mundt his best, worst smile.

“This is Hans-Dieter Mundt.  He works for the government, has his fingers in all the right pies and up all the right asses,” Leamas drawled.

Christa couldn’t help herself.  She burst out laughing. 

To Alec’s annoyance, so did Mundt, skillfully turning Leamas’ weapon into nothing more than a harmless joke. 

Mundt extended a hand to Christa.  “Don’t worry,” he said in the kind of tone that makes mouths water.  “My hands are completely clean.”

Christa took it and shook vigorously.  Her eyes were wide, clearly mesmerized by his unfairly good looks.  Ugh, Leamas thought, fighting down another round of sedative after-echoes. He’d never really given it any thought, since they were mortal enemies and all, but if he hadn’t known that Mundt’s personality was worse than the stench of rotting fruit, that clean shaven, sharp jawline might be attractive.  Those cheekbones were certainly perfect, his skin as smooth as alabaster stone, and that mouth was temptingly red without even a drop of blood to dye it.  His hair was purest, pale gold, like it had been spun from divine wool, and it fell around his face in an attractive almost-curl. His eyes sparkled almost as much as his teeth.  They seemed pale sapphires, glittering with humour. 

God, Leamas realized, Mundt would have made Hitler cream himself.

As they broke the handshake, Christa had leaned back on her heels, head tilting like a curious puppy. Speculatively, she tapped a finger to the edge of her lip. 

“Very pleased to meet you,” she finally said.  Mundt seemed to have passed an inspection of some sort.

“And I you,” Mundt said smoothly.  “Jens has said very little of you to me.  For instance, he neglected to mention your beauty- that of a lovely new daffodil.”

Christa let out a harrumphing snort.  “A Narcissus?” she asked in mock outrage, “Do I watch myself all day without care or understanding for those around me?”

Jens stepped into the conversation.  “Christa,” he said seriously.  She turned to him, grinning her wide, daring grin. 

Then her eyes flicked down to his neck.

They were back up to his face almost an instant later, but it was too late.  Jens’ face had gone stony.

“Please excuse me a moment,” he said, curtly, then backed away, into the crowd.

“But I-!” Christa called after him.  Then she too looked sick.  “I have to go,” she said, looking wretched.  She pushed her way through the throng of people, going in the opposite direction.

A moment of silence followed, where Leamas and Mundt’s eyes met in silent conversation. Then they both moved in unison.  Leamas went after Jens, Mundt darted after Christa. 

Chapter Text

Leamas pushed through the crowd with the subtlety of a battering ram.  Even so, he was only quick enough to catch a glimpse of Jens’ shiny black shoe disappear around the corner of a door that led into a deserted observatory of sorts.  As Leamas entered it, he saw that all the walls were formed of large windows, allowing visitors to enjoy the beautiful snowy garden from the warmth of the mansion. There were several vampire couples already ensconced in comfy little armchairs, awaiting the strike of twelve. The vampires were all looking at the only human in the room, who’d sat down right in front of the window, cupping his face in his hands. 

“Hey,” Leamas whispered to him, as gently as he could, glancing warily over at the other vampires.  “We shouldn’t be here,” he muttered.  In the brightly-lit ballroom, no one would try anything yet, but in this darkened room…

For a few seconds, the only sound in the room was Jens’ frantic half-sobbing breaths. Then-

“It always has to be like that,” Fiedler murmured.  “She always-“

“Don’t worry kid,” Leamas said.  How close was it to midnight?  “Let’s talk about it outside, shall we?”  Leamas shot another look around the room.  There was no way he could fight off that many…

“Why-“

Leamas grabbed him by the hand and pulled him up.  “We need to go.”

“Wh-“

Alec dragged him through to a deserted side corridor.  It was narrow, and one side of it was made nearly completely from windows. Moonlight spilled in as Leamas dashed back to close the door they had just come from.

“You know the tradition?  At midnight?”

Jens’ eyes widened.  “What time is it?”

Leamas was just about to reply when a heavy chime sounded from a clock in some other room. A cold chill played the xylophone down his spine.

One chime…

“If someone comes in here and sees you untapped-“

Two

“What do we do?” Some of that old anxiety had returned to Jens’ voice. 

Three

“Let me drink from you.” Leamas said instantly.

“This has all been some ploy,” Jens said, instantly narrowing his eyes in suspicion.

Four

“I swear to God Jens, you’re licensed, which means anyone here can kill you!” Alec half shouted.

“Mundt-“

Five

“He fucking brought you here- that means he knows what might happen if someone gets their teeth in you-“

Six

Jens was quiet, eyebrows as hard as thunder. 

“I promise I won’t hurt you- If they see me drinking, they won’t muscle in, and I won’t share you with anyone-“

“Where’s Mundt?”

Seven

“I need to go upstairs.  Mundt said-“ Jens made to pull away and go towards the open end of the corridor.

Leamas caught him by the hand and tugged him back.  “There are vampires over there- There’s no fucking time!”

Eight

The doorknob Leamas had just locked twitched. 

“I…” Jens said. He looked like a scared rabbit.

Nine…

They both saw shadows approach the open doorway.  Many of them.  Shadows that could smell blood.

Ten…

“Do it,” Jens said, breath short.  “Like the opposite of that time in the park-“

Leamas nodded seriously, then gently leaned forward to place his lips on Jens’ cheek.

The lips moved downwards, gently coming to rest just under Jens’ jaw.  Leamas heard the young man make an uncomfortable noise.

“Gnhh…” 

He pressed Jens harder against the wall, trapping his hips with a carefully placed knee.

“Alec…”

Leamas’ neck curved like a snake, licking the best spot on Jens’ throat.  His tongue was hot, and Jens winced.

Eleven

“OUT OF MY WAY!” came a roar from the open doorway.  Something wrenched Leamas off of Jens, and flung him towards the closed end of the hallway. 

Twelve

The door Alec had locked burst open, and several vampires swarmed into the tiny corridor.  Fortunately, Leamas spun into them clumsily, holding them back for a few vital seconds. 

Jens’ forehead glistened with sweat as he turned to look at who had dashed in through the other entryway. 

“Did he hurt you?” Mundt asked.  His eyes were wide with a fury Fiedler had never seen.  His hair was plastered to one side of his head, and his fangs were halfway out, ready to tear anyone to pieces.

Jens gave a mute shake of the head, and Mundt nodded, grabbing his hand. 

“It’s midnight,” he called, pulling Jens forcibly from the hallway. 

“I know,” he replied weakly.

A small crowd of vampires had gathered at the other end by now, but Mundt bared his teeth, walking purposefully and pushing quickly past them.  At the sight of those ragged monsters, most vampires backed away an inch or two. 

One of them tried to grab Jens by the wrist, but Mundt moved like fluid lightning. There was a loud snap, a squeal, a retch, and suddenly one of their number was reeling back, clutching an arm that bent the wrong way.

“No one touches him,” Mundt snarled.  His eyes were wide with fury.  In them, the vampires recognized some terrible hunger, and they shrank away, even as Mundt continued, “He is mine.

Mundt glided back into the ballroom- where the stairs were.  Jens stumbled along behind him. 

“Won’t there be more of them?” he asked.

“They are distracted at the moment.”

And so the vampires were.  As they ran past, Jens saw knots of vampires clustered around.  They passed near one, and he nearly threw up.

The man, the one he vaguely remembered as Riemeck when they’d been introduced, was flailing in the center of a circle.  Each vampire pushed him around to the next, taking a deep sip as if the man were a communal pipe.  Then, as Riemeck struggled pathetically to break free, the inner circle of vampires broke in a frenzy.  They leapt on him, tearing his clothes off like animals and taking deep bites out of his chest.  The vampires clambered over each other like rats to get to the meat.  There was a terrible gurgle, and eventually someone ruptured the carotid artery, for blood suddenly fountained up ten feet in the air. A few vampires that had been gathered further back threw their hands in the air and opened their mouths, like children trying to catch rain.  Jens couldn’t see Riemeck now, only a horrible swarming mass.  The vampires looked like red maggots, wriggling over a corpse.

Christa was there too, smiling like a daffodil, a broken egg, in her white dress.  She  stood apart from the rest, but she held her hands over her head, squeezing something between them.  Red liquid dripped between the webbing of her fingers and splashed down into her mouth.  

Tearing free of Mundt’s grip, Jens retched, but there was nothing to vomit.  At least he wasn’t going to ruin those shiny black shoes.

“Come,” Mundt commanded.  There was an air of power in his voice, like a push of thunderclouds.  “Come!” he snarled, seizing Jens’ wrist again.

He wasn’t sure what came next, but suddenly there were stairs to stumble up, and-

Mundt had him pinned against a wall, much as Leamas had, but harder, with his hands clamped around Jens’ throat.  Mundt was wincing, as if it pained him to touch Jens’ skin.

“Stop sobbing,” Mundt said, “someone will hear.” 

Jens choked. He hadn’t realized, and he stopped his high-pitched whine within a few breaths.

Mundt didn’t remove himself from Jens’ person- his eyes were wild, dark and malicious. They were in a deserted corridor on the second floor, with the noise of the party muffled and distant.  Mundt glanced down in horror at his hands, which didn’t move.

“You’re hungry.” Jens said quietly.

As if Jens were burning, Mundt’s hands leapt quickly away even as his body remained pressed up against Fiedler’s.  Guilt was steeped in his eyes.

“I don’t want to be,” he growled.  The words made him seem younger, and Jens realized that he couldn’t have been that much older than himself, really.  Those blue eyes shone more than usual, glittering and wet. “I hate this-“

Jens took Mundt’s face in his two hands.

“Listen to me,” he said. 

The two were quiet. 

“I told you about what Alec did to me in the park.  Do you remember?”

“Of course.”

They were silent a moment longer as Jens wondered how he could make Mundt understand what he felt for him.

“You can, you know.”

Mundt lifted an eyebrow in genuine confusion.  “Can what?”

Jens smiled a genuine smile.  Only someone just like him wouldn’t know.

Leaning forward to embrace the vampire, Jens whispered quietly into his ear.

“I love you.”

Mundt’s breath fell away, and Jens continued, “The same way you love me.”

They held each other quietly for several minutes.

Then, someone screamed downstairs, and there came the sound of breaking glass and laughter.

“You should go. I’ll be fine here.  The library is right here,” Jens said finally. 

“I don’t want to go,” Mundt said into Jens’ shoulder. 

“I know,” Fiedler said, and extricated himself from between Mundt and the wall.  Then, he brushed the other man’s hair with his fingers so that it didn’t stick to his head.  “But you will, and that is why I feel my way for you.”

Mundt smiled then, and ditzily, the happiest man in the world walked back towards the stairs. 

Jens turned to face the library door, a heavy thing with a sign that read ‘do not enter’. Mundt had planned ahead well.  He pushed the door open, and walked inside.

Chapter Text

It was nearly half-past midnight, and Leamas was making his slow way up the stairs to the mostly-deserted second floor.  His feet were heavy with dread- what if Mundt had pulled Jens away to suck him dry? There had been a ferocious hunger in the German as he’d thrown Leamas away.  Had he experienced such intense desire himself, Alec doubted he could have restrained it.

The only way to be sure however, was to find the library.  After trying several rooms, he finally found one with a light shining from under the door.  Leamas sucked in an anxious breath, and pushed the door in.

Even though he'd known Haydon would be at this party, Leamas made the mistake of walking in without knocking.  He was mildly surprised to find a trio in the study: Jim Prideaux, taking a break from Czechoslovakia, was leaning on the desk. Cigarette smoke drifted about his face in slow twirls as he gazed passively down at Haydon.  Bill, in complete contrast, was on his knees between the third person, the woman he’d brought.  His head was beneath her dress, but Leamas had no trouble identifying him. Who else would be chuckling so heartily? The woman herself, shook on her feet, head tilted upwards in a wide, open, silent laugh of ecstasy.  Under her dress came Haydon’s moan, wet with blood, and the woman gave a shuddering shriek, lowering her hips further down into Bill’s lips.

“Leamas,” Prideaux said, turning and looking bored. “Care to join in a bit of voyeurism?” Another slow exhale of smoke leaked from his lips, curling around his face like a grey moustache. 

“Alec!”  Haydon removed himself, flicking the dress behind his head.  He looked like a strawberry had exploded in his face.  “If you’d like a taste, all you have to do is ask-“ he licked his lips.

“No, sorry, wrong room.” Leamas said gruffly, and shut the door.  He was not quick enough to muffle the sound of Haydon’s low animal growl, the woman’s increasingly desperate moans, and Prideaux’s dark and hungry chuckle.

He had more luck the next time, opening a dark ‘do not enter’ door onto a quiet scene.

Although the room clearly doubled as the owner’s library, small fire burned in a corner (because that wasn’t a safety hazard at all).  The only wall space that wasn’t covered floor to ceiling in books were the large, clear windows that looked out over the enchantingly-lit gardens.  A tree draped a transparent curtain of leaves that had somehow clung on all winter across the top of the opening, bathing the figure behind it in gently shifting moonlight.

“What a beautiful night,” Jens said.  His was skin blue as he peered out the glass.

“Don’t you wish we could just fly away on it?”  Alec replied, drawing nearer until he too was looking out on the snow-dusted gardens.  As he watched, the wind gusted in a spiral around the lawn, dancing and kicking up the ghost of a flurry.

Jens turned to him, tiny moons in his eyes.  “Oh,” he said, “It’s you.  I’d completely forgotten we were to meet.”  His eyes darted around nervously, but finally he answered Leamas’ question. “Well, I can’t fly away.  I have too much here.”

“Like taking care of your sister?”

Looking as if he’d had all the wind knocked out of him, Jens forced out a smile.  “My best kept secret wasn’t very well kept, it seems.”  He turned back to the window, huffing out a chuckle.  “Mundt knew about her too.  Yes, I must stay here for her.”

“Our countries are drawing lines.  Her Institute falls in West Germany.  There’s talk of a wall.  You could come with us.”

“It’s not just her, Alec.  My country needs me here.  Mundt needs me.”

Leamas let out a barely-audible curse, glaring at Fiedler’s reflection in the perfect glass. “We broke into the cottage he kept you in.  He was lacing all your food with his sedative,” Leamas’ voice raised in pitch, as if pleading, “He was addicting you to himself.  Making you more compliant.”

Fiedler glanced away from the window, gazing at all the books.  “I don’t care,” he muttered.

“Don’t you hear yourself-?”

Jens’ eyes snapped back to Leamas’.  “He’s offered me everything, not the least bit of which is knowledge I desperately need. Do you know why I suddenly wanted to become a doctor?  Took all those biology classes, even when I wasn’t fond of it?”

Nothing.

“I wanted… I wanted to cure her, Leamas.  Little Christa…”

Moonlight slid down Jens’ cheeks, and his face screwed up into something ugly and painful. Leamas didn’t want to hear this. He already knew enough to guess at the edges.

“My parents… didn’t die in a car crash.  At the hospital.  They always say that my parents would have died anyway, but…” He gave a hysterical laugh, unable to string the phrases together.  “They were badly hurt, and Christa… she was on the edge.  There was a British man at the hospital that night, a vampire.  A Mr. John Staunton,” Jens curled his lips bitterly at the name, “She calls him her guardian angel now, because he saved her life.”  And here, Alec thought he would avoid the words that followed.  But he didn’t.  Poor, brave little Jens.

“And I… I wish he hadn’t!  He should have let her die, rather than…”  He cleared his throat, but it didn’t stop his voice from breaking.  “Because of their restorative, vampires can heal from injuries that would kill a human.” He sounded like he was reciting a textbook. “My mother used her last words to tell Staunton to do it.  My father, like always, said nothing.”  Jens hugged himself.  “I love them so much.”  His eyes flashed back up to Leamas’.  “Staunton turned her into a vampire on the operating table.”

Leamas thought he was going to be sick.  Staunton- Control- what a horrible deed he had wrought.

“You know what newly-changed vampires do,” Jens muttered.  “I was there.  I saw it through the glass.  Christa doesn’t remember.  She doesn’t even know how they…” Jens choked, then tried again.  “She doesn’t remember.  I can’t forget.”

Leamas tried to break away from those eyes, those young eyes.

“They woke me up in the middle of the night, and dragged me to the hospital to watch my sister murder our parents and tear them to pieces.”

Leamas wanted to hug him, but knew Jens would just flinch.

“I had to… I need to undo it.”

You can’t, Leamas thought.  We want so terribly to be human again.  But we’ve tried everything and every test has been a failureThat’s why vampires detest humans, not because we’re superior, but because we’re jealous.

“I see the look in your eyes.  You don’t think it can be done,” accused Jens.  “But Mundt believes in me.  He’s the only one who’s treated me as an equal, all this time.  And he’s a bloody vampire!”

Leamas winced. He’d been using kid-gloves with Jens to protect him all that time ago.  How spectacularly that had misfired.  “I’m sorry,” he said honestly.  “I wanted a normal life for you, so I didn’t tell you anything.”

Fiedler gave another hysterical giggle.  “You know,” he said, “I actually believe you.  And… I even forgive you.”

“Come with me,” Alec pleaded, “I can give you everything you need.”

Jens gave him a pained look, as if he was seriously considering it and had found himself torn, agonizingly in two.  “I already joined the Stasi.  I can’t leave, or I’ll spend the rest of my life running.  And I don’t want to run.  I belong there.”

Leamas sucked in a breath.  “You passed their entrance examination?”

Again, Jens let loose that abashed laugh.  “With flying colours, or so Mundt says.”

“And what did it feel like, to torture another human being to the brink of sanity?” there was bitterness in Alec’s voice.  He could understand needing to kill in defence, and even assassination.  But torture… people didn’t survive torturers. Their bodies could heal, but there was always that glaze behind the eyes, the reluctance to open up, as if every word in casual conversation would be used against them.  If Jens had become one of them…

Fiedler’s eyes glittered, and his lips parted in a grin Alec had only ever seen on Mundt. “It’s what I was born for, Leamas.  Someone has to do the dirty work, and it might as well be someone who is truly skilled in it.” 

Leamas hadn’t thought he could get any colder.  Think again, ass, he told himself.

“Is there nothing I can do to convince you to run away with me and your sister?”

Jens shook his head solemnly.  Moonlight traced the curls of his lovely dark hair.

Leamas sighed, then without warning, he struck. 

He had been aiming for Jens’ temple, hoping for a quick, clean knockout.  In the darkness, Fiedler’s eyes widened and he managed to duck just in time.  Alec’s hand smashed into the window, shattering it.  Fuck.

“Hans!” screeched Fiedler, even as he dropped into a fighting stance.  Leamas swept his legs out from under him easily- the kid had less than a month’s practice.  Leamas had decades of bar and gun fights under his belt, as well as almost a foot in height.  He wrestled Jens to the floor, covering his mouth with a hand and tugging the boy’s arms behind his back. 

“You don’t know what’s good for you,” Alec muttered into his ear, preparing to knock Jens unconscious by forcefully ramming his head into one of the bookshelves. From there, it was just a matter of dangling him out the window for their driver, dumping the young German into the trunk, and driving away as fast as these tiny cars allowed.  Without anyone noticing.  About that- he thought, but never got to finish.

The door burst open, warm golden light from the chandelier backlit a lean figure clothed all in white.  “Let him go, Leamas,” snarled Mundt, stepping into the room like a wolf on the prowl: silent, graceful, and nearly invisible in the patches of moonlight. 

“You filthy manipulative snake,” spat Leamas, fangs extending in preparation for a fight.  There were worse things he could have called the ‘ex-Nazi’, but at the moment, he was so furious at how much he’d twisted Jens that he could think of nothing but the basics. 

Just then, a second, smaller figure peered out from around the side of the doorframe. Leamas recognized Christa’s swinging, twin braids.  “Jens?” she asked.  Alec knew that she was about sixteen, but she sounded like a worried ten-year-old.

“I’ll kill you,” Mundt rumbled.  “He is mine, mind, body and soul.  I made him what he’s always wanted to be.  I make his dreams come true.”

“Shut up! Just-“  Leamas’ brain was working faster than it had in his entire life. There was no way out of this clusterfuck- he couldn’t just toss Jens out of a second story window, and he sure as hell wouldn’t be able to fight Mundt: not only did the other vampire feed almost every other day, but he was a shade younger, and knew every dirty trick in Alec’s book.  And, if he got his hands on Jens, Mundt could hold his life hostage.  Leamas would be forced to surrender.

All the scenarios that played in front of Alec’s eyes ended with Jens being taken away once again, where he would be at Mundt’s mercy.

 

A human life, once selected, is the vampire’s to end at the time of their choosing.”

 

Leamas remembered the legal clause with a pang.  Jens would spend the rest of his life under Mundt’s control.  And, even if Mundt were killed, Jens would just be reassigned to another vampire.  No one ever escaped once selected.

Alec wanted to drop his head in his hands and curl up in a dark corner.  He wanted to fling himself out of the window and run away from all these problems. What was the State doing, playing with the life of a human so young?

And all of a sudden, Leamas’ entire world stood still.

Jens was human.

Mundt glided closer, fangs already dripping, ready to tear Leamas’ throat out.

“God forgive me,” Alec whispered, and bit down on Jens’ neck.

 

Vampirism is often likened to a disease.  Once the vampire injects the third type of serum their fangs produce, it attacks a human’s cells, devouring them faster than an immune system can fight back.  This was what Jens Fiedler had been originally interested in: boosting the immune system to deal with the invasion of vampiric cells.  However, with limited testability and insufficient technology, he was forced to set aside the idea.  In any case, it wouldn’t have reversedthe process once it was complete, only halt it while it was in process.

A vampire’s serum changes human cells into vampire ones.  Blood cells are usually first to go.  Vampiric cells are carried to the heart, and then to the brain in a matter of minutes, where they incite chemical changes that catalyze a vampire’s blood frenzy.  However, some changes take more time to manifest.  Interestingly, a vampire’s fangs are the last to appear, taking up to three weeks to grow and harden.  This is in part what makes a blood frenzy so messy: New vampires lack the proper, sharpened tools to make short work of human skin.

 

"Aghk!" Jens coughed into Leamas’ hand.  He retched, arms waving wildly.

Knowing that there was no time to lose, Alec ran, dropping Jens, only for Mundt to hold him up and steady.  “I’ll come back for you!” Leamas cried.  His eyes were already streaming.  God, what had he done?

Although she had no idea what was going on, at seeing her brother in distress, Christa had begun to cry as well.  Leamas grabbed her by the hand and tugged her away.

“No!  My brother!  That’s my brother back there!” she shrieked.  Alec scooped up her frail frame and took the stairs two at a time. “I can’t leave him!”

“Smiley!” he shouted, not caring that the entire ball had turned to watch him.  “We have to go!  Now!” 

“Alec? What-“

“NOW!”

 


 

 

“Jens, what’s wrong?” Mundt’s voice was wary as he turned back from the door where Leamas had disappeared.

“Bit me,” Fiedler moaned, head rolling as if he had a headache.  “Felt different…”

Mundt’s eyes widened, and instantly he was at Jens’ side.  In the moonlight, he seemed to become even paler.  Then his lips locked together like steel. 

“Come on Jens, come on!”  He punctuated each word with a shake of Jens’ shoulders.  “Stay with me!” 

“It’s… really, really hot, Mundt.  Do you think… maybe open a window?” Jen swayed on his feet. 

Mundt growled. “Nein, das kann nicht passieren!  Nicht nachdem wir so weit gekommen sind!”  He glanced back at the open door- no Leamas.  He cursed.  But at least there was no Christa.  “Stay here,” he ordered Jens, then ran for the door.

“OUT!  OUT! EVERYBODY GET OUT!  THERE’S A CHANGELING UP HERE!” Mundt boomed, leaning over the railings.  There was a moment of silence, confusion, and then everyone was screaming and running for the door.  Mundt dashed back into the library, locking the door behind him and dropping it into one pocket.  Seizing Jens by the shoulders again, he held him close, dragging him over to an armchair. 

His forehead was hot.  Frantically, Mundt wrapped him in blankets and pulled him closer to the fire.  This had been one of Jens’ theories- burn out the vampire venom like it was a fever.  Mundt tore books from the shelves to stoke the dying embers, tearing out pages, and shoving whole books into the fireplace.  He spun back to Jens. 

“Stay awake Jens,” he commanded.  “Stay awake! Fight it!  You’ve wanted to fight it all your life for damn’s sake, FIGHT IT!” 

“Mundt…I’m just…I’m just so… tired.”

“Jens please! Hold onto yourself,” he pleaded. Mundt pleaded.

“’M so sorry… I just need… to… sleep.  Love you,” Jens mumbled. 

A tear slid down Mundt’s face as Jens Fiedler, human, closed his eyes for the very last time.  His breath slowed, and eventually his fever eased.

Es tut mir Leid,”Mundt said, resting his head on the pile of blankets he’d covered the boy with.  “Yet another one I couldn’t save.” 

Something in the air shifted, and Mundt looked up. 

Jens was watching him, looking almost bored with his cow-brown eyes half closed. 

“I don’t suppose it would be any use telling you that you can fight it, Jens?” Mundt asked wryly.  His grey-blue eyes sparkled.

Fiedler didn’t respond.  He just stared, entranced by the audible thud in Mundt’s neck.  His mouth opened, saliva dripping from between his lips. Mundt instinctively stepped back as Jens swallowed and licked his lips.

“I put in all this work to get promoted and this is my reward?” his voice remained cheerful, playful even as he slid his feet into a fighting stance. 

Fiedler wriggled under the blankets, throwing them off in a few moments.

“I’ll kill you,” Mundt said, without inflection.  “It’s what you would have wanted.”

Jens leapt forward, fingers grasping for Mundt’s throat.  He swatted the boy down with ease and elbow, and Jens crumpled, seemingly unconscious.  Not waiting a moment, Mundt backed up, reaching into his jacket for the pistol he carried.  He could snap Jens’ neck, but that would require getting within tooth-reach. 

The form on the ground stirred slowly, then accelerated like a cockroach, crawling towards him on all fours.  Mundt took careful aim.  Jens looked up, eyes wild and hungry, teeth bared.

Franz?

Mundt’s first shot missed.  The second grazed Jens’ elbow, the third got him in the thigh, the fourth almost grazed an ear.  Then, just as Jens leaped off the ground for his neck, Mundt had the perfect shot. 

And…!

Pain flared just below Mundt’s Adam’s apple.  He let out a slow sigh, pistol dropping from nerveless fingers.  

The newest vampire jerked his head to the side, suddenly painting a patch of red on Mundt’s throat.  Arteries spattered, and his windpipe twisted like a drowning snake.  Mundt coughed, his chest issuing a horrible, disgusting noise, even as he sprayed Jens’s forehead with a mist of his blood.  His arm went up, palm feeling the mess of his neck and coming back red. 

Mundt tried to say something his mouth opening and closing, and he slid down the wall of books.

Blood is blood, and licking his lips, Jens screeched in triumph as he fell upon the dying man.

Chapter Text

 

Jens came to on a slick floor, sprawled on top of something warm.  One of his hands was stuck deep inside of something warm and wet, and his head rested atop something bone hard.  He felt… full.

This pillow is uncomfortable, he thought sluggishly and pushed himself up to see if there was a softer one nearby.  And that’s when he saw that the pillow was actually a man’s chest.  It was mangled and ripped and churned all up, and worst of all, it did not move.  He screamed, scrambling back over the floor, but his hand was stuck, to his horror, deep in the cavity of his ribs.  He tugged and tugged and strained and pulled, trying to free himself.  Eventually with a sickening squelch the limb came free, clutched around something, what, he dared not guess.

He slipped and slid on the bloody floor until his spine pushed into those of books.  There was nowhere to look that was not covered in blood, not his clothes, nor his hands.  His hands. What was in his hands?  Something soft and delicate and still warm.

Whose…?

Whose heart was this? 

Whose heart had he stolen?

Desperate, he pawed his way back to the mess of man.

The face, beautiful and serene even in death, had strong cheekbones, firm lips, and an unyielding chin.  Pale golden hair was plastered to the sides of his face with blood, staining most of it a shade of orange Jens had never seen before.  Blood mixed with drool trickled out of one side of his mouth- even as he’d died, he’d longed to taste his own blood.  There was barely a speck of white to the man’s clothes now.

He started to sob, and when he’d gathered enough breath, began to scream at the unfairness of the world.  Everything! 

Jens had always read in books and such that the gaze of the dead look different than that of the living, but as he stared into those eyes, they seemed just as piercing, cunning, and clever as they had been in life.  They even seemed to follow him.

He’d stolen Mundt’s heart.

Using both hands, Jens pushed it at the hole it had come from.

“Take it back!” Jens was screaming, tears streaming, but the heart wouldn’t fit. “TAKE IT BACK!” 

Who had done this?

Who had done this?

His emotions had been hard at work, blanking out reason, but Jens knew. 

He knew exactly who had done this.

 

Something popped and crackled behind him, and he seized upon the opportunity to look away. The fire roared, belching from the great.  Books had been piled into it haphazardly, providing a bridge for it to cross onto the carpet and wooden floor.  Flames licked at other books, slowly at first, then viciously, as if the fire had just discovered that they were edible.

He had to get out.  Jens’ eyes flicked to the door.  Good. The fire hadn’t gotten there yet. Mundt gazed at him with fond eyes. I can’t leave him here, Jens realized.  He crawled towards him. 

He hooked his arms under Mundt’s armpits and dragged.  He was heavy.  They managed to get to the door, but it was locked.  Jens screamed in frustration, head snapping every which way to look for a key.  His hands scrambled for Mundt’s soaked pockets.  There!  The key was slippery between his bloody fingers, but Jens heard the lock click and they managed to clear the room just as the fire reached the bookshelves nearest the door.  Jens’ forehead burned and dripped sweat.  Down the corridor the pair went, but halfway down the stairs, Jens tripped, and Mundt’s body rolled down them with horrible thuds.  “I’m sorry!” Jens sobbed, crawling down the remaining steps to cradle the man’s face. 

Suddenly, the wall to the library burst out in a waterfall of flame, spilling charred and burning debris into the hallway and down the stairs.  Jens shrieked and tugged Mundt’s body towards the door. Smoke was starting to hang down from the ceiling, obscuring the empty mansion.  It boiled around Jens in waves, and he coughed.  His eyes stung too, and he shut them as he dragged Mundt in the direction he was sure the door was. 

Several seconds later, the heat had intensified, and Jens’ spine bumped up against a wall.  He screamed in frustration at being unable to find the door but only succeeded in inhaling more smoke. 

Opening his eyes the barest amount, he saw that the door was in fact almost thirty feet away- a tiny glimmer of lighter smoke against a background of angry thunderclouds. It hurt, but he knew exactly where to head.

Jens redoubled his efforts and crossed the entrance hall one last time, silently thanking anyone who would listen for the smooth marble floor that eased the burden of Mundt’s weight. 

He had to shut his eyes for the very last stretch to blink the itchy tears from his eyes, but all of a sudden Jens felt cool wind caress the putrid smoke away from his face, and he cried out in relief.  Jens had forgotten about the mansion’s outer steps however, and he had been pulling Mundt out of the door with his back facing them.  He tripped, too surprised to scream, and Mundt’s body followed him down. 

Jens slammed the back of his head against the bottom stair, and with his last fragment of consciousness, he saw the house’s foundations begin to collapse in plumes of red fire, and he saw Mundt roll limply to rest on top of him- as if to embrace him one last time.

Chapter Text

Leamas sat in the park behind a newspaper, waiting.  After receiving a tip-off from one of his East German sources that the Stasi’s new deputy would be meeting a potential defector here, he was seized with curiosity at who these two players might be.  Ever since that Selieve party, intelligence had been unusually quiet on the eastern front. 

He was looking for two people talking to each other.  Immediately spotted a couple, walking and talking, a stroller between them.  Leamas had known agents who used live children as disguise accessories, but the couple were talking too animatedly to be discussing matters of national security.

A man in a trench coat walked by, and over to the bridge, face scrunched and nose buried in a book.  Leamas glanced surreptitiously over at the other benches.  There was a young woman in a straight, yet flattering pink dress sitting on the edge of her bench, evidently anxiously waiting for someone. 

Could that be the defector? Leamas wondered.

An older man with a cane, potato nose, and a suspiciously large moustache crossed the path in front of Leamas’ newspaper. He even had a limp.  Now that was the kind of person he was expecting.

To Leamas’ disappointment however, the old man didn’t so much as talk to anyone during his whole circuit of the park. Alec crossed his legs in annoyance, flicking his newspaper so that it stayed open.  In doing so, the top of it dipped, exposing the man on the bridge.

Clad in a long dark grey coat and cap, the man was clean-shaven, with a sharp jawline, curly brown hair, and heavy eyebrows. Eyes half closed, he gazed out over the water as if he’d had a late night, or was just particularly bored. At the moment, he was resting his head in one hand and had lain the other across the stone bridge’s siding. In it, he held an open book, pages-down, which displayed stark white letters on a dark grey background.  It read, Vampiric Theory for the Newly Changed

Getting up, Leamas casually flipped his newspaper closed and folded it under his arm.  He walked up the stone bridge and behind the man, who seemed not to have noticed him.

“You have quite the sense of humour, Jens,” he said.

“Mmh?” Turning as if a stranger had interrupted his musings, Fiedler mildly raised one eyebrow.

“You lured me to my own would-be defection.  How clever.”

“Thought you would like it,” Fiedler said, glancing back over at the glassy water.  He sounded bored.

“I am surprised that you managed to snag the deputy position however.”

“Mundt left it to me, actually, along with everything he owned.  Although I doubt he thought the day would come for another decade at least.”  Fiedler’s tone was unnervingly casual.  “Karla still approved, of course, as long as I go for additional instruction in Moscow.”

Now it was Leamas’ turn to lift his eyebrows.  He moved towards the side of the bridge, leaning against the stone next to Fiedler.  “You should be proud of yourself.  You’re only, what?  Eighteen?”

“Nineteen now. My birthday was the twenty-seventh, and I have to say,” Fiedler said, giving Leamas a cold smile, “That your gift,” he gave the book in his hand a light twitch, “is only the second worst I have received in my entire life.”

Leamas winced. Mundt’s Selieve party had been the twenty-fifth.  Fiedler’s parents had died in a car crash the twenty-sixth.  Wait no- they hadn’t died in a car crash-

“Well, how is Christa?” Fiedler asked, seeming to pluck the thoughts directly from Alec’s mind. 

“She’s well.”

“I hear you’ve adopted her.”

“Yes.”

“Is she going to become your leverage over me?”

“Jens, I would never-“

Fiedler shrugged.  “Well,” he said, eyes looking down at their reflections in the deep green water, “I have it in me to commit sororicide if it will allow me to continue my work unhindered.  If she ever becomes a problem.”

Leamas felt a flash of cold race down his back, and he fought the urge to twitch away. “That’s not something you can say about your sister,” he said a moment later, something pounding angrily in his chest.

“I’ve murdered my guardian angel,” Fiedler replied calmly.  “I can hardly do much worse.”

“So, he truly is dead?” Leamas’ eyes widened.  There had been reports, but no substantial evidence.  For all the Circus knew, Mundt was on a beach in Italy.

“The grave they built him is empty.” Fiedler began.  “But I still leave him flowers there.  His body was cremated, and I scattered the ashes all over our Germany.  He had a state ceremony, and many posthumous decorations of valor.”  He spoke slowly, as if pronouncing a final rite. 

Leamas wondered what Jens would say if he ever discovered that Mundt had been working for them, the Circus, that whole time.

“He was terrible.”

Fiedler shook his head, apparently incapable of even anger.  “He meant more to me than anyone.” 

Then, his jaw seemed to unclench.  “Christa-” he had to clear his throat to continue, “She is,” he paused, “Truly well?”

Leamas sighed. “She misses you.  But otherwise, I’m trying my best.”

“Well,” Fiedler said finally, “Thank you.”  He took the book and tucked it into a pocket inside his coat.

“Wait,” Leamas said, terrified Fiedler would leave.  “It’s not too late for you to come with us.  You’re a vampire now- you can be with your sister, as you’ve always wanted to be.”

Fiedler shook his head solemnly.  “Being like this is worse than being dead,” he muttered.

“You live longer.  You heal faster.  You- “

“We are parasites, Leamas.  For me, vampirism’s only saving grace is its constant reminder of how much Mundt tried to protect me from it.”

Leamas turned away, his insides angry and knotted.  “They remind you of me as well, I should think.  You must have inherited my fangs.”

Fiedler let out a dry exhalation, an unborn snort.  Leamas, consumed with dark emotion, only turned around when the other man let out a hiss and sharp intake of breath.

Leamas looked. Fiedler stood there, staring him right in the eyes.  His lips dribbled red where fangs were still in the process of extending.  They had cut through the gums.  They were sharp.  And they were ragged.

“Have you ever heard of a Sanguinologist named Balyugin?”  Jens asked lightly.  He flipped up the collar of his overcoat to conceal his teeth.  “He was the first scientist to theorize the relationship between innate personality and fang type.”

“The relationship is bullshit,” Leamas growled.  His eyebrows were like rumbling thunder, and his jaw was tight with anger: Even in death, Mundt had won one last time. 

“True.  More recent research indicates that most humans who transform are socially exposed to the kinds of vampires they become over long periods of time. This means that their personalities are generally the same.  Mundt and I were the same in many, many ways, and thus, I have inherited not just his position, but his tools of the trade as well.”

“All it means was that he sedated you more,” Leamas snapped bitterly.  “Or have you forgotten the Théorie Québéquoise?

“The two are not mutually exclusive,” Fiedler countered.  “But these fangs,” he winced as they withdrew back into his gums with a sickening slch, “show me who helped me arrive at where I am today.”

Leamas clenched and unclenched his fists in frustration.  “If I can’t appeal to your reason, then can’t I at least appeal to your heart?”  Leamas said finally.  A moment passed before his tone shifted his words into pleas, “We have something between us.  Come with me, and let it bloom into… something wonderful.”

Fiedler’s eyes widened for the first time.  Then he broke out into a grin.  “You know the quickest way to a man’s heart, Leamas?”  Fiedler asked, biting back a giggle.  “You go right through the chest.”  Then, he chuckled.  He laughed. Fiedler laughed and laughed.

Startled by the sudden noise, a duck fluttered from its resting place and landed in the river just below them, washing away the reflections of both Fiedler and Alec. 

“I really do, you know,” Leamas said.  “Love you, I mean.”

Fiedler nodded quietly, waiting for the water to settle.

 

Chapter Text

Fiedler was bundled up tightly.  A scarf was wound around his neck, and a long coat brushed the March snow that had piled up so unexpectedly these past few days.  With a tiny sigh of relief, he shouldered his way through the door to a building he knew well.

“Oh my God! It’s you!” squealed a delighted voice. “It’s been forever, Jens!” cried Liz Gold as she flung herself around him.  Her cheek accidentally nuzzled his bare face, and Fiedler repressed the urge to pull back as he felt her pulse.  They separated, and Liz walked around behind the registration desk and leafed through a folder of documents. 

“So, you’ll do your usual pint, I assume?” she asked.

Fiedler chewed the inside of his cheek.  He felt guilty- immensely guilty.

“Jens?”

“Unh?” he muttered.  He hadn’t realized he’d been staring daggers at her.

“You look ill. Are you sure you want to donate? I’m sure you can come in, maybe next week- “

“No, Liz, you don’t understand.  I can’t donate today.”

She smiled. “Then what are you here for? Surely I’m not that good company.”

Fiedler felt a little sick.  “I… Liz, I…” He bit his lower lip, and Liz’ face fell a fraction as she saw his eyebrows slant upwards and together.

“Jens, what’s wrong?”

“I’m not here to donate.  I can never donate again.”

“Jens, I don’t understand,” Liz said.  Then her eyes widened as he gave a sad little smile, wincing as his fangs tore slowly through ashamed pink gums. 

“Sorry,” he muttered, eyes fixed on the grey desk.  “I’ve come to withdraw.”