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Running out of alibis

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“It is nice to see you. I was starting to suspect you had found yourself a better tailor.”

The deadpan tone stirring the air of the small backroom belonged to Julian’s tailor. The man looked like he was in his thirties, with hints of wrinkles at the sides of his eyes, but a smooth, unbearded pale face with a cryptic, inscrutable expression on it. ‘Man’ was not the best term to define his unusual conditions of existence — a collection of several little eccentricities that the most attentive client would surely notice, but that no one had ever managed to connect together to see the bigger picture.

No one but Julian.

“You know very well you’re the best in the city. The quality of your suits is simply so remarkable, Mr. Reed, that I don’t have a need to come by so often.”

The tailor welcomed Julian’s words with a smirk and a quiet click of the tongue. His slim fingers unbuttoned the jacket Julian was wearing — midnight blue cashmere, smooth and finely worked — with swift and nimble movements, and before too long Julian’s shoulders effortlessly slipped out of the tailored garment. He had bought the suit in that same shop the last time he was there, approximately one year before. It did not fit him perfectly anymore.

Giles Reed, the best tailor in London, placed the jacket on one of his old-fashioned wooden hangers — this one carved in the shape of a wolf's head — and set it aside. His movements were meticulous and firm, to the point of appearing offbeat.

“I am flattered by your words, Julian,” he replied with the same expressionless tone; his back turned to his client, he carefully straightened the slightly worn piece of clothing.

The single small window was dressed with heavy curtains, blocking out the light from outside and plunging the backroom into dimness — hiding, at least in part, the deliciously antiquated furnishing choice. The lacklustre light, however, never seemed to bother Reed, who easily read and wrote down notes, took measurements, worked at his sewing machine — and, at that moment, loosened his client’s tie. It was woven silk in a solid red colour, one Reed had chosen himself to go with the suit.

Julian stood in the middle of the room, on a small raised platform; and yet it seemed almost pointless for him to, when even on it he stood barely taller than Reed — who had now moved to unbutton his shirt.

“However, if I may ask,” spoke the tailor again, raising his gaze from the now-open shirt to meet Julian’s, “what really kept you away longer than a year?”

Reed’s eyes were an intense shade of golden, shimmering even in the scarcely lit room. Unnaturally still as they were, they looked like they belonged to a wax statue; they never blinked.

“Work, as always,” said Julian with a shrug, trying to conceal the shiver running up his spine when the tailor’s cold hands brushed against his bare chest. He could feel his arousal stir in his pants, but would never renounce what had become a ritual — being circled around, being fed touch after touch until his hunger exploded like a beast’s.

If Reed was satisfied with the answer, he did not show the smallest sign of it. Instead, his hands traveled down Julian’s chest, exploring it as if it could give him a better explanation.

The tailor’s dark, long hair was tidily gathered in a tail at the base of his neck, but the several locks escaping the coiffure fell over his forehead and his eyes, hiding his sharp cheekbones and part of his thin nose.

Even the sight of him was part of the meal, his discreet human form another bite that Julian gorged on, swallowed with his pair of brown eyes, with his pupils — big and dilated even in the scarce light, as if to accommodate the images that were to come.

Julian felt an icy breath on his skin when he felt the tailor’s face bury itself in the crook of his neck — no longer than a second, no more than a whiff of air and a light lock of satin hair caressing his skin. It was the shortest instant, but its effects rippled forward into the following moments — down to Julian’s toes and up into those golden eyes that seemed to flutter, then quake, as the pupil changed shape.

“You were abroad?” When Reed’s lips moved to speak, Julian could see the sharp points of his fangs starting to peek out under them, and the tailor's human facade slowly came off. “Somewhere with tasty food, but suffocating heat?”

“How did you-” Julian swallowed his pointless words halfway, gulping them down together with the knot that Reed's smirk had tied in his throat, and looking away to escape the firm intensity of that gaze.

“I could tell by your smell.”

“That the food was good?” Julian laughed, or at least he attempted to — for he looked up at the tailor again, and the sound that came out of his throat was strangled, coughed as if someone had punched it out of him.

Julian found Giles Reed charming and handsome, when he carefully maintained his human appearance. But right then — before his eyes, and not for the first time — Reed’s face had just morphed into something more primal, something other, for which Julian struggled to find the words.

The vertical pupils widening, shuddering with thirst; the white sclerae swallowed in a sea of reddish gold; the sharp fangs puncturing through the gums of that man-beast; those fingers-turned-claws, each sharp as a dagger in its own right: all of that should have scared him. And maybe the strangled laugh, and the surge of adrenaline shooting through his body, was fear, and he just kept mistaking it for a dangerous kind of fascination.

Reed might have been looking at him from a lower position, but it was impossible to misjudge it for a position of disadvantage.

“I could tell that it was tasty,” Reed whispered, moving to unbutton Julian’s trousers. “You don’t seem to have liked it, since you got thinner again,” he commented, caressing Julian’s sides before sliding the trousers down and then off him.

Despite their sharpness, his claws didn’t leave a mark, didn’t scratch Julian. His lips were contracted in an otherwise secret effort humans couldn’t hope to know anything about, and even when an unmistakable, stirring anticipation shuddered right under his skin, Reed handled the clothes with his usual detachment and professional attention.

Julian reached out for Reed’s face, mindlessly, just like the first time he had seen him like that, enraptured by his lethal and yet irresistible beauty.

His skin was like marble, smooth, cold, unyielding; its still veins were starting to show, striping his face with their dark marks, the usually unseen web of life they formed preparing to throb - just like Julian’s own veins were doing right in that moment, fiercely, hidden under his darker skin.

“You stayed exactly the same, however, Giles,” whispered Julian, caressing the hard skin under his palm; he let himself mourn, just for a moment, all the days he sacrificed for his country, all the time spent away from home. It was reassuring, somehow, to go back to that shop and find that — at least there — nothing had changed while he was away.

“That is expected,” said Reed, his firm, clawed fingers closing around Julian’s wrists to move them away. The beast circled around Julian — steps so light he could barely sense them.

“I wonder if you taste different, too,” Reed mused from somewhere behind him, and a second later he was helping Julian take off the shirt, leaving his back and chest exposed.

The room wasn’t cold — on the contrary, it was rather warm, so much that Julian asked himself how Reed could wear all those layers of clothes, before remembering that he could not feel warmth. Julian knew all too well the biting cold, dead adamancy of the body Reed insisted to hide from him, and kept buried under the jacket, the waistcoat, the shirt, almost as though it was something to be ashamed of.

With his eyes closed, Julian felt Reed return close to him. The sensation was sudden, and it manifested like a sudden shiver down his spine, followed by Reed’s clawed hands closing on his shoulders. Then he felt that mouth, its cool breath brushing against his heating skin, firm, hard lips kissing his nape, and fangs grazing against it as Reed spoke.

“The smell is so spicy,” he whispered — growled almost — as if his voice was trapped halfway up his throat. Julian felt a cold, stiff tongue sliding against his neck as Reed wrapped him in a firm grip from behind.

“This time I might just suck you dry,” the vampire teased.

His laugh echoed inside Julian’s bones, making his muscles tense and tremble in a warped feeling of excitement that washed over the inevitable fear. Not just Reed’s words, but also his touches, made Julian quiver: it was not only his unnatural low temperature, but the firm gentleness of each clawed finger against Julian’s naked skin, the sensuality of those strokes that penetrated into his flesh, invisible scalpels carving him like an organic sculpture.

Julian simply let himself be, in the only place in the world in which he could forget himself.

Reed wore one of his old-fashioned suits, and the cashmere wool felt soft and warm against Julian's skin, in sharp contrast with the vampire himself and his unfeeling, unkind body, immune to Julian’s or anyone else’s touches. But Julian enjoyed feeling that numbed body melt slowly, plunge from an anesthetized state of the senses to a rising fury of arousal — and he enjoyed being the cause of it.

Reed seemed to want to touch every inch of his lover as if he was getting to know his body for the first time. With the way Reed explored every hidden corner of him, claws always a whiff from grazing and scratching, Julian himself shared that sensation of being discovered for the first time, the novelty of those foreign touches that he had almost forgotten.

When the tips of the vampire’s fingers brushed against one of his newest, freshest scars — the memory of a rather unfortunate meeting of his inner thigh with an enemy knife — Julian’s surprise was but the lightest jolt, before he relaxed back into that embrace, the recollection of that brush with death paling in comparison with the close encounter he was undoubtedly going to have now.

Lazy, half-lidded brown eyes, wet with lust, struggled to focus on the vampire’s face, as Julian felt the other’s claws tearing up his underwear and freeing his erection.

One of Reed’s arms was stretched across Julian’s chest, pressing him back into a tight, viselike hold, so that he found himself arching his back uncomfortably; the other arm reached for Julian’s groin, fingers closing around his cock, starting to fondle it, stroking moans out of the human’s throat.

A smile blossomed on Reed’s black-veined face, sparkled inside his golden eyes, disgracefully human expression distorting those freakishly sharp features, and Julian arched his back even more, thrusting into Reed’s hand and throwing back his head, exposing his neck in a shiver of gripping fear that jolted up the length of his erection.

“You always offer yourself so eagerly…” whispered Reed, his voice deep and powerful, next to Julian’s ear and everywhere in the room.  “You expose your succulent, pulsating veins as if you want to tempt death.” The soft skin under the vampire’s tongue carried the faded mark of an old bite.

“Are you so convinced that I won’t kill you?” Reed breathed on that scar, while his hand jerked Julian with methodical slowness, savouring the aroused sounds escaping from him. “You trust no human and yet entrust your life to a creature of the night?”

Julian’s hands gripped the fabric of Reed’s suit sleeve so fervently that he felt it strain under his touch, as if it was about to rip. His eyelids were tightly shut, his hips moving desperately while his teeth sank into his lower lip, and it was only with a groan that he focused his mind enough to utter a response.

“I just think killing me wouldn’t benefit you,” he murmured, his voice pitching in the middle of the sentence in response to Reed’s hand suddenly moving faster. And yet the challenging tone wasn’t lost.

“Neither would keeping you alive,” Reed laughed, or growled, and the arm that was keeping Julian locked into that position moved, only to take the man’s face into its hand. The vampire’s long claws enfolded Julian’s face completely, and ran their sharp tips along the outline of his cheekbones. “You’re not special, Julian. You’re just another human,” Reed breathed, and forced Julian to expose his throat even further, with a firmness that could have broken his neck.

Julian, uncomfortable, every muscle strained and trembling, shuddered with that unique brand of perverse pleasure — the feeling that he was about to die, and every part of his body was, in opposition, so fiercely alive and burning.

“You will age, and you will die at some point. Might as well go young, and do it pleasantly.”

“And in your arms?” Julian’s choked mocking tone failed at hiding his urge; it was definitely given away by the hiccuped moan which staggered out of him when a pair of fangs grazed against the vulnerable skin of his neck.

“Do you take me for a romantic?”

A nimble, hard finger circled the dripping head of Julian’s cock, pointed claw teasing the delicate skin, and Julian closed his eyes, his moans loud and strained, a thin thread of saliva dribbling out of a corner of his mouth, down the side of his face.

“Don’t make me wait, Giles,” he demanded, but his groan sounded more pleading than he intended.

And when, finally, Reed’s fangs pierced the soft skin of his neck, sharp, electric jolts of pain shot through it. Julian’s eyes widened, and the air wheezed out of his lungs in a mute exhale as his heart exploded in the cage of his ribs and throbbed in its place, hammered desperately, holding to life. His knees gave out, trembling under his weight; Reed’s grip around his face was the only thing holding him upright, and his head felt lighter and lighter. His hips moved weakly, out of his control, following the lilting movements of Reed’s hand.

Julian’s sight started to cloud, the edges of his vision darkening as his perception of everything around him wore thinner and thinner, as if nothing remained but Reed’s cold touches, his hand jerking Julian off, his tongue lapping his neck, and the increasing waves of pleasure coiling around his guts as he danced so close to the edge of his climax that the weak thought — that maybe he really would die — had no way to reach him.

But then Reed’s mouth parted from his neck that cold, firm touch of his disappeared in the space of an instant, cutting Julian’s pleasure away halfway through one thrust, and Julian slid down on his knees, deprived of the hold supporting him, his ears ringing loudly.

Everything was hazy for a long moment.

Everything was forgotten except the simplicity of his own body, of him on his knees, his heart thumping in his ears and throat, and cold sweat cooling down his feverish body, all his limbs shaking weakly. Everything was lost in the blurred fog of his aroused mind, except that overwhelming feeling of being so undeniably alive, and the heat in his loins that asked for more.

Once he could focus his vision again, the first thing he saw was Reed. The vampire stood not even one step away from him, still fully dressed, and when Julian looked up at his face, what he saw washed away any tiredness or hesitation.

The vampire’s pale face was covered with red streaks. All the black and grey veins from before had now changed colour, and their unnaturally bright red web covered the vampire’s body, pulsating with Julian’s own blood. Even his eyes were bloodshot, thin red capillaries drawing unintelligible figures over their gold-copper surface. Reed was licking some blood away from his fingers, and there was still some on his face, all around his mouth. He was so focused on it, licking it away like it was so precious, too precious to waste even the smallest drop of it.

He didn’t even notice that Julian was looking at him.

Not until Julian, keen and eager like he guessed humans were inclined to be, took the matter in his own hands.

His fingers were not as accurate and nimble as Reed’s were, even in normal situations; but right then, the slight tremble still affecting them made unbuttoning Reed’s trousers more challenging than it should have been. He felt the vampire’s gaze on him, burning like Julian’s own insides, but he didn’t dare look up.

Once he had finally managed to free the vampire’s half-hard cock, Julian gaped at it for a short moment, his eyes following its length — thin red veins running all over it as well, bright against the pale skin of the shaft and against its fat, greyish head. But it was only a moment.

Then, Julian took it in his mouth.

It was warm, hot even, pulsating slightly against his tongue as it swelled steadily, matching the moans Reed was letting out, less quiet at every suck. Julian almost let out a moan himself, feeling as if he had been waiting for the longest time, just to taste Reed’s warmed skin again, to savour his arousal. He felt his own erection throb painfully between his legs.

Reed’s hand slid through Julian’s hair, fangs carelessly scraping his scalp. At first he just followed Julian’s movements, matching them with his own, letting Julian take his time, lick the length teasingly, swirl his tongue around the head, dip it into the slit. Julian almost felt as if he had tamed his own arousal, as if he could go on like that for much longer.

But when Reed, holding his head in place, pushed himself into Julian’s mouth, so deep Julian gagged on his length — then the arousal rippled violently through him, as if punishing him for that vain thought, and his hands both gripped Reed’s legs, clutching the trousers’ fabric to keep himself from losing his balance. And as the vampire continued thrusting, Julian choked around the cock moving in and out of his mouth, his grip getting tighter and tighter as his mind progressively slid back into hazy arousal.

Reed pulled him up suddenly, tugging at his hair, and his parted lips, letting out quiet pants, were on Julian’s just as abruptly.

Julian found himself pushed against the nearest wall, held up by Reed’s hand squeezing one of his cheeks, as their mouths clashed in a kiss that was starved and insatiable and had the iron taste of blood.

Reed’s whole body burned, throbbed with Julian’s own heat; his usually unmoving chest shuddered now and then with a sharp inhale, and his words themselves were reduced to moans and pants and grunts. Julian couldn’t even tell if those eyes were seeing him, or if the vampire was just blinded by his own sensations and about to snap Julian’s neck in half.

But soon both of Reed’s hands were on Julian’s lower back, his claws sinking into his cheeks, driving them apart, tips biting at the soft flesh, all but drawing blood. He felt the head of the vampire’s red-striped erection push against his entrance, and for a moment — just one, absurd moment — he considered letting himself be fucked raw, just like that, ravaged against the wall until he fainted.

It took all his strength to gingerly whisper a “wait” against his lover’s bloodied lips, that he pushed away with a finger.

As he slipped his hand inside the pockets of Reed’s jacket, groping around for the bottle of lube Reed kept there somewhere, the other caught his lips back in a kiss, and pushed his stiff tongue beyond Julian’s teeth, licking the inside of his mouth voraciously, as if preparing to bite it off, continuously shifting his attention away from the task at hand.

Julian’s hurriedly lubed hands soon found Reed’s erection, and as he massaged it, the vampire’s avid kisses moved down the side of his face, along his throat — lapping at the wound from the previous bite — and onto his shoulder.

Julian’s wrists were soon caught in a hard grip, pushed over his head and kept there, as Reed buried himself inside him, with one slick movement that made Julian roll his eyes back and cry out his name. Reed’s fangs sank into the muscle of his shoulder, his moan vibrating through the flesh.

Pain shot through Julian’s nerves — from the bite, from the sudden penetration, and from Reed’s claws digging into the soft skin of his ass, and he gasped, hungry for air. The vampire’s lips were on his right away, as if eager to steal away what was left of the oxygen in his lungs. Then, Reed let go of his wrists and pinned his head in place instead, wrapping the freed hand around his neck, before he started moving again.

Reed drove his cock in and out of him without even trying to set a regular pace, erratic movements sending abrupt, unpredictable jolts of pleasure up Julian’s spine, making him shiver and tremble, and even forcing a whimper out of him when the grip on his throat tightened.

Julian, his legs hooked around Reed’s waist, his hands splayed against his clothed chest, rocked his hips against him mindlessly — unsure of whether he was close to relief or to breaking into pieces, dying young in Reed’s arms with his face flushed with pleasure and his mouth soiled with blood, with his body bitten and scratched and consumed.

But in the end the release came, and it was like glass shattering, lungs collapsing, lights going out as he called Giles’ name.

It was a bit like dying, indeed, or at least like Julian imagined dying would be: senses slowly deadening, sounds going muffled, smells softening, even the taste of blood on his tongue dissolving into nothingness. He saw Reed’s blissful eyes shut, the red veins on his face getting lighter, greyer; he felt his arms, still warm, wrap tight around him, before he blacked out.

***

Under Julian’s naked back was the soft sofa. He was lying on the smooth silk, eyes closed, muscles throbbing; the wound on his throat stung when he moved and his whole body ached. It was all that he could feel: the sofa and his body, and the vague awareness of the weight of someone sitting by his side, the rhythm of his own breathing and the sound of his own heart pumping blood.

There was something pleasant about all that, something about waking up with a sore body, that made his mind feel rested and at peace. Lucid. Free.

“I might have drunk too much,” Reed whispered as he shifted in his place, voice nearly mellow, waking up Julian’s dulled senses. The vampire’s hands, now clawless, touched the side of Julian’s face gingerly. The tips of his fingers were soft, pliable, and warmer than usual — a lingering effect of the bite they were brushing against.

“I’m fine,” Julian muttered, leaning ever so slightly into the touch, until a shiver run down his spine and he shied away.

“You’re pale,” retorted Reed.

Julian lazily opened one eye, taking in the not-exactly-human figure sitting next to him with the most human expression, jaws clenched and eyebrows furrowed. Reed’s white face was still striped with a light tint of red, the ghost of his blood-filled veins unconcealed, even where the rest of his appearance was no longer beastly.

“Look who’s talking,” Julian laughed heartily, but Reed’s expression didn’t relax. On the contrary, the crease on his forehead seemed to get deeper.

Julian sat up, leaning on his elbows and then lifting himself with a groan. Once he was sitting, he relaxed against the back of the sofa and pinched the bridge of his nose. Reed kept staring at him, and it was making him nervous; Reed was funnier when he was blinded by thirst.

The room looked exactly the same as it had when Julian first walked in earlier that day. The only sign that time had passed was the lack of that single ray of afternoon sun filtering through the curtain. It was probably past dinnertime.

Julian stood up with a groan.

“Would you like for me to carry you home?” Reed offered, ever the gentleman. But under that kind smile peeked a circumspect air that Julian, even tired as he was, did not miss.

They exchanged a look, a long one that tasted like all the words they left unsaid. Maybe, one day, Julian would invite Reed into his home — but they both knew, well before Reed asked that question, that it wouldn't have been that day.

“Just go back to work.” Julian turned around, going to fetch his clothes. “You have a suit to sew.”

Reed’s reaction — which Julian only spied from the corner of an eye, as he put on his shirt — was composed, almost imperceptible. There was but the smallest twitch of his lips, before he straightened his back and stood as well.

“Of course,” he said, voice firm. When Julian turned back to face him, Reed’s human appearance was flawless, any trace of his true nature hidden behind his clothes, his unblemished pale skin, and his calculated mannerisms. “When does it need to be ready?”

Even his eyes were dull, unaffected by the smallest hint of expectation that Julian seemed to hear in that question.

“Tomorrow, if possible,” Julian replied, deadpan. “I leave in the evening.”

Reed’s nod, even his slight bow, somehow carried with them an air of disappointment. Maybe it was in the thin wrinkles around his eyes, or at the sides of his lips, or maybe it was in that turned back, but it made the room feel suddenly colder.

As always, Julian didn't say goodbye.