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down to the river where it's warm and green

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Jake tells you that the collar is a compromise, and you tell him he’s full of shit. Your body follows up the insult with a wave of reflexive dread, an ingrained habit you can’t shake fully. Like always, all he does is laugh at you. You get lost in watching the gleam of his fangs.

You’re right, though. Jake’s got no functional or ethical reason to be making compromises with his blood bag. (He called you that for weeks after you watched Fury Road together. You’re no Rockatansky but you found the comparison pretty fucking sweet.) According to the terms of your contract, you’re not supposed to leave Jake’s little island at all, and you’d never do anything to jeopardize the contract. If he wants you to go back with him to land and explore the port for a day, that’s his prerogative, and you’re helpless to obey him.

… Okay, so possibly you’re both full of shit. But it’s still not a compromise, it’s him giving you what you want just because he can. You can appreciate the indulgence for what it is.

The collar’s made of leather, with intricate, unsettling silver spirals that seemed to move under your gaze when you first inspected it - but that could have been a trick of the lights. Jake says you have to wear it for your safety and his peace of mind. He's heard there are other vampires in this port, and they run with that other English, the primordial monster who’s out for your sweet orphan blood. The collar makes it clear that Jake’s got exclusive rights to your ambrosia, and even the other English wouldn't dare cross vampire law, lest he end up on a cross, Jake says. It's not worth it even to get to a fine snack like you.

You still have no idea when Jake is fucking with you. But the contract says you owe him unquestioning obedience, and the collar looks kind of hot, so.

"All packed up and ready to rumble?" The way he speaks, in a collage of soundbites, has grown on you. He's definitely better than the other English, who makes no effort to sound human. Secretly, you like the way Jane talks even more - there's something admirable about her precision, contrasted with the wild, inherent bloodlust - but you wouldn’t say so to Jake. It probably goes against the spirit of your contract to prefer another vampire’s style to your own overlord’s. Besides, it’d hurt his feelings.

On the boat ride there, you lie back and enjoy the sun on your face. Jake loves the sun too, and he was a little offended when you asked him why he didn’t turn into a pile of ash when he stepped outside. That was back in the beginning, when you were terrified of crossing a line, so you tested every line you could think of. You learned a lot about vampire physiology, and also learned the way Jake looks when he’s truly upset. He didn’t hurt you, though, apart from when he fed. Now, you put your feet in his lap and all he does is roll his eyes.

You’re reasonably sure he’d tell you if there was anything special you should be doing or saying on land, but you stick close to him and stay silent to start with. You feel the way the port’s human residents are all politely looking away. This town has a careful ceasefire with vampires, or something like that. You don’t expect anyone here to have a high opinion of blood bags like you, and you keep having thoughts about explaining yourself. Quit it with the bland smiles, lady. Bro, ease up on the eye-rolling. I signed that fucking piece of parchment to get protection for my best friend, and she really needed it at the time, okay. I get room and board out of it, did you know that? Sure, the mortality rate is high in general, and my neck hurts a lot of the time, but fuck you, it’s still better than grad school.

You have a good time at the used bookstore, while Jake hovers outside. He doesn’t like dust, which is hilarious considering how he lives. Initially, you tried to keep the mansion clean, but by now you do what Jake does and just focus on the kitchen and the living room. You still can’t step inside the building without sneezing.

You pick up some philosophy books, some old erotica, and a full set of faded Farscape DVDs. Jake gets ridiculously frugal sometimes, and technically the money is his, but fuck it. You know he likes having a physical connection to his shows and movies.

In the tourist shop, you pick up a cat face mug for Roxy. After a moment’s deliberation, you pick up a second, grumpier one for Jane - might make all that refrigerated blood go down more easily. You’re kind of expecting to hit up a restaurant next and just do all the stupid tourist shit in one go, but Jake leads you towards a motel instead, with a signpost showing a sinister, cheery fish. Huh.

Jake books the room for you both, and you’re almost sure that the way he smiles at the receptionist isn’t meant to be terrifying. He would be so much less disquieting if he was just a little less jovial, but you don’t plan to tell him that. Now that you know he’s on your side, it’s fun watching him make others squirm. The receptionist glowers at you when Jake’s back is turned, and you treat him to one of your tightest smiles.

The room smells faintly of disinfectant, and sunlight’s streaming in through the beige curtains. There’s another cheery fish, this one a framed poster above the queen-sized bed. It’s a lot emptier than any room in Jake’s mansion, including your own. You kind of like the novelty and all, but you don't really get it.

You ask, “Did we actually need a room for a day-trip?”

Jake doesn’t respond, and he rubs his the back of neck. You turn your attention fully back to him. Why does he need a room?

“Wait, you’re not hungry already. Uh, are you?” The question comes with another wave of reflex-dread, irritating, embarrassing. If he’s hungry, he’s hungry. You can do it in the bathroom.

“Haha, not at all, I’m fuller than a moth in a costume shop,” Jake says, and his voice wavers. He’s sounded nervous a few times before - like when he needed more of your blood than usual, as fuel for his expedition - but you’ve never seen him avoid your gaze before, what the fuck. Except. You put down your souvenirs and also sit your ass down on the (only) bed.

“Jake,” you say, aiming for perfect blankness and hitting the edge of the target. “Is this about four months ago?”

He straight-up winces.

About four months and five and a half days ago, you propositioned Jake in his living room. It wasn’t exactly a spontaneous smooth move - you thought you’d timed it perfectly. He was well-fed and still giggling from the new D-Stri flick you pirated for him. The work of cinematic genius left you feeling bold, reckless enough to go through with the plan you’d been sitting on for a while. You turned towards him, bared your bandaged neck. Said that you noticed he had a stake in his boxers, and you’d be happy to help him lay it to rest.

You know Jake. You know exactly how fucking cheesy he is, right down to the core of his undead being. So it was clear right away that the abominable pickup line wasn’t the reason why he jerked away from you.

It was time for you to back off, so you did what you always do - doubled down on your bad idea. You put the laptop aside and got down in front of him, which wasn’t the first time you knelt for Jake English, but it was the first time you put your hands on his knobbly knees. You said you knew what you were doing (a lie) and that he didn’t have to worry about you (stone cold truth, obviously).

Jake bolted out of the couch, out of the living room. In fact, you heard the front door slam and realized that he used his rusty superspeed skills to zoom right out of the mansion. You were left on the floor, stunned by the momentum of his rejection. As the minutes ticked past, your old fears came crawling back. Did you just endanger the contract - as in, Roxy's life - with your horny little stunt? What would it take to fix what you broke?

But Jake came back before you could freak out enough to do anything else stupid, like leaving the house. He looked just like now - uncertain, awkward, but controlled. He told you you were a splendid specimen, a banging fella, a ripsnorter of a catch, and that he needed time to think. You took it as a rejection, kinder than it had any reason to be, and you tried to make up for your blunder in the coming days with little shows of deference. Jake recoiled from these with increasing intensity. So then, you stopped being that careful around him, and you dragged things back to normal through sheer force of will.

At least, you thought they were normal. The silence settling down on the motel room is choking you, and you've got to do something about it.

“So, um,” you prompt him. He’s still looking at his shiny shoes.

“I have thought about it," he mumbles, "and I didn’t exactly handle that whole imbroglio the way that I should have, considering our positions, I think.”

You lift your chin, run your fingers over your collar. Your neck’s not bandaged right now. “Bro, listen,” you tell him, “if you need to chew me out about the way I acted, you don’t need to take me for walkies to sweeten me up first. Go ahead and rip into me, I can take it.”

He looks up at you, takes a moment to process centuries of dialect shifts. He shakes his head, and takes a deep, unnecessary breath.

“I’ve thought about it,” he says again. “It takes us - takes me time to think things through, Dirk. I never was the most decisive of fellas, and time doesn’t move the way it used to.”

"Yeah, I shouldn't have blindsided you like that. That was my bad." Is that all he wants to hear from you, an apology? Or is this an, I've considered the matter and I'd like to terminate the terms of your contract, kind of situation? No. Jake wouldn't, not just for that.

Another option would make the most sense, for a motel room. You press your fingers against the newly-healed skin under your collar.

"If the offer’s still on the table, where we can both see it this time," Jake says, "it seems fair to do the do on neutral ground, don’t you think, Dirk?"

For a second, a part of you that revels in both sadism and masochism wants to pretend to misunderstand, forcing Jake to find a different euphemism for sex. Then you zero in on the relevant part of the sentence.

“You want me?”

He looks more certain than before, and he beams. “Yes!”

Oh, well, sure, but - “You said this is neutral ground?”

“Yes?”

“Okay, what the fuck. Do you mean like legally?”

Jake’s fangy smile dims. “No. It just feels a tad unsporting, to bring up such a bombastic doozy of a question back home in the mansion, where the game is rigged in my favor, so to speak. More rigged than presently.”

“So, instead of fucking me in my room in your house, you’ll fuck me in a room you paid for, and with your collar around my neck?”

“I, yes? Hm.”

Vampires need time to think. You cross your arms, and wait, and then Jake is at your side, quick and anxious. You’re all too aware of the breakable mugs in the bag by your feet.

“Let me get that blasted thing off you,” he mutters, reaching toward your collar. You lean back.

“Nope, this is mine now,” you say. "Can't have sex without protection, bro."

You just don't want it off your neck, not here and now. It's wide enough to cover most of Jake's usual biting points. It looks good. You don’t want to have to put it back on when you’re done.

You don’t say no to him often, but you repeat it, and it comes without any dread. Jake takes his hands away.

“The offer?” His eyes are so wide, and they shine like the river flowing through the port. Fully alive, focused  on you. The tight green shirt you ordered for him is much better than the vest he used to wear.

“It’s on the table, the bed, and the floor. Just give me a sec.”

“Yeah, I shouldn't have blindsided you like that,” he says, with your exact intonation. You still don’t know if that’s a Jake thing or a vampire thing. “I didn’t want you to tie yourself into knots and crosses. You worry too much, bro.” He pauses. “No, you worry about the wrong things.”

It’s exactly the kind of sinister statement that you used to get jumpy about. You shrug, deliberately, and then lean back on one elbow. He likes looking at you, you’ve noticed that before. You weren't sure if it was your body in particular, or just fascination with any living, moving thing. His eyes are fixed on your abdomen, and you think that uncertainty is cleared away. 

You're not sure how reciprocal this ride's going to be, but you'd like to make out first. Still, you're not going to change the terms of the deal on him. “So don’t we need to trade places or something?”

“No. Why? No," Jake says and kneels down in front of you. That's not wholly new either, but this time, you're not about to pass out from blood loss.

"Are you, um," you say. You know Jake's fangs retract, but not all the way.

"I've done this before," he assures you.

"In this century?"

"It's been a short century so far."

"With a human?"

"Befanged former humans have sensitive nethers, Dirk, just like anybody. That is part of why we are gathered here today."

You snicker, even though you didn't get concrete reassurance about how safe your dick was going to be. Jake's hands are on your thighs, and he looks pleased by the way your muscles ripple under them.

You unzip your jeans, taking initiative. Well, it's not like you're going to ask him to kiss you first.

He hovers over your boxers with those elegant fingers, not touching. You place his hand down on your cock.

One thing he's great at is tiny buttons. He frees your dick, and runs his thumb over the head. Seems he won't need instructions for this part.

Jake's mouth is always cold. He kisses the tip and looks up at you, and winks.

"You're a cheeseball," you tell him. He takes your dick into his mouth, tongue pressed beneath it. It's cold and wet and kind of familiar, because he likes licking your wounds shut when he's done eating. "It's not a seduction if you keep showing off every few - oh, fuck, Jake, please be careful."

He didn't bite you, just grazed the topside with his ridiculous, perfect front teeth. Maybe you shouldn't have said anything? He pulls away in displeasure and you assume the blowjob just slid off the table and into the void where good ideas go to die.

"Drat," he says. Well, yeah. "I'm sorry, Dirk. It seems I have a spot of rigor mortis.”

“I said I’d go down on you first -”

“No, I mean, in my jaw. I am not sure I have the muscle control for oral acrobatics. Perhaps you can train me later? But I can keep away from the deep waters for the time being."

You're still reeling from the idea of training him not to bite - like a carnivorous show pony - but you nod. His hands wrap around your cock, squeezing and then relaxing. He licks the tip, presses down with his lips only. His hands run down to the base, and back up again. Yeah, it's a good plan, you like this plan. Except -

"Kinda dry there, bro."

You assume he's got lube prepared somewhere - you would, if you were him - but he just switches over to licking at the underside of your dick. He's good at tidy lil' licks, he always has been.

You let the man work, try to pay attention to your breathing. He returns to the head, kisses and laps and sucks at it without letting it pass the barrier of his teeth. You're leaking into his mouth, warming it up with pre-come.

Jake pulls off, licks both of his hands, all business. He.sucks at your tip, licks down below, and his palms slide up and down your cock with more urgency. His fingers twitch, erratically, and the sensations add up.

You've been staying still for him, but it's fair to warn a guy who hasn't done this in decades.

You reach out, tug very lightly at his hair. You don't like to talk when you don't have total control over your voice. Jake looks at you, leans into the touch, squeezes your cock more insistently. Like a jackass, he winks again, and you figure that's all the permission you're going to get.

He parts his teeth, keeps control when you come into his mouth. You don't remove your hand from his hair.

"It's been long for me too," you say, and your voice wavers, goddammit. You want to taste him in your mouth. But Jake takes the hand still in his hair, and takes your glove off. You figure he's earned a snack, and you ain't fully opposed to mixing business and pleasure.

Instead of sinking his fangs into your wrist, he kisses the thin, fang-scarred skin. Then he licks loops over your pulse point, like some kind of ritual you're not really invited to understand. He kisses  your palm, and that just looks like saying thanks.

"We can make out, right?" You blurt it out without planning to, and Jake smiles widely. He sits next to you, hooks an arm around your shoulder with jittery charisma.

Jake kisses widely and deeply, and you don't mind the fangs this time. There's a small, quiet part of you that wants to claim Jake, to take him away from the miserable mansion, somewhere where he'd have sun and movies and time to get to know you.

But you've got patience and six more years of service in front of you. The dissonant parts of you can wait.  For now, it's enough to cradle Jake's face with your bared hand and let yourself get kissed.