People always stared at Virgil when he went out with his partners. Whether it was for a mission or just to have a day out. It was because of the collar around his neck that branded him as a monster. Parents pulled their kids away, employees scowled and turned away, and his partners never noticed.
Today, he was with Logan. Roman had gone to his family reunion and Patton was on vacation visiting his brother. Logan had declined to take the days off, he claimed he didn't want to leave Virgil alone. If all of his partners were to take vacation then he would be sent back to the training center or placed with another group of hunters temporarily.
The three of them knew how Virgil despised- feared- other hunters, no matter how he tried to hide it, and they never let any other hunter around him. It made Virgil feel warmth in his perpetually cold body because these people, these people cared about him. These people protected him. They were his friends. Virgil had never had friends in his thousands of years as an immortal.
So Logan and Virgil spent the days in the cheap motel room watching fuzzy tv and playing chess. Logan ordered himself three meals a day from the awful room service, that made Virgil feel sick from just the thought of consuming it, and ordered orange juice and soda for the vampire. Virgil enjoyed it, time to just relax and hang out with the most distant one of his humans.
It went the same way until the day before Roman's return when Logan decided he needed food that was edible. "I believe we should go to a diner."
If Logan had said that to Patton or Roman, or any other human, he would have been met with excitement instead of Virgil's dread. Virgil hated going out anywhere where there would be humans. Humans would harass him and some could even be hostile. They were afraid of him so they thought they had to hurt him instead of understand him.
So Virgil let Logan snap the collar around his neck for show, the human grimaced at the sight and apologies showed clear in his eyes, and grab his wallet. The whole time Virgil was fidgeting.
If Logan noticed how uncomfortable his friend was he didn't show it, perhaps assuming it was the collar as the humans despised that more than the vampire did. Logan was content to stay quiet on their walk. Logan was content to stay quiet anywhere really. That's why Virgil and him got along so much. The two quiet ones. Virgil could spend hours, nine was the record, of straight silence with Logan.
People were already staring at Virgil, some in fear and others with smug sneers. Yes, look at the blood sucker, put properly in it's place. Logan had gravitated towards Virgil and the vampire knew he felt the staring as well.
Logan grabbed Virgil's wrist firmly in what would have once been seen as a threat but was now a source of comfort. Logan's grip was always firm, a steady constant, always dangling precariously between harsh and relaxing.
Virgil let himself be pulled into the diner, it certainly smelled good. Fresh bakery items flooded the shop with a pleasantly sweet aroma while not overpowering the savory smell of the fresh meat cooking over, what Virgil could only assume was a fire grill. It was homey and even with all the people Virgil loved it.
The hostess ignored Virgil as she led Logan and him to a corner table, away from the wide windows. Both Logan and Virgil seemed relieved at that. "Emoni will be right ova' ta take ya orda'!"
Logan offered the girl a polite nod as she walked away. Logan glanced through the menu and let Virgil skim through the drink section. When the waitress, Emoni, appeared at the table both boys were ready to order and Logan told her such.
Logan ordered a veggie omelette and a glass of water, Virgil rolled his eyes at the healer freak. The waitress spoke at the same time as Virgil.
"I'll have that right out for ya!"
"May I have a mango lemonade, please?"
There was an awkward silence for a moment before the waitress raised an eyebrow at Logan. "Ya gonna teach it some manners?"
Virgil felt the ground swallow him whole. Logan met the girl's eyes, a straight face covering any reaction he may have had. "Excuse me?"
"Ya suppose to be taken care o' that thang. 'Stead he ova here talkin' outta turn like that."
Virgil dropped his head, he felt shame creeping up his spine. He knew he hadn't done anything wrong, he knew that. His emotions didn't apparently as he suddenly wanted to cry.
"I believe it was his turn to order, it doesn't seem very out of turn to me. Perhaps elaborate more on how you see this as his mishap instead of your own?" Logan's voice was stone, a cold and unmoving force, daring the girl to try and crack it.
"Thangs like it shouldn't be orderin'! Pets should know there place and it ain't with ya orderin' at no food place."
Logan's face remained completely impassive as he rose from his seat. He picked up his jacket and folded it over his arm. "Very well, him and I will take our leave then. Very disappointed in the behavior of the staff at this establishment."
Virgil followed suit, standing up slowly so he wasn't seen as a threat. Once the two were entering their room Logan stopped and quickly snapped off Virgil's collar. He tossed the piece of metal harshly into the bathroom where it made an awful sound as it put a hole in the wall.
"I shall return momentarily, I'm going to get food for us." Logan sounded like he didn't see a flaw in his plan.
"I can't be left unattended."
Logan scowled but not at Virgil. When he met Virgil's eyes he had a look of sincerity and intense fury. "Virgil, those rules were created by power-hungry fools. You are better and more deserving of freedom than the lot of them. You've been on this planet for dozens more years than us you don't need a babysitter."
Virgil could only stare at the fierce expression on Logan's face. Logan had never looked so alive as he did now, with his emotions etching deep lines onto his face. Then Virgil grinned. "Yeah, I get your point, Lo."
"Virgil, will you cuddle with me?" The question was soft against the dark night. Virgil peeked out from his cage, where he was assigned to sleep, to see Patton with his head poking out of his tent.
"What's wrong, Pat?" Virgil asked. Worry took over as he wrapped his fingers around the bars. "Are you okay?"
The younger man shrugged as he stepped fully out of the tent. Roman and Logan's tent was situated a bit farther up the steep hill and trying to trek up there would be difficult in the dark. "I'm not hurt. I-I just don't really like the dark. Especially being alone."
Virgil's immediate response was to say that Virgil wouldn't make him safer, Virgil was a monster Patton most feared. Except he knew that was a lie as much as Patton did.
When the young man had first let Virgil sink his teeth into his wrist without the slightest ounce of fear, Virgil knew. He was so caught up in the lives of these humans. If any part of Virgil desired to hurt them it had been beaten into submission and washed away.
"You don't have to, if you don't want. I know you think being in the cage is safer," Patton fiddled with his bracelet, "but I just really need someone."
Virgil could smell the tears as soon as the salty fragrance hit the air and something deep in his gut tightened. "Of course I'll cuddle with you, Pat." Virgil was still shocked at the amount of naive trust these humans had in him. First removing the collar and now letting him free when they sleep.
The speed at which Patton had the cage open and wrapped up in Virgil's arms told Virgil that it was never locked in the first place. It wasn't a surprise, they never locked his cage anymore just like they never actually turned his collar on when Virgil convinced them to put it on him.
"Patton, come on." Virgil coaxed Patton back into the tent. "It's too cold to be standing here in pajamas." Patton went easily, folding his legs up so Virgil could carry him.
Virgil carefully tucked the two of them into the mound of blankets. Patton wasn't shy to cuddle against Virgil, pressing his beating heart against Virgil's silent chest.
"Thank you, Vee." Patton spoke softly, with a sad tone in his voice. "I'm sorry to make you do this. I get why you don't trust us enough, but we really do care for you."
Virgil sat frozen for what seemed like only seconds, processing what was just said. Patton thought he didn't trust them? Why wouldn't he trust them? They treated him like family… or well they would if he didn't insist on putting their safety above his comfort.
Maybe Virgil shouldn't go in the cage at night anymore, and maybe he should take the collar off permanently. He was laying with Patton and his human body and fresh scent and pulsing blood right now and he didn't feel any desire to attack him. Only to pull him closer.
That's an instinct that he did give in to.
The first night the crew was back in a hotel after their camping trip (mission, always missions) Virgil helped Patton prepare dinner. The younger boy was swaying on his feet, much more giggly than usual, and was practically slumped against Virgil.
The other two were faring no better where they stood in the sleeping space, which was barely big enough to fit the two beds, Logan staring blankly at a book and Roman humming off tune.
"Why don't you go corral the troop into bed and I'll finish up dinner for you all?" Virgil offered softly. He gently tugged Patton out of the small room with the microwave and sink and into the bedroom/living area.
Patton grinned and patted Virgil on the cheek lightly. "Thank you, Vampy!" Virgil rolled his eyes so hard they would have gotten stuck had it not been for the shallow gasp that came from Patton.
"Don't roll your eyes at my nickname! It's special."
Virgil laughed. "What's so special about Vampy?"
"It's soft and cute just like you. Also, vampire."
"Soft and cute, huh?"
Virgil smirked and flashed his fangs, his eyes lighting up for a brief second. A normal reaction would have been fear or cowering away or even just a shift of wariness in the expression. Patton just… Patton…
Patton leaned forward and bopped him on the nose. "I meant adorable."
It was a good thing Virgil couldn't blush. Roman and Logan however could and they both were while watching the two others. Logan with a fond smile and Roman snickering quietly.
Virgil quickly made his way back to the kitchen to finish microwaving the food, and hide from the others.
When night time came, Patton and Roman already fast asleep, Logan called off the game of chess in exchange for sleep. Virgil put it away while Logan did his nighttime stretches.
Logan made a thoughtful hum and looked around the room before sighing. "Virgil, where would you like me to set up your cage?"
Virgil paused. Patton's words on the camping trip coming to mind. They thought he slept in the cage because he didn't trust them, really he just wanted to keep them safe and he stayed with Patton that whole night without wanting to hurt him.
So why not make it a regular thing? If he does slip up then he knows the others will be there and maybe he could wear the collar or maybe…
"I don't want to sleep in the cage tonight."
Logan paused and looked at Virgil, accessing him. Then he nodded once. "Very well, it will certainly be easier since there is no room for the cage. Wouldyouliketolaywithme?" The question came out so fast that Virgil didn't hear it in time to answer before Logan had began to contradict himself. "Of course, if would like to enjoy your time away from your captors I can understand that, simply not getting caught by other hunters will be satisfactory."
Virgil listened to Logan mumble for a few minutes more and when he took a break longer than the previous he lunged, knocking Logan to the bed, and cuddled against his chest.
"Yeah, bookworm, I'll lay with you."
Squeeze the pillow.
Focus on the scent.
Roman's scent, his human's scent. Not his handler or owner or master, his partner's scent. His friend's scent. Roman was sprawled out on the bed next to him, arm thrown across Virgil's lap and resting his palm against the smooth inhuman skin.
Roman who didn't see him as a slave or a pet. Roman who acknowledged that Virgil was as deserving of love as he was. Roman who had pleaded with the vampire to cuddle with him at night instead of being locked away.
Run his fingers through Roman's hair.
Cuddle closer to his friend. Pull Roman into his lap and wrap his arms around him. Virgil buried his face in Roman's neck. He breathed deeply. Roman shifted and mumbled out a question with a silly nickname attached. Virgil paused. It should make him feel bad, the nickname so often used as a slur falling from Roman's mouth.
Except Roman had said it so soft. When Virgil didn't answer Roman opened his eyes to find the vampire's body language worrisome. The pillow in his hand had been squeezed so hard the stuffing was out and his eyes were blown wide open, staring at nothing.
"Little Leech?" Roman asked again, more urgency in his tone. "What's going on? Are you okay?"
The woman who had grabbed her child and ran away after he saved her from a drunk driver.
The little girl on the playground, who must have caught sight of his fangs as he hurried by to hide.
The screaming crowd, all trying to escape him even though he wasn't chasing.
The hunter who had finally caught him.
The waiter who hadn't wanted to serve him a drink even if Logan advocated for him.
His friend, curled up in bed with him, looking at him with worried eyes.
Virgil started to cry. He didn't mean to, he wanted to be strong but he cried. Roman just wrapped his arms around the bare neck. The exact spot where a thick metal band used to lay, ready to zap electricity into his undead body. Now Virgil felt himself relax into the calm circle of warmth around his neck.
"It's okay, Virge. It's all okay," Roman soothingly whispered as he moved to tangle his fingers in Virgil's hair. "We've got you. You know that. We'll always take care of you.