Despite vastly preferring to be around people, Baptiste doesn’t often frequent bars anymore--human or otherwise. Bars are crowded and too public for someone who has been relentlessly chased across the world by the vindictive clan he abandoned years ago.
But sometimes that desire to be around people outside of his clinic grows greater than his concerns about the risks.
He leans against the bar in a small but packed club. It is exclusive for the supernatural and not too far from the place he’s staying temporarily. Everything is temporary for him now. Jobs, homes, relationships, all of it has to be able to be dropped instantly when the clan eventually catches up to him. He takes a deep drink from his cocktail, relishing the sweetness from the fruit juice and the sharp tang of the blood mixed in, and tries to focus on the atmosphere of the club instead.
He taps his fingers absently to the beat of the music. It’s not his normal fare but it’s catchy and appropriate nonetheless. He glances up at the small stage, watching the DJ move with the music, the snakes of his hair whipping around his head. Baptiste wonders if that hurt--either to the snakes themselves flying in every direction or to the DJ when one of them strikes his shoulders particularly hard.
The DJ is young. Younger than him anyway, and he thinks wistfully about a time when he would have thoughtlessly hopped up on the stage to dance alongside him. Well, he thinks, he’d probably still do that, but laying a low profile has become more essential.
He admires the trimness of his waist, the surprising flex of his arms, and the beads of sweat rolling down his dark, green-tinged skin. Carefree dancing isn’t the only reason he would have climbed up there.
He looks away to find an oni watching him. He’s swathed in black fabric and his face is covered behind a glaring mask; he’s leaning against the wall with his arms folded across his chest. If he didn’t blend into the dim atmosphere, his austere posture amongst the energetic crowd would make him stick out like a sore thumb.
Baptiste’s stomach sinks. The clan has only ever sent other vampires after him, never any other kind of supernatural creature. He wonders if they’ve finally resorted to contracting outsiders to hunt him down. He’s mostly fought with vampires and humans and thinks with dread of being forced to fight other types of the supernatural.
The oni inclines his head at him and Baptiste furrows his brow in confusion. He wonders if this is some traditional oni salute given to victims before they cut your head off. He stares a moment longer but the oni does not move again so he slowly turns back to the bar.
He can feel the oni still watching him for a while, as he takes another gulp of his drink. He’s unlikely to get more than a gentle buzz, nothing that would dull his senses too much. Eventually he stops feeling the oni’s gaze on him but decides not to look to see if he’s still there.
He lets out a breath he didn’t realize he’s been holding and resolves to try to relax for a bit. He’d be surprised if he were attacked in the bar itself. If something happens after, he knows he can deal with whatever it might be.
After another luridly bright cocktail, he dances a bit and flirts with the selkie behind the bar, who slips his number in with the last drink Baptiste orders. Baptiste leaves the bar alone anyway.
Baptiste glances at the number in his hand as he walks down the street, thinks of the selkie’s broad shoulders under the thick seal pelt and the way the gorgon DJ looked lost in his music and the empty, quiet apartment waiting for him. He sighs and shoves the number in his pocket.
The walk to his apartment isn’t far and he trudges down the sidewalk, pulling his jacket tighter around himself. It’s a completely subconscious gesture left from his human life, since he no longer feels cold the same way.
He’s thinking absently about how many bags of donated blood he has left in his fridge when a shadow darts out at him from around a car parked on the side of the road. It hits him before he can react, shoving him sideways into an alleyway.
His shoulder strikes the wall, sending him further off balance as he scrambles to figure out what’s happening. He finally registers that the shadow is a man careening towards him. Regaining his footing, he snaps his fist out, catching the man in the cheekbone.
His attacker stumbles backward, the light from a street lamp illuminating his bared fangs and dull red eyes. Baptiste slides into a fighting stance but the other vampire is much faster than he is, and he quickly lashes out to catch Baptiste across the knees.
Baptiste hits the ground and the vampire is immediately on top of him, fangs bared as his hands close around Baptiste’s throat. He slams Baptiste’s head into the ground, spitting, “You thought you could leave? You really are a fool to think you could actually escape from Talon.”
Baptiste starts to struggle, intent on toppling his attacker off him when suddenly the other vampire is yanked away.
Baptiste sits up quickly as he sees the oni from the bar pulls the vampire backwards against his chest and closes his hand around his throat. All vampires are strong, but the oni is even stronger. The vampire gasps as his windpipe is constricted, but the oni does not exert enough pressure to fully strangle him.
The vampire eventually goes limp in the oni’s arms and Baptiste stares up at them.
Head tilting slightly, the oni asks, “Do you require assistance?” His voice is low and heavily accented.
Baptiste flushes. "I can handle myself."
The oni shifts his weight and, even if he can’t see them beneath the mask, Baptiste can feel eyes roam over him as he climbs to his feet. "I am very aware of that," the oni says. "I'm simply offering help."
Baptiste huffs out a laugh, "Isn't it unwise to accept help from a demon?"
"Only if you have something he really wants," another voice says.
Ignoring the oni's awkward cough, Baptiste turns to see the gorgon DJ from earlier walking towards them. Baptiste tenses. He is secure enough in his skills to know he can take down that assassin easily; the oni would give him trouble, especially given the speed with which he grabbed the vampire. But he is certain he wouldn't be able to walk away from all three of them should they choose to attack.
As the gorgon draws closer, the would-be assassin gives a muffled cry and struggles in the oni's arms but the oni tightens his grip on the man's throat and he falls silent again with a small gurgle. Baptiste glances over to see that the man is still alive despite starting to turn red in the face.
The gorgon comes to a stop next to the oni, obviously familiar with him, a cheerful smile on his face despite the situation. He is shorter than he looked on the stage, the top of his head barely reaching Baptiste’s chin. But there’s muscle packed into his small frame.
“He did help, right? This wasn’t some kind of consensual erotic scene you guys were doing?” The snakes writhe around his head, stretching to hiss in the assassin’s face.
Baptiste is startled into a laugh. “No, definitely not.”
“Oh good,” the gorgon flicks his head to get one of the snakes back in place. “I never want to cockblock.”
The oni makes a noise at that and Baptiste thinks it might have been a laugh.
The other vampire starts thrashing in the oni’s arms and everyone’s attention turns to him. Baptiste steps closer, flicking his eyes at the oni in a silent command. The oni loosens his hold on the man’s neck, keeping his other arm securely around him.
The vampire gasps for air, hissing through a damaged windpipe, “Kill me, it doesn’t matter. My life belongs to Talon. As does yours, deserter. You will never be safe. You will never be free. They will never stop hunting you until you have returned to the fold or are ashes in the wind.”
The oni twitches, moving to grasp the vampire’s neck again but Baptiste closes his hand around the collar of the vampire’s shirt. He pulls him out of the oni’s arms and slams him into the brick wall. He hesitates, his own dark red eyes staring into the angry red of his assassin.
“They do not own me,” he snarls then quickly snaps the assassin’s neck, letting his body fall to the ground. He stands there a moment, letting himself feel a mix of both regret and relief.
As he turns around the gorgon says, “Definitely not cockblocking. But hey, good timing, huh?”
Baptiste raises an eyebrow. “Good timing,” he repeats flatly. “Did you follow me?” They both have to know it isn’t actually a question.
The oni shifts uncomfortably. “I...yes, technically, but not for the reason you think. I just...wanted to make sure you got home safely.” The last bit is mumbled so softly that Baptiste almost doesn’t hear it.
“I can take care of myself,'' Baptiste repeats, offense seeping into his tone.
The oni laughs softly, “Yes, I can see that.” He glances down pointedly to the man lying still at their feet.
The gorgon nudges him with his elbow. “You’ll have to forgive him. He has a tendency to be overprotective of people he ultimately underestimates.” It’s said good-naturedly but Baptiste can detect an undercurrent of rebuke. “Charming, if mildly insulting.”
The oni bristles and starts to object, but the gorgon pats his arm and smiles brightly up at him, and the oni falls silent with a slump of his shoulders. There’s familiarity and affection between them, Baptiste notes as he watches the gorgon’s hand linger on the oni’s arm, stroking softly before letting go. He realizes why the oni was watching him in the club and he notes that he hasn’t acted any way other than polite, if also a bit charmingly awkward.
“I’m Lúcio, by the way. This is Genji.” Lúcio gestures to the oni, who inclines his head but remains silent.
Baptiste hesitates. “Baptiste,” he says after a moment.
Lúcio hums softly. “So who’s your friend?” he asks, nudging the corpse with the toe of his shoe.
“Dead,” Baptiste answers shortly.
“Well I can see that.” Lúcio rolls his eyes. He peers up at Baptiste. “You seem awfully calm about a guy who just tried to murder you. Is this a frequent occurrence or are you just the chillest person in the entire world?”
Baptiste snorts. “Unfortunately, quite frequent. My old clan has not taken kindly to my choice to no longer fall in line with their orders. We have a few,” he laughs bitterly, “irreconcilable differences in life philosophies.”
Genji shifts his stance.“I am familiar with that situation,” he says. “I’m sorry you have experienced it as well.”
One of Lúcio’s snakes stretches across the space between them to slide into his hair and Genji leans into it in such an absent-minded, affectionate gesture that Baptiste feels a small spike of jealousy.
Baptiste still doesn’t know what to make of them. He doesn’t understand why they’re here or what they want with him. Exhaustion suddenly hits him and he no longer has the patience or willpower to be so cautious.
“What do you want?”
Lúcio looks so surprised that Baptiste almost laughs. “Nothing? We don’t want your like soul or anything. We’re not that kind of demon.”
“So you’re just good Samaritans, defending the helpless?” Baptiste asks skeptically.
“Only the attractive ones.” Genji’s voice is so deadpan that it takes Baptiste a long moment to fully register it. When he does, he can’t contain his laugh. It’s far louder and longer than the comment warrants, the stress of the entire night bubbling to the surface.
Lúcio smiles at him through the outburst, and Baptiste suddenly wants to see Genji’s expression under that mask.
As the laughter fades, Baptiste shrugs his shoulders, smiling almost sheepishly, “To be honest, I’m not really sure what to do here.”
“Well,” Lúcio draws the word out as he looks around. “There is a dead body here. Which is, you know, probably not a good thing to leave lying around.”
Baptiste snorts and starts looking around the alley. “Probably not.” The alley is surprisingly clean, which Baptiste finds slightly annoying, not that he particularly wanted to roll around in god knows what.
“You uh don’t happen to have a wood stake on you, do you?”
Lúcio spreads his arms, gesturing to the tank top and tight jeans he’s wearing, shaking his head.
“Sorry,” Genji says, “I just took mine out of my pocket this morning.”
Baptiste snaps his fingers. “Damn, isn’t that always how it goes?”
“Of course. Tissues, chapstick, priest-blessed wooden stake. Never have the essentials when you need them.”
Shaking his head and chuckling, Baptiste says, “Well, I’m not draining him, so I guess my only option is stashing him somewhere until the sun can take care of him.”
Genji steps toward the body but Baptiste waves him away. “He’s my mess, I got it.” He kneels and pats the body down, pulling out a knife and a wallet. The knife he tosses in a nearby dumpster, but the wallet he holds up to Genji and Lúcio with a question on his face. Lúcio shrugs and Genji doesn’t move at all, so Baptiste throws it at Lúcio anyway.
Lúcio opens it and pulls out a five dollar bill and condom. “Oh score. Looks like we’re all set for tonight, baby.” He waves them in Genji’s face.
“Well shit,” he says with wide eyes. “Guess you’re not getting laid.” He chucks it into the darkness.
Genji folds his arms over his chest. “Only me?” Baptiste can hear the raised eyebrow in his voice.
Lúcio just shrugs. “Not my fault you’re off your game tonight.” Genji scoffs and starts to reply but thinks better of it and falls silent. Lúcio pats his shoulder placatingly.
Baptiste braces himself and hoists the body over one shoulder and walks further into the alley. There’s a small space next to a dumpster and a pile of cardboard boxes. He glances up to check the angle of the walls and thinks that the sun will probably hit the area in the late morning. It’s risky, but short of walking the body down the street to dispose of elsewhere, he doesn’t have a whole lot of choice.
He drops the body and bends over to arrange it so it’s concealed as much as possible while still exposed to the sun above. Accepting that it’s the best he can do, he turns around and catches Lúcio blatantly staring at his ass. Even Lúcio’s snakes are craning around his head to watch. Lúcio realizes he’s been caught and suddenly starts arranging his snakes back into place. As he gets closer, he can barely hear Lúcio hiss over Genji’s laughter, “Like you weren’t looking too. You and your fucking mask.” Genji keeps laughing.
Baptiste stops in front of them. “So...thank you. For your help. I appreciate it.” And he does, actually, even if Genji was a bit on the creepy side about it. It was nice to have help, even though he spent a long time expecting them to attack him too. He realizes he’s almost completely let his guard down around these two obviously dangerous people he’s just met. He also realizes he isn’t as concerned about that as he probably should be.
“Of course,” Genji says softly. “My pleasure.”
Lúcio glances between them and suddenly grins. “Thank us by buying dinner. There’s a diner around the corner that stays open for the last call crowd.” Lúcio turns toward the entrance to the alley, pausing when he realizes Baptiste isn’t following him.
“I don’t eat food.” Baptiste gives them a confused look. “I’m a vampire.”
“Well, I’m not and I’m hungry. And who knows, you may wind up getting to eat later too.” Lúcio shifts his snakes away from his face, baring his neck.
Baptiste’s eyes widen in surprise and he glances at Genji to see his shoulders shaking in silent laughter.
Lúcio grabs his arm and tugs him out of the alley.
The diner really isn’t far, tucked into a little corner of an area of town that Baptiste hasn’t visited yet. There are a handful of patrons, a werewolf and her glowing-eyed girlfriend leaning against each other and sharing a mountain of banana pudding.
Lúcio slides into the booth next to Genji, nudging up against him to get his attention. Genji turns to him and Baptiste can see Lúcio’s face move through a series of expressions, clearly communicating silently with the oni.
Genji’s shoulders tense and then he ducks his head down slightly before nodding and reaching up to pull the mask from his face. Baptiste watches in fascination. Genji’s skin is a dusty grey with sharp red markings over his eyebrows and below his eyes. Short red horns protrude from his forehead, small tusks curve over his upper lip, and he sees that Genji’s eyes are a brighter red than his own as Genji meets his gaze. His face is littered with scars but it does nothing to diminish his strong features.
He is unfairly attractive. They both are.
Baptiste leans back in his chair. “You really shouldn’t keep your face covered.”
“It’s an oni tradition,” Genji protests, reflexively.
“It’s a crime.”
Genji flushes at Baptiste’s words. “My appearance tends to frighten people,” he says as he carefully sets his mask on the table. Baptiste can feel the vulnerability in his words, even if Genji manages to make his voice sound detached. “I did not always look this way.”
Baptiste shrugs, “I didn’t always look this way either.” He gestures to his orange eyes and the ashen hue on his dark skin. He opens his mouth and tongues one of his fangs. “I was human once, too.”
Genji’s eyes linger on his mouth and Baptiste wonders if he remembers that he’s not hiding his gaze behind a mask anymore.
“Well,” Lúcio drawls, “I was born with this exquisite beauty.” He lifts his arms, the light glinting off the scales in his skin, and gathers his snakes up in a mass above his head. Baptiste tries to ignore the sight of his neck and fails. Lúcio sighs dramatically and let’s the snakes tumble down his shoulders, which they clearly do not like as they whip up to hiss into his face.
Baptiste laughs as Lúcio shoves them away, telling them to quit being so fussy.
The waiter approaches and Lúcio orders a hamburger, Genji gets only a bitter black coffee that makes Lúcio wrinkle his nose, and Baptiste graciously declines.
They make idle small talk while waiting for their order. Baptiste watches their dynamic with fascination. Lúcio dominates the conversation, his natural charm filling the space. Genji is far more reserved but Lúcio immediately gives him his full attention when Genji does speak. For all that Lúcio ribs Genji, there is a great deal of respect between them.
Baptiste tells them about the clinic he works at not too far from here.
“Yeah.” Lúcio leans his elbows on the table. “That place is really good for the community. We’ve seen you there a few times.”
Baptiste pauses and Lúcio realizes what he’d said. “No, I mean...that’s not...that’s not what it sounds like. We’re not stalking you, I swear. We were just...around that area and we…”
“Noticed you,” Genji cuts in. And Lúcio nods quickly.
Baptiste raises an eyebrow. “Noticed me.”
Genji tilts his head and raises his eyebrows. “Hard not to.”
Warmth spreads through Baptiste’s whole body and he is thankfully spared giving a response by the waiter dropping off their food. He’s not sure if he would have been self-deprecatingly dismissive or practically inviting Genji to fuck him on the table in the middle of the diner. He is more than a little relieved to not find out.
Lúcio fusses with his food, clearly still flustered, which Baptiste finds to be adorably charming, though he refrains from saying it.
There is something about them that makes him feel comfortable, like he can actually relax for the first time in so long. Part of him thinks he should find that concerning, the immediacy with which dropped his guard. The romantic in him, the part that believes in instant connections between people--although he does draw the line at soulmates--is thrilled at feeling this way with them. He’s always tended to follow his gut feeling first.
Leaning back and idly spinning the wrapped silverware on the table, Baptiste asks, “So you don’t want to know what the deal was back there?”
Lúcio sets his food down without taking a bite. “I mean, yeah, I do. Can’t say something like that is a thing I see often even in our--” his gesture takes in their supernatural features “--part of the world.”
Baptiste takes a deep breath. “Vampires are made, you know? I made some stupid decisions when I was younger. Justified those decisions, at the time. Thought that joining a vampire clan was the only option I had.” He looks up at them and sighs. “It wasn’t but by the time I accepted that, I was in too deep with a clan that thrived off killing and looting innocent people.” Lúcio bristles at that and Baptiste sees Genji move his arm slightly, settling him down with a hand on his thigh. “So I ran. Have been running ever since. Which is, as you saw, not something they take kindly to.”
“You’ve been dealing with them on your own?” Genji asks.
Lúcio makes a noise in the back of his throat when Baptiste shrugs. “Better than pulling other people into my mess. Better than more people getting hurt because of me.” He smiles ruefully.
Genji narrows his eyes at him. “There are people who might want to help you, who could take care of themselves, who you wouldn’t have to worry about.”
“It’s...it’s my choice,” Baptiste says and even he can hear the lack of conviction in his voice.
Lúcio twists his lips up and squints at him but doesn’t protest further.
A heavy silence falls between them and Lúcio goes back to eating his food.
“So,” Baptiste clears his throat. “Since I’ve been baring my soul, reciprocation is only appropriate.”
Genji snorts. “I suppose so. I did say I was somewhat familiar with your situation.” He talks about his own human clan, a group of yakuza drug runners and assassins, and his wayward youth, which Baptiste notes is said wryly and he smiles, thinking he’d like to hear stories of that eventually. He explains that he had no interest in the plan his father had for him and rebelled by passing clan secrets to rival groups.
“It was ill-thought out and foolish,” his voice drops lower. “The invincibility of youth and frankly, stupidity. I gave no thought to any kind of consequences, and the clan manipulated my brother into confronting me, which led to this.” He gestures to his features. Baptiste knows enough about onis to know how they are created and he can surmise what happened without Genji going into detail. “Now, I can acknowledge my mistakes, the part I played in all of it. That I was not an innocent victim like I told myself for so long. But it has been...a journey.”
During his story, Lúcio had shifted closer to him until both he and his snakes were touching him in some way.
“We all have regrets, don’t we?” Baptiste asks quietly and Genji hums in agreement.
Baptiste glances at Lúcio, who sits up straight and points to himself. “Oh me? I’m just a DJ.” A snort comes from Genji and Lúcio rolls his eyes. “Ok so I might have led one or two little revolutions and ran a corrupt corporation out of my home town.”
Baptiste sits back, looking Lúcio up and down, “Well, damn. That’s really impressive.”
“Thank you,” Lúcio says primly, as if Baptiste had just complimented his newest accessory.
They switch to less weighty topics. Baptiste learns that Lúcio is in fact quite famous (Lúcio waves away his apologies for not knowing his music) who likes to play small, local venues in between large tours. He learns that Genji travels with him, though he largely stays out of the public eye, picking up some contract killings when he gets bored.
Baptiste squints at him, his grin ruining his attempt to be stern. “How do I know you’re not another assassin hired by my clan, lulling me into complacency only to murder me later?”
Lúcio mirrors his grin. “You don’t. Not really. Though I will say, I don’t do hits at all. Bad PR, you know? And while he does,” Lúcio gestured to Genji, “he does it quick and clean.”
“I am not in the habit of taking my targets out to dinner before I kill them.”
Baptiste props his chin on his hand and gives Genji a lazy look. “No? What are you in the habit of doing after you take someone to dinner?”
Without the mask, Genji is far more expressive and Baptiste is surprised to see a mix of desire and caution on his face. “You are more than welcome to find out. I would very much like for you to. As would he.” Genji tilts his head towards Lúcio whose face is split in a wide grin.
“Oh most definitely.” Lúcio licks his lips. His tongue is long and forked and barely manages not to groan out loud.
Baptiste takes a deep breath, trying to keep from thinking with just his dick. “I don’t really do things like this. Not shortly after I was almost assassinated, anyway.”
“We don’t really either,” Genji admits. “Though Lúcio certainly has his pick of willing groupies.”
Lúcio’s face twists in disgust. “Yeah, that ain’t happening. Look, I know we just met but it feels like there’s a--” he grimaces and waves his hand in the air. “Something. So just laying it all out there: you’re nice and funny and unbelievably hot. I want you, Genji very obviously wants you, like yikes tone it down man.” Baptiste is surprised that Genji’s glare doesn’t set Lúcio on fire, but he just smiles and continues. “And if the feeling is mutual--which I am pretty sure it is--then why not just see where it goes?”
Baptiste looks between them and doesn’t respond immediately. He tries to weigh the risks and the odds that they really are with Talon, but all he can think about is how stupidly hot they both are and that they want him as much as he wants them.
Genji leans forward, his gaze heated. “Come home with us.”
Throwing caution to the wind, Baptiste agrees.