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(I Would Like To) Take You Home

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The club is loud and pulsing and striped with strobe lights and Mike loves it, despite – or maybe because of – the fact that it’s so unlike his usual haunts. He stands out like a sore thumb here, his pastel pressed jacket and trousers completely at odds with the skinny jeans and tiny skirts worn by the girls and boys pressed in all around him.

Mike takes a deep, unnecessary breath, inhaling the smell that hangs thick in the air between him and the crowd; it’s a sweet, tangy mixture of blood and sweat and human pheromones, and it’s intoxicating. He’s already fed tonight but these humans smell delicious and he’s never been one to turn down a healthy snack.

He glides over to the bar, orders a drink he won’t touch and just lounges there, casting a speculative eye over the crowd. They’re mostly as young as he looks, fresh and untainted and fucking mouth-watering, and Mike can have any one of them he wishes. The desire rises in him then and he can almost feel himself going dizzy with it, like when he was human and a child and would spin around in circles just to watch the world whip by.

(It’s not hunger, it’s not anything like it. Hunger is desperation and need and clawing for the first warm body with blood pumping through its veins. This is pure, selfish want and Mike loves it, loves that he has the power to just take what he wants like he never had when he was alive.)

The vampire halts in his assessment of the room, pausing on someone just across from him. He’s fairly tall, Mike thinks, possibly just a few inches shorter than himself, with a mop of curly dark hair and the most innocent face he’s seen since-

No. Mike is not going there. Not now. Not tonight. He catches the boy’s eye – because he is a boy, can’t be any older than eighteen at the most – and smiles, slow and steady and sharp, tipping the brim of his bowler hat in greeting. The boy looks surprised for a few moments but smiles back, face flushed and eyes bright. He’s practically glowing with his humanity, with his mortality, and something dark and primal within Mike throbs with the urge to extinguish that light as brutally as possible.

He turns, making to leave, and doesn’t even have to look over his shoulder to know the kid’s following him. The smile twists on his lips, momentarily baring a flash of white fangs at anyone who happens to be glancing in his direction, before it’s gone.

Outside, Mike leans against the wall and pulls out a cigarette. He doesn’t smoke any more, can’t, but it’s part of the game, part of the act, and Mike is so very good at acting.

(He misses it, though, misses the slow burn of the smoke in his lungs more than most of the things William said he would miss about being human. Sometimes he feeds on addicts with nicotine-stained fingernails so he can remember what it tastes like, just for a few moments.

It’s almost better than the blood. Almost.)

Bringing the cigarette to his lips, Mike lights it with the lighter tucked in the pocket of his jacket but doesn’t inhale, can’t. He contents himself with sucking on the filter, watching the smoke curl out of the end of the folded up piece of paper. It tastes empty, bland, like bread that’s gone stale.

The kid ducks out of the club a few moments later, eyes darting around the little alleyway until they rest on Mike and crinkle in a smile. He’s shivering, a little, and it occurs to Mike then that it’s probably cold out here. He’s a supernatural creature of darkness, he isn’t affected by such minutiae as temperature, so he shrugs off his jacket and holds it out, quirking an eyebrow when the boy just blushes and shakes his head, mumbling what sounds like no thank you.

“Take it, kid,” Mike says patiently, layering his voice only a little. He saw the reluctance in the boy’s big hazel eyes when he shook his head, and he knows it’s just deeply-ingrained politeness that’s making him decline the offer. It won’t take much to convince him. “I figure you need it more than me.”

Sure enough, the kid doesn’t hesitate longer than a second before taking the jacket and shrugging it on, smiling gratefully at Mike. He blows a smoke ring into his face in response, laughing when the boy starts coughing violently.

“Take it you don’t wanna bum a smoke, then?” Mike says, amused.

The kid stops trying to cough up a lung long enough to look indignant and choke out, “I’ll have one if you’re offering.”

Mike arches an eyebrow but doesn’t say anything as he digs out a cigarette and hands it over, letting their fingers brush for a few moments too long to be accidental. He leans down to light the cigarette when the boy’s got it between his lips, watching him intently as he flicks the lighter and the flame ignites. The kid blushes, glancing down to break the contact, and Mike smirks before slinking back to his position against the wall. Sometimes, this is just too easy.

The boy doesn’t cough when he takes his first drag but his eyes are scrunched up with concentration and Mike can tell it’s not without great effort. Chuckling to himself, he just watches the kid for a few moments, sucking on his own cancer stick.

“So what’s your name?” he drawls, cigarette dangling at his side. He could probably draw it out of the kid’s mind, take it by force, but when there’s no need for it, Mike prefers the more conventional approach to conversation.

“Ke-Kevin,” the boy stutters out, cheeks flaming as he glances down at the floor and bites back a nervous smile. Mike thinks he would’ve found it endearing, back when he was alive, but now all it does is clench something tight around his stomach and remind him of the innocence of the boy, of his humanity, of his mortality. “What’s yours?”

“Mike,” Mike says, surprising himself. He never gives his real name, offering instead the one you’ll be screaming when I’ve got my hand between your legs (or his fangs in their neck, but he doesn’t usually mention that part until later, if at all).

It unsettles him, the way he was so taken aback by the genuine look in the kid- Kevin’s eyes and the way he’d looked up at Mike through his lashes, shy, that he’d just blurt out his name like that. Like... like a human would.

The kid’s mouth is open like he’s about to say something else but Mike doesn’t give him the chance to talk. If he’s going to do this, he’s going to have to do it now. He can already feel his resolve slipping, the tight ball of want unravelling in his stomach.

Detaching himself from the wall, Mike steps forward until he’s crowding Kevin back against the brick, hands braced on either side of him. He smirks when the kid squeaks and the feeling of dizzying desire returns in an instant.

“What are you-”

“Relax,” Mike murmurs, and Kevin’s body goes instantly pliant beneath his.

He angles the kid’s chin with his fingers, tugging him up to fit their mouths together. Kevin makes a startled noise, lips parted, and Mike takes the chance to lick into his mouth. He tastes a little like the cigarette he was smoking, like spearmint and peanut butter and something sweeter Mike can’t name, but he doesn’t linger on Kevin’s mouth for too long. He pulls away enough to brush his lips down Kevin’s jaw, kissing gently across his neck, and he smiles against the skin when the kid gasps. He trails lower, teasingly slow, until he finds the pulse point on Kevin’s neck, until he can feel the steady ba-bump of the blood flowing beneath the surface.

Mike mouths over the spot for a few moments, breath ghosting over the skin. Then he lets his teeth scrape over it, gentle, hesitant. This time Kevin whines, high-pitched and desperate and he arches up, tilting his head to give Mike better access to his neck. The fool. All Mike has to do now is sink his fangs into the soft, soft skin and suck out every last drop of Kevin’s sweet, sweet blood, and that’s it. That’s the end.

Mike pulls away abruptly, blinking hard. He peels himself off Kevin with great effort and strides away without a backward glance, even when the boy calls after him, his voice cracking on Mike’s name.

***

Mike finds a girl on the edge of the city who’s more his usual type: classy dark curls that fall down her back and a painted on smile that’s as red as the blood pouring out of the gash across her neck. He doesn’t finish her off, can’t, and she’s going to bleed to death on the pavement. All that blood going to waste. William would be so disappointed in him if he knew.

“Please,” she wheezes, “help me.”

Mike straightens up and watches her body shudder and convulse in his peripheral vision for a few seconds before finally going still. He tries to ignore the fact that he still feels empty, despite the two and a half litres of blood filling his dead veins, and turns away to leave.

The house is quiet when Mike gets back, quiet in the way it always is less than an hour before the sun rises. The Dandies don’t like taking risks they aren’t certain they’ll get a return on and there are few besides Mike who’re willing to chance instant incineration for the sake of pushing back the night as long as possible. William is one of them. Brendon is the other.

Brendon Urie, who’s perched on the wall outside the house, grinning like the cat in that human story his boyfriend Ryan loves so much. Someone in somewhereland? Mike doesn’t know; he’s never really liked reading, even and especially when he was alive.

(William likes to click his tongue and call him an uneducated fool when he says things like that, but Mike doesn’t care. He’s never seen the point of hiding what you really mean behind characters and metaphors and complicated plots. If you’ve got something to say, say it, that’s his philosophy.)

“You’re out late,” Brendon remarks, getting to his feet when Mike stops in front of him. “Must’ve been a good evening.”

“I could say the same about you,” Mike says evenly, gaze flicking up and down and finally away, dismissive. “Is William still up?”

Brendon shrugs but his eyes are gleaming, not fooled by the deflection. “You have something-” He leans forward to swipe his thumb across Mike’s lower lip and down his chin. Mike flinches and Brendon smirks, holding up his blood-stained finger. “You ought to be more careful, Mike,” he says, shaking his head with mock-concern. “Anyone could’ve seen you.”

“They didn’t,” Mike says shortly. “I’m always careful.”

Brendon arches an eyebrow. “I’m sure you are,” he says, but his eyes don’t agree. “If you’ll excuse me, the sun’s about to rise and I don’t want to be caught outside when it does. Good night, Mike.”

And with that, Brendon turns and strides inside the house, leaving Mike standing there, a frown etched between his brows.

He goes back to the club the very next night.

He tells himself it’s because of the music, because of the atmosphere, and most definitely not because of a fluffy-haired boy with the most innocent face he’s seen in decades. (Mike is so very good at acting, at pretending, even to himself.)

It’s easy to disappear, once he’s inside; Mike has abandoned his suit and bowler hat for the scruffy jeans and hoodie that he scrounged off his victim of the night, so it’s easy for him to melt into the crowd and find a dark corner to disappear into.

***

Kevin’s at the club again, and it’s totally not because he’s hoping to bump into the guy from yesterday who’d pushed him up against a wall and kissed him and-

-and then just left.

Kevin tries not to sigh too long-sufferingly as he shrinks back against the wall. But, seriously, it is just his luck that the one time he finds an admittedly scary-looking but kind of ridiculously hot guy who isn’t averse to pushing him up against vertical surfaces and kissing him, he lets him run away before he can ask for more than just his name.

Mike, Kevin thinks suddenly, like he’s worried he might forget it otherwise, and brushes his fingers over his lips. He settles further into his corner, tugging Mike’s jacket closer to his body. It’s a very nice jacket, snug but not tight-fitting and lined with something soft and warm. Mike will probably want it back. Mike might even come looking for him in order to get it back.

This thought cheers Kevin up considerably and he lifts his head, scanning the crowd for a stiff bowler hat, a swish of coat tails, a wry little smile. He tries to ignore the sinking feeling in his chest when he comes up blank.

“No, no, no, this absolutely cannot do,” announces a voice, loud enough to be heard over the pulsing music.

Kevin looks up and gives a start; there’s a man standing in front of him, dressed rather like Mike was, complete with intricately patterned waistcoat and bowler hat pulled down low over his face. (Kevin’s not sure how he missed him in his assessment of the crowd, actually, given his attire.) The weirdest thing is, though, he’s looking at Kevin exactly like Mike had, something almost predatory in his eyes, coal black instead of greyish blue, but the shiver down Kevin’s spine from that realisation isn’t anywhere near as pleasant this time around.

“Huh?”

The man smiles at him, continues, “Someone as pretty as you should never look this sad.”

Kevin ducks his head, recognising it as a pick-up line – and not a terribly good one, to be honest – but not entirely sure what to do with that knowledge. “I’m not,” he mumbles, shifting on the spot a little, “sad, I mean. I’m not pretty either, I don’t think, I’m just sort of cute-looking, in a little kid kind of way? And that’s okay, I mean, it’s not like I wanna be roguishly handsome and have manly sideburns and a smouldering gaze or whatever, I’m happy just the way I am, and I’m totally not sad, not even a little bit.”

The man smirks then and Kevin fights off the blush threatening to turn the tips of his cheeks pink. He doesn’t think he’s very successful; he goes red pretty easily, especially when he’s embarrassed and especially when he’s lying. Kevin isn’t very good at lying.

“Shame,” the man says with a coy smile, “I was looking forward to having to kiss the look off your face.”

Kevin just sort of squeaks at that because seriously, what is it with kind of creepy hot guys he doesn’t know hitting on him all of a sudden? This kind of thing does not happen to people like him. It just doesn’t. He doesn’t care that it’s a line, it’s just a stupid line and is probably used to reel in a million different fish on a million different hooks. It’s not a line that’s ever been used on him because this kind of thing just does not happen to him. Kevin feels confident saying that definitively.

The man’s looking at him expectantly, though, like he expects Kevin to have something coherent to say in reply to that, so he mumbles, “Well, that would, um, that would have been very kind of you. I’ll keep it in mind? Thank you.”

Thank you? That would have been very kind of you? Kevin curses the wretched lump of grey matter he ended up with as a brain and vows to just keep his mouth shut in future. Maybe he’ll get himself into fewer embarrassing situations that way. He sort of doubts it but hey, he figures it’s worth a try.

The man bites down on his lower lip, looking very much like he’s trying not to laugh. “You’re welcome,” he replies, mimicking Kevin’s grave tone. “Feel free to call on my powers of seduction whenever you’re in need.”

“Yeah, um, I’ll do that. I’m Kevin,” he adds, because he kind of feels like the guy ought to at least know his name if he’s offering Kevin, well, happy-making kisses. (And probably more than kisses, realistically speaking, but Kevin isn’t ready to think about the implications of that quite yet.)

“Brendon,” the man says, tipping the brim of his bowler hat in a way that is chillingly familiar. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

Kevin just stares at him for a few moments, before blurting out, “Do you know a guy called Mike?”

He instantly feels stupid because wow, just because they dress the same and tip their hats the same way and sort of look at him in a vaguely similar way – and he really doesn’t want to think about what that look in both their eyes could mean because it’s kind of sort of a little bit creepy – doesn’t mean they know each other. Nice one, Kevin.

Brendon’s eyebrows hitch upwards. “Mike? Tall, scruffy, too-long hair, delectable taste in waistcoats?” Kevin nods, and Brendon’s entire face lights up. “Yes, I do believe we are acquainted. Are you?”

“Um,” Kevin says. He thinks back to their brief interaction and wonders if Brendon would consider that being ‘acquainted’. “Yeah?” he settles on, chewing his lip.

Brendon’s eyes positively gleam when he grins. “How interesting,” is all he says, though, “how very, very interesting. When did you meet? Just out of curiosity.”

“Yesterday, actually,” Kevin says, feeling his cheeks heat up at the memory. “I was cold and he, uh, he gave me his jacket, this one, actually, ‘cause I never got a chance to give it back to him, and we sort of talked, a little.”

“I see,” Brendon says knowingly, smirking at Kevin like he knows he’s lying. Kevin would not be surprised. “You talked. That sounds a lot like Carden’s MO.”

(Carden, Kevin thinks, Mike Carden, and files the name away with the rest of the mostly useless information in his brain, like the menu for the Japanese takeaway ‘round the corner from his flat and the entire discography of John Mayer.)

“We did,” he protests, conveniently overlooking the fact that exchanging names and then saliva hardly counts as talking. “How do you know him?”

“Oh, we go way back. He’s almost like my brother,” Brendon says, snickering a little, but Kevin can’t really see what’s funny. Also, he’s not sure how Brendon and Mike got from being ‘acquainted’ to being ‘like brothers’, but something about the way Brendon is looking at him is making that seem less important, somehow. Kevin’s finding it hard to think straight, actually, and he has to keep blinking hard to stop the room from spinning.

When Brendon speaks again, his voice is low and breathy. “So Kevin,” he says, his eyes glowing like embers in a fireplace, “tell me about you and Mike. I want to know everything.”

***

Mike’s not sure how long he’s been at the club when he glances up and catches sight of a familiar bowler hat atop an equally familiar head, but he was on his second untouched drink of the night and was considering leaving before he noticed the unwelcome sight out of the corner of his eye.

Hands curled into fists, he crosses the club in three short strides and grabs Brendon by the shoulder, whirling him around. But before he can say anything, before he can demand to know what Brendon is doing in this part of town on this particular night, whether he dared to follow Mike here or if it’s just a coincidence, he notices the familiar head of curly dark hair to Brendon’s left and the bottom promptly drops out of his stomach.

“Kevin,” Mike says, and Brendon takes advantage of the distraction to wriggle free of his grasp. “What are you doing here?”

Brendon slings an arm around Kevin’s shoulders, smirking when it makes Mike’s entire body stiffen. “We were talking,” he says amiably, “weren’t we, Kev?”

Kev? Mike thinks, incredulous, and it must show on his face because Brendon’s smirk deepens.

Kevin nods enthusiastically, oblivious to Mike’s chagrin. “Yeah, we were talking,” he says, giggling like this is somehow the funniest thing ever. “About you.”

Mike narrows his eyes. He doesn’t know what’s going on here but he’s starting to get a clue and he does not like it. He does not like it at all.

“Yeah,” Brendon says, squeezing Kevin’s shoulder hard enough to leave a bruise. Kevin doesn’t even flinch. “He was telling me all about how you two met. Love at first sight, wasn’t it, Kevin?”

Kevin’s so far gone he doesn’t even blush at that, he just gives this contented little sigh and gazes over at Mike. “Yeah,” he says happily, “love at first sight. Yeah.”

Mike winces with second-hand embarrassment; he’s pretty sure the kid would never say something like that if his head weren’t messed up in fifteen different ways at once. Mike’s hands are starting to hurt from how much he’s not using them to punch Brendon in the face.

“Oh Mike,” Brendon says, eyes glinting with mischief even as he manages to sound charmed, “he’s so adorable. He was just telling me what it felt like when you kissed him – like going on a rollercoaster, wasn’t it? Or was it butterflies in a cage?”

“Butterflies in a cage,” Kevin confirms, beaming like he’s proud of his metaphor. “Lots and lots of butterflies, flapping around all over the place.”

Brendon mouths adorable at him, eyes sparkling. Mike’s own eyes narrow and he reaches for Kevin but Brendon tugs him away before Mike can touch him.

“Stop it,” Mike orders, “you’re hurting him.”

“Now, now, Mike,” Brendon tuts, shaking his head. “Didn’t your parents ever teach you how to share?”

Mike hisses out a “Fuck you, Urie,” but he doesn’t lunge at him and tackle him to the ground and beat the living shit out of him like he kind of really wants to. Brendon would heal quickly, Mike knows this, but William would probably still kill him for harming a hair on his precious protégé’s little head.

(The thing is, vampires don’t share. Vampires don’t know how to share; all they know is possession and ownership and territory and rules, and Mike has no idea what Brendon’s trying to achieve here by breaking them. If he’s just trying to piss Mike off, he doesn’t need to go to all this trouble. He does that already simply by existing.)

“Share me?” Kevin looks confused, but it’s hard to tell it apart from the effect of the mesmerism. “What does that mean?”

“Nothing,” Mike says, conjuring up a smile and layering his voice with as many currents of listen to what I say, do not panic as he dares. (Human minds are incredibly fragile contraptions and Mike doesn’t want to mess Kevin up any more than Brendon already has, not if he doesn’t have to.) He curls a hand around Kevin’s elbow, light, possessive, and tugs him out of Brendon’s grip. “Get a drink,” he orders, staring intently at the kid, “you’re thirsty.”

“Yeah,” Kevin says slowly, blinking a few times, “I am. I’ll, uh, I’ll just be back in a sec. Bye, Brendon.”

Mike watches him wander off in the direction of the bar before turning back to the other vampire, who’s inspecting his nails like he’s bored by this whole affair. (Brendon is not as good at acting as Mike.)

“Back off, Urie,” he says, still vaguely proud of how he’s managed to not jump him quite yet. It won’t last, especially if Brendon keeps on smirking like that.

“You haven’t turned him,” Brendon states, glancing up to give Mike an even, narrow look. “You haven’t even fed on him. He’s fair game, Carden, and you know it.”

Mike swallows down a snarl because, dammit, he saw the boy first so he is his, and Brendon has no right to try and take what doesn’t belong to him, whether Mike has a physical claim over it or not. There are rules, there are sacred, unspoken, unbroken rules that they all follow, without fail. (Except for maybe William but William’s their leader, he can and does do whatever the fuck he wants.) However, as much as Mike is loathe to admit it, Brendon’s right. He hasn’t turned Kevin, hasn’t so much as put a mark on him to stake his ownership. He doesn’t have a physical claim over Kevin, which does make him, essentially, fair game.

“Not for much longer,” Mike says through gritted teeth, and he means it.

Brendon arches an eyebrow, unimpressed. “Oh really. What if I got there first?”

“I’d kill you before you got your fangs anywhere near his neck.”

Mike’s sort of surprised at the level of venom in his voice but Brendon only chuckles, still mostly amused and not annoyed by the way Mike’s handling this situation.

“Oh Carden,” he says, shaking his head in condescending pity. “You’re rather attached to this little human, aren’t you? I don’t blame you; he smells delicious. I can’t wait to get a real taste of him.”

Mike snarls and Brendon steps back, something akin to fear flitting across his face for the first time. It’s not unfamiliar, not for them. Mike is William’s second-in-command and, arguably, his best friend. Brendon is a runt William took a shine to when he was out on the prowl one night, and decided he liked his pretty mouth and pretty eyes too much to just kill him.

Mike and Brendon have never gotten on.

(Brendon thinks Mike’s unworthy of his status, that he isn’t elegant or sophisticated or intelligent enough to deserve a place in William’s affections. Mike thinks Brendon’s a mouthy little shit with too much bravado and not enough wits to keep himself alive. It’s not exactly a fantastic basis for friendship though most of the time, they do try and keep things civil.

This is not one of those times.)

“Back off, Urie,” Mike repeats, but this time his voice is as flat and as terrifying as the look in his eyes. He feels rather than sees Brendon flinch away from him. “Kevin is mine. You do not get to touch him and you do not get to hurt him. Ever.”

Mike strides off without another glance back. He finds Kevin at the bar, chatting amiably to the bartender and sipping something purple-coloured from a glass. Mike can tell there’s no alcohol in it from here and takes a moment to wonder just what on earth this kid’s even doing here. It doesn’t seem, by any stretch of the imagination, like his scene. Mike would’ve pegged him as the youth group and boy scouts type, if he’s honest.

Kevin gives a start when Mike sits down next to him, says, “Mike, you scared me.” His eyes have lost the glazed look entirely, Mike’s glad to see, and there’s a smile on his lips that he can’t help but return, just for a moment. “Where’s your friend?”

Mike looks away, scowling. “Brendon’s not my friend,” he says vehemently.

“Oh,” Kevin says, confused. “He said...” He frowns with the effort of remembering. “He said you two were like brothers.”

Mike lets out a harsh little laugh at that; in a twisted sort of way, it’s true. “He’s still not my friend,” he says, “and he shouldn’t be yours either.”

Kevin still looks confused but Mike can’t really blame him. “Why not?”

“I’m a vampire,” Mike informs him, matter-of-fact, and Kevin nearly chokes on his drink. “So’s Brendon.”

“Oh,” Kevin gulps, face pale, “that’s, um... good to know?”

Mike frowns. That’s not the response he was expecting. Hysteria, disbelief, a drink thrown in his face... anything but calm acceptance. Or, well, sort of calm, within the realm of choking on drinks and the loss of blood from the face. (Mike figures the kid’s entitled to that at least, and it’s more than tame compared to some of the stuff he’s been subjected to over the years.)

“You’re not freaking out,” he says flatly. “Why are you not freaking out?”

“It’s not like I didn’t already know vampires exist,” Kevin says, shrugging. “I haven’t been living under a rock or something. I’ve heard things, seen things. It’s kind of hard not to.”

Mike’s body tenses. The kid doesn’t look like a hunter, but then they never really do. Resisting the urge to demand to know whether or not Kevin knows a guy called Pete Wentz, he asks, reasonably enough, “Did you know what I was, yesterday?”

Kevin bites his lip, cheeks pink, and shakes his head. “I just thought you were special,” he says softly, quickly, like he doesn’t think he’ll get the words out otherwise. “I mean, you know, you just looked... yeah,” he trails off, scrubbing a hand through his loose curls. “I’ve never seen a vampire up close before.”

“Well yeah,” Mike says dryly. “Generally people don’t survive getting that close to a vampire because most of the time, it means you’re dinner.”

Kevin manages a weak smile at that. “So is that why Brendon being a vampire means I shouldn’t be friends with him? Because he’ll eat me?”

“Brendon being a vampire means Brendon will torture you to the brink of extreme pain before he rips your throat out and eats you,” Mike says bluntly. “Brendon likes to play with his food.”

Kevin’s eyes widen and his body shudders in a very satisfyingly terrified way before he murmurs, “Okay, yeah, I trust you, that is a totally valid reason not to befriend someone.”

“You... you trust me?” Mike frowns, sceptical. “Really?”

“Well, yeah.” Kevin’s eyes narrow with confusion. “Should I not?”

“I’m a vampire,” Mike repeats, like this should be obvious. It is obvious. Kevin shouldn’t trust him. Why does Kevin trust him? No person in their right mind would put their life in his hands if they value their continued existence. Mike’s a vampire. “I’m kind of in on the whole ripping your throat out and eating you thing.”

Kevin shrugs. “I figure if you were gonna kill me you’d have done it already. It’s not like you didn’t have the chance.”

“What if I were just biding my time?” Mike asks, careful to keep his voice even, because he’s still not sure that he isn’t. “What if I were trying to gain your trust, to draw out the process to make it even more painful? What if I were just playing with you too?”

“Then I guess I’d be screwed,” Kevin says, decisive, “but I don’t think you are. You seem like a more straightforward kind of guy. And kind of impatient, actually. Not in a bad way,” he says hurriedly, like he’s worried Mike might smite him for such a heinous insult, “just that if you wanted something, you’d take it, no messing around.”

Mike’s lips twitch into an involuntary smile. “You’re probably right,” he says wryly, “but that doesn’t mean you should trust me.”

(He gets the feeling Kevin is the type of boy who offers trust like he offers smiles: readily and not by halves. It’s all or nothing with him, and Mike would admire him for it if it weren’t so fucking foolish. Trust gets you nowhere in this world except stuffed in a rubbish bin in an alley with fading bruises on your neck.)

Kevin shrugs. “Maybe not, but... there’s something about you, I don’t know. I can’t help it.” He grabs his drink, downs the remains and then says, before Mike can question him further, “I should be going soon, actually.” He’s biting his lip, and there’s a wistful little look in his eyes like he’d much rather stay. “I’ve got a class really early tomorrow morning.”

Mike arches an eyebrow. “What kind of class?”

“Experimental and avant-garde film and video. I’m doing film studies at college,” Kevin explains eagerly. He looks proud as he tells Mike this and the vampire feels a surge of something like affection for the boy that he can’t quite explain. (Kevin still has his whole life ahead of him, still has graduation and a job and a life to look forward to. Mike can’t even remember what that feels like.)

He makes a humming noise in his throat and asks, “What’s it like?”

“It’s excellent,” Kevin says with a gleeful little grin, and then he launches into a description of everything he’s been doing so far. His eyes are lit up with excitement and enthusiasm as he explains to Mike the differences and similarities between classical and contemporary cinema and the various aesthetics they like to use, not that Mike has a clue what that word means. Kevin loses him completely when he starts talking about theories of spectatorship and mass culture and Mike just watches him talk, watches his mouth move and his hands flail as he gets more and more excited by what he’s talking about.

(It’s... well, it’s kind of adorable, actually, and it’s making Mike want things. Things he doesn’t normally want. Things like, fuck, holding hands and trading kisses over coffee and cuddling under blankets and waking up every morning with a head of fluffy hair on the pillow next to him.

Stupid things. Ridiculous things. Maybe kind of awesome things.

Things he can’t ever, ever have and he really ought to stop forgetting that. It’s been so long since he let himself get close to someone and he should know better, he should know what happens when he tries to have nice things.)

When Kevin pauses to take a breath, which Mike suddenly notices he hasn’t done for a while now, he says, slow and careful, “That’s really great and all, but weren’t you supposed to be going? About half an hour ago?”

Kevin glances at his wrist and his eyes widen. “Darn it, you’re right. I hadn’t even noticed it got so late.”

Mike’s mouth twitches involuntarily and he digs his teeth into his lips so he won’t start grinning. “I’m walking you home,” he says. “I told Brendon to back off but I don’t want to take any chances. I’m not letting you die if I can help it.”

“Why?” Kevin asks, a look of genuine curiosity in his eyes. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s a really awesome thing for you to do and I appreciate you preserving my existence and all, but it’s just- why do you care?”

(Mike thinks about telling Kevin how ridiculously good he smells, how every time he looks at him he wants to drain him dry and protect him from the world at the same exact time, how his cheerful, childlike innocence makes Mike yearn for something he lost a long, long time ago.

But that’s kind of a lot to say to someone you’ve just met and Mike doesn’t want to freak the kid out any more than he already has. And, besides, he doesn’t spill his guts to every Tom, Dick and Harry he sees. Mike is not that kind of guy.)

“You seem like a good kid,” he says, shrugging. “’sides, wouldn’t want anything to happen to that pretty face of yours.”

(Mike manages to turn the compliment into something that sounds vaguely mocking, somehow, but Kevin blushes anyway. He has never been called pretty before today, mockingly or otherwise, and he’s never really had a high tolerance level for compliments anyway.)

Mike takes advantage of Kevin’s temporary distraction to grab him by the scruff of his jacket and haul him away from the bar. Kevin squeaks in protest but it’s mostly just for show; he doesn’t really mind being manhandled by Mike, especially when he’s pressed flush against Mike’s strong, sinewy body and has an excuse to lean into his touch.

It seems as if the crowded dance floor parts in the middle for them like the Red Sea for Moses but Kevin suspects it has more to do with the force of Mike’s glare and his sharp, pointy elbows. They’re out of the club and heading down the street when Kevin stumbles because the way Mike’s holding him is a little awkward, and the vampire releases him momentarily, just to let him get his balance again.

That turns out to be a mistake.

Brendon leaps out of the shadows and knocks Mike out of the way, tackling Kevin to the ground. His hands are at Kevin’s throat in an instant to tip his head back and his fangs are extended to sharp points mere inches from Kevin’s neck and he has a moment to think oh God, this is it, this is the end, I’m going to die, oh God before the heavy weight on top of him disappears and Brendon’s ripped off of him.

A wave of relief crashes over Kevin and, gasping, he struggles to his feet, blinking away the blackness hovering on the edge of his vision. He can just about make out Mike standing over Brendon, who’s writhing on the floor in agony.

“I fucking warned you, Brendon,” Mike hisses, glaring down at the other vampire. “You don’t get to touch him, you understand me?”

Brendon groans out something that sounds nothing like agreement and everything like fuck you.

“I said,” Mike says, voice dangerously soft, “do you understand me?”

When Brendon doesn’t respond, Mike stomps down on his stomach, grinding his heel into the soft flesh. Brendon cries out and Kevin winces.

“Mike,” Kevin says, soft and quick, “hey, no, there’s no need for that.”

Mike whirls around, snarling, and Kevin takes an unconscious step back. “He could’ve fucking killed you, don’t you get that?” he snaps, his eyes blazing with a fury Kevin has never, ever seen before, not in Mike’s eyes and certainly not in anyone else’s.

“But he didn’t,” Kevin says, with a calmness he doesn’t feel. “He didn’t even pierce the skin. I’m fine, Mike. Let Brendon be.”

(This is, quite obviously, a complete lie. Kevin’s shaking all over and his face is as white as a sheet and he can’t really swallow past the lump in his throat but he’s alive, and he can’t let Mike beat Brendon to death for something that didn’t happen.)

“Yeah, Mike,” Brendon wheezes out, “let Brendon be.”

Mike growls and Kevin steps forward, touching his arm. “Mike,” he says, breath soft and whispering over the vampire’s ear, “Mike, come on, Mike,” and somehow that penetrates through the haze of fury cloaking Mike’s brain and brings him back. He doesn’t protest when Kevin tugs him away and only throws one last glance over his shoulder in Brendon’s direction before following Kevin home.

***

The walk back to Kevin’s place is quiet, subdued, but at least they don’t get jumped by any other vampires. Kevin fumbles with his keys to unlock the door, but when he turns around, Mike’s still hovering a few feet away.

“Aren’t you going to come in?” he asks, a narrow line of confusion between his eyebrows.

“I can’t,” Mike says, flatly.

“Do you need, like, explicit permission from the owner in order to enter a place of residence or something?” Kevin frowns, mulling over this in his head. “Like in Buffy?”

Mike gives him a particularly scathing are-you-for-real look which makes Kevin’s cheeks flame. (Mike is embarrassingly good at making Kevin blush, even when he’s not particularly trying to. It’s kind of ridiculous.)

“I was just asking,” he mutters, rubbing a hand over the back of his neck. When he looks back at Mike, there’s something desperate in his eyes. “Stay. Please? I’ll- I’ll feel safer if you’re here.”

And Mike should say no, he should leave right now before he puts the kid in any more danger than he already has, but he’s never been very good at doing the right thing, especially in the face of wide, fearful eyes and quivering, bitten-down lips and a bare, earnest plea not to.

“Sure,” Mike says, exhaling slowly, “I can stay a little while.”

(It’s almost worth it for the smile that lights up the kid’s face, then. Almost.)

Mike steps inside and kicks the door shut behind him. “You live here alone?” he asks, casting a cursory glance around. The apartment’s fairly small, but it looks like it’d fit two people nicely, maybe a couple more at a push. And Mike can smell someone who isn’t Kevin lingering on the furniture, but it could just as easily be a boyfriend, or a girlfriend. Mike’s teeth grind of their own accord; he really wants it to be a roommate, of the very platonic variety.

Kevin shakes his head, confirming Mike’s suspicions. “I have a roommate, Zac,” he says, and Mike exhales, “but he’s staying at his girlfriend’s tonight so we’ve got the place to ourselves.”

“That’s not why I’m here,” Mike says carefully. Liar. “Should I be worried about you molesting me against a wall?”

“Hey,” Kevin protests, brows drawn up in mock-outrage, “given your track record, I’m the one who ought to be worried about being molested against a wall here.”

“I don’t remember you putting up much of a fight last time,” Mike says, lips curved into an evil smirk.

Kevin looks away, face flushed. “Here,” he says quickly, shrugging off Mike’s jacket and holding it out to him, “you should probably have this back before I forget to give it back and keep it for myself.”

Mike takes it, stroking over the familiar folds of fabric. It’s warm like it never is after he wears it, and the smell of Kevin clings to every crease. He hadn’t even noticed Kevin was wearing it.

“You could,” he says, almost as an afterthought, “keep it, I mean. I’ve got loads, it’s not like I need it.”

“Oh,” Kevin says, startled. “Um, that’s really nice of you, but you don’t have to-”

“Keep it,” Mike says, more insistent this time, and holds the jacket back out to him. “Seriously. Consider it an apology for nearly getting you killed.”

Kevin takes the jacket somewhat hesitantly, like he’s afraid Mike’s going to snatch it back the minute he’s got hold of it. “It wasn’t your fault,” he says, eyes wide and serious, and Mike has no idea what he’s talking about for a moment.

“Yes it was,” he mutters, glancing away. “Brendon only wants to kill you because I- because I like you. He has a thing about fucking stuff up for people. He gets off on other people’s pain.”

The tips of Kevin’s cheeks turn pink and Mike just knows what part of what he just said the boy is fixating on. “You like me?” He sounds uncertain, like Mike hadn’t made this ridiculously fucking obvious already, what with not killing him and saving his ass from Brendon Urie, twice, and then offering to walk him home like a sixth grader on their first date.

“Duh,” Mike says, just about managing to not roll his eyes. “You’re a pretty cool kid, Kevin.”

“Well, thank you. You’re kind of cool too,” Kevin says, smiling shyly up at him. It’s suddenly very, very hard for Mike to remember why he can’t want all the things he inexplicably does when Kevin’s just looking at him like that, why this whole thing is such an awful, awful idea.

He forces himself to look away, snapping the eye contact in half, and clears his throat like there’s something stuck in it. “We should, uh, barricade the door,” he says, nodding hard. “And lock all the windows, just in case Brendon tries to get in through one of them. Yeah. Lock the windows.”

“Okay,” Kevin says, sounding confused, “but we’re three storeys up and the fire escape’s on the other side of the building.” Mike just looks at him, eyebrows raised significantly, and Kevin’s eyes widen. “Oh. Oh. Of course. Right. You got any other freaky powers I should know about?”

“We can sort of make you do stuff,” Mike says vaguely, shrugging. “You know. Like hypnosis?”

Hypnosis?” Kevin’s eyes look like they’re about to pop out of his skull. “Wait, has Brendon ever hypnotised me?” He frowns, like something’s just occurred to him. “Have you ever hypnotised me?”

Mike shrugs again, suddenly uncomfortable. “Well, yeah. Sort of.”

Sort of?” Kevin squeaks, arms flailing at his sides. “How do you sort of hypnotise someone?”

Mike glances down at the floor, scuffing the heel of his shoe against Kevin’s floor. “When I saw you,” he mumbles, “at the club, remember, yesterday, and then you followed me out and- I did it then. Sort of. And today, but I had to get you away from Brendon so it was kinda for your own good.”

Kevin looks horrified. Mike sort of wants the floor to swallow him up whole. Or maybe to disappear into the shadows and never return. That’s a more vampiric thing to do, he thinks. (Dracula would certainly approve. Mike’s not sure William would, though; he has nothing but disdain for this world’s mythology concerning their kind.)

He smiles, a bland twist of his lips. “Still trust me?”

Kevin blinks rapidly. “Yeah,” he mumbles, biting his lip. “I probably shouldn’t, but- yeah. I do.”

“Do you have a sense of self-preservation at all?” Mike asks, incredulous. Kevin just shrugs, and Mike shakes his head at him. “Speaking of self-preservation, we should really get those windows. Are there any other ways in that you know of?”

Kevin thinks for a second, then shakes his head. “Just the door.”

Mike nods and motions for Kevin to bolt the windows while he makes for a tall, heavy-looking bookcase that he pushes over to the door with minimal effort.

“Huh,” Kevin says, when Mike’s shifted the shelf right up to the door. “Super strength as well? That’s just unfair.” Mike turns, grinning, and lifts his arm to flex the muscles. “And that’s just showing off.”

Mike drops him an exaggerated wink. “You know you love it, baby.”

Kevin flushes, his eye roll very forced and very faked. “So, uh, can I get you anything? A drink, maybe?”

“Unless you’re offering me your neck,” Mike says dryly, amused by the extremely swift and not at all subtle change of subject, “which would kind of defeat the purpose of this, wouldn’t it?”

Kevin gulps. “Yeah, of course, sorry, I forgot.” Mike waves a hand, a casual forget about it gesture. “Can you not have, like, any human food or drink at all?”

Mike shrugs. “It won’t hurt me or anything,” he says honestly, “but I can’t taste it, not any more. Unless it’s in your blood, ‘cause it changes the taste. But by itself...” He shrugs again. “Nothing.”

“That’s really sad,” Kevin says in a tiny voice. “I don’t think I could live without sushi.”

Mike’s lips twitch, but he bites back the smile threatening to form. “It’s really not so bad,” he assures the kid, because he feels like he should. “It’s been years since I tasted anything but blood. I barely even remember food. It’s fine.”

(Liar, a traitorous part of Mike’s brain whispers, but he ignores it.)

Kevin nods like he understands. “I guess you could probably leave now, if you want,” he says, chewing his bottom lip. “It’s pretty safe in here now.”

“I should probably stay a bit longer,” Mike says carefully, “you know, make sure Brendon doesn’t try and attack you in your sleep or something.”

Kevin cocks his head, sceptical. “Would he?”

Mike huffs out a laugh. “I wouldn’t put it past him.”

“I guess,” Kevin says, sounding unconvinced. “it’s just- will Brendon even be able to do anything tonight? You did hurt him pretty bad. Will he- will he be okay?”

Mike blows out an impatient – and unnecessary – breath. “I can’t believe you’re worried about him. He tried to kill you.”

“He’s a vampire,” Kevin says lightly, “I figure he tries to kill a lot of people. I’m nothing special. Besides,” he continues, grinning, “it’s the circle of life. It moves us all through despair and hope, through faith and love, until we find our place on the path unwinding. It’s cool.”

Mike just looks at him, confused. “Is that a quote or something?” he asks finally.

Kevin’s mouth drops open and he gapes at Mike for a few seconds before saying, “The Lion King,” like this is obvious. “Tell me you’ve seen The Lion King.” Mike just shakes his head. “Okay, that’s it, we are watching it.”

Mike eyes him warily. “It isn’t animal porn, is it?”

Kevin turns away from rifling through his admittedly impressive DVD collection long enough to give him a scandalised look. “No, Mike,” he stresses, “it is not animal porn. It is a Disney animated children’s movie and I can’t believe you haven’t seen it. It was my childhood, Mike. My childhood.”

“Huh,” Mike says, unconvinced. “It’s a kids’ movie?”

“Yes and it is awesome.” Kevin produces the DVD case with a dramatic flourish. “I have it on video too,” he explains, like he feels like he should, “but the DVD quality is better.”

Mike doesn’t really give a shit either way so he just shrugs, wondering absently what’s so special about this movie that Kevin is so adamant that he watches it.

When Kevin’s done setting up the DVD player – that kind of technology is still a mystery to Mike, who’s mostly just kind of proud that he’s managed to figure out how to use an ordinary remote – he comes back to sit next to Mike, curling up next to him on the sofa.

“You’re gonna love this,” Kevin promises, as the opening credits start to roll. “Trust me. You will love this movie, I guarantee it.”

Mike’s still dubious, but he figures he can give it a chance for Kevin’s sake. It can’t be that bad, he reasons, if a film major thinks it’s the best thing since sliced bread.

He changes his mind abruptly about half an hour later when the little lion cub’s father dies. There’s a lump in his throat the size of a golf ball and there’s something hot and wet and unfamiliar pricking at his eyes and he sort of wants to punch something, even though he has no reason to be angry.

He swallows hard, blinks a few times, and tells himself it’s ridiculous – absolutely fucking ridiculous – for a supernatural creature of darkness to tear up at a kids’ movie. Absolutely fucking ridiculous.

***

“So,” Kevin says, in the awkward silence that seems to follow the end of every film, “what did you think of it?”

Mike thinks for a second, trying to parse everything rattling around in his brain into something that makes some kind of sense. “It was pretty fucking intense for a kids’ movie,” he settles on. (William would probably say something about metaphors and microcosms and hidden agendas, but all he can think about is how Simba must have felt, when his uncle convinced him he’d killed his father. How fucked up it must have made him. Mike knows first-hand what that kind of thing can do to a person and it’s- well, it’s pretty fucking intense for a kids’ movie.)

Kevin cracks a knowing smile. “But you liked it, right?”

Mike shrugs non-committally. “It was okay.” He did like it; it was silly and ridiculous and not his thing at all but he had to keep biting back a grin every time the creatures burst into song and Kevin sang along. “Scar seemed pretty cool.”

“You’re only pretending to root for the bad guy because you feel like you should,” Kevin says, rolling his eyes.

Mike stiffens. “Why would I do that?” he asks, careful not to let his surprise show on his face.

“You’ve got this-” Kevin waves his hands around in a vaguely demonstrative gesture. “I dunno what to call it, a villain complex? You just- you feel like you have this role you have to fulfil, like being a vampire means you have to be cruel and mean and unhappy. But you don’t. There has to be more to you than that, there always is. People aren’t that simple.”

Mike narrows his eyes. “I thought you were majoring in film studies, not psychology.”

“People are just fictional characters with a heartbeat and life’s just a movie without a script,” Kevin shrugs. “I’m right, though, aren’t I?”

“I don’t have a villain complex,” Mike says firmly, because that’s just stupid. It isn’t a denial, though, and he knows it. Kevin knows it too; he smiles, eyes sparkling, but doesn’t push Mike any further.

“Hey,” Kevin says, suddenly, like he’s just remembered something, “you never said, before. Will Brendon be okay?”

Mike rolls his eyes. If he has a villain complex, Kevin has a fucking hero complex. Nobody is that nice. “We don’t bruise that easy, Kevin,” he says dryly. “He’ll be fine.”

“Right,” Kevin says, nodding to himself. “Good, I’m glad.”

“Really?” Kevin nods, but he isn’t looking at Mike. “You okay?” Mike asks, watching him carefully.

Kevin starts to nod but then he stops halfway through and turns it into a shake of his head. “I’m just, you know, thinking about Brendon,” he mumbles, biting his lip. “I’m just- worried. It’s not like you can protect me all the time, is it?”

(I would, Mike thinks, If I could do it, I would..)

“I can do something,” he says, slowly, carefully, because he’s not entirely sure this is a good idea. “Something that’ll mean Brendon can’t hurt you.”

Kevin cocks his head, curious, and motions for Mike to continue.

“I can bite you. Not drain you dry or anything,” Mike says quickly, before Kevin can get the wrong idea, “I just have to take some blood and give some back. Just a drop. Or maybe two. Nowhere near enough to turn you.”

Kevin swallows, hard. Mike watches the lump travel down his neck and thinks about licking him there, about biting him there, but he breaks out of that fantasy pretty quickly.

“The thing is, though,” he continues, because this bit is important, “if I do it, it’s, uh, it’s a marker of possession.”

Kevin’s forehead creases in a frown. “Possession?”

It’s Mike’s turn to swallow. “It would make you mine. Not officially or anything,” he says quickly, because Kevin looks sort of horrified. (Mike thinks he should be a little bit insulted but he gets it, he understands.) “It’s just a claim on your blood, so it means I’m the only one allowed to, you know-” Mike makes a vaguely demonstrative hand gesture supposed to represent blood-sucking.

Kevin laughs then and it doesn’t sound forced, which Mike is extremely relieved about, but he still looks nervous. “So it’s like peeing on the ground to mark your territory, basically?”

“Yeah,” Mike says warily, “I guess.”

Kevin seems to mull this over for a minute or so and then he says, calmly, “Okay, do it. Do you, um-” He breaks off, tilting his head back, his meaning clear.

Mike shakes his head vehemently so his fantasy doesn’t return. “No. Your wrist. Give me your wrist.”

“Oh,” Kevin says, ducking his head back down. He looks vaguely embarrassed and sort of... disappointed? What, did he want Mike to start gnawing on his neck or something? Humans are strange. Or maybe Kevin’s just strange, Mike doesn’t know. Standards of strangeness have changed a lot since he was alive. “Okay, yeah, here you go.”

He holds out his wrist and Mike takes it, closing his fingers in a narrow circle just below Kevin’s wrist bone, thumb resting just on top of the fattest part of the veins criss-crossing under his skin. He squeezes, just a little, and feels Kevin tense beneath his grip.

“You have to relax,” Mike says, voice scratching out of his throat. “Like with an injection, you know? It hurts more if you don’t relax ‘cause the skin’s stretched tighter.”

Kevin nods, ducking his head, and Mike can feel the muscles in Kevin’s arm loosen when he leans back into the sofa and closes his eyes. He- he closes his eyes, lashes fluttering against the tired purple skin beneath them, and Mike can’t help but stare at him in disbelief for a few moments because what? There’s a fine, delicate line between trusting and suicidal and Kevin hasn’t so much completely ignored it as leapt right over it and danced around the other side, grinning all the while.

One of Kevin’s eyes flick open and he squints up at Mike. “Not to rush you or anything,” he says cautiously, “but you’re kinda making me nervous. Do you have to, like, psych yourself up for it or something?”

“I’m psyched,” Mike assures him, a sharp, sardonic smile curling on his lips. “I am so psyched to be trading blood with you, you have no idea.”

Kevin rolls his eyes, which means he gets it was meant to be a joke, except... except Mike’s not so sure that it was. God, he is fucked. He is so, so fucked.

“You sure about this?” Mike asks, still sceptical, still kind of unable to believe that Kevin trusts him this much.

“Mike,” Kevin says, heaving a long-suffering sigh, “it’ll keep me safe, right? I am all for being bitten just once if it means it’ll protect me from potential future maulings, seriously.”

“Okay,” Mike mutters, “if you’re sure.” He raises Kevin’s arm to his lips, and Kevin shivers. It takes every ounce of willpower Mike has not to just tear into him right there and then, to croak out a mostly unnecessary, “I’m just gonna... yeah,” and clamp his flatter teeth down over Kevin’s wrist.

Kevin gasps, and Mike can’t tell if it’s out of pleasure or pain. He isn’t really paying attention, though; he’s entirely focused on the task at hand. If he loses concentration for even a second and manages to fuck this up, it could end up costing Kevin a lot more than just his life.

Mike bites down, stubbornly gentle, and two fang-sized holes open up beneath his teeth, but he doesn’t move his mouth to suck like he kind of really wants to. He can taste Kevin, sharp and sweet, and just the tiny dash of blood is better than every single person Mike’s fed on in his entire undeath. He’s not sure how but somehow he manages to pull away all of a centimetre to nip at the corner of his own mouth and draw a pinprick of blood which he licks onto his tongue and over Kevin’s skin. Mike feels him shudder, but he doesn’t take his mouth away from Kevin’s wrist until it’s completely clean.

“There,” he says, licking at the corners of his mouth to get at any excess blood. Kevin’s eyes are glazed but they focus in on the motion, fascinated by the movement of Mike’s tongue. “Sorry if I hurt you.”

Kevin shakes his head. “It didn’t hurt,” he assures Mike, his voice breathy and a little high-pitched. “Mostly it just tickled.”

“Good,” Mike says, nodding. “That’s good.”

“Is that it, now? Am I safe?” Kevin asks, anxious. Mike nods and Kevin smiles at him, slow and lazy and hitching up on one side. “Thank you,” he says quietly, and Mike ducks his head.

Kevin yawns, fist to his mouth to stifle it. (Being bitten makes you drowsy, something about a defence mechanism to make the kill easier. William explained it to him once, probably, but Mike mustn’t have been listening. He doesn’t listen to Bill much, if he’s honest.) “I’m gonna-” He makes a vague gesture which is probably supposed to convey fall into bed and sleep for the rest of time. “Thanks for staying with me.”

“No problem.”

“No, seriously. Thank you,” Kevin says earnestly, eyes wide to keep them from closing by themselves. “You didn’t have to.”

Mike shrugs, uncomfortable with the level of gratitude he’s receiving. He’s pretty much fucked this kid’s life up until Brendon gets bored, which could, feasibly, be anywhere from a week to the rest of the century; he doesn’t deserve it.

He’s sort of expecting it when Kevin stretches up the couple of inches Mike has on him and presses a kiss to his lips, but he’s not expecting Kevin to fist his hands in Mike’s shirt and pull him close and fucking moan into Mike’s mouth, the bastard. Mike’s entire body stiffens and he pulls away quickly with the little willpower he has because he knows if he doesn’t now, he won’t be able to stop himself.

“Think you’ve had enough excitement for one night,” he says softly, shaking his head. “Let’s get you to bed, yeah?”

Hooking an arm around Kevin’s shoulders, Mike pulls him to his feet and steers him out of the room. Kevin makes a vague noise of protest before burying his head in Mike’s shoulder, apparently too tired to fight.

The first door Mike tries reveals a bathroom, the next a room covered in posters of scantily-clad women in compromising situations. Mike’s just going out on a limb here, but he’s fairly certain it’s not Kevin’s, so he shuts the door pretty quickly and moves on to the last door at the end of the narrow hallway.

Shifting Kevin’s body off his shoulders, Mike sets him down carefully on the bed. He pulls the blanket up and over him, smoothing it down at the corners and tucking in the edges. Kevin looks so peaceful lying there and on impulse, Mike reaches down and brushes a loose curl behind his ear. Kevin makes a pleased sound and leans into it, a contented smile on his lips. Mike freezes.

“Stay,” Kevin mumbles, mostly half-asleep.

When Mike doesn’t move, Kevin tugs him down by his sleeve and pulls him close. Mike squawks in protest – he has never been manhandled in his entire life and he doesn’t intend to start now – but Kevin chuckles, breath tickling Mike’s ear, and suddenly he can’t bring himself to mind their position.

Mike waits until Kevin’s breathing evens out again before shifting to get comfortable and closing his eyes. He’s still fully dressed and there’s a blanket between them but right now, just for a moment, Mike can pretend they’re something other than what they are, and his chest almost aches with how much he wishes it were true. He doesn’t understand it, he doesn’t understand any of this, but he’s not so sure he cares.

Mike waits until the sun is just starting to peek out from below the horizon, until he can almost feel the burn of its rays on his shoulders. Careful not to jolt Kevin, he disentangles himself from the boy’s embrace and scoots away, watching him curl up into himself for as long as he dares.

And then he leaves, pushing the bookcase aside and closing the front door behind him with a soft click before he races the sunrise home.

***

When Kevin wakes the next morning, Mike’s gone. This doesn’t surprise him, but as he plods into the bathroom, the disappointment settles in his gut and refuses to dislodge itself. Sighing, he splashes water over his face and blinks hard, arms braced on either side of the sink.

Brendon can’t hurt him now. It’s okay. He’s safe. It’s all going to be okay.

He emerges from the bathroom ten minutes later and gets dressed, throwing on the jeans he was wearing yesterday and a t-shirt that looks vaguely clean. Then it’s sorting out his books, grabbing breakfast he can eat on the walk down to his first class, and he’s ready to go.

Kevin doesn’t move. He’s frozen in the middle of the hall, clutching the strap of his bag in one hand and a brown paper bag in the other.

You can leave now, Kevin tells himself, firmly, because his brain doesn’t seem to be getting the message. It’s morning. Broad daylight. Any vampire in their right mind – including, Kevin is assuming, Brendon – will be tucked up warm and safe in their coffin right now. Kevin is perfectly safe. Seriously. He is perfectly safe.

Yet still he doesn’t move.

He tells himself he’s being stupid. He tells himself he’s being pathetic. He doesn’t move. There’s a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach and he just wants to crawl back into bed and stay there for the rest of time. His bed is safe. This world, this strange, terrifying world where Kevin could get his throat ripped out by angry vampires at any moment is not.

But then there’s the unmistakable sound of a key being fumbled in a lock and the front door swinging open and Kevin nearly jumps out of his skin when Zac walks in.

“You okay, Kev?” Zac asks, looking concerned as he sets his down his keys and approaches him. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost or something.”

Kevin shakes his head firmly a few times then forces himself to smile. “Yeah, no, I’m fine, you just took me by surprise is all. I thought you’d still be at Vanessa’s.”

Zac’s lips tug up into a goofy grin at the mention of his girlfriend. (They’ve been together since high school and they’re kind of adorable together, when they’re not making Kevin’s stomach clench with longing.)

“She kicked me out, said she had to get to class... which, speaking of,” Zac says, frowning, “shouldn’t you be gone by now?”

“Uh,” Kevin says, biting his lip, “yeah, totally, I was just on my way out.”

Zac nods and his mouth widens in a yawn. “I’m gonna crash, then,” he says vaguely. “Didn’t get much sleep last night.”

Kevin blushes, harder when Zac winks at him, and tries very hard not to think about his roommate having sex with his girlfriend. Somehow, when he looks down at his feet, they’ve unstuck themselves. Kevin sighs and turns to leave, shutting the door quietly behind him.

***

When Mike wakes the next evening, William’s standing over his coffin with an unreadable look on his face. Mike doesn’t jump but he knows William knows he took him by surprise and he hates it, hates the vulnerability of unconsciousness as much as he craves the silent tranquillity of sleep.

“Brendon tells me you have a new pet,” William says, voice careful, measured.

Mike snorts; never one to beat around the bush, that’s their Bill. “That what he called it?” he mutters, pulling himself up and out. William still towers over him, though, perched elegantly on the empty coffin next to Mike’s, and Mike tries not to feel like he’s looking down on him.

William’s face shifts, but Mike still can’t read the vague frown traced between his brows or the slightly displeased quirk to his lips. “His words were not so complimentary,” he replies, and Mike rolls his eyes. “I hear you had an altercation last night.”

Mike’s eyes narrow. “He tried to take something that didn’t belong to him,” he says tightly, “and I stopped him. He tried to break the rules and I stopped him, William.”

“Oh really? I didn’t realise it wasn’t breaking the rules to nearly kill one of your own kind, Michael,” William says evenly.

“He tried to-”

“I don’t care what he tried to do,” William cuts him off. It’s as close as he’s ever come to snapping, losing the nonchalance that always seems to come so effortlessly to him, and Mike closes his mouth. “I don’t care if he fucked your boyfriend or ripped his pretty little heart out, you never lay a finger on one of your own kind. Do you understand that?”

Mike sets his jaw. “Yes, William,” he says, an edge of bitterness to his voice. “I understand.”

William regards him for a few timeless, endless moments, before saying, softly, “I don’t think you do, Mike, that’s the problem. Not any more.” He looks away, the lines around his eyes and mouth deepening. “Do you think he’s your anima?”

Mike determinedly does not flinch. “He can’t be, William,” he says tonelessly. “I already have one.”

“Eternity’s a long time to stay with the same person,” William says, matter-of-fact, “especially when that person’s dead.”

“Brendon’s managed it,” Mike points out, unable to help the resentment that creeps into his voice.

“He’s been with Ryan for less than half a century,” William says dismissively. “That’s hardly something to boast about.”

“Still.”

William looks at him again, his gaze every bit as penetrating as before. “You still blame me for what happened to Tom,” he says softly, and Mike closes his eyes.

“No,” he says, but he doesn’t have to see William’s face to know he doesn’t believe him.

“You know why I had to kill him, Mike. It was for your own good,” William says, and Mike isn’t sure which one of them he’s trying to convince. “He’d gone mad with the knowledge of what we are. He would’ve killed himself if I hadn’t done it for him and he would’ve taken you down with him. I had to do it, I had to break the rules, I couldn’t let him hurt you. You understand that, don’t you?”

Mike opens his eyes, blinking away the image that seems to be permanently burned onto his retinas, of Tom’s broken corpse, of William standing over it. “I know,” he says flatly, and he does. It’s just a little hard to remember, sometimes. “Kevin’s still not my anima.”

“What is he, then?” William asks, despairingly. “What is it about him that’s so special you’d forsake one of your kind just to save his life?”

“Nothing,” Mike says, when the silence stretches out and he realises William is waiting – patiently; William is always patient – for him to reply. “He’s just a boy.” Mike shrugs. “His kind doesn’t know how to be special.”

William turns to fix him with an intense stare which Mike returns, unflinchingly. William smiles, steady and sharp, and then says, “Indeed,” with a wry little smile that strips the youth from his face and bares the ancient old man hiding beneath. “Humans are so frightfully mundane, aren’t they?”

Mike narrows his eyes because he can hear the tease in William’s voice and he doesn’t like what it’s implying. “Yeah,” he says. “Life is wasted on the living.”

“So when are you going to turn him?” William asks, casual, like he’s asking when Mike’s going to bring Kevin home to meet the in-laws.

“I don’t know,” Mike replies, his brain screaming never, I will never let him suffer this, not ever.

“You said that about Tom.”

“Exactly,” Mike says flatly. “I know better now.”

William’s lips curl and something gleams in his deadened eyes. “You’ll do it,” he says, with that calm arrogance all William’s vampires learn to perfect the first time he takes them out to hunt. “Now you’ve had a taste of his blood you won’t be able to stop thinking about it, about what it would taste like, about what he would taste like. And maybe you’ll resist the temptation at first but you won’t last, Mike, you haven’t got that kind of staying power.” Mike suppresses a shiver and William laughs softly. “You’ll give in, sooner or later, and it’ll be glorious and you’ll wonder why you waited so long, but you won’t let him die. You won’t be able to let yourself.”

(William is Mike’s sire and the only man who’s ever been kind to Mike, in life or in death. There is no one, living or dead, who knows Mike better than William does and sometimes, sometimes Mike loves him for it, loves him with a sharp, burning intensity that whites out the lingering guilt from all the blood he’s spilt at William’s command and, later, of his own volition.

But sometimes, sometimes Mike hates him for it, hates him with that same intensity that doesn’t leave room for anything else.)

“No,” Mike says, his voice tight and very carefully controlled. “I won’t hurt him, William. I won’t.”

William’s smile is positively beatific when he shrugs. “As you wish,” he says, unfolding his legs to step down from the coffin. “You should probably go to your pretty little pet now. Kevin will be wondering where you are.”

Mike narrows his eyes, a suspicious crease between his brows, but he takes the out for what it is and leaves, halfway out of the house before William has a chance to call him back.

***

Kevin goes to the library after class to finish an assignment he needs to have done for the end of the week and by the time he surfaces, weary with writing but pleased to be almost done, it’s getting dark outside. He stops to pick up a take-away on his way home – sushi; Kevin wasn’t lying when he said he couldn’t live without it – because it’s his turn to cook tonight but he really doesn’t feel up to it. When he reaches his apartment, fumbling with the keys in the lock, all the light’s faded from the sky.

“Zac?” he calls, kicking the door shut behind him. “You in? I’ve got food, we can-”

He stops short when he catches sight of the person sitting on the sofa, his heart pounding a wild, staccato rhythm against his ribs.

“Hey Kevin,” Brendon says, lips drawn back over his teeth – and, oh, Kevin can see his fangs, drawn into sharp little points that dig into his lower lip – in a grin.

Kevin takes an involuntary step back, grip tightening on the bag of take-out food. “Where’s Zac?” he asks, voice shaking, instead of the obvious, instead of why are you in my apartment and how the hell did you get in? “Have you hurt him?”

Brendon lets out a soft chuckle and rises from the sofa. Kevin takes another step back. “Relax,” Brendon says, still amused. “Your friend is fine. I merely suggested he go for a walk when he let me in and said I could wait for you myself.”

Kevin’s brow furrows with confusion. “Wait for- hey, how’d you know where I live?”

“Mike told me. He told me a lot of things about you when he got back yesterday.” Brendon winks at him then, eyebrows waggling, and Kevin can’t help the blush that spreads across his cheeks.

“Wait,” he says, frowning when what Brendon actually said sinks in. “Mike told you? Why would he do that?”

Brendon looks vaguely puzzled. “Why wouldn’t he?” He takes a step towards Kevin and this time, Kevin flinches away. Brendon frowns, the look of puzzlement changing to one of hurt. “He’s told you I want to hurt you, hasn’t he? He’s made you think that I’m the threat.”

“Um,” Kevin says, feeling distinctly guilty but not entirely sure why, “yeah. You did attack me, remember?”

“Oh, Kevin, I’m so sorry,” Brendon says, the level of sincerity in his eyes echoed in his voice. “I had no idea he’d try and deceive you like this.”

“What do you mean?” Kevin asks warily.

“I know I was rather forceful yesterday, and that probably wasn’t the best idea given the circumstances, but I was genuinely trying to help you. Mike’s the one who wants to kill you, Kevin,” Brendon says gently, with a little grimace like this idea actually physically pains him to contemplate. “He told me about how... how you smell, and how much he wants to taste you for real, to bite into your skin and drain you of every last drop of your blood. He told me he’d make it slow, he’d take his time killing you, just to make it last, just so he can-”

Kevin steps back, eyes wild, body shaking. “No,” he manages, shaking his head, “no, Mike doesn’t- he wouldn’t-”

“He does,” Brendon says gravely, “and he most definitely would. He’s a vicious killer, Kevin. He hunts people like you for fun. This is just part of his game.”

Kevin can’t believe it, he won’t. But at the back of his mind is Mike’s voice, saying, What if I were just playing with you too?

“Mike said he’d look after me” Kevin stammers, “he promised-”

“I can show you,” Brendon says, voice soft, and he takes a step forward to touch Kevin’s forehead, feather-light presses of his fingers to both of his temples. Kevin’s eyes flutter shut of their own volition and images start to flash behind his eyelids. They’re indistinct at first, just flashes of light and colour, but there’s one element to them that’s common to all: Mike. Mike hurting people, in increasingly colourful and creative ways.

By the time the images cease, Kevin’s legs are jelly and his stomach’s churning and he’s breathing hard through his mouth. Brendon steps away and he falls to the ground, whimpering helplessly, curling in on himself. The whimpers turn to sobs as Brendon’s footfalls start to die away, echoing around and around Kevin’s head.

***

Mike stops to feed on a homeless girl a couple of blocks away from Kevin’s apartment; he doesn’t want the temptation, not today, when William’s words are still ringing in his ears and he can’t bring himself to pretend they aren’t true.

When Mike gets to Kevin’s apartment, the door’s already ajar. He glances around, but he can’t see any sign of a struggle. This is extremely very not good.

“Kevin?” he calls out, tentative, as he pushes the door open all the way. He can feel Kevin in the apartment but he can’t feel where, and there’s a distinctly unsettling buzz in the air that’s enough to make his stomach churn with worry, as if the open door wasn’t enough of a sign that something’s wrong.

He finds Kevin curled up in a corner of the room, arms wrapped around the knees tucked into his chest. He’s tiny and shaking and so pitiful it makes Mike’s chest clench and his throat dry up and his veins burn with the need to hurt whoever did this to Kevin.

“Kevin?” he repeats, dropping to his knees beside the boy.

Kevin lets out a quiet moan of anguish and buries his head in his knees, pressing himself further back into the wall. Mike reaches out for him but he flinches away, mumbling something too jumbled and incoherent for even the vampire’s heightened hearing to parse into actual words.

“Hey, what happened?” Mike asks, trying to sound like he isn’t about to murder whoever did this. “Was it Brendon?”

At Brendon’s name, Kevin lets out another moan and shudders all over. Mike’s fists clench at his sides and he almost aches to hold Kevin, to soothe him, to make this all better in any way he can, but he doesn’t think that would help either of them at this point.

“You don’t have to tell me,” he says, careful to keep his voice even. “I could look into your head and-”

No,” Kevin interrupts, forceful, his eyes wide with terror. “No, I’m not having one of you in my head again, I can’t, I can’t-”

Again? Kevin, what did Brendon do?” Mike demands, abandoning all pretence of calm. If Brendon’s hurt Kevin in any way at all then fuck the rules, fuck William, fuck all of them, Brendon is going to die. Painfully.

“He told me you want to kill me and you’re just pretending it’s him who does so I’ll trust you,” Kevin says flatly. “I didn’t believe him and he- he showed me.” He closes his eyes, something flickering behind his eyelids. “He went into my head and showed me things... things you’ve done.”

Kevin swallows hard, body shuddering. He opens his eyes to look up at Mike, something awfully vulnerable in his gaze. Mike’s stomach clenches and he takes a moment to wonder just how much Brendon showed him, how many of the images that haunt Mike are going to haunt Kevin now too. Idly, he wonders how long it would take for Brendon to die if Mike were to rip his limbs off one by one, leaving his pretty little head ‘til last.

“You said he couldn’t hurt me,” Kevin whispers, and Mike glances away, unable to stand the faint accusation in his eyes.

“I’m sorry, Kevin,” he says, the apology trite and useless on his lips. “I didn’t think he could. I didn’t expect him to try something like this.” He should’ve, though, he should’ve fucking seen it coming a mile away. Brendon likes to play with his food before eating it. He knows this, he knows it, but somehow he didn’t realise what it really meant.

Kevin’s quiet for a long time before he speaks again. “It was all real, wasn’t it?” he says softly, still staring at Mike. He can feel the burn of Kevin’s gaze on his skin. “Everything he showed me, it was all real.”

“Yes. Probably.” Mike swallows before continuing. “I don’t know what he... yeah, probably.”

Kevin exhales slowly. “Why haven’t you killed me yet? You were going to, before, weren’t you? When you... but you didn’t. Why didn’t you? Why haven’t you?”

“I- I don’t know. I guess I- I don’t want to,” Mike manages, and it’s true. Maybe Kevin is his anima, maybe he’s just a boy Mike’s gotten suddenly, unreasonably attached to, but whatever the reason, Mike doesn’t want to kill him. The desire to taste Kevin, to split him open and drain him dry, it hasn’t vanished as such, but there’s something else in him that burns stronger than it that wants nothing more than for Kevin to stay alive for as long as possible (which in all honesty isn’t very much, especially if Brendon’s still in the equation, but Mike’ll take what he can get here.)

“You aren’t going to hurt me?” Kevin asks, so small and vulnerable Mike suddenly wants to hug him tight and never let him go.

“Never,” he says fiercely, and that’s a promise, even if it’s only to himself. He won’t let himself hurt Kevin, he can’t, not after this.

“Okay,” Kevin says, more an exhalation of breath than anything else. He swallows, hard, then looks up at Mike. “Okay.”

Mike lets himself hold him then, lets himself wraps his arms around Kevin’s frail body and pick him up off the ground. He feels weightless cradled in Mike’s arms, almost like a doll, but Mike doesn’t dwell on that image for too long before he carries Kevin into his bedroom and lays him down on the bed like he did last night. There’s no way Kevin’s getting to sleep as easily this time, though; he’s twitchy and restless and shifting on the bed and he’s making these tiny, pitiful little noises that are making Mike want to hurt something.

“You need to sleep,” Mike tells him, carefully, so he isn’t tempted to force it. “I can help, if you want.”

Kevin shakes his head. “Later,” he says, his eyes sharp with intent, “I’ll sleep later.”

This time, Mike is entirely unprepared for it when Kevin tilts his head up and kisses him. He makes a soft noise into his mouth and tries to pull away but Kevin doesn’t let him; his hand comes up to cup the back of Mike’s neck and tug him down, resting lightly at the base.

“You aren’t going to hurt me,” he murmurs, licking at his reddened lips. “You aren’t going to hurt me and I trust you so please, Mike, please.”

Mike wavers for all of a minute, wrangling with what little he has left of his conscience, before leaning down and kissing Kevin back. He’s never been very good at doing the right thing and Kevin’s just making him worse but Mike- Mike’s not so sure he minds, especially when his teeth graze Kevin’s lower lip and the boy moans, his mouth opening to deepen the kiss. Mike gives up on holding back altogether, then, and after that everything is a blur of skin and lips and lips on skin, of frantic kisses and helpless thrusts, and, and-

And Mike feels more alive than he has in years, even with a stone cold heart and nothing pumping through his veins.