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liquid sunrise

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"Why are you letting me do this?"

The question, asked in a quiet tone rarely heard from Alfred, catches Matthew off guard. He'd been somewhere else, floating; laid across his bed and eyes closed, lost in a fuzzy, barely-there daydream. He can't even remember what it was.

Alfred is hovering above him, watching him with an expression of concern, when Matthew opens his eyes. It’s a look that seems equally out of place to Matt, like a knife lying amongst spoons. Alfred's face is made for wide smiles and mirthful eyes that crinkle at the edges, not furrowed brows and downturned lips.

"Do what, Alfred? Turn me? I'm dying, remember?" Matthew says this plainly, with hardly any inflection, but Alfred still flinches, beginning to worry his bottom lip with sharp, too sharp, teeth. Alfred has so many traits leftover from his human days; he passes so well that it's only when he's sick with hunger that Matthew remembers what he really is. "And you just told me you can't live without me."

"So? I mean, that doesn't mean—"

Al's mouth snaps shut, quieted abruptly by Matthew as his fingertips reaching up to touch his lips.

“Be quiet, okay?” Matt says, moving his fingers up to brush Al’s nose and push his glasses away from the tip. The movement brings the sadness in Al’s eyes into sharp focus; he can see clouds coming across those sky blue eyes and, no, that won’t do at all. “It’s my choice, and I’ve made it.”

“Because of me,” Alfred responds, lowering himself to press his face into the warm curve of Matt’s neck. He does it slowly enough that Matthew's prepared for the weight on his chest and can wrap an arm around him with little trouble.

Dampness against his skin lets Matthew know that the clouds have broken and he sighs quietly, slowly rubbing Alfred’s back as the wetness spreads. Matthew knows he should find it odd that he's the one doing the comforting in a moment like this, but there's very little that's conventional about his relationship with Al.

In fact, his life has been upside-down ever since they met.

See, Matthew had always known there was something wrong with his body. From times where he couldn’t catch his breath no matter what he did to the occasional, but sudden, onsets of crippling fatigue — loud and clear, his illness made its presence known. And though he knew not how early it could be, Matthew resigned himself to an early death; after all, his parents were gone and he had no siblings. It was no big deal to think of his death as simply going to be with them.

But that had been before Alfred F. Jones had barged into his life. Starving and chilled to the bone, Alfred collapsed on Matthew’s doorstep, the only doorstep for miles and miles in any direction, like a stray puppy lost. How had he walked through so much snow and ice? Where had he come from? How long had he been like this?

These were all questions Matthew wanted answers to and all questions he received startlingly honest answers to. It could have been because Alfred was newly sired or because he was simply an open book like that; either way, Al told him everything. Matt learned of the frequent absences of the blonde’s father, Arthur; of his childhood friend he would never see again, Madeline; of the delicate cruelty of his sire, Ivan.

It was the most excitement Matt had ever experienced; offering his wrist to Alfred seemed only natural in return.

It also changed everything, because Alfred brought with him more than companionship. He brought into Matthew’s home an entirely new world.

Alfred’s presence has repainted him anew with broad, vibrant strokes.

And now as Matthew’s illness worsens, as the walls of his heart thicken and harden and grow, he’s less resigned to the prospect of an early grave. Alfred’s bold declaration—

I love you, okay? Not just ‘cause you feed me either, but ‘cause you’re nice and you’re gorgeous and you know so much stuff and… and you don’t even care that I’m not human anymore. I just got you, Matty, I don’t wanna let you go too.

—only seals the deal.

There is nothing he will regret about this decision.

Staring at the ceiling, Matthew rubs Alfred’s back until the storm is over, until Alfred’s tears are drying on his shoulder and the only sound in the room is his own breathing. His own laboured, but steady, breathing.

For the moment.

He closes his eyes again.

“I want to do it now,” Matthew whispers, his words tapering off into a jarring cough. He immediately feels Alfred's weight leave his chest (and it's frustrating that the motion instantly improves his breathing, because holding Al like this is nice, even if he's only lukewarm to the touch right now). He cracks a small smile. “Before I get really bad, eh?”

“A-are you sure?” The tremor of uncertainty in Alfred’s voice gives way to softness. “You don’t have to rush it or anything, you know, I’m not goin’ anywhere.”

"I know, and I'm sure," Matthew replies, smiling widening despite the ache in his throat. Coughing has left spots behind his eyelids and they last even after he's opened his eyes and let Alfred search them for truth: the truth that he’s as sure about this as he had been before about dying.

Which is as sure as he can be about anything, really.

Alfred stares down at Matthew for a long moment before sighing deeply, the bed dipping with his weight as he shifts to sit on the edge of it. With his back partially turned toward Matt, Alfred rests his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands. His voice takes on a somber tone.

“I’ll have to nearly drain you, Matty…,” he says through his fingers. “And I gotta do it from the neck too, else it won’t take. It’ll hurt. I don’t want to hurt you.”

This time, it’s Matthew’s turn to sigh. It comes out more like a wheeze than he’d care to acknowledge. “Alfred, you won’t.”

Alfred turns toward Matthew, worrying his lower lip once more. “I…,” he trails off, his resistance faltering as his gaze sweeps over Matt’s prone form. His next words come out in a whoosh, quickly, like a long-held breath. “Okay, now, we’ll do it now. Can you sit up on your own?”

“Think so.”

Pushing himself upright proves to be easier said than done. As Matthew tries he feels his heart stutter against his ribcage, followed by a sharp, stabbing pain. It robs him of his breath and strength and persists even after Alfred rushes to take over, maneuvering him so that he’s between his legs and pressed back-to-chest.

Slumped against Alfred, half dizzy half nauseous, Matt gulps air until the pain in his chest dims to a manageable twinge. He’s still shivering when Alfred kisses his neck softly, squeezes him gently, and whispers,

“Ready?”

Reaching up to cover Alfred’s hands with his own, Matt laces their fingers together. There is little warmth from Al and no heartbeat for him to focus on, but Al’s strong and steady and his arms feel like a new home and— it’s enough. His answer comes easily.

“Yes.”

Matthew closes his eyes, smiling as Alfred’s fangs begin to press against his skin.

Come sunrise, he’ll be free.