Cisco can feel his heart in his chest. The thumping beats pressing against his rib cage. The pulsing of his blood as it rushes through his body. This is a terrible idea. The worst. He knows that. But he also knows he needs the money.
He's reaching the point of having to decide between rent and food. And you can't chose between necessities, because, well, they’re necessary. His parents don’t have much money, but they would feed him. Only, every bite would come with guilt and a demand to give up and move home. He's tried to find a job that will help him keep his head above water, but either the money isn’t enough, or the hours take away from classes and studying. He’s fought too hard to get here to not keep fighting.
So when Hart, from his Particle Engineering class, had suggested this, it had seemed like the answer to his prayers. But standing here, now, Cisco isn't so sure. He can think of at least a hundred ways this could go wrong, ranging from complete humiliation that forces him to become a monk and take a vow of silence, to his very possible death, to Central City going out in an inferno to rival the Chicago Fire of 1871. Yet despite his fears, real and imagined, he raises his hand and knocks.
The guy who opens the door is not what Cisco expected. Yes, he’s pale, but his face is creased by age. He wears a pair of dark-framed glasses, which bracket sharp, intensely blue eyes. His clothes might be black, but they consist of wrinkled pants and a shapeless sweater with the sleeves shoved up to his elbows, showing off muscled forearms. Self-conscious, Cisco drops his eyes and notices the man is barefoot. Thin, white feet against dark wood.
"Who are you?" The voice is low and gravely, the words curt.
Cisco's eye snap up. He opens his mouth, but nothing comes out. He swallows a few times and tries again. "I'm Cisco. Hart said you'd be expecting me."
"Ah. The new one. He'd mentioned I’d scared the last one off. Come in." He steps to the side, out of the doorway.
Cisco steps through and can't help but notice the way the guy smells him as he steps through the door. Weird. But any further thought on that topic is derailed by the sight of the apartment. It brings to mind SAT vocabulary words like sumptuous. The front room has floor to ceiling bookshelves. Real bookshelves, dark wood and built in into the walls. The books match the elegance of the shelving, worn leather covers and pages giving off the smell of aged paper and ink. Those shelves that don’t contain books have their own curiosities. A chess set made from stone. A carved wooden statue that twists around itself in ways that tease at Cisco’s brain. An armillary sphere. Cisco shoves his hands in his pockets to keep from touching.
The man shuts the door and turns to look at Cisco, his head cocked to one side. "Can I get you something to drink?"
"Kinda thought it was the other way around, given why I'm here." The moment the words are out of his mouth, Cisco wants to take them back. It's a stupid, awkward joke.
The guy doesn't get angry, though his mouth thins a bit. "That comes later. I try to observe the basic forms of hospitality, but you’re under no obligation."
"Oh, yeah, thanks." He rubs one hand on the back of his neck. "Water's fine."
The guy nods, then gestures to the couch. "Go on. Have a seat. I'll be right back."
To Cisco, it sounds more like an order than an offer, so he takes a seat. The couch is more comfortable than his bed. He suppresses the urge to wiggle down into cushions. Instead, he carefully clasps his hands in his lap and tries to look professional. He even tried to dress the part, but as a broke student, his options are limited. Khakis aren't exactly unprofessional, and he’d thrown on a button-down shirt over his tee. He reaches up to smooth down his hair, even though he knows there’s no taming the fly aways that way.
The guy comes back with a glass of water and sets it on a coaster on the end table, before sitting down in a chair across from Cisco. "We should get the formalities out of the way. I believe you were told to bring your medical documentation with you."
Cisco hands over the papers that declare he is, to the extent current medical science can determine, healthy and free from communicable disease. The guy looks over the form and nods. "I assume Hartley provided you with a copy of my own records."
"Yeah. I saw them."
"Good." He sets Cisco’s paper down in his lap. "Let me explain how this portion of things works. If you chose to continue past tonight, you will be provided with updated test results before each session. I expect the same in return. This is not negotiable. If you are unhappy with the clinic I have chosen, you are free to chose another, but I will pay them directly. Don’t get the idea that you can skip testing and pocket the money. There are other things I require, but that is the most important. Any questions?"
"I thought you couldn’t get diseases." Probably not what the guy meant, but Cisco is curious.
"They don't affect us, but we can carry them and spread them. Doing so is sloppy and tends to bring the wrong sort of attention. Anything else?"
"What’s your name?"
The guy blinks at Cisco, like it never occurred to him that he has yet to give Cisco his name. "You can call me Harry."
"Harry? Seriously?" The guy frowns slightly, and Cisco once again curses his mouth and its lack of a filter.
Thankfully, the guy -- Harry -- just shrugs and says, "I’ve gone by several different names over the years. Harry, Harrison, Henri, Heinrich, among others."
Harry leans forward, his elbows resting on his knees. "Now, if that’s all, I should ask you if you’ve ever done this before."
Cisco flushes hot. "No. I mean, I’m familiar with the basic idea. But I’ve never… Is that going to be a problem?"
"Not at all." There’s a slight smirk, not even close to a smile, as he scrutinizes Cisco. "There are a few different ways we can do this. Technically, anywhere that will bleed will work, but I prefer the larger superficial veins. It’s less work. The neck is certainly a common and traditional choice, but there are other options, depending on how discrete you need to be. The marks heal quickly, but still take two or three days to fade."
"Discrete is good." Cisco can’t imagine what he’ll do if anyone finds out. Not that he’s doing anything illegal, but he can picture the disappointment on his mother’s face all too well.
"In that case, the wrist is out. Just as well. Some like it, as it’s rather impersonal, but I find it awkward. All those tendons to avoid damaging. If you want discrete, the two best sites are the elbow or the inner thigh. But I think that one might be a bit much for your first time."
"Elbow sounds fine." He has the urge to hug his arms to himself, but it’s a stupid impulse and he knows that. It would defeat the entire reason he’s here. He forces himself to keep his hands resting on his thighs. "Will it hurt?"
"I’m told it stings a little, initially. The overall experience seems to be generally enjoyable, though it varies by individual." Harry rises from his chair and moves to sit on the couch next to Cisco. There are only inches between them. It emphasizes their height difference, the way Harry leans over him. Cisco has no doubt that he’s sitting next to something predatory, something not quite human. Harry said, "You need to remove the shirt."
"What?" It’s not what he’s expecting and leaves him blinking in confusion.
"The shirt," Harry repeats. "I don’t want thread in my teeth, and you don’t want holes in it. You need to take it off."
"Oh, right." His fingers fumble at the buttons of his shirt. He gets three buttons down when he remembers which t-shirt he’s wearing underneath. His fingers slow, but it’s not like he has much choice. Walking out of here without the money isn’t an option. And Harry’s right that he’s not letting the guy near his thighs for this. He forces his fingers to keep going and slides the shirt off his shoulders. He waits for the inevitable comment about his shirt, which boldly proclaims "Screw Lab Safety. I Want Superpowers" but it doesn’t come. He looks at Harry out of the corner of his eye.
Harry isn’t looking at his shirt. His gaze is fixed on Cisco’s arm, the one closest to him. He reaches out slowly, like Cisco is a wild animal he might frighten away. "May I?"
Cisco nods and then, realizing Harry can’t see that if he’s not looking, says "Sure, man, go ahead. It’s why we’re here."
Which is true, but Cisco feels like his pulse is going to jump through his skin. If Harry can tell, he gives no indication. He slides one hand under Cisco’s upper arm and puts the other one his wrist. His grip is cool on Cisco’s skin. He straightens Cisco’s arm, turning it so the inside of his elbow faces upward. He bends his head down, and Cisco can’t figure out if he should watch or turn away.
Harry’s right. It stings. It actually stings a lot. He was expecting something like the needle at the doctor’s office, but it’s more like a bee sting, sudden, sharp and burning. He breathes a steady in and out, but it still hurts. He’s about to pull away and declare he can’t do it when the pain begins to fade. In its place, a heavy warmth spreads through his body. His head tips back to rest against the back of the couch. Harry’s mouth is on his arm, but he feels it from somewhere deeper inside him. It twists and coils low in his gut.
Cisco rolls his head to one side, watches Harry curled around his arm. Harry’s eyes are closed, his mouth pressed to Cisco’s skin. Cisco can see the ripple of his throat each time he swallows. Every pull of Harry’s mouth is echoed in Cisco’s body. He stares, taking in the way Harry cradles his arm, because his brain won’t let him move past that. He stares until Harry finally lifts his head to meet Cisco’s gaze.
He smiles, baring teeth streaked with Cisco’s blood. Not breaking eye contact, Harry lifts Cisco’s arm a little higher so he can run his tongue along the punctures in Cisco’s skin. Harry unbends, rolling to sprawl over his side of the couch. "I see I'm not the only one who enjoyed that."
Awareness of the rest of his body begins to return, until Cisco realizes he’s hard inside his pants. He fights the need to squirm from the discomfort. "Oh, jeez."
"Everyone reacts a little differently" Harry gives a lazy shrug of his shoulders. "It doesn't happen to everyone, but there are enough that you're not going to shock me. Bathroom’s that way if you need to take care of it."
Cisco flees in the direction Harry indicated. And because the world is unfair, his embarrassment has done nothing to lessen his erection. Which is maybe a good thing, because it takes only moments to get himself off. He cleans up, disposes of the tissues, and is washing his hands when he finally looks down at his elbow. There’s a small smear of half-dried blood along the outside of his bicep that he wipes away. Other than that, there are only two small, deep red marks on the inside of his elbow, already half scabbed over. They don’t even hurt until he presses his thumb directly against them.
When he catches himself in mirror, it’s a shock that he doesn’t look any different. He feels different. After that, he has to feel different. But the longer he spends staring at his reflection, the less dramatic the difference seems. It was a crazy-weird experience and not what he expected. Whatever it was he’d expected. More Gothic drama, maybe. Less Harry’s straightforward recitation. But as strange as it was, he’s still Cisco. Really, it’s no different than when he lost his virginity. Same guy, new experiences.
He dries his hands on a towel and feels the calmest he’s been since he agreed to do this. He steps out of the bathroom to find Harry still sprawled over the couch, loose-limbed and eyes half-shut. He turns to face Cisco, a lazy flop of his head. "Better?"
"Much." He moves closer and, when Harry doesn’t object, sits back down on the couch. He picks up the discarded button-down, but doesn’t put it back on, just drops it in his lap. "You?"
"Mmmm." Cisco notices a flush to his features that wasn’t there before. Harry says, "Animal blood is fine for keeping you alive, and it’s certainly more PC, but there’s nothing quite like this."
"Glad to be of service."
"Speaking of service." Harry pulls a roll of bills out of his pocket and shoves it into Cisco’s hand. "For you."
Cisco clenches his hand around the money. He suppresses the urge to count it. It seems tacky. Besides, if it’s even half of what he was promised, it will solve his money problems for the rest of the month. It’s a relief to drop the money into his own pocket. "Thanks."
"You earned it." Harry reaches out and trails light fingertips down Cisco’s arm, running them over the marks he’d left. "So, do you want to continue with a longer term arrangement, or have you decided this isn’t for you?"
"I’m up for it. Though, Hart said he wasn’t sure if you’d be." Cisco shivers as Harry continues to trace fingers up and down his arm, but he refuses to pull away. If he’s doing this, he’s not doing it halfway.
"Yes, well, Mr. Rathaway might pride himself on the quality of his procurement services, but my requirements are rather stringent and, I will admit, fickle." He pushes himself upright and turns to face Cisco. "Your services would be required each month and a half. The Red Cross won’t let you give blood more often than every eight weeks, but since I take less than they do, it won’t cause any problems. No drugs. At all. No drinking the week before. As I mentioned before, you will be tested routinely. And your services are exclusive to me. In exchange, you will be well compensated. Is that acceptable?"
"Done." Cisco holds out a hand, and they shake to seal the deal. "Here’s to a new partnership."
"May it be a long and fruitful one."
He knows he shouldn’t, that he’ll probably regret the answer once he hears it, but Cisco still asks, "What happened to the last guy?"
Harry smiles, showing the sharp curve of his teeth. "He was foolish, and I am not a tolerant man. Hopefully, you will be less disappointing."
It occurs to Cisco that he has just exchanged his money problems for a new and different set of issues. "I’ll do my best."
"I look forward to your efforts." Harry rises from the couch, a lean, dark line. "You’ll want to take it easy for the next twenty-four hours. No heavy lifting. Rest. Drink plenty of fluids. You’ll regret it if you don’t. If you need to reach me for anything, Rathaway has my information."
Cisco lets Harry lead him to the door. He pauses in the doorway and says, "I’ll see you in six weeks."
Harry doesn’t say anything, just nods and shuts the door firmly behind Cisco. Cisco reaches into his pocket and touches the wad of cash there. No ramen tonight. Tonight, he’s splurging on Big Belly Burger.
The day after letting a vampire feed on you is probably not the time to research how it works, but Cisco had been afraid that if he’d done it before, he would have chickened out. And staring at the entry on Wikipedia, it’s safe to say that he had been absolutely right. It’s one thing to agree to let a vampire bite you. It’s another to agree when you know vampires are venomous.
“...venom contains multiple compounds, including anticoagulants and vasodilators, as well as dopamine and opioid agonists, which both reduce the pain from the bite and help to render the person compliant…”
“... fangs are similar to those of Proteroglyph snakes, forming a hollow groove that channels the venom into the bite…”
That explains the whole licking thing. He’d thought it was about not letting anything go to waste, but it looks like it’s more than just that. He skips the whole section on the legalities and ethics of vampires feeding on humans. If people have an issue with it, they are welcome to fix his money problems.
Cisco rubs his thumb along the inside of his elbow and then forces himself to stop. It’s the third time he’s caught himself doing that this morning. And he’s still in his PJs. The marks are already fading towards a half-healed pink. He’ll need to wear long sleeves today. Maybe tomorrow as well. The way it’s going, it won’t be much more than that. What little soreness there had been is gone.
Last night, he’d paid his rent for the month. This morning, once he manages to pry himself away from Wikipedia and get dressed, he’s going to go shopping and there will be food in his fridge. Actual food. In his fridge. The thought makes him do a happy dance in his chair. He’d say things are finally going right, but he's afraid to jinx it.
It’s still awesome.
He gets to class early enough that the previous class is still in session. He peeks through the window on the door and sees the students head down over their notes. They’re going to run late again. He drops his backpack next to the wall and slides down to sit next to it. He’s not the first one to arrive. A few yards down the hall there’s a girl absorbed in their textbook. In the opposite direction, two guys are bent over a laptop. Cisco thinks they might be looking at porn.
He pulls out his notes, reviewing what they’d covered last class. He’s a damned-good student, because he works at it. He’s smart, and the concepts come easily enough, but he doesn’t have a perfect memory. He reviews formula until they are as familiar as the ABCs. He turns over ideas in his head while standing in line at the store. He makes engineering his bitch.
He’s wrapped up in his notes enough that while he registers someone sitting down, but doesn’t pay attention to who, until Hart says, “So, given the lack of panicked phone calls, I’m assuming it went okay.”
Pulled out of his work, it takes Cisco a moment to gather his scattered thoughts back to him. Hart stretches his legs out across the hall, ignoring the person who has to step over them. He turns his head to look at Cisco. Cisco has a sudden image of Harry on his end of the couch, gaze focused. Cisco picks at a stray thread on his jeans while he looks for the right words. “I mean, it was intense. Not bad intense. Just a lot. But, yeah, it went okay. Enough that he wants to continue.”
“He give you his rules?” At Cisco’s nod, Hart says, “Follow them. He will know if you don’t. If you can’t deal with it, let me know. He pays really well, but he’s also an asshole. It won’t be the first time I’ve had to find someone else for him. And I don’t want you to think you don’t have options. I know plenty of people I can hook you up with.”
“Procurement services,” Cisco mumbles, remembering what Harry had said.
Hart speaks low, pitched so no one else will hear, “I’m not a pimp if that’s what you’re thinking. I didn’t even get into it on purpose. I mentioned to the roommate of a client that a friend of mine was looking to make some money and they offered to pay me to introduce them. It just kept going from there. Think of it as a matchmaking service.”
“So you also…” Cisco doesn't know what word to use, so he hooks two of his fingers like fangs and makes a stabbing motion.
“Yeah, I’m a blood whore.” Cisco stares. Not that he's never heard the term before, but he doesn’t think he's ever heard it used so casually. Hart grins, though his smile has an unpleasant edge to it. “You stick with this, that won’t be the last time you hear that. Sooner or later, someone is going to throw it in your face. If it freaks you out too much, better to know now, before you get in too deep.”
“You think that’s the first ugly name I’ve ever been called? It's not even the worst. Just surprised to hear you use it.”
“Hey, makes it harder to insult me if it’s what I call myself.” Hart pushes himself to his feet as the door to the classroom opens. “You figure out how to cope, or you quit. Look, you have any questions, you let me know. We’re in this for the same reason, right? School’s got plenty of money for footballer players, but not so much for guys like us. So anything I can do, you let me know.”
Cisco marks off every six weeks on his calendar. He sets up an appointment reminder for the last week of each block, reminding himself to avoiding drinking on those days. Not that he’s much of a drinker, but it would be stupid to screw everything up just because he forgot. The drugs rule is easy enough. He’d smoked some pot in high school, but hasn’t touched anything since then. Smoking it just made him cough, and the one pot brownie he’d ever tried turned out to be a horrid abuse of chocolate.
He’s not worried about Harry’s rules on exclusivity, either. He’s crunched the numbers. A year and a half of what Harry’s paying him is enough to get him through the rest of his degree, plus enough left over that he won’t be required to take the first job he’s offered if it’s not what he wants.
It’s a strange kind of freedom. Even before his current money crisis, things had always been tight. Every indulgence carefully accounted for. Cisco almost feels light-headed without the pressure.
The hardest part is the nagging feel of “too good to be true.” He'd never even told anyone, friends or family, about his money issues, which means means he doesn't have to come up with an excuse for why he suddenly didn't have them anymore.
Cisco laughs at himself, a sudden snort of amusement. He's standing in his kitchen, worrying, because letting a vampire bit him seems too easy. Easy compared to what? Robbing a bank. Selling his hypothetical firstborn. Winning the lottery.
It’s one day every month and a half. There will be some adjustment, sure, but no huge changes. Cisco shoves his phone, with its updated calendar, in his pocket. He grabs his keys and his backpack. He’s supposed to meet his study group at the library in half an hour. Because nothing has changed. Not too easy, but easy enough.
So, just some world building, and Cisco doing his best to fool himself. :) More Harry in the next chapter, I promise.
This time, Cisco knocks without hesitation. His knuckles sting a little where they make contact with the wood. There’s no sound from inside until he hears the scrape of the lock being undone. The door swings open, and Harry looks down at him. No sweater today. He’s wearing a black t-shirt and what might be the exact same black pants. Cisco glances down. Bare feet again.
Harry gives Cisco his own once-over. “You came back.”
“I said I was going to.”
“People can say just about anything. That doesn’t make it true.” He steps to the side, leaving the doorway clear. “Are you coming in?”
Cisco slips past Harry into the apartment, noticing the way Harry leans in and his nostrils flare as he passes. Cisco leans back, trying to maintain some distance. “Are you going to smell me every time I’m here?”
“Yes.” Harry says it like he's confirming the sky is blue. No attempt to pretend he isn't doing it. It's honest, at least. He shuts and locks the door, before moving further into the apartment.
“And why are you smelling me?”
“For the same reason I look at people. It tells me things about you.” Harry leans in and inhales. “Your shampoo smells like apples. But you didn’t wash your hair yet today. And you ate something with green peppers for lunch.”
“Whoa, invasive much?” If Harry can tell that Cisco jerked off before coming over, he doesn’t say anything. Which is good, because if he did, Cisco would probably have hysterics. “Why do you even need to know any of that?”
“There’s really very little anyone actually needs to know. But just because I don't need to doesn't mean I don’t want to know.” Harry gestures to the couch for Cisco to take a seat.
Cisco sits and Harry is perched beside him in seconds. He's close enough that Cisco can see the varying rings of blue in his eyes and the web of slight wrinkles across his face. “How old are you?”
Harry pulls back, his brow wrinkling. “What?”
“If you know things about me, I should get to know things about you.” He squints in examination of Harry’s features. “If I ran into you on the street, I’d guess about fifty. So, really, how old?”
“Older than I look.”
“Older than you act, too,” Cisco says. “That’s just childish. Seriously, how old?”
Harry leans back. He drapes one arm along the back of the couch and regards Cisco with a contemplative expression. After several long moments of silence, long enough to make Cisco squirm under his scrutiny, he says, “Old enough that I've stopped keeping track. Are you always this nosy?”
“Generally? Yes. How else do you learn things?” He shrugs out of his long-sleeved shirt. He's tried to hit a balance of comfort and not looking like a slob. After last time, he is wearing one of his loosest pair of pants. His t-shirt is a plain royal blue, with a black long-sleeved cardigan thrown over it. He’s not sure Harry actually cares what Cisco wears, but he has yet to silence the lecture from his mother that plays in the back of his mind, warning him about making a poor impression.
The moment Cisco’s shirt is off, he has Harry’s complete attention. Harry straightens in his seat and leans forward. He reaches out, and his hand hovers over Cisco’s bare upper arm. Cisco nods his permission. Cool fingers trail down Cisco’s bicep to the crook of his elbow, leaving goosebumps in their wake. His chest tightens with anticipation.
He expects the swift cut of pain this time and does his best to relax through it. The urge to pull away is still there, but he makes himself ignore it. Within the space of a few breaths, the pain is replaced by the same warmth as last time. He sinks into it. Each pull of Harry’s mouth makes his brain spark and glitter. It’s a spiral, pushing him higher and higher. It feels dangerous. It probably is dangerous.
His fingers twitch with the urge to twist the strands of Harry’s hair around them and hold Harry’s mouth to his skin. Instead, he grips the edge of his shirt, balling up the fabric in his free hand. The roughness of the seam presses into his palm. With the hold Harry has on his arm, his movement is limited. Even so, his spine arches under the onslaught of sensation, his body pulling tight with every wave of sensation.
When Harry pulls back to lick at the mark’s he’d made, even that is almost too much. Cisco struggles to breath, fighting against tight muscles. With a final lick, Harry releases his arm, and Cisco collapses back as if his strings have been cut. He takes gulping breaths, fighting to pull back from the edge. He’s afraid to move, afraid the brush of his pants against his cock will be enough to tip him over into orgasm.
Beside him, Harry curls up on his side of the couch. He folds his arms atop the back of the couch, rests his cheek on his arms and watches Cisco with half-shut eyes. He frowns and reaches out with one hand, before stopping and pulling it back. “I may have overdone it.”
“No shit.” Cisco shifts away from Harry, hissing through his teeth at the feel of shifting clothing over too sensitive skin. “Just give me a moment. Or I’m going to make a mess.”
“The couch has been Scotchgarded.”
“Good for you. I didn't bring an extra pair of pants.” It takes a minute, but Cisco manages to head to the bathroom. He's wound so tight that his release is almost painful and leaves his limbs trembling. He lowers the lid on the toilet and sits. He'd called the first time intense, but after this time, he's not sure he’d previously understood what the word meant. That was beyond anything he’s ever experienced before.
With shaking hands, Cisco shoves his hair back behind his ears. He tries to organize his scattered thoughts and review what had just happened. Nothing had seemed any different from before. He’d jerked off before coming over, but the entire point had been to reduce his reaction, not increase it. So something must have happened that Cisco missed. And the only one who might have answers is the last guy Cisco wants to ask. After a few minutes, the shaking fades, leaving him sitting there with his confusion. But he's not going to get any answers hiding in Harry's bathroom, so he splashes some cold water on his face to try a minimize the impending blush of embarrassment and goes to face Harry.
Harry has moved from the couch to one of the chairs. He sits with his elbows resting on his thighs, hands folded between his knees. He looks up as Cisco enters the room. Cisco crosses his arms over his chest, covering the marks on the inside of his elbow. “You want to tell me what the hell that was?”
Harry says, “I may owe you an apology. You’re very responsive, and that makes it, well, let's say sweeter. It's as good a word as any. So I went for just a little more. Nothing significant. It should have been a minor thing. But apparently, you’re unusually sensitive to the effects of feeding.”
“So you're saying it's my fault?”
“No.” Harry reaches up to rub at one ear. “More that it was something neither of us could have expected. Though if anyone should have anticipated it, it should have been me. If it's too much and you want to end our working relationship, I understand.”
It’s the smart option. Two sessions is enough to give him a bit of a buffer while he figures out a new plan. “Can you promise it won't happen again?”
“I can promise to try, but that’s it. It’s not a precise thing.”
“Can you promise you'll stop if I tell you to?” Cisco doubts he could tell Harry to stop.
Harry is silent. Cisco doesn’t count the seconds, but it’s long enough to make Cisco’s eye eyebrows start crawling up his forehead. He’s about ready to declare the whole arrangement over, when Harry says, “I can stop, but you should know that if I do, the wound won’t clot properly. I keep medical supplies on hand for that kind of thing, but it can require hospital treatment. Not exactly the discrete you asked for.”
Cisco moves, sits in the chair opposite Harry, avoiding the couch. He drops his folded arms as he lowers himself into the seat, and Harry immediately focuses on the marks decorating the inside of Cisco’s elbow. “Hey, my eyes are up here.”
Harry’s head jerks, and he blinks a few time before refocusing on Cisco's face. Cisco says, “You gave me a bunch of ground rules. And I'm willing to follow them. But now I'm setting some rules in return.”
“As long they’re reasonable.”
“Well, there goes my idea of having you wear a giant chicken costume.” Harry’s nose scrunches up and Cisco says, “I’m kidding. Jeez. It’s all stuff I think you can manage. You ask before you touch me. You definitely ask before trying something like today again. You stop if I say stop. And you tell me things I need to know. None of this waiting until I ask stuff. If you can’t do that, then this is over.”
“And how, exactly, am I to determine what you need to know?”
Cisco wipes a palm down his face. “Things that might kill or maim me? Those, I probably need to know about.”
“That seems fair.” Harry’s head tilts to one side, his eyes fixed to one side as he considers things. “You said to ask before doing something like today again. Not to never do it again.”
“I’m a twenty-two year old guy. Orgasms are awesome. But you don’t blindside people with them. I nearly ended up walking out of here with my pants covered in jizz. That’s not cool. Now I know to bring an extra pair along, just in case.”
“I didn’t do it on purpose.”
“If I thought you had, I’d already be out the door.” Cisco shrugs. “Those are my rules. If you can’t do it, you’ll need to find someone else.”
Harry’s gaze dips back to the marks on Cisco’s arm. It’s a greedy, hungry look. That can work for Cisco, or against him. Harry wants to possess. Cisco can see that. But does he want to both possess and control? Harry looks back up to Cisco’s face and holds out a hand. “We have a deal.”
The best thing about having money, besides not having to dodge his landlord, is that he can do stuff with it. Tonight, there will be dancing and drinks with two of his most favorite people in the whole wide world. As soon as he can figure out what to wear.
Tonight is a celebration of surviving the hell that is exams. He's not out to get laid. But part of him wants to be. At the end of the night, Caitlin goes home to Ronnie and Barry crawls into bed with Iris, while Cisco goes home alone. He's not bitter. Just tired of being alone.
With a sigh, he pulls on a black shirt. Can’t go wrong with basic black. Casual enough for a night with friends, but classy enough if the night turns out to be a little more. He checks himself out in the mirror, smoothing a hand down the row of buttons on the front of the shirt. He grabs a hair band and pulls it back, before frowning and letting it down again. It's not perfect, but it’s decent enough.
Ten minutes later, he's still looking for his keys. He sprawls on the floor, checking to see if they got knocked under his bed. A knock on the door makes him straighten too fast, and he clips his head on the bed frame. He stumbles out to answer the door, rubbing at back of his head. He opens the door to Caitlin, who takes one look at him and starts fussing.
He ducks away from her prodding hands. "My head is fine. You’re going to mess up my hair."
"Oh, right, forget that you might have a concussion. We can't mess up the hair." She frowns. "I just worry. You haven’t been out of the hospital that long."
"It’s been six months."
Caitlin shakes her head. "It’s been five months, and I know, that’s almost six, but, Cisco, you could have died."
"I had pneumonia, Caitlin, not the plague. Yes, I was in the hospital. Yes, I was really sick. But I’m fine now. Clean bill of health." He spreads his hands in a "you see" gesture. "You don’t have to worry. All you need to do is help me find my keys, so we can go out and have a night of awesome fun."
Caitlin picks up something sitting next to the TV. "You mean these keys?"
Cisco blinks. He’d look there, hadn’t he? He swears he looked there. The universe is mocking him. He plucks the keys from Caitlin’s hands. "Thank you. You’re driving, right?"
Cisco has been told that he looks ridiculous when he dances, but with the pulse of the music humming in his blood and bones, he doesn’t care. The shots Barry and Caitlin had put in front of him the moment they’d entered the club are also helping. Between the alcohol and the beat, he has a pleasant buzz going. He's not sure why Caitlin and Barry want him loose and tipsy, but he has his suspicions.
Ever since he and Kendra broke up - or, as he put it, she dumped him to go back to her douchecanoe frat boy of an ex - they’d been pushing him to try again. But he’d gotten sick, and his shitty health insurance barely covered anything, and his financial aid got screwed up when he’d had to take incompletes in a bunch of his classes, and he hasn’t been in mood for flirting or other games.
Tonight, he wants to flirt. He wants to be a little shameless. He wants to have fun. So he tossed back the shots, one right after the other, and hit the dance floor. From the piece of the dance floor he’s claimed, he can see Caitlin and Barry watching him. He gestures for them to join him. Caitlin laughs and shakes her head. Barry leans down to say something in her ear before he slips away to join Cisco. Over the music, Barry yells, "You look like you’re having fun."
"My man, I needed this." He shakes his hips. Barry throws an arm over Cisco’s shoulder, spinning them around. He is, if it's possible, even more awkward than Cisco on the dance floor. He’s stiff and holds himself carefully, like he’s afraid he might touch the other dancers. It’s not long before Cisco is reduced to giggles. In a fit of mercy, he leads Barry off the dance floor, back to where Caitlin is waiting. He leans in so she can hear him over the music. "Are you sure I can’t get you out there?"
Caitlin wrinkles her nose. "I am not nearly drunk enough for that. And since I’m driving, I don’t think it’s going to happen."
"Awww." He leans his head against her shoulder. "But I want my bestest best friend to dance with me."
"Not going to happen." He pouts, but all Caitlin does is push him back towards the dance floor. "Go. Have fun. I’ll be right here."
He lets the energy of the crowd pull him back out. As the night has gone on, it’s gotten more crowded. Which is why he doesn’t notice at first that the girl dancing next to him is trying to dance with him. She smiles and flips long hair over her shoulder. In the light of the dance floor, he can’t tell if it’s light brown or dark blond. She leans into his space and, when he doesn’t object, puts one arm around his neck and rests her other hand on his hip. The contact makes is easier to move with her, hips swaying in time to the music. Over her shoulder, he could see Barry give him the thumbs up.
They dance through the next two songs. The noise of the music and the people make talking difficult. He tries to get her name, but she just shakes her head, her face confused. After two songs, she pulls back, and Cisco sighs to himself. Of course someone like her wouldn’t interested in more than a dance or two. He releases his own hold on her waist only to have her grab his hand in hers.
Cisco follows her off the dance floor. She weaves through the crowd, focused on some unknown destination. She pulls into a hallway, quieter than the main part of the club, before spinning to face him. Cisco looks around. The hall is plain, the walls painted a flat black. It looks like an employee hallway. "Should we be back here?"
The girl smiles down at him. In heels, she an inch or two taller than him. "Don’t worry. No one really uses this area. We won't be bothered. So, what's your name?"
She reaches out and tucks a strand of hair behind one of his ears. Cisco stares. The kind of girl he attracts is never this forward. Maybe the universe is finally smiling on him. "Cisco. My name. It's Cisco."
"I’m Lisa. Haven't seen you here before. And I think I’d remember you." She trails her hand down his arm to wrap her fingers around his wrist. "So where have you been?"
"Classes, mostly." Which is completely lame, but he’s had enough to drink that he’s not up for trying to keep track of anything else. "My friends and I are actually celebrating the end of the semester."
"A college boy, huh? So, tell me Cisco, are you a quick study?"
"I do my best." He takes a step forward into her space. It's a move that makes his stomach flip flop.
"Well, look what you found."
At the voice behind them, Cisco pulls back, breaking the hold Lisa has on his wrist. He turns, keeping himself between her and the new arrival. The hall they standing in is not well lit, making it hard to see his face, but he's tall and muscular and looks like he could hurt both Cisco and Lisa without much effort. Behind him, Lisa wraps her hands around his elbow and presses against his back. Cisco braces himself for the beat down that he’s about to get.
"Back off, Len. I saw him first." She takes a step back, pulling Cisco with her. He turns to find her snarling at the intruder, the sharp curve of her teeth visible. Something inside Cisco clenches.
The guy -- Len -- steps further into the hall, the lights catching the white points of his wide grin. "See, that’s the problem with little sisters. They never learn to share."
"What do you want?" Cisco keeps his voice from wavering, but can't stop the flutter of his heart in his chest. Retreat is not an option. Not with the hold Lisa has on him and with Len blocking the entrance to the hall.
"What do I want?" Len drums his fingers against his thigh. "I want lots of things. But what I want right now is to see what’s caught my dear baby sister’s attention."
Len steps in Cisco’s personal space. He leans in close enough that Cisco can smell his cologne, musk and spice. Lisa jerks him backwards, behind her. "He’s not interested. Go find your own company."
"You see? Never learned to share." He tilts his head to one side. "But maybe she’s right. Maybe you’re not interested."
Cisco stares over Len’s right shoulder, unable to make himself meet his eyes. "Sorry. This isn’t what I’m looking for. Either of you."
He risks a glance back at Lisa, who pouts and drops his arm. She says, "And here I thought we were having fun."
"Sorry, Lise. I guess your boy isn’t much fun, after all." Len puts a hand on Cisco’s chest, stopping him from leaving. "Or maybe he just needs the right incentive. We can make it worth your while."
Len pulls a roll of bills from the pocket of his jeans and holds it up in front of Cisco. Cisco stares. It’s a thick roll and the top bill, at least, is a twenty. "Excuse me?"
"It’s more than fair." Len tips the money towards him. "Go on. Or are you going to be greedy and ask for more?"
"You are such as ass, Lenny." At her words, Cisco looks back at Lisa. Her arms are crossed over her chest, a frown of annoyance on her face.
"Like you didn’t know exactly what he was when you started dancing with him."
The sweat down Cisco’s spine is ice. He shivers. They know. Somehow, they can tell. He shoves the money and the hand holding it away. "I told you. Not interested. Now, do I get to go, or are you going to force the issue?"
Len looks him up and down. "I don’t need to be lectured by some blood whore."
Behind him, there's a sharp intake of breath from Lisa. Cisco’s jaw tightens. "Whatever I might or might not be, none of it is for you."
He makes a point to knock his shoulder against Len as he goes past. It's petty, but at this point Cisco doesn't give a fuck. He plows through the crowds on the dance floor, not caring as he pushes between partners, taking the most direct route to where he’d left Caitlin and Barry. Barry catches sight of him through the crowd and straightens, a look of concern on his face. Cisco has no idea what he looks like, but it must be something, to put that look on Barry’s face.
Barry meets him halfway, puts an arm around his shoulders and leans in to ask "Are you okay?"
Cisco nods. And then shakes his head. And then shrugs. "I’m just tired and ready to get out of here."
Caitlin comes up on his other side. She puts a hand to his forehead, like he’s five fucking years old. "Is it your head? Does it hurt?"
"My head is fine. I’m just tired." He lets himself lean into her hand. Just a little. Just enough to feel her cool skin against his. "Can we just go? Please?"
Caitlin frowns and, for a moment, Cisco thinks she’s going to challenge him on it. She gives him a long look and then nods. "Okay. Let’s get you home."
This one took me way longer than expected. Part of it is that I also have two other stories in the works, but the other part was it was one of things where you look at it and go "That's not right." So you fix the not right thing and then go "Now this thing over here isn't right." Hopefully, it's now right enough.
When Harry opens the door, Cisco doesn’t so much walk as ooze through the door. He flops down on the couch, letting his limbs land wherever they wanted. Harry stares. His blue eyes are wide, pushing his eyebrows up towards his hairline. His mouth opens slightly and then closes. It’s not Harry’s usual behavior. Cisco asks, “What?”
“Were you thinking of trying something besides the elbow?” Harry’s question makes no sense, until he gestures to his neck and then down to his legs.
Cisco raises a hand to his hair, pulled back in a ponytail, instead of loose like Harry has seen it before. He glances down at his shorts. His collapse onto the couch made them ride up, nearly to his hips, leaving most of his legs bare and exposed. He fights the urge to tug them back down. “It’s, like, 300 degrees out. I'm just trying not to die.”
“Of course, right.” There’s a wistful edge to Harry’s words. “It’s just… It's a very provocative look.”
“Provocative, huh? I'll keep it in mind that sticky and sweaty does it for you.”
“Not really. I don't suppose I could get you to wash up?”
“What, like a shower?” Cisco isn't eager to get naked in the home of a guy who just told him he looks provocative. It's not that he doesn’t trust Harry. He just has limits.
“No, more like… Here, wait a moment.” Harry leaves the room, heading towards the bathroom. Cisco leans forward off the couch. Harry putters away out of sight for a few moments, then returns. He has a damp washcloth in his hands that he offers to Cisco with an expectant look. “Unless you want me to do it for you?”
“I got it.” The cloth is cool where he runs it over his arms. After the swampy weather of outside, he can’t resist running it over his forehead and along the back of his neck. He turns to give the cloth back to Harry and finds the man looking at the wall. There’s a faint red staining his cheeks and the tips of his ears. Cisco didn’t know that he could blush. Now that it’s too late, it occurs to him that wiping down his neck just after being told the sight of it was provocative was not a good idea. Cisco clears his throat and holds out the wash cloth. “Sorry for making the awkward more awkward there.”
“I’m not… It’s… You made it clear last time that I need to be respectful of your boundaries.” He takes back the cloth without looking directly at Cisco.
“What? You take one look at me and won’t be able to stop from jumping me? I know I look good, but that seems like a bit much.”
“I'm not an animal, Ramon. I'm not going to ravish you. I’m simply trying to abide by your wishes.” He twists the cloth in his hands.
“Look as much as you want.” Cisco spreads his arms wide. “Look until your eyes fall out of your head, for all I care. It’s when the rest of you comes into play that there are potential issues.”
“Well, that’s good to know.” Harry turns to him and his gaze drags hot and heavy over Cisco. He doesn’t even try to hide the way he runs his tongue along the tips of his teeth. It makes something tighten and flutter in Cisco’s stomach and he can’t stop himself from running his tongue along his own lower lip in return. Harry smirks, a small quirk of his lips, and holds up the wash cloth. “Let me just get rid of this.”
The moment Harry steps out of the room, Cisco pulls the legs of his shorts down to properly cover his thighs. It makes him feel less on display. He puts a hand to his hair tie, considers pulling it out, but the thought of it clinging to the back of his neck in the current heat is just too gross. He runs a hand down one arm. The heat also means short sleeves. He’s going to have to be careful for the next few days. He doesn’t want the wrong person seeing the marks Harry leaves.
Which reminds him. He calls down the hall after Harry, “Hey, can I ask you a question?”
“Can I stop you?” comes back.
“You could refuse to answer.” Not that Cisco is that easily deterred. “Anyway, I was wondering. Can you tell if someone has been bitten?”
Harry walks back into the room, his eyebrows drawn together. “Why would you ask that?”
“It just a question, Harry.” Something in his tone makes Cisco feel like he’s asked something personal.
“But why that question?” When Cisco doesn’t say anything, Harry sits down next to him. “That’s not the kind of question that comes out of nowhere. Did something happen?”
“I’ll answer that if you answer mine first.”
That gets him a frown and narrowed eyes, before Harry nods with a sharp jerk of his head. “The bite does produce a temporary shift in pheromones. It's how I knew your predecessor had violated the rules on exclusivity. But it’s not something that comes up very often, so I'm curious as to why you would even ask about it.”
“There was this girl, at this club --”
Harry’s interruption forces him to take a moment to regather his thoughts. “I didn’t pick it. It’s over on 29th and Bowen…”
“Yeeeeaaaah.” Cisco tries to picture Harry at a dance club. Even the mental image is awkward and uncomfortable. “How did you know?”
“It’s popular with a particular crowd. It’s basically a blood market. If I’d know you’d go there, I would have warned you.”
Annoyance spikes through Cisco. “But otherwise you weren’t going to mention I’ve been going around with a giant ‘Bite me’ sign.”
“You’re not--” Harry pinches the bridge of his nose. “If anything, it’s the opposite.”
“So, what? It says ‘Property of Harry,’ instead?” Cisco throws up his hands. “Because that’s so much better.”
Harry tilts his hand back and forth in a “so-so” gesture. “More feudal than in any sort of property sense.”
“That doesn’t actually help your argument. And you didn’t think that fell under things I need to know?” For a guy who, ten minutes earlier, had been looking at the wall in an attempt to honor Cisco’s boundaries, Harry is quick to fail the rest of Cisco’s requests.
“It’s been over fifty years since I had it come up. It never occurred to me that it would be an issue.” Harry shrugs. “I can give you a list of places where it might be an issue, but even then, no one will push if you let them know you’re under an exclusive agreement.”
Cisco considers. “Fifty years? Seriously?”
“I told you. There’s a bit of a feudal mentality to it. Approaching you would be an insult to me. It implies I'm unable to uphold my end of our agreement.” Harry takes in Cisco’s expression and adds, “It may not seem like much to you, but it’s a serious insult.”
Cisco picks at a stray thread on his shorts. “Why is it that every time I find out there’s something else I don't know?”
Harry folds his hands together and rested his chin atop them. Blue eyes study Cisco. “If I woke up human tomorrow, what would I need to know?”
Cisco blinks. “I don’t know. Wouldn’t you know most of it already?”
“Would I? Are you sure? I haven't been human for a very long time.” He tapped a thumb against his lower lip. “Like, for instance, milk. Why are there so many kinds? It’s nothing like what actually comes out of a cow, I know that much. How do you know which kind to buy?”
“Milk? You want to know about buying milk?” Cisco buys 2%. It was his mom bought when he was a kid.
“It’s not about the milk. My point is there’s a lot I don’t even realize you don’t know. And you don’t always know the questions you need to ask.” Harry sighs. “I am trying to abide by our agreement. But it’s rather more difficult than I had anticipated.”
Harry hasn’t given Cisco any reason to think he’s not trying. He’s answered Cisco’s questions. He’d agreed to Cisco’s demands, and while it’s not the easy answers Cisco had hoped for, it doesn’t seem malicious. He remembered the feeling of being in the hallway in the club, no one else around. He’s alone with Harry, more alone than he ever was in the club, but it doesn’t feel the same. He shakes out his arm and holds it out to Harry. “I’m going to want that list of places to watch out for.”
“Of course.” He reaches out to hold Cisco’s arm in position. His fingers brush against Cisco’s neck, before dropping lower to wrap around his upper arm. Cisco doesn’t think it was deliberate, but he shivers. He wonders what it would be like. He doubts he’ll ever be brave enough to find out.
Cisco lets the door frame support him and slaps his hand against the door. There's no sound from inside. He leans forward and rest his forehead against the door. If no one is home, there's nowhere else to go. He shuts his eyes and hopes. When it finally happens, he can feel as much as hear the eventual scrape of the lock being undone. He forces himself upright, so he doesn’t topple over when the door opens.
“Cisco, what are you--?” Harry looks at him and stops. He reaches out a hand, places it under Cisco’s elbow. “Come inside. Now.”
He’d made Harry promise. Promise not to touch him without permission. He doesn't care. The gentle pressure on his arm might be the only thing keeping him upright. Harry leads him to the couch, and Cisco lets it embrace his aching body. Harry hovers, his mouth pinched tight. “What happened?”
“I got mugged. They weren't too happy to find out all I had in my backpack was a bunch of class notes. They dumped my backpack down the sewer, and kicked my butt. Assholes.” His lip curls into a snarl before a flair of pain across his left cheek makes him stop. “All I had was five bucks in my pockets and they missed that.”
“You should have given them the money. Spared yourself the pain.”
“I didn’t exactly get a chance, before the hitting started. Plus, no way would five lousy bucks stop them from kicking the shit out of me.” Cisco tries to push himself upright, but his muscles refuse to cooperate. “Okay, bad idea. Not doing that. Anyway, sorry to barge in on you, but this was the closest safe place.”
Harry’s face screws up, like he’s smelled something sharp and unpleasant. Cisco suspects it's been awhile since anyone called his place “safe.” Safety is relative. He’s not exactly baby-in-its-mama’s-arms safe right now, but he’ll take Harry over being kicked in the stomach. Harry looks down at him. His hand lingers above the curve of Cisco’s cheek, just short of making contact. “Where does it hurt?”
Cisco blinks. “Um, everywhere.”
That gets him a roll of Harry’s eyes. “Okay, where does it hurt the most?”
Cisco considers the various aches and twinges across his body. Everything really does hurt, but if he has to pick one… “Probably my ribs or my arm. I took a couple solid punches.”
“Left or right?” He starts to undo Cisco’s shirt, pausing when Cisco squawks in surprise. He stills, fingers still on the buttons. “I need to check how badly you’re hurt. You could have broken ribs, internal injuries. I’d rather not have you die on my couch.”
Between the two of them, they manage to get Cisco’s shirt off with a minimum amount of cursing on Cisco’s part. Harry presses fingers down Cisco’s side. He hits a spot that makes Cisco hiss, air rushing between his teeth. Harry probes the area, hands moving slowly but leaving no escape, following when Cisco tried to pull away. Finally, they withdrew and Harry says, “I can’t tell if they’re broken or just bruised, but I don’t think you need a hospital, just rest.”
“At least one thing’s gone right.” Cisco curls into himself, trying to find a position that relieves the aches. When he moves, it hurts worse and after a few moments he gives up and collapses with a groan.
“We should get you cleaned up and get some ice on those bruises.”
Cisco shuts his eyes. He can hear Harry in the kitchen, along with the clatter of the cupboard doors. Harry mutters to himself, quiet enough that Cisco can’t make out the words. Finally, he hears the return of Harry’s steps. He forces his eyes open to find Harry crouched next to him, an ice pack in one hand and a damp cloth in the other.
He helps Cisco hold the ice pack against a long, brilliant red scrape down one forearm. It’s already darkening and swelling. Once the pack is securely in place, he raises the cloth to Cisco’s cheek, wiping away dirt and blood. He works his way up to Cisco’s hairline. He dabs at the skin there, each swipe of the cloth produces a fresh sting.
He presses the ball of his thumb to Cisco’s head and when he pulls back, Cisco sees a smear of fresh blood before Harry wipes it away, rubbing his fingers together. “You’re still bleeding.”
“Crap.” Cisco raises a hand to his head, pressing his palm to his scalp despite the sting it produces. “Do you think I need stitches? I really don’t want to go to the hospital.”
Harry eyes his head and then leans in. His tongue is wet and warm against Cisco's hairline. He licks once, twice, three times. He leans back, examines Cisco’s head and nods. “That should stop the bleeding.”
Cisco brushes his fingers along the cut and they come away clean. No blood, though he supposes his head is a little spitty now. Which is a little gross, but way better than more hospital bills. He’ll just have to wash his hair. As soon as he can move without every inch of his body screaming at him. “Thanks.”
Harry doesn’t say anything, just returns to wiping away the dirt and grime. The warmth of the cloth is nice, and Cisco leans into it slightly. He winces when it brushes over one of his bruises. Harry murmurs, “Who did this to you?”
“Why? So you can go beat them up in return?” There’s no answer. Harry refuses to meet his eyes. “You can’t do that!”
“Why not? They hurt you.” Harry snarls, teeth on full display.
“The law isn’t going to care about that. It’s going to care about the fact that you went after a bunch of ordinary humans. You think the police are going to give you the time to explain it was because they attacked me first? They won’t care. They’ll just kill you.”
“So they should just get away with it?”
Cisco doesn’t see why Harry is offended. He’s not the one who got beat up. “How would it help me? It won’t make me hurt any less. You know what would? Advil. Please tell me you have some.”
Harry stands, every muscle stiff. Cisco wonders if he’s pushed too far. Which would be bad, because right now, he can barely move, let alone defend himself. Harry opens his mouth. “You can have Tylenol. Advil reduces clotting. Might make your bruises worse.”
This is a bit short and with a bit of an abrupt end, but I wanted to get it out, because this story has been on hold for a while, as I've done a couple other projects. Thanks for everyone's patience. I'll try and get the next part out a little faster. :)
Cisco wakes to a room that is all wrong. The sun in coming in from the left, not from behind him. The sheets beneath his fingers are cool and slick, not the springy softness of his jersey cotton ones. When he opens his eyes, the walls are the wrong color. Not his bedroom. He tries to sit up and stifles a groan at the protest of stiff muscles.
His groan is echoed by a mumble. Cisco turns toward the sound. Harry is sprawled out in a chair next to the bed. His eyes are closed, his head tipped to one side, a book laying across his stomach. One hand hangs over the side of the chair, his glasses dangling from his fingers.
Cisco stares. In sleep, Harry has none of his normal predatory instinct. He looks soft, human. His face is slack, though his mouth is closed, and Cisco can’t see his teeth. It’s like looking at a doppelganger of the man. Any further observation is disrupted by his bladder making itself known.
He kicks off the blanket and stares at his bare legs. One, because they're bare, and he knows he was wearing pants earlier. Two, because of there is a large, darkening area across the top of one thigh. He presses a thumb to the swollen flesh and pulls back at the resulting ache, which he should have expected. He’d call it a color not found in nature, but it’s his leg. By the time it’s done darkening, it’s going to be the color of an eggplant.
He forces himself to sit up and swing his legs over the edge of the bed. It hurts. However long he’s been asleep, it’s long enough to make him stiffen up. He can’t stop the curse that slips through his lips in response to protesting muscles. At the sudden noise, Harry stirs.
“Oh, God.” Harry throws a hand up in front of his face. “Too bright.”
He lurches from the chair, the book sliding off his chest and hitting the rug with a dull thud. He stumbles to window and yanks the blinds closed. The light dimmed, he blinks down at Cisco. “You’re awake.”
“And I have to pee. Move.” Harry moves, sparing Cisco the embarrassment of trying to move him and invariably failing. Cisco makes it to the door and stops, trying to orient himself.
“Bathroom’s on the left.” Harry lets him walk on his own, but follows just behind. Which, given the way Cisco leans against the wall for support, might be a good idea. When he finally reached the bathroom, Harry puts a hand on the door, stopping him from closing it. “Don’t lock the door. I can break it down if something happens, but I’d rather not.”
“Sure, whatever.” Cisco lets the door swing shut. Emptying his bladder means one less pain. It’s the best he’s going to get for a while. Besides the bruise on his leg, there’s an equally dark bruise on his chest. The swelling along his jaw distorts the shape of his face. He can straighten his left elbow, but it takes some effort. He looks like shit.
It’s tempting to hideout in the bathroom and just not deal. If he sticks a mini-fridge and a microwave under the counter, he has everything he needs. Except he doesn’t have a mini-fridge or a microwave. And Harry will want his bathroom back.
He opens the door. Harry leans against the opposite wall, a slouching figure in black. “Do you have any clothing that isn’t black?”
Harry looks down at his sweater, and then back at Cisco. “I have some formal shirts. They’re white.”
“Which you probably wear with a black suit. Isn’t that kinda cliche?”
“I like black.” Harry pushes away from the wall. His hands hover, close enough to produce phantom touches on Cisco's skin. “How are you feeling?”
“Like I got beat up.” He shifts his weight, trying to ease his aches. It doesn’t help. “I wouldn't turn down more Tylenol before I go.”
Harry stiffens. “Go?”
“Yeah, go. Home. Where I live.” Where he could crawl into bed and hide until he felt up to facing the world again.
“You can't go.” Harry steps in Cisco’s space, herding him back into the bathroom. For the first time, Cisco appreciates how tall Harry is. “You’re hurt. Someone needs to watch you, make sure nothing goes wrong.”
The tightness in Cisco’s gut untwists a little. “Dude, I'm not going to drop dead if I'm left alone.”
“You can't be sure of that. Anything could happen.” Harry locks eyes with Cisco. “Just until tomorrow. In case some happens.”
This close, Cisco can smell him. Beneath the generic florals of laundry detergent, there’s something spicy. Like cloves, maybe? Or is it nutmeg? He regrets that he doesn’t cook. Cisco reaches out and places a hand on Harry’s forearm. Harry freezes, an inhuman stillness. Cisco jerks his hand back. He can’t remember ever touching Harry before, and there’s a reason he hasn’t. He tries to fold his arms over his chest, only to find he’s too stiff. Instead, he catches the fabric of his boxers in one hand and reaches across his stomach with the other to grip his elbow. “Sorry. You’ve already done plenty. I don’t want to be a pain.”
“I get to decide if you’re a bother. Just until tomorrow.”
“I don’t… What time is it, anyway?” It had been light when he’d woken up, but that’s not much to go on.
“A little after eight. You slept through the night. You seemed to need it.”
The last thing Cisco remembers before waking up is being on the couch. So Harry carried him to bed and stripped him down to his boxers, and Cisco slept through everything. He shivers. Harry hadn’t done anything. Not that Cisco could tell. Which is a stupid thing to worry about, because if Harry wanted to do anything to him, he wouldn't have to wait for Cisco to be asleep.
Harry steps back, out of Cisco’s personal space. “Please. So I know you’re alright.”
The “please” gets to him, like some Princess Bride moment. Unfair, using that against him. Not that Harry actually knows it’s his favorite movie. Cisco doesn’t even if Harry’s seen the movie, which would be a tragedy. “Fine. I’ll stay. But only until this evening! I’m sleeping in my own bed tonight. And I want my pants.”
Harry had washed his clothes. He'd even fixed a tear in his shirt. Cisco fingers a set of tiny stitches. The thought leaves him dizzy. Or that might be from being punched in the face yesterday. Either or.
He's curled up on the couch. Harry had fussed about him not going back to bed, but Cisco had refused. He aches, but he's not tired. Forced inactivity has never been a good look on him. Harry doesn’t have a TV. He does have a lot of books. Cisco can see them from his seat on the couch. He can't actually read the the titles. Not unless he gets up and goes over to the shelves, which he doesn't think will go over well with Harry.
He picks at bit of fuzz on his pants. Harry is puttering around in the kitchen, making him tea. Apparently that's a thing he does. Cisco isn't actually sure it's something Harry can drink, and he has a hard time picturing him having guests. Also, Cisco doesn't actually like tea. He's a coffee drinker, through and through. But he hadn't had the heart to say no when Harry had offered. The whole thing is surreal. Like that thing in the Trading Places movie, where Jamie Lee Curtis's character decided to forget that Dan Akroyd was paying her and was just nice to him when he was sick. Only in reverse.
Harry comes back from the kitchen, two mugs in his hands. He catches Cisco looking. "It's like diet drinks. It doesn't do much for me nutritionally, but I like the taste."
He pushes one of the mugs into Cisco's hands, then hesitates, looks at one of the chairs on the other side of the room to the couch where Cisco sits and back again. Cisco tucks his legs up to make room at the end of the couch. When Harry hesitates, he says "C'mon. I'm not the one who bites here."
Harry's eyes narrow, but Cisco counts it a win when Harry perches at the end of the couch. He takes a sip of the tea. It's herbal and sweet, but nothing he recognizes. It's not bad. For tea. He takes another sip and watches Harry. He looks like if Cisco so much as twitches, he''ll go flying off the couch. Every line in tense, held carefully still. He doesn't drink his tea, instead staring down into the depths of the mug. Cisco say, "It's your couch. You're allowed to sit on it."
Harry's jerks his head in Cisco's direction. The tea sloshes over the edge of mug. Harry wipes his hand across the front of his shirt. "Sorry. I just... I don't entertain very often."
"Yeah, I'm getting that." Cisco looks around the room, for a safe topic of conversation. "So, you play chess?"
"Of course I play chess. It's been the game of every great intellect since before even I was born." He follows Cisco's gaze to the set on the shelf. It's gorgeous, contrasting light and dark stone. "That one's mainly for show. Marble looks lovely, but drop one piece on the board, and the whole thing is ruined. I have other sets for play."
"We could play, if you want," offers Cisco.
"No, I don't think so." Cisco flinches. Of course Harry wouldn't want to play chess with him. He could hardly present a challenge. Harry takes a sip of his tea. "Maybe another time, when you haven't been punched in the head recently."
"Sure." That still leaves him on the couch, with nothing to do and scrounging for a topic. He tries to focus, but his head hurts. He has to squint a little against the light. Harry stands, and before Cisco can protest, lifts the mug of tea from his hands. "Here, lay down."
Cisco whines. He knows he sounds like a child and hates it, but can't stop himself. "I don't want to sleep."
"So don't sleep. Just close your eyes a bit." Harry nudges at his shoulders, pushing him back against the couch cushions, until Cisco gives in and stretches out horizontally. "There you go."
"'S boring. Don't like it."
Cisco's eyes are closed, but he can hear Harry rolling his. "Do you want me to read you a bedtime story?"
Harry underestimates how much Cisco hates being bored. "Yes, please. What do you have?"
"Seriously?" Cisco peeks with one eye to watch Harry step up to his shelves. Pale fingers skim over leather-bound spines. "I have Aristotle's Physica in the original Greek."
"How about something in English? Or Spanish. Spanish is also fine."
Harry looks back over his shoulder. "I'm told my Spanish is archaic. And that's by people from Spain. Where is your family from?"
"Puerto Rico. Why?"
"Because at that point, it might as well be Mandarin and Cantonese. " He pulls a book from the shelf. "Alice in Wonderland?"
Cisco sits up so he can get a better look at the book in Harry's hand. "Seriously ? Why do you even own that?"
"Charles Dodgson was an excellent mathematician." Harry perches on the arm of the couch. "Now, do you want me to read or not?"
Cisco needs to see this. Hear this. Whichever. It needs to happen. He settles back against the couch cushions. "Ok, show me what you've got."
Harry flips open the book. "Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do..."
Cisco opens his eyes. He'd made it to Alice being washed away by the pool of her own tears before he had succumbed to sleep. He finds Harry sitting in the chair opposite him, reading something that Cisco doubts is Alice in Wonderland. "What time is it?"
"Five-thirty." Harry sets to the book to the side. "I ordered you some dinner. It should be here shortly."
"Thanks." Now that food has been mentioned, Cisco can't ignore the pinched feeling of an empty stomach. He hasn't had more than tea all day. "What, exactly, am I eating?"
"Chinese food. Most people seem to like it."
Because Harry doesn't eat. Not the way Cisco does. "Chinese food is fine. Once I've eaten, I'll head home. Get out of your hair.
"If you insist." Harry drums his fingers against the arm of the chair. "You are welcome to stay. If you want."
A tiny part of Cisco is tempted. The idea of leaving, walking back to his place along the same streets where he was attacked is not fun. But he's not sure he has words for how much he wants to sleep in his own bed tonight. "I'll be fine. And, besides, you'll see me in less than three weeks."
"Check your calendar. Our next appointment is in less than three weeks."
"You're hurt." Harry gestures to Cisco's face. "You need time to heal. So I'll see you in six weeks."
"Are you sure? I mean, will you be okay?" There's a pang in his stomach that's not hunger.
Harry scoffs. "I've been taking care of myself for a long time now. I can manage a few weeks."
"Right." Cisco feels his face go red. That would have been obvious if he'd stopped to think about it. "Of course you can."
Harry rises from his chair. He leans over Cisco, runs the backs of his fingers across Cisco's cheek. "I appreciate your worry, but this isn't about me. I value you too much to place you at risk."
And what the hell is Cisco supposed to say in response to something like that? It's not the kind of thing covered in the etiquette lessons his mother had crammed down his throat as a child. Also, could a person's face blush a color beyond red? Because his cheeks are burning. He flounders for how to respond. When a knock on the door interrupted his thoughts, it was a relief.
"That''ll be the food." Harry glances at the door and back. "Are you sure you won't stay beyond dinner?"
"I'm sure." After that, Cisco is more ready than ever to go home, where his brain works and he can think.
His dreams are strange. Well, dreams are always strange. Convoluted, half related images, where sometimes he's someone else or he is himself, but watching his own actions from outside his own body. But this is something else. Flashes of white flesh and blood. A nagging, guttural voice whispering in his ear. And a touch that lingers when he wakes.
He's not stupid. He knows it's Harry in his dreams. It makes sense. The guy has become central in his life in a way he has not expected when he'd started this gig. It was supposed to be a straight exchange. His blood. Harry's money. But that was before he'd stumbled to Harry's in desperation and Harry had opened the door. That means something, though hell if Cisco knows what. And it doesn't explain the dreams.
Cisco's normal dreams are twisting, turning journeys through a landscape that blends his everyday life with the random pieces of movies and video games. He has one reoccuring dream that involves buying a couch from his junior high math teacher. This is closer to a sex dream, but there's no sex. There's touching, he remembers that much, but it's all above the waist. Hands holding him by the elbow, lips against the edge of his jaw, dangerously close to his neck.
He wants to say it's curiosity. He'd seen Dracula as a kid. He'd seen the porn version of Dracula in high school. Which was not something he should be thinking about, because he might be selling himself, but he wasn't in a porn movie. The problem was that he'd let his social life fall apart when the bills had started mounting up. These days the only people he saw besides the other students in his classes were Barry and Caitlin. And Harry. He sees Harry more than he sees his family. Which explains why he's sitting on his couch looking at the appointment on his phone that tells him he's supposed to be at Harry's. The appointment that he should have removed when Harry canceled due to Cisco getting mugged.
With a flick of his thumb, he closes the appointment reminder. He needs to get a life. Something new. Someone new. Anything.
He forces himself to grab his jacket from where it hangs next to the door. He doesn't have to do it all at once. Just go out, talk to someone. He doesn't go far. There's a coffee place down the street from his building. It's where he met Kendra, though she's long gone. He doesn't hold it against the place, which does a decent cup. The jingle of the door barely registers when he steps inside, familiarity making it fade into the background. The girl behind the counter is wearing a wedding ring, which is a relief, because otherwise he'd feel obligated to flirt. Instead, he smiles politely and takes his drink.
No one gives him a second glance. The bruises on his face have faded to mere shadows. He's still a little stiff in the mornings and the worst of his bruising is still there, but at least he can go out in public again without inspiring someone to proclaim "what happened to you?" He looks around and finds a free chair at an out of the way table. "Excuse me, you mind if I sit here?"
The girl is about his age, blond hair held back with a clip at the base of her neck. She blinks at him from behind dark-framed glasses. "You want to sit here?"
"Yes, I want to sit here. If that's okay with you."
She looks over the table, covered with stacks of papers, a few books and her laptop. "I can... Let me clear you some room."
"It's okay." Cisco pulls the chair towards him. "Don't need the table. Just need a place to sit. You don't have to move your," he waves a hand at the clutter, "everything."
She pushes her glasses up her nose. "I'm sorry. Am I supposed to know you?"
"No, I don't think so. I'm just a guy who needed a place to sit down." He takes a sip of his coffee. "My name's Cisco."
"Tracy. Is me." She smiles. "It's nice to meet you, Cisco."
"Likewise." She has a pretty smile that reaches her eyes, making them crinkle at the corners. "So I haven't seen you are before. New to the neighborhood?"
"I've lived here," she counts on her fingers, "a little over two years. But I'm not much for coffee shops."
"Not much of a coffee drinker, I take it?"
"Oh, I'm a huge coffee drinker. Big enough that I can't afford to drink here. But my coffee machine is busted, so I'm going broke trying to keep going long enough to finish all this." She waves a hand over the table and its contents.
"Well, maybe I can help? What are you drinking? My treat, for letting me borrow a corner of your table."
She looks him over. "I wouldn't mind a red eye."
"Red eye it is." Coffee with espresso is a little too much coffee for his taste, but, as a rule, he tries to avoid judging too much. He starts get up and then stops. "Look, it occurs to me that you don't know me, and the whole getting you a drink thing is what I would do if I were a serial killer looking to roofie you, so do you want to come with me? You order. I pay."
"Seriously?" She looks down at pile of papers. "I guess I could use a break."
She watches him out of the corner of her eye the whole time at the counter. When she finally has her drink in hand, she smiles. "Thanks. I really needed something nice today. The coffee machine dying on me was the latest in a long, long list of miseries today."
"In that case, I'm glad I could help. No one deserves a day like that. Expect politicians and people who spoil movies." He follows her back to the table. "So, what are you working on? Must be important for this much caffeine."
"I'm on a deadline to crunch a whole bunch of experimental data for the project my team is working on. Professor Zolomon -- he's the professor in charge of the project -- is a total stickler for deadlines.” Tracy shoves a loose strand of hair behind one ear. “I can’t afford to lose my position as a research assistant, you know?”
“Yeah, I get it.” There would be dozens of students willing to at least consider murder for such a position. Months ago, before Harry, Cisco would have been one of them. Money, tuition benefits, insurance. Okay, the university insurance is shitty, but that doesn’t matter as much when there’s money. “Totally worth all the headaches.”
“But now it’s one less literal headache, since I’ve avoided caffeine withdrawal for a little longer.” She salutes Cisco with her mug. “Thank you for that. I owe you one.”
He takes a sip of his own drink. “You can return the favor the next time we run into each other.”
“I was thinking more like dinner this weekend.”
Cisco stops with his drink halfway to his mouth. Backtracks and tries to see where he’d crossed the line from friendly to flirting. Except that he sucks at flirting, so he has no idea. Also, does he want to have been flirting? Tracy’s pretty. She seems nice. He could do worse. And yet... He hesitates long enough that Tracy flushes red. “Sorry. That was too much, wasn’t it? You probably have a girlfriend. Or a boyfriend. Or a harem, for all I know.”
“No harem. Or anything else. But I’m not looking right now.”
“It was a stupid impulse anyway.” She starts to gather up her papers. “Forget going out to dinner. I barely have time to eat. What were we going to do, go to the drive through at Big Belly Burger?”
“Hey, it’s okay.” He drops his hands on top of her papers. “It’s not stupid. The wrong timing, maybe, but not stupid. Stay. Finish your work. I mean, I’m the one who barged in on your table.”
She lowers herself into her chair, hesitating a few times as she did. “You're sure?”
“Yeah, I’m sure.” He taps his fingers against the table top. “Good luck with your project.”
“Thanks. And if I run into you again, maybe I can return the favor of a coffee.” As he turned to go, she said, “Oh, and Cisco? Whoever it is who has you not looking? I hope it works out in your favor.”
“There’s nobody. Really. Just got other things going on.” The words sit awkwardly on his tongue.
“That’s too bad. Everyone deserves a little time for someone in their life.” She looks down at her work. “Not that I’m one to talk.”
“Well, good luck to both of us, then. I’ll see you around, Tracy.”
He starts back to his apartment, but stops at the corner. He stands there through the light changing, then changing again, before he turns and heads in a new direction. When he gets there, he forces himself to knock, rather than turning around to go home. For a moment, Cisco thinks the place is empty, but then Harry opens the door. The wrinkle of confusion between his eyes gets deeper when he sees Cisco. “I cancelled the appointment. I told you. You need time to heal.”
“I’m doing a lot better,” Cisco says.
“So I see. And I’m glad. But I was serious about waiting. Don’t think that because you’re here I’m going to change my mind.”
“That’s not what I’m here. I just wanted to see you.”
Harry frowns. He leans forward and inhales. Cisco tries not to think of how sensitive Harry’s nose is and what he might smell. When Harry pulls back, his face is blank. “Go home, Mr. Ramon. I’ll see you in three weeks.”
He shuts the door. When Cisco knocks again, he doesn’t answer.
Fun fact. This is the third version of this chapter I wrote. Hence the longer than normal wait, even for me.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Cisco’s palms are sweating. He wipes them against his jeans, but they still feel gross and clammy. He hasn’t seen or spoken to Harry since the night he’d had the door slammed in his face. The last few weeks, he’d tried several times to get Hart to talk to Harry for him, but Hart had refused, said there was nothing he could do and recommended Cisco pretend none of it had happened.
Cisco raises a hand to the door, then stops a few inches short of the wood. His hand drops back to his side, and he considers turning around and going home. Before he can give in to the impulse, he forces his arm up and knocks.
He lies to himself, says the sound of flesh to wood doesn’t sound ominous, but he can’t make his shoulders unhunch or raise his eyes from the ground. So the first thing he sees when Harry opens the door are the shoes.
Of course they’re black. Harry probably dyes his tighty whiteys black. Well, probably he buys black silk boxers. Or doesn’t wear underwear. Just like he doesn’t wear shoes. Cisco looks up to meet Harry's gaze. He looks worn and wary. Cisco says, “You’re wearing shoes.”
“I do that sometimes.” He doesn’t move to let Cisco inside.
Under Harry’s scrutiny, Cisco drops his gaze. He fiddles with the edge of his sleeve, trying to ignore Harry, but within moments, he blurts out, “I’m sorry. For making things all weird and awkward.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong. I just… I don’t understand what you want.”
There’s no answer for that. Cisco isn’t sure what he wants, only that he wants. “Can I come in?”
There’s a moment where Cisco thinks he’s going to have the door shut in his face again, but then something in Harry seems to uncoil and he steps aside, allowing Cisco inside. Cisco steps through the door. The click of the latch as Harry closes it behind him fails to sound ominous the way it should.
For lack of anything to say, Cisco moves towards the couch, his fingers working open the buttons of his shirt. He’s here for a reason. He glances back. Harry is still standing by the door, watching. That is ominous. Cisco drops his shirt on the couch, leaving him in only the short sleeves of his undershirt. And Harry moves.
It's like watching Christopher Reeve switch from Clark Kent to Superman. Harry doesn't just move. He stalks, until he's so close that Cisco is forced to lean away and flop back onto the couch. Harry leans down, bracing his hands against the back of the couch.
“Personal space.” Cisco puts two fingers to Harry's shoulder and pushes. Harry lets himself be pushed.
“You're not afraid.”
“Should I be?”
Harry looks down at Cisco. “I could drink you dry, and you couldn't stop me.”
“You could. But you won't.” Harry can try and scare Cisco all he wants. He’ll fail.
“You trust too easily.” Harry straightens, backs away. He sits, not on the couch with Cisco, but in one of the chairs further away. “I don’t understand you.”
“I’m not that complicated. Name one thing about me you think is complicated.”
“You’re a blood whore. I’m not supposed to think about you at all.”
Cisco has the sudden realization that when people talk about their stomach sinking, it’s not a metaphor. His just sunk to the floor. “Wow, nice one, Harry. You said you don’t understand what I want, but what about you? I’m here because of you. You could have canceled. Found someone else to take your money. So why do you want me here?”
“You don’t want to ask me that question.”
Cisco rolls his eyes. “I do, because I just did. What, are you all hot for my bod and embarrassed about it?”
Harry doesn’t answer.
“What, seriously?” asks Cisco. “So when you said you weren’t supposed to think about me, you meant sexually?”
“You’re thinking of it in human terms.” He taps his fingers against his knee, pale skin against dark cloth. “Whatever else has sprung up around it, the core purpose of sex is reproduction. To make as many tiny, little humans as possible. But vampires… that’s not how we reproduce.”
His eyes keep dropping to Cisco’s neck, making the implications clear. Cisco fights the urge to lift his hands to his throat. Now is not the time to draw further attention there. He considers the shirt he’d taken off earlier, but Harry hasn’t glanced at his arms.
“But you can have sex, right?” The questions comes out before Cisco knows what he’s going to say. It makes Harry stare, his mouth parted, though no sounds comes. There’s a warmth in Cisco’s belly, a thrill in his veins, at have tripped Harry up. “Sorry, was I supposed to be freaked out? You keep trying to scare me, but we both know you won’t do anything I don’t want.” Cisco hopes he’s right about that. “It's not like you've lacked chances. But I’m right, aren’t I? About you having sex? Or is this another case where porn lied to me? Because I think I want to have sex with you.”
Saying it, Cisco realizes it’s true. He does want to have sex with Harry. Wants to press his mouth to Harry’s skin the way Harry does with him. Maybe not exactly the way Harry does, with the biting, but close enough. Cisco wants to taste him. Harry is shaking his head. “I told you. It’s different. Why we do it. How we do it.”
“Well, I didn’t expect blowjobs to be a big thing.”
That gets a barked laugh from Harry, showing off the exact reason for the comment. Cisco isn’t afraid. He never was. But more than that, the worry and the nerves are gone, shattered by the force of of a single statement. He has nothing left to hide behind, and it turns out that’s okay. Harry may have a different view of things. He stares at Cisco, then his eyes dart away before returning. “You don’t know what you’re asking.”
“Then explain it to me. Because unless you pick me up and throw me out the door, I’m not leaving here until you do.”
“Yes, I can have sex. But it’s more social, more about connections and family. A human comes into the world with nothing. A helpless baby that can only cry, eat and shit. A vampire comes into the with all the memories and skill they have acquired. And they are far from helpless. It’s easy for a mother to keep her infant by her side. A vampire’s creator uses a variety of tools. Including sex.”
“Not human. Some younger vampires will exchange sex for blood, but even they are smart enough to keep it to single encounters. Mix sex and feeding too long and eventually, you will give in to instinct.”
“So if we had sex…” He can’t stop from lifting his hand to his throat. Harry’s eyes track the movement.
“Every time would make it harder for me to resist to make you a vampire.” He looks tired and runs a hand over his face. “If that’s not what you want, it might be best if you walk out that door and never come back.”
Cisco chews at a hangnail on his thumb while he considers what Harry is telling him. “What if we don’t have sex? Just pretend this never happened?”
“Then sometime soon, probably in the next year, I’ll get tired of wanting and not having, and I’ll fire you and hire someone less complicated.”
Cisco barely hears the second part of Harry’s statement, his attention caught by something else. “And if I stay and we do this, how long? Before you can’t resist any more?”
“Not long. Three years. Maybe five. There's a reason you don't hear about many grand romances between humans and vampires. It does not end well.”
“My longest relationship ever didn’t make it to six months. Three years is longer than you think.”
“You're young. Three years is shorter than you realize. And you would have a very long time to regret it.” Through all his words, his eyes never left Cisco's throat. Cisco has the urge to declare that his eyes were up higher, but Harry continues, “So think carefully if this is what you want.”
“I don't know if that’s what I want.” Cisco stands from his place on the couch. “I guess it’ll depend on if you prove to be worth it.”
It’s strange, bending down to kiss Harry. Cisco has gotten used to the idea that he’ll always be tilting his head upwards. Most of the girls he knows wear heels which inch their height over his. And he wishes Harry weren’t sitting, because the thought of Harry standing over him is thrilling. Harry’s lips are firm and dry beneath Cisco’s. He doesn’t push Cisco away, but he doesn’t kiss Cisco back. Cisco pulls back. “You know, this works better with two people.”
“This is a bad idea.” Harry has his eyes closed, like he’s trying to hide from Cisco.
“So you keep telling me. Here, stand up.” He grabs Harry’s hands and tugs until Harry gives in and lets Cisco pull him upright. Once Harry is standing, Cisco loops Harry’s arms around his neck. He holds them in place, certain Harry will let go the moment Cisco lets him. “You trust me, right? So trust that I trust you.”
When he kisses Harry a second time, Harry starts just as stiff and unrelenting as the first time. Then he makes a sound, a whine that makes Cisco tremble, and Cisco can only hold on while Harry kisses him. Harry demands entry, and Cisco parts his lips. Harry has somehow slipped loose of Cisco’s hold, because his hands are no longer at Cisco’s shoulders. They’re on Cisco’s hips, holding him in place. Not that Cisco wants to go anywhere. His heart is pounding so hard that it nearly hurts. That might also be the lack of oxygen that forces him to pull back. They’re so close that every heaving breath Cisco takes brushes their chests together. It’s several moments before Cisco can force the words out. “Now do you believe me? Nothing bad is going to happen.”
A slight frown replaces the dazed look on Harry’s face. “One more test. Don’t move.”
Cisco freezes in place as Harry circles him. He comes to a stop behind Cisco. One hand slips around Cisco’s waist, coming to rest with the flat against his belly. The other reaches up, gathers Cisco’s hair and pulls it back from the side of his neck. Fully clothed, and Cisco has never felt so exposed. Harry’s mouth comes to rest against the skin there.
Mouth, because it’s not just lips, it’s tongue and teeth, too. Cisco braces himself against the sudden, piercing pain of a bite. Instead there is only the drag of blunt teeth, enough to scrape, but not to bleed. It’s followed by the lave of a cool, wet tongue. A shiver goes up Cisco’s spine.
Harry works his way up Cisco’s neck to his ear. In a puff of air, he says, “Breathe. I’m not going to bite you. Not now. Not there.”
“You should.” Cisco’s tongue darts out to wet lips gone dry. “I want you to.”
“No, you don’t. Those are marks you can’t hide. But more than that, this is more intense.” Cool fingers trail across Cisco’s skin, raising goosebumps. “More pain. More pleasure. Just… more. Is that what you want?”
Cisco thinks of the other times Harry has bitten him. He can take the pain. It ends. But the pleasure goes on as long as Harry feeds. Cisco isn’t sure he can take that. But he wants to find out.
He tilts his head to one side, letting his hair slide away and baring his neck. “Please.”
“Not here.” Harry still has his arm around Cisco’s waist, and he uses it to pull Cisco over to the couch and into Harry’s lap. Cisco’s toes brush the floor, but his legs are too short to set his feet flat. He leans back into Harry to keep his balance. Harry holds him tight and says, “If we do this… I don’t know that I can ever let you go.”
Held like a child, and Cisco feels powerful, to make a creature like Harry want like that. It takes some twisting, but he turns and kisses Harry. “Then make me never want to leave.”
Harry’s teeth strike.
There will be one more part and then this story comes to an end. It shouldn't be nearly as long a wait. (And... I just cursed myself).
Cisco's sun goes away. He opens one eye to find Harry standing over him, dressed in a long-sleeved jacket, with a baseball cap on his head, to keep his skin from burning. Cisco pulls his sunglasses down his nose so he can meet Harry's eyes. “You're in my light.”
“I don’t understand this obsession you have with sunbathing.” Harry looks out across the courtyard, squinting a little against the bright light.
“Not going to be able to enjoy it forever, am I?” He shoves his glasses back up and settles back down onto the blanket he’d laid out on the ground. “Have to get my time in while I can. What brings you out of your cave during daylight hours?”
“Your friend Caitlin is here. She asked me to come get you. She seems to think that if she was the one to come, you would, how did she put it? Chicken out.”
“‘m not a chicken.” He rolls over onto his stomach and gets his knees under him, because it clear sunbathing time is over, even if he’s not done.
Harry shoves his hands in his pockets. “I never said you were. Caitlin did. Feel free to go inside and yell at her.”
Cisco stands up and gathers up his blanket. “I feel like there’s something wrong with the idea, but I can’t pinpoint what.”
“That’s because there’s nothing wrong with anything I say. Now go deal with Caitlin.” He nudges Cisco, putting a hand to the small of his back to move him towards the door. “That way, I don’t have to talk to her.”
Harry's cool fingers against the bare skin of his back are distracting, but Cisco manages to reply, “It's your fault that she's here.”
“No, it's not.”
“Uh, yeah, it is.” Cisco opens the door to their apartment. “You're the one insisting I go to this thing.”
“That ‘thing’ is your mother's birthday. And I never said you had to go, just that it would be a good idea.” Harry shuts the door behind them and pulls Cisco to his chest. “Family is important.”
Cisco turns to wind his fingers into the fabric of Harry's sweater. “You're important, too. You know why I’m invited and you’re not? So she can spend the whole time trying to get me to leave you.”
“Are you going to leave me?” Harry sounds amused by the idea.
“Like hell.” Cisco wraps his arms around Harry’s waist and leans into him. “Only way you’re getting rid of me is if you pry me off with a crowbar.”
“Well, lucky for me, I don’t own a crowbar.” He puts a hang atop Cisco’s head, trailing his fingers through Cisco's hair. “Your mother doesn’t want me there because she sees me as a threat. By contrast, I don’t worry about her, because I know I’ve already won.”
“I’m not a trophy.”
“But you are a treasure.” He squeezes Cisco into a hug and then pushes him toward the living room. “Now go get ready.”
Caitlin is waiting on the couch, a bag at her feet. She stares. “You neck is, like, one big hickey.”
“Is not.” It’s not. It’s a lot of small, overlapping hickeys. Harry is good about his teeth, but he does have a thing for Cisco's neck. It's impossible for Cisco to deny that when he's wearing the evidence. He crosses his arms over his chest, which does nothing to hide his neck. At Caitlin's unimpressed look, he drops his arms back to his sides. “I'll wear something that will cover it up.”
“Because a turtleneck in June is real subtle.” She picks up her bag and stands, reaching out to tip his chin up. “I brought concealer. I think I matched your skin tone, but we can blend a couple different shades if we need to.”
She leads him into the bathroom, where she makes him sit on the toilet lid while she attacks his neck with brushes, sponges and assorted goop. By the time she steps back, he’s stiff from holding his head at an angle to give her access. She gestures to the mirror. “Well, take a look.”
His neck looks pristine. It looks odd, and he reaches up to prod the skin with a finger, before Caitlin bats his hand away. “Stop that. You’ll rub it off, and I’ll have to redo it.”
“Huh.” Harry stands in the doorway to the bathroom. He stares at Cisco’s neck, a slight frown tugging at the corners of his mouth. Cisco half-expects him to go for his neck, even with Caitlin standing right there.
“How does it look?” Caitlin asks.
“It’s… very effective.” He sets a bundle of cloth down on the counter. “I brought you some clothes.”
The slacks and the button-down shirt aren’t quite a suit, but they are a few steps up from his usual student wear. Cisco runs his fingers down the row of buttons. “Why is this such a big deal to you, anyway? You don't even like my family.”
“It doesn’t matter if I like them. Family is important,” he repeats. “And you won’t have them forever.”
Cisco thinks about quiet conversations in the dark. Stories of Harry’s Before. Of a wife and child, now both long past. “My parents and I had issues long before I ever met you. So it’s not your fault, and you don’t have to be the one to fix things.”
“I just don’t want you to have any regrets.”
Cisco glances back at Caitlin, who makes a show of not paying them any attention. With no help from that direction, Cisco turns back to Harry. “Fine. I’ll go. I’ll play nice. But if anyone tries to have me exorcised, I’m coming home.”
“Thank you.” Harry leans in and places a kiss on his forehead. “And when you get home, you’ll be rewarded.”
“Better be a good one.”
Harry smiles, smug and satisfied. “Oh, it will be.”
*Jazz Hands* And it's a wrap! Thanks for everyone who read this story, commented, gave kudos, etc, and helped me keep going when I got distracted by other WIPs. Two of those WIPs actually ended up getting written between the last part of ORQ and the epilogue, so feel free to go check them out if you're at all interested in either ReverseVibe or Harry-centric stuff.
You can find me on tumblr, pillowfort and dreamwidth as Terrie01, though currently (early 2019) I'm mainly active on Tumblr, as that's where most of the Harrisco action is.
And before anyone asks, I am considering writing a side piece of Cisco getting his reward, but no promises. I have two longer WIPs I'd really like to dig into, and a couple ideas of shorter pieces as well, and only so many hours in the day. Someone go invent a machine that reads your mind and helps you write stories faster.