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I'm A Vampire

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It’s only in the morning that Richard truly realizes what’s happened. When he fixes himself a bowl of cereal and it’s the most repulsive thing he’s ever put in his mouth. Disgusting in a way he wouldn't even know how to describe.

It’s fine, though. He didn’t really want breakfast.

What he really wants is to work. He feels productive. Like he could really get stuff done. So he does just that, he settles down in the work room until midmorning, and he’s a bug-finding-and-fixing wizard. His brain is processing huge blocks of information without any kind of disruption or static. It's amazing. He’s in the fucking zone.

He’s in the zone, that is, until a ray of sunlight filters through the curtains and hits him squarely in the face, and Richard experiences something like the most violent migraine of his life, but worse. He runs to the bathroom and throws up. It’s fucking horrible.

*

Is your world a sum of all the choices you've made? Or is it a sum of all that’s been done to you?

Richard looks up from the toilet bowl, grimy and pink and splashed with the red-black contents of his stomach. The rest of the bathroom feels really focused, as though he’s seeing it for the first time. The light, the sounds, the smells. The hard, cold texture of the floor tiles. The quiet but razor-sharp ‘splish’ of water dripping from the faucet. He feels like he has a whole new pair of eyes - no - a whole new set of senses.

Ok, so this is real. Richard’s been turned.

He hides in his bedroom until he doesn’t feel like his head is imploding. If he wraps his head in a pillowcase and lies still, the nausea goes away, so he does that for a few hours. By dinnertime, he can get it together enough to decide what to do.

What he decides to do is acknowledge that he has no fucking idea how to handle this on his own.

And of course, inevitably, the only person he isn’t too scared to tell is Jared.

“You remember this morning, when I, um, I didn’t feel so good?” He says. They’re standing just inside the closed door of Richard’s bedroom.

Jared nods. “Yes, you seem better.”

“Ok so, um. It wasn’t food poisoning. It was - I had, like, sun in my eye, and -“ Richard pulls down his shirt collar to show the bite mark.

Jared becomes very, very still. Then he opens and closes his mouth but nothing comes out. Then he sits down even though Richard didn’t ask him to sit down which is surprising in that way that you-didn’t-know-you-didn’t-expect-something-until-it-happened kind of way. But then it’s like he snaps out of it.

“I can help,” he says.

Thanking Jared for this offer seems like the mother of all understatements, so Richard just nods. Jared stares earnestly into his eyes. He reaches up, absently, to run a hand through his hair, and over the nape of his neck.

“Now,” Jared continues. “Normally I’d suggest that the first thing to do is to get a formal diagnosis, but in this case… Well. Vampirism has been decriminalized but prejudice is far too rampant to -“

The use of the actual word is startling. Vampirism. Fuck. “Jared,” Richard hisses. “I don’t need to be diagnosed!”

Because he doesn’t.

“You’re right.” Jared says, moving closer to Richard. “What you need is food.”

He list the potential sources and offers to find outside blood for Richard, but, inevitably, he also offers his own. He just… offers his own blood. Because of course he does.

It’s fresher, Jared says, and requires neither criminal activity nor astronomical sums of money to procure. They both tactfully avoid referring to Gavin Belson’s blood boy, despite the fact that, Richard supposes, they must both be thinking about it.

“When you’ve had enough I’ll tell you to stop verbally, but if that doesn’t work I have this,” he says, and pulls out a taser out of his bag.

“Jesus!”

Jared looks down at the taser. “Oh, this - it’s just been in my bag forever.”

Richard doesn’t goddamn realize what’s about to happen until he sees Jared sit down on the floor of his bedroom and hold out his arm. It’s fucking wild, what happens to him, what comes over him, this… this fucking monster inside him, that makes him feel frenzied and calm at the same time. Like he’s being taken over by a massive, undiluted urge, but he also… doesn’t mind. Like the very concept of worrying has been removed from his emotional repertoire.

“Richard,” Jared says softly, and Richard stops drinking, and then he’s licking the wound like it’s some kind of reflex. It stops the bleeding.

Richard looks up. “Jesus fucking Christ are you - is this -”

Jared looks disoriented but he says “Do you feel better??”

“I - I feel fucking amazing.”

And he does, he feels fucking amazing… until later that night, when Gilfoyle orders pizza and there’s garlic in the sauce and Richard basically has a seizure just from the smell. Fuck.

*

After that Jared runs interference between Richard and normal food. He’s a fucking genius at it. He’s also a genius at scheduling meetings in places with no windows. With that and Richard’s new ability to always be in the zone when he’s working, things get done at a literally unnatural pace. Everything is fine. Better than fine. Everything is fucking great.

*

There is one thing? Though? Maybe it’s the blood, or maybe this whole situation comes with an increased libido, but like, whatever it is, it’s - drinking Jared’s blood is fucking erotic. Jared has always been the only person who looked at Richard like he knew him, like Richard was known, and like what was known is okay, and doing this is like wrapping himself in that sensation, and that comes with an erection, apparently. Apparently? And the thing is, Richard has rarely stopped to think about how he makes Jared feel, but doing this - putting his mouth on him and feeling his skin and his smell and his pulse - he knows (like he knows) that they're both being enveloped by something fucking powerful and that it’s doing something for Jared too. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but like, Richard has a lot on his plate right now? His… condition… is enough of an identity crisis already without adding “huge boner for Jared Dunn” to the equation.

And it isn't just the identity crisis. It’s the way his body is behaving in a raw and unpredictable manner. Fucking ungovernable. Like, Richard remembers getting random boners as a teen, which is kind of like what this feels like, except that what he’s experiencing right now is on a whole other order of magnitude. When Jared’s blood hits his tongue Richard wants to fucking growl and every little noise Jared makes is awakening something in him and it’s intoxicating.

*

Richard never asks for it; Jared always seems to text him ‘hungry?’ just at the right moment.

Every time they do it it's the same.

They go to Richard's bedroom and lock the door. Jared peels off his sweater if he’s wearing one. Jared slowly undoes his cufflink; starts rolling up his sleeve like the world’s slowest, most awkward strip tease. Sometimes Jared looks up and they look at each other, and there’s something dark there. Richard always looks away first.

That’s when Richard turns into… that's when his condition takes over. He knows because violent images start rushing into his head. Like - forceful. He pictures himself pushing Jared up against the wall. He pictures himself reaching out to grip Jared’s arm. He pictures himself knocking Jared down and then, like, drinking from his femoral artery.

He never does any of that. He watches Jared roll up his sleeve to just above his elbow, and waits for him to hold out his arm. He gets really worked up but it's kinda like every time he’s been peer-pressured into watching a stripper - hot but confusing in an intimidating way.

Anyway then Jared looks at him and Richard steps forward to bite into the crook of his elbow. He always drinks from there, from a cubital vein. It’s less, you know, Bela Lugosi-like, and also Jared isn't as powerless as he might be, that way. Richard drinks and drinks until Jared says “Richard.” He says it really softly. And then Richard licks the surface of the wound until it stops bleeding.

Usually he immediately gets back to work after that, and he’s not sure what Jared gets up to. Sometimes Jared sticks around to tell him about some vitamin supplements he’s taken to improve the quality of his blood, and that makes Richard a little queasy if he thinks about it too hard so he doesn’t. Sometimes he gets a crazy blood high and needs to lie down on the carpet, and Jared sits next to him until it fades a bit and he can pass for normal. Well. Normal enough. One time, he gets some blood on his shirt so when they’re done, he digs through his laundry and when he turns around, Jared is still standing there but he’s… He’s touching the puncture mark on his arm, he’s running his fingers over it like it’s precious, like it might as well be a goddamn diamond. Richard doesn't tell him he saw that.

*

It’s fine until one day it isn't. Until one day Richard looks up from his workstation and sees Jared rolling up his sleeves. In the middle of the day, in the work room, where - where everyone can see.

That night when Richard feeds, one hand at Jared’s elbow and the other holding his hand, he watches Jared the whole time, which he’s never done before because it feels like Jared has to be able to see the violent fantasies going through his mind. But he watches him this time, looks him straight in the eye, and it turns out Jared stares right back, and that information is what changes everything. He stares at Richard like the last thing he wants is for Richard to look away. And now Jared’s heart is beating faster which makes the blood comes faster and Richard’s dick becomes so hard so fast that he's a little bit dizzy and Richard is wildly, desperately attracted to Jared. And Jared just keeps on gazing at him, and what the fuck is that? What does he think he’s doing?

When Jared murmurs “Richard,” like it’s a fucking filthy word, Richard licks Jared’s wound clean as lewdly as he can, making sure Jared has a good view of his teeth, because Jared doesn’t seem to know who’s boss right now and Richard is the kind of guy who will try to freak him out as some kind of deranged punishment for that. Or something. He’s not sure what he’s doing, he just knows he’s thinking is this what you want? as he’s doing it and he wants Jared to be scared.

Later, when he’s alone in his bed trying to masturbate himself to sleep, it takes him ages to get it right, and in the end, he isn’t picturing the same kind of violent stuff that’s been in his head since he was turned. Well, he is but he’s also picturing other stuff. He’s picturing Jared’s voice in his ear, quietly murmuring his name. Richard.. He comes really fucking hard.

*

Richard’s internet project moves forward at breakneck speed. The team is functioning like it always tried, but never managed to, function. Streamlined, efficient. They’re a well-oiled goddamn machine. They haven’t had so much as a cash flow issue in months; they’ve been able to meet the salary expectations of the extra people they’ve been needing to hire, and those people have barely blinked about Richard’s unusual schedule. Monica somehow found genuinely intelligent people for the sales team, and Richard sometimes thinks everything’s going to be fine.

Then he catches Jared with this look in his eye Richard could swear wasn’t there before, and his hair stands up on end like there's a ghost in the room. Which in a sense there is. An apologetic, diffident ghost with a long pale body and eyes and hands. And sometimes, Jared looks at him, and it’s like they’re sharing a moment, like they’re in a film and everything’s just taken on this golden glow of ‘here is a moment we’ll never forget’ except they’re talking about financial statements and Richard is a monster.

*

One night, they drink a little bit more than usual, and later Jared suggests feeding from a different vein. It’s to see if there’s a difference, he says, and Richard thinks it’s a great idea until Jared tilts his head back and Richard realizes Jared expects him to put his face right next to Jared’s face and bite into his jugular and wow, there are a lot of images going through his mind right now.

“Richard?”

“Huh?”

“Is everything okay?”

“Um. Yeah.” He coughs. “Everything is… everything is fine.”

“Richard I just thought - you’re a vampire. You ought to know how to bite someone’s neck!” He huffs out a laugh, like Richard isn’t gazing at him with wild, desperate, hungry desire.

So he feeds on Jared’s jugular and it’s the greatest thing that has ever happened to Richard. Brushing his lips against his collarbone, Jared shuddering against him, the deep-down reflex that makes him pull Jared into his arms. The flow is stronger and Jared’s neck smells incredible and it’s good, so good, if he’d known anything on earth could be this good -

But then Jared says that they shouldn't do it again. That Richard should keep drinking from a cubital vein. Richard thinks he might cry (can he still cry?) but Jared says that the neck wound is just too difficult to hide.

Then after that it’s like - it’s not just that. It’s like there’s a lot of stuff going through Richard’s mind. Things the monster thinks about doing, or maybe Richard thinks about doing, he hasn’t figured this identity shit out. He can’t even make himself say the word, let alone consider telling anyone else - which is increasingly ridiculous because Gilfoyle has definitely figured it out at this point - let alone know who the fuck he is right now. He never knew before, why would he know now? Whenever he accidentally thinks about it too hard he grabs his computer to immediately do something specific, and tangible, and quantifiable, and it works, ok, it fucking works. He doesn't need to know anything about himself to be good at his job.

*

He - from day one, Richard has been noticing things that are different now, that he figures, have to be due to his condition. The way he works so fast and flawlessly (he hasn’t made a typo in months), the food, the sunlight, the impulses. His libido is weird too but Richard is pretty sure that… ok look. He isn't going to go and check? But he’s pretty sure that he wouldn't have sexual thoughts about anybody, just because he was feeding on them, so. So the point is that what happens next is due to Richard's condition, yes, but mainly in an impulse control way.

This is what happens.

Jared takes off for two hours and comes back with a different haircut. A. Different. Haircut. On Jared. On Jared Dunn, who has been wearing his hair the exact same length, side-parted at exactly the same angle, since probably the dawn of time.

It’s shorter at the nape, which somehow attracts the eye to his neck. To his neck and to his sexy fucking jugular. Richard fucking loses it. He loses it hard.

“How dare you.” He hisses at Jared, pushing him into his bedroom. “I nearly had a fucking seizure.”

“Richard, are you unwell?”

“I can’t even function right now.”

“What happened?”

“This happened,” Richard says, running his hand over the nape of Jared’s neck. “You - you slut.”

Jared’s cheeks turn bright red and his pupils are huge and suddenly he’s - he’s panting. “What do you mean?”

“What do I mean?” Richard feels delirious. “I mean your fucking neck cleavage, you. Harlot”

Richard.” Jared breathes.

“You’re on display!”

So also, this is when Richard discovers that his condition comes with a commanding voice range. It’s about half an octave deeper and it’s assertive in a way that even Richard can tell is a magical fucking power. “You do not put yourself on display, Jared.”

“Oh gosh, oh goodness -“

“Say it.”

“I do not put myself on display.” Jared’s eyes flutter shut, and he shudders violently as he says it.

*

So like, Richard says that thing about Jared’s hair, and leaves. He doesn’t really think about his sudden outburst of anger? Richard has always had wild swings between timidity and outspokenness so like, he’s not about to start noticing when he’s said wildly workplace-inappropriate shit now. He just goes back to work.

Except that’s not entirely true? What he actually does is, he puts his earphones on and works without stopping for nine hours. He doesn’t look up from his screen and he doesn’t think about Jared for all that time. But then when he looks up from his screen and sees Jared walk in, he feels really weird. Like weirder than usual.

*

Later that month Jared goes to a project management conference in San Francisco. He’s been asked to lead a panel called “Unusual HR Challenges.” He’s planning to go the day of the panel and drive straight back, and Richard thinks it’s because the conference will be be boring and Jared will want to escape? But then it turns out that Jared is worried about leaving Richard alone.

“Don’t - no. Jared, don’t… don't do that.”

“Richard, why…”

“It’s just three days. Go to the conference.”

“Richard, I think we need to talk about -”

“Go, Jared.”

“You don't know what could happen.”

Go,” Richard says, using the voice.

When it’s time, Jared drops by the house before driving to SF. It’s so early in the morning that the sun isn't up, so Richard pads out to the driveway, in track pants and bare feet, to see him off. When he sees Jared gets out of the car, on impulse, Richard walks up to Jared, reaches up to put his arms around Jared’s shoulders, and… hugs him. Jared freezes at first, and then Richard can hear him and feel him sigh as he wraps his huge hands around Richard and hugs back, standing straight so that Richard is forced to stand on the tips of his toes. All of a sudden, Richard feels incredibly small.

“See you in three days,” he mouths into Jared’s shoulder.

“I left you some blood,” Jared says gently when he releases him. “In a cooler under your bed.”

Maybe when Jared gets back he’ll let Richard feed from his jugular again. Maybe. Would - what if Richard bought him some really nice turtlenecks?

*

Later that morning, the sun is shining so brightly that the guys keep the curtains closed in order to see their monitors. It’s a long weekend so only Gilfoyle and Dinesh are around. It’s weirdly cozy, and Richard decides not to work in his bedroom so he gets his computer and goes into the work room.

But then Gilfoyle and Dinesh are just… standing there. Closer together than they usually stand. They’re waiting for him. Dinesh looking confused and belligerent and brave, wondering where to put his hands. Gilfoyle looming in what he probably thinks is a non threatening pose, his hair pushed back from his face and his brown eyes studiously blank.

“Richard,” Gilfoyle starts. “Are you a vampire?”

“Yeah, Richard, are you a vampire?”

Richard blinks. “Um… What are you guys talking about?”

Gilfoyle pulls open the curtains and sunlight hits Richard from head to toe. It’s way more than ever before, and it’s the worst thing he’s ever experienced. Before he knows what’s happened, he’s on the floor, doubled over with pain.

“Yeah,” Gilfoyle says. “We’re talking about that.”

Dinesh and Gilfoyle have been part of Richard’s life for over five years now. They’re competent and funny and they hate and love each other in equal measure and their trust - in each other and in Richard - is stronger than it has any right to be. On the floor, in between waves of debilitating pain, Richard realizes that he has no idea why he’s been hiding this from them.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you,” he croaks, from where he is on the floor.

“Just tell us how you're gonna not accidentally kill us.”

“I’m managing it.” He tries to get to his knees and falls back down. He can feel tears streaming down his cheeks; he wipes at them and they’re blood. “Jared is helping me.”

“Yeah.” Gilfoyle draws out the word, like it has three syllables instead of one. “Jared. That’s fucked up, by the way.”

*

The guys carry him to his bedroom and, at Richard’s request, wipe his blood tears off his face and wrap his head in a pillowcase. The world then narrows down to the texture of his bedroom carpet and the yearning for blood. Time slows to a crawl. It’s lonely and everything hurts.

By the next day Richard can drag himself to where he can smell the bags of blood Jared left him; the plastic is really unpleasant on his teeth. They’re cold and gross and have this secondary taste that Richard will later find out is anticoagulant. But he can’t stop drinking them.

Usually after drinking Richard feels good but this time he… doesn’t. Like he feels better, but not better better. He feels like when he was twelve and he had an iron deficiency that took two weeks to diagnose - barely able to stand up but not actually tired. He drags himself all the way to the shower and cleans out the tears that had gotten in his hair. He changes his clothes. But that’s as much as he can do. He can’t work. He wishes he could sleep. He wishes Jared were here.

The internet doesn’t have much to say about his symptoms. There’s a vampire subreddit but like, the advice is all about successfully avoiding sunlight and garlic? And there’s a list of hostile places to avoid. Which is helpful but like, Richard isn’t in prevention mode right now; he needs remedies. By the end of day two Dinesh and Gilfoyle feel bad and try to help, but they don’t come up with anything either. Gilfoyle even calls in a favour with someone from his church, who says that she’s never tried it herself, but she’s heard that lying in direct moonlight might help.

It doesn’t. It just makes Richard feel like a Siouxsie and the Banshees fan video and like, not in a good way. When Jared comes back, Richard is still a fucking wreck, helpless and inert on the floor.

“Dinesh and Gilfoyle told me what happened.”

Richard, flat on his back, just manages to open his eyes. “It’s my fault.”

“Oh, Richard.”

Jared’s voice is just so gentle. He sounds - Richard doesn’t know what he sounds like. But he smells good, so good, like every safe and familiar and enticing smell in the world but better.

Jared doesn’t say anything else, he just closes the door behind him, unbuttons his collar and gets down on his knees. It's dark in Richard's bedroom; with the door closed, the only light comes from the nightlight still keeps plugged into the wall below his bed. Before Richard can even register what’s happening, Jared is straddling him, bending down to cover Richard with his body, and angling his collarbone over Richard’s mouth.

He drinks. He drinks until Jared whispers “Richard.” He says it gently, so gently, and his bottom lip brushes against Richard's earlobe.

So anyway that’s when Richard has a breakdown.

It starts with the sensation that his chest is caving in on itself. Then he’s shaking. And then his whole body is wracked with great big heaving sobs.

“Oh my goodness gracious, Richard,” Jared gasps. He rolls Richard over to his side and places a couple of pillowcases under his head to catch the blood. He keeps a hand on Richard’s shoulder the whole time.

“It’s just - it’s - the project is working, it’s… that should make me happy.” Tears are streaming down his fucking face, hot and sticky and viscous. “And this -“ he runs a hand over his face and hold it out for Jared to look at. “I’m a monster.”

His voice breaks on the word ‘monster.’

“Richard,” Jared takes his hand and makes a soothing shhhh sound. “Oh, Richard, my darling.”

“I just -“ he blubbers. “Who am I, Jared?”

And ok, this is the thing about Richard's identity crisis: it’s about who he is if he isn't the underdog, and it’s about coping with the whole vampire thing, but what’s pushing him over the edge right now is a full scale, sudden-onslaught, weapons grade gay crisis. So.

He’d missed the way Jared smelled, he’d missed the way Jared said ‘Richard,’ he’d missed Jared’s hair and his vests and and now Jared is in front of Richard and it’s… And once Richard starts to admit things to himself - crying harder and harder at each thing - he can’t stop. One time, Jared was stuck on Peter Gregory’s island for several days, and Richard hadn't even realized he was gone, but now somehow, without noticing that anything changed, Richard has become someone who wants Jared around all the time, and it’s too much. It’s way too fucking much. He. Fucking. Wants Jared to - hold him in his arms and tell him he loves him.

“You - oh.” Jared makes a sound like something just occurred to him. “Oh. Richard, you’re - you’re grieving.”

Richard snivels. “What?”

“You’re grieving. For who you used to be.”

“But -” He doesn't say, how do you know so much about me?

“I don't know why it didn't occur to me before - of course you couldn't just experience such a change in your life without it affecting you.”

Richard half sits up, wiping his face with his t-shirt. Jesus fucking Christ, he’s starting to get used to the sight of blood stains on cotton. Is this what being a woman is like?

“Ok so I’m grieving, but why would that make me feel too tired to stand up?”

“Oh! Your lethargy. That reminds me, I brought -“ He leans back to reach for his bag with his un-bloody hand, reaches into it and fishes out a bottle. “I brought you something. I didn’t know this would come in handy so soon, but -”

“I don’t get it.”

“Richard, I believe you’re experiencing two things at once - you’re having a panic attack because of your grief, but you are also suffering from the effects of a massive exposure to sunlight. That bottle is for the latter.”

Richard looks at it. He looks back at Jared. “This label says strychnine.”

“Yes. It wasn’t easy to get! That bottle contains enough to kill me and at least one other person.”

“You brought me… poison?”

“Oh, to you it isn’t poison! It’ll make you feel better.”

“That’s… counterintuitive.”

“Vampire remedies usually are.”

*

He drinks a teaspoon of strychnine, as per Jared’s advice, and spends the night telling him about his identity issues (not the… the gay ones, but the other ones.) And Jared tells him about the project management conference. Apparently Jared’s panel was particularly well-attended.

“The audience questions were so relevant!”

“See, I was right,” Richard says, finally getting up and pulling on a blood-free shirt. “Staying for the whole conference was the right thing to do.”

“Oh, it - it was a valuable networking opportunity.”

Around three a.m. Richard leaves the room to dump his bloody clothes and the pillowcases to soak in the washing machine, and when he gets back, Jared has fallen asleep right there on the floor. So Richard grabs the duvet off his bed, stretches out next to Jared, and pulls it over the both of them, right there on the floor. He spends the rest of the night with his eyes closed, listening to Jared’s breathing.

The next day they’re back at work, and Richard feels just fine. He debugs for like five hours and sits through two Skype meetings. He orders linen sheets and a bunch of linen t-shirts because apparently blood is way easier to clean out of linen than cotton. He thinks about posting about that on the subreddit he found over the weekend, the one for people in his condition.

Then something occurs to him.

Chapter Text

“Hey Jared…? How did you know about that thing, with the strychnine?”

They’re in Jared’s kitchen/dining room area. Richard drove to Jared’s condo after dark, with half a mind to steer the conversation towards getting Jared to guess about the personal crisis thing he didn't actually say anything about, and the other half of his mind just… wanting to hang out. Though officially, he’s here to discuss the whole ‘Dinesh and Gilfoyle know’ thing.

Jared welcomed him at the door holding a dishtowel, having just finished drying the dishes. His place smelled like freshly baked bread, which was an nice aroma, even for people in Richard’s condition. But Richard barely noticed it because the top button of Jared’s shirt was undone. And he wasn’t wearing a vest on top or a t-shirt underneath, he was just like, chest > button-down > Richard’s eyes.

“Oh, I was once in a cohabitation situation with a vampire.”

Richard snaps back to attention, and if his life was a telenovela there would be freeze frames of his shocked expression from six different angles. And wildly dramatic music. What the fuck?

“What… the fuck?”

Jared keeps talking like Richard’s nonexistent heart rate didn't just triple. “When I was living on the streets, I met someone called Blythe, and we -“ Jared makes the exact same blushing, eyes-cast-down face he made when Dinesh asked him how many women he’d slept with in the garage. “Well.”

Richard is losing his mind. He is. Losing his mind. “So when you showed me how to drink… that wasn’t the first…”

“No, it wasn’t the first time.”

“Who, um.“ Richard asks, like, really casually. “Who were they?”

“He and I met in a shelter? We were teenagers - he was older than me but just barely. He’d been in your condition for two years. He taught me everything he knew.”

All this time, Richard has been so used to Jared knowing everything. Just everything, from financial performance ratios, to the effects of amyl nitrite, to the typical requirements of campus security teams, and Richard was just… Sure, Jared knew exactly what to do to keep vampires safe and stable and functional. Of course he did. He knew way weirder and more random stuff than that. Richard never questioned it.

“Of course. Of course you knew where all the best fucking veins were and you always knew when I was hungry practically before I did. Jesus fucking Christ. So, what happened to…” Richard’s voice is so casual right now. “Blythe?”

“Nothing. We were teenagers and we drifted apart. Sexual infatuation only takes you so far!”

The words sexual infatuation momentarily drown out every other word in Richard’s mind. What kind of - how dare Jared - how dare anyone - what the - ? When his brain comes back online he takes a deep breath and asks, “and where is he now?”

Jared looks stricken. “I don't know. I looked for him when you were turned, no one’s seen him.”

“Oh. I’m sorry.” He isn’t sorry. Well - he’s sorry that something made Jared sad. And that Blythe guy - maybe in twenty years when he’s finished processing this conversation, Richard will be sorry for him. But for now he kinda wants to rip apart anyone who ever put their hands on Jared Dunn.

“What else haven’t you been telling me?”

“Oh, Richard…”

What else haven’t you been telling me, Jared?” Richard uses the voice, he doesn’t really mean to, it just happens.

Jared’s eyes kinda glaze over. Honestly, Richard doesn’t know what the whole voice thing even does. Jared answers his question when he uses it, but maybe if he tried it on someone else they would just laugh. But maybe it wouldn't. Maybe - ok now’s not the time to wonder how he could use it in a meeting.

“I know how you were turned.”

“What?” Richard takes a step back. Then another. “What?

“I’m sorry, Richard, I only meant to let you take your time, to talk about it when you were ready…”

“What the fuck? Jared, what the fuck?”

They stare at each other. The light from the fixture over Jared’s kitchen island makes everything look like time has stopped somehow, like the condo is a backdrop, and Jared is a figure in a painting. One of those paintings you really want to hate for being obnoxious, but you can’t, because it’s making you have feelings.

“I’m sorry, Richard.” Jared’s voice is high pitched and he sounds like he’s going to fucking cry.

“What, did you think it wouldn't matter?” He shouts, taking another step backwards. Like if there is enough distance between him and Jared, this might all turn out to be a dream. A really bad dream. Starting from the day he tried to eat breakfast and couldn't. Hysteria creeps up on him; each word is louder than the one before. “Did you think, ‘there’s this whole world of information that I know and Richard doesn’t, but that’s fine?’”

“No -”

“How can you know? How the fuck can you know? What are you - are you - having me watched? Did you follow me?”

“No! I - when I went to buy strychnine, there was - his name was Cary, right?”

Richard takes another step backwards, stumbles against one of Jared’s dining room chairs, and sits down heavily. “I don’t -“

This isn't his fault, he didn't want to be a monster. But he had no choice. He’s so fucking - he can’t even, he - he never thought to plan this far, not - if someone found out. If someone found out and told him like it was nothing, and -

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, Richard,” Tears well up in Jared’s eyes and start rolling down his cheeks. “I should have told you.”

I thought I could trust you.”

Jared starts hitting his head, his face, with his hands. “When it’s you I can’t - I can’t think.”

“That’s right, because people like me make you sexually infatuated, right? You fucking pervert.” He shouts the last word as loud as he can, and even as it's coming out of his mouth, Richard knows he's thinking of himself when he says that word, not Jared.

Jared is utterly panicked. “No, no no no Richard, I’ve made a mistake keeping things from you but please, please do not sully the feelings I have with -”

“What’s wrong with you?” Richard's voice twists wildly.

“I don’t know, I don’t know, since the first time I saw you, I -” Jared, clutching at his chest, makes a sound like someone getting punched. “I haven't been able to think straight since the day we met.”

“You’re fucking crazy.”

“No, no, Richard -“ Jared rushes forwards and gets to his knees. “I should have told you, I really should have told you! But I -” he sobs. “I love you and I’m not crazy!”

Richard recoils. How can he - no, how dare he say that? How can he say that and then say he isn’t… Richard reaches out, grabs Jared’s shirt, and leans in to speak directly into his ear. “I’ve seen the look in your eye. You like it when I bite you.”

“That’s accurate,” Jared says in between heaving breaths. His heart is fucking racing. “But, Richard, so do you.”

He feels Jared panting against his neck and he feels the heat radiating from Jared’s body, and, just like the first time he drank, it comes over him. He feels both frenzied and calm, the very concept of worrying disappears, and he feels utter, utter confidence in his instincts. His instincts telling him that Jared feels a wild, desperate, hungry desire for him.

And anyway that's when Richard realizes that there is no reason whatsoever to resist.

He pulls on Jared’s shirt hard, so hard that the buttons pop off and Jared is jerked forward. Everything is focused; Richard registers the sound of each individual button falling, of Jared’s soft, surprised exhale rushing past his ear, of his eyelashes fluttering. Then, when Jared puts his hands on Richard’s knees to catch his balance, Richard traps both wrists in his hands.

“You’re - you’re begging for it, aren’t you?” He asks. He feels overcome by a cold, calm, belligerence. “You’ve always just been waiting for me to do it, haven’t you?”

Jared doesn't answer. There isn't any sound in the room other than his breaths. After a minute, Richard stands, and pulls Jared to his feet.

His shirt is hanging open and his pupils are huge. His heartbeat is loud, just fucking deafening to Richard's ears, and Richard wants to touch it, he reaches out, he just - puts a hand over Jared’s heart. Jared makes a throaty, helpless sound and he, he somehow arches his back and exposes his throat, like he’s submitting to Richard while simultaneously towering above him.

Richard gets up on the tips of his toes, as high as he can, and looks Jared in the eye. “Answer me.”

“Yes.”

Richard angles his head, and kisses him.

Distantly, he thinks - if things were different, if he wasn’t what he is, he would be scared. He would be scared because he’s never kissed a man before, because he’s never kissed someone so tall before, because the last time he kissed someone they told him he was terrible at it. But he isn’t scared. He’s just kind of angry.

He puts his arms around Jared, over his shoulders, so that when Jared wraps his arms around him, his hands circle his waist, lifting him up. His huge fucking hands. Richard pulls Jared towards himself and stormily attempts to kiss him harder.

And then Jared leans down, and takes the lead. He kisses like he knows exactly what he's doing. He kisses like it's just the start. He kisses like taking care of Richard is all he’s ever wanted.

Abruptly, Richard goes from feeling confrontational, to wanting Jared to bend him over the table and take him right there. Like - wanting Jared to just push him down with his huge fucking hands and fuck him. Now. Like right there.

He moans into Jared’s mouth. He clutches at him, he puts his hands inside his collar. He thrusts his hips up against Jared’s leg like a fucking dog, and tries to manoeuvre him towards his own bedroom.

But Jared just keeps tenderly kissing right where he is, just keeps kissing, and sliding his hands up and down Richard’s back.

“Come on -” Richard says, pulling on his arm.

Jared stays where he is, but he moves both hands up to Richard’s face. He holds up a finger and makes shushing sounds. Then he pushes the finger into Richard’s mouth.

“Oh my god,” Richard says around the finger.

Jared leans down to speak into Richard’s ear. “Bite it,” he whispers.

Richard bites.

When Jared finally walks him to the bedroom, Richard nearly says thank you out loud, but doesn’t. He’s desperate but he’s not, like, desperate. He starts pulling his clothes off.

“No,” Jared says, stopping him from removing his hoodie. “Lie down.”

“What?”

“Lie down, Richard.”

Moments later Jared is crawling on top of him, fully clothed, and positioning his collarbone just above Richard’s mouth. Richard drinks and Jared humps him, and fucking incredible… for about thirty seconds, at which point Jared whispers “Richard” to stop him.

“What - did I hurt you?”

“Shhhh, Richard, we wouldn’t want this to be over too quickly, would we?”

He has got to be kidding. “Jared -“

Jared moves up until he’s straddling him. “But I was thinking - perhaps it would be safest to tie you down?”

“Jesus fucking Christ, Jared, do whatever you want to me.”

Within minutes Richard’s wrists are securely fastened to the bedposts with leather straps - Richard decides he’ll ask where those things are from later - and Jared is slowly taking off his clothes. Very slowly taking off his clothes. Excruciatingly slowly.

When he starts carefully folding everything, Richard snaps. “Please, Jared. Please.”

It has no effect whatever. Jared barely turns in his direction. Then Richard remembers The Voice. “Please, Jared,” he implores, deep and rumbling.

He sees Jared shudder, but then, as soon as Jared looks him in the eye, he only seems amused. No - endeared.

“Just keep your charmingly attractive head right on that pillow, Richard,” he says, as he starts pulling down Richard’s pants.

Fuck, Jared!”

“Oh, Richard. Don’t you understand? Being a vampire is about power. But it isn’t about control.”

And then, before Richard can really process that, Jared is unrolling a condom on him, and smearing a large amount of lube on top of it. He’s throwing one leg over him, and impaling himself on Richard’s dick, all in one movement.

Holy fucking -“ Richard squawks. “How the fuck - how the fuck - like you’ve seen my deepest - I don’t even know what I want, Jared, how the fuck do you know?”

Jared moves up and down, and up and down, and when he speeds up, he mashes his wrist on Richard’s mouth. At first Richard thinks it’s to shut him up so he does, but then Jared moves it impatiently and Richard catches a clue. He opens his mouth, runs his tongue over the skin, and bites.

When he comes, Richard sees stars, and then he hears Jared make an eerie wailing sound, ending on a choked “Richard!” Jared spasms around him.

*

“Yeah so it’s - when I was in college. Before decriminalization, most people didn’t even know… I definitely didn’t. I guess we heard rumours. But anyway one night this guy in a diner… I remember, the way the guy said it, it was like - you know that movie Grosse Pointe Blank? You remember how, when the John Cusack character is asked what he does for a living, he always says “professional killer” because people will always think it’s a joke? This guy was like that. Bighead asked him who he was, and he deadpanned “I’m the Stanford vampire.” And we just - everybody laughed.”

Richard stops to look if Jared is still listening. He is. His eyes look grey in the moonlight.

“Anyway I asked him if vampirism had improved his IQ. I had an exam coming up, I don’t know, intelligence was on my mind. Anyway the guy had said it had. And I guess - up until then I hadn’t taken him seriously? But something about the way he said it…”

“You knew he wasn’t kidding?”

“Well I guess after that, I always wondered. So then I - fast forward ten years. It was after - remember when we spent four days looking for a fucking loose curly bracket? I just - I wanted - I wanted it to work. I wanted to know if it could work. And it was just - it was like when, you know when people say ‘I would do anything?’”

Jared nods solemnly.

“Well I guess, I would do anything. So I drove out to Stanford to see if that guy was still there, and if he really was what he said he was. And he was. So I offered him three thousand dollars if he’d - well. You know.”

“Oh, Richard.”

“Do you think I’m crazy?”

He watches Jared settle onto his back. He seems to be staring up at the ceiling, like there’s an answer there. After a moment, he reaches out to squeeze Richard’s hand.

“I think - I think ours is a story about success. About what success is, what it means, how it is defined and how it is achieved… Richard, I think - since the day I met you you’ve always needed to define success on your own terms. I think that, to you, success is being able to make exactly what you have in mind, exactly the way you want it. And I think you… were exactly as ruthless as you needed to be to achieve that. So no, I don’t think you’re crazy. Not - not the way you’re implying, anyway.”

Richard huffs out an incredulous laugh. “You DO think I’m crazy!”

“Well, only in the sense that you might benefit from some therapy.”

Richard doesn’t answer, he just tries to hit Jared with a pillow. He misses completely, and tries again. It just makes Jared laugh, both hands at his chest like he’s clutching at his emotions.

When he finally stops laughing, Jared says, “I do have some concerns about the fact that you can’t bring yourself to say what you are.”

“Fine. Fine.” Richard gets out of Jared’s bed - nude - stands up, and says, “I’m Richard Hendricks, and I’m a vampire.”