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Taste of Blood

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With a closed-mouth smile the vampire slid the contract across the desk. He'd been careful about that the whole time, Ed realised; smirks and thin smiles and even the few grins were small enough to keep canines tucked away. Even when he talked he kept them subtle. Ed wasn't sure how he felt about that.

"I'd like to offer you the position of host," Roy Mustang began, but didn't relinquish the paperwork when Ed put his own hand on it. "And if the contract is acceptable to you we can arrange a dorm room tonight. However, I do need to ask if you've ever been bitten by a vampire before."

Cold fear washed over Ed. "You said that there'd be no biting, that all blood extraction would be done properly," he accused.

"Selling humans is illegal and incredibly dangerous for the host, I wouldn't trust most vampires not to injure my employees," Roy reassured quickly. "What I want is some idea how you react around a feeding vampire. Being bitten consensually, being near a vampire who was feeding on a willing human, being in the same area as a vampire who frenzied? Or, yes, being the victim of an assault."

Ed settled back in his chair. "...Professor Marcoh's lectures are the only time I've been around a vampire, and he doesn't take undergrad tutorials. Other than, well-" he gestured vaguely around the office. "- you, I guess. Vampires aren't really welcome in my hometown," he finished awkwardly. "Why?"

"Prey has a nature aversion to feeding predators, and uncomfortable as it is to admit that is the position you will be in," Roy said bluntly. "Nervousness is fine, expected. Significant fear reactions make it hard to entertain guests. Panic reactions make it impossible." The vampire fixed him with an intense look. "If I don't know how strong your reactions are, I can't put you on the floor. It's not a personal failing; it's instinct. And many people have their survival instincts threatened by an uninhibited vampire flashing bloody fangs in their direction, even if that vampire is drinking from a mug and laughing at their jokes."

That made sense, he had to reluctantly admit. But if he missed this chance because Resembool was… alright, definitely a bit racist towards bloodsuckers… it really wouldn't be fair that Ed couldn't get this job because of it. There was nothing wrong with Professor Marcoh and lots of people sold a pint of blood here or there for a little cash, why was it different if he did it a bit more directly while dressed up playing waiter? Roy was willing to work around his university class schedule AND supply room and board that wasn't bunk beds, beans and rice. And he might lose it because he hadn't been around enough vampires to know if he'd panic?

"So what can I do to test it?" Ed asked challengingly. "Can I do a trial night? Sit near someone eating their dinner?"

Roy seemed pleased with that response. "We can hit two birds with one stone and answer another question, if you're willing," he offered. Elaborating at Ed's questioning look, "If your blood is going on the menu, I need to know what you taste like."

Definitely a creepy question, but still reasonable. "So what, we grab a knife and a cup and you take a sample?" Or a needle, that was 'safer', but Ed really would prefer the knife.

"That's certainly an option." Roy looked him up and down assessingly; it was a little uncomfortable, and he wasn't sure what the vampire found but maybe he'd noticed Ed liked having more information on anything and especially when nervous. "Blood has flavours. It's harder for humans to tell because the iron is overpowering, but for a vampire it matters. A vampire can diagnose multiple health issues or deficiencies by taste." Which would explain why food was part of the employment package, Ed supposed; if what you ate affected blowjobs, it'd definitely affect blood. Roy's smile was increasingly sinister, though. "Which means there are some unpleasant tasting things that are readily treated and won't affect employment. But there are some things that are innate, non-harmful, but make give you a terrible flavour. And if you are one of those, going further would be a waste of everyone's time."

Ed really hoped he wasn't one of them. Sure, when he was growing up he'd have enjoyed it if he was in the 'don't eat me, I taste bad' category, and it'd certainly make Al less nervous about him being alone in the capital, but he was going to have to drop some classes and take an extra year finishing his degree if he couldn't find a better paying part time job. Blood factor aside this club was miles ahead of stripping. Just by raw population percentages the number of 'vampires who were creeps' had to be lower than 'stripclub goers who were creeps'. "So, back to the clinic room then?"

"That won't answer the other question," Roy mused. "I don't think you'd be bothered seeing reddened teeth. Not if you handled automail surgery. We'd need to add some mild distress."

Yeah, because the turns this interview was taking wasn't stressful enough? "What, you go full vamp and loom over me like a old school horror novel while you cut me open?" Ed joked nervously.

Roy folded his hands in front of his face. "If I cut open one of your wrist veins, it will take several days to heal. If I use fangs, you'd only have to baby it for a few hours, and it would be a much better test."

No. No way. Mum had hammered into his skull that he should never ever let a vampire bite him, that it was the first step to slavery, that they were all master manipulators. Alright, so Professor Marcoh couldn't manipulate half his class into turning up on time (why would anyone be late for those lectures? Marcoh's stuff was cool) and he was increasingly thinking she'd gotten a bad scare from a vampire once, but there had to be a grain of truth. The university also gave lots of cautions that you shouldn't let a vampire bite you.

Roy smiled, a proper wide grin that for the first time this evening made no attempts to hide his teeth. "We won't be enacting a bad novel, Ed. I won't seize you and molest your throat. I will stay in my seat, you will stay in yours, and the desk remains between us," he explained, resting his elbow on the desk and extending his right hand, palm up. "You offer me your wrist and I'll take one or two mouthfuls of blood. From the radial vein, not the ulnar-" the vampire tapped the blue line running on the thumb side of his wrist, then the far side, "- even though the angle is a little awkward because I don't want to risk clipping the ulnar nerve and hurting you. That's the same nerve that passes over the humerus and you'd feel it up your whole arm."

Roy wasn't doing anything to hide his nature now, and the change was… well, startling. Disconcerting, and Ed wasn't sure if it was the predatory smile and flashed fangs, or the contrast with how he'd been hiding it before. The little show that 'Roy the jovial businessman' was a mask, or maybe a facet, something to soothe the humans worried about being eaten. Now there was Roy the vampire, who was very explicit about wanting to consume Ed's vital fluids in a way that made the animal part of his brain whisper 'run'.

Ed swallowed nervously. "Okay, I'm seeing what you mean by the instinct thing."

The vampire's smile widened. "It gets worse if you're injured, or if you see a vampire actually feeding, which is why I am going to insist."

Fuck, the man was right. It did make sense, if he panicked here he'd probably panic strapped down in front of hungry vamps even if no fangs were involved, and that'd be a monumental waste of everyone's time. Worse, a human freaking out could screw over a whole night's business. But it was hard not to be nervous when he was getting fangs flashed at him. Fangs Roy wanted to put inside Ed. Probably. Did vampires actually leave the fangs in or just use them to make the initial incision? Roy would probably tell him if he asked. Or he could just stop procrastinating, stamp on the little voice in his head of his country neighbours warning about sinister nature of vampires and let his potential boss bite him already.

It wasn't like he hadn't heard sneers directed at 'blood bags' before and yet the more he'd learned about the job the more appealing it seemed, so those little voices could shut up already. If selling a pint of blood in a mall was fine, why should doing it in a club be different? The nurses there weren't willing to give an impromptu anatomy lesson to make him feel better. Or notice enough about him to guess he'd be soothed by listing precisely what vein would be stabbed and why. Which come to think of it was creepy in its own way, but so was practically everything else about this place; perils of an establishment catering to creatures who used his kind as food.

Scooting his chair closer - he wasn't small, the desk was just slightly too wide for comfort - Ed reached out to lay his left hand in Roy's patiently extended palm. "If you drain me dry I'm going to haunt your club and be mildly inconvenient, make all your pens run out or something," he joked nervously as fingers wrapped around his wrist.

"So noted." He ran fingers lightly over the thin skin over the tendons and Ed twitched. "Being nervous about this is fine. Being nervous on the floor is also fine; all I need is for you not to panic," Roy said reassuringly as he rotated Ed's wrist into position and fuck, he probably couldn't break that hold without snapping a bone, this was arguably the most reckless thing he'd done since moving the to city. He was really giving a vampire permission to bite him. Al was never allowed to learn about this.

Closing his eyes wouldn't help. Well, it may help with the nervousness, but then it'd be a less effective test. A cool thumb pressed firmly into his palm and flexed his hand back as it was raised. He knew vampires had a lower base body temperature but it was distracting to experience it. That, or his brain was latching onto relative temperatures instead of the lips lightly kissing his wrist. The brush made him twitch and Roy smirked, eyes locked on his. That was probably some sort of test, Ed realised, to see if he'd try jerking his hand free. Not going to happen. This was a challenge now and Ed wasn't going to be out-stubborned by a vampire.

Roy's eyes gleamed at the little nod of permission given and he dropped his jaw and curled lips back to lightly press sharp fang tips against skin. Ed's insides clenched. Of course the bastard was drawing it out rather than getting on with it. He'd lost far more blood with far more pain than what a pair of oversized cuspids could do, this was not going to freak him out.

For some reason Ed thought the grip on his wrist would tighten before the moment of penetration, that it would be some short stabbing motion, an acceleration of some sort. Instead Roy… twisted? That didn't seem right but Ed had no idea how to phrase the motion, and then flesh was smoothly parting under first one fang then the other like a nurse easing in a hypodermic needle.

It stung. Of course it did. There were lots of nerves in that area but the pain was mostly skin deep and entirely bearable, more discomfort than anything else. Burning prickling, like chomping into food that was too hot. Beneath that was a layer of deep tingling and sharp pressure that didn't hurt but felt weird. Roy's lips had sealed around his wrist and he could feel the light scrape of far blunter (but not blunt) lower incisors resting gently against the bone. There was a damp tongue doing something but everything was so unfamiliar Ed couldn't tell what, whether it was coaxing blood out somehow or just the idle twitching of a distracted muscle.

How did feeding work, anyway? All anyone talked about was "bite neck, drink blood" and alright so he'd never thought of the mechanics past that either but Roy wasn't tearing a hole then lapping blood like a cat, which is what he'd sort of expected. Vampire fangs probably weren't hollow, that seemed the sort of odd fact someone would have told him by now and would lead to the most hellishly challengingly dentistry ever. But maybe grooved like some snakes? So some sort of suction or capillary action could draw the blood up?

And yes he was distracting himself because there was a tight ball of distress curling under his diaphragm and it was screaming that he was going to die (he wasn't going to die, if he died Roy couldn't use him to make money and the man'd seemed keen on that) or get flung into some dungeon (his current room was more dungeony than this place) or otherwise maimed, and that Ed really should be trying to gouge the scary vampire's eyes out or something. Instincts could be irrational; he was pretty sure attempting to gouge Roy's eyes out would result in Roy's fangs gouging a chunk of his wrist out and that seemed pretty crippling. Also seemed like a great way to get a furious predator who actually did want to tear out his throat.

Focus on your breathing and the fear will go away. It worked for… okay, so it worked for some things, and there was no harm in seeing if this was one of them. Try to ignore the mild pain and focus on the strange chill spreading out from around the bite, like mint but kind of soothing. Something in vampire saliva, maybe? His wrist felt sort of floppy now, certainly more relaxed than the rest of him.

There definitely shouldn't be this weird feeling of… of disappointment when Roy's jaw did something weird and almost dislocating to lean his head back without dislodging his lips. The bite mark actually hurt and Ed hissed but it was a brief stabbing sensation and gone a moment later, replaced with sharp warmth where the skin was punctured contrasting with the unnatural chill deeper within. Fangs pulling out and then… something? He needed way more data to guess what was happening and he probably should just ask because getting more data meant more bites and that was never going to happen, this was ideally a once in a lifetime experience.

He was definitely being licked now and that nearly distracted him from the hand releasing his palm and dipping into a desk drawer. There wasn't time for more than a brief spike of anxiety before Roy was pulling his head back altogether and firmly pressing a piece of gauze where his mouth had been.

Oh. It was over.

"Feeling alright? If you're suffering a silent panic attack and can't talk, squeeze my finger twice," Roy said, resting his little finger across Ed's own.

Was he panicking? He didn't think so, there was nothing like the queasy feeling prompted by an approaching needle, but Roy was being rather distracting. Or rather the translucent sheen of red on his fangs was distracting. That's mine. That's my blood. The vampire must have noticed where his eyes were fixated because he ducked his head and sucked his teeth clean.

Roy was still staring at him expectantly. Take a deep breath and say something, he scolded himself, then grimaced when that breath was shuddery. That spike of annoyance seemed to do the trick. "I'm fine." A fine person would have answered faster. "That was kind of intense. And really weird. The sensations, I mean, it wasn't… why are you licking my wrist?"

While he babbled Roy had plucked the gauze away to reveal two neat puncture wounds and a smear of blood around both. A smear the vampire had delicately cleaned with several neat licks before Ed had realised what was happening. At the query Roy smiled sheepishly back at him. "It's considered good manners amongst vampires," he explained. Vampires were weird. He needed a better adjective than weird. Vampires were also notoriously reluctant to speak of their own culture, but he supposed if Roy was doing something odd like grooming him like a dog then an explanation made sense. A fresh piece of gauze was rested over the puncture marks and Roy reached back into the drawer for a strip of elastic bandage. "This is likely unnecessary, but a good precaution."

"The burning at the end, then? The warm sharp sensation as you pulled out? That was some sort of natural coagulant, wasn't it? And the cold was something else?" Ed guessed slowly. He'd had blood draws before and the bandage was never optional, so there had to be something else involved.

Roy looked up from his ministrations in pleased surprise. "Yes. There's mostly mild muscle relaxants in vampire saliva, then separate coagulants in a venom-like substance produced from the tongue. Not the fangs." He flashed Ed a grin. "Suspected to be modified anterior lingual glands."

Holy shit. Edward Bombastas Elric, this is not the time to get a science boner. Not even if you have a vampire willing to talk anatomy and on one of the most popular speculations. Not even when researchers complained that getting honest data on vampire physiology could be (if one excused the pun) like pulling teeth.

The vampire in question startled him by laughing. "Science calms and distracts you. Your heart rate dropped twelve percent from its peak, and yours spiked impressively the moment I touched you. Not as bad as you expected?" Roy teased.

Ed flushed. "No exactly," he hedged. It… wasn't as horrible as he'd thought, no. Maybe, just maybe, something he may not object to happening again, just to get a better idea of the physiological reaction. If he made friends with a vampire, maybe, and absolutely never from the throat because that was a step way too far, but… he was not going to say a word about any of that.

Maybe he needed to come up with a non-rude way of asking about what else was in that venom though. Just in case this was some drug-induced reaction and he'd go back to healthy repulsion at the idea. Casting for much safer thoughts, Ed asked "So, is it fucked up to wonder what I taste like?"

"Is it disturbing to tell you your blood is delectable? And you handled that better than I'd anticipated. I would love for you to join us," Roy responded with smile. Releasing Ed's wrist he nudged the contract closer. "If you'd rather take it home to read over I can arrange for someone to induct you any afternoon this week."

Disturbing or not, that wasn't helping his blush. Being tasty wasn't a thing to be proud of. Unless you were the fool sitting here trying to get employed at a vampire restaurant, admittedly, so yay for being flavoursome. "Need your office back?" Ed asked absently as he read the first page of standard legalese.

"Not until the club opens in almost an hour. But the refectory stops serving dinner shortly before that."

Ed paused. "You know, as long this isn't outlandish I'm already going to sign it, you don't need to bribe me with food," he pointed out.

"My apologies, I thought all meals for employees were already covered in that contract," Roy joked. "Although that reminds me…" The vampire stood and moved to the sideboard where a carafe of water and several glasses sat on a tray. Did vampires need to drink or did they get all their fluids from their diet like those desert rats? Was it rude to ask that? Maybe Roy was about to drink a glass of water and he'd have the answer, no questioning required. Except instead of drinking he unwrapped what looked like a roll of mints and dropped one into the filled glass. The effervescent tablet fizzed… well, effervescently as he brought it back and deposited the glass next to the paperwork.

Ed raised an eyebrow expectantly. "It helps your marrow replenish lost hemoglobin faster," Roy obligingly explained. "As well as having some helpful nutrients. It's business policy to take one after every bloodletting, and I suggest for several days after."

Huh. That was… well yes it was very self serving from the vampire's perspective, but it was nice. He was used to being the one doing the caring, not having someone actively looking out for him. But the contract he was skimming seemed to have a lot of 'looking out for' stuff. Medical check-ups, included meals, the stuff about optionally available dorm rooms… and alright, so he could see why people would object to the restrictions. No smoking, no illegal drugs, no getting smashed on alcohol… but none of that was stuff he was doing anyway, and the exasperated bit about how nicotine 'left distinct flavour-markers in the blood for significant durations' made him snicker imagining the poor vampire-lawyer who'd written it after having a dinner ruined.

And hey, Ed thought as he sipped his glass, the medicine didn't taste that bad either. A pen had appeared at his side via some vampire sleight-of-hand - Roy was watching and looking smug - and as he picked it up he decided that a good chunk of the prejudice against this sort of business seemed unfounded. Full judgement reserved until he'd worked at least a month, but as far as gigs went this seemed pretty good. He might even be happy here.