Jack ran a hand through his hair, breathing in the sights and smells assaulting him from all sides as he sauntered down the busy city block. A lowrider cruised past as he reached the corner of the pavement. He allowed himself to stare as it rolled on by, leaving a faint trail of hip-hop beats in its wake. Jack had been in LA nearly a decade now, but he still wasn’t sure if it would ever feel truly familiar.
He’d made this trip hundreds of times, walking in footsteps he’d left week after week, and yet he still found himself surprised by the sensory assault as he trekked down from the train station to Aneurin’s shop in the heart of downtown.
It was a kitschy little place tucked in between a corner café and a rundown thrift store. Aneurin had been leasing the shop for the last five years; before that, he’d run it out of his grandmother’s garage. The expansion had become necessary after things had gone to shit for the community as a whole; suddenly, secrecy wasn’t so important anymore, and Aneurin didn’t have monthly stipend cheques to rely on to keep himself up and running.
Jack slipped into the shop as quietly as possible, wincing as he always did at the soft jangle of the bell overhead. He hated the damn thing, wished Aneurin would just get rid of it and put an alarm ward up instead, but Aneurin insisted that it was necessary for ‘authenticity’.
Jack didn’t really give a damn about the shop if he was being honest. Sure, it was Aneurin’s livelihood, and they were friends, but his visits were an unpleasant obligation and there was nothing that could be done to unravel that particular association.
Aneurin knew that, of course, which is why he sprinted away from the front counter mid-transaction as soon as Jack walked in the door.
“Back in a minute!” he called out to the bewildered woman in a passable West Coast accent before switching back to his natural-born Welsh as soon as he’d ushered Jack into the back room. “What do you think the chances are that she walks out without paying?” he asked as he got everything together while Jack took his usual seat in the centre of the room.
“Seemed more of the type to leave her shit on the counter to make a statement,” Jack replied. He rolled up his shirtsleeve, having gone through the motions hundreds of times already. He extended his arm, waiting for Aneurin to finish preparing the blood-draw kit.
“Better self-righteous than a thief, I suppose,” Aneurin muttered as he finally inserted the needle into the crook of Jack’s elbow. “You’re good to remove this on your own?” he asked, worried for Jack’s wellbeing even though there had never been a problem before. “I’ll come check on you in a few minutes.”
“I’m fine,” Jack insisted. “Go deal with your bitchy human.”
Aneurin walked back out with a put-upon sigh, leaving Jack alone in the room to watch as his blood slowly drained through a plastic tube into a sealed glass container.
He watched the dark red fluid slowly filling the glass, up to the halfway point—where Aneurin usually capped it off and sent Jack on his way—and then past it. Jack was just starting to feel a little woozy when it reached three-quarters. He was pulling out the needle and pressing the gauze down over the wound just as Aneurin walked back in.
He spotted the nearly full container almost immediately, a look of disapproval falling over his face. “What are you playing at?” Aneurin demanded, quickening his pace as he walked over to check on Jack. “Jesus Christ.”
“Need the extra cash,” Jack said, swallowing back the nausea he could feel rising in the back of his throat.
“You won’t if you kill yourself trying to pay rent,” Aneurin observed.
Jack might have laughed if he’d had the energy for it.
“Jesus,” Aneurin said again. “Wait here. Gonna grab you something from the café so you don’t keel over on the train.”
“I haven’t forgotten,” Aneurin replied. He was already on his way out of the door. “I’ll be back.”
Once again Jack was left to rot in the back room of Aneurin’s shop, but this time there was nothing to focus on except his own churning stomach and the container full of his own blood sitting on the table next to him. Jack tried not to look at it now that the process was over with. He didn’t like to think about the end results.
He was already feeling a tiny bit better when Aneurin returned with a barf-green smoothie that tasted a hundred times better than it looked.
“Money,” Aneurin said to himself as Jack hurriedly downed the drink, laying out a few crisp hundreds on the table for Jack to take. “And suppressants,” he continued, setting a bright orange pill bottle on top of the small stack of cash. “I shouldn’t leave the till abandoned for too long, but feel free to stay as long as you need.”
“No, thank you.”
The shop was marginally more crowded when Jack finally emerged from the back room, his cash and pills safely stashed in his leather rucksack, which he kept tucked under his arm as he passed by the throng of people admiring of energy crystals sitting in the window. Jack always had to suppress a laugh at the humans who frequented the place, all of them perfectly happy to waste money on a load of junk while the real stuff they wanted was stored out of sight, sold only to those already in the know.
Like Jack. Though he wasn’t a buyer so much as a supplier when it came down to pure maths.
It was raining when he finally exited the shop, after a cursory wave aimed in Aneurin’s direction, ignored in favour of dealing with his customers. It was the rain that put Jack in a worse mood than anything else. What was the point of leaving Scotland for fucking California if it was just going to rain half the year anyway?
Jack trudged along the rain-slick sidewalk quickly, trying to make it back to the Metrolink station before he got properly soaked through. The walk took its toll even with the added benefits of whatever concoction Aneurin had purchased for him; Jack felt like throwing up and passing out simultaneously by the time he slumped down into a seat on the train half an hour or so later.
The trip back to Newhall was as dull as ever. Jack catnapped for most of it and then got off at his station to find it was already pitch-black outside, the sun having gone down entirely in the time it had taken him to get back.
That’s where the normality ended.
Jack wasn’t one for paranoia, but something was off. He couldn’t shake the feeling that he was being watched as he walked along darkened streets back to his flat. It was a trip he’d made countless times before, and never once had he felt as legitimately spooked as he did now.
He gritted his teeth and did his best to ignore the feeling, chalking it up to some strange side-effect of how much blood he’d lost. Never mind the fact that he’d donated as much on a fair few occasions and never had anything like this happen before.
Despite his uneasiness, Jack made it to his flat without incident. Shona was inside the kitchen feeding Barry when he walked in, still a bit damp from earlier. He nodded toward them as he took off his coat and shoes, and then made his way over to the kitchen table to drop off the envelope of cash he’d gotten from Aneurin.
“That should cover rent and the co-pay,” he told her, ignoring the look of disapproval he got in return as he stepped away to grab a beer from the fridge. He downed it quickly, grazed a bit on what little was left of their groceries for the week, and then wandered upstairs to his bedroom to take a shower.
He was still winding down from his last cycle of suppressants, finally able to feel the pull of the moon for the first time in weeks. Jack decided to take the opportunity to enjoy it while he still could, shivering under the warm spray as he wanked himself off with slow leisurely strokes, trying to stretch it out for as long as possible.
That was the worst part of taking the suppressants, the way neutering his primal nature tended to do the same for his sex drive, as well. A necessary sacrifice, but an unpleasant one.
When Jack first started this routine, he tried to pull the few nights a month he could actually get it up, wanting to get off between a pair of warm legs instead of into his own hand, but things were different now. His money was better spent elsewhere rather than being wasted on drinks so he could convince some nameless girl to have a conversation with him.
Jack tried not to think too hard when it came to wanking off. It wasn’t as difficult when he allowed his instincts to take over, his thoughts reduced to nothing but sinking his teeth into something warm, his cock into something wet, consuming him until he was worked up enough to come all over his own hand and the shower tiles.
Jack stumbled out of the shower a few minutes later in a haze. He took his new dose of suppressants right off the bat, not wanting to take any chances. He’d been rationing what Aneurin gave him, trying to stretch out the effectiveness for as long as possible. He would have to take another dose tomorrow and one more at the end of the week for them to work in time for the full moon, so Jack was playing it safe. No missed doses.
Jack was utterly exhausted when he fell into bed, dressed in just a pair of boxers and a ratty t-shirt. He could hear the sound of the TV going downstairs, but it was quiet enough that it became nothing more than a pleasant hum in the background as Jack quickly surrendered himself to sleep.
When he woke up, everything was different.
Jack knew instinctively that it was only a few hours later, that the apartment was dark and silent—except for a soft creak against the floorboards from outside in the hall. He was still a little sleep-groggy but not so much that he couldn’t tell something was amiss.
He opened his mouth to call out to Shona—the only person who could have made the noise—but stopped short. She knew better than to sneak around upstairs after Jack had gone to bed.
Jack reached out slowly for the lamp. He had black-out curtains specifically to keep moonlight out, but that meant his night vision was virtually useless. But whoever was in the hallway hadn’t moved since Jack had jolted awake, so—
A hand latched around Jack’s wrist before he could reach the lamp on his bedside table. Suddenly, he was on the floor, a heavy weight on top of him. He could hear the bedroom door opening as he struggled to get the upper hand; even after being taken by surprise, Jack could still tell that his strength was superior to that of his opponent.
Jack’s movements were sluggish, but with the little bit of light filtering in through the open door, he could see the general shape of his attacker, and now Jack was winning.
But before Jack had a chance to flip their positions, his man-shaped assailant blurred and shifted, and before Jack could understand what was happening, a canine jaw clamped down on his forearm. Hard.
Jack hissed in pain as he threw his head back against the carpet. “Fuck!” he yelled, trying futilely to yank his arm out of the wolf’s mouth.
The light turned on, and everything froze.
There was a woman standing the doorway, Jack realised through the haze of pain radiating outward from his arm. Her arms were crossed, a disapproving look plastered across her wide-eyed face.
“Jeff,” she said in a firm but soft voice. “Let him go, maybe? We weren’t supposed to get too rough.”
Jeff—the wolf, Jack supposed—promptly let go of his arm and gave a loud bark in acknowledgment.
“Change back,” the woman ordered, apparently not satisfied even still.
Jack lay stock-still on the floor as the wolf on top of him shifted back into a bearded young man with brown hair the same colour as his wolf shape’s fur. He was stark naked, but apparently unashamed of that fact. He scrambled to his feet and stretched his arms and legs athletically, offering Jack a hand to help him up.
Jack didn’t take it.
“You mind if I borrow a pair of trousers?” Jeff asked.
Jack blinked a few times before pointing to the tiny closet where he kept all his worldly possessions. There wasn’t a lot to choose from, and Jack could tell that stood upright he would have a couple inches on Jeff, but the intruding werewolf managed to scrounge up a reasonably well-fitting t-shirt and sweatpants combo by the time he emerged from the closet.
Jeff posed for the woman blocking the doorway to Jack’s bedroom. She didn’t look amused.
“Get up,” she said, turning to address Jack instead. “Come on, up!”
He obeyed reluctantly, wondering why Shona hadn’t come up to investigate any of the noise. “My friends—” he started to say, only to be interrupted by the woman before he could finish the thought.
“They’re safe,” she replied. “Under a sleep spell.”
“You’re a witch?” Jack asked, bewildered.
Jeff laughed from beside him. “Glenne? Hell, no. You really can’t smell her?”
Jack flared his nostrils uselessly. Scent was always the first thing to go after starting a new cycle of suppressants. If Jeff hadn’t transformed right there in front of him, Jack would have never known that he was a werewolf either.
“No,” Jack replied through gritted teeth. He didn’t appreciate the look Jeff and Glenne exchanged from across the room, too hard to accurately read without the extrasensory information his body was wired to rely on.
“You need to come with us,” Glenne said abruptly.
Jack’s brows drew together in the centre of his forehead. “Why the fuck would I do that?”
“Because you don’t have a choice,” Jeff cut in. “You should get dressed first, though.”
Jack stared between the two of them, evaluating his chances in another fight. He might have been able to take Jeff on his own, even with the mangled arm—which he could already feel starting to heal—but if Glenne was a wolf too then he didn’t stand a chance.
“What about my friends?” Jack asked, still rightfully sceptical.
“Amber will lift the spell once we’re ready to leave,” Glenne told him.
Jack just stared at her in confusion. “Why are you doing this?” he demanded. “I haven’t broken any rules. I’m not living in pack territory.”
Glenne laughed like Jack had made the funniest joke in the world and gestured toward his closet. “Dress for rain,” she advised.
Seeing no other options, Jack decided to go along with it. The worst outcome he could possibly envision at this point was being killed, and right now Jack wasn’t so certain that would be such a bad thing.
Jack tried to feel for Shona and Barry as Jeff and Glenne walked him out of the flat, but all he could tell beneath the biological muffler his suppressants had placed over his senses was that there were two heartbeats right where they should be, plus an extra one—the witch, he assumed. That was somewhat of a relief, even if Jack still felt adrift, completely lost as to a reason for why he’d been unexpectedly accosted in the middle of the night by two werewolves and a witch.
There was a black Range Rover parked across the street when the three of them stepped outside. The engine was on, the lights off, and Jack couldn’t help the frisson of fear that ran through him as his eyes homed in on the pale, beringed fingers curled around the edge of the rolled-down driver-side window.
The feeling of unease only grew stronger as they approached. It reached a fever pitch by the time they were close enough to hear the gravelly English voice emanating from the front seat, clear as anything.
Jeff stopped short, nearly jerking Jack’s unbitten arm out of its socket. “How are we supposed to get back to Hollywood from here?” he complained.
There was a flash of catlike green eyes from inside the car. “Have Amber call an Uber or something. I don’t care.”
Glenne released Jack with a sigh and motioned for Jeff to do the same. Jack suddenly found himself unexpectedly freed, with the temptation to run nearly overwhelming. But he couldn’t. Barry and Shona were still inside the flat, and there was no telling what these people would do to them if he didn’t cooperate.
Jack stepped toward the back door of the SUV, only to be stopped short by the driver’s voice again, tinged with a bit of levity this time.
“Front seat; I’m not a chauffeur.”
Jack hesitantly rounded the vehicle and cast one last glance at the sulking forms of Jeff and Glenne before climbing into the passenger seat.
The interior of the car lit up as he opened the door, illuminating the mysterious figure inside. He wasn’t what Jack had expected at all: closer resembling a glam-rocker than a criminal mastermind with his shoulder-length curls; tight, sequined trousers; and a soft, sheer burgundy blouse with lace trim.
Jack’s kidnapper was so overwhelmingly pretty that he couldn’t do anything but sit there and stare for several seconds, long enough for his captor to put the car into drive and launch into a monologue before Jack had a chance to ask any questions.
“Sorry, that was rather rude of me,” he remarked in a very disconcertingly Northern voice.
What was it with British ex-pats and moving to LA? Especially the inhuman ones. Because there was no doubt in Jack’s mind that whoever his kidnapper was, he wasn’t human in the slightest.
“Jeff and Glenne are practically family,” he babbled on, apparently oblivious to Jack’s scrutiny, “but every time I drive them anywhere they just end up fondling each other in the backseat like teenagers at prom. And to be honest with you, I’m not actually the best driver, so I could really do without the unnecessary distractions—”
“Sorry, but who are you?” Jack interrupted. He held his breath in the ensuing silence, waiting for the car to crash, the inhuman next to him to suddenly erupt into a monster that would rip out his throat in the blink of an eye.
But neither of those things happened.
Instead, Jack got a cheeky smile and an honest to god wink in response. “I’m the King of LA, darling,” he replied with a chuckle. Then, “Well, that’s not quite true. But it will be. And you’re going to help me make it so.”
Twitter: @vondrostes & @vondrostesupd8s
Throughout the course of their drive, Jack learned a few key things: that his kidnapper was very charmingly named Harry Styles (apt, considering his fashion sense), and that Harry was a European vampire. Namely, a vampire of European myth and lore, not a vampire of European origin and nationality. Though, technically, he was that as well.
The vampire thing was more than a little surprising. Once upon a time, Jack might not have blinked at mixed company, but recent events had changed things. Werewolves and witches were one thing, vampires and witches another, but werewolves at the beck and call of a vampire? Not exactly textbook inhuman relations.
Jack tried to let Harry talk for as long as possible with minimal interruption, filing away as much important information as he could possibly glean from his nervous ramblings. It was odd, how obvious Harry’s anxiety was even though he was clearly the orchestrator behind this entire kidnapping attempt.
But it wasn’t until they were well into a meal at a late-night diner, the interior well at odds with Harry’s goth-femme aesthetic, that Jack discovered the purpose behind the whole thing.
“You’re not eating much,” Jack pointed out after the twelfth seemingly pointless story about Harry’s adventures in discovering little hole in the wall eateries scattered throughout Beverly Hills and Malibu.
“Vampire, remember?” Harry replied. He stuffed a French fry from his kids’ meal into his mouth anyway, as if doing so just to prove a point. Then he hummed quietly as he examined Jack’s face, eyes narrowing in degrees. “You really don’t know much, do you?”
“No,” Jack said sourly, “sorry I didn’t attend nonhuman finishing school. Pity I can’t be of more use to you.”
“Oh, I didn’t pick you up because of what you know,” Harry replied. He reached into his purse—bag?—purse and pulled out a mobile, tapping the screen a few times before sliding it across the table toward Jack. “You’re special.”
Jack squinted down at the screen, upon which he could see a list of headlines, all revolving around a string of possible serial murders in which the victims’ throats had been torn out before being drained of their blood.
Jack glanced up at Harry, wondering if this was some strange attempt at a threat. It wasn’t like Jack didn’t know vampires could be dangerous.
“I don’t know what this has to do with me,” he said, deciding to play dumb to see what Harry might reveal. “Obviously, I’m not a vampire.”
Harry reached into his purse again, this time pulling out a small bright blue container with an airtight seal. Jack could see a tiny capsule inside, the size of a pain tablet or antibiotic, but the way Harry handled it was as if the container held an atomic bomb. He carefully nudged it across the table toward Jack.
“Open it,” Harry urged after Jack looked up at him quizzically.
Jack carefully unscrewed the cap, not sure what to expect, but nothing happened. Carefully, he rolled the small capsule into the palm of his hand, waiting for…something. He glanced at Harry again, baffled. “What is it?” he asked.
“You don’t recognise it?” Harry asked in blatantly feigned surprise. “It’s how I found you in the first place.” Harry wrinkled his nose and extended a single finger toward the tablet in Jack’s palm. “May I?” he asked.
Jack offered him the capsule. Harry delicately pinched it between his fingers and placed it on the table before reaching for his knife.
Jack opened his mouth to ask what he was doing but stopped when Harry drew a thin line against the soft shell of the capsule with the blade, leaving a beaded trail of scarlet where it had penetrated the tablet. Harry slid the object across the table again with the tip of the knife.
“Have a whiff,” he urged.
Jack hesitated for a moment before lifting the pierced capsule to his nose. Even with his dulled senses, the scent was unrecognisable.
“Yours,” Harry replied, “to be precise.” He leaned back against the vinyl cushion padding the booth they were sat in and let out a restrained sigh. “I found it on one of the vamps in my district after the most recent attack,” he said. “I’ve been trying to track down the source—you—ever since.”
Jack shook his head, squinting at Harry in confusion. “No,” he said firmly. “No way that’s mine. I sell to a vendor. I’m not peddling half-baked shite in back alleys. I don’t even know what An—what the witch does with the blood after the needle comes out of my arm.”
“Then how do you know this isn’t where it’s ended up?” Harry countered.
“Because I know he wouldn’t sell to vamps like that,” Jack replied, voice hard.
“Blood junkies, you mean? The ones who kill for the thrill of it?”
Jack nodded, and Harry let out a hollow laugh.
“Well, you’re right,” he continued. “Your friend wasn’t pushing to unregistered vamps. No, he was selling to my subjects—and your blood made them go stark, raving mad.”
Jack stared at him, trying to figure out if Harry was being serious. He was. “But how—”
“I’m expected to question you now that we’ve tracked down the source,” Harry interrupted. He popped another French fry into his mouth and chomped down on it obnoxiously. “The powers that be expect the names of everyone involved so that they can hold court and judge you for your crimes. Very medieval. If I’m honest, I quite preferred the old way of doing things, before it all went to shit, but the royal titles are rather nice.”
“And by the old way of doing things, you mean when a secret shadow agency would send hitmen after wayward monsters,” Jack retorted.
Harry pursed his lips. “I suppose you have a point. Still, all this—” He jangled a jewellery-covered hand. “—Responsibility. It’s so overwhelming sometimes. And I tend to disagree with the court more often than not, which tends to be problematic.”
“Okay,” Jack said. “So you’re saying you’re not going to question me for some sort of royal vampire tribunal?”
Harry grinned. “Correct.”
He hopped up unexpectedly and started to stack their dishes, pulling out a wad of cash afterwards and leaving it tucked under the tray for their server. It seemed uncharacteristically polite for someone who had kidnapped Jack from his own home in the middle of the night.
“Come on,” Harry said, gesturing for Jack to follow. “There are some things I need to show you.”
One of the last places Jack expected to end up after he climbed back into Harry’s Range Rover was in front of an upscale nightclub, its neon exterior casting bright light onto the entire street. But that’s where Harry had taken him, so Jack decided to keep his questions to himself, hoping that Harry would reveal their reason for being there sooner rather than later.
Jack was expecting a sensory assault as soon as they stepped inside, but the door Harry methodically unlocked only led to a quiet hallway, at the end of which lay a single lift. Harry turned toward it with a single-minded determination. Jack just watched as Harry unlocked the lift control panel too before opening the doors and motioning for Jack to enter first.
“What’s your floor?” Jack asked as Harry stepped inside, striving for a bit of levity.
Harry didn’t acknowledge the joke as he pressed the button for the basement. He leaned back against the railing, staring up at the brightly panelled ceiling, which immediately started to change colours as the lift descended.
Jack’s instincts, which at the best of times made him feel cooped up in a two-storey flat, suddenly went haywire, the thought of being underground raising his hackles. He clamped his hands onto the rails on either side of him and held tight, breathing in as slowly as possible to keep himself from losing control.
His reaction didn’t escape Harry’s notice. “Don’t worry,” Harry told him, “we won’t be down here long.”
The doors pinged open, exposing another seemingly endless hallway.
Jack’s first few steps were tentative, and then he stopped, waiting for Harry to show him the way. Harry passed him without any indication, verbal or otherwise, of what he was planning, but they only made it about halfway down the hall before he stopped in front of a heavy-looking metal door.
Jack stepped back on instinct as Harry used his keyring again to unlock it. Then the door was open, just like that, and Jack was face-to-face with what looked like some sort of cell, with a glass divider in the middle of the room, and on the other side a pitiful figure huddled in the corner.
Harry nodded for Jack to go inside. As soon as his foot crossed the threshold, the figure on the other side of the glass suddenly launched itself at Jack, revealing a clearly feral vampire.
Jack pressed himself up against the wall, seeing that Harry was still blocking his only means of escaping the room. He didn’t appear to be the least bit bothered by the slavering creature trying to break its way through the glass barrier to get at them.
“That’s Fionn,” Harry said casually, almost pleasantly. “He’s detoxing right now. Not the most enviable process.”
Jack glanced at the feral vampire again and winced. “That’s because of the capsule you showed me?” he inquired.
Blood-sickness in vampires was a rare thing in modern times. While Jack tended to keep his distance from the species as a whole and may have missed out on a considerable portion of his supernatural education, he’d still heard the stories. And they were always just that: stories.
Harry didn’t answer the question. “Before we caught Fionn,” he said instead, “he’d killed five of the seven human victims. Well, the ones we know about, anyway.”
“What about the other two?” Jack asked him.
“Tom’s recovering in an offshore medical facility,” Harry replied. “He was taken down by hunters, but we managed to extract him before they could do any irreparable damage. I don’t know who killed the seventh, but all of my vampires are present and accounted for now, so at the moment it’s not really any of my concern.”
Jack turned again to stare at Fionn, feeling an odd mixture of sympathy and discomfort. “Why did you bring me here?” he demanded. “I still don’t understand what I have to do with any of this.”
Once again, Harry didn’t provide a direct answer. Instead, he tugged at Jack’s arm, pulling him out of the cell and closing the door behind them. Harry led the way back to the lift without saying a word, in explanation or otherwise, and this time, pressed the topmost button on the panel, labelled ‘R’.
It didn’t take much guesswork to figure out where they were headed, but Jack still wasn’t sure what to expect when the lift finally opened to reveal a small stairwell, all painted metal and cement with dark blue push doors at the very top.
Jack decided to reserve his questions for now as Harry led him up the stairs, through the door, and out onto the roof, where he could immediately see a bar and pool occupying most of the available space, bustling with people who didn’t spare a glance for either Jack or Harry as the two of them passed by. Harry ignored them in turn, leading Jack over to the railing at the edge of the building closest to them instead.
“What do you see?” Harry asked.
They were far enough away from the partygoers that Jack suspected they wouldn’t be overheard even by supernatural ears over the loud pounding bass.
Jack scanned the world below. He could see everything, really. The building was perched on a hill overlooking the city, tall enough that Jack could see the lights of Malibu surrounding them, could just see the ocean if he squinted hard enough.
“I see a whole lot of faff, if I’m honest,” Jack replied snidely before turning back around to face Harry. “What I don’t see is a reason for me being here.”
Harry didn’t look impressed with his answer. “I see something that was taken from me,” he replied in a hard tone. “And you’re here because I need you to help me take it back?”
“And how am I supposed to do that?”
Harry leaned forward against the railing with a drawn-out sigh. Jack stared at the line of his back, thinking absently that he could push Harry over the side, be done with this whole problem just like that. Harry (probably) wouldn’t survive from this height.
Jack stepped forward and matched his stance instead, waiting for Harry to answer.
“I suppose you know already that inhuman blood has certain effects on vampires that human blood doesn’t?”
“Well, werewolf blood is particularly potent, hence your little witch friend being so eager to cough up a chunk of change for your donations. The packs are forbidden from doing the same, so you’re actually all the more valuable for being a lone wolf.” Harry shot Jack a wry smile he didn’t return. “The problem is that the drugs in your system contaminated it,” Harry continued. “That’s why the vamps who were buying your supply went crazy.”
Jack blinked a few times, not sure if he’d heard correctly. “I haven’t been taking any drugs,” Jack argued hotly.
Harry raised a sceptical eyebrow. “Haven’t you?” he countered. “You’re on suppressants, right? It’s why you couldn’t smell Jeff or Glenne. Or me, for that matter. Tell me, Jack, do you know how homegrown suppressants are made now that the government isn’t cooking them up in fully-funded labs to hand out for free to the werewolf public?”
Jack shook his head slowly.
“Wolfsbane,” Harry replied emphatically. “More specifically, a strain that happens to affect vampires as well as werewolves, albeit in radically different ways. The drugs stunt your primal instincts, but in vampires, it just heightens them.” He pointed up, toward the waxing moon overhead. “Can you still feel it?”
Jack couldn’t, the flush of the suppressants he’d taken just hours before still fresh in his system. He shook his head.
Harry hummed. “Pity, that.”
That was what finally set Jack off. Nostrils flared uselessly, he grabbed for Harry’s collar, yanking him in close enough that he could feel Harry’s breath on his face, peculiarly icy, like he’d just finished chewing menthol gum.
“What the hell do you want from me?” Jack demanded, aware even as he pulled Harry into him that the eyes of the rooftop partygoers had all turned in unison, as if sensing immediately that Harry was in imminent danger.
Harry didn’t seem too worried. “I might remind you,” he said nonchalantly, “that given the signal to act, you would find yourself on the wrong end of a couple dozen vampires. And in case you didn’t remember, interspecies killings aren’t really frowned upon these days. Especially not for someone like you.”
Someone without a pack to hide behind, was what Harry meant. Jack reluctantly released him and took a step back for good measure, still on guard even when the eyes on him slowly began to drift away.
Harry gave a cursory wave in the direction of the pool to discourage the rest before continuing his monologue. “No harm, no foul,” he remarked, his eyes shining with enthusiasm. “And to be perfectly honest, that’s exactly what I want from you, right there.”
“What?” Jack questioned. “What do you mean?”
“You have power,” Harry told him, with a stare so intense Jack almost felt like throwing himself over the edge just to escape. “Raw, untapped, primal power. Even with the suppressants I can feel it. Can’t you?”
Of course he could. Why did Harry think he was taking them?
Jack didn’t respond.
“There’s a coronation ceremony at the Cosmos Hotel in two nights,” Harry continued, seemingly unfazed by Jack’s lack of cooperation. “It’s my only chance to take back the throne—which should have been rightfully mine in the first place—where any of us are allowed to challenge the current successor for the title. I want your help in the fight.”
Jack held Harry’s gaze resolutely. “What’s in it for me?” he asked.
A pink tongue poked out to wet Harry’s bottom lip. “Your friend,” he said with a peculiar expression. “Barry, isn’t it? We can take care of him, even fix him possibly, but at the very least we can make sure he lives comfortably.”
Jack’s eyes narrowed. “What do you know about Barry?” he demanded, taking another step back.
Harry looked slightly uncomfortable as he explained. “I looked into your history after we identified you as the source of the contaminated blood,” he said. “We wanted to make sure you weren’t doing it on purpose.” His green eyes were strangely reflective as he turned his head to gaze out at the city again, like that of a nocturnal animal, which Jack supposed he was. “I know about the accident,” he said.
Jack’s fists clenched at his sides of their own accord, a rising anger building quickly in his chest and threatening to explode. He needed to get away from Harry before that happened. “Fuck you,” he spat out as he turned on his heel and marched toward the stairwell they’d come through.
He was half-expecting Harry to follow him, but no such thing happened. Instead, Jack was met by two familiar faces as soon as he walked through the roof access door—plus one unfamiliar one. The dark-haired woman, who Jack assumed was the witch Glenne had mentioned earlier, waggled her fingers at him from where she was sat in the middle of the stairwell.
“Need a ride home?” Glenne offered unexpectedly.
Jack carefully examined her expression, searching for a trick, and then looked to Jeff, deciding that if any of them were to accidentally reveal their duplicity, it would be him that folded first. But Jeff looked every bit as sincere, if albeit a bit annoyed.
“Yeah,” Jack finally said. “All right.”
Twitter: @vondrostes & @vondrostesupd8s
Jack found himself the reluctant party to Jeff and Glenne’s repeated attempts to woo him into their little pack on the way back to his flat, with Amber silently manning the wheel.
“I’ll consider it,” Jack conceded, finally putting a stop to their wheedling a few minutes before they actually reached his building.
Amber parked right in front of the door, gesturing for Jack to get out. “You’re free to go,” she joked, which seemed in poor taste considering the fact that she had literally had a hand in his actual kidnapping.
It was approaching dawn when Jack hopped out of the car and let himself back inside the flat. Despite the hours he’d been gone, nothing much had changed, with the exception of his bedroom, which was even more of a mess than he’d initially thought.
Satisfied there were no hidden surprises under his bed or the like, Jack traipsed back downstairs to check on Barry and Shona, making sure they were safely asleep before going back to his bed to pass the fuck out.
Jack woke just before noon to the sight of Shona’s blonde head peeking in through a crack in the door. “Are you okay?” she asked, looking concerned. It wasn’t typical behaviour for Jack to sleep in, especially not this late.
“Fine,” Jack replied, stretching his arms over his head with an exaggerated groan. “What’s for lunch?”
“I ordered in some Mexican,” she told him with a smile. “The delivery girl seemed charmed by my accent. It’s like she had no idea Irish people actually existed.”
Jack snorted and leaned over the side of the bed to grab a semi-clean t-shirt from the floor. “I’ll be down in a minute,” he told her, waiting until she’d closed the door again before flipping over to pull his mobile off the nightstand.
Jack called Aneurin, tapping anxiously at his bicep while he waited for the call to connect.
“Jack? Everything okay?”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine,” Jack replied, relieved that Aneurin didn’t sound any worse for wear.
“You sure? You don’t usually ring me out of the blue like this.”
“Eh, well….” Jack hesitated. “Things are a bit…confusing right now,” he admitted. “You’re all right, though? Nothing’s happened?”
“Why would something have happened?” Aneurin questioned. “Now you’re starting to have me worried for real. What’s going on?”
Jack delicately pinched the bridge of his nose between this thumb and forefinger and sighed. “Do you know of a Harry Styles?” he asked, deciding finally to just bite the bullet.
There was an ominous pause on the other end of the line. “Harry Styles?” Aneurin repeated slowly.
“Yeah. Do you know him?”
Aneurin sighed loudly into the receiver. “What the hell have you gotten yourself into?” he demanded.
Jack couldn’t help the sharp flare of annoyance in response to the question. “I don’t know,” he replied tartly. “That’s why I called you, seeing as you’re the expert here.”
There was another long silence before Aneurin finally replied. “Can you make it down to the shop later? We should probably have a chat about this in person.”
It would be a pain in the arse to go all the way downtown just to talk, but if the mere mention of Harry had Aneurin this spooked, it was probably worth looking into. “Sure,” Jack agreed. “Give me a few hours, yeah?”
He hung up shortly after making their arrangements and finished getting dressed, knowing that he only had so much time before Shona came back up to nag him about his food getting cold. Jack was pleased to find that everything seemed in order when he traipsed downstairs to eat. If anything, Barry was more cooperative than ever as Shona helped him eat, and Jack wondered if that was a positive side effect of the sleep spell Amber had cast on them both.
Jack had finished three tacos and was well into a fourth when there was a knock on the door. He exchanged a glance with Shona, who looked equally confused as she stood up to go answer it.
Jack was sat at just the wrong angle to see who was stood there when she opened the door, but then she stepped out of the way to let them in, and in walked the last person in the world that Jack wanted to see while huddled over a container of cheap take-out: Harry Styles.
“Hiya,” he said cheerily, waggling his fingers in a friendly wave toward Jack, who didn’t return the gesture. “Love what you’ve done with the place,” he remarked as he looked around at the interior of the flat, which wasn’t much to speak of. “Very minimalist. Urban chic.”
“Yeah, well rent in LA doesn’t leave much spare cash for decorating,” Jack replied in a flat tone.
Harry’s smile wilted. “Sorry,” he said, turning to Shona instead. “I forgot to introduce myself. I’m Harry. Shona, right?”
She nodded, looking quizzically at Jack. “How do you know each other?” she asked.
“We recently started working together,” Harry replied before Jack had a chance to think of an adequate answer.
Shona frowned, her stare only intensifying as she looked between Jack and Harry. “You got a job?” she asked, with a slight note of accusation. The whole reason Jack did what he did for money was so that she could have a semi-normal life.
“It’s not like that,” Jack replied hastily. He turned to Harry. “Can we talk about this outside?” he proposed, making it clear that ‘no’ wasn’t an acceptable answer.
Harry shrugged. “Sure.” He slid on a pair of giant bug-eyed sunglasses as soon as they stepped out the door, and in the bright sunlight, his whole ensemble looked even more ridiculous.
Jack examined the wide-brimmed hat, full-sleeved tunic, scarf, and sunglasses with a critical eye. “You look like a knob,” he said plainly.
Harry crossed his arms with a haughty sniff. “European vampires are sensitive to sunlight,” he said. “Even you should know that.”
Jack ignored the jab at his lack of education and continued staring at Harry with raised eyebrows. “So you chose to live in California of all places. Where there’s nothing but sun.”
“Just because it doesn’t like me doesn’t mean I don’t like it,” Harry said cryptically. He reached into one of his pockets and pulled out a key fob. “Care to come for a drive?” he asked.
Jack glanced back at the flat, weighing his options. “If I come with you, can you drop me off downtown afterward?” It was a risk, and he knew it. Harry hadn’t expressed any real interest in Aneurin so far, but that didn’t mean the witch wasn’t still in danger if the wrong people found out he was responsible in some small part for the tainted blood.
Harry nodded. “Sure.”
Jack was surprised by his easy agreement but didn’t question it. He ducked inside the flat again for just a second to grab his wallet and to tell Shona that he was headed out for a few hours. She seemed concerned, and rightly so, but she didn’t put up a fight, just telling him to call if he ended up staying out later than planned.
Jack wished he could have assured her that no such thing would happen, but the reality was that he knew going out with Harry, even willingly, meant there was no guarantee he’d make it back home. But he was still backed in a corner. Harry held all the cards while Jack was left with nothing, just the omnipresent fear that something might happen to one of his friends if he didn’t cooperate.
Harry was already waiting in the car when Jack came back out. “How come you don’t hire a driver or something?” he asked as he climbed into the passenger seat. “Clearly you’ve got the money for it.”
“I just like it,” Harry replied a bit defensively. “It’s thrilling.” He quickly shifted into drive and jammed his foot down on the accelerator as if to prove the point, speeding out of Jack’s neighbourhood with little regard for either safety or legality.
“Where are we going?” Jack asked once they’d slowed to a more reasonable pace.
Harry took slightly too long to answer. “Field trip,” he said. “Just outside the valley.”
It wasn’t much of an explanation at all, and that annoyed Jack, but he managed to bite his tongue. It wasn’t worth the argument. He’d find out where they were going once they got there. Jack watched the scenery as they drove in lieu of attempting to make conversation with Harry, who was in his own words, a bad driver even when he wasn’t distracted.
They drove for a good ninety minutes, further out of the city than Harry had led Jack to believe, before finally arriving at a large Tuscan-style mansion that wouldn’t have been out of place in the vineyards. But whatever this place was, it clearly wasn’t that.
Harry parked in the small car park out front and got out without a word. There was a sombre mood that had descended gradually over the course of the drive and now enveloped them as they walked through the front doors into a reception area that resembled something from a hospital, albeit a very nice one.
The woman sat behind the desk smiled brightly at Harry as he approached. “She’s out in the atrium,” she told him without Harry having to say a word.
He glanced back once at Jack to make sure he was following and then continued further into the building, leading them down a spacious hallway lined with double doors at odd intervals. Harry ignored all of them, heading for the entryway at the very end of the hall instead, through which Jack could see what looked like the inside of a large greenhouse, filled with all sorts of exotic foliage.
When they finally entered the atrium, there was none of the heat that Jack might have associated with a structure made entirely of glass, in which tropical plants were flowering on all sides. Amongst the flowers and the trees were scattered personages, all middle-aged in appearance, but there was something quite not right about them. Jack felt the same sort of uneasiness he did as they passed by the hollow-faced men and women as he did when he happened to ride the train or the bus with the elderly, particularly the ones that were imminently close to death.
He didn’t like it one bit.
Jack did his best to stay right on Harry’s heels, not wanting to be left in this oddly serene garden of death on his own. Eventually, Harry stopped, right in front of a bench where a kind-looking brunette woman was sat, delicately stroking a tiger lily with one finger.
Jack watched as Harry sat down beside her, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek that went unacknowledged.
“Enjoying the flowers?” he asked her while Jack looked on in discomfort. “Clare says you’ve been spending more time out here lately. Maybe it’s just the sun.” Harry smiled but still the woman didn’t react in the slightest. It was like she couldn’t even hear him. “I’m sorry, I don’t have much time for visiting today, but I wanted to check on you. Let you know I love you.”
Harry paused, like he was waiting for something, but nothing changed. After a few seconds he let out a small sigh and leaned forward to kiss the woman’s cheek again.
“I’ll be back soon,” he promised her before standing up from the bench and turning toward Jack without meeting his eyes. “Come on,” he said atonally.
Jack followed Harry out of the atrium without saying a word. When they walked back into the reception area again, the woman behind the desk perked up and looked hopefully over at Clare. Her face fell upon seeing Harry’s expression.
“No luck?” she asked.
Harry shook his head. “Can you let her know I came by?”
“Yeah, of course.”
Jack couldn’t suppress his curiosity any longer when they got out to the car. “Who was that?” he asked, hoping Harry wouldn’t take offence at his prying. It had been the vampire’s idea to bring him here, after all.
Harry declined to answer until after they’d both climbed inside and gotten buckled in. “My mother,” he replied dully as he reversed out of the spot without looking before making a sharp turn back onto the road. “She was Queen, actually, until very recently.”
“Oh.” Jack wasn’t sure if he was meant to offer condolences or what. “What happened? If you don’t mind my asking.”
“Just nature taking its course,” Harry replied. There was a tense set to his shoulders that belied his casual tone of voice. “Vampires don’t appear to age past a certain point, at least, not the way humans do, but our minds deteriorate more or less the same way. It’s actually more common for vampires.” He glanced over at Jack, and—seeing that the werewolf had yet to catch on—explained: “She has dementia. I placed her in a care centre run by the community. It was something NIMA implemented when they took over to keep the elderly from running amuck and killing innocent people. Part of their whole civility agenda. But you would know that if you hadn’t slipped through the system, right?”
Now it was Jack’s turn to tense up, his body automatically readying itself for a fight. “I guess it’s all moot now,” he replied carefully. “There’s no system to slip through anymore.”
Jack watched Harry drive for a few minutes more, before turning to stare out the window again. They didn’t converse anymore after that.
Harry finally broke the silence when they reached the outskirts of the metro. “What’s this place downtown you want to go to?”
Jack weighed his options. He’d been planning on having Harry drop him off a few blocks from Aneurin’s and walking the rest of the way there, but he wasn’t too confident in that plan now upon thinking it over. “If I tell you it’s my friend’s shop, are you going to have your minions bust in on him in the middle of the night, too?”
Harry glanced at him for a millisecond, looking a little surprised. “Not if you let me talk to him now.”
“Okay.” Jack gave him the address and hoped to God he wasn’t making a huge mistake.
Jack nearly dozed off by the time Harry parked the car just up the street from Aneurin’s shop, the sudden cessation in motion startling him back into wakefulness.
“This is the right place, isn’t it?” Harry asked as he unbuckled his seatbelt.
Jack nodded wearily.
“Brilliant. Lead the way, then.”
They walked together down the street, Harry following only a few steps behind, looking quite possibly like LA’s most mismatched gay couple. The thought didn’t trouble Jack nearly as much as it should have.
They were less than a block away from their destination when it happened. The door to the café next to Aneurin’s shop opening, a tall blonde woman stepping out with a tray of cups balanced on one arm, and then there was Harry, tugging Jack back against him and into the wall, close enough that they were breathing the same air.
“What are you doing?” Jack hissed furiously.
Harry blinked up at him with panic in his bright green eyes. “Just. Don’t move, okay?” It was a testament to Harry’s powers of persuasion that Jack obeyed.
A few seconds later, Harry relaxed again and let out an audible sigh of relief.
“What was that about?” Jack demanded, all too aware of the fact that they were still standing out on the street, pressed up against each other like the worst sort of PDA.
“Did you see that blonde girl?” Harry asked.
“She’s like…Taylor’s pet human, I suppose. Blood bag, really, but she has Taylor ear and I don’t want word getting out that I’ve been hanging around some witch’s place of business right before the coronation.”
Jack stared blankly at Harry. “Who’s Taylor?”
“The vampire who stole the throne from me,” Harry explained with a long-suffering expression. “She’s the whole reason for—god, you really don’t know anything, do you?”
Jack frowned disapprovingly. “I thought that was obvious.”
“Well, forgive me for having more faith in you than I should.” Harry finally slipped out from between Jack and the wall and pointed at the exterior to Aneurin’s shop. “It’s that one, right?” He waited just long enough for Jack to nod in affirmation before marching forward and letting himself right on in.
Jack was hot on his heels, slipping inside just in time to see Aneurin look up from the till and visibly blanch at the sight of Harry. “What’s he doing here?” Aneurin asked Jack with an expression so desperately frightened that Jack decided he must have made a mistake in bringing Harry here and that the vampire had manipulated him into this somehow so he could easily slaughter the both of them.
But Harry did no such thing, instead peering inquisitively at all of Aneurin’s odds and ends as he made his rounds of the shop. “You sold to Fionn, right?” he finally asked, looking toward Aneurin, who seemed frozen to the spot. “And Tom?”
Aneurin shook his head. “Just Fionn,” he replied in a small voice. “I don’t sell to anyone I don’t personally know.
Harry looked displeased by that information. “He was buying your entire stock?” he asked. When Aneurin nodded, his face twisted into an angry snarling thing for a brief second, just long enough to scare the shit out of even Jack before it went right back to normal. “Well, shit,” he said anticlimactically. “Guess we’ll be having a talk once he’s detoxed, then.”
“You think he was acting as a middleman?” Jack surmised.
Harry nodded just as Aneurin piped back up. “Um, excuse me,” he interrupted, “but what exactly is going on here? You do realise you’re trespassing in my place of business, right?”
The glare Harry levelled at Aneurin could only be described as deadly. “By the time I’m through with you,” he said in a withering tone, “you’ll be lucky if you have a business left.” He took a step forward, as if to make good on that threat, which is when Jack decided he had no choice to step in.
He moved into Harry’s space, fast as anything, placing a heavy hand on the exposed skin peeking out from Harry’s plunging shirt collar.
“What are you doing?” Harry questioned, looking between Jack’s hand and face like he wasn’t sure where exactly he was meant to direct his ire.
“You said you were going to talk to him!” Jack hissed, furious now that Harry was trying to boss Aneurin around as if the witch was in any way bound by the intricacies of vampire politics. “Not threaten him, remember?”
“I don’t remember there being a specific rule against threatening,” Harry replied with an obnoxiously serene expression, but he stepped away in the direction of Jack’s hand pressing against his chest. “Do you still have the blood Jack donated the last time he was here?”
Aneurin glanced sideways at Jack, who gave a small nod to let him know it was okay to tell the truth. But apparently Aneurin still hadn’t recovered from Harry’s attempt at cowing him into submission. “What do you want it for?” he demanded.
“You’ll see,” Harry replied vaguely. “Or you won’t.” He shrugged. “It depends, I suppose.”
For a moment, Jack was afraid Aneurin might decide to do something stupid and refuse the request, but he turned around without a word and walked straight into the back room, leaving Jack to breathe out a quiet sigh of relief.
“I wasn’t really going to do anything to him,” Harry muttered quietly with a bit of a sulky expression, but Jack just ignored him and waited for Aneurin to come back out.
The blood was locked up in a cryogenic case that Aneurin used to preserve it before he went through the ideal of processing it into something fit for consumption. He offered it to Harry with a nervous glance in Jack’s direction, as if expecting Jack to protest for some reason.
Harry seemed oblivious to the tension that permeated the room. “You know, you could always just come work for me instead of wasting your time with this dingy old shop.”
Aneurin let out a nervous half-chuckle. “Will it increase my lifespan if I answer yes to that?” he asked.
Harry hummed contemplatively. “I’ll mark you down as a ‘maybe’ for now.”
He then reached into the purse that seemed to be surgically attached to his shoulder, and Jack held his breath, unsure of what to expect. The last thing in the world he was anticipating when Harry’s pale hand re-emerged was a sharp black chequebook, inside which Harry hastily scrawled down an absurd amount of money before handing the cheque to Aneurin with a flourish.
“Just take it,” Harry advised, as if Aneurin would ever be dumb enough to refuse. “Right, then,” he remarked after Aneurin pocketed the cheque. He gave the case at his side a gentle pat. “You coming?” he asked Jack.
Jack suddenly found himself faced with a moment of indecision. It would be safer by far to say no, to stay with Aneurin and find his way back to the flat after he’d sorted himself out. But Jack was tempted by what Harry was seemingly unable to offer. And he couldn’t deny that Harry’s little display earlier, with his mother, had had some kind of effect on him. Jack knew full well what it was like to care for someone who seemed beyond all help.
“Yeah,” Jack finally agreed. “Yeah, all right.”
He ignored the mixture of anger and alarm in Aneurin’s stare as he followed Harry out like an obedient little puppy and tried not to think about the implications of his decision if it turned out to be the wrong one.
“Where are we going?” Jack asked when they reached the car again.
“We’ve got some things to take care of,” Harry replied unhelpfully.
‘Things’ ended up being a two-part errand. The first was comprised of a visit to Harry’s tailor, who took one look at Jack and nearly burst into tears. It was a few minutes before Jack realised the tailor had clocked him as a werewolf as soon as he’d walked in and (perhaps rightfully) assumed that his work would end up in literal tatters by the end of the night.
Jack still wasn’t altogether committed to the idea of helping Harry with his scheme to take back the throne from this Taylor, whoever she was, but he humoured him by getting fitted for a tux anyway, rolling his eyes when Harry insisted that it be silver.
“You’re a maniac,” Jack told him as the tailor poked and prodded to adjust the fit accordingly.
Harry ignored the comment, staring at Jack instead with an unnervingly intense expression. “It really is a shame it won’t last the night,” he said a few minutes later, a comment that Jack found incredibly presumptuous and a little daunting.
For whatever reason, everything seemed that much more real when they walked out of the shop, elbows brushing casually against each other as they made their way back to the car.
“Where to next?” Jack inquired.
“The Cosmos,” Harry replied.
The hotel was bustling with staff when they arrived. Preparations for the coronation ceremony the following night were in full swing. Jack trailed along behind Harry while trying to appear as inconspicuous as possible. He was uncomfortably aware of the fact that a good portion of the people surrounding him must have been vampires and could definitely tell that he didn’t belong.
Harry might have lived in some post-modern future where all inhumans lived in harmony, but Jack knew full-well that wasn’t the case for everyone.
“What exactly are we doing here?” Jack asked in a near-whisper as they walked up the steps to the front entrance. He sort of wished he’d thought to ask before they’d gotten out of the car, because now all he could feel were dozens of eyes watching his every move.
“Have to register my guests in person,” Harry replied casually.
He did just that, dragging Jack over to a kind-faced woman who took Jack’s ID with a smile and marked him down as one of Harry’s registered guests before sending them both on their way with a friendly farewell. It was just that simple.
Or it was until they walked back outside, at least.
Harry stopped short at the very top of the steps, just as a girl with dark blonde hair and an oddly feline face came walking up the stairs. She glanced up, pausing as well at the sight of him. “Friend of yours?” she asked, nodding toward Jack.
“Yeah,” Harry replied tersely. “Just getting him registered for tomorrow.”
“Of course.” Her smile was polite, but strained. “Well, I suppose I’ll see you both at the part, then,” she said.
Harry nodded and moved aside to let her pass. Jack wasn’t sure if he’d seen Harry inhale once since he’d caught sight of the girl coming up to them.
“What was that about?” Jack asked after he was certain they were out of earshot of the hotel staff.
“Just one of Taylor’s cronies.” Apparently Harry wasn’t having much luck in that department.
“What’s the deal with you two anyway?” Jack was genuinely curious now, after seeing how badly Harry had reacted to both girls, how legitimately worried he seemed to be over this upcoming fight. Surely it had to be more than just a territory dispute.
“Ex-girlfriend,” Harry finally replied as he climbed back into the car. “Wasn’t an amicable breakup. Should I take you home now?” Evidently, they were done discussing Taylor altogether.
Jack hesitated before he answered. “What would be the alternative?” he asked carefully.
Harry’s expression didn’t change as he replied. “You could always come back to the club with me.”
Jack was surprised to find himself considering it; more surprised when he nodded after only a short moment of contemplation.
I meant to update this hours ago but I got caught up in election day madness. Things went really well for me & my state! I'm in a good mood. :)
Twitter: @vondrostes & @vondrostesupd8s
Though his willingness to go along with Harry’s suggestions had come out of nowhere, Jack’s nerves had yet to vanish. He had practically chewed his nails down to the cuticle by the time they made it to Harry’s club, and he wasn’t even sure exactly why he was so nervous.
Some part of him, he supposed, was terrified he was making the wrong decision, but none of Jack’s decisions were just about him anymore. He had other people to worry about. Other people who happened to need to know if Jack was planning on coming back to the flat late.
Jack texted her as they pulled up outside the building, giving a vague excuse before telling her not to wait up for him. It was a shitty move to pull, not explaining the situation to her, but until Jack was certain of the outcome, he didn’t want to put anything more on her plate.
Harry glanced at him as they walked into the club through the back entrance like they’d done the night before. “It won’t do you any good to get worked up now,” Harry said, taking note of Jack’s anxiety as he led the way to the lift. “You should save your energy for the actual fight.”
That warning didn’t make Jack feel better in the slightest.
When the lift doors opened on the top floor of the club, just below the roof access, Harry’s posse was already waiting there for them in the hallway. Glenne peeled herself away from the wall as soon as Harry came into sight; Jeff didn’t move, while Amber didn’t so much as look up from her mobile.
“Everything go all right?” Glenne asked.
Harry nodded. He ignored her in favour of sauntering over to Amber instead, shoving the case full of Jack’s blood directly into her face. “Need you to check this over.”
Amber sighed and shoved her mobile into her jeans. She took the case and motioned for Harry to follow her down the hallway. Jack was unsure if he was meant to follow, but then even Jeff and Glenne got up after her, forcing him to scramble after them to avoid being left behind.
She led the group into a small back room, cramped even without half a dozen occupants thanks to the fridges against one wall, the cabinets and shelves taking up the rest of the space. Amber set the case down delicately on a clean countertop and moved over to one of the fridges, taking out a bright orange vial and placing it on a test tube rack at the back of the room.
Jack watched in fascination as she worked, not really understanding any of it but finding something relaxing in the meticulousness of the process.
Amber let out a quiet whoop when, upon dripping a bit of blood into the orange vial, the liquid sudden turned a bright cerulean blue.
“Good news?” Harry inquired.
“Any wolfsbane still present in the blood is negligible in small quantities,” Amber informed him. She looked over at Jack. “When was your last dose of suppressants before this was drawn?” she asked.
Jack shrugged. “Couple of weeks? I had another one last night, though.”
Amber exchanged a loaded look with Harry before turning back around to pull out a couple of tiny eyedroppers. “I can neutralise any remaining traces of the wolfsbane,” she said. “Make it safe. You want me to do him, too?” She jerked a thumb over at Jack.
“If you don’t mind.”
“I’ll cook something up. In the meantime—” She extracted no more than a drop of blood in each of the droppers and then offered them to Glenne. “These should be safe for a test run.”
Glenne glanced over at Harry. “Cara?”
Harry nodded. “Kaia, too.”
Glenne tugged Jeff out of the room with droppers in hand, leaving Jack alone with Amber and Harry, the former of which was rummaging around in the cabinets for something while Harry looked on impassively.
Finally, Amber emerged with what looked like a jar of black sludge in hand. “Bingo,” she said before scooping out a heaping spoonful and mixing it into a large glass container. It didn’t look anymore appetising after she was finished, and Jack reflexively took a step back when she turned around and held out the disgusting elixir. “Drink up,” she remarked with a smirk.
Jack reluctantly accepted the glass and did his best to ignore Harry’s unrelenting gaze as he downed the mixture, nearly coughing it all back up again when his tongue finally registered the foul taste.
“How long will it take to work?” Harry asked while Jack retched quietly beside him.
“It’ll all be flushed out of his system in less than an hour, by my estimation. If he hasn’t had more than a single dose, his blood wouldn’t adversely affect you much anyway, but this’ll still help.”
Jack supposed he should have been more upset at being discussed as though he were a science experiment and not a living, breathing creature, but he was still too busy trying to keep the contents of his stomach inside, where they belonged.
“Why don’t you go keep an eye on Cara and Kaia?” Harry suggested. His eyes had yet to leave Jack’s hunched form. “I’ll bring Jack out once he’s feeling a bit better.”
Jack heard Amber leaving, but he couldn’t bring himself to look up, too afraid that the slightest movement would have him puking all over Harry’s nice carpet. “She said I’ll be clean in an hour,” he finally managed, every word feeling like a heavy rock spilling out of his throat, “but how long am I gonna be like this?”
“Dunno,” Harry replied unhelpfully. “Would a cup of tea help?”
Jack let out a horrible, strangled laugh, but nodded. By the time Harry returned with said tea, Jack was already feeling loads better, but he accepted the warm drink graciously and sipped with a bit of caution, not wanting to trigger his gag reflex again.
“Think you’re up to a bit of socialising?” Harry asked once Jack was finished. “I’d like to make sure Kaia and Cara haven’t accidentally killed anyone yet.”
“Well, I do run a night club,” Harry reminded him. Jack’s only real glimpse of that had been the party taking place out on the rooftop the night before, and he couldn’t deny that he was curious now to see the rest of it.
“Are there humans?” Jack wondered.
“Only ones who know about us already, but yes. I keep the club open to anyone in the community, regardless of species. It’s good for business.”
“Okay,” Jack finally said as he set down the empty mug. “Let’s go.”
Jack wasn’t fully prepared for the sensory overload that awaited him when Harry opened the door at the other end of the hallway and led him onto the main floor of the night club. It was jarring, having his eyes and ears and nose operating at full capacity for the first time in years—and Jack hadn’t realised how good it had felt before.
He lost Harry quickly in the crowd and decided to sit himself down at a booth with a good view of the dance floor instead. No one around him spared Jack a second glance, certainly not like they’d done at the Cosmos. Maybe Harry really was onto something with this whole species equality thing.
After a few minutes of trying to spot familiar faces in the crowd, Jack finally caught sight of Harry again, standing opposite him on the other side of the dance floor. The vampires arms were crossed over his chest, and he was already staring by the time Jack’s eyes landed on him, but he didn’t look away. Jack held his gaze, as if in challenge, waiting for something to change.
Another body broke the connection as Amber sidled into Jack’s space, tugging him up by the hand to meet her. “Feeling better?” she asked, and then without even waiting for an answer: “Wanna dance?”
Jack nodded, feeling oddly charmed by the pretty witch and grateful for the opportunity to cut short his staring match with Harry before it could turn into something he couldn’t control.
“You want a drink or something?” Amber asked him, yelling to be heard over the music.
Jack shook his head, moving a hand to her waist. It’d been a while since he’d tried to pull in a bar or a club, but he hadn’t forgotten what worked, and it helped that his interest in Amber was nothing more than a shallow appreciation of how gorgeous she was. Besides, it probably wouldn’t hurt to have a bit of fun.
Jack stuck close to Amber as they danced, but he allowed his eyes to wander, taking in the faces surrounding him. It wasn’t long before he spotted Jeff and Glenne pressed up against each other, both half-shifted, their eyes flashing under the neon lights.
Jack could smell now the distinctive scent of dozens of vampires occupying the space, sweet and a little cloying but not altogether unpleasant. Two of them in particular caught his eye: an androgynous blonde and a thin brunette girl, both of whom smelled slightly different than the others. Familiar, almost. Then the brunette turned to reveal her face and Jack saw that her pupils were blown like a human high on amphetamines, her fangs fully extended. He realised she must have been one of the vampires Harry had instructed Glenne to give his blood to, and he couldn’t help but shy away.
As soon as he turned, Jack came face to face with Harry, stood on the other side of Amber, pressing up against her back as the two of them danced in time to the pulsing beat. Jack found himself frozen by the sight, and then Amber’s hands were on his, guiding them back to her waist, close enough that his fingers brushed against Harry’s with every gyration of her hips.
Jack tried to ignore him, to focus on Amber instead, the music, the people, anything—but it was hopeless. It was like Harry was a homing beacon for all of Jack’s newly-freed senses, a black hole dragging him in.
There was a current running through Jack’s fingers, and he could feel his hands drifting inexorably closer to Harry’s. They were hovering millimetres away when the song ended, the abrupt silence providing Jack with just enough clarity to break away and head to the bar for a drink.
The first question the bartender asked was his species, which alarmed Jack until he realised the woman was just trying to ascertain which ingredients she needed to add to his cocktail to get him adequately fucked up, since alcohol on its own wasn’t enough to overcome supernatural healing factors.
With a bright purple mystery concoction in hand, Jack finally turned back around to people watch again only to find Harry stood right there in front of him. “Enjoying yourself?” Harry asked, his bitchy expression at odds with the softness of his voice.
“Quite,” Jack answered. He sipped at his drink pointedly and spun back around, not willing to entertain any more of Harry’s bullshit until he was sufficiently drunk enough to not care anymore.
Harry, unfortunately, wasn’t on board with that plan. He slipped into the seat next to Jack, and then scooted even closer, until their thighs were nearly touching. His drink arrived seconds after he signalled to the bartender, and the sight of it made Jack laugh.
“What?” Harry asked, mouthing around the celery for his straw.
“A bloody Mary, extra blood?” Jack asked mockingly.
“I’ll have you know I quite enjoy the tomato juice,” Harry replied with a haughty sniff.
“Who would have guessed, a vegetarian vampire.”
“Well, not strictly,” Harry said. “Sometimes you just crave a little meat, you know?”
“Hopefully not little,” Jack found himself blurting out without thinking.
Harry just stared at him as if rendered speechless by the unintended—and completely undeniable—flirtation. Jack took another swallow of his cocktail just to occupy his big, dumb mouth and relished the buzz starting to settle in under his skin.
He half-expected Harry to have vanished when he looked up again, but Harry was still sat there with his drink in hand, staring so intensely back at him that Jack couldn’t force himself to look away. The song transitioned then to something lower and more mellow, and Jack found himself scrambling to come up with something to say that would dissipate the strange tension building between them.
“How come you didn’t sample my blood?” Jack asked. “Like the others, I mean.” He couldn’t help but wonder what Harry would look like if he’d had, like the brunette girl with her eyes dilated and fangs out.
“I’m still holding out for the real thing,” Harry replied coyly, and there was an edge to his voice that had Jack torn between the desire to run and the urge to fling himself at Harry’s feet.
Jack was saved the embarrassment of trying to follow up that comment by Amber, who wandered over to push between them, waving the bartender over for a drink. “I see you’re enjoying yourself,” she remarked to Jack with a smile. “You should come have another dance after you’re done,” she told him right as the bartender arrived with her drink. She grabbed it and turned around, heading right back into the crowd just like that.
Harry laughed quietly to himself after she left, and Jack glanced up, finding himself entranced by the image of the straw hanging loosely from the corner of Harry’s mouth. Jack swallowed hard, suddenly feeling something he hadn’t felt in a very, very long time. His shift.
The urge to transform was unexpectedly overwhelming, making his skin itch the longer he stared at Harry. Strong emotions had always been a trigger for it: anger, sadness—lust.
Jack leapt up off his stool, desperate to get away from Harry as fast as possible. He didn’t offer an explanation, instead bolting through the crowd in search of an exit, or at least somewhere private where he could get himself under control in peace.
He bumped into someone in the dark, heard the sound of a glass shattering on the ground. They were swearing at him as he crouched down to help clean up the mess, but Jack couldn’t make any sense of it. There was a sharp pain, the smell of blood on the air. Jack looked up to find the lights reflecting off of catlike eyes and their lips drew back, revealing shiny white fangs.
Jack leapt back with an animalistic snarl, feeling his own face starting to shift in response. He ran, horrified at his lack of control, and finally made it back to the hallway where he’d come in.
He didn’t trust himself to try to make it back home in his current state, so he tried one of the doors instead—locked—and then another, finding a dark, empty room to hide in behind the second.
Jack collapsed onto the only available piece of furniture inside—a sofa—and huddled in on himself, trying to get a firm hand on his shift as he shook and shuddered in the darkness. He wasn’t sure how long he laid there, waiting to come back to himself, before he heard the door open behind him.
“Go away,” Jack barked, the words harsh and unforgiving. He could smell that the person was a vampire, which was better than a human, but not by much.
The vampire, whoever they were, lingered in the doorway. “It would take more than an out of control werewolf to send me running,” a familiar voice said, and of course it was Harry. Of course it was.
Still, when Jack turned to face him, he could see a bit of hesitation in Harry’s face as he drew closer.
“I could smell you from the bar,” Harry said in a low voice when he was just centimetres away. “Everyone could. There was practically a frenzy on the dance floor.” Then Harry was suddenly kneeling down next to the sofa and lifting Jack’s hand away from his chest, hovering it right in front of his wide, inviting mouth. “Can I?” he asked in a voice barely above a whisper.
Jack was nodding before he’d even fully registered the question, and then his thumb was between Harry’s lips, pressing against his tongue. There was a gentle pressure, and then a deeper one as Harry sucked at the blood still staining his skin, though the wound had already closed.
“Kosher?” Jack joked once Harry had allowed Jack’s thumb to slip out of his mouth, hoping to diffuse the tension thrumming in the air between them with a bit of humour.
It worked to a degree, Harry’s face breaking into a wry smile. “Well, I’m not exactly a Jewish vampire, but I’d say you’re clean, yeah.”
“Are there Jewish vampires?” Jack asked, mostly to keep Harry right there in front of him. Their positions were too intimate to hold for long without it feeling strange, but Harry didn’t move while he answered.
“Of course,” he replied. He examined Jack curiously. “When exactly did you slip the net?”
“Was never in the net,” Jack replied honestly. “I was kind of a freak accident; they mixed up some eggs at an IVF clinic and managed to impregnate my mother with a werewolf baby. Surprise! Technically, I don’t even really know who my biological mother is.”
It was a story that usually got at least a half-hearted chuckle when Jack had occasion to tell it, but Harry just stared at him with a semi-pitying expression. “So you didn’t find out till you were turned?” Harry asked.
“Do your parents know?”
“No,” Jack said flatly. “I ran away after—I didn’t know what to do, so I just left.”
Harry nodded like he understood, but he didn’t. Couldn’t.
Jack sat up, but Harry only pushed further into his space, settling his elbows on the edge of the sofa so he could get even closer.
“And Barry?” Harry pressed.
Jack flinched. He didn’t like to talk about that. “I came back for him after I sorted my shit out,” he replied. “His girlfriend’s family had been taking care of him before that and it was…it was my responsibility. Things were easier for us back then, though. I think she might regret it now.”
When Jack had spirited Shona and Barry away to America with Aneurin’s help, they’d had the ability to leverage NIMA’s resources in their favour even if Jack wasn’t technically entitled to them. But with the government organisation out of the picture, they’d found themselves in dire straits, which was the whole reason Jack had started selling his blood to Aneurin in the first place.
And all of that was what had led Jack here, in this room, sitting millimetres away from a vampire and his unfairly shiny pink lips and now all Jack could think about was—
The door flew open and Jack and Harry flew apart. Not quick enough. Glenne gaped at them, clearly thinking she must have interrupted something more than she actually had, but Jack was certain that trying to explain would only make things look even worse.
“There’s a fight out on the roof,” Glenne told Harry, glancing once at Jack in between sentences. “Looks like it might be bad.”
Harry excused himself without meeting Jack’s eyes and practically sprinted out of the room, leaving Glenne and Jack there to stare uncomfortably at everything around them but each other.
“You’re not, um, still bleeding, are you?” she finally asked with a nod.
“No,” Jack replied. “It’s just on my shirt.”
“I can bring you another one if you want?” she offered. “You probably shouldn’t go back out there smelling like—that.”
Glenne came back just a few minutes later with a simple cotton tee, which was relieving since Jack had been imagining one of Harry’s mental blouses in her absence. She sat perched on the edge of the couch waiting while he changed, and it was only inevitable really that the question finally emerged from Jack’s mouth now that he finally had her alone.
“What’s Harry’s deal with—what’s her name?—Taylor? What’s all that about?” When Glenne didn’t answer right away, Jack kept pushing. “I mean, it seems he’s doing all right with the club as is. Why does he need the territory, too?”
Glenne grimaced. “You know when you’re first starting to shift?” she replied, and Jack really couldn’t understand what this had to do with Harry, but he decided to humour her anyway. “And it feels sort of like you’ve been washed out to sea and you don’t really know which way is up until you manage to ground yourself?”
Jack didn’t tell her that the only time he’d ever managed to ‘ground himself’, to fully shift, that someone had ended up nearly dead because of him. “Yeah,” he said. “I suppose so.”
“Well, that’s sort of Harry’s worst fear, I guess. Losing control. And Taylor taking this away from him when he’s at his most vulnerable…it’s like all his nightmares realised, I guess.” Glenne’s expression softened a little as she spoke. “I know Harry puts up a front, especially with you, but underneath that he really just wants to be able to protect his friends and his family, you know?”
Jack didn’t know, but all he had to go on was Glenne’s word and the moment of tenderness he’d unexpectedly witnessed between Harry and his mother.
“Right,” Jack agreed. He decided that he’d done enough prying for the time being.
When they emerged from the room together, Jack was surprised to find the hallway crowded with people, most notably Jeff, and all of whom were soaking wet.
“Where’s Harry?” Glenne asked Jeff as they approached.
He jerked a thumb toward the ceiling. “Roof,” he replied. “Kicked everyone out after he broke up the fight, but he didn’t come down after. He seemed kinda off to me but—”
“I can go check on him,” Jack volunteered, surprising even himself.
Glenne and Jeff both stared at him, and Jack could feel himself going bright red, but now that he’d proposed it, he felt obligated to follow through.
“What?” he said defensively, though he wasn’t sure he wanted an honest answer.
Jeff shook his head. “Nothing, man. You go right ahead.” He gestured toward the lift and Jack made a beeline for it, wanting to make his escape as quickly as possible.
Harry was easy to spot when Jack walked out onto the roof: a lone figure sat cross-legged on a chaise lounge by the edge of the pool.
Jack walked over to him and sad down silently on the other end of the chair, his back facing the pool, legs straddling either side as he leaned in toward Harry, trying to get a feel for his mood. He wasn’t sure if it was a vampire thing or just a Harry thing, but Jack found him strangely hard to read, like Harry was constantly on guard, shielding his emotions from anyone who might try to use them against him.
“What’s on your mind?” Jack asked after a few seconds had passed in which he’d determined that Harry wasn’t going to open up of his own accord.
“I’m surprised you care,” was Harry’s response. Dry. Bitter.
Jack felt himself prickling a bit in spite of his efforts to control the reaction. “You know, out of the two of us, I really don’t think I’m the cunt here.”
“Touché,” Harry replied, and then suddenly Jack was underwater, the imprint of Harry’s foot like a brand in the centre of his chest from where he’d pushed Jack in.
Harry was laughing when Jack surfaced, wide-eyed and spluttering. Jack took a second to get his bearings as he hauled himself up onto the deck, and then launched himself at Harry, pinning him against the pool chair and feeling himself starting to shift again just from the adrenaline.
Harry must have seen his eyes flashing, but he didn’t look alarmed, just curious. “Can you do a full shift?” he asked, still lying flat on his back underneath Jack’s body.
“I’ve only done it the once,” Jack replied. “It didn’t exactly end well.” Something Harry already knew, but it felt like it bore repeating.
Harry shook his head slowly. “But you can’t hurt me like you can hurt them,” he said.
And god, Jack wanted to test that theory, he really did. Harry was appealing to primal instincts that Jack had kept buried deep for years, his exposed throat a tempting target, igniting Jack’s prey-drive on sight, and god help him, but Jack just wanted to tear Harry to pieces. In more ways than one.
“I’d rather not take the chance,” Jack replied as he started to pull away, but Harry’s hand was tight around his wrist, holding him fast. “What?” Jack demanded, starting to get angry now. “What the fuck do you want with me?”
Harry shook his head again, looking helpless. “I don’t know,” he said.
Jack wasn’t even sure really when or how the thought turned into action, but suddenly he was kissing Harry, pressing him down even harder against the pool chair so that he could dig into Harry’s mouth with his tongue, trying to get as far inside him as humanly possible.
It wasn’t long before Harry ripped his mouth away, pressing it to Jack’s jaw instead, under his chin, against the side of his throat where his pulse beat steady and quick, Harry’s teeth scraping over the thin layer of flesh protecting Jack’s carotid from Harry’s waiting fangs.
“Do it,” Jack urged in a throaty voice. He wasn’t sure why he needed it so much, but suddenly he felt desperate for it. “Do it. Please.”
“I can’t,” Harry said, and it came out like a whine. “We have to wait, I—you need to be at full strength for tomorrow, for the fight.”
Right, Jack thought to himself. The fight. That was the whole reason for all of this, after all.
Jack rolled off the chair with a frustrated sigh. He was aware now in the aftermath of the kiss that he was hard in his jeans—which were still soaked from his unexpected dip. Harry, ever the gentleman, delicately extricated himself from the chair and walked over to the laundry trolley to get Jack a towel.
“I’ll have Jeff meet you on the second floor,” Harry told him, a clear dismissal. “He can show you to one of the bedrooms. You should probably rest up for tomorrow.”
Jack didn’t respond. He took the towel, rubbing it over his face and neck just so he didn’t have to look at Harry—and so Harry couldn’t see his face reddening from a mixture of embarrassment and anger—and walked away without saying a word.
Jeff noticed something was amiss the second Jack stepped out of the lift. “What happened up there?” he asked curiously as he led Jack down the hallway and let him into one of the rooms, which ended up being a fully furnished suite that was even more lavish than Jack had expected. “I mean, am I gonna have to talk Harry off a ledge? Bail him out of jail, maybe? I’ve never seen him get so worked up until you came around—”
“Stop talking,” Jack snapped, unable to take another second more of it, but he regretted the words as soon as they were out.
Jeff’s mouth snapped shut instantly, his expression that of a scolded puppy, and that just made Jack feel even worse. “I’ll have someone come get you in the afternoon,” he muttered before scurrying out of the room, leaving Jack alone and ensconced in a glorious, blessed silence.
Jack showered first before getting ready for bed, not wanting to wake up with the sheets smelling of chemicals from the pool water. It was easy enough to ignore his hard-on while washing; he was quick and methodical about it, and he threw himself under the covers as soon as he was finished without bothering to redress in even just his pants.
It was harder to fight back the urge once he was tucked up warm and comfortable inside a cocoon of silk sheets, his erection still going strong despite his best efforts to ignore it. Maybe that was a symptom of his sudden detox from the suppressants, he thought. In any case, if it wouldn’t go away on its own, then Jack would just have to take care of it.
Jack wrapped a reluctant hand around himself, closing his eyes tight and doing his best to focus on the neon fireworks blossoming behind his eyelids. If it was Harry’s face that he saw in his mind’s eye when he finally came, dark-eyed and sharp-fanged, well that was no one’s business but his own.
And here is the final chapter. Hopefully it was a fun read! Reminder that you can find links to other stuff from me on my social media!
Twitter: @vondrostes & @vondrostesupd8s
Jack didn’t know how to react when he woke up several hours later to find Harry standing over him at the side of the bed.
“Fancy seeing you here,” Jack said, his voice sleep-gruff and muddled. Somewhere in the back of his brain was the awareness that he’d had an orgasm last night while thinking about Harry’s face, of all things, but he was trying very hard not to think about that.
Harry’s expression remained blank as he responded, not acknowledging Jack’s attempt at levity in any way. “You need to eat,” he said. “There’s food over on the dresser. When you’re done, come downstairs to the main floor.” And then Harry was gone, leaving Jack to his own devices.
Breakfast was a full English, which Jack was pleased by, and he scarfed it down fast, not wanting to keep Harry or anyone else waiting.
The dance floor in the day time was horribly mundane in comparison to its counterpart, the difference between the two made even more stark by the fact that its only occupants were Harry, Amber, Jeff and Glenne, and the two vampires Jack recognised from the night before. One of them, the blonde, waved to him as he walked over; Jack returned it with a tentative wave of his own.
“So what’s this about?” Jack asked as he walked over, noting that all of the others were spread out in various positions around in a wide circle, leaving a large empty space in the centre.
“Training,” Harry replied simply. “I’m guessing you’ve never fought a vampire before?”
Jack shook his head.
Harry somehow managed to look unimpressed despite the fact that it was the answer he was clearly expecting and turned to gesture toward the brunette vampire, Kaia, and Glenne.
Both girls stepped into the circle and squared off against each other. Jack didn’t need any further explanation to realise what Harry intended, but he was still caught off guard when Kaia launched herself at Glenne, practically somersaulting through the air onto her back.
Glenne leapt out of the way right at the last second, sending Kaia skidding across the floor. She shifted in the air, landing on all fours right in the centre of the dance floor, her auburn coat shining in the waning sunlight coming in from the windows.
“Vampires are generally quicker,” Harry told Jack, while the evidence of that played out in front of them. “But werewolves have more brute strength, they can withstand more damage. For whatever reason,” Harry continued, looking Jack up and down as he spoke, “you seem to be particularly gifted in terms of sheer power. It’d probably take more than a few vamps to incapacitate you for long, and Taylor doesn’t have that kind of numbers.”
“So my role in the fight is…” Jack said leadingly, still watching as Glenne and Kaia batted each other around at superhuman speeds.
“Distraction, mainly,” Harry replied. “I want you to put yourself wherever you’ll cause the most trouble for Taylor’s ‘squad’.” He uttered the word with so much disdain that it made Jack want to laugh.
He curbed the impulse for the sake of keeping the peace, and instead focused on the fight, which ended with Kaia flat on her back under Glenne, finally tapping out after a gruelling tackle.
“All right,” Harry said, motioning them out of the way after Glenne changed back and helped Kaia to her feet. There was a cheeky wink from Glenne aimed in Jack’s direction as she passed, completely naked, which he steadfastly ignored in order to preserve his own dignity. “Jeff and Jack next. Don’t go easy on him,” Harry advised Jeff as he stepped into the circle and readied his stance.
“You want me to fight another werewolf?” Jack questioned, hesitating.
“Strength contest,” Harry replied. “I want to put Amber’s analysis to the test. Try to avoid shifting, if you can.”
Jack didn’t think that would be a problem anyway, but Harry’s instructions had him even more determined not to embarrass himself by morphing into an out-of-control monster in the middle of the fight.
Jeff may have held his own against Jack after taking him by surprise while he was sleeping, but now that Jack was off his suppressants and operating at full-strength, the other werewolf didn’t stand a chance. The fight was over almost before it even began, ending with Jeff in a chokehold gasping for mercy against the slick linoleum floor.
“Sorry,” Jack told him after Harry called it.
Jeff shook his head. “No hard feelings,” he said with an easy smile, even as he rubbed at his throat. “I honestly figured Harry was setting me up to be a punching bag.”
“You did good,” Harry said with a grin as he slapped Jeff on the back. “Okay, then, let’s see how you hold up against a vamp. Cara?” He was midway through turning toward the blonde vampire when Jack opened his mouth to stop him.
“You wouldn’t rather fight me yourself?” Jack taunted. He knew before Harry spun around again that he was playing with fire. Their altercation on the roof had been evidence enough of that.
“You want me to fight you?” Harry asked coolly.
Jack nodded. “You’re the head vampire in charge, right? The biggest, the baddest? Why shouldn’t it be you?” That got a few titters from the others watching, but Harry didn’t seem to notice.
“All right,” he said, still staring at Jack without blinking. It was one of his more unnerving traits, if Jack was honest. “Ready when you are.”
Jack wasn’t sure what he was expecting from Harry, but it wasn’t for them to be so evenly matched, clear from the first few seconds of the fight and unchanging even as each tried different tactics to gain the upper hand.
As the battle lengthened, the adrenaline flooding Jack’s brain increased, sending his body and brain into overdrive. He didn’t register the shift until it was too late, and then his body was that of a giant golden-furred wolf, soaring through the air toward Harry’s tiny human-shaped form.
Distantly, Jack registered the gasps of alarm from the others, but inside his head he was focused on only one thing: ripping Harry apart.
The fight after that could have lasted for minutes or hours for all that Jack was aware of the passage of time. When it ended, he finally came back to himself with a start, the threat of Harry’s teeth against his throat as he pinned the vampire to the floor sending a potent danger signal strong enough to cut right through the primal haze clouding his brain.
“All right,” Glenne yelled, “off! You’re done!”
Jack was surprised to find that he could recognise her voice even in his wolf shape. It hadn’t been like that before. He tumbled off of Harry, shifting back before his arse hit the ground. He was too stunned by what had happened to be embarrassed by the fact that his bits were on display in front of not only Harry but all of his cohorts too. Before Jack could really come to terms with that fact, Glenne was wrapping him in a fluffy bathrobe and helping him tie the belt around his waist, preserving whatever shreds of dignity he might still have left.
As Jack was shepherded away, he couldn’t help but notice that Harry seemed subdued—shaken, even, by the fight. But there was no opportunity to get Harry alone for most of the afternoon, which was filled with various preparations for the impending coronation ceremony, most of which Jack was not involved in.
So he wasn’t sure what to make of it when Harry cornered him later and asked him to come upstairs with him to finish getting things ready, a request that led to Jack and Harry shut away from the others inside the suite Jack had slept in.
Jack perched uncomfortably on the very edge of the bed, wondering if Harry’s nose could detect the faint traces of semen on the sheets like his could. If he could, he was clearly too polite to mention it.
Then, “Get undressed,” Harry said out of nowhere.
Jack gaped at him for a minute, his head still stuck on the whole semen thing, before remembering belatedly that Harry was meant to drink his blood and needed access to his neck to do that. Face flushing a little in embarrassment, Jack shrugged off the top half of his robe, letting it pool around his waist as he waited for Harry to make the next move.
But Harry hesitated too, clearly no more comfortable with the whole situation than Jack. “It might be easier if you’re sat against the headboard,” he suggested. He waited until Jack was sat propped up against the pillows before climbing up onto the bed as well to straddle his lap.
Jack’s hands reached up reflexively to settle on Harry’s hips, which were surprisingly soft. It took everything in Jack’s power not to squeeze them.
“Are you ready?” Harry said in a breathy voice. His mouth looked far more inviting than it should have, given the fact that Jack knew Harry’s teeth were about to be buried inside his neck.
Jack nodded, not wanting to drag out the anticipation any longer. His fingers tightened on Harry’s hips the second he felt warm breath against his throat; they formed a death grip when Harry’s fangs finally pierced through his flesh with a flash of sharp, blinding pain, gone in the next instant.
Jack could feel the endorphins from Harry’s saliva starting to course through his veins as Harry drank from him, the pleasure quickly outweighing the objective unpleasantness of having his blood drained from his body. Jack’s hand skimmed up Harry’s side, to his neck, where he could feel Harry’s throat working as he swallowed, and for some reason that made Jack’s breaths quicken.
It wasn’t long before the hazy pleasure turned into something more tangible, the hardness under his robe an all-too present threat pressing into the curve of Harry’s arse with Jack helpless to do anything to stop it.
But Harry didn’t suddenly jump away or rip his teeth out of Jack’s neck in disgust. He pushed back. Grinding his arse down against Jack’s hard-on, moaning loud enough that Jack could feel the vibrations reverberating through his own throat, and when Harry shifted forward again to press up against his stomach, Jack could feel that he was hard too.
Jack felt Harry’s teeth sinking in even deeper, wondered if Harry’s pupils were blown like the vampires who had tasted his blood last night, if the green around his eyes was just a thin halo now, making him look more animal than human. He couldn’t explain why but the thought made him even hotter, his hips jerking up against Harry of their own accord, and whatever tenuous self-control Jack had possessed before was suddenly gone.
At some point in Jack’s delirious humping, he could feel his orgasm fast approaching, which is of course the very second that Harry suddenly rolled off of him. He pointedly cupped his own crotch with an apologetic expression and wriggled away toward the other end of the bed.
“Need to get ready,” Harry mumbled, the sight of his mouth dark with Jack’s blood eerily entrancing. He swiped at it with the back of his hand, which only made it worse.
Jack didn’t have the mental capacity to do anything more than nod.
“Here,” Harry said, reaching into the drawer on the nightstand and pulling out something in a plastic packet, tossing it into Jack’s lap.
It was a gauze pad. Jack quickly unwrapped the thing and pressed it to the already healing wounds on the side of his neck, staring dazedly after Harry as he slipped into the bathroom and shut the door. Jack could hear the shower turn on just a few seconds later, and the sound finally snapped him out of his blood-drunk haze.
“Fuck,” Jack hissed, slumping back against the pillows and staring down forlornly at the stubborn erection tenting the bathrobe covering his lap. He knew already that there was no point in waiting it out. He was so high on the chemicals Harry’s body produced to keep his prey happy and pliant that he would probably still have a hard-on by the time the fight started if he tried to ignore it.
Jack stroked himself quick and messily, sparing himself no shame as he conjured up the memory of Harry’s fangs buried in his neck, Harry’s arse soft and warm against his cock. He couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to be inside Harry while Harry was inside him, feeding off him, sucking the orgasm out of him with his arse and his mouth at the same time.
“Fuck,” Jack hissed again, the movement of his hand almost a blur over his cock as he approached the edge.
This time, Jack wasn’t even remotely discreet when he came. He spilled directly onto the sheets, leaving it there as a clear ‘fuck you’ to Harry for when the coward finally emerged from the bathroom, a reminder of what Harry could have had if he hadn’t decided to run away.
Jack left quickly after that, not wanting to be caught in the middle of things when Harry finally came out and discovered his surprise. He found Amber waiting outside in the hallway; she looked happy to see him.
“Harry asked me to help you get dressed,” she said in explanation as she took his hand and led him down the hallway to a different room. There was no indication that she had any idea what had just occurred between Harry and Jack, and Jack was happy to keep it that way.
Getting dressed with Amber’s assistance was a somewhat more involved process than Jack was used to. She insisted on grooming him from head to toe, even applying a bit of makeup, which Jack thought was overkill given the fact that he was likely not going to be in human shape for long. But first impressions and that.
Jack must have been projecting more than he’d thought, because Amber suddenly stopped midway through wiping the remaining traces of blood on his neck and shoulder.
“You shouldn’t worry too much,” Amber told him with a reassuring smile. “We’ll win now that we have you with us. I can feel it.”
Jack shrugged, not wanting to give away the truth that it wasn’t the thought of the fight that had his stomach in knots, it was Harry.
Jeff popped his head in a few minutes later, just as Jack was finishing getting dressed. “Almost ready?” he asked.
“I’ll make sure he gets to where he needs to go,” Amber assured him. “Go on, shoo.”
Jeff scuttled away again at her behest, and Jack looked down to finish doing up his buttons while she styled his hair.
“You really think this is gonna work?” he asked her.
“Yeah,” she replied softly. “I really think it will.”
Jack was aware that psychic abilities were rare, even in witches, foretelling even rarer, but he couldn’t help but feel just that much more confident as he finally stepped out of the club, dressed sharply in his silver tuxedo with his hair slicked back, clean-shaven for the first time in weeks.
Amber led him over to a waiting limo at the centre of a caravan of cars and opened the door for Jack to climb in. He stared up at her after sliding in next to Jeff and Glenne, waiting for her to follow suit, but she was already starting to close the door instead.
“Wait,” Jack protested, holding out an arm to stop her. “You’re not coming with us?”
“I’m riding with Harry,” she assured him before slamming the door shut with a smile.
Jack was relieved at least to learn that he wouldn’t be cooped up in the back of a car with Harry for the duration of the drive, but some part of him was disappointed, too.
Jeff and Glenne were accommodating of Jack’s nerves on the way to the Cosmos Hotel, going over every last detail of the plan with him until he was confident he had it memorised back to front. It was necessary, thanks to the fact that vampire customs were apparently very strict, and one wrong move could spell disaster for all of them.
Jack didn’t catch his first glimpse of Harry until after they’d all arrived at the entrance to the hotel and started up the stairs together, Glenne suddenly grabbing Jack’s hand and pulling him forward until they broke free of the crowd at the very top of the steps.
It sort of felt like a red carpet even that no one else in the world knew about, and Harry was dressed the part in a sleek thigh-length white blazer, cinched at the waist with an ornate ruby-encrusted brooch. His hair was piled up on top of his head in an intricate knot that looked like it must have taken hours to twist into shape, but Jack knew better, seeing as Harry had been on top of Jack with his loose curls spilling over his shoulders little more than hour before. The whole ensemble was capped off with dark wine-coloured boots with enough of a heel that Jack was confident Harry would actually be taller than him if the two of them were to stand side by side.
Harry certainly looked sufficiently regal like that, particularly with his vampire entourage surrounding him as they entered the hotel. Jack held the rear with Jeff and Glenne, the three of them trying to attract as little attention as possible from the other vampires present as they made their way to the main ballroom where the coronation ceremony would be taking place.
They received their fair share of suspicious glances anyway, but Jack ignored them, not wanting to get caught up in a petty conflict before they could even get to the main event.
Jack, who hadn’t made it further than the main hall the first time he’d visited, wasn’t sure what to expect when they entered the ballroom. As it turned out, anything his mind could have conjured up would have paled in comparison to the real thing.
The interior was Romanesque, an expansive oval surrounded on all sides by columns and intricately-carved statues of figures that closer resembled the vampires of lore as opposed to the ones currently occupying the space. Jack eyed an imposing figure with honest-to-god bat wings as they passed by and wondered if non-European vamps could sue for copyright infringement.
At the very front of the space there was an ornate marble altar, upon which Jack could see a golden laurel circlet sat on a small velvet pillow. Very over the top, which Jack supposed was about right for vampires. He may have had some gaps in his education, but his time with Harry had taught him plenty about vamps and their love of gaudy aesthetics.
There was a tall blonde standing behind the altar, her red lipstick like a beacon in a room filled with white. It didn’t take long for Jack to spot the girl from the café next to Aneurin’s shop as well as the one Harry had spoken to at the hotel the day before standing in the group of women beside her, and from there it was simple to put two and two together. That was the Taylor Harry seemed so terrified of.
Jack knew there would be a bit of waiting before anything really happened, but he couldn’t curb the anxiety bubbling away in his stomach, forcing him to tap his foot obnoxiously against the tile floor in an effort to release some of his nervous energy. He got a warning look from Glenne for it, and then the lights were dimming as a tall brunette walked out in front of the altar in a shimmering black dress.
There was no microphone in her hand, but her voice must have been magically amplified, because when she spoke it echoed throughout the entire space, the words clear as day.
“Now that everyone’s present, let’s begin,” she said. Her eyes roved around the room, pausing when they landed on Harry and his entourage. There was something in her face that looked a bit strained, and Jack looked over to find Harry squeezing Kaia’s hand tightly.
“That’s Kaia’s mother,” Glenne explained in a whisper. “She doesn’t exactly approve of what’s happening, for obvious reasons.”
Jack was confused by that, wondering why Kaia was with Harry instead of her mother, but there were a lot of things about vampire customs that he still didn’t understand.
Kaia’s mother continued speaking in the next few seconds as if nothing had happened, her face returning to an expression of total neutrality. “Taylor, if you’d step forward?” The blonde moved into the spotlight, confirming Jack’s earlier suspicions. “And if any challengers wish to make themselves known?”
There was a hanging pause in which Jack was suddenly terrified Harry would chicken out, that this whole thing would be a bust, but then Harry stepped forward—alone—into the centre of the room, drawing gasps from some of the surrounding vampires as he marched toward the altar where Taylor was standing.
Every cell in Jack’s body was vibrating as he watched Harry’s fangs extend. He lifted his own wrist to his mouth and bit down, presenting the bloodied flesh to Taylor in offering, marking himself as a target.
Taylor looked to Kaia’s mother, waiting for permission to proceed. All she received in response was the tiniest of nods, but that was enough.
From the second Taylor threw herself at Harry, it was apparent that he was losing, and badly. She was faster than him, stronger, even with Jack’s blood pumping through his system, and Jack couldn’t help but wonder if she had her own secret weapon.
Jack was itching to jump into the fight. Watching Harry being tossed around like a rag doll was doing something to his own heart that he couldn’t have anticipated, but he knew that if he interfered now, during the grace period in which both contenders were meant to try and best each other without their nests, the entire challenge would be invalidated and Harry would lose his chance at the throne automatically. And there was no way Harry would ever forgive him for that. Even if it was to save his life.
Still, Jack couldn’t help the shift he could feel rippling through him, growing stronger with each passing second that he watched the fight unfold.
Finally, something changed, and Harry—who had seemed on the brink of losing only seconds before—started to turn the tide, holding his own against Taylor’s attacks for the first time since the fight had started. And then Glenne was holding up a hand, getting ready to signal the end of the grace period.
Jack coiled his muscles tight, waiting. When Glenne dropped her hand, he transformed, soaring past the others to tackle Taylor to the ground before anyone else could even reach them.
He was shrugged off easily, like nothing more than stuffed toy, and when he regrouped, the floor was filled with vampires and werewolves alike, all embroiled in something that wouldn’t have seemed out of place in a bona fide war film.
Jack felt like he was everywhere at once as he came barrelling through the teeming mass of bodies, hardly aware of the actual mechanics of the fight now that he was in the thick of it.
Jack batted away every vamp that threw themselves at him, literally flooring nearly half of the opponents on Taylor’s side before finally meeting his match in the form of a dark-haired, dark-eyed male vampire that could have given Harry a run for his money in the looks department.
He was faster than Harry, possibly faster than Taylor even, and Jack found himself running around him in circles like a dog chasing his own tail. Then the vamp darted away so fast it was like he’d vanished, and by the time Jack had realised what happened, there was a weight landing squarely on his back, forcing him to the ground.
The vampire’s teeth were bared, ready to sink into Jack’s exposed fur when the lights abruptly went up. Everything stopped, the vampire on top of Jack freezing suddenly, and when Jack glanced around he could see that the other groups had all frozen in place as well.
Then Jack looked over at the altar, just in time to watch as Harry carefully picked up the golden circlet with blood-stained hands and placed it on his head, his white suit flecked with scarlet as Taylor lay prone in a defeated heap at his feet.
Jack slumped back against the tile, feeling all the air in his lungs leaving him in a giant sigh. It was over. They’d won.
Jack wasn’t sure if he’d passed out after that or just dissociated, but when he came back to himself he was being roughly dragged by his scruff out of the ballroom by Amber, whose expression seemed strangely worried considering they’d just emerged from a victory.
“Change back,” she urged, leaning down a little so they were at eye level as she put two hands on either side of his canine face. “Change back, Jack,” she said again, and this time there was a little jolt like Jack had gotten a shock of static electricity. When he recovered from the feeling, he was person-shaped again, and Amber was staring down at him in obvious relief. “You with me?” she asked.
Jack nodded weakly and then glanced down at himself, noting the blood that had transferred from one body to the other covering a fair portion of his naked skin.
“Yeah,” he said, the word like a chunk of gravel in his throat. “Yeah, I’m here.”
“Good,” Amber said, smiling brightly. “That’s good. Here, I’ve got a change of clothes for you in my bag.”
She pulled out a pair of black joggers and a hoodie, a far cry from the silver tux Jack had utterly destroyed earlier in the evening, but Harry had been intent on making an impression. It seemed pretty clear now that he’d succeeded, whether or not Jack’s outfit had made a difference. Maybe it was just a matter of pride. Vampires did seem awfully fussy about appearances.
Jack wondered if Harry would look down on him for his casual clothing as he walked back to the ballroom with Amber, but as soon as they stepped through the door, Harry turned and caught sight of Jack and his eyes lit up.
Jeff and Glenne were both still in wolf form as Jack wandered over to re-join their group, and both bounded up to him like happy puppies, slobbering all over him in their excitement. But Jack’s goal still lay ahead, so he pushed them aside for now and continued walking. There were whispers from the surrounding vampires, most of whom were in various stages of celebration, but Jack only had eyes for Harry, still bloodied and worn and leaning heavily against the altar from which he’d taken his crown.
“Where’s Taylor?” Jack asked once he reached Harry. She was gone now, along with the rest of her squad.
Harry smiled softly. “Licking her wounds for now,” he replied. “We have the advantage now, but she won’t let things go that easily.”
It was a sobering way to frame their victory, but Jack could tell that underneath the practical façade, Harry was secretly over the moon that they’d won. Jack opened his mouth, intending to congratulate him, but found himself with Harry’s tongue between his teeth instead, right there in front of everyone.
Jack was stunned into silence even after Harry pulled back, thinking that Harry must have gotten caught up in the moment and made a mistake, but then Harry was leaning forward to whisper into his ear, hot and dirty. “I want you so bad right now. Wish you could just bend me over and fuck me right here.”
Harry stepped away with an innocent smile, looking as if he had no idea he’d gotten Jack instantly hard in his borrowed joggers, and then he was gone, disappearing into the crowd to mingle with his newly-acquired royal subjects.
The rest of the coronation party was nothing but a daze for Jack, who couldn’t tell up from down now that Harry had planted a burning seed of desire in his belly. He was practically delirious in the limo on the drive back. He was aware of Jeff and Glenne looking at him askance with concern in their eyes, but he couldn’t muster up a reasonable excuse for what had him in such a tizzy. He suspected they knew anyway.
Jeff was the one to let him into Harry’s house, with specific instructions for how to find Harry’s room inside the heart of the hillside mansion. Jack nodded obediently and was sent off with an encouraging slap on the arse. “Go get ‘em, tiger,” Jeff added with an overexaggerated wink.
Jack opened the door to Harry’s bedroom with tentative fingers, only to find that it was empty. Harry still hadn’t made it back yet. Burying his disappointment, Jack bounced onto the bed, and then after only a few seconds of waiting, smothered himself in Harry’s sheets, desperately trying to inhale any lingering traces of Harry’s scent.
“You know,” Harry’s voice interrupted, causing Jack to freeze with a fistful of Harry’s duvet clutched in his hands, “if you two need a moment, I’d be happy to wait downstairs.”
“No, you wouldn’t,” Jack retorted, rolling over onto his back to find Harry standing in the doorway, his blazer already hanging open to reveal his naked chest, tattoos dark against milky skin.
Jack slid off the bed, watching in a trance as Harry slipped the blazer off his shoulders and let it fall to the floor before hooking his thumbs into the waistband of his tightfitting trousers. Jack was aware that he was practically drooling as he watched Harry get undressed, but he couldn’t have given less of a damn.
Harry stopped suddenly, his trousers halfway down his legs to reveal a pair of white lace panties that Jack really wanted to rip off of him with his teeth. “Why aren’t you getting naked?” he demanded.
That was all it took for Jack to leap toward Harry with a deep growl, rolling both of them onto the mattress as Jack tore at his own clothes as well as the last few remaining scraps of fabric covering Harry’s body.
They kissed furiously, carelessly, with Harry’s fangs nicking Jack’s tongue and spilling his blood into both of their mouths as a consequence. Jack was so wired he didn’t care, and the endorphins from Harry’s saliva coursing into his bloodstream only made him that much more desperate.
Jack frotted against Harry’s stomach until it was slick with pre-come and then slipped into the cradle of his hips instead. He pulled Harry’s knees up around his waist, snubbing the tip of his cock behind Harry’s balls, silently asking for permission.
“Got myself ready in the car,” Harry gasped into his mouth. “Please, fuck, just—”
He didn’t finish the sentence before Jack was pushing into him with a groan. Harry echoed it with a stuttering moan of his own as Jack buried himself to the hilt and then started up a punishing pace without giving Harry a second to catch his breath. Jack knew they would have time to draw this out later, that vampires were famous for their stamina, but right now he needed to come, and he needed to do it inside Harry. Somewhere in the back of him mind, he was convinced that if he didn’t, he would drop dead right there on Harry’s bedroom floor.
Harry seemed to be in a similar mindset, coaxing Jack with his mouth, hands, and feet to fuck into him even harder, until he was nearly screaming with it.
“Fuck,” Harry wailed on a thrust that Jack thought must have punched straight into his prostate on the in-stroke. “Please,” he begged, “can I bite you? I need—”
Jack grabbed at one of Harry’s hands, manoeuvring it into his own hair and forcing Harry to cock his head to the side so that Jack’s throat was exposed.
Jack closed his eyes as Harry sunk his teeth in, feeling Harry convulsing around him as he drank, the warmth spilling between their bodies as he came. Jack forced himself into Harry as deep as he could go and then tried to burrow even deeper, slowing his thrusts so that he could pound into Harry with every bit of force left in his muscles.
Harry’s fangs slipped out of Jack’s skin once he was finished coming, little punched-out ‘ah-ah’s falling from his lips with every brutal thrust.
Jack could feel his own orgasm hurtling toward him like a tidal wave, and when it finally crashed down, he thrust into Harry hard enough that he was worried, distantly, that he might break him. If Harry had been human, Jack wasn’t sure he would have come out of the encounter in one piece.
They stayed curled into each other as Jack softened inside Harry’s body, neither willing to let go and both too tired to move.
“Well, that was good, wannit?” Harry remarked casually, as if Jack hadn’t just fucked his brains out over the course of the last twenty minutes or so.
“Yeah,” Jack mumbled into his chest, nosing instinctively at a nipple and wondering absently if Harry would let him taste. “Great, even.”
“I don’t know if I’d go that far,” Harry replied, but it was obviously a joke. The simple fact that Harry hadn’t kicked Jack out the second he’d gotten an orgasm out of him was testament enough that whatever this was between them could be chalked up to more than just the excitement of the night’s events.
They laid there for a long time after that, neither budging even after Jack’s cock had finally slipped free and Harry’s breathing had returned to its normal, unnaturally slow rhythm. Jack could almost make out a faint heartbeat with his cheek pressed against Harry’s chest like this.
“What you said about Barry,” Jack said finally. “Did you mean that?”
There was a brief pause in which Jack’s breath seized up in his lungs. For a moment, he thought Harry really was about to renege on his promise, and that he would throw Jack back out on the street and they’d never see each other ever again.
But then, Harry opened his mouth, breathing out a quiet, “Yeah,” into Jack’s hair. “It might take some doing,” he said, “but I can arrange to have him looked at by some professionals in Howland. If anyone can fix him, it’ll be them.”
Jack suddenly found himself in the grips of a vision in which his mistakes could be undone. Where Shona got to have her boyfriend back the way he’d been before Jack had ruined all of their lives, healthy and whole. A future where Jack could have his friend back, his life back. A future where Jack could have Harry, just like this, for all foreseeable days and nights. And that was something. That was something he could have now.
“You promise?” Jack asked, finally allowing his eyes to drift closed as the crash from all the adrenaline and sex hormones coursing through his body finally started to take over.
“You have my word.”