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With the Tide

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“Jacob!” Hanna shouted, cutting across the room at a rapid pace, her boot heels a reel of clicks as she and Lukas reached his side. Her earlier deportment; so teeming with veiled rage and violence was so gentle now. Lukas tipped Jacob’s head up as Hanna gathered him in her lap, turning him over in her arms like one might do to a small child. She didn't seem to mind as the blood on his face left a smear down her front.

"Nik!" She barked impatiently and Nik nodded, racing up the steps; the order in her mind clearly implied by circumstance.

Ryan started when Shane’s hand slid up his arm. “You should sit,” he murmured in an undertone. “You’re shaking.”

Ryan nodded, still watching the strange scene unfolding by the stairwell. Hanna said something soft in their language, so quiet he couldn’t make out the speech. She seemed changed by him in her arms and Ryan was shaking, overcome with a vicious guilt about it all. Between how crazy he’d been acting to come all this way, to how he’d inflicted this much pain in one evening to the fact that the steady palm gliding across the small of his back as he was guided toward the high-backed sofa in the center of the room by the fire was comfort he could easily keep eating up. He thought of this thing they kept calling the Ichor; such a different menace than the imagined thrall Shane had worried about enough to leave so abruptly; maybe worse in its own way.

God, but he was thirsty again.

When he dropped into the sofa cushions, holding his hands clasped between his knees, Shane was still beside him, resting an arm on the back of the couch, keeping Ryan tucked in the shield of his body as they both looked toward the three vampires to their left.

"What're they gonna do?" Ryan asked in an undertone.

Shane shook his head, brows curving downward as he stared at Hanna with a curiously concerned expression. "They'd either bring him someone to feed on or they'd call Papa…he's the only one with blood ancient enough to heal him."

Nik emerged from the top landing of steps, rushing down in a graceless stumble. He handed Hanna a metal object. A scalpel?

Ryan stared. "He's...where is he?"

"Not sure," replied Shane mutely. There was a dark look coming over his features as Hanna began to unbutton her jacket, letting Lukas pull at her sleeve so she could shake it off. She accepted the scalpel and in one fluid movement, drew it across the crook of her arm.

In a flash, Shane was sitting upright, his whole frame tense, and Ryan sank back in the sofa but he was rapt on the image of Hanna bending her arm against Jacob, pressing a now open wound spilling blood so dark it was nearly black to his slack mouth.

"What the...fuck, Hanna?" Shane ground out.

Hanna shot him an irritated glance, her mouth curved in a wince when Jacob seemed to come to as he latched on. "You've been gone a long time, Shane," she supplied bitterly before turning to Nik. “Go call the others."

Shane’s voice had risen. "I asked you last night about ancient blood and you lied through your teeth. You said Papa was away. Now, you..."

There was life in Jacob now as he reached up, gripping Hanna's arm as he drank. Lukas looked stricken as he glanced between Hanna and Shane.

"Why wouldn't you tell him?" He asked her softly. "He has as much right to know after all."

Hanna kept her gaze fixed on Jacob pointedly. For all her features seemed cool, Ryan saw the lines of her expression, how very much like Shane's they were, masking a fragility and deep pain with a blank veil.

"Where...are the elders, Hanna?” Shane asked, tone slow and warped with a burgeoning anger, and maybe fear.

“They’re gone, Shane!” she finally burst out, agony in the blazing flecks of her tone. “Over three thousand years on this crumb of an earth, filling up with worldly secrets, sharing so little and it all means nothing. They did it like it was natural. All of them. Even Papa. They had all the answers, but when the turn of the century arrived, they became silent breathing corpses. No one could speak to them, their children begged. I begged. We brought them blood but they’d stopped drinking. They didn’t need to drink; their blood was self-sustaining.”

“What happened to them?” Shane pressed.

"The moon," Hanna replied.

"What?" Shane returned flatly.

“Even I used to laugh at our childhood bedtime stories saying we are born to the cycles of the moon.” Lukas chimed in, getting to his feet a bit gingerly. “Then the moon engorged the tide, and took our Elders with it,”

“Um--once again-- what?” said Shane.

“One night on a full moon ten winters ago, the tide came high; they walked into the ocean,” Lukas explained. He seemed to have warmed to Shane, now that honesty was in the room. “One by one. Like zombies walking down our bay, all of our dead sinking into blue and black water.”

Ryan realised his mouth was hanging open and he shut it, looking from Lukas to Shane. Shane was still frozen, hand in his own lap, staring at the others, his breath coming in slow and shallow.

"That doesn't explain why Hanna has the ancient blood," Shane said at last, gesturing at her. "You don't expect me to believe two hundred years is enough."

As if in reply, Hanna tore Jacob away from her arm with an ease that belied the way Jacob seemed to fight, red-soaked teeth bared and scrambling for a sharp wild moment. His irises spilled black as he seemed to awaken to himself, replaced rather quickly with something quiet and shocked.

"Thankfully, just before they went silent, I got sick,” she finally began. “I drank from a drifter who had poisoned himself stupid with methamphetimine. I was the last to need the ancient blood." She picked herself up, unsteadily taking her jacket from Lukas and slipping into it, pushing her long silver hair back over her collar, not looking at Shane as she buttoned it. "Maybe I took too much, maybe it was meant to pass to me. Either way, I am the last of any of us with the ability to heal."

Ryan had known Shane long enough to know when a story wasn't hitting him quite right. It was in his body language. In the way he simply just relaxed; he sat back against Ryan with his arms folded across his chest and a leg over the other to follow. Everything on him went comfortably still, except his hands. Right on his knee, his fingers began tapping a frenetic and impatient rhythm. "OK, sure," he said quietly in that way of his that used to drive Ryan bonkers. It was Shane's most aggravating response --short of saying 'I don't believe you'-- except now he didn't smile. “So you can heal. Your veins are full of the serum to most of our illnesses with immunity to them too.” He reached over and drummed fingers on Ryan’s knee. “Why don’t you do us a solid and... just heal Ryan?”

The abrupt mention of his name had Ryan’s heart kick back up again. He looked over at Hanna who was staring at Shane with a new sort of wry expression even as her mouth curved into a very pained smile. “So then what? You come home to us, take what you want and then you’re gone for another hundred years…”

“This isn’t my home,” Shane reiterated flatly.

“--and what kills me is that I know you’ll be back too!” Ryan winced when her voice broke; the timbre of it shattering into a half-wail not unlike the moment Jacob was in her arms. She was paler than ever; practically grey. “Your teeth are weak and uncarved. If another vampire attacked you or if you were ever poisoned, it’ll be over for you! You need us!”

“So what do you expect me to do, Hanna?” Shane snapped, finally getting to his feet in a flash, his gestures became more erratic and poignant. “I’m asking for just one thing. One thing only you’ve got and I’ve never asked for anything from any of you. This damn place. Eighty-six years just a mile from the bay underwater--victim of the moon and the tide or whatever new fiction you’re trying to sell--and you expect me to believe you’re saying no to me is all some concern for my well-being?”

“Oh give me a break,” Lukas drawled. “It’s not just yours, you lunatic. It’s ours. The family’s as well. Now that we know you could create--” Ryan got another gesture his way--” more like him? What makes you think Hanna is obligated to just give you the blood only to let you galavant off into the world with our bloodline mixed with your recklessness; your lack of reverence for where you’ve come from. You’d sooner destroy what we hold precious than die by a victim on heroin.”

Ryan was suddenly windswept by a dizzying fragrance. Something crisp and gently sweet. It was like walking by a bakery; his eyes slid shut as he inhaled it. It was distracting enough that he didn’t notice Shane stepping closer to the others.

“If I thought she was obligated, I wouldn’t ask so nicely,” Shane replied through his teeth. “However ignorant you think I might be, I do know that the ancient blood is a promise from the elders at least. A promise in Hanna’s hands, but in the end, it’s a birthright to me just as much as it is to you.” Shane paused; he glanced at Ryan, a really quiet and sudden glance, then he did an even stranger thing and lifted his head appearing to address the ceiling. “As much as all of you.”

Ryan followed his gaze and he sucked in a razing cold breath. Nik had come back from his small errand once again and now the upper landing from the top of the stairwell to around the edges behind Ryan, stood at least thirty others. Different ages. Sizes. The rest of the family. Vampires. They had entered so quiet, and so naturally to be waiting spectators of whatever Shane had to say. Jacob, too, had recovered it seemed because Ryan caught his eye as he dropped his gaze from their audience; he looked alight with excitement, drinking in Ryan’s reaction. Ryan was alight with the source of the scent, however; even as fear curdled in his middle, he felt euphoric. His pulse beat faster in his ears as a strange sense of swelling yearning coiled into his stomach. His mouth was watering with it.

Buffet was the word that came to mind, which was suddenly much more terrifying.

“Fine,” Hanna breathed, folding her arms as she began to pace the bottom of the steps with a slow practiced gait. “You want your birthright, and I see no reason to deny that. But, Shane, we’re all aware of the circumstances of your exile. You relinquished your birthright when you disobeyed Papa’s orders. We have to adhere to the laws… “

Shane’s shoulders slumped. “The laws… ” he said helplessly, disbelief and defeat in the rust of his voice.

Ryan got to his feet; he felt every set of eyes in the room zero in on him, crossing the safety of the sofa to stand next to Shane. He felt sick again, practically shivering from a renewed spiked fever, hunger in all his senses like a repetitive stab in his gut and an inane knowledge that it was this or death. He didn’t care for any of it, really, but it felt good to set a grip on Shane’s wrist, watch the terrible pain in his eyes boil when he looked down at him, swell into Ryan’s favourite kind of resolve.

“I’m sorry,” Shane said. He barely got it out; his words were tight in his throat, trapped by a mess of regrets and frustrations. Like a balled up sock of screams.

“Listen,” Ryan told him in an undertone, knowing the whole room was all ears. “You shouldn’t have had to go through this for me; they’re not worth all this time. I’d rather just be spending it with you. We can figure this out without them.”

“That is to say, it’s not as if a birthright can’t be earned back,” Hanna continued as if Ryan hadn’t done or said anything. “That’s my point. We have all lived the long years in this house, learning the old secrets, understanding what is and what isn’t done. Shane, you were robbed of that, but what if we could give it all back?”

Shane didn’t look away from Ryan. Ryan shook his head at him. This was all another layer of bullshit. His head was starting to hurt as the scent flooded around him, went acidic in the air. Fear? Whose? This wasn’t fair to Shane in any way. Shane grimaced. “What do you mean?” he finally asked, looking up at her again.

“She means she wants you to come home, Shane,” Jacob finally said impatiently, then at Hanna’s furious expression, he went on. “Look, we can play mind games all fuckin’ morning, but at the end of the day, sea critter that he’s become, he’s all that’s left of the old days. I don’t care either way to be honest, but I’m sick of listening to this dumb episode of People’s Court. I got shit to do, you know?”

“More delicately put,” supplied Lukas with a deep sigh. “I wouldn’t trust you with your birthrights, especially now we have some of the young ones here to see you. We have to set an example.”

Shane’s wrist slipped out of Ryan’s grip, but only for a moment as he grabbed his hand, interlocking their fingers. It was seamless and sure. As if they had done it all the time. Ryan felt himself unconsciously tugging on Shane’s hand, stepping backward. He wanted to go. The infection be damned; they’d work around it maybe. As tight as his hand was in Shane’s, he felt him slipping away and that was agony, more so than the trickling burn he felt when he turned his head to the smell of the vampires up above them. What was happening to him?

“I have my life in L.A.” Shane stated firmly. “Ryan has a life there too; his family. We have friends, work we’re doing together.”

Hanna didn’t reply. Her black eyes finally dropped like a temperature degree directly on Ryan. Her expression of weary pleading crossed with a strange anxiety made Ryan balk a little. It was worse than if she had kept her fury; if she had kept looking disdain at him. Hers was a wistful speaking look. “They want me to go,” Ryan said slowly, horror as the realisation dawned. “This is...this is a trade. She heals me, and I leave you…”

Jacob’s eyebrows raised and his mouth opened, but he said nothing as he dropped his gaze. Lukas simply watched Shane with a guarded impatience.

“He has maybe a day left,” Hanna said softly; a deliberate and new sympathy in her tone. “The venom will go to his brain and rot him from the inside with thirst and then if he drinks, he’ll kill. Every one of your brothers and sisters; your cousins in this room is in danger because the venom drinks enough to drown its human host. It calls for a massacre.”

“No,” said Shane.

Then Ryan could really see it. In the back of his mind’s eye, he’d been mentally glossing over the room, wondering vaguely at the fragrance that had been coaxing him. Now it was as palpable as the touch of Shane’s palm against his. The vision of Nik’s spilling blood on his fingers, still a dusty stain he could smell. Only fresher, brighter; more delicious. Some of them were young, had to be; breakable and terrified like they knew a wolf had come in the room. Why could it be so simple? Ryan was salivating at the thought.

“No,” Shane said again and Ryan bit his own tongue, wishing he could throw the venom right up. “This isn’t a deal; it’s fucking blackmail. I’m not interested--” He tightened his grip on Ryan’s hand, and he began to walk. Ryan felt a blessed relief to be heading for the doors. He wasn’t going to kill anyone. “You were right,” Shane was muttering at him. “God, you were right; this is bullshit. Let’s just--you and me will fix it--”

The sound of over thirty sets of feet on the steps sounded like a roar and it happened all at once. Shane didn’t let a second pass. Ryan felt his side connect with the doors and he braced himself when Shane all of a sudden seemed, if at all possible, taller; bigger. He had unearthed the knife from earlier. It really was what Ryan imagined silver would look on a blade as Shane spread his arms, forming a shield between Ryan and the room just as the entirety of the gathering converged on the steps, every set of eyes wide with a ready threat.

“Shane,” Lukas said with mounting exasperation. “You are really so unfortunately stupid.”

Jacob had moved, but he wasn’t in any form of offence. Rather, he was guiding Hanna to sit down in the sofa where Ryan had been only moments before. She looked wilted. When he looked over at Ryan, though, he shrugged and grimaced as if he’d just watched Ryan make a bad bet at a roulette table. “Sucks, my guy,” he said. “They’re never gonna let you walk outta here with him.”

Shane’s growl was pronounced, low. Ryan felt it in his middle, like his veins were singing in offkey harmony to it.

Hanna spoke, but it was lazily, sullen and completely spent. “This could be a lot simpler. You could fight today, get away within an inch of your lives, but we know where you’d go now, Shane. You’d be running forever.”

“So we’ll run forever,” Shane replied with more ferocity in his voice than ever before. “And you’ll just be keeping a permanent flow of new blood for him to drink until I can find blood ancient enough to heal him.”

Lukas scoffed an immediate invective. A curse in their language so vehement, his next words seemed gentle in comparison. “Don’t you even get it yet? Surely, you have to have realised. He has family and friends and life in L.A., you said? Do you think it would stop with just you two?”

Hanna sighed, raising her wrist to her forehead. “Think of the amount of bloodshed we’d have to execute just to put things back into balance here.”

Jacob patted her hand, and Ryan thought of his mom, Jake, his dad. His stomach twisted. He was furious and suddenly it wasn’t Shane shielding him, but actively blocking him from leaping over his arm. He just needed to get his hands on one of them, one; so they’d see just what he’d do to any of them if they so much as thought of his family like that.

“I swear to god!” he shouted, already frantic. How would he warn his them? Get them out of the country? “You even fucking dare--” There were damn tears in his eyes.

Shane stayed him all the same, fighting him hard, arms now around his middle. “They won’t, Ryan. They won’t!” he insisted, agony in his breath. “I’ll make sure they won’t.”

Ryan went still; he stopped fighting Shane. The vampires had come closer, but Ryan was bent double with Shane wrapped around him and he just felt a weak sort of despair as the truth settled in, practically melted to the frank resolution in Shane’s voice as he said, “Hanna, I’ll stay. I’m here now. But you would have to swear it. You’ll give him the blood and never hurt him or anyone he knows. You and everyone else leaves him alone. Forever.”

Hanna’s now limpid black eyes swept the room; they all watched her for a command clearly. Finally, with a soft relieved smile, she nodded. “I accept. Once he has been given the ancient blood, he is free to go where he pleases, but he must go.”

Ryan was pulled apart, a perfect threadbare remnant of the self he’d been only seconds before. Shane loosened his hold on him but kept an arm on his shoulders. He would later remember Shane pressing his face into his hair for a moment, resting a contemplation to the side of Ryan’s head accompanied with a sigh. It was different now. When it would have been just them. A strange attitude of an old promise. Package deal. Them against the world. The ghoul boys. What a faint promise that all was now. They’d threatened his family and what they didn’t realise was that Shane was a part of that.

Ryan swallowed a bitter tirade rising up out of his mouth, to tell them that they were the parasites, coming into existence, ripping everything from him because they couldn’t just take his life. They had to break him off in two here.

It had to be Shane somehow. Had to be him. It was a cowardly thought; just in passing and he hated it when it crossed but it was still in flagrant hungry words. I wish they had killed me.

“I’m too weak. Jacob’s injuries were too deep, too much old magic used. I need…” Here Hanna sat up delicately. She was such a pale shadow of who she’d been when she burst out those doors just an hour before. “I need to rest. Nik, see that they are comfortable--Lukas, one of the suites maybe. I’ll call for you when I’ve restored enough for him to drink.”

The mass of vampires were beginning to disperse, some remained to gawk at Ryan or to make quiet whispering conversation behind their hands. Some walked right out the room as if they’d been busy with other things prior and had only interrupted their day to come by. A select few had come over to Hanna, taking her arms and helping her totter toward the steps. It was eerie in its own way because every one of them gave Ryan a wide berth.

They were afraid of him.

Shane still hadn’t let go of him when Lukas cocked his head to indicate they follow them upstairs.

 

 

 

 

 

It felt like he had lost track of time The open second-level landing was a lot brighter than it seemed from below. The wall hangings and landscape paintings were colourful, showing the seaside and what appeared to be one large framed oil painting of a forest with warped trees, most of them shaped like a ‘J’. Ryan took this in as he kept in step with Shane along the interior balcony past a smattering of different vampires watching them pass.

On the opposite side of the landing, Hanna was just closing the doors behind her as Jacob and a few others walked away. As her doors swung shut, she happened to look right at Ryan with the most imperceptible stare. Ryan stared back, puzzling a little that perhaps it was the distance across the mezzanine that made her look so ghostly with her skin as pale and ashy as her hair, but in that moment Ryan had never been more terrified of her.

Ryan had no way of relaying to Shane what he’d seen as Shane was well-distracted by another vampire rushing at a speed walk past him toward Lukas, handing him a cloth-covered bundle. Lukas had led them to a room door facing the back of the hotel as he unearthed a set of keys.

“The courtyard suite, huh?” Shane remarked dryly. “You spoil me.”

“Consider it my one and only homecoming gift to you, Shane,” Lukas drawled back. “And it isn’t permanent obviously.”

Ryan ambled in first, taking in the mint green brocade wallpaper and black wrought-iron covered windows looking out at a wide courtyard spilling into a stony rock path towards the ocean. A twin bed with a deep brown duvet was propped against the wall with a matching wrought-iron headboard. The room was situated like a hexagon because at least one side of the room towards the bay windows was blocked off by a sliding door opened to a small ensuite with a clawfoot tub shower under bordeaux paisley walls. Ryan barely got a glimpse of the clearly sloppy tile before he noticed Shane standing stolidly in the doorway as if to block Lukas from coming in any further. Lukas very clearly noticed.

“I’ll come for you specifically when Hanna is ready for him,” he said sternly, looking up at Shane with a severe threat. “I’ll have Melanie watching nearby… in case there’s anything you need before then.”

“We probably won’t be needing anything, thank you,” Shane returned curtly with one of his rare mean smiles.

“Then you’ll have no reason to leave this room,” Lukas shot back, shoving the cloth bundle at Shane’s chest as if waiting for the chance. “Here. A change of clothes for your guest so he doesn’t have to sit around covered in the blood of our family.”

“Sure,” Shane said, dropping it on the floor beside him. “If I think of any reason though, I do know my way around.”

Lukas opened his mouth, but Shane was clearly done being polite. He set a palm on Lukas’ chest practically throwing him backward with a sharp shove and he shut the door, throwing the latch closed in the process.

Ryan watched him and didn’t say a word, almost suddenly unprepared for the idea that for the first time since he had fingers clenched into Shane’s clothes, holding him close, speaking hotly over his mouth what seemed forever ago, they were really and truly alone together. He had literally no clue what to say.

Shane didn’t turn around. He lifted a hand and rested it with ease on the wall beside the door. Ryan felt a heady weight settle in the room.

“I know exactly what you’re going to say,” Shane spoke into their silence, still facing the door.

“Y-” Ryan cleared his throat, not liking the raw choke in his voice. “You do, huh?”

“Mhm.”

“Enlighten me, then.”

Shane twisted, dropping his arm and all the frightening energy, sharp edges and defensive lines on him had fallen with it. His mouth quirked up; an entreaty in his eyes. “You’re gonna tell me Hotel Transylvania was derivative at best, and I gotta say, you’re right.”

“Ff—” Ryan tried to speak, but he broke instead, wheezing out a harsh laugh as it all crumbled inside him. Shane was smiling for real now, watching as Ryan dropped to sit on the bed, hand over his face. Part of his laughter was beginning to feel like hysteria but he didn’t care; it felt good to do something so real, so concrete as laugh at something dumb Shane said, even as he felt the lump in his throat untwist because he was starting to sob...

Hearing the change in Ryan's laugh, there was the metal clatter of Shane setting down the strange blade he’d pulled on Hanna before he crossed the room and perched on the beige chintz ottoman sitting opposite the bed. Silently, he reached out and put a hand on Ryan’s knee, squeezing but saying nothing else. The wide window behind pushed a beautiful glare on his features and when Ryan looked up at him through his tears, he thought of how horrible it was that Shane had said something as faultless and wonderful as So we’ll run forever with such a certainty he was never going to forget it.

Ryan pushed at his tears with the back of his wrist. “So what, we kill ‘em all, throw Lukas in the ocean, then we go home and never look back?”

Shane’s smile twitched, and his thumb pressed over Ryan’s knee, a soothing pressure. “Not before we burn it down first, every stick of history in this place. Then we go home.”

They sat quiet for too long after he said that, mulling in truths and affections Ryan didn’t think he could bear putting words to. "What if…" he started to say, but he swallowed it. Concessions right now only made it hurt more.

Shane watched the floor, his mouth screwed into an unhappy shape. The only thing on him moving was his thumb sweeping up and down the inside of Ryan’s knee, stroking a tentative groove into the muscle there.

Moments ticked by and a wave of sickness swooped through Ryan at a tormenting ebb and flow. His eyes were finally dry, but he was dizzy when he sighed one more time; a long volcanic breath, right out from under his ribs. Shane muttered something under his breath.

“What?”

“I said, I think this is better. It’s not the best, but it’s—”

“Stop that,” Ryan interrupted dully, shutting his eyes. He shook Shane’s hand off his knee. He didn’t want to hear another word from him if this was what it was going to be. Shane being palliative and soft-spoken with him was worse than if he’d let Hanna snap his neck. “You don’t have to say any of that.”

“I’m just saying—”

“Well, I can’t handle you saying it!” Ryan snapped. “I know you’re thinking in that big head of yours that you deserve this, for biting me, for everything that happened but it’s like I said to you before you took off and I had to chase you back here, I wanted this just as much, wanted you— it’s on both of us, OK? God, I don’t want to leave you here with these people, Shane.”

Shane’s eyes dropped, melting brown and growing sadder by the second. “If it meant you were safe, and that your family was safe. All of our friends; everybody.” He glanced up, and there was the bloom of it, the hunger he would sometimes brand Ryan with, flooding his expression. “I would endure a whole lot for you, and that means more than how I feel.”

“Fuck, Shane…”

“Just, c’mere, will ya?” He leant forward then and did something that alarmed them both a little, hooking his fingers around Ryan’s waist and dragging him to the end of the bed so they were closer. Ryan’s legs were between Shane’s and he felt positively dwarfed as he rested his wrist on Shane’s shoulder to balance himself. Shane’s palms slid down his thighs, near contemplatively.

“I’m here,” Ryan said, his next inhale flooding back at him the most wondrous fragrance of Shane, of the coldest part of the sea; Ryan slipped his hands from Shane’s collar to rest on his jaw, grazing the rough patches of his stubble. “I’m here.”

“The real kicker is I’m glad you followed me,” breathed Shane, bending his head forward against the top of Ryan’s, his forehead pushing at Ryan’s fringe as he sighed again. “You see the thing is I miss you already--missed you the moment I walked away, and I don’t know if I— ” he said quickly, a little desperately like he was afraid the words would fall apart before they were out of his mouth.

Ryan uttered a frustrated sound; was embarrassed at the sound of it. “I know, I know. Me too,” he replied gruffly. He pulled Shane closer, grabbed relief when their lips touched, pausing as the thirst roared up, spilling cold right over the back of his tongue. Shane’s hands slid further up his thighs as their kiss was held in what felt like suspended motion while Ryan fought furiously not to scrape his teeth hard into Shane’s gorgeous skin and lap up whatever he gave.

“What’s wrong?” Shane whispered at Ryan’s pause.

Ryan swallowed. Shane was so close; he could taste the blood in the damp of his memory. “Shane, I’m— if you actually knew what this was doing to me. It’s bad...”

“What’s bad?”

“The—” He didn’t want to name it. The Ichor or whatever they called it. It sat weird in his mouth, the way the word ‘Cancer’ might. Terminal and distressing. He should feel weak and sick with it; paralyzed with pain but the reality of this warped energized hungry feeling was so wrapped up in his feelings for Shane right then, he couldn’t imagine wanting Shane without the thirst right there with it. He wanted everything about Shane. “I’m going full reverse-vampire here, man,” he admitted weakly.

“Reverse vamp--christ--that’s the funniest…” Shane replied, the rake of his laugh as warm as his thumbs tracing inviting, kneading patterns along the muscles of Ryan’s thighs — thus far, the most ambitious Shane had been with touching him. He glided a feathery laughing kiss up the underside of Ryan’s lip. “Believe me, I know. It’s OK, Ryan.”

“I kissed Jacob.” The words dropped out of his mouth before he could stop them; the soothing contrast of Shane touching him; being with him. Knowing so devastatingly well in that moment that he was fucked because he didn’t think he could want anyone else ever again.

Shane’s laugh was deeper this time, incredulous. “Wh...whaat?” He breathed, shoulders shaking.

“I was tryin’ to...I needed to find a vampire, make him bite me to be sure--”

“You turned his face into a kebab.” Shane was still smiling. "Was he that bad a kisser?"

"Still went better than our first kiss," Ryan laughed amicably. "At least he had a good reason to run out on me."

"Hey," Shane said, a sudden fervid growl coming out his chest. "Be nice to me right now. I just learned you copped off with who I'm pretty sure is my second cousin."

That made Ryan snort, breaking into a louder spate of incredulous laughter. "I really don't want to navigate your family tree like that."

Shane bumped their foreheads together albeit gently as his eyes dropped, softening the blow of his silence effectively.

Ryan frowned all the same. "So you're not upset?"

Shane's hands on his thighs did a faint clench just enough to make Ryan suck in a startled breath. "Well, he's never had you like I have."

The shudder that racked his spine at those words was more than erotic; it sizzled in his veins. A wistful little chill. "No," he replied, his voice shaken right out him, turned him to a whisper. “He tried…”

He felt Shane's smile, gratified, smug, oddly predatory. “But you were mine first.”

Ryan moved his mouth the tiniest amount, leaning into a soft and savoring kiss, shivering when Shane let his fangs skim his upper lip, catching him with the sharp side of his incisors. Ryan pressed in, eyes closed, feeling the fissured, focused pain. Even if it was killing him, Shane’s venom had marked him completely and he wanted more. Maybe if he pressed hard enough, Shane might let him…

Shane's hands slipped upward, palms circling his hips, blunt fingernails grazing up under Ryan's T-shirt. He grunted in pain when Ryan bit down. Ryan hissed; couldn’t stop it. His teeth were too blunt; he’d have to make a messy bite, only take a layer of skin, droplets like his first taste. It wasn’t enough. Ryan growled frustration turning into a soft breathless whine when Shane's whole body responded. He could feel Shane’s fingers dig deep in his skin, blunt sweaty lines as he trembled.

“F-fuck,” Shane swore, biting off his groan and panting against Ryan’s lips.

Ryan’s fingers traced up the stubble on Shane’s chin, his vision felt glazed, groggy before he touched at the tender bruise he’d left on Shane’s lower lip, dragging his thumb nail across it, watching a faint watercolour vision of the red blood blooming from pink. “Give it to me?” he whispered unthinkingly. His voice was not his own; there was a shaking violence in his muscles, writhing up his spine, making him want to scratch, bite and claw.

Shane shook his head like he was trying to clear it, brown eyes cloudy with hunger and Ryan absolutely loved that.

“Please?” he whispered again. Oh, he was so close. The smell was making him salivate; he could feel it cooling in his mouth. He was going to bite Shane again in a second, making him curve like that, bleed his terror right into Ryan’s lungs...

“Would you get mad if I said you make a better vampire than I do?”

His calm sardonic voice shook Ryan right out of it for a brief second. Shane smiled at him, eyebrows curved upward in the sweetest expression and Ryan was wrecked for how much he loved him. “Only because that’d make you a liar,” he retorted, half-joking. “To get your teeth in me all you had to do was show up. I’m here and I gotta fuckin’ beg...”

His voice faltered because Shane was still laughing at him, low and beautiful but abruptly he rose from the edge of the chair, and leaned down over Ryan in one fluid motion. He wasn’t sure what Shane was doing but he drew back in awe as Shane’s right serrated and curved fang dug deep into the flesh of his own tongue before suddenly he was descending on Ryan, lips parted. All it took was one tiny drop and Ryan felt his skin erupt in gooseflesh. It was just elation as the heat of it slid down the back of his tongue. It was more than thirst. It was like a day without eating, an overwhelming nausea. When he opened his eyes, there were black spots swimming around his vision. Shane was bleeding into his open mouth and Ryan’s hand shot up, grabbed him about the jaw to hold him still--there above him--perfect while he swallowed the long thick droplets down his throat.

He moaned as his heart started to hammer in his ears and his veins came alive. The bed sunk under them and Ryan got lost, unable to fathom letting go or living anywhere outside this moment. He could feel his mouth filling up and all at once like this--the taste was like earth--what had him reeling was the sharp tang of spiced salt, coppery and infatuating. Ryan slipped fingers into Shane’s hair, grabbed a handful of tendrils soft and pliant, dragged Shane deeper into his mouth, sucking a fantastic pressure into his tongue.

It hit like sensory memory as if he were just dreaming again. Stuck in the clouds of comfort, touching parts of Shane he’d been wanting to, unguarded in broad daylight with black-patterened shadows sliding up his arms as the trees outside in the courtyard wavered a soft sea breeze. This was deja vu though; the touch of Shane’s breath and Ryan holding him by the throat, stroking the comfort of his living pulse as blood smeared his lips, coated his tongue. He saw the dream just like it had been, except his hand was clenched around a knife, not unlike the one now laying on the dresser in the corner. His hands were soaked with Shane’s blood as he pressed the blade deeper and deeper. He could feel real Shane, his Shane, weakening against him, falling apart and dropping his weight back and Ryan kept drinking the flood, swallow after swallow as Shane began to feel like a limp doll.

It was like a flashbulb memory when he dared to open his eyes. Blue-bruised eyelids, transparent under the eyes. A picture from just months ago when Ryan, frustrated out of his mind at the thought that his best friend was suffering and hadn’t told him…

It wasn’t fair; wasn’t fair for Shane to have just rolled along into his life, to have made Ryan care what happened to him…

I don’t wanna do it anymore... It’s the fight I can’t deal with anymore, Ryan.

The twist in his gut broke him open, made the thirst in him and the taste of Shane’s blood like ashes and dirt. Ryan didn’t mean to shove so hard but he twisted away and staggered to his feet, practically throwing himself into the opposite wall. He knocked into a small table and had to catch a few porcelain figures clumsily righting them but they rolled back and off the table, shattering on impact.

Shane had fallen back against the chair, dazed, heaving and looking light-headed with his mouth stained a gorgeous red. He looked weakened, but not brokenly ill. Ryan was gaping fear at the fact that he’d anticipated it in his mind; the last drop until death...

Ryan shut his eyes; shut off his mind for a second. A proper reboot between heavy inhales and long exhales. Had to flush it out. The thirst couldn't matter, the blood was nothing. What mattered was Shane.

"I realise I asked you for it, but… I could’ve killed you--" he started and Shane buried his face in his hands at whatever he saw in Ryan's expression.

"I'm sorry. I'm-- I keep thinking how these could be our last moments together. I don't know what I was gonna do…" He spoke softly into his palms, pressing them to his eyes like he was trying to push the thoughts, the grief back in. “I don’t know what I thought I could give you by letting you drink me dry..."

Ryan stared at him, still clutching the edge of the table where all the figures had fallen off. He stared at the image Shane made, less out of a dream and much more present and alive for him. Not dead. Still here.

Still on this earth.

“You know what? “ he said finally. “I think I was doing the same thing to you. I kept hoping so badly that my blood would help you get better; that if I kept it up long enough you'd start seeing why I was so angry at you for giving up in the first place,” Ryan found himself murmuring, out of breath; his every nerve thrumming with the phantoms of Shane’s hands on him, the taste of him.

Shane still wouldn’t look at him. “God, I really fucked this up,” he mumbled into his palms.

“And you still don’t even realise it. I...care about you! You are so much more than whatever science did to make what you are a real thing. And now I get to see what it's like to feel like you; for there to be just one single mindless thing I gotta have and what I want to do to have it but that's what's so amazing about this experience, bloody and gross as it is…"

Ryan paused and waited for Shane to look up at him again, cloyed out by Ryan's silence. He did, and he looked like he was drowning. It fed Ryan a furor to say at last.

"... you wanted to show it to me and now I'm here with you and I see you and I think all of what you are, fangs, skepticism and all, is beautiful. And I need you to make it; you have to make it, you got me? Because for all of the monsters lurking outside that door right now with all their myths and stories about zombie vampires skipping into the sea, they will never be as miraculous to me as you are."

Shane shook out a breath, a small crumpled exhale and his eyes were glassy as he pursed his lips and nodded.

Ryan scrubbed his hand through his hair before wiping his mouth with the back of his hand reflexively. “I need a shower... and a nap.” He pointed at the discarded cloth bundle on the floor by the door. “Are those clothes for me?”

Shane got up, shaking off his jacket. “Yeah, they’re for you. It’s...uh, been a long night. I’m sure Hanna won’t call until she’s slept and fed, that is if the ancient blood requires feeding,” he rambled. “Maybe every time she bullshits, her blood gets stronger.”

Ryan snorted, walking toward the ensuite with what had turned out to be a pair of plain outdated jeans and a red Hawaiian shirt. He was already feeling normal albeit a little dizzy and the nausea was climbing him again, but he didn’t feel like a slippery beast in him was conniving up ways to kill whoever was in the same room as him. He pulled off his bloody shirt before the thought occurred to him. He turned to look at Shane who was standing in that way of his when he wanted to pace, but was holding himself still so as to appear less pensive. Hands on his hips, a towering scruffy figure staring indecisively at the myriad story of furniture around him, lifted out of the 1930’s.

This could have been them on location, cameras and lights propped around the room, Ryan getting ready for bed while Shane got comfortable in bed in his long johns and loose shirts. Odd how it felt almost comforting to think of it like that, as if Ryan might lie down and curl up in those sheets, knowing that first thing they’d pack up and go home together.

“Hey,” Ryan said from the doorway.

Shane turned. His hair was a total mess where Ryan had grabbed it earlier; he looked as tired as Ryan felt.

“You know before I found out you were a vampire, I used to think you were full of shit.”

Shane looked bemused, his shoulders lifting in a semi-shrug.

“Now,” Ryan went on, “I think you might be the only vampire I’ve met who isn’t full of shit.”

Shane’s brow quirked; a richer beatific smile creating itself on the right side of his mouth. “You’ve met like four. The others you looked at, to say the least.”

Ryan grinned at him, wanted him to know he meant it. He didn’t compliment Shane enough; he could see it in the perfectly surprised way Shane looked at him right then. “Yeah, but then again, “ he continued, trying not to blush or look away. "Maybe it’s the part of you that doesn’t buy into superstition. You’ve always taken the mystery and hysteria out of the things that scare me the most…and maybe you're the reason why I don't feel scared right now. Not for us anyway.”

Shane’s expression became deeply enigmatic, a soft mystified smile still in place as Ryan, cheeks hot and probably flushed, closed the door behind himself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was dark when he opened his eyes again.

Shane must never switched on the lights. Ryan didn’t move. He was warm and while he still felt weak and a little light-headed, he was no longer fighting off nausea and the black circles in his vision were gone. He chalked it up to the possibility that most of the nausea from before had been from being up all night.

He was being held tightly to Shane’s chest. Shane’s one arm was under his head, a firm pressure of a pillow and the other was draped loosely over his hip, fingers curled in a fist against Ryan’s middle.

For all the new boundaries they’d had to navigate across these past months, this felt the strangest. Not exactly because it was different, but because Ryan felt an immediate sense that they’d perhaps done this before. Like maybe some morning or another-- once side by side in a dusty bed-- they’d fallen together like this.

Then Shane moved, one knee coming forward to touch the side of his and Ryan went stiff, aware too quickly of how he’d tapped out earlier; too drained and fatigued to fully register the grief of what was coming. Of the fact that he’d come so close to killing Shane.

It seemed bizarrely simple in the dark as Ryan groggily twisted around to look at Shane. Even if Shane was just there for comfort, Ryan wanted to look at him. Shane immediately responded to him; he shifted out of their now stiff position with an oddly shaky maneuver like he’d lost the use of his arm.

“Oh jesus, how long did I sleep…” he started to say, but his words died in his mouth when he realised Shane had grabbed the headboard to very gingerly roll Ryan underneath him, pinning him with the cage of his legs and one arm by his head.

Ryan blinked up at the sight he made crouched over him. Something had changed.

A quick almost-smile quirked up the corners of Shane’s lips; wide dark eyes burnt into Ryan’s. Just Desire; it focused on Ryan with an intensity that made him so sharply aware of the both of them, every point of contact they were making and the still unfamiliarity of lying under him, no blood between them, just Shane staring through sharp shadows under the lamps of the hotel courtyard from the window.

Ryan stared back, tried with a vicious masochism to read Shane’s expression, looking for any sign that he didn’t want this as bad as he did.

The expression on Shane’s face cast in shadow was jarring. It reminded Ryan of the first time he’d asked Shane if it was blood he needed. This time it couldn’t be blood. He couldn’t drink from Ryan anymore so...? It looked like he was starved for this, starved for just Ryan.

“Oh,” was all he said, now fully awake.

He rose up on his elbows, lifted his head, stomach clenching under Shane’s thighs and his lips closed over Shane’s before parting again, inviting Shane’s teeth to scrape along his lip, a deep threatening press like the vivacious horror of his favourite dream.

It could really have been a fever dream. The way Shane then drew slow hands down Ryan's chest and pushed him back down against the mattress; the way it made Ryan draw in a sharp, unsteady breath. They were still again as Ryan didn’t move under Shane’s palms. It felt like Shane was paused right at his ribs, waiting to feel Ryan’s chest expand underneath his spread fingers. Nothing had ever been that intimate; there was something in that, as if he could hear and feel something in Ryan when he breathed, and he was savouring the sound or the sensation of something that simple. Just breath.

“You’ve given me a lot to think about,” Shane told him almost conversationally, whispered but calm.

Ryan was all thoughts right now, mind racing over the feeling of Shane just touching, being there. Being everything Ryan had doubled down on dreaming of since he’d found out that this would be it for them. He let Shane kiss him again, but this time he drew his tongue over Shane’s bottom lip, waited for Shane’s and he trembled a little when they made contact--wet and tasting, now so familiar. He closed his lips over Shane’s tongue and sucked, achingly aware of the startling rhythm of Shane’s pulse under his hands compared to how it had felt earlier.

Shane broke away, exhaling sweet smelling over Ryan as he tried to breathe through his words. “...I swear I don’t have a real plan. Not about what we gotta do or not do or what will happen or how. It's more about my family than anything and--just hear me out-- and it’s got me thinking and thinking about you…about us...” Shane’s voice broke as he curved his hands down over Ryan's sides and swept his thumbs along his ribs.

For some reason that was what did it. Ryan stretched under him, wanted to feel the entire length of Shane on him, every inch and he moved to let him know. “For god’s sake, Shane,” he practically whined. “We don’t have to talk about it right now.”

“I’m--I’m just saying all this because …after what you said this morning, I feel like there’s more I could do, but I don’t want to go into this without— if this is our last hour together...I don’t know if you want...”

“I want. I want so much and you’re talking about all this other shit at the same time; I’m so confused. You’re making me crazy, dude.”

Shane laughed at him, a broken sound. Pained. And Ryan felt it in his core. In a jagged cramped place under his ribcage.

“I’m talking about how I wanna take a gamble tonight, but for now, I just want this--in case I’m wrong; in case things don’t go our way…”

That sounded like hope in Shane’s voice. Ryan swallowed, and the movement appeared to draw Shane's eye. He didn’t hesitate anymore, didn’t appear to think before he bent down to the hollow at the base of Ryan's throat – the scrape of his tongue was different this time, not clinical or careful; not caressing edges of a wound he’d made but tasting and licking up the hammering pulse Ryan could already hear in his own ears. He then shifted, slid down to set his teeth around one of Ryan's nipples, teased it with the tip of his tongue.

Then he bit down. Gently. Gentle enough that Ryan couldn’t stop himself; the tiniest gasp, a breath of a "yes" and his body responded in a reflexive and sharp arch up into Shane. That changed everything.

Somehow Shane managed to gather Ryan’s wrists in his hands and he dragged them up, pushed them into the pillows next to Ryan's head. Whatever that was, whatever it did had Ryan thinking wild crazy thoughts like whatever Shane asked him for right then, Ryan was going to give it to him until it hurt. His mouth opened easily to Shane’s and then Shane was molded to Ryan. Ryan got lost in Shane’s mouth and the feeling of his body, all lithe suppleness and yielding heat. Shane's clothed erection pressed against his and the odd roughness of Ryan sweats; and when he thrusted against Ryan, the layers of fabric between them did absolutely nothing to numb the pleasure that speared right through him, skewering him with need.

"Wrap your legs around me," Shane ordered, hoarse.

Ryan complied before he'd even finished speaking. He could only just feel his own ankles digging into the small of Shane’s back; when he thrusted again, Ryan felt his thighs tighten of their own volition and his body rose off the mattress, pushing into Shane.

“The amount of clothes you’re wearing… ” Ryan said, certain the words had jumbled when he spoke them. “... really starting to piss me off.” He was already twisting his lower half, slipping out of Shane’s grip on his wrists so he could reach down to Shane’s belt buckle, tug it open as Shane’s palms spanned the line of his arms, stroking up his biceps in a way like he’d been waiting to touch them.

"I thought you should know that every morning I get up and put on clothes just to piss you off,” Shane whispered, smile in his voice.

“Fucking knew it,” Ryan replied, unable to keep from cackling. He kicked at Shane’s jeans, a little overwhelmed suddenly at how the touch of Shane’s naked thighs felt against his calves and his laugh died a little in his throat when he began to pull Shane’s shirt over his head. He was so real, so open and present with him and Ryan wanted to touch every inch of him.

“There, no clothes… ” Shane murmured, setting hands at Ryan’s waistband. “Now do me a favour?”

“Uh huh,” was the only sound he could make as he felt Shane pull at his sweats and boxer briefs. He barely shook them off, couldn’t even let Shane go to pull them off his right ankle because he needed to have more of him, touch him more, get closer; they weren’t close enough, nowhere near. Nowhere near, so he locked his free arm around Shane’s neck and pulled. They rolled and Ryan sat right down on him, spread his thighs and shivered when Shane's erection slid up the skin of his ass. It jolted him to a reality of what was happening between them, the size of it and the raw touch of the head along his crease was real and he couldn’t believe he wanted that. Shane’s fingers on his ribs crushed in and Ryan almost choked on the sound that spilled out of his throat. Hard muscle and friction and pressure, and the heat in Ryan’s gut flared wildly, splintering into fire, and yes, that was so good, so good but still not –

“Hold on,” Shane broke out and Ryan’s eyes opened. He saw Shane’s jaw clench before he reached down between the both of them. Ryan grit his teeth at the feeling of Shane’s dick licking past the space behind his balls--as if he’d been singed--and he went rigid, his knees squeezing tighter against Shane’s hips. Shane closed a hand over the both of them, easily; massaging the underside of Ryan’s dick with his thumb as his fist went tight.

“Better?” Shane whispered, looking up to watch Ryan’s expression.

“You have no fucking idea.” It was more whine than real words. He felt his whole body go to jelly when Shane’s hips ground upward, pushing Ryan through his fingers, sweaty and slick. Every fiber of his being awoke to tingling awareness, smothering him in sensation. Shane settled into a slow rhythm, simulating the feel of what it could be; the act of fucking; his fist squeezed just where Ryan was digging in so sweet--they were just grinding awkwardly and off-beat and touching tentatively, but oh fuck yes, that was so good – so good.

Shane was flushed and tousled and beautiful underneath him, eyes wide, locked on Ryan’s. So beautiful; Ryan wanted to run greedy fingertips down his inner arms, along his neck, the damn near imperceptible curve of his cheekbones, his mouth, his eyebrows, the bridge of his nose.

He would have had to back off to touch him anywhere else, and he couldn't do it, not then – maybe in a little bit, but not right then. Not when he’d be gone maybe tomorrow or another day; all too soon. Right then Ryan was drunk on closeness and Shane and the scent of Shane’s skin, the way Shane gasped out broken words like "there" and "you" and "oh", the harsh trembling moans he made when Ryan bit the tender flesh just underneath his jaw almost hard enough to hurt, and then a little harder still. Maybe it didn’t matter that his blood was already saturated with the venom in Shane; that he could do it again, but he felt Shane twist away from his teeth.

This wasn’t the time to think about it. Ryan wanted it. He never thought he could possibly want two things like that at once but as he thrust against Shane’s erection, watched the teasing beautiful curve of a vein bloom just under white skin, Ryan wanted all of him. He’d promised himself earlier he wouldn’t risk it, but…

He was distracted almost instantly because Shane was already mouthing up his jaw again, searching blindly for his mouth in the dark. Ryan took Shane’s mouth, captured his tongue and lost himself in a hard, demanding kiss; freer and fiercer. In the silence with just their mouths and the careful thirsty hums of Ryan trying not to groan too loud, thinking of blood and skin and the swollen press of Shane’s mouth--hot and salty, Ryan rocked harder into Shane’s palm, dry, hard and beckoning. He shut it out, the bloodlust, the venom in him craving something fresher; instead he focused on the way Shane’s hips jerked, twitched; the way he moaned, openly and without shame, into Ryan’s mouth.

Embarrassment must have moulded the shape of Shane’s smile on Ryan’s lips. Helpless and panting as he huffed hot laughter into Ryan’s mouth. “God...Ryan...I actually want you to bite me...but we can’t...”

“I know, I know,” Ryan replied; his voice came out like he’d been crying, torn and needy. “Yeah…please don’t stop.”

He felt Shane shake his head, a comforting gesture like ‘never’ and ‘more’ as he licked into Ryan’s mouth, slipping his other hand down the curve of Ryan’s ass, squeezing with a vague and purposeful touch of possession. His fingertips drew a faint propitious caress along the crease, stopping short of actually touching along and inside him. Ryan keened a soft sound into Shane’s throat, rocking back into it without thinking. There were no words to explain what he was feeling, heat in the center of him like steam again; hunger that went beyond simple greed because he wanted to give Shane everything.

But he was starving.

He’d stopped thinking and he’d stopped breathing when a tight bullet of euphoria drew up his spine. He fisted the sheets by Shane’s head and his other shaking hand, gripped Shane’s jaw as his teeth crested a sharp and ambitious bite; not sharp enough but deep enough that Shane moaned again. His tongue was scraping where his teeth had been before he could stop, disconsolate in his hunger. It was only the one taste and he lost his mind.

You little...,” Shane slurred against his shoulder, laughing caustically; he sounded drunk, but the shift of his long arms when he let Ryan go was smooth like he’d waited ages patiently for the excuse to shove Ryan back. Ryan heard himself, like a dead dark growl come out of his lungs, and Shane was done being gentle. He threw him back and Ryan’s back struck the other end of the bed, but he refused to let Shane go, aware in some cooler recesses of his mind that he was strong enough to fight back; that Shane could do whatever he wanted while the venom was singing sharp murder in his veins. Shane exhaled a startled laugh, tickling up his throat when Ryan pulled him in, blunt nails grabbing the skin of his hips. Shane got a good grip on his thighs, forcing them open, but when he pressed himself right in the groove of Ryan’s thigh, a hot burning friction between them, asking but not asking that threw Ryan’s head for a loop; the thought hadn’t occurred to him, not concretely. There had always just been Shane and his hands; his body, his mouth and what Shane did to make Ryan feel like bad honey was drooling through his nerves when they were close together.

“I know you’ve never…” And-- fuck-- Shane’s voice was so soft, coaxing hot breath into the delicate skin of his Adam’s Apple; a jarring contrast to the provocative dig of his fingers circling touching the tender indents of muscle on the inside of Ryan’s thighs. “I can go slow...but if there's something you don't want me to do-- I can stop?”

The word ‘Stop’ hit him like an anvil. “No,” Ryan growled a little gracelessly, practically a whine with the ‘almost there’ sensation torn up by the tightness in his chest, and groin; unguarded lust. Shane seemed to know better what they were doing and he was making it so damn perfect. It was transcending something in him, and he wasn’t embarrassed when his voice came out kinda petulant, begging, “This isn't my first rodeo, Shane, whatever you’re doing, keep it up.”

Shane snorted into Ryan’s neck, which set Ryan off, the juvenile in him winning out as he cackled even though his breath was coming up short, but then the pad of Shane’s index finger was smoothing a dry path up the space right behind his scrotum, pressing what felt like a shock up his whole body. He made a rhythm; the massaging of his finger on Ryan’s perineum, a coarse circle that was making him utter faint curses. Then, Ryan felt Shane. The slick head of his dick, replaced his fingers and pushed hard. Ryan’s whole body flexed with it and he grabbed Shane by the back of his head, tangling fingers in his hair.

“Oh god,” he whispered through his teeth. “Oh god.”

“Nice of you,” Shane remarked dryly and Ryan had never in his life had to bite back a laugh while his body was singing and a sob was in his throat because he didn’t want Shane to stop.

“Shhh,” he gasped. “Shut up, Shane.” He may have dragged out the last vowel helplessly and Shane was clearly pressing wet kisses down his clavicle to soften the vibration of his chuckles. Smug as all shit that he’d taken Ryan apart with one move.

He didn’t really mind it because suddenly all he was thinking about was Shane’s fingers; the shape of them, the pressure of the tips of them circling that delicious spot. Ryan’s knees slid up Shane’s ribs, shuddering every time Shane switched between the dig of fingertips to the thick press of his erection and Ryan dug the sharp angles of his ankle bones into the ridges of Shane’s tailbone. Without even thinking of it, he'd started to rock to Shane's rhythm, arching each time Shane's hips thrust against him, skirting a hot wet line of his cock down towards his ass. It hurt, but just right like he could feel himself welcoming the push of it, feeling like he could come like that, let Shane make a mess of him.

Shane's hair was a mess in Ryan's sweaty palms, but they moved together each time Ryan pulled, trying to get him to go faster. Ryan agonized at Shane slowing right down despite how much he circled his own hips into it, unforgiving torture as his own dick pressed against the give of Shane's stomach. It still felt like he was burning up, something crawling under his skin. If Shane really wanted to stop Ryan wasn’t really sure he could let him. He heard his own voice saying Shane's name again and again.

Shane raised his head and kissed him, his thighs flexing as he rocked slowly then, slow like he wanted Ryan to beg into his mouth. Ryan did, moaning hungrily when Shane picked up his pace, breathing in all of the noises he kept sort-of-fucking out of him. Ryan’s eyes slid shut but he felt Shane dig his knees into the mattress to get leverage. Ryan’s calves slid further up Shane’s ribs, knees practically crushed to his chest and it deepened their contact, Shane’s dick slid once more down and made sizzling heat contact with the edge of his rim. Ryan’s lips parted unconsciously as his hips bucked, his thigh muscles protesting a burn as he felt himself rear up close, but it wasn't enough to get there; he felt caught in a purgatory between the delicious climb in his middle--sweat beading on his forehead, uttering sounds he couldn't stop-- and a furious painful ache.

Ryan opened his eyes again, startled by how much he wanted to beg Shane to fuck him, and how he hadn’t quite expected that of all things to fumble desperately into words about to come out of his mouth. He kissed Shane again, letting Shane’s tongue lap along his, let his lips fall open under Shane’s, panting as he tried to ride Shane’s rhythm, get himself there so he wouldn’t start saying anything crazy. It didn’t stop the torn up mewl from slipping out when Shane, as if set off by Ryan’s fever-pitch cry, dragged a threatening line with his fangs down Ryan's jaw. He then reached up with slick fingers, slipped like a soothing balm over the stinging strip of skin towards the corner of Ryan's mouth. He played two fingertips up the middle of Ryan’s tongue until Ryan closed his lips around them, licking up the blunt edges of his nails while Shane buried himself deeper into the skin of his perineum, ramming up into something sensitive and tickling.

Ryan's mouth went slack. That was it. He felt his muscles seize up, stomach going tight. It was then Shane chose to go still, stop what he was doing like the firm end of a dream. Ryan must have let out a frustrated growl around Shane's fingers. He thought he swore loudly, muffled and nothing but vowels.

"You’ll come when I tell you to.” His voice was rough, shattered with need, kissing around the spaces where his fingers ended and Ryan’s mouth began. Ryan literally couldn’t speak; he was a mess, and he had been so close.

He really tried, held himself tight as Shane reached down with his other hand and pressed the head of his cock, smeared himself wet and wanting along the edges of Ryan’s rim before going still. Ryan was having a fit; it had to be. Everything on him was hot and trembling and writhing with whatever the heck being that close had made of him.

He didn’t even realize he was whining until Shane pulled his fingers out of his mouth with an obscene sound, drenched with a mess of Ryan's own saliva. He hadn’t even realised how hard he’d been sucking them, but they were wet when Shane brought them down, index finger slick enough to caress the edges of his rim and pull lightly, stretch him out. Ryan's hands fell from Shane's hair straight to the sheets under them and he twisted two good handfuls in his fists, seething with want.

"Tell me if I hurt you," Shane growled against his lips, dropping a kiss, taking Ryan's lower lip in his mouth a little teasingly.

Ryan grunted out a soft percussive blissful noise he didn't know he could make in a moment like this because Shane's finger slid in, hard ridges of his knuckle pressing against him inside.

"You'd be so delicious like this, you know," Shane told him heatedly. "Blood hot for mine, all worked up and wanting me inside you."

"Oh fuck," Ryan keened tragically, his words spilling out slurred. Who knew he'd be so weak for the sound of Shane speaking liquid contemplation into his skin? Or that Shane might talk to him like that. He was molten, and trying very hard not to black out because he already felt so full. Shane was pressed into his thigh and it felt heavy, and the head of it kept blooming sticky on his skin. He reached down, wanting to feel it. Shane's erection twitched in his hand and Ryan's fingers circled it, his whole frame twisted to its limit. Every muscle on him was protesting but he was grinding upwards, hard, as Shane started to slide his finger in deeper, pulling out quick enough that Ryan must have uttered a plea.

Shane’s whole body went taut when Ryan squeezed him, and it felt like it; like Shane was twisted deep inside him, screwing him through the mattress. And like that, coiled perfectly together, Shane started to bring him off. He thrust hard against Ryan's fist in tandem with his second finger inching in, stretching a gorgeous fluid burn and going deep enough that he kept glancing against a bundle of tight nerves inside Ryan.

"You can do it, Ryan. Come for me," Shane urged, going faster. His fist tightened each time Ryan’s dick twitched against his palm, the head slick with fluid at the same time his fingers buried inside Ryan slipped upward and rubbed that spot in him that sent vibrant bolts of pleasure to Ryan’s brain where they starburst against his eyelids. Everything was pooling tight in his stomach, faster than usual, overwhelming him completely.

He probably should have been more shocked when Shane bit him, right in his clavicle. Instead it was pain, so sharp and bright and perfect, teeth sinking deeper into the base of his throat with sharp force instead of blunt, and he could feel the skin tearing and blood welling and Shane’s low base sound of desperation. That felt like everything all at once. Ryan couldn’t help it; he came all over himself with a startled sound, gasping wordlessly and fucking himself deeper onto Shane’s fingers at the same time. It was more than anything else ever, he felt completely ripped apart caught off guard by his own orgasm and the sheer force of it.

“Ugh, bad idea,” he heard Shane mutter into his neck.

Ryan was too dazed to say anything, his body thrumming with aftershocks and a swelling numbness where Shane was hot in his hand. He had already come, but Shane’s fingers were still fucking him higher, tighter and hotter, he was going to peel right out of his skin. It was too much but he couldn’t admit it, greedy for the way Shane was rocking against him, pounding him into the mattress, every bitten off gasp and curse. He was just gone over the feeling of having his fingers in Ryan and that too, suffocating in heat and the crush of Shane’s skin on his, felt wonderful.

When Shane came, it was with a startling stillness, an awed gasp and his entire frame froze, taut and paralyzed with it as he streaked fluid over the inside of Ryan’s thighs and his hand. Ryan gripped him through it and tried so viciously not to bite him back because from the way he felt and the tingling sharp sensitivity inside him— his dick was still rubbing soft, but slick against Shane— he might really kill him.

“You really do taste awful, Ryan,” Shane informed him, coming down with a sweet, blinding smile, and Ryan, still shivering, couldn’t gird up the strength to give him a shove. So he basically did the opposite, unfolding himself, legs practically asleep before wrapping every inch of his arms around Shane and tugged him close; tight enough until it was like he could stop him breathing.

“First of all, rude,” His voice was gone; it was all scraped up together like sex rolled over rocks, but Shane relaxed on him, a wonderful comforting weight, sticky though it was. “Second of all, no one told you to bite me…”

“Mmm,” Shane said by way of reply, burrowing his face against Ryan’s neck. Ryan caught his breath as the strands of hair on top of Shane’s head tickled his chin. He was thinking again, clearer than before.

“What time is it?” he asked, hating the question while almost hoping Shane didn’t know. Shane's long fingers were rubbing slow strokes up his chest and his palm was curved almost possessively over Ryan's upper arm, enclosing the muscle there in a squeezing grip.

“It’s gotta be just after five,” Shane murmured, not even moving to check the time as if they could really facilitate an immovable circle around them, make this last.

“I slept all day?" Ryan groaned and the cowlick on Shane's head quivered under his breath. "Fuck, I...you wanted to talk and I got kinda lost for a while there.”

Shane made an amused sound of assent and Ryan felt an immobilizing loss when he shifted sideways, resting his weight on his elbow, chin resting on his fist. “Don't worry about it. Like I was saying earlier before you jumped me--”

Ryan spluttered. “That’s not how I remember that--”

“--before you went 'reverse-vampire' and jumped my innocent and unsuspecting bones, I had had some time to think things over. I … just need to know that you trust me."

Ryan raised himself up on his elbows to really glean a vision of Shane's expression right then. His eyes were still squinted up in a warm look, but the curve of his mouth twitched. "Of course I trust you," he said earnestly. He couldn't even make a joke about it; Shane had just spilled so much more than hope into him and it felt like the world was teetering on a cliff's edge. "I'll do whatever I gotta do, if you've got any ideas."

"I don't want to make promises, Ryan." Shane stretched up, one palm smoothing over Ryan's right bicep as he coaxed Ryan's lips against his, pressed kisses and held Ryan still all the while. "You don't need to do anything…" he murmured. "You should clean yourself up though. I mean, the idea of Lukas seeing you like this already kills me…"

"Yeah I'm not into that," Ryan replied flatly, pushing himself off the bed reluctantly, padding across the room until he was standing on the cold tile in the ensuite. He twisted around with an afterthought and caught Shane with a languid, caloric look fixed on him, taking in the naked sight of him. It was strange, all those moments in the past he could recall Shane’s careful not-looks at him when his shirt was off or when they happened to change around each other; calculated the way Ryan used to just not think when his thoughts wandered, considering that it was one of those truths he believed that Shane was just uncomfortable with too much skin.

It was kinda funny in hindsight.

“I’m gonna shower again,” he told the room around Shane, carefully fixing a stare on his hand on the door knob. “If you’re interested in joining me…”

“Ryan, if I go in there with you, neither of us is comin’ out,” Shane sighed, resting back on his folded arms behind his head, looking every kind of delectable with his elongated limbs bent and curved with milky yellow light loving his every bold angle through the window. Ryan was already thinking what it'd be like to have Shane's endless legs curved around him; what it’d be like to lift the whole weight of those thighs in his arms while he fucked him.

Oh.

Ryan chewed his lip, wondering if it showed on him, the trickle of arousal climbing his spine like a coercive breath. “Maybe that was my plan?” Ryan offered, smiling in spite of himself.

“I like your plans,” Shane said. He then sat up and for a wild moment Ryan thought he might get up, cross the room to him. “Listen,” he continued as he swung his legs off the bed and rested hands on his knees. “If we do get separated; if something happens … to me, I want to say this before it’s too late. Putting aside the blood and all that crap, I--”

“Don’t,” Ryan snapped quickly; everything shifted on a dime and the breath in his lungs were barely enough to make the words carry over Shane’s. “Don’t say ‘love’. Don’t say it like you’re about to leave me.”

Shane nodded, gaze dropping with a rueful curve to his mouth. “You’re right; I’m sorry. That’d be selfish. I’m just bad at goodbyes, Ryan.”

Ryan hated that; hated that he couldn’t bring himself to hear it, that maybe saying it could have been some comfort to Shane, but he didn’t want to hear it. “Then don’t say it,” he whispered. He felt sick again as he pushed the bathroom door shut.

 

 

 

It couldn’t have been more than five minutes. He’d stepped inside the shower and rinsed off quickly, eager to get back to Shane, to explain what was inside him if he could. He knew the words were perched on his tongue but to say them when they were about to lose each other forever hurt more than the damn constant dryness in his throat and chest.

He was thirsty again, dammit. If there was some relief to be had from what was coming, it was that he wouldn’t be swallowing past a searing steamy heat in his throat anymore. He was dizzy from thinking of it; the flavour and the cool wet of it on the back of his tongue.

He’d only just dried off and slipped into the clean pair of jeans-- ignoring the strange wear in places like stains had been scoured off-- when he heard the urgent and invasive knock on the room door.

They’d come for him.

Grabbing the Hawaiian shirt, he wrested open the bathroom door to get to Shane, but he stopped still in the doorway.

The lights were on. The bed was just as he’d left it, but empty. He did a quick sweep around the room. No Shane. The thumping on the door became louder, rising in volume and intensity. He had zero time to process before he heard keys in the door. He finished buttoning up his shirt as he walked unsteadily toward it, terrified while some small part of him was hoping it was Shane, about to walk back in.

It wasn’t. The door opened and Lukas stood there with two others. A pastel pink-haired woman holding what was unmistakably a long taser stick and another guy, bigger than Lukas and Ryan, tall and square like a thug out of a Batman comic. Normally, Ryan would avert his gaze, act like furniture around a threatening presence like that, but in the sudden rise of his grief--where had Shane gone?-- and thirst, he could only think one thing.

That if Lukas drew close enough-- it was all just skin--he could probably rip his throat open before the big guy got to him. The taser would hurt, yeah, of course it would, but it was also a handle to grab, to get her closer to him and he’d have teeth in her neck before she could raise it against him again. He could bite hard enough to tear something. And once that was in his hand--oh--he could probably climb the boulder of a guy if he simply paralyzed him with the taser.

So much delicious blood.

“Where is he?” Lukas barked into his thoughts and Ryan swallowed, dispelling violent thoughts as he felt the vacancy in his ribs swell into agony.

“I don’t know,” he replied flatly. Would he have really just left? Like that?

Lukas shot the woman at his right a look. “You’ve been in front of the door all day. And there’s no way he left the building, not if he thought we had him.”

She nodded, pale eyes darting around the room as she stepped further into the room. Closer to Ryan. Ryan’s gaze shot to the credenza; the blade was gone. He’d have to do this barehanded…

Lukas’ arm flew out, blocking her from drawing near. “You can search the room after we deliver him to Hanna.”

She looked at Ryan only then, sizing him up while taking a calculated step back, lifting the taser in a firm warning. Ryan had to hope Shane was coming back; he couldn't lose his head now. Regardless of how fearless the venom was making him, he knew that even if he killed all three of them there in that room, he still had a hotel of over thirty vampires to contend with thereafter.

"He's not here, all right?" He snapped. "Let's just get this over with."

Lukas grimaced as if the sound of Ryan speaking had put a bad smell in the room. "If you and he are planning anything, let me make it very clear that Hanna is bestowing you the rarest of honours-- letting you even touch the ancient blood-- we could just as easily lock you up in the basement until you're a hollow husk eaten up by your own disease-ridden veins."

Ryan actually hated the guy.

“So are we doing this or what?” he pressed, sweeping his hands up which made the big dude’s fists clench. They were so terrified of him, and it should be so easy…

“Hanna’s in the atrium waiting. After you.” Lukas made an expansive gesture while signaling something to the woman. The large semi truck of a man came around behind Ryan with a surprisingly smooth movement. Something was telling him he wouldn't be coming back to this room.

 

 

 

 

 

Hanna was in fact waiting for them downstairs in the atrium, seated in surprisingly human-fashion with her legs tucked under her, resting her head on her propped hand as she watched them descend the stairs coolly. She had changed out of her blood-stained outfit as well and the contrast was jarring. She was in a pale blue sweater and jean-capris which gave her a decidedly softer look overall in spite of her expression going very dark just then as Ryan followed Lukas and approached the couches where she was planted.

"Where’s Shane?"

Ryan had no reply. The brittle tug on his ribs when he stuffed down his desire to think about Shane just leaving without a word made it hard to put words to anything.

Lukas gestured an exasperated throw of his hands up. “When we entered the room, his human was alone--Melanie, go double check--”

The woman-Melanie--turned on her heel behind Ryan to head back up the stairs.

He went to get blood!”

All four of them looked up. Jacob was just at the top of the stairway, hand on the banister, other hand cupped around his mouth in a silly overt performance of town crier.

“What?” Hanna exclaimed. “What do you mean? Did you see him?”

Jacob nodded, shoving his hands in his pockets before trotting down the stairs. He looked a bit blithely at Ryan as he hopped off the last two steps with a final stomp. “He said cutie over here nearly drained him earlier. He’s done; his tank was empty, so he went to get a drink in town.”

Ryan stared at him. “Did he…” There was no way he’d just… “Did he say wha--”

Jacob shrugged, deep brown eyes dancing with that same curiosity he’d fixed Ryan with earlier like a detached spectator at the manifestation of Ryan’s world falling apart. “He said he's bad at goodbyes and couldn't do it. Not with you,” he stated, emphasizing words like someone spilling an old trite movie quote.

Hanna sucked in a breath and Ryan heard her get to her feet. “So he’s not home at all? You...he just left?”

Jacob’s gaze drifted away from Ryan like a reluctant beacon, his mouth twisting with impatience. “That’s what I said, right? I watched him walk out of the courtyard just minutes ago.”

Lukas’ strange sculpted features formed a perplexed expression. Ryan watched him and Hanna exchange a quiet stare. “Melanie; Cameron, sweep the entire downstairs,” Lukas ordered after a beat.

Jacob’s eyes rolled and he pulled his hands out of his jeans pockets as Melanie and the large suit of armor they were calling Cameron passed him to head behind the stairway towards the back rooms. “Cool. Anyways. He told me to come and tell you in case you were lookin’ for him. Ah, and he, uh, asked me to give you this--”

Ryan drew back when Jacob crossed the short three steps between them and reached out, clasping him about the neck, held the space under his ears, palms against his pulse.

“Wh--” he started to say as Jacob leaned in, pressing his cold curving mouth against Ryan. It was a peck, nothing more. Soulless. Then Jacob made as if to nuzzle up his jaw where his breath grew hot on Ryan’s earlobe, a whisper without any diction, soft enough he barely made it out.

They’re going to kill you.

Ryan’s skin froze, stalled and wordless fear stamping up his veins like icy talons, He stared at Jacob backing away from him, his impish smile not reaching his eyes as he spoke a sharp puzzle without words at Ryan.

“Tragic,” Hanna said, dropping the word like a poker bet. Ryan turned to look at her, his adrenaline singeing his nerves; he could feel he’d started breathing faster. “I was going to suggest he not be here for this to begin with. I don’t think it’d be nice for him to see any of this unpleasantness.”

Ryan’s mind was racing. The two other vampires were gone. It was just Lukas, but if Hanna was closer and sufficiently more powerful…

“I just want this over with,” Ryan told her. “I should thank you--uh, for helping me.”

“Of course,” she said, her brows coming together in a statue’s version of concern, staid and slow. “I hoped you would understand that this family needs to stay together. Separation breeds decay, you know?”

Ryan’s chest burned when he exhaled and he could feel the well of fresh tears, panic-induced and dead, building around his eyes, widened in terror. She was going to kill him; it had been in the cards since the start.

“I know,” he whispered.

Ryan strained his periphery because Lukas had begun circling him, coming around to stand behind Hanna and the door. No way out. Hanna took a step toward him and lifted her hands in a placating gesture when Ryan stepped back.

“I know you know,” she offered softly. “I know. Because when you’re gone, unfortunately he’ll forget you but he’ll be here to see that our bloodline stays alive.”

Ryan looked at Jacob, gauged his distance; he had backed up against the stairs and planted himself on the bottom step, chin in his hands, looking on.

“That’s really all you wanted, huh?” he asked; he heard his own tone come out hollow. His stomach was hurting, the old knot of before had come back and he couldn’t swallow with his throat so dry.

Hanna reached up, pulling her loose ponytail over her other shoulder, baring her throat. “Come here to me,” she ordered, and she opened her arms with a fraught sort of welcome. She really did look so much like Shane, but wherever his silly, ginger warmth would have made Ryan pliant in quick seconds, Ryan felt a suffering edge come over him as he walked closer to her. His skin ached with the scent in the room, now blazoning over him like a wave when he drew close into her arms. She cupped his cheeks, palms warm for all of everything on her was like heated marble. “I’m so happy we understand each other, Ryan.”

He felt awkward doing it, but he reached up and touched her neck, testing his reach with his fingers pressed over a vein he could feel. It radiated a singing vibration into him. She was like the cold stone in a riverbank, fresh moss and violent sunshine, tearing apart the sprinkles of cool water with frank and angry heat.

Her strong hands came around him, up his shoulder blades with too easy of a grasp. Ryan had hold of her throat; if she was planning to kill him, she was hiding it well, and she wasn’t afraid of him in the slightest.

“Go on,” she said and Ryan’s chest was hammering so hard, his breath in quick aborted gasps, she must have felt it. His teeth wouldn’t be sharp enough, but she didn’t seem to mind when he drew close to the vein that was calling him most.

Maybe the promise of blood was too strong or his heart was broken, stridently not thinking of Shane walking away from the hotel, of Lukas waiting for Hanna to reach up and crush him, he didn’t care anymore. His hands curled, tightened and Hanna made a soft sound of discomfort. She moved, a sharp and struggling effort, but Ryan held still, unmoved. He wasn’t weak and blood-hungry this time; just as she had had time to recover, so had he. Over her shoulder, Ryan saw Lukas go tense, his narrow blue eyes swimming with disgust and a little anticipation. He had no idea.

Ryan bit down. Hard.

Silence. He waited; he could already taste it but he waited even as Hanna squirmed in his hands more desperately, as the blood slid down his chin, molten and sweet to his breath. The ichor was alive in him and he could feel it. Hanna was fully fighting him now, finally aware that this wasn't just about blood. It was personal. Shane’s face looking up at him from the bed only just an hour before seeped into Ryan’s vision, looking longing and lost at him. Hanna’s hands had come to grip him by the throat as well, reaching up to snap the muscle and bone there, the violent and deadly intent in the very tension of her wrists and body. She tried and tried, but Ryan only savoured the sound the back of her neck was making when he squeezed just a little harder than she did.

He had drank from Shane with such a depraved lust for his life that he had had to leave, listening to Ryan's last request that he just not say goodbye.

Ryan was despair; he was hunger. He drank.

Lukas let out a low cry just as Hanna uttered a pained, outraged growl against Ryan.

“Get him off me, Lukas!” she shrieked, but Ryan saw Lukas was frozen, eyes wide, not staring at them but looking toward the upper floor in a wooden quaking fear.

“Hanna…” he breathed.

Ryan shoved her away; he’d heard the footsteps, smelled the change in the air like a cresting splash of salt and brine. Hanna dropped to the floor like a thrown spider, all legs and scurrying, sliding across the carpet away from him. She looked at him in horror, holding the open wound at her neck as her eyes dragged upward, to where Lukas was now gazing in blind whimpering terror.

Ryan turned.

It was like something out a Tim Burton film, only bloodier. Standing at the very top of the stairs; the figure looked like an insect of some sort, covered in a soot-like substance, skin ashen and white. The threads of its clothing were frayed and caked with old brown stains, dried up flakes of blood. But its eyes. Ryan almost stumbled back. Its eyes were cavernous holes, dripping black over its mouth, wide and formed into a gormless shape of excruciating agony. It seemed to become aware that it wasn’t alone because with a creak of its viciously unhinged jaw, it uttered a terrifying scream so pitched that Ryan had to clamp his hands over his ears.

“What is that?!” Jacob shouted, all forms of his usual firm blase gone. “Guys, what is that?!”

The figure was so distracting in its grotesque form, silent and tall-- unreal in its corpse-like image that Ryan almost didn't see Shane step forward onto the stairway. He was fiercely beautiful, smiling, teeth serrated and ill-shaped with fangs white and crisp under the big lamps of the ceiling. His mouth and chin were stained black and it only took seconds for Ryan to put two and two together just as Shane did a really stupendously horrifying thing; he kicked the figure standing beside him, kicked it so its wiry useless legs crumpled under it and it slid and rolled and tumbled down the stairs like a pile of bones until it landed with a choked gasp at the bottom, splattering poor Jacob with its visibly gelatinous black blood.

“This, Jacob?” Shane called down the stairs. “This is our patriarch and he looks like that because he’s been locked in a chest in Hanna's room.”

They all stared at it, a now broken shivering thing, spitting out a strange string of words in another language, eyes still leaking as its head veered around the room as if looking for something to grab. Bony white fingers reached out at Jacob who backed away quickly, nearly tripping.

“What the fuck,” Jacob breathed. “Wha...that’s Papa?”

Ryan agreed with every fiber of fear in Jacob's tone. “Shane,” he mumbled, not even fully sure he hadn’t passed out and was watching the blueprints of his own subconscious feed him a bloodbath horror film.

Shane looked at him and there was a razor’s edge in his stare, blind with something new coursing through him. His smile never moved; he looked triumphant. “Go on, Hanna; answer him. Lukas?”

Ryan looked toward Hanna who was still on the floor, blinking in shock, the wound at her neck still flowing freely through her fingers. Lukas bent to help her up and she grabbed his forearm, using it to help her get to her feet. She was staring back at Shane, her expression twitching down, eyes wide.

“Hanna?” Jacob entreated. He seemed different now; young and scared. “What happened to Papa?”

Hanna stared venom hatred at Shane, her lips trembling white. “Did you drain him?” she hissed. “When you drank?”

Shane appeared to shrug.

“Did you drain him, Shane?!” she shouted, her low voice bellowing.

“Why, Hanna. Are you worried I’ve emptied your last bid for power in this city? The only reason any young vampire would choose to stay here? The so-called ancient blood you were supposed to have inherited? You should be worried. Your family lies are spitting black ichor on the family rug right now.”

Ryan couldn’t help it; he looked at it again. It felt strange to attach a word like patriarch or ‘Papa’ to a decrepit crumbling zombie dragging its exposed bone across a now stained rug.

“How is he still alive?” he heard himself whisper, buried in shock.

Shane took a few steps down toward them, and despite it all, Ryan just wanted to walk up, reach him, make sure he was there to stay. “His heart. The pathetic little organ rattling around in his chest. I drank him until he had just enough to keep it running, which, honestly? Gross by the way.”

The impact of Shane’s statement was dimmed by the sound of footsteps approaching from the back hallway. Cameron and Melanie were clearly returning. Either way, more vampires in the room.

The only warning Ryan had to make a move right then was Hanna’s shriek of rage. He didn’t know what she meant to do, but only that she was crossing the room at breakneck speed toward Shane, and he wasn’t having it. He didn’t think; he didn’t pause. His hold on her was everything his hands could grab as he dragged her towards him. She rammed a paralysing blow to his chest, but he already had a mouthful of the bleeding rivulets drooling down her throat. It was a relief to know he had let go; no prison of conscience or clarity. Just the thirst. He practically inhaled the blood, choked as he swallowed desperately; every gulp a new ecstasy to the venom in him. There was nothing else for sacred moments, except a distant call like a shout from above water.

Ryan!

He could actually feel it, the daring emptiness of the way she wilted, a fist coming down on his head but he couldn’t let go. Her terrified acid-beating heart was carrying every last drop to him in a rush. And she fought him so hard that his blunt nails creased into her skin, squeezing enough to--

It came like a blow and he was gasping. Lukas was holding him by the throat, teeth bared and eyes wild, aiming to kill him as he wrested him away from Hanna. All he could think was “I wasn’t done,” in some annoyed detached fashion because every iota of his response was rage that Lukas was touching him, that he’d interrupted, that he smelled just as intoxicating as Hanna had.

“Cameron, stop him!” Lukas broke out through his teeth as Ryan felt the pressure in Lukas’s wind pipe burst under his fingers.

It was so much easier this time even as he felt someone huge grab him around the ribs, pull him away. Shane scent was suddenly even nearer. He hit the floor as another blow came from his right but when he opened his eyes Lukas was trapped under his forearm, scratching up torn lines into the carpet desperately. Ryan held Lukas down like a pinned butterfly and sunk his teeth in with a delicious ease, the very enamel of his front teeth forming a blessed edge and cutting a clean incision straight to a messy spray of blood. He opened his mouth, and it spilled on his tongue, dirtier this time, tasting like cold mountains, stone and ice landscapes gazing out at him in terrifically angry blue as Lukas twisted, growling and twitching in his arms.

He was blind by the visions, the sensory flavour stripping across his tongue and in his nose. He looked out through a blurred gaze across the room. Melanie--wherever she had come from--lay on the floor face down, a pool of dark blood spilling around into the fibers of the carpet and Shane was holding Cameron by the throat above her; it was a fleeting thought but it hit Ryan at that moment that with Shane’s clothes now splattered with deep red blood, his eyes wild with the spite of his win while he spilled the history of the people who had hurt him on the floor, Shane had never looked more like himself.

Cameron grappled against him. Shane clutched a handful of Cameron’s shirt and threw him down, using his weight to bowl him over when Cameron wrenched away from him. It worked and as Cameron hit the floor, Shane pulled out his blade, stalking with a cold and unflinching intent toward him.

Ryan felt Lukas’s heart pitch clear; a faint squish of a noise when he sucked a thinner, flavourless sort of blood from the wound, surprising himself at the sudden disparate feeling that overcame him. He stood, dropping Lukas to the floor, or the thing that used to have Lukas in it. Dead.

He looked around. Cameron had grabbed the blade from Shane, had a hand around the sharp end, the meat of his palm pierced and bleeding as he grabbed Shane, shoving him against the french doors, the mirror finally giving way. Ryan was quaking with renewed energy, his thirst climbing more and more as he fantasized the taste of Cameron’s blood; the size of him promising more…

Shane kneed Cameron and rolled them over, pressing the blade harder as Cameron pushed it back toward Shane. Ryan was going to suck the life out of him.

Just then, Shane looked over, alarm twisting his features and Ryan followed his gaze. Hanna had crawled across the room, her arms weakly carrying her across the carnage, almost slipping in blood as she was going to reach the creature Ryan had forgotten was curled up by the stairway. Why she would be going for it was a mystery to Ryan until Shane looked at him, and yelled, “She’s going for his heart, Ryan; stop her!”

He was closer, but it took a moment for the blood-heavy steps to catch up with his brain. He raced toward her and watched in shattering alarm and horror as Hanna used one last spurt of strength to shove her fist through the chest of the thing as it writhed away from her, spewing babbling, gurgling sounds that could have been words. Hanna threw the creature away from her, but her hand came out soaked black, covered in its blood and in her hand, small and throbbing, was their patriarch’s heart.

Ryan reached her, dropping painfully to his knees and grabbed her wrist, meaning to take it from her, not sure what he was meant to do as she flailed back, her withered frame no match for him but speed on her side as she opened her mouth and swallowed the heart whole.

“Fuck!” Shane shouted and there was a loud creak of a blade thrusting through bone; a now too familiar sound to Ryan. He swiveled to look, heart and breath stopping for terrible seconds as his eyes swept across the bodies of three vampires now lying dead in the atrium. A head toppled, hair soaked in blood and Shane stood over it, the blade in his hands pressed straight through Cameron’s neck. “Fuck!” he said again, dropping Cameron’s torso as he clumsily yanked the blade clean to stumble back over to Ryan.

Ryan was still holding Hanna’s wrist and she uttered a throaty laugh, the black blood from the heart had stained her mouth. She was waiting and Ryan felt it; the muscle in her wrist began to feel less pliant. Ryan didn’t know what he was doing until he did it, but he would later remember the sound it made, the feeling not unlike the unfamiliarity of searching for something he needed in an unsavory place. The comparison hit him in that moment because he would never in any other life have the instinct to form a fist and slam it, straight through someone’s ribs.

The true horror of what he had done only hit him when he was holding it in his hands. It wasn’t dark and small like the creature’s she had just killed. It was more than his hand could fully carry, slippery and red, but it still beat even as Hanna lay there, splayed and lifeless, unseeing grey gaze fixed on the top of the stairs.

“What do I…” Ryan gasped. “Oh shit…”

Shane was beside him in seconds, taking in the sight of Hanna, the sight of Ryan holding the heart out.

“Give it to me?”

For a wild moment, Ryan couldn’t place the voice. It sounded soft with no inflection. He and Shane both looked up. Jacob had been standing midway up the steps the whole time it seemed, but in tow, was a gallery of eyes belonging to the rest of the family, looking on with faces mixed in horror and confusion.

“Ryan, give it to me,” Jacob finally said, louder, stronger. He descended the remaining steps until he was crouched near them. His black eyes were wide and gleaming with unshed tears. Ryan drew back as Jacob reached out a shaking hand, but Shane’s hand swept up his back, a warm and reassuring touch.

“What’re you...gonna do with it?” he stammered, trying with determination not to look at it. “Why do you want it?”

Jacob’s eyes flickered up at his; he looked much older than Ryan suddenly; the ferocity in his gaze spoke a tired and virulent timeline of memories and secrets. “Because it was my mother’s,” he said firmly, holding both hands out then.

“Jesus, Jacob,” Ryan said, heaving the words out like an illness. “I’m so--if I knew--no one told me, and she was--”

Jacob shook his head, his mouth set and eyes still gazing unflinchingly at the heart as it throbbed and pulsed in Ryan’s fingers. “She broke our laws, Ryan. You did what you had to. Consider us even.”

Shane’s arm was coming around him. Silent. Sure. It was gonna be fine. This was fucked, but it was gonna be all OK.

Ryan practically spilled the heart into Jacob’s waiting hands and they watched as Jacob perched over the step with the red bleeding thing in his hands. He appeared to take several sharp breaths like someone about to deep dive before he opened his mouth, pushing the entirety of it in with a laborious swallow.

“Fuck…” Ryan mumbled. He was overcome and dizzy. He wasn’t thirsty anymore; in fact his insides felt oddly full and warm. He looked up blearily at the sea of faces watching them, staring down at the bloodbath they’d left. Not a single one of them moved to do anything.

“We’ll go, Jacob,” Shane said firmly. “I never wanted the birth rights or the hotel. This is yours now. We’re leaving.”

“Oh yeah...uh, sure.” Jacob wiped his mouth with his wide hoodie sleeve and when he looked up; his eyes were gleaming with something newer, teaming with chaos. “So we’ll do this again around Christmas?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“What are you thinking?”

Shane called the question at him under the spell of wind that hit. The ocean was so black at night but Ryan was glad to get himself clean even in salt water, just to smell something different than dust, flowers and the all-consuming saccharine scent of all sorts of blood. He imagined this is what he’d feel if he ever indulged and ate a whole box of doughnuts to himself. Another wave rushed up and Ryan stepped deeper, letting his toes dig into the cold sand.

The Ichor was gone; he was pretty sure. At least he was going to live.

He was soaked, but he didn’t care. Shane stood safely on the shore, pants rolled up his calves and waiting for him patiently.

“I’m thinking about family,” he called back to Shane, turning to face him, letting the bob of water push his legs closer to shore. It was relaxing. “I’m thinking of the people in mine, distant relatives; the ones I don’t see as much living off in places I’ve never been. How much it makes me glad you’re alive, that you climbed out of a box and somehow found your way to me…”

He was a little lost trying to find the words. Shane crossed his arms and took two solid steps further into the tide toward him. Ryan let it push him some more, his bare feet dragging across coarse icy sand.

“You know the first day I met you, I thought I might bite you,” he told Ryan conversationally, smiling like he thought he was so funny.

There was something about it; a connection he was making that he wanted to map out or draw a graph for. He wasn’t sure, but it was almost entirely lost to soft theories and the fact that he looked at Shane then, dark eyes, safe and burning with blood far older than the ages of all those vampires they’d walked away from safely, and he felt so filled to the brim with hopes. They all sounded like love songs in his head.

“I’m thinking about Hanna eating your father’s heart.”

Shane stepped into the water. Ryan had wondered if he was afraid, but he hadn’t asked him; worried that the notion of fear was something you could manifest with words especially after what he’d seen tonight.

“She would have killed you, Ryan; the both of us...don’t feel guilty--”

“I don’t.” Ryan was standing on higher ground now, the tide too low to carry him fully toward Shane. He felt the hum in his ears, and the coaxing touch when he drew close to him, even wet and cold as he was, it felt like Shane knew him inside out and was ready to warm every layer. That was really something. “Not really. I just think that Hanna did love your Papa a lot, and Jacob, weird as he is, loved Hanna.”

Shane reached out, touched a fond line under Ryan’s lip as he was speaking, thumb grazing over his lower lip thoughtfully. “You know I don’t remember what it was you said that made me change my mind about biting you back then, but I remember thinking you were such a strange little guy that if I ever broke, if I was ever so weak...you would have had to be my last. It helped to think that, so by the time I knew I wanted you, it didn’t hurt so bad.”

“Shane, I’m trying to say that I would eat your heart.”

Silence. Shane stared down at him, and Ryan was promptly very embarrassed, He’d said that wrong. Or Shane was going to shut him down, tell him that it was all a bad idea. That they’d go back to L.A. and never talk about any of this again. Instead, Shane leant down against him, pressed his forehead on Ryan’s, eyes closed.

“Me too, Ryan,” he sighed, all of his frame relaxing, pulling the firm touch of Ryan’s hips against him, settling deeply and indulgently with the sprig of arousal that swam between them. “Nothing grosser than eating a whole heart, but damn me, I’d do it for you too..”

Ryan kissed him, lips sealing over Shane’s, as he marveled a little at the still strangely amplified sense the Ichor had left him. The smell of the ocean’s quiet, the roaring pattern of Shane’s heart, and Shane himself; the taste and feeling of him, every vein of his swimming with ancient blood and no more thirst. Yet, here he was, kissing Ryan with a hunger for so much more than blood.