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the least he could do

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Martin wonders if it’s weird that he doesn’t have a thrall yet. It’s only been a few months since Peter turned him and then tossed him back out into the world with an order to ‘figure it out’ and ‘don’t bother me’. Martin seems to have lost his interest entirely, the second he stopped being human. As if the task is completed now, a checkbox marked off, no more need to waste time or effort thinking about it. It’s taken care of. Done. 

Not that Martin cares about his opinion. It just. Stings. A bit. Whatever. 

… He hopes that it’s okay that he doesn’t have a thrall yet. It’s just, it’s a big decision. Sure, he has a few (work) friends, but he hasn’t been to work for months now. He can’t exactly ask them, right? 

Not that Peter seemed to care much about consent. Not like any of the vampires he’s met so far seems to even consider it for a single moment. It would be messed up, though. He doesn’t want to change someone’s life so completely without their permission, and it’s weird to ask a stranger for something like that. He’ll just… wait until an appropriate moment and person comes up. 

(So, never.) 

Martin doesn’t have any thralls. But he does need to eat, multiple times a week. It had been really, really… stressful, the first few times. But he kept having to eat, over and over again, and it turns out that a person can get used to anything, if they have to. So, here he is. Trying to find some food. 

Someone to drink. 

It’s just turned dark, so all of the people outside are either out to party with friends, night shift workers, or workaholics finally turning in for the day. He walks the streets, looking for someone who’s alone. A vulnerable stray to be picked off, Peter would say. Not that Martin’s going to do anything of the sort. He won’t take more than they can safely give. He just needs enough to keep him going. If he drinks a little bit every day then he doesn’t need to take too much. 

He passes a few that could fit. A drunk man, but he doesn’t like the taste of blood with alcohol in it. A woman in a work uniform who subtly crosses to the other side of the street when she notices him. He could calm her down pretty quickly once he caught her, but he still doesn’t like the idea of scaring her. A woman in a dress fit for a nightclub, except she’s on the phone with her friend, so that might get dicey. A man, but he’s walking his dog, and Martin doesn’t really know how to handle that situation if the dog turns hostile on him. 

Then a man walks past him, he looks at him, and a swooping sensation in his gut says yes. It isn’t the vampire part of him. He’s just… really pretty. Really Martin’s type. Short and small, neat and well put together, tired and professional, with perfect posture and a quick, impatient stride. He looks like he works in an office. He looks about a decade older than Martin. He looks important, and dignified, and hot. In that very particular way that Martin’s always been into. 

Not that… not that attractiveness should have anything to do with picking a meal. Oh, it sounds bad to call people meals. Victims? Even worse. 

Martin should in fact not pick this man, specifically because of how attracted he is to him. It would be the responsible thing to do. 

Except he’s already following him. And he’s hungry.  

Right, okay, he’s going to do this. Fine, that’s fine. It doesn’t matter if the man is beautiful. Tonight’s feeding is going to go just the way all of the other ones have had. He does have self control. 

“Hi,” he says, drawing up to the man’s side, keeping to his pace. It’s not that hard. The man is walking like he’s late to an appointment but has too much self respect to run, but Martin’s legs are much longer than his. 

The man gives him a startled doubletake, as if he can’t possibly imagine why Martin is talking to him. He even slows a bit. 

“There’s something in that alley over there,” he says, pointing at the nearest alley. “You should really go and see it.” 

After a moment of befuddled blinking, the man scowls at him. Yeah, that’s fair. People usually assume that he’s about to mug them, and that’s when he’s lucky. 

“No thank you,” the man says in a clipped tone of voice, and Martin’s gut swoops again. Yes, yes. Martin inhales through his nose and prays that his insides will shut up and stop trying to tingle just because the man has a nice voice. A really nice voice. Ugh. 

Here’s the part where Martin has to feel like a creep, because he’s being a creep. He takes a step to the side so that he’s standing far too close to the man who is, in fact, a stranger, and loops an arm around his shoulders. The man stiffens, inhales sharply. Fear flickers for a moment over his face before he abruptly looks furious. That’s a face that says I’m about to shout your eardrums out, you handsy bastard. 

Guilt spikes. So does attraction. Shame spikes in return. He’s going to do what he’s about to do anyways, no matter what. He needs to eat. He leans in, close and intimate. 

“You really want to follow me, don’t you? You want to go into that alley.” 

The man’s furious scowl falters, fades. Going from angry to startled, confused, and then finally settling on glaze eyed compliance. 

It’s better this way. He won’t struggle, won’t hurt himself, won’t be scared. Martin’s just going to take what he needs and send him on his way, dazed and forgetful, and he’ll be back to his old self by the time he wakes up tomorrow. 

He has to do this. 

He leads the man into the alley, who follows him quietly. 

“What’s your name?” he asks. He always asks. It feels like the least he can do. He’ll forget the name eventually, even if he tries not to. Although maybe not with this one, but probably not for the right reasons. 

“Jon,” the man answers belatedly. He sounds mildly confused, like he walked into a room and then forgot why he did so. 

“Lean against this wall, Jon,” Martin says, pushing him gently up against a spot where he’s pretty sure some passersby won’t be able to immediately see them if they turn their head. “This isn’t going to hurt. In fact, it’ll feel good. Okay?” 

“Okay.” There’s some faint yellow light spilling into the alley from a lamppost. It shines in Jon’s dark eyes, and Martin’s heart sort of palpitates. Oh, he really shouldn’t have picked him. 

“It’ll be over in just a moment. Just hold onto me until then.” 

Jon’s arms raise, and his hands settle on Martin’s shoulders. Like they’re just about to have a snog. It’s an assumption that’s saved Martin more than once from people not willing to look too closely at two figures closely entwined in a dark alley at night. 

Creepy thought. Stop having it. Stop thinking about all of the vampires he’s seen who’s combined those two things, transitioning from having a meal with a victim to sating an entirely different hunger with a needy thrall in one sitting. He’s not like that. 

In the small space between their bodies, the warm alive scent of Jon is so good. Martin leans down, and Jon arches his neck for him. Jon’s breathing turns shaky as he bites down and starts to drink, his grip on his shoulders tightening. Martin’s tongue slides over his skin, laps up the blood, savors it. It tastes like bliss. Jon makes a wavering, helpless sound that makes Martin’s insides go yes again. He drinks and drinks and he feels warm for the first time all day, and Jon shakes and clutches at him and makes small noises that he tries to bite off even when he’s under Martin’s spell. So good. He’s so good. Martin could devour him— 

He stops drinking. Almost apologetically, he licks at the bite wound, willing it to close. He also happens to catch the last few droplets of delicious blood. Jon breathes heavily, leaning on him. Martin swallows, feeling horribly like he’s stopped eating an incredible meal before he’s stopped being hungry, stopped touching himself before he’s been able to achieve orgasm. Stop it. He doesn’t need more. 

“There,” he makes himself say. “All done now. Good job, you did, you did great. You just need to go home and rest now, okay? And when you wake up, you won’t remember any of this.” 

Jon nods, looking flushed and completely out of it. That pang of arousal and guilt hits Martin again. He forces himself to take a step back. It’s time to stop touching Jon now. It’s time to turn around and walk away— 

Jon’s eyes roll into the back of his head, and he crumples to the ground. With a yelp, Martin dives forward to catch him before he can hit it. 

“Oh god!” he cries out. “Shit, shit, shit. Are you alright!?” 

Jon doesn’t answer, because he’s unconscious. Fuck. He hadn’t thought that he’d taken that much! He hadn’t. He’s sure of it. No more than usual. Just barely enough to make someone feel lightheaded! It shouldn’t be having this kind of effect on him—! 

Slowly, Jon’s eyelids flutter open. Martin makes a noise of desperate relief, and tries to sit him up. “Are you okay?” 

“Yes,” Jon answers, and he sounds almost drunk. “Just… dizzy. Tired. Where am I?” 

Martin looks at the bags under his eyes, and a suspicion starts working its way through his mind. 

“... How much did you sleep last night, Jon?” 

“Four hours,” he answers immediately, with the shameless honesty of someone who’s had a few too many drinks or hit their head a bit too hard. 

“When was the last time you ate?” 

“Ah… um… I think I forgot?” 

“Forgot?” 

“To eat today.” 

With a groan, Martin puts his face in one hand. The other one is busy supporting Jon. He just drank blood from someone who really hadn’t been able to afford it. He’d been so blinded by pretty that he hadn’t seen the exhaustion on him! He’s an idiot. He’s— 

He needs to get over himself and help this man get home. He did this to him. It’s literally the least he could do, to not let this guy try and stumble his way home and probably just faint in a ditch. 

“Come on,” he says gently, standing up and pulling Jon up along with him. “Let’s get you home.” 

 

Jon rattles off his address, and let’s Martin support him and lead him to his home. He’s very compliant, very easy. Because Martin drank from him. This buzz is going to stick with him for the next few hours at most, unless Martin does something to strengthen and deepen it. Which he won’t. 

Inconveniently, Jon does not stop looking attractive, even when he’s all vulnerable and leaning on Martin. It’s incredibly unfair. Well, no. He probably deserves far worse than this. 

“Give me your keys,” Martin says, and Jon goes fumbling through his pockets for them. He hands them over, and his hand is so warm. He’s warm at every point that he’s pressed up against Martin. Ever since Martin turned, he’s felt cold. Peter said that you stopped noticing it after a while. He sure hopes so. 

Jon’s flat is small and utilitarian, but covered in stray books and pieces of paper. He flips on the lights and leads him inside. Okay, good. He’s within the finish line, now. He just needs to guide Jon towards his bed, lock the door, and leave through the fire escape. Easy. 

Jon bumps up against a small tower of books and almost falls as it topples messily onto the ground. Martin holds onto him tightly. Jon blinks at the books as if he’s never seen them before. He’s such a small man. Guilt twists like a knife in his chest. He knows that if he just leaves like this, that it’s not going to leave. 

Martin marches Jon to his couch and sits him down. “Stay where you are, alright? Unless, um, you need to go the bathroom. I’ll be right back.” 

“Okay,” says Jon, before toppling down onto his couch, eyes closed. 

He goes into the kitchen and rummages through Jon’s fridge and cupboards. He finds a box of cereal, half a carton of milk, and some moldy bread that he throws out. Christ. 

After a moment of consideration, he leaves the flat. He locks it up behind him. Jon’s pretty… not able to protect himself, as he is. Which is the whole point of the thing, but it doesn’t make him feel any better about himself. 

He’d seen a Tesco’s only a block away, while he’d walked Jon home. A pops in and buys food for the first time since he turned. It feels a bit nostalgic, a bittersweet novelty. He returns with a plastic bag full of purchases. Jon doesn’t so much as stir from where he’s lying on the couch. He goes and shakes him awake. 

“Jon,” he says softly. “Wake up.” 

Jon grumbles, but ultimately obeys. Of course. He squints up at Martin, and follows when Martin tugs him by his wrist towards the kitchen and sits him down in one of the chairs. He goes and finds a glass, rummages through the plastic bag of groceries, and twists the cap off the jug and pours. 

“Here,” he says, setting the glass of orange juice down in front of him. “Drink this. You’ve lost blood.” 

Because of him. Jon was minding his own business and walking home after a long day at work, and Martin lured him off into an alley and bit him. 

Martin’s spent too long agonizing about this. There’s nothing he can do about it. He distracts himself by unpacking the groceries, and watches with some satisfaction as Jon dutifully drinks. 

He knows it might be a bit of a mindfuck to wake up and find food in his fridge where there hadn’t been before, but the enthrallment thing had a way of smoothing over incongruous discrepancies like that. Jon might invent an entirely new memory of getting some groceries on a whim on his way home. 

“Do you have any allergies?” he asks idly as he finds a pan and a spatula. 

“Strawberries,” Jon says, pausing in his drinking. 

“Noted.” 

He fries butter in the pan and cuts open the bag of frozen and diced onions, potatoes, and beef. It’ll be good to get some food in Jon. Just a quick but solid meal. Soon the scent of frying food fills the kitchen. It doesn’t smell anywhere near as filling as the scent of Jon’s skin had. 

Bad thought. He doesn’t need to eat any longer. Definitely not from Jon. 

“Tell me about yourself,” he says. He needs a distraction from his own head. 

“My name is Jonathan Sims. I am twenty nine years old. My blood type is AB. I am a researcher. I was born in December. I attended Oxford. I—” 

Martin laughs at the dry list of impersonal facts. He forgot that some of them can get kind of literal, like this. “No, like— what are the things you like?” 

“... I like cats,” he says very seriously after a long thoughtful silence, and Martin cracks up. 

He talks to Jon like that for a while, until the food is ready. He plates it, gets some utensils, and sets it down in front of Jon. 

“Eat,” he says. He’s long since gotten used to giving people orders, at times like this. Jon needs them, right now. 

Jon eats. Martin just sits there and watches him, until he realizes that that’s a bit of a creepy thing to do, and he busies himself with cleaning up after himself. 

“Is it any good?” he asks eventually. 

Jon pauses in his eating. “Yes,” he says. “But I think that almost anything would, with how hungry I am.” 

Martin barks out another laugh. “Wow, thanks.” 

Jon blinks at him as if he’s the one who’s said something strange, and then goes back to eating. 

The bags under his eyes look very dark, in the stark light of his kitchen. He looks awfully thin, awfully tired. 

“... You should take better care of yourself,” Martin says. 

Jon nods, doesn’t stop eating. Martin knows that it’s an order that won’t stick. Long term orders never do, unless you make sure to stay around and keep reinforcing them. And Martin isn’t going to do that, obviously. He can’t just make some stranger be his thrall. Even if he’s very pretty, and tasty, and Martin wants to take care of him. 

Obviously he shouldn’t. Can’t. 

“Do you feel better now?” he asks. 

Jon nods. Martin notices some stray hairs that he wants to tuck behind Jon’s ear. He stays his hand. 

“I’m sorry, about tonight. I—” a dozen excuses spring to mind, and he bites them down. The simple fact is that Jon had done nothing to deserve what Martin did to him. It had just been Martin’s need, and Jon’s rotten luck. 

He notices that Jon has finished his food. He puts the plate away in the dishwasher, gently pulls Jon up out of his seat. 

“Let’s get you to bed,” he says softly. 

“Okay,” he agrees easily. He still looks hazy and pliable, like he’d go along with anything Martin would like to do. It just makes something in his chest twinge. Makes him want to protect him. He wonders what Jon’s like when he isn’t under Martin’s spell. Probably more short tempered, he thinks with amusement, remembering the man who had been so ready to shout at him in the middle of the street for being presumptuous. 

He walks Jon to his bed, makes him take off his shoes, tie, jacket, and sweater vest. He moves to unbutton his shirt, and Martin hurriedly stops him. 

“Uh, um, no,” he says, his face feeling horribly hot. “Not, not until I leave, okay? You can take all of your clothes off after I’ve left.” 

Jon gives him a puzzled look, but nods. Leans in and nuzzles Martin’s shoulder with a soft, contented sigh. Martin freezes. Oh, right. Thralls aren’t just obedient. They also want to be close to the person who’s enthralled them. Want to be touched. 

“Go to bed, Jon,” he says in a high, strangled voice. “Go to sleep.” 

He still smells so good. 

“Fine,” Jon grumbles, cranky, not quite as happy to obey orders any longer. Martin’s compulsion is clearly starting to lose its hold on him. Only more reason to get out of here, quickly. He pats him awkwardly on the shoulder, and pushes him down onto his bed. 

“You’ll forget all about this when you wake up,” he insists. “You’ll just have had a normal walk home.” 

Jon gets a rather adorable grumpy frown at this. “I want to remember. I want to know.” 

“It’s best if you don’t,” he assures him, even as he melts a bit. 

Jon grumbles, but then rolls over and closes his eyes. Martin breathes out, relieved. He turns off the lights, locks the door, leaves the keys on the kitchen counter, opens the window by the fire escape, climbs through, and closes it behind him. The night air is cold and brisk. Adventure over. Goodbye, Jon. 

… Martin hopes that Jon won’t forget to eat again. Won’t only sleep four hours again. Won’t work so late again. Won’t continue to have so little food in his flat. 

“I’m not going to come back,” he tells himself. 

But he remembers the address perfectly.

Chapter Text

Jon wakes up feeling like something is wrong. Like he’s woken up somewhere unfamiliar, except this is his flat, his bed. 

He actually feels rested, he realizes. He’s not tired. He lunges abruptly for his phone at his nightstand, overcome with the sudden conviction that he’s overslept for the first time in his life. 

His hand lands on nothing. He looks wildly at his nightstand, but his phone isn’t there. Looks at the floor, as if he’s knocked it over onto the floor in his sleep or something, despite the fact that Georgie had informed once that he slept ‘like a corpse’. 

This is when he realizes that he went to bed almost fully clothed, for some reason. His shoes, tie, and sweater vest are all pooled on the floor, but he’s still wearing his shirt and his pants. What the hell. 

He reaches into his pants pocket and there indeed is his phone. His morning alarm hasn’t even rung yet. And yet he’s still rested, no lingering exhaustion dragging at him, making him feel heavy and slow. What, did he go to bed at nine or something? How the hell did he manage that? And why did he go to bed fully clothed? 

Jon takes a deep breath, and tries to remember. He clocked out at work at the usual time, yesterday. And then he walked home. It was… 

It was… 

Uneventful. Nothing happened. He had a normal walk home. And then he was so tired when he arrived at his flat that he just went straight to bed, not even bothering to take off his all of his work clothes. 

Well Christ, that was a bad decision. Going to bed so early seems to have… disoriented him. 

He gets out of bed, and goes and takes a shower. Puts on new, not horribly wrinkled clothes. Nothing wrong with coming in earlier than usual. After a moment of consideration, he heads into his kitchen. He’s usually in such a hurry that he just buys something from a cafe on his way to work, but since he has the time, he might as well see if he has something here. Mabe that bread is still good. Maybe there’s some left over take out that he’s forgotten about. 

Jon opens the fridge and sees a large carton of orange juice. He blinks. Closes the door, opens it again. It’s still there. What the hell. Since when does he drink juice, that’s for children. How long has that been there? 

Vaguely, he suddenly remembers buying it on his way home from work. He’d… he’d just had a sudden urge for it. Despite not liking orange juice. 

But hadn’t he forgotten his wallet at home yesterday? He’d realized it only when he was in line at the cafe for a pastry and a cup of tea to go on his way to work. He’d made an annoyed sound and then just left, determined to tough it out instead of heading back home to go and get it and be late to work. He hadn’t eaten breakfast, or lunch. On his way home he’d felt downright faint, fueled by pure annoyance at himself for his own forgetfulness. 

He still feels a bit faint, in fact. But not hungry. 

Oh, that’s right. He bought the juice the day before that. He thinks. And then just… forgot about it. Until now. 

Feeling inexplicably disturbed by an innocuous carton of orange juice, he shuts the fridge door and goes and gets his wallet. He’ll just buy his breakfast from a cafe as usual. Clearly, breaking from his regular routine just isn’t a good idea. Look at how out of sorts just going to bed early has gotten him. 

Jon may work at the Magnus Institute, but he is not a silly, superstitious man. He isn’t. A carton of juice is just a carton of juice. What does he think, that some strange reverse robber broke into his flat and left it behind in his fridge for some mysterious, nefarious reason? He doesn’t jump at shadows. He isn’t gullible, or paranoid. Things just… slip from people’s minds, sometimes. Jon is no exception. 

He checks that all of his windows are locked before he leaves his flat, though. That’s just basic caution. 

One of them isn’t. 

 

Jon walks home, the next day. He remembered his wallet this time, had a quick breakfast and a passable lunch. He does not get a strange urge to go and buy juice. It is uneventful. When he gets home, he checks all of his windows for no particular reason. They’re all locked. He isn’t hungry, but he looks into his fridge. The juice is still there. He hadn't imagined it. Of course he hadn’t. 

Jon squints at it suspiciously for a moment, and then closes the fridge again. 

He gets into a habit after that, of checking his fridge every morning and afternoon after that, as if expecting something to be there that hadn’t been there before, or for the juice to mysterious vanish. It’s incredibly silly, and he’s glad that no one is there to witness it. 

 

Jon walks home. It is, as always, uneventful. It’s around seven in the afternoon, and it’s already dark outside. At least it isn’t raining. He walks past a pack of drunk friends laughing and chattering far more loudly than is warranted, just barely dodging a jogger. There’s a homeless woman swaddled in a blanket and a thick coat a few feet ahead. He wonders if he has a few pounds in his wallet, tries to remember. 

A large man who had been apparently just idling in an alley until now (smoking, taking a piss?) walks in a straight line towards the homeless woman, stride so purposeful that Jon’s falters. For a moment, he’s worried for her. The man crouches in front of her, and Jon takes a few steps closer, until he can see the expression on his face in the lamplight, wondering what he can do if he’s-- violent, or something. It’s a gentle smile. 

That face. Jon freezes. 

(“Hi,” someone suddenly says, far too close. He turns and looks, startled, to see a stranger looking down at him, smiling at him. 

The stranger points towards a dark alley. 

“There’s something in that alley over there. You should really go and see it.” 

That is the shadiest thing anyone has ever said to him. He scowls at the stranger, almost offended that he thinks that Jon would fall for that.

“No thank you,” he spits, and prepares to quicken his stride, get away from this man. 

Except then the man gets even closer, wraps his arm around his shoulders. He’s so much taller than Jon, so much bigger. Jon realizes that he might actually be in trouble, the realization like a bucket of cold water down his spine. 

He inhales sharply to shout at him, fear turning to anger in his chest. The man leans in close to whisper into his ear.) 

And then. And then. 

He had an uneventful walk home. 

The thought loops in his head like an intrusive thought, and he stands there, frozen, as the man puts a hand on the woman’s arm and leans in close to whisper into her ear. The woman stands up, taking his hand. The man gestures at her backpack, and she picks it up. Lets him lead her into the alley the man had just walked out of, her blanket trailing after her on the ground. He clearly isn’t forcing her. She can clearly just let go of his hand and leave. There are people on the street that she could cry out to. The expression on her face looks so calm. Maybe she knows him. Maybe they’re friends. 

Jon had an uneventful walk home, except for how he was briefly harassed by a stranger. But that clearly hadn’t made an impact, seeing as how he forgot about it until now. He had an uneventful walk home, except for how he went to sleep immediately, fully clothed, and he woke up with unfamiliar juice in his fridge and he wasn’t hungry but he still felt faint. Jon had an uneventful walk home. He tries to remember how his interaction with the strange man ended. 

Had he knocked his arm off his shoulder and just stormed off? He thinks so. That’s how it went, isn’t it? How else could it have gone? He would’ve remembered if something else had happened, wouldn’t he? 

Jon walks over towards the dark alley, looks cautiously past the corner of it, creeps into its shadows. His heart thunders in his chest. He’s not superstitious or silly. He’s just… checking. He’s just curious. 

“What’s your name?” the man asks. 

“Jessica,” the woman says, her voice dreamy, distant. 

So they aren’t friends. She’d just followed a stranger into an alley. Jon peeks very carefully past the corner of the dumpster he’s hiding behind. The man is looming over the woman, has her back pressed up against the brick wall. 

Jon feels like he’s seen this all happen in a dream before. He shakes his head, grits his teeth, watches. If something, something untoward happens then he’s going to be here to… call the police, or something. 

“This isn’t going to hurt,” the man says. “It’ll feel good. You’ll like it.” 

“Okay,” Jessica happily agrees. 

The man leans down and then… kisses her neck. Jon feels himself go tense. This, this is. He’d been afraid of something untoward happening, but the woman seems to like it? The noises she’s making seem-- receptive. He shouldn’t be watching this, it’s intrusive. He can’t imagine following some large strange man into an alley to let him do something like this, but he’s not like that anyways, what does he know, maybe this is normal-- 

The man leans back, and there’s blood on his mouth, running down his chin. From the woman’s throat. Jon stops breathing. 

The man licks his lips, like it’s delicious, something to be savored. He leans down and licks it up from the woman’s throat, and she whimpers in his arms. 

“Good,” the man says, his voice husky with satisfaction. “So good. You did good, Jessica.” 

Jessica makes a helpless noise. 

“Do you feel faint? Are you okay?” 

“I’m okay,” she says. She presses herself close to the man, like she wants to burrow her way underneath his skin. He pats her awkwardly on the shoulder. 

“That’s good to hear. You’re going to go back to your spot now, and you won’t remember this, alright?” 

“Okay,” she agrees. 

You won’t remember this. 

The man moves away from the wall, taking Jessica with him, and Jon flinches, adrenaline suddenly coursing through his veins. He can’t let himself be seen. Stumbling back, he turns around, almost tripping in his haste, and sprints out of the alley, away from the man, the woman, what he saw there. 

“Who’s there?” he hears the sharp question, but he just runs. 

 

Fuck, Martin thinks as he hears the footsteps sprint away out into the night, away from him. Someone just saw him. How much did they see, in the dark space between him and the woman? He hurries out into the mouth of the alley, looking down the street just in time to see a running figure round a corner dozens of feet away. That was a crowded street the man--he thinks it was a man--disappeared into. Shit. 

The woman presses up against his back, holds onto his arm. 

“Did you see who that was?” he asks her. 

“Hmm?” she hums, distracted. 

“The person who just ran away from here. Did you see their face?” 

She blinks at him, slow and a thousand miles away. Smiles, slow as honey pouring out of jar. “No.” 

Martin groans. 

Chapter Text

Jon imagines himself, happily following the man into an alley. Sees himself pressed up against the wall by his height and weight, and not even trying to get away from it. Sees himself being bit into, the man swallowing his blood, drinking it. While Jon just stood there, not trying to get away or cry out for help. He tries to imagine the sort of-- pleased, helpless noises he must have made, just like Jessica. He can’t. He can’t even begin to imagine what he must have sounded like, what it felt like, what he did or said. Because he’s forgotten it. 

Jon forgot an entire night, and his imagination can’t stop trying to fill in the thousands of possibilities of what could have happened in that span of time. 

He was faint but he wasn’t hungry. He went to bed early but fully clothed. His door was locked but his window wasn’t. The damned juice. What the hell does any of it mean? What happened? What did the man do to him? 

It’s such a profoundly violating thought, to know that something happened to him but having no idea the extent of it. To not at least get to know what he experienced. What if this isn’t even the first time something like this happened to him? 

That thought sticks with him a lot. 

Jon throws out the juice. 

 

Martin changes up his hunting grounds, after that. It probably isn’t smart to hit up the same area of town so many times in a row, anyways. Peter told him that it was tempting to fall into a rhythm, a routine, but he should resist the urge if he didn’t have the power to back it up. The implication being that Peter had the power to follow a routine, of course. His Tundra with an entire boatload of thralls, all cut off from society or any avenues of escape if they ever even managed to think of escaping. 

Well, he was right. Martin doesn’t have that sort of power. He’s been a vampire for less than a year, and while he hasn’t made any enemies yet (and hopes to continue in that fashion), he has no allies, no thralls, and not even many resources. The only reason that he still owns his flat is that he doesn’t need to waste money on food, and Peter gave him a lump sum to start him off before he swanned off to the sea. The understanding between them is that if Peter ever needs a favor that he thinks Martin is capable of, all he has to do is let him know. 

Martin doesn’t count Peter as an ally, because the agreement of favors and protection doesn’t go both ways. Martin serves Peter. He is a vassal. The Lukas family likes to collect those, apparently. It’s why they’re so entrenched and powerful. 

So, Martin switches the part of London that he searches for victims in. He tries to remain discreet and keep his touch light, both to avoid the detection of humans, but also other vampires. He’s new. He doesn’t know what the landscape is, exactly. He doesn’t want to step on any toes. Vampires don’t really seem to accept the excuse of ‘oops, didn’t realize this was your turf! Terribly sorry.’ 

He switches turfs, and he keeps searching for a night job that’ll look past the weird gap in his resume and lack of highschool diploma, let alone a degree. He eats. He keeps his head down. He doesn’t get any thralls. 

Something inside of him aches, like a gaping absence. Unfulfilled instincts, he supposes. Well, tough. Martin is determined not to lose sight of himself. He refuses to snatch a stranger off the street to keep for himself. He refuses, and refuses, and refuses, making the choice over and over again. 

He’s so busy keeping himself in check, that he forgets to keep switching feeding grounds. He falls into a routine. 

Martin gets ambushed. 

 

“You’re going to forget all about this,” he says, the familiar phrase. The satisfying taste of blood lies heavy on his tongue, and he shivers with the need to lean back in for more. 

“Okay,” the man he’d pulled off the street says blissfully. David. Or had it been Daniel? Shit, he shouldn’t be forgetting it that quickly. He doesn’t want to lose perspective, to stop thinking of the humans he uses as people. He squeezes the man once on the shoulder, and takes a firm step backwards. He’s not allowed to touch him ever again, now. That’s his rule. He’s done with this one. No repeats. If he recognizes him in the streets, he’ll pick someone else. 

“Go home, rest. You just had a normal walk home.” 

“I wanted to go to the pub.” 

Definitely not a good idea for him to go drinking when he’s like this. “You changed your mind. Go.” 

Obediently, he goes. Martin watches him leave, paying attention to see if he sways or stumbles. He doesn’t. He sighs as he disappears around the corner. Ever since Jon, he’s been nervous about something like that happening again. 

A month later, and he still remembers his name. And his address. Martin shakes his head at himself, and moves to leave the alley. 

This is when someone lunges at him from around the corner. 

When Martin was a human, he had tended towards ‘flee’ when startled. Dodging, flinching, running away, avoiding attention. If he got more time to think about it, he’d go to ‘fawn’ because it was smarter. Lying and manipulating. But Martin’s a predator now, and when someone barrels into him he bares his fangs without thinking and slams them up against the wall instead. 

It’s Jon, the white of his eyes visible, panting, ashen. Martin freezes in surprise, long enough for Jon to press a kitchen knife to his throat. 

“Don’t talk,” Jon says urgently. “Or, or else I’m going to-- cut you.” 

Martin gapes at him. 

“I know you can control minds with your words,” he says. “So, so just don’t.” 

“What the fuck,” Martin says. 

“I said don’t talk!” Jon snaps, infuriated like Martin just spilled hot coffee on him. 

Martin opens his mouth to talk again and Jon presses the knife down until it slices very lightly into Martin’s skin. Martin closes his mouth. Jon breathes shakily, trembling. 

Jon looks like he’s trying to gather his composure. Martin would very much like for him to be composed as well. He gives him a moment. 

What is Jon doing here? Why is he holding a knife to Martin, how did he know-- 

(“Who’s there?” he calls out, and a man sprints away out of the alley before he can even get a good look at him.) 

Oh, shit. That’s who saw him drinking from that woman that night. And Jon hadn’t let it go. He’s tracked him down even to the other side of the city in some random dark alley among thousands of dark alleys. The knife against his throat isn’t steady at all. Jon looks tense as taut piano wire, eyes wide and bright. Scared. He looks really scared. Because he’s alone with a vampire, and he knows what Martin’s capable of. But he’s doing it anyways. How obsessed must he be to do something this dangerous, this reckless? 

Guilt eats at him from the inside like acid. He hadn’t meant to leave this kind of impact on him. This is what he’d been trying to avoid. But it’s done, now. 

Jon takes a deep breath. “What did you do to me,” he says flatly. 

He even knows about that. Martin messed up with Jon far worse than he’d realized. 

He opens his mouth to say something, and then closes it. 

“Oh,” Jon says. Right.” 

Martin raises his eyebrows at Jon. 

“Shut up,” Jon snaps. Jon’s skin is dark, but Martin’s pretty sure that it just got a little bit darker. His night vision is excellent. “I know you-- you did that to me, one night. Didn’t you?” 

Given the knife, Martin gives one very shallow nod. 

“I knew it,” Jon says to himself. He doesn’t look like he’d known it, like this is no surprise. He looks like a weight has been lifted from his shoulders, like someone has told him that he isn’t crazy, isn’t just imagining everything. He looks so relieved that he might cry. But then a deeply intent, urgent expression slides over his face instead. “You’re going to give me back my memories of that night. And then I won’t, won’t hurt you. I’ll leave you alone.” 

Jon tenses as Martin opens his mouth, so he closes it and slowly shakes his head instead. A desperate scowl twists at Jon’s features. 

“You will,” he insists. 

Martin doesn’t say anything, doesn’t move. He feels like if he shakes his head again that Jon may-- do something reckless. He’s shaking more now. 

“You will,” he repeats himself, voice going hoarse. Something cracks in Jon’s face, going from stern and furious to nakedly desperate. “You will give me my memories of that night back. Please, I just-- I need to know what happened. I can’t stop thinking about--” 

He takes a shuddering breath. Martin’s unbeating heart hurts. He has to say something, even if it might get his throat sliced open. It won’t kill him, anyways, it’ll just be massively inconvenient. 

“I can’t,” he says simply. Jon stops breathing for a moment, as if bracing himself for something, but as nothing continues to happen he slowly relaxes. 

“... Why?” he asks. 

That’s not a question with a yes or no answer. He assumes that he’s allowed to talk, for now. 

“I can only tell you what you can or can’t remember while I’ve got you enthralled. I can’t mess with your long term memory.” 

The look that washes over Jon’s face at this makes Martin wish that he’d never so much as looked at him that night a month ago. 

“I’m sorry,” he says. Jon doesn’t move to cut him. He’s letting him talk, which is reckless, stupid. Martin could use it to make him put down the knife, forget this, go away. Or something else. Something more permanent. 

Martin decides that if Jon wants to stab him, then he’s earned that. If anyone deserves to hurt Martin, it’s one of his victims. 

“I didn’t mean to upset you,” he says. “I just… I was hungry. So I took some blood from you, and then I made you forget it. That’s all. You don’t have to worry about it. I’m not going to do it to you again, I promise.” 

“Were you in my flat?” 

Martin goes still. “What?” 

“Were you in my flat?” 

Jon looks up at him, and his expression has firmed up again, now. No barely veiled terror like at the start, and it wasn’t crumpled with the realization that he wouldn’t be getting his memories back any longer. Jon is looking at him with a fierce, sharp look that pins him in place more effectively than the knife. 

“I… yeah, I was,” Martin says after a long moment, mouth dry. Had he accidentally left behind some evidence obvious enough for the lingering effects of his spell not to be able to smooth over it? He hadn’t thought he had, but it’s kind of hard to think back with that look leveled at him. 

Martin had sort of started to think that he’d been exaggerating in his memory how beautiful Jon was. Now that he isn’t distracted with adrenaline, he’s starting to realize: no, he’s even more beautiful than he remembers. In an extremely intense way. 

“Why would you need to be in flat if all you did was drink my blood? You got me outside of an alley almost twenty minutes from my place, and I know it isn’t your MO to go that much out of your way when there’s a convenient dark spot right there.” 

“My MO-- how many times have you followed me? Have you been stalking me?” he asks incredulously. 

“That doesn’t matter,” Jon snaps defensively. “And you don’t get to judge me for stalking you!” 

“With a knife? You’ve just been walking around the streets with a kitchen knife?” 

“Well, obviously not in the open. I keep it in my jacket, normally.” Jon gives him a look like he thinks he’s an idiot. Martin can’t believe the gall of him. 

That gaping absence inside of him sings. He ruthlessly shoves the instincts back down, ignoring them. 

“You didn’t answer my question,” Jon says, narrowing his eyes. “Why were you in my flat? What did you do to me? Tell me everything.” 

What had happened that night had really, really not been anywhere near as sinister as Jon seems to think that it was. But if what he needs to move on from what Martin did to him is for him to recount what happened in painfully exacting detail, answering every single one of his suspicious questions, then… well, that’s what he owes him. It’s the least he can do. 

“Okay,” he says. “But only if you lower the knife.” 

After a long, tense moment, Jon does so. 

 

They move out of the alley, because being in public seems to make Jon feel marginally safer as they talk. Of course, all Martin needs to do is put a little oomph into a suggestion that he go somewhere private with him, and he’d do so with no fanfare. But if that hasn’t occurred to Jon then Martin is in no hurry to remind him. Not that he’s going to do it, of course. He’s done quite enough damage to Jon’s peace of mind as is. And he’s afraid that it’d sound like a threat if he did do so, besides. 

They walk through the London streets, surrounded by strangers, as Jon relentlessly interrogates him on everything that had happened that night. Why had Jon collapsed unexpectedly? Did they talk about anything on the way to Jon’s flat? How long had Martin stayed with him? What had Martin fed him? How had he paid for the food? Had they talked about anything? What exactly had Jon said? 

On and on and on, and Martin answers more honestly than he ever has in his life. At the end of it, Jon looks… unsatisfied. 

“Your recounting matches all external evidence that I found,” he says. 

“That’s… great?” Martin says. From Jon’s tone, it doesn’t sound great, but he can’t imagine what he’d rather have Martin do than tell him the truth. 

Jon is still frowning. 

“Listen,” Martin says, helplessly trying to fill in the silence, and feeling awfully like he hasn’t really helped fix the problem that he created. “Again, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to… derail your whole life for a month like I just did, really. I didn’t mean to make you feel scared and confused. I didn’t mean to take more blood than you could handle. I didn’t want to hurt you at all. I messed up. I promise that I won’t do anything like that to you again.” 

“What if I asked you to?” Jon says. 

Martin stares at him. “Pardon?” 

“What if I ask you to do that to me? Would you do it then?” Jon had been looking quietly disappointed earlier, as if he had expected to feel differently once he’d gotten answers to all of his many questions. He’s starting to look a bit more… manic, now. Excited, intent. Like a man on a mission. 

“Why?” Martin asks, aghast. “Why would you want that?” 

“I can’t get my memories back. You told me about everything that happened, but I only know your point of view of the whole thing. I don’t know what it felt like for me, what I was thinking. I need to know. If you just enthrall and drink from me again without erasing my memories this time, then I’ll be as close as I can get to knowing the truth,” Jon says with an incredible amount of fervor, as if he’s struck on a goldmine, the perfect solution. 

Martin remembers wondering what Jon was like when he was himself. It turns out that the answer is completely insane. 

“Jon, that’s dangerous!” he protests. “If you let me enthrall you I-- I could make you do literally anything!” 

“But you won’t,” Jon says. 

“How do you know that? I’m just a stranger. A stranger that attacked you.” 

“You do need to eat,” he says, as if it’s all very reasonable. “You clearly have no choice in the matter, because dying isn’t a choice. So you attacking me wasn’t out of malice. And I’ve seen you feed multiple times now, and I’ve seen all of your victims walk away from it unharmed. I’ve even talked to some of them afterwards if I could find them again the next day, and they seemed perfectly well. I saw that you didn’t do anything to them but drink their blood. You never took advantage. And,” he says this last bit as if it’s the most convincing evidence of all, “you apologized.” 

Martin stares at him for a long moment, and then he bursts out into laughter. 

“Hey,” Jon says, sounding highly offended and a little bit flustered at being laughed at. 

“I-- I’m so--sorry, excuse me, I just, oh my god,” Martin gasps between giggles. There’s tears stinging in his eyes. His mouth hurts from how hard he’s smiling. 

“My reasoning is sound,” Jon says pissily. “You haven’t even taken the many opportunities you’ve had this evening to control me.” 

Martin takes a deep breath and wipes at his face. “I, I know. I’m not laughing at you, Jon, I swear.” 

“Oh, I beg your pardon, I must’ve misunderstood your little sneezing fit just now, then.” The sheer amount of sarcasm is scathing. 

Martin grins at him, hopelessly endeared. “Sorry. You just took me off guard, I guess. I wasn’t expecting such a… generous take.” 

Jon had looked so scared of him earlier tonight, even while holding a knife at his throat. Martin had felt like such a monster as he’d helped Jon walk home to his flat after he’d taken too much from him. He’d never thought that someone who knew about the whole bloodsucker thing would talk to him like he’s a person, instead of something dangerous. Much less someone he’s hurt. But all it took was one lengthy, honest conversation and an earnest apology? 

Jon directs an adorable frown at him, as if still not sure that he isn’t being insulted in some way, and Martin’s stomach flips in that way that he remembers from back in highschool, when he’d been crushing on his handsome English teacher. He pretends not to recognize the feeling, even as he melts a bit as he looks at Jon, walking beside him. 

“Okay,” Martin says softly. “If you’re sure that that’s what you want, then I’ll do it.” 

If that’s what Jon needs to move on with his life, then Martin will do it for him. 

Jon looks surprised by this sudden, easy acceptance, and then he smiles. It’s the first real smile that Martin’s ever seen from him. It’s small and a little bit awkward, but very sincere, in a way. Martin’s stomach flips again. 

“Thank you,” Jon says. “But first, what’s your name?” 

Martin bursts out into laughter again. 

Chapter Text

The first thing Jon does is sweep his gaze down the street they’re on, looking for what he needs. Luckily, they’re in London, so it’s easily found. 

“There,” he says, and grabs Martin by the arm and starts tugging him forward through the crowd. People part for them easily. The privilege of walking with a very tall man, Jon supposes with some annoyance. 

“I-- what?” Martin asks, flustered and confused until Jon pulls him into the mouth of the alley. 

“Do it,” Jon says firmly, bracing himself for what’s about to happen. 

“I… no, Jon,” he says, sounding highly exasperated and a little bit incredulous. 

“You said you would,” he says accusingly, alarmed and indignant. He can’t lose this chance to know what it was like--! 

“Yes, and I will,” he says, and Jon almost sighs with relief. “But not in some random alley.” 

“Why? That’s how you always do it. That’s how you did it with me.” 

“Yes, and you passed out and then I had to help you home, remember?” 

“No, I don’t remember. That’s the whole point, Martin,” he says sharply, and Martin winces slightly. “We’re recreating the events as closely as possible.” 

“That’s not-- wait. How are you so sure that you’ll pass out again?” 

“Well, that’s what happened last time, isn’t it?” 

“Yes, because you hadn’t eaten all day and also slept poorly. So it won’t--” 

Martin must see something on his face, because Martin gives him a mildly horrified look. “Again? Why? Is this, is this a habit of yours?” 

Instead of admitting that yes, it may be a bit of an unintentional habit, Jon thins his lips instead. “I was preoccupied, alright? I was thinking more about tracking you down and trying to corner you without dying than eating three square meals a day and getting my eight hours.” 

“Oh my god.” Martin pinches the bridge of his nose like Jon’s the one being illogical here. 

“Bite me,” Jon says. 

“No,” Martin says. 

Jon feels himself inhale to say something loud and cutting, the exact details of which he doesn’t even know yet, when Martin holds up his palm in a wait a moment gesture. 

“I’ll bite you, but not in a public alley. It’s not safe and it’s not good. The only reason I do it is because I have to. Going into the homes of all of my victims is impractical, dangerous, and violating. But this is the first time I’ve actually got consent and I can coordinate with you. The fact that you think you’ll probably faint means that I’m definitely not doing it here. We’re doing it in your flat. I’m sorry that it’s not ‘recreating the events as closely as possible’, alright, but I don’t think that this is a necessary part. It’s just risky.” 

Jon glares at Martin for a long moment, and Martin looks steadily back, arms crossed. I’m not budging on this, says every single inch of him. 

… What if Jon pushes the issue and Martin just drops the whole endeavor entirely? It relies entirely on his willingness to play along, and Jon has zero leverage to persuade him if he doesn’t want to. He can’t afford to lose this opportunity. 

“Fine,” he says grudgingly. 

“Really?” Martin asks skeptically, eyebrow raised. “That easy?” 

“You’re right,” he forces himself to say. “It isn’t as necessary as the over all experience.” 

Martin relaxes, softens. “Thanks, Jon. This is-- it’s makes it easier for me, like this.” 

The idea that this concession is for Martin’s comfort instead of Jon’s makes it far easier to stomach. Jon stops bristling quite so much. 

“Let’s go to my flat then,” he says. 

“Yeah,” Martin agrees. “... Do you still not have any food there, though?” 

 

Jon unpacks the groceries with Martin impatiently. Martin had insisted they get something beforehand, further deviating from the original events. Jon tries to remind himself that it doesn’t really matter if Martin does or doesn’t have to pop out for fifteen minutes for a quick Tesco’s run in the middle of the whole thing. He’s still getting the important bits. 

Since they were already deviating so much, though, he’d gone ahead and put his foot down on more orange juice. He’s never liked the stuff, and after having obsessed over it for a solid month he’s quite firmly done with it. He’ll simply drink water instead. Martin conceded the issue, looking confused but amused at his firm stance on the matter. 

“There,” Jon says with vicious satisfaction as he just barely doesn’t slam the egg carton down in the fridge. “I have food now. Happy?” 

“Ecstatic,” Martin says dryly. 

He closes the fridge door and spins around to pin Martin down with his eyes. “Then do it already.” 

They’re inside Jon’s flat, the door locked, all alone. They have food for later. Consent has already been made clear. There are no more excuses, delays, or issues to stop them. Martin looks abruptly very nervous, as if Jon has dropped this into his lap from out of nowhere, instead of working with him towards it for about an hour now. 

“Um,” Martin says, flushing. Jon wonders if that’s the blood he drank earlier tonight. “Right. Yes, o-- of course.” 

Jon takes a step back so that his back is braced against the fridge behind him, the quiet humming vibrating very slightly through him. He tilts his neck slightly. He raises his eyebrows at Martin expectantly, because he doesn’t want to say ‘bon appetit.’

Martin steps forward until he’s within Jon’s personal space, close enough for Jon to feel the lack of warmth radiating from him. He closes his eyes, trying not to tense up. 

“I-- are you sure about this?” he asks anxiously. 

Jon opens his eyes and glares at Martin. “Oh no, you’re right, I’ve just been having you on all night for a lark. Get out of my flat immediately.” 

“I mean it, Jon,” Martin says, sounding annoyed now. His face goes quickly back to ‘worried’, though. “It wouldn’t be-- it’d make sense, if you’d decide to back out now. No shame in it. It’d be fine, I’d be fine with it.” 

“You almost sound like you want for me to back out.” He hadn’t meant it as he said it, but Martin’s shoulders hunch for a moment, and Jon straightens. “Wait, do you? Why?” 

He can sort of see why Martin would think Jon would suddenly change his mind. He’s the one letting himself be vulnerable here. But why would Martin? It’s the easiest meal he’s ever going to get, consequence free. It doesn’t make any sense. 

“I just,” Martin works his mouth for a moment, presumably getting his words in the right order. “I’ve never let someone remember before. What if it’s awful for you?” 

Jon relaxes. It’s just more of Martin worrying for him. He can handle that. 

“You said that the enthrallment process is very enjoyable for the victim,” he points out. 

“Yes, in the moment. But what about afterwards? In retrospect? Wouldn’t it be-- horrifying, to remember yourself being that defenseless and controlled?” 

He raises a decent point, so Jon does him the service of actually considering it for a moment. 

“No,” he decides. “I don’t think I’ll react that way.” 

Martin gives him another one of those annoyed looks. “How can you know that?” 

“I can’t, obviously. I’m just pretty sure that I won’t feel that way. I’m not completely helpless, after all. You’re listening to me. And I’m the one who asked you to do this. I won’t be completely defenseless and controlled, since I’m the one who made this situation happen, and we have an agreement that I trust that you’re going to follow. I might be traumatized if you do something bad, but I doubt you will. Right?” 

“What if I do something bad on accident?” he asks in a small voice, and he looks like he actually means it, like he’s really scared of something like that happening. 

Jon bites back a don’t be irrational. Fears are rarely rational, he reminds himself. “Are you going to injure me?” 

“No,” Martin denies fiercely. 

“Are you going to take advantage of me?” 

“Of course not!” 

“Well, that’s what I count as ‘bad’, so you’re fine.” He hesitates before he says the next bit. He’s barely knows Martin, after all. But Martin seems to need it, and it is, to some degree, true. “I trust you.” 

Martin gives him a wide eyed, alarmed look. “You shouldn’t.” 

Jon shrugs. “You seem to be a decent fellow,” he says frankly. 

Martin does that thing where he just looks at Jon for one quiet moment, and then bursts into mildly hysterical giggles. It’s annoying, how often that seems to happen, but at least it breaks the tension, makes Martin’s shoulders ease. 

Prompting, Jon tilts his head to the side again, baring his throat. Martin’s laughter eases, sobers. He doesn’t go tight and anxious again, but he looks more serious now. Intent. Eyes fixed on Jon’s throat. Jon very deliberately doesn’t let his hands curl up into fists. Now isn’t the time to let Martin notice any nerves he may or may not have. Not when he’s so close to fixing this. 

Martin leans in and down, but instead of going for his throat, he puts his mouth next to Jon’s ear. 

“Hold onto me, Jon.” 

It’s like all of the whirring thoughts in his head suddenly go muffled all at once, and the only clear thing left is hold onto me. 

Jon holds onto him. He curls his fingers into his sweater, sways into him, leaning against his reassuring solidness, pressing his face into his chest. Close. It’s like all of the blood in his veins is pulsing with a warm rightness. He is exactly where he’s supposed to be, and it’s good. Jon can see himself standing here and holding onto Martin for the rest of the night, for forever, and being perfectly content. 

Martin curls his hand over the back of Jon’s neck, stroking, and he shivers, the simple peace being breached by a small excited thrill of happiness. Being touched by Martin is good. He silently hopes he keeps doing it. 

“Ah, lean back a bit, Jon,” Martin says. Jon leans back a bit, still holding onto Martin with his hands. It had been good and right, being pressed up so close to him, but doing as Martin says feels more right. Fulfilling, satisfying, correct. Martin looks down at him, a faint furrow in his brow, and he looks perfect. Jon could stare at him forever. “This isn’t going to hurt. It’ll feel good.” 

“Okay,” Jon agrees. It won’t hurt. It’ll feel good. 

Martin starts to lean down, and something inside of Jon that feels as natural as blinking or breathing makes him bare his neck for him without prompting. Martin’s lips settle over the pulse of his throat and yes, that’s where he should be, this is where Jon should be. Everything is right, everything is proper. 

Martin bites down, and all of the air leaves Jon’s lungs in a soft exhale of wonder. It feels good. Martin seals his mouth over the wound and drinks, and it’s connection, communion, impossible to describe perfection. Jon makes a helpless sound of pleasure that almost sounds like pain from how overwhelming it feels. He doesn’t know what to do with this much goodness. He feels like he should move to try and express it or else he’ll fall to pieces from the inside out, but Martin had said hold onto me, and he doesn’t want to jostle him, interrupt the goodness. So it comes out of his throat instead, his mouth, loud, unsteady breathing interspersed by breathy, wrecked moans. 

Martin’s tongue on his skin, his hands holding him close and steady, his teeth resting against his flesh as he drinks, taking Jon’s blood. He can have all of it, if he wants. Jon doesn’t know how he could possibly withstand this overwhelming pleasure for so long, but that doesn’t matter, he would simply hold on and be ripped through it as Martin took everything he wants. 

It feels like an eternity and a blink of an eye later when Martin stops. His lips move away, he stops drinking, and Jon pants in the aftershocks of it. Martin leans in to lick along his skin against the opening, and it’s bliss. He melts into Martin’s arms, boneless, holding on. 

“There,” he says softly. His voice sounds husky, good. “I didn’t take as much as last time. I’ve already eaten once today.” 

Jon listens to Martin’s words raptly, because he has a perfect voice and he wants to give him whatever he asks for, but the words don’t really connect into a comprehensible sentence for him. Any world or time or people that aren’t this kitchen and right now and Jon and Martin feel impossible to even conceive of. 

Martin strokes a hand through Jon’s hair, and it’s so right and good. 

“How do you feel?” he asks. 

“Good,” he says. He feels briefly helpless, because what he feels couldn’t possibly be encapsulated in such a small and underwhelming word. He doesn’t know how to tell Martin that was heaven.  

Martin huffs softly. “Right. Of course. I mean, I mean physically, Jon. How do you feel physically?” 

It’s difficult to try and think about how his body feels when his mind is enveloped in such an ecstatic fog. But Martin wants to know, so Jon will do it. It’s as simple as that. 

“... Dizzy,” he decides eventually. “Really dizzy.” 

He realizes that the only reason he’s standing is because he’s mostly leaning onto Martin, at this point. He hums happily, eyes closing, pressing himself into Martin. He’s much warmer now. Jon could stay here forever. Martin strokes a hand down his back, makes a fretful noise. 

“You should go and lie down then,” he says. 

“Okay,” Jon agrees. 

Martin takes him by the hand and leads him away from the kitchen, and Jon follows, staying close. The world sways as he walks, but Martin keeps him steady. He’s so nice, so good. 

They’re in Jon’s bedroom now. Okay. Martin leads Jon to the bed and he sits down. Martin kneels down and takes his shoes off for him, and Jon just sits there and watches him, feeling content. Martin can do whatever he wants. Anything he does would feel perfect, because it’s Martin. It’s okay if Martin thinks it is. 

Martin sets Jon’s shoes aside and stands up, setting a hand on Jon’s chest--yes, touch him, close--and then gently shoves him down onto the bed. 

“Stay there,” Martin says. “I’m going to go and make you some food.” 

“Okay,” Jon says. Martin leaving isn’t great, but he’s coming back, so it’s okay. He closes his eyes, feeling more relaxed than he ever has in his life. Everything is perfect. 

 

Martin hopes this is going okay. He busies himself with making the food, cracking eggs into a bowl. An omelette and toast should be fine. Too simple for him to mess up. 

Maybe he should’ve picked something a little bit more difficult, though, so it would take up more of his attention. His mind keeps drifting back to Jon, lying in his bed. Worrying at him. 

Jon had said he felt good, but of course he felt good. Before Martin had enthralled him, he had said that he’d probably feel fine even after Martin’s influence left him. But that was based off of nothing but a gut instinct. He just-- he really hopes that this isn’t going to be an upsetting memory for him, is all. Frightening or disturbing or embarrassing-- 

Every single one of the noises Jon made as Martin drank from him flashes through his mind, and he has to bury his face in his hands for a moment. God, he hadn’t even thought about the noises until now. Jon is going to remember that, this time. As according to plan. 

Martin desperately focuses on the omelette. Gets a plate and cutlery, a glass of water--he has never seen someone be so firm about their stance on juice of all things before he met Jon--and plates the toast as soon as it’s done. He goes and gets Jon. 

Jon looks… absolutely wrecked, in the best possible way that makes Martin flush. Awkwardly, he reaches down to shake him, and Jon’s eyes open slowly, reminding him of a cat napping in a sunbeam. Languid, that’s the word. His eyes are so dark as he looks hazily up at Martin. 

Part of Martin wants to tell him to go back to sleep and leave him there for the next eight hours, but he can do that later. For now, Jon needs to eat, and there’s a hot meal in the kitchen. 

“Come on,” he says softly. “I’ve got food for you.” 

“Okay,” Jon agrees easily, and Martin helps him up, leads him to the kitchen, and holds out the chair for him. Jon sits down and starts eating mechanically, like the taste doesn’t really matter to him. Martin knows that it doesn’t. He’s seen thralls eat five star canapes and tasteless rations with the same expression. He tried his best to make it a good meal anyways. 

“... You sort of dodged the question, earlier,” he says. “About if you not eating or sleeping enough is a habit.” 

Jon swallows, and says with simple honesty, “It’s a habit.” 

Yeah, he’d kind of guessed. He’d been hoping, though. 

“Why?” he asks a little bit helplessly. 

“I just forget. Or ignore it. It doesn’t matter as much as work, or finding out what I need to know. I can always just eat or sleep later.” 

“But it’s unhealthy. Being always at least a little bit hungry and tired, it must be exhausting.” 

He says that like he isn’t a little bit hungry all of the time, now. But that’s different. Martin has to hurt people to eat, and Jon doesn’t. Except for today, he realizes. He feels full for the first time in a long time. 

Jon shrugs. “I have good work ethic.” 

Martin sighs. “I’d prefer it if you prioritized taking care of yourself. You’re more important than your job, Jon.” 

“Okay,” Jon says. It won’t stick. Too longterm. 

“... Do you think that? That your job is more important than you?” 

“Yes,” he says, and Martin doesn’t even know how to respond to something that’s so wrong. “But not if you don’t want for me to think that.” 

“I… yeah, I don’t want for you to think that.” Not because Martin told him too, though. Just because Jon values himself. 

Jon finishes his meal. Martin puts the plate away, and leads Jon over to the couch. 

“How do you feel? Better now?” 

Jon nods. His hand feels warm in Martin’s. 

“Is there anything you need or want?” 

“You,” he says immediately with no hesitation or consideration, and Martin has to look away from him for a bit. 

“Oh, um, yeah, ha, right. Yes. Right. You can, ah, come over here.” He sits down on the couch with Jon and holds open an arm, and Jon pushes himself underneath it and up against Martin’s side immediately. He melts against Martin, sighing with contentment. 

Martin is dying. 

“Just relax,” he says, voice an octave too high. “I’ll just, I’ll watch some telly. Let me know if you need anything-- anything else.” 

Jon hums, eyes closed, Martin’s arm curled around him. 

Martin has a hard time focusing on the television. 

 

Jon wakes up slowly from the best rest he can remember having in-- well, in a month, really. Except this time there isn’t a creeping sense of wrongness accompanying it. 

“Morning,” Martin says, and he remembers all at once what happened last night. He remembers. 

“It worked!” he shouts, springing up in his bed. 

“Jesus,” Martin swears, recoiling a little from where he’d been sitting at the foot of the bed. 

The bed? Unease washes away the euphoria. 

“I-- hang on. I feel asleep on the couch, I’m fairly sure. Are there holes in my memories? Martin did you--” 

“I carried you, Jon,” Martin says in a placating sort of way. “I didn’t want for you to wake up to a sore back.” 

He sighs in relief, and the triumph seeps back in. “It worked,” he repeats, satisfied. 

“Yeah,” Martin says, looking carefully at him. “How… was it?” 

Jon slows down and tries to think about it. Flushes. 

“The… reward function was, ah, intense.” 

“Um, yeah,” Martin says awkwardly, also flushing, looking away. “There isn’t really-- there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground with that stuff. Trust me, I’ve tried to find it.” 

“You told me that it wouldn’t hurt and it’d feel good.” 

“Right. Uh. Sorry. I just, you said that you wanted to know what it was like for you the first time, and I told you that back then, s-- so--” 

“So it would have hurt if you hadn’t specifically told me that it wouldn’t?” Jon asks keenly. He’s been curious about that point for a while now, after he noticed that Martin always made sure to include that in his script when he was dealing with his victims. He’d just forgotten to ask that particular question until now in the excitement of achieving his goal. 

“Yeah,” he says. He looks a little paler, now, as if remembering something unpleasant. “I didn’t know, the first time I fed on someone. I wasn’t really thinking at all, then. I was just, so hungry. But then they started making these awful, hurt noises and I had them enthralled so they weren’t even trying to get away, and I was too hungry to stop eating…” 

Martin trails off into silence, his expression uncomfortable and distant. 

A hazy, golden, thoughtless memory rises to the top of his mind as he looks at him, not knowing what to say in response to that. You’re more important than your job, Jon he had said, sincere and a little sad for someone he had known for such a short time. Martin’s a genuinely kind person, vampire or not. 

Hesitantly, Jon moves from his position on the bed, getting closer to Martin, setting his hand on his shoulder. Martin startles, as if woken up, and gives Jon a wide eyed look like he doesn’t know why Jon’s decided to cross the distance between them. 

“I’m-- sorry that that happened,” he says, stilted.  Kindness has always felt awkward on him. He pushes through it anyways. “That sounds like… a very unpleasant experience.” 

Martin gives him an incredulous, wobbly smile. “For them, yeah.” 

“Well, it doesn’t sound like you particularly enjoyed it either.” 

Martin huffs. “This is supposed to be about you. You just woke up from-- well, was it everything that you hoped? Are you satisfied, all of your questions answered? Can you stop obsessing about it now?” 

“I haven’t been obsessing,” he defends himself, because that makes him sound unhinged, and he’s not unhinged. Even if he has barely been able to think of anything else for the past month. That’s just reasonable. 

“Jon.” 

He relents. “It was a very… illuminating experience. Thank you. It helped, truly.” 

Something in Martin relaxes, softens. “So… I didn’t do anything wrong? It was alright?” 

“It was perfectly alright,” he says, and tries not to flush as he thinks that it was perhaps more than alright. He’s never felt so trusting, so safe, so relaxed in his entire life. He remembers the simple truth that he would have done anything in the world that Martin asked of him, and it would maybe be a bit frightening if it weren’t for the fact that all Martin wanted of him was for him to eat some food and value himself. 

He had, simply put, really liked it. Jon is for some reason more embarrassed about this than anything else, even his breathless squirming when Martin had been feeding on him. 

Martin’s shoulders loosen. “That’s, that’s really good to hear. I’m glad.” 

He smiles at Jon, relieved, and Jon can’t help but smiling back a little. 

And then Martin gets up. “I’ll just, um, leave then. I won’t, I won’t bother you again, don’t worry.” 

Martin stops though, and Jon realizes that it’s because he’s snatched his wrist in a vice like grip, halting him. He lets go as if it’s a hot stove, embarrassed by himself. Martin gives him a curious, baffled look. Jon can feel his face start to go horribly hot. 

“Jon? Is everything alright?” 

“You,” Jon says, hardly knowing what he’s about to say except that it feels rather urgent. “You don’t have to never bother me again.” 

Martin stares at him. Jon is usually fine with letting a silence linger, even an uncomfortable one that has the other people in the room squirming. But Martin’s looking at him and now all of a sudden he’s the one who desperately needs to fill the air with words. 

“It was, it wasn’t a bother, really. Well, the paranoia and worry wasn’t enjoyable, but now I know what’s going on and-- it was alright. Or, I mean, that makes it sound like it was just tolerable, but it was more than that. It was… fine.” Damn it, he can’t seem to stop using lukewarm words to try and describe it. Martin’s looking at him as if he’s not making any sense at all. “What I’m getting at is, is, you’re welcome to… do that again. If you’d like. I might… learn more…” 

“It… wasn’t good enough?” Martin asks, brow furrowed like he’s trying to understand. “Jon, this didn’t help? I thought you’d be able to move on if I--” He stops talking abruptly, teeth clacking shut, and he looks upset.  

This isn’t what Jon was going for at all. He’s not quite sure what he’s going for, just that he doesn’t want to never see Martin again. That if Martin wants to, to stay a little longer, or come back and tell him more about what it’s like being a vampire and-- have a bit of a drink perhaps--

His face feels so unbearably hot. “No,” he makes himself say. “It helped, definitely. I suppose what I mean isn’t that I’d learn more from a repeat experience. It’d just be… nice.” 

Why is admitting to that so humiliating? Doing something not to learn the truth or get work done, but simply because it’s enjoyable--   it feels wrong, somehow. Frivolous. Like he’s doing something that he shouldn’t. But if Martin’s fine with it, then maybe-- 

Martin goes still. “You liked it?” he asks, and he sounds astonished. 

“Obviously,” he snaps, prickly with embarrassment, with having to repeat himself and stress the point. It was bad enough saying it just once. 

“And you want for me to do it again,” he says, as if he can’t quite believe it. 

“Yes,” he grits out. 

“How many times?” 

As many times as you want. “I don’t know.” 

Martin’s taken a step closer to him, not on the verge of leaving any longer. It’s a relief. If Martin leaves, who knows how long it’ll take Jon to find him again? 

“You know, there’s a word for that,” Martin says, voice strange. “For a human that a vampire comes back to again and again.” 

Curiosity sparks. “What is it?” 

“A thrall.” He almost breathes the word, like it’s sacred. “You’d… it’s an important bond. Like family. Except, well. Not everyone sees it that way, exactly. But everyone does get possessive of their thralls, at least. Protect them from others, keep them to themselves. You’d be… mine, sort of.” 

He frowns. “You’d own me?” 

Martin flushes. “Um, lots of vampires would see it like that, yeah.” He gives Jon a tentative, sincere look. “I wouldn’t, though. You’d be yours. You could leave whenever you wanted to, have nothing more to do with me if you ever change your mind. I’d only drink from you if you said it was okay. I’d ask you before I enthralled you, of course! To make it fair.” 

Jon tries to imagine it, what it might be like. He can’t, not exactly. Like a lot of things, he won’t know for sure until he goes and sees for himself, putting it into practice. He’s so curious. He wants to see, wants to know. 

It might be dangerous, risky. Except it’s Martin. Martin’s a good person. Jon can trust him. He can’t say as much for other vampires; the way Martin talks about them, Jon doesn’t think that he wants to be on any of their mercies. It might be nice, to be firmly Martin’s. 

“I… enjoyed myself, with you,” he makes himself admit. “It was-- lovely. And you did well by me. Being your, your thrall doesn’t sound so bad.” Lukewarm words, again. He corrects himself. “I mean, it sounds… potentially good. And being your thrall sounds better than being someone else’s, so it’s not just because I want to experience that again. I just…” 

I like you, he wants to say, except that sounds so horribly juvenile. The fact that it’s true simply makes it worse. 

Martin darts in and quickly presses a firm kiss against Jon’s lips. 

“Mmph!” Jon did not see that coming. Martin hurriedly moves away, and his face looks bright red. 

“Sorry!” he says. “I, I just, before you say yes or anything, I just thought you should know about… that.” 

Jon blinks, stunned. That hadn’t even occurred to him. 

“When did that happen?” he asks, feeling as bewildered as if someone had gone ahead and rearranged all of the furniture in his living room while he had his back turned for just a moment. 

“Well, it’s not like there was one particular moment,” Martin says, and he looks about as embarrassed as Jon has been feeling until now. He’d feel more satisfied about the reversal of roles if his head wasn’t still spinning with this newest development. “It just sort of… grew. You’re, you’re very nice.” 

Jon stares at him. “Are you sure that you aren’t thinking of another Jon?” 

Never once in his life has Jon been described as nice. The worst part is that Martin actually looks like he means it, somehow.  

Martin gives him a look like he’s the one being silly here, and now that he looks for it, he thinks he can see fondness there. “I only know the one.” 

“Are you certain? It’s a very common name.” 

“Very certain.” 

“Well, there’s no accounting for taste, I suppose,” he says, and Martin looks almost offended, and on the verge of laughing, his mouth quirking upwards, face still red. “I… suppose I would be amenable to that.” 

“Really?” Martin asks, looking highly surprised. “Wait, amenable? You suppose? Jon, that, that’s not--” 

Jon winces. “Poor word choice, yes. I heard it as soon as I said it.”

“You don’t have to-- look, I know sprung all of this on you. Just… slow down and think about it for a bit. It’s fine. You don’t need to rush into anything, Jon.” 

There’s a part of him that rails against slow down, but… Martin’s making sense. He’s right. He takes a deep breath, and tries to actually consider what’s being said here. The possibilities, the options. 

His main thought it mostly just incredulity that someone as sweet as Martin would want for Jon to be his thrall, much less his-- his boyfriend? That is what he’s asking for here, isn’t it? Jon feels like a question that important deserves clarification. 

“You want to be my boyfriend,” he checks. 

“Oh my god,” Martin says, face flaming red again as he hides one half it in one of his hands. “Yes, Jon,” he says, a little bit muffled. “That’d be-- that would be very nice.” 

It’s been years since Jon has been someone’s boyfriend. It had hurt, when it had broken down. Enough for him to not want to try again. Enough for him to just want to distract himself with work to avoid thinking about it, and then just never stop. It’s been a long while since he’s let himself think about it. Tentatively, he tries. Remembers how much he’d liked it before it had started breaking down. How happy and comfortable he’d been. 

Jon likes dating, to be honest. Likes having someone to be close to. He’s just not much good at it. He barely knows Martin much at all. He can see it going badly far too easily. Martin doesn’t know what he’s getting into. He could grow tired of Jon within a week. 

“If it doesn’t work out,” he says, “we can just walk in separate directions and be done with each other?” 

Martin looks him in the eyes at that, and he looks very serious as he says, “Yes. I promise you, Jon, if you want to break up at any moment then we will. I’ll leave you alone. You’ll be okay.” 

Jon believes him. He had also mostly been thinking about Martin breaking up with Jon, but that doesn’t seem to be occurring to him. 

Martin wants to be with him. Jon likes being with him. Even when he isn’t enthralled, Martin is easy to talk to, interesting. If it doesn’t work out, they can just end it. As easy as that. 

It feels frivolous and childish to pursue something potentially dangerous or upsetting or even just unlikely to succeed, just because he thinks that it’d be nice. Just because he thinks it might make him happy. 

But that was what Martin had asked him to do last night, wasn’t it? To prioritize himself? It doesn’t hold the all consuming weight of an irresistible command any longer, but he knows that it’s what Martin wants. And it doesn’t sound so unreasonable, when he phrases it like that. 

Experimentally, he stands up and--popping up on the tips of his toes, supporting himself against Martin’s chest--he kisses him. He had been too shocked to appreciate the first one. He closes his eyes and lingers in this one, trying to savor and taste it, see what it feels like. Martin makes a small, surprised sound, standing stiffly, before he noticeable makes himself relax, his arms winding around Jon, leaning down a bit so that Jon doesn’t have to crane his neck quite so much. 

Jon should not be so surprised to notice that Martin’s breath tastes like blood. Despite the taste, it’s… good. He remembers that he likes kissing. When he pulls back, his lips tingle. Martin is looking at him with breathless, barely veiled want. 

In the end, Jon just really wants to know what being with Martin Blackwood might be like. He won’t be able to stop thinking about it unless he sees it for himself, he can already tell. He’s just saving himself from future sleepless nights and wonderings. 

“That sounds agreeable to me,” he says, words too lukewarm and stuffy once again, like he’s talking to a coworker in a meeting. 

Martin snorts, tension breaking, because apparently for some reason he thinks that Jon’s nonsense is endearing. No accounting for taste. 

“You’re a bit of a madman, you know that?” 

Jon’s more used to being called a boring bookworm. “If you say so,” he says skeptically. 

“I’m going to do my best by you,” Martin swears. 

“I return the sentiment,” Jon assures him. Just because he thinks that the relationship will almost certainly sink doesn’t mean that he isn’t going to try, even if that may make it hurt more when it does. Martin’s a good man, and he’s already been doing his best by Jon, who has admittedly been a bit consumed by his own issues until now. He wants to return the favor. It’s the least Martin deserves, the least he can do for him. 

Martin makes a soft, ragged noise like a hole inside of him has been filled and kisses his throat.