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Lena was still spasming with the shocks of the taser when Lex had finished undoing all the locks on the basement door. She'd also peed her pants just a tiny little bit.

"Play nice now, you two," said Lex. Lena tried to ram back into him with ungainly, newly recovered muscle control and he laughed and unbalanced her with a simple shove.

As a last parting gift, Lex slashed his knife in a neat downward motion, a gentle caress sprouting red along Lena’s forearm. On the tail end of that same elegant motion he turned, breaking his hold on Lena and slamming the reinforced steel door in her face.

“What the fuck is your damage!” Lena shouted, banging a shaking fist against the door, splattering it artfully with blood. “Lex! You fucking psycho! If you want me dead, just shoot me like a normal person!”

“Oh, dear sister,” he said behind the door. She could practically hear his smirk. “Where would be the art in that?”

Lena threw her body against the door with a satisfying thump, hoping to make him flinch. “You fucker!” she called. “I’m gonna tear out your larynx with my teeth! Lex! Come in here, you pissy little mama’s boy!”

He didn’t flinch. He just left. Lena roared inarticulately, bruising her shoulder against the door. The thing in the corner of the cellar watched, silent and biding, a vulture at rest, assured of its next meal.

Lena heaved deep, unsteady breaths, took a step back, squared her shoulders, and slammed the heel of her boot just below the doorknob, again, and again, and again. Naturally, there was no give in the reinforced metal, but Lena certainly did succeed in obtaining a throbbing pain in her right ankle. That objective achieved, she banged her fist one last impotent time against the door, and let herself slide down to the floor.

She was shaking, her entire body rattling with adrenaline and fury and fear, and that bloodthirsty monster was still staring at her, its eyes luminous in the dark. “What?” she snapped.

The creature blinked, gathering its limbs closer to itself. “You’re bleeding,” it said, its voice raspy with disuse. It was breathing shallowly through its mouth, its chest heaving. It looked like it might start slavering any minute now.

Lena glared, her shoulders jumping uncontrollably. How pathetic she must have looked. She put her mouth to her forearm, dragged her tongue along the trail of blood on her skin, sucked down at her wrist where the gash hadn’t clotted. She maintained eye contact all the while, but the monster, predictably, broke it at the sucking to stare at her wrist instead.

When the tang of fresh blood faded, Lena dropped her arm, purposely angled so the wound was on display. “Fuck you,” she said to the vampire. “You’re getting none of this. I’ll bleed myself dry before I let you touch a single drop.”

The creature hugged its knees, its gaze finally dropping from Lena to the floor, its ragged breaths still audible.

Lena clenched her fists to smother the trembling. The vampire was gratifyingly submissive, for a man eating monster. It was wearing brown pants, brown jacket, and a soiled shirt that may once have been white. It looked like a half-dead traveling salesperson. Lena could see the sickly definition of cheek- and collarbones, bluish-black veins standing out starkly underneath the skin of its arms and neck, beneath the sunken eyes. It must have been starved. With any luck, it would just die.

Fat chance of that happening, with a delicious and nutritious meal dropped right in its lap, but she could dream.

The cellar was disconcertingly bare, concrete floors and concrete walls, fluorescent lights too high to reach and ceiling-mounted ventilation. The only other object in the room, besides the curled up monster, was a bucket. It sat just outside of Lena's reach. She'd have to move toward the vampire to grab it.

With a quick spasm of movement, Lena sprang into a crouch, snatched the bucket and crammed herself back into the corner by the door. She hugged the bucket to her chest posessively, glaring at the vampire, who made no indication of movement whatsoever.

The bucket was metal, and blessedly empty. It had two small holes where a handle would attach, but it was missing. It was fairly light, and dented. Aluminum maybe. Not the most lethal or aerodynamic of improvised weapons, but beggars can't be choosers, and neither can not-so-virgin sacrifices.

Hours passed with no change whatsoever. The vampire sat folded up in its corner, watchful and still, its eyes flickering to Lena's wrist every so often. Eventually, the adrenaline dispersed from Lena's system and exhaustion caught up with her, leaving her jumpy and wrung out. Her grip on the bucket slackened, even that much effort beyond her.

The vampire’s eyes flitted to Lena's wrist again and it swallowed visibly.

It didn’t seem to be poised to strike. Not even poised to poising. It just… looked. Looked away. Stayed still.

Was it the type to play with its dinner? Lena remembered the sick sadistic games of the monsters in her brother’s tales, and shivered involuntarily. It was a lesson she'd learned early and well, that the worst part of pain is anticipation.

Her situation was unlikely to improve with time. There would be no one to look for her, and no way to find her. The creature likely didn't need sleep, and needed sustenance much less pressingly than she did. She would grow thirsty, and weaker. Lex might come back.

There was no point in waiting, and no pleasure in it either.

She bit down hard on her tongue, to make sure she wouldn't stutter, and tightened her grip on the bucket again. “Well? Aren’t you going to pounce?” she goaded.

The vampire swallowed. “No,” it said.

“I’m unarmed, you know. No holy water here. No stakes. Not even a cross.”

“I’m Jewish,” said the vampire.

Lena flashed it a rude gesture. “No fucking star of david either.”

The vampire’s face twitched.

“I can’t kill you,” Lena told it. “I’ll just put up a bit of a fight. Hurt you just a little, a bit of foreplay, you know, get the blood pumping. Come on. Let’s get it over with.”

“No, thank you,” said the vampire, and just went and closed its fucking eyes.

“Hey!” Lena snapped, slamming her boot against the wall. “I’m bleeding and vulnerable here, but I’ll still fuck you up! What are you doing!”

The vampire drew its knees closer to its chest, propping its elbows over them and resting its face on its crossed forearms. Its hair spilled over the fingers curled loosely against its shoulder, grimy and lank. It looked miserable, pitiable, strangely compact. Like something Lena could just pick right up in her arms, if she braced herself properly.

“Are you falling asleep,” Lena said, incredulous. “Hey. Hey! I’ll just find a piece of wood and break it. I can chew it into a point if I have to.”

The vampire hummed, face burrowing more snugly into the nest of its arms.

Lena banged the bucket against the metal door to produce the most obnoxious noise available to her. “I won’t let you sleep,” she threatened, and banged again.

The vampire’s eyes opened. From this distance, in this lighting, Lena couldn’t make out their trajectory. But she could tell she was being looked at. She felt that gaze like a breath on sensitized skin, a prickle in the back of her neck.

If this was such a scary fucking predator, it may as well get the fuck on with it already.

“He’s gonna come back in the morning,” she warned. “If you hadn’t eaten me by then, he’ll just kill you and find another humiliating way to get rid of me.”

“Okay,” said the vampire, and closed its eyes again.

.

.

.

Lex didn’t come in the morning.

Lena hadn’t slept a wink. She’d huddled against the door, her jitters refusing to subside for hours, watching the vampire snooze in its corner like a curled up kitty cat. At some point it had begun to snore. Why the fuck it had a diurnal sleeping schedule Lena couldn’t fathom. But then the cellar had no natural light, and Lena was struck by the thought that this miserable, half-starved creature may well have been kept here long enough to lose all track of time.

Lena's second sweep of the room (this one more thorough, emboldened by the vampire's obnoxiously conspicuous sleep apnea) didn't manage to unearth any cameras or listening devices. Her best bet was the ceiling vent. The field of vision would be broad, but the audio at least should be crap. Not that she had anyone to surreptitiously conspire to escape with, really. Except the vampire.

She snorted.

"Whuh?" rasped the vampire, startled from its sleep.

"Suck a dick," Lena snapped.

The vampire grumbled illegibly and turned its face away. Its cheek was creased from the indentations of its jacket sleeve.

Big baby.

The cut on Lena's forearm had long since stopped bleeding, but the skin was puffy and inflamed. Lena struggled out of her sleeve and painstakingly worried at the stitches with her teeth until she could carefully pop them out. She turned the detached sleeve inside out and tied it over her wrist like a fucking cartoon character. Who the fuck knew when was the last time Lex, that disgusting motherfucker, had even bothered to vacuum in here. The last thing she needed was an infection.

The vampire woke up around midday by Lena’s estimation. It had slept 14 hours, at least. She supposed vampires might be like other mammalian predators, and require a lot of sleep. Or, it might just be dying. Good riddance.

It yawned, flashing long white fangs, and stretched its legs out in front of itself. Lena huddled closer to her corner in response. The vampire’s eyes flickered to her, and quickly away again. It continued its stretching routine, but without even getting up; strangely self-contained. As if it didn’t want to take up too much space.

Whatever.

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.

.

Day two with no Lex and no exsanguination, Lena was starting to feel the thirst and sleep deprivation. Her mouth was sticky and dry, her head didn't fit right on her neck, and she had trouble keeping her eyes open.

At one point, she was startled out of a compulsive nap by her stomach growling loudly.

"I know, right?" said the vampire without opening its eyes. Then added very hurriedly, "Suck a dick, yeah, yeah, yeah."

Lena didn't even have the energy to curse. She fell back into a sticky, dark sleep.

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Day three, the door opened, and Lex slung a large, heavy object into the cellar. Lena managed in a burst of uncoordinated motion to insinuate the toe of her boot into the threshold before Lex slammed the door home, crushing her toes and dislodging her foot.

Lena howled. “I hate you!” she screamed, her foot in agony, her head hyped on adrenaline. “I’m gonna fucking butcher you, you dirty bastard!”

Lex hummed pleasantly across the door. “Start with the sirloin, perhaps.” And he left.

On closer examination, the object he’d thrown in appeared to be a slab of raw beef. Lena crouched down next to it, clutching her crushed foot in both hands, grunting through clenched teeth. She was shaking, with fury and pain and powerlessness. That was stupid. That was such a dumb fucking move. As if Lex would throw her to the almost literal wolves but would balk at slamming a door on her foot. She should have tried to jam in the bucket instead. Now she’d incapacitated herself further, and had nothing to show for it.

“You’re hurt.” For the first time since Lena had been dumped here, the vampire moved from its spot in the corner of the cell. In a flash it appeared by Lena’s side. It moved so fucking fast.

This was it, then, Lena supposed. Why the creature had waited for her to hurt her foot first was anyone’s guess. Some things had strange triggers. It got off on pain or something, probably.

Lena dug her fingers into the hunk of meat, ready to sling it like a weapon. Bitch slapping her murderer with bloody raw beef wouldn’t be the worst way to go. It was heavier than the bucket, in any case.

The vampire reached out, and Lena swung. The meat connected with the vampire’s groin with a satisfying splunk, and the vampire staggered. Lena swung again, aiming for the knee, but this time the vampire reached over, lightning quick, and caught Lena by the wrist. It’s grip was cool and soft, just like the meat, but far less yielding. The crotch of its light brown trousers was stained a juicy, dripping reddish-pink. With slower, clearly telegraphed movements, it wrested the beef from Lena’s hands and put it aside. Still holding Lena’s wrist in one hand, it folded down to its knees beside her and, reaching out with its bloodied hand, touched Lena’s ankle.

“You’re a fucking asshole,” Lena told it.

“Are the toes broken?” asked the vampire.

“You like some bone bits in your smoothie, is that it? Prefer your blood with pulp?”

“If they’re broken, we should take the shoe off,” said the vampire.

“What the fuck do you mean, ‘we’,” Lena said, words choking off into a seneless scream when the piece of shit started tugging on her boot. “Stop! Stop stop stop!”

It stopped.

Lena braced her free hand on the floor. Her vision swam. That hurt like a fucking bitch. “Yeah,” she gasped. “I think they’re broken.”

The vampire released her wrist with a mockery of a reassuring squeeze. “I’m gonna tear your boot,” it said, and pinched the lip of Lena’s boot in both hands. “Sorry. I’ll owe you a new boot.”

The vampire pulled its hands in opposing directions and, just like ripping a piece of paper, Lena’s leather boot split down the side right up to the sole. Giving it another confident tug, the thick rubber sole came apart in its hands. With distressing delicacy, the vampire peeled the ruined remains of the boot away from Lena’s foot, like picking the shell off an egg.

The vampire’s fingertips slid underneath the hem of Lena’s sock, cool and smooth against her bare skin, and Lena sprang to action. “Okay, okay!” She batted the hand away. Its fingertips grazed her ankle on the way. “I can do it myself.”

Even rolling the sock away as gently as she could manage was jarring enough to hurt like hell. Sock finally off, Lena drooped against the wall, panting. Her toes were purple and already swelling, a row of fat, grotesque sausages at the end of her foot. She thumped her head back against the door. "Fuck."

"Can I touch?" came the vampire's voice, raspy and soft. Asking her fucking permission.

Lena didn't grant it. She rolled her head to glare at the vampire, and the vampire didn't touch.

Instead, it overturned the bucket and pushed it near Lena's foot. "Elevation," it explained shortly, and retreated a couple of steps.

"Just eat me," Lena said. She was drained and miserable and in pain, and she did not want to cry in front of her murderer.

The murderer shook its head. "I will not hurt you," it said with disconcerting earnestness. "I will never hurt you, I swear. I'm sorry."

Lena squeezed her eyes shut, fighting the despicable hitch in her breath. "What the fuck," she said softly.

"I'm sorry you're here. I'm sorry you're hurt. I'm sorry your brother is so horrible. But I won't harm you. I can't."

Lena squeezed her sock in her hand, whistled in a breath through her congested nose, let it out slow and steady through her mouth, and managed not to cry. She placed her foot on the overturned bucket and opened her eyes. "What the fuck are you?" she demanded.

The vampire looked taken aback. "Uh, hi," it said, and gave a single little wave. "I'm Kara."

Lena let out a shocked laugh. "Oh, Kara," she repeated. "Just vampire freelance florist Kara. Oh, next door neighbor bloodsucker Kara, you know, with the ponytail and the multilevel marketing healing crystals side gig. Pastry chef Kara, I hear her red velvet cupcakes are literally to die for."

"Freelance florist isn't a thing," muttered wedding dress bedazzler Kara.

"Are you kidding me? Are you fucking kidding me? You'll never hurt me? What the fuck? You live on people's blood."

Kara flinched. "Consent is very important to me," she mumbled.

Lena banged her head against the door and laughed wildly. "Consent!" she crowed. "You have my fucking consent, all right! Go nuts."

"Consent under duress is meaningless," scolded Kara the vampire sex ed middle school consultant. "Can I look at your foot now?"

"Oh, but would my consent have any meaning under such circumstances?"

Kara was losing patience with her, Lena could tell. There was a pinched quality to her eyes. She looked frustrated, and a little hurt. But rather than shutting Lena up via direct application of fang to jugular, she just muttered, "Okay," and retreated to her corner, folding herself back up like a baby hedgehog.

Lena rubbed a twitchy hand over her face, her foot throbbing, her head pounding, but the threat of tears mercifully gone.

.

.

Vampires can't eat animal blood, and Lex, of course, knew that. The meat was obviously meant for Lena.

Had Lex spoken to Kara, this fucking weirdo who had swallowed a sexual health pamphlet, and realized this wouldn't be a quick and easy solution to his Lena-shaped problem? What was his endgame? Did he plan to starve Kara slowly, keeping Lena alive, until Kara has no choice but to nibble or die? And in the meantime, make Lena feed like an animal. No water, either; he must be slavering for the opportunity to render her desperate enough to suck on the blood. Lex had always loved a bit of irony.

"You should eat," came Kara's quiet voice from the corner, as if she'd been listening in on Lena's thoughts.

"Don't be disgusting."

"If you want to 'tear out his larynx with your teeth', you need your strength."

"Maybe you should tear out his larynx with your teeth, fix both our problems."

Kara shuffled closer against the wall. "I don't hurt people."

Lena waved a dismissive hand. "Oh, Lex isn't a person. He's just a giant humanoid ass."

Kara made a small noise. With a shock, Lena realized it was a shy little laugh.

"He hadn't always been," said Lena, feeling strangely compelled to continue. Just to see if she could coax more of that sound. "He was a really cute baby. I think the cheeks started swelling around age 16. By twenty he was at least fifty percent anus."

"My sister can be a butt sometimes," Kara said. "But not nearly this big."

"Are you telling me she never tried to feed you to a bloodthirsty monster? Not even once, as a joke?"

Kara didn't laugh at that one, and Lena felt a little chastised.

She'd risked her life—and was about to lose it, most likely—trying to end the brutal hunting down of people like Kara; but she'd never, she realized with a pang, properly confronted her own prejudice, revulsion, reflexive fear. It took getting to know Kara, a fucking blinding paragon of shining virtue in all respects but fashion sense, to fully shift vampire into the category of person in Lena's mind.

"Sorry," Lena said awkwardly. She'd always been too proud and too combative to be good at apologies. "Shitty joke."

Kara was quiet for a while. She didn't seem angry, but the precarious lightness between them was gone.

"I've tried," Kara said quietly.

"What?"

"I have tried. To—hurt him. I can't. He's got—and I—" Kara bit her cracked lower lip. "I'm sorry."

Lena turned her face aside. Of course Lex was kitted head to toe in every religious symbol in existence, a wooden stake in every hole. He's been a hunter for over a decade now, and his prey wasn't usually half-starved, mild-mannered gentlewomen.

"Why hasn't he killed you by now?" Lena asked bluntly.

After a period of hesitation, came Kara’s small voice: “I think I’m here for you.”

Lena sunk lower against the door, the bucket sliding half an inch forward with an obnoxious dragging noise. "Fuck," she muttered, rubbing her face with a hand. "Well. You're fucking welcome."

Improbably, Kara snorted. "You should try to eat the meat," she said. "Think of it as steak tartare."

Lena raised an eyebrow. "Thank you, avant garde deconstructionist vampire chef Kara."

"Journalist," Kara said.

"Hm?"

"It's just vampire journalist Kara. But not like, a vampire-things journalist. A regular, you know, human-stuff journalist. Who is a vampire."

Lena couldn't suppress a smile. "I'm Lena," she said. "Mechanical engineer human Lena."

"I know," said Kara, mirroring her smile. It lit up her sunken features like a ray of sunshine underwater. "Eat your deconstructed steak tartare, Lena."

Lena eyed the hunk of beef, of which every surface has by now come in contact with the basement floor, Lena’s unwashed hands, or Kara’s pants. “I’m pretty sure it’s been over three seconds by now.”

“A second is like two weeks in vampire years,” Kara informed her. “So the month-and-two-weeks rule still applies.”

Lena let out a laugh. “You couldn’t even think of a catchier fake rule?”

Kara’s mouth worked on air for a moment. “I’m—I didn’t—Let’s see your starved-prisoner-in-a-cage improv set!”

Lena laughed until she was dizzy with the blood pounding in her head, and then she had to sniff and wipe her eyes. Kara was still all scrunched up in the corner, but she had folded both hands over a smile.

.

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.

Day four, Lena felt like such shit she was ready to gnaw off her own arm.

“Alright,” she announced. “I’ll fucking do it. Come over here, I can’t reach.”

Kara startled. “I—I told you, I’m not going to bite you, so—”

Lena made a face. “The beef. I’m eating the fucking beef. Come here, I need your help.” She gestured impatiently at her foot. The toes had just about doubled in size, and looked more beef-like than the meat, to be honest.

Kara moved closer to her slowly, as if trying not to spook a prey animal with sudden movements. Lena supposed that was quite accurate to their situation, actually, except the predator was a big harmless loser and the prey just needed a fucking drink.

Finally, Kara crawled close enough to pick up the meat and started tearing strips off it and handing them to Lena one by one like a mama bird, as Lena spent several minutes forcing herself to chew through the tough fiber without gagging. If she threw up and couldn’t even use the fucking bucket, she would simply aim at Kara.

That image was so perversely satisfying that it got her through another bite.

“He is such a fucking asshole,” Lena said with her mouth full. “He could’ve gone with a big bag of trail mix and a juice box. Would’ve been cheaper.”

Kara made a supportive hum and handed her another strip of meat.

“What’s your sister like?” Lena asked her. “Is she—uh—”

“A vampire? No. I’m adopted.” Kara shot her a sardonic smile.

Lena transferred her lukewarm meat slurry to one cheek. "So am I."

Kara delicately wiped her fingertips on her already soiled pants, reached out and poked the bulge of Lena's cheek. "Sorry for your crap luck," she said with that same crooked smile.

Lena stared for a moment at those quirked lips, chapped and bloodless and so close to her own, and then she tilted her head back and spat her chewed up meat gunge straight at Kara's face. Kara batted it away with her ninja-like reflexes and sprang back, laughing like a big adorable idiot.

Big horrible idiot. Whatever.

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.

.

Day five, Kara only woke up in the afternoon.

"Hey, are you okay?" Lena asked her. "You've been sleeping more and more."

Kara blinked blearily several times. "I'm tired all the time," she rasped.

Something clenched in Lena's chest. "Maybe you should try some cow blood. It has to be better than nothing."

Kara shook her head. "My body would reject it," she mumbled. "It could cause a reaction. 'S not fun."

The knot in Lena's chest tightened. She rubbed at it with her fingertips, cleared her throat. "Kara," she said, "can you come over here? I need your help with something."

Kara grunted, pushed herself to her feet with difficulty. She shambled over to Lena like a zombie—wrong damn monster, that—and Lena swallowed past the lump in her throat.

"Great," Lena said. "Now, can you lift your arms a little? A little to the side? Perfect." And Lena drew forward, slipping her arms beneath Kara's armpits, linking them around her back, and pressing close to her body, completing the hug.

Kara let out a wounded noise and practically melted against her, cradling Lena's neck and shoulder in her hands.

Lena tightened her grip, fisting her hands in Kara's jacket, breathing in her dusty hair, and holding her close as she cried.

It took several minutes for Kara's dry sobs to subside, and by the time her breaths came smooth and even, their breathing had synced up.

“Thank you,” Kara said softly. “I needed that. I’ve been down here for so long, I… I really miss being touched.”

Lena’s chest hurt. She ran her hand over Kara’s arms, her sides, pressing firmly, trying to cram in as much touch into every second, every inch as she possibly could.

In a moment of mindless daring, she pressed a kiss to the crown of Kara's golden head.

Mercifully, Kara didn't react, and Lena cast about for anything to say. "So, uh, how did you end up here anyway? I can’t imagine you frequenting the kind of dealers Lex likes to extort."

"Investigative journalism, of all things,” said Kara. “Looking into some of Lex's public remarks that have skirted the line of hate speech. We've been investigating him for months now. Turns out it wasn't just speech." She shot Lena an ironic smile. “What about you?”

Lena snorted. “Almost the same reason, if you can believe it. I was trying to shut down his operation through his finances, which worked great and pissed him off plenty. Lots of fun all around. While it lasted.”

Kara gave her a gentle look. She didn’t say, It’s going to be okay, or, We’re gonna get out of here, or, You did the right thing. She just… looked, at Lena, looked properly, and Lena’s heart spasmed in her chest like a songbird gripped in a gentle but unyielding fist.

It was a hell of a thing, being seen.

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.

Day six, the door opened again. This time, Lex threw in a water bottle and an entire uncooked chicken.

"That shit has salmonella, you dick!" Lena called after him.

"If something hadn't been such a picky eater, this wouldn't be necessary."

"She has a name, fucker!"

"Does she?" He feigned surprise. "Not for long."

Lena flipped off the ceiling vent with both hands as she listened to his footsteps fade away.

Kara laboriously climbed to her feet, picked up the bottle and brought it to Lena. There was a concerning drag to her step.

Lena didn't reach for the bottle. "Can you drink water?"

Kara nodded.

"You drink first," Lena commanded.

Kara must have really been in bad shape, because she simply complied. In two long gulps she'd drained over half the bottle, then opened one eye and guiltily spat some of it back. Lena winced, but held out her hand. Kara collapsed next to her and handed it over.

When she was done, Lena turned her head to rest her cheek on Kara's shoulder. "The door's opened every third day so far," she whispered. "I wouldn't be surprised if he changes up the pattern, but we should take advantage if we can."

"How?" Kara asked, her voice hoarse and numb.

Lena reached out between them and took Kara's hand. "I know you're against it," she said carefully, "but I really think you should consider—"

"I'm not biting you," Kara said tiredly.

Lena squeezed her hand. "Kara, you're dying. You are fucking dying. And when you die, I die. This way, we might at least have a shot—"

"Lena, I'm sorry," Kara cut her off. "I couldn't fight him off, not even at full strength. It won't work. It's not worth it. It's not worth me hurting you."

Lena knew this was a bitch move, but, well, she was a bitch. She nudged her bucket half an inch in, snuggled closer in, and draped herself fully over Kara’s body, pressing her chest hard against Kara’s arm so she could feel her heartbeat. “Sure,” she said, voice low. “But you didn’t have me.”

She rubbed Kara’s hand, guiding Kara’s thumb over her wrist, and Kara started rubbing in answer like a good girl, right over Lena’s pulse. Plan B+: seduce the vampire prude was a go.

Kara took in a whistling breath through parted lips, a hint of fang peeking through. She turned her head as if by undeniable compulsion and took a long inhale of Lena’s hair. Her eyes were hooded. Lena tilted her chin back, baring her throat, and she knew her heartbeat would be strong and loud with her fear and anticipation, palpable under her skin—and Kara leaned in, mouth almost grazing the side of Lena’s jaw, and—

Banged her head back against the wall, hard. “Fuck,” said the vampire prude, soft and ragged. She let go of Lena’s wrist and rubbed both hands over her face. “Fuck. Don’t.”

Lena turned her face away, eyes hot with rejection and disappointment.

.

.

.

Day seven, Kara didn’t fucking wake up at all.

At first Lena was reluctant to approach her, still stiff and somewhat hurt after Kara’s rejection. When Kara remained in her corner, unmoving, through the morning and into the afternoon, a part of her was relieved that they wouldn’t have to engage in awkward conversation. What the fuck were you supposed to say to the person you were stuck with for a week in a 10x10 torture chamber with nothing but a bucket and a whole raw chicken, after said person had rejected your offer to drink your blood in order to save their life?

Well... maybe the situation wasn’t really that relatable.

In any case, Lena wasn’t super jazzed about reaching out, emotionally or physically.

But time kept on passing, and Kara kept on not moving, and eventually the fear of awkward interactions was outweighed by the fear of Kara being fucking dead, a fucking lifeless corpse just lying there three feet from Lena because Lena didn't have the chops to seduce a single stupid starving vampire.

So, anyway, Lena said, in a very normal tone of voice, "Kara? You awake?"

Kara didn't even twitch.

Properly alarmed and starting to whip herself into worse panic, Lena carefully swung her leg off the bucket, winced, and dragged herself across the floor on her butt like a big baby crab.

"Kara," she said again when she got close. She reached out and touched Kara's shoulder, and Kara's head rolled lifelessly on her neck in response.

Lena cursed and flinched back, terrified. She pressed two fingers to Kara's neck, stupidly looking for a pulse, and shook herself.

She wasn't dead. She wasn't fucking dead, no way. She was a fucking vampire. She'd died once already, right? No fucking way Lena was going to let that happen again.

“Kara, you fucking idiot,” Lena muttered. “If you die, I’m gonna bleed out all over you just out of spite.”

Lena peeled the makeshift bandage off her injured wrist. It didn’t look great; the skin was still puffy and glistened with serous drainage. Lena took a deep breath, pressed her mouth to the healing wound, dug her teeth in, and ripped.

Not only did it hurt like a motherfucker, it didn’t even have the courtesy of being a one-and-done kind of motherfucker. Lena’s shitty blunt teeth weren’t made for this bullshit, unlike a certain idiot prude, and she had to swallow her scream and bite into her skin one more time to get the fucking job done properly.

By the time she was done, the fingers of that hand were twitching uncontrollably, and she could not bring herself to look directly at her wrist. She reached out with her good hand in a shaky haze and probed clumsy fingers into Kara’s mouth.

The lips were dry but pliant, conforming intriguingly under Lena’s fingertips, and the jaw slackened agreeably when Lena pushed. One day, when they weren’t stuck in a torture dungeon and Kara wasn’t dying and also (improbably, for the sake of the hypothetical) wasn’t a fucking prude, Lena would have to explore this sticking-fingers-into-Kara’s-mouth business more thoroughly. For now, she forced two fingertips in between the hard, blunted surfaces of Kara’s molars to prop her jaw open, and angled her mangled wrist over Kara’s mouth.

She could feel the blood dribbling sluggishly down her wrist, Kara’s damp, shallow breath puffing over her skin, the warm gooey slug of her tongue against her fingertips. And then, as the first drop of blood touched Kara’s tongue—everything burst into motion. Lena snatched her fingers out of Kara’s mouth to avoid losing them as Kara’s fangs clamped hard onto Lena’s wrist; Kara’s body folded itself fully in half to snap off the floor and into an animalistic crouch, huddled over Lena’s arm like a predator hauling its kill by the throat; Kara’s hands closed like a vise over the circumference of Lena’s forearm, fingers bruising into her flesh; and with deep, loud, slurpy gulps, Kara started to suck.

“Holy shit,” Lena muttered, in a dizzying amalgam of pain, arousal, fascination and a little bit of disgust, and passed out.

.

.

.

When Lena woke up, there was someone very noisily putting their foot through a food processor. Or a parrot trying to cough up a pineapple, maybe. Or a cat having its tail pulled by a tractor?

“Fffphuh?” Lena inquired articulately.

Something hard and uncomfortable crushed against her and made a noise like a dying squirrel.

Oh. It was just Kara, blubbering. She pressed Lena’s face into her neck, which smelled like dust and mildew and nothing very human at all, and made disgusting wet noises into Lena’s hair.

“Didn’t know you could produce mucus,” Lena tried to say, but didn't say that. Charitably, the noise she made might be described as a groan. Really, it was more like a tiny little whimper.

“Lena, Lena, Lena,” Kara was chanting into her filthy hair. “Don’t die.”

“H’you feeling?” Lena managed to slur.

Kara hiccuped. “Why are you asking me that? Why did you do that? Why are you like this?” she sobbed.

You were basically fucking dead, and I in fact saved your life, you’re welcome, Lena wanted to say. But she glanced down at Kara’s heaving chest and said, “Nice tits,” instead.

Kara finally detached her blubbery face from Lena’s scalp to stare her down with wild, bloodshot eyes. Her face was snotty and terrified and disgusting, but Lena noted the cheeks weren’t quite as hollow, the eyesockets not quite as sunk in.

"You okay?" Lena asked again, intently.

"You saved my life," Kara said in her shaky, bewildered, wrecked voice. And, like, well, duh. "You could have died."

Relief and accomplishment left Lena emptied. Keeping her eyes open was a struggle she didn't particularly care to engage in. "You really do have a great rack," she mumbled, sinking into the comforting tug of sleep.

Kara gave her body a cruel shake. "Lena! Hey! Eyes open!"

“’m sleepy,” Lena protested.

Kara shook her again. “Nonono, you can’t sleep." Her voice was high and panicked, the drama queen.

“Mm fuck off,” Lena mumbled.

“Lena. Lena. I will bang the bucket on the door. I have much more patience than you did. Stay up.”

Lena shoved weakly at Kara’s chest. “Hate you,” she mumbled.

Kara scooped the hand up from her chest, gently unfurled its finger and pressed her mouth to the palm. She held the kiss for several unbroken seconds, and nosed up Lena's fingers as she let go. The gesture was so shockingly intimate, Lena’s eyes opened wide, suddenly shot through with adrenaline.

"Stay with me, yeah?" Kara said softly, carefully bundling up Lena's hand in both of hers, rubbing her lips back and forth over their interlaced fingers.

Lena, who had already had her fucking fingers in Kara’s fucking mouth, could only stare, her heart in her throat.

“Thank you,” Kara sighed. “Just hang on for me, okay? Just for a little while longer.”

Lena swallowed with difficulty. “So, my big strong vampire prude,” she croaked, “what’s the plan?”

.

.

They set the scene. Lena's body arranged in the furthest corner from the door, position just unnatural enough to look donezo and prevent her from nodding off, blood and bits of meat strewn artfully across the room. Kara had done a more or less passable performance of screaming, horrified guilt over Lena’s definitely 100% dead body for the cameras, and was now pretending to sulk and rock herself in the corner, while discreetly smooshing down the metal bucket by sitting on it repeatedly.

Yes, it was very funny. No, Lena did not laugh.

It took Lex like three fucking hours of probably watching Kara’s feigned grief through the hidden camera like a pervert before the door creaked open, and then every fucking thing happened all at once.

Kara jammed the folded down aluminum bucket into the doorway and, in a motion too fast for Lena’s naked eye, slipped her hand through and grabbed hold of Lex’s shirt, pressing him up against the gap. Lex already had a silver cross in hand, smashing a fist wrapped around it into Kara’s face. But Kara was motherfucking Jewish. She held him still by the shirt and reached her other hand into his back pocket where Lena had told her he kept the spare star of david. The other one was around his neck, and would have to be dealt with before any jugular-ripping could take place, but one bridge at a time.

Lena heard the impact of his knee to Kara’s chest at the same time as the star clattered to the ground. A hit like that might have left her dazed and wheezing a day ago, but Kara’s whole body was rippling with mesmerising power and she didn't even flinch. She grunted, shouldered the door further open, grabbed Lex by the waist, and flipped him over her back. He landed with a lovely, gentle little crunch on the concrete floor, but he was already reaching inside his creepy long trenchcoat.

“Stake!” called Lena, who had no reason to continue her corpse impression, just as Lex slammed the wooden stake into the space previously occupied by Kara’s foot. “Do you not fucking know where the heart is?” Lena taunted.

Kara stepped on Lex’s hand, and he yelped and let go of the stake like a little bitch. She tried to stomp on him again but he rolled away. Like a little bitch.

“Go for the balls!” Lena cheered, just to be nasty.

Kara grabbed Lex by the shirt again, slamming him into the ground, and Lex let go of the cross, smart boy, and went instead for the knife. They scuffled, partially obscured from Lena’s line of sight by the angle. Kara landed a few good bare handed hits, but then Lex made a sudden, detestable noise of triumph, and Lena watched Kara stagger back, a large, black, ergonomic plastic handle sticking proudly out of her chest.

Lex climbed laboriously to his feet, unsteady but smug. He laughed, though the sound gurgled unpleasantly in his chest. His mouth was bloody. Kara fell another step back, hand hovering around the foreign, unwelcome protrusion from her chest. Lex's knife was only metal, there was no way it could be fatal for a well-fed vampire, but—but—

In a burst of purely unhinged fury, Lena somehow got herself on her foot, and with a deep growly roar, jumped onto her little bitch of a brother. She latched on with all four limbs, arms around his head, grabbing the chains around his neck in her teeth and tugging for all she was worth. The chains gave way, and she spat them out. A multitude of religious talismans clattered to the floor. Lena looked up, and caught Kara’s eye over Lex’s shitty bald head.

As Lex bucked underneath her like a dumb bull, Kara nodded. She closed her fingers around the knife’s handle, pulled it out of herself with a sick, meaty schlick, turned it around in her grip, and charged.

Blade and fangs sank into Lex’s flesh almost simultaneously. Lena tightened her hold on Lex’s head, pulling it back to give Kara’s mouth better access. She could see the tendons in Kara’s neck straining along with the working of her jaw, and then Kara tore her mouth away, along with a hot, dark spray of blood.

Lex gurgled and buckled beneath Lena, and Kara caught her in her arms as he fell.

She was drenched in blood from chin to sternum, a lurid, open wound gaping in her chest. Lena pressed closer, letting out a little sigh of relief when Kara gathered her up in her arms and held her close.

“Let’s get out of here,” Kara said, wheezing. “I know a place.”

Lena let the weight of her head drop fully onto the crook of Kara’s firm shoulder, traced careful fingers over the bloodless edges of the wound in her chest. “You could fit a quarter in here,” she murmured, ever so slightly delirious.

Kara’s chest rumbled against her. “Hope you’re ready for this one, Alex,” she muttered.

“It’s Lena,” Lena corrected.

Kara adjusted her gently in her arms, slid a hand over to tuck Lena’s hair behind her ear. “I know,” she said softly. “Just hold on a little longer for me, yeah?”

Lena hummed in acquiescence, tucked her face more snugly into Kara’s neck, and held on.

.

.

.

Lena opened her eyes to the familiar sight of the basement's fluorescent lights.

Except, there hadn’t been acoustic ceiling tiles in Lex’s torture cellar. There hadn’t been a bed, either, or an IV pump, and there certainly hadn’t been a flatscreen tv.

This was a fucking hospital.

“Hey,” said a familiar voice in an unfamiliar face, gorgeous and gleaming, haloed by fluffy golden hair, two sparkling white fangs straining against lips stretched in a wide, crooked smile. “You’re awake.”

Oh. It wasn’t unfamiliar, after all. Kara had just... taken a shower.

“Hi,” replied Lena, in a voice doused in peanut butter, rolled in cornflakes, and run over by a four-wheeler, twice.

Kara’s eyes flitted over her, taking her in. “You look a bit better. How are you feeling?”

“Like a million bucks,” croaked Lena. She reached out a hand that felt like its circulation had been cut off by an elephant’s ass and flopped it awkwardly against Kara’s chest. “Are you…?”

Kara hooked two fingers in the neckline of the soft sweatshirt she was wearing, pulling it down to display a neat white bandage where the gaping hole had been. “All sewn up and ready to rumble,” she said brightly.

“Absolutely no rumbling,” said a flat voice from behind her.

Lena squinted, trying to focus on the new, blurry figure.

Kara leaned closer, pressing Lena’s numb hand to her chest and rubbing over it. “That’s Alex,” she said, conspiratorial. “My smaller butt of a big sister.”

Alex checked Lena’s vitals and adjusted her IV. “You’re looking okay,” she said critically. “Would have been nice not to have to replace 35 ounces of blood, Kara,” Kara looked aside, shamefaced, “but it could’ve been worse. We can let you go by tomorrow.”

“Wow,” said Lena, and shot Kara a look. “You were thirsty, huh.”

Kara cleared her throat and Alex made a very ugly face. “Anyway, thank you for saving her life,” she told Lena, not looking very grateful at all. “I’m just gonna…” She gestured vaguely and walked away.

Kara bumped her chair closer to Lena’s bed, and Lena lay back against her pillows and focused in on her.

“What you did was really, really stupid,” Kara said softly.

Lena hummed skeptically. “Debatable.”

“And you really saved my life,” Kara continued.

“Factual,” Lena said smugly.

Kara gave her such a gentle, fond smile, Lena could have drowned in it and not made a ripple in its surface. “Thank you,” Kara murmured.

Lena swallowed thickly.

“So, hey, I was thinking, can I, um.” Kara looked aside, fidgeting with her hands, suddenly restless. “If you want, I mean, if you feel like it, I guess you don’t have to use it, but—can I give you my number?”

Lena rolled her eyes. She tried to fist her hand in Kara’s ratty sweatshirt and pull her in, all cool and gentlemanly, into a sweeping kiss, but her fingers weren’t quite up to clenching, or pulling, or really moving at all. So she said, “Just come over here, idiot,” and tilted her chin up to be kissed.

“Oh,” said Kara. “O-okay. We can do that.” And she touched Lena’s cheek with a hand, holding Lena’s palm pressed over her chest with the other, and leaned close, and pressed a kiss to the space between Lena’s jaw and the corner of her lips.

Lena shivered, and made a sad little sound, neck straining back, searching after Kara’s lips. Kara nosed at her cheek, mouth parted, puffing hot breath against Lena’s skin. She cupped Lena’s face in her hand, turned it where she wanted it, breathed in, and then—she was kissing Lena fully on the mouth, soft and indulgent, and Lena’s throat was producing noises completely unchecked.

Kara’s hand slid to the back of her neck, threading into her hair, and she angled Lena’s head back, deepening the kiss. Her mouth was loose and generous and pliant, but Lena’s tongue skimmed the sharp, hard edges of her fangs, and she shivered. Kara, fresh and clean and back to full strength, could pick her up in one arm and break her like a twig; but she kissed like she was making a desperate offering, begging to be received, like Lena held her heart in her hand instead.

Lena had no intention of leaving her hanging. She melted into Kara’s mouth, sucking at her lips, allowing herself to be sampled, tasted, and consumed.

“Ungh,” Lena whimpered. “I think I’ll take that number, thanks.”

Kara’s grin grew, exposing her fangs in full. “Can I have you over for dinner? Ve-vegetarian, of course.” She grimaced, likely thinking of the salmonella chicken.

“You can have me for dinner,” Lena told her, straight-faced.

Kara laughed. She was so fucking beautiful. “M-maybe we’ll start with takeout first?”

“Yeah,” Lena acquiesced, saint that she was. "But you should kiss me again right now, or I will probably die."

"After I went to all that trouble." Kara smiled indulgently. "We can't have that."

Kara maneuvered Lena’s numb hand to intertwine their fingers, propping them against her heart, and cradled Lena’s head gently in her palm, careful not to put any weight on her at all. She gave a huffy, happy, disbelieving little laugh, bent her head down, and kissed her, and kissed her, and kissed her.