Mew doesn’t know how it happened and he doesn’t want to know, really. Truly.
Okay, fine. The truth is, he knows without even asking that Gulf isn’t ready to talk about it yet, or maybe ever. And he respects that and, to be honest, most of the time it doesn’t even occur to him to think about it.
Most of the time, Gulf is irrepressibly curious about all the details of his new, very slightly undead (“The community doesn’t actually like the term undead, Gulf, given the negative connotations and the way it glosses over the different challenges faced by disparate groups, so the preferred umbrella term is No Longer Liv—” “P’Mew, I’m the undead one and I think that means I’m allowed to call myself undead if I want to!”) life.
Usually, the Gulf he knows is smiling as he waves Mew off to work in the morning, soft and sleepy with his teeth cutely slipping just slightly out into view because he gets absent-minded about controlling them when he’s tired (“I really wasn’t a morning person even before this, Phi, please, don’t worry.” “But Gulf, are you sure it’s okay? Things are different for you now that you’re und- nocturnal. I don’t mind only getting to see you in the evenings if that’s what’s best for you.” “But I mind, Phi!” “I — well that’s — go back to bed now, and no getting up until two o’clock, at least!”).
Often, Gulf is calling for Mew, his full cheeks tight with repressed laughter at the novelty of it all as he practises gradually raising and lowering his fangs. This ends, inevitably, in a fit of giggles even as a pleased blush rises through Gulf’s cheeks to the tips of his bright ears (“Phi, Phi, look, I’ve improved my left fang retraction time! The non-dominant one!”). When Gulf is in this sort of mood, Mew can’t resist hugging him, squeezing him tightly to himself until his heart feels less like it’s going to burst at the sheer absurd cuteness of it all.
He drops helplessly fond, quick little kisses all over Gulf’s cheeks, turning gradually to slow, heavy presses of his mouth as he breathes in deeply of Gulf’s clean, slightly metallic scent and inches carefully towards his full lips. Gulf’s blush deepens from light pink to a truly ferocious magenta and his fangs begin to extend fully as his control starts to slip. He shivers, a rich, delicious movement, as Mew’s tongue inadvertently catches the edge of one of his fangs on its way to his mouth and, well — by then — safe to say Mew isn’t really thinking straight anymore.
Frequently, Gulf is sitting with his feet curled under him on the sofa when Mew gets home, safely ensconced in the warm orange glow of the standing lamp next to him even though he doesn’t strictly need its light anymore to read the words of any of the growing pile of books he’s amassing on his latest interest (“Gulf, do we really need to buy Bats of East and South-East Asia and Bats: An illustrated guide to all species when we’ve already got Bats: A World of Science and Mystery and Thai Bat Calls: A Guide to Species Identification at home?” “Yes, Phi, I’ve checked and they’re all by respected chiropter- chirop- chiropteror— don’t laugh, Phi, you’re so mean, it’s much harder to pronounce everything with fangs, you know that — people who study bats, okay? Now we know my powers are developing in that direction I have to be responsible about it, make sure I don’t harm any of the little ones.”)
On these nights, Mew will wolf down a light dinner and confine himself strictly in his study to spend an hour making a dent in the neverending paperwork that plagues academic life. Only then is he allowed to go back into the living room and launch himself across the full length of the sofa, digging his head down into Gulf’s lap until that night’s bat treatise is firmly displaced. Gulf will sigh theatrically, and put his book down, and then run his cool fingers through Mew’s hair until Mew loses track of time and sinks bonelessly into the sofa, fuzzy-headed with the relentless, gentle pressure of Gulf’s touch, Gulf’s focused attention, Gulf’s loving care.
But sometimes, very occasionally, Mew will arrive home to a dark apartment and Gulf sitting silently at the kitchen table, his posture unusually straight and stiff. The only other physical sign that anything is wrong will be the slight trembling in Gulf’s fingers and the unusually deep chill they are radiating — a sure sign that he’s been neglecting that day’s blood bag dosage and is running lower than he should be going into the night. Mew will put his head under Gulf’s arm and slowly prise him out of his rigid posture until Gulf is curled around him and letting Mew half-walk, half-drag his suddenly limp body to their bedroom. He will position Gulf gently on the bed on his side, retrieve a blood bag from the fridge and coax his unresponsive lover into feeding, not letting up until at least half the bag has been emptied and a hint of warmth and colour is returning to Gulf’s face.
They will do all of this in the dark, after the one time when Mew tries to turn the kitchen light on and Gulf immediately buries his face in his hands and shrieks and shrieks until Mew switches the light off again, just seconds later but knowing that that sound will stay with him for years. After he’s returned the bag to the fridge, Mew will come back and sit on the floor beside the bed. He will take hold of one of Gulf’s hands and intertwine their fingers, careful not to touch him anywhere else. He will whisper to him, first reassurances, then mumbled endearments that will turn into a jumble of nonsense as his head droops, droops down and he falls asleep by the side of the bed. Gulf will stay wide awake and silent throughout all this. Their fingers will still be intertwined when Mew wakes in the early morning. (“I love you, darling. I love you so, so much. So very much. Love you. Darling. Sweetheart. Did you know - yesterday - yes, cucumbers, I agree - must check for modelling errors - no deadline extensions - not my cookies actually - moon.”)
Once, just once, a streetlamp above their heads abruptly goes out as they’re walking home at night hand-in-hand. Before Mew knows what is happening, Gulf is collapsing to the ground, dragging Mew down with him as he starts to hyperventilate, seeming to have forgotten in his panic that he can’t and doesn’t need to breathe. His fangs are extending and retracting constantly, mindlessly, and he’s no longer moderating the full force of his strength, leaving Mew unable to pull his hand away and trying awkwardly to get his other arm around Gulf instead. Gulf is wheezing and gasping now and Mew is starting to panic himself and trying to tamp it down and — the light suddenly flickers back on overhead and Gulf is pushing Mew back just as suddenly. Gulf is staring at Mew, horrified, as he huddles on the ground and — painfully slow — stops trying to breathe.
Mew takes a steadying breath of his own and reaches out a decisive hand to capture hold of Gulf’s once more. Gulf opens his mouth to speak and Mew shushes him, pulls him up to stand once again. They return home in silence and Mew draws Gulf into the bathroom, taking a face towel from the airing cupboard on the way. He wets it with lukewarm water and uses it to wipe away the mess of tears on Gulf’s cheeks, dabs at his reddened eyes until they are soothed and slightly less swollen and Gulf has finally stopped crying. Runs his own bruised hand under the tap, as cold as he can get it, to soothe it as much as is possible.
Mew takes Gulf to bed and curls up behind him, no space between their bodies, so that when he speaks in his low, serious voice, his breath raises the hairs on the nape of Gulf’s neck. (“You’re going to have to talk about it one day, Gulf. No, don’t speak now. I know you’re not ready to speak yet. But one day, and — I think, maybe — one day soon. If you can. So that I can take care of you. So that I can learn how to take care of you, darling. Know what it is you need. Shh. Shh. Don’t cry, please, my love. Not now. For now, just sleep. Try to sleep.”)
Mew doesn’t know how it happened and while a part of him burns with a desire to know, he understands the difference between desire and actual need. He begins to make his peace with the fact that he may never know, precisely, if Gulf needs a little more distance than is possible between the two of them in order to open up about it — the distance of friendship, or professional boundaries, perhaps.
But this one gap vanishes into insignificance when compared with the precious store of knowledge Mew is building by the day. He knows Gulf has taken to being undead with more enthusiasm and good humour than many of the living ever show for life. That Gulf will stubbornly wake up with him every morning even though it plays havoc with his natural sleep schedule.
Mew knows that he is the first person Gulf comes to with all of the developments in his new life, whether to report the progress he’s making building up his tolerance to sunlight, or to laughingly inform Mew of the latest in a series of mischievous tricks he’s developed (this time: summoning tiny bats to amuse Mew’s little nieces on their visits to the manor, much to the girls’ delight and their father’s resigned horror).
Mew knows that Gulf will be there at home at the end of the day, at the end of every day, no matter what kind of day it has been.
To be honest, most of the time, it doesn’t occur to him to think about anything else at all.