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Hot Blood

Chapter Text

The snow pressed against the windows, smothering the whole canteen. The sharp glare of the artificial lights made the white tables almost green. It had just turned noon yet it felt like the dead of night. It was hardly a usual mid-March afternoon.

John scooped up the last bit of his soup, scraping the bottom of the metal bowl, the dull scratch inaudible to his numb ears. A grey haze filled his mind, punctured occasionally by echoes of that morning’s patient screaming before they had fainted, Nurse Carlisle’s droning admonitions, and the thought of nothing but his dank apartment waiting for him at the end of the day.

Pretty much a normal lunch break, then.

John ran his fingers through his overlong brown hair and remembered he had booked an appointment tomorrow for a haircut. It would be Saturday, he realised; he hadn’t noticed the week passing by in a blur, but the thought of a break, however fleeting, lifted his mood suddenly.

Not that I’ll get much done in this weather.

John’s heart sank as he realised that stunted his only other plan: practice with Roger, who lived basically in a hermit’s hut in the now snow covered mountains. He could try and Skype him, maybe, but the chances of Roger’s failing internet surviving this meteorological assault seemed unlikely. John would have to go it alone, as usual, but he supposed it was something to keep him occupied.

The low tone of the intercom distracted him from his extensive weekend plans.

It was time to go back to work. John often wondered who the blood bank left more drained: him or his patients?

The blue walls seemed particularly gloomy as John walked along the shadowy corridor towards the nearest storage room. He was double checking that the samples earlier had been sent for testing, even though he knew they had been, he was bored. It was a slow day; the weather had led to cancellations and that eliminated most of his work. He supposed he would phone up the fainting girl later to check she was alright and he knew there was a couple of donors in at 2 but until then he was free as a daisy.

The cold metal door always jammed upon opening and required a strong shoulder to force it open. John was surprised, then, when it swung open at first touch. A chill rushed over him before he had even stepped inside. He ran his hand around the doorframe, fumbling for the light switch and coming up short. He sighed, and pulled out his phone, reluctantly stepping into the darkness with only the faint luminous screen to light his surroundings.

Peering around, John shone his phone across the wall, the light switch slightly higher than he had remembered. It was a millimetre away from his fingertips when something tinkled softly in the background, like a pin dropping onto the floor.

John whirled around and threw his phone out like a shield, head half turned away, not wanting to know what had made that noise.

The phone nearly slid from his trembling fingers when he saw what was in front of him.

A man sat on the floor looking up at him, grinning like a cat. His bright turquoise eyes seemed to glitter in the half-light and John was momentarily dazzled.

Without warning the man pounced upon him, knocking him to the ground.

“See you later darling,” he whispered into his ear before he was gone, darting out of the door behind him.

John lay winded on the ground, trying to catch his breath as he stared up at the darkness. His heart pounded faster than he thought possible.

What the fuck just happened?

The breath of the stranger was still cold against his cheek. It took him a dazed moment before that struck him as odd. He shivered.

After a minute of trying to get his heart-rate to return to normal, John fumbled around for his phone and got up. He staggered forward, blood rushing to his head and turning his legs to mallow. He hit the light and looked around.

The room was as it always was, turquoise and grey, the rows of fridges humming quietly. Nothing seemed disturbed. John walked down the aisles, running his hand along the fridge doors almost absentmindedly. His eyes roved over the walls and ceiling; there was no window, vent, or crack for the man to have gotten through. He must have snuck through the door.

How on earth could he have? The door was usually sealed tight and locked. John thought back; did he lock it earlier? He was sure he had; Carlisle would have noticed if he hadn’t. But then, did he unlock it a few minutes ago? That he was less sure of.

As John reached the far corner, he felt a sudden cold and halted. The door he had just passed was ajar.

Pulling it open, he felt something wet on his fingers. Blood was oozing slowly from one of the bags that was torn at the edge. John examined the barcode and typed it into his phone to remember it. It was bizarre; there was no way any of them could have torn a bag that thick without noticing. It didn’t take him more than a second to put two and two together.

His stomach clenched and a bitter tang filled his mouth. Oh God.

He shut the fridge quickly and walked calmly to the door, his rapid breaths the only indication of the whirlpool of disgust, fear and bewilderment churning inside him. His path suddenly became unsteady and his foot skidded up. Catching himself, he looked down. Beneath his heel was a small, shiny silver key.

That explains one mystery.

John picked the key up, locked the room behind him and headed to the admin office. He would have to report it; he had no choice. He didn’t know how, though.

What the fuck had just happened?

He took a moment to consider it. He should really go to security. It would be obvious if they checked the cameras what had happened. Surely it would be suspicious if John hadn’t mentioned it. His rational mind struggled against his overwhelmed panic. He decided it was best to get the spill reported; he could go to security after. It was no-one else’s business but his own. Aside from all the other people working here who should be warned there’s a madman about who stole from one of them.

“Amanda?”

The young woman in front of him turned around. She grinned at him, full lips stretching to breaking point. He knew she liked him-- he wasn’t blind (despite what his glasses may have suggested).

“Hey, Johnny. What’s up? Snow’s awful isn’t it?”

“Yeah, very unexpected,” he commented, not even thinking what he was saying.

John bit his lip. He supposed he should just tell her, yet he didn’t quite know how to put it.

“There’s something—one of the blood samples it… got torn, I guess. It’s leaking in the store room.”

Amanda frowned.

“Why are you telling me?” she asked, her nasal voice particularly piercing. “The cleaner is down the hall.”

She really earned her reputation as a dumb blonde sometimes.

“Well you know a blood bag doesn’t just tear,” John said, trying to get her to see there was something more serious happening. “I don’t know who could have but someone had to have done it deliberately.”

Amanda raised an eyebrow and turned towards her computer.

“Yeah I guess so… it seems so weird though. It has to have been an accident. Someone got their nail extensions on a little too long.”

She giggled. The urge to tell her about what had really happened weighed on the tip of his tongue, threatening to spill out.

“OK,” he said, taking a deep breath to steady his nerves, “well you know about it anyway you can check and delete the sample from the system. Do you have a pen?”

Amanda looked around on her desk, then down at her ample chest.

“Oh here we are!”

She unclipped a pen attached to the middle of her shirt.

“Here you go Johnny,” she purred, smiling up at him. John kept his eyes firmly on the desk in front of them, lest he give her the wrong signal.

He scribbled down the barcode onto a corner of her magazine and handed the pen back.

“Thanks, Amanda. I better go talk to Sam about the messy side of things.”

“Don’t be a stranger,” she said with a wink and he gave her a feeble smile in return before walking back into the hallway.

 

Sam was sitting in the atrium perusing one of the newspapers when John went downstairs to find him.

“Hey Sam, how’s it going?”

Sam’s worn eyes rolled up to meet his and John felt stupid for asking.

“Can’t complain too much, just this bloody weather. Makes me feel worse than it is y’know?”

“I know, I’m the same. Sorry to have to add to it but I’ve got a bit of a mess if you don’t mind…?”

Sam sighed and slowly folded up the newspaper.

“As long as it’s not in the gents I’ll be kind. What happened?”

John laughed and sat down beside him, as a wave of dizziness washed over him. He put his head in his hands and felt his temples throbbing. He took a moment to try and process the last fifteen minutes.

“I don’t really know, Sam. I… I honestly haven’t a clue. All there is is a blood spill in storage B but how it happened is less obvious. I know the sample, I put it in this morning there’s no way it happened then. But somehow it’s been ripped.”

“Maybe someone got thirsty on lunch?” Sam quipped, snorting to himself.

John shrugged and shook his head.

“God knows. I could half-believe that.”

More than half. John tried to put the thought of the man out of his mind again while at the same time wondering why he didn’t just say he was there. Yet still somehow, despite the mild bump on the back of his head, he didn’t think it was real. It couldn’t be. He didn’t want to believe he had been in the room with a madman, or a monster, and that they had called him ‘darling’ of all things.

John exhaled softly in amusement. That was the thing that rankled him most; that cavalier intimacy. Whoever or whatever the man was, he certainly had a sense of humour.

The front door opened and a sharp blast of icy air brought John back to the situation at hand. A frail, tiny old woman was shuffling through the doorway, wrapped in about three shawls and wearing an oversized puffa jacket.

“Mrs. Newman!” John cried, quickly running over to help her get inside. “Thank you so much for coming, I know how hard it is in the weather.”

The woman brushed her feet vigorously on the carpet and shook her head.

“Ack, what’s a little snow to me Johnny?” she croaked, and her sudden, high nasal voice made John giggle involuntarily as it always did.

“You’re made of stronger stuff, I know.”

She pulled off her top shawl and shook it out, spraying him with flecks of snow.

“Young people nowadays have no idea what it was like in my day, we had to go out and walk rain, wind, or snow, and we didn’t have boots and coats like we have now. No backbone, this generation, you’ve got to get up and get on with it.”

She continued to mumble to herself as John led her into the ward. Andy walked through the door as John sat her down on the chair.

“Ah, here’s my girl!” Andy called upon seeing her, walking towards her with open arms. “Can’t get enough of me is that it?”

Mrs Newman roared with laughter and gave the other man a slap on the arm.

“Aye, always a charmer, because he wants something out of me just like every man!”

Andy pouted and sat down beside her.

“Aww please, m’dear, you know I love you for more than your blood.”

Mrs Newman cackled again.

“Aye, so that’s why yer about to ask me to take off my jacket!”

Andy laughed with her. John stood rather awkwardly beside the needles, giving them an extra clean until they were done kidding about.

“Alright, show us the goods then,” Andy giggled, help Mrs Newman’s off with her jacket.

“Terrible,” she gasped. “Do you hear this cheek, Johnny?”

John gave a low tut. Andy laughed again, but softened a little to help her relax.

“OK, OK, I’ll be nice. Could you roll up your sleeve please?”

Mrs Newman did as she was asked and John got on with the task at hand, trying his best not to lapse back into a daydream as he applied the numb antiseptic before slowly inserting the needle.

John didn’t like blood; he dealt with it but he didn’t particularly enjoy it. The concept of taking it, what had been flowing through another’s veins and beating through another’s heart, and then consuming it made his stomach turn. He fought back the nausea and tried to focus on something else. Maybe he was wrong and he hoped to God he was. He didn’t know if they would ever figure out what had really happened.

They finished up with Mrs Newman, Andy continuing to tease her, and he led her out leaving John to clean up. His head was numb and all he wanted to do was go home.

Andy came back after an indeterminable time and hopped onto the chair. He swung his legs about, tapping his hands on his knees. John didn’t really know what to say to him. He worked with him day after day and had never been able to get past a few niceties and crude jokes.

“Hey, saw you with Amanda earlier. Nice one. Crackin’ tits.”

Who on earth talked like that anymore?

“Yeah,” John laughed, uneasily. “I was just talking about work, though.”

“Ha, how you’re going to work on her tonight I bet.”

Andy grinned, his gummy mouth particularly repulsive looking.

“I’ve got a date myself,” he added. “Absolutely stunning bird, met her at Deanes last week. She’s got a pretty decent friend too, if you really aren’t doing anything with Amanda.”

John shook his head.

“I appreciate the offer but I’m alright.”

Andy gave him a distasteful look.

“You are a weirdo Johnny. What on earth do you do with your life?”

John snorted and shrugged.

“I dunno really.”

The words left a cold echo in his ears.

“We seriously need to go out some time, you have the look of a renewed virgin about you.”

John laughed a fake, loud laugh.

“It’s not quite that bad,” he lied. “Just too much drama. Staying clear for now.”

“Well, you’re not wrong there,” Andy said. “I just love tits too much to think logically about them though.”

As the rest of the shift went by in a blur, Andy’s question poked at the back of his mind, every time a little harder than before. They closed just before 3, after half the staff had threatened to walk out as they had no other choice if they wanted to avoid getting snowed in.

John trudged home alone, politely turning down Sam’s offer of a lift. He liked to walk and the cold, clean air washed his head clear. As he walked he tried to think of an answer to Andy’s question. He did a lot of his things with his time didn’t he? He liked walking. He went to the park quite often and occasionally went for a run. He could appreciate nature. In the summer he liked nothing more than going up to Roger’s, sitting in the fields and just enjoying the view. The daisies shone against the lush green grass and John watched the ants circle round them, endlessly busy.

He had his music. Hours upon hours had been lost in his bass; his finger tips running raw as he played over and over, compelled to by some driving nerve within him. It reminded him of the trance his mother used to get into, praying over the rosary for hours. If only he could have matched her devotion, he might feel less empty sometimes.

He’d had a sense of humour once too. A lot of things over the last two years had shut that part of his mind away, leaving the rest of it in darkness. Being almost totally alone didn’t help it brighten.

It was nearly dark by the time John arrived at his apartment. He was greeted by the low mewling of Gingey. The stray wasn’t officially his but every night she came to him, rubbed against his legs, and waited patiently outside for whatever leftovers he inevitably brought down for her.

John petted her and went inside, a drip of water from the leaking roof hitting the back of his neck just as he stepped across the threshold. He shivered. As he stepped forward he felt his shoe slip momentarily across the floor. Looking down, he saw a small, neatly folded piece of paper lying on the carpet.

Naturally he picked it up and read it.

“Thank you for keeping my secret. Our first of many, I pray. Oh, how I long to share my secrets with you and find out your own. Until then, your darling.”

John shivered uncontrollably, so numb he didn’t even notice the water still dripping onto him.

Chapter Text

John sat on the floor, rocking back and forth against his bed.

“Roger, I told you, I don’t know how he found me. I never saw him before today. I would’ve remembered him. Jesus… I can still see his face now.”

Those eyes might as well have been in front of him for the way they burned into the back of John’s skull. It didn’t help that he found them strangely beautiful.

“I believe you. I wonder why he did it though.”

Roger’s calm voice on the end of the phone, however distorted by the line, was some small comfort. Always the rational, analytical one, he was the voice of logic John needed that moment.

“Do crazy people usually need reasons?”

Roger laughed, its warmth spreading through the receiver.

“There are different types of crazy. I don’t think he’s totally mad, else he couldn’t have run away so calmly or been able to find you and write that note.”

“True. How on earth did he find me though?”

Roger paused.

“Is there any way he could have accessed a computer? Or do you have your address written down anywhere?”

John wondered for a minute.

“I… yeah, it’s on the system. Someone could’ve left their computer unlocked.”

He ran his hand through his hair and pulled on it hard.

“I just... ugh. I can’t stand feeling like somebody’s watching me. I don’t know, maybe he’s long gone but I hate knowing that he was here.”

“I know,” Roger said, his voice heavier. “I know. You shouldn’t stay there.”

“But where can I go?” John asked, sighing in frustration. “Half the town’s practically snowed in.”

He knew full well he couldn’t stay there. He wouldn’t let himself. Yet he had a pulsing feeling in his stomach at the thought of the man. Would he come back, John wondered, to make sure they met again? What would he do if he saw him again? Why did he want him, of all people? John was no lamb; he knew exactly what the look in that man’s eyes had meant. He couldn’t deny that, for one brief moment, he had felt something akin to it to. It was sometimes easy to confuse fear for lust, or vice versa. John tilted his head back onto the mattress and for a brief second he deluded himself into feeling a pair of hands, convinced if he opened his eyes he would see green ones staring down at him.

“John?”

He sat up straight and cleared his throat, shocked out of his daze.

“Sorry,” he croaked, clearing his throat again. “I keep getting distracted.”

“It’s hard not to. I just wondered if there was maybe any way of getting hold of Nick.”

John froze, his whole body turning to stone at that one word.

“Roger, I know you live in the arse end of nowhere but still try and keep up with the rest of the world. That’s ancient history.”

He had not heard the N word for nearly a year now; the only times he did were in his dreams, and John liked to pretend they were nightmares.

Nicholas James Bates had been his best friend since childhood. Small, stylish, with a massive mind and quick wit, he was the opposite of the gangling, nervy, ineloquent John. Yet perhaps that was why they had been friends for so long; when combined, the two of them had all the best and worst traits to make up a one of a kind partnership. They had attempted (and failed miserably) to build treehouses; they had played hide-and-seek for hours; they had shared records in school; they had dyed each others hair. As they grew up, it became more and more apparent to John that Nick was a genius; but he, in turn, never made John feel like an idiot.

It had all been fine, just fine, until one fateful day just over a year ago. It had started with a joke about Nick’s newly dyed amber hair; it had ended with a black eye and two broken hearts.

“I know, John. But I haven’t stop talking to him just because you have.”

John’s heart stopped. He had often privately wondered if they had spoken since and if Roger knew all the gory details. He sometimes felt the unasked question hanging in the air, but he would usually just make some quick joke and try and push Nick back to the bottom of his mind where he belonged.

“Oh. Well, I hope he hasn’t been slandering my name too much,” John said and gave a dry laugh.

“No, he hasn’t at all.”

He could almost hear Roger smiling down the phone. An unusual warmth pierced John’s skin, spreading through his chest and into his heart. He ignored this.

“I’m not saying you two can buddy up and act like nothing ever happened,” Roger continued, “but I think he would be forgiving in the circumstances. Wouldn’t you?”

John tried to imagine the situation in reverse. It never would happen; Nick would probably be fascinated by the stranger and end up falling in love with him. But John knew if he saw him in a state like he was now he couldn’t help but take him in with open arms. He’d always been the soft one, after all. Though at least Nick was the one who got stuck with the soft little baby face, he snickered.

“Yeah, I guess,” John sighed. “God Roger, you always have to be the sensible one don’t you?”

“Isn’t that why you rang me?” he retorted, with a chuckle. “You need the rational half of you.”

John smiled.

“I wish you were here. Do you have time for a Skype session tomorrow?”

“I have the time just not the reliable internet. It’s not been too bad today, though, so I’ll see if I can. Playing’s a good idea, John. Keep your mind off it.”

John swallowed.

“Yeah, I guess. I… just need to relax.”

He didn’t want to say that every time he hit a string he was convinced he heard a rustle or a creak or a breath that left him even more paranoid than before.

“I’m here whenever you need me. Take it easy.”

“You too. Thanks… love you man.”

John hung up and in spite of everything felt slightly more relaxed. Roger had brought him down to earth instead of leaving him in his own warped web of thoughts and fearful fantasies. It was going to be OK; the worst possible outcome was probably going round to Nick’s and bawling like a baby outside his front door. He knew that was all he was going to be thinking about for the next hour or two; perhaps Roger mentioning him was more than a little bit tactical. Damn mastermind.

His mind flying a hundred places at once was starting to burn him out. He got to his feet, cracking his stiff limbs, and yawned deeply. It was cold; he pulled his jumper off the floor and put it on, then climbed into bed and threw the duvet over him. Within about five minutes, he was practically comatose.

His dreams were surprisingly calm, at first. He was doing nothing except walking through the snow. Yet he was strangely aware of the trees around him, glowing green under the sun far too golden for the winter. He felt happy; he didn’t know why, but his whole body seemed to tingle with euphoria. All he was doing was walking and smiling, the whole world seemingly alive with strange, distant music. It was a voice, he thought, half-singing, completely unlike anything he’d heard before. A siren’s call. He was going to follow it to wherever it led him, without question.

At that point John seemed to realise he was dreaming; he started to run, desperate to get closer to the melody, to burn it into his mind forever. He was running past the clinic now, past the church, past the abandoned house at the bottom of the hill before the forest--

Suddenly a man stood in front of him, making John skid across the icy snow beneath him. He fell to the ground and found himself facing a pair of extremely shiny black shoes. The reflection of the sun was blinding; as John looked up he couldn’t see the stranger’s face, only the gold and copper of his hair, aflame in the light.

The man leant over him, the sudden shadow making a hundred bursts colour explode in John’s eyes, and as John’s head span he kissed him. Hot lips, wet and soft, melted together. John’s face was searing, blood rushing to the surface of his skin as his limbs weakened, all his strength gone. He felt himself lose control, his head swaying back, the world suddenly closing in around him.

As he leant back, the kiss was broken, but the man’s lips merely tumbled down, sucking and licking his flesh, heightening each tingling nerve before they came to rest on his throat…

John jolted awake, half-rising from his bed, gripping the sheets tightly around him. He looked took a deep breath, trying to calm his erratic heartbeat. Sweat trickled down his forehead and he rubbed his face quickly on the quilt. He sat quietly, staring down at his knees, trying to process every last detail of the dream. Slowly, almost tentatively, he ran a cautious tongue tip across his lips, half-wondering if he could taste the kiss. Something oddly sweet was on his lips, though he knew it was more likely a remnant of his lunch break than his dream lover.

John leant his head forward and closed his eyes, letting the cold air tickle the back of his neck and calm him down. He felt almost more tired than he had before he slept; the dream had dragged him into some half-world, leaving him hanging between states of consciousness. What could he do now? A warm stiffness pressing against his jeans gave him an idea.

John took off his jumper and unbuttoned his jeans. He went over to the dresser, looking for the box of tissues he knocked over that morning, and as he did his foot brushed past something soft on the floor. A gentle meow nearly caused him to fall backwards into his wardrobe.

Gingey was spread out across the floor, purring calmly, basking in the heat from the radiator behind her. It was needed; the cool breeze coming from the open window pierced the warmth of the room like a knife. The open window that Gingey must have come in from. The one that had been closed when John fell asleep.

John immediately looked behind him, as if from the sudden realisation a phantom would appear on cue. Relax, his internal voice (that sounded oddly like Roger) said. If someone had come in they would have woken him long ago. He held onto that thought; no harm had come to him-- or to his other unexpected visitor. He slowly sank to the floor, more due to his trembling legs than anything else, and moved over to the cat.

“Hey, Gingey,” he gulped, petting her tentatively.

She responded enthusiastically to his strokes, purring loudly. It was enough to distract John for a moment from his shock. He was happy to see her.

“You didn’t open the window now did you?” he asked her, a slight hint of seriousness behind his joking. He knew Gingey was mostly an outdoor cat, though, and was quite surprised she had chosen to come inside.

John was starting to think he had simply left the window open in his panic earlier and forgotten about it. His head was throbbing as he tried to think, his mind having dealt with more than enough twists and turns for one day.

As always, however, John had time for one last little problem. Going over to the window, he was about to shut it when something jammed against the panel, stopping him from pushing it down. A small pencil was wedged between the frame and the window sill. Where it had come from John had no idea. He peered at the windowsill more closely, trying to figure it out. He noticed the faint trail of snow in the corner; he had cleared most of the snow off yesterday but some remained. Faintly imprinted across it were two sets of fingerprints.

John was tempted, at that moment, to place his own head on the windowsill and slam the window down until something made sense. At least he wouldn’t have to worry about the fact someone had been right there watching him sleep, opened his window, and done god knows what else with a pencil. He had a very good idea of who.

How did they even get up? John’s apartment was only on the second floor yet the fire escape was at the far corner, two windows across. Perhaps his stalker had gotten a ladder, or wings.

John unjammed the pencil, trying not to break it in his fury. He threw it onto the bookshelf beside him and glared out of the window into the darkness, though he didn’t really know what he was looking for. He was overwhelmed. The cold air soothed his burning forehead as he looked out at the empty street below. He wondered where the man was now; if he was lurking in the shadows nearby or had left long ago. It filled him with disgust. He kicked the wall angrily, regretting it almost immediately as his uncovered toe connected with the stone wall.

On the breeze, from somewhere in the distance, a faint burst of laughter was carried up to him.

John slammed the window shut and fought back the urge to scream.

Chapter Text

Throwing his full weight against the door, John managed to slowly scrape it open. The rain last night had soon turned to snow, while what had already fallen conveniently froze around everything else. There was now five inches of snow outside blocking his way. His attempt to go undercover was well and truly ruined by the amount of creaking, cursing and crying he had done in the last five minutes. It was his own fault, he supposed. Nobody ever used the alleyway entrance anyway.

Seeing as he had not been attacked yet, John assumed his stalker was not there. He stepped over the large pile of rubbish, half frozen, beside the door and pushed it shut behind him with slightly more ease.

The sun was pale orange on the horizon. It was quarter to seven, John realised as he checked his watch. The perfect time to wake up someone you haven’t spoken to in nearly fifteen months.

Was it the right decision? He wondered as he made his way across the road and around the park, his feet leading him instinctively. Perhaps it would have been safer to stay in the flat; to create a sort of fortress instead of leaving it abandoned. The window had proved this man was both crazy and determined. Had he been inside while John slept? Would he go inside now?

Part of him burned at the thought of the man being here, and that burning did not cease no matter how much he shivered in the cold. His throat went dry as he imagined the man standing in his room, looking at his photos, running a hand over his clothes, maybe even smelling the remains of his scent on his bed sheets.

His lips parted involuntarily.

John’s heart was starting to pound a little as he made his way up High Street, knowing he only had another ten minutes before he reached Nick’s terrace. As usual he was thinking of the worst: what if Nick wasn’t there? Surely Roger would have told him if he was away or had moved or died or something. But what if something had happened, something small and unworthy of note yet transformative all the same? Would he be the same Nick that he had left? Would the anger and pain still linger? What if Nick took one look at him and slammed the door? John could picture it now, vivid and stinging, the look on Nick’s face the last time he had walked away from him still clear in his mind.

Then there was the most painful thought perhaps; would everything be fine? Would Nick take him in like nothing really had happened after all? Had they both wasted all this time for nothing?

He passed the church and felt the usual chill; maybe it was the primordial memories of his infant life, the general opposing nature of the building, or perhaps something supernatural coming from the graveyard behind it. John gave a soft chuckle and moved on quickly, without giving it another thought. It never occurred to him that his feet followed the same path he had tread in his dream merely a few hours before.

Grand Parade was ahead of him. It seemed to loom ten times bigger than usual in the shadowy light. John wondered if Nick could feel him coming, each step as loud as a roll of thunder in his ears.

He really didn’t want to do this. He really couldn’t do this. But he had to go somewhere; he had to do something except wait. He didn’t have time to go up to his father’s-- besides, he didn’t want him to get involved. At least if the man follows me here it’ll only hurt Nick, he thought bitterly.

John felt a low pang of shame. He was dragging a man who he had betrayed, punished, and abandoned, all without any apology, into danger. It was his problem and his alone. He should simply deal with it.

A light in the house in front of him came on. It shone through the top most corner, the very top bedroom on the third floor.

Nick’s.

John ran to it, like a moth speeding towards a flame, ready to be incinerated.

Scanning his eyes over the pavement as he moved, John bent quickly and snatched up a rock. He had no aim, no strength and was generally terrible at anything resembling sport. Yet he was going to give it his best shot. Flinging the rock towards Nick’s window, there was an eternity of silence before it hit the target with a soft tap.

John waited, his breath loud and heavy, panting uncontrollably. He continued to wait, for several moments, before a swell of anti-climax hit him.

Did he really think that one pebble would catch Daydreamer’s attention?

If Nick was up this early he was probably doing his makeup, happily in his own little world. John would need at least a handful of stones to make any impact.

He set his bag by the door and searched for a few pebbles. He threw them fast and missed first. That was more like him. He managed three more, however, and John imagined with each tap Nick’s eye pencil pausing, his green eyes narrowing.

He waited and waited, almost willing Nick to come to the window. John didn’t believe in psychic powers but in that desperate moment he begged his former friend to look out of the window. If he didn’t soon, John’s nerve would fail. He knew he would never have the courage to take those four strides to the doorstep and rap so invasively upon the door. He couldn’t live with the embarrassment of waking up Sylvie. Oh God how am I gonna face her again? He knew she would just smile placidly and greet him but his anxious mind imagined cool stares and snide jibes if not actually asking him to leave her house.

John’s heart was beating wildly and doubt filled his mind. Was he really ready to face Nick again?

The frame of light above him was sliced apart as the small left window swung inside. A small dark head appeared through the opening and John’s heart gave a strange double beat. For a moment he doubted himself; Nick had been blonde last time they had met, hadn’t it? No, ginger. Yet the way that the small man cocked his head, and the vibrant pink dressing gown John could just about see, made him sure of who he was.

He didn’t know what to say, and even if he did, he couldn’t have spoken. He felt as though he were suddenly exposed in floodlights, every part of him in full view for the world to see. John couldn’t even see Nick’s face properly, the light behind him casting a dark aura around him, but from what he could see he knew Nick was as stunned as he was.

For a few moments they squinted at each other, neither able to fully see, before John slowly raised a tentative hand in a kind of wave.

Nick’s body seemed to tense, as he froze for a moment, his glare immovable. Then he darted back inside, closing the window with a slam. John gulped and let his hand fall limply back to his side .

That was it then.

It took him by surprise when the front door opened barely a minute later. Nick stormed out with his arms folded, marching towards a frozen John. His pale face was strangely calm.

“What are you doing here?” he asked, his voice low but sharp. It was like a blast of cold water, shocking John out of a trance that seemed months deep.

John stared at him like a fool. Anything but ‘to see you’ suddenly seemed inadequate. That was really why he was here; the realisation hit him as he felt an almost overwhelming urge to move towards Nick and embrace him.

“I… I… don’t know.”

Nick pursed his lips.

“Do you often throw rocks at the homes of those you’ve alienated at seven in the morning?”

John would have laughed if he wasn’t so terrified. He ran his shaking hands through his hair and rubbed his temples. His voice was buried somewhere within his throat.

“I missed you,” he said, without thinking.

He looked up at Nick, who raised his eyebrow and rolled his eyes.

“No, I mean—I’m sorry. I just need your help. I need you. I’m scared—I mean—There’s a man. It’s… a long story. I just need somewhere to sleep.”

The verbal vomit subsided and his whole body burned as he cringed back from Nick’s disparaging glare. John fantasised of a sinkhole opening up underneath him and falling into the marginally more comfortable magma of the earth’s core.

“I think I processed about two words of that,” Nick said, sardonically. “So, you want my help?”

“I... yeah I do. I need it, Nick. I wouldn’t be here like this if it wasn’t… urgent.”

John cringed at the words, knowing that it sounded fake. He stared at the dark ground, unable to face the spotlight of Nick’s gaze anymore. He didn’t even know what was so terrifying to him anymore. He just knew he was a mess. All he wanted to do was lie down and embrace the black nothingness of sleep, while knowing he was safe. He wanted arms to fall into, a comforting hand, someone who would protect him from harm.

He looked up at Nick and was met with the ocular equivalent of a nightlight. Nick’s whole face seemed to glow, his expression soft even as he clenched his jaw.

“Why don’t we go inside, sit down, and you can try explaining a bit more coherently?”

John looked at him in shock and wonder.

“Why… are you being so… nice to me?” John couldn’t help but ask.

Nick scoffed.

“I didn’t realise you had such a low opinion of me, John. I wouldn’t turn my back on anyone that needed help, no matter how much I liked or… disliked them.”

Hey, at least he doesn’t hate me! It was something for John to hold onto.

They went inside, Nick shutting the door softly behind them, and they tiptoed upstairs.

“Forgot to take your shoes off as usual, I see,” Nick hissed as they reached the landing.

John blushed and started trying to remove them, but Nick simply put a hand on his arm and rolled his eyes.

“It’s too late now.”

His fingers lingered for a fraction of a second too long and John felt his flesh seared by his touch. He’d focused too long on their hate. He’d forgotten what had come before it.

They reached Nick’s room. John hovered awkwardly, not entirely sure if he could cross the threshold. This was his most inner sphere; his workshop, his dreamland, his dominion. If he accepted John into it, he would be accepting John back into his life.

“You can come in,” Nick said, rather tersely.

John stepped forward into the golden room, the metallic walls shimmering as the intricate bedside lamp cast its light in sparkles all around the room. Beside the mirror was a large framed poster for Antonioni’s Blow-Up.

“When did you get that? There was one Mart was selling at the market I was going to get a few months ago but I didn’t have enough and when I came back…”

John trailed off and turned to Nick, mouth open.

“You bought it! Fuck off.”

Nick shrugged and gave a sly smile.

“It was for sale,” he said. “I just happened to be there at the right time. Besides, it’s more my sort of film than yours.”

“I thought it was our film,” John grumbled.

Nick raised his eyebrows and John realised the implications of what he had said. He coughed and looked away.

Nick sat down on his bed, legs crossed, looking rather like a wary cat. John couldn’t help but smile, albeit stiffly. It had been a long time since he had done that spontaneously, without consciously putting it on in response to one of Andy’s jokes or at Amanda’s flirting. The smile faded as he noticed Nick’s crossed legs. They were like twigs. Nick had always been thin but now it seemed unhealthy.

He pulled the stool from Nick’s dressing table to the side of the bed and sat down on it, preparing to be interrogated.

He was met with silence. Nick continued to stare at him, raising an eyebrow at John’s expectant expression.

“Are you… going to ask me about it?”

“Aren’t you going to tell me?” Nick responded.

John took a deep breath. Maybe it would be easier this way, to explain in his own time.

“Yeah. I guess.”

So he began the whole story, from Friday noon to that morning. He halted at the blood; he simply said the man had only caused slight damage to the storage room. He found himself hesitating at the description of the man himself. John realised there was no way to describe his voice, his face and those eyes without making it sound like he was enamoured of them.

Nick sat in patient silence all the while, his face calm but his brow slowly furrowing as the story continued. When John came to what he had found on the window sill Nick suddenly looked down, biting his nail idly, before remembering he had just painted them and quickly stopped.

“So you have a stalker,” Nick said, matter of factly. “Who is desperately in love with you.”

In love with me. The words sent an oddly warm thrill through John. He hadn’t even thought of that. It was wrong; it was an obsession, not love. Yet when Nick said it as one it suddenly seemed all the more benevolent. It was almost romantic, if John could get past the craziness of it.

“He’s not,” John said. “Or if he is then he has even worse social skills then I do.”

Nick smiled at that. It was hard to tell, as Nick was always so inscrutable, but John thought his eyes were sympathetic. They sat in silence for a while, processing everything, John letting himself relax into the soft mattress beneath him. His head had finally stopped throbbing.

“You need to stay here.”

John looked at Nick, who was still staring at the ground. He didn’t ask it; John hadn’t asked it. Yet it was already decided in his mind. John hadn’t realised it but that was what he had been wanting all along.

There was still something awkward between them. John half-wanted to hug him, to show him how grateful he was, but his body was rigid. Some coil inside him was tense, not ready to spring free yet.

Nick got to his feet.

“Here, take my bed.”

He moved closer to John and John leaned back, unconsciously. Nick gave a smirk and stood up.

“I need to finish my makeup.”

John didn’t notice until he stood above him that his eyeliner was uneven; one eye uncovered, the other half done. It was oddly cute. He looked, for once, imperfect.

John lay back on the bed and closed his eyes. The golden light seemed cast a pleasant warmth on him. He could hear nothing but the sound of Nick softly setting down his eye pencil now and again, rummaging through his various eye shadows and lipsticks.

He could be safe here. It felt, for a few glorious moments, like nothing had ever happened.

“I’m sorry, Nick,” he mouthed, half-drifting into sleep. “I was a dick.”

Nick continued with his makeup. John wasn’t even sure he had put voice to his words. Yet he heard a small, almost imperceptible snuffle, like that of laughter.

John knew he could sleep in peace.

Chapter Text

John woke abruptly, lost for a moment. He had no idea of the time or, indeed, of the place he was in. Rolling across the bed he swiftly realised he was in Nick’s room and that it had just turned ten. He felt like he had been asleep for days.

Nick was sitting on a soft velvet footstool thingy in the corner, watching him with amusement. He had diamante studded headphones on and his toe tapped idly in time with whatever artsy electronica he was no doubt listening to.

“Morning,” he drawled. “Do you want some food?”

John sat up, eager at the thought. Nick, or rather his mother, was a culinary genius.

“Sure, that’s great,” he said, beaming. “Cheers.”

Nick rolled his eyes.

“Well come on then, sleeping beauty, I’m hardly going to serve it to you in bed.”

John gave an awkward laugh and got up. They made their way downstairs, John overwhelmed by a sense of contentment at being back in the old familiar house.

In the kitchen they were greeted by the strong smell of fresh pancakes, bacon and something else deliciously sweet. Nick’s mum was not there but the results of her morning endeavours were.

John grabbed a small fluffy roll, stuffing it into his mouth enthusiastically. Nick gave him quite a disdainful stare.

“What are your plans now, John?”

John continued to chew thoughtfully, even as the bread (which he later realised was brioche) turned to mush in his mouth. He had no idea.

“I… don’t have any,” he said finally, swallowing heavily. “I don’t know what to do about this.”

Nick leaned against the counter and frowned pensively. He was thinking.

“I would suggest mentioning it to the police,” he said, carefully. “Before it gets any worse. You can give in the letter as evidence.”

John bit his lip. As much as he knew it was the right thing to do, he still didn’t want to do it. He couldn’t face going down to the station, having to reveal everything that had happened to strangers. He knew they wouldn’t take it seriously anyway. Another thought then occurred to him.

“But Nick, won’t they blame me? I didn’t tell anybody he was at the blood bank. I can’t explain that can I?”

Nick paused for a moment.

“No, I guess you can’t,” he sighed.

“And I can’t prove anything else either, really,” John continued, almost excited to find ways to puncture Nick’s plan. “I can’t prove the window; I’ve closed it since. How do they know I didn’t just open it? It’s my word against his.”

Nick seemed to sense his oddly eager denial and studied John’s expression with particular scrutiny.

“If you want to wait until he tears you apart like a blood bag, then be my guest. I simply would recommend acting now rather than later. But I can’t make you.”

John could tell from the acerbic tone that the subject was closed for the time being. He could either take Nick’s advice or leave it. He chose to put it on hold.

“We should go get a coffee or something,” he said, perkily. “We need a catch up. It’s been… too long.”

In his attempt to escape the fire, John had abruptly jumped into the frying pan. He started to internally panic, as he realised he was still not entirely sure what Nick thought of him and their relationship. It had been working, for now, due to circumstance; John was afraid any further treading might collapse the spindly structure they rested upon. And he had to go and stomp on the very foundations, practically asking him to forget anything had ever happened.

Somewhat to his surprise, Nick responded with one of his full smiles.

“That is an idea I can get behind. I’ve got to do a shoot later but I can spare you an hour or two.”

John smiled back.

“Great.”

_

They walked to the main street in comfortable silence, occasionally interjected with a comment on the weather or reflections as they passed a familiar face or place. It was really like old times; the days and nights they had spent wandering around after writing a new song or watching some pretentious old movie. John felt blissfully calm.

They approached Kaffe Krem, its coffee of much superior quality than its name or dim interior, and eagerly ducked inside. Warm, coffee scented air blasted them as they walked up to the counter, John’s glasses steaming up and making him temporarily blind.

Removing them, John looked up blurrily at the smiling barista.

“Hi,” he said, rubbing the glasses on his jumper before replacing them. “Could I get a chai latte please?”

He could almost feel Nick rolling his eyes.

“If I liked tea that would be just the kind of pretentious thing I would order,” he muttered.

John laughed. He was about to ask Nick if he wanted to share slice of caramel cake but before he could a low hiss and the start of a bass line sounded from somewhere beside him.

Nick fumbled in his pockets, caught off guard. He pulled out his sleek rose gold mobile and lifted it to his ear.

He mumbled quietly for a moment, John turning away to give him privacy. A moment later he heard a faint ‘ok, I’ll be there shortly’ and a sigh.

“John…”

John turned round and saw Nick looking rather despondent.

“I’m really sorry, one of the models has somehow managed to get her flights confused and has to leave early so unless I photograph her now the whole issue will be ruined.”

John was momentarily distracted by the barista waiting awkwardly beside him, unsure of whether or not to interrupt. He hastily dug into his pocket for his wallet and handed over a fiver with a big smile.

“Nick, it’s not your fault, I understand,” he said, turning back to his friend. “Go, I’ll see you when you get back.”

Nick seemed to teeter on the balls of his feet, unsure of what to do. Unsure himself, John gave him a sharp pat on the back and nudged his cheek.

“Go!” he commanded.

“Fine, fine,” Nick said. “We will have a drink later, though.”

“I’ll take that as a promise.”

With a fleeting grin, Nick flew out the door and was gone. John felt a strange tug as he left, his heart skipping a beat.

Now alone, John chose a small table in the far corner beside the low window, perfectly situated beside the radiator. He carried over his latte, trying not to skid on the wet footprints of everyone who had trudged through the snow before seeking refuge, and sat down.

He took a sip, savouring the cinnamon foam, and closed his eyes for a moment. A wave of relaxation seeped through his bones as the hot liquid hit his throat and he gave a deep, pleasant sigh.

He heard a soft exhale, something like a chuckle, behind him.

“Daydreaming?”

It was a man’s voice, warm and filled with laughter. It had a sort of electricity to it that made John smile in spite of himself, forgetting it was a stranger who spoke.

“More like I’ve just woken up.”

“Reality was the dream, then?”

John nodded. He heard a chair scrape behind him and a rustle of fabric.

“The two are linked aren’t they. One reflects the other, often, though it takes a while to understand the symbols. I’m a big reader, poetry mostly, and I thrive on symbolism. I suppose I would be an ideal English teacher.”

John smiled.

“I’m more about music but English is alright, I guess. Closest I would get to poetry is listening to lyrics.”

“They are poetry,” the man said, “one of the best kinds. I write some myself when I have the time.”

John turned and glanced at the man. He was shrouded in shadows, as the light had grown dimmer outside, his face turned to face the photographs on the wall opposite.

“Are you a musician too?” he asked.

The man seemed to nod.

“A terrible one but I make a pass at it now and again. I’m just a big talker, and sometimes the words have to be sung.”

“Cool. I play bass and guitar with my friend sometimes but we’re all instrumental, we haven’t managed to vocalise anything quite yet.”

“I’m sure there are more lost words and heart-breaking declarations in those melodies than in a whole prose book.”

“Maybe, maybe,” John said, not really sure what to say.

He eyed the man again, itching to see his face. There was something about him so strange yet familiar, other-worldly and grounded, that John couldn’t quite understand.

The man continued to gaze into space, seemingly unaware John was watching him. They didn’t speak for several minutes. Then the man smiled.

“Yes, dreams do have a strange way of reflecting reality sometimes…

I dreamt last night that I was flying, soaring across the buildings of some dark Arabian city. There was sand in the air, blinding my eyes, closing me in warmth. The buildings seemed silver, glittering in the moonlight. The scent of a thousand burning sticks of incense filled my nostrils along with the spice of the markets, still scattered along the streets. Laughter and song rose like a hymn, throbbing like a pulse through the city, only halted in brief moments by a baby’s scream or a woman’s cry.

“I flew and flew until I realised there was ground beneath my feet and what I thought was flying was my running, faster than light, across the rooftops. And looking down I saw the tunnels of charnel under me, their stench rising to me, and leapt past them. But my foot started to slip and no matter how much I tried I was falling. My fingers scratched against the stone, tearing my fingernails, breaking apart and bleeding ruby red down the white walls as I was dragged down towards the abyss.

“It was cold where I landed, my bones shattered on the stone ground like china, yet I felt nothing but emptiness. Perhaps I had been nothing but a hollow shell all along. The stench of mould and sorrow filled my nostrils, the sickly iron tang of blood hidden beneath it burning my tongue. I lay alone and blind for immeasurable time.

“Somehow from the darkness I felt a hand reach for me. It clasped my wrist, the live heat suffusing through the flesh I did not realise I still had, pulling my pieces back together. In a brilliant moment the sunrise came. Golden red, so vivid I can still see it burnt into the back of my eyelids, the heat of the sun suddenly filling the world. I gorged on the world around me, now a blazing gold, fire filling my whole body.

“And I saw a face before me, the face of the one who had saved me, and in the same instant my heart ceased to beat and yet began to beat for a whole new life.”

John swore he too could see that sunrise. His heart seemed to ache, the beauty of the vision like something he could almost reach, yet just out of view.

He suddenly realised where he was, sitting in the middle of a bustling café, his eyes closed and his mouth half-ajar listening to some shadowy stranger behind him.

John cleared his throat and sat up, opening his eyes.

“That’s a bit long for a lyric, don’t you think?” he said, laughing awkwardly.

“Just a tad.”

John really didn’t know what to think of him. True, he had just espoused the most beautiful thing John had ever heard in his life, but it was all a bit weird. Who started those kind of conversations with strangers in the middle of tiny little coffee shops?

He was going to ask the man more questions, and turned round to face him again.

When he did, John thought he had entered another dream. The man no longer sat in profile. He now faced him, wide eyes adoring and dangerous, as he leaned into the light.

John choked, his eyes wide.

“Life has actually become pretty wonderful recently, John. It seems not all dreams are pure fantasy.”

John gaped at the man who had been at his window the night before. A demon, a phantom, a stalker, a creep; now just a man in a coffee shop, only mildly unsettling in the glow of the lamps above him.

A waitress passed by the man as John stared stupidly and he quickly reached forward, brushing her arm gently.

“Could I possibly get a slice of chocolate cake for this gorgeous boy here?” he purred, gesturing directly at John.

The waitress nodded with a smile, and the man’s gaze dropped back to John, a panther-like grin on his face.

“I suppose after all this time, it’s appropriate for me to introduce myself,” the man said, holding out a gloved hand. “I’m Simon.”

Chapter Text

Simon. It sounded ridiculously normal. Too normal for a vampire. Simon’s hand lingered in the air untouched for a second then dropped to the table gently.

“I am sorry if I frightened you,” he said, hesitantly. “I didn’t mean you any ill harm but… it perhaps seemed less clear to you.”

John snorted.

“Just a tad. Usually men sneaking up to your window at night don’t have good intentions.”

The man grinned but looked slightly abashed.

“I got carried away. I… it’s a long story.”

“I have time.”

Simon looked at him with something like amusement glittering in his eyes.

“Fine. May I sit with you?”

His voice was low and soft and he began to move towards him like a giant cat. John didn’t know what to say, recoiling in panic. He shook his head vehemently.

“Please,” he whispered. “Don’t.”

Simon sighed and stopped.

“But I would like to speak to you, properly. I need to.”

John looked up, suddenly angry.

“Why?” he snapped. “I don’t know you. I could get you arrested if I had the balls to.”

Simon seemed unfazed.

“That’s why I need to talk to you. I want to know you. I want you to know me. We’re meant to be together after all, darling.”

The words reverberated in the air, sending chills down John’s spine. John knew he should turn away, get up and leave, yet there was something in this man’s smooth, honey thick voice that made him want to listen. John scowled at him for a few moments before the inevitable cave-in.

“Fine,” John said, rather petulantly. “Just don’t say that again.”

“I’ll do my best.”

Simon sat down, his motions oddly stiff. Perhaps John wasn’t the only one feeling awkward.

“So did you follow me here?” John asked, not quite sure if he should look at Simon directly. His eyes lingered on the worn leather shoulder of his coat.

“No. I was searching for you, but I didn’t know you would be here.”

“Hmm.”

It was hard for John to believe that.

“It’s wonderful how we’re drawn to each other without realising. It’s true fate.”

“It’s coincidence, yes. Combined with a little stalkering.”

John had no patience for him, and the man could see that. In spite of it, he smiled.

“Whatever way you see it, John.”

The sound of his name made him tremble. John knew the man must have known it-- he had his address, after all. Somehow, though, this felt more intimate. John. From Simon’s lips it seemed to have whole new meanings, whole new emotions behind it.

“Well, I wish I could say it was nice to meet you, Simon.”

John managed a feeble smirk and Simon returned it.

“Maybe it will be,” he said. “Give it time.”

They looked into each others’ eyes and John could almost believe it. There was still a few matters untouched, however.

The waitress came over and set down a slice of cake. John had forgotten Simon had ordered it for him and wanted to send it back but the waitress danced away before he could say anything.

“Thanks I guess,” John said, reluctantly.

“You’re welcome, beautiful.”

John rolled his eyes and took a bite of his cake; it was surprisingly good.

“Aren’t you going to eat anything?”

Simon raised an eyebrow and smirked.

“I’m… OK.”

The cake seemed suddenly stuck in John’s throat. He held it, until it turned to mush, and swallowed heavily.

“Why… why don’t you?” he asked, unsure if he wanted to hear an answer.

Simon’s smile was dangerous.

“So, what are you doing today?” he asked. “Do you fancy going somewhere?”

John was completely thrown by the abrupt subject change.

“I… I don’t know. Maybe. I mean, no, of course not.”

He shook his head as if to clear it. Simon snorted.

“Well that seems like an opportunity for me. Come on, we’ll go to the movies.”

An hour and a half in the dark with you? I think I’m alright, John thought, though Simon did make him realise how empty the day ahead of him was.

“I’m… OK. I’d prefer to keep you in clear sight. Preferably at a distance.”

“Ooh, very snappy Johnny.”

Simon beamed, in spite of his sarcastic tone, and John wondered if he wasn’t accidentally making him more in love with him.

His pocket suddenly began to vibrate and John nearly had a heart attack.

“What’s that?” Simon asked, looking genuinely alarmed.

John pulled out his phone and examined it, the number unknown to him. He balked at the thought of dealing with another stranger that day but figured it would be better than dealing with Simon.

“Hello?” he answered, uncertainly.

“Hey John, it’s Marlene, from Sandy’s. Did you know you had an appointment at 10?”

John gulped and put his head in his hands. His hair. His stupid hair. The thought had slipped from his mind totally.

“I… I completely forgot, I’m so sorry, everything’s been… it’s hard to explain on the phone. I’m really sorry.”

“It’s OK honey, we’ll rearrange another time if you like.”

Her voice was brittle but not unduly annoyed.

“Thanks Marlene, I’m sorry.”

John hung up, a sick feeling pooling in his stomach. He hated forgetting things he should remember, and he hated letting people down even more.

A warm hand touched his wrist.

“Are you alright?”

Simon’s voice was filled with concern. It made John’s worries seem silly in light of its intensity.

“Yeah, I just missed an appointment. It’s nothing important I just… hate forgetting things.”

Simon looked at John, biting back a laugh. John glared at him.

“What’s so funny?”

Simon shook his head and grinned.

“You are absolutely adorable.”

“If you say that again I’m going to leave,” John said, rolling his eyes, a broad smile forcing itself across his face in spite of his attempts to keep it hidden.

“I’ll come too then,” Simon replied. “It’s a lovely day for a nice brisk walk don’t you think? Come on.”

 

*_ * *

As they walked around the park, John kept finding himself hyperaware of the situation he found himself in, as though he kept waking from a dream only to find himself still stuck in one. He was walking with a psycho possible vampire stalker. He was talking with a lovesick looney who believed they were meant to be together forever (until he snapped and drank John’s blood). And he was enjoying himself with this crazy man, which made John wonder which of them had really lost their mind.

John had been telling Simon stories about himself that he had not realised he still knew. He told him about his first day at school, getting his ludicrous round glasses smashed in when he tripped on the first years’ walk round the grounds which led to him stumbling down and knocking over the boy with one leg who had been in front of him. Simon had laughed himself silly, actually bending over double, and John was surprised to find himself laughing too as much at his reaction than the story itself.

“…if it wasn’t for Nick I would have been a loner that whole year. It was awful.”

“Who’s Nick?” Simon asked.

“Didn’t you see him?” John asked, confused. “He was at the café but had to leave almost as soon as we arrived. He’s my best friend. Well—“

John paused for a moment, shocked how quickly he had said that. A lot really had changed in the last 24 hours.

“—he has been my friend since childhood. We’re… still reconnecting.”

Simon raised an eyebrow as if there was a hidden meaning behind the phrase.

“I didn’t see him, no. He must be someone magnificent to be friends with you.”

John shrugged.

“He’s alright, I guess…”

Then he laughed, Simon momentarily unaware he had been joking.

“Yeah, Nick’s great,” John said. “Just between you and me, he’s far better than I deserve.”

“But you deserve the best, darling,” Simon said, and although John wasn’t sure how much of it was his own self-centred interpretation, he seemed serious.

“Thanks,” John said, uncertainly. “As long as that isn’t you, that’s fine.”

Simon rolled his eyes but took it as a joke.

“So, no mention of any dastardly siblings yet. An only child I take it?”

“Yep, just me. Strange for Catholic parents.”

They both laughed.

“Did you ever feel lonely? I know I did… though I’ve learnt since what true loneliness feels like.”

John pondered that. He often got asked that as a child but now he was an adult it seemed more relevant. Children didn’t really understand loneliness as much as an adult who felt like a child.

“Sometimes, yes. Mum and Dad was pretty attentive so I was never alone really but… I guess when you have to play with yourself you miss out on a lot—oh for Christ’s sake—“

Simon had started laughing just as John realised the double meaning of that phrase.

“You know what I meant. I became quite bookish and my only real strenuous activity was guitar practice. Though Dad made me play football every now and again.”

“A happy childhood, though?”

“Yeah,” John said, not really thinking. “It was.”

They walked for a while in silence until they reached the pond. It was unusually deserted, though the ducks were still preening for attention, that Simon was more than happy to give them. It was quite endearing to see this wild-haired, all-black figure run like a child towards them and throw the errant scraps of bread from the bank into the water for them.

“And now, Johnny dearest, are you happy?”

John snorted and looked at the ground.

“What a bloody question.”

He had long ago accepted that he wasn’t happy and he never would be, not in the way he used to be anyway. He had his good days and his bad bad bad days; but he stopped really noticing the difference. It had been such an easy routine to fall into it was hard to break out of it as Simon posed the question.

“Sometimes I’m fine sometimes I’m not. I’ve sort of… lost the last year. I just can’t figure out what I’m meant to do about it. It’s all… bland, you could say, I dunno. I guess it started with falling out with Nick and stopping the band we had going… but maybe it was a long time coming. I’d never—“

His voice caught in his throat and John was surprised to find his eyes burning slightly.

“I didn’t really have anything that matters and never really knew what could, and it just all sort of came to a head. It all seemed so… pointless. Like… like snow.”

“Like snow?”

Simon had been listening intently until then but seemed to be momentarily bemused by his choice of analogy.

“I’m trying to be creative and original, don’t you see?” John said, sarcastically. “It’s like snow; no matter how much it falls and falls, no matter how many inches thick, it melts and leaves nothing behind.”

“I disagree,” Simon said. “Snow wouldn’t exist if it didn’t have a point. It melts, and the water sates the soil, and life grows. Pick a better analogy next time, or accept that your life has a point whether or not you realise it.”

The words would have been harsh said by anyone else; but turning to look at Simon, John saw a tenderness in his eyes that made him almost believe he had potential.

“I’ve yet to see it.”

“You will. I’ll make you.”

They both smiled at each other. It seemed strange pouring his heart out to a stranger, but the more Simon smiled at him, the more it seemed they had never been strangers at all.

John continued staring at Simon, his heart beating on every off beat as something like liquid gold flowed through his veins. Against the canvas of snow around them, the sun illuminated Simon’s tawny hair and made him shine like an angel.

Simon took a slight step toward John just as an icy breeze caught them, sending chills straight down John’s spine, but his boiling skin melted them. It was the strangest feeling. John didn't know what was going to happen, or what he even wanted to happen, but it was a thrilling feeling. Simon leaned in towards him with a gentle smile and John felt his lips part involuntarily, spellbound.

As the wind blew, the clouds passed over the strained afternoon sun and turned the world dark for a moment, casting deep shadows over Simon’s face. John saw his eyes glitter in the darkness and was brought back to the night before, and his heart stopped beating altogether.

The daze was gone from his copper eyes and reality stained them black again. He glared at Simon, as if he had been a magician’s fool released from a trick, and stepped away from him.

“What about you, Simon?”

His voice was deep and angry. Simon’s eyes widened, surprised by his sudden change of mood.

“What’s wrong, John?”

“What about you? What about your life? What possesses you to stalk, to spy, to steal blood? You think I’d forgotten all that?”

“Well it certainly seemed like it for a while,” Simon quipped.

John nearly throttled him there and then, his heart twanging as a flood of something like embarrassment pushed through him, making him want to scream and punch to forget his own humiliation of being led on. Because Simon couldn’t really love him, he couldn’t really care, he couldn’t treat him so nicely while at the same time being the man who lurked outside windows and blood banks and drove John mad.

“What is it Simon? What are you?”

He was half-pleading, knowing he would willingly beg on his knees for an answer. If there was something he should know, he had to know it now, before his heart went through any more torture.
Simon looked at him, and for the first time he saw worry in those dazzling blue eyes.

“I’m not sure you’d like it, Johnny.”

“I don’t care.”

Simon sighed and shrugged.

“Can’t you trust me?”

John didn’t know. He wanted to; he wanted him to be everything he promised to be, a bizarre dream, a shining knight on an invisible horse. But he knew he couldn’t.

“I can’t… not entirely. It’s not a question of trust, it’s truth I want. I can’t be lied to.”

He couldn’t survive it. Being betrayed; being used; being misled; he feared all of them from anyone but especially from someone who had done so much to make him feel wanted, desired, and who had made him feel the same in return.

Simon stopped, clutching onto the iron gate post behind him, and swinging forward.

“I don’t want to lie but I feel it’s the only way to protect myself…” he began. “You see… It’s quite difficult to explain who or what I am John. I’m many things-- a fool is the main one—and I like to think I still have some other redeeming personal qualities left. But the dramatic bombshell sort of makes everyone forget all that. Because I’m a vampire. And that can only mean disaster.”

Chapter Text

“John, please, just give me a second to explain it all. I’m not what you think I am. Please listen to me.”

John could hear Simon’s cries, carried to him over the rising wind, but he kept walking without looking back. A fucking vampire. I’m such an idiot.

If it had been anyone else, John would have laughed. Yet he believed the crazy man because it helped explain a lot of the crazy. It explained what Simon had been doing in the blood bank in the first place and John felt sick as he remembered the first glimpse of those beautiful eyes, not knowing then why they sparkled, knowing now they had been freshly energized with blood.

And now maybe blood bags weren’t enough, and that’s why Simon had ventured out to find John to replace them. At least that’s the only idea that made sense to John right now. He bit his lip, trying to repress the burning feeling in his eyes. He was used to people using him for their own purposes but this one really stung.

“John!”

Each shout was a little knife twisting oh so excruciatingly in John’s back. It was his own fault for letting himself get so overwhelmed so quickly—but of course he still blamed Simon for being so deceitfully charming.

John reached the road and sprinted across, his mind so numb he barely glanced left and right and missed a rather angry looking Jeep by a millimetre. He became very aware of the silence as he continued to walk, Simon clearly having given up on him. For some reason this made him feel even worse.

* * *

“You might as well tell me what it is.”

John lay on Nick’s bed, staring solemnly at the ceiling. He rolled over and shook his head, burying his head into the duvet.

Nick sighed and set his macbook down.

“John. Is it anything I can help you with at least?”

John shook his head again. He had managed to concentrate all day into reducing the feeling into a little dull throb in his heart, part of him yet distant at the same time. He couldn’t risk digging it up again. His stomach clenched as he was reminded of the embarrassment all over again and rolled over with a groan.

“If you’re going to be sick, please do it outside,” Nick drawled. “My hospitality only stretches so far.”

“I’m not going to be sick,” John mumbled, though with the pain inside him he wasn’t quite sure. God I’m a mess.

He lay there feeling terribly sorry for himself for a while until he became aware his hair was being softly parted.

Nick’s fingers rested gently against his scalp, massaging his temples almost indiscernibly, his thumb caressing strands of his brown hair back from his face. It was nice, if not a little intimate for two people that hadn’t been speaking until yesterday. John heard Nick sigh and felt a little flutter of breath against his forehead.

“You don’t have to tell me anything but I want you to know I’m right here. You don’t have to hide anything from me. I only want the best for you.”

John could have cried at that. His emotions were all over the place as it was; now Nick basically telling him he had his unconditional love and support. After everything he still had that.

“Nick…”

John couldn’t even begin to speak, instead turning round and hugging his friend round the waist. Nick continued to pat his head, rather stiffly, and it took John a moment before he realised he had unintentionally buried his head in his crotch.

“Oh god, sorry,” he spluttered, immediately releasing him and sitting up straight.

“I’m used to it,” Nick quipped, before a wide smile broke across his face.

John couldn’t help but laugh himself and that quickly set Nick off. Their two bodies shook with giggles, the more one laughed the more the other was struck by hilarity, until John had leant back so far he nearly rolled off the bed.

“Help,” he panted, clutching his legs as he bent double, trying to stop the uncontrollable hysterics and failing abysmally.

Nick pulled him up slightly to save him from immediate peril, before burying his head in his hands, unable to look at the state John had got himself into without going into another spasm of guffaws.

After a few minutes they eventually wore themselves out and lay, panting and grinning like madmen, across the bed. If Sylvie walked in right now she would definitely get the wrong impression…John thought.

He pushed himself up on his elbows and studied his friend, who now stared at the ceiling with dazed eyes, in another world himself.

“Are you ok?” John asked.

Nick nodded and smiled softly. Then he suddenly sat up, leaping to his feet.

“Let’s go out,” he said, more like an order than a suggestion. “We need to celebrate.”

John didn’t have a moment to think before Nick was pulling out trousers and jeans of all colours of the rainbow, holding them up against each other and throwing them away in disgust. After he had finally picked a pair he proceeded to go through his shoes, tutting and chucking pair after pair behind him, John nearly getting struck by a flamboyant pink brogue.

“I’m gonna go before you decide I don’t match your mood for the night and throw me out the window…” John said, only half-joking.

“You better wear something stylish, no more denim and bandanas please,” Nick ordered.

“Hey, you said that was a good look.”

“Five years ago maybe, when all of us were too drunk and uncool to notice.”

“Thanks, Nick.”

“You’re welcome.”

He gave John an angelic smile and John simply rolled his eyes.

 

* _* *

They entered Vinyl under the swivelling gaze of about a dozen women, eyes wide and looking like they’d just seen all their dreams come to life. John felt a little self-conscious, fluffing his unruly hair back into place, and smiling lopsidedly at the girl on the door. Nick paid them both in, before John could even protest, money flitting out and into his hand without anyone noticing.

“Come on, let’s get you a drink.”

Nick parted the crowd in the doorway effortlessly, something in his aura telling people he was more important, or maybe it was just the shocking pink of his lipstick and the sparkling silver of his eye shadow that made people take a step back. He cut an impressive figure, John admiring the shape of his waist under a tailor-made black blazer. Nick really was something else.

John’s own oversized silk jacket had given Nick a mild seizure before they had left, until John had convinced him that it would simply make Nick look better next to him, and it actually was quite fashionable looking when he rolled up the sleeves. Well, according to his sense of fashion anyway.

A couple of girls at the bar were smiling at them and looking out from under their lashes in a way that could be quite sinister in a different setting. John smiled blandly at them and turned away before they got any ideas about him. Nick cast an eye over them and smirked.

They got their drinks and stood at the corner of the bar for a while, scanning the crowd, looking for a space on one of the couches on the raised platform surrounding the dance floor. A group seemed to be moving away from one nestled in the corner, one of their party having slid from her seat onto the floor with an audible thump.

Nick wasted no time in stealing towards it, caressing a few of the more attractive dancers’ shoulders as he walked by, just in case he was going to come back later. John rolled his eyes, struggling to even get round them with three glasses in his arms.

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Nick asked as he sat down, gesturing at John’s many drinks.

“I’m just getting them now instead of queuing later,” John said, trying to be as convincing as he could be. “Just made more sense.”

Nick seemed to take that excuse, but a slight narrow in his eyes told John he could sense alcohol wasn’t just part of the fun. A lot of the time alcohol completely ended the fun; but John didn’t know how else to keep his cool. After all that had happened this crazy weekend, he shouldn’t be begrudged one night to let it all go. Right?

The music was just noise to John. He struggled to find a groove in it, or indeed anything that would distinguish one song from the other, and found his mind heavy again. Going out was always going to be anti-climactic after their own little party in Nick’s bedroom, always more eccentric and wondrous than any club could ever hope to be. It had been fun dressing up, John having walked back to his house, decided on his outfit, fed the cat and walked back to Nick’s before Nick had even changed out of his original clothes, let alone done his makeup. It had been nice listening to their own music, Nick playing Roxy Music on repeat until John managed to sneak on a bit of Kool & The Gang. The few cocktails they had salvaged from Nick’s limited liquor cabinet were appropriately pretentious and John had posed appropriately with one against Nick’s poster of La Dolce Vita.

But Nick was only thinking of John’s best interests and John was not going to blame him for trying. He was just a bit of a harder, sadder case than Nick had realised.

Slowly, though, sitting on the red velvet beside Nick, making the occasional snide comment about a bad dancer or a leering man, John began to relax. The music wasn’t that bad, sometimes, and he swayed from side to side as the alcohol began to really hit him. Something sexy was playing and he scooted along the sofa towards Nick in time to the beat, pouting at him and turning slightly to give him a feeble ass shake. Nick covered his face with his hand, blushing and shaking his head, a tiny smile still peeking through behind his fingers. John laughed and leaned back, finishing off his second drink with a liberal gulp, before he picked up his final glass and let his eyes roam around the twinkling lights and the glittering crowd.

The seating area curved round into a kind of L shape, the very end of the platform seeming a lot higher as the dance floor beneath it sloped down a level to the bar. John’s gaze wandered to this corner, watching the new arrivals appear from behind the wall and ascending the steps with nervous excitement.

Simon was there, leaning against the wall under the platform, with arms folded and eyes guarded, scanning the crowd with disinterest.

Of course he fucking is.

John spat out his drink and slammed the glass down.

“Why does the universe hate me so much,” he muttered bitterly.

John could feel Nick’s eyes boring into him, obviously having reacted to his outburst, but he was too focused on Simon. He didn’t think he had noticed him, for a second, but then those goddamn beautiful eyes were staring wide eyed in their direction and a flicker of a smile appeared across his lips.

“John…”

Nick’s voice seemed very distant and as John tried to speak the whole world came sharply back into focus, the music suddenly overwhelming and the light far too bright.

John put a hand over his eyes and bent his head down.

“John, are you OK?” Nick asked, placing a hand on his back.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine, I need to get air,” John mumbled, staggering to his feet. Maybe he had just drunk too much too quick. Or maybe it was just the Simon effect.

He tried to slip out the back way to the smoking area but he immediately got stuck in a large queue of people trying to do the same thing. He stood, arms folded, fuming quietly behind some rowdy men who kept stumbling back and nearly knocking him over. Still he remained stoic, eyes fixed ahead, giving no indication he cared about anything in the world let alone some weirdo called Simon.

Unfortunately his façade was broken by the fact he could not stop himself from glancing over at Simon every two seconds, the burn of the other man’s gaze impossible to ignore.

He knew Simon was aching to come over. His face was too aloof, his stance too rigid, his eyes too hungry to be hidden. Yet the fact he didn’t just come straight for him annoyed John; it made him think there must be some kind of game going on at his expense. Or maybe there were vampire rules that meant people couldn’t be advanced upon without their consent, though John didn’t know where stalking and watching people sleep would come under that rule. Vampire rules? God I am drunk…

Finally John reached the cool smoky air outside and found a spot in the far corner, leaning against the railings for support, his whole body wobbling all of a sudden. The rum had gone straight to his knees and melted them and it just seemed to be flowing from there. I need another drink, John thought, before he realised how illogical that was. His head was really starting to spin though, and he couldn’t fathom what had come over him. He didn’t think Nick was the type to have to resort to spiking his drink. Jesus…

The black night looked like a Van Gogh painting, the whole world whirling and spinning around him. John’s head was tilting back uncontrollably making the whole thing even more frantic.

“John!”

All of a sudden Simon was there, panicked, his arms outstretched ready to catch John at a moment’s notice.

“Fuck… you…”

John barely managed to form the words and was oddly proud when he did. He gave Simon a big stupid grin and slid slightly further down the railing. Simon quickly wrapped an arm around his waist and held him up, pulling him close to him.

John felt a rush in the pool of his stomach and he knew it was nothing to do with drunkenness or nausea, unless you counted being lovesick. Simon’s fingertips were electric, jolting sparks down John’s body and John felt asphyxiated, his chest tighter than his own leather jeans. Simon’s face was mere inches away from John’s, his lips so full and close, and John wanted to claim them, bite them, make Simon feel every wild pulsing emotion he could feel and then some. He was angry, a little scared, and completely aroused.

Simon turned, quite abruptly, just as John turned his face towards him. He was left hanging, cursing himself for not just kissing him when he had the chance.

Simon’s eyes were fixed on a man approaching them, who was merely a glittery blur to John, until the figure was right in front of them and Nick’s familiar face came into focus.

“This is my friend… are you…?”

Nick’s brow was furrowed and he seemed to be having some kind of realisation as he stared at Simon. Then all of a sudden he gave a loud laugh, shaking his head, his lips stretched wide in a grin. John looked up at Simon, whose face was blank. John was confused and about to ask Nick what as so funny when his arm was seized roughly and he was jerked out of Simon’s warm embrace.

“Thanks,” Nick said, his tone light yet cool. “But this one’s mine.”

John couldn’t really figure out how he got from one end of the smoking area to the door, his legs moving like jelly tentacles, but he soon found himself plonked on a concrete bollard outside the club as Nick phoned for a taxi.

He wasn’t quite sure what was wrong, aside from the way his whole body swayed dangerously with each gust of wind, but he knew something else was bothering Nick. Maybe he was simply annoyed their night had been a bit ruined. John’s mood turned glum and he sat with his chin in his hands. His thoughts moved back to the smoking area and the feel of Simon. Where had he gone? Although he knew he was mad to feel it, John couldn’t help but regret their moment together had been cut so short.

A taxi soon showed and John was bundled into it, slumping like an oversized ragdoll in the backseat. Nick sat beside him, perched on the edge of his seat, quietly murmuring directions to the taxi driver. Once they started to move, Nick gave a sigh and sank back into his seat, resting his elbow on the windowsill and propping his cheek up with his fist. John flicked the button for the window idly, pressing it down and basking in the cool breeze like a dog.

It seemed only a few seconds before the taxi stopped and Nick got out, paying the driver quickly before storming round to open John’s door. John promptly toppled out, knees crashing into the pavement, yet he seemed strangely numb to the pain. He stared at his hands, starkly white against the grey ground, hypnotised until Nick hauled him up firmly and dragged him to the front door.

“I’m sorry,” John mumbled, as they traipsed up the stairs. “I know I ruined everything.”

“I wouldn’t say that,” Nick sighed. “Anyway, all you need to worry about now is getting a good sleep.”

John’s eyes rolled round, dizzy as they continued up the winding staircases to the top floor. As they did, his gaze landed on Nick. His eyes seemed dark in the shadows, fixed and pensive, his jaw oddly tight.

“Please… Nick, I’m sorry,” John whispered, placing a hand on Nick’s chest. “I’ll make it up to you, I didn’t mean to do anything wrong—“

“You didn’t do anything wrong,” Nick interrupted. “I am not annoyed with you in the slightest. Though it would have made life a lot simpler if you hadn’t lost all muscle control.”
“I—“ John began, but then realised he couldn’t really argue with that as his feet were now flopping limply over the last steps.

John was promptly dumped in the centre of the bed, riding quite pleasantly on the bouncy recoil for a brief second. Nick sat down beside him and sighed heavily. They remained like that for a few minutes, John starting to feel very sleepy as he crawled up to the pillows and buried his face into them. Just before he slipped completely out of consciousness, Nick mumbled something.

“What?” John asked, blearily.

“That was the man, wasn’t it?”

John sighed in response and nodded.

“I guess he followed me again.”

“Well, I suppose that could be part of it,” Nick said, hesitatingly, “but…”

He sighed.

“But Simon is something of a regular.”

That took a moment to register with John but when it did, it made him sit up.

“You know Simon?” he asked, incredulous.

Nick smirked.

“Oh yeah. I know Simon.”

Something about the way Nick’s lips curled left John with little doubt as to how they knew each other. But before he could say another word the spinning world closed in around him and he toppled back into darkness.

Chapter Text

“Fuck.”

John’s head slumped against his arms, his body half collapsed across the table.

“Do you want me to get you a glass of water?”

Roger’s voice was echoing somewhere above him, calm and warm. John groaned.

“I think that’s a yes," he said. "I’ll be back in a second.”

He disappeared for what seemed like forever and the next thing John processed was a cool glass in front of him. He straightened himself up and looked at it, contemplating whether or not he had the strength to lift it.

Roger kindly dropped a straw into it. John smiled at him gratefully.

“Thanks. You’re too good to me.”

“Yeah, I know, I’m just wonderful.”

Roger laughed at himself and John snorted a little before the hitch of breath made his head spin. They sat in silence for a long time, John sucking up as much water as he had the strength to, Roger sipping his americano every few minutes.

“So… how are you, aside from the hangover?”

Roger’s soft voice took a moment to register with John. He sat up straighter, shifting his gaze from the dull blue light shining on the table up to Roger’s face. His brown eyes were warm, yet the lines round them showed his concern.

“Oh Rog, where do I even start…”

John sighed and ruffled a hand through his hair. His scalp was burning; as if his life couldn’t get any worse, he seemed to be developing a cold.

“Well, why not tell me about you and Nick. That seems a nice surprise!”

It was hard for John to be moody when Roger was being so positive. He reluctantly smiled and acknowledged the milestone development.

“Yeah. It’s been… great, actually. I don’t know how it all seems so normal, after all that’s happened, and we’re not quite there yet but… Yeah, it’s almost like nothing happened at all.”

John found he was beaming, his expression matched on Roger’s face, and he let himself feel happy for a moment. Then a particularly hard throb in his temples brought the previous night back to him.

“Until now, of course,” he said, sighing. “I don’t know what the fuck’s going to happen now. This Simon business has well and truly blown up in my face.”

Roger’s brow creased.

“Simon?”

John looked at him in disbelief for a moment, before he realised he had literally had no contact with Roger for the last two days. He nearly laughed at the thought of what Roger was going to think.

“Oh yeah, I’ve met up with my stalker as well. We had a really nice conversation actually, until I remembered I first met him covered in blood, and he admitted to me he was a vampire.”

Roger looked as though he were at a funeral and someone had just spilled ice cold water down his back; as much as he wanted to jump up and shout, he remained seated with a pained smile.

“Oh…kay…” he said slowly, after several moments. “That is a lot to try and understand. So—correct me if I’m wrong—he followed you to Nick’s?”

John shook his head, then hesitated. That was a question he had never really wanted to ask himself, but the more he thought of their ‘surprise’ meeting, the more likely it seemed.

“I don’t know for sure; he may have done. I ran into him at a coffee shop, actually. He was surprisingly normal…”

John laughed as he thought of the ridiculous poetry he had been spouting. He could still feel the words lingering about him, his pulse starting to flicker at the memory of that warm voice, his heart swelling as Simon’s face appeared, golden, in his mind.

“…or maybe I was just deluded. I don’t know now. It felt like a dream. We ended up going for a walk and I ended up half-believing he was a good guy.”

He caught a glimpse of Roger’s rather disapproving pout.

“I know it sounds crazy, I know, but I just… nobody could explain him, he’s such a unique thing. God I don’t even know how to describe him, or if I should describe him, as human. He’s got something that pulls you in, for sure.”

A suddenly snide remark came to his lips.

“Anyway you can’t just take my word for it, why don’t you ask Nick? They’re much better acquainted.”

Roger blinked, recoiling slightly, as though he couldn’t quite process what he’d just said.

“Wait… what? Nick… knows him?”

“Yeah… I haven’t even talked to him about it yet, we’re both pretending I was too drunk to remember what he said. I don’t even know…”

He gave a faint laugh and ran his hand through his hair.

“I checked his Facebook while he was out of the room this morning. I went through all the Simons…”

He had lain on Nick’s bed that morning, head spinning, waiting for Nick to come back upstairs with some water (muttering how John was treating him no better than a slave). With trembling fingers, he had opened Nick’s friends list, and then typed a few cautious letters into the search bar: ‘S… i… m…’

Immediately a couple of dozen profiles popped up. John skimmed through them with a pounding heart, expecting his Simon to jump out at any moment.

His Simon? John brushed the thought aside; he didn’t have time to analyse himself in that particular second. The names on Nick’s list were mostly duds: plenty of Simpsons, Simmons, and even a couple of Simones showed up before he got to the handful of men actually called Simon.

There was one, however, at the very bottom of the list which stood out—mainly because his profile photo was of what appeared to be an ass.

Before he could investigate any further, however, he had heard Nick approaching and quickly pretended to be simply browsing his feed.

“... I found a couple of possibilities for the guy. I don't know why Nick would have him on Facebook unless he... knows him well, and that worries me.”

Roger sighed deeply.

“Oh you boys and your drama.”

“I know. We’re bloody awful.”

They both laughed but neither really found it funny. Then Roger frowned.

“OK, so he knows Nick, whatever that means. That… didn’t quite cover the vampire bit. Or indeed what you and him are, never mind Nick.”

John had deliberately not thought of those questions. He had no answers for them. He had only the vague swirl in his stomach, the reminder of a brief happiness, and a brief touch beneath him.

“I… I don’t know what it is. I don't know about the vampirism; that's something I didn't hang around to ask about. But he hasn't mentioned it to me, and he hasn't done anything to me, yet. As for us...I don’t know what it is that pulls us together over and over. Maybe it’s all him but I feel it’s like a little series of accidents, fate intervening, and I can’t help but wonder why. Is it to kill me? Or is it to…”

John struggled with the words. Roger sighed.

“I can’t tell you that, only he can. I know it seems… ludicrous, but if you can try and forget it, for now, I think you should.”

“Yeah, easy that.”

He gave Roger a dismissive look but he knew the man only had his best interests at heart. Roger gave him a little smirk in reply and sipped his coffee.

“OK. Remember I have faith in you John.”

John sucked in his teeth, shaking his head.

“Ah Rog, that’s your first mistake!”

They both laughed. John’s head was beginning to pound a little less violently and instead of staring out of the window pensively, his eyes fell on the specials board. Now he thought of it, he was actually starving.

“I’m gonna get something, you want another coffee?”

“No, I’m OK for now, thanks,” Roger replied with a smile.

John got to his feet and headed over to the counter, a small queue in front of it. He joined the back of it, taking out his phone and idly flicking through it. He had more notifications from last night; he hadn’t checked them properly before meeting Roger, his mind too busy with Simon and having to form awkward conversation with Nick, and now he had time to look at them he was quite shocked at how much activity there was on his screen. First that popped up were several snapchats from Nick, mostly selfies of himself in various places, a handful of the poses the two of them had taken, and one of John himself that he had little memory of posing for. He screenshotted a couple (Nick would have been offended if he didn’t) then noticed Amanda had sent him something too. I have her snapchat?He opened them rather covertly, dubious as to what she would be sending him at 1:01 am, but it was simply a rather modest selfie, cleavage mostly covered, with a tanned man in a baseball cap captioned “LOOK WHO IT IS!!”. John had no idea who the man was, but no doubt he was a somebody, and Amanda would probably be gushing about it tomorrow morning.

Next were the Instagram notifications; John felt a blush spread across his cheeks as he saw Nick had uploaded one of the photos of them together, uncaptioned but tagged ‘#bestbitches #♊️. To be included on something so prestigious as this-- it took John somewhat aback.

Carried away with the feeling of being included, and the panic of having to respond with something equally cute and witty, John didn’t notice the man who had stopped in the doorway. He looked at John intently, eyes worn and wounded, his lips squirming with deliberation. Then he inhaled deeply and turned away, knowing a lost cause when he saw one.

John felt odd; he glanced around him, unable to shake the feeling he was being watched. But, with Roger’s friendly smile a few feet away from him, it was hard to be too perturbed. He smiled, and looked down at his phone, for once his mind distracted.

 

*_ * *

Monday morning rolled around cold, grey and as unwelcoming as ever. John had spent the night at home, despite Nick’s protestations. It seemed necessary to him, however; he hated the feeling of being a guest, as much as he had been happy with Nick, and after Saturday night he felt his welcome had been overstayed. He was overthinking and paranoid and he knew it—but that didn’t help him feel as though his very presence stained the walls, his skin turning Nick’s white sheets dirty every time he sat down on them.

Nick was blissfully oblivious to John's thoughts; and that at least reassuring for John, as it meant they were completely unfounded. Yet the feelings were too much, and after returning with Roger and exchanging a few pleasantries he left them both sitting, a little bewildered, in Nick’s kitchen to forge on home alone.

His apartment was surprisingly comforting. He’d expected to feel uneasy, scared, or even to find Simon, but the rooms seemed untouched since he’d last been there. He’d ran his fingers through some dirty laundry, struggling to find the motivation to clean it, and found himself sitting on the floor against his bed exactly where he had been a few days before, fingering his bass idly. He was in a haze but it was a calm, thought-free one, and he would happily dwell in it forever if it meant escaping all that had happened over the last few days.

It was still in that trance that John entered the blood bank on Monday morning, barely processing Andy’s groggy hello or Amanda’s smile. He went up to the lockers and left his bag down, dropping his phone into his hoodie before he hung it up, and only came to life when he felt cold metal beneath his fingers.

The key. He’d forgotten completely about it; he didn’t realise he’d taken it with him. But now John had to figure out what to do with it. He put it in his pocket, twirling it round and round until it was hot, his heart pounding uncomfortably. What was he supposed to do? He made his way back along the corridor, wondering if perhaps Amanda would be able to help him.

“Taylor?”

Nurse Carlisle’s sharp tone behind him made him wonder if it was too late to do anything at all. He turned and faced her with a light smile.

“Yes Nurse?”

She frowned at him.

“Chester was trying to enter 1A to clean this morning, but his key was missing. I reviewed the security tapes and they seem tampered with. I entered this morning, with the only other copy of the key that is in my possession, and found one of the blood bags missing.”

John swallowed heavily.

“I have no idea about that,” he replied quickly. “I went in and found some spillage so I notified Amanda and Sam.”

“And yet none of you thought to notify me?”

Her voice was ice cold. John shook his head awkwardly.

“I assumed Amanda would put it on the record… I’m sorry,” he mumbled.

“It is not Amanda’s responsibility,” Carlisle responded angrily. “And it does not explain the key. You are not allowed to bring home any keys or access devices unless expressly permitted by your job role.”

“I know that,” John muttered. “I didn’t do it.”

Nurse Carlisle pursed her lips, the lines around her mouth taught and her jaw clenched, but before she could admonish him further a man appeared as if from thin air behind her, waving at John cheekily before tapping her firmly on the shoulder.

John stared, frozen, as his superior rounded on the man responsible for all this trouble.

“Hello, sorry to interrupt,” Simon began, smiling broadly. “I’ve gotten myself a little bit lost.”

Nurse Carlisle was speechless, dazzled for a brief moment, and Simon gave John a brief forceful stare, eyes flicking from his pocket to the desk beside them. John was perplexed for a moment. Then he realised what was happening and acted so fast he felt he was dreaming.

The key was slipped onto Amanda's unattended desk, tucked just below her monitor, enough in view to be discovered but enough hidden for its disappearance to be convincing.

John felt his face flush, adrenaline spinning in his stomach, eyes darting back to Simon and his mouth stretching wide into a grin against his will. For once he’d appeared at just the right time.

“Never mind, I’ll find my way honey,” Simon said, cutting across Nurse Carlisle’s stuttering response. “Have a wonderful day!”

With that he grabbed her face and kissed her, looking directly at John as his did so, giving him a quick wink before darting down the corridor away from them. John stumbled back, completely stunned.

“In God’s name!” Nurse Carlisle spluttered, looking as if she had just been flipped upside down.

“I’ll get him!” John yelled suddenly, sprinting after Simon, having no intention of capturing him for anything but his own selfishness.

He ran, faster than he ever had before, Simon having disappeared entirely from view. He smashed through the double doors to the reception, nearly colliding into his next donor, and darted out the front door.

John’s skin tensed as it was hit by the icy air, heart throbbing painfully as if he had just been shocked awake.

“SIMON!”

He called out, breathless, not even caring that he would probably be in trouble if anyone realised he knew the identity of the madman.

John scanned the horizon and saw Simon turning around, his smile visible even from the bottom of the street.

They ran to each other, meeting in the middle of the road. John stared into Simon’s eyes, and their gazes were locked together beautifully for a moment, before the sound of a distant engine reminded him to move. He grabbed Simon’s arm and pulled him back towards the pavement. Simon wrapped his hand round John’s wrist.

They stood on the pavement, not quite sure what to say, both breathless. John’s eyes were wide, taking in every inch of Simon’s face. If he had seemed handsome before, it was nothing to now. He didn’t know what had changed but it was like he was looking at a whole new person and yet someone pleasantly familiar at the same time.

“That was brilliant wasn’t it?” Simon said, grinning.

“It was,” John murmured. “You saved my neck.”

“Got to save it for myself, after all,” Simon laughed.

It took John a moment to get the joke but when he did his stomach gave an odd flip.

“Oh…”

John felt his happiness beginning to crumble again but at the same time he began to question his instant disillusionment. Simon had laughed; why would he even mention it, let alone laugh, if he truly intended to do it.

Why would Simon do anything to help him at all if that’s all that mattered to him?

John ripped back his collar, baring his neck directly at Simon, and turned his head away.

“Well, come on then,” he said, jaw clenched and heart pounding.

He closed his eyes, waiting. Part of him felt stupid; admittedly, he did not imagine a vampire biting him in the middle of the street. But he was tired and he had ran out of options. Now or never, he thought. Let’s see what you really are.

John could hear nothing but his own frenzied heartbeat. He didn’t feel scared or angry or anything. He just waited.

Then, like fire, he felt Simon’s lips burning against his cold skin. They pressed against the nape of his neck, fiercely, before parting ever so slightly.

John’s breath hitched, his mind a blur. It was over, then; and he didn’t quite mind as his stomach swelled with ecstasy at Simon’s touch.

Then the parted lips contracted and Simon blew a hard raspberry into John’s neck.

“Ow! Yuck!”

John pushed him off abruptly with a shove and Simon staggered away from him, bent double with laughter.

John couldn’t help but grin.

“You had me convinced for a second,” he said.

Simon glanced up at him, still panting.

“You take everything a bit too seriously, Johnny. I’m hardly going to brutally tear your throat out in broad daylight, for one thing. For another, I’m not going to tear your throat out full stop. Do you know how many times I could have just done that? I saw you sleeping in your room for Christ’s sake. It’s not your throat I want to be tearing apart.”

John stared at him, wide eyed, his heart beating somewhere near his mouth. He… he wanted him. He really, truly wanted him. And Simon wanted him too, in exactly the same way, leaving John with nothing to fear.

“That’s… nice,” John managed, barely able to talk. “Though I really don’t want you ripping my clothes off, I can’t afford much more on my salary.”

“OK sorry,” Simon said, raising his hands in defeat, “no clothes tearing. But you get my point.”

John felt his lip twitch but ignored it. He stepped towards Simon, placing a hand on his shoulder, and straightening him up to face him.

“Look, I don’t know why, but I want to see you again. On my terms, this time. Meet me outside my apartment at 6 tomorrow, OK?”

Simon looked at him, dazzled.

“Is… that a date?” he asked, frowning incredulously.

“It is what it is,” John said shortly. “Just be there.”

With that, he turned away, marching proudly back to the clinic.

“I can’t wait Johnny!” Simon called after him.

John ignored it, but couldn’t hide his smile any longer.

Chapter Text

John sat on the steps fuming. It was the coldest it had been all week, so cold he wouldn’t be surprised if it snowed again, and in spite of his vest, jumper and thick woollen coat he was shivering uncontrollably. The worst of it was that was the least of his worries. It was nearly ten past six, and he was still sitting outside his apartment, arms folded and newly coiffed quiff starting to deflate in the wind.

He knew Simon was cheeky. He knew Simon liked to drink blood. Somehow those things he was mildly OK with. What he didn’t know until now, however, was that he was a tardy fucker as well.

John swore if he had to wait another minute, he would go back inside and bolt the door. That would show him. A soft mew beside him made him turn his head. Gingey was there, purring loudly, and began enthusiastically rubbing herself off his legs.

He stroked her gently, her unbearable cuteness dissipating his irritation somewhat.

“Hiiii Johnny!”

Simon’s upside-down face was in front of him, beaming. The cat gave a yowl and bolted down the street. It took all John’s self restraint not to punch him—half a reflex, not entirely a reflection of his ire.

“Are you trying to kill me?!”

Simon laughed and swung up out of sight, only to drop down in front of John a moment later. He was surprised he had managed to land on his feet without toppling over. Apparently he had been hanging from the elaborately engraved frame round the doorway.

“I’m sorry Johnny. I just wanted to make you smile. I knew you were mad at me for being late.”

John glared up at him, arms folded.

“I’m hardly thrilled to be sitting here freezing my ass off. How can someone with eternity at their fingertips be late?”

Simon shrugged.

“Time becomes even harder to keep track of. Anyway I was doing something special, that maybe took me a lot longer than I thought.”

He looked down at the ground shyly, and looked up at John expectantly.

“Come on,” he said, pouting. “Please give me a chance to show you that, at least. I really did try.”

John sighed but in spite of the cold he felt his heart get a little warmer. What surprise could Simon mean? He had never been on a date—not a date! he corrected himself-- like this before. It had always been meeting outside the cinema at 6, or Nando’s at 5, or simply a 10 minute pull at the back of the smoking area with little thought or planning. John had been happy with that; happy with no real imagination, happy because he hadn’t much aspiration, and happy because he was actually being paid attention to by somebody. But here he was, with only the dark night and Simon’s smile ahead of him, and a sense of wonder was starting to grow within him he hadn’t felt before.

“Fine,” he said, brushing back his hair and standing up to face Simon’s dazzling gaze. “Lead the way.”

* * *

“Where are we going?”

They were walking along the road, passing the bright lights of the shopping mall, heading past the clinic, and all that was left ahead of them was the forest. John was all for mystery, but this was becoming a bit too like the start of a late night horror channel movie for his liking.

“It’s a surprise,” Simon said, infuriatingly.

John could hear nothing but his pounding heart in his ears. He clenched his fists, trying to keep breathing, eyes comically wide as he stared at Simon in anticipation of him pouncing.

“Look…,” he began, trying to keep his voice steady. “People know where I am, you can’t—”

“Oh John, really?”

Simon sounded exasperated. He stopped and turned to face John.

“I know you are worried but honestly John, why would I? Why would I go to this effort just to slice your throat in the woods like an unimaginative serial killer? I have no motivation to. You saw me; I broke into a fucking blood clinic to suck on the vampiric equivalent of a Capri-Sun just to avoid killing anyone, alright? Nevermind someone I actually, you know, like.”

John dragged his foot on the ground, making a big show of rolling his eyes to hide his little thrill at those words.

“OK. Am I going to see this surprise any time today or?”

Simon slapped John’s arm playfully.

“You are demanding aren’t you? Typical—the prettiest ones always take me for granted.”

They came to a stop in front of a bleached out trail of dry soil, leading through the thin trees towards the surrounding fields. Simon started walking up it, holding out a hand for John.

“You really aren’t making me feel any more reassured,” John muttered, ignoring Simon’s hand but following him reluctantly.

They continued on in silence, John pulling his collar up round his ears in the face of the icy breeze.

Finally they came to a narrow road. John thought it looked vaguely familiar; he seemed to remember the old bottle bank had been at the far end of it before recycling caught on and it got moved to the square beside the clinic. In front of them was a Fiat Punto; but not just any Fiat Punto. Its inside was adorned with softly glowing fairy lights that illuminated the red plush cushions scattered across the seats and the bottle of champagne in the cup holder.

“Ta da!” Simon said, throwing his hands wide and beaming at John expectantly.

John just looked at him.

“What is this…”

He didn’t quite know what to think. Part of him wanted to laugh at the sheer theatrical tackiness of it all. It was like a school play trying to recreate Cleopatra’s barge. Mostly it was cringey—it seemed like some teenage boy’s attempt at creating a ‘fuckmobile’, only a lot less cool. Certainly the odds of him having sex in that car were nil, unless he drank that entire bottle of champagne and even then he would still be dubious. But it was oddly cute. He had made so much effort and it was all for him. John looked at Simon, waiting for him to say something.

“It’s your carriage—our carriage,” Simon explained. “This is only the first part of the surprise.”

John felt mildly relieved that Simon wasn't so awkward as to expect them to spend the entire night in this 2ft long chariot. Then he frowned as the meaning fully hit him.

“Where are we going to? Do you think I trust you?”

Simon opened the driver’s side and sat down.

“Come on, John. Don’t you know what surprise means?”

John looked at him and knew if he went with Simon now that would be it. He was admitting he liked him, admitting he trusted him, and admitting he wanted more of him. He raised a trembling hand to run through his hair, heart pounding again as he tried to think straight. As if that was possible when that man sat, leaning back like a panther, sparkling eyes studying his every move. But it felt so fucking great to be studied like that.

“Fine. You got music, at least? I need something to drown you out with.”

John knew his act of over casual confidence wasn’t working. But he simply avoided Simon’s triumphant smirk, strutting round the bonnet and accepting his fate against the very comfortable cushions.

The ride was relatively smooth. Simon stalled thrice, misread the gear box twice, and John was pretty sure it had been a long time since he had driven properly, if he had indeed at all. He wasn’t quite sure how driving licences worked for the immortal. Nonetheless, once they got past those hiccups it was pleasant. John rolled down the window slightly and let the cool breeze ruffle his hair as he stared out at the shadowy fields rolling past them, the glitter of the city fading slowly into darkness.

Simon had some indie guitar on the CD player. John had heard it before; some kind of new psychedelic stuff from Australia. He liked it OK. Hardly iconic, but good enough. And it put him in exactly the right dreamy mood for a date with a vampire. John smiled to himself, staring up at the dark streaky sky whirling past him. That was a thought he’d never ever have predicted could become a reality.

The faint tick of the indicator made John look round at his companion.

“Where are we going? This leads to the motorway…”

Simon gave him a mischievous smile.

“I hope you weren’t planning on an early night.”

“I gave up on that a while ago,” John smiled.

He didn’t let Simon know how little he’d been sleeping recently, as a result of a constantly churning stomach filled with a kind of fearful butterflies. He didn’t mention that even when he slept, he usually woke up after 2 hours of vivid dreams involving Simon, then spent the rest of the morning reliving them until his heart couldn’t take any more.

They sped along the dim road, John wondering how to make conversation with a vampire. He was on edge; but it wasn’t the supernatural factor. He didn’t think he’d ever been on a date like this before; maybe he had, but all memory paled in comparison to this present. He was sure Simon could sense it. He remembered reading something about vampires that had super sensitive hearing; if that was true, then John’s heart must have sounded like a bass drum going at 180bpm.

“Why the car? I thought you guys were meant to be able to fly or something, no?” he muttered, half-musing out loud, half-interested if Simon would answer.

He gave a snort as a response.

“If there is a way to do it I haven’t discovered it yet. Don’t worry, as soon as I do we can go hang-gliding. With you using me as the glider.”

John was pretty sure Simon winked at that, and he rolled his eyes just in case.

“But you got up to my room,” John continued. “How?”

“It’s not impossible, if you can climb,” Simon replied. “I suppose what you could call ‘flying’ is the way I jump. It is slightly different to most humans.”

“Oh no, I know plenty of guys who can leap four storeys just like that,” John said, snapping his fingers.

“I must seem so boring then,” Simon retorted, with a smile.

The indicator came on again, and the car curved to the left, John letting himself be swayed onto Simon’s shoulder for a brief, warm second.

It was pretty much black outside yet John knew where they were. Simon kept driving until the headlights illuminated a faint sign, advising them to dispose of their litter in the public bins. John wondered how much of the rubbish scattered around the sands came from people, and how much was rather the work of the seagulls that swooped down and foraged within the bins within moments of any wrapping or food being cast inside.

“Here we are,” Simon said proudly, yanking on the handbrake and gesturing at the windscreen. A stunning vista of an empty car park and overgrown bushes was all John could see.

“Is it the best idea to be wandering round water in the dark?” he asked facetiously.

“Oh shush, the moon’s bright enough,” Simon scoffed. “And my mobile has a a beautifully atmospheric flashlight.”

“OK then,” John said.

He smiled at Simon, worried he had sounded unappreciative.

“Lead the way, mighty flashlight bearer.”

Simon smiled back at him.

They made their way carefully down the path to the shore, John half-hoping Simon would use their unsteady journey as an excuse to take his hand, while he himself was unable to pluck up the courage.

They sat down on the rocks, John’s sneakers toeing the sand, brushing back and forth with idle ease. The breeze rolling off the sea was milder than he had expected; it had a flavour of summer in its scent. It still sent a cold tickle down his neck any time it whipped round them strongly, but John’s skin was so hot it didn’t bother him.

Simon fumbled in the pocket of his leather jacket. John hadn’t really noticed what he was wearing before—he was too distracted by his face—but now he took a proper look at the vampire’s attire. He gave a little grin at the oversized, dark brown leather jacket, matched with rough dark denim jeans and a black belt with an obnoxious gold buckle. As his eyes roved up to Simon’s face again, John noticed the light pink silk shirt hidden under the shadows of the jacket lapels and he felt a bubble of second hand embarrassment pop inside his stomach as he saw the tiny blue knot of a scarf arranged neatly round Simon’s neck.

John had spent most of the last week wondering how he had failed to notice there was something supernatural about Simon before. Now he wondered how he had utterly overlooked the fact Simon was a walking fashion disaster. It was another credit to his stupidly handsome face, he supposed.

“Here, would you like one? I’d have gotten ice cream but I thought it was probably too cold.”

John was distracted from his reverie on Simon’s wondrousness, and looked down at the hand now extended to him. In Simon’s palm rested two Mars bars and John’s stomach started rumbling. He took them both eagerly, before realising how rude he was being.

“Um… thanks, I didn’t realise how hungry I was.”

Simon beamed at him.

“Good! Don’t worry, I’m full enough… for now.”

He bowed his head and looked up at John from under his brows, wiggling them menacingly. John sat, mouth ajar, momentarily dumbfounded until Simon gave him a wink and beamed. John wasn’t quite sure whether to find it amusing or not.

“Are you deliberately trying to turn me off?” John asked.

Yet internally, John really asked himself why he was still so turned on. He had been over it a million times; the initial shock was enough to create a dazzling effect akin to a crush, the smooth talk in the park probably added fuel to it, and maybe the drunken rush of artificial emotions in Vinyl had made it seem bigger than it was. Yet surely now, when he had seen the naff car and the tacky clothes, the reality would set in and John would be able to go on his merry way as if the two of them had never crossed paths and he had never heard of such things as vampires.

Yet, as Simon gave a low chuckle, leaning towards John and placing his hand lightly on his knee, John found it difficult to feel repulsed.

“If I was, I’m certainly not succeeding.”

His glittering gaze took John’s breath away. Then Simon relaxed back, sliding his hand away.

“Ah, come on Johnny! Let’s move past this hard to get game for a moment. I want to get to know you. All the stories in the park were cute—I keep getting the image of little eleven year old you, wide-eyed, looking at the kid you flattened to the ground—“

“I didn’t flatten him,” John protested. “If he’d had two working legs he wouldn’t have fallen over at all.”

Simon laughed at that, possibly even harder than he had at the original story. John couldn’t help but join him, finding it utterly ludicrous that Simon found the whole thing so funny. It was a vicious cycle; tears glinted in Simon’s eyes as he saw John giggling, and John started to properly roar with laughter at the sight of the ruddy faced vampire in front of him.

It took several minutes before they caught their breath again, the cold wind helping to cool their flushed cheeks, rippling through John’s hair and tangling strands of it across his face. Simon gently raised his fingers and stroked them back, John’s face blossoming scarlet beneath his touch.

If only John could have melted there and then, be washed into the sea, and be free of his twisting heart and endless hunger. But he remained still and solid, trembling under Simon’s hand for a moment, before he was released into the trap of waiting and wanting again.

“There is so much I don’t know… I don’t think I’d ever know about you,” Simon whispered. “But I will try to pry them from that complex mind…”

He cleared his throat and raised an eyebrow in mock fascination, putting on his best game show host voice.

“So, who is the real John Taylor?”

John was taken aback for a moment. That was a question he himself had often pondered and one he never quite found the answer to. Of course, if he had to, he could have summarised himself blithely in seconds; just a pretty boy, heart of gold shielded by his brash confidence, flickering from sulky brat to cocky flirt within moments. A dreamer who liked to play the bass and make people cups of tea to bring the blood back to their veins. Modest as always. But there was always that low, hollow feeling in him; as if that, once the door closed to his apartment and he sat alone in the silence, he was not a person at all.

“That is definitely a third date question,” he said, finally. “And I will definitely need three dates before I am able to come up with a response.”

He laughed.

“So I’m getting three dates at least then, am I?” Simon asked, eyes lighting up.

John continued laughing and rolled his eyes.

“Well you do supply me with Mars bars, how could I not be begging for more?”

He felt an internal twinge at the way the words sounded, akin to the feeling when you accidentally swore in front of your grandparents. He tried to convince himself Simon couldn’t see the images that appeared in his mind when prompted by the word ‘beg’--

John ran his tongue across his lips, distracted for a moment. He was struggling to find words. It had been different in the park; perhaps Simon had put a spell on him, or maybe it was just the day and the atmosphere, public and casual. This was a private, alone, and intense. John’s stomach fluttered.

“So… What is a vampire anyway?”

The question just sort of came out naturally; it took John a minute to realise how stupid he sounded.

“Going straight in for the kill?”

“Sorry…”

“Don’t be, it’s fine.”

Simon smiled. Then he frowned.

“That’s a weird one. I don’t know… it’s like asking what is a human? I don’t think it’s much different really. I was… transformed, I suppose is the word—though that sounds a bit silly doesn’t it?—in the 70s…”

That explains the clothes, John thought briefly, biting back a snort. Simon grinned nostalgically, looking up at the sky as he brushed some hair back from his face. But his smile was not lasting.

“Was having a very groovy gap year in the Middle East. It all feels like a terrible dream now,” he continued. “I couldn’t really tell you, to be honest. It feels like… another part of my life, someone else’s life tacked onto mine. Or maybe that’s what my real self was and this is all just… something alien. But I moved through a strange kind of world and came out the other side like this.”

His eyes seemed glassy, lost across the ocean, gazing into something John couldn’t see.

“Do you have superpowers?”

John knew his question was dumb but he asked it anyway.

“Well,” Simon began, frowning, “I’m not quite sure they are that exciting. There are certain… qualities, shall we say, that get transferred in the process and obviously they are different. I don’t know if it’s magic or just some lost genes or some unknown scientific way to alter the human, but we have immunities to basic things. We couldn’t get a disease, our skin is harder to penetrate, our organs can’t decay. We can run a bit faster, jump a bit higher, punch a bit harder. Though usually I don’t have to use that power. Mentally there are some… links we can form. Not telepathy, exactly, nor really manipulation, but sort of… sending out a vibe. I presume it was intended to be for lulling prey into a false sense of security. I just use it to make people a bit happier and more relaxed.”

He looked over at John quickly.

“I may have used it a little when we first spoke,” he admitted. “I didn’t want to have no chance at all. But it wouldn’t be fair to use it any more. I can tell you’re nervous tonight—it’s been awful watching you knowing I could do something, but also a little bit fun in a perverse way.”

He grinned and John, bizarrely, felt a bit calmer. At least Simon was open with him.

“So… is it just you? On your own?” John asked, beginning to wonder now the possibility of vampires actually existing seemed more and more real. Did they hide? Did they live and roam in a pack, like animals? Or were they rare? Was Simon perhaps the only one?

“There’s other ones.”

Simon sighed.

“We’re a lonely lot. I have a few friends amongst them, but that’s more circumstantial. It’s not exactly like a club with a newsletter to keep up to date with each other across the world. And eternity can be an awful drag. We aren’t immune to everything. Not least ourselves.”

“What do you mean? You can kill each other, then? Or you can kill…”

John’s voice seemed brash and careless, his words flailing into nothing as he realised from the look on Simon’s face it was not a topic he should delve further into.

He put a hand on Simon’s shoulder quickly, like he was slapping a band-aid on a wound that he wasn’t even quite sure he’d opened. His stomach was bumping, tight and uneasy, and the blood began to rush to his cheeks.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled.

Simon’s cool palm covered John’s clammy fingers.

“Don’t be. I don’t dwell on this stuff too much—I can’t. Eternity has to be bearable. There is a blessing and a burden to carry on the memories of those gone or who will be gone, to give them a slice of immortality, so I can’t contemplate leaving just yet. I’ve only been here forty years—I just have a bit more hair than most sixty year olds. But I wish… the world could be kinder. That’s an understatement but… it would be a start.”

John turned his head to look at Simon, heartened to see a faint smile on his lips. And Simon stared back at him, and those eyes sparkling blue yet dark and deep at the same time drew John in like a magnet to a deep pool.

He leaned towards John; John didn’t flinch. He knew if either of them moved any closer, it would be too late and he would be lost to Simon forever. Yet his face grew nearer, his eyes becoming mere orbs of twinkling light, blurred and indistinct, only serving to exacerbate John’s erratic heartbeat.

Their foreheads touched, and John closed his eyes, thoughts ceasing to function. Simon’s skin sent electric chills through him, and something about his cool flesh seemed even more enticing than a hot-blooded man would have been. Yet, even as his whole heart screamed for his lips to tilt forward and finally claim their desire, John found he could not move further. Something inside him had frozen, creating a block not even Simon’s magic could overcome. For another face was in his mind now and no matter how much he wished he could forget it, it only seemed to grow clearer.

Nick. His face, moving closer and closer, and John’s face being tilted up towards him. John could see his eyes in the semi-darkness, purple light morphing his features into something even more exotic and wonderful, and his lips so tantalisingly hovering above his own. John could still feel that pull before their flesh had crashed together; before hot tongues licked and locked together; before John had felt revulsion creeping up through his insides, working its way up to his throat and erupting in a venomous yell of rejection. He had turned away not so dissimilarly then; only instead of taking a breath and giving a smile, he had turned round again with a mouthful of rum-fuelled emotions and spewed them all viciously at his friend.

Perhaps he wasn’t the only one who had Nick on their mind. John turned away, and for a moment though the lurching inside was going to make him sick. His flesh was searing hot, embarrassment and shame creating a heady mix of discomfort inside him.

“What’s wrong?” Simon asked, real concern in his voice.

John shrugged, the twitch in his clenched jaw the only giveaway of his confused turmoil.

Simon sighed.

“Come on, I won’t throw a hissy fit if you tell me I stink. Vampires don’t keep a good supply of breath mints, you know.”

John couldn’t bring himself to smile. He couldn’t bring himself to do anything. He just sat there, frozen, in silence. He knew the longer he waited, the worst it would be. Yet he could not relax.

“John?”

Simon was beginning to look worried. He raised a cautious hand to John’s shoulder, but at that moment John’s entire body chose to convulse, and Simon quickly dropped it.

“OK, sorry.”

Air whooshed past John’s ears, almost screaming, and he could feel flecks of sea spraying his face. It was turning very dark. They had been there a long time; yet it all seemed much too brief now that it was over.

“I’ll give you a lift home, yeah?”

John said nothing. Simon got to his feet. He paused for a moment, and John watched his hair ripple across his face in the wind. Then he tried again.

“You do want to go home, don’t you?”

He looked down expectantly at John, until he eventually gave up trying to get any response and sighed.

“Come on, you can’t sit here all night.”

Reluctantly, John stood up and followed him. The walk back to the car felt like something out of a dream, his legs barely moving, yet somehow the ground moved and before he had time to think he was sitting on gaudy red cushions and Simon was starting the engine.

He knew he would fuck it all up somehow and now he finally had.

Chapter Text

John stared out of the window at the distant lights, watching the trees and fields fly by as they headed back onto the motorway into town. The moon was shrouded in cloud, tinged blue and fading against the dark sky. He kept his eyes on it, refusing to let himself show any feeling, pretending he couldn’t care less whether Simon ever spoke to him or saw him again. It was John’s turn to talk but he didn’t want to. He didn’t quite know how to.

Simon took the main road into town. The road that flew past Nick’s street, past the park, darting round the corner of the coffee shop and along the front of John’s apartment. A whirlwind tour through all the places that now had thrice as much meaning for John, all because of Simon and all he had done for him. John brushed cool fingers over his burning cheeks, a stinging feeling in his eyes, and he covered his mouth in case one of his breaths could be mistaken for a cry. Even if this was the last time he ever passed these places with Simon, he might as well have been beside him the whole time, for his presence couldn’t be erased from them. Not in John’s memory, anyway.

John rested his head on his arms and closed his eyes. Eventually the car came to a halt. Silence overwhelmed them, amplifying the faint sound of John’s heavy breaths until they became loud as thunder.

“Spit it out Johnny. Please. Do you hate me, do I repulse you, do you suddenly remember you have a wife and kids at home? Because, to be quite honest, I don’t care about something like that. It might not be nice to admit that, but… well, I’m a little desperate.”

Something about that flicked the switch in John and his shyness vanished behind trembling, insecure anger.

“Oh desperate then, that’s all it is? I thought so. I knew you couldn’t really want me. How did you end up sinking so low, eh? Nick ignore your 3am Facebook messages?”

His hands were trembling, and he quickly ran them through his hair in an attempt to calm himself.

Simon looked at him incredulously, frowning and shaking his head.

“Of all the things to be accused of, not wanting you is the most ludicrous. You see these fucking lights?”

He pointed at them aggressively, and John looked up at them in bemusement.

“It took me an hour to sort them out just like that. Never mind finding the cushions and the best champagne. I thought it was obvious that you make me feel like no one else. But I don’t mind talking about it, I’ll happily make a million lovesick declarations like an absolute fool if that's what you need to trust me.”

John quickly stared out of the window, trying not to smile. He couldn’t quite understand how Simon wasn’t annoyed, was actually comforting him, and was sincere.

“OK,” he mumbled.

“John… what is wrong?”

Surely he could just explain it. Simon wasn’t like everyone else. He would understand. Yet still his stomach was wrought tight, wrapped up in his own doubt. Now Simon seemed to like him so much, showing any insecurity could completely turn him off, and boy could John be insecure. John sighed for the thousandth time that night and gritted his teeth.

“I’m just… I can’t get something out of my mind. I can’t explain it, otherwise you’ll… go.”

“No, I won’t.”

Simon placed a hand on his shoulder, and the warmth that spread through his body made him feel as though all had melted away, and the binds constricting him has loosened somewhat. He sighed and looked down at his hands. He owed Simon a brief explanation at least.

“The last time I kissed anybody, it was Nick. And that ruined our friendship. It was my fault; I was a real prick to him about it, pretending I wasn’t as keen as him and basically denying I was even remotely… interested in his type.”

He swallowed heavily. Simon said nothing.

“And I just thought of that again, and the feeling of being kissed and then remembering that you and him… I’d like to think I’m not so petty as to succumb to jealousy but… sometimes these things take you by surprise.”

If Simon had been confused before, it was nothing to John’s own bewilderment. He couldn’t explain it; he didn’t want Nick himself and he didn’t care much about Nick and Simon as it clearly didn’t matter to either of them still. But that was just logic. It didn’t explain the feelings he couldn’t shake.

“John, I wish you’d just told me.”

The hand resting on John’s shoulder flexed, tightening its grip, spreading reassurance through John’s worried mind.

“I understand you can have bad reminders. As long as you’re not secretly in love with Nick, that’s no problem. I’m not going to make you kiss me until you want to.”

John paused, lips twitching.

“I’d like to hope not, that would be creepy even for you.”

Simon smirked sarcastically.

“Gee, thanks for the faith in me.”

John quirked up an eyebrow, pouting a little, his bravado returning slightly.

“So… Nick was… what, to you?”

Simon blinked at him and laughed.

“Not jealous at all, are you?”

John folded his arms. Simon’s smile faded into a more pensive pout.

“OK. Me and Nick. It was… casual, I suppose, but not casual in the common sense,” Simon said, quietly. “We talked a lot about esoteric stuff; we bitched about people, and the human condition. Then we wouldn’t talk much more. I never got him home and I never thought to find him outside the walls of Vinyl. He never tried to find me either. In fact, I barely managed to catch his name before it sort of ended. Round about this time last year, actually.”

John waited. He didn’t know what magic words he was waiting for. Simon took a deep breath and sighed.

“I liked him. I still like him, I know he’s the very same. He understands parts of me I didn’t think anyone could. He isn’t afraid of the dark and unusual—not that he knew what made me quite so unusual. Yet I know he’s not quite the right fit. He’s my Rosalind. You’re my Juliet.”

Simon gave a cackle as John frowned then groaned.

“Oh come on,” John cringed. “That is the worst comparison I’ve ever heard.”

“I’m just taking the piss,” Simon replied, smirking. “My point is though, he’s not you. So I don’t want him. And he doesn’t, nor did he ever, want me nearly as much as you do.”

John blushed scarlet.

“When did I ever say I wanted you?” he replied indignantly.

Simon just raised an eyebrow at him. John realised there was no point trying to pretend. He had been caught out and he would just have to admit it.

“OK, OK,” he muttered. “I suppose I maybe do. Maybe. But I thought I was just hotter than Nick, surely that’s more important in influencing your infatuation?”

“Of course you are, and I'd think that even if you hated me,” Simon said, with a purr. “I just wanted to see how you would react to that. It’s quite nice hearing you let slip how you feel about me, Johnny.”

“Would you ever stop calling me that?” John sighed, though he secretly felt a little tingle of happiness every time Simon did so.

“No,” Simon said, smiling smugly.

He paused to look into John’s eyes and John finally felt able to hold his gaze. They passed a few moments like that, and there was nothing John would rather have done than thrown Simon down on the backseat and shove his tongue down his mouth. But he didn’t quite know how to.

“John,” Simon said, suddenly, with a frown. “What is Facebook exactly? I think I’ve heard of it before but I’ve never used it.”

John looked at him incredulously.

“Facebook? Do you… use the internet at all?”

“Yeah but very… minimally. I don’t get the chance to a lot and when I do it’s usually for looking up photos of pugs.”

John blinked and let the bizarreness of that comment slide.

“But if you have Facebook—” Simon continued, “--that makes it different.”

A warm surge filled John’s heart at the way Simon said that, obviously keen to be involved with something he presumed John was interested in, and a smile crossed his face.

“I’ll set one up for you sometime, OK? Get you taking selfies in no time.”

Simon’s eyes lit up.

“Selfies? That sounds fun…”

John immediately regretted opening his mouth. The look of terror must have shown on his face, for Simon laughed, throwing his entire head back. Eventually he wiped his eyes and ran a hand through his hair, resting his head back on his hand, propping himself up to look at John once more. With his free hand, he ran a finger round the neck of the champagne bottle.

“How about you show me all those things over a drink?”

John watched his fingertip trace circles along the bottle, then his eyes flicked up to his eyes.

“Sounds… good.”

With a smile, Simon picked up the bottle.

“Here or…?”

John swallowed heavily.

“Upstairs?”

They got out of the car, the air freezing John’s flushed cheeks, causing him to catch his frantic breath. He needed it. Simon waited by the door as John typed in the code, and even as the lock clicked open, he remained on the steps as if he were waiting for something.

He grinned almost apologetically.

“Now, the one little vampirey thing that sticks… or perhaps it’s just an extreme sense of politeness. I need to be invited in, if you want me—“

Simon broke off suddenly, looking down at his legs, around which Gingey’s tail was winding. He knelt down to stroke her briefly, then looked up at John.

“Where was I… If you want me to come…”

His eyes met John’s gaze and there was a tantalising pause between them.

“…in?”

Stepping back into the shadowy hall, John ran his tongue over his teeth as he smiled. He didn’t need to pause any more.

“Come in.”

 

* * *

 

The champagne had done wonders for his self-confidence; John had been loud, properly loud, for the first time in ages.

Simon had been sitting crosslegged on the floor, drumming his hands on the floor in time to the low bass of the radio in the background. On the bed, John lounged back, waiting for Simon to tell him the punchline to the supposed best worst joke of all time.

“That’s… spectacularly bad,” John managed. “I’m not sure whether to congratulate or slap you.”

“Both, maybe?” Simon laughed. “Whatever you want babe.”

“Stop that immediately,” John groaned.

“OK babes.”

Simon gave him a facetious grin. John gave up fighting.

“You should do stand up or something,” he drolled. “Grace the world with that insightful humour.”

“Nah, I’d have to be an actor, if anything,” Simon replied. “I’d be the new Adam Sandler.”

“That’s… not exactly something to aspire to.”

“Oh come on, don’t you love him? I mean, obviously he’s terrible, but it’s so funny to watch him be terrible. And he had a few decent films back in the day…”

He laughed at John’s dubious expression.

“Ooh kay then Mr. Highbrow, what’s your definition of good comedy?”

John paused for a moment. In truth he was usually drawn to moodier things. Even as he was about to say it, he realised how pretentious it would seem to cite Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night as one of his favourite laugh out loud films.

“Want a drink?”

A devious smile flit across Simon’s face.

“It would be rude not to.”

John went into the ten-inch nook he called a kitchen, and pulled a bottle of rum and a carton of orange juice from the fridge. He didn’t have much else to offer. He managed to balance a couple of half glasses between the top of the carton and under his chin, and swaddled back into the living room.

Simon helped himself, using up most of the juice, while John did a shot straight away. That earned him a rather questioning look but he simply smiled.

“Just getting a head start.”

“Is it a race?”

John paused and pouted.

“Could be, if you’re game.”

Simon raised his glass.

“You’re going to regret that, Johnny.”

Somehow it dissolved into a game of Never Have I Ever. It was obvious, much too obvious, but after a few half-glasses things began to seem much less embarrassing and he was taking plenty of notes about Simon. Once he got past the time differences, (“first kiss? God, I think I was about 14, we’d just gone to the cinema to see Jaws and I figured it was a good chance to get her to jump into my arms…” and “Most vivid early memory is seeing the moon landing on the telly. It was an accident; mum had the TV on because I was supposed to be in a washing up powder commercial or something—I know, I know! I'll tell you later—and then the landing was after. Blew my mind. I still think that’s the most extraordinary thing. Yes, vampirism and all.”), John noticed how similar they were. Simon was more open, more eccentric, and more exuberant, but they shared the same opinions and reached the same conclusions, even if their experiences leading to them had been different.

He was also pleasantly surprised by Simon’s core of goodness. Given the kingdom keys of immortality, he imagined he would have gone crazy. But Simon had no trail of mad debauchery, nothing more than the average twenty-something got up to, and in between his laughing reminiscences flashes of people he’d loved and things he’d done to help them filled in the glowing picture of Simon that John was starting to finally finish in his head. They were somehow onto Truth or Dare now, even though it was a strange game to play between two. The empty orange carton pointed to Simon.

“Truth.”

John had no more inspiration, and had no coyness.

“Are you in love?” he asked.

Simon looked at him from under heavy lidded eyes and smiled that mischievous smile again. It had lingered for a moment before fading into something more dazed and dreamy, his eyes looking somewhere deep through John, and then he did not smile at all.

“Yes.”

John could have doubted himself, but he didn’t. He felt his cheeks turn scarlet, heat rising up his neck, and he nervously ran his tongue across his lips. He made the mistake of looking at Simon while doing so. He swallowed heavily, wet lips parting with a little sigh, and his face burned with heat. Then he rose to his feet and went back into the kitchen and made himself a rum and coke, though there wasn’t very much coke in it. The bottle shook, chinking against the rim of the glass.

He had sat back down on the carpet. The bubbles and booze were getting to his head. He lay on his stomach, running his hands across the floor, spreading them forward as far as he could without falling. Simon looked at them, rather like a cat, then pawed at them suddenly. John snapped back instinctively, unbalancing himself and sliding headfirst onto the floor.

Simon had laughed. John had glared. But as he had lain there, his hand still moving forward, tracing circles in the carpet, he had felt happier than he had truly ever been. The world seemed to glow through his hazy vision; the low light of the lamp behind him casting warmth over the room and making everything a little more beautiful.

His fingers edged closer to Simon, still under the pretence of tracing circles. Simon stretched out his leg, and John wasn’t quite sure it was a coincidence when his fingers were suddenly a millimetre away from his thigh. Still he kept crawling them forward, and lightly brushed the fabric of Simon’s trousers, tip by tip creeping over the muscle above his knee. Simon gave a deep humming breath, stretching his shoulders back and spreading his legs slightly, pushing his flesh further across John’s hand.

At that exact moment, a blaring horn sound came across the radio that John hadn’t even realised was on. He leapt up, slamming the power button down, heart racing. It took him a moment to regain his composure, leaning breathless against the chest of drawers, world spinning.

If anything the silence made the tension thicker between them. John took a deep breath and turned around, preparing to swagger back to the ground and resume his place as if nothing had happened. Yet his heart would not still. He did not know what he wanted. Simon in his room, tipsy and flirty, had been wonderful in theory. Now he felt terrified. For a long time he had only brought girls back here; it was easy because he didn’t quite care. Men interested in him, and vice versa, were harder to find as the old Northern town taboos still strong and rejection had taught John to hold back. This was the first time it had felt normal. Only in that brief moment had he begun to feel hesitation; it was like being startled from a dream, and as much as John wanted to return to it, he wasn’t quite sure how he could.

His eyes fell on his bass. Slowly he floated towards it, mesmerised, his fingers stretching out for the ridged strings he always held on to when his head was beginning to swirl. He ran his hands across them, strumming no louder than the wind, just letting his mind wander.

“Play something. I’d love to hear you play.”

Simon was lying on his side, resting his head on his hand, hair spilling over his arm and strands falling across his face. He was smiling gently. John gripped the neck of the bass and gulped.

He lifted up the instrument and sat down by the window, and began to play a few simple notes. For some reason his entire repertoire had slipped from his mind. Even with his liquid courage he didn’t have the guts to play anything of his own invention.

He went round in circles, until the melody became something familiar.

“Aaah, I love that song!”

John couldn’t even remember the name of it. But he smiled, and kept strumming. It was frustrating how low the bass was; he could have gotten his guitar out but he didn’t want to interrupt what he thought was going to be a moment.

“Be... fore… you…”

A low and sultry voice murmured over the notes.

John’s fingers slipped. He caught his breath and cleared his throat, and tried to continue on. But God was it hard. Shivers ran up the back of his neck and he closed his eyes.

“I’d like to have another kiss…”

John’s strings refracted the light and shone diamonds into his eyes as he looked over at Simon. He felt like he was melting into another place, a world between consciousness and dreams, and he knew it wasn’t just the alcohol. Simon smiled at him; not his usual amplified beam but a subtle twitch of the lips, eyes burning rather than twinkling merrily. His tongue dragged lusciously across his lip as he sang, moving in slow motion. John was caught between those lips and his eyes. Both bewitched him and ensnared him like a rabbit in a trap.

His heart was beating in his throat again, lips dry with desire. He had to kiss him now or die. Why not?

John’s eyes widened a little as he realised there was nothing holding him back except himself. Inhaling deeply, so deep his chest hurt, John set his bass down. His eyes were blindly fixed on Simon, not quite looking at him, just seeing stars. He pushed himself onto his knees and lunged forward.

He plunged face first into the carpet. Dizzy sparkles popped behind his eyelids as his head throbbed gently. He didn’t even have the energy to be embarrassed. He lay there, forehead pressed down, eyes closed. The ground was so soft beneath John’s weary head.

Strong arms wrapped around him. He felt the ground fall from beneath him, as he rushed into the air, and was held in a soft warm bubble.

As soon as his head hit the pillow, his eyelids began to droop. It was cold suddenly as Simon leaned back and let his body down.

“Simon…”

John reached out a hand and clutched his jacket, hoisting himself up into his warm embrace.

Now he could breathe a little bit. Every inhale made his head bang a little bit harder, but it soothed his heartbeat all the same.

“Goodnight, John. You're wonderful.”

Simon unprised John's fingers gently and placed his hands across John's chest, pushing him back onto the bed, then raised the blanket around him, smoothing it round him like a cocoon. John wanted to protest this babying but he was much too comfortable to complain.

Then he felt a shadow fall across his face, and hot breath hover above his skin. A brief burst of warmth pressed against his forehead.

John had fallen asleep long before he realised Simon had kissed him.

Chapter Text

A small buzz across the room forced John to his feet. He cursed himself for forgetting to switch off his alarm the night before. He swiped across his phone, hitting whatever buttons made the noises stop.

He glanced down and did a double take. He blinked, slowly, trying to refresh his vision. He clapped a hand over his mouth, trying to stop himself from guffawing, but it was no use.

His home and lock screen were now two matching photos of Simon, one of his best pout, and the second of him smiling, wide eyed, as a rogue John popped up in the corner, mouth hanging open. He didn’t know why-- probably was trying to be funny. He looked like a complete idiot. Yet somehow the urge to delete them instantly was not within him.

John stared at them for a while, smiling, before he noticed he had a missed call from Roger. He quickly opened Skype and rang him back.

“Hi!”

“Hey.”

“You look hungover.”

“That’s cause I am.”

They both laughed.

“Night out with Nick?” Roger asked. “My invite lost in the post, presumably?”

“As if you’d come anyway!”

Roger smiled.

“Well, where were you two?”

John smiled, and his grin spread guiltily as it always did before a confession.

“I was… drinking with Simon, actually.”

Roger raised his eyebrows, eyes widening and tried to repress his smile.

“Oh, OK.”

He didn’t need to ask; John knew he was very politely dying to hear more. And so he regaled the tale, from Simon’s golden chariot to beach side Mars bars, and Roger’s smile became harder and harder to conceal.

“Then I guess I fell asleep before anything interesting could happen, I woke up alone and a little… under the weather.”

“Feeling drained?”

“No, I’m not that bad.”

Roger quietly laughed. It took a moment for John to realize why, then roared with laughter at his own unintentional pun.

“Oh! Haha, nah, I managed to avoid that. I probably should have asked about that, to be honest, where he keeps his fangs.”

Maybe that’s why he didn’t let me touch his crotch…

Roger waited patiently for him to stop cackling.

“So, are you seeing him again? Is this going to be… something?”

John couldn’t ignore how he frowned when he said that, like an anxious mother, and he couldn’t blame him.

“I… don’t quite know. I suppose so. What do you think I should do?”

John waited with bated breath, mouth ajar, trying to read Roger’s face. He had turned slightly, looking down at his desk as he scratched his nose.

“If it makes you happy,” Roger said, softly. “I’d be fine. I’ve missed… you, just being you. Maybe it was Nick too but you seem closer to that than you have been in ages. In barely a week!”

He was right. As John looked around, everything seemed… alive, now; the grey walls glittered, the blue light was a beautiful illumination, and the cold air sent a rush straight to his heart. And what had brought that on? Simon. Maybe a bit of Nick and Roger too, and sheer luck, but he would give the handsome vampire his due.

“Thanks,” he mumbled, not sure what to say. “It’s… good to be back.”

Roger smiled.

“Keep me posted on it. Have you told Nick?”

John’s lips twitched down, and his heart thumped unpleasantly.

“No, not really. I… suppose I better get that out of the way. Do you think he’ll be annoyed?”

“No, no,” Roger said quickly, smiling broadly in an obvious attempt to reassure John, “I just wanted to see if it was a secret or not. He’s never mentioned Simon to me, he’s obviously not interested in it.”

“It? Vampires are people too, Roger.”

“Sorry, you know what I mean,” he sighed, laughing.

“Right, I’m gonna go. Need to have about twenty pints of water and another sleep before I can face Nick. See you Sunday?”

Roger gave a little nod.

“Sounds good. Hope you feel better.”

“Thanks.”

John hung up. He stood smiling for a moment, but as the curtains rustled in the morning breeze, he thought he heard a whisper of a name. Nick. What if Nick was, as ever, being most mysterious about his most important feelings? John didn’t know if he could take making, breaking, re-making and then re-breaking their friendship so quickly. They had to live their own lives, he knew that, but he couldn’t hurt him again. He gurned, fed up of going in circles, and stumbled into the kitchen to drown his frustrations in H2O.

The walk seemed to take mere seconds, the streets cleared of snow and the route so familiar now. Maybe the less he wanted to arrive, the faster his feet moved. Next thing he knew he was in front of Nick’s door. His hand hovered in front of the knocker, wondering what on earth he had to say, but his heart was beating so fast it deafened his thoughts. He rapped hard on the door, immediately cringing as a noise far too loud and angry rang out, and Nick would surely be irritated before he even saw who it was.

But a minute passed and the door did not open. John waited another minute before knocking again, slightly less aggressively this time. Still no response. The swell of anti-climax, and a little twinge of panic, hit him hard. John didn’t know quite what to do. The thought of trailing home, worrying still, was not appealing. He might as well sit down and set up camp.

Round the corner came two figures and John’s mouth dropped open. Nick and Simon, deep in conversation, were walking down the street. Both of them stopped dead when they saw him.

Simon’s lips curled, trying to hide his delight at seeing John, and that impish blush made John’s heart swell.

“Oh no, we’ve been rumbled,” Simon cried, raising his jacket over his face as if he were hoping to disappear behind it, like a vampire in an old black and white film transfiguring into a bat.

Nick rolled his eyes, knowing all too well the panic that could quickly come into John’s eyes when he was enamored and paranoid. He gave Simon a nudge, and he dropped the leather with a laugh, walking towards John eagerly.

“You’ve recovered then?” he asked, eyes roaming over John’s pale yet happy face.

“More or less.”

John dropped his eyes to the ground and that cursed grin appeared again. What was there to say? They didn’t need to add anything to what had happened. Their faces revealed all that had happened between them that they could not even begin to explain.

“I better be going, mysterious vampire things to do you know,” Simon said. “But… keep an eye on your letterbox, Johnny.”

On that cryptic note, Simon skipped along the terrace, waving at them over his shoulder. John rolled his eyes.

“Why is he… him?”

“I don’t know, but perhaps that’s part of his appeal.”

John looked up at Nick, who was still staring after Simon, gaze somewhat wistful. His heart sank.

“You don’t… like Simon do you?”

Nick turned his gaze to John, eyebrow raised quizzically.

“No, not entirely. And I don’t fancy him either.”

Nick gave a little smirk.

“He’s an interesting man. I think he would be even if he wasn’t… a vampire. It was strange, at first, but now it makes perfect sense. You don’t really notice one way or the other. He never bit me which is good I suppose.”

They both smiled, but a little bit of jealousy crept into John’s heart again.

“You sure you’re not interested in him?”

Nick sighed and shook his head.

“I am not. But it would out of the question, regardless; he is completely occupied by something else.”

He pointed at John, just in case he needed help deciphering the mystery.

“I would know,” he added, more to himself, “I’ve had to listen to him talk non-stop about it for an hour.”

“Non-stop?”

“Don’t let it go to your head Johnny.”

Nick unlocked his front door and they both traipsed up the stairs as if they had lived there for a thousand years and did the same thing every day. It made John smile.

They spent a few hours discussing nothing in particular, eating and playing a few half-songs they hadn’t ever got round to finishing. It was a bit late for a new year’s resolution, but they would have to get their fabled band started soon.

John wandered home just past dusk, listening to the hum of traffic and people chattering, eyes dazed by the streetlights and shop signs sparking around him. It all glowed golden and warm; he was back in the car again, suddenly, and he smiled at the feeling. Like everything, only in memory could he truly appreciate it, and he wondered if perhaps that night was the best one he’d ever had. It was maybe too soon to tell; if Simon turned out to be a psychotic murderer-- or even worse, broke John’s heart—the memory would become bitter. But now it still seemed fresh and sweet, and filled with the promise of a future.

Gingey waited at the steps as usual, and John scooped her up for a hug, despite her loud protestations. The mailbox in the hall was empty; John let Gingey down, shoulders slumping. When he turned the key in his lock, however, the door did not creak open as usual. It jammed and John had never been happier – on the floor, wedged between the carpet trim and the doorframe, was a thick envelope with one word on it – Johnny.

With little care John ripped into it, hands trembling a little, heard pounding. This was what had been alluded to earlier; he wasn’t holding back his surprises. Wrapped in tissue paper, he unravelled a silky card. It was an invitation. Tied with a ribbon to the card was a ticket to the concert hall to see An Evening of Nocturne: Chopin, Field and Fauré. Some Austrian or Swiss pianist was performing it; it meant nothing to John. He just felt the card, smooth under his warm fingers, and his heart pounding. This wasn’t a mystery ride to the beach; this was something serious. It was another side to Simon that he was awed to discover.

Mild panic set in—what do you wear to a proper concert hall? Was a suit alright? Or was a tux not enough? John wasn’t sure he had either to hand so there was no point worrying. He examined the date and with a dull thrill realised it was tomorrow night. TOMORRROW NIGHT!

He dialled the number without thinking, knowing there was no one else to turn to.

“Nick, Simon asked me on a date. Like, a fancy date to a concert hall, for an orchestra or something. I don’t know what to do. More importantly, I don’t know what the hell to wear.”

“I’m flattered I’m the first you think to call.”

“Nick, this date is tomorrow night, I—“

“I know it’s tomorrow night. You’re going and I have a tux waiting for you.”

John frowned, struggling for words for a few moments.

“How did you—“

Then he remembered that smug, conspiring look on their faces when he had seen Nick and Simon round the corner towards him.

“You little—you arranged this with him didn’t you?”

“Perhaps he mentioned it to me, yes.”

He could practically see Nick’s coy smile.

“Nick—“

The urge to tease or indignantly berate faded quickly from John, and a humbled sort of gratitude replaced it. Unfamiliar, and unpleasant.

“I… guess that sorts out a few things,” he said, gruffly. “It’s... good of you to help, with the tux and all, I—I suppose you knew I would be hopeless. Don’t know whether or not that’s a good thing.”

He smiled, hoping Nick was doing the same.

“I’ll see you at six, don’t be late for once.”

John opened his mouth indignantly.

“I am never—“

“See you at half past then, Johnny.”

And with a small beep, Nick’s sark was gone.

 

*_ * *

“Stop fidgeting.”

John rolled his eyes, foot incessantly tapping against the floor.

“I would if you weren’t taking forever.”

Nick tightened the bow tie sharply, and John winced.

“There.”

Nick stepped back, eyeing up his creation. John waited, breathless, heart pounding. Then Nick gave a small smile, face lighting up with something like pride, and took hold of John’s shoulders to turn him towards the mirror.

His hair was bouffant; the overlong edges had been swept up rather elegantly. His high collar suited him, highlighting his jawline, and the bowtie didn’t look at stupid as he would’ve thought.

“Nice, very nice.”

Nick gave a mock bow.

“Now put your jacket on, your uber will be here in 5.”

John gulped, Adam’s apple straining uncomfortably against his necktie.

“Shit. Can I tell it to take me as far away as possible?”

“Well you could, but I doubt he would listen to you, as he has better things to do than indulge your cold feet.”

Nick poured a small measure of whiskey into a glass and handed it to John.

“Here’s something to warm them up.”

John downed the shot and winced—you would think after the thousandth blackout John would finally have gotten used to the burn, but he never had and he doubted he ever would. Reluctantly he set the tumbler down, and extended his arm into the sleeve of the tux waiting for him.

He straightened the collar, fidgeting so much as he did so that he undid the attempt completely, and he forced himself to take a deep breath. The whiskey had burned the bubbles out of his stomach and now something like a pool of liquid fire, something he imagined as golden and twinkling, was filling up in their place. He felt excited-- deliriously excited-- and terrified, and eager, and seized with a sudden impatience that the uber hadn’t gotten there five minutes ago and he wasn’t already by Simon’s side.

A little bleep came from beside him. Nick glanced at his phone, regretfully tearing his half-proud, half-wistful gaze away from John.

“It’s here. Good luck, and remember to breathe. There’s a crucifix in your pocket just in case.”

He cackled, and it was only when he sat down in the back of the taxi and felt a sharp stabbing pain did John realise his friend was not joking around.

The taxi seemed to stop at every single set of lights in Birmingham. John was ready to scream, trying his best not to let his heart explode and keep the sweat from destroying his perfectly styled hair. He had nearly drowned himself in cologne but he was confident that it was already overpowered by the stench of rotting cheese in the back of the car, let alone his own body odour. He had gotten to the point of actively hoping he did just die then and there to avoid Simon ever seeing him like this, when the car stopped abruptly, and the driver reached back to open his door.

“Here we are, no problem lad, don’t forget to tip us on the app.”

John grimaced and dived out into the fresh night air. For a moment all he could think of was how wonderful it was to breathe again. He stumbled towards a large pillar in front of the entrance, hoping to hide behind it, feeling too gangly and too overdressed. He had only taken one step forward when he stopped dead in his tracks. The figure standing on the stairs was tall and lean, one hand in his trouser pocket, the other tapping idly on the railing beside him. His broad shoulders curved back and pushed his chest out like a lion. Yet, as John’s eyes travelled up over him in wonder, he realised he was no longer a lion. The tawny mane was gone; sandy brown hair with a hint of gold, cut short to the ears, liberated the softly carved features of the man’s profile. He saw his cheekbones, rosy and proud; his nose, a soft little button; and his lips, full and pouting as he pondered something far off in the distance. He turned his head, a gorgeous sway of hair flopping across his brow, and his sapphire eyes alighted on John.

The megawatt smile that spread across his face was only outdone by John’s own.

“Hi.”

“Hey, Johnny… hey.”

Both of them simply stared at each other for a few moments, no words quite adequate. Then Simon reached forward suddenly and straightened John’s bowtie. His fingers seemed too big to do such a gentle task. John swallowed, his Adam’s apple pressing against Simon’s fingertips. His heart hammered loudly and he knew Simon must have heard it. But it wasn’t the anxious beat he had been victim to for so long; it was somehow calmer, more profound, and reflected a feeling much worse than fear, excitement or lust.

Simon finally let his tie go and met John’s gaze. For once it was he who seemed dazzled.

“There you go. Want to head inside?”

“Sure.”

They walked to the doors, John pausing for a fraction of a second in the doorway and blocking Simon’s way. He raised an inquisitive eyebrow.

“By the way…” John began, voice barely above a whisper, trying to choke back a twinge of nerves, “you look amazing. Your hair…”

He tentatively reached for it. Simon half-closed his eyes as John’s fingertips touched his head, running through the soft tendrils of hair, and brushing the side of his face. John found himself surprised by his heat, and how a blush seemed to creep up his cheek as his hand moved down to his jaw. Perhaps it was just the light. Or perhaps Simon was more human than John had believed.

He curled his fingers into a loose fist, and gave Simon a gentle cuff on the chin.

“Oh my god!”

Simon cried out at the top of his lungs, staggering back, clutching his jaw in mock agony. Several people inside the atrium looked around in alarm.

“Nevermind, you prat,” John muttered, as his face turned scarlet.

Simon gave a hearty cackle and dug him back in the ribs.

“Come on, you can sulk with me inside.”

With mock reluctance John followed Simon into the hall, the chatter of other patrons filling the air as they weaved around them and headed towards their seats. Immediately his eyes widened; there was simply too much to take in. His gaze roved over the ceiling, stretching up for miles, and the marble pillars lining the stairs that still had some old-world red velvet elegance about them.

John followed the crowd streaming towards the main stage, meandering along in awe, until Simon tapped his shoulder gently.

“We’re up there.”

He extended his arm briefly, as if to take John’s hand and lead him away, but dropped it to his side quickly. Without thinking, John grabbed his arm and wrapped himself round Simon’s elbow. They glanced at each other and beamed.

John perched on the edge of his seat, peering over the rail of the box to look at the stage below. The concert seemed on the verge of starting, the orchestra tuning their strings, and the crowd’s loud chatter dropping down to excited whispers.

Simon drummed his fingers on the perch in front of them and craned his neck, scanning the crowd.

“Looking for someone?” John asked.

“I don’t think so. I’m always surprised by who I find. Nobody very interesting of course. I already have what I’m looking for here.”

John tried his best to roll his eyes and laugh it off. But sitting so close to Simon, unable to hide any more, made it a lot harder to be casual.

“Do you really feel like that?”

His question rang out much too loudly, the whole room having fallen silent, as the lights dimmed and the swell of strings rose. His mouth hung open awkwardly and a blush crept up his cheeks as he glanced round the crowd and saw a few curious pairs of eyes turned towards them. Simon leaned in towards him and the blush intensified.

“You know how I feel.”

John swallowed hard. He certainly knew how he felt. The dreams, the desires, the aching longing filling his mind non-stop for the last week. He didn’t want to be coy. He didn’t want to flirt. He wanted something to happen and as he looked at Simon’s half-smiling, bright eyed face, he was more certain of that than anything before.

“Simon…”

He closed his eyes. Oxygen seemed to have vanished. A heavy thump in his throat was the only thing he could feel. He knew Simon was a millimetre from him. He held John’s existence on a thread, and only he could release him. With just one simple touch.

Simon pressed his lips gently against John’s, and life surged through him. John trembled, his entire body shaking uncontrollably, and suddenly air was filling his lungs, Simon-scented heady air, and his mind had either exploded or had finally found peace. Soft lips pulled in and out of each other’s mouths, slow and sweet as if savouring a new found flavour, and a smile John had no control over spread across his entire face until he could no longer continue to kiss, so thrilled was his butterfly-beating heart. Cool air rushed over his face as Simon leaned back and stared tenderly into his face.

“John.”

At that, his whole body seared as if aflame, filled with a purpose as though the word was a command he was waiting for his whole life. He seized Simon’s face, pulling it closer and closer, noses smudging together as he kissed him hard and deep. John tried to keep his breath steady and his hands firm but he could only last so long. The lure of Simon’s breath led him to open his mouth fully, reaching to taste the sweet metallic air. He did not know why it seemed so fantastic, but it was addictive. Hot breath melted into their tongues as they pushed together, flowing like water and pulsing like blood. John’s tongue swelled like the strings, twisting and tightening with a desperate moan every so often, and he wanted to live in this rapturous melody forever.

His hands couldn’t keep still, moving from Simon’s cheeks to his hair and his shoulders then down, down, down to rest for a brief moment on the inside of his thigh then he flung his arms round Simon’s chest again and pulled him close until he was nearly suffocated.

They broke apart, John’s head spinning, his heavy panting the only thing he could hear in the whole room. Simon stared at him, lips quirked, eyes dazed. John didn’t want to think what he looked like; hair a mess, skin flushed, lips slobbery and parted as he tried to regain his breath. Yet he found himself too happy to be in such a state to really care.

The strings were swelling again. John had no idea how long they’d been playing or how long they would continue to go on. It seemed like they hovered somewhere else entirely, out of time and space. Simon moved his seat closer to John, turning it to face him, placing its back against the parapet as if to shield them from view.

He sat there for a moment, staring blindly into John’s face, stroking his hair. Then his hand fell, and he gazed into John’s eyes with sudden fierce clarity.

His lips claimed John’s roughly, desperately, and his teeth grazed the bottom of John’s lips, sucking at the flesh as John gritted his teeth and moaned. All words were foreign to him now. He could only speak through tongues and sighs and touch. Spit and hot breath slid from tongue to tongue, eager and yearning, hands wandering and trembling with delight as they found their targets and met no resistance.

Lips moved down to his jaw, caressing it up and down, nose nuzzling into the hollow of his throat, as he placed soft kisses along the nape of his neck. Each one like an individual shock, sending shivers down John’s spine and he arched his back with a faint gasp. But they were warm, tender kisses, and nothing in the world could be better.

Well, maybe one thing, John thought, as Simon gripped his knee tightly, and his fingers began to spread, edging little by little up the inside of his thighs. Each little millimetre of increased pressure, the silk of his suit rubbing softly against his skin, made his muscles clench. Simon was not rushing; he made every touch count. His lips were still on John, planting a kiss directly on his Adam’s apple and John swallowed heavily in response. Circle after circle spread across his inner thigh and his cock was starting to strain heavily against his trousers. Still Simon kept up his methodical teasing, stretching up tantalisingly close only to drag his fingers away at the last moment.

John’s collar was unbearable now. With sudden vigour he gripped his bowtie and ripped it off, throwing it across the floor. Soon the buttons followed, loosed from their holes, and his chest lay bare, a tan sliver between the spread white fabric of his shirt. Simon had not moved, hovering in front of John’s face, staring into his eyes as he undid every last button. Only when John’s let his head roll back, presenting himself with a soft sigh, did Simon dip down and claim his flesh.

Lightly, tongue ran across nipple, and John’s breath hitched every time it flicked round. Thumbs circled across the crest of his thigh, achingly close now, and with each swoop round he prayed it would go further and give him more. Simon planted a kiss on his belly and John gave a low pathetic moan as Simon’s chest brushed against the hardness in John’s trousers, now starting to get wet.

Suddenly the pressure of fingertips on his legs vanished, and for a moment John’s half-open eyes gazed confusedly round him, staring at the dark ceiling above and trying to awake from his daze to find Simon. Then he felt his skin rubbing against the fabric of his waistband, as it was pulled tight for a second then released, and he knew exactly where Simon was. John trembled, whole body throbbing, heart pounding in his ears. He placed his feet on either side of Simon’s chair, lifting his hips to make it easier. Only the slightest rustle of fabric gave them away.

Simon’s face was in front of his again and his eyes waited to meet John’s. John gulped again. He knew as soon as he looked at Simon what would happen. It would be easier to close his eyes, pretend the whole thing was anonymous and unreal, rather than face his desire was real and could be shamed. A kiss brushed his lips. John felt them, full, warm and soft, as he pressed his own lips against them and between them, and there was nothing else but them and he and Simon. They were in their world that they owned and ruled together; nothing could take it from them or them from each other. He opened his eyes and stared straight into Simon’s before he took his hand and placed it on his cock.

Kisses across his chest flowed again, as long, tight strokes went up and down. John grinned, a wild delirious grin, breath heaving and choking as he felt his dick swelling and Simon’s hand pumping. He was no mind reader, he claimed, yet he knew exactly what John wanted. Teeth grazed his shoulder and he thrust his whole body forward, half-slipping off the chair, only Simon’s strong arm round his waist holding him in place. Tongue slivered down his chest again, lips sucking, teasing him for what he begged to come next.

Two hands gripped his hips, fingers pressing down into the flesh of his buttocks, squeezing him tight and pulling him up and up until lips rung round his cock and a warm wet mouth plunged down around him. Tongue writhed up and down, swirling as the mouth rose up, and then lying flat as Simon moved down, taking him deeper and deeper into him until John felt the convulsion of his throat and he slowly withdrew. It made John’s eyes roll, cock throbbing almost unbearably, desire mounting with every little flick of Simon’s tongue and threatening to spill over with every inch Simon took further into his mouth. Then a moan, low and desperate, vibrated through Simon’s throat as he sucked John hard and his tongue whorled round his cock madly, his hands clenching John’s ass with sudden intensity, as he began pushing him in and out of his mouth frantically. Rapid, hot, wet and desperate with desire.

John came with a thrust and a cry he only half-managed to muffle under his arm, body convulsing forward uncontrollably. His eyes stung as if he were to cry, some heavy weight lifted from him and his whole body now free and seizing with ecstasy. He felt Simon gag a little, still sucking and lapping as cum pumped into his mouth. As if it could get any more perfect. Finally he collapsed, lolling back into his seat, mouth ajar, as the last pulses of orgasm rushed through him. He sat there, trying to regain his breath, for some time. Eventually he floated back down to earth, and opened his eyes, and was surprised to find the room glowing in dim light. It must have been an intermission. Or perhaps they had been there for hours and the show was over. John grinned, madly, unable to stop it from spreading across his face until his cheeks ached and his eyes watered. A giddy giggle escaped him as he looked at Simon, arms folded and resting on John’s thighs, looking up at him with twinkling eyes and a small smirk, which soon broadened into a smile as John shook with fits of laughter. The whole thing was beyond surreal. Glancing over Simon’s shoulder, John saw people still sitting, chatting amongst themselves, and a few members of the brass section emptying their mouthpieces discreetly behind their chairs. They were mere feet above them, with only a waist high barrier to block them from view. And the crowd were none the wiser.

“I cannot believe that happened,” he said, half-whispering as if saying it out loud would suddenly make everyone in the world aware of its occurrence.

“Aren’t you glad it did though,” Simon responded, rolling onto his chin and planting a swift peck on the tip of John’s now flaccid cock.

John flinched and mock slapped him round the head. Simon grinned even more cockily than before and sprung up, allowing John to try and reassemble himself.

They stayed for the second movement, John now clothed and respectable, lounging against Simon’s chest. It was not entirely comfortable-- he was too gangly to bend quite right—but it felt lovely. Simon’s hand idly ran through his hair every now and again, and he spent several minutes devoted to breathing in and out slowly and deeply, trying to memorise the smell of his skin for eternity. He realised that, in spite of the rush of excitement at being somewhere so elegant and posh and beautiful, there was nothing about it that would be good without Simon there. And he wished to be somewhere with only Simon.

The new few minutes seemed to last an eternity, John restraining a sigh as the strings started a crescendo to an overly long pause that descended into yet another part. He distracted himself by kissing Simon, nuzzling him, feebly trying to recreate what had been given to him a mere half hour ago. A sudden enthusiastic swell of clapping was the next thing he became aware of; the concert was over, and the crowd were already beginning to file out, chattering and unmoved by the rapture that had taken place in the box above them.

“Let’s go home,” John said, looking up at Simon through his lashes, and placing a long kiss on his throat.

A low growl was his only response.

Chapter Text

The ride home was quick. Simon’s ramshackle car didn’t brake once. It was extremely fun watching him trying to concentrate on the road as John ran one hand through his hair and another across his thigh.

Simon got his revenge as soon as they stepped out of the car. John was pressed against the door, hands feebly pinned above his head, Simon’s tongue in his mouth. He let himself be dominated, feeling the weight against him pushing the air from him, and enjoyed his helplessness. It lasted god knows how long, until the faint sound of a door closing made John come back to reality, and he pushed Simon off him and to the side just as the front door swung open behind them.

Ignoring the shocked and slightly repulsed glance from the other tenant, they slipped inside.

It was hard to get the key into the lock with Simon’s hands running all over him and his lips sucking and nipping down his neck, but John managed it.

“Are you hungry or something?” he sighed, leaning back against the door to shut it and tilting his head back fully to give Simon more of his throat.

He got a particularly firm bite for that and he giggled with amusement and a little dash of terror.

They seemed to waltz across the room, in a whirlwind of kisses, until they fell on to the bed, John laughing as they bounced and tumbled over, their embrace turning into a wrestle, which turned into a breathless kiss.

On the soft pillows, however, the mood changed. It did not feel playful. It was serious, sharing a bed, but any trace of nerves he had completely disappeared. John almost felt sleepy. It was something warm and strange he could not put his finger on.

Simon was taking in his face as he ruminated, and stroked John’s cheek gently.

“Hey gorgeous,” he murmured. “Is something wrong?”

John nearly roared with laughter. Simon recoiled slightly in alarm.

“Whaaat?” he asked incredulously.

John could only shake his head and smile. Simon forgot his concern quite quickly as John's lips found his and he took his turn rolling on top of Simon's body. He kept choking on spit, mouth salivating too much at the thought of all that could lie ahead of them. He wanted him so very badly. It had always been hard for him before to get hard again; yet even after his mind had been blown mere hours before, he seemed as desperate as if it had been a lifetime. His suit was becoming far too tight again.

"I want to be more comfortable."  

He said it like an old siren, half-purred, half-moaned. With a sly grin he rolled over, sitting up on the edge of the bed and began kicking his shoes off. Simon followed his lead. They each undressed quite quietly and matter-of-factly, John’s back turned to Simon all the while as if oblivious to the situation.

Fingertips ran across his shoulder, refusing to be ignored. He let them dance up and down his spine, making him shiver and sigh, before he turned to meet Simon’s embrace. He ran his own fingers across Simon’s chest and round his back, surprised at the warmth of his skin and revelling in the strength of the muscles beneath it. Simon kissed his cheek and jaw again, and John let him, simply tilting his head back and holding on. He hugged him tight, almost too tight, seized with a sudden desperation. All he wanted to do was hold onto and be held by Simon. He wanted him to be inside him like this, keeping him close, feeling his heat as he came. He heard himself panting, felt his heart drumming in his ears frantically, and the urge to throw Simon down and just jump straight on him was overwhelming.

But John did not want it to be so easy—where was the fun in that? He forced his breath to calm and began to relax. The kisses became slower, more deliberate, John pulling Simon’s lip fully between his before he leaned back slightly and let it slip away. Through his lashes he peeked at Simon, allowing himself to properly roam over his body, and smirked as he saw the clear effect he was having. He ran a finger softly along Simon's collarbone. He gave a shudder and his cock twitched. John licked his lips with a grin. Time to play. With his feet, he pinned Simon’s hands down, and kept his own behind him, lounging back on the pillows with a playful sigh.

“That was lovely,” he said, in a sweet, innocent tone, almost girlishly.

Simon tried to move forward for another kiss. John brought his knees together and held his chest back. He looked up at the ceiling with a coy smile, faking his best, orgasmic yawn.

“I’m so, so, so tired,” he drawled, closing his eyes. “We’re going to sleep now, aren’t we?”

He felt Simon thrust against his legs in frustration and he maintained his barrier with some difficulty.

“Oh you are a tease,” Simon moaned softly. “I’ve been waiting forever and a day for this.”

John smirked and rolled to his side, propping himself up on his shoulder and doing his best pinup post. He let Simon’s eyes roll over his body, watched the lust within them flare up, and he felt himself throb with the thrill of being desired. But still, it was too fun to torment him.

“You can wait another day then, can’t you?” he asked lightly, giving him a mock slap on the cheek. “Don’t be greedy.”

Even as he tried to play with him, he couldn’t hide the effect the slightest contact with Simon’s skin had on him. His hand lingered far far too long, thumb moving autonomously to stroke his face, running along his soft flesh up to his cheekbones and back. As he came to a rest along Simon’s jaw, Simon turned his head quickly, and soft deliberate lips brushed against John’s palm.

His face seared with heat and his body quivered.

As it turned out, he could not wait another day.

*__ * *

A soft hum was the first thing John processed the next morning. That was strange. It was a pleasant sound, like a lullaby. He lay with his eyes closed listening to the sound for several moments before he became aware of where it was coming from. As he turned his head to try and find it, his cheek brushed against soft flesh and he found himself nuzzled into Simon’s arm. The humming stopped.

“Morning, Johnny.”

“Oh, hello.”

“Sleep well?” Simon asked, moving his arm ever so slightly, and his fingers brushed along the ridge of John’s bare hip.

John replied with a wide, guilty smile. Simon snorted gently.

Flecks of gold shone in his hair, sparkling as he lifted his head off the pillow to lean over John. John tilted his face upward and kissed him for a long few minutes. He breathed in, inhaling the luscious smell of Simon and holding the air for a long, agonising moment.

A beep came loudly from under his pillow. John sighed, breaking away from Simon and reaching for it with a grimace. He knew what it was. He swiped the alarm away angrily and went to put his phone back before Simon caught his arm.

“You kept them.”

He was looking down at the god-awful photos that he had set as John’s wallpaper and lockscreen. Delighted surprise twinkled in his eyes.

“Oh yeah, remind me to change them,” John replied, “want to have photos of something important to me instead, ya know?”

Simon’s eyes widened a little, losing his smile, and John quickly pinched his cheek and planted a kiss on his forehead. He could not help himself from descending down, kissing all over his brow down his nose and cheeks, leaving no inch unloved. Then he settled on his lips, savouring his taste and scent, before he felt his phone start vibrating again and released Simon with a throaty sigh.

“I have to go,” John said, swinging his legs round over the side of the mattress.

Simon shook his head and smiled, wrapping an arm round John’s chest and trying to pull him back down.

“No you don’t.”

“I have a job, Simon,” John said, prising himself from Simon’s arms and standing up, grimacing as he left the warmth of the duvet cocoon. “I know you can’t relate but for us normal folk this is what we do.”

He pulled on his trousers and shirt, smiling a little at the vivid memory of taking them off the night before. Simon sighed behind him. John glanced over his shoulder at him.

“You’re not really moody about it, are you?”

Simon shook his head but his face was suddenly weary and he stared at the duvet with a heavy frown.

“Hey…”

John sat down on the bed and placed a hand on Simon’s.

“It’s just a day, Simon. I’ll see you again whenever you like. I’ll… I’ll even see you tonight, if you want to.”

The words choked from his throat a little, knowing he was being too much, and not entirely sure if he himself wanted so much so soon. But he meant it. Even if it wasn’t what he should want.

Simon sighed deeply and stared up at the ceiling for a long moment, almost long enough to make John begin to regret his words, then suddenly gripped John’s hand tightly and gave a rueful smile.

"I don't know how I ever managed to find such perfection. You don't belong to this plane, John, you really don't. Do you even realise it?"

John stared at him, blushing quietly.

"I'm an assistant at a blood bank, Simon,” he murmured, not knowing what to say. “I’ve more fingers on one hand than friends. I haven't even kissed anyone in a year let alone had any kind of relationship since school. I don't think anyone has ever called me perfect."

But something deep and wonderful in him knew that, even as he spoke, none of these things mattered.

“Who cares, Johnny, the rest of the world may be blind but I can see. And, to be honest, I don’t want the rest of the world to see. I want you for me.”

He grinned and John wanted to seize him, throw himself into his arms, and give him everything he had to give. But he sensed something else—something a lot less wonderful—needed to be said.

They stared at each other, eyes sparkling in the beam of light shining over them, for a long minute. Then Simon’s smile began to fade.

“I wish it didn’t have to be so bittersweet. Because now I know you, and love you, I know I’ll have to lose you. It’s too cruel any other way.”

John simply stared at him, utterly bewildered. He was too confused to even think about the man of his dreams telling him he loved him and meant it.

“Simon… what do you mean?”

Simon rubbed his forehead and sighed deeply, looking round the room as if trying to find his answer. Finally he looked straight at John, gaze worn, and for a fraction of a second his lip trembled before he spoke.

“You know what I am, right? A vampire. Obviously not quite like the books and movies, or the popular ones anyway, cause here I am in the sunlight. All good, right? I can make you breakfast, fuck you on Sunday before Mass, and still stay up till midnight for the movies or to stargaze. And I want nothing more than to do those things every single fucking day. But, I can’t. Don’t ask me why—I don’t know. It’s part of the old magic, older than these calendars and probably older than our concept of time. Nobody has ever written about it, as far as I know, and unless you write a tell all nobody will. All I know is, when the equinox hits, I have to hide or I’ll die. Some perverse hibernation.”

He laughed bitterly.

“That’s why I rushed you, John, because I was greedy and I wanted you and I let myself believe everything would be fine. I wanted you to fall for me, and ask you to be mine, and have you for me to come back to. You wouldn’t mind that I was just gone for six months of the year. No, that would be fine, and you’d be fine, and you’d still love me and wait for me and give yourself up to celibacy in the meantime. Or, to be quite honest, I was more ruthless and selfish; I wanted you to join me, in this state, so then I would always be with you and know you would be with me. But now I fully realise just how cruel that would be.”

Simon held John’s hand tightly and bowed his head to it, pressing John’s knuckles into his forehead.

“This is hard. 'Cause I really don’t know what I want you to say. I mean, I do, but I don’t want you to do that for me. I hoped and wished. I still think the universe wouldn’t have brought us together if we weren’t meant to be, but really I know nothing. I don’t even know if you love me. I don’t really see why you would. You’re not crazy as me.”

John squeezed Simon’s hand, and found himself smiling a little at that.

“Well…”

He broke off and sighed, unable to find words. What could be adequate? What did he even want to say? It was taking him a moment to even begin to understand. Simon was going to have to leave. He had only known him a week; had only liked him for a few days; had only loved him for a few hours. His eyes widened slightly as he realised that. It was true. His life would never be the same now. But it seemed so stupid, too foolish even for him, to gamble on something completely unknown.

He sat there holding Simon’s hand for a long time.

“One thing,” he said, finally, breathing deeply as he tried to keep himself calm, “is that you are pretty much… I guess not perfect, maybe, but close enough. To me anyway. So I can definitely see why I would... feel that for you.”

He could not look at Simon, but he heard his little hitch of breath, and suspected that if he did, there would be tears in his eyes.

“But,” he continued, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what the right answer is. I wish I did. I wish I had been obsessed with vampires all my life and desperate for this chance but I’m not and I won’t change. I can’t do that. I take blood to help save people’s lives, I can’t steal that from them. But I hate the idea of not seeing you and I don’t know… I just don’t know.”

He wanted to say he didn’t know how he would feel. That was his fear. Was love enough to keep him going for six months? Six months every six months? Over and over for the rest of his life? How would he even have time to figure out what he felt, if Simon was going to leave again just as he felt secure?

“John…”

Simon had lifted his head, and placed his arm on John’s shoulder. Reluctantly, he turned to face him.

To his bewilderment, Simon was smiling.

“That is more than I could ever—I asked for too much already, but you’ve given me something beautiful. I know all this is crazy. Maybe we’re both crazy. It doesn’t matter how this happened or why. This week has been… incredible. For me, anyway.”

He gave a feeble chuckle. John could see there was something still raw inside him, the turquoise sea in his eyes threatening to overflow, but he seemed genuine. Still he managed to smile.

“Being with you, even for a moment was the most I hoped for. And what a moment it was. Live a good life, John. Be happy.”

Suddenly he kissed John full on the mouth, almost frantically, with all he had. Then he moved away and rose to his feet, pulling on his clothes with alarming speed. John remained on the bed, his heart sinking as if filled with lead, and the air vanished from his lungs as if he’d been winded. He couldn’t sort his mind, buzzing as if full yet any thought of what he could say or do gone. He sat, clutching his forehead, staring blankly at the floor.

All he could hear was Simon’s last words, echoing in his mind. A good life. It seemed impossible to think of now, without him. Life had only seemed to have begun, now, with Simon in it. It wasn’t as if he couldn’t exist without him now, as much as the thought of being without him overwhelmed him. It was simply that no-one else would ever be Simon; could never replicate his being, and could never inspire the same feeling in John.

Something clicked in the background, barely registering with him. Yet, too late, he realised what it was.

“Simon…”

He looked round, and saw he was gone.

*_ * *

Afternoon clouds had obscured the morning’s sun. Grey light filtered down onto the dull tables of the canteen making them even duller. John didn’t even try to eat. He just sat, staring ahead, overwhelmed with what he had done. Pretty much a normal day, then.

That wasn’t fair, though. He knew it wasn’t him. It wasn’t even Simon. It was just something inevitable. Beyond their control. Fate had brought them together, only to destine them to being apart. It was a strange world they lived in.

A scrape of metal on cracked lino beside him interrupted his thoughts. Andy sat down beside him. For once, the man said nothing. He simply placed a steaming cup of tea in front of John, and took a sip from a cup of his own. After a few moments of nothing, he prodded John’s hand towards the cup.

“C’mon. Drink something. You can’t run on nothing all day.”

“I can try.”

His voice was angry and bitter. He didn’t mean to be; but suddenly the reality of his frustration and pain hit him. It took a lot to resist the temptation to throw the mug across the room.

“Just looking out for you, mate, if I can.”

The softness in his response, utterly unfazed by the outburst, gave John pause. He contemplated the pool of liquid in front of him, flecks of milk floating round the surface, then sighed deeply and took a reluctant sip. He could tell Andy was grinning even without looking at him. He was permitted to take another sip, and even set the cup down, before Andy posed his question.

“Wanna talk about it?”

John shook his head.

“Not even talk about it,” Andy added, “just… give me the gist. Rant about something. Or I’ll just have to give you advice on everything.”

“Our break isn’t that long. I don’t even think our lifetimes would be long enough for that.”

Andy laughed, his high giggle surprisingly comforting in that moment, but it died quickly and a more serious tone came into his voice.

“Fair enough. I just… look, I know I spend most of my time talking shite, playing around or chatting about birds but it’s… It’s only cause it’s easy. It doesn’t mean everything in my life is. I know what feeling like shit feels like. Dealing with shit. I’m not saying I’ll be able to relate, but I can sure sympathise. If you need me to.”

He raised his hand awkwardly as if to pat John on the shoulder, then dropped it to his side, deciding it wasn’t his style. John took another sip of tea. Andy tapped his feet against the table leg anxiously, not even realising he was doing it. John smiled.

“I appreciate it, thanks.”

“Always welcome, mate.”

They drank together, in silence. It was nice, actually. It made John feel a little less like he’d been plunged into an abyss; if he had been falling into one, at least he now had been caught, and there was someone trying to pull him up.

“I… don’t know how to get into all that’s going on,” John murmured finally. “Just. Complicated. I don’t even know what I’m thinking. I just feel…”

A deep exhale summed up his mood.

“I met someone,” he continued, figuring he might as well get it out now he’d started, “and it can’t work out. It would be… long distance.”

He had to catch himself there. It wasn’t exactly a lie. The thought occurred to him then that he didn’t know—where was Simon going? Where even was Simon now? His heart sank as he realised there was no way to find him.

“Just feels pretty… unfair,” he concluded, trying to keep his voice light, trying to stop his vocal chords from trembling.

Andy gave a sympathetic sigh.

“That… sounds pretty shit,” he said. “Stuff like that… it’s hard to work with.”

He rubbed his lip, thinking.

“I guess all I can say is, don’t give up. We live in the moment, and the moment may be terrible, but there’s always another one and another. We don’t know what’s coming. I didn’t think we’d both be sitting here today, talking like this, yesterday. But here we are. Who knows what happens tomorrow. You know?”

All of a sudden he smiled.

“A girl called me yesterday. Most beautiful bird I’ve ever seen. I mean, maybe not the most beautiful, but she does it all for me, you know? Bloody funny girl and nice too. I met her maybe half a year ago, some night out, not really her scene but she was making the most of it. I gave her my number and she looked like she was about to vomit putting it into her phone so I left her alone and never expected anything. She crossed my mind more than once after, even though it was hopeless. Well, that’s what I thought anyway. But here she is again-- and if anything I’m more ready for it now.”

A half-smile played on John’s face. Hope seemed out of the question in his case. But, as stubbornly miserable as he was, he couldn’t help but admit to a little flicker of optimism rekindling in his mind. Andy told a hell of a story.

“Well… I suppose I’ll never say never. Thanks, man.”

“No problem.”

John looked at his watch. He had definitely stayed at least ten minutes over his break. He got up, draining the last of his now cold tea. He had nearly walked out the door before he suddenly turned round and decided to put Andy on the spot this time.

“Oh, by the way, what’s her name?”

A blush spread across Andy’s cheeks and his whole face lit up with a wide grin. John knew the feeling.

“Tracey.”

“Nice name. Hey, goes well with Taylor. Love a bit of alliteration.”

Andy went wide eyed for a minute and gave a snort.

 "Let's not ring the bells yet! Besides, she's a headstrong sort-- I'll probably be the one changing my name!"

Andy laughed gleefully again at the thought and rocked back on his chair.

On the way back to the donor room, John found himself flooded with something like nostalgia. It seemed impossible to believe he had been in the same place just over a week ago and his life had been so different. His fingers brushed along the walls of the corridor and handle of the door he had opened all those days ago seemed to tingle under his touch. He halted beside it as if stuck to it with a magnet. If he only opened the door now, maybe time would rewind. Maybe Simon would still be there, as he had been, and John would know now what to do. He pressed down the handle and pushed the door open, frantically searching for the light, and flicked it on.

An empty room of fridges was all that the light revealed.

John swallowed the pang rising through his chest and retreated, turning the light off and reluctantly closing the door.

He didn’t want to close the door. And he couldn’t. He thought of Andy’s words and he was right but he was so wrong too. There was no guaranteed tomorrow. All he had was this moment and what he felt in this moment. It wasn’t some casual thing. It wasn’t a case of unrequited love. It was real. He had to do something with it.

Wouldn’t it be too difficult? Yes, it would be hard being apart, and yes, John would hate it. But the thought of seeing him again was so exhilarating, and happy, and good that it seemed impossible to let it go. Six months. What the hell had John done in the last six months? It was just a number of weeks, and weeks would pass. As long as he knew what to look forward to, as long as he had some concrete certainty, it was simply time. He would have a start and an end, and in their months together there could be so much they could do, enough to make up for the lost time, and make enough memories for John to survive. In the last week John had enough memories to last him the rest of his life. He did not want to leave them forever bittersweet.

He had to find him.

Chapter Text

Trying to find a vampire was harder than John had expected. He went to every coffee shop, park and hospital, skidding through supermarkets and even passing the gym with dubious optimism. The longer he searched, the more unsure he felt. He didn’t know what he would say. He didn’t know what he would do. He didn’t even know what he wanted, except Simon, and no matter what he did he couldn’t have him right now.

It was rush hour and traffic was at a standstill. He nearly bumped off two cars as he sped along the road, their honks fading into a distant cacophony of angry drivers and engine noise. Another swerved round and threatened to collide with him as the traffic lights went red for the third time in a minute. It must have been frustrating to be cut off, over and over. John wondered if he would ever become one of these men, invested in nothing but getting home as fast as possible, and ready to fight to the death over the ease of their commute. Maybe he would, if he had a Simon waiting for him at home.

John caught his breath against a lamppost, resting his forehead against the cool metal. He had spent so long running he hadn’t even taken time to find his bearings. All the bland concrete buildings, 60s prefab and run down Victorian terraces looked the same. But who was to say Simon wasn’t hiding inside the top corner of one of them, knowing he would never be found? He was probably just an arrogant fool thinking Simon would be waiting for him somewhere.

He meandered down the street, kicking the kerb, glancing up at every passing stranger with desperate intensity. The streets were wide and filled with hurrying commuters, all cold-eyed and giving him wide berth. He wondered where his feet would lead him to. The river? All the way to the sea? He started to feel he would spend the next six months wandering to the edge of the earth, whether or not he would find Simon at the end of it or not. The thought of him in one of those cars, dead eyed and filled with an unspeakable pain, came to him again. His heart pumped and he started running again, fighting against it like a lion against a descending net. It was a privilege to be able to run, to escape the opiate of normalcy shot at him, drug sucked from his skin by Simon’s appearance in his life. He couldn’t be caged now. If he roamed forever, like a lost disciple, seeking the brush of such a holy feeling would be a higher purpose than most could hope for.

Just as the streetlights illuminated above him, dusk merging with night, John began to realise where he was. He had only subliminally processed these surroundings before, heart palpitating and mind muddled in the back of a dirty uber, but he remembered them still. Like the flickering lightbulb above him, an idea began to grow in his mind.

The concert hall appeared on the horizon like a mirage. The floodlights lit it up like a movie set, columns two-dimensional, and the shadows like black paint. The glass doors spilled reflected light over the flagstones and turned the white stone to silver. Standing dead in the centre of the would be stage, hands in pockets and face turned to the sky like the statue of Nelson, was Simon.

“Simon, SIMON!”

John sprinted, legs wobbling, knees buckling, and lungs screaming for air. Simon seemed to grow further and further away, the panting reflection of John in his round sunglasses fading with every step. His face was cold, blank, and his eyes could easily have been staring into another world. John’s leg came down with a jolt, freezing in the face of the icy wave, heart plummeting down onto the ground. He might as well throw it in front of Simon’s feet and let him stomp it to death.

John stood panting. Simon remained ahead atop the stairs, chin up and lips a flat impasssive line.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

John’s heartbeat was the only sound between them. Still Simon stood, cooler and more indifferent than marble.

Crumble, for God’s sake.

Then Simon’s lip twitched and he took a step, one and two and three, until he was there, and John threw himself into his arms, clutching to him as if he were about to drown, knocking his sunglasses to the floor.

“I’m so glad I found you.”

He meant it in every way. As soon as the words slipped from his mouth, Simon made a soft cry, half-moaning and his lips were on his. John wanted nothing more. He couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t speak, he couldn’t stop. He kissed him furiously, taking out all the pain and desperation he felt, a bittersweet tang on the tip of their tongues as they knew all this glorious time would end so soon. All they could do was try and claim each other, mark their presence in each other’s minds, make a solid phantom from the ghostly memory.

Something wet brushed his cheek, and John pulled back, surprised to find cold tears streaming from them down his face. Simon’s hand cupped his face tenderly, saying nothing, but his eyes shone brighter and more beautiful than ever, his lips quivering as he looked at John with all the adoration he was capable of.

“You look so beautiful when you cry,” Simon whispered, with a laugh. “You look so beautiful always.”

They kissed again and again and again until the steps became cold and shadowy, and their murmured breaths became louder as the rest of the world’s noise began to dim. Conversation mixed with their touches, providing a chance to breathe, John wishing he could record every twang and soft syllable of Simon's voice in fear he would forget the unforgettable sound. It was solid and comfortable; as if they were two old friends running into each other on the street, talking about their days and their dreams in quiet harmony. Somehow they found time to discuss their star signs and phony psychics, Bowie’s back catalogue, and even the best hair products. After a while, John heard a distant clock chime, reverberating through his heart. As he counted the chimes, his stomach flipped. Slowly he rolled up his sleeve and stared at his watch, wide eyed.

“It's past nine... how is it past nine?”

“It’s time-- always goes faster when you don’t want it to.”

Simon’s smile stretched his cheeks painfully, skin tight over his chin, and his eyes looked a thousand years old. John squeezed his hand and Simon ran a thumb across his palm.

“Come on. I’ll take you to the place.”

They walked along the shimmering pavement, streaked with rain reflecting the amber streetlights. The air was cool and the black clouds over the moon threatened to break at any moment. John hurried his pace, not wanting to waste time. But then how many times would he get to wander like this, hand in hand and free, and glance over and see a beautiful man by his side? He should savour the memory and in his heartsick state he was in the perfect mood to immortalise every mundane step.

“Do you go to the same place every time?” he asked.

“I only came back here a few years ago and not here,” Simon replied, “so no. I like this place though.”

He gave John a reassuring smile.

“I thought vampires had to have… something to keep them in place? Unconsecrated ground or whatever?”

Simon laughed gently.

“Not everything in Hammer horror is true. There isn’t really a ground rule like that. As long as I have this old twiney bracelet it links the magic to me and where I am.”

He showed John the band on his wrist. It was pink and red, intricately woven and a little frayed. 

"They made it for me in Tel Aviv. The ceremony is such a haze, I couldn't tell you how I know. I just remember it being put round me with a lot of care, being pressed in to my wrist with an old wisened hand and I felt like they wished me well. Like really wished me well, knowing how hard it would be and how much shit a person goes through in a normal life anyway. I kind of wish I could find them again, sometimes-- see what they'd have to say now or what they'd think of me. My vampiric parents."

He laughed suddenly, clipped and cold.

"But that's that. Hard enough to keep up with my maw and paw anyhow."

He swaggered a little as he twanged the words, a very questionable John Wayne. John turned to him in surprise.

"You still see them?"

"Don't visit them as much anymore, been roaming. I call all the time though. Send postcards. Mum was cool with it all, thought it was so delightfully dramatic. Dad's never really said much on it one way or the other but he's quiet anyway."

He paused for a second.

"You know I'll have to bring you down to them sometime. If you're still around in a few months. And ever trust me to drive again."

John felt a little tingle in his chest and his lips spread wide in an uncontrollable smile.

"We'll see. Might have to get me a little drunk first, but I could be persuaded."

"Darling I don't need to get you drunk to do anything, you're very eager to be swayed."

He caught John and kissed him quickly, grazing his teeth against his lips.

The next chime came much closer. Each ring vibrated through John’s chest as he looked round for the source of the sound. Ahead, covered by trees and fog, was a tall bell tower.

“The church?”

“I’m not holy enough.”

They rounded the corner and it came into full view. Simon approached the locked gate and vaulted over it without hesitation, ignoring the massive clunk he made as he stumbled and caught his foot in the railings.

John cautiously planted his foot on a raised bar and lifted his leg over the edge, hopping down only when he was balanced on the inside.

“Why are we sneaking into holy grounds then?”

“I thought you said you weren’t a pretty boy with no brains?”

“I’m not,” John pouted, “but I don’t…”

As they approached the side of the church, it suddenly hit him.

“Oh. Oh no.”

He didn’t do graveyards. Particularly at this time of night. Particularly not to watch his undead boyfriend crawl into a coffin and hibernate.

“Don’t tell me you’re getting scared Johnny?”

Simon nudged him in the ribs and John slapped him away, taking the chance to hold onto his arm and pull him in for a nuzzling embrace. He hoped Simon would not notice his trembling.

The grassy expanse of tomb stones stretched wide, sloping up to meet a small thicket and iron fence. A couple of crumbling mausoleums stood at the peak of the hill, and flowing from them were long tombs, then elaborate angels and crosses, until small ankle high headstones stood lopsided at the church’s edge.

“It’s kind of nice, how the humblest are closest to God. Or else kind of fucked that the rich boys get the best view up there on the hill.”

“Is that were you’re gonna be?”

“Nope, I’m the worst—bourgeoisie, with a pinch of nouveau riche. It’s one of those for me.”

He pointed at a slate grey tomb, engraving long worn away, top slid ajar and inviting, like a folded duvet corner on a fresh bed. John shivered against Simon’s shoulder.

"Sure you can't just stay in mine?" John asked, half joking. "I'll give you a nice air mattress if you're paying."

Simon smiled.

"That would be too simple, dearie. Needs to be somewhere sealed off and unlikely to be disturbed. I'm reckless-- others would be far more careful but I figure most still respect graveyards enough to leave me alone. Or else would be too lazy to shift a ton of stone."

“When do you… go in?”

Simon looked up at the sky with a deep sigh.

“By midnight. When the stars shine brightest, then I’ll know.”

John looked up with him. They seemed vivid now, twinkling like indifferent diamonds against the velvet black night.

“When do you come back?”

“When spring is long past, and autumn begins.”

“You sound about as specific as John Edward.”

Simon cackled.

“I’m not trying to be cryptic, I mean that literally. When the equinox comes round in September, I’ll be back. You should probably book a week or two off work, I’m going to relish our reunion.”

He winked and John smirked back at him, heart panging at the thought of all the summer days and heady nights they would miss in between, but trying to think of the warm they themselves could create tangled under sheets and wrapped in each other’s arms.

“So this is goodbye.”

“For now.”

John stared straight into his eyes and didn’t stop for a long time. Half-dreaming, he took out his phone.

“Smile!”

Before Simon had time to react, John took the picture. Lips open, eyes wide, and that beautiful face was preserved for always.

“You going to forget what I look like that quickly?”

“I couldn’t even if I wanted to.”

He stroked Simon’s grinning face, and was pulled into his arms, crushed tight against his chest. Coat warm and heavy, some faint woody smell in the fabric, mingled with some cinnamon residue. A cocoon, sustaining him, yet becoming more temporal with every laboured breath. John knew, just as in the natural world, leaving would make him blossom in a way beyond his imagination. Yet he could not feel ready, no matter how long he remained, or how much he believed he could return again some day.

"You know I love you."

He mumbled it so quiet, like a whispered blessing, and half hoped Simon would never hear it. But of course he did. Raising his hands to John's head, he forced him to look up.

"I know you think you do. And I know how much I love you, and how it'll only grow, until I love you so much this feels like a pathetic little echo of the thing."

John stared at him, eyes brimming, and Simon's lips crashed into his just as his tears bursts their banks and began to flow again. Their final kiss lasted long into the night. John couldn’t remember it ending; like a lullaby of touch, it had eased him into slumber, and a final squeeze and brush of hair was all he processed before he awoke at sunrise, cold and alone.


* * *

Nick stepped over the mossy stone, inwardly cringing at the sight of the muddy grass below caressing his sleek moccasins. He nearly slipped as he shifted his weight, involuntarily giving a sharp groan. The hunched figure raised his head.

“Even in the rain?”

John shrugged.

“I hadn't noticed.”

He cast a glance over Nick.

“At least I'm wearing something weather appropriate.”

Nick conceded a smile. He drew nearer to the stone plinth John rested against and looked at the tomb ahead.

“It’s not the most luxurious resting spot. Beautiful, though.”

John kicked at the grass in front of him.

“I feel so stupid sitting here. What happens if I go up to it and tear it open? He’s probably not even in it. I don’t know why I took all this seriously. He’s just gone.”

“Well, maybe he has. Then he’s an asshole. But I wouldn’t rule him out just yet.”

John said nothing, just pursed his lips. He was covering, of course—he cared and he hated caring and he wished anything would be less painful than caring, even if it meant betrayal. But love was always going to win, even if it hurt, and John would be grateful for it in the long run.

Nick knew why he would doubt himself. In the dark of his room he'd heard John mumble in his sleep, and sob, and sigh until whatever trauma in his dreams subsided. In the corner of locker rooms and the back of class long ago he'd seen him bite his nails, brow furrowed, glasses magnifying his unhappy faraway eyes. Never would he say a word-- not even to whichever fool was the source of his lovesick depression-- but Nick had long learned to read his silent signs. Love magnified every last little insecurity in John. He had always wanted to believe a romance would work and do almost anything to please his lover, and when it failed it was always his fault alone. He was ready to be hurt. That was why he had responded so badly to Nick. It was the one place he had felt sure he wouldn't have to feel that particular turmoil. Nick had known that and still let it happen.

He sighed heavily for his sins, and brought himself back to the present. He may have been the wrong type, but he knew Simon wasn't. Not the ideal type but entirely brilliant for John's hopeless heart. Even as he sat there, brooding, something was different; it was an adult's love. A maddening, desperate love; but a mature one and much stronger, far beyond the minutiae of whether or not he got a text back or a smile across the room. It didn't require response; and perhaps precisely because of that Nick felt it would be returned tenfold.

John ran icy white hands through his hair. It was getting long again, and dirty. All month it had been a raging battle to try and get him to wash. Nick discretely covered him in cologne any time he was round and even as he admitted a trashy John was still much more beautiful than most people, he still preferred him groomed. Yet he knew he would get better in time, and until then he was content to wrinkle his nose a little and hold his breath. As Nick waited for John to speak, if he needed to, he relaxed his shoulders and let himself feel the day. It was sombre but in the mist there was a hint of heat, a fresh and mild breeze spilling over the graveyard. Summer would come soon and pass just as suddenly as it came. The pain wouldn’t last long.

“I’m sick of this.”

A smile flashed across Nick’s face before he composed himself. John said it so petulantly, like a tormented teenage girl, as if he’d been there an eternity instead of a few weeks.

“Then let’s go.”

John turned to him, seeking solace in his emerald eyes, and finding some flicker of strength. It was enough to bring him to his feet and calm the tumult inside him, at least for a while.

They tramped through the muddy grass, Nick half on tiptoe, John slouched so much that Nick seemed to dwarf him. He tried to hide his smirk. Rounding the corner of the church, John came to a sudden halt and Nick quickly stepped round him, knowing exactly what had surprised him. Leaning against the rusted gates, peering down at his phone with slightly squinted eyes, was Roger. He looked up at them as they approached and, like a panacea, his smile lifted a thousand burdens from John’s spirit. Nick could see his shoulders smooth and almost hear a heavy exhale of relief.

“Hey!”

Roger’s voice was soft and bright—yet the slight crease of his brow told them he knew and he understood. "Hey." John simply gave a half-grimace of acknowledgement and repressed emotion. They lingered in the gateway for a few moments, nothing but the sound of wind rippling round them. Then Roger broke the silence.

“Pints?”

A grin he didn’t expect spread across Nick’s face.

“Sure. John?”

John looked at them, a confused frown across his brow. Then his eyes widened and he rolled his eyes.

“I thought you guys were talking about blood for a minute, geez.”

“We’ll leave that topic to Simon when he comes back.”

And finally John cracked a smile, feeble but slowly growing, as that sentence began to seem real to him. He took his phone from his pocket to check the time and looked down at that misty photo of Simon, soft face and piercing eyes illuminated by streetlight. Thumping, stuttering in his chest, his heart skipped a beat. He felt thankful for a second that Simon wasn’t there, because he would surely explode faced with the real thing.

Till then, enjoying the company of his best friends in the world would have to be enough.