The pressure builds slowly.
At first, Jon is able to ignore the sensation entirely; but by lunch it’s become－ painful is not the word. It’s just a steady, building pressure in his mouth, his sinuses.
A headcold, he thinks, but when he takes a sip of hot tea expecting relief it only makes him horribly nauseous. Flu, then. Inconvenient, but inconsequential. He can simply stay in his office so as not to infect the others and then deal with it at home. He plucks up his cardigan, but halfway through shrugging it on realizes that he isn’t feverish. Not chilled at all. In fact, his usually slightly drafty office feels perfectly comfortable.
He frowns and slowly returns the cardigan to the hook, suspicious of his temperature and annoyed with the uncertainty of it. Before he can get tangled up in considerations of whether he should take medication or not, a knock on the door shakes him out of it.
“Hey, boss, got those files for you,” Tim says, stepping into Jon’s office and letting the door swing halfway shut behind him. He sounds more subdued than usual. Sasha must have snubbed him at lunch again. “Martin actually did get a hold of the woman from the weird bat case, so that’s good and... you alright, Jon? Looking a little peaky there,” he trails off, waving the files, and Jon snaps to attention.
“Y－yes, I, uh, I may be coming down with something. It’s probably best if you and the others stay out of my office for the rest of the day. Though, it could also be allergies,” Jon admits with a frown, rolling his fingertips over the pressure gathering on either side of his nose. Below his eyes. Down to his gums. In his mouth. His tongue is heavy with it. It feels clumsy, to speak.
“Ah, I see,” Tim perks up and says it in that tone that means he’s willfully coming to the wrong conclusion and Jon sighs just hearing it, making himself stop touching his face. “I’ll make sure you get plenty of alone time today, boss.” He drops the files on Jon’s desk and smiles like anything he says makes sense or is encouraging. His shirt is open to the vest today. His throat bobs as he speaks.
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!” he adds with a wink, and Jon snaps his attention back to Tim’s eyes. His throat is too dry to protest. Feels like all the water in him was sucked out by Tim’s whirlwind presence. He should try his tea again. Maybe with a biscuit this time. But the idea of such a dry, crumbling texture on his tongue makes him wince. He tries to open his mouth to say－ something, probably, but his tongue disagrees with the motion of speech and Tim’s cologne fills his mouth. Something new: rich and deep. Distracting.
“I’ll keep everybody out of your hair,” Tim promises, closing the door with a vague wave. The air stills again in his wake. The scent dissipates.
Jon stares at the door blankly. What is any of that even supposed to mean? He swallows hard, his mouth suddenly flooded, and hopes that isn’t a portent of further nausea. He forces himself to focus on work again.
The knock on the door makes him jump. Jon surfaces from the file he was reading with a heavy blink and glances at his dark computer, the clock on the wall that still needs a battery, then gives up with a sigh that rubs sandpaper up his throat.. He feels－
He feels －
He feels like he’s been sitting in one position in this chair for a very long time. Rolls his shoulders. Shuffles his feet. Smooths his tongue over his teeth. The last makes him shiver hard and all at once the slow, steady throbbing in his sinuses, his gums, his palate, filters in, demands his attention.
It isn’t unpleasant.
The door eases open and Martin appears at the threshold, peering in at Jon with a worried expression, though he comes no closer.
“Tim mentioned you weren’t feeling well earlier, and it’s near about 5 now, so I figured I’d check in with you before everyone left for the day. Did you want a last cup of tea?”
Jon opens his mouth to respond, but all that comes out is a croak. It surprises him more than Martin, who grimaces and opens the door a little wider.
“Do you have any cough drops?” he asks. Jon pulls a face and shakes his head. He hates cough drops. They leave his throat tingling and numb and he hates the feeling. Like whatever is happening to his throat now, except that feels－
Jon clears his throat carefully and waves Martin off.
“It’s fine,” he signs, “I’ll be leaving in a moment.”
Martin hums. “Alright,” he says finally, tapping the doorjam decisively as he gives Jon a firm look. “Call in tomorrow if you need it.”
Jon huffs. He’s not one to ignore the basic courtesy of sick leave to keep the rest of the department from grinding to a halt when they all inevitably get infected.
“I mean it,” Martin says firmly, frowning down at Jon. He crosses his arms, his huge biceps framing his chest, his skin very soft and plush all the way up his neck and Jon’s mouth is very wet. His throat is too dry to speak. He opens it anyway.
Martin, he wants to say, Martin I need－
“Call in, okay, Jon?”
Jon snaps his mouth closed. Nods.
Martin nods back, breaking into a slight smile as he relaxes and sets a hand on the doorknob. “Goodnight, then.”
Jon sits frozen at his desk from a long minute. The clock does not move. The air is still.
He reaches one trembling finger into his mouth and presses at what fills him there.
He calls in.
Jon paces around the kitchen wearily, leaning heavily on his cane and ignoring the book on his table with all the focus he has. He’d checked it when he bought it－ of course he did. He isn’t an idiot; there hasn’t been a single book he’s so much as touched in the last damn near twenty years that he hasn’t checked first. There is no bookplate nor is there evidence of ones removal. There couldn’t be. This book was published in 2013, long after the fall of Leitner’s cursed library.
Jon collapses heavily into the chair, pressing both hands firmly into his aching sinuses. He feels lightheaded. Weak. He hasn’t been able to eat or drink anything prior to reading the damn book.
Well. That’s untrue. He’s been swallowing plenty of the fluid that drips and gushes in turns. It numbs his mouth and leaves him terribly ill. He swallows another mouthful of the stuff petulantly, shuddering and grimacing at the swollen, numb ache that is his mouth. He can’t quite close it all the way, anymore.
Carmilla: Her Impact on Vampire Lore sits innocently on the tabletop. Jon glares at it.
The problem is－ aside from the discomfort bordering on pain, and the general shakiness from his dropping bloodsugar－ that Jon knows exactly what to do in this situation. He was put through the Institute's Leitner drills until he could recite the Action Steps for Safety forward and backward, then received advanced training with the head of Artifact Storage upon his promotion. Objectively, this is a solved situation. He can take the book and himself to Artifacts at any time and potentially be rid of the entire issue.
He remains in his seat.
The problem is－ aside from his training, personal concepts of safety, well-being, and comfort, the easy access to help he has already hovered his fingers over on his phone multiple times, and basic common sense－ that Jon knows exactly what to do in this situation. The cure is built in.
He can’t ignore the fangs dripping numbing venom in his mouth.
It’s a bone deep craving: the urge to bite down. It occupies his mind, occupies his mouth, no matter how hard he concentrates on other activities. His throat is painfully dry with the distinct feeling of inflammation, so tight it’s hard to breathe. Venom fills his mouth awkwardly and he’s drooled onto himself more than once. It aches to swallow it all, makes him fill bloated and numb and ill. Pressure pulses in what feels like his entire face. The roof of this mouth is swollen and horribly sensitive.
It’s awful. He really does feel terrible. He should go to the Institute.
He doesn’t move.
His phone rings. It should have startled him, sudden noise after so long cooped up in silence, but he can’t muster the enthusiasm to be afraid. He adjusts the hot compress wrapped around his throat, which is doing little to nothing for him, and answers the call.
“Hello, Jon,” Elias says, all affable managerial pleasantry. “I don’t suppose you’re busy at the moment, are you? If you can’t talk right now, I understand.”
Static crackles faintly across the line. Jon’s throat clicks when he swallows.
“Wonderful. If you could come to my office, we can get this little issue of yours sorted out in no time. Bring the book, will you? Unless, of course, you would rather others suffer the consequences of your inability to control yourself?”
“I’ll see you in an hour, then.”
Jon drops his phone on the table.
The Institute is no more welcoming after dark than in the daylight.
Jon’s been too paranoid to open his windows or go outside; he hadn’t gotten to read up to the chapter on sunlight exposure yet and wasn’t willing to delve any further into the book than he already had. He had almost given in to the temptation several times, but the press of his own teeth on his tongue was enough reason to stay his hand. He couldn’t talk himself out of it for the lisping around his teeth.
He knocks on Elias’ door, his heart pounding in his chest.
“You can enter, Jon.” Elias says with an odd, careful enunciation, half a smirk on his face. Jon hesitates at the door for a second before glaring and stepping fully into the room.
Elias’ office is large and ostentatious. It takes several seconds for Jon to arrive at his desk, and Elias watches his silent approach with amusement.
“I must say,” he says fondly. “This is an interesting change of pace. But we can’t have an employee suffering from an unchecked Leitner effect. You’ll need to thank your assistants for calling it in, since you appear to be unable to. I assume that’s part of the Leitner’s effects.” Irritation with Tim and Martin compounded with an odd guilt leaves Jon shifting awkwardly. It isn’t the Leinter that stayed his hand from calling out. They had both acted oddly, singling him out and convincing him it was because he appeared sick. He must have－ well. He’d gone and opened his mouth around them, hadn’t he? Good actors. He’ll have to remember that in the future. He keeps his hands firmly tucked into his elbows and says nothing.
“But I think that’s enough time wasted,” Elias says, pulling a box out from one of his drawers. “Come here, please.”
Jon sets the triple wrapped book on his desk and steps up to it, ready to face whatever music this might have lead him to.
“Around the desk, I meant,” Elias says, snapping on a pair of gloves. The box is full of test tubes and small jars. Jon stares at them. Usually, blood tests are done in Artifact’s sterile room. “On your knees, if you would.”
“Excuse me?” Jon signs in a snap, bristling. Elias sighs likes he’s being difficult instead of rational in his disgust. Jon winces and hides his mouth behind a hand, the sneer that had risen had made him leak more than he already was.
“This is going to be messy, so I would like to keep it contained. And I doubt that you’re going to want to be standing for much longer.” Elias reaches up and undoes his tie. Tugs it loose. Opens the top button of his crisp white shirt. Reach out to where Jon has walked around to meet him without feeling his own feet move.
Jon jolts back from him, heart racing, mouth dripping, but doesn’t get the chance to refute that before Elias shoves a finger in Jon’s mouth and the entire world re-orientates itself around that single point.
“There we go,” Elias says, but it comes to Jon from deep underwater and bounces away before he can really grasp it. It doesn’t matter, anyway. The only thing that matters is the warm, solid pressure in Jon’s mouth. Nothing besides that exists.
Elias curls his fingers around Jon’s fangs and guides his mouth open wide. Tugs them straight down, the wicked, gleaming needle curves hanging in the cold air. It aches, but at the same time there is a budding sense of release. Venom floods off his tongue, down his chin.
The clink of glass rouses Jon slightly. Lets him blink back into focus. Finds himself collapsed on the carpet behind Elias’ desk, not quite kneeling but close to it, loose limbed and draped over Elias’ arm. His elbow digs into Jon’s belly, but his fingers are in his mouth and that makes up for it.
The texture of the glove is strange against his teeth, clean and loose. Jon is numb down to his collarbones, numb down to every thought in his skull. It isn’t that he doesn’t want to move, just that the conception of moving does not occur to him.
Elias shifts him anyway, and it’s so easy to drift along with it. Jon’s head is pillowed on his legs and he works up enough of himself to remember his own hands and grasps weakly at Elias’ pants legs. Elias shushes him, so he must have remembered his voice, somehow.
“Now, then,” Elias says, and it’s much easier to focus on that. On him. The sound of his voice, the feel of his body warmth, the rush of his heart. It’s strangely loud. The minute shifts of his hands distract Jon completely, each fingertip accounted for by Jon’s impossibly, overwhelmingly sensitive mouth. His fangs flex and squirt around Elias’ fingers. Jon moans with the faint relief. There’s still so much tension, so much discomfort and pain, but everything Elias is doing to him alleviates it.
“Oh, good lord, Jon, keep it together for another moment. So impatient. Here, this should pacify you.”
Elias puts something near his mouth. A tube, thin and familiar, with a plastic blue stopcap. It scrapes against one of Jon’s fangs and he whimpers, gushing at the stimulation. Elias tsks, pushes, and then Jon goes to heaven.
His entire vision whites out, his body disappears. Nothing remains but for the perfect pressure on his fang as it sinks in deep and every ounce of venom is forced out. The pain drains away, the pressure releasing like a turned valve.
Jon has no concept of how long it goes on for when it suddenly stops. He cries out, abruptly terrified that he will be left hanging in this horrible limbo of almost-done, nearly-empty, but then a second tube is thrust into place and he moans, gushes into it, pants hot against Elias’ knee.
The pressure that had spread up his face is nearly gone from that side. The ache is easing out of him. Elias’ hand soothes through his hair slowly. Jon can’t think, but the emptiness of that fills him with bliss rather than panic. He lies in Elias’ lap and listens to the clock tick with only a fuzzy contentment to keep him company.
Elias brings his hand down and massages at Jon’s face, pressing in deep, teasing out more venom.
“I’m actually surprised by your rate of production, Jon. How long have you been looking at the people around you as food? Must have been driving you mad. Let me help you,”
Elias pushes in more firmly and Jon whimpers. He traces a circuit from below Jon’s eye, down his cheek, then presses small circles above his fang before easing his finger inside and stroking the roof of Jon’s mouth. It feels wonderful. Everyone on the tube had smelled incredible, looked inviting. Jon had gripped his seat all the way to the Institute.
“Poor dear. Your entire venom duct is backed up. Must feel terrible. Nothing for it, then.”
The pressure is nearly gone; the pain and inflammation on that side of Jon’s face has eased out in a way that leaves him horribly aware of how bad the other side feels in comparison. It makes the ache there more acute. Elias draws the circuit again. Then again. Then again. Jon whimpers and tries to jerk his head away, but Elias’ hold is firm. His face feels bruised in the shape of Elias’ fingers.
He slides the tube off Jon’s fang and he could cry with the relief of it. Elias doesn’t allow him that mercy, and hooks a finger around the tooth instead, pulling it painfully taut and stretching the roof of his mouth.
“Is that all of it, Jon?” Elias asks intent and indulgent. Jon freezes. It isn’t. Half of him is still in pain and most of him is numb. The pressure of the stroking fingers directly on the root of his fang increases and he pants with a half delirious fear. Is Elias just going to rip it out? Is that the cure?
But he releases it instead. The total lack of support drops Jon’s head onto his lap, and he’s mortified to find the fabric of Elias’ trousers soaked through, wiping cooled venom back up his cheek. His own shirt is wet. Noticing this makes him shiver with the chill of it, his nipples hard and tingling with numbness.
“You really are an incredible mess, Jon,” Elias praises. He rustles around on his desk, more glasses shifting, as he ignores Jon clinging to his lap. “Chin up.”
Jon can’t move, so Elias does it for him.
This time, he pinches a larger sample jar between his thighs and leans back in the chair, holding Jon’s head steady in both hands. For a long moment, he simply stares, pressing his thumb into the drained side of Jon’s face. Jon shudders against the bruising pressure.
“I’ve always wanted to do this,” Elias tells him. “Open your mouth.”
Jon’s mouth has not closed in some time. He never managed to get control of how to retract the fangs, and currently they are throbbing. But he opens it wider by a minuscule amount. A drop of venom hits the flat stopper on the top of the jar. Jon aches to sink his teeth down, desperately.
Elias guides him to it, rests the very tips of his straining fangs on the plastic and gently drags Jon back and forth. The rhythm is strangely hypnotic and Jon relaxes into it. Elias positions Jon where he wants, and he begins to push down. The thin plastic bends, then gives all at once. Jon moans, his eyes rolling closed. The penetration feels incredible, impossibly perfect. Elias makes him sink in slowly, relishing every centimeter. Jon gushes with it, the venom in his mouth pouring out and squirting from the full fang in a thin stream. The wet noise of it hitting the jar fills the room.
Elias brings him back up, and the change in pressure, the pull upward, does something to Jon that he cannot describe but for a desperate, whining moan. Then back down, and it’s the bite all over again. A heady rush of pleasure, a deep thrill that sinks into Jon’s bones and leaves him liquid himself. The most profound relief possible. A violent satisfaction.
It’s a dynamic pleasure, too. Even when Jon should well be used to it, it happens again and takes him right back under just as easily as the first time. His left fang is over-sensitized and aches both with the cold air of the room on the thrust out and the pressure on his empty venom glands on the thrust in. Through the other he is achieving nirvana. The different sets of sensation leave him squirming, wanting to bite down harder and draw far away at the same time. All he can do is pant in Elias’ hold and let it happen.
Elias guides him through the motions slowly, again and again. Eventually, the pressure eases enough that he can come back to himself somewhat, and all at once he becomes aware of what he’s been gazing blindly at. Of himself, reflected in Elias’ eyes.
Jon, on his knees on the plush carpet of Elias’ office, clinging to his legs and thrusting his open mouth over his crotch, staring up at him serenely. Jon’s numb face burns. He discovers he was already crying. Elias smiles at him, yellow eyes drinking in Jon’s humiliation with delight.
Stop, Jon wants to beg, keep going.
He’s so close. He’s not sure to what. But he’s nearly drained dry and the pain of that dryness is beginning to overtake the pleasure.
Elias fists his hair and pulls, hard, and then while Jon is moaning with the shock of it, presses him down even harder. Grinds his teeth into the slight give of the plastic. A last thin spurt of venom gushes out.
With that, he’s empty. Jon shudders with it, eyes closed tight to the sensation. The relief. It bullies everything else out of his dizzy head.
After a moment. Elias pulls Jon out and presses him back until he can only rest his forehead on Elias’ knees. Elias chuckles and eases a gloved hand under his chin, propping Jon back up into the semblance of an upright position.
“There now, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” he teases, stroking Jon’s wet face. “Aside from the mess you’ve made. I’d make you clean it up, but honestly,” Elias sighs, pats. “I don’t think you could handle it right now.”
Jon can’t handle breathing right now. He wobbles on his own loose spine and suspects that if Elias removed his hand he would simply collapse to the floor entirely.
But from this vantage, he can see what Elias is talking about. The jar he plucks up is almost the size of a mason jar. Despite being half full, Elias’ pants are soaked. Jon’s shirt is sticking to his chest. He’s numb everywhere the venom touched. He’s hard. He’s wet. He’s wet in damn near every way he can be, filthy and uncomfortable at Elias’ feet, drained and bruised and exhausted.
He’s never felt so good in his life. He could sleep in this puddle of his own stinging venom and sleep well.
Jon forces his mouth shut, his jaw aching fiercely, and swallows hard. It goes down easy, no more pain.
Except for the dryness.
“Ah, yes,” Elias says. The jar of venom is gone, replaced by another thin tube in his hand that he dangles back and forth slowly. The red liquid inside sloshes faintly. “I imagine you’re quite dehydrated, after all that. You should know enough about this sort of thing to understand that there’s no going back, if you indulge. Do you want my blood, Jon?” Somehow, Jon can get wetter. He’s past caring. “You won’t be biting me, I’m afraid; you’re far too inexperienced for it. But what do you want, Jon?”
“I－” Jon croaks. Stops. Swallows hard. Digs his fingers into the plush carpet. “I want－”
Elias already knows the answer.