by Yuriko Toru (百合子 亨)
Jared leapt about a foot in the air, twisting to find the source of the voice. His eyes landed on the shadowy figure silhouetted against a nearby tree, and he sighed, shoulders sagging in relief.
“Eli,” he greeted, shoving a stray lock of hair behind his ear. “You fucking scared me, man.”
“Sorry,” Eli murmured, raising a hand to his mouth. Jared blinked hard into the dark and the image before his eyes resolved itself into Eli’s face, dark eyes shadowed. His pale skin was eerie in the moonlight, and his thin lips were wrapped around a bright cherry sucker. “Didn’t mean to startle you,” he continued, voice strangely melodic and far too deep for his skinny 5’6″ stature.
“Dude, it’s fucking freezing out here,” Jared said, tugging his jacket tight around himself. “Aren’t you cold?”
Eli’s mouth did something that, on a good day, could maybe count as a smile. “Yeah.”
Jared blinked. “Right.”
Silence fell. Jared shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot, then cleared his throat.
“You dressed as anything?” Eli asked, and Jared started.
“Oh! Yeah, uh. I’m a douchey frat boy.”
“Yeah, but what are you dressed as?”
There was just enough of a smile on Eli’s lips to clue Jared in to the sarcasm. “Oh, ha ha,” he replied. “What about you, are you dressed as anything?”
Eli removed the sucker from his mouth with a slick pop. “Vampire.”
“So, you’re going for the lazy costume too?” Jared teased, annoyed that, the way Eli had worded it, he couldn’t echo his own joke back at him.
Eli’s comeback was to bare his teeth in a remarkably frightening grimace. His canines were long and came to vicious-looking points.
“Damn,” Jared said appreciatively. Shit, those were convincing — they looked almost real. “Where’d you get those?”
Eli closed his mouth with a private smirk.
“Okay, but seriously, where did you get them?” Jared asked. “They’re fucking realistic.”
Eli just winked. “Trade secret,” he said, lips clinging to the red sucker. “You going trick-or-treating?”
“Wasn’t going to, no. A couple of the guys are going to break into the haunted house on the edge of town, and they invited me.”
Eli tucked his free hand into the crook of his elbow, skin utterly white against his black leather jacket. “You know it’s not actually haunted, right?” he pointed out, pointing the sucker at Jared. His black nail polish was eerie in the low light, like his fingertips weren’t there. “That’s just publicity bullshit.”
Jared shrugged. “Yeah, but they want to see it. Anyway, it’ll be cool. Maybe I’ll get to see something they don’t show on the tour, you never know.”
Eli flicked his eyebrows up. “That’s fair.”
“You wanna come?”
Eli smirked like he’d heard the double meaning Jared hadn’t intended. “No thanks, doll.”
“Why do you call everyone that?”
Eli paused, sucker nearly to his mouth. “What, doll?”
“Oh, I don’t call everyone that. Only the sweet ones.”
“I’m not s—”
“Your friends are calling.”
Jared turned without thinking to look where Eli pointed. “They’re not my friends, and I’m not—”
The birch tree was blindingly white without Eli leaning against it. Jared peered around in the darkness, but Eli was nowhere to be seen.
“Jared! There you are! Guys, I found him! C’mon, dude, we can’t get into the house without you.”
Jared turned around. “Have you seen Eli?”
The guy — Mark? — scoffed. “That weirdsmobile? No. Why? You’re not thinking of inviting him along, are you?”
Jared shrugged noncommittally. “You invited me, didn’t you?”
“Can emo kid pick a lock?”
“Exactly. C’mon, let’s go, it’s nearly midnight and we wanna be there when it strikes.”
Jared rolled his eyes and followed.
The thing was, everyone knew the old manor wasn’t haunted. It had been turned into a museum about forty, fifty years back, and the first people running the tours had made up some ghost stories just to rustle up business. It was a well-known fact around town.
It was just that, sitting alone at the top of a hill on a frigid, moonlit Halloween like this one, it looked fucking terrifying. So, naturally, every drunken frat pledge had to be persuaded to run up stark naked and touch the damn thing or something.
Frankly, Jared mused as he worked the first padlock, he should never have told the frat boys that he could pick a lock. They weren’t even his frat; they were his brother’s, not that he would deign to hang out with the same group as Jared at the same time, lest they run into each other. He wasn’t quite sure what had possessed him to volunteer the information at all while they were discussing their plans to break in. Maybe it was a desire to make sure they didn’t do any damage to the place. Maybe it was because he wanted to see it again, specifically everything the tour guides never let him get a close look at. Maybe it was some long-dormant desire to belong to a group of douchey, superficial friends. Somehow he doubted it was the latter.
“Fucking hell, you done yet?” someone muttered behind him.
“I’m getting you in, aren’t I?” Jared snapped. “Shut up and let me — ah! There we go.”
The door swung open slowly, complaining all the way. Jared rose to his feet and stepped back.
“Just so you all know,” he announced to the group at large, “I have huge respect for this building, so if any of you fuck it up in any way I have no problem ratting out every single one of you to the cops.”
“Wow, pissface,” someone said eloquently behind him, and Jared stepped through the door.
The front foyer was large, dark, and empty. Jared stepped further inside, letting the others file in behind him. Then somebody shut the door with a heavy thud, and somebody else flicked on a flashlight, and then everyone was turning on flashlights and the room was illuminated by dancing circles of yellow light.
“So.” Mark’s right-hand man, the one so deeply in the closet Jared doubted he’d ever see daylight again — Patrick? possibly Quinn — shuffled closer to Mark. “What now?”
Mark looked over at Jared.
Jared sighed. “Library’s that way, and the music room,” he announced with a vague wave of his flashlight. “Dining room and ballroom that way, servants’ quarters down that hall there. Bedrooms upstairs. What do you want to see first?”
“The ballroom,” one of the guys suggested.
Jared looked to Mark for confirmation, but he just shrugged. “Sounds good to me.”
Jared made sure to turn before rolling his eyes, so Mark couldn’t see. “Ballroom it is. Follow me.”
He started down the hallway, swinging his flashlight from side to side into every room and at every painting they passed. The guys trooped after him, making enough noise to wake the dead — or at least, enough to nearly drown out what sounded like footsteps right above them.
Jared stopped, shining his light up at the ceiling. “Shh,” he urged as the group rambled to a halt behind him.
“What’s up?” Mark asked, coming to stand by Jared’s side. Patrick-or-possibly-Quinn scuttled up behind him as he motioned for quiet, eyeing Jared expectantly.
Jared listened for a second, but the sound was gone, if it had ever been there at all. “Nothing,” he decided. “Just an old building.”
Mark nodded. “Let’s keep going, then,” he said, and forged ahead.
Patrick-or-Quinn (or was it Owen? shit) looked less than excited about following. Jared gave him a pat on the back as he passed.
“Oh, hey, this must be it!” Mark called from the end of the hall, then stepped through the open double doors.
“Oh, this is actually pretty sweet,” he was saying as Jared and the group caught up. His voice echoed around the cavernous space. “This is where they had parties?”
“Yeah,” Jared replied, distracted. He’d been sure he’d heard the unfamiliar footsteps again, quick and light behind him.
“Dude, a party in here would be so fuckin’ lit,” one of the other guys commented, shoving past Jared where he stood frozen in the darkness, squinting past the flashlight beams and listening hard. The rest of the guys followed, agreeing loudly enough to cover any of the noises Jared was listening for.
“Hey, Drew’s brother!” one of the guys called. “I thought you were the history geek. Aren’t you going to come take a look?”
“Nah, I’m, uh,” Jared replied. “I’m gonna keep watch. In case anyone else is breaking in on Halloween, you know?”
Jared could hear the guy shrug. “‘Kay, whatever.”
Jared leaned against the doorframe, trying to look casual and not like his heart was beating a nervous tattoo against the inside of his ribcage. He strained to see beyond the dim glow of his flashlight, or to hear the footsteps again, but fruitlessly. There was no hint of movement, and no sound aside from the guys horsing around in the ballroom.
There was a sudden commotion behind Jared, and he fought the urge to turn and look. “What was that?” he called instead, keeping his eyes fixed on the hallway.
“It’s okay! It didn’t actually break,” Mark called back.
“What?” Jared whipped around.
“See? It’s totally fine,” Mark said, straightening one of the marble busts at the foot of the enormous staircase, but Jared was already whirling back around. He could’ve sworn he’d heard footsteps hurrying towards him. His flashlight, however, revealed nothing but the decorated corridor.
He peered out into the darkness so hard his eyes hurt, sweeping his flashlight in a slow arc around the hall. Just as he was deciding his ears were playing tricks on him, there was another murmur from the ballroom.
“Hey, Drew’s brother!” someone called.
“Jared!” Mark clarified.
“Jared!” the first guy corrected himself. “What’s up these stairs?”
“The library,” Jared replied, turning. “Here, I’ll show you—”
“Jared?” Patrick-or-maybe-Quinn-or-maybe-Owen called. “What’s up?”
Jared swept his flashlight around the hallway again, then back to the wall beside the door. He could’ve sworn he’d seen a figure there, black and white like a photograph of the house’s original owners, leaning against the wall and raising a cigarette to his lips.
“N— nothing,” he decided, then turned on his heel and strode into the ballroom and up the stairs, shoving his free hand in his pocket to hide how his heartbeat was making it shake.
It took Jared several seconds of thought to remember where the library was, and then he nearly walked right past the door when he came to it.
“Here we are,” he said, ducking back to step through the open door onto the balcony ringing the second floor.
Behind him, the guys made vaguely appreciative noises as they filed in, spreading out around the whole balcony and shining their lights around. Jared just wrapped the hand not holding his flashlight deliberately around the well-worn banister and breathed in the scent of old books and musty furniture. The library had always been his favourite part of the building, but not even the familiar smell could calm his nerves. He took several measured breaths, feeling the pulse in his fingertips slow with each exhale. It didn’t help, though, and after the third gust of air across the back of his neck made him jump, he gave up and opened his eyes, pointing his flashlight around the room.
A couple of the guys were climbing up to the second balcony, and several were already on the ground floor, leaving Jared alone on the first balcony—
Out of the corner of his eye, Jared saw someone dart between two bookshelves. He turned, swinging his flashlight around, but whoever it was was out of sight.
Okay, not alone then. Wondering who he’d forgotten, Jared peered around the bookshelf, but there was nobody there.
The back of Jared’s neck prickled. The shelves ran right up against the wall. “Hey, Mark?”
Jared tore his eyes away from the empty dead-end and stepped back up to the railing. “We missing anybody?”
Mark moved into the very centre of the library floor and turned in a slow circle, shining his light around. “Uh, let me see… Where’s Keith?”
“Up here,” a voice (evidently Keith) called down from the telescope platform tucked up under the domed ceiling.
“We’re all here, then,” Mark confirmed. “Why, what’s up?”
“Just making sure we hadn’t lost anybody,” Jared lied. He was certain he’d seen somebody.
Mark shrugged it off. He seemed to have a talent for that.
Jared did his best to put the whole thing out of his mind, instead committing himself to reading the foreword of the gigantic dictionary on the pedestal beside the door and ignoring the periodic commotions caused by the rest of the group. Words weren’t his thing, really, but it was fascinating reading the story of how the dictionary was compiled, and the amount of research—
Jared was impressed he didn’t jump right out of his skin. “Hi,” he managed, almost calmly.
Patrick-or-Quinn-or-Owen scratched the side of his nose, squinting in the beam of Jared’s flashlight. Jared hadn’t heard him come upstairs. “What’cha doin’?”
“Oh, uh.” Jared gestured to the dictionary with his flashlight. “The foreword is fascinating in this dictionary. It talks about how the first edition was—”
“So you’re having fun? Because you seem kinda nervous.”
Jared bit back the snark as much as he could when he replied, “So do you.”
Patrick/Quinn/Owen looked down, eyes vanishing into the shadow of his hair. “Yeah, well. I guess this just… isn’t my thing? I mean, I don’t really like old houses that much, and this whole thing is just giving me the creeps.”
Jared furrowed his eyebrows. “Have you… noticed anything weird? Seen or heard anything?”
Patrick/Quinn/Owen shook his head. “Nah, it’s just kinda generally freaky.”
Great. So Jared was quite possibly hallucinating. “Well, old houses can get like that, you know? Plus, it’s a museum, which doesn’t really help.” He nodded sagely, hoping it would make his next piece of bullshit sound more legit. “Tell you what, stick close to Matt. He seems like he could handle himself against anything this old place could throw at him.”
PatriQuiOwen looked relieved, and frankly, Jared felt the same. Thank god for confirmation bias.
“You’re right,” he said, and Jared tried to look like he totally was, even though it was probably too dark to see. “Thanks, Jared.”
Jared nodded, all gruff machismo. “No problem, man.”
“Hey!” Matt called up from the ground floor. “Squid? Keith? You guys ready to move out?”
Two little ‘yes’es floated down from the telescope deck.
“‘Kay, we’ll meet you on level two!” Matt called back and headed for the nearest spiral staircase, friends trooping after him.
Jared was about to ask where they wanted to go next when, shining his flashlight around the library, a flicker of movement on the ground floor caught his eye. There, darting between two bookshelves — the same ghostly black-and-white apparition he’d seen outside the ballroom. Before he’d thought to, he was heading for the nearest stairs down.
“What’s up?” Matt asked, stopping Jared as they met in the middle of the staircase.
“Oh, I uh. Wanted to check something,” Jared fumbled. Technically true. “Shouldn’t take long.” Also technically true.
Matt gave him a surprisingly canny look, eyes reflecting faintly orange in the flashlight beams. “Everything okay?”
Jared nodded earnestly, then instantly wished he’d toned it down. “Oh yeah! You guys go on ahead. If you go out those doors and turn right, the master bedroom should be the door at the end of the hall,” he said, gesturing with his flashlight. “It’s actually super cool, they had this whole suite to themselves, with their own little sitting room and everything. Make sure the guys don’t break anything, and I’ll be right behind you.”
Matt nodded wisely and continued up the stairs; Jared watched him go for a moment, torn between investigating the mysterious figure and trusting Matt to keep his goons in line. Curiosity won out, though, so Jared turned and continued his descent. He heard Matt above him, rounding up his buddies, as he stepped down to the floor; then the library was quiet, and Jared was alone with an apparition which may or may not have been his own imagination.
“Hello?” Jared called softly. In the hall above him, the voices and footsteps slowly receded. Jared took a step forward, away from the stairs, and shone his flashlight around in a wide arc. “Is anyone here?”
There was no sound but the faint rustle of pages, as though someone was in the stacks, reading. Jared crept forward. The sound was coming from where he thought he’d seen the figure earlier. Holding his breath, Jared leaned around the bookshelf.
A book sat open on the floor, pages still settling, like it had just been abandoned a moment ago.
Jared walked over and picked it up. It was a copy of Dante’s Inferno in the original Italian, open to an illustration of the gate into hell.
Jared swallowed hard and put the book back on the shelf. Whatever it was, he was almost certain now he was in here with something, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to be. Rather, he was quite certain he didn’t.
He was halfway up the stairs when a voice said, “Hello, Jared.”
Jared whipped around so fast he nearly fell over the railing. His eyes darted around the library, following his flashlight beam. “Hello?”
“Hello,” the voice said again, faintly amused this time. It was a rich voice, melodic and faintly familiar, and seemed to come from somewhere off to Jared’s left. Jared turned to face it, but there was nothing there.
“Who are you?” Jared asked, but there was no reply. “Answer me! How do you know my name?” Jared demanded, somewhat belatedly, but in his defense he’d been ever-so-slightly panicking when it should’ve occurred to him.
“I pay attention,” the voice replied, from directly under Jared’s feet, and Jared yelped, clattering up the stairs and dashing into the hall before he could stop himself.
He stopped just past the library door, propping his hands on his knees to catch his breath. That was rude. He should apologize.
He straightened up to do just that, and as if on cue, he felt a presence arrive behind him like a cold breeze on the back of his neck. He tried to suppress a shiver.
“Sorry for running away,” he offered weakly.
There was no reply, but Jared could tell he had the spirit’s attention. He could feel it like a physical touch ruffling the hair on the back of his neck.
“How can I help you?” Jared asked.
“What makes you think I need help?” the voice countered immediately, right next to Jared’s ear, making him jump.
“Uhm. You’re, uh,” Jared stammered, grasping for his train of thought. “You’re a ghost, right?”
The spirit scoffed. “Says who?”
Jared faltered even further. “Aren’t you?”
It chuckled darkly, and Jared couldn’t hold back a shudder. His palms were damp with sweat. He wiped them uselessly on his jeans.
“Trust me, sweetheart, I’m not a ghost,” the creature purred, breath cold on Jared’s ear. “I’m much worse than a ghost.”
Laughter echoed after him, following him down the corridor. He ran faster, but still the laughter followed, until he screeched to a halt at the top of the ballroom stairs with the realization that, one, he’d dropped his flashlight in escaping the library, and two, he’d been going the wrong way. His friends were at the other end of the house, probably far enough that they couldn’t even hear him if he yelled.
“Fuck,” he gasped under his breath, and pelted down the stairs anyway.
When he reached the floor, he moved slowly to the centre of the room, turning cautiously in a circle. The silence was eerie; Jared could still hear laughter echoing in his mind. The full moon cast coloured slivers of light through the stained-glass window high on one wall, almost enough to see clearly by.
“You know,” the voice said, “that was sweet of you to offer to help, even if it doesn’t do me any help.”
“Yeah?” There were mirrors all along the wall opposite the huge window. Jared kept an eye on them, but he was apparently alone.
“Mm,” the voice agreed. It sounded like it was circling him, but no matter which way Jared looked, he could never catch more than a flicker of movement in the farthest corner of his eye. “Almost a shame I’m not a ghost, really. Well, I say it’s a shame. I’m not really complaining; most of the ghosts I’ve met are beyond depressed.”
“So if you’re not a ghost,” Jared interrupted, “what are you?”
The creature made a noise like the first syllable of a laugh, and Jared realized suddenly that he didn’t actually want to know.
A hand grabbed the back of Jared’s neck, forcing him to look forward. Jared struggled, but the creature’s grip was as cold and immovable as iron. Its other arm wrapped around Jared’s waist, and Jared felt a lean body press against his back and a sharp chin dig into his shoulder. If he strained his eyes sideways, he could just see the edge of a face in profile, so pale it nearly glowed in the dim light.
“Guess,” it said.
Jared turned his eyes forward. The mirror showed nothing but him, alone in an enormous ballroom.
“Vampire,” he said.
“That’s right,” the vampire purred, sounding pleased with itself — or, well, judging from the feel of the chest pressed against Jared’s back, himself.
“So this house is actually haunted,” Jared gasped, “and you’re the one haunting it?”
The vampire laughed that dark laugh again. “Oh, doll,” he murmured, rubbing circles into the back of Jared’s neck with his thumb as though he was trying to be soothing. “Vampires don’t haunt.” With his arm still wrapped around Jared’s waist, the vampire toyed idly with the hem of Jared’s shirt and brought his mouth to Jared’s ear. “They hunt.” Jared shivered, goosebumps prickling from his scalp all the way down his body. The vampire’s breath was cold and damp, but not as cold as his lips where they brushed the shell of Jared’s ear.
“Uh,” Jared started, with no idea what to say next.
“You shouldn’t have run,” the vampire growled, and Jared was actually trembling now, adrenaline and sheer terror making him shake so badly, if the vampire let go, he’d probably fall over. He managed an inquisitive noise. “Running is what prey does,” the vampire explained in a voice that was far too gentle. “As if you didn’t smell like prey enough as it was.”
Jared’s heartbeat kicked up a notch.
“That’s it,” the vampire said, moving his nose to the hollow under Jared’s ear and his open mouth to the side of Jared’s neck and inhaling like he was taking a hit of Jared’s pheromones. His hand slid from the back of Jared’s neck to the side of his face, thumb stroking along his jawline. “Young, fresh blood, with a healthy dose of fear and — mmh — just a dash of arousal.”
“That’s not—” Jared tried to protest.
“No!” Jared insisted, with the sudden realization that that was a complete and utter lie.
“Because it smells like you are,” the vampire continued, and Jared swallowed hard. “Testosterone, cortisol. Adrenaline. And, of course,” he added, trailing his hand from Jared’s waist to play with the fly of his jeans, “there’s this.”
Jared’s half-hard cock twitched, as if in acknowledgement, and he felt himself blush.
“So this gives us two options,” the vampire said, running one fingertip back and forth across Jared’s treasure trail. “Option one, I drink your blood forcibly, and neither of us enjoys it nearly as much as I’d like. Or, option two” —he reached down and squeezed Jared’s cock through his jeans; Jared yelped, one hand grasping at the vampire’s leather-clad forearm and the other clasping awkwardly at empty air— “you let me jerk you off while I drink, we both enjoy it, we both leave happy.”
Jared tried to think through the rhythmic kneading of the vampire’s fingers, even as his eyes flickered shut and he dropped his head to the vampire’s shoulder. “You’re — you’re not going to kill me?” he gasped. “Or, or turn me?”
The vampire’s fingers stilled, making Jared bite back a whine. “Wasn’t planning on it. Unless you want —”
“No!” Jared blurted. “No, I’m okay. Thanks.”
The vampire smiled — Jared could feel it against the side of his neck. “Didn’t think so. What’ll it be, then? One or two?”
“Uh.” Jared licked his lips. “Which one’s which?”
The vampire chuckled. “Would you like me to get you off or not?”
“Yes!” Jared’s mouth said for him. Okay, so maybe he’d been harbouring a bit of a thing for vampires.
“Mmh, good,” the vampire hummed against the side of Jared’s neck, scrabbling with both hands at Jared’s fly. “I’ve so been craving some testosterone.”
Jared grasped wildly for any coherent thought to latch onto, but all he could think was, Consensual: dubiously. Safe or sane? Nope. He laughed, an ever-so-slightly unhinged giggle that sounded alien to his ears, and looked down just in time to watch the vampire’s long, pale fingers, tipped in black nail polish, slide into his boxers and — and Jared knew those hands.
“Ooh.” The vampire mouthed his way up the side of Jared’s neck. “Hello,” he breathed in Jared’s ear, and yes, now that he’d placed it that was most definitely Eli’s voice, and Eli’s slim chest against his back.
“Jesus Christ,” Jared gasped as Eli wrapped his icy fingers around Jared’s cock.
“I thought we’d just got my name sorted out,” Eli replied with the faintest hint of a smirk against Jared’s skin.
“No, I was just,” Jared explained, “oh, just thinking, you really went for the — mmh! — lazy Halloween costume, huh?”
Eli gave his cock an almost punishingly hard squeeze, making Jared briefly forget how to breathe. “Why mess with perfection?” he retorted, before sinking his teeth into Jared’s neck.
A yelp echoed around the room. It wasn’t until it reached Jared’s ears that he realized it had come from his own throat.
Eli’s mouth moved away. “Oh, doll, it barely hurts more than a piercing. Or, well,” he amended, shoving Jared’s pants down his hips and beginning to jerk him off in earnest, “it won’t in a minute.”
Blood trickled down Jared’s neck. Eli swiped it up with his tongue, then placed his lips over the stinging puncture wounds and started to drink.
Jared made a noise that started like a gasp but ended up as a moan. Heat radiated out from the wounds like ripples in a pond, pulsing along with the rhythm of Eli’s mouth working. His hand on Jared’s cock was cool and smooth, his grip teetering on the line between perfect and too tight. His other hand slid from Jared’s hip to play with his balls, and Jared made another noise he couldn’t be bothered to identify.
The warmth was spreading through Jared’s limbs now, down to his fingers and toes, weighing on him like a heavy blanket and making everything slow down. Little sparks started waltzing around the edges of his vision, and the world went sort of gold, like the sun was coming up. Then Eli gave a particularly hard suck on his neck, and Jared cried out, grabbing at Eli’s hair as he arched his back and came, vision flashing from gold to white to gray.
He sagged backwards against Eli, utterly limp, and had a moment of awareness where he was concerned about knocking Eli over, but Eli didn’t so much as shift his posture, and Jared remembered, oh yeah, this was a supernatural undead being with probably impossible speed, of course he wouldn’t have trouble holding Jared up while working him through an incredible orgasm and giving him the hickey to end all hickeys.
Oh, and drinking his blood. That was happening. Except then Eli pulled away with a pained groan and just started licking up what dripped down Jared’s neck. His tongue had gotten warmer.
“Why’d you stop?” Jared sighed, and Eli trailed one fingernail up the inside of Jared’s thigh, making him shiver.
“I thought you said you didn’t want me to kill you,” Eli muttered, seemingly distracted by the blood Jared could feel seeping from his neck. The zipper of his leather jacket was biting into Jared’s back.
“Oh.” Jared remembered that. It felt like hours ago. He wasn’t so scared any more. “Thanks.”
Eli pulled away from his neck again. “You look stoned,” he noted.
“Do I?” Jared said. “Hm.” His fingers were twisting idly in Eli’s hair. Eli went back to lapping at Jared’s neck. The gentle strokes of his tongue felt amazing against Jared’s sensitive skin.
“Yes, you do,” Eli said as he tucked Jared back into his pants and tugged his shirt back down.
“I should probably get back to my, uh.” Jared tried to stand, but his vision went grey and fuzzy-edged again and his legs sort of went away and he ended up a little bit sideways with Eli’s arms around his waist.
“Whoa, there,” Eli said, standing him back upright with no apparent effort.
“Friends,” Jared finished, even though that wasn’t quite the word. “They’re probably…”
“Hey.” Eli stepped around Jared, keeping his hands on Jared’s upper arms. Wow, he was really short, wasn’t he. Nearly a head shorter than Jared. What’s not to like about a man who’s short and scrawny and could still beat the shit out of you. “Jared. Can you stand on your own?”
Jared focused on Eli. It was super weird not seeing him in the mirror when he was right there in front of Jared. “Um. Maybe?”
Eli sighed. “Well, let’s find out,” he said, and let go of Jared’s arms. Jared wavered the tiniest bit, but stayed upright.
“Good,” Eli said. “Perfect. You’re fine. Let’s get you back to your friends.”
“They’re not actually my friends, really,” Jared mused as Eli slung Jared’s arm over his shoulder and wrapped his. “Just… a bunch of assholes I helped break into a haunted house that supposedly wasn’t haunted but actually kind of was? Hunted, I guess. A hunted house.”
“Well, if they’re not your friends,” Eli said, “why did you help them break into this not-haunted house?”
Jared made a noncommittal noise. “I dunno. Kinda enjoyed it, though.”
“Did you, now.”
“Yeah. I mean, I wasn’t expecting to have sex with my slightly weird hot emo classmate who turned out to be a vampire, but that was… nice? I feel like I should shut up now.”
“No, please, continue,” Eli said with a smirk. “I’m curious how far you can get that foot in your mouth.”
“Oh, shut up,” Jared grumbled, shoving Eli in the ribs. Eli hissed at him, like a rabid cat or something, and Jared stumbled away, heart pounding. “Fuck, sorry, I didn’t mean — oh, you son of a bitch.”
“That’s not a very nice thing to say about my mother,” Eli objected, with the slightest quirk of his lip.
“Yes, well, if I’d ever met her, I’m sure I’d think she was very nice,” Jared said, draping his arm back over Eli’s shoulders.
“If you’d ever met my mother, you’d have to be as old as me, and trust me,” Eli said, “that’s not likely.”
“How old are you?” Jared asked.
“You don’t want to know,” was the only reply.
“Yes, I do.”
“No, you don’t.”
“Yes, I do, because you probably have cool stories about historical events you’ve lived through.”
Eli sighed, rolling his eyes with that tiny hint of a smile. “Right. I forgot you were a giant history nerd.”
“I’m surprised you forgot,” Jared replied, “since that’s my character trope.”
“I beg your pardon.”
“My character trope,” Jared repeated. “You know, like if we were underdeveloped characters on a TV show. I’d be the weird history nerd friend, you’d be the creepy emo kid who’s always way too attractive to be totally ignored like that.”
“You mean the outcast with the deep dark secret who nobody pays attention to?”
“They can be combined.”
Eli sighed and shook his head. “You are unbelievable.”
“We’re almost back to your friends.”
“Hang on, weren’t they upstairs?”
“They’re on their way out. I could hear them from the ballroom. You should just catch up with them as they’re leaving.”
Jared nodded. “Cool.”
“Now, you’ll want to take it easy for a few days,” Eli advised, “and try to eat well and get plenty of fluids and sleep. Also, if you’re slacking on vitamins, you may want to take some for the next week or so, until you’re fully recovered.”
“What are you, my mother?” Jared asked. “I’ll be fine.”
“I’m just covering my ass so you don’t come whining to me when you’re dying of a million health problems down the line,” Eli retorted. “This is the fine print.”
“Since when does getting jerked off and eaten by a vampire involve fine print?”
“Since vampires started eating and jerking off people they wanted to maybe eat and jerk off again later,” Eli said.
Jared considered that. “Oh.”
Eli brought them to a halt. “Just out there,” he explained with a jerk of his head. Sure enough, Jared could hear his friends making their noisy way back to the front foyer.
He turned to Eli. “You mentioned wanting to eat me again?”
Eli smiled almost wide enough for a normal person to count it as a smile. “Rest up. Get better. Then we’ll talk.”
Jared nodded. “Okay.”
“Hold on,” Eli said, tugging Jared back as he went to walk out into the foyer.
“You’re, ah. Dripping,” Eli explained, before leaning in to lick up a trail of blood from Jared’s neck.
Jared’s eyes fluttered shut at the feel of Eli’s cool tongue on his sensitized skin. He sighed when Eli pulled away, but before he bothered to open his eyes, he felt Eli’s breath on his lips as he murmured, “Mind if I…”
Jared didn’t bother answering aloud; he just leaned forward the tiny bit needed to bring their lips together.
Eli kissed enthusiastically, but patiently, working his lips against Jared’s almost politely. His mouth was cool, metallic like blood and a little bit sweet. His hands landed on Jared’s waist, smoothing once up his sides before he pulled away.
“You should go now,” Eli murmured.
Jared licked his lips. “Why is your mouth so sweet? Is that me?”
“I’ll let you figure it out, doll,” Eli replied. “See you in Film Studies tomorrow?”
Jared didn’t think he’d ever heard such a mundane sentence before in his life. “Yeah, okay.”
Eli smirked and vanished into the darkness.
Jared blinked into the empty hallway for a second while his brain caught up with the fact that, right — supernatural undead being with probably impossible speed. He shook his head and turned to rejoin his friends.
When he stepped out into the foyer, Matt and his group were already opening the front door. Matt turned and caught sight of Jared.
“Oh, hey, Jared! Oh my god, what the hell happened to your neck?”
Jared squinted in the beam of Matt’s flashlight. Oh shit oh shit oh shiiiiit, shit shit shit. “Uh. What does it look like?”
Matt came closer as his cronies crowded around the door, apparently caught between curiosity (or, hopefully, concern) and the desire to leave. “It looks like some really convincing vampire bite makeup. Hey, Patrick, come check this out.”
So his name was Patrick. He came shuffling over, adding his own flashlight to the light on Jared’s neck. “Yeah, that’s really convincing. Good job, dude.”
“You gonna keep that on for a couple days?” Matt asked, eyeing the bite from several angles.
Jared shrugged. “Maybe. We’ll see.”
Matt just chuckled and shook his head, turning to head out. “Now that’s some Halloween spirit,” he said, ushering his friends out the door before following them. “I didn’t think you had it in you.”
In a darkened corner of the room, a pair of eyes glowed in the dim reflections of the flashlight beams. Jared suppressed a grin.
“Yeah,” he said, striding out the front door. “Neither did I.”