Our Bodies, Our Scales

by juou no zan (女王のザン)

 

Eddie had been having a feeling that something was wrong on their walk for a few minutes now. They might have said the hair on the back of their neck or arms was standing up, if they had hair there. As it was, their scales felt like they didn’t fit. They had been successful, thus far, in convincing themself it was paranoia, because they had run out of glamours and were navigating the world with nothing but long sleeves and pants between them and discovery, but then they smelled the blood.

Their sense of smell wasn’t that much sharper than a human’s, but it was enough that they stopped and looked around, and saw the small smear on the corner of the fence, leading into the alley they were passing.

They bit their lip. It could have been anything, it might not be their business at all, they could hardly get involved in something now, when they risked exposure with a brisk wind or a thoughtless gesture. On the other hand, they would never forgive themself if they saw something on the news later, or heard through the monster grapevine that something had happened, so they turned down the alley.

The smell of blood grew stronger, though there were no more visible smears or stains, and Eddie were starting to get worried. With this much blood in the air, someone ought to be screaming or crying or calling for help, or else they were dead. All the other options Eddie could think of were attacks, or a very messy vampire feeding, and that shouldn’t be happening this indiscreetly at this time of day, or in this kind of neighborhood. It was a tract home suburb, for god’s sake, not downtown or near a club, or even near a junkie hangout, where a vampire feeding might go unnoticed, or at least unremarked-upon.

They heard a noise in one of the back yards, and noticed a gate was ajar. The blood scent was very strong here, so they peeked into the yard.

They froze for a second when they saw what was going on. For about half that second, they thought maybe this was a consensual, if indiscreet, vampire fling. But breaking in to a backyard to bleed and fuck on the porch was not exactly normal, and the smear of blood on the wall suggested one of these men had already been bleeding before they got here.

The man on the bottom, face-down on the cement, had less blood on him. He was younger, a few years older than Eddie, maybe, but not out of his twenties. The noise Eddie had heard was a whimper from him, which happened to carry, or be a little louder than the sounds he was making now. He didn’t really look like the kind of guy to have weird vampire sex in a backyard, but if there was one thing Eddie knew, it was that appearances lied. He was crying, though not struggling. Not enough to leap to conclusions from.

The man on top, though, was concerning. His hands were covered in blood, most of which looked fairly dry, his clothes were spattered and smeared with blood all the way down his front, and he was gripping the younger man’s jaw too tightly with one of his bloody hands. His eyes were completely blacked out, and his mouth was stained red. He was older, old enough to be Eddie’s father, but otherwise looked very much like the young man pinned beneath him. His pants were undone enough to get his dick out, but unlike the man underneath him, he was not otherwise undressed.

There was no way Early would allow this kind of behavior even if it was consensual, but the older man looked fucking feral and the younger man was literally crying, so Eddie threw the gate open. They said, as sternly as possible, “Get off of him.” They even managed to not wince at how their stern voice automatically came out low and masculine.

The older man looked up and bared his teeth at Eddie, looking as much like a monster as anyone Eddie had ever known. “Don’t interrupt me,” he hissed, as he got to his feet without even bothering to put his dick away. “You don’t know who you’re messing with.”

It would have been funny, if Eddie hadn’t been fairly sure this man was a feral rapist. A fresh vamp was just a human who thought they were special; most of them didn’t know anything about monsters or magic, and had no idea they weren’t the strongest thing on two legs. Eddie hesitated to shift, though, because they didn’t really know how strong they were when they were completely snaked out, and they didn’t want to hurt him if they didn’t have to.

The feral vampire did not hesitate, however, and went immediately for Eddie’s eyes with his bloody fingers. Eddie slid out of the way and shifted on reflex, jeans shredding around them as their legs fused and lengthened. Well, they already knew they’d have to call Early about sighting a feral vamp and this whole mess, asking for someone to bring a pair of pants wouldn’t be the end of the world. It was easy enough to trap the vampire’s legs in their tail, and take advantage of his obvious shock by restraining his hands as well.

“Now,” Eddie said. They would have liked to tower over him, since they could get so much taller like this, but they were very conscious of how only a backyard fence concealed them from public view. “We can sssit tight and wait for sssomeone else to take care of you, or–“

The vamp tried to bite them before they even finished speaking. Eddie constricted on instinct and felt something crack. The vamp tried to scream, and Eddie had to smother his voice with another coil. This was drawing the vile, out-of-control vampire closer to Eddie’s body, and they were not thrilled about it.

A sob from the porch drew Eddie’s attention back to the younger man, still on the ground. He hadn’t made any move to pull up his pants or sit up, but he was looking up at Eddie and his attacker. He said something that might have been “Don’t,” and might have been “Do it,” and the feral vampire took advantage of Eddie’s distraction to wriggle a leg free of their coils and kick them.

This wasn’t going to get easier, Eddie decided. This vampire was too far gone to be sensible or easy to handle, and meanwhile there was a victim right there who might need medical attention, or might need guidance through being turned into a vampire himself, and Eddie didn’t think Early would do anything other than put this feral one down. Everyone said she kept a tight rein on the vampires in town.

They shifted the coils constraining the feral vamp, sticking slightly to the vampire’s clothes where they were still damp with blood, and tightened them until they broke his neck. They probably broke his spine in several other places, but it was harder to be precise elsewhere on a humanoid body, and Eddie wasn’t really sure how much strength to use. At least overdoing it when you were trying to kill someone wasn’t a problem the way it was when you were only trying to restrain someone. They definitely broke his neck, anyway, and crunched some other bones in the process, and they couldn’t bring themself to care that much.

The man on the porch gasped a sobbing breath when Eddie dropped the feral vampire’s limp body. They started shifting back immediately, and had their legs back entirely by the time they were by his side, kneeling and pulling him up. “Is all that blood yours?” they asked. He shook his head weakly, staring at the body in the yard.

There was a wound on the back of his neck, and blood streaked his collar and down his shirt, but it didn’t flow anymore. Eddie bit their lip. “Can I check your mouth?” they asked.

He turned to face Eddie and let his mouth drop open. Eddie gingerly tugged on his jaw, avoiding the bloody finger smears where the feral vamp had gripped him, and saw blood in the corners of his mouth. They said, “You’ve had some of his blood.” He nodded, and Eddie dropped their hand. The new vampire looked back at the body of his–

Oh, shit, Eddie thought. Oh fucking hell. God, they hoped they were wrong.

“Do you have a cell phone?” they asked him. They’d left theirs at home, since it was off right now anyway, so at least it hadn’t been a casualty of their shift the way their jeans had.

“Yeah,” the new vamp said, quietly, and dug in the left pocket of his jeans. “You know what’s happening to me,” he said, holding the phone out to Eddie. It wasn’t quite a question but it wasn’t quite a sure statement, either.

“I do,” Eddie said, “and you’re going to be fine, I’m going to help you.” The vampire laughed, bitterly, as Eddie dialed the number. They’d never called it before, but they’d made sure to memorize it when they started living on their own. The local vampire leader was usually someone you wanted to be able to get in touch with during an emergency.

The phone was answered with a short, “What?”

“I’ve got a freshly turned vamp and a feral corpse here in the backyard of, um, probably 4350 or so Stillwater,” they said. “I followed some blood down the alley from Bouganvilla and found, um, a scene.”

“So we should go in the back too, huh. I’ll be there soon. Who is this?”

Eddie laughed. “No one,” they said. “Just a naga. I’ll stay with him until you get here.”

“What’s your name, Just A Naga?”

“Eddie,” they said. “Oh and, is there any way you could bring an extra pair of pants? Mine didn’t survive my shift.”

“Fine. On my way.” The phone beeped its disconnect, and Eddie set it down on the ground.

The new vampire was no longer staring at the bloody corpse in the yard. He was staring at Eddie’s mouth as they spoke on the phone, and then at their throat as they hung up. “I,” he said, looking pained. “I don’t feel…right.”

“I’m sure you don’t,” Eddie said. “First things a new vampire needs are a feed and a fuck,” they said.

They were going to go on, but the young man looked up at Eddie’s eyes for the first time and said, “Oh, would you?” As though it was some great gift Eddie was bestowing on him, and not an awkward necessity with little choice.

“Of course,” Eddie said. They’d been trying really hard not to look at his still-exposed and still-erect dick, because they didn’t want to look like a creep, or like they were desperate, which was still creepy in this circumstance, in their opinion. So they unzipped their hoodie and shrugged out of it to offer their forearm to him. “It shouldn’t be too hard to bite through the scales,” they said. The vampire looked at their arm, and back up to their face, like he was worried. “You can’t turn me,” they said. “I’m not human. And you can’t drain me, either, so don’t worry about that. If I start feeling weak, I can just shift again. I’ve got at least twice as much blood as it looks like.”

He flushed and looked down, at Eddie’s bare legs, and then quickly away, at the porch cement next to them. He said, “I was kind of hoping for…the other one.”

“Well, my plan was both,” Eddie said, “but I thought it might be easier to start with this one.” They reminded themself it didn’t mean anything to a fresh vamp, they were just convenient, and possibly moreso since they also had their dick out now that their pants were destroyed.

The young man bit his lip, and his canines were looking longer than they had just a few minutes ago. “Does it–usually feel good?” he asked. Well, he’d picked up on their train of thought easily enough, considering he had no experience with any of this stuff.

“People usually enjoy being bitten by a vampire, yes,” Eddie said. “It’s actually supposed to be sexy.”

He looked relieved for a second, and then anxious again. “So it’s not…weird,” he said, sounding unconvinced.

“It might take some getting used to,” Eddie admitted, because the turned monsters, the ones who’d grown up human, often complained about how difficult it was to adjust their whole worldview. “But it’s not unexpected.” They reached down with their other hand, took one of the vampire’s hands, and wrapped his fingers around their arm. “It’ll only get worse the longer you put it off,” they said, gently.

His fingers weren’t cold yet, but Eddie didn’t think they were as warm as they should have been. Though this man was already pale and skinny, so maybe that was another thing that had nothing to do with being bitten and just coincidentally fit the image. He glanced up at Eddie’s face again, nervous, before he bent over their arm. His breath was warm on the inside of their forearm, and his lips brushed over their scales before he closed the distance and bit down.

Eddie knew, intellectually, that part of a vampire’s powers went toward making bites appealing and enjoyable. They hadn’t been prepared, though, not really. His teeth bit through their scales, and they moaned and swayed towards him. He made a noise against their arm and put his other hand on their bare thigh.

Eddie had no idea how long it would take for Early to get there, although they didn’t think it would be very long, and no idea how long a fresh vampire would want to have sex, but they were pretty sure they were going to end up getting walked in on by the scariest woman in the city while they lost their virginity.

Oh Jesus, they were about to fuck this guy and they didn’t even know his name. He pulled his teeth out of their arm and licked the whole area clean, then repositioned his mouth over the wound and started sucking. Eddie tried to hold back their whimper, but it felt so good, it made all their limbs tingle, so they turned their pathetic noise into a question: “What’s your name?”

He licked and nuzzled at their arm before pulling away enough to look up and say, “Max.” His eyes still had their irises, and the whites of them were red from crying. If Eddie hadn’t been sure he was already turning, the unreasonably compelling gaze would have been a big sign. They wanted to take him home and lavish him with attention, maybe wash the blood off his face and change him into some cleaner clothes, tell him all about themself.

Max’s eyes dropped to Eddie’s mouth. He said, “Will you kiss me?”

Whatever, it didn’t really matter how much of this was or wasn’t Max’s vampirism, since that’s why they were doing it in the first place. Eddie leaned in immediately, pausing only to gently brace his chin again, and only thought belatedly, as their lips touched, about their blood in his mouth.

Max wrapped his arms around Eddie’s neck and pulled them onto his lap. They hardly noticed the scrape of cement on their knee because this brought their bare thighs together, and put Max’s still-erect dick close enough to warm their skin.

It was a sloppy kiss. Eddie didn’t have any experience to compare it to, but they could tell that much. Max didn’t seem to care, though, and Eddie was fine with it. It was passionate, anyway, or at least hungry, and it was nice to be wanted.

Max nipped at their lip, and they moaned into his mouth. He growled, and dropped his face to Eddie’s neck, and bit them there.

Being bitten on the arm had felt better than Eddie expected. Being bitten on the neck, where people were already sensitive, where people already kissed and bit each other, and where Eddie had skin instead of scales, was like discovering masturbation. “Oh my god,” Eddie said, and clutched Max tightly, digging their fingers in to his back. “Fuck, Max.”

Max shifted his weight, without letting go of Eddie’s neck, so Eddie had to shift their leg to keep them both from overbalancing, which pressed their thigh right up against Max’s cock. Max immediately started grinding up against them, making sounds against their neck but never letting his mouth move away from it. Eddie was starting to feel light-headed, but they didn’t think it had anything to do with blood loss. They pushed Max down so they could get their cock against his thigh, and Max moaned and finally let go of Eddie’s neck, letting his head fall back.

“I want you inside me,” he said, not making eye contact. He was flushed, and there could have been any number of reasons for that. “Please.”

“Mm,” Eddie said. They kissed Max’s neck. “I can do that,” they said.

“Please,” Max said again, and then pulled them in for another kiss. He didn’t bite them this time, but he did suck on their bottom lip a bit. Eddie wanted him to bite them, and they had no idea if that was the vampirism or if they were just into that. Max ran his hands down Eddie’s back, and grabbed their ass. Eddie moaned into Max’s mouth and canted their hips up; Max moved so Eddie was between his legs, and wrapped them around their hips. When Eddie let their weight settle back down, their cock pressed against Max’s and they gasped.

“Please,” Max repeated, lips still touching Eddie’s. “Please.”

“Yes, god,” Eddie said. They pulled away a little further, so they weren’t talking into Max’s mouth. “Just let me…” They had to reach down and adjust their dick, to get it in the right general area, instead of sliding against Max’s. Max reached down and grabbed his own thighs, pulling his hips up, granting better access. That was not a standard vampire thing, and Eddie wasn’t sure if a human back could generally bend like that, since they personally were somewhat more snake-like in the flexibility department. “God,” Eddie said again, when they found, by feel, Max’s asshole. They pushed in enough to not need their hand to steady and guide them, and braced it against the ground again.

Max was tight and dry enough that it was uncomfortable for Eddie. They supposed the feral rapist they’d dispatched hadn’t exactly gone out of his way to make things comfortable for Max. Max did not seem to be uncomfortable, though. He squeezed Eddie with his arms and his legs and said, “Fuck, thank you, thank you.” Eddie pressed in further, and Max tightened his legs around their hips, helping them along. Eddie bent down to kiss him again, and Max moved against them eagerly.

When Eddie started thrusting properly, Max moaned into their mouth and then bit down on their lip. He sucked on their lip as they moved in and out of him. “God,” they mumbled, speech somewhat slurred by how their lip was still being nibbled on.

“I know,” Max said, and kissed them again.

Eddie shifted their weight to one hand, and reached between them to grasp Max’s cock. Max groaned and said, “Oh, yes, please, yes.”

After a few minutes of this, thrusting against each other and stroking Max’s cock, Max came, splattering come on both of their shirts. Eddie started to pull back, and Max held them even tighter. “Don’t,” he said. “Don’t stop, I want–I don’t want you to stop.”

“God,” Eddie said. They braced both hands solidly against the ground again and let their face drop to Max’s shoulder. Max smelled like blood and sex and fear, and like something else. Himself, Eddie had to suppose. It shouldn’t have been such a nice combination, but at the moment, it was the best thing they’d ever smelled.

A second later, Max’s mouth was on his neck again, not biting this time, not yet, but kissing and sucking. Eddie groaned, and their hips stuttered against Max’s. “Do it,” they said. “Do it, please, bite me.” Max’s teeth sank into his skin a second later, and they almost felt like weeping. Max sucked and sucked on their neck, and now Eddie could feel the loss, like maybe they were getting to the end of what blood would be wise to lose, but they didn’t want to stop, not yet, not now.

They tipped over the edge and came, spilling inside Max, while Max lapped up their blood and held them close, and Eddie felt perversely glad this had all happened.

“All right, boys, you done now?”

Max started and all but shoved Eddie away. Eddie rolled onto their back and looked up at the source of the voice.

Assuming the woman in front of the other two people was Early, Early was actually much smaller than Eddie had been imagining her. She was short; her hair was braided neatly, not a hair out of place or a lock uneven; and she was dressed in head-to-toe black. Behind her was a slightly taller and significantly fatter brown-skinned person with bleached bangs and multiple facial piercings, holding a duffel bag, and a white man kneeling next to the body of the feral vampire, prodding it.

“I’m not a boy,” Eddie said, sitting up. Well, they’d been expecting this eventuality, they just hadn’t thought about pulling their dick out of Max’s ass in front of an angry Asian vampire.

Max scrambled to pull up his pants and underwear and sit up, flushed and transparently embarrassed. Eddie felt a little bad for not warning him more explicitly, and helped steady Max while he pulled his pants straight.

Early said, “All right kid, what’s your name?”

Max’s shoulders started creeping up. “Max,” he said.

“Alright, Max,” Early said. She sank into a crouch next to them and waved a hand at the person holding the duffel bag. They set the duffel bag down in front of Eddie and went over to join the other person at the corpse. “Did you know the deceased before today?”

Max laughed, the second time Eddie had heard him do so, and just as bitterly this time as before. “He was my father,” he said. “But I’m not sure I ever really knew him.”

God, Eddie hated that they were right about that. Early evidently agreed, because she grimaced. “Fair enough,” she said. “Is that blood he’s covered in yours, or did he attack someone else before you?”

Max shook his head. “My mother,” he said. “He–there was blood all over the house when I got there.” He looked down at his legs and clenched his jaw. Eddie reached over and took his hand, and wasn’t surprised when Max squeezed it hard enough to hurt.

“Alright, we’re gonna need your address too, then,” Early said. She looked at the house behind them. “No one home here, I assume, but we should probably get out of their yard before someone comes back.” She looked at Eddie and nodded toward the duffel bag. “There’s clothes in there for you.”

“It’s empty,” Max said. “It’s been for sale for months, that’s why I ran here to hide.”

Early looked impressed, marginally. “Well, that gives us a little more time. Good job.” She looked over at the other two and the body. “Eddie, I assume you’re the one who put him down?”

“I tried to restrain him, but he wouldn’t stop struggling and trying to bite me,” Eddie said. There was more than just one pair of pants in the bag, so they looked through to see if any of them looked like they’d fit better than the others. “I broke his neck, and probably several other bones.”

Early frowned. “Well, I can’t blame you for that,” she said. “It will make it harder to put together a cover story, but I don’t know if anyone will look too closely at a wife-murderer.” She turned back to Max and asked him more questions, about his family and his day, whether or not other family would get involved now that both his parents were dead. That kind of hurt to listen to, but Eddie made themself pay attention, since they were involved now too. They pulled a pair of gray sweatpants out of the duffel bag and draped them over their lap. Bit late to try to protect their modesty from anyone here, but it made them feel better.

Early reached over once Eddie was done digging through the bag and slid it in front of Max. “If you feel like getting out of those dirty clothes,” she said. “Won’t be stylish, but they won’t have blood on them. Oh, here, these are for you,” she said, and pulled a juice box and a packet of crackers out from under the clothes. She handed those to Eddie. “Speaking of you, what happened to your glamour?” she said.

Some nagas could get away with wearing just a wig and makeup, if their scales didn’t come up onto their face too much or they were a reasonable human skin tone. Eddie’s red-orange, white, and black stripes did not blend especially well with any human skin tone, and their scales came up under their cheekbones from the back of their neck. The orangey scales took makeup as well as any scales ever took makeup, which was not that well at all, but the white and black scales showed through everything.

They flushed. “I ran out,” they said. “I was actually in the neighborhood to get some more, but my supplier wasn’t home.”

“Hmm,” Early said disapprovingly. God, were they about to get a lecture about the importance of staying hidden from someone who obviously didn’t grow up a monster? Didn’t she know how expensive glamours were? “You two get dressed, I’ll be right back,” she said, and stood up. She walked over to where the other vampires were murmuring over the body, leaving them sort of alone.

Eddie wriggled into the sweatpants they’d taken out of the bag. They weren’t quite long enough for their legs, but that was fair. Pants hardly ever were. Max pulled a long-sleeved shirt out of the bag, set it on his lap, and started unbuttoning the shirt he was wearing. The front wasn’t too bad, but the back was smeared with second-hand blood from his attacker’s clothes, and the collar was a complete loss.

“Er,” he said, glancing at Eddie’s feet. “There are some sandals in here you might–no, I guess that wouldn’t really help.”

Eddie’s shoes and socks had been victims of their quick shift too, but they were less worried about someone noticing their feet weren’t normal. If someone wasn’t looking too closely, their feet just looked like flashy snakeskin boots. Of course, flashy snakeskin boots didn’t really go with the sweatpants and hoodie aesthetic, and their feet didn’t have boot heels or soles, so it wasn’t a great illusion. “Are there socks?” they asked. “Not that I’m eager to wear socks and sandals, but it would draw less attention.”

Max nudged the bag over to them. While Eddie looked through the nondescript shirts and sweatpants for socks, Max quickly pulled off his soiled shirt and pulled on the one Early had brought. His blush extended to his shoulders, Eddie noticed out of the corner of their eye.

There were some black socks rolled up in the corner of the duffel bag, so Eddie pulled them on, and then set out the sliders. They wondered if Early and company had driven here, and if they could get a ride, so they didn’t have to try and walk in these flappy sandals. They were a little smaller than Eddie’s feet, but unlike the other items in the duffel, these did not have alternatives.

Instead of making a decision or calling out to Early to ask for a ride, Eddie looked at the juice box. It wasn’t one of the fancy ones marketed for adults; it was a straight-up kids drink. It was just juice, no added garbage or anything, but it did have a cartoon apple with eyes on the box. They peeled the straw off the side and stabbed it through the top.

Max was looking at them, presumably because it was easier than looking at the people surrounding his awful father’s body. He didn’t seem to realize it until Eddie looked back at him. He looked away quickly, blushing again. Okay, now he wasn’t even looking at them, so it couldn’t have been a mesmer making them want to hold and comfort him.

They drained the juice box and crumpled it in their hand. “So, uh,” they said. “Sorry about not using a condom. I don’t usually carry them. But the good news is, since it was my first time, you shouldn’t have to worry about, like, STIs.”

“Oh, good,” Max said, and then, “Wait, do I still have to worry about that?”

“Honestly, I have no idea,” Eddie said. Vampires operated on a lot more magical basis than nagas did. If you ignored the shapeshifting, nagas were basically humans with weird skin issues, or very large and armed snakes. Granted, ignoring the shapeshifting was a silly thing to do in most circumstances, but they still had to eat and poop and get regular medical check-ups, which was difficult enough. Vampires operated on magic the second they started drinking blood. “But I figured I should tell you anyway.”

“That’s probably a good idea,” Max said. “Erm, you should be okay too, it was my first time t….” He looked over at the body. “Oh,” he said. “Wait.”

Eddie grimaced. “He didn’t exactly use a condom either,” they said.

“No,” Max said, still staring at the body. Early and her crew were still conferring over it, with phones out now, looking things up or taking notes. He said, “I guess you should probably get checked out. I…really don’t think I can trust anything I thought I knew about him.” He laughed, again a bitter sound. “I mean, I didn’t think much of him to begin with,” he said. “But I didn’t think he was a murderer. Now, I just don’t know.”

The white guy put his phone in his pocket and walked out of the yard. Eddie heard a car door open, which they supposed answered part of that question. Early put the phone up to her ear and started talking, and the last vamp, the one with the bleached bangs, came over to them. “Hey,” they said to Eddie. “So I’m supposed to give you the techno-coven’s info, but I can’t help but notice you don’t have a phone.”

“It’s at home,” Eddie said.

“What’s a techno-coven?” Max asked.

They shrugged. “Just a way to tell them apart from the covens who don’t trust the internet or whatever,” they said. “They should be able to get you glamours so you don’t run out. One of them’s working on enchanting jewelry to like, carry a permanent glamour, but I don’t think that’s working yet. And they’ll meet up with you or mail you stuff so you don’t have to come all the way out here. Like, it was good you were here, but.” They shrugged again. “So can I get your phone number and I can text you the coven’s info?”

“Um,” Eddie said. This was more embarrassing to them than three strange vampires seeing them pantsless, which was probably fucked up, but there you were. “My phone is off right now. I was saving the money for the glamours.”

“Hold up, they were charging you for the–I’ll be right back,” they said, and jogged back to Early. Early put a hand over the mic on her phone and frowned as bleached-bangs spoke to her.

The white guy came back through the gate, holding a vinyl or rubber bag. He shook it out next to the body and it revealed itself to be a body bag. He pulled a tarp out of it and tossed it over the body.

Early snapped something into her phone, then handed it off to bleached-bangs and dug in her pocket. She pulled out a wallet, and then pulled several bills out of that wallet, and traded those bills to bleached-bangs for her phone. Bleached-bangs headed back towards Eddie and Max as Early got back on her phone.

“Okay,” they said, holding out the money to Eddie. “For your phone and pants. Can you get your phone turned back on today?”

Well, the internet didn’t take cash, but Eddie could use their grocery money for the phone if they had cash for groceries. “Sure,” Eddie said, and their eyes widened as they realized the bills in their hand were fifties. This was, like, two hundred dollars.

“Awesome, I’ll text you the coven’s info tonight then. I’m Juniper, by the way, maybe save my number, I can deal with stuff for you if Early is busy or it’s stuff like yelling at witches for charging you for fucking glamours, which you need, I’m going to–” They cut themself off and took a deep breath. “Anyway if you could send me back the info for whoever you were seeing, Early wants to talk to them. How do you spell your name and what are your pronouns?” they asked, pulling out their phone.

“E-d-d-i-e,” they said, “they/them. Um, thanks for asking.”

“Nice, same,” Juniper said. They looked up from their phone. “You know, it seems like literally every vampire I know is queer, and I’m the only fucking one asking for pronouns and remembering trans people exist. Really obnoxious when I’m like, right there. So your phone number?” Eddie gave it to them. They tapped it in and said, “Great. So Max, do you have a place to stay tonight?”

Max frowned. “My apartment?” he said.

“Just wanted to make sure you weren’t going to be in your parents’ house,” Juniper said, putting their phone in a pocket.

Max shuddered. “No,” he said.

“Great,” they said. “Do you have roommates or do you live alone?”

“Alone,” Max said. “Why?”

“Just want to know if we need to help you lie to your roommate,” Juniper said. “I mean, presumably they’d just be a human and might, you know, notice that you’ve stopped eating, or that you have a bunch of behavioral changes that coincide with your parents dying.”

“I think behavioral changes after something like that is pretty normal,” Eddie said. They were pretty sure their behavior had changed when their parents died. They knew their sister’s had.

“Depends on the changes, doesn’t it?” Juniper said. “Anyway, we just want to be prepared. Well, and we want Max to be prepared. We try not to like, spring everything on a fresh vamp at once, but there’s some stuff you can’t put off. Forewarned is less likely to panic and do something stupid, as they say.”

“Right,” Max said faintly.

“So can I leave?” Eddie asked.

“No!” Max blurted, and then immediately blushed.

Juniper laughed. “I mean, if you’ll wait long enough for me to get Max’s phone number and address, you could take him home,” they said. “If that would be okay with you.”

“Erm, yes,” Max said, still red in the face. He glanced at Eddie. “I mean, if you…. You don’t have to.”

Eddie had a strong urge to say something flippant and cocky, like, “I didn’t save you just to let you get jumped on your way home,” and quashed it. God, they wanted him to like them so bad. He apparently already did, though, so maybe bragging was not the way to go. They said, “I mean, I’m sure you’re ready to get out of here too.”

Max was visibly relieved. Eddie tore open the packet of crackers while Max told Juniper his phone number and address. They were starving and downed most of the bag by just dumping it all in their mouth.

“Alright, then,” Juniper said. “You two should get out of here and like, relax. It’s way easier for us if y’all aren’t there when we stage the crime scene. Nice meeting you, sorry about your horrible father, congrats on the sex, et cetera.”

Eddie got to their feet, slipped their feet into the awful sandals, and helped Max up. He made a face and needed a second to adjust once he was standing. His first few steps on the patio were a little hesitant and awkward, which Eddie supposed was fair. Hopefully the vampire healing factor would kick in soon, although that wouldn’t exactly help with the way Eddie had come inside him. They made their way through the yard, past Early and the other vampires. The corpse was wrapped in the tarp now, and there was a bag of vomit absorber by the body bag next to it. Eddie was kind of curious about how they were going to clean up this yard and stage a crime scene, but not enough to hang around.

Max had told Early he drove to his parents’ house, so Eddie followed him once they got out of the alley. There were lights on in the house and people moving around. Max glanced at the house once, then steadfastly ignored it, and unlocked his car. The inside of his car was clean, way cleaner than Eddie’s sister’s car. He plugged his phone into the aux cord apparently automatically and put on some music, then hurriedly turned it down. “Sorry,” he muttered. As he buckled his seatbelt, he asked, “Where do you live?”

“I thought I was supposed to be making sure you got home safe,” Eddie said, smiling.

Max blushed again. Eddie wondered if he would be glad when he stopped being able to do that, or if he would miss it. “I mean, you don’t–if you want to–“

Oh, he thought they were flirting. Well, they were, a little, but they hadn’t meant it like that. Not that they were opposed to going home with him. “Well,” they said, “I meant that literally, but I wouldn’t be opposed to having sex again. I think I’d need to get real food first, though.”

Max smiled at them, then quickly looked away. “I have food at my place,” he said. “I…don’t know if I still need to eat real food.”

“You don’t need to, but you can have a little,” Eddie said. “I’ve heard it’s kind of like lactose intolerance.”

“Then I guess you should feel free to have anything you want out of my kitchen,” Max said. He picked a bit of fuzz off the steering wheel cover. “I mean, if that’s okay.”

“Sounds good to me,” Eddie said. “I’ll start with the most perishable items and go from there.”

Max smiled at them, like he wasn’t entirely sure if they were joking but he thought it was funny. “Okay,” he said, and turned the key in the ignition.

He didn’t live far; about halfway between the suburban neighborhood they’d met in and Eddie’s apartment. It was on a direct bus line from Eddie’s place, even, which Eddie did not mention out loud, because they were definitely getting ahead of themself now. The neighborhood was very busy, unlike Eddie’s neighborhood, but Max didn’t wave or say hello to any of the people on the street or in the courtyards next to the sidewalk as they walked from the parking lot to his building. Well, it was probably good for adjusting to being a vampire that he didn’t seem to have close real-world connections, but it wasn’t the most cheerful idea in the world, that he’d left what sounded like an unpleasant home life with his parents to become socially isolated.

Eddie followed him up two flights of stairs. They noticed, for the first time, that Max had a very nice, shapely butt. They had already been inside that butt, they thought, and immediately flushed even though no one was looking at them.

Max unlocked his apartment door, and ushered Eddie inside. He was also blushing again, or still, which made them feel better. He’d said he was a virgin too, until today. He didn’t have any more experience inviting someone over for sex than Eddie had going to someone’s house to hook up. They were probably a pair of dorks, Eddie thought.

“So, er, kitchen’s over here,” Max said, gesturing. “Help yourself. I’ll just be right back.”

Eddie kicked off the sandals next to the door and pulled their hood off their head. It was really still too warm to wear a hood out, but they didn’t have much of a choice when they didn’t have a glamour.

They went to the kitchen. Max’s kitchen was well-equipped with pots and pans and utensils, but less equipped with actual food. The freezer was full of pre-prepared food and snacks, and the fridge mainly had sandwich supplies, condiments, and juices. Eddie looked through the cupboards and had a little more luck. Admittedly, none of it was actually the perishables they’d joked about using up, but freezer meals didn’t usually fill them up after a full shapeshift. They started a pot of water boiling and got a smaller saucepan for the sauce. Max didn’t have any thawed meat they could use, apart from sandwich meat, which Eddie unfortunately knew they hated the texture of in pasta, but he did have some microwavable chicken nuggets in the freezer, so they pulled those out.

Eddie had just put noodles in the boiling water when Max walked into the kitchen again. “Oh,” he said. “You’re really cooking.”

“I like to cook,” Eddie said. They added, a little apologetically, “And this way, I actually get enough to eat.”

“I guess I did say to make yourself at home,” Max said. Eddie looked over at him. He’d changed his shirt again, into another button-up. Probably changed his pants too–Eddie would have–and almost certainly put on a clean pair of underwear. He’d washed his face and neck, so he didn’t have dried bits of blood on him anymore. Eddie couldn’t say he was really handsome, but he was cute, in his awkward discomfort. And he was willing to have a snake person in his bed, which was more than they could say about anyone else in their life so far.

“Don’t worry,” Eddie said, turning back to the counter, “it won’t take too long.”

“Oh no, I wasn’t worried,” Max said. “Take as long as you need. I’m…er.” He finished speaking in a mumble, “Enjoying the view.”

He sounded like he had never tried to flirt before. It was extremely cute. Eddie didn’t see how it could be true, with them in high-water sweatpants and no glamour to hide their scales, but it was nice of him to say.

They put their sauce ingredients in the saucepan. At least they were using up some milk, which was definitely perishable.

“So you said you work from home,” Eddie said, stirring the ingredients together. “What do you do?”

“Programming, mostly,” Max said. “And, er, digital security consulting. Sometimes.”

“That sounds like a fancy way of not saying what you do,” Eddie said. They glanced over their shoulder at him. “Not that you have to tell me, I’m just saying.”

Max smiled. “No, it’s okay,” he said. “It is, er, it’s a nice way of saying companies pay me to see how easy it is to hack into their systems.”

Eddie laughed and said, “Well, I can see why you wouldn’t just say that.” They looked at the chicken nugget package to check how long they would take to cook, and start planning when they needed to start them.

“What about you?” Max asked. “What do you do?”

“I am an overnight cashier at the illustrious Qwik Mart convenience store,” Eddie said. The stirred the noodle pot a little, then went back to stirring the sauce.

“Ah,” Max said.

“I know,” Eddie said, “it’s not as exciting as hacking for good. I did once foil a robbery by not realizing they were trying to rob me.”

“I don’t know,” Max said, “given how often I want snacks at two or three in the morning, I think you’re doing important work.”

Eddie shrugged. It kind of bothered them that they couldn’t get a better job, but it was a fair point that somebody had to do it, if they wanted a society where people could buy things in the middle of the night. It just sucked to sit around and get misgendered all night, and not even make enough money to reliably keep their phone on. But they did need a job where people didn’t touch them, since the glamours didn’t hide the feel of their scales, and that limited their prospects. People actively tried not to pay attention to them at the convenience store. They said, “It could be worse.”

“I mean,” Max said, after a pause, “the only reason I got my job is because I robbed a bank when I was seventeen.”

Eddie laughed. “You don’t have to try to make me feel better,” they said. “Really, it’s fine.”

Max was silent. Eddie glanced over their shoulder and he looked mortified.

“Oh my god,” Eddie said. “You really robbed a bank?”

“Well,” Max said, relaxing a fraction, “I fraudulently transferred a lot of money into my account. And then withdrew it as cash.” He scratched at the tabletop, though there was nothing Eddie could see on it. “Since I was only seventeen, and homeless, I got a really light sentence. And a job offer, to make sure other people couldn’t use the same methods I did.” He looked up at Eddie through his eyelashes. “I literally couldn’t do your job,” he said. “I’d probably have a mental break.” He frowned, and said, “I’m going to have to find a new therapist, aren’t I?”

“Almost certainly,” Eddie said. The odds that his existing therapist just happened to know about magic already were not good.

“Shit,” Max said.

The sauce was smelling really, really good. God, Eddie was hungry. They ran a spoon through the noodles and decided those were ready enough to come off the heat. They turned down the heat under the sauce while they got the chicken nuggets ready to go in the microwave.

A few minutes later, they piled a bunch of chicken nugget alfredo into a large bowl. It wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t technically an alfredo, but they’d made meals out of worse and less harmonious components. They’d almost never made a sauce with proper cream, and chicken nuggets were far from the shittiest meat they’d ever mixed into pasta.

They took off their hoodie before they started eating. They only took a couple of bites before they noticed Max was staring at their arms. They smiled and said, “Easy, tiger. I gotta finish eating before you get another bite.”

Max blushed. “That’s not–I wasn’t,” he said.

“Mm, if it’s the other one, you definitely have to wait until I’m finished eating,” Eddie said.

Max kept blushing, and averted his eyes, rather than say anything else. Damn, he was cute.

It was not hard to eat quickly, because they were starving. They stopped short of licking the plate clean, and stood to put the dishes in the sink. As soon as they turned toward the sink, though, Max said, “Oh, leave it.”

Eddie wanted to tease him about his eagerness again, but the way he looked at them while they ate, and the way he was still looking at them when they dumped their dishes on the counter and turned around, made them entirely willing to skip to the sex as soon as possible. They were already getting hard again, which was going to be embarrassingly noticeable in these borrowed sweatpants in about ten seconds.

As soon as Max saw Eddie wasn’t bothering with the dishes, he walked out of the kitchen and down the hall. Eddie followed him into his bedroom. They didn’t bother to look around, because Max was standing next to his bed and already taking off his shirt, and what could possibly hold their attention compared to that?

Max looked up when he got his shirt off, and swayed closer to Eddie, who was already standing quite close to him. He didn’t look quite as dangerously thin without his shirt on, because it was obvious there was at least some muscle preventing him from being skin and bones. He was so pale that his sparse chest hair stood out by contrast, and Eddie felt a completely irrational surge of jealousy. Maybe it was a different feeling they were misidentifying, because they had actually always been quite thankful to not have much hair on their skin, especially their chest. They didn’t exactly have the leisure of puzzling that emotion out, because it seemed very important to kiss Max again, so they did.

Max once again threw his arms around Eddie’s neck with abandon as soon as they were kissing. Eddie put their hands on his hips and pulled their bodies together, and was gratified but not especially surprised to find they were not the only one already hard again.

Eddie had no idea how long they stood next to the bed kissing–long enough for them to get light-headed again, though honestly that might have been instant for all they cared about the passage of time at the moment–but eventually Max tugged them onto the bed and rolled on top of them. With Max grinding against them like it was his job, the sweatpants without underwear situation became uncomfortable. They didn’t bother to pull away from Max’s mouth, just shoved at their waistband until the sweatpants rolled far enough down their hips to free their dick.

Max broke the kiss, breathing heavily, and sat up to unbutton his pants. Eddie took the opportunity to pull off their shirt and tossed it blindly to their side, hopefully off the bed but most importantly out of their way. Max had to get off Eddie in order to pull his pants off, so Eddie went ahead and wriggled the rest of the way out of the sweatpants before kicking them away. As soon as Max laid back down next to them, Eddie pulled him in for another kiss.

Without clothes between them, Eddie couldn’t stop their hands from exploring Max’s body. Max did not seem to mind. He shivered under Eddie’s touch and pressed closer to them. He hooked a leg around their thigh and pressed as close to Eddie as possible.

Once again, Max was the one to break the kiss. He only pulled away enough to say, “Can you, erm.” He looked down at their mouth, red in the face. “Fuck me again?”

“God, absolutely,” Eddie said, and leaned back in to kiss him.

Max moaned into their mouth and slid his hands down to their ass. He pulled them against himself, and the feeling of Eddie’s dick pressed between their bodies was going to render Max’s request unfillable if they kept going. At least for a little while.

They pushed Max onto his back and rolled on top of him. He moaned into their mouth and quickly wrapped his legs around Eddie’s hips. Eddie had to pull away then, because they could and would come just like that if they didn’t move, and reached down to line things up. It took almost no effort to slip inside Max again. “Oh God,” Max breathed, letting his head fall back. “That feels so good.”

“Good,” Eddie said, then Max pulled them back into a kiss. The kiss was sloppy, but Eddie loved feeling Max’s moans and groans and other small noises against their lips and tongue. They thrust in and out of him slowly, because once again they hadn’t used any lube except what was already there–which wasn’t inconsiderable, this time, because Max’s insides were still slick with their come from earlier–and Max didn’t seem to be quite as desperate as before. He was eager, but not writhing against them with the urgency he’d had before.

One of Max’s hands slid down Eddie’s body to their ass again, and squeezed. They groaned into Max’s mouth as their hips jerked, and Max said, “Fuck,” against their mouth, and squeezed Eddie’s ass with both hands.

They slammed into him, snapping their hips forward as he practically kneaded their ass with both hands. Neither of them were saying words anymore, just making breathy noises when their bodies met. Max groaned and clenched his hands tight, pressing his nails into Eddie’s ass hard enough to hurt. He came, splashing hot semen onto Eddie’s stomach, and his ass tightened around Eddie’s cock. It didn’t take much of that to push Eddie over the edge too, and they came inside Max for the second time that evening.

They slumped onto him, and he nuzzled their neck. He kissed and nipped at their neck and shoulder while they lay on top of him for who knew how long. Finally, concerned about the odds of them being glued together by Max’s come on their stomachs, Eddie pulled away from him and pulled out.

“Eugh,” Max said.

“Sorry, I should’ve–asked, or pulled out, or something,” Eddie said.

“No, it’s fine, I–” He blushed. “I think I like it,” he said. “It’s just, when it’s over, you pulling out feels. Weird.”

“Like pooping,” Eddie said.

“Kind of, yes,” Max said. He rolled onto the side facing away from Eddie and pulled some tissues from a box on the bedside table. They were the nice kind, soft and lotion-y so they didn’t rub your nose raw when you had a cold. They always seemed like the height of luxury to Eddie, not only using actual dedicated tissues for blowing your nose instead of a roll of toilet paper, but getting the nice ones. Max wiped up the mess on his stomach and dropped the tissues over the side of the bed, presumably into a trash can because Eddie could not imagine him letting anything rest on the floor of this tidy apartment, and grabbed some more before rolling over. “Here,” he said.

Eddie took the tissues and wiped themself up. They’d waited slightly too long, content to be nuzzled by the man they’d just fucked, and the come was already sticking to their skin and tearing the tissue with its resistance.

“Er,” Max said while Eddie attempted to clean up, “do you know if…I mean if I can still eat, do I still need to–to poop?”

“I think that’s a question for another vampire,” Eddie said. “I haven’t heard that many details.”

“Right, sorry,” Max said.

“You don’t need to apologize,” Eddie said. “I mean, god, you didn’t even know about any of this before today.” They finally gave up on getting themself any cleaner and held up the soiled tissues. Max took them and dropped them into the trash as well. “But speaking of your completely revamped digestive system–uh, pun not intended–do you need more blood?”

Max grimaced and looked up at the ceiling. “You’ve already lost a lot of blood for one day,” he said.

“If you don’t mind doing it while I’m all snaked out, I’m sure I’ll be fine,” Eddie said.

“Oh,” Max said. “Right, you said something about that. Erm, maybe you should sit on the floor though, I don’t know if my bed can handle fifteen feet of snake m–person.”

“That is a good point,” Eddie said. They rolled off the bed and walked over to sit in front of Max. Yep, there was the trash can, between the bed and the bedside table. The room was otherwise clean; there wasn’t even anything on the floor under the table. They shifted as they sat, coiling their tail around them so they weren’t just surrounding the bed. They only remembered at the last second to be self-conscious about it; they hadn’t ever shifted in front of someone who wasn’t themselves a shapeshifter, except for emergencies like that afternoon. Their back was to Max, so they couldn’t even see his reaction.

Max’s cool hand brushed the back of their neck. “That’s so cool,” he said. “I bet you’d be fantastic at gymnastics.”

Eddie laughed, and Max’s hand pulled away. They twisted around, still smiling, and said, “I wasn’t expecting that reaction. To be honest, I’m kind of out of practice at shifting and moving at the same time.”

“I guess I don’t know any better,” Max said, “but you looked pretty graceful to me.” He reached out and brushed his fingers against their throat, one of the few places their scales didn’t completely cover even when they were like this. He ran his fingers over the transition between skin and scale. “Does it feel different?” he asked.

“A little,” they said. “I don’t know if I could explain it.”

Max withdrew his fingers and sat up. Eddie pulled more of their tail under them so they were closer to his height, since Max didn’t seem to mind them like this. He asked, “Do you care where I bite you? It didn’t seem like it left much of a mark for very long.”

“You can bite me anywhere,” Eddie said, and Max caught their eye a moment before looking away and blushing. God, they hadn’t meant for that to sound so suggestive. Their brain helpfully supplied the fact that an important artery was in the inner thigh, along with an image of Max kneeling between their legs and biting them, and they were glad they had just come and also currently had internal genitalia.

He leaned over them, pressing his face to their shoulder again. He took a deep breath, and murmured, “You smell so nice. I wonder if you would have smelled so nice before.”

Eddie had no idea what the answer to that was, but it didn’t seem like Max really expected a response. He switched to the other side of their neck and ran his lips along it. Eddie shivered. They didn’t have much of a chance to savor the feeling of Max’s lips brushing their neck, because he bit down, and that pretty much overwhelmed everything else Eddie was feeling.

Max hummed, as though Eddie were really delicious. He pulled his teeth out, and Eddie felt, for just a moment, their blood dripping down their neck. Then Max was back on them, sucking hard. Eddie whimpered and slumped a little bit, but they had piled their coils in such a way they couldn’t slump far enough to slip away from Max’s mouth. They might have been out of practice at maneuvering their entire snake body but thankfully the muscle memory of how to sit up securely remained. God, it felt good. If Max kept that up for long, having just come and being snaked out weren’t going to be enough to keep them from getting hard again.

Max licked up and down the spot where he’d bitten them, and pulled away. Then he said, “Dammit.”

“What?” Eddie asked. They looked up at his face, and he was blushing again.

“Er,” Max said. “I appear to be, erm.”

A quick glance down confirmed their suspicion. They smiled. “It’s okay,” they said, “I could probably go again if you want.”

“Really?” Max asked, incredulous.

“I mean, I’m young and I just lost my virginity, so yeah,” Eddie said. “Plus the bite.” They thought back to what they’d told Max about being a vampire. “Uh,” they said. “I guess I didn’t mention it before, but, vampires have pretty high sex drives. It’s kind of all tangled up with the feeding.”

Max stared at them, wide-eyed. “You mean this isn’t temporary?” he asked. He looked kind of…horrified. Which was not great for Eddie’s self-esteem. They told themself it had nothing to do with them, it was about being turned, it was normal and fine for a new vamp to be upset or confused about their sudden change in circumstance. It only kind of made them feel better.

“No, sorry,” Eddie said. “I think it’s strongest right after turning? But vampires agree they’re hornier after they’re turned than before.”

Max whined. Then he said, “Sorry, sorry, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, you’ve been wonderful, it’s just. I’m asexual? Or I was?”

“Oh, shit,” Eddie said. “Um, I’m sorry.”

Max flopped backward onto the bed. “I wish you hadn’t killed my dad,” he said. “So I could murder him.”

“I don’t know that that would help,” Eddie said.

Max sighed. “No, it wouldn’t. It probably wouldn’t even make me feel better.” Eddie slithered up onto the bed enough to lay down next to Max. Most of their length was still coiled next to the bed, and they figured the bed had taken their whole six-foot human body earlier, so the four or so feet currently on it would be fine even if their tail was heavier than their legs. Max took a deep breath. “If you hadn’t been there,” he said, and stopped. He bit his lip like he didn’t want to say the rest out loud. Well, Eddie could hardly blame him.

“Sometimes people go bad when they turn,” Eddie offered. “Or like, worse. Some people think most of the ones who go bad were already pretty bad.”

“My dad certainly was,” Max muttered. Eddie wasn’t sure what they could say about that. Max had not been as confused or surprised to find out his father was capable of both murder and rape as Eddie thought most people would be. They weren’t about to apologize for killing him, even if they maybe should have felt more conflicted about killing a person. He didn’t sound any better the more Max talked about him.

“Okay, but you didn’t,” Eddie said. “Whatever you did, or would have done, or whatever, you obviously didn’t lose it the way he did. I know things have changed and it’s going to be hard to get used to, but you’re still you and not a slavering monster.”

“You didn’t know me before,” Max said, and it didn’t sound quite like a joke.

“You cannot expect me to believe this is the slavering monster version of you,” Eddie said, and Max laughed. It wasn’t quite as bitter as his previous laughs had been, although it wasn’t exactly the sound of delight and mirth Eddie wanted to draw out of him.

“I guess not,” he said. He took another deep breath, and let it out slowly, through his mouth. “Thank you,” he said.

“You’re welcome,” Eddie said. “And like, I know we just met, but I’d be glad to stay in touch so you have someone to talk to. Or, um.” They made themself add, “Bite. Or fuck.”

“That would be really nice,” Max said, and smiled at them.

*

The revelation that being turned into a vampire may have permanently altered Max’s sexuality pretty much killed the mood, and talking about his murderous rapist of a father didn’t help any. By wordless agreement, they got dressed, and Max drove Eddie home. They had his phone number folded up on a piece of paper in their pocket, and they told him to text any time he needed to talk. Max blushed when he said he would, and Eddie couldn’t help leaning in to kiss him again.

As soon as they got home, Eddie kicked off the awful sliders they’d been wearing, pulled off the hoodie, and went to make some more food. They turned on their phone while they ate. The first message they got, barely ten minutes after they reactivated their service, was about the techno-coven, so they saved that number as Juniper’s and sent back a, >thanks, got it. The second message was from Max, and it read, >This is Max. Fuck but he was cute. They sent back a smiley, so he’d know they got the message.

When they were done eating, they called the number Juniper had given them for the coven.

The person who picked up was very chipper and sympathetic, and offered to send someone over tonight with an emergency kit. It wouldn’t last very long, but it would let Eddie work tomorrow’s shift.

Eddie went ahead and texted Juniper that they had made arrangements for glamours, and Juniper sent back a thumbs up emoji. Then they asked Eddie for the contact info for the person that had been charging them for glamours. Eddie sent them the info they had and tried not to feel bad about getting them in trouble, since by Early and Juniper’s standards, they had apparently been taking advantage of Eddie.

The courier from the coven showed up an hour or so later. She was a tall white girl with wavy light brown hair who introduced herself as Melody, and she took notes in a cute spiral notepad while they talked about what Eddie usually needed and how they liked their hair to look.

She took out the kit and laid out the glamour components. In Eddie’s experience, every magic user did things a little bit differently, but they’d gotten a lot of glamours over the years, so they recognized most of the pieces. “So I said on the phone this won’t last long,” Melody said. “It should get you through like, a work day, but maybe don’t activate it until you’re about to leave, in case you need to run errands after work or something. Do you work the day after tomorrow, too?”

“Yeah.”

She pursed her lips. “Okay,” she said, “if it’s okay with you, someone will bring over the next batch tomorrow night too. After that, we can mail you charms so you don’t have to go pick them up or be at home to meet someone.”

“That would be great,” Eddie said.

“Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?” she asked, frowning a little.

“I guess not,” Eddie said, though they were always a little trepidatious when a stranger who knew they were trans said that.

“If you like the look of long hair, why don’t you do a wig on top of a glamour?” she asked. Eddie relaxed. “I mean, we can make a glamour look pretty good, but we can’t really do the feel of it convincingly.”

“Um, I don’t know,” they said. “I always worried about it like, coming off.”

“I mean, there are ways around that,” she said. “Glues might not work great on your scales, but there are tapes and headbands and things. And then you could wear it in different styles without it being a hassle. Or it being a different kind of hassle, I guess, depending on the wig.”

Being able to wear their hair down or in fancier up-dos than just a ponytail was very tempting, though wigs also cost money. Would Early also subsidize wig-buying? “I guess I can look into it,” they said.

“One of us could help you set it up,” Melody said. “And by one of us, I really mean me, not that there’s anything wrong with any of my colleagues’ taste, but they are mostly middle-aged parents. Or they don’t do the community stuff, like, I’m sure Shoba’s taste is fine, but she’s really a research witch.” She waved her hand over the spell components in front of her, and said, “Sorry, I’m babbling. I get excited about makeovers.” She twisted a bunch of the parts in front of her together. “Would you rather have a necklace or a bracelet? For now, I mean, it doesn’t have to be jewelry for the more long-term charms, but this is kind of a limited deal.”

“Whatever’s easiest,” they said. Melody grinned and pulled a roll of leather cord out of her skirt pocket.

Melody handed them the glamour charm once it was strung and asked them a few more questions about what would work for them. Picking something based on convenience or preference was foreign to Eddie; they’d always just gotten the cheapest option. They didn’t even have to carry a charm with them, evidently. Melody suggested a piece they could leave at home and invoke with an incantation, so there would be no chance of losing it or dispelling it on accident. Eddie hadn’t even known that was possible.

She gave Eddie a little pamphlet before she left, which was a contact list for the coven. It also had Juniper and Early’s numbers on it. They could see it was bespelled, somehow, and assumed non-magical folks would see a takeout menu or something else inconspicuous.

They wondered, as they made themself a sandwich after Melody left, if their parents had known this kind of community. Had they had this and never got around to teaching Eddie and their sister about it? Or had they not known this was out there? Had it been, before cell phones and the internet?

They wondered if Lily knew about all this. She would have told them if she did, right? Sure, they hadn’t really talked much since Eddie moved out, but she wouldn’t have let her baby sibling keep struggling to pay for glamours if she knew there was a better way, would she?

*

Eddie was not really supposed to use their phone at work, but they were the only one working, it was 4 AM, and there were no cameras, so they were cycling aimlessly through their almost entirely dead social media when they got the text from Max.

>Hey, it read. >Are you at work? Did you get your glamour thing figured out?

>yeah, the witch juniper told me to call set everything up. how are you doing?

Max texted back almost immediately, which wasn’t that surprising. There was, after all, nothing else to do. He didn’t even have a job with set hours or anything. >I’ve been better, but I guess I’ve probably been worse, too.

Eddie almost asked him how he had ever been worse, but then they remembered he said something about being homeless while he was robbing banks, and deleted what they had typed. They wondered if his horrible dad had something to do with the homelessness, and decided probably. Before they figured out a different thing to say, though, they got another message from him.

>I was wondering when you get off work and if you’d like to come over

Eddie’s stomach flipped over and they smiled at their phone. They typed, >vampire sex drive making you crazy?

>God yes, Max replied, followed immediately by, >I don’t know how people do this.

>my shift ends at 530, they sent him. >idk how long it’ll take to get to your place on the bus from here, though

>I could pick you up, if that isn’t too weird, Max sent back.

>you would have to be much weirder for me to turn down a ride, Eddie told him. >getting picked up to get laid is more like full service than weird

>Okay, tell me the address.

Eddie never had cause to find this out before, but the last hour and a half of their shift somehow managed to go by even more slowly than ever before when they knew that they were going to get laid afterwards. At least the guy taking over from them showed up a few minutes before 5:30, so they didn’t have to worry they’d need to stay late and make Max wait. It did mean ending the night with some misgendering, but it wasn’t like that was new.

Eddie walked out the front door after their shift ended, because waiting in the parking lot was kind of preferable to talking to Jeff, just in time to see Max’s car pull in to the lot.

“Hi,” Eddie said, opening the car door.

“I like the hair,” Max said, and then blushed for some reason. He looked, if anything, even more tightly wound than when they met. Well, if he hadn’t fucked anyone else, he was probably painfully horny. Since it was so soon after he was turned, he might need to feed again already, too. That turned Eddie on almost as much as him picking them up for sex, and okay, maybe that was a little freaky, but they were a fucking monster so surely they of all people were allowed to be freaky.

“So did you get to talk to Early?” they asked while they buckled up. “Or Juniper, or whoever?”

“Yeah,” Max said, “Early came over yesterday with a checklist and some business cards. Apparently vampires have a lawyer, but not a therapist.” He sighed, and looked over his shoulder as he put the car in gear. “I mean, I guess if I didn’t already have a lawyer,” he said while he started driving, “I would need help with all the inheritance stuff. It still seems ridiculous to not have dedicated health professionals, especially therapists, when getting turned into a vampire seems pretty stressful.”

“If not traumatic,” Eddie said.

“Exactly,” Max said. “Oh, and she told me the wonderful news that medications just mostly don’t work on us, as far as anyone can tell, but since I didn’t completely lose my mind when I was turned, I’m probably going to be stabilized at more or less where I was, mentally. Probably being the operative word, because no one actually knows anything for sure. So I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t forget my meds yesterday, or I could be dealing with potentially-an-eternity of mood swings, vertigo, and good old-fashioned panic attacks.”

“Health care is kind of the weak point for monsters in general,” Eddie said. They hadn’t been to a doctor in years, because there was no way a halfway competent medical professional would miss the many indications they were not a standard human. “Sorry.”

“I guess it could be worse,” Max said. “I mean, ‘probably stable’ is about as good as my psych ever said it would get for me.”

“I think ‘probably stable’ is the best anyone can realistically hope for,” Eddie said. “People just kid themselves otherwise.”

Max sighed again. “I know,” he said. “But I’m really going to miss the certainty of being able to just take a sedative if it gets too bad.”

“You could probably have someone else take a sedative and drink their blood,” Eddie said. “I know that’s how some vamps get drunk.”

Max frowned. “That seems like it would be really bad for the other person’s liver. I mean, taking medication they don’t need.”

“You could ask someone who does need it?” Eddie suggested, though it didn’t seem exactly practical.

“That is still far less convenient than a bottle of pills,” Max said. He sighed again. “I’m sure I’ll be fine,” he said. “Early didn’t seem worried. It’s just, you know. I usually do.”

Eddie reached over and patted his leg, which made Max smile and then blush again.

Max’s apartment was less than ten minutes away from the store, at least by car, so they were there quickly.

“Do you want something to eat?” Max asked as they climbed the stairs to his apartment door. “I haven’t thrown anything out yet.”

“I would love to eat,” Eddie said. “I don’t really get a real break when I’m the only one working. I microwaved a burrito for lunch.”

Max let them into the apartment, and Eddie grabbed his arm. Max looked up at them, confused. Eddie leaned in and kissed him. “Thank you for picking me up,” they said when they pulled away.

“No problem,” Max said, not making eye contact. He was blushing again.

This time, Eddie opted for one of the microwave dinners in the freezer. They kind of didn’t want to spend too much time attending to their body instead of Max’s.

Max sat and watched them eat again. He still looked slightly dazed from their kiss, which was very cute and flattering. He said, “It’s so weird to see you like this. Your arms look so weird without your scales.”

Eddie glanced down at their arms. “I mean, this is what I usually look like when I leave the house,” they said.

“Yeah,” Max said. “But I’ve never seen it before. And I mean, after seeing you the whole way, erm, shifted, it’s hard to imagine you looking like this most of the time.”

Eddie finished eating and followed him into the bedroom. Max all but pushed them onto the bed and climbed on top of them, which made Eddie’s stomach do a pleasant flip. Being over six feet tall meant they hadn’t really expected to ever be manhandled, but Max was almost as tall as them, and delightfully single-minded. Well, he would be, if this was the first time in his life he’d really had an active sex drive.

He put his cold hands up Eddie’s shirt as he kissed them, and the kissing was nice enough to distract Eddie’s sensitive snake instincts from the cold. He would warm up as they moved. He would warm up faster, Eddie thought, if he bit them.

Max leaned back, to unbutton his pants, and Eddie took the opportunity to ask, “Do you want to bite me again?”

Max blanched, but only flushed the tiniest bit. “I don’t have to,” he said.

“Let me rephrase that,” Eddie said. “I want you to bite me.”

“Oh,” Max said, and blushed a little darker. “Well. Yes, then.”

Eddie wriggled out of their shirt with Max still straddling them, and as soon as they lay back on the bed, Max bent over to bury his face in their neck. He ground his erection into Eddie as he nuzzled their neck. They went ahead and slid their hands into the loose back of his pants and grabbed his ass. He moaned into their neck and rubbed against them. Eddie had never heard of any other vampire taking time to sniff and nuzzle their food, but Max had done it every time so far. Not that Eddie minded. As far as they were concerned, he could nuzzle and sniff and take all the time he wanted.

Max kissed their neck, then sucked at it a bit. Eddie was anticipating the bite so much they gasped when Max finally sank his teeth into them. It was the other side of their neck, this time, and it hurt less than before. It still hurt, of course, but only at a level they found sexy, probably not much more than it would hurt being bit by a human. Max moaned against their skin again and jerked his hips against Eddie’s. They were already so hard it was uncomfortable. They should have taken their pants off as well. In fact, why had either of them bothered keeping clothes on at all?

Max pulled away just enough to murmur, “You taste so fucking good,” his lips still brushing wetly against Eddie’s neck, and then immediately returned to licking and sucking at the bite.

He stopped before either of them came in their pants, but it felt like a near miss. Eddie’s entire body felt sensitive and hot by the time Max pulled away. They pushed Max off them and skinned out of their work pants as fast as they could. Max followed their lead, and took off his shirt as well. When they were both naked, Eddie rolled on top of him and kissed him.

Max’s mouth was sweet and coppery, the way Eddie remembered their own mouth tasting when they were a kid losing teeth. They hadn’t thought about being able to taste their own blood on his mouth, since they hadn’t noticed yesterday. It wasn’t as gross as it maybe should have been, but then, that made sense, didn’t it?

Max spread his legs and hooked his ankles around Eddie’s legs. They were growing more sure that Max was more flexible than the average human, although they still weren’t sure if that meant anything. His cock dragged against Eddie’s, then slotted next to it, sandwiched between their bodies. They moaned, and Max wrapped his arms around their waist. He rolled his hips, and their cocks slid against each other.

Max nibbled at their lip, and Eddie took the chance to pull away and ask, “Uh, do you have any lube?”

Max blushed. It was much redder than his blush had been before he fed. “Er, yes, but I don’t need any. Any more, I mean.”

It took Eddie’s addled brain a moment to work out what that meant. “Oh,” they said. “You…?”

“I was m-masturbating,” Max said, not quite making eye contact with Eddie anymore. “I mean, it’s why I texted you.”

That made sense, but Eddie hadn’t even thought about the possibility. Now they doubted that image would ever leave their brain, Max opening himself up while he jerked off, growing frustrated and texting Eddie to ask for sex. God.

Or maybe he hadn’t gotten frustrated. Maybe he’d just wanted more and thought of them. Maybe he hadn’t stopped to text them, just kept going with one hand and typed with the other.

“Shit,” they said. “Do you want–can I–?”

“God, yes,” Max said.

It was much easier to slide into Max’s ass with actual lube. It was hot and tight and Max threw his head back and groaned.

Embarrassingly, it took less time this time than either of the times before. Maybe Eddie’s nerves had been keeping them from virginal premature ejaculation. Or maybe it was how they’d been thinking about this for the last hour and a half, and had time to get themselves all worked up. Max didn’t complain, although he hadn’t come yet, but Eddie would be willing to bet Max would have to be coaxed into admitting anything was wrong. They leaned down to kiss him, and then kissed their way down his neck and chest as they pulled out. His cock twitched a little, right before Eddie got their mouth on it, like Max had just now realized what they were planning to do.

Max’s cock was leaking and salty with pre-come. He smelled like he’d already come today, so Eddie supposed he hadn’t cleaned up between finishing and going to pick them up. Fuck, that was hot. They took his cock in their mouth, and briefly wondered what they were supposed to do next. They thought back to the blowjobs they’d seen in porn and concentrated on the ones that had looked like they actually felt good, as opposed to being for the camera. Their brain interjected with the thought of Max grabbing their head and fucking their face, which they didn’t think was terribly likely, but was really compelling. Something to suggest, maybe, if Max wanted to keep fucking them. God, they hoped he’d want to keep fucking them.

Max’s cock had not seemed so large in their hand, or against their hip, but it felt huge in their mouth. They wrapped one hand around the base of it to make it seem more manageable. It was an improvement, but they still felt like this was the closest they’d ever come to unhinging their jaw. Which was ridiculous, of course, because nagas had distinctly humanish jaws, and also Max’s cock wasn’t very different in size from theirs, and couldn’t possibly be thick enough to need that.

Their jaw got tired before Max came, so they were mostly giving him a spit-slicked handjob with occasional licks to keep everything lubricated by the time he finished. They weren’t surprised when he came, but somehow they hadn’t realized that, with their relative positions, he’d be coming on their face. They jerked back, and then laughed at themself.

Eddie cleaned themself up with the tissues from the bedside table, then went ahead and cleaned Max up too, because Max seemed spent and dazed, and then flopped on the bed next to him.

“That was nice,” Max murmured.

“Yeah,” Eddie said. They rolled over to put an arm around him, then paused, arm hovering awkwardly between them. “Um, can I….”

Max glanced at them and looked surprised. He blushed as he said, “Please.”

So Eddie threw an arm across his chest and snuggled up to his side, and did not notice when they started to doze.

*

Eddie woke up because they had to pee. Max was still sleeping, though he’d rolled over to hold onto Eddie as much as they were holding him. He made an annoyed noise when they pulled away, but didn’t wake up.

After they peed, they realized they were hungry. They went back to Max’s bedroom to put on their work slacks, and went to the kitchen to make themself something.

They spent a good minute staring at the fridge and wondering if there was anything special Max would like before they remembered that Max didn’t need to eat. Would he still enjoy it, or would he think it was a waste? Given that Eddie had no idea what he liked anyway, they gave up and just made themself a couple of sandwiches, since the bread would definitely get moldy faster than a lot of the other things would spoil.

Eddie’s phone wasn’t actually very good for looking at the internet. It was too old and slow, and half the sites they used wanted you to download their app instead, and they didn’t have room for apps. It was better than nothing, but maybe not as good as, like, an actual book or newspaper.

By the time they finished eating, it was almost their bedtime. They doubted they’d be able to fall asleep right away if they tried now, and they’d kind of been hoping to get a ride home from Max. The thirty-minute bus ride wasn’t awful, as bus rides went, but a ten-minute car trip was preferable.

They went back to the bedroom to finish getting dressed, and saw Max was awake, lying on his side and looking at his phone. His phone was much nicer and newer than Eddie’s. The screen was huge. He could probably download all the apps he wanted. Well, he was a computer guy, wasn’t he; he probably needed a nice phone for work or whatever.

He looked up at Eddie when they walked in, and smiled. “Hi,” he said.

“Hi,” they replied.

“Can I give you a ride home?” Max asked, as Eddie bent over to pick up the rest of their clothes.

“That’d be great,” they said. When they stood up and dumped their clothes on the bed, they noticed Max was still looking at them, smiling almost absently. It was an absolutely affectionate look, and their heart flipped over in their chest. “What?” they asked, not able to keep themself from sounding defensive.

“You’re pretty,” he said.

They looked down at their arms, although they knew perfectly well that the glamour had worn off while they were napping. “If you say so,” they said.

“You are,” Max said, blushing a little. “I did like the hair, though.”

Eddie pulled their shirt on over their head. “Yeah, that’s the one thing I think I’d want even if I didn’t have to worry about the scales. Like if everyone knew about monsters, I’d still want a hair glamour or a wig.” Max nodded. They sat down on the bed to put on their socks and shoes. Max threw the covers off and started collecting his clothes. The hair on his head was dark and thick, but the scattered hair on his chest and arms was sparse enough that it didn’t really soften his paleness so much as disrupt it. He had a very thin little happy trail marching its way from his navel down to his pubes.

Eddie couldn’t say they would have looked twice at Max if they’d passed each other on the street. Not that they looked at many people when they were walking around, but–with his clothes on, the most descript thing about Max was probably his height. They were glad they hadn’t met in a normal course of events, so they hadn’t had the chance to miss this.

Max drove them home, and managed to sound almost casual when he said, “So could I text you again? For–this?”

Eddie wanted to reassure him with a kiss, but he was driving. “Sure,” they said. “Any time. Or I mean, probably not the blood-drinking part. I need time to make more.”

“Yeah,” Max said, blushing again, but he was smiling.

*

Max seemed much more comfortable talking via text. Through the day, while Eddie slept, he sent Eddie funny things that happened to him, or that he found in his work. Not conversation starters, but reminders that he was thinking of them. It was nice to wake up to.

They continued, intermittent buzzes from Eddie’s phone as they got dressed and made themself breakfast and gathered up their dirty clothes to put a load of laundry in. Probably the only thing this apartment had going for it, apart from how it was cheap and close to the store, was the in-unit laundry. It was loud and meant Eddie didn’t have a linen closet, but they didn’t have to go to a laundromat and worry about glamours and which clothes were clean. 

They jumped when someone knocked on the door and scrambled to grab something with long sleeves and a hood to put on. Hopefully, it was one of the witches dropping off their glamour for tomorrow, but just in case it wasn’t, they put the hood up before they answered it.

“You must be Eddie,” said the woman on the other side of the door. She was short and fat and Melody had been right, Eddie would not particularly want her help with a makeover. Not that she didn’t look good, but she had a much stronger “suburban soccer mom” vibe than Eddie would really want for themself. Though an actual witch going for the “hippie who’s really into crystals” look was kind of cute, in an ironic way. Although they doubted she was going for the irony vibe on purpose. They nodded, and she smiled at them. “I’m Karina; I work with Melody,” she said.

“Come in,” they said, and she did, making immediately for the kitchen table. They closed the door behind her, and followed her. She was already pulling things out of her tote bag and setting them on Eddie’s table. They were a series of little drawstring bags that looked like they had maybe been in one of those occult shops in the past, next to a big bin of polished rocks. They didn’t quite match, but they were all about the same size.

“So,” Karina said, setting a final bag on their table, “these are all single-use glamours, just like the one Melody gave you yesterday. They’re in separate bags so you don’t get them confused or try to use one twice, and so the spells don’t get tangled up. I assume you’ve used enough glamours in your life to know to keep the components separate.” They nodded. “This should get you through the next two weeks. We should have something more permanent for you before then, but better safe than sorry. The ones in the green bags should have a longer shelf life, so use those last. They should still be working for about three months, if you need them. The other ones will probably only be good for two weeks, maybe a little more. I mean, you should be done with them well before that, but just in case. Do you have any questions, dear?”

Eddie shook their head. “I think that covers it,” they said.

She leaned back and looked up at them. “You know,” she said, “I see why you go for the long hair, dear, I bet that looks just wonderful with your bone structure. You can call any of us if you have any questions, or just text Melody. I’ve got to head right back out, but it’s been wonderful meeting you and I’m sure we’ll see each other again.” She headed past them to the door, and reached up to pat their shoulder as she left.

“Thank you,” Eddie said, as Karina opened their front door herself.

“Oh, of course, dear, I’m just sorry we didn’t know you needed help sooner,” she said. “You have a good night now!”

Eddie locked up behind her, and checked the time. They would have enough time to move a load to the dryer before they had to leave for work if they started it right now, so they hurried to do that.

The texts from Max trailed off after Eddie got to work, which was okay, since the day shift hadn’t faced or cleaned the store at all, so they had work to do besides sitting bored at the counter.

By the time Jeff came in, Eddie was back to being bored. They were scheduled with an overlap today, so someone could man the register while the other one took the fridge delivery. Eddie did the delivery while Jeff sat at the register on his phone. They came back to grab their bag and say goodbye.

“So what’d you do yesterday after work?” Jeff asked, looking up from his phone. “I saw you got picked up.”

Eddie’s face heated. “Uh, yeah,” they said. They adjusted the strap of their bag. “Hung out. You know.”

“Please, dude, you were not ‘hanging out’ at five-thirty,” Jeff said, smirking. “Was that your boyfriend?”

Well, he hadn’t been openly homophobic, so Jeff was already surpassing Eddie’s expectations. “We haven’t really talked about it,” they said.

“So you got picked up for a five AM booty call,” Jeff said, looking kind of impressed. “Nice.”

Eddie wanted to argue with that, but there wasn’t really good grounds for it. Honestly, Max had texted them to see if they’d come fuck him, then picked them up and they’d had sex. That was pretty much the same as a booty call.

“I guess,” they said.

“You know,” Jeff said, “I kinda wondered why you never talked about dating. Like, I’m not gay but I got eyes, you know? I couldn’t get why you didn’t have chicks lining up to talk to you. Or dudes. Or both.”

This was a whole lot of personal shit they didn’t want to get into with Jeff, of all people. They said, “I gotta catch my bus, have a good shift,” and all but ran out the door. Not their smoothest exit, perhaps, but….

They hated it when people said they were attractive while they had a glamour on. It was like, they should have been hot, and were, if only they concealed what their literal skin and body was like.

Max had called them pretty when the glamour wore off. Maybe that was bias, since Eddie was the first and only person he’d had sex with, or fed from, but even if he didn’t really mean it, at least it was actually about what they really looked like. He’d been looking at them, not the glamour.

They caught the bus home, thanked the bus driver when they got off, and walked up the stairs to their apartment. Max hadn’t texted after about two a.m. They wished he would, then realized they were being silly and started a message to him.

>my coworker asked if you were my boyfriend, they wrote out, and then deleted. That felt like coming on too strong, even if they didn’t mean it to be about starting the conversation about dating. And what if Max was asleep and the first thing he saw when he woke up was that, and he panicked and never talked to them again? If there was one thing Eddie felt they could be sure about Max on the basis of three days’ acquaintance, it was that he was the kind of person who panicked and did drastic things.

It would be nice to have a boyfriend, though. And they thought it would be nice if that boyfriend was Max. They liked him, he seemed to like them, they already knew they were physically compatible, and neither of them had to lie about magic or monsters. But that was definitely something Eddie couldn’t just decide on their own.

They settled for sending him a text that said, >work sucked, hope your night was better, and turned their text notifications off so they wouldn’t obsess about it until he texted them back.

*

He’d fallen asleep, apparently. Max said he’d never had a very regular sleep schedule, since he mostly worked remotely, and Eddie imagined it would only get worse now he’d been turned and sunlight was less than pleasant.

It wasn’t quite to the level of hurting vampires, but Eddie had heard about vamps who always wore sunglasses because they were just too sensitive to full daylight. The sun did also cut off most of their powers. A vamp wouldn’t be able to mesmerize someone in full daylight, or shapeshift (if they were strong enough to be able to shift in the first place, which not many were); even their hunting aura, the air of attractiveness that was meant to lure in prey, was weaker in daylight. In daylight, they looked like the vitamin-D deficient humans they were no longer, with about as much ability as one. Which was certainly better than bursting into flames or turning into dust, but not terribly conducive to staying on a diurnal sleep schedule like most of the rest of the world.

>I do feel like I sleep better now, he texted them. >IDK if that’s just because of less anxiety or what.

>i’ve never heard of vampires having super-sleeping, so that might be the answer. >or maybe you had some undiagnosed sleep disorder that got magically fixed >i know some people have gotten turned to cure illnesses before!

>I guess there has to be some kind of upside.

>what, learning that magic is real isn’t enough of an upside for you? Eddie typed out, and was just about to hit send when they realized that was probably an insensitive joke to make. The cost had been pretty damn high for Max. His shitty dad was no great loss, but he had avoided talking about his mom in a way that Eddie thought they recognized from when their own parents died. Plus he had to find a new therapist with severely limited options, and he hadn’t seemed thrilled with the idea of a higher sex drive. Eddie held down the delete key until their thoughtless message was completely erased.

Before they could think of something less insensitive to say, they got another message from Max. It read, >Not that meeting you doesn’t count as an up side! Fuck, he was so cute, what the fuck. Eddie had to throw themself onto their bed and squeeze a pillow to deal with it. Which made them feel a little immature, but whatever, it wasn’t like anyone could see them.

When they were calm enough to type, they picked up their phone and sent, >flatterer. That didn’t feel like quite enough, but they had no idea what kind of phone Max had, and some emojis looked so different on other phones, they didn’t want to risk it. Which probably meant they were overthinking things, because what kind of risk was a misunderstood emoji? By the time they convinced themself to chill out, they had another message waiting.

>Are you working again tomorrow?

>yeah, i work every day until thursday. at least i get two days off this week.

>Would you be interested in coming over again? I could pick you up after work tomorrow.

>sure, sounds good, Eddie replied.

They yawned, looked over at the alarm clock next to their bed, and realized it was getting close to their bedtime. Their thoughts drifted back to what they’d been doing earlier. Ugh, they hadn’t finished the dishes; they’d checked their phone and saw Max had texted them back and stopped halfway through. The sink was still full of dirty dishes and gross water. Eddie sighed and went to finish those up before going to bed.

*

Eddie woke up before their alarm because their phone was buzzing with a string of text notifications They squinted at the screen, since it was too bright for their eyes compared to their blacked-out bedroom, and saw they were all messages from Max. They scrolled through, with Max sending more faster than they could read the ones already on their phone.

>So, I do kind of need to tell you something, the first one read. >It’s not bad! the next one reassured them, which made Eddie smile. >I just think you should know, since you offered to have sex with me again. >I know this is not sounding less like it’s bad I’m sorry I’m bad at this >I’m gay, and apart from you, I’ve only ever been interested in men. Which since I’m also (was also?) asexual, is ~1.5 people, but still. >I know we haven’t really talked about it, but you did say you weren’t a boy, so I thought you might like to know. >Sorry, I know you’re probably asleep, but I just realized it never came up and you might not want to have sex with someone who is primarily(?) attracted to men.

This was Max with his anxiety under control? Stalling a little for time as they tried to wake up enough to figure out how they felt about all that, Eddie asked, >how can you be into .5 of a person?

Max responded immediately, because of course he did. Clearly no one had ever taught him to silence his phone and go do something else to calm down. >My friend told me it sounded like I was describing a crush but I never noticed on my own. I’m not sure if I should count it.

>fair enough, Eddie sent. They had to think a little, to get the wording of their actual response right, then replied, >i appreciate you letting me know. it doesn’t bother me if it doesn’t bother you. >i did notice you catch yourself and purposely not say “man” at least once, which helps a lot tbh?

>Oh thank God, Max sent, followed almost immediately by, >I was really not looking forward to trying to find someone else willing to have sex with me. Since it doesn’t seem optional anymore.

>well i don’t think it would be that hard, but i am glad to take that burden off your shoulders. Eddie glanced up at the time in the corner of their phone screen, and grimaced. There was only half an hour until their alarm went off. They stared at the clock long enough for it to tick over into the next minute, and admitted to themself the extra twenty-five minutes of sleep wouldn’t help that much, then sighed. They got out of bed to make themself breakfast.

They’d need to go grocery shopping on their days off. With the trip to the suburbs for glamours and then the whole thing with Max, they hadn’t ever gotten to the store, and now they were really scraping the bottom of the pantry for things that would actually give them enough energy to make it through till their lunch break. Not that there was anything really stopping them from snacking at work, but everything at work was junk food, since it was a convenience store, and Eddie really didn’t want to make their own problems worse by eating expensive garbage all the time when it was such an ordeal to find a safe doctor to go to.

That was probably something Juniper or Melody could help with, they thought. God, knowing magical people who weren’t their sister could be really, really good. They shut the fridge and quickly typed up a message to Juniper. >hey, do you know of any monster-safe doctors? or know who’d i’d talk to about finding one? >not urgent, it’s just been a really really long time since i saw anyone

They used up all the rice they’d made yesterday cooking enough fried rice to get them through work. Max texted halfway through, to check what time their shift ended. Eddie was almost finished eating when they got a reply from Juniper.

>i think there’s a pre-med elf up at the university, and i know the elf village knows a magical transition specialist. i’d have to ask around about a qualified gp, though.

Eddie had not been thinking at all about medical transition, since they’d always assumed it was far out of reach for someone who couldn’t even safely go to an emergency room, but they had to admit Juniper had gotten their attention. >magical transition specialist? they asked.

>yeah, apparently it’s not easy per se, but do-able. i think it only works for binary people though. >at least the 2 elves i know who did it that way are binary, they kind of swapped assignments. it’s super stealth, evidently.

>huh, Eddie replied. >not helpful for me, but interesting.

>you might have better luck asking someone who still needs healthcare, but i’ll ask around, Juniper sent.

Work was uneventful. The overnight shift at a convenience store tended to be. Of course, when it was eventful, it was really eventful, but most nights it was just waiting around not doing much in between the occasional night owl stopping by for snacks. The store wasn’t even attached to a gas station, so there were times it was completely dead for hours at a time.

A little over an hour before their shift ended, Eddie checked their phone and saw they had a string of messages from Juniper. >okay so there is a siren with a family medical practice in lawrence kansas and a witch doctor in maryland >witch doctor meaning a doctor who is also a witch, sorry >the only local option is a werewolf veterinarian, which sounds sketchy but apparently other shifters usually love her >her website says she got special large animal training which is hilarious >anyway no one i talked to had any idea how much impact your snake form would have on your human form but it’s probably not zero >i can get the vet’s number if you want it, or i can talk to early about money to go out of state >oh and there’s a healing spring up by the elf village, which isn’t exactly preventative medicine but. you know. good to know about.

>give me the vet’s number i guess, Eddie replied. At least she’d have some kind of medical training. Maybe she could give them an informed opinion on whether or not they should go to Maryland or Kansas to see a human doctor. Fuck, they knew they had a better sense of smell than a normal human, and were sensitive to cold, but they hadn’t really thought about how snake features might affect their health. A doctor trained on humans might not know what was normal for a naga, even if they knew about magic.

Okay, well, that was a worry for future Eddie and their veterinarian, apparently. They’d at least taken some steps, right? That was better than nothing. And the vast majority of people had lived without modern medical care, and they’d been fine. On average. God, trying to take care of themself sucked. Maybe the elves had the right idea, just live near a magical healing spring. Except as far as Eddie knew, the elf village didn’t get internet or phone reception, which wouldn’t have sounded that great to them even before they had someone to text all the time.

Jeff came in a few minutes early, but immediately headed to the employee bathroom and stayed in there until like twenty seconds before they were supposed to change over. It wouldn’t have been so annoying if Eddie didn’t have to pee themself. But he came out, wiping his hands on his pants, and Eddie grabbed their stuff to go clock out before hitting the bathroom themself.

As Eddie was walking out, Jeff leaned over the counter to peer out the door, and asked, “Is that the same guy picking you up?”

They hadn’t realized Max was already here, but there his car was, right outside the door. Eddie blushed and said, “Yep.”

“Have fun,” Jeff said, smirking.

Eddie fled.

“Oh,” Max said, when Eddie opened the passenger door. “That was fast, I thought I was early.”

“You were perfect,” Eddie said, and then blushed again. They turned to yank the car door closed behind them, which they didn’t really need to look at, but it turned their face away from Max and let the glamoured hair hide them.

“Good,” Max said, sounding like he was also embarrassed. Pleased, though, which was good.

In Max’s apartment, Eddie once again did a pass through the fridge and pantry to find food. They tried to focus on perishable goods, but they also couldn’t help noticing some of the food Max had was stuff they would get if they went shopping. “Um,” they said, looking at several boxes of noodles that were not perishable but were a staple they were out of at home. “I know you said something about throwing out stuff you couldn’t eat, but–“

“Oh!” Max said. “Yeah, if you want to take some home with you, that’s better. I was thinking about taking some of the stable stuff to a food pantry or something, but if there’s anything you could use, feel free.”

“Awesome,” Eddie said. “I kind of didn’t go grocery shopping on my last days off, so. I’m running low on some stuff.”

“Oh,” Max said, sounding kind of put out. “That’s my fault, isn’t it.”

“Well, I don’t think I’m the first person to throw over errands for sex,” Eddie said. They glanced over their shoulder at him, and yeah, he looked down. “Max,” they said. He looked up at them. “I really would rather fuck you than go grocery shopping.”

He turned faintly pink and looked away again, but looked much less upset at himself.

They made themself dinner, and while it was cooking, pulled things out of Max’s cupboards. Max went out to his car, and brought in his reusable grocery bags, and started packing them with the food Eddie pulled out. Eddie interrupted him to kiss him, and almost burned their dinner when they got carried away.

Eddie scarfed their food down. Max packed some more food while they did so. He wasn’t blushing that much, but Eddie thought that might be more because he needed to feed again than anything else. As soon as they were done eating, Eddie dumped their dishes in the sink and pulled Max into the bedroom.

They made out for a while, then Max pushed Eddie onto their back. His eyes were slightly blacker than a human’s could get, though not all the way. He asked, “Can I bite you again?”

“Please,” Eddie said, turning their head to expose their neck.

It almost felt even better this time. If Eddie’s dick hadn’t already been as hard as it could get, that would easily have gotten them there. Max ground his thigh against it as he sucked on the punctures he’d put in their neck.

He reached between them to unzip his pants and get his dick out, and tugged Eddie’s shirt up enough to rub his dick against the skin of their stomach. Eddie was not expecting it, and their hands spasmed on Max’s back. “Oh, fuck,” they said. Max scraped his teeth against their neck again. Eddie moaned. “Uh,” they said, between heavy breaths, “I know we haven’t talked about it, but. If you wanted to be on top sometimes, I would. Like that. Especially while you bit me.”

Max pulled back. His eyes were completely blacked out now, shiny and inhuman. Eddie shivered and pressed their hips up against Max’s leg. “Oh,” he said. “But I’ve never done that.” Immediately he flushed and–well, it was actually hard to tell, with his eyes all black, if he actually averted his gaze. Eddie assumed so, since he turned his head when he blushed. “Of course I’ve never done that, you know I’ve never done that; you’re the only person I’ve ever had sex with,” he muttered.

“I’d never done it before we met,” Eddie said, which was just as inane as what Max had said. “But if you don’t want to, it’s fine, I just thought–“

“It’s not that I don’t want to,” Max said, looking back them. His face was only a little less red, but his eyes were still completely black. He said, “I just–hadn’t thought about it.”

“Maybe I shouldn’t have brought it up in the middle of stuff,” Eddie said.

Max kind of groaned and laughed at the same time. “I’d probably be too embarrassed to talk about it if we weren’t,” he said.

Eddie smiled. “Well,” they said. “Maybe you can think about it for a while.”

Max made a choked noise and swooped down to kiss them, hard enough to mash his teeth against their lips. Objectively, it wasn’t very sexy, but Eddie did get a thrill out of Max losing control like that.

With Max’s dick leaking onto their abdomen, Eddie couldn’t stand how clothed the two of them otherwise were. They fumbled with the buttons on Max’s shirt and yanked it down his shoulders, then wriggled out of their own shirt. They had to break apart and resettle themselves in order to get both sets of pants off. Max didn’t climb back on top of them when they were both naked, instead rolling onto his side and pulling Eddie onto their side facing him. He did slide one hand down to grab their ass. It was difficult to take that as any kind of rejection, even if Eddie did like having Max on top of them slightly more than they liked having him next to them.

Max fitted their hips together so each of their dicks was pressed against the other’s hip. He pressed his face against Eddie’s neck, making them tip their head up so he could fit under their chin. He scraped his teeth along their throat, not biting through or breaking the skin. Eddie’s breath stuttered, and they were sure Max could feel the way their hips jerked against him. Max rolled his hips against them, and then, speaking with his lips still pressed against the skin of Eddie’s throat, said, “I think I would like topping you. Not today, though.”

“That’s fine,” Eddie breathed. They hadn’t really been thinking about it before they said something, after all. Sure, they had kind of vaguely assumed if they were ever with a guy, they’d be the one bottoming, but that had been before Max had all but begged them to fuck him in the ass.

Max slid a hand between them and wrapped his chilly fingers around Eddie’s cock. Lips still on the skin at the base of Eddie’s throat, he said, “Now that I think about it, we’ve just been doing what I asked for.”

His hand felt so much cooler than Eddie’s skin, which was burning up. The fact that Max’s hand had undoubtedly been even cooler before he had some of Eddie’s blood was kind of mind-blowing, because his fingers were just this side of warm enough not to flinch away from. It was clear, from the first awkward moments, that Max had never had anyone else’s dick in his hand before, but he found his stride quickly enough. Eddie swallowed, feeling some kind of way about the way Max would be able to feel that against his lips, and said, “It’s not like I minded.”

Max only made a noise in response to that, which was fine, because between his rutting against Eddie’s hip and his hand on their cock, Eddie didn’t exactly feel up to conversation. After a few minutes of Max breathing heavily against their neck, he pulled back enough to let Eddie lean in and kiss him again. He bit their bottom lip, not quite hard enough to make them bleed, and they moaned into his mouth.

He did end up pushing Eddie back onto their back, and laying partly on top of them. He got them both off with very little help from Eddie, whose head was swimming. Max didn’t seem to mind, rubbing his own cock against Eddie’s hip while he stroked their cock and kissed them. He did push himself up, off their chest, and stop kissing them after Eddie came, seemingly so he could see the mess he’d made of them while he finished himself off. He shot his load on their stomach, and if Eddie hadn’t already come, they definitely would have at that. Evidently, they liked the way it felt to have Max rub up against them and get them messy.

Max leaned down, carefully not pressing up against all the come smeared on Eddie’s lower body, to kiss them once more. Then he flopped over to lay next to them once more.

“That was nice,” Eddie said.

“Good,” Max said, smiling.

After a minute, he rolled over and grabbed some tissues. He offered them to Eddie at first, and then got embarrassed and started cleaning them up himself. Eddie said, “You don’t have to.”

“I don’t not have to, either,” Max said, blushing. He wasn’t even looking at their face, he was looking at what he was doing, wiping up their lower stomach and hip with an inefficient wad of tissues. “I’ve just been letting you take care of everything.”

That was true, Eddie supposed, but like they’d said about the sex: they hadn’t minded. It had been a stressful few days for Max, and Eddie had after all been getting laid and fed for their trouble.

It was nice, though.

Max threw away the soiled tissues, but it looked like he still wanted to say something. Was this a consequence of trying to take care of them, or not getting comprehensively fucked? He rolled onto his side facing Eddie, and plucked at the bed sheet with his fingernails. He said, “So, er, it occurs to me I should maybe have asked you about some things.”

“Oh?” Eddie tried to think of anything magic-related Max might still need to know from them. He had other vampires to consult on vamp-specific stuff; they weren’t sure how much more they could tell him.

“Yeah,” Max said. “Like. Erm. If there are any words you’d rather I not use. For you. Or parts of your body.”

“Oh,” Eddie said. They smiled, because this was still Max being anxious about having sex with a trans person. They bet he’d done research while they were at work, about how to be a good ally or whatever. “Um, I guess I haven’t thought about it that much,” they said. “I wasn’t expecting to lose my virginity last weekend any more than you were.”

“Right,” Max said. “Of course. But. If you think of something, or. I say something and you don’t like it, you should let me know.” He laughed and said, “I don’t know what I’m doing, and I don’t want to be awful to you on accident when you’ve been so wonderful to me.”

Eddie turned over to face him, and pulled Max’s chin up so they could kiss him again. When they pulled away, they said, “Thank you.” Max blushed and immediately looked down at the bed. They said, “I mean, you already picked up on the most important part. I’m not a man, or a boy. I don’t…I guess I wouldn’t like it if you called me handsome. Um. I liked when you called me pretty,” they admitted, feeling silly. Of course they’d like being called pretty, who didn’t want to be called pretty?

“Okay.” Max nodded. “Good to know.” Slowly, he reached out to put his fingers on their stomach. “So. You probably wouldn’t want to be someone’s boyfriend.”

Eddie’s breath caught in their throat. “Um,” they said. “In the sense of that being the word they used, no. But that’s purely a terminology issue.”

Max didn’t immediately respond to that, which was nerve-wracking. He was still resting his fingertips on Eddie’s stomach, and looking at where he was touching them rather than at their face. After a second, he said, “Sorry, I–it’s a good thing I can’t throw up anymore.” He laughed awkwardly, then looked up at them and asked, “Erm, would you want to date? Me?” He squeezed his eyes shut. “I don’t think I’m doing a good job, but I’m trying to ask you out.”

“Yes,” Eddie said. “I mean, yes I noticed that and also yes I would like to go out with you.” They leaned in and kissed him again, since it seemed both appropriate and like something they were both more comfortable with.

Max did relax against them, but it was difficult to kiss him when he was smiling as widely as he was. When Eddie gave up and pulled back, they said, “The other day my coworker asked if you were my boyfriend, and it was really weird when he decided I was actually a booty call. Even though I was.”

“Oh my God,” Max said, and laid down to press his face into Eddie’s neck again. “It was, wasn’t it.”

“At least the next time he asks about it, it won’t be,” Eddie said. They put their arm around his waist.

“Mm.” Max tugged them down, so Eddie was laying down properly instead of propped up above him, and snuggled in closer. He said, “So you established you didn’t want to be my boyfriend, but you didn’t say what I should call you instead.”

“Ah, yeah,” Eddie said. “Um.” They weren’t opposed, exactly, to some of the gender-neutral alternatives they’d seen to “boyfriend” and “girlfriend”, like “datefriend”. They said, “If you don’t mind it, I think I’d rather be your girlfriend.” They forced themself to choke down the “Is that okay?” they immediately wanted to add.

“Okay,” Max said, and kissed their throat.

“Are you sure?” Eddie asked. “I mean, you said you’re gay.” Why were they trying to talk him out of this when this was what they wanted what was wrong with them?

Max nipped at the skin of their neck. “Eddie,” he said. “Do you want to be my girlfriend?”

“Yes?”

“Then I want you to be my girlfriend.” He kissed the spot on their neck he nipped a moment ago. “I like you,” he murmured.

“Oh,” Eddie said. “Okay.”

Max nuzzled the skin of their neck. “God, you smell so good,” he said. He wriggled against them, and then sighed. He leaned back and lifted his head to look at them. “This is ridiculous,” he said, blushing again. “Is this really what allosexuals are like?”

“I think wanting to have sex with someone who just agreed to date you is pretty normal,” Eddie said. They slid their hand down Max’s back to his ass. “I wouldn’t mind.”

“Of course you wouldn’t,” Max muttered, but he was smiling. He leaned in and kissed them.

 

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9 thoughts on “Our Bodies, Our Scales

  1. yayyyyyyy!!! scary then sweet! I love the pair of them tentatively getting to “are we…… maybe…….dating???” when it’s like, friends. beloveds. you spend like 20% of every day fucking and the other 80% overthinking each other’s texts. you’re obsessed with each other.
    I really appreciate how much thought you always put into your world-building and the nitty-gritty details of how each character negotiates this universe, and also how blushy Max is. Every time Eddie was like ‘wow he’s so cute’ I was like yes. correct. i agree.

    • just two insecure fools doing things out of order and being like “oh no we’re off script i don’t know how to deal with this”

      I’m so glad you liked it! and agree that Max is cute. important takeaway from this story tbh.

  2. I was so excited to see more lorebuilding for the monster universe!! I love these protags. Eddie is great and I especially love the little terminology talk at the end.

    • I’m glad someone else is enjoying monsterverse bc i sure do have more in the works! it’s almost like i made this stuff up specifically for dramatic porn purposes or something, haha!

      as someone who is very much Not A Girl but has exclusively dated lesbians for ten years now, it felt important to include but also important to have it be, like, not a big deal. sometimes it’s not a big deal! but it’s still important to talk about and make sure.

  3. I like the unusual way these two got into a relationship — sex as a necessity first (with roughly 10000% emotional baggage), THEN work out all the other bits. And they’re adorably awkward about it! I’m glad we got to see Eddie getting some pressure eased off their life, with the glamours and potential access to healthcare. Early on they seem like a really sweet person worn down by a bad situation largely due to “the world will be shitty to you if they find out,” which, augh, my heart. Not to mention the heap of BS Max has to deal with! I definitely closed the story with a strong feeling of “I’m rooting for you!” and then I saw your author’s note about how fast they’d U-Haul, and cracked up. It feels right.

  4. Well would you look at that, it’s more monsters with complicated personal lives. I was wondering if this was connected to some of your earlier pieces, and then the details began piling up and the lightbulb went on making it very clear that yes, it’s a brand new take on this setting, and with a naga, to boot! The matter-of-fact way you introduced elements of Eddie’s species into the narrative helped answer questions I had about them without bringing the story to a crawl; there was always an appropriate reason for them to be thinking about these things, which made it feel much more natural than the Speculative Fiction Sin that is “let me infodump at you, it’ll only take a few chapters.” Seconding the person who mentioned how nice it was seeing Max walk through his attraction to men and seeing how that might affect Eddie, noted non-man; it’s a prickly situation and the fact that they care enough about each other to think about how terms like “girlfriend” could become absolute land mines to one another’s self-image is really touching! Glamours as an accessibility issue is also the kind of intersection between worldbuilding and social issues that I am Here For, too; now let’s all hope that the vet they heard about at least halfway understands Eddie’s deal so they don’t have to freak out about every weird rash or discolored scale for the rest of their life…

  5. YAY WORLDBUILDING! I love the whole secret society and the lengths they go to to maintain the secrecy! I also really enjoy all the extra magic possibilities– there being magical transition specialists, that Eddie might have to go to a veterinarian to handle their general medical issues– the veterinarian for a naga (Or any other animal-like being) is something I would have *never* considered, and I’m sitting here like “HUH.” XD It does make sense, though!

    Eddie and Max’s relationship is so sweet, and I love how considerate they are of each other, especially given the high-stress circumstances surrounding their meeting. I am super happy that things are getting better for the both of them, and they were able to get in touch with a community that can support them (more efficiently/sustainably, in Eddie’s case). I hope Eddie and Melody have fun deciding on make-over options!

  6. Okay I fucking LOVE THIS like I can’t even describe. It started out a little dark which I liked bc I like dark, and then it just got so cute and sweet. My favorite kind of romance is little awkward ppl sort of colliding and being unsure of wtf is happening. I loved the world-building of the supernatural community, and of course I loved horny ace vampires bc that sounds like me lol. I also loved that you chose a naga as the main character because you don’t see many of them in urban fantasy type stuff! What can I say I’m weak for some monster fucking.
    Anyway this is so good, my absolute favorite!

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