Bad News, One of Us is Gonna Lose


 It was a hallowed out victory of sorts, devoid of any real substance - but it was something. It turned out, funny enough, that vampirism was filled with loopholes. Little tiny pinhole leaks of sunlight to wiggle into, far from freedom but a taste of something closer to it. She was told to come back, and so she did.

 Ultimately, however, there was no mention of haste - and so she was able to map a fairly complicated labyrinth of bus stops and boardings from where she'd been holing up in Cordova. There was also no mention of keeping her phone on, so perhaps it was paranoia that made her turn it off by the second leg of her maze 'home' - but she did it all the same and felt a new thrill of power at the slow dawning goodbye message that came across the screen.

 Theoretically, one could not control what they could not reach - so while she was certain it would bring down consequences, she reveled in that tiny bit of bested freedom like a cat on a warm windowsill. It felt less glorious once she started to pass campus buildings, felt cheap in how thin it was as brick apartments started cropping up on either side of the street through the windows.

It had been nearly a full hour and a half of personal rebellion, hardly anything in the scheme of her life.

 She pressed the spare key against her thumb so the grooves made divots against her skin, jingled them against her hip on the walk up. Even that stopped on the right floor, watching her boots on the grubby tile as she turned the lock with a click and dropped her shoulder, set her bag down as quietly and carefully as she could.


 Like a careless sitter, he realized too late that he'd left a back door open, a crack she wriggled through, forcing a heavy dose of patient restraint. She was spiteful enough to exploit the loophole, and Spencer's fingers drummed on the spine of his book, having given up trying to contact her when his other messages went unanswered. Half an hour stretched, doubling, then tripling until she finally deigned to grace him with her presence.

 The fault was his own lack of specificity, but had he been in dire need of a meal her dawdling could have put him in danger. He knew little about how his own magic worked and whether or not she would have felt a higher rate of compulsion to come to him if he'd truly been in need, but the mere fact that she'd been willful enough to take advantage of his verbal generality made the vampire tense.

 Snapping the book shut when she walked through the door, he strode over to her quickly, eyes aglow with righteous anger. "Did you have fun playing your little game, Niamh?"

 She had thought about where she wanted to focus on the walk up to the correct floor. Staring at her feet felt subservient, looking him in the eye was asking for trouble. She settled on the curve of his left shoulder, the tiniest hitch of a grin even as he closed in, holding her breath but not allowing herself to pedal back and block herself against the door.

 "I wouldn't call any of this fun." Maddening, perhaps, satisfying in the way that crumbs felt like a fortune to a starving man. But fun, that was something else entirely she hadn't known in quite some time. The closest thing to it, really, was the sick sort of preoccupation she'd felt before he'd royally screwed them both just the night prior.

That was something she didn't want to dwell on though - a bit of reflection she wasn't ready to commit to.

"I came as soon as I could, of course."

 She was testing the confines of her cage and finding the pen larger than she originally thought it to be. There were cracks in his influence -- loyalty didn't make her his slave. "You're a good liar, Ms. Kilpatrick." Not quite good enough to hid the minuscule spike in her heart rate though as she smoothed over her tardiness with placating words. "If it's fun you're looking for, I can find a way to make things better."

 She ran her tongue over her teeth and counted to ten, tried to find something in the room to focus on just like she'd been taught as a child. Count the number of books on the top shelf, memorize how many rows of brick made up the far wall. None of it did much to negate the fact that there was a pissed off vampire in what was, even temporarily, her living space.

"I think fun for the both of us is vastly different."

 He angled his head, voice dropping, neck craned like that of a predatory bird trying to catch the gaze of a field mouse close to its talons. But he wasn't looking at a mouse. Niamh was just as much a raptor as he was. "Do you think so? I think they're surprisingly similar." He began a slow circle around her, footsteps making a hollow sound against his hardwood floor. "I watched you last night. You liked it."

 "Like isn't the word I'd chose." She kept still, counted the columns of brick once she finished the rows. "Seems like we're speaking two different dialects. I was interested. There are doctors who study ebola their whole professional career, I don't think it does anything for them either." Impulse enough that she glanced at him from the corner of her eye. "Are we done?"

 "Mmm, no doubt those doctors have countless protections in place. Safeguards so their interest remains purely academic." He tutted, coming to stand in front of her again. "You have no walls. You have no shield from me. "

 Hooking his index finger beneath her chin, he tilted her head up, locking eyes with her. "So what did you find so interesting, Ms. Kilpatrick? And do know that if you compare me to a hemorrhagic disease again I will not be amused."

 The far wall was fifteen and a quarter bricks across, the length was lost when her head was turned like posing an overgrown doll. "Specifically?" She cracked each of her knuckles one after the other at her sides, something else to track even as she looked him in the eye. "I don't know - I just haven't ever seen it before." Like watching a snake's jaw unhinge to swallow a feeder mouse.

 "And I suppose I was wondering what it tasted like - if it was the same but you acquired the taste or if it changed." Was blood blood or did it cease to have a certain connotation at some point? "... And for the record, my protections would be much more admirable if given the opportunity."

 To her credit, she didn't pull away.

 There came a time when rabbits froze, bodies locking like gears at an impasse when terrible beasts got too near to run from. He wondered if they hoped for mercy or the inky end of a quick, cracking death. Niamh did not seem like a rabbit to him. This stillness wasn't terror-born.

 "The anatomy of blood and how it changes when it touches my lips is lost to me. All I know is that you taste far sweeter than you act, and that every moment I'm around you I ache to have my fangs embedded in your skin."

 It struck her that the magnetism was more a matter of what she was and not an issue of who specifically - in a different world, he'd have said the same thing to the trembling girl that had stood in her apartment and nearly died. Still - it was a spotlight that was white hot and uncomfortable to tolerate, one that made her face twist in distaste.

 It was, ultimately, stupid to antagonize him unnecessarily. But just like wild animals kept in pins too small, she was prepared to test her limits, willing to hurt to tempt some taste of freedom. "I'm sorry you're so miserable, I'd offer you a more symbiotic relationship, but it's clear you can't control your shit."

Suggestion #1: big ole fail

 His fingers curled into the hollow of her cheeks. Clean-cut nails bit into the skin. "I could tear your face from your skull if I wanted to." Whatever calm, bookish demeanor he employed in his day to day life was lost around this impetuous psychic. Partners brought out better sides, but Spencer was by far the worst version of himself when he was with her.

 "I don't need any more control than what I have. I don't need to control myself when I control you." But, as if to prove a point that he was powerful enough to do both, he forced her gaze and leaned in close. "From now on my presence will give you the greatest sense of euphoria, enough that you come to crave it."

 She wondered how true that was but decided it wasn't something she cared to find out. Not so vain as to preen before every single outing, but just enough not to want to risk even a lingering scratch. So she kept still, felt the bite of the crescents of his nails but didn't remark on it. Nothing about the command given was funny, it was deplorable - worse than loyalty, a complete shedding of self-respect.

 And while it was disgusting, at the moment her discomfort manifested in the form of laughter, a sharp little bark of it as she reached up and took a gentle hold on his wrist. "I think we're done here." A half-mercy, smart enough not to tempt fate by insulting the colossal flop of his alleged all-encompassing power.

 Spencer was a boy steered by a family's deranged doctrine. They sailed him to a bloody, blazing horizon where the sun ate the earth. As a man he worked to master himself and found he had a talent for it before he was dragged back onto that sinking, stinking boat.

 His entire life was a series of near misses, the blissful feeling of grabbing the reins of an unruly horse only to lose them moments later. His hold over Niamh was luck, not skill, and her mirthful recognition of that scraped raw.

 Eyes glittering, he exercised the one last thing he had over her: his brute strength. His cruelty. Lifting her up by the throat, he squeezed. She would breathe only when he allowed her to.

 It wasn't even mean - not when she could have commented on his spectacular series of blunders. It was as gentle as she would allow and yet still it was met with violence. She squeezed tighter on his wrist when his hold dropped to her throat, tilted her chin back to try to ease some of the pressure as she choked, coughed, gasped before he lifted her.

 Far from an expert in self-defense, were to anyone else she would have tried with all she had to kick him as hard as she could in the groin. But her legs refused to extend that far, her fingers refused to curl enough to dig into his skin with any true intent. An oversized ragdoll, she pointed her toes to the ground and stared down at him, face quick to go from flushed to red as she tried to worm her fingers under his hold, scratching herself in the process.

Invisible borders, glass walls that were impossible to shatter and far more frightening as she heard her heartbeat thud loud in her ears.

 He watched, satisfied with the array of panicked emotions on her face and her lack of real struggle. Lowering his arm, he set her down and loosened his grip. But whatever relief that was granted to her was short-lived. His mouth replaced his hand in a flurry of impossible movement, fangs sinking into her flesh as he pulled her head to the side by her hair.

 Disoriented and woozy, she grabbed his arms at first when she was set down on her feet, teetered as she hacked, one raspy breath after a next. Hardly enough time to even stop that, much less get her bearings before she bit down. It was as she had some hazy recollection of, a very brief sharp sting like getting pricked with a needle twice, and then an uncomfortable sort of numbness - a lack of pain that was entirely unnatural.

 The bricks were fifteen and a quarter across, she could get away with burrowing her nails into the fabric of his shirtsleeves even if she couldn't kick him. Something to note, a pinhole weakness in his command for loyalty. She waited, held her breath and counted as she'd done for the girl from the other night.

 1, 2, 3, 4...

 True to her teasing, his abilities were limited, and his skill was sparse. Groaning at the thick velvet sweetness on his tongue, his eyes shut and he pressed himself against her, holding her in a lethal vice between fingers that itched to crush her and a mouth that could suck her dry.

 ...10, 11, 12, 13....

 He hesitated, the briefest sign of respite before he kept going. The dizziness set in, the bubbling bliss.

 14, 15....

 Finally, he pulled back.

 As they stepped into the double digits she felt herself tense, biting her lip hard until she swore she tasted blood as well. Wincing at the sounds he made, a deep gasp of relief when he let go as she immediately reached up, clamped her hand over the side of her neck to brace against whatever violent horror he left behind. She pulled back when her fingers didn't feel slick against one another with blood.

 Leaning back against the wall beside the door, she looked to the slight smear of red on her palm and grinned just barely to herself. Not good, but not nearly as bad as who knew how many others were left. Breathing slowly leveling, she looked back at him and raked her unstained hand through her hair where it stuck up, mussed from his hold.

Suggestion #2: Success (<

 Mouth as red and messy as an enthusiastic whore's, Spencer's lips split open in a giddy smile. He started laughing, giggling as the intoxicating blood coursed through his system like a drug. Tapping on his nose, he looked her dead in the eye and hiccuped.

 "I crave you. So, fair's fair." A throw away, a last-ditch attempt that was as much a joke as it was a serious ploy. "You will crave me, too." He cackled when it stuck, bending so deeply he had to reach out and steady himself with a hand on the back of his leather couch.

 The only saving grace in any of those was that he was drunk and stupid, too distracted in his own euphoria to serve as much of a threat at all. She watched him and sneered gritted her teeth as she swiped stubbornly at the side of her neck again. A quick glance back down at her hand before looking up, and she froze at the words. They felt heavier, a blanket laid over her and there was a blind and quickly binding moment of panic.

 It was a low and awful thing to insist, a new sort of foul that made her want to claw at his face, hit his head against the brick again and again and again. But it wasn't so bad, not really. It wasn't that terrible at all - in fact, it was nice. A gift, a treat that he would think her worthy of his time, that he'd allow her to be the one who kept him going. She nodded, reached out to wipe at his face with the bottom of her shirt.

"Of course I do."

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