My Strange Addiction

@"Niamh Kilpatrick"

 Though his parents never admitted to it, Spencer took their doomsday endeavors to be acts of pride. They'd dream of turning their faces towards a blood red sky and screaming their righteousness into the mired clouds. That they could be right when all others sunk wailing into the dirt. Oh, the glorious works of He.

 Spencer crawled from their pit, scathed by hubris and self-importance. He'd squabbled with his servant, sacrificed pawns and vanity, and he'd won. Hardly humble, the vampire luxuriated in his victory, soaking in that warm bath of triumph with the boastful nature his family had bestowed.

 So, he stayed away from the apartment. Deaf to her knocks in the day, he rose and scurried before she could persuade him otherwise. He ached for her too, but this was a thirst he'd sit with until his lips split open and black blood dribbled out.

 That night he fed on another.

 Returning home with mere hours to spare, he hung his jacket by the door, and turned with a questioning, innocent expression. "My, you're up rather late."

 There were few things in this world as maddening as finding pleasure in company that couldn't care less about you. An itch that was impossible to scratch, a bad sunburn that made every reminder a tender discomfort. So far she'd done all her laundry in color sorted loads, she'd cleaned the kitchen and the living space and had resisted the impulse to text him. He was busy, no doubt - although she felt a tinge of sympathy to imagine him, gaunt and deathly and forced to work without a good meal.

 About twenty minutes ago she'd sunk into a third wind. Agitated more than sympathetic or upset for that matter, as good as going through the phases of grief. She'd settled that feeling by making herself a ridiculously early breakfast. The heat of the stove top was off when he turned the lock and stepped inside. Her eggs and her toast were plated, and for now she stuck to aggressively cutting thin slices of strawberry.


 Gruff as she looked up and froze, frowned at the color in his cheek and the light in his eyes. " Where were you?"

 "I had office hours tonight." Not a lie, but certainly not the whole truth. Perching himself on a stool at the breakfast bar, he leaned onto the counter, studying her quietly, searching her face for any sign of reaction. "Then I had some dinner to go." Smooth, far less violent than his two previous feedings had been. "You know, you shouldn't stay up this late. It's not good for you."

 She watched him sit, tracked him with her eyes but kept her face tilted down. Slowly she set the knife down, used her clean hand to tuck her hair behind her ears. "You have a two hour long office block, I was worried about you." Clearing her throat and shifting her weight as she grabbed another strawberry from the container and cut the top off with a thwack, rougher then as she gritted her teeth.

"What were they like? ... Did you kill them?"

 For all his gloating, the worry in her eyes and the hurt in her tone made him pause. "A young man. He's probably a few years older than you. Human. He didn't struggle." His gaze drifted and he watched the knife.

 "He was boring."

 Deftly, he reached out over the counter and took her hands in his. Guiding her, he pressed the strawberry-slick blade into the pad of her index finger, slicing till the skin gave way. Leaning, he brought her finger to his mouth, fangs extended, and licked the drops that welled between the fissure.

 "I missed you."

 She froze at the contact but didn't pull away, allowed him to turn her hand over and watched curiously as he guided the knife. It stung enough that she hissed, a sharp intake but no whine or yelp.

 When he licked at the wound, it was as good as a kiss to a scraped knee. Watching him and softening by degrees as she kept her finger between his lips and abandoned the task at hand. "Then why didn't you come home?" She leaned in a bit, tried to catch his eyes. "We could have found you something less dull."

 "I was still angry with you about the other night." Ultimately, there was no reason to be misleading. Those that hunted together needed honesty -- it was as much a tool as any steel trap or split-tipped bullet. He sucked on her fingertip, her blood like a fine dessert after a drive-thru meal. "I wanted to make you feel the way I did." He released her hand and sat back down. "Being around you isn't easy."

 "You're not a walk in the park either." Clipped as she rubbed at the flush of her cheeks when he pulled away. Ducking her head back down as she picked up the one and finished the task at hand. "If it's so terrible, why keep me here?" Hurtful to even think, really.

 His lips pursed like her words were a sip of vinegar. "I meant the way you smell to me. Staying in control around you is a task. You are, more or less, a walking drug." And she could be an insolent little bitch too, but that was an unproductive thing to say.

 Shrugging, the answer to her other question was a simple one. "I keep you because I don't want you to go." Reaching forward again, he took a piece of strawberry and held it out to her, mirroring their earlier exchange. "Do you want to leave me, Niamh?"

 She kept her eyes on his and stilled her body slowly as she shook her head adamantly. The question stung like any strike across the cheek might, strong and ruthless. "Of course not, Spencer ..."

 She reached out, gentle as she wrapped her fingers around his wrist. Her lips brushed his fingers as she took the fruit from him, turned to nip at the pad of his index finger gently - not far from where she'd been bitten hours prior.

"Your home's here. ... I wouldn't know what to do with myself if you were gone."

 She was cotton candy, sweet enough for a toothache, sugar-spun and fabricated. This version of Niamh was far easier to be around, far easy to drink from, and overall, what he'd wanted from the start. But it wasn't real.

 "You've changed." How much had his sway taken her over? Did she even remember that he'd forced her to feel this way? "Earlier this week you were all but throwing books in my face."

 What he described as a few days felt like an insurmountable mountain. She grabbed her plate once she cleaned her mess. Letting the cutting board and the used pan soak in a hot bath of soapy water as she came round to stand at his side and took another slice of strawberry.

 "I wouldn't ever hurt you." Sincere, the idea a waste, one that was possible to imagine herself committing to. "Don't be ridiculous."

 Things would be easier this way.

 Tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, he traced a thumb across the delicate arch of her cheekbone, the movement experimentally gentle. This is how agreements, partnerships, were supposed to be. They were stable when they'd been nothing but a volatile mix before.

 Chewing on his lip with blunted, human teeth, he took her by the hand and walked her over to the couch. Sitting down, he urged her to settle beside him. "Come. Relax. I'll read to you." He'd use one of the books that could have been a weapon a few nights before.

 It felt like reaping a lush crop after a lot of back breaking work. She'd stayed up, tidied up - and now he in turn offered to read to her. A simple thing, but time close all the same. Hunger enough, you stopped being above eating off of the fucking ground. She took her plate with her, settled in at his right and favored her hip to his over the corner of the couch.

 She wandered if he was enjoying himself, took a bite of her toast with a satisfying crunch. Content to sustain herself on what attention she could get from him, seemingly as necessary as food or water. In the meantime, just spiteful enough to take what he'd asked of her and deliver it in spades. There was no disobeying, after all, but she could be so absolutely sweet and meek that, perhaps, she wouldn't even be appetizing any longer.

 This was perfectly pleasant. A diet of candy and cream.

 Spencer began, his voice low and lilting. When she'd finished eating he leaned back, coaxing her to rest on him so he could stroke her hair. The pretense was false, the obedience and the charm, but the contact was tangible. Touching her let him forget that this was nothing but a disproportionate pastiche.

 It was a unique sort of hell that he had set up with good dumb luck and a few simple words. She wanted him dead, she could not move to harm him. She wanted his hand out of her hair, his arm from around her shoulder - still, it felt nice. Like gorging on junk, ultimately terrible but wonderful in the then and there. She tried to remind herself that that was artificially generated, that what she really wanted to do was slide the knife sitting in the soapy water between his ribs. She wanted to twist, hear and feel it tap against bone in the process.

 She wanted, as depraved as it sounded even in the privacy of her thoughts, to see if he could cry. Even as a part of her curled up and coaxed her to tuck her legs under herself like they were a couple settling in for the evening. She watched her empty plate on the coffee table, laid her hand on his knee and considered how to approach.

 Dragging her feet, kicking and screaming - the whole mess was quicksand. The deeper she fought, the worse it got. So instead she laid her hand on his knee, sighed heavily as she tilted her head up to look at him. "I know we need to wait to make sure things calm down, but I'd like the chance to find you someone worthwhile again."

 The hand on his knee was an acute point of heat, a fervent reminder of their differences, of how he was dead and she was not. His voice trailed off, dwindling in the middle of a sentence. Closing the book, he set it face down on the arm of the couch to hold their place, eyes finding hers when she looked up and spoke to him.

 "I'd like that." Thinking about it made his fangs quiver. "We'll be more careful next time...I'll be more careful. I promise I won't put you in danger again."

 That made her chest feel heavy, a comfortable pressure that made her warmer. A wave of happy that ebbed into a desire to also roll her eyes - how sweet. She smiled up at him, gave his leg a squeeze and watched him closely, paid careful attention to his lips as he spoke to try to catch sight of sharpened fangs.

"I think we should go somewhere quieter, somewhere a little less ... built up."

 He inclined his head, his grip around her tightening. The talk of another hunt made his body feel like a bow, she was pulling the string taut. Now all they had to do was aim. "We'll find somewhere less populated..." He agreed, already dizzy by this daydream. "Perhaps you should catch them for me? Bring them to a secluded place where I'm already waiting..." His voice grew thick, fingers brushing over the top of her shoulder. "...I'd want you to stay and watch. I'd want you to count." He opened his mouth to keep his fangs from pricking his bottom lip. "I think you like this more than you let on."

 "I'll find you someone, someone who's not boring." Sensitive to each shift - the pressure of his fingers against her shoulder and the way his incisors lengthened. And compelled or not, there was truth in the idea that, perhaps, she liked this. As good as laying down in any blind and waiting for the perfect moment to pull a trigger. Not the weapon, not the powerful killing blow - but an architect who set a scene.

And maybe it was arrogance, but for as quick as one Spencer Seville was to remind her of his power over her ... he didn't cut her strawberries for her, did he?

No, he did not.

 She reached up, a little bolder now as she took a gentle hold on his chin with three fingers, kept her voice low. "Let me see, please ..." Plenty of snarling a lot of flashes, but not a single opportunity to really take it in.

 His lips parted easily, as if some new directive had been set where he followed her commands. Tilting his head down so she could get a better look, he kept his mouth open, feeling altogether exposed. Sliding his hand down her arm, he wrapped his fingers round her wrist and lifted her hand to his fangs. If she wanted a show than she should get the full effect.

 Gazes locked, the bite wasn't quick but a slow dip of fangs into flesh, as smooth and easy as if he was biting into ice cream. The pleasure hit him in a wave, but he kept his eyes open, his look glassier with every swallow.

 She looked him over as if she were a judge assessing a thoroughbred, expression focused but otherwise vacant as she took in each subtle difference. She craned her neck a bit, a little surreal as she kept herself relaxed and tilted her head to the side, pressed against his shoulder to watch closely. "Why doesn't it hurt?"

Not that she minded - but every little bit of information she could coo and nuzzle out of him was a little bit of treasure that could come in handy later.

 His previous meal made him less greedy, but his tendency for over-indulgence still had him taking more than a simple drag. Pulling back gently, he licked the wound until it shut on its own.

 "I don't know." He replied, somewhat sheepish. "There are many things about my own existence that I can't connect a why to." Letting go of her arm, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "I'm sure you can relate to that."

 "No, my parents have powers too." Sharing it half on a whim as she watched him and then looked down to her wrist. "You should always be so neat." A little bit of a jab at his expense, gentler perhaps than any of the other ones before it. "Do you still talk to whoever made you like this?" Grasping onto every branch she could on the way down. Laying her head on his shoulder and watching the front door - hopeful that some of that giddy high from her blood would make him a bit chattier.

 He opened his mouth to ask her about her family when she, unwittingly, asked about his. Spencer recoiled automatically, folded shut like a heavy tome. Untangling himself from her, he took the book they'd been reading and returned it to his shelf. "I don't." And that was that, as far as he was concerned. "Come on, Niamh, I'm sure you're exhausted. Perhaps it's time for bed." It was a suggestion, not an order, a play at knowing what was going on in that daring, complicated mind.

 Touchy. She was mindful of how she removed her foot from the landmine she had unknowingly set foot on. Calm as she watched him flit about and slow to rise as she set her plate in the sink. "What about you? I don't mind staying up until you're ready to sleep ..." She minded, she was exhausted - but it was half long-game, half itch that was impossible to scratch to the point of satisfaction.

 He turned to face her fully then. "I appreciate the sentiment. But I don't want to rob your life away." Not all of it, at least. "You have your work, you have your degree. Becoming completely nocturnal will prevent you from succeeding. I don't want you to feel like I'm some master who's locked you in a cage and eaten the key. You're free to live, Niamh." Within reason, so long as that living didn't interfere with the dead.

 The consideration made her pause, watching him closely and trying to decide if it was an argument for the sake of manipulation or some strange form of genuine care. After a while, she nodded, forced a smile and looked back to him as she rubbed her palms on the thighs of her pants. "Alright." Quiet at first, she thought about the gamble she was entertaining. "Can I ask you one last thing, if you don't mind?"

 She seemed distrustful, which considering how the last few weeks had gone, he couldn't necessarily blame her. The sugar-drenched sweetness had gone, either a simple side-effect of proximity or the cleansing of an act that hadn't fit quite right, like a shoe that was two sizes too small.

 "You can ask me anything, Niamh. But that doesn't mean I'll answer."

 "If it's not too much trouble - I don't control you of course - unless we find you someone special, or unless you find someone on your own ..." She trailed off, kept a good arms distance between them. "Try to wait until you come home?" Better to be a home delivery service than something easily tossed and replaced.

 He softened. Striding towards her with all the confidence he'd had nights before, his hand rested lightly above her elbow as he leaned in and kissed her on the cheek. "I promise it will be you or the ones we find together. Alright?" Having never kept a steady donor before, he fretted about the arrangement's sustainability, about her health. "Promise me you'll take care of yourself. That you'll take an iron supplement and that you'll tell me if you start to feel too run down."

 She closed her eyes when he leaned in, gritted her teeth as she turned into the kiss the slightest bit to press her cheek to his lips. It was a revolting spike of pride, as good as a sticker on a chart in the eyes of a child. "I'll pick some up tomorrow after my shift." The truth, little interest in ending up mistakenly dead. "Sleep well."

 They parted, and the smile on his lips was a genuine one. "Have a good day, Niamh. Don't forget your peer review responses are due at nine sharp."

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