A very special apology and thankyou to the incredible people who posted comments on the last chapter that I haven't had a chance to answer yet. I'm going to try to make a push to get them all responded to today, I promise: I've just been so busy that there hasn't been any opportunity. Thank you SO much for your lovely feedback, guys: please know that I read and flail over every single comment, even when it takes me a while to respond.
Title: "Until My Dying Breath" -- Chapter Five
Warnings: Vampire AU with all the unpleasantness that entails. Violence, bloodplay, blood drinking, sexualized violence, grotesque descriptions, dark setting, fear, minor past character death, minor dubious consent in sexual matters. Warnings on a chapter by chapter basis.
Length: 18,000-ish for this chapter
Story Summary: On his way home from campus to his apartment on the Upper East Side, Blaine Anderson happens to come across a beautiful young man with bewitching blue eyes. It doesn’t take long, though, for everything Blaine thought was real to fall to pieces. For his world to dissolve into a twisted dance of fear and heat and blood.
Notes: The ever-so-wonderful thing about attending university is that autumn really is absurdly busy. Thank you all so much for your patience waiting for this chapter. <3 It's almost double as long as usual, though, if that helps! As always, thank you so much for reading and let me know what you think! (Also, my tumblr is here if you're interested! :3 I tend to post updates there about how chapters are progressing. :))
The two of them are lying on a large bed, facing one another and fully clothed except for their shoes. The bed is fully made beneath them, its sheets and duvet cover a deep, handsome red and tucked neatly underneath the mattress. The bed frame itself is sturdy and attractive, made from a deep wood that Blaine doesn’t know the name of by looking at but makes him think of the plush rooms and corridors of Dalton Academy back in Westerville. Kurt is lying across from him, elegant and precise even in such a relaxed position; his head is propped up on his arm as he stares at Blaine with a mild, constant look.
It occurs to Blaine, all at once, that he has seen this bed before. In the distant slip of a memory that dances behind his eyelids and nudges at his mind, however, the room had been bathed in shadows and candlelight: intimate and sensual and intense, so intense. But here and now, with the overhead lights turned on, the room is flooded with brightness and light and normalcy. There is no fuzziness clinging at Blaine’s vision, no slip-slide of the world outside his perspective. He can see the walls clearly, adorned with tasteful paintings in wooden frames. The carpet, the dresser – everything is matter-of-fact before his eyes.
More than anything, though, he can see Kurt. Lying on his side in front of him with his cheek cradled by the hand propping his head up, hair styled back into an elegant sweep. He’s wearing a soft-looking long charcoal sweater to the knee that hugs every angle of his body, as well as a pair of snug dark jeans. The sweet lines of his face, with its beautiful pale skin and the curve of his cheeks, are drawn together into an expression that almost borders on apologetic. Sad, at least. Reserved. And his eyes – those beautiful eyes, blue-green and endless with twists of yellow surrounding the iris like an entire universe – are locked right on Blaine’s own.
For a second, Blaine wonders if he should feel scared.
“I’m tired,” Blaine hears himself saying, and it’s true. All at once he becomes aware of how heavy his limbs are; the way exhaustion is tugging at every part of his body, from his eyelids to the stretch of his back. He feels sore with it; aching. His mind, his body; everything is telling him how very badly he needs to go to sleep, to finally let go. He knows instinctually that it would be easier, if he let himself sleep at last. For some reason, though, he can’t.
Nodding, Kurt’s slender eyebrows pull together in an expression of sympathy.
“I know, lovely,” murmurs Kurt, reaching over with his free hand to card it gently through Blaine’s hair. Blaine’s eyes flutter closed at the sensation of pleasantly cool fingers rubbing over his scalp, twisting around the loose curls. Petting him sweetly and comfortingly, and he tilts his head up into the touch like an animal looking for praise. “I know,” Kurt says again, and Blaine never wants him to stop touching him like this.
When Kurt finally moves his hand, it isn’t to pull away. He slides it slowly down to Blaine’s cheek instead, dragging the backs of his fingers along the arch of it and stroking gently along the skin. Blaine opens his eyes drowsily, letting out a sigh.
“Is it always going to be this way?” asks Blaine, and all at once he isn’t sure what he’s referring to. Whether he’s speaking to the bone-deep exhaustion that thrums along his skin like a sickness, or to this perfect moment of tranquility here and now.
Regardless, Kurt shakes his head. The movement of it is tiny; the slightest of inclinations back and forth.
“No,” says Kurt, moving in closer as he speaks. His eyes are so beautiful, even with the horrible sadness hiding behind the thick lashes. He licks his lips, gaze trailing over Blaine’s face like a caress. “No, sweetheart. It isn’t.”
The back of his hand still trailing over Blaine’s cheek, Kurt moves to close the space between them – but instead of kissing Blaine on the mouth, he angles himself higher. He hovers there for a moment, and it takes a second for Blaine to realize what it is he wants. When it finally occurs to him, however, he obediently closes his eyes.
With the softest, gentlest touch, Kurt leans forward and brushes his lips over Blaine’s eyelid. Barely a kiss, barely even a touch – just the smallest gesture. The lightest possible press of skin to skin. He does it again on the opposite eyelid, the touch of his lips familiar and safe as he kisses the thin, delicate skin once more.
The hand on Blaine’s face turns inward, the skin of Kurt’s palm – soft, so soft, he has the softest hands Blaine has ever felt – sliding smoothly over his cheek. There is the smallest movement as Kurt shifts downward, closer and closer until his lips finally press against Blaine’s in a real, proper kiss.
It is tender, and careful, and so very melancholy that Blaine aches with a poignancy that has nothing to do with fatigue. Blaine presses back into the touch just as gently, eyes still closed but the smell and feel of Kurt so close and lovely as the other boy cradles his face and kisses him so very gently that Blaine feels like he might break. It’s chaste, but the tiny movements of Kurt’s lips under his and the little catches of breath in Kurt’s throat still make something warm and real hum contentedly in the base of his stomach.
He could melt into this touch, Blaine thinks. Drift into nothing; let the world stop and still, and never experience anything again but to have Kurt kiss him like this forever. And he would be happy as it happened.
But instead of Blaine, it is the world that starts to dissolve.
Floating and coming apart gradually at the edges as they kiss, blowing into the ether like dandelion seeds in the breeze. Blaine tries to hold the world together, but it’s a force beyond his control as the room disbands and melts and comes away into a hundred gentle pieces. Drifting apart in the air and giving way to reality with a slow pulse that fades away into nothing as the dream falls away.
Everything is dark.
Even amidst the blackness behind his eyelids, Blaine becomes aware that he is awake before even he opens his eyes. He keeps them closed for a few seconds longer than necessary, dragging out the time before he has to count himself as properly awake. The world behind closed eyes doesn’t need to be examined, or looked at closely, or taken apart – and for just a little while longer, it’s nice to let himself live in the lie of the dream.
But it can’t last forever. Can’t always be like this.
When Blaine finally blinks his eyes open, the sight of his own small bedroom drenched in the cold light of the morning makes his heart hurt. He takes in the room – with its ordinary white speckled ceiling, the plan blue curtains, the small dresser that used to belong to his grandfather – with a detached eye as he lies on his back. Tucked up into the blankets with his body warm and his face cold from the chill in the air, Blaine tries his very best not to feel bereft.
It was just a dream. It wasn’t real. The dreams are normal, and expected, and you can’t let it get to you.
It’s just that... it doesn’t happen too often, that the dreams tug him gently into awareness instead of slamming him forcefully awake in a haze of blood or pleasure or both. Logically, he should like these dreams the best. They aren’t frightening, or painful. They don’t leave him clutching at his neck and gasping through cold sweats; nor do they make him wake with the sick humiliation of pleasure pulsing through his veins and stickiness between his legs. They should be almost nice, in comparison.
Something light and wistful is snaking beneath his skin; up his spine, along the insides of his wrists. There is a sadness pooling at the base of his stomach that he can’t banish away.
Blaine thinks he might just hate these dreams worst of all.
It’s light outside. He reaches over and plucks his glasses and phone off the bedside table with one hand, sliding the glasses onto his face as he lights up the screen to check the time. Seven minutes before his alarm is set to go off, which is lucky; the dreams have a tendency to wake him hours before he was to get up, screaming and sobbing and shaking despite his mind yelling at him furiously that they’re fake, it’s fake, it’s not real, why do you feel this way when it’s not real, and he can never quite manage to get back to sleep afterward. Blaine turns off his alarm, places the phone back on the bedside table, and grabs his journal.
There is a pen already tucked into the spiral binding, ready for him to use. Blaine plucks it out, opens the book to the page with the folded corner, and begins to write.
November 27th, 2016
No blood this time. Bed with red sheets, lying on top with the lights on. Kind version tonight; reassuring...
Without bothering with neat penmanship or coherency, Blaine scrawls down is impressions of the dream as quickly as he can imprint them upon the page. Parts of the dream – images, and emotions, and sensations – are already starting to slip through his fingers like water, but he keeps on scribbling. Even as he feels the memories of the dream begin to slither away from his grasp, out of reach. Noting down words and ideas and notable thoughts with no rhyme or reason to the organization, circling and starring and underlining things where he deems it to be necessary.
The dream journal itself was one of Amita’s suggestions. They can sort through it all later; turn it into something that makes sense, something they can analyze. There might just be something important about Kurt there, buried underneath all of the trappings of Blaine’s own mind. And they don’t want to miss the hints that have so kindly been given to them.
Words fly across the page as the pen scrapes over paper, a messy scrawl of letters and punctuation in his small, cramped handwriting. He only stops when he runs out of things to say, everything having been either deposited onto the page or forgotten without a trace, lost to the night like a sacrifice. Blaine stares at the messy journal entry for longer than he should once he’s finished, eyes lingering over the words kiss and tired and safe.
Blaine only manages to wrench his gaze away when his phone buzzes and rings loudly on the table, still set to full volume from the night, and his heart slams against his ribcage in a Pavlovian response as he snatches out for it as fast as possible. Thankfully, thankfully, the message isn’t from Kurt. His eyes skip right to the name of the sender, the pounding of his heart beginning to slow once he realizes who the sender is.
From: Amita W.
November 27th, 8:43am
Good morning! I hope I didn’t wake you. Do you have some daylight today to drop by the shop? – A.W.
Body loosening and uncoiling at the contents of the message, Blaine quickly sends off an affirmative response.
Although he and Amita have been texting and calling back and forth over the past few week, it’s been difficult to find time when the sun is up for him to be able to go and meet with her in person. His classes tend to take up the majority of his daylight hours: the nights are coming quicker and darker with every passing day as winter keeps creeping forward, and being trapped halfway across town without the protection of the sunlight is the last thing Blaine wants.
They’ve managed to meet for coffee a few times, at cafés close to campus that he can escape to during his free periods; it isn’t the same, however, as having a whole swathe of time to talk and plan and let themselves think. Although he and Amita talked briefly of Blaine coming to stay the night at the Williams residence, the idea of Kurt’s reaction to deciding to come and knock on his door and finding him absent had been a very quick and very unpleasant deterrent. Having Amita over at his place, too, is out of the question. Having confirmed Blaine’s suspicion of the vampire’s acute sense of smell during one of their brief meetups, both of them know that having her anywhere near where Kurt could pick up her scent simply isn’t going to happen.
Finding time to meet properly and privately and talk has been difficult to say the least. Very fortunately, however, a cancellation of one of his lectures has freed up a large chunk of his afternoon. There should be plenty of time to commute to the bookstore, stay for a few hours, and come home long before the sun goes down.
Distantly, Blaine remembers a time when cancelled lectures only made him feel irritated, or pleasantly surprised. Not relieved as though his life depends on it. The idea of before, though, is painful. Thinking about before makes it harder to convince himself that there’s going to be an after.
Nodding softly at the empty screen on his phone, Blaine lets out a deep breath and swings his legs over the side of the bed. Pushing the blankets off and exposing his body to the chill of the air as he steps out with his bare feet onto the frozen-feeling hardwood. Trying his best to only think about the now, Blaine pads out to get ready for the day.
After his constitutional law class ends at noon, Blaine is followed out of the room by one of his friends in the class. Sarah is a nice enough girl; clever and sarcastic and hoping to go into corporate law one day, and the two of them used to revise for quizzes and midterms like clockwork. They’ve been sitting next to one another for this lecture since the beginning of the semester. That... shouldn’t feel like a long time, but it does. As though September was lifetimes ago instead of a couple of short months.
She trails after him persistently, walking quickly to keep up and staring in a not-so-hidden way at the bags beneath his eyes. As they walk, she won’t stop asking questions about how he’s doing and the last assignment and it just seems as though you’ve been having a hard time lately, Blaine, which is nothing but a more polite way of pointing out how badly he’s been failing at everything and Blaine just doesn’t have time for this.
He finally manages to shake her off by claiming he has an important doctor’s appointment to go to, which is a the first excuse he can think of but makes her face sag in relief in a way that makes his stomach twist in discomfort and self-consciousness. Even though Sarah has never been one for physical affection, she gives his forearm a sharp squeeze and smiles before she lets him go on his way. The way her lips stretch wide is supposed to look encouraging, he thinks. It comes out more worried than anything else, but Blaine has places to be. More important things to worry about, for now. Quietly filing the expression on her face at the back of his mind under things to think about when this is all over, Blaine turns and walks out of the building. The brisk warmth of the autumn sun tries its best to warm his face against the frigid air, its brightness all he needs to keep him company as he heads toward the station.
The bookstore that Amita and her husband own is over in Brooklyn. He tracks the time carefully on his phone as he goes, already trying to estimate what time he’s going to have to leave in order to get home before sunset. The train rumbles beneath the city, and Blaine keeps himself plugged into his iPod. Tucked into a corner seat with his head leaning against the window, feeling the quiet rumbling shake him down to his bones.
Being underground where no light can reach still puts him on edge, even though he knows it’s an impractical thing to feel. Even if Kurt found him down here, he reasons with himself, how would he manage get out? Walk up the stairs into the sun like a normal human being? No; this is as safe as Blaine can be, outside the walls of his apartment. It doesn’t stop the apprehension from niggling at his head nonetheless.
He tries to focus on the light, commercial music in his ears instead: dance music, love songs, soulful ballads, and all of them new enough that he doesn’t know the words yet. The male and female singers’ voices meld into a steady beat in his ears as Blaine speeds beneath the surface of the city.
The journey takes just over fifty minutes overall, including the time it takes him to walk to the exact address Amita had given him. It’s in a fairly nice area; still urban, but with the occasional barren tree dotted along the street and a slightly more laid-back atmosphere that makes him feel at ease. Most of the buildings are only five or six stories high, with shops nestled in the ground floor. It takes Blaine a few minutes to spot the bookstore despite the address clutched in his hand, his eyes skimming along ground level in search for a likely sign. Despite the very good directions, Amita had failed to provide him with the store’s actual name. That probably means that there’s only one bookstore on this particular street, but for the life of him he can’t seem to spot it. There’s a small law office with a sign above that proudly proclaims them to be Peterson, Cohen, and Chang; a deli, a corner store, a small dress shop...
It’s only when his eyes skirt upwards that he spots the sign. It’s right on front of one of the buildings at second floor level, green and slightly tattered as the lower portion shifts in the wind. It reads Second Story in slanted cream lettering, followed by a simple drawing of an open book.
When Blaine crosses the street and gets closer, he notices a plaque at street level next to a propped-open door with a doormat and worn-looking wooden staircase right inside. The plaque features a large arrow pointing up, and reads:
is just upstairs!
Second hand, fiction, reference, and more!
Taking a deep breath, Blaine obediently wipes his feet on the mat – it wouldn’t be there if people didn’t want him to use it – and begins to ascend the stairs. They creak pleasantly in a way that reminds him of old movies and the haunted houses his parents used to bring him to as a kid. There is a door right at the top with another sign that reads Second Story Bookstore: Come On In!
He turns the knob and pushes his way inside.
At once, the smell of books hits him like a physical force as soon as he crosses over the threshold. Old books, new books, hardcovers, paperbacks; the smell of pages and covers and knowledge all bound up inside, tickling at his nose and making his fingertips buzz from the desire to hold their soft, crinkled pages in his hands and read. The amount of open space is small, but warm and brightly lit; there is a large, full-pane window in the wall behind him that lets natural light flood the entire store. The old-fashioned hardwood floors creak with every step Blaine takes. What space there is seems to be filled with shelves upon shelves of books, lining the walls and creeping out into the floors, creating subsections and nooks and crannies full of information and stories and tales. The thousands of books tucked into the shelves are, without a doubt, what gives the space its vibrancy: their multi-coloured spines creating a sea of colours that makes it impossible to focus his attention on just one thing.
“Good afternoon,” says a soft, kindly male voice, and Blaine startles at the interruption. He spins around and comes face to face with an older man hovering behind the counter. He looks about the same age as Amita; maybe sixty-five, if not a bit younger. Thick salt-and-pepper hair curls behind his ears, and he has a pair of glasses perched on his nose that are almost certainly at least ten years old in style. He’s wearing a striped button-up shirt beneath a pullover sweater. There is a friendly smile on his face.
“Hello,” says Blaine formally, stepping forward and pulling his hand out of his pocket to extend it towards him. “I’m sorry, are you Mr. Williams?”
“You must be Blaine,” says the man with a wide smile, stepping out from behind the counter to take Blaine’s hand. The palms of his hands are pink and slightly pudgy, and he takes Blaine’s hand and shakes with a gentle grip. His palm is warm against Blaine’s as they shake. “Feel free to call me Jack, don’t you worry. I’ll go let ‘Mita know you’ve arrived.”
He heads toward the back of the shop, disappearing behind a plain-looking door with a No Public Access sign that he unlocks with a set of keys. Blaine takes the moment to slide his eyes over the hand-written section signs dotted around the store: Classic Literature, Religion, Large Print, Architecture. After less than a minute, the door swings open again. Amita steps out first, her husband trailing behind her. She’s wearing soft-looking indoor slippers, and hair is swept back into a low ponytail. There is a smile on her face.
“Blaine!” she exclaims, coming across the shop floor with open arms. There is a medium-sized box in one of her hands. She gives him a quick hug when he gets close enough, carefully avoiding hitting him with the box, which Blaine returns. It’s possible that he clings a little too tightly in her embrace, but he knows that she understands. When she pulls away, her eyes are lit up with purpose. “Did you bring them?”
“I did,” Blaine replies, nervous excitement bubbling up inside his chest. He opens his book bag, reaching in and rummaging around, pushing aside textbooks until his hand connects with cool plastic bag. Hand closing around the thing material of the plastic bag, Blaine pulls it out by the tied handles. It’s heavy.
“Oh, perfect,” says Amita, and Blaine shoots her a worried look.
“You two are okay here, right?” he asks, feeling anxious. Even though they’ve talked about this before, he can’t quite manage to make himself stop fussing. “You’re safe?”
Glancing up, Amita sends him a slightly amused smile. “We’re fine, I promise,” she reassures him, and her husband reaches over to rest a hand on her back as they stand. “Neither of us are leaving going to leave our home at night for any reason. And this whole shop is lit up with the windows, see? Just in case he gets curious.” She gestures broadly to the large windows that look out onto the street outside.
Jack smiles kindly over his glasses, and Amita turns to look at him. “Is it okay if we take over the back table, love?”
“Of course,” says Jack. “I’ll handle any customers that come in, but it’s been a slow day so far.” He turns to Blaine. “Would you like anything? Tea, water?”
“Tea would be lovely,” Blaine replies with an intentionally charming and bright-eyed smile, because it’s rude to turn down something to eat or drink when someone offers it to you. Amita gives him an amused side-eye that makes him think his private school attitude might have come through a bit strong, but Jack just smiles.
He gives his wife a quick kiss on the cheek before walking to the back of the store and heading through the door again. Amita rolls her eyes and gestures at Blaine to follow her, leading him behind a stack of books to a round reading table with four chairs. She lowers herself down into one of the chairs efficiently, dropping the box on the table with a slightly loud clunk that reverberates throughout the quiet space. Blaine follows suit, placing the plastic bag on the table. He unbuttons his heavy coat with cold fingers, sliding his arms out and pushing it over the back of his chair.
When Amita raises her dark eyebrows and glances at the bag, Blaine nods. She snags the plastic bag by the handle, tugging it over and undoing the knot in quick moments. When it’s opened, she reaches inside – and pulls out one of the six wooden stakes that Blaine has carved over the past weeks, turning it over in her hands and looking at it with a careful eye.
“Mmmmm,” she hums quietly, holding the stake up horizontally and narrowing her eyes at it. She tilts it from side to side, testing the weight, and all at once Blaine feels very much self-conscious of his work.
“I’ve never really done carving before,” he explains hastily, feeling a flush creeping up the back of his neck. “I mean, I was never in woodshop in school or anything. I honestly had no idea what I was doing.”
“They’re not bad,” intones Amita slowly, rolling the stake between her fingers. She lays it down on the table and reaches over to open the metal box she had brought over to the table, plucking out a very old-looking leather-bound book from inside. A page is marked with a bright yellow post-it note that juxtaposes unapologetically with the antiquated look of the book itself; Amita opens it to the bookmarked page and turns the book around to show him.
“From what I’ve been able to tell, this seems to be the most favoured design historically,” she says, and Blaine leans in to take a closer look. On the thin page in front of him, surrounded by blocks of text in a language he cannot read, is a faded picture of what is unmistakably a wooden stake. In the picture, it has a visibly elongated and sharp tip. The carving seems to start about halfway down the shaft, resulting in a long, drawn-out point.
Blaine glances down at his own stakes and feels a spike of worry; the tips he carved are much shorter, only about an inch long. Now that he thinks of it, too, they don’t look nearly sharp enough to puncture any kind of chest. It hadn’t quite felt... real, yet, when he carved these. He had barely been able to think the word ‘vampire’, let alone think his way through the practicalities of killing one. Now, however, it’s occurring to him just how insufficient his stakes would be in real life.
“Oh,” he says, feeling his eyebrows furrow together as he looks from the picture to the actual stake.
“We’ll make them a little sharper,” Amita reassures him quickly. “Did you bring a knife? I went out and bought a few today, but if you have your own...?”
“I did,” says Blaine, bending over to unzip the compartment of his book bag where his own whittling knife is nestled. He grabs it by the handle and lays it down on the table, glancing up at Amita and biting his lip. “I suppose it makes sense that they have to be longer, actually. If you want to, you know. Get past the ribcage.”
“Very true,” Amita smiles, plucking her own knife out of her box and shooting him a smile. Blaine stares down at the opened plastic bag full of the other five stakes, an uncertain feeling welling up in his stomach. They look so... inadequate. Small and flimsy and simple sharpened wood; nothing but oversized toothpicks, really. They don’t look anywhere near powerful enough to take down the monster Blaine knows Kurt to be; the beast he’s seen snap a man’s wrist backwards without a second of difficulty or hesitation.
“You really think these will work?” Blaine asks softly, hoping that he doesn’t sound like he’s doubting her expertise. It’s just that... god, they look like nothing. Splayed out on the table, cylindrical little jokes with too-short tips.
“I wrote and published a research paper a few years ago on the cultural implications of different ways to kill vampires in folklore,” Amita says, shrugging her shoulders and not looking offended in the slightest. “A wooden stake to the heart is definitely the oldest, most common, and most cross-cultural recorded method – although some groups preferred to use steel or iron rods instead.” She reaches into the metal box, rummaging around inside without quite looking him in the eye. “The problem, Blaine, isn’t just that it’s difficult to separate the folklore from the fact: it’s that there simply aren’t too many instances of proven vampire killings to choose from. The vampires’ own methods of butchery are much more well-documented; their powers, their abilities. Actually killing them is... not quite so common.”
“... I see,” says Blaine quietly, staring down at the bag full of stakes with a sinking heart. “Then... how can we be sure –?”
“We can’t,” she says simply, pulling something metallic out of the box. “Instead, we’re just going to have to be prepared for anything when the time comes.”
She opens her hand, and Blaine stares down at its contents. Resting on top of her palm are several small, thin discs of a shiny metal. Silver, he thinks, something from his less than successful internet searches rippling in his mind. Amita pulls a small hammer out of the box as well, holding it up for him to see.
“Once we have them sharp enough, I figured we could try to tip them with silver,” she explains. “Just in case: better to hit two birds with one stone?”
“Good idea,” Blaine nods, a small smile tugging at his lips at the obvious thought she’s put into this.
It’s still incomprehensible to him, sometimes, having someone on his side after so much time on his own. Another mind on the job to brainstorm ideas, and think of solutions, and just be there to believe him when almost no one else ever would. Everything is still hard, and horrific, and Kurt can still take Blaine apart with his words just as easily as he always has. But despite the way Kurt can still toy with him like a marionette on strings, Blaine has still felts so, so much more alive in the week since meeting Amita in the coffee shop. As though his life has some sort of spark of meaning again. As though there’s some kind of hope.
He’d been clinging to the edge of the precipice before, fingers slipping. So close to letting himself tumble off into the darkness. Now... now he thinks he just might have a chance.
“Here we are,” comes a friendly voice from behind him, and Blaine turns to see Jack coming out of the room with three steaming mugs on an old-fashioned tray. He doesn’t even flinch at the selection of stakes and tools on the table, which Blaine assumes speaks volumes about his inclusion in his wife’s career over the years.
“Thank you very much,” says Blaine with honest gratitude as a white mug with a cat on it gets placed in front of him – spicy-smelling and hot, with a floral hint hiding slyly underneath that reminds him strangely of his mother. When Jack places a deep red mug in front of Amita, they share a private smile; her fingers run down his forearm in a small and no doubt long-practiced gesture of quiet gratitude for the tea.
Irrationally, Blaine’s stomach twists uncomfortably at the gesture. His mind drags him back to last night’s dream – Kurt, pressing gentle, sweet kisses to his closed eyelids and running a hand through his curls with caring fingers – before he shakes his head to banish it. When Blaine opens his eyes again, Jack is already gone; going back across the room with his own cup of tea and the tray under his arm to man the desk again.
“Something on your mind?” Amita asks, expressive eyebrows raised ever-so-slightly, and Blaine thinks he must be imagining the apprehensive look in her eyes. He blinks, and there is nothing there but quiet curiosity only a moment later. She picks up her cup, cradling it carefully because of the heat, and blows on the liquid inside in just the same way he’s seen her do with every hot drink at every coffee shop.
Under the table, Blaine gives his arm a sharp pinch to bring him back to the present moment. He runs through likely topics with a slightly frantic edge, his mind settling on something he’s been desperately curious about for days anyways.
“You say that there’s so little information about killing them,” Blaine begins, hands twisting in his lap under the table. He hopes this isn’t too personal a question. “But... you said that you met one, once. And you survived. I just... I suppose I was wondering how that happened, and how you got out alive. If... if you don’t mind me asking.”
Amita pauses mid-sip of her tea, and for a split second Blaine wonders if he’s gone too far; overstepped some kind of secret boundary. But after only a moment she lets out a little sigh, resting her mug back down on the table and twisting her mouth in an expression of contemplation.
“Of course you can ask me that, Blaine,” she begins, nodding her head and looking serious. “It’s something I wanted to talk about in private, actually. Another reason I was eager to have you over this afternoon.”
“If it’s too much to talk about it –”
“It’s not,” Amita interjects calmly, picking up one of the stakes and spinning it absently in her hands. She looks very calm. “I wish I could talk to more people about it, actually. But people do have a tendency to think you’re insane when you say you’ve been attacked by a vampire.” She laughs dryly. “Funny thing, that.”
“For sure,” says Blaine uncertainly. She picks up her whittling knife in one hand and a stake in the other, not moving to start carving just yet. Simply holding them in her hands like a prop. She takes a deep breath before letting it out again.
“Many years ago,” she begins, staring at the point of the stake. “When I was a great deal younger than I am now, I had a very close friend called Charlotte. Our families both lived in the same neighbourhood in one of the suburbs around Chicago. We grew up together. Her family was... they were very liberal.”
He doesn’t have to ask to know what she’s talking about. Briefly, Blaine’s mind flashes back over some of the stories his mom and dad told him growing up. About how, even in the late 1980s, it had been far harder than one might have thought for his father to convince his parents to agree to let him marry a Filipina girl. They had been from old money, his Grandma and Grandpa Anderson.
They don’t really talk to that side of the family very much anymore.
“We went to a house party at a friend’s house one night,” Amita continues. She takes the whittling knife and begins to scrap it down the length of wood a full inch farther down than Blaine had, sharpening the tip slowly and absently as she speaks. “They used to be really fun, house parties back in the day. We put on our best dresses, did our hair up all nice, and got driven over by one of the other boys on our street.
“It was a great evening. Lots of fun, except... there was this man.” A far-away look comes into Amita’s eyes, and her hands still. “I never found out how he got an invitation inside. But there were quite a few people there I couldn’t have put a name to, and he was charming and charismatic enough that I don’t think anyone would have hesitated to ask him to come in.” She lets out a small, humourless laugh. “But he was... god, I still can’t find the words for it. He stood out, in my head. All of us so young and silly and thinking we were being dangerous, and you could just feel that there was something important about him.” She purses her lips. “And that whole night, he didn’t take his eyes off Charlotte. Not once.”
The story has just started, and Blaine already knows how it’s going to end. His stomach feels heavy with a sympathy that he doesn’t try to put words to.
“Most of the people there were old enough not to have curfews, but the two of us did.” Amita’s voice is steady; just telling a story. Nothing but another piece of vampire lore to show him. “Our street was only half a dozen blocks away, so we decided would be fine to walk home as long as we did it together. We’d had a bit to drink, and that’s probably why we only noticed we were being followed when we were already a couple of blocks away from the house.
“He wasn’t trying to be stealthy, or hide in the shadows. Nothing like that. He was just... walking behind us, steady as you please, with only the light from the streetlamps on his face. It struck me that he didn’t have a jacket, even though it was a bit chilly; just plain bellbottoms and a t-shirt.” She drags the knife up the stake again, going back to sharpening it calmly. “I remember getting a little worried, then. People always told us not to walk home alone, but we weren’t alone. We thought we would be okay. And he was a good ways behind us... until he wasn’t anymore. Until he went from being a block away to a few houses away to right there, right behind us, too fast and quick and abrupt to even process it.” Amita rests the whittling knife and the stake down on the table, a look of concentration on her face. A piece of her brown-gray hair dangles across her cheek, having escaped from her hair tie. She brushes it back absently, eyes narrowing as she thinks. From the corner of the room, there is the tinkling of the bell; the sound of Jack greeting someone. It sounds faraway; unimportant.
“It’s all slurred with alcohol and speed and fear, now. God, the fear,” she shivers, shrugging her shoulders in a tiny movement. “It didn’t help my case, later on, that I’d been drinking. But I remember grabbing Lotty’s hand and the both of us trying to run, trying to get to one of the houses on the road.” She sucks in a breath. “And then – pain. Pain in my shoulder, cutting through everything else. The man caught up to us, must have ripped me away from her and threw me head-first into the brick wall around one of the nicer houses, because that’s where I was found. I don’t remember it hurting, when my head cracked against the stones, but I do remember the flash of light that went off behind my eyes when it happened. Everything spun and reeled and started to fade around the edges, but I managed to drag my eyes open and keep myself conscious for a few seconds longer. In a crumpled little heap, with my world spinning. And what I saw...”
“The monster,” says Blaine quietly, and Amita nods. She narrows her eyes, focusing on some distant point in the room.
“I saw him grab her wrists,” she says quietly, vaguely; her mind clearly years away as she speaks. “It didn’t register with me, for a moment, that anything was different about him: Lotty was always a small girl, and even if he was a normal man he could have kept her pinned in place.” She pauses, shivering. “But his face.”
There is something peculiar hitched in the corner’s of Amita’s face as she speaks; full of conviction and ferocity. And Blaine realizes that this is the memory she has written dozens of articles about; the moment that she revisits and drags herself through with every book of lore she reads, every time she listens to him talk about Kurt. The quiet awe and horror shining in her eyes lets Blaine know that even though the memory must be over forty years old, it still exists flawlessly frozen in time inside of her mind.
Amita closes her eyes in concentration, clearly dragging details to the surface. “It was like seeing something in a funhouse mirror, almost. His face was all stretched and his mouth was big, full of teeth, with eyes so red they stood out in the darkness. Lotty was crying, but she couldn’t move.” She opens her eyes, lets out a breath. “And then he ripped into her throat like an animal.”
She sits there, staring at her hands clasped in front of her on the table for a long minute. Blaine looks down at his mug of tea, mind raking over the memory drunken man he had watched Kurt kill. Struggling weakly and gurgling his way to death as Kurt took exactly what he wanted, and it had been so obvious that there was no way for him to fight back. The similarities between the two stories, years apart, makes his stomach twist and clench.
They’re all the same, he thinks in revulsion. Swallows hard and stares into the amber liquid in his cup. Cruel and monstrous and horrible, so horrible, and all of them the same.
“I’m so sorry,” says Blaine softly after a minute, and Amita shakes her head as though trying to rouse herself out of a daze.
“It was a long time ago,” she says, picking up her mug and taking a long sip of tea. The soft brown of her fingers looks nice against the deep red of the mug. She shrugs. “I passed out after that, from the crack to the head and the alcohol and the fear. I woke up in a hospital two days later with bandages on my shoulder and head and parents who were so, so very grateful that I was alive. I tried to tell people what had happened, at first; it seemed so important to let people know. But I’d been drinking, and her family was grieving, and no one wanted to hear what I had to say. I had the dreams for three nights after that: the man’s face, coming after me wherever I hid. Watching him kill her – and worse – all over again.”
Amita glances up, and Blaine looks over to see that she is sharing a look with her husband across the room. Even at a distance, he seems to have noticed the change in her body language. Jack raises his eyebrows in a quick motion of non-verbal communication, but Amita shakes her head and sends him a smile. He nods, going back to cataloguing books from behind the counter.
“None of that really stopped me from talking about it, though,” she finishes coolly, shrugging her shoulders and taking a sip of tea. “It’s just that I found more... acceptable ways to talk about fairy stories.” She lets out a slightly bitter-sounding laugh. “Well. That worked for a while, anyways.”
“What do you mean?” asks Blaine curiously, glad for the shift in topic. Amita gives him a long look over the top of her cup.
She makes a small humming noise, lips pursing together as a ghost of some strong emotion passes over her face. Her hands tighten on the mug. “Apparently, if you reach a certain degree of... vehemence about your theories, it’s not out of the question for Universities to... well. ‘Request’ that you take early retirement, so to say.”
“What?” asks Blaine, mouth falling open in surprise. “Your department, they...?”
“Mmhmm,” Amita confirms darkly, tilting her chin up, and for an odd moment she very much reminds him of an argumentative child. “It was all very civil,” she sneers, an icy tone underneath the words. “But they made it quite clear that I wasn’t worth their trouble anymore. Luckily, the opportunity opened up to buy the shop and move here, but...” She pushes her hair back behind her ear, looking older and more worn for her years. “It’s not the same, obviously.”
“God,” says Blaine, but Amita is already drawing herself up. Pushing the obvious resentment and frustration behind her, straightening the folds of her blouse.
“Anyways, there’s something I wanted to ask you about,” says Amita, folding her hands on the table and leaning toward him slightly. There’s a shift of movement that catches Blaine’s eye, and sees that Jack has wandered back across the room with his cup of tea in hand. He slides himself easily into one of the empty chairs.
Amita doesn’t pause despite his arrival. “Kurt... you’ve told me that he calls you on the phone, and sometimes the two of you have conversations outside the door. You’ve mentioned that he seems quite willing to talk about himself.”
“He is,” Blaine mutters, fingers feeling twitchy as he remembers the most recent set of gruesome descriptions he’d been forced to listen to while curled up on the living room floor, head pressed against the wood and eyes squeezed shut in an attempt to block out the details.
“Has Kurt ever made any indication of exactly how old he is? Where he’s from?”
Blaine blinks. “I... a bit? Not really; he’s... hang on, let me think.” He stares down at the tabletop for a long minute, willing the details to return to him. Dragging up facts from over the weeks and days. Kurt had said something on that first night. “Austria,” Blaine blurts, head snapping up to look at them. “He told me on the night we met that he’s from Austria originally. And... he was around when television was new. I... god, sorry, I can’t think of anything else.”
He’s always wondered, of course, about Kurt’s past. Thought about what kind of person he might have been back when he was alive; even trailed over the idea of a human Kurt wistfully in his own mind where no one else could hear him. But the actual specifics; times, and dates, and places? Kurt had always seemed far too ethereal to come from one specific place in time; whenever he’d tried to imagine the time Kurt lived in in the past, Blaine always drew a blank. Kurt had always seemed like too much of an enigma to try to place.
Amita nods seriously, and Blaine second guesses himself. “Is it important?” he asks, feeling nervous.
“It could be,” Jack chimes in, his voice warm and comfortable and soft. He is very much a gentle man, Blaine realizes at once. Jack shrugs, resting his weathered hands on the table. “If he’s very old, he must be very powerful to survive so long, right?” He looks over to his wife for confirmation, who nods.
“Blaine,” says Amita, turning to face him seriously. “Do you think you can manage to find a way to get him to talk about his past? It could give us a much better idea of what we’re up against; could maybe even give us the edge we need to know how to fight him.”
“I...” Blaine trails, a shiver of apprehension running up his spine. There is something of danger there, nudging at his mind. Some of his uncertainty must show on his face, because she rushes to continue.
“You obviously don’t have to anything you think would put you in danger,” she adds quickly. He bites down on his lip. “It’s at your discretion, Blaine. Whatever you think you could get away with asking without him getting suspicious. You could potentially find out something helpful.”
“... I can try,” Blaine concedes after a minute, and Amita reaches over to give his arm an encouraging pat. Her hand is warm and strong, and he manages an at least semi-charming smile in return.
It isn’t the Blaine doesn’t want to know about Kurt’s past – at least, in abstract terms. Not in details and bodies and gore, no, but how and when and why could be nice to hold in his head. The problem really is that Blaine has never been a very good liar. Not ever, not even when he was a kid. His parents have been telling him since he was small that he wears his heart on his sleeve, and he isn’t sure that Kurt’s inability to see his actual face will deter him at all from sussing out Blaine’s true purpose.
It has always, always been easier for Blaine to be someone else instead of pretending to be someone else. He just hopes that he can find a way to get Kurt to talk without fucking it all up.
“How about we get started on these stakes?” Jack asks after a slightly too-long pause, and that at least is something everyone can agree on.
They spend the next few hours at the table in the back, Jack popping up and out of his chair every time a customer comes inside. The three of them, talking about lore and history and the most recent dreams, and sometimes just about life in general. Chatting as they craft the tools to kill monsters.
The sharpening is productive, although they have a little bit more trouble with the silver tips. Dipping them into liquid silver would obviously be much faster and more productive, but none of them have access to the necessary facilities. The little disks might be made out of very thin sterling silver, but no amount of careful hammering will make them collapse onto the tips of the stakes and stay there in quite the way Amita had intended. Eventually, it occurs to Blaine to hammer them to fit to the sides of the stakes and stick them there with superglue; not directly on the tip but close enough that they’ll be plunged into a rhetorical chest if the occasion calls for it.
“If they are allergic, that should at least cause some mild heart rash?” Blaine offers up haplessly after quite a long time of tweaking and fiddling with the silver in an attempt to make it fit just right, and Amita throws back her head and lets out a loud laugh.
Eventually, Blaine has to leave. He wants to get back home with lots of extra sun in the sky just in case, and both of the Williamses nod seriously when he reaches for his coat. They gather up his stakes for him as he buttons himself back up. When they reach the door together, Amita gives him a tight hug, which seems to have become a standard form of greeting and farewell for the two of them ever since that first time in the coffee shop. She finally lets him go with a squeeze, and Jack offers to walk him to the street since he already has proper shoes on.
As soon as the two of them arrive at the bottom of the stairs to outside, however, a serious expression steals over Jack’s face. His greying eyebrows draw together, and he reaches up to place a hand on Blaine’s shoulder.
“You know that ‘Mita means well,” begins Jack carefully, his grip stronger that he looks on Blaine’s shoulder. “But Blaine; don’t do anything you think might put you in harm’s way. I mean it. Amita is a wonderful woman, and I love her more than anything, but she’s nothing if not committed to her research. She doesn’t always... think, when she’s digging for the truth. So just... stay safe. Both of us want you to be safe, even if she gets a little... focused, sometimes. All right?”
It is the longest Blaine has heard the man speak for the entire afternoon. Throughout their entire visit, Jack had seemed very much content to allow his wife to take the lead in the conversation; to fill the space with her knowledge and expertise and enthusiasm. In Blaine’s mind, the older man had almost been reduced to part of the scenery at times; nice enough, but so quiet and gentle that he snuck into the background.
But he isn’t being passive now. His light blue eyes are full of seriousness and concern as he holds Blaine’s gaze evenly, waiting for a response. Eventually, Blaine makes an affirmative noise and nods, which appears to be enough for Jack. He squeezes Blaine’s shoulder with long fingers, wishes him a very safe journey home, and heads back inside.
Wrapping his coat tighter around himself, Blaine blinks – before turning around and dutifully walking toward the subway. Toward his apartment; toward home, with the sun in the sky and a whole afternoon’s worth of new information thrumming in his brain.
Click here to continue to part two.