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Take Me to the River

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"How do you even stand being around women?" Mark asked, reaching to wipe a fleck of missed stage blood from David's cheek. The axe murderer clips always took a lot of cleaning up after.

"I love women," David countered, "they can bleed forever and not die. It's like the ultimate expression of everything I could ever want from life: having plenty enough blood to go around without the world going dark and cold and, and--" Dave's color was fading, along with his voice, and he stopped, taking a big sip of wine and gesturing vaguely with a hand, to cover it. "...And all of that."

Those clips also took a bit of... recovery time, too. So Mark had taken a shaken Dave home with him, to fill him full of wine. And pick his brain, a little, fascinated.

"So it doesn't just remind you of your mortality and your desperate--fixation, shall we say--on the prospect of bleeding out? How can you not think of that, wading through the mighty torrents of life blood?"

A new thought struck him, and Mark didn't wait for a response. "Hey, does this all come out of something like that?" He leaned in, eagerly, to describe the scenario. "You're getting it on with some girl, happy as the proverbial clam, and then out of nowhere, boom, turns out it's the wrong time of the month, and you come up with your dick covered in blood? As the red blooms across her pristine white sheets," he waxed on, "permanently cementing the idea of bleeding to death in your young, impressionable brain?"

"Mouthful."

"What?" Mark was caught off-guard.

"I came up with a mouthful of it. And no, I thought it was the best thing that had ever happened to me. If I ever started bleeding to death, I thought, I could just attack the nearest fertile woman to sustain myself until the ambulances got there."

Mark pointed a finger. "There's a sketch in that."

"We'd be killed. No, we'd be fired, and then killed, and we'd also never date again. Our mothers would never speak to us..."

Mark threw his cigarette in disgust.

Dave, apparently thinking better of that than Mark had, fetched it before it could burn a hole in something. He blew the dust off (10 second rule), and offered it back to Mark, butt first. Mark thanked him, grudgingly, and took it.

"If there's not a sketch in it, then there's something really wrong with your brain," Mark accused, laconically, relighting the cigarette, "because you just came up with that for no reason. You'd be the menstruation vampire."

Dave eyed his wine glass thoughtfully. "Yeah," he murmured, but he sounded like he was already elsewhere.

After a long moment, his forehead wrinkled. "I think one of these days I ought to bleed out with... Somehow it has to land in a wine glass..." He shook his head, grasping.

"It'll have to squirt," Mark suggested, "you wouldn't just conveniently dribble into a glass."

Dave nodded.

"Dinner party?" Mark asked. "Elaborately set table?"

"Date, maybe. Waiting for the wine, playing it off like nothing's happening, with the blood spurting out in crimson jets..."

"Man," Mark said, shaking his head.

Dave was already fishing for a scrap of paper, to make a note. He fell into absorption as soon as he found a pen.

After a few minutes of scrawling, Mark's patience gave out. "So what happened?"

"Hm?" Dave asked, glancing up from his paper.

"What happened, with the girl? When you came up with the mouthful of her Life Essence, I mean."

"Oh, I drank her dry. When I came up, she screamed like I'd just killed something with my teeth. Which--"

"--which it probably looked like you had," Mark supplied.

"A little," Dave agreed. "She wouldn't see me again. I thought she was just embarrassed, so I even offered to--"

"--Ah."

"Yes."

"Which probably made it worse?" Mark guessed.

"A lot worse," Dave confirmed, nodding.

"If you drank my blood," Mark mugged, draping a hand over his heart, "I'd be yours forever."

"Oh, goodie, I'll put you on my donor list." He made a checkmark on his note, as if it was already part of his plan, but sank immediately back into his musing.

Mark just watched him a while, calculating.

"Ever donated blood?" he asked, finally.

Dave squirmed visibly. "No, oh, God, no."

"It might be good for you."

But Dave was already pale. Mark leaned forward a little, unable to help himself. "I'd go with you. We could bleed together, race to see who can bleed fastest..."

"Why would you--who does that?" David asked, bewildered.

"Everybody." Mark shrugged. "Well, everybody I've ever donated with. But I'm a fast bleeder." After a moment's reflection, he conceded, "It might be my fault. I may inject a little competitive spirit into the proceedings."

Dave stared at him, wide-eyed. "You're--you're a competitive bleeder?"

"A bleed-racer, you might say."

"I wish you wouldn't."

"Too late to take it back, I suppose."

Dave shifted uncomfortably. "I'm not--I'm really not sure about this."

Mark sat up straight. "Wait, you mean you're actually considering it?"

"No, I'm--" Dave backpedalled, quickly, caught.

"Yes you were! You are! Come on, right now." Mark stood up, jammed the cork back into the wine bottle, and took Dave's glass away. "Before you can over-think it."

"But I've--I've been drinking, that's not--"

"You've had like two sips the entire time we've been sitting here, you'll be fine." And he snagged Dave's wrist, and hauled him up and away.

***

"Mark, Mark, Mark," Dave begged, shaking, "please, please, please..."

Mark was not relinquishing his elbow. When he'd tried, Dave had started to bolt for the door; he wasn't going to make that mistake again. "Just fill out the form, David."

"Mark, Mark, Mark..." Dave repeated, moving his pen only with great effort.

"No, no, no," Mark replied, "go on, you need to do this."

"I don't think I do... You--you can't make me, you know."

"It kind of looks like I am," Mark retorted.

"I can just tell them I'm some kind of... of drug-addled, aspirin-taking hemophiliac who's..." He scanned the form for more inspiration. "...Pregnant. They won't take me, then, right?"

"Right. And do you see that nurse over there? The big, mean looking one?" Dave nodded faintly. "If you try to tell her you're pregnant, she will stab you to death with her pen. And I will help her. We've collaborated before, and we're not afraid to do it again."

When the woman in question happened to glance their way, Mark blew her a kiss, and she twiddled him a wave, breaking into a grin.

Dave stared. "You actually know her," he said, flatly.

"Of course, man, I'm in here every three months. That's Marsha." He batted his eyes after her sweetly.

"Every--" Dave had passed through blanched and well into green.

"Yes!" Mark tightened his grip on Dave's elbow. "Come on, man, it's the right thing to do. People die without this." He thumped the vein at the inside of Dave's elbow, with two fingers, for emphasis.

"I will die without this, too!"

Mark rolled his eyes. "It's like a drop in the bucket, you won't even feel it."

"It's--it's like a pound of blood, Mark, of course I'll feel it!"

"Well, okay, you will," Mark granted, "but I swear it only lasts a little while. And it's really, really great while it does."

Dave stared at him, disbelief and disdain fighting for dominance in his expression.

"Fill out the form," Mark cajoled, nudging him. "C'mon, this is gonna' be great."

"You are sick," Dave insisted.

"This from the placenta drinker."

"It's not technically called placenta, at that stage, it's--"

"In the last six months," Mark read out over him, picking up Dave's hand and planting it over the check box, "have you lived in or traveled to..."

It took a great deal of time, but Mark managed to fill out his own form awkwardly, with the wrong hand (he still couldn't trust Dave free), while he pushed Dave through the rest of his, despite much wailing an gnashing of teeth. When they'd finished, he handed in both clipboards, and wrapped an arm tight around Dave's quaking shoulders like a fierce protector.

Dave started to breathe a little too fast, and then faster.

When he didn't stop on his own, Mark took a deep breath, and took Dave's chin in his hand to turn him to face. "David," he said, very deliberately, "listen to me. You are going to be fine."

The trembling stilled.

So did the breathing. But after a moment, Dave released his held breath in a sigh. "I'm being silly," he said weakly.

"You're scared," Mark corrected, "but you'll get over it. Look, I'll be right beside you the whole time. The nurse is going to take you away to ask you some still-more-embarrassing questions, and she's going to prick your finger, and then they'll slab us up right beside one another, again, and it's all easy from there."

Dave laid a hand on his own damp forehead, and leaned back against Mark's arm, and the wall. "...Promise?"

"I promise. It's going to be fine."

After a deep, quaking breath, Dave sighed, and nodded. "Okay. All right, bleed me."

***

The next steps went by in a panicky blur, for Dave. They wouldn't let him keep Mark on hand, while he was being interviewed by the nurse and having his blood pressure taken and all the rest, but he could hear Mark being processed in the next cubby, teasing a less than amused nurse at every opportunity. Dave answered every question honestly and automatically, on a kind of harried auto-pilot, and could only think of getting this part over with, getting back to where he could see his sometimes-friend, and get back to using him as a security blanket.

Dave ticked off marks on a mental tally, every time he almost fled from the cubicle. He'd just gotten to seventeen, when a form was pushed under his hand, and he found himself signing beside the ominous "ACCEPT DONOR."

He felt dizzy. He tried to embrace it (wouldn't they turn him away, if he fainted?), but in the way of these things, he only felt more steady when he did. He closed his eyes and let himself be led away.

Much to his terror, he beat Mark to the tables. He had to beg the phlebotomist for a stay of execution, and she (very patiently, he thought) took mercy, taking her time in setting everything up. He thanked Toronto that it was a slow day.

Dave stared at the ceiling and shifted, trying to get comfortable on the table. When he couldn't, he stared at the empty table nearest him, and experimented with stretching his arm out full length. He couldn't reach it, not by a long shot, but he made it better than halfway...

Mark leapt onto the table with great gusto, startling him out of his reverie, and slapped Dave's outstretched palm in a modified high five. "How you doing?"

"Is it normal to feel like all my limbs are going to fall off at the hinges and my hair is going to crawl off of my head?"

"Sure."

"Then I'm fine. What took you so long?"

"Travel history." Mark shook his head, as if this was beneath him. "Every time, they need to check everywhere I've been against known malarial areas, or whatever it is. And nobody ever remembers if Distrito Federal is safe, or not, so then there's an exciting drama involving the map on the wall, over there. Sometimes it takes two or three people to find it."

David blinked, temporarily distracted from his fear. "That's..."

"Incredibly annoying," Mark finished, but didn't really sound all that annoyed, at all. Dave thought he was a little too excited about the whole thing.

"Why is this such a big deal for you?" he asked, before he could stop himself. "What could possibly be so much fun?"

He wasn't sure he really wanted to know.

"You mean apart from the warm fuzzy feelings from potentially saving up to three lives with each 500 mL you donate?" Mark asked cheerfully, sounding like a memorized brochure.

"Yes, apart from that."

"Honestly?" Mark folded his hands under his head and settled in, looking at the ceiling. "It's kind of like getting stoned. You get sleepy and blissful and there's a hell of an endorphin rush which just propels you into this high euphoria." His eyes had closed, while he'd spoken, and a private smile had snuck onto his face.

"...I see," Dave said, quietly.

"Plus," Mark added, snapping back to attention, "you become a really cheap date. You're diluting your alcohol over about a tenth less blood than usual, so it kicks your ass a lot faster."

"That's a good thing?" Dave asked, uncertainly.

"If you're buying your own drinks, it's great. But, seriously," Mark said, eyes widening, "the euphoria's the thing." The phlebotomist had returned, and was starting to roll up Dave's sleeve, so Mark lowered his voice. "Just try to relax and let your body do its thing; when something hurts you, it wants to fix it and make it better, and it will try very hard to make you feel good."

"So it is going to hurt!" Dave accused. "This is going to hurt, isn't it?" he asked the nurse.

Her response was, "Are you allergic to iodine?" but when Dave shook his head, she broke script and promised it would only be a brief sting, and then it would be fine. He was only slightly mollified, and turned back to glare at Mark.

"Mark, I swear if I die on this table I will haunt you until I cause you to throw yourself off of a cliff and onto sharpened sticks below."

"Deal," Mark said, extending his hand to shake on it. Dave was able to catch his hand, and felt a strange relief to know he'd been right, about the distance between them, about it being bridgeable. But then they let go, and the moment of comfort evaporated.

Dave followed the instructions he was given, though with the barest attention, and when a second nurse began prepping Mark's far arm, Dave was so intent on watching that he didn't know he was being stabbed until it had happened.

He cursed out loud, and loudly, but then it was done, and it had stopped hurting before he could even whip his face around to see.

But then he couldsee it, could see the deep, deep dark start to twist away and out of him, like in all of his worst nightmares. Frantic, he looked away, but only landed on the sight of Mark's encroaching needle. "Mark," he said, panicked, and wasn't able to look away. "Mark--"

Mark extended his arm kindly back across the distance, and Dave latched onto his hand desperately. Mark gripped his hand a little tighter, when the needle entered, but that was all, and he sighed a satisfied little sigh when the nurse left, relaxing into a boneless sprawl. The only tension in him seemed to be just as much as he needed to keep his arm out across the gap, and keep Dave's hand held tight.

Dave sighed, weakly. Was it getting darker in here? It was cold, wasn't it...?

...No; he supposed it wasn't. He laid his head back and closed his eyes, tightly.

"There," Mark said, quietly, "that's not so bad, is it?" His voice had a dreamy quality and something else, a little hoarse. "At some point you should let go, just so you can touch the IV. It's--I mean, this is totally obvious, but it's really warm. It's still hot, while it's leaving. You feel really connected."

Dave fought down nausea, and something else. He tried to concentrate on Mark's voice, and on speaking clearly. "I suppose if I were just bleeding out into the air," he tried, as small talk, "it would chill a lot faster."

"Right. This is like--it's like it's just another vein, man, still protected and contained, just going somewhere else," Mark promised. "It's just an extension of your body, drawing you out across space. You're not bleeding to death, you're bleeding into someone."

Dave thought he did feel a little chilled, now, though. "All right," he mumbled. He didn't let go, but he did flex the other arm, a little, to shift his skin against the IV where it lay. It did feel warm, impossibly warm, like a hot bath.

"Wow," he murmured.

A hot bath sounded like a good idea, right about then. Sinking down into a pool of something as hot as that, submerging, being swallowed up... his skin tingled all over, as every little hair stood up.

Hell, he was going to feel hypothermic after this, he was sure of it, and a hot bath would be just the thing.

No, wait--you weren't supposed to do that, with hypothermia, were you? You needed another warm, naked body to bring you up to temperature, first, needed to be wrapped up close and snug with another human being until all the heat between you had been shared and spread in your cocoon, clouding around you like ink in water. Then, when you were good and warm, you could have your hot bath. Maybe even with your other naked body.

He squirmed.

His eyes opened onto Mark, and his skin was still singing.

He wondered if Mark took hot baths, after donating blood. Or if he twisted up with other bodies, to keep warm, while the high was still on, or after he'd made himself a cheap date.

...Yeah; he could see that.

It took a while for the discomfort at that thought to sink in, and a little longer for him to blame it on the endorphin rush, which he supposed must be starting to come through his slightly-fading terror as promised. When he did, he wondered if maybe being able to get drunk fast was exactly what he needed, right now.

Maybe Mark would get him drunk.

He wondered if he should be trying to push that thought away.

It was no wonder that it had come, though, really; Mark apparently shared his fascination with bleeding, if in a... different way. And he looked for all the world like something illicit was being done to his body, sexual rather than medical. When he shifted on the table, it was fluid and barely restrained; a flash of a grin would crack through his placid expression before he swallowed it back down into something milder, more secret.

A brief moment of hetero defensiveness made Dave snatch his hand away--what must it look like, two desperate young men holding hands in the blood bank, one frightened and one oversexed? It would be Brian and Attila all over again--but he immediately regretted it. Pride stepped in to keep him from remedying the situation, but he regretted that, too.

He scolded himself inwardly, and played off his panic as bravery, trying to reach to feel the IV with his now-free (and trembling) hand. David expected to feel queasy, to faint outright, when he reached it, but whether it was just the strange rush or some transferred hysteria from Mark's infectious glee in the thing, he didn't.

When he touched it, he just felt warm. He felt too, too warm.

When he closed his eyes, again, he saw lurid things, things dark and red and close and alive. It seemed inevitable that he would. He saw the moment with the girl (when he realized he did, indeed, have a good attitude toward menstruation), and every moment like it since, and others he was only inventing in the seedy swamps of his brain. He saw hot Elizabeth Bathory baths and limbs twisting together in pools and steam. The promised sleepiness was starting to strike, but it was the writhing sleepiness of middle-of-the-night dreams and wicked afternoons.

David was turned on. Horrified and turned on.

"Shit, you're almost done," Mark complained, from beside him, making him yelp in surprise.

"What?" David gasped, gripping the table like it might fall from under him.

"Whoa, calm down, buddy. I think you're beating me, is all." And then he said something that meant little to Dave: "I have big veins; your heartrate must be up pretty high to make up the advantage over me."

Dave didn't even try to make it mean anything. "Okay," he said, shifting to plant his feet and lift his knees, suddenly paranoid of the front of his slacks.

Snatches of visions of donors tangling up with one another on a slab filled his head. Their IVs would catch, pull free, and their wild entanglement would be sprayed over with gushes of blood, spilling from the bags, glopping from their open wounds--

Then, "Sir--" a nurse was scolding, "sir, please straighten your arm."

Dizzily, Dave looked down to find he was flattening the tube between his arm and the table, and was blocking the nurse's access. Panicked (certain he was going to damage himself, this way), he shot his arm rigidly back to place. "Is that dangerous?" he asked, weakly, still seeing snatches of the dark, incongruous things behind his eyelids.

The woman looked at him blankly. "This is your first time doing this?"

"What was your first clue?" Mark asked laconically.

"Oh, I don't know, maybe the deer-in-headlights look. Sir," she said, to Dave again, "it's completely safe to donate blood. You probably don't want to move your arm around too much, though, no. But right now I just need to be able to get to it. You're done," she explained, to his confused stare, and then with a jolt, she'd removed the needle and was pressing gauze into his arm. "Put pressure on this and hold," she ordered, and when he'd pressed his fingers into the crook of his elbow, like his life depended on it (because he was sure it did), she went about the rest of her business.

Dave was honestly surprised his tapped vein wasn't gushing. He could practically see it flowing, see the streaks it should be jetting... "How--why isn't it--"

"Hm?" Mark asked, absorbed in craning his neck to check his own progress.

"It's just... it's like a papercut, or something. They just opened a vein, and it's not gushing and getting all over everything. I'm pressing a piece of nothing against a flesh wound and it's working."

"It's a really tiny hole," Mark said. "It's just like anything else: let it clot and it'll heal over, it's not a big thing. It'll be fine."

Dave stared at the ceiling, trying to block out better things with the blankness of the fluorescent lights above. He didn't watch the nurse bandage him, but he tried to take on faith that there'd been no untoward fountaining when she changed out the gauze.

He elected to lie still for a little while and wait for Mark, rather than get up, and lied that he was fine when they asked him about it. He couldn't face the thought of juice and cookies, yet, or of getting more than a few feet away from Mark, but he didn't want anyone hovering, either.

Mark had gotten him into this; Mark would get him out.

Maybe Mark would feed him drinks until he was cheaply inebriated and could blot out some of the images and vague trauma.

Maybe Mark would have a bath with him.

"Finally!" Mark moaned. "I can't believe it took me so long!"

"Me, neither," Dave said, automatically, and carefully sat up, turning to watch. He couldn't help himself. And it wasn't quite so bad, at least, expecting to see horrible things happening to someone else; he could be a little braver, when it was Mark's blood at risk, and not his own.

He watched very carefully, the way the bandage was wrapped, just in case he ever needed it.

"Beat by a beginner..." Mark grumbled on, but Marsha told him to buck up and shooed him off towards the canteen for juice and cookies.

Dave slid off the table to follow behind him, feeling very... uneven. He felt like a hot water bottle, all the weight of him pouring down into his feet when he came upright, leaving his head full of air and floating. He was drifting and dragging at once. But when he experimented with walking, he found his balance was okay, and he wasn't as dizzy as he'd expected to be. Or as cold.

Still, he drifted as close to Mark as propriety would allow, drawn to the warm glow of him. When he sank into the adjoining chair, he closed his eyes and let his forehead fall onto Mark's (very warm) shoulder.

"This is the part where the world gets dim and I go into the light, right?" he asked, scolding himself for what was at its heart a ploy for comfort.

Mark either fell for it or didn't mind, ruffling Dave's hair and patting his head. "You'll be okay, David. What kind of juice do you want?"

"I have to have juice? Can I have grape juice?" he hinted baldly.

"I think they just have orange and apple..."

"I meant--"

"I know," Mark said, relenting, "as soon as we get back to my place, I promise." After a brief exchange with a volunteer, he slid a cup of orange juice under Dave's nose. "Here, drink up. Pretend it's a Screwdriver."

Dave pushed his luck and mumbled incoherently, until Mark held the cup up to his lips for him, like he were a parched man dying in the desert. Which, once he sipped the juice, he rather felt like.

He marveled. How could he be so, so thirsty? How could you even be that thirsty and not realize it, be that thirsty and survive?

David came up and clutched at the cup and drank it down, only getting a few uneasy images of snatching up one of the bags of blood and piercing it with his teeth, to quench his thirst. He managed to mostly suppress those, as he motioned for another cup, and even ate a few cookies while he drank the second cup down. With his third cup, he managed to almost behave like a normal denizen of the blood bank. Almost.

Probably most of them weren't having blood-soaked fantasies of tangling up with their strictly platonic friends.

Mark talked without end, about how the blood was processed, about previous experiences, about anything, and David let it wash over him. He paid just enough attention that he could assure the volunteer that he was feeling fine (his slumping had raised the alarm), and no more. Somewhere in his hot daze, he did hear that their time was up, and that they could move on, but it didn't mean much until Mark was bundling him into a cab and they were alone. More alone, at least.

Alone enough that he didn't feel bad folding over and curling up over Mark's lap like a child.

Mark did all the work of navigation and paying, and patted him absently. "You okay?" he asked, several times on the trip, sounding a little less self-assured every time, but Dave always muttered assent, and now and then squirmed to get comfortable. Here and there the odd, well-aimed brush of his elbow made Mark jump and tense. By the time they got out of the cab, Mark was shedding his overshirt to ball it up casually in front of himself for propriety's sake.

David didn't mention it, but felt strangely empowered. He leaned on Mark up the stairs, making him sacrifice his cover to be able to grip the banister and David both, and snuck am impulsive glance down at his jeans to see the uncomfortable outline, there. When they got in the door, Mark surreptitiously stuck a hand in his pocket to rearrange, before installing David on the couch and rushing for the wine they'd abandoned earlier.

Dave bit the inside of his lip until he tasted metal and sprawled, waiting hungry for wine and comfort and company.

***

Mark wasn't sure whether it was the ethical thing to do. But David had been--had been rubbing him, on the cab ride home, had been hanging all over him on the way up... And in his typical David fashion, was clamoring for more booze as soon as they'd finished off the rest of the first bottle.

So could it be so wrong to bring him another? And slide in closer beside him, on the couch?

When Mark got back, David was still talking about Elizabeth Bathory, about whom he seemed to know a little too much. He paused long enough to say, "Oh, thank God," when he saw the bottle, only barely giving Mark enough room to start screwing down the corkscrew, but then he was back on about disappearing girls and pools of blood and strange tortures and sex.

Mark braced the bottle between his thighs while he twisted the cork out, and when he'd tossed it onto the table, David fell on the bottle in faux fellation, trying to grip and tip it back to drink it right from the source. Mark let him, and decided there maybe wasn't such an ethical dilemma at all. David might be just as keyed up about the whole thing as he was, if that was possible.

It was hard to imagine that.

"Let me at least pour it," he begged, the wine snob in him balking at Dave's chugging from the bottle. "It'll just take a second, okay?"

David growled, when he tried to take the bottle, but did relinquish it after only a brief struggle. Mark poured one cup, and held it near enough to his chest that David (predictably) crawled into his lap to get it.

Well, maybe that was a cheap move. Mark thought he should be ashamed of himself for that one, at least, but just shifted to let Dave in, wrapping an arm loosely around his shoulders.

"Ugh," Dave muttered, once he'd sated the worst of his desperation in the cup, "what have you done to me?"

Mark asked, "What do you mean?" though he had a pretty good idea. Dave was sitting in his lap, rubbing his cheek on Mark's shoulder like a hungry house-cat. Mark had to fight off the urge to scratch the base of his tail.

"My head is full of sex, blood, and violence," Dave muttered against him. "Do you--d'you know what I was picturing, on the slab back there?"

"Tell me," Mark said, feeling a bit like some perverse Santa, asking the boy in his lap how well he'd behaved. What he wanted.

"I imagined you crawling all over me," Dave murmured, "getting tangled up in tubes and all the needles pulling out. There was... there was us," he said, turning his eyes up, unfocused, to Mark's, "getting covered in blood, and screwing like beasts on the slab."

Mark stared.

David fumbled the glass down to the box that was serving as a table and licked his lips.

"You're so sick," Mark breathed, impressed, and grabbed him into a kiss, all tongue and wine.

David pulled back long enough to gasp, "You, too," before Mark sucked him back in.

***

The kissing didn't last very long.

Soon, Mark had pushed David back out of his lap and onto his back, crawling up on top of him to clutch him up tight against. And when he fell on Dave's neck, Dave urged, "Bite me," and when Mark did, David cursed and bit him back, harder.

Mark wondered if Dave really was going for blood.

"Are you--" he gulped, only slightly worried, "--like... really into those, that--that gay vampire, Anne Rice stuff?"

Dave gasped, "Is that what those are about?" and Mark nodded, swallowing at the skin of Dave's throat, again.

"Gotta' read those," Dave mumbled. He shoved weakly at Mark's shoulder. "Fuck... Bite me like you mean it."

Mark, only barely hanging on as it was, let something lower and meaner loose, at that, and did. He dug his fingers in hard, too, and grabbed one of Dave's wrists, pinning it down beside him for no reason at all.

It just seemed like the thing to do.

David moaned.

It was a desperate sound, and twinged something low in Mark's spine, and he groaned, too, grasping at him. He thought he could maybe understand the fascination with consuming another human being.

"Mark," David sighed, sounding delirious or blissful or something like it, "I can hear my heartbeat... I can hear..."

"...Your blood," Mark finished, coming up for air. "It's still there," he promised, placating. "You're fine, everything's--"

"Keep biting me," David demanded, shaking his head. When Mark hesitated, Dave kicked at him, so Mark ducked back in. He started blindly unbuttoning Dave's shirt, biting his shoulders, leaving little marks in the pale, smooth skin over his ribs, latching onto the crook of his unbandaged arm like he meant to match it to its mate.

Dave's fingers wound into his hair, tight. "What the fuck are we doing? Jesus, Mark, what the fuck..."

"No idea," Mark muffled against him. "None." And then he bit down, again. He wasn't going to get kicked a second time, if he could avoid it.

"Okay," David murmured, apparently satisfied. "Okay. Then don't stop."

***

Mark didn't. Bless him, Mark didn't stop biting when Dave started struggling the rest of the way out of his shirt. And he didn't stop when he got out of his jeans, either. And when Dave was struggling to pull the shirt over Mark's face, and Mark couldn't reach him to bite, he snapped his teeth on the air, instead, and Dave felt his eyes flutter.

"Jesus," he muttered, and throwing the shirt aside, ploughed Mark down in cold blood, flattening him into the couch.

"Jesus," he repeated, and started mouthing the skin at Mark's neck desperately. "You can't ever play the vampire again, okay? I'll--I'll die. Right there on the set."

Mark muttered something that might have been "Scout's Honor," but David didn't care, because he couldn't seem to get his hand turned around right to unbutton Mark's pants.

"Can't get your pants," he grumbled, and he didn't bother to suppress the petulance in his voice. "Why are you still wearing pants?"

Mark was too breathless between bites to respond audibly, but David took him to be apologizing and let himself be slightly mollified. "Okay, but fix it," he said, pushing at Mark uselessly.

"You're not helping," Mark gasped, but when he got his fly, Dave dove into his mouth, stunning them both with the clack of teeth. Mark cringed and bit Dave's lip, probably to scold him, but it didn't work; Dave's lip, already worried with chewing and swollen with mouthing, split, and the tiny spike of metal and sour made him swoon outright.

He hadn't known exactly what he was planning to do with Mark, once he got his pants open--planning was beyond him--but the red tang in his mouth moved him onto autopilot. He pulled himself out of the kiss, sucked his lip, and spit, red and pink and clear, into his palm, stared at it.

Mark stared at it, too, and there was a frozen moment between them, a trance. But then their eyes raised, to each other.

Mark raised his palm to Dave's mouth, too.

***

After that, everything was a mess. Two hands mashed between their bellies without cohesion, gripping and sliding with tinged slickness, while their bodies twisted and rolled blindly together on the couch. There was panting, and the occasional bead of blood on Dave's lip, which would wind up smeared across Mark's, too; there was uneasy thrusting and sweat and dizzy swooning. And somewhere in the guttural mess came heady laughter, biting, and wild expulsion.

 

***********

 

By the time they both lay disheveled and exhausted and cocooned in blankets, David was checking his bandage again, to make sure he hadn't bled through in overexertion. But when he found he hadn't, he laid his cheek against Mark's chest and sighed strange, dazed contentment.

Mark rumpled his hair fondly.

"So..." he asked, slowly; "three month's from now?"

"It's a date," Dave mumbled, and slept, and dreamed of pools and steam and smoke.