Song: "We Are Hungry Men" from David Bowie
Summary: "Welcome to Fangtasia," he says into the microphone, and grins sharply. "Eric says drink more." (True Blood AU)
Even the door makes Kris nervous.
It's painted a matte black, and it looks heavy, like it's meant to stop things from escaping, and there's a neon sign in bright red that says FANGTASIA in a curvy script casting a bloody glow into the hot Shreveport night. There's a line – of course there's a line – but it's one black-clad fangbanger after another. Every one of them is watching him walk toward the bouncer at the door like he's an ant under a magnifying glass. I'm just here to find my friend! he wants to say. I'm not going to have any fun, I promise!
He rehearses it in his head a couple of times as he steps up to the bouncer, who doesn't even look at him. "Back of the line," the guy says before Kris can open his mouth.
"Listen, man, I'm just looking for–"
The bouncer turns his head around so fast that Kris nearly gets whiplash from watching, and hisses. He legit hisses, like he's a cat or a snake or something.
Kris takes a step back. "Sorry, I just…"
Then the bouncer tilts his head and takes a closer look at him. Kris looks down at his plaid shirt and scuffed brown Converse and mentally kicks himself for not, at the very least, digging a black t-shirt or something out of the bottom of his duffel bag – but then the guy smiles. It's not a pleasant smile, but it's a smile nevertheless, so Kris counts it as a win. "Go on in," he says, and gestures to the door. Three people at the front of the line grumble as Kris ducks his head and walks into the club.
He's almost immediately pushed back out the door by a pulse of thumping bass. It thrums loud enough that his bones ache, and he has to force himself to keep going. Kris loves music, he really does, but this is… it's not so much music as an aural assault.
For a minute he can't do anything but stand by the bar, watching everything and trying to remember what the hell he's doing here, instead of lying safely in his bed in Arkansas. And then he looks up.
On a plinth too small and narrow to be a stage is a man – at least, a man-shaped someone – moving purposefully toward an old-school microphone reflecting silver and red in the dark of the club. Kris can't see him very well at first, only the shape of him, the way he moves, and it makes him shiver. It's not that he's superhumanly quick or doing that weird flicker thing that he heard vamps like to do to freak out the humans, but it's just too graceful to be anything but other.
And then a spotlight flickers on, reedy and red-tinged, and the first thing Kris sees is a red streak in the man's black hair, bright and slick like fresh-spilled blood.
The second thing he sees is white, white skin and white, white fangs and eyes smudged with black. They're focused on him.
"Welcome to Fangtasia," he says into the microphone, and grins sharply. "Eric says drink more."
Then he begins to sing, and it fits in so perfectly with the thumpa-thumpa of the bass line that Kris doesn't recognize it at first. His voice starts out all growl, low and mean and sexy, and by the time he gets to Soft hair and velvet tongue, I want to give you what you give to me… Kris has almost forgotten why, exactly, he came here. Or why he was afraid to come here in the first place. It's like he's always been here, standing in this spot by the bar, unable to look away.
"You need to buy a drink," says a voice behind him. "You can't just stand at the bar and not buy a drink."
He turns around and the bartender is staring at him like Kris just slapped his mother. He's short but built, covered in enough tattoos that from afar Kris would have thought he was wearing a really tight shirt. It snaps him out of his whatever-it-was, vampire-induced trance, and he blinks at the bartender for a second before saying, "I really just want a Coke, but could you look at this picture?"
The bartender rolls his eyes as he fills a glass with coke and puts it on the counter. "That's $6. What did you want me to look at?"
Kris shows him the picture – Dane, smiling at the camera in the back yard at the frat house, barbecue tongs in hand. He's wearing an apron that says "CHIBECUE 07" and a Razorbacks baseball cap.
"Never seen him," the bartender says.
"Are you sure? Because-"
"Never seen him," he repeats, then nods at someone behind Kris. He turns and sees at a woman holding court on a couch at the back of the club. "Talk to Pam. She likes to break frat boys sometimes."
Kris winces at the word break, but heads toward the couch. Pam, or who he assumes is Pam, is blond and curvy and kind of scary, like at another time she might have looked like Katy but now she wears leather and black and corsets and red lipstick and arches her eyebrow at anyone within two feet. She's arching it at him as he approaches, and he holds Dane's picture in front of him like a shield.
"And what is it you want," she says.
"I'm looking for my friend," he starts. "He… he used to come here, he told me. I was wondering if you'd seen him."
She studies the picture for a minute, and for another minute. Finally she looks up at him, expression unreadable. "Once," she says. "But he did not come here for me."
"Who did he…" Kris takes a sip of Coke and tries again. "Who should I talk to?"
Pam nods up at the man on the plinth, who has one leg hooked around the microphone stand and is caressing it in a way that makes the gyrating human groupies around him moan, with an expression on her face that Kris can't quite place. It's not happy enough to be amusement. "I'd start with Adam."
She points Kris to a door near the end of the bar, and like the entrance to the club it's painted matte black and looks forbidding. There's a sign taped to the front that says EMPLOYEES ONLY in someone's spiky handwriting. He stands to the side and nurses his Coke long enough that the bartender starts shooting him dirty looks, but he ignores them and keeps watching Adam – that's his name, Adam – as he struts above the crowd, singing about killing a southern belle. The vampires in the room raise their glasses of blood, if they're bothering with them, as he finishes his set, and as soon as the last note has left his throat, even before it stops pulsing in the air, the spotlight flickers off and Adam is gone.
"Did Pam send me a present?" a voice asks brightly by his side, and he nearly jumps out of his skin, because Adam is there, towering over him – Kris hadn't realized how tall he was, up onstage, but he's got maybe five inches on Kris, plus another two inches at least of spiky black-and-red hair. And weirdly, he's not menacing at all, not like Pam or the bouncer or, most especially, the blond man lounging on what can only be called a throne near the back room of the club. Kris doesn't feel any fear when looking up at Adam, just a shiver of something else, remembering his voice in the air between them.
Kris takes a breath. "I'm just – I'm trying to find someone."
Adam smiles, the first genuine smile Kris has seen all night. It's playful, and Kris smiles back, unable to help himself. "I'm not someone?" Adam asks.
"You're someone," Kris says, a little more fervently than he intended, and what the hell is up with that, because he's not supposed to be having fun here, and he's definitely not supposed to be… flirting, he guesses, is what he's doing. So then he blushes, feeling the blood rush up to his face, and that's when Adam's fangs come out.
"Fuck," Kris says, startled.
"Okay," Adam says.
"No," Kris starts, "I mean… I'm looking for my friend. Dane. Have you seen him?" He passes over the picture and looks up at Adam. "Pam said you might know something. His family is really worried."
"You're really worried," Adam says, and looks up from the picture to meet Kris's eyes. His fangs retract.
"Yeah," Kris says. "Yeah, I am."
"Come on back," Adam says, and opens the door for Kris in a way that seems almost courtly. "We should talk."
As it turns out, "back" entails a long, narrow corridor with triple-locked doors on either side, on and on, until finally Adam gestures to a door and says, "Please come in."
Kris gives him a look, because he's pretty sure it's only vampires who need to be invited, and Adam looks pleased that he seems to get the joke. "It's just my dressing room," Adam says. "But it's far enough back that we don't have to talk over the music. This is... important."
"Yeah," says Kris, and sits down on a red leather couch, still fiddling with the picture of Dane in his hands.
"I'm going to tell you straight off," Adam begins, moving to the mirror, "I really am not sure where your friend is. But what he was involved in, you don't have to be."
Kris opens his mouth to speak, but finds he's not quite sure what to say. He knew it was bad with Dane, but to hear it coming from a vampire is not exactly what he was expecting. "He's my friend," Kris says finally. "I am involved."
Adam nods once, and his eyes flash with what might be approval. "Just thought I'd ask." He smiles, but it's too serious, an attempt at reassurance that makes Kris feel, if anything, worse. "I'll tell you what I know, but it's not much, and it's not good. How much do you know about V?"
There it is, Kris thinks. There is what he didn't want to hear, had done his best not to think about. He closes his eyes and very deliberately does not swear. "Great."
When he opens his eyes Adam is looking at him, all sympathy and blue eyes and it's just so weird, because Adam is a vampire and he's the most comforting thing Kris has been around since Dane went missing. He's not sure what that's about, but he does his best to shove it to the back of his mind and asks, "So Dane was using? Selling? Both?"
There's a hesitation in Adam's voice when he answers, like he's doing his best not to say too much too soon. "There's a lot of… politics, I guess, to being a vampire. And Dane got mixed up with some people who were playing a game. Your friend thought… I think he thought he could handle it. But…" Adam trails off.
"Were you this vague when you were human, or is it special vampire gift?" Kris asks. He can't help it, he's mad. This is his friend.
But Adam smiles now, less attempt-at-being-nonthreatening and more sympathetic, like Kris would expect from an old friend. "The vague is, and I know you're going to hate me for this, but it's to protect you. There are things that you can't know – there are things I'm not supposed to know, and if Eric hadn't soundproofed this room to stop me from bothering the whole club during my warm-up I wouldn't even be telling you this much." Adam takes a deep breath, and the smile falls away. "What I can say is that I have some idea of who your friend was mixed up with. I… I made some bad decisions, when I was first made, and Dane… he found his way to one of them as well. If I was looking for Dane, it's the first place I'd start."
"It must have been a pretty bad decision," Kris says quietly.
"He was," Adam replies. He looks a little lost. "But a good one, at first. You just never know, do you?"
"No," Kris says quietly.
Adam sends Kris home with a phone number and strict instructions to call an hour after sunset – "Believe me, it'll take me at least an hour to be even remotely… well, I guess the phrase is ‘human' but in this case, I think you know what I mean" – so they can go looking for Adam's bad decision. Kris is staying at a motel near the highway, some cheap and easy chain that manages to be both sterile and seedy at the same time. He's not sure what to do with himself during the day, so he drives around Shreveport for a while, trying to imagine Dane in all of the places he passes. It doesn't really work.
Sunset comes in spectacular Louisiana fashion, orange and pink and red, and even though Kris heard once that it was all pollution that did this, he still can't help think how pretty it is. He sits in Raising Cane's and eats his chicken fingers and watches the clock on his cell phone until it's time to call Adam.
"Hello?" says Adam's voice on the other end of the line, and Kris draws in a breath and tries to remember what he's supposed to say.
"Is this – Adam, this is Kris, from last night?"
"Kris, hi," Adam says, sounding a little breathless. "Do you know where you're going?"
It could be a deep philosophical question, but Kris takes a chance and says, "I thought we were going to meet at Fangtasia?"
"Not tonight," Adam says. "No use looking there. Eric doesn't like the one we're looking for. Says he scares away the tourists. Come to my place."
Adam's place is an old, slightly creepy but really kind of awesome antebellum-style house on the outskirts of Shreveport, all white columns and tall old trees and swaths of Spanish moss. When he's up on the porch, Adam opens the door before he has a chance to knock. "Come on in," Adam says. "Not that you need my invitation, but the South has taught me nothing if not how to be uselessly polite."
"This isn't a family home?" Kris asks before he can stop himself. "It looks like the kind of thing that would be."
"It was somebody's family home," Adam says. "Eric gave it to me to use when he brought me out here. Said it was part of the deal. Come have a seat – can I get you anything? I do have things other than True Blood, if only to make my fridge not look creepy."
Kris laughs and sits down on the couch – black leather, but kind of ridiculously comfortable. "Um – Coke or something would be good?"
Adam reappears before him with a Coke and a bottle of True Blood. Like, literally reappears. Kris wonders if he'll ever get used to it.
"So where did Eric bring you from?" Kris asks, curiosity getting the better of him.
"I'd been singing in vampire clubs in LA for the better part of, oh… thirty or so years? I mean, I'd toured a little in Europe – the vampires over there have some pretty spectacular parties, and they're sometimes interested in hearing music from people they wouldn't have to wipe afterward." At Kris's confused look, he says, "Memory erasing. It's a thing. But mostly I stuck to LA – it's where I was made, and it was pretty easy to lose yourself in such a big city without having anyone get suspicious. Especially in the ‘60s – kids were going missing all the time. I think my parents… I'm not sure what they thought, but I don't think they were surprised. Hurt, but not surprised."
Kris isn't sure why Adam is telling him all this, but it seems to all be coming out at once, and it's fascinating, the look on Adam's face as he stares at his hands and tries to put it together for Kris.
"The guy we're going to meet, he was… not my maker, but might as well have been. We were together for a while, and things got crazy. And then I was something I didn't want to be, and couldn't figure out why I would want to be in that kind of place for the rest of forever. So I met Eric, and he convinced me to take a chance, and there was no reason not to." Adam finally looks up, smiles. "And he was right. He usually is, Eric."
"So… I thought you left him behind in LA – your bad decision?" Kris asks after a moment.
"He came out here about three months ago. Said it was business. He didn't say what, and didn't say with who, but when he came into Fangtasia, Eric took a pretty instant disliking to him. May have had something to do with the outfit – Eric likes his vamps dressing to the theme, and Brad was… well, not exactly the kind to comply with a dress code."
"Dressed down?" Kris asks, though he thinks he knows the answer.
"Gold spandex hot pants."
"Glad I asked," Kris says, and Adam laughs.
"Well, Brad and Eric came to some kind of an agreement – Brad got out of Eric's hair and stayed gone, but was allowed to remain in Shreveport. He took over running a… well." Adam looks a little flustered, and Kris isn't sure what it is that could fluster Adam. He seems like he was born unflappable. "He runs Diamond Rodeo, out on I-49. In LA it would have been right in the middle of WeHo, but here… there's zoning laws for vampire bars. And strip clubs."
Kris swallows. He notices Adam's eyes dipping down to the pulse in his throat, and Kris brings his drink up to his lips with shaky hands. When he puts it down, he asks, "So we're going to a vampire strip club?"
Adam nods. "It's where I met your friend the second time. The first was in Fangtasia, and he was all bright-eyed country boy. When I saw him at Diamond Rodeo, it was… well. Different."
"Because he was using," Kris says, trying to wrap his head around it. God, Dane.
"And being used," Adam replies quietly, and his face goes sadder when Kris winces. "Listen, if this is gonna be too hard on you… You're welcome to stay here, crash on the couch while I go talk to Brad. There's candy and stuff in the pantry – I keep it for Halloween, the kids love to trick or treat at a real vampire's house. And I'm pretty sure I've got every cable channel known to man and some only known to vampires."
"Thanks," Kris says. "You know I have to come, though."
"Yeah," Adam says, and sighs. "That's what I thought."
So when Adam said that Diamond Rodeo was a vampire strip club, he failed to mention that the vampires doing the stripping were male, at least on the right half of the club. Kris probably should have just assumed, but Kris hadn't really been sure what "WeHo" meant and every strip club he'd ever heard of – including the one he'd been dragged along to for a bachelor party last year – had been all girls, all the time. The girls he sees as he walks in don't look much like they'd be okay with him calling them girls, though – they are women at least, and something even scarier and more powerful on top of that, and they look at him with eyes full of something that make him twitch and chase after Adam like his ass was about to get kicked. Adam leads them into the other half of the club, and then there are men, lithe and strong and graceful and otherworldly, and each is moving to the pulse of some obscure drum that makes the walls vibrate and Kris's eyes feel heavy in his head.
Adam sits down at a booth, and Kris slides in beside him. Adam says to him, "Breathe," and then lifts a hand.
A server in tiny silver shorts brings them each a drink – a True Blood for Adam, a water for Kris – and then vanishes again with only a faint trail of silver and skin left in Kris's mind. And then, before he can blink, a voice next to Adam says, "You're back! And you brought something interesting."
"Not for you, Brad," Adam says, and his voice holds a note of boredom Kris is sure is not a natural Adam kind of tone.
The person attached to the voice peeks his head out around Adam and extends a hand. "This rude asshole meant to introduce us, I swear. I'm Brad, but around here they call me-"
"We'll call you Brad," Adam interrupts. "And I think you know why we're here. Can we talk?"
Brad nods at Kris once, sharply. "Around that?"
"Hey!" Kris says, more because he thinks he should than because he's actually offended. He's not really the betting type, but he'd wager Brad doesn't actually have a filter.
Adam's mouth twitches, and he says, "You're right. Kris – the picture?"
Kris hands it to Adam, starts to ask what's going on, but before he can say anything they're gone, and all he has to do is stare at his hands or the dark-skinned vampire doing something it's very possible that no mortal man could achieve with a stripper pole. He very carefully chooses his hands.
He's finished with his water and has moved from staring at his hands to keeping his eyes on the bottle of Wild Turkey above the bartender's blond head when Adam returns. "Get up," Adam says, pulling at Kris's arm. "We should leave. Now."
"But what about…" he begins as he stands up, but the breath is sucked out of him by Adam pulling him along at something very near to warp speed, past lights and color and through dark and chirping and fast, green-smelling wind. And then they're back at Adam's house, and Adam is looking almost as freaked out as Kris thinks he looks himself, and the whole situation is suddenly so foreign from anything Kris has ever seen or done or been within a hundred miles of that he closes his eyes and tries to remember what the hell he did to get himself here.
When he opens his eyes – Dane, he reminds himself, you are needed – Adam is looking at him, eyes full of worry and fear, and as Kris opens his mouth to try to say something, anything that will help him figure out what just happened, Adam says, "Sorry for this," and then his mouth is on Kris's.
His lips are a little cool, not cold like in that stupid movie Katy's little sisters dragged them along to, and they slide along his like they're sure of what they're doing. At least one of them is, Kris thinks, and finds his mouth opening under Adam's, breathing hot into the kiss, because for some reason this is the first thing that's made any sense to him tonight.
Adam's tongue darts in, sliding over Kris's, and Kris chases it with his own, chases taste and slick and cool breath, and that's when Adam's fangs slide out.
Adam pulls back and says, "Kris," and it comes out longer, more sibilant, and Kris is just – he doesn't know. He doesn't know what he's doing. "Kris, I need you to be safe."
"But I – what?"
"Brad is… he's not evil, but he's not a good guy either. He's just Brad, and he always does what he has to and most of the time what he wants to, and right now he wants you out of this." Adam pulls on his bangs and looks at Kris like that should explain everything.
"So that thing – with the…" Kris waves his hand, like it's some sort of explanation.
"I need to make it so he can't touch you," Adam says. "There are rules about these things, Kris. It's… I'm sorry if you don't like it. But Eric won't talk to him, and Pam hates him even more than Eric. Something about shoes." Adam looks like he wants to smile, except… yeah, Kris understands. "There aren't a lot of other options in the Vampires Brad Will Actually Listen To category. I know – I'm making you uncomfortable, and I'm sorry for it, but."
"You're not making me uncomfortable," Kris says softly, and is more than a little surprised to find it's true.
"It's necessary," Adam says, as if Kris didn't say anything.
So Kris says it again, a little louder, because it's true. "You're not making me uncomfortable. I get it." He leans over before he can think the better of it, presses his lips to Adam's and just goes for it.
Adam's fangs are still out, and Kris slides the tip of his tongue across them, gentle, and that's when Adam finally moves, arms coming around Kris in a blur, and Kris finds himself pressed back against the couch, hands fisted in Adam's hair and Adam's fang grazing his bottom lip.
Kris couldn't articulate what exactly it is he wants from Adam right now, but he's pretty sure that whatever it is, it's not good. It's bad, it's dirty, and it makes his breath catch in his throat and his hands shake as they pull Adam closer.
"There's still turning back, Kristopher," Adam says softly against Kris's mouth. "You can leave, go back to Arkansas, and I'll figure it out from here. I'll find out what happened to your friend, and I'll keep you posted. But if you stay here…" He nips, just enough to catch the side of Kris's mouth on his fang, and Kris knows he drew blood.
"I can't leave," Kris says. He takes another shallow breath, shudders it out. Adam's hair is soft between his fingers at the back of Adam's neck, and for a moment all he can do is hold on. Then, barely a whisper, "I want this."
Adam's smile is abrupt and bright as starlight. "You have no idea, do you?" he murmurs, and then suddenly they're off the couch and moving light-speed quick through the house, and the next time Kris opens his eyes he's stretched out on a big, big bed in a room with no windows and high ceilings, low light running along the floorboards and calling up shadows in the room. They flicker across Adam's face as he looks down at Kris, smiles, all fang and yet somehow not even a little bit scary. "You really have no idea," he says again. "But you will."
He pulls Kris's shirt off, bends down with one last quick flash of teeth and presses cool kisses down Kris's chest. He works slowly, tongue teasing at a nipple, a graze of teeth here and there that makes Kris arch his hips up and wonder in a wild moment how it was he found himself here. Adam's mouth is wet on his stomach, now, and his deft hands are slipping under the waistband of Kris's jeans and just stroking, soft and torturous and hopefully a precursor of things to come. "Adam…" he starts, but then Adam's fingers are drawing down his zipper and shoving down his jeans, and he's tonguing Kris through a layer of cotton boxers, and there's a noise coming out of his own mouth that Kris is pretty sure he's never heard before.
"I'm going to suck you now," Adam says, and his voice vibrates low and perfect against Kris's dick. God. His hand wraps around Kris underneath the boxers, and he's pulling them down with his other hand and Kris's hips are hitching up and then – "This shouldn't hurt a bit," Adam says, and bites.
His hand is still jacking Kris, tight and quick and perfect, but his mouth is working at Kris's thigh and it's all pooled together, so much that he can't separate Adam's mouth and his hand. It's all catching Kris up, pulling him under, and Adam is holding him down, stronger than Kris could ever be, and so he looks down, because he can't not see, and Adam catches his eyes – his mouth smeared with red, obscene – and then Kris is coming apart under Adam's hands and mouth and the careful gaze of his blue, blue eyes.
Adam jerks him through it, until the last little shudder leaves his body, and then Adam sits up, watches him like he might break, like he might run away. Kris meets his eyes, smiles a little, tentatively, because things have changed and he's not quite sure what to do with that.
"There's more," Adam says with a tiny little smile, like he's fighting it. "If you're up for it."
"I think I can manage," Kris says, and pulls him down for a kiss.
They make plans as the night steals its way to daybreak, figuring out how to go about finding Dane without involving Eric. Adam is insistent that this is necessary. "Whatever Dane got involved in, there are three options. Either Eric knows about it and doesn't care, in which case bringing it to him will only annoy him. Or Eric knows and is working on it, in which case he's keeping it a secret for a reason and bringing it to him risks letting other people hear about it." He pauses. It's not a good pause.
"What's the other option?" Kris asks.
"He doesn't know," Adam says. "In which case… someone is playing him, and that's a game played on levels far above the both of us. No, the best we can hope for is Eric knows and is working on it, in which case he knows your friend is involved. Pam will have told him you're looking for him, and between what we can do and what Eric can do behind the scenes, we should find your friend."
Adam doesn't look worried, so Kris tries not to. Clearly he fails, because Adam huffs out a sigh and bends to kiss him once, gently. "We'll figure it out," Adam says. "I promise."
Kris believes him, and not just because he has to. Weird.
He dozes for a while, wakes briefly when Adam murmurs, "See you at sunset," in his ear, and when he wakes up again he knows it's light out, even though there are no windows and the room is as dark as it was when he first saw it. He's alone in the bed, and he feels a pang of – not hurt, he tells himself, he's not that silly– that Adam isn't sprawled out besides him, pale and muscled and taking up too much of the bed.
The door is open, though, and when he gets up the floor creaks pleasantly under his feet, and he finds himself exploring Adam's ridiculous old house with a grin on his face. He doesn't recall thinking the house looked like somewhere someone like Adam would be living when he made his way through it on the way in last night, but now, in the warm Louisiana sunshine, it seems pretty perfect. And if it's little larger than Kris finds entirely comfortable, well – that, too, is Adam.
Adam has made the kitchen a very comforting kind of place given he doesn't actually eat, and so Kris putters around, making himself a cup of coffee and a bowl of Count Chocula – he can picture Adam at Albertson's with a basket full of nothing but Count Chocula and True Blood, daring someone to say something, and the image makes Kris smile into his coffee mug.
By the time Kris makes it out of the house, it's afternoon. He drives to Fangtasia, mostly because it's the only place in Shreveport he's sure Dane has been. In the daytime, it's not scary, not the way it was at night – it almost looks a little sad, all black and worn. Ginger – he thinks that's her name, Adam had said something last night – is outside, smoking a cigarette, and he walks up to her slowly, with a smile on his face, the way he would a puppy. "Ginger?" he asks, just to make sure he's got the name right.
It's like she's in a trance, a little. Her head snaps up, she narrows her eyes at him like the sun is too bright for her, and says, "Who's asking?"
"It's - I was here the night before last. I'm a friend of Adam's?"
She smiles. It's a little scary – all he can wonder is if Dane looks like this, now. "Adam's a doll," she says, all druggie daze and Southern twang. "You one of those friends?" She puts her tongue in her cheek, like he might not get the emphasis.
He blushes. He can't help it. But she doesn't notice, just smiles vaguely and waits for him to say something. "We're friends," he repeats. "He said to ask you if I needed any help. I'm looking for someone."
"Well, I'll see what I can remember," she says. "But I'm pretty forgetful." She's matter-of-fact about it, like anyone else might say, "I can't reach that shelf, I'm too short."
He follows her inside, and she putters around behind the bar for a little while like she's looking for something. In the end she comes up empty-handed, and stares at him for a moment when she looks up and sees him sitting at the bar, watching her. "Oh," she says, and shakes her head like she's trying to clear it. "What did you need to know about, sweetie?"
"A couple things. My friend, Dane, used to come here." He passes her the picture.
"Ain't seen him in a while," she says, blinking up at him with blank eyes. "He used to come here trying to talk to… someone?"
"Brad?" he asks, before he thinks about whether it's wise to mention Brad in here.
"Someone," she repeats. She shakes her head again, digs the heel of her hand into her forehead and says, "I've got a headache like you wouldn't believe, sweetie. You have an aspirin?"
"No," he says, "but if you could just – I just need to know when the last time you saw Dane in here was. Was it a while ago?"
Ginger's got both hands against her head now, clutching it like it's about to split like a melon. "I – I don't. I'm sorry."
That's when she collapses.
He stays with her in the ambulance, because he can't find any numbers in her cell phone that might indicate that she knows anyone who stays awake during the day. "I don't know what happened," he tells the paramedic, "she was talking to me, and then…"
The paramedic nods grimly. "Anything else you remember?"
"She had a headache," Kris supplies. "A bad one. I don't know if it was normal or a new thing or what, but it looked pretty bad."
By the time they get to the hospital, Ginger is still out of it, and the doctors aren't telling Kris anything. So he sits on a couch in the waiting room, calls Adam, and waits for sunset.
It's a long wait.
He reads four magazines, takes a Cosmo quiz titled "Are You A Fierce Bitch?" (he's not), watches someone on Fox News rant about how vampires want to recruit our children and how predators don't deserve the same rights as real people, and drinks three cups of terrible coffee.
Two minutes after sunset, he turns around and Adam is standing there, just behind a tall, blond vampire Kris knows is Eric.
"This is big, isn't it," he asks Adam. Adam nods once, sharply.
"Someone is tampering with my humans," Eric says. He looks annoyed. "Right in front of me, someone tampered with her. She doesn't like to leave Fangstasia, so it had to be there."
"The doctors here won't do her much good," Pam says, and it says something about how he sees Adam that he didn't notice Pam was there until she spoke. "We need to get her back, have one of ours look over her. Maybe…"
"We're not there yet," Eric says, and focuses back on Kris. "How do you know Adam?"
"I already told you," Adam says before Kris can open his mouth. "I found him at the club, and-"
"Everyone knows you don't do fangbangers, Adam," Pam says. "You wouldn't pick someone up from the club."
"I want to hear it from Kris," Eric says. He doesn't even glance at Adam, keeps his eyes on Kris like he was thinking how deep to bury him. "Normally I wouldn't care who you were involved with, Adam," he continues after a moment. "But in this case, in light of the circumstances, I am not so forgiving of you keeping things from me."
Adam's looking at him with pleading eyes, eyes that are telling him to be careful, to stay quiet, to let him take care of it. But then, Eric's looking at him with a set to his lips that says he's about three seconds from doing something very, very scary.
Kris takes a deep breath. "I came to Fangtasia a few nights ago looking for my friend – he's gone missing, his family is worried. Adam had seen him, a while back. He said he'd help me find him. And then…" Kris licks his lips. "Things have gotten a little complicated."
"You're fucking," Eric says. He looks amused, and his grin gets bigger as Kris turns redder. "Pam, look, you're wrong! Pay up."
Pam glares at Adam. "You and your country boys, Adam. I clearly had too much faith in your self-control."
Adam finally speaks up, "He's not a fangbanger, Pam. God."
"He's helping me," Kris says. "We think Brad has my friend. Or knows who does."
Clearly it was the wrong thing to say, because Pam has Adam by the throat and Eric is hissing at him like a big, blond cat. One with really, really big fangs. "You really shouldn't keep things from Eric, Adam. Especially with this. There are factors involved that you really don't understand."
"I really don't like Brad," Eric says emphatically. "Have I mentioned that lately? How did he get into the club? How did he get to my people?"
"I don't know!" Adam chokes out, and Pam drops him. He lands on his feet, of course, and he coughs a second before repeating, quieter, "I swear I don't know. I hadn't seen him in months and that's how I wanted it." He glances at Kris. "Maybe it was a mistake. I might have been able to stop whatever it is that's happened. Whatever he's involved in."
"It's too late for that," Eric says, calm. On him, calm is pretty scary, like a lake so deep that nothing can ripple the surface. "We'll go in tonight. Kris is under our protection now, and so Brad has something we are looking for."
"He can do that?" Kris asks, and even before it's left his mouth he realizes it's a dumb question.
Eric doesn't answer, just walks over to the nearest person in a white coat and says, "Ginger Hebert. Take me to her room."
That, as far as Kris can tell, is that.
Ginger is okay, at least as much as she was before, which is to say she's out of it but happy to be near Eric. She babbles at him about hospitals and humans and blood and going home, and he leads her out the hospital doors like an overgrown puppy that isn't well-trained enough not to lick.
Once they're back at Fangtasia, Eric lays out his plan – Kris is pretty sure that this is more so neither he nor Adam will screw it up, and less because Eric thinks they have any right to have any idea what is going on. The plan is straightforward, however: go in courteously, Eric tells the room at large, and hope Brad wants to fight.
"There are so many things wrong with that I don't even know where to begin," Adam says, clearly before he thinks the better of it.
"Then don't," Pam says, and follows Eric, who by this point is halfway into the weapons locker.
One second Kris is watching Adam stare after Eric and Pam with uncertainty in his eyes; the next second Adam is all up in Kris's space, hands braced on either side of Kris's head on the sofa, forcing Kris's neck to an unnatural angle. "You don't have to go," Adam breathes into Kris's mouth, voice as soft as when he was telling Kris just how much of himself to take and when in bed the night before.
It makes Kris whimper a little, slip his hips up until his cock is pressing against Adam's in just the right way, makes him wish for a room and a bed and some privacy and above all, Adam's ridiculous mouth.
He remembers the night before in vivid color, now, how Adam opened him up slowly with fingers and tongue and finally, when Kris was sobbing into the pillows and Adam's whispered words into the backs of Kris's thighs turned incoherent, how Adam's thick pale cock felt as it slid home, so deep he can still feel it to his bones.
All he wants, when Adam is pressed against him like this, is to find somewhere where their worlds stop being so damn difficult.
"Save it for Diamond Rodeo," says a voice behind them seriously. It's Eric. He's not smiling. "Brad will find it very distracting. We must do all we can to gain an advantage, as we seem to have been… not fully informed, up to this point, of all the resources Brad has at his disposal."
"I'm not making out with someone at a strip club," Kris tells Eric, affronted.
"Jesus would not have disapproved, if that is what worries you," Eric says gently, and Kris isn't sure if he's joking or what. "My maker often spoke of him as a very open-minded individual."
He's pretty sure there's no way to respond to that, so he lets Adam pull him toward the door of the club and out into the night. They follow Eric and Pam to the edge of town, others of Eric's entourage following behind, a caravan of slick black SUVs going fast enough that Kris keeps waiting for headlights in the rear view mirror. But then, they look official enough – or ominous enough – that cops have the good sense to steer clear, and they make it to Diamond Rodeo before Kris has time to think about what it is he's doing here.
"You don't have to do this," Adam says again when they pull to a stop outside the club. They're sitting in the parking lot next to five other identical black SUVs, and it's giving Kris some variation on déjà vu. He looks concerned, even scared, and it puts shadows in his eyes that make Kris blink. Someday, Kris thinks, maybe I'll write a song about this.
Adam is still looking at him when he opens his eyes, but he's closer now, leaning in, pulling Kris toward him for a kiss. It feels like days pass in the time it takes him to meet Adam's mouth with his own. It feels like eons since he stepped out of his front door in Conway to go figure out what happened to Dane.
Before he can fall into the kiss, something raps sharply on the driver's side window. Eric. "Time to go," Eric says.
"Cockblocker," Adam mutters, and Eric's laugh trails behind him as he walks away.
Diamond Rodeo is just as overwhelming as Kris remembers, though he had started to convince himself he'd just imagined it. But no, there are the flashing lights and the pounding music and the underdressed everyone, and in the center of it all is Brad, smiling like the devil and walking toward them like he's putting on a show.
"Eric!" he says, voice light. "What an unexpected visit. You're looking as… large as always. And you brought your people! Pam, always lovely to see you, and in such sensible shoes. Well, I do admire a woman who doesn't let herself be ruled by trends. Adam, sweetie, glad they let you offstage again tonight – I hope your little human enjoys himself just as much tonight as he did last time."
He's laughing at them. Clearly he doesn't think any of them can touch him, and he's loving having them on his turf. It's clear enough for Kris to see, but Eric just smiles. No, Kris thinks, Eric bares his teeth. His fangs don't come out. Kris isn't sure what that means, but it's clearly intentional. "Bradley," Eric says. "I always enjoy a visit to your little club. But this is not a social call, and I find I don't have the patience for a long conversation. I am here in my capacity as Sheriff."
"Well then, Sheriff," Brad says. His tone hasn't changed, but his eyes have gone hard. Adam's grip tightens around Kris's hand. "Won't you step into my office?"
His office, at the end of the long wall separating the male side of the club from the female, is almost as tawdry as the club itself, though in darker colors with slightly less sparkle. It's only barely big enough to accommodate all the vampires Eric has with him, and crowded in front of Brad's big black lacquer desk they make an intimidating sort of statement.
"Well?" Brad asks, seated and looking up at all of them with not a bit of concern on his face. "Go on, Sheriff. I have a business to continue to make wildly successful."
"No," Eric says. "You don't."
"Excuse me?" Brad says. His eyes narrow, fangs coming out with a hiss.
"You are no longer welcome in Area 5," Eric says.
"That means you need to leave," Pam adds in a drawl. "Tonight would be best."
"You can't do that," Brad says, and he's no longer playing at being nice. His voice is sharp, and he glances at Adam for a moment like it's his fault. "The Queen herself told me I could be here."
"There were certain stipulations the Queen made upon which your continued stay here in Area Five was contingent," Eric says. "You have failed to live up to those stipulations. I am only acting in the best interests of my Queen and the people whom it is my duty to protect by asking you to leave."
Brad's eyes focus on Kris. It's a little overwhelming.
"This has to do with Adam's new toy, doesn't it?" he asks, voice nasty.
"As a matter of fact," Eric says, "Kristopher brought a very important matter to our attention which we as a community cannot ignore. As he is now associated with Adam, he is also under my protection. His concerns are Adam's concerns, and Adam's concerns are my concerns. Kris, please tell Bradley what it is you are here for."
"Dane Hannible," he says, surprised at the strength in his own voice. "I need to find Dane."
"And you think I have him? I told Adam, I don't know what happened to him. Last time I saw him he was out of his mind on something and looking for a friend. He probably found one," Brad adds, smiling like it's funny.
"And I didn't believe you," Adam says. "I know it when you're lying, Brad. You do it well, but not as well as you think you do. Not to me, at least."
Eric hasn't taken his eyes off Brad the whole time. Finally, he says, "We will conduct a search of the club. You will come with us to make sure everything goes smoothly."
"You won't find anything," Brad says. "And I will make sure the Queen knows how you treat her guests."
"Please," Eric says. "Do that." He turns on his heel and walks out the door like he has no question he will be followed.
They find Dane in a soundproof room in the basement, unconscious and hooked up to an IV. His throat has a big white bandage on it, right over the vein. His face is a mass of bruises.
"I have no idea how that got there," Brad says.
Kris lunges at him – doesn't think, just goes – but Adam pulls him back, kisses him deep, until he's not thinking about anything at all. When Adam pulls away, Kris sees that Eric has Brad by the throat.
"When this one wakes up," Eric says, "what do you think he will say?"
Brad croaks, "Oh, fine," and Eric lets him slump to the floor. "It was really nothing serious," Brad begins after rubbing his throat for a moment. "He came to the club, got into a thing with one of my dance professionals. She… they had an understanding. She fed, he fed, everyone was happy."
"Yeah, clearly," Adam says, gesturing at where Dane lies, motionless. "Stop being a dick, Bradley."
"It's true!" He seems genuinely insulted. "He and Rosie were fine, for a while. And then her maker came back and wanted her to go with him, and Dane didn't like that idea. Her maker beat the crap out of him, fed to within an inch of his life – said killing him would be too much of a hassle. He'd had too much of Rosie's blood to go easily." Brad shrugged, looked over at Dane. "I found him, brought him back here. Had someone hook him up. It's been a couple hundred years since I've needed breather medicine, but I hear this shit cures anything."
For a minute, nobody says anything. They watch Dane, the gentle rise and fall of his chest, listen to the drip of the IV. Kris blinks back tears. Fuck.
Finally, Eric speaks. His voice is calm, almost cheerful. The whole situation is nothing short of macabre. "The way I see it, Bradley, you made two major mistakes. The first was allowing a human to take vampire blood within your club. I do not know how you do things in the court of Texas, but in my area we very much frown on recreational use of our own blood. We're not fucking beer bottles, Bradley."
"Hypocrite," Brad says, not quite under his breath. Eric ignores it.
"Your second mistake was to allow the human to get so injured. It shows you have no control over your people, and allowed your other mistake to be discovered." Eric shakes his head, mocking, and adds, "Very sloppy, Bradley. Very sloppy indeed."
Kris hated them all. Even Adam, standing there watching Eric and Bradley talk to each other, saying nothing – this is all we are to them, Kris thinks. This is all I am to him.
Eric decides that there's no way they can take Dane to the hospital, not without having far too many kidnapping-related explanations to give, so Dane goes to the same place where Ginger is currently recuperating, deep in the warren within Fangtasia. Brad had insisted he didn't know who messed with Ginger. "I haven't been inside Fangtasia since the last time you made it clear my short shorts weren't welcome inside," he told Eric. "If I had to guess, I'd say it was Rosie's maker. Fangtasia would be the first place I'd go if I was looking for a vampire in Shreveport. I'd say he didn't want to involve you and tried to find a work-around."
Kris is silent on the drive back, holding Dane's head in his lap in the backseat of one of the fleet of SUVs and carefully ignoring the worried glances Adam is shooting his way. He needs to think. He can't think when Adam's around, and that might have been okay for a little while, but.
The thought hangs in his mind, what comes after?
"You'll see him again soon," Adam says to him as they leave Dane in the capable, if very strange, hands of Fangtasia's doctor. He lifts a hand to the back of Kris's neck, and Kris can't help but flinch away. Adam's hand falls back to his side, and he doesn't take a breath. Kris supposes he doesn't have to.
"I – thanks," Kris says, not looking up at Adam. "For everything."
Adam says nothing. Maybe there's nothing left to say.
They walk through the club, full of gyrating fangbangers and vamps draped artistically over sleek black benches. Kris can't even see the stage where he first saw Adam, like it doesn't even exist without Adam on it. So he doesn't linger – pushes his way through the crowd, making a point not to notice when Adam gets stopped by the mass of beautiful young things trying to get his attention, and doesn't take a breath until he's on the other side of the doors.
The air is sticky in his lungs, like a storm is coming. When Kris gets in his car – still in the corner of the parking lot, where he left it what seems like days go but what was, in fact, only this afternoon – he turns the air conditioning up all the way and breathes in the cold. It's something like a relief.
He drives around for a little, because it's nearly sunrise and he thinks he might as well see this night to its end. But he's tired, and in the end it seems a little too self-indulgent for what, if he can manage to think about it rationally for a second, was a stupid little fling that only started a week ago. He was with Katy for years, and when she dumped him he wrote a song and went to sleep. He didn't drive around waiting for the sun to rise.
The Motel 6 is too bright inside, like the hospital, and he squints down at his wallet when he gets to his room. He's so tired his vision blurs a little as he tries to focus, and he's just about freaking out that he's lost his room key when the door opens.
He doesn't know why he's not surprised, but he doesn't even jump. Adam is standing in the doorway, looking like Kris did in the video his mom shot of the 1994 nativity play, where Kris was Joseph and freaking out about dropping the baby Jesus. "Kris," Adam begins, and there's a waver to his voice that makes Kris's mouth quirk.
"Should I even ask how you knew where I was staying?" Kris asks. "It's not one of those freaky vampire powers, is it?"
"You've seen most of my freaky vampire powers," Adam says. "I rarely use them for stalking. You, um. You left your room key back at my place. I think it must have fallen out when we were…"
"Oh," Kris says.
"Getting naked," Adam finishes. "When we were getting naked. Which I thought was a mutual wanting to get naked thing, and not just a vampire-protection getting naked thing."
Kris kind of wants to throw up. Adam's far enough in the doorway that his eyes are shadowed, and Kris doesn't know – he doesn't know why he doesn't feel afraid, like his mind keeps telling him he should be. Like he was with Eric, with Brad. He doesn't know how he talked himself out of this. He doesn't know why.
"Adam, it… It wasn't…"
Adam interrupts him. "I get it, Kris. You found Dane, you need to go back. I just wanted to make sure – I wanted to make sure you were okay with what happened. That you knew that I just wanted to…" He stops, licks his lips, like he's forgotten what he meant to say. "I just wanted to keep you safe. Both of you."
This is not how this should be going, Kris thinks. He's messing this up, completely, and he's going to drive back to Arkansas with Dane in the backseat and hate himself for the rest of his stupid life.
"I get it," Kris says. "But… you didn't have to."
Adam's eyes get wide, like Kris has just said "Thanks, but no thanks."
Oh, hell. "No," Kris says quickly, and moves closer to Adam before he can do something like leave and break Kris's heart. "I mean. Adam, I know why you did it. And I'm really bad at this kind of thing, you know? I can write the words, but when it comes to saying them, I just. It comes out off, and I don't want you to think I hate you. I don't want you to think I didn't want this. That I don't still want this." He takes a deep breath, continues. "Because I do."
Adam's mouth falls open. "You…"
"Want this," Kris adds, just to make sure. "Want you."
Adam sucks in a breath, and then –
Then he's pulling Kris back, into the room, and their mouths find each other in the dark and it's pretty much the best thing Kris has ever done.
Kris feels the backs of his knees hit the bed, and they're pulling at each other's shirts as they fall back against the mattress, mouths pressing kisses against any inch of skin they can find. "I'm sorry," Kris whispers into Adam's ear, and follows it with a lick along the cool pale patch of skin behind his earlobe. "I'm sorry, I was stupid, I was scared, I…"
"Shh," Adam says into Kris's hair. "It's done, it's over, just tell me you want this."
"I want this," Kris says, and mouths his way down Adam's chest, hands fumbling with the button on Adam's pants. When he finally gets the button popped and the zipper pulled down he's nuzzling at the soft pale skin of Adam's belly, trying to find a way to do this without giving away the fact that he's never really done this before. And then the want becomes too much and all he can do is whisper, "I want you," and then just go for it.
Adam is swearing above him, saying things Kris doesn't quite hear – he's concentrating so much on getting this right, on making it good, and so he starts out licking around the head of Adam's cock, trying to understand the shape of it on his tongue, heavy and slick. He flicks his tongue across the slit, and the taste is – he's tasted his own come, once or twice, but it's different when it's someone else's, bitter and salty and not particularly sexy, on its own, but Adam's hands cradle his head, thumb stroking Kris's jaw like the best kind of praise. It makes Kris shiver, and hum around Adam's cock, and he brings a hand up to stroke around the last few inches where there's no way his mouth is going to reach.
"Take it, baby," Adam murmurs, hand stroking through Kris's hair like he's trying desperately not to tug. "Perfect, just like that, fuck."
He's getting the hang of it now, setting a rhythm, and Adam's voice finally filters through his concentration. He's whispering what he wants from Kris, directions and endearments and promises, glorious promises.
"Gonna make you feel so good, Kris," Adam says, and huffs out a little laugh, half gasp. Kris tries to take him further, sucks in a breath around Adam's cock. "Gonna put my mouth all over you, taste every part of you. Spread you out so perfect, fuck, just like that, Kris."
Kris can't help it – he brings a hand to his cock, trying not to bring himself off until after, until it's Adam's hands and mouth and body against his, but the press of his jeans against the ridge of his hard-on is bordering on painful, and when he works a hand inside his underwear he moans around Adam's cock for the sensation.
"Start slow," Adam continues, that gorgeous voice low and thrumming like a plucked string, "I'll start slow, build it up ‘til all you can do is beg me, and then I'll turn you over – there, baby," and Kris sucks a little harder, spit and precome slicking Adam's shaft and making it slide slow and easy through Kris's fist.
"Lick you open," Adam gasps, and his hips are moving now, little involuntary thrusts and Kris just opens up, lets Adam fuck his mouth and talk to him, tell him everything he needs to hear. "Make you scream."
Kris's cock twitches in his fist – he wants to come so fucking bad, wants the taste of Adam in his mouth, the feel of Adam surrounding him, driving him up – and it's all so overwhelming he could fall apart in the best possible kind of way.
And that's when Adam pulls him away, arranges him on the bed like he weighs nothing. All he can do is watch Adam's mouth, fangs sharp and flashing in his perfect smile, as he says, "I need to fuck you now. Just so we're clear."
"Please, Adam," Kris chokes out, and Adam's mouth comes down on his neck as his fingers work Kris open. It hurts perfectly, Adam's bite in his neck and his fingers sliding in, slick and cool with lube Adam found God-knows-where, and Kris feels taken apart, pulled and pushed in whatever direction Adam wants, up and up and up.
Adam makes good on his promises, every last one. His mouth follows his fingers, and Kris can't help but shove his hips up, wanting more of Adam's tongue flicking against him, Adam's wet cool breath humming against his skin. By the time Adam pushes inside him, he's begging, words pouring out of him that his mouth shapes but his ears don't hear – it all gets jumbled up, all the sensation, until he's sobbing from it. And Adam is moving, mouth trailing down from Kris's neck to press kisses along his spine as he thrusts, shallow and torturous, hitting Kris again and again somewhere raw and perfect.
"God, I need –" he hears someone say in his voice, and then Adam is reaching between Kris and the mattress and wrapping his long cool fingers around Kris cock, jerking him roughly as he thrusts faster.
Adam sucks harder at his neck as he thrusts home, and Kris pretty much blacks out as he comes. All he can do is sob into the mattress and shake as Adam overwhelms him, over and under and around and inside. When Adam comes, it's almost - almost - an afterthought.
Kris isn't sure how long he drifts for, which might be because his brain pretty much shuts down. All he can do is feel – the shiver of cool air against his bare shoulders, the solid weight of Adam around and in him, the soft sheets that slide over his legs as Adam moves closer.
"Sun's almost up," Adam murmurs in his ear after a while. He pulls out, and Kris gives another little moan – it's still too much. Adam's hand comes up to stroke Kris's cheek, soothing, and he turns Kris over so they're face to face, kissing him like a question. "You know what that means for me?"
Kris is on the verge of sleep, but an image flashes through his mind – Adam, sheets pooled around his hips, smiling up at him with sleepy satisfaction as sunlight pours in through the window. He opens his eyes again, once more, to see Adam focused on him, flushed and serious, eyes full of questions. I know, Kris thinks.
Adam is still looking down at him, the look on his face like a held breath.
"I'll spend the day with you," Kris says. "I can wait for sunset."