Khamuel yanked open the front door, clattered down the stairs, and jumped from the second last stair onto the front lawn. He planted his bare feet solidly in the damp grass, toes wiggling, shook his hair back from his face, and stared up at the moon, just visible now over the tops of the houses across from theirs.
She seemed huge, still so near to the horizon as she was; huge and far too close, and to him at least, she was tinged with red. Red for blood. Red for hunger.
Humans could worship whatever false gods they pleased -- he worshipped the moon. And unlike them, who relied on their faith alone, his was a two-way relationship. He felt her pull, understood what she wanted of him.
He closed his eyes and tilted his head back, sensing her, able to feel the touch of her light on his skin. Most of the time, he could ignore her siren song, but when she was full, ripe and bloated with excess power, he could not deny her when she called on him to hunt.
Hanael did not like him hunting at full moon, and he did his best to compromise... but when the moon sang to him, he was never fully himself.
He flared his nostrils, breathing deep of the night air. He smelled blood. Human blood. Far too close to be safe.
"What are you doing, little rabbit?"
His head snapped around, eyes blinking open.
Kashael was standing on the front porch above him, leaning his elbows on the railing as he looked down at him.
Khamuel fought off the feel of the hunt, and the bloodlust rising in him, and focused his attention on Kashael for a moment.
"It's been awhile since you called me that," he replied. It was funny, he thought, how when you got more comfortable with someone, it was easier to shrug off their teasing.
"You were looking particularly... white. And fluffy." Kashael shrugged his shoulders with a smirk.
"Fluffy?" Khamuel wasn't sure whether to laugh or be offended; he didn't think he'd ever felt less 'fluffy' in his life.
Kashael's answering smile was sheepish.
"Your aura was unusually soft and... content. Fulfilled."
Khamuel wondered at that; was that how he seemed when he communed with the moon?
"It's a full moon," he said, in response to the unasked question in Kashael's words. He looked up at the moon again, so large and vibrant in the sky above them, and heard her call inside his head again.
"Ahhhhh." Kashael's response sounded as if he understood entirely the meaning behind Khamuel's words. He wanted nothing more right now than to move away from Kashael -- the scent of his blood was overwhelming, more so than a normal human's -- and yet that understanding in his tone made him look back.
"What do you know?" he asked, and Kashael leaned his chin on one elbow, his lips quirking.
"I've known a few vampires. Can't say I ever particularly liked any of them, but.. I made a point to find out what I could. Better to know your enemy properly." Kashael looked past him, to the moon.
Those few idle comments were enough to spark Khamuel's curiosity, and there were a dozen things he'd have liked to ask right then. But he filed Kashael's words away for later consideration; now was not the time, not when the hunt was on him.
"I have to go." He turned away, away from the scent of blood, away from the house and all the humans -- and non-humans -- within, and began to move toward the city and the teeming masses who could stand to lose a few here and there anyway.
"Wait." He could hear Kashael's footsteps on the hard wood floor of the porch, and he knew he should just keep moving, just keep steaming on forward before things went downhill, yet... there was a pleading tone to Kashael's voice that made him slow, that made him turn his head.
Kashael was clattering down the front steps, just as Khamuel had done only minutes earlier, and the closer he drew, the stronger his bloodscent became, more overpowering than any human bloodscent had ever been. Khamuel's feet stopped moving of their own accord.
"Stop," he demanded, his voice hoarse.
Kashael stopped at the bottom of the stairs, and then smirked at him, just a little.
"I've always wondered... whether Hanael and I taste the same."
Khamuel stared at him. The words were unfathomable to him right now; he could hear Kashael's pulse from here, strong and even and full of life. It sang to him as surely as the moon did, singing to him to take it, to make it his own, to fill himself to satiation.
He clenched his fists, and scrunched his toes up tight, almost as if he could cling to the ground to stop himself from moving. The only thing really holding him in place was the idea of what Hanael's reaction would be afterwards, and he tried desperately to keep focus on that... but it was slipping, sliding away.
"The hunt's on me. I'll kill you," he growled, willing Kashael to understand, to get the hell away from him, something, anything.
But Kashael just kept on smirking at him.
"You can't. It's been tried."
That he could process. Just. And then he was moving, the bloodlust driving him, Kashael's pulse ringing in his ears, all he could hear, all he could consider.
The man was easily twice his height, and stronger than any normal human, but with the moon so overripe and oozing power, he was stronger, too; strong enough to bowl Kashael to the ground, to tear open the shirt that covered his shoulder and neck, hiding the veins he wanted most of all.
His teeth sunk in, and then the blood was flowing into him, thick and fast and full of vibrancy. He pressed his mouth to the wound, not wanting to let even a single drop go to waste. As it flowed into him, he felt himself growing warm, flush and filled with life himself. Kashael's pulse throbbed through him, and within him, so that they were in tandem, and above that deep, rhythmic beat, the moon sang a song of victory.
Somewhere outside of him, he distantly heard sounds coming from his victim, distantly felt the body under him moving, but these things were extraneous to him. All that mattered was the blood, and the warmth, the beating pulse, and the moon's song.
He drank himself to fulfilment, unable to control his bloodlust until it was satiated. But when it finally loosed its grip on him, he noticed two things immediately; there was still plenty of blood flowing from Kashael, and his pulse was as strong as ever.
Khamuel pulled back from the wound, startled and unsure.
He found that he was straddling Kashael's broad chest, his hands pressing his shoulders down against the ground. And Kashael was looking up at him, his mouth a wry smirk, his eyes bright and clear and very much alive.
Kashael raised a hand to his neck, covering the teeth marks Khamuel had left, covering the stream of blood still flowing out of him.
"It'll take awhile for it to heal up enough to stop bleeding," he said. And Khamuel understood, all at once.
"You've been bitten before," he said, and Kashael nodded.
"And they tried to drain you to death and failed," he continued, and Kashael nodded again.
"We're not that easy to kill," he replied, and his smirk now was satisfied. Khamuel stared at him. And then something else occurred to him.
"Wait, does this mean it's safe for me to drink from Hanael even when the hunt's on me?!" he exclaimed, suddenly excited.
Kashael snorted. "So you were comfortable testing that theory on me, but not Hanael?" he asked, one eyebrow raised.
Khamuel pulled back; he could hear the teasing in Kashael's voice, but the accusation was there all the same. And with it came the sudden, uncomfortable realisation that he was in a more intimate position with Kashael than he ought to be, considering the level of their friendship, or acquaintanceship, or whatever it was that they had.
He clambered off Kashael's chest, sitting himself down cross-legged, his back to the man.
"I warned you," he said shortly. He was not going to take all the blame for what had happened.
"I know." Kashael sat up as well, and then laughed softly. "I take full responsibility for setting you off."
Khamuel looked up at him. Kashael still had one hand pressed against the wound on his neck, but he smiled down at Khamuel, his expression more friendly than the vampire had expected.
"I've just.. I've always wanted to know. I know we taste different to humans; I was told that Walker blood is quite the delicacy. But... I wanted to know whether Hanael and I taste the same."
If there was one thing Khamuel had come to know about Kashael in the past few weeks, it was that what mattered to him, what he focused on, what he found important, made no real sense to anyone but himself, and had absolutely no rhyme, reason, or relation. But then, Khamuel knew that he himself had lived for enough years now that he probably made little sense to anyone else either; what point then, to question another immortal's motives?
Instead, he found himself laughing.
"There's a problem, then -- because my bloodlust was so maxed I don't remember in the slightest what you tasted like."
Kashael's jaw dropped, and he stared at him with such overblown, comic shock that Khamuel laughed again.
"Are you telling me I sacrificed my dignity, and my precious blood, for absolutely nothing?"
"You didn't have any dignity to begin with," Khamuel shot back, and Kashael smirked.
"Alright, but the precious blood was real enough."
Khamuel's gaze dropped to the hand still pressed against the bitemarks he'd left. He was full, very full... but an extra little bite never hurt anyone. And Kashael seemed to have an unlimited supply of blood. And now he was curious too.
"Well, if you want to know the answer to your question, you'll have to sacrifice a bit more of it," he said, looking back up to meet Kashael's gaze.
For a moment, Kashael blinked at him in real surprise. Then without hesitation his hand dropped away from his neck, and he smirked, tilting his head away, pulling the skin taut. The blood had stopped flowing, and was drying in a smeary mess around the tiny wounds his teeth had left, but as Kashael stretched his neck out, the upper wound pulled open, letting loose a little trickle of blood that snaked its way down towards his shoulder. Khamuel licked his lips.
He scrambled around into a kneeling position, putting himself at a height with Kashael's neck, and balanced with his hands; one on Kashael's shoulder, the other against his chest. For a moment he found himself looking at Kashael's profile, as he patiently waited for the bite, his expression serious, his gaze focused on something distant. Then that gaze slid around to meet his, almost as if asking what he was waiting for.
He shook his head, and sank his teeth into Kashael's neck again.
This time he was much more aware of everything that was going on. He felt Kashael's warm body tensing under his hands, heard the soft, hoarse gasp that emitted from his throat. He tasted the warm, thick blood as it flowed over his tongue, warming him inside, and he felt the way Kashael's pulse beat inside him, and how it fluttered and sped up as he drank from him.
There was that sharpness to Kashael's blood, that elusive tang that he'd always gotten from Hanael's blood as well; it was a taste that stood out amidst the softer, less vibrant tastes of normal human blood. But it was different this time. Hanael's taste had always made him think of fields of wild grass, fresh wind, and the smell of impending rain; Kashael's taste was the rainclouds themselves, full of purple moodiness, and the threat of thunder and lightning.
Human blood was never quite like this, and he understood why Kashael had said that Walker blood was a delicacy. He wondered how many had targeted Kashael over the years. And why they'd never targeted Hanael. And he wondered if he was going to be able to keep these two to himself from now on.
Without thinking, he bit deeper; he was full almost to bursting, but the taste was tantalizing, and he didn't want to stop. Above the sound of their pulse that beat through him, he heard Kashael groan softly, and he realised suddenly that it was not a groan of pain.
He pulled back sharply, pushing himself away from Kashael, and stared at him. For a moment, he caught the wanton expression on his face: the half-lidded eyes, the parted mouth. Then Kashael's head snapped up, his expression sobering, his eyes opening fully. His gaze came around to meet Khamuel's, full of the guilt of one caught with their hand in the cookie jar.
"You like being bitten!" Khamuel accused, caught between confusion, disbelief, and some strange sort of guilt of his own.
Kashael pressed his lips together and turned his head away, looking out over the dark yard.
"...I didn't think I'd be able to convince you to bite me without the hunt on you."
Khamuel thought about that for a moment.
"...at which point I'm so drunk on bloodlust that I don't notice you getting off on it?"
Kashael said nothing, but his silence was enough.
Khamuel felt obscurely dirty, like he'd cheated on Hanael somehow. He'd never cared for anyone in his life enough to worry about something like that before... and he was not happy to find out just how much it bothered him. Yet he couldn't deny it.
His hands balled into fists at his sides, and he stared down at them, not wanting to look at Kashael.
"I'm Hanael's. I'm not yours." He heard the hostility in his voice, and was struck suddenly by the irony of the situation. They'd spent so long at odds with each other over which of them Hanael belonged to; were they now to be at odds over who he belonged to?
He heard Kashael sigh, and saw out of the corner of his eye those broad shoulders slumping.
"I know. I didn't mean to... I didn't quite mean for things to go this way."
Khamuel raised his head cautiously. Kashael was still looking away from him, but his expression was softer now, almost whimsical in a way.
"I'm not going to ask you to bite me again after this." His head turned a little towards Khamuel, his gaze moving around to meet his, and then he smiled, and it was a mirror of one of Hanael's gentle smiles: no malice, and no ulterior motives.
"I wasn't lying when I said I wanted to know if we taste different. That was all I was after."
Khamuel considered him; considered his expression, his words, his sincerity. Nothing with Kashael had been easy thus far, and he didn't think things would ever be easy with him. Like Hanael, he kept much of his real thoughts to himself, but unlike Hanael, he often seemed to have ulterior motives for doing so.
And yet... once they'd stopped snapping at each other all the time, he'd found that they had a lot more in common than he'd ever thought possible. He could never fully let his guard down with Kashael, but at the same time, he could relax around him more than he could around anyone besides Hanael.
And that was the thing. So long as they both wanted to stay with Hanael, then they were in this for the long term; Kashael was going to be around for many, many years. But because of that, Kashael was the only one besides Hanael who took him at face value, who just accepted who and what he was.
He watched as Kashael's smile slowly faded, as his eyes flicked back and forth between Khamuel's, as if trying to figure out what he was thinking.
"You taste different," he said aloud, and Kashael's eyes widened. His mouth opened, as if he were about to say something, and then he closed it again. He swallowed heavily.
"I'm not sure I can describe the difference," Khamuel continued, and Kashael's gaze focused on him, intensely. Too intense, almost; Walkers could overwhelm you with their gaze if they weren't careful.
He looked away. "You're like a strong liqueur. Maybe too strong. I might want to try it again, one day." He paused. "But... not any time soon."
Silence met his words, and after a long moment, he dared to look back again. Kashael's gaze was more awash with emotions than he'd ever seen it, and it was too much to take in in one go. He closed his eyes against it.
"Thank you, little rabbit."
That made his eyes pop open again with surprise, but it was safe now; Kashael's expression was back to normal, his gaze calmed, and his smirk back in place. As Khamuel watched, it widened, just slightly.
"I'll tell you though... when you were drinking from me, your aura was very fluffy."
Khamuel growled, and Kashael started laughing. But it wasn't a mocking laugh, and after a moment, Khamuel found himself joining in.