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Running errands for his dad wasn't Takumi's favourite way to spend a Saturday afternoon, especially such a gloomy one, but someone had to do it. Of course Takumi had the feeling that this someone always had to be him, but that could just as well be his imagination.

Ha. Of course not. Last-minute errands were always his job. Even if it was supposedly his dad's responsibility to keep an eye on their food storage.

Thankfully, it had at least stopped raining outside. It looked like it could start again every moment though, and Takumi hadn't brought an umbrella with him. It wouldn't make much sense for him to go back and fetch one now, so he decided that he'd just have to hurry and hope that he wouldn't get caught in a sudden rain shower.

That considered, he would have liked to go to the corner store closest to home, but no, his stingy old man had insisted he went to the grocery store on the other side of the shopping district because a) they were cheaper and b) they sold his favourite brand of sake. Which Takumi had been ordered to bring a bottle of, if he was going anyway. Figures.

At least he knew the shopping district like the inside of his pocket, so he was able to take several shortcuts all while now and then shooting a nervous look up at the sky to see if it was about to start raining.

 

That was exactly why he didn't notice the man standing in his way until he almost bumped into him. Takumi mumbled an apology. The street was narrow, and the man was standing right in his way. Which, on second thought, was a bit weird because the street wasn't so narrow that two people couldn't pass each other without getting in each other's way.

Takumi frowned.

"Could you please let me pass?", he asked politely, but the man didn't move. Takumi couldn't really see his expression because he had the visor of his baseball cap pulled low over his face and wore a surgical mask. Even after another two seconds of silence, he still didn't make a move to get out of Takumi's way.

Takumi had enough. He huffed and tried to push past the man because he really didn't have time for this, but that proved to be a bad idea.

 

His bag with the wallet landed on the ground as he let go of the handle, his fingers reflectively unclenching when his back suddenly collided with the brick wall. His breath was knocked out of him from the impact and he let out a surprised, strangled gasp. The man who had shoved him covered Takumi's mouth with one hand and muffled his following shouts that were equal parts enraged and panicked.

What the hell was happening?

Takumi suspected that he was being robbed, but the man didn't bend down to pick up his wallet and run. Instead, he used his weight to pin Takumi against the wall and tore off the surgical mask that covered his nose and mouth. Takumi caught a glimpse of a grimace, which looked less angry and more desperate than expected. The guy's teeth were…

 

Takumi realised what was happening a fraction of a second before fangs sank into his neck. And shit, that really hurt and he didn't make it better by trying to pull away, which only tore his skin more. He could feel that he was bleeding, and that the man – the vampire – was now greedily sucking on the wounds he had inflicted, which was a truly nauseating sensation. The fact that he emitted a pretty unpleasant smell didn't make it better.

Takumi could feel himself getting dizzy, likely from blood loss. The vampire didn't let up; he was probably half-starved if he resorted to attacking people on the street.

 

Half-starved. That absurdly reminded Takumi that he was supposed to buy some eggs from the store because they had run out, and he renewed his struggles. He couldn't go buy eggs if he was going to pass out, for heaven's sake!

 

It was funny how in life-threatening moments like these, your priorities got all messed up. The vampire could actually kill him if he didn't stop drinking soon, but all Takumi could think about was that damn errand his old man had sent him on.

Another strong wave of dizziness washed over him. He started breaking out in cold sweat.

"O-oi. Stop it," he stammered against the guy's palm, which still didn't budge. Dark spots started dancing in front of his eyes and he had to find out that his limbs felt numb and didn’t really have the strength to struggle anymore. How much blood had the guy drunken already? Wasn't it enough now?

His legs gave out under him and he sagged against the brick wall. This led to the vampire's mouth dislodging from the bite wound for a moment, but that short moment seemed to be enough. The man froze. He pulled back and looked to each side of the alleyway hastily as if he was checking if there were any witnesses; then he finally let go of Takumi and pulled the mask back over his mouth.

 

Takumi sank to the floor. His vision gave out, but he could hear fast footsteps getting quieter. The vampire fled the scene, and even though he could barely move Takumi tried feeling around for the bag with his wallet. He felt the fabric under his fingertips and wanted to grasp it, but that was the very last thing he remembered before fully blacking out.

 

~~~

 

The next thing he could remember was hearing a male voice calling out to him.

"Oi! You there! You okay?"

 

Takumi groaned. He had a headache and still felt dizzy, and he wasn't even able to move his head to search for the owner of the voice. He faintly wondered how long he had been out. A few minutes? Less? Or more?

 

"Shit," he heard someone curse, same voice as before. Takumi's answer, or lack thereof, seemed to have been sufficient for the stranger. A tall figure moved into his line of sight and bent down a bit to take a better look.

"Hey. You. Keep your eyes open," the stranger said.

Takumi blinked and tried to get a decent look at the man. The only thing he could make out at first was the stranger's blond hair before he managed to get his face into focus. The man didn't look much older than Takumi, and his expression showed worry. "What happened?", he asked.

Takumi gave his best to respond clearly, but his tongue wouldn't really obey him. The word "vampire" came out well enough though.

The stranger's eyes wandered down to his neck and widened. "Ah."

 

"Can you stand?", a second voice suddenly asked from the left where Takumi couldn't see the speaker.

"No," he croaked and turned his head very slowly to avoid getting nauseous again. The owner of the second voice turned out to be a tall, dark-haired man in a black coat, who looked like he was about the other's age as well.

"I'll call an ambulance," he said. "The police as well." The man's voice was deep and pleasant.

Takumi nodded thankfully but regretted it in the very next moment as dizziness hit him again. He screwed his eyes shut and waited for it to go away. The blond extended a hand and shook Takumi's shoulder while the second stranger talked into his phone. "Oi. Don't faint on me now, alright?"

"'m trying," Takumi mumbled. The other said it as if it was easy and he had any control over it, but the dizziness was making it really hard to move without getting dark spots in front of his eyes.

The man paused for a moment, as if he didn't know what to do next. "I'm Keisuke, and that over there's my brother Ryosuke," he said then. "What's your name?"

"Takumi." Talking was fortunately getting easier for him by the minute, but his head still felt like a cotton ball. A very painful cotton ball.

The man Takumi now knew was named Keisuke seemed to have caught his little wince of pain. "Are you from around here?", he asked. Takumi nodded, but made sure not to do it too hastily this time. It still hurt, so he decided to stop moving as much as possible.

The things he would give to be at home now, in his bed. Instead he was sitting in some back alley on the wet, dirty ground and had to have someone call an ambulance for him.

He was struck by the sudden thought whether he could die from this. The wound on his neck didn't seem deep and didn't feel like it was bleeding much, but the vampire had drunken quite a lot of his blood. Maybe he would need a transfusion.

 

He must have looked like he was about to doze off, because Keisuke was shaking his shoulder again. "Don't close your eyes. Look at me."

Takumi would have really liked to take some rest, but he knew that this wasn't the right time and place. It was hard to keep his eyes open though, so he decided to do just what Keisuke had asked him to and tried to focus on him. It took effort, but it did help. Unfortunately, this intense staring at the man's face made Takumi fully realize how attractive he was. Which was objectively the wrong thing to focus on at a time like this, but it helped to keep him awake. And Keisuke did have really striking blue eyes…

'You've got to be joking, Takumi,' he thought at himself. Sternly. As sternly as he could in this case, anyway, because his willpower was at a pretty low point at the moment, and thus he continued to stare.

"Great," said Keisuke, who probably – hopefully – had no idea of Takumi's last thoughts. He glanced over at his brother, who was still on the phone, and then looked back at Takumi.

"We live farther away," he said lightly. "We wanted to go to a bar I like. Or rather, I wanted to. I just dragged Ryosuke along." He grinned, and Takumi focused on the way his eyes crinkled with amusement at the thought. If Keisuke was trying to distract him with this talk, it was working.

Keisuke seemed to come to the same conclusion, because he continued talking. "That bore holes himself up in his room all day. He's a workaholic, I tell you. No fun at all. Sometimes he just needs to be dragged out into society."

Takumi couldn't help but smile as he imagined Keisuke dragging his elegant and uptight-looking brother through the streets by the sleeve. They seemed very close. Takumi found himself wondering if he would be like this, too, if he had a sibling.

Keisuke grinned at him again, and this time Takumi's view caught on the other's mouth, or rather, his teeth. Even more precisely, his elongated, sharp canines.

 

Oh.

 

Takumi blinked in surprise and slight shock. Following an instinct, he quickly glanced at Ryosuke and thought to see the very same thing there.

Vampires. Both of them.

 

Takumi was startled. His brain seemed to have not yet decided whether it wanted to be a bit scared as well.

But seriously, even if they were vampires, too, that didn't have to mean they would be tempted by the blood currently smeared across his neck. They didn't look like they had a reason to, either. From the way they were dressed, Takumi could only suspect that they could afford to get their regular doses from the blood bank. The vampire who attacked him probably hadn't been as lucky. And anyway, the two of them were helping him right now. It would be very rude and unfair to assume the worst, so Takumi forced himself not to.

 

Keisuke had caught his nervous glance, though. His amused grin turned into an awkward smile that had traces of a pained grimace. "Should I keep a bit of a distance? That'd be okay, you know."

Takumi frowned. "'s fine. Just a bit funny. I met more vampires today in… an hour? Well, more in an hour than I usually see in 'n entire month."

His speech still sounded a bit slurred, but he thought that the fact that he was able to concentrate on forming a logical sentence had to be a good sign. Right?

"Then I'm sorry that the experience had to be so unpleasant." Ryosuke had finished his phone call and joined in on the conversation. Takumi could see now that he had guessed right: Keisuke's brother had fangs, too. If you were looking for them, they were visible when he talked.

"The ambulance should be here shortly." He put the phone away and gave Takumi a probing glance. "You look very pale. Maybe you should lie down until it arrives."

The vampire slipped out of his coat and placed it on the wet pavement next to Takumi. Keisuke helped him to lie down, and Takumi breathed a sigh of relief once his head rested on the soft fabric. This position was definitely better for his dizziness, but now he felt bad for dirtying Ryosuke's coat. It looked and felt quite expensive, though Takumi didn’t really know much about that. It was a kind gesture either way, and it made him feel a little embarrassed.

"There, that's better," Keisuke reassured him. "Now stay awake until the ambulance is here, alright?"

"I'll try."

Takumi stared ahead into the cloudy grey sky between the roofs above him. The rain had yet to start again, but it looked like he might be spared of it, anyway. He thought he could hear sirens in the distance and wondered if they were for him and if his case was that urgent.  

 

What a day. To think that all he had wanted was to buy some goddamn eggs…

Chapter Text

At the hospital it was quickly determined that Takumi wouldn't need a blood transfusion. He had to spend about two hours there anyway. They gave him an IV because he was dehydrated, and they handed him a blister of pills that were supposed to help the body restore its blood and that he would have to take over the next few weeks.

The wound on his neck was photographed from seemingly all possible angles, a nurse took samples that would be used to attempt a DNA test (though that would be tricky because the culprit was a vampire and their DNA didn't replicate,) and then Takumi had to describe the attacker to a policewoman. When she left with a promise that the vampire would be found and taken to court, he only felt exhausted. He wasn't convinced that they would be able to find his attacker, and now that it was pretty certain that he would get out of this without much damage, he wasn't even that keen on him being caught. It had been a matter of life or death for that guy, right? And besides the fact that his trip to the store had been cut short, not much had happened.

 

Well, besides an unplanned hospital visit. And the fact that he met two more vampires who helped him.

 

Speaking of them: When Takumi was finally released with the order to come back in a few days for a blood test to make sure that the bite really hadn't transmitted anything he should know about, Keisuke and Ryosuke were waiting for him in the entrance hall. Takumi felt flustered by that, because it was really not necessary that they sacrificed their time for him. Now that made him feel even worse for that little pang of fear and mistrust he had initially felt upon seeing that they both were vampires.

The relief that spread on their faces when they spotted him embarrassed him more. They had wanted to make sure he was okay even after all they had already done for him.

Takumi walked over to them and bowed his head before anyone could say anything.
"Thank you for helping me. Everything could have turned out a lot worse for me if you hadn't been there."

It could have, Takumi was sure of that. Without help, he might have stayed unconscious in that alley for who-knows how long.

"No need to be so formal," said Ryosuke, and Takumi lifted his head again. "It's nothing you'd need to thank us for. It was a matter of course."

"Yeah," Keisuke chimed in, "we're just glad that we were there to help."

"Not everyone would have done that. So, thank you."

 

There was an uncomfortable pause after that as they uneasily averted each other's eyes. But Takumi knew what he had said was true. Maybe there had been people passing by his unconscious form before the brothers arrived at the scene. He wouldn’t know. The thought made him uncomfortable.

"Oh, that reminds me-" Keisuke reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out something that, upon closer look, turned out to be Takumi's bag and wallet. "I found this on the ground next to you. That's yours, right?"

Takumi breathed a sigh of relief. His old man would have killed him if he had lost that. "Yes. Thank you."

Keisuke handed it to him, and Takumi didn't bother to check the contents. To do that right in front of the brothers would have some rude implications, so he decided that had to wait until later and pocketed bag and wallet instead.

The sound of Ryosuke's voice made Takumi look up again. "Takumi, do you know how you'll get back home? Is someone coming to pick you up?"

Takumi blinked at the question. "Oh. Uh…"

There was no way he'd ask his dad to come fetch him. He was probably wondering where he was by now, but it wouldn't have been the first time he had stopped on the way home to visit Itsuki. Considering the time, it was also likely that he had already drunken again. Yeah, no way he would ask his old man for a ride. He'd be pissed, anyway.

"Well, I don't live too far from here. I was planning to walk home."

Ryosuke frowned at him. It looked almost accusatory, and Takumi couldn't help but falter a bit. The black-haired brother had a sort of authority to him that immediately made Takumi feel like he had said something wrong.

"Walk home? In your condition? Excuse me, but that is a terrible idea. You're in no state to walk all that way alone." He shook his head. "If you don't have anyone you can call, we will bring you home. If you allow."

"Eh?!" Takumi gaped at him and raised his hands in defence. "That's really not-"

"No way we'll let you walk," Keisuke interrupted his attempt at an objection. "I don't know if you've realised, but less than two hours ago you were passed out in the road. Do you want that to happen again?"

He was frowning at him while his brother kept looking at him intently. Takumi hesitated.

"Look, we just want to make sure you don't injure yourself. If you don't want to go with us, we'll call you a cab or something. But please get the idea out of your head that you're going to walk that way by yourself."

 

After that, it was just a losing battle. Neither of them would take no for an answer, and with the heavy knowledge that they did have a point, Takumi had to agree.

They didn't end up calling a cab because Takumi didn't ask them to. He was a bit torn between not wanting to be rude by being too cautious and asking himself whether he was being naïve. He couldn't deny being a bit wary, but that was mainly because he didn't actually know that much about vampires, let alone how to behave around them. A lot of them were part of very old and very proud families or clans as far as he understood it, and the fact that they were pretty much immortal enabled them to hold very persistent grudges. Takumi wasn't sure about Ryosuke's and Keisuke's background and how they felt about those things, but he wanted to avoid offending them at all cost.

 

It was too bad that he had never even talked to a vampire before.

 

Fortunately for him, both brothers seemed to have a pretty casual attitude. Takumi kept thinking that it was because they were pretty close to his own age before remembering that he actually couldn't know that. He may have been asleep every time they talked about vampires at school, but the fact that vampirism pretty much halted the aging process at the price of needing human blood to survive was common knowledge. Takumi had once heard someone on TV call it "the most sought-after disease in the world." But here was one of the things he did know about proper manners towards vampires: Don't call it a disease. It was technically true, but most vampires didn't like hearing it at all.

Well, Takumi thought, if I was immortal, I probably wouldn't want to think about it that way either.

 

He glanced at the brothers walking next to him across the parking lot, trying to figure out what kind of scale he was dealing with here. He had no clue how much influence they might have, let alone what kind of clan they might be part of. They definitely weren't poor, that much became clear to him when he set eyes on the car that was supposed to bring him home.

Ryosuke had called someone to fetch him, and what had turned up was an honest-to-god black limousine with a driver who bowed and held the door open for them. Takumi tried not to let it get to him, but it was a hopeless battle he was fighting here. Well, at least that answered part of the scale question. Takumi was glad that the drive would be short, otherwise he might end up with a stiff back seeing how tense he was.

Keisuke slid into the seat next to him and pretended not to notice his uneasiness. "So, where are we going?", he asked and did some sort of half-nod in the direction of the driver, indicating that Takumi needed to describe the way to him.

Takumi told him the address and felt pretty awkward about the whole thing, especially about being driven through the narrow streets in a limousine. His old man would definitely notice and question him about it, no matter how much sake he might or might not have drunken already. He grimaced. How was he going to explain this without making it weird?

 

While the driver navigated them through the labyrinth of streets that was the southern shopping district, all three of his passengers remained silent. Takumi considered breaking the awkward silence a few times – he actually had a lot of questions that he wanted to ask, but he was aware that it would be insensitive and rude to interrogate the brothers about what it was like to be a vampire. And besides, he still couldn't help but feel like a nuisance. Keisuke and Ryosuke probably had places to be, and now he was holding them off from their plans. The least he could do was not to annoy them further by asking questions that might end up being a bit too personal.

 

He ended up being saved from his dilemma by Keisuke, who couldn't stand the silence either. "Did you grow up here?", he asked out of the blue, which gained him the attention of both Takumi and Ryosuke.

"Yes," Takumi answered, somewhat thankful for getting a topic to talk about. "I was born here, and I don't think I will leave anytime soon."

"Why are you so certain about that?"

Takumi shrugged. "I don't feel like moving anywhere else. And besides, what should I do there?"

"And if you had a reason to leave, would you do it?"

Takumi blinked, a bit taken aback by the question. He thought about how he had almost started asking personal questions, but it looked like Keisuke beat him to it. He wasn't insulted, just… well, a bit dumbfounded. He caught Ryosuke shooting his brother a little glare, but the latter didn't seem to notice. He continued looking at him curiously, awaiting his answer.

"I guess." Takumi shrugged again, deciding that he didn't mind the questions. "I don't really believe there will be one, though. I'm pretty sure I'll end up taking over the shop and staying here, anyway."

"The shop…?", Keisuke inquired curiously.

Takumi didn’t get the chance to give him an answer because they arrived at their destination just in this moment. He almost didn’t notice until the car stopped in front of the tofu shop, and then he was abruptly reminded that he would have a lot to explain when he spotted his dad leaning against the house wall and staring at the black car that didn’t belong into these streets at all.

He opened the door for himself this time, inevitably starting to feel flustered when he noticed the brothers curiously inspecting the humble house that he grew up in.

He cleared his throat, "I, uhm- Thank you. For everything."

Ryosuke shook his head. "As I said, it was a matter of course. I apologise that this happened to you."

"Me too. I hope that the rest of your week will be a little less, uh, exciting," Keisuke added. Takumi was almost tempted to answer that he hoped otherwise, because he couldn't deny that meeting the two vampires, while awkward, had been quite interesting. Much more interesting than going to the grocery store, at least.

 

That, however, reminded him once again of the fact that he would have to explain the events to his dad. He suppressed a groan.

"I hope so, too," he replied. Well, he definitely wouldn't complain about being a little less flustered because of a vampire he didn't even know anything about.

"It was a pleasure meeting you," Ryosuke stated, and his brother nodded in agreement. Takumi hoped that he didn't actually blush and it just felt like he did. What was that about being flustered…?

"Likewise," he answered, and meant it. He was about to close the car door when Keisuke called something after him.

"Hold on to your blood, yeah?"

Takumi caught a glance at his cheeky grin and heard Ryosuke reprimand him with a sharp "Keisuke."

He laughed. "I will."

Closing the door, he saw Ryosuke's expression of guarded relief and somehow got the feeling that Keisuke's bad joke would get a telling-off. He didn't have time to think about it because he had to move on to more important things: Trying to come up with a sensible way of explaining to his dad what had happened.

"I'm back," he mumbled as he approached the house, unhappily taking note of his father's raised eyebrow. He knew what kind of picture he must give off: No groceries, but a large bandage on his neck. To make it worse, dropped off from a black limousine.

"Sorry," he added, because it felt appropriate.

 

Fujiwara Bunta was looking surprisingly sober for this time on a Saturday. He gave the offending limousine another long look before it finally drove away. Takumi relaxed a bit.

His dad lighted a cigarette, saying nothing and letting his son squirm for a bit. "So," he grunted finally. "I take it that you weren't at your friend's place."

"No. I was… at the hospital, to be honest."

Bunta stared pointedly at the bandage on his neck. "Vampires?"

True to his nature, he guessed immediately what had happened. At least that meant that Takumi didn't have to explain as much.

"Only one," he mumbled.

His dad waved one hand in the direction the limousine had left. "I hope that wasn't the one who did this."

"Of course not!" Takumi glared at him. Did his old man really think he was that stupid? Getting attacked- No, offering himself to a vampire and letting them take him home afterwards? No way.

"They were the ones who brought me to the hospital. Nothing else happened."

"Good." Another long drag of the cigarette. "Wouldn't have thought that of you, either."

"Gee, thanks," Takumi replied sarcastically. "Good to know someone here has faith in me."

Bunta huffed, amused by his answer. "I wouldn't be so fast. You might realize that we're still out of eggs. No tamagoyaki tomorrow. Aren't eggs a recommended dish when you lose a lot of blood?"

Takumi immediately regretted engaging his dad in conversation. He huffed as well, though less out of amusement and more out of exasperation.

"Fine, old man. I'll go to the corner store." He turned around to leave (even though he wanted nothing more than fall into his bed now that the stress was over), but his dad held him back.

"You stay here and lie down, idiot. I'll go."

Takumi sighed. Sometimes his dad could almost be called a sensible father. Sometimes.
"Thanks," he mumbled, not even feeling bad anymore for leaving the task to his dad. He only wanted to sleep. Turned out that losing so much blood took more of a toll on you than he thought.

Keisuke and Ryosuke had been right in not letting him walk home all alone.

 

With that realisation on his mind, he pushed past his dad and entered the house without even registering the customer bell, a sound that he had heard so often in his life. With how tired he suddenly was, it almost came as a surprise that he even made it up to his room without passing out on the floor somewhere.

 

He fell into his bed without changing his clothes and immediately sank into a deep sleep that not even an earthquake could have disturbed.

Chapter Text

As the sight of the little tofu shop gradually got smaller in the back window, Ryosuke Takahashi, vampire and long-suffering older brother, let out a deep sigh and directed his reprehensive glare at his brother Keisuke.

Keisuke, either blissfully unaware of any misdeeds or just uncaring, duly ignored him and craned his neck to watch Takumi talk to a man that was likely his father in front of his home. Ryosuke came to the conclusion that simply glaring wouldn't gain him his brother's attention. If he wanted to ignore him, he would do so.

"You shouldn't have said that," Ryosuke stated evenly just as the car turned around a corner and the two vampires lost sight of the tofu shop. Keisuke finally turned around to face him.

"Said what? Goodbye?" He grinned, meaning that he knew exactly what Ryosuke was scolding him for. Ryosuke told him such, but his brother only shrugged. "It was a joke. And the truth. He's got to be careful, don't you think?"

 

Ryosuke sighed, again asking himself why he always had to do the damage control. There was no real damage this time, thankfully, but he was worried that Keisuke didn't understand the effect his words could have in their situation. As vampires, they both had to be responsible and careful.

"It wasn’t very smart of you, Keisuke. He just got attacked. And you know what the situation is like at the moment. I would have expected a bit more tactfulness from you."

Keisuke scoffed. "If you're expecting tactfulness from me, you don't know me very well."

"Keisuke."

"And besides," his brother continued, "you also saw that he took the whole thing quite well. He allowed us around him; he wouldn't have done that if he had something against vampires in general."

"That is true, but your behaviour was still insensitive. You treated his experience like a joke. Be thankful that he didn't feel insulted by that."

"C'mon, you know that I didn't mean it like that! I just wanted to lighten the mood a bit. He could use it. Did you see how tense he was the whole time?"

"That could be because he was attacked by a vampire and was in close proximity of two vampires he didn't know anything about," Ryosuke reminded him sharply.

Keisuke returned his glare challengingly. "Oh? And which one of us insisted on bringing him home, huh?"

"Don't act like you were against it. May I remind you that you pretty much jumped at the opportunity? And then you went ahead and interrogated him about his life situation. I hope I don't have to explain why that was a bad idea."

 

It was funny how quickly Keisuke's attitude could deflate. He averted his eyes, looking a bit flustered as if he was very aware of the fact. "He interested me," he mumbled, not quite quiet enough that Ryosuke couldn't hear him.

 

Oh dear.

 

"Keisuke. You are not supposed to hit on him!"

"I wasn't hitting on him!", Keisuke protested hotly. Ryosuke ignored his unconvincing asseveration.

"Tactfulness, dear brother! We found him unconscious in the street and had to bring him home from the hospital; you can't just start hitting on him!"

"I wasn't-", his idiot of a little brother tried to repeat himself, but Ryosuke didn't let him.

"Do you even understand what's going on? We are vampires, Keisuke. He's a human, who just got attacked for his blood to make it even worse." He rubbed his temples in exasperation over the situation. "We can't afford to make a mistake, not with how things are for us at the moment."

Keisuke seemingly decided to go back to being stubborn. "I know about that, I'm not stupid. But I don't see what's wrong with a little flirting-", ah, so he admits that now, "-and besides, it's not like he reacted negatively. Take it easy, alright?"

Ryosuke sighed. "Look, relationships between vampires and humans are complicated-"

"That didn't stop our parents," Keisuke interrupted dryly.

"Do we really need to have that discussion?"

"No, we don't." Keisuke huffed. "You need to stop worrying about it. It's not like we're going to see him again anyway."

That, of course, was a giant misjudgement. But at that moment neither Keisuke nor his brother knew that, and thus Ryosuke was satisfied for now and let the argument rest.

 

~~~

 

"What?!! That's insane!"

Takumi flinched and rubbed his ear, which his best friend had just chosen to shout into. Takumi wished that Itsuki would learn to keep a bit of a distance when raising his voice like this.

Then again, he had been like this ever since they had met back in middle school, so Takumi really doubted that would happen. But hope died last.

Itsuki had at least the sense to look a bit apologetic and lower his voice a bit. "Seriously though, Takumi! That really happened to you?! I can't believe it!"

He shook his head, even though he had already seen the bandage covering the wound. It was the first thing he had asked to see. Takumi shrugged.

"I just had bad luck," he mumbled. That's what it had been. He had just been at the wrong place at the wrong time. It could have been anyone else just as well. He told his best friend that.

Itsuki got a thoughtful look on his face. "Then again, such things happen more often lately, don't they?"

 

Takumi almost told him off. It wasn't like people got attacked for their blood on a daily basis. Itsuki was right though; attacks like that did seem to become more frequent. Or at least you heard of them more frequently. Takumi didn't know much about things like these, but he did watch the news and heard that there were less and less donators. Blood was getting more expensive, vampires who weren't part of any clan couldn't afford it anymore. That's how he understood it, anyway.

"Hm," he made and stared at the yellow curtains on Itsuki's window. For that, he got rewarded with a light punch against the back of his head. "Oi!"

"Quit spacing off!", Itsuki complained. "You don't seem to take this very seriously, even though you had to go to the hospital!"

"I am taking this seriously," Takumi defended himself. "I just don't want to make a big deal out of it."

In all seriousness, he would like to forget about the events as soon as possible. There was no chance he could do that if everyone kept making a big deal out of it. At least his old man wasn't making a fuss. Not like Takumi had expected him to. With Itsuki, it was a different story. He almost regretted telling him.

Itsuki huffed. "But it is kind of a big deal!" He seemed to think for a moment, and Takumi was half-prepared to cover his ears again. "Hey, do you think you got into the newspaper?"

First he was feeling personally insulted because Takumi didn't take this seriously enough and now he was getting excited about a newspaper article? Sometimes Takumi just didn't understand his best friend and the way he could jump from one mood to another. But that was Itsuki for you, right there.

"Dunno, didn't look."

"A chance of fame and you don't even look?!"

Takumi looked at him, a bit startled, until he noticed the grin on his face. He was joking this time. Takumi scoffed, but had to smile a little as well. He was almost about to believe that the topic was done with that and they could move on to something else, but he was mistaken. Before he could steer their conversation to a different subject, his friend had already focused on another part of his story.

"But anyway, to think that you now know two vampires personally…!", he marvelled. Takumi closed his eyes very briefly, to the effect that Keisuke's (very attractive) face appeared before his inner eye. He groaned. Why did Itsuki have to remind him? He was still embarrassed about the whole ordeal.

"I don't actually know them," he protested, but Itsuki waved it off. "Did you ask them what it's like to be a vampire?", he eagerly demanded to know. Why was he so excited about this?

"I didn't. That’s a really personal question, I think." Takumi wouldn't ask someone he barely knew about that, just like he wouldn't ask some stranger about their diabetes or something. Then again, maybe Itsuki's inhibition threshold was low enough to do just that. "Say, do you always assume you know someone after talking to them once?"

Just as he finished the question, Takumi remembered that this was exactly how he and Itsuki had become friends in the first place. So much for that.

Itsuki looked a bit miffed and raised his hands defensively. "Okay, okay. Fine. But you can at least tell me what they were like, right?"

 

Seriously, why was he so excited?

 

"Normal. They were normal," Takumi answered and thought about the coat and them waiting and refusing to let him go home alone. "Normal" wasn't really the right word. But maybe it would get Itsuki to shut up.

 

It didn't.

 

"What do you mean, normal?"

Takumi shrugged. "What do you imagine vampires to be like?"

That seemed to make Itsuki realize that his question was a bit stupid, because he started fumbling with the edge of his shirt. "You know, like what people say. Beautiful. Arrogant. Kind of stuck-up. …You know what I mean!"

"I guess I do," Takumi said and shrugged again. "They were like normal people." He chose not to mention that the part of being beautiful did apply to the two brothers.

Don’t think about that again.

 

This was embarrassing. Takumi wondered whether the fact that the thought of Keisuke didn't leave his head because of the circumstances of their meeting. There was no denying that the vampire left an impression that Takumi couldn't easily shake off.

Itsuki's loud voice tore him from his thoughts. "Ha! You're blushing! Why are you blushing?!"

 

Shit.

Chapter Text

Almost two whole months passed before Takumi found himself in front of the familiar modern concrete building in the city's centre again. He had been warned not to visit it too soon after what had happened to him, but he possessed the common sense to have figured that out by himself. Two months, however, seemed like a sensible time for his body to sufficiently recover what was lost. Despite the reason for the long break, Takumi didn't have any qualms as he pushed open the doors to the practice on the first floor.

 

The receptionist of the blood donation service already knew him and greeted him with a smile when he went to draw his number. It had become routine to him over time. He used to be nervous, but that was long ago. The first few times he went donating he almost felt ashamed for it, but that feeling had quickly made way to nonchalance. Takumi got used to the whole procedure like he got used to many other things.

 

There weren't many people waiting with him in the practice, which gave him reason to hope that it would be a fast deal today. Maybe he could pay Itsuki another visit before his afternoon shift began.

Thinking about Itsuki made him remember the conversation they had a few weeks ago. He looked around the waiting room inconspicuously; there were only two others waiting for their appointments. He wondered if he was seeing the results of vampire attacks getting more frequent and anti-vampire sentiments on the rise, but then again it could also be simply because it was early in the day.

 

He really didn't have to wait too long. Ten minutes later he sat in one of the little rooms and was tended to by a nurse he also knew from earlier visits. She made meaningless small talk to distract him from the needle, but Takumi had gotten so used to it that he didn't need the distraction anymore. He stared at the wall, lost in thoughts as the nurse drew his blood, and was almost surprised when it was over already. Upon walking out he glanced at the blood bag and wondered for the first time where it would go, something that he had never really thought about before. The blood bank system supposedly worked very efficiently, but how could it do that anymore if there simply wasn't enough to work with?

He rubbed his neck absentmindedly, the place where the bite wound had been: No scar was left behind because vampire bites healed fast. The memory though… Hundreds of years ago, there had been no blood bank system, and many humans experienced what had happened to him.

 

He wondered why he was thinking about that right now. It wasn't like he was getting second thoughts when he went to collect the small envelope with his money. Still… What had happened a bit less than two months ago made him start to think about stuff he took for granted. He really wished he had paid more attention when talking about those topics at school, brief as that had been. But up until now, he had never been interested in anything that had to do with vampires, except blood donation because it helped him save up for new shoes or whatever other thing he could use some extra money for. Other than that – well, there weren't all that many vampires (and both them and the human government were careful about keeping it that way) and Takumi never had reason to expect it would be significant for him. That was probably pretty dumb of him, he thought as he left the practice and went down the stairs.

He was still in thought and halfway out of the front door when he almost bumped into someone because he didn't really pay attention to where he was going. He mumbled an apology, hastily bowing his head a little before moving on, only to be stopped by the sound of his name said by a voice that sounded vaguely familiar.

 

"Takumi? Is that you?"

The owner of the voice's surprise was evident in it, and Takumi didn't feel any less surprised as he finally turned around and came face to face with a familiar blond vampire. Of all the people to meet here, he wouldn’t have expected to see him again – in fact, he wouldn't have expected to meet him again anywhere. Hadn't he said that he and his brother lived a while away from here?

"It is you! I didn't think I would meet you here," Keisuke said, smiling while looking the still-stunned Takumi up and down. "Recovered well?"

Takumi was a bit caught off guard and didn't really know what to say. "Ah… Yeah," he replied in what was almost a stutter. For some reason, his first instinct was to more-or-less discreetly hide the envelope behind his back, but Keisuke had seen the movement. He looked a bit puzzled at the realisation he must have had at the sight.

"So you were here to- oh. Sorry. Never mind." He laughed awkwardly and shook his head, "Anyway, glad to see you're fine."

"Yeah…" Takumi felt his face grow hot again and felt angry at himself for getting embarrassed. There was nothing embarrassing about donating blood – except, apparently, for when you were standing in front of a vampire who had seen you at your lowest; unconscious from blood loss. For some reason Takumi was actually concerned about what the other might think of him now.

"What are you doing here?", he asked to overplay his embarrassment and belatedly wondered whether it was an invasive question. Then again, Keisuke really didn't seem to pay much attention to such concerns himself. He didn't seem to possess much of the polite tactfulness that was often attributed to vampires, which honestly helped a lot in making Takumi a bit more comfortable in his company. It did not help making him any less embarrassed, though.

Keisuke hummed thoughtfully. "I have an appointment, that's why I came here," he answered and gave Takumi another intent look that the latter couldn't interpret. "Quite a coincidence that we meet again, huh?"

Takumi had to agree, all while admitting to himself that he was happy to see Keisuke. The fact that they were still standing in the open door and talking, inevitably blocking people’s path in the progress, told him that the vampire couldn't feel much different. He was probably glad that Takumi had recovered well. Well enough to donate blood again, too.

 

Someone pushed past them, grumbling something about 'youth these days', and Takumi stepped aside with a mumbled apology. Keisuke chuckled and the two of them exchanged a slightly embarrassed look. "This isn't really the best place to have a conversation, I guess," Keisuke said. He kept looking at Takumi, suddenly furrowing his brows slightly as if reconsidering something. The expression only lasted for a second or so before it turned into a charming smile, showing the vampire's fangs just a little bit. "Say, are you free right now? What about I invite you to a coffee?"

Now it was Takumi’s turn to furrow his brows, in confusion on his part. "Didn't you just say that you have an appointment?"

The vampire brushed it off. "It's not important. That can wait. But I'd like to talk to you a bit more now that we've met again like this." He smiled again. "I'd like to do it in a more comfortable place, though."

 

Takumi's fingers inadvertently tightened around the paper envelope, crinkling it in the process. He was baffled by the offer, enough so that there was an embarrassing pause before he could get a word out.

"Sure," he finally managed to answer, avoiding meeting Keisuke's eyes. The vampire didn't seem to be bothered by the moment of hesitation, instead seeming genuinely happy about how things were turning out. Takumi didn't know what to think of it. Keisuke didn't have much of a reason to invite him to a coffee. There was no obligation for him to do such a thing; he could have just asked about Takumi's wellbeing and left it at that if he just wanted to be polite.

But Takumi had never been very good at figuring out people's hidden intentions, at least not of those he didn't know well. In addition to that, he was still telling himself that he just didn’t know enough about vampires and their social rules, although somewhere deep inside he was probably aware that there wasn't much of a difference in that between him and Keisuke.

Still, he was pondering Keisuke's behaviour towards him and his own reaction to it as he let the vampire lead him to a nearby café.

Chapter Text

The café Keisuke had in mind was only a three-minute walk away. He didn't know this place or whether it was any good, but he wasn't very familiar with this part of town and had to hope for the best. It had looked pretty nice at least when he had passed it earlier, and on a second glance it didn't give him a bad impression either.

 

Inside the café looked inviting and cosy, and the scent of roasted coffee beans hung in the air. A quick look at the menu told Keisuke that they offered lunch here as well, which was very convenient for his plans. "Let's sit there," he said and pointed at a table in the corner, a bit hidden behind a wooden room divider. Takumi trudged after him, not saying a word, and they both took a seat at the tiny table. Keisuke reached for the menu but stopped himself after a moment of consideration. "Do you want to look first?", he asked Takumi, but the other shook his head silently. He was wringing his hands and averting his eyes, Keisuke noted. That was to be expected, but it made him nervous as well.

To distract himself, he started skimming the menu. Not only for himself though, as he was already reading through the food items that they offered here with the plan to convince Takumi to order one of the dishes. He ended up settling for a simple coffee for himself. He wasn't hungry in any way and he didn't even like coffee that much, but in his experience cafés were good places to get to know people better. And now that he had met Takumi again through some crazy coincidence, he really wanted to get to know him better. It was like a hint from the heavens that he ran into the other when he did, and it was an opportunity he wouldn't let go to waste.

He finally handed Takumi the menu, who honestly just seemed relieved to have something to occupy his hands with. "The sandwiches they have sound pretty good, I think."

Takumi looked up, finally. "Huh?"

"I said, the sandwiches sound pretty good. I'm not very hungry at the moment, but you probably are. Choose something, yeah? It's on me."

Keisuke watched Takumi blink at him, looking confused at first, then stunned, then flustered, and finally comprehending. He furrowed his brows and opened his mouth for a retort, but coincidence took Keisuke's side yet again as a waiter chose exactly this moment to appear at their table. "What can I bring you?", he asked, smiling a brilliant service smile and stopping the forming discussion in its tracks.

"A coffee for me, please," Keisuke said and directed his attention at Takumi again. He honestly had no idea if blood donation services offered food to their human clients, but whether or not they did didn't make much of a difference to him. He hoped that Takumi would take him up on his offer, even though Keisuke had gotten no chance to explain his motives. By the look of comprehension that had crossed his face, he had made the connection himself already, anyway.

"And what can I get you?", the waiter asked Takumi, who still looked flustered.

"Lemon soda and a chicken sandwich," he mumbled after a short side glance at Keisuke. The latter enjoyed his little moment of triumph as the waiter nodded and left the table. He was, however, smart enough not to comment on Takumi's choice.

 

"So, how have you been?", he asked again before the silence between them turned uncomfortable. Takumi shrugged and inspected the container of sugar sitting on the table. "Good, I guess. I mean, nothing special has happened."

"That's not very exciting."

"I know." Takumi's eyes wandered towards some point in the corner of the room again, and Keisuke bit his lip.

"Well, glad to see that you're not making a hobby out of getting attacked on the street,” he laughed, and then winced, because that one had come out entirely on impulse. But it did have the desired effect of Takumi finally facing him again. He looked taken aback. Keisuke considered apologising, but then there was a tiny smile on the human's face and he chuckled as well.

"Yeah. I tried it and didn't like it much," he replied, and just like that Keisuke realised that meeting this guy was probably the most interesting thing in his entire life, period. He really liked the way Takumi, who struck him as a shy and very hesitant person at first glance, acted once he warmed up a bit. He had humour and a sort of go-with-the-flow attitude that Keisuke found uncomplicated and kind of endearing.

 

Ah, damn. He was definitely attracted to the guy, no need to deny it anymore.

 

After that, the atmosphere between the two of them became a lot less tense. The waiter brought their order, and Keisuke watched as Takumi took a bite of his sandwich. "It's good," he mumbled between that and his second bite, "Thank you."

Keisuke grinned at him, letting his head rest on his propped-up elbow. His coffee went forgotten for the moment.

"No need to thank me."

In fact, he felt obligated to do this for him – it was, after all, deeply ingrained in their culture that a vampire was supposed to give a human who had given blood something to eat in return. Sure, that rule of courtesy didn't expand to blood donations, but in Keisuke's opinion he was just making up for the now two times that Takumi had given blood to vampires without getting this basic kindness in return. He was just being fair.

 

There was a moment of silence as Takumi took a few more bites off his sandwich and Keisuke watched the people passing outside the café.

Takumi broke the silence. "You're alone this time," he stated.

"Yeah." Keisuke felt a tiny spark of annoyance that Takumi brought up his brother, but he chose to ignore it. It made sense that this topic would come up. "Ryosuke's at home, doing what he does best." At Takumi's questioning glance, he added, "Studying. He's supposed to take over the family business one day."

"Oh." While Takumi seemed to think about that information, Keisuke finally remembered his coffee and proceeded to pour as much sugar and milk into it as it could possibly handle.

 

"Are you two…" Takumi paused, considering how to word his question, "Are you two actually brothers?"

Keisuke chuckled. "Yeah, we are." The question wasn't without reason; after all, it was not uncommon that vampire families weren't biologically related and simply chose to spend their immortal lives together as family.

"So you've become vampires at the same time?"

"Nah, he’s two years older than me and made the choice as soon as he turned twenty-one. And I couldn't exactly let him be immortal without me, so I did the same as soon as I was allowed to." Keisuke laughed and enjoyed the surprise on Takumi's face. It wasn't exactly common for an entire family to be offered the opportunity of becoming vampires, but under certain circumstances, situations like theirs happened.

 

Takumi's surprise turned into a thoughtful expression. "Was it an easy decision? Becoming a vampire?"

 

Getting the offer to stay eternally youthful and immune to most diseases that humans have to be afraid of, and adding to that the fact that the rest of his family had already made that decision and Keisuke did not at all plan to let them all outlive him? No question there.

 

"Yes," Keisuke said without having to think about it too much. He had had almost ten years to think about it from every possible perspective, and by the time Ryosuke had been turned, his decision had been already set in stone.

"Do you have any siblings, Takumi?"

The other shook his head no.

Keisuke looked at him seriously. "I wouldn't have let my brother have to watch me age without him for any force in the world, you know?" And less serious, he added, "Also, he definitely needs someone to drag him away from his desk from time to time. He would start gathering dust if it wasn't for me!"

 

That earned him a small smile, and Keisuke leaned back and took another sip of his coffee. Takumi used the little break in their conversation to finish his sandwich. Keisuke couldn't help watching him and imagining the bandage that was probably hidden underneath his long sleeves. Of course, Keisuke knew that there was a concerning shortage in the blood supply for vampires and every donor was valuable, but it didn't feel fair that Takumi of all people had to be one of them. He didn't know if he maybe just needed the money and he wasn't insensitive enough to ask, but it seemed insulting to imagine that some vampire out there was probably taking that blood for granted. Hell, Keisuke likely did so himself. It was an open secret that most vampires didn't like bagged blood very much, and Keisuke was no different. Bagged blood tasted stale and a bit like antiseptic, and compared to the feeling of drinking fresh, warm blood it really didn't hold up. Until now, Keisuke had never been so aware of how dependant they all really were on humans like Takumi – and in return, some vampires saw them as just barely better than livestock. It was really fucked up.

Keisuke suddenly wondered if he was really that much better – after all, the reason he had been in the city today was also that he wasn't satisfied with bagged blood anymore. Meeting Takumi had diverted his attention from his plans, and Keisuke was thankful for that, because talking to him was so much more relevant. Never mind the attraction he felt towards him.

 

Takumi's voice tore him from his musings. "And what are you planning to do? Besides helping your brother to get some fresh air, of course."

Keisuke stared at his mirthful little smile and needed a moment to remember what they had been talking about. "Honestly, I have no real idea yet," he answered once he caught his composure again. "The family business might be Ryosuke's thing, but it's not really my calling. As of now, I'm satisfied with supporting him."

And enjoying the benefits of immortal life, because he had not yet grown tired of it. Realistically, though, he knew that it wouldn't go on like this. The rest of his family had found their purpose in their work, but Keisuke had not yet found such a thing.

 

"Hm," Takumi made. "I guess I understand that. I'm helping my dad out in the shop, but I'm just doing that because help is needed and I just happen to be available. It doesn't feel like my calling, either."

Keisuke suddenly remembered the conversation that had been interrupted by the arrival at their destination almost two months ago. He had asked Takumi about the shop he had mentioned back then. He had seen it, too – in his memory, it was some sort of little food vendor, but he couldn't quite remember what it was. So he asked.

"We make tofu," Takumi answered, a bit quieter than before and averting his eyes as if he was thinking that it was somehow below his conversation partner.

"I need to visit you sometime and try it," Keisuke said, completely undeterred.

"Please don't," Takumi immediately replied. The suddenness of this made Keisuke laugh. Spurred on by this, Takumi had to laugh, too. "Don’t get me wrong," he said. "My old man would have a field day getting me to explain why I know a vampire."

Keisuke stopped laughing. "Does he not like vampires?"

"No, not that I know," Takumi said quickly. "It's just that he loves embarrassing me."

Keisuke raised one eyebrow. "Oh? Knowing me is something to be embarrassed about?"

"When you're being like this: Yes, absolutely," Takumi shot back. Keisuke couldn't help it and burst out into laughter again. Takumi followed suit, and they might have been a little bit too loud because the waiter appeared again and quieted them down by asking if they wanted anything else.

"No," Keisuke answered and looked at Takumi, but he shook his head as well. "Then I'd like the bill," the vampire said, and the waiter left to get it. They remained silent until Keisuke had paid and the waiter was gone again, not before wishing them a nice day.

 

"I hope I wasn’t too forward with you."

"Huh?" Takumi looked at him, obviously surprised, so Keisuke elaborated.

"I mean convincing you to come here. Maybe you had something better to do than having a chat with a vampire you barely knew anything about."

Takumi shook his head insistently. "Not at all. I enjoyed this. I honestly don't meet very many vampires."

Keisuke decided to come forward with the worries he had had since the beginning. It wasn't like the lecture his brother had given him after their first meeting with Takumi hadn't left any impact at all. "I was worried that you preferred that, seeing what happened to you."

The other frowned at him. "I don't- I admit that I don't know much about vampires at all. But I do know that you don't just go around attacking people because you feel like it."

That was harsher than expected, and Keisuke was taken aback. Takumi blushed as the silence dragged on. "I'm sorry, I…"

"No, I'm sorry," Keisuke interrupted him. "I presumed that- Well, I just shouldn't have said that. I'm glad that you agreed to come here with me. I really enjoyed talking to you."

"Me too." Takumi smiled at him, and Keisuke felt oddly warm inside at that honest expression. He looked away and quickly procured a pen and one of the paper napkins and wrote his phone number on it.

"Here," he said and pushed it towards Takumi. "If you ever have any more questions you always wanted to ask a vampire. Or if you decide that I'm allowed to visit you, after all." He smiled the most charming and least fanged smile he was capable of, but that was completely unnecessary as Takumi took the napkin without hesitation.

"Thank you. I'll consider that," he said and put it in his pocket. On a closer look, his cheeks looked a little bit flushed. He noticed Keisuke looking at him and quickly averted his eyes, glancing at his watch instead. His eyes went wide. "Oh no. I’m supposed to be at work in 30 minutes and I still have to get changed. Got to go…!"

 

"I can drive you home," Keisuke offered before the other could jump up and storm out of the door. Takumi gave him a hopeful look.

"Really? That would be great." He hesitated for a moment. "It won't be like last time though, right…?", he asked cautiously.

 

Like last time…?

 

Oh, right, Keisuke thought. "No, don't worry. I'm here with my own car."

"Ah. Then, sure. Thank you," Takumi said, looking relieved.

Keisuke stood up. "Let's go, then. We don't want you to be late, right?"

 

As they left the café and walked hurriedly towards his car which was parked a few streets away, Keisuke acknowledged the good mood he was in. Takumi was the most interesting person he had met in a while and seemed interested in keeping contact as well.

All in all, today had helped Keisuke's slight attraction towards the human slowly but surely solidify into a legitimate crush.

Ryosuke wouldn't like this at all once he found out about it, but that didn't really matter to him at the moment.

Chapter Text

In retrospect, Takumi probably should have anticipated something like this. Of course there would be nothing discreet about letting a vampire drive him to work. He had just wanted to arrive without being holed with questions for being late, but this was worse. He could almost feel the questions forming in his friends’ heads when Keisuke stopped his glaringly bright yellow sports car at the side of the street opposite to the gas station. His wish of not creating a big scene upon arriving at the gas station was not fulfilled, but he hadn’t felt confident enough to ask Keisuke to drop him off a street away in order to not draw any attention.

His friends, particularly Itsuki, stared as he exited the car. Had he been on time, they would still be in the back getting changed, but because he was late, they were already at the front ready to witness his arrival.

His ears burned as he turned around to say a quick thanks to Keisuke.

“Sure, no problem,” the latter answered and smiled. “I hope I’ll hear from you.”

“Yeah.” Takumi shifted on his feet, feeling his friends’ stares on his back. Keisuke seemed to wait for him to say something more, but Takumi couldn’t think of anything, not while he wished that this situation would just stop happening.

“Take care,” Keisuke said and smiled that damn smile again that made Takumi feel like he could find a new job as a red traffic light if his face got any redder. Maybe that would be a good alternative to this job where the others will never let me live this down, he mused.

“I will.”

Takumi closed the car door and watched Keisuke wave at him once more. He steeled himself and turned around, trying to put up a nonchalant face while he heard the vampire drive off.

Nothing strange has happened, he thought at his friends and repeated it in his head like a mantra. There was nothing weird about this. No need to ask me any questions. Just forget that you saw anything unusual…

 

“Oi, Takumi! Who was that?!”

 

Oh, well. Not like he was getting his hopes up in the first place.

“Someone I know. I’m going to change now,” he grumbled and walked past the little group composed of Itsuki, their senior Iketani, and last but not least Kenji, who had once again decided to hang out with them during their working hours. Their boss didn’t seem to mind as long as they still did their work, and he didn’t make a fuss about someone not being exactly on time as long as it wasn’t too busy, so that at least was something he didn’t have to worry about.

What he did have to worry about was the fact that their boss could be a bit of a nosy type, so anything Takumi said would definitely reach him through either Itsuki or Iketani. And because he happened to be friends with his old man, Takumi could be certain that it would also reach him sooner or later.

He was so never going to hear the end of this.

 

When he returned to the front in his work uniform, he was again greeted by the others’ prying stares. He had probably never wished for a lot of customers so badly.

“Now you’ve got to tell us, Takumi,” Iketani said. “What was that just now?”

“Yeah,” Itsuki chimed in and pointed an accusing finger at him. “Who was that person dropping you off? And why did they do that?!” His voice got higher with every question.

Kenji frowned thoughtfully. “Come to think of it, that car looked an awful lot like Takahashi Keisuke’s car. But that doesn’t make sense…”

Iketani’s eyes went wide at the sudden realisation. “You’re right! So that’s why it seemed so familiar!”, he exclaimed.

All three of them turned their heads simultaneously to look at Takumi, expecting some sort of explanation. Takumi, however, was currently too busy being confused.

‘Takahashi Keisuke…? Is that Keisuke’s full name? But why would they know him?’

“Hello! Earth to Takumi! Is it true?! Was that Takahashi Keisuke who dropped you off?!” Itsuki’s voice was almost cracking because he got so worked up over this. Takumi frowned.

“Maybe,” he said. “How do you know that name, anyway?”

Iketani and Kenji exchanged a look that clearly said, ‘Can you believe this guy,’ and Itsuki gawped.

“You’re meaning to tell us that you sat in his car and don’t even know who he is?!”

Iketani, who under normal circumstances would have probably reprimanded Itsuki for being so loud, shook his head. “I’m puzzled that you really seem to have no idea at all.”

“You have to remember that he isn’t into street racing,” Kenji reminded him.

Takumi, who had just listened to them with a growing feeling of unease, relaxed a bit when he heard that. Street racing, huh. It made sense that the others had heard of Keisuke, then, if he really was the same person they were talking about. He was pretty sure he would remember it if Keisuke had mentioned anything about street racing, but then again, they hadn’t talked about their hobbies that much.

“I still don’t understand how you can’t be into street racing,” Itsuki interrupted his train of thought, sounding accusing as if they didn’t already have this conversation countless times before. Takumi simply shrugged; he had given up being annoyed by it. He just didn’t see the appeal of driving a car for fun.

“Let him, Itsuki. I’m more interested to hear how he knows Takahashi Keisuke.”

Takumi felt uncomfortable under Iketani’s searching stare. He wished they would just drop the topic, but even he had to admit that his way of arriving had been so unusual that he would have probably persisted, too, had he been in their position.

“How do you know him?”, he attempted a counter-question.

Itsuki glared at him. “He’s pretty much a celebrity! I can’t believe that you’ve never even heard of-“

 

To Takumi’s luck, the sound of an engine interrupted his best friend’s tirade before it could properly start. “Customer,” Iketani hissed, and Kenji quickly pretended to be interested in the ice box in front of the store.

The small intermission gave Takumi time to think while he cleaned the windshield of the car. A celebrity? Itsuki was probably just exaggerating, but still… It felt weird to hear this from his friends. He could, somehow, imagine Keisuke having a hobby like that, and yet the knowledge that he was apparently famous for it in the scene seemed so… surreal.

Takumi was realising that he didn’t actually know much about Keisuke, not really. He had no clue why this bothered him; after all, he had met him only twice. There was only so much you could find out about a person in two conversations.

Still, this realisation suddenly fuelled the doubts that hadn’t been there since that uncomfortable car ride home from the hospital. How much could he even trust Keisuke? Was he being too naïve with how he was letting him into his personal sphere? Or was he being stupid right now, questioning this over some information that he would have probably gotten sooner or later, anyway?

He would have still been mulling over it long after the customer had left, had not his friends been so eager to continue the conversation where it had been interrupted.

 

“And you really never heard anything about the Rotary Brothers? At all?” Itsuki still sounded incredulous. Way too incredulous for someone knowing full well that Takumi really wasn’t interested in street racing.

“Who is that supposed to be now?”, Takumi asked, feeling a bit grumpy over being torn from his thoughts again.

Kenji had joined them again and took it upon himself to explain. “The Takahashi brothers, Ryosuke and Keisuke. They are pretty famous. But I guess if you’re not into street racing, you never heard of them.”

It has to be them, then, Takumi thought glumly and remembered their unfortunate first meeting again. Great. I’ll really never hear the end of this.

He was less concerned about Keisuke being a local celebrity rather than his friends never stopping to pester him about it because of the fact. Why, why didn’t he just risk being a bit rude to avoid this situation in the first place…

“Now that I think about it…”, Kenji spoke again, “Aren’t both of them vampires, too?”

Iketani nodded slowly. “I think so, yeah.”

 

It took a moment, but then Takumi could watch Itsuki’s eyes suddenly widen. “Wait!”, he almost shouted. “Is that why you know him?! Were they the ones who-?!”

Takumi tried to shut him up with a glare, but it was already too late. Kenji’s and Iketani’s heads turned around.

“Were they the ones who what?”

“The ones who helped Takumi after he was bitten-“

That was enough. This time, the downright furious glare did shut him up. Itsuki looked down at his shoes and didn’t say anything else. He didn’t have to, unfortunately. Both Iketani and Kenji gaped at Takumi.

“You were bitten?”, Iketani asked, looking uncomfortable. “As in, you were attacked?”

“Yeah,” Takumi mumbled, averting his eyes and already choosing some choice words to shout at Itsuki later. He was a great friend, he really was, but he also really didn’t know how to keep his mouth shut.

 

Iketani and Kenji, however, thankfully didn’t feel the need to pester Takumi with further questions. “Sorry to hear that,” Kenji mumbled, and Takumi felt the sudden need to throw a wet sponge at him. He really didn’t want to discuss that anymore.

They stood in silence for a while, but today unfortunately happened to be a very slow day and there were no other customers to keep them busy and direct their attention somewhere else.

“I didn’t think you’d be someone to… drive around with a vampire after something like that happened,” Iketani suddenly spoke up again, hesitating for a moment as if he had a reason to reconsider his phrasing. “I’m sorry,” he said quickly when he caught the look Takumi was giving him. “I just thought that…”

“That what?”, Takumi growled. “That it’s wrong to talk to any vampire because I just so happened to meet one who decided that my blood would be a nice afternoon snack?”

Iketani looked away. “That’s not… I’m sorry,” he repeated. Takumi only huffed in response. He knew what his friend had been meaning to say at first, and judging from the other two’s looks, they also knew.

So much for their faith in him. Takumi fumed internally. He was furious that it apparently wasn’t possible for him to just normally be friends with and talk to Keisuke just because he was a vampire – sure, that made things more complicated, but it definitely didn’t mean that Keisuke had somehow tricked him into some sort of sleazy situation that Iketani was probably picturing right now. That he would even go so far as to say that aloud… It made Takumi furious.

What made him angrier was the fact that it made him think about the stuff he had been considering earlier. Was he really being that naïve? Was his blood the only reason a vampire with money and status would deign to talk to someone like him?

It couldn’t be the truth, he was smart enough to know that, but doubts had a way of worming themselves into your brain like poison. Was it even worth getting so worked up over? What if he was having false expectations and there were just too many differences, too many hurdles to actually form some sort of friendship or anything else with Keisuke?

Iketani didn’t say anything else, and neither did Kenji. Even Itsuki kept quiet, reading the atmosphere for once.

The rest of their shift remained quiet. Takumi was the last one to leave, wanting to make up for being late even though he didn’t feel like staying any longer than he had to. He helped Tachibana-san sweep the shop and said a quiet goodbye when the boss sent him home. Finally. He wanted nothing more to fall into his bed right now, minus having dinner, of course.

 

As he changed out of his work uniform and into his normal clothes, he felt the napkin Keisuke had given him in the pocket of his jeans. He hesitated. If he really wanted to end this before it even began, this would be a great opportunity.

His fingers lingered over the flimsy tissue paper, but then he pulled them back. No, he decided, I’m going to keep it.

He hesitated again.

For now, at least.

Chapter Text

The dancefloor wasn’t too crowded for a Saturday evening, the few dancing bodies illuminated by strobe lights and laser beams cutting through the artificial fog in the air. The music was decent, but Keisuke didn’t really feel like dancing. In fact, now that he stood here at the bar with the heavy bassline thrumming through his body, he wondered why he had come here at all. Maybe today just wasn’t his day and he should have gone home instead of trying to chase away the bad mood he was in with dancing and booze. Not that the latter was feasible; one of the pros (and occasionally, like now, cons) of being a vampire was needing a lot more alcohol to get actually drunk. Keisuke suspected that the owner of this club made a good fortune off of them, seeing how horrendously overpriced all the beverages were. Especially the ones that had blood in them, of course.

But Keisuke was in that “fuck it” kind of mood anyway, so why not waste some money on a lousy drink that wasn’t going to get him wasted. He sort of missed being human right now. Being immortal and resistant to the effects of alcohol didn’t go well with bad moods and wanting to forget.

 

He mindlessly stared over towards the stage after ordering his drink, trying to think about nothing in particular. The DJ was pretty good at his job: Of the few people in the club, most were actually busy dancing. In this lighting, it was hard to tell humans and vampires apart. This club’s main audience were vampires (with enough money in their pockets to waste on those shitty overpriced drinks), but you could always spot a few humans as well, mingling with the rest. Most of them were probably here with their vampire friends. Others, though…

Keisuke watched a couple off to the side, one of them leaned over the other and obviously suckling on their neck. The strobe lights made the scene almost look surreal. Keisuke scoffed and looked away in distaste, only to wonder why that display bothered him. He had never considered himself to be a prude. Maybe he was turning into his brother.

A second after thinking that, he scoffed at himself: Ryosuke wasn’t a prude, he just took deeply personal and intimate things like that very seriously, and Keisuke couldn’t even blame him for it. It was just that he used to be less bothered by such stuff being displayed in public. Guess that’s what you called getting more mature with age. Not that he was aging though, technically.

 

The bartender finally handed him his drink. Keisuke looked at the dark liquid and suddenly didn’t really want to drink it anymore. He sighed and placed the glass back on the counter, deciding to wait a bit and watch the dancefloor some more.

Despite his best efforts, his mind kept drifting back to the last conversation he had with his brother, right before heading out and coming here. He had entered Ryosuke’s room in his usual fashion to ask him if there might be a chance of them getting some takeout for dinner for the first time in what felt like forever, but he didn’t really get to ask that question. Or rather, he had asked and got no answer.

 

~~~

 

His question lingered in the room, but Ryosuke didn’t appear to hear it. His eyes were glued to his laptop screen and he only made a vague noise of recognition to tell Keisuke that his presence had been acknowledged. Ryosuke was frowning at the screen, seeming too focused on whatever was on there to deal with minor occurrences like dinner.

Keisuke stepped closer to see what had his brother so transfixed.

It was a news page that he had open on his laptop, one of the major newspapers’ politics section. Keisuke’s eyes were drawn to the bold black headline: “Government Introduces Bill to Reform Blood Bank System”. He skimmed the beginning of the article and let out a low whistle at what he read.

“Ooh. Bad move.”

Ryosuke’s frown only seemed to deepen.

“Exactly.” He barely stopped staring at the screen in front of him, and Keisuke wondered what was going on in his head right now. There were a lot of thoughts going through his own head, too. He wasn’t completely blind to the political situation, despite what his brother might think sometimes. This new bill, or rather the idea of it – since it hadn’t yet been passed, after all – was bad news. It wasn’t a solution for the problems at hand. Instead, it would only pour oil into the fire.

Of course, this was even more of an issue for Ryosuke, who was supposed to inherit the responsibility over the clan one day. That day was probably in the far, far future – Keisuke still struggled to think in vampire timeframes – but Ryosuke was required to be always prepared, especially during turbulent times like these. He would keep a close eye on the news for the next few weeks, and probably have a lot of meetings with their father and other high-ranking members of the clan, and probably wouldn’t sleep a bit.

He laid a hand on Ryosuke’s shoulder. “Don’t overexert yourself,” he said quietly, in the feeble hope that his brother would actually heed his advice.

Ryosuke rubbed his temples and let out a deep sigh. Keisuke watched, feeling worried for his brother who didn’t seem to get many favours from being the family heir. Suddenly, Ryosuke startled him by sitting up abruptly and shaking his hand off his shoulder in the process.

“This is stupid,” he hissed, and Keisuke reflectively took half a step back since he couldn’t quite remember the last time he had seen his brother this pissed.

“Can’t they see what they’re doing?! This will cause an outrage!” Ryosuke buried his fingers in his hair and took a deep breath to calm himself.

He sighed again, and Keisuke let his cautiously raised hands fall back to his sides. “I’m sorry,” Ryosuke said, voice somewhat calm again. There was still a strained undertone to it that let Keisuke know that he was actually far from being back to his usual calm self.

 

Keisuke was still stunned. Sure, the bill was careless at best, but he wouldn’t have thought that it was that bad. Even then he believed everything his brother said, since Ryosuke really wasn’t someone who would flip out for no reason. Keisuke shook his head, fighting his confusion. Maybe he really was bad at politics.

Watching his brother’s reaction closely, he said, “Well, at least it’s still just an idea, right? Let’s just hope that the law won’t actually pass.”

“Not hope,” Ryosuke mumbled, and went right back to staring at the screen. Eyes narrowed, brows furrowing in deep thought, and fingers starting to tap a quiet rhythm on the dark wood of the writing desk. All of those were clear signs that Ryosuke was scheming again.

 

That, on the other hand, meant that Keisuke’s presence wasn’t much appreciated anymore. Ryosuke needed to be left alone with his thoughts, and Keisuke would do him the favour. Not only because he was such a considerate little brother, but also because he felt like he had some thinking to do, too.

 

Or maybe just getting some distance between himself and whatever this was would also be nice. This was giving him a headache.

 

“I’m heading out,” he said, not expecting much of an answer and not getting one, either. Suddenly, he couldn’t close the door behind himself fast enough. He almost felt… guilty, yet he wasn’t sure for what.

That damn news article, and those damned politicians. Seriously, he had enough stuff to think about and this was absolutely uncalled for. Now Ryosuke would be in hermit mode for a while, leaving Keisuke to find another way to spend his time. Hell, that wasn’t even the problem. The problem was the fact that he felt utterly helpless at what to do. He was pretty much useless at this kind of thing, which was exactly why Ryosuke was the heir and not he. It wasn’t like it had much to do with age, not among vampires when some others in the clan were centuries older than them.

 

The headache intensified. Damn. He seriously needed a distraction.

 

~~~

 

And thus, he ended up where he was right now. His goal had been to get his mind off of things, but this seemed to be the wrong place for that. His thoughts just kept revolving around this damn issue, around his brother and that bill and humans and blood.

 

And now he also knew where that feeling of guilt came from. He suddenly started regretting keeping his second meeting with Takumi secret from his brother. Then again, him knowing about it wouldn’t improve his stress by any means. Keisuke was still unwilling to give it up even though he knew that, and that was what he felt guilty about.

But Takumi hadn’t called him back yet, and it had been two weeks already since they last saw each other. Maybe Takumi had given the whole thing some more thought and decided that getting close to a vampire wasn’t worth the risk. Keisuke found that he couldn’t really blame him. If anyone had the right to think like that, it was Takumi. Still, the thought stung.

Keisuke was certain that he could find someone without such qualms in here, should he wish to search. He didn’t have any desire to do so. It was hard to get over his disappointment, and some meaningless fling with someone for fresh blood wouldn’t help it in any way. Considering the whole situation right now, it would only make him feel worse.

 

Hit with a sudden restlessness, he downed his previously abandoned drink in a few big gulps without paying much attention to whether it tasted good or not. The atmosphere in the club suddenly seemed stifling to him, and he needed fresh air.

He stepped out into the cold and buried his hands in his jacket pockets against the harsh wind that stung on his face, too. Was he prepared to go home and confront his brother already? He wasn’t sure. He wished for another opportunity to talk to Takumi, but if the human had really decided against a connection, turning up in front of his house would be a terrible, horrible, no-good idea. Keisuke almost regretted not getting Takumi’s number, but he had wanted to leave this whole thing up to the human. That was only sensible. Keisuke hadn’t really expected him to just not call at all though...

Shit. Last time Keisuke checked, something like that wasn’t supposed to sting so much. Not after one maybe-date.

What had he gotten himself into there?

Chapter Text

Takumi helped his father hoist the heavy box with tofu into the trunk and closed the door. His fingers were freezing in the night air. It was getting colder already as winter drew nearer, and Takumi sighed at the thought of snow making him lose time on his trek up and down the mountain.

His breath came out in little white puffs as he sat in the driver’s seat and waited for his dad to return with the cup of water. Soon they would need to shut the outdoor hose he used for that off from the water supply, or it would freeze and break again like last year when they forgot about it.

Takumi yawned. The heater in the car wasn’t working as well as it used to, but he was almost glad about that because the cold kept him awake at least. Early morning deliveries were a bit more pleasant when the air wasn’t humid and stifling like during the summer months.

 

His dad tore him from his musings by handing him the cup through the open window and going for his usual catchphrase.

“Don’t spill anything.”

Takumi nodded and off he went, already thinking about returning and going straight back to bed by the time he reached the mountain pass. His thoughts continued to drift off. From what he had heard from Itsuki and the others, street racers were here on the weekends. As far as Takumi could remember, he had never encountered one. They probably went home before he had to make the deliveries. In Takumi’s opinion, they were strange people. Who thought it was fun to drive up and down a mountain in the middle of the night when you could be sleeping instead?

Enough people, apparently. For Itsuki there seemed to be nothing greater in the world. And if what he and the others had said was true, Keisuke was one of those people, too, and so was his brother. Strange how Takumi was confronted with that topic again and again.

 

He shook his head; no, he didn’t want to be thinking about Keisuke right now. That was done with. The others had probably been right thinking that there was no way a vampire like that would hang around a human like him for anything else than his blood.

And that was something Takumi really didn’t want to be thinking about.

He gritted his teeth and went into the next curve with just a little bit more speed than he normally would use. All this mess with vampires and whatnot – he would be better off if he continued to keep away from that like he did before all this mess started. Donating blood was impersonal, so that was okay, but a personal relationship with a vampire was way too uncertain and just overall-

Without being able to do anything against it, Takumi’s thoughts remained on Keisuke; and suddenly part of him was wondering what it would even be like if he let Keisuke drink blood from him.

‘Bad train of thought! Very bad train of thought.’

Takumi blushed and tried to think about anything different. It wouldn’t ever happen, so there was no point in thinking about it.

…Would it hurt, like when that unknown vampire had attacked him on the street? Probably not. Takumi imagined it would be more like the pinprick when he went to donate.

‘Not again.’ Once again Takumi thought that maybe it would have been good for him if he knew more about vampires. Maybe he wouldn’t be fantasizing about stuff like that and maybe it would have prevented this terrible confusion in the first place. Then again, there probably wasn’t a guidebook on how to interpret a vampire giving you his number. Takumi would have to use his common sense for that.

Said “common sense”, however, didn’t give him a clear answer. What if Keisuke did want to be friends with him? What if all of this had really been without ulterior motive?

 

Damn, why was this so difficult?

 

By now Takumi was thankfully nearing his destination, so there was no room anymore for him getting distracted on the road down the mountain and maybe doing something stupid. He parked the car in its usual spot next to the house and stared at the illuminated windows for a moment.

It would be a lot easier if he could just let the thought of Keisuke go. But meeting him had been… different. The vampire had certainly left an impression, and Takumi had to admit to himself that he really wanted to get to know him better. He couldn’t remember ever feeling like this before.

Takumi shook his head and finally got out of the car; his dad must have heard him arrive and if he waited any longer to go inside, there might be questions. Takumi didn’t want to deal with any more questions; he was asking himself enough of those already. His head was swimming with them.

 

When he went inside, his dad was sitting in the living room as usual. There was a news program on TV that he didn’t seem to pay much attention to, at least judging by the newspaper in his hands.

“Going to bed now,” Takumi announced, as he usually did. They didn’t tend to exchange more words than that, which made sense considering that the only thing that Takumi wanted to do was go to sleep. This time, something made him stay for another moment when he usually would immediately go upstairs to his room.

The TV caught his attention; usually it would be switched off at this time of the night. Maybe it had been the word “vampires” that he heard and that made him linger and listen.

“-government has introduced a bill as a means to instigate the long-demanded reform of the current blood bank system to deal with the recessing number of voluntary donators. The bill proposes that all persons not afflicted by vampirism between the ages of eighteen and fifty will be required to donate blood once a year, unless they have health complications that forbid that. Since the bill has been revealed to the public yesterday, there have already been voices of protest-“

Takumi saw the news anchor looking seriously into the camera while the screen next to her showed quotes made to look like newspaper clippings that displayed those voices of protest. He didn’t have time to read them all before his dad reached for the remote and turned the TV off. He continued to look at his newspaper as if nothing had happened. Takumi glanced at it and saw that the headline on the front page also seemed to be about the planned blood bank reform.

He stayed silent and slowly turned towards the stairs to retreat to his room. He stepped up the first two and almost believed he was safe, but then-

“Your vampire friend must be interested to hear that,” his dad’s drawling voice sounded from behind him. “Whatever happened to him? Haven’t seen him in a while.”

Takumi winced and turned back around. Sure thing, his old man hadn’t even raised his eyes from the newspaper.

Well, shit. The news had reached him, just as Takumi had expected. Likely through Tachibana-san. Damn it.

“He’s not my friend,” Takumi defended himself. “I haven’t spoken to him in weeks.”

‘So don’t worry, old man. If you’re concerned about me letting someone suck my blood for money like apparently everyone else around me, I can assure you that doesn’t happen,’ he thought bitterly.

“Hm,” his dad made and noisily turned another page. Takumi suddenly remembered the look on Keisuke’s face when he had asked him whether his father did not like vampires.

“I’m not doing anything stupid,” Takumi said quietly and cautiously. Maybe he had been wrong. Keisuke had said he wanted to visit him, after all. If it was important to him what Takumi’s father thought about vampires, then maybe…

The silence was almost unbearable.

“Getting mixed up with vampires is always stupid,” his dad finally said. “Can’t blame you too much, though. And I’m not going to stop you.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

His dad turned another page before deigning to give him an answer. “You’re not a complete idiot. You might not know what you’re doing, but you’re careful. That guy seems like a decent fellow. Do whatever you want.”

Takumi blinked, then raised a hand to his forehead in exasperation. His old man was terrible. Had that been an insult? Praise? An indirect prompt to not chicken out of his developing friendship with Keisuke just because he was a vampire? What the hell did his old man mean?

Takumi pouted. “You’re making no sense.”

Another rustle of the newspaper. “Take some time to wrap your head around it.” And he was grinning while saying that.

“Shitty old man,” Takumi grumbled. “I’m going to sleep.”

“Whatever.”

 

Takumi huffed, then turned around to finally make his way towards his bed. He had work tomorrow, and he really needed some more hours of sleep if he didn’t want to doze off in the break room again. If he could manage to fall asleep at all, that is. His father’s words where ghosting around in his mind and weren’t making more sense with time.

Adding to that were the thoughts of Keisuke, and of the paper napkin carefully kept in Takumi’s bedside drawer. It suddenly didn’t feel like such a stupid idea anymore to just call.

Takumi yawned. That was something for his fully awake self to deal with. Right now, he wanted to do only one thing.

Still, with all the thoughts running through his head, it took him a good while to finally sink into a dreamless sleep.

 

~~~

 

Even though his sleeping hours had been less than sufficient today, Takumi managed to not doze off during his lunch break this time. He had been listening to the others’ conversation, chiming in here and there to keep himself from drifting off completely.

 

They had talked about that blood bank bill, too. It was hard not to, considering that the topic was all over the news. There were apparently protests planned for this Thursday, and while the news channels showed footage of interviews with politicians and experts and whatnot, Takumi noticed that his friends’ eyes wandered over to him ever-so-often. After two weeks of time they had still not gotten over the fact of him knowing a certain vampire.

It didn’t bother Takumi as much as it probably should. As long as his dad remained quiet about this topic, he would be fine.

 

And his dad did seem to not want to lose another word about it for now. When Takumi finally returned home from work and walked past him sitting in his usual spot, there was no more talking about vampires. Instead, Takumi headed up to his room and fished the napkin with Keisuke’s number out of his drawer. Now he only needed to wait until his dad left the vicinity of the only telephone in the house, because Takumi sure as hell wasn’t going to call while he listened.

 

The opportunity came sooner than expected. Some two hours later his dad shouted something about a community meeting (again? Surely more like a visit to the bar) up the stairs and left a few minutes after that.

Takumi listened for the sound of the engine disappearing before sneaking down the stairs even though there was no need to be quiet anymore.

He stood in front of the telephone for a good while. At one point he had picked up the receiver, stared at it for a while, and then put it down again.

Takumi was still uncertain whether this was a good idea, but in the end the desire to talk to Keisuke again won him over. He dialled in the number – and hesitated again.

What if he didn’t reach Keisuke? What if the timing was bad? What if Keisuke had already forgotten about him, or didn’t want anything to do with him after being left waiting so long? What if-

 

He heard the ring-back tone through the receiver. Too late to turn back now.

 

It didn’t take long until a voice answered on the other end of the line, but to nervous Takumi it seemed like ages.

“Takahashi Keisuke speaking.”

 

Well, it was now or never, right?

 

He swallowed. “Uh… Takumi here. Hello.”

 

 

Chapter Text

The sun was shining, white clouds hung in the blue sky and a light breeze shook the colourful leaves off the trees. Together, all of that combined into the perfect autumn day. It was a weather that should immediately lighten up the mood of everyone who saw it.

It was unfair, really. Weather aside, absolutely everyone was in a shitty mood, and so was Keisuke. It was bad enough that he had a hopeless crush on a human that probably didn’t want to talk to him ever again, but no; now he also had that stupid-ass not-yet-law to worry about. And his brother, who had been looking really tired lately.

Maybe he should pay him a visit. Keisuke knew he wouldn’t be able to drag him out of his room and away from all the work that piled on his desk, but maybe-

 

Suddenly, his phone rang. Keisuke fished for it in the pocket of his jacket and frowned at the unknown caller ID before answering.

“Takahashi Keisuke speaking.”

 

There was a beat of silence on the other end of the line.

 

“Uh,” the unknown caller stammered before Keisuke could ask if there was anyone there. “Takumi here. Hello.”

Keisuke’s eyes widened and he forgot to breathe for a moment.

“Takumi?!”, he gasped into the phone and quickly tried to calm himself because this was just embarrassing. Still, he couldn’t help feeling a bit giddy. Was what he had hoped for actually happening now? Maybe the human was just going to tell him that they shouldn’t see each other again.

…But he wouldn’t let him wait two whole weeks to tell him that, right?

“Yeah,” Takumi said, still sounding a bit unsure. “How… How are you?”

“Me? I’m fine. Yeah. Fine. And you?”

Oh, for fuck’s sake. Could he make this any more awkward? Last time Keisuke checked he wasn’t a twelve-year-old talking to his first crush. His only consolation was in the fact that Takumi was acting just as awkward.

“Also fine,” Takumi answered and paused for a moment before saying, “I’m sorry that I didn’t call you any sooner.”

Keisuke chuckled. He suddenly found himself to be in a brilliant mood. “I was beginning to think that you’d never call. It’s great to hear from you again.”

“I- sorry. I wasn’t sure-“ Takumi interrupted himself, “Ah, nevermind.”

When he didn’t continue speaking, Keisuke almost wanted to interrogate him to find out what he was going to say, but then he figured that it didn’t matter much now. What mattered was that Takumi had called.

Keisuke decided to stop wasting any more time embarrassing himself.

“It’s okay. You know, what about we meet again sometime and talk face-to-face? I don’t know about you, but I really enjoyed last time.”

“Me too,” Takumi answered, voice sounding a bit steadier than before. “I mean, sure, I’d like that.”

 

Keisuke suddenly felt really warm, and it took him a moment to identify that warmth as a mixture of intense relief and no-less intense joy. Takumi had liked being with him. Takumi had called because he wanted to meet him again. He repeated those words in his thoughts again and again: Takumi, liked, called, wanted, again. His bad mood from the past few days had already hinted at how bad he had it for the human, but only now did Keisuke fully grasp the extent of his crush on Takumi. With how amazing he felt right now, what else could it be? Honestly, this feeling reminded him of his first high school crush with how excited he was about it. He wondered if, as a vampire, even falling in love became different. Maybe once you became immortal, your body forgot what it was like to have a crush until it happened again.

And Keisuke realised that, for the first time in quite a while now, he was actually excited about having feelings for someone. It had felt like a nuisance sometimes; like a distraction, definitely; but with Takumi, he was actually looking forward to what might become of them.

 

It definitely has to do something with being a vampire now, Keisuke decided.

 

~~~

 

It was still in the early afternoon, the weather outside was beautiful; yet the mood inside the house was not particularly cheerful. Visitors came and went, meetings were held, facial expressions were grim, and Ryosuke himself permanently had a news page open on his laptop that he regularly checked for live updates concerning the protests.

The new blood bank bill, as it had been dubbed by the news, hung over their relatively peaceful existence like the sword of Damocles. It wasn’t hard to see that the situation was difficult, and everyone was worried about the way things would develop when they were not actively working to make them develop the way they wanted them to.

Considering this background, it wasn’t difficult to imagine why Ryosuke found it especially suspicious how his brother who, mind you, had been very busy sulking for the last few days, seemed to be in an especially good mood.

Ryosuke was certain that Keisuke was indeed aware of the situation they were in; and judging by the way he always quickly left the room when the news started showing protestors again, he wasn’t unaffected by it all.

Hence seeing him like this, poking his head into Ryosuke’s room with an expression on his face that could only be described as mirthful, was quite jarring.

 

Ryosuke immediately knew that something was going on.

 

“Hey. I’m heading out for a bit. See you later,” Keisuke proclaimed and was already halfway out of the door before his brother called him back.

Ryosuke’s work could wait for a few more minutes.

“Where are you going?” he asked, trying to keep the doubt from his voice. If Keisuke sensed any opposition, he would tell him nothing at all.

Keisuke lingered in the doorway, still smiling, but noticeably cautious. “Well, outside. The weather’s great. Have you even looked outside yet?”

Ryosuke ignored the little jab. “That’s surprising,” he said. “I didn’t know you were one to enjoy walks around the park.”

To his surprise, Keisuke actually flinched a little at those words. It was only visible to the honed eye, but Ryosuke had many years of experience in reading his brother. Something clearly was amiss. Ryosuke quickly sorted through all the scenarios he could come up with on the spot. When Keisuke tried to use the opportunity to disappear before he could find himself in the midst of an interrogation, Ryosuke held him back. He was not getting around that interrogation.

“Wait.”

Keisuke turned around with the slightest hint of guilt on his face. “What is it?”

 

Furrowing his brows slightly, Ryosuke asked himself the same question. What was his little brother planning? He had some ideas, but he couldn’t be sure. He needed to ask the right questions.

“Wherever you’re going, do make sure there is not currently a protest march going on,” was what he ended up deciding on. He continued watching Keisuke’s face for a reaction.

His brother’s eyes widened slightly. “I- Of course.” He straightened up a bit. “I hope you know I’m not stupid enough to try and get into a fight with a few dumbasses. Not anymore, at least.”

Ryosuke believed him. This wasn’t it. Then what-

A sudden thought struck him. “Are you, by chance, meeting with someone?” he enquired.

The reaction was immediate. “No,” Keisuke quickly spat out, but the reddening tips of his ears clearly showed that Ryosuke had hit the bullseye. Keisuke was meeting someone and was feeling guilty for it. That pretty much only left one option.

“You’re meeting with a human,” Ryosuke stated, eyes narrowed.

Keisuke huffed, pretending not to be embarrassed about being found out so quickly. “Maybe. Is that forbidden?” he shot back.

 

No. Of course it wasn’t forbidden. It was just very ill-advised, especially at the moment where one half of Japan’s most influential vampire clans was trying to push a new law that was already beginning to widen the rift between vampires and humans, and the other half was trying to do damage control. That aside, Ryosuke knew for sure that their father wouldn’t be happy about Keisuke trying to date a human, either. Of course, he had married their mother, who had been very notably human at the time. But even that had been met with resistance from both vampires and humans.

 

Ryosuke sighed. “Keisuke. You know full well what’s wrong with that. Does your ‘special friend’ even know that you’re a vampire? Doe they know what they are getting into?”

“Of course he knows,” Keisuke huffed as if he felt insulted on the human’s behalf. “He’s a blood donor, actually.”

Ryosuke narrowed his eyes at him. A blood donor? Really? That sounded a bit too convenient.

“I don’t trust this,” he stated.

“C’mon, you know him,” Keisuke said, sounding more desperate by the minute. “He’s fine. He’s had a bad experience and he still wanted to meet me again, okay? Just let me have this.”

Those words gave Ryosuke pause. ‘I know him?’ There weren’t many humans Ryosuke both knew and was able to imagine being close to Keisuke. Except- There had been that one instance where he had already scolded Keisuke for flirting with a human- Was he saying that-

“Are you telling me that you really met up with him again?” Ryosuke asked incredulously. He couldn’t actually mean that. That human, Takumi, had been attacked by a vampire. Although admirably thick-skinned, he had been obviously intimidated by them. Was Keisuke really telling him that he had thrown all justified cautions into the wind and come onto that human, of all the possibilities?

Keisuke, for some ridiculous reason, immediately feigned innocence. “Oh, didn’t I tell you? Guess I forgot.”

 

He couldn’t have fooled anyone with that, let alone his brother. Ryosuke assumed that he knew that. Keisuke was taking this way too lightly in his opinion. For heaven’s sake, getting involved with a human was risky enough without that damn bill looming above their heads. To make it worse, it was a human who had been attacked for his blood! Seriously, what was Keisuke thinking?

“Of course you conveniently forgot to tell me. Keisuke, you know full well that there’s a good reason why I warned you about getting close to him!”

Keisuke folded his arms across his chest, finally dropping his clueless act.

“So? It wasn’t my fault that we met; that was pure coincidence. And aren’t you the one always lecturing me about common courtesy? I just wanted to do him a little favour.”

“I see. Surely you only did it out of the goodness of your heart,” Ryosuke retorted dryly. His brother had a reputation for many things, but being remarkably selfless wasn’t one of them and it would probably never become one. Ryosuke did not believe for one moment that Keisuke was acting without any ulterior motive. They were similar in that way: They both rarely did anything that wasn’t promising to gain them something in return.

Keisuke glowered at him. “I was actually worried about him. Can you blame me?”

“No. But I do blame you for getting in contact with him,” Ryosuke said sharply, and sighed. It wasn’t like he hadn’t been worried himself, but pointing that out was a decidedly underhanded strategy.

“Don’t you think that it would be better to leave him alone after all that?”

“That’s his decision, isn’t it?” Keisuke spat. “Also, he’s a blood donor, remember? He clearly has no problem with vampires in general.”

Ryosuke taxed his brother with a look that he hoped looked appropriately stern. “Are you hoping he will let you drink from him?”

Keisuke spluttered. Dear god, he was so predictable. “No! I mean- Maybe one day-”

“You can’t be serious!”, Ryosuke interrupted him harshly.

“I am serious! I’m very serious about this! What are you worried about, that I’ll jump him and suck him dry?!”

“No, and you know damn well that I wouldn’t think that of you!” There it was; that curse had escaped him without him caring to hold it back. He was getting too frustrated with his brother to care about language anymore.

 

No, this wouldn’t work. He needed to calm down. Keisuke was fuming and riling him up further wouldn’t do any good. Someone needed to keep calm here.

“I’m worried about both of you, Keisuke. With the way things are right now, you’re not doing yourself a favour.”

Keisuke seemed a bit placated. At least he lowered his voice again where he had been bordering on shouting before. “Seriously? I know it probably won’t be easy. But that won’t stop me from trying. I like him. I really do, and I hate admitting this to you.”

Ryosuke wondered if he really meant it. If he really liked the human that much, or if this was just about getting his will.

“We are far too involved with the current controversy, especially with the way that we first met him. We can’t risk anything,” he said. “If you like him, you should probably do him the favour and don’t drag him into this.”

Keisuke looked at him coldly. “So you think that I’ll be a bad experience for him and he’ll start to hate vampires afterwards. Is that what you’re implying?”

“He suffered a traumatic experience. You will only remind him of that, and that would not be fair towards him. Maybe you can view a connection with him as something neutral, but he will not. We are vampires, Keisuke. And you really need to stop behaving like you’re still a human!” Ryosuke hadn’t even noticed his voice getting louder with every word, and the last one seemed to echo in the room for a long moment after being spoken.

There was a beat of silence as Keisuke wordlessly stared at him.

“I’m leaving,” he said, voice oddly calm.

“Keisuke-“

“Shut up.”

 

And with those two words Keisuke turned around sharply and stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Takumi buried his hands in his pockets. It was cold, and now that the sun was starting to set, it would only get colder. He wished he had brought a scarf, but it was too late to walk back home and get one now. He had only ten minutes left until the time he had arranged with Keisuke on the phone, and he didn’t want to be late for once.

They were going to meet at a public park. It had been his own idea, but Takumi was beginning to doubt it already. He didn’t really go on dates that often, so he didn’t have much experience with what places were good for that. The park had been the first thing that came to his mind and he had suggested it without even thinking that much when Keisuke had asked him where he wanted to meet. Was it too boring and cliché to take a walk around the park? Maybe Keisuke thought so.

Self-consciousness slowed his steps as he neared the park. He wasn’t used to this – whatever “this” even was. It was a strange mixture of excitement and extreme nervousness that he was feeling.

At first, he thought it was only because of him meeting up with Keisuke – a perfectly reasonable thought, but as time went on, he got the feeling that there was also something else that kept him on edge. There were a lot of people walking around, more than Takumi would have expected given the cold and the time of day. He would have liked less people being around when he met Keisuke; maybe that would have helped him feel less embarrassed. Oh well, then he probably shouldn’t have chosen a public park.

He sighed. His breath came out as a white puff. He certainly hoped that Keisuke was already there or at least wouldn’t let him wait too long.

 As if on cue, he heard someone call his name.

“Takumi!”

Takumi turned around and promptly spotted blond hair and a familiar face. Keisuke was waving at him as he approached. Takumi blushed; he had almost forgotten the effect Keisuke’s presence had on him. He stubbornly pretended the reddening of his face happened due to the cold.

“Hello,” he greeted quietly once they finally stood in front of each other. He didn’t know what else to say. Damn, he had never been good at conversations.

Keisuke didn’t seem deterred. “Shall we get going?”

“Uh… Yeah,” Takumi said and wanted to ask where exactly they should go, but stopped himself. They were at the park because he had said so, so they were obviously going for a walk. His idea. He was a dumbass.

 

“I didn’t get the chance to say that earlier,” Keisuke began once they had started following the gravel path around the park. “I wanted to tell you how happy I am about getting to meet you again.”

Takumi could feel himself blush at the sudden statement. “So am I,” he stuttered out. He forced himself to meet Keisuke’s eyes. The vampire was smiling at him, but somehow underneath it seemed like he was upset about something. Takumi wondered whether it would be okay to ask about it.

“So, how’s it been?” Keisuke asked him before he could settle for a decision. Takumi noticed how the vampire was trying to keep his voice light. He wanted to keep the conversation going. Takumi suddenly asked himself whether his call had really come at an inconvenient time.

Takumi shrugged. “I don’t think I can give you a more interesting answer than last time. I’ve been working; nothing much else has happened. And you?” He watched closely for Keisuke’s reaction and believed to see something that resembled guilt in the vampire’s expression.

Keisuke sighed. “The last few days have been chaotic.” He averted his eyes and looked up at the darkening sky.

“Oh,” Takumi replied to Keisuke’s statement because he couldn’t think of anything more intelligent or sensible. They both remained silent after that. Takumi regretted asking. He didn’t want to ruin the mood between them. Already this was shaping up to become a really lousy date. Because it was a date, right? He was still not sure about that.

 

“I’m sorry,” Keisuke said suddenly, causing Takumi to look at him. “I didn’t want it to be like this. I just-“ He sighed again.

“I had an argument with my brother before coming here. You remember him, right?”

Takumi nodded, and Keisuke continued. “I know I shouldn’t bring this here. But I can’t get it out of my mind…”

“That’s okay,” Takumi reassured him quietly. He didn’t have siblings, but he knew how miserable he felt on the few occasions that he had fought with his dad. “If you’re not in the mood to talk to me right now, you don’t have to. We can do this another time,” he said, even though his heart sank at the thought.

“No,” Keisuke replied immediately, “No; what I said before is still true. I’m happy about seeing you again and I really want to, too. It’s just-“ He shook his head, grimacing slightly. “I’m sorry. I’m not making this very fun for you, am I?”

“It’s okay,” Takumi repeated, and meant it. “It’s never nice to have an argument with someone you care about.”

Keisuke still didn’t meet his eyes. Instead, he sighed again.

“The worst thing is that I have to admit that he’s right about some of the things he said. The entire time, I feel like I’m doing the wrong thing.”

Takumi somehow got the dawning feeling that this hadn’t been just any unrelated argument.

“What do you mean by ‘doing the wrong thing’?” he asked carefully.

Keisuke finally looked at him again, expression looking a bit pained. He seemed to hesitate, but then said, “He told me that I’m acting too much like a human. That I should be more aware of the role I have as a vampire, especially right now.”

Takumi took note of the guilt the vampire seemed to emanate, but part of his expression also looked… angry? No, maybe “defiant” would be the better word.

“You see,” Keisuke continued, “the clan we are a part of is very involved with… current politics. As the heir, my brother has to be part of that. He’s very busy and stressed right now with that whole blood bank ordeal. He’s scared that I could be sending wrong signals and mess everything up.”

He paused and turned his head away from Takumi so that the latter couldn’t see his face for a moment.

“Sometimes I just wish he would have a bit more faith in me.”

 

Takumi swallowed around the lump in his throat. Keisuke sounded so resigned. It was making his heart ache. Even though he couldn’t possibly imagine what it was like to be a vampire, it sounded like it was connected to a lot of pressure. On their second meeting, Keisuke had told him that he didn’t regret becoming a vampire since he had done it for his brother. It must hurt to hear such things from a person you cared about so much.

After a moment of hesitation, Takumi raised his hand and placed it on Keisuke’s lower arm in a gesture of comfort. He stayed silent since he didn’t know what to say, but it seemed as if his gesture was not unwelcome at least.

Then Keisuke laughed, startling Takumi with the suddenness of it, and looked at him apologetically. “I’m sorry. I don’t know why I’m bothering you with that. Let’s continue walking, yeah?”

But the jovial smile slipped from his face as soon as he noticed that Takumi wasn’t moving.

“This is about me, isn’t it?” Takumi asked quietly.

Keisuke’s eyes went wide, and Takumi knew he was right. He had a feeling he was. “I’m sorry,” he said, still in a very quiet voice. There were so many apologies today. “Maybe this is a bad idea, after all. You don’t have to do this for my sake-“

Something flashed in Keisuke’s eyes and he moved abruptly, grabbing Takumi’s shoulders and roughly turning him towards him.

“No,” he said decisively. His hands wandered down, searching for Takumi’s, who had them in his pockets against the cold but let Keisuke tug them out and grab them. “No,” he repeated. “That’s not what I wanted to say at all. Don’t believe for a moment that I’m just doing this because I pity you or something. I want this. I want to spend time with you. I told Ryosuke the same thing.” He looked so earnest saying this that Takumi forgot to breathe for a moment.

“I-“, he stuttered, then steeled himself, “I want to spend time with you, too. I’m sorry for being so selfish and causing you problems.”

Keisuke laughed again. It sounded a lot more honest than his laugh earlier. “If anyone here is selfish, that would be me. Stop apologising, you dumbass.”

“I’m not a dumbass,” Takumi bit back, but he could feel the smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

“You are such a dumbass,” Keisuke said, grinning. Then, a bit more seriously, he added, “But really, I know what risks there are, and my brother should be aware of that. He isn’t going to tell me who I can be with and who not. But if you seriously decide that you don’t want this, that this is too much for you and you don’t feel comfortable, then I will respect that and leave you alone. Just tell me so, okay?”

Takumi nodded, still red in the face. “I will.” He was honestly surprised that Keisuke thought about it like that. He had always been told that vampires, with their influence and their wealth and their immortality, were inherently self-centred and used to always getting their way no matter what. Takumi wouldn’t have expected to ever hear something like that from a vampire. Then again: A few months ago, he would have never thought to ever get to a point like this with a vampire.

“Good,” Keisuke said and smiled. “Now that that’s over with, why don’t we try to salvage this date?”

Takumi blushed harder. Keisuke had just officially called it a date.

“Sure,” he said, mourning the loss of contact as Keisuke let go of his hands.

 

He had fallen hard.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

It was a wonderful evening, Takumi noted. After their talk, he quite enjoyed walking through the park together with Keisuke. If the latter thought this was boring, he didn’t show any of it. The two of them were currently following the path around the small lake, quietly enjoying the scenery for now. Despite the cold, it was quite enjoyable outside.

Keisuke’s presence, of course, factored into that a lot. Takumi felt embarrassingly giddy about the fact that the vampire had called their spending time together a date. Yes, that was obviously what it was, but saying it out loud gave Takumi a much-needed sense of validation. The only thing to wish for was for Keisuke to hold his hand again, but Takumi wasn’t bold enough to ask. At least not yet.

Despite Keisuke insisting that it wasn’t his fault, he just couldn’t help but feel bad for being the source of dispute between him and his brother. On the other hand, it felt really nice to hear Keisuke say that he wanted to spend time with Takumi regardless. One thing had become clear to him, though: His friends doubting his relationship with Keisuke was not the only problem and by far not the most pressing one.

 

Takumi watched a lone mallard swimming its rounds in the lake and thought about how his and Keisuke’s relationship likely wouldn’t get easier anytime soon. If there was even a future for it, it looked like both of them would have to fight for it. Was he ready to put that much into this?

Was Keisuke?

 

He was focused enough on that train of thought that it took him a moment to notice that Keisuke was looking at him questioningly.

“Is something wrong?”

Takumi sighed and decided to tell the truth. “I’m sorry. I know we didn’t want to talk about it anymore…”

Keisuke was quick to reassure him, “No, it’s fine. It’s on my mind, too.” Now was his turn to sigh. “I mean, it’s not like I can’t understand Ryosuke’s point of view. He doesn’t have it easy, either. All those responsibilities as the one who’s going to take over the family business and the leadership over the clan one day… I honestly don’t envy him.”

Takumi nodded slowly. “That does sound like a lot of work.” Ryosuke must be a very dedicated and studious person if he was really handling all those duties. Takumi thought back to when he had actually met him, and the impression he had given him that time matched what Keisuke said about him. Takumi decided that he didn’t envy him, either.

“What is the family business, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Ah, that. I didn’t realise that I didn’t tell you. Our father owns a few hospitals in this and the neighbouring prefectures.” He let out a dry chuckle when he saw Takumi’s stunned expression. “I’m not really involved with that, although the old man sure tried to get me interested. Honestly, all I know is that it’s one hell of a lot of work. I’m pretty sure only an immortal could even handle that workload without going insane.”

That’s… wow. Okay.

Well, vampires had to get their funds from somewhere, after all. It only was a bit weird to imagine a vampire doctor, of all things. After all, vampires themselves rarely needed doctors, and Takumi didn’t think he knew anyone who wouldn’t be at least a little bit wary of trusting a vampire with their health.

Maybe he just had a very limited worldview.

“I can’t imagine it for myself, but I guess that’s the reason why it’s such a standard career choice for vampires,” Keisuke continued, confusing Takumi further. “Healthcare, money lending, real estate. All important vampire clans that have something to say politics-wise are involved with at least one of the three.” He shrugged. “I mean, those are the sort of businesses where it’s really convenient when you’re immortal. Especially real estate.”

Takumi could imagine. That whole stereotype about all vampires being either lawyers or bankers had some truth to it.

“But healthcare? Healthcare too?” he couldn’t help asking now.

Keisuke grimaced and shot him a glance, maybe asserting whether he wanted to give him an answer or not. He sighed. “Well, to be completely honest: Vampires originally started getting involved with that to get their hands on human blood more easily.”

“Oh.”

“I mean, it makes sense, really. Ages ago vampires had to rely on either their seduction skills or brute strength to get blood. But modern medicine made that whole thing a lot easier. Of course it’s different today, but that’s where the foundation of this whole thing lies. It’s a pretty open secret, to be honest.” He looked at Takumi curiously. “I thought pretty much everyone knew about it.”

Takumi blushed. “Well, I told you I don’t know really know much about vampires in general.”

Judging by the look on his face, Keisuke was slightly amused by that. “Guess you weren’t lying.”

“Why should I lie about that?” Takumi grumbled under his breath.

“Hm,” made Keisuke. “I think that back when you told me that, I said that you could ask me stuff about it if you wanted to.” He grinned at Takumi and spread his arms in an overly dramatic, sweeping gesture. “You now have the unique opportunity to hole a vampire with questions to your heart’s content. Just ask away.”

Takumi glared at him a little. “Fine,” he said then. He thought for a little moment and tried to think of a concrete question. There were probably many things he didn’t know, but it was difficult to come up with questions if you weren’t even aware of what exactly you didn’t know.

“Okay, first question. How does that immortality thing work? I know you don’t age, but how does that happen and what is it like?”

“Those are multiple questions,” Keisuke protested, but he didn’t seem to be actually bothered.

“You didn’t give me a limit.”

“True.” He was quiet for a second. “You know,” he said then, “Those are some really difficult questions and I’m not even sure if I can actually give you a good answer. If I’m honest, I don’t really understand all that myself yet. I mean, you know the basics, right? That thing with the symbiotic virus that keeps our cells from dividing or dying but that happens to need a steady supply of human blood to survive? Or, well, whatever viruses do. They’re not even actually alive.” Keisuke trailed off. “Anyway, you know about that, right?”

Takumi shrugged. “Yeah. I’ve heard about it.” He didn’t really understand the specifics, of course, but he doubted that he would understand even if someone tried to explain the medical details. As far as he knew, science didn’t even have vampirism fully figured out yet.

Keisuke nodded. “See, and that’s half the answer. The virus keeps the vampire alive and basically freezes the body in time, and in return the vampire keeps the virus alive.” He grimaced. “Talking about it like that is really weird. I’ve avoided thinking about it, to be honest.”

“Sorry.”

“Nah, it’s fine. I told you that you could ask any question. It’s just that I haven’t had that much time to get used to this immortality thing yet.” He snickered quietly.

The statement caused Takumi to frown. “I’m sorry if the question I’m going to ask next is extremely rude,” he began slowly, “But how old, exactly, are you then?”

Keisuke laughed. “Fair question, and the answer will probably surprise you. Biologically, I stopped aging at twenty-one. Speaking in actual years, it’s more like twenty-four.”

Takumi reviewed what had been said in his head and gaped at Keisuke. “Does that mean that you’ve only been a vampire for three years?!” he burst out.

“Yup. Told you it would surprise you,” Keisuke said lightly, although there was something cautious about the way he watched for Takumi’s reaction. “Neither me nor Ryosuke have been vampires for very long. We’re still pretty new to this… though three years already teach you a lot.” He sighed. “I guess that’s also why Ryosuke accused me of behaving too much like a human. I mean, he’s only been a vampire for five years, but he settled into it with no problem at all, at least in the eyes of many others.”

 

Takumi was still trying to recover from that surprising reveal. Keisuke had still been a normal human only three years ago. It suddenly made a lot of sense that he was so easy to talk to. He simply didn’t have all those centuries or even just decades of life experience that seemed to make most vampires so distant towards mortal humans.

“And those others,” Takumi asked, “They don’t think the same about you…?”

Keisuke scoffed. “I told you what my brother said. Responsibility this, manners that; carefulness, keeping distance from humans, blah, blah, blah. I’ve had some people tell me that I’m on a good way to becoming the ‘wrong kind of vampire’.”

His expression darkened. “There are definitely wrong ways to be a vampire, but I don’t think getting too close to humans is one of them. But with how things are right now, everyone thinks that.”

 

Takumi didn’t inquire further this time since he could see that the topic really bothered Keisuke. He felt bad for leading the conversation in this direction.

Being a vampire seemed to be a lot more complicated than he had thought initially, even without the blood drinking issue.

Was he really prepared to get mixed up with that world, something that would inevitably happen if he and Keisuke continued to meet?

 

Since he was so absorbed in his thoughts again, Takumi needed a moment to realise that Keisuke had stopped walking abruptly. Startled, Takumi turned to ask what was wrong, but the words got stuck in his throat. He looked in the direction that Keisuke was staring into and saw a small group of people walking past them in some distance. Nothing unusual.

A few of them, however, carried posters, and it was only then that Takumi realised that he had a far greater problem than his suggested place of meeting maybe being boring.

Stupid, stupid, stupid – he hadn’t even considered the option of a protest march going on right in the place where he wanted to meet with a vampire. But now that he saw it, he cursed himself for not noticing sooner. The many people in the park were of course due to there being a protest – or rather, there having been a protest. By the looks of it, they were on their way home already.

Takumi watched Keisuke stare at one of the posters that said, ‘Mandatory Donation = Thraldom’. His expression darkened. Takumi didn’t know what to say to him to improve the situation. The vampire balled his fists; Takumi noticed that and wondered if this would get even worse and if he would have to hold Keisuke back from jumping at those people. He wondered if he even could.

 

Part of him, he supposed, would just want to join in.

 

Fortunately, however, Keisuke remained rooted to his spot and only glared with narrowed eyes as the group walked away, chattering among themselves.

“Well, fuck,” he cursed quietly, his stance relaxing a little bit. He was still obviously tense, though.

Takumi felt miserable. “I’m so sorry- I didn’t know-“

“It’s fine,” Keisuke interrupted him. “I didn’t realise it either. Let’s just… go somewhere else, okay?” He looked past Takumi at the protestors with a forced smile on his face. At least he was keeping it together. Takumi felt sorry for him, apart from just feeling like an idiot because he could have really paid more attention.

“Yeah, let’s leave,” he quickly agreed, especially because he already spotted another suspicious group approaching. “Where are we going?”

“Somewhere with less people. Come,” Keisuke said. Takumi didn’t have to be asked twice and hurried after the vampire as he turned around and followed the way they had took here. He walked very fast, but if the years on his high school’s football team had taught Takumi anything, it was to run after people.

 

He let Keisuke lead the way out of the park until they reached the shopping district. They got slower as there was way more people on the street here and they sometimes had to literally push past them. Takumi spotted a few posters stuffed into trashcans along the way, pieces of the paroles on them still visible.

Keisuke looked over his shoulder to see if Takumi was still there or if he had lost him in the crowd. “C’mon, this way,” he said and took Takumi’s hand to pull him along. For some reason, the latter almost started thinking that this was fun. He was keeping back a dumb laugh at the fact that the two of them were basically fleeing together like in a dramatic movie scene. Realistically, he knew that there was barely anything fun about this, but the adrenaline flooding through his system (and the fact that Keisuke’s hand was holding his own) made his blood rush with excitement.

 

It was only when they had reached a quieter side street that Keisuke got slower. Here almost nothing gave any hint about the protest having happened nearby.

Keisuke stopped walking, and so did Takumi. His pulse was still hammering so loudly that he honestly thought Keisuke might be able to hear it, too. The vampire turned around, not letting go of Takumi’s hand, and for a moment the two of them just stared at each other and caught their breaths. Then, as if a spell had been broken, they both broke out in laughter.

“Damn,” Keisuke laughed, “I didn’t think I couldn’t leave the house without running into one of those!”

“I swear I didn’t do it on purpose,” Takumi gasped out between bursts of giggles.

Keisuke clapped him on the shoulder good-naturedly. “I know, I know. But at least I get to prove Ryosuke wrong now. I did not pick a fight. Ha! Take that!”

Neither of them seemed to be able to stop laughing until Takumi saw a random passer-by looking at them weirdly. He took it as a hint to try and sober up a little. It was quiet and pretty dark in this side street compared to the main shopping street that they had come from. There weren’t many shops here, which was the reason why it was so deserted. And now that the sun had set, it was really cold outside. Takumi wasn’t sure whether his hands were trembling because of the adrenaline or because of the weather.

Keisuke had now managed to calm down too. After one last chuckle, he said, “Sorry for practically running all the way here. I just couldn’t stand looking at that any longer.”

Takumi looked at him and saw the pained smile on his face. As unfitting as it had been, he preferred the hysterical laughter to this.

“I understand that,” he said. It wasn’t like he knew what Keisuke’s attitude towards the whole blood bank issue was, but the people who had made those posters were obviously unwilling to consider any vampire’s sight of things. Takumi vaguely wondered how he would think about it if he hadn’t met Keisuke, or even just his brother. Worse, if it hadn’t been vampires who helped him after getting attacked.

‘But that wasn’t how it happened,’ he thought firmly. He was pretty sure that these were the exact kind of doubts that his old man would clock him over the head for. Sure, he wouldn’t have been happy about mandatory donation. He wasn’t, actually. But he still recognised that something needed to be done, since vampires couldn’t exactly help needing blood to survive.

 

“You know,” Keisuke suddenly said, “It’s almost funny how you of all people, who got attacked by a fucking rogue vampire and who barely knows anything about us – sorry – are probably the most understanding person out on the street tonight.”

“You’re exaggerating. I also think that this blood bank bill is terrible,” Takumi answered.

Keisuke furrowed his brows and nudged him. “So do I. You know what I mean.”

Yeah, if he was honest, Takumi did. He huffed. Immediately after, a shiver ran through him as an especially strong gust of wind blew through the street. Once again, he regretted not putting on warmer clothes.

Keisuke seemed to have noticed his situation. “Shit, it’s cold,” he commented and looked Takumi up and down. Then he wordlessly took off his scarf.

“Oi, what are you doing?!” Takumi protested when the vampire moved in close and looped the scarf around his neck, grinning at Takumi’s half-hearted struggles.

“I can’t keep looking at that,” he said. “Who chooses to go to the park in the middle of November and doesn’t even bring a scarf?”

“But now you don’t have a scarf,” Takumi pointed out, trying to mask his embarrassment.

“But I’m a vampire.”

Takumi blinked at him. “I thought the part with ‘no body temperature’ was just a myth?”

Keisuke tucked the ends of the scarf in and inspected his work with a satisfied nod. “Partly,” he answered then. “Our body temperature is still a few degrees lower than that of normal humans.” Looking up, he said, “That doesn’t mean I’m unaffected by this cold. Actually, I think we’ve stood around here long enough. What about we go to that ramen place over there and I treat you to dinner?”

“If you want to,” Takumi said, “Sure.”

A smile spread on Keisuke’s face, and he took Takumi’s hand for the third time today. The latter found himself thinking about how he honestly couldn’t feel any temperature difference of the skin, but that was probably because of the cold. It was irrelevant to focus on that, anyway.

Takumi’s cheeks were glowing as he walked towards the restaurant hand-in-hand with Keisuke.

 

Maybe this evening wasn’t going to turn out so utterly horrible in the end.

 

 

Chapter Text

Ryosuke rubbed his temples and sagged slightly in his chair. His head felt about ready to burst. He needed a break; just a few minutes, maybe. He hadn’t slept properly in days. A minimum of three news pages were always open on his laptop, and he checked them every few minutes or so for updates to react to. As it was going now, the protests were still gaining traction. The government, however, was starting to backpedal in sight of the outrage. The vampire faction was firmly divided in two between those who supported the bill and those who didn’t, but the pressure from the public and certain vampire clans alike were starting to do their job. Still, the situation was tense and demanded highest attention.

And to make matters worse, Keisuke was now angry at him.

Ryosuke felt so tired. He sagged further, posture be damned, and stretched his sore wrists. His thoughts wandered back to his little brother’s cold expression right before he stormed out of the room. Maybe he had been too harsh. Keisuke had always been driven by emotions more than anything else, and everything Ryosuke said was bound to get to him.

But why did he have to go out with a human during a situation like this?!

A frustrated sigh escaped him as he took a moment to look out of the window into the inky darkness of the evening. He could see his own reflection in the glass and didn’t like how utterly exhausted he looked.

What if Keisuke was just doing this out of stubbornness, just to show that he could? He should be long past that by now, but still…

Ryosuke stood up from his desk, deciding that the break needed to be a proper one. He could leave his work for fifteen minutes or so and walk around a bit to chase the stiffness from his limbs; that had to be enough.

 

The desire for a glass of cold water drove him downstairs. And thinking about it, part of his headache might be because it had been a while since his last portion of blood. He was aware that he needed to take better care of himself despite all the work, but the theoretical knowledge was difficult to put into praxis.

Ryosuke trudged into the dark kitchen, not bothering to switch on the lights. He found his way to the refrigerator even in the darkness, and in opening the door, the light inside illuminated the room with an almost eerie twilight. Ryosuke took out a bottle of water and a blood bag, leaving the door open so he could still see what he was doing as he unscrewed the lid of the bottle. While drinking, he considered warming up the blood first, but he decided against it. That would take too long, and he didn’t want to waste more time than necessary.

 

“Ryosuke?”

Suddenly, the lights in the kitchen went on. Ryosuke squinted into the sudden brightness and turned towards the familiar voice from the doorway.

“Mother? You’re still awake?” Ryosuke furrowed his brows, blinking a few times. His eyes were still adjusting to the light. Still, it was unmistakably his mother who had found him here in the kitchen at – he glanced at the clock on the wall – now ten past one in the morning. Well, more night than morning, anyway. It was highly unusual for her to be still awake at this time. She was more of an early riser, which meant that her two sons had probably not inherited their sleeping habits from her.

“A question that I could ask you, as well,” she said and smiled a bit. The worried crease of her brows didn’t go unnoticed by Ryosuke, though. “I assume that you have been working again.”

She made a pause and her son sighed, being certain that he knew where this conversation was going to lead. “Yes,” he confirmed simply and used the opportunity to put the water bottle back where he had taken it from and finally close the door of the fridge. The tiredness was refusing to leave even now.

“I’m worried about you,” Takahashi Hideko stated.

‘There it is.’

Ryosuke thought about how he could shorten this conversation most effectively. He was in no mood for a discussion and he knew that he had a few more things to catch up to before the next council meeting tomorrow. Well, technically that was today.

“There’s no need to worry about me,” he said in a tone that was usually convincing enough. Not for his mother, though.

She was frowning now. “Not if it was a one-time occurrence, no. But I saw the light in your room switched on three nights ago when I left early in the morning for my appointment in Tokyo. Then it happened again the night after that. And last night, as well.”

Ryosuke winced. He had fully expected her to know that he stayed up very late at times, but her knowing the true extent was a problem.

Well, it wasn’t like he wanted to do this, either. He just needed to.

“There’s a lot of work to be done, and I use the days to sleep,” he tried to argument. She gave him a sharp look, a “don’t you lie to me, young man” kind of look.

“You cannot tell me that you do anything more than take a short nap during the day with all the meetings I know you’re attending.” Her face relaxed a bit, and she sighed. “I’m not criticizing your commitment, but this goes entirely too far. You need to slow down, for your own sake.”

Ryosuke began to protest, “But father has-“

“He also accepts the fact that he needs a little rest from time to time,” his mother interrupted him, and her tone became sharper again. “I will need to talk to him about this, anyway,” she added under her breath, “It doesn’t do any good to give you this much work and responsibility so early on; you’re still too young for that.”

Ryosuke furrowed his brows upon hearing the last part. Frustration started welling up inside him, and he blamed it on his tiredness that the emotion was bleeding into his voice. “Someone needs to do that work, and we need as many people as possible to get this situation under control.”

“I know that,” Takahashi Hideko said, now in a softer tone of voice after taking note of her eldest son’s frustration. “However, it won’t do anyone good if you overwork yourself. I know that you know this, too. You’re smart, Ryosuke. So why do you insist on doing this to yourself?”

What she didn’t say was, “This has happened before, so why are you becoming like this again?”, but the question still hung between them, unspoken. There were a few answers to that question, but Ryosuke didn’t want to admit that he was falling back into old patterns.

Upon his silence, his mother asked another question he didn’t want to hear: “Has something happened with Keisuke?”

It had been four days now since Keisuke had angrily stormed out of his room after their argument, and since then they hadn’t talked to each other once. Ryosuke didn’t know where exactly his brother was all the time, but he suspected that he was spending time with the human. It would be typical of him to do this out of protest; in order to show everyone that no one could forbid him anything. That had happened before: Years ago when they had still been human, and their mother had been there to witness. Of course she was suspecting something now.

“Keisuke is fine, I think,” Ryosuke answered, trying to keep his voice even. “He’s seeing someone,” he added upon realising that their mother would likely not be satisfied with that answer. It was better to get the truth out now rather than her finding it out some other way. Maybe the diplomatic way of putting it would be enough, too.

“Ah, how nice for him,” she said. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“So that is the problem? That he is going out with someone?”

“I don’t have a problem with that,” Ryosuke retorted, maybe a little bit too sharply since the slightly raised eyebrows of his conversation partner made him realise that he had already said too much.

“Come on now, Ryosuke,” his mother said. “It’s not one of his old… acquaintances, is it?”

Ryosuke sighed. “No.”

Her body language relaxed a little. She had been concerned about that, her son noted. “Then what makes it your concern who your brother might be dating?”

Ryosuke frowned, trying not to feel anger at the veiled criticism. He only had the best in mind for everyone. It was very much his concern when so much depended on all their public image and Keisuke was risking it through his actions. “He’s seeing a human,” he all but spat out, almost losing his temper there for a second. He immediately reprimanded himself for it in his head.

His mother now did show one reaction he had hoped for: surprise. “A human?”

Ryosuke only nodded. He watched her face for anything resembling anger or alarm, but there was none. Oddly, he felt somehow relieved about that.

“A human…” she repeated thoughtfully; and then, much to her son’s shock, she began to laugh quietly. “And I thought… Oh my, you got me very, very worried there.” She shook her head and quickly sobered up, continuing in a quieter voice, “Don’t be angry. I can see why you’re worried. The situation is difficult, and Keisuke… well, he’s Keisuke, isn’t he?” Her tone was fond as she smiled, Ryosuke still staring at her. “Still,” she said, “I think that he can very well choose who he wants to go out with. Do you know them?”

Ryosuke quickly caught his composure again. “Yes,” he answered, a bit miffed still, “Yes, I know him. He’s the one we brought to the hospital after he was attacked by a clanless vampire. I think I told you about it.”

As soon as he mentioned the attack, his mother’s eyes widened by a fraction. “I see.”

Ryosuke couldn’t deny the small amount of satisfaction he felt at the worry that had seeped into her voice. He wasn’t in the wrong to be concerned about this matter…!

“I have met him only that one time,” he continued. “As far as I could see, he is a rather quiet and polite young man.”

His mother’s eyes were trained on him. “You are worried for him as well,” she stated. Ryosuke hated how she could read him like an open book sometimes, but she had always had that talent with other people, and happened to be his mother as well. Trying to hide something from her was hopeless.

Nevertheless, he didn’t know what to answer.

“I am very proud of you, do you know that?” she suddenly said. Ryosuke looked up, startled. “Yes,” she continued, “You take responsibility. You are intelligent, you are a hard worker, and you have a kind heart.” She walked over to him and gave him a kiss on the forehead, for which she had to stand slightly on her tiptoes since Ryosuke had grown a good bit taller than her over the years. He bent down a little to let her give him this little gesture of affection, something that she had done a lot when they were younger. Then, for a long while, she had stopped doing it. Ryosuke still wasn’t sure what to say. Him at a loss for words; that didn’t happen too often. Thankfully, his mother was prepared to do the talking.

“Have a little faith in your brother,” she said. “Keisuke is not dumb. He may be a bit reckless at times, but he also has a kind heart. And he knows what it can feel like for a human amongst vampires. We all have the advantage of still being very much aware of that, don’t we?” She chuckled. “If he wants to be with a human despite the problems that might arise, he can do so. I’m sure that he knows that there are problems. I have faith in him,” she ended seriously, “And so should you.”

It was only then that Ryosuke realised again that his mother had once been in a similar situation.

He was talking to a woman who had possessed enough strength to leave all of her old life behind and step into unfamiliar territory by marrying a vampire. She had been met with a fair amount of opposition, too, but she knew what she wanted and didn’t let the critical voices stop her. Keisuke probably had a lot from her, Ryosuke thought.

And now that he really thought about it, it seemed only natural that she would support her younger son’s choice in this matter. Ryosuke remembered the fact that they didn’t have any contact to their mother’s family anymore. Their grandparents, Ryosuke dimly remembered, hadn’t been happy about their daughter choosing to go with a vampire after her first marriage had failed. He and Keisuke had been young back then and their mother had tried to shield them from the arguments as well as she could, but children had the tendency to be very perceptive of things like that.

He still wasn’t wholly convinced that Keisuke really knew what he was doing, and he still thought that it was unnecessarily risky. But what if he really cared for the human? Takumi, Ryosuke corrected himself. In that case, he understood their mother’s sentiment.

“I will try,” he said quietly.

“That’s my boy,” she said and smiled at him. Then she tapped her finger against the blood bag that he still held in his hand, forgotten until now. “Aren’t you going to warm that up?”

Originally, he wasn’t going to. But after he had already spent more time here in the kitchen than planned, he really didn’t feel like drinking cold blood anymore.

“I forgot about that. Do you want some as well?” he offered politely, but she shook her head.

“I will be going back to bed now. And you should go to sleep soon, too.”

She looked at him half-sternly, half-amusedly, and he couldn’t help but chuckle. “I will, mother. Goodnight.”

“I hope so. Goodnight.”

She turned around, stifling a small yawn as she walked away towards her bedroom. Ryosuke was alone in the kitchen again while he waited for the blood to reach body temperature in the heater. He was still tired, but he wasn’t trying to fight his exhaustion anymore. He would do as he had promised and get some sleep for once. He could catch up to the material in a few hours. And after that meeting had taken place…

He thought of his car keys that he kept up in his room and that hadn’t been touched for the best part of two weeks now. Without noticing it, he had started to retreat from everything that brought him joy lately. Mother was probably right. He needed to start thinking of himself again.

It had definitely been way too long.