“Jesus,” Arthur huffs, out of breath in a way he didn’t know he could be.
Lungs aching, useless, deflated like popped balloons within his ribcage.
“You gon’ make it back there?” John calls over his shoulder.
His words are teasing but his tone is scared.
Genuinely concerned for Arthur’s life.
Arthur takes in a slow, shaky breath then lets it go weakly.
“I’m fine,” He grumbles as they leave the graveled road with a thunk of the wagon wheels dropping off the trail.
“Sorry,” John says thinly.
"Arthur, will you just-" John makes an aggravated, growling sound then climbs into the wagon, crawling to sit next to Arthur.
He wants to be angry, he wants to yell at the older man until it gets through Arthur's thick skull that he's willing.
Instead, he ends up crying, sucking on his cheeks to stay quiet, hoping Arthur can't see the tears in the dim lighting.
"... John," Arthur sighs quietly, "It's alright. Don't… Jesus, stop cryin', c'mon."
John's nose wrinkles in embarrassment but he refuses to look away.
Arthur stares up at him, pale and exhausted, looking hollowed through, body and soul.
"Dammit," Arthur mutters roughly and flattens himself to the floor of the wagon, "Lay down."
It's said with guilt, finality, and worry in equal measures.
John sniffs then lays down next to Arthur, looking at the older man for direction.
“There’s a reason I don’t feed on anyone I know, John,” Arthur says carefully, “It’s not personal.”
“What’s the reason?”
“Can’t you just-” Arthur covers his eyes rubbing at his aching head slowly, “Why don’t you ever just accept what you’re told?”
“... If I did you’d just think me duller than you already do,” John says quietly.
Arthur sighs roughly and presses his palms into his eye sockets.
"Gimme your arm," Arthur says after a minute, moving his hands to hover over his chest, palms up, open and waiting.
John reaches over, lays his forearm in Arthur's hands.
Quite literally putting his life in Arthur's hands.
"It's gon' hurt… Then it's gon' feel real warm, alright?" Arthur asks slowly, "Just stay layin' down."
John blinks at him with wide eyes and Arthur can't look at the younger anymore, can't stand the honest, earnest innocence.
"Shit," Arthur mutters and squeezes John's arm at wrist and elbow, moving it until the warm, soft skin of John's inner arm is against his lips, fangs breaching and barely scraping over John's skin.
John shifts next to him but Arthur's focus narrows on finding the best place to make a feeding wound.
He closes his eyes and digs his fangs in.
John gasps quietly but quickly muffles himself.
Arthur's so so careful, brows furrowed in concentration as he pierces the artery and hesitates.
Opens his eyes and looks over at John.
Sees the younger struggling against the venom, struggling to keep his eyes open, pupils dilated and sluggish in their scanning of Arthur's face.
Arthur watches John in concern as he retracts his fangs and the younger squirms next to him, wriggling closer.
John turns more on his stomach, pillowing his face on one bent arm and watching.
Arthur moves his tongue, lets the blood flow into his mouth, closing his eyes with a small, broken groan.
Overwhelming relief after going so long between feedings.
John makes a small sound in return then moves his hand to his mouth, brows furrowing, face screwing up in conflict as that heat that Arthur warned him about spreads through him.
Every inch of his body, every nerve tingling.
John blinks hard, looks at Arthur.
Looks at the rapture on the older man's face and squirms.
Arthur's eyes open, the older man pulls off his arm, glances over at him.
John has enough sense still about him to drop his gaze before Arthur can see the other type of heat lurking in his eyes.
His cheeks burn and he carefully squeezes his thighs together.
"... Alright?" Arthur whispers.
John nods slowly.
Arthur swallows, then gently runs his tongue over the wounds his fangs left, cleaning them with as much care and control as he can muster.
John lightly tugs to get his arm back.
Arthur stays stone-still, empty hands hovering in the air.
“Too much?” Arthur asks hoarsely.
“No,” John whispers, looking down at his arm then back at Arthur, curling up next to the older man, closer, the sides of their arms touching, “You gonna be alright? Was that ‘nough?”
“Plenty, John,” Arthur says gently, his ribs ache in protest as he reaches over, stopping just short of touching the arm, the redness forming around the wound he left, “Go, wrap it… Please.”
John blinks in surprise.
“... It’ll heal, right?” John asks hesitantly, clarity slowly coming back to him.
Trying to, at least, the haziness like a slippery coating around each thought, easing them too quickly in and then back out of his mind.
“Not ‘fore Dutch might see.”
“Just… Wrap it up, say it’s a scrape or somethin’.”
“I wouldn’t… I ain’t gon’ tell Dutch,” John says quietly, sitting up, brows furrowing at the sudden distrust.
“John,” Arthur sighs roughly and covers his face, turning away.
“... Alright,” John mutters and struggles to his feet grabbing his satchel and hopping down out of the wagon.
He doesn't tell Dutch.
In fact, Dutch barely blinks at the sloppy bandage around his forearm, more concerned with ribbing them both over fucking up.
John blinks at the fire then tilts his head back to look up at Arthur standing behind him.
Arthur presses his lips together, frowning, heavy expression shadowed further by the low light.
"Arthur?" John prompts, turning more on the log.
"Follow me," Arthur mutters and turns sharply, heading towards his tent.
"Are you alright?" John asks after they stand in silence inside Arthur's tent for longer than he can stand.
"I… I wanna ask you for somethin'," Arthur says slowly.
John frowns at the older man in concern, waits for Arthur to look at him before nodding.
"Shit," Arthur mutters, takes a deep breath, "Can I feed from you?"
John's stunned into silence, blinking at Arthur.
"You don't have to- Just 'cause- I'm not-"
"Why?" John asks quietly.
"Dutch's keepin' me on a short leash lately after…" Arthur sighs and rubs his face.
It draws attention to how tired the older man looks.
"Point is, I ain't been able to get out and feed. Animals only go so far… S'not sustainable."
"Yeah," John says quietly.
"Where do you… What should I do?"
Arthur looks surprised, like he was expecting rejection, but he quickly shakes it and steps behind John to tie the tent flap down.
"I don't wanna do your wrist 'gain, it'd be strange since it just healed."
"Where else can you…?" John asks, turning to face Arthur.
Arthur's eyes seem darker, as they track up and down John's body.
John feels a thrill go through him, heartrate picking up and he wonders if Arthur can hear it.
"Neck's a bit hard to cover," Arthur whispers.
"Maybe when it's cooler," John says absently.
Arthur makes a small, throaty noise and rubs at his mouth as his fangs ache in his gums.
"If you're… Your leg," Arthur says hoarsely, "But it's pretty high up."
"Do I gotta… Can I keep my drawers on?" John asks hesitantly.
"Can they be shoved up?"
"Yeah," Arthur murmurs, "Yeah I think so."
"Alright… Should I…" John clears his throat and glances back at the older man's cot.
"Yeah," Arthur repeats, a little thicker.
John shuffles over to stand in front of Arthur's cot and shifts awkwardly before toeing off his boots and starting to unlace his trousers.
"John- If you don’t wanna…" Arthur's watching him with an intense warmth that mirrors the nervous excitement in John's gut.
John shoves off his pants and climbs onto the older man's cot, undoing the closure above his knee.
Arthur walks closer slowly and drops to his knees at John's feet.
He curls his hands around John's knees, cupping them lightly, looking up at the younger.
Slowly, he pushes outward on John’s knee, studying the younger.
John brings his hand up and covers his mouth, pressing the biggest knuckle of his forefinger against his lips.
Arthur digs his thumb into the softer flesh of John's inner thigh, bringing his other hand over and nudging up the leg of John's drawers.
Leans in, keeping his eyes on John's face.
Watches the younger's eyelids struggle to stay open as he scrapes his teeth over the skin, setting his fangs in place.
Arthur sinks his fangs in, toes curling in his boots at John's shaky gasp.
He holds John's leg in place as the younger trembles lightly, the hand not on his mouth curling into a fist, grasping at Arthur's sheets.
Arthur feels a shudder rock through the younger and John's eyes re-open, darker.
John struggles to keep his gaze for a moment then gives in letting his eyes fall shut, head lolling back, neck stretched, open and trusting.
A small growling noise rumbles in Arthur's chest and he retracts his fangs, closing his lips around the feeding wound and letting John's blood coat his tongue.
He squeezes the younger's knee and John's other leg flexes against his side, toes pointing, ankle flexing, knee drawing up and out, John's hips barely rocking.
Arthur closes his eyes against the shock of arousal that rockets through him.
John shifts under his hands and Arthur presses his tongue flat to the feeding wound, stalling the blood flow while he desperately gathers his self-control.
He slowly opens his eyes at the soft thump of John's body hitting the mattress as the younger slumps back on the bed.
Arthur's chest is heaving as he pulls back enough to speak.
"Y'alright?" Arthur whispers.
John makes a weak sound, moving his hands to cover his face.
"John?" Arthur asks worriedly, moves to stand, leaning over the younger, "Johnny?"
"Fine," John says thinly, pausing to take a shaky breath, "A lot."
"It's a lot," John says emphatically.
"... Yeah," Arthur says, catching sight of John's cheeks, bright pink, peeking out between the younger's fingers, "Sorry."
He watches the younger squirm slightly, legs flexing, hips tilting.
Arthur swallows then moves away quickly, grabbing a washcloth and bringing it back over, pressing it roughly to John's leg.
"Ow," John mutters and slowly uncovers his face.
"S'this where those rumors come from? 'Bout vampires bein' all romantic, stealin' wives and husbands."
Arthur snorts a small laugh and glances up to meet John's eyes.
"Just rumors, John."
"S'been a while," John says quietly.
"Is that an offer?"
John presses his lips together then turns his head to look up at Arthur, where the older man's sitting on a crate beside him.
"You look… Sick," John whispers, "Like you do when you ain't fed."
"... It's been a while, yeah," Arthur mutters reluctantly.
John looks over camp, most having turned in by now.
He rises to his feet slowly and catches Arthur's gaze.
Then walks to the older man's tent and slips inside.
John's thumbing through one of his old journals, sitting on Arthur's bed comfortably.
It's a journal Arthur had sacrificed so that John would stop pestering him about seeing inside.
From that night on it'd been established that John could read that journal freely, but only that one.
"You ever write 'bout me?"
Arthur scoffs and lets the tent fall closed behind him, tying down the flaps.
"You think an awful lot of yourself."
"... I didn't mean it like that," John grumbles and Arthur pauses in his tracks.
"You'd write sometimes… 'Bout meetin' people, or knowin' 'em," John closes the journal and sets it in his lap, "'Bout who was temptin', despite Dutch's orders."
"Am I?" John asks quietly, "Or was I?"
"When you were younger you were sick… Weak," Arthur wrinkles his nose, "I wouldn't have fed from you."
"Am I… Is it worth it? Feedin' from me?"
"John, I don't get what you're askin'."
"... Do you like it?" John asks hesitantly.
Arthur licks his lips, considering.
He studies John slowly, from socked toes to messy hair.
"It's… Strange, havin' someone willin'," Arthur says softly and moves closer.
"Usually… We don't feed from the same person twice. Just bad fellas or… Gettin' someone in bed, doin' it in a way that won't hurt 'em."
Arthur's standing close enough now that John's head is tilted back to look up at the older man.
"It's… Nice," Arthur murmurs, "So, yes."
"Sorry I can't…" John presses his lips together and ducks his gaze, "Does everyone react to it… Like I do?"
"No. For most people it's just… Makes 'em tired, foggy in the head."
John hums his acknowledgment.
"Where do you want to…?" John whispers.
"You think you could keep your neck covered for a while?" Arthur asks hoarsely.
"S'that where you wanna bite?" John asks, looking up at Arthur through his lashes.
Arthur takes a minute to respond then nods slowly.
"How do want me to…? I mean…"
"There's a couple options," Arthur swallows, "Normally I'd say standin' but since you're so… Affected."
John flusters and drops his gaze again.
"Here," Arthur whispers and toes off his boots, pulling John to stand up and taking his place, scooting until his back is against the headrail of his bed.
He holds out his hand to John.
John hesitantly sets his hand in Arthur's, making a small noise of surprise as the older man pulls him onto the cot.
He catches himself with his other hand on Arthur's shoulder, straddling the older man's lap.
"Alright?" Arthur asks quietly.
His other hand moves to John's waist.
"You… Are you…?" John swallows loudly and takes in a deep breath, "Is this gon' be more than last time?"
"Do you want… More?" John asks weakly, squeezing Arthur's hand glancing down between them before looking away sharply, his cheeks flushing.
"... Do you?"
"I just- This position," John says roughly, "It's a bit…"
"Worried you'll pass out if we're standin'," Arthur says slowly, "You wanna change your mind?"
"No," John whispers, "Just…"
John pulls himself closer to Arthur and hesitantly meets the older man's eyes.
Then lets go of Arthur's shoulder to move his hair out of the way and off his neck, tilting his head to the side.
Arthur's eyes flick to look at the exposed skin.
John watches Arthur's expression change, the hunger growing in his gaze.
Arthur's lips part and John can see the tips of the needle-like fangs peeking out, a thrill going through him.
The older man looks back up to his eyes briefly before leaning in.
Simultaneously, Arthur's hand moves from John's waist to his hair, gently pulling John's head to stretch his neck further.
John gasps, a shaky sound escaping him as Arthur sinks his fangs in.
"Oh fuck," John squeezes Arthur's hand tightly, pushing it down until their hands ate pinned to his thigh, closing his eyes tightly.
Arthur makes a small sound against his neck.
"Fine," John whispers, "S'alright."
John can feel Arthur hesitate, then the older man's jaw shifts and John feels that now-familiar warmth spreading through him.
It settles heavy in his gut, his toes curling under him, knees squeezing Arthur's hips.
John's breathing quickens.
It's a fight to open his eyes, staring at the canvas behind Arthur.
His thoughts feel slow and sticky, too formless to think.
Arthur's fangs shift and dig deeper, just for a second but it sends heat through John, making the younger whimper.
His hips tilt, pressing down into Arthur's lap, and he feels the older man tense against him.
"Sorry," John gasps, enough sense left in his head to recognize the shame flooding him, his chest stuttering, fighting the urge to cry or flee.
Arthur's perfectly still against him and John tries to rein in his breathing, digging his fingers into the back of Arthur's hand.
The older man slowly retracts his fangs and lets John's blood flow into his mouth.
John holds himself stiff, or as stiff as he can, trembling with the effort to not… Act, on the overwhelming heat within him.
He's slick, he can feel it, clenching around nothing, desperate to grind against Arthur or move their hands between his thighs and-
Arthur pulls back, only an inch or so, breathing hard, warm air washing over John's neck.
"Arthur?" John asks shakily.
Arthur slowly leans back the rest of the way.
There's blood at the corners of Arthur's mouth and John involuntarily squirms at the sight, dropping his gaze quickly.
"Shit," Arthur whispers and John tenses sharply.
"Are you… Do-" Arthur swallows roughly and combs his fingers out of John's hair, "Was that worse than last time?"
"Worse?" John asks hoarsely.
Arthur slowly moves his hand back to John's waist.
Tugs lightly, fitting their hips together tighter.
John gasps and leans back, looking up at Arthur in shock.
"You're doin' a lot for me, John," Arthur says lowly, "If you wanted to… In exchange."
"Exchange?" John echoes, voice strangled.
Arthur gently untangles their hands and moves his hand to John's waistband.
"Do you want to?" Arthur whispers.
"I ain't done anythin' or-" John squirms and drops his hands to Arthur's, squeezing and moving it away from the closure of his trousers, "Fuck, gimme a minute, Arthur."
"Alright," Arthur says soothingly, "Calm down, I'm not pushin'. I just… You ain't gettin' anythin' outta this, feels… Selfish."
John can hear the reluctance in admitting that last word and presses his lips together.
"Can I think 'bout it?" John whispers, "Or is this a one time offer?"
Arthur huffs quietly and squeezes John's waist.
"I'm not gonna just take it back… S'open if you want to… If you let me feed, and want somethin' in return."
"Alright," John says shakily then pushes back from Arthur, climbing off the older man's lap to stand next to the bed.
"Woah, woah," Arthur says quickly and turns, reaching out to steady John, grabbing the younger's hands, "Careful."
"I'm fine," John whispers, "I'm gonna go lay down."
“Alright,” Arthur says gently then steps away, keeping a close eye on John as he retrieves a bandana from his trunk.
John takes it when it’s offered, folding it and tying it around his neck.
“Goodnight, John,” Arthur murmurs, slowly meeting John’s eyes.
“Yeah, night,” John whispers and slips out of the tent.