TITLE: Have You Heard?
Original Story: Cesare (almostnever)'s Neighborly
Pairing: DM/EW RATING: PG-13
SUMMARY: Someone a bit odd moves into Dom''s building. Dom is frightened. And then, Dom is intrigued.
BETA: None, so all mistakes are mine and mine alone.
NOTES: I decided to try using all of Cesare's original dialogue, but change the mood of the piece significantly. While her version is brilliantly humourous and witty, I tried to go for something a little darker, a little more sultry. I tried to maintain the spirit of the ending, though I hope the suggestion of a bit more isn't out of place. Many thanks of course to Cesare for such hillarious and brilliant fiction to work with!
Disclaimer: The author makes no claims or inferences to reality or truthfulness. Moreover, this story is based upon the work of another author and recognises their creation.
The air crackled with an anticipatory feeling, almost as tangible as electricity. Clouds hung low, twilight painting the sky a reddish hue. The humidity clung to his skin as Dom walked to the end of the driveway, towards the postbox. He jumped at the clammy feeling of a hand on his arm, and then forced on a smile.
"Have you heard?"
The woman's voice was low, her tone conspiratorial. Mrs. Scales smelled like baby powder and cod liver oil. Dom had to make an effort not to wrinkle his nose, or to stare at her out-of-place pink flowered housedress and "sensible" shoes. The woman looked almost frightened, but at the same time bubbling with the urge to pass on her gossip. He was only relieved that she wasn't complaining about his living habits. Again.
"Don't think so," he replied, a bit cautiously. Bills, junk, bills. What's the news?"
"We have one of them moving in." Dom stared at her, blankly, shuffling through the papers in his hand without looking through them. Nervous habit. "You know." She made a rather grotesque motion with two hooked, wrinkled fingers, and hissed. Dom arched one eyebrow. It was a weird night. He just wanted to go back inside.
"I know! Shocking, isn't it?" He hadn't spoken. Dom nodded politely. "Well, the building can't turn him away," she pointed out. He began edging backwards up the driveway. The clouds were darkening by the minute. One of those freak summer storms; didn't want to be caught in one of those. "It's discrimination," she continued, and he vaguely considered reporting the poor woman to a local mental hospital. She leaned in, too close. He tried not to choke on her overpowering scent. "I suppose it was bound to happen eventually!" Mrs. Scales continued, too cheerily.
They were now walking back towards the block of drab grey flats, Dom edging backwards as she shuffled towards him. He resigned himself to his fate and turned towards the building, offering his arm and cringing as her red-lacquered nails dug into the skin, creating deep scratches.
"Only look out for yourself, Dominic," she warned as they reached the door and stepped inside to the bank of lifts. "Bank" was a relative term, as it was really just two cars big enough for one person a piece, creaky and featuring sliding metal gates. Dom tended to prefer the stairs. "You're just the type they like!" Mrs. Scales added as Dom pressed the button for her.
Dom narrowed his eyebrows as the lift dinged merrily. "Never worry," he assured her. "Even if he gets his fangs out, he'll get nothing out of me but good strong tea." He felt a little ridiculous, but still had a strong urge to get the hell inside his flat and away from the strange light filtering in through a high front window and Mrs. Scales' odd warnings.
"Good lad," Mrs. Scales said approvingly as Dom pulled the gate closed for her.
Heading up the stairs, Dom wondered what exactly Mrs. Scales meant by a vampire's "type." Sure, he had been considered the "type" of some mainly campy young queens-in-training and slightly scary looking butch men. But a vampire? At least, that's what he assumed her vague gestures referred to.
Sighing to himself and vowing to move into a slightly newer building with slightly less creepy residents, Dom wiggled the tricky key in his rusting iron lock and let himself inside the third floor one-room affair he called home. The strange light had given way to dark, swirling storm clouds, and Dom quickly twisted the wooden shutters shut before shuffling over to the fridge for a beer.
Sitting on his worn sofa in front of the little 35 centimetre telly he had bought at a consignment shop, Dom sipped contentedly at his beer and popped in a tape of old "Neighbours" reruns, feeling almost normal. Half an hour into the first episode, however, the bell chimed happily and Dom nearly jumped out of his skin. It wasn't the buzzer, so it had to be either Mrs. Scales or Matt, his slightly crazy ex-boyfriend. No, he had gotten the locks changed. Definitely Mrs. Scales -- no one else in the building had ever bothered to get to know him, in any event.
Dom stared at the man in the corridor, looking delightfully put-together and calm, his blue eyes warm and considerate, if eyes could be called that. His dark hair was combed, his clothes were wrinkle-free, and his posture was confident. If it weren't for the slight translucence of his pale skin or the almost ice-like quality of those ironically warm eyes' shade, Dom wouldn't have been at all creeped out.
As it was, he was scared shitless.
"I'm Elijah," the young man replied. "I'm new to the neighbourhood," he added, unnecessarily. Dom smiled weakly and shook his hand. It was smooth, the handshake firm -- but completely cold. Dom shivered, a broad, full body motion that he was sure Elijah absorbed straight through his trembling fingers.
Do. Not. Panic.
Dom wondered to himself if maybe the man would leave him alone, now that it was clearly established that Dom was mentally disturbed. After all, he had only managed two words with the eerily beautiful American vampire, and both words were "hiya."
Elijah stared, his eyes gently prodding. Dom coughed, stepping back slightly. He then realized Elijah's eyes weren't focusing on the vein in his neck at all, but rather on his own. Name. Right. Name.
"Dominic," he finally spoke, sounding vaguely as if he were giving his name to a government official, or maybe a prison warden. "Monaghan."
"Nice to meet you, Dominic." If Elijah was offended by Dom's cautious tone, he didn't show it. His smile, however, was conspicuously close-lipped. Dom took in a deep, tight breath, and wondered if he could consciously slow his heart rate somehow.
"And you," he finally spoke, his eyes flicking downward nervously. Doing so, his focus tightened on his forearm, scratched significantly from Mrs. Scales' sharp fingernails. Two clean, pearly drops of blood were dried in perfectly maintained shape above the surface. His eyes widened, and he shoved his hand in his back pocket as nonchalantly as possible. "Welcome to the neighbourhood," he offered, noting Elijah's slightly confused expression.
The silence was uncomfortable for a few moments, and Dom wondered if Elijah could sense his fear.
"Is there anything I can help you with?" Dom asked, shifting his weight from foot to foot.
"Do you happen to have a spare lightbulb?" Elijah replied. Dom frowned, surprised. "The overhead light burned out in my new place, and none of the bulbs in the lamps are the same size," Elijah explained, looking almost uncomfortable. Dom almost felt sorry for the creature. Almost.
"Can't you lot see in the dark?" Dom asked, cringing at Elijah's stare. Shit, he thought. Way to offend the blood sucker.
"No," Elijah responded sharply. "If you could spare one, I can replace it for you once the stores are open again. Or just pay you back," he added, incorrectly mistaking Dom's hesitancy for a tight wallet. Dom shook his head.
"No need. That's quite all right; it's just a lightbulb," he insisted, hoping to get on the vampire's good side to check himself off the convenient feeds list. "Come in," he offered, a little hesitantly, heading to the small closet as he heard footfalls behind him.
Dom nodded, distractedly, sorting through the top shelf, the contents of which he couldn't quite see. "I'll just hm. I was just about to make tea, would you like a cuppa?" Strictly speaking, it was a lie, as he was perfectly happy with his beer and his soap reruns. However, he felt the years of good upbringing creeping up on him and squeezing his sensibilities like a vice.
"I don't want to put you out."
Elijah's tone was hesitant, almost sad, and Dom felt loneliness radiating from the boy as if it were palpable as he turned towards the kitchen, hoping to find the lightbulb there. Of course, he reminded himself, it could easily just be a trick that he uses to enthrall you before he sucks your blood, making you sympathise with him. "I mean, I hate to bother you. It's just, you're the only other person who seems to be up right now." Dom frowned to himself and flicked the electric kettle on just before Elijah stepped into the room.
"It's no trouble, I already had the kettle on." Dom's mental laugh was bitter. If he's trying to enthrall you, I think he's already won.
Dom continued to putter through the cabinets as the water heated, taking out the necessaries for tea as he did so. He was acutely aware of Elijah's presence at his back, about a metre away but not close enough to be annoying. Still, Dom was aware.
"Sorry, I can't imagine where they've gotten to," he apologized as he momentarily gave up on the bulbs and began dropping bags in cups -- no sense wasting the good loose leaf on the man who might be bringing your death, after all. "Sugar in your tea?"
"Just a little, thanks."
As Dom handed the small china teacup to Elijah, the handle slightly chipped, the boy raised an eyebrow. Dom wondered if his discomfort was that obvious, and the thought only made him twitch more, his own cup trembling disconcertingly in his hand as he raised it to slightly chapped lips. His eyes flicked to his arm again, the dried blood standing in relief against tanned skin and golden hairs, and as soon as he could without being rude he set the cup down, pretending to putter in another closet as an excuse to roll his sleeves to his wrists.
"Here they are," he exclaimed triumphantly as the bulbs unexpectedly emerged from behind the screwdriver. "I always have to take apart the fixture to change mine, so I put the bulbs in the same place as the screwdriver." He handed the small box to Elijah with a pleased smile.
"Thank you," Elijah returned, smiling softly and dropping the inquisitive look he had initially turned on Dom. Hoping he had been passed up as possible prey for the evening, Dom shrugged and tried to be nonchalant.
"Oh, no bother, anytime."
The last half of his cup felt awkward, as he leaned back against the bench, eyes flitting between his cup and the floor, trying to think of what small talk to engage in next. Talking about the odd weather was out -- not like Elijah was there to see it in the daytime, anyway. Sports? No. An American -- even an American vampire -- was not the person to discuss footie with, no matter how awkward the pause. When he finally raised his eyes, he found Elijah looking straight at him, his eyes once again a little sad. Oh, bugger, Dom thought. The thrall again.
"Am I keeping you up?"
"Oh, no." Dom responded too quickly, and now he was accountable for it. Think of conversation, Dommie-boy, anything, really, c'mon. "No I work in the evenings, so I'll be up a bit yet."
"Ah. What do you do?"
Dom hesitated. He's like to say that he's MI-5, or something else flashy that involves a gun. Maybe that would scare Elijah off long enough to keep Dom from actually being curious about what those eyes might look like during a feed.
"I teach. English as a second language." Dom sighed.
"That sounds interesting," Elijah countered, his smile genuine, like he was trying to make Dom comfortable. And in my own bloody home, priceless. "You must have some good stories, huh?"
Dom shrugged. Not much worth telling someone who could theoretically be centuries old. Hannah's stumbling over the definite article, even Louis' confusing the words "kiss" and "fuck" because they're the same in French, suddenly seemed entirely bland and trivial. "Not really."
The pause grew heavy with its emptiness again, and this time Elijah spoke more firmly, setting the cup on the bench and turning towards the door with the bulbs tucked neatly under his arm. "Thanks for the tea," he offered. "And the lightbulb. If you ever need anything, I'm in 204."
Dom nodded, and managed a smile. "It was really no bother, but you're welcome, yeah." And, he realized as he shut and bolted the door behind Elijah, it really wasn't. The man, alluring and simultaneously terrifying as he was, didn't cause much trouble. Wasn't much of a threat. Dom was almost disappointed.
When the bell rang the second time, he was cooking a stir-fry with a dash of korma sauce for flavour. Cooking was meditative. Cooking made him censor out the details in his mind -- the ice blue eyes, the silky smooth skin, the feelings of empathy that may have been genuine emotions after all. As he walked to answer the door, he almost felt relieved.
"Sorry, I hate to bother you again." Dom just smiled in response. In fact, he was grinning like a loon, but Elijah didn't notice. "But you said something about how the light fixture needs a screwdriver? I guess I have the same kind in my unit. And no screwdriver."
Dom stared at Elijah, briefly, in the dull light of the corridor. The tip of a pink tongue darted out to wet his lip, and Dom caught just a hint of an unusually sharp incisor. His next breath came in a gasp, and his blood drained simultaneously to his cheeks and his groin as he threw the door open a little too enthusiastically, jumping back and waving Elijah in. Thrall or no, I'm not resisting now.
"Do you like stir-fry?" Dom asked, his breath a little short. Elijah only stepped a half step into the doorway, and his body was perfectly aligned with Dom's, though ten centimeters of air separated them.
"Sure," Elijah agreed, his voice low. Dom couldn't tear his eyes away. Thought he should but couldn't.
"White Shield?" he added, weakly. Elijah leaned in another inch as Dom held the bottle up to the side. There wasn't enough room between them.
"Looks good." Elijah licked his lips again, this time deliberately. His smile was almost cheeky. Dom was in his element, now, with this one. He grinned.
"Come on in then, have a bite." He raised his own eyebrows at this, not correcting the blatant invitation, but Elijah's eyes zeroed in on the stir-fry, not Dom's jugular. Dom exhaled, and busied himself with pulling out two plates, rather than laying himself out in an artful tableau on the kitchen and offering himself to Elijah. "You can sort your place later," he offered with a smile. Much later. "It's light enough in here for two."