Callum woke with a groan, and then hissed at the bright lights bouncing off white walls. His head was aching something awful, vision swimming, and he was completely disorientated.
“Why…” he murmured, trying to sit up. It was a task that required much more effort than it should have needed.
Callum brought up a hand to rub his face and noticed an IV tube sticking out of the raised limb. The fluid was pale red, blood diluted with something or another.
Looking around and seeing that he was alone, Callum reached for the nurse call button and pressed the button. It didn’t take long for a man woman to walk in. Callum returned their smiles weakly.
“Good to see you’re awake. I’m Dr. Martinez and this is Dennis. How are you feeling, Callum?” the woman asked gently as Dennis helped Callum sit up and then checked the machines he was hooked up to.
“Groggy. My head hurts,” Callum replied. “What happened?”
“What do you remember?”
Callum frowned past his headache and recalled, “I was at Haggard, helping Bennett out at the bar since it was so crowded. Then I was about to serve these two girls and…one of them jumped me. It’s fuzzy after that.” He remembered more – the yelling, the rage, the words, the person. But he kept quiet.
Dr. Martinez nodded, “You hit your head on a cabinet and she tried to strangle you. The wounds from her nails have already healed. You had a concussion and have been unconscious for about three hours but seem to be doing all right. The headache will be gone within the hour or so if nothing is wrong and depending on your healing rate. The IV will be removed soon, I just want to get some more blood in you. When was the last time you fed?”
Callum tried to think back. He hadn’t fed since Mason. “About…two and half, three weeks ago? I fed from a wolf shifter.”
Dr. Martinez frowned, “I am aware that you were turned only two years ago and under…sensitive circumstances, but you need to feed more frequently than that, halfblooded or not.”
Callum shrunk back at her gaze and rubbed his neck, “I feed once or twice a month on humans usually. After feeding from Ma—the shifter, I felt like I got more than usual so I thought the gap between the cravings would be larger.”
“That’s a normal feeling if you have it for the first time. Paranormal blood is much more sustaining than human and you can feed less frequently with it. Do you only feed when you start to crave?”
Callum nodded mutely and knew he could be in for a scolding. Georgia berated him endlessly for the first couple months until she gave up after making him promise to feed the second he started to get cravings.
Dr. Martinez sighed, “I am sure you know that that is not healthy or safe. Do you at least drink canned blood between feedings?”
Callum nodded, grateful that she didn’t tear into him, “I make sure to have a supply on hand at home.”
Dr. Martinez nodded and the topic was dropped after she warned him about the dangers of postponing feedings. She checked his vitals and deemed him fit to leave once his headache subsided, he just had to call for a nurse. Before Dr. Martinez left the room, Dennis already having gone, Callum had one more question.
“What happened to…the girl?”
“She was taken to the police station. Your boyfriend is down there too and will be arriving shortly. Once you’re better, you’ll be asked to give a statement, I’d assume.”
Callum nodded, not looking forward to the encounter, “Thank you.”
She left after that, closing the door gently behind her and Callum felt back against the bed with a sigh. He had no doubts that the boyfriend she mentioned was Mason.
Callum settled into the bed and closed his eyes. He was unusually tired and counted it on whatever was being pumped into him. His lids were heavy and he soon fell into restless sleep.
What felt like seconds later, Callum was opening his eyes. His headache was gone and he could hear low murmurs from outside the room.
The murmurs stopped and the door slowly opened.
Mason’s tired face instantly lit up into a relieved smile as he quickly closed the distance between the two of them.
“Callum,” he said, stopping at Callum’s bedside. His hands were gripping the bedding next to Callum’s hand. The one word was filled with so many emotions that Callum couldn’t name. Mason looked like he was about to cry.
“Hey,” Callum mumbled, shifting until he was in more of an upright position. Mason’s twitching hands showed how much he wanted to touch him. The knuckles were white from how tight he was gripping the sheets. Callum moved his hand to rest on one of Mason’s.
The reaction was instantaneous. Mason fell to his knees, both hands gripping onto Callum’s, and head bowed on the bed. “Christ, you scared the crap out of me.” Mason looked up and brought Callum’s hand to his lips, kissing Callum’s knuckles softly, “I wanted to be here with you the entire time, but there was a lot to do at the club and police station.”
“It’s fine, I’m sorry for causing so much trouble.”
Mason narrowed his eyes, “Don’t you dare apologize. That crazy chick attacked you out of nowhere! It was completely unprovoked and not your fault.”
Callum looked down, “It technically is.”
Mason got to his feet and a hand went to Callum’s cheek, lifting his face up. Callum couldn’t meet Mason’s concerned gaze.
“She was…saying things. Accusing you. Do you know her?”
Callum swallowed, “I…I knew her brother.” Callum had a feeling he knew what ‘things’ she had been saying. Moving his face out of Mason’s hold, Callum grabbed the call button, “The doctor said I could leave after my headache went away. Did the police want to see me?”
“Yeah, I can drive you down there,” Mason replied, sounding distracted.
A nurse, Dennis again, soon arrived and Callum was cleared to leave. Luckily, they hadn’t changed him into a hospital gown so he got to leave quickly after finding out that Mason had paid his hospital bills.
“You have to let me pay you back,” Callum told Mason when they were on the road.
“Not happening,” Mason replied.
“Mason,” Callum argued. “I do not want to be more indebted to you than I already am.”
“You’re not indebted to me at all. If anything, I’m the one that has a lot of making up to do.”
Callum sighed, “I’ve long since forgiven you for high school. It was five years ago, I can barely hold a grudge for one week much less 250.”
“260,” Mason corrected with a small grin.
Callum rolled his eyes, “Whatever. Math was my worst subject back in school.”
Mason nodded in agreement, “It really was. I had so many tutor fantasies and role-play scenarios in my head.”
Callum shook his head, “I don’t even want to know.”
Mason tilted his head to glance at Callum briefly with a smirk, “You sure about that? I could show you.”
Callum scoffed and looked out the window. The good mood plummeted when he caught sight of a police car.
The rest of the ride to the station was in silence, Callum caught in a mindless daze. He came back to reality when Mason placed a hand on his shoulder and squeezed reassuringly.
“I can go in with you if you’d like,” Mason offered.
Callum gave him a forced smile, “It’s fine. Thanks for the ride.”
As Callum got out of the car, Mason leaned over and caught his wrist.
“If you need to, come over. My door’s always open. The passcode for the elevator is 110389.”
Callum simply nodded and thanked Mason again before leaving the car and heading into the precinct.
Callum was completely drained when he left the station. After repeating himself more times than he dared to count, confirming and denying the same statements over and over again, and being on the receiving end of Justin’s sister’s – Ruth’s – endless glare, he was ready to avoid reality for the next million years.
He intended to go straight home, but when Callum took in his surroundings, it was not the grungy, rundown street filled to the brim with thugs, thieves, and others condemned by society that his apartment building was located on. Instead, he saw cars that cost more than the property value of his aforementioned street, working streetlights, graffiti free buildings that were not about to crumble without a moment’s notice, and Mason’s apartment building.
Callum almost turned right back around to go home, to his home. But he faltered in his step. He half turned back to face the building and his eyes went up, floor by floor until he got to the 16th. The lights were on despite the hour. The sun was due to rise in about three hours.
Callum took a fortifying breath and entered the building. He kept his mind blank as he went into the elevator and keyed in the numbers Mason had told him.
Only once he was passing the ninth floor, did Callum realize why the numbers were so familiar. It was his birthdate.
Callum hardly noticed the small smile playing at his lips for the remainder of the way up.
His unconscious good mood slipped into nervousness as he stood in front of Mason’s door. He had a hand raised to ring the doorbell but he couldn’t seem to push the button.
“He’s probably asleep,” Callum told himself. But he had seen the lights were on. “Maybe he forgot to turn them off?”
After a moment more of internal debate, Callum had successfully psyched himself out and was running away with his tail tucked between his legs.
While he waited for the elevator to return, his gaze kept going to Mason’s door. It was innocuous enough but his eyes were still drawn to the polished, dark wood. 1602 engraved on a golden plaque above the peephole.
The elevator dinged and Callum turned his head back to face the front so he could step in. As the doors slid open, his eyes widened in surprise.
Mason looked equally, if not more, surprised to see Callum and almost didn’t move fast enough to step out of the lift when the doors began to close.
“Callum, hey, I wasn’t expecting to see you,” he said.
Callum flushed and rubbed the back of his neck as he looked away, “Oh, uh, well I was going to go home but somehow ended up here and thought I’d come up but… I was just leaving.”
Mason grabbed Callum’s wrist before he could press the call button for the elevator again, “No, no, sorry to make you wait. I had to do some things back at the club. Come on in.”
Mason gently pulled Callum back to the door. His grip was loose enough that Callum could have gotten out of it and left the building like he had been intending to…but he stayed and ended up following Mason to his kitchen and receiving a can of beer in place of a glass of water upon request.
They moved to the living room and Callum received flashbacks of the last time he had been there. They were even sitting in the same positions. The only differences were their drinks, the situation, and the fact that Callum had been the one to come entirely of his own accord without prompting.
“I honestly didn’t think you’d actually come,” Mason eventually said, breaking the silence.
“I wasn’t intending to, but my feet had a mind of their own,” Callum replied. He sipped at the cold drink and faintly wished he could get drunk but he’d need a lot more alcohol. He also doubted that Mason would let him get hammered under his watch when it was obvious Callum would be drinking to forget.
Mason was watching him and Callum knew that the shifter was waiting for Callum to make the first move. The halfie just wasn’t sure what move to make. It was a game of chess and Callum had never learned to play.
“Did you have a lot of trouble with the club?” Callum asked.
“Not really. Vance, Alex, Brian, and Grayson managed to keep people in line until the police and paramedics arrived. Bennett held back the girl who attacked you before handing her off to an officer. I put Vance in charge while I went to the hospital with you. I only left for the police station to give my statements after I was assured you were stable and just asleep. We closed down the club early, I just went back to get some things sorted and make sure everyone else was okay. They’re all worried about you, Grayson especially.”
Callum looked down at the beer in his lap, shoulders heavy with guilt. “I’m really sorry.”
Mason sighed and scooted closer to Callum. He set his beer can on the coffee table and pulled Callum to his chest so Callum’s head was cradled against Mason’s neck. Mason stroked Callum’s hair and pressed his lips to his head, “It’s not your fault. You didn’t ask for some psychotic chick to try and kill you, so stop apologizing.”
“But she had every right to attack me,” Callum couldn’t help but argue, pulling away from Mason and his warmth.
“No one has any right to harm you,” Mason replied, sternly.
“But I killed her brother!” Callum exclaimed.
Callum almost regretted letting the words slip past in his frustration. He couldn’t look Mason in the face yet he couldn’t bring himself to move.
Eventually, Mason broke the silence by gently asking, “Who was he?”
Callum frowned; he wasn’t expecting that question at all. ‘Why’s and ‘How’s, yes, but not a ‘Who’.
At Callum’s prolonged silence, Mason added, “I mean, only if you want to tell me. I don’t want to pressure you into saying anything you don’t want to.”
Callum shook himself out of his daze, “No, it’s fine. He…His name was Justin. I met him not long after I dropped out of college. He was three years older than me. We started off fooling around and then we slipped into dating pretty easily. We were together for a little more than a year before he...”
Callum took a few gulps of his drink, wishing even more that it were something strong enough to get him drunk.
Mason put his hand on Callum’s shoulder and gently massaged the tense muscle. “What happened?”
Callum took a deep breath before continuing. “He…he got into a bad crowd. He was rarely sober whenever I saw him, either drunk or stoned or high off some drug or another and I’m pretty sure he was cheating on me with multiple people. He got violent at times. I broke up with him pretty soon after he started changing and a little while later, he called me to say he still had some of my stuff.
“It was a trap. He was balls deep in debt and was apparently trying to sell me into an underground prostitution ring or something, I don’t know, he was practically incoherent. He was hammered and his friends were stoned. I fought back, obviously, and he decided I wasn’t worth the trouble so he and his buddies beat me up and stole what valuables I had on me. I would’ve bled out had my sire not turned up.
“He half turned me, I don’t know his reasons but I’m grateful for it even if I had gone on a rampage of bloodlust. I was unconscious for a couple days and when I woke up, I was alone in my apartment with a note from my sire telling me what I had done and that he had taken care of everything.”
Callum went silent, waiting for Mason’s reaction. The hand on his shoulder had stopped its ministrations and was just gripping firmly as if to keep Callum from running away like he oh so badly wanted to do.
Finally, Mason spoke, voice toneless and controlled, “Did he die after you were turned?”
Callum nodded, “I… I have no memories of then. But from what my sire had written to me, I… I drained him and his friends dry before passing out. Vampires… the reason there’re only a few halfies is because we’re much more difficult to control upon the change, practically feral. And my change… it was born of violence and fear. Like any fresh halfie’s newly awakened vampire half, its first goal is to feed. And mine… it went right for my attackers because they were a threat. The only reason I’m not in jail for homicide is because of my sire and the fact that Justin had been involved in a lot of shady things I hadn’t known about.”
“You know it’s not your fault, right? If anything, the fucker got off easy,” Mason growled, his grip tightening on Callum’s shoulder. “If I had been there…” The malice and anger was clear in the implied threat and while Callum was wincing slightly from the pain of Mason’s suddenly tight grip on his shoulder, he couldn’t help the way his heart fluttered at seeing how enraged Mason was on his behalf over something that had happened over two years ago.
“Mason,” Callum called, placing his hand on Mason’s.
Eyes wide, Mason immediately relaxed his hold and would have let go completely had Callum not kept his hand on the shifter’s. “I’m so sorry, I wasn’t paying atten—”
“It’s fine, Mason,” Callum smiled faintly. He squeezed Mason’s hand before finishing off his beer and getting up to throw it away. “Where’s your trash can?”
“Oh, that goes in the recycling, it’s the green one under the sink,” Mason replied, getting up as well. His drink was left on the table.
Callum, faintly surprised by the fact that Mason recycled, found the bin where Mason had said and threw his can with the rest of the recyclables.
Callum glanced at the window upon exiting the kitchen and saw the sky was beginning to light up a pale purple-pink.
“I should probably go, you haven’t had any sleep tonight have you?” He bit his lip guiltily and wrung the bottom of his shirt.
“I’m fine. Are you sure you’ll be okay on your own?” Mason asked.
“Uh, yeah, I—shit, my stuff,” Callum groaned as he remembered that he had never gotten his things. At least he had his phone and wallet in his back pockets.
“It’s safe at the club,” Mason assured him. “Is there anything you need from it immediately? I can drive down and grab it for you.”
“No, no, it’s fine. You should really try and get a few hours of sleep,” Callum replied. Just because he was fine with so little sleep didn’t mean others were. Now that he looked, Mason was clearly exhausted with dark circles under his dimmer than usual eyes. But he was still smiling that infuriatingly warm and loving smile. The smile that Callum had never seen Mason give anyone else.
“I don’t want to leave you alone,” Mason said, his brow furrowing slightly in concern.
Callum managed a small smile, “I’m fine, Mason.”
Mason pursed his lips before sighing, “Alright. But I am putting you on mandatory break from work for the rest of the week.” Callum opened his mouth to argue but Mason continued over his complaints, “It’s honestly more for me than it is for you, Callum. You have no idea how terrified I was when you weren’t waking up.”
Callum rubbed the back of his neck, looking down. A sigh left Mason but Callum still didn’t look up, even when arms pulled him into a warm chest. Mason put his cheek against Callum’s head and rubbing his hands up and down Callum’s arms, lingering to massage the halfie’s shoulders. They stayed like that in silence for a peaceful moment. Callum relaxed until he was more or less leaning into Mason, his hands dropped at his sides. Mason’s hands continued to smooth up and down Callum’s arms in a soothing manner.
Eventually, it got too much for Callum and he pulled back.
“Anyway, thanks. I’ll, uh, I’ll see you later…”
“I’ll walk you down,” Mason said but before he could take a step towards the door, Callum pushed at his chest with a frown.
“No, you are going to bed and sleeping. You look like death on legs.”
Mason opened his mouth to argue but Callum put more strength into his push and managed to make Mason go back a few paces.
Callum raised a brow, “See? I can push you. Sleep, Mason. I’ll get home safely.”
Mason stared at Callum and Callum stared back, for once managing to hold Mason’s gaze without turning red. His concern for the shifter overrode any self-consciousness he was bound to feel in any other situation.
Mason eventually sighed and nodded, “Okay. Text me when you get home?”
Callum nodded and Mason walked him to the door.
“See you later,” Callum mumbled, digging his hands into his pockets, not knowing what else to do with them.
“See you,” Mason smiled softly and Callum nodded once more before turning around and heading for the elevator. He knew that Mason was watching him but didn’t turn back. When he stepped into the lift and pressed the button for the ground floor, he waved slightly to the shifter who was waiting for Callum to be completely out of his sight.
“Go sleep,” Callum scolded before the doors closed. He saw Mason chuckle and nod before metal separated them. “And…thank you.”