Mockingbird

"He would be awfully pretty as one of us, wouldn't he?"

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3. two

They both leave again the next morning- Elizabeth back to Edinburgh, back to her safe sanctuary of a vampire city, as Oliver returns to his own streets, hunger clawing at his throat and his shirt freshly washed. It’s all he can think about it- Liam Liam Liam- the name like sugar clinging to his tongue, the sound of it impossible to scrub from his ears.

He wants him, wants him to be his, and Oliver knows that when he wants something, he gets it, no matter however long it takes..

The only problem is that he needs to find him first.

And when he does, Liam looks surprised, pushing the coffee cup to the side and blinking up at him. “Ollie,” he says with a large smile. His lips are slightly chapped. “I wasn’t expecting to see you again, what can I get you?”

Oliver glances down at the café counter and curls his lip.  “Nothing now, thank you,”-because even when he hasn’t tasted proper blood for hours, he still won’t forget his manners, “but I’m curious as to when you’re free today.”

It’s Liam’s turn to look down, and Oliver’s certain that it’s more than his imagination when he notices a faint rose creeping over his cheeks. He runs a hand through his hair, pulling slightly at the dark, over-straightened strands, and Oliver knows- he knows- that he’s caught him. That he’s already trapped.

“Well-“ Liam’s biting his lower lip as he meets Oliver’s eyes again. “I’m- I’ve got a full day to work today, y’know, even though it’s the weekend, not many people actually work at small coffee shops like this, so there aren’t many-“

“That’s a shame,” Oliver interrupts and goes to walk away, but Liam’s hand reaches out over the counter and wraps around his wrist, spilling coffee all over Liam’s arm. He doesn’t seem to notice, his stare fixed with Oliver’s, almost as if he physically can’t look away, and Oliver wants to laugh. He has him, he’s trapped him already. It’s been so easy that Oliver wants to laugh.

“Wait,” Liam says, and it almost sounds like a gasp. “Are you free this evening? My friends are part of this band, and they have a small concert thing tonight. You could- if you wanted, you could come. They’d be fine with you coming in for free, if you felt like it.”

Oliver knows that of course he’ll be free this evening, so he smiles and lets Liam scrawl a number and address onto the palm of his hand before finally releasing his sleeve. Liam’s skin is hot, almost unnaturally so, as if his blood is tumbling through his veins at an inhumanly fast pace, the speed gathering heat energy with every heartbeat pushing it forward. When he finally lets go of his wrist, Oliver can almost picture his skin bruised red from the heat of Liam’s skin, mottled colours whispering together frim burst blood vessels and irritated skin.

He won’t need another address to find Liam again- he’ll just do the same thing he did this afternoon; finding the last place he’d seen him at and following the sweat and salt and distinctly human scent until he tracked him down. Nothing of luck to do with it.

The club is small and cramped, every available space packed with kids looking for a good time, packed together like sheep being herded towards slaughter. Oliver doesn’t say a word to any of them, and not one person looks his way as he makes his way through the crowds: there are people dressed far more peculiarly than he tonight, with hair thrown up into impossible shapes, faces painted the same colours as the strobe lighting that tumbles over the adrenaline-starved crowds.

Liam guides him through the pulsing masses and behind the stage, where his friend- a guy around the same height and maybe a year or so younger- is waiting for them, swamped in a heavy jumper so large that it completely cover his hands. “This is Emmett.” Oliver doesn’t say anything when he’s introduced as Ollie again, although when he sinks his teeth into his tongue he ends up tasting blood.

Neither of them say much- Oliver standing inhumanly still and staring at Emmett, who can’t seem to help but move too much, be it shifting from one foot to the other, playing with his jumper or twisting a drumstick between his fingers. Liam won’t stop talking, his voice mixing with the suffocating roar of a waiting crowd, as Oliver wonders whether his friend is as uncomfortable as he looks. He’s practically drowning himself in oversized jumpers and baggy jeans, looking for all the world that he would rather be anywhere but here, desperately trying to shrink into himself.

Emmett’s head is an insecure place, Oliver realises, the very instant that he sneaks a glance inside. Humans rarely have any sort of mental resistance at all, and even though it can sometimes be difficult to control them completely, it’s relatively simple to peer inside, to spy on the faint thoughts that litter their mind.

Emmett’s half-reluctant to eat anything even though he’s starving, terrified of playing on stage on the off chance that he manages to break something or forget how to play halfway through a song. He’s worried that people will look at him and see an overweight wannabe-musician, and he’s scared that he’s going to let his friends down.

Humans are peculiar creatures.

Oliver wonders for a moment or so more, but then he remembers that he doesn’t actually care about this boy, that Liam is the only important that exists tonight, and that he should probably turn his attention back to him.

He’s only a few metres away, talking to another friend and waving his arms animatedly, smile stretching across his face, and Oliver feels a sting of jealousy: bitter, sharp, right behind his fangs.

“Ollie!” Liam laughs and drags him over. “This is Ashlee! Ollie- Ashlee- she’s helping Emmett sort out his drum kit.”

“Transport them all, you mean,” Ashlee interjects. “And set the drums up. And give him his pep talk every gig so that he doesn’t flee the scene half an hour before he’s meant to go on.” She’s laughing, Liam too, and Oliver offers a polite smile like an unwanted gift. Behind him, Emmett shuffles awkwardly and stares steadfastly at the floor. Neither of the two see.

“But anyway, dude-“ god, does she ever stop smiling? It’s setting his teeth on edge- “how come you’re all dressed up? Didn’t Liam mention that your date was some dirty back alley?”

Liam splutters and Oliver gives a small shrug. “We’re not… it’s not a date!” Liam’s face is bright red, glaring up at her, but she smirks (again!) at Emmett, who offers a raising of eyebrow back, before spinning around on her heel. “C’mon, hot stuff, let’s get you ready for another night of D-list stardom!” She winds her fingers into the back of Emmett’s hood and takes off, Emmett stumbling after her.

Oliver scowls. He knows who he’ll be killing tonight.

Liam, however, still doesn’t notice, and he has to stretch to wind an arm around Oliver’s shoulders. “Ashlee,” he says softly, as if they weren’t the only people currently backstage, “is totally into him.”

Oliver raises an eyebrow. “Are you sure about that? I can’t imagine the two of them together.”

“You kidding?” Liam laughs. “You need to see Ash when she’s had too much to drink. She’s about as subtle as a flying brick. She’s always been into drummers. And Em ends up blushing every time she even talks to him. It’s hilarious.”

The music is boring and every song is like the last- some mutated adaptation of pop and soul, with a handful of some sort of rapping through haphazardly into the mix. Oliver doesn’t understand it, doesn’t want to either, but he still laughs and dances along with the rest of the crowds, feeling the smells of sweating bodies, blood fused with drugs and alcohol swarming over him in black waves, leaving him claustrophobic. He tells Liam that it’s the best concert he’s ever been to- and it’s true, but then he’s never been to another concert in all the years he’s lived- and Liam grins so widely that Oliver’s surprised that he doesn’t split his face in half, if only that were a thing.

He gives Liam a smile as a goodbye and waves to his friend, before he slips out the back door and waits there. He can still hear the thrum of bass through the wall, strong and steady, like a heartbeat.  It's only an hour before the girl with the blue hair is out, alone, and she manages to breathe out a small squeak of surprise as he pulls back her head and sinks his fangs into olive skin of her throat. She lets out a breath, soft as death itself, as her fingers twitch weakly. It doesn’t take long before she falls completely still, and he rests her down on the ground, cutting a small slash into the side of his wrist and presses the wound to the half-dead girl’s lips.

He’s not particularly sure why he does- only hours ago he wanted her dead, but instead now he’s ensuring the complete opposite. But Oliver’s been alive for a long time, and in that time he’s learnt to follow his instincts, so he straightens and calls Grace and Lucas to pick him up.

He doesn’t feel like walking tonight.

 

In fact, Oliver doesn’t feeling like doing very much at all for the next few days. He spends his days asleep and his nights pacing his room, trapped in by the four walls as if they were steel bars, not flimsy plaster that he can tear away at any given moment. The girl’s name turned out to be Ashlee, but Oliver doesn’t really care. He only knows because he’s seen the flashes of concerned faces and voices of broken glass flooding his television screen- first when she’s pronounced missing, then when they find her lying in as alley somewhere, very very very clearly dead.

Pale skin. No pulse. A lack of brain activity. Dead, in every sense of the word.

Oliver knows better.

The funeral is scheduled for a week on Thursday- Oliver has Grace slip into the funeral home one night and steal the records. Thirteen days from the days Oliver first bit her. Thirteen days until the girl wakes up six feet underground, buried, not dead but alive after all.

It’s thirteen days. Always exactly thirteen days. Meaning that Oliver will need to have at least two vampires waiting at the graveyard at quarter to three in the morning in eight days’ time, two that he can trust, meaning that Grace and Lucas will have to be left alone for another night, hopefully without trying to kill each other for another night. He’s got dozens of vampires in his group, dozens awaiting his beck and call, but he doesn’t trust them enough.

He doesn’t trust many people. The people that you’re willing to take a bullet for often end up being behind the trigger, after all, and Oliver has no desire to be the one lined up in the sights.

He’s tempted to go to Ashlee’s funeral when the day finally comes, but it’s conducted in the middle of the day, sunlight soaking the world and making his skin itch, even when he’s standing inside. The last thing he wants is to be caught in broad daylight: he’d only last seconds before his skin begins to peel and fall away before he dissolves into ash and dust, tugged apart by the breeze that’s currently whispering through the graveyard and smelling of roses and apples.

He loiters at the edge of the graveyard beneath one of the trees, watching silently as those mourning choke out words and prayers before lowering the casket into the cold dead arms of the earth. They traipse off to the wake, fully with the intention of drowning their sorrows in cheap alcohol, regret and bitter ‘do you remember when-‘. Oliver notices a flash of dark hair as the crowd finally stumble out of the church and pile into inky black cars, and he smiles. Liam’s here.

Wakes are often boring things, dragging themselves out all afternoon and into whispers of the evening, crowded rooms filled with people that barely know each other but cling to each other as if they’ve known each other their entire lives rather than these last hours. Sorrow brings people together. Misery loves company, you see, flourishes in it.

The room is filled with those with slicked-back hair and stiff black jackets, and Oliver fits in perfectly with all of them, if only his jacket is to light for the rest of them. He finds Liam sitting in the corner, an empty kitchen cradled in his hands, as if the cheap glass were something worth protecting. He has a smile of shattered Christmas lights when he looks up at Oliver.

“Ollie. Hey.” His voice is flat, lifeless, but there’s nothing else for him to say as Oliver slides down next to him, fluid as water. “I didn’t know you knew Ashlee. Didn’t see you at the funeral.”

“I didn’t know her well enough to attend,” Oliver wants to smile, but he can’t. He shan’t. He’s not going to scare Liam away now, not now he's so close.

Liam’s aftershave smells of forest berries and the sharp sting of the earth after a thunderstorm. Oliver drags in another unnecessary breath just so that he can feel the smell of it wash over him again before he shifts closer, his thigh pressing against Liam’s, who still doesn’t seem to notice.

Oliver’s hair’s grown uncomfortably long- thin and pale brown, sweeping his shoulders and curling in on itself at the edges, like newspaper left out too long in the sun- and although he’s not sure why he’s all of a sudden so aggravated by it, but he is anyway.

He checks his watch. It's late. Eight more days until Ashlee wakes up again.

He fiddles with his jacket sleeve, the fine material smooth and fine beneath his fingers.

He waits.

Finally Liam starts to talk again, still staring down at the glass in his hands, the words tumbling out in a monochrome, hollow rush, as if they can’t wait to throw themselves out into the open air.

“It’s like… I saw her at the end of the concert, and it just- I can’t believe that she’s gone, man. I never even said goodbye to her or anything, just told her that the music was good and that was it. Em’s gonna miss her more- he knew her better- but I can’t believe that I’m never going to see her again.”

Liam’s going to see her far sooner than he realises.

“And… Emmett’s taken it really badly. Worse than I could’ve imagined. The guy’s been playing the blues in his room 24/7 for the last week, and this is the first time he’s left the flat since she first went missing. I think… I think she was more than just a friend to him, you know, but I can’t talk to him about it now. He doesn’t let me. Just clams up completely, man, and I wanna help him, but I can’t. It’s stupid. I feel so… I feel so helpless, man. I can’t do anything.”

Oliver’s not here to offer emotional support. Not for Liam, not for his friends. A girl is gone and people are in mourning, but he couldn’t care less. There are very few people who can wear black anyway, and he gives the majority of the mourners a week at most before they pack away their funeral clothes and drag themselves back to normal. The living don’t wait around for the dead- he doesn’t blame them, it’s just in their nature.

He waits another long minute before lifting his hand and placing it gently on Liam’s thigh, just above his knee, and he’s rewarded with an incredulous raising of eyebrows and wide eyes, but no resistance. Oliver smiles to himself and lowers his head on Liam’s shoulder.

“I know this might not be considered the best time,” Oliver says, his voice as soft as death, low enough for only Liam to hear him. “But I’m not the best at talking, Liam, and I don’t know where to start, And I know that this is really nothing more than a distraction, but Liam, I want to help you in any way I can, I want to make you feel better again, if only for a while.”

Liam pulls away and turns to him, looking directly into Oliver’s eyes, the whiskey brown almost chemical, burning away layers and layers of the stories that Oliver ties to his heart and doesn’t let anyone see- not even Grace, or Lucas, or Elizabeth.

Oliver isn’t particularly sure exactly what Liam decides that he sees, because if he can see Oliver’s true intentions then he would run as fast and as hard as he possibly could have, not stopping until the oxygen rubs his windpipe raw.

Liam bites his bottom lip again, worrying the chapped skin thoughtfully, but his mental defences are only human, he’s not strong enough to resist Oliver’s silent insist, nodding quickly as he stands. “Okay,” he says. “Okay then. Thanks, Ollie. Okay.”

Oliver holds his hand as he leads them out of the building; Liam stops his friend at one point with a quick tap on the shoulder to tell him that he’s going and Oliver has to grind his teeth together. He doesn’t care. He just wants to go. He just wants to finish this.

“Em, I’m gonna go now.” Liam points over his shoulder at Oliver before turning back to Emmett again, and Oliver notices that his jacket sleeves are still too long for his arms. And he looks like he’s been crying. Oliver wants to laugh.

Emmett glares hard at them for an agonisingly long moment- eyes narrowed and as hard as Oliver’s heart,-as his gaze flashes from Oliver to Liam and back to Oliver again. He bites his lip (Oliver’s almost curious as to whether he’s going to protest) and he slides his hand down Liam’s arm to intertwine their fingers. Emmett sees this, too, and scowls.

Oliver smiles.

He’s shown to Liam’s car- it’s a small electric model, made by a famous company Oliver has no care for- and it only takes minutes for them to pull up at Oliver’s apartment, the car ride sticky with silence, crushing and choking and filling up the vehicle like tar.

It’s clean, large, cool greys and warm browns melting into each other- the height of fashion but tinted with the classic curves of ornate furniture. And it’s empty, with any of his clan having been promised unimaginable torture if he found them there by the time he returned. Unimaginable to the extent that even Oliver hasn’t thought it up yet, but nor will he need to. The apartment is completely and blessedly bare of any life, and Oliver steps smoothly into it, Liam hovering behind him.

And Oliver is kissing him almost immediately, walking him through the door, and it's a blind fumble for each other in the dim light.   

Liam's chest is smattered with tattoos, delicate artwork that Oliver’s never noticed before, a sharp contrast to the tan of his skin, and Oliver kisses the strong French script that murmurs over his collarbones, the black rose that is emblazoned like a flag against his ribs. They look beautiful, and he can’t help but trace the bruises that his lips leave on top of them with the tips of his fingers.

Oliver doesn’t even look down at him as digs his nails into Liam’s collarbones, smiling at the sharp intake of breath, before he leans down and kisses him again, licking at the taste of peppermint and sorrow on Liam’s tongue. Then he pushes him down onto the bed, and Liam pulls him down with him before kissing him again.

 

It’s only the next morning that Oliver realises how lucky he is to be alive- the apartment’s curtains are drawn, and considering Oliver forgot to check them last night, he could quiet easily be nothing but ash and melting skin if someone else had also not remembered to close them.

The city is almost beautiful in the mornings- sunlight curling over the carpets like liquid gold thrown down from the heavens, the hum of a wakening world filling his ears with a steady, melodic bass that lifts him awake.

Liam’s looking for his shirt. He freezes when he meets Oliver’s eyes, like a small child with their hand caught in the sweetie jar. “Hey,” he says, “I was just gonna wake you.”

Both of them know what an awkward lie this is, and Oliver can’t help but feel offended at the prospect of Liam planning on walking away without a single ‘goodbye’ first. Of course, this doesn’t show- he gives him a friendly smile instead, careful to ensure that Liam doesn’t glimpse his fangs whilst doing so. Liam smiles back.

He’s so close now. His fly is completely engulfed in spider silk, but Liam still hasn’t realised it.

Oliver shrugs and stretches; the joints in his back crack, the sharp sound jarring and sudden in the warm emptiness of the room. “I know you were,” he coos as he slides to his feet. Liam is still so much smaller than him, so much weaker, so much more human. “Of course you were.”

Liam smiles childishly, his warm eyes flashing and takes a step forward, wrapping narrow arms around Oliver’s waist and grins up at him. He still smells vaguely of mint, although that scent has faded now. “I was kinda thinking, you know,” Oliver hears him say, “that maybe I could get your number? We could meet up some time, after Ashlee’s funeral is completely over. I have to go and see Em today, but I… you know, I wouldn’t mind seeing you again.”

Oliver doesn’t bother answering and Liam moves closer, pressing their chests together and leaning up to kiss him. He has to stand on his toes to do so.

 Oliver moves too- running his hand down the side of his face before cupping his chin, brushing a lock of dark hair from Liam’s neck and sinking his fangs into the curve of Liam’s throat.

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