Author's Note: Vampire AU complete! This hasn't entirely changed my opinion on vampire stories, but it was more enjoyable to write than anticipated. I hope some of you enjoyed it also.


Crimson Trails

By Sinnatious

Part 3/3


The world stubbornly refused to come into focus. Tezuka felt his neck roll – it didn't seem to be up to task of keeping his head upright. It took a monumental exertion of will to force his eyes open, and when he did it was an even greater struggle to keep them from sliding shut again.

His mind worked sluggishly. There was something important. This wasn't home. The abandoned house…?

No, a different house, though it was similar. Why was it so hard to think?

After several minutes, his head finally started to clear. Tezuka took several deep breaths. This would be a bad time to panic. Right, take stock of the situation.

Looking around, it appeared he was inside in a room not dissimilar to the one Ryoma had once locked him in. This one at least had a ratty mattress in one corner. Opening a sliding door, Tezuka was surprised to find a small bathroom instead of the expected wardrobe. It wasn't very clean, but at least there was access to water and a toilet.

The window was boarded up, though not very well – glimmers of light were visible through the cracks. Tezuka tugged on the boards hopefully, but they held securely.

Grand. It appeared that once again he found himself captive to a vampire. What were the odds?

He had the sinking feeling that this vampire would not be as accommodating a host as Ryoma had been.

Heavy footsteps thudded through the hall, and the door swung open with a crash. Tezuka turned, preparing himself for trouble.

The tall white-haired vampire took up the entire doorway. He was clutching a store-bought bento. "Heh, took you long enough to wake up. Humans are so fragile." He threw the bento carelessly to the ground at Tezuka's feet. Akutsu, his mind supplied. That was the name that had been announced so mockingly before he fell unconscious the night before. It was only last night, right?

"You eat that. Got to keep you alive so that the brat can find us."

"Find us?" Tezuka asked.

"Heh, you don't even know that? If he's been drinking your blood that long, he'll be able to track you down. Like a blood hound scenting its favourite prey." Akutsu's eyes were also golden, Tezuka noted, but they didn't shine as brightly as Ryoma's did. It was probably not an appropriate time to be making such observations.

"What are you planning?" he asked cautiously.

"I'm not planning anything." Akutsu grinned, fully displaying a wicked pair of incisors. He looked truly insane. "I just want a good fight. Killing the brat as he is now won't be any fun."

Kill… "You'd kill him? You turn him, and then kill him just for a thrill?" Tezuka asked in disbelief, a cold fury burning in his chest.

"Don't lecture me. I never intended to turn the brat," he scoffed. "Newborns are such a pain."

"Then why…"

"Little troublemaker wouldn't stop fighting me. After I bit his neck, he had the nerve to punch me in the face!" Akutsu grinned wider at that, amber eyes gleeful. "Tore my fangs right out of his neck. It must have hurt like a bitch."

Tezuka flinched. Ryoma had lived through something like that?

"Course, since I'd just bit him, he didn't die… not even with half his neck missing. I could have finished him off, but I wanted to see what a crazy punk like him would do. I certainly didn't expect him to go and get himself a pet."

Tezuka gave the vampire a stony glare. "I am no pet."

"Heh, whatever you say." He leant forward with a leer. "Or does the brat exchange something for all that blood?"

His fist trembled he was clenching it so hard. "You're sick." It was a struggle to keep his voice even.

Akutsu laughed again. The sound was grating. "Ha! That upsets you? Maybe I was wrong about which one was the pet. But it doesn't matter." He suddenly struck, hand burying itself in the wood next to Tezuka's face. "The brat used up a heap of money I had hidden away. He's going to give me a good fight in compensation, then I'll kill him. And after I've killed him, I'll drain you dry." He withdrew his fist, splinters and dust falling to the floor. Tezuka eyed it warily. Apparently the myth about super-human vampire strength had some merit to it after all.

"Now eat up. And stay quiet. Otherwise, I might just be tempted to get rid of you before he turns up." Akutsu turned on his heel and slunk out the door, slamming it shut with a resounding band behind him.

Tezuka knelt on the floor, carefully retrieving the store-bought bento. He let out a breath he didn't realise he'd been holding.

Akutsu was a completely different vampire. He was obviously a lot older, and clearly had no problems with killing for his food. How many people had he murdered in his lifetime?

He was a monster. All he existed for was shallow thrills. He was phenomenally strong. He had punched clean through the wood of the wall and cracked the brick on the other side with nothing more than his bare fist.

Ryoma didn't have a chance. If Tezuka could overpower him, what hope did the slight vampire have fighting this beast?

Unless Ryoma hunted people non-stop and drank them dry. His mind called forth a number of horrifying images of cat-like golden eyes peering from the darkness; a body cloaked in flowing black fabric, blood dribbling down a pale chin and hands coated in crimson. Tezuka shuddered.

Then his mind flipped to another image – this one a thoroughly human Ryoma, so desperate to survive that he'd torn half his neck out, with blood coating shredded clothing and pooling on the floor around him.

Ryoma was clearly committed to survival. But which of the two visions did Tezuka dread more?

Things had been going so well. How did it all fall apart so abruptly?

Tezuka sighed, unwrapping the bento and taking a bite out of a rice ball. He might as well have been eating cardboard for how much he could taste it.


Tezuka idly pulled at the splintered wood around the hole Akutsu had made in the wall. It was hell being locked in this room with nothing but his and Ryoma's impending fate to occupy him.

Three days had passed already. His employers were likely displeased by this second unscheduled leave of absence, but Tezuka couldn't bring himself to care. If they made it out of this intact, he'd happily find another job.

Could Akutsu actually kill Ryoma, or was that an empty threat? If Ryoma survived having fangs forcefully torn from his neck right after being bitten, and then Tezuka's unfortunate slip with the knife after that, maybe he would be okay no matter what?

Akutsu didn't seem like the type to make empty threats, though. In all the books Tezuka had read on the subject, there was only a small handful that mentioned fights between vampires. All of them suggested that death was possible with enough damage – usually a blow straight through the heart or a complete decapitation. Tezuka shuddered, and pursued his destruction of the wall more intently. It was not a pleasant thought to entertain.

Maybe Ryoma would just abandon him? He could always find another person on the streets to steal small amounts of blood from daily, the way he had with Tezuka. It made his heart clench, but it was the preferable outcome. Ryoma would survive, and he wouldn't turn into a murderer like Akutsu. It would be a worthwhile sacrifice.

Where would he go, though? Akutsu would probably eventually go back to that house if his opponent didn't come to him.

As much as he hoped that Ryoma would vanish and not foolishly come after him, Tezuka suspected that wouldn't be the case. After all, the vampire hadn't sought out new prey in that week after his escape, despite being obviously hungry. And Akutsu was right in his observation that Ryoma had grown attached. Tezuka had grown attached too – were their situations reversed, he might very well try a rescue himself. But to have any hope of success, Ryoma would need to drink a lot of blood; at least enough to have a chance against Akutsu. Even if he found a small crowd of willing donors – which was highly unlikely – it wouldn't be enough.

Tezuka could only see one solution. If he could find a way to escape, then Ryoma wouldn't need to kill anyone.

A decently large plank of wood splintered and broke free. He hefted it in his hands and tested the end. Not sharp enough to serve as a stake. No matter – he wouldn't be fast enough to match Akutsu anyway. He took his prize to the door, listened for footsteps, and then slowly started prying at the hinges.

"Wait for me Ryoma," he whispered, stabbing at the pivots are hard as he dared.


Tezuka thumped his head against the back of the wall, out of ideas. The splintered remains of the plank were scattered on the ground next to the battered but still thoroughly attached hinges. He nursed his right hand against his chest. Akutsu hadn't been pleased. It was lucky all he'd escaped with was a sprained wrist and a few bruises for his efforts. Tezuka mentally added 'excellent hearing' to the list of abilities of older vampires.

Was it all for naught? Had it been a fool's hope that he could stop a scared and confused boy from turning into a monster?

He didn't want to lose Ryoma. He didn't want to lose him to the darkness. He didn't want him to die.

Tezuka was no fool. He knew he hadn't returned to that house purely out of kindness. There were selfish motivations buried within his altruism. Despite the circumstances, Ryoma peaked his curiosity. He'd come to enjoy the young vampire's company. More than once he thought it a shame that he'd never met the boy as a human. His friendships at work with his colleagues felt suddenly superficial and shallow when he recalled the companionable silences shared in that dark, abandoned house. Their exchanges always possessed a surreal element, but Tezuka came to look forward to them more than anything else in his day.

A part of him wondered if perhaps it was some sort of belated Stockholm's syndrome at work. A larger part of him didn't care. It was a complex tapestry of emotions that he couldn't unravel. Or perhaps didn't want to unravel.

The door slammed open. Akutsu threw in another store bought bento. "You better hope that brat turns up soon," he snarled.

"I don't," Tezuka dully replied.

Akutsu didn't bother to stick around and argue the point, slamming the door behind him once more.

Don't come, Tezuka repeated in his head. Stay away.

Hopefully Ryoma kept his promises.


Seven days.

Tezuka cleaned his glasses for what had to be the thirtieth time in as many minutes. His palms were sweaty and his heart thudded nervously in his chest.

He leapt to his feet when he heard heavy footsteps thudding down the hallway. It took all of his resolve to resist jumping when the door smashed open. Akutsu stood framed in the doorway, arms folded.

"I'm tired of waiting," he announced, a manic expression in his eyes.

Tezuka's blood ran cold, but he steeled himself. He was going to die with dignity. At least if he was dead, Ryoma would not need to kill others so that he could fight evenly with Akutsu.

He didn't move, not even as Akutsu's arm snaked out and grasped the front of his shirt. "I guess we'll see if your blood really is that tasty, then," he hissed threateningly. Tezuka remained stone-faced. Akutsu sneered at that, apparently displeased by the lack of reaction.

"You don't care that the brat hasn't come for you?" he taunted, slamming him into the wall. Tezuka winced, but didn't answer.

"Heh. You're no fun," he remarked. He dragged Tezuka forward, and breathed against his neck. "Oh well. I was feeling peckish anyway."

There was a mighty crash from downstairs. Akutsu paused, turning away and cocking his ear towards the door. With a snarl, he dropped Tezuka and stormed out into the hallway.

A second later he burst back through the wall.

Akutsu swore as he hit the ground. "The hell-?"

Stepping through the hole that Akutsu had left in his wake was a rather familiar green-haired vampire.

"Ryoma…" Tezuka breathed. Was he hallucinating?

He expected the white-haired vampire to be enraged as he picked himself up off the floor. Instead, Akutsu was grinning maniacally. He let out a harsh bark of laughter. "You brat! How did you do it? How many humans did you drain to get that strong in one week?!"

What?

"Shut up," was all he said.

"Oh no, I'm going to enjoy this." Akutsu cracked his knuckles, then his neck, advancing on the smaller vampire with a maniacal grin. "I wasn't expecting to have this much fun." He darted forward, fist outstretched. Ryoma caught it, the floor beneath his feet cracking at the impact.

"Heh, not good enough brat!" Akutsu crowed, swinging a leg around. Tezuka blinked. Ryoma… disappeared?

Akutsu appeared confused as well, his leg dragging a long gouge through the already badly damaged wall as he was thrown off balance. A moment later, the shorter vampire materialised behind him. A flash of silver swept through the air, and blood spattered in a messy arc on the ground.

Akutsu stumbled forward, clutching at his bleeding shoulder. His expression turned from gleeful to feral. "You…. How?"

Ryoma didn't respond. He darted forward with such speed that Tezuka's eyes could barely keep up, and delivered a solid kick to the other vampire's chest. Tezuka thought he heard ribs cracking as the white-haired vampire crashed back into the hallway.

Grunting and coughing, Akutsu pulled himself from the debris. His cockiness had vanished as he sized up his opponent. Ryoma's eyes were narrowed and focused solely on his enemy.

Ryoma was fighting Akutsu, and winning.

Tezuka closed his eyes. He'd failed.

It had all been for naught. Ryoma had killed. He'd thrown away the humanity he'd been clinging to in order to save him. He was going to become a monster just like Akutsu, and it was entirely his fault.

Several more thuds, and then another crash. Tezuka opened his eyes hesitantly. Akutsu was sprawled out on the floor, Ryoma standing above him.

"Heh…. Ha ha ha," he chuckled weakly. "I can't believe this. I didn't think you had it in you brat. You must have been hunting non-stop every night. You turned out more interesting than I imagined."

Ryoma flipped the switchblade in his hand. Akutsu rolled backwards, landing on the soles of his feet and swaying slightly. Tezuka was mildly alarmed by the splashes of blood decorating the hallway.

"Take the damn house," Akutsu hissed. "Troublesome little punk! I don't care what you do so long as you keep out my business from now on!"

It was Akutsu who intruded on their business in the first place, but diplomacy was probably the wisest course in this situation. Ryoma seemed to think so as well, as he stood back, letting the hand holding the knife fall to his side.

They faced off for a long moment before Akutsu slunk away like a cat retreating to lick his wounds. Once he was no longer visible, Ryoma stepped back through the hole in the wall into the room. "Tezuka!" He ran over to his side, hands running across his head and neck and arms, checking him for injuries. He paused at his wrist, eyes narrowing, and looked back towards the hallway.

"Forget it."

"I should do the same to his human," Ryoma mumbled.

"There's someone else here?" Tezuka asked in surprise.

He tilted his head. "You can't hear the voices? Some guy speaking really bad English. Hnnn, sounds like someone's in trouble." The slightest of smirks graced the vampire's lips. "Hypocrite. He acts so tough, too." His attention turned back to Tezuka. "Are you okay? Can you walk? What's with that expression?"

"You broke your promise," he replied flatly.

Ryoma glared at him. "I did not."

"How did you get so strong in a week?" Tezuka demanded. "How many people did you kill?"

"I didn't kill anyone!" Ryoma replied stubbornly.

"Then how…"

"It was your idea," he responded petulantly, clearly annoyed at his doubt. "And then you left those hospital floor plans all over the house…"

Tezuka's eyes widened in realisation. "You raided the blood bank?"

Ryoma shrugged. "It was easier than I thought it would be… although it probably wouldn't work twice. I drank enough to make myself sick. Three hospitals' worth."

That would make for an interesting news story. Tezuka closed his eyes in relief. He'd been so scared…

Ryoma slumped. "I'm tired now, though. I guess using up energy..."

Tezuka ruffled his hair. "I'm proud of you. I was worried."

"Che, you didn't believe in me?"

He just dragged the vampire down into a one-armed hug. "I was frightened for you."

A pale hand clutched at his shirt. After a moment, Ryoma pulled away, asking eagerly, "Did you see? I finally figured out how to turn into mist!"

Tezuka blinked. "That's what that was?"

"Yeah. Hey, we should probably hurry." Ryoma dragged him to his feet. "There's not long left until sunrise."

"You're injured," Tezuka observed worriedly, eyes lighting upon a long gash along the vampire's forearm that was sluggishly dripping blood.

"He got in a couple of lucky shots," Ryoma dismissed, tugging on his good arm. "Come on. It's almost an hour's walk."

Tezuka was eager to get out of that house, so hurried his pace. As they left the building, though, he remembered something.

"Before… you called me by my name."

Ryoma glanced back at him. "I did?"

"You did."

"So?"

"That's the first time you've ever called me by my name," Tezuka said faintly.

Ryoma frowned. "Really?"

"Really."

"Hn. Fancy that." He was anxiously watching the skyline. "Is that twilight? Hurry up!"

They ran down the dark, deserted streets. Tezuka felt his face stretch into a smile. "…Do you think we can spare the time to stop by my apartment on the way?"


Birds were chirping outside – by the time they made it back to the abandoned house the very first rays of sunlights were peeking above the horizon. It had been a rather close call.

"Aaaahh, I'm tired," Ryoma yawned, kicking off his sneakers.

Tezuka nodded in agreement. "I'm going to take a shower and wrap this up," he indicated, raising his wrist.

"You're staying?" the vampire asked, perking up slightly.

Tezuka handed over the packages he'd retrieved from his apartment. "Here. For the bed." He left to have his shower.

When he emerged freshly cleaned and feeling better for it, he headed to the bedroom the bed had been placed in. Ryoma was staring at the king size bed, perplexed. "Is there a problem?"

"This is what we stopped at your apartment for?"

"Yes. We ordered the bed, but you didn't have any sheets."

Ryoma raised an eyebrow. "But… black silk sheets?"

"And red pillowcases." Tezuka confirmed.

Ryoma stared at him. "You've been reading too many trashy gothic romance novels."

"…You bought them for me."