It's when he's dodged Violet for nearly two weeks that the basement door creaks open. It's not the twins. They're busy digging up worms and splitting them in half out back. It's not Moira. She's shuffling around the kitchen dressed up in quiet rage and sagging skin for the moment. And it's not him either. Tate's realized he prefers the closet in the master bedroom now, where he can watch and wait, obsessed with Vivian in all the ways Tate craves Violet. (That last bit scares him.)
Ever since Halloween – God, what a clusterfuck that was – things had been different.
He still didn't really get it, what happened that night with those fucking freaks. Well, part of him did, but that half has never been very inclined to clue him in on much. Nevertheless, Tate realized something that night, whatever had happened. He and Violet were impossible. He shouldn't - couldn't be with her. Not when he was dead and she wasn't.
And of course he's thought of that, killing her so that maybe they'd make more sense together, thought of it too often… It would be so easy. He could creep into her room at night and hold a pillow over her face while she was sleeping, or fill the room with carbon monoxide, or slit her throat, or her wrists, or both. But that wouldn't do. Didn't he want to love her? And wasn't murder pretty high up there on the list of things not to do to somebody you love? He'd said it himself once or twice, or twenty times, to Violet too, but more often to himself; if you love someone, you should never hurt them.
The closer he gets to her, the worse it's going to be when she realizes what he's done, what he is. Maybe he should just tell her, "Violet, I'm an undead mass murderer from the nineties trapped in this house for fuck knows how long. Wanna make out?" Yeah, that would go over well.
No, it was better this way. If he just disappeared she'd never find out what he was, and even if she did it would be a lot less psychologically damaging for her than if he stayed and they fucked and she had to cope with the fact that a fucking ghoul stole her virginity.
But just because he'd made the decision to leave her be didn't mean he wasn't hurting, suffering from withdrawals. He still weighed the pros and cons each night, tried to work out a compromise of sorts when there wasn't one to be found.
Recently the idea of killing her was becoming too tempting of a solution. He could make it relatively painless and surely she'd get over it eventually, and then they could really be together.
Consulting your id and your superego is difficult when you'd pumped the latter full of bullets seventeen years prior.
No. He wouldn't do that to her. Not this one.
And in her absence he was beginning to feel like the old Tate again, the one that had no qualms about taking lives he didn't have a right to, the one that jerked off to the feel of another person's blood warm against his skin, soaked into the sleeves of his shirt, the one that wanted Violet dead.
It's become more evident with each passing day: his inner demons are seeping out.
He's been trying to fight himself though, really he has. The evidence is in the tufts of his hair all over the basement floor, swept up by Moira whenever she got the time, and in the half-moon bruises on his palms from where he'd dug his nails in until red was squeezing between his fingers and out onto the concrete. But he could only hold on for so long before his malignant self swallowed up the good Tate whole, burping out a few Nirvana lyrics and a tortured 'I love you' or two.
So when she finds him, maybe he's not really there.
"Is it weird that I knew I'd find you here?" she calls from the top of the stairs, the cold draft carrying her scent, blueberry shampoo and lavender lotion, down into the sunken room.
"Thought I'd listen in on a few therapy sessions from the vent down here." It's pathetic how easily he steers her curiosities away now.
She drops down a few steps, hand trailing along the banister, and peeks around the corner to where Tate is standing, dressed down in a black tee, baggy cardigan, and worn jeans.
"Where have you been? My dad says you've skipped your last three appointments." Her face is full of thinly veiled disappointment, her voice too detached to be anything but hurt.
He has to smile at that. It's the closest he's ever going to get to an 'I miss you' from her.
"I've been busy."
"What do you care anyway?" he snaps, fed up with this back and forth already. She hadn't searched him out until now. Maybe he had made the right decision.
She descends another stair, narrowing her eyes to get a better look at him. "You're avoiding me."
When Tate doesn't respond, just glares up at her from under his bangs, she sighs, swallows, and wets her lips.
"Listen, if this is about Halloween, it's whatever. You don't have to explain. Just come upstairs and we can watch a movie or something. Sid & Nancy is on Netflix"
She's over it. Just like that. No demanding questions, no suspicions. She's already swept it under the rug, just as she had every other warning sign. He could just bound up the stairs right now and kiss her and pretend nothing happened, that his past didn't bleed into her present that night, that they'd be just fine. But it did. And they wouldn't.
"I'm not… good for you," he mutters after a pause, eyes surveying the room for the right words when there aren't any. He drags a hand over his face, wishing she would just flounce back upstairs to sneak another stupid cigarette because seeing her and not touching her is getting trying, especially when only half of him wants to kiss her. The other half longs to see his broad hands cinched around her delicate throat.
She takes one step down the stairs and he takes one back into the shadows. "I'm serious."
A cruel smile tugs up the corners of her pink mouth and she barks out a laugh that sounds hollow and forced.
"Oh, please. You're not going to give me the whole 'I'm dangerous' spiel are you? Well, save it." Her arms fold themselves defensively over her ribs. "So, you're in therapy. Big fucking deal. Don't pretend that whining to my dad for an hour every week and popping Xanax is anything but typical nowadays."
"You're so fucking blind!" His voice suddenly fills the room, angry and venomous, his face tearing open into something terrifying, lips curling, eyes bled black with darkness.
And of course instead of taking the hint and leaving him the fuck alone, Violet responds in kind, seething, and stalks down the remaining stairs to shove at Tate's chest with irrational malice until he's backed against the far wall staring down at her under furrowed brows.
Her palms are heavy and warm against him, but that's not important, not now, not when she's alive and he's not and there's no real point in any of this.
Tate plucks them off easily, his hands cuffing her thin wrists, trapping her arms between them. "Go back upstairs," he says, his voice forced calm, trembling with the effort.
Fear passes through her dark eyes then, but she blinks it away quickly, replaces it with anger because that's familiar, because that's easier than realizing he could hurt her down here and her parents aren't home to hear it and why would the maid help her now?
She fights against him, pulling to free her hands, kicking at his shins when he only grips her tighter. "Let me go, asshole."
But he's not listening. He's staring at Violet's throat, watching it bob under his scrutiny, imagining bruises shaped like his hands, trying to envision what she might sound like as the last breath of air vacated her lungs. Would she beg for her life, her voice croaking under the weight of his hands? Or gasp and wheeze? Or maybe she'd just stare him down defiantly, lips pressed into a thin line, until her pretty brown eyes rolled up into the back of their sockets.
He drops her wrists.
She doesn't. Exhales and cracks her neck and surges back into him instead, arms twisting around his neck, forcing their mouths together.
Jesus Christ, did this girl have a death wish?
Tate kisses her back, hands shooting out to grip her hips and drag her closer. Whether he's going to snap her neck when this is all over remains to be seen, but for the moment he's content to devour her mouth, coaxing open her lips, tongue sinking inside, their teeth clashing together as he flips their positions and presses Violet into the filthy bricks.
She reaches for his belt almost immediately, fumbles with the buckle as Tate grasps a fistful of hair to tug her face upwards for better access to her mouth. She complies with a whimper, pushing her hands up under the material of his t-shirt when his belt and fly have been peeled open. His skin there is pocked with bullet holes but if she notices them in the frenzy of it all she doesn't recoil, just sucks the tip of his tongue and breathes a ragged, forceful "you won't hurt me" into his mouth.
And just like that, it's gone, his darkness snuffed out in an instant by her words and her touch and the steady, rapid thump of her heart pressed up against his chest.
He gasps like he'd been drowning and cups her face with one hand, their kiss still feral but laced with affection too.
Tate's eyes are still bled black behind closed lids but now it's arousal that's darkening them, not psychosis. Now he's trembling with want and not bloodlust, his hand disappearing up under the hem of Violet's skirt instead of cinching around her throat.
"I love you," he chokes out, really meaning it, unable to hold the confession back any longer, resting his forehead against hers as his fingers pull aside her underwear to sink inside.
"Don't leave me," she retorts, breathless. One of her legs hitches itself up around his waist when he strokes into her tight heat.
She's going to save him. From himself, from everything. It's obvious now. Her hands and her laugh and her snarl, they're his salvation. So maybe he's dead and she's not and maybe, one day, they're going to have to talk about things and make some hard decisions, but for now, this is enough.
This is real.
Cock bowed and straining against his boxers, Tate ruts against Violet as his fingers fuck her open, the brick grating at her back, their mouths unmoving, held together in loose ovals, sweet nothings puffed out on staggered breaths against one another's lips, wet with spit and swollen from kissing.
And after a few minutes of just that he comes in his pants like a teenager, not a monster, when she falls apart, her small hands fisted into his shirt, his name tumbling from her mouth until it's not a name at all, just a string of cut-off syllables, broken and blissful at the same time.
Violet's still alive and Tate's still dead when they come down from their high, Violet slumping down the wall with a sigh and Tate curling up into the space between her knees with another, but for the moment, this is enough.