"Yip! Yip! Yipyipyipyipyip!"
Adriel used his foot to nudge the little dog aside but it only growled and latched onto his pant leg. He sighed.
"VELVET! Get your stupid mutt off of me!"
Velvet came running and picked up the little dog. "Did you find an intruder? That's a good boy. Yes, you're my good little watchdog, catching that big bad intruder." She patted the dog on the head and the dog yipped again, wagging his tail and licking her face.
Adriel winced. "Gross. You let that mutt spit on your face?"
For the first time, Velvet turned her attention on her brother. "Mercutio is not a mutt. He is a Pomeranian."
Adriel muttered something about people who can't get anything else to kiss them as he walked past Velvet. She glared daggers at him. "You're crabby today. Did the hot scientist break your heart already?"
Adriel looked shocked. "How did you know?"
"I read your diary." Velvet grinned and stuck her tongue out at her brother.
"I don't even have a diary," Adriel said and shook his head.
"So he broke your heart, then?" Velvet persisted. "Did you suck his-"
"VELVET!" Adriel could not believe what was hearing.
"-blood?" she finished and grinned. "Did you think I was going to say something else?"
Adriel put a hand against his forehead. "I really hate you."
"I know." Velvet gave him a hug with the arm not holding Mercutio.
"And no, he did not break my heart." He sighed and went to the sofa to sit down. "It's complicated. I can't expect a little kid like you to understand."
"Oh please," Velvet said, rolling her eyes. "I'm almost twenty-six."
Adriel smirked ironically. "That's Dr. McCabe's age."
"So you really like him, huh?" Velvet asked, settling down next to her brother, her brown eyes eager for gossip.
Adriel looked at her for a moment, and then shrugged. "Yes. I don't know." He leaned back. "He doesn't believe I'm a vampire. So I kind of… touched his neck with my teeth, just enough so he could feel how sharp my teeth are."
Velvet bared her own fangs in an evil grin. "Ooooh, kinky."
"You shouldn't even know that word," Adriel said with a frown. "Besides, it wasn't like that."
"So what happened?" Velvet asked. "Did it scare him away?"
Velvet's eyes widened. "Oh, no."
Adriel looked at her. "What?"
"You got scared." Velvet grinned. "That is so cute. You like him so much you scared yourself, didn't you?"
Adriel crossed his arms and looked away. "Go put booties on your mutt or something."
"Naw, mutt booties are so last season," Velvet said, scratching her dog behind the ears. She looked over at Adriel. "So what are you going to do about him?"
"Probably go back to see him tomorrow night." Adriel sighed and rested his head on his sister's shoulder. "I can't stay away."
"Keagan, is that what I think it is?"
Keagan barely looked up. "What, my limited edition scale model of the Millennium Falcon?"
Evan grinned and shook his head. "I don't understand when you have time to do those. You work more than sixty hours a week."
Now Keagan looked up and flashed a winning smile. "I'm just talented."
"Sure you are," Evan agreed with a laugh. "It's nice. You built it right?"
"Yeah, I couldn't sleep last night. I got the kit on E-bay," he hurried to add.
Evan was quiet for just a moment as he thought of how to bring up his next subject tactfully. "Was it Adriel?"
Keagan was caught a little off-guard. "You mean… the thing that was keeping me up?"
"Yes," Evan agreed. "Or person, as it were."
"Evan-" Keagan sighed. "I don't know what I did to make him leave so fast."
"Maybe it wasn't you?" Evan suggested.
"Maybe we should talk about something else," Keagan said pointedly, taking off his goggles and setting them on the table. "Adriel might be here at any minute."
"But you don't know for sure, right?" Evan asked. "Besides, he'll knock before he comes in. Especially if he's a vampire."
"No, because I told him he's always invited in," Keagan replied. "Besides, he said that was just a custom. From his mother's culture."
"Romania?" Evan asked with a smile before persisting, "That's in some of the legends, you know. Vampires cannot enter where they are not invited."
Keagan sighed. "Ev, don't tell me you believe in vampires."
"Not at all," Evan responded lightly. "I don't believe in anything. You know that."
"So if he can prove it, you'll believe him," Keagan remembered. "I wonder if he can?"
"You didn't even think to ask, did you?"
"Of course not," Keagan said with a frown. "I believe in the laws of physics, and according to the laws of physics, vampires cannot possibly exist. And he can't possibly disprove the laws of physics."
Evan shook his head. "You're such a zealot. Quit saying 'laws of physics' and listen to me."
Keagan grinned and leaned forward on his elbows. "Oooh, the esteemed Mr. Tobias has an idea."
"He sure does," Evan agreed. "Why don't you let me ask Adriel some questions about being a vampire? If he really is one he should be able to convince you that it's possible, and if he can't we'll at least figure out if he's making it up."
"And how he made those teeth feel so real," Keagan muttered under his breath, rubbing the side of his neck.
"What was that, honey?" Evan asked, grinning.
Keagan returned the grin. "Nothing dearest. Now stop acting gay. I'm trying to impress the cute security guard with my manly job."
Evan opened his mouth to say something when there came a knock at the door. Keagan paled visibly. "D-do you think he heard me?" he hissed worriedly at his friend.
Evan shot him a smile as he went to open the door.
Adriel looked down at the stranger with mild surprise, and then nodded politely. "Hello, Evan."
Evan smiled. Adriel was taller than he had expected. He had to be nearly Keagan's height. Other than that, though, the security guard looked more or less like he had imagined. "Hello, Adriel. Come in."
Adriel gave him a crooked half-smile and walked past him. "Thank you," he said, heading over to where Keagan was hurriedly putting things away. "Hello, Keagan."
"Hey," Keagan said, shoving a few things into a cabinet. Then he met Adriel's eyes and smiled. "I'm glad you came."
Adriel looked away quickly and shrugged. "Yeah," he mumbled. "So you're done working?"
Evan grinned. "Now that Keagan's cleared off his tables, why don't we sit in the lab?"
"That's a good idea, Evan," Keagan frowned, shooting his best friend a look. Evan returned it with a sweet smile and Keagan sighed, pulling up three stools for them to sit in. Evan looked at Keagan, who was looking at Adriel. Adriel was looking at the table. Evan cleared his throat.
"Adriel. Are you really thirty-three?"
Adriel shot Keagan a glare. "Thirty-two."
"What?" Keagan asked, holding out his hands.
"Is it because you're a vampire?" Evan persisted.
Adriel gaped. "Oh, fine. Tell the whole world, Keagan."
"Evan is my best friend."
"He's a scientist," Adriel stressed. "Everyone knows you don't tell scientists things like that."
"I'm a scientist, too!" Keagan replied indignantly.
Adriel dismissed him with a wave of one hand. "Not really. You play with fireworks."
By now, Evan was laughing. "Adriel. I'm not going to experiment on you."
Keagan and Adriel both looked at him as though they had forgotten he was there. Finally, Adriel said, "Oh." Then after a beat, he asked, "Does this mean you believe me?"
Evan thought about that. "I don't have any reason not to," he said at last. "Can I ask you about it, though?"
"Yes," Adriel agreed, looking pointedly at Keagan. "I'd rather you ask about it than decide it's impossible completely out of hand."
Evan smiled. "So how did you become a vampire?"
"How did you become human?" Adriel asked. "I was born that way."
"So your parents are vampires, too?"
Adriel shook his head. "Just my mother. But vampirism isn't a race, so you can't be a half-vampire. It's more of a genetic condition."
"So you're a mutant," Keagan said bluntly.
Adriel frowned. "You don't have to say it like that."
Keagan shrugged. "I think that would be kind of cool, actually. Did you ever read any of the X-men comics?"
"Of course," Adriel replied. Then he blinked. "Wait, you're comparing me to them now? Ha!"
"Who was your favorite?"
"Nightcrawler." Adriel shrugged.
"I could have guessed that, maybe," Keagan said. "It makes sense to me, at any rate."
"You like Gambit."
Keagan shrugged sheepishly. "Who doesn't?"
"Me," Adriel said, but he was smiling. Keagan noted for the first time that he really did have pointy little fangs, and he couldn't help but answer Adriel's smile with one of his own.
"You should do that more often."
Adriel abruptly covered his mouth with his hand. "I try not to," he mumbled, his serious countenance having returned.
"What's the difference if we already know?" Keagan asked.
"Habit," Adriel replied.
"I'd like to see it again."
"You would," he grumbled, but he dropped his hand and sighed. "I can't smile just because you think it's pretty."
"You don't have to," Keagan replied cheerfully. "I can get you to smile again."
Adriel studied Keagan's expression carefully. "I'll look forward to it," he said at last, looking back down at the table.
"So will I," Keagan replied.
Evan was smiling between the two. "That's sweet."
Adriel sighed and glanced at him with a long-suffering expression. "Did you have more questions?"
Evan nodded. "A few." He grinned sideways at Keagan. "That is, if Keagan is done with you."
Keagan shrugged. "Curiosity killed the cat, Ev."
"I'll take that as a yes," Evan decided. "So Adriel, if it isn't rude to ask, do you drink blood?"
Adriel looked uncomfortable. "Yes. I'm kind of… a weak vampire."
"Really?" Keagan looked surprised. "I thought you were pretty strong."
"I'm stronger than you," Adriel sneered.
"Whatever," Keagan grumbled. "Keep explaining."
"Well, what I meant by that is…" He paused, trying to think of how to explain it. "One of the conditions of being a vampire is that you have to get all of your iron from your diet, because we're naturally anemic or something. So if we don't get enough iron, we'll go into a coma. Blood has the highest concentration, but I also eat a lot of red meat and green leafy vegetables."
"And tofu?" Keagan supplied.
Adriel looked amused. "Sure. And tofu. That's not really a vampire thing, though. I just like it."
"So what do you mean that you're a weak vampire?" Evan asked, interested.
"I have a weak stomach, for one thing," Adriel admitted looking sheepish. "I can't eat anything spicy or garlic."
"Is that where the garlic thing comes from?" Keagan asked.
"Not really. My sister loves garlic." Adriel shrugged. "I also can't go out during the day because my skin burns really easily. That's a vampire thing but I'm more sensitive to sun than even most vampires."
"That's kind of cute," Keagan snickered.
Adriel glared at him. "Does that mean you believe me?"
"Well…" Keagan hesitated and glanced at Evan.
"Don't look at me," Evan laughed. "You're the only one who didn't believe him."
Keagan shrugged. "I guess." He looked back over at Adriel. "Yes. I believe you."
Adriel bared his teeth triumphantly. "Good."
Remembering the feel of those teeth against his neck, Keagan shivered. Adriel noticed and narrowed his eyes. "Are you cold, Keagan?"
"No," Keagan replied, wincing a bit. Adriel was perceptive. "You … don't drink human blood, do you?"
"Why?" Adriel asked, looking curious. When Keagan didn't answer right away, he stood up and looked at Evan. "I don't want to answer any more questions. I have to go."
Both scientists looked up in surprise. "But it's not even dawn yet," Evan observed calmly.
"Not yet," Adriel replied, looking outside, "but I can already feel it." He held out a hand. "It was nice to meet you, Evan."
"You too," Evan replied with a smile.
"Later, Keagan," Adriel called over his shoulder before letting himself out.
Keagan buried his head in his hands. "Everything I do is so awkward. I don't even know what I'm doing wrong half the time."
"Maybe," Evan murmured, still looking at the door. "I think he's interesting."
"God, I am so STUPID!" Adriel shouted, slamming the door. He kicked his shoes off and then for good measure threw the first breakable thing he could find across the room where it smashed against the wall and smeared the wall with a streak of dark red.
"I was drinking that," Velvet remarked calmly. "And Mom's going to kill you if you stained her wall." She was sitting on the couch, petting her dog.
Adriel snorted. "I'd like to see her try." He looked at the spot on the wall and asked, "Was that blood?"
"No, wine," Velvet replied. "You can't have any. You'd just get sick like last time."
Adriel sat next to her on the couch. "Shut up, Vel."
"You're pissy tonight," Velvet remarked with a frown. "What's wrong with you? And why are you back so early? I thought you had a date with D- Oh." She looked sideways at her older brother. "Trouble in paradise?"
"Velvet, shut it before I get mad."
"You're not mad? Could have fooled me," Velvet replied. Then as an afterthought she added as though reciting, "Humans are food. Humans are not our friends."
"VELVET!" Adriel snapped, losing his temper again. "SHUT UP! We're humans."
"Yes, that's your little biology theory, isn't it?" Velvet asked, bored, as she absently scratched behind Mercutio's ears. "It hasn't been proven. Although you're practically begging to be their first test subject, aren't you?"
Adriel put a hand over his forehead. "Velvet, stop. I'm really not in the mood."
Velvet did for a moment, and then abruptly she asked, "Do you work on Monday?"
"No…" Adriel looked over at her suspiciously. "Why?"
"I want to meet your doctor." Velvet grinned predatorily.
The familiar whistle followed by a loud CRACK! of the fireworks sounded overhead, lighting up the night sky. "Wow," Adriel felt, more than heard, his sister breathe next to him.
He couldn't help but agree, though. Keagan was experimenting with something new tonight: fireworks that exploded significantly longer than they did wide, creating a thick band of color in the sky.
After the last of the lights had died down, Adriel spotted "his" doctor easily, even in the dark. They approached him as he was squatting in the dirt, fiddling with something. "Is that him?" Velvet asked excitedly, as soon as they were within earshot of the scientist.
Keagan jumped and turned around. "Shit, Adriel, you scared me," he gasped, a hand on his chest.
"Watch it. There's children here," Adriel said evenly.
"Hey!" Velvet complained, scowling at her older brother. "I'm the same age as he is." She jerked her thumb to the confused doctor, who was slowly rising to his feet.
"You are not, and neither am I. Not where it matters," Adriel said with a sigh. "Anyway, I'm being rude. Velvet, this is Dr. McCabe. Doctor, this is my sister, Velvet."
Keagan's confused expression turned to pleasant surprise upon hearing that this was Adriel's sister. He held out a hand and Velvet took it demurely, shaking it. "Hi. I'm Keagan. Adriel didn't tell me he had a sister."
Velvet smiled sweetly, eyes lighting up as she took in his features. "Hey, brother, you were right. He's the hottest human I've ever met, too."
Adriel's mouth dropped open. "VELVET! I never said that!"
She turned to grin evilly at her older brother. "It's true, though, isn't it?"
For several moments Adriel stood there, gaping. "I… No… Well… DAMN IT, VELVET!" he shouted at last. "I did not bring you here to … to…"
"Ruin your chances with the Doctor?" she supplied.
"Velvet." This time it was Keagan, who had been watching the exchange with quiet amusement. "Don't terrorize him too much. I think he may actually explode."
"He hasn't yet," Velvet mused. "But I suppose you're right." She glanced at her brother before smiling at Keagan. "Actually he told me a bit about you and I told him I wanted to meet you. So I guess he just did me a favor."
"Well, I'm glad he did. It's very nice to meet you."
"Likewise," Velvet agreed cheerfully.
Adriel cleared his throat. "Yes, well, we won't stay to bother you. We just came to say hello."
Keagan was watching him with a half-smile on his face. "I wish you would. Stay."
"Oh," Adriel smiled a bit. "Well, I guess maybe for a little while. I have to go pretty soon, though."
"That's fine," Keagan said. "I'm working on something different and I'd l- like it if you'd stay and watch." He busied himself with setting up the next one. "You guys stand back a bit, okay? These are a little bigger than the last time you were out here."
He made sure Adriel and his little sister were standing far enough away before he finished setting up the experiment. He smiled a bit, remembering the look on Adriel's face the last time he'd been out here for one of Keagan's experiments. He lit the rocket, moving back to squat near Adriel, his notebook in hand for recording the results.
"Ooh," Velvet breathed as the firecracker exploded high above them in the sky. "A black one."
Adriel elbowed her sharply. "Velvet!" he hissed.
Keagan stood up, looking at her in surprise. "What did you say?"
"A… black one?" Velvet repeated in a small voice, ignoring the murderous glares from her brother.
"That was violet," Keagan said quietly. He looked at Adriel. "Did you see it?"
Adriel sighed. "We can't see violet. We're night predators, I guess, so we see infrared but not violet."
"Sorry," Velvet apologized to him. "But why would you care if he knows that or not? It's not like it's anywhere near as shocking as what he knows already."
"Can we talk about it later?" Adriel asked her, a slightly pleading note to his voice.
"I guess," Velvet sighed. "You're weird, Adriel."
"You can really see infrared?" Keagan asked. "Is that why you could find me so easily in the dark?"
"Of course," Adriel replied.
"What does it look like?" Keagan asked, his blue eyes shining with curiosity.
"Red? I don't know." Adriel shrugged. "What does violet look like?"
Keagan smirked. "Good point."
"Do… you have any more?" Adriel asked suddenly.
"Only one," Keagan said. "It's not violet, either. Want to see?"
Keagan instructed them to stay where they were, setting up his final experiment quickly. The explosion was a long, thin band of light that was bright red at the top, fading to orange at the bottom.
"Wow," the two vampires breathed in unison.
"He's really an artist, isn't he?" Velvet asked her brother quietly.
Adriel nodded. "Yeah," he agreed. Velvet looked at him suddenly, wondering at the tone of his voice. She smirked when she saw that he was watching Keagan clean up with a small smile on his face.
Keagan finished quickly, going over to Adriel and Velvet. "Do you want to come up?" he asked.
Adriel shook his head. "No. I have to go. If I come up I won't have time to do what I need to do before dawn." He looked at Velvet. "You can stay if you want to, though."
She glanced thoughtfully at the physicist and nodded. "I think I will," she murmured.
Keagan was a little disappointed that Adriel couldn't stay, but he nodded anyway. "I'm glad you came," he said.
"I am, too," Adriel said unexpectedly, and grinned.
"So can you stay out longer than your brother?" Keagan asked Velvet when they were in his office.
Velvet smirked. His curiosity was almost cute. "Yes," she finally replied. "I'm not sure if it's because his vampirism is stronger or what but he can feel the sun a few hours before it rises." She shrugged. "He's never seen the sunrise."
"And you have?" Keagan asked.
"Yes," Velvet replied with a nod. "Many vampires can. I think he feels a little left out sometimes because of that." She shrugged. "I'm glad he's finally found a friend, really. He's pretty withdrawn."
"I've noticed," Keagan said. "Can I ask you something? Did he tell you at all what happened last week?"
"Not really," Velvet replied, a bit amused. "Although from what I did get, it sounded like you were asking personal questions." She noted his confused expression and laughed a bit. "Keagan, we don't hunt any more than you do anymore. Someone else does and we buy our blood pre-packaged."
"Oh," Keagan said, feeling a little embarrassed. "But why is it personal?"
Velvet smirked. "All vampires are different, just like people. Adriel thinks that drinking from a human is a very intimate thing. He's kind of a prude, but if you ever get the chance to be vampire food you might understand."
"Hm," Keagan said with a bemused expression. After what seemed like a long time, he looked at her. 'Velvet. Would you mind helping me with something?"
Velvet's eyes lit up. "Is it a surprise for Adriel? 'Cause I'm all over that."
"Yes," Keagan agreed, smiling as he caught some of her enthusiasm. "Just as long as you don't mind meeting my best friend. And being a test subject, although I promise it's just for this and not to out the big secret of vampires to the world."
"I trust you," Velvet replied with a wide smile, picking a piece of lint off her sleeve. "Adriel says you're not a real scientist anyway."
"How was work, sweetie?" Velvet asked from the couch.
"Don't you have a life?" Adriel moaned, trudging across the room.
"Not really," Velvet replied after a moment of consideration.
"Oh," said Adriel. "Well, I'm going to bed." He pushed open the basement door.
"You got a letter from your doctor," she called after him. "The hot one."
That made Adriel pause in the doorway, but he didn't turn around to face his sister. "The one I haven't seen in almost a week?" His tone was a little hurt.
"Yes," Velvet agreed. "He wants you to go on a date with him tomorrow night."
Adriel turned. "What?"
"Heads up." Velvet tossed the letter in his direction. It landed a few feet short of the basement door and Adriel glared at her as he went to pick it up.
"He wants you to dress nice, and since sundown is at seven tomorrow he'll pick you up at eight. You don't have to call unless you can't make it," Velvet reported. "Oh, and his handwriting is much nicer than yours."
Adriel scrutinized the envelope, running his fingers over the tape that now held the flap shut. "You opened it," he accused.
"Yup," Velvet agreed. "I was making sure it wasn't … you know. Poisoned or anything. Or mean."
"Right." Adriel rolled his eyes. "I'm going to bed."
"Yip! Yip! Yip! Yip! Yip!"
"Shut up, Mutt."
Adriel opened the door quickly, like he'd been standing nearby waiting. His dark hair was pulled back into an impeccably neat ponytail at the nape of his neck, as usual, and he was dressed in a crisply pressed black suit. His only concessions to color were the ribbon tying his hair and his tie, which were both a dark, jewel-toned red.
In contrast, Keagan's suit was dark gray, his shirt was blue (and matched his eyes perfectly), his tie was patterned, and his jacket was slung over one arm. It was also the first time Adriel had seen him with his streaked hair actually combed down instead of spiked.
Keagan grinned. "So shall we?" he asked.
Adriel nodded, closing the door behind him. Keagan's car was a white sedan and while it wasn't new, it looked well taken care of. Keagan grinned slightly when he saw Adriel's dubious regard for his car. "What did you think I drove?" he asked, amused.
Adriel shrugged. "I don't know. A sports car maybe?" He looked at Keagan. "We don't know each other very well."
"Well, that's why we're going on a date," Keagan replied. He unlocked Adriel's door first but to the vampire's relief, he didn't open it before going over to the drivers' side. "Do you need to be invited into my car?" he asked over the roof of the vehicle.
"I think I can manage without," Adriel replied, rolling his eyes and opening the door. "So where are we going?" he asked once they were both seated. Keagan started the car and looked over his shoulder before pulling out into the street. "A restaurant. I remembered you don't like garlic so we're going to this nice bistro that Evan and I like. It has pretty good steak." He glanced at Adriel. "Is that okay?"
"Yes, Keagan, it's fine," Adriel said, smiling a bit at how worried his date seemed.
The car ride started out quiet, but after a bit, Adriel decided that he knew less about Keagan than Keagan knew about him. So he broke the slightly awkward silence to ask Keagan about his family, and as they parked, he learned that Keagan was from the Midwest and had an older brother and two much younger half-sisters. They were seated as soon as they arrived, and while mulling over the menu and sipping on glasses of red wine, Adriel found out that Keagan had moved here for the excellent physics program at the local university, and that it had been just over one year since he had received his doctorate.
When their food came, Adriel admitted that he was born and had lived in the area his entire life, that he had been home schooled by his mother until he was nineteen and then went out to get night jobs. He had tried college a few times but could never figure out how to juggle the classes so that he never had to go out in the sun; and even if he had gone to school, he wasn't sure what a vampire could do anyway.
Keagan had decided that that was a good time to change the subject and began asking about books and movies. He was a bit surprised to find out that Adriel had an interest in philosophy and preferred Camus to Nietzsche. He also had an interest in mythology, which perhaps wasn't quite as surprising, and he had just finished studying the Norse and had moved on to the Aztecs.
Adriel wasn't surprised at all to learn that Keagan was a bit of a science fiction geek who had a large collection of Star Wars models and old B-rated movies.
By the time the check came, both were much too full of food for desert, and were wearying of the bustling restaurant atmosphere.
Keagan paid the bill, grinning across the table at Adriel. "So what do you say we move onto the next part of the evening?"
Adriel had loosened up considerably and seemed to be much more relaxed than Keagan had ever seen him. Leaning back slightly in his chair, he easily returned his date's smile. "So there's more?" he asked.
"Yes," Keagan replied. "We have a midnight engagement to watch the sun rise."
Green eyes narrowed as Adriel's easy manner subsided and the vampire tensed up again. "What did you say?"
Unfazed, Keagan motioned for him to wait one moment. The waiter returned with Keagan's credit card, and he dropped a few bills on the table for a tip, picking up his jacket and standing up, gesturing for Adriel to follow.
He complied, but as soon as they were back in the car, he said, "Keagan, the sun doesn't rise at midnight, and even if it did I'd be unconscious with third degree burns before it was even over the horizon. I'm a vampire, remember?"
"I hadn't forgotten," Keagan said, with a smile. "Trust me, okay?"
"I guess," Adriel grumbled, still looking suspicious. Keagan fought a small smile, figuring that Adriel wouldn't appreciate being laughed at.
"Oh," he said, remembering something. "Do you want to change? We have some time and we'll be sitting outside on a blanket."
"Will we?" Adriel asked, sounding curious in spite of himself.
"Yes," Keagan told him cheerfully. "You can't watch a sunrise inside."
Adriel rolled his eyes. "I don't care." He looked at Keagan. "Do you want to change?"
Keagan shrugged. "Yeah, this isn't very comfortable. But I won't change if you don't want to."
Adriel grinned. "Fine. I don't want to." When Keagan frowned in his direction, he attempted an innocent look back. "What? I like how you look in that."
"Fine," Keagan said with a sigh. "We'll just go then, okay? We can look at the stars or something until it's ready."
"Okay," Adriel agreed, and then looked at his date suspiciously. "Why haven't you started the car yet?"
Keagan looked a little embarrassed. "Sorry. I don't really want you to see where we're going. I think it would ruin the surprise."
Adriel's sharp green eyes regarded him with curiosity, but he only shrugged. "Okay, blindfold me."
Keagan grinned. "Oh, good. I was hoping you'd say that. Come here." He pulled a handkerchief out of the pocket of his sport coat and reached over, tying it firmly around Adriel's eyes. "Is that too tight?" he asked.
Adriel scrunched up his nose, testing the feel of the handkerchief against his eyes and then shook his head. "No, it's fine. And before you ask, I can't see either."
"Okay." Keagan smiled and knotted the handkerchief. "Now we'll go. Don't take it off until I tell you." And he started the car.
"Can I take it off?" Adriel complained.
"Nope," Keagan said. "We've only gone five steps since the last time you asked. It's not much farther."
"Not that I mind holding hands or anything," Adriel said with a sigh, "but not being able to see is frustrating."
"We're almost there," Keagan said. "Besides, it will be worth it, I promise."
"Please tell me that this is why you've been ignoring me for the past week and not something to do with work."
"You might have to get used to it," Keagan told him with amusement in his voice. "It was work, but this was part of it."
Adriel was quiet as he thought about it, but then he shrugged. "Okay, as long as it was partly me I can forgive you." He waited a beat. "Can I take it off now?"
Keagan thought a moment before answering this time. "Twenty-three seconds."
Adriel frowned. "Twenty-three? Why twenty-three?"
"Well, I had to factor in the time it would take you to figure out we've stopped, and some time for questions, and then time for me to tell you that you can sit down and take it off but not necessarily in that order."
Before he even finished his sentence, Adriel had whipped the blindfold off without untying it and held it out at arm's length to Keagan. "You can have it back now."
"Thanks," Keagan said, putting it back in his pocket. "Now sit on the blanket and no looking around to try to figure out where we are." He nodded toward a few dark shapes a few hundred meters out. "I need to go check with my team for a moment, okay?"
"Sure," Adriel agreed. "And I wouldn't dream of trying to spoil your surprise."
In response, Keagan gave him a tender smile and brushed Adriel's cheek with his thumb briefly before heading out to talk with the only other people as far as the eye could see.
The chat had taken no more than ten minutes and Adriel had kept his promise not to try to figure out where they were, although he was curious. Keagan returned to see his date picking idly at the grass around the blanket. Adriel silently turned his eyes on Keagan as he sat down and grinned at the young vampire. "They're just about ready," he explained. "It will only be a few minutes before it starts."
"I've been trying to think of how you're going to make the sun rise at eleven forty-four pm," Adriel told him quietly. "I have my suspicions, but I don't know how you would get it to work."
"I hope you like it," Keagan said softly, smiling only slightly. "I lied when I said it was more for work than for you."
Just then, a light from the other end of the field caught Keagan's attention and he touched Adriel's arm. "That was their signal," he reported. "They're starting. Watch the sky right… there." He pointed.
The high-pitched, telltale whistles of several firecrackers tore through the night and with a crack of sound, the sky above exploded in bands of light similar to the ones Keagan had been testing just over a week ago, only much bigger. Pink, orange, and yellow strips exploded so close to each other that they seemed to blend together. With another loud whistle and crack, a single, bright circle of yellow light exploded behind the other bands just as they began fading from the top down, dancing across the sky in sparkles before going out until only the circle was left, and then it, too, sparkled and faded.
"Oh, God," Adriel breathed.
Keagan looked over at him. His eyes were wide and he was still staring at the sky, watching the slightly lighter clouds of smoke from the explosion fade from the sky. His mouth hung open just enough that the pointy tips of his fangs were visible.
"…Adriel?" Keagan asked softly after the silence seemed to stretch on forever.
Adriel made a noise in his throat, turning his shocked expression on Keagan. "Keagan," he whispered. "I can't… I can't believe you did that."
Forehead crinkled slightly in worry, Keagan asked, "Is it okay?"
Adriel shook his head. "No, Keagan… I don't know if you understand, but many vampires can watch the sun rise, but not me. This… this is the best present anyone's ever given me." He turned away, trying to wipe his eyes discreetly.
"To be fair, most people don't have the ability or the means to give you a present like that," Keagan replied softly. "…Are you crying?"
"No," Adriel said. "Not at all." It was a lie, and he knew Keagan knew it. He turned back toward the doctor and threw his arms around Keagan's waist in a tight hug. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," Keagan replied, voice slightly amused, but it was a warm sound. He returned the hug, tangling his fingers in the ends of Adriel's ponytail. "I didn't mean to make you cry," he added softly.
Adriel shook his head against Keagan's shoulder. "No, it's okay. It was… amazing."
"Velvet and Evan helped," Keagan told him. "To make sure I got the colors right."
"That little bitch. She didn't even tell me," Adriel complained, but his voice held a fond note and even in the dark Keagan could tell he was smiling. "I'll have to thank them both." He looked up at Keagan, his eyes serious. "Keagan, are you sure about this?"
"What?" Keagan asked, a bit taken aback by the subject change.
"I'm a vampire," Adriel reminded him.
"You keep saying that," Keagan murmured. "I promise I won't forget."
'We can't ever go anywhere together during the day," Adriel said. "And I drink blood and … it won't be a normal relationship, Keagan. It will be hard."
Keagan shrugged. "I don't mind, Adriel. Everything worth doing is hard."
Adriel snorted suddenly. "Keagan…"
"What?" Keagan asked, and then after going through what he had just said in his head, he laughed, embarrassed. "I really didn't mean it like that."
"I know," Adriel replied, looking into Keagan's eyes. He reached up, resting his fingers lightly against the back of Keagan's neck and pulled the taller man's head down, pressing their lips together in a kiss that was somehow both hard and sweet at the same time. "Thank you," he murmured again against Keagan's mouth.
Keagan pulled away slightly to laugh. "Stop saying that," he admonished, capturing Adriel's lips in another kiss.
"I don't work today," Keagan said suddenly. Adriel glared at him for interrupting to say something stupid like that and he laughed at the vampire's expression. "What I mean is, do you want to stay at my apartment today?"
"Do you have a basement?" Adriel asked.
"No," Keagan replied. "Should I get one?"
"Yes," Adriel said, grinning. "And in the meantime, you should stay at my house. I live in the basement. My family won't bother us."
"That sounds like a deal," Keagan murmured, answering Adriel's smile with one of his own. He brushed his thumb over Adriel's jaw line. "Do that again."
"What? Oh," Adriel realized what Keagan was talking about and smiled wider.
"That's more like it," Keagan grinned and pressed his lips to Adriel's once more.