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[personal profile] flamebyrd
Title: The Second Hand Unwinds
Author: [personal profile] flamebyrd
Wordcount: 3,507
Rating: PG
Pairing(s): M/M
Notes: In my last prompts request post, [personal profile] tygati said "I wonder what you could do with a (well-adjusted) vampire and a time-traveling bounty hunter. :)". I wrote that in the comments over the next few days, and then for her birthday [personal profile] kiyoshi_chan requested more vampire world-building and it grew a little. So here's the slightly brushed-up and expanded version.



There were some who said that rift-hunting was the solution to a self-perpetuating problem. The under-funded Department of Chronological Integrity couldn't afford the staff to track down and heal time rifts, so they hired bounty hunters to take care of it for them. But, they said, all the time rifts were caused by rogue time-travellers, who were always former bounty hunters.

Varun had never put much stock in that idea. He'd been doing this job for close to ten years now and never once had the urge to mess around with history or his own future.

That was before it started.

His current job had taken him to -2348.056 and a glitzy party by the standards of that century. As far he could tell, the culprit was long gone — pity, there was a nice bonus attached to bringing in a rogue — so he just had to find and heal the rift without any of the locals noticing. Easy.

One of the other party-goers was staring at him. Varun surreptitiously glanced down at himself, but no, his appearance modulator still seemed to be working.

He turned away, concentrating on listening to his scanner. In an area this populated, it was vital to get to the rift before it grew large enough for anything to fall through.

Somebody touched his arm. "Excuse me." Varun wasn't surprised to see it was the man from before. His voice was soft and accent different from the other people at the party. "We have met before, have we not?"

It was prohibited for him to visit the same continent in the same two-hundred year period twice. Varun shook his head. "Pretty sure I would have remembered someone like you," he said, cocking his head and not even caring whether same-sex flirting was permissible in this society. He wasn't putting it on — the man was ridiculously attractive, although there was an unusual grey pallour to the brown of his skin-tone that gave him a slightly sickly look.

"Really? I could have sworn..." The man shook his head. "I am sorry to have bothered you."

"It was no bother." Varun smiled at him, winked and turned away.

That was the first time.

The second time he was in -1400.285. The rift was somewhere in a sewer beneath a city street, and Varun was not looking forward to getting down there so he could do something about it.

Sunset had been a couple of hours before, but there were still occasional people passing along the footpath. It had taken him some time to synthesise period-appropriate roadblock materials, but he was just about ready to get started.

As he was placing the cones around the man-hole cover one of the pedestrians stopped short, staring at him.

Varun looked up, and froze. It was... no, surely that was impossible. The man from the party?

The man broke into a warm smile. "It is you," he said. "It has been some time. I was starting to wonder if perhaps I was imagining you."

"I'm sorry," said Varun quickly. "I'm afraid you've made a mistake." In his ear, his scanner went crazy. Damn it, damn it, damn it. That flash of recognition, when recognition should be impossible, had triggered the rift to widen. He had to get to it as soon as possible.

"I do not think so," said the man. "I have a good memory for faces."

"You're mistaken," said Varun firmly. "If you'll excuse me, I have work to do." He turned his back on the man and continued to lay his cones, faster now.

When he glanced behind himself a moment later, the man had disappeared.

In -1700.122 he was closing in on a rift in a small, peaceful village during a persistent spring shower when he collided with someone. His cry of surprise could, he hoped, be mistaken for annoyance at the collision and his subsequent fall into a muddy puddle rather than recognition. Despite his hopes, the beeping in his ear picked up a little.

The man offered Varun a hand up. His skin was cool to the touch.

He still looked the same as the other times — same finely sculpted cheekbones, same little quirk to his smile, same slightly sickly skin tone.

"Can you talk to me now?" asked the man.

Varun shook his head in confusion. "I don't understand."

The man cocked his head. "You are not a vampire," he said. "So how is it that we keep meeting like this?"

Varun swallowed thickly. "We've never met before."

"But we have," said the man. "A bit over two hundred years ago, in—"

Varun's scanner screamed in his ear. Varun wrenched his hand away from the man and ran into the darkness. He managed to close the rift — now almost big enough to allow a human being to fall through — on autopilot, then programmed his jumper for home.

--

All time travellers were required to have a regular therapist. Varun quickly sent a message to his.

He had a call within five minutes.

"A vampire?" repeated Sera.

"That's what he said. He wasn't a time traveller, my scanner didn't react until he started talking to me," said Varun.

She clucked her tongue. "I don't think we've ever encountered a situation like this before. I don't think we even have policies about it. As far as I know vampires have been extinct for centuries."

"So what do I do?"

She shook her head. "Ordinarily I'd have to remove your time travel privileges, but it's clear we can't do that in this case. You've obviously met this vampire on at least two other occasions in your future — his past."

"How can I stop him from spoiling me on my future?" He paused. "Or me on his past."

"For encounters before your most recent encounter, keep pretending you don't recognise him," she said. "After that... it's up to you, I suppose. It won't cause a rift to tell him about time-travel, and it might help prevent future rifts."

"Right," said Varun. "But I have two more past rifts to deal with first."

"Probably more than two," she said. "Sorry. And I'm going to assign your next few jobs, since I don't know specifically when any of your encounters have been." That was policy — no specific dates.

He could see her logic. If he'd been choosing his own jobs, he would probably have tried to fill in the gaps in his encounter with the vampire.

Under Sera's direction, he successfully completed three jobs without incident. The next time he saw the vampire was -3123.341.

The rift was somewhere in the dining room of what passed for an inn in this century. He ordered a meal with his synthesised coin and hoped this was the kind of place that emptied out as the night wore on.

The vampire was working at the bar.

Varun had been mentally preparing for this to happen. He didn't let himself react at all when their eyes met.

The vampire looked at him with interest, but no recognition. "You are new in town," he said.

He nodded. "Just passing through."

The vampire smiled at him. "I hope you will find the accommodations here comfortable," he said.

Varun was hard-pressed not to return that smile. "Thank you."

"Let me know if there's anything I can do for you," the vampire added, rather blatantly checking him out.

Varun was caught in a dilemma. If he returned the flirting, he would probably ensure that the vampire would recognise him the next time they met, which... had already happened. But if he let the knowledge of that influence his actions, would it cause the rift to widen?

Varun coughed. "A drink, if you will. The strongest you have."

In -1189.462 he passed by the vampire sitting on a bench as he hunted for the rift in a suburban park that was too well-utilised in the day-time. The rift was in early stages yet, so he steeled himself and joined the vampire on the bench.

The vampire glanced at him curiously, his eyes widening in recognition.

Varun cleared his throat. "My name is Varun. I'm a time-traveller."

The vampire's eyebrows rose.

"That's why we keep meeting like this. And that's why it's so important that you never tell me when you've met me. It might still be in my future, you see."

"Of all the theories I had come up with," said the vampire slowly. "That was not one."

"Well, there's no way I can prove it to you," said Varun. "But you asked."

The vampire's lips quirked. "That was some six-hundred years ago, by my reckoning."

Varun flushed. "It was last month, for me."

"And that was not the last time we met."

Varun glared at him. "I told you not to talk about that."

The vampire put his hand to his mouth. "So you did. I apologise."

Varun shifted on his seat. "So. You're a vampire."

"That I am," said the vampire agreeably. "My name is Samum."

"I, er... I didn't think vampires existed."

"We try very hard to keep it that way," said the vampire.

"Do you... drink human blood?"

The vampire made a revolted face. "Humans are unclean," he said. "They eat flesh." At Varun's expression, he laughed. "I am making a joke. But it is true that we prefer to drink from plant-eaters."

Varun's scanner began beeping insistently in his ear and he got to his feet. "I'm sorry, I have to go," he said. "It was nice to finally meet you."

"Perhaps we will meet again," said the vampire.

In -1923.538 the rift was in a marketplace that was far too busy during the day for Varun to attempt to a closure. He made his way back after dark.

The village square was empty until the vampire appeared from the shadows as if by magic. "Now, this cannot be coincidence," said the vampire. "Surely you cannot say you do not recognise me."

"I don't know you," said Varun shortly. "Please leave me alone."

The vampire sighed. "I do not like this any more than you," he said. "I mean you no harm. I am merely curious."

Varun felt guilty. "I'm sorry," he said. "But I really cannot talk to you right now."

The vampire held up his hands and backed away. "Very well."

In -915.23 he found himself sharing a meal with the vampire - Samum - while he waited for a restaurant to close for the night.

"Why do you time-travel?"

Varun had never had to explain rift-hunting before. In his time, everybody knew about it. He fumbled for words. "Sometimes things happen to disrupt the time-stream. When that happens, rifts appear. If they grow very large things can start falling into them, so I fix them before that happens."

Samum rested his chin on his hand and raised his eyebrows. "What happens when things fall into rifts?"

"Usually, they fall into another time period - which generally causes another rift. That's why it's important to close them quickly."

"There is a rift nearby now?"

Varun nodded.

Samum closed his eyes for a moment. "It is in the corner of this restaurant, is it not? Behind the bar."

"Yes," said Varun, astonished. "How did you—"

"I am very old," said Samum, matter-of-fact. "I suppose I am attuned to — what is the term they use — the space-time continuum? Many of the times I have met you, I was sensing one of these disruptions."

The wait-staff began packing up the restaurant, giving Varun and Samum impatient looks.

"I need to close the rift," said Varun, watching them out of the corner of their eye. "Do you suppose you could distract the waiter?"

"I have certain abilities," said Samum. "They will not remember you, even if they see you."

Varun blinked. "That's useful."

Samum shrugged. "Sometimes."

Whether it was thanks to Samum or pure luck, the waitstaff didn't appear to notice anything as he closed the rift.

"I have to go," said Varun. "The longer I stay, the greater the risk another rift will open." He paused. "It was... nice to see you again."


Samum put a hand on his arm. "I have one more question," he said. "Can you bring me with you?"

Varun gaped at him.

"This century is very dull," said Samum. "I would greatly appreciate being able to just skip it."

"You can't travel into your future," said Varun. "It's impossible. And there are no multi-person time-travel devices."

"Ah well," said Samum. "I will make do. It has been pleasant talking with you."

Varun triggered his jumper.

Back in his own time, he delivered his usual report to Sara and collapsed into bed.

--

Varun's apartment was empty of fresh food and he wasn't quite desperate enough to try synthesising something, so he reluctantly pulled on clean clothes and headed to the breakfast bar around the corner.

Somebody touched his elbow as he reached for the door. Varun turned blearily to meet amused brown eyes.

"They told me you always take breakfast here after a job," said Samum. "I am glad you did not break your routine. It was difficult enough to find you, given you never told me when you were from."

Varun stared at him, utterly lost for words.

Samum gently guided him into the breakfast bar. "Have food. Then we will talk."

Once he had a plate and some caffeine in front of him, Varun felt more prepared to tackle this new development. "You were looking for me?"

"Of course," said Samum, sounding surprised. "Once they invented time-travel I started watching for time-travellers named Varun. There have been many, I hope you realise. You could have given me a surname."

Varun shook his head. "You've really lived all that time?"

"I've lived a lot longer than that," said Samum, with a shrug. His appearance hadn't changed much in the time Varun had known him, although his hair was longer than it had been the most recent time Varun had met him.

Samum had folded his arms in front of himself and was sitting preternaturally still. In the light of day he looked almost alien.

Varun blinked. "It's daytime," he pointed out. "I've only ever seen you at night before."

Samum looked at him a little oddly. "I can go out in sunlight," said Samum slowly, "but I burn easily, and my daylight-vision is very poor. Generally I prefer not to. I have been awake all night."

"So I'm keeping you up past your bedtime?"

Samum smiled. "Something like that. We do not sleep in the way that you know it."

"Well, give me your contact details and maybe we can catch up in the evening sometime."

Samum squeezed Varun on the shoulder before he departed.

"He an ex?" asked the waitress, as she cleared up Varun's plate. "It looked awkward. Sorry about that."

"No," said Varun. "Just an old friend, of sorts."

He next saw Samum in -400.365.

The vampire had always been flirty with him, but he seemed to have turned up the heat this time. After a moment, Varun let himself relax into it and enjoyed the flow. There were worse things than to spend New Year's Eve with an attractive gentleman.

"Have you always been a vampire?" Varun asked curiously, stretching out on the picnic blanket Samum had brought. They were far enough away from other people that he wasn't worried about being overheard.

Samum shook his head. "Although it was very a long time ago that I was human."

Varun took a bite of a bread roll that was the fruit of a last-minute visit to a local bakery. "Is it... I mean, how do you become a vampire, then?"

"It is not a transmissible disease," laughed Samum. "If I bite you, you will be a human with a bite. There was an ancient poison made of various plants that are largely extinct now. Most humans, it kills. Some, it... transforms."

Varun thought about that for a moment. "So there can't be any new vampires?"

"As far as I'm aware, there have been no new vampires since the thirteenth century. It doesn't bother me. I was serious when I said that most died."

"Why did you choose to risk it, then?"

Samum cocked his head. "You could say that I was not fully aware of the risk," he said. "Although that is not entirely true. I was dying of an illness for which there was no cure. I had heard that a peculiar clan bore the ability to cure all ills so I left my village and family in search of them, despite the rumour that their knowledge came from a blood-drinking demon."

"And they gave you the poison?"

"They tried more conventional cures first," said Samum. "They had a healer, although he gave all his healing advice from within a closed tent, and his assistants did all the work. I thought he had to be the demon."

"But he was a vampire?"

Samum nodded. "When it all proved fruitless, they told me all they could offer me was a merciful death. But the poison didn't kill me." He smiled. "It was then that I learned that the healer who never left his tent was not a demon but a man like myself, who had taken the poison of merciful death and survived."

They were interrupted by the first of the fireworks lighting the sky with bright colours. Varun got to his feet. "I'd better close the rift now, while everybody is distracted," he told Samum. "I'm sorry to run out on you."

Samum just smiled at him and stroked his arm gently. "We will meet again, I am sure. Fare well."

The next time he saw Samum was barely three days layer, in Varun's own time. They met for evening drinks.

"This is a little strange," said Varun. "For me, it's been three days since we last met - New Year's Eve, -400, for the record. For you it's been centuries."

"One would think this happens to time-travellers all the time," teased Samum.

"Not really, no," said Varun. "We don't even have policies for meeting the same person in multiple centuries." He scratched his head thoughtfully. "Are there other vampires? Last time — I mean, in -400, you said there hadn't been a new vampire in centuries."

"Of course," said Samum, surprised. "Although usually we all try to maintain our secrecy from humans."

"You don't stick together?" said Varun. "I would think it would grow lonely, keeping yourself hidden all the time."

"Most of us find we are better able to maintain our relationships if we don't live together," said Samum delicately. "I see them often enough for comfort."

Varun laughed. "I know how that goes."

In -726.283, Samum kissed him.

It was late afternoon, and Varun had just managed to find the rift he was seeking.

"I knew I would find you here," said Samum, smiling at him. "I am glad. It has been too long."

Varun couldn't help returning that smile. "Don't tell me how long," Varun reminded him.

"I won't," said Samum. He took a step closer and drew one of Varun's hands into his cool ones. "But perhaps I have not made my intentions clear." He cocked his head. "Would you mind if I kissed you?"

Varun blinked, then blinked again.

"I will not be offended, no matter the answer."

"No," said Varun. "I wouldn't mind."

Samum stepped into Varun's space and kissed him quickly. "I would very much like to see you more often."

"I can't," he said. "I mean... visiting the same place within 200 years is risky as hell."

Samum shrugged. "Then I will make do with what I can get." He kissed Varun again, deeper and longer. "Do we have some time before you close your rift? I would like to make use of it."

"Yes," breathed Varun. "I think we can spare it."

Once he got back to his own time, Varun scrambled to find Samum's contact details.

"I'm coming over," he told the surprised vampire. "Don't go anywhere."

Samum was waiting outside his apartment when Varun arrived.

"I'm sorry," said Varun, words tumbling out without much thought. "I only just—"

Samum took Varun's hand and pulled him into the apartment with a smile. "I waited a long time to find you," he said simply. "It was no trouble to wait a little longer."

END

Date: 2012-08-06 12:52 am (UTC)
tygati: (Default)
From: [personal profile] tygati
^___^ They are so cute.

Date: 2012-08-06 10:32 am (UTC)
silverai: (Default)
From: [personal profile] silverai
I think my mind just stupefied from the awesome. Well done, well done indeed.

Date: 2012-08-07 02:23 am (UTC)
sqbr: Torchwood spoilers for various episode numbers: Jack dies (torchwood spoilers)
From: [personal profile] sqbr
I really liked this!

Date: 2016-06-14 10:45 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] partypaprika
This was really fantastic! I loved reading this!

Date: 2016-06-16 05:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] codedwaltz.livejournal.com
Aww, this was really sweet! I need to read all the rest of your original fic now. :D

Date: 2016-06-17 02:10 am (UTC)
alexseanchai: Blue and purple lightning (Default)
From: [personal profile] alexseanchai
This is sweet :)

Date: 2017-01-23 05:15 pm (UTC)
lynnmonster: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lynnmonster
I really liked this!
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