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Written for Roji on Halloween 2005.

Life Among the Dead

by Erin

"Beecher, you are unbelievable - you've been in Romania for nearly two months and haven't gone vampire hunting until now?"

"First of all, I'd hardly call visiting a historical landmark 'vampire hunting'. Secondly, that's not really why I'm here. I didn't come here to do the 'touristy' things."

"Then why *are* you here?"

Toby turned away from the man next to him, and stared around the courtyard of the impressive 14th century castle they were standing in. It was a good question - what the fuck *was* he doing here? Ever since Chris's death he'd been so lost, so aimless. He'd gone through the motions, latching onto everyday dramas to keep him alive - his trial and acquittal for Keller's murder, life in Oz for another two years until they'd decided to give him a second chance at freedom, parole proceedings, getting out, settling back in to 'real life'. It had been enough to keep his mind occupied for a while, but as soon as he was left to just live his life again, things had gone downhill.

He didn't have his kids anymore. He'd agreed to let Angus and his wife adopt them after being incarcerated again, because God knew he'd never be able to give them a normal life. It was like Angus had become the father and he'd become the uncle who visited on weekends. He didn't have his job anymore - he was working as a secretary for some friend of his late father, who he couldn't stand. Most days, Toby felt like he didn't have his life anymore either. He was just living an empty, unfulfilling existence.

He hadn't really let it show though. He was no hermit - the years had been filled with friendships, relationships, family vacations... the only thing missing had been Toby's own passion for life. Any kind of passion. But passion was something he hadn't felt since... well, he'd rather not go there.

So he'd tried to regain what he'd lost. As soon as his probation was up, he'd thought, 'Fuck it', quit his crappy job and got the hell out of Dodge. Which was how he'd ended up backpacking through Europe like a goddamn college student for over a year. Which had led him here - living in a cheap hotel in Brasov, and striking up an acquaintance with Barry, the Canadian tourist currently residing in the room next to his. And of course Barry had dragged him here, to Bran Castle, as soon as he found out Toby hadn't been.

Toby sighed and decided to change the subject. "You know, despite what they want you to believe, Dracula never even lived here. In fact, there's the possibility that he never even stayed here."

"Beecher, why you gotta step on my buzz? Next you're gonna bring up the fact that Dracula wasn't really a vampire."

"Well, bursting your bubble is what I live for."

"Ass. Besides, who says there's no vampires around here?" Barry grinned devilishly and stalked towards Toby, grabbing his neck and groaning, "I vant to suhck your blood!" in the most god-awful attempt at a Transylvanian accent Toby had ever heard.

"Yeah, how about 'no'?" Toby laughed, pushing him away.

Barry just leaned in close again and whispered, "How about your cock, then?"

Toby eased out of his reach. "For the fifth time, *no*."

Barry just shrugged. "Whatever."

Toby couldn't help smiling as they continued walking around the castle. He'd only known Barry for a week, but he liked him - he was immature and easy-going and completely uncomplicated. Toby gladly welcomed the break from his life's usual drama, but that didn't mean he was going to let the self-proclaimed slut suck his cock. Especially not when he himself hadn't even been with a man since... still not going there.

Toby and Barry walked around, exploring sunny courtyards, pretty stone stairwells, twisty labyrinthine hallways and admiring the cozy-style architecture of Bran Castle for another twenty minutes or so, while Barry lamented the lack of anything even remotely creepy about 'Dracula's' castle.

"Jeez, if it's that important to you, go out and see the castle that Dracula actually lived in. Of course, I hear it's a pile of rubble now, but I'm sure it'll still give off blood-sucking vibes for you... Barry?" The man who'd been standing next to him just a second ago had disappeared. What the fuck? "*Barry!*" Toby called, "Where the fuck did you go?"

"Lose your friend, sir?"

"Jesus *fucking* Christ!" yelled Toby, practically jumping out of his skin as he whirled around to find another man standing behind him. "Shit. I mean, sorry, um - you startled me, and I... um..." Toby couldn't help staring. He certainly didn't believe in vampires, but if anybody could've changed his mind, it would be the man standing in the shadowy corner of the stone hall - his skin was even paler than Toby's had been while trapped inside Oz, and his shaggy ink black hair fell over a painfully gaunt face. His body was just as thin and fragile-looking - all skin and bones and sharp angles, like an old man. But as he stepped out into the light a little more, Toby could see that he was a lot younger than he'd thought, perhaps only nineteen or so.

"Are you all right, sir?"

The boy's voice was softly accented and very quiet. His eyes were... indescribable. All Toby could think was that they belonged on someone much older than nineteen.

"I'm ... fine," Toby managed. "Um, did you see where Barry - my friend went?"

"No, sir. Why would I have?"

"Never mind, I'll go look for him."

"He won't be happy about that, sir."

Okay, this fucking kid was starting to give Toby the creeps. "What the fuck are you talking about?"

"Do you have a particular fondness for your... friend, sir?"

"A particular... what the fuck have you done with him?"

"Me, sir? Nothing. He isn't happy though."

"Who, Barry?"

"No, sir. Not Barry."

A sudden commotion outside drew Toby's attention away. He ran to a nearby balcony and peered over to see Barry lying in the middle of a courtyard, tourists exclaiming and calling for help, crowding around his inert body, as blood stained the paving stones around his head. Toby felt his heart jump into his throat, and spun back around to the pale-skinned boy. But he had vanished.


"Beecher, for the last time, I'm fine!"

"Barry, you had severe blow to the back of the head, you've got five stitches in your scalp, a concussion and the doctor at the emergency room wanted you to stay overnight for observation, but of course you had to come back to the hotel like the stubborn ass you are, so I'd have to wait on you hand and foot."

"I'm not asking you to do anything! I just need to sleep. I'm fine."

"Someone threw you off a balcony!" And Toby couldn't even pretend that all kinds of memories hadn't been brought to the surface with alarming clarity by the sickening sight of Barry lying on the ground like that.

"If I'd been thrown off, I'd probably be dead. I told you, I remember hearing someone coming up behind me, and then something smashed into the back of my head, and then I'm waking up in the hospital. I don't know how I ended up down in the courtyard, but there's no way I could have been pushed and still be sitting here talking to you."

"And in the amount of time that elapsed between me losing you and finding you again, there's no way somebody could have carried you down the stairs fast enough."

"Beecher, I don't know what happened, and I don't care. I just wanna sleep, so leave me the fuck alone."

"Fine!" Toby stormed out of Barry's room and into his own. He stepped out onto the balcony and stared out over the red roofs of Brasov, a city filled with history and a place where Toby had felt like he could lose himself. But as usual, fucked up drama had tracked him down once again, only this time he could make no sense of it at all. Who had attacked Barry and why? And who the *fuck* was that creepy kid? Why had he suddenly just shown up like that?

"Because he's not happy with you, sir."

"*Fuck!*" Toby jumped a mile and whirled around. But there was no-one there. It was as though that softly accented voice had been a whisper on the breeze, but Toby had heard it, *fuck* - he had *heard* it!

"*Who's* not happy?!" Toby yelled into the fading afternoon light, "Where the fuck are you? *Who* are you?!"

The only replies were yells from nearby windows. Toby didn't speak much Romanian, but 'shut the fuck up' sounds pretty much the same in any language.

"Oh God," he moaned, running his hands through his hair over and over, "I'm going crazy again, aren't I? I'm standing here, yelling at nothing and talking to myself, I'm going nuts, I'm crazy, I'm *fucking* insane, aren't I?!" He took a couple of big, deep breaths.

And then he ran.

He ran from everything, from the voices in his head, the memories, the images, everything. Out of the hotel, and through the streets of Brasov, past centuries-old buildings and along cobble-stone lanes. He didn't know where he was going - he could have been running in circles for all he knew, but Christ! He had to keep going. He had to stop seeing and hearing it all. Barry laid out on the paving stones. Keller's broken body sprawled on the grey floors of Oz. His children's teary eyes when he'd said goodbye at the airport. The voices kept echoing -

"There's no way I could've been pushed..."

"Beecher - no!"

"Why are you leaving them again, Toby? Your children need you and you keep running away..."

"They're better off without me..."

"Toby, I'm - I'm glad. You're finally going to get some time to spend with your kids..."

"After all I've done for you..."

"He's not happy with you, sir..."

"I vant to suhck your blood!"

"You said didn't care who I fucked..."

"Toby! I love you..."

Toby slipped and fell on the wet pavement. It was raining. When had it started raining? He hadn't even noticed, but he was already soaked, and on his ass on the wet ground, panting heavily with a cramp in his side. Darkness had also fallen without him noticing. It suddenly occurred to him just how absurd it was to be out running at night, in the rain.

"FUUUUCK!!!" Toby roared in frustration.

"Need some help, sir?"

Toby looked up and saw the creepy boy standing over him, hand outstretched, face obscured by large, dark hood.

"You again!" Toby screamed. "All right, that is fucking *it!* Tell me who the fuck you are and what the hell's going on here!"

The boy sighed and reached down to pull Toby to his feet without asking. "Regrettably, I cannot do that, sir. I'm here merely to deliver a message. 'Go home'."

Toby blinked. "What?"

"He says you must go home to your children. Leave now, or the man who is currently sharing your bed will die." This was stated extremely matter-of-factly as though the kid were speaking about the weather and not Barry's life.

"Oh my God, it *was* you - you hurt him!"

"Of course, I didn't - you know perfectly well that I was with you at the time, sir. Lord, and he said you were intelligent."

"*Who* did?"

"He says that you have probably figured that out for yourself by now. Although, I do have my doubts, no offence, sir."

Toby started to tremble, although with cold, anger or fear, he wasn't sure. "Tell me who 'he' is and where I can find him."

"'He' is my master. And he says you must leave. Go home, Mr Beecher." And with that the boy disappeared into the rainy night.

"No!" Toby screamed after him. "I want answers! I want to know that you - he - won't hurt Barry again! I'm not even fucking Barry anyway - did you hear that?! I never fucked him!"


Toby spent the next day wandering around in a daze. He couldn't figure any of this out, because the whole thing was fucking *crazy*. All his gut kept telling was that this maybe had something to do with Chris Keller. But that was impossible, not to mention completely insane. Chris was *dead*. He'd seen him die, seen him go over the balcony, seen his broken neck, seen them take the body away. They'd tried to convict him for murder, but he'd had witnesses confirming that Keller had jumped. God-fucking-dammit - Chris was *dead*.

And to add to the mystery, Barry, who was still suffering from a splitting headache, had discovered that somebody had anonymously paid his hospital bills.

"What the fuck? Who would do that? I don't know anybody in this country except you."

"And it wasn't me," murmured Toby, as his own voice echoed in his head, "I never fucked him!"


It rained again that night. But it didn't stop Toby from going back to the street where the boy had found him the night before. Fuck his mysterious bullshit, Toby thought. He had to know. Had to know for sure. He leant against the wall next to the Sforii Alley, a tiny gloomy lane only a few feet wide, surrounded by high walls on both sides. And he waited, shivering in the cold, feeling the raindrops slide down the back of his neck into his shirt.

After ten or so frustrating minutes he heard the soft voice. "You needn't have come all this way, sir. I have been following you practically since you arrived in the country."

"Oh, really? And why's that?"

"Please go home, sir."


"Goddammit, you always gotta make things harder than they have to be, don't you, Toby?"

Toby's mouth dropped open. He knew that voice. He had not heard it years, but he had never, ever forgotten it. And it was coming from the dark shadows of the Sforii Alley. He pushed past the kid and crept into the darkness. He blinked but couldn't see a damn thing.

"C-Chris?" he whispered fearfully.

"Go home, Toby," the voice came again.

Jesus fucking Christ he *was* insane. He shook his head madly. "No - you're dead. You're *dead*."

"Yes, I am. And it's better for everybody if I stay that way, so please, Toby - go home."

"Chris -"

"Toby, I am on my knees and I'm fucking begging you - get your ass home. Go back to the kids you said you loved so fucking much."

"I *do* love them!"

"You gave them away to your brother!"

"How do you know that? How are you even here? How is this fucking possible?!"

"I would've thought that was fairly obvious. You're a smart guy, Toby. Work it out."

"You've been in Romania for nearly two months and haven't gone vampire hunting until now?"

"No," Toby whispered. He shook his head. "*No*."

"You can't handle this. And I can't handle you being here. Vlad!"

The kid poked his dark-haired head around the corner. "Yes, master?"

"Take Beecher back to his hotel. Book him a flight home and charge it to my account."

Vlad nodded solemnly. "Yes, master."

"No!" yelled Toby. "I wanna see you. Step out into the light so I can see you."

"No, Toby. I can't come any closer."


"Because if I do, I won't be able to stop myself from touching you. And I can't do that."

Toby stepped closer towards the shadows, blinking through the rain. "Please," he whispered softly, "I want you to. I want to see you. I want to touch you. Please?" His voice broke painfully on the last word, and his breath came in quick gasps as he blinked back tears.

He heard a deep, almost desperate-sounding exhale, and watched with equal parts wonder and horror as a large figure emerged from the shadows.

He hadn't changed. It had been years and he hadn't changed a bit. The face was just as strong and handsome, the body was still powerfully built, and the eyes were still intense and blue. Toby had changed a little - the lines around his mouth and forehead had etched deeper, there were whispers of grey in the hair at his temples, and while not at all fat, his belly had gone soft around the middle. But Chris was just as young and beautiful as he had been the day he died. The day he *died* - fuck!

"How...?" was all Toby could get out.

But either Chris didn't hear him or he didn't care, because he pulled Toby into the shadows and pushed him against the dripping wall. The kiss was hard and desperate and full of every kind of longing a human being was capable of. Toby cried out pitifully as he wrapped his arms tightly around the body he had never thought to hold again, lost his himself in the warmth of a nearly-forgotten mouth, felt the beat of a heart that should have long-since stopped, and felt his tears mix with the rain and the salty drops running down Chris's own face.

Chris pulled back long enough to hiss urgently, "I missed you. Oh sweet fucking *Jesus*, how I missed you," before crushing his lips against Toby's once more.

Toby cried harder as he felt tongue and hands all over him, and a hard thigh nudging between his legs. Oh, Christ he'd missed this too. This was what he'd wanted, what had been missing. This passion, this desire, this *need*. He rubbed himself against Chris shamelessly, not caring how he'd gotten here, not caring that this was impossible and fucked up and Chris was dead and he didn't believe in vampires. He didn't give a flying fuck. Because right now, here in Chris's arms, in a dark Romanian alley, soaked to the skin and tugging at Chris short wet hair - he was alive again. Alive like he hadn't been in... forever.

"Please... please," he heard himself whimpering, as Chris licked raindrops from his neck and rubbed his thigh harder against Toby's groin, while grinding his own erection into Toby's hip.

Chirs bit his earlobe, making Toby hiss. "Hold on, Toby - just hold on to me. Don't let go," he whispered hoarsely.

"I won't," he breathed, and thrust his hips, bunching the collar of Chris's soaked jacket in his fists and attacking his mouth again.

They moved together, in a rhythm they had composed long ago - well-practiced and never forgotten. Pushing, pulling, grasping; never close enough, never hard enough, never *enough*; fingers scrabbling, hands clutching for more, more, *more*, while hips shoved and tongues danced. Toby ground harder against Chris, causing him to answer in turn, their panting growing heavier, sharing each other's breath, swallowing each other's moans.

It was too much. Toby could feel it building up inside him and he couldn't hold on anymore. He opened his eyes and found blue eyes staring right back, staring straight *into* him, to the very depths of his soul and he gasped at the look Chris wore on his face - like he was looking at a thing of absolute wonder. Chris licked his lips, let out an almost hurt-sounding gasp of his own and buried his face in Toby's neck. Toby held on tight and Chris's body shuddered in his arms as he climaxed. Toby grabbed his ass and pulled him closer, before letting himself go - feeling his heart pound in time with the pulse of his dick as warmth spread through his pants. Chris cradled him lovingly, almost like a child, as his knees gave out and he shuddered through his own completion.

"Missed you too," Toby whispered, before passing out.


Toby woke up lying in a grassy field on a mountain, just below the crumbling ruins of a castle. It was morning and Chris sat in front of him, staring up at the ruins intently.

"Chris?" he murmured.

Chris turned to face him. "You're awake."

"How the hell did we get here? Last thing I remember -"

"That's not important," Chris cut him off. "You know what this place is?"

Toby blinked in the early morning sunlight, and peered up at the ruins. "No, but I could hazard a guess. This is Dracula's real castle, right?"

"Yep. Cetatea Poienari. I like to come up here sometimes - it's peaceful."

Toby scrambled over to sit next to Chris on the ground, wrapping the tartan blanket that had been covering him, around the two of them and leaning his head on Chris's shoulder. "Why did you bring me here, Chris?"

"I'm a vampire, Toby."

Toby shuddered. "I don't believe in vampires," he offered lamely.

"Yeah, well that don't change the fact that we're real."

"You're breathing. You're heart's beating. You're not dead. Although you should be."

"It's just habit, Toby. I don't need to breathe, but people tend to get suspicious when you don't."

He lifted Toby's hand and placed it beneath his shirt, over his heart. Toby could feel his heart pumping away. But then Chris stopped breathing. There was no panic, he just sat there calmly and simply stopped inhaling and exhaling. Toby's eyes widened in horrified fascination as he felt Chris's heart slow down and then stop completely in the terribly still chest. They sat there for more than a minute with Chris just staring sadly at him, not breathing, heart not beating. Finally he took a breath and his heart gave a feeble thump. He pushed Toby's hand away and said, "Believe me, now?"

Toby just shook his head, stunned into speechlessness.

"I'm a vampire, Toby. I never wanted you to know that, but it's the truth."

"Jesus fucking Christ," Toby whispered, head spinning with questions and disbelief. "Were you always one?"

"The whole time you've known me, yeah."

"When -"

"It was after Bonnie left me again. You know how I went kinda crazy during that time, right? Well, I hooked up with this weird guy. And he... turned me. I was so fucking high I didn't even know what was going on. He never asked my permission - no way I woulda chosen this. He just wanted to hurt me, make someone else as miserable as he was. Fucking asshole."

Chris took a deep breath and sighed. "You really wanna know all this shit, Toby? 'Cause it ain't gonna make it any easier, you shoulda just left when I told you to."

"*Tell* me, Chris. I have a right to know."

"Still just as bullheaded as ever," Chris smiled wearily. "Fine. It was after that that I killed those guys. I didn't wanna kill them, Toby. Don't get me wrong, I killed plenty of times before and after that, but it was always for a good reason. Those three didn't deserve it. I really did feel bad about it."

Chris turned to Toby, eyes searching his face imploringly. "It was the bloodlust, Toby. It couldn't help it, I didn't know how to fight it back then. I... I fucking *fed* off them, Toby. It was disgusting. And then I sliced their necks up real good, so you couldn't see the bite marks. That was before I found out there were... alternatives."


"Did you know that jizz has got pretty much the same chemical composition as blood?"

"Wha... oh my God."

Chris grinned at him. "Better to be a cocksucker than a bloodsucker, huh?"


"Plus cum's got something over blood when it comes to being... self-sustained."

"You mean you drank your own - "

"Only when I had to, Toby - despite what the fucking movies tell you, we can go for months without a feeding."

Toby glanced back up at the ruins. "So was Dracula really a vampire?"

Chris grinned. "Yep. Although the most shitty stuff he did, he did as a human being."

"I don't understand how you managed to fake it for all those years. I mean you were shot, stabbed..."

"And I didn't die, did I? Sometimes, you just gotta play the part, Tobe."

"And then you killed yourself."

Chris's expression grew shuttered. He looked down at his feet and murmured, "Yeah well, ain't no-one can play dead like the undead, huh?"


Chris irritably shook the blanket off him and stood up. "*Why?* You told me I was death. I did it for you, Toby. Every fucking thing, I have done for you. You know, I could faked my own death and been outta Oz my first week. But I stayed for you. And then after you got paroled, I fucking had to *keep* staying in that place, 'cause I didn't want you to know the truth, know what I was. It was fucking Catch-22 and either way, I'd lost. So I gave you what you wanted - your freedom. I finally realized that your kids were more important to you than I was. So I let you go back to them. I did that for you. And you fucking *threw it in my face!* You're in fucking Europe, fucking around with some goddamn Canadian, while brother does *your* job as father!"

Toby jumped to his feet and shoved Chris. "Fuck you! I told your little servant boy that I never fucked Barry!"

"I know! And I apologized!"

"You think paying his medical bills makes up for almost killing him?!"

"All I did was knock him on the head! He's fine. I just put him down on the ground floor like that so -"

"'So' what?"

"I wanted to hurt you, okay? I wanted you to look down at him and remember me. Me! And what I did for you! I never wanted you to find me, Toby, never wanted you to know what I was. But I saw you there that day, and he had his goddamn hands all over you, and I lost it, okay? I got sloppy, and you got suspicious and now here we are." Chris's face was stormy and he clenched his fists as he trembled with emotion.

"Chris, I..." Toby swallowed. "I'm sorry, okay? But my kids... I love them, but I fucked them up, Chris. And I can't fix it. Angus can give them everything I can't."

"But he can never be their father. And they cried when you left them again to come here. You hurt them so bad, Toby. And don't ask me how I know," he added, putting up a hand to stop Toby's unasked question.

"You need to go home, Toby. You need to make this right. You need to stop giving up so fucking easily. When I 'died' I did the hardest thing I've ever had to do. Don't make what I did worthless, Toby. Don't drive that final nail in my coffin."

Toby just stared at him silently for a few moments. God, he was so fucking beautiful. Here and alive, with the sun making his eyes sparkle and the mountain breeze rippling his white linen shirt. Everything Toby had dreamed of and longed for in the purgatory since Oz.

"How can I leave knowing that you're here, that you're alive?"

"You gotta find someone else. Get your kids a mommy."

"Fuck! I don't want anyone else. I know you know about all the woman I've been with over the years. And it hasn't worked with any of them. How could it when they weren't you? When they didn't know all of me, they way you do? The good, the bad and the ugly and you love me anyway. Nobody will ever love me the way you do, as *much* as you do, Chris. And I never realized that or appreciated that until after you 'died'. You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."

Chris snorted and tried to lighten the atmosphere. "Quote fucking song lyrics at me again and you're dead man."

"Chris, *please* - I'll go home, I'll try again, but I want *you*. I *need* you."

"Toby, look at me - I don't fucking age. I can't stay anywhere for too long without making people suspicious. I can't be with you forever. What - you gonna tell your kids you're bringing a vampire home? Doubt that'll go over too well."

"Chris... " Toby cried softly, feeling the tears threatening to spill down his cheeks.

"Toby," he whispered tenderly, cupping Toby's face between his hands, "no matter happens, remember that I'm alive and that I love you. Remember that there's someone in this world who will always fucking *adore* you, no matter what. As long as you have that, nothing else matters. As long as you have that, you can make it."

"How can you be so sure?"

"It's how got through these years without you. And it's how I'll get through the rest of them."

Chris pressed his lips softly against Toby's. There was something so final, so bittersweet about it that it could not have been mistaken for anything but a goodbye kiss.

"Go be a good daddy to your kids, Tobe. Remember how important they are to you, and how much you'd be willing to do for them. And for Christ's fucking sake - *please* don't ever try to find me again. Because *fuck* - I'm not strong enough to keep doing this. And I don't think I could do it again."

"Just let me hold me you again," Toby whispered.

"Always gotta make things harder than they have to be, huh Toby?" But he smiled sadly and wrapped Toby in a strong embrace. "I love you, Toby. Now and forever, I fucking love you."

"I love you too, Chris."

"I can't take you back, Toby. Walk down to the village and get the tourist bus back, they come in everyday."

Toby suddenly felt panicked "Chris?"

He pulled away and gave Toby one last radiant grin, like light from the purest sun. "Goodbye."

And then he was gone. Whisked away like a shimmery whisper on the breeze.

"Goodbye," Toby whispered, "And thank you."

****** THE END

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