Some people try to ignore bad things in the hopes that they will go away. I don’t. I try to ignore bad things in the hopes that I won’t make them worse by spewing my own special brand of crazy on them and kicking off a bad-crazy-neurotic-awkward chain reaction of amplifying horribleness. So when the faerie started peering back at me through our shared leyline, I just froze. If I reacted to her I would give myself away, and then who knew what she would do? I seriously hadn’t thought this through: if she tried to drain me here, in public, someone was going to get seriously hurt and I had no way of being sure it would be either her or me.
Wouldn’t it be ironic if, after everything Lewellan had done to try to catch me, I ended up getting pummeled by Bob and handed over to the police because I’d gone on a rampage in a dance club? Jeeze, ‘goth-punk rave club’ practically screamed ‘vampire rampage zone,’ too.
The only consolation I had was that I hadn’t frozen time. Freezing time had become my new instinctive reaction to danger, and that meant that on some level — despite what my paranoia and anxiety were screaming at me — I didn’t really think I was personally under threat of immediate harm. Yet.
It took another second — a second in which I wasn’t breathing, since the only other option was hyperventilating — before I realized why my fight or flight instincts hadn’t locked down time and gotten me the fuck out of here.
Firstly? The faerie had a hand on my elbow. If I locked down time I’d be frozen in place, too. And secondly? I’d been watching and she hadn’t taken more than a sliver from that guy. I hadn’t seen anything malicious in her emotions when she’d done it, either. It had almost sounded like she was trying to help him deal with something. If that wasn’t crazy of me to think?
But thirdly: She had spoken to me in the same tone of voice she had that other guy, and in retrospect he hadn’t seemed to notice her. Unless he’d been letting her feed on him voluntarily? No, I decided. She’d been talking to him, but also to herself.
And now she was talking to me, but only for herself to hear. She doesn’t realize I’m aware of her, I thought — and I desperately hoped I was right, because I had not considered the possible ramifications of confronting a faerie in a public place in advance, and they were horrifying to me right now. Vague, but vague in the sense of oh fuck this could go bad so fast you stupid girl why didn’t you think this through?!
I needed to retreat and come back with an actual plan.
“Oh, wow,” the faerie said. “You are one huge bundle of stress baskets, aren’t you?” I didn’t respond. I kept my eyes on Fumiko so the faerie wouldn’t be able to see my expression, and tried to think about all the things I had to worry about other than being found out by the faerie I was hunting. I knew she couldn’t see my thoughts, just my emotions — but I was worried that those emotions would be too linked to her and give me away anyway.
Of course, I had to shove that concern away immediately, lest it give me away in and of itself. I focused on Hans instead. He had been about to break up with me, before Lewellan had shown up. Now he was under a geas of Lewellan’s and the Director was trying to have me killed. I’d killed Daniel, and Emma might be dying or might be turning into a ghoul. Megan had been kidnapped. Archarel probably had a secret way into the city. Pretty much everything was fucked, and this plan to ignore the faerie was horrible because I was going to totally freak out about all this other stuff and start babbling any second now, and it didn’t matter that the only one here for me to rant neurotically at was the very faerie I was trying to ignore!
Actually, if this faerie wasn’t evil like Pipsqueak, maybe I should just start talking to her and ask for help? But if she wasn’t evil, then what had she been doing with Mr. Eyelids and his nightmare brigade? The connection I’d been tracking was from the debt I’d acquired from those fae who’d shown up to fight Mr. Salvatore and failed to defeat him… so she had to have been there. Just in a different shape, probably. And she had to have been one of the fae who’d attacked Mr. Salvatore with the bonus motivation of claiming me for a torture-and-terror toy. Also, if I just tried to talk to her and she was evil then she’d be able to teleport away down another leyline — maybe all the way to faerie-land to tell Archarel what an idiot I was.
Dammit Abigail, why is your plan always just: ‘Freak out and roll with whatever happens’?! I needed to start thinking things through. Maybe then I’d realize some of this stuff before it was right there in front of me. If I didn’t get it together one thing was certain: a lot more people than just myself were going to suffer. Like Megan, and Hans, and Emma.
And Daniel. I killed Daniel. But he came back! Except, by that logic, it was okay that Mr. Salvatore had killed me. But it wasn’t. So it was not okay that I’d infected Daniel with the curse that killed him and turned him into a ravenous cannibal. I killed him. Oh god. Suddenly I couldn’t focus on the faerie or Hans or Emma or anything else. Killer. Murderer. Monster. I started to tremble from the deluge of recriminations.
“Let’s see if we can’t calm you down a little,” the faerie muttered to herself while I wound up toward an explosion of guilt and anxiety and shame and horrifyingly merciless moral introspection. And then, before I could say or do anything, I felt our leyline pulse again. Only this time, the line didn’t widen. Or shrink. The pulse was just a shifting of form.
It coincided with a shift in my aura as a trickle of it began to siphon away.
Shit, no! Danger!
I immediately froze time.
It was probably the worst thing I could have done.
The faerie was frozen, as was the entire club. Unfortunately, that meant she was frozen with her hand still on my elbow — and that meant I was frozen, too. Or rather: everything within a foot of that touch was. But what was even worse? What I hadn’t accounted for? The thing that turned my go-to instinct into an unmitigated disaster?
It was that the leyline between us was still open, and I was operating in a different time stream than she was. Which meant that whatever method she had of consciously regulating the flow of essence from my aura to hers had been effectively stopped as well. After all, no matter how fast ‘the speed of thought’ was, you still needed time to be able to think.
I felt an overwhelming rush of vertigo as my aura flooded away from me. I wavered in my seat. The only thing that kept me from falling over was that I was locked in place where the faerie was touching me. My vampire curse — the little node that devoured my buffer of essence in order to fuel my various supernatural powers — roared into overdrive.
Apparently, ‘being alive’ constituted a supernatural power. The curse consumed my buffer in a vain effort to push essence into my aura — only for it to be ripped into the leyline running from myself to the faerie.
I don’t know how long, subjectively, that process took. I couldn’t think through the disorientation of my emotions being ripped out of me. All I knew was that one second I had frozen time, and the next… The next second I didn’t have enough essence to make time bend to my will.
The world started moving again. My fangs extended, cutting into my lower lip. The faerie screamed in… surprise? Shock? Ecstasy? Agony? Whatever it was, she screamed as she was hit by the equivalent of my entire aura and all my reserves of essence in one instant.
I think she might have tried to pull away, but whatever else consuming that much essence at once was like, it had left her stunned. I, on the other hand, was starving. My bottle of water was in my right hand, and she was holding my right elbow. I snapped my free hand over hers. Gotcha! I grinned viciously as I spun in my seat to face her, keeping a grip on her phantasmal hand. I had the bitch, and I wanted my fucking aura back.
“Oh dear me,” I purred maliciously. “What do I have here?” The faerie tried to pull away, but it was too late. Even though her hand was insubstantial, it wouldn’t slip free from my grasp. “No escaping,” I snapped at her — just to make sure. “You owe me, Faerie.”
She froze in the midst of jerking away from me, which only served to widen my smile. Not only did she owe me, but currently all of my conviction that she owed me was already inside her own aura. Through our leyline I could sense the geas snapping into place, sinking its hooks into her own aura.
I put my bottle of water — Water! Seriously? How… anemic. — down on the bar and gave the faerie a little yank to bring her closer. She stumbled forward, still in shock — but as she came out of it her eyes widened.
“I know you,” the fae woman squeaked. “I… ” She saw my fangs and tried to recoil, but the geas wouldn’t let her. “No,” she wailed. “Oh, no. Please no. No, no, no no no…”
I sneered at her. She sounded like me, when I was alive and freaking out about something. Which made perfect sense, but still: pathetic. “Stop yammering,” I ordered. “It’s annoying to the people around you, and this is your own fault anyway.”
The rest of my bonbon’s protests cut off with a sob. She failed to stop the tears that started running down her cheeks. At least they were silent, though. How can people put up with me when I’m like this? I idly wondered. The only upside was that her abject terror was immensely satisfying to my predatory impulses. Maybe they’re all closet elitist sadists like Fumiko, I considered.
“I’m going to call you Bonbon,” I decided. It was a little too on the nose — and a little too like something Melvin would pick — but I figured she wouldn’t be alive long enough for me to be bothered by the lack of originality. My thirst was intense. So much so that I was reasonably certain the only reason I could refrain from making a scene and bleeding her dry right now was that I’d lost the ability to keep time frozen before she’d managed to siphon everything out of me, and then she must have stopped trying to pull essence from me when she got hit by all that power when she’d only tried for a trickle.
Actually, that was probably the only reason I wasn’t dormant right now.
“You don’t have to do this,” Bonbon protested. She tried to pull away again, but couldn’t: she had no mass to match against my strength, and when she did try anyway the geas against escaping that I’d laid on her began to shred her aura. She stopped when the first slivers ripped away and dissipated.
Interestingly, I actually could see that happen, rather than just picturing it mentally while focusing on our leyline. Bonbon’s body was a glamour, a phantasmal representation of her will and life force — and when my geas dug into her for trying to get away, gashes rent randomly over that representation’s arms and face. They vanished as soon as she stopped pulling back, but that wasn’t before they’d given vent to spurts of the dissipating, semi-liquid darkness I’d come to know as faerie blood.
Faerie blood. My attention was riveted to it. I didn’t speak or move until it had vanished into the air, and even then my response was just a little sigh of longing. I let my focus return to Bonbon. “Really, Bonbon?” I asked. “That cliche is how you’re pleading for your life?” I sniffed derisively. “I don’t have to do anything,” I agreed imperiously. “It’s just too bad for you that faeries are tasty enough that I want to. Now come here.”
This time I yanked Bonbon hard enough to pull her across the bar. It was funny how her body reacted to the world around her: she cried out when she struck the bar, and I did pull her over it. But when she hit those things that she should have knocked over — like my water bottle — she seemed to just phase through them instead. She isn’t manifested enough to be genuinely physical, but she’s close enough for physical things to impact her. It was strange. I hoped it wouldn’t cause me any difficulty with ripping out her throat.
But first we needed somewhere private. Somewhere that I could sate myself at my own leisure — or rather: someplace where I could tear into my Bonbon as viciously as I wanted without attracting undue attention. I glanced around. Almost instantly, I had my plan set.
First I gestured for Mark with my free hand. He came over quickly enough, which was good. I was impatient to spill every drop of Bonbon’s aura across my tongue. “Mark, this isn’t my usual,” I said. He raised his eyebrows and stepped up to his side of the bar, opposite me.
“I don’t recall you getting anything else when Emma was here,” Mark commented.
“Yes,” I agreed. “But that was days ago. Before I turned undead.” I showed him a little fang and winked at him.
Fortunately, Club L catered to a goth element. Mark snorted. “I beg your pardon, oh dark mistress,” he said. Clearly, to his mind, he was just playing along. “I shall bleed a can of tomato juice into a goblet for you immediately.”
I laughed, but shook my head. “Actually, that won’t do. I’m afraid I have something else in mind, but I’m a little shy about asking.”
Mark hesitated. “Oh?” He asked.
I gestured for Mark to come closer. When he did I lashed out with my free hand and caught him by the front of his shirt. Then I yanked him closer still. He put up a token of resistance — or he just wasn’t prepared for my super-human strength. Either way, he stopped when I leaned in like I wanted to whisper in his ear.
Of course, I bit him instead.
Mark squawked once in surprised pain before the connection opened between us. In a sudden rush I was treated to a taste of his bland, ordinary life. I pulled my fangs out almost as quickly as I’d sunk them in. Bleh. And I’d thought water would be anemic! Mark was just a normal, ignorant human with almost nothing to offer in comparison to the delectable Bonbon at my side. It was almost unfortunate that I had need of his services, as the taste of his aura was nothing but a tease in the face of my thirst.
Mark pulled back a step. I let him. “Did you just bite me?” he stammered.
I laughed. I made it sound like Megan, when she was flirting. “Don’t be a baby,” I told him. “You aren’t even bleeding.” He wasn’t, too: sympathetic vampire healing for the win. I’d even managed not to spill, this time. Or at least, I’d licked up what had spilled before he’d pulled away.
Mark felt at his neck and looked at me. He looked confused. I smiled wider. He probably wanted to be mad, or at least affronted.
But instead he was enthralled.
Mark stared at me like I had single-handedly introduced him to the rapture of vampire roleplay. “Um,” he said. “Yeah. No, its okay. I was just surprised. If you want you could… I mean, I won’t pull back this time.”
I clicked my tongue and shook my head. “Maybe if you’re good I’ll drain your petty existence out of this world once I’m done with my Bonbon.” That would work, I figured: Bonbon’s blood wasn’t actually physical, so if I drained her first I’d still have room for a mortal’s blood. And killing Mark wouldn’t amount to much more than an after dinner mint, anyway, so I may as well use him for one. It was a shame he wasn’t at least a warlock. “Does that sound good? But first, I need you to handle a few things for me.”
Mark nodded stupidly, hanging on my every word.
“Good,” I purred. Was this what it was like to be a seductress? Because I could get used to having slavishly devoted juicebox-butlers.
“Now, Mark,” I continued. “Be a dear and take care of my tab, will you? And once that’s done, do something about my friend back there.” I tilted my head casually in Fumiko’s direction without actually looking at her. If she caught on that I’d caught Bonbon, Fumiko would be all over me about asking her questions and rescuing Megan and pointless shit we could worry about later. I was thirsty and I wanted to have my drink in peace, dammit. “The tall, athletic, Japanese-American woman. Sexy as sin and too straight to be any fun? You can’t miss her. Tell her I said I have everything under control, but I need her to go wait in the hearse or she’ll spook the faerie. She’ll understand. And if she doesn’t listen, have Bob throw her out, okay?”
Mark nodded mute agreement. I rewarded him with a smile. Then I slid out of my seat. I noticed that Fumiko was casually watching me now, so I nodded toward Mark to shift her attention to him while he went to intercept her. Then I started making my way toward the deeper recesses of the club with a crying, mostly invisible Bonbon in tow.
I was thirsty. And once I’d pulled my treat into one of those curtained booths Emma had introduced me to I was going to enjoy a nice, deep drink of what I had come to realize was my favorite vintage: terrified faerie.
Why, the irony of that alone was almost as delicious as their blood.