Satisfaction Brought It Back

Lavender Heights 

 She had dozens of insults she could readily say about Beauregard Bertrand, but if nothing else she could not say that the man lived in squalor. The apartment was minimal in its clutter, well kept and somewhat dull by her own tastes but - it had a finger on the pulse of some sense of style if nothing else. She thought about making a mess of it, entertained the notion of flipping what furniture she could, destroying what material things she could grasp and decimate with what little force she was able to apply.

But that was just juvenile, really.

 So instead she just ... took stock, for now. A sudden appearance in the kitchen enough that she remained disoriented for a split second before she wandered from behind the counter. There was, after all, no point in nosing through the cabinets or the fridge - doubtful that he was the bagged blood sort. What did catch her eye, however, was a cage in the living room and the small vermin inside of it.

 It was a curious choice in companion as far as she was concerned - she would have pegged him a bird man, really. Something loud and high maintenance with an affinity for preening. Arms folded over her chest, she assessed the creature and looked about the living room, wondered as to the time of evening and if she had shoved her way into his life at an inconvenient moment. Short of a bell to ring and not wanting to ruin the surprise with the sound of her voice, she hit the top of the cage repeatedly with as much force as she could allow without passing right through the bars - watched the hall curiously to see if anyone or thing came running while she listened to the clang of a ruckus she made in the process.

Beauregard was, appropriately, preening.

He was leaning toward the mirror, tweezers in hand, plucking a few stray hairs at his eyebrows that threatened closer to the middle. Kindly, he was not prone to a full bridge growing between them, but any man of a certain age faced looser boundaries of where hair was intended to grow on a face.

The sound of sudden banging caused him to grasp too far along the hair with the tweezers, yanking but failing to remove it, and he dropped the metal tool with a scrunch of his face.

It was loud, tremendously so, and he felt briefly such confusion that he did not move. That was... Annabel's cage? What in God's name was she doing?

He whirled out of the bathroom and then bedroom, mouth open to deliver some frowned scolding. But what he saw was so disturbing that it robbed him of his voice. Though it had been some time since their last meeting, it was not difficult to recognize her. She had been a force of maddened nature, and here she was in his home, rattling the cage of his beloved chinchilla.

Beauregard did the only sensible thing any man could do.

He staggered backward and slammed his bedroom door to shut himself in, rodent be damned.


 She wasn't sure what she had been expecting of the man, but what she got was both surprising and birthed such a blooming sense of smug pleasure that she would struggle to put it into words. Her laughter was a bark, louder than was normal for her even in the good old tangible days. Stopping the rattling for the time being as she started down the hall, stopped just in front of the door and listened to any hint of movement on the other side.

 "A door, that's quite a defense you've placed between us, Beauregard." There was a temptation to walk through of course, but she reminded herself that all good things took time. "I hope your loyalty to your clutch extends further than your devotion to your pets."

Amid every other upsetting thought racing through Beauregard's panic-shot brain, he pictured quite clearly Annabel's soft little head in a birthday gift bag. This did not inspire bravery, but it did inspire a frown deep enough that it risked being physically straining.

Margaux's familiar voice was a distraction to this disturbing visual adventure, and she chided him no less.

Beauregard closed his eyes, one hand on the doorknob.

She knew he had a clutch. She knew where he lived. She'd entered his home. Who had set him up? He couldn't even grasp it all enough to be angry.

It was not quickly that he opened the door, staring at her with a frown that uglied his face. The expression was not dignified. He might have pissed himself were he capable.

"I was told you'd been torn apart by shifters," he said, voice low, controlled in a way that implied it was a work of will.

 The twist of the knob when he moved to drop the illusion of safety was a surprise indeed, tilted her head and looked at him as one would a child slowly coming to accept an impending punishment. "You heard that because I wanted you to hear that, just like Bone Hollow." Eventually, she would have to come clean, but in the meantime, that fruit of deception hung too low and ripe to neglect.

 "Move, I'm curious to see how the other half lives." Motioning with a flick of her fingers to try to make him step back. "I'll come in either way but let's try to keep this pleasant for as long as we can."

That felt impossible, and yet, it was very hard to argue otherwise. She was standing here in front of him. He had absolutely considered her dead. Beauregard did not immediately move to let her in. It was clear his mind was working, trying to make sense of this.

Margaux's presence was not as he remembered it. In fact, he could not feel it at all. This heightened the sense that something about this was off, and yet he had absolutely no capacity to demand that she wasn't here.

He looked over her toward the chinchilla cage that he'd moved just a week ago to the living room. There was a pang of human guilt for it, as if Annabel would have been safer still in his room.

Blinking back to Margaux, he opened the door wider, stepping aside, expression all of a man trying to put the pieces together and failing tremendously.

"You haven't been in Cordova," he stated dumbly, looking at her with a perhaps permanent head tilt.

Could he find his phone to call for Raziyya? It was unlikely Margaux would be quite so inattentive as to allow him to do so.

 "I haven't, have I?" She turned to look him over - of course he hadn't aged, but still ... she looked for something. Some hard to pinpoint sign of change since their last less than friendly encounter with one another. "Just between us, do you find it enjoyable?" She assumed that despite their differences he would glean that she wasn't referring to his living situation or the fit of his sweater.

Beauregard was being fucked with, and he felt quite upsettingly unable to stop it. She looked him over, and he looked at her face, somewhere near her right eye.

There was always an unpredictability to Margaux, one that he wasn't even sure she managed intentionally. Perhaps every move was calculated, but he believed more truly that she was to some degree a roll of the dice even to herself. If she had come to his home, what motive could she have except to attempt to kill him? Could he rush from the house faster than her? Flee down the hallway? Leap out a fucking window and fly?

She asked him a question, and it felt unwise not to answer. In the living room, he could hear Annabel digging into some pile of fluff, or perhaps digging out of it, and he felt more relief than he cared to admit for it.

"At times," he said, looking to her properly. Why could he not sense her presence? He'd never met a domina as a dominus. Was there perhaps some... inherent negation in that? Reminded, he did attempt to negate her, though he felt no push back against his ability.

"I enjoy power and being powerful. I enjoy watching some of them grow. But the politics can be tiring, as can the fools."

All delivered with some lingering stiffness, his muscles nearly twitching for the first sign that she would strike at him.

 The fucking rat was burrowing, giving away some deliciously violent illusion that she had been willing to pull apart an animal tail and head like a disappointing Christmas popper. It would have been entirely pointless violence, but the idea of vandalizing his life when her time felt like it could be limited was tempting all the same. Also, to be fair, she was fairly certain she wouldn't have been able to muster the force necessary to do anything truly terrible. A thin sheet of glass between her and the rest of the world that couldn't be shattered.

 If nothing else, despite the tense way he seemed to be regarding her, she could appreciate his honesty. Whether it was from a place of locker talk or outright fear, she nodded as she rubbed her hands together, noted a distinct lack of clutter. "The power is nice, the fools are bountiful." And sure there were those who didn't grate but at what cost, really? Was it worth dying for?

"Do you have a monopoly on Mountainside?"

 She surprised herself as she asked, a retired captain visiting another's boat and assessing the state on a pointless spiral of nostalgia. Pathetic, but she could endure it for the conversation as long as he presumed she planned to rush him and rip his head off at any given moment.

The conversation was benign. Arguably, it was one of the better ones they'd ever had. More honest, less veiled in a game where one of them was miserable and the other was deliberately, politely petulant. Margaux didn't seem like she'd ever wanted to lead. He wouldn't guess her as someone who wanted to play the game.

But power was always a draw. Strength. The rank provided both in tremendous quantity.

Despite the fact that neither was spitting their words, he could not rid himself of the feeling that he was in tremendous danger. For every time he had ever deliberately skirted Raziyya, he felt a moment of regret.

And yet, neither of them had the expectation that she would sit outside his home every time he was there. The door had been locked. The window required considerable climbing. But for a vampire, getting into a place was not difficult, if you knew where it was. All she had to do was go to the front desk and suggest someone into a key.

He would have to move after this, if he survived. How exhausting. There was ultimately the question of who had given her this information, willingly or otherwise. He didn't expect she would tell him.

"For now. There have been some attempted clutches, but they folded with little intervention."

Beauregard had questions to ask her, but he found they died on his tongue. It felt dangerous to chatter on, like she might use the opportunity to strike.

"I think there is a pair toying in Cordova, but it seems very far off for now."

 "Well, good for you." Mocking but not hateful as she wandered about the room, mindful to always keep him at least in her peripheral. "What did you do to Asha?" Might as well enjoy the show as long as she had access to the channel, stir what she could and watch how it played. "She knows you wiped her memory but she's rather pissy about it, all but gave me your address. That's telling, considering what I did to her."

There she went about his room. His bedroom. Margaux the mad domina wandering around his fucking private space, observing the state of his bed, of the shelves, of the stray piece of chinchilla bedding he'd missed while vacuuming.

And then came a reveal that, truly, he could not have predicted. Asha? That rotten fucking cunt. He took in a rather sharp breath, feeling like a goddamn fool.

"She asked for it. Literally," he said, and there was a decidedly new edge to his voice. "But it sounds like I should have scrambled more of her fucking brain."

His mind raced. Of course she would do this. Of course she would.

"And so she sent you here to..."

Beauregard's intention had been to, quite plainly, finish the sentence with "kill me." But he found himself unable to commit to the words, so bold an announcement of his own fate.

The bitch. The stupid animal bitch.

 "You should have just killed her, really - I hate to say I told you so, but ..." She lifted her hands as if to show that she meant no harm as if her hands were clean in all of this. "Wasn't just you either, she told me about the planetarium - which I found intriguing. That her disdain goes beyond just you and bleeds into your whole lot."

 But there was the matter of her intentions, and while she didn't want to give up terrorizing him to willingly ... well, sometimes sacrifices had to be made for bigger pay-off down the line. "Regardless, no one sends me anywhere. But I think we both know she told me what she did of her own volition because she has a fantasy where I go and burn down your whole fucking kingdom."

The planetarium didn't shake him much. That could have been found out by merely walking the Heights for long enough. Margaux was not an inexperienced vampire.

But his home. That was unfor-fucking-givable. He didn't understand all of this, still. How had they met? Why had they even spoken and not merely begun murdering one another?

His brows furrowed, trying to make any sense of all of this.

"Why are you here, then?" he asked, somewhat subdued, as he was in all of this. For all his fury at Asha, everything felt pressured downward by the presence that Margaux no longer seemed to exert physically, but certainly psychologically.

 She inhaled slow and steady, unnecessary before - certainly unwarranted now. "I have no interest in coming back to Mountainside in any official capacity." Not that she had the choice, but she didn't share that with him. "Frankly, I never wanted to lead anything." She waved that off as a personal issue that was none of Beauregard's concern, as unlikely as he was to care.

 "I'm just ... getting comfortable - taking in the sights." Wishing she could recall what he'd said to explain his presence in Mountainside when they first met. "I ran into Asha, she spilled out all she knew in record time. I think, perhaps, when you were mucking about in her brain you somehow made her forget how little I fucking care about her Were problems."

"The enemy of my enemy, as they say ... even if it's on an individual scale."

That wasn't an answer.

That didn't explain why she was standing here in his home. Was her intention merely to send him off to fight with Asha when she could have done it herself? And what had she told Asha in advance? Because of course, Beauregard was not so foolish as to think he'd ended his time with Margaux in the madwoman's good graces.

Negation was doing nothing, and he realized, somewhat steadily, that he had not been able to tap into any bit of her with empathy. She held no presence, no aura, no sense that she was a vampire at all. He couldn't so much as fucking smell detergent in her clothing, or shampoo in her hair, or the faint trace of death that came with every vampire.

It took time for him to piece this confusion together, and he was quiet long enough that perhaps she would see his brain working.

"How did you get in here?" he asked slowly, eyes traveling to her hands as if she would be holding a key plainly labeled "BEAUREGARD'S APARTMENT" in red marker.

 "The same way that you did, presumably." It seemed like he was getting suspicious, latching on to something unspoken. She wouldn't give him any more to work with, wouldn't deny his progress. "I walked - spit out whatever you're chewing on, Beauregard."

That was not an answer. She called out his thinking, inviting his thoughts. But he could barely form any. It was the absence of an idea more than anything.

"You are not..."

She'd rattled the cage. He'd seen it, heard it. Beauregard did his best to force words outward, knowing they bordered on senseless.

"You are cloaking something, somehow. But I don't understand why you would. You have no... aura."

"No presence" was what he meant to say but thought much better of it.

 Good for Lavender Heights, bad for her own personal pleasure - he snagged on a strange fact and pulled to see what he could tear out and into the open. She sighed, rubbed the back of her neck and shook her head, nudged the leg of his dresser with the toe of her boot absently to imagine the jostle of a feeling, watered-down but still something.

"Do you have any theories on that?" Not so quick as to hand over the cheat sheet on what had made itself comfortable in his home.

It didn't make sense. He tried again to negate her as if she were some illusion, but no such thing occurred.

Beauregard stared, listening to Annabel dimwittedly chewing on her bars. (He assumed this, at least. For all he knew, she was writhing out death throes.)

Margaux had been put down by shifters. They'd taken such pride in it. There had been injuries. Could she have convinced them she'd died and merely vanished?

He shook his head, frowning, realizing he had no chance of winning this game.

"I've tried to stop your power, if you're using one, but I can't even sense it," he said. She touched the world around her solidly, unless her very interactions with objects themselves were an illusion.

What a headache. It all felt too vivid and simple for this to be a dream, not that he could have them anyway.

"I admit I'm at a loss, which is not a very interesting answer, but unless you're quite a lifelike... ghost, I can't so much as guess at an explanation that isn't 'Margaux decided she didn't need to follow earthly rules anymore and so she didn't.'"

Regrettably, contrary to attending the seance where he'd met Dax, Beauregard did not believe in ghosts.

 "I don't like that term, it comes off like a joke." She stopped the half-hearted kicking, held the edge of the dresser and stared at him. "I can touch what I like and that includes you too, I can go where I choose and -" It wasn't gradual, like turning down the opacity of an image - it was immediate, like the power jumping during a storm. One second she was there and then the next, nothing. "I can control how I look and if I'm seen." Moving to tap on his shoulder from behind - gentle so that she did not phase through him.

"There's also the nasty bonus of showing up as you died, apparently - but I'll spare us both the spectral mess."



Beauregard's disbelief would have to be short-lived, given the way she vanished and then tapped him at the shoulder. He recoiled, whirling to face her, nearly tripping over his own feet.

It was impossible. He looked her over, at how convincing she was. There was some half sound first as he tried to figure out what on Earth to say.

"You're serious. They-"

Ghosts. Could it be any stranger than a sudden plague of goats and he himself briefly turning into one? Or flashes of humanity for an eclipse?

"Good God, Marge. Is this your afterlife, or a temporary visit?"


 She scoffed at the question of her shelf life, shrugged her shoulders and smoothed out the sleeves of her top on her shoulders, absently fixed how one of the pleats flipped if only to give herself the time to make sure she sounded impartial. "I don't know. But considering our history when it comes to bizarre and brief phenomena, I assume it's a temporary state of being."

 And even if he didn't ask, in case it lingered in his mind she thought to cut him off at the pass. "I can't tell you what's after, nor if there's some glorious fucking rainbow where you can reunite with all the dead vermin you've kept over the years. Let it be a surprise."

Their minds traveled to the same, inexplicable but not wholly uncommon happenings. The fabric of supernatural life frayed very, very, very easily.

His next question was one she effectively predicted. He found grand disappointment in it, wondered if she couldn't tell him or merely wouldn't tell him.

There would be no arguing it, he supposed.

Annabel was his very first rodent, of course, but he would not correct her. She could touch him, perhaps twist his head off if she found the idea exciting.

Why was she here, in the end? Was there some loneliness on her side of the ether? Was it simply curiosity? Was she still waiting for a chance to throw him through the window? Maybe it was all for the satisfaction of watching him hide away in his own bedroom.

He couldn't understand her, in the end. Margaux was Margaux. He'd been only a blip in what he assumed to be a life of wildness.

"Do you intend to visit the shifters that did it?" he asked after likely too long a pause.

There was much to grasp, here.

 "I think if I were to try to wrangle every single shifter that played so much as a supporting role in all of this I would run out of time before I made it three-fourths of the way." Although she could not keep her eyes on his and outright deny that the idea was not a uniquely tempting one. A wonderful bit of personal fantasy fodder, but all together just as frivolous as a hamster running on a wheel.

 "Specific wise - would you know whom I would be looking for? Two men, one with a passion for horrible sweaters and the other ... a jaguar or a leopard perhaps - although maybe it's a personal vendetta against our mutual friend Asha that I lean towards the former."

Now was the time to carefully deny Margaux some last thing in exchange for her literally haunting him. To make some small stand that he was not a pawn in whatever upsetting afterlife game she played. Surely!

Not a chance. Besides, both varieties of cat certainly owed him more than he could ever pretend to be due by the mad Domina.

"You are looking for Mathis De Luca, a cheetah in Belle Vista. One of Yana's. I even have his likely address if that would be useful."

The head in the bag. Always a treat. Flair he would forever find titteringly funny.

"And an Abraham... something. I don't know much beyond that he is a jaguar and some former lover of Asha's."

There was a brief pause, then a perhaps bold request delivered a bit meekly.

"I would prefer not to be tied to that information directly, but I'm aware I have very little in the way of leverage here."

 "And I would very much prefer to not be so entirely dead, I guess we'll just have to agree that sometimes you're dealt a lackluster hand." Clipped as she moved through him with ease, paced the room as if he wasn't there at all. "Who told you all of this?" An idea bloomed then, a rogue seed that had no business taking root as she stopped short of another stride, quick as she turned and moved to try to go nearly nose to nose. "Did you have anything to do with this, Beauregard?"

Christ, this fucking woman. She came right up to him and he cocked his head back like some startled bird, one foot sliding backwards.

"I could never have guessed wherever the hell you were well enough to send shifters after you," he said, firm but with his face decidedly a bit wrinkled. In this case, he truly was mostly innocent.

Here he was left between granting her information that she could throw back at Mathis, or lying quite easily. Of course, it was natural to go with the latter.

"Asha, given that it was her boyfriend who assisted in the effort. Cheetahs don't much care for vampires, still."

 Her eyes narrowed, untrusting in the long run, mindful even in death of the idea that the truth for him could be defined as whatever was the most convenient thing to say at any given point. Still watching him step back was a thrill, a little trip of power that she pushed - got all she could from it as she reached out as if to pat him on the cheek like a well-mannered scamp.

"I'll take that address, Beauregard."

Beauregard's jaw clenched to a degree that perhaps risked damaging a tooth. (He was not entirely a stranger to dentists after death, actually, but had little desire to visit one again.)

Her hand did not apply the slap he was expecting, but this was perhaps worse. To some extent, he could hardly be angry with her. They both knew the double sided sort of role he'd played for her, and the way he carried himself with the confidence that he could annoy her so far without getting into true trouble.

And yet this was an infuriating sort of touch, and it sent a sense of cold (something he did not feel hardly ever, as a vampire) that lingered on the skin. He nodded to her request, deciding against any of the words on his tongue.

She was lucky (as was he) that she would not need to follow him to the planetarium. He'd brought his old notebook home to carry over some details into his new one. It would be a trip to the living room to find it, not so much as looking at Annabel for fear that he would set Margaux into chewing on her.

After a few moments of flipping through the old notebook full of names and scattered details, he came across a section he'd collected on Mathis.

"I don't know if you can carry a note with you," he sighed, showing the page to her. Did she merely need to know the place to appear there?

 Briefly she wondered how far she could push it, where the line of contact dwindled to nothing - how thin the ice could get. There was a temptation to tussle his hair. That same sort of impulse was back when he seemed to find what he was looking for, the desire to swat him on the back as if it was a friend coming through for another. Simply put, because she could - because ultimately there was not a single goddamn thing he could do about it.

 She didn't trust herself to pull it from him, looking over the information written down and nodding to herself. "Got it." She turned to stare at him then, stepped back. "Should I find out you're lying to me, I'm going to pull that thing though those bars in pieces. Do we understand one another?"

It sounded as if Annabel would be going on something of a vacation for a bit. How long, precisely, did this threat last?

He couldn't know.

"Quite clearly," he said simply, putting the book down and turning to face her with an expression somewhere between a grimace and a polite smile.

There would be nothing stopping her from tearing the poor rodent apart now if he admitted his few dishonesties, so it was likely best to keep them quiet.

 "Good." She ran through the address one more time in her head without looking at the paper, making sure the numbers stuck before she checked her memorization. All was well. She looked him over, stepped towards the front door and hesitated then. "Behave yourself, I'll be near." Leaving it at that before she was gone just as quickly as she had arrived.

And just like that, it was over.

Beauregard stood in his apartment very, very still, as if moving too much might risk summoning her again.

But eventually, he made his way to Annabel's cage, opening the door that squeaked to summon the little beast. She was too stupid to stay frightened for long, a blessing in this case, and he lifted her carefully into his arms as she sniffed his sweater for some hint of food.

"Je t'aurais sauvé," he mumbled, looking down at her vacant eyes. "Tu sais."

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