Ain't No Love in the Heart of Town

The Haven 
#1

 The little side road ended in the motel, and the wheels of Gavin's car crunched over tree litter and pebbles as he pulled the car to a stop outside his new home. The windshield was dirty, stained with salt tracks, and built-up road grit. He hadn't bothered to wash it since running out of wiper fluid middle of last year. Slowly, he extracted himself from the driver's seat and went inside his room, finding a washcloth folded neatly in the bathroom. He wet it and took it outside, scrubbing windows with ferocity.

 So, what now? He thought, working the grime from the side mirrors. He'd done it. Made it somewhere he wasn't entirely unwelcome. This Dominus still had a screw loose, yeah, but being dead had that effect on many people. Why wasn't he one of them? There was always the Rage. The Bloodlust. Whatever people called it now. It seemed to morph across the decades, and Gavin could never keep track of the changing terms.

 He'd sit in his hole here for the next two weeks and wonder. Nah. That wasn't the game. What evil was present that needed correction? He stopped scrubbing, staring out across the quiet parking lot, listening for movement, and hearing none but distant car engines. No. He couldn't have that life anymore. Loneliness struck like a blunt object, leaving him to stagger against the chassis of the car.

 Putting his arms across the top, he leaned into a stretch, feeling tight muscles flex and joints pop.

 Sounds at his back made him turn around at speed, damp washcloth hitting the ground with a soft plop.
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#2


 The Haven! Suri hadn't been here in... a hot minute. Not since she'd picked up the wandering snow leopard and delivered him back here. What a place this was, huh? A refuge for the supernatural, a controversy of kindness. Mountainside certainly seemed to be a hot spot for the strange and unusual - it was fitting that such a home away from home should stand here. Suri couldn't help but wonder what sort of dangers befell this place, from tenants to outside sources, hole punched drywall and conspiratorial whispers.

 She didn't particularly need this place, having done real well to keep a low profile and a roof over her head. She was here to deliver donations, mostly in the form of clothing and canned goods. A humble act of service. She parked the crusty old Buick, and hauled out a couple of boxes that amounted to a height that obscured her view. That wasn't very hard to accomplish when one barely cleared the five foot mark.

 The scent of rot sat in the cold parking lot. Very distantly, Suri had noticed someone performing some sort of maintenance, but now, it called for a little more attention. The sound of something damp and solid hitting the ground caused her to twist a little, craning her head around the tower of boxes in her arms. The man on the other side of the cardboard was a tall, grungy-looking thing. Many signs pointed to "refugee." Suri grinned at him. She hadn't knowingly crossed paths with a vampire before this.

 "Mind if I borrow you for a second?" she asked of him.
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#3
 The tension in Gavin's body didn't ease following the woman's appearance. A strong musky scent made his head pull back, and he brought a hand up to swipe under his nose. For the show, mainly. But he bent to pick up his scrubbing cloth, beating off the gravel and bits of mast, maintaining a calm expression.

 The woman's small frame was strongly offset by her aesthetic. Pierced and tattooed, Gavin thought she belonged in a bigger city far from here, having not encountered many like her in the smaller towns of the states. If anything was a testament to how the world had changed while he and his people wholly focused on their goals, she certainly was.

 "Aye. What can I do fer ye?" He asked, placing the still-dirty cloth on the hood of his car and approaching her.
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#4
 The man seemed to consider his options for a moment, and Suri kept her mind clear of expectations. Either he would find it fitting to be helpful, or else... he wouldn't! It was not a matter of strength, really - she could manage the lifting and carrying part of the boxes just fine, and had been prepared to do so. Spotting someone else in the vicinity did open an avenue for help, though, so why not take it!

 A swipe at his nose, a retrieval of the abandoned rag, and the man spoke up. What an accent! Suri couldn't even begin to place it besides... somewhere from across the pond. Her smile persisted, and she gestured just so with the boxes in her arms - enough to move them, but attempting not to upset them from their precarious stack - as she responded. "Could you take this box off the top for me? I think I overestimated myself a little here." Two trips would have been better for a clear line of sight, but what was the point in logic like that?
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#5
 Gavin felt a twinge somewhere. He couldn't precisely pinpoint the source. After three centuries of bloody struggle, he was now in a nowhere, nothing western town being asked to carry boxes by a...woman? Was it amusement? The twinge, obviously. Still impossible to tell. What a life.

 He made a noise of assent, somewhere between a cough and a hmm. Easily, he used both hands to lift the top two boxes from the stack, though she'd only asked for the one. As a stranger in a strange land, he believed in a decent line of sight. And four eyes were better than two. Speaking of, Gavin kept scanning the parking lot, keeping his eyes on every little movement. A tumbleweed rolled across the road, and he watched it longer than he should have.

 "What would ye have me do with these, lass?" He asked, abruptly self-aware.
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#6
 She'd take that sound as a yes, and sure enough, the dude came over and took not one, but two boxes off the top. What an over achiever! Suri chuckled, distantly aware that she should handle this encounter with caution - vampires and mind games, and all that. On the other hand, it would do no good to assume the worst of someone just because they were dead!

 "Well, I'd have you help me get them to the check in desk, if you'd be so kind," she replied, taking a few steps in that very direction as she spoke. Suri jerked her head slightly towards the car he'd been scrubbing with an added, "I can repay you in glass cleaner." Helpful tit for helpful tat, maybe.
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#7
 She had a good laugh, and Gavin's mouth twitched like he was trying for a smile, but it didn't make an appearance. Still felt off even to attempt one. A throbbing behind his eyes made him blink away something. Emotions, probably. A fit of temper. Repressed memory rearing its ugly head. Gavin wished he could still get drunk. Hell, if you looked at him now and tried to compare it with an earlier version, this one'd appear drunk. Sluggish. Disoriented.

 He followed the woman toward the clerk at the front and, downwind of her now, he could smell it again. Whatever it was. He'd never smelled one like her before. Not housecat, no. Too musky. But not tiger, either. A few of those had crossed their path back before the West was settled. End badly. No surprise there. Opening his mouth, he tried to taste it, too.

 "I thank yeh. Been a long while since I used ought but water. Be a welcome change."
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#8
 He seemed happy enough to comply, and just as well to have some assistance with the windshield that looked a bit like him - like it had seen better days. Ah, suffering - no one was safe from it. Suri grinned to his remark, pressing her weight into the front office's door to push it open, leaning against it to let the grungy stranger in behind her. The smell of rot threatened to push everything else out of the room, and Suri couldn't help but slow her breathing so as not to smell it so intently.

 "Donations!" she announced to the human behind the desk. They seemed less than interested, sparing the pair a glance and a nod before resuming mindless phone scrolling. Without any clear instructions as to where the boxes ought to go, she plopped them against the business side of the desk and was done with it.

 Back outside, Suri found some idle explanation seemed the best fit for conversation just yet, striding back towards her own rust bucket of a vehicle. "My windshield fluid... dispenser, spray things," she began, gesturing loosely with both hands as she grasped for the proper words, "don't work anymore, so Windex is a pretty consistent passenger in my car. Anyway. Where you from, man?"
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#9
 As they entered the front office, Gavin kept back, behind the woman, so her scent masked that of the human who worked there. If this place was what Beauregard had claimed it to be, then this poor sod had probably had enough encounters with the supernatural. If he remembered any of them, that is. Gavin's hunger was a like smoldering fire at the back of his throat, threatening to come forth like a dragon of old. Mimicking her, he dropped his boxes, relieved to step out into the night again, away from the pulse of fresh blood. It still hammered in his ears as they put still more distance between themselves and the sound of a pulse.

 Gavin didn't follow her to the car, instead choosing to remain back, closer to his own, eyes darting around them. She asked him a question, and he looked up at her, "My people are from Scotland if that's what yer asking." He supposed he wouldn't find many 'countrymen' so far from the Atlantic. But the farther away from that, the better, to his mind.
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#10
 His people were from Scotland. This man was so very grave. Suri had plenty of questions about it, but it was not particularly her business, and probably not the proper place to go asking questions about the inner workings of your friendly neighborhood vampire. Dude was probably serious because he'd been through some shit, and while she did her best to not make assumptions about folks, it was hard not to lean into that idea.

 "That is what I'm asking," she confirmed, friendly, grinning as she pried a half-empty bottle of Windex and a roll of thick blue paper towels out of the passenger floorboard. "Never been out there. What's it like?" This as she approached the car with the intent to spray down his windshield for him, unless he stopped her. Maybe a bit rude where boundaries were concerned.
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#11
 If he could smell her, she could no doubt smell him, too. Been a long time since he'd shared space with a Were. Honestly was his policy, most of the time. But you could always tell half the truth and not be caught lying. He watched her root around in the car for a bottle and some towels, reaching a hand out, wordlessly offering to scrub as she sprayed. No need to let a stranger wash nine solid months of grime from the car when he was perfectly capable. Idle hands were dangerous anyway.

 "Dunno," he said, frank. "Never been there. Born in the Carribean." He crossed his arms. "Parents were col..." Watch yer mouth. "Immigrants. Whole family up and moved 'cross the sea."
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#12
 He didn't seem keen on keeping Suri from helping out, but she'd hand the towels out to him all the same, content to be delegated to spritzing. The smell of window cleaner was almost sweetly clinical, helping to mask the rotten smell that wafted off the stranger. It wasn't so overbearing outdoors, at least, and she felt less of an impulse to soften her breath or hold it altogether.

 He explained that, quite literally, his people - his family - were from Scotland, but he'd never stepped foot there. Col... immigrants. Suri's eyebrows rose a little, undeniably curious, but reeling herself back from questioning. None of her business! "Ah, adventurous!" she remarked, light-hearted, showering a new spot with a fine mist of Windex before she leaned out of the way again. "Well. Hope Mountainside's been decent to you so far, at least." Posed in such a way that it could be a question as much as a statement, not wanting to spook the grungy undead with too many inquiries.
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#13
 Gavin followed behind her, carefully ripping off a few of the starchy blue towels and folding them haphazardly under a large hand. Amazing what a few chemicals and elbow grease could do. One swipe over the window, and already they looked better than they ever had. It hadn't even been this clean when he'd convinced the man in Memphis to give it up. Should have asked for the title, though.

 "S'alright," Gavin grunted, thinking of Beauregard and his neat little hideaway. "Cannot say I been here long enough to know one way or t'other." He leaned on the chassis to reach the top of the slanted rear windshield. "Least, I've not been chased off yet." Gavin wasn't the type to speak before he thought, but if she brought supplies to the place said to be friendly to their folk, then there had to be a shred of decency about her.
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#14
 The man seemed pretty neutral about the town thus far. Suri wondered if he intended to stick around very long, anyway. She hummed quietly in acknowledgement to his statement, watching the grime work off the glass under his scrubbing hand. "Well, I'd say that's a plus," she chimed, grinning crookedly. "Have you got a tendency for getting chased off?" Her tone was playful for the question, for all the curiosity there remained.
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#15
Gavin made a sarcastic noise. "Seems t'be a running theme, aye," he told her. Working around the other side of the car, a feeling of order seemed to return. He cared a little less about what went on around them, and more about cleaning the dust from every corner. "Suppose thas just part o'being itinerant." Shrugging, he glanced at her, searching with hooded eyes. What even was protocol anymore? Living in a box would do that to you–make you certain no one was friendly or cared for anything outside. "Yeh could've just walked by. What made you stop?"
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#16
 Ah, a true vagabond, then. Suri hummed in acknowledgement, wondering without passing judgement. Her brain could fabricate all sorts of scenarios, building some image of what hardships the soiled vampire wore on his stilled heart. He spoke up again, and Suri met his gaze as he questioned her intentions. It elicited a soft grin, and she shrugged her shoulders.

 "Never met one of you," she said, a bit cryptically for the sake of respecting whatever boundaries on privacy the man might have. "Curiosity, I guess. And always out to make friends." A chuckle accompanied the admission, watching him laxly, wondering what degree of suspicion might spiral out of him.
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