Night air

@"Regina Proulx"

Nighttime drives were such a nice experience. Barely anyone on the roads, cool breeze even on the hottest of days, and her vision was heightened enough that seeing everything around her clearly was not an issue. Even when taking scenic routes through the only available territory left in Mountainside.

"Very woodsy area, isn't it?" she comment in a hum as they wound their way through the north-west end. The point of this was just to scout the town, see if there could be anywhere logical to set themselves up in. So far, she couldn't help think it was a wonder a shifter hadn't claimed it yet.

Much more of an obvious choice than Cedar Creek, or Bella Vista.

Holly was driving, as usual, the window cracked open partially and sending her hair swishing around her face. Regina was with her, of course, because her partner was much more inclined to understanding by laws and buildings and all that administrative fodder. Besides the fact her partner hadn't been out much lately.

The blonde was very much the more outgoing one in this relationship.

The Bentley Continental GT was Regina's choice, naturally. She wanted a car that was functional, as well as one swathed in luxury. Money was never a problem of course, so she went for something that was fast, sturdy, yet still held that element of class about it that made it not one of those terribly flimsy supercars.

It was also equipped with other various additions. Tinted windows. Improved horsepower engine and robust tyres. But, what was most important of all.. the removal of the cigarette lighter. It was a wonder most vampires didn't think about that.

Nevertheless, Regina preferred her window closed. Holly could enjoy hers open, but Regina saw no need. Not tonight anyway. She could see just fine.

"Mmm. I wonder how much of it is navigable. Or, in fact, useful." Vampires really had no need for nature as much as weres did.

That was the slightly annoying aspect of the entire community being occupied in some fashion or another. They were left with the.. Odder areas. But, she'd scrutinized a map of the area long enough to know there were some benefits to Avondale. "Agreed, but. It is nicely out of the way from the drama going on in the east end of Mountainside. The wolf pack, the hyenas. Lavender Heights." She grinned all to knowingly at that comment.

Burned bridge there, apparently. Not her own fault of course, she'd done nothing wrong in that bloody fiasco.

They twisted through a poorer residential area, and she nodded to the little houses. "There isn't a lack of opportunities for those who want to hunt, though. Benefit to the forest is there'll always be teenagers getting drunk in it." And drunk teenagers probably wouldn't recall much of an evening if suggestion failed.

Regina nodded along to everything Holly was saying, since they'd talked about it plenty of times before. East Mountainside was, from a supernatural standpoint, an torrid mess of turbulently feverish means. It was honestly a wonder of the world that the whole place hadn't just exploded in a murderous metaphysical war.

Nevertheless, back on topic. "This is true. I imagine other recruits may not be as welcoming to packaged blood as I am. Still, it would be fresh, taken right from the donated blood."

She would hum. "Though I guess you are all about that 'thrill of the hunt', along with Amélie. I wonder which side this Robbie will take."

She shrugged lightly, quirking a smile. "I'm finding more use in them, lately. Busy evenings, no time to go out and find a meal." Plus the struggle was sometimes.. Messy. And right now, she wanted the least amount of attraction on her and Regina.

They hit a cross-road, empty as usual at this time. She paused long enough to nod. "Which way?" Her hands would deftly turn wherever Regina wanted, the trust that she'd know best in this situation leading her on. "And hard to say. The girl is being mentored by Amy, generally one so new will follow their instructions. But the other option might appeal as well. Suppose we need to meet her at some point."

Or, rather, she did. "You still are alright by my taking the lead this time? You know I'd be happy to step back."

Mhmm, okay Holly. Regina had heard that before, and she knew it didn't last long. The evenings would be 'freed up' just enough for Holly to be able to grab a meal. She'd seen it across centuries, and they both knew it.

Well, it never hurt anyone at least. Okay that was a lie, but it wasn't bad.

Which way. Regina blinked twice a couple of times just to recall the map in her mind. It made more sense logically to do a loop. "Left," she'd reply simply.

Now, back on topic once more. "True, but I assumed with her little.. issue, she might be perturbed to go hunting until she feels she has a decent amount of control." But, Regina did agree, it would be very nice to meet her at some point. Especially since Regina was essentially her guardian if Amy were to pass.

Then, Holly would bring up the other topic at hand. Regina, feeling more at ease with her emotions around Holly, would take an unnecessary sigh. "I think it would be best. Not only would a younger mindset like yours be better at helping younger vampires as we have planned, but.. I suppose I'm not as enthused about the idea as I have been in the past.."

She'd look over to her partner then, and went as far as to settle her dainty hand on hers as it held the gearstick. "You know I'll support you though, yes?"

She merely hummed in response, wondering if Robbie had the strength to face her fears like that. Not everyone was so capable, or so willing. The girl might just find it easier to give up and become a mug-toting vampire for the rest of her existence. Stranger things had happened.

A cold hand rested over hers, as she drove along, but it held warmth in the gesture. Holly knew Regina would support her little pet project, but wasn't herself in the mood to take the role of leader. "I know you will.." came out, soft, soothing.. But she was still a little worried of her own leading skills.

Really now, who did they have aside from a few misfits? It was what she wanted though, in the end. Sometimes a smaller group was stronger as a unit, then a large cluster of people who didn't really know or care for the others. "If it doesn't work out, either, I won't be upset. We'll still have a close group of friends at any rate, I think. The two young girls and Jaxon seem the types to stay loyal."

She'd have to call the latter, later tonight perhaps. Check in on him. "Building investments never hurt either, correct? You know I'm not too good with business politics."

Good.. Regina squeezed her partner's hand a little more again, before pulling it back to re-settle on her lap, and look back out at the buildings to continue analysing them.

Now. "Mm, certainly. Though still, I would like a meeting with Jaxon." And as for the buildings. "Well, certainly. Investing in a building is simply keeping money in one place until you have no use for the property any longer. I'm certain it will be a positive investment."

She'd pause there, before giving a little hum of a chuckle. "It's not like this area will make a dent in our finances anyway."

See? Political nonsense. She did get the gist, at least, but mostly just nodded along at the noise and hummed in agreement. Yes, sitting on money, buildings, etc. This was why you needed a second (even if a theoretical second till she got more powerful) - to help with the less.. People-involved work.

"We can arrange a diner party at some point. I told you I met Marybeth again, mm? Could have one going every Saturday evening," she all but chirped, most certainly inclined to throwing these types of events. It had been a while since they'd had anything so grand.. Things to look forward to, if a Clutch was formed.

She chuckled at the jest, looking sheepishly at the ah.. Less endowed homesteads. "Perhaps closer to the Belle Vista, we might find more suitable areas for this kind of project? We need a less residential part of the town for a clinic. It's odd enough we're doing this outside the main city."

Perhaps they needed to present it as something else. Hrm..

A dinner party.. It sounded so ridiculous when you considered vampires only drank blood, but it was more about.. the aesthetic. The feeling and camaraderie of being all together for one reason around a table specifically set for one occasion. She did honestly miss the days when she could partake in a feast of exotic foods from around the country and sometimes beyond.

Nevetheless, she nodded at the mention of Marybeth. That lady was a rather funny individual. So strange was her outlook to life, and yet in another way, so refreshing. Not even out of intelligence, just simply.. uniqueness.

And as if Holly's sheepish looks were judgemental, Regina's blank stare at all of the less-than-average buildings held much more of a judgement. She hummed at the question, looking back forwards at the road.

"I suppose so yes. The idea of a donation centre is that it must look somewhat inviting. Perhaps you can use your lovely gardening skills to create a welcoming entrance." Regina did have to admit, Holly's small passion for plants was very appealing.

She brightened somewhat at the mention of her gardening skills. "Can do. Pity I can never see them in the full sunlight.. Perhaps I'll set out a timed camera at some point." The midnight gardener, such an amusing thought. She probably did look ridiculous planting in their mansion garden at 3am, but alas. The woes of being nocturnal.

Another turn, this time Holly taking the direction which would start leading them out of the residential area, and more towards the shops and business. Avondale Shell was pointed out on a tourist sign, as well as Burning Rubber and Mae's Mazes. She actually giggled at the last one. "Now that's some clever naming. We ought to take a look come October, I bet there'll be late night opening hours."

But ah.. anyway. Back on topic. "How large are we looking at for the building? Or will we be making it appear small, with an underground part for clutch members?"

Regina had to give a hum of approval to that idea. "I'd quite like to see that myself actually." It was very easy to get a camera to do that, she imagined.

Looking at the sign, she recognised some names from a map of the area. The 'Shell' was a stadium of sorts, which was too public for Regina's liking. They'd need to steer clear of that, as well as any of the other 'tourist' areas.

Or they could take Holly's suggestion, and go visit a maze. "I suppose we could. But you know I'd solve it too quickly," she noted back. They'd been through that spiel plenty of times before. Regina could stay completely quiet she supposed, and wait for Holly to work it out on her own.

Okay, building. "We don't want it to look imposing.. I suppose with it being close to the forest, we could make it seem more natural perhaps? Environmentally-friendly, as it seems a lot of people are buying into nowadays."

She huffed lightly in response to the statement that Regina would solve it too quickly. Wouldn't be hard for the older woman to keep quiet and let Holly have the fun.. Or perhaps, she could have some extra fun and blindfold her. See how fast she figured out the pattern then.

Anyway, she ranted.

Something welcoming, environmentally friendly.. "We could restore an older building, perhaps." It'd be faster than building something from the ground up. "If there's a bit of yard to it, we can hold charity events in the summer. Make it seem like a nice little pet project, helping the less fortunate. Blood donation, charity donation to the local hospital. Keep suspicions low."

There was silence for a bit longer, her mind working on other details they could arrange. "I suppose if we keep a hub in the basement area, we can avoid suspicion by having members act as either frequent blood donors, or volunteers."

A restoration project sounded like the perfect idea. Not only would it be quicker, but it could serve as a community project to put them in a better light. As Holly would say, keep suspicions low. Although naturally, Regina would prefer to not do any interviews. Though she imagined her partner would relish the opportunity.

Anyway, she'd let her partner finish, and nod again. "Agreed. Volunteers would work. We could give them special lanyards and ID cards, which would hide a keycard they could scan to get to the lower levels." Subtle and silent.

"I like the idea of a restoration. Putting the place into a good light. Bars and restaurants are so predictable and easy to scrutinise. Somewhere that does charity work would hold a lot less intrigue for anything other than that." She'd hum afterwards and watch the lights pass by the car for a moment.

"And I mean it's not like we're begrudgingly doing it. I think it's a rather kind way to spend some of this ridiculous money."

The ID card was a perfect idea, though she could just imagine losing hers in a bout of forgetfulness and being the clutch Master who got locked out her own hub. The thought made her giggle softly, her eyes flicking off the road a moment to regard Regina with a raised eyebrow. "I mean, if you're looking for something to use our 'ridiculous amounts of money' on, feel free to buy me a wardrobe update."

That could get rid of a good chunk.

She snorted though, back to seriousness. "But no, I agree. This could be a nice start to other pet projects." Perhaps with actual pets. Wasn't there a shelter in the area? Holly made a mental note to check into it, one night, if it was even open so late.

Yes, Holly still held an eye for fashion after all these centuries, and her spending on clothes she'd only wear once, twice if that particular item was lucky, was quite outrageous. Regina on the other hand held clothes as functional and practical, and never really went for fashion. The only factor of that she cared about was getting clothes that fit the era they were a part of. Lots of trousers nowadays, which was good since she despised wearing skirts.

Nevertheless, the last comment was interesting. "Mm, indeed. It's been a while since we've actually done something." She'd fold her arms and tap one of them with a single finger.

"I'm still curious as to what to use that attic for. And if there's anything I can do to make the grounds here somewhat less rough."

As she finished that sentence, her eyebrows would raise just a little, and she'd turn to Holly. "Oh, did I mention? The council accepted my proposal for better fencing, and signage on top of that."

She hummed in approval, reaching out to stroke her partner's cheek affectionately. "You did not, but I'd have been shocked if they refused Miss Thorough and Lawful," Holly quipped, stifling giggles. When Regina wanted something done, it got done promptly.

As for the attic, she went silent a little longer to think. Driving was therapeutic, meanwhile, especially in such a woodsy area. They took a winding road for perhaps ten minutes, before emerging into a commercial area. Or ah.. As commercial as a country town could get. "Keep your eye out for sale signs, old buildings." Not that Regina needed to be reminded, but it broke the silence.

Tempted to turn on the radio, she tightened her grip on the gearstick instead. Spare Regina her music choices for now.

"The attic.. I still think we should make it a safe room. We can keep it cozy, of course, but have beds, a fridge of blood. Something we can hide in, or hide friends, for a decent period."

Slightly morbid thought, but ah well.

An amicable eyebrow would be raised at Holly's response. It was a joke at Regina's expense of course, but they both knew that it was fact. She'd also hum in acknowledgement of the reminder to look for property signage.

Continuing on the topic of the attic, Holly had a very interesting idea for its usage. She'd hum for a moment, nodding along. "Mmm, I like that actually. With the world becoming as knowledgeable about our kind, as terrifying as it sounds, we might need somewhere to hide."

She'd leave that thought there as it was for a few seconds to delve into thought about it, before one interesting tidbit cropped up to her mind that made her chuckle a little. "Essentially it's a renovation. We'd be using it for the same reasons it would have been intentionally made for."

The chuckle made her gaze flicker to the side, eyes crinkling up in a silent laugh. "True, though I doubt the owners had vampires in mind." Humans had been very unaware of their kind until.. Recently. That whole debacle.

She wondered if tensions would be less so, if they were still all in hiding.

A short while later, Holly spotted a for sale sign on a smallish commercial building, brick siding, nothing too fancy. Wordlessly, she'd nod to it, asking for Regina's opinion. The car would pull up to the curb, but did not fully stop - just a slow breezing by, looking it over.

Wasn't exactly what she was after, but she wouldn't turn her nose up at options.

Regina would hum at that. "You never know."

After a while they'd reach a small building. Nothing too special, but quaint. Perhaps perfect for what they were imagining, but it was never for certain. There were always more options, and it was never good to rush ahead with any. Getting a tactical big picture was the key to any situation.

Nevertheless, Regina would bring up the map on her phone to tap and hold on their location, to place down a quick pin. There were a couple of pins along here, and they'd be able to go through them afterwards.

She'd nod, and continue driving along once she pulled out of the parallel park. The tap of fingers on phone, drew her eyes back down to Regina's lap. The redhead was using a location pin, drawing a smile to the younger woman's face. "I taught you that." A soft smile, teasing for the fact that had been quite the little nightmare in itself.

Regina wasn't always the best with new technologies, but as soon as she was taught, she picked it up readily.

It brought up another thought, as she drove, watching the buildings pass. "Am I good at teaching? Would I be a good role model for the clutch?" Or was she just a stupid school girl after all.

Holly did in fact teach her a lot about technology. It was odd really. Holly taught Regina how it worked first, showing her what the basis of it all was, and merely through much article-reading and personal experimentation, Regina would find out ever little aspect of a certain piece of tech, and understand it inside and out.

Still, the location pin was 100% Holly's doing.

Which would lead onto the blonde's next thought. Regina would actually take her eyes off her phone and the surroundings to look up at her partner. It wasn't as hard as telling her own emotions, but Holly did still close herself off sometimes.

Regina would stare for a few moments, before finally taking her hand to place it on her partner's once again. "You're a very intelligent lady Honnorée. You know I always find your input insightful and thoughtful. And best of all, you have the ability to be social, unlike me. I know you'll do wonderfully."

She'd squeeze her hand, for good measure.

That was all she needed, really. The small moment of validation. Of someone willing to believe in her, willing to back up her decisions. Holly would squeeze Regina's hand in return, eyes focused ahead on the road lest it be noticed she was more than a little blurry over the woman's words.

It was nice to have someone who always would be there to care about her.

"Thank you.." Holly would murmur, keeping her hand under Regina's for the rest of the tour of their future home.

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