Tiny Dancer

Union Square 

 It seemed that Autumn had officially settled over Mountainside. Even though the sun had not come out for much of the day, it had at least not rained, and Minerva was honestly feeling pretty pumped about the chilly weather. That, and it was Friday! She was done with school for the week, and could pointedly ignore her homework for another thirty six hours.

 Such a good feeling deserved to be added to - as such, Minnie would happily stop at one of her favorite coffee places on the way home, partially because she really wanted her favorite cappuccino, and also partially because she didn't want to go straight home to stay for the night. She wanted to be outside in the city!

 Her beloved cafe had hung new pieces of commissioned artwork on its walls, and that had severely delayed her departure, and even ordering her coffee. By the time she was scuttling back outside, the sun was setting - the western sky was painted in a muddy rainbow of orange and salmon-y pink, mint green and more than one shade of blue that grew darker and darker across the atmosphere. She soaked in the wonder of her surroundings, chipper and content as she trotted the few short blocks back to her car.

 A dance studio, which she had not really noticed before, was brightly illuminated along her path. The light from inside the studio spilled onto the darkening sidewalk, and Minnie would slow to a stop to peer nosily at what was inside - a sizeable group of people learning how to swing dance. The snappy jazz music was just barely audible through the thick glass. Her bright eyes grew wide with wonder as she watched one couple - presumably the instructors in their spot-on twenties dress and seamless moves - whip each other in graceful, spinning circles, their feet bending and kicking and stepping almost too quickly for her brain to even comprehend.

 Minerva grew increasingly excited and impressed as the dance went on, until her face was stretched with a big, goofy grin that she wasn't even really aware of - it had just come out on its own. She watched as the man inside grasped his partner's hands and literally swung her, between his legs and back out, and then around again, and she could hardly contain her enthusiasm. "What! That is so-" Cool, she was going to say to herself, until the lid on her coffee cup suddenly gave out. Or rather, the cup did, coming away from the lid in her grasp and falling a short distance to the sidewalk, but not without dousing the front of her outfit in very hot coffee.

 She shrieked in pain and embarrassment and disappointment, and a little fear, too, flinging the keys in her hand some short distance away. If she was a curser, this would have been one big F bomb.

Sayed was happy. Even though he was thrilled with being away from the big lights of Chicago, he sometimes found that he missed the feeling of being in a city with so much to do. Cordova filled the void that Chicago left. Best of all, the city had their own vampire only spot that made it so he wouldn't need to hunt down a human. Even though he was a part of the undead, he felt warm and alive as he walked down the sidewalks, taking in the neon and fluorescent lights from the businesses that never seemed to sleep.

It felt good to be out around others instead of lurking around quietly in deserted streets during the night. It was something he missed about being a human. But with so many around him now, he could pretend he was one of them again. The strong scent of coffee suddenly filled his nostrils and he sighed happily, until he heard the scream of pain and noticed that a human had spilled coffee down her front.

He winced slightly, feeling bad for the woman, as he made his way over to her. He saw her keys off to the side and quickly retrieved them before approaching her. "You alright?" he asked, holding the keys out to her.

 Minerva pouted down at the dark brown stain on her green skirt. It would come out with the right washing, of course, but it was still enough to put a dampening on her mood. And it was hot :(

 She spotted the man approaching her from the side as she bent to pick up her now-empty coffee cup, a little red in the face now that she was sure her embarrassment was public. "Yeah," she sighed, somewhat remorsefully, squeezing the plastic cap back in place. She would offer him a small, sheepish smile without showing teeth, reaching to take her keys from him. "Thank you." A soft shake of her head before she added, perhaps somewhat pitifully, "Don't you hate when you think the lid's on right but it's not? I guess I'll learn my lesson some day."

The girl seemed nice, and since he was no longer hungry, Sayed decided that maybe he could pass some time with her. After all, he still didn't really know anybody in Mountainside; still hadn't decided whether or not he wanted to join the clutch in Lavender Heights. And after his run-in with the were in North Glenn, he really just wanted to spend time in an area without being chased off. If she wasn't interested, he could at least go on his own way and not be forced to leave the area.

"Yeah, I do. They should really check to make sure they got the lids on right." He gave her a shy smile and pointed at her empty coffee cup. "Hey, so since you're all out now, you want to maybe shoe me a good coffee place in the area and get a new one? I'm new to the area. Don't know anyone or any of the good coffee spots to hit up." His mind vaguely drifted to using his vampower to get her to agree, but he quickly shoved it to the back of his mind. Something authentic was better and he sucked at suggestion anyway.

 Minerva laughed a little at his initial response. She didn't know if it was her fault or the fault of the barista who had served her - she was more inclined to think it was her own, but decided not to say as much, just happy to have some sort of comradery with a stranger. Yay, bonding over first world problems!

 As the girl listened to his proposal, her expression shifted from one of sheepish friendliness to something brighter and more enthusiastic. New to the area! No friends! Still figuring it all out! Minerva recognized this as an opportunity to improve a life and make a friend. Her mouth stretched into a toothy grin, and for the moment, the ugly stain on her skirt was forgotten.

 "Yeah! I'd be glad to!" she piped agreeably. "It's actually just a block back this way." She paused, glancing back inside through the great window of the dance studio, where the students were beginning to try their hands - or feet, rather - at the lesson they had just been shown. Minerva decided she would have to swing by this place again in the future, before turning to walk with the man back in the direction of her cafe of choice. She would wait for him to fall in step beside her before she introduced herself. "I'm Minerva, by the way!"

The girl seemed excited to spend time with him, and he smiled at her enthusiasm. "Perfect," he said with his own bright smile. In a few easy strides, he had joined her at her side. He noticed her glance in at the dancers and arched a brow. Maybe she was a dancer. He enjoyed the artistic types, after all. "Oh, I'm Sayed," he said with yet another smile. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Minerva."

He chewed his lip nervously, forever shy around new people, even if he was daring enough to ask if a stranger wanted to spend time with him. He looked back at her once more and nodded back towards the dance studio. "I saw you watching the people in the studio back there. Do you dance?"

 "You too, Sayed," she piped happily, saying his name carefully in an attempt not to mispronounce it. A perpetual grin in place, she turned her eyes to the path ahead, prepared to give him a long spiel about the cafe they were headed to. Instead, Sayed voiced a question of his own, and Minnie would laugh a little at it, shaking the empty cup in her hand as she spoke. "Eh, I've taken like... waltz lessons and things like that," she began, somewhat nonchalantly. "But nothing super fast like those guys back there. Like swing or," she gestured with both hands as she tried to think of other types of dance. "I dunno, salsa or anything like that. That seems a lot more fun than shuffling around in circles." Another laugh, blissfully unaware of the abrupt jangling of her keys that went with the jerky movements of her hands. "What about you? Do you dance, or do any... artsy activities like that?"

God, it had seemed like a long time since he'd had an actual, normal conversation. His old clutch had mainly talked about things happening within the city relative to the clutch. But this was part of the reason why he thought it might be better to have a friend who was a human. Sure, if they stayed friends, she'd run the risk of being bitten, but he felt like he was in control enough to not do such a thing.

"Oh, I'm afraid I've never tried dance," he said with a chuckle. "My activities are more sedentary. Writing and reading. I used to work at the Newberry Library in Chicago and I frequently got to handle and read manuscripts that were hundreds of years old." He didn't know if she would find that interesting, but he hoped she did. "Not opposed to dance, though."

 Minerva listened intently to her newfound companion, free hand resting temporarily against the top of her purse. She grinned broadly for his hobby of choice, nodding her head enthusiastically as he spoke. She was not as much of an avid reader as she had been when she was young, and she had never been a very good writer, but she was impressed all the same. Old stuff was always intriguing.

 "That is super cool," she gushed honestly. "Is that where you moved here from? Chicago?" What a long trek that seemed to be, she noted idly to herself as they grew nearer to the cafe of choice. She hoped to visit there one day.

Sayed smiled happily as the girl seemed interested in what he had done previously. It felt good to talk about it again, even if it also hurt to know he could never go back to that. It had been his dream job, and he had been so angry about being turned not even a year after landing the position.

"Yeah," he answered, looking at her with a smile. It dawned on him then that she was likely going to ask what had made him give it up and move to Colorado, and he didn't have an answer for that except for the truth. He quickly tried to think of something, hopeful to have an answer before she could even ask. "I got sick," he blurted out suddenly; perhaps to the point that made it seem untruthful. He tried to hide his grimace and felt like he needed to explain more. Get deeper into the lie. "I mean, like, I was getting sick all the time. Bad air quality, y'know? Doctors said I need to move somewhere with better air quality. Soooo, I picked Colorado."

He looked at her and gave an uneasy smile, hoping that she bought it.

 She wondered how different Chicago was from a place like Cordova. She might have asked as much, if not for him speaking again, very suddenly explaining that he had been sick. Minerva considered him with an expression of concern, obviously waiting for him to continue. Slowly, she pieced together what he was saying - that he had moved because the air quality in Chicago was making him sick.

 "Ohhh," she remarked simply. She wasn't sure if the air quality in this city was any better or worse than the windy city. Idly, she wondered if maybe that wasn't his reason for moving here at all, but made a quick decision to let it be. If he was lying, maybe he was ashamed of the real reason he'd had to move - it didn't necessarily make him a bad person, right? He didn't seem like a bad person. Who didn't have demons? Who didn't deserve a second chance?

 Minnie chose to believe him. "Well. We do have a lot of trees," she commented with some light-hearted finality, laughing a little at herself. They had come upon the cafe door, and she pressed it open to lead Sayed inside. It was a cozy little place, with exposed brick walls on the inside, upon which a local artist's work hung. Soft acoustic music played over the speakers, and the sitting spaces were made up of various mismatched couches and wooden table-and-chair sets.

 "So, how are you liking it here so far?" she prompted the man beside her as she tentatively made to lead him up to the ordering bar, where the barista was giving her a funny look for returning so soon with a stain on her skirt.

The girl seemed to accept it, which Sayed was thankful for. He knew that it didn't necessarily mean that she believed what he said, but she wasn't pressing the issue, nor did her demeanor around him change. Sayed couldn't help but smile to himself, happy that he'd found someone whom he could maybe trust.

Minerva led him inside the cafe and once inside, he breathed in deeply and smiled. He'd loved coffee once upon a time, and decided there and then that he'd have a small cup, even if it meant vomiting it up later. "Looks nice," he said quietly, still taking it all in. "So far I've been enjoying myself. Though it's definitely better having company." He gave her a wink as he walked up to the counter. He greeted the barista casually before mentioning that he'd bumped into Minerva, causing her to spill the drink. It wasn't true, but it seemed better than saying that she had spilled it on herself.

"So, I'd like another cup of what she had-" he paused to look at her so she could fill in her drink order, in case the barista didn't remember- "And I'll have the small hazelnut latte." He pulled out his wallet to pay before Minerva had a say in the matter, and once they had their drinks, he turned back to her with a smile. "So, should we sit and drink in here or walk around and drink?"

 Everything was better with company! Minerva grinned girlishly at Sayed, preparing to greet the barista sheepishly, but the man beat her to the punch. Her mouth, having come open, quietly closed and pressed into an almost embarrassed little smile, very pointedly not looking at anyone in particular so that she wouldn't do anything to contradict his sweet little white lie. She would interject only to remind the barista that it was a cappuccino with caramel.

 She guffawed at him when he paid for her drink, hands on her hips in a playful position of scolding. "You didn't have to do that! But... thanks anyway." It was a kind gesture, at least, and made Minerva more confident in her decision to make a friend of him. "Let's walk," she decided after a moment of consideration. "I can't stay out too long, but I can point out a few cool places for you to visit in the area!"

"Oh, you're welcome. It's no problem," he answered shyly. The girl suggested that they walk and mentioned that she couldn't be out for too much longer. Sayed nodded, though inside he realized that this was the price of being friends with humans. He could only be out in the night, and she only had a few hours of night before it was necessary to be home. Still, he wanted a friend, and she felt right.

"Oh, okay," he remarked with a smile. "I tend to be a bit of a night owl. Sleep all day, stay up all night. I don't know- the night always seems more fun." It was another lie built to keep who he was hidden, but it came out easier than the moving lie had. He took a small sip of his latte, forgetting that everything tasted bad as a vampire besides blood. "But yeah, what are some spots I should hit up?"

 Minerva was happy to show the man around, even if the night hours held a potential for danger. She put her trust in the stranger, having pegged him as a gentleman already, and liked to think that if - god forbid - something shady happened, he could break out some manliness and they could evade any trouble. That was the way the world worked, right?

 Taking her new coffee, she was careful to check the lid and make sure it was on properly, and holding it by the bottom with the hopes to keep it from falling apart again. Sayed went on to explain that he was more of a nocturnal person - that the night was more fun. Almost immediately, she thought of Joaquin, and how he never went out after sunset. For safety's sake. There were creatures that went bump in the night. Maybe Sayed was simply unafraid of them... or maybe he was one himself?

 His question cut the thought short. She blinked at him - if he was a werewolf or a vampire, he was a very nice one. She smiled softly at him. "Well. There's a big library - three stories! - but it's farther north in the city. I think you would like that a lot, but it's kind of far from here. Ummm." She moved towards the door again, pressing it open with her back and holding it open so he could come out with her. The night air was much cooler than the warmth of the cafe. She pointed out towards the plaza's center across the street. "Sometimes there are concerts there, and like... seasonal festivals. There will be a fall festival there in a couple weeks!" Minerva was happy to drop back into the routine of friendliness. "These places in the buildings around the park are mostly little restaurants and boutiques - and the dance studio, of course. A couple blocks that way, there's a nice big art gallery that I really like. There's Echo Echo, too, which is a nice music venue that serves a really good veggie pizza."

His eyebrows rose when she mentioned the library. He definitely liked libraries, so she was right on the nose with the thought that he'd like something like that. He followed her out the door and into the cool night, this time pretending to take sips of his drink as they made their way down the street. Concerts, festivals, boutiques and restaurants weren't really his thing, so he merely nodded and smiled. "Sounds like Cordova has quite a lot to offer." That was nice, at least. Even if he wanted wide, open spaces- he was still a city boy at heart and Cordova was just big enough to fill that spot he needed.

She mentioned an art gallery and Echo Echo- both of which sounded a little more interesting. He liked art. He liked music. He didn't care for veggie pizza, even as a human it hadn't been his favorite. He gave the woman a sly sort of smile, one hinting at playfulness. "Maybe sometime we should go to a gallery showing or a show at Echo Echo. I'd go by myself, but those sort of things are better when someone else is with you, right?"

He chuckled just a bit despite himself, and took another pretend sip of coffee to help segue into a different conversation. It was pretty well known within the Mountainside community that there were vampires and weres living in the area, and as he stole a sideways glance back at Minerva, he wondered what she thought of such creatures, being one himself. "So, I've heard that there's some, uh, interesting things that tend to happen in the night around Mountainside."

 Making future plans was a good sign! That meant if he was a supernatural being, he wasn't planning on killing her, which was great. It did make her feel better, at any rate, and also helped roll her brain back to the thought that he was probably just a normal guy who preferred to operate at night. Minerva grinned at him, head bobbing affirmatively. "Definitely," she agreed genuinely. Everything was better with friends, Sayed, duh!

 Minerva took a deep breath as he changed the subject, and let it out in a little laugh. "Yeahhh," she said, almost as if she were reluctant, although that was not really the case. "I don't know if we're any more strange in that way compared to other cities but... we tend to see a lot about potential vampire attacks and werewolf attacks on the local news." Her free hand rose to push a stray tendril of hair away from her face, before reaching back to touch her braid, as if unsure it were still intact. "That's kinda why I try not to stay out too super late. My brother won't go out after nightfall at all." She gave him a sheepish sort of look, hoping she wouldn't offend him with such a statement. As much as she liked to think supernatural people were really doing their best, and it was hard to believe she could ever be a victim of such a thing, it seemed like being out at the witching hour might be a lot like tempting fate.

Sayed smiled at the girl for agreeing to go out to places with him, and he knew he'd have to take her up on that offer soon. After all, he did actually want to see the art gallery in town, and while he wasn't that crazy about concerts and festivals, a small show at a place like Echo Echo could certainly be welcome. "Fantastic," he said, enthusiastically.

The way in which Minerva to reacted to news of the supernatural was not extremely promising, but Sayed felt like, if he needed to, he could probably continue pretending to be human. Still, she seemed to be braver than her brother. "Did you or your brother ever come across any vampires or weres? I often wonder how many times I did in Chicago."

 Temporary uncertainty melted away, putting Minerva back in a comfortable position with Sayed's genuine friendliness. She sipped cautiously at her drink as she considered the path before them, listening thoughtfully to his question. She thought immediately of Whitewing, and while he was neither a vampire or a werewolf, he was easily the greatest aspect of magic in her life. But speaking about him still felt borderline taboo, and Sayed would definitely think she was a total lunatic if she brought it up, so her bird friend would stay privately tucked in her mind.

 "Not that I know of," she admitted with a little laugh. "But I wonder that a lot, too. I mean. I'm sure they've been around a long time - they must be able to blend in really well to have made it this long in secrecy, you know? It's kind of mind blowing. I have so many questions about them." It might be obvious to him that he had touched on a subject that fascinated her, thanks to her stint of rambling.

There it was. Sayed smiled to himself as Minerva finally seemed to express interest in the supernatural. He briefly wondered if there was more to her as well, since she seemed decently at ease for the nighttime and didn't seem to be too frightened by the thought of shifters or vampires.

"Oh yeah?" he said lightly, looking over at her with interest. "What kind of questions would you ask them?" He gave her another grin. "Provided they wouldn't attack you while you asked."

 Minerva laughed at his question, and her eyes widened in an "oh boy" sort of expression as she heaved a dramatic sigh. Get ready for a novel, Sayed. "So much! Like, jeez. How do they end up the way they do? How do they blend in with normal people? How long have they been around? Are they all violent and mean, or are they as unique as anyone else?" She gestured frivolously with her hands. "Is there a cure? Are they like the movies make them seem? Like, the full moon and silver bullets and holy water and stuff. Can they live forever? Do they hate each other?" Another laugh and a little shake of her head as she looked over at the man. "I could probably write a book, just full of questions about the supernatural. But I guess secrecy is kinda... beneficial for them, I dunno." People feared what they didn't understand, and maybe no amount of questions answered could soothe the public's seemingly wide-spread fear.

Instantly the girl launched into her questions, and Sayed stopped walking to make sure he could hear all of them. They were interesting- definitely things he had wondered after he'd first been turned. Well, at least when it came to the questions specifically dealing with vampires. He chuckled and nodded. "Yeah, those are a lot of the same questions I've had." Her questions were cute, and Sayed was glad he'd already eaten so he didn't feel the need to attack her.

"Well, if you ever run into a nice vampire or were, maybe they'll let you ask your questions." He gave her a small wink, meant to be maybe a little flirty in nature, but also hinting at the fact that he was being the nice vampire.

 Minerva grinned as Sayed confessed the relatable nature of her questions. She figured a lot of people probably wondered many of the same things. His next statement made her laugh again, perhaps a bit incredulously. Perhaps his wink was meant to confirm that was a joke? She wasn't too sure, but she decided humor was probably the safest route to uphold smooth sailing. "Well. If you ever meet one who's actually willing to satisfy my curiosity, you can definitely introduce us!" She kind of doubted it, but a girl could dream, right?

"Oh, absolutely," Sayed answered with a smile. He wasn't sure if there was actually any unwritten vampire code somewhere that said not to talk to the humans about vampire stuff, but he figured talking to one girl wouldn't hurt. It wasn't like he was even going to talk to her that second anyway. Sayed wanted to get to know the girl first before he dropped the whole Hey, I'm a vampire line on her.

"So, do you live around here, or did you drive here? I know you said you couldn't hang around too much longer. I could walk you home or to your car if you want." He gave a short shrug and a smile. Minerva was a nice girl. He didn't want to see her get attacked by anyone, and he knew well enough that there were other vampires always lurking about.

 It had been a playful suggestion, really, and she figured his response was equally as humorous. But now that it had been said, the part of her that was so invested in the goodness of magic kind of hoped he would actually stumble on something for her to sink her teeth into. No pun intended.

 Minerva grinned at his gentlemanly offer, pausing to sip from her still-hot cappuccino before she replied. "I drove here! I'm actually parked on the other side of that dance studio." One hand rose to gesture haphazardly in that particular direction. "I guess I probably should be hitting the road now," she added with a light-hearted sigh and a grin.

"Oh, so not too far away?" he asked, with another smile. Part of him was a little sad for it, since he was enjoying his time with the girl. "Well, if you'd like, I can still walk you to your car. Just make sure you get there safe and sound." He hadn't smelled another vampire or shifter nearby, but they were all fast.

He ran his hand through his hair then, feeling a little bit or his nerves acting up. It was always still surprising when he felt so human at times. "And if you're interested, maybe we could exchange numbers? So we can hit up the art gallery or that small venue with the really good veggie pizza sometime." He gave a shrug and a shy smile. She'd said before that she'd be interested, but she could've also just have been being nice.

 Not too far away! Minnie nodded her head affirmatively, and her grin would grow as he stuck to his offer to walk her to her car anyway. "Sure! That's very kind of you," she assured him warmly. Who said chivalry was dead?

 She had begun to turn in the direction of her parked car when he spoke again, and she lit up with recollection. She liked to think she wouldn't have forgotten such a thing, but maybe she would have - whatever. "Oh, totally!" Minerva all but chirped, reaching into her purse with her free hand to fish out her phone as she began to step towards her car. "Actually, I think Echo Echo is having a little Halloween party sometime soon. We could go to that," she offered as her fingers found purchase on her phone. She produced it and clicked her way over to the new contact form as best she could with one hand, and then held it out towards Sayed to enter his information.

Yes, Minerva was a very kind person. Very friendly and warm. Sayed was glad he met her. He walked with her as they turned back to go to her car, taking care to keep steady with her pace while she searched her bag for her phone. He too decided to get out his phone and let her enter her contact information, but since it was in his pocket, it was easier to grab.

In the process of exchanging phones though, his fingers slipped around hers. Without giving it any thought, he dropped his cup of coffee in favor of catching her phone. Her phone was safe, but as the latte hit the ground and exploded over the sidewalk from the impact, Sayed knew it'd look suspicious that there was still so much left.

"Oh, damn," he said, trying to get him voice to an acceptable annoyance level. He decided to not talk about the fact that it had still been completely full. He at least bent down to pick up the cup and lid and throw it away in the nearest trash bin before he finally entered in his number and handed the phone back to Minerva. He tried to think of a decent lie to tell, in case she asked about the latte.

 It all happened very quickly - she had his phone in her hand, but something went wrong in the exchange and suddenly, her phone and his coffee were being pulled to earth, no thanks to gravity. She clutched Sayed's phone with a look of sheer mortification, and when his coffee splattered to the ground, her mind was very sure it was her phone for a split second. But! It was not - her eyes went first to her phone, safe in his hand, before moving down to the great, messy puddle of coffee.

 "Oh, my gosh," she said with a degree of disbelief. "These coffees must be bad luck. I'm so sorry." Not that it was her fault, but still. That so much coffee had been in the cup still did not quite strike her as much as the fact that it had been dropped did. How ironic! Quickly, she tapped in her name and phone number so that she could hand his phone back to him, taking hers and studying the information he had entered in her own. With a smile, she looked back to the man. "Maybe next time we don't get coffee."

She seemed to have not noticed, and for that, Sayed was glad. The phones were handed back to their rightful owners, and everything was going to be just fine. "Yeah, I think that's a good idea," Sayed said with a quiet chuckle. "Let's go get you to your car so you can get back home."

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