Work Release 
outfit, a cheap tuxedo that makes her look like a catering waiter

Peter stood with her arms crossed, frowning at a giant screen displaying a woman methodically kissing lipstick marks into the ground. She had been standing here five minutes, she thought, and the video hadn't looped. In the age of facebook videos it was frustrating to not know how long this one was, to not be able to skip to the end, bingo! Instant gratification.

On the screen, the woman planted her lips feverishly to the floor, and reapplied lipstick. Again and again and again, each time with an audible thwock as she broke the momentary suction and repainted her lips.

The piece was called There was a time I worshiped the ground you walked on, an artifact of the 90s. Pete continued to frown.

How on Earth did Amber miss this place? The one thing she bemoaned constantly about Colorado was the lack of art studios. She must have spoken too soon, because a quick google search had her speeding over to Bella Vista for what reviews called, "sensational masterworks from the classics to the contemporary."

It certainly measured up to the hype with high ceilings, huge gallery rooms, and a handy little walkthrough guide displayed right at the front table. Eager to explore, Amber picked a random direction and walked in, sandals clicking on the hard wood floor. Her attention was captured by flickering lights coming from a separate room, an art installation perhaps?

Amber entered, curious. The video on the screen played through. Amber squinted at it, trying to understand exactly what she was seeing. The artist bent down to lick(?) the floor again. "Isn't that unsanitary?" She said aloud, mostly to herself, but soon realizing she wasn't alone in the room.

The sound of another human broke her concentration. Pete looked over, a little bewildered, a little caught off guard.

She knew how to make fun of people doing weird things. She had terrorized her peers all through grade school. And the lady in the red carpet dress, spelling a message out on a gallery floor, was obviously absurd. But something about it had stuck at her, and that made it difficult to turn to a stranger and immediately be ready to destroy. In the moment, she settled on a half-smile, looking back to the screen for a moment before studying the newcomer further. "That's what I thought. But I think that's the point."

She took a longer look at the screen, finally noticing the letters spelled out by the - oh they were lipstick kisses - marks. A testament to the 'kiss the ground you walked on' style of devotion.

It was pretty clever actually. Amber could appreciate performance art, especially the ones that packed a good punch of social controversy. This one appeared more for the artist's benefit, and perhaps those who also experienced the pains of a bad breakup.

She'd never felt the need to kiss the dirty ground for any person, ripping pictures and burning their old stuff was more her style. But, whatever makes you happy girl.

Her eyes slid sideways to check out the person standing beside her. Interesting outfit, Amber could dig it. "I see it now. Pretty cool idea, but her face has got to hurt by the end." She sucked her cheeks in, making a silly fish face as the woman reapplied her lipstick on screen once again.

Pete gave a sunny laugh at the face, even while thinking, in the back of her head, how wild it was that mortifying yourself, giving yourself lip cramps, was something a bougie crowd would pay you to do. That someone might film it and put up a plaque. It was some new and mysterious subset of humanity that she hadn't known existed.

She would come back to it.

She shook her head, uncrossing her arms with a jaunty swing. "I dunno the first thing about art, so this whole place is pretty wild. I thought art was all about horses and boobie paintings."

Kudos to her for at least stepping into the gallery then. Most people who weren't fans of art liked to stick up their noses and walk right by. And out of all the gallery's Amber had been to, this one was probably a nice choice for an art virgin. Only thing better was probably a museum.

She laughed at the girl's summation of art, not a bad one either. "There are plenty of horses and nudity in art. You'd think the old painters were all pervs." That's what she had thought herself, until an art course in high school that changed her opinion for the better. Shout out to Mrs. Mills, hope you're doing great teach.

"There's a lot more to it of course, I think there's a type of art for everyone out there." Beauty of art was that is meant different things to different people. Looking at the girl, Amber could't yet pinpoint what her type would be.

Peters smiled slyly, a knuckly finger pointing toward the screen. "Don't tell me she's not a perv, though. I bet this was the best day of her life." Pete of course worked under the assumption that all people were pervs, probably — she sure as hell wasn't innocent. Buuuut this didn't appear to be that sort of conversation. "You know a lot about this stuff?"

Now wasn't that a loaded question. Amber prided herself on not being one of those snooty artists, whose own egos could fill a room, but boy did she like talking about art.

Eyebrow raised, she tilted her head curiously. Hope you didn't only ask to be polite, because Amber was amped up for some art conversation. "I know a bit, as an artist myself, but I'm no where near an expert." She enjoyed speaking with experts, passion for a subject was contagious and her own muse fed off it.

She nodded towards the screen. "That's a neat example of performance art, I focus more on photography and painting. Similar in some ways, but different worlds." Amber paused, then smiled. "You ever dabble in art? Finger painting and macaroni art totally counts."

Pete tracked the conversation with interest, a small muscle ticcing in her cheek before she smiled. "No kidding? How's that work, you got a studio or something? Or people hire you to come take pics?" The little hamster wheel in Pete's skull was whirring as she tried to guess how this worked. She crossed her arms again, biting her cheek. "Nah, I was never creative. Growin' up, I woulda traded art for gym class." A tiny pause, and the big charming grin was back already. "Never too late to broaden your horizons, though, I figure."

"No, it's never too late." Art's for everyone, so there's no such thing as too old for a new creative hobby. Amber's smile stayed in place. "And checking out a gallery isn't a bad place to start." Lots of cool things to see and a couple of weird ones to turn your head sideways and ponder.

Amber clasped her hands behind her back, swaying on her toes. "To answer your question, I do have a little studio at home. Digital photography is the bulk of my work, so luckily I don't need an actual photo lab with all those chemicals." She appreciated the skill and dedication traditional photographers gave to their work, but she never saw herself hunkered down in a dark room for hours. "Got contracts with some small magazines who make requests or I send sample photos to." Actually, she had her hands in a bunch of different ventures. Her art shop online where she sold prints and a listing as a portrait photographer were a few such places. If you wanted to make a living as an artist you had to work smart.

She nudged the conversation along, curious of what caused the woman's budding interest. "What made you come in today? Felt like doing something different?"

Interesting. At first thought, Pete was of the mind that literally anyone could take photos, but she had enough sense in the moment not to make that a point of conversation. Instead she shrugged and gave a casual glance around the gallery. "Yeah. I have a lot of weekdays off, gotta figure out how to keep myself busy. And free entertainment keeps me out of trouble. You don't have any pictures here, do ya?"

Amber's eyes widened. Have her work in this gallery? She wished. Alas, hers was far more commercial than the in-depth studies of other photographers. If she could afford to take time off work and focus on personal projects, then she's absolutely try. Just needed to get a handle on those pesky bills, then maybe someday.

"Oh no, not here. One day, though." She smiled. The video before them continued on, artist planting another smooth on the floor. "Just thought I'd stop by for fun, maybe get some inspiration."

She turned away from the screen, no longer interested. "You mentioned trouble. What's your particular brand of mischief?"

Pete snorted out a laugh and crossed her arms again, leaning forward as she considered her answer. "Oh, you know, pickin' fights, graffiti on walls, just your normal day-off stuff." She brushed the hair out of her eyes and shook her head, slightly embarrassed. "I was chasing after vampires for a while. Ought to stop doing that."

"Oh!" Amber said surprised. That was an unexpected answer, but a very interesting one. "Vampire hunting sounds pretty badass, but definitely dangerous." The girl had to be fearless, skilled, or an idiot. Maybe a mix of all three to be actively going after those things. Not that Amber really had a leg to stand on. If she thought she stood a chance against a vamp, she'd totally join in the search.

Looking back, the girl also said "chase" which didn't instantly imply anything harmful. Strange. Could she be in the presence of a vampire groupie?

She'd be interested to learn more, but first came introductions. Smiling again, she clasped her hands together. "I'm Amber by the way. What's your name?"

Hunting. The idea tickled her enough that she uncrossed her arms to sling finger guns, pew-pew!, as the other woman finished talking. "Amber the Artist, all right. Nice to meetcha." She forked over a big hand and a bigger smile. "I'm Pete. You've never met any, have you? Vampires and shifters and psychics and stuff?"

Pete had a powerful handshake, one that contrasted heavily with Amber's noodle arms. Damn, she needed to hit the gym.

Her smile waned a bit from Pete's question, mind jumping through the last few weeks. Amber poked her tongue against her left inside cheek. Had she met one before? "Nah, I haven't met one knowingly. Odds are I definitely passed one by, maybe even recently." She kept Piper's identity to herself, just as she promised. Pete seemed the nice type, no bad vibes coming from the chick, but if she really did hunt vampires, then maybe she hunted other things as well.

Amber was still curious, though. "And you? Had any luck?"

Her answer was disappointing. This city was chock-full of them, wild beasts and walking dead, even soft little humans with magic powers. How completely weird, to exist here and think that everyone around you was normal. Her eyes closed demurely, eyebrows in a high arch. "Maybe."

She held the pose for only a moment before her shoulders wriggled, and she grinned again. "I met a few. I have a knack for spotting them, maybe, or maybe there's just more of them than you think." A hand went up to scratch her neck. "Mostly it's been fine. There was one all covered in tattoos who got me in Ravenswood, I dunno if he was trying to bite me or what." Her mouth twisted at the (mostly fabricated) memory.

"That was me minding my own business. Came up and asked me for a light, then all of a sudden I was on the ground with a broken wrist and a bruised kidney. That one was scary." Her gaze filtered back down to Amber, considering.

Amber soaked up the story like a sponge. That's it. Colorado had to be a hot bed of crawling supernatural activity. You legalize the weed and all the creatures that go bump in the night come out to party. Her face twisted at the last part, broken bones were never worth it. "Damn, I'm sorry. You okay?" A dumb question really as Pete looked to be in one piece, but she had to at least be a little shaken.

"You'll have to tell me more, but actually..." There was something she could share and Pete would surely pardon the interruption when she feasted her eyes on Amber's Super Secret Awesome Photo Expose or ASSAPE. (The title is a work in progress.)

In a flash, she had her camera out and scrolled to the exact photo. "I did see something cool in the woods a few months ago. Maybe not as epic as multiple vampire tussles, but pretty cool." Amber flipped the screen over for Pete to see. Reactions so far to the photo had been mixed, but she felt Pete might appreciate it, maybe even have an idea of whatever it was.


Adoration was something Pete should really be receiving at all times, and she felt a satisfaction at receiving some from Amber that came too rarely now she was on her own. Her smile at Amber's concern was grateful and sweet. Then a camera came out, and she was interested enough to maybe see something horrifying that she barely minded losing center stage.

She leaned in, to see.

A furry? Vitto had told her about furries. Vitto probably was a furry, the little fruit. But no, this was the real deal, she could tell from the proportions. It wouldn't be a person in a suit. "The fuck is that," she mumbled, reaching out to tilt the screen. "You were holding out on me! What the fuck was this?"

See? This was the reaction the photo deserved. Everyone else take note.

With Pete engrossed with the camera, Amber began waving her hands around and taking a mile a minute. "Right? Totally freaky! First week I'm got here I went out to the woods at night because yes, I was bored and dumb. Anyhoo, heard some some people screaming and when I got closer I saw this woman standing in the forest and then like a second later there was a giant cat creature instead. I flipped out! There were more people yelling and I'm like 90% sure cat lady was not happy, so I snapped the photo and got out of there."

She stopped to catch her breath, then continued at the same volume. "One of my friends was positive this was just some escaped zoo animal, but I wasn't so sure. Now with all that stuff on the news, I'm positive we got people turning into jungle cats running around."

Pete studied the screen as Amber gesticulated in front of her, acutely jealous of the adventure. The only time she'd really run into a Hostile Monster, she hadn't gotten to have any fun. "The fuck. No, like, look at that thing, that's not an animal. It's a manimal." Heh heh.

She looked back up and grinned, basking in enthusiasm. "They go out and shift in the woods, but it sounds like you almost got in on an old-fashioned monster brawl, dude! You should sell that shit to the tabloids." Peter, mercilessly selling her own people out.

"You think?" Amber shifted to stand beside Pete, her face pensive. "Most people had a pretty lackluster response, so I've held off." There was also her fear of it really being a hoax and feeling stupid. Although, the chances of her being wrong seemed to shrink by the day.

She could also send it out anonymously, protect herself if any crazies went after her. Pete's enthusiasm had lit the old flame of interest in sharing the photo and honestly, with current events, people were hungrier than ever for more information.

But was she ready to open this can of worms? Amber didn't know yet.

"Get that money," she confirmed emphatically, without thinking about it at all. "I mean, worst case, only a tabloid picks it up and you get money for giving them the next Bat Boy. You took it, you should try to get somethin' out of it." Also, if Amber the Artist got famous for her Bat Boy picture, then Pete would know somebody famous! Win win!

She bit her lip and thought for a second. "No, you're right. I should try getting this out there." Amber said confidently. She looked back at the photo, camera now safely in her hands. "Might even save another dummy from wandering in the woods at night."

Positive reinforcement was as deadly as they claimed. If Amber did make some money from this, she use some of it to get herself a hype man.

A little light bulb went off as Amber thumbed the camera buttons. "Hey, you should do the same! With your luck, I bet you could get some awesome pics to sell." If Pete's stories were true, then she could rake in a hefty profit. Amber's photo, while cool, wouldn't bring in the big bucks. Not with the shaky focus and trees in the way. "I think I have an old camera on my bike, if you'd like."

Pete, who loved hearing that she was right, nodded with the sort of self-confidence that could only come from an ego running completely rampant. She was so right! But then

Amber said something that made all Pete's neurons fire, and her big shovel hands rose up to brace against Amber's shoulders. "...Do you wanna chase vampires with me?"

It was, possibly, the stupidest idea she'd ever had. She needed it more than EVERYTHING.

"Only if you have a fool-proof way not to die." Amber shook her head while smiling. She knew full well she'd be the first to go running into a disaster area, but she also didn't want to get straight up murdered. "I know vampires hate fire, so I got myself a lighter just in case." Her expression turned sad. "But my friend said it wasn't enough." Deep down she had known a plastic lighter was nothing compared to an actual vampire, but it still stung when Asha brought her down to reality.

Oh shit, Asha. Amber needed to reach out soon.

Filing that thought away for later, Amber continued on the current topic. She pulled back her sleeve to show off the bracelet. "I also heard weres are allergic to silver, so I got this as well."

Amber the Artist was not into it, and that made Pete's soul die a little. She shook Amber's shoulders gently, putting on a hopeful smile. "Human shield?"

She was right, though. Human meatbags couldn't do shit with a vampire, and it was the vampires you really had to worry about. Her dreams ashed and blew away. "You're probably right, though. What you really need's a blowtorch."

Pete placed her hands behind her back to inspect the bracelet, her heart picking up instinctively, Becky remembering more than one burn in their past, but she was otherwise unruffled. "No kidding? Silver bullets and stuff, huh. I'm allergic allergic to it but I'm betting shifters don't break out in a rash." Goofy grin.

Frowning down at the bracelet, Amber sighed. "Ya know what, I have no idea how they react." She honestly thought it caused them to shift and reveal their animal characteristics, but Pete had a good point. "Maybe it's like those cheap copper rings that leave a green line or they break out in hives and start itching like crazy!" That last one got a giggle to accompany it. Imagine seeing a big burly man hopping frantically on one foot and scratching the life out of his arm.

She pulled her sleeve down and straighten up, keeping her hands together. "Even if you are allergic to silver there's bound to be another way to protect yourself." She paused, expression becoming concerned. "You are staying safe right?"

Amber better not see Pete's name or face on the news anytime soon. Unless it was a live in-person interview or proof of life was shown.

Still coming down from the laugh at the joke, she was...unreadier than she thought she'd be for the concern, or for how awfully genuine it felt. Heartstrings tugging, Pete put her face back together in a crooked smile. "Yeah, honestly, it's not the shifters I'm worried about. You turn into a bear, you knock over some trash cans, but you're not trying to kill people." She scratched at her neck, weighing the truth of her words as she said them. "There's something a million times creepier about an undead thing that lives forever and has mind control powers and shit, though. But. I'm always careful."

It was amazing how much she could believe that, even knowing it wasn't true. "Anyway, I'll be looking for your expose-ay piece." Eyebrows waggling emphatically.

Pete's response did give her some reassurance and Amber let the matter drop. Pete would know better than anyone what she could or couldn't handle.

A nod to herself mostly, Amber looked back up and grinned. "Thanks. You got me interested in trying to get a few more. Make it an even bigger expose." Ooh, Amber was getting a lightbulb moment! She stretched her arms out with fingers splayed. "Something like, Howl Una-were Are We?"

Someone get her a pen to write this shit down.

Pete howled a little herself, or shrieked, some undeterminable animal sound of laughter at the quickdraw genius of that headline. Amber the Artist, man. She dug it. "Just hit 'em with bear spray if they get too frisky. All right, man, well hopefully I'll catch you around sometime? You live in Belle Vista?" She was dancing backwards a little, her weight on one foot.

Yes, laugh at Amber's joke. Feed her self esteem. It was sweet of Pete to assume Amber could live among the ritzy neighbors at Bella Vista. Maybe when she got that front page money. "I'm actually in Lavender Heights, much cheaper rent, but I'm really all over the place these day."

She pulled out her phone, wiping off some random fuzz. "If you want, let's trade numbers. I'd love to hear updates on your vampire hunting."

"Yass," Peter vowed, patting around her own tiny pockets for her own bedraggled phone. "You know they got a whole mess-a vamps down there, right? There's a whole community." She opened her contacts and handed the phone over, taking Amber's in turn. "I'm in Cedar Creek."

Amber typed in her info on autopilot. "Wait. You mean in Lavender Heights? ?" Hold up. Rewind. A vampire community in her backyard? Please tell Amber you're joking. "Well, shit." She said, passing back the phone.

She could see it though. Cheap rent, tons of college kids, and a progressive atmosphere with little judgement. Unholy Fuck. It was a vampire paradise.

"Yeah, son." Pete busily entered her name as Pete the Slayer into Amber's phone. "Good place to wear your sunglasses at night."

She traded phones again, grinning. "Text me if you get any more scoops, all right? I'll let you know if I hear anything interesting."

It would be awhile before she got over this new revelation. Better make a list of priorities such as reevaluating her current living situation. :'D

Amber took back her phone, clutching it tightly. "Absolutely." She shook off the lingering shock, perkiness returning. "Good luck out there and have fun!" Please don't die Pete the Vampire Slayer.

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