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Mae's Mazes 
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He'd unintentionally managed to silence Taraneh for much of the remaining drive. This was mostly her own doing, growing so flustered as she had.

The pumpkin patch was lit with ugly spotlights that better fit some sort of sports field. But the offerings were as promised, a wide swath of oranges and reds and even creams.

Parking somewhat reluctantly in a grassy field (he would have preferred something paved), he looked to Taraneh.

"Can you make the trek in pants or should I find some discrete way to carry a small winged mammal around?"

Truly, it wasn't the carrying so much as the talking that would be troublesome.

She was still somewhat huffy, and pouty, and wanting to twist his ear or some other such nonsense to get her aggression out, but when he made the offer she glanced and quirked a brow at him.

"Is that a genuine offer or another tease," she asked, because surprise, Beauregard, she was very tempted indeed.

It would have been better if he was wearing the suit.

He frowned, uncertain of his own answer there.

"Muttering to a bat on my shoulder would be rather conspicuous," he said, rubbing at his chin in thought.

There were children here, and certainly they would draw attention to her.

After a moment, he sighed, looking to her.

"Come. Promise you won't give me rabies."

He held out a hand expectantly, fingers curling in a few times as if to summon her from one form to another.

How very thoughtful of him to extend his hand so. She regarded him with still some childlike poutiness — "Only if you don't crush my bones," she retorted in a nonetheless softened tone — and placed her hand on his palm.

In an instant she was all fur and leathery wings, hanging off his palm by the equivalent of her thumb, the first and shortest finger of the wing.

She'd pull herself up, and assuming he did not flick her off, climb with folded wings and tiny feet to settle very snugly onto his shoulder, careful not to catch herself in the fabric of his sweater.

Beauregard did not care for bats.

This was something he was reminded of as she shifted in his very hand, leathery and hairy and rat-faced.

He was very aware of the potential for little claws on his sweater, and he tensed slightly as she made her way up. It was not a charming sensation.

"Hold on tight," he murmured, reaching for the door and moving to step out of the car. The air was cool and damp, and he blinked into a slight breeze, briefly attributing it to some effort of Taraneh's before reminding himself it was far more likely to be the weather.

The pumpkin patch was lively, but groups seemed mostly occupied with their own perusal. Perhaps he would draw less attention than he'd previously worried over.

She'd hold, Beauregard.

Nestled, this was the true seat of power: a literal seat on the shoulder of the one in power, available to defend in a moment should some slobbering beast or reckless fledgling threaten. He'd feel her soothed to contentment without even a need for his empathic ability, his natural Dominus presence lulling her into a watchful but tranquil calm.

"Do you enjoy carving pumpkins?" she asked quietly, doing her best not to draw attention to the fact that she was a talking bat. She supposed he could always pretend she was some toy.

He perused the pumpkins with a thoughtful frown, very mindful of her small weight on his shoulder.

Beauregard approached a table of very small, frankly too pristine sorts of pumpkins. He picked up one after another, turning them in his hands.

"It is unpleasantly messy," he said. "But I am quite passable at it."

A brief glance to her. She was terribly close.

"You could fit quite easily into a pumpkin," he noted needlessly.

It was good that in bat form she could neither pout nor smile, though she was certain he could feel everything from her nonetheless. So, he'd feel a bit of pompous indignation, tinged with humor because — honestly — the idea of her inside a pumpkin was funny.

"Do you plan to make me a passable pumpkin home for your office, then?" she volleyed, her tiny nose twitching in background appreciation of the faint trace of his cologne.

Just imagine.

That was a charming response. He chuckled, holding up the pumpkin for her to observe for a moment.

"I imagine the inside of a pumpkin does not remain hospitable for long," he said.

Beauregard could picture some ugly little bat face poking out from a hole in the orange flesh of pumpkin. It was amusing.

"I can purchase you a bird house instead."

He meandered toward a table of larger offerings in a deep red shade.

Her attention flickered to the pumpkin, and she wondered briefly if the animal equivalent of her species fed on these things. Some sort of fruit bat, so she supposed.

"That's very kind of you," she remarked as he so thoughtfully promised to provide better lodging for his adorable bat guardian. "But please be sure it matches the rest of your decor."

Decor which, for the moment, he had little of as far as she remembered. As he turned his attention elsewhere, she was certain to pay attention, as best she could, to any neighboring feelings here. Any sense of another vampire, any reek of a shifter.

Any hint of a psychic, especially the one she still longed to gut.

"Have you been to this area often?"

It was, truthfully, a pleasant little stroll. Taraneh's mood had improved, and his own had been good to start with.

He worked have preferred her in human form, in the end, but this would do for now.

"I have hunted in the maze," he said, nodding toward the dark hedges. " Unsuccessfully, I admit. Terrorized a dog shifter once, but that was the extent it my luck. Avondale as a whole is sparsely populated. A better fit for animals."

She nodded in understanding. "I wonder if that means dogs have it then. But I cannot make out any particular kind of scent around here," his cologne notwithstanding, "so it seems that we won't be given some stuffy monologue about not feeding on someone's grass patch."

A glance to a respectable number of yards away where an aged woman ambled with an aged man, both short of hair and obese.

An internal feeling of grimacing.

"Not that the options here are all that enticing," she jested.

If the dogs would claim a crumbling place like Cedar Creek, a rural version of the same dump didn't seem especially far-fetched.

She spoke of their options and he wondered if she was hungry. The new moon was near, after all. But the pickings were slim, if decidedly not in a literal sense.

"I suppose I didn't leave you much time for dinner," he said, more thoughtful than apologetic. "If you do spot something you'd like, let me know."

He progressed to a patch of white pumpkins, eyes searching for one of the appropriate size and shape as he eventually crouched to better peruse them.

She held to him as he crouched, watching the pumpkins with interest. She'd never seen them white before.

But his offer had her thoughts on her hunger, suppressed as it had been through all their drama but flaring back into life for being recognized.

"Do you still feed as often," she pried, knowing that greater strength came with less requirement of blood, but she was interested in his own personal preferences.

Among the throng of less than attractive specimens and their loud, rambunctious children, she glanced at a prettier form. Young, her blonde hair in a delicate braid, features softened by a youthful sort of happiness about her.

Amongst students in Lavender Heights, she would perhaps be an upper average beauty at most, but here she stood out among the trash.

Raziyya hungered greatly, and glanced to see if she had any friends or family nearby. The latter, it would seem; she had in her company two elder individuals Raziyya would hazard to be her parents, and one older, college-aged man present as well.

"She would do, if she was alone," the bat practically sulked, in tone if not in face.

"Gluttonously," he admitted in a murmur, some smirk in his voice. "Though it is easier to forget for a day or two now."

He palmed a white pumpkin of several pounds, turning it in his hands to look for any blemishes. There was a smaller one toward the base, and he scraped at it with a fingernail. Some seed dried on.

Taraneh spoke of some target, then, and he looked to her little rat face in order to see where her gaze was going.

Something terribly young and blonde and regretfully surrounded.

He hummed, but it was not an especially optimistic sound. Such company would make her a very challenging target even if he managed to separate her.

"I'm afraid suggesting groups is a challenge even for me," he admitted with a sigh. "If you can wait to get back to the Heights, we could find a whole gaggle of her type to feast on. Or perhaps you can find a bar along the way home."

It was rather early in the night for proper drunks, unfortunately.

She knew of course the limitations of power. Still, she wished it were possible; her thirst was not small enough to be ignorable.

"I'll compose myself until we're back home," Raziyya resigned herself valiantly, turning her attention from the girl to the pumpkins again.

"Why are they white? Are they deficient some way? Or are they different entirely?"

Beauregard was fairly certain that whiteness had very little to do with deficiency, but he would otherwise give a small hum.

"Because white will look less tacky than orange on my desk," he decided, tucking one pumpkin under his arm and grabbing a smaller one as well.

"You may not want to be visible on my shoulder as I buy these," he said, making a move toward the small line before the table acting as a register.

She held as he grabbed to the other pumpkin with his free hand, her nose twitching once thoughtfully. It had been a matter of training, picking up animal habits. People were sharp observers when they wished to be.

"You could tuck me in your pocket," she offered, quite genuinely. It was a shame he'd not simply work a suit jacket, but dress pants pockets tended to allow space if she folded her wings well enough.

But maybe he would tease her again. Maybe, and she would admit this to no one, but maybe she was inviting it.

Beauregard was struck with a sense of true revulsion with the thought of some... winged rodent crawling into his pocket. He nearly shuddered at the imagery.

But he knew a better way to handle such a ridiculous suggestion.

"Goodness, Raziyya," he gasped, audibly scandalized as he looked to her and continued in something of a stage whisper. "We're in a rather public place for propositions about climbing into my pants."

Had she invited this? She took it back. She had not invited this at all. His playfully scandalized tone was borderline mortifying, and Beauregard mentioning anything about her getting into his pants sent a flare of abrupt embarrassment in her.

"I was not— I'm not!" the bat protested in a harsh whisper back. "I don't want to be inside your— ugh!"

He was the worst, absolutely, and truthfully she was tempted to take off, but that would be leaving him unguarded. She grappled with frustration over duty. The latter won.

"Just tell anyone who asks that I'm a pet or a toy or whatever!"

She hissed to his ear as though the previously mentioned rabies were just beginning to strike her. Beauregard was undoubtedly delighted, and she was far easier to fluster than he'd expected her to be.

But a man and a winged rodent whispering heatedly to one another was, in the end, a notable sight. It was perhaps whatever supernatural force that informed someone that they were being stared at that caught his attention enough for him to look somewhat ahead and see...

Some couple in their twenties, gawking at him like buffoons. Recourse would be swift.

He managed to catch the gaze of the young woman, and he spoke in what sounded like a question but decidedly was not.

"You realize he's cheating on you with... a young woman here in this area?" he gasped, easily continuing his scandalized tone of voice. It was cruel and successful, and Beauregard walked at a comfortable pace not toward the front table but toward his parked car as the suggested woman made a wordless sound of general fury kindly not directed at him.

Without further ceremony, Beauregard would continue toward his vehicle, white enough and gentlemanly enough that he was unlikely to be accused of something terrible like theft.

She only noticed them because he met their gaze, but her eyes followed and then she stilled, seeking a gaze to suggest.

Only the Dominus was quicker on the draw — and far more outrageous. Laughter from a bat came with a widely exposed set of teeth, so she only snickered quietly with a closed mouth, settling onto him once more as he... didn't pay at all for his pumpkins.

"Hooligan," she called him again, some approval laced in her tone, wondering if she was to be blamed for causing that scene he'd so easily gutted.

Nonetheless, as he neared the car, she'd cling to him while he went about stashing the pumpkins and settling in before she gave much thought to leaving her roost.

He could sense the fading betrayal of the scene they fled at a casual pace, and he felt amusement to have caused it and to feel it so clearly from the pair now.

Hooligan was a favored word of hers.

Beauregard would open the door to the back seat to gently set the pumpkins on the floor board, frowning just a hint at some debris stuck to their bases that would likely dirty the mats.

He was moving into his seat when he remembered that she was lurking on his shoulder. Switching forms in tight spaces had been clumsy, in his experience, and he held one hand on the open door.

"Am I driving a vampire or a bat home?"

Sadness, Beauregard.

"I'm very comfortable here," she pouted in tone, though not in face. A glance around for anyone milling about to help her case, but. There was nothing. No one. She could easily shift back unseen.

"But if you prefer it," Raziyya sighed, foisting the decision onto him.

Such a strange answer. He closed the door, deciding to allow her to stay where she was, but with the intention of making it somewhat difficult for her.

"Why is it very comfortable?" he asked, starting the car and glancing to some concerned crowd lingering back near the pumpkins.

Suggested infidelity made for good people watching, he supposed.

Seemed he was allowing. This was for the best, as far as she was concerned, though the reason why was very self serving indeed.

A small ear flicked at his question, and she glanced up at his very close face briefly before looking out to the world outside. How to answer.

"A few things," she admitted. "For one, it is a perfectly shaped roost for me in this form, in a physical sense. It also would make it more disarming when traveling together, should we cross paths with someone else. I can easily shove off and shift back if they present as a threat, but otherwise, I think it would make for an amusing sidenote to meeting you. The charming Dominus with his small bat guardian."

Amusement in her tone. She framed it in the context of him, though it was truthfully applicable to most any other Dominus she might serve. It had applied before.


"And it is... soothing, in the way that your presence soothes, to be kept close."

She answered at length, and truthfully he appreciated it.

Beauregard hadn't ever truly had much in the way of soothing interaction with prior leaders. His very first, perhaps. Distantly he recalled his early days near her, finding some solace in what seemed like unfathomable strength.

"Such a thorough response," he said. The road was quiet ahead of them, so dreadfully remote as this area was.

"Still hungry?"

As if she wouldn't be.

He didn't seem inclined to argue anything she said, or tease for it. Well, perhaps for how much she said. But that was ignorable.

On hunger, she tucked her head comfortably. "Immensely," Raziyya answered succinctly, though her tone wasn't complaint so much as interest.

"We could hunt the heights together without having to throw punches later, I suppose."

There was some lament there.

Immensely. She wasn't feeding enough, apparently

It was near the new moon, of course, but he could choose a more judgmental route with ease.

"I suppose if you're that afraid that I'll best you, we can have dinner and part in peace," he said in a sigh, making no attempt to appear to be doing anything less than egging her on.

There were several facts at play here. One, he was immensely stronger than her. Two, she did not care. Three, he was baiting at her ego.

She would snap up the bait happily.

"I'm not afraid at all," Raziyya challenged, perking up some. Surely, there were risks of bloodlust involved. As long as he didn't leave her to the sun, she was game.

"You could stand to practice, as well."

Perhaps practice more than throwing punches.

How fearless. He wondered how quickly he would need to knock her into dead sleep.

"Perhaps I could start practice with a game of catch the bat?" he said, taking one hand from the steering wheel to reach across his chest and attempt to grab her from his shoulder.

But it was a deliberately slow effort, mindful that if he startled her into shifting in this moment it could get...

Very messy.

"Catch the...?" she started, confusion, but the she saw his hand coming towards her. Danger!

She scuttled down his arm, half flaring one wing out while she held on with the other, as if it would frighten his hand away.

"What do you—" a little flap of her half-stretched wing, "intend to do with a captured bat!"

If he would crush her bones it would be sad. :<

It was a dangerous game to play while driving, and he knew that. He wiggled slightly the arm she perched on, both hands to the wheel again.

"See how far its wings can stretch before they tear," he mused. "Pluck its fangs for jewelry. Skin it to make... perhaps a single glove at best, I'm afraid."

Threats spoken with confidence, his eyes never leaving the road.

The wiggle of his arm should have been expected, and yet she was taken off balance. She managed to end up clinging upside down to the underside of his forearm, and glared at him as best a bat with such wide eyes could glare.

He was an absolute child, making such vile threats. He was the little boy that pulled on girls' hair because he didn't know how to handle liking their company. But more than that.

"I am not an it, Beauregard," she humphed, giving him what insult was due. "And if you skin and mangle me then you'll have to rely on the crocodile to protect you."

He didn't care for her scrabbling little body, frowning to the sensation of it. Beauregard supposed that was an outcome he should have foreseen.

"I was talking about a captured bat, Raziyya. You are no such thing," he tutted with concern.

He lifted his arm into the air some.

"Besides, I couldn't trust your pet to protect me. She's not even a proper fledgling."

That was her fault for not using Edvin's name directly. She held on, glancing at him with all the glare she could manage.

"She's not a pet for much longer," Raziyya huffed, for all she was in a petlike form herself. But talking of Safiya now made her want to keep him up to date with what was happening."She's had her first taste of blood. Enjoyed it greatly. I think she'll meld into the clutch just fine."

Beauregard had little interest in Taraneh's pet. If the girl convinced herself she enjoyed blood to appease a sire that turned her only because of a high, that was nothing especially worth noting. Anyone with a brain between their ears ought to have some reluctance, some human sense that it was wrong before it happened. If she went slurping on someone's open wound so giddily, it proved only that she was easily convinced into things.

"Fledglings can certainly still be pets. Just ones you have to mind more carefully."

"Pet is not a term for a vampire," she answered resolutely, moving to climb back onto his shoulder, her thoughts lighting on another topic.

"Has anyone asked of Aiden?"

Pet was a kinder and easier word than the many others that came to mind. The girl represented his clumsiness and Taraneh's failure to suggest and even understand basic English later.

Taraneh the soft, sloppy, and easily flustered.

She turned the topic from one pet project to another. Beauregard wished she would perch elsewhere in the car. He was not soothed by a rat on his shoulder.

"No one," he answered, waiting for some follow up.

That was somewhat saddening. But for the best, she supposed.

"If anyone were to ask, what should I say?"

She didn't imagine he'd gotten a chance to press Ophelia for a story. She could feign ignorance to most people, but to those who knew him better than she did?

Of course, it was a different matter entirely if they were truthseekers or mindreaders.

It was a fair question. Beauregard didn't particularly want to hear or talk about it, though. He frowned with a sigh.

"I need to speak with Ophelia about it but haven't yet," he said. "If someone asks, you can send them to me for now."

That was enough talk on Aiden to suck the life out of him. He kept his gaze on the road, mindful of the unnecessary closeness of Taraneh at his shoulder.


She didn't really have much else to say, so she didn't say anything else.

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