It sneaks up on you

Belle Vista 
#1


@Brit

Joaquin hadn't had a chance to do some real Christmas shopping in years, but he already knew exactly what to get Minnie, and as the days were getting darker faster after work, he knew earlier was better.

So he perused the shelves for acrylic and oil paints, watercolor pencils, chalk and oil pastels, India ink, and markers. Also, canvases! So many canvases of varying sizes in this cart, he could barely see over them!

Which! Was! Why! The next thing happened.

See, he was trying to turn the cart around to the next aisle of extremely expensive but worth spending on things, and the nose of his cart decided to not clear the corner of the shelf he was turning around (because he couldn't see it, but sure, blame the inanimate object). And the case wasn't stationary, it was just a freestanding wooden appendage to the other shelves to stock more fancy (worth the price) crap.

Joaquin frowned at what he thought was a sluggish wheel, bringing it back, pushing it forward again, meeting resistance again. He didn't notice the poorly assembled case beginning to move, and wobble.

But he did eventually notice the top of it moving, then leaning forward... and too late, toppling, spilling its big huge bottles of paint to the ground, and worse, one of the shelves seemed to have split in half. He stood there open-mouthed taking stock of his life choices up to this moment, in shock.

Oh, shit.
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1

#2
It wasn't like Sayed needed to go to the art supply and stationary store in Belle Vista, but he did anyway. As he continued to slowly unpack his things from Chicago, he came across an old journal he'd started back before he'd been turned. During those first few years in Chicago as a vampire, he'd given up journaling as he often didn't have the time for it, but now? There was plenty of time it seemed.

But Sayed was particular about his journaling books, and so, it was important to travel to the closest art supply store and buy a good, proper journal. He was standing in an aisle, thoughtfully observing the different types when he heard quit the commotion. Wondering what was going on, he wandered to the end of the aisle and looked at the disaster one aisle over.

Some guy had knocked over a bunch of paint. That was unfortunate. A bottle rolled over by his foot, and Sayed bent down to pick it up and walked over to the man. "Looks like you've caused quite the mess," he said quietly, putting the bottle of paint down on the ground.
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#3
Joaquin didn't like being snuck on. He jolted, and in the process of turning to face him his chin went somewhat visibly from a rounder shape to a more square shape without his realizing. Perhaps somewhat more visibly, his eyes had turned from their normal blue to a deep maroon red.

"Uh— yeah," he recovered, his face stuck in its new shape. Was someone on their way? How could he hide this?

"You think, it's like... it's possible to just pretend that shelf was never there before they show up?"

Please?

He didn't even realize he could see a kind of faint... extra lighter aura around the guy. He was too busy being mortified.
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#4
Sayed was sure the man's face had just changed in front of him, but he said nothing. That was, until he saw the red eyes. Humans didn't have red eyes. Some shifters did. Some vampires did. But not humans. "I don't think so," he answered quietly, now perplexed at to what this person actually was. He leaned closer to try to inconspicuously sniff him.

His scent was maybe slightly different, but it smelled distinctly human. No animal scent, and definitely no vampire scent. He put his hand on the man's shoulder, giving it a light squeeze. "Are you alright?" he asked quietly, still not sure what was going on. He could hear store workers coming, and knowing how weirded out some humans got, it probably wouldn't be in the guy's best interest to go around with deep red eyes.
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#5
Whoa, hey. He didn't really like being leaned towards and handled by a stranger. Joaquin pulled away sort of conspicuously, not realizing the cause for concern.

"I'm fine. Just startled is all," he said through a flustered laugh, figuring if the guy wasn't gonna help him with this mess then he might as well face the employees alone. And probably have to pay more, ugh.

Joaquin stooped to pick up some bottles, gathering them into his arms, back to the nearest approaching employee.
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#6
The man pulled away from him, and Sayed couldn't really blame him. He wasn't fond of being touched by strangers, either. Still, this man wasn't like Pandora who would suddenly get a fight or flight response at the hint of a touch. Sayed looked at the store employees who'd approached and bent down to pick up some of the pain bottles too, to give him an excuse to get closer to the man once again.

"Your eyes are red," he whispered to him, before standing up straight and putting the paint bottles on the shelves that weren't broken. He smiled at the employees. "There was an accident."
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#7
"What?" he paused, at first because he wasn't sure he'd heard right and then realizing what he was saying.

His eyes were red. You know. Because obviously Joaquin looked like the kind of guy who got high. (Maybe he did. He didn't know.)

But he glanced up, still red in the irises and scrunched in the brow, confused as the guy handled the employees.

"Hey, I'm not like, high or anything," he defended himself quietly, right as an irritated employee came over to try and take his armload into her own grasp. "Sorry," he mumbled to the lady, giving a little pass of the back of his hand against his nose because it had started to run.

She didn't happen to look at his face at least.
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#8
The man didn't seem to think anything of his eyes being that deep red color, and he shook his head as he heard him mumble about not being high. With the employees now there, picking up the bottles and cleaning up the mess, Sayed didn't think there was any way for him to safely tell the man that there was something wrong with him.

He prepared for the employee to suddenly get scared when the bottles of paint where taken from the man, but nothing was said. Likely she hadn't seen. He was going to look like an asshole to the employees, but he supposed he could deal with that for the time being. "Hey, we should probably get out of their hair and let them do their job," he said to the man. He leaned close once more to whisper, "Your irises are dark red, not your blood vessels."
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#9
It took him a moment, another passing itch of his nose, and then he understood.

"Shit," Joaquin hissed, just as the woman before him looked up, and she immediately backstepping, gasping an almost comedically dramatic gasp and lost for words.

"Uh— sorry, I'm— pink eye," he explained, eyes looking nothing like pink eye but it was too late now. Fortunately, she seemed to believe him, and turned away to continue.

He looked back to the man as he felt at his face, willing his power to stop, but not really sure where it had activated. "Thanks. Sorry, I... it's hard to stop if I'm not doing it on purpose," he murmured, trying to keep himself out of earshot as he walked a little bit away from all the mess.

He'd have to come back another time for Christmas shopping.
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#10
It was too late. The employee looked up at the man and spotted his eyes. Sayed was about to step in to help out the man when he came up with a lame excuse- pink eye. Sayed cringed. Color contacts had always been the way to go for him, but luckily the employee was clueless enough about pink eye to believe the lie. And since they were walking away like the assholes they were, they didn't have to worry about it dawning on the employee that pink eye doesn't affect the iris of the eye at all.

The man thanked Sayed, and the vampire merely smiled back. He studied him closely for just a few seconds before his curiosity finally got the better of him. "You don't smell like a vampire or a shifter, so what exactly are you?" he asked, voice hushed in case there were still others listening in on their conversation.
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#11
Everything was on track to being really kind of okay until his newfound acquaintance asked that question. It stopped Joaquin short, and was every kind of alarming.

"What does that mean?" he asked, the beginnings of a frown on his face.

The smell thing. And a shifter or a vampire — two things he wasn't fond of, and even less happy to be compared to. And because timing was incredibly poor, it was then that he also began to avert his eyes to a nearby shelf, squinting against what felt like growing brightness all around his vision.
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#12
Sayed could only stare at the man in confusion. What did he even think he meant? His eyes shifted, but he seemed to be neither vampire nor shifter. "It means why are your eyes changing colors," he said quietly. He watched as the other started looking away, as though there was something else going on. Sayed continued to watch him for just a moment, shaking his head in silent judgment. "Now what?"
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#13
"The fucking... smelling like a vampire or a shifter?!" he asked, a hand coming up to cover over his eyes. "How can you smell them??"

Joaquin certainly couldn't. Normal people certainly couldn't.

He let the other question go for now, moving to walk to the exit slowly instead because it was darker out there and it would help. It was his damn ability acting up and he couldn't figure out how to stop it and it was too late anyway and what did smelling shifters and vampires even mean.
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#14
"Oh," Sayed replied, realizing that the man apparently didn't have the keen sense of smell with whatever caused him to change eye color. He'd made a mistake now and just told some strange person that he essentially was a were or a vampire. He grimaced a bit and decided to go with it. Clearly the man had things to hide too.

"Vampires and shifters have an enhanced sense of smell," he said quietly, not letting the other know which category of supernatural he fell under.
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#15
The absolute unwiseness in the man's admission. Joaquin blinked hard as he exited with the other, and then turned to face what he could see of him, eyes darting against the brightness overwhelming his vision.

"Get. Away. From me. Now."

His voice was low, dangerous with threat he couldn't quite back up. Joaquin didn't make a habit of carrying weapons.
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#16
Well, this was all going south quickly. The man told him to get away and Sayed frowned. "You know, I was only trying to help you so you wouldn't scare those people back there. I've done nothing to suggest I'm dangerous." He was, of course, but Sayed liked to think that he was fairly gentle with people and wasn't particularly mean.

"Guess I'll just leave you to them next time," he mumbled, turning on his heel to head down another aisle and away from the man.
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#17
All of that could be true, but Joaquin had seen enough news stories, seen enough shit on duty.

He wasn't interested.

But the other was leaving, and now.. he was left to find his way out of the store and to his car.

Joaquin let out a huff, shielded his eyes, and wandered clear out of there.
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