Pluck out the stars

Mountainside Planetarium 
Every word from Safiya seemed to be another needle under Rika's skin. "Taking care of someone that needs it?" She didn't need taking care of. She wasn't some helpless little gold digging princess.

She also didn't need a half assed reference to the jewelry they'd picked out for her, making it sound like she should be grateful that she'd got that much instead of, yeah, a sincere fucking apology. And now Rika wasn't at all feeling what sounded like a half assed attempt at one, if that was even what it was.

She offered a small shrug, having a lot to say and no desire to put herself in some sort of trouble with Beauregard to say it.

Did he think she was taking undue advantage of him, for Safiya to make comments like that? But he'd invited her to ask for anything. He'd said he wanted to treat her.

Now she wasn't so sure.

Ugh, what the fuck. Sometimes it felt like she’d be better off if someone cut her tongue out. Beau coaxed her for a full on “I’m sorry” while Rika looked like she’d already shut down. So. It was kind of pointless and she’d just made an ass of herself. A deep breath in, and out, but not a sigh.

”I’m sorry. I handled it poorly.” But not as poorly as it could have gone. “I shouldn’t have tried anything when you were already having a hard time. You were drunk and a psychic and, I dunno,” A shrug. Maybe she knew by now how intoxicating that would make her.

Right, there it was... a little too late for the situation at hand.

"It's fine," she offered in response, and really it was among the lesser of her concerns right now. "I guess I..." a handwave that might be recognized as inspired by having seen Beau do it before while searching for words, "understand now."

It didn't warm her up to the vampire girl, but she offered a tight smile as she bloomed in other insecurities.

Wonderful. What a lovely moment to marginally damage two relationships.

Beauregard glanced between the two women, sensing all variety of messy feelings between them. It was difficult to resist the urge to wipe both of their memories later.

"Did you need anything else, Safiya, or merely a case of curiosity and the cat?"

Spoken as lightly as he could manage, but dismissal could only be offered so gently.

Okay, that was good enough for her. A smile mirrored Rika’s, maybe a little more genuine than the psychics. Things like this weren’t something she let get to her. At least, she tried not to let them. She’d faced the issue more or less head on, apologized, and there was nothing else she could do. Beau’s dismissal was timely.

“You guys have fun, I came searching for my wallet.” She said with a glance to Beau. Some kind of eye contact, maybe he’d sense an apology. If that was it, she’d head out and down to the common room.

Have fun. Right. Because she was taking advantage of his generosity and he was taking care of her and just...

Rika looked to a part of the exhibit that was focused on the moon itself, and remembered with some surprising clarity what he'd been about to ask.

"I'd go to space," she answered his question quietly, very belatedly. There was no denying he knew how she felt at the moment, and so, she was making the effort. To not seem... in need of... whatever.

"Best of luck," he said simply, then listened as Safiya's footsteps fell away. Her hearing was keen, and Beauregard knew she would listen to what was audible in her absence.

Who wouldn't, truly.

"I would be quite sad to see you go," he said. There was a moment of quiet, and then he looked to her quite directly. "She's jealous of you. That is the reasoning behind her comments. Tell me what you are thinking."

That was sweet of him to say, maybe.

Rika pressed her lips to each other and didn't really meet his eyes, if only because she was feeling considerably... unsure of her place among all this.

"I guess I... am just wondering if you've complained about me or something. Her saying she couldn't afford me or take care of me and all that."

He'd probably deny it, and she was kind of aware of that, but maybe hearing it would help her feel better anyway.

That, at least, he could answer truthfully. He hadn't ever complained about her... aloud. To his recollection.

"Not even once," he said. "This is a relationship I keep rather... private. Safiya was only made aware because I sought her help in picking out jewelry. She is young, new to this. She sees you in an enviable position and I fear is sourer for it."

Such a fragile little thing, this Rika, for all that she'd decided to start with such ugly boldness a few minutes ago.

Oh. She didn't nod, but she did consider his words, swallowing.

"Okay," she answered after a few seconds, blinking at words she wasn't taking in. Maybe her position was worth envying, sure. Maybe it felt soothing to know it was just... petty jealousy.

Sorry, suckpire. But still, the insecurity remained.

"Okay, well... do you feel like that? That I'm... expensive or. Something."

Even if he hadn't shared it, was the thought there. Because if there was, she needed to take a gigantic step back.

Really, even if he said no, she wondered if she just should buy her own dinners and relieve his wallet. She didn't want to appear like some kind of mooch. To anyone.

This was tiring.

She was, of course, expensive. She knew that. Jewelry and food and clothing and alcohol did not simply appear from thin air. But she wanted reassurance, and so Beauregard would have to offer her that.

"Consider, for a moment, what a vampire has to spend his money on," he said. "I do not purchase groceries. I have, over many decades, accumulated a comfortable number of things and rarely need more."

A slight chuckle.

"My utility bills are very low. I am not providing for some... dependent. At the end of the day, my expenses are exceptionally minor, while my income is... reasonably generous. And so, there is the question of if you are 'expensive.' At times, perhaps. But this is a very deliberate effort of mine. You are precious to me; I enjoy treating you appropriately."

That was the sort of answer that, he hoped, would eliminate the sort of doubt a response like "Of course not!" might inspire.

He fell into great explanation. Every angle of reasoning chipped away at her resolve to step back, and she gave a small exhale as her gaze slowly dropped to the floor. Clothed and largely adorned by him and here because he'd invited her and even closed the damn planetarium for her, it was easy to feel like she was demanding.

But he claimed to enjoy it, even called her precious. Was that just her blood that earned her such a word? But there were others in Mountainside he could have chosen.

Rika swung between the two ideas in a quiver. "Okay. But if it's ever too much, I... don't want you to feel tired of me, or... I don't know. Just tell me. It's only fun for me if you're into it too."

She stepped a little closer to him, maybe wanting a hug but not sure that she would place as much value in it if she was the one to initiate it.

Caught up in his own desire to clear this away with words, he only barely noticed her drawing nearer. Hugging was not a natural inclination of his. He'd essentially been trained into it for their greetings and partings.

"I don't foresee that happening," he said. "But you will have my honesty, if it does occur. I ask that you do the same in return. If this arrangement ever tires you, or simply isn't what you're after anymore, I would much rather know than force you into something you weren't truly enjoying."

That was vaguely the truth. The reality was that if she were to simply vanish, as Kaylee had, he would lose his fucking mind all over again.

There was no physical comfort offered, and maybe she could have known by now that it was not something she'd get if she didn't ask for it in some way.

Calling it an arrangement felt a bit like a force of distance, which edged her towards wanting to put some space between them again. Leave her less a dent on his wallet, for all he claimed he enjoyed it.


"Arrangement seems a little like I'm a..." she trailed, feeling a small creep of heat in her face, and took in a breath. It was probably just words. "Anyway. I'll tell you."

She doubted she could grow tired of it, though now she would wonder if he ever did. Maybe she should have been more of a challenge to him. Maybe she still could be.

She glanced to the map, and next on the list was the big domed theater that was the epicenter of the building, and she wondered if it would play anything with no one else running it.

"Like a?"

He looked to her with a brow lifted in question, though he tried to lighten it.

"You know I speak with all the flowery eloquence of a very old man. It's not my intention to make you feel like anything short of important to me."

Right. She should have known that. Still.

"Sorry," she offered first, feeling awfully delicate with all this talking. Was Safiya listening in somewhere?

"I guess 'arrangement' sounds like the kind of word you'd use with a wh— pr—... an escort. Or something."

Well now she was very red, and tried to nod them in the direction of the theater.

Was Rika some kind of... blood escort. His words said everything to the contrary, but was that how Safiya viewed her?

She stumbled through it, and at the end, he laughed some. Truly. Rika sorely lightened the sort of wording Beauregard would be inclined to use with an escort. Certainly, in the end, she was a certain kind of blood whore. But the sort he respected enough at least in this moment.

"Goodness gracious," he said, chuckling. Beauregard would follow her lead toward the theater. He knew a trick or two there.

"What would you prefer I call it? 'Relationship' I've found is a bit frightening, to some."


Relationship. It wasn't quite that, whatever they did. Not yet anyway, even in her mind.

"Friendship?" she offered weakly.

It was a weak play at friendship. It was an arrangement, at its core, and she could see that. She just didn't want the clinical distance of the word, because she liked him more than an arrangement suggested.

How quaint!

"Friendship it is," he said with confidence, leading the way toward the theater. "Heaven forbid I come off as the type of man to have arrangements."

Said with some mischief as he sought to take them straight to the computer at the back of the room. The screen was a backlit variety of gray at the moment, but that would change in a moment.

Friendship it was, just like that. She huffed at the tease, sufficiently embarrassed by it all.

He was very generous for someone who had all the power here. Rika felt a measure of gratefulness amidst her crawling back from all that pesky insecurity.

She followed him into the theater, blinking at the grey. Even without images on the screen; "it's so big," she commented, clearly in awe. Even if she was only pretending never to have been to a planetarium before, it was still awesome to behold, in the very original sense of the word.

It was quite large. Beauregard nodded, glancing up as he led them up the stairs.

"It's a lovely place. I think I've seen every movie here," he said thoughtfully. New ones appeared from time to time, and he would catch them for the somewhat overwhelming spectacle.

Reaching the computer, she would likely be pained by the general slowness of his typing, but the password needed to bring the machine properly to life at least wasn't terribly long.

"It is only within the last few months that I have been able to see the sun again. And so, sometimes, I would come to this room, and I would watch..."

A few seconds of pause, and suddenly the domed ceiling would brighten to a rich, blue sky. A few slowly rolling clouds. Birds occasionally sweeping in and out of view, chirping. A lovely day in the sun.

"This," he said, looking up with some lingering awe.

She listened in a sort of trance, able to separate herself out of the very heavy feelings of prior because she could just... float on his talking of his experiences. His undead life.

Had he really gone a century without the sun? She would die of sorrow.

As he paused, she looked back to him just to see his face as he was concentrated on whatever it was he was doing.

And the bright blue flooded the dome, and her eyes blinked back to it in equal awe.

It wasn't as if she'd never fallen back in the grass and stared at the clouds as they rolled by. But still, this felt an unexpected encompassing, and she stared at it, unable to contain her wonder at the crispness of all the details and the sound and.

All of that.

She inhaled, catching herself before she could just gape stupidly up and around, and looked to him.

"Didn't expect that here," she admitted, wondering if... "did they already have it or did you have to make a request?"

She took a step towards the seats, if he wanted to sit somewhere and just watch this.

"Came upon it by accident," he said. "Or perhaps good fortune. I think I watched it for at least an hour that first day. Didn't even notice it was the same birds flying across the sky every few minutes."

Beauregard smiled. It was a decidedly fond recollection. He'd been brought nearly to tears by it. As she stepped away, he would stop her with a question.

"You can choose something, if you'd like," he said, moving aside from the computer.

She was young enough to likely understand how to use it without explanation.

The same bird. So a loop of some kind? She smiled, fondly, and was content to let that be what played.

"Oh..." she paused at his offer, but how could she turn it off of something he seemed to like so much? This was a tour, but it didn't mean she needed to take advantage and see things for free. Not on the first time.

"This is nice. I could put on stars or something but... I guess this makes it different."

Kind of like she was getting a personal glimpse into his world. "Unless you want to change it. Or we could sit?"

And if so, she'd wait until he sat first before deciding whether she wanted to sit next to him or elsewise.

Beauregard was uncertain precisely what she meant by "this makes it different." But by now she knew to ask for what she wanted, and he was disinclined to prod at her over a video.

And so, with a nod, he took a leisurely walk toward one of the raised sections near the back. Sitting at floor level was, somewhat literally, beneath him.

Falling into one of the seats, he sought to recline it back as much as he could, slouching a tad to truly get the best vantage point.

She'd seen him at worse than improperly postured.

Off he went, and she followed, watching some as he settled in. And, having some understanding of theater seating in general, she... paused herself as she looked at him.

"Should I be... sitting uncouthly?" she asked, stealing his word and assuming some form change while offering a slight head tilt.

"Arrangement" flashed in her head and she chased it away.

That was unexpected.

Truly, he'd been focused enough on prior disasters followed swiftly by current ones that he'd almost forgotten the goal of this outing. Dinner, eventually. The sort that would smooth away the tension lingering in his neck and shoulders and spirit.

Perhaps she merely meant slouching, he reminded himself. (He possibly scooted up an inch or two upon the realization he was being observed.)

"I suppose there's several... levels of improper," he said. It was too early to he hungry, and yet here he was. "Which one are you considering?"

A little naughtiness in his tone amid a playful thoughtfulness. He looked to her with interest in an answer that perhaps lingered near the "less proper" side of the spectrum.


She opened her mouth and then wondered if her infernal blushing would still be visible in here, tinted blue as they were.

"In your lap," she found the power to say, deciding she was somehow strong enough to meet his eyes for it.

It helped that she was standing and he was sitting.

It wouldn't be the same positioning as on the bed. A theater seat was a rather different and more restrictive scenario. And yet, who in God's name was Beauregard to turn her down.

He would almost certainly end up feeding from her here if they played this game.

Or he could behave. Wait until she was properly drunk. This was the better option, he told himself.

"You should know I cannot turn down that sort of offer," he said, and if she was looking or listening keenly, she would perhaps note the catch of fangs as he spoke.

Birds chirped cheerfully above.

She couldn't really see the fangs so much as hear how his speech changed very subtly. Rika smiled a little, still a shy thing, and moved to settle in his lap. Her legs would have to bend and hang off from between his, rather than off the edge of the opposite one she sat on, but Rika would make it work.

It was a tighter space, less comfortable, but somehow the enclosed nature of it (and his arms around her) made it feel very secure.

"You can only have a little sip right now," she set the boundary, though if he drank more it wasn't like she could actually do much to stop him. Then again, he'd said he would listen if she did. So maybe testing his will power was worth it. Being a... minx, like he'd said.

Aside from that, she was inspired to talk about her life. "I burned a shifter the other day."

Standard Rika talk.

It was good that a vampire's leg couldn't end up numb. She settled in, decidedly less dainty up close and in his space.

But she knew his game well enough, and he told himself he could follow that particular rule. How strange it all was, beneath some grand, artificial blue sky.

His intention was to go for her neck rather immediately, but she said something that gave him pause. Some twinge of concern.

"Tell me everything about it," he said, then brought one hand to gently support her neck (as gentle as cold skin would be) and sought to ever so politely sink his fangs into the other side.

Beauregard would behave, offered a taste of her blood for only a few seconds. But he would let his face linger at her shoulder for a little longer before eventually reclining back again to continue listening.

It was impossible not to have a little shiver at the cold of his hand, but she lifted her own also to rest over his, warming it and also in gesture approving of the hold. Something felt nice about doing that for him.

Tell him about the shifter. She gave a small hum at his cold face at her neck. But also talking.

"I was working at the gym in Larkspur and heard a big commotion. And I look up and this girl, like... tripped the treadmill belt? And another girl was sorta hovering over her. I go out to see if everything's okay and the second one — her name is Liza, she's the shifter — she suddenly like, offers to pay for the treadmill? And that would cost a lot, so it's really weird. But I tell her if she wants to do that to go to the front desk."

A swallow against his hand, and she realized he'd behaved. He was so good, and she appreciated that.

"I take the other girl with me to look at the cut on her face. We... find out we're both psychics?" she huffed a small laugh. He reclined, and so she leaned against his chest a little, relaxed. "She's really nice, her name is Minerva. And she tells me that woman is a complete stranger to her. I don't... I thought it was weird, and like, who offers that if they aren't trying to get something out of it. Right?"

She paused because wasn't it a truth, by now, that offers like that were made by predators hunting prey? Even if they were very nice and cozy predators.

He admittedly was only half listening as he drank. Or perhaps it was simply delayed comprehension.

But it was good he'd finished by the time she dropped a second name or he might have choked on her blood.

Rika tangled rather deeply into his life. Building some network of psychics, apparently.

Minerva hitting her pretty little face on a goddamn treadmill. He tried to focus less on the image and more on the question.

"That certainly is quite strange," he said, realizing his fangs hadn't yet receded. Of course he was hungrier now.

"The shifter didn't attempt to 'help with' the wound, did she?"

There was something in the way he said help with that had her head tilting just a little bit. Did they have magic blood too?

"No, I don't think I gave her the chance."

"After she told me that I start getting suspicious, and I tell her as much. So we... go back out to the main area. And I tap into that like, sensing thing?" She assumed he could do that and plowed forward. "And the other woman is definitely something. She comes over again while we're at the treadmill, so I shake her hand kind of at angle, and she gets a finger on my bracelet... burn."


"She tried to make me feel guilty about it. Crying and saying she could leave the gym or whatever. But then she says she needed to save a couple months for the gym. Which doesn't add up? How can she pay for a treadmill but have to struggle for a membership. I think it was all a really obvious lie, and she was just up to something."

This was less fun, now, trapped beneath some psychic girl when he couldn't feel from her. Or do anything else, for that matter. But he listened, wondering what the shifter's angle was. It did come out to be a rather strange story, one Beauregard couldn't fully understand the motive behind. Who was lured in by the promise of... fixing someone else's broken treadmill?

But there was something else here, as well. His head tilted some.

"That is very curious," he said. "Tell me more about your ability to sense her?"

Wah. He also didn't know about it?? Rika grinned.

"I'm trying to remember to use it more," she admitted. "But it's, like. When I go to use a power or something, if I hold back just before using it, I can see if someone's more than human. Can't tell exactly what, but it lets me approach them more carefully. It's how I figured out Minerva wasn't just human either. I'm gonna teach her how to do it too. She knows it's a thing but doesn't really get how to make it happen."

Something similar to the aura Minerva had heard about but apparently hadn't mastered. Fascinating. And both good and bad news. It meant that Rika could keep an eye out for potential trouble. It also meant that psychics with practice could pick him out, as well.

Interesting. It was easy enough to frame himself as a psychic, anyway, if she couldn't easily determine one species from another.

"It's good of you to teach her," he said. "Just make sure it doesn't leave you feeling too bold. A shifter may lash out at you, if they feel they've been outed."

That was fair. Rika nodded, doing her best to keep that in mind.

"You think Liza'll show up for revenge or something?"

If she couldn't be too careful, maybe it was worth Rika ducking away at the mere sight of her. If she ever saw her again.

He scrunched his face.

"Likely not, if she was crying and whimpering. But there is always the chance someone stronger than her could hear about it and be irritable."

Nasty leaders and all. Beauregard wondered what species Liza was. They came in so many shades these days.

"In the end, you're likely just fine. Simply be mindful, and if you do burn a shifter, acting clueless allows you to keep that information without getting yourself into trouble."

Oh... "That's smarter," she nodded, absorbing his wit. She glanced out at the fake blue sky, and then smiled at him and decided maybe it was time to get up. They had his dinner to get to still, after all, and she'd hardly seen much of anything.

"What's your favorite exhibit here?" Rika asked, getting off him carefully so as not to squish anything important. A smoothing out of her dress followed.

She freed him, and he winced only slightly for fear she'd be clumsy about it. Beauregard rose after her, tilting his head left and right to the question.

Truly, Beauregard didn't have a favorite. He liked the space, found it respectable and charming. But it also wasn't entirely among his interests. He'd seen every inch of the place more than once, and yet it was difficult to say he favored any one part.

"There is an area I believe simply called... The Universe?" he said. "They all blend together a bit. It's visually quite stunning, if nothing else."

"Ooh! Let's go there," Rika brightened. It was good of him to choose a place and not just leave it to her. Moving to let him lead the way (they'd have to go to a whole nother floor), she wondered what else to chatter about.

"What made you decide to own a planetarium anyway?"

It seemed like a very.... unique business decision, for a man who worked in real estate.

"What happened to going through in order?" he asked before he'd tackle the next question.

Perhaps he just didn't want to walk up the stairs.

"I like listening to you talk about the places you really like."

This as she fully expected him to keep walking. And answer her question.


Hopefully she wasn't expecting a detailed tour. He could happily direct her to the various lengthy exhibit descriptions for such details.

"If I am to answer," he said, "it will be with decidedly confidential supernatural information. Sharing these details could get me into harmful trouble, and so it's important to me that they aren't passed to anyone."

Beauregard looked to her with great seriousness, though a smile was beginning to appear.

"Do I have your word?"

Well, if he said outright that she couldn't share it, then she couldn't share it! Literally could not! Rika didn't even know the extent to which she literally could not share the information he said not to share!

"Promise! No sharing!"


A stronger promise than she knew. He nodded and sought to lead them ahead at a very leisurely pace. Beauregard found he missed, somewhat, the way Kaylee used to take his arm for this sort of affair.

"Mountainside Planetarium, you see, is home to my group of vampires. Every official group of some species, including beasties, will take a home for themselves. Jaguars in Crestview's Terrace bar. Were-bears in North Glenn's Big Bear Diner. Cheetahs at the Belle Vista art museum. Formerly, coyotes in Chupacabras and vampires in Night Vision."

He paused a moment to let her appropriately marvel, planning to add more on his choice afterwards.

Now, if she'd known she couldn't share all this, Rika might have gotten... sad about it, that she couldn't tell Niamh and Minerva and anyone else that they should stay away from those places.

As it was, she was deep in the throes of obedience, such that it didn't even occur to her to tell her friends.

"That's... why?" she asked, not understanding really who made a home out of a business. Fuse Fitness certainly wasn't her home.

"That is an easy question to answer," he said, lifting a hand. "And the answer is: no one knows, truly."

If she found it unsatisfying, certainly she could only imagine how he felt about it.

"Perhaps it stems from once simply claiming some... communal home where everyone lived in close quarters. But now, it feels very much a relic of the past."

The rules of the supernatural were often confusing at best.

Wha— oh.

That was a heavy bummer to not have an answer. "Weird," she committed to the word she wanted to say before.

"So I guess... what made you decide on this place instead of uh... some apartment building you could buy out?"

Then like, all his vampires would have apartments.

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