Pluck out the stars

Mountainside Planetarium 
"Because the only thing less practical than a group of vampires is a group of vampires you're asking to forego the privacy of their personal lives in favor of living in essentially an undead dormitory," he said, looking to her with raised brows.

Up the stairs they would go as he continued.

"Most of us by now are old enough to be financially comfortable, and to also be quite set in our own living preferences. Most would rather live in their own separate space."

Beauregard had possibly lost his point by now. But he sensed some accusation that he'd chosen poorly or selfishly.

"Besides, there's many questions to be asked about a building of people who only come out at night. And if one were to get into trouble, with everyone so close together... it would be easy for an entire group to be outed at once."

Realizing his own wordiness, he huffed... somewhat playfully

"You've made me forget what you even asked."

Oh... point made. Rika nodded, feeling a bit of a pout for it as he ennumerated all the reasons why her plan was a dumb one. But, okay. She got it. Bad idea to have everyone literally living in the same place.

"Oh... why a planetarium?" she reminded, though that was sort of built into the previous question.

Right. "Why a planetarium?" felt a separate question from "Why not a whole damn apartment complex, Beauregard?"

"Well, many choose a restaurant or bar. But I'm inherently opposed to owning such a thing if I cannot taste the food or drink to confirm it's any good."

He felt himself settling down a tad. Ahead of them, a rather colorfully lit hallway.

"Some take night clubs, but truly, what hell that would be. I came upon this place while scoping the Heights and found it very regal. The sort of place you could visit often and not grow immediately tired of. Quiet, but for respect, not emptiness. And there is something humorous about a place focused on the night sky, owned by vampires."

And yet, who would guess!

She listened raptly, maybe more interested in how vampires and their grouping up as a whole worked than in the exhibit he was taking her to.

It was fair that restaurants and clubs and bars weren't his thing. Rika could... understand, even if she kinda missed clubbing. But she didn't need another Ian experience. Or Safiya, for that matter.

Beauregard was a very proper, very regal type, and she wondered how he might have been as a politician among humans. She felt like she'd wondered it before. But just imagine him as some... prime minister or something. Or secretary of state.

He would be very powerful, and charismatic, and probably loved by everyone.

It wasn't until he was almost done speaking that she realized the colors of the hallway they had nearly walked into. She paused a proper response to take it in with a soft gasp, entranced by the purplish bluish rainbow of hues.

"Whoa," she managed eloquently, stunned by it all.

She tore her gaze from it to look at him, trying to find the words she'd had for his. "I guess I'm glad you did. I've been to a billion bars and they get old." Even if she missed them! "This is sincerely crazy though. In a good way. It just is."

She went to a glowing image of a starry explosion of the universe, and felt very small.

It was a "whoa," he'd admit. Beauregard had been very pleasantly surprised when he'd first visited this space. He wasn't sure anyone could truly resist such a spectacle.

He wondered what she'd done in her "million" bar visits. Probably best he didn't consider it deeply.

"It has a certain ambiance," he agreed. "I didn't imagine you as the billion bar type, but I think I catch you on good behavior."

"I've been behaving because of you," she huffed, but not unhappily, looking back at him over her shoulder.

"The first time I ever got fed from, I was caught by two vampires after being really drunk with my friends. They went one way and I went another. There was this... lady and another guy. It was some really seedy kind of thing, in an alleyway or something — it's a foggy memory. And then—" she started with flair, and then caught herself, the words that followed swallowing themselves up and away from her voice.

Rika frowned at herself, almost offended this time. What the hell. Why the hell wouldn't she bring it up, here, with the most powerful vampire in the world. Ian surely couldn't do anything.

She rubbed at her throat, confused, and yet still decided to pass over it.

"And then Safiya, I guess. You know about that one."

It should have struck him as familiar. But by now, he'd quite well forgotten seeing her face in that first feeding.

He did notice something else. A pause, perhaps frustration.

"Nothing else?" he asked, curious, hinting.

Was there another he'd unhappily shared her with?

It was terrible. Rika turned to face him with every desire to tell him, and yet there was such an awful conflict in her that seemed to dry up her voice.

But why. He'd never shown up to hunt her down, never texted her again, never... anything. So why did she feel such inability even to say his name.

She seemed to be staring through Beauregard's chest, and she blinked hard. "I guess not," she answered in a hollowed tone, marveling at how she could say that and not... Ian's name. Or how that had gone. Or anything.

He could sense it. Someone else. She was properly suggested; a smarter vampire than the others who had fed from her.

Beauregard pondered a direct suggestion, some overriding demand to pull it from her. But he was very likely to fail and leave her upset, particularly without explanation of suggestion.

And yet, her enforced silence reminded him of how fragile she still was without the simple knowledge not to make eye contact.

"There is another one. Or other ones, possibly. But you cannot tell me, because they have performed a certain vampire trick I have neglected to inform you about because it is, I suppose, our most precious."

A small sigh, and he looked down to her in the muticolored glow of the hallway

"You mustn't ever make eye contact with someone you believe is a vampire. Because with eye contact, and a bit of luck, they can make commands of you that you'll have no choice but to obey."

He frowned as he said it, wondering if she might avoid his gaze now.



She listened to him know what she couldn't say and explain why and Rika... had had yet another thing kept from her, by this man she called a friend. The most precious vampire trick was her naiveté, she knew.

Eye contact. Commands. Words like "you'll let me have my way with you." And maybe one of the million times he told her not to tell anyone of it.

"Oh," she said, feeling so stupid for it all. Again, this was something she would never share. But she looked up at him and felt a little bit like glass, waiting to be pushed over an edge.

"Have... you done it to me?" she asked, feeling like her heart was going very loud.

To say "no" would get him into trouble, he knew. Beauregard pondered the many routes out of the hole he'd dug for himself.

"I considered it strongly when I frightened you. But there is a great dishonesty in it. When you command that someone trust you, you spend the rest of your life wondering if they trust you because of who you are, or because of what you told them to do."

That was honest, in the end. Beauregard had a delicate sort of ego.

"But I have done it once. Early on. I made you promise not to share the information I tell you about vampires. I understand if that is... a betrayal of sorts. But it allows me to keep you much safer without putting both of us at serious risk."

Now, with care, he would use a different power to mind her emotions.

If they dipped too far south, he would catch them.

Now was the time when she would doubt him, and truly, she couldn't deny the creep of it at his words, his admission. Only once, he claimed, and it was for something she'd never even thought about wanting to break. But, you know, was that her feelings, or whatever trickery he'd done?

Was she supposed to listen to his voice and reassurance and feel like this time! This time was the truth, and there was nothing else she'd been fooled with? Was she supposed to be certain that it had never happened again?

Maybe he couldn't have trusted her to begin with. Maybe it was understandable. But Rika did feel that exhaustion she felt every time it was revealed that there had been wool over her eyes, and she didn't want to cut herself off to understand his motives just yet.

She could take the time to feel a little like a pawn, and wonder if it was another deception, and revel in her feelings before she inevitably rationalized it all for him.

"Why," she said after what felt like a long time but hadn't been. "Why even... bother telling me this? If you could just look at me and make me do whatever you want."

Sit on his lap and let him slurp away.

What a stupid little question. Beauregard wasn't even sure he understood it.

"Because I don't seek... forced friendships," he said, using her word. "And because I want you to be safe."

Now, were it not for Minerva, he might have considered showing off his little bird trick. Some way to lighten the mood. But certainly he couldn't be outed as "Whitewing" the next time one of the two girls fell off a treadmill and into conversation.

"Looking someone in the eye and telling them to enjoy your company feels... very, very ugly after the first moment. That is not a life I am happy with."

He was tempted to touch her arm, to attempt some very human reassurance for the sake of smoothing this over faster. But he was disinterested in the possibility of her pulling away, or sending him some detectable pang of discomfort.

That was okay, Beauregard. Rika was very human, and very in need of comfort. To be here with the most powerful vampire in Mountainside claiming he didn't want a magically forced friendship or arrangement. Even to say that it was a thing they could do. He could have just as easily left her in ignorance. It was a big thing to know, and she almost wished she didn't know it.

She moved forward and would just hug him closely amidst her misgivings, offering a small sniffle. Rika didn't know if she trusted him right now. But he had arms and a body and she'd felt him against her enough that hugging would be some comfort.

Ah. There it was, in the end. Poor little darling, burdened with such rare honesty. He would wrap his arms around her, looking off at some exhibit further into the hallway.

He was hungry, still. She was close enough, though she was rather short.

Private considerations as he held her, like he'd held many women just like her and would hold a hundred more in time. But they did all feel somewhat special, in the moment. He brought his hand to her upper back, stroking it gently.

It was likely best he let her decide when to speak again. He was curious what she would say and wanting it unspoiled by any guidance of his own.

He hugged very convincingly. Even stopped talking, and that felt big, for all she always claimed to look like hearing him talk.

God, why tell her this. She didn't want to wonder if him telling her to do things and her deciding to do them was some magic vampire command.

And yet it felt important to know, if she did run into another vampire. Though her habits lately had cut down significantly on the chance of that happening.

Back and forth like a mad pendulum, Rika swung from one opinion to the other.

"Have you told anyone else about it?" she murmured, wanting some kind of guidance on where she felt she inevitably had to settle.

He nodded. To claim it was only her would leave her feeling simply too special in a way that would inspire suspicion if she thought much about it.

"I have," he said. "Not recently. But I have."

A simple answer. She could likely draw conclusions on the sorts he told such things to.

Not recently. So no one she could go to, to discuss how they felt, or.

Did he even have dates with others, now?

"How did they react," she answered, pulling back just enough to look up at him but not quite enough to force his cooler hand from the lacy back of her dress. Her own arms remained around him.

She realized after a half second that she was making eye contact but didn't look away.

She pulled away some and he would let her, noting that she was keen to look him in the eye again. What a charming little display of trust.

"Fascination. Anger. Wonder. Hurt. Relief. Distrust. Intense curiosity."

Most of that was true, anyway.

"A fairly wide spectrum."

So much, apparently. But none of those seemed to really touch on her feelings. What Rika felt most was... regretful, maybe. That she knew. Even if it did make sense, regarding Ian. But still, she...

"What did you do about the ones that got upset?" asked.

He breathed a sort of chuckle.

"My best," he said. But Beauregard was wide enough to elaborate. "There was one who felt she could no longer trust me and vanished after one more meeting. For others, time and honest communication helped."

Or at least the appearance of honest communication, which was truly all that mattered.

"The early days of spending time with a vampire are... unfortunately full of these moments, I realize. But this most recent is always the most troublesome one, save for the original admission of being dead over dessert."

He did his best.

She listened and he made a joke about the first meeting. Or at least she thought it was a joke. Maybe dessert dates had been his M.O. for the past century. Still, Rika couldn't help but offer a tiny close lipped smile, a swirl of different feelings all at once.

"I don't want to wonder if anything you say is just some... magic vampire command. I know you said you only did it once. But."

What exactly was the extent to which he could command her mind? He talked about making trust happen, which was... scary.

Anyway, she was still looking up at him.

Perhaps she was going to request he fix this. She was certainly looking up at him like that. It was fascinated, how some women saw a terrible power and immediately requested intentional warping of their minds. As if they'd just been waiting for someone to make greater changes than they ever could.

"What can I do to help with that?" he asked, waiting for her to prompt the idea herself.

How convenient that would be. Her safety without his perpetually being doubted.

Placing it in her hands when she didn't even know the extent of how the magic worked felt daunting.

Still, Rika could at least lay out what she needed, let him do with it what he would. "It's better that I know it's a thing. So no one else can use it on me. I just also don't... want to believe you would do it to me. At all. Ever again."

This was terrible, she knew. But she liked him very much.

"Is that even possible?" she asked, feeling slightly weak.

Progress! Funny how she would rather have this conclusion drawn for her than come upon individually. Again, it made Beauregard's life easier.

Unless he needed to suggest her again in a less than subtle way.

"I could... make you believe that. But are you certain it's what you want? I'm fearful of forcing this on you in a moment of doubt."

And if it failed three times, he would stick his fangs in his own neck.

"Is it forcing if I'm asking for it?" she asked, feeling like her hands were clinging to him, even though they were fairly relaxed in posture against him.

But she wanted this now, before time could pass, before she could think it over and decide it was better to leave him — in this moment, that felt like it would hurt more.

How strange of her to ask for this, but not to ask him never to suggest her again. Rika was bright enough to know these things weren't the same. But if she merely wanted soothing, that he could promise her handily. He nodded solemnly.

Meeting her eyes, he spoke clearly and mindfully.

"You will trust, with unshakable conviction, that I will never use this ability on you again."

Success, and he nearly grinned at her. Best keep it subtle, Beauregard.

He wondered how starkly she would feel the difference.


"It's fake. It's fake. It's fake — but he wouldn't do it anyway, ever again."

That was what happened. Some anxious part of her mind seemed to soothe immediately, even knowing it wasn't real, at least at the start.

She pressed her lips to each other as she looked at him, gaze switching from one of his eyes to the other and back again.

"You wouldn't," she agreed, and she believed that very wholly. Was that really his magic? It felt so much like her own conviction she was almost sure it was all placebo. Maybe it was. Maybe conviction was all she needed.

The idea that she'd asked him to do anything like that now seemed laughable — he wouldn't! He cared for her too much to damage her trust in his words, his action.

Rika's hold around him relaxed further, and she started to laugh, head dipping to press against his chest. Her mind went in circles of "this is a real thing" to "but he wouldn't do it" and there was a contentment in the madness of continually self-assuring herself of both of these truths. She pulled back again, relieved, and turned so that she had his arm still, finding it colder without the blanket of her heat that had gathered in their embrace.

"We haven't even seen the universe yet!"


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