Alouette, gentille alouette

Lavender Heights 
There was a rogue in Lavender Heights, and it was Beauregard's job to go prod at it until it joined him or left.

That was a slightly blunter version of the process, but it wasn't inaccurate. Taking wing as a handsome little songbird before the sun had even set, Beauregard would have time to wander along the outside of the apartment building, flitting from door to door, waiting for just the right sense that he was close enough.

Eventually, he would need to travel a floor up, capable wings making quick work of what would have required a staircase.

Then, cheerfully, he would spend the time watching the sunset (less agonizingly bright on his eyes in this form, he felt) to pass the minutes necessary for whoever was behind the door to greet him. Was it rude to visit a vampire within the first minute they could rise from dead sleep?


But! Could there ever be a truer reflection of a person than how they reacted waking up to the strongest vampire in Cordova?


Regardless, he was here, and as darkness comfortably settled in, he flashed from bird to handsome man and gave a few raps of his knuckles on the door. Surely whoever was inside would sense the power of his presence enough to at least not think this was some... Jehovah's Witness seeking a late-day conversion.


Waking up was the worst part of this whole transformation. Every time consciousness came back, all he could think about was how hungry he was. It wasn't the slightly empty stomach he used to have as a human. That would now seem like a comforting hug now. No, this hunger was an ache that rested behind his eyes and in his jaw, the glands throbbing to be used. The whole sensation is what probably lead to his ever-present 'hanger'. The pumpkin spice college students he used to have has classmates could never imagine what genuine 'hanger' was. With every passing day, he resented them more and more for inventing such an accurate descriptor for his state. He also resented them for being able to eat food but that was a more complicated feeling.

The coma was just clearing from his brain when the knock came. There was a moment where he clocked his need for food and the stiffness in his body before his instincts alerted him to. . . something. Stephen looked toward the door, past the inky silhouettes of unopened boxes. A presence. Some intangible taste of power. It made him both afraid and curious.

A light turned on inside the apartment followed by some scuffling noises. Soon enough the cheap gold-colored knob turned and the door cracked open. The face awaiting Beauregard was thin, wrapped in malnourished bloodless skin. The bones beneath it looked like they might cut through the tissue with too much movement. The eyes, however, were calm. Non- threatening. Maybe it was that he wasn’t fully awake just yet.

Stephen’s ribs swelled with nervousness. “Evening,” he managed to say without too much sand in the tone.

Beauregard could hear life inside the apartment and mindfully ceased his knocking. There was great anticipation here, some grab bag before him with either a delightful treat or something he'd have to hit against the wall until guts fell out.

But as the door opened, he recognized a familiar and ugly sight. There was some danger in it, less for himself and more for this hungry looking gentleman. It was so easy to tip into bloodlust when withering threatened.

"Evening. Do you have any sense of why I might be here?"

Spoken pleasantly as he looked over the man who seemed to lean nearer to corpse than living thing.

Someone was struggling. Beauregard had power to be a godsend for strugglers.

Stephen did a once over of the man, trying not to feel shame over his own fruit of the loom t-shirt and sweatpants. He tried to scrutinize his own thoughts.

The man was clearly not human and he had sought Stephen out. Although he could have knocked on a dozen doors before getting to this one. This could just be a cold call. He doubted it.

“It feels more like a hope than a sense,” he admitted after those few seconds of thought.

A cryptic answer, but not one he immediately hated. Beauregard gave a short nod, briefly glancing beyond the man into his apartment. Still moving in. Hopefully he wouldn't be sent re-packing.

"Would you mind if I came in? These are the sorts of matters best discussed somewhat privately, I believe," he said. "Beauregard, by the way. The source of the... influence you may have felt upon entering the Heights."

The word "clutch" had lingered on his tongue for a moment, but this was by all assessment a very new vampire. Best to avoid the undead jargon for a moment.

Stephen’s head tilted curiously. The introduction only inspired more questions. “Um,” he cast a look at the clutter but decided to get over it. “Yes. Please come in.”

He stepped back carefully to allow room for entry. “I’m sorry I’m not able to offer you a place to sit.” The room was barren of everything other than boxes and unopened mail. Every excursion to buy furniture had ended in a clumsy feeding.

Online shopping was now his saving grace.

"It's no trouble. I can lean," he said, the latter sentence accompanied with a smile. Finding his way in, he took a few steps with his hands thoughtfully behind his back before turning to face the man properly.

"How long is it you've been a vampire? Are you in touch with your sire?"

Questions to establish some context for the hungry, gaunt look of the man's face. Beauregard's guesses: "a month" and "what's a sire?"

Stephen’s arms crossed over his stomach. It wasn’t a posture he would normally take and if he were conscious of it he would reprimand himself for the distance it created.

The term Vampire usually made him feel threatened but to hear it spoken so plainly and with confidence felt comforting. The word sire, however was entirely foreign.

“It’s been almost a year,” his eyes looked for a reaction. He imagined that a year to someone like Beauregard was a drop in a swimming pool. Or maybe everyone figured all of this out easily. Perhaps he was starting his new life far behind his peers. “And I don’t know what a sire is,” Stephen began. The only context he’d ever heard the word was in movies with royalty. “Is that a king?”

Oh, my. Nearly a year, and he was so barely hanging on. Beauregard's brows lifted a tad. What was said next made sense. Sireless, or perhaps his sire had been wiped out of his mind. Poor boy.

"A sire is... ton créateur."

He assumed the man spoke French, the accent lingering so strongly as it was.

"Whoever turned you into what you are now. A vampire 'king' is called a dominus. What was your name, by the way?"

Whoever turned him. The thought raked against his nerves, resentment spreading tension through his jaw. Ever since becoming this way, his poker face was pretty much moot. The latin refocused him in time to catch the question.

"Sorry, Stephen," he answered with an apologetic nod. Stephen looked up, just shy of making eye contact. "I- Is that you, as the em- as the source? The dominus?"

He could feel that tension. This was a vampire possibly immediately abandoned. A rarity, and not for lack of poor sires.

It was simply too easy to die, young and uninformed. A poorly curtained window left ash in place of what could have been endless life.

"I am," he said, happy that Stephen put it together. "I have a group of vampires here in the Heights. I can sense them, and also vampires who are not part of the group. The latter get visits like this one to ensure that they aren't troublemakers."

He gave a smile. Stephen seemed not an intentional troublemaker, though hungry struggling vampires were inherently troublesome.

Beauregard pondered the mess of a man, knowing the road ahead of each of them, the routes they could take

"I have bagged blood kept for situations like this at the Planetarium here in the Heights. It's something of a hub for vampires in my group. You could have a meal, and afterwards we can talk about your situation as a whole."

Unfortunately, Stephen was all too aware of how much trouble he could make. Guilt mixed with embarrassment, but somehow he managed not to cringe.

He’d heard of the group. Rumors from humans who knew just enough to be useful but not nearly enough to be factual. That was why he was here. He was desperate. It probably showed all over him. Embarrassing.

Not nearly as embarrassing as the way his eyes widened at the mention of bagged blood. The conversation had temporarily quieted the hunger. Now the need pulsed though him bringing peak discomfort.

He tried to blink away the animalistic reaction, dipping his gaze to the floor. “I would probably be in a better place to talk after that.”

His words made it seem like he was playing this cool. But he would do anything for a meal he didn’t have to hunt for. Anything.

Beauregard recognized that look of hunger. He could practically feel the ache of it in his own jaw, so utterly familiar with the need that could drive every single vampire to madness if neglected for long enough.

"I can step out and let you get ready. I'm happy to drive you over."

If there was no complaint, he'd do exactly as promised and wait outside, wondering if he would need to knock the boy into dead sleep at some moment along the way.

To be so new, and so hungry, and so alone. What an ugly fate for any vampire to leave on another.

“Thank you,” he nodded.

As soon as the door closed behind Beauregard, Stephen felt his composure melt away. His jaw throbbed and his nail beds pulsed, forcing his face to contort and his fists to clench. He needed to hold on. The promise of food could be taken away. Stay calm.

Less than two minutes later, Stephen stepped out onto the porch and locked the door behind him. His clothes were wrinkled but clean and free of bloodstains.

The polite smile he gave to Beauregard said that he was ready. Also that he was starving. In the interest in making a good first impression, Stephen hoped this place was close.

Beauregard could sense that tension. It was lucky that they were in the Heights, that in a true emergency, Stephen could be knocked into napping.

But it was not his preferred way to handle the situation, particularly given how impractical carrying an unconscious man about was.

"It's a short drive," he said, unknowingly answering an unvoiced question. "How did you end up in the Heights?"

He would lead the way down the stairs and, carefully, tap into his power of empathy to slowly ease a sense of calm over Stephen as much as was possible.

It was hardly enough to stop bloodlust if it got rolling, but perhaps it would be enough to lessen the chance that the young vampire went falling headfirst into it in the first place.

Stephen followed, ignoring the weakness in his joints as he stepped down.

“Boulder, where I lived. . . Well, I didn’t think I would be able to make it,” he began. “And on my outings, I heard there was something out here.”

His eyes darted to the doors the passed. He could practically feel the heartbeats as they settled in for the night.

“And um, then the move took a long time. So I was able to gather more rumors. And I uh- yeah, I just hoped you’d be here.”

This was not the first rogue swept here on a current of rumors. Beauregard wondered what word had spread. He found himself slightly flattered for it. Whatever was said had to be positive enough to bring vampires here.

The walk was not terribly long, his car parked nearby. He'd reach a hand to his pocket to unlock it as they approached.

"I'm thankful you found your way here, then," he said, circling to the driver's side of the car to let himself in. "There is much we can teach you. Have you ever spent time with another vampire, learned any tricks or rules?"

Beauregard was very thankful to have been raised by a clutch.

Something calmed him. It was either seeing the car so close or the fact that Beauregard offered him hope. Being taught. That it was possible he wouldn’t be living dusk til dawn. He could do more than search for veins and find a place to hide from the sunrise.

It must have been that thought that soothed him. It never occurred to him that it could be an outside influence.

“No,” Stephen answered. “My sire,” that word still felt new to him, “Left a note that said, don’t let the sun touch you. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do.”

He opened the door and sat in the car, buckling up out of habit.

That was somehow worse, this vampire returning with a single note. Why not simply kill progeny you didn't want? It wouldn't be difficult. He supposed for Stephen's sake, this was perhaps "better," though that was likely a topic up for debate.

Buckling up as well (ejection car accidents were very dangerous!), he started the car and shook his head.

"Utterly cruel," he said with audible disdain. "You've done well to survive this long. Do you know about suggestion? Making eye contact and a command, typically to a meal."

It was utterly cruel. Thank you! The justification at that and the flattery at the compliment dissipated quickly,

Stephen laughed ruefully. “I’ve pawed around at it. Unknowingly and without much grace.” And with almost no success. It was like he had a sewing machine without any sort of instruction. Eventually he would push some thread through the fabric, but the stitch wasn’t pretty and it wouldn’t last.

Beauregard pondered as he listened.

There was, ultimately, no reason no to bring the boy in.

Or... perhaps that was inaccurate. There were many reasons to send Stephen packing, or simply to ash him to save a headache. It was more accurate to say that Beauregard saw no additional reasons, no red flags beyond the most obvious. And if Stephen joined and was swept into Beauregard's influence, he could be subdued from bloodlust in a way less abrupt than knocking him into a dead sleep that would leave him waking close to withering.

Besides, it was not difficult to cast the man out should he prove a problem.

"This may seem a tad abrupt," he said, flashing some hint of a smile. "But, should you become part of this group, I will have the ability to soothe you should any... fangs and claws appear. This may be useful sooner rather than later."

He could picture Stephen gnawing into a blood bag, making a mess on the tile.

"I would like to formally invite you into what is known as a clutch. Should you decide to leave after we talk, no harm will come to you."

Other than being thrown our of the Heights! Minor details. But if Stephen accepted, he would feel the shift immediately from outlier to welcomed presence, from a creature beneath a much stronger vampire's influence to one lifted by it. The power of a clutch was a remarkable thing, if used somewhat as a convenient gimmick here.

Most of him, the starving part with the shot nerves, could have cried with joy. What the dominus was offering was precisely what Stephen wanted. What he needed to survive.

The passenger grew still, scrutinizing the validity of Beauregard’s words. The seemed real. They seemed true.

He should probably say something. But what held him back?

His voice came as soon as Stephen was aware of his hang ups. A personality momentarily rose above the hunger in his eyes. “That’s incredibly generous. But I- can we discuss what I might offer in return?” He swallowed, hoping to not come off as too prideful. “I am desperate, clearly, but perhaps I could be more than a case for charity.” Perhaps he could matter again.

Both eyes stayed on the other man, despite the urge to look away.

Beauregard, in spite of what might have been kinder, laughed some.

"Every fledgling, which is a term for a young vampire, is a charity case," he said, glancing over briefly as the car hummed along. "Until you can think about the word 'blood' without biting a hole your own lip, the safest thing you can do is be mindful of your boundaries and accept aid."

From time to time, some new vampire or another would decide they were above their needs and inevitably end many a night hovering over some chewed and clawed corpse.

"However, you will find yourself in more control faster here than you ever would alone. As you find your feet, we can consider how you might be more than someone other vampires can practice mentoring."

Beauregard glanced over again, then gave a smile that hinted at mischief.

"Monologue delivered, certainly let me know what you have in mind."

He reacted to the laughter with a curious head tilt.

Fledgling. It might have made a different person feel bad to know their struggles weren’t unique but Stephen was desperate to break out of his isolation. To know that he was one of many, that the ‘clutch’ would not be shocked by the most monstrous parts of him, that was so freeing.

Also disappointing that he wouldn’t be fixed immediately. But he was a person who liked finishing things and finishing them well. Pretty much instantly, he promised himself that he would ‘find his feet’ and he would do much more than stand on them.

The thoughts behind his eyes were evident, if not readable. He needed this. Was there any way for his acceptance not to be desperate? Did it matter?

He considered before answering. “The only way to acclimate is with your group. For me at least. And I would like to live again.”

Not the heart beating/sun tanning sort of life, but the sort of life that was governed by him.

That was all it would take. Beauregard would nod, and he would say words, but the "magic" of it all would tangle Stephen into it before either cue. Beauregard was met by the immediate connection of a clutch member, familiar enough by now that it no longer startled him when made freshly.

"You'll feel the difference," he said as some expression of acceptance, mindful that it didn't somehow frighten Stephen into bloodlust. (It should have been quite the opposite, a comforting thing, but inexperienced vampires were wildcards.

"We can get into rules and details after a meal. But if you have other questions, beyond the group, that you'd like to ask on the way..."

A wave of his hand in wordless invitation.

The feeling was comforting. Overwhelmingly so. Like receiving a hug or kind word after a death in the family. One that was too earnest and too safe. Much too safe.

He didn’t have the spare attention to listen to the words being spoken to him. A sharp pain started in his gums and fear forced his eyes open. They turned to his new dominus instinctively.

Beauregard didn't laugh, but that hardly meant he wasn't tempted. Having practiced some with his efforts on Persephone, he felt capable enough in handling this, or at least giving it another practice try. Stephen was such a new vampire that his will was not a deeply difficult thing to reckon with.

"Easy," he said, and perhaps there was a slight chuckle in his voice. With silent authority and perhaps a sense similar to his power of empathy, he sought to pull back the wild, violent energy that threatened, soothe the madness that started in fangs and could turn easily to claws.

"You are just fine, Stephen."

He found names sometimes helped to restore humanity, but in the end, every wild ball of teeth and hunger was unique.

Easy. What an interesting phrase. In order to ‘easy’ he would have to do the difficult task of reigning it in. Although, right now he felt particularly motivated to do so.

That name certainly helped, too. Because it wasn’t truly his.

“Étienne,” he corrected, eyes closed as if her were battling a migraine. He imagined Beauregard could manage the syllables much better than his former peers.

An unexpected response, but not an unfavorable one. He smirked.

"I imagine they butcher that here," he said. He'd been "Bew-regard" many, many times.

"We'll talk after dinner. Enjoy the beautiful Lavender Heights scenery in the meantime."

A slight joke to a man with his eyes closed, and Beauregard would make a... deliberate effort not to brake too hard at any red lights.

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