Second page stories

Mountainside Planetarium - Clutch Only 
It was a quick drive, and by this hour, parking behind the building was a breeze.

Approaching the back entrance, he tapped his wallet (and its contained keycard) to the reader outside the door.

"Feel free to take a seat in the lounge as you get in," he said. "Do you have a job or job prospects here?"

This asked as he would lead them downstairs a into the lounge, more a distraction than a genuine search for information.

Stephen likely wouldn't be in a place to realistically work for some time.


Edvin, naturally, would sense the approach of his Dominus and another, lesser signature. The rogue Beauregard had mentioned pursuing earlier in day, then. Edvin had been unsure if it would result in bringing in a new member, or the news that someone had been sent away. Proactive as he was, the Second settled in the lounge to await the verdict. With a muted clap, the book in his hands shut, and he moved to fold it into his lap as he looked expectantly up at the staircase leading into the common room. Of course, a smile pressed his lower lip into a pleasant curve.

Somehow, he’d managed to keep it together long enough to get in the building. Obviously, it was Beauregard’s presence but Stephen wouldn’t put that together right now. All he knew for sure was that inside this building was an entire bag of blood he would be able to drink. No hunting. No hassle.

They descended the stairs and his eyes stayed trained on the ground ahead of him. In the car he’d discovered that the less he looked around, the less overwhelmed.

“I was almost a biologist,” Stephen answered. “I wasn’t able to finish school. I suppose the answer is no. Not much research happens after the sun goes down.”

The book clap made his gaze jump to the owner. Unlike when he saw humans, his thirst wasn’t triggered. His body knew it was another vampire without any conscious thought. How odd.

A biologist! Beauregard knew exceedingly little about biology or what sort of career a biologist had, but he recognized how unfortunate it was to lose such an opportunity.

He intended to offer some variety of condolences to a deadened career, but the powerful presence of the second distracted him. There was a decidedly delicate balance to all of what would follow.

There was a moment of pause between two names before Beauregard chose the one Edvin was less likely to mispronounce. (Hardly personal, but there was an accent. Did Edvin speak French?)

"Stephen, this is Edvin. Edvin is what we call a second, the highest ranking member of a clutch after the Dominus. Perhaps the two of you could say hello while I run downstairs."

To get blood, which Étienne did not need to watch the process of. The temptation would be dreadful.

Edvin listened to the young man's misfortunes in his career as he stood, readying to greet the pair as they came into view. Beauregard fell into introductions, and Edvin would not interrupt with more than a dip of his head as his role in the Clutch was explained for the fledgeling who's apparent name was Stephen. The Dominus sought to excuse himself, surely for specific objective downstairs. "Of course," He said to Beauregard namely, and would turn his attention to Stephen when they were left to become acquainted.

"Stephen," He greeted, stepping forward to extend a hand to be taken. If it was, he would offer a firm hand shake, though it would not be charged with any ulterior meaning behind hit. "A pleasure. Despite what I'm sure is a sudden change of pace, I do hope this evening has been treating you well?" He did seek eye contact, but would not be offended if he found none. A brief search for an ability yielded nothing. Unsurprising, but one could never be too cautious. Some, like Safiya or even he himself, were turned with a gift already seated within.

As the introductions were made, Stephen had a fleeting thought that maybe he should bow? Luckily, he did not follow that process. Instead, he returned the nod of greeting.

He couldn’t help but have a little bit of separation anxiety when Beauregard mentioned leaving. Or maybe it was just actual anxiety. A slow breath worked to steady himself.

“Very well, thank you,” he responded, making quick eye contact. “Even if it is all a bit sudden.” He reciprocated the handshake, although there was no strength in it. He hadn’t eaten since the beginning of last night. And that was hardly a full meal.

It had been quite sometime since he’d touched a person he wasn’t drinking from. The absence of warmth was much less startling than feeling the blood beneath a humans skin. He held on for maybe a moment too long, marveling.

Steven, admittedly, did look rather ghastly. Hollowed and sunken and rather weak. It made perfect sense as to what Beauregard was retrieving. He would, of course, not comment on it. There was little need to taunt the young man. Though, he was curious as to where Beauregard had found him.

There was a foreign wax and wane to his tone that piqued interest, and Edvin poured over the numbers of accents and languages he had experienced in his years. It was somewhat easy to place French, after a brief moment of pondering. He’d spent two summers there, sometime in the sixties. Alas, he’d never learned anything beyond fundamental greetings.

“I take it you are new to the area as a whole?” He questioned, choosing not to address the lingering grasp. He was far too accustomed to odd or misconducted handshakes in his line of work. The socially awkward or chronically paranoid often lacked social cues. That was not to say he assumed either of Stephen. Likely, he was driven into somewhat of a distracted state by hunger.

“Very new.” He finally let go, not noticing the longevity like he should have. “I arrived late the night before last.” With only an hour so separating him from sunlight. What a nightmare.

The promise of blood wouldn’t leave his mind. His eyes drifted to where Beauregard had disappeared before his mannered re-emerged. Stephen pulled his gaze back to the conversation. “And you’ve been here some time, I imagine?”

It was impossible not to get toothy while glooping blood from a bag into a tall glass. Beauregard toyed with the tip of his tongue to his fangs, squeezing the cold red liquid with equal parts disgust and hunger. He truly didn't understand how anyone preferred a bagged meal, though why it would temporarily be ideal for Étienne was quite obvious.

It would take him another minute or so before he would emerge, returning up the stairs with some preparation to be pounced upon like a wild dog. He held the glass (which was, in fact, a plastic cup) out ahead of him, ready for the younger vampire to fire over to snatch it and possibly knock it to the ground.

The entire time he was gone, Stephen was obsessed with the thought that Beauregard would be getting food for him. He didn’t explicitly say he would but it felt like he understood the depths of Stephen’s need. Did he? Or maybe there wouldn’t be any food at all.

This conversation with Edvin should be his priority. He was the second most powerful vampire in the clutch. That should matter. Even moreso now that Stephen was weak and starving.

But as soon as Beauregard came into view Stephen, rudely, stepped away from Edvin in the middle of a sentence.

He didn’t run to the cup. Or at least he didn’t mean to. His body moved in a blur and stopped directly in front of the dominus. But he didn’t snatch it away until he was sure it was for him. Which took all of .5 seconds.

The blood was disgusting. He needed it so much and he chugged it without stopping. But it was disgusting. Cold and coagulating. He wished he gave a fuck. His stupid fangs kept tapping against the plastic rim, the rub making them sensitive. But nothing slowed down his guzzle.

When it was finally over, Stephen felt awake for the first time that night. He wiped the red from his chin and sucked it from his fingers. It was a gift and he wasn’t going to let it go to waste.

Finally clean, he looked to Beauregard. “Thank you.”

Incredibly, incredibly new, then. "A year, or perhaps a tad longer than that." He agreed with a nod. "Where did you-" Alas, he was interrupted by the arrival of the Dominus toting a glass of blood. Stephen disappeared from before him, and in a move that was frenzied as a stray dog being fed a hamburger, he was downing the blood. It was sudden enough that even Edvin was forced to avert his eyes for a brief instance, steeling himself against the imagery brought forth. Brief memories of all but drowning himself with bowls filled of blood some centuries ago, as a young fledgling being gifted meals by his Sire. Incredibly faint now, but Stephen's ravenous feeding was an echo of it.

It became clear rather quickly that Beauregard had likely plucked the young man from the verge of a miserable, withering death. That, or they had narrowly avoided a massacre on the streets of Lavender Heights.

The boy shot forward with all the speed that was expected, and yet Beauregard still nearly knocked him into dead sleep. In the end, someone rushing toward your cup of blood felt inherently threatening to a vampire. His jaw clenched slightly, but he would pass along the cup without making a fuss of it.

Irritatingly, his own fangs remained pushed forward, an automatic response to the presence of blood.

Ridiculous vampire problems.

Stephen made himself an ugly diner, and Beauregard would offer a bit of space. When it was all finished, he chuckled slightly.

"Of course. Shall we find a seat?"

He didn't move to reach for the cup, not wanting to be clawed. Beauregard would lead the way toward the lounge seats, flashing Edvin a brief amused look.

Stephen would be mortified if he weren't so unbearably satisfied. There was a drop or two left at the bottom of the cup and he definitely thought about trying to lick them out.

Instead he followed and sat on the couch. His eyes really took in the lounge for the first time. "Is the Planetarium. . . operational?" For some reason he'd imagined a run down abandoned crack house. This couldn't be further from that. It was quite nice.

Nevertheless, the young man was sated, and seemed ready for more civilized interaction. Edvin did meet Beauregard's gaze, and offered him a placid smile in return, though a brow did raise a fraction as his gaze drifted to Stephen. He would follow to find a seat for himself a comfortable distance away, turning some to face the pair. "Yes, it is." He answered the boy's question with a nod, "Though where we are now, and a level below us, is designated specifically for the Clutch."

He could see humanity returning to Étienne's face, and there was some satisfaction in that.

Beauregard was not a selfless man, but he did take pleasure in helping to provide to those who were appreciative.

"I can make you a keycard in the near future that will get you access to this space, as well as a pass on admission above should you choose to enter through the front door."

Beauregard gestured vaguely upward as he referenced it.

"There are beds on the floor below should you ever feel you need a safer place to stay. I can also see to it that you are able to have a meal a day in that form." He nodded to the cup. "But hunting lessons will be a longer term solution."

He smiled some to that idea. What fun!

Each answer gave him new questions. Did the humans suspect anything? Were there school trips to learn about the solar system? Was this like a Scientology center where all the employees were in on the secret? All of that informations would come with time, he imagined so he didn't ask anything like that yet.

He looked at his empty cup. Bagged meals. Hm. "I'm grateful for that. Although, I would like to be taught more about hunting." His eyes drifted between both men, deciding if he should continue. Would it be okay to admit that he didn't care for the staleness? If anyone would understand, they would. He swallowed. "I was hoping the freshness wouldn't matter to me. . . but that might have been naive."

Everything would be attended to. Edvin could not help but be privately proud of how simple the process was. He had heard of clutches that required so many more needless steps for someone to be welcomed in. For Stephen, he was glad it would be as simple as being given a key card and a lesson in hunting. "It is a difficult thing to substitute, especially as a fledgeling." Edvin said with understanding. He was aware of Beauregard's judgement of his own regular intake of bagged blood, but he found it hardly bothered him. He fed plenty from his clients, and treated the blood he kept in his home as something in the case of emergency, or a convenient thing to calm the nerves. Still, he knew it did not replace the thrill of feeding from a live human. "There are many members of the Clutch that should be happy to take you along on hunts. If you are comfortable with it, perhaps Beauregard or myself can accompany you on your first few. " He looked to Beauregard expectantly.

Beauregard found undeniable kinship in the sense of displeasure over bagged blood. Edvin drank it regularly, something that Beauregard personally found very close to unsettling.

"You and I share similar preferences," he said, smiling with receding fangs.

Edvin volunteered other members to go slinking down alleyways with a man who nearly bloodlusted over a glass of blood, and it was an effort not to look incredulous.

"You and I will hunt to start," he assured, corrected. "Once you've grown more comfortable, you can branch out to others. In the meantime, I'm an open book if you have more questions. I'm sure you'll have many in the days to come."

His dark eyes looked between the two, trying to suss out the unspoken words.

“Thank you,” he repeated. “I’m sure I will. Mostly, I’d like to do things with more grace. Leaving my meals looking like a Law and Order episode has done nothing for my ego.” Stephen smiled humbly.

As he had suggested, the beginning stages would be with Beauregard. Edvin, while happy to take on the task at any given point, was privately thankful that the Dominus was willing. He did have his own fledgling that he ought to take out for observation in the near future. Truly, a heartwarming thing, to see Beauregard extend a helping hand to Stephen. Though, it would be foolish to suspect it may even turn into a sort of Sire relationship. Likely, it was largely an attempt to keep Lavender Heights as quiet and unassuming as it had been for over a year now. No episodes of any sort of crime procedural.

“Under Beauregard’s wing, I assure you that that habit will be broken quickly. Your ego will grow to match his in no time.” Said lightheartedly and with a wink to match. He was not obviously to the private pun in his words.

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