It's overcast, which means James doesn't have to be all "careful" while walking around outside, so he can in fact just walk around outside! It's nice to do that every now and then. And then there are a couple of packages he's expecting so he might enjoy this lovely unsunny day to visit the Post Office, why not.
The line's pretty short, there aren't that many people in today, though the ones that are in are giving the pretty young woman talking to the clerk at the desk a bit of a look. Well, some of them. Others are giving her a look more in the realm of 'pitying.'
"—look," she's saying, "I understand that you can't—is there anything in that area that would delay letters? Some kind of, of, customs holdup or something?"
"It's possible, but a delay of that sort probably wouldn't be for more than four to eight weeks."
"It's been three months," says the young woman, sounding very upset about it, "how often do you lose international mail...?"
That's the hottest person he's ever seen. The hottest person, full stop.
He would know, he's a vampire, he's been everywhere, he's been to Antarctica, he's had more sex than he can remember (only strictly true due to his forgetting his human life). She's objectively the hottest person on Earth.
And she's distressed. Why is she distressed? Someone should have sent her letters and hasn't in months? He - he needs to find this person for her, but then he wouldn't see her for a while and that sounds - wrong.
"Look, I can put out a notice for lost letters from—which country was it, again, dear?"
"Uh, I got his last letter from Belgium, but he'd been planning to go to Germany, so it might be from there."
"Belgium or Germany," repeats the clerk, dutifully. "Repeat the name for me again, sweetheart?"
"Lowell. L-O-W-E-L-L. First name Albert, goes by Blair, addressed to Yvette or Franklin of the same last name."
"Okay. Address to reach you if I find anything...?"
She dutifully recites her address in a low voice that does nothing at all to prevent vampiric eavesdropping.
"Thank you," says the clerk. "I'll let you know if we find anything."
"Or if you don't find anything, please," specifies, apparently, Yvette. "I—I need to know if I need to get the police involved, he wouldn't just stop sending letters."
"Are you sure he might not have just forgotten to write...?"
"Yes," says Yvette, bluntly, with absolutely no hesitation. Though she clearly doesn't want to get into a debate about it right now, because then she follows up with: "Um—thank you so much for your help, you've been very kind, I'll try to find some other way to get in touch with him. "
Some more pleasantries are exchanged, and Yvette turns and walks right out the door, eyes drifting right over everyone in the line without any regard for any of them, James included.
- shit now he doesn't know what to say. What the fuck, no, that's not him, he always knows what to say. He will be charming and nice and help this suffering lady.
This pause isn't perceptible by a human. "I'm sorry, I couldn't help but overhear some of your conversation inside - are you okay?"
...gee, generic isn't it. Well. Maybe it'll fly.
"Brother," she corrects. Her ring finger is bare; she's probably unmarried.
She takes a measured step away from him, and then tries on a smile that doesn't quite fit. "I'm sorry, I'd really love to chat," yeah zero interest in disguising how that is definitely a lie, she does not want to chat with him right now, "but I have an appointment to make, excuse me."
The interior of the first floor is pretty and tidy and comfortable, though a bit cramped. The amount of furniture for a space of this size is... suggestive. Like either the residents like buying furniture, or they moved from a much larger house where this amount of furniture was a bit more appropriate, and then couldn't bear to throw some of it away, so they figured out how to make it work. It'd probably start drifting into the realm of claustrophobic if it were a bit less neatly kept. As it is, though, there's no dust on any of the shelves or objects egregiously out of place. It doesn't cross the line into 'unlived in,' though. There are papers casually dumped on a table, a seedling with roots that are soaking in a glass stuffed with water and what-is-probably-paper, unwashed dishes in the sink, a book next to the couch instead of on a shelf, and a number of other casual indicators that people actually live here.
Most relevant to his interests are perhaps the pictures arranged on the fireplace's mantle. Here is Yvette and a young man that looks like her (Blair, probably), and an elderly gentleman with glasses that looks like them both. Here is a somewhat stiff picture from what was probably years ago of four people, Yvette-Blair-father-mother. Here is a picture of Yvette and Blair in front of a very different, much larger house.
They look happy.
Yeah, that's probably where they'd be, isn't it. Into it he goes -
- the scent makes his thirst flare, yes, but it also reminds him of her and he closes his eyes to focus on her face, perfectly etched into his perfect memory -
- then he opens his eyes again and looks around.
The room has a lot of personality, and doesn't have quite the same furniture problem that the downstairs was suffering from. There are a lot of shelves, with neatly organized books and small, pretty knick knacks. A couple of potted plants sit by the window in the sunlight, looking well cared for. In the corner, the small (single) bed is made with fresh sheets. A dresser sits in the closet, next to a rack where a number of dresses hang above a neatly arranged set of shoes. A soft rug that matches the curtains sits comfortably on the floor.
There is a desk with a chair, notable for distinctly not being neat. Or, well, not entirely. There are pens in a little decorated cup (all turned the same way) and miscellaneous papers sorted into (labelled) slots in a box and blank sheets of paper here where they are easy to grab. However, clearly she's in the middle of something at the desk. Here is a stack of papers that are folded like letters, with little colored paper sticky tabs stuck to them with two sets of dates attached, here are notes she's written to herself, here is a map of Europe with specific cities carefully circled in colors that correspond to the little paper sticky tabs, with date ranges written onto them. Here is a small, opened booklet with a list of things to do that are all brother related, including 'Check post office for letters,' which has not yet been crossed out. That'll probably change when she gets back.
She's adorable in addition to being the most objectively hot person in the world. He should have expected this but somehow failed to.
She has also made his life much easier than it could've been. He's certain he can find things with Blair's scent, which is probably the most useful part of this, but this itinerary and everything she's tried so far will also be very useful. A previous letter will also help him narrow down where exactly in Belgium he should start looking.
There are many previous letters! Arranged in order from newest to oldest, because of course they are. The colored tabs correspond to the cities they were sent from; apparently he first arrived in Amsterdam in the Netherlands (blue), then went to Rotterdam (orange), Antwerp (purple), Brussels (green), and the last one came from Liège (red). The letters vary wildly in length, tending more towards terseness than length, but he was quite dutiful about sending one at least every two weeks. Apparently he had plans to make his way to Cologne, in Germany. He acknowledges it's a weird place to visit, but, quote, 'Would it be me if I went somewhere normal?'
A lot of the scent's been rubbed off of the letters, especially the latest ones, which smell mostly like Yvette by now. Luckily for him, a few of the ones in the middle have been conscientiously returned to their envelopes, which managed to preserve the faintest whiffs of maybe-scent. Comparing the faint traces from the different letters is not very good, but it's certainly better than nothing.
Apparently there was this one guy that was kind enough to let Blair hitchhike with him on the way from Rotterdam to Antwerp. They had marvelous conversations and Blair expects Yvette would have liked him very much. Other than that, no, not really. Unless James would like to know which ship he took to get to Amsterdam?
The notes to herself are... still informative but they make him sad. She's clearly so terribly sad and she's grasping at everything, every shred of hope -
- perhaps he should tell her -
- the Volturi would kill him and then he'd never find Blair and then maybe they'd even kill her and that's unthinkable. So it's decided. He puts everything back exactly where it was and then it's sneaking out time.
And now he's going to Belgium.
It... might be faster to take a boat. But then again, it might not. He goes back to his place and grabs some stuff he wants to take with him and runs to the coast at top speed not stopping for anything then goes looking for boats while gauging whether swimming will get him there first.
Swimming it is!
...he kinda doesn't want to get saltwater all over his clothing. Hmm. He's sure he can find a waterproof bag somewhere, there must be one for sale - aha, yeah, there. He purchases it, then goes somewhere deserted, strips, puts all his belonging in the bag, and swims, swims faster than he's ever had to. He has to make a couple of pauses to eat - fish are terrible but sharks are less terrible - and then he's in France and the Belgium border is right over there. He runs, gets dry enough, gets dressed, runs more - Liège is rather far inland - there's another pause for food, some farmer now that there are humans around, and then...
Then he's in Liège.
From there he can guesstimate from Blair's letters where he was staying. After months, there's not just going to be the scent of him wafting around, but Blair wasn't actually trying to disguise his location from his own sister, even if he perhaps could have been more specific. With a bit of patience and logic, James can narrow down the location; a modest little hole in the wall of a bed and breakfast that looks... kind of adorable, actually.
Sigh. This isn't useful.
The guy disappearing suddenly is... ominous. That smells of kidnapping, no pun intended. He wraps the knife and the razor in the socks and stores them all inside his backpack. Part of him wants to give up now, to return and inform Yvette that her brother has disappeared, but - no. No, he has not done all he could.
He waits until night, until it's dark enough that no one will be looking, and returns to the bed-and-breakfast, but this time from the rooftop. And it's stalker time - he will try to go window by window to see if he finds anything, anything at all that's supicioius.
He runs around the place some more, trying to find anything out of the ordinary but - no, nothing. Okay, time to talk to more people. The following day is... not sufficiently overcast, so he grumps all day and decides to explore the surrounding area, far enough to not be seen sparkling.
(Also a pause for a snack, but no one from the village, just some animal somewhere.)
Fuck. He was trying not to think of that, it's too much of a coincidence - but nearly all Blair's stuff was taken, why would that happen if it was a regular kidnapping? They wanted to make him - comfortable, keeping his things - fuck he might not even remember Yvette, James knows he had a sister only because he visited his town later and saw his family, he remembers her face but with no fondness, that would wreck Yvette -
- it might have wrecked his sister, he doesn't know, he never thought about it -
- he puts these thoughts out of his mind, smiles brightly, and says, "There's no need to apologize. Are you alright?"
"More or less, but we're - estranged. I don't like it that they found Blair and then Blair disappeared. Do you know anything about where they might have gone? Did they maybe have an accent?" Not that that means much, he learnt French after becoming a vampire and got a Parisian accent just because that's where he did it but it's something.
He curses some more in a tone much too high for human hearing then starts looking around the town again, this time looking for evidence of vampires. Dead or kidnapped people, especially, but then he'll have to look around in other cities nearby to see if they suggest a direction - unless Liège gets news like that.
North is the Netherlands!
There are no obvious traces of a coven of three nomad vampires, here. There's a vampire that keeps a territory around here that he could perhaps ask, but he wouldn't have been involved in any of this and might not even have been aware that there were nomads to the south of him, eating or turning brothers of pretty girls.
...that's promising, though. Germany is where Blair was planning to go next and... whatever... social collapse going on here... is probably actually pretty great for a newborn vampire?
(Pretty great for an older vampire, as well, he hasn't eaten in a while, he'll go find some human to nom. Nommmmmm.)
Vampires! Here batty batty here, here batty batty!
Ha. Ha ha ha ha ha.
There aren't many places they could've reasonably entered Italy from. He's hoping against hope that one of those entry points will have vampires that might have sighted the trio. Please? Or at least some small villages with mysterious disappearances a while back?
Oh, yeah! Now that he mentions it, these people did go missing a while back!
This is notable not on account of the numbers, but on account of the aim and the fact that they all disappeared in the same timeframe. All of them were really terrible people, apparently, and no one misses them. One of them was apparently a child molester!
...interesting. So he'll watch, and follow, stopping for snacks every now and then because wow he really didn't think he'd have spent the next few weeks of his life touring around Europe when he went to grab that one package that day huh well anyway onwards he's surely moving faster than the trio.
Hunting, apparently. He has a bound and gagged man casually tossed over one shoulder, then stops to look at James curiously.
"... I'm sorry, is this yours? I didn't think this was anyone's territory." He looks very controlled for a newborn. No hiss, no posturing. Just calmly looking at him with his bright red newborn eyes.
He nods. "Focus on the hands, they're important, but not so much so that you get distracted, a well-aimed kick can get your head off and then they can do whatever they want with you. Your strength is your biggest asset and, yeah, element of surprise will help, even during the actual fight - they will expect you to be unable to do anything smart when your instincts are taking over, so if you prove them wrong that can be decisive."
"I haven't tried," he confesses. "There are some changes. Your eyes turn gold instead of red - maybe not for newborns - and your instincts work a bit differently. I was maybe a bit less strong?" He thinks back on it. "The thirst definitely had a different character, though. Hard to put a finger on exactly how."
Blair studiously does not giggle at the vampire that has definitely got it bad for his sister.
"Yeah. I don't quite remember everything, I'm leaning on my witch power a lot, but I don't think she'd be comfortable with needing to kill people to live. And we absolutely cannot go wrong by handing my sister all of the information we can get."
"Right, but maybe don't just kill people because it's convenient. I think if she ever found out she'd be horrified and upset. Even if she doesn't find out, she'd be operating from the background assumption that there isn't much reason to kill random people. So. Kind of taking advantage of some misplaced trust, there, which: do you want to do that, James?"
"Right. So. Horrible people or animals only, preference to animals," says Blair, brightly. Stationary, pens, and envelopes are acquired! Out of the store they go, now. Blair bought several different types so it looks less like he sat down and forged a series of letters.
"Let's see. Don't turn her without her permission. I realize like, Volturi, but I don't think my sister would turn down vampirism. But if you turn her without her permission and full disclosure at the start, she will not forgive you. And do we want that?"
He considers also pointing out that if James hurts his sister, there is nowhere in the world that he could hide where Blair couldn't find him, and that he believes he has just proven that he's very patient and can play the long game, and plays to win.
Eh. 'It would hurt her' is probably more of an incentive. No need to get nasty.
"Start small. If you can get human objects, particularly clothing, and especially if there's blood in them, and be around them until you feel under control then that helps. Heartbeats are also an important part of it, though, so you should be around humans before attempting anything more sophisticated. Don't do that unless they are easily disposed of, because you will fail sometimes. Doing it while full for the first few times helps get into the right frame of mind, but eventually you should test your control while hungry."
"All right. Thanks. My power gives me something of an edge, I can lean on it to help stop myself, or steer myself if I can't resist, but... My self control is too tenuous for my sister, I think. It's mostly a product of forward thinking and having an outlet to direct myself at."
"Or drop them outside her door like they arrived in the mail, if you don't want her asking inconvenient questions of you," he offers, slightly amused. He does not expect James to do this, but he might. "Blame it on the Germans. Maybe get some of them stamped with obnoxious red stamps with things like 'for review' or 'return to sender' in German, or something. Have a couple get forwarded to Belgium and then sorted out there. I vaguely recall bureaucracy as a terrifying amorphous thing, it can have plausibly held up some international letters for a couple of months. Don't say it was the English that screwed it up, it is both easier to verify and she's more likely to go yell at them so someone else doesn't have to lose their letters."
"Yeah. I get the impression there was an element of vengeance to it. Someone to blame for all the death and destruction." He shrugs. "Anyway. I could take a week to get all of these airtight, but I think I don't want to keep her waiting any longer. Even if she notices they're forged, she's going to know that no one but me could have forged them, which is the important thing."
He finishes the final letter and seals it. It disappears into his coat, and the rest of the stack goes to James.
"This one I'll send from Poland the normal way, I'm going to pick right back up on sending regular letters from here on out. Please pick up German stamps for all of them, and try to make them look like they've seen some kind of bureaucratic Hell. You saw the letters she got, you're going to be better at forging the outsides than I would be."
"Nice meeting you, too!"
...and he zips away.
The trip back is significantly shorter - he's not tracking anyone, just running. He stops places to make the forgery look more real - stamps and whatnot - but doesn't dawdle. He really wants to get back. Who knows what else Yvette got up to in this month away. She could have decided to come track Blair herself, and that would be a terrible, terrible idea for a human. He puts that thought out of his mind.
And he arrives, a few days later. He has a bundle of letters, an overcast day (thank you, England), and a fist with which to knock -
- wait, first, is Yvette in?
He can hear her going about her business inside. She calls a greeting to her father, and gets one back. She fixes a very quick dinner for the both of them. One plate gets delivered to her father's room, the other is eaten alone at a table by the window.
Half an hour elapses.
Yep, clearly no idea what to do at all.
Then she seems to come to some kind of decision, and her jaw sets and she carefully puts her stack of very precious letters down on a nearby table. This task completed, she slides across the threshold to stand on her toes and gently press a small kiss to his cheek.
"Thank you," she repeats.
Her kiss bestowed, she retreats back to the other side of the threshold, smiling awkwardly.
"Um," she says. "If I were a better host I'd invite you inside for tea, or, or something, but, um." She looks at her stack of precious letters, then back to James. "Forgive me for being terribly rude?"
There's some crying! But it is the good kind of crying, and she doesn't seem unhappy.
... But there's a thoughtful pause, after she reads the letters a second time once her father's gone to bed. She retrieves Blair's previous letters and compares them to the new set, and hums thoughtfully to herself.
The next half hour is devoted to cleaning her desk up and organizing all of the information she has into some kind of tidy filing system. Then, she rereads the letters again.
"What are you up to...?" she muses aloud, sitting at her desk and tapping her fingertips against it thoughtfully.
She goes to retrieve a pen and something to write on—
—then stops, and very deliberately puts both right back where she got them from.
He goes to the post office - ah, drat, it's closed now, he'll have to wait until the morning. So he goes back to his place - oh, it's kinda dusty, isn't it, he hasn't been around in a while. He cleans everything and reorganizes everything and then stops and -
- doesn't really know what to do now. He's kinda hungry, maybe he should - well, he should not get some random human, Blair advised him against that, but he's sure he can find a terrible person. Maybe in prison? Prison should have terrible people, right?
And thus sated, James returns to Lancaster at a more leisurely pace, enjoying the sunrise when it appears.
Eventually he fetches his package from the post office and starts organizing his place with its content; he's going to be a dentist. It doesn't take too long to rearrange furniture and separate out an area to be a waiting room and somewhere else to be the actual practice room. And then he has to post an ad somewhere for it, so that people will know to come to him. That... would be in the post office again, he guesses?
Then he can listen to her while she works!
She's apparently a bit new to this, occasionally asking more senior nurses questions about procedures, but she does not seem incompetent. Quite the opposite. She has a good work ethic and is of the mind that if something needs to be done, she'll either do it herself or help streamline a more qualified person to do it instead. Several people comment that she seems cheerful today.
Eventually, her shift ends.
"I have," she says very seriously, "no idea. He's good at, at finding people that need some kind of help? And then helping them, and then he has a place to sleep and several meals a day, and a week later everyone loves him and he's sending money back home. I'm pretty sure it's just magic."
Not that she's ever anything other than the most adorable creature in existence, but the smile is appreciated. He smiles at her right back, maybe a bit more widely than would be decorous but perhaps he's just a very happy person. "Splendid! How is your schedule constrained?"
(And the way he pronounces 'schedule' definitely gives away a non-English accent.)
He is perfectly charming to all of them - the person looking for a tailor looks cute and he considers hitting on them but for some reason the prospect seems very unappealing - and on the night between Saturday and Sunday he's gonna eat some horrible person or other in Manchester.
Fortunately England did not choose this day to suddenly become sunny, so there is nothing at all in the way of meeting the objectively hottest person in the world.
Here she is! At her door, in heels, a lovely dress, and makeup, her red hair pulled back into a lovely complicated updo.
"Hi," she says, upon opening the door.
"Huh. Interesting. So most of Ireland left the United Kingdom a little under a decade ago. Scotland occasionally threatens to do the same thing. England would like everyone to stay together, but everyone that is not English sort of resents us for being the ones everyone thinks of when one thinks of the United Kingdom. So there is something resembling a rivalry between England and Scotland, but it's more that Scotland would really rather people stop forgetting about them, and wish that England would please stop acting like we're England and our charming island sidekicks. There, I think that was suitably biased in favor of diplomacy, aren't you proud?"
He laughs. "Okay, okay, let's see... Personal powers, you can have things like telepathy, sight-range telekinesis, empathy control, the ability to find anyone if someone else describes them to you, the ability to find anyone you've met, electricity-charged skin, does this aesthetic seem to form a coherent whole?"
She tilts her head. "That is extremely specific, and makes it hard to really say what sort of power I'd get without knowing what else is there in this hypothetical place where magic powers are handed out. Uh. Telepathy's a terrible power and I don't want it anywhere near me. Electricity charged skin is so... not useful at all to anything I'd want to do. Finding people is silly, I have a brother that is useful for such things and it would be a bit of a waste to use my singular magic power on a slightly better version of a thing I already possess by proxy."
He grins. She doesn't know how right she is. Yet. "Let me see, more examples... there's someone who's able to read your entire life history at a touch, there's someone who can perceive and identify relationships between any two people, there's someone who has control over the four elements..."
"Well. All right." She props her head on a hand and hums, thoughtfully. "So there's mind control and people-finding and electricity generation and elemental control and telekinesis. This is all sounding pretty random, is there some kind of distribution pattern for the powers? I would like to avoid being a repeat of any kind, I'm vain enough to want to be a unique and precious resource."
"The vast majority of people don't have any magic. Among those who do, the powers you'd intuitively think of as 'more powerful' are rarer; so mind-reading and emotional manipulation and elemental control are on the rarer end, while enhanced senses or the electricity are more common. But like I said, all powers are exactly individual. - also, do you want to order? Conversation tends to be better while in expectation of tasty things."
Once the order's been placed:
"Okay, so I think I have trouble coming up with a balanced sort of power within the constraints of a system I don't really understand. And the knowledge that most powers aren't very powerful sort of... it seems like it'd ruin the fun to go, 'Ah, yes, I want telekinesis that lets me move objects that weigh less than a pound,' you know? If we're having silly speculation about what sorts of magic powers I'd want, it seems a shame to just. Go with something modest."
"Mm, not precisely. I don't usually mind if they're not my messes? But I can't... think in messes. A lot of how I think through something involves making something organized. I figure out the structure of a system and all of its parts, and what everything does and how everything works together, and then I arrange it in a way that makes sense, and then whoops I've organized am entire supply closet, how did that happen."
"Yeah. Sort of. It's kind of grueling, and there's a lot of, of emotional labor? Lots of people that expect me to care about them, because that's basically my job. I'm not sure it's something I want to do forever. But I like to keep busy, and it keeps me very busy, and it's very... I see the results of my work and my effect on the world first hand. And it's nice, to help people."
"Hmmm..." He sips from his coffee and scratches his cheek. "I like the technical aspect, the necessary precision and skill. I like the results - people underestimate how important teeth are, how they affect the general shape of the face as well as things like even sleep quality. There isn't much research on it yet and new techniques are being invented all the time, but it's interesting anyway."
"... Okay," she repeats, after a long pause. "So why didn't you drop them off at my house and ring the doorbell and run, so I'd never know it was you at all? Why not hand them to the Royal Mail and have them come to me through normal channels? You personally handed them to me. Why."
She huffs, then decides that this is probably the most expedient way to get rid of him, so she makes a very brief (and speedy) detour where she scoops a bit of broken pavement off of the side of the road. She tosses it to him. Or, well, throws it at him, but it's not aimed at his head.
He looks around to make sure they've walked far enough away from everyone else that he can just show this to her without other people being able to see it and, upon confirming this, uses the pinky finger in his other hand to crush it into fine dust. He shows her the result.
He quickly catches up to her but stays a respectful distance away. "I'm a vampire. I have super senses and super strength, I'm immortal, I'm - in eternal unbreakable magic love with you from the moment I put my eyes on you because the magic decided that you and I would be romantically compatible." That last part is said very quickly and with his eyes closed.
"I can prove any part of this to you except for the magic love. Blair is a vampire, too, he got turned and forgot that he was meant to send you letters - not you, he remembers you, but he forgot about the letters, and I tracked him and found him and reminded him and he wrote all of those letters again so that I could send them to you."
"... You've put me in a really awkward position. Because if I believe you, and trust you, and turn out to be wrong, I am alone with a crazy person. If I don't believe you, and don't trust you, and turn out to be wrong, I just casually ripped your heart out and stomped it to pieces. Why didn't you open with this explanation instead of playing this stupid game and abusing the trust you'd already had?"
"You—okay. More pebbles, sure, and I can walk to a relatively secluded place near an officer and if you turn out to be crazy I can scream."
This plan decided, she goes about enacting it. She collects more pebbles, and stalks off to find a police officer that she can be in a secluded spot within screaming distance of.
She collects pebbles, too annoyed to be embarrassed about the weird looks she's getting, and then she locates a police officer and stalks into a relatively secluded place nearby, between a couple of buildings.
"Here," she says, holding out a handful of pebbles and bits of pavement and rocks of all kinds.
"Apology accepted." She closes her eyes and takes several deep breaths. "Why is my brother not here if you talked to him, why did he not tell you not to lie to me? Why would he forget about sending letters at all? That doesn't seem like the sort of thing he'd ever forget."
"He doesn't have enough control to be around humans, not reliably, and not kill them. He does not want to kill you. And when we turn - the new senses are overwhelming, overwhelming enough to make us forget anything that's not very, very important from before. He remembered you, but not the letters."
"A secret governmental body in Italy. They have various witch powers - magical powers like the ones I mentioned earlier today - which they employ for enforcement, I don't know all of the powers they have. It's enforced with death at first infraction, and if the infraction was caused by an uncontrolled newborn then their sire is also killed."
"The first perk is immortality: you will not age, you are immune to diseases, the only way to kill you is to set you on fire and for you to be incapacitated enough to not be able to put out the fire just by rolling very fast. The usual way is decapitation followed by dismemberment and then setting on fire. If you're dismembered but your lost body part is retrievable you can reattach it."
"Perfect photographic memory from the moment you turn. Vastly improved senses: your peripheral vision is as good as your main vision, which is good enough to see microscopic details and ultraviolet; hearing is vastly enhanced and includes pitches both too high and too low for humans to hear; improved senses of smell and touch. Taste... is complicated, I will talk about this later. Speed, some vampires can break the sound barrier. Strength, I can probably stop an oncoming train. Durability, we are about as durable as diamond, perhaps more. If you have a witch power or a latent witch power as human it becomes more powerful when you're turned."
He frowns. "It is very, very hard to control myself while feeding. It is not just senses, but also instincts that are enhanced, and there is an extremely strong instinct towards eating humans. I don't remember what human food used to taste like, but human blood tastes better than sex feels, and animal blood tastes worse than feces, to create an analogy. Your brother also eats people, and he does not trust himself to be around you without being tempted into eating you, if that gives you a better idea?"
"Now there are the drawbacks. The near-irresistibility of human blood - the smell is also very good, and even just hearing or seeing a heartbeat is very tempting - all of that is coupled with a feeling of thirst that never goes away, only gets weaker or stronger, and is strong enough to count as torture to humans. The process of turning takes three days of increasing agony, and it is not uncommon for newborns to beg for death during it. For the first year after turning you are stronger and faster than a mature vampire, but it is also much more difficult to control - your brother was actually very, very good at control for a newborn. And vampires are sterile.
"I think that is all."
"... Yeah. It. It hurt." Her voice breaks a little, there. "One minute I was just on a nice date, and the next I realize that my date is probably lying to me, and the next I learn he's a vampire and I might die for knowing and that he's in, in creepy mind control magic love at first sight with me and I have the power to smash his heart into tiny pieces by accident and, and. And I have no one else to cry on besides him about it, even though I realize it probably makes him incredibly guilty, because I can't tell anyone but my brother the circumstances, and my brother can't be here because he might accidentally kill me and. I feel like I have very understandable reasons to be upset, here."
"Well, that's better than the alternative, I suppose." Snuggle. "I'd rather there not have been any mind control involved at all, though. I'd rather just. Let you fall in love with me or not based around me. Let it be a thing we build together instead of a thing that trips and falls into my lap with all of these, these things I have to worry about because I don't want to break your heart forever."
"Yes, but I am personally not... negatively affected by the mind control part. Knowing how it works, I don't mind that this choice has been taken from me, and you do mind that it would, so you could instead choose to make the choice, and I could still have it have been made."
"The thing I wanted has already been stolen," she murmurs. "It's not nothing that I can reject you or not based on your own merits, but it's... I would have also liked to be able to go, 'Ah, yes, he loves me because he chose to and because we're good together and because we treat each other well.' And now I can't do that. It's just mind control. You will love me regardless of if I'm abusive or cruel or tell you to jump into a volcano."
Snuggle snuggle. "Mostly traveling. I visited... pretty much everywhere. I mentioned Antarctica, but I've been to every continent and saw many places - I swam down into a number of sea trenches, you would not believe how deep some of them go - I visited volcanoes, although those I prefer to stay a safer distance from..."
For a little while, she doesn't, either.
"I don't want to eat people," she murmurs. "Even terrible ones. Because what if I'm wrong? What if even though they're terrible, their loss is a, a net negative for the world? I don't want to play judge and executioner, and I don't want to be forced to do it by my diet, either. I don't... want to be a thing that has to kill people to live."
"Okay." Snuggle. "So the part that makes me most unwilling to turn is killing people, but I mentioned that already. Uh—other parts that bother me... I find the mate mind control very disturbing, but it's less scary to, uh, match you? If I'm already in love with you when I turn, it wouldn't be much of a downside. The scary part of that is the potential for the unknown, of being stuck on some random person I don't know, and that's demonstrably not going to be happening in this case. Sterility..." she trails off. "That one bothers me. More for the, the implied loss of potential future choices than a desire to eventually have children."
"Mm. If I turn, it will be because I already love you, and because I expect to not kill people. If I love you, then I don't expect to want to bear someone else's child, and you're already sterile. I suppose those two problems solve each other, in a strange sort of way. If we ever want children we could adopt? ... If we could possibly hide the existence of vampires from a human child, anyway, which. I suppose would be difficult."
She doesn't notice his dilemma.
"You said newborn vampires are hard to control? I'd rather not be hard to control near people I might kill. If I turn you could take me to... Antarctica seems a bit much, but maybe Greenland? Some big place where there isn't a lot of people."
She goes very still and blinks up at him. If he's paying attention, that looks like a faint blush to her cheeks.
"... Nnnnot a neutral," she says, very quietly, after a pause. She shivers a little. It... is not a bad kind of shiver. "Nevermind, I take it back, I apologize for my hasty categorization."
"I accept your apology on behalf of vampirism. However, I also feel it is incorrect to need to kill people you drink from and for all vampires to have the instinctual urge to rip every human's throat out. I am less inclined to accept vampirism's apology for that one," she says, loftily.
"Bah. And now just for that, I am motivated to figure out a way for all vampires everywhere to not eat people anymore," she sniffs. "Without making them all drink animal blood that they'd find disgusting. I can't imagine I could get them all to do that without overthrowing the vampiric government and threatening them, and I don't particularly want to rule the world."
"No, I'm just... I'm not traumatized, and you haven't ruined anything forever, and I'm not mad at you, but I'm maybe not up for flirting or promises of future romance right now. The prospect of being romanced by anyone right now sort of..." She scrunches into her burrito. "... makes me want to hide."
"It is very serious! You are not in your backwater set of colonies anymore, James, you are in England! We are civilized here! No displays of emotion or strong connections to people if they can at all be avoided! If they cannot, then all who witnessed this mishap must be!"
He opens his mouth to answer but then closes it and thinks. She deserves an honest, well-thought-out answer, and he... hasn't really thought about, before. So he thinks.
It doesn't take long; he's a vampire. He opens his eyes again and says, "I think I do." And it's true. "I didn't use to, but... I couldn't turn you. Not without your permission. Your permission is important, and you're human and..."
"Apology accepted," she murmurs, busying herself with putting her shoes back on so she doesn't have to look at him.
She takes a deep, shuddering breath that sounds like the prelude to a sob, then closes her eyes and rubs the bridge of her nose. "I'm—home. I'm going to go home. I am going to go home, before I start yelling at you for reasons I am going to disagree with later."
"You kind of do!" she agrees, at a... higher volume than she intended. And she wants to leave it at that and tries to shut her mouth but it—doesn't—work—
Instead what falls out is:
"You've killed! Thousands! Of people! Thousands! I am incredibly disturbed that the only reason I fucking matter to you is because your brain has been twisted into a pretzel by magic vampire mind control! This is not a stable basis for a relationship, however much you bizarrely trust the mind control's ability to aim! Because I don't trust it a damn inch! I don't know you! You were just going to, what, seduce me, sleep with me, and then leave? Casually break my fucking heart into a billion tiny pieces because it seemed like the thing to do, even as I bend over backwards to tiptoe around yours? Even though, objectively speaking, you probably don't fucking deserve it? How many hearts have you broken, personally or impersonally, of people that did not deserve it, and got it anyway?
"This entire mess is your fault! At every level! I can blame my brother for not pulling psychic social wizardry to prevent this from ever occurring, but really, we both know it is actually your fault that my introduction to you and your world of magic mindreading murderers was so atrocious! You invite me on a date where you planned to lie to me, and you don't even bother to lie to me well? You wave away impossible things without bothering to lay the groundwork to make the lies plausible? You think I'll just believe your bullshit, or accept your bullshit, and not walk out on you for treating me that way? How dare you. Who do you think you're dealing with? You are lucky that I do not want to go, 'Gosh, that mind control sure sounds like it's your problem and not mine, bye,' because that is the only thing that has saved you from eternal vampiric heartbreak!
"The fact that I seem to just casually be the center of your universe and hold your heart in my hands is not a comfort, it is terrifying! I am not qualified! No one is qualified! This is disturbing, I am unsettled by how you keep just—not having any preferences that don't revolve around me! This is not how I would like any potential relationship of mine to be conducted! Overcome your damn mind control and get a fucking hobby, I am not standing for this insanity! I have no idea who you are! I am uncomfortable trying to get to know you because you keep, keep trying to tell me to not do things because you are overprotective, and hang on my every word like it's gospel! Like I'm not allowed to think, not allowed to go outside without you, and not allowed to talk because it might hurt you! And some of that's me, because I don't think saying people deserve anything is a good metric to conduct ourselves by, but some of that's also you, and I want it to stop! Right this instant, because I'm brilliant and I don't want your coddling, and I'm insulted if you think I need it! I—"
Her voice breaks and she is interrupted by a sob. She scrubs a hand at her eye and looks away. "—I'm sorry, I didn't. I'm so tired, this is my one day off and it has gone like this, and there are vampires and terrible magic that I don't understand at all and I was snuggling a murderer and my brother's killed people and I can't, can't just say any of this to my dad because then he's at risk too, and, and."
And now she is crying.
He didn't know vampires could be so completely, utterly frozen. He thought all the nifty mind boosts would guarantee that eventually something would give, but no, all that space in his head is only barely enough to contain the looping thoughts that keep stuttering after each other. She's right, every single thing she has said is right, he doesn't - doesn't deserve -
Right this instant, she said.
So he stops. He can't offer her comfort, he can't hug her, he can't go kill whoever made her feel this way because that's him. He made her feel this way.
...he could kill himself. That's a person he could kill. He's been near volcanoes, he knows that he could just - drop down into one and -
Right this instant, she said.
So he stops. He can't kill himself, that would be absurd, not only would Yvette feel guilty as fuck he actually, really doesn't want to die. It wouldn't solve anything, it would just be overdramatic and she just said she doesn't need his coddling. She is a strong, brilliant, caring, amazing, independent woman, and she doesn't need him, does she, he could just leave -
Right this instant, she said.
So he stops.
And again and again.
And again and again and again.
And so on.
"—Fuck, I'm sorry," she sniffles, between sobs. "I think I broke you. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to, to get that vicious, I could have sorted this all out, into, into something a bit more fair, if I'd had—had any space away from you to do it. But I hadn't been letting myself while near you because it's, it's that, and, and." Yep, back to crying.
"Don't be sorry," he says. "I needed to hear that. You're - you're right, I - give me a second, please."
Okay, that shook him out of his thing. He can now think.
What had he been thinking? She's his mate. That says things, it says more things than how likely she is to find his growling hot. What would he think, vampirism aside, if someone wanted to, to protect him from walking outside on his own? What would he think about all of this, and what kind of person would he mate on?
She's strong. She's brilliant. She's capable and good and a full person in herself and he needs to meet her halfway.
He needs to grow the fuck up. So he does.
He takes a deep breath, just for the psychological benefit of it, and opens his eyes. This all took 1.37 seconds.
"I expect I would have stopped eating people eventually, just from meeting other people and interacting with them as I've been doing lately. It was overdetermined before I met you, really, it was just a matter of me stopping to think about several things that had been adding up. I know it's scant comfort but it's what I can offer.
"You are right about everything else. I have apologized many times today, but let me do it once more. I'm sorry. I'm truly, genuinely sorry for everything I have done to you today. It may be a cliche excuse, but I did not think. I failed to think about myself, and about you, and about what I was doing. It's a character flaw, I do more often than I think, and with more speed, and I'm good at recovering from falls but I do fall. I do trust the mind control magic, yes, and even it is telling me that I fucked up. I did not treat you as the sort of person I would fall in love with; the sort of person I would fall in love with would absolutely not put up with my bullshit and would absolutely call me out on it, and that person is an incredibly competent, intelligent, independent person who will make their own decisions and I should not be acting like it is my duty to protect that person from themself or control what they do or think."
He's there in an instant and wrapping his arms around her. It's like being hugged by Michelangelo's David, he's as durable and hard as stone (and about as fit as, if not more fit than, the statue), but he's oh-so-careful, and from this position one might get a more intuitive sense of how a vampire could snap a human like a twig. "I could never hate you, Yvette Lowell. You are exactly the person I want and need in my life, regardless of mind control, and I will love you forever."
At first she's not quite sure how to hug an unyielding statue person, but then she relaxes into his arms and leans into him.
"Okay," she mumbles into his shoulder. "I'm just. I'm just going to take you at your word about that, because if I don't I'm going to end up thinking myself into knots."
"I was talking more about the part where I am 'the person you want and need in your life,' not the part about how you'll love me until the day you die," she clarifies, a little wryly.
Room temperature under fabric is actually pretty nice, for a face that has just been crying.
"You know as well as yelling at you worked out, I never want to do it again," she informs him.
She snorts, and leans on him some more.
"Bathroom sounds good, I have spare makeup in my purse for touch ups. Staying the night would perhaps give the wrong impression, James, I wasn't planning on telling anyone I came back to your house at all. People would, ah. Presume things."
And he spends the week trying to act as normally as possible and does not seek her out even once.
He's not hungry by Sunday. But he doesn't want to risk it. He has a lot of control but she's his mate so he -
- finds an animal. A carnivore, those taste best.
His eyes are amber.
"Just the one, really: do not reveal the existence of vampires to humans as a whole, nor allow such a reveal to occur through inaction. It's particularly important not to create newborn armies, which inevitably get out of control, nor turn children - when we turn, our personality becomes static, and immortal children never grow up and get enough maturity and self-control to be able to exist quietly. The cutoff age is fourteen."
He nods. "And - I just realized I did not mention this at the time, it was a background fact - you become prettier when you turn. More symmetrical, better body proportions. Immortal children are almost impossible not to love at first sight, whole covens of vampires would go down fighting to protect their children."
"So, play very very nice and don't attract their attention. Got it. Okay." She fidgets with the hem of her skirt and looks at her lap. "Luckily for us, I, um. I think I might want to become a vampire. Not... Not immediately, I want to be sure I won't eat people and I want to have a better idea of who you are before I'm mind controlled to love you forever, but, um." Yep she sure is looking at her lap. "... It sounds nice? Not entirely free of downsides, but being immortal appeals."
"Okay," she agrees, softly, looking up from her lap to meet his eyes. "Do we know if that'll work, though? I don't mean if you can pull it off, I mean, what does the mind control grab ahold of? Just sight, or does memories of sight do it, or the sound of your voice, or letters you write? I don't... want to cut you off from me entirely, that sounds. Kind of cruel to you, really."
"If you were pretending not to be incredibly into me, you're not very good at it," she teases, amused. "And my, you're arrogant. You only get to win my heart once, you know, and then it'll be yours forever. Surely you want to put more effort into it than 'it'll just work out and be fine without my intervention or effort.'"