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Casey Cooke is Dead.

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It is just Casey Cooke’s luck that she didn’t fall in love until after she was dead. To be fair, she hadn’t lived long (only 17 years) and hadn’t been afforded many opportunities in that time. Her uncle had guarded her so carefully from the time he got custody of her that she couldn’t even have friends, let alone lovers. Even when she did happen upon someone she thought she could be friends (or more) with, she’d be compelled to drive them away for fear of what the consequences would be if she let them get too close. There had been a few occasions when she’d been around other people with her uncle that Casey had thought that she’d been behaving completely normally only to be later informed that she been acting ‘like a little whore.’ (“If you’re going to act like a whore, then I’ll treat you like one!”)

Amorous attachments had been out of the question while he was in her life and she hadn’t lived long enough to escape him. She thinks it was probably her encroaching 18th birthday and his realization that, after that, she’d be able to run away and no one could make her come back that had caused something in him to snap. He’d stopped letting her leave the apartment altogether. He’d lock her in her room (the window nailed shut, a deadbolt on the outside of the door) when he went to work and when he came home he’d let her out to cook him dinner and clean the apartment. He’d taken to keeping a loaded handgun on him at all times and while she did her work he’d sit at the table with the gun in front of him. In case she got foolish, he’d also installed a second deadbolt on the inside of the apartment’s front door which he would lock as soon as he came inside.

After dinner, he would use the gun to ‘persuade’ her to go into his room and to take her clothes off and lie on his bed... After he was done with her, he’d make her take some pills (she never found out what they were) and put her back in her room. She’d sleep until it was time for the cycle to begin again. At first, she’d naively thought that someone outside the apartment would SURELY notice her absence but then it had dawned on her that her absence was nothing worth making note of. After all, she ‘ran off’ all the time.

She has no idea how long had gone by before she’d gotten desperate. She’d tried to open the window but he’d put over 50 nails in the frame and she didn’t have anything but her own nails to pry them out with. The next day, when he’d seen her broken, bloody fingernails, he’d beaten her so bad that she’d wished he’d just killed her. He hadn’t though and he’d used her injuries as an excuse to keep her gorged on pain killers. She’d gone from being a prisoner to being a borderline inanimate object for him to use for his own gratification.

She’d drifted in and out of dreadful consciousness for another indeterminate stretch of time until she’d awoken one night to find herself alone in his room, naked, splayed out on his bed. The door had been open but she’d been able to hear him out there, talking to someone. She’d staggered to her feet, drugged, pain shooting through her from wounds that had received no treatment. He had become too confident in his control over her and left her alone in a room with an unsealed window. It had taken all of her meager strength to pry it open and stumble out onto the fire escape.

She had barely passed the sill when she heard him yelling at her to ‘get her ass’ back in there and then... he’d shot her. She’d fallen from the fire escape and hit the ground in a crumpled heap. Even with her demise impending, the sound of him making his way down the fire escape had been enough to convince her to keep trying to run. It was pointless, of course, but she thought that if she at least made it from the alley onto the more heavily trafficked street someone would see her and she could die knowing that he hadn’t completely gotten away with it. She’d only managed to get to her feet before she noticed Barry standing at the far end of the alley, watching the goings-on.

He had darted past her faster than her eye could follow. She’d been facing away, having already fallen back down onto her knees, and couldn’t even muster the strength to turn around and look. There’d been two gunshots and then a sort of wet, cracking sound and then... silence... punctuated by little, lapping noises; like a dog drinking from a puddle. After so much time had passed that Casey began to assume that her ‘rescuer’ had been killed and her uncle was just going to leave her to bleed out in the alley, Barry came back into view. He crouched down in front of her, wiping something red off his mouth, and Casey used the last burst of adrenaline in her body in a pathetic attempt to crawl away from him.

“Oh, honey, no.”

His decidedly un vampire-like voice made her suspect that none of this was real (do people hallucinate before they bleed to death?) and she’d abruptly gone limp. There was nothing left in her but a meager quantity of blood that was soon to be spread out over the pavement. She was aware of Barry moving her but didn’t actually feel his hands on her because by this point all she could feel was cold and a persistent dull ache all over her body. He maneuvered her, surprisingly carefully for a monster, to sit up against one of the alley walls. For a while, he’d quietly studied her, stroking her hair, an unexpected amount of empathy in his gaze. When he finally spoke his voice was soft and careful as though he was talking to someone who...well... was about to die.

“Listen, baby girl, I know it might be kind of hard to do right now but I need you to actually think before you answer the question I’m about to ask you because it’s REALLY important... ok?”

Casey distantly felt herself nod, her head was swimming and was still stroking her hair... it was actually kind of nice.

“Ok...uh... do you... WANT ta’ die? Because, if ya’ do, I can get it over with quick ... but if ya’ don’t I... I can stop it...”

He firmly grips her head, making her look at him and keeping her from nodding an answer just yet.

“...but if I do, it’s gonna’ STAY stopped FOREVER and FOREVER is a LONG time... understand?”

He looks into her eyes as he runs a finger through the blood on her abdomen and then brings it to his mouth. He closes his eyes, savoring, and then speaks again.

“So... Casey... do you wanna’ die?”

Casey manages one word.

“...no.”

------

Dennis is aware that there has been...speculation about rather or not eternal life is ‘wasted’ on him and he supposes that’s a fair question. Really, apart from his intolerance to sunlight and how his... diet, there’s not much about him that’s particularly vampire-esq and he can understand why that confuses some people (thought Miss Patricia says that openly SEEMING like a vampire is a good way to get yourself killed.) He can also understand why someone might wonder why he’d even bothered to become a vampire if he was just going to keep getting jobs that were more or less the same as the one he’d done when he was alive and dress the same (down to his now unnecessary glasses) and spend most of his free time fretting over the sorts of things that were supposed to be beneath the notice of immortals such as when was the last time someone took a mop to this floor? The short answer was that he hadn’t ‘bothered’ to become a vampire. He’d lived 40 years without even remotely suspecting that vampires existed at all and certainly hadn’t ever gone looking for one. What he had gone looking for had been a... teenage prostitute.

Perhaps ‘looking’ wasn’t the right word. He’d seen her on his walk home from work and hadn’t intended to approach her (he swears, he’d only been looking) but then her eyes had fallen on him and she’d smiled a mischievous, knowing smile and something in him had broken. They hadn’t had sex, she’d just lead him off into a back alley, pressed him against a wall and then fed from him. Did you know that vampire saliva contains a powerful natural sedative? Because Dennis didn’t, all he knew was that she’d...done something to him that had quieted his mind and soothed his nerves and made him feel more at peace than he could recall ever having felt.

She’d left before he could recover his faculties leaving him to stagger home feeling anemic and drugged. He’d woken the next morning (well, afternoon) knowing that he NEEDED to see her again. It took an hour or roaming that general area on his way back from work that night until he found her again. She had seemed unsurprised to see him, she’d known his name somehow though he didn’t remember giving it to her. She’d asked him if he’d like to go somewhere with her and he’d said yes without hesitation.

His whole life he’d held a sort of blanket distrust of all humanity that had isolated him but also kept him from being taken advantage of but she had been able to just brush it aside like a cobweb. She brought him to a hotel room that he wouldn’t remember how to find when she wasn’t with him. She never did sleep with him, she claimed that his virginity made his blood taste better (Dennis would eventually learn that some vampires SWORE that virgin blood tasted better but others couldn’t taste any difference.) He grew to think of her and himself as lovers though because the embraces grew more intimate, she would coo about how handsome he was and pet him (his hair, his chest... lower) while she fed and he was allowed to touch her freely. It got to the point that the only time he wasn’t in physical pain was when her mouth was on him and he’d thought that sex couldn’t POSSIBLY be better.

Then one night she’d just been... gone. He’d stay out until dawn sometimes looking for her but all to no avail. The baseline pain he felt that could only be relieved by her bite had gotten steadily worse and worse. Did you know that if you just get bitten by a vampire often enough, enough venom eventually builds up in your system that it causes you to slowly turn? Because Dennis didn’t. The irony of the fact that he’d lived to be a 40-year-old virgin due in part to his fear of infectious disease only to eagerly facilitate THIS happening had not been lost on him.

That’s what he’d thought it was at first, a disease that she’d given him. A lot of fictional works on the topic (none of which Dennis had read, he preferred nonfiction) romanticize the vampire transformation and maybe it’s not the same for everyone but for Dennis the early stages of it had been like a violent bout of food poisoning. The first thing that happens when you begin to turn is all the waste being rapidly expelled from your body... there’s nothing poetic about that. He’d stayed holed up in his small apartment for a solid week, expelling and then he’d started to sweat blood. Eventually, he gave up on trying to keep his sheets clean and just lay in the bathtub periodically rinsing himself off.

He felt colder and colder until eventually he just stopped feeling anything and he had to remember to breath or he would stop doing that. By the end of the second week, he’d left off breathing entirely and couldn't feel his own pulse. He took to his bed as he got weaker and weaker until he couldn’t move at all. When he fell asleep some time near the end of the third week he had thought that he wouldn’t be waking up but then... he had. His mind had been completely empty and his body had been numb, save the hollow ache in his stomach.

He’d gone from his bedroom to the living room and then into the kitchen. Without even consciously deciding to do so, he knelt and put his fist through the wall to seize the rat that had been scurrying there. As he bit into it, a part of his rational mind blinked back to life ('this is unsanitary'...OF COURSE, his OCD would follow him through the dark veil of death.) He drained the creature and felt sated for a few seconds before he grew nauseous and even hungrier. Suddenly, he could hear heartbeats; above him, below him, on either side and across the hall... there’s a reason that vampires don’t usually live in apartment buildings.

Some dregs of his humanity must have remained because his first thought was that he needed to get out of there and fast. He wasn’t really friends with any of his neighbors (he didn’t have friends) but he knew them. It wouldn’t do for him to kill (EAT!) any of them. Panicking, he went to the window and scrambled out onto the fire escape. It hadn’t occurred to him to check and see if it was daylight before going out there but, luckily, it wasn’t. He jumped from there to the alley below.

Chapter Text

PAST

Patricia was the youngest of seven daughters and her family was lucky enough to have all of their children survive to be marriageable age which meant that by the time she was married there was nothing left for her dowry. As luck would have it, though, there happened to be a widower in town who was only slightly older than her father who was in the market for a young bride because he hoped to have at least one son before he died. His previous wife had given him two daughters (both of whom were older than Patricia.) He was initially only cold to her but the more time went by without her getting pregnant, the crueler he got. To this day she’s not entirely sure WHY she was never able to conceive but he had decided that some impurity of spirit must have rendered her barren.

He was kind enough not to divorce her but he permitted her very little food and became more and more inclined to give her the back of his hand when she misbehaved. She never directly disobeyed or contradicted him but she did develop the habit of stealing off to the woods mostly because she could find things to eat there. This was a trial and error process and throughout the course of it she found that certain plants dulled pain and some caused pain and others made her violently ill. She would stay out there all day some times but she’d always inevitably have to return home and then she would get the back of his hand. She wasn’t neglectful of her wifely duties though, she would still cook for him.

Eventually he started to complain of an ache like pins and needles in his limbs and took to his bed where he would sleep for days on end until by and by he stopped waking up altogether. Patricia did cry during his memorial but most people can’t differentiate between sad tears and tears of sheer relief. The house was to go to her husband’s eldest daughter and her own parents were well in the ground by then so there was some confusion over what to do with her. The preacher of the church in town (there was only one) offered to marry her off again but she queried what the point of that would be if she was barren. Had her husband’s death somehow rendered her NOT barren?

Eventually she wound up being sent to live with the midwife who was a woman even older than her husband had been. She had three sons who were already married off and actually lamented that she’d never had a daughter to whom to teach her trade. Patricia lived as her apprentice and servant for six years until, eventually, she died and then Patricia became the town midwife. It wasn’t out of the question for her to marry again but she found that if she just continued wearing black no one questioned her decision to remain unattached. She even became a person of some standing in the town (as much as she could while being barren and unmarried) as births under her were said to be far less painful than those under the previous midwife and she never lost a baby... until she did... over and over again.

She knows now that the wave of stillborns could have been caused by something as simple as a nutritional deficiency (there had been a blight on the wheat crop that year), something in the water (something in the water...ahahahaha), even a defective genetic line but back then people had difficulty accepting that terrible things can happen for mundane reasons. Even she couldn’t accept that. She’s ashamed to admit it now but she had prayed, she’d begged God to spare the little ones... to punish her instead. In a way, her prayers had been answered. The townspeople had gotten together in a little meeting to which she had not been invited and decided that SHE was responsible for the stillbirths and, to boot, that she had blighted the crops.

It was ridiculous, really. If she had blighted the crops why would she then ALSO kill the babies? When she asked the preacher (now a man younger than her) he informed her that, of course, she’d been sacrificing them to the Devil... of course. They’d held her in a windowless room in the town hall for what felt like a very long time. The preacher had questioned her at length (apparently her late husband had mentioned the pins and needles to one of his daughters when she visited him on his sickbed) and then done... more than question her. She feels silly now because she’s realized that if she had just lied, said she was in league with the Devil and repented things would have actually gone much better for her. For some reason, the stakes had felt higher back then and so she’d denied everything... even the bits that were... partly true.

Did you know that there has not been a single witch was burned at the stake on American soil? Fun fact.

The preacher had begun to believe that MAYBE she wasn’t a baby eating Satanist but he’d wanted to perform a test to be COMPLETELY sure. They had brought her to the bank of the river and tethered her to a stone. Conventional wisdom held that witches were quite buoyant and so if she was one, it was explained, she would float and if not... Well, it was never really made clear what she was to do if she wasn’t a witch. That was why she found her self on the bottom of the river. She managed to untie the rope that bound her to the stone but the water was so very cold (pins and needles, needles and pins all over her body) and at the depth to which she’d sunk, she couldn’t tell which way was up.

Her memory is... hazy past that point. She’d found herself in a cave the entrance to which must have been accessible only by going under the water and she’d died in there. No one believes it but she HAD died, of a combination of exhaustion, the injuries that the preacher had given her during her time in the windowless room and the water that seemed to be stuck in her lungs. She’d remained dead all through the winter but there had been something in the dark... or perhaps it was the dark itself, that had kept her from leaving her body. It touched her, it crawled inside her.

When spring had come it had begun to gnaw at her insides. She’d swam back out through the mouth of the cave and then climbed up the bank of the river. There had not been many people left alive in the village and when she was done there hadn’t been any left. Not a single... bloody... one and this time it had DEFINITELY been because of something from the water.

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PRESENT

Barry gives Casey his blood in the alley then wraps her in his coat and picks her up. She doesn’t remember how long he carries her but she eventually winds up in a bathtub. He put her in there because by the time he’d made it to what she assumes is where he lives, blood has begun to gush liberally from her bullet wound. At some point, he apologetically sticks his fingers into the wound and pulls out the bullet. There’s another spurt of blood followed by the abrupt closure of the wound, then blood... among other fluids starts leaking more slowly out of every orifice.

An incalculable amount of time passes during which Casey is sometimes barely conscious and sometimes violently wretching. Something only actually comes out the first time and then it’s just bile and then it’s nothing. She tries to remember the last thing she ate but can’t. She can’t remember the last time someone actually took care of her while she was sick either but Barry stays with her the entire time. Sometimes he’s washing her off (if she had the presence of mind to be embarrassed, she would be) sometimes he’s trying to get her to drink more of his blood but she can’t keep anything down.

He keeps reassuring her that she’s going to be alright but he seems nervous and Casey wonders if maybe it just didn’t take and she’s actually dying. She thinks that, even if she is, it’s still nice that someone at least TRIED to help her... even if he was a little too late. She only knows that this goes on for more than one night because at a few points she comes too and he appears to be asleep on the floor. On what she thinks is the third night, she is suddenly freezing and she tells him so. He fills the tub with hot water and washes her as though she were a small child.

She hadn’t seen much on the way in but from what she can gather as he helps her to the bed, Barry lives in an old warehouse. The bed itself is tucked into a corner under a makeshift canopy that’s draped in thick layers of fabric.

“Aren’t vampires supposed to sleep in coffins?”

Barry laughs, he lays her down and pulls the blanket up over her... she’s still cold... nothing seems to be able to touch the cold.

“Some do but all that really matters is that ya’ keep the light out.”

He sits next to her a while petting her hair as she falls asleep. His hand briefly makes it’s way down to her throat to feel where her pulse should be. She drifts into a sort of half-sleep and eventually, he leaves the bed and she hears the sound of a sewing machine from somewhere out of sight. The sound is soothing. After a few hours, she starts to feel what she will eventually learn to identify as the sun rising and he returns and lies down next to her.

------

LESS DISTANT PAST

No one notices that Dennis is a vampire or, rather, no one notices him at all... the fact that he’s a vampire doesn’t seem to make him any MORE noticeable though. It helps, he supposes, that he loses his job following the prolonged, unexplained absence during which he’d undergone his transformation. He’d never slept well but now he finds it physically impossible to stay awake more than about an hour after the sun comes up. He doesn’t see it come up, of course, but he FEELS it... he doesn’t know how else to explain it. When he is awake, all he can think about is... food... blood. He hasn’t used the door to exit his apartment since he turned because he doesn’t trust himself to walk past all those doors with beating hearts behind them. He goes in and out via the fire escape.

He kills a few people the first night but he doesn’t really remember any of them, they’re just warm, breathing things full of blood. By the third night, more of his self-awareness returns and he realizes that he’s been drinking the bodily fluids of vagrants. Can vampires get herpes or hepatitis or AIDS? He tries to drink animal blood again but... no... GOD no. He kills a cat on the fire escape but only gets a few mouthfuls down before it’s rancid blood comes back up.

Eventually he finds himself sitting in the dark in his bedroom and thinking about children. A child’s blood would probably be relatively clean and he knows that there are at least a few on this very floor, they make a LOT of noise. Suddenly it dawns on him what EXACTLY he’s considering and he realizes that he needs to get out of there. Where to, though? (He’s never been so hungry, he keeps piercing his tongue with his fangs just to taste blood.) He needs to go somewhere that there are no people and just... what? Starve? CAN he starve?

He decides that he’s just going to GO, just get out of here and then figure it out from there... but... spontaneity has never been his strong suit and... should he fix the hole in the kitchen wall? He’s going to lose his security deposit... JESUS CHRIST shut up! None of that matters now, you’re dead! Your life is over! Now get the fuck out of here before you EAT a CHILD!

Dennis steps back out onto the fire escape and is immediately nailed in the eyes with a spray of colloidal silver (where are his glasses.) He’s then immediately shoved back through the window to land on the floor in his living room. A chain is wrapped around his neck, it’s not choking him (he doesn’t breath anymore) but it does BURN like a white-hot branding iron. He cries out in pain for the first time since he was a child and then Miss Patricia’s hand is over his mouth. She has a knee on his chest and the pressure of her hand on his mouth is enough to keep him from trying to get up. She holds a finger to her mouth to indicate that he shouldn’t speak. After waiting and listening for a few minutes, she speaks.

“Now, I’m going to move my hand and when I do it’s is in your best interest not to speak unless I’ve asked you a question and when you answer my questions it is in your best interest to use your INSIDE voice. Understood?”

Her voice is level and slow as if she’s speaking to a child, and she nods at the end prompting Dennis to nod in return as best he can given his position. It feels like a rope of molten lava is eating through his neck. When she moves her hand it takes all his self-control not to cry out again. He doesn’t know if it’s the fact that he’s following her orders or the fact that he doesn’t want to believe that someone as apparently delicate as her could hurt him enough to make him cry out. It’s surreal like her slender body is somehow incredibly dense.

“There’s a good boy.”

Chapter Text

When Casey wakes up she instinctively latches on to Barry’s neck. There isn’t even any conscious thought behind it, she just registers that there’s a human fotm near hers and the rest happens on its own. He starts awake but for a moment just lets her drink. At first, there’s nothing but hunger but then she’s hit with a memory of last night and then... something else. She’s (he’s) being hit again and again and then he’s on the ground being kicked and stomped on.

She pulls away from the memory and almost falls off the other side of the bed but he gets a hold of her arm and pulls her back to him. For a moment she’s in a state of blind panic because he’s DEAD. They didn’t even bother to kill him themselves, they just left him there to die alone and she can’t help him because she hadn’t even been born when it happened so she just clings to him because he did not deserve to die like that. No one deserves to die like that! She begins to cry but then realizes that he’s stroking her hair shushing her and telling her he’s sorry (?) and it occurs to her that he couldn’t be doing that if he had died before she was born.

The memory passes and she slowly pulls back from him again, just enough to look at him. There’s a flood of relief when their eyes meet as if there had been an actual chance that she’d never see him again. Her eyes trail down to where she’d bitten him and the mark is already barely visible but there’s some blood on his shirt.

“S-sorry.”

She’s not sure if she’s apologizing for the stain or for what she’d just seen in her mind’s eye. He smiles, looking a little relieved for his own part.

“It’s fine, you just need ta’ eat.”

He carefully disentangles himself from her and gets out of the bed but then seems hesitant to leave. He reaches up and wipes blood out from under her eyes that she hadn’t realized was there. Had she been... crying blood? She only wonders that for a second before she gets distracted by the site of it and reflexively takes his fingers into her mouth. He laughs and carefully removes them and then kisses her on the forehead. He meets her eyes and speaks with a clearly unpracticed firmness.

“You’re going to stay right here until I come back.”

She finds herself nodding even though nothing had indicated that this was a request. He leaves her line of sight and she WANTS to follow but finds herself unable to set foot on the floor. It’s not long before he returns with a wine glass and an IV bag full of blood. It takes all her meager self-control to wait until the glass is filled before she grabs it and swallows it down. He watches her with a sort of soft, awed expression like he’s seeing a baby take its first steps. He refills it immediately.

“I’m kinda’ playing things by ear... I didn’t exactly plan this so you’re just gonna have ta’ bear with me, ok?”

Casey is too busy emptying the glass again to respond. Barry fills it again and then again and then goes to get more. When the aching hollowness inside her is at least partially filled, Casey’s higher brain functions start to click back online. She notices that Barry changed his shirt at some point and also that she’s been completely naked this entire time. It occurs to her that she’d been sleeping pressed up against him, completely naked and that (despite FEELING very close to him) she doesn’t even know him. She really hopes that being dead means that she can’t blush anymore.

She pulls the blanket up over her chest and the reason why seems to click in his head immediately. He’s out of sight for a moment again but this time she doesn’t even consider following him. He comes back with a hot pink robe that probably wouldn’t fit him considering that it fits her and she briefly wonders why he has it. When she stands to put it one (apparently she can get out of the bed now) she notices a small forest of dressmakers dummies on the other side of the room. He notices her noticing.

“I’m not, like, a serial killer or anything... I make clothes for a living.”

This statement is confusing for two reasons; don’t vampires eat people? But also...

“You have a job?”

He smiles.

“Yeah. Some of us get by without one but I like things and I don’t like to steal. Plus I was doin’ that anyway so I figured I may as well get paid fer it... I’ve also got clients who are also friends and they help me out.”

He gestures to the empty IV bags on the table beside the bed. Casey is having trouble processing this, her brain feels sluggish.

“You just tell people that you’re a vampire?”

“I’m pretty sure most of ‘em think that I’m, uh... ‘eccentric’ but you’d be surprised what people are willin’ ta’ put up with fer a good discount.”

“...people trade their blood for clothes?”

Barry laughs.

“People have made bigger sacrifices fer art.”

Casey laughs too but she’s not sure if she’s laughing at what he said or because she’s so overwhelmed right now. Barry seems to pick up on this.

“I’m gettin’ ahead of myself, aren’t I? You’re my first so I’m not really sure where ta’ start.”

He regards her thoughtfully.

“I guess it would be best to start with the... obvious. You’re not TECHNICALLY alive anymore. You were dying but now yer not and if you play yer cards right, you’ll probably never have to.”

Casey’s hit with another memory of a death that’s not her own... Lying on the concrete, looking up at the stars... knowing that it’s over.

“You were dying... why did they do that to you?”

He nods and for a moment his eyes are incredibly sad.

“Baby girl... some people are just very ugly inside.”

That’s all the explanation he feels the need to give and really it is all that’s needed because she knows it’s true. He seems to feel guilty for having made her sad, he wraps his arms around her again.

“I’m over it... I mean, I didn’t forgive then or anything but I don’t have to because they are all VERY dead now.”

“How long ago was it?”

He laughs breathily.

“Actually, it was 1981... I’m not very old. I meant that they did live long after because Jade killed them.”

“Jade?”

He steps back and smooths down the collar of the robe Casey is wearing.

“Yeah, funny story, she was actually tailing me because she planned on feedin’ on me but she wound up helping me like I helped you.”

“She was planning on killing you?”

“No, you don’t have ta’ take all the blood every time. She actually fed on me a few times before that but I didn’t remember it. I frequented this one particular bar where she would’a been really conspicuous if she went in so she was waiting ta’ catch me on the way out when I had alcohol in my blood.”

Casey must look a little shocked.

“It’s not as bad as it sounds... she technically lives here too but she goes off on ‘er own from time ta’ time. She’s never gone more than a few weeks though so ‘ur gonna’ be meetin’ her soon.”

Casey is honestly not thrilled at this prospect but she reminds herself that she HAS only just met Barry so it’s stupid for her to feel possessive of him. She decides to change the subject.

“Do you have to be dying to become a vampire?”

“Yes an’ no... It’s one’a the rules around here.”

“There are... rules?”

“Only in places where someone bothers ta’ enforce them. I’ve heard’a some places that are like the wild west but I’m a domestic creature so I don’t care ta’ go to any of those.”

“Who enforces them here?”

Barry looks vaguely anxious.

“Yer’ gonna’ have ta’ meet her eventually too but fer now, yer not gonna’ be going anywhere.”

Again, there’s that unpracticed firmness as if he doesn’t like telling people what to do.

“Why?”

“Because it’s gonna be about a week before yur impulse control comes back. If you went out in public right now, you’d definitely wind up killing someone and I ....know that you don’t want that.”

He says the last part as though he doesn’t know it for sure but is really hoping that it’s true. Casey decides at that moment that it is.

“I don’t... feel like I’m out of control.”

“Well, honey, that’s because no one here has a pulse.”

This gives Casey pause because until then it had not occurred to her that they weren’t alone in the building.

Chapter Text

She peals the chain from his neck and (to his horror) dips her fingers into the wound before it closes and then licks the gore from them. She closes her eyes a moment and then opens them again to regard him thoughtfully. For some reason, she seems annoyed and he has to suppress the urge to tell her that no one made her come in here... mostly because she still has a knee on his chest and the wound in his neck is taking longer to heal than the last wound he’d gotten had. When she speaks, her voice is still gently patronizing.

“Now then, Dennis, I’m am going to permit you to stand but before I do so I am going to PROMISE you that if you attempt to flee, I will make you regret it. Do you believe me?”

It’s taking him a while to parse out the strange phrasing and she grows impatient. She sighs and rolls her eyes.

“Nod if you understand.”

He nods because by now he’s sorted out that the gist of it was that he shouldn't run away. She rises gracefully and then motions for him to follow. It takes him a bit because he’s still in pain. When he gets to his feet he reflexively reaches into his pocket for his handkerchief and uses it to dab at his eyes in a vain attempt to remove the colloidal silver. She watches this with a strange amount of interest, as though he’s just done some sort of moderately impressive trick, and doesn’t speak again until he’s done.

“Say you’re name.”

He furrows his brow, she’d just said it so she must have known it... somehow.

“M-my name is Dennis.”

“Good, and your age? Do not lie.”

“uh... 40.”

“Good, and the address of this... establishment?”

He tells her the address.

Her expression becomes thoughtful again.

“Hm... do you remember how you got like this? and, again, DO NOT lie.”

Dennis scrambles in his sluggish, blood starved brain for the answer, she waits surprisingly patiently for someone who threatened to kill him moments ago.

“There was a girl I-I met on my walk home and...”

He hits a wall there because he was not raised to talk about that sort of thing in front of ladies, least of all those that are dressed like Sunday school teachers.

“And she lead me into an alley and bit my throat.”

She raises a brow expectantly but he doesn’t go on.

“Only the once?”

He can tell by the way she asks it that she already knows the answer, his mother used to do that all the time.

“More than once...f-fer a few months... in hotel rooms usually... I don’t know where they are.”

“I wouldn’t have expected as much. Now, lamb, do you happen to know where SHE is?”

Dennis shakes his head, sadly.

“Well, allow me to enlighten you, about 3 hours ago I tore your little nymphette’s head clean off her shoulders and then spread her ashes in the Deleware River.”

Dennis is frozen in shock but he’s a little more surprised at the fact that he doesn’t really feel anything in response to this news apart from a fear that the same may happen to him. He loved her, didn’t he? He should be devastated.

“And why, Dennis, do you suppose that I did that?”

He’s at a loss for words again because he’s fairly certain that the first thing that popped into his head (‘because you’re clearly some sort of monster’) would probably get him killed. Luckily she only leaves a brief pause following the question, indicating that it was rhetorical.

“I did that, Dennis because that little chippie flounced onto my territory without so much as announcing herself, fed here without my permission and did...this-

She motions to Dennis’s body.

“To you and three others.”

Dennis speaks softly, honestly hoping that she won’t hear him.

“I don’t think it was on purpose.’

She adopts a look of mock surprise.

“Oh! And do you suppose that that makes it all better?”

Back to being unable to speak, he shakes his head. Miss. Patricia spends a few more moments in quiet contemplation during which Dennis wishes that the earth would open up and swallow him.

“Did she give you her blood?”

The suggestion makes Dennis’s stomach turn, he says no.

“Ah, so you’ve been made incorrectly like all the others.”

“Others?”

“Yourself and 2 of the 6 others.”

Dennis feel a little ache in his chest at the verification that what they’d had was not special but tells himself to stop beeing the soft brained, softhearted fool that the girl had clearly taken him for. While he’s been lost in thought, she’s been moving slowly, soundlessly toward him.

“But... you are different from the rest.”

“H-how?”

“They were little better than animals when I found them but you... look at you, you’re even fully clothed and know you’re own name and didn’t try to bite me a single time during this interview... Good for you.”

Dennis must seem confused.

“Denis, dear, untethered newborns are usually so rabid and insatiable that they’d tear their way through a nursery if the opportunity were presented, that is those that didn’t get distracted by the dead animals by the roadside on the way there... You’re an odd one, why do you suppose that is?”

It takes Dennis a moment to realize that that’s not a rhetorical question. He gave the best answer he can think of.

“I got... OCD.”

It sounds stupid even to him. Her interest surprises him.

“What is that?”

“It’s a disorder... I clean an’ organize constantly... I hate germs.”

She’s looking at him thoughtfully again. She walks over so that they’re standing face to face, uncomfortably close considering what she could do to him. She makes eye contact with him until he looks away and then reaches up to touch the side of his face almost gently.

“Dennis, I’m going to offer you an opportunity.”

She pauses as if to let it sink in, Dennis doesn’t speak.

“I am going to give you the opportunity to pledge yourself to me, to serve me either until the end of your days or until such time that I see fit to dispatch you and in exchange, you get to go on living until such time... how does that sound?”

Dennis isn’t sure exactly what that ‘service’ will entail and that makes him nervous.

“I-I don’t wanna’ kill anyone.”

She quirks a brow.

“I think the vagrants littering the alley below would beg to differ but, fine, more for the rest of us. Now, what do you say?”

He takes a deep, unnecessary breath.

“...ok.”

Patricia cocks her head.

“O...K...? My, they certainly don’t make poets anymore, but I’ll take it. Kneel down.”

It takes a while for him to register that she’s serious but then he does.

“Now say; Misstress Patricia the barren and heartless, Lady in the Water, Vampire Prince of Philidelphia, I pledge to you my immortality. This pledge I will break under pain of permanent termination.”

Dennis hopes he can remember all the words as he kneels.

“Misstress Patricia... the barren and... heartless (?), Lady in the Water, Vampire... Prince(?) of Philadelphia, I pledge to you my immortality. This pledge I will break under pain of permanent termination.”

It seems that he got most of it right because she’s not too displeased. He’s relieved when she descends the fire escape, ordering him to follow. They walk through street after street until eventually, they’re in the condemned portion of the old industrial park. They go to a tall, narrow, brick building toward the back of it. The front doors seem to be boarded up but that appears to be a carefully crafted illusion as they are opened by two people (vampires) waiting inside. When they get in, Dennis can see that the place is in an appalling state of disarray. Everything is caked in cobwebs and there are brick dust and gravel on the floor and rats and cockroaches can be seen skittering in every corner.

“Well, Dennis, you said that you clean so... clean. This will be the first of your chances to prove your worth to me.’

She leaves the room, telling one of the door vampires to give him any supplies he requests but otherwise provide him no aid... and kill him if he tries to leave the premises.

Chapter Text

The notion that Patricia may have spared Dennis out of pitty should be thoroughly dispensed with. When she’d tasted his blood she’d seen that he was well versed in the language of physical suffering but that had just made it a pity that that girl had made waste of him by turning him incorrectly. That vapid little thing had been feeding within a small circle of men that were all at least physically similar to him and the state in which she’d found the first two had been what was expected. She’d found the first one in a wooded area off of a park completely nude and gnawing on entrails of a dog he’d killed and the second one had been so far out of his mind that he’d tried to maul her like an animal. Given that, the fact that Dennis had even been capable of speech was surprising enough to give her pause.

After he’d explained what made his situation unique she’d theorized that perhaps what she was seeing was a vague facsimile of human consciousness, a sort of echo of his living personality that would fade and eventually dissipate. She’d never seen such a thing but she’d never seen someone with the disorder he claimed to have turned incorrectly or at all as far as she knew. Her intent had been to keep him close until the anomaly passed and then dispatch him as planned. Of course, she wasn’t about to tell him that because it might have made him less compliant. She’d compelled him into her service and assigned him a task that she’d thought would take a considerable amount of time. She’d recently relocated to the abandoned warehouse because her former dwelling was being demolished to make way for tract housing and no one looks after the hygiene of condemned buildings.

Ian and Marry had been under strict instructions not allow him off the premises and not provide him anything to feed on. Patricia thought that perhaps starvation would cause the echo to fade more rapidly. To her surprise, no matter how much time passed without his having fed, he did not resort to feeding on the rats that infested the warehouse. To Patricia’s knowledge, a vampire cannot die purely of starvation, you’re merely weakened by it and your higher brain functions shut down until you’re uninhibited enough to feed on anything you encounter. She’d certainly fed on her share of animals during the time that the area that had once been her village and would eventually be the city of Philadelphia, was sparsely inhabited and humans were hard to come by. She would sleep in the cave until she felt living things stirring above, then emerge from the river to feed. The few humans who’d seen her and lived would eventually begin the folk tale of the Lady in the Water. There were other names for her but none of them rolled off the tongue quite as well.

Even after the first month of his containment, during which he’d dusted, cleared away the general debris and dealt with a cockroach infestation, he seemed to be physically weakening and had adopted a greying pallor but was still lucid. Patricia caught him in the basement once, chewing open his own wrist out of desperation, and asked him what he was doing down there. He’d said that he’d gone down to find the mainline that supplied the building with water so that he could open it up. Apparently some commercial buildings connect directly to municipal maintenance tunnels. He’d actually done what he’d said, so it wasn’t a complete lie, but that still hadn’t been ALL he’d been doing down there and so she’d punished him.

She has a vast collection of pure silver torture implements which had been very expensive. She had told him to undress to the waist which he did on demand if a bit reluctantly. He revealed an array of quite impressive scars and that made her think, again, what a pity it was that his death hadn’t been as violent as the early years of his life apparently were. She’d draped him in silver chains and left him in the subbasement of the building for six days. She’d expected to go back and find a rabid thing but had instead simply found Dennis in incredible pain.

While she’d peeled the chains off of his bare skin, some had sunk to the bone, he’d finally asked to be fed. Specifically, he’d said that he needed ‘something’ if he was going to finish the tasks she’d assigned him. This had been enough to draw a laugh from her. She’d sat with him while Ian and Marry went out to find a vagrant (specifically one that seemed intoxicated) and asked him the same run of questions she had at the first meeting. Name?Age? How did you get here?

Fascinating, still so lucid. When they brought the vagrant in, he’d STILL been hesitant to drink, it had taken some goading. ‘Eat this or you will have nothing at all, silly boy.’ He had downed some blood but not nearly enough to kill the man or fully heal his own wounds. Once the substances in the vagrant’s blood had started to affect him, Patricia had decided to pursue a more intimate line of questioning.

“Why don’t you tell me what your mother did to you?”

He froze.

“I SAW it, I just want you to SAY it.”

He’d stammered and started to... cry. That’s certainly more emotional responsiveness than you’ll get from an echo. Even hurt and malnourished and intoxicated, it hadn’t taken him long to stop crying, it clearly wasn’t in his nature. It was unusual for a feral newborn to REMEMBER their nature. This is intriguing, HE is intriguing.

She has him taken to her quarters, a room near the top of the building and laid out on the floor and begins cleaning his wounds. She explained to him that when silver broke the skin they needed to be washed because the microscopic molecules of silver that stayed behind would prevent them from healing. He hadn’t much to say in response to this. She asked him if he’d like to know why they called her ‘the barren’ and she took his shuddering lack of response as a ‘yes.’

“You see,” she said, “I cannot make my own progeny. It’s to do with my blood, I supposed. Every time I try to make a fledgling, they come out as a brainless, feral thing... as you should have been. I always wind up having to put them down and it is QUITE depressing but you have been giving me ideas... Would you like to know my idea?”

He gives her the answer she wants though barely audible.

“....sure.”

“I would like to see what sort of effect my blood would have on you... Mind you, I won’t be making you my progeny, to do that I would have to drain out all that little girl’s blood and put in mine and you’d likely turn to dust in the process but I could see my way to giving you a bit. Worst-case scenario, it causes you to become what you likely would have anyway and I put you down here, best case, we find that you’ve got a higher tolerance for it than any who’ve had it thus far. What do you say?”

Dennis actually glares at her.

“You’re just gonna’ kill me anyway?”

For the first time, she gets the sense that he would be angry if he had the strength.

“If you go feral, that will be the kindest thing I could do but if you don’t, you can just consider this an extension of your pledge. Now, again, what do you say?”

He doesn’t answer but that’s because he knows what the only answer can be. She slits her wrist with her nail.

“Open pet.”

She lets her blood trickle on his lips until he gives in and lunges for the wound. She lets him drink until his open wounds close and then pulls her wrist from his mouth then she just watches him and waits for the awareness to leave his eyes. She tells herself that she’s not WORRYING that that will happen... he was essentially doomed anyway. This was just an experiment. Eventually, he grows self-conscious under her gaze and it occurs to her that that could not happen if he weren’t still CONSCIOUS.

“What did you see?”

(That had been how it had gone every other time she'd tried to reproduce, they'd act as though they'd SEEN something and then their minds would snap.)

He looks confused. She sighs.

“While you were drinking from me, what did you see in your mind's eye?”

He tenses a bit as if he’s worried he’ll respond incorrectly and be punished for it... which is not an altogether invalid concern.

“N-nothing.”

Eventually she would learn that Dennis never sees anything when he drinks, she speculates that that may be why he’s so very fixated on the TASTE of the blood, but at the time she assumed that that was what any untethered fledgling would see if they drank her blood. She’d of course never allowed it before and even if she had, none of them would have been lucid enough to respond when questioned. She has the twins walk him back to his apartment after that, with strict instructions that they are to kill him if he strays, because he needs clothing and Ian’s will not fit him. He returns with multiple, identical outfits and a pair of glasses. When asked if he could see without them he said yes but then continued to wear them.

After that Patricia proceeded under the ‘echo’ theory and kept him near purely to see how long it would linger, telling herself that the instant it faded, she’d fulfill her obligation and kill him. At the 20 year mark, she’d begun to suspect that it wasn’t an echo and, at the 50-year mark, she’d started to think that she should kill him. He was made under quite possibly the direct opposite of the circumstances under which she’d decided to allow fledglings to be made in her territory and she could gain a reputation for being lenient... that way lies ruin. Then another 20 years went by and she still hadn’t killed him... He was useful after all and he was STILL an oddity and thus worth preserving if only to be further observed... Yes, that must be why she’s letting him live.

Chapter Text

If Orwell were the type to meddle in human affairs he might have told them not to develop anywhere near the river. If you REALLY look, you can find accounts of the Lady in the Water dating back to roughly 1690. Lady in the Water is, of course, her name in the English language, the term the Native Americans used for her roughly translates to ‘river hag’ which is a bit less poetic. At the time that the city decided to artificially widen the banks of the river, she seemed to have gone into a long period of dormancy. There is a lot of speculation about why older vampires will sometimes just go to sleep for 100s of years at a time but Orwell is a fan of the psychological fatigue theory.

There are actually dormant vampires spread out all over the world. Usually when a very old archeological site is excavated and then a lot of people associated with the excavation die, this is the reason (no, King Tuts Tomb was not such a case.) One of the more well-known instances in the Americas is the 1820 excavation of ‘The Cave of the Jaguar’ which lies beneath the city of Chichen Itza in Mexico. Multiple workers hired for the excavation were ‘mauled to death by some sort of animal’ prompting the Spanish merchants funding the dig to cancel it and have the cave walled back up. Unbeknownst to them, ‘The Jaguar’ (Blood God, Orphan Maker, Decimator of Colonies and current Prince of Mexico City) had already left the cave.

(It is not uncommon for vampires that are descended from historically colonized people to include something in their name highlighting their hostility to foreign colonists. Some of them don’t really honor that portion of their titles anymore but some do... we’ll come back to that.)

Patricia is a lesser-known incident because the small cave in which she’d been slumbering was not considered a site of archeological significance. In fact, only a few men had actually gone in and they weren’t supposed to. The mouth of the cave had been exposed during the day while the men were working and then three of them snuck back into the cite after the sun went down. Two were found dead in the cave the next day and there are accounts of the third one being seen roaming the streets of the city exhibiting symptoms of ‘something similar rabies’ before he disappeared altogether. These accounts are assumed to be mere urban legends by human historians.

Misstress Patricia the heartless, Lady in the Water and Vampire Prince of Philidelphia is significant for two reasons; she claims to have had her genesis in America and she claims to have no progenitor. There are only three progenitor-less vampires who claim to have become vampires in the Americas (it is debted rather or not The Jaguar should be counted since he himself objects to Mexico being viewed as part of the Americas.) The youngest of the three is the Monsieur Ronald, Witch Doctor (he does not feel the need to be Prince of anything) who claims to have made himself a vampire through some ritualistic means that he refuses to disclose. He and his fledglings refer to themselves as ‘zombies’ as that is the appropriate term for a corpse raised from the dead by magical means.

(There is speculation that his entire origin story may be a complete bluff but since he claims to have only been immortal since 1870, Orwell thinks that if it were that would not be difficult to prove. He’s not confirming it, he’s just saying that there’s no clear proof that it ISN’T true.)

Here’s where it gets foggy and political. The current Prince of Fargo, North Dakota is a man named Askuwheteau (Translation: he keeps watch) (The Wendigo, Bane to Wolves and White Men... remember that thing we were going to come back to?) who is infamous for the fact that he will not allow werewolves or white vampires to be made, reside in or even pass through his territory. There are, of course, white PEOPLE in his territory but he views them as not counting because humans are to vampires as livestock or game animals are to humans.

Perhaps it would be best to first discuss his significance as a Native American. It is very important to him, his descendants and all who chose to follow him that it be widely known that he has a spiritual progenitor (specifically a Wendigo Spirit) and NOT a European progenitor. This is important because there are certain packs of Native American werewolves that like to brand vampirism as a ‘European Disease.’ They claim that it did not exist in the Americas prior to the arrival of the white man. This did not sit well with Askuwheteau, who claims to have lived in North America as an immortal since before Columbus even arrived.

The allegation was insult enough that he and his followers declared war on all werewolf kind and why you will not find a single werewolf in North Dakota (when he says Bane of Wolves he means it.) Orwell once sent him a formal request to travel into his territory and conduct an interview with him and in exchange received a draft of his official origin story from his own historian and a letter explaining, in no uncertain terms, that if Orwell were ever to go to Fargo, he would be killed and also that if he did not print the origin story that he was sent word for word with NO alterations in any publications he might produce, he would be found and killed.

(Orwell had no difficulty complying as he has no personal investment in vampirism being of European origin, in fact, he thinks it makes more sense for there to be multiple strains originating in different places, hence the variety of powers, weaknesses and sometimes even physical features found in vampires.) (There are allegedly vampires in Africa with feet like bird talons and iron teeth and Orwell would love to go and see them but he’s not permitted to leave the Americas.)

Askuwheteau did dein to send a formal request to meet with Patricia on neutral ground but she declined. Given his reputation, Orwell can’t say he begrudges her this as there was a very real chance that he was luring her to her death. It does not sit well with him that there are American made vampires of foreign lineage who claim to have no progenitors because he believes that the land would not ‘give its spirits’ to foreigners. Patricia’s claim to have simply died underground and emerged a vampire is more troubling to him on this front than Ronald’s claim to have become a vampire with the aid of spirits conjured from his own homeland. Orwell doesn’t understand how killing her would fix this but he can see how such a move would make sense from a propaganda perspective.

Chapter Text

Orwell’s place of birth is Vienna, Austria but he had arrived in the United States already speaking English because his progenitor had taught it to him during the fifty years that he’d kept him close. Meister Andreas was Austrian as well but he was functionally literate in every Germanic language. He made it clear from the time that he turned him that he intended to send him to the Americas. Of course, he was not cruel or foolish enough to just put a fledgling on a ship and hope for the best. He’d kept Orwell close to him for fifty years, teaching him to play his role as an impartial observer. This had been one of the many stages in Andreas’s long-running plan (which began with the invention of the steam engine) to place one of his progeny on each continent.

Orwell is well aware that the circumstances under which he was turned were not ideal. For one, Meister Andreas had... technically kidnapped him. He had been working part-time as a docent at a museum while he studied at a nearby university. Andreas had frequented the place and he and Orwell had frequently fallen into conversations. Somewhere in the course of these conversations, the immortal historian had gotten the impression that Orwell was an ideal candidate for his project. He had followed Orwell one night after he’d left the museum and waited until he was alone...

Any resentment that Orwell may have felt over being turned without his consent was eclipsed soon after by his overwhelming love for Andreas. He loved him instantly, instinctively and more than he’d ever loved anyone in his entire life. By the end of their first fifty years, it had faded to something more manageable (something that didn’t cause him to become hysterical at the mere suggestion that they would someday be parted) but hadn’t entirely gone away. Orwell realizes now, in hindsight and with an ocean between him and Andreas, that what he’d experienced had been purely chemical. Just as no one teaches an infant to love its mother, no one has to teach a fledgling to love its master; some people find that disturbing but Orwell prefers to think of it as evidence that vampires are not outside of the governance of nature.

At the time the vampire prince of Vienna had had a violent death policy similar to the one that Patricia employs now except that he had made exceptions in cases of terminal illness. Andreas had convinced him to completely suspend the policy for him on the condition that he would not keep any of his ‘children’ in the city for more than fifty years. For this reason, near the end of Orwell’s fiftieth year of immortality, he’d been put on a ship to the America’s with instructions to observe and recond (NOTHING else.) He was told that he should carry on in his task until he received further instructions but, in retrospect, he doesn’t think that the older vampire had even intended to give him any... it was at this point that he’d began to simply hope for the best.

Now that it’s become so easy, Orwell and Andreas correspond on a regular basis but Andreas could not possibly have anticipated it ever becoming so easy. Orwell thinks that, for his maker, sending his offspring out into the world had been something akin to sending a spacecraft around the dark side of the moon. Andreas had once traveled a great deal but by the time he’d found Orwell he’d had ‘grown roots’ (so to speak) in Vienna and by now doesn’t plan to ever leave it again. When that happens to old vampires they usually stay in that place until they’re driven out either by catastrophic alterations or the literal destruction of the place.

Orwell sometimes considers asking if he can visit Vienna or perhaps suggesting that Andreas could visit him but at other times he dreads this happening. He’s not sure what would be worse, if he saw Andreas again and found his instinctive devotion to him to still be intact or if he saw Andreas again and found that he now felt nothing where once there was such a powerful surge of emotion. At other times, when he’s not being honest with himself, he tells himself that he has no interest in leaving the Americas because there's still SO much to do here; much to observe and record and learn. He persists in this belief through repeated suggestions that it may not be necessary for him to be here any longer (or even that he should never have come here in the first place) because he believes that he can continue to learn and adapt and fulfill his purpose in ways that were never even foreseen by the one who devised it. There are still MANY who would like their stories recorded, granted the younger ones seem to be the most eager to talk but Orwell doesn’t push them away because he believes that all stories have value, each is a thread in the grand tapestry.

That’s why he finds himself stationed in Philidelphia now. Miss Patricia has given him residency here for as long as he continues to produce a written body of work and allower her access to that work. Their interactions are quite civil, she and Mr. Dennis will come to his apartment (which is in the same building as Barrys), have ‘tea’ and talk over what he’s learned in the time since last they were together. Sometimes there would be a year between one meeting and the next. It was through this that he developed an interest in Mr. Dennis.

He was a big, broad, grim wall of muscle in a utility worker uniform and wire-rimmed glasses. He had very little in general to say but when prompted (mostly by Patricia ordering him to speak) he would talk about his unremarkable life. He had gone to work in a machine parts factory when he was 13 because his father had died. His mother never remarried and the two of them lived together until her death. He had kept the same job at the factory until Miss. Patricia had found him without ever getting promoted or demoted.

Orwell had asked him, more to be polite than anything if there were any interesting stories he could tell about his time as a mortal and got only one. One day at the factory a group of men in suits came through. They’d been conduction cursory research to see what could be done to improve the efficiency of the work environment. One of their gazes had fallen on Dennis, the man had seemed to take great interest in how he set up his work station and how he used a yellow cloth to avoid touching doorknobs and railings. The man had given him a business card with an address on it and asked if he could come in the following day, Dennis told him that he had work.

The next day he showed up to work and was ordered by his boss to go to the address. Apparently the man had PAID to spend some time with him. He’d gone to the place and found a tastefully appointed little house in the good part of town. The man led him inside and to his study. He asked him a series of questions and had him solve some puzzles. After nearly an hour, the man had finally asked him if he’d like to know what he was doing there. He was told that he seemed to have Neuresthesia, a mechanical weakness of the nerves that was otherwise known as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. When he’d asked the man what he should do about it the man had said ‘there is no cure.’

Mistress Patricia, the heartless, Lady in the Water and Prince of Philidelphia had included ‘the baren’ in her monicker until she’d come upon Dennis. He was supposedly her first and only fledgling but... One HEARS things. Orwell had once visited with the twins Ian and Marry in Boston Massachusets, where they’re headquartered these days and he could swear that when he mentioned Dennis to them specifically as ‘Patricia’s Progeny’ they’d seemed surprised but hadn’t said anything. He must be her’s, though, because what else could account for how she holds him close and his unwavering deference to her? What he sees between them doesn’t LOOK like love but he can’t imagine either of them making an open display of such an emotion.

Chapter Text

Jade’s initial reaction to Casey is something akin to a single mother coming home to find that her child has brought home a stray dog that he found on the walk home from school. Casey’s initial reaction to Jade is fear but she will eventually learn that fear is the standard reaction of all young vampires to vampires that are older than them. It’s not irrational to be afraid of something that could so easily kill you. Barry holds Casey’s hand to keep her from fleeing while Jade studies her. Her eventual appraisal is begrudgingly positive.

“She’s cute... what are the odds Mommy Dearest is gonna’ wind up tearin’ her pretty little head off ‘er shoulders?”

Barry laughs uncomfortably.

“She was pretty clearly on her way out.”

“Clearly?”

“She’d been shot, she hit the pavement right in front’a me. I’m not ta’ believe in signs but if I were...”

Barry shrugs.

“Gettin’ shot ain’t as big of a deal as it used ta’ be.”

Barry laughs more genuinely this time.

“Honey, I love you but sometimes I worry yer gettin’ cynical.”

Jade rolls her eyes but smiles. She comes forward and hugs Barry, getting a little too close to Casey for comfort. Casey’s moving away catches her eye.

“You got a name?”

“Casey Cooke.”

She shakes her head.

“Nah, hun, you don’t need a last name anymore... least not the same one ya had when you were alive.”

Jade turns her critical gaze on Barry.

“You look like shit. How long you hold up with her?”

“I had Orwell watch’er a few hours two days ago so I could get more supplies.”

“You drink any’a those supplies?”

Barry looks guilty.

“She needed it.”

“Yeah, I thought so. I’ll make sure she doesn’t go on a killin’ spree while you go eat.”

It’s not a question. Barry walks reluctantly to the other side of the room and takes out his phone. While he’s arranging a meeting with one of his ‘clients,’ the two women continue regarding each other. Jade looks like she may not have been much older than Casey when she was turned but that’s where the similarities between them end. The older vampire looks as though she was carved out of onyx, full lips (painted the exact shade of her shirt) and wide eyes contrasting with her high cheekbones. Her long neck leads down to a body far more... conspicuously mature than Casey’s. She’s wearing a cotton candy sweater that cuts off above her midriff, a leather miniskirt, and thigh-high leather boots. She doesn’t seem to NEED hair... considering how much else there is to look at, that would be overkill.

Barry comes back over, kisses Casey lightly on the lips and looks her in the eyes.

“Two hours tops.”

He nods and she nods even though she doesn’t want him to go.

Barry hugs Jade again and whispers something to her that Casey can’t hear. Jade laughs.

“I’ll be FINE, we’ll have a little girl talk while yer gone.”

Barry doesn’t seem entirely reassured by this but goes over to one of the dressing dummies, takes the finished garment off of it, puts it on a hanger and tucks it carefully into a garment bag. When hesitates by the door, Jade waves to him in an exaggerated manner, then he’s out of sight. Casey feels the same sinking in her heart that she seems to feel every time Barry leaves her line of sight now. No matter how many times she mentally berates herself for being pathetic, it doesn’t go away. Orwell, when he noticed her nervousness, had told her that she was experiencing a secondary paternal bonding reaction... it didn’t help.

“So, what’s a pretty girl like you do ta’ make someone wanna’ shoot ‘er?”

It’s not the WORST ice breaker Casey’s ever heard. She decides to be honest because the circumstances of her death seem important.

“He had been keeping me trapped in the apartment... I managed to make it out onto the fire escape and... he wasn’t happy about that.”

“Yeah, that’ll do it. Boyfriend?”

“Uncle.”

Jade winces.

“I assume he wasn’t keepin’ ya trapped fer legal reasons.”

“No.”

That’s all it seems to take for Jade to infer the actual reason. Her expression is irritation and disgusted mixed with sympathy.

“Barry get ‘im?”

Casey nods and can’t help but smile a little. Surprisingly Jade smiles back.

“Fuck right he did. I’d a made ‘im go back if he didn’t.”

“... he said I was his first.”

“You are but that don’t mean he don’t know how it’s done.”

Casey flashes back to the death she’d seen in her mind’s eye after drinking Barry’s blood for the second time. Suddenly, she wants to thank Jade but would be too embarrassed to do so right now.

“How do you know Barry?”

“Did he not feel tha’ need ta’ say?”

“Sorry, I just mean, how did you meet... was it before you turned him.”

“Yeah, months before but he didn’t remember most’a those times.”

“He said you... drank from him?”

“Pssh, that makes it sound SO dirty! We talked and made out a few times too.”

“Were you friends?”

“I guess, that’s why I killed those fuckin’ fag bashers... I mean, if I’d just happened on the scene I’d still have killed ‘em but I happened on it cause I was followin’ Barry.”

She starts to stroll through the forest of Barry’s dressing dolls, examining his work. It feels to Casey as though she and Barry have been here alone a very long time (the whole of her new life in fact) and so this feels like a violation of their privacy. She doesn’t say anything.

“He make you anything yet?”

“No.”

After the time he left her with Orwell, Barry had come home with more blood and a selection of pretty nightgowns for Casey to exchange for Jade’s robe. Right now she’s wearing a soft, linen empire waist one that makes her feel like a virginal maiden in a victorian vampire movie. When she said that to Barry, he’d laughed.

“If he gets ta keep ya’ get ready ta be trussed up like a Barbie Doll at every opportunity.”

Casey can’t get past the first word.

"If?”

“I mean, probably. If what you guys told me then yeah but... sometimes you’ll think somebody’s all set but then Mommy Dearest-”

“Mommy Dearest?”

“Mistress Patricia... blah blah somethin’ er other. It’s like ya’ can’t get any respect as a Prince unless yer name is a short novel about how generally unpleasant you are.”

Something occurs to her and she snickers.

“Orwell tell ya about Dirk the Generally Unpleasant?”

“No.”

Orwell had seemed ill at ease around her as if she were very fragile and unstable.

“You gotta’ ask ‘im some time, it’s a scream.”

She stops to study a metallic pink cocktail dress that Casey assumes must be for her.

“... how does... Mistress Patricia decide if I get to stay?”

“She decides if ya get ta’ LIVE, after that she decides if ya’ get ta’ stay.”

“She might let me live but not let me stay here?”

Casey is seized with panic.

“Relax, if she gave ya the boot Barry and... probably I would go with ya.”

Casey looks at her inquisitively.

“Things would be dull around here without Barry.”

There’s a long pause and then Jade continues bluntly.

“Ya’ love ‘im, huh?”

Casey’s taken aback... can Jade read her mind.

“You don’t gotta’ say it there’s just something I want you ta know and bear in mind from here on out. Ya’ see, hon, that ain’t special. I LOVED my creator right up until the second Patricia tore his heart outta’ his chest and then, at that EXACT second, I hated him. Now, Barry isn’t half the bag’a shit Charlie was but even if he were you’d still be worshippin’ the rain that waters the grass that grows from tha’ ground he walks on.”

“I don’t-”

“I’m not sayin’ ya can’t enjoy yer little crush, just don’t start thinkin’ ya’ found some kinda’ Twilight shit.”

Casey doesn’t know how to process this. Jade goes on.

“Ya’ know, he followed me around like a puppy dog fer the first ten years an we ain’t livin’ in a Snow White house that our psychic freak babby built fer us.”

“I-I don’t know what that means.”

Jade laughs.

“Never mind, honey, and don’t sweat about the whole evaluation thing... If nothin’ else, Barry bought ya some extra time.”

When Barry gets back, he finds Casey uncomfortably having her makeup done by Jade.

Chapter Text

The smell of dog assaults Dennis’s senses the instant he steps inside the house. He couldn’t smell it outside so the place must have good weatherstripping. Dennis could have easily forced the door but he picks the lock instead. When the man comes home, he doesn’t want him to get suspicious and flee out into the street. Dennis can kill him there just as well as he could anywhere else but he doesn’t want to risk getting seen.

There are big plastic containers in the kitchen and Dennis doesn’t need to look inside them to know that that’s where the smell is coming from. The girls been drinking dog blood then. Dennis really hopes that he can get the information he needs from the man because if he has to draw some of the girl’s blood to take back to Miss Patricia he might get some of that filthy dog blood on him and then he’ll have to throw this shirt away. He knows how to was out bloodstains, of course, but the smell of dog blood never stops lingering. She’s in the attic, he can hear her moving, but he doesn’t want to go up there until he’s spoken to her husband.

He goes to the living room partly because the smell (dog blood, ROT, and dog blood) is not quite as bad in there but also because he assumes the man is going to be entering into the kitchen through the back door. In the wedding photos on the wall, the man and woman that he’s here to kill are dressed in Victorian clothing. This is not a surprise, these sorts of hobbyists tend to gravitate toward vampires, some of them even get lucky... not these two though. He just settles in and waits, trying to ignore the smell and the awful racket the woman in making upstairs and just listen for the back door. Thankfully he hears the lock being turned before too long.

He moves so that he’s not visible from the kitchen and then waits until he hears the man lock the door behind him. There’s a thud, the man setting down something heavy, and muffled whimpering noise. Dennis gives it a few more beats and then moves silently into the kitchen. The man is so preoccupied with trying to pull the whimpering thing out of a canvas laundry bag that's stained with dog piss that he doesn’t notice Dennis at first. When he does he, of course, immediately drops the bag and makes for the back door.

Naturally he doesn’t make it, Dennis grabs the back of his neck with one hand and uses the other to twist his right arm behind his back. He’s gentle, it wouldn’t do any good to hurt him just yet, and holds the man there until he stops struggling. When he’s worn himself out, Dennis drags him over to one of the chairs by the table. The dog is whimpering louder now and Dennis considers putting it outside but... no, that might draw the attention of the neighbors. He finds duct tape in one of the drawers and uses it to secure the man to the chair and cover his mouth.

When the dog is squared away in one of the bedrooms, he returns to the kitchen and settles into the chair opposite the man. To steady himself, he takes his glasses off and cleans them then turns his attention back to his captive. He makes sure not to sound upset when he speaks even though he is VERY upset.

“I just wanna’ start off by sayin’ that I’m not mad at you. You have... uh, clearly been manipulated and who I’m mad at is the person who did the manipulating. You are not in any trouble, understood?”

The man eventually nods.

“That being said, if you scream when I take that tape off, I am going to put it back on and start breaking yer fingers... is that also understood?”

The man’s eyes widen but he nods again.

“Good, I’m glad we understand each other. I am going to remove the tape now.”

He comes around the table and rips the tape off. The man grits his teeth to keep from making any noise in response to the pain that causes. Good. Dennis goes back to his chair.

“Alright, I suppose the first question I’d like ‘ta ask is why turn yer wife instead’ a yourself or both of you?"

The man seems at a loss for words as if Dennis doesn’t already know what he’s done and he doesn’t want to reveal too much. Dennis tries not to let his irritation show. Again, he speaks calmly.

“Sir, if ya’ don’t start talking I’m gonna’ start ta’ suspect that you don’t need yer lower jaw.”

The man swallows, takes a shaky breath.

“Since she was already dying, the plan was to have him turn her and see if it worked, then she was going to turn me.”

The man tears up a little at the end of his statement, Dennis isn’t sure why.

“Dying?”

“The doctor said that she has lesions on her brain.”

“Brain cancer?”

“...yeah.”

“See, I knew you were a good man. You were just takin’ care of yer wife, like yer supposed to... ain’t yer fault someone took advantage’a that. You’d be surprised how many men wouldn’t a bothered... would’a just split when things got rough.”

The man relaxes just a little. Dennis has read books on interrogation and they all say that it’s best to initially make the target think that you’re on their side.

“What do you mean he took advantage?”

“You tell me, does it seem like everything goin’ fine so far?”

Dennis jerks his head upward slightly, indicating the attic. The man tears up just a little more.

“I thought she just needed time.”

“See, clearly whoever did that ta’ her didn’t care what the outcome would be. If he did he’d have at least told ya’ what ta’ feed her before he left ya’ alone with her. Since she hasn’t killed you, I assume you got her restrained somehow... did he tell you ta’ do that?”

“No... we decided on that before we even paid him... because in the books fledglings always want to drink right away and she was worried she’d... hurt me.”

“Does she seem worried about that now?”

Tears finally run down the man’s face as he shakes his head.

“That’s ‘cause ya been soakin’ her brain in dog blood. It’ll keep her going but it’ll change her too and it doesn’t really register as food. That ain’t yer wife up there, that’s a starving dog in her body.”

The man openly sobs this time... Dennis really hopes that the man’s nose doesn’t start running.

“I was going to bring her... people but then I just... couldn’t.”

Dennis nods and hopes that he looks sympathetic.

“Yeah, most people assume that they could kill a human if they really had to but most of ‘em are wrong... Now, you said ‘paid’.”

The man nods.

“I was downtown in Everville... the night club... and I had a few drinks and I wound up telling a guy about how my wife was... sick... he told me he could help but he wanted $50,000.”

“And you just... bought it?”

“He took me into a private room and cut his arm, it healed right away.”

Dennis nods.

“Did you happen ta’ get this man’s name?”

“He said it was... Dr. Cerberus.”

“Yeah, that’s clearly an alias, what did he look like?”

“He was... he looked younger but he said he was 25... he had blonde hair and blue eyes and he... smiled a lot...”

... SAMUEL.

“Did he happen to mention where he was going with yer money?”

“No... why, do you think you can get it back?”

“...unlikely. I’d just like to restate that I believe you were taken advantage of and that’s not fair ta’ you or yer wife or... me.”

The man tenses.

“...who are you?”

Dennis breaths in and out, it’s something he does out of habit when he’s frustrated.

“I am the man who’s gonna have ta’ put all this right and I would like you ta’ know that... I will take no pleasure in doing that but first, I wanna know... why did ya keep the bodies in yer house?”

“I... I was trying to dissolve them... like in Breaking Bad.”

Dennis almost laughs but then darts across the room and snaps the man’s neck. He’s dead before he even knows what’s happening, it’s the most merciful way. He goes up to the attic to find a thing that was once a woman in a stainless steel cage. That’ll be strong enough for a newborn at least. She's whimpering but then she sees him and starts to growl and snarl. Anyone who did know any better would guess she was a werewolf with the amount of hair that’s grown on her face and body. Given the chance, she’d right back out if she got enough human blood in her system but she’s not going to be getting the chance.

Dennis snaps her neck easy as he did her husband. He's considering vacuuming up the dust but then he hears a whimpering downstairs and remembers the dog in the bedroom. He goes down and pulls it out of the bag. It’s a tiny blonde cocker spaniel. It has a zip tie closed around its muzzle but is otherwise unharmed. The address on its tag is for just a few houses away. He’ll drop it off on his way to him and Miss. Patricia’s lair. From there they’ll be going for a visit with Mr. Orwell.

Chapter Text

“I don’t wanna’ say it but I’d put my money on him bein’ outside the city now.”

Dennis has been explaining the situation to Miss. Patricia while driving her to Orwell’s place. She had used to go everywhere on foot but Dennis has suggested getting a car to be less conspicuous and she’d actually listened. That was one of the ways he knew that she’d started to like him, that she started taking his thoughts and opinions seriously and sometimes even asking for them. Like now.

“What gives you that impression?”

“He got the money before he even turned ‘er and that was two weeks ago. I don’t think he’d be stupid enough ta’ do somethin’ like this and then stick around... it ain’t like he doesn’t know yer here.”

Miss. Patricia nods, looking out her window at the rain.

“Did anyone see you enter the house?”

“I was discrete but I can scan the news later.”

She nods again, still not looking at him.

“I want you to be sure that he’s left the city. Once you’re sure of that we’ll try to determine which of the surrounding territories he’s fled into. Once we know that we can navigate the difficulties of your entering that particular territory... to kill him, obviously.”

“Obviously.”

“His removal brings the count down to 24 which leaves room for Barry’s new acquisition. In theory, if she is worthy and I let her live I will expect you to resolve the situation with Samuel within the month. In the unlikely event of your failure, I’ll expect you to do away with the new acquisition as well. Does that seem fair?”

“Umm-hmm.”

He knows that there are only certain answers that she will accept to certain questions.

When they get there, not much has changed. Orwell welcomes them into his sitting room where a teapot of warmed blood and four cups are already waiting. They sit and begin the usual discussion of current politics followed sometimes by a recording of Orwell’s most recent interview. Dennis tries to count the bricks in the wall behind Orwell’s head. Then comes the time for Miss Patricia to be alone with Orwell (who knows what’s discussed. Denni rises respectfully and goes to the door out into the main hallway of the building.

Barry, Jade and a nervous waif who so lovely it makes Dennis hate himself just a little bit more are standing outside. It’s uncomfortably silent for a moment but then something comes back to Dennis.

“Breakin’ Bad was a television program, wasn’t it?”

Jade snickers.

“Yeah, it was in color and everything.

Dennis clicks his tongue.

“What was it about?”

Casey finally finds her voice.

“It’s about a high school chemistry teacher who gets cancer and starts making meth to pay for his medical treatments.”

He looks at her as though he expects she is lying for long enough that it becomes uncomfortable.

“What’s that gotta’ do with liquified dog corpses?”

Jade bursts out laughing and Barry comes to Casey’s aid.

“I ain’t seen EVERY episode but I’m pretty sure no dogs get liquified.”

Jade chimes in.

“Yeah, that’s Downton Abbey yer thinkin’ a.”

At this point Jade gives up and just dissolves into gales of laughter.

Dennis only seems confused a moment and collects himself. He addresses Casey.

“Now,uh, Miss when Orwell comes out you and I go into Miss. Patricia and I will present you. There will be a brief conversation and then she will sample your blood. If you are worthy you will be permitted to live and then told what the conditions of your new life will be. I need yer name.”

“Barry can’t come with me?”

“Uh...No, and I need yer name.”

“Casey Cooke.”

“Casey Cooke.”

He says as if trying to commit it to memory. Just then the door creaks open and Orwell exits. Jade also grabs Barry’s hand to keep him from going forward. Dennis guides her into the room with a sort of invisible touch, corraling her with an arm that doesn’t quite touch her. Standing there in front of the table at which they’d clearly been drinking is Misstress Patricia, heartless, ‘Lady in the Water’ and Prince of Philidelphia. Casey finds strange comfort in the fact that she recognizes the dress she’s wearing, Barry made it. It’s a sort of floor-length, gauzy red kaftan that gathers slightly around the body. She has wild white hair that’s been swept back from her face. Her features are sharp and nearly skeletal, her lips thin and bloodless, her eyes blue. When she opens her mouth to speak, her fangs do not look out of place.

“What have we here?”

Luckily Dennis speaks before Casey can, she’s forgotten that she was supposed to be ‘presented.’

“Casey Cooke, Barry’s new acquisition.”

She looks Casey up and down in a way that makes her shiver even though cold no longer affects her.

“And how did the dressmaker come upon you?”

“I-My uncle had been holding me against my will in the apartment-”

“Why?”

“Because he didn't want me to leave-”

“And why did you want to leave?”

“Because he... he been beating and raping me for weeks at that point... I got out onto the fire escape through the bedroom window and he shot me from there... I landed on the ground in front of Barry and he... saved me.”

“Hmm... a likely story, only one way to verify it.”

She holds out her right hand and Casey doesn’t know what to do.

“Give ‘er yer hand.”

Dennis mutters from behind her. She lays her hand in Patricia’s, this is hard to do because all her newly formed vampiric instincts are screaming at her not to let the older vampire touch her, to flee the room in fact. One of the reasons she doesn’t is because she’s keenly aware of Dennis at her back and assumes that she couldn’t move much from this spot if he didn’t let her. Patricia cuts Casey’s wrist and then tips it into a clean teacup she’s had in her left hand this whole time. She lets go of Casey’s wrist which only sprays onto the white dress Barry made for her just for this occasion before it closes.

Patricia smells her blood and then takes only a tiny sip. She closes her eyes and when she opens them the way she looks at Casey is subtly but radically altered. It’s the look of someone who KNOWS. She reaches up and combs Casey’s hair behind her ear with those claw-like nails. Then she looks her right in the eye.

“Never forget how it felt.”

Casey nods, feeling a strange intimacy at that moment.

“Now, Casey, I am going an opportunity. I will permit you to go on living in my territory under the condition that you pledge yourself to me for a minimum of fifty years. How do you feel about that?”

Casey is confused.

“Did Barry have to do that?”

“Every fledgling created in my territory is required to make me a pledge in exchange for their lives. Now, what is your answer.”

“I... I’ll do it.”

Patricia nods approvingly.

“Kneel and repeat after me: Mistress Patricia, the heartless, Lady in the Water and Prince of Philidelphia I pledge to you the first fifty years of my immortality, this pledge I break under pain of permanent termination.”

Casey kneels and repeats, Dennis helps her up. She surprised that when she is up he keeps hold of her arms and leads her from the room. The instant she’s on the other side, Barry hugs her and she wraps her arms around him and never wants to let go.

“She made me promise her fifty years.”

“That’s alright baby girl, that’s normal... just means ya’ get ta’ stay here with me.”

Those exact words out of his mouth at this moment is a balm on her frayed nerves. Before she knows it, she’s kissing him and kissing him and kissing him.

Chapter Text

Shortly after sundown, Dennis gets a text from Jade.

[i found u somethin]

It’s followed by an address and when he doesn’t respond to that, she prods.

[Momy not letin u out 2night?]

He rolls his eyes but responds.

[Be there in 15]

The lair does have electricity but there are no electric lights because Miss Patricia does not care for the sound they make. Dennis thought it was only fluorescent lights that made a sound but... just because he can’t hear it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Vampires can also see just fine in the dark so he supposes electric lights are technically a luxury. She is in a room at the very top of the building that used to have a lot of large windows but Dennis has long since boarded them all up and soundproofed the room because even though they’re in an abandoned part of the city a lot of white noise still carries over (he’s been told.) The twins moved on a long time ago and since then only he and Miss Patricia actually live here but if vampires come here from other cities for diplomatic reasons, they’re required to stay here.

(By the time the twins had gone, they had developed a sort of fondness for Dennis, as you might for a dog that you especially liked. Every now and then one of them will contact him out of the blue and ask how he’s ‘getting on.’ He always says that he’s fine.)

Dennis is allowed to go out, of course, but he’s expected to tell Miss Patricia that he’s going and the arrive back at the time that she tells him to arrive back. Jade makes fun of him for this but he doesn’t think it’s unreasonable. He meets her at the address provided but there doesn’t seem to be anything of note there except her. Before he can ask her why she wanted him to come here, she takes his arm and leads him over to the corner.

“See that building there?”

She points to a bookstore on the other side of the street and he nods.

“A Mormon prayer group meets in the basement, Wednesdays and Fridays.”

Oh, Mormons. It used to be a sure thing that Mormons would never have anything stronger than caffeine in their blood but these days it seems like almost everyone is on something. Antidepressants and painkillers are surprisingly common. It’s not that Dennis has trouble believing that there are that many people in the world who are depressed and in pain, it just inconvenient for him. Still, his odds are better here than if he tried selecting someone at random.

“When does it let out?”

“Why, ya got a curfew?”

He glares at her because she knows he does. She just laughs at having gotten a reaction out of him.

“Usually at nine... they’re Mormons, they don’t do late nights.”

They wait until a group of people emerge and then follow them until a couple breaks off, then they follow the couple. Dennis worries that they’re going to have to follow them all the way back to where they live in order to get them alone. He doesn’t like going into people’s homes just to feed on them. Eventually, they get lucky and the couple strays off to a place off of the main thoroughfare. They must live over there, that’s the only explanation but they weren’t home YET.

Some vampires have the ability to hypnotize their victims with eye contact but Dennis isn’t one of those so he winds up just grabbing the woman. He gets her from behind and covers her mouth before she has a chance to scream. Before he can register rather or not she’s wearing any particularly malodorous perfume or hair products, he sinks his fangs in. She struggles just a little longer but then relaxes into his grip, there it is, the sedating effect. Her blood is PERFECT, just hot salt and copper with nothing to taint it.

Dennis could only ever compare the feeling of feeding after days without to being on the brink of death from dehydration and suddenly having your every fiber flooded. He’s in heaven, he’s not thinking or worrying, he’s just holding her and feeling her life pour into him and feeling her heartbeat and...oh, no... he’s not going to stop. He wants to tell her that he’s sorry that he isn’t going to stop but he’s still too busy luxuriating in her hot, velvety smooth blood pouring down his throat. Oh, God...yes! He’s pulled out of his ecstasy by Jade pounding on his shoulder. He summons all his will to pull his mouth away.

“You don’t like killin’ right?”

“Right.” He pants, blood still in his mouth, a part of him yearning to just finish. He’s almost mad at her though he’s not sure why. Then he sees the man of the couple standing against a wall, face blank, not a mark on him. He looks at Jade.

“That one’s yours.”

“Nah, I already ate tonight because I ain’t picky. Have at, Big Guy.”

He doesn’t have as much trouble stopping with the man partly because he’s a little less clean and partly because he’s a man. Unsurprisingly, Jade grabs his belt buckle and pulls him until they’re close enough to kiss (she has to stand on tiptoe) and purrs.

“All better?”

Dennis nods, his head still swimming.

“Mmm, good cause ya know the deal, if I get dinner, then you have ta' put out.”

This is a thing that got started when Miss Patricia had Jade start taking him hunting. She’s younger than Dennis but better at this particular thing that he is. She also noticed that if Dennis goes a few days without feeding and then does, he... gets and erection. This had lead to her deciding that his payment for her hunting lessons would be him getting her off. They go to a cheap motel, they don’t have money so Dennis picks the lock.

She starts trying to undress him but he’s reluctant, she pauses.

“Oh, right, I know what ya’ need.”

She jumps up on one of the beds and begins a striptease (she did this for a living when she was alive) he becomes entranced in watching her almost reveal the most intimate bits of herself but not quite. Then she turns and looks at him (all pantomimed innocents) and touches two fingers to her lower lip in a faux gasp. The voice she uses is higher and softer than hers.

“Oh... mister, please be gentle... I’m a... virgin.”

When they’d first met, she’d made a remark about how tall he was and wanting to know if everything was ‘proportional’ and based on her reaction every time, it is. She falls too immediately, kissing and licking and caressing until he's hard to the point of leaking. Then she pushes him onto the bed and straddles his lap. He’s so big and she’s so little that it takes a while to get it in there, she has to wriggle and squirm and Dennis doesn’t mind the view of her breasts that gives him. When they begin in earnest, she has the pace but he gets control with one hand on her hip and another in her hair.

They go like that, switching control back and forth until she’s cum three times. Only then does she give control over to him completely and let him push her down to her back on the bed and rut into her like an animal until he finds his own release. He always wants to cuddle after and she indulges him but only for a little while. While he’s lying there spooning her, he finds a remote on the bedside table and switches on the T.V. It’s the news, it’s boring at first but eventually, they come across “a Bizzare, Possibly Occult Related Incident Involving Mass Animal Sacrifice.” He listens and it’s good, no mentions of anyone seen coming or going from the house last night. Jade chimes in.

“Did you start killing dogs?”

“No!”

Dennis sounds genuinely offended because he’s somehow both an emotionless killing machine and a boy scout.

“When was tha last time you talked ta’ Samuel?”

“Couple months back maybe, why?”

“He say anything about havin’ plans ta’ travel in the near future?”

“Nah, why?”

“I got a feelin’ he ain’t in tha city anymore and I’m gonna’ have ta find him.”

“He in trouble?”

She asks mischievously.

“He is and,uh, I’m gonna’ have ta’ talk ta’ his regulars to verify that he’s left the city and...”

“What?”

“...I might need ya ta talk ta those people for me.”

“Aww, is the Big Bad Wolf scared a’ some little girls.”

If Dennis could blush, he would. Jade knows about his... predilections. He also wants to fuck her again but holds off.

“Will you talk to them for me?”

She laughs and smiles.

“Yeah, sure, I’ll help ya out but only if ya’ tell me which ones get ya’ hot so I ca tease ya’ about it after.”

Dennis hopes that she’s not serious. Dennis isn't entirely sure if Jade likes him but there are parts of him she clearly enjoys. He might take more offense if he didn't feel similar about her.

Chapter Text

A few nights after Patricia decides to let Casey live, she’s left alone with Orwell again. He’s more inclined to talk to her now that her continued existence isn’t tentative. He interviews her generally about her life, by now she’s getting used to being reminded of how little of it there was and talking about the end of it with detachment. She still has scars but now they’re faded, silvery marks on her pale skin. They’d surprised her less than the fact that she still had a reflection.

Orwell explains to her that a lack of reflection is a trait found only in certain bloodlines and that that trait has become exceedingly rare since mirrors became commonplace. He explains that there used to be a lot more vampire hunters and all of them used to carry hand mirrors in their kits. The lucky thing was that they assumed that all vampires were reflectionless so it was mostly only reflectionless vampires that they killed. By the time they realized that that wasn’t a ubiquitous trait, the profession had been on the decline. He feels the need to reassure her that vampire hunters are far too sparse in the New World to have any significant effect on the vampire population and that there hasn’t been one in Philidelphia since well before Patricia even seized control... Casey guesses that she finds that comforting.

“Has Barry explained any of the laws to you?”

He asks flatly after a long pause, as though he already knows the answer. Casey searches her memory.

“He said I can’t go out in public until I’m not... frenzied anymore and... that I can’t kill people.”

Orwell seems incredulous.

“He said that you CAN’T kill?”

Casey quickly corrects herself.

“He said that if I got around people too soon I would and that he... didn’t think I’d want to.”

Orwell nods.

“Well, physically, you certainly can kill humans and there is no law against you doing so provided you don’t kill too many too quickly and you don’t do so in a way that draws too much attention.”

It’s a little shocking to hear him talk about it so bluntly... probably because it’s so hard to imagine HIM killing anyone. She suppresses the urge to ask him if he does and, if so, how often. He seems to pick up on her discomfort.

“Of course the only circumstance under which you’d be REQUIRED to take a life is if Patricia ordered it but the odds of that are relatively low for the time being.”

“... for the time being?”

“...yes. She has specific underlings to whom she prefers to delegate those sorts of tasks.”

“Who?”

“It’s not really necessary for you to know that.”

The way he says it implies that there be no point in her pressing the matter but, honestly, that’s not her biggest concern right now.

“I-I... don’t want to kill anyone.”

He looks mildly amused.

“I’m sure you don’t want to right now, I just thought it was only fair that you know what you’re options are and I had a feeling that Barry might not have been... entirely truthful with you.”

“He didn’t lie to me.”

“I apologize if I implied that he did I just... I’ve known him longer than you and in that time I’ve known him to hold himself to some unrealistic standards and I just wanted to make sure that he wasn’t imposing those on you... because that would be unfair.”

“Just not killing people is an unrealistic standard?”

Orwell carefully considers what he’ll say next.

“Casey, did Barry tell you that HE’S never taken a human life?”

Casey searches her memory again.

“...no.”

“Alright, well I’m telling you that I know for a fact that he has and I don’t just mean your uncle. For roughly a decade after he was turned, he didn’t have any more reservations about killing than Jade does.”

Casey hadn’t really thought about it but now that she does she has no difficulty imagining Jade killing and she did say that Barry ‘followed her around like a puppy’ after he was first turned.

“Does she not have any reservations?”

“She has criteria by which she selects the people that she kills... most of us do...”

He looks frustrated as if this is not at all the direction that he wanted this conversation to go.

“When I referred to Barry’s unrealistic standards I didn’t only mean that he tries to avoid taking lives I meant that he believes that it’s not necessary for the act of feeding on humans to EVER be predatory and THAT is unrealistic.”

Casey wants to argue against this but when she tries she comes up blank because she has started to wonder just how many voluntary donors Barry has and to worry over the fact that since he’s turned her he’s been giving the bulk of what he gets to her and... that’s probably not sustainable... how often can a person even give blood? Even every month seems too frequent. For some reason she can’t bring herself to share these concerns with him; when she tries, they stick in her throat. Orwell’s voice pulls her out of her head.

“Eventually, probably soon, someone needs to teach you how to hunt because his resources are going to run out and when that happens it won’t take long for you to get so hungry that you become desperate and then you’re very likely to wind up doing something regrettable.”

Again, she wants to argue but can’t because it does sound plausible... she’s hungry now. It’s nowhere near overwhelming but Barry hasn’t gone more than twenty-four hours without giving her his blood or someone else’s and she certainly doesn’t feel like she could make it longer than that. He probably can’t keep giving her his blood indefinitely either. He’s started to look a little... gray but that’s another thing she can’t seem to bring up to him. If her heart were still beating, it’d be racing right now. This time Orwell doesn’t seem to sense her discomfort, he just keeps going.

“Even if you were to attempt what he’s been doing for the past ten years-”

“He’s only been doing it for ten years!”

“His last ‘relapse’ was ten years ago, yes, but I was saying that even if you attempted to establish your own network of consenting donors that certainly would not be easy and it would take time and in the meanwhile, you would need to EAT something.”

He waits and watches her face, gauging her reaction.

“You could drink animal blood but that wouldn’t alleviate your hunger and after about a week your mental state would deteriorate to a point that YOU would have no reservations about taking human lives.”

“... what do I do?”

His expression becomes pitying.

“Jade intends to speak with him about the fact that he hasn’t taught you to hunt and if he declines to do so, she is going to offer. I’m advising you to accept.”

“... will Barry get mad at me?”

She hates how pathetic she sounds but she can’t stop herself from asking because the thought of him being angry with her is for some reason the worst thing in the world right now.

“I doubt that he will but even if he does object he’s not allowed to stop you from feeding as nature intended. That would be a violation of our laws.”

“Would Patricia kill him?”

“No... she would order someone else to remind him of what his responsibilities are and THEN, if he still failed to comply, she would order his... execution. Following that, based on your reaction and rather or not anyone was willing, you would be consigned to the care of another vampire or executed as well. ”

Casey is mortified. It doesn’t help that this conversation has for some reason made her hungrier. Orwell’s tone softens.

“I’m not telling you this to scare you, I just wanted you to understand the full gravity of the situation. You learning to hunt is what is in EVERYONE’S best interest... do you understand?”

All Casey can do is nod. Orwell smiles and for the first time, she really notices his fangs. She’s also more conscious of the feeling of her own fangs in her mouth than she has been at any point before now. Eventually, curiosity makes her speak.

“Did Patricia make you a vampire?”

“No, I’ve just been headquartered in Philidelphia since I landed here.”

“Landed?”

“In a ship, sealed in a crate so that I wouldn’t kill any of the other passengers. I was born in Vienna, Austria.”

“Who put you in a crate?”

“I got in voluntarily because my Master told me to.”

Casey’s not sure why this makes her uncomfortable. She tries to change the subject.

“Who’s Dirk the Generally Unpleasant?”

Orwell laughs, covering his mouth.

“I assume Jade told you to ask.”

Casey nods.

“Dirk the Generally Unpleasant is the Prince of Clinchport, Virginia which has a year-round population of 66 people... he is also the only vampire there. The legend is that he stays because he’s held there by a witches curse but I couldn’t get him to either confirm or deny that because he refused to tell me anything unless I crossed the border which I was reluctant to do because I suspected that he would try to kill me if I did.”

Casey’s brow furrows.

“The legend also says that any vampire who defeats him in combat will subsequently become trapped there. Some have even speculated that he wasn't the original target of the curse but inherited it because he unwittingly killed the vampire who was.”

“And he wouldn’t tell you if that was true?”

Orwell laughs again.

“No, he spent three hours insulting me in an attempt to goad me into fighting him and then eventually began to slowly walk away, stopping every few yards to insult me further and pretend that he couldn’t hear my replies in an additional attempt to lure me across the border.”

Casey breaks and laughs. Orwell smiles again.

“If he wants to die, why doesn’t he just walk out into the sun or something?”

“That’s harder than you would expect. It requires either tremendous self-control or that you be physically restrained somehow and even then there can be a surge of strength as the survival instinct kicks in.”

“So... there are witches?”

“Depending on what you mean by ‘witches,’ there are... there were never any here, though.”

There’s a sort of self-consciousness in the way he adds that last part as if it were an official disclaimer. In the silence that follows another question that’s been gnawing at her mind the way her bloodlust has been gnawing at her body rises back into her consciousness.

“... do I not have a soul anymore?”

He looks a combination of thoughtful and remorseful.

“Do you know for a fact that you had one before? Or that anyone has one?”

Chapter Text

“He didn’t frequent those clubs, the man was a friend of the older brother’a one of his regulars. She knew that his wife had cancer, that the couple had money and that they went ta’ that particular club so he’d been hangin’ round there, waiting.”

“I assume he’d promised the girl something.”

Miss Patricia sounds disappointed and irritated.

“Yeah, he told her that he couldn’t turn her here but after he got the money they would run away together. He didn’t come get her when he was supposed ‘ta and then she saw the news... Jade said she seemed angry.”

He makes a point of mentioning Jade because he doesn’t want her to find out about Jade’s involvement later and assume that he was keeping it a secret. She doesn’t say anything because she knows why he avoids teenage girls. Back when he didn’t use to feed regularly enough he’d snapped once and killed four of them (two tasted like antidepressants and one tasted like birth control pills but that hadn’t been enough to stop him.) He hated himself for how good it felt. Miss Patricia had gotten angry with him but only because he’d left the bodies for the human authorities to find. He’d expected to be punished but instead, she’d given him a talk about how it was unrealistic for him to expect to never kill anyone, he just had to be more careful about it and he COULD NOT lose control like that again.

(About a year later a representative from a neighboring territory had briefly stayed with them, she’d looked like she was around 17 when she was turned but was actually hundreds of years older than Dennis. He had, finally, lost his virginity to her and he likes to think the two instances weren’t connected but... Miss Patricia had put him alone with her more often than seemed strictly necessary.)

“Have you verified rather or not you were seen?”

There’s only a little concern in her voice because he almost never gets spotted when he’s on official business.

“I wasn’t. They started off thinkin’ that the woman killed the man an’ then took off but now there talkin’ more like someone killed him then kidnapped her. They’re still assumin’ it had somethin’ ta do with a cult or a gang.”

“Is there a risk that the girl will tell them anything?”

Dennis’s mind seizes up for a moment because that hadn’t occurred to him. Jade had assured him that the girl wouldn’t remember having spoken to her but she couldn’t make people forget things that she wasn’t even around for.

“Do ya’ think that I should... I can make it look... cult-related. Maybe implicate somebody else that the couple knew.”

She contemplates this long enough that he turns to look at her. Eventually, she shakes her head. Of course, he’d have done it but he feels relieved that he doesn’t have to. It would have been more... complicated for him than he cares for.

“Based on what I found in his apartment I think we should contact Mr. Von Krolock.”

Herbert Von Krolock controls New York. He uses his human sir name because he was turned by his biological father, which is rare, and also because nepotism extends beyond the fucking grave. He’s also very wealthy due in part to his family owning a sort of vampire travel agency. Crossing the ocean has always been tricky for vampires; it used to be just because the passage was so long but now it’s more to do with things like airport security and the unreliability of flights. The Von Krolock family (most likely Herbert’s father) at some point decided to invest in planes specifically outfitted to transport vampires. The cheapest ticket on one of these is $50,000... Mr. Orwell says that Samuel had repeatedly expressed interest in unincorporated territories and there are none of those in America.

(Another coven had tried to start a similar service but had been sabotaged at every turn by... some unknown party.)

Von Krolock has an official alliance with Miss Patricia. The two of them have never met but he occasionally has ‘vampire balls’ to which he sends invitations to the Princes of every major city. For obvious reasons, the Princes themselves don’t go but most of them send representatives. Miss Patricia had sent Mr. Orwell because Herbert’s father is a friend of Orwell’s maker and would be very cross with him for killing one of his friend’s progeny, and Barry because she had a hunch that this sort of thing might be his element and... well, he wasn’t of any particular importance so if he did get killed it wouldn't be a big deal... not to Miss Patricia anyway. This had paid off and resulted in Philidelphia and New York being declared ‘friends.’

Samuel’s at liberty to leave Philidelphia (he’d been paid up for some time) but if the Von Krolocks hear what he did to pay for his ticket, they’ll want him just as dead a Miss Patricia does. They subscribe to the view of vampirism as being a ‘dark gift’ and would strongly disapprove of anyone exchanging it for money.

Miss Patricia looks as though something is eating at her but she doesn’t want to say what it is.

“We will have Mr. Orwell inform him of the situation but... Dennis, if he’s managed to cross the sea, you’re portion will be over.”

Dennis looks confused.

“I’m not going to risk attempting to send YOU across the ocean.”

“Who’d you send?”

“I considered having Von Krolock contact all of his business connections on the other side and explain the situation but I’d rather the fact that we let him get away not become too common of knowledge.”

Dennis likes when she says ‘we’ especially about things that she could so easily label as just HIS mistakes. She sees them as a... something and that makes him feel warm in his chest.

“I’ll go myself, of course.”

Dennis’s brain glitches.

“But...I-I,eh...ALL by yourself!”

She smiles at him bemusedly and places a gentle hand on the side of his face.

“Dennis, you’re a good boy and a marvelous convenience but I AM capable of doing these things myself. I used to do all of them myself before you came along.”

Dennis feels embarrassed.

“I just meant that it ain’t smart fer anyone important as you ta go anywhere alone.”

“I suppose Heinrich and Goddard may be able to manage the trip.”

Dennis is hurt and it must show on his face.

“Pet.”

He could swear that her just saying that word somehow alters his brain chemistry, makes him, even more, the loyal dog.

“Pet, I need you to stay here to act in my stead.”

His brow furrows.

“Dennis, I hereby name you Prince Regent in my absence, all my authority will be yours until the time of my return... if it does come to my having to cross the ocean.”

Dennis tries to conceal the amount of sheer joy that this statement has given him.

“You... trust me?”

“My, my, you certainly are a silly boy to just be realizing that now.”

Dennis has an insane compulsion to hug her, smell her hair, feel her frail form pressed against him. He fights it, of course. He had been sitting on the floor, her standing and leafing through her private library as they talked and she walks over and rakes her claws through his hair. He shivers but it’s not unpleasant. He sits a long time just letting her pet him, negative implications be damned.

Eventually she stops and kneels on the floor in front of him and he knows that’s wrong, he should be on the floor at her feet. She reaches forwards and takes both of his hands in hers, which look tiny by comparison. Looking down at his palms she says:

“These beautiful hands, who do they belong to?”

“You.”

He says without hesitation. She reaches up to touch his temple with her right pointer finger.

“And this remarkable brain... who’s is that?”

Again without hesitation.

“Yours.

She trails her hands to rest on his chest.

“And this powerful body, so fearfully and wonderfully made... to whom does it belong?”

“Mistress Patricia, the heartless and the Lady in the Water.”

Patricia smiles, not just two fangs, a mouth full of pearly daggers.

“And how long do I get to keep ALL these treasures?”

“Forever.”

“No,no, silly boy. How long exactly?”

“uh...until you decide that I’m done.”

She smiles again. The hands-on his chest having slid up to his broad shoulders and then to rest on either side of his face.

“Such gifts you’ve given me, far surpassing any kings treasury.”

She brings her face near enough to his to kiss.

“You are my dear, my sweet, my pet, my lamb.”

Chapter Text

Dennis comes home one night having clearly been lit on fire. He’s charred black and in some places, the skin has fallen away to reveal the wet, red muscle underneath. He had to walk home in the rain and if it weren’t for that he’d likely be dead. For a moment, Patricia merely regards him, barely standing and hideously disfigured in the parking lot outside the lair. She considers not letting him in (he might not survive without tending) but then she does. Not only that, she goes out into the rain herself and helps him inside. The smell of a burnt corpse is not pleasant.

She could have just brought him to his bed, which by this point was only a mattress on the floor in the far back corner of the lobby of the building but instead, she drags him up the stairs to her room. All that’s in the dark, cool, quiet retreat that he’s built for her is a four-poster bed and a clawfoot bathtub. She settles him on the bed and orders him to take off his clothes while she goes about filling the tub with cool water. By the time she’s done, he still hasn’t moved. She clicks her tongue in frustration and begins to strip him.

He hisses as the cloth is torn way from raw burns but makes no other protest. She tells him to get into the tub and turns her back. By and by, she hears him lower himself into the water. She turns around and is struck by the blue of his eyes contrasting with his charred skin. She kneels beside the tub and sets about gathering water with her hands and pouring it over the exposed bits of his body.

He just watches her while she does this, saying nothing.

“It’s best to ensure that there’s no errant ash or bits of fabric that could heal into your skin. It’s a nuisance to have to pick out.”

As with the last time she washed him, he has nothing to say though this time it may be because his vocal cords are damaged. When the water is positively filthy she deems him clean enough. She rises and tells him to stand. Even in his profoundly wounded state, he’s still self-conscious. She turns her back again but she does see out of the corner of her eye that his body is making feeble attempts at healing the damage. It’ll heel if he’s fed and permitted a long rest and she supposes that she’ll be giving him that. Why else would she have brought him up here?

When he’s settled on his back on her bed and covered his lower body, she turns back around. At this point, he’s quite listless from exhaustion and lack of blood. She has a MAD thought that he’s somewhat endearing like this. Vulnerable and helpless... like a baby. She sits on the side of the bed and runs the tips of her fingers down his chest experimentally. His whole body responds, arching and shuddering and hissing in pain. (Poor dear, sweet little lamb.)

She leans down and licks the side of his neck, prompting another shiver, and savors the blood. His mother had begun to cough (not an unusual way to die at most points in history) and the doctor had prescribed her a tincture that was mostly opium. Dennis had given it to her in normal doses the first night but then, the next night had given her all that was left in the bottle in one big dose. He’d sat with her, talking, until her speech started to slow and she slipped into a deep sleep. Then...he crawled into bed with her and held her until her breathing stopped and even for some time after. Such a sweet boy, to have been so gentle to her in the end even after all she’d done to him.

Likewise, Patricia crawls into the bed beside him, closer to him than she’s been to anyone in quite some time. She lays there a moment just looking at him.

“Is he dead?”

She assumes that the man she’d sent him out to kill did this. Dennis nods and she smiles.

“Wonderful. Have I told you yet, Dennis, that you’re one of the most refreshingly competent people that I have met?”

She is careful not to praise him too often so that when she does it feels significant.

“And you’re all mine, aren’t you?”

Dennis nods.

“Ah, ah. Speak, Pet.”

There a sort of clicking, gurgling noise and then a strained ‘yes.’

She’d wanted him to say the whole thing but she supposes that will do. It is, after all, the thought that counts. She cuts her wrist and puts it over his mouth. He forgets himself, he’s not supposed to touch her but when he starts to drink he reaches up and grabs her arm. She supposes though that, under the circumstances, she can forgive him this once. As he begins to heal, she can’t resist tracing her fingers over the newly formed skin; it’s her’s, made from her blood.

As he further solidifies, it occurs to her that if the two of them had somehow lived at the same time and they’d met, she’d have found him frightening. One of the repeating impressions she gets from his blood is of him having been very lonely all his life in part because people found him frightening. This is laughable since when he was alive he was ridiculously well behaved... apart from the death of his mother but Patricia finds herself unable to hold that against him. It’s good, then, that they met the way they did but it would have been better if that little girl hadn’t gotten to him first. Patricia still cannot help wondering how it would have gone if she had been the one to turn him.

She’d gotten so lost in thought that she’d let him have more than intended. When she pulls her wrist away from his mouth there is a brief flash of feral mindlessness as he tries to latch back on but he quickly becomes himself again. Patricia is surprised at how relieved this makes her feel. Lately, she has come to the inconvenient realization that she’s grown attached to him. It manifests in little ways like how when his recent assignment had taken him longer than expected she’d both suspected he may have fled and begun planning to hunt him down and kill him AND worried that perhaps he had failed completely... meaning that he would be dead.

“Thank you.”

He seems relieved as well, as though he’d suspected that she wouldn’t heal him. She almost takes offense at this but then remembers that she had considered not healing him.

“You’re welcome but you’ll be more careful next time.”

He nods. After a few beats, it seems to fully occur to him that he’s not in his own bed.

“I...should...”

“You’re going to sleep here today and then tomorrow you’re going to move into Ian’s room.”

The twins have been gone for... perhaps... twenty years now. They had seemed, for some reason, hesitant to leave Dennis alone with her but had known better than to express that aloud. Dennis seems about to question her decision but then thinks better of it.

“Alright.”

The sun had already risen by the time she began giving him her blood so before too long he falls asleep in spite of himself. Patricia is tired but if she really wanted to she could stay awake clear through the day. She lies there a while looking at him and thinking that if she killed him now it would be painless, it would be done before he even had the chance to wake up but then she has another MAD thought. It occurs to her, that no one outside of Ian and Marry (who seemed to care about his well being) had any way of knowing that she DIDN’T find Dennis before that girl did. In fact, there’s nothing stopping her from simply claiming that he’s her’s and then... then there’d be no reason to kill him.

Chapter Text

Orwell thinks that the majority of literary accounts of meeting Death Himself must actually be about vampires. This occurred to him for the first time shortly after he began hunting in nursing homes and hospices. Some of his pray would only need to see him to start shrieking to raise the devil while others would react to him positively. Still, others saw him as only a man but sometimes a man that they knew. A retired college professor in the advanced stages of dementia imagined that he was his estranged son. Orwell allowed him one last conversation with his ‘son’ before gently snuffing him out like a candle.

Most of them, fortunately, were old and on their way out so he didn’t feel like he was taking anything from them. He also specifically sought out chronic pain patients because they were likely to welcome the end. He liked taking blood at the end of life, there was a bittersweetness it. There was also an intimacy to it; you could see the patients entire life trailing behind them, joy and grief and love. He would simply put on his scrubs, force a few locks and he had access to a whole library of human experience.

He had tried to introduce Barry to the Reaper Method back when he’d first started showing an aversion to Jade’s style of feeding but the boy hadn’t taken to it. He said it was ‘depressing.’ Orwell found that sad because he considers what he does to be beautiful and poetic and even merciful. He feels sorry for Barry, that he cannot see the beauty in such a thing. There’s the social element as well.

Orwell has a series of short but satisfying friendships with people who are in the last staged of their march to the grave. Right now he has a chess game going with a cancer patient that he met a year ago. He met her first at Saint Agatha’s in the cancer ward and then found her again in Mother of Mercy Hospice House. It was a running joke between them that he must be ‘stalking’ her since he just happened to get transferred to wherever she went. Her name is Madaline and at this point, she has six months to live at the very most.

He’s going to wait until she stops seeming like herself to kill her. There’s always that point near the end when there’s a sort of personality disconnect. Sometimes it’s not until RIGHT at the end but Orwell hopes that’s not the case with her because then he might miss it. He’s sometimes asked if he even feels tempted to turn any of them and he can honestly say that he isn’t. Even if it weren’t a violation of the laws of the city to turn someone just because they’re terminally ill, he’s seen far too much death to get the compulsion to stop it every time he sees it.

------

Even if Casey had had the opportunity to develop an interest in make-up (which she hadn’t because according to her uncle anything beyond tinted gloss made her look ‘like a whore’) she probably wouldn’t have gotten as into it as Jade is. By the time she’s done, Casey barely recognizes herself but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. She looks more like a WOMAN than she ever has and something about that makes the task ahead feel less daunting. Barry picked out her dress and has tried to muster as much enthusiasm as he can for her ‘makeover’ but Casey can’t ignore the slight pain in his expression. Still, he’s given her permission to go even though he won’t be coming with. She’s not sure if that was entirely his decision or if Jade talked him out of it. She’d overheard them talking and Jade saying that he shouldn’t come if he’s going to get ‘all weird after.’

Jade says that after she’s had some practice she’ll try taking her to clubs but for now she is going to go with the ‘bate and switch method.’ As far as Casey can tell, this involves pretending to be a prostitute. This makes her nervous.

“What do I do if I get picked up by someone... violent?”

Jade looks amused.

“Honey, I don’t know if ya’ noticed this but there’s not a single livin’ person who can hurt ya’ now. If he’s violent, ya kill ‘im. If he’s rude, ya kill ‘im. If ya just don’t like his face, guess what?”

“I kill him?”

“Atta’ girl. See, this way is easy because he’s gonna’ take ya somewhere secluded all on his own. Then, when yer alone, you just follow yer instincts.”

“What if I don’t WANT to kill him?”

Jade looks mildly irritated.

“I’m gonna’ level with ya, there’s only a really tiny chance that yer not gonna’ kill the first person ya feed on... maybe even the first few people ya feed on.”

Casey swallows.

“There ain’t no way around it, ya just need ta get it outta’ yer system. After a while, you’ll get some control back an then I’m gonna’ show ya’ how ta just take SOME blood but right now I’m not gonna’ be able ta’ stop ya.”

Casey’s not entirely sure she believes this, Jade is stronger than her, but it’s not as though she has any way of forcing Jade to stop her. They wind up standing on a street corner in a bad part of town for a while. Every now and then someone will happen by but not acknowledge them and Jade will firmly grip Casey’s arm. Casey doesn’t question the need for this because even though it’s been less than twenty-four hours since Barry fed her, her mouth waters every time. She can feel their body heat from yards away... she can hear their hearts beating. Eventually, the street is more or less deserted and Casey tries to distract herself from her hunger by making conversation.

“Is this... your job?”

“I mean, it ain’t a bad way ta make money and it ain’t like I even have ta do anything. They just pick me up an then black out an' wake up anemic with empty wallets... least that’s how they remember it. I just take cash though, I don’t take debit cards cause I ain’t a complete monster.”

“No, I mean is teaching other vampires how to hunt something that Patricia has you do?”

“Uh, no. By now there’s really only one thing I’m expected ta’ do.”

“...what?”

Jade smiles and laughs.

“I feed her dog fer her.”

It’s pretty obvious that this is some kind of a joke but before Casey can ask for clarification a car slowly creeps up to them. Jade adjusts her smile so that her teeth aren’t showing and turns to regard the driver. He’s husky but not in a soft way, like an athlete who’s gone to seed. His hair is brushed back from it’s receding line and he’s wearing an outfit that suggests he’s come from an office job. Jade introduces herself as ‘Lana’ and introduces Casey as ‘Melody.’ Casey smiles and then remembers not to show her teeth. Luckily, the man doesn’t seem to notice her fangs for during the few seconds their exposed.

He just wants a ‘blow job’ and he wants it from Jade. Jade doesn’t break her stride, she tells him that Casey needs to come along because this is her first night out and she’s not supposed to leave her alone. Casey only partially hears the conversation because the man’s heartbeat is so loud. When they get in the car, Jade in the front passenger seat, Casey in the back, it becomes deafening. He and Jade are still talking as he drives to where ever they’re going but Casey can’t even hear it now. Jade reaches up and rests her hand on the back of the man’s neck as if she’s aware of Casey’s fixation on it.

She shoots Casey a warning glance out of the corner of her eye. Not yet, Casey tells herself, not yet. She manages to hold on until the car stops but only exactly that long and then she lunges forward with no prior intent. Initially, she latches onto Jade’s arm but only stays that way for a second before she’s flung back into the back seat. The man has grown alarmed now and opened his door to stumble out into the overgrown parking lot they’ve parked behind. The brick building in the distance looks like some sort of old factory.

Casey looks at Jade and Jade just looks back.

“Go get’em, tiger. This is YOUR hunt.”

Casey gets out of the car and gives chase. She can feel the man’s body heat moving away and hear his heartbeat growing fainter. She CANNOT let him get away. Before she knows it she’s tackling him to the ground. He’s calling her names; ‘bitch,’ ‘cunt,’ ‘Psycho crack whore’ but all she notices is that this big man using all his might is no match for her. He flails, pushes against her and hits her and it doesn’t even move her off of him. She lunges and lashes and then he’s pouring into her, his blood and his mind.

His name is James. He was close with his grandparents as a child but they died leaving him with his disinterested father and alcoholic mother. He met his wife in high school and he got her pregnant. He’d shelved his dreams and gotten a job at his cousin’s car dealership to support their family. He feels so, SO bad at this particular moment but not for the obvious reasons.

Things have gone sour between him and Myla (his wife) lately but he still loves her. He wishes with all his heart that he could see her just one time to tell her that she is the LOVE of his LIFE and that if he has his way heaven will be the night he took her virginity on the couch in his parent’s basement with everyone else getting trashed upstairs. There were other women, Myla, but you, at that moment and that pure adoration in your eyes is where he wants to spend the rest of eternity.

Then she just slides into the memory, she’s with Mylah and Mylah is tight and hot and young but that doesn’t mean anything compared to the look in her eyes. After the marriage and two kids and the failure of his football career and him accepting that shitty job, that look had gone out of her eyes and... he’d have killed to get it back again... just one more... perfect moment with the love of his life...

He’s gone unexpectedly quickly and Casey would be puzzling over how to feel about that if she didn’t, physically, feel incredible right now. It was as if she’d been in pain and not even realized it until the pain was relieved or as if something inside her had been wound tight and the blood had loosened it. Pleasure ripples through every fiber of her being. Drinking blood from bags is nothing compared to this. She’s not given long to savor the feeling before she hears someone clear their throat... It’s Dennis.

Chapter Text

Dennis is a wreck. Miss. Patricia has requested to be left alone between now and her departure to prepare herself, mostly likely mentally. New York is a bright and loud place and those are two attributes that strongly disagree with her. She’ll cloister herself until tomorrow night then she’ll be making her way to New York where she’ll be provided passage to the unincorporated territory that Samuel had landed in about six hours before Orwell had contacted Von Krolock. It’s somewhere in Russia... that’s all Dennis has been told and it BURNS that he can’t know more. He and Miss Patricia have gone to bed and woken up under the same roof every night since they met and now there’s going to be an OCEAN between them. He keeps reminding himself that she had managed on her own for a LONG time before he was even born but that doesn’t help.

(A part of Dennis that he knows is irrational keeps telling him that if she doesn’t make it back it’ll be BECAUSE he was here waiting for her. He sometimes feels like God or the universe or whatever you want to call it wants him to suffer and as a result, anything he’s involved in becomes more likely to fail... He doesn’t ever plan to tell anyone that, though, because he’s aware that it sounds crazy and he is NOT crazy.)

To take his mind off his simmering anxiety, he started tidying the layer. Knocking down cobwebs, resetting rat traps, polishing the silver (in gloves and a breathing mask.) A place for everything and everything in its place. Gradually, a bubble of peace began to form in his mind only to be popped moments later by the sound of a man screaming outside. Even with all the soundproofing around her room, Miss. Patricia can sometimes pick up things like that. He sprints from the library, through the makeshift greenhouse into which they converted what had apparently been some sort of formal dining room (why’s a garment factory need one of those?) down a hallway, down a spiral staircase and out the back door of the building.

Once he’s out into the chilled night air, his eyes immediately track a little brunette in a red dress gaining ground on a stoutly muscular middle-aged man. He watches to see how the fight plays out. When it goes as predicted, he creeps silently over to the entwined forms on the ground. With relief, he registers that he doesn’t have to kill the newborn, it’s Barry’s. He watches as she goes from plain animal hunger to something more intimate. At one point she’s moaning and, he could swear, grinding against the man... He clears his throat

Looking at her is bittersweet because while she is the picture of corrupted innocence with blood running down her little chin and her eyes wide and bright with new life, they for some reason felt the need to dull her shine. She’d been RADIANT when being presented to Miss. Patricia, clean and fresh and soft with her hair loose in her simple, white silk shift dress. Now she’d been done up to look like...what Jade used to be when she was alive. The look did not suit her... and the red of the dress did nothing to conceal the mud and blood splattered on it.

He was contemplating offering a hand to help her up when Jade came between them to do what she clearly perceived as damage control.

“We were huntin’ a couple blocks over, I didn’t know the chump was gonna drive us here.”

Dennis crosses his arms.

“Really, Jade, at no point on the ENTIRE drive here did you realize that this was where you were goin’?”

Jade shrugs.

“I was in the heat a the moment. Baby’s first hunt, ya know.”

He looks back over at the girl and she meekly climbs off of the corpse as if it were a piece of his private property that she’d damaged. The mess on her clothing is almost enough to distract him from the wet, crimson bloom of her mouth and the delicious flush of her newly infused skin. She catches him staring and he tries to cover for it.

“Barry not feel the need ta’ accompany you?”

It’s aimed at the girl but Jade (more of a mama bear than she would ever admit) interjects.

“He was gonna’ but I didn’t think it’d be a good idea, what with how moody he gets.”

Dennis doesn’t object. Sure, ideally, Barry should be out here with his offspring but as long as what needs doing is getting done he supposes that’s good enough. He doesn’t like thinking this, because Barry has been kind to him, but he doesn’t see how Jade isn’t more embarrassed by him. He’s a good kid, he’s just also...soft and frivolous and weak. He’d bring it up to her more often but he knows that if he did Jade would just needle him about his own...shortcomings. The girl speaks for the first time.

“I’m sorry, I won’t leave it here... where are we?”

Jade laughs.

“He an’ Patricia are shacked up right there.”

She points to the brick building that Dennis came from. Dennis cringes at her choice of words and the girl tenses.

“I’m sorry.”

Dennis shakes his head at her pitiful tone.

“Nah. I told Jade I’d help with the body from the first one, ya just weren’t supposed ta’ kill it right here. If someone who KNEW better did somethin’ like that, she’d take it as an insult.”

He pointedly shifts his gaze to Jade.

“Good thing we’re a couple’a dummies.”

Jade shrugs and then her smile gets mischievous.

“Well, one dummy and one poor, innocent little babe in the woods.”

She wraps an arm around the girl’s waist and presses against her, adopting an innocent expression. Fortunately, the girl doesn’t get the sick little inside joke. He’d never told Jade about... that... she’d just inferred it from looking at his previous trists and noting that they all seemed to have been within a certain age range when they were turned. He pushes past her remark.

“You came here in a car?”

They both nod. Dennis checks the time on his watch.

“Jade, I’m gonna’ need you ta’ go get ridda’ that. I think it’s important that she sees the actual body disposal.”

The girl tries not to look afraid but doesn’t quite succeed. Jade squeezes her shoulder.

“It’s alright, hun. I’m not gonna’ tell his bark’s worse than his bite but he’s got no reason ta’ bite ya’.”

The girl smiles nervously. It’s simultaneously adorable and a little gruesome because she still hasn’t wiped the blood off of her mouth. After Jade leaves, they’re left standing in awkward silence for a moment. He hands her the red microfiber cloth he keeps on him and she looks confused. The confusion turns to embarrassment when he gestures vaguely to her mouth.

“Ya’ can keep that.”

She looks as though she’s not sure if she should be insulted but thanks him. He just nods in response. He goes to pick up the body but then stops himself.

“Grab that and follow me.”

Because she doesn’t know her own strength yet, she initially pulls on the body harder than necessary, her surprise at how easy it is to move is adorable. He leads her to what he thinks was probably a garage when the building was operational; it’s a medium-sized outbuilding with a drain in the center of the floor. He waits until she gets it to the door and then takes it from her (even after moving it herself she seems impressed that he can pick it us so easily) and lays it out on the workbench. There’s an assortment of butchering tools on the wall behind it. Miss Patricia only eats twice a year but Dennis has still taken it upon himself to find discrete ways of disposing of bodies, the primary reason he offered to help Jade is that he has a new one he wants to try. The girl looks at the other implements in the room (plastic bins and gallon jugs of hydrofluoric acid) and seems to deduce his intentions.

“You’re going to dissolve him?”

“Yeah but... first, yer gonna’ cut ‘im up.”

He wants her to do the butchering because he thinks that if she can’t handle that she shouldn’t be killing people. He expects her to protest and is surprised when she only nods grimly and asks if he can help her, she hasn’t done it before.

“I’ll talk ya’ through it...uh...”

He rakes a hand through his hair and then goes and gets a black rubber apron off the peg on the wall. It’s not strictly necessary since there won’t be any arterial spray and her dress is already ruined but he’s worried that if he has to look at the mess much longer he might wind up telling her to take it off. The apron fits him which predictably makes it too big for her. She has to wind the ties around her waist a few times. He cuts the clothing off for her with the fabric scissors but has her do the rest. She’s clearly uncomfortable but settles into a rhythm eventually. It catches him off guard when she starts making conversation.

“You’re Dennis, right?”

He nods.

“MISTER Dennis... I’m older than you...”

He immediately regrets the severity of his tone so he elaborates.

“I know Barry probably don’t mind but some vampires get upset if ya’ don’t deffer correctly.”

She just nods again. He expects her to ask how old he is but she catches him off guard again.

“...did you... test this out on dogs?”

He sighs.

“No, that was... somebody else.”

“What do you usually do with bodies?”

“I cut ‘um up and scatter ‘um around the city. If ya’ make the pieces small enough an’ put them in the right places, animals take care’a the problem before any humans even find them.”

She hesitates before speaking again.

“Do you do... that a lot?”

“...couple times a year.”

He doesn’t feel the need to tell her who’s bodies he usually has to get rid of... it’s none of her business. By now she’s done separating the limbs and head from the torso. She made surprisingly quick work of it for someone who’s never done this before. He considers complimenting her on that but decides against it. When they’ve got the parts sealed into the tubs along with the acid, an awkward silence descends again. This time she breaks it.

“Did this just seem easier than scattering it around?”

Dennis nods.

“I also like the idea of bein’ able ta’ just pour it down the drain.”

She glances purposefully toward the drain in the floor and then goes quiet again. She chews her lip.

“Do all of P-Miss Patricia’s... children live here?”

She’s undoubtedly seeking clarification for Jade’s remark about them being ‘shacked up’ but knows that it would be impolite to ask directly. He opts to give her only a bit of information that she could easily get from any other vampire in the city because anything beyond that is also none of her business.

“Well I’m, uh, her only one... so, yeah.”

She gives him a familiar, appraising look. Like everyone else, she’s trying to figure out what’s ‘special’ about him. He wishes he had something to tell her. Before either of them can come up with anything else to say, Jade returns from disposing of the car. Dennis is simultaneously relieved and disappointed.

Chapter Text

They return home just as Orwell is also returning home and Casey can’t help but ask.

“Why are you dressed like a doctor?”

He clarifies.

“I’m not, I’m dressed like a night orderly.”

Before disappearing into his own suite of rooms. He, Barry and Jade (to some extent) share a large, partially refurbished warehouse that’s been portioned out among them. Dennis apparently functions as something of a superintendent, keeping the building running in exchange for favors the nature of which no one tells Casey. Barry rushes to embrace her and Casey feels like she’s been on a long journey and just come home. His smell, the softness of his clothing, his voice, these are all the things that make up home for her now.

“It go alright?”

He smiles in a way that doesn’t reach his eyes and Casey notices once again how haggard he’s started to look. She hugs him again.

“It was...great... I’m sorry I ruined the dress.”

He laughs.

“Doll, I got that pattern memorized, ya’ can have one in every color’a the rainbow if ya’ want.”

The dress isn’t really even her style (if it can be called that) but she’s not going to tell him that now. A voice in her head whispers that she’ll wear what he wants her to wear. Jade pops in briefly to tell him it went fine ‘so he can relax already’ before retreating to her own rooms. There’s only about an hour before sunup so they fall into Barry’s bed together. She tries to tell him as much about the hunt as she can but it’s all a blur except for the memories she’d gotten from her prey and the rush of ecstasy she’d gotten from his blood and what had followed. Is she supposed to tell Barry about what followed?

“D-Mr. Dennis helped us get rid of the body.”

“Yeah, Jade said he might.”

To her surprise, Barry smirks. Casey is relieved that it isn’t a problem and that this opens a door for her to gain further information.

“Are he and Jade friends?”

“Ya’ could say that.”

“Are you and him friends?”

Barry hesitates a bit longer here.

“In a...way. I mean, he’s older than me and my maker isn’t as big a deal as his so there’s the whole hierarchy thing but... he ain’t a bad guy... in a ‘robot that just recently developed the capacity fer emotion’ kind’a way.”

Casey giggles. She’s done that more in her time with Barry than she had in her entire life. While she was alive, she’d also never have dreamed of casually lounging in bed beside a male friend (?) in nothing but her bra and panties. She feels completely at ease as he cuddles, nuzzles and caresses her seminude body. Her mind still won’t stop going back to Dennis though.

“Is it weird for an old vampire, like Miss Patricia, to only have one kid?’

“It is but I guess Dennis is one special little guy.”

Casey laughs again at Dennis being referred to as ‘little.’ She doesn’t think she’s seen a man his height once in her entire life unless you count basketball players on tv. They were usually significantly narrower than Dennis, though. She thinks back to his hands. From the looks of them, broad with thick fingers, you’d think he’d be clumsy but he had been gentle and dextrous. His manner seemed to be asking you to disregard him as no more than another blue-collar simpleton but there was a sort of... unpretentious intelligence under all of that. There’d been something soothing about the time they’d spent together like he was a placid void to save her mind from overstimulation. As she fell asleep in Barry’s arms she decided that she would like for there to be more Dennis in her future.

“Are he and Patricia a... couple?”

Barry has to think about that long and hard.

“Sweetie... monogamy is really rare among vampires.”

“So they’re a couple?”

“They’re...”

He seems to be grappling in his mind for just the right words.

“Oh, boy, I don’t wanna’ make this too weird an... it's just from stuff I’ve heard, ok?”

“Ok.”

“From what I heard it’s like how kings used ta’ have mistresses, ya know? But none’a them was THE Queen? Right?”

“Dennis has... mistresses?”

Barry laughs nervously.

“Patricia lets ‘im play in the flower garden all he wants so long as he don’t let the vegetables die.”

Casey ponders this.

“So... in the metaphor... Patricia is a vegetable garden?”

Barry laughs.

“I mean... that’s where the important stuff grows, the flower garden is where the pretty, fun, unnecessary stuff grows. He can spend all the time he wants down there as long as he also gives the vegetable garden all the tending it needs.”

“...So Patricia’s a vegetable garden?”

There’s a long pause and then they both laugh.

“Ya’ gotta’ take what I say with a grain’a salt since I ain’t exactly buddy-buddy with either a them.”

For a while they just hold each other, feeling the sun setting.

“Why you so interested in Mr. Roboto all of a sudden?”

“I don’t know I just... liked spending time with him tonight.”

For the first time it occurs to her that Barry may get jealous.

“Sorry.”

“Bout what? You died a virgin, honey, I ain’t expectin’ ya ta be satisfied with me until the end’a time. I want ya’ ta’ be happy and I want ya’ to have pleasure. I want ya ta get out there an’ taste the rainbow even if the first color you go with is grey.”

Casey laughs nervously and, thanks to her recent feeding, blushes.

“I didn’t say I was going to sleep with him, I just... like him.”

“Well, fer what it’s worth, that don’t bother me one bit.”

They smile and kiss again. They fall asleep in each other’s arms.

------

After Patricia is sure Dennis is asleep, she goes down to his room. She does so enjoy watching him sleep. She keeps contemplating telling him that he will be moving to her room but she knows that his social anxiety would make a thing like close cohabitation difficult for him. She supposes she’ll have to be content with him coming when he’s called, which he always does. She sits down on his unadored wrought iron bed beside his sleeping form and tries to imagine the rise and fall of his chest when he slept as a living man.

She wishes she could get him to change in order to sleep, she’s had Barry make him multiple sets of silk pajamas in navy blue (the only color he seems able to tolerate) but he sees no point in wasting clothing when vampires do not sweat when they sleep and move so little that clothing is left unwrinkled. She’d like to see him in other colors as well and hell indulge her (on a few occasions she’s ordered him to wear a suit and allowed Barry to use his own artistic sensibilities when designing them.) Any aesthetic pleasure she might have gotten out of seeing him in a dark, subtle plaid suit with a collared shirt in a light blue to match his eyes had been overwritten by his obvious discomfort in that outfit. She grew to prefer his uniform not because it was what she liked best but because she liked him best in it. So much of existence itself seemed to be a grating irritant to him that it seemed cruel to add clothing on top of that.

His bed has no blankets or pillows or anything frivolous, just him on his back and (in this instance) shirtless. Patricia may not be particularily given to lust but even she finds it hard to believe that he’d never had a woman while he was alive. He is a primal, powerful work of art with eyes like the sky just before a summer storm. For all of his supposed lack of emotion, the subtle interplay of his features is something that she has found wholly artistic to behold. She’s almost grateful that no one else can see his understated beauty as she is by the fact that no one can see what a great, practical asset he is.

She doesn’t need some fawning fledgling trailing at her heels and saying everything she wants to hear like a parrot... she has him. She lies down beside him and begins to think that she may sleep today after all. She’d been planning not to because she needed more time for mental preparation but the spot beside him on the bed is so tempting. Carefully, she drapes an arm across his chest and presses her face to his shoulder. She should wake before he does but even if she doesn’t, he knows well enough to forget having found her here. It’s one thing for her to order his presence in her bed but quite another for her to crawl into his like a child that’s had a nightmare.

Chapter Text

Dennis encountered the kid for the first time when he was on his way to where Jade had found those Mormons. Now that he knew where some of them lived, he didn’t think he needed her with him EVERY time. He was deliberately going when he wasn’t particularily hungry so that if it wound up not working out it wouldn’t be a big deal. His main concern was that none of them seemed to go off alone so he’d be dealing with a minimum of two people at once and he couldn’t make them forget the incident like Jade could. His best bet, he thought, was to incapacitate the man and then feed on the woman but he’d need to catch them in the dark and move fast enough that they don’t have a chance to make out his face.

Miss Patricia would prefer he never hunt alone but he doesn’t get in trouble for doing it alone as long as he doesn’t leave anyone who can identify him behind. So far there’s only been one incident where he had to kill people just for being witnesses. He doesn’t like doing that, though, which is why he judicious about attempting solo hunts. If he’d actually done it on this particular night it would be his first solo feeding in over a year. He’s passing by a playground when something catches his eye.

It’s not uncommon to see homeless people using playground equipment for shelter but the unique thing about this one is that it’s tiny. The little thing registers that he’s looking at it and skitters back inside the play tunnel. He thinks nothing of running over there because no one’s going to believe a child’s claim that it saw someone teleporting out at the playground in the middle of the night. When he crouches to look into the tunnel, the kid spits at him and he dodges it. The kid crawls just far enough toward the opening of the tunnel to see Dennis.

“How’d ya get over there?”

He sounds astounded as if Dennis has just done a magic trick.

“I moved... why did you spit at me?”

“Uh, cause yer not sposed ta come in here, duh... You can’t even fit in here anyway.”

The second half is added hastily as if meant to provide a further deterrent.

“I wouldn’t go in there anyway. Ya’ can get lice from those things, ya’ know.”

The kid looks nervous and moves right to the edge of the tube but still doesn’t come out. He’s tense, poised to receded back inside if Dennis comes too close. Dennis can see that he’s got very light brown hair that’d probably be curly if it were clean and blue eyes that look oversized in his emaciated face. He’s wearing sneakers that were white at some point, grey sweatpants and a yellow, hooded sweatshirt that probably goes at least to his knees when he stands up. Even though he knows it pointless, there’s only one question Dennis can think to ask.

“Are you out here by yourself?”

As predicted, the kid doesn’t respond, he’s suddenly very interested in a loose thread on the cuff of his sleeve. Dennis crouches to be eye level with him (he IS NOT going to kneel on those filthy woodchips.) The kid slides just a little further back into the tube, eyes going just a little wider.

“You got a name?”

The boy takes a while to answer, clearly considering rather or not he should.

“...Hedwig.”

Dennis isn’t entirely sure he believes that that’s his or anyone’s name but he’s not going to press the matter.

“And how old are you?”

The boy hesitates again and then becomes defensive.

“I can be by myself cause I’m NOT a baby, mom says so.”

“And where is mom?”

The kid gets hung up again. Whoever left him here must not be particularily bright or they would have given him specific lies to tell anyone who questioned him. The kid retreats a little further into the tunnel.

“Are you a cop?”

It’s kind of depressing to hear a child ask something like that in such a businesslike fashion.

“No.”

“How come yer dressed like that?”

It’s not uncommon for people to mistake Dennis for a cop... must be because of the color of his uniform.

“I’m a handyman.”

That’s not quite the truth but it’s not entirely untrue. The kid scoots back to the mouth of the tunnel and looks him over more thoroughly than he had before.

“If you ain’t a cop, I don’t gotta’ tell you nothin’ and mom says if ya touch me I’m sposed ta’ scream real loud.”

Dennis sighs.

“No, you don’t have ta’ tell me anything...”

Dennis frustratedly rakes a hand through his hair. Why did he even come over here? What’s he gonna’ do, take the kid home with him? Miss Patricia’s regard for children begins and ends with making it illegal to kill them, she doesn’t actually want them near her. He should just go, especially if he still plans on hunting tonight.

“I’m assuming yer mom knows it’s not safe fer you ta’ be out here alone at night.”

“Yer here alone at night.”

“I’m bigger than you.”

“How tall are you?”

“That’s not... important... did yer mother happen ta’ mention when she’ll be back?”

He knows the instant he says it that it’s a stupid question. Even if she did tell him, she’d have told him not to tell anyone. His response is predictably nonspecific.

“She’s at work an’ then we’re gonna’ go ta’ McDonald’s.”

“Where’s she work?”

The kid just shrugs and Dennis sighs again. There’s a long stretch of silence during which Dennis almost walks away but then the kid speaks again. There’s a little desperation in his tone as if he really doesn’t want to go back to being alone again.

“Y-you wanna’ see a picture I made?”

“...sure.”

The kid rummages around in the tube. He has a sort of nest in there made out of a woman’s faux fur coat and a backpack. He comes back to the mouth of the tube with a spiral notebook. He lays it at the mouth of the tube. Dennis can’t help but notice that he’s still poised to flee. The drawing is of a woman being attacked by some kind of shadow creature in a red cape with a high collar.

“What’s that?”

“That’s Spawn and that’s that teacher lady who took my butterfly knife.”

“You brought a knife ta’ school?”

“Ta’ show Megan cause she said I was lyin’ about it and I wasn’t!”

“Yer mother gave you a knife?”

The boy laughs as if Dennis has just said something very stupid.

“No, Uncle Floyd. He’s got lots’a cool stuff in his house and his dog’s named Bane like in Batman.”

“I’m gonna’ go out on a limb and guess he’s not really yer uncle?”

The boy ignores the question and switches to another page with a picture of what appears to be a rottweiler standing next to a man in a luchador mask.

“That’s Bane the dog and that’s Bane the guy.”

“This...Bane, he a real person?”

The kid looks confused.

“...he’s a dog.”

“No... I mean the-”

Before Dennis can finish he’s cut off by a woman’s voice from behind him.

“Sweetie!”

Embarrassed that he didn’t notice her coming up behind him, Dennis turns to see a small, topheavy woman with bleached blond hair who was probably beautiful before she started using standing behind him smiling nervously at the boy. Any confusion about who she is is dispelled by how the boy lights up when he sees her. He brushes past Dennis to run over to her. She crouches and hugs him but doesn’t take her eyes off of Dennis. She admonishes the boy in an unconvincing tone that's not helped by her childlike voice.

“I’ve been looking all over fer you!”

The boy apologizes flatly as if even he is aware of how unconvincing the reuse is. Nobody dresses like that to go out looking for a kid who wandered off.

“Does he often leave the house on his own at 1 am?”

Dennis doesn’t know why he’s asking, it’s not his problem and there’s nothing he can do about it... still. The woman’s smile becomes even more forced as she laughs nervously.

“Well, he’s got ADD so... ya know...”

Dennis does not know. The incredulity must show on his face because her tone becomes mildly flirtatious in an effort to take his attention off of the holes in her story. It doesn’t come anywhere near working.

“Thank you SO much for keeping him out of trouble but we really need ta’ get going. School in the morning, right sweetie?”

The mother is clearly also assuming Dennis is a cop. The boy nods mechanically and pulls out of her grip on his sweatshirt to go and get his things out of the tunnel. Dennis is trying to piece together exactly what the situation is. If she’s leaving him in a park while she goes ‘to work’ they must either be homeless or live in a place that she doesn’t feel safe leaving him alone. The woman keeps looking at Dennis, forced smile fixed in place, while the boy gets his things. Her right hand slowly drifts into her purse. He wonders if she has a gun or mace in there...maybe it’s a butterfly knife. When the boy finally returns to her, her relief is visible.

“Sweetie, say ‘thank you’ to... what did you say yer name was?”

“I didn’t.”

“Thanks mister.”

Dennis nods to acknowledge the boy's gratitude which MIGHT be genuine. When they walk away, Dennis considers trailing them but then asks himself why exactly he’d be doing that; to what end? By now there’s not even a slim hope of catching one of the Mormons outside so instead, he goes home and reads a forensic science textbook.

Chapter Text

Their ‘sovereign’ has been outside of the city for a few nights now and has delegated her authority ‘in absentia’ to her second in command. Her second in command is apparently Dennis. Orwell informed the rest of the house of his but seemed to have known that it would be happening before it happened. Jade did not seem particularily surprised either and Casey wondered why but doesn’t know if it would be appropriate for her to ask. She also doesn’t know if Jade would give her any details if she did ask since Orwell didn’t go into detail about the reason for Patricia’s absence. A few nights after the official announcement, Casey thinks of what she believes is a safe question.

“Does Patricia not use phones?”

Barry answers her without looking away from the dressmaking dummy to which he is pinning fabric.

“I’m pretty sure she doesn’t. Dennis has one he uses fer official stuff an’ sometimes she has him contact people fer her but there’s some messages she wants delivered in a more... official way.”

“Does she ever send out wax-sealed scrolls”

Barry laughs.

“She did use ta’ have an official calligrapher. Jade said that when he was alive he was a poet but his handwritin’ was the best thing about his work.”

“What does he do now?”

Barry’s smile gets a little strained.

“He got bumped off... I think back when I was still human.”

“Why?”

“He...uh... he turned somebody fer the wrong reasons.”

Casey just looks up at him questioningly from her position on the bed.

“Jade told me that he said the girl was a reincarnation of his ‘one true love’ who died’a... like... consumption or somethin’ in the 1800s.”

They’re both startled by Jade’s voice from the door.

“He didn’t get bumped off, Patricia killed the girl, then he killed himself later on. Don’t know why he bothered, though. If she got ‘reincarnated’ once it probably would’a happened again.”

Barry stifles a laugh the way he does when Jade jokes about things that he doesn’t think should be joked about.

“I thought Dennis did the executions.”

“Ansel was older than Dennis and wasn’t about ta’ hand over his lady love so Patricia had ta’ do that one herself.”

Casey tries not to seem bothered by the story even though it strikes her as very sad.

“How old is Dennis?”

“I ain’t 100% sure but I think he was turned around the tail end of the industrial revolution.”

“Isn’t it dangerous for her to leave him in charge if there are vampires older than him here? What if one of them kills him when she’s gone?”

“Well, there ain’t many left who are and the ones that are aren’t older by much... cept Orwell.”

Casey raises an eyebrow, Barry reenters the conversation.

“Orwell’s the second oldest vamp in the city but Patricia trusts ‘im and he ain’t particularily politically ambitious. Plus he trails her by a wide margin and he knows she’ll be comin’ back.”

“Why aren’t there a lot of vampires older than Dennis in the city?”

Jade takes this one.

“Cause step one in lockin’ down a territory is ta’ go in there an’ kill everyone even close ta’ you in age.”

“That’s why I ain’t worried.”

Barry chimes back in.

“She barely knows I exist so she ain’t gonna’ go ta’ the trouble a kllin’ me.”

Casey thinks about how she’d referred to him dismissively as the ‘dressmaker.’ She also thinks that, if Patricia wanted Barry dead, she’d probably be more likely to have Dennis do it. She’s not about to point that out to Barry though. Jade glances down at what Casey has spread all over the bed. She’d been going through Barry’s sketches (on the condition that she be careful with them.) There are a lot of Patricia in various different gowns that look like stylized, pagan ceremonial attire. The one Jade’s eyes fall on, however, is of Dennis in a dark blue plaid suit.

“What’d he wear that a whole whoppin’ one night?”

She holds it up for Barry to see and he smiles.

“I think it was more like a few hours. Ya know, Casey, if ya do manage ta’ ensnare him with yer whiles, you should get him ta’ wear that suit fer ya. It looked good on him but he only likes clothes that look like they were bought at the hardware store.”

For a moment they all laugh but then Jade seems to latch on to something Barry said.

“Who’s ‘ensnarin’ what now?”

Barry rolls his eyes.

“Casey’s just got a little crush.”

“I just said I liked him.”

Jade laughs.

“What exactly did ya’ like? His dazzling wit?’

Casey starts to feel embarrassed, another thing she tries not to let show in front of Jade.

“He’s nice.”

“Yeah... I guess... and... tall.”

Jade looks at her suggestively

“Everythings proportionate, just so ya’ know.”

Now Casey really does feel embarrassed.

“You and him have...?”

“Oh yeah, that’s the one area where I’d describe him as interestin’. It’s a fun ride but ya’ gotta’ be blunt ta’ get yer ticket cause he ain’t great at readin’ social cues.”

Casey’s only had one conversation with Dennis since their first one and it had been nothing monumental. Jade took the two of them hunting at the same time and Dennis (when he did speak) talked about all the ‘blood-borne toxins’ in the modern human body. Dennis had wound up opting not to eat at all on that outing and if Casey didn’t know better she’d swear that he’d seemed nervous or... shy. It was made all the more confusing by Jade’s later casually divulging that Dennis had specifically suggested she bring Casey along on their next hunt. She said that he was ‘a very bland mystery’ while shrugging. Barry seems to pick up on the fact that Casey isn’t comfortable with the line of discussion and changes the topic.

“So what’s the plan fer tomorrow night?”

Jade shrugs.

“I figure we go ta’ Neverwhere. She won’t have ta’ worry about anyone noticin’ her fangs an’ she might even find someone who’ll let ‘er bite ‘em.”

By now Jade has decided that Casey may be ready to venture out on a more populated hunting ground but she wants Barry to come with this time so that if the worst happens she won’t be handling it by herself. Casey is trying not to think about the worst because she finds that even contemplating it makes it feel more plausible. Sometimes it’s like there’s something clawing at her insides that only blood can pacify. She wants to believe that she’s still more or less herself but sometimes it’s not easy. Sometimes she feels like the real her actually did die and all that’s left is a thing that’s very convinced that it’s her.

She hasn’t told anyone about this feeling. It’s not even there all the time and she thinks that telling Barry might make him think that she isn’t grateful to him. She can’t imagine that telling Jade would help anything and Orwell already does more for her than she has any right to expect.

“Is Neverwhere a goth club?”

Jade nods.

“The vampire wannabe Mecca, least in this city. The downside’s that the clientele tends ta’ be kind’a picked over so what ya’ do is ya’ pick somebody then point ‘em out ta’ me and I’ll tell ya’ if it’s alright. Ya’ don’t want someone else’s sloppy seconds.”

“Will they die if they get fed on by two vampires too close together?”

“Maybe or if they get too chewed up they can wind up turnin’.”

“Just... from being bitten?”

“Yeah but they wouldn’t actually be a vampire, they’re more like...”

Barry fills in the blank.

“I never seen one but I heard they’re like those fast movin’ zombies in that Dawn of the Dead remake where the people are trapped in a mall.”

Casey can’t even remember if she’s seen that movie but she gets the gist.

“Is that what zombies actually are?”

“Not... really. If yer game for a long story, ask Orwell about it some time.”