Nov 08, 2022
12 mins read
My relationship with motor vehicles was...complicated. My motorcycle? No problem. I could maneuver my Josie like nobody’s business. The light rail or buses? No real issues. Sure, the creatures that haunted them could be a little rowdy, but I’d never had any trouble handling them.
Mateo’s car, however, was a different beast altogether.
I stared at the dingy green sedan, my upper lip stuck in a sneer, arms crossed over my chest. I’d been standing there for a hot minute, refusing to get in.
“I’ve taken three different driving courses in the last decade.”
“I know.” I’d insisted on it.
“I haven’t had a ticket in six years.”
“I know.” There was a spot on the household calendar that kept track of the days since his last one. That was Shiloh’s idea, back when she still lived with us.
“You’re already dead, so...”
“I know.” I was there when it happened.
Mateo folded his arms, staring at me over the hood of the sedan. “Well, do you want to drive?”
“I would never betray Josie like that,” I said, glancing over my shoulder at the motorcycle resting in the garage. “She’d never forgive me.”
I turned back as he was rolling his eyes. “Hey, you did this to me. You could’ve traded the car in.”
“This car is a classic, and you want me to trade it!” he asked, his eyes wide and volume rising. “Do you know how much it cost to fix the dent in it?”
“Well, okay, it’s a Chrysler, bud. Don't get that excited about it,” I said, waving my hand dismissively. “And secondly, you killed me with it. C’mon, man!”
Mateo scowled, crossing his arms at me. “It’s a 1960 Chrysler Imperial, show some respect. And didn’t we agree that you couldn’t keep bringing up your accidental death past the 100 year mark?”
I thought about it for a second, and vaguely recalled a conversation with Salma and Ollie telling me that I wasn’t allowed to keep bringing it up. They’d had a decent number of points -- it was an accident, it was a little bit Salma’s fault, and I’d agreed when Mateo asked me if I wanted to be turned to save my life. The therapy I’d gone to for the first 50 years of my afterlife had actually helped me process a lot of the struggles that newbie vamps had to deal with, but the thought of getting into the car…
“No, you’re right. We did agree to that. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have brought it up. We can take the car. It’ll be fine.”
See, Doc? I thought. I can compromise. I imagined Dr. Teddy smiling warmly and nodding in pride. The woman had been on my ass like a burr, but I remembered her fondly.
Mateo’s whole face lit up, a warm glow of pleasure, and my car anxiety eased a little bit. Maybe it would be okay.
I slammed the door shut.
“Those classes were useless!” I snarled, pointing sharply. “Hey, Mateo? What do you think ‘right of way’ means? It means waiting your turn, not piggy-backing off the car in front of you to get through a four-way stop a tiny bit faster!”
Panic constricted my chest, and I struggled for breath, entirely forgetting that I had no need for it. The parking lot on the side of the ComRes building was mostly empty, thanks to the hour, so there was only Mateo and the security cameras as witnesses. I slid both hands into my hair, gripping the short strands tight, yanking hard on my scalp. The distant pain was helping to remind me that I wasn't in a speeding two-ton metal death trap, and maybe I wasn't going to miraculously survive it this time.
“Hey, hey,” Mateo said gently, rounding the car to approach me. “You’re okay, I promise. I was five under the speed limit, and the only other car at the stop waved me through.”
I paused, one hand held to my chest, and my fangs digging into my bottom lip. “Wait, what?”
I would’ve sworn to the moon and back that he had sped through and nearly hit the car in front of us. Then again, my vision may have been somewhat impaired by the fact that I couldn’t stop squeezing my eyes shut every couple of minutes.
Mateo nodded, his eyes soft. “Yeah, I promise. You were never in any danger, mije. You can trust me.”
The air trapped in my lungs escaped as panic dissipated, and my knees went limp. I clasped his hand as I sank to the ground, hugging my legs. I rested my cheek to my knee.
“Shit. I’m sorry I was an asshole,” I muttered, my eyes closing as embarrassment and guilt washed over me. It was a prickly, tangled feeling scraping over my skin. Ugh. I hated that shit with a passion.
“It’s chill,” Mateo said, dropping to sit criss-cross beside me. He still held my hand. “I know being in cars is hard.”
“I thought I had it handled,” I said, groaning miserably. I rubbed my free hand over my face, the pressure easing some of the frustration vibrating inside me. “I was in the car with Sam and Devon the other night, and I was fine. I mean, I was fighting with Sam a bit, but otherwise I was fine.”
Glancing at my sire, I knew immediately that I shouldn’t have said that.
Mateo’s eyes lit up, the corner of his mouth lifting in a sly grin. He leaned forward, resting his chin on his fist. “Fighting with the girlfriend? Tell me more. Ollie would decapitate me in a blink if I didn't bring her all the details.”
I growled, shoving him away lightly. “She’s not my girlfriend, and you’re both shameless gossips.”
“Hey, I just want the best for you, my youngest child!” he declared, laughing. I pushed back to my feet, leaving him to his obnoxious chortles on the ground. I jogged up the steps, anxious energy under my skin.
“Come on, I’ve got a meeting to get to,” I said over my shoulder. He hopped to his feet, brushing dirt off his slacks and the hem of his suit jacket before following me.
I stayed facing him, watching him take his sweet time up the stairs, and pushed the entry doors open with my ass and shoulder. When he finally made it to me, I bowed and waved him through, receiving a dignified nod in response as he passed me. I followed him vaguely, twisted around to slap dust and dirt off the back of my jeans as the door shut behind us.
“Oh my gosh, Seville!” a voice called, a second before I heard several sets of quick-paced footsteps.
My head popped up, and I looked around the lobby to see a small group of my coworkers headed straight for us.
“Who are they?” Mateo whispered out of the corner of his mouth.
I examined their faces as fast as I could before responding quietly, “That’s a great question.”
“Heeeeey,” I said with a brief hesitation before I settled on, “you.”
The group was small, led by a short red-headed femme with circular glasses and wearing a bubblegum pink skater dress with black curbstompers on their feet and a simple black velvet choker around their neck.
Ollie would’ve been obsessed.
“Oh, no worries, you have no idea what my name is,” they said, waving a dismissive hand. I reared back slightly as they nearly slapped the nose right off my face, utterly unaware of how far into my personal space they had gotten. If this hadn’t been a coworker, I would’ve snapped my teeth at them without hesitation. Instead, I simply moved.
“I’m Riona, she/her. This is Zed, he/they,” she continued without taking a breath, “and this is Billie, ze/zer, and Tian, they/them. We all work in dispatch.”
Each of them waved as Riona said their name. Zed was a clean-shaven, slim Desi person. He flashed a peace sign with an enthusiastic grin. Bille, a slightly older white masc in a pair of birkenstocks with fluffy blonde hair cut short, nodded zer greeting with a quiet smile. Tian lifted their hand and waved hard enough that the motion was a floppy blur even to my eyes.
I had a vague memory of meeting them previously -- oh yeah, I thought. Sam had introduced me to them when they were first hired -- three years ago, I realized quickly. Oof. Was that the last time I paid any attention to anyone? I hid a grimace, and instead returned everyone’s greetings with a truncated salute, smiling awkwardly.
“Okay,” I said, nodding.
I vaguely recognized all of them from the dispatch room, but I’d never interacted with any of them enough to warrant this kind of reception. Beside me, Mateo watched with wide, curious eyes.
They were all pretty young -- I was pretty sure Billie was the eldest, just going off zer relaxed stance and the slight wrinkles around zer eyes as ze watched Riona take absolute charge of the situation.
As if she just knew I had no idea what was going on, Riona continued with a sympathetic look on her face. “I’m the one that got Sam’s call on your last field operation. We were all really worried about you. Sam told everyone earlier today that you were okay, and it was like the whole place breathed a sigh of relief.”
“Oh.” I felt like they were all waiting for me to say something more than that, but Mateo saved me from even trying. Why do any of you care if I die? We’re not, like, friends or anything, I thought, keeping my confusion to myself.
“Hi there!” he said, shoving gently past me and reaching out his hand to Riona. “I’m Mateo, Bunny’s sire.”
Riona’s eyes went wide as she instinctively shook his hand. “Oh my gosh, it’s a pleasure to meet you! I’m so sorry it had to be under such potentially awful circumstances, but I’m glad to have the opportunity. No one really knows very much about Seville, they’re so private, so we all have so many theories about them.”
Their handshake went on a little longer than I felt like it should have, but they were both so energetic about it that I couldn’t bring myself to break them up.
“I think there’s even a betting pool still going, but you didn’t hear that from me,” Riona continued with a flirtatious wink.
At that moment, she had endeared herself to me and I decided right then to like her more than just about anyone else. She hadn’t blinked at Mateo’s use of my first name, but didn’t jump right to using it either.
"Bunny" was for family, and that was just that.
Everyone else could just keep on calling me Seville, and I wouldn't rip their throats out.
“Oh, so it’s not just us then! They like to keep us in the dark, too,” Mateo replied, shooting me an amused look.
“We are vampires, old man,” I sniped back, mirroring his expression. “The dark is where we live.”
“Actually, we live in a house, but -- oh, whatever,” he cut himself off, turning back to Riona. “I’m very excited to get a look at this place and have a chance to meet everyone. Bunny has always asked us to stay away. Who knew all it would take is one near-true-death experience to abolish that rule!”
Mateo’s laugh was genuine, I could tell, but the others laughed with a visible level of uncertainty, confused glances going around the group.
“Well,” I interrupted, clapping my hand on Mateo’s shoulder. “I appreciate your concern. I’d love to keep chatting --” Don’t call me out on that lie, please. “-- but I have a meeting to get to. So, if you’ll excuse us?”
Riona smiled, a knowing glint in her eye. “Of course! Don’t let us keep you. We’ll have to get together for a drink sometime soon, though,” she said, waving a finger at me. Once more, she nearly poked me in the eye, but I managed to dodge her gesturing again. I could tell she had no idea she was even doing it, and she hadn’t actually hit me yet, so I ignored it. No harm, no foul.
I laughed without agreeing to the invitation, and waved as we said our goodbyes, and I pushed Mateo past the front desk and into the hallway.
“I liked them! Miss Riona was an absolute delight. You should invite her over for dinner.”
“We don’t eat food.”
“Who knows? Maybe she doesn’t either!”
I rolled my eyes, privately admitting that that was true, and continued maneuvering him down the hall, and through the doors to the dispatch room. As the night crew shuffled around, files exchanging hands and phones being answered, I glanced towards Sam’s empty desk. I started trying to guide Mateo to it. He could wait there, quietly, and talk to absolutely no one else until I was done in the meeting.
He took exactly one step before I promptly ran into his back, stumbling backward. I cursed a little as I caught myself, pouting as I poked his back.
“What’s up?” I asked, shifting to stand beside him.
I followed his gaze.
“Oh, come on.”