Nov 08, 2022
13 mins read
I didn’t remember much of the first few months after I was turned. Between the overwhelming hunger and the sensory overload, I dissociated basically the entire time.
Eventually, the hunger subsided, and I was finally able to take in the lessons Mateo and Salma gave me to control my new body. I didn’t love the experience, to be honest. It was my body, and it looked like it was mine, but it felt...well. It was like puberty all over again.
I never considered that dysphoria might be triggered by becoming a vampire, but there we were. It took longer to work through that, to claim my body as my own again, and truly internalize my new abilities as if I’d just learned new skills, rather than a fundamental change.
“Sleeping” was the thing I didn’t think I’d ever get the hang of, however. It was somewhere between meditation and a straight-up coma. Someone had done tests, back when vampires were a new thing to the wider world, to discover that we still retained brain activity during our slumber as in life, but it was very low-level, and we could not be woken until the hour after sunset.
I’d never seen another vampire sleeping before, but I found a video once that someone had taken. The vampire had simply laid down in their bed, fluffed their pillows, and...died. Their eyelids still fluttered, as if dreaming, but intermittently. Someone in the comments on the video had timed how long between blinks -- it was something like every five minutes. The vampire hadn’t moved an inch once they were out, as if their body had become lead.
Of course, the comments had been an absolute garbage fire, but I laughed at every one that asked in disappointment about the lack of a coffin.
No need for coffins when you had blackout window blinds made of iron, and a queen sized bed, but it was still perhaps the weirdest thing I’d ever seen.
And I had once walked in on Salma wearing jeans.
I rolled out of bed a good half hour after the blinds had slammed open again, artificial light streaming in through the windows from the streetlamps. I didn’t bother putting on real clothes, and just wore my shorts and tank top, feet bare, as I made my way downstairs.
The dregs of sleep clung to the edges of my world until I stumbled into the kitchen, opened the fridge, and grabbed the first bottle of Blüdlite I could see through the crusties in my eyes.
I turned around, leaning against the fridge as I unscrewed the top, and lifting the bottle to my lips. The synthetic blood wasn’t the same as … fresh from the tap, so to speak. It was more like one of those meal replacement drinks they used to advertise, way back when. Semi-filling, barely nutritious, but a great way to side-step the “have you eaten today?” question.
Blüdlite was the Vampiric Folgers...without the unfortunate holiday commercials.
“Buenas noches, mije,” Salma said, sweeping into the kitchen. Her outfit was almost identical to the one she’d worn the evening before, but this time, her tunic was a pale yellow with black embroidery, and her skirts were a rich brown with green trim at the hem.
She looked like a pressed sunflower, and twice as lovely.
For Salma, I sent her a gentle, if sleepy, smile and a little finger wave. Anyone else would've gotten a grunt and a nod.
“Buenas noches, titi,” I murmured, voice gravelly, and my attention on the liquid sloshing in the bottle.
She tutted and patted my shoulder as she pulled out her own “breakfast”. Ollie popped her head in the doorway, looking first to her sire, and then to me.
“I know you have difficulty downloading your personality in the evenings, Bunny, but Mateo wants you in the study,” she said. Her volume told me she’d been functional a little bit longer than I had. I winced, but nodded. She gave me a quick thumbs up and disappeared.
Sighing, I downed the rest of the bottle, and tossed it in the recycling. I rubbed the back of my neck, picked the sleep out of my eyes, and pointed myself towards the study.
“Míje, por favor…” Salma said, quietly. I stopped in the doorway. “Talk him into leaving. We should not put our attention to things that don’t concern us. This will put us all in danger.”
I shook my head. “Lo siento, titi. I can’t agree with you on that.”
Her sigh followed me out.
Mateo waited for me at his desk. As usual, he took his Blüdlite in a mug that said “#1 Murder Dad” in thick lettering. It was a custom piece, and I knew it was because I’d bought it for him a few years back. Shiloh hadn’t thought it was funny, but Mateo laughed his ass off when he opened the box on Father’s Day.
“So, eight dead, huh?” I asked as I threw myself into a chair. After a breath, I shifted to throw one leg over one arm of the seat, and lean back against the other.
The chairs in this house were made for bisexuals.
He nodded, taking a sip.
“Seems odd they waited so long.”
“I don’t think they knew what was happening, whether Bastien admits it or not.”
I shrugged, conceding it was certainly possible. “He’s usually quicker on the uptake.”
“It’s a difficult position the others have put him in. He needs help, but the others wouldn’t accept it from lone vampires any more than he would. ComRes would be the obvious choice, but I admit that they may not be equipped for this situation.”
Offended, I leaned forward. “We’d be perfectly capable of handling the situation. It’s not the our fault that no one has seen fit to inform us of it.”
Mateo looked up from his mug, amusement in his eyes as one brow went up. “I’m not casting aspersions on your abilities, míje, or that of your team. I only say that because we simply don’t know what the situation is. Eight bodies is a lot. The fact that they’ve been picked clean tells me that whatever this is has the time and inclination to linger over their kills. Humans are rarely needed to handle our issues, and you have to admit that ComRes puts their focus on other types of issues.”
Crossing my arms, I sighed. Sure, ComRes was more aimed at public welfare and community programs. At its core, it was a social organization, dedicated to making life better for people. Helping when life got tough, when it threw curveballs at you...not necessarily when it killed you and ate the flesh off your bones.
That was what the Arcane Defense and Advocacy Committee was for. But invoking their name would go nowhere with Mateo.
“Fine, I will concede the point. I do think ComRes should be informed, particularly my team, since this isn’t a mundane problem.”
The Oversight Board would automatically inform the ADAC of any supernatural deaths, and someone would be sent as liaison to deal with it.
Deaths weren’t uncommon in the supernatural community -- challenges happened, fights over territory, resources, etc. But ComRes had the supernatural division specifically to address those problems, assuming the community failed to police itself, which wasn't often. No one liked humans sticking their noses into supernatural business. It just wasn’t needed. Everyone generally agreed that killing aimlessly was bad for everyone.
“I don’t disagree, and I’m fine with you informing whoever you need to, but make it clear that we’re not requesting assistance. I want to handle this as much in-house as possible until we are no longer able to,” he said, shooting me a stern look.
“Yeah, okay,” I said.
“I mean it, Bunny.”
“Yeah, I know,” I said, exasperated. “I’m not a complete wild card.”
His brows shot up, clearly disagreeing.
“Hey, I do what you tell me. Eventually.”
“Yeah, after you do whatever you want. I’ll be glad when you get a little older, and out of vampire teenagehood,” he said.
“You know, you could at least have the decency to mutter that under your breath instead of just saying it to my face,” I said.
“Who the hell told you I was decent?” he asked, laughing. “I want you and Ollie to coordinate with Bastien. We’re going to meet up with the others who have lost people, and start hunting.”
“And Salma? She does not want us to do this. She’ll fight you on letting Ollie help.”
He rubbed his beard with one hand, closing his eyes. “I’ll deal with Salma. Don’t stress about it.”
I looked away, my brows twitching in disbelief, lips pursed sideways. I had a hard time imagining that conversation. I loved Mateo, but Salma had a way of running roughshod over him with a quickness, and she was very protective over Ollie.
“If you say so,” I responded.
“And see if you can’t avoid threatening Bastien in the future, mije,” he added with a smile. “His text messages read like an angry white mother, and I just don’t have the patience to coddle him.”
I laughed, running a hand over my hair. “Yeah, no promises.”
I chatted with Mateo for a little while longer, catching up on local gossip, before I forced myself to get dressed. A pair of jeans, a different tank top, and my shitkickers later, I was ready to go to work.
As usual, ComRes was a flurry of activity as dayshift got ready to head out, and nightshift made our way in.
Or at least, I thought that was why it was busy.
Sam stood outside her office door, her hands animated and her expression fierce, talking to Genie. She wasn’t wearing her jacket, today, so I could see the lovely floral tattoos that climbed up both arms, vibrant colors against the rich brown of her skin. Her hair was up in a thick ponytail, an explosion of curls down her back. I wasn’t close enough to hear everything said, especially with the bustle of people moving around and talking, but I caught bits and pieces as I approached.
“-- find her --”
Genie nodded, anxiety obvious on their face.
I sped up.
“Sam!” I called out, pushing past a couple of dispatchers rushing by. “What’s going on?”
“Shit,” she muttered, almost too quietly for me to hear.
“I heard that,” I said, stopping beside her. I looked at Genie. “What’s going on?”
Genie was wringing their hands, outright fear plain on their face. “Uh…”
They looked at Sam, who turned to me, and said, “Don’t freak out.”
I stiffened and took a step back. “That’s never a good thing to hear, and guarantees that I’m gonna freak out. What the fuck is going on?”
“What?” I snapped. “How did you lose a literal child in less than 24 hours?”
Sam took a deep breath, and crossed her arms. “That literal child somehow managed to put four grown people on their asses on her way out, and then disappeared without a trace. I walked into this clusterfuck tonight, and I don’t think a commentary on our competency is necessary.”
I blinked and shook my head. “What are you talking about?”
Genie stepped forward, and said, “Jenkins took over from me this morning. When I got here, I took Frankie to the washrooms before supper. I left her there to clean up, and was coming back to talk to her about placement preferences on the way to the cafeteria, just to get an idea for what kind of history she has. All the standard questions. I was gone fifteen minutes, and when I came back she was gone. Ava, Mohinder, Lila, and Mugsy were all passed out in the hallway that would’ve been the easiest exit for her.”
I shoved my hands into my pockets, frowning. There was no way Frankie, as little as she was, would’ve been able to take down even one of those people. Everyone got basic self-defense, even the dispatchers and advocates, but Mugsy and Lila specifically weren’t human and would’ve been better than average at defending themselves.
“Are they okay?” I asked.
Sam nodded, concern tightening her brow. “Yeah, they’re okay. Ava and Mohinder are in the med wing. Mugsy and Lila are out scouting for Frankie.”
I shook my head. “Why those two? Why not any of the canines? They’re more likely to catch Frankie’s scent.”
“Because none of the canines were here before her scent faded. Mugsy and Lila had already woken up and had it. I used the tools I had, Seville,” Sam snapped. “If you have a problem with the way I decided to handle it, take it up with Christine.”
With that, she turned and stomped away. I watched her, my lips parted and eyes wide. I looked at Genie. They met my eyes, wincing, and pushed their glasses up their nose. Their lips looked pale under their growing peach fuzz.
“She’s stressed. This hasn’t exactly happened before, and to have it happen while a delegate is here … don’t hold it against her.”
Rubbing a hand over my face, I groaned. “I never seem to step right with her.”
Genie chuckled, patting me on the shoulder. “Sorry, lil’ buddy.”
“How long has it been since Mugsy and Lila left?”
“They’ve been gone about an hour. Frankie’s been gone for close to two, and they woke up about thirty minutes after she disappeared.”
“Have they checked in with their location?”
“I think Corey was in charge of the search, so ze would probably know.”
I turned to hunt Corey down, but paused, and turned back to Genie.
“Hm?” They looked back up, still wringing their hands a little. Anxiety had washed all the color from their skin, and their hair was all mussed from their hands.
“Don’t take it personally that Frankie bailed. She was always a flight risk. We’ll find her.”
Genie’s eyes softened, and they nodded. “Thanks, Seville.”
I hesitated, but forced myself to say it, rolling my eyes at myself.
“You can call me Bunny.”