Author Topic: Under Cover of Darkness (Story)  (Read 2263 times)

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Offline Trillian

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Under Cover of Darkness (Story)
« on: October 13, 2012, 04:07:23 PM »
HE HADN'T BEEN AROUND TO visit Ichabod yet, and it had been a couple of weeks since he'd left the house.  Murphy had gone soon after, at Ben's insistence.  Ben made sure to contact his friend with texts, to stop him from worrying, but had barely had any communication with Ichabod.  It wasn't right, he knew.  He'd intended on rocking up to the penthouse sometime, with a short warning text once he was in the lobby.  After checking the garage and finding it empty of all cars, he'd called up a taxi and arranged for it to drop him off near the park.  He paid with one of Kerr's credit cards, plugging in the passcode and thinking absently about all the things he'd have to do now that Kerr was gone.  He didn't want to think about it, so he made the stress of it disappear along with the credit card once he got it back from the driver.

It was a nice night for a walk, and he noted that there were a lot less people out enjoying Pisky.  It wasn't so late that there shouldn't be a bunch of people enjoying the grounds, so it was a bit weird that it would be so empty.  He only spied the odd business-person cutting through, or a few teenagers loitering.  It wasn't so cold to keep others away, either.  Could they tell that the Oligarchy had fallen?  Did they sense something in the air that the supernaturals of the city were technically untethered while the structure changed?  He knew about the districts, thanks to the phone calls he'd received from Oligarchs or assistants, every one of them informed that Kerr had died overseas.  After hearing the same condolences, he'd asked about the new Oligarchy and had it briefly explained that there would be districts and multiple leaders now.

It would take time to set up something like that, and of course he felt responsible for it.  He felt responsible for a lot of things these days.  Responsible and helpless.  Responsible and alone.

His toes connected with something soft yet strangely unyielding.  He stumbled forward but managed to keep his feet.  Turning around, he looked for the offending object but couldn't see anything in the seemingly innocent grass.  Then he found it; a divot.  He hunkered down by it and dug his fingers into it, pulling a large piece of sod away.  He cast it aside and stared at the hand-sized hole it had left behind.  It was almost like the grass had been laid down for him to pull it up, like carpet.  He wanted to tear it away, to dig his fingers into it and get himself dirty.  He wanted to reach down again and again and widen that small piece of ripped-out grass into a patch big enough to be noticeable.  He wanted to thrust his fingers in and tear at the earth, and rip it wide open to match the gaping wound that was inside of his heart.  A hole that Kerr had left behind should be rendered into the earth.  There was nothing for him to bury, after all.

It was after an hour passed before he realised that he was doing these things, not just thinking about them.  He'd wanted to tear into the ground and he had.  He'd wanted to throw handfuls of dirt aside into a mound and he had.  He wanted to lie down deep in the hole, and he was, smelling of wet earth and coolness and dark.  As soon as he reached out and began covering himself, however, the claustrophobia had set in and he froze, his hands outstretched and his fingers curled into claws, his fingers penetrating the soft earth and letting dirt trickle down the rough walls he'd created for himself.  He'd almost been buried alive; Kerr had ripped him out of the desert sand and saved him - if not three years of his memories.

He was discovered like that by a passing vampire, who stood at the foot of his makeshift grave and was looking in on him curiously, hands in pockets.  He was a slightly older guy in appearance

like Kerr

but a much older vampire than his own sire had ever been.  Not Ancient, not quite, but he might as well be in contrast to Ben's own young and newling powers.  They stared at one another; Ben from his dirt grave, fingers plunged into the earth at the sides, like he was a lizard hanging onto a wall, and the other vampire dressed in light grey slacks, and a V-neck cotton shirt of some non-descript colour between peach and orange.  He couldn't see what was on his feet, but it didn't really matter.  In essence the guy was well-dressed and casual, while Ben was wearing a hodge podge of mismatched clothing and covered in dirt.

"What are you doing?" he asked with an interested half-smile, as though the answer was something he already knew.

"Nothing," Ben said, and pulled his hands out from the sides, covering himself in more dirt.  He propped himself up on his elbows and continued staring at the older vampire, who wasn't moving away even though Ben wanted him to just leave and mind his own business.

"You're too young to go to ground," the vampire sighed, and looked away from Ben in order to peer up at the night sky, to see what stars Ben might've been looking at from his hole.  Ben looked up also, but he hadn't noticed the stars, nor that the moon was at a quarter.  Ben had lost track of how many new and full moons he'd seen.  He'd lost Kerr yesterday and an eternity ago.  By the time he looked down again, the vampire was stepping down into Ben's hole, standing at his feet in cushy looking loafers.  Ben scrambled backwards and into a sitting position, wondering what the other vampire wanted.  He wasn't brave enough to make demands of him, however.  He'd learned to give the older ones respect.

"My sire's dead," Ben said, not knowing why he was supplying this information.  "I loved him and he's dead and it's my fault."

He wasn't going to cry, he thought, but the expression on the other's face was so compassionate, so genuine, so heartfelt that he could feel the familiar sting and heat behind his eyes.  He hid them with the palms of his hands and felt the other vampire kneel down by him, constrained in the hole so that he was almost atop him, though Ben whirled to sob into the stranger's torso, hugging him.  He felt himself being embraced in return, in a hold that reminded him too much of Kerr.  Once his cries softened to sniffles, the other vampire spoke.

"I lost my sire too, but thankfully not when I was as young as you.  Later, much later, she met her death, and it was my fault though not by my own hand.  I killed her as surely as the bastard that lit the match, because of something I'd done, a choice I'd made.  I made the same decision to go to ground, like you, and did my grieving there.  I didn't sleep, I just passed the time in a state that dulled my thirst, that didn't grant me the solace or the peace I desperately needed.  I did a kind of healing in there, and came out, but it wasn't the real answer.  It's just... running away and hiding."

Ben was shocked and horrified by this information.  He pulled away and stared wide-eyed at the strange vampire, who looked at him with kind eyes.

"But I thought it would be like sleep!"

He'd hoped it would be like sleep.  That he would simply wake up when he was ready to face the world again.

"So did I."

Ben was silent for a long moment, staring at the vampire who'd joined him in this makeshift pretence of a grave, in this place that he hadn't planned to commit to, even though he'd made it and lain in it and would've covered himself up if it hadn't been for a rising phobia.

"Then I have to thank you," he said after a long moment.  He thought the other guy looked kind, but also sad.  "Are you still grieving?" he asked softly, because he thought this might be the case.

"No, I'm grieving for someone else."

Ben didn't ask who, feeling that was not his place.

"What's your name?"

"Vincent."

Ben looked at Vincent and nodded, before supplying his own name shortly.  "Ben."

"Would you like to step out with me, Ben?"

He nodded, and the two of them made the awkward transition from sitting and kneeling in the hole to climbing out of it.  They were both filthy.

"Sorry I made your clothes dirty," Ben apologised.

"Nonsense.  You didn't throw muck at me."

Ben gave Vincent a sideways look and smiled at the idea of it.  Vincent's answering smile and chuckle brought forth Ben's own laughter, and soon the two of them were laughing together like they'd shared a really good joke.  Ben recognised it for the stress reliever that it was.

"Do you live close by?" Vincent asked, inspecting the tops of the skyscrapers that could be seen towering over the large trees that shaded them in the park.

"On the beach," Ben said after shaking his head.  Vincent looked at him in a way that made Ben wonder if he was reading his mind.

"Alone?"

Ben was a bit wary - after all, he didn't know this guy and all he'd done was hug him and tell him a sob story.  After clearing his throat, Ben nodded, feeling like a heel.  This Vincent character had saved him from hell in a hole, and now he was suspicious of him?

"Do you have a phone?"

The tone was gentler now, and Ben reached into his pocket to pull out his cell.  He handed it over wordlessly to Vincent who took it and plugged his name and phone number into it.  It was funny how they were on the same wavelength.  He supposed it made sense to be so, given they'd had the same idea to go to ground after their sire dying.  For Ben it was more than that; it was taking down the Oligarchy, it was making a move on Murphy, it was letting Ichabod go.

"If you ever want training," he said, handing the phone back to Ben who took it wordlessly and pocketed it.  "Or just someone to talk to."  Ben nodded and looked back over his shoulder at the hole.  "Someone will fill it back up," Vincent said, reaching over to clasp Ben's shoulder in order to retrieve his attention away from the rend within the earth.  "Did you need a lift back home?"a

Ben thought about it.

"No, I have a fledge brother I should visit."

"Good for you," Vincent said, squeezing Ben's shoulder before releasing him.

It was how they parted ways, with Vincent giving him a brief nod and strolling away, his immaculate clothes now marred by soil.  Ben watched him go for a bit before turning and heading towards the Capital.
INFUSCO : Ben : Hugh : Lan Bao : Mick : Todd : Vincent : Win :
HALFLIGHT : Graille Min Sayer :