At the Ball
The ball was in full swing, and I as Prince Charming entered, catching everyone's attention. Perhaps I was both Prince Charming and Cinderella. Jean-Claude managed to convince me to wear a little black dress. Hardly practical as the top was too low and the bottom too high. The strapy high heels almost made me wobble as they were four inches high. I couldn't understand how people could walk in them. Looking around, I could see all the Masters mingling with the air of people playing Russian roulette. Who would be the one to start off the explosion that could happen between them all.
Actually, no, the Los Angeles contingent, once again appeared to be immune to such things. The red haired twins moved smoothly between groups, like a pair of cats giving a rub against a favorite person. They talked animately with their hands and smiles. Genuine looking smiles. Lan, I noticed after looking for him, talked with Nathaniel. Something I was grateful for, as perhaps Nathaniel could give me some insight on Lan and what had happened to him. The ever present Kev leaned up against the wall behind Lan, scouring the crowd with a predatory look. Orion and Maddy were talking to Richard, not surprising as Richard led the wolf pack in St. Louis. I didn't recognize the fourth person with them. He hung near Orion like a puppy with his master. He didn't look like a were, so perhaps he had become a servant by accident. Like what might have happened with Auggie. Getting closer I could see that he looked rather like Lan, but older. He had wild black hair that stuck out in all directions and covered his face and curled around his neck. His eyes were a brown like mud just after the rain. Wearing jeans and a plain red tee-shirt, he looked out of place with the fancier dressed people.
Orion looked up at me with his ice blue eyes, studying me carefully. The boy also looked at me and I could see in his eyes that he wasn't all there. Sort of like Kev, but not as savage. "Anita," Orion said to me nodding his head in greeting. Richard turned, looking uncomfortable. After what had happened earlier I couldn't blame him.
"I see you've been holding out on me," I said jokingly, indicating the unknown person.
Smiling, Orion said, "This is Alec. He's a fledgling. We didn't bring him earlier because he'd been a bad boy and had to stay in his kennel."
"Kennel?" Richard asked before I could.
"Oh, you know fledglings, can't always restrain themselves. Get into trouble all the time. Since he acted like a bad puppy we treated him like one." Orion patted Alec lightly on the head as he said that. I guess my though about Alec being puppy like wasn't to far off.
Richard looked, I wouldn't say sick, so much as disgusted. After all what sort of person would do that to another living thing? Treating them like some sort of animal. Some sort of... slave who gets punished when he doesn't behave. I completely agreed with Richard on this one. I don't do slaves. Still I put on my business smile as Alec tried to sniff me. Orion cuffed him lightly on the head and he retreated with a muttered 'she smells funny'. "I was hoping I could speak with Maddy for a moment," I said, still warily watching Alec and his sniffing.
Maddy smiled broadly at me. "Girl talk?" she said teasingly. Her manner made me feel instantly comfortable with her. Like a long time friend. She radiated openness and warmth, almost like an older Pippi Longstockings. She even dressed a little like her, minus the enormous braids.
"Yes, girl talk, in a sense." I pulled her over to the side away from everyone else. I felt almost like a pair of girls about to giggle and discuss their crush. I wondered if I could talk to her about the baby, the pregnancy. She seemed to be the understanding type who wouldn't judge me or my decisions.
Crossing her arms, she said, "So talk."
"It's about Lan," I said bluntly. She tilted her head as if she didn't quite understand what I was saying. "He doesn't seem to be... in a good position. Someone could take advantage of him. I don't know what happened to him when he got turned..."
Maddy laughed, "Oh, he was always like this. Orion thought he was pretty and wanted to preserve that."
I faltered, not knowing what to say to that. He reminded me for a moment of Valentina's sire, even if he was older. I looked around and saw her. Saw her approaching Kev. As if anticipating my words, Maddy said, "Don't worry about Kev, he can handle himself."
"Are you sure?" I asked, even if I wouldn't mind Kev having a painful encounter with Valentina.
"Oh yes. So, you're worried about Lan?"
I took a deep breath. I was going to be saying that they weren't taking good care of one of their own. Of two of their own, now that I thought about it. After having met Alec, I don't think I could leave him there to be kenneled. "Yes. I am. It's just... I don't know if your kiss is a safe place for him." I chose my next words carefully, "I don't think being with Orion is good for him."
Giving me a serious look, Maddy said, "Why do you say that?" I could hear a dangerous tremor in her voice, and I knew I was heading into dangerous territory. Still, I plunged ahead.
"Because of what he's done to Lan, what he seems to be doing to Alec. It's not right to treat them like that. To use them like that. For Jesus' sake, he's putting Alec in a kennel like some sort of dog!"
For a long, terrifying moment, Maddy didn't say anything. I wondered if she would say something, shout something out to Orion. Instead she said, "I'd have to think about this. I do admit to not agreeing with everything Orion does, but that doesn't mean I'm going to betray him. Lan is a favorite of his and as for Alec... I don't know what his plans are for him and I don't want to disrupt them."
"You don't want to disrupt them? He could do anything to him! Look what he's done to Lan. The boy's practically a simpleton!"
"And Orion is over two thousand years old. The twins are over a thousand years old. That's four thousand years of vampire experience that would be thrown against me if I decided to disrupt the plans. I'm not suicidal. You can talk to Orion, if you want though." She gave me a brittle smile. She also had a point. I'd have to figure out a way to make it seem like a good idea for Orion to leave Alec and Lan with us. Without Kev. Or at least, leave Alec with us as well, as Lan would be staying as part of the trade. Perhaps Alec and Lan instead of Lan and Kev.
Speaking of Alec, he suddenly appeared next to me, sniffing like a dog. "You smell funny. Like bubblegum and sardines," he declared before wandering off back to Orion. Looking at Maddy, I saw that she was barely restraining a fit of giggles. For a moment I just stared at her, before giggling myself. I had to, it was just so silly that I couldn't.
"I want you to know," Maddy said, after we finished giggling. "I don't think you smell like that."
"I would hope not. I don't even want to know where that came from."
"Neither do I." She rubbed her hands briskly together. "I will see what I can do. But I can't promise anything."
I shrugged. "That's all I can ask for." She smiled at me, that warm and friendly smile. I wondered if I could talk to her about the pregnancy. She seemed like a good person who would understand what I was going through. Someone who I could talk to and wouldn't judge me. Plus she wasn't part of the whole mess anyway, like Ronnie and the others. I would ask her later then.
As I turned away from her, I found Alec staring at me, his head tilted like a puppy. Something flashed in his dark brown eyes. I couldn't tell what it was. Instead, I decided to try and talk to him, to see if I could figure out what was wrong with him. "Hi," I said softly, as if talking to a skittish dog. He looked like a skittish puppy and I immediately chastised myself for thinking that. That would make me like his companions. And I wasn't like them at all.
"Hello." That odd, somewhat scattered, look had vanished from his face, and I could see him focusing on me.
I smiled, trying to make it genuine. "Are you enjoying yourself here?"
"It's all right. A bit too poofy for my likes though."
"Poofy...?" I looked around and couldn't see anything that could be described as poofy. Rich and subtle, but not poofy.
"Oh, yes. Poofy. I rather like our place much better." He flashed me a smile, almost like Kev's predatory one. The madness crept back into his eyes as he said,"I bet you'd look pretty with your intestines around your neck."
"Alec! Come here, would you please?" Maddy called out. He flashed me another smile, this one with fangs, before going back over to Maddy. He didn't even bother to wave good-bye.
Before I could finish getting unsettled by that, the twins swept around me, putting me in the middle of a red haired sandwich. Again, they were dressed identical, with identical smiles and identical gleams in their eyes. "Anita!" one said.
"Just the person we were hoping to see."
"We've been talking to a few others around."
"As I'm sure you saw."
"The red hair makes it rather obvious doesn't it?" They laughed at the joke. I smiled at them as they put their arms around me. I felt power in them, and I remembered Maddy saying that they were over a thousand years old. But they contained their power to such a degree that I knew that they were just letting it out a bit to let me know that yes, they had it, and I should beware.
"Anyway," the one on my left said. "We were talking mostly business."
"But we must admit that some of it was about you."
"About me?" I asked, interrupting their back and forth conversation. I tried to look at them, but couldn't because they were on either side of me.
"Yes, about you." The one on the right, which I decided to designate as Trever, said.
"We were wondering if you would be interested in learning a way to keep your Arduer in control."
"After all, it must be horrible to have to stop your life just to shag someone."
"Not that shagging is a bad thing, mind you." Kale gave me a wicked grin. "But still."
"We might have a solution for it."
My eyes widened at this. I've never heard of such a thing. Or at least never been told. Then again, the twins were very old and seemed to be the sort that would know about these things. "Really?" I made it a question. After all I didn't want to make it seem like I didn't believe them.
"Yes, really." Trever said. "Think about it and let us know if you're interested in learning more." And with that they peeled off of me and practically vanished into the crowd. I realized as they left, they never said exactly what the cure involved.
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