Alder Heights Don't understand much, but...
#1
Shouldn't be here, likely. Not even likely. Definitely. Had promised. Didn't like breaking that. But, well... personal experiences hadn't quite squared with what he'd been told. Maybe that was all guile and tomfoolery, cunning masks of killers and suchlike. Shane didn't have any context to think so beyond blind trust, though, and he wasn't inclined to lend that anymore. Had to find out. Figure what kind of threat he was dealing with. If maybe there was an expansion into Hollowstone underway? Had seen two there but...

Fuck, he didn't know anything. Vampires in Alder Heights, but did that mean they were all from there, all connected? Cereal bird on the roof hadn't seemed to know anything about any Beauregard, but could've been lying. Mmm.

He turned another corner, walking the halfway deserted, darkened streets just... see what'd happen, he supposed. Likely nothing, he understood that. Wasn't actually the first time he'd ambled this way. Didn't have much to go on and really couldn't go asking the only person he knew might know. She'd yell at him, maybe turn into a big catwoman again, smash his truck so he couldn't easily get out this far East. Couldn't risk it.

Just wander and see.
#2

outfit



It was safer to hunt in pairs these days, of course. Could never be too safe, between the sudden failure of vampiric healing and the growing knowledge where fun undead facts were concerned. Cops carried fire rounds on them, for god's sake. Still, here he was, alone and relatively sure of himself. This body was a convenient for keeping a relatively low profile, and for carrying with him the element of surprise. For the most part. Some people were quite wary of dogs. They were absolutely capable of biting, after all.

The cool, dry night was a quiet one. Somewhere in the darkened city, he could hear the mark of a living person - a beating heart, a single set of footfalls. Convenient for him, at any rate, though he failed to use his nose just yet - he'd take a good whiff when he grew closer to his audible target, to make sure he wasn't gunning after some source of magic.

Unfortunately, when he turned a corner and found himself some several feet off from a tall lone man, his sense of smell informed him that this was no proper meal at all. The man smelled like animal, emanating something distinctly cat-like. Disappointing, mostly, but Lazarus was increasingly curious these days. Something that slowly, slowly combated a persistent sense of absolute paranoia. It was what kept him from turning tail just yet, fixing the man with a pointed gaze. Head up, tail wagging just so, perfectly innocent and friendly.
#3
Was that-? No. Shane was uncomfortable enough out in public, in the more populated urban areas. The semi-desolation actually helped that some, and his night vision wasn't as shit as it had once been, But all he was thinking about were... Well, it was hard, since the two vampires he'd ever seen looked like a classy gal out of her element and a cartoon bird, so those images hardly inspired a lot of apprehension even in the face of knowing there was a level of danger... probably comparable to one of his own kind? Too much uncertainty. As fucking ever.

But that was the corpse scent, right? It was hard to tell if he was actually smelling it or just thinking about it so much that-

Oh. Shane's jaw fell open as he audibly made the sound, eyes suddenly on what his brain could only assure him was a good boy. Despite the location, the scent, the reason he was even here, all he could think was what Kai had told him. Animals didn't freak out at them anymore. So...

"Hey bud," he called softly, crouching low and extending one empty hand, palm up. Voice was the same thick, babying tone he'd used the first time he'd unwittingly met Parker. Probably should've been some kind of lesson learned from how that had gone. Evidently there wasn't.
#4
There was no real point in approaching, really. He couldn't make a meal out of this man, and he wasn't particularly interested in dawdling about at the best of times. But the way this shifter looked at him, with some facial expression of sheer awe, Lazarus felt that tug of curiosity strengthen. He looked to be a hale young man, tall and well built, kneeling down and speaking to Lazarus like he was a child. Clearly, he was a dog lover. There was nothing to gain from this except... amusement, maybe.

So, he obliged, wagging his stupid tail with a little more purpose, walking very slowly toward the man. He played the whole deck, mouth open and panting happily, tongue lolling, ears forward, head relaxed. Hello, this is dog.
#5
Shane knew what dogs smelled like. Well, Shane knew what his entirely human nose had thought dogs smelled like. He hadn't had much opportunity to scent them out with sharper senses since that first traumatic, short-lived morning encounter. So that his nose only registered increasing death, the bare beginnings of rot as the good boy drew nearer didn't quite sound the warning bells he'd have expected five minutes before. Stowaway was unhelpfully disinterested, regarding the other creature as no predator he needed worry about. That itself should have been concerning, but Shane was overwhelmed with the prospect of petting a dog for the first time since last year.

Was it possible vampires could turn into dogs? Fuck, they could turn into dragons for all he knew. Reasonable chance, supposed, but he'd come here seeking one anyway and... He just wanted to pet it for a little. Just a little. Besides, there were other potential explanations.

Couldn't not grin as that head, so happy looking, drew near his outstretched fingers. His palm turned down, fingers making a faint scratching motion, inviting the animal's head to shelter beneath. Sniffed. Yeah... Yeah, definitely that vampire smell, but...

"How'd you get out, bud? Out walking with your owner?" No break in the cooing tone, he did lower volume a little, theorizing, "He a vampire?"
#6
The man smiled at him like a plum idiot, clearly absolutely pleased to be approached by a fucking dog. Lazarus subjected himself to the scratching fingers, sniffing audibly at the shifter, drawing in heavy whiffs of cat smell. What kind was this one, he wondered. Utterly privately, he did quite enjoy having his head scratched, his ears rubbed. Ridiculous. It felt better when he reminded himself that he was pulling the wool over this fool's eyes.

Seemed, at least, that the man was privvy to the special smell of vampires. He stared blankly at the man, finding that the whole head-cocking bit at people who spoke to him only served well when he was trying to sink his teeth into something. Sometimes, not even then. Instead, he sat back on his haunches, lifting a foot at the great oaf like he meant to shake his paw. Er, hand.
#7
It was just nice. That short fuzzy fur, loose skin, moving around atop a good solid skull. Satisfying in a way nothing else was, scratching a dog's head. Watching 'em enjoy it. Maybe that was it, the biggest part. Things were easy to please, easy to trust. Shane knew how. Easy to understand. People, even with dog or cat or whatever brains floating about somewhere inside, were a lot harder to grasp. Maybe especially once they had that other part inside. Complicated everything. So much. But this was simple.

Or he would've liked it to be. Really would've. Scent was hard to ignore, much as he stubbornly tried. No collar he could see. That mean something? Maybe.

He set it aside, all of it, when he was offered a paw. Fuck, just... Put out his other hand, one still scritching between the ears. Didn't grab, only slipping his palm under to support the rough pads held his way.

No one else here. No one to see. Eyes stung, and he let them. Didn't blink it away. Let them sting, brim. Scritched the head, lifted the paw slightly up and down. And just nodded, jaw tight.
#8
The man dutifully scratched and rubbed, and Lazarus almost felt like some sort of depraved pervert, enjoying it the way he did. But here was this man, holding his hand, and... crying. This would undoubtedly be the most bizarre thing in the world, if he were not wearing a dog's body. An amusing thought, for all that would never, ever happen. On both of their parts, he reckoned. He did tilt his head now, feeling some urge to show part of his hand, for all it seemed risky. The man could identify the smell of him, after all.

He closed his mouth briefly, then opened it again to speak. "Why do you weep, boy?"
#9
Couldn't last. Nice while he had it. Shane's eyes finally closed as the corpse scented dog spoke. Yeh. Some part of him had known, maybe. Thing clearly wasn't a street animal. Wasn't dirty. No mange he could see. Friendly and calm. But no collar. No owner. Yeh.

Petting stopped, if not quite immediately. He let the paw down and wiped at his eyes with that hand, all while maintaining a feeble scratching. But then he stopped. Stood. Shook his head. "No reas-" Throat felt closed. Cleared it with sealed lips. Started again. "Dumb stuff. Don't matter."

But this did. This was why he was here. Fucking focus. "Was lookin' to talk to, uh... Uh, one of your kind."
#10
Well, the shifter took it surprisingly well. Certainly better than others who had busted him in the past. Lazarus lowered his paw, watching the man as he retracted his hand and stood upright. Easily, he brushed it off, and Lazarus found he much preferred that option. He was no therapy dog. What the man moved onto was easier territory - he'd been seeking a vampire, anyway. Laz lifted his chin some, keeping sharp eyes on the stranger, his canine face almost tense with focus. "Well. Reckon you're in luck," he drawled lowly, suspicion riding alongside curiosity, now. "What for?"
#11
What for. Yeah, Shane. What for? Reasoned it out aloud, because... Well because it was easier to talk to a dog. Even knowing it wasn't a dog. "Well, like... Heard you lot were dangerous. Ought avoid the Heights." Yet here he was. "But then ran across a couple, uh... Not together. Separate incidents. In my town." Wasn't sure how comfortable he felt advertising where he was from. Not if the other cats were around the farm much. Not with Hope there.

"N' didn't... necessarily seem..." Dangerous? No, he was pretty sure they were. But... not like monsters, he supposed. Much still people as he was. Maybe. Or just crafty. Maybe what he was trying to figure out. Wasn't real good at being sly himself, not showing his hand.

"Just tryin' to understand, suppose. Wantin' to make sure ain't some... problem. Just waitin' to blow up."
#12
The dog listened with the same quiet, tense features. Vampires and the Heights in general had been vilified to this man - and yet he'd seen some that were not so fantastically nightmarish. He wanted to know more, to understand - to figure which side of the argument was right. Lazarus could have laughed. It was like asking a snake if it would bite. He wondered if maybe this man was just stupid. Foolish enough to pet a strange dog with a strange smell, to ask him if he was dangerous. To deny his own abilities even out loud would be a bad move - surely, proclaiming any sort of harmlessness as a supernatural creature was a lie as thing as tissue paper. And yet to say that they all certainly were dangerous would cause its own set of problems.

"Don't have to be a certain species to be dangerous," he began slowly, eyes unblinking, staring into the man's face. "Reckon any ol' human could be as lethal as you or me, with the right tools. Got no black and white answer for you." That was the truth, as far as Lazarus could tell.
#13
Mmm. It was hard to be mad at that face. Shane clenched his jaw for a moment and nodded. "Yeh. Know that. Ain't..." As much as he'd appreciate it if someone could just hand him some kind of rulebook for all this supernatural bullshit that'd make things clear, he knew that wasn't ever going to happen. Not possible.

Crossing his arms, he gave a weak shrug. "Just concerned there might be some concentrated... I don't know, migration. If you lot..." A wordless grunt punctuated his trailing explanation. Never had felt very good at explaining himself. Missed his farm. This was too damn far east without being a bar or Hope's place.

"Tryin' to get out ahead of any trouble might be comin'." Probably not much clearer or more helpful.
#14
A migration. Lazarus blinked once, slowly, processing the thought. This man feared some... flock of vampires descending on whatever little podunk area he was living in. He supposed it was a healthy fear, if not something bordering on paranoia. It fed some ugly seed of joy in his old heart. Lazarus would rather be feared than be fearful; it would seem he'd have to settle for both, for now. After all, speaking of danger in many forms, this man could pull some fantastic little trick out of his sleeve at any moment. A lighter, a flaming gun, a grip to pull his head off his shoulders. Perhaps the dog was expected to exchange information for his own safety. Fear could make a man a monster.

He'd be wiser to keep his own head on straight, finding solace in some idea that he had the upper hand here, whether it was true or not. He was relatively safe, he decided. This man didn't know his face, didn't know his name - being aware of a shapeshifting vampire was perhaps more than he ought to know, but he wouldn't be surprised if that sort of thing was common knowledge these days. Distantly, he thought of the mousy girl in the park, her glowing cross and his failure to erase her memory.

"The Heights don't contain every vampire in the county," he grunted, chin lowering some as he spoke. "Can't speak for no one else, but us here... we ain't leavin' any time soon. Don't want trouble."
#15
Oh. Yeah, had figured that likely, just... Alder Heights was all he'd been told. Should maybe talk to Asha about it more, try and get more information. But it was always... It made him feel stupid, all the shit he didn't know. And there were other reasons he was kind of avoiding that. Not super actively, just...

Not the focus, Shane.

Honestly, whether it had been meant that way or not, he took a good bit of comfort from the dog's statements. Confirmed the vampires that were in Alder Heights—the ones he'd specifically been warned about—weren't moving into Hollowstone and weren't actively looking for a fight. Pretty well assuaged the fears he'd had, what had prompted this whole ill-advised sojourn.

"Kay," he answered evenly with a nod. Arms still folded, he fell quiet for a few seconds. Should he ask? Might be harm in it, but... Still wanted to know more than he was given.

"You, uh..." Swallowed. Cleared his throat. Swallowed again. Would've spit but... company. "Ain't happen to be, uh... Bow-regard?" He mumbled and slurred the name, pretty unconfident in his pronunciation.
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