Museum of Natural Sciences Quite unusual events result in excruciating situations


The car, certainly. Running would be faster, flying would be more enjoyably decadent, but Grace was doing that public transit thing she seemed so taken with. She'd be some distance from home at the end of this. He could run her back to her terrible... even "studio" seemed generous. But oh, she would never agree. The swan flatly couldn't support her. So, the car.

She began closer to their shared destination, but he had the benefit of greater control over his route. And, oh, a healthy disrespect for speed limitations. With his vision and reflexes, Billy felt quite self-assured as one of the safest drivers in the early night, whatever various overzealous horns may have had to say about it.

So it was that he arrived first, having parked and strolled merrily to the building's grand front entrance. Yes, this would be a jolly romp. He was curious to see the exhibits surely, but really the entire point was Grace. Uncomplicated amusements shared with an endearingly youthful friend. Yes, he'd missed her very much through all the boorish undead drama.
She didn't feel any need to rush. Billy had all the time in the world, and it was early as shit compared to usual. Autumn's premature sunsets, time change. With more time to reflect on it, the idea of a vampire being hyped about daylight savings was the funniest shit. Absolute comedy vibes. It always felt like vamps were a certain kind of hollow, like their ability to celebrate shit had died with them.

But time changes! It turned out that was vampire Christmas.

Despite an unhurried pace, Grace felt fairly confident she'd be arriving first, having picked a pretty smart route there. She was left blatantly surprised as she spotted that fancy motherfucker there first. It'd been a few months since she'd seen him. July or something?

But here he was, looking old and classy like always. There was a sheen of sweat on her forehead that she smeared onto her sleeve as she spotted him, existing in that weird space between exertion and a cool day. She'd had to speed walk the last few blocks.

"Arite, gimme this timeline," she said as she approached, clapping her hands together. Why the fuck say hello when you could get right into it. Gesticulated enthusiastically for everything to follow, jabbing a finger into her opposite palm for each part of the process. "You wake up. Text me immediately. Get all fucking snazzy while I text back? Put a vest on while driving? Guess you don't got hair to brush."

Ending with a few stomped steps, stretching an arm out with a fist demanding to be met by his own or by punching him in the arm.

same as always but today the leggings are navy; also aliens

Faint eyebrows bunched up high as Grace brought her customary energy, laying into him immediately. The potential for serious conversations somewhat out of the blue—Billy as unaccustomed as she to this open secret that hovered always about their friendship—had him ever that little bit anxious when she came tearing into a topic. Soon enough, however, it became clear just what she was demanding explained, and his entertained grin shone in the early night.

"I composed the opening volley this morning," began his response, holding up one index finger and pressing into its pad with the other. "Likewise I bathe and dress before lying down." Two more fingers popped up with those points, each receiving a light tap. "I neither move nor sweat whilst sleeping"—fingers not counting off lifted in half an air quote at this word—"so my attire remains unmussed." It did necessitate a bit of care when arranging himself before the sunup, but care was practically his middle name.

Still wearing a massive grin, he gently bumped his cold fist against hers, then swayed merrily where he sat on the concrete steps leading up to the entrance. "It does wonders for ones mental health, I think, to arise dressed, refreshed, and feeling dapper."

William Care Martin.
Couple months back (or actually more, the fuck was time) Billy had described himself as a happy guy. She'd caught him smiling or whatever, and he just flat out said it was because he was a happy motherfucker. At the time, she'd disregarded it easily because she barely knew anyone who was happy. Like, actually happy. But here he was, delighted as shit immediately, and fuck if it wasn't contagious.

She saw him mimicking her gestures, counting right back off at her. Cheeky. She would rather not have considered anything about him bathing, though the fact that he didn't sweat brought up the question of why bathe at all. Did vampires get oily? Grace was hardpressed to bathe and she abso-fucking-lutely sweat. Sweated. Swote.

But the idea of a vampire dressing up all nice and lying, arms crossed, in bed all night was so funny it cracked her grin open, gap-mouthed with unvoiced laughter. Dressed for a funeral every fucking night. It was so dumb. Vampires were so dumb. They were horrible and violent and ruined lives, but they were also so goddamn dumb.

"Slept in my hoodie other night and almost strangled myself twisting the hood up," she said, grabbing the back of her jacket to tug it against her throat, eyes crossing as her tongue choked out slapstick.

Pulled the front of the hoodie back into place, then offered him a hand, fingers extended and wriggling. Wordless invitation to help him up as much as she knew he didn't need it. (If he took her up on it she would inevitably make a pained sound as she assisted, because you didn't help anyone without sounding like you were heaving your spine out.)

"Explains it though, shit. Thought I had you beat for sure. Where do you even live, anyway?"

Just casual Grace questions, definitely not fishing for anything, old man.
Easy chuckles rolled up from the seated vampire for the visual reenactment. A fine little tick on the list of advantages to the undead lifestyle, but he wouldn't gauchely point out as much. There was no great bustle in convincing Her Elegancy that such a transition was in her best interest. It remained a subject which required the consideration only much time could provide, both for him to offer and most likely afterward before she'd accept. If indeed this was the outcome. A perpetual backburner thought, contentedly slow-cooking away and in need of no flagrant attention.

Hand accepted, he stood, looking momentarily concerned with the accompanying sound. But no, it was just another little quirk of life he interacted with irregularly enough to not instantly recognize any longer. Very charming.

And now already they were treading near the drama of the recent past. Oh, and present really. Only an offshoot of it really, a consequence. "Reignhart, until recently," he answered with a chipperness giving away how well aware he was that the question was being sidestepped. It was great fun to be a troublesome old man at times. The more thorough answer could come in time. Very little of it if she pressed, though he sort of thought she'd not. Someday he'd like to show her, but it wasn't ready yet. Not by a fair stretch.
It was always telling when Billy gave a short answer. Oh, warheads! It was the opposite of how she pictured liars: long-winded, too many details. Though he seemed to do this when he was offering the truth, but reluctantly. Weird but interesting when he chose to lie or just tell clipped truths.

She didn't think it was too invasive a question, given that she hadn't asked him his fucking address. But he wouldn't have added "until recently" if he didn't want her to know something had changed. Grace squinted at him, an acknowledgment that she was on to whatever shit was going on here. Too fucking early for arguing, though, so she softened after, expression deeply sympathetic, which was not a look that settled genuinely on Grace's face ever.

"Shit, old guy. Rent too high?" she said, reached out to slap a hand supportively to the back of his upper arm. "You need a loan or something, I got a startup I'm working on."

Then she flonked up the steps toward the building, yanking the slow-open door with enough force that it jerked her toward it some in return. Backed her ass into it to keep it open, figuring he could catch the second set of doors within and they'd be even.
It was hard to tell how much the perpetuity with which she pulled warm laughter out of him was a symptom of the curious delight taken in their grand disparities, and how much it was simply because Grace was horrendously funny. Did other people think her funny? Was she the funny one in, oh, her psychic circles? An immaterial pondering he'd never have nor care to have an answer for; she was hilarious to him, and that was the only perspective he much cared for.

Privately he further amused himself with the reply, "Oh, something of the sort." Certainly it was an issue of cost no longer being worth utilities provided. But do leave that be, dear boy. There will be ample time to deal with the fallout and compose clever retorts. Enjoy the present, hmm?

"Any pertinent developments on that front?" he asked instead as he gratefully stepped past and indeed moved to softly pull and hold the second door. "Any assistance I can provide remains an open offer, naturally."
He opened the door, and it had big museum sound in there. Expensive, echoey, soft muttering and music and the occasional wailing kid. Perfect environment for Grace, who knew no such thing as an indoor voice and was here to talk openly about supernatural bullshit and personal lives.

But it was fine. Billy knew how to word his way around referencing vampire things too directly, and she could vaguely follow his lead. The question led her to a reveal she was extremely excited to make, if mostly to see the look on his face. She'd deliberately not sent him anything about it because the potential to worry the shit out of him actually didn't appeal to her, a revelation that would have shocked even Grace if she put any thought into it.

A few steps into the lobby and she was yanking her left sleeve up, bunching as much fabric into her armpit as she could. But she stopped a few inches south of her elbow, also stopped their walking. Looked to the front desk, then to Billy.

"May I present to you," she said, then whipped the sleeve up her bicep with a magician's flair. "The learning process."

The learning process was a mix of green, purple, and fading brown, darkest at her inner elbow, but blotching up and down the arm several inches further. The puncture marks had healed up fast, at least, but the bruising was a work in progress she reset regularly.

"Tried on the other arm but couldn't even land a vein. Kept wiggling around in there."

Which was her least favorite shit in the whole world, having found that it hit a squick button she didn't even know she had.
Theatricality was always a thing he could appreciate, but Billy's expression immediately took a downward turn as the reveal processed through his necrotic brain. One hand even came up in a demanding reflex to touch and heal. He caught it of course, didn't even come near grabbing at her arm, but his lips pressed thin as he looked from the colorful subdermal injury to the girl's face.

And gave an overbearing tut of consternation. "I mislike it," he offered bluntly. "I do wish you had sought out my services before this." Not that that was even what she was doing now. It was possible he regarded her as more delicate than he ought. Speaking physically. Biologically.

The fragility of life was rarely more apparent to him than with Grace. Possibly because he fixated upon it far more in regards to her than in most any other facet of his nights.
First off: mislike was literally not a word, B-Dawg. It was dislike. "I unlike this. I antilike this." Replacing letters just to sound like a vampire. Maybe it was spelled that way back in 1807 when he invented English.

He looked all pissy and she glowed for it, very comfortable in this variety of trouble. She saw that hand, leaned her arm away reflexively. No, sir, this was all natural organic GMO-free Grace healing. The spot was sore but she was compelled to prod at it anyway, watching colors shift under stabby fingers.

"I didn't want 'em," she said, then looked up, trying to be mindful. It was a line to walk. "No offense. But if this gets all healed up every time, I can't tell if I'm doing it wrong. Doctor I talked to said I can't hurt myself" badly! "as long as I stick to here. I'm being safe."

It was tender as shit, though, enough that she'd taken a break from needling around. In theory, she could use his healing now, but she didn't want to make him all old and have to put his glasses on. Grace was considerate. Though not so considerate that she could keep her trap shut on further details, smiling so hard it almost made her eyes water. Spoke in a lowered voice that quaked with incoming hahas.

"Though I fucked up the connector to the bag and leaked blood all over my kitchen. You shoulda saw me screaming."

And then she snrrrked up a nasal-y kinda laugh, whipped the sleeve back down. Tada! Look at how healthy she still was!
There was an impulse, not insignificant, to fold his arms and turn away. To aggressively go look at preserved cadavers and wonder just a little if there was anything left in them that might sustain him or provide compelling flavor. Even though he knew nearly definitely there was not.

To pout, in essence.

But he was not a child. It was curious how much more indignance he felt at the turning aside of healing than he ever did at her independent spirit denying acceptance of hard currency. A difference in caliber, he reasoned. Certainly he valued his finances, the ease with which amassed wealth permitted him to handily meet his vampiric needs and otherwise enjoy his waking hours with whatever frivolity took his fancy. But he did not remotely define himself with this.

His flesh mending talents, though... How often, after a pleasant introduction, did he broadly offer his assistance should injury assail some new acquaintance? Enough that it would be a hard sell to convince those who knew him that it was no deep wish of his to be thought of immediately should any such need arise. That he be cherished and appreciated for such contributions.

There was, after all, a great deal of money in the world. His share of it, while substantial next to most, remained an inconsequential sliver of the whole. But how many methods and avenues were available to circumvent these otherwise ineffable laws of natural reality? Not many, he'd wager. And this pie he had a much greater slice of.

So to have an offered taste rejected...

He took some moments in silence, hands folding before him while his thumbs tapped thoughtfully together. These were feelings not unlike what had seen his relationship with Yuna Tsumura turn quite suddenly antagonistic. Oh, he did not favor this association, that this relationship may crumble as had that. So he held his tongue, checked his reactions, and waited for the brunt of the emotional wave to pass.

"So long as you're being safe," at last escaped in a soft huff, reminding himself as much as her that this was his priority.
It didn't land. Grace remembered when he assured her that she couldn't offend him, then she went on to offend him repeatedly. For all that she'd made a shit show of her arm, she was a pro at needling other people.

He took his silence, and Grace took the opportunity to consider how quickly his mood had shifted from the giddiness outside to this. Didn't make her feel good, but definitely didn't make her feel bad, either. Only gave her a sense that she needed to put in effort, likely especially after the last conversation had ended.

Comforting was not her strong point, and she'd had to do a lot of it lately. Fawn. Etta. Catriona. Ted. Rosemarie. All victims of people like or in the same tier as Billy, who now wilted pitifully in front of her because she hadn't called him to heal her bruised arm.

It'd been a rough fucking month to be victim contact number one, and his problems didn't measure up all that well. She had some fucking empathy burnout. Or was it sympathy? Like fuck if she knew the difference.

Her brain ran hot, doing people math. Finding it easier to lean into old pre-Colorado habits. It would be reallll simple to drop a sharp line, try to find a way to escalate. Grace wasn't the smartest wordsmith, but she could be fucking mean.

Instead, the smile having slid off her face somewhere during this moment, she closed her eyes, took a deep breath in (corpse air corpse air), then opened her eyes, blast it out her UFO nostrils.

"I'm being safe. I ain't tryna hurt feelings," she said, needlessly adjusting her sleeve, looking at it as if she needed a visual reference. "You gotta think, I been busting my ass for like, twenty-five years before you showed up."

The wording was almost deliberately too informal. It was cool. It was chill. This was whatever. Freed a hand to fiddle with her nose ring for a second as she continued before eventually looking up.

"Appreciate you, dude. Bruises are pride sometimes. We can clean 'em up after. Go buy my ticket."

:3, which was the face she made after.
Oh dear, and now... Pride indeed. The other factor in the rapid degradation of relationships. He'd not been fishing for comfort, merely quietly managing himself. The sort of phrase he should never say aloud near her for the sheer ease of misconstruction.

But now this was mildly embarrassing, pride doubly wounded. Oh, Billy. It was such a bother, to smugly proclaim what a downfall ego was to too many vampires, and be occasionally confronted with his own, mm, susceptibility.

Bother bother. With a reserved nod and tight smile he stepped away. It was a fine opportunity, a few brief moments to get over the hurdles he'd made for himself. What an unaccountably trying little period this was. It could only get better, he had to assert. An uncomfortable time of transition, but all would be right again. Yes. Tally ho, old boy.

The return steps bore an easier fluidity than those which had carried him away. "Do you know," he commented drolly, "I hadn't the foggiest notion of your age for our whole acquaintance. Somewhere between fourteen and forty, to be sure."
Ugh. He was so fucking fragile. Grace was done trying. She was gonna shin kick anyone who pout lipped at her for the next year. Give 'em something to get hurt about. She could put him and Cassidy in a room together to work through baggage or kill each other.

He tried, after, anyway, and she scoffed big and loud. Secretly at everything else, but it played off well enough for this. Secretly secretly it was at both things, really. She recognized deliberate withdrawal as a trick she did herself, but that didn't mean she had to like it.

"Forty. Now I'm gonna get all mad at you," she groused back, half for show. "I turned twenty-six in September. But I known you for a year, so. Math."

Even jokes about forty make her want to puke up her Poptart lunch, but the difference between Grace and everyone else was that she didn't go stare off into the distance and tremble-lip, or clasp her hands together like she was praying to the god of butthurt.

Cranky, Grace. But she'd had a ballsack couple weeks, and Billy was always having the time of his life. Anyway. She could recover by giving him a hard time, wiggled her shoulders as she continued.

"You were ready to hang out with a fourteen year old, huh?"
Pish, he was clearly in no position to take shots at her apparent age. Forty struck him as quite young, even without factoring in the ageless years. The news of her birthday did make him feel a bit as though he'd failed her along the route from his own somewhat disastrous birthday celebration to where they now stood. But oh, nothing to be done about it now. He'd make a mental note for next September.

Mm, a digital one as well.

The tickets he'd just acquired were held up as they stepped past the entrance booth, just in case he'd somehow been forgotten in the nineteen seconds since. Turning his gaze on his companion again, Billy's head tilted slightly. "Of course. Why should I not be?"

hi jason sorry i keep missing details in all of your posts i keep doing this thing where i reply before i'm awake and also after i'm asleep

Grace couldn't tell if he was playing dumb or if he didn't know how old a fourteen-year-old was, but the latter grossed her out too much to think about.

"'Cause you shouldn't be hunting pre-teens," she said, voice lower because even she knew better than to loudly call him a pedophile at a museum. Fourteen was technically not a pre-teen, but might as well have been, Grace let them get some steps further from the front because she was that fucking polite. "And. Even if you were being Mr. Nice Guy, no teenager's got the brain cells to do the math on dead guy friendship."

Some days, she didn't either, and he imagined he potentially agreed. She wanted to fiddle with something, already realizing the option that would require more of her attention between museum and mall. Realistically, Billy was just gonna get his fucking ear chatted off while they both faced the same direction at an exhibit. Grace made a polite grab toward one of the tickets.

"Plus, they can't take you to fight clubs."
Pleasant chuckle resurfacing as he conceded the ticket, he knew it to be a little forced. Acting! Something he didn't do nearly enough of of late. Any at all, really. Perhaps a long overdue visit to that elegant place he liked in Cheyenne Point once all had settled. Inquiries to be made about upcoming productions, yes.

In any case, it seemed as though... The tension between them of late, something which had been gently underlying for some time he thought, might best be addressed directly. Indeed, this seemed the surest means to guarantee it not fester. So he was, as they walked, uncharacteristically blunt. By his own reckoning at least.

"Do you find something morally reprehensible in the idea I feed from children, or is there a separate insinuation I'm meant to take?"

TW for flippant references to child abuse

She worked to lace the ticket between the fingers of one hand as he replied with not at all what she'd expected. Billy had been the one to drop that age, and then the one to play dumb about why it was sketch. Earlier she'd been real nice to him, and now she supposed she was supposed to do it again.

Grace wasn't trying to pick a fucking fight. Sincerely. She was very good at starting those on purpose and on accident, but she especially didn't want to argue with this particular person.

Deciding last time she'd been mature as shit and gone unrewarded, this time she dealt with it on the opposite side of the spectrum. Smeared her hand against her face, almost hooked a finger into her nose ring.

"Yes, I find something morally resp-" No, not responsible. What the fuck had he just said? She'd lost it somewhere in the dilemma of "are you saying I just suck on or also fuck children?"

"Reprens- man, the first one. I don't want to fight with you. Why are we fighting."

Grace threw her hands up, one clutching the ticket, the picture of exaggerated pain. She was so burned out on seriousness, dude. She'd had so many people cry on or at her this month. Couldn't do it anymore.

She plapped both palms atop her head, paper jammed against her scalp. Stage whisper, which was her best indoor voice, as she continued the walk but stared toward his bald head past her elbow.

"Are we fighting?"
Well, he'd certainly succeeded in bringing things to the surface. Bravissimo. Billy's hands clasped behind his back as his gaze briefly lowered to the floor before him, watching each forward step as if it were those which needed to be placed with utmost care rather than his words.

"I think," he began slowly, softly, as though he meant to compensate for her inescapable volume with his own. "That we are addressing complications which have long underpinned our relationship." Chin swiveling up to the side, his eyes found her. "An uncomfortable process, to be sure. But less so than a rocky future of perpetual misapprehensions."

There were follow-ups, questions he expected would seem either condescending or overtly leading. Perhaps they were. But he left space for her to respond before barreling forth.
Listen to this motherfucker.

Grace, this time, was not mad. Exasperated, but not at Billy specifically. He worded it well enough that she didn't disagree. In fact, it was so clear that it did almost piss her off through sheer "Awh man, he's right" energy.

At times he seemed like he could be real petulant, and then other times it was like he saw it all from a bird's eye (HAR HAR HA FUCKING HA) view. The latter frustrated her less than the former by many miles, though it hard not to feel extra outclassed when it happened.

She wasn't actually sure what she was supposed to say next. List all the things they could not-fight about? Grace imagined him younger, which was necessary to imagine him as someone she spent a lot of casual time with. (It actually wasn't really possible to picture him youthful, but she was trying.) But anyway. Imagined hanging out with someone who eyed problems and talked like that about them all the time. Grace would either learn a lot about conflict resolution or die and kill.

Alternatively, she could picture him as he was, but try to apply a family lens. Except that she wanted jack fucking shit to do with her family, and Billy was too old to be a dad figure. (Not that she could picture a father figure with any of his traits. That was not the template her parents had left for her.) Too cool to be a grandparent. Not creepy enough to be an uncle.

As she'd texted earlier, Grace was a bitch, and he was a Billy.

"Okay," she settled on, mostly managing to keep sullenness out of her voice. They had exhibit options ahead, and she decided she'd make him choose a hallway to go down.

Her stab wounds hurt from being smooshed into this position, but having her hands stacked on her head had her need to fidget held successfully hostage. Or at gunpoint. She stared forward and slightly down at nothing, considering that reacting poorly had gotten her further than trying to be an adult.
Possibly the fewest words he'd ever garnered from her with his own, since a failed suggestion had once rendered her silent. His head dipped again into a small nod, pleased they were... hmm. Not on the same page, but that each openly acknowledged this was the case. It was a starting point, yes?

Gaze lifting to have a care where in fact his feet were carrying him, a small myriad of avenues presented themselves. Two which quickly caught his eye featured in-depth studies of either the nervous or circulatory systems. The former promised a visual breakdown of the brain, followed by various several partial or whole examples of the full array of nerves normally wrapped in a hidden cascade throughout the body. Though he expected the other to begin at the heart, for some reason it had been arranged to display first the numerous fine blood vessels permeating the foot, working its way from there. All else aside, it seemed to come down to a simple, perhaps universal question.

Top or bottom?

Not wishing to overthink, he led toward the circulatory exhibit, pushing aside any petty worries that it was dreadfully cliché. Silence held for another few seconds; the question, or perhaps entire method of proceeding, which had originally occurred to him felt now... uncharitable. Instead, "I don't expect my guidance on this matter will be as polished as I would like. I, oh, don't quite know what I'm doing."
Exhibit choice was a test that couldn't actually be failed unless Billy chose some kind of history-heavy option. Then he would definitely, definitely fail. Everything else was cool enough, though, and she watched him consider, thinking about how her eye sockets fit inside her skull and how her eyeballs just kinda rolled around in there. She let one hand slump free, then the other, leaving the ticket in her right to start folding it up in a few fingers.

Grace was also left wondering if she was supposed to have led the way with the talking thing? But she decided that even if she was supposed to, she didn't know what the fuck she was doing. Billy chose blood stuff, which amused her enough for a twitch of a smirk. Still, every second that passed got her brain a tick more wired up. He was leading them, but not talking, and she was just opening her mouth to express blatant uncertainty when he did speak.

Though she didn't follow, exactly. She understood from a literal sense that whatever he wanted to say wasn't going to be perfect, and there was comfort in his admission that he didn't know what he was doing. But she also didn't know what he was talking about. What he didn't know how to talk about. What he didn't know how to do.

There was a big central piece missing, and she decided it was maybe important to say that. Or not? Grace didn't fucking know either!

"I'm confused what exactly we're talking about, so you're ahead of me," she said. Thought about adding something about how they were both figuring this out, but the last time she'd coddled this bitch he'd offered nothing for it, so she wasn't going to do it again.
Ah, yes.

"Ah, yes." Very good, Billy. That was precisely the solution to, "I am perhaps thinking too much while saying too little." He drew a great inhale through his nose, a refreshing little experience he subjected himself to too rarely anymore, without much need to project and monologue.

"I believe your understanding of my kind to be, through no real fault of your own, woefully piecemeal." Voice remaining carefully modulated, his gaze dithered purposefully between her and the curiously morbid displays they approached. Ever a mind toward misdirection, he sought to make it look as though he were thoughtfully explaining something of the exhibits to perhaps his granddaughter. "Helped not at all by my own, shall we say, questionable forthrightness in the early phases of our friendship."

A gesture with one hand could have been a vague pointing to one set of displayed capillaries, but was in truth something of an apologetic shrug. "I should like to remedy this, as I think it will go some good distance toward circumventing future contention, but I am..." Frowning thoughtfully, he looked more directly toward her.

"Uncertain how to dispense a wealth of information in an easily managed fashion, and concerned that tediously pointing out and correcting misconceptions will prove unkindly patronizing." Again a nasally breath, out this time rather than in. "Do you perhaps have any points of deep curiosity you should like to begin with?"
Grace could understand the whole thinking more than saying thing. Her issue was close to that, though more that she had a very hard time translating thought into words. Either words fell out of her mouth and skipped the thought part entirely, or she thought about shit so much that it ended up too tangled to verbalize.

She was absolutely blind to the exhibits in front of them, working extremely hard to follow along and also give Billy the benefit of the doubt that he wasn't trying to be condescending as shit. Could facts be condescending? He was saying facts, she knew, but it was a very deliberate effort not to be offended by them.

Be cool, Grace. He was doing this because he wanted to clear shit up. And she also wanted to do this. Just had to keep getting all fucking crinkled up.

"So I'ma- lemme lay on you, like. What my past month's been like, cool?"

Cool. He was cool with it. She looked at a stretch of arm blood vessel things, except there was only the outline of an arm. Grace stretched her own arm out mimickingly, splaying her fingers the same. Museuming without really thinking about it.

"This month, or like- not just November, but the last month-ish total. I had a meeting with one friend where she sobbed on me because she realized she'd gotten fucked up by a vamp who left her, like, unable to physically move at a festival for hours with no memory. And then realized she'd also been fucked up by one another time, too, but only realized it then."

Cat: done.

"So then another friend? She got attacked by a hawk. You know, like. Your kind of hawk." A fucking vampire in a hawk suit, Billy! "It ripped her nose ring out." She looked to him directly, grabbed her own jewelry, and tugged enough to wince. Flopped her hand back down. "And tore her scalp up. Because it stole her hat, and I guess she didn't get pissed off enough? So it followed her and ripped her face up. I hung out her with the hospital for a while."

Fawn: check. She took a glance around, made sure they weren't being closely followed or any shit like that. But she was used to having these conversations bold-ass in public. People listened in closer if you were trying to whisper or each other or some shit. Her tone was casual, real chill, because she had thought about this stuff. Thought about it a lot. And she wasn't here to whimper and be reassured. Just like Billy told her facts, here she was, facts.

"And then, like. Last. I get a video call from a third friend, right? And he's got a big bandage on his neck. Because he was walking through a different museum, here in downtown, and where he was walking made the floor squeak. So some old guy walks up apparently mad about it, tells him to show him his neck? And when my friend doesn't, the old guy bites down and rips a chunk of his neck off."

Teddy. Grace crunched her own hand against the side of her neck, pretended to yank a hunk off. Visuals, just for you, B-Man.

"So like. You can tell me whatever about 'your kind.'" Finger air quotes. "I'm here for it; I don't wanna be going around thinking wrong-ass shit. But, like. The shit that matters to me most is what I know about you. One guy. Because if I look at whatever, like, bigger picture there is? I shouldn't even be talking to you." Her voice rose in pitch, a tell she regretted, but it felt important to add: "And I don't want it to be that way. So."

Grace had talked for like twenty five fucking minutes, threw her hands up halfway and let them drop.

"This is me trying."
It was no great secret that Billy enjoyed speaking. In the right context, however, he could draw significant satisfaction from listening as well. He did think himself a good scene partner, generous with what he provided but considerate enough to avoid flagrantly hogging the spotlight. At least so long as he believed what he was about to hear carried any worth. And so with a nod and gesture, he bade Grace to continue.

Admittedly in the early moments, he was listening with the intent to craft clever response; acknowledging his own potential condescension had done little to diminish it. He sought errors in logic, emotional leaps from shaky platforms of weak argument, anticipating the opportunity to correct and clarify. But... oh dear.

This was not a diatribe of condemnations aimed at his people, but rather a collection of experiences laid upon her secondhand, each weighing on his good Grace's shoulders with that most terrible of burdens. Compassion.

Face gradually aging as sinking corners of his mouth accentuated faintly hanging jowls, Billy found himself quite bereft of witty retort when she was done. He watched her face for some few seconds before turning his gaze away and nodding. This was inconvenient. He cared for, this was well established. But it seemed her own close ties with other locals meant he was feeling uncomfortably obliged to care for them as well. More than the benevolently indifferent degree to which he had done.

Because this sounded, from the vampires' side, like a few unfortunate but not uncommon mishaps. The poorly handled suggestion and clumsy feeding, at any rate. The issue of attacking as a fowl, well, he saw no excuse for this. Sadism was a too common vampiric trait. Not one he personally indulged, and he also took greater care than this with his meal treatment. Had he not, after all, abandoned plans to feed from Grace upon the realization it would require a heavier hand than he cared to use?

This was the sort of thing which frequently buoyed him with a sense of some vague moral superiority. Now, in this moment, it seemed... uncomfortably inadequate.

"Thank you for sharing this," he spoke at last, gaze still on a display. Gracious, there were a great many blood vessels nestled within the abdominal cavity. He'd realized this before of course, more than once. But it always struck him oddly as these were never fed from, too deep within the body. Quite forgotten.

For heaven's sake, look at the girl, William. Hands yet clasped behind, he did turn back to her. "I am sorry your friends have suffered such abysmal treatment. I believe..." Hmm. Troublesome. "I've inflicted clumsy phrasing. I didn't mean to suggest I could justify every act committed by a vampire, only clarify some of the necessities this existence carries with it." That long inhale again, still considering what had been said, what feelings it inspired, and what best to do with them.

"Because what you've described is indefensible. Please do let me know if I can ever help alleviate the impact of any of your friends' malad-" Oh, call it what it is. "Assaults."

Yes, that would help assuage him, at least. White men and vampires. Someday, dear boy, perhaps you can wedge yourself into a demographic that assails you with less hand-me-down guilt. It was such a bother.
Grace didn't talk that long often, and when it was done, she felt low key... foolish? That was the best word for it. Like, damn, wording it all out was cathartic, but now she was faced with the awkwardness of having talked for that long and having very little to show for it.

Billy fell into apologies, and it wasn't what she wanted at all. It wasn't abysmal treatment, blah fucking blah. It was how vampires worked, and she understood that. He'd looked her in the eye and told her to stay still way back when they'd first met. Could he have just decided to keep that permanent or whatever? What made it stop and start? Fuck if she knew.

He postured up, hands behind his back, and she didn't imagine that was a comfortable way for anyone to stand. Made her feel like she was about to get arrested, if she tried it.

In the end, he tried, but one or the other of them had missed the mark. She waved it away, intellectually and physically. Didn't want to be thanked or apologized to or coddled. Just wanted this information that was in her brain to now be in his, so he could grasp even slightly better the way she had to look at the world.

"You can't," she said, absolutely certain on that shit. Billy had remembered how to look at her, but she'd forgotten how to look at him. Why were there stomach vessels? That was so gross. Bloodguts.

It wasn't Billy's place to apologize either, and she wasn't the person to be hearing it if it was. But she saved her breath on clarifying all that, trying to find a line of thought and stick to it.

"What I'm saying is, like. What's gonna stick in my head best if we're clearing up friendship shit is whatever you need to... correct about the way I view you." Fuck. Lost in her own sentence, her hand punctuating a few points and then trailing in a way that indicated she'd confused herself. Whatever, Billy, figure it out. Her frustration became audible, though she didn't mean it at him. Felt outclassed.

"Man, I hate talking." Sometimes. "Just. Tell me what I got wrong about Billy, or what I need to know about Billy, and if that overlaps with every dead person everywhere, cool. Iunno if that makes any sense and I can't help if it don't. Doesn't." WHATEVER.
Quite troublesome. The healing rejected a second time, now on behalf of her unknown companions suffering myriad vampire attacks. Understandable. Perhaps she knew another; one who could ease pain without, oh, triggering traumatic memories. It did seem terribly unfair. Oh for two. Bad day for Billy.

Except it wasn't about you, was it? Them and their experience and their pain and how that all sat on Grace. Except also it was completely about him, because generalizations were of no interest.

Good gracious, this was complicated to navigate.

"Yes, well..." he began, attempting anew to find some sort of solid footing. Pace picked up slightly, intent to keep moving as if their passage through physical space would somehow signify progress through the rest of this. "I suppose I've taken the impression that you think my feedings..."

It did all sound dreadfully oversensitive of him now. "That is to say, that I abuse the suppliers to an extent which makes the whole thing unsuitable for children, for example." Appropriately, this whole conversation suddenly felt as though he were meticulously explaining how another child's words had made him feel. Bother and bedamned. There was no dignity to be had in any of it.

He huffed in frustration, cold dead lungs quite earning their keep today. "This is why I wished to better understand your views before divesting you of them; now it feels as though I'm putting words in your mouth."

Was this why vampires did not, to his knowledge, frequently carry on open and honest friendships with... well, prey? It was all so flustering.
Now, at least, Grace felt some resurgence of confidence. Because she heard Billy struggling.

The struggle, though, was insane and fucked up. And it did confirm something to her: vampires drank from kids. You know. Child suppliers! Fuck, Billy.

It made her feel nauseated. She told herself it was good he was being honest, but Grace also recognized it was because he was out of touch.

"Lemme give you some mouth words," she said, trying to keep it light, but also wanting to grab him by the vest and shake the shitty vampire logic out of him. Decided on a middle ground of reaching out an arm and slapping a hand on his shoulder. Looked him right in the face, emboldened through trust and stupidity.

He wanted to hurry, but she was going to stop him right the fuck here. Grace, if nothing else, felt in power right now. She lowered her voice, at least, out of some sense of respect for having physically trapped him.

"There is no such thing as being" gentle was the word she wanted to use but it was so fucking GROSS here "nice enough that taking blood from a kid is okay." WITH YOUR MOUTH. JUST BITING A CHILD ARM. OR A CHILD NECK? AHHHHHH.

She pictured opening a door one day and spotting every vampire she'd ever met gathered up chewing on a kindergarten class. All hiss. Laugh track. Horrifying.

"So you're trying to tell me you play nice. I believe you." Ehhhh. "But you're missing the whole point. That you think the argument is that you're nice enough to..."

Nope. Couldn't say it.

"When the problem is that that's a line I don't agree with crossing in the first place. Even hyperthetically."

Shoulder slap. Hand drop. Keep walking if you want, old man.
Truthfully he didn't much care for being manhandled. Certainly it was less egregious because he had the capability to walk out of her grip. And straight through a wall if he so wished. Though at the probable cost of a dislocated shoulder and unseemly bloodlust.

The eye contact salved his irritation as well. Perhaps it was simply Grace's troublesome reckless streak bubbling once again to the surface, but he did like to think it engendered a level of trust. The explanation, however...

Billy continued to stare back at her even after the slap, slowly blinking once or twice as he silently deliberated. It was a problem, the seeming irreconcilability of their viewpoints. To be sure he believed her perspective, hmm, earnest. But undeniably simplistic.

"Herein, I think," he began, voice still softer than the norm, perhaps in consideration for their surroundings. "Lies the complication." He resumed no steps, standing rooted now and unwilling to flee from the confrontation physically or otherwise. Easier but oh, it would render the entire conversation to this point meaningless.

"My practiced instinct is to be disingenuous, offer apologies and platitudes about how right you are, all to the end of allaying discomfort and conflict. I would rather not." A little huff preceded a little frown. Such treacherous navigation, this. Less existentially hazardous than negotiating with a dominus, but somehow also less comfortable for what he stood to lose. "Instead, allow me to-"

That pale bald head shook as if dissatisfied with that beginning. Bother. Less effort into eloquence, dear boy. "I don't want to dismiss your conviction, but neither do I want to deceive you into thinking I share it. It seems a visceral thing, unthinking repugnance at the easy potential for abuse of, oh, innocents. For me, knowing myself and my vices, any consideration for that has long since perished. If anything I consider how the more youthful metabolisms bear greater resilience. Quicker replenishment. Less harm done in extracting what is necessary." Because it was necessary. Blood, feeding. A simple fact of nightly existence.


"I imagine this sounds unavoidably monstrous," he quickly tacked on, attempting to preempt any resultant horror. "But this is... me trying."
If nothing else, there was something mad trippy in hearing her own words reflected back at her. Billified. Billyfied. One of those. But he'd started by saying something close to what she'd said earlier, only run through a dictionary she was short about nine hundred pages of.

And she saw where this was going. They both saw where it was going. Billy first, but her not that far after. When he started by saying it was his instinct to lie, she got it. Because if she was sucking blood from children, she wouldn't be telling anyone. She liked to think that if she vampired up, she wouldn't need to do that shit anyway. Grace was young and objectively a hottie. Billy was-

Oof. OOF. She felt low key lightheaded as he continued. Billy could not go to a club and chew on someone. Or like. He could. But it would be harder. But that meant- was he just- playgrounds? Not after dark. He wasn't breaking into houses. Just.

Grace was actually nauseated. But here he was, telling her the truth. In detail. And explaining his logic, which was fucked up! But! She could follow it! And all of this put a very weird pressure into her brain, and she felt pretty sure if she actually did puke, she'd feel better. Instead, she stood next to a child biting vampire, scrunched her face up until one eye closed. Not a wink, but suffering, if exaggerated.

Billy was TrYiNg tOoO GrAcE.

She brought both hands up to cover her face, but also nodded.

"'Kay," she shaned. "Okay." Did every vampire do this? Did they mind wipe kids after? What if Grace just mind wiped herself instead of considering this?

"Okay. Alright. Okay."

Another nod. She wanted to joke that at least he couldn't be doing anything worse, but the reality was that he absolutely could.

So what were her options here, really. Run off after this? Or wait until his next birthday and pop a lighter on him while he got high? That latter would, technically, stop this specific behavior. The first one would just ensure he never told anyone anything honest for the rest of his life. It was easy to tell herself that killing Billy meant some other shittier vampire would take his place. It was also not easy to pretend she had the emotional capacity to fucking murder the guy.

Grace let her hands fall, looked back up to him. Shook her head, expression tight, but breaking into a reluctant smile where her jaw jutted forward. Gaze narrowing, eyes locked on. This weird fucking creepy-ass motherfucker she was fucking friends with.

"This is a fucked up museum trip," she whispered. Actually whispered. But even at that volume, there was no missing something like a laugh. Which was also fucked up! But she couldn't help it. All these parts added up in her brain to horrified hahas. She looked away, waved a hand to invite him to continue their stroll. "Alright. Bite the kids. I'm all in. What's next."
A veritable deluge of affirmation spilled forth from his young companion. Paired with the expressions she'd worked through before covering her face, they did little to convince him this was going to fall out in his favor.

While giving every indication of patiently awaiting her full response, he began contemplating contingencies for the next several seconds and beyond. If this proved too much, a mistake on his part, it might be remedied by a quick suggestion. Erasing the last ten minutes of conversation could provide a convenient reset. It was hardly unprecedented, bordering on standard practice even. But, oh...

It would be dreadfully dispiriting. There was something... platonically romantic in the idea he needn't unduly adjust her perceptions. In this unexpected and oft entertaining odd couple dynamic they'd jointly bumbled into. What an unbearable loss if it were reduced to just another one-sided, manufactured, briefly amusing blip in the span of his years.

Undeniably he took some sense of pride in being, hmm, less wholeheartedly predacious than seemed the norm for his kind. Something thrown into stark relief by her myriad tales of what accostings her living friends endured. No, both for his sake and hers, if this could not survive as it was, as it had grown to be, better to let it die.

Which left him considering how very little tethered him to this region after all. He claimed no membership in any branch of vampiric society, and had found less to like than he'd expected in the local undead. What a bewildering realization to have in the moment.

But, at least for the moment, such dire eventualities needed no deeper contemplation. Thin brows arching lightly, he mirrored her painfully deliberate smile. "Indubitably," he murmured back, more out of hope for some dually amusing callback than anything.

Resuming the direction and languid pace, he wasn't quite sure where to take the conversation. "I haven't any, hmm, specific indictments to clarify, I suppose. I simply..." He'd not prepared for this conversation at all. Pity.

"In light of your recent experiences, I should very much like you to understand... Well, me. In the context of vampires as they stand. I'm afraid that, with both power and the inevitable, oh, sentimental distancing from humanity you might call it, the capacity for empathy tends to atrophy." Billy shook his head, frowning once more. "This is why such behavior as you've described is commonplace. The living are regarded as prey and playthings. I don't mean to justify this view and abhorrent behavior, or get you to sympathize with it; I offer explanation rather than excuse."

He really was trying for brevity, but it was such a complex issue to describe, to feel as though he was adequately expressing. Even now he resisted the urge to go back and clarify certain word choices. "And, I think that I was brought up in, hmm, a subculture that avoided the worst of that. Heavy investiture in the arts, performing particularly, requires a level of emotional presence that keeps the empathy muscles vigorous."

Oh, he did so wish there were deep psychological studies on the impacts of immortality on the mind. As it stood he was left with, "This is only my theory, you understand, but I can say conclusively I have no desire to be a monster."

Perhaps if he'd been more plugged into pop culture and social media, Billy'd have understood how much he tread upon the ground of "not all vampires." Alas, this was a fellow who had only in the last year or so discovered "yolo" and thought it the bleeding edge of slang.
Here they were again, both trying. Billy spoke quiet to start, and she realized she wasn't even sure what the goal of this conversation was anymore. Not that Grace had many conversations with specific goals. She just wasn't sure what would mark this as having been what they were going for.

Ending it and not immediately ending the friendship! Or something.

He fell into another speech, but she didn't blame him for it, considering they'd been lobbing those back and forth this whole time. And she'd invited it. There was something soothing about listening to him ramble when the content wasn't so fucking problematic. Billy outlined something she had a sense of. Vampires got older and shittier and less attached and, if she was being real, she bet a bunch of them weren't real good people to start with.

Billy had a different kind of upbringing. He did seem more capable of hanging out with The Living. It took something, and she had a sense it had to be at least a little deliberate. Because he'd been a vampire long enough that this wasn't all fresh in his head.

At the end of it all, she believed him. He had every single opportunity to do some fucked up shit and hadn't taken it, at least with her. And really, Billy not wanting to be a monster didn't mean he wasn't one now. That wasn't a comforting thing, exactly, but it made it easier to believe him somehow. All about that Trying, again.

"I believe you," she said, mostly to be nice, though it was honest. This all leaned to a question she was wary about asking, but he'd framed himself as an open book, so. "Did you get turned on purpose?"
There were occasions where thing done simply to be nice had a marked impact. As it was he glanced away with the words, as if his attention had ben captured by some fresh display they'd come upon in their meandering steps. But no, he merely made paltry attempt to conceal the satisfied smile this spread.

It was, he supposed, his own primary goal here. To be able to say something so obviously ludicrous as "you cannot trust vampires, but you can trust me," and have his word be taken. Billy was aware of how tall an ask it was.

It left him feeling good enough about the situation that her question struck him only in a positive light. It wasn't something he often felt much compulsion to discusss, but it wa pleasing that she wished to understand him better.

"Oh yes. Yes, quite. And voluntarily." He was facing her again, though his gaze had drifted upward into memory. "We'd been, oh, involved for some while when she offered. Atypical, as I've come to understand."
Billy, voluntary vampire. She could see it, though that was definitely not the most interesting part here. He'd been involved with someone. A vampire. Involved, like. Involved, liiiike.

Grace's brain galaxied with at least a dozen potential invasive questions. Had he been old man dating a vampire? In a way it was unexpectedly cute. For her sanity and avoiding nausea, she did her best to imagine him pretty sexless. But strolling up with flowers for some undead babe? Grace knew he was a charming motherfucker. It was a welcome wholesome twist to a story that had to end in his death.

"Billy," she said gasped toothily, deciding boldly she wanted to both be ahead and walk backwards, except she started this by running her ass into the corner of a glass case with a long web of nerves(?!) spidering out like she'd shattered them with the impact. There was absolutely no acknowledgment of any of this. "Involved like involved?"

Eyebrow waggle. Instantly riveted.
It was a layered joy that rolled over him along with Grace's gasp and interest. More, hmm, tactically he was relieved that they were moving away from a desperately risky topic, even if it was directly into one he likewise rarely addressed. But beyond that, deeper perhaps, it did spark something primal and enduring in him, memories of a bliss heretofore unrivaled. He felt the echoes of it, as he sometimes did in moments of quiet reflection.

"Indeed," he confirmed. One hand had darted out from behind, ready to steady her. But it withdrew and reclasped with his other when she showed no need of it. "It is, was..." Now his gaze dipped, eyes finding the polished floor as relived in some fashion the younger days of blossoming infatuation. Were he physiologically capable, he'd have blushed.

"Absurd, I know. Certainly I thought so then. She was so much my junior, I'd assumed. As it happened she was much older than I." His head gave a little shake. "Thankfully I wasn't quite churlish enough to reject her affections and my good fortune."
She hadn't signed up expecting vampire romance, but she wasn't not here for it. Grace could figure out body language well enough to see bashfulness, and where he grew shyer, her grin spread. (And she missed entirely that he'd kept a hand out for her, because she wasn't acknowledging the ass collision, pal.)

It was weird shit, when she considered it. How young was young looking? How old had he been? In theory, she could become a vampire right the fuck now, live a thousand years, and then date a ninety-year-old and still be way older. How did you hook up with anyone? Why look at Billy and not someone less old?

Companionship or something, she guessed. B-Dawg was good company. Young hotties weren't, unless they were Grace. Again, more questions. She shuffled back slow, tour guide.

"How long were you- when did you find out she was like-"

Grace forked two fingers into snake fangs in front of her open mouth, as if suddenly she wasn't here to say "vampire" anymore.
It must all, he reasoned, seem quite strange and storied to eyes so young. Twenty-six she'd said. Gracious. Indeed it might as well have been fourteen for how removed it placed her from his own even living experience.

Certainly the memories were far from fresh, but he did dwell on them in his private moments often enough to keep at least the important bits crystalline. Humming out faint amusement for her continued colorful Grace'isms, he thought about it aloud.

"Oh, some few years I think. Yes, we were well acquainted, the dalliance becoming something rather more, hmm, an abiding intimacy by the time she risked the revelation."

Lips pursing into focused thought, his brows pulled low. "This was... the eighteen eighties. Or... hmm, nineties?" Billy shook his head. "Immaterial. I was more or less as you see me now. A small bit younger. But you can see why I was initially dubious of the whole thing, her interest, and how the belated explanation did, ah, clear things up."

He let a small chuckle, gaze drifting away again. Yes, those had been pleasant years. His last in the sun.
The stages of dating: dalliance, well acquainted, abiding intimacy. Grace stopped her slow backpedaling, finding something probably expensive to lean on, hands pressed to it behind her. Engaged enough that she did not want to keep wandering.

She tried to imagine him younger, once again failed. Grace assumed he'd been born bald and stayed that way. How did he never notice how cold she was? Kissing a vampire with tongue had to be like slurping a popsicle. Hrk. But it was pre-vampires or something.

That was weird to imagine, as much as it had occurred in her lifetime.

Billy was in a happy place. Grace, while not the brightest tool in the shed, was realizing he wasn't talking about this chick as if she were still in his life. Forever was a long time to be abidingly intimate or whatever. Could have easily broken up. (Grace didn't believe in exes. Lots of brain space to give someone you wanted out of your existence.)

But he was all warm about it. Either they split very friendly, or he got dumped, or. Something else happened. HmmMmMmmMmm. She could only ask so many questions at a time, and she had a sense it was smart to tread carefully, for his sake more than hers.

"Did it still work? After you got deaded. And you're dead together."

Oh shit oh shit oh shit. Her eyebrows shot up, realizing the question she really needed to know the answer to. Another loud whisper as she ran her thumb across her throat for clarity's sale.

"How'd you?!"
Oh ho, he clocked a likely unintentional entendre in her immediate question. Penises had been the subject of crass humor for far longer than he'd been walking the earth. The cod pieces on some of those Shakespearean costumes, good heavens. But he also thought better than to make such a jibe, and was distracted in any case by her excited final query.

This must have been so novel for her. For him as well, if to a lesser extent. After certain, oh, friendship benchmarks he'd found it reasonably common to share tales of the past and turnings all such malarkey. It was simply that ever before those friendships had been with other immortals.

Looking to Grace a moment, he smiled to himself for how absurd the following must sound to living ears. "A gentle and affectionate strangulation in my sleep." She'd seemed, hmm, quite practiced with the technique.

"And yes, we continued merrily for, oh, many decades to come."
CHOKED TO DEATH. Grace's brain was all fireworks, a hand moving automatically to rest just beneath her own throat.

Fucking. Imagine. How the fuck did that work out? Promise you'd strangle someone sometime within the week, but not tell them what day so they had a chance to sleep? Or was he pulling her goddamn leg and one day they had an argument and she choked him out?

Actually, Grace hated the mental image of someone strangling him to death, even if it eventually led to eternal life. There had to be a better way to do it, she thought, because she was supernatural murder expert now.

She almost missed the rest of what he said because her brain was making a beeline toward that time she got force choked at Zipper's. But, like. By someone's actual hand. EdGeLoRdS. It had actually been pretty fucking terrible, but easy to pretend otherwise now.

Anyway. Carried on for decades, and now Billy didn't have anyone better to spend time changes with. She thought about prying. Wanted to. Wouldn't give her anything, really, except some sharper insight into the sense she had that he was lonely.

Vampires were all so fucking lonely. But you could see it easier when you befriended one.

Billy got turned by his younger-older girlfriend (wife?) and they lived happily for decades. Didn't have a ring on his finger now. This all did help her put more pieces together. Now he was the old one hanging out with someone much younger, though no one was going to bone here.

Grace had two questions. Actually, she had about eight. Twenty. A thousand. Didn't know how many she could ask without being a pest, but figured she could pick out his body language well enough to spot when it happened.

"That's some romance novel shit," she said, but it was all approving. "You have..."

Now was one of many places she needed to be careful.

"You have a family or anything before that?" she asked, knowing that question could be seen as about seven different accusations. "I woulda pegged you as a ladykiller back when you had hair."
Sans the expectation it would be used against him, Billy quite loved talking of himself and his experiences. He was not, as they went, a terribly private vampire. Wary, to be sure. But this was Grace.

After what he'd dared tell her, what indeed would he have cause to hold back?

"But not now?" He feigned a devastated look, clutching one hand to his breast. "You wound me, your Grace."

Chuckling at his own joke, he again shook his head. "No, no. I'm afraid in life I was, hmm, quite industrious and diligent. Far too serious, I think. I left little room for family and such things." Tutting, he shifted and smiled. The living years were not ones he frequently revisited.

"The Billy you know is rather more a product of the last century then the first. Except." Hands falling from their rear clasp, one lifted to pat his shiny head. "The roof blew off, oh, by the time I was your age I think, or shortly after. Thereabouts."
She huffed predictably to his joke, gave him an exaggerated wink. If Billy didn't look like he belonged in a nursing home, she had no doubt he could do plenty of charming. That was his whole goddamn thing. He'd got her with it, after all, if not in the traditional sense of ladykilling.

Anyway. He knew that. It was hard to imagine Billy working all his hours away. He had so much free time now. Like, the fucking picture of free time. And he didn't give the impression of being a serious person. Except he clarified that right after. A century or whatever was a long time to be a person. Grace wasn't who she'd been five years ago. Hard to imagine where she'd be in a hundred.

She snorted over the hair. Weren't people back in the day always accidentally poisoning themselves with shit? Eating cocaine for breakfast? (Hey, you know, she could see him as a coke guy, for more than one reason.) Something must have caused his hair to fall out young.

"Well if there's one part of this whole thing I can't picture, it's you with hair, so that makes it easy," she beamed. No family. No kids. Then a wife, or something like a wife, but she was pretty sure vampires weren't popping out babies Twilight style. Then, at some point, the wife left the picture, maybe. Again, it felt too risky to ask about directly.

Jumping around in his life story, Grace found herself very happy to listen. Could potentially talk through this for the next three hours and still have questions kind of listen.

"How was it at first? The dead life." Did you just love sucking down blood from day one?
His smile grew more present, less reminiscent with her continued jokes about his smooth scalp. Really he was in about the same position; even by the night he died, Billy was thoroughly entrenched in thinking of himself as bald. Then there were the hundred and twenty-odd years since. Indeed, nothing so completely got him feeling like he was someone else onstage as costumes which included wigs.

Things did sober somewhat for him with her question. It could not be imagined that she was aware of his gradually contemplated offer, but he was put in mind of it all the same. It would be an ordeal for the both of them, should it ever occur. Billy had little desire to undersell that aspect, to employ any level of deceit regarding how trying the early years would be.

"Difficult," he answered with a somber nod. "Frightfully so. It's a sharp adjustment from life, with a steep and unforgiving learning curve. Meticulous planning and careful risk assessment are needed, all handily undone by a moment's bloodlust." It was a hefty responsibility, the turning. There was a reason he'd never engaged with it.

Hmm, yes. This did set his mind on a spiral of deliberation. No bad thing; he would want to be quite sure ere broaching the topic. "It's easy, much too easy, to get swept up in the power. The strength and speed are enticing, intoxicating. Shamefully easy to abuse to ones own detriment. We, vampires, are more fragile than we care to present. Fire, sunlight. Hubris most of all. Obviously I've no hard statistics but, oh, anecdotally I would say a fair majority of those turned do not survive their first year."

Gracious, but it did sound as though he were attempting to talk himself out of the whole thing. Hmm, hmm.
She saw his expression change, and that was enough to give her a sense of the answer to come. Truthfully, she hadn't expected him to report back that it was easy. How could it be? Grace imagined trying to just stroll up to someone and fucking drink their blood, even if she did have mind powers. Took a nerviness even someone as bold as Grace couldn't immediately muster.

Each bit was something new to ponder. The speed and the strength. Grace saw how it could get- intoxicating was the best word, really. Even in a split second's fantasy, she could see it getting ugly and dangerous fast. Billy didn't strike her as a violent guy. Grace didn't consider herself a violent person, but she had swung first many, many times. What would happen if she could swing first and smash someone's head in around her fist?

Dangerous. Really, really dangerous. Her own expression shifted to a thoughtful pout, but it shifted to more visible surprise.

"Shit," she said, but it sounded like awe. Hadn't realized the stakes were that high. It made sense, in retrospect. Vampires were so fucking scary it was easy to see them as indestructible; she'd never taken into account how easily they could accidentally destroy themselves.

"Glad you made it," she said, reaching up to fiddle briefly with her nose ring. Thinking gestures. Billy was old, had died old. It was a gamble worth taking. She settled her hand back down against the case behind her. She was the picture of processing. "Man. I could ask you like, a fucking million questions. You're like. Mad interesting." Take that to the fucking ego bank, old man.

Was it that Billy was especially interesting or that she was just interested in learning about Billy? Probably.
Gratifying that the gravity seemed to take, though he'd had little cause to think it would not. Quite unrelated to the issues swirling about his own mind, there was some vague notion that this could be useful information for Grace to hold whenever happenstance put her across the table so to speak from another vampire. Some clearer idea of the power, intellect, or sheer blind luck she'd be dealing with. Some hint to their probable psychology.

Hopefully this would all provide her some small edge. Hopefully it would be used wisely.

But it was the simple sentiment which followed her more terse contemplations that had his smile blooming anew. Grace had never struck him as a disingenuous person. Not remotely. He did think her canny enough to say the sort of thing one might wish to hear if the circumstances called for it, if she were in danger, but that had yet to be the case between them. Certainly she'd not lacked for boldness when first calling him out on his condition, and really Billy had gone out of his way a little to discourage any sense of intimidation. There were many things he wished he could readily coerce others into feeling; fear was rarely one of them.

All to say, he believed entirely that she was glad he yet existed, and what a warm thought this was.

And then of course there was that proclamation any artist, performer, was always delighted to hear. So of course he must answer as humbly as he could manage. "I'm ever so glad you think so." Hands refolded before him, fingers intertwining as his smile beamed. "Please do feel free to indulge the impulse. I... enjoy sharing what insights I've bumbled into along the way. And simply stories, of course."

Oh, but it did seem crass to so flagrantly overlook the time or two she'd caught him off guard with a question, incidents which seemed to contradict his assurance. So he amended, with a faint sidelong inclination of the head, "By and large."
He could get, like. Boyish, sometimes. But proper British still. EvEr So gLaD. Billy proceeded to say he loved talking about himself, which was the realest shit anyone had ever said. He worded it all fancy, hands clasped together, but she heard you, motherfucker.

It got her to laugh, even though she didn't think it was his goal. Laughing at Billy, not laughing with Billy, but she had a sense he wouldn't mind. Grace found she struggled to talk about herself, in comparison. For all that her personality was large, her life was small, and most of the stories she had to tell were repetitive or a bummer. Conveniently, people didn't make a habit of asking about her life, so that simplified things.

Oh, hey, last Billy bit was respectably self aware.

"Learning to be careful with them big open statements," she said, smirky. Kicked a foot up to perch knee-bent against the exhibit podium, immediately leaving a dusty shoe-print beneath. "My third power is sensing topics people don't wanna talk about and asking about 'em. And. Speaking of powers."

Hey, now she would talk about herself for a second.

"I learned to heal something I bet you can't."
Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)