|Hannah knows the rest (isconfetti) wrote in repose,|
@ 2020-04-01 22:07:00
|Entry tags:||*log, daniel webster, hannah smith|
[Completed log: Hannah & Daniel]
Who: Daniel & Hannah
What: A run-in (Completed)
Where: The Carnival
When: Now, tonight
Daniel might eat someone Daniel definitely ate someone.
|The town was a misty memory for Daniel. The roads were more broad than that misty memory afforded, quieter, with less gravel and more sheen. Repose was at once louder and more quiet than he expected, lacking strolling bodies or clusters of people on the corners of the roads, but filled with vehicles both large and small moving at all speeds. The cold of dying winter was stronger on the back of his neck, on his scalp, where there was no hat to stave it off. He felt strangely naked without a hat, and odd, as if he should be inside where there was lamplight and other soft warmth shining down on his ears. There were more parts of the world that were mismatched in the same way, tiny inconsistencies like the weave of fabric of his trousers moving around his knees and thighs, the unusually low sound of wheels on the road, and even the brightness of the light in the windows. |
None of it disturbed him. He saw, noted the mismatch, and then let it go, like a curl of black ink in water.
His hunger was what really disturbed him. It was hard to think about anything else when he was this hungry. He had been visiting with Misha, he knew, and there had been letters there, letters to which he'd had increasing difficulty responding, and perhaps he had not paid proper attention to the passing of time. This hungry, he probably had not fed in several days, perhaps even more than a week. Such a state was dangerous, to him and to everyone else. He had to be careful to control it.
There was a camp, he vaguely remembered, a camp of whores on the edge of town. Prostitution was a good way for a moderately ethical vampire to get a meal without a lot of fuss, and Daniel's charm (both supernatural and financial) went a long way toward making real marks into love bites. His mind laid over the neat edge of town and the crisp sidewalks with dust and orchards, supplying images of a long-dead lover's apple trees where there were now flickering streetlights. A dark shadow in his familiar knee-length winter coat with the collar up, he moved in a straight line through the yellow pools of light until they grew fewer and fewer between, heading in the direction he thought the camp might be; north-east? Or was it north-west? He just needed to eat, and then, then he could think... think about his return, his friends, the apartment, his cat. After he ate. Then, he could think.
The Carnival was on the edge of town, but it was in the opposite direction of the little circle of trailers Hannah had once called home. But maybe it wasn't such a very big error to mistake this place for that one, not from the outside. The Carnival, as it had no other name, was deep in the woods. It was an incongruous place to find such a thing, but there it was. Once Carnem had purchased the place at the end of the previous year, they'd widened the clearing, placed outdoor heaters about, and changed the entire show. Or, rather, they'd created a show, because before the carnival had been merely a poor fair with poor fare, and the rides had been even worse, and now things were different. In the center of that unnatural clearing, just beyond Repose's empty houses and derelict buildings, was a gauche extravaganza of golds and reds and impossible things. Mermaids in tanks, living dolls, fortune tellers, sword swallowers and trapeze artists. There were a few rides, and there were a few games, and there were things to eat, but it was the tent that loomed large and crowded and somehow above it all. And inside that tent, there were shows that didn't belong in a tiny little nowhere town.
Hannah didn't really perform. She couldn't dance beautifully, and she couldn't sing beyond passably. She couldn't tell a joke, swallow a sword, or walk a tightrope with grace and seemingly fearless. She couldn't fly through the air just a little bit too high, and she couldn't tumble and twist and contort. She wasn't in the burlesque here, where performances happened after the big tent show. She didn't have sex for money. She didn't have gills, and she'd never been very good with snakes. And her ability to predict the future was a spotty thing that was more madness than magic. So, Hannah walked. Dressed and made up, dark hair piled loose and high, stocking thick and heels fat, she wandered around and talked to people as they waited. She drew people in from the crowd beyond the tent doors. She was tasked, as were some others, with playing hostess. She was a lure, and she liked it here. Maybe she should feel strangely about her fellow performers, but she didn't. In fact, it was kind of nice for her to see the differences between herself and Carnem's AIs. Oh, they looked perfect, and no one would ever, ever know they weren't human, but they weren't like her. For them, every day was a repetition, and they never, ever noticed.
And beyond the performing and the tents? The carneys who worked the rides, ran the games and the food carts, they were people. Real flesh and blood people, but they weren't just carneys. They were scientists, cleaners, researchers, and they all had NDAs that went for pages and pages.
But Hannah, she just walked and wandered, searching for people to interact with.
And there she found a man looking odd and cold, and she stood a moment. Stood, stared, like a little cat caught unawares, because she wasn't entirely sure he was alive. But she shook her head, because Hannah knew ghosts. Her pulse was racing, and synthetic blood pumped a little harder and faster through synthetic veins and into a perfect synthetic heart, and she stepped forward on fat little heels. She was small, not reaching 5'3, and she had a face that lived somewhere in the second decade of her life. She wasn't beautiful. She wasn't even very pretty, but her smile was warm. "You look cold," she said, voice unaccented, from nowhere and everywhere and completely American. "It's warmer if you come into the clearing." Of course, he was supposed to be there on invitation, but townspeople slipped in all the time. Carnem didn't care, not really. They wanted to observe, and a rich person was as good as a poor, at least when it came to this one tiny thing.
Daniel was hungry, but he wasn't mad starved, and he knew the camp was not the right one the moment the flickering lights of a fire juggler gleamed over the tops of the tents. The movement and the clusters of people called to his senses as both succor and nurture, crowds of people being a natural draw to a vampire. He stood on the edge of the circus and wondered at it. Like the rest of this world, it was brighter than any he had attended before. Thanks to the night and the chill, there was less dust, and no one here was starving for either coin or food. The circus had a ringing sense of lackluster prosperity rather than hungry danger, and Daniel had the sense his pockets were safe enough from sticky fingers in this crowd.
All the same (he stood and watched it for some minutes in the cold, both for abstract aesthetic and to see if there was a likely soul ready to drift from the herd in his direction) there was something artificial about the circus that brushed Daniel's senses. It was like the static touch of a feather on cat fur, something about the way everyone was moving around each other that the predator in him did not like. Daniel Webster, the man, hadn't the slightest idea what it was. He was probably standing too still in the trees while he thought about it, and maybe that was what brought the curious kitten wobbling over.
Daniel took a moment. She spoke to him, and he looked at her, mostly just starshine eyes and vague coat silhouette in the trees, while he got a hold of his hunger and put his forebrain in charge. One must make careful decisions in crowds, and when presented with young women in revealing corsets. He tilted his head toward the sound of her heartbeat, and did as she bid, stepping forward into the light. Daniel was pale in the dark, but everyone was pale in the dark. His collar was very high and the heavy wool coat was double-breasted and buttoned against his left side, all while being a little bit too big for him, and it made him seem far more harmless than he was. "Good evening," he said, more cozy librarian than Dracula. "I do not remember this being out here in the woods last time I came by this town."
Hannah had never really learned the skill of self-preservation. Even now, she knew she wasn't anything immortal. She knew she could die again, and she still wasn't concerned about talking to the pale man in the copse. His eyes were shining, and his coat looked big, and he looked cold. It was the last part that she responded to, that her belly responded to. He looked cold, and she cocked her head to the side and regarded him as a curious little bird would. His voice sounded proper, polite, and it didn't sound like Repose. It didn't sound like home, either, where the rich people's voices carried the memory of the north within them.
"Hi." She smiled and smiled, warm and kind and head lifting again. "There was a smaller place here before. I came once with my siblings, but it was really different then," she said, the details unnecessary, but Hannah was a talker, especially since she'd ended up here, and here there wasn't any call to be right and normal. No office skirts and office shirts, no office behavior, and just a woman with cornflower eyes and nearing 30. Those very youthful days of childhood were in some mirror far away and long forgotten, and yet she didn't really have her feet solidly on the ground. She looked a little unfocused, a little dreamy, and she stepped forward and held out her arm to him. Reversal, reversal, and her skin was warm despite the lack of sleeves. "I can show you around, if you like," she offered.
"You're supposed to have an invitation," she went on. "Or you're supposed to pay, but I won't tell if you don't," she said, and she lacked conspiracy in her tone and expression, but her eyes crinkled to let him know she was teasing, and there was age at the corner of those eyes. Like an adult who never grew up completely, and this was all facades gone and Amy, as she'd been, laid bare. "Do you want me to show you?"
Daniel wondered what this woman did here. She was obviously part of the troop, was his line of thinking, and though she looked rather plain, Daniel had known a great many courtesans in his lifetime and the most successful were not always the most classically beautiful. Only kings were stupid enough to base their decisions on the face alone, and Daniel drew in the night air with the woman's scent on it, wondering after sex and snuff or even anything stronger. He would not have been surprised to get a sticky whiff of opium off the glass-eyed young woman, and when he did not he made a soft sound of contemplation in the back of his throat.
When she moved, he moved forward to meet her, and when she put out her arm to him he looked down on it and smiled. His eyes crinkled with amusement and then, with easy disrespect for their very small difference in height, he linked his arm with hers, as if they were two women out on a shopping expedition. Bond Street with fire eaters. He put his hand on her elbow where it linked around his, as if she were a child he would keep close, and indeed his hands were cold; though they warmed quickly against her skin.
"Lead on, my dear lady. If pay is required, I may meet it, so we need not concern ourselves with the little rules." He looked over his shoulder at her as she stepped at his side, looking at her neck for a moment too long, and then he looked away, out toward what awaited them. "And what may I call you?" This was a phrase Daniel often used in similar company. He did not ask her name, only what name she wished to provide.
Being plain had probably contributed to the menagerie of horrors that her life had become. She'd been no great beauty, and she'd known it, but it had never been a concern. She'd always been flighty, lost, feet off the ground and head somewhere in the clouds, but she'd never been beautiful. Marcus had used that, and he had twisted it like twine around his fingers, and so he had done the same with her. But Marcus was gone, and she was a lost woman in a costume from a previous life. She was no child, and 30 was already breaking its teeth into her gums. Not yet, but soon, and she found she didn't mind it. Maybe being older would be easier, and she imagined a triumphant life as a woman of 60, somewhere quiet and running from no one at all.
But Hannah was a dreamer, and those were merely dreams.
She didn't smell of sex, snuff, opium. She didn't even smell of the floral perfumes the other players working the crowd wore. She smelled like skin and sweat and human, and she watched as his eyes crinkled with amusement. That he took her arm didn't really surprise her, and what he said next didn't either.
She glanced over at him. Her steps were short, dainty and including something resembling a bit of a hop every few lengths of feet. "I don't do that anymore," she said of taking money from him. "I did for a long, long time, but now I don't anymore," she said to him. He seemed kind enough, but she was very bad at judging people, and her perception of kindness merely meant smile lines around the eyes and a non-severe mouth. "See," she said, talking as she walked him toward the midway in a thoughtless, thoughtless manner, "I started dating a client, and it went badly. And then I woke up one day, and I just didn't want to do it anymore." He was a stranger, and talking to strangers was always easier. Honesty could pour forth on the lips with the ease of spring water in a river without rocks. "But I can introduce you to someone," she offered, because she knew where those girls worked here. "I'm Hannah. It's nice to meet you."
Age was a strange thing for Daniel. As the years went on, he discovered quickly that time was a subjective thing, and it moved fast or slow depending on the state of mind. Many of those years were entirely lost to him now, as his mind separated him from the dark, manipulative thing he could become, but just as many were available. The halcyon days of his childhood, for example, had seemed endless. Then, the champagne bubble of his mischievous youth, fast, sweet and soon gone. He knew that if he was not careful, if he did not feel his step upon the earth and hear his own voice when he spoke, he would grow dulled with the beautiful world, and simply endure the years as they went by.
Great age made vampires especially susceptible to different kinds of madness, the worst of which was an inurement to the sweetness of life.
Daniel took care to listen to the woman on his arm, to experience her weight next to him. It was fine to no longer be alone. "How astonishing," he said, when she spoke of her change of occupation. "I do not know very many who changed in this way. Though I have known some, that found a protector. It is a chancy thing. I am sorry that your lover disappointed you." He patted the curve of her arm where it met his.
He looked thoughtful, eyes shifting from side to side. "I am hungry," he admitted, letting her interpret that how anyone would interpret it. "But it is pleasant to walk and see the new sights. Perhaps we will do that first, and you might introduce me to new friends later."
Hannah felt old and young, shiny and tarnished, new and obsolete, and yet here she was. Step, step, step at his side, her arm warm in his. The smell of her shampoo clung to her hair, clean and soap, and tendrils escaped her messy updo. Step, step, step and she wasn't in any hurry as she led him down the very center of the midway. On either side of them, games lined the space. Harkers called out, taunted, as they did, trying to get the men to win treasures for whatever woman was on their arm for the night. Further, there were rides, but only a few, and only the ones most beloved in the memories of people who had gone to fairs young. "When I was really, really young, we'd go to the fair every year. Okay, not really, really young, but once I was six, and I remember that I would want to ride absolutely everything, and then I would want to eat everything, and I wouldn't ever want to leave. If I close my eyes, I can still remember the way the sand kicked up beneath my feet," she told him, and the story had no purpose; it was merely words shared in an otherwise companionable silence.
She looked over at him, cornflower blue eyes expressive, alight with something resembling mischief and yet unfocused in the way of madness creeping. "I wasn't always a prostitute," she told him. "I was born to wealthy and loving parents, and then things went wrong, but we were still wealthy. And then I married a man who was even wealthier, and I never even considered having sex for money until recently," she admitted. "My lover is still my friend." It was a complicated thing, her relationship with Hugh. "But he's not my lover anymore," she added unnecessarily.
And Hannah knew town was strange, that oddities abounded, and she had her own haunts and things that didn't make sense, really. She could hear a house talk, and how many people could say that? But she didn't think his comment about hunger meant he was hungry for anything but food, or, possibly, sex. "There are food stands this way," she said, and she swerved a tiny bit, intending to lead him that way. "And then I can introduce you," she added, warm and willing, and she seemed pliable and harmless and all those other words that made women easy marks in this world crafted for men.
To his antique senses, so cut off from the modern and the new position of the stars over head, she smelled ever so faintly chemical, the soap he was accustomed to more harshly lye, and anything used to clean clothes more than untreated water. He moved his head away from her to peer at the games, meeting the eye of a hawker teasing him about leaving the lady empty-handed with a dark-eyed smiling stare that never blinked. He didn't respond to any of the calls, nor did they appear to make him uncomfortable, as Daniel's comfort with his masculinity did not require a display of his money. He'd gone through that phase when he was young, and it made him cringe to think of it.
He listened to her babble with some surprise. Most of it felt earnest, and Daniel liked to know more of people than they were usually equipped to tell him. "Sand," he said. "Did you live by the seaside, then?" He wondered how things could go wrong in ways that wouldn't affect the money, and nothing came to mind. "No lover, and no husband. Your family did not take care of you, then." It was not really a question. In Daniel's world, most women didn't make enough money at whoring to make it a particularly good business choice, but it was better than starving (so they told him). Courtesans and escorts were a bit different. A gamble, all the same.
When she swerved toward bits of fried food and popcorn, he made his first contrary move, and staid his course, his arm suddenly solid and unwavering with strength he had not yet used before. "No, not that kind of hungry," he said, firmly.
The costumes were used and used, so there was probably musk and perfume clinging to the ruffles and layers, but the scents weren't strong enough for Hannah to decipher, and she'd spent so many nights engulfed in men that the scent of musk and skin was something that she didn't even notice. She noticed other things. Like the crunch beneath her feet, the cold grass refusing to allow itself to be thawed entirely by the outdoor heaters that were strategically hidden in stands and ride queues. But she didn't need the extra senses to know there was something odd about the man at her side. Hannah knew men; they'd walked in, walked in, walked in again. For some reason she couldn't wholly explain, she'd spent the past few years wanting to please as many of them as she could. And now she'd snapped and it was different, and she didn't know why that was the case. But if she thought about it too long, if she allowed her mind to alight on on the branches of her confusion, then she would run mad. She tried really, really hard to keep from spiralling, and her grip on his arm tightened slightly as she looked over and gave him a somewhat vacuous smile. "I lived by the seaside," she told him. "But the fair wasn't on the sea. It was in a quarry, kind of. A big empty area with nothing but dust kicking up like the Dust Bowl. Sometimes I would pretend the dust was going to whisk me away." She leaned closer, conspiratorially. "I didn't really want to be whisked away," she confided. "I have brothers, and I have a sister," she told him after a moment, but it was not a moment of consideration. Hannah, when she got going, tended to go and go and go, words spilling all around her like rain and no consideration for polite or appropriate conversation. "I don't really think any of us have taken care of each other," she concluded plainly.
"But you don't tell me anything about yourself," she coaxed, and she stopped when he did. It was a reaction to his words as much as it was to his body language; she still hadn't lost the habit of being buffeted around, even when there was no true buffeting happening. Her eyes went wide, as did her nostrils. Her heartbeat kicked up a notch, but she looked over at him a moment. Trying, trying, she tried to understand, and there was only one interpretation she could come up with. "Oh. You want the burlesque," she said, because hunger was hunger and men were men. "This way," and she took a step in that direction. Tug, tug, tug on his arm, as one of the costume artists crossed their path. She was tall and blonde and human, and Hannah smiled to her in greeting before tug, tug, tug again.
Daniel tried to distract himself from the wind of his stomach and the glare of the lights. "My mother lived by the seaside. I don't know if she liked it or not, I didn't know her when she was alive. But I saw it later, and it was beautiful. Desolate, though." His educated accent mulled the word over. It wasn't one she would have used, probably. When he had visited, Daniel had barely understood the melodic Irish voices of her old village. They had seemed small and dirty people at the time, an opinion which had shamed him when he thought it. He blinked back to her from the memory. "If your brothers and sisters do not care for you, what is to stop you from being whisked off?" he asked, smiling faintly.
He heard her alarm, and though he staid his arm he smiled at her with renewed vigor. He was unsurprised that she was wary, and was not foolish enough to assume it was shyness. It appealed to his more dishonorable instincts, but not so much that he wasn't quick to reassure her with a complete lack of movement. He made no attempt to grip her arm harder or pull her in any particular direction. "A comedy show? No, that is not what I thought. I…"
The conversation was derailed with the effectiveness of a sudden earthquake when the tall blonde walked past. A flurry of warm body and thrumming pulse diverted Daniel's attention in such a way that his head moved faster than he could stop it, twisting his shoulders and body around in her direction even as she was soon gone. Daniel fought the impulse to pounce in wide view of everyone present, and he almost lost. Control and instinct warring with such intensity that he stopped short as if rooted to the ground.
Daniel wrenched his consciousness in the foreground, breathed hard twice, and then looked down at her. He did not have this reaction to the woman on his arm; he didn't have this reaction to the majority of the people here. They did not smell or taste like food the way that woman had, the blonde that was now gone from his sight, if not his senses. He made no move to follow her, and scowled in confusion.
Mothers, mothers, mothers, and Hannah listened and looked and listened, her head turned after every so many steps, cornflower blue attentively lit upon his face, a butterfly in motion. "Do you wish you'd known her?" she asked, because Hannah did these things. She asked the things that made people uncomfortable, and that had always been her way. "My mother died when I was six, but we didn't live near the water then. That came after, and it wasn't desolate. It was only quiet at night, but it wasn't even quiet then. The sounds were everywhere, even when there weren't any sounds beyond the waves crashing on the shore. In, out, in, out, but really they roll beneath the surface. Waves, did you know that?" she asked, ramble, ramble, and this was why she liked the carnival. Here, she could close her eyes and just be, just not make sense, just let go of the effort to talk like everyone else talked. Like this. "Some of my siblings don't understand that life is short, and soon we'll be the only people alive who knew Mom, and then we'll be the only people alive who knew Dad, and then we'll be the only ones who know our story." They were thoughts whispered, and she looked over at him and smiled again, sunflower bright in the darkness.
She shook her head a moment later, when he said he didn't care to see a comedy show. "No," and brown coils slipped free of her updo. "The burlesque. It's the dancing, and then there's the ticket show after, where they sell more than dancing. Isn't that what you meant?" she asked, and the tip of her head was more curious than fearful. Hannah lived in this perpetual place of fear, and terror was her constant and had been since that year and the house.
The tall blonde walking by didn't draw Hannah's attention. She was waiting to see if he wanted to go to the burlesque, but she was looking at his face, too. The way he moved, attention diverted by someone unseen. He was breathing hard, and she blinked her eyes quickly. "Is something wrong?" she asked, straightening her head, concern taking up residence in her gaze. "Are you not okay?" she asked, but it was one of those things where you really didn't expect an answer; he wasn't okay. "You can come sit. Here, my caravan's close," she offered, too trusting by half, but then that had always been the case too.
Daniel was not uncomfortable about his mother. Enough years had smoothed any unease about her, the manufactured portrait of her face in his head was all he had that wasn't rumor. When he had been young he had been aggressively nonchalant about his birth, mostly to shock his friends and rile his elders, but now the scandal had diminished in his memory to a pinprick of light in a tunnel. He used her like a talisman now, like a Renaissance portrait of Mary. "Of course, yes, I would like to have known her. You never know what kind of mother she might have been, or if she would have enjoyed a son such as I." He sketched his eyebrows up as he again surveyed the sights and sounds of the carnival around them, and spoke finally as if to himself, "I very much doubt it."
He was having trouble focusing on what she was saying, his eyes darting with increasing suspicion on the faces that passed in the distance. No one seemed enticing, but his other senses couldn't tell him why. His hand had fallen away from the one on her arm, and he seemed to catch his breath and resolve, his heels settling into the ground. She moved in some specific direction, whether to the burlesque or her caravan, he wasn't sure which. Alarmed by the crowd that was full of hollow beating hearts that did not call to his increasingly sharp-toothed hunger, he turned to face her. His eyes were not yet threatening, his manner more suspicious, like a farmer who had only just left his hometown.
"Something is wrong. What is this place?" He leaned a bare half-inch into her, his height not enough to loom, and inhaled. It wasn't a sharp sniff, but he took in her scent with his lips ever so slightly parted. She smelled sweet, but she didn't smell… savory. "What are you?"
"Don't most mothers like their sons?" she asked curiously, tipped head and wondering. "You hear about momma's boys all the time. I have two brothers, and I have one kind-of brother. He's not really my brother, but he was going to marry my sister, and she's gone now, and so he's kind of adopted." The sentence was a long one, but her family history was a messy tome, thick and full of footnotes that made reading the main story difficult. "I don't think either of my brothers were momma's boys, though," she admitted, and her expression said she was thinking about the comment as she spoke it. A previously unconsidered thing, and she worried the corner of her lip. "They don't like my dad very much either. I do, though," she admitted, and the conversation was a collection of thoughts strung together beneath carnival lights.
She went quiet when she noticed that he wasn't focused on her, and her gaze tried to find the dissonance he sought in the crowd. His hand fell away, and she watched as it came to rest against his side. He breathed, caught his breath, no, something between one and the other, and she tipped her head, ear to shoulder, as he asked her what was wrong.
That she was surprised went without saying. No one had ever, ever walked in and realized that the people weren't people, the people here. She thought herself as a person most days, and only in the dark silence of her room did thoughts intrude and creep and made her wonder. But she also wasn't like anyone here, and she had a past that wasn't created on the futuristic looking iPads that the technicians used to check on the performers.
She didn't answer him, not really, and she just watched him with curious and unblinking cornflower. "What are you?" she asked him instead. If he knew, he surely wasn't like everyone else walking around. And he wasn't one of the rich patrons, or he wouldn't be asking her the question at all; he would already know.
"Blood." She was talking of blood, of family, and Daniel was too. Daniel was always preoccupied with blood, and in his youth, before coming to America, he had tried to track down the source of his own, to little success. Her own family tale did not surprise him in any way, with the disagreement of siblings, the shifting of generations, those things were constants in the mess of mortal life. "Blood," he repeated, when she looked at him and he looked at her and both of them unwound from the place they had been in both mind and step.
"There is something wrong with the blood. You are not right, you do not seem right." He spoke of her, but not at her, his dark gaze roaming the shifting crowd in the snap of firecracker and lantern glow. Then he looked back at her. "I can smell it." He took a definitive step back, back the way he had come, toward the trees. He didn't know what was going on here, and it felt like a trap: warm lights and warm bodies to draw in the unwary, the deadly flame to his dusty moth.
Blood, he said. Blood, he repeated, and she looked at him and blinked, head cocked to the side and consideration on her face. She wasn't really worried about him figuring things out, and she was usually really, really worried about that. But here, amid things more not-human than her, she felt kind of safe. He, whatever he was, was in the minority here. He was one, and they were many, and she hadn't felt that type of safety since that terrible, terrible day, the one when she'd learned what she was. She blinked at him, slow and considering, feline almost, even with the birdish cock of ear to shoulder.
Hannah was a small thing, not even 5'3, and she was scared of loud noises and quick movements, but he just looked around and said something was wrong, and she wasn't scared. "My blood is mine," she said, which wasn't a disagreement, argument, negation. "I'm sorry," she added, a habit born of apologies issued while cowering in corners, but she was sorry; she hadn't meant to upset him. "I can take you where other people are," she offered, but the offer was a strained one; it would be hard to find him a woman who wasn't an AI here, one that wanted to have sex. She still assumed he was looking for sex, whatever he was.
He made for the trees, and she stood. She didn't chase or call out. She didn't follow. A carney moved past her, and he was one of the men that was paid to ensure none of the 'goods' were damaged. He gave her a quizzical look, as if to ask a question, and then he tried to follow the man into the woods. But the carney was human, and she knew the man wasn't, and she almost, almost called out. He'd been scared of her, but she didn't think he would be scared of the hired man thrashing after him.
She waited to see if either man returned.
Daniel had moved far enough back into the trees that he thought himself safe from prying human eyes. He was being very careful now, making his step very light and his movements very soft. He eased through the shadows, flickering with steps very slow intersected by a speed that confused mammalian eye; this was the key to avoid being seen, and to avoid starting anything with a beating heart. The most speed was achieved when one had the ability to restrain the need to run.
He wasn't sure what the bloodless girl had apologized to him for. He wasn't sure what she was. Perhaps she was some kind of ghost made flesh, or a construct like Frankenstein had made, with a soul added inside later. The number of them gathered in the carnival's immediate area felt wrong to Daniel, like a crowd of people that made not a sound.
He was still within eyesight of the carnival's lights when he heard the man thrashing around after him. He was perhaps thirty yards into the woods and following a trail that didn't exist. Most, most noticeable, the scent the man brought with him. He was about forty, ate too much grease, but the man employed by the carnival kept his stamina with some sort of exercise; he smelled like fast-moving meat to Daniel, who was almost out of his head with hunger by that point.
The vampire circled around, and he caught the man from behind fifty yards later, as easy as you might catch a falling snowflake. He didn't give the man a chance to make a sound at first bite, and after that the soporific from Daniel's fangs loosened the man's struggles against him. There was a small oof of startlement, some thrashing of boots in the dirt, and then that was all for sound. The forest beyond was quiet after that, quiet for some minutes. Twenty ticked by.
Hannah knew she shouldn't follow. She knew she should stay, hover, wait. She should walk away and pretend she hadn't seen the man follow, and she shouldn't tell anyone that she believed there was something really, really wrong with the man that had just been wandering the carnival.
She had no gift for telling what people were or weren't, and David was a good example. He thought he was dead, and Hannah thought he wasn't, but there weren't answers anywhere. And she had a ghost, one all her own and bent, but she didn't see other people's ghosts; she'd never seen Si's. And the house, the house was different, and that would be so hard to explain. She had tired a long, long time ago from trying to explain to people that the house had spoken to them, that the Mayer family was supposed to live and die and live there, that they were still there, and the house was still with them. But that didn't mean she could see supernatural things, and she didn't know what the man in the woods was. But she knew he wasn't like other people, and she knew he was trouble.
And she knew she should stay where she was.
But step, step, step, rustle, step. She was light on her feet, tiny and small, but she still made noise. Her heart thudded against her chest, and her breath was caught against birdcage-ribs, and she peered out from behind a tree in time to see the man, the carney, flailing. Flail, flail, flail, and she watched. She watched as she had when she'd come upon David killing a man. She watched, and then there was still and quiet, and her voice lifted to join the distant calliope of carnival sounds. "You bit him?" she asked, head tipped to the side, ear to shoulder, curiosity writ on her wide-eyed features.
He didn't hear her coming, but he heard her after she was there. Not that he could have stopped what he was doing even if he had heard her, it would have been trying to stop swimming when he was drowning. Eating was like that, if he went too long without. Normally he might have felt guilty about being careless, but these were extraordinary circumstances.
Eating was one of those essential things, like breathing and fucking, that didn't have clear descriptors. It was just a feeling of satisfaction, a silent sense of primal surety. A silent scream of survival that tasted like iron and blizzards. Cutting off that sensation was difficult. How difficult can't be expressed, though Daniel was old and had practice at it.
That being said, with Hannah there, Daniel's prey had a significantly shorter lifespan than it might have had otherwise.
Daniel turned his head away from the limp man's neck and her as well, seeming to stare into the trees while he struggled with his instincts. He took a very slow and audible breath, and then turned his chin slowly back in her directions. His eyes were quite black, from lid to lid, the pupils unnaturally wide. His lips too were drawn back from his teeth, many teeth, both sharper and longer than before. He flexed his jaw (this also unnaturally out of place) and then, with care, licked the top of one lip around all those teeth. He didn't try to answer. Speaking around a mouthful of teeth wasn't practical.
Daniel straightened out of his hawk-like hunch over the man's exposed shoulder, took the man by the collar, and lowered him to the ground. He wasn't careless, but he wasn't gentle either. He draped him over the wet pine needles and then stepped back so he could not smell him as strongly. Again he flexed his jaw, and some of the teeth withdrew and his lips settled. He licked them again, quicker this time, savoring. He blinked at her, without giving the obvious answer to her obvious question.
She stood and watched, and her feet were planted on cold grass and dead earth, and she didn't scream or call for help or try to assist. She was frozen, a thing that could not move, and only the cornflower blue of her eyes showed any kind of motion. Blink and flicker, whites wide beneath moonlight. She knew the man was going to die, the man being... fed on?
And it likely said something of her past, of the horrors she'd witnessed in a house that could eat people, of all the things she'd witnessed in her own matrimonial house years and years later, but she stayed very still and very quiet, and there wasn't any surprise to her. She tipped her head to the side ultimately, ear to shoulder, curious and curiouser, and this wasn't like David. It wasn't like David killing someone, and she felt like the heroine in Northanger Abbey, except that this was true and it wasn't in her mind. She was no Catherine Morland inventing scenes from novels and succumbing to hysteria. This was real, and she knew it was real, and she knew it in the same way that she knew that the house from her childhood was alive and hungry.
She straightened, and then she saw the stygian eyes, black, black, black, and the teeth white and pointed sharp. She was a dead girl inside an abomination of technology, and she still couldn't hold back the scream that came as the man was lowered to the ground, dead, dead, dead, and as the man licked his lips. Sharp and loud and SCREAM!!!!!!!!!!!, even as she shoved her fist into her mouth in search of silence.
The sound of the carney's unmoving body hitting the ground was the only warning before the vampire was hard against Hannah's hip and shoulder, his hand doing a better job than her fist to muffle the scream. It escaped as a short, harsh whistle just before he'd got to her, the sound of her drawing air into her lungs as clear to him as enunciated speech would have been to her. He pushed her back into the turn of his arm, fast, unforgiving, his strength enough to seal her lips but not bend her spine. "Shh," he said, not seductively but urgently. "Shh. He is fine. See, you will see. I have not done any lasting harm. Shhh, or you will make more trouble than we need."
He hushed her again, through now flat, innocent teeth, and looked away from her to listen to the trees beyond, worried she had brought groundskeepers or guards, perhaps more carnival folk that knew bloodsuckers from customers. No shouting immediately met his keen ears, and he looked back down at her, whispering his urgent, clipped whisper. "He is fine. Look, I will show you. Come." He pulled her, almost lifted her from the ground, without effort, and brought her the several steps toward the prone man's form.
The man was breathing, heartily enough, and no blood was staining the layers of pine needles. "See? Now shh, sweeting, or you'll get me in trouble." He looked into her eyes for assent, suspicious, but urgent. He didn't want to have to drag some carnival girl off; her people would notice and traveling carnival folk were not the kind that vampires wanted to cross.
Hannah didn't expect him to move toward her, but she wasn't really expecting anything. She was caught up in memories of a living house and black, black eyes, and she was transfixed, rooted, and like the child she'd been when the house had eaten her in the foyer, she just screamed. Then, when she was small, no one had been able to see her. She'd been there, standing, screaming and crying, and her family had been running around looking for her, but they hadn't been able to see or hear her. But here, here it was different, and he did hear her.
She didn't see him move, but he was there, and Hannah had too much experience with men moving quickly to do anything but freeze. Shh, but she wasn't moving anymore. She was quiet by the time his hand covered her mouth, and she was quiet by the time his hip abutted hers, and then she was quiet even more. He is fine, and she blinked, and she believed it, and nod, nod, nod, and yes I see, and she swallowed and nodded. There wasn't any blood. There was nothing bad. And she didn't want to get him in trouble, and she didn't want to get herself in trouble.
She had no idea that his lulling voice was a thing made of convincing, or she would've wondered why she could be convinced. She thought she was immune to things, but she didn't realize there was immunity to be had here. She was just quiet and still, and she wanted to live and go, and she didn't even feel bad for the carney who was now just a breath away from the tips of her toes. "He's fine," she repeated, and she turned her head and tipped it up to look at the man who held her. Wide eyes, the whites bright, bright, and her expression seeking approbation. He's fine, right? He's fine, and this is good, and we're good.
Behind them, the carnival was a loud and hurdy-gurdy affair, and people screamed in the haunted house, and people shrieked on the rides, and maybe no one would notice a woman screaming in the woods.
Daniel looked down into Hannah's face, and made an inward grimace. The pupils made him think she was closing on shock, and he didn't have a clear picture of how far his hypnotic effect really went. It depended on the person, their abilities, and even their sense of self. Once Daniel had been able to talk a man out of a punch as the fist pulled back, and another time, he hadn't been able to persuade an irritated woman to take a cup of tea.
Daniel thought of Claire. She would not approve of this situation. It wasn't his fault the woman had followed him into the forest, after all. It wasn't fair. "Yes," Daniel murmured, glancing back to the man crumpled at the foot of the tree. He sighed, quietly. "He will be fine. He will sleep it off, and there will be nary a nip there in the morning." He patted her carefully on the tops of her shoulders, the way one might settle a child after they'd taken a tumble, then caught her gaze in his long dark one. Daniel sighed yet again. She was not recovering.
"You are very pale," he told Hannah, in his low, easy voice. "You should lie down a bit, until you feel better. You can come along to my house, and in the morning you'll be right as rain." Hannah was in no danger there, though Daniel was trying to imagine how best to sneak a woman into the house with his grandson and his grandson's lover mooching about. He tried to recall how long it had been since he had been to the music store. Hopefully he had not missed a generation, that would further complicate things.
Hannah's reaction was a combination of things, a tangle, a memory of black eyes and being lost in a house where no one could hear her. A woman with a bent neck haunting the foot of her bed for years and years, and dark lank hair and familiarity and sleep without waking. And she hadn't seen her now in days and days or maybe in weeks and weeks or maybe more, or since she'd tried to go back. "The house called me," she told the man, the black-eyed man, the thing and maybe he was from the house, and maybe she was supposed to go. At her feet, the carney was there, alive, and she wasn't, and something in her mind went snickt into place, and it wasn't a puzzle piece that she could handle fitting. She wasn't aware that she was being lulled, and it wasn't the fear of Marcus, Marcus, Marcus, have to get it right, can't get it wrong, but it was always wrong, because Marcus was always waiting for the misstep with that glint and gleam in his eyes. "He likes crying more than smiles," she said, and maybe this was short-circuiting, or something more or different or else. It was a little like that one time... but she couldn't remember what the one time was.
But the man, the one that wasn't on the cold, cold earth, and maybe it was David down there. David, who thought he was dead, but who wasn't. She knew death, and David wasn't dead. Molly was, and she was waiting at the house, and this man with the all-black eyes, he was the house, wasn't he?
She blinked as he tapped her on the shoulders. "Okay, I'll come home," she told him, and nod, and finally, and it was a weight shucked. Maybe the madness in her eyes was evident as she blinked cornflower up at him. Pale, pale, and she didn't quite feel like she was whole, but it would be okay. "Everything's been out of order. Time, I mean. I thought for so long that time was like a line, that... that our moments were laid out like dominoes, and that they... fell, one into another and on it went, just days tipping, one into the next, into the next, in a long line between the beginning... and the end. But I was wrong. It's not like that at all. Our moments fall around us like rain. Or... snow. Or confetti," and she knew she'd said the words before, but it was okay.
And black, black, black at the edges. Against him, she grew heavy. Limbs first, and then her head lolling, and she gave him a look. "Tell Si not to worry," she said, because that was so, so, so important. "Promise," she said, attempting to ensure his agreement, but the work blinked out, and for a moment there was bliss, bliss, lack of knowing. There was nothing.