The fox and the hound (Eric/Pastor John log; complete)
It had been quite a long night and the evening itself had barely begun. The sun had sank deep into the skyline only an hour before but it seemed as if the moments were drifting lazily by like a slow-moving river, idling and listless.
Having nothing better to do with his time, and avoiding the repair of a clogged pipe beneath the sink in the kitchen, Eric decided to get back to his roots. Detroit was a good ways away, it felt like a place in some distant past or some faded memory, but he still carried it with him even now.
The television hanging above the bar was playing some baseball game, not a team he was familiar with, but his mind drifted back to the Tigers once in a while. As well, the atmosphere of the place was filled with rock music, local stuff. At present there was a group belting out an off-key rendition of Purple Rain. Eric winced every time a finger slipped and a note went awry. They were butchering a good song, but it wasn't his place to correct them.
A few groupies swayed to the tune and were stationed at the front of the small stage set-up and the PA system did a superb job of filtering the music throughout the rest of the place.
Nobody seemed to notice him, or the too-large black crow that was perched on the bar top next to his arm, and that was fine. Bran was eating peanuts out of a small bowl, the distinct crunch in its beak made a cracking sound. Eric had to keep reminding the bird that they were called peanuts.
"...quite delightful.." the bird mentioned in Eric's mind. "They usually are," Eric replied softly.
A half consumed beer of some type he also was unfamiliar with sat next to the bird. He liked the taste of it more than anything but it had long since lost its appeal. There was much more on his mind that he couldn't shake. Especially not with a beer or any type of alcohol, he couldn't get drunk anymore even if he tried. A drawback of the change. Or was that a benefit?
It was probably a benefit. Probably.
Another wince at the singers voice as it cracked, and Eric sighed. This was going to be a long freaking night.
John had been up training and so he was tired, even early in the night. Since his meeting with Eric and initial tutorials with his sister, he’d been out every night honing his hunting skills in both stalking and glamor, intent on being worthy of the bloodline he’d been born into.
Still, he seldom fed from his practice, marking it as a sign that he was still well in control when he turned away prime living blood. To keep up his strength and control over his hunger he brought a flask of True Blood, an insurance policy so he never lost control and brought attention to himself or his family.
“Go,” he whispered against the neck of a young blonde he’d glamored, releasing her arm and watching her giggle and teeter off to a cab he’d hailed a moment before. He was less clumsy than his first attempts, but he was still not as aggressive as his sire or sibling. Still barely as practiced.
His stomach rumbled as a perfect meal teetered into the vehicle. He handed a few bills to the driver, then stood back as the car took off and down the street. The girl would be fine. The blood would be there, if he needed it…..
John frowned, one hand going to his stomach. He’d been feeding less every night at home, finding that hunger helped to motivate his training. But tonight he might have pushed it. His teeth had sprouted at the blonde’s jugular, his lust threatening a self imposed time limit for enjoying the prey’s vulnerability.
He grunted and grabbed his flask from his jacket, opening it and swigging half of the synthetic mix. He gagged slightly, realizing it had grown too warm in his pocket. Yeah, he’d waited too long. He crinkled his nose at the concoction, but being a cautious being he reasoned it would be better to finish the drink while it was still good, and he could get a better grip over his appetite.
He spotted the nearby bar; a dingy looking affair. Still, almost anything would be better than straight shooting the rest of the turning blood substitute.
With a sigh the young vampire turned and went for the bar. The awful singing inside told him that it was probably a safe place; nobody looking for trouble would put up with singing like that. Sighing the former pastor entered, and found himself a spot a the bar. He didn’t even register the bird at his barmate’s side till after he’d ordered a few rounds of whiskey.
Silently cursing his own failure to look for odd occurrences, John downed the first shot like he had no second thoughts, and picked up the second. The harsh alcohol pushed the blood substitute out of his mouth, and he made no move for the flask inside his jacket. Nor did he acknowledge whatever the creature beside him was, or his pet.
His eyes glanced up to the television screen as if that was what he was focused on, and he tipped the second small glass past his lips. All he wanted was to get out of this without calling attention to himself, preferably without calling attention to his own particular failure to recognize, or even now identify, the supernatural being next to him. He’d finish his drinks, then leave, and on the way home force himself to down the True Blood without a chaser, to be safe. for control and energy. He wasn’t looking for a fight when he was having trouble pegging what his adversary even was.
The instant the newborn entered the bar Eric could feel the change in the air. There was something about the presence he could pick up on instantly. He had always been able to hone in on it because of the bird. Bran noticed before he had, the bird lifting its head instantly. It's black eyes tilted in the direction of the newcomer and Eric sighed.
Shit. This was not looking promising. He was already in hot water with Macklyn, he didn't need to kill a vampire on top of that. The smart thing to do would be to leave, to get out while there was no situation.
But he had been there first and it wasn't like this place attracted trouble, which had been the appeal. It was a very small dive that hosted local music with an open mic.
Vampire. Bran stated.
I know. Just be cool...you know, relax.
I do not understand what that means.
Eric sighed in frustration. Bran puffed the feathers on his breast and walked about the bar unsettled. The hybrid pretended not to notice the bird's demeanor.
He picked up he half consumed beer and began to absently pick the label from the amber glass. His eyes glanced up at the screen, and Eric shook his head, "That should have been safe. He totally made it to the plate before that tag. What a bogus call."
The song had switched from Prince to Madonna, and the bassist of the band in stage had stepped up to deliver her rendition of Like A Prayer. At least she was better than the singer, that was a relief.
John kept a wary watch of the bird. He didn’t know what it was, or why, but he knew supernatural when he saw it, and the bird was definitely… off.
He glanced up at the television as the other commented on the play. He hadn’t really been paying attention, but he just shrugged a shoulder casually. “Half the fun of professional sports is the blind refs, though. Probably just makin’ the game closer to keep viewers,” he said. He had no illusion that the other didn’t know what he was. If he’d picked up on it, he was reasonably sure the other had made him before he’d reached the bar.
He looked at the shots left on the counter, then sideways over at the stranger before he sighed inwardly and reached for his flask. There wasn’t a point in hiding, and he may need the extra strength for a quick getaway. He had no desire to start a fight or trouble if he could just escape and find his sister.
He unscrewed the cap of the flask and finished the True Blood, swallowing before stashing the flask and finishing the row of shots, finding the alcohol could only do so much to offset the taste. Still better to have the chaser, though.
As the bird began to move around in agitation John slowly turned his head over, studying the creature. Knowing full well that the bird was probably upset with him for some reason, the former pastor slowly reached out and pushed the nearest bowl of peanuts over towards the beast, as if guessing that that was what the creature wanted.
“Don’t see a lot of loose birds around as pets. He must be awfully fond of you,” he said conversationally.
Eric offered a shrug as a reply. That was a good point, and honestly his loyalty to the sport was sporadic at best. His lifestyle as a human had been too eventful for keeping up with recreational sports like baseball, so he was no avid fan by any stretch of a measure. He simply enjoyed the small snaps here and there he had been able to catch and he followed the games some through the news on the radio when he could.
"Probably. I guess that makes it more interesting to watch," Eric said softly.
Slowly Eric offered the blonde vampire his attention. His eyes captured the row of shots lined up on the bar before the male. He could smell the whiskey, a scent with enough strength to cover the worse smells. And the odor of the liquid in the flask wasn't lost on the hybrid either though he chose to ignore the move. It seemed better that way though it was validation to the species. As if he needed more proof.
"He's not a pet," Eric replied softly, his words amused and without harshness. Bran ruffled his wings as if to further secure the point. "He's more like a conscience if anything."
Eric had to at least make an attempt to separate himself from the situation. He owed Macklyn that much.
Setting the half-full bottle with the half-peeled label down before himself, Eric shifted from the stool. He fished a few bills out of the pocket of the black, tight-fitting blazer he wore and laid them on the bar. Catching the bartender's attention, Eric nodded at the man, "Whatever is left give to the band," he hybrid breathed, sliding the cash at the attendant, earning a nod.
With that done, Eric offered Bran his fingers as a perch, a gesture of touch against the bottom part of the crow's breast to urge the avian up on to the digits. Once Bran had settled, Eric lifted the crow and set the bird on his shoulder.
He offered the blonde vampire a nod of farewell and turned, walking away. It was the best he could hope for, putting distance between himself and the vampire. At least he could say that he tried if it came up in conversation. He suspected that the vampire might follow, and if that happened Eric would deal with it from there.
But at least he wasn't actively tempting danger. It seemed to find him regardless.
He slid out of the door and into the night, taking to the shadows with ease.
John watched the other leave, nodding back to him, but as the fellow with the bird left he had an uneasy feeling.
He finished his drinks and paid as well, turning and slipping out the back. He didn’t know why but the other man had set off alarm bells, a warning so instinctive he had trouble biting back the impulse to simply attack. The vampire and soldier in him told him that there was something wrong with the other, and it wasn’t what was off about John. That man was no vampire.
He stuck to the shadows, trailing the other from a reasonable difference. He watched the man and bird with equal intent, since it was obvious enough that the creature was no more an average crow than the man was a human.
Still, he didn’t approach, and stuck to the shadows with his hands in his pockets. His instincts told him this man could be a threat, and though he wasn’t ready to bet himself prepared for a fight, he felt an obligation for the security of his family to do a bit of recon. It was no less in his nature to simply flee than to blindly attack, and Pam’s fresh lessons about attentiveness and observation were fresh in his mind.
The wind captured the scent of the trailing vampire, the one from the bar. That was what Eric had been dreading, being followed. And while Macklyn was attached to him in a psychic manner, Eric didn't want to reach out to his mate if he didn't have to. The shadows would serve him well enough.
The bird pushed from Eric's shoulder and took to the sky to be a lookout. Keeping to the darkness, the hybrid followed with ease.
A rooftop nearby offered solace, a place to evade his follower and Eric accepted its grace. It was there he perched in silence, hoping the other would pass him without incident. This could get ugly. The last thing he wanted was to start a war and put Macklyn at risk.
He waited, patient and still, to see if the footfalls would bypass his position.
They didn’t. Instead, John took a tactical route and appeared to the side, making no noticeable sound at all. All of his training, human and vampire, was being focused on the situation. He didn’t know it, but he had no more desire to make an incident than the other.
He stepped out of the shadows, hands still in the pockets of his denima jacket, and looked up at the bird now hidden but still overhead.
He blinked a few times, frowning slightly, then slowly lowered his gaze, meeting Eric’s eye unflinchingly as he analyzed the other.
“You’ll have to forgive me. I’m relatively new to the supernatural world. I don’t know what you are,” he said, never letting go of the manners of his southern roots. They were as ingrained on him as Eric’s Viking roots. “My name is John. John Tudor.”
Eric sighed. He had a feeling the newborn would show up and his shoulders slumped some before they straightened. He licked over his lips and waited until the other appeared before lifting his head. They locked eyes and Eric waited as the other male spoke.
A smile, "Do you believe in ghosts?" The phantom hybrid inquired softly.
Bran cawed loudly as if to push the point. "A phantom. Not many can pick up on it, so it's no surprise that you don't know what to call me."
It wasn't a total lie, not really. Phantom was the root, the other parts were more prevalent but the origin was phantom. His skin was warmer than most, eyes brighter, but lacking the blood from his mate he was not at his peak but that did not hinder his skills.
"Eric Draven," he breathed in reply. It was only fair.
John thought about the question, and slowly shrugged. “I don’t think I knew what I believed, back when I drew breath and believed vampires were fictional stories. And I haven’t put much thought into it since I was shown otherwise.”
He looked around, into the darkness, around the City. His foot scuffed the dirt. “Seen some mighty weird things around since being taken, though.” More than enough not to be surprised by the ghost’s identity.
He nodded at the name, dipping his head slightly as he offered a somewhat timid smile. “Pleasure to meet you, Eric. And… sorry, if I spooked you by following you out here. I’m still trying to figure out my place, here, and what exactly I’m dealing with in this City. I only got here a short while back.” He wasn’t going to mention his family to the stranger, but he wasn’t lying except by omission. He was still trying to get a grip on what was out in the City, and he’d always been friendly. That didn’t seem to have changed just because his soul was gone.
Eric nodded. "Sometimes we have to really see something for ourselves to truly know it exists." He had never imagined that this would be his life and yet here it was and he was glad for it. He wouldn't have traded it for anything.
He chuckled with amusement, "Weird isn't the half of it, but I get what you're saying. The realm of darkness has an array of fascinating creatures." Bran ruffled his feathers as if to state truth to the point.
"I think all of the people here are adjusting. It just takes time. I hope you aren't all by yourself as you settle in." He had to have a sire or something, he was far too new to exist by himself. "It's nice to meet you, too. You aren't the first vampire I've met, but you are the first here."
“When I was human I thought all the monsters were myths. Since I’ve been pulled around from world to world, though, I wonder if I just couldn’t see any of them,” John ran a hand through his blonde hair. But he doubted it, he couldn’t imagine vampires surviving undetected back on his Earth. And ghosts as physical as Eric… then again, if he hadn’t been turned by a vampire, he still probably wouldn’t believe in the monsters as much. Magic was easy to explain away or ignore if you wished to.
“The City seems to provide everything we need,” he mused, avoiding answering the question about companionship directly. He didn’t get the feeling that Eric was overly happy to see a vampire. The whole conversation seemed one wrong word from a confrontation. Even if Eric wasn’t some new type of monster, John didn’t want to cause unnecessary trouble if he could help it. And his sire wouldn’t be too patient with those types of antics, either.
The hybrid nodded, "Me too. Monster movies were always a favorite of mine. It's almost insane how well we adapt to the idea that there is more to the world than humans really see in their lifetimes. I suppose it makes us rethink the probability that maybe psychics do exist and maybe it's humanity that's not smart enough to realize the truth. Or maybe they all just live in denial."
Eric chuckled a little bit, "You aren't kidding about the City providing," he began, shaking his head. "It gave me a place to haunt, but I think it's kind of cliche to haunt the exact apartment you died in, which I guess is the reason I'm out here. Trying to find new places to haunt that aren't quite so tragic and boring. Usually I try to keep to myself, as you can see by the place I picked." The shady dive had been perfect for being alone and yet among people that didn't notice how much he would stand out in that crowd.
"Despite all of that, I like to think I'm better off now than I was. At least I can't die again, so there's a perk."
“It was always my experience,” John smiled slightly to himself. ”Ignorance was very kind to its charges.” The rich he’d served, who knew nothing of want or strife. The free who knew nothing of servitude or true entrapment.
He didn’t mention his apartment being brought to the City as well. He supposed it was still there even though he’d moved in with his sire as soon as they’d found each other. He’d planned on keeping it in case he needed someplace to lie low at some point, but he didn’t think he wanted to stay there. It was too weird to see all of the reminders of his past sitting there, as if expecting to be used and regarded normally. There was nothing normal about John anymore.
He nodded when he thought about dying again. “I’m not sure I did the first time. Or perhaps I didn’t really come back,” he shrugged slightly. It didn’t matter. he felt mostly the same, apart from having lost his aversion to blood and violence. And the hunger, but that didn’t weigh on his personality as long as he kept it under control.
Eric and John both would have held the same ideals about their former residences though Eric had no other place to go but there at present. The house he had been staying in was occupied and because of that he couldn't stay there. Not that he didn't want to go back, but he physically couldn't.
The hybrid nodded and shrugged his shoulders, "At least you aren't the only one of your kind. Or at least I assume you aren't, like I said you're the first one I've come across." Then Eric sighed.
We must go, Bran said.
I know, Eric replied.
"Look, I have something to do at the library. There's something there I've been meaning to check out, and I figure it's as good a place as any to haunt. Lots of places to hide. I hate to run on you but I figure you've probably got better things to do than stand here all night and bullshit." It was said with all of the kindness he could give. "Maybe I'll see you around," Eric invited, taking a step backward toward the ledge of the roof.
"Maybe not. I guess that's up to you. It was nice meeting you, John."
With that, the hybrid turned and leapt from the roof and down on to the street. The bird pushed from the roof and in an instant both had vanished into the shadows of the night.