Selina was not a foreigner to the darker parts of the City, she lived for excitement and thrills especially when they were a challenge to her skills. She'd hung up her catsuit and mask a long while back, pledging her remaining years to Bruce indefinitely. It was a promise she would keep - no longer would she stalk the evening hours with the urge to pillage and loot. No, she would keep her word and be good. She would come back to the place she called home at the end of each day and be the wife Bruce deserved.
That didn't, though, mean she was through thrill-seeking, especially when the opportunity presented itself before her like an early Christmas gift.
She was no stranger amongst the throng of the undead, they fascinated her so. In spite of Ben’s warning to her want of immortality, she couldn't help but surround herself in the lifestyle once in awhile. It was new, it promised excitement and a taste of something different. Her body craved it solely because of that assurance.
A click of her heels down the dark alley was the only true sound echoing from the bricks and the pavement. This was one of the darker corners of the place, she knew it fairly well having visited a time or two. A familiar vampire hotspot lit the street on the next block, a simple turn to the left would have taken her there once she reached the mouth of the alley.
Her attire was one to suggest that the club was the intended destination, a form fitting dress that clung easy to her curves and accented the current sashay of her hips. The curiosity of whom might be lurking in the shadows made her heart race with excitement.
There it was, that thrill. She could have bathed in it endlessly for days and nights and never had her fill of it. It hurt her to know that Bruce had given up chasing thrills, that he would never know such excitement anymore. But that was who he had become. Eventually she would give them up, too. That would be a day to rue.
John hadn’t been out to hunt. He’d been turning himself down, ever since the recent and violent episode. He’d gone too far and had almost been caught. There was certainly enough damage done to get him noticed in an unsavory fashion by his sire or siblings. He’d been attempting to do good, but the influences on him had finally woken the demonic parts of him that wondered what he actually could do. What he could get away with, if he only just indulged….
He lurked outside his own kinds’ hotspot. He wasn’t trying to take anybody; to him it seemed a reasonable action. He was present to prevent anybody being taken; by vampire or by lowlife. That helped make the area seem safer to those who went there for the vampire-bar aspect without the suicidal fantasies. Just because they were blood-suckers, it didn’t mean they had to be dangerous. John’s remaining conscience was appeased by his diligence in making sure his family’s territory was free of crime and violence. And since it was a fairly boring task, it seemed to keep him out of the notice of his sire or sibling. John didn’t mind being an unthreatening disappointment. He cared about his survival, and then his family.
When his eyes fell on the knockout in the little black dress he paused. She was definitely attractive, almost the definition of bait. He didn’t turn towards her, or move from his vantage point leaning against the end of the building nearest an alley, but he did watch her carefully. He could hear her heart beating and the quick breath. She knew she was tempting, and enjoying it, and John appreciated that she of all people would draw out the potential threat he was there to monitor. Getting to smell her fear added to her perfumed scent would just be a bonus.
The darkness was no stranger to Selina, she had been a child born into it with no way to control it. All of the odds had ever been out of her favor; she had done what she could in her adult years to control her inevitable fate. Sometimes it had worked out, and other times she had fallen short.
Her eyes were accustomed to the shadows. Her vision was nothing like that of the creatures she knowingly tempted, she couldn't see any more detail than the average human nor were her senses any higher than usual. She had just learned to adapt.
The silhouette at the mouth of the alley didn't shock or surprise her, in fact her feet continued to carry her in that direction. Every so often the gemstones that dotted her wrist, her ears - the wedding ring on her finger...they all captured the faintest sparkle of light and reflected it as if to claim she was more than the night.
Bypassing the tall blonde leaning at the wall, Selina didn't even bother to give him a second glance even as she spoke to him, “You always hang out in the alleyway?” It came in a sultry purr, a temptation of words that could coax the coldest of hearts into a playful flame.
John’s eyes glanced across the jewelry. This woman seemed to be begging for the attention of any criminal or thug. Still, she carried herself with a confidence that told him she may be more prepared than one would think for any trouble. He’d lived in a community where the most delicate socialite had alarmingly large handguns in impossibly small purses. He also had a sister now, who loved to play with people and use their perceptions of her to surprise and disarm them. He didn’t for a moment let himself trust that this woman was as vulnerable as she appeared. Not before he saw her in some kind of conflict.
When she spoke to him, he turned his head slightly, letting the lazy southern smile cross his lips.
“Just keeping an eye out for trouble,” he responded, not moving from where he leaned. “We’ve heard a few people back here that might be causing a fuss. I’m making sure they don’t come back and bother anybody lovely, like yourself.”
At the comment Selina slowed. A playful smirk toyed with her lips and she finally stilled motion, eyes narrowed with amusement. A tilt of her head as if she were considering the weight of the words he'd spoken.
Finally, offering him an ounce of her attention, Selina pivoted slowly on the ball of her heel to face the tall stranger, “What lives in the dark doesn't scare me, stranger, but that's a kind offer.”
He was right to assume that she was more than she appeared. Selina knew the danger she tempted and she was also aware she was no fair match for it. Despite being dreadfully outgunned, she still flirted with the danger. It offered a rush she couldn't find in many other places. That, and she knew powerful people. Only a fool would dare challenge her.
“You don't look like much of a hero type,” Selina breathed, placing a hand on her hip casually. She studied him. More people than she could count were also more than they seemed, she wouldn't underestimate this one. Nor would she entirely toss him to the back burner. He could be useful. Maybe. Or maybe not. Not everyone had potential and Selina was only interested in the profit.
The woman definitely wanted attention. John wondered if she knew what he was, or sensed it. Or maybe she was just a risk taker, trying to catch the eye of anybody who’d show her a good time. There were plenty of the type, especially around here.
“We should all be mindful of what’s in the dark in this place,” he responded simply. He was one of those dangerous things, and he knew there were far worse out there. And those were just the things he was aware of, he was sure the City had more up its sleeves and in its basements.
The critical eye was met with an easy, amused smile. The same one he used to wear while frantic and nearly insane housewives ranted about their inattentive husbands or what the pricey schools were having their children read. A pastor’s smile. It hid the curiosity of her approach, and intent. He was glad he’d had plenty of synthetic earlier. It still had a lingering taste to it, but if he’d been hungry it would have been more difficult to ignore the lovely meal who was making sure she had his attention.
“I’m definitely not,” he said, turning to look over his shoulder as a noise caught his attention. Just a cat. “I’m just making sure those who want to drink at my family’s establishment make it safely. We like the reputation of patrons making it to and from our place safely, no matter where the City situates us.”
“To be mindful of the dark, you have to be a little afraid of what it's hiding,” she replied. She had no fear. She had no reason to fear the darkness, it'd always been the constant in her life and she trusted it more than most people.
Finally she paused within a couple of arms reach of the tall blonde man, eyes catching a better look at him. There was something about that smile, the way he glanced over his shoulder at the cat she could also sense, that made her a touch uneasy.
At mention of the place being of his family, Selina’s eyebrow arched, “Oh? This place belongs to your family? Hm.” It was an interesting fact, one she would hold on to for a while. It might be beneficial to her later.
“I've been here before once or twice, it's nice. The patrons here have manners, which isn't always typical. Is that because they're so worried about you?” She teased, baiting him a little bit. She couldn't help it. Like the cat would, she toyed a bit with what ever she was able to catch between her paws.
Family was the easiest word to use. Better than “nest”, anyway. He saw her eyes light up. She probably assumed he was from money, and as far as he knew, she wasn’t wrong. Eric was probably quite wealthy, though it rarely applied to John. He had never had an interest in material items beyond his guitar.
“We don’t like trouble,” he said simply. And that was true. It was part of why he was patrolling so close, and why he had never gotten into trouble within earshot or eyesight of the place. They needed to avoid the attention brawls and blood would bring. And it helped to find willing donors if the environment was civil and less threatening. “I’m glad you had a good time. Are you coming back for a drink?”
He pulled a hand out of his pocket to gesture towards the building, then thought better of it and offered her his arm instead. There was no obligation to get her a drink, but she seemed determined to have his attention, and he found no reason not to accompany her inside.
Selina had never been much for family. She'd had one back before her parents died, and the thought of having one now was tantalizing but it had always been just her. Even her sister had vanished without a trace, a girl lost in the foster system.
“I can see why that would be problematic for you,” Selina replied. Vampires wouldn't have wanted to attract attention more than what they already had. It made sense not to hunt where you slept. This ones family had taught him well. Maybe that was why Pam had never drank from Selina within earshot of the place. Curious.
“A drink? No, I don't drink. It killed my family, I stay as far away from anything stronger than coffee for that reason.” She didn't say it unkindly, just matter-of-fact. It wasn't something she spoke of often, or something that came up often in conversation. But when it did come up it needed to be stated.
The offer of the arm was inviting, though, and Selina took another step forward. “Maybe we can just go some place else to talk instead? Unless you're on door duty for the rest of the night.”
He tilted his head at her explanation, looking at her curiously. Then he remembered his manners, and shook his head slightly. “I’m sorry to hear that,” he said, putting as much sincerity as he could in his words. Not for the first time, being a man of the cloth had left him trained to display sincerity even when he felt complete apathy underneath.
“If I was on door duty I would be at the door,” John teased slightly, but continued to offer his arm. “I think there’s a coffee house just down the road, however. If you prefer.” He was surprised that she’d be frequenting areas like this while not looking for drink and company, but it did confirm that she was more than she seemed. She must be here for some reason. John was curious, but not terribly concerned. Everything about her seemed to be human, and whatever motivated her to strut around dressed as she was was unlikely to be relevant to him.
“A door can have more than one meaning,” Selina purred, shaking her head at the tall vampire. “Do you always escort the ladies to get coffee? How gentlemanly of you, especially to a stranger no less.”
Her arm curled about his own, accepting the invitation. He piqued her curiosity but in a different way than usual. This man was not near as fascinating as Ben, her best-friend and a man who knew her in so many ways that she would never advertise to anyone. Nor was this man as fascinating as Eric, but he was frustrating and hard to break through. This vampire was a different sort of interesting and she couldn't place exactly why. Maybe it was because he wasn't acting the way one might expect one of that sort to act.
“So, what else do they have at this place? Do you go there often?” Casual conversation was always a good place to start since they'd hurdled over the commonplace of name exchange.
He walked moderately slowly, his long legs covering quite a bit of ground, but his steps measured so she could keep up without too much effort. She looked and moved athletically, but he’d gotten used to escorting women with far shorter skirts as a pastor, and so the slower gait was natural to him.
“Sometimes if a waitress or a patron want an escort. They seem to be more comfortable with me than some other guards, or patrons. We’ll go to whatever coffee house is open while they wait for a cab or their friends. I don’t mind seeing them home safely. As I said, we like to make sure everybody who comes into our establishment is as safe as they want to be.”
He looked up as they approached the cafe, though he had been able to smell the organic beans they stocked, and their doughnuts. “I’ve been here before, it’s pretty good.”
Selina glanced up as well, noting something she'd seen before. An absent comment complimented what the stranger had said, “Hmm. I've been noticing these icky webs lately. I hope the Spider is alright.”
She let it go after that, unwilling to share much more about the man she knew only as Peter Parker, affectionately only as the Spider.
“Chivalry isn't dead, I see,” Selina teased. She was curious as to what this man had done in his previous life, his stride was casual and complimentary on purpose. She knew how quickly vampires moved and yet he was taking the time to pace himself at a mortal speed.
John looked up when the ‘icky’ webs were mentioned. He immediately thought about Venom, but he didn’t comment on the subject. Part of him was still aching to go back out and find Eddie, to play beast with him again. But that was most likely a terrible solution. Perhaps it would be prudent to check in on the symbiote, however. After all, the webs were fresh and that meant the hulking man was still lurking in the shadows.
“I heard Spiderman was around,” he said absently, as if the matter bored him. He wasn’t looking to continue the discussion, or allow himself to get pre-occupied with Eddie. Not in company.
He noted her thanks, and allowed himself to smile. “I spent several years in the company of those who demanded poise and social appearance. It was important to learn my graces, if nothing else to keep my feet un-stilettoed,” he chuckled. “And it’s mostly the job description of a man of the cloth to adjust themselves to their company. You can’t walk fast and convert at the same time. People get overwhelmed and irritated.”
Spiderman, or Peter Parker, or the Spider to her, was a friend. He'd helped her a few times with his webbing, she had seen it and handled it firsthand and it looked nothing like the webs hanging overhead. She wondered if something was amiss there and made a mental note to track down the Spider to check on his well-being.
John had now entered into the realm of fascinating. Vampires were typically all the same, most of them were vain and pretentious, this man seemed different and now he had her attention.
“A man of the cloth, hm? Ironic that you became what you are? Was it your choice or were you taken by surprise?”
Her eyes lifted to the neon sign that welcomed comers of all sorts to its establishment. She could smell the coffee, and the scent of breakfast and dinner could also be captured.
John had never met Spiderman, but he knew it would probably not go well for Selina to meet the creature that had produced the webbing that seemed to worry her. Still, John was happy to let the subject drop. She now said enough to tell him she knew what he was. That was interesting. If she didn’t drink but frequented a vampire bar… she didn’t strike him as the sort to let his brethren feed from her, as tasty as she smelled.
He cocked an eyebrow at her, not normally one to show all his cards. “You mean a bouncer at a club?” he chuckled. “I occasionally patronized bars and wing huts before I came here, yes. I never felt God was as prudish as everybody felt back home.”
Selina smirked at John. Oh, he may not have meant to show her his cards but she could see them as clear as the day was bright. Her experience with Pam had made her wiser, and over all her time spent in clubs frequented by the group suggested common mannerisms.
“Yes, that's exactly what I meant,” Selina purred with amusement, “Father.” For a man whom collected lies and secrets it seemed he had a few of his own to give. Oh how the sin befits the sinner. “I'm sure God is much more forgiving. Any man is with the right persuasion.”
Into the cafe she went, slipping easily through a door held open by a patron whom was leaving. Leaving and sizing her up quite noticeably. Ignoring the observation, Selina kept her attention on her escort.
“So, Father, I suppose you take your coffee a little more red than everyone else,” she teased, guiding him toward an empty booth. She kept her voice low, sultry and inviting. If he didn't want to have that conversation she wouldn't push anymore but oh she was dying to ask all sorts of questions.
Curiosity did have a way of killing the cat, so the saying went.
John noticed the man as well, and though Selina didn’t seem bothered by it, he turned his ankle as they passed the man to trip him ever so slightly, giving him a hard look out of the corner of his eye. Just enough of a warning for the man to keep his eyes to himself. He no longer felt the over-protective moral outrage, but even a vampire could hold a sense of propriety. Oggling a beautiful woman was rude.
As they sat and Selina teased, his brow perked. So she did know. Still, if she was still fine with him, and still visiting the club, he figured he had no reason to be concerned. Vampire hunters were loud and obnoxious, and rarely polite to the “animals” they sought to wipe out.
The title didn’t irk him, but it did feel slightly odd to hear it again, after so long. Very few people in the City knew of John’s past, and most of those who did had no respect for the church, and hadn’t called him the name since he’d been reborn an unholy thing. He remembered it sounding just as strange after he’d first become a pastor.
“Only when there’s no sugar,” he responded lightly, sitting across from her and moving the napkin dispenser back. He then folded his hands on the table and gave her an amused look, his own curiosity and the new familiarity allowing him to indulge in his own questions. “So. You’re a well dressed and beautiful woman, who doesn’t drink, out and about the town seeking the company of those most are terrified of. And you let one bring you to a diner for coffee. You must have your own interesting stories.”
The cushion nestled around her, appropriate and inviting like everything else in the diner. This was not the first place like this she’d been to, nor would it be the last. Her memory was sharp, and it recalled briefly an evening she had gone for coffee after a large heist. The savory mug of brown liquid seemed a treat to a poor street urchin, and she had always been in favor of it since.
She offered the vampire a smirk of amusement at the response. He was playful, she liked that immensely.
Picking up a menu casually, Selina opened it up and began to browse the selection. Both of them were entirely out of place to be dining in such a way, she was more suited for a formal event with wine and many courses, and he...well, he was a hunter of course whom probably took what he could get with as much humanity as he could muster. She wouldn't hold that against him, she was much the same way herself.
Tilting her eyes upward so she could see him over the lip of the menu, Selina purred, “I don't harbor the same fear as other people, Father. What goes bump in the night doesn't frighten me. I lived in the streets as a girl, I've seen many interesting things.”
The menu leaned downward a touch and Selina smiled at the man sitting before her, “And where are my manners? Hm? My name is Selina. If we're going to be telling stories over coffee, we may as well be formally introduced, don't you think? A name can be important. You might need it when you least expect it.”
“John, Juhn Tudor,” John returned the greeting with a nod. He opened his own menu, though he didn’t eat. The diner smelled good, though, and had a comfortable atmosphere. He was fine with just staying and talking. This woman was certainly interesting.
“You seem to have done very well for yourself, if you don’t mind me saying so,” he said. The well classed, well mannered woman before him reeked more of high society than the street.
Her eyes tilted back down toward the array of items upon the plastic covered parchment and Selina smiled warmly, “Thank you. It was a lot of hard work, getting myself where I am now. I spent a lot of evenings calculating how to get further and left no time for pity. Pity is distracting. It's more fun to give yourself goals, to challenge yourself.”
Deciding she would get just coffee for now, Selina closed the menu. She set the thing aside when it had been, out of the way in some strange rack, and then she refocused her attention on her new, strange guest.
“I'm a firm believer in working for what you want and not letting anyone stand in your way or hold you back. Even if it means playing a little bit dirty,” she purred.
The waitress wandered over and Selina ordered her coffee with milk. Her eyes never left John, though.
When the waitress was gone, Selina tilted her head, “Why do I find you so fascinating, hm? There's something about you….I can't place it exactly.”
“I don’t know a society on earth who doesn’t reward the strong willed for their diligence, especially if it’s intelligently applied,” John smiled. His own sister was incredibly self willed, and got herself into more trouble than she could handle at times. But he knew from personal experience that their sire valued her, perhaps all the more because of that.
The waitress wondered what he wanted, and he responded with a cup of coffee, though he wouldn’t wind up drinking it. It was, at least, a fairly average order for somebody at this time of night.
Her question spoke aloud made him chuckle, and offer her a glimmer of a wink. “No idea. People just seem to like me, sometimes,” he said, shrugging a shoulder. “But in my own personal experience, extraordinary attracts extraordinary. Not to be too self-promoting about it all.”
Selina wrinkled her nose in amusement, a response to the wink and the words that followed. “Is that so? Well, I suppose I can take that as an acceptable answer, though I will point out that I am no where in the same caliber when it comes to being so extraordinary. At the end of the day, I'm still just as human as anyone else.”
It was the same argument she’d given to Ben, and of course he had disputed it. She was more than she seemed, she knew it and so did others. It wasn't a challenge to pinpoint her superiority, though she still was up against all of the obstacles any human might face. Pit against something like a vampire, she would have faired perhaps longer than an average human but still she would have been no match.
“There is nothing wrong with self-promoting if you deserve the adulation. Comments like those don't come too often from me, I'm not the type to inflate someone that doesn't live up to their standard. There is nothing wrong with a bit of ego.” There was a lot wrong with too much ego. Knowing your limitations was key to holding the power.
“You don’t need powers or abilities to be extraordinary,” John shook his head. He’d seen more than enough heroism and startling acts of strength during his tenure as a soldier. He was also of the mind that a strong heart and willpower was as valuable as any physical skill. And there was no doubt that a sharp mind was an extremely deadly weapon.
He just nodded and chuckled at her assessment of him. “I’m still in the habit of staying humble. And I live with those who would be quick to correct me if I ever started.”
Selina shifted some in her seat and shrugged her shoulders casually at him, smiling all the while, “In a world like this one where a good many people have abilities nobody has ever heard of its quite a challenge to keep up. Back where I'm from, I am one of the few on top. But I suppose nothing easy is worth fighting for.”
“Humility is a good trait, an admirable one, but you have to give yourself credit where it's due otherwise you'll never feel like you can accomplish things. Any good family would recognize the qualities of those around them and exercise them. Some aren't fortunate to have good families. Some of us have to just do it ourselves.” Selina would rather be on her own than in a group of any kind that didn't allow her to blossom and grow.
“You have to surround yourself with like-minded people to truly thrive.”
John wasn’t sure what she knew or understood about his definition of family. At least, not now, in his reborn identity. Still, he knew from experience that it was a fairly important concept, and most people reacted strongly to it, even if they had grown up without one of their own. He met the statement with a half gri. Nothing committal.
“Families don’t adopt without seeing worth. And the habit of under-proclaiming is something I might not have left behind completely,” he shrugged a shoulder. “A lifetime of infantry and church service perhaps leaves one more prone to modesty. And even if I had the age advantage, I’m not sure I’d compare myself to my blood so readily. I’m content that I’m strong enough for whatever is required of me. And I’m grateful to have been tested before finding myself in a place like this, where the shadows may be even more unpredictable.”
That was an answer she could accept. In every case the circumstances varied. She wouldn't hold that against him, but she hoped that soon he would see his true worth and claim it for what it was. A family should encourage growth, even vampire families should nurture their offspring. That was her opinion, of course.
“So, Father, tell me more things about you. Are you stalking anyone, currently?” The last part was said in a tease, but she was curious without knowing why. She supposed part of her didn't want to believe everyone was on their own here in the City. In spite of not being in their places of origin, she hoped all of the residents here like herself and John found someone to be with.
John smiled at the woman’s curiosity. He was used to people finding his vampirism interesting, if they ever found out about it, but he wasn’t quite as used to as many questions about who he was as an individual. Not since Pam had initially selected him for turning.
“Anybody specifically, no. I’ve met a few people worth keeping an eye out for,” he said, then leaned forward, looking up and smiling in thanks to the waitress as she dropped off their coffees. “Then again, this city is brimming with intriguing people. How about yourself? You don’t strike me as one to remain content with her current situation. Are you finding the City interesting?”
“Oh have you?” Selina purred. Her eyes cast down to their coffee mugs, hers a light brown because of the milk and his a deep brown that could have been black if looked at in the wrong light.
When asked about herself, Selina glanced back up. She held her hand up to show John the ring. It was a simple thing, not a gaudy piece as might be expected. “I do find the City interesting. It has a lot of secrets, dark places and things to discover.”
Her hand slipped to her mug and she was delighted by the warmth of the ceramic. “I'm always interested in meeting new people, as well. A girl can never have too many friends, you know.”
“I learned that being a bit too curious could lead to… large changes, back on the world I was on before,” John chuckled slightly. His human self might have been horrified at the idea of becoming vampire enough to attempt suicide, but now he found the experience to be simply one more way his course had unexpectedly altered. He’d had a few events like that, mostly of them as a human. It was something he’d walked off long ago. “I’m generally happy with the way things have turned out, I’m not searching for that special somebody to mix them up again.”
His eyebrow quirked at the ring. It seemed… quite sentimental. Not an over-the-top show of affection to impress others. For a woman with her means, that was significant. He nodded at it. “Is the gifter in the City also?” he asked curiously.
“Yes, actually it's quite a relief. I can manage without him, I did for a while. Before I came here, a group of us were stranded on a dinosaur infested island. Then somehow it was absorbed by The City, the jungle portion is still connected to the City by a bridge and all of the dinosaurs are locked up in the Zoo,” she explained, “But then we came here and there he was.”
Dreamily, Selina sighed softly. “He's like us, you see. Of the dark and the shadows. Very private and mysterious. I doubt any of the people here really know the true person he is, he doesn't let too many get very close. He has a symbol, it has wings and many fear it if they see it…” Batman wasn't someone who messed around.
“I'm just glad he was here. Very glad.” She’d missed him dearly.
“My family and I were in a dead world. It might have been an Earth, but some sort of apocalypse had destroyed it utterly. Suddenly appearing in the City… well, it was definitely an improvement. Even if this place is just as strange and inexplicable,” John said. The idea of another world intrigued him, but he wouldn’t prod about that yet. It made sense that there were even more worlds than those he was native to, in both forms. He knew his own kin came from a far different Earth than he knew. At least, as far as he understood. Wherever Pam and Eric came from, vampires were known to the masses. John was fairly certain he’d have remembered that announcement on the evening news, and whatever the church’s reaction had been.
He nodded at the woman’s words. They still didn’t make complete sense to him, but he knew enough to understand that whoever it was most likely stabilized this woman’s life, however dark and mysterious they were. And that was probably for the best, given the confidence and command she exuded. Only very capable people held that type of aura. And capable people rarely stayed inactive if bored and left alone. Whoever her partner was would have to match her.
“I’m happy for you,” he said, and meant it. It might not have been as warm a sentiment as it would have been before he’d ditched the collar, but it was earnest. He tilted his head, catching the idea that the woman had been on a world with multiple others. “Were all of your companions brought here?” he mused, assuming she did not know the answer. Then he asked an actual, direct question. “Absorbed? You think this reality… what, eats worlds and steals the people from them?”
“Thank you,” Selina replied softly. Her coffee had cooled enough between sitting and the milk that it was of an easy temperature to consume. She did take a few sips from the mug, savoring the flavor. A soft ‘mm’ of delight left her and she set the mug down again.
“Not all of them made it here,” she replied, shaking her head. She thought instantly of Laura, Logan’s daughter, a woman whom Selina had come to value and respect. “The Spider was there with us, and probably about twenty others. You might not have come across them, this place is very expansive.” She could remember Bruce, Eric, Evey, Ben, Ariel, Megan, Beauty...so many faces and not all had made it here.
John could see the sadness in her face, and understood its meaning. He’d spent long enough sympathising with others to recognize the look. You didn’t have to know a person well, or even like them, in order to regret their loss.
He stirred his own coffee, not drinking, and not looking away from her. He was careful to examine her as she spoke, and then called upon his memory of consoling. Reaching out, he touched her hand. Softening his expression didn’t work so well anymore, but he could at least recall the look. And he had still not quite shaken the habit of sympathy.
After the moment had passed, however, his hand remained on hers, and his expression glazed back into the slightly predatory look it got when he investigated things now. He tilted his head. “Why were you at our club, if you don’t drink? And no marks… are you looking for somebody?” It wasn’t a hostile inquiry, but an important one. At least, to him. He was still a soldier, under everything else. The cloth nor the fangs could take the fighter’s spirit from him, and in life or death that spirit had always stood between those he cherished and those whose intentions were unclear to him. He wasn’t hostile by nature, when the hunger was satiated. But he’d always been on to be on guard. “If you want something, you could tell me. Or if you’re looking for somebody.”
Her expression turned playful when he reached for her hand, the familiar chill of skin lacking warmth overtaking her. Few got close enough to touch her unless there was a physical fight of some kind. Bruce was the only person, lately, she let invade her personal space. “I have a soft spot for vampires. I've always wondered what eternal life would be like, always tempting the idea. I doubt I'd ever go through with it, but the excitement and the danger keeps me coming back.”
It was her turn to console him, and so she offered a sympathetic look, patting his cold hand, “Darling, if I wanted to hurt any of you, I would have done it already. Protecting your own is a good thing. I don't need anything, nor am I seeking anyone specific. Don't you worry a bit about me, I'm not out to get anything. Not tonight, anyway.”
Then she pulled back and took up her coffee again, taking a long sip as she studied him over the rim of the ceramic vessel.
She was the type of woman that always got what she wanted one way or another.
John chuckled at that. He was quite sure she could handle herself, even if she might not be aware of how powerful the other vampires in the City were. Or other things that were lurking. He remembered the webs outside that they’d walked past. He wasn’t even sure how he’d do against Spawn, much less a human.
“I’m glad I don’t have to watch my back,” he said. “But you never answered my question. Or do you just wander into dens to people watch?”
“People watch, mostly. It's fascinating to watch everyone in action. I always wonder if they know I'm there watching,” she explained. Another sip of her coffee and she offered John a smile.
“So, besides watching the club, what else do you do? Have any hobbies?” She inquired, curious. How did vampires spend their free time? Was it all hunting and blood, cat and mouse, or did they actually do regular things like everyone else?
John thought about it for a moment, and then nodded. He’d always found other people to be quite interesting. He still did, though it was difficult for him to take most humans seriously as more than a meal. He couldn’t help it, their blood smelled powerfully and he was reminded of trying to consider even an exceptional burger to be a piece of art. In the end, the frills and decorations just made the meat more appetizing.
Still, Selina was interesting enough to warrant more thought. And her wit was undeniable.
“I play the guitar, but apart from that, my former hobbies revolved around war and god. For obvious reasons, neither are appropriate anymore. Or at least, I hope they won’t be.”
“Guitar? I know a couple of musicians, myself. I've never been one to take to such things,” Selina explained. It was curious, the fact that the world was so vast and ever-changing and yet the circles of people continued to intertwine like they did. “Are you recreational music only or do you play in your club?”
Selina smiled, a very feline grin, and she pulled out a keychain from nowhere, holding it up for John to see. It was his studio keys, the one with the crow key fob. “And what do these go to? Buried treasure?”
She hoped he wouldn't take the theft too personally, she was toying with him at best knowing he could end her in a second. Setting the keys on the table, more as an offering of peace than anything, Selina watched the vampire, “My talents are pretty straightforward.” Apparently she still had the skill of being undetected and it pleased her.
“It was something I kept from my old life,” John responded simply. Then he chuckled and shook his head. “I don’t play for an audience. It took long enough for even one man to convince me it was worth recording. I’m an amateur.”
When she produced the set of keys, his keys, he made the very typical gesture of immediately reaching to his pocket. He didn’t actually believe she’d been able to swipe them.
He stared at her for a moment, trying to work out how she had done it, when she placed them on the table. She was toying with him. It was very…. Pam like.
He picked up the keys deftly and put them back in his pocket, showing no amusement whatsoever. “You should take care. Showing off like that might get you noticed by people you wouldn’t enjoy,” he said, his voice holding the faintest trait of a growl. It was more than embarrassment. She seemed to be an interesting mortal, and he still had no real inclination to sire anybody. But that certainly might not be the case with his family. After all, though he knew of no direct plans to expand the nest, he was fairly certain they hadn’t planned to turn anybody in the dead world either. And look where he himself was, now. Just for preaching.
“As to what they go to, that’s my business. I’ll ask you kindly once not to try and make them yours again.”
At the reaction, the surprise, Selina beamed. She still had it, even after all of this time, and it took a deep level of skill to steal from a vampire. What she'd observed of their kind lead her to believe they were very self aware, creatures that aren't fooled or taken by surprise easily.
“You have my word, I won't take anything else,” Selina replied. It was a heavy promise to give but she did. Not because she feared repercussion, but because she'd come to like the company of the man before her.
“So, you've recorded some of your music? If it's not too bold to ask, I'd love to hear it. Do you have any of the recordings on you?” Some people saved things to their mobile phones now.
At her promise, John had a choice to make. And he choses to believe her. It didn’t make him any less irritated, but, she seemed like the kind of person who didn’t lie often. Out of choice more than necessity. He was also upset with himself for being taken off guard, and mentally chided himself for allowing them to be taken in the first place. No matter her skill, she was human. He should have known her hands had been in his pockets.
Still, his expression softened slightly, and he nodded, accepting her promise. She needed to make no apology. She was what she was, no different than him as such. They had natures and could indulge or restrain themselves according to necessity.
Her return to his music was a careful moment. She had no way of knowing one of the more important keys was to the studio. John took and let out an unnecessary breath to remind himself of that fact. “The music I have was recorded with another, but yes,” he said, pulling out his phone and pausing. “I don’t have earphones. But if you like I could send you the file.” She seemed genuinely interested, and he had nothing to hide. All of the tracks featured two artists, not one, but there seemed to be no need to inform Selina of the fact. She may assume he had a partner to play with, or that he simply double recorded. He didn’t care which idea she went with.
“Do you sing?” Selina inquired in a purr, leaning forward some toward him. There was a table between them, albeit a small one made for two people, but still a barrier.
She lifted a palm, holding it outward gently, “If I may? I can hear it just fine from here if that's alright with you.” She could lower the volume, keep it to herself. Why would she dare to share a treasure like that with strangers?
Selina knew John played guitar, he had told her, but she was curious to know how his voice sounded in tones other than speech.
John chuckled. “What, you want me to break into song, in the middle of a restaurant?” he said. The idea was a bit on the silly side, but he wasn’t one to be shy. Reserved, yes, but that had nothing to do with any fear.
She was definitely an interesting one. Still, he wasn’t one to drawn attention to himself in a public place, so as enticing as she made the offer he had to shake his head. “Sometime, perhaps. In a more appropriate setting. I wouldn’t want to disturb the other customers,” he said. Keeping a low profile made public performances less wise.
“But what about yourself? Any musical inclination?”
She chuckled, “No, you big dummy. I meant during your musical recordings.” She stayed playful, laughing softly at the idea of anyone bursting into song in the middle of the diner. Lowering her hand, she took up her mug again, figuring he wasn't willing to share the music files.
Selina shook her head, “No musical talent. That's not to say I don't have a voice, I just use it when the time is appropriate,” she purred, teasingly. She had quite the vocal range in more private situations.
If John ever wanted to perform for her, she knew a few quieter places, and of course there was the studio he’d mentioned. She was no stranger to the neon studio sign nor the black bird that graced the glass doors as a symbol, but she figured a place like that could belong to anyone. Her time figuring out the city, as much as was possible with moving streets, was beneficial. Not much slipped past her, especially in the night time hours.
John just shrugged in response. It hadn’t been the most unusual proposal he’d had recently, even when he did misunderstand it.
“I don’t see why not. But I’d have to check with my friend first. It’s not my studio,” he said. He had promised to look after it in case Eric ever went missing, and he wasn’t about to abuse his key privileges by parading through random people.
He met her tease with a casual smile. “I imagine so. You still have yet to mention what it is you do.” He didn’t believe for a moment that she had married into success. Most likely her husband was wealthy, but he knew the look of a woman who’d earned her status for herself. The specific confidence was almost tangible in the air around her.
Selina feigned a look of disappointment, rolling her eyes in a playful manner, “Rules were invented to be broken, John. Where's the fun in playing so strict?” She adored a good challenge and if she wanted to be found then she would make herself known, otherwise concealing herself was something she could do well.
“What is it with men and getting permission?” She chuckled, wrinkling her nose in amusement. “If you have keys, then it's yours after you slide your key into the lock.”
She wouldn't push him, it was just simple observation. “And who said I didn't want to meet your friend, too?”
When it came back to her choice of career, Selina smiled and shrugged, “Me? Oh I have a few hobbies. I like things that shine, things that are hard to get, things that a girl would die for.” Her eyes lowered to the half-consumed liquid that was now lukewarm in the mug, before looking back up at John, “I thought you'd seen the spectrum of my talents earlier when I'd taken your keys?”
John smiled. “You are speaking to a former soldier and pastor,” he chuckled. Neither of which had been a life full of freedoms and whim. He’d always done better with a firm set of rules restricting him, even and almost especially here in the City. The rules in place for him now were to keep himself alive and hidden, and to also protect his family. And it was never a good idea to abuse somebody’s trust, especially a friends’.
“Just because one has a particular talent, doesn’t mean that that’s all one uses,” he shrugged a shoulder. People knew how to pick pocket for a variety of reasons. Perhaps only a few legitimate ones, but still. Her answer clarified things for him well enough. So she was a thief, and a highly successful one. Very interesting.
Selina shrugged, “I'll give you what's important. It'll keep you coming back for more,” she purred. She was never the type to show off her whole hand of cards, especially when the stakes were still unknown.
Her eyes shifted to the large glass windows in time to see a large, heavyset male with a semi-automatic weapon wander by as if he had a purpose. Curious, Selina smirked and turned back to John, “How come we didn't get an invitation to that party?”
“Whatever you’re holding, you’ve done well with your hand,” John nodded to her with a chuckle. He didn’t come from an impressive background either. And it could be well argued that he’d never done as much to improve himself. But he knew what it was to surpass origins and expectations, and well respected anybody else who’d succeeded in that struggle.
John didn’t so much as twitch as the large muscle moved past him, but he caught on immediately to Selina’s curiosity and watched out of the corner of his eye.He lifted his cup finally, pretending to drink as he casually scanned the rest of the environment.
“Probably because we have no business attending it,” he responded simply, then glanced at his companion across the table as he lowered the cup slightly. “And I’d say neither of us are wearing the right outfits.” She was far too overdressed for a meathead in a cafe, and John was barely well enough to be allowed to walk through his own sire’s establishment.
“Oh, but you've never been to that kind of a party before. How you're dressed has no bearing on the event,” Selina purred, amused. She could get around just fine in about anything, her catsuit or a dress and heels. She'd taken on the world with much less.
The large, muscular man had taken a seat by the window. Before the waitress could approach, before he even had time to get comfortable or set his weapon down, the window shattered.
A slurping sound coupled with the projection of a greenish, sickly liking web shot forward and encapsulated the man. He was yanked out of the cafe faster than anyone could blink, and the noises of the City were all that were left where he once had been a moment before.
Selina arched her eyebrows at John, “Well, that certainly was entertaining.”
Long ago, John would have nearly lost his mind, then reacted in save-all-survive-all fashion, as he was trained. After the military training, he didn’t panic easily, and he had never had a fearful temperament to start with. However, even after knowing Venom, he had a general idea of how things functioned in a City of the superpowered. If something you didn’t understand happened, it was an unaffordable consequence to underestimate what you faced. The sudden disappearance of a threat set the blond on edge.
As soon as the window shattered he was alert, his mind was jumping towards loss prevention and solution. He stood up smartly and spun, taking a single step backwards to be between the unknown threat and his current companion. As soon as he’d registered the smart comment from her, he managed a half grin. She did remind him of Pam, in these cases. She was strong, and sassy. That didn’t mean she couldn’t still get hurt.
He looked around, every muscle tense and ready to react to threat, one hand extended and open to block her generally. It was a more symbolic gesture, but it also carried the promise that he protecting her. After all, ‘in his company, in his shelter’.
“We should probably go,” he said gruffly, still focused on the window, his senses focused on trying to tell if anything else would happen.
Selina knew better than to bait a creature much stronger than she without a just cause. Instead she pushed her cup aside, set enough cash on the table to cover their coffee, and then some, before silently standing up. She took John’s hand gently, no intent other than to ensure that she would follow, and waited to be led.
“At your lead, handsome,” she breathed. She knew he could hear her.
Where they would go, she wasn't sure. They would figure it out.
John noticed the payment. Such things generally remained forgotten in his world. It was alright; he’d be sure to compensate her somehow. As she took his hand he remembered to flash her a charming and gracious half grin before he escorted her out of the premises and across the street, using his vampiric speed to step them between the lights.
At the corner he paused and put his other arm around her waist gently. He wouldn’t hold her without permission, but he did want to steady her. He wasn’t as fast as his sire or sibling, but he was too fast for most humans to keep their attention. Or spines in tact.
He gave her a second to reorient, then released her. He used her human need to make himself aware of the situation. He turned and looked around, predatory senses still focused on his surrounding.
Selina followed keeping her eyes open. It didn't do to be snuck up on at such a time, and hyper awareness wasn't such a bad thing to have to deal with. She figured that John could hear and sense much more than she could, but she had her wits and her gut instinct to guide her and it was rarely ever wrong.
They sped through the streets. Selina held on to John as best she could but showed no fear. Actually, it was curious to her his movements through the night. It reminded her of Eric just a little. She'd never seen him move like John, not anywhere close but it was as if the night couldn't even touch him. She had that same idea about John.
When they stopped moving, Selina lifted a hand to her head for a moment in effort to gather her bearings. Lowering her hand, she took a breath and smiled, “That was a trip. What a way to travel,” she purred.
Looking up at John curious, Selina shrugged, “What now?”
The night seemed non-threatening, it seemed actually to embrace them.
John slowed them swiftly but gently, keeping in mind that she was human. He caught her gently, and without being too handsy, and let her go as they adjusted to their new coordinates.
He looked around, ears perking to her question. In truth, the threat had been just that… and it had also been fun. John was impressed by Selina’s calm in the situation, and during the following escape. He was unwilling to hunt in the vicinity of his family’s holdings, not so soon after his slip, but that didn’t mean he missed the glint in her eye when they’d landed and looked back.
He turned towards her, cocking his head slightly and half grinning. “My job tonight was to keep pretty ladies near our club out of trouble,” he responded with a modest shrug, and then a grin that was far less so. “You tell me. You were the one intent on finding something.”
Selina placed her palms upon the curve of her hips and offered John a smirk coupled with an innocent look. A bat of an eyelash and Selina shrugged a shoulder at the vampire, “And who am I to keep you from such a chivalrous task? There might actually be someone out there that really does need to be afraid of the night.”
Turning away slightly, Selina glanced about the area to see where they'd ended up in relation to any place familiar. She supposed, if necessary, she could always call for a car to come pick her up and return her home. Oh, but this was too much fun to turn away from now.
Making up her mind, Selina smiled playfully and returned her gaze to John, a glance of interest over a shoulder, “I want to go find a party to crash. Something delightful to make mine while I'm there. Are you coming?” She inquired with a purr.