|𝒌𝒂𝒕𝒆𝒓𝒊𝒏𝒂 (fivecenturies) wrote in valloic,|
@ 2021-04-03 19:40:00
|Entry tags:||!action/thread/log, ₴ inactive: katherine pierce, ₴ inactive: neal cassidy|
WHO: Nealfire & Katherine
WHAT: Katherine promised food and drinks after Neal got settled, she delivers
WHERE: A schmancy brunch place
WHEN: Backdated to last Sunday
WARNINGS: Not really
Oh my god. The perks of living on what was probably the most diverse world in the multiverse was incredible - if she could ignore the flocks of avian fuckers that had a penchant for plaguing them, anyway. Not only was the diversity acknowledged, the local businesses made an effort to cater to practically everyone - especially the restaurants, knowing full well that certain types of people had certain types of dietary restrictions. It wasn’t as if Katherine couldn’t stomach human food (she could, it just did nothing for her), but her specific requirement for sustenance was of the blood variety and she hadn’t expected accommodations for it.
But, behold. This particular brunch destination had something for everyone, including specified menus for even vampires. Various blood types, blood cocktails - blood mimosas, even they existed. They were seated out on the courtyard, the afternoon sun shining on them (thank you, lapis lazuli necklace, for ensuring she wasn’t burnt to a crisp) and Vallo-specific flora blooming around them as a sign of spring. It was a bit fancy. Katherine did trashy out of desperation only, thank you. Stepping on questionable puddles and sitting on suspicious stains were things she preferred to avoid
Connecting with Neal over the network was a bittersweet ordeal. Immediately she had known it wasn’t the one she knew but despite that unfortunate fact, it was still Neal - how could she not reach out, at the very least? She had promised to take him out once he settled in and had a happy reunion with his son. It was time to follow through with that.
It was also just - really good to see a familiar face, one that didn’t brand her as the enemy right off the bat.
“I didn’t tell you I was a vampire, did I?” Katherine hummed, manicured nails skimming through the list of options her menu held. She didn’t recall mentioning that but hey - she figured she ought to, he was about to witness her have a glass of Type AB with a side of blueberry waffles.
Neal, admittedly, didn’t quite understand brunch - it seemed bougie, for some reason, and bougie had never been his thing. But when a lady he apparently did the do with in Vegas as part of some torrid affair invited him out for mimosas or chicken and waffles or eggs bennie, shit like that? Well, sure. No need to twist his arm.
Besides, he was hungry and wanted to get to know Katherine better too - so it was a good decision all around.
Since arriving, he managed to carve out some time to go shopping for clothes since he wanted decent things to wear to the job he’d snagged for himself - nothing too fancy, considering part of that job was playing the role of Handyman for the Leaky Cauldron in addition to slinging drinks - so he wore one of his new long-sleeved shirts, plus slacks that were pressed and nary a wrinkle in sight. It seemed to fit well with the courtyard ambiance, with the ocean sort of nearby and the forest all as nature’s ventilators - the air was sweetly scented and the sun felt nice too. Like renewal, a chance to start fresh after a whole bunch of bullshit (related to bird cultists).
“I - don’t think you did,” he admitted, with one of those gravelly chuckles. Neal was also studying the menu, though he glanced up curiously. His drink of choice was a Bloody Mary, just without the actual liquid crimson. “Did I know that when we met before? Or is it a new thing?”
Waiting on them was this lanky, nervous elven lad; a little sweaty, foot tapping anxiously. He was new, fresh out of training. Bless him. Their orders were taken with a shaky hand, and he skedaddled to punch those in after leaving them with what was most definitely overpriced glass-bottled water. No pressure on Neal - this was her treat.
“Semi-new,” Katherine answered, unscrewing the cap to pour herself this sparkling hydration, taken from the purest source of water in the forest or something - the label had some fluffy story on it. “When we met I was human. I turned some months after we met up again - kind of a gruesome tale for some other time.”
Flipping a set of curls over her shoulder, she took her glass and leaned back into her seat. She didn’t particularly plan to bombard him with details of this other life she knew him in - not unless he specifically asked. But she had a decent idea of what he recently endured, and she wanted to poke at that gently. “How are you doing? With everything.”
Oh, that poor - elf? Yeah, that was definitely an elf and he was new at the job which was plenty obvious. Being that he was in customer service himself (and also the food industry), Neal sympathized with how much it could suck. But he’d tried an office gig and that wasn’t really for him either - working up to that, he’d done pretty much everything. From janitorial work to construction to more freelance IT jobs. Apparently even D&D folks took time to figure out where they really fit, where they belonged.
The fancy-ass water was also a nice touch - he would have settled for shit from the tap, but this was fine too. He took a sip, expecting it to taste like ambrosia given the price - but no, it tasted like regular H20. Maybe a little crisper and cleaner. “Another time it is,” he agreed, and he wouldn’t press about it, even if he was curious about Katherine’s vampirism (had he ever met a vampire before? No, no he hadn’t). “I’m good though - started going to those Death Donut meetings.”
Or whatever they were officially called. “Wasn’t bad,” he shrugged. “And I have Henry here, so - figure it’s best to try to get my shit together.” He didn’t want his kid to have to be worrying about parenting him - that’d just be a repeat of Neal’s experiences with his own father and pass.
“Definitely know what it’s like to try to get your shit together when a kid comes into the picture,” Katherine chuckled at that, considering it was the main reason why she, uh - toned it down on eating people. Granted, the pact she and Ezio had way back at the OC Hellmouth was to specifically aim for the dirty rich that tried to wash away their dark secrets with money but it was a side job best left abandoned. “I know this Henry’s a bit older, hm? I remember him being younger, back home - I had been tempted to reach out to him except it might have been weird.”
Not to mention she was sure his mother was like, besties with Bonnie or something - and Katherine already knew the endless well of contempt the Bennett witch had for her even if she wasn’t exactly the same vampire that turned Mystic Falls onto its ass. She had little interest in stirring the pot more than it has.
Henry seemed fine from what she gathered on the network, though - so that was great to see. He seemed to be a good kid in any alternate timeline, or life. Whatever the proper terms were here.
“Yeah, he’s seventeen here - much older than he was when I died,” Neal said, deciding on one of those eggs bennie things, because it was fancy and he hardly ever got the opportunity to confirm he actually knew what a Hollandaise sauce even was. The order was politely placed with the Nervous Elf when he returned with their drinks - the Bloody Mary looked good, and he could practically smell the spice and the Worcestershire sauce. “He’s got his mom here so that’s good - been pretty nice, living there and trying to pitch in. Honestly all I ever wanted was a chance to help raise Henry. Maybe he’s older now but I mean, it’s not like I knew everything at age eighteen.”
So even if Henry was close to the age of official adulthood, hopefully he could still use a father figure in his life. It seemed to be going that way so far - knock on wood, and neither of them would disappear. Neal was well aware of what he’d be going back to - the afterlife wasn’t terrible, he’d found some semblance of peace (it was just - normal. No white doves or cherubs blasting trumpets) and could watch over Emma and Henry because he loved them and always would. But being in the flesh and hands-on was much better.
“Amazing how parenthood changes things though, huh?” he flashed one of those crinkly-eyed grins. “You’ve been digging motherhood?”
Oof. No truer words have been spoken. Katherine snorted back a chuckle, thinking back to her barely-adult age and that was - well, a mess. Lots of questionable decisions. Plenty of ambition, too, and that took her at least somewhere even if she made a lot of people cry crawling her way up with her pretty nails. She had rejected parental guidance because hers were asshats (also technically not her real parents, rude) but Henry was smart, had good influences surrounding him. Having Neal around would make it even better.
“It changes everything,” she agreed, picking the stem of her glass to swirl her blood as if was wine - the consistency was a little thicker, and the smell had her mouth practically watering but she wasn’t a savage. Katherine would sip it like a lady. “And I do, I love it - even if it has me in a nervous wreck most days.”
Not that she exuded anxiety or anything; she was a great actress, would fake it ‘til she made it except being responsible for a very small, precious life was the biggest job she’s ever shouldered. Hank assured her that her constant internal stress meant that she cared (a lot, like holy hell she would rip the Earth apart for her own offspring) and that was half the battle, at least. “I even hosted a small sleepover and everything, made these slumber party teepees for them to watch movies? If someone told me two years ago I’d be a fucking Pinterest mom I’d have run them over, honestly. It’s just - really nice to get to be there for these little moments, as boring as they might seem.”
So they had a lot of things in common - Neal felt relief that he had someone else who understood the tornado of complex emotions that came along with parenting. Especially since, for all intents and purposes, he was still pretty new at it and so was Katherine. “I get the nerves,” he assured, taking the dill pickle spear garnish from the Bloody Mary to get his teeth on that thing - pickles, he was a fan of those (no comments from the peanut gallery). “Because it’s like - you’re molding and shaping the future them, you know? But I think the fact that you’re actually nervous about it is a sign of love. That kind of unconditional love parents are supposed to have for their kids.”
His definitely didn’t fit the bill there - Milah mom ditched their small family, their meager house and her meager job in their meager village, to go bang a pirate (and Emma ended up banging the same pirate years later, what the actual fuck) and while Neal’s father claimed he loved him - sure, he’d turned the world upside down to finely manipulate the execution of a world-hopping curse that would reunite them - he still let a young Baelfire fall through a portal alone. Where he had to make his way, somehow, in Victorian London when child slave labor was still a thing.
“But I’m glad you have your daughter here. You’ve settled in? You’re happy?”
Neal nailed it on the head. Even good intentions could sometimes yield an undesired result - and she obviously wasn’t perfect, she knew she’d have those moments of regret and fuck ups but it was her goal to keep them at a bare minimum. If at all possible. Katherine was getting used to the motions more, now that they had a routine established with school and all - from checking over homework, making meals (can’t she just hire someone for hire that - oh wait, she could), playdates. It was coming together.
When she took a sip of her literal blood drink, she kept herself in check surprisingly well despite the urge to chug it down like some frat boy shooting beer from a can. “Happiest I’ve ever been,” was her honest-to-god answer, corner of her mouth giving away to a smirk. There were people she missed from home, like her own version of Neal and Jeremy and Cindy (tiny and pregnant with twins!) but she had exactly who she needed here. She’d take it.
“Now -” Drink set down, Katherine leaned forward to rest an elbow on the table, chin fitting into the palm of her hand as she focused more closely on him. “What’s the plan for you, sweet pea? You’ve got Henry with you and - who’re you staying with, Regina? She married the pirate dude where I’m from, fun fact.”
Holy shit, talk about a mindfuck - Neal had been sipping on his tomato-ey beverage when all of a sudden that bomb was dropped and he coughed, eyes watering a little. “That’s - well, I guess it’s better than Emma marrying him,” he pointed out because, call him crazy, but he was just a little skeeved about his first love getting with the same guy who fucked his mom. Hook had been a pseudo parent for Neal all those years ago, until he wasn’t - until he dumped a teenager he had an argument with off at Neverland, an island that somehow knew your worst nightmares and dug into your psyche like a tick. Just - burrowing there.
That was how Pan operated. His grandfather - and no, Neal didn’t really want to think about that, or how messed up the family tree was.
“I’m actually not sure what the plan is,” he admitted. “I’m staying with Regina and Henry though, yeah. Apparently another version of me stayed there in the house when they were in some other world.” Trying to wrap his brain around that one was also proving to be difficult - he only knew one version of himself, and the thought of copies was potentially enough to induce a crisis but anyway. “Got a job at the Leaky Cauldron. I signed up for the dating app?”
He doubted he’d get any hits and fully anticipated ‘zero profile views’ being a thing. Oh well. Guess he could say he’d tried, at least.
His reaction was expected. Katherine knew bits and pieces of that part of his history - and they seemed to have sorted it out back in the OC. If she had told him that not only did the Neal she knew marry Emma, but had also asked the pirate to be a godfather to their second spawn she was pretty sure she’d be wearing that Bloody Mary all over her face right about now.
Nervous Elf made his triumphant return back, carefully - like, hysterically so - setting their respective plates before them with a shaky hand. Then he straightened up, looking oddly proud that he did not trip on his own two feet on the way over and shatter the plates. Good job, kid.
“Good for you,” Katherine told him, plucking a fresh blueberry from her waffle to pop into her mouth. Tasted like sweet ash - but she’d take it. “Get laid. You died. Getting off is definitely one way to remind yourself you’re alive. Or are you looking for something more serious?”
God, dating apps. Did she have those available to her when she was on the market? Probably, but they weren’t as mainstream as they were now - and that network back home full of dreamers served as a dating pool in itself. That was where she had snatched Hank up anyway, though she had witnessed some gross hook up interactions there from people who didn’t know how to private their shit.
And here it was, their brunch fare - looked really damn good, and Neal was proud of their table elf for not spilling a thing. Or mostly he just wanted the kid to not be so nervous, it was fine, everything was copacetic - he’d be getting a good tip when it was all said and done. “Getting laid would be nice,” he confessed and beyond that? He wasn’t sure if he had any sort of goal in mind besides some safe, consensual fun. “Mostly I’m just getting used to being alive again - with that comes, uh. The carnal pleasures in life,” he laughed, spearing a couple breakfast potatoes with his fork. “I guess I’ll figure out the other stuff later. Wouldn’t mind something serious down the road.”
If he didn’t disappear, anyway. From what he understood people seemed to come and go with no rhyme or reason to it so there was probably a risk to getting deeply involved with, well, much of anything. Then again, life overall was a risk - unless you spent every waking moment in a bubble, and he had no desire to live that way. “People actually do that around here?” he asked curiously. “The serious thing?”
Huh. Maybe there was something to it - if other people did it, so could he. Potentially.
Katherine’s focus was, well, obviously the liquid life force poured for her - the waffle would come second, there was a lot of whipped cream on it that she definitely wanted to claim. The linen napkin was grabbed to dab the corners of her mouth just in case, too. Blood stained. If she were giving into natural instincts and feeding off someone’s neck she wouldn’t care about the mess but she was in public, okay.
“Mmm,” she hummed thoughtfully, gently swirling her glass again. “There’s someone in that I Died Club that’s been here for a year or something - got married, dad to one of Nadia’s friends. It’s not uncommon. There’s definitely a risk to it but I’ve seen it work out for most people?”
Really, she didn’t judge anyone who preferred not to take that leap. It was a lot of potential heartbreak, and a very specific kind - one that was completely out of the norm. “No one’s cracked the mystery to what decides how long people remain here for. Could be days, months, years.” Katherine’s shoulders went up in a shrug. “Guess you have to decide how you want to live with that information. There’s no right or wrong way to go about it.”
“I’d bet there really isn’t anything to crack - it’s just one of those things. The unexplainable,” Neal mused, and he was unfortunately far too familiar with magic that continuously broke its own rules - shit like that, you couldn’t pin it down. And in general, the simplest answer tended to be the correct answer anyway.
No matter what, he wasn’t going to be the one to try to figure it out. He was here, he wasn’t going anywhere unless The Powers That Be blipped him elsewhere. To another world, or back to the afterlife - he was supposed to be dead so he’d take advantage of the time where he wasn’t.
He sipped his drink, interchanging that with the fancy water. “I’m sure I’ll figure it out how to settle in here. We both will. Now you’ve got me as a friend and even an extra babysitter if you want.” He was good with kids, or at least, he felt like he had a rapport with the ones he talked to. Especially the ones who had been through some shit, because he strongly identified with that.
Maybe there was, maybe there wasn’t. Katherine was a little more readily able to accept the whole que sera, sera vibe (so long she was with her family, otherwise she might have a different view). It’d be nice to have answers but she wasn’t going to actively look for them - meanwhile her lover literally thirsted for it because science, plus it was something fascinating for him to tackle.
“I’m sure Hank will be good with granting you access to babysitting privileges,” she chuckled, smiling genuinely - no undercut of mischief or sass. “It’s nice to have some kind of support system out here when it comes to family matters. Takes a village sometimes. Our usual one’s back home but what we’ve got now isn’t so bad.”
Her usual Neal had been someone she had vented to about parenthood, before they went and picked up Nadia. She trusted this version too. It was almost like having a little piece of home in this world of magical fuckery. “Also consider me someone who would be happy to vet all your prospect dates on that app - I’m making it my actual job to make sure you don’t get taken advantage of.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Neal grinned, a delighted twinkle in those coffee-colored eyes - because it wasn’t like he ever had anyone looking out for him in that way before. He definitely wasn’t about to say no. Not that he’d say he had bad taste or anything, but his heart had gotten broken with Emma (the second time, when she as good as chose Killian over him - the first time he took the blame and owned up to that, plus it would have been a hell of a lot different if he knew she was pregnant) and then not to mention Tamara.
Right. His ex-fiancée who was banging some other dude and also tried to kill him? Shot him, sent him falling into yet another portal making Emma believe he was dead? We’d call that one a ‘lose’ in the Game of Love.
So yeah. Maybe he needed the assist. “I’ll let you know if anything comes of it,” he promised, even if he wasn’t expecting anything much - but he’d see what happened. Parenting came first, supporting Henry, and then the rest would fall into place. It usually did. “So yeah, you know - thanks for offering though. And thanks for brunch.” It was nice to have a friend who kind of already knew him, so to speak. Comforting - in a weird way.
But what wasn’t weird around here?