Frederick leant against the entryway of the kitchen, and peered across the living room to the couch.
Well, wasn’t this a familiar sight?
Vivian sat at the far end of the couch with her legs tucked up underneath her as she distractedly scratched underneath Slink’s pointed chin. She was staring aimlessly out the window and into the dense treeline surrounding the cabin. They’d been here three days already, and he was worried. Not about being found, no. No one, not even Borris, knew about this place. He was instead worried for her.
The little witch had sat on that couch when they’d arrived, and only moved when she absolutely had to. She’d barely eaten or drinken anything, and he was positive she was sleeping on the couch as well instead of the spare room; if she was even actually sleeping. The bruised bags under her eyes certainly told him otherwise.
He’d tried talking to her, of course, but he never got more than one or two word answers, so he thought he'd use his time to research the case; until he realized he had no access to any of his usual resources. So, without anything productive to do, Frederick had taken to haunting his old workroom in the basement to distract himself from all his worry. Slink would sometimes join him, but only for minutes at a time. He never left his witch by herself for too long.
Frederick gave Vivian one last sad, imploring look she didn't see before turning back into the kitchen. He snagged himself a bag of O negative from the fridge on his way through to the basement stairs. As he took the creaky boards two at a time, Frederick popped into the chilled plastic bag with his fangs. He cringed at the initial burst of thick, cold liquid across his tongue, but after the first swallow, he sucked the bag down with gusto. The sweet, tangy taste of citrus had him moaning low in his throat. No matter how many times blood graced his tongue, it always tasted like the first time.
Sighing, he tossed the empty bag into the trash beside his desk, and dropped into his desk chair, which groaned pathetically at his weight. Frederick then walked his chair closer until he was leaning over the desktop. He plucked his pencil from the last place he'd left it, and assessed the piece he'd started the night they’d arrived with a critical eye. Something just wasn’t quite right about it. What was he missing? There had been ten flowers in the ivy, right? No! There had been eleven; he was missing one.
Clucking his tongue, Frederick leaned forward, nose barely an inch from the paper, and began to sketch out the final flower. The unease of the last several days faded to the back of his mind as he continued to draw. It had been much too long since he’d picked up a pencil for anything other than paperwork, and he’d almost forgotten what it had felt like. His Aunt would be terribly disappointed in him for neglecting his “talent” as she had called it.
So engrossed in the piece was he, Frederick didn’t hear the scurrying claws against the concrete until it was too late, and those claws were then tearing up the back of his desk chair.
As a warm, fuzzy body draped itself across the back of his neck, Frederick asked, “Come to join me again, little buddy?” Slink snuffled against his ear, his tiny whiskers tickling the sensitive skin of his earlobe. “Well?” he asked as he began to add some shading where it was needed. “What do you think? Coming together, or could it use some work?” The little weasel made a strange humming purr in the back of his throat, his chest vibrating against the side of his neck. Frederick took it as a sign that his work was at least decent.
His companion churred softly, poking his cold nose into the underside of his jaw, and Frederick tilted his head a bit to the side to regard the drawing better. “Yeah, I think you’re right. It could use a little color.”
Placing a hand over Slink’s back, Frederick leaned over to open the bottom drawer of his desk. He rummaged around, pushing things to the back, until he found the plain silver tin he was looking for at the bottom.
“Alright then little buddy,” he murmured as he popped open the tin. “Let’s start with...red.”
As he plucked out the darkest shade of red he had from inside the tin, a small voice from behind him asked, “Did you...do all these?”
“Mother of -!” Frederick cut himself off before he could finish the curse, and stared at the two ends of the colored pencil he’d just snapped in half. Damn, that had been a part of his favorite set…
“Oh! Uh, s-sorry.” The whispered words had him turning around.
“Vivian?” he questioned.
With her arms hugged around her middle and her bun sitting lopsided on her head, Frederick thought the little witch looked adorably uncomfortable standing there at the bottom of the basement stairs. “Are you okay?”
She nodded, her bun flopping about listlessly. “Y-Yeah. I just, um, was wondering where Slink runs off to all the time.” Vivian shuffled further into the room towards the far wall where the earliest of his drawings hung. “They’re very good,” she said after reaching the end of that wall and moving on to the next.
“Uh, thanks,” he mumbled, scratching at the back of his head.
“There are a lot of your Aunt,” she pointed out, stopping at a particularly large portrait of said woman sitting on the back porch of the cabin in her favorite lounger.
“Yeah.” He got to his feet and moved to stand beside her, Slink hopping from his shoulder to hers with ease.
The woman in the drawing was sitting with her legs draped over the arm of the chair, an open book resting in her lap, and a coffee mug gripped between her hands as she stared out into the trees. It was a familiar image, one he’d seen most mornings while growing up.
“She loved that lounger,” he told her. “I could find her there most mornings enjoying a cup of coffee. Even in the winter.” Frederick pointed to another drawing a little higher up of his Aunt bundled up in her chair with piles of snow all over the porch.
Vivian hummed, her eyes wandering the drawing before moving on to another. “Who’s that?”
Frederick followed her gaze to the drawing directly above his desk pinned up beside another portrait of his Aunt.
This portrait was of another woman. She was younger than his Aunt with a little bit of a fuller face and a softer smile, but she had the same strawberry blonde locks and ocean blue eyes as her. A familiar pang of longing settled in the center of his chest, just as it always did whenever he looked at that picture. The original sat snuggly in his wallet, carefully hidden away behind his ID.
“That’s my mother,” he said softly.
He could feel Vivian’s gaze on the side of his face like a brand, but he couldn’t bear to look at her.
“Y-Your mother?” Vivian repeated.
“Mmm.” Frederick nodded. “Her name was Mina. She was only a few years younger than my Aunt Beth, but definitely the more responsible of the two. Or so my Aunt would say.” He flashed a tiny smile down at the little witch staring up at him with misty eyes.
Vivian swallowed noisily as she nervously pet Slink’s tail. “What happened?” she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
“That’s a bit of a long story,” he said with a sigh. “Which we should be sitting and enjoying a nice warm, comforting drink for. Hot chocolate okay?” He didn’t give her a chance to answer as he was already halfway up the stairs to the kitchen.
Once he was in the kitchen, Frederick took the chance to breathe. He carded his fingers roughly through his hair, and closed his eyes to settle himself. It had been quite awhile since he’d spoken of his mother. The last time had been when he’d told his Aunt it was okay to go be with her, and that was over ten years ago. Now here his mate was, asking about one of the two things that still felt like a fresh wound whenever he thought about it. He didn’t truly want to talk about it with anyone, yet it wasn’t just anyone, was it? This was the one person in his life who deserved to know the most. It didn’t make him any less hesitant, though.
Sighing, he pushed the uncertainty to the back of his mind, and moved about the kitchen, gathering the hot chocolate ingredients. He prepared his cup first, mixing in a bit of O negative with his milk and hot chocolate mix before popping it into the microwave. While his was heating, he put together Vivian’s cup, and after they were both ready and steaming, he sprinkled a few marshmallows on top.
“Okay,” he told himself. “You got this.” The tiny pep talk seemed to do the trick, and Frederick returned to the basement with a little more fortitude than when he’d left. “Okay…” He glanced around and found Vivian sitting in the only other chair in the room, which happened to be the armchair in the far left corner. “Here you are.”
“Thank you,” Vivian murmured, taking the cup he offered her by the handle.
“No problem.” Frederick fell back into his desk chair with a groan. He took a deep drink of his muddy colored hot chocolate while peering at the little witch over the rim. She stared into her cup as she took small, tentative sips before offering it to Slink, who eagerly lapped at the sweet concoction. “Seems I make a mean cup of hot chocolate,” Frederick grinned.
Vivian huffed out a laugh. “Seems that way,” she said. “Slink and I share a weakness for chocolate.”
The beast within him stirred at this newfound information. It always sent a fuzzy warmth through him to learn something new about her. “I’ll have to keep that in mind, then.”
A tense quiet settled over the room as the two of them sipped at their drinks, both unsure of what to say. Vivian shifted on the couch, crossing and uncrossing her ankles as she looked at anywhere but him. Unsure of what else to do, Frederick silently mulled over how best to begin his sordid tale.
Perhaps he should start with, “Do you still want to know what happened?”
“If you feel up to telling me. You, uh, don’t have to if you don’t want to,” she told him.
Frederick shook his head. “No, no. I want to tell you.” What he really wanted to say was that he needed to tell her, that she had the right to know, but the conversation would be heavy enough without him tossing his intense emotions towards her into the mix.
“I just - Well, without beating around the bush, my mother died giving birth to me.” Vivian flinched at the blunt words, and he immediately wished he had approached the subject better. Idiot, he thought to himself.
Oh well, no way to change it now.
"Human women have never survived the birth of a half breed,” he explained. “The pregnancy itself is traumatising; the birth even more so. It’s why the commingling of humans and vampires was outlawed by the Vampiric Council years ago. Too many deaths, on both sides; not to mention most pureblooded vampires find humans revolting outside of being their only food source.” Frederick paused to take a drink of his hot chocolate. “If any women were to survive, I’m sure the council would kill them anyway,” he tacked on. “Bastards that they are.”
“But why?” Vivian blurted.
Frederick looked over at her, gauging her expression before providing the simplest explanation. “The Vampiric Council has existed for eons, meaning it’s full of cantankerous old men who believe that their word is law. The breaking of that law just so happens to be punishable by death, for both parties involved.”
“That’s awful,” she said, disgusted. “What about the babies? The half breeds?”
“Us half breeds, of which there aren’t many, are just considered an unfortunate result of the unlawful coupling. And being under both human and vampiric law, we’re generally left alone unless we mettle in affairs we’re not supposed to. I’ve toed the line with that a few too many times with my job,” he answered with a shrug.
Vivian nodded slowly, her brows furrowed in concentration. “So, when your mother passed, your Aunt took you in?”
“Yeah, the angel of a woman that she was.”
Her next question was hesitant. “W-What would have happened if she hadn’t?”
“Hopefully, a human would have adopted me, but that’s unlikely.” Frederick shrugged. “No way in hell would a vampire have adopted me,” he added with a snort. “So, let’s just say that I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my Aunt.”
He didn’t say anything more, not for himself or for others like him, because he knew he didn’t have to. By the look on Vivian’s face, she understood what would happen to a child if family didn’t take them in. No human orphanage would ever take a blood sucking half breed, and there was no place for abominations like themselves amongst the paranormal. Frederick knew he had lucked out, and he would be forever grateful for his Aunt Beth.
“A-And your Aunt?” she broached nervously, pulling him from his thoughts.
Frederick smiled at her. He appreciated her hesitancy, but he could tell she was curious, morbidly so. “She passed about 10 years ago now.”
Vivian grimaced. “I’m sorry,” she murmured. “What happened? If you don’t mind my asking again…”
“You can ask whatever you want,” he assured her. “Aunt Beth passed at the ripe old age of eighty-three.” A phantom pinch to his bicep told him she didn’t appreciate being called old, even in the afterlife, and it made him grin into his cup as he took a drink.
The little witch blinked slowly, her jaw slightly slack. “E-Eighty-three?” she squeaked. “How, uh, how old are you?”
Frederick grinned teasingly at her. “I’m not that old. I’m only seventy-two.” Vivian choked on the sip she’d just taken, making him laugh.
“That’s like...forty something years older than me!” she exclaimed between coughs. His stomach twisted uneasily at her words, and his grin dropped slightly. Would his age be an issue for her? He’d never considered that it would be, but perhaps he should have... “You do look pretty good for an old man, I suppose,” she joked, a tiny smirk affixed to her face.
Frederick stared at her with wide eyes before he burst into laughter, which was followed by her own soft, tinkling laugh. The sound washed over him, and gooseflesh pebbled up all over his skin. It was such a relief to see her laughing the type of laugh that crinkled her eyes and nose adorably. The fact that she was comfortable enough to laugh and joke with him was like a balm to his frayed nerves.
She was so...beautiful.
The urge to devour her, to claim her, nearly overcame him, so he looked away and distracted himself with a rushed question. “What about you and your family?” Yeah, her family was a safe topic.
“Oh, uh,” she cleared her throat, and that seemed to settle her amusement a little bit. “Well, you already know both my parents are human, and so is my sister, Molly.” Her smile grew at the mention of them. “I believe I was...two when I started manifesting powers. It started with small things Mom had said. Toys they’d put away would appear in my crib. An empty sippy cup would be randomly refilled. Things they thought they had just forgotten they did.” Vivian paused to take a hasty drink. “Then it was bigger things like teleporting to different places, or levitating things. I had an affinity for plants though, and Mom and Dad would always tell me about the times they’d find flowers growing out of the carpet or ivy popping out of the walls.” The little witch smiled fondly at the memories, and Frederick found himself smiling along with her.
“Were they scared?” he asked when she didn’t continue, so lost in thought was she.
She looked up at him and shook her head. “No. They always told me they knew I was different; that I was meant for greater things than the human world had to offer.” Vivian scoffed at that. “It was the same crap every parent tells their kid, but,” she shrugged. “I suppose in some way though, their words inspired me, and I pushed myself to excel in all my studies. Especially potions. That’s how I started the apothecary, and by extension, the candy line.”
Frederick bobbed his head along to her words. “Yeah, I get that,” he said. “I don’t think I’d have become a detective if it weren’t for Aunt Beth. Or have continued to draw.” He gestured to all the artwork plastered to the walls around them.
“I guess we both lucked out with our family then, huh?” Vivian said softly.
“I guess we did,” he agreed.
With that topic of conversation seemingly coming to an end, an awkward tension resettled over the room, though not as intense as before. Frederick finished off his, now cold, drink first, and turned to his desk, placing the cup at the top corner away from any paper. If Vivian had nothing more to say or ask, then he supposed he didn’t either, so he returned to his drawing. He studied his current work in progress as he reached for the colored pencil he’d been about to use before Vivian had appeared, only to stop and hum in disappointment.
Right, he’d forgotten about that. Frederick picked up the sharpened end of the broken pencil with a frown. Oh, well. He could make do.
Frederick made to press the tip to paper when the pencil began to vibrate softly in his hand. “What the hell?” he muttered, bringing it up to his eyes and squinting at it.
The other end of the pencil and the little splintered pieces bounced on his desktop a bit before zipping through the air to attach themselves to their other half. Frederick watched, fascinated, as the cracks knitted together seamlessly within seconds. The pencil itself buzzed with an electric energy he wasn't familiar with. As he continued to hold the pencil, the strange power licked at his fingertips before crawling over his skin, making all the hair on his arms stand on end.
“Sorry about that by the way.” Frederick glanced at Vivian who gestured to the pencil in his hand.
He pointed to it, dumbfounded. “D-Did you do that?”
“Fix it?” Frederick nodded. “Yeah. Since I technically, by startling you, broke it, I figured I should fix it for you.”
“Huh,” he said, looking back down at the pencil. Her magic; he was feeling her magic.
He turned the pencil this way and that, dragging the pad of his thumb along the edges. “That is handy as hell.”
Vivian giggled. “I always thought so,” she said, getting up to stand beside him and peer over his shoulder, which he noted with a sense of male pride that she had to stand on her tiptoes to do. “Is that...the day we met?”
Mentally shaking himself, Frederick glanced at the drawing and then at her out of the corner of his eye, unsure. “Uh, yeah. Yes it is.” He braced himself for the disgust, the screaming, and the cursing, but it never came. Vivian simply shifted to his other side in order to reach into his colored pencil tin, where she pushed the pencils around until she found the one she wanted.
“I think this will work better for my hair,” she said with a teasing grin.
The little witch held out a shade of red that reminded him of rubies. “Uh, sure. Yeah. Okay.” Frederick carefully took the colored pencil from her, and watched in not so subtle awe as she turned and ascended the stairs to the main floor of the cabin. He listened to her rummage through the fridge and cabinets for some food, and a pleased smile touched his lips.
Frederick turned back to his drawing with an odd sense of buoyancy in his chest similar to what he imagined clouds felt like floating up there in the sky. Little paws clawed their way up the back of his desk chair, and Slink wrapped himself about his neck once more. It was...surreal, and he couldn’t help but wish for each night to be like this. Vivian puttering about the kitchen while he and Slink created another work of art in his mates image. What a life that would be.
Smile widening, Frederick put pencil to paper, and began to meticulously color in Vivian’s hair. He and Vivian had reached a new understanding of one another tonight, and perhaps, if this continued, it wouldn’t be so out of the realm of possibilities for them to actually be mates. It didn’t seem like such an impossible thing anymore, and that both terrified and excited him beyond measure.