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It was such a small village it did not have any official name. Anyone who lived there merely called it ‘the village’, while on maps it was often named as ‘the village north of the river’. For a long time there was nothing particularly special about the village, nothing to distinguish it from its neighbours, and no one really gave it any thought. It just happened to be where they lived.

Only recently did this little village develop any distinguishing features. Namely, the church they all called Sainte Vierge, or more accurately, its newest priest. Père Voss was by far one of the youngest priests to join their little church in living memory, and he drew attention as soon as he arrived. He was not outspoken, or unkind, or brash, or— thank God— a drunkard, and by all accounts he was one of the best priests to stay in their village in years.

Père Voss was the most beautiful person in the entire village. Caroline, who washed laundry for the wealthier houses and who had traveled to Paris at least once in her life, insisted that Père Voss was the most beautiful person in all of France. Not everyone agreed with that, but not everyone had been outside of the village before, either.

He was very tall, even standing beside Phillipe the butcher’s son, who was known to knock his head on doorways if he wasn’t careful. Père Voss had to bend his head to step through doors in most of the village, although he never complained. Instead, he wore his astonishing size with a bit of an apology. His voice was soft and gentle; his eyes were calm; he knew every person by name within three days. He was never boisterous on any occasion; were it not for his beautiful face and his unusual size, he would go largely unnoticed at every gathering.

Although few of them would admit it, half the women in the village dreamed of Père Voss, of catching his lovely eye and of him leaving the clergy for her. Half the men dreamed much of the same, even more privately.

Most bewildering of all: Père Voss seemed unaware of his uncommon beauty. He always seemed pleasantly surprised by any cheerful greeting sent his way, as though he hadn’t dared imagine a neighbour would wish him a good morning. He spent a lot of time looking at the ground deep in thought, oblivious to the staring eyes.

The years passed. Families grew, shrank, grew again. Marriages took place, all officiated by the same Père Voss, who wore a serene smile to every blessed union and wished every one of them happiness in life. He performed baptisms for every child born since his arrival, some of whom were now old enough to be married and blessed by him once again. No one spoke of it aloud, but everyone could see that after nineteen years in their modest little village, middle age had yet to touch the priest the way one would expect.

Some believed this was a sign that their little village was favoured by God, and their priest was among His favourites. Some believed this a sign of Père Voss's pure faith, a visual manifestation of his kind soul and patient heart.

Still others, mainly strangers to the village, visiting again after several years, took this as an ill omen. Men of the cloth from larger towns, when stopping by to see the now well-known local priest, could not bear to look at his face and avoided his eyes, despite their outward courtesy and his soft words.

Parishioners from other villages and towns started to travel here for services, hoping to see Père Voss and to hear him speak. He never turned anyone away. He was always open for confession, given the number of people now wishing to hear those words of forgiveness from his lips.

Matilda’s mother once told her, in hushed tones, that the priest had looked every bit as radiant when he first arrived in the village, years before Matilda was born. She thought about that whispered admission whenever she dared catch a glimpse of his face during services. He did not look like an old man, and yet he must be by now, if he’d been here so long, already a well-established priest before they’d all met him.

She did not think his face was cause for alarm. Like her mother, and her grandmother, and most of the women in the village close to Matilda’s age, she believed Père Voss might secretly be an angel. Who else could be so beautiful, so kind, so eternally patient? She’d never met any priest like him. Perhaps one day she could ask him somehow whether he truly was an angel. Would he answer a question like that during confession?

She wished she could read or write. She might compose a secretive note if she could, asking him that question and begging him to hide his response somewhere only she would find it later on. She filled quiet afternoons with daydreams of Père Voss’s glorious smile and glittering eyes. When she could spare a moment from her work, she would sneak into the church to say her prayers, at the same time stealing glimpses of the priest. Like many in the village, she found herself much more devout with Père Voss around.

Matilda did not notice the discomfort between Père Voss and the other priests until there was an argument one bright afternoon. A disagreement. At first she did her best to shut her ears, it was none of her business, but the muffled voices continued until there was a harsh sound and the door of the library swung open abruptly. Père Jean hurried from the library, holding a hand to his face, and he looked so angry Matilda forgot to pretend she hadn’t noticed.

Inside the library, Père Voss was returning to his seat, looking weary. It occurred to Matilda very suddenly that Père Voss had struck Père Jean, although the beautiful priest didn’t seem angry the way the other had. He looked terribly sad, thought Matilda, head bowed and hands folded tight on his knee. She left the floor she’d been cleaning to approach the library.

“Forgive me…” she began softly. He looked up when he heard her voice, although it didn’t look as if he’d been startled. “Is… What happened?”

He blinked at her for a moment. He looked surprised she’d spoken to him, and she wondered whether she’d done something wrong. Perhaps she should leave. But he only said, “I’m sorry, Matilda, we must have upset you. Père Jean and I were only having a discussion.”

She felt weak-kneed to know Père Voss remembered her name. It was so pleasant to hear her name spoken by his lovely voice that it bordered on repulsive. She slowly reached to hold the doorframe, tried not to look faint with delight. “It sounded like a very heated discussion, sir.”

He hummed, then offered her a brief smile. It was a wonder she didn’t crumple to the floor at this rate. “It’s nothing for you to worry over. Truly.”

Matilda knew when someone was trying to be polite but wanted to be alone. She lingered in the door just a moment longer, before saying, “Père Jean can be a little rude sometimes. You… I’m sure no one would fault you for it…”

Père Voss watched her go. She could feel his bright eyes on her back as she walked; she hurried past the spot she’d been cleaning to go collect herself elsewhere.

For a few months longer, Père Voss continued to be the most exciting of the village’s features. Père Jean continued to visit, Matilda noticed, and there continued to be ‘discussions’ held in the library behind a locked door. She didn’t think Père Jean noticed her cleaning the same floor every time he retreated to the library to raise his voice to Père Voss, who never seemed to shout in response. She still couldn’t understand what they were discussing, although it didn’t look like Père Voss had struck the other priest since that first day she’d noticed.

Père Voss said hello to her now, whenever these discussions had ended and once Père Jean had left in a huff. He was perfectly aware that Matilda waited outside the door.

“Are you waiting to defend my good name?” he asked her on one such occasion.

Matilda felt her cheeks flush hot. “Suppose I am. I can tell when… well. Not everyone is kind to you. I don’t think it’s called for.”

“People feel however they like. It is not my job to change that for them.” Père Voss lowered his eyes to the floor, the spot she’d been cleaning so fervently whenever Père Jean visited. It reflected light better than any mirror by now. “But it is kind of you to be concerned. How is your mother?”

“She’ll be glad to hear you’ve asked after her.” More than glad. She’d beam with pride and walk a bit taller for a few days. Père Voss probably knew that.

The day after Père Voss asked about her mother, Matilda awoke to the sound of the neighbours shouting. She leaned out the window to see people gathering outside, her mother among them. Everyone was agitated, although she couldn’t see why. She hurried to dress before going to join them. Something had happened.

Caroline, away from home for the past three days, had been found dead in the river. Two children had spotted her early that morning.

The church was very busy attending to her funeral, offering comfort to her grieving husband. Père Voss spent many hours sitting with the man after the last prayers had been said over her grave.

Père Jean returned for another discussion. This one was very short. Père Voss didn’t close the door to the library this time, because there was no need for privacy when he simply refused to let the man stay. Père Jean left very upset, and this time he even noticed Matilda standing near the library, anxiously watchful as ever.

“What are you doing, foolish girl?” he barked, advancing on her suddenly. “Stay away, if you have a care for yourself!”

Matilda, shaken, hurried back outside without stopping to ask Père Voss if he was well. He’d been quieter than usual. Outside of sermons he hardly spoke to anyone. Père Jean wasn’t doing much to lift his mood, either.

Matilda hesitated to admit that she disliked the angry, older priest, but he was gruff and rude. He shouted at the kind, patient Père Voss every time he visited. He must be one of the clergy that distrusted Père Voss, envied his beauty, took it for a terrible omen of bad luck. Matilda had heard some of the rumours and scoffed at all of them. How could Père Voss be any danger to anyone? What on Earth had he done that was so wrong? Was it wrong for him to be so beautiful? She wondered whether this would upset other clergy, her pointing out that God Himself had given Père Voss his pretty face, and to hate that was to criticize His work.

Pleased with this logistical counter, Matilda was prepared to deliver it to Père Jean the next time he darkened their doorstep. She did pay attention in church from time to time.

Not a month later, Caroline’s grieving husband was also found dead. Not in the river, but in the graveyard, slumped next to her tombstone. Matilda got to see him, briefly, and the sight of his cold body turned her stomach.

They said he’d cut himself open, with the knife they found still wrapped in his fingers, although it was odd how… clean he looked. There was blood drying in the ground beneath him, but his flesh was not as stained as it should have been.

“Beasts would have eaten him, if we hadn’t found him so soon,” was what the butcher said when the children asked about it. “Must have got to taste him, anyway.”

Soon the village became preoccupied with its own safety. Caroline had been attacked, her husband had taken his own life— a sin, to be sure, but still Père Voss in his kindness had insisted upon a proper burial for him— and shortly after they said their farewells to the deceased, another corpse was found.

Four more, over the next three months.

People would not come home from the market, would not come home after a day working the fields, and then would be found miles away by a passing traveler. They were all locals, people Matilda had known for years.

The men went on hunts for rabid animals, wolves or bears or loose dogs, because these corpses had not come from self-inflicted violence. Throats open, torn by teeth and claws, not by blades. Children were practically locked indoors whenever possible, and no one went outside alone. Matilda managed to walk with Père Voss for company once or twice, a fact that caused her sisters a measure of envy, but that was the only glimmer of pleasant excitement to be had in all this.

Père Voss looked exhausted and distressed, although he avoided the subject whenever Matilda expressed concern. He was kept busy with the grieving, the worried villagers, the funerals, the grave diggers (who seemed to adore and hate him in equal measure). While he didn’t exactly look as haggard as a man would be in such conditions, he was clearly worn down.

Père Jean still visited. Père Voss merely let him, spoke not a word, and showed him the way out. Matilda stood by the door now, brazenly defending the exhausted Père Voss from the intruder in the only way she knew how. She’d given Père Jean her theological speech some time ago, and while her questioning had upset him, it hadn’t stopped him.

And then, most perplexing, for several weeks the hunting parties found animals— already dead, torn up much like the missing villagers had been. These they found in droves, abandoned carelessly and untouched by scavengers.

After a month of finding a troubling number of dead bears, wolves, cows, even birds, the death seemed to finally stop. They were all wary for some time, and no one wanted to go anyplace alone just yet, but they stopped stumbling across abandoned corpses, human or animal. Everyone slowly began to relax again.

When it all ended, Père Voss suddenly fell ill. Matilda could tell he was working too hard; he stammered during a sermon, which he’d never done before, and he looked paler than usual. When Matilda suggested quietly that he retire early to bed one evening, he agreed without argument when normally he would insist nothing was wrong.

Emboldened by his agreeing to her suggestion, Matilda accompanied him down the corridor to his room. She was a little worried he might collapse. “Shall I call for the doctor, do you think?” she asked, peering up at him in the dim light from the window. She’d never known anyone so enormous, and yet he still looked so delicate. He seemed likely to drift away in a breeze at the moment.

Père Voss was walking slowly, one hand touching the wall as he moved. “I… only need to sleep, Matilda. I promise, I will manage.” He glanced down to smile at her, although it seemed difficult for his face to contort properly into the right expression. “I regret making you worry.”

“You never sleep enough. You should—”

They paused when they noticed Père Jean at the opposite end of the corridor, waiting by the door to Père Voss’s room. Matilda had only a moment to wonder why he’d come at this hour when Père Voss was so clearly ill, before she noticed the rifle.

A hand on her shoulder. She hit the floor hard, her head bouncing off the tile. Dazed, she barely understood that Père Voss had pushed her away. The sound of the rifle echoed so loud in the little corridor that she was deafened.

In the confusion that followed, Matilda realized she’d been screaming herself hoarse. Père Voss was on his knees, bleeding from a deep hole in his chest. Père Jean was being pulled away, shouting louder than Matilda, the rifle wrestled from his grasp by the grave diggers, who must have heard the noise.

Matilda wasn’t the one who called for the doctor.

Miraculously, the wound did not kill Père Voss. He was cleaned, bandaged, confined to his bed. Once Matilda was able to stand she tried to help the doctor however she could— along with the butcher and the grave diggers who’d gone to fetch him. She held the bowl for the water while the doctor cleaned the wound, dug out the shot.

Père Voss did not shout once. Not when he was injured, not when the doctor cleaned the wound, although he was fully awake and struggled stubbornly enough that it took the butcher and all three grave diggers to hold him still. He stared at the ceiling with horror in his eyes.

Matilda didn’t sleep at all that night. Père Voss didn’t, either, which she found especially cruel.

Word traveled quickly. The entire village gathered outside the church to ask what had happened, and Matilda stood with the doctor when he finally delivered the news to everyone outside. Père Jean was to be taken to the prison in the morning; a boy had been sent as a messenger, and the magistrate would handle the rest.

“Of course I don’t wish him ill,” Père Voss said hours later, when the news was given to him. He still hadn’t fallen asleep. He continued, in a voice thinner than paper, “The man was unwell. He felt he was acting nobly.”

Matilda was there to make sure he hadn’t bled through all the bandages again, on the doctor’s suggestion. She was still trembling and her head hurt where she’d hit it on the tiles. “How was that acting nobly? He shot a rifle at a fellow priest!”

Père Voss reached to hold her hand, having noticed her voice shake. “And at you. I’m sorry for pushing you like that. Are you hurt?”

The question, coming from a man with a hole in his chest, blood blooming through his bandages like a great red lily, made Matilda laugh. “I’ve fallen before. I’ll live.”

“In answer to your question,” he said, sounding even more feeble the longer he spoke, “Père Jean believed I had something to do with the deaths in our village. I refused to entertain such a horrible thought, but I suppose I should have given him more attention sooner…”

Was that why Père Jean had been visiting? Was that the topic of their discussions? Had Père Voss been quietly suffering accusations like that the entire time? “Have you told the doctor? The magistrate should know…”

He blinked once, although his eyes were nearly shut already. Every part of him seemed too heavy to move, even his eyelids. “I imagine Père Jean has already told them as much.” He lapsed into silence for a while, and although he was lying still he was not sleeping.

His eyes were still half-open. Matilda jolted with alarm suddenly, stupidly realizing he might have— “Père? Père!”

He exhaled so suddenly it shocked her more than his stillness had. “…forgive me,” he murmured.

She let out her breath, as well.

Over the next three days Matilda assisted in watching Père Voss, hoping for some sign of recovery. He didn’t seem to sleep at all during her watch, nor did he accept any of the soup she attempted to feed him. After asking the other men and women who’d joined in to offer their help, she found this was the same with all of them. She couldn’t stop worrying.

“Please, you mustn’t give up like this,” she begged him when it was her turn to check on him again. “The others say you haven’t eaten anything yet, and you don’t sleep— you should do at least one of those! Then your wound will start to heal!”

He had always been very pale, but now he looked more washed out than the linens he rested in. His eyes were an alarming touch of blue in all that pale, sick colourlessness. Matilda could finally see red creeping around the edges of that blue, more lilies to match the garden sprouted on his chest. Even so, pale and sick, Père Voss was beautiful. She couldn’t stand it just now. It was starting to frighten her, only a little— although she knew she hadn’t been sleeping well lately, either.

He ignored the spoon she lifted to help him taste the soup. The wound in his chest prevented him lifting his arms reliably, and the doctor insisted no solid foods until he could regain some of his strength.

“Please, Père, don’t do this.”

“I cannot, Matilda. Forgive me.”

She set the soup aside and, after hesitating a moment, took a seat on the edge of his bed. She held one of his hands in both of hers, careful not to pull or lift in case that upset his wound. His hand was so much longer than hers, and still so fine… “I’m begging you, please. There must be some way I can help. I don’t want to see you waste away to nothing.”

He did not speak, although he did her the courtesy of watching her face. At least he wasn’t ignoring her the way he ignored the soup.

“You don’t need to go on suffering,” she told him. “You haven’t done anything wrong.”

It surprised her to see his face twinge then. Only slightly. She worried that she’d hurt his arm so she released his hand as gently as possible so it would not drop abruptly onto the bed.

“Have you had word of Père Jean?” he asked quietly.

“No. I could ask for you?”

“Stay…”

Matilda sat with him quietly, waiting for him to tell her what he needed from her, but nothing came. Eventually, seeing she would run out of time with him before it was someone else’s turn to sit watch, she had to dig up her courage. She wanted to tell him…

“I would do anything you asked of me, Père. Anything you wanted.”

She couldn’t decipher the expression on his face. She supposed he was confused. “Anything at all, Père. I can’t bear to see you suffering like this. You’ve… You’re always so kind to me, to others, and you’re always alone. I hope you know that I care for you. A great deal.”

His eyes were stuck on her face now. Instead of fighting to keep his attention on her, now she was all he could look at. She flushed to notice this, but continued carefully, “I would gladly join the church to stay close to you, if you would not object.”

“That’s… you needn’t…”

She took his hand again, watching for any sign this hurt him. “I want to help you, Père. I love you. I want you to live. Please, let me help you.”

He suddenly moved, drawing his elbows back to lift himself off the pillow. The movement was clearly difficult, and she nearly told him to lie still, but he was stubborn. Once he found a way to sit up that wasn’t causing him pain, he gestured for her to come closer.

Feeling tears well in her eyes, Matilda let Père Voss hold her to his chest. She didn’t think it wise to rest her weight on his bandages, but his arms folded over her and she curled up beneath his chin. He was cold. She was going to add to the fireplace, just as soon as he let her. For the moment, she was content just to be held.

“I’ve done nothing to earn such kindness,” he said. His fingers stroked carefully over her hair.

“I think you deserve kindness,” she murmured, cautious not to make him uncomfortable. She could feel the bandages packed tight around his chest, the solid centre where the blood had accumulated and thickened them. “I’ll do anything for you, Père.”

“Anything,” he repeated softly.

“Yes, anything at all. Please let me help you.”

Père Voss was silent again. Matilda was about to try sitting up, to add wood to the fire, since he was still so cold she could feel his fingers over her hair, chilling through to her scalp, when he moved those fingers to her neck.

Everything turned, fast, and the world

ended


The village never knew what became of their beautiful priest. They found Matilda in the morning, lying with her neck broken in Père Voss’s bed, blood drying on her body, her clothing, the linens. The window was open, and none of the priest’s belongings had been taken.

They buried her behind the church. While Père Voss had baptized her at the start of her life, he was not present at the end to see her off.


*


Robert’s rib was fractured. It wasn’t enough to warrant panic, but the swelling in his side was cause for him to ice his entire torso once he got home that night, the culprit resting heavily in his pocket with the words TRY THAT AGAIN so easy to feel if he brushed his fingers over them. In the morning, having been awake for twenty-one hours straight, he drove to the hospital where he got advised not to do anything ‘strenuous’ for a few weeks. The fracture was very, very minor, but it showed up in the x-ray and the bruise was a real winner.

It only really started to hurt once he saw the x-ray, for some reason. Like the terror of Sigi himself had to make room, finally, for proof of an immediate injury. They gave him a metric tonne of painkiller prescriptions and strict orders not to go running or jumping or anything for a long while.

It wasn’t the first time he’d broken something. He was lucky, he supposed, for the window slowing the rock’s trajectory even briefly; otherwise he couldn’t have gotten back to the venue and fake being calm for another hour.

Robert took a cab home from the hospital, already sailing high on painkillers, and fell as slowly as he could into his bed for some drug-induced sleep aided by the exhaustion of too much adrenaline finally letting go. He woke up thirteen hours later, dry-mouthed, hungry, dizzy, bruised, and with one voicemail.

He nearly dropped his phone when Sigi’s voice poured from the speaker.

“Miriam was kind enough to send me your contacts. I was disappointed not to see you off last night; do hope you got home safely after your fourth cocktail. My schedule is clear next Thursday evening. I’ve made a reservation for eight o’clock at Erté. Be well, darling.”

Robert wasn’t sure he’d done anything to deserve the pet name. His stomach lurched and his rib ached; he forced down more painkillers and waited for them to kick in with his face hovering over the toilet before he dared wobble into the kitchen for a simple meal.

He’d been in plenty of tricky situations before, none of which had to do with a dinner date with a vampire. Or a very potential one. Or anyone half as sharp as Sigi, which was terrifying in its own particular way.

He had less than a week to get himself put together. For that amount of time, at least, he did his best to stick to the suggested no-strenuous-activity rule, although he spent most of that time swimming up to his ears in prescription drugs and half-conscious. Once the pain started to become bearable sober, Robert suffered through it so he could stay awake long enough to prepare.

These were the facts:

Sigi knew someone shot at him. Either dumb luck or scary-quick reflexes helped him avoid getting shot.

Someone had thrown a polished stone from inside the party through at least one window, if not two, across maybe a hundred yards, with enough momentum left over to crack a rib. If not Sigi… did he have a friend?

Robert snorted. Of course Sigi had a friend, he had hundreds of those. Just a glance at the room with Sigi present and you saw nothing but adoration.

It didn’t seem to fit that Stefan was the potential vampire, but maybe someone close to Sigi, if not Sigi himself…

The thing that threw off Robert’s certainty was the fact that he’d witnessed Sigi drink something that was definitely not blood on at least two occasions. Pink champagne and vodka; the second one Robert saw poured out by the bartender after being served to another guest. It mucked up his entire theory and left him wondering what exactly about Sigi made him fear for his life.

…Besides the fact that he’d always been anxious before a date.

God, this was going to be the worst date he’d ever been on. Definitely the scariest.

To be safe, he had to continue with the assumption that Sigi might be the only threat; he had less proof that the one he should be hunting was simply ‘a friend of Sigi’s’ and Robert couldn’t let his guard down. Sigi was a threat, nebulous, indefinable or not. Somehow.

Robert couldn’t prove it unless he caught Sigi chewing on somebody’s arteries.

Or…

There were some small things he’d kept on hand, to smoke them out while he hunted, but he hadn’t really had to use them in a while. The last few he’d hunted had been… a lot more forward. Already snapping their jaws at him. He hadn’t needed to be sneaky with those last few. But this time he could put these small traps to good use.

One of them, and possibly the most discreet at his disposal, was an alarm bell. It was very difficult for a human ear to catch; dogs and cats got nervous at the sound, and at most, a person with keen hearing would catch a faint squeal, almost like tinnitus. The woman who had given the alarm to Robert had very keen ears— she described it as ‘the sound of a television left on mute in the next room’. To a vampire, though, the tinnitus would become akin to nails on a chalkboard. Robert himself couldn’t hear it, but he’d seen dogs react to it.

He made sure to load the file properly onto his phone and set it as an alarm, then tested it out at the edge of the nearest dog park. He watched a pair of shelties abruptly find their way over to him, stare at him as though offended, then run in a loose circle around him before running much further away. Any other dogs to come near reacted instantly to the alarm, so Robert could go back home.

He rested for another day before he began cleaning his gear, preparing for a very discreet night of potential hunting. It would be smart to keep something on his person, in his coat, in case things went south. The alarm agitated some vampires; older ones kept their cool, but if Sigi was a young vampire he could lash out at the sound.

And if Sigi didn’t seem to hear it at all, then… Robert could stop hunting him. Pack up, go home, get some rest. Finish healing his busted rib.

If the alarm got a reaction, Robert had to start worrying. Really and truly. Defcon one.

No reaction, and Robert had enough proof that Sigi was just an eccentric. A very unsettling one, but human. Or at least not a vampire. Robert didn’t want to branch out beyond that.

Now with his dinner date set for the following night, Robert felt more mundane worries settle in and take precedence. He wished Sigi had told him whether there was a dress code or something. Robert suddenly realized that the place he was headed was goddamn expensive; if they didn’t just turn him away at the door for being underdressed, he’d have to pay an arm and a leg for anything off the menu.

Worry about that later, he told himself. He had emergency cash set aside. He supposed this counted as an emergency.

He made a point of taking it slow the day before the dinner. His ribs still hurt and he couldn’t inhale too deeply without feeling it, but at least there he knew what he was dealing with. He took a nap, ate well, washed up, scrubbed places that normally didn’t get scrubbed, distantly terrified of Sigi thinking him unkempt. He thought about shaving, but Sigi had said he liked the beard. He’d probably be pushing his luck if he shaved it off for the date.

And he didn’t want to go in already offending a potential threat.

…or maybe he sort of hoped Sigi meant it.

Robert really, really hated his job. He missed hunting deer. Regular old boring deer, when you didn’t worry about impressing it with your handsome beard before you shot at it.

D-Day sailed past before Robert even knew what was happening. He got ready on autopilot and found himself inside his car, parked outside Erté with ten minutes to spare.

He did one last quick check of his gear, all hidden in his jacket and pockets, then couldn’t find any reason to further delay. He set the alarm to go off in the next forty-one minutes.

At the door he felt that bowel-loosening terror he normally felt when faced with daunting social situations: he was underdressed. The foyer of the restaurant looked more expensive than everything Robert had ever owned, put together. Fuck the plan, he had to leave.

“I’m here under a friend’s reservation—” he heard himself saying, to his utter horror.

The woman by the door smiled and motioned him further in. “Ah, you must be Robert?”

Holy shit. For several reasons. Stunned by the clear implication that Sigi had described him to the staff and they were expecting him, Robert could only nod. She led him inside and he tried not to fuss with his clothes, which he’d thought earlier looked decent but now he believed too shabby to be seen in this lighting. The acoustics were the sort of discreetly muffled that made him think of banks and hotel lobbies.

She didn’t need to lead him to the table, since Sigi was immediately visible from the opposite end of the room. Robert followed her like a man being led to his execution.

Sigi stood when they approached. He wasn’t wearing the heels tonight, Robert noticed, not like that made much difference. He was dressed in a black suit, white shirt, grey silk tie fastened with a blue sapphire pin. A gold ring flashed on his hand as he offered it in greeting.

“Robert,” he purred, clasping his hand in strong fingers. “You look well.”

Robert tried not to think too much about the fact that this was indeed a date because there were absolutely no other guests sitting at this table, no extra chairs, and the surrounding tables were conspicuously empty. This entire half of the room was devoid of people.

It also struck Robert, from out of nowhere, that Sigi was exactly the sort of man to purposely reserve multiple tables in a very expensive restaurant in order to buy himself some small measure of privacy. He could tell the people at the nearest table, still far away, kept glancing sideways in Sigi’s direction.

Sitting now, Robert felt his fingers shake just for a moment as he glanced at the table setting. He was in a fancy restaurant. He wondered how good their cooks were. He wondered whether he’d be able to recreate anything off the menu at home later. If he lived through this.

“Anything to drink, sir?” the hostess asked, still hovering by their table.

Robert’s mind went blank. He knew almost nothing of drinks. “Oh, uh,” he said, glancing at Sigi for help and ready to just ask for water, to go with the glass of water already by his hand.

Sigi understood. “Two of the same, then,” he simply said, to which she nodded and left.

Robert could feel his pulse in his face now that he was technically alone with Sigi. “…so.”

Sigi smiled. “I’m glad you could make it.”

“I’m. You’re welcome. I mean.” Robert sipped his water and was impressed he didn’t dribble all over his beard. “I’m a bit shocked you invited me. In case you couldn’t tell.” Fuck it, go with what you know, he figured. He was anxious, Sigi knew he was crap at this already, he could win the guy over with his adorable terror.

It seemed to be the right idea. Sigi was still smiling. “I had an inkling. It’s not often I get to watch a ruggedly handsome individual quake in his boots over the wine menu.”

Robert had to bite his tongue to avoid shouting the words ruggedly handsome in disbelief. “Come on.”

“No, no, it’s quite entertaining. Don’t be embarrassed. Well… do be, since it’s precious, but don’t feel bad.”

“Did you ask me here tonight to watch me… do whatever this is?” Robert almost jumped when he realized their drinks had just arrived. It was either wine or champagne, he guessed, peering at the glass in front of him.

Sigi was already sipping his. Robert watched, noticed he’d swallowed. He wasn’t faking, and this— this was… “What… is this, again?”

Sigi managed not to make Robert feel like a complete idiot. “Château d’Yquem. Wine. I take it you’re not a connoisseur?”

“Not with drinks, no…” He sipped it, then figured he didn’t know what made a good wine or a bad one. It all tasted weird to him.

“What would you consider your area of expertise, then?”

“I cook a little.” That sounded pathetic. He had to elaborate. “I went to culinary school.”

“Oh? That’s a long way from freelance journalism. What happened?”

“Life sort of happened, I guess. I still cook for myself, at home… well, of course I do, everyone has to eat, but… you know. I cook.”

Sigi’s lip twitched into a hint of a smile. “I can’t cook. I think I could burn water.”

“It is technically possible to burn water, too. Salt water, anyway. Probably not in your garden variety kitchen, though…”

Sigi’s smile widened. “That sounds more my style. I was a chemist for a while.”

Robert paused. “Actually, I’ve been wondering…”

“Go on.” Sigi sipped his wine again, further mystifying Robert. Could vampires drink alcohol? Why would they want to?

“What is it that you do?” Robert felt Sigi’s eyes on him. He pressed on. “I mean, obviously, but, how do you have time for all of that? Do you really do all of that stuff?”

“All of ‘that stuff’?” Sigi repeated politely, wine glass poised near his mouth.

“Yes. All of that stuff.”

“Would you care to guess?” Sigi asked, red lips almost-smiling yet again.

Robert inhaled. “Well, I had to check Wikipedia, so you’ll forgive me if I’m missing anything? I know you hold lectures sometimes, you curate art galleries, you have a lipstick collection with your name literally on it, you narrate practically everything, and apparently now you were also a chemist once. How do you do all of that?”

“You’d like to know my secret?” Sigi asked, leaning forward. He lowered his voice. “I’m an insomniac.”

“Seriously?”

“Never a wink of sleep. Maybe a nap every twelve weeks, if I’m feeling lucky. You need a few hobbies or else you go mad.”

Robert tried to study Sigi’s flawless face and clear, steady eyes without going weak in every joint. “You do not look like a person suffering from lack of anything.”

Sigi sat back, looking playfully smug. “Flatterer.”

“It isn’t insomnia, though. I’m not that gullible.”

“Good thing you aren’t. I’m afraid I’ve no Earth-shaking secret, merely that I have too many interests and am too stubborn to give up on a project.”

“Do you really have that many doctorates?”

“I do.”

“Should I call you Doctor?”

“Is that what you like?” Sigi waited for the flush to spread over Robert’s face before he allowed himself another sip of wine. “‘Doctor’ feels petty. I don’t use it unless I need to impress someone. Usually men who don’t think I’m at all educated.”

That perplexed Robert. He frowned. “Who thinks you’re uneducated?”

Sigi laughed briefly. The sound made Robert’s insides twist in a not-entirely-unpleasant way. “You’d be shocked at what people will refuse to believe when presented with a pretty professional. I don’t often show up to play Who’s The Greater Expert In Their Field but, well, sometimes that’s the ice-breaker.”

“And I’m asking this as a guy who doesn’t follow celebrity news or… anything like that, really, but… what are you famous for?”

“I’m famous for looking the way I do. Plain and simple,” Sigi said as the server approached the table. He seemed genuinely amused by the question; Robert gathered few people bothered to ask him that. “When it’s difficult to go unnoticed, why not embrace infamy?”

Robert glanced at the menu for the first time and was shocked by how simple, and yet how interesting it looked. There weren’t very many items to choose from, but everything was a very carefully made dish. Robert was lost and confused, unable to pick one because he was curious about all of them.

He just noticed Sigi hadn’t looked at his menu at all, and handed it calmly to the server as he said, “Blue steak, thank you.” Robert looked and didn’t see that on the menu, but the server didn’t argue.

Robert picked something at random and made that his choice, blindly hoping it wouldn’t bankrupt him, and gave up his menu.

“So, Robert,” Sigi said as the server left. “What happened to make you leave culinary school so abruptly?”

Robert felt his stomach drop a little just thinking about it. “What makes you say that? Maybe it was a gradual, slow leaving.”

Sigi’s expression was potentially that of someone trying not to smile. It was hard to tell on his face. “You did your research. I did some of my own. I know who you’re working with at the moment, and it wasn’t difficult to ask Miriam about you. I was curious about your journalistic endeavours, you understand; I’ve made a point to avoid social outings with a certain type of writer, and given the places we ran into one another I wondered about your publications. Of course, I’ve also had more than my share of stalkers, so naturally I did a little… sifting.”

At the word ‘stalkers’, Robert tried not to react. Sigi had suspected, briefly, quite correctly, that Robert was specifically keeping an eye on him.

“I did notice you have a wide range of published works, but everything started within the same year. The same month. Nothing older than eleven years, and you’re not the typical sort to attend school for journalism and hit the ground running right after graduation, unless you attended school later than your peers, so I assumed a name change— in which case, well done— or a dramatic change in careers for reasons unknown.”

In the brief stunned silence that followed, Sigi added lightly, “I like learning and I’m thorough. Do indulge me.”

“Was that why you asked me to dinner?”

“No. I did this research after extending the invitation.”

“Well… thanks for the vote of confidence.” When Sigi watched him expectantly, Robert gave in. He felt queasy. “Dramatic change in careers. Big injury, had to leave school, start over after too long out of practice. Editing I can do from home, and writing articles was easy to fit in there.”

“I see. My condolences, for the injury.” Sigi finished his wine. The server was at the table again, unbidden, replacing that glass with a fresh one and filling it up. “Would you go back to culinary school if you had the chance?”

“I… wish I could. It was hard to leave; now I don’t know if I could handle getting back in. There was a lot of therapy. …Physical therapy, I mean.”

Sigi nodded. “A shame. I’d have loved to patronize your kitchen.”

For all the terror he inspired in Robert, Sigi was indeed a skilled conversationalist. He managed to get Robert talking about what he’d enjoyed most in school, which led to him explaining his favourite, more complicated recipes, and when Sigi asked— clearly very curious— what ‘braised’ technically meant, Robert had a chance to actually teach Sigi something new. It was a dizzying experience.

He didn’t realize how much time had passed when their meals arrived. Robert was enchanted by his plate, mentally cataloguing everything he could identify so he could attempt recreating it in his own kitchen sometime, and Sigi smiled serenely at the server as he cut into his steak.

Robert remembered his mission very suddenly when he watched Sigi lift a delicate piece of still-bloody meat to his lips, chew, and swallow. Without flinching. Robert was starting to despair. Sigi drank alcohol and ate steak— he must not be what Robert thought.

One in twelve, he mused glumly.

“Well,” Robert said, once he’d tasted everything on his plate, feeling slightly less jumpy now that he had sipped down half of his drink. It was going to be hard to act normal after his final realization regarding Sigi. Not a vampire. Not his problem. Definitely someone’s problem, but Robert had to accept defeat. “We’ve talked about my jobs, now I’m wondering. What was your first job?”

Sigi blinked, glanced down at his steak. “Goodness, it’s been a while.”

“A while? You look, what, thirty?”

“You really do need to stop flattering me, Robert. No, I’ve had so very, very many jobs.” With a quirk of his lips, lifting his glass again, Sigi added, “Catholic priest.”

Robert coughed on his mouthful of vegetables. That had not been a careful reaction. Now he didn’t have to think about forcing it. “What— really?”

“Yes.”

“…Really?”

“You don’t believe me,” Sigi observed, now definitely grinning, before he sipped what had to be his third glass of wine. “That was my first job. Technically I still am, depending on who you ask.”

“You aren’t exactly what I’d picture when I think of a priest.” Robert cleared his throat and wondered whether this was news to any of Sigi’s fans. “So why did you… leave it? Or focus on other things, anyway?”

“Life. Sort of happened.” Sigi’s grin was downright upsetting now. “Too many hobbies I couldn’t leave alone. I adored the arts too much, even for a devout Catholic.”

“Alright, then… what was your second job? Curator?”

“I’m afraid I’ll have to leave some mysteries for a later meeting.”

“Oh, so you’re blackmailing me into another date? Sneaky.”

“Gracious, he’s found me out,” Sigi muttered into his glass. “I’m doomed.”

Robert was reeling from this new bit of information. Of course he’d already known that religion didn’t actually stop any vampires in their tracks, but Sigi wasn’t one, so he shouldn’t even be so stunned. It was certainly difficult to think Catholic priest while looking across the table at Sigi. At perfect, beautiful Sigi, lips painted a glimmering red, locks of shining blonde hair tumbling over his shoulder in thick curls… He tried to imagine Sigi with shorter hair, wearing robes, but he couldn’t.

He was definitely tipsy, he reflected, glancing at his glass of wine. He never really drank anything— he was a lightweight for someone his size. Meanwhile, by contrast, Sigi was serenely tasting his— what, sixth glass?— with no noticeable change in demeanour. How much of a weakling was Robert?

He was too busy puzzling over the thought of Sigi being a man of the cloth to think of much else for a minute. When Sigi spoke again, he had to apologize, ask Sigi to repeat the question.

“I was asking whether you can hear that,” Sigi said, a slight frown on his lovely face. “I didn’t want to say, after all perhaps you’re hard of hearing. I don’t want to be rude. Except…” Sigi pointed one long, beautifully immaculate nail directly at Robert’s left pocket. “Your cell phone has been… shrieking for the past eight minutes and twelve seconds.”

Robert could feel the colour drain from his face.

The alarm.

Oh, fuck almighty, the alarm.

Sigi could hear it.
Sigi, pt 5
HERE I AM

...ROCK YOU LIKE A HURRICANE

lol. thank you to everyone who's been reading and waiting so patiently! i've been writing a lot still, but the editing and arranging has taken a bit longer. don't worry, i have huge plans for sigi!

in this segment, another flashback, and The Date From Hell has begun >:3 please leave your thoughts! i love every little comment, i like knowing people are having fun reading my lil baby <3
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Sigi drove home with the wind whistling an annoying tune through the hole in his window. He was in an odd mood tonight. He’d decided to leave the event a touch earlier than he normally would. At least tonight he’d left Stefan at home; that was one less thing to aggravate him now.

He knew himself very well. Living so many years gave you an uncomfortable amount of time to come to terms with your own shortcomings. Sigi, despite his skill at hiding it, had a bit of a temper. He was better at hiding his moods than Stefan, who sulked like a small child even with magazine photographers present, but he could nevertheless get into a deep, foul mood quite easily.

It was partly the hole in the window. The sound it made as he drove. The wind blowing directly into his left ear at certain speeds. The fact that someone had had the absolute nerve to shoot a wooden bullet at him while he was minding his own business… it could have ruined his outfit, on top of that. This jacket was a gift from a tailor in 1952. And his manicure had chipped when he’d scratched his responding message into that stone. Another annoyance; it bothered him to have one irregular nail.

He’d chased off a few hunters before. Bought some off as well. Apparently someone hadn’t gotten the memo.

He stewed in near silence (with whistling accompaniment provided by the window) until he couldn’t take it anymore; he turned on the CD player and cranked the volume up high. By the end of the second Vivaldi suite he was home.

Still in a foul mood, but less furious. Ready to undress and sulk in the privacy of his house. Perhaps he’ll look over his rosaries—
As soon as he set foot inside the foyer he knew something was amiss. He could smell it. There was perfume here that didn’t belong to him. The house was a touch warmer than usual. Someone was here that should not be.

And the realization that Stefan had brought somebody here, that Stefan was on a date, was the final straw. Sigi dropped his bag and coat and went in search of Stefan.

It didn’t take him long at all. The further he went the more he could smell and hear of the intruder. All his rage focused upon Stefan now, and not his guest. Stefan had willfully gone against Sigi’s rules.

Sigi rarely thought about the night he found Stefan, having broken into his house to stand over his bed, attempt to touch him as though he had a right to anything he wanted, but he was thinking about it now.

He considered throwing the door open as loudly as possible, but that would result in needing to repair the door and probably alarm the guest unnecessarily. He wasn’t doing this to put the fear of God into Stefan’s guest; once he’d gotten rid of the intruder, Stefan would get his own private show.

Sigi found them, of all places, in his bedroom. His bedroom. Not Stefan’s. Of course. Because Stefan’s room was not as lavishly decorated, not the sort of thing you’d want to show a date to impress them when Sigi’s four-poster mahogany bed frame, complete with tapestry hangings, was on the next floor up. Sigi cherished the rage welling up inside of him at this disgusting level of disobedience and disrespect. He liked having a very good reason to be so angry.

Since Stefan was obviously a fan of sneaking around, Sigi decided the best course of action would be to wait for Stefan to notice him. He waited patiently, watching Stefan paw awkwardly at the woman on his bed, standing so close either of them could reach out and pull his hair.

The woman opened her eyes first. She spotted Sigi immediately and recoiled from Stefan with a yelp. Stefan turned to look up at Sigi, who forced a smile past his scowl. “Stefan. Who’s your friend?”

Stefan stammered. Sigi hated every inch of the snivelling coward, hated the cheap lipstick smeared across his mouth, hated the way his sweat smelled through his rumpled clothing. “You’re— you’re supposed to be out!”

“‘Out’ does not mean ‘never coming back’,” Sigi told him patiently. He turned his gaze upon the woman, who stared at him open-mouthed. “I take it he didn’t mention whose bed this is?”

She shook her head. “Sorry! So sorry!”

Sigi paused. He could smell alcohol on her breath. He turned to scowl at Stefan again so quickly he felt his neck crack. “Get. Out. Of. My. Bed.”

Stefan moved to obey but Sigi barked, “Not you, you stay.” He waited for the woman to stand up, adjust her dress to fall properly over her thighs, then took her hand and leaned down to gather her shoes and purse in his other hand. “You are going home immediately.”

She gasped and sobbed as he led her through the house. He stopped in front of the telephone and passed her things back. Before he dialed the number for a taxi he looked her over, saw the way she was crying, and made his best effort to sound soothing. He was angry. Not with her. She reminded him of a child awaiting a beating and he didn’t like that at all.

“What is your name?” he asked quietly. Still frowning, but sounding calm.

She snuffled into her palm for a moment before she choked out, “Margareta.”

“Margareta.” He took her hand and squeezed it gently. “My deepest apologies for startling you tonight. Are you very familiar with the man upstairs?”

She hesitated a moment before shaking her head, looking ashamed. Sigi didn’t care about how or why she’d come here tonight, didn’t think it was anyone’s business what Margareta did with her weekends. Sigi dialed a number. While the phone rang, he stated, “I’m about to do you a favour, Margareta. If that man attempts to contact you ever again, ignore him. You don’t deserve that trouble.”

Sigi gave the taxi company his address and hung up. He stood outside with Margareta until the car arrived; when she asked if she could take his photograph he agreed, then gave her a sympathetic moment to fix her makeup before she leaned in for a picture. When she climbed into the taxi Sigi made sure she gave the driver her address, and Sigi paid the driver in advance, along with a generous tip.

Once the taxi was out of sight, Sigi marched back inside. Stefan, that disobedient little stain, had not waited for Sigi in his room, had instead slunk to the living room.

Sigi noticed then that all the lamps in the house were on. He walked through the living room, turning them off, always glaring at Stefan. That done, he stepped closer and leaned down to scowl directly into Stefan’s eyes.

Stefan opened his mouth. “You didn’t have to—”

Sigi smacked him across the face, then held him tightly by the jaw. “I am not here to listen to you lecture me about ruining your night. I am here to remind you of whose house this is. I am here to remind you of why you are here, in my house. Or do you remember why that is?”

Stefan sulked. Sigi dug his fingernails into Stefan’s jaw until the man whimpered. Blood dripped along Sigi’s knuckles, pooled between his fingers.

“You’re here because you wanted this,” Sigi reminded him. “You came here because you were so certain that I belonged to you. And now, Stefan, you have what you wanted. You have me, until the day you die.” He stared into Stefan’s eyes. “Am I not enough for you, Stefan?” he asked quietly.

Stefan stank of sweat. “You go on dates every night,” he whined. Whined.

Sigi laughed in his face. He did not find this funny at all. “You do not have that privilege, Stefan. You gave it up when you proved yourself to be untrustworthy. Do you not recall coming into my house uninvited because you thought you could just have me? Like a pretty trinket.” He pulled Stefan closer by the jaw, now too close for Stefan to see anything past his face. “If I need to discipline you like a dog that won’t stop pissing in the corner then so be it.”

“You’re hurting me,” he grunted.

“No. I’m being gentle.” Sigi shoved him away, watched him fall to the floor grasping his bloodied jaw. “And you are not sleeping tonight until you strip my bed, replace the sheets, burn the ones you were fornicating in, and clean every collection room.”

Stefan made a noise of protest. Sigi interrupted him loudly. “Excuse me, do you need assistance with your chores, Stefan?”

Stefan went quiet for one blissful moment, then dared open his mouth again. “You didn’t have to be rough with her.”

You brought a woman to my house and had her inebriated in my bed,” Sigi roared. “Do not tell me I was ‘rough with her’. She’s lucky I left early.”

Stefan had the nerve to scowl at Sigi as though he should feel bad for ruining Stefan’s night, but Sigi was hard to impress. When Stefan didn’t move his ass quickly enough Sigi lifted him to his feet by the forearm and dragged him upstairs so he could supervise Stefan’s chores.

Sigi did not need to sleep. Staying awake all night to watch Stefan clean up in sullen silence was actually quite relaxing, besides.

*

As the weeks progress it becomes painfully apparent that Sigi must abandon his studies.

Johannes is still concerned for his health. He’s stopped inquiring after Sigi’s health since Sigi loudly told him to stop, although that hasn’t kept him from watching Sigi carefully.

Sigi cannot sit at meals anymore. He’s tried to eat breakfast with Johannes and the landlord’s family, with no success. Food does not appeal to him any longer. Even when he feels hungry, trying to eat anything offered by the servants in the kitchen turns his stomach.

He attends church more frequently. The priest seems a bit unnerved by his presence (understandably), although he doesn’t turn Sigi away. Johannes is not Catholic; he will not follow Sigi here. Sigi sits in the pews at the back, staring at the crucifixion and waiting for thoughts of blood to leave him, although he should have realized a Catholic church is not a place to forget about blood.

He tries not to think of his mother. He refuses to allow the terrible thought that she was right intrude upon him, not now, not after he’s avoided it so well lately.

Something is terribly, terribly wrong with him. He’s no longer feverish. No longer merely ‘ill’. He cannot eat, he does not sleep. He lies awake every night listening to Johannes breathe and he salivates at the smell of it. Whenever Johannes speaks to him, whenever the priest speaks to him, Sigi can only think of biting through that tongue and swallowing the blood that would pour into his mouth. No amount of prayer can distract him.

Locking himself away is not an option. The only room he can find in which to do this would be a cupboard under the stairs, if he should remove all the linens, but the servant girl would have to come pull him out eventually. And he could still smell them through the wooden door— the landlord, the servant girl, Johannes, the man who delivers the eggs…

He’s biting his fingernails a lot these past few days. He bites until he can taste his own blood, and it isn’t enough to fully distract him, but it calms him somewhat. Johannes notices his ragged fingertips at night, voices concern about all the scabs, but Sigi pretends he’s always had this habit.

The only thing that helps keep him from chewing on Johannes is fresh meat from the market. Sigi is fast running out of money. He’s counted the meagre amount left in his purse multiple times, knows it will purchase perhaps one last cut of raw meat before he becomes truly desperate.

Jan’s father has arranged for three dogs to be killed. No one suspects what Sigi has done. He’s becoming anxious that he’s going to ruin his own good luck.

Sigi is upset to realize he must leave before he hurts Johannes. He’s already left his family; now he must leave the one friend he’s ever had. He can’t tell Johannes he’s leaving, either— Johannes would try to convince him to stay, or worse, follow him. He can’t risk that.

He watches Johannes fall asleep, like every other night of the past month, hungry but not tired, his body remarkably still as he fails to draw breath. He’s stopped inhaling when he doesn’t think about it. Yet another reason he should leave now. Johannes is a student of natural philosophy, like Sigi; he will notice that Sigi hasn’t been breathing very often. He’s already noticed that Sigi feels cold every time they touch, unless Sigi clings to him and leeches some of his warmth.

Sigi doesn’t think it’s possible that he’s dead, but he’s cold, does not breathe, does not sleep, and despite this constant aching hunger he hasn’t starved yet.

He stands at the foot of the bed, watching the way Johannes moves in his sleep, and wishes not for the first time that he could have been less odd. He might not have left home to meet Johannes if he had been normal, true, but perhaps he still would have. Who could know? But then, he might have had more friends then, too.

He almost wishes he knew how to cry, but that hasn’t really happened since he was very young. He just watches Johannes breathe and sleep and envies Johannes his ability to live normally. Johannes will get on without Sigi. He’ll meet people who will speak to him and look at his face and he won’t frighten people with his presence. He’ll marry, most likely; he’s a kind person. Sigi envies Johannes’s potential future wife the place she’ll have in his life.

Sigi changes his shirt and takes only the most important things with him. He slips out of the house without so much as a note, intent upon leaving town for good. He could live on a farm, perhaps… he was good enough with all the chores his mother set upon him, he might be able to raise cattle or…

“Sigi? Where are you going?”

Sigi stops. Johannes must have run out of the house to catch up with him. He turns to look at Johannes and finds that he can’t make eye contact. “I need to leave,” he says as he starts to walk again.

“Sigi? Sigi!” Johannes hastens to catch up, barely dressed, one shoe on. “Sigi, why are you leaving, what’s happened?”

Sigi walks in silence a while, but Johannes keeps pace with him. Sigi could run, outpace him, but something keeps him from running.

“Sigi, would you please tell me what’s wrong?” Johannes reaches to grasp Sigi’s hand, and that is what makes Sigi stop again, this time shaking his hand free.

“I wish you hadn’t noticed I left,” Sigi said, still unable to look at his friend. “Damn you, why did you wake up?”

Johannes frowns. “Sigi, what is it?”

“I don’t know.” Sigi dares a glance at Johannes, and suddenly he has to laugh. He cackles helplessly, palms up, as if asking anyone to supply him with the answer. “I don’t know. I don’t! I can’t stay, I must leave before I— Before I hurt you.”

Johannes looks alarmed. Dismayed. “Sigi… I’ve told you before, you aren’t dangerous. A little odd, perhaps, but that’s no fault of your own…”

“No, Johannes, not—” For a single dreadful moment he feels it about to leave him, and he has a moment to prevent it. And he does not. “I killed Jan. The boy. That was me. I did that. I— I bit through his neck, Johannes, and he— I cannot eat, Johannes, and he tasted glorious—” He’s sobbing. It startles him enough that he stops talking, holds a hand over his mouth. His face crumples and the tears spill from his eyes and suddenly he’s upset that he can still taste the boy’s blood in his mouth and he is so hungry for more of it.

Johannes shakes his head. “Have you gone mad? That was a dog, it couldn’t have been…”

“I tore into his soft throat like it was fresh bread,” Sigi tells him through his tears, “I’ve never tasted anything so delicious. I’ve been thinking about it for weeks. I’ve been wanting it for weeks. When you sleep I watch you. You smell delicious and when I kiss you I want to bite your tongue in half and swallow the meat. That’s why I’m leaving.”

“But… why would you do that?” Johannes is so quiet. His eyes have gone wide. He’s looking at Sigi as though he still wants to beg him to stay.

“I don’t know.” Sigi feels tired. His tears have abruptly stopped. “Perhaps I have gone mad. I cannot stay here with you. I… need to go far away. For a while. I’m sorry to have troubled you.”

For a moment he thinks Johannes is happy to let him go. Sigi starts walking again, feeling so ashamed of himself he might as well dig a hole in the first field he comes across and climb inside.

“Sigi, before you leave.”

Sigi is horrified for a moment to feel Johannes hurry closer, wrap his arms around him. He was always so much taller than Johannes; his friend stands with his face planted squarely in Sigi’s back. Sigi closes his eyes as Johannes slides around to his front, still holding him, and Sigi rests his cheek on top of his head. The smell of his dark hair is so familiar, but just underneath it, the flesh of his scalp, the blood running through everything else… Sigi bites his lip to avoid biting Johannes.

“Don’t write to my mother,” Sigi says, feeling ridiculous.

Johannes laughs. “I won’t.”

“…Or my father.”

“Definitely won’t.”

“Tell your family I’m dead.”

Johannes pulls away and wipes his face. “Please be careful.”

Sigi nods. Then, the last thing he ever says to Johannes: “You were my first friend. Thank you.”

He hurries off before Johannes tries to touch him again.

*

Father Addams could never quite prepare for the sight of Sigi in one of the pews. It always felt unreal at first, something he might have imagined, but once the shock wore off he was able to treat the peculiar celebrity as he would any other churchgoer. Sigi often made appearances very, very late at night, startling Father Addams as he wandered about tidying up since he never heard Sigi step inside.

He was there tonight, seated in the back row, one of two people visiting and the only one awake— the other was a young woman asleep by the front. Father Addams let her sleep. Sigi was leaning with his elbows on the pews in front of him, his hands clasped against his forehead. He didn’t move as Father Addams approached, yet didn’t seem surprised when the priest spoke.

“You look as if you’ve had a trying day, my friend.” Father Addams didn’t like to sit in Sigi’s presence; some childish part of him didn’t want to experience craning his neck up to look at Sigi even with both of them seated. He remained standing in the aisle.

Sigi peered at him sideways from behind his knuckles. “I needed a place to think calmly.”

“At three in the morning?”

He waited for half a minute before Sigi spoke again. “You don’t seem to get much sleep, either, Father.”

“Alas, chronic restlessness. At least I can make good use of this time when there are guests at all hours.” Father Addams motioned towards the front row with his chin, hoping the young lady was comfortable. Another glance down at Sigi and he noticed that he looked a bit more rumpled than his usual. “Is everything all right at home? You seem to have come here in…”

“In a temper?” Sigi turned his face enough to look up at the priest.

“I was going to say ‘in a hurry’, but if that is what happened… Did you need someone to talk to? You know I’ll always lend an ear.”

Sigi’s blue eyes were always sharp. Father Addams had grown used to maintaining eye contact with even the most unusual of guests; only years of practice kept him from looking away when Sigi stared him down. He wasn’t sure why Sigi tended not to blink very often from time to time, but it wasn’t his place to ask, either.

“You know, attendance had increased once people realized you come here,” he said after a time, tactfully deciding to change the subject. “I’ve been meaning to thank you for that. The bigger the gathering, the happier the occasion.”

“I’m glad you’ve enjoyed it. I would have expected you to ask me to be more discreet.”

“Why would I do that? You’ve always been a model guest.”

Sigi shrugged one shoulder. Didn’t speak. He finally blinked, then looked back towards the front.

“Well. I’ll leave you to your reflection. It is always good to see you.” Father Addams put a hand on Sigi’s shoulder before he moved to leave.

Sigi surprised him by suddenly asking, still looking at the pulpit, “Is it possible for a woman to be a witch without her knowing it?”

Father Addams was perplexed by the question. He thought he’d misheard Sigi for a moment. “…Is that what brought you here tonight?”

Sigi’s lip quirked in half of a smile. “No. That’s the first thing I can remember asking in confession. I was very young.”

“And what prompted that question?” The priest sat down beside Sigi, for perhaps the second time in his life.

“My parents were very old-fashioned.”

“You must have had good reason to ask that, if it weighed so heavily on your mind. Were you concerned for someone?”

Sigi didn’t seem to breathe for a few short moments. Father Addams wondered if he’d offended his guest. Then Sigi spoke again, breaking that spell. “Not especially. My mother was obsessed with the possibility. I didn’t know what to look for, myself.”

Father Addams considered this in silence. “Is your mother well?” he ventured after a long while.

“My mother is dead, Father. But thank you for your concern.”

They sat together in silence after that. Eventually Father Addams excused himself, sensing Sigi didn’t have anything else to share and didn’t want to be rude. By the time he’d checked quietly on the young lady in the front, to make sure she was sleeping soundly and not ill, Sigi seemed to have left.
Sigi, pt 4
and here we have three more scenes of sigi! showing how sigi feels about his personal assistant disobeying The Rules, young sigi having to Deal With Shit, and a rare instance of sigi looking for advise. GOSH I LOVE HIM

next update you can expect some more sigi backstory (ugh there's so much of it and i'm LIVING MY BEST LIFE), robert's DINNER DATE from HELL, and possibly some new characters!

PLZ leave me your thoughts if you enjoyed it! thank you! <3
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definitely not a vampire
spoiler alert sigi's the vampire it's him it's him

i... wish i were capable of going to bed on time but at least this is a REALLY PRETTY DRAWING

quick facts!!!!!!
-sigi's 369 years old
-plattdeutsch was his first language but he's been around so long his accent has become "is this a fake accent, we can't tell"
-sigi is six foot ten in his socks. there is a queer punk band named 'seven foot femme' in his honour.
-i need to wake up in five hours hhahahahahahahahahahahhhhh


ETA: now that i've caught up on sleep and looked at this for a while i figured out what i was trying to achieve at 2:30am the other night so now sigi's complexion is considerably more accurate to what i have in mind U u U
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Horrible. It’s the only word Sigi can think of right now. He turns it over in his mind as though he’s never really studied it before: horrible. Horrible. Horrible. It starts to sound less and less like a real word, but the feeling of dread in his stomach is no less powerful.

“Sigi?” Johannes has been watching him for the past minute or so, trying to get his attention. “Sigi…” He turns away from Sigi to face their professor standing just inside the doorway to his home. “He’s just as shocked as I am, sir. We all are. Poor little Jan…”

Sigi’s stomach churns as they’re invited inside, both from horror and— even more upsetting— from hunger. The bloodless body of the small child he’d chewed on two days prior is lying on a table, there for people to mourn and pay their respects. The woman seated on the chair in the corner, sobbing softly by herself, must be the mother.

Sigi steps closer with Johannes. Their professor is speaking, mentioning where they found the body, but Sigi already knows exactly where they found it.

While Johannes offers his condolences to the distraught family Sigi leans around the table to get a glimpse of the mess he left of the child’s neck. It’s very clear what killed him, he realizes, and he feels his stomach clench again with that horrible mix of guilt and overwhelming hunger. He didn’t expect to have to look at this child again.

He’s brought out of his stupor when he hears the professor say it: a hunting dog. They were going to look for the sick animal and kill it before it could attack anyone else.

“By the look of the mess, it could be any one of the lord’s dogs. We haven’t had wolves here for years.”

Sigi steps outside quickly, muttering condolences as he leaves, eager to get out of that house before his guilt stops being mistaken for sympathetic shock. He’s shaking out on the streets when Johannes finds him, leaning against a wall and ignoring the people who look at him.

“That poor boy,” Johannes whispers, “He just left the market and…”

Sigi has to bite his lip to distract himself from the smell of the boy, still very present inside that house. It doesn’t smell at all like decomposition to Sigi; it only reminds him of how good his blood tasted.

“Sigi? Are you still unwell?” Johannes reaches up to hold his friend’s shoulder. “You’ve been pale lately.”

Johannes’s hand feels hot through Sigi’s clothing. Sigi doesn’t feel cold, but he notices how warm Johannes is now. He can't stop noticing it, like how he can taste Johannes’s breath whenever he speaks. “I’m hungry. That’s all.”

Johannes is visibly taken aback. “Hungry? After… that?”

Sigi pushes off the wall and walks away. “I’ll see you later.”

“Where are you going? We’ve food at home!”

Sigi ignores him, walks faster when he hears Johannes trying to follow. He’d always had longer legs, and he loses Johannes as soon as his friend gives up. He can’t let Johannes know where he’s going.

He spends the rest of the day traveling as far out of town as he can get before he’s in pain from hunger. He doesn’t come home until hours past midnight, sated, filthy, wide-awake and distraught. When he slides into bed Johannes sleepily rolls over to hold him, and Sigi curls into his warmth and does not sleep.

*

Robert hadn’t gone into hunting because he liked it. There wasn’t much to enjoy about a job like this, and the only hunting experience he had prior to this very particular game was hunting deer in his childhood. No, this was dangerous (some would even argue unnecessary) compared to hunting in order to put food on the table, or even for sport.

This was hunting to keep people safe.

He hated hunting the old ones, but you couldn’t really put it off when you found another one; the longer you waited, the more people you were endangering. At least the old ones tried to be subtle, and smart, and could wait between victims. The young ones were the most needlessly violent.

Both young and old were terrible when they were cornered. It wasn’t really a matter of which was easier to get rid of.

But oh, he hated hunting the old ones. The best approach, or at least the approach Robert vastly preferred, was an ambush. A sneak attack. Sniper shot.

A stake in the heart would work, if you knew where to aim, but that was tough. You had to get in close, and that was probably the stupidest thing you could do. You also needed a lot of upper body strength and fucking ridiculous reflexes. Robert stayed in shape mostly for being able to get away when he mucked things up, and he knew from experience that a stake through the heart was impractical. Pushing forty, he was no Olympian.

Robert had some compromises, to spare himself some grief, extend his lifespan. After all, food chains were food chains, and everything deserved a shot at existing— he tried to do a background check before finalizing the next target. He’d found a few who lived in rural areas and stuck to farm animals; some even raised their own cattle and left people alone. Others still made a point to work in morgues; fresh blood was apparently not mandatory.

He was wary when Sigi was first brought to his attention. He didn’t really care for pop culture so he was behind the times with most celebrities; it was his thirteen-year-old niece who showed him who Sigi was. After he’d dared commit the crime of confessing he had no idea who that was, and after she’d gasped and demanded how he couldn’t know, she showed him some magazine articles and bragged about the lipstick she owned. Apparently this Sigi was… well. Famous, for some reason. Robert just assumed Sigi was a makeup brand, but Sigi was a person.

The photos weren’t that alarming because, being in a fashion magazine, Robert assumed airbrushing and lighting did all the work. He didn’t think about Sigi until a week later, when he heard that name again in a documentary playing on television while he cooked dinner. Struck by hearing the same name so soon, after never hearing it before, he leaned into the living room to watch. This Sigi was narrating a documentary on the history of modern scientific thought, talking about the standardization of the meter and other things Robert had never really wondered about. Curious, Robert used his phone to look up the documentary, to find the narrator’s name, and then was interested to see it was the same Sigi responsible for his niece’s lipstick collection.

That led to a brief internet spiral while he finished cooking, in which he checked Wikipedia and news stories, and pictures— candid as well as professionally done— and before he knew it he felt like he couldn’t even think of food. He found himself leaning on the countertop beside the stove, deep in his phone, staring intently at every picture of this Sigi person and unable to look away.

This was not something common to vampires, at least not in static photos. It struck Robert however that any Youtube results for Sigi brought absolutely no moving images over five seconds long. Sigi visibly disliked being filmed, although he had no trouble offering his voice to— Robert checked Wikipedia again— documentaries, movies, video games, audio books, or interviews.

He’d write it off as eccentricity if he didn’t feel the need to stare at every picture he could find of Sigi, including those short video clips. Sigi… didn’t seem to look right in videos. Which was odd.

Robert tried to go back to his meal, now getting cold on the stove, but he’d lost his appetite. Sigi had ruined his appetite somehow.

It came to him about an hour later, while he was avoiding his phone and ignoring the television, trying to clean his gear before he sat down to do a little editing for his day job. A feeling of dread had settled over him since he’d looked Sigi up online, and he still couldn’t fully explain why looking at Sigi in pictures was somehow horrifying, but he watched the video clips again and came to the decision that he had another background he should check soon.

This would be the first time he’d had to figure out a celebrity target. It would take longer to get the information he needed to make his final decision. Maybe Sigi was just weird. Maybe he was a weird but perfectly normal human. Or maybe he wasn’t a perfectly normal human but he stuck to a strictly small-vermin-and-cattle diet. Either way, Robert had to be extra careful and extra sure if he was going to even consider hunting someone in the public eye like this.

He sort of hated his job.

He worked around his daytime-job-as-editor schedule to make trips to the city Sigi usually lived in. At least as an editor he could get into publishing shindigs if he pulled a few strings, and Sigi worked with a lot of magazines. After getting a temporary spot in a hotel, Robert spent his days trying to figure out some part of Sigi’s schedule and his nights trying to sneak ever closer for a glimpse. He’d make a decent stalker if he were any less morally strict.

Part of his hunting, once he got close enough, involved having to hide his face and hide his scent. There were ways to cover enough of his scent that a potential predator wouldn’t recognize him if he was always around, and then suddenly, inexplicably nearby on a dark night in an abandoned street. Robert wore essential oils, a different one every day he knew he’d be near enough for Sigi to possibly spot him, and on some days he covered his torso with unsavoury things like old blood from a butcher’s shop or, on the worst days, cooled bacon grease. He hated being near potential vampires smelling like a BLT but they didn’t care as much for meat as they did fresh, hot blood.

He tried to stick to essential oils for the most part, but they got costly.

He didn’t have to start coating himself in a different stink for a little while, able to observe from a greater distance, but once he started trying to keep track of everyone Sigi went on a date with he started to worry and move in closer. They didn’t seem to all… go home. Most did. It was hard to spot at first. But nearly one in twelve people didn’t leave Sigi’s house after they followed him home from a party. Every twelve dates, somebody vanished.

The longer Robert waited, the more people would mysteriously disappear.

He was careful to make sure, of course, but after he watched twenty-eight different people go home with Sigi and two didn’t leave the house again with Robert watching well into the next day, until Sigi left by himself… Robert had to resign himself to the fact that he was going to get much closer to Sigi now.

A few more strings pulled and suddenly Robert was editing for magazines that liked to cover Sigi’s body of work, whether it was makeup or fashion or art curation or scientific studies. (How on Earth did anyone have so many fingers in so many different fields? Robert had maybe one half of a hobby and Sigi was the Renaissance.) Eventually, someday soon, Robert was going to have to meet the guy face-to-face.

His chance finally came when he got to attend an open lecture at a university, with Sigi as the guest specialist. Sigi was giving a lecture to grad students and Robert was left stupefied just listening to the whole thing. With the documentary narration and audio books, Sigi was likely to have a script; during the lecture he did not hold any notes at all. He instructed everyone present on a very specific period in early modern military history and even answered questions at the end, no script, no notes, nothing. Robert even learned some things about military history that he didn’t have much use for.

Since he was going to edit the brief article about Sigi’s lecture today, Robert was able to get close enough to thank Sigi for the opportunity. Close up, Sigi was the single most alarming being Robert had ever had to address.

He was courteous. He was well-spoken. He was a gracious guest and delighted to meet anyone who’d enjoyed the lecture. He shook Robert’s hand. Robert was petrified the entire time, unable to string two words together without feeling his innards all clench up.

Looking at Sigi in person, having him look at you and speak directly to you, was… horrifying. Robert had survived vampire attacks, had hunted and killed some pretty vicious predators, and he had never been as unsettled as he had when getting to meet Sigi. He couldn’t explain how, exactly; his voice was very soothing, as inviting as a voice could be, and if Robert could look away at all without seeming entirely rude he could probably even relax.

Sigi smiled, interrupting himself, and instead said to Robert, “You seem overwhelmed. Is there anything I can do?”

Oh, God, when he smiled it was even worse. Robert nearly vomited, so shocked by the sight of it that he almost didn’t know how to speak for a moment. He wasn’t starstruck. He didn’t care for celebrities at all— once he’d met his favourite author and was able to have a perfectly civil, levelheaded conversation with her. He wasn’t even interested in Sigi’s work, he wasn’t a fan… This wasn’t jitters, this was raw animal terror and unspeakable, indescribable horror given a pretty face and a handsome voice.
“Sorry, you…” Robert decided he couldn’t hide it at all even if Sigi hadn’t made note of it. Might as well play along. “I wasn’t ready to meet you in person. And you gave such a wonderful lecture.”

“Thank you. I’m very lucky the university will have me. You have an interest in the subject?”

Sigi wasn’t dressed the way he was in the fashion spreads or on the red carpet, just a tie and dress shirt under a simple sweater, brown leather Oxfords— he was dressed more like an academic today, and he was still somehow radiant. Robert had always been mystified by makeup that didn’t intend to look halfway natural and Sigi’s red lips were no exception.

Sigi smiled again, making Robert feel more ill. “You’re staring at my mouth,” Sigi noted calmly, no quieter than before.

Robert jolted with alarm. “Sorry. My… my niece wears your lipstick. She’s a fan; she actually had to tell me who you were.”

Sigi’s smile broadened. “Ooh. You must live in the woods,” he remarked, as though he envied Robert.

Robert was trying very hard to remind himself that he couldn’t start to like Sigi even the tiniest bit if he was going to have to kill him. “Not anymore, I’m just hopeless.” He tried to duck out courteously, gesturing around the room at the bustling faculty and students. “I won’t take up any more of your time, but thanks so much. It was a pleasure.”

Sigi shook his hand again. “Likewise. You should attend the lecture next month.”

Robert nodded, made his way outside, and promptly dry-heaved over a bush behind the lecture hall.

He didn’t hate Sigi, and that was probably the most alarming part of all. He was scary as all hell but he wasn’t trying to be; Robert had met plenty of people through his day job and few had even tried to be as warm as Sigi had been.

It was his face, Robert realized, thinking about it on the way back to his hotel room; Sigi’s face was so perfect, so astoundingly beautiful, that it totally fucked with your eyes. It threw off your balance and made you almost motion sick. This wasn’t a thing Robert had noticed with other vampires; this seemed to be particular only to Sigi. He’d heard of the uncanny valley— this was an uncanny deep sea trench. People weren’t meant to see faces that perfect.

Upon further reflection, Robert couldn’t figure out why he thought of Sigi’s face that way. He wasn’t even what Robert found most attractive, superficially. But something about him forced Robert to know, beyond a doubt, that Sigi was so beautiful, so utterly perfect, that he was beyond description. It wasn’t Robert’s personal preference; it was a fact. It was awful to look at.

Once Robert felt well enough to take the bus back to his hotel, he spent the next hour or so trying to get more background information on Sigi. He should have guessed he’d come up with very little; ten minutes into his research he was digging through blogs that seemed devoted to guessing things about Sigi. All people knew for sure was that he was ‘probably from Germany’, but even that was contested in the comment sections on Youtube. Apparent linguists online would get angry enough to remark on how Sigi’s accent was not the typical German accent from any part of the country, so he had to be faking it. Native German speakers would be a bit more optimistic, but still confused.

Sigi did not give people concrete information about himself, it would seem. Nobody really knew how old he was or when his birthday might be, people couldn’t confirm where he was from, and although it was clear that Sigi was well-educated it was hard to find a full list of which schools he had attended. People online argued about that, too.

Just looking at the list of documentaries Sigi had narrated on Wikipedia, Robert felt intimidated. Did Sigi have any level of expertise in all of these subjects? Robert didn’t even care about all these subjects and yet he felt woefully inadequate for about half an hour, before he decided he was just tired and shaken up from having to meet Sigi in person. He went to bed early that night.

A lack of background information at this point was getting more and more suspicious. Robert started trying to dig up anything he could get on Stefan, Sigi’s personal assistant. The guy didn’t hold interviews or anything, but he was usually at Sigi’s side during public appearances. Throughout the entire lecture Robert could see him standing by the door, holding Sigi’s phone and looking vaguely unhappy.

Stefan didn’t seem to do much for Sigi apart from hold his phone and his coat. He had no history with other secretarial positions, didn’t seem comfortable with half of the events Sigi went to, and if there wasn’t proof of Sigi flat-out refusing the idea that Stefan was actually his boyfriend Robert would have to assume that was the only reason Sigi had given him that job. Although… thinking back on it, Sigi had visibly ignored Stefan the whole time Robert was at the lecture hall, before and after the lecture itself; Sigi also never seemed to speak to Stefan in public. He kept the guy close but he ignored him. Stefan didn’t try to talk to him, either. They just seemed to barely put up with one another.

Robert didn’t immediately think Stefan might be a thrall, but he looked through all the candid pictures online where Stefan was visible off to the side until he found three in which a neck injury or a bruise were in evidence. Stefan might be a thrall. That might be the only thing keeping him near Sigi. But thralls were usually completely brain-dead until they got near people, which was when they started acting like rabid dogs, no matter how loyal they were to their vampires. Stefan was always in public with Sigi and seemed to be mostly normal, if a little anxious.

Robert pulled some strings again; he was going to attend two more magazine shindigs soon, one to give him one last chance to meet Sigi in person, and one to make his move. If Sigi proved a lost cause at the first event, then Robert didn’t have to attend the second one. He hoped he was wrong about all this and Sigi was just a weird European celebrity and Stefan was just a terrible secretary.

He dreaded being caught. Not because of getting arrested, but because… Sigi had a lot of fans.

A lot of fans.

If Robert had to kill Sigi he was going to disappoint quite a lot of people. Possibly ruin a few jobs, given how busy the guy was.

But Robert didn’t do this for the glory or the gratitude or the fun. There was no glory, rarely any gratitude, and he definitely didn’t have any fun doing it. He did this because he couldn’t sleep at night just ignoring them. He kept thinking about the people who didn’t ever walk back out of Sigi’s home.

The first shindig was a pretty fancy one. Robert had to rent a tuxedo, although he resisted the brief impulse to get a haircut. He wasn’t trying to impress anyone; he just didn’t want to stand out. And he was on a budget— he was running low on peppermint oil.

Robert was tempted to get drunk at the bar before he talked to Sigi again. He approached, ready to order two of the most potent drinks and knock them back immediately, then paused when he noticed Stefan wandering closer to the bar. He slowed down to let Stefan grab the bartender’s attention first. Stefan ordered something for himself, nothing for Sigi, and drank it right there.

It would probably be too obvious if he tried to talk to Stefan. Robert wasn’t real good at socializing, he hated parties, and he’d always be the guy to leave early. He watched as Stefan walked away, looking sullen as ever, completely ignoring Sigi and apparently only there to hold Sigi’s phone.

Robert waited just long enough to swallow two glasses of fruity, sweet cocktails before the liquid courage kicked in. Then he mingled.

It was never hard to find Sigi at these events. People flocked to him, and although his behaviour was always subdued, downright demure, he didn’t really have to work to grab anyone’s attention, either. Robert found him because he just looked for where the crowd was thickest.

Sigi was sitting on a love seat along the far wall, facing somebody seated in the adjacent armchair, holding conversation with a small group. Robert was surprised to see he was holding a glass of something— red, yes, but not that particular shade. He was about to suspect the glass was a bluff, a prop, until Sigi actually lifted it to his beautiful red mouth and drank.

Out of nowhere, Robert had the sudden thought: Please, God, don’t let him actually be a serial killer. Not that the alternative was very attractive, either.

Robert made small talk with someone nearby and worked his way slowly closer to the seating arrangements. He felt like he was trying to sneak closer to a python and desperately hoping it wouldn’t notice.

“Robert, was it?”

It was just his luck that the small group around Sigi had mostly dispersed when he finally got close enough, so Sigi noticed him immediately. Robert prepared himself for the sick feeling to kick in as he moved to make eye contact.

He had just enough time to register that Sigi was dressed significantly less like an academic tonight before Sigi unfolded himself gracefully from the love seat and stood.

“Yeh— hesss,” Robert’s reply came out in a feeble hiss like the air being let out of a punctured tire. Sigi wore heels tonight. He was already taller than Robert; because of the heels he had to crane his neck to avoid staring directly into Sigi’s chest, and Robert was a big guy. “Sigi, right?” he cracked pitifully, taking the manicured hand Sigi offered and finding himself shocked anew at the strength of the guy’s grip.

Sigi smiled— a faint one, but no less alarming to watch. “I’m flattered you recognized me. You’re a long way from the university.”

“Oh, I freelance for magazines. I was in town for family and I got roped into covering the event.”

“Your magazine pool sounds very diverse.”

Instead of addressing that, Robert said, letting his genuine surprise show, “I can’t believe you remembered me.”

“Public relations is what I do. Where would I be without that?” Sigi asked, before sipping his drink again.

That’s right. Robert glanced briefly at the glass to confirm that it wasn’t thick enough to be… damn it, that looked like pink champagne. “Well, isn’t that what you have your… guy for?”

Although Sigi had been pointedly spending time with anyone but Stefan so far, his eyes went directly over to the corner in which his assistant currently sulked. “In theory,” he said, as he returned swiftly to ignoring Stefan.

Robert didn’t feel like he was boring Sigi, but he wouldn’t be shocked if he was. “Well… I need to go find my date…”

Sigi’s smile widened. Robert noticed for the first time that his eyelashes were nearly white. “You’re lying to me, you fiendish thing.”

Robert felt his heart stop beating. His entire body reacted. “Sorry?” he wheezed, trying to laugh but finding he’d forgotten how.

Sigi coyly finished his drink. “I saw, you came here alone. No shame in that, of course.”

Robert tried not to seem as relieved as he was. He could force out that laugh now, although it troubled him to think Sigi might be flirting with him. Even more disturbing was the idea that Sigi had noticed him upon arrival. He’d known Robert was here this whole time. “Ah, you caught me. I was feeling awkward after Franklin over there introduced me to his date. I think she’s a model,” he added. He’d overheard Franklin’s friend tell him earlier, exasperated, that nobody cared what his date did, and could he please stop bragging?

Sigi chuckled. “Oh yes, Franklin. Great photographer, terrible braggart.”

Robert was starting to get dizzy looking up at Sigi and watching the red sequins of his outfit flash in the dim light of the room. Somehow he made a dignified escape and mingled a bit more.

Somehow he wound up near Sigi again later, despite his best efforts not to look like he was here to spy on the guy. Sigi didn’t seem to find it odd that Robert kept bumping into him, and by the time Robert was finally able to leave he’d almost gotten Robert to feel comfortable near him, if only by sheer force of courtesy.

Mysterious drinks aside, Sigi wasn’t the only person avoiding the hors d’oeuvres, so that couldn’t be taken too seriously. But after a little while Robert noticed that people seemed to actually stop talking when Sigi spoke up— not entirely, but the general volume consistently dropped every time Sigi said anything. Anything. And Robert found himself eager to seek out Sigi by the end of the night, after talking to him thrice, feeling as if he’d found something interesting he wanted to tell Sigi—

That was what made up his mind. He was going to have to move in fast at the next event.

He still felt that eager-excited puppy-love as he drove back to his hotel in his rented car. Sigi had done nothing, really, to justify Robert feeling like he’d just asked the most popular girl in school to the dance and she’d said yes. Sigi was polite, casually flirtatious at times, but he had done nothing to single Robert out. It had still taken Robert four real attempts before he could actually leave.

Old vampires were very, very good at enthralling a roomful of people. True, Sigi had the added advantage of his shocking beauty, but Robert was almost too afraid to look at him head-on and he was still feeling that feeling two hours after he’d left the party.

And it wasn’t as though he looked forward to having to snipe someone, so that wasn’t it.

He had one week to stock up on the right oils and clean his gear. He got started immediately, as soon as he stripped out of his tuxedo and got into a housecoat, to help get rid of that puppy-love feeling a little bit faster. Harder to feel smitten when you were planning an assassination.

Despite his dread for the upcoming event, the week flew by. Robert suddenly found himself re-packing his hunting gear, checking over the necessities, checking the essential oils, double- and triple-checking the cleanliness of his weapon. He wasn’t going to get in close; that was a rookie mistake and usually impractical. If he could snipe his target from a distance, that would be best. Fewer people would suffer. Robert stood less chance of being arrested, too.

In Robert’s varied experience, the only things that really killed a vampire were decapitation and a well-aimed hole in the heart. Sometimes decapitation wasn’t fully reliable; a vampire already in panic mode could manage headless long enough to cause some real damage. But getting the heart always worked.

A wooden stake would do it, sure, and Robert had figured out a while ago that the denser the wood the better the attack. Metal piercing the heart didn’t work as reliably as, say, ebony, which was something Robert knew from harrowing experience but couldn’t explain. So he had his bullets made custom out of ebony.

The gun was technically a custom job, too; after a lot of help from the one weird redneck cousin Robert had in his extended family, Robert had made a gun that worked at medium range and wouldn’t totally destroy dense wood bullets upon firing them. It was technically a sniper rifle, but he couldn’t shoot from too far off. Tragically, this meant he’d have to get relatively close to his target if he wanted this to work. No distant rooftops tonight.

And so there he was, lurking in the underground parking lot underneath the event taking place upstairs, having doused himself in way too much peppermint oil, kind of burning from the oil and the adrenaline. It took him forty-six minutes to locate Sigi’s car; it was another party for wealthy guests, people in entertainment. Everyone had an expensive car. Sigi’s car didn’t stand out here, unlike its owner.

He waited between a support pillar and a raised curb on the corner, between the floors in the lot, and watched Sigi’s car intently. Anyone who walked past his hiding spot didn’t notice him, hidden as he was beneath a dusty grey tarp; he looked like a pile of construction junk. He smelled ridiculous, too; the peppermint was so strong that he might actually pass for real trash, too much for anyone to really want to investigate.

His heart was pounding in his ears for the first twenty minutes of his vigil. The party was well underway; he saw very few people leave the doors at the far end of the lot, and hardly anyone came halfway to his hiding spot. Most of the people he spotted were obviously drunk, or else high on something, or just too preoccupied to even care if Robert were to stand up, wave his rifle over his head, and yawn real loud. He wanted to, so badly, but instead of standing he worked on methodically flexing the muscles in his legs to keep them from falling asleep.

He didn’t expect to see Sigi until the event was over, but fifty-seven minutes after he found his hiding place, still slowly flexing muscles one at a time to keep himself from getting stuck in position, he got his chance. Sigi himself stepped out of the door to the parking garage, alone. As always, even from a distance it was easy to tell it was him. Much taller than average, long near-white hair tumbling over his shoulders to bounce with every step, heels clicking on the pavement.

Robert was suddenly calm, at peace. All his nerves were forgotten as he focused entirely on the rhythm of Sigi’s step as he approached, aiming carefully for the chest, watching him as he came within range.

Robert watched Sigi’s face through the gun’s scope and was intrigued by the utter lack of any kind of expression. Sigi didn’t even look as if he was deep in thought; he was only walking, doing nothing else. He was just as startling staring blankly at the air in front of his face as he was when addressing someone. For an instant, Robert felt that unwelcome almost-adoration nudge its way into his brain again.

He exhaled slowly, soundlessly, as Sigi reached his car. Sigi lifted a hand to the front door, about to use the key.

Robert pulled the trigger. The gun was muffled, quiet. His aim was good.

At the same time, Sigi twisted to the right.

The bullet pierced a hole in the driver’s side window. Robert noticed this exactly when he realized Sigi was staring in his direction.

Gone was the calm non-expression he’d worn as he entered the garage. Sigi was not afraid— he was undoubtedly furious.

Quite a good distance away, Robert recoiled as Sigi took a few steps forward, now aimed in his direction. As if he’d forgotten Sigi was too far away to strike at him.

Time stretched out. Five seconds felt like five years. In the moments it took for Robert to realize he was still hidden, still far enough away that he could escape with a head start, he saw the way Sigi moved and he was utterly terrified for his life.

He knew now. He knew he’d chosen the right target.

The door to the parking garage swung open as somebody shouted, “Sigi!”

Sigi stopped immediately, turned casually to glance over at the door. He was moving normally again, just a pretty man at a party in expensive clothing. With one last glance over at Robert’s hiding place, leaving no doubt in Robert’s mind that he knew precisely where that bullet had come from, Sigi turned to step calmly back toward the door.

“You weren’t going to leave us so soon, were you?” called the old woman at the door, dressed in a glittering cocktail dress.

“I thought I’d brought my glasses,” Sigi replied gently, his voice carrying well in the quiet garage, “I realize I’ve forgotten them at home.”

“Oh, dear. I’ll lend you some of mine.”

Robert barely heard Sigi’s chuckled response (“Thank you, I doubt your prescription is sufficient. I’ll manage.”) because he’d figured out that he’d been given the greatest gift of his life: a chance to get out and regroup without bloodshed. He dismantled his gun quicker than ever before, moving too fast for his hands to shake, and before he understood how he’d gotten out of his hiding place he was sprinting for dear life, faster than he’d ever covered ground in all his years of hunting, knowing he’d never be so lucky again. He did not turn around to look for Sigi, knowing in sight of the old woman he would let Robert flee.

He’d parked his car at the outer edge of the property. He leapt behind the wheel and started the engine as he pulled the door shut, screamed out of there burning rubber. He turned so fast he nearly lost control of the car, pulled away from the event, quivering as the adrenaline started to drain slowly out of him.

As he passed the main entrance, seconds away from driving through the front gate, something shattered on the passenger side and hit him hard in the ribs. He yelped but was smart enough not to stop. It took him ten seconds to understand there was a hole in his passenger window.

His phone was ringing.

He couldn’t stop here. He kept driving until he was several blocks away, then slowed down and backtracked a little, before he pulled into the lot of a pizzeria. His car smelled like peppermint.

The phone started ringing again. He shook his hands out and looked for the phone while he massaged the new bruise in his side. “…Hello?”

“When do you plan on arriving, Robert? Did you find the venue yet?”

Oh, Christ. “Miriam, hi! You’re attending tonight?”

“Of course I am, don’t be silly. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet Sigi myself! Were you driving up or is your taxi lost?”

“Oh, no… no, I’m driving up. Sorry, I didn’t realize you were waiting for me. Traffic was brutal leaving my neighbourhood, I got turned around once or twice trying to find a creative route…” Robert squeezed his eyes shut. How hadn’t he known the lead editor and magazine founder would be there tonight? Oh god, he had to change his clothes and wipe off this stupid peppermint…

After reassuring Miriam that he was going to be there shortly and he’d find her, he hung up and rubbed his face with both hands. He had a change of clothes in the trunk. Always did. He had baby wipes to get rid of the worst of the oils, and some cologne to take care of the adrenaline sweat. He could be ready in twenty minutes, there in twenty-five. He needed to calm down.

At least this would be a good alibi, he reasoned. People would place him there. He was showing up right after the failed snipe, true, but he lived too far away for it to make sense that he could have gone home, freshened up, and come back. He hoped.

He changed inside the car in the dark, wiping every inch of his skin clean of the peppermint oil, carefully applying just the right amount of cologne not to be too pungent again, and left his tie for last. Before he stepped out of the car to adjust the fit of his shirt and jacket, he looked at the passenger window and decided to look for the projectile. It wasn’t a bullet, that was for sure…

He found it on the floor, having tumbled beneath the driver’s seat. It was a rock, just big enough to sit in his palm, not round but polished smooth. It hadn’t come from somebody’s driveway, it was part of an interior decor. The side against his palm was rough, so he tipped his hand to turn it over.

TRY THAT AGAIN.

Scratched into the stone.

Robert stepped outside to vomit onto the pavement, then put the stone inside the dashboard and got his toothbrush from his bag.

He drove halfway back toward the venue and parked in an underground lot that would cost him more than it would at the venue, then walked the rest of the way. He couldn’t explain a hole in the window very well tonight. At least he was cleaned up, dressed appropriately, and wearing cologne with no trace of peppermint. He’d stopped shaking and sweating. The walk would help to further calm him.

Miriam found him almost as soon as he walked past the coat room. As she grasped his arm and led him deeper through the crowd of people sipping wine and chatting he spotted a bowl of polished stones like the one that had punctured his window.

He didn’t see Sigi anywhere. He wondered whether he’d left after Robert’s escape. Miriam would have said something, though, since he was there to cover the party and Sigi was a major feature. It made Robert nervous not to know where Sigi was.

Considering how intent he was upon Sigi’s possible whereabouts, it was shameful to Robert that he didn’t notice the man approach until Sigi had a hand on his shoulder, pressing gently, as one would greet an old friend. Robert took in Miriam’s look of surprise and delight, a complete reverse of the way Robert felt at the moment, before he turned to look.

He expected Sigi to be angry. Of course that didn’t make sense. They were back inside, surrounded by guests, being civil, and Sigi didn’t know Robert had just sprinted away from him in the parking garage, coated in peppermint oil with a gun case tucked under his arm. Sigi’s smile didn’t quite seem to reach his eyes— or maybe that was Robert’s imagination at work.

Sigi had spoken. Miriam was demanding an explanation as to how he and Robert knew each other. Robert stammered, lost already, ashamed he’d missed the start of the conversation because it made him look somewhat more like a guilty party. Sigi’s grip on his shoulder didn’t quite tighten, really, but his fingers squeezed briefly, one at a time, as if to playfully tease Robert before his hand slid gently along his upper arm.

It was more distracting than the possibility of Sigi being angry with him. Robert tried not to look like he was reacting to a shockwave of goosebumps all along both arms.

“Robert attended a lecture of mine recently. We keep running into each other,” Sigi explained, when Robert’s stunned silence lasted a millisecond too long. “Divine coincidence, hm?”

Miriam voiced dismay that Robert had somehow forgotten to mention this to her earlier, while Sigi kept the hand loosely around Robert’s tricep. Somehow making it feel less like Robert was being restrained, more like an affectionate touch. Robert glanced hesitantly up at Sigi’s perfect pale face for any sign that he was going to die tonight and realized with a sinking feeling that Sigi was being affectionate with him. At least in front of Miriam. It might change as soon as they had room. Robert felt his jangled nerves waking up again, leaving him ready to bolt and, for the moment, clear-headed. It wouldn’t last.

Somehow the conversation between Sigi and Miriam was a quick one. Miriam got Sigi to promise an interview, they arranged a date, and somehow, somehow, Miriam was off with a wink for Robert.

Robert had the ridiculous, terrible urge to beg her not to leave him alone with Sigi, but he reeled in the urge at the last second.

Sigi’s grip didn’t tighten up the way Robert expected it to. Rather, Sigi merely lowered his voice, dropped the hand from his arm after a lingering touch, and leaned in.

“Apparently someone here is hiding a crush.”

The tone was soft, discreet, and the words were entirely not what Robert was expecting. Robert felt his face go hot and he looked up at Sigi’s face before he remembered how the sight upset him. “I’m— sorry?”

Sigi’s deep red lips pulled apart in a smile as he glanced across the room. “You aren’t very good at it, mind you, which leads me to believe you’re actually just terrified of me.” He looked sideways at Robert and the smile turned briefly into a cheeky grin. “Although, being freelance, you have plenty of control over the work you take on, don’t you?”

Robert swallowed twice to get the creaking out of his throat. “Your date must have stood you up tonight,” he attempted weakly.

It shouldn’t have pleased him that Sigi seemed to enjoy his joke, but it did. Sigi smiled down at him and the sound of his soft chuckle was the warmest, most inviting sound Robert had ever heard. “Were you always afraid to talk to your crushes or am I special?” he asked sweetly. As if he had never noticed the effect he had on people. As if Robert were the first person to feel uncomfortable near him.

“…I was always crap at it,” Robert admitted, feeling some of the extreme fear drain out of him the longer they spoke. There was still a chance this could go badly. One in twelve, Robert reminded himself grimly— if the danger wasn’t immediate, there was still that unsettling ratio to keep in mind. “I always thought the girls I liked were out of my league.” Not a lie; he could talk about high school, no problem.

Sigi tilted his head. His long hair slid forward off his shoulder, bounced and swayed. He smelled so nice. “Given how anxious you are right now, am I correct in assuming I’m not your usual type, on top of that?”

Robert, feeling helpless, nodded.

Sigi’s gaze flicked down, studying Robert from head to toe. “A shame,” he hummed, “You’re definitely my type.”

Robert was going to die of a heart attack before Sigi could sink his teeth into him. He knew it. “R-really?” God, he was terrible with flirting. Even if Sigi was just toying with him. It made him nervous coming from anyone and this was Sigi, intimidating enough on his own without the added threat of being a violent predator. This guy had a Wikipedia page so long it took Robert four hours to read it— four hours to get the summary of Sigi’s achievements— and a face that hurt to look at in unexpected ways and here he was flirting quite openly at Robert. Fans and non-fans tended to agree Sigi was one of the most gorgeous people alive and he was flirting with Robert.

He wondered, stupidly, what his niece would say if she heard of this.

Sigi didn’t seem perturbed by Robert’s very obvious terror. He nodded, still studying Robert thoughtfully as one would take in a landscape painting. “I like the beard.”

It occurred to Robert that it would be polite to say something. “Thank you,” was all he could come up with.

Sigi seemed utterly charmed with him nonetheless. He rested the hand on Robert’s shoulder again, this time with no doubt that the touch was affectionate, nothing sinister. Thumb stroking the fabric of Robert’s suit. “I would love to continue this discussion in a more intimate setting.” That smile widened imperceptibly again. “I’d like to see more of how you talk to your crushes.”

The rest of the night passed in a haze. Robert found himself back in his car, stupefied and afraid, and utterly confused. He’d started the night prepared to snipe a vampire.

How had he wound up with a dinner date?
Sigi, pt 3
HERE IS SOME MORE~ c: i'm having so much fun omg. you know, i think this might be the first time i've actually written a vampire story? i'm ashamed. it's high time i just give in and do what i love lol

introducing ROBERT, who's a big teddy bear and a genuinely decent guy with a job that, unfortunately, will put a damper on sigi's fun. someone's gotta do it...
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deviantID

milo2
AJM
Canada
Current Residence: an igloo, Canurrdia
Favourite genre of music: electronic/ industrial/ experimental
Favourite style of art: surreal/ psychological/ colourful/ & patterns are nice
Operating System: The Creature v. 3.0, known to its friends as Three.
Wallpaper of choice: pinstriped and peeling, please.
Favourite cartoon character: Freakazoid.
Personal Quote: "mumble grumble pff."
Interests

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:iconfrick:
frick Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2018
ey remember me?
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:iconmilo2:
milo2 Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2018
i do!! hi how u doin?
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:iconoddsword:
Oddsword Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2018
Hey, happy late birthday! 
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:iconmilo2:
milo2 Featured By Owner Apr 1, 2018
thanks very much, friend! c:
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:icontheelementalbanana:
theelementalbanana Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
If the original Milo is normal, Milo2 is the violence one and Three is the peaceful one, the too peaceful and accepting sometimes, why did you call yourself Milo2? I found him the most unlikable by far. You seem like a much better person then him. Then again, I may be misinterpreting the story, or confusing between the clones...
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:icongingertwistt:
GingerTwistt Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2015  Hobbyist Photographer
Oh my goodness, ARPIL
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:iconmilo2:
milo2 Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2015
AAAHHHH CORKSCREW
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:icongingertwistt:
GingerTwistt Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2015  Hobbyist Photographer
MUCH OF THE LOVE
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:iconrindel:
Rindel Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I was looking around a bit whether you have a tumblr account, but didn't find anything? If you don't have one, would you mind people sharing your art there with dA's share-function, or do you prefer that your art doesn't end up on tumblr unless you yourself put it there? :]
Love your art and stories!
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:iconmilo2:
milo2 Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2014
i do have a tumblr! thisbookisaboutmonsters.tumblr.com is my art. feel free to follow and reblog my posts!
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