San Fransisco was supposed to be safe. Well, as safe as a city could be. But safer than small towns or the open road. His family was mostly based back in the Midwest, but they had allies. And Levi had run afoul of one of those allies in Flagstaff. He'd thought he was going to keep Levi there for retrieval by his family. Levi changed his mind with a warning shot and ran like hell. Heading all the way to coast and hiding among the normals seemed like a good plan.
What Levi hadn't counted on were the monsters. He knew they were in cities, of course. But he hadn't anticipated the bad luck of what seemed to be a father and son pair of ghouls who apparently recognized his scent as a Vargas. They had a grudge. And claws. Only the fact that Levi healed a lot better these days kept him from going down instantly, but Levi was away from his jeep and his weapons, so he ran. And ran. The damned ghouls were scent trackers and had enough of a grudge that they wouldn't stop coming. The deep gashes in Levi's back and shoulder had healed within minutes, but his denim jacket and t-shirt were still bloodied as he ran through the back alley, following a pulsing musical beat. If he could find a club, the miasma of mingled scents might hide him and let him get away.
For once, Tachi isn't using his special abilities to get around. He's just walking down the street. But he knows where he's going. He's in his usual black jeans and dark red leather jacket, the only weapons on him are 2 daggers that are carefully hidden away, in easy reach but out of sight. His companion is the new slayer he's been helping out from time to tim, who somehow managed to pick him out of a crowd and catch up to him. Knowing teenagers like clubs, he opted to let her join him, on his way to a club owned by an aquaintance he hasn't seen in a while. It's a good thing that's where he's going, because his senses pick up something, something is wrong, and he tenses up slightly. "May," he says, turning to the girl beside him. "Something's wrong. Slip out of the crowd behind me, I smell blood, and I can feel that someone's in trouble." He quietly slips away, and if she turns to answer he's simply not there, instead he's sneaking away from the crowds as to not draw attention to himself or the person in trouble. And then he's close enough to see what's going on. "Hey," he says, coming up beside the running kid. "Grab onto me, I can move a lot faster. I'll explain when we get you to safety. They're faster than you are, and they're gaining fast, c'mon."
She does turn to answer. He isn't there. But from under her jean jacket, where they're carefully placed in a special holster, two of her four stakes come out, the telltale bulge concealed by the eye-damaging pink backpack she always has on or near her. She twirls the stakes in a move she's proud of because she practiced so long making it look cool and casual. Seeing the bloodied guy, and Tachi moving to intercept, she assumes the trouble's FOLLOWING and moves to stand between.
"None shall pass!" she says in a voice so sonorous it's utterly ludicrous coming from someone as small and stick-like as her. She peers around, looking for the trouble, spinning the stakes, and generally trying to look badass.
It isn't working.
Especially when she sees--well, feels the presence of first--the unfamiliar creatures. "Oh, COME ON now! Can't I have, like, two nights in a row where I know what I'm facing!?" she wails to nobody in particular.
The sound of music comes not from the hills but from the nearby club, and it becomes briefly louder, perhaps as a door opens and closes, and just a moment later, a tall, dark-haired man in a long, burgundy leather duster steps out from around the corner of a building to stand beside Wu Mei. He stands beside her with casual air of confidence, though something in his manner conveys enough presence to carry it off. One hand almost idly pulls back one side of the duster, a gesture that would look right out of the Old West if not for the fact that it's a sword, not a six-shooter, revealed at his hip. The man gives Wu Mei a polite nod and a tight smile, and then he turns to regard the approaching ghouls. When he speaks, his voice rings out deep, rasping slightly, in an posh accent that sounds vaguely of the British Isles, yet not quite.
"Hold!" he thunders, nearly echoing the ringing tones of the slayer herself--nearly. She definitely has him on the drama score, this time. His hand touches the pommel of his sword, and his eyes flash with hot embers as they catch the light. "You have entered the territory of the Autumn Court of Faërie, and the Autumn Knight bars your path. You have been bidden once, you shall not pass. I say it twice: you shall not pass. Hold, I say, and heed the words of my companion--" He cuts short, frowning slightly, and turns to Wu Mei, speaking in a much quieter, rather apologetic tone. "Sorry, there. I don't believe I caught your name. Apologies. I'm Rey Devoss, Knight of Autumn. May I assist?"
High drama in the streets of San Francisco? Must be Tuesday.
Levi literally leaps sideways at the sudden appearance of the stranger, who has that same odd feeling about him that the ghouls do. Well, not the same, but close. Like a tingle of static or the faint pins and needles sensation one might get from a phantom limb. A feeling of 'not quite right' or 'not quite normal'. He lets out a surprised noise as the younger ghoul passes through the space where Levi was just a second before in a chest-high running tackle. Both ghouls look more or less like humans, if somewhat pale and sinister ones, but for their eyes, which throw back the light with the pale yellow-green refraction of coyotes or foxes. And true to the strangers' words, they are much faster than normal humans. And stronger.
The younger one lands at the slayer's feet, kipping back to his feet almost instantly in a display of inhuman grace and strength. As he sees the older one coming close, his hands shapeshifting enough to reveal nasty looking claws where his fingernails should be, Levi decides to shelf his trust issues and take the lesser evil. He reaches out to grab Tachi's hand and says, loud enough to carry, "Ghouls. They are fast, strong, tough and you can only put them down by taking off their heads or bashing them in." He's enough of a hunter to at least recognize what's about to kill him. He gives May a very dubious look. It's 2020 and he's trying not to be a sexist, but a lone girl with a Barbie Vampire Slayer Fashion Kit doesn't look like a match for a pair of angry monsters to him.
Tachi is about to start running when May steps in, and he's about to tell her off when Rey appears. No supernatural in their right mind would ignore something like that, especially from a fae, and especially especially not from a knight. So Tachi feels reasonably safe now that Rey is here, and there's no need to start running. He lifts the hand that isn't being clutched by the young hunter in greeting. "Old friend," he says, to Rey, with a smile. He turns to Levi. "We need to get you inside, I can kill these, but if they're what I think they are then killing them will just send more. C'mon, Rey is a friend, he'll make sure you're safe."
First the really ugly, gross, and TERRIBLE-smelling ghouls--shower much? and those teeth!--showing off their so-called agility and so-called speed. May wrinkles her nose and gets ready to rock when ...
ANOTHER supernatural presence ... and ... ooh. Pretty. Really, really, really pretty. May just stares at the man as he talks, blinking stupidly. Then stares a bit more as he turns, introduces himself, and asks permission to assist.
Work, dammit! Brain, get to work. Stop staring. He might notice.
Too late. He's definitely noticed. Just ... please, Compassionate Buddha, make it I didn't drool, K?
"Wuu...." Great. Just great. Make like a ghost why don't you?
"...uuu Mei. Wu Mei. Just call me May. It's easier than learning Mandarin." She lets out a barking--no, braying, really--laugh, cringing inside and mentally noting where there are holes she might crawl into to die.
"I'm ... uh ... stopping these guys? I guess?"
The ghouls, who'd only paused to assess May before deciding she really, really wasn't a threat, stop in their tracks when she's joined by the tall man with the self-possession of a god. This unnerves them a bit, but the unnerving is superceded by May's rather extraordinary performance as the lead in Forrest Gump 2: Gumpier and Gumpier.
She finally gets around to answering the question. "Sure, though, if you want to lend a hand, I'm fine."
The poor younger ghoul genuinely didn't know what hit him. Expecting a terrified human child, he gets an instinctive supernatural-murdering machine. In the form of a stake driven straight between his eyes as May, finally getting focus, just stabs forward without even the slightest hint of a warning.
She then turns her murder eyes on the elder.
Rey tosses off a salute to Tachi, knowing they'll catch up properly once inside, and gives May a sympathetic smile and says, "Mandarin. I really ought to work on my Mandarin, one of these days." Then the violence ensues, and Rey draws his sword with a long-suffering sigh. (Normally, it's very difficult to draw a sword in a long-suffering fashion, but being a knight, Rey can manage it. It's a side benefit.) He lifts the blade with a flick of his wrist, and it flashes with autumn fire, reflecting the light of his eyes. When he speaks this time, his words seem to ride on the rumble of distant thunder.
"Thrice I say, and done. In the name of the Autumn Court, turn away. I would not have your deaths upon my conscience, so I pray you leave--lest I or my companion, the renowned Slayer of Evil, Wu Mei, remove you from this place and this mortal plane." Then, the thunder passing, he adds in a much lighter tone, "Your choice, really. Just so it's clear."
Levi watches as the girl slams a stake between the younger ghoul's eyes and it sinks in a good six inches. The older stops, jaw dropping even as Levi winces at the sight and sound of that. It was like somebody cracking a really large egg. The younger ghoul stiffens and sways and then half-turns, holding up both hands to tug at the stake while whinning, "Dddaaaaaad! She STAKED me! So uncool!" Which is about time the faerie knight delivers his last warning with enough authority that both them turn to look at him. The younger one was still grunting as he tried to remove the stake from between his eyes, but it was stuck on something. Probably his frontal lobe. The older one's eyes narrowed and he hissed. Literally. And then held up his hands in a placating gesture. "Give us the human. He's not one of yours. We would have smelled it." And then he crossed to his son and jerked out the stake, slapping the younger ghoul on the shoulder, muttering, "Stand up straight. You're embarrassing me in front of the knight."
"But he's still human," Tachi says. "Even if he's slightly different, I don't discriminate." He turns to Rey, catching his eye and nodding slightly, the simple signal, I'll take the kid inside, you deal with these idiots. And then, he's picking Levi up in his arms, and in a single leap, he clears the alley, gracefully sailing over May and Rey's head, landing smoothly outside the club and hurrying inside, before setting Levi down. "You'll be safe here," he says, "May and Rey will handle the ghouls."
"Hey, wait a minute!" May says, grumpy all of a sudden, and not following along quite quickly enough to realize that a stake to the head was an inconvenience...
"You're not negotiating with him. I called stop first. I am protecting the human. And as fiercely cute as this guy is--and, I mean, wow! is he ever!--it's kinda rude to just look over me and talk to him! You can't have him. He's not yours. He's not mind. We live in AMERICA dammit! Nobody owns anybody! We just force them to work for us for crap wages!"
She pauses a moment as her brain catches up with her mouth.
"But anyway, I'm getting off the point, and that point is if you want that dude you have to go through me first."
Now it dawns on her that her stake didn't do anything beyond piss off the younger ghoul.
"Now if my warning shot," she says, VERY unconvincingly all of a sudden, "wasn't enough to get it through your skulls, I'm afraid I'm going to have to beat the message in!"
That would have sounded really badass. If her voice didn't have a quaver of fear in it. And if she wasn't so obviously checking out how to get out of the alley in the most quick, straightforward route possible.
Rey starts to reply to the ghoul, then stops, listening as Wu Mei speaks, and he gives a slight but courtly bow in her direction. He gives a rolling shrug that manages to travel the entire length of his sword before saying, "Gentlemen! My companion has spoken. The boy is under her protection, and--well, politics being politics, I suspect it's best we don't anger her. Americans are so very... passionate."
The knight lowers his sword partly, gesturing conversationally toward the younger ghoul's injury. "Now, surely you should go and see to that. I've no idea what offense this lad has given you, but I assure you he'll do you no harm so long as he's in our territory, and as he is under not only my own meager protection but that of Wu Mei, I must politely ask that you depart. If this boy has caused you any undue harm, please bring notice, and I will see appropriate wergild paid and take steps that he does not do so again. Else, I must point out that as you are not only in the territory of the Autumn Court, but also in the path of a Dread Slayer, it would like as not be best for all parties that you return home and enjoy an evening of quiet contemplation, aye?"
Levi was definitely not expecting to be scooped up in a princess carry and have himself jumped away from danger. He lets out an undignified and surprised sound and then glares a little when he's put down. Being polite is at war with suspicion about the obvious non-human nature of his rescuers and a little wounded teenage pride. Being saved by a boy band member, a hapless-seeming girl and a cosplayer is not making his lone-wolf hunter at large ego inflate. Quite the opposite, really. On the other hand, at least two of them are superhuman and the other has a big-ass sword and invoked the fae, which even a foolish hunter thinks twice about screwing with. He sighs and says, grudgingly, "Thanks." And then, ashamed of his tone, he moderates it with, "Really. They were going to rip my guts out and eat me and kill me, probably in that order."
The younger ghoul steps away from May and backs up a little. The woman might look like a human, but anybody that strong is worth watching. Even ghouls take hours to come back from having limbs ripped off. His father looks between the slayer and the knight and then spits on the ground. The spittle hisses faintly. He says, "You can't hide him forever. And you can't claim the whole city. We'll be watching for him." He turns to his son, "C'mon, junior. You need to go hat shopping." The two slink back into the darkness.
Tachi pats the kid gently on the shoulder. Of course he hears what the ghouls are saying, and mutters something quietly to himself. "We'll see about that..." He turns his attention fully to the kid. "I've seen the likes of them before," he says, "you don't have to tell me, why do you think I saved you? So, you probably don't understand who we are. So, I'll explain, and then you can tell us your story when the others get inside. My name is Tachi, I'm a vampire. But I don't drink human blood, haven't in centuries. The good-looking guy with the sword is Rey Devoss, he is the autumn knight. He is a fae, and he is a friend of mine. The girl is Wu Mei, she's a vampire slayer, a human girl with enhanced powers specifically to deal with soulless vampires. That'll probably be confusing to you, so feel free to ask any questions you might have."
"YEAH!" May shouts, pumping the air with a fist. "AND DON'T YOU FORGET IT! WHOO!"
She pauses then, aware that may be just a wee bit too gloaty, and looks at Rey.
She keeps looking, transfixed.
Yep. Still looking.
"Dread Slayer?" she finally asks in a small voice. "Really? That's ... the nicest thing anybody's said about me!"
Stars are in her eyes. Birds suddenly appear. "I'm kind of new to this gig," she adds, embarrassed, as she takes on her new role: Captain Obvious. "Thanks for the help."
Yeah. Because it was totally the little girl who got two ghouls, including an elder, to back down and slink away. Not the FLIPPING AUTUMN KNIGHT HIMSELF!
May fidgets with her hair in the single most girly thing she's done since Tachi has known her. Check that. The ONLY girly thing she's done since Tachi has known her. Well, that and playing that guzheng of hers.
"So, I was kinda focused..." On your face. Your eyes. Those shoulders. "...so ... uh... I think I caught Rey Autumn Knight?"
Tachi's explanation catches her superior hearing. "Rey Devoss, the Autumn Knight, I mean, obviously," she adds hastily.
As the ghouls take their leave, Rey watches them go. His expression goes grim at their parting shot, but he doesn't try to take the last word. If they've lived long in the city, they'll know that the Autumn Knight guards well both his territory and his charges, alike. This strange new boy is at present in the former, though there's no indication of whether he'd be likely to become one of the latter. Either way, the moment doesn't last long. Rey sheathes his sword, then turns to give May a polite bow, and he rises smiling.
"In my experience, May, Slayers are no one to be trifled with, and anyone who handles a stake as you just did is most assuredly to be regarded with dread by her enemies." He offers her his arm in a most formal fashion, then gestures toward the back door of the club. "May I escort you inside? And, please, do call me Rey. All my friends do, and as we are now comrades in arms, I should be most honored to name you a friend of mine."
As Rey ushers May into the club's back door, he then turns to regard the others. "Well, that was certainly some excitement. Welcome, everyone, to the Marble Court. Tachi, most excellent to see you again. I don't suppose I can offer anyone a drink?" With the threat past, the high drama seems to fall away from the knight, and though he keeps a somewhat courtly air about him, he's also very relaxed, a jovial glint in his eye.
Taking a big step back at the word 'vampire', Levi's expression suggests that he obviously believed what Tachi said with no hesitation. His eyes widen a little at the news about the slayer and he gives May a surprised look as the other two come inside. His tone is light as he says, "Hh. I thought slayers were kind of a myth." He looks her up and down and said, "I kinda thought slayers would be ... you know ... kinda WNBA-style?" He stands on his toes and holds a hand up far above his own head, indicating an amazonian women's basketball player's height. "More Wonder Womany." He nods to Rey, trying to remember what his elders told him about the faerie courts. Not supposed to say thanks, right? So he settles for a grateful nod. And then, "I could go for a beer." That doesn't obligate him for anything, right? And hey, is a knight of Autumn going to check his ID? Looking back to Tachi, he gives the vampire a wary expression and asks, "You don't drink blood? How does that work?"
"Doesn't drink HUMAN blood," May corrects from outside ordinary conversational hearing distance, then turns her attention back to Rey.
"What May said," Tachi says, with a chuckle and a hint of a smile. "I said I don't drink HUMAN blood. I drink the blood of animals, I must still drink blood to survive of course." He can't help but laugh at Levi's description of slayers, and his smile widens a little. "You should see Buffy, she's the alpha slayer and she's even smaller." He turns to Rey, and smiles. "It's good to see you again, my friend," he says, lowering his head in a slight bow of respect. "I could certainly use a drink after all that." he ponders for a moment. "Perhaps, some autumn wine. It's been a little while."
The look on May's face is purest bliss. A drink? SCORE! From a cute guy!? DOUBLE-SCORE!
"Why I'd gladly wet my whistle," she says, feigning insouciance whilst vibrating with excitement. "I don't suppose you'd have any ..." Uh. Crap. American liquors are just not things her father drinks. This is going to sound pretentious! "... Wuliangye?" Pause as she desperately tries to remember something, ANYTHING about the stuff. "15 years, maybe?" She's sure she heard her father talk of admiration of that.
And she's not even going to need a fake ID hopefully!
"And thank you so much for the kind words. I'm still kinda in training, so ... I mean ... you should see BUFFY. She's, like ... wow! Magical!" Panic crosses her face as she realizes she's comparing herself to another girl. Negatively. "I mean in ability, of course." Stop there, May. No need to get catty. Just let the implication lie there. It's more subtle that way. Especially when your face is so transparent your thoughts are scrolling across your forehead in large letters.
Rey gestures for the others to follow, leading them through a hallway until they emerge in an office. He politely bows again to May before stepping away, over to the desk, where he takes a bottle and several glasses from a desk drawer. Why not? A fairy knight can keep such things in his desk if he decides to.
Glancing at Levi and then Wu Mei, he remarks, "I'd have to ask for an ID to serve you any terrestrial libations, and I don't care to lose my liquor license; however, no mortal authority regulates fairy wine. Perhaps I can offer you both that, instead? This vintage is a little on the sweet side, but it has darker notes that make it interesting enough." He begins to pour, and depending on who speaks up, he'll pour however many glasses are required. As he speaks, he grins at May, remarking, "You acquitted yourself well. I'm certain Buffy Summers would herself have been proud." He glances at Tachi, his expression reflecting his curiosity as to what the vampire might have been doing in this part of town, but he leaves the question unasked out of delicacy. Then, he passes the glasses out and, raising his own glass, declare, "I bid you all welcome in my home as guests. So long as guests you remain, all guest-rights shall be yours."
Rey raises his glass, then takes a sip and settles back to perch against the edge of his desk. "Well, well! What a fine company we make. Let's all become acquainted. I'm Rey, and I know Tachi and, most recently, May." Looking to Levi, he rises again and offers his hand, asking, "And whom do I have the pleasure of meeting, as well?"
Levi gives Tachi a long, careful look, obviously trying to work out his feelings on vampires that don't drink human blood. After a moment, he gives a head shake and says, "Well, I guess as long as people aren't on the menu, I can't exactly throw the first stone. Thanks again." And then, as May speaks, he shakes his head and says, "Dude. You just staked a ghoul in the head. I'm pretty sure that 'Buffy' has nothing on you. Really, though? The slayer queen is called 'Buffy?' Wow." Turning his head at Rey's offer, he gives the handsome knight a grin and a shrug. "Honestly, whatever you feel like pouring." He shrugs out of his jacket, poking his fingers through the claw holes and wiggling them a little. Both the jacket and his gray t-shirt shoulder are pierced and there is a lot of drying blood on them, but the skin showing through the shirt is smooth and unmarked. "Ah, man. I liked that jacket. Can I use your bathroom to clean up a little?"
"Well," Tachi says, "you were in trouble. You look like one who could usually defend yourself but you were...a bit outgunned in that case. You were close to a safe haven, which I was going to anyway." he pauses, glancing toward Rey, seeing the question in his eyes and responding, his expression saying multiple things. First of all I came to see you, it's been a while. But there's also something I wish to talk to you about. Followed by the 'we'll talk about it later' nod. He greatfully accepts the glass from Rey and takes a sip. "I haven't had faerie wine in a while, actually. A few months, maybe, perhaps longer."
Fairy wine!? "I'll have some of that, sure?" May's voice crawls up an octave and a bit as she squeezes that out, wide-eyed. Then the reveal. He knows Buffy. May practically collapses as she realizes how close she came to saying something that might have reached Buffy's ears. Which means Angel's ears. Which means Broody McBroodface would be 'having words' with her as he expresses his disappointment in her. The relief flooding her makes her sit down a bit hastily to disguise the weakened knees.
Well, only partially weakened by relief.
Levi's comment is a welcome distraction. "Uh-huh," she says. "The prime Slayer is Buffy Summers. She's really cool! Someday I want to be like her. Only, you know, maybe without the Broody Boyfriend. My life's messed-up enough with this whole slaying thing. Don't need the added stress. I have the perfect low-stress boyfr..."
She stops. Winces. Slumps. Right. Damn.
"Uh ... look Mr. Rey, I'm ..." A miserable look crosses her face as she looks down at the floor, not wanting to see Rey's face just now. "Just to be honest, I was coming in here because you're really hot-looking and I wanted to ... and you know, you're really nice and all ... but ... I'm attached. I already have a boyfriend. I'm not in the market. Sorry."
That's it, May. Let him down gently. It's not him, it's you.
He'll be alright.
Tilting his head slightly, Rey smiles at Levi and turns the offered hand into a gesture to the adjoining bathroom. "Please feel free. As my guest, I'm pleased to offer you any comforts of my holdfast." He offers a polite smile, then turns to regard Tachi and raises his eyebrows. Things are never simple, are they? But he turns to face May again, placing his free hand over his heart, and says with gentle earnestness, "Alas, I understand. For myself, I've never quite understood the human custom of monogamous love. I love and have loved many, and each one is special to me in a unique and beautiful way." He smiles fondly, as if remembering, and says, "I could tell such tales of a spirited lad of a werewolf... a master golemancer, a more haphazard witch-boy... certainly several very memorable fairy lords, and, well. I do go on! Even so, I quite understand. Even so, I wish you and your boyfriend quite the best. I tell you true, he is a fortunate man to have you."
Levi sighs and says, his expression distinctly embarrassed. "I left my guns in the jeep. I left everything in the jeep. I just wanted to play tourist and figured it would be relatively safe in a city. Now I know. Sorry you all had to step in." His eyebrows go up as May speaks and he makes a silent 'wow' and then as she finishes, gives her an encouraging nod and a thumbs-up, murmuring, "Smooth!" And then, grinning he says, "Thanks!" to Rey and heads into the bathroom, turning back as the knight's tales of former partners sinks in. Wow. He heads into the bathroom shutting the door and stripping off his shirt. The skin of his shoulder is indeed unmarked and that sight is deeply disturbing. He was pretty sure the younger ghoul had nicked his brachial artery with his thumb claw when he grabbed Levi the first time. Shaking his head, the young ex-hunter cleaned off the blood and then considered soaking his t-shirt in the sink, but honestly it was a loss. With a shrug,he tossed it and put back on his jacket over a bare chest. It was a little gummy from dried blood but not as bad as the ruined tee. After several minutes, he returned back to the office.
It's Tachi, of course things are never simple. The display between May and Rey results in a half shrug from him, internally he's laughing, hard, but externally it's only his slight smile that remains. Levi returning without a shirt, and the dammage to his jacket, do not go unnoticed. "Don't apologize," Tachi says, "this is what I do. I defend those who can't defend themselves. Whether that means you can't defend yourself because you're just a human and these things are better than you in every way, just due to their nature, or, like you, you were in a jam. No way out. So, I did what I do best." Tachi moves closer, noticing the unmarked skin where the claw marks are, which gives him pause. He takes a couple steps back, shaking his head slightly, deciding to ask what's on his mind later. Instead, he takes another sip from his wine glass.
Unlike Levi. And Tachi. And, naturally Rey. May doesn't immediately have the implications of what Rey said sink in. She just smiles when she realizes there's no hard feelings and takes the drink. She's mid-sip when two things happen.
1. Crap! Alcohol is putrid!
2. Wait, is he ... !?
The combination of these turns into a massive coughing fit as she desperately tries to set down the glass without breaking it before doubling over from coughing so hard.
"Smooth!" she gasps, finally, after straightening up, giving Rey a thumbs-up sign.
Whether that was in reference to the wine or his suave version of her clumsy "let him down easily" game is unclear.
"Sorry," she mutters after relearning the whole 'breathing' thing. "Went down the wrong direction. I seem to have a drinking problem."
Levi's timely escape into the bathroom saves him dealing with the minor scene out in the office, as Rey produces a handkerchief and offers it gallantly to May, hovering with concern beside her until he's certain she's all right. He takes the glass, setting it aside, and gives her a deeply apologetic look. "I'm so very sorry! Can I offer you some tea or water? I've... honestly never seen a reaction quite like that to fairy wine before." He sounds well and truly astonished.
As things calm down a little and Levi returns, Rey looks to him and offers a nod. "Any assistance I rendered is merely part of my place as defender of this holdfast, but I'm quite pleased to have been able to given aid to the others. I'm certain you would have been quite safe, even without my presence. Tachi is a renowned warrior, and May has more than demonstrated her own talents."
The knight doesn't comment on the matter of guns or hunting, save to say, "We can arrange to get your things here, of course, and you're welcome to stay so long as you like. I would never turn a guest out into the wilds of the city!" He doesn't yet say anything on the matter, but if Levi takes note of such things, he may well realize that Rey spares him more than an appreciative glance, particularly with the passing of his shirt.
The statement from Tachi that he defends people gets a perplexed expression from the young man. He's been trained to think the worst of the 'monsters' but he does have evidence to the contrary. And he's not exactly human himself these days, is he? After a moment, he nods his understanding. It twinges his conscience a little not to correct the vampire's seeming assumption that Levi is a normal human, but he's still not sure what the hell is going on with himself and it doesn't seem wise to advertise.
Still trying not to laugh at May's most unique superpower, which seems to be super-awkwardness, he takes a sip of the faerie wine. It's like fruit juice with a punch. Except not.The drink almost seems to sublime away on his tongue, leaving behind hints of alcohol and sweetness and tartness and a hint of comforting heat. It's a hell of a lot better than a can of Blue Ribbon 'liberated' from the cooler in the back of his dad's truck. Enough so that Levi takes another healthy drink, smiling and visibly relaxing from the heady fae wine. He blinks at that offer of sanctuary, genuinely surprised. That would solve a lot of his immediate problems. Most of his immediate problems. He catches that glance from the knight but doesn't quite interpret it as he counter-offers, "That is really generous, but what I really need is a job. Um, maybe one that doesn't deal with social security cards and ID and all that? I'm in good shape and I don't mind kitchen work or hauling trash or whatever." Another swallow of the wine, "I mean, we could trade off room and board for that, maybe? If that would be fair? This city is crazy expensive but, ah, it makes a good central point for something I need to do."
Tachi seems to catch something when he looks at Levi, and he nods slightly, as if to say, I already know you're not fully human. "I can help with a job," he says. "And I pay well. Yes, I do defend, what was that line? I am the final defender, or something like that?" he shrugs. "Something from a song I heard. Anyway,I'm guessing, as a hunter you were trained to fear us supernaturals...no, not fear, to believe that we are evil. To judge the book purely by its cover. Unfortunately your teachers never taught you that there are humans out there with less humanity than some of us. But I just saved you, stood up for you, I'm more than happy to help out more, in any way i can. It is my honor."
"Oh, thank you, but ... no, I'll take the wine still. Just it was ... uh ... surprising ... -ly good. I was so astonished I breathed. Bad timing. That's all."
May's lies are these cunningly-woven spiderwebs spun between delicate blooms in a field of spring flowers. Masterfully crafted from concrete. They collapse that easily.
That being said, she steels herself and takes the wine again, taking a sip and doing a good approximation of an almost appreciative face. Then a far more real one. OK, that sour taste was not right and combined with the realization it went badly, but once you get past the sour it's ...
... OK. Still, not something to choke over. That was just rude!
She gives Rey a wan smile. "Uh ... honestly ... this is my first drink. I wasn't sure what to expect is all." Small voice. Shrunken stance. This is shame signalling.
"And yeah, we'll help out anytime!" she says boisterously to Levi.
Wow. Shame lasted ... almost two seconds!
"I mean it's funny coming from someone who is literally a Vampire SLAYER..." She narrows her eyes at Tachi and grins. "...but a lot of the 'monsters' I've met are nicer than my classmates. I mean even my boyfriend ..." Panicked glance at Rey before her memory catches up with her mouth and she giggles a bit. "... is a 'monster' and he's the sweetest guy you'll ever meet. He even helped me shopping for cosplay outfits."
How did that go? The Dread Slayer, Wu Mei? Cosplay.
Rey seems relieved to see May putting up such a game attempt, so he doesn't argue with her choice, just giving her a supportive smile and and encouraging nod. He'll just politely forget to refill the glasses. Such a pity! He does listen to Levi and then Tachi, though, expression turning thoughtful, and then he raises his eyebrows. "Actually, I could really use more help around here. If you're actually interested, and with respect to Tachi's offer, I'd be happy to hire you. I also pay quite well, and--well, the position would certainly come with free room and board, of course. You'd be entirely welcome to work here or at my other location, over in Port-Au-Feu. I'm afraid it can be a bit of a trial to find good housing in the city, here, for any reasonable price, so I make it a point to have rooms available for those who need them." Looking to Tachi, he adds, "Also, by the way, I should very much like to see more of you around here, Tachi. Old comrades should get together when they can!" Then, looking back to Levi with an inviting little smile at his lips, he adds, "What do you say?"
Levi isn't quite sure what to make of Tachi's knowing expression. The guy is a vampire, though. They are often old enough to know things that modern people don't. But he can't just come out and say 'Hey, I seem to be kind of death-challenged, do you know what's up with that?'. He does wince at the man's words about monsters and humans and says, "I am learning that. That line is really blurry." He grins back at May and says, "Hopefully, I won't be needing a badass slayer. I need to be ...unseen. For a while. You know?" And then at Rey's offer, he says, "Cash plus a place to crash is a hard offer to beat." He takes another sip of wine, finishing the glass to fortify himself before saying, "But I'd be a liar if I didn't say that I might be bringing trouble to your door. My family has enemies. And these days, they include me on that list. The idea that two of their own are running around when they should be dead is a stain on the family honor. They aren't going to tolerate it if they find me. And, well, the ghouls aren't the only bad gu... non-humans who would kill me just because of who I am. Was."
Tachi looks disappointed at Leviaccepting Rey's offer instead of his, but something seems...not right about that disappointed look, and it becomes immediately obvious waht it was when a grin appears in its place. He was faking it. He does read the unspoken question on Levi's face though. "You don't need to be afraid to ask questions, certainly not to me, and I'm sure not to Rey either, regarding yourself, or anything, for that matter." He doesn't elaborate, none of the whole I can see something's bothering you game, he just puts it out there. "Well, it seems like someone has...parental issues? Is that the term?" He half shrugs. "Anyway,I highly doubt Rey would stand for anyone trying to get to you under his employment. He's a pretty fierce defender of his territory and those he cares about. I've seen it before." He grins at Rey. "I think I should come here more often, yes," he says, "it has been entirely too long. I shouldn't have waited for a reason to come." Another sip of wine, he's a little over half finished with the glass now.
And the wine does go down May's throat. Slowly. One (small!) sip at a time. And with each drop, the booze winds its way through her unfamiliar system, flushing her skin, making her head buzz, and causing her eyes to go out of focus.
Her boyfriend is a lucky man. She's going to be a really CHEAP date once she reaches drinking age! In two years minus a bit of change. She's a complete lightweight!
"Mind if I come over here more often?" she asks Rey thoughtlessly. "Maybe with Oz? I promise I won't try to scam you with a fake ID." No, she'll use her mother's. "This stuff isn't bad once you get used to it," she says suddenly, staring at her glass. Then, "Is it getting warm in here?"
Focus, May. You're talking to people. Use your words.
"I'll help keep the work load off of Rey," she tells Levi with a pugnatious expression. "Anybody wanting to get to you through him goes through me first. That way they can prove they're worth the effort, 'cause if I can beat 'em they're nothing."
That sounded better in her head, but now that it's out in the air...?
"Is this room spinning?"
Yes. Yes it is, May. But not for anybody else.
"You're both quite welcome," Rey says to May, turning to the desk again. He opens another drawer, fishing out a few cards. He offers one to Levi and two to May, though of course Tachi already has one. The cards require a signature on the back, but otherwise indicate that the bearer is to be allowed free access and drinks at the club, though they notably do not cover alcohol, as they're not 21 membership cards. Rey opens another desk drawer and takes out another bottle (and the truly attentive may note that the bottle wasn't there when the drawer opened). He twists the top off and offers it to May. "Here, I suggest you try some water. The fairy wine's effects will pass much more quickly than normal alcohol, and it's not all that strong... so you should be fine, unless you have an allergy, though I've never heard of anyone being allergic to fairy drink before." He looks to Tachi with concern, inviting him to step in if he thinks it best, but eventually turns back to Levi with an apologetic smile. "I suppose it was inevitable that someone would prove ill-suited to the stuff, sooner or later. But you need not worry over anyone giving you trouble. Anyone who threatens you here challenges not only me but the Autumn Court itself, and I would not suffer anyone to mistreat one of my guests or allies, certainly not in my own holdfast."
Levi gives the vampire a wry smile. "And fraternal issues. And cousin issues. And maternal issues. And ... a lot of issues. Thanks for the offer of employment, though. Honestly, being able to dodge rent without living in my jeep is a pretty big deal. And, well...." He shrugs, embarrassed and flushed a little, the truth easier to speak with that wine in his belly, "My family would try killing you without thinking twice. Vampire. But a faerie noble, that's more like starting a war they might not win. It would suck for me to repay you by putting you in danger."
May gets a chuckle and he says, "Honestly, I'm hoping nobody has to do anything. If I just lay low while I figure things out, it will all be good." That sounds more like he's trying to convince himself than anything else.
He nods his thanks to Rey. "I'll do my best to repay you." He takes the card and then says, "Speaking of which, if I can press my luck, do any of you know a druid or um, healer-type witch or something? Kind of like a supernatural doctor?"
Tachi places a steadying hand on May's shoulder and looks to Rey. "She's never had alcohol before, and you and I both know that fae wine affects different people differently. This is weak as you said, I'd hate to see how she reacts to real alcohol if this has affected her so. She is, I believe the term is...a light weight." He turns to Levi, still steadying May with one hand, and taking another sip of wine with the other and grinning. "Your family would do well to avoid attempting to kill me. As highly trained as they are, they are only humans. I can be gone before the fastest of them even have the chance to think about how to attack." Another sip.
May grabs the bottle and takes a drink. "Hey, it's water!" she says brightly. Captain Obvious to the rescue! "And yeah, Tachi would be really hard to slay. I'd have to consult with Slaymistress Supremo to figure out how, I think, and she wouldn't tell me because she like him." She pauses, wrinkling her forehead. "That came out wrong. Only hypothetically, Tachi. I'm not really thinking about how to kill you. Except, you know, as a mental exercise."
She pauses and looks across at the empty glass.
"Did I just say all that stuff out loud? Usually I keep that kind of stuff to myself. You'd tell me if I said it out loud, right?"
Looking to May, Rey says, "I'm certain we can all consider anything we've heard to be... in confidence." His expression is gentle, and he seems to feel responsible for any awkwardness. "You're quite welcome to rest a while on the sofa, if you like. The rest of us can move to another room quite easily." Quietly to Tachi, he says, "Gods and monsters. I'm glad I didn't offer her any of that satyr-make whisky I keep in the other drawer." He flashes a grin, his mood remaining relaxed but cheerful. He nods in agreement that it would be a bad idea for anyone to try to kill Tachi, but he also tries to gently steer the conversation in a more pleasant direction, turning again to Levi. "Ah, family! We all have interesting family entanglements we'd sooner forget, I'm sure. But you're here, now, and they are not, so surely there are more pleasant matters to discuss. You've spoken of a supernatural doctor, and I do happen to know several witches who are very gifted healers. Perhaps one of them could assist you."
Levi sighs quietly and turns to Tachi. "See, that's the kind of attitude that gets you guys killed." He shakes his head, "When real hunters come? It won't be face to face and it won't be a duel. They'll find where you sleep, they'll find who you love, and they'll bait traps. They'll surround you with crosses and holy water and whatever works and burn the building down around you. They'll bleed your loved ones and lure you into a trap. A thousand worse things. My grandmother wears a necklace of vampire fangs." He says, "I'm saying that to seem like a badass by association. I'm saying it because you did me a favor and I want to do you one. Don't underestimate the humans. They ...we... swarm like ants or bees. One bite or sting hurts. A hundred kill."
Giving May a look of amusement, Levi shakes his head and says, "You totally didn't say anything aloud." She's an amusing person, all in all. But he's not forgetting that the cute girl drove a wooden stake six inches into a ghoul's head. Kind of casually. Funny and sweet, but definitely not harmless.
He nodded as Rey changed the subject and said, "Yeah. Family is ... the reason most people move to cities, I bet." Brightening at the offer of an introduction to a healer, he says, "Excellent. Um, we should probably want until I've made enough money to afford whatever they charge. I spent a lot of money getting here. All cash, given that I'm slightly dead." He paused. "Legally, I mean."
"Oh, trust me," Tachi says, still grinning. "If I didn't know that I'd have died centuries ago. You don't make it to 600 plus if you underestimate the humans." But he's glad when Rey changes the subject as well. "Hmm, a healer, yes, there are plenty of witches in the grand coven that are all good at that. But...um...what is it that you need? As someone who's lived a long time helping you get a new ID, or helping you clear up your current one, no trouble at all. But, um, you never actually gave us your name, I don't believe. I'd also like to know your story at some point, if you'd like to share, but don't worry too much about it, there's no rush to tell it, you'll tell me if and when you're ready."
Rey, smiling, lets the subject of hunters pass. There will be time to have frank discussions of that nature in the future, and there are many ways to deal with such dangers, though very real dangers they be. He instead nods along with Levi and Tachi, saying, "We can easily get you a new legal identity. After all, our sort have been managing that since--well, since long enough ago that any comparison would be unnecessary." He leans back against the desk again, folding his arms across his chest, and looks thoughtful.
"But, yes, knowing your need would aid is in knowing where to send you for aid," the knight says, "As to cost, well, that can be arranged. I'm not at all opposed to fronting cash, if it comes to that, but I do not expect the Grand Coven would charge you in money for their aid. After all, we are allies, and we lend one another aid freely. If you work for me, then you will almost certainly be given friendly welcome and aid." The words would seem boastful, but for the plain and matter-of-fact tone. There's no bluster nor pretense, just the manner of one who seems intent on cutting to his point.
He quite reverses that impression by offering a broad, slightly wolfish smile in Levi's direction, embers once again seeming to touch his eyes, and remarks, "Besides that, if you'll forgive your prospective employer saying so, to deal honestly with you I must confess: I find it terribly hard to resist lending aid to a handsome and charming young man, such as yourself. Call it a personal weakness."
sighs as the two men point out, however obliquely, that he's going to have to give a little trust sooner or later. And they did save his life. He sits down on the arm of the couch and says, quietly, "So... here's the thing: I don't know what what's wrong with me. Or what I am. However you want to say it. I should be dead. I was straight up killed by ...an omega werewolf." He paused. "By my brother, who had been turned by a rogue alpha." He shrugged. "I was hoping he wouldn't turn. It was stupid. I couldn't control him and then he killed me and ran. I'm still hoping to find him, one day, before our family does." Levi took a deep breath and said, "So when I came back from the dead, I thought I'd somehow been turned and or something. So I did what our family's code tells us to do. I killed myself. Pretty damned thoroughly. And woke up on a slab in the county morgue half a day later. Apparently the victim of an accidental death while 'cleaning my gun'. I couldn't get to the drives with the video of the morgue, so my family knows I got up off a slab and left. Which means they are hunting me now. And trust me, they are not happy to have a monster or two in the family." He shrugs. "So you know, average teenager stuff. Prom, graduation, werewolves, suicide and relatives that absolutely will chop me to pieces and burn the parts to make sure I stay dead next time."
Levi sighs as the two men point out, however obliquely, that he's going to have to give a little trust sooner or later. And they did save his life. He sits down on the arm of the couch and says, quietly, "So... here's the thing: I don't know what what's wrong with me. Or what I am. However you want to say it. I should be dead. I was straight up killed by ...an omega werewolf." He paused. "By my brother, who had been turned by a rogue alpha." He shrugged. "I was hoping he wouldn't turn. It was stupid. I couldn't control him and then he killed me and ran. I'm still hoping to find him, one day, before our family does." Levi took a deep breath and said, "So when I came back from the dead, I thought I'd somehow been turned and or something. So I did what our family's code tells us to do. I killed myself. Pretty damned thoroughly. And woke up on a slab in the county morgue half a day later. Apparently the victim of an accidental death while 'cleaning my gun'. I couldn't get to the drives with the video of the morgue, so my family knows I got up off a slab and left. Which means they are hunting me now. And trust me, they are not happy to have a monster or two in the family." He shrugs. "So you know, average teenager stuff. Prom, graduation, werewolves, suicide and relatives that absolutely will chop me to pieces and burn the parts to make sure I stay dead next time."
Tachi listens to Levi talking, glancing back at May, who he just laid down on the couch, to find her, much to his surprise, asleep. But he doesn't interrupt Levi's story to say anthing, instead he just looks at Rey, gestures toward the couch with a slightly surprised look, then shrugs, all while paying attention to Levi's words. "Okay, first of all," he says, there is nothing wrong with you. The simple answer is you're not fully human, which is something I could tell after seeing no marks where by all rights there should've been. There's no way you get rips in the jacket and shirt like that and they don't go through you. You healed fast, must've. So there's something supernatural about you. But you're not one of my kind, and you're not a werewolf either. If I had my umbrella, I might be able to take a closer look, but I don't. I don't think any sort of healer is going to be able to help you, though." He ponders for a moment, then turns to Rey. "Wasn't there...some sort of race of immortals? The only way to kill them is decapitation I think, but I don't really know anything about them. Except that they're beyond human, but they're...not like..." he gestures to himself. "Maybe this requires some researching." He already seems to be diving into his own brain, his eyes going slightly unfocused as he appears lost in thought, though he's still very much listening. "Oh, and by the way, Rey is right. We are all allies, we aid each other when those times arrise." And it's back to surfboarding through the library of knowledge he possesses, looking for a specific book he may not find there.
Rey listens quietly, taking this in, the slight playfulness conveyed with his compliment evaporating swiftly as Levi tells his tale. At the end of it, he steps forward and very tentatively reaches out to, if Levi doesn't object or shrink from it, lay a gentle hand on the young man's shoulder. "My friend," he says quietly, his deep voice soft but carrying a touch more rumble than usual, "you are no horror to be hunted, nor is your brother. A werewolf, an--well. Whatever you might be, as we shall endeavor to find out! You have awakened to a world of magic, of--"
Rey pauses, smiling faintly, and continues, "As I so often say, of gods and monsters. And I say this freely, many so-called monsters are my very dear friends and intimates. Your family, it seems, is misguided. I have known others like them. I'm certain they mean well, but their ignorance and fear, however innocent or well-intended, is not something that I--we--shall allow them to to use to harm you."
Regarding Tachi and considering his words, Rey nods thoughtfully and says, "I believe there is. I shall have to make inquiries. We shall discover the truth! Whatever it may be, you are no longer alone. You have allies, allies who may even become friends, even second families." He lets out a slow breath, then smiles, the expression unusually soft, a warm window on an autumn night. "All that said, let me say something more: welcome! Welcome to our world, our world of wonders and terrors, of beauty and bleakness. As a hunter, you were looking in on it from the outside, but now you stand within it. And we welcome you most cordially."
Giving the vampire a quizzical expression, Levi asks, "Wait, how can I be from a race of immortals? I'm pretty sure nobody else in my family has been like this. Trust me, we would have noticed." He shrugged that off and left Tachi to his thoughts, since the man seemed distracted by them. Rey's speech garnered raised eyebrows and a quiet, "Wow." And then, with a grin, "Um, thanks, I think? Are you inviting me to the dark side or selling me on joining a pyramid scheme?" He shakes his head, "Seriously, thanks to both of you. So yeah, that's why a new identity is kind of important. I am legally dead. Which, to be honest, kind of sucks. But hey, it beats the real thing."
Tachi half shrugs. "You're welcome," he says, simply. "It's...possible you're the first in the bloodline?" He turns to Rey. "Rey, you have connections to wolf packs and the like, yeah? Maybe you can start looking for his brother? I can start talking to my contacts and some of our mutual allies, see if I can turn something up on this race of immortals." He turns back. "Still don't know your name, my friend. If you tell me I can start looking into your background, maybe I can learn something that way."
"I will most certainly make inquiries," Rey says, nodding to Tachi, and he looks again to Levi, clearly curious to hear his name, but he also grins at the quip. "I practically swear my sword to you, and you ask me that," he says, not even pretending to be offended. "Quite the scamp, aren't you? Ah, well. It adds to your charm." He offers his hand again, this time making certain to very directly present it to Levi. "Perhaps let's try this again? I'm Rey. Quite pleased to meet you, and I shall enjoy having you here. So, indeed, may I please have the honor of knowing your name?" His tone is teasing, now, but gently so, as he continues to regard Levi with clear curiosity. A most interesting person to come to know, to be sure.
Blushing a little at his forgetfulness, the young man shakes his head. "I blame the wine. I'm Levi. Levi Vargas. And you won't hear a lot of good about that last name when it comes to hunters." He shrugs. There wasn't much he can do to help that. "Just be careful. Some of our people are really clever about searches and such. And we have cousins in the various federal agencies who help keep things on the down low." Levi glances over to Rey, smiling now and says, "I have a little bit of a mouth. Sorry. I'm not used to dealing with royalty." He takes the offered hand and shakes. "And I am very pleased to meet you both. I wasn't expecting things to get quite so dramatic, but hey, maybe they'll work out now. That would be a nice change of pace." His tone was dry on that last sentence, but Levi had to admit that for the first time in months, he was feeling ...hopeful. It was a strange, almost painful emotion. But not an unwelcome one.