Questions & Answers

Studio 10 - Upstairs Apartment

The second floor apartment is open, airy and divided into two distinct areas by a floor to ceiling shelving unit. To one side of the shelves is a kitchen and dining area, on the other is a living room with doors which open onto a roof top patio with a hot-tub. The kitchen has stainless steel appliances, and is separated from the dining room by a high bar with three tall stools. The floor is dark red Spanish tile, and the walls are a complimentary egg-shell white. A window behind the sink has pots of herbs for a touch of green. The dining room is done in warm earth tones, with a carpet to match the tile. Abstract paintings decorate one wall. The table, chairs and china cabinet are black lacquer work giving the room an Oriental feel.

The shelf divider holds books, knickknacks and family photographs. The living room is the reverse of the dining room, with off-white carpet and warm, red walls. A black leather sofa, love-seat and recliner are arranged in front of a lacquered black entertainment center holding a flat-screen television, DvD player, stereo and a vast collection of CDs. A matching coffee table provides a place to set drinks, while hanging plants soften the room with touches of green. Impressionist paintings decorate the walls, while floor to ceiling windows and a sliding glass doors allow for natural lighting. Attractive lighting fixtures provide light at night. Outside, the roof is a jungle of plants around a 10-person spa. Attractive chairs are arranged around a glass-topped patio table.

With their meeting out of the way, Michael leads Desiree home, there's no doubt she held up well in the face of a vampire such as Marius, yet he's still aware it's more than taken its toll on the young woman. It's not been an easy few nights for her, so he guides her gently up the stairs, his own frustration at the situation well hidden for now at least. He guides her into the apartment with a smile. "Why don't you take a seat and I'll prepare a drink for you?" The cats as always come running over, but as usual Michael pays them no mind, instead he heads to get Desiree a glass of Brandy.

When Michael returns he offers Desiree the brandy before speaking in a careful tone. "Marius is going to be … difficult to deal with." That's an understatement.

Desiree feels rather numb. She's survived a situation which could have turned very bad for her, but she came through it alive, and that's all that matters. She may have made a fool of herself, declaring her independence in such a manner, but it needed to be said, and at least they know she's not going to be an easy toy to play with. With Michael's help, she's guided to the sofa and sits, red silk billowing around her as she slips her feet from her shoes and tucks her feet underneath herself. "Thank you, Michael," she says, voice steadier than she thought possible. The rest of her certainly is shaky. She watches him as he returns, accepting the brandy. A sip and she feels warmer; another and she's steadier. "I have questions." It's said without preamble. "And, I want answers, this time, not euphemisms or derailments. I'm facing two very old vampires who have a lot more position and power here than you seem to have, even if you are older." She pauses, looking at Michael with clear eyes. "Tell me who Grant is, or what he is. What position does he hold in Dallas that makes everyone — including you! — kowtow to his every wish and command." A pause. "And who the hell is Marius? — the guy with him? The one who calls me a lamb?"

Nodding Michael studies Desiree. "They're both people of some political power… Marius I can… work with after a fashion, his power comes only from enforcing others will, I have influence enough to keep him in check if I'm careful, yet William Grant he is a different matter." Michael looks at Desiree. "William Grant is the most powerful vampire in all of Dallas." He looks at Desiree. "I only know Marius by description and reputation, I've only spoken with him when you've been present. I don't see any humanity in him, he has no compassion or care for you at all." He looks at Desiree for a moment. "He, like other vampires no doubt sees your statement of independence not as a sign that you are your own person, but that you're simply…. free to be used by whoever wishes." He shakes his head. "Marius will play with you if he feels inclined." There's just a hint of frustration in his tone now.

Desiree listens and listens well. Her attention is riveted on Michael, and she drinks in the information like she drinks in the brandy. Both are warming and chilling at the same time. "I can see there's nothing behind those blue eyes," she says simply. "It's kind of like you when you … shut down your emotions. You do that around them," she tells him openly. "I can feel it. I guessed it was to keep them from knowing you have … feelings for things, people. You don't want them seeing your humanity, and using it against you." She pauses. "You don't want them using /me/ for anything — which I can understand. /I/ don't want to be used by them, but … what can I say?" She shakes her head. "It's true, though. I /am/ my own person, and they'll just have to understand that. I don't belong to anyone. If I did, it would be you, Michael." Her eyes flash with anger. "And to hell with William Grant and his pet gorilla. I'm not a vampire and they have no power over me. Only that which I give to them. They /can't/ coerce me, because I have recourse. I can go to the police, or … or … some authority if they try to force me into something." Anger. Real, true.

Nodding Michael sits next to Desiree. "Oh, I suspect many vampires have such feelings, but expressing them is what takes the effort not hiding them. Marius goes further, he doesn't have them at all, I don't know if he'd be able to express affection for humans, or anything else." He shrugs as he studies Desiree. "I'm not disputing your independence, but it will be tested… and I'm not sure how effective your 'recourse' will be, if they permit you to remember what they do to you." He shrugs. "The only option you have is to avoid them, I had hoped Marius would not actively engage you in learning more on Mellie, it gives him reason to seek you out."

"I doubt he'll seek me out, but expect me to come to him," Desiree states flatly. "He's the mountain, not Mohammed." She takes another sip of brandy, her anger dissipating slightly. "I can't avoid them, Michael. I work for the AVL, and I've no doubt I'll come into contact with them both at some point. It just comes with the territory, the good with the bad." Besides, there's that danger-seeking side of her, that sick need for pushing the envelope. "So, it'll be tested. I expect it to be. Vampires don't seem to be able to resist a challenge any more than /I/ can." She shakes her head. "I don't believe I'll find much out about this Mellie. She seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth. Like the land just swallowed her up." One shoulder lifts in a shrug. "This Grant—-I've heard he has a human pet. That he's even fond of her. So, he's not lost his humanity? Is he more like you, then?" A pause. "And why have I heard him called "my lord" by some in the bar? Is he royalty or nobility or something?"

Michael seems to give that a degree of thought, he's careful to consider his words. "You met Chloe, I'm not sure of the extent of their relationship, but yes… he cares for her, though what form that takes I'm unsure of." He looks at Desiree. "It's complex, and it is very political, as I said he's the most powerful vampire in Dallas, it's simply a form of address." He shrugs a shoulder as he looks at Desiree. "I'm not able to offer protection to you Desiree, I can't even by rights speak on your behalf."

Desiree bites her lower lip. "So, in order to be protected, I have to give up my freedom of choice and be claimed by you or … someone. Do I have that right?" she asks. They've been over this before, but she's determined to have all the answers tonight. "I find that … ridiculous in this modern day and age. In the past, when vampires were secrets …? Yeah, I can see the need for it. Today?" She gives her head a toss. "I belong to myself, Michael. I know /you've/ never forced me into anything, nor, to my knowledge, manipulated me into doing anything I didn't want to. I'd do anything you ask of me without hesitation, and I'll do things for others, too, but I won't belong to anyone. Not even you, Michael, though I'm already feeling as if we share something special and very important." She smiles. "I'll try to be careful, but knowledge is power, Michael. Knowing what is what helps keep things in perspective and offers more protection than being ignorant. You've said that yourself. I know about other creatures of the night. Why won't you tell me about vampire society? Forewarned is forearmed."

Michael smiles faintly, the logic almost amuses him. "Knowledge is… slippery, it offers power and protection, but sometimes it just makes you a target." He studies Desiree, his smile actually takes on a little warmth. "I've never manipulated you… my life would likely be a lot easier if I had." He stops for a moment, motionless as he thinks. "What choice do you have now that you would not have later? The nature of the claim has changed even in my time… and it pre-dates me, and I suspect my maker." He looks at Desiree. "As for vampiric society, what knowledge would you have that you don't already?"

"Anything I don't already know," Desiree answers Michael simply with his own statement. "I know a lot, and some I've figured out on my own. But I know there's more. There has to be. I need to know what's going on with the city, what is coming up or going down. As I said, being fore-warned is being fore-armed. That way I don't blunder into something I truly /don't/ want to be part of." She speaks slowly, softly, and with feeling. "Give me the knowledge to protect myself with, Michael. Tell me how to behave, what to say … more importantly, what /not/ to say. Otherwise, I'm just going to continue being myself, and I've a feeling being myself is going to be seen as a … challenge to some."

Michael laughs. "Desiree, I don't know if I can teach you everything you would need to know to avoid trouble. The simple fact is beyond a certain point there is nothing you can say, or do that will protect you from the attentions of others." He shakes his head. "I can teach you all the terms of address, all the correct responses, and it would make no difference, you would still be seen as a human to be used as food and entertainment by too many of my kind." He offers a shake of the head. "If teaching you would protect you I would do so in an instant, but sometimes knowing the dangers isn't enough. As for what's coming up… I'm not certain anyone can tell you that." He smiles. "But we can discuss somethings…. you need understand some will be less than happy at my sharing information."

There's a moment of silence before Desiree simply acquiesces. "I understand." She does. "I'll be content … for now." She looks over at the vampire, smiling. "But, you know I'll never be satisfied until I see for myself, and learn first-hand. I've never been one to simply accept. It's not in my nature." She settles back, stretching her long legs out across Michael's lap. "Tell me what you will. No one will know I know it until it's needed for them to. I won't speak of it. You know I can be trusted in that respect. Grant already questioned me about what I knew, and was satisfied with my answers. I doubt I'll be quizzed again unless I do something extremely stupid." And, so it goes. Desiree listens, and learns. When the lessons are taught, it's near the dawn, and both are well ready for sleep. Red silk pools on the floor by her bed, the only tangible sign of the night's passing.

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