The Ladies Who Lunch

Studio 10 - 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.

It's early enough in the afternoon that lunch is appropriate, and Desiree has regained enough strength to put together a light meal of soup, salad and sparkling grape juice for two. The invitation for Paige to join her for lunch was accepted, and Desiree has arranged things on the rooftop patio. The canvas awning has been replaced, and provides shade for the table. There's a breeze, and it's one of those nice summer days— not to hot, not too humid. She's moving a lot slower than before the attack, and must take care for her various injuries. Desiree promised Michael she wouldn't leave the studio while he slept, and she's so far kept her word.

When she hears the buzzer from downstairs, Desiree carefully maneuvers herself to the studio entrance, smiling as she lets Paige inside. "Thanks for coming," she says, though the words are a little slurred. The side of her face is bruised and swollen where she was struck, and she has a black eye. "Forgive the appearance. I had a run in with a … well, we can discuss it over lunch. I hope you like salad." She takes note of Paige's own bandages. "I heard you and Hugo were in an accident. I sent flowers." She's leading the way back up the stairs, now, and eventually through the apartment and out onto the patio. "How's he doing? The ICU nurses won't tell me anything since I'm not immediate family."


The wait for the doctor to arrive to release her from the hospital seemed as if it lasted an eternity, with Paige rolling back and forth in her chair, the closest thing she could get to a rocking chair, with her street clothes on and her bags packed and sitting on the bed. But the discharge orders finally came though, and the truck couldn't get pulled around fast enough. The trip back to the house was quick, long enough to pick up about a week's worth of clothes, before she headed to Jed's place, and settled herself in. When she got the call from Desiree, the pair were in the middle of a fight about why Paige was not allowed to sleep on the couch.

But Paige did accept the invitation to lunch, even stopping at the bakery not far from her house to pick up some raspberry turnovers for dessert. Never go to someone's house without bringing something, that's what her mother taught her. But she's not at all prepared for the way Desiree looks, as she opens the door to the seconf floor stairs, but she's at least respectful enough of Desiree's privacy NOT to say anything until the door's closed and they're on their way up to the apartment, "How about before lunch? And salad's wonderful. "I got them, thank you, and I made sure I put his where he could see them. He's…they're watching him. I haven't been able to get much information myself. But I think he's pulling through."


Desiree's face shows a little strain from the exertion. "Good. I was really worried when I heard." Her eyes dip to the bandage on Paige's neck, but she doesn't ask any questions. "All right, before lunch, but let's at least get settled on the patio. It's such a nice day out, I thought maybe we'd eat out there." She gestures to the open glass doors with her good hand, nodding. "You have a seat and I'll bring out the drinks. Nothing stronger than juice for the walking wounded." she says, chuckling softly.

She joins Paige on the patio a few minutes later, balancing a tray with four bowls on it, two salads, two soups. Crackers and other accompanyments are already on the table. "I thought something light would be good for us. I did experiment a bit with the salad dressing. My mother liked to try new and different things, and I used one of her recipes."

It's a delicate balance, that tray, but Desiree manages not to spill anything. "Oh, and you brought dessert. How sweet. I'd planned on just serving canteloupe, but those turnovers look delicious." Desiree sits in one of the chairs, saying, "So, help yourself. I don't stand on ceremony. How are /you/ doing?"


"Thank you, it's kind of you to go to all of the trouble." Paige helps as she can, Desiree, at this point being much worse off than she is. Sure she's still got her ribs healing, and she got the neck thing, but the bruises are coming along nicely. And no more concussion, so… But she likely also realizes that Desiree likely needs to do for herself as best she can. How well Paige knows that feeling, and so, she doesn't push things, only helping to set everything out on the patio table once the tray arrives.

"Well, I never say no to a salad, though my salad's usually end up having chicken and bacon and enough ranch dressing to make it meat with a side of lettuce." There is some humour there. No doubt the business ahead of them is serious, but that only makes it more important to focus on the humour, whenever she can find it.

"Oh, thank you, and you're welcome. I brought them from Paolo's in Downtown. They're really amazing. Close to the studio, so we get them all the time. Good coffee too." Paige does accept the soup first, cooling it by stirring, rather than by spooning and blowing, "Angry, mostly, scared. I feel completely helpless, at the moment. But I'm here. I'm still alive. And that's the way it's going to stay. How about you? What happened?"


Desiree has served comfort food. The salad has all the usual vegetables, plus tiny shrimp and real bacon bits. The dressing isn't ranch, it's like an Italian but not quite as sharp. There's cheese and crackers on the side, and the soup is homemade tomato. Desiree can cook, as long as she has a recipe to follow. But, there's sympathy in her eyes as she listens to Paige. "I know that feeling," she says, very softly. "The helplessness… the vulnerability, and the relief at still being alive."

She takes a deep breath, then eats a bit to fortify herself before answering. She makes the story as short and concise as possible, including all the pertinent details, but never mentioning any names. "… and so I drove the keys into his neck, and managed to run, but I wasn't fast enough. He caught me, broke my arm, and … and that's all I remember. I woke up and dragged myself to my car, called the AVL and Mr. MacKiernan sent someone to help me." She manages to shrug her good shoulder. "The rest is pretty much just getting fixed up and Michael came to pick me up." She pauses. "He's asleep in the bedroom. He doesn't want to leave me alone." She looks at her plate, shaking her head. "I appreciate his concern, but I'm really … doing all right."


Well, tomato //does/ happen to be Paige's favourite, so, for the first little while, it does get most of her attention, but everything is at least sampled, before she settles in to eat, "Thank you, Desiree. It's all wonderful. The dressing is amazing. I'll have to get the recipe from you before I go. "After the accident, when the police were coming, I remember thinking the happiest moment in my life up to this point, was seeing that Hugo and Officer Winters were still breathing."

But Paige doesn't go much further into the story at all, and it's not that she wouldn't tell Desiree, if she asked, but after leaving enough messages on Desiree's home phone, the woman's gotten the whole, or nearly whole account from them alone. So there's really no need. Or little need. And frankly, with as many visitors as she's had in the last few days, she's told the story just too many times. And Desiree's story takes precedence, "Has he been able to find the vampire who did this to you? He'd damned well better. I don't know what the hell has happened in this town. And there hasn't been a single peep out of the AVL at all, like they're trying to brush it under the rug. Our kind are being violated and I'm not hearing a single word."

"Desiree, he's a man. And being a vampire only makes him more of a man. He thinks he's the only one who can protect you. That kind of man has a hard time seeing that it is possible to protect yourself. Or let you do it."


Desiree seems to be concentrating on her own soup. Comfort food. Who doesn't love comfort food? "I'm glad for all of you, too," she murmurs, taking a cracker and spreading cheese on it. "We survived the worst, and things can only look up from here on out," she says, trying to sound positive. "Time heals all wounds, after all. We may never forget, but the edge will wear down after awhile." Another few moments of silence, then, "I managed to get over my mother leaving, my father dying and my divorce, so … this, too, shall pass."

She doesn't really look at Paige during the next part of the conversation, instead concentrating on her salad. She will answer Paige's direct questions, though. "No … I— " Here she stops, picking up her glass of white grape juice. "I didn't get a good look at him. It was dark and … it all happened so fast." Her head shakes, but her eyes are downcast. "I … I asked the AVL not to publicize it for that reason. Until I can remember something about him that'll help identify him, what's the use in starting a public panic? I … If it seems like they're brushing it under the rug, it's because of me."

As for the remarks about Michael…? Well, that's easier to discuss. Desiree looks up at Paige. "I care about him, don't get me wrong, but I don't want to belong to him. I don't want to belong to /anyone/. He wants to protect me, but even if he'd staked a claim on me, a renegade isn't going to adhere to the laws. I can't make him understand why I don't want to … sleep with him anymore. He watches over me while I sleep, and that's all right. But I don't want to …" She shudders. "And I won't take his blood. That upsets him, but it upsets me more to feel guilty for not … for not … being his chattel."


"I haven't heard anything at all about Officer Winters, the police are being very hush hush about that. But I can only assume that since we haven't heard anything up to and including the police out looking for the perpetrator of a cop killer, which I'm SURE would not be kept out of the media, that he must be alright. I mean, he was choked unconscious, but that was all." She did at least see all of that." Paige, for her part, just crumbles the crackers and soggies them up in her soup. A little childish, but, hey. "Every hurtful thing in our lives, just makes us strong, more ready to face the world and get right back up again."

"I'm not talking about a public panic, but not even a word about 'this is not the work of a vampire we sanction, attacks on humans are wrong? I mean that's supposed to BE the party line of the AVL." But she's not about to make the subject more touchy for Desiree, and she can at least drop it, as she turns to her salad, giving her crackers time to soggify.

"You're thinking like a human, Desiree. I think we sometimes have ideas about ourselves that vampires don't have. I mean, sane humans. I for example, would never just randomly attack someone else, not even a vampire. Not even the person who killed my best friend, if I could find them. I wouldn't even kill the vampire who attacked us, if there was another way." Paige pauses, before she continues, "Of course, if someone did kill him, I wouldn't cry any tears over it. But they look at us as food, as lesser being that they have the right to own, because they're higher on the food chain, I think. Sometimes, I wonder if Michael isn't with you because you help him to feel human again. And now, he might see it as you taking that away from him. I don't KNOW what it's like to be a vampire, but I have known relationships where it's very physical and very intense, but then the dynamic changes, and one or the other person feels that they're being abandoned, that they're not good enough, when it isn't the case, it's just that the relationship isn't what it was before." But there is a curiosity, "You drink his blood? Like…V fresh from the vein?"


It's not a reflection from the red table cloth that makes Desiree blush. "I … once. Only once, consciously. Apparently, he gave me blood when I was … when something came out of the trees on the hiking path and tried to maul me." Her lips twist. "That was also at the lake. Michael has forbidden me to go there alone anymore." Yes, there's a bit of humor in her expression. "I think I'm going to agree with that." But then she's serious again. "He wants to give me his blood because it helps humans heal wounds faster— " Desiree stops. "I'm not supposed to have said anything about the healing."

Her eyes lift to Paige. "If word gets out that vampire blood heals, they'll be even more of a target. Please … don't speak of it? I ask that as a favor from one walking wounded to the other. It would get Michael in trouble, I suspect, for telling me in the first place." A few more bites of salad are eaten, and the last of her soup spooned from the bowl. Desiree sits back. "I'm not a deeply religious person, but I believe in God. I don't think He'll put any more of a burden on us than we can carry. Still, I wonder why he thinks I'm so strong." She chuckles, leaning back in the chair. "Worst thing about this," she lifts the cast, "is that my freaking arm itches like crazy!"

There's a long pause, then, "You hit it on the head, Paige. I make Michael fee again. For the first time in centuries, he cares for someone, wants to protect and nurture. He understands, on one level, why I don't want to be owned, but it's hard for him to not want to possess me, at the same time. It must be hard on him, which is why I can't just send him away. I won't sleep with him like I did before, but I won't send him away. I mean, who better to protect you from one vampire than another vampire? An old vampire, at that."


"The lake seems to be a particularly nasty spot. Wasn't there another attack on a woman there a few months back? Some sort of creature, a bear or large cat or something, the doctors said. I was going to try to get up there, they had a new water skiing thing up there, but after what happened to you, I'm not taking any chances. And I don't care if it's high noon, that's for sure and certain." It's no surprise at all, when Paige's eyebrows lift, listening to Desiree's account of her blood drinking from Michael, but she can't mask the look of disgust, as she reaches up to touch her neck, "I can't even bear to look at it. Someone told me it would heal faster without it, but I can't stand it. It's like…he raped me, you know?" Of course Desiree would. Didn't the vampire who attacked her do exactly the same thing?

"Paige shakes her head, adamant, "I'm not going to say anything to anyone about that," meaning the blood, "I doubt that's something vampires want coming out. And as you said, if the other vampires knew, yeah, Michael would be in trouble, but I also doubt they'd leave the humans around who knew about it alone." There's a smile, as Desiree confesses her bewilderment at God's plan, "There's an old saying…"You never know how strong you can be, until strong is your only option. Maybe the whole point is to make you see that you have the strength inside of you." A grin, at the itching comment, "You got one of those flexible metal rulers? They work wonders. Just slide it in there and scratch scratch scratch." That might be gross but hell, it's not comfortable wearing a cast.

"He doesn't want to lose the person that is giving him the feelings he hasn't had in years. But at the same time, that's exactly the thing that's tearing you apart, or, well, one of them, it sounds like. The harder you hold onto something, the more likely you are to have it slip through your fingers, or get crushed in your hand. But at the same time, Desiree, keeping him around keeps the hope alive, you know? It's like dating someone you don't love anymore, but you keep them around, and you give them mixed signals and they end up thinking…maybe she'll love me again one day."


There are tears in Desiree's eyes as she listens to Paige. She blinks rapidly, then dabs them away with her napkin. "I'm sorry," she apologizes, sniffling. "I tear up at the least little thing, now." She takes a breath. "Rape. Yes, it was like that. He tore my shirt, and left these long scratches down my body, but he didn't …" Desiree is silent a moment, then, "It is rape, despite the lack of penile penetration." Her head comes up, and there's an expression of angry defiance in her eyes. "I was beaten and bruised and violated by … by a monster. They're not all like that, no, but it only takes one to … to change a person."

Soup and salad are abandoned, at this point. "I've been truthful with Michael, about everything. He says he wants to claim me because it'll protect me from other vampires," she says slowly. "Problem with that is like the whole gun control issue. Law abiding citizens will never misuse guns, but there're others, the gangbangers, outlaws, murderers, criminals— laws don't matter to them. This … this monster who attacked me doesn't care. He feels he's above the laws, and that's why he's not afraid to do what he did to me. If Michael can help protect me from him, then I'll do what I have to in order to be safe."

As for the mixed signals…? "That's the thing. Michael swears he's not trying to hold onto me. That the thing he likes most about me is my free spirit, and he doesn't want to crush that. I just want to be friends with him, to be around him when I want to be, and share a part of my life with him, not my whole life. I don't want to do that with anybody— not Michael, not Hugo, not … anyone. He says he understands, but …" A shrug of her good shoulder. "It's nice to be able to discuss this with someone. Thanks for coming, Paige."


Paige sets aside her salad, as she sees the tears come to Desiree's eyes, extending a hand across the table to the other woman. Sometimes a touch, the feeling of one hand inside another can say much more than any words, can bond two people as surely as shared suffering. "Violation is violation, regardless of how it happened. Whether someone is defiling the sanctity of your body or your mind, and this was both, it still is what it is."

"Well, the opposite side to that many law-abiding citizens follow the laws because they know the laws are there. They use the laws as a means of knowing what is right and wrong. If this claim is what tells all vampires, whether they would follow the law and not harm you, or choose to go again the law, then NOT having the claim makes you fair game for everyone. And people who break the laws are punished precisely because there was a law to be broken.

If you were claimed, then Michael could say, "This vampire did this to someone who belongs to me," and the punishment would be, well, whatever the punishment is. I can only assume there IS a punishment. But since you're not claimed, here doesn't have something that he can point to and say, "This was a crime." Paige pauses, before she continues, "But there's also something else to consider. You're in this position also because you choose to associate with vampires. NOT the attack, I mean, at all. But the fact that the idea of claiming you even came up, was because you chose to be so close to Michael that there was a chance you would be drawn into vampiric society as a part of your normal life, instead of as an aberration. The more exposure the greater the risk."

"He might say that, but that's not how he's acting, by your accounts. If he wants more from you than you're willing to give, then that is trying to curtail your freedom. That trying to mold you, passively or aggressively into what he wants. For example, he says he doesn't want you to be alone here. But aren't you safe here, in your own home? He couldn't even come in, if you didn't let him. So as long as you stayed here, you wouldn't need a vampire to protect you from another vampire, unless they somehow tricked you into letting them in." A shake of her head, "Don't thank me, Desiree. We're friends, it's what friends do. I'm just as grateful to have someone to talk to."


Being a tactile person, Paige's hand is grasped and Desiree smiles. "Friends. You know, I don't remember having a close girl friend I could share things with. Not even in high school. By then I was … well, a lot of the girls didn't like me because I was pretty, and was working in 'show business.'" She does the "quote" marks in the air with the fingers poking from the cast. "So, it's nice to finally find someone willing to be friends with me. I'll try to deserve the honor." She smiles, albeit slightly tremulous. "It's hard to keep things inside."

Regarding the claiming… "I know. Michael pointed that out to me, but he started this so soon after we met. If he'd waited a bit, maybe I wouldn't have balked so much about it." A pause. "Oh, yes, there are punishments. Everything from losing a fang to final death. Like our laws, it all depends on the severity of the crime." Another pause. "At least that's the way I understand it. I don't know everything about vampiric society, especially all the nuances. I find it interesting, and I do believe vampires deserve the same rights as any ethnic group. I know a lot of people don't agree with it— which is why I think the AVL isn't saying anything about my attack. As far as I know, Mr. MacKiernan could be preparing a statement denouncing the attacks. I haven't been back to work there since … this happened."

"Believe me, Paige, I've heard all the arguments for and against claiming. At this point, I don't really want much of anything to do with … with any vampire but Michael. I can trust him. Strange as that sounds, I can. He knew my family, and I guess that's why I like having him around. I miss my father so much, and talking to Michael is often like talking to Dad." Desiree pauses. "Oh, God, does that sound weird or what?" She laughs softly. "I guess I am ready to see a shrink."


"Well, I wasn't in show business when I was in grade school, but most of the kids avoided me because my Mom was one of the teachers. Well, either that, or they knew the last person you wanted to piss off was a sailor. Especially a Norwegian one." But despite the differences them, she certainly sees them less now, "But I get a lot of flack about the job, you know? Most of the people I know or meet think I'm cracked. Or they think what I do is just the 'coolest thing' and they want to be my new best friend. Only they don't really want to be your friend at all. So, yes, I'm glad to have you as a friend."

"Well, all I can hope, is that they can get it done. I did speak to Michael, and I spoke to someone else in the vampiric community, at least she's well associated with them, and they both assured me that such actions by vampires in the city are not to be tolerated, and they would deal with the vampire who did this to me and Hugo. I have to assume that that is a blanket statement regarding all vampire attack on humans. So if they would do that for us, I can only trust that they do it for you as well. Though, you at least have a vampire on your side you know will make sure he gets it done.

"Well, the talking doesn't, but the other stuff…yeah, if you took it in the wrong context. And I can understand wanting to be close to someone who knew your family, someone who can give you, even just a hint, of what you used to have with them. I guess, you have to decide if the good you get from being with him is enough to outway the bad."


"I like to hear Michael talk about all the history he's seen, too. And art, music, literature— all that. He listens to me, too, and doesn't treat me like I'm a trophy." Desiree looks down at her plate. "I'm sorry, but it's hard to explain. I feel like he genuinely cares for me, but then he goes all cold, and still, and I'm reminded he's … he's really not … like me anymore. He swears he'll never hurt me, nor let anyone else hurt me, and I believe him. I just … don't want to have sex with him anymore." She shakes her head. "I sometimes think I don't want to have sex with anyone ever again."

Desiree nods. "I've no doubt when the vampires who attacked you, Hugo and me are caught," She pauses, pursing her lips. "They'll die, Paige. I've no doubt of that. There are laws and they've broken … oh, more than one, I suspect. Not just our laws, but vampire laws. If Michael says they'll find them, then they will. I'd believe that, and I know Michael wants to get his hands on the one who attacked me. I wouldn't want to be him, that much I'll tell you. It won't be pretty."


"I'm just curious as to why you feel you can't speak to someone else about all of that. Just because he lived when a piece of art was painted, or when a book was written, doesn't mean that he has any more or less appreciation for it than someone else does now. Van Gogh, for example, was vilified in his time, hated. People had no idea then of his genius, it took years for them to come to that realization. Just because you were a part of history, doesn't make you an expert, or necessarily give you some insight than a modern person wouldn't have. But I am sorry if you feel that way. Because it is a part of being human, having the need for that sort of contact.

"I will believe that they are dead when I see it with my own eyes. I've been assured that it will be handled, but at the end of the day, we're meat, to them, and I don't know many predators that have any amount of consideration for their prey. So when they say seeing is believing, well, this is one of those cases." Paige finishes her salad, turning back to her soup. The crackers are now sufficiently soggied.


Desiree considers waht Paige has to say, and nods. "All right, I understand your point, and I do talk to others about art, music and history. Michael has insights I find interesting. His perspective of human history is unique, having had literally centuries to observe us at our best … and our worst." She pauses to take another bite of her salad, then sets the fork aside. "You see, I guess I feel about vampires like Michael as I do about my black or Asian friends. They're friends, and friends don't have color or race." Her good shoulder lifts in a shrug. "I try to weigh each individual on their own merits, not because of what they are."

There's a momentary lull in the conversation, during which hammering can be heard from below. "I can't wait until all the renovations are done. It's beginning to get just a little on my nerves, you know? Thankfully, the bedroom upstairs is fairly quiet since it's not above the studio." She glances around the patio "jungle," taking a breath of fresh air. "Well, all I know is what Michael's told me, and he swears he's investigating our attacks with all due diligence."

Desiree pauses, chewing on her lower lip a moment. Then, "I also know the AVL is appalled at two such attacks coming back to back like this. Mr. MacKiernan helped me, and Michael assured me I'd be … but he can't assure me it won't happen again, can he?" Eyes stare out at the Dallas skyline. "I mean, these two vampires are out there someplace, and we don't know where."


"Really? I find most of his insights into humanity to be rather pedantic. He has a penchant for pointing out how limited and flawed humans are. How much we're ruled by our human failings. I remember meeting him at the museum, and thinking how much he reveled in the feeling of superiority he has over us. The fact that he thinks that just because he has had the chance to observe us, like rats in a maze, that it somehow gives him the right to judge us."

Paige looks up from her soup, turning her attention to the sound of the contractors downstairs, "I'm sure the noise and the inconvenience will be worth it when it's finally finished. At least, that's what I've been telling myself about my house. Although I'm doing most of the work on that myself." A lift of her shoulders, as she looks back to the woman across the table from her, "No they can't assure us, but I'll believe the truth of whatever they say when I see the proof for myself."


There's a gentle smile on Desiree's face. "Not exactly pedantic, but perhaps a bit …" She pauses, trying to think of the right term. "… more logical than we're used to seeing in another race. Like Spock on STAR TREK. Once you remove our very flawed human emotions, you have a chance to observe with impartiality— but we're not used to that. We have opinions, and we don't hesitate to state our views. Emphatically, and with passion." She sips her juice, looking thoughtful. "Perhaps that's what you're seeing, the distancing, the removal of himself from humanity. It's not necessarily superiority, just … 'been there, seen that, threw away the T-shirt.'"

A soft chuckle accompanies her words. "Paige, we may never see what the Vampires do to punish these transgressors. We're not part of their world, and their justice isn't like ours. We, as Americans, are used to pointing fingers and saying, 'He did this to me, punish him.' Families of murder victims often attend the execution of killers." She pauses for a breath, then adds, "But Vampire society isn't like ours. It's why they have their own laws, and I believe our attackers will suffer for what they did. Probably more so than if it was in a normal court."

She reaches out, much like Paige did to her earlier. "We just need to think positively about this. I know it's easy to get angry— and believe me, I'm angry about this— but anger will only hurt us in the long run. I'm pretty sure those two attackers won't get away with what they did to us, and I can be patient when I want to be."


"No, with him it was very much, 'I clearly know your than you and can see the world as it should be, not the way you flawed humans want to see it.' Certainly Paige speaks to Michael, she enjoys his company. But she'll never have blinders on where he's concerned. "He looks down on us and thinks that's just the way things should be."

"That's not acceptable to me. To just sit back and say, 'Oh, they'll take care of things because they promised they would.' I don't have that much faith in them. But if it makes you sleep better at night, then I'm not going to take that away from you. I'd rather chalk it up to 'something we agree to disagree on.' But I do think that I have a right to see the vampire that attacked me punished. And to say that they have different ways doesn't fly. Because it wasn't a vampire that was attacked. It was a human. I have no doubt that if it were a vampire that was attacked, that vampire would want to see the death or punishment of his attacker. I see no reason why I should not have the same right, especially since it was my right that was violated."


Rather than argue the point, Desiree nods. "Well, why don't we just accept that's the way we feel and go on from there. I'm not sure there's a right way or a wrong way in this. I certainly can see your point, but I— " She stops, shaking her head. "I can't fight for it, right now. It's there every time I close my eyes. The … the violation, the sounds, the pain." As if to demonstrate, she closes her eyes, and her whole body shudders. "I can feel him, smell him, hear him."

When her eyes open, they're filled with loathing. "I'd love to tear him limb from limb myself, but that'll never happen. I could go to the authorities, and it would be tied up in red tape for months, maybe even years. In the meantime— ? He's free to do this to someone else." She hangs her head, blinking. "So, I can agree with you, but I can't fight it. Not until I conquer the constant fear and self-loathing I feel."

Long minutes of silence stretch, then Desiree seems to pull herself together. "No sense in letting the bastard win, though. I wear my battle scars proudly, and I won't take Michael's blood to heal. I want whoever did this to me to see his handiwork, although it probably won't mean a thing to him." Another moment, then, "So… let's see about dessert. I need something sweet to counter all this … bitterness."


"If there wasn't anything different about it it wouldn't be much of a friendship. After all, it's as much the differences between one person and another that bring them together as the similarities." But Paige too, is ready to set aside the subject of the attacks and the vampires responsible. They're both of them set in their views, and talking won't change it. And while she can agree with the sentiment that Desiree is feeling, perhaps even feel it herself, in the state she's in, she's not so willing to give in. "I wasn't sure if you liked raspberry, but I figured it couldn't hurt." better to move on to a different subject, "So tell me what you're having done downstairs?"


"New flooring, new lighting," Desiree replies as she serves the sweet course. "The building was originally built in the 40s, and Mdme. Trovanova purchased it in the 60s. So … it needs some updating, especially the wiring. I couldn't live with myself if a fire broke out and a child was injured, so Mr. Zane kindly took a look at things, and made up a very reasonable offer to renovate." She licks her fingers, grinning. "I've got to keep up with the other studios, after all, otherwise, I'll lose revenue."

"I love raspberries, by the way. You couldn't have chosen anything better." Now that they're off the rather somber subject, Desiree is a little brighter, more cheerful. "I can't really do much dancing with this," she holds up the broken arm, "but I try to keep up my exercise regimen. An hour at the barre every morning, and three hours every evening. Being closed has its advantages." Bites are taken of the dessert, and a soft "mming" sound is heard. "These are delicious. Where'd you say you bought them?"

"He's the one running against Mayor McNabb, isn't he? I've been seeing more of his flyers and posters around town. But I can certainly understand the need to update. The lighting alone in the studio was a necessity." Paige hasn't been the studio at all often, but even a non-dancer can see that the light is probably just as bad as having to dance in the dark. "I think people appreciate quality. And they will come to you for the classes you teach, not where you teach them. But it will certainly make your job easier."

"Paolo's. Down at the corner across from the Bank of America building. Between the two Starbucks." Yes, two Starbucks, on the same street. "Better you thank me, that's for sure and certain. I prefer not looking like a pretzel, thanks." And with that, the two women settle into the best part of the lunch. The part where they can simply be friends. Friends enjoying the sweetness of pastry, the warmth of the sun, the quiet sounds of the city, bustling around them.

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