A Bargain Struck

Kidd Spring Park

The remnants of the dense forestry are located in here, as paths lead from the woods to the more entertaining features of the park. A jungle gym, complete with a small clubhouse and slides make up a play area designated for children, as do a few sandboxes. A community rec center can also be found in the park.

Separating the trees from the busier points of the park is small lake. During the summer months, a life guard can be found on duty so swimming is allowed, and there is also a small dock from which paddle boats and kayaks are available for rent.

desiree_icon.jpg james_icon.jpg marius_icon.jpg tandb_icon.jpg

It's been a rather stormy day, with heavy, dark clouds threatening to release buckets of rain on the city. So far, however, there've been only intermittent showers, a few rumbles of thunder and dark gray skies all afternoon. The evening just after sunset is no different, and the scent of rain permeates the muggy air. Dallas waits for the storm which will inevitably come. Perhaps a good rain will clear away the thick humidity, and cool air which feels like walking through a hot, wet blanket.

A little stir crazy after remaining indoors for most of the day, Desiree has driven to Oak Cliff, and sought the open spaces of Kidd Spring Park. There are paths to walk, and small, wooden pavilions beneath which to wait out the rain, should it come while she's there. Joggers and older couples stroll in the evening, so she's not exactly alone there. Police frequently cruise the neighborhood streets, and she has 9-1-1 on speed dial.

So it is that Desiree sits under one of those small pavilions, resting from a vigorous walk through one of the forested areas.


Rain is hardly the problem day light is. Thus, as a dull grey day slides into a dark, close night, a stroll is a welcome thing. The dogs, perhaps, aren't as keen on the damp as their master, but since it's not raining outright, just at this moment, the pair make no indication of complaint. Indeed, their snouts are down to the ground, sniffing around the base of a tree in the one of the more open, dog-friendly areas of the park. That area where being off-leash is allowed. It's not all that far from the pavilions, really, though James takes no advantage of the structures. He is satisfied to stand outside of the immediate cast of the lamplight, watching the unmistakable mountains that are, in fact, his hounds, make their rounds of the meadow.

He stands dressed head to toe in black, hands shoved into his pockets. Light glints off the copper cuffs he wears about his wrists, his black sleeves rolled up. But, otherwise, his back is to the main thoroughfare of the park.

Not that it diminishes his attention to the whole 360° of his personal space any.


The lamplight isn't so great that it ruins her eyesight, and Desiree can make out a figure in the nearby meadow. Not that she can see anything much about it: black clothing blends into the already shadowy, dark night doesn't help matters. She watches, taking note of the man — because the shape is decidedly male — in case she needs to remember something important.

Then she takes note of two large, moving shadows. It's hard to mistake the hounds, even when it's night and there's not a lot of light. Not too many dogs that large roaming around free, after all. Desiree takes another look at the man, nodding to herself. "James." She doesn't speak loudly, and there is some distance between where she sits and where he stands, so it's doubtful he can hear her.

After a moment's debate, she stands up from the picnic table and begins a leisurely stroll out into the muggy night. When she's a little closer, she says, "A vampire in black. Just too cliche." Hers is a teasing tone, light. "Fancy running into you here. How're the hounds?"


Dark and rainy night is perfect for Marius, even if those that breathe mortal air doesn't agree. What the vampire has learned, however, is that the little lambs seem to believe their business can be done under cover of inclement weather.

Too bad they're wrong.

The intermittent rain has managed to plaster the short blond hair to Marius' scalp, the black of his clothes sticking to his body with the wetness. He doesn't look too terribly bothered by it all — in fact, there is nothing that can be discerned from the vampire's death mask as he makes his way from the Historic Village, not quite yet at the park, keen blue eyes on the dogs. Where the dogs are ….

The rain hasn't managed to wash away everything from the vampire, however.. there are flecks of blood that show on his face in light flecks, dripping down the creases in his expressionless visage.


"Cliches have their advantages," James says neutrally as Desiree's voice carries to him. He doesn't move from where he stands. Indeed, did he not choose to speak, he'd be a fair approximation of a clothed statue, really. "The dogs are well."

And that's obvious enough, looking at them. Their eyes are bright, their coats obviously groomed, despite the dampness. Their heads raise as the human approaches. They see her. As one animal, they turn and trot lightly toward both their master and the woman who now converses with him.


"True," Desiree replies, coming a little closer as the dogs approach. "Evening, Titus, Brutus," she says, smiling and holding out her good hand for them to sniff. "I see the humidity makes their fur curl as much as it does mine," she comments idly. Thunder rumbles in the distance, the clouds lighting up for a moment. "Gonna be a nasty night when that storm breaks."

She has no idea there is another in the shadows somewhere toward the Heritage Village. She hasn't looked in that direction, and her attention is on the hounds and their master. "How old are they?" is asked. "And how come they're not … I thought animals didn't like being around vampires." The words might be taken as insult, but the tone is one of mild curiosity.


Marius could expend just a little bit of energy and catch up with his brother in arms beyond, across the way, but he chooses not to. Instead, with easy strides, his hands are shoved into pockets, he crosses the distance, his attention on the dogs, James … and lifting his head, identifies the last. The little bleating lamb.

He doesn't bother with his appearances, and as the darkness and light from the lamps play, he steps from the lights to the darker shaded area where the treeline lies. Now, he stops to lean against a tree. Twisting around, crystalline eyes peer back behind him, where he'd come before he attends that which lies before him.

"Tell her, brother…."


The dogs give Desiree a brief sniff, accepting what scritching they might. Presently, however, their heads turn towards the flank wherefrom Marius approaches. James, again, doesn't bother to turn his head. He knows who it is. And he knows him as friend.

He does, however, look directly at Desiree's face. His sapphire eyes glitter in the darkness. "They are Hellhounds," he tells her evenly, not a hint of sulfur or brimstone in his tone. Not even a trace of Vincent Price basso or sepulchral echo.

But, maybe there should be.

"They were bred from Cerberus himself and raised by Hades' own hand."

A beat.

"I won them in a game of chance from Charon before I crossed the river Styx and rose from my grave. Their age is immaterial."

James gives a ghost of a smile. "They are mine."


There's a moment of uncertainty when Desiree hears Marius speak from the shadows. A fleeting paleness crosses her face, but is gone in an instant. She is, perhaps, slightly startled to have not noted Marius approaching. The hounds turning from her should have given her warning, but she was not paying good enough attention to her environment.

She'll not make that mistake again.

Eyes flicker toward the other vampire, nodding in acknowledgment of his presence. "Evening, Marius," is softly said, knowing he will hear. "Tell me … what?" she asks, turning back to James.

And then James is telling his story. A brow lifts in slight skepticism. "I see you know your Greek mythology," Desiree remarks in a rather dry tone. Lightning flashes once more, a little brighter. Thunder grumbles only a few seconds after. "That's obvious," she says in regard to James' last comment. "I've just never seen a vampire with dogs. I was curious, is all."


Pulling his hands from his pockets, Marius straightens from his lean against the tree, "That bastard still owes me."

There is absolutely no reason that the vampire can think of that he'd expect Desiree to notice him. Dark clothing, silence of the grave; if he didn't wish to be seen, he wouldn't. All he requires is James' notice, which, obviously, is received.

He can feel the tensing of her body in the air, carried on electrified breeze, heightened by the blood that he knows still flows behind him in the Village.

"If any had sense, they would fear those hellhounds rather than assume they fear us."

Now, the older vampire approaches and offers a greeting, "Brother …" and a glance is spared for the fell beasts before he finishes, "Lamb."

The flecks of blood are still painted upon Marius' face, the hint of sweet iron of humanity noticeable. His hands, now, have the slight pink at the nails, stained if only a little. "I would require your aid, brother, for a task later this evening."


James' nostrils flare a little as Marius brings the scent of blood closer. The younger vampire runs his tongue briefly over his teeth. "Of course, brother," he replies, inclining his head faintly to his maker. A swallow keeps him in control, though there's a hardening in his eyes that bespeaks his control.

The dogs move to greet Marius warmly, as might be expected.

"I have always had a way with animals," he notes to Desiree, eyes closing and opening in a slow blink. "Why should that change, just because I've played dice with the Ferryman?"


Desiree contemplates the question for a moment, then shrugs. "I don't suppose it should, though I suspect the Change alters a person from how they were in life." Her tone is neutral, neither seeking further information nor sounding of any particular knowledge on the subject. "We're all individuals in life, why should that change after death."

She watches the dogs greet Marius, her brow lifting just a tiny bit. Obviously, she'd never thought of animals liking the stone-faced vampire. There is no comment, however, and Desiree quickly schools her face back into its mask of neutrality.

Her lips compress when Marius speaks of a "task," but Desiree tries to look more interested in the hounds than what was said. She's no doubt the description of that "task" would turn her stomach. Absently, she reaches up to scratch at the healing scars on her neck.

From out of the blue, she turns to look at both vampires, saying, "I want to find who did this to me, but I can't do it alone. Will you help me?"


James' dogs are unique, to be sure. Most animals will not get any nearer to Marius than they have to. Interestingly enough, were one to stand back and watch the animals in the dog park long enough, one would see that James doesn't at all put them off like a normal vampire might.

Lucky him, apparently.

In any case, he gives Marius a faint nod. He does allow a bit of a sharp smile to touch his lips, a gleam behind the glitter in his eyes. Evidently, he's looking forward to his brother's task.

Desiree's question, however, brings his attention back around to the young breather. He doesn't say anything, since Marius is the elder and the one with greater authority. That makes it the Whip's place to answer. Not his progeny's. But, for Desiree's sake, he does faintly arch one dark brow in an expression that approaches curiosity.


Desiree regards both vampires — well, perhaps Marius a little more than James — with a grave expression on her face. She is fully aware of the debt she will owe, and though it makes a part of her terrified, there is more of her willing to make that payment in order to know the truth. Eyes close a moment, and Desiree swallows a sudden lump in her throat. If she speaks aloud her willingness to pay for a favor, it is a done deal and there will be no backing out at the last minute.

"I know," Desiree says, her voice very quiet. "And I know it's dangerous to owe a vampire, but I want to know the truth." That's not entirely true. It's more like she needs to know the truth. "I can't walk around for the rest of my life wondering if every vampire I meet was the one who nearly killed me. It may not be important to either of you, but it's important to me."

So important the woman is willing to put herself in debt twice over. Dangerous? Perhaps suicidal is more apropos. "Yes, I'm afraid of what you'll ask," she says, facing Marius, "but remember whoever did that to me used you to cover his cowardly ass. I may nothing more than a 'lamb' to you, but I'm honorable and I'll pay whatever you ask."


If he was so inclined, Marius would scoff at what he sees as a pathetic framing on the part of the vampire. As it is, the image of allowing Desiree to live after such an attack could brand him as 'soft' and 'weak'; more a nuisance than something to stir him to anger.

"Every vampire you meet, lamb, is on the verge of taking from you." Marius' words are soft, enunciated as he leans to be sure he is heard. His expression is harsh; a face carved from granite with as much life peering from it as a statue. "Killing you would be simply one draught more than your heart can bear before it bursts for us."

Straightening again, the blond's voice rises, somewhat theatrically, his words almost… singsong in their conversational tones. "What say you, brother. Shall we aid and hold her in our debt, or allow her to understand the truth that with each passing of our kind, she is little more than a meal warmed properly?"


Were James human, he'd let out a martyred sigh and pinch his nose between closed eyes. Fortunately, however, he's not. Thus, he's able to retain that statuesque, neutral quality. He even adds a dash of nonchalant laisses-faire, just for effect. "Perhaps, I should add my voice to this, brother," he murmurs neutrally, "before we make that decision." Indeed, the emphasis on the noun is barely discernible, though, no doubt, his brother will understand its meaning.

And then, a somewhat remarkable transformation comes over the younger vampire. The distance and neutrality melt away. His spine relaxes, as do his shoulders. It seems almost as if he leans back into his own straight body as one might lean back into a recliner. His south London accent becomes a little more pronounced, a little more 'slangy'… to coin a word.

"Look, luv," he says then, as if he were talking to a lass down at the Cock and Bull pub, "I don't think y'quite get what yer askin'. Y'tol' me once y'didn't want ol' Mickey t'claim ya on accounta y'didn't wanna be a vampire's slave. Well, lass, y'ask this of us, an' you're effectively tradin' one 'master' fer two — an' that's not somethin' I'm thinkin' y'actually want."

He thumbs a gesture toward Marius. "Me mate, here? He don't give a rat's ass 'bout you, nor any other breather alive. I'fact, that's the way most vampires are. Leastwise those of us wot're outta adolescence." That is, those that are well past being considered Children in vampiric society — thus, over a hundred or so. Not that he feels the need to clarify that. "Wot's more, luv, he could care less wot some other vampire mighta made you or any other believe 'bout 'im. Ain't a vampire alive" — Did he just call vampires living? — "wot'd call Marius weak or soft after they met 'im once. Th'whole I'm-the-world's-biggest-bastid routine?"

A beat.

"He is."

(Who loves ya, bro?)

"Trust me, luv. You do not wanna be owin' this old warhorse any favors."

Why the hell is he protecting her?

Oh. Right. The Lady said, 'Make nice with the humans.'

That's what he's doing!

"I, for one, ain't up for claimin' you. I don't want the responsibility. An' you really don't want Marius in m'place."

He shifts his weight, leaning more on one hip than the other, now — or so it appears. "So. How's about y'restart this negotiation. Try asking some better questions t'start."

You know, like: What would it cost me to get you to help me?


Desiree listens, first to Marius, and knows his words to James are likely a mockery of her. She already knows she's a walking blood bank to Marius. Michael might be an exception, but even with him it was sometimes all about the blood; he was just old enough to not need as much as the younger ones.

It's James who makes her brow knit in confusion as she digests the speech Stockton gives. Not that Desiree doesn't understand him. It has nothing to do with his accent and everything to do with the fact it's the longest speech she's ever heard from him.

And what he says.

"You two act like I have no idea what I am to you," she finally says. "Well, that's been made painfully clear to me — by every vampire who looks at me. I'm not blind." A beat. "Or stupid enough to think my feelings even enter into the equation."

Desiree takes a deep breath, adding, "And I don't see why either of you would have to claim me in order to help me. I was to suggest using me as bait in a trap, not ask either of you to take responsibility for me."

"Didn't it occur to you I've weighed the risks — " Her words are partially drowned out by a flash of lightning and a peal of thunder. " — and I'm willing to …" Desiree lets her voice trail into silence.

After a moment, she begins anew. "All right, just what kind of favor are we talking about? What would you want from me in return for your help? I'm not talking about claiming, I'm talking about a business deal. I'm not rich, but I can afford to hire your help — and if it's blood you want?" A wry chuckle. "S'not like I haven't fed a vampire before, is it?" A bit of dry humor in that.

"But, if you're not interested, just say so. No need to mock me, or talk to me as if I'm an errant child." Her lips compress, mainly to keep from saying anything further.


"Take what he says as your one warning," Marius' tones lose the conversational and return to the hard and harshness of death as they had before, still accented with the foreign language spoken centuries ago. The sound of his voice carries the advice convincingly, and are spoken directly after James' own sage. In fact, as Marius utters the words to seemingly support the other vampire, cold, crystalline dead eyes flicker to him, perhaps adding a little more weight and measure?

There is no comment on the somewhat lengthy monologue of who and what he is … Six hundred years of constant battle; fighting wars where ever they may appear on the globe does something to hone skills and make reputations. Only when he entered Dallas did he take a break from the battlefield, and even then, his fighting is more … under the radar now. He hasn't stopped.

"Why is it you lambs think in such terms. Any favor I call in may have nothing to do with money or blood. It may not be called in the next day, the next week, the next month or even year. I have a long memory, lamb … and if I have no need of your vow until your seventieth year, that is when the debt comes due. It will always be within your ability to pay, though not necessarily to your liking. Yet, you would be bound." In essence, James is correct…

"Bait for a trap. If you have no memory, how would you know if it were the vampire or not?"

There's a touch of a smile that plays upon the ends of Marius' lips, and it's not a kind smile. "I will consider your request."

Until then?

"James, I have work of which may be of some interest to you." The V-addicts are still in the Historic Village, and the evening is still moving forward.. the almost full moon progressing in its path in the heavens.


A full moon hidden behind thunderheads. Good night for hunting, really. Dark. Scary. Fabulous for exercising cliches.

James, still in human-mode, gives Marius a nod. "Oh, aye, brother. Happy to join you." And he is. He really could use the hunt.

As it is, he listens to Desiree's petulance — since that's how it comes across to the vampires — he suppresses the urge to give her a flat look. She is, after all, more uneducated than anything else.

"This," he says dryly, giving her a direct look, nonetheless, "ain't patronisin'. This is fair warnin'. Most vampires'll take I'll do anything as a request to be claimed."

A beat.

"Or lunch."

He pauses a moment. A thought occurs to him and he lets the consideration of it cross his features, for her benefit.

"There might be a way," he muses after a moment. He glances to Marius and then to her once more. "But, I can't speak to it just yet."

His jaw sets. He draws himself up to his full height and lets the humanity fall away from him. His eyes harden into sapphires, glittering brightly, seemingly lit from within while shadows gather about him elsewise. "I will look into it on your behalf," he says more formally, "but, in return you will owe me one favor. Not money. And not necessarily blood." Though he won't rule that out. No sane vampire would. "And it shall be within your ability to pay. If what I find is feasible, and you choose to take advantage of it, you will owe me and whomever else may need to grant favor to see it done one further favor. Again, it shall be within your ability to pay and, barring your death, there shall be no… expiry date on when it may be claimed."

His eyes lock onto her face.

"Is that agreeable to you?"


The park is now completely deserted, and the wind is picking up. The storm is getting closer; lightning and thunder are only a few moments apart. Desiree's hair is whipped across her face more than once as she stands in the open with the vampires and the hounds.

"Yes. Bait." Desiree says to Marius, her face hardened into a mask of cold fury. "I may not remember my attacker, but he — or she! — will remember me," she declares in a icy tone. "I'm an easy mark to them, and like James told me, if word gets out my memory is coming back …?" Desiree shrugs. "I'm willing to take the risk 'cause I don't want anyone else to go through what I'm going through." A beat. "Not that it matters a whole hell of a lot." Bitter? Yes.

When James speaks once more, Desiree turns to look at him. She pays no attention (though, perhaps she should) to talk between the vampires. Doubtless, it would give her further clues to their lack of humanity. It's what James has to say to her which means the most to Desiree. "Point taken," she says regarding the "do anything" part. "Mea culpa — though you can blame ignorance of vampire nuances." As for the "lunch" comment? That's ignored.

The rest of his speech is listened to with great interest. This, then, is the meat of the situation laid bare. Desiree weighs every word, dissects them, turns them every way she can think of to interpret their meaning. When she's satisfied she understands what James is saying, she takes a breath, exhaling slowly. Her heart actually begins to pound.

"Yes. That is agreeable. I accept the debt in exchange for your help."

As if the gods heard and witnessed, a brilliant flash of lightning pierces the darkness, followed immediately by a tremendous roar of thunder.


There is nothing that Marius needs to say. James has, effectively, put everything on the table. Granted, paraphrasing what he'd said, but having the two repeat each other perhaps will clue the breather that this is serious business <tm> and something that could very well have some ritualistic value?

Marius watches as James brings himself up, the play of lights and shadow covering him like a cloak. There is nothing in his manner or mien that looks as if the other vampire is anything but what he is …

Marius is ready to depart; there will be blood spilt this evening, and it will be by their hands. The lightning and the crash of thunder in its wake is more than enough for Marius. He looks forward to the water spilling from the heavens. All that must needs be done is for James to accept it, and he will be off … and it will be in a rush of breeze, and where he once stood, he is no longer … and no longer within human sight.


James does not react to the lightning nor the thunder. But, if some god has heard and witnessed the deal, then it is no doubt a god of the netherworld.

"Done, then," he intones as the the thunder fades. He regards the breather directly once more and inclines his head slowly to acknowledge the holding the debt. Then, he turns to give his brother a predatory smile.

"Let us to the Hunt, my brother," he says quietly, though there is some intensity to the words.

As Marius disappears in a blur, James disappears in unnatural shadow that flows with preternatural celerity back toward the Heritage Village.

Perhaps more startling, however, is that the hounds race after that shadow … their speed very nearly matching it.

Maybe James was serious about Cerberus, after all.


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