Weeks passed since Autumn’s rescue and the Count’s demise at the hand of his own son Lucien. The tribunal had met and reluctantly agreed to Caleb’s recommendations of not only letting Lucien live, but also attempting to re-socialize him. He had been stripped of his powers and possessions, now merely possessed the strength of a new vampire, which was not much more than a mortal. He would have to report to Caleb weekly and was not allowed to leave Caleb’s region.
After waiting for signs that Autumn was turning, as she continued having those cramps but was not transforming, Caleb realized that whatever Lucien had done had not been strong enough to turn her. After Autumn told us that he never touched her, we were all pretty sure that the not-turning, too, had been intentional. He had been trying so hard to gain his father’s blessing, but was not willing to truly hurt Autumn, so this seemed to have been his solution. Right now she was stuck in the middle, no longer fully human but not a vampire yet either. Caleb told her she would have to make a choice – and soon – as to which life state she wanted to go with and then he would see to it being so, as the current state was affecting her body negatively. Autumn, just like her mother, smiled and asked for time to consider it, which was granted.
Lucien seemed to take to her, and we all worried that Autumn really suffered from Stockholm syndrome as she went to see him often. But she was as headstrong as she was gentle, and no matter who tried to talk her out of it, she would listen to the reasoning and then go anyway. Her mother had been like that. Addy had been big on second chances, which made it twice as sad that she was never granted hers.
Lucien was generally quiet, at this point still in custody until Caleb felt confident to release him. Lucien never argued and did all that was asked of him. He barely spoke, never smiled, unless Autumn was there, and even then his emotions were shown sparsely.
“Hello Lucien.” Autumn smiled.
“You’re back.” he tried to sound nonchalant, even thought he had been waiting for her.
“Bad time for you?” she smiled.
“Kinda, I was just about to run some errands.” he smiled from behind bars.
“A sense of humor, Mr. Drake! I do declare!” Autumn joked, fanning herself.
“Your therapy seems to be working, doc.”
“My prof will be so proud.”
“Must be nice. I would not know what that felt like.”
“I am proud of you. For what it’s worth.”
“For trying. And you lied about being bad, when in reality you were protecting me. I am not sure why you did, but am grateful. Which is why I am here to get your input on a conundrum I have, caused by you. Your little stunt with half-turning me leaves me in a pickle. I have to choose now which way to turn. Help me decide.”
“Me? Why me of all people?” he looked and sounded bewildered by her request.
“Why not? If I were to go with being a vampire, you would be my master, wouldn’t you?”
“No, the one who finishes the job would be. Maybe you should ask them, assume it would be Caleb.”
“I barely know Caleb.”
“You barely know me.”
“Do I? Let’s see. Only child of two horrible parents, raised secluded from the world in a cold environment, willing to do anything to gain his father’s respect, but not willing to go as far as hurting another person other than with mean remarks, for which you by the way are still on my shitlist. Then you go and do what a few dozen – if not more – other people wish they would have had the balls to do and get rid of the Count for good, even though you have no gain from that and for all you knew that action would be the final nail to your coffin, no pun intended, to seal your death warrant. How am I doing?”
“Not to shabby, except I killed my father because I hated him. I keep telling you, I am not good, no matter how much you want to see that in me.”
“You are not fooling me.”
“So why am I on your shitlist?” that part bothered him.
“Because of the mean things you said about my mom. Had you known her, you would never have said that and you would feel REALLY bad about that.”
“How am I supposed to relate to that? My own mother took me away then left me all alone as a young teen in a foreign country, completely meaningless. Clueless. No money, no shelter, no clothing. And even before that, she was barely ever there, I was always alone with my father. I have no idea what a mother is supposed to be like.”
“Kinda like in the movies. The non-horror ones.”
“My father allowed no television. Or radio. Or phones. Or computers.”
“Huh?! You mean, you have no phone? How do you live?”
“Still think there is hope for me? Sounds more like you are considering putting me to sleep right about now.”
“Whenever you get out of here, we are going to have our work cut out for us. You get a crash course in smartphones and computers right away and I will get you caught up to all the important TV shows, teaching you the meaning of the term binge-watching. And then you will learn about Emojis and how they are mega-essential. And Starbucks! YAS!”
“I have no idea what you just said, but I’ll do it if you think it’s important.”
“It’s LIFE!” she laughed.
“If you say so.” he shrugged.
“So, now tell me which way do you think I should go? Vampire or human?”
“I cannot … you are not going to let this go, are you?”
“Not a chance.”
“It depends on how important human things are to you. Personally, I would not want to be a mortal, but then again, I was born a vampire and don’t know any different. To me, there is no benefit to being so – fragile. Take how you feel about missing your mother for instance. I would never have to make anyone I cared about feel like that about me, as I will not die. Well, unless of course, under special circumstance, but you are not the kind of person to ever have to worry about that. You should not ask me though. You should ask your family. They care so much about you.”
“Except for my siblings and my dad, all that I am really close with are vampires anyway. My biggest worry would have always been the rumor that vampires do not feel and are without any emotion, which is still what many people believe. But one only needs to spend one hour around either set of my grandparents and would see that is not the case. Blaine is a sweetheart and hilarious, my grandma bends over backwards to protect and make her loved ones happy and both have been vampires for a very long time. Longer than my grandpa and Melissa. So, I was leaning towards vampire anyway.”
“There you have it then. Didn’t even need me.”
“Oh you are not done helping me. I want you to be the one to finish the job.”
“No. Oh no. Caleb would never allow that. No.”
“I don’t think it should be his choice, considering I am the one having to live with it?”
“Pleeeeeeese.” she tilted her head, pursed her lips slightly and batted her eyes at him, making him laugh.
“Autumn, please, you are getting me in trouble.”
“Oh? Mr. Evil, I-am-going-to-rule-the-world-and-make-it-an-evil-and-dark-place suddenly is all scared …”
“Who knew the goody-two-shoes had such an evil side to her.”
“I had a good teacher.”
“OK, I deserve that. But, really I can’t. Sorry.”
“Fine, I will go to Caleb then and tell him I want YOU to do it. Watch me. He’ll make you.”
“If I get him to bless this, will you do it then?”
“OK, if you get him to stand right there and tell me that he is fine with it, I will do it without any more questions.”
“Deal. Now watch and learn, how things REALLY are accomplished you big bad boy.”
She left, leaving Lucien standing by the metal bars watching her walk away, smiling, shaking his head. Maybe there was a tiny gleam of a future for him after all. As much as he wanted to not allow himself to hope, this girl made it incredibly hard for him not to want to at least try. But who was he kidding? He had hoped so many times in his life, and it had been shattered then his face rubbed into it every time.
“You have shown satisfactory progress, Lucien. Tonight I will release you. I would like to remind you once more of your restrictions and rules you will follow. Failure to do so, even only once, will immediately put you right back here into this cell. Are we clear?”
Lucien nodded, after which Caleb monotonously rattled down each and every single rule that had been put into place for him. Lucien stoically endured the lecture, as he had done so many times for his father in similar situations.
“Did you understand everything?”
“Now, do you know where you will go?”
“I am afraid I cannot allow that. Your old home has been seized. As have your funds. I will find you a place to stay for the night, maybe even longer if you play your cards right. After that, you will need to find a job, earn a living, and eventually find a home. I will let you go to your home once more, in a few days hence, to serve two purposes: let you pick up a few items you wish to keep and to finish Autumn’s turning. She has been quite insistent – and persistent – that she wishes it to be you and frankly, I am out of patience to deal with another pouty teen, I have twin teen boys who are keeping me and my wife on our toes, I cannot possibly deal with another, and a female one at that. So, if this is what she wants, I will allow it, if you are prepared to do it, and do it properly this time. Are you?”
“I promised her I would, never expected you to agree though.”
“Your first lesson about the world outside your father’s walls: a woman who really wants something bad enough, usually gets her way. I am an ancient vampire of the highest rank, and my wife and daughters have me wrapped around their little finger. I cannot say what this is going on between you and Autumn, but whatever it is, she is hellbent on it.”
Lucien smiled, but said nothing.
“Hey babygirl, have you seen my … what the FUCK is HE doing in my living room?!?!”
“Relax, Caleb just asked us to have him stay with us for one night.” I informed Blaine.
“Oh no, sorry pal, we are not a hotel. Off you go!”
“Blaine. I already agreed.”
“Thanks for consulting me.”
“Can you blame me?”
“YES! Do you need a refresher who that is?! He is the one who kidnapped, tortured, sexually harassed and turned your granddaughter!!!”
“He didn’t harass her …”
“Oh really? And that fancy rag she was wearing when I found her, she put that on herself while her street clothes magically disappeared?!”
Lucien had been staring intensely at his feet, but now got up and said
“It’s okay, I’ll go, I did not mean to cause a …”
“SIT DOWN! You will stay and YOU will like it!” I addressed Lucien with the first and Blaine with the last part.
“No.” Blaine sounded like a tired toddler.
I gave Blaine a look, after which he rolled his eyes, when Liam came in.
“Dad, can I have your bike keys?”
“To start your bike, duh.”
“Smartass. You are not taking my bike anywhere.”
“You have a car, which you will also not be using, seeing it is a school night.”
“Dad, I am 17, and Corbin has a..”
“I do not care what Corbin has, you will miss it, as you will be showing me your homework as soon as it is done.”
“NOPE! Your dad’s right.”
“Argh, you guys are so … so …. ”
“Good parents?!” Blaine helped.
“Concerned with your future?” I added.
“I give up. Who’s he?” Liam pointed at Lucien.
“Your mother’s latest pet.” Blaine’s sarcasm was impossible to miss.
“So he lives here now? Does he speak?” Liam asked.
“I do.” Lucien replied.
“Sorry, that was pretty rude. I am Liam, the son of these two.” Liam walked over, offering his hand, Lucien stood and shook it.
“Lucien. Your mother’s new pet, evidently.”
“Ha ha ha, there are worse things. They’re actually pretty all right IF THEY WANT TO BE. So why are you here?”
“Liam – homework, NOW!” Blaine insisted.
“Just one more year of slavery, then I am 18 and no more of this.” Liam mumbled as he turned, heading for the door.
“As soon as you find another place to live. Until then, more of this until you are 80.” Blaine promised, smirking.
“You sure you want to stay here Lucien? I swear they will do that to you …”
“Come on now Liam, let me show you where your room is, I can hear your homework crying for you.” Blaine put his hand on his son’s back, guiding him into the direction of the hallway.
Lucien smiled, but then sheepishly looked at me.
“Maybe I should go.”
“No, Blaine is all bark. He’ll come around. Now do you normally sleep in a bed or a coffin? We have both.”
“I never slept in a bed. There was a cod in the cell, but I really did not rest much.”
“OK, I’ll let you have my coffin and I’ll bunk with Blaine. Or we’ll use the bed. We’ll see.”
“I do not mean to cause any inconvenience. I don’t need rest. I can just stay here.”
Blaine came back in, I offered coffee and went to make it, wondering if it was really safe to leave Blaine alone with Lucien.
Blaine plopped down on the couch, staring at Lucien, sitting across from him in a chair.
“So why are you not at the house of horrors?”
“Your father’s creepy shack.”
“It has been seized.”
“Oh shit. Did they leave you the cash?”
“No, everything was seized. I have nothing.”
“OK, I am beginning to see why Vik agreed then. Do you have any other relatives?”
“Maybe on my mother’s side, but I never met any of them.”
“Not missing much. I have met them, while they were still alive. I guess your half-siblings still are, but they are all Vanderbilt. Arrogant pricks.”
“There is your answer then.”
“I just cannot picture it. And I am afraid to try too hard.”
“The creepy Count and that Vanderbilt ice-princess while they were … making you. I just cannot see that.” Blaine shuddered.
Lucien groaned “What I can tell you is, that it was definitely purely functional. My father told me that affections and carnal pleasures were a sign of weakness and that intercourse is solely for one purpose and one alone, should be avoided at all cost unless you need to produce an heir.”
“DAMN! No wonder he hated my guts. That is literally the exact opposite of my entire life’s philosophy.” Blaine laughed.
I came in handing out the coffee, surprised to see Blaine laughing, and Lucien looking somewhat coy.
“What were you talking about?” I asked, smiling.
“About the Count and the ice-princess screwing to make him.”
“Oh jeeze, BLAINE, what in the world!?”
“Don’t tell me it had not crossed your mind.”
“It hasn’t. I seriously feel like I should wash your brain with soap – maybe even disinfect it somehow.”
“Oh, babygirl, you wouldn’t recognize me without my boyish charm.”
“By which you mean ‘gutter mind’.”
“Joke’s on you, you married me.”
We talked some, turned on the TV, then I decided on a shower.
Lucien was watching me leave the room, then caught Blaine’s gaze.
“Hands off that one, she’s mine.”
“Oh, I wasn’t … I just … ”
“It was a joke. Well, not really a joke, but you know.”
“I was just thinking that I don’t think letting me live was the right decision. I don’t think after all this time I can just function as expected. My father, he … I …”
“Aww, I understand what you are feeling now. I’ve been there before. My parents and childhood was all fucked up, pretty much teen years too. Had it not been for Vik, it would have been even worse. Took me a long time and many tries to get it somewhat straight and even now, I still fuck up frequently. Sounds like you got people in your corner, Autumn and Vik. And maybe me too. Maybe. Unless I detect even a hint of you playing any of us. Then I’ll be your worst nightmare. Especially if you even think of hurting my girl. Clear?”
“I would never.”
“OK, so what’s the plan?”
“You need a plan, kid. You cannot just sit there and hope or wait for things to happen. At this point you are homeless, without means, without goals. So what are your goals?”
“To have a home.”
“Fine, we’ll go with that. In order to get that, what do you need?”
“How do you get money?”
“Assume you never had a job, what are you good at? Any kind of education?”
“Home-schooled. And no, no job. I don’t know my talents, according to my father nothing.”
“Yeah, I had one of those too. My daddy dearest used to tell me that if it weren’t for the child support checks, he’d have taken me back behind the dumpsters and off’ed me long ago. I should say daddy was step-daddy. According to him that check was all I was good for and was a waste of skin otherwise. So I get it. It’ll fuck with your mind. I think I am still screwed up from that.”
“The only compliment I ever got was from my mother, only once, she liked my playing the piano. Not exactly a great talent.”
“Careful now, you are speaking to a semi-retired career musician. Or wannabe, according to our neighbor, but he is a tone-deaf Mafioso, so I won’t go by that.” Blaine grinned.
“I am sorry, I just never know if you are joking or serious.”
“Rule of thumb, kid: if I am not punching something or yelling, it’s a joke. Not necessarily a good one, but no need to wet your pants.”
“I’ll try to remember that.”
“Well, the meatball next door always claims to have such exquisite taste in tunes, we’ll ask him what he thinks about your skills. Since Mr. Auditore is so very VIP, maybe he can get you hooked up. Of course after we go through the whole spiel of him losing his shit, refusing, then eventually coming around anyway.”
“You mean, like you?”
“Watch it kid!”
The next day Caleb picked Lucien up to take him to his old home to choose the items he wanted to keep, where they would also meet Autumn to finish the turning. Lucien looked tense and nervous. When they got there Caleb left him to his devices to fetch his things but when Autumn arrived, Lucien seemed to have forgotten all about clothing and trinkets.
Both were seemingly uncomfortable, but what made it all even more awkward was Caleb never letting them out of his sight, following them as Lucien gave Autumn a tour of the house.
After that Caleb sat down at the bar sipping drinks in the sitting room, while Lucien and Autumn sat on the couch.
To Autumn, this felt like taking a parent on a first date with your crush, both she and Lucien kept looking over at Caleb, who had his back turned, making them giggle.
“So how do you want to do this?” he asked her.
“I don’t know, you’re the expert. I guess just bite and done, right?”
“Kinda. Do you want to do this sitting down or standing up?”
“Whatever you think is best.”
“Ahem – you are kinda the first person I am turning, I don’t know how you would be most comfortable.”
“Does it hurt?”
“I guess so. I don’t know, I was born a vampire.”
“Will there be much blood? I get kinda queasy when I see blood?”
“And you want to become a vampire?”
“I assume then blood would suddenly not affect me, or look like a cupcake to me.”
“I never had a cupcake, but I never thought of one when feeding.”
“Don’t you have those fruit?”
“How do those taste?”
“I don’t know. Father did not allow those, said they are a sign of weakness. Real vampires feed on humans.”
“So you have been going around biting people?”
“That’s what you do as a vampire.”
“No, my family uses mostly plasmafruit.”
“There you go then, you’ll have those.”
“Can you do it kinda romantic? Like in the movies?”
“Again, I have never seen a movie and I wouldn’t know how to bite someone in a romantic fashion. That’s like asking you to eat a plate of food romantically.”
“Like as if you wanted to kiss me. On the neck. Right?”
“I have never … ummm.. done that either. Father always said ..”
“OMG, you’re 22 and never kissed anyone?”
“Father said ..”
“Seriously, I am super-tired of all your father said. He was wrong! About everything. The end. So we’ll fix this.”
Autumn leaned over and just planted a kiss on Lucien’s lips. Caleb sensed what was happening, straightened his back, wondering if he should interfere, but decided against it, grinning to himself.
No, they were old enough and he was here to ensure safety, not as a chaperone to young adults. He started to worry when he did not hear them talk anymore, so he slightly turned around and saw them on the couch, holding hands, staring into each others eyes.
Oh good grief! Caleb thought. He was trying to be a leader, instead he was the fifth wheel at some odd date. Ezio would not like this. Nor would Blaine.
“Guys, not to rush you, but if we are still doing this, I have other obligations today.” he called over his shoulder.
“OK Lucien, I guess he’s telling us to shit or get off the pot. We’ll do it standing up, there by the fireplace. And try to be romantic.”
“OK, should I light it first? I think there may still be some already chopped wood out back, that would be romantic, right?” Lucien asked.
“NO! Not needed. No fires. Do it and get your things, PLEASE!” Caleb interrupted what he feared was turning into something R-rated, answering the question intended for Autumn.
“Let’s just do it before he turned even grumpier.” Autumn told Lucien.
“First lesson for you will be that vampires generally have excellent hearing, Autumn.” Caleb called over from the bar.
“Oops, sorry.” she grimaced at Lucien, making him chuckle.
Then it went quick. They stood facing each other, he then walked behind her, leaned forward, then quickly sunk his fangs into it, sucking as quietly as he could. She winced briefly, tensed up, but he felt her relax soon after.
When he was done, he had her drink his blood. It was over in a few minutes.
Lucien packed a few things, only clothing and one single sentimental trinket, leaving everything else behind.
No more memories. A fresh start. He’d at least give it a fair shot.