Timeline: June, 2008
“It’s a graveyard charade it’s a late shift masquerade” Nighthawks – Tom Waits
Closing time at the Blood and Brew. Ann-Marie hadn’t been back there often. Out of town exploring, learning or doing missions has occupied her time. Her humanity had been ripped at, tried and tested, yet so far she had done well. While there were several persons who still didn’t trust her, the one she simply didn’t understand was Rey. Ramiel & Michael didn’t trust her as her loyalties were not necessarily to the group; but she was no different than Lyla or Chaska in that way. They had their pack, she had the Morrigan and her service to the Circle that none knew the details of, even Jesse, yet. She was tired of proving herself again and again to them, so she had decided simply to let it go. They’d see what Lyla, Johnny and Chaska saw in her, what Ironclaw saw, in due time. Rey on the other hand. Here was this young innocent, a friend of Jesse’s and all the rest, who simply didn’t care for Ann-Marie. It wasn’t a matter of trust she thought, it was something more primal. A pain.
She waited for the last customer to leave as she got up to leave herself she paused, turning toward Rey and said earnestly, “Do you have a moment before closing, Honore?”
“Sure, Ann-Marie,” Rey said without pausing in her wiping down of the bar.
“I’d like to clear the way between us. Jesse thought it would be a good idea, and so do I. I come here open handed, Rey. Would you wish to talk?”
“About what?” Rey asked. When Ann-Marie mentioned Jesse, Rey’d gotten a pretty good idea of what the topic might be, but she wanted to hear it from Ann-Marie’s mouth.
“I thought as much. Is it that one of my ‘people’ harmed you or yours in the past, or simply moral outrage at our very existence? If it is the latter, then well there is nothing I can do, as I can’t change who and what I am. If it is the former, then perhaps you might find that all of us are not the same,” she replied, noting Rey’s avoidance of eye contact. She decided not to comment on that and let it be.
“The dead should stay dead,” Rey replied without hesitation, but did not say the rest of what she felt. “The man I loved was turned into a ghoul before my eyes, and then he in turned offered me up as a prize to his mistress. I still bear the scars of what she did to me.” A wicked, vicious smile, something unlike anything Ann-Marie might ever have expected to see from the young woman, covered Rey’s face. “And if you harm a single hair on my head, or mess with me in any way, you’d better hope the pack finds you before Ramiel does. Ironclaw will at least show you the mercy of a quick, permanent death, because I am pack, and you are not.” Rey’s voice was calm, with iron-clad belief and determination in it.
Ann-Marie was taken aback. She didn’t take threats well, especially from mortals but she let Rey’s rant slide as she already knew they would defend her and she suspected it wasn’t directed at her so much as Kindred in general, “I am aware of that, but a threat isn’t the best way to bridge differences. I’m sorry for what happened to you, but why would ‘I’ harm you Rey? And not to defend Kindred in their actions with mortals, werewolves and mages in my experience are hardly any different. In fact what mortals do to themselves is often far worse. But that is besides the point. Not all Kindred are the same. Most us us simply wish to be left alone.”
Rey laughed sharply. “That was not a threat, merely a statement of fact, a warning. I am not some sheep, a member of the herd, and I am not prey.” She shifted her weight so her hip rested against the bar. “Do you deny you would harm a human who learned your secrets if you could not control them? That you would not eliminate a human who you considered to be a threat?”
Ann-Marie smiled at the proud young woman, “We are all prey to something greater than ourselves, it’s a humbling realization, but true. Even if the hunter is time itself. But as for me, if I felt truly threatened, my secrets compromised, I wouldn’t do any less than the pack would in defending itself.”
“And what about Jesse? The only reason I even considered talking to you about this is because of her. I don’t want to see her hurt because of, or by, you.”
“She knows the risks of serving me and the rewards,” Ann-Marie answered flatly. “Her disposition is in mine and in her hands. I appreciate your concern and she values your friendship, but I’d ask you not to interfere, please.”
“And what do you consider interference?”
Ann-Marie answered, “She is part of ‘my’ pack now. She serves me freely and knows the risks as I said. I know her secrets, she knows mine. We are very close. Should you try to convince her to leave me or lie to her about me or similar acts, that I would certainly consider interference. Should you try to use her to learn more about me or my kind, that too would be interference.” She added, “Simply courtesy, that’s all.”
“And what would happen if you decided I was interfering?”
“You really are fishing aren’t you? You want me to say something you can take to the others to discredit me? Well, save yourself the trouble.” she smiled, “If you were being annoying and doing so, I’d simply take it to Ironclaw, explain the situation, and let him decide. In all fairness, she does work for me, by her own choice,” Ann-Marie answered.
“I am fully aware it is her choice, nor am I fishing for anything,” Rey said calmly. “I have never spread tales or told lies about you or anyone. Trying to discredit or otherwise undermine your position here in Eldon Well would be counterproductive, and my energies are best spent on more important things. My question was a legitimate one, as I am concerned you’d take your displeasure out on Jesse in some way.”
“This is not important, you are right. As far as Jesse, it’s possible she could be punished, if she deserves it. I won’t rule it out, and she knows that as well. But that will be between the two of us. Overcoming pain and hardship, enduring challenges, are part and parcel of what my particular kind do. She knows and accepts this. But, I would never hurt her arbitrarily or with malice, and so far it hasn’t been necessary.”, Ann-Marie answered, pausing briefly and then continuing, “You and others befriended her, and I appreciate that. But you can’t defend her against everything. She’s wiser than you know and very, very sharp.”
There were so many things Rey could have said, but she held her tongue. “Is there anything else? It’s late, I’ve got a lot to do, and dinner’s waiting for me at home.”
Ann-Marie had a look between exasperation and disappointment, saying, “Well I had hoped we could truly clear the air between us. You seem concerned about what I may do to yourself or Jesse, not considering that all I want is to help you understand that what you call vampires are not the same, what we do is not the same, and this one in particular, me, has no desire to be your enemy, or anyone’s enemy, or worse to be held in disregard or contempt. I’ve came here with an open hand and been completely honest with you. You’ve told me your thoughts, but what has really been resolved?”
“Oh, I know not all vampires are the same. I am not so sheltered that I have not met a few. There is even one I would be willing to say that I know and trust to a certain extent. But you, you hold the life and future of someone I consider to be a friend in your hands. I know nothing of what your word is worth, because I know nothing of you, and you have said you don’t want me to learn anything about you.” Rey picked up the dishtowel and clutched it in her right hand.
“I don’t consider you to be an enemy, and won’t until you hurt someone I care about. I am in no position to view you with contempt. To be perfectly honest, I trust you about as far as I can throw a ten ton truck. I don’t trust you not to use the power you have over her to force her to do something she doesn’t want to do.”
She replied, “You don’t know me, true. And to be honest, I’m somewhat tired of trying to prove myself to everyone. Ramiel and Michael don’t trust me still. At least that is my belief. Yet, Lyla, Ironclaw, and Chaska seem to. Johnny is a given of course, but I wouldn’t take his trust for granted. If he saw he as a threat, he would be first in line to send me packing. I have always stepped up to the plate when asked, to help the town, the pack, my friends and even have taken a number of hits for Ramiel.”
“But you’ve told me a bit about yourself, what happened to you. I suppose it’s fair that you should be able to ask me about myself. I asked you not to ask Jesse, but you can ask me freely. Just know there are some things I cannot answer,” Ann-Marie said.
“Does this opportunity expire tonight, or can I take you up on this offer at a later date?” Rey asked, “because truly, I am tired. It has been a very long day.”
“No, of course it doesn’t. All I ask is that, like the others, you keep anything we talk about in confidence. I’m a very private person.” she answered. “When you are ready, simply ask and we’ll take a walk.”
“Then until another night.”