Always on the Outside

It was the oldest of clichés, but Vladimir spotted her right away across a crowded room. The club, "Orgy", was packed full and a fair number of its teenaged patrons had retired to its darker corners to ensure that the place lived up to its name. Vlad saw none of this. His vision was saturated, absolutely, by the radiant beauty swaying opposite. He had known love at first sight before, but this was something altogether different. She encompassed him, overwhelmed him. His sensitive nostrils drank her in.

Confidence not being something he lacked—he doubted very much if any of those present could resist his many charms—he glided over the dance-floor towards her. At the same time he felt irrationally nervous of this first contact since his, well... coming-of-age. What would he say to her? It'd be just his luck to discover that her name was Lucy. Or Willow.

As it happened, he needn't have worried about spooking her, for she was oblivious to almost everything and talked in the rapid, free, and more than intoxicated manner of many of the club's female patrons. Her name was Rachel, he gathered in a passing instant of lucid—even intimate—conversation. She passed him something and he swallowed the tiny blue pills obligingly, not even feeling them touch his throat. Rachel was overwhelmingly friendly yet, at the same time, almost quixotically shy, delicate, even... fragile. Like an acquaintance of long standing she berated him on the shoddy application of his make-up. Hadn't he seen what an awful mess he looked in the mirror? Vladimir let her soothing tones wash over him. He wanted to take this enchanting creature into his arms and hold her safe until the world crashed down around their ears.

A sudden, tiny dart of urgency cut through his besotted musings. He felt sharply threatened; if he'd been some sort of animal, it would've been fair to say that his hackles rose. Such a sense of powerful, immediate danger he had never experienced before. He had to leave—at once; he couldn't put Rachel at risk. Reluctantly, he murmured soft goodbyes into her ear, and she seemed to hear him.

Their eyes met, and silently he promised that he would return. Her innocent, unfocused gaze looked up at him imploringly, and then he was gone.

* * *

Vlad emerged from the din onto a patch of shrubbed wasteland next to the club. The poorly lit landscape was empty; then it blurred slightly, and the Old One was standing before him. Vlad felt the cornered prey's instinct to take flight, but he stayed the impulse, and the young predator's anger and surity rose quickly in its place. "Who are you? What do you want of me?" he demanded brusquely, with a confidence he didn't quite feel.

"My name is Ivilsar," the thing hissed in a sibilant whisper. "And as for what I want... nothing of yours. This meeting is but... fortunate circumstance..."

A cold, insincere smile flickered briefly across Ivilsar's face, marred slightly by the dark flecks of spittle forced from between his teeth when he spoke. It evaporated quickly as he continued:

"Foolish child. You spend time, far too much, with the herd. You expose yourself—all of us—to detection. For nothing. You do not feed."

The younger vampire's mind raced. Chance meeting, my pointy ears, he thought. Clearly he was under the acute surveillance of his Elders. Trying hard to disguise his shock, he opened his mouth to reply, but was cut short by Ivilsar.

"You are no longer mortal. You will never be accepted by them." His tone might almost have been sympathetic, had it not been so tainted with bitter mockery. "The bloodlust will not be denied forever. Soon it will not be enough to slake your thirst on forest vermin. Then you will come to accept the order of things, hmmm... yesss?"

As he spoke, his narrowed eyes and wild hair lent his face a bestial cast. "They are as insects to such as us. You cannot deny your place in the scheme of life, as you cannot deny our basest urges." His final word ended in a long, drawn-out hiss.

Vlad took a long look at the inhuman, ravaged creature. He saw no last vestige of sanity in that maddened face, no hope of reason, and fled.

* * *

That was the problem with them all, Vlad reflected. Oh, on the surface, the Old Ones he had encountered in his brief few years were lucid enough to begin with, but in truth they retained not a shred of their humanity. Ivilsar had probably been young when the Picts had been running the show and your life was forfeit if the lord's dinner was late. He, Vlad, just wasn't one of them—he hadn't even taken a human life. Not one. And he wouldn't, he swore. They simply couldn't understand; they had taken his life away from him but he wouldn't concede his humanity. He lived outside their rules, and—he'd thought—their notice. Not true, he thought to himself grimly. An uncharacteristic mood of self-pity settled over him as Vlad mourned his losses; he cried himself to sleep as the dawn broke outside the abandoned mausoleum. His tears turned the white of his shirt deepest crimson.

* * *

Vladimir set out for the club as soon as it was dark. He needed to see Rachel, needed to hold her, needed to be held and reassured that someone wanted him, even if that someone was a virtual stranger. No, that didn't seem true anymore—he felt strongly as if he'd known her his entire life, and undeath too.

Rachel welcomed him back with open arms and a puff of smoke that wasn't entirely tobacco. Vlad inhaled it, but more than that, smelt her—sweet, intoxicating (intoxicated!) Rachel. Her hair, her skin, her vitality, her blood. Don't concentrate on the blood, he rebuked himself. Somehow it all felt different. Damn that Ivilsar, filling his head with these thoughts.

Vladimir nuzzled closer to her. Her presence was, as before, overwhelming. He needed Rachel. She needed him. But she would wither and die whilst he lived on. Forever. Without her. It would be so easy. He needn't be alone, a reject, an outcast any longer. Almost without registering the fact, his incisors closed gently, broke the skin of her neck. Rachel didn't protest, clutching him tighter to her, willing him to—

NO! Vlad tore himself away, every fibre of his being fighting the abrupt withdrawal. How could he have been so stupid, complacent, foolish as to think he could just continue as he'd done before? He didn't belong here, with them. He didn't belong, out there in the night, with Them. He couldn't think, and Rachel was nibbling at his throat passionately. He pushed her away gently, hypnotically willing her to become calm. A cold, cancerous understanding grew somewhere deep within. He couldn't hope to exist without her. He couldn't live with her and live with himself. Beneath the seething resentment consuming his soul, Vladimir's last hopes gave way to despair, and despair to decisiveness. He barrelled out of the dismal nightclub. A faintish pink glow on the horizon heralded the arrival of a new day, a new beginning, and, possibly, an end to it all. Laughing with abandon, Vlad cradled himself, and waited for the sun.