If It Isn't One Thing It's Another
Every now and then Pak debated replacing her precious 'Lil Bird. The classic 1957 Thunderbird retractable hardtop in Torch Red with white upholstery had only had one owner from new. On the books Pak was it's third owner but, that was how vampires operated wasn't it? You had to mix it up now and then to keep the paperwork fresh. It was that or try and fast talk her way out of why she was a good solid forty years younger than the registration said she should be; on the off chance that she was pulled over.
Tonight, was one of those night. The car had chosen to be difficult. Pak was on her way back from an off site meeting and everything had been fine. She'd stopped on the strip to say hello to Eiryk and pick up one little thing and having gotten back into the car it had refused to start.
Well it wasn't the cold, the weather in Nachton was stupidly nice. It was perfect really, seventy two with some clouds, although according to the weather guy it was supposed to start raining tomorrow. Thunderstorms at that, Pak could do without thunderstorms.
Regardless of weather, or impending weather, or the fact that she was dressed to impress in a black suit and pants and heels that added a good four inches to her height, and $1,200 to her wardrobe, Pak was currently shoulder deep in the 'Lil Bird. The jacket of her suit had been tossed on the passenger seat and a shop rag the same bright, festive, true, red as her cami was beside her as she nosed around under the hood with a flash light in one hand.
"It has to be the battery. It's gotta be, nothing else would have shorted out this fast."
Not that Pak was an automotive expert or anything, but she did know -this- car. She'd been fixing it, or helping to fix it since it first rolled off the assembly line. No mechanic knew it better, although she did have one here in Nachton that she trusted to fix just about any thing that went wrong with the car.
Sighing she brushed a lock of black brown hair out of her face and over her shoulder. She really should have tied her hair back instead of leaving it lose to hang down her back. Well she'd worry about that in a second, for now she just wanted the wire brush and a screw driver out of the tool box she kept in the trunk. That and maybe a clove or an iced coffee, but one thing at a time.
He'd taken a decent walking tour of the city, traveling on rooftops whenever possible so as to avoid attention. Surely the citizens of Nachton would notice if the local bats started behaving strangely, and Henri did not want to be responsible for a rabies scare. He spent the whole time blended; it didn't matter to the bats. They knew he was there.
He considered his little outing a success, and he thought perhaps he'd given Christian and Rowan enough time to spend with just the two of them. Nonetheless he was taking his time going back to Liefde. He strolled down the street, taking in the sights like a tourist, albeit a blended one, determined to take another hour or so before returning to the Towers. Henri was very concerned about not imposing on Rowan and his new partner. Yes, it had been a year, but one year out of over a thousand was still a short time, and the two appeared to be very much still caught up in that 'new relationship' honeymoon phase where they had eyes only for each other. It was adorable, and he hoped it stayed that way for them for a long time.
As he walked along, lost in his thoughts, he came upon a woman bent over the hood of a car with a flashlight. He couldn't see much but her ass, and he had to admit it was pretty spectacular. He watched her, hidden, for a long moment, until she muttered something about the battery.
Henri knew two things about cars - de and nada. But he was by nature a fairly charismatic person; he liked people and couldn't walk by someone having a problem without offering to help. So, from behind the woman, he reappeared so as not to startle her. He cleared his throat to let her know he was there.
"Excuse me. Do you need some help? I know nothing about cars, but I have a cell phone and at the very least, you shouldn't be alone on the city streets."
Even if he just kept her company while she called for a tow, Henri would hate to see any harm come to her. Perhaps if he hadn't already fed this encounter would have begun differently... probably not though.
Still she spun around, flash light in hand, ready to take, or attempt to take, this freak to task for sneaking up behind her. But after spinning around and brushing her hair out of her face she quickly revised her opinion of 'freak'. This guy was so normal looking you might forget him as soon as he walked away, he wasn't even that tall, with her heels on he only had an inch or two on her.
But, for some reason, Pak couldn't take her eyes off him. Absently she picked up the shop rag and wiped her hands. She wanted to smile at him but Pak had spent too long being reserved, being cautious and keeping herself secluded that she was able to restrain that impulse... mostly.
He spoke with a very pronounced French accent and she couldn't help herself, she answered him in French. Other than Siam and the United States it was the one country she had spent the most time. Much to her creator's chagrin, it was the only other language she spoke (unless you counted computer languages, which Bao did not, bastard).
"Thank you. Its just the battery though. I can get it started... if you don't mind holding the flash light."
That was all it was, there was some corrosion on the terminals and if she just cleaned them off and tightened them up it would be fine. It was annoying but not earth shattering, all she had to do was replace the battery cables in the next month or two and she'd not have the problem again. What was surprising, almost earth shattering, was that she'd more or less asked for help rather than dismissing this totally nondescript French man. Why she hadn't given him a surly dismissal was a mystery to her.
The Asian woman responded to him in French and Henri's smile widened. "I do not mind at all, mademoiselle. It would be my pleasure."
He walked forward and took the flashlight from her, shining it down onto the battery of the car. He might know zero about mechanics but at least he could find a car battery. Once he had, he'd have no clue what to do with it, but at least he knew where it was. And that you could bake things on it, wrapped in tin foil, if you didn't mind a slightly gasoline taste and smell.
He peered down into the car with interest. "Does this happen often, or do you just know a lot about cars?"
It would be unusual, but not unheard of, for a woman to be a mechanic. Henri had been alive far too long to make assumptions about someone's occupation based on their sex. While women's suffrage was a recent thing, women being capable and intelligent was not a revelation in the slightest. For his part, Henri had learned early on not to assume the 'weaker sex' was at all weak. He had known too many women in his time, some devious, some manipulative, some combative, but every one of them capable and in many cases, deadly.
The expression lit up his whole face. Now that could just be the look any Frenchman got when unexpectedly hearing their mother tongue spoken perfectly, but Pak found she had to remind herself to behave. It almost worked, almost. She might have swayed her hips more than strictly necessary as she quickly made her way to the trunk to grab a screw driver and wire brush
Returning to the hood of the car her own smile was shier, more tentative, partially because she could feel her fangs. Oh they weren't prominent, yet, but they were there sharp and pointy and could very easily be coaxed to prominence. Clearing her throat she set to work, unscrewing brushing etc while shaking her head modestly.
"No it doesn't happen often.â€ She looked up for a second, "Just enough to be annoying, although it's having some unexpected benefits tonight."
Oh dear lord she'd just flirted. That was twice now, the hips and the ... wow. OK she wasn't dead after all. Well she was but just not... she looked back down at her work and swallowed trying to change the subject a little. After all she didn't know this guy's name or anything and she wasn't a whore any more, not that the casual observer could tell right now, but she wasn't.
"No, I don't know a lot about cars either. Just this car, anything this old is sort of a labor of love, you have to know -something- about cars or you get stuck and it isn't their fault."
He followed her with the flashlight to provide some illumination when she went to the trunk, and to maintain the illusion that he actually needed the light to see, himself. When the woman returned her smile was more restrained. It didn't bother him. He wasn't out for a rendezvous but if something happened, he wouldn't complain. He smiled back at the Asian woman. You didn't survive hundreds of years of marriage by being narrow-minded; he and Renee had long since agreed that lust was acceptable, but love was strictly for each other. He suspected if she'd come to Nachton with him she might also be enjoying the charms of this surprise stranger but alas, Henri might have to flirt with her alone.
And flirt they did, as she opened the bidding with a little quip about the benefits of broken machinery. Henri laughed softly, white teeth flashing in the dim light. He inclined his head toward her when she spoke about her car as a labor of love.
"Ah, many things only grow finer with age," he said. "They flourish with, how you say, T.L.C."
He as a very old thing and look at what plenty of loving care had done for him, after all.
"Knowing it, though, is a display of great wisdom," he said with a mischievous grin. "Such a shame that one generally never reaches that level of wisdom without achieving great age first. Therefore I must tip my hat to you. You have beaten the odds."
She was certainly young in appearance, even if her words and her choice of car did hint at a bit of an old soul. Henri found it charming. Did she listen to oldies too? He admitted to himself that he did want to learn more about her.
As she finished with the battery terminals Pak wondered what had gotten into her. It wasn't the accent, she'd spent enough time in France not to be suckered by the accent, although it was dead sexy you couldn't deny that. It wasn't his looks, for while he wasn't bad looking he wasn't extraordinary. He was, understated. But at the same time her mind had wandered to dragging him to the back seat of the bird and having her way with him. Not that there would be much room.
She nodded in agreement. Old computers, old cars, old friends (not that she was thinking of Kem...) Pak did her best to take care of them and keep them running and they were all worth the effort. Pak quirked another smile at him and wished she could think of something witty to say.
"From where I stand you've beaten them as well.â€
She had -no- idea how old he was; 20ish, 30ish or 2000 ish.
"After all what are the odds of going out for a night time stroll and getting the chance to play the knight in shining armor?â€
Pak cringed a bit but to her credit she didn't look away.
"Did that sound as lame as I think?â€
"I am pretty sure knights in shining armor actually, you know, rescue the damsel in distress."
He quirked an eyebrow up at her. "I'm pretty sure you've done your own rescuing. I just held the flashlight. What does that make me? Squire? Lady in waiting?"
Henri handed turned the flashlight onto her, highlighting her. "If my lady would grant me a boon, however, might I know her name?"
If they were going to play this game, and Henri very much enjoyed this game, they should at least have names. Real ones, fake ones... whatever she wanted. If not, however, he would improvise.
She took his hand, after quickly wiping hers off, with just a shade of hesitation but some how managed to be assertive but yielding. Usually Pak's handshake was very business like, no nonsense and quickly established she was the T-Rex in the room. Right now, though she was trying to convey that if he wanted to pick her up he was -more- than welcome.
"I'm still going to classify you as a knight. Not every one would stop."
Not that she needed an extra set of hands or a flash light but it was terribly polite of him.
The idea of a fake name didn't occur to her, lust was making it a bit hard to concentrate.
"Pakpao Metharom. Late of Siam, France and Silicon Valley."
She dropped the proper name for Thailand knowing a lot of people didn't know the difference but some people, some -older- people would and then gave a curtsy that managed not to look absurd even with her four inch heels and expensive suite. Artfully she lowered her eyes and lashes and after just a moment looked back up at him.
"I hope I haven't imposed too much on your evening Sir..."
When the woman introduced herself as Pakpao and told him where she was from, Henri waited until she straightened from her little curtsy and then reached out to take her hand. He bowed over it and kissed the back of it in his most knightly fashion.
"A bit of a history buff, are we?"
She had said Siam instead of Thailand, which made him think she was definitely well-learned. It was interesting that she referred to it as Siam though, as she was from there and Henri had always been under the impression that the term was some kind of anti-Thai Western slang. Well, whatever. It was the correct term either way, depending on where you came from.
"My name is Henri Durand. Of France, Paris specifically."
He straightened and let go of Pakpao's hand, although he lingered a little over it. "You have done the opposite; you have made my evening quite delightful. I came to Nachton to visit a friend of mine. As he is busy for the moment, I decided I would take a walk."
He glanced at Pakpao's car. "I'd ask you to walk with me, but it seems you already have an excellent steed."
Looking back to Pakpao Henri raised one eyebrow. "Unless, perhaps, it could use a little rest?"
"A little bit. Not to the exclusion of the present of the future but it is enjoyable."
He was proving a very astute conversational partner he hadn't missed much but at the same time he wasn't giving many clues himself. A few signals, none of which were sending her rushing back home, but very few clues.
"I have always enjoyed Paris but its been too long since I've spent any real time there and will admit to being a little jealous."
Her trips to Paris had been very rushed of late, fly in meeting, meeting meeting, and back she was only gone a day maybe two. They were exhausting. Fortunately she didn't do them that often.
It was all she could do not to smile broadly and maintain some degree of sophistication and class when he asked if she'd like to join him. Satisfied that the car would start again Pak nodded.
"I think that any animal should rest a bit after coming up lame. So long as your friend won't be missing you of course."
The way he said it Pak was fairly certain he did mean friend too she didn't get any romantic over tones.
Quickly putting away the tools and grabbing her suit jacket, Pak locked the T-Bird and was ready.
"Tell me about yourself Henri."
Apparently the pretty woman beside him was not opposed to a walk either, as she made short work of putting away her tools and flashlight. She asked him about himself after mentioning the friend he had said he was visiting.
Henri grinned at her. "Oh Rowan won't mind at all. He and his partner will keep each other perfect company, I imagine. I wanted to get out of his hair for a little while so he didn't have to play host."
He used Rowan's current name, although he generally did call him Ruan, but Rowan was how he went now and Henri didn't want any mix-ups. Not that it mattered in this case, but he did like to be consistent.
He continued, answering Pakpao's questions with pleasure. "There is very little to say about myself," he said. "Born and raised in Paris. I own a bakery, and it consumes much of my time, but every now and then I do try to get away and voila!" He spread his arms and took in the highrises around them. "Here I am."
Lowering them again he offered his arm to Pakpao. "How about yourself? Thailand to France to America? That's quite a lot of travel. What do you do, that takes you all over the globe?"
He looked up and down the street and then lifted his free hand to scratch his head. "And where are we going, anyway?"
"That is very kind of you."
It could be hard balancing being a guest and visiting with the host feeling like they had to constantly entertain you. Hell she worried about that with Kem and Aishe as well as Eiryk and Alexander and did her best to keep from over staying her welcome.
Even though she wasn't a big eater Pak was suddenly struck by a craving for pain au chocolat, her favorite treat while in Paris. She could think of a few other things to do with the chocolate right now too...
She laughed lightly at his simple summary.
"Excellent. It is good you can get away every now and then even if you love what you're getting away from."
Bakers in Paris, in her experience, did love what they did and were -quite- good at it. It was also a very good thing she'd not been alive and able to gain weight during any of her trips to France.
She lightly took his arm and managed to hold it and clearly be escorted by him but not cling.
"Computers." Pak answered with a crooked smile. "Programing, architecture, networking, you name it I do it."
And was quite good at it, but she didn't brag.
Chuckling again Pak opened her mouth to say "back to my place" and only -just- managed not to be quite that forward.
"East, I think." She teased. "Honestly, I haven't got a clue. It is a nice night out, and anything you want is on the strip, maybe we could just walk and see where it takes us."
There, that was better. There was forward and then there was trashy Pak just hoped that Henri's thoughts would wander in the same direction as hers.
"It was not a matter of kindness, merely of convenience," Henri said with a smile. "We have a long history. He's like a brother to me."
The relationship between them was never truly one of guest and host, no matter how long it was between visits. He and Rowan were family.
As they began to walk down the road Henri raised his eyebrows back at Pakpao. "Really? Computer programming takes you around the world? I had no idea it was such a glamorous career. Maybe I should reconsider baking."
His words were lightly teasing; she hadn't really answered his question about her travels and he was curious, but not insulted by her vagueness. He glanced up at the sky, chuckling when she said they were headed east, and confirmed her statement.
"Definitely east," he agreed. "We'd better turn at some point or, as I understand it, we will find ourselves walking right into the Atlantic. I am sure we'll find something entertaining before we reach that point though, non?"
It didn't seem unusual to him to have just met this woman and now be escorting her through Nachton for random entertainment. This was the fun of meeting people. Pakpao was pretty, intelligent, and if Henri had not missed the signals, open to male company. That, Henri was almost always willing to provide.
He looked down (but only slightly down thanks to those shoes) at Pak as they walked. "What else do you do here in Nachton? What brought you here?"
"I can see where he would inspire those feelings. We have a number of friends in common but I don't know him terribly well. He seems very nice though.â€
Pak really did like him. They weren't best friends or anything but he had forgiven her 'joke' he'd always been good company when they had crossed paths, usually courtesy Kem and Aishe or Eiryk and Alexander.
"How do you know him? If you don't mind me asking.â€
She shrugged with a faint smile.
"It takes you around the world if you make it, but no it isn't typically a high travel career.â€
Chuckling softly at the idea of going too far east she shook her head.
"Then turning is the order of the day, I'm not dressed for a midnight swim.â€
Given his earlier words about Rowan Pak didn't think she had too much to hide, not about what she was any way. So answering his question was a lot simpler than it could have been.
"Family, at least to some extent. I hadn't had one in quite a while but Nachton offered that and a good job with Meridian. All in all it has worked out considerably better than I could have hoped.â€
God she'd been terrified when she'd first shown up in Nachton. Pak had spent nearly her first century alone, no one to teach her what she was. And over the years she'd met very few others, the idea of coming to Nachton where the clan was based had taken more courage than she thought she had, but she'd been tired of being alone. Now though, she had a family. Not just the clan but friends, ties, a family within that clan, it made all the difference in the world.
"If we are discussing the same person - tall, red hair, lots of piercings?" Henri waited for Pakpao to respond affirmatively and then smiled widely. "I'm his Creator."
If she wasn't in the know then the term would mean very little to her, so Henri had no qualms about using it. If she were part of a Clan, however, then it could clear up a great deal of confusion if they were to get their roles out in the open. He might be dealing with another vampire, or someone's familiar, or, in Evenhet, just an average unbonded human.
When Pakpao mentioned not being dressed for a swim Henri couldn't resist. He glanced at her attire and tilted his head, a mischievous sparkle in his plain brown eyes. "We could fix that," he suggested mildly.
They continued walking, and Pakpao mentioned family in Nachton. It made him think she was a vampire herself... the old 'family' excuse. Everyone used it. It was practically code for 'I'm a vampire.' Henri had used it himself; let's face it, there were very few ways to honestly describe what a Clan was to someone who didn't know. Family was the closest term available, unless you were Rowan, and then you had nine million different stories.
"I'm glad you're enjoying it here. Rowan has been telling me how much he likes it here as well. I had to come visit, of course."
"Really? It is a small world. You seem to have done quite well though."
She wasn't terribly surpirsed to find Henri was a vampire. After all, all three clans had strong holds here.
Another healthy creator child bond. It was a good thing, and while things between she and Bao were... Well they were, relations such as Rowan and Henri had gave her some hope. It was evidance they weren't monsters.
Henri's flirting was quite appricated and Pak smiled as innocently as possible under the circumstances.
"Are you up for a swim then? It can be a little chilly down by the water. I'd hate for you to catch cold while you're visiting."
Not that she wanted to get sand every where, but she did happen to know where there was a -very- nice shower...
As near as Pak could tell Rowan was the sort who could enjoy, or at least find a positive no matter where he lived. He was rather like Eiryk that way. It was a quality she did not posses, but admired.
"I hope you enjoy it as well so you have a reason to visit again."
It wasn't like she was planning or even hoping for a commited relationship or something long ter. That hadn't even crossed her mind. However, Henri was the first man in some time (other than Artemis) she'd been intested in seeing again.
The expression on Henri's face clearly said he was joking; he thought he'd done rather well himself although the truth was, Rowan had done most of his own work. As Pakpao smiled Henri caught a glimpse of long fangs and nodded briefly to himself. Another vampire, that was good. She was less likely to want or expect commitment from him and more likely to understand how relationships worked when you were well over a thousand years old.
He decided to see if she was bluffing; Henri would go for a swim if she really wanted to. So he shrugged carelessly. "I somehow doubt I will have an issue with the cold."
Yes, it was slightly suggestive, but he was fairly certain he was up to anything - even in cold water. There were many ways to keep warm. If the seaside was where she had in mind, Henri would go there.
"I'm enjoying it very well so far," Henri said to her. He squeezed her arm briefly. "A little bit more now. Sadly, I don't leave France often." He may as well be up front and honest with her, which he usually preferred to be. "I am happily married to another of our Clanmates, but it has been a very long time. The relationship has certainly grown to include room for... other friendships."
His hesitation hopefully made his point clear. Henri wasn't blind; he was well aware that Pakpao was flirting and fishing for a companion tonight. It wasn't uncommon. Sometimes, you just wanted to be with someone. When you were a vampire, you didn't worry overmuch about viruses, long term compatibility, emotional attachment. If you had lived long enough, you tended to become far more open-minded about things like sex and relationships.
If Pakpao was looking for a committed soulmate, however, Henri was far too good-hearted to keep her in the dark. Renee would have no issue with Henri's dalliance here in Nachton but if Pakpao did she deserved to be able to say no.
"I promise to keep your secret."
Involuntarily Pak shuddered, she really did hate the cold and cold water was no exception. Think of all those people who froze to death when the Titanic sunk, and this was the same ocean. She wanted no part of it, not until July or August. Still she eyed Henri speculatively, it was somewhat tempting. Not ideal, but tempting.
"Some how I don't think you would, but I can think of more comfortable places to pass the evening."
Ah, now that did complicate things a bit. Pak, however, didn't release his arm or even pull away. It appeared Henri wasn't going to rule out a roll in the hay. In fact, one could argue he was being quite considerate by letting her know. Her biggest stumbling block was her first career. That was something she -never- wanted to do again and was part of the reason Pak almost never indulged in a fling. She also had no desire to be the other woman and secreted away from some one. She still had hopes, faint though they may be, of finding some one to love to spend her life with. But that was no reason to be celibate until then. She nodded slowly, thoughtfully, they'd established the ground rules so the game was a bit different, but they could still play.
"You are visiting now, and if neither of you objects, I don't see why you shouldn't thoroughly enjoy your stay."
If tonight went well, if he was still agreeable, Pak had no issues engaging in a friendly temporary affair as long as Henri was in town if he'd like. With no complications or strings attached. Unless invited she wouldn't even bother him in France.
"I'd like to meet such an open minded woman though."
While she'd not have been as obvious or aggressive if Henri had been with a woman the idea of entertaining two rather than one was not something that turned Pak off.
"Oh I can too," Henri said, "but I can assure you, it wouldn't be the strangest place."
He could probably list any number of strange places he'd managed to get amorous with someone in. The list was somewhat long... he had had plenty of time to experiment.
The revelation that he was married didn't seem to bother his companion overly much. She didn't pull away from him and he didn't even feel her tense. Her words were level and calm, and Henri smiled at her in return.
"No one will object, I assure you. She means the world to me, and I would never hurt her. But she has had several centuries of her own to become open-minded."
Of course, Renee had also had a very adventurous upbringing as well, and that had helped her. But that was neither here nor there.
"I do not doubt that if Renee were here with me, she too would find someone to explore Nachton with. I feel certain she would enjoy meeting you, too."
Probably all of them together, really; he and Renee did nearly everything together and conducting love affairs was no exception. Henri chuckled softly to himself.
"Perhaps someday you will find yourself in France again."
They had only just met, but Pakpao seemed perfectly agreeable so far. She was pleasant, intelligent, and very beautiful. Henri had no objection to her company and, in fact, looked forward to spending the next few hours with her if she was still amenable.
"So what sort of comfortable place did you have in mind? Coffee, tea... something a little stronger?"
Or, perhaps, more intimate. Henri had been out for several hours now; he would enjoy a quiet venue with this woman.
"Rather passed your golden anniversary then have you? Congratulations."
She said with a smile. It was wonderful, it really was that they could be that committed and yet that open. Part of that was, in her opinion, at least partially to do with them being or at least living in Paris.
Having gotten the rules and a bit of background established Pak leaned into Henri a bit, just for a moment, teasing sightly as they walked. She smiled quietly as he suggested she might travel again.
"Oh, almost certainly. Of course one or both of you might chose to visit Nachton as well. Especially with your little boy putting down roots."
Not that Henri had appeared terribly paternal toward Rowan, he had described the red head as 'like a brother'. But it was a reason to visit and thus far his company, wit and charm was both comfortable and exciting.
"Hmmmm... the Piazza has a lovely bar very comfortable and intimate or there is a brilliant little jazz joint called Shades I'm sure we could find a booth. Assuming you're staying in the Towers though... I'd be happy to drive you home, invite you up for a night cap or a cup of tea."