9: Comparing Notes
Garrett sat at one of the chairs at the dining table, facing the open space where scatters of people sat and ate. There weren't enough tables or seats that the new population of this place could sit and eat properly. Many sat cross-legged in open spaces across the floor, their plates balanced precariously in their laps. He glanced down at the meal before him, then towards the kitchen, just barely catching the top of a brunette flitting through the oversized space.
He remembered Mouse, but no longer was she the young little girl who fed the barracks in Klueger's court. Her brown hair had started to dull, to turn white, and he wondered how old she might be by this point. The warlock was too tired really to care beyond that fleeting curiosity. He couldn't muster the energy to rise and go ask, that was for sure.
Lately all Garrett could focus on was how tired he was. The sickness, followed by the fight had already worn him down – the aftermath was much, much worse than all that. He was trying to remember the last time he'd gotten a full night's sleep. The day before his collapse, he thought, and that was a full five days ago now.
Like all the other refugees here, he'd been granted a stay in one of the rooms below – until it was decided whether any of them could petition to stay permanently. Each and every day was filled with cleaning up the mess of the miniature war conducted in the rooms and hallways of what he'd found out was "The Mosier Facility." He was so exhausted when the sun rose each morning that he merely fell into bed, sleeping heavy, but not well. So he was just as tired waking up as he'd been going to sleep.
Garrett drew in and let out a sigh before shoveling more food between his lips.
No one would join him. He told himself he liked it that way. But it was yet another delusion he tried for to make himself feel better. The vampires knew him, and his reputation, and steered well clear of him anytime they saw him. Though the humans were remnants of the blood-slaves from the barracks, they were not people he recognized. Miranda Arturo was too busy trying to keep her mate alive below, and wouldn't talk to him voluntarily even if she were possessed of the time.
All of those, he didn't really care about.
She hadn't spoken to him since the day of the attack. She would avoid him if she saw him. One or two times he'd tried to seek her out to find out what was with the change in attitude. Of course, he had a clue. With a mother who was a kidnap victim, and a father whom he'd been trying to kill for the better part of fifty years – between them, one or the other had filled the girl in on the details.
Garrett scrubbed his face a moment in consternation, and then, settling his cheek into his palm he forked another bit of food and slipped it past his lips.
"You're looking mighty lonely, over here, all by yourself." A body thumped into the chair across from him even as those words cut through the general din from the commons.
Glancing up, Garrett's gaze met the gray eyes belonging to a man he believed for the past thirty years he'd gotten killed. Blaine looked relaxed, as he always did, but there was an underlying fatigue that Garrett had seen in pretty much every person remaining in Sagira's home.
"I have a hell of a reputation." Garrett shrugged, slipping his fork back on his plate and leaning back in his chair.
"That you do." Blaine twisted in his seat until he was one shoulder towards Garrett. "You look a little worse for wear since the last time I saw you. You get those getting out of the House?"
He pointed to Garrett's arm in particular, but insinuated the rest of the scars as well.
"No. Thanks to you, I got out of Providence relatively unscathed." Garrett tried to smile, but the images of Blaine laid out on the macadam, his guts strewn over the gritty ground and a pool of blood growing around his waist, struck the expression from his lips.
Blaine didn't give him a follow on question, but his expression was goading.
"Ever hear of a vampire named Renate?"
"I think so."
"I got into a fight with him and his son." Without thought, Garrett's eyes trailed towards the hall leading below, knowing the dhampir was still fighting for his life below.
"Didn't know the vampire had a son. Wasn't he a rogue? No ties, no brood – and from what I understood, no family."
"So the reports all went. But he had a son."
"I was after his son on that assignment – would have been a hell of a bonus to add Renate to the take." Garrett laughed sardonically. "Renate had other ideas."
The warlock lifted his cybernetic hand, curling it into a fist and then letting it relax against the table top again.
"He's one of the few vampires I've seen who uses weapons." He grinned, but it wasn't with humor. "He shoved a grenade in my gut. And while I got it free, I wasn't able to get rid of it before it went off."
"Guess you should feel lucky it didn't kill you."
"Lucky, yeah." Garrett nodded.
"That's some pretty expensive hardware they replaced it with." Blaine leaned closer, his eyes for the cybernetics. "Victor Sierra seems to have a hell of a health plan."
"Heh, I'm their best Wanderer. I think Keeper would have resurrected me if they had the tech."
"They might have, at that."
"So, what about you?" Garrett quirked his head to one side. "I mean you said Lorna saved you, but what have you been doing the past thirty years?"
"Lying low. Picking around the edges of the Court." Blaine shrugged and dropped his eyes. "Kleuger's House was flattened, down to the basements, Meirakat made no idle boast about that."
Garrett straightened, not really feeling any sympathy for the vampire, though there was a small pang of regret for those few innocents still within the walls.
"While I was recovering, Lorna, Mikael, and the humans she was initially able to round up from the barracks, went back to search for refugees – survivors of the onslaught. By the second week, they'd found fifteen – and no more than that. The remaining humans had either been slaughtered, or taken back to Meirakat's barracks. Of the later, there were only a very few."
"Why'd you stay in Providence so long, Blaine?"
"You saw how tight security was in that place, Garrett. Even though we were free of Kleuger's court, there was no easy way outside the city. It took seven years to find trace of a viable escape. Then there was the funding. Can't go anywhere without credits, y'know – that's the way poverty works. Just being a vampire doesn't guarantee wealth, especially for those unaffiliated fucks like me. One peek into a vampire house, and I would have been arrested and killed."
"Victor Sierra never arranged to spring you?"
Blaine shifted. "A vampire? Do you really think, even after the work I did for them, that they would rescue a vampire?"
Garrett's face clouded over. "You have a point."
"Not that I didn't try," Blaine added.
"You… you did?"
"They never told you I contacted Victor Sierra after I was back on my feet?"
Garrett straightened sharply. "What? No!"
A sardonic smile lifted the corner of Blaine's lip. "That figures. Must have been some time after you got back, then. They certainly didn't sound like they believed me. I even gave them the agent code they'd provided me when I was recruited to spy for them. They hung up on me." A laugh escaped the vampire. "Should have known the deal was too good to be true. They left me hanging, and me and Lorna and the rest had to scrap together to make it on our own."
"Yet you guys look like you've done all right for yourselves."
"The suits?" Blaine grinned crookedly. "Took a decade of scraping together the group's funds. Our friends wanted us to have daytime protection, so every credit they brought in, above what it took to eat went towards the endeavor."
"The humans with you?" Once more Garrett glanced towards Mouse. "That's pretty dedicated, considering."
"They were barracks-mates, or the descendants of them." Blaine looked serious in that moment. "We remember what it was to be human – remember what it was to be on the receiving end of a vampire's attentions – and our friends know that. They've been free to part company with us at any time. None of them have taken the offer."
"Whoa, Blaine, I think you're reading too much into my words."
The man sighed. "Sorry, it's an automatic response. You didn't tell me what kind of persecution being a bloodsucker could be, Garrett."
"It's a persecuted life, Blaine." Garrett actually managed a laugh.
"That advice is about three decades too late!" Blaine laughed with him.
"So, how did you figure out I was all the way out here on the border of the Mexican Territories, anyway?"
"It was a hunch, really, nothing more than that. I had never seen Meirakat mobilize his people and leave Providence before. There had been the tales that he'd left on his own only one time before – following a witch."
"My mother." Garrett was quick to say. Both of his brows lifted as he regarded his friend, the vampire.
"Y… your mother?"
Garrett acknowledged that.
"I was seventeen when he found us. He killed my mother in Denver, but miraculously left me alive."
"Well now, that explains a lot about the vendetta, doesn't it?" Blaine sighed. "He is dead right?"
"I wouldn't be sitting up here so easy if he were still down there in the bowels of this place, Blaine. I killed him. There wasn't enough of him to regenerate a finger when I was done with him."
Another sigh, this one of relief escaped him. "You've done the world a favor, Garrett, truly."
"You really figure the system in Providence will change so much for who's left behind?"
Blain shook his head in the negative. "I'm not that naïve. It'll probably take centuries for them to change the social structure there."
"So what are your plans now that he's gone, and you're out here? Gonna go back?"
"I'm still unaffiliated, Garrett, and Lorna doesn't have enough pull to claim any leniency on my behalf." For the first time since the conversation started, Blaine faced him and even leaned on the table top. "Mikael and Lorna would probably both be killed on sight, recognized as part of Klueger's former courtiers. It would be a death sentence for the lot of us."
The first sign of nerves he'd ever seen out of Blaine made itself known. He began toying with his fingernails.
"Our little group's discussed it. If they'll let us, we're going to stay. Got no place better to call home." His eyes strayed over the area. "Looks like a really great set up here, too."
"Yeah. Pretty nice." He heard the wistfulness in his voice. He couldn't help it, the place reminded him of Old Chicago.
"Why were you out here, Garrett? On assignment, I suppose?"
"Started out that way." He caught a glimpse of Sagira, falling silent and watching her as she moved about the room, speaking with the occasional human or vampire lounging there.
"Ahhhh!" Blaine said and Garrett shot a glance to find him looking gleeful. "It's always the girls, isn't it?"
"That look on your face says otherwise, my friend." He turned to watch her as well. "She's a looker."
"She's Cabal's little girl." Garrett ran his hand up over his lengthening red hair. "I am so fucked."
"Wait, the dhampir that was hurt, that's his kid?"
"I didn't think that was possible."
"Yeah, me either." Garrett quickly glanced back to his plate when Sagira shot an acid look their way. "But if you ever see her with her parents, it's unmistakable."
"Why's she pissed at you?"
Before Garrett could say a thing, Blaine drew in a knowing breath.
"Dude, don't you know it's not polite to lie to a lady?"
"Must you?" Garrett growled.
He only looked sheepish for a moment. "Sorry, the talent comes easier these days."
"Well get the hell outta her head, will you?"
"Then you don't want to know?" Blaine cocked an eyebrow.
Garrett straightened. "Know what?"
A devilish grin lit Blaine's lips. "She's looking for a good opportunity to talk to you."
Shock froze his expression. "She is?"
Blaine nodded. "Wants to know for herself. Wants to know if you really meant all you said."
Garrett rubbed the back of his neck as his gaze followed Sagira all the way until she left out the opposite hall.
"Do you?" Blaine prodded.
Garrett focused on him. "Do I what?"
Heat worked into his cheeks. "Yeah, I'm pretty certain I do."
"Well, if you're sincere in that, it should smooth over."
Garrett nodded. "Not sure even if Sagira comes to forgive me that Cabal will."
"If it's meant to be, mate, it'll happen. Look at Lorna and me – there were certainly a hell of a lot of obstacles in our way too."
"Ah, but you never hated each other."
"You didn't listen very closely when I told you about the first time we met, did you?"
"Guess not." Garrett sighed. "I did it to myself. Let her get to me. What the hell's wrong with me?"
"Oh for fuck's sake, Garrett, you're not an emotional void – sooner or later there was going to be someone out there you'd want."
"Yeah but why did it have to be the daughter of a man who hates me?"
"Rarely is it an easy road to love. And rarely does it happen when you're actually looking for it." Blaine staved off the next of his protests with the last part.
Further conversation was interrupted when Lorna appeared, stringing her long, bare arms across Blaine's thick shoulders. "Mind if I steal my mate back for a while, Garrett?"
"No, not at all." He smiled up at her after tearing his gaze from her cleavage – feeling just a tad guilty for ogling his friend's girl.
Blaine smiled. "No worries, Garrett, really."
Though it could have applied to their previous conversation, Garrett was pretty sure that his comment had more to do with his faux pas.
He watched the two of them walk away - Lorna hanging off of Blaine, kissing his ear, while he pinched and cradled her ass. Shaking his head, Garrett rose and returned his dish to the kitchen. Mouse swept the dirty plate out of his hand and made quick work of cleaning it, before shooing him silently back out of her newly claimed space. He was beginning to wonder if the girl ever slept.
His meal eaten, and the rest of the crowd up and once again moving, he realized that there was more to be done to get the facility back in order, and he set about lending a hand.
A/N: Second of the two updates! Enjoy!