A/N: This is a direct sequel to Refuge! If you haven't read that story before this one, I highly recommend you do so... things get spoiled otherwise!
1: The Return
The first hint of winter was upon them. Dainty, dry, wind-driven flakes of snow dancing through the light spilling out of Brenda's triple-paned window, framing them in light and shadow on the small overhung porch. The flakes probably wouldn't last, if they didn't melt in the forty degrees beyond the door, the wind would drive them into drifts well away from her house.
She sighed, noting how dark it already was, even though it was only six pm. At this latitude, at this time of year, night came swiftly and lasted a long time. And they weren't anywhere near the dead of winter.
Brenda sighed, and then growled at the precipitation, "I ain't ready for you yet."
Then she laughed at herself. Ready or not it was coming. She was no weather witch after all – had no control whatsoever on the atmospheric patterns around Greenland, and the storms would do as they damn well pleased.
With a sigh, she drew the heavy, lined curtains closed and stumped away from the window once again, wondering if she'd brought enough supplies from the store to be prepared. The storm appeared to be one of those early season quickies, but they didn't always stay that way. There was nothing worse than having to call an emergency because she, the town's supplier of food, didn't have enough to keep herself fed through a prolonged storm.
There were worse things.
Shivering, she forced herself to forget she even considered that. Snorting once again and shaking her head, she went to the storeroom. She opened the thick insulated door to the not so insulated addition she'd insisted on after the events of last winter. This one was attached to the back of the house with a steel door and a lock inside and out so that no one or nothing could access the house. It was only insulated enough to ensure things didn't freeze in the deep of the winter, but it did keep things well refrigerated. The section to the left, that was the deep freeze, that's where the long-term perishable storage was to be had.
Now she never had to leave her house during the white outs. She'd never put herself in that position again.
There was no running to outbuildings for anything. They were now for things she wouldn't need until the next thaw came.
Frowning at her own thoughts, she realized she was tired of spiraling back to the horrors of those months. Tired of giving power to the monster that ate her leg – literally. She'd been a wreck for too long over that asshole already. But it was harder than it seemed to escape those thoughts, especially living alone.
Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and forced it out once again.
Brenda selected several items from the freezer and reefer, and brought them to the kitchen. There was a caribou roast that needed to thaw a few days before she could fix it, but she also got out some of those stringy chickens to make some dumplings tomorrow. Both items were set on the counter to start the thawing process. From there, she moved to a different section and laid out a cutting board and a sharp knife before setting down the last of the summer vegetables from the last shipment from their suppliers. She sighed, soon it would be canned veggies all the way until the first shipment in spring.
Beginning to chop them, Brenda found herself humming tunelessly. This was cathartic – cooking – and at times like this, she wondered why she didn't to it more often. Oh yeah, because she full-time ran the only grocery store in Qaanaaq. She hardly got time to think much less cook during high season.
She added carrots, mushrooms, and potatoes to the cubes of beef already browning in the cast iron, stirring them together before adding stock and allowing them to simmer.
Then she cut the onions and set them aside to add later. If she put them in now, they would overcook and disappear into the stew – she liked them a little on the crisp side, so it wouldn't do to sweat them too much. She then added just a dash of dry rice to the stew to give it another texture and to double the starch. She tasted it, licked her lips, and nodded, liking the spice level on it already.
When that was well underway, she lidded it, turned down the heat, and set the timer twenty minutes early so she could get those prepackaged biscuits in the oven. She wanted everything ready at the same time.
That done she moved to her well-worn couch and plopped down on top of it, reading through the on-line newspaper about the happenings in the world.
She wasn't seated long enough for her muscles to relax, when her ears picked up the approach of a vehicle. The snow wasn't heavy enough for the plows. No one came out this way without calling first, and no one had given her a heads up they were swinging by.
Brow furrowing, she set aside her reader and headed to the bureau. Her gaze remained lock on the door as she pulled the hidden weapon from the drawer. No need to verify its state, she knew it was locked and loaded – something she checked religiously every night before she retired for the evening, pistol at her bedside.
Finger on the trigger, thumb on the hammer, she listened intently for further sounds. There was soft crunching of a fresh layer of snow as the vehicle braked, with a countering protest from dirty disks. A door opened, more crunching, low talking, and then the door shut again. The engine growled louder as the car accelerated once again, made a circle in her cul-de-sac driveway, and headed away once again.
A drop off?
There was silence in the wake of the dying sound of the car, before slow footsteps moved closer to her door.
She wasn't going to wait for the knock, approaching the opposite side of the entrance. Grabbing the knob, she yanked it free of its frame and let it swing back on with its own momentum. Her hands both wrapped around the gun, and she pulled the hammer back.
"I'm not expecting company tonight, Mister!" She growled. "You sent your ride out too early. Get the hell off my property!"
Her visitor was caught completely by surprise, for he backpedaled and threw up his hands to ward off an attack – midway through that motion he changed the action, grabbing the edges of his parka's hood and tossing it back.
Blond curls spilled forth and a somewhat familiar face was revealed in the light spilling out the door at her back. "Somewhat" because the lower portion of his face was covered in a pretty respectable dishwater blonde mustache and beard. His actions, however, told her who he was before he even said a word.
He verified his identity for her when he cried, "Whoa, now Brenda. It's just me. Jacob."
She blinked, disbelieving her eyes and ears, "Jacob?"
He grinned, barely visible from under all that facial hair. "I see you've gotten more comfortable with that thing."
"Oh my God!" she exclaimed, lowering the weapon and stepping closer to him. Her hands went to his shoulders, gripping the thin arms underneath the parka sleeves tightly. When she proved the reality of his presence, she yanked him into a hug so hard that air escaped his lungs in a loud huff.
"Good to see you too, Brenda, I can't even tell you," he whispered, wrapping his arms around her shoulders. "So glad to see you're alright."
Brenda was sniffling and crying when she backed out of that embrace. "I never thought I'd be seeing you again."
Jacob straightened to his full height once more. "Well, things happened."
Suspicion made heat come into her cheeks. Seems she didn't check her expression well because guilt climbed across Jacob's features.
"I see," she deadpanned. "Well, come in, Jacob."
He stalled where he stood, looking suddenly uncertain.
Brenda swiveled to face him. "What's the matter?"
"I don't want to accept your hospitality under false pretenses." He shoved his hands in his pockets abruptly and even took a step back from the open entrance.
"What does that mean?" She remembered suddenly how Jacob had befriended her only to find out he was using her and the town for bait the last go round.
"My… status has changed… drastically," Jacob said, and Brenda knew immediately he was trying to be diplomatic about something bad. "You need to know before you allow me into your house."
The tone of his voice made her gut compress. "What?" A chill moved up her spine making her short hairs lift and caused gooseflesh to trail behind it.
"First off, I'm not here as a Victor Sierra operative," he blurted. "There's no team, no back up. I'm here on my own volition."
Brenda blinked rapidly. "You got fired? You left?"
"Yes, and no." He grew increasingly uncomfortable, the emotion seeming to hinge on whether she was going to be okay with whatever truth he was trying to relay. "My last mission… went south."
Brenda remained silent this time but was frustrated by how he was dragging this out. She was more of a rip the band-aid off kind of gal.
"It was a rogue vampire, and," He looked away, licking his lips, "I was… attacked."
She tilted her head to one side. "You look mighty fine for surviving a vampire attack. Or are the scars hidden beneath that parka somewhere." She knew she was being difficult but this was coming across as a joke in poor taste and at her expense.
"I took the brunt of it across the face," he stated simply, falling silent and gazing at her pointedly. The silence gave her time to piece the puzzle together. She saw no scars at all, even if they were under the beard there should be thin spots in the just darker than blond curls.
"Jacob, that's not at all funny."
"No, it's not," he sighed, "but I'm serious. She didn't just attack me, she infected me."
Brenda retreated another step, the gun coming back into position. "What're you telling me, Jacob? That yer a vampire now?"
He nodded, tentatively at first, then more vigorously, accompanying it with, "Unfortunately, yes."
"What the fuck, Jacob!" Brenda cried. "Please tell me this is a horrible joke."
"I wish I could." He shook his head. "But the deed is done."
Her heart nearly broke at the crestfallen expression on his face, but she didn't lower her weapon and tried hard to ignore how her arms were starting to burn.
He threw up warding hands, as if trying to calm her from a rage – one she thought she was disguising better. "I'll understand if you want to rescind your offer and send me out into the tundra. Just give me a few minutes of your time before you do."
"So, you're here because…?" Her eyes narrowed, and her suspicion grew.
"First and foremost, to make sure you're okay. Beyond that?" He shook his head his expression turning grim. "Enrique."
Brenda felt blood leave her face. And as much as she thought she'd built up the walls around her emotions, she found herself freezing at the sound of the dhampir's name – her heart hammering on the inside of her ribcage.
If Jacob was what he claimed, he was probably hearing it too. She fought her autonomic reaction to her trauma, breathing deeply and telling herself to calm down.
At the continued stalemate, Jacob added, "I promise you, Brenda, I'm not here to hurt you. I'm still the same guy you bought coffee for my first day off the boat – that… I… I haven't changed."
She glared dubiously at him. "You're a vampire now… that's a mighty big change."
He straightened, closing his eyes and throwing up his hands. "That's fine, I get it," he sighed, and there was pain in the sound. "Then all I ask is you tell me anything you may have on Enrique's whereabouts."
"What's to say he's still here," she snarled.
"Why'd you answer the door gun first?" he countered.
Brenda balked, unable to give him a good excuse.
He nodded sharply. "That's what I thought. You believe, as I do, that he never left this area."
They stared at each other for moments more. Brenda tried to ignore how the chill was cutting through her sweater and pants.
Jacob sighed. "Just tell me what you know, and I will disappear. You'll never have to worry about… what I've become again."
Blinking and not quite believing that she was buying into this all, Brenda lowered the gun. "Get in here before we both freeze to death," she growled.
Jacob hesitated still, seeming unsure of her sudden change of heart.
Rolling her eyes, she added, "What kind of friend would I be if I turned you away. After all, there's a storm setting in."
A/N 2: So here we go. This first chapter is pretty short, but I promise the one following this is quite a bit longer. I had a lot of what you'll read in chapter two originally in this chapter, but I thought it was getting into too many details for an introductory chapter, so I split it off and changed POV's to make it match with the stuff I'd already written for chapter two.
The great part is? I've got large chunks of story written that have either been pared off for much the same reason half chpt1 got moved to chpt2, or are for scenes further down the lines. Now getting them weaved into what I have planned? That may be harder to do!