Chapter 11: Fifty-Eight Minutes

Park, Downtown Windenburg

ALICE

Alice led Vlad to the park across the street. “Do you want to go somewhere else? We can leave if it’s too loud.”

“No, I’m—” He looked around, seemingly distracted by the sound of a car whizzing by.  “Fine.”

Vlad wasn’t anywhere in the neighborhood of fine. Was it her fault? Did she do this? She forced lightness into her voice, “What happened in there? Usually, corpse pose is the part where everyone chillaxes and falls asleep.”

He stared at her for so long that she feared she’d said something wrong. “It was a misunderstanding. I was thinking of…” he trailed off and cleared his throat. “I mean, thank you.” A dark shadow crossed his face. “Did that teacher call you a psychopath?

Alice laughed. Partly because he had a glint in his eye that could kill Father Winter; it was so icy. Partly because she was trying to subdue the nightmare she’d conjured up of the police showing up at her house and snatching Gwendolyn from the nanny because Alice was in jail for yoga crimes.

You are not getting arrested, she told herself. “It’s cool. They’ll probably try to charge my card but jokes on them, there’s only like 10 simoleons left on that thing. Don’t even worry about it.” Alice dug her toe into the dirt, trying to think about the best way to get him to open up. “So about what happened…we could stay. Maybe talk about until you’re feeling better?”

“Yes, I—” he winced as a group of teenagers turned up the radio. Alice watched him clench a fist, flex his hand, and then close his eyes. When he opened them again, his voice was tight and careful. “On second thought, I have a headache. I think I should take you home.”

He was holding something back, and Alice tried to be chill; llamas help her, she really did. But the universe had other plans for her. “Okay, why don’t we talk about it over dinner later this week?”

Downtown Windenburg

VLAD

Vlad could feel the tension vibrating beneath his skin. This was an old street. He remembered it when it was a tannery, and later, the shops filled in around the turn of the century. He remembered it mid-century too. Things were less fussy back then—no Neighborhood Investment Coalition was slapping historic plaques down to mark was used to be. 

Yes, once there was a phone booth on that corner, and wouldn’t you know, you had to ask the operator to connect you! Wow. Unbelievable. Stunning. He was so awash in his disdain and discomfort that he missed Alice’s questions.

“What?”

“I said, I didn’t know this street had an art gallery.”

“It wasn’t always a gallery.” Vlad couldn’t help himself. “Once, it was an electronics shop charging an arm and a leg for a Simovitch television.”

Alice laughed, “How do you know that?”

“Trivia night,” he lied.

She leaned her head on his shoulder, and it was bliss. “I cannot imagine you ever going to a bar to play Quizzo.”

She was right, but he forced a genuine smile. “The gallery isn’t ever dedicated to one type of art. Today it’s Francisco Battista—”

“Knock-off Battista,” she corrected. 

Vlad furrowed his brow, “How do you—”

“The paint isn’t right. The color is Apple 3132, but anyone with a brain in their head knows that Simstil Paints made the 1925 batch with too much tint, which gave them a great color but terrible fading. Battista missed his chance at renown in his day because of a shitty tabloid story, so when he died, his parents sold his estate to pay the debts. They let this piece sit on a display shelf, hoping to lure a buyer in. After that, they moved it to the basement and look,” she pointed, “No chipping on this one and no water damage. It’s beautiful and perfect and a total fucking fake.”

Alice blinked, looking as if she was surprised that the whole speech came pouring out. “Sorry, I have a lot of weird knowledge.”

“Don’t be sorry,” Vlad’s gaze tracked to her mouth and then to her neck. He ignored the ache in his fangs. “I like weird knowledge. His work is on display at the museum. We could go and—”

“No,” she blurted out. With visible effort she lowered her voice. “I mean, no, I don’t really do museums. I had a bad experience.”

KORK Winebar

They continued on in companionable silence until they reached Kork. Vlad hadn’t been here in years, but the bar was still as lovely and soothing as he remembered. It was small, cluttered, with more candles than electric lights and stone floors that he’d carried in from the old monastery as a gift to the owner. Well, as a gift to his mother, really. He stole a glance at the painting on the wall. He wasn’t really a fan of the owner.

It still stung to recall the yoga class. He could cope with his body failing him; he was used to that. But his mind, he thought he’d wrangled into submission. 

“How do you do that?” Alice asked, catching a droplet of Avornalino with her tongue as it rolled down the side of her glass. 

Have mercy. “Do what?” he licked his lips.

“Drink and not get drunk?” she swirled her nectar glass, “I mean, I’m a little drunk, and I am not a lightweight.”

“Good genes,” he gave her wolfish smile, “You are full of questions tonight.”

“I am,” she straightened, “Want to answer some more?”

Vlad heard the dare in her voice. It sent something white-hot spiraling through him. “My, my, is that a challenge, Miss Martin?”

“If you’re up for it.”

Under the table, he surreptitiously adjusted himself.  “Oh, I can assure you, I am. What do you want to know? Hobbies? Likes? Kinks?”

She tipped back her head and laughed until it devolved into a snort, and fuck—that sound nearly undid him. He wanted more laughter, sex, and danger with her.  

“I’ll start off easy,” she propped her hand underneath her chin and leaned forward, “What did you like to do as a teenager?”

“As a teenager?” he repeated tonelessly. Easy? That was her easy question?

She nodded.

Shit. What had he done as a teenager? It was ages ago, and there was no possible way to make it sound normal. “What did you like to do?” he stalled, hoping she’d fire off a few vague answers he could copy. 

Alice laughed. “You can’t answer the question with another question. Come on, the 90s was not that long ago.” 

Fuck. Vlad did tell her he was 38, and it was true; the 90s weren’t that long ago, but hell if he could remember what he was doing.

Drugs? 

No, that was the 70s.

Mercenary work?

Damn it. That wasn’t right either. Mortals were in the middle of their ill-advised crusades, the dryads were trying to take territory from the Fae, and Vlad had just met Anastasia. Was that 1096? 1097? 

He joined a cult in 1997!

Though that wasn’t really a teenage activity. He was just taking advantage of the fact that they were planning ritual suicide, and Vlad was tired of being on his best behavior.  

“I drank,” he said carefully, leaving out the part about it being in taverns. “And spent my earnings on companionship and games of luck.”

—Prostitutes and gambling. Which he could now admit had gotten a bit out of hand. Tired of learning vampiric politics at the end of a sword, his brother sent a thousand letters to their mother begging to be sent home from their apprenticeship. William’s request was granted, but Vlad’s was not. 

In response, he fought and fucked and drank and gambled. 

“What kind of answer is that?” Alice demanded, “Are you lying to me?”

“You asked, and I answered,” Vlad replied, ignoring the implication of her words. “It’s my turn. What was your job before you were a bartender?”

“I…I…what the hell?” She grimaced, “Why are you even asking that? You want to know about my life, but you won’t tell me what you did as a teenager? You won’t say anything about what happened in yoga. Why are you so cagey?”

Vlad felt his eye twitch. He didn’t understand what she was talking about. He wasn’t being cagey; he was being agreeable—holding back all his (admittedly insane) opinions and not burdening her with his seemingly endless supply of what William called his “dramatics.” Yoga was a slip-up. “I am not being cagey.”

She crossed her arms. “What happened in class then?”

A thousand awful things. Memories so brutal, they took his breath away.

Let us see the heart of a vampire who breaks the rules. Is it really so different from one who does?

He ground his palms against the underside of the chair until he felt the skin break open. “The air was dry and gave me a nosebleed,” he replied, surprised by how calm he sounded. 

Was that disappointment in her eyes? 

“I’m tired,” she said, “I think you should take me home.” 

“I’m sorry,” he said when they reached her house. “Can I walk you to the door?”

Alice sighed. “No, I’m fine.” She glanced back at the house. “Earlier, you asked about my old job, and I avoided answering. The truth is, my old job was really exciting and also fucked up. Sometimes dangerous. Anyway, I did something that failed spectacularly and needed help, so I accepted a favor with a lot of strings attached, which wasn’t even for me; it was for—” She froze.

“For?” he prompted.

“It doesn’t matter,” she pinched the bridge of her nose. “I just needed a fresh start away from my old job, away from Salim, away from everything. I’m trying to start over and not make the same mistakes.”

The mere mention of Salim’s name had Vlad fantasizing about sharpening his bone saw. To give his hands something to do, he gently rubbed her shoulders. “Are you safe?”

“I think I’ve answered enough questions,” she gave him a kiss on the cheek. “Goodnight.”  

Vetus Deus Cemetery

It didn’t take him long to get to the graveyard. It was etched in his memory along with a host of other horrors. Alice was right; he was lying to her, and if he had any ounce of genuine bravery, he’d tell her and face the consequences. 

But he didn’t want to tell her. She was so lovely, so perfect. Fierce and ornery and full of warmth and humor. Meanwhile, he was a warlord with two grown children and way too many ex-spouses who, embarrassingly, had a mortal form that was literally falling apart. He was neurotic and short-tempered and hand-to-the-occult, out of his mind. 

In a different world where he could be his whole unhinged self, he would have told her: 

He was intimately familiar with corpse pose. He went into vampiric slumber for nearly sixty years, and when he woke up, it was agony.

    8 comments
  • Snow ~
    August 9, 2022

    How dare you take time off from Strauds! I won’t allow it! *joking*

    MORGYN WHY ARE YOU SO FUCKING GORGEOUS

    Ohhh goodness, Morgyn as a parent. Best or worst thing I wonder? We’ll soon find out…Sulis’s rant oh my gosh had me laughing out loud. Darn, William, let a girl cut a worshipper’s throat once in a while, bloody spoilsport! I laughed at the description of Alice with the peeing when she laughed, but hey, Vlad wants Alice for Alice and that’s a good thing because Alice is great < 3

    Who expected Vlad to be so good at yoga? I guess over that long a life you'd amass a whole load of experience in loads of different hobbies though. I absolutely loved Alice letting the sprinklers off on the yoga class XD I really need to see Ethren come into this now…one, because he's so-say the only person who seemingly could understand and 'tame' Vlad. Two, the sheer drama that would ensue. Back to Alice it was nice to see her take him out of the stressful situation to somewhere quiet. Wish everyone was like that instead of 'WHY DID YOU SHOW ME UP' and 'WHY ARE YOU ACTING LIKE THAT' ugh. Geez, that's not 'dramatics' Vlad, that my dear man is trauma…I hope he can realise that soon. Having lived hundreds of years before anyone gave a sliver of a shit about mental health doesn't help him in that regard. Seems neither of them want to give their pasts away, though I very much Vlad would judge : P

    Yeah, waking up from vampiric slumber for that long would really throw you…especially how quickly things have changed over the last century. It'd feel like waking up in a whole other dimension. As always your machinimas are amazing < 3 OOH I notice Ethren and William there…Still can't wait to see more of Ethren. I already said this earlier but I loooove that puppet master shot. so much Morgyn energy there < 333 I love your Morgyn SO MUCH AAAAAAAAAAAA also I love sulis's snake headband! I'm really excited to see the gods, the 'old ones' and also God of Death will eventually rear his head again, I'm glad you decided to keep all of that stuff in hehehehhe

    OHHH Gwen and her owls, eh? ; ) Ohh my gosh I'm so excited now. Woah, and miss Mad Max comes out of nowhere XD She creeped me out. And that final machinima ;o; did I see a zombie Vlad? And worlds collide…I wonder if Morgyn's mention of multiverse comes in there. Not unless…BBD is actually a literal alternate universe in this story? HMMMMMM I am looking forward to next chapter!

    • feroshgirl
      September 2, 2022

      AHHH After ten thousand years I’ve replied! I’m sorry! I’ve been way behind during this hiatus.

      Sighh, Morgyn truly is gorgeous. And terrifying. I think they’ll make an amazing parent and woe be unto anyone trying to bring harm to their child.

      I love how bloodthirsty this story has made everyone. Like yeah! Why can’t Sulis just drink the blood of her worshippers like nature intended?

      Alice is great! I continue to be delighted by how much we all love her in all her vulnerable, hot mess, relatable glory.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed their yoga trip. I wanted to be clear that Alice is just as unhinged as Vlad is, so they are perfect for each other.

      Rest assured, you are not the only one who wants more Ehtren. And I promise I will deliver very soon!

      Thank you for your compliments about the puppet master shot. It took so stupidly long and I gave up several times lol, but got it to work and I’m so happy with it!

      (squeee yes, many of our old favorite gods are back! I couldn’t stay away. I don’t know what I was thinking)

      Oh you picked up on Gwendolyn and the owls, huh?

      Yes, BBD is a literal alternate universe. So basically hang onto your butt.

  • Dragoncat
    August 23, 2022

    Oooh, very interesting.

    Come on, Vlad, you’ll have to tell her eventually. They’re both hiding secrets from one another and I bet the secrets will all come tumbling down.

    And The Strauds is literally an alternate universe from BBD? I didn’t expect that.

    I wonder if Alice is a normal sim or what.

    • feroshgirl
      September 16, 2022

      I cannot believe I am replying to this comment so late. I’ve been on hiatus and taking a break but trying to check in for comments!

      Lol, Vlad and Alice both seem determined to delay the inevitable. Hehe, “tumbling down” indeed.

      Yes! The Strauds is literally an AU as in, one of the thousand universes Miko ended up creating in her desperation to “fix” the BBD timeline.

      Is Alice a normal sim? ::cue maniacal laughter:: why, I wouldn’t worry about that at all 😈

  • Yimiki
    August 30, 2022

    Hoo boy. Alice and Vlad have reached the stage where being dodgy about questions is no longer intriguing and mysterious, but is starting to bother the other. They’re both holding back and they’re both wishing the other didn’t hold back, though Alice is much more vocal and angry about it than Vlad is. I hope they’ll realise and open up before the relationship blows up in their faces.

    Their family is so dysfunctional but the fact that every single one of them is working on making sure Lilith wouldn’t have to leave her home is really heartwarming. In a weird, stalkery, hush-hush kind of way. Aaaaaand there come the secrets again. Morgyn lying through their teeth even when they know exactly what Lilith is talking about.

    Ooooooh, is that a… what is that? Fifth wall-break? Waaaiiiiit is that Morgyn the previous Morgyn? Our previous Morgyn? From the whatsit?! 😮 I was wondering if Sulis was still a goddess in this story and if not, what she’d be, but oh my, is this what I think it is? It is, isn’t it? It is! That is wild on all kinds of levels. Gah, my head. There’s all kinds of connections here but there’s so much that my brain can’t keep up. Next chapter!

    • feroshgirl
      September 2, 2022

      Wooohoo! Sorry this took so long. I’ve been a hiatus gremlin and way behind on my comments (and reading and everything else but what else is new, eh?).

      Yes! Our two lovesick dummies are tired of secrets which is a problem they could 100% fix if they just opened their mouths and told each other. And I’m sure they’ll do that in a completely calm and mature and reasonable way and not before the whole thing blows up in the face ::evil laughter::

      Jk Jk!

      Yes, The Strauds might be completely dysfunctional and total menaces but they love each other and will fight anyone who threatens their family. Including universities seeking lucrative development deals.

      But yeah, they are are also lying liars who lie to each other all the time.

      THE FIFTH WALL COMES DOWN BABY! Yes, this is the previous Morgyn. You know, the one who traveled through many universes and timelines in BBD. And yes, Sulis is still a goddess and she has also crossed over from BBD.

      The Strauds is a fully alternate universe, but I’m sure its fine so long as they don’t import all the problems of the previous Universe that they couldn’t solve in the last one

      oh…what was that? You can’t just leave all your problems behind in an alternate universe and hope they disappear? Oh well…

      ::cue evil laughter::

  • Dolly Llama
    September 22, 2022

    SULIS: SUUUULLIIIIISSSSSSS!!!! SULIS!!!! SUUULLLIISSSSS. She’s offended by the existence of cheese?! Sulis YES! That’s based as fuck! No! No, don’t backpedal on that!

    Alright, new standard. The first person with the cojones to call cheese “fermented rape juice” is my favorite character.

    Continuing in Sulis’s section to keep the Morgyn ambivalence strong, ahhhh damn, it came full circle. Like always, I have so many questions. Why would Sulis need Morgyn’s help to escape, and what happened to Alice, and the other gods, and why is Gwendolyn de-aged, and—alright. Going back into patient waiting mode. I will be here standing in the doorway watching you write waiting patiently.

    WILLIAM: Has he had that accent the entire time?! Also, I feel like I should be able to tell what’s going on in that 1950s Army picture at the end of page 2, if I weren’t faceblind. Do we know those characters? That’s Vlad, right?

    VLAD: Vlad will not get the pants with ‘sun salutation’ written on the butt. No. Uh-uh. No way. Instead, he directs Alice toward the pants with ‘[surya namaskara]’ written on the butt. In the original Sanskrit. His keister will not tolerate translations or transliterations.

    And the man was wearing socks!

    Welp, there’s your flaw. What kind of serial killer does utthita hasta padangusthasana with socks on?! Put this man in jail for yoga crimes. (In his defense, the reason you don’t ave socks on during that pose is that the proper alignment is wrapping two fingers around your big toe, and he’s a sim, so he doesn’t have a big toe, just a foot blob with five sets of markings on it.)

    How hard were you laughing putting Vlad in that denim vest and flannel? Be specific. Actually—you know what, with all the clues dropped about Vlad’s sensory processing troubles, I’m going to start paying attention to his clothing choices. Less restrictive, breathable fabrics, no tags?

    THE YOGA TEACHER: Sucks. Her instincts do, at least. If a student is having trouble with savasana, of all things, you don’t try to explain it again. You listen! You figure out what adjustments they need and help them feel comfortable! I’m aware this is the point and I’m just ranting. Still.

    MOOD OF THE DAY: “He was just taking advantage of the fact that they were planning ritual suicide, and Vlad was tired of being on his best behavior.”

    NEVER GOING TO BE THE MOOD OF THE DAY: “I will just buy the damn university. Someone find out how much it costs.”

    IKEA ZOOM: y are they in Ikea Zoom

    SALIM: “Salim was perfect when they first got together… [d]espite that, Alice couldn’t just be chill. She pushed and pushed until their relationship broke.” Ooh. A clue that we aren’t getting the full picture on Salim. (Also, I see that shot where we can’t see Vlad’s reflection in the mirror right after Alice casts her ‘I Wish’ spell that he’s at least crazier than her.)

    ETHREN: Getting more and more suspicious that he’s not around.

    GWENDOLYN: SHE UNDERSTANDS WHAT’S GOING ON BETTER THAN ALICE DOES. OF COURSE. OF COURSE. I LOVE IT.

    ALICE: Was she always throwing this many spectrum vibes or is that just me?! Vlad, too?

    ELMYRA: That. That right there is my role model for talking to children.

    • feroshgirl
      September 24, 2022

      There is no story I’m willing write where Sulis does not come back as a mad, deranged, powerful goddess, okay? All of your questions are SO GOOD. I wish I could answer them right now but…spoilers. Also this line kicked my butt back into high gear. I’m writing, I swear it!

      Thank you fo noticing William’s accent. I worked hard this time around to make it clear. Why yes I can make my black fantasy characters into ye olde Scottish knights with hot non-binary spouses, what of it? LOL

      So, William is kissing someone who isn’t Morgyn in the 1950s with Vlad standing in the background. The man and Vlad are in military uniforms and we know Vlad served in the military in the 50s because that’s how we meant Latimer. That man is not Latimer but we do see him cuddling with William in Vlad’s flashback when he thinks about waking up from his vampiric slumber.

      But again, I’m sure he’s *fine* and totally not important and won’t show up later in the story to wreak havoc <3

      Vlad obviously has to go to jail for yoga crimes. Now, did I shoot that entire scene and forget about his socks until I was making edits? Yes. But is it now plot relevant? Absolutely. Would Deacon ever do yoga with socks on? NEVER. The blob-like construction of sims' feet is not burned into my brain.

      Not only did I laugh hysterically at putting Vlad in denim, I put him in a hoochie daddy venon shorts for a machinima flashback AND I WILL NOT APOLOGIZE.

      (okay listen, yes, you know I am a 100% about this Vlad clothing thing. I got a personal shopper once because I was so overwhelmed by choosing clothing and my instructions were: all parts of my body want to feel like they are in leggings. I AM A NORMAL AMOUNT OF CHILL ABOUT THE FEELING OF FABRICS ON MY BODY. Anyway, I digress - It's a plot point in chapter 14 and throughout the story its important to note when Vlad is wearing clothing that makes him uncomfortable and why)

      That yoga teacher was the worst and I literally wrote a scene where Vlad hunted her down because I was so mad, but it went too far afield from the plot so I deleted it. I really wanted this to be a moment where Alice takes care of him bc literally eff this teacher.

      Hehe, no don't pay attention to Vlad's reflection! nothing to see here...

      Salim, Salim, Salim - how do I love my plans for this character? Too much. Way too much.

      Everyone wants more Ethren. Will they regret it? Only time will tell 😉 (I have made that man entirely too much of a brunch daddy thirst trap not to bring him back)

      Gwendolyn remains the best and wisest character.

      OOOHHHH V INTERESTING OBSERVATION OF ALICE.

      Elmyra for the win.

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