CW: Strong language, adult situations, depictions of grief, trauma, and severe depression
Vlad’s House, Henford-on-Bagley
Latimer, 8:00 a.m.
Latimer Jones remembered the fire—the licking heat and twist of flame. Once, he’d been one of fourteen. After the fire, he was one, a number so miserable he took every possible avenue to avoid it.
His mother, llamas rest her soul, always said that gods, if they existed, were fickle and untrustworthy. She was right. As one of five boys crammed into a hayloft, desperate for a bit of privacy, Latimer made the mistake of praying for quiet. He’d hoped to be left behind while everyone went to church or to win the lottery and buy his family a bigger house.
Instead, the gods gave him fire.
Not having learned his lesson, he prayed again—this time for a new family. In their infinite humor, the gods gave him a rowdy pack of immortal creatures whose love and devotion came without a sense of time or value for life, and thus, he was still alone.
Now Latimer Jones did not pray. Not to the universe, not to the llamas, and sure as fuck not to any imaginary gods.
It was a slow shuffle to the shower, followed by the shame of using the chair Vlad installed last summer after Latimer slipped in the tub. He dressed, kissed Betty’s portrait, and thought of her final letter.
When I go, Latimer Jones, you better not throw me a funeral. Have a celebration, and don’t forget to do all my favorite things. In fact, you won’t forget, because I’ve written you a list.
Latimer half chuckled as he climbed the stairs to Vlad’s room. Betty never understood how far gone he was for her. When they first started dating, she hid little notes for him to find at the canteen in between his shifts. Latimer read them so often he memorized them. This last letter was no different. He knew the list by heart.
“Have you seen my watch?” Vlad asked, “The one Betty gave me for Winterfest in ‘82?” He knelt, rattling his bedside table as he tugged open the drawer.
“Do I look like the keeper of your things? How the hell is it you don’t sleep and yet you’re the one who ain’t ready?”
Vlad rose to his feet in one smooth movement. There was a glint in his eye. Had been since the day he returned from Lilith’s conference. “It takes time to achieve this level of casual elegance.”
“You can’t go out like this,” Latimer said quietly, “Not silver-eyed and spoiling for a fight.”
“If you’re worried about a ‘Slaughter Summer’ repeat, don’t. I’m off of bubble blowers and insane ex-wives with lilac-colored hair.”
The remark was so flippant that what little patience Latimer had evaporated. “Don’t get fresh with me because you broke your promise!”
“And don’t chastise me like I’m some errant teenager,” Vlad made a slashing motion with his hand. “I haven’t broken anything.”
Take him out in the world, Latty; he needs it. And I’m counting on you.
“She wanted this day for you, you know. To make sure you stay connected because how could you learn about sims if you ain’t never been one and my lord and llamas, every fuckin’ thing has to be about you.”
“You made a mockery of it,” Latimer cried. Sorrow and fury warred for dominance in the back of his throat. He rasped his next words as if he could peel the heat off them to take away the hurt. “This is the time I have to be sad about my wife. The time that should be for me to mourn, and instead, I’m out here taking care of you. Can’t bring you nowhere because there’s too much temptation.”
“I’m not a dog,” Vlad bit out, “And as for mockery, I’ll—”
“No, let me tell you what I’ll do. I’ll go make her favorite breakfast and go to the grave, and you’ll stay here doing whatever the fuck it is you always do. And if you step outside this property line, I’ll grab my shotgun and shoot you myself.”
Vlad stilled. “You’d attempt to kill me if I crossed you on this?”
Most sims didn’t realize threats were a language. They communicated hopes, dreams, fears, and boundaries. They asked questions. Gave answers. Latimer hadn’t understood the complex web of violent promises and declarations until he found himself the mortal member of a vampiric family.
Now he was fluent.
He looked Vlad dead in the eye, expression steely. “In. A. Heartbeat.”
Downstairs, Latimer clanged around the kitchen. Cooking was Vlad’s forte; the vampire had been fussing over his meals since the day they met.
Vladislaus likes to cook, Latty, so let him. It’s good for him to find a thing he loves. And besides, you’d burn water if it was possible.
“You needn’t flip the number over,” Vlad called out from the doorway.
Startled, Latimer looked up. “Careful how you sneak up on old folks; you nearly gave me a damn heart attack.”
“I didn’t kill anyone,” he continued.
“Then what did you do?”
“Torture a misogynist who insulted my daughter’s intelligence, but mostly I had phone sex with Alice and watched him cry and squirm.”
“Fine, I licked my claws and fed from him a little, but it will soothe you to know he tasted ghastly, and I spent the rest of the trip drinking plasma fruit shakes as promised.”
As far as Latimer was concerned, a little light torture did break Vlad’s promise, but he didn’t argue. Betty believed there was no such thing as “all or nothing.”
Mark my words, Latimer Jones. If promises could be unmade in a single night, every fool would make them.
Even after Vlad’s last break up with Ethren had him wearing the same clothes for days on end and draining the neighbors, Betty had been undaunted. She dragged them to Henford-on-Bagley, demanded Vlad purchase this manor, and then set him to restore it with a nigh impossible list of renovations. It consumed his every hour for three years, and they didn’t lose a single neighbor.
“Let me do that,” Vlad insisted, reaching for the pan.
“I’m fine,” Latimer grunted, though his eggs were starting to give off an alarming amount of black smoke.
“You are not. Go make yourself useful and brew the coffee. And put on Morning Chat,” he added, “They’re interviewing Clive Beeden about his pending retirement from StrangerVille base, and I want to bask in my utter disdain for him.”
“You and your feuds,” Latimer muttered, stepping aside.
“It was your feud first.”
That was technically true, but Latimer still felt his cheeks grow hot. “Yeah, well, I didn’t ask you to do what you did!”
“No, you did not,” Vlad replied calmly, as he lowered the temperature on the burner, “But as we both know, he hurt you, and I cannot abide that.”
Vlad once told him that his response to Clive Beeden was restrained, which was how Latimer learned that vampires had very different definitions for things. Clive had three busted ribs, a broken nose, fractured arm, cracked jaw, ruptured spleen, and a shattered ankle by the time Vlad finished with him. “Restrained,” was not a word Latimer would have used.
“So, where on the list do you want to start?” In Vlad’s capable hands, Latimer’s burning mess had turned into something mouthwatering. “There’s actually a showing of Some Like it A Certain Temperature, so we could enjoy it in the theater instead of on VHS.”
Actually, Latty, I don’t care what you do. I mean, obviously, I do. I made a list. But on the off chance that I’m wrong, you should have fun. No crying over me, though; I’m still firm on that point.
“Nowhere,” Latimer went to the cabinet and pulled out his flask. “I wanna get a haircut and get blitzed.”
Princeton’s Barbershop & Salon, Windenburg
Latimer, 11:00 a.m.
Latimer had been coming to this barbershop since they moved to Henford-on-Bagley, while Betty went to the salon next door for her braids and twist-outs. When she got sick, the owner, Princeton Williams, promised to buy the place and knock the wall down—an idea Betty had been pitching for years.
“You just have to live to see it,” Princeton insisted whenever he visited her at the hospital.
Betty didn’t live to see it, but Princeton followed through anyway. Latimer came to the grand re-opening but couldn’t force himself out of the car. Vlad handled him like he was made of glass. He asked no questions, merely buckled Latimer’s seatbelt and drove them home. Every few months, when his hair grew too shaggy, the vampire would sit him down and quietly reach for the scissors. He never cut it to any style, as if he somehow understood that Latimer couldn’t bear to see himself put back together.
You’ll take care of each other, Latty; that’s why I can let go.
As they walked into the shop, Latimer steeled himself for a cool reception.
“Well, if ain’t just the devil and his father,” Princeton crooned, “What, you forgot how to dress in your long absence? You need lessons from your son,” he flung a hand in Vlad’s direction. “How you let your father leave the house like this?”
Vlad arched a brow, “It may surprise you to learn that my father is not a man whom you can tell anything.”
“Yeah, you hear that, Princeton?” Latimer huffed, “You can’t tell me shit.”
There was a tense silence, and then the shop burst into laughter. Latimer gave a small smile of relief.
“Come on,” Princeton patted a chair, “I think I know which one of you needs a cut.”
Latimer complied, watching as Vlad was instantly drawn into a chess game.
“By my count, you’ve missed about sixty game nights, so I reckon it’s your turn to host,” Princeton said as he sorted through clipper attachments.
Before Latimer disappeared, his heart having shattered into a million jagged pieces, the Joneses rotated hosting game night with the other staff at the shop. Vlad served them barbeque and McDillons and preened at the compliments about the house. Betty hustled them out of every dime before declaring an “early bedtime,” and then Latimer and Princeton would sit up until all hours talking.
“It’s Betty’s day, ain’t it,” Princeton jerked his chin in the direction of a photo and a vase of flowers, “Miss DeeDee always sets them out for her.”
Latimer nodded, his throat tight. He could still remember the first day he saw her, working at the lab by the base in StrangerVille. He cut out of drills early for months to flirt with her, following as she collected her samples.
I am a scientist, Latty, and I say a supernatural heart needs love just as much as a mortal one. And he does love you.
Love was complicated. It came with a hair-trigger temper and violent nighttime pacing. His wife, llamas rest her soul, was wrong.
“Whatcha looking to get?” Princeton asked.
“Anything,” Latimer mumbled, “It don’t matter.”
Princeton shook his head, “That’s the grief talking. But you’re here now; that’s what matters. Might I suggest something fresh? Betty would rise up out the grave if she seen you wandering around all floppy-haired and sorry.” He flicked on the clippers and motioned for someone in the shop to turn up the radio. “Hey, Michael, show Vlad that Sims Tok dance!” He nudged Latimer, “Just watch; you’ll love this. All the young folks are doing it.”
Latimer snorted. Young folks. If only they knew.
Melody’s Tavern, Windenburg
LATIMER, 1:00 p.m.
“The food here’s gone downhill since they lost their last chef,” Latimer grumbled.
“Yes, well, chefs come and go. I’m sure they’ll figure it out.”
Latimer tapped his fingers impatiently on the table, only pausing when the waitress brought their order. “I don’t even know why you stare at that damn menu; you ain’t gonna eat.”
Vlad looked at him, amused. “Why, Latimer Jones, I do believe you’re angry with me.”
“I’m not.” The Old Yorkfield Classic burned as he swallowed it down. “So Alice ain’t returning your phone calls?”
“No. And the mad part is I’m completely delighted. I love children. I never thought I’d miss Caleb demanding non-stop games of imaginary pirate or Lilith drooling on my favorite waistcoats, but here we are.”
Betty and Latimer never had children. Latimer could never imagine a world where Vlad stayed stable long enough to make having a child safe. They fought about it nonstop until one day, Betty was 50, and there wasn’t anything to argue about anymore.
“And Alice is keeping secrets? That’s what got you on edge?”
“Please. I’ve plenty to keep me on edge without adding Alice’s secrets.”
It was an answer, but not a real one.
“I heard you tossing,” Vlad observed, shifting the focus of the conversation. “Did you dream about the fire?”
—Licking heat and a twist of flame, but Latimer would not be handing over his truths. Not when he had almost none of Vlad’s. “You really can’t eat?”
“And how truthful are you with me? On a scale of 1-10.”
Up until this point, Vlad had been drinking nectar and leaning back in his chair. Now, his movements became sharp. Deliberate. “What is the nature of this scale, and why are you asking me?”
“Can we not just go to the movies and enjoy the afternoon?”
“No,” Latimer took a deep breath. He was owed this, wasn’t he? “I want to know. We been best friends—family—for over 60 years. How truthful are you? How often do you look me in the eye and lie to my face?”
The vampire set his glass down but didn’t answer.
“Did you lie to Betty all the time? What about Anastasia? Your children? Your brothers? Your—”
“Five,” he snapped.
“So I’m worth 50% of your effort on a scale of 1-10?”
An edge crept into Vlad’s voice. “Your scale seeks to measure something overrated.”
“Bullshit,” Latimer pounded the table, “I want you to give me the unvarnished truth.”
“Now! When I ask you a question.”
“Then ask.” It was a challenge, or maybe a threat.
“William never talks about that time you woke up. Neither do you. He tells half-truths and you make jokes. You’re a good cook, but you don’t eat. What happened?”
“My organs withered.”
Latimer’s breath caught. “Excuse me?”
“Rotted, really. An awful, putrid, stinking mess.” Vlad’s smile was slow, as if he was enjoying Latimer’s horrified response. “When a vampire goes to sleep, they need to be tended to. Fed. But tending is for those who are beloved, not those who slaughter a theater full of sims and don’t feel bad about it.”
Everyone in the family had told this story, but as far as Latimer could tell, they were all full of shit. Vampires loved half-truths, cultivated them like they were tending a garden. There was nothing they enjoyed more than acting as if they couldn’t deign to reveal the past to someone with a beating heart. “And William? What did he do?”
“Sweet William called wise Ethren and conspired to chain me in the basement like an animal for months. I was—what was the word they used? Difficult. So to answer your question,” Vlad smirked, “I can’t chow down on a hamburger because I am poorly behaved.”
“Bullshit,” Latimer clenched a fist. Vladislaus had never been kept somewhere he didn’t want to be. “I’m not sitting here to be pandered to by your monster act. Why save me if you’re so terrible? If you don’t care about sims? If you never feel bad about anything?” He waved his hands, imitating the vampire’s crisp accent.
“You don’t know what you’re asking.”
“No, I’m not getting any damn answers. I been pretty clear on the questions. Why bother? Did you meet your 5 out of 10 quota already? You’re always going on and on about love and loyalty, but you can’t tell me why it is we’re friends? Why it is you rescued me?”
“I have nothing more to say.”
“Please,” Latimer snorted, “In 65 years, you ain’t never given me a moratorium on words, don’t start now. Why?”
“Because I already had my fill of everyone else!” He gripped his hair in clumps, fangs flashing. “I saw you in the dirt, and I was already full.”
“What?” Latimer’s stomach lurched. There had been so many bodies on the field—friends he’d lost and hugged their families and cried and bemoaned the state of war. “What?” he repeated.
“You asked for truth.” Vlad’s expression turned cold—vicious. “Truth, old friend, is that you went to war to fight, and I went to war to feed. That whorl of terror lodged in the back of your brain, the instinct telling you to run, it’s right. You are food.” He leaned in close. “And only occasionally with a supreme force of will and the serendipity of a full belly are you more.”
Threats were a language. They said what you wanted to know. And what you did not. What you were willing to tell. And what you were not.
Latimer swallowed hard, burying the fear that would make a wiser sim pack and leave and never look back. He’d asked for truth and got sorrow. Maybe it was his plight in life to never get he wanted. “I should sock you in the jaw for giving me such a long-ass answer.” He drained his glass, grateful for how it made his head swim. “At this rate, I might die before you finish answering my next one.”
He couldn’t read the emotion that flickered in Vlad’s eyes. Was it disappointment? More amusement? Nothing at all?
Before Latimer could ponder it more, the mask was back on, and the vampire seemed more mortal. His mouth lifted into a half-smile, warm—friendly even. “Well, it is as you say. I am, indeed, long-winded.”
And just like that, they were back to normal.
The Gnome’s Arms Pub, Henford-on-Bagley
Latimer, 8:00 P.m.
“I need another barley bale!” Latimer exclaimed, waving his finger around.
“You most certainly do not,” Vlad chastised, pulling his hand down.
Sarah laughed. Pouring a wuftabehir for one of the other patrons, she shook her head. “I think you’ve probably had enough. How about some tea?”
“Tea? I’m not an old man!” Latimer could feel his indignation as solidly as he felt his bad hip. He pointed an accusatory finger at Vlad. “And you, you are not trying to have any fun. You used to be fun!”
The vampire pursed his lips and slid over a glass of water, “I’m still fun.” He glanced at Sarah, “Alice called out sick?”
“Yeah, I think her kid came down with something; she probably got it. I figured you would know since you two are…uh…well, I don’t really know what you two are doing. You headed there later?”
“Bah!” Latimer shouted, “Everyone knows what they’re doing!” He tried to demonstrate, but for some reason, Vlad just looked over at him and sighed.
“No, I’ve got someone else to look after tonight.”
“That’s right!” Latimer raised his arm high, finger waving in the air again, “He does care for me because I am IM-POR-TANT.” The room swayed a bit, and he rocked to keep up with it. “Remember when you used to drink with me? And we got into the bar fight on account of the darts game? You remember!” Latimer made more gestures, “1958. You was wearing that dangly bit on the front of your hair!”
Sarah’s eyes clouded with confusion before Vlad cut in. “Not now, father.” He lifted Latimer up, “Sarah is not interested in your addled recollections of days gone by.”
“Everyone loves to hear me.” He patted Vlad’s cheek affectionately. “You love to hear me!”
“If you talk to Alice, tell her I hope she feels better!” Sarah called out behind them.
Vlad’s House, Henford-on-Bagley
Latimer, 12:00 a.m.
He didn’t remember taking his clothes off or putting on his pajamas, but somehow, he was back in bed, Vlad lying next to him.
“These ain’t my sheets,” Latimer mumbled, “I’m in your bed?”
“Yes,” Vlad replied tiredly, “You decided to heave up Jonah all over your bed, so now you are tucked in with me while your mattress is drying.”
“I don’t know a Matt. Is he new?”
Vlad groaned, “For the love of occult Latimer Jones, please go to sleep.”
Latimer, 3:30 A.m.
“I dreamed of the fire,” Latimer whispered, his voice thick with some emotion he wasn’t expecting.
It was long ago. So long ago. And yet.
“This time, the whole family made it out. Coop agreed to show me how to salsa, and Hosa taught me to drive just like he promised. I made moonshine with my sister Ethel and danced at her wedding. Started a business. Wrote that book. Married Betty, became a grandfather, had a right fine time.”
“And then?” Vlad’s voice was gentle in the dark.
“And then the man in white told me to wake up. And I realized there was no you in that dream, and I didn’t know whether to be sad or relieved.” A tear tracked down Latimer’s face. “I miss her. I miss everyone. I’m old and alone, and I’m stuck here with you, and I don’t know whether to love you or hate you for it.”
Vlad put an arm around him. “It is possible, Latimer Jones, to feel many things at once. And they may all be true.” He sighed, “I remembered you from that poor excuse for infantry training. You didn’t fear me, and you were not interested in putting up with my shit. That’s why I didn’t kill you. I liked you. I thought we might be friends.”
“And because you were full.”
He cracked a smile, “And because I was full.”
Latimer leaned his head on Vlad’s shoulder, and although the vampire’s skin was ice cold, it was comforting.
“Five out of ten on the scale of truth and a hundred percent of my effort to pretend not to be what I am because I love you,” Vlad whispered, “And make no mistake, that love is binding. Fire and brimstone could rain down from the heavens, and I would still be here in the morning.”
You won’t be alone, Latty. You carry me in your heart and I am leaving in you in the best of care.
The tension he was holding in his muscles relaxed. Latimer wiped a tear. “Well, if I’m stuck with you, then I’ll be wanting pancakes for breakfast, with real butter—none of that unsalted shit you been trying to feed me.”
Vlad chuckled, “Sixty-five years and your demands have only grown more outrageous. Fine, pancakes with real butter. This time.” The vampire reached for his hand to help him out of bed, and for once, Latimer did not make a fuss.
“I love you too, you know.”
“I know,” Vlad replied.
“And it wasn’t all bad, this life we’ve had,” he gently elbowed his old friend, waggling his eyebrows, “In fact, it’s been one hell of a ride.”
NEXT TIME, ON THE STRAUDS:
Trailer Song: “Dangerous Woman” by Ariana Grande
MACHINIMA CREDITS – Video 1
Song: “Beggin’” by Madcon
Animations & Mods
Everyone Can Hit Sims with Purse Mod by Cepzid Sims
Animation Pack #22 by Sovasims
Animation Pack #11 by Sinnora Sims 4
Slow Motion Action Jumps by Steven Studios
The Sims 4- Pickup and Carry animation- “Unconscious” by ShineBrightGamer
Shocked/Scared Animation Idle by Steven Studios
Loss of a Loved One Animation by Gordon Sims 4
Random Collision by Grindana Sims 4
Exclusive Pack #14 by Sovasims
Long Emotion Idles by Steven Studios
Animation Pack #17 by Sinnora Sims 4
Animation Pack #24 by Purpura Sims
Beats with Bat Animation by LUKA
- Baseball Bat by RJ
Animation Pack #10 by SovaSims
Couple Walking by Utopya Sims
Dance Like Nobody’s Watching by Steven Studios
Animation Pack #3 by Sinnora Sims
Realistic Face Slap Animation by Steven Studios
Pack #30 by Sova Sims
Pack #24 by Sova Sims
Accessory Box by Chaotic Peach
Yas Kween Werk! Animation by Steven Studios
Conversation on a bench by LUKA
Please Don’t Go Animation by Shinebrightersims
Sadness Animations by Expressive Girl
BlackPink Venom Challenge Dance by Steven Studios
Got Shot by MercuryFoam
Slow Dance Animation by MercuryFoam
Hospital #1 Animations by Purpura Sims
Hospital Furniture by AnotherSimsStory
Celebrate Hi 5 by Steven Studios
Survivor Apocalyspe by Steven Studios
Nightmare Animation by MST
Caring Animation by MST
A Kiss on the Floor by LUKA
Barbershop by theindysimmy
Army Barracks by Cyvin_Tyranea
Zombie Apocalypse City by calpaca17
Supernatural Research Lab by Squeakers02 (original build by Daskane06)
Vacuous Green by HellowWildflowerr
1960s Prarie Style by xsaplq56
1990s Family House by danielsimmer
Hospital by 1HoneyHaze1
Chalet Champ De Lavande by BeeOlivee
Outdoor Wedding Venue by NesoiSims
Lavender Garden Courtyard by 4nxieti
Accessories & Clothing
Johnny Hair by JohnnySims
Lana Hair by ImVikai
Mandy Hair by Clumsyalien
Ursula Robe by Clumsyalien
Asteria Hat by Clumsyalien
Terra Pants by Clumsyalien
Reagan Jacket by Clumsyalien
Joan Jacket by Cowconuts
Pam Dress by Sentate
Elishka Shoes by Madlen
Tea Rose Dress and Sola Veil by Plumbob Tea Society
Inspiration for Looks:
MMCC Lookbooks – The 80s by emma
1980s male lookbook by Valmuen
MACHINIMA CREDITS – Video 2
Song: “Mess Around” by Ray Charles
Agree or Disagree animation by ShineBrightGamer
Sneaky Idles by Steven Studios
Standing Talk Pack by LUKA
Cheer Pack by Steven Studios
Pack #5 by Rascgal
Personal Animations #2 by SovaSims
Animation #18 by Sinnora Sims
Sneak out the Window Animation by LUKA
Vintage Microphone by TyrAVB
Talk and Punch by LUKA
Animation Pack #19 by Sinnora Sims
Sims 4 Hangout Poses by Radioactive
Animation Pack #38 by SovaSims
Uninvited Guest by Gaming Tweety
Clothing & Accessories
Riekus Valentines Day Gifts by Leosims
Teacup and plate by Neutral Supply
Book by MOC
Guitar by Studio K
Male Vintage Swimwear by Leh Gaming
1950s Casual Outfit by lucydels98
1950s Dress by HappyLife Sims
Earth Angel Dress by Gilded Ghosts
Calenthe Outfit by Madlen
Colette Outfit by Madlen
Laughing on the floor animation by Simsalaland
Retro Pool by JelloJanie14