2.8. No Good Deed...
The first few days of parenthood are hectic and confusing, culminating in Lark breaking down into sobbing upon finally grasping the magnitude of caring for a child. But it doesn’t take long for the young family to find a routine. It turns out that Nikolas is a more than adequate father--despite never handled a newborn in his life, he’s a natural with Bjorn. Lark insists on taking the overnight feeding and changing duties (Nikolas still has to work, after all), but he’s more than happy to do the majority of the work during the day.
He’s careful when he feeds Bjorn to tip the bottle just right so the baby doesn’t swallow any air bubbles. Then he gently leans him over his shoulder and rubs his back to make sure Bjorn doesn’t get gassy. He takes more time than necessary to do this, smelling the top of his son’s head as he rubs his back. He’s heard the new baby smell will wear off in a couple of weeks, and he wants to commit it to memory.
It’s still a little early to say for sure who Bjorn will look like, but he does have Nikolas’ eyes. He’s slightly darker complected, though, indicative of his mother’s genetics. But no matter who he looks like, to Nikolas he’s perfect.
Although he’s an easy baby--once on a diurnal schedule, of course--Bjorn does deprive Nikolas and Lark of alone time. Thus they socialize in short bursts, usually during breakfast or before slipping off to sleep. Their conversations are rapid-fire as they try to pack in every moment of adult conversation that they possibly can.
Both sims also keep up their hobbies, an attempt to maintain a sense of individuality since it’s easy to be whelmed by the homogenizing waters of parenthood. Lark paints while Nikolas goes out for nightly jogs.
At least, that’s his cover.
He has always prided himself on being an upper class thief, the kind of knave who uses skills he’s honed over several years to steal art and other high class items. But with a child, he finds himself in dire need of a steadier income. So Nikolas turns to stealing unsecured cars right off the street. He then drives them to a chop shop, where he exchanges them for a few hundred simoleons. It isn’t elegant, but it helps pay the bills. Besides, they’re going to need to add on to the house pretty soon. A loft isn’t ideal for a growing family.
Lark’s hobby is more earnest. She has dived headfirst into painting, and she’s currently working on a portrait of Nikolas. Her mother had painted a couple of her, and she would like to continue the tradition beginning with Nikolas, Afterwards, she plans a portrait of Bjorn.
But the portrait doesn’t turn out how she wanted. She tried a wet-on-wet oil technique like Bob Ross’, but she quickly discovers that it’s more suitable for landscapes than portraits. The colors bleed together, turning Nikolas’ face into a melting grimace.
“Um,” she tilts her head as she examines it, “good enough.”
Most nights both Nikolas and Lark feel more or less bound to the house. Gone is the ability to go out on dates--they can’t afford a babysitter, and Lark is too proud to ask her family for help. So friends come to them. Karl is the most common visitor. Even though he has two children of his own--a pair of daughters with his girlfriend Francesca--he finds the time to come over and play videogames with Nikolas.
The two men are incredibly loud, particularly when they get into whatever game they’re playing. While Bjorn is a heavy sleeper once unconscious, it’s difficult to get him to sleep in the first place. Every loud jeer startles him, eliciting whines from both him and his mother. And on this night, Karl and Nikolas are particularly raucous. Lark gives up on putting Bjorn to bed with any semblance of ease. She grabs both him and his stroller.
“I’m taking Bjorn on a walk,” Lark informs the two men, glaring over her shoulder as she leaves. They don’t even notice her departure.
It’s a chilly autumn night, a few days before Spooky Day. But despite the cold, Lark feels warm. Ever since she had Bjorn she’s been running hot, so the breeze is welcome. She makes sure that Bjorn is wearing a fleece bodysuit, though.
She takes a quick stroll down past the festival grounds towards the rural parts of the island. Once the streetlights become more infrequent and the ambient city sound dies down, Bjorn nods off. Lark would breath a sigh of relief, but something feels off tonight.
This is her normal route. It’s safe, well-lit, and familiar. She has walked it a million times. So why does she feel so uneasy tonight? It feels like someone is following her. But every time she glances over her shoulder, there’s nothing there.
Save once: at the market near her home, she looks back and catches a glimpse of a strange couple, a pale man and woman. They’re so pale, in fact, that they seem to glow. She feels an instinctive need to look away and pick up the pace. She walks as fast as she can while pushing Bjorn’s heavy stroller.
Once home, she gently slips her arms under Bjorn and carries him into the house, tiptoeing up the stairs to his crib. Karl and Nikolas are still engrossed in their game.
The gaming continues as usual, taunts and insults included. That is, until Karl drops his controller and shoots up from his seat. “Someone’s here,” he sniffs at the air. The doorbell rings a split second later.
“I’ll get it,” Lark says as she traipses down the stairs.
“I don’t think you should answer that,” Karl growls. Nikolas raises an eyebrow.
“We were in the middle of a fight, bro,” he looks to the expensive controller Karl had dropped to the floor, “What are you doing?”
Despite Karl’s warning, Lark opens the door, revealing the strange couple she spotted on her walk. “Um, can I help you?” She asks cautiously.
“Is this Nikolas Oskarsson’s home?” the man asks, and she nods. He smiles an off-putting smile, “So sorry to bother you at home, miss. I’m Gaius Gallus. I was wondering if my associate and I could speak to your boyfriend.” Even with her poor memory, she recognizes the name as well as his face--Gaius Gallus, the alleged vampire who purchased the wands Nikolas stole. And he certainly does look like what Lark would expect a vampire to look like.
“Fiancé,” she corrects him. The way he’s looking her up and down makes her uncomfortable, and so she feels the need to emphasize the permanence of their relationship.
“Congratulations on your engagement,” he smiles even wider, making the hair on the back of her neck stand up, “again, my apologies for the disruption, but I have a pressing matter to discuss with Oskarsson. May we speak to him?”
“It’s late,” she says, “and our son is sleeping. Can you come back tomorrow?” She begins to close the door, Dominic’s warning of the dangers of vampires echoing in her mind.
What happens next is a blur: Gaius and his female companion seem to fast forward, bursting through the door with immense speed and strength. Lark turns to run but Gaius slips his arms around her and jerks her back. She shrieks reflexively. Nikolas jumps up from his seat, and Karl roars.
“Oskarsson,” Gaius grimaces, “so sorry to meet again under these circumstances, but we have some business to attend to. I believe you’ve met Bianca?”
Bianca nods, her arms crossed, her face blank.
Nikolas’ head reels as he tries to take in the situation: a former employer holding his fiancée hostage while his one-time criminal defense attorney looks on. When put like that, it sounds absurd.
“Let her go,” Karl snarls.
“Or what,” Bianca sneers, “you’ll yap at us? Heel, boy, and let the grown ups talk.”
Gaius ignores the peanut gallery: “You have something of mine, Oskarsson, and I’d like it back.”
Nikolas’ brow furrows. “What the fuck are you talking about?”
“I’ll elaborate: where are the wands and the scroll?”
“The ones I sold to you? Look, if they didn’t get to your place ask the shipping company. I swear I delivered those.”
“You know what I’m talking about, Oskarsson. You broke into my home in Roaring Heights and stole them. I’m here to retrieve what I rightfully purchased.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’ve never been to Roaring Heights and I didn’t steal jack from you.” For once, Nikolas’ claims of innocence are truthful.
“I saw you, you miscreant. So surrender the items in question to me,” he jostles Lark for effect, “or else.”
“Look, I have no fucking clue what you’re going on about,” Nikolas raises his voice, “so let her go and leave. Or else.” He’s fairly certain between him and Karl, this cheap imitation of a movie villain doesn’t stand a chance.
“Very well,” Gaius snaps Lark’s neck back. He takes a brief moment to sniff at her neck--she smells like a forest, a complex musk that’s surprising on a woman. He then bares his teeth and bites, an audible pop as his canines break through her skin. Blood begins to well out of the wounds, which he sucks at greedily.
Nikolas acts without thinking, rushing towards Gaius with the intention of heroically ripping Lark out of his arms. But Bianca steps in from of him and blocks his path. She grabs him around the throat and lifts him off the ground with ease, leaving a good six inches between his feet and the floor. He wriggles in her grasp, trying in vain to release himself. But she’s unnaturally strong, of course.
Bianca has always enjoyed making men squirm. It’s part of the reason she became a courtroom lawyer--it was one of the only acceptable places she could verbally eviscerate someone and be rewarded for it. But it’s more enjoyable now as a vampire, because she doesn’t find herself beholden to the mortal laws that keep her from actually gutting her foes.
“I told you that you would regret ever meeting me again,” she grins as she tightens her grip. Nikolas can’t muster any sound in response.
Outside on the back porch, Dominic and his father look in on the unfolding scene.
“We’re late,” Dominic mutters, “I was hoping to get here before they showed up.” The two men had just arrived in Aurora Skies, having teleported from Bridgeport after memorizing an intricate incantation for a protection ritual. It’s a difficult ritual, but if cast properly it would keep any intruders from entering the house by requiring verbal consent from the residents. Really, it would have been the perfect defense about five minutes earlier.
“Oh, we’re late,” Bastian mutters, his voice raspy, “then by all means, let’s stand on the back porch commenting on our tardiness instead of, you know, opening the goddamn door.”
“Aperi,” Dominic commands the locked door. It slides open, allowing them inside. The mages rush into the fray.
“Sunlight charm, sunlight charm,” Bastian mumbles to himself, “it’s been too many fucking years since I’ve done this.” He waves his arms, trying to remember the pattern that accompanies the charm.
While the mage works, Karl performs his own ritual of sorts. With a deep howl, he begins his transformation: his ears point, his jaw juts outward, and his nose morphs into a snout. The transformation takes a moment, but it’s the wisest thing Karl can do--he’s stronger and faster as a wolf, comparable to many vampires. Honey stands at his side, ready to attack with her newfound packmate.
The delay in action, however, may prove deadly. Gaius has continued to feed, and with every passing second Lark’s efforts to fight back grow weaker and weaker. Her body goes limp, and Gaius pauses, taking a deep breath. It’s entirely unnecessary for the undead man, nothing more than indication of his interest in his dinner. She tastes more metallic than the average human, with a hint of acidity he’s rarely encountered before. It’s reminiscent of a wine he had long ago when he was still mortal--she's a unique flavor for a human.
This isn’t going according to plan. Bianca had convinced him to come to Aurora Skies with her, persuading him against sending a surrogate instead. “It’ll be easy,” she had promised, “and it’ll feel damn good to drain that blond bastard.”
They weren’t expecting to find a werewolf and what seems to be two mages, nor had they planned for such a messy outcome. They had originally decided to wait until their target’s partner--the specimen currently dying in Gaius’ arms--left so they would only have one victim to dispose of.
But there was something the sparked in him when Gaius saw first saw Lark. She’s not stunningly attractive. In fact, she looked a little worn, no doubt the effect of the wiggling little monster in her care. But he immediately noticed the points of her ears sticking out from her dreads and the prominence of her nose, physical characteristics that reminded him of a woman he had a dalliance with years ago. It stirred up a long forgotten feeling, and he felt compelled to follow her, his predator side having awoken. The fixation multiplied quickly, and Gaius soon decided that she should be included in their massacre. Bianca agreed, provided she got Oskarsson to herself.
And so Gaius, a man who prides himself on his self control, ends up draining Lark, ignoring the chaos around him in favor of his gluttony. When he feels her blood slow and her heartbeat fade, he finally lets go of her. She slides to the floor, softly groaning.
In the time it takes for Gaius to seal Lark’s fate, Bastian finishes his sunlight charm. The final product is a ball of UV light which he hurls it at Bianca, striking her in the side of her head. She drops Nikolas in favor of clutching her face, clawing at her blistering skin.
“What did you do to my face?” Bianca shrieks. Her skin sizzles and smokes, the resulting smell that of burning flesh.
“I fixed it,” Bastian replies with a snort.
Gaius watches, mouth agape. He’s never seen anything like this in his long life, though he has always made a point of avoiding mages. His maker had warned him that while the physical strength of a werewolf can be deadly, he should worry more about the cunning of other vampires as well as the ingenuity of mages. And this particular mage--the old man--must be very powerful. With him is a younger man whose similar facial structure betrays their obvious relation. And Gaius notices something else about the young mage: a tattoo on the back of his hand, an eye similar to the one he saw on Oskarsson in Roaring Heights.
But Oskarsson has no such tattoo. And Gaius recalls something else: Lily, the witch in his employ, had her mind wiped, a feat that is better explained by a mage than by any human invention. Gaius’ mouth twitches as the realization hits him: he had been duped.
Adding to the humiliation, that realization costs him. Karl, finally done with his transformation, tackles him to the ground, the force of which startles the vampire.
Nikolas, meanwhile, heaves as he tries to regain his breath. He had been about to black out when Bianca was struck by that--whatever it was. It’s taking him a moment to comprehend what’s going on around him. But tales of vampires and werewolves are common enough in popular culture he has no problem identifying the beasts in his home, and folklore fills in the rest.
Someone kneels down next to him. His face is familiar. They’ve met before, but it takes Nikolas a moment. Dominic. Lark’s friend. That’s who this is, though Nikolas doesn’t understand why he’s here.
“Are you okay?” Dominic asks softly.
His throat hurts, and it pains him to get a single word out, “L-Lark.”
Dominic nods. “I’ll help her,” he promises. Nikolas watches as a crawls towards Lark, avoiding the fight between Karl and Gaius. His limbs feel heavy, and his chest burns. He just needs to breath, then he can do something. Just breath.
While both Bianca and Nikolas try to collect themselves, Karl and Gaius grapple with each other. Gaius is an old vampire, but he’s never been particularly focused on the physical merits of his vampirism. He had quickly amassed wealth in the first few years of his unlife, allowing him to employ underlings to take care of his every need. Perhaps that explains how Karl is completely dominating him. The wolf lands punch after punch, though it’s a fruitless strategy: punches alone can’t incapacitate a vampire.
“I’ll rip your fucking heart out, dead man,” Karl growls.
Gaius tries to pull himself up but the wolf has him perfectly pinned in in such a manner he can’t seem to release himself. This is absolutely humiliating.
Bianca, apparently having recovered enough from the shock of her wound, stands up glares at Bastian. “You’re as good as dead, you fucking geezer,” she seethes.
Bastian raises an eyebrow, wordlessly holding a ball of UV in his hand.
Bianca huffs. Apparently realizing the futility of this fight, she pulls Karl off of Gaius, tossing the wolf aside with ease. The two vampires then dart out the door, their unnatural speed making their retreat barely perceptible to the naked human eye.
And then it’s shockingly quiet.
Nikolas, finally having got his bearings, rushes to Lark. Dominic had pulled her into the relative safety of the kitchenette, and there they are, Lark draped in his arms. She looks serene, as if she’s deep in sleep.
“Is she…” Nikolas trails off when he notices that Lark doesn’t seem to be breathing.
Dominic looks up, tears in his eyes. “I think she’s dead,” he says hoarsely.