|Safe In the Dark
Author: zombie josette PM
AU. A vampire returns to town in search of a witch just as Victoria Winters is hired to keep watch over Collinwood in the event of anything supernatural, sparking a chain of events exceeding her dreams or nightmares.Rated: Fiction T - English - Supernatural - Chapters: 10 - Words: 36,093 - Reviews: 5 - Favs: 8 - Follows: 5 - Updated: 01-27-11 - Published: 11-11-10 - id: 6469974
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: A note is mandatory because – ohmygod I'm actually attempting a long fic again. This is quite a feat for me, seeing as I haven't tried this in, like, seven years. Or something like that. BUT. I've put myself on a schedule and everything this time, so hopefully I'll be able to keep to that. Anyway, here's hoping you enjoy this! :)
o o o
It wasn't uncommon for the highway leading into the small seaside town to be entirely deserted, especially at this hour of night, but Barnabas Collins kept his eyes glued to the road anyway. He was tense behind the wheel, and he slowed more than was necessary at every curve as if he were assessing whether or not it was safe to continue driving. Part of it, he assumed, could be blamed on the fact that he was still getting used to the car and the idea of driving in general. But Barnabas knew that he actually didn't know what to expect, and that he could never be too careful. He had seen things happen in this town; he had to be cautious.
The lights of the black car cut through the darkness, and Barnabas' eyes flicked to the right of the road when they shone on something that wasn't foliage for the first time in hundreds of miles. The sign read "Welcome to Collinsport," and though the paint was peeling from the wood and plants threatened to consume it, Barnabas thought that it would still be a happy signal to most that they had reached their destination. But the scene depicted on it – a happy depiction of the beach – only made Barnabas uneasy. Through all the things that had happened here in this small town, it seemed out of place. The thought struck him that perhaps things had changed. Maybe Collinsport was now just as it would seem to any random passerby: a quaint, if perhaps sleepy little beach town, with nothing out of the ordinary. No distractions to disturb it from its drowsiness. Barnabas refused to entertain the thought, however, and his mouth fell into a thin line as he gripped the steering wheel tighter and hit the brake slightly as he crossed over the bridge and onto Main Street.
It was exactly as he had expected at this hour: apart from a few teenagers with glass bottles and cigarettes and other paraphernalia, there was nobody in sight. They were probably all fast asleep by now, giving Barnabas nearly free reign of the streets. Barnabas stopped at a red light, and the teenagers looked warily at the car before clumsily trying to hide their drinks and cigarette cartons and plastic bags filled with who knew what else. Barnabas managed a nearly-silent chuckle as the light changed to green and he drove off. He wasn't prepared for the wave of nostalgia that hit him as he looked around the town, marveling at how much and yet how little the place had changed since the last time he had been there. He had to do a double-take when he passed the doctor's office; it was in the same place that he remembered, though of course with several technological enhancements. The schoolhouse that the children of the town had attended had been torn down, and in its place stood a much larger building that proclaimed itself to be Collinsport High School. Barnabas couldn't help but stare at it in awe as he drove past; he thought that he had gotten used to these sorts of advancements. Of course, they were inevitable, but he couldn't name the feeling that swept through him when he thought of how the town was evolving.
Soon, Barnabas was nearly completely sidetracked, taking to driving through all of the large, usually-busy streets and the back-roads that he remembered, but he slowed when he came near Beach Road. He turned his head to look down the road. It would have been easy to turn, to follow the road until it came to a driveway, and to follow the long driveway up a hill until it came to park at the estate. It would have been easy. Too easy, Barnabas decided, ignoring his instincts and driving away. He would have to save it for the next night, he knew. It wouldn't be wise to intrude now; he needed to prepare. To calm himself. He already knew that the house would hold too many memories, and he didn't want to be held responsible for what he would do without the time to rest.
As Barnabas drove back through town, he managed to keep himself from any distractions, his curiosity about the town and its changes satisfied for the night. He hardly needed to pay close attention as he took the turn into the parking lot of the Collinsport Inn. After taking out his suitcase, he locked his car and walked up the steps and into the building, trying to be quiet, but his attempt at courtesy was foiled once he opened the door and the bells above the door jingled. Barnabas winced and closed the door, and he noticed that the man at the desk was fast asleep, his head leaning against his arm. Barnabas approached the desk as quietly as he could, his eyes falling to the bell on the desk as he set his suitcase on the floor.
The bell was incredibly close to the man's ear. Barnabas frowned, and he cleared his throat, making a gentler attempt at awaking him. The man didn't stir. He only sighed in his sleep.
It was then that Barnabas felt it: the horrible twisting sensation in his stomach. He reached out and gripped the edge of the desk as he lurched forward, and his other hand gripped the silver head of the cane that he carried. His eyes flicked to the man's neck. It could be such a clean kill. He could find other lodgings. The man was clearly old and tired; perhaps Barnabas would be doing him a favor. No one would have to know about it -
Barnabas forced himself to be calm as he suddenly heard footsteps on the floor above him, walking to the staircase and then finally down it. He turned his head to see who it was, and he was greeted with the sight of a young woman carrying down a tray.
"...get wasted and don't know when to stop." Barnabas caught the tail-end of the woman's muttering and cleared his throat again, this time to get her attention. She stopped on the second-to-last stair, giving him a slightly-startled look.
"Can I help you?" she asked, taking the final two steps before coming to rest on the floor.
Barnabas smiled at her, still holding his cane tightly in his hand. "I apologize for my lateness," he said, "but I need to check in and it appears that this man is somewhat incapacitated." Barnabas chuckled slightly.
The woman peered behind Barnabas before breaking into a smile of her own. She shook her head, and Barnabas noticed her give a slight roll of her eyes. She said, "I'll be right with you, just let me set this down."
"Of course," he replied, but the woman was already walking past him, down a short hallway and into another room. She emerged a moment later and made her way behind the desk, awkwardly positioning herself so that she didn't disturb the old man, but could still check Barnabas in.
"Alright," she said, "What's your name, Sir?"
The woman tucked a lock of auburn hair behind her ear, and Barnabas felt his eyes drawn to the pulse in her neck, causing another pang in his stomach.
"Barnabas Collins," he said quickly. He averted his eyes, and they landed on the bell next to the old man. "Does this happen often?" he asked. Anything to distract himself. He braced himself and looked back up at her, noting that her eyes seemed to be trained on him, recognition dancing in them. She looked down at the man next to her and laughed, shaking her head as she typed on the computer nearby.
"Every night, nearly," she replied. "We don't usually get anyone this late."
Barnabas' eyes moved away from her and came to rest on the clock. It was almost 3:30 A.M. "Ah – yes, I'm afraid there was trouble on the highway. Traffic was backed up for ages."
She nodded and lifted a hand from the keyboard to cover her mouth as she yawned. "Completely understandable. Do you have an ID on you, Mister Collins?"
Barnabas froze before he reached into the pocket of his jacket for his wallet, pulling out a card and showing it to the woman. She seemed to be puzzled by it for a moment, but Barnabas acted unfazed. Of course, the picture was completely fake, done by someone with excellent image-editing skills that Barnabas had compelled before making his way to Collinsport. And it was slightly blurred for good measure.
The woman blinked before she nodded. "Alright," she said, and Barnabas noticed the hint of wariness in her voice. "Thank you, Mister Collins."
"Of course," he replied smoothly, placing the card back into his wallet and the wallet back into his pocket. "Are you always working this late?"
The woman nodded as she continued to input things into the computer. "Usually. I work the night shift so that I can stay with my father during the day." With a click of the mouse, she turned away from the computer and to a shelf behind her, pulling out a small envelope before turning back to Barnabas. "Here you are, Mister Collins, you're in room 306, and your key is inside."
Barnabas smiled and picked up his suitcase. "Thank you very much for being so accommodating, Miss...?"
"Oh – I'm sorry – I'm Maggie Evans," she replied with a tired smile. "You'll have to forgive me – I'm surprised I haven't nodded off myself. But feel free to call down here if you need anything."
"I will be sure of it. Good evening, Miss Evans." Barnabas turned away from the desk and began the trek up to the third floor, all the while trying to ignore the ill feeling in his stomach.
o o o
"David, make sure to tell your father and aunt that I'm excited for dinner tonight!"
David Collins' fifth grade teacher had tapped him on the shoulder just as the bell rang, holding him back as all of the other students stampeded out the door to catch their buses and other rides home. Even though she gave him a wide, happy smile, he said nothing, staring at her icily before he hoisted his backpack onto his shoulders and left.
Victoria Winters sighed and watched the little boy go, taking a seat on one of the small desks and crossing her arms in front of her chest. She didn't know why she had expected this time to be different; David had acted in exactly the same way to her previous attempts to be at least on good terms with him. Perhaps she had thought that maybe he had finally come to terms that she wasn't going anywhere – in fact, she was on her way to becoming closer to his family.
Maybe, had David actually responded favorably, it would have given Victoria some ounce of confidence for later that evening. Despite what she had said, it wasn't excitement that she felt, it was something closer to nervousness and sheer terror. What if she wasn't like her father? What if she didn't know as much? Mistook a werewolf for a normal, if not abnormally large dog? Without realizing it, Victoria had bitten her nails into jagged stumps on her fingers. With another sigh, she rose from the desk, grabbed her work for the evening and her purse, and locked up the classroom.
Driving through the streets of Collinsport didn't do anything for Victoria's nerves. She had too many thoughts rushing through her head to concentrate on a single one, and before she knew it, she found herself driving down a side street. She pulled into the driveway of a small, well-kept white house on a corner, and practically jumped out of her car to hurry up the walk and ring the doorbell.
Dressed in a t-shirt and sweats, a sleepy-looking Maggie Evans opened the door, but her attitude seemed to brighten once she saw Victoria.
"Vicki!" she exclaimed. "What are you doing here? Don't you have dinner with the Collinses tonight?" Maggie opened the door wider, but Victoria shook her head, motioning for Maggie to come outside.
"I'm a bit pressed for time," she explained. "There's so much to do at once, and... I was hoping you could help me get ready?" Victoria gave Maggie a hopeful smile.
Maggie bit her lip before breaking out into a grin. "It sounds great," she said. "Just let me check on Pop, and I'll be right there."
Maggie disappeared from view, leaving the door cracked open slightly, but a moment later, she was outside the door with her coat and locking the front door behind her. The two women hurried back to Victoria's car, and Victoria already felt better. At least with her friend there, she would be able to take her mind off the stress for as long as she could.
Maggie and Victoria chatted on their way back to Victoria's apartment, Maggie filling Victoria in on all of the interesting or amusing happenings at the Inn that had happened lately, ending with the two men who had gotten drunk the night before and practically held her hostage by talking too much.
"Oh! I nearly forgot," Maggie said as she got out of the car and followed Victoria to her door. "I got a rather interesting visitor last night."
"Did you?" Victoria replied, unlocking her door and holding it open for Maggie, who followed her in, removing her coat.
"I did. A Collins." A smirk crossed Maggie's face.
Victoria tilted her head to the side, giving her friend a questioning look. "Really?"
"Mmhm." Maggie tossed her coat on the back of one of Victoria's kitchen chairs. "I think he said his name was Barnabas. I was wondering why he didn't just stay at Collinwood."
"Barnabas..." Victoria repeated. She pondered the name for a moment before she shook her head, dropping her keys and purse on the kitchen table. "It doesn't ring a bell. Maybe he's not a member of the family. It is a relatively common last name."
Maggie refused to give up, though. "No, you could tell. There was a distinct air of snootiness."
At that, Victoria couldn't help but let out a laugh. "Maggie!" she chided.
Maggie grinned. "I wonder if he came in for this dinner, too."
Victoria shook her head and turned away from Maggie, feeling a blush creep onto her cheeks and the nerves tickle her stomach once more. "I wouldn't think so. It isn't anything big." Victoria started to walk to her bedroom, and Maggie followed her until she stopped at her closet, looking at the dresses that she had picked out.
"You know, you never did tell me what this whole thing was for," Maggie said, taking a seat on Victoria's bed.
Victoria went still for a moment before shuffling through her clothes again. She stayed silent. She didn't have an excuse prepared for this question, and she couldn't exactly tell Maggie the truth: that she was being hired by the Collins family to help protect them from anything firstly supernatural and secondly harmful, especially a combination of the two. It was something her father had done, and her grandfather, and, as far as Victoria knew, the whole way down the line. There was no way that Victoria could spring that on Maggie without warning, so she pretended not to hear her.
Victoria dropped a hanger on the floor and knelt down to get it, effectively hiding her flustered expression. "Well, I'm David's teacher, aren't I?"
"So that's it?"
Victoria shrugged, putting the hanger back in its place. "I've known the Collins family ever since I was a little girl. Maybe they're trying to make me feel accepted, since I we haven't seen much of them since Dad died and I moved here."
"So what took them so long?" Maggie muttered, examining her fingernails.
Victoria shot Maggie a warning look. Maggie sighed and smiled, then got up from the bed to look at the clothes that Victoria had picked out.
"The black one's a bit much," Maggie said, picking the dress up by the hanger and handing it back to Victoria. "I say go with this white one."
Victoria frowned. "You think so? It's getting so cold out, and it's a summer dress..."
"So put a sweater with it." Maggie smiled and rolled her eyes, stepping past Victoria to pull out a lavender sweater. "See? It's fine. Now go try it on."
o o o
When Barnabas arrived at Collinwood, he sat in his car for a long time after cutting it off. He observed the house. For something that had been new and full of potential the last time he saw it, Collinwood now seemed gloomy and almost desolate. Barnabas grabbed his cane and stepped out of the car and made his way up to the front door, grasping one of the knockers in his hand and bringing it against the door three time. His acute hearing picked up a brief bit of shuffling inside before he was greeted to the sight of a teenage girl, blonde hair held back with a headband.
"Hi," she said, looking up at him with large blue eyes and flashing him a smile. "Can I help you?"
"Yes, actually," Barnabas replied. "Is Elizabeth Collins Stoddard home, by any chance?"
The girl nodded. "Yeah."
Barnabas tried not to frown. "I am here to see her. I'm a cousin," he explained. "From England," he added hastily.
"We have cousins in England?" The girl tilted her head to the side.
"Are you a relative of mine as well?" Barnabas asked. "My name is Barnabas Collins." He extended his hand to the girl, who opened the door a little wider in order to accept it.
"Carolyn Stoddard," she said with a slight giggle. "You should probably come in."
Barnabas happily accepted Carolyn's offer, and she shut the door behind him before dashing upstairs. He heard her calling, "Mom!" and tried to refrain from smiling. A moment later, she came back, leading a rather regal looking woman with dark hair down the stairs.
"He's our cousin," she said. "From England! Isn't that so cool?"
Elizabeth stopped at the landing and a slight pallor came over her face as she saw Barnabas. "Yes. Yes, it is. I wasn't aware we had any relatives from England."
Barnabas said, "I'm sorry to intrude like this. I was in New York on a business venture, you see, and I thought it a shame for me not to visit while I was relatively close."
Elizabeth was about to speak, but she was cut off by Carolyn's suddenly excited voice.
"Mom, can he stay for dinner? It's already such an affair with Vicki and everything!" She turned to Barnabas. "And we have room." She turned back to Elizabeth and said, "We have room, right?"
"I suppose, but -" Elizabeth began, but Carolyn was already helping Barnabas out of his coat, practically squealing about how exciting the whole thing was. Barnabas tried to conceal a smirk. He hadn't expected this to go quite so well.
o o o
Victoria stood outside Collinwood, drawing her sweater tighter around her as she inhaled deep breaths of the chilly October air. It wasn't doing much to calm her nerves, but she couldn't think of anything else to do, other than review everything she knew about every paranormal creature and happening that she could think of. She knew she was being silly, that there wouldn't be a quiz, that she had her father's books and notes to look back on if she ever came up blank, but she wanted to be as prepared as she possibly could.
Besides, she was fifteen minutes early. What else was she going to do? She was unsure whether or not she could politely go in yet. Of course, she had been to dinners here before, but she had been with her father and brother. There had been no reason for her to worry about timing.
Eventually, Victoria decided that they would officially be expecting her, and she knocked on the door, ready for her trial to begin.
o o o
When Carolyn let her in, Barnabas felt time stop. Completely entranced, he watched her as she took off her coat and hung it by the door, dark brown locks tumbling over he shoulder. When she looked at him almost questioningly with wide green eyes, Barnabas felt the world fall away. He was at a complete loss for words. It was only when Elizabeth and her brother Roger appeared to greet the woman that time suddenly sped up again, needing to catch up to the current point.
"Barnabas," Elizabeth said, leading the woman over to him. "This is Victoria. Victoria, this is Barnabas."
"Victoria." The name felt wrong on Barnabas' tongue, but he took Victoria's hand and raised it to his lips, watching her cheeks color slightly.
"He's our cousin," Elizabeth continued, a slight hint of suspicion in her voice. "From England."
"It's wonderful to meet you," Victoria said.
It was then that Barnabas became aware that he was trembling slightly. He could only manage a nod before he excused himself to the drawing room, practically collapsing onto the sofa. He laid the cane next to him and tried to still his hands from shaking as one face, one name filled his mind: