"Have you ever been decapitated during this fight?"
It has been a long day reigning in the Newborns, Jasper has long since reached the end of his rope. So why is it that the woman's asinine question is a comfort? She's high up again, sitting on the edge of a house roof; it's about the only sensible thing she ever does, taking the high-ground.
"You witnessed a battle here, Ma'am. Do you really believe I've managed to avoid such a fate?"
The key isn't to avoid being decapitated, it's to retrieve the head and keep going. Thankfully, Jasper's has only suffered through that particular experience twice so far.
"That's unfortunate," Lucy (he should really start thinking of her by name because it is clear she won't be leaving of her own accord) whispers, one hand going up to rub at her neck.
"You were decapitated?"
The words stumble out his mouth before he can stop them. It's research, he tells himself. This kind of hint, knowing the current events that occur around her physical body may help him learn of her location. It is strange though; ever since they first met she has been without flaw, and though a decapitation will not leave scars (there's no venom involved, that's the only thing that leaves a mark, that's the reason Jasper's arms and chest and neck are absolutely littered with scars) to know she has suffered such a blow…
Lucy huffs, blowing a brown lock back from her face to brush by the sharp cut of her cheekbone instead.
"Rodrigue, my Sire, insists that if I'm going to come to America I need to know how to defend myself before I do."
Her expression is a particularly mulish thing, arms folded across her chest to leave her entire demeanour screaming 'petulant child'. But there's a little smile tucked into the corner of her lips, one that doesn't make sense to Jasper. It itches beneath his skin, the rough rub of cheap cloth working over his brain.
There's something about that smile, something he should know but it's escaping him, water trickling through the space between his fingers.
"I don't like missing my head," Lucy the Englishwoman confides, as if anyone in the world likes having their head forcibly removed from the body. "But I suppose at least Rodrigue didn't play keep away."
Her thin shoulders give a little shrug, as if to show she's completely unaffected by the idea, and something slots into place.
Her instincts are wrong. It's been bothering him for a while, a mental variation of the constant burning in the back of his throat that he just hasn't been able to put his finger on. Now he realises though.
Her eyes trace over the lacework of scars upon his skin, but she doesn't flinch away. She sees them, acknowledges their existence. That's all. There's no other reaction, nothing to indicate she looks upon the scars and thinks 'I need to run' as every other vampire he's met does.
True some of them overcome their instincts to fight, Newborns themselves think twice but their blood-lust and baser instincts implore them to attack anyway. Not once has Jasper caught this woman cringing away at the sight of them, not once has he seen her react negatively to them.
It's wrong; that's what's setting him off. She feels far too confident in his presence. Evidently, she has nothing to worry about giving that she is not physically present but it still bothers him.
"Very few people are pleased by decapitation," Jasper drawls, refusing to mirror her, to fold his arms across his chest. It'd take him a moment too long to unfold them to deal with an attack and though she's not physically present that doesn't mean other vampires aren't in the area. He's not the only gifted vampire out there and there's clearly a wide scope of what vampires can be capable of.
Given that Lucy the Englishwoman is capable of projecting her mind and appearance supposedly across oceans, it's not unrealistic that some vampire may be capable of suppressing his scent or sound, or even having a gift for going unnoticed.
"And now I know why. I'd rather not go through it again, but Rodrigue is insistent. It's probably a good thing though, I mean I watched you fight and I'd never seen anything like it before, but you're still covered in scars. So I've got a lot to learn, but I guess I've got a lot of time to learn it in."
It's things like this that almost make Jasper believe her, the way she so casually inserts her insistence that there are places out there where there is no fighting right into conversation, seemingly with little to no thought on the matter.
The blond cannot even begin to imagine a world in which their stagnated life is not measured with just weeks, but instead years, decades even. Here it's a stroke of luck if a Newborn manages to pull through a year as a vampire, if they manage to survive enough fights to last that long. Maria never lets them live past the two-year mark, though it has been a while since they've had one endure to that point.
That Lucy the Englishwoman speaks so casually of it, it almost has Jasper believing.
"Perhaps," Jasper allows, for lack of anything else to really say. The conversation has stagnated, though such a thing isn't unexpected. They are not exactly beings of change after all, moments of nothing should be commonplace.
Jasper finds himself in constant motion as a result of Maria's greed, her ambition for more territory. Sometimes it seems as if this is no longer so much about the feeding grounds as it is about the ownership of land itself. Greed, a lust for power. Jasper doesn't quite understand it, he'd be content with a small slice of land, the knowledge he could hunt without fear. Land with a fair portion of bars and drunken humans.
The drunks are always easiest on him.
"Do you keep track of the days in the South?" Lucy the Englishwoman asks, head tilting to a side, mannerisms far too human than Jasper thinks he'll ever be comfortable with. These are the moments when he expects to uncover a heartbeat, to hear it pulse within her chest.
But there's a ringing silence hidden behind her ribcage, just the same as his own. It doesn't change the fact the lack of pulse proves jarring.
"It's new year's today, 1894," she continues despite his lack of answer, head tilting to look upon the starry night's sky. "I travelled, saw all the different traditions the humans indulge in. Though China doesn't celebrate new year until later on, which I guess is a given, I wouldn't be happy is I was from the East and the West kept trying to impose dates and differences in our cultures on me..." she trails off thoughtfully, teeth running over her bottom lip.
Jasper has absolutely no idea what she is talking about.
While he may not believe her on the state of things upon the continent, it was becoming undeniable that she was in fact an ocean away. That she plans to come to America regardless of the 'state of things', the constant battles... Jasper cannot accept that someone would willingly wade into a war zone such as this if the world she lives in is one of peace.
It is the main hindrance, the one bit of proof he has against her proclamations of the lack of territory fights in England, France and whatever country she currently resides in. He has long since concluded she was rather naïve, he needs no more evidence of it, but it all keeps pilling up anyway.
"I guess I better get back to actually training," Lucy the Englishwoman murmurs, running a hand through her long hair, exhaling heavily as she does so. "It was nice talking to you again, Jasper. I wish you well until we meet up again."
She holds up her right hand, repeatedly opening and closing it.
Something in Jasper's mind pings and he just knows that the gesture is one meant to indicate a goodbye.
She's gone before he can really truly register it, register this memory from his human days that has slipped back into his brain. He hadn't been aware there was a chance of him recalling anything more than he already had.
He doesn't return to base until much, much later.
Lucy groans into the upturned earth, working her arms under her in order to rise.
It's a damn good thing she doesn't need to breathe anymore; she'd have been out of breath a long time ago if that were the case. Her lungs still work to pull in the air even though she no longer runs off of the oxygen. Why is that? What part of her has decided that she no longer needs oxygen? Why has the venom changed her body so that it no longer accepts that which all mammals need to survive?
Unless their body is incapable of drawing in oxygen from anything but the blood they ingest? It's a line of thought she really doesn't have enough time to consider right now.
Exhaling, Lucy pushes herself up, climbing out of the trough in the ground, the displacement of earth a direct result of Rodrigue throwing her into the dirt. Again.
Her Sire proclaims no real talent for fighting, but he's far more experienced than her and right now any kind of training is going to mean an improvement on her meagre skills.
Getting her feet back under her, Lucy rises into a loose stance, arms not quite tucked into her side but not extended before her either. Instead they rest somewhere between, the set of her shoulders coiled tight (a default she hasn't been able to correct herself of yet) and it takes Lucy a moment to relax them to the same loose state as her arms.
"Better, now tell me about Newborns."
"They always go for the throats first," Lucy recites, waiting patiently for the slightest movement, her eyes locked on Rodrigue's form for any indication he'll attack again. She's so tired of eating dirt. But she's too slow to react; no longer a Newborn, it means they're on even terms physically. It's Rodrigue's experience that keeps tripping her up.
Maybe if she ever gets to the point she can use her gift in battle she'll be able to get the upper hand. She can use her project to see from a different viewpoint, but even for a vampire brain that's something that takes some adjustment. Right now she's just trying to hunt with it, trying to keep her vision going through the project as well as her physical self, keeping her physical self moving while rooting her projected self to the spot or even having to move that at the same time… it's difficult. Really difficult. Her brain isn't quite sure what to do with two different sources of visual input but, she's adjusting. Just not quick enough.
"Show me a beheading hold."
Gritting her teeth, Lucy darts forwards, ducking under Rodrigue's swiping arm. While he may be stronger than she, Lucy's faster. It's just her lack of experience, the callowness that haunts her ever step that prevents her from getting a win.
Still, she manages to get her arm around Rodrigue's neck, one hand clamping down on his shoulder and this time she's ready for his attempts to buck her off, to slip free of her hold. She flows with the motions, brain whirling at a speed nothing in the physical world is yet capable of. Her entire body is a machine, engineered for survival, for optimal ability. As soon as she learns something, it is never forgotten, as soon as she realises a mistake, her brain registers it and it is not unintentionally made again.
She lets her grip slip slightly and Rodrigue capitalises upon that, swinging around to break free of her hold. But Lucy follows the motion, using his momentum against him in an attempt to relieve him of his head.
The sound is absolutely monstrous and even if Rodrigue hadn't flipped her from his back she wouldn't have been able to go through this anyway.
Not with him, not Rodrigue who saved her from being chained to a boring, lacklustre life.
"Never hesitate, Oiselle, that is more certain to kill you than any lack of skill." She wants to spit out that she's aware of that, wants to scream that she knows that, but he's right. If she removes Rodrigue's head it'll just as easily go back on, it's nothing permanently damaging. It's just difficult to keep that in mind when she's beginning the actual process of decapitation.
"I know, I'm aware, it's just..." Lucy trails off, giving a feeble shrug of her shoulders, once again sprawled out upon the dirt from where Rodrigue has thrown her down.
"I think perhaps I should bite you again, so you have an idea of the kind of pain you can expect in battle should others sink their teeth into you."
The very idea has Lucy's teeth grinding hard.
She has one scar imprinted upon her upper arm. It's Rodrigue's bite, the bite he'd taken of her flesh in order to facilitate her change. He'd managed to bite down far enough that he'd struck the deep vein hidden beneath her biceps; it'd made for a quick change. Right now, it is the only scar Lucy wants upon her body.
She wants to earn anything else, to have done battle with others of her kind.
She doesn't need a reprimanding bite from Rodrigue in the same way she hadn't needed caning from the father of this body. The latter had still happened regardless of her wishes, but she holds Rodrigue to a higher standard than she ever did that man.
Her Sire knows it too; his threat is an empty one. For all that they are vampires, for all that they see the humans as nothing more than a simple food source, for all that they are selfish beings... Rodrigue is kind to her.
She is his creation, such a thing should not be so surprising. But then she thinks upon Jasper Whitlock and his network of scars, of never-ending battles with no finishing line in sight.
There will be no D-Day for Jasper Whitlock, will be no sudden surge of improvement, no decisive battle...
What is D-Day?
Lucy feels as if that is something she should know, she has just used it in a thought, but when she reaches for the context behind it, it's grains of sand through fingers. Her mind isn't quite right, she isn't quite right, even now as a vampire.
But that is what caught Rodrigue's attention. He turned her, nurtured her, allowed her to grow into something more. There was no ulterior motive to her change other than 'what could she be, this woman who does not belong as a human, what could she become?'.
Not like Jasper Whitlock, who Lucy is sure was changed for the sole reason of fighting, of being a solider. Expendable.
So much has been put into her own existence while her American friend has fought for everything he is. Just like every other vampire in those wars.
It has Lucy frowning, running her teeth across her lip again and again.
She wants to experience it. More importantly though, she wants to survive the experience. If that means learning not to hesitate, learning not to flinch away at the thought of ripping Rodrigue's head from his shoulders... then that is what she shall do.
"I'm ready to go again," Lucy declares, forcing her legs to steady beneath her, for her arms to relax and ready.
Her Sire is silent as he looks upon her this time, his head tilting to a side. The French vampire is never normally one to hold back upon voicing what has caught his interest; Lucy finds herself a bit thrown off by his silence.
"You are so very strange, Oiselle. Vampires are stagnant creatures, we do not move, nor do we seek change. We stick to our standards until we are faced with destruction. Only then do we contemplate change. You, you do not. You question, you seek. You are still outside of the norm."
"Gee, thanks," Lucy murmurs even as her still heart flutters in her chest. She hadn't fit in as a human, even now she isn't quite right. Rodrigue says is as if this is a good thing though, as if he would not expect anything less of her.
"I have contacted the first I turned; he immigrated to Northern America some fifty years ago," Rodrigue murmurs, waving his hand dismissively, a slight frown crossing his face. "Theophilus is significantly more talented than I when it comes to fighting. With luck, he will agree to not only house you for a while, but to impart some of his own knowledge upon you are well, Oiselle."
"Does he not have a degrading nickname too?"
Rodrigue's lips twitch in amusement but he shifts back into a fighting stance and Lucy knows the time for conversation is over.
Weeks pass by, weeks filled with sparring, with recaps upon Newborns and discussions on all she sees during her explorations of Mexico.
Rodrigue talks tactics, what he would do were he fighting within the wars, if he lusted after territory to call his own. Lucy listens, as she likes to believe she is far from ignorant; not accepting the advice of a vampire decades and decades older than her would be a folly.
There is no spinning-head that comes about because there is too much information being poured in. If anything, her mind is as absorbent untreated cloth in a torrential downpour. It soaks in everything, logs it all for future reference.
As a human she had always been bright, the brightest of all her siblings both male and female, much to Mr Dosett's ire.
Now as a vampire, she is far superior to what she once was. She is so different than them.
Yet, she still ends upon attempting to blend into the crowd, dressed in a simple woman's walking suit she is just one of many in the crowd.
The trick is playing the shy maiden, the blushing virgin (though in all consideration one of those is in fact true), so that her eyes may dance upon the floor and not greet the humans'.
The shocking red that swims within her irises would do more than startle them, but if not for that Lucy had been unsure just how she was going to get to America without a bloodbath.
As is, she has chosen the biggest steamship she could find. Her control is good, she can remain within her quarters and as long as she doesn't find a reason breathe, maybe if she focuses all her hearing onto the projection of herself that she's about to send back to Mexico, she might make the journey without having to drain anyone.
She still picked the most populated boat she could just in case.
If needs be, she'll drain the biggest man she can find and throw him overboard. It wouldn't be so surprising if he fell overboard and drowned, as long as she picks one known to swim in his drink that is. The bigger than man the large volume of blood she will be able to drain.
Contingency plan mentally in place, Lucy settles herself upon the floor of her small, Rodrigue funded cabin, stripping herself swiftly of the walking suit. She hates it, but wearing one of her own loose dresses would only draw attention she cannot afford.
The burning in her throat was quenched just before she boarded the vessel, having drained six dock workers until she fully believed she would be able to consume no more.
She can do this.
She just needs to take her mind to Mexico instead.
The earth beneath her bared feet is dry, the heat oppressive. Why is it she is able to interact with these things but finds herself incapable breaking a fence, of poking another human or vampire while using her gift? It makes no sense whatsoever.
Lucy swings her head around to look upon Jasper Whitlock, startling a little bit to see the vampire by his side. They're clearly on some form of patrol and there's a spark of intelligence, of self-awareness to this other vampire. His eyes aren't glowing red; not a Newborn, though given how very defensive he is at the sight of her, it has not been long since he left that period of his life behind.
"Good evening, Jasper Whitlock," Lucy offers, dipping her head, well aware she's now just in the simple trousers and light-weight shirt she'd been wearing beneath the walking suit. Her eyes slide back to look upon Jasper's companion.
They share blond hair, though while Jasper's is that of sun-kissed honey, this other man finds his head topped with strands of soft moonlight, the shade beautifully light in the setting of the dying sun. Both Jasper and his companion are nestled within the long shade provided by one of the many houses that dot across the landscape; they must be close to the centre of the city today.
"Lucy, this is Peter. Peter, Miss Lucy."
"Lucy Dosett," Lucy finishes, belatedly realising she has never professed her full name to her fellow vampire.
"Good evening, Ma'am," Peter's Southern drawl sits heavy within his words, though the warmth that should accompany such a tone is missing. He's blatantly suspicious of her. Lucy's used to it by now.
For vampires, there is no gender inequality like the humans showcase. A female vampire is just as capable of ripping a head off as a male one.
"Good evening," Lucy murmurs, her eyes finding Jasper at the same time Peter's do.
"Is this the one Maria has marked?"
"Miss Dosett is not physically present, Peter," Jasper's reprimand is far sharper than what Lucy had expected of him. No wait, she hadn't expected him to reprimand the other vampire at all. Evidently neither had Peter from the slight widening of his red eyes.
Cocking her head to a side, Lucy considers the duo once again. It's clear that between them Jasper is... of a higher rank? Yes, that's perhaps the best way to describe it. They are fighting a war, after all. Peter defers to him, that much is evident.
The way he spoke about this 'Maria' seems to suggest she's of higher rank then both of them. Perhaps even at the very top of the power scale. But what does it mean to have been 'marked'? Does that make her a person of interest?
No, that can't be right... it's more sinister than that. They're at war, of course they're hardly going to trust someone who's loyalties they cannot be assured of. That's sad.
Jasper is her friend though, so she'll just continue to stick around. There's no harm to come of it for either of them.
"Ya didn't mention she was so pretty, Major," Peter notes, lips quirking up into a smile that fails to react his eyes. It's clear he's trying to reach for that humanity the monster buried, trying to drag it back up again, to prove he's not been broken or completely unmade.
It has Lucy smiling sadly, shoulders slumping. This war isn't just claiming the dead, it's claiming the few that walk away from the battles too. She'd like to say neither of these two are truly living, but then, is she?
Lucy's out chasing after whatever catches her interest, it just so happens she's formed the current goal of establishing herself as Jasper Whitlock's friend.
Jasper and Peter's current goal is to keep fighting the good fight.
Who is she to dictate that what they're doing is wrong? She can stand here and declare they look sad, that they look drained, but who's to say that the world outside of these wars would be better suited to them?
"All vampires are attractive, Peter."
That has Lucy shaking her head, returning to the current conversation, pushing the thoughts aside for later
"That's not true. The venom just amplifies what's already there. If you turned a really ugly human, they'd become standard looking. I think that unconsciously vampires go for the better-looking humans because they relate better to them," Lucy protests, flicking another glance towards the dying sun. It's almost completely beneath the horizon now, the last moribund rays slinking across the land back to their source.
The dull not-quite-question has Lucy flinching slightly, her restless eyes locking back on the two males who are only now edging out into dark street.
"I spend a lot of my time questioning things, it's just one of the answers that makes sense in my head."
Jasper and Peter both frown, almost in unison. It's easy to see they've been around each other for a while.
It's strange that in all the time she'd known him, these past few months that seem to have moved so much quicker than the rest of the years she's spent as a supposedly unchanging being, that this is the first time she has witnessed the possibility that Jasper Whitlock can in fact make friends.
That the little goal she's set herself is not an impossible undertaking.
"I'm not constantly plotting or fighting, I have time to just sit and think... I can see why some vampires just stop moving altogether, but at the same time, there's so much to explore, so many answers out there to find... I don't know why you can't see what's beyond your little world, Jasper Whitlock."
She's being terribly impolite, ignore Peter as she is, but Jasper is the one she feels comfortable speaking to, he is the familiar face here.
He's so determined to not see past his surroundings and Lucy's not sure why she wants to break those borders, why she wants to expand his horizons.
There's just something sitting in her stomach, heavy in the way that human food has become with her changed physiology, that insists Jasper Whitlock should not be fighting in the Southern Vampire Wars.
Not when there's a better world for him out there.
"So I guess until you learn to look out, I'll keep coming in."
Well I figured out where I'm taking Lucy's character at least. Or rather, I figured out her goal (which will hopefully start seeping through in the writing now. She's slowly starting to stumble across it with her questions, but we'll get to what it is later. There's one more chapter of this introductory arc left)
(I'm stuck on the next chapter of Marines currently, for anyone waiting on an update for that. I'm trying, promise)