BVQA: Sooooo. . . . first off, I would like to say a HUGE thank-you to my AWESOME editor TheyCallMeChicky. While she may be a Nazi when it comes to grammar and spelling, that was EXACTLY what I needed! She saved this chapter from having some really, REALLY stupid errors, so remember that while you're reading!
Second, I have now read issues 5-8 of the actual comic, so I'm hoping my portrayal of the characters is going to get better.
I'm also pretty sure Ragamuffin cursed me for making him throw up in the prologue, because I spent a good chunk of my morning yesterday puking in my friend Aderpygirl3's sink (I'M STILL SORRY ABOUT THAT!). Little did Ragamuffin know, this just gives me a way to write his barfing scenes even more realistically!
Now, without further ado, here's chapter one of Lovesick! Enjoy!
Ragamuffin slipped inside Lenore's mansion as silently as he was able. As a vampire, he could eliminate noises that most humans weren't even aware of- the subtle thud of a heartbeat, the quiet whisper of breath- and years of practicing the art of stealth had made him light on his toes. He could creep up behind an unsuspecting human and bite them before they'd even considered the possibility of his presence. Even if it wasn't a skill he used very often (he far preferred tricking his prey with clever words), it was something he had to know for the simple reason of professional pride.
Ragamuffin cupped his hand over his mouth as the recent gagging fit he'd had threatened to come back all over again at just the thought of feeding. He shook it off and continued down the hallway, knowing that no one in the house could even begin to hear him coming.
. . .Of course, even with all his skill, any amount of stealth was irrelevant when the person he was trying to avoid the most was camped out in the middle of the hallway waiting for him.
"Ragamuffin! You're back!" Lenore cried happily, jumping off the ground where she'd been curled up and tackling him in a bear hug. Ragamuffin choked on his gasp of surprise, feeling his internal organs shift about half a foot inward at the sudden and intense pressure. It was at times like these when he could completely understand how many people Lenore had 'accidentally' killed. . . had he been human, her hugs would have been lethal. She really didn't understand her own strength. Besides, Lenore didn't really understand how fragile those still among the living were after spending so long as one of the undead. It was unfathomable to her that simple things like, say, getting your nose cut off with a kitchen knife or being whacked over the head with a giant wooden mallet could prove fatal. Sometimes she couldn't even tell the difference between the living and the dead! Despite all that, though, Lenore had strong morals and had, so far as he knew, never hurt anyone on purpose besides Mr. Gosh.
"Hi, Lenore." Ragamuffin managed, slipping his hands under her constricting arms and gently prying them loose. She beamed up at him with her mismatched eyes and a wide smile, a smile that suddenly dropped into a pout as he watched.
"Where were you?" She asked petulantly, eyes scanning his face for some clue as to where he'd been. She was probably just looking for any one of his little 'tells', but even so he found himself wondering if he'd missed some smear of blood when he was cleaning up. Soon her scrutiny became unbearable and he dropped his gaze under the guise of trying to avoid treading on her toes as he slipped past her down the hallway.
"Town." He answered simply, hoping she'd drop the subject. If anything, his monosyllabic answer intrigued her more.
"Doing what?" she let her now-empty hands drop to her waist, leaning forwards and rocking back on her heels. "You were gone for hours, and you know Taxidermy won't let me watch anything but 'educational' TV when he baby-sits."
Playing the guilt card was not going to work on Ragamuffin– he knew and she knew that she loved when Taxidermy swung by. Still, Ragamuffin saw his chance to change the subject and leapt for it with both hands outstretched.
"Speaking of which. . ." He turned slowly back on his heels to give his words more weight. "I see that you 'forgot' to mention to him that your bedtime is eight thirty, again, and now it's five in the morning." He crossed his arms and gave her his best I'm-waiting-for-an-explanation-and-it-better-be-good look. This time, it was Lenore's turn to drop her gaze.
"Um. . ." she said offhandedly. "I may have. . . forgotten. . . a little." She shifted her feet as if hoping they would distract him from what was obviously a lie.
"Bed," he said, and once again the single syllable answer made her bold enough to open her mouth to try to argue, so he followed it up with, "Now." To prevent any further dawdling, he scooped her up in his arms and began carrying her, kicking and screaming, down the hallway.
"Lemme down!" she giggled, slapping playfully at his arms, but he just tightened his grip around her knees and shoulders. Still, he had to suppress a small smile at her antics. She always seemed so full of energy, unlike most undead who shuffled through life as if they'd remained stuck in their coffins. On impulse, he spun in a smooth circle, swirling Lenore's pale blonde hair around her equally pale face as she continued to laugh. She stretched out her hands, seemingly attempting to grasp hold of the wind itself, and tossed her head back to better observe the rushing colors that made up the world. . .
. . .treating Ragamuffin to a completely unobstructed view of her slim neck. A stab of hunger shot through him, reminding him that he technically hadn't had anything to eat yet, and he quickly caught the back of her head with his hand and slid it upwards so that the delicate curve of her chin and her feathery hair once again obscured her tantalizing throat. At her questioning look, he mumbled something about not wanting to drop her and strode towards her bedroom. She continued to let her hands dangle beneath her and seemed to be trying to brush them against the thick red carpets that lined each long corridor. Ragamuffin could quite literally see his footprints behind him for about six steps before the springy padding puffed up and filled in the spaces once more.
Ragamuffin found Lenore's bedroom with ease, as spending time as a doll for so long had given him a chance to memorize every room in the big old house. Well, except for the back rooms. And the basement. He hadn't dared to go near those rooms in his vulnerable plush form, since there were things inside that growled at him when he got within fifty feet.
Ragamuffin pushed the bedroom door open, rolling Lenore over his shoulder with the other hand, and while she let out more of her adorable protests he tossed her onto the bed with a creaking of springs and a bounce as she landed. She sat up when she hit the blankets for a second time, hair in disarray and collar popped up to her ears, and stuck her little pink tongue out at him.
"Jerk!" she shouted. Ragamuffin just grinned.
"You know as well as I do that when you stay up too late you can't get up until noon the next day. When you can't find the energy to get to the library before it closes, don't come crying to me that you don't get to read the next issue of Johnny The Homicidal Maniac."
And with that, Ragamuffin shut the door on his exuberant housemate, sighing with relief that he hadn't had to tell her the real reason he'd been in town. Someone like her wouldn't be able to accept the vampiric code of morals. . . which pretty much boiled down to no morals at all. After centuries of rejection- his parents, his siblings, and generally everyone he came into contact with- he wasn't ready to loose the enigmatic dead girl who'd grown so close to him.
Ragamuffin began to walk as he thought, threading his way through the mansion in an almost unconscious motion. He could hear the gentle sound of turning pages coming from the sitting room, a tiny sound that only his acute hearing could pick up, and knew that it had to be Taxidermy. Sure enough, when Ragamuffin reached the drawing room, Taxidermy was perched in one of the overstuffed, ornate armchairs, halfway through a novel bigger than Ragamuffin and Lenore's heads. The vampire boy stood in the entryway for a few moments, shoving his hands deep in his pockets. He knew that even if Taxidermy seemed utterly unaware of his presence he had probably known he was coming since before Ragamuffin had even decided to come himself. Almost nothing was known about who- or even what- Taxidermy was, and while Ragamuffin didn't particularly care about his species (he picked friends for personality alone) it was sometimes irksome to be so aware and yet uneducated about Taxidermy's abilities.
Ragamuffin's train of thought derailed and crashed to a fiery, burning halt as Taxidermy slid a gilt-edged bookmark in between the pages of his book and gently closed it. He placed it on his lap and folded his hands on top of it, lifting his black eyes to look directly into Ragamuffin's red ones.
"You were gone for quite some time." He said in his smooth, cultured accent. Ragamuffin shifted uncomfortably, knowing he'd probably inconvenienced Taxidermy by being gone longer than planned.
"Yeah, sorry about that." He said. "Thanks for watching Lenore, though. I'm still scared she'll blow up the house with no one to watch her."
Taxidermy inclined his head in what was his version of a sarcastic smile. "You're only three years older than her, Ragamuffin, and three times as likely to get into trouble. Maybe I should start babysitting you as well."
Ragamuffin kept a straight face. "I'm probably older than you are. Maybe you need a babysitter."
Taxidermy, without any facial features besides his eyes, somehow managed to grin. "Four centuries is hardly old, especially when one reflects on the childish antics you and Lenore get up to." His invisible smile slipped slowly away and was replaced with his typical non-expression. "She kept asking where you were, you know."
Ragamuffin could feel the subtle sensation of Taxidermy probing for information, and he immediately lost his smirk and clammed up. Nuh uh. He was so not talking about this. "Yes, she mentioned." He said, avoiding Taxidermy's knowing gaze.
"I didn't tell her where you went." Taxidermy continued, his goosebump-inducing stare locked on Ragamuffin as he turned and flopped down into the armchair opposite Taxidermy, shoulders hooking over one armrest and legs thrown akimbo over the other.
"I didn't tell you where I went." Ragamuffin snapped, turning his head to glower at Taxidermy. His eyes had probably started glowing an angry shade of crimson, but Taxidermy didn't even flinch. Instead, he lifted his chin in an approximation of raised eyebrows.
"You were out feeding, weren't you?"
Busted, Ragamuffin thought as he glared fixedly at the wall, feeling his cheeks flush with anger and embarrassment. It hadn't been a question. Taxidermy rarely said anything about what he and Lenore did when he wasn't around, so coming from him this was almost a lecture.
"It's alright to admit it." Taxidermy told him, and Ragamuffin lifted his gaze to Taxidermy's for the smallest fraction of a second before dropping it again.
"I don't want to talk about it." He managed through gritted teeth.
"That's up to you, then." Taxidermy said simply. "It's your choice, and I can respect that. But you do know you can't keep lying to Lenore for very long. She's quite a bright young lady, and she'll find out eventually even if you don't tell her. Something makes me think that she'll be more upset that you didn't tell her than about. . . you know."
"Yeah, I do know." Ragamuffin growled, his tone sounding harsh and unnecessary even to him. "I've dealt with this before, so butt out!"
There was a moment of hurt silence, stretching out in Ragamuffin's head and giving him the time needed to regret his sharp words. Taxidermy was really just trying to help, and just because Ragamuffin loathed the words of advice didn't make them any less true. Just because he wanted to deny reality a place in his life, didn't mean that it was any more possible.
Ragamuffin's shoulders sagged and he looked up at Taxidermy, seeing the sting of his hasty insults reflected back at in Taxidermy's shining black eyes. Ragamuffin was suddenly struck by the sheer irony of the two of them. Taxidermy's fearsome visage could give Stephen King nightmares, seemingly nothing more than several creatures of Hell left to rot for years and then roughly stitched together backwards by a demonic three-year old. Yet he was the gentlest creature than Ragamuffin had yet to meet, certainly not someone who would rip out the throat of a teenage girl just because he was hungry or hurl abuse at someone who was just trying to help him. Ragamuffin, on the other hand, had been called 'handsome', 'hot', and even 'sexy' by his numerous victims, and look where they'd gotten by trusting him. It didn't really matter how attractive someone's face was when it was covered in blood and buried in your intestines.
I guess you really can't judge by appearances, Ragamuffin thought with a heavy sarcastic overtone. All that 'beauty is only skin deep' shit might just apply here.
Out loud he just sighed and, in the gentlest tone he could produce, muttered, "Sorry. That was uncalled for. Just because I'm about to wreck my life for the millionth time doesn't mean I should take it out on you."
Taxidermy stood, placing a hand on Ragamuffin's shoulder. "You're not about to wreck your life, Ragamuffin. Lenore already knows you're a vampire and she's fine with it. You're her friend. This won't ruin your friendship with her."
Ragamuffin just sighed again. Just because I'm her friend isn't going to help. He thought quietly. I'm not even sure she remembers that vampires drink blood, not after how long I've spent as a doll. Ragamuffin quickly blocked out that train of thought, instead standing up and hooking his thumbs into his pockets. "Whatever," he muttered. "I'll walk you to the door."
"There's no need." Taxidermy assured him. "I know the way. Been here often enough."
Ragamuffin nodded, then remembered an earlier question. "By the way, why didn't you send Lenore to bed earlier? She gets. . . weird. . . if she's up past ten."
Taxidermy replied with another one of his invisible smiles as he made his way to the door. "I did. Several times, in fact. After the fifth attempt she told me flat out that she wasn't going to be able to sleep until you got home, so I shouldn't even try to make her go to bed." Taxidermy managed to widen his nonexistent grin. "Make of that what you will. I'm going to go home now."
Then he was gone, before Ragamuffin got the chance to ask what the hell that was supposed to mean. He could, of course, always chase after Taxidermy and demand an explanation, but Ragamuffin knew that even if he got to the hallway even a second after Taxidermy that the strange individual would have vanished like smoke on the wind. With a heavy sigh, the teenage vampire admitted defeat and flopped facedown on the couch. He took a deep breath, acute vampire senses allowing him to pick up the thick, herbal scent mixed with the slightest bit of something darker that Lenore left behind her as she swept through the mansion. He crinkled his nose. It wasn't an unpleasant smell; rather, it was actually almost overwhelmingly nice as he breathed it in. The musty smell of slight decay was somehow appealing when mixed with that other fragrance that reminded him strongly of cinnamon and sage.
Ragamuffin closed his eyes, blocking out the outside world as he focused on the tantalizing aroma. As he did so the smell slowly became stronger, his senses becoming bathed in the amazing, amazing smell, so close he could almost reach out and touch it. . .
"Oh." He murmured, rolling over onto his back and opening his eyes. "Hi Lenore. What are you doing out of bed?"
Lenore looked quite adorable in her purple nightgown (which wasn't so unlike her regular outfit) and cap, hugging a pillow as big as she was tight across her chest and scrubbing sleepily at her eyes. Still, adorable or not, she was up past her bedtime and Ragamuffin was seriously considering chaining her to the bed so that she'd just freaking sleep already.
"Ragamuffin. . ." She murmured into her pillow. "I can't sleep without you there."
Ragamuffin sighed in equal parts annoyance and exhaustion. "You do realize I'm not a doll anymore, right?"
"Yeah, but. . . I'll get nightmares." Lenore's eyes widened slightly in fear. She really was terrified of those. Since the dreamcatcher thing had been a resounding failure, Lenore had taken to dragging Ragamuffin into her room at night to 'protect her' from the evil that was tainting her dreams. Mostly he just wound up snoring on her pillow while she hugged him to her with her slim little hands, but for some reason it worked and she hadn't had a nightmare since.
Still, he wasn't exactly sure it was going to work all that well this time around. "Lenore. . ." He began in his most reasonable tone of voice, "Vampires don't sleep at night, we sleep during the daytime."
"It's almost daytime, right?" At Ragamuffin's skeptical look, Lenore's eyes started to well up with tears. Ragamuffin winced. "Please? I'm. . . I'm scared, Ragamuffin."
Ragamuffin knew he'd lost. He couldn't stand to see Lenore cry, and it would just be ten times worse now that he knew it was his fault. He let out a groan and sat up. "Fine. Go grab your blanket. I didn't have anything else to do tonight anyway."
Lenore let out an overjoyed cry and gave him a hug– not one of her usual bone-crushing ones, but one that was gentle and full of thanks. It lasted only a few seconds before she danced down the hallway, presumably off to her bedroom to grab her blanket like Ragamuffin had asked her. He watched her go, wondering just what he was getting himself into, and resigning himself to a day of rest that would be fitful at best. At least she won't have nightmares, He thought. That alone would have made it impossible for him to sleep. Hearing her sit up in bed screaming after some night terror had attacked her was even worse than having a bad dream himself, and it would usually keep him up for hours after she'd slipped back into whatever world she entered when asleep.
When Lenore reentered the room, it was with a smile big enough to cover the continent and a black fluffy blanket big enough to drown in. Ragamuffin slid over to the end of the couch and Lenore curled up next to him, resting her head on his shoulder and snuggling into his chest with a huge yawn.
"Night, Raggy," she mumbled. He winced at the pet name, thinking about his far more ancient nickname of The Eternal Vampire Scourge. Somehow it had a bit more dignity to it.
"Please don't call me that," he murmured just as quietly as she had spoken, but Lenore was already asleep. He almost rolled his eyes but smiled slightly instead, pulling the blanket up to cover them both. She murmured something indecipherable as his arm brushed against her shoulders and he froze, not wanting to wake her. Lenore rolled over, jostling Ragamuffin's arm, and pulled her knees to her chest as she curled up even more. She turned her head slightly, fitting her cheek against the palm of his hand, and sighed happily before falling still again. She seemed to be having a good dream.
Ragamuffin, on the other hand, was not exactly in a comfortable position. His right arm was now trapped at an awkward angle, held in place by Lenore, and his left was stuck underneath her back where she'd rolled over onto it. He could feel the phantoms of pins and needles starting up in both hands and made a face. Apparently it didn't matter to his nerve endings that he didn't have circulation to cut off anymore, they were going to keep proceeding like he did.
Ragamuffin sighed- this time it was pure annoyance- and rested his chin on top of Lenore's head, catching a whiff of her scent as he did so. He took a deep breath, taking in the smell, before burying his face in her hair and letting it overwhelm him. Somehow it calmed him down and he quickly forgot all about his various aches and pains, closing his eyes and letting himself shut down. To his utter surprise, despite his protests about being nocturnal and no longer a child's plaything, he slipped in a deep, untroubled slumber within a few moments. There the two stayed, each held in the other's arms, for the few remaining hours of the night and well into the morning.
Ragamuffin smiled in his sleep and felt a warmth that ran much further than skin deep.