lb_lee: A happy little brain with a bandage on it, surrounded by a circle and the words LB Lee. (#59428217)
[personal profile] lb_lee
A/N: So yeah, that geriatric vampires story I've been saying I'll write?  Slapped this out just to play around.  I had more fun than I planned.  The song that they sing is a rendition of the song, "Isn't it Grand," most popularly known for being performed by the Clancy Brothers, but I prefer the much more biting performances like the one linked here.


Rufus Vasilov was a surly, balding Russian apparently in his mid-forties, and he owned the most well known old blood bar in the county.  This was not because he was a brilliant barman, or because he was that old—he had only been turned in the late eighties, young by vampiric terms.  No, Vasilov had earned his respect because he was a third-generation member of the Russian Mafia who had managed to get out of the business (and the USSR) by staging his own death.  On recovering, Vasilov had taken his money and set up a bar in New Hampton.  He was hardly a sympathetic bartender, but his blood was good, his tables were clean, and any mouthy new bloods who came in posturing would be summarily kicked out by the man himself--usually with flamboyant style.

Once, an old blood who'd lived a century or two had taken umbrage that Vasilov, at a mere thirty years of vampirism, was considered his equal.  He had decided to take the matter up with Vasilov in the back room, only to discover that powers of seniority alone did not beat thirty years in the Russian Mafia and a sawed-off shotgun loaded with silver.  The other old bloods had held remarkably little sympathy for him.

As a result, even Carli knew about Vasilov's place, and so when her headache let up enough for her to think it through, she chose to go there.  The old bloods were an insular bunch, but they were the only ones who would know what to do about this.  At the very least, she hoped being around enough powerful old vampires in a closed space would help keep her headaches in check.

A few of the old bloods gave her a quick glance when she walked in, but most didn't look up from their conversations.  Despite the vampirism, they gave off an aura of age and power; it pressed against Carli's nose like dust in the air, and the pressure in her skull eased.

At first glance, Vasilov's didn't appear to be anything special.  Brightly lit and badly decorated with fake plants and pictures of Bela Lugosi.  Battered wooden table and chairs, a dartboard.  No radio, no TV, no jukebox, but there was a wooden stage where a couple people were bustling around, setting up microphones, so apparently an act would be starting soon.

Carli ordered a glass of drunkard's blood from Vasilov (he grunted and passed one over without looking at her) and found a stool that gave her a good view of the stage and let her look around at the other customers a little more closely.

Seeing them all in a group, she actually wasn't surprised that they were old.  Maybe some of them still looked nineteen or thirty, but most of the hairstyles she saw hadn't been fashionable in at least fifty years, and most of the clothes looked to be relics from a grandmother's attic.  Four vampires were clustered around a table, playing bridge, periodically throwing down their hands and bellowing at each other in a language that sounded suspiciously like Latin.  There was a general air of culture fatigue that the bar alleviated, with its tacky, outmoded decoration.

The conversation hushed and the lights around the stage turned on.  Carli looked up, and she saw two performers.

One was an overwhelmingly busty woman with freckles and hair in a long red braid down her back.  She appeared to be in her mid-twenties, but her clothes were fashionable enough, in a Ren Faire way, that Carli couldn't guess her actual age.  She stood front and center, and she was tuning a violin.  Behind her stood a mustachioed man who appeared to be in his late middle age and was dressed like a particularly gloomy undertaker.  He wore steel-rimmed spectacles, and his fashion taste appeared to be still from the forties.  He skulked in the background with an accordion, looking awkward and out of place.

The woman tapped the microphone. "You hear me all right, then?" she asked into it.  Her accent was Irish.

There was a general chorus of agreement.

"Ah good." She swept into a florid bow, gesturing at the man with the accordion. "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.  We're your players for tonight!"

There was a surprisingly enthusiastic cheer and applause, and the violinist straightened up, shaking her braid over her shoulder.  She beamed at the audience; the accordionist just kept standing grimly in the back.

"Of course, you lot know us already," she said with a wink, adjusting the microphone height. "So let's get right to it then, what shall we fine players perform for you tonight?"

There was a roar of requests, too many at once to make out, but they quickly resolved into a chant: "Grand Boys!  Grand Boys!"

"Tsk," She scolded, shouldering her violin. "You buggers are so predictable." She raised her voice and set bow to strings. "You heard them!  Grand boys!  Our public demands it!  One, two, three four!"

And the accordionist began to stomp a beat, the violinist put her bow to strings, and she sang with a clear voice and biting sarcasm, "Look at the coffin with golden handles—"

There was a roar of laughter.

"Isn't it grand, boys, to be bloody well dead?"

The crowd of somber old bloods shook the rafter with cheers, and they joined in on the chorus.

"Let's not have a sniffle; let's have a bloody cry, and always remember the longer you live—" She cupped her ear.

"The sooner you bloody well die!" Bellowed the audience.

"Damn right!" she cried, and slammed into the next verse: "Look at the mourners, bloody great hypocrites—"

Carli watched the old vampires shout the traditional wake song together, a caterwauling chorus of accents, very few of which were recognizably Irish or American, and laughed and clapped along until she had the chorus down.  The Irish violinist held their eye, bow sawing at her violin, voice loud, clear, and above all vicious.  The accordionist stomped and pumped his instrument gracelessly and had all the stage presence of an animatronic monkey, but he played well enough.  Over all, their enthusiasm was overpowering, and Carli let herself get swept into it, stomping and shouting along with the rest of the old bloods.  For the moment, at least, music and irony stretched across linguistic and age barriers.

The band pounded home the final lines barely audible over their audience, and then they were drowned out with cheers.  Carli stood with full intention of clapping her hands sore—and was suddenly overcome with a fit of dizziness.  She clutched her drink, fumbling for the bar behind her, then fell onto her barstool, a throbbing pressure behind her eyes.

No.  Not again.  Carli clutched her forehead and leaned over the bar top—the patrons were too busy applauding the band to notice, and Vasilov was nowhere in sight.  She took deep breaths, trying to fight down the sudden nausea.

Come, something in her mind pulsed in time to the throbbing. You must come.

Carli grit her teeth and hooked her ankles around the legs of her barstool to keep them from walking her out the door.

Come, repeated her mind, flat and tinny like a stuck record. You must come.  You must come, you must come must you comeyoucomemustcomeyoumustmustmust—

"Pardon me," said a quiet voice behind her.

Carli turned and saw it was the band's severe-looking accordion player.  The instrument was still strapped to his chest, and he was looking at her intently.

"Forgive me for interrupting you, madam," he said in a German accent, "but you seem to be in a bad way.  Is someone bothering you?"

Too overcome to speak, Carli only nodded.

"If I may—" he reached forward and touched a gloved finger to her forehead.

Carli felt a cool rush under her skull and gasped.  The mechanical chant in her head skipped, flickered, and vanished, along with the throbbing in her head.  Her legs stopped itching to move, and her body felt hers again.  She relaxed muscles she'd been unaware of clenching and let out a slow breath.

"Thank you," she said.

He waved it off. "It is no trouble," he said. "Mind-fogging is a… special interest of mine.  Are you all right?"

"I think so," she said, rolling her neck experimentally.  It popped.

The accordionist nodded, and held out his hand. "They call me Black Joseph.  I am sorry, but I had never seen you before—"

She shook his hand.  His handshake was firm. "Carli, and you haven't.  I was just turned last week."

His eyebrows nearly vanished below the brim of his black hat. "So new?  You are in an unlikely part of town, Miss Carli."

She winced. "The new blood bars don't suit me, and Vasilov's was the only other one I knew.  I saw you playing the accordion up there, you're pretty good—"

He shook his head, his smile not quite tugging his lips apart. "That is kind of you to say, madam, but I am a poor musician.  It is fine, it is for fun I do it, hmm?  The blood bars, they ask me to play because I know the songs, not because I am so good at them." He carefully unloaded the accordion from his chest, setting it down under the bar. "May I join you?"

"By all means," Carli said, waving to the stool next to her. "May I buy you a drink?"

He gave her a brief, surprised look. "I—I am a widower."

"And I'm dating; it's fine.  Just a thank you for clearing my head."

He chuckled. "I see.  In such case, I would gladly accept a drink."

Carli flagged down Vasilov, and Black Joseph ordered fish blood with wine.

"You're devout," Carli remarked, watching him sip it.

He glanced at her and spoke inquiringly in Yiddish.

"No, sorry.  I'm non-practicing—and my family was Sephardic besides."

"Oh, I beg your pardon."

"It's fine.  I assume that's about all you live on, then?"

"When I can," Black Joseph said. "These days, I have the luxury of being able to.  It is a good reminder." He wiped his lips with a handkerchief from his breast pocket. "What brings you to this bar of old men, Miss Carli?"

Carli resisted a smile. "Wondering why I'm on the outs with my sire?  You can ask; I owe you one."

"The question had crossed my mind," he admitted. "He seems… inexperienced."

"That's because he is; he hasn't been a vamp much longer than me, and he didn't turn me with my consent.  I've been trying to keep him out of my head."

"Ach." Black Joseph shook his head. "Intolerable.  To be a sire, it is a great responsibility.  I am sorry for your loss."

"So am I.  Luckily, he's not very good at it; his pushing hasn't worked yet."

"I am not old, by our standard," Black Joseph said, "and I am not the best mind-fogger here, but I am here often, and your sire is not subtle.  If you are having trouble keeping him out of your head, I may be able to help you."

"Thank you," Carli said. "I would appreciate that."

Black Joseph touched his hat brim and dipped his head. "What I saw of your mind seems a person I would like to know.  The honor is mine."

The violinist came up behind them, slapping Black Joseph on the shoulder, making him nearly drop his glass.  Her grin exposed her fangs.  There was a drink in her hand, and by the sound of her voice, it wasn't her first. "Good crowd tonight, eh?  I love Saturdays." She eyed Carli with appraising curiosity. "Baby vamp?  What you doing in this moldering dump?"

"Clara O'Sullivan, this is Carli," Black Joseph said with staunch dignity. "Carli, my front man."

"Call me O'Sullivan," said the violinist, taking Carli's hand and giving it a vigorous shake. "I'm his front man, he's my straight man.  He gets me the dignity and I get him the girls." She gave Black Joseph a wink and an elbow nudge; he looked uncomfortable and cleared his throat.

"You were good up there," Carli said.

O'Sullivan snorted and tugged over a stool to wedge between Carli and Black Joseph. "Ah, we were all right.  I could play grand boys in my sleep, that and 'Bela Lugosi's Dead.' Thousands years between us, you'd think they'd ask for something different…"

"Carli is having a little trouble with her sire," Black Joseph interrupted, giving O'Sullivan a significant look.

The jocular cheer vanished from O'Sullivan's face, replaced by a calculating look. "Is she now?" She turned to Carli, leaned in close and inhaled, then jerked back, fanning under her nose. "Phaugh!  No joke!  Smells like a git, that one." She crossed herself, spat, and plopped onto the stool. "I love the modern day, don't get me wrong. 'S fantastic.  But damned if I don't get sick of the punk kids who think siring's all fun and games."

"I don't think that is an entirely new phenomenon," Black Joseph said gently.

O'Sullivan winced.

Black Joseph nodded and went back to sipping his fish blood and wine.

"Did you have problems with your sire?" Carli asked.

"You could say that," O'Sullivan drawled. "Bloody cunt left me buried in a potato field for shits and grins.  Stayed down there for over a century till a deer died on top of me and I revived.  Bit of a chip on my shoulder—you won't see me saying sires are the be-all end-all." She threw back the rest of her drink.

"Don't suppose you have any advice on how to cut ties with one?" Carli asked.

O'Sullivan shrugged and rested her chin in one hand. "Only way I know is for them to die.  That's what happened with mine; she bit it during the Great War.  Didn't do me much good, of course—by that point, I was in deep sleep and nothing would wake me up except food.  But after that, there was no way for her to control me."

"I don't know if I could do that," Carli said dubiously.

O'Sullivan shrugged. "Only way I know.  You, Black Joseph?"

"I wouldn't know," he replied quietly. "My sire… was lost to me soon after I was turned."

He abruptly stood, lifted his accordion, and said, "I'll pack up the equipment."

"Thanks, you're a good man," O'Sullivan said, and watched him go with a sigh.

"Is he all right?" Carli asked.

"Poor sod," O'Sullivan said, clucking her tongue. "Seventy years, and he's yet to get over her.  Like Queen bloody Victoria, dressing in black, mourning forever.  He'll never stop grieving after her."

Carli watched Black Joseph unplug the microphones and put his accordion in its case, running his hands over the keys. "His sire?"

"Mm-hmm.  His wife too.  Turned him during the bad times in Germany—only way to keep them both fed.  He saw the Holocaust coming, transformed himself into a bat, and mailed himself here in a box.  She stayed in Germany, and he never saw her again." O'Sullivan cocked her head at Carli. "Depressing, ain't it?  Even by our standards."

Carli had to agree.

"So dreadful there's even a rhyme about it, did you know?  Apparently some of the vamp brats picked it up, sing it every once in a while." She cleared her throat and sang in her clear contralto, "Old Black Joseph, mourning Joseph, wayward have you been; twice through hell and just as well, you might go back again."

"That's horrible," Carli said with a shudder. "I don't know what to say."

"Just don't mention it; that's what I do.  At least I just slept, my century in a box.  Don't get me wrong, it was wretched waking up, but that's nothing compared to what he went through.  I keep him around; I worry about him sometimes."

"You do?"

Carli shuddered. "Honestly, I feel like I'm winning of the three of you.  All that happened to me was I get turned against my will, and I managed to get away from him and run home to New Hampton."

O'Sullivan nodded. "You kill anything on the way?"

"No.  I was too afraid; all the hunger went to getting away from him."

"Good on you then.  I'd say you did it right." She rested her elbows on the bar and gave Carli a grin. "Hey, I don't envy you.  But I'm glad that you made it through all right.  I swear, every decade that passes, the world becomes less of a pike up my arse.  It never fails to shock me how ungrateful the baby vamps can be—er, not you, you seem all right.  But Lord, some of them! 'Oh, identity!  Oh, sex!  Oh, crisis!'" She clasped her hands over her bosom, struck a pious look, then snorted and rolled her eyes. "I love that that's all there is to worry about these days.  It's fantastic."

Carli chuckled.  As though sensing a willing audience, O'Sullivan gave her a conspiratorial look, leaned in close, and waved a hand at the old bloods around them.

"You know what?  I see all these old fools buggering on about the Old Country, and I want to go, are you mad, man?  I wouldn't go back there, not for all the tea in China."

"Why do you stay in the old blood bars then?" Carli asked.

O'Sullivan ordered another drink and licked her lips. "Oh, I bother about them, but it's nostalgia, you know.  All we old farts get it.  I'd choose them over the new vamps any day—no offense to you, of course.  But most of 'em, I just want to spank!  They lounge about like being a vampire's all about dressing like in clothes that were gaudy in Paris in my day, acting like someone in an opera.  Please!  I'm coming on two hundred bloody fucking years old; I don't have time for all that.

"So I play my violin, sing the old songs nobody remembers anymore.  Makes the old farts happy, keeps me in blood for a bit.  It's not a bad gig.  I don't half mind it, to be honest." A drink slid down the bar to her hand. "Thanks, Vasilov, you rotten bartender."

Vasilov grunted at her, but it seemed to lack his usual animosity.  O'Sullivan gulped her blood, wiped her mouth on the back of her hand and turned back to Carli.

"So when I see sires like yours, using the blood just to fuck with people, it bothers me.  'Fraid I don't have any of the mind fogging myself; that's more Black Joseph's trade.  But I can at least try and buy you a bit of time until he comes up with something better." She dug through her pockets, then cursed. "Hell.  You don't happen to have a razor or a pocketknife on you, do you?"

"Why?" Carli asked dubiously.

O'Sullivan kept searching her pockets, as though she hoped a second search would be more fruitful. "Well, you're already sired.  Can't have two of 'em.  You know all us vamps have something we're good at.  Mine's always been hanging on when it's hard; 'bout all I can do, to be honest.  Comes from spending a century in a hunger coma underground.  You take some of my blood, it might help you hang on a bit.  Won't solve the problem, but it should give you a boost.  I might not have much power, but I sure have more than your sire's got."

"I don't take blood without testing first," Carli said. "No offense."

O'Sullivan blinked, then smacked herself in the forehead. "Right.  You lot have all those diseases these days.  I keep forgetting.  It's late, and I'm drunk.  The quick version, then." She beckoned to Carli. "C'mere.  See if I can't give you an energy loan; I've got buckets to spare tonight, and you look beat."

Carli blinked, but so far, O'Sullivan had seemed nothing but friendly, and she doubted the violinist would do anything Vasilov's clientele might disapprove of.  She moved forward and let O'Sullivan take her face in her hands.

"You have nice hair," O'Sullivan remarked, then leaned forward.  She took a deep breath, wrinkled her nose as though at an unpleasant odor, then frowned in concentration and exhaled.

Carli felt a not unpleasant humming in her bones, and O'Sullivan released her and slumped over the bar.

"Ugh.  Never was any good at that," she panted. "That wasn't much.  Enough for a day or two, at least, so you can do things besides fight your sire.  Black Joseph, I'm sure, will come up with something by then.  Here, give me your phone number; I'll give it to him, and he'll call you when he has a plan."

"Thank you," Carli said, rolling her shoulders.  The deep weariness she'd been carrying since being turned had lifted a little. "I appreciate it."

O'Sullivan grinned. "No problem.  If Black Joseph likes you, I like you.  Welcome to the geezers bar, Carli."

Date: 2011-04-11 01:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aubergine-pilot.livejournal.com
Remember how I told you I would read this until my copy fell apart?

No?

Okay I didn't actually put it like that, but. I WOULD, I TOTALLY WOULD, THIS IS EVEN MORE AWESOME THAN YOU MADE IT SOUND WHEN YOU WERE KICKING THE IDEA AROUND ON AIM.

Date: 2011-04-11 04:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hpcathrine.livejournal.com
More More! (Pretty please?)

Date: 2011-04-11 02:46 pm (UTC)
ext_413051: (Default)
From: [identity profile] taliabear.livejournal.com
^ What they said. <3

Date: 2011-04-11 09:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bleemoo.livejournal.com
Yes more please this was good very good.

I do have two minor notes:

The conversation hushed and the lights around the stage turned on.

Small point: do you mean that the conversation hushed before the lights turned on? Vampires can be psychic, so that makes some sense, but you may want either "the conversation hushed WHEN the lights around the stage turned on" or "the lights around the stage turned on and the conversation hushed."

and my family was Sephardi Jews

You want "and my family was Sephardic," or maybe "were Sephardi Jews" (unless you don't; it's a line of Carli's dialogue, if the mistake was hers and not yours, that's fine, although based on her other dialogue that doesn't seem true).

Date: 2011-04-12 06:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kathie-d.livejournal.com
Is Carli the vampire that you drew before? This story is awesome, I love the details that make the vampires seems more human, like kosher blood, or blood transmitted diseases. Genius.

Am a bit confused how she's singing and playing the violin though, does she have it on her lap or something?
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