Under the Bright Lights

The war between Vampires and Lycans has ended, but an even deadlier threat has risen: Humanity. The world of immortals is a secret no longer, and terrified humans seek to exterminate the source of their fear. Vampires, Lycans, and other immortal species now hide themselves, struggle to survive, and fight back. Their future and their very existence are at stake.
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Monkey Kitty
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Re: Under the Bright Lights

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Isaac Fishblatt

Isaac was visibly relieved when Riff said that this Marek had never been part of the notorious European Coven. That had not been a contingency of Isaac's offer... but it helped. A Vampire who had never harmed Lycans would be an easier sell for the Pack than one who had hunted their kind, even if he had subsequently reformed. Perhaps this man wasn't really so different from them after all.

"You don't need to thank me, Riff," Isaac said. "No debts are owed."

His eyes drifted to the window again. His mind, though, was far away for a moment,

"I tried to get my family out of Germany," Isaac said softly. "Back during the War. The second World War, I mean - not the blood feud between immortals. We knew the danger, tried to escape - but there was nowhere to go. Nowhere that would take us. We were trapped there. It cost three of my family - and my sister's unborn child - their lives. There was nothing I could do back then. Now there is... for others. You don't need to thank me. If I didn't do this, the weight of the past would fall even harder on me."
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Quaxo9
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Re: Under the Bright Lights

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Riff

"Isaac, I am so sorry. I...I can imagine...I'm so sorry for your loss. That whole war was just so much bigger than any of us. I guess it is that extra burden for an Immortal to bear - being able to remember things that people have long forgotten about as those who were there pass away. I think it's pretty amazing that you can take something so horrible and use it to propel you to be generous even now that the war is over. Thank-you Isaac."

He wasn't sure what he could say to comfort the other man on the loss of his family members. How awful to know you were in danger and be completely unable to extricate yourself from the situation. Riff was all-too-well aware that he and his family had been among the lucky ones. They had lived in the country, caught wind of the war, and had escaped by walking over the border into the Netherlands, and from there to a safe haven in the United States. So many had not been lucky. Millions upon millions.

These thoughts he contemplated as he returned to the computer and went through the login sequence one more time. The first email, he sent to Asif to let him know that all were welcome, the Father included. He added veiled instructions for contacting the people who could help them get on board a plane as soon as possible. The next, he sent to his network in the region he suspected Asif might be in to alert them to the transfer and request a pilot and aircraft. Arrangements didn't need to be made outright - that's what the people on the ground were for.

He leaned back and stared at the now-blank screen, letting the full measure of the morning settle in. His friend Asif and his family were coming to Holywell. He needed to tell Maria - she'd be excited to have friends coming too - and he also realized that more than ever, he needed to find a job. If nothing else, so that he could be established somewhere and be able to help Asif find work too as he knew his friend wouldn't want to be idle.

Bouncing out of his seat, he ran to quietly inform Maria of the new developments, kissed her and Sofie goodbye, then dashed out to continue his job hunt. There had to be something out there. As he was leaving the library, though, he noticed some broken glass in the parking lot and stopped to pick up all the pieces and throw them away. Halfway down the sidewalk, a guy had gotten the wheel of his dual stroller stuck in a gap between the storm drain and the pavement and he was struggling to get it unstuck as twin girls squealed from within. Riff stopped and helped him pry the wheel out, the man cheering up his daughters while he did so - the three of them left smiling. The werewolf found a piece of scrap plywood and stuffed it into the gap to prevent future incidents.

As he was bent low, fixing the gap, a pick up truck pulled up close to where he was working. The engine sounded familiar and before Riff stood up, he knew that he'd find the old man from the gas station looking down at him when he did. The elderly gentleman put the vehicle in park, but left it running as he squinted at Riff. The lycan smiled and greeted the man, commenting on the day's weather for added insurance. He wasn't quite sure what the man was on about, but it was clear that he should expect some conversation.

"Seen you all over town. Fixin' stuff. Why you do all that?"

Riff blinked at him, surprised. He didn't realize that what he was doing was anything worthy of notice, nor did he see it as something he went out of his way to do. "I just like to help. I see something I can do - so I...help."

The man grunted, then nodded his head to the passenger side of the vehicle. "Well, get in. If you're keen on helping."

It took him a second to register the offer before he jerked his lanky frame into motion and hopped into the truck, springs squeaking under his seat as he did so. Clearly, there hadn't been a passenger in this vehicle for quite some time, though the patches of wear indicated that there had been a steady passenger for years of trips. He rolled down the window and stuck his arm out to rest his hand on the top of the window frame as the truck rolled out of town and onto the coastal highway. The salt in the air was somehow more noticeable out on the open road and Riff lifted his head to suck back the scent. Presently, they turned off the highway onto a dirt track that wound toward the coast - the trees seemed to stop abruptly after 100 meters and left him staring at nothing but boulders...and the light house. He'd seen it when they'd gone over to the new island by boat, but hadn't paid it much thought.

"So, you're the lighthouse keeper?"

A grunt was the reply, and Riff thought it was going to be the only one he got, but the man seemed to have decided that now was the time to speak.

"Yes, son, I'm the keeper. Been the keeper for 68 years. But I ain't getting any younger...and I know it's time to find someone to lend a hand around here."

It had looked like he was about to say more, but as he shut off the truck, so did he shut his mouth. He slowly slid out of the vehicle and tottered toward a straight-sided shed with a large lock on it. He shouted at Riff over his shoulder as he put the key in the lock, "Get them jerry cans out of the back, wouldja?"

Sure enough, the gas cans from last week were still in the back of the truck, sides bloated from sitting in the sun. Riff stooped to let the pressure off before moving them down onto the grass and from there to the open shed. Inside was a generator - a big one - he surmised that it was the emergency power for the safety portion of the lighthouse. No wonder the man had wanted good fresh gas. If a storm was big enough to knock the power out, the storm was probably big enough for there to be need of a functioning lighthouse.

Finishing up, he locked the shed, then went to the building itself - surmising correctly that the elderly gentleman had gone inside. There was a kettle on the stove, two tea cups out, and a box of biscuits. Clearly, the man was making the most of having some company out at his lonely spot. Riff helped himself to a chair and waited for the man to show up. The kettle boiled, he jumped up to shut it off and make the tea - bringing everything that was out to the small table by the window. Surprising even himself, he didn't take any biscuits without his host being present.

The man finally came in and seated himself heavily on the wooden chair, plopping a book on the table as he did so. It looked like a journal of some sort, Riff realized and he fixed his curious gaze on the man.

"I'm supposin' you noticed the new island."

Riff was a bit surprised at this opening statement, but nodded in assent. The man grunted as his eyebrows settled down over his eyes like they were planning on staying there for a goodly while.

"I saw you and the librarian heading over there - and that gal...whatsername...one o' the Fair Folk." He tapped on the book. "I knows that island wasn't there before, even though my old brain was trying to tell me it was. Dunno what's over there, but you all came back and seemed no worse for wear, so I suppose it's none of my business. Unless it's gonna mean more boat traffic. That's more work for me here, you know. Gotta keep an ear on the radio all the time, but more in the summer during tourist season. You know how it is."

Riff didn't, but nodded anyway. Perhaps he shouldn't be surprised that a man who'd lived here this long would have noticed things about the area that others wouldn't, but he was a bit surprised that he knew that Clare was Fae. He set an appraising eye on the man, wondering if he could be one of the Cold Iron Brotherhood, but he hadn't sensed any hatred or fear in his statement. It just...was. This was shaping up to be an interesting meeting...

"All this extra work and me getting too old to do much about it. I noticed you going around town, asking everybody and their dog for work. You got little family, don'tcha? Want to provide for them like a man should."

Riff's mouth was full of biscuit, but he nodded emphatically. Before he could swallow, the man simply nodded and continued on.

"And I saw you fixin' stuff and talking to strangers all over town real friendly like and I thought to myself 'Now here's a man who is community-minded.' Either that, or you've got some sorta agenda and want everyone to like you, but you don't strike me as the type to be good at hiding his intentions. I seen a lotta folk. You can't fool me. An' that's why I thought you might be able to help me out here. I'd like to take you on as an apprentice. I need to know that someone's taking the job that looks out for everyone already, so that this part of the job wouldn't be seen as a burden. And it can be a burden, make no mistake. But it's rewarding as hell. So, whaddya think, young feller? Want to be a career man?"

He could scarcely believe his ears and his face certainly relayed that information to his host. However, the following excitement and gratitude was equally shared. Riff's feet were practically dancing over the floor as he tried to decide whether he should stand to shake the man's hand or what was the most polite thing to do. The man managed a chuckle and stuck out his hand for Riff to grasp and shake.

"Oh yessir, thank-you so much - oh wow, this is a dream come true! I can't believe..."

"You're an apprentice, youngster - we'll have to see how you get on." The man interrupted, apparently concerned that Riff had mistaken his offer for something more contractual.

"Oh, for sure, sir. I understand. But I think...I think this could work out real good, Mister...uh..."

"Witman. Dan Witman."

"A pleasure sir, I'm Riff."

The introduction managed to wake one of Dan's eyebrows and it shrugged toward the side of his face like a walrus sitting up. Riff blushed and rubbed the back of his neck. Right. In this kind of job, his real name might be important. It'd been so long since he'd used it...

"Greig Hoffsteter, sir."

The eyebrow settled as he chuckled.

"Riff'll do just fine, son."
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Monkey Kitty
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Re: Under the Bright Lights

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At the Fishblatt Home

Gilda opened the door when she heard the knock, and was startled to find James standing there.

"Hello, James," she said. She smiled - but it was tentative, still nervous around him. "I'm afraid Isaac isn't here right now."

"I know," James replied. He could smell who was in the house; Isaac wasn't home. Everyone else was, though. James wouldn't have knocked if she'd been alone. He knew she wouldn't feel safe with him, and couldn't blame her. "I came to talk to you, actually."

Gilda looked surprised, and even more hesitant, but nodded. "Of course. Please come in."

James shoved his hands in his pockets. "I... had a favor to ask. I'm not always so great at taking care of myself. I don't cook. I don't really buy groceries. I just eat gas station food. Stuff I can microwave in my motel room. It gets kind of old. I want to do better at living like... well, a functional adult. Not some weirdo conspiracy theorist. So I was wondering. Could you. Uh. Teach me to cook?"

Gilda could not have been more surprised. But she recognized this for what it was - an attempt to improve his life, as he said, but also an olive branch.

"Of course, James," she said. "Come in the kitchen. I'll show you how to get started..."

***

"Did you hear?" Katie asked, bouncing a little as she flopped down on her sister's bed. "The new family that's coming has girls around your age! Isn't that fun? We'll have new friends."

"I don't know, Katie," Alice said doubtfully.

"Why not? I'm sure they're nice."

"I'm sure they are." Alice sighed. "But I don't think they're girls like us, Katie."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean they haven't lived like we have. They come from a nice family. They're educated. You heard what Gilda said - one of the girls is going to university for pre-med. I haven't even finished high school. Why would they want to be friends with people like us?"

Katie looked unconvinced. "They live with their aunt and uncle, not their parents. Something must have happened. Their lives can't be that great if they're orphans or something."

Alice shook her head.

Katie sighed with frustration at her sister's characteristic pessimism. "Just give it a try, okay?"

"Okay," Alice replied. Katie was still staring, and Alice rolled her eyes. "Okay. Fine, Katie. I promise."
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Quaxo9
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Re: Under the Bright Lights

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Riff

Dan had given him a ride back to town after he'd shown Riff around the property, wisely not giving the over-excited werewolf any important information for the duration. Riff thanked the man for the hundredth time before bouncing out of the truck and running into the library. It took him seconds to find Maria in the stacks and he made sure she saw him coming before he wrapped her up in a hug, practically twirling her around in the aisle.

"Oh gosh, Maria, you're not gonna believe this! There's this old guy with a truck that was at the gas station last week and anyway turns out he runs the lighthouse but he's like super old and stuff and he wants me to come be his apprentice and if I'm good at it then I'll be the new caretaker and I have a job, Maria! An awesome job with radios and lights and stuff! A real job and there's a couple bedrooms and a nice little kitchen that needs some cleaning up, but I'll be on that, but we're gonna have a place!"

The lycan was clearly beyond all help at this point - completely delirious from all the good news. His friend Asif and his whole family and Father Marek were coming to Hollywell and a real job? Almost too good to be true.
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Monkey Kitty
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Re: Under the Bright Lights

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Maria Yeats

Maria already knew. The news traveled faster than Riff, and by the time he got to the library, she'd already found out approximately fourth-hand from Sue McDermott.

That didn't matter, though. What mattered was hearing it from Riff. Seeing the hope and joy on his face - the relief, and the justified pride in himself.

She beamed at him and kissed him. "That's wonderful. Congratulations! I knew you would find something. This sounds perfect. You'll do an amazing job! And it could be a home for us. A home for a family."

Of course, they were a family already. Nothing more was needed. But a home just made it feel more secure. More permanent. Maybe she could stop worrying that someday she would wake up and it would all have disappeared.

"We should celebrate! How about we take Sofie for ice cream when I get off work, and give her the good news?"
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Quaxo9
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Re: Under the Bright Lights

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Riff

A home for a family. That was exactly what he had been wanting. And now, here...this time...he had a chance to make it happen. Riff grinned and held Maria a little closer, giving her another kiss.

"Absolutely we should celebrate! Ice cream sounds like a plan."

As they walked through the library, he expanded a bit on the plans for their home.

"It's not done done yet, but I think we're pretty solid. Dan still lives there and stuff, but he seems to have plans to move into town or something. But soon...soon we'll have a place of our own. It's gonna be great."
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Re: Under the Bright Lights

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Gilda and Isaac Fishblatt

"I hope I made the right choice," Isaac mused aloud.

They'd gone to bed, but they were both still awake - Gilda reading, and Isaac staring at the ceiling, lost in thought.

Gilda put a bookmark in her book and closed it. If Isaac was concerned enough to address her when she was reading, he was concerned enough to merit a considered response. They both took their books seriously. "About what?" she asked.

"Riff's friends. The Vampire, specifically."

"You did," Gilda said, looping an arm around him and resting her head on his shoulder. "They needed a place to go. You wouldn't have turned them away. That's not in your nature."

Isaac smiled a little at that. "True. I wouldn't have. And I wouldn't want to. It's just... a Vampire. That's new."

"Yes," Gilda agreed. "We seem to be adapting a lot these days, don't we? I think it's good for us. Good for the Pack. And you, Isaac - you're a good leader. You're brave, and you're generous. I'm proud of you. I know the Pack is proud of you too."

***

In the morning, Isaac joined Riff to meet their newcomers at the airport in Saint Mary. As their leader, it seemed only right to be there to greet and welcome the new arrivals to their Pack. It was quiet, with not many flights coming in at that time, and they had the whole place nearly to themselves.

The Zaidis weren't hard to recognize. Five Lycans - including a pregnant woman in a wheelchair and a kindergartener. A young Fae woman. And... the Vampire... looking a lot less threatening than Isaac had imagined. The priest seemed nervous. They all seemed nervous. Eager to see Riff, of course, but it was clear that the whole family was anxious about what the future would hold. Isaac recognized those expressions - they were the faces of people who had seen the worst immortal society had to offer, as well as the best, and weren't sure exactly what they were about to experience.

"Welcome to Fog Island, Pack brothers and sisters," Isaac said with a smile. He made sure his eye contact included the Vampire in the greeting.
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