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“Again?”

He knew why, and he knew it wasn’t a good idea to ask, but he couldn’t help expressing his discontent. If Max said something, it was law. That’s how things worked. That didn’t mean he couldn’t go kicking and screaming.

“David, I’ve explained this to you before,” Max started, pushing his fake lenses onto his nose with a huff and straightening out his jacket in a very ‘annoyed professional’ type of way. “Sometimes places just don’t work out. Sometimes we need to move around. What are our three priorities?”

David glared at him across the table. They were sitting down to dinner in what constantly felt like a mockery of real life. Between them was a plate of crackers with some cheese which was mostly for show. “Feed, thrive, survive,” David muttered. He rolled his eyes so hard he thought they were going to roll back into his skull.

“Feed, thrive, survive,” Max repeated with a curt nod. “That’s right. If we are drawing attention to ourselves, then we aren’t able to feed, which means we aren’t able to thrive, which means we aren’t able to survive. None of those things are happening here, obviously.” Max directed his attention to the plate and took a cracker which he broke in half but did not eat.

They had to feed. Feeding was all that mattered. Since he’d been turned nearly ten years before, feeding was all David thought about. He thought about it all night. He thought about it before during and after a meal. He even dreamt about it. There must have been a joke there somewhere. What do vampires dream of? Bleeding sheep?

Thriving was all about success. David was ninety-nine percent sure this wasn’t an ancient vampire law or anything...just Max’s personality. No use living like paupers. If they were going to infiltrate a town, they were going to own the town. Since they’d been in Maine, Max had secured a job overseeing a factory. The war had fucked them hard, like the rest of the world, but Max had somehow managed to help them come out nearly unscathed. Now, with the population decreasing, it was harder to keep business afloat, and Max was becoming disinterested in the opportunities in Portland.

Survival was most important, in David’s opinion. If you can’t live in a comfy house with lots of money and resources, who the fuck cares? As long as you’re alive. But Max thought that survival was dependent upon all these other, unnecessary factors. It wasn’t truly living if you were living on a street corner somewhere, picking off street walkers and hiding in the basement of a bombed out factory during the day.

David did have to admit that he was bored in Portland. He didn’t much feel like starting over somewhere else, but Max’s plan had never failed them before, and it wasn’t like he had much of a choice. Max saved his life, and was his sire...they were stuck together even if he wanted to leave.

“Where are we going?” The last few places had seemed random, but he was sure a lot of thought went into the moves. First Oregon, then Texas, now…

“New York.”

“New York?” That seemed random too, but at least it was a city and not a town in bumble-fuck nowhere.

“Just north of the city, I was thinking. There’s a few good businesses for sale up there that I heard about. I thought it would be easier to feed in a place that’s a little more densely populated, too.”

It seemed logical, of course, but it was almost word-for-word what had brought them to Portland. David shifted in his chair, eyeing the crackers, but having no desire to eat one. What the fuck was the point of having normal food around when it was just the two of them?

Practice. Max’s voice fogged his mind. We have to practice keeping up appearances . David snorted.

“What’s the point of being a vampire if we have to hide it all the time?” he asked, afraid to look up at the older man. He waited, instantly regretting opening his mouth, but when Max spoke, the answer was considerate and kind.

“The point is that we are alive, David,” he said in a soft but stern tone. “The point is that we might have to adhere to strict rules in order to live, but we are able to live, and that’s really what matters.” There was a pause, presumably to allow his words to hang in the air long enough to help David have some epiphany, then he continued. “I think part of the reason this is so difficult every time is because we are alone. You’ve never been a part of a tribe. You don’t know what it’s like to have comradery - other vampires to live with and relate to.”

This was true, of course. Max had, presumably, lived in a clan. A tribe. Whatever he wanted to call it. David hadn’t. Since he’d been turned, it’d only been the two of them. He sometimes wondered what it would be like to live in a big house with a bunch of vampires, running around doing ‘vampirey’ things together, but it didn’t interest him. He wasn’t a fan of other people and he liked the way things were. He and Max had an understanding.

When he’d been found, he was on the edge of death and living in the gutter in Pittsburgh. His mother had passed when he was young and his father had ditched him when the economy went to shit in the mid thirties. David had lived on the streets, unemployed, out of school, and sick with God only knew what. He’d have frozen to death if infection hadn’t gotten to him first.

David had blocked out most of his history from his memory. Max hadn’t shared much, but David knew he’d had children - two sons who had died a long time ago. He was happy to have a son again, albeit a makeshift, uncooperative one. David, in turn, was happy to have a parental figure again. As independent and stubborn as he’d always been, life was just too fucking hard to do without a parent.

“Did you like your tribe?” he asked as he fiddled with an unlit cigarette under the table. He didn’t want to seem too interested, even though he was. Max must have caught on, because he chuckled softly and David heard his chair slide out from the table.

“I haven’t run with a tribe in a long time,” he said as he scooped up the nearly untouched serving platter and retreated to the kitchen. “I liked them though. My sire was very old school. He was one of those guys you’d picture from old movies...he wore these elaborate black capes and strode around barking directions at all the younger vampires…” He chuckled again as he reminisced. David raised an eyebrow.

“He died a long time ago,” Max continued. “A lot of them did.” David thought he saw Max shrug in the other room and then a clatter of dishes hit the sink. “When the head vampire is killed, his children usually scatter. Nothing is there to keep them together. Unless it’s a particularly tight-knit group, they have no bond to each other.” Max looked a little puzzled by this, even though he was the one explaining. David wondered why, but didn’t ask. He watched the older man put a kettle of water on the stove.

“I always pictured what I’d do differently, if I had my own tribe,” he continued as he came back into the dining room and sat down again. “I think I’d want it to be more like a family. I wouldn’t want my children tied to me...I think it’s far more important for them to support each other.” He smiled at David. David didn’t return the favor.

“Are you going to make more children then?” he asked, cursing himself silently for asking a question that could possibly encourage the conversation. Max had never tried to turn anyone else, as far as he knew.

“Oh, no, I don’t think so,” he said with another smile. “Being a sire is a lot. If you do it properly, you have to be a mentor, you have to keep your bond strong...to sire a whole tribe would be interesting, but I don’t think I’m looking for that sort of power.”

David grunted in response and dropped his eyes down to the unlit cigarette that was being twirled between his fingers. At least Max wasn’t thinking of bringing strangers into their house.

“Would you like siblings, David?” Max asked. David was suddenly aware that he was being watched more closely than usual. Eager to hear his response then?

“No.”

He pushed himself up from his seat, tucking the cigarette behind his ear, and turned toward the foyer.

“Don’t come back too late,” Max called as David made a beeline for the door. “Sun comes up at 6:37 today!”