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they breathed out pure carbon dioxide (and breathed in cigarette ash)

Chapter Text

“No thanks. I don’t drink.” The boy tapped his fingers along the bar, drumming along to the beat of the band in the corner of the run-down pub. The bartender looked momentarily confused. The boy had been sitting there for a few minutes, staring intently at a girl sitting down the bar from him, and people didn’t usually show up in bars to just look at girls they’ve never spoken to before, unless he was just making a serious misjudgement, and that this boy was showing up just to find a girl to walk out with.

“Stop eyeing that girl.”

The boy turned around on the barstool to address whoever was obviously trying to get his attention. He was faced with a middle-aged man with a cigarette between his lips, and an air of laziness about him, which seemed to irritate the boy further, as his eyes widened in what appeared to be distaste. He turned back to the bartender, snapping his fingers to get his attention, when he got it, he asked for a glass of bourbon. The bartender poured the boy's drink; he couldn’t help but be intrigued by this bizarre conversation which seemed to be about to properly unfold in front of him.

The boy locked eyes with the bartender, which immediately caused a funny feeling to wash over him, like those green eyes had frozen him in time. It was a strange feeling, like he’d suddenly been submerged in warm water, and his head had been stuffed with cotton. The green-eyed boy leaned forward a little, not allowing their eye contact to be broken, then he spoke, “your shift is over. It’s time for you to go home.”

He watched as the bartender walked into the back room, he kept the eye-contact for as long as he could, just to make sure it had worked. He was getting it back, he’d lost the ability for a few months. It was an intentional loss, he’d made himself forget how to do it, just out of sheer guilt.

“Of course, it’s Roman fucking Godfrey.”

The boy turned back around to give his attention back to the older man sitting a few seats over from him. He produced a crumpled up tissue from his pocket and held it to his nose, which had suddenly started bleeding. He shrugged, like he hadn’t a clue what could possibly be amiss about this whole situation. “Do you have a problem?” The boy called Roman asked; he sounded bored, as though there were a million other things he’d rather be doing, which there probably were.

The older man raised an eyebrow, he picked up his drink from the wooden top of the bar, got off his stool, and closed the space between him and Roman Godfrey. He sat right next to him. Roman wrinkled his nose, the man smelled like he hadn’t showered in a while, or had been doused in something foul. Roman looked over the man, he was dressed in a way that seemed familiar to Roman, and wore cheap-looking rings on a few of his fingers. This immediately made him distrust the man, he wasn’t sure why.

“I know what you want to do to that girl, and I advise that you go find Olivia, and tell her to keep a tighter leash on her son.” Roman scowled at the mention of Olivia, she was very obviously someone Roman didn’t enjoy being brought up. It wasn’t uncommon knowledge that Roman and Olivia had fallen out, because he’d suddenly picked up everything and moved into a modern style house on the edge of town, and Olivia hadn’t been seen since. It was a strange situation, but everyone in town knew Roman was a strange kid; the whole Godfrey family had something off about them.

“I’m not Olivia’s fucking dog,” Roman replied, making sure to get the message across to the older man that he was really starting to get pissed off by putting as much stress as he could on the word ‘fucking’. He took the tissue away from his nose, and wiped the remaining blood off his face.

“The hell you aren’t,” the man growled, clearly annoyed that Roman had decided to swear at him, and quite possibly more agitated by the influence of the alcohol he’d been drinking. “Now, your mother owes me. Do you think you could get the message to her?”

Roman shook his head. “No.” Him and Olivia weren’t speaking, and hadn’t been for a while, not since Roman had picked up his stuff and moved out of the Godfrey Manor. “Olivia’s not in town.” He leaned over the bar, and threw the bloody tissue onto the floor behind it, making sure none of the people working were looking his way when he did it. “What work did you do for her?” Roman asked, just out of sheer curiosity. Recent revelations about his mother led Roman to ask, because he finally knew what she was capable of, and he wanted to know what shit she’d dragged the Godfrey name through, because it was his name as well.

“Work?” The man asked. Roman immediately wanted to hit him, because everyone fucking knew what work was, and it wasn’t a difficult concept to grasp. “It’s only work if you’re paid for it.”

Roman grimaced at that. It was a weird thing to imply, especially to a kid you barely knew. The idea that his mother might’ve had sex with this man was horrifying, and the polar opposite of what Roman actually wanted to be thinking about. “Gross.”

The older man began rolling up one of his sleeves, which made Roman uncomfortable; partially because he’d rolled one sleeve over three times, and the other only twice, which added up to five, which was a number that wasn’t divisible by two, and because this man was undressing himself in front of him. His forearms were covered in lots of small, circular scars, like he’d been putting cigarettes out against his flesh, or had some mutant catfish suck on his arms, an idea that Roman couldn't help but be amused by.

Something about this situation told Roman he had to leave. He spun around on the barstool and stood up, his vision dipped out for a moment, and he had to steady himself against the bar. The older man got to his feet as well, he put his hands on Roman’s shoulders in an attempt to steady him. Roman shook him off, and took a few steps away from the bar. The older man was making Roman uneasy, the fact that he knew Olivia was enough to make him uncomfortable, but he’d put his hands on Roman’s shoulders, and that was enough to send him straight out of the pub. He usually didn’t mind people touching him, or getting into his space, but recent developments had Roman wanting to be as far away from people as he could.

The only streetlights in the area were out, there had been some sort of freak electrical accident that had fried the bulbs in this area. The Hemlock Grove council being the Hemlock Grove council were under the impression that if they ignored the issue for all of eternity, it would simply go away. Roman had parked his car around the back of the building, where there was a small parking lot, and a lot of abandoned cars. He liked that about Hemlock Grove, which was odd, since Roman hated any form of disorder, and the abandoned cars were a good sign that something was amiss, or not how things usually were. This particular parking lot was a good place to hide. He’d fucked Amber Caulfield in this parking lot, he’d fucked her in broad daylight, and not a single person had seen them. Seeing Amber at a high school reunion would be odd, considering they’d hooked up in a public parking lot for no reason, other than because Roman was lonely; and because Roman would look the same way he did on the day that he’d decided she was going to suck his dick in his car, but Amber would be going grey, maybe she’d have kids. It was fucked up that people around him would get older, and he wouldn’t.

“Godfrey!”

Roman stopped walking. He couldn’t turn around, because there was a crack where he wanted to put his foot down, and he couldn’t stand there. He took another two steps towards his car, and then awkwardly manoeuvred himself so that he was facing the person who’d called out for him. It was the man from the bar. Roman couldn’t make out his face, but he seemed pissed off, and was walking towards Roman at a deliberate fast pace. He was standing on the cracks in the patchy asphalt, which made Roman grimace.

“Just say the word, Godfrey, and I’ll do for you what I did for your mother!”

Roman frowned at that, because he didn’t have the faintest idea what his mother could’ve done to this man, aside from letting him feel her up, which Roman really wasn’t interested in. “I don’t know what your fucking arrangement with Olivia was,” Roman replied, trying to make his voice sound as clipped, and level as he could make it; only because if he sounded the least bit intrigued it would come down to telling this random man that he had a weird feeling that the ‘arrangement’ consisted of being jerked off.

The man took a few more steps towards Roman, who instinctively pulled away. He was beyond confused at this point, because the ‘arrangement’ definitely couldn’t have been sex, which was what he’d silently been hoping it was, as a simple answer of ‘I’m straight’ would be enough to get this man to piss off, and leave him alone. He had a sinking feeling he knew what this was really about. Roman had really thought Olivia was better at covering her bloodstained tracks than this.

He eyed Roman, eyes narrowed, and his mouth drawn into a tight-lipped line, like he was looking for something in him. He took another step towards Roman, who took an even bigger step backwards, having to awkwardly place his foot at an angle to keep from standing in a pothole. He shuffled to the side, and stepped around the hole in the asphalt. The hopscotch Roman would have to play to get himself over to his car was the only thing keeping him from bolting, that, and his curiosity.

“What did you do for my mother?” Roman asked, he was obviously still torn over getting into his car, and running this man into the ground, or hearing him out. But he was young, and desperate to know how his mother had managed to keep the body count low enough to not be caught. Roman regretted leaving home before he could’ve learned what in the fuck he was supposed to do now, because Olivia had clearly wanted to help him, in her own way, but Roman had rejected her for what she’d done to him, and for what he’d done to his own cousin.

The older man held out his arms again, showing off the scars all around his forearms, which caught the light from the moon; the skin was pulled so tight that it was reflective.

Just as Roman was about to ask what the scars were from, the man rolled up his sleeve further to reveal something that had every appearance of a black slug stuck to his arm. He grimaced, absolutely revolted at the large, slimy thing stuck to this random man’s arm. “What is that?” He asked, his voice raised slightly in alarm, which was unintentional, because Roman didn’t want to give off the impression that he was at all unnerved by this. “Who are you?”

“Odin,” he said, raising his eyes from the thing on his arm, to Roman, taking obvious care to avoid eye contact. Roman took this as a sign that he was lying about his name. The man peeled the black slug off his arm, he held it between his thumb and forefinger. Roman saw a little hole in Odin’s arm, almost in the crook of his elbow. He saw the blood dripping from the open sore, he turned away before he could be reminded how hungry he was.

“Fucking leeches…” It had clicked in Roman’s brain. All the pieces of the weird puzzle that this man, who called himself ‘Odin’, had thrown at Roman’s feet and demanded that he put together seemed to have fallen into place. “You farmed leeches for my mother,” Roman said, repulsed by the thought that eating the disgusting black creature would do him any good.

He turned back to Odin, who was holding the leech close to his face, like he was admiring it. The air was thick with the metallic smell of blood, which was dripping onto the asphalt, from the sore on Odin’s arm. Roman felt sick. His hands were shaking, and the only thing distracting him from the feeling that his stomach was caving in on itself was the sound of Odin’s heartbeat. He had a sinking feeling that once he was alone, he’d get down onto his hands and knees and lick the blood from the ground, if he didn’t kill Odin first.

Roman regarded the triumphant smirk Odin seemed to be wearing, he wanted to hit him, wipe that stupid look right off his face. He wanted to tell him to go walk in front of a train, or to suck his own dick bloody, and he wanted to know Odin would do it. Roman knew he could make anyone do whatever he wanted. But that wasn’t what he wanted. He took a step closer to Odin, one of his feet dragged on the ground, like he was a zombie in one of the old horror movies that him and Shelley used to watch. Roman’s eyes were unfocused, and he had this vacant look about him; he wasn’t there anymore. Roman Godfrey was gone.

“How much?” Roman asked, impatiently waving one of his hands, an obvious show of desperation. He was still zoned-out, his brain was on auto-pilot. “How much do you want for the leech shit?”

Odin shrugged, careful not to disturb the leech he was holding. “Depends. Small crop is $2000, large is $5000.” He said it with the air of a businessman striking up a fairly normal deal, not like someone who was willing to sell his blood to sustain immortal teenagers, and their strange diet requirements. “First, you need to show me what you’ve got.”

“What?” Roman asked. The vacant look was quickly replaced with one of confusion; anyone who didn’t know Roman had more money than he knew what to do with, in his opinion, was an idiot, and that seemed like what Odin was talking about. “The only thing I know I have is the chance of getting Malaria from your diseased ass.”

Odin extended his hand to Roman, the leech wriggling between his thumb and index finger. “I need to see your teeth, Godfrey.”

“Is this prostitution?” Roman shot back, “using my ‘talents’ for personal gain?”

Odin drew his arm back. He didn’t need to say anything, Roman got the message. He was to reveal his true nature to one more person, or go hungry. He knew this would be the only offer he’d get, the only way to be what he was without hurting anyone. Roman was fucking tired of hurting people.

He took his phone out of his pocket and angled it so that he could see his reflection on the blank screen, there was barely enough light to make out his features. He began muttering under his breath, stopping for moments at a time to change the angle he was holding his phone at. Roman pinched the bridge of his nose, then he put his phone in his blazer’s pocket, and used his other hand to try to stop the flow of blood from his nose. There was absolutely no way to do this without it being painfully awkward, and weird for everyone involved, mostly on account of Roman having no clue how to go about this.

“Fucking fine.” Roman pulled back his lips, his teeth were smeared with blood, which wasn’t something that didn’t happen often, but he knew he wasn’t dying, or anything, he’d just forced himself into doing something he didn’t need to do.

Odin closed the gap between himself and Roman, who didn’t pull away. He stood his ground, trying not to let this man get to him, which proved to be a difficult task, since he could barely comprehend what was going on, let alone who this ‘Odin’ character really was. Odin leaned in, he had to stand on his toes to be level with Roman’s eyes. He examined his face, which was enough to make any person uncomfortable, but Roman was about ready to move to another town.

He finally pulled away when Odin reached out to touch the little scar on his cheek. His fingers caught Roman’s jaw before dropping back to his side.

Odin held out his other hand, the leech still wriggling between his thumb and forefinger. “Take it.” He flicked his wrist as a clear way of encouraging Roman.

Roman didn’t have a handle on any of the supernatural shit he could do; it was all relatively new to him, and he was trying to figure it out on his own. All he knew was that he was so goddamn fucking hungry all the time, and that he was starving to the point where he could barely see straight. He reached out and took the leech from Odin’s hand.

“I just eat this?” Roman grimaced at the little creature writhing about on the palm of his hand, trying to find somewhere to latch on. He could barely string a comprehensible sentence together, and his tongue caught awkwardly on his canine teeth, which had been the subject of Odin’s interest, since the people Odin clearly dealt with all had the same characteristic: fangs.

“You could take up staring at it. Hemlock Grove needs more tourist attractions, and you make a right good one. People would pay to see a young upir, such as yourself, standing around with everything on display.”

Roman swallowed whatever was left of his pride and put the leech in his mouth. He bit into it, blood spilled onto his tongue, he could smell the metallic tang of it, he could hear Odin’s heartbeat in his chest. Adrenaline sharpened his senses, but filled his head with jittery, scrambled thoughts. He was hungry. Roman licked the blood off his fingers. He found himself looking down at Odin, his shaking hands pulling at the man’s sleeves, his eyes scanned every inch of bare flesh he was exposing, looking for another leech. He pulled the fabric of one of Odin’s sleeves, tearing it up the seam, he saw another black smear against his skin, and another, and another. Roman pulled them all off, and swallowed them whole.

He hated himself for it.

There was a moment where Roman realised what he was doing, and that he’d lost all control over himself, which, to him, was unacceptable. He always did bad things when he didn’t have complete control, and he always had. For as long as Roman could remember, he’d been very much in control of himself. When he was around eight, he realised he could control those around him, like they were his little puppets. The power had scared him at first, but then it began to fit into his routine more and more, which made him feel more comfortable using it. Roman knew now that all of that was part of this bigger part of his nature, which he was definitely very afraid of. He blinked, finding himself back in the parking lot. Roman backed away from Odin, who looked satisfied with what Roman had just done. He’d proved that he needed Odin’s services, and that he would pay any amount of money to use them as he required.

 

-   -   -   -   -

 

From across the street, a girl stepped out of a convenience store. She had a plastic bag in one hand, and the other was holding a shred of fabric to her nose. She was filthy, her clothes were torn, she only had one sneaker on, and she appeared to by hysterically crying; her dirt-streaked face made the tears on her cheeks stand out more.

She ran out onto the road, not bothering to look to see if there were any cars coming in her direction. She was in the middle of the street when she saw the red Jaguar pull out from behind a building. The driver was a boy, who looked to be in his late teens, or early twenties. Roman. He was the only one with a car like that, which made him all the more recognisable. Roman Godfrey locked eyes with the girl, and just for a moment, a flicker of recognition lit up his green eyes.

The girl took the rag away from her nose, which was red from the cold, and the pressure she’d been putting on it, as a sort of encouragement to get it to stop bleeding. She looked at Roman Godfrey with an expression of longing on her face. She wanted him so desperately to recognise her.

But not even Roman Godfrey was crazy enough to stop his car for a dead girl.

Chapter Text

Peter stayed in Canada, he had family there, and Lynda had initially insisted that they put a border between them, and Roman Godfrey. The Rumancek family was welcoming to the pair, even though Peter and Lynda had been nothing more than marks on their family tree. He barely knew these people, they were too grounded in one spot, the foundations of their house were concrete, and the people who lived there seemed to have managed to seep into every pore of the house, making it feel like they'd lived there for hundreds of years. It made him feel more trapped than he did when he was in Hemlock Grove, even though the town had only felt like a prison for a mere twenty-four hours, but that was too long for Peter Rumancek to be locked in a cage.

Peter thought about Letha Godfrey. He always thought about Letha. The pretty blonde girl, who could've possibly been completely fucking insane. Peter also thought about Roman Godfrey, who was frost cut with razor blades, twenty dollar bills rolled into tubes, with sticks of dynamite strapped to his feet, the timer counting down until he turned eighteen, waiting to blow him straight to hell. Peter had missed Roman's birthday. He'd left town a week before. Destiny had warned him that anyone close to Roman would share in the consequence of whatever he chose to do, but that wasn't why Peter had decided to run.

They’d stayed there for two weeks, but the small town in Ontario reminded Peter too much of Hemlock Grove, so they'd spent another ten days travelling as far west as they could go, without buying plane tickets.

They found themselves at the southernmost end of California. Lynda talked her way into the house of an old friend, telling a story that ended in vaguely the same way as theirs had, with the trailer being trashed, and the town using that to cope with what had happened there. Peter found himself thrown back into high school, which was exactly where he didn't want to be. He got two detentions in the first week, and had earned to the credit to graduate after a month. Instead of showing up to the ceremony, Peter walked the length of a beach, digging his feet into the sand, occasionally veering into the water, letting it lap up his shins. He stayed there until it Lynda called him, asking him to come home.

But Peter couldn't go home, not when Roman Godfrey was in Hemlock Grove, and Letha Godfrey was six feet under the ground.

His family had always said that 'home' wasn't the plot of land you were squatting on, it was the people, and Peter had found a home in the people back in Pennsylvania; he was getting homesick.

Nicolae had always said that you could always find your way back, and that setting down roots didn’t break any rules, but Peter was still scared of being stuck in one place for too long, not when there was so much of the world he hadn’t seen. Peter wanted to walk through the geothermal plains of Greenland, stride around on the pavements, letting the natural heat from under them pull the cold from his bones, he wanted to run his fingers through the sand in Hawaii, lounging on a beach, tracing patterns in the white sand. He wanted to see everything he could, because what was the point of having this planet, if you couldn’t enjoy everything it had to offer? Spend a month here, and another month there, slowly collecting experiences until he had a story that Christina Wendall would want to dig her fingers into. Peter didn’t doubt she could’ve spun it into something beautiful, no matter how horrific it turned out to be.

Somehow, Peter couldn’t imagine the boardwalks in the Maldives, or the outback of Australia, without Roman Godfrey standing there with him, a cigarette hanging from between his lips, and an amused look on his face. Sometimes Letha was there, sometimes she wasn’t. They weren’t ruining his fantasies, not really, they were just reminding him of what he’d given up.

California still had the shadow of the White Tower, and the Godfrey name thrown over it. Peter couldn’t walk into a general store without seeing a box of something with ‘GODFREY’ plastered across it in massive letters, which some graphic designer had been paid an absurd amount of money to do. He’d seen Roman’s face on the front of magazines, at first they were articles about Shelley, with the cover photo being a photo of her and Roman, smiling at the camera, but then they abruptly changed to Olivia Godfrey’s mysterious death, and how that made Roman the head of Godfrey Industries. Peter barely recognised him, at first; he’d never seen Roman look so cold, like his very skin was ice. Peter also noticed how Roman’s eyes had been photoshopped, they looked like they’d been stripped of colour, and then touched up again, to make them appear more impossibly green.

As the months in California passed, Peter found himself less and less inclined to avoid his phone, which got almost daily texts from Roman. Most of them just asked Peter where he’d gone, in various forms of shorthand, and abbreviations; the more disturbing messages consisted of angry, resentful ranting, with Roman throwing all of his frustrations at Peter. He almost felt bad for leaving. You weren’t supposed to do that to your friends.

In all honesty, Peter would’ve taken Roman with him, if Destiny hadn’t been so against it, she’d swayed Lynda into thinking that Roman would inevitably ‘go all the way’, and very suddenly be something the Rumanceks didn’t know how to deal with. Peter had always known that Roman was going down that path, and he regretted not trying to stop him, or at the very least give him another option. Peter knew he owed him that much, since Roman had insisted that they find another way around the ritual Peter had to do in order to stop the vargulf; he knew how much Roman loathed being alone, and how Peter’s failure would lead to nothing else. They had both been so goddamn selfish.

It had taken Peter an additional month to save up for the plane ticket back to Pennsylvania. He’d got himself a job working at a vet clinic, just cleaning up at the end of each day. Lynda came to pick him up early before the full moon; the pair of them dismissed the comments about how feverish Peter had looked, and offered him the next day off.

The staff there thought it was almost humourous how this roughed-up looking kid had such a soft spot for cats; they’d discovered this when Peter had taken a five minute break from mopping floors to hide in the cat ward. Usually taking the animals out of their cages was something people were fired over, but the nurse who’d walked in and seen Peter sitting cross-legged on the floor, flicking a little toy back and forth, while a rescued kitten chased after it, couldn’t bring herself to report him. They swore they’d never seen a teenage boy look more happy. Peter had replied by saying they clearly hadn’t hired many teenage boys.

He handed in his notice after a month of working there. They knew Peter wouldn’t be around for long, but he’d said he had a younger cousin who’d take up the job, so they’d hired him.

Peter was sitting in the waiting room, his scuffed up boots propped up on a wooden rocking horse, his head tipped back, so he was staring at the ceiling, just waiting for Lynda to come pick him up. The room was all decorated in tones of blue, with the occasional violent burst of orange, the receptionist had said it was ‘seventies’, Peter had shot back that it was ‘just painful’. In all honesty, it worked, in its own weird way.

He felt his phone buzz in his pocket. It could only be one of two people: Lynda, or Roman. Peter knew how to check, he sat upright, and looked over his shoulder; the car park outside was dark, and empty of Lynda’s rusted up station wagon, which meant it was Roman.

Lynda always texted Peter when she was outside, giving him the heads-up that his ride back to the house was ready. Once she’d run out of credit, and she’d waited outside for ten minutes, not wanting to intrude on her son’s new job, Peter had told her it was okay to come in, but she said she’d much rather get herself a top-up from a gas station, and text Peter from outside. He was apparently an adult, and adults don’t have their parents pick them up from their shitty part-time jobs. His phone buzzed again.

Peter took out his phone. The power button was almost jammed, so he had to squeeze the bottom of his phone, along with pressing down on the button as hard as he could, just to get it to turn on.

Roman Godfrey
come back 7:39PM
i need you 7:40PM

Chapter Text

peter rumancek
All in good time. 7:45PM

Roman really didn’t expect a text back, he’d been texting Peter almost every single day since he’d left, and hadn’t got a single indication that Peter had even opened the messages. At one point, the possibility of ever getting a reply was completely out the window, and Roman had started using his text thread with Peter as a place to vent about whatever was eating away at him. Of course, he never mentioned the baby, or killing Olivia; Peter couldn’t know those things, he just wouldn’t understand. A degree of the secrecy was Roman not being able to see himself that way, to him, it was all too new, and far too fucked up for him to begin to understand.

He wasn’t sure if he was supposed to be angry with Peter, or to just let the whole thing go. Roman knew there was absolutely no sense in pinning everything that went wrong on Peter, since none of it had been his fault, technically. Peter had clearly just wanted to get away from all the death, which Roman didn’t blame him for, since he’d tried so hard to run, just not in the same way Peter did. His friend saw the road, and Roman saw his pocket razor, and that, it seemed, was that.

“Roman.”

He flicked his eyes up from his phone, just to see his uncle giving him a disapproving look from across the glass coffee table. Roman pressed the power button, and stuffed his phone back into his pocket. He returned his uncle’s look, trying to put double the amount of exasperation showing on Norman’s face into it.

This was somewhat of an intervention that Norman Godfrey had staged, mostly on account of Roman’s strange behaviour, and the state he’d left the Godfrey manor in. He’d barely cleaned out the attic, leaving streaks of his blood on the walls, and the candles had been kicked all over the room, in a pitiful attempt to burn the house to the ground. At one point, he’d taken the battle-axe to the crib in the middle of the room, hacking it to pieces until it was nothing but a pile of kindling on the polished floor.

“Am I not allowed to check my phone?” Roman asked, letting his uncle hear how completely done he was with him, especially after he’d walked into his office, notebook and pen in hand, ready to solve all of Roman’s problems just by talking them out.

Norman sighed, it was clear that he was about done with Roman’s insistence on not cooperating. “I’m trying to help you, Roman,” Norman said, sounding hollow, and tired. It made Roman want to pour all of the water from the vase perched on the coffee table onto his uncle’s head.

“And showing up in my office, while I’m trying to work, and giving me free therapy that I never f-” Roman hesitated, he didn’t want to lose his temper, and then take it out on his uncle, who, like he’d said, was just trying to help. “I didn’t ask for you to come and give me free therapy sessions. I don’t think it’ll help me. Besides, you’re not allowed to be my therapist. Conflict of interest.” Roman shrugged, letting the corner of his mouth twitch up into a smirk, he flicked his eyebrows up, like he was saying ‘I won’.

Norman ran one of his hands over the open notebook on his lap, smoothing down the pages, which were completely blank, aside from Roman’s name in the top right corner of one, unevenly underlined in green pen. He’d clearly planned on taking notes throughout their conversation, just to document all of Roman’s solvable problems, and work towards the rest. Norman hooked one of his fingers under the cover of the notebook, and flicked it shut, sliding the pen into the elastic binder.

Roman figured that Norman was going to get up and leave, so Roman could get up from the little sitting area in the corner of his office, and get back to doing something he actually wanted to do, or furthering his career. But as usual, nothing was just that easy, and Norman stayed put, his gesture clearly being just to show that he wasn’t going to give Roman any counselling.

Roman didn’t say anything. He didn’t want to be a self-centred little prick and kick his uncle out of his office, especially when he was the only family that Roman had left. The only person related to him by blood, that Roman knew for sure was still alive, he didn’t want to throw that person away.

“I’m not the bad guy, here, Roman.” Norman inhaled sharply, leaning forward to put the notebook on the table between them, further showing Roman that he could be trusted, or that he wasn’t here to be his therapist.

“You’ve just been sleeping with her for the last twenty years,” Roman replied coolly.

Norman looked like he’d been slapped in the face. It wasn’t a secret that him and Olivia had been together for a long time, even since before Roman, and Letha had been born. Obviously the pair of them hadn’t intended for the rest of their family to find out, but Letha had suspicions, and her and Roman had decided to properly figure it out. Letha bet Roman fifteen dollars he couldn’t get Norman to confess, he was fourteen, and all he needed to do was make eye contact, and ask his uncle to tell the truth. Letha had been listening at the door, Roman had refused to let her see him use his little mind trick on her father. He’d left Letha’s house with fifteen dollars tucked into his pocket, right alongside his Nintendo.

“She loves you, in her own way.”

“Loved,” Roman corrected him, not bothering to fake empathy to take the sting off his words. Norman loved Olivia, and here he was, talking about her like she was dead. Roman didn’t know how he did it; maybe it was a therapist thing, that after years of having to listen to other people talk about how they had to iron their fingers because they ate a fucking granola bar, Norman might’ve ended up numb to his own suffering. “She loved me.”

Roman and Olivia had always had a complicated relationship. Ever since Roman was old enough to realise his mother was hiding something from him, and from Shelley, they’d been at unrepairable odds. Norman had once suggested that they both attend sessions to work that out, but Roman had, in his usual fashion, shut down the idea before it had even left the ground, saying he wouldn’t attend another goddamn therapy session until he was hip-deep in regret about building a porn empire, and becoming a billionaire sex icon.

“Last I checked, she was dead.” Roman could barely contain the fact that he wasn’t too upset over that fact, his lips almost quirked up into a smile, and his tone was too light to be saying the things he was saying. “People don’t just come back from the dead.”

“I’m not saying they do.” Norman was very clearly getting to what he’d come here to talk about, since he was dropping the professional front, trying another angle to get whatever he needed out of his nephew, who was trying very hard to be about as responsive as a brick wall, and nearly succeeding at that.

“You didn’t come up here to get on my ass about whatever you think I did in the attic, or why I didn’t return your facebook message, or whatever the fuck else I’ve done in the last fucking three months to piss you off.” Roman had obviously decided that he was done with the smalltalk, and Norman’s attempts at making Roman ‘open up’, or whatever it was that therapists did to angsty teenage boys. “What do you want?”

Norman didn’t seem at all taken aback by Roman’s outburst, or the language he used. The Godfrey family had given up on trying to keep Roman’s swearing at least somewhat contained several years ago, deciding they were fighting a losing battle, especially since that kid managed to get his hands on a new console, or Nintendo every time he got his confiscated for foul language. They had all collectively hoped he’d just grow out of it, which he never did.

“I’m worried about you, Roman,” Norman said.

Roman cringed at how broken his uncle sounded, which was not something he was used to hearing in his voice, since Norman had always been the completely level-headed one in the family, with this remarkable ability to just stop feeling things. Roman knew that most people didn’t come out of what the Godfrey family had been through in the last few months in anything that resembled a good state of mind, and that under the controlled demeanour, Norman was in immense pain.

“Someone called me a few days ago, just to check in that you weren’t showing up to the tower high on narcotics. Nobody would put it past you, since you were sedated for it about six months back.”

“Jesus,” Roman sneered, rolling his eyes at the sheer patheticness of this entire situation. Roman knew this was entirely avoidable, and he still had the option of using extaz on his uncle, which would put off this conversation for a few days, before something else brought Norman back, but that was just delaying the inevitable.

“You ordered raw chicken to your office.”

“I have a death wish.”

Roman didn’t take his eyes off his uncle for a single moment. They were both essentially suck, staring each other down until one of them cracked. Norman didn’t know that Roman definitely had the upper-hand in this situation; eye-contact was his nephew’s best weapon.

Roman was holding the eye-contact, determined not to look away until he’d figured out how to ask the right questions, since he wasn’t sure how long he could hold Norman under his hypnotic powers. Olivia’s part in Letha’s pregnancy had showed Roman what it felt like to be under the influence of someone else, essentially guilting him into rarely using his power of suggestion, unless he genuinely felt threatened. Roman was out of practice, and he wasn’t sure how weak it had made him. He could still convince people to leave rooms, if he wanted to be alone, but he hadn’t done anything bigger than that. The only person Roman had been using extaz on was himself, and it was an entirely different process.

He exhaled, dragging the palms of his hands along his slacks. Roman blinked, his eyes locking back onto Norman’s, and for a split second, he looked alarmed, but that expression quickly slipped from his face, leaving it blank, expressionless. Roman frowned. He had every intention of keeping his secrets from Norman, until he couldn’t anymore, and the fact that for a moment, just a moment, Norman looked like he knew what Roman was trying to do, made him sick to his stomach.

“Tell me the truth.” Roman leaned forward in his seat, narrowing his eyes, trying to narrow his field of vision to just Norman Godfrey, minimizing distractions to keep him compliant to Roman’s will. “Why did you come here? I know it wasn’t just some bullshit about… whatever the flying fuck you were trying to get on about. What do you fucking want from me?”

Norman’s eyes seemed to focus back on Roman. There was something in there that was glaringly still aware, that knew what Roman was doing, and would try to pull out of Roman’s influence as quickly as he could. “Did you have anything to do with your mother’s disappearance?”

Roman scowled. “She didn’t ‘disappear’, she died,” Roman corrected his uncle, seeing if Norman had anything to say to object against the statement. He didn’t say anything, which irritated Roman, who didn’t have anything that almost resembled patience, and this quality had just become more prominent as he found himself straying further, and further from who he wanted to be. “Why do you think she’s still alive?”

Norman didn’t reply for a moment. His resistance was enough to make Roman even more frustrated; it was a battle to keep him talking, and he’d barely been under for a few minutes. Unlocking the full potential for his powers was completely pointless, if he had no idea how to use them.

“Tell me.”

Norman’s resistance crumbled. “Nobody ever saw a body. No autopsy. She just dropped dead of her own accord, apparently.”

Roman winced. Nobody, except Pryce, could’ve looked over the body, since it had the telltale signs of supernatural interference: Roman’s interference. He didn’t need the reports getting out that Olivia Godfrey had apparently been killed by some sort of vampire, seeing as the thing she died from, as far as Roman was concerned, was blood loss, which he’d been responsible for. Roman could hardly tell Norman that he’d made a good attempt at drinking her blood (which he regretted about an hour later, when he’d spent a good twenty minutes vomiting it all back up), and had then ripped out her tongue. It probably wouldn’t sit well.

“Is there anything else, something you’re not telling me?” He was desperate; pathetic, seeing as he was the one with the power in this conversation, if it could be considered a conversation.

“Her credit card was active in New York, a few days ago.”

That grabbed Roman’s attention. He immediately began thinking of excuses, both rational, and completely irrational, trying to find some way to explain how the fuck she could still be dead. Olivia had to be dead, if she wasn’t, that means she still had some degree of control over him, something Roman couldn’t stand for, especially when he had no control over himself.

“Get out.” Roman pulled his eyes away, breaking the connection between him, and Norman. He knew there wasn’t any point in making Norman forget what Roman had just made him do, seeing as his uncle might actually be of some use in this situation. Olivia would trust Norman, where she wouldn’t with Roman. He was planning on using him, but first Roman had to find the guts to tell his uncle how dangerous Olivia Godfrey really was, and just how fucked up the Godfrey family, as a whole, could get.

Norman got to his feet, taking his notebook from the coffee table, and running his index finger up the side of the pages, clearly to make sure none of the loose paper likely stuffed in between the lined pages was visible to Roman. The look of complete horror on his face told Roman that Norman knew what he was doing, but just couldn’t stop himself.

He didn’t say anything until his uncle had grabbed ahold of the door handle. All this guilt had very quickly built up, and Roman didn’t want to be sitting around feeling like shit for using cheap hypnosis on his uncle.

“Stop.”

Roman got to his feet, being very careful not to look his uncle in the eye, he would be an idiot if he thought for a second that Norman would trust Roman to do that. He was essentially throwing up his hands in surrender.

Norman’s hand slipped off the handle, he shifted his footing, and then raised his eyes from the tiled floor, he looked at his nephew, and then quickly refocused on a spot just above Roman’s shoulder.

Roman wiped the palms of his hands off on the front of his button-down, just to give himself a few seconds to think of something that didn’t sound absolutely ridiculous out loud. Norman had been told about what Peter Rumancek knew was out there, a side-effect of Peter and Letha’s relationship, but Roman had a feeling Peter would’ve kept quiet about the Godfrey family, not wanting to force more mistrust upon them. Peter had always been too good.

Secrets be damned. Roman didn’t want to be alone in the world. Olivia wasn’t going to kill Norman, it was just wrong. He had to quickly come up with a limit, to decide how much he was going to say, because he didn’t want it to take a life of its own, and turn into something he had no control over.

Roman inhaled, counted to ten, and then exhaled, just to keep hysteria from bubbling up in his throat, and making him laugh, or cry. He needed to be cold, and calculated, not a giddy maniac, who couldn’t contain himself, especially when he was planning on telling his uncle about the fact that Olivia Godfrey wasn’t even human.

“I need to tell you something.”

Chapter Text

peter rumancek
I’m back in Hemlock in three days. We need to talk. 8:00PM

Roman didn’t know what he was meant to say in reply to that. Peter had left him all alone, like all the fucking death that had broken their families, hadn’t done anything to Roman at all. He saw it as a betrayal, because of course he did, Roman wasn’t one to take anything lightly, or consider things from other people’s point of view. Letha had always pointed that out about him, often taking it upon herself to call him out for his habits.

He didn’t know how to forgive and forget, he had a tendency to ‘resent and remember’, which he knew was incredibly childish, but seeing as Roman now had centuries to grow out of it, he didn’t need to hurry. The only perk to apparent immortality, was that he could stretch the years where it was socially acceptable for him to be a raging asshole out for longer, and maybe spend several decades getting drunk every night. He’d have to spend most of the next day convincing himself that moping around wasn’t a good plan, especially coupled with a hangover, and that he absolutely had to get his ass back out onto the town. He didn’t know if that was even a possibility, because Roman didn’t even know if he could get drunk anymore, let alone have hangovers.

Roman put his phone down, screen down, onto his desk. Peter could wait. Roman knew he could reply any time in the next three days, and Peter would see the message, and comply. They had to meet on Roman’s terms, Peter would know that it was only fair.

There had been a few seconds, after seeing that message, that Roman wanted to offer to pick Peter up from the nearest airport, and drive him back to wherever he’d be staying, but that had quickly been replaced with the usual feeling of resentment. Peter had known. He’d known since he’d first met Roman, standing in the park, where Brooke Bluebell had been murdered, why else would he ask if Roman had done it? The only explanation was that Peter had always known that there was something off about him. The pair of them had never actually talked about the strange power behind Roman’s eyes, or the way Peter could shred his skin to become something else, unless it was to make a stupid joke. Both of them knew that talking about it might lead them to realise something they weren’t ready to know about themselves, which could’ve been the lifeline Roman needed. Peter could’ve just been decent, and told Roman what the power meant, because he’d clearly known a little more about the Godfrey family than Roman had, and he’d made the executive decision to keep it from him. Hearing it from Peter would’ve been a relief, as the gypsy boy would’ve been gentler with it than Olivia was, letting Roman decide if he wanted to go in all the way, rather than forcing him to slash his wrists through months of emotional manipulation.

Roman wouldn’t hold back again. Curiosity killed the cat, but he was a dragon.

His phone vibrated twice, in rapid concession, it moved an inch across the table. Roman made a move to grab it, but it was pulled out of his reach.

He looked up from his desk, not quite having the energy to be pissed off at having his phone literally confiscated by another adult.

Norman was still standing there. The cup of coffee Roman had ordered for him had been knocked over, onto the tile floor. He hadn’t called anyone to clean it up yet, so he hoped the white floor wouldn’t stain. Roman had a feeling his uncle would’ve upturned the desk, to make a statement that was more proportionate to what Roman had just gone on about.

“I’m sorry, Roman.”

Roman was taken aback. He thought his uncle would be angry, or worse. Roman didn’t want to be told he was losing his mind, or that he was schizophrenic, or some fancy word for ‘a fucking nutjob’. Usually people were crazy when they started rambling about immortals, or the supernatural, either that, or they were just more informed. Norman could’ve demanded to have Roman taken downstairs, where he’d get his bloods done, and be tested for cocaine, or weed, or whatever else Norman was told Roman had been high on when he’d had his overdose. It was almost common knowledge that Roman was a slow learner, and that he probably wouldn’t learn anything from overdosing, and drugging himself into a coma. He’d been there once, and he’d be there again.

“Don’t be sorry. You’re the one who had to sleep with her.”

Norman chuckled, like Roman was making a joke, which he really wasn’t. There wasn’t anything to be sorry about, because Olivia was Roman’s mother, and she had loved him. He didn't understand why she thought he’d want to throw away his ‘humanity’, especially when he needed it more than ever, but he understood why she’d wanted him to do it. All Olivia wanted was to be his mother, and she didn’t want to live forever, if her children didn’t, at least, that’s what Roman hoped it was, as anything else would be too fucked up for him to cope with. Roman was deadly serious.

“Is it genetic?” The laughter slipped off his uncle’s face. He eyed his nephew, clearly expecting the answer that Roman knew he’d give. Norman had known about Roman’s parlour tricks, and had realised in advance that he was going to be put under, and be made completely compliant. Clearly Olivia had used this on Norman enough for him to realise that something wasn’t quite right.

Roman nodded briefly in reply.

Norman grimaced. He seemed to understand the gravity of the situation, and what it meant for the remainder of his family. Roman felt bad for his uncle, just for a moment. It must’ve been a lot for him to take in, even after he’d been told that the world wasn’t quite what he thought it was, and had the vargulf thrown in his face. Roman wanted to make him forget all of it, maybe to the point where Norman didn’t even remember who he was.

“You and Shelley?” He asked, pulling his eyes down to stare holes into the floor. Roman knew why his uncle couldn’t look at him anymore, and it wasn’t because he didn’t trust Roman not to put him under the influence of his extaz, it was rather because he didn’t know what he was looking at.

Roman knew.

His uncle wasn’t looking at Roman Godfrey, he was looking at whatever was under his skin, but whatever Norman was seeing, wasn’t there, because Roman Godfrey had never been more human in all his life. He absentmindedly traced his index finger up the seam of his sleeve, which felt wrong, due to the heavy scarring under it. He’d destroyed the nerves under his skin, when he’d dug into it with his razor, so now his forearms were riddled with numbness, and patches that were stuck in a constant state of prickling. If anything, that served as a reminder of just how human he was.

“No.” Roman shook his head. He couldn’t imagine Shelley ever being like him, or his mother, she was too good. Shelley had always been someone who’d been upset to see her big brother kill spiders, she could never do the things Roman did, even if she had the same urges. “Just me.”

Norman nodded. He seemed to be deep in thought. Roman knew he saw Shelley as a daughter, which was good, seeing as J.R never had, so she’d always had a father, a real father, unlike Roman. He knew how it felt to suddenly have half of your family be something other than human, and on that front, Roman sympathised with Norman, because he knew how that felt.

“Give me my phone. I need to get home.”

“Roman, can we talk about this?” Norman was looking at Roman again. His green eyes searching Roman’s expression for something that gave him up. It seemed that Roman was deliberately giving him nothing.

Roman felt like he’d talked enough. He felt uncomfortable talking about it, mostly because he didn’t know enough to actually say anything that sounded intelligent, it also wasn’t really any of Norman’s business. They might be the only members of their family felt, at least, the ones that counted.

“If Olivia’s alive,” Roman said, taking in a deep breath, and getting to his feet, “then don’t go after her. She’ll kill you.” Roman pushed his chair back, and walked around his desk. He felt small sitting down, opposite his uncle, who was standing, looking down at him. Roman didn’t want to feel like a child anymore. Norman backed off, which Roman took notice of. His uncle was apprehensive, and obviously worried about what Roman was doing. “If you don’t give me back my phone, I’ll just get another one,” Roman pointed out, his gaze slipping down to Norman’s hand, which he’d stuffed into the front pocket of his overcoat.

Norman pulled Roman’s phone out of his pocket, and handed it over. Roman put it in the breast pocket of his tailored jacket, and gestured briefly, at nothing in particular, before walking a few steps away from his uncle.

“Why would Olivia try to kill me?” Norman asked. His reaction was quite shocking to Roman, who expected anger, or whatever else came after that. Norman looked completely empty, like he’d resigned himself to whatever Roman was going to say.

Roman had decided earlier that the years of work in psychology, or whatever the fuck he did, had left Norman at the point where he was completely unable to be shocked anymore. Roman figured Norman had heard hundreds of teenagers ramble off about the supernatural, and how their mother was an immortal demon, it almost disturbed him to think that quite a few of them could have actually been telling the truth.

“My shift ends at nine,” Roman said. Just for show, he lifted his arm, pulled his sleeve back, keeping his forearm angled away from Norman, and checked his wristwatch, where the time was displayed. “One minute really isn’t long enough for me to explain this to you.”

Norman’s calm resolve flickered for a second, and he looked frustrated beneath it. Roman knew he hadn’t been compliant, and all he’d offered in the way of evidence was a few of the x-rays Pryce had been taking of Roman’s skull, for ‘research’. It could’ve been easily faked, and it wasn’t beneath Roman to pull a stunt like that, just because he could. He didn’t blame his uncle for getting a little pissed off, but it was a Wednesday, which was the third day of the week, meaning Roman got the night off, so he didn’t need to sit in his office, and see his computer display numbers that couldn’t be divided by two across his screen. Things had to have balance, and Wednesday didn’t.

“Roman.” His tone was a warning, but Roman didn’t care. He needed to act like he didn’t have anything to hide anymore, so Norman would stop buzzing around Roman’s head about what really happened in the attic, which Roman would never willingly disclose. “It was you, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah.” Roman nodded, keeping his eyes trained on his uncle, who flinched like someone had hit him. “It didn’t take, I just felt like shit after.” Norman looked surprised for a moment, then his brow furrowed, having had a teenage daughter, he probably understood why Roman hadn’t been able to kill Olivia properly. “I should’ve locked her in the attic and fucking tortured her until she told me how to do this.” His speech sped up, and he almost sounded panicked, which he wasn’t, just stressed, and frantic. He wanted to go home, so he could maybe work up the courage to call Peter, just to better organise what the fuck they were supposed to do, and to work out some of the issues Roman had with him.

Somehow the talk of torture didn’t seem to phase Norman, probably because his nephew had said worse. Desensitisation was clearly working in Norman’s favour, as Roman was quite quickly working himself up into a state, and spending years as a shrink was ultimately leaving him in a better place to deal with the apparent breakdown his nephew was spiralling into, it also reminded Norman why he’d taken up being a psychiatrist, instead of a full-time therapist. He just nodded.

“My shift’s over.” Roman walked around his desk, and began gathering his things. He didn’t look at Norman, just keeping his eyes trained on his closed laptop, while he wound up the cable for his headphones. He didn’t want to look at Norman, because he was unsure as to who he’d see. Roman didn’t want to see Letha in his uncle, even though they didn’t look very alike. He gathered his laptop, and headphones in his arms, and headed for the door.

He’d arranged to meet with Odin at ten, so he had to get home, and get his cash. He didn’t like doing things on Wednesdays, and he never had, to the point where his school teachers had noticed there was a pattern in Roman’s unexplained absences, but they never did anything to stop him bunking off. Meeting up with Odin wasn’t anything Roman could just skip out on, that would mean he would go hungry, and people would die.

He was well aware that Norman was following him, so Roman didn’t say anything, because he didn’t want Norman seizing the last word. It was childish to think like that, but Roman was going to stay young forever, so he didn’t need to worry. Growing up was overrated, especially when there wasn’t a single thing in the world that Roman needed to be an adult for. He’d torn the throat out of the only thing that needed him.

Norman managed to corner him in the elevator. “Come by the house for dinner.”

“You’d be dinner,” Roman replied darkly. He pressed the button for the ground floor, and watched the doors slide shut. He had his free hand resting on the metal handrail, and his other was clutching his laptop to his chest. He closed his eyes for a moment when the elevator started going down, trying to trick his brain into thinking they were going up.

“I’m serious.” Norman sighed in apparent resignation, then he opened his mouth to speak again. Godfrey’s were clearly genetically designed to be stubborn. “You need to talk to someone about… what you’re going through.”

Roman smiled, artificially enough to give Johann Pryce a run for his money. He exhaled through his nose, the smile curling it into something that seemed lighthearted, instead of the sudden realisation that Roman had been holding his breath. “You mean you?” Roman turned to his uncle, who was leaning against the wall, his head against a stripe of black panelling, branded with their family name. The smile dropped from Roman’s face, leaving him to mask the frustration with a joking roll of his eyes, and the quick drumming of a beat on the handrail.

“If it would help.” Norman seemed apprehensive. His years of training had never stretched into anything properly supernatural, aside from the occasional teenager who’d decided to smoke something funny before coming into their session.

Roman knew Norman would draw a blank, because he’d never been directly involved with their shit. Peter made an active attempt to keep Letha’s life free of supernatural interference, which Roman had to hear from both Letha, and Peter. If Letha didn’t know anything, neither would Norman, since Peter would’ve definitely been more inclined to talk to the former about his lycanthropy.

“Right,” Roman said, nodding. “Because you’re Hemlock Grove’s vampirism expert.” He winced at his own tone. He’d been rude, which Roman usually wouldn’t care about, but Norman clearly only wanted to help. He didn’t get why, because it wasn’t like Norman to butt his head into Roman’s business, unless it had something to do with Letha, or Olivia… except he’d been snooping around recently, clearly trying to have a conversation with Roman about his behaviour. Norman had his answer, well, as much of it as he needed. “Are you going to teach me to turn into a fucking bat?”

The elevator doors opened. Roman looked across at his uncle, feeling stupidly triumphant at the look on his face. Norman looked dumbfounded, Roman wasn’t sure why, because he’d not acted any differently than he would’ve a few months back. He hadn’t changed.

Roman pushed himself off the wall.

Norman started to say something else, but Roman cut him off, not even bothering to look at him, seeing only the front desk, and the huge glass doors leading out to the street. “Don’t bother,” Roman said, “I’ll assume it was some clever shrink bullshit.”

He managed to get out of the tower without a problem. Usually Pryce tracked him down, and dragged him off into a fucking supply closet to cryptically imply that Roman was supposed to be worshipping the ground he walked on. Every single time it ended with Roman asking why Pryce hadn’t done it, and Pryce would reply that it would be impossible to bring her back, especially since her body had been fertilising orchids for some time. Roman had gone there once, just to stare at those stupid fucking flowers, knowing that Letha’s daughter was rotting away inside one of the planter pots. He’d found that doing that hurt more than the act itself, but maybe he deserved it.

Roman got into his car, closed the doors, and took his phone out. Opening the message thread with Peter took him a few minutes. It felt like a carrot dangling in front of his face, just to be pulled away when he reached out his hand to grab onto it. The past was fucking cruel, especially when Roman wanted it back so desperately.

Three days. Roman knew he could wait that long.

Chapter Text

Roman Godfrey
see u in 2 days 11:06AM
in penrose?? 11:06AM
there’s a bar called
‘the necropolis’ 11:07AM
i’ll probably be out
back in v.i.p, it’s
not as fucking
pretentious as it
sounds. 11:08AM
8pm 11:09AM

Peter smirked at his phone. Roman always texted in short, rapid-fire messages, more proof that he didn’t really think about what he wanted to say before he said it. It was one of the strange stand-out things that Peter noticed about Roman: he seemed to contradict his own obsessive behaviour. Maybe that’s why Roman had always managed to get under his skin. Unlike Roman, Peter liked a degree of unpredictability, he didn’t cling to routine until his knuckles turned white, and he ended up coked out in a fucking coma. Unlike Roman, Peter thought about what he wanted to say, which was odd, considering he was the more unconcerned of the two.

He was nervous to see Roman again, because he held grudges, and everything was a betrayal to him. There wasn’t any way to make things up to him either, it was just a matter of waiting out his temper, and his petty little outbursts. Of course, Roman had a right to be pissed off at Peter, because he’d skipped out of town, leaving Roman alone with his grieving uncle, and psychopathic mother, who Lynda said probably ate children.

Peter hoped that the months he’d been gone were enough to allow Roman to cool off, and grow up, but he wasn’t holding his breath. Nicolae had always said that people never changed, but him and Roman weren’t exactly people. Peter had laughed when Nicolae had said that, because how did a statement implying that people were stuck as who they were forever make sense to a man who came from a family where people sometimes pulled off their own skins like it was just another jacket.

Lynda had agreed to drive Peter to the airport. She had always known that he’d go back to Hemlock Grove, but she thought he’d need longer to get over everything that happened there. It didn’t take much explaining to get her to understand that it wasn’t a matter of ‘getting over’ Hemlock Grove, it was a matter of needing to tie up loose ends. It went unspoken that the ‘loose ends’ that needed tying up were all named Roman Godfrey.

Although, at this point, it always came back to Roman Godfrey.

The days went by like a snail’s crawl, with Peter repeating the same actions over, and over again, just to keep himself from running sooner, although he couldn’t. His flight was booked, and he’d be landing in one of the three airports in Pennsylvania, where Destiny would pick him up. She’d immediately agreed, being far too excited at the prospect of seeing her cousin again. Peter knew he’d be sporting an impressive shiner once Destiny caught wind of what Peter’s ‘business’ in Hemlock Grove was. She’d never liked Roman, and the dislike extended to his entire family, along with what he was capable of being. He was too much of a loose cannon, and far too unstable to be able to stay good, and decent. Peter had always known Roman had more than a few screws loose, and that potentially spelled danger for the gypsy, considering he planned on paying the Godfrey heir a visit, upon his return.

Most of the time, Peter found himself walking up and down the length of the beach, up to his knees in the ocean. It was a good place to think, and really turn things over, without the interruption of his mother, or one of his cousins.

He spent his last day in California pacing the beach, just waiting until he had the strength to turn away, and get back to where he was staying, so Lynda could fuss over him, and then drive him to the airport. They both knew that once Peter got on that plane, the chances of Lynda ever seeing Peter again dropped drastically. Nobody survived in Hemlock Grove without help, and Peter was going in almost entirely alone. Lynda had a plan to come up, but she had to save for her own ticket, or she’d drive over. It would take her the better part of a week, if she slept through the nights, instead of driving, so Peter had at least a few days before his mother joined him.

They walked up to the gate together. Lynda had insisted on wheeling Peter’s suitcase behind her, letting Peter walk beside her, empty-handed, and feeling guilty for letting her drag his luggage around. The whole place was loud, and the fluorescent lights made everything appear sterile, and white.

Everyone there was dressed in differing forms of business attire, and whispering into their phones. Peter stood out like a sore thumb, in his layered jackets, ripped jeans, and unshaven face. He looked like one of the drunk hippies he’d see wandering the beach, the moment it started getting dark. Peter had fit in with them, and they’d once asked him to get high with them. He hadn’t brought any weed to the beach, but they were alright to share. It was the only time Peter had felt wanted since he’d moved to California. Maybe that was really why he wanted to go back to Hemlock Grove.

“I’ll come visit in a few weeks.”

Peter tried to dig his toes into the tiles, staring down at his feet. His mother’s voice made his chest ache with the reality of what he was doing.

“Peter.”

He was leaving her, and he’d likely never see her again, as the nature of where he was going was just too fucked up for him to be able to promise Lynda he’d ever come back to her. Peter wanted to. He wanted to be with his family. Lynda was his mother, and his father, and really the only family he’d ever known, and leaving her would feel like he was being pulled apart. He’d never been away from her before, and in some sick way, he was finally moving out of the nest.

Lynda took his face between her hands, forcing him to look at her.

“God,” she muttered.

“Didn’t think you believed in him,” Peter replied, his eyebrows flicked up for a moment. He tried to keep his voice level, but it wavered. With all the travelling Peter had done, he thought he’d be better at saying goodbye. He supposed saying goodbye to a place was different than a person. The walls of a house, or the smell of cigarette smoke, or incense in a room never talked back. He’d never been able to lay roots down anywhere, or really feel like he belonged. Whenever he travelled, he was just getting himself more and more lost, and the only things keeping him from running off into the woods, and never coming back were people. He could be anywhere in the world, and if Lynda was there, he’d feel like he’d finally made it home.

“When did you get so big?” She asked, like she expected him to give an answer that was more than a shrug, which was all she’d get. Peter knew that to Lynda, he’d still been a child when he’d left Pennsylvania, her baby. She still pinched his cheeks, ruffled his hair, and called him a ‘honey-bun’, much to his distaste. Maybe he’d grown up.

Peter didn’t know how to respond, and it took him a moment to do anything. He just stared off, over his mother’s shoulder, unable to meet her eyes. Then it clicked, and he wrapped his arms around her, like he’d never get to do it again. He kept himself from crying, even though something about the whole idea of leaving was making him feel about as unsure of himself as he’d ever been, and that scared him. It wasn’t the prospect of facing Roman again, it was that he might never find it in himself to go back to Lynda, or that his body would end up fertilising the hemlocks, by the river. If anything, it was the fear of wanting to stay. Running was all he knew, and the wrongness of staying in one place made his Swadisthana ache.

“Stay safe,” Lynda said, her voice muffled by Peter’s jacket. She was clearly more experienced at saying goodbye than her son was.

“I can’t promise that.” He wanted to, but he just couldn’t. Things just seemed to go wrong in that town. The river flowed North, and it didn’t just confuse the birds. Nothing made sense there: little girls ate each other, and rich women tore the hearts out of men, or forced them to pull the trigger on themselves. Peter had met more supernatural creatures just in that one town, than he had anywhere else. Destiny had said it all went back to the river, but Peter didn’t believe that. It seemed impossible to pin something so permanent on the strange draw on things that weren’t human. Peter was essentially walking into that town like he wanted a fucking stake shoved through his eye.

“Are you staying with Destiny?” Lynda asked, finally pulling out of her son’s arms, so she could take in his face.
“Yeah. Maybe I’ll fix up Vince’s trailer and crash there.” Peter shrugged. He’d spent the better part of a year living in that trailer, and the woods around it, tracing the forests with Roman Godfrey. He remembered that they’d left the door unlocked. Anyone who broke in would be woefully disappointed, because they’d just find mouldy rugs, and shards of glass. “I’ll borrow money from Roman.” He wouldn’t do anything of the sort, because Roman would probably still be sulking about Peter skipping town on him. He didn’t forgive easily.

Lynda nodded. Her expression was carefully controlled, as an attempt to not let Peter see just how sceptical she was of what he was saying. Peter had never been one to jump through hoops and conform to anyone, he was always his own person, and unapologetically so. He wouldn’t be kissing anyone’s shoes to get back in their good graces, even Roman’s scuffed, expensive dress shoes. Lynda had raised him to be that way. She didn’t want to have a child who felt the need to be tied down, and presented with limits, even in the form of his old friends, she wanted him to be able to create his own life, and to have the entire world to do so. She’d raised him to not only be someone she loved, but someone she liked, and she genuinely liked the person Peter had grown up to be.

“I’ll call you when I get to Hemlock. I’ll drop my shit off at Destiny’s place, and then I’ve got to-”

“I know,” Lynda cut him off. “We shouldn’t have left him there.”

Peter shook his head. Leaving Roman had been the wrong thing to do, especially when he’d practically become part of their family. In a perfect world, Roman would’ve been Peter’s best man, and Letha would’ve been dressed all in white, with her daughter on her hip. Roman would have his arm slung around Peter’s shoulders, and a cigar between his teeth. Letha’s daughter would’ve had a mother, and a father, along with ‘Uncle Roman’. Peter could still hear the way Roman laughed after he said it, the smoke in his lungs making it quiet, and forced sounding.

He sighed. “It’s Roman. He wouldn’t have been able to leave without cramming millions of dollars of junk into the passenger seat of his Jag.” He felt uncomfortable talking about Roman at a time like this, even though he was the reason Peter was going back to Hemlock Grove. He wanted to clear the air, and maybe he craved the sense of belonging he felt when he was with Roman. For all his faults, and all his failings, he was Peter’s only friend, and he shouldn’t have abandoned him.

Lynda patted him on the shoulder. She was smiling widely, but Peter could see just how upset she was by him leaving. “Do it for you, not for him.”

Peter nodded. Lynda knew that this all came back to Roman, because of course she did. If Roman had known where the Rumancek family had gone, he would’ve shown up on their doorstep within a week, asking if he could stay for dinner. This time it was Peter’s turn to go back to something he’d left behind. “I’m the jackass, if I don’t apologise.” It wasn’t just about that. It was about what he’d left Roman with, and what he’d left him without. Letha was gone, Shelley was gone, and even the fucking baby, the baby Peter was ready to raise as his own. She was gone too. Roman had been left in Hemlock Grove with nobody but Olivia, and then she’d died.
Peter knew what that meant, and he’d deny it until he saw it for himself. He wasn’t ever going to be prepared to walk up to Roman Godfrey, and see an upir. A proper one. Not the watered-down version that he’d become friends with. He wasn’t prepared to see Olivia Godfrey’s son.

“No,” Peter said, shaking his head. Roman didn’t have it in him. He didn’t hurt people, and he never had. Peter knew that Roman was scared, deep down, of whatever was inside of him. He’d expressed his concerns to Peter on multiple occasions, but Peter had brushed him off, just thinking that it wasn’t his place to say anything. “He wouldn’t want that.”

But it wasn’t a matter of what he’d want, and it never had been, just like how Nicolae had never wanted to call on the vargulf, but had been forced to do so. There wasn’t any sort of balance to life, and certainly no order. It just was. Some people managed to find the beauty in the uncertainty of it all, but others just couldn’t. It was a pretty picture, when people managed to see it for what it was. Not a masterpiece, but it would sell for a hefty price.

Without thinking, he nealt down onto the floor. He traced the words ‘thank you’ onto the tiles in the old tongue, and blew them away. When he stood up again, somehow leaving didn’t feel as hard.

Chapter Text

The bar was exactly what Peter had expected.

It looked unassuming enough from the outside, being a squat, grey concrete building, covered in tagging. It made Peter want to return later in the night to add his own mark. The sign, which screamed ‘NECROPOLIS’ at him from across the parking lot, was illuminated in white, straight letters, and was fixed onto a stand on the flat roof. Neon paint sprawled up the walls in strange, hexagonal patterns. The paint job was unfinished in areas, and interrupted by the tags in others. It wasn’t uninviting, but it certainly wouldn’t be somewhere Peter would frequent, if not for the invitation of one Roman Godfrey.

Destiny had dropped him off on the side of the road. She’d been apprehensive about bringing him to somewhere that a Godfrey might be able to get their hands on Peter. Destiny had always been like that, which Peter had grown to accept. She was the typical, overprotective older cousin, who was really more like a sister to Peter. The pair of them hadn’t met until Peter was nine, and Destiny was fifteen, when Vince was still alive and kicking it at his trailer, and Nicolae was whispering tales of the wolf into Peter’s ears. Destiny had started developing, and fine-tuning her abilities when she was thirteen, which was, coincidentally, the same age as Peter was when he’d started turning. They’d both helped each other, when they could. It wasn’t common for a Rumancek to be able to press their ears to the dirt, and hear the dead speak to them, or have something else stirring under their skin.

Peter was the seventh son of a seventh son. It was in his blood, or so he’d been told.

The door had a sign hung on it, which read ‘come in!’ in red block letters, which Peter took a minute to stare at, trying to figure out why the fuck someone had taken the trouble to make those letters, which were so clearly hand-drawn in red marker. The sheet had been laminated, making Peter think it hung outside the door for twenty-four hours a day.

He didn’t need an invitation. Peter looked away from the sign. He didn’t want to think that it was there for any reason, because he might not like what he came up with, if he lingered. The doors weren’t automatic, but needed to be pushed inwards, which made Peter think it wasn’t always used as some sort of shitty nightclub, but something else. Peter didn’t know much about architecture, or what materials were used most in what time period, or whatever the fuck else people learned in world history, but he’d been travelling for long enough to recognise that this building wasn’t originally built to be the ‘Necropolis’.

When Peter opened the door, he was met with a good deal of yelling, from the other side. He frowned. He thought this place would be abandoned, or at the very least, near empty, as it was located awkwardly between two towns. Penrose was the larger of the two, and it was a good half hour drive from the outskirts.

The carpet was god-awful. It immediately made Peter think of movie theatres, and their obnoxious, red and blue patterned carpet, with the occasional bits of popcorn lying about, but it somehow lacked the warmth theatres offered. The patterns spread across the room, under the array of mismatched leather chairs, which had been haphazardly arranged around little wooden tables. There was space in the middle of the room, which Peter suspected was for dancing. The carpet was worn away in patches there, the obnoxious patterning was broken up by places of the tan underlay.

He looked up from the ground, to see the light from outside had fallen straight onto a bar. The original wood had been painted black, and was wearing off in places, especially around the edges, where people leaned onto it. There wasn’t a bartender in sight. Or any people, for that matter. He frowned. Maybe he was losing his mind.

Peter stepped inside, and let the door swing shut behind him. It was a lot darker inside, without the fading light of the sun. Peter quickly noticed that curtains had been drawn over every window, and through the gaps in the fabric, he could see that the glass had been painted over in black, leaving the only sources of light as the dim overheads, and the cheap-looking LEDs, that coloured the room in misshapen, neon stars. He’d been to a million places like this before, but this one felt different. His skin itched, as the vargulf told him to run.

He wouldn’t obey. Peter knew that Christina, and Nicolae had both obeyed the vargulf, allowing it to become stronger, until it eventually overpowered them. Peter wouldn’t do that, he’d stay as Peter, and use the vargulf for his own gain, instead of the other way around.

The dinging of a bell brought him back. He snapped out of his thoughts, and focused on the source of the noise. The bartender had appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and stood behind the bar, leaning against it, pulling his button-down tight across his shoulders. Peter offered him a smile, which the bartender returned, artificial enough to make Olivia Godfrey jealous. Peter took notice that the bartender was older than him, at least by a few years, which made him feel apprehensive approaching him, as the scorn of adults was still something Peter didn’t particularly enjoy, even though they were all on the same goddamn level.

“I charge rent,” said the bartender, completely deadpan. His strange, silver eyes were trained on Peter, like he was sizing him up, which he likely was.

“What?” Peter replied, not knowing what else to say to something like that. He was unnerved, and so was the vargulf. He could feel it underneath his skin, occasionally threatening to push through. Peter’s Swadisthana ached with the wrongness of this whole goddamn place, and the Roman situation as a whole.

“If you’re just going to keep standing there.” The bartender shrugged, like it was obvious. “You can’t afford rent.”

Peter just nodded along with it, finding the bartender far too weird to actually want to hold a conversation with. He’d recently decided that skinny, drugged-up looking white guys were not the kinds of people he wanted to engage in random conversation with. Especially after Roman.

“We do, in fact, serve drinks.” The bartender drummed his hands along the counter. His eyes were still trained on Peter, impossibly silver, and intense enough to make him want to crawl under a nearby table, or throw a bar stool at him, just to make him fucking stop staring. “You look like a whiskey kind of guy.”

Peter flinched, not at the suggestion of a drink, but at the sudden, dull ache in his fingertips. He closed his hands, curling his fingers into his palms to form fists. His thumb brushed the hem of his jacket. He closed his eyes, mentally counting to ten. He’d always had a short temper, which his mother said he got from his father, who Peter didn’t know shit about, as Lynda said she loved him enough to be both a mother, and a father.

“I’m not here for a drink,” Peter said, deciding to just get right to the point, so he could talk to Roman, and maybe make things somewhat normal between them again. Peter had never liked tension, he was an easygoing, laid-back type of person. Something was just irking him about Roman, which was preventing him from being able to properly get the relaxation that he thrived off. Something was beyond wrong, and Peter couldn’t drop it, not when his only friend had possibly become a killer. “Is Roman Godfrey here?”

The bartender’s face paled. “Yeah,” he said, his tone was mild, but Peter knew he was nervous. His skin had been marble before, but the mention of Roman Godfrey had turned it to chalk. “He’s out the back.” The bartender looked Peter up and down, over the counter. “If you’re going back there, I’ll need your name.”

Peter didn’t want to question that. The place was weird, and he had every intention of leaving town again after a few months. He was here to tie up loose ends, and then he’d see what happened. That was the beauty of it, to Peter; he wasn’t tied down to anything, and could drift about, wherever the wind took him. Until, of course, he’d first come to Hemlock Grove.

“I’m Peter Rumancek.”

The bartender’s pale face cracked out into a grin. “He does talk about you.”

“I’m flattered,” Peter replied, his voice absolutely dripping with sarcasm. The idea that this random guy had any idea who he was made Peter uneasy. It reminded him that he could move about for his entire life, but people would still remember him. He could never truly leave. “Where’s the V.I.P area?” Peter asked, definitely as an afterthought, as he definitely would’ve found it on his own, without the help of this random guy.

“Down the back. It’s a glass door.” The bartender nodded his head in the direction of the dance floor. “You’ll have to ask for Godfrey. Special rules, they won’t let you in.”

Peter nodded. Roman probably whipped out his wallet, and the doors magically opened for him. Peter couldn’t do that, but he could talk, and really, that was how he intended on getting into that room. “Thanks.”

He turned and walked across the room, weaving between coffee tables, and leather sofas. Whoever ran this place clearly had absolutely no idea what a bar was, or even how to put the right furniture in the right room. He’d been in places like this before. Sometimes trailers he’d hang out in had dining chairs in the living room, and he’d even seen a bed in a bathroom, but this didn’t have the same feeling. Peter didn’t feel like he belonged.

The door was at the back of the bar. It was black tinted glass, with a red stripe painted across the middle, from the hinges to the handle. It reminded Peter, again, of a movie theatre, with their red ribbon barriers. Then he thought of the openings of new stores, that he saw on television. It was strangely fitting to find Roman Godfrey in a place like this.

He pushed on the door, just to test it. Of course, it didn’t budge, so Peter rapped his knuckles against it, continually slamming his fist against the glass, until he felt the glass slip away, and the door swing open.

It was oddly still inside the room, even though it was full of a good few people. Everyone seemed to have frozen, their heads turned to look out towards Peter. He didn’t want to look worried, or like them all fucking staring at him was at all unnerving, which it most certainly was, instead, he smiled.

A girl had opened the door. The first thing Peter noticed was the mass of curly, dirty blonde hair, which framed her face. She was pretty, in a strange way. Her eyes were smeared with green makeup, and her lipstick had smudged across her cheek - if it was lipstick. She merely looked bored, and stared up at Peter with half-closed eyes, like she was on the verge of falling asleep.

“Hi,” Peter said, still smiling. His mother had always said that flowers attract more bees with honey than vinegar, so he’d be sweet, and polite, until he could go back to being Peter. “Roman told me to meet him here.”

The girl scoffed. “He’s drunk.” She looked back over her shoulder briefly, and then fixed her gaze back on Peter, who was hiding frustration behind a passive smile. She brushed her fingers over her lips, the red transferred off onto her fingertips, and smeared down her chin.

Peter shrugged. “I just need to talk. Drunk or not.”

The girl suddenly frowned at Peter, like she was concentrating on something far off. “He had someone else come in to ‘talk’.” She stopped for a moment, looked over her shoulder again, and then back to Peter. She stepped out of the doorway, letting it swing shut behind her, closing them both off from the V.I.P section. Peter wanted to push her out of the way, and just go inside, but he didn’t. “Why do you want to talk to him?”

Peter didn’t really have an answer for her. He didn’t really have an answer for himself. Something just told him it was the right thing to do, and he didn’t want to go back and forth in his own head, until he went fucking crazy, so he was going to make amends, so he could carry on with his life. He just shrugged. “It’s just something I gotta do.”

“Okay.” She shrugged right back at Peter. She turned her body away from him, to get back to the door, she wrapped her fingers around the handle, and then quickly turned back to Peter. “Right.” She clapped her hands together. “Rules.”

Peter stepped back. When she’d turned, she’d pretty much ended up pressed into his chest, and Peter wanted space to breathe. “I just wanna talk. I’m not gonna screw with your fancy V.I.P shit.”

The girl sighed with apparent resignation. “We had a bouncer,” she said, “he doesn’t come in until nine. He wears reflective sunglasses, and your friend kept trying to get in.” She nodded her head. Peter barely noticed the movement, as she kept it so slow, and barely moved at all.

Peter got what that meant. He’d seen what his friend could do to someone, when he looked them in the eyes. The reflective glasses would’ve just had Roman looking back into his own eyes, unable to use any sort of suggestive powers on the bouncer. If he tried to use that, then his wallet wasn’t impressive enough to get him access.

Then it clicked. Roman’s wallet didn’t get him in, but the attempt at using… whatever it was that he had on the bouncer had got him in.

“I can’t eye-roofie anyone,” Peter said, dropping his voice to a hushed whisper. Instinctively, he’d bent over slightly, to whisper more into the girl’s face. “But I’ve got my fair share of party tricks.” He didn’t plan on demonstrating, seeing as he wasn’t really in the mood to clean up after.

Her eyes seemed to light up. “I’ll bring you in.” She reached out, and grabbed onto his wrist. Peter immediately wanted to pull away. Her hand was cold, and clammy, and her grip was iron-tight. He usually didn’t care much about people touching him, or germs, or whatever else pretty rich boys like Roman Godfrey got all bent out of shape over, but her cold fucking hand on his wrist made him uncomfortable.

She pushed the door open with her free hand, and then her foot. She practically dragged Peter in, not giving his eyes enough time to adjust to the near-darkness in the room. He pulled his arm away.

The room was better furnished than the other one, and had a sense of coherence to it. Once Peter’s eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, he could make out the groups of people clustered around little square tables, which were set up against the walls, with three chairs at each, and a candle in the middle. The room was square, with a conversation pit in the middle. Peter could tell that the carpet was the same, cinema-style shit as in the main room.

He could spot Roman Godfrey anywhere.

The Godfrey heir was sitting alone at a table in the back corner of the room. One of the chairs had been moved away, so there was only space for one other person to sit with him. He’d probably done that intentionally, so nobody would be tempted to join him and Peter. From a distance, Roman was all straight lines, broken by the curve of his spine, as he leaned over the table, flicking the side of his half-empty glass. He looked too tall to be sitting there, hunched over, with his long legs carefully stretched out under the table. Peter could tell, even from a distance, that his black suit probably cost more than Destiny’s car. Roman was the only one who’s wear something that expensive to a shitty bar. Peter wanted to laugh. Roman was a fucking idiot.

Peter made his way over, letting the girl blur back into the background. He wasn’t stupid enough to crack a grin, or try immediately go back to the friendly, familar ground the two of them used to share, he’d need to tread carefully, so he didn’t show anything on his face as he walked across the room.

Roman looked up from his drink, the dim, red-toned lighting caught his eyes, and made them glow like a cat’s. This was the first thing Peter had noticed about Roman, when he’d been confronted by him that night in Kilderry Park, after Brooke Bluebell had been murdered. It was undeniably an upir thing, but Roman had made it a Roman thing. Of course, the eyes were the first things Peter focused on.

Peter couldn’t help but feel as though he was walking into a trap, as he sat down opposite Roman Godfrey, who’d been watching Peter approach from across the room, with his lit-up, green eyes.

From up close, Peter could see that his high-school friend was fraying at the edges. Although Roman had looked immaculate from a distance, his hair was dishevelled, and falling into his eyes, with strands of it practically plastered to his forehead with sweat. He looked sick. Peter used to make fun of Roman for being pale, but now he was ghostlike, beyond the point of shitty jokes. The shadows under his eyes were dark, a stark contrast against his complexion. The familiar, expensive smell of his shampoo was absent from the air. If Roman hadn’t been so disgusted by filth, Peter would’ve assumed that he hadn’t taken a shower before leaving the house.

“You look like shit,” Peter said, pointing out the obvious. He hoped Roman wouldn’t take serious offence, seeing as it was just something Peter would point out, if they were still stupid, high-school kids, hunting for a murderous little girl, in the body of a monster.

Roman’s lip twitched drawing Peter’s attention to the red, raw skin around his lips, and his chin. His eyes seemed to be studying Peter, more focused than any drunk could manage, searching his face for something. Guilt for leaving him alone? A trap?

They were silent for a while, looking each other over. Peter was trying to find something in Roman that wasn’t so obviously broken, so he could talk to that part of him. Roman, as always, was probably looking for a weak spot, so he could lash out at Peter, the moment things got mildly uncomfortable for him.

It was Roman who spoke first. “You said you wanted to talk,” Roman said. Peter was shocked at how hollow, and dead Roman’s voice sounded. It was so very un-Roman, who was always enthusiastic, in some form, at the least. “So talk.” He tore his eyes away from Peter, and took to staring back into his drink, obviously expecting an answer.

Peter didn’t think he’d be confronted with that. He thought Roman would yell, and curse him, or try to physically hurt him. It was all Roman said he’d do, for the last few months.

He cleared his throat. “It’s going to happen again,” Peter said. “The vargulf… or something worse.” Of course, this had come from Destiny, and Peter’s sudden realisation, which consisted of a long string of curse words, and then a mutter about ‘doing the head’, and the news that Christina Wendall’s grave had been dug up. Naturally, Peter didn’t care much, because he didn’t intend on staying long, but this affected Roman, and leaving him in the dark like that just didn’t feel right.

Roman nodded. “So you’re just going to fuck off again?” His voice was bitter, but still oddly hollow. It made Peter’s chest hurt. “Like last time?” Then he was hurt. Roman’s voice wobbled, like he was going to suddenly burst into tears.

“No,” Peter assured him, “we need to do this.”

Then Roman laughed. He leaned back in his chair, and pushed his hair out of his face, tipping himself back, so his face was to the ceiling. Peter didn’t think that Roman’s laughter was anything genuine, or if it was, he certainly wasn’t laughing because he thought Peter’s situation was at all funny. Then he tipped forward again, his gaze was too focused, and dangerous.

“I need you to help me. You have your…” Peter trailed off, gesturing to Roman’s eyes, not wanting to mention it directly, since it hadn’t ever been something they’d talked about, beyond shitty jokes about roofies. He didn’t need to piss him off, or make him uncomfortable.

“Yeah, well…” Roman shrugged, “you seem to have a fucked up concept of ‘need’.” He didn’t pull his eyes away, keeping them trained on Peter. He was testing the water, seeing how hard he needed to push to get Peter to break. “I needed you. Needed.” Roman slammed the palm of his hand down against the table, causing his glass to tip over, and the few mouthfuls of liquid left to spill onto the table. “I needed you, and you didn’t give a flying fuck.” He didn’t need to raise his voice. Roman was broken, unstable, and his voice was low, controlled, and quiet.

Peter didn’t say anything, deciding it was best to let Roman get it all out. Allowing him to vent was probably safer, considering Roman was definitely prone to violent outbursts, and he didn’t want to set him off. He didn’t know what this Roman was capable of. There wasn’t an obvious sign of change, which couldn’t have been linked back to stress, but he couldn’t keep his hopes up. Destiny had warned him about the path Roman was going down, and wishful thinking was the only thing keeping Peter from accepting that he’d finally hit the end of the road.

“You fucking left me alone with her.” Roman pointed an accusing finger across the table at Peter, but quickly pulled away, to tug at the hem of his sleeve. “Shelley, Letha, and now my fucking mom, and I got nothing from you. Not even a text.” The anger in his voice sounded forced.

The mention of Shelley made Peter remember something. On his way out of Hemlock Grove, he’d driven by a figure, about eight feet tall, wearing Shelley’s wig, and Shelley’s dress. It had to have been her. He’d never thought too much about it, because initially, leaving Hemlock Grove had been a permanent thing; he wanted to cut all ties, and turn his back on the memories, but since then, his view had changed drastically.

“Shelley might still be out there,” Peter said. He’d seen her months ago, but Shelley was a smart girl. He hoped she’d found an abandoned barn, or a basement to hide in, until everything blew over, and it was safe for her to be found.

Roman shook his head. The forced anger slipped off his face. He suddenly looked sad, and his eyes seemed to well up with tears. “Don’t say that.” He looked down at his lap, lifting a shaking hand to wipe at the tears clinging to his lower lashes. “She died alone. I looked for her for hours, and I didn’t find shit.” Roman sighed. “I would’ve asked you to look, on the next full moon, but by then you were gone.” He cracked a grin, which was painfully forced, and made Peter want to reach across the table, and tell Roman he was sorry. But ‘sorry’ had never been a word Roman understood. “I even tried. Followed a trail through the fucking woods. Led me to a dead deer.”

Peter frowned at that. As a half-upir, Roman would’ve had a keener nose than most, but not one he could use to track anything, unless he was really tuned into it, which he suspected Roman likely wasn’t. Peter’s fingers suddenly felt very cold. “I’m here now.” He put his hands on the table, and leaned forward, closer to the man sitting opposite him. “We’re the fucking dream team.”

Roman laughed at that, shaking his head. “I’m so fucking pissed at you,” he said, a smile still on his face. The skin on his lower lip split, painting a thin, red stripe onto his raw skin, but Roman didn’t seem to notice, either that, or he really didn’t care.

Peter knew Roman was angry, and that patching up whatever they had would take more than a fucking band-aid, which was all Peter had on him. With Roman, he’d likely be lulled into a false sense of security, like he was back at the steel mill, before Roman ditched him there, out of sheer spite, so he had to be careful with what he said, and did around him. Peter leaving was far from being water under the bridge.

“I preferred your hair when it was long.”

Peter laughed. He’d shaved his head after Letha had died, and it had started growing back in. It was unruly, and not quite long enough for Peter to look like Peter. “Yeah, me too.”

Roman got to his feet, almost hitting his head on a low-hanging red light bulb. He steadied himself, using his palms on the tabletop to keep himself upright. It looked awkward, considering he was bending over a good deal, to brace himself against the table.

Peter watched as Roman caught his breath, and then stood up himself. He didn’t particularly like standing next to Roman, as he was a good six inches shorter than him, and Peter didn’t like feeling short, especially to a Godfrey. Roman had this way of looking down his nose at people, which he’d got from Olivia, which Peter found to be very patronising, even more so because Roman was so goddamn tall.

“Where are you staying?” Roman asked, pushing off from the table to stand on his own. He looked down at Peter, his hair immediately flopped forward, over his forehead and into his eyes. It made his expensive suit look out of place on him.

“With Destiny,” Peter replied. “But Lynda’s coming back, in a few days, so I’ll move back into Vince’s trailer with her.”

Roman’s expression shifted, he cringed at the mention of the trailer, and then a bit of nervous laughter came up. He looked down at his feet, and then back over at Peter, who was standing, looking quizzically at Roman, who only really laughed like that when looking at someone’s shitty math.

“I fucking trashed the place,” Roman said, not trying to hide the smugness in his voice, or repress the smirk his lips were curling into. “You skipped town, and I got pissed off, so I went down there, and fucking made what the vandals did look like a joke.”

Peter let out a long exhale, he looked down at the shitty carpet, trying to fathom how the fuck Roman Godfrey’s mind worked. He was, what Nicolae would’ve called ‘a special case’, and Peter probably wouldn’t ever properly understand what motivated Roman to do things.

There was a long pause. Both of them just stood there, not really sure what to say to the other one. Peter took to staring holes in the carpet. He could feel Roman’s eyes on him.

Eventually, Roman cleared his throat.

“I’m not fucking apologising. You’re an asshole.”

Peter looked up at Roman, who looked very preoccupied with the buttons on the sleeve of his suit jacket. He was just fidgeting, which allowed him to look down, and hide his facial expression somewhat. His eyebrows were furrowed in false concentration.

They went quiet again. Roman flicked his eyes up, and took to openly staring at Peter.

“Do you need a lift home?” Roman asked.

Peter was suddenly yanked back into the school corridor. The orange-toned lighting made Peter remember it to be warmer than it actually was. He could feel Shelley behind him, a silent, peaceful presence, her misshapen face must’ve cracked a smile, seeing her brother, and the new kid get along. According to Letha, it was rare to see Roman like that, and it was something Shelley liked to see.

“Or not.” Roman shrugged, and started walking across the V.I.P area. He seemed to only walk on the red coloured areas of carpet, making it easy for Peter to catch up with him, as each one of Roman’s steps appeared to be planned out, while Peter just didn’t give a fuck.

He walked alongside Roman, who gave nothing but a slight nod, to show that he even knew he was there. It was a step in the right direction, but both of them were tolerating each other for all the wrong reasons, so it was bound to self-destruct again, which Peter understood. Everything happens for a reason, or so they say, but Peter still didn’t know if he believed that, seeing no point in cruelty, or violence, especially when it didn’t have a reason. Him leaving hadn’t served a purpose, because, like a magnet, he’d been drawn right back in.

When they both got into Roman’s roadster, and the radio was turned on, playing the usual 70,80s, and 90s station Roman listened to, somehow Peter felt like he was back home.

Chapter Text

peter rumancek

Do you have a hatchet?          13:24

 

Roman Godfrey

i have a battle axe                 13:25

 

peter rumancek

No. The path is overgrown, we can’t

carry the furniture down.       13:26

 

Roman Godfrey

call a moving truck.               13:31

 

peter rumancek

You’re up in that huge fucking

manor house, and you’re trying

to tell me there isn’t an axe? 13:32

 

Roman Godfrey

we had a gardener. we stole

his fucking shovels to dig up

lisa                                       13:33

 

peter rumancek

Don’t be a jackass. Can you go

and find a hatchet, or a machete? 13:35

 

Roman Godfrey

i’ll look. meet you at the edge

of the woods by the old path.  13:35

give me ten minutes                 13:35

 

peter rumancek

It’s gonna take me at least fifteen

to walk through the fucking bushes 13:36

 

Roman Godfrey

more time for me to look, i guess 13:37

 

Roman left it at that, deciding it was better to actually try to find something to carve through the undergrowth, than just talk to Peter about it. He shut off his phone, and stuffed it into the breast pocket of his heavy wool coat. 

 

It was starting to get colder out, and Roman was finding himself going out wearing gloves, and a scarf, more often. By the time it got dark out, he couldn’t tell if he was shaking from the cold, or from starvation. He was managing fine, but the weekly visits to Odin were very quickly becoming not enough to keep him going, and he’d find himself caving more and more often. He didn’t hurt anyone, because he was usually at home when he finally snapped, driving him to just clean out the fridge, which was always filled with all sorts of raw meat, and then down a bottle of whiskey, in an attempt to make it all go away.

 

He could always put the shaking back to nerve damage, and not think about it any further.

 

Then there was the thing with Peter. Roman didn’t know if he wanted to hug him, or kill him, half of the time, and more often than not, it was the latter. He was still pissed off, and didn’t see any of that going away, while he kept it all bottled up. He thought months of telling Peter that he was a ‘cunt’, and a ‘coward’ for leaving would be enough to make himself feel better, and be at peace with the whole situation, but it hadn’t been, and Roman Godfrey spent most of his time struggling with the overwhelming urge to hurt Peter. It wouldn’t be a matter of punching him in the face; that was far too easy. He wanted to tell Peter exactly what he thought of him for skipping out on Roman when he needed him most.

 

But the words never came. Or there just weren’t words.

 

When it came down to it, Roman wanted to grab Peter by the collar of his shirt, shove him up against a wall, and tell him to be in pain, and to tell Roman he was sorry, and mean it , but then he was no better than Olivia. Emotional manipulation was her strong suit, and Roman didn’t want her to win.

 

He didn’t have a key to the gardener’s shed, which was padlocked. He could see all the tools and shit through the metal grating of the door, but a sizeable padlock stood between him, and the possibility of not having to use his battle axe to cut back shrubbery, so Peter had somewhere to stay, with furniture that Roman hadn’t smashed to hell, and then torched.

 

He felt stupid, just standing there, his nose in line with the roof of the shed, having to practically double-over to see inside. It was all corrugated iron, which was starting to rust, and rotting wood, making Roman all the more sure of why it had been placed around the back of the manor, where people couldn’t see it from the street, or from the town, which lay down the hill, about a ten minute drive away. If Roman looked, he’d be able to see Letha’s house, but he deliberately kept his attention off the little steel town of Hemlock Grove.

 

Roman walked himself around in a tight circle, trying to find something to break the padlock with. His eyes landed on a rock, about the size of his fist. It was plain, grey, and smooth, which Roman decided was a good sign, and picked the rock up. He walked back over to the door of the shed, crouched down, and lined the stone up with the padlock.

 

Ten minutes later, Roman had managed to get into the storage shed, find a hatchet, and a machete, bust his thumb breaking the padlock, and spent a good half of that time wishing he’d never been born. He made his way down the hill, away from the house, and towards where he remembered the path to be. 

 

He had to skirt the edge of the woods, trying to find the scarf that Peter had tied around the trunk of a thin aspen tree, which was very out of place in Hemlock Grove. He had the hatchet shoved under his arm, so he could keep his thumb elevated, in an attempt to stop any bruising, and the machete clutched in his good hand, his fingers were wrapped around the handle hard enough to turn his knuckles white. He felt ridiculous, cautiously wandering about in the mud, holding two objects that could be considered ‘weapons’. Peter would probably laugh at him, when he saw him.

 

Roman saw the other man emerge from the treeline, not too far from him. Peter looked around, and then caught sight of Roman, who was slowly, and clumsily making his way over, one of his shoes occasionally slipping in the mud. He smirked, like a fucking asshole. Roman’s face twisted into a scowl, and he found himself needing to clench his jaw, to keep his appearance completely human. The anger quickly faded off, when Peter jogged over, somehow keeping his balance on the muddy bank, and reached out a hand. 

 

“My hands are full,” Roman pointed out, looking down at Peter’s outstretched hand, like he didn’t know whether to grab ahold of it, or bury the hatchet into the joint of his wrist.

 

“What?” Peter asked, the confusion made his voice sound cold. His eyebrows were furrowed, and his eyes were slightly squinted as he looked up at Roman. “I meant…” It seemed to dawn on Peter, then. Roman thought Peter was offering him his hand, to guide him, or to just keep him on his feet for a bit longer, because he was definitely at risk of slipping. “Just give me the machete.” 

 

Roman looked away, his face growing hot with the embarrassment of what had just happened. Peter had no reason to do anything else, but Roman, like a fucking idiot, had throught the gesture was something more than Peter wanting to get to work on cutting through the undergrowth, so the pair could carry furniture from the Godfrey manor, to the Rumancek’s trailer. He handed over the machete, and shifted the hatchet into his right hand. The skin on his thumb, and across the back of his hand, was starting to turn a nasty shade of purple. 

 

Peter stepped off the grass, which was barely grass, at this point, and onto the leaf litter, and twigs that made up the ground in the woods.

 

“You get better grip on this stuff. The fucking grass is a waterslide, compared to this,” Peter said. He was just wearing sneakers, whereas Roman was in expensive-looking hiking boots, yet he was the one slipping, and struggling to stay upright. His general aversion to playing outside as a kid was clearly showing.

 

Roman nodded, and stepped off the grass. Peter was right, the sticks, and leaves gave Roman enough grip to make him almost steady on his feet. “I’m going to need a cigarette after this,” Roman said, just to fill up the emptiness between them. He didn’t want to get trapped into an awkward silence, because it just reminded him how quickly they’d become strangers. It made him want to tell Peter about Olivia, and Letha, and the fucking baby, which he couldn’t do. Peter wouldn’t understand, and he’d leave again, Roman knew that much.

 

Peter gave Roman a half-hearted laugh in response. “Me too.” He turned away from Roman, and began to hack at the shrubbery, slowly carving out a path.

 

Roman very quickly became fixated on something else. He walked over to help Peter, and upon bending over, his eyes caught onto a fleck of red on a leaf. He frowned, completely transfixed by the little bead of blood hanging off the yellowing leaf. He didn’t want to fucking lick it off, or anything, he felt the need to stare at it for a bit. 

 

“Jesus.” 

 

Roman felt Peter’s hand on his back. He pulled away, turning around, and drawing himself back to his full height. It was purely instinctual. Roman found physical contact, that wasn’t initiated by him, scary ; not because he didn’t like being touched, because he did, he was just scared of hurting people, and distancing himself was a way to keep everyone safe. 

 

“I thought it was a ladybug,” Roman lied.

 

Peter nodded hesitantly, in obvious disbelief. “It’s human,” he said, after a moment of silence.

 

Roman frowned at him, wondering if Peter being a werewolf gave him fucking heightened senses, or some shit. Even Roman couldn’t tell if it was human, or not, and he was a fucking upir . Blood was just blood, when it was just a little dot of it. “How can you tell?” Roman asked, forcing himself to look at Peter, who had turned his head away from Roman, to look through the woods.

 

“Uh.” Peter’s voice had the tone that someone would use when talking to an idiot. He turned back around to face Roman, and lined his hand up with where droplet of blood was. The leaf was at the same height as Roman’s ribs. “It’s about four feet off the ground.” He shrugged. “Could be a deer.”

 

Roman cracked a grin, but it was completely artificial, he couldn’t even keep it on his face for more than a few moments. “It’s never a fucking deer in this town.” That was too true for the two men, who’d hunted down a vargulf, and seen what sort of damage it did to people. “We should see if there’s more.”

 

Roman watched Peter wince. He reached out a hand and clapped Peter on the shoulder. 

 

“You’re the bloodhound,” Peter said, his voice was deadpan, and serious. He had a gift for nonchalance, and it was showing in the way he managed to look so goddamn bored possibly making fun of Roman’s sexual fascination with blood, which, as far as Roman was concerned, was all Peter knew about it all. 

 

Roman felt the colour drain from his face. He suddenly felt very cold, and the shaking in his hands became more evident, to the point where he had to lean the hatchet against his leg, and stuff his hands in his pockets. He gritted his teeth. His canines felt loose in his skull. Roman wasn’t ready to accept that about himself , let alone pull Peter into it. He’d just got him back, and he didn’t know how he’d be able to tolerate being left alone again. 

 

He looked back over at Peter, who was studying Roman’s reaction with those fucking blue eyes. Roman had occasionally joked that it was Peter with the freaky eyes, since they were so fucking peircing, and had a tendancy to make Roman paranoid about the safety of his own mind. 

 

“Roman.” Peter snapped his fingers in front of Roman’s face, snapping him out of the trance-like state he’s slipped into. “Are we leaving it?”

 

Roman wasn’t used to Peter asking him questions. Peter had always been the leader, when it came to hunting the vargulf, and pretty much any situation Roman couldn’t control with the steering wheel of his car. Roman had just been some guy along for the ride.

 

“Fuck.” Roman ran his fingers through his hair, pushing it out of the combed side part he’d been trying to keep it in, to make himself look more adult. He looked down at the dirt beneath their feet, and then tried to scan the area for prints, bending down slightly, holding himself up with the palms of his hands on his knees.

 

“It never left prints,” Peter said, “that’s how I knew it was a vargulf.”

 

Roman drew himself to his feet again. The hatchet slipped onto the dirt. He looked down at Peter. “I told Chasseur that. She didn’t believe me.” On the night Peter had been shot, Roman had been there, yelling at the shooter that they were trying to help. That it wasn’t Peter. The vargulf didn’t leave prints, like a ghost, Peter did.

 

Peter made a face. He clearly didn’t remember what Roman was talking about. “Your mom must’ve done her in,” Peter pointed out, too nonchalant to have just worked that out. He’d probably known for a long time, but just never had it in him to tell Roman. What changed?

 

“Sounds like her.” Roman couldn’t manage much more of a response. Talking about Olivia like that hurt, and he was so fucking tired of being hurt. There wasn’t any forcing her to be the same person she was before the night in the attic; he always saw the upir just under her skin.

 

“So?” 

 

Roman was clearly the deciding vote. Peter was either indifferent, or wanted to look, and he was waiting to know if he would have company.

 

He exhaled. “Yeah.” Roman nodded. “If we don’t look, and something fucked up happened, then…” Roman shrugged, “we’re not the cops.” The words ‘I’m not a hero’ had been at the tip of his tongue, but he couldn’t say that to Peter, who’d always got pissed off when Roman’s self-centered view of the world came too much into play. To be a hero, he had to pretend not to want it. “You said we had to do this. So let’s fucking do it, otherwise you came back for nothing.”

 

“I came back for you,” came Peter’s reply. “You were my only friend.” 

 

Roman took advantage of Peter pausing to take a breath. “And you fucking left me.” His voice was practically dripping in acid. His demeanor changed in a matter of moments, from almost friendly, and comfortable, to defensive. He’d inched closer to Peter, so he was standing over him, trying to use his height as an intimidating factor, his eyes narrowed into a glare.

 

Peter took a step away, clearly not wanting Roman to have any sort of physical advantage over him. “I came back,” he said, almost like he was reminding Roman of the fact that he was real . He probably didn’t trust Roman’s sense of reality, not after the overdose.

 

“You were too late.” Roman’s voice was all anger, and bitterness. His narrowed eyes were glassy, and his lower lip trembled, almost breaking the scowl on his face. Part of Roman didn’t want to cry in front of Peter, to ‘be a man’ and keep it all inside him, but another part wanted to show Peter just how much he’d hurt him, and how it was going to take more than fucking coming back to fix it. “You fucking left me.” Roman lifted one of his hands, to point his index finger in Peter’s face. There was no hiding the shaking. “I needed you, and you left.” He closed his hand into a fist, to help relieve the tension building up in his fingers, squeezing it tight, until he felt the skin beneath his fingernails break, then he released it, and shoved his finger into Peter’s face again. “I needed you, and you fucking tucked your dick between your legs, and ran away like the little fucking bitch you are.”

 

“I left because I needed to.” Peter slapped Roman’s hand away from his face, and then gave his shoulders a hard shove, putting Roman off balance, and causing him to stumble backwards, in order to stay on his feet. He’d long since dropped the machete into the dirt.

 

“I needed you more,” Roman replied, his fingers pressed into his sternum. He took a step towards Peter, expecting him to step backwards, but the other man didn’t budge. He stood his ground.

 

“Why are you so fucking entitled?” Peter’s eyes narrowed, his voice had risen to something closer to a shout. A small voice in Roman’s head told him that they’d scared off any wildlife within a mile of where they were standing.

 

Roman flinched like Peter had hit him. Nobody had ever really thrown his behaviour back into his face like that. Roman had never seen himself the way other people did. His hand twitched to strike back, but he stopped himself. He didn’t know his own strength, and punching Peter in the face while he was this fucked off, could result in a broken neck. That much Roman knew.

 

“Jesus Christ, Roman!” Peter seemed to have realise Roman didn’t have anything to say back to him, that he didn’t have anything to say. “The world doesn’t revolve around you! I didn’t fucking ‘leave you’, I just left town!” His voice lowered, but only slightly. “You could’ve fucking called!”

 

“I fucking tried,” Roman practically spat back into Peter’s face. Every single time he’d called, Peter’s phone had gone to voicemail, or some cousin had picked it up, and told him Peter was ‘out’. “I texted you every single fucking day!”

 

“Cut the shit, Roman.” Peter held out one of his hands, like he was telling Roman to shut up, which he was. “You just wanted someone to blame.” Peter had hit the nail right on the head. Roman was never accountable for his own actions, and it was a pattern that Peter had obviously picked up on quite quickly, during their months at Hemlock Grove High. “I needed time away from all of this, but you only gave a shit about yourself, and what you needed!”

 

Roman didn’t have anything to say back. He knew Peter was right. Roman hadn’t thought about anyone but himself, which, he was beginning to realise, was the same approach he had to just about everything. He always thought about what he wanted, and never about anyone else. It was wrong. Roman blamed it on his upbringing, because it wasn’t his fault. It couldn’t be his fault.

 

“I was ready to be a father , Roman.” Peter’s voice was softer, but somehow it hit Roman more than the yelling, he flinched away from Peter. “I was going to graduate high school, get a job, and raise a kid.” Peter met Roman’s eyes, all the anger was gone. Neither of them looked like they wanted to keep arguing, but whatever was going on, was just a ceasefire, and either one of them could slip it back into the shouting, and the blame. “I didn’t just lose my fucking girlfriend, I lost my kid.”

 

Roman felt his heart sink in his chest. The baby had survived the White Tower, but it didn’t survive Roman Godfrey. If he’d had it his way, he would be dead, and Peter would be sitting on the porch of Letha’s house, with her baby in his arms, while Letha laughed. He could still see her so clearly, but she had been corrupted. He couldn’t think of Letha without hearing the sound of her headboard squeaking, and gently thumping against the wall, and the constant, shrill scream. Or ouroboros.

 

Roman knew he wouldn’t have been a good father, anyway. He was weak, and cruel, and he’d raise his children to be the same way.

 

Roman shook his head. He had to look down at his feet to hide the tears welling up in his eyes. Thinking about Letha, and the baby, and just fucking normality made his chest ache from the emptiness of whatever reality he was in now. 

 

“Maybe we both fucking abandoned each other.” 

 

At the sound of Peter’s voice, Roman wiped his eyes off with his sleeve, and looked back up from the dirt.

 

“Yeah.” 

 

That was probably as close as Roman had probably ever come to admitting something was, at least, partially on him .

 

Without another word, Roman stooped down to pick up the hatchet, having to reach a little to get a good hold of it, as both of them had moved a few paces in their brief shouting match. He straightened up, looked at Peter, and turned away. He looked around for the little droplet of blood again, finding it quite easily, which made Roman weary, because maybe he was getting too hungry again. Things like this were easier when he was hungry. He touched it, leaving a smear on his index finger, and a smear on the leaf. He made a face, pretending to be disgusted, and wiped it off on his trousers.

 

Following the trail was quite easy, once he’d got his head out of the argument, and into the search. He heard Peter following after him, probably holding onto that goddamn rusty machete like his life depended on it. 

 

They walked in silence, neither one of them knowing what to say to the other. This went on for some time: Roman leading the way, and Peter following. He was half-waiting for Peter to ask how Roman was able to do this, but Roman knew that Peter was probably just as aware as he was. Things had changed, for both of them.

 

Peter never asked, so Roman didn’t say anything. 

 

“This would be so much fucking easier if you were a wolf,” Roman said, just to break the silence. He felt so unbelievably fucking awkward doing this, because it was, at its core, the stupidest thing he’d done in a good few weeks.

 

Peter laughed half-heartedly. “I can see what you’re following now.” Roman turned his head to see Peter point to a bloody handprint, wrapped around the trunk of a thin tree, and then at a splatter on the ground. “Is it human?” 

 

Roman nodded. There was enough of it for him to be able to differentiate between humans, and animals. He couldn’t quite figure out the specifics, like how old the blood was, or the type, but he knew this stuff was, without a doubt, human. 

 

He looked over at Peter. “Ready to take over?” Roman asked. It could’ve been teasing, if his tone wasn’t so flat. He sounded like he didn’t have the energy anymore, which he really didn’t. Pretending to be normal was exhausting, except following a trail of blood through the woods was anything but. 

 

“I’ll watch your back.”

 

Roman nodded, and pressed on. 

 

They walked for a while longer, and then it hit him. Roman gagged, and jerked his hand up to cover his mouth, worried he might suddenly fucking vomit, or that his human mask would slip away, showing Peter exactly what he’d done to himself. The woods were almost normal. Fallen leaves, and pine needles stretched out under their feet, occasionally broken up by a rock protruding from the ground, or unruly undergrowth, but then there were the splatters of red, which, to anyone who wasn’t Roman Godfrey, or Peter Rumancek, would probably just go unnoticed. 

 

Roman saw it first. 

 

There was a girl lying in the dirt. Her white sundress stood out against the dirt, and the yellowing leaves. That was the first thing Roman noticed, the second was that she was alarmingly familiar. Her blonde hair was messy, and her skin was bruised, and scratched. She was peaceful, almost like she was sleeping.

 

Roman heard Peter come to a stop beside him. 

 

“Shee-it…” Peter muttered. “Is that…” His voice trailed off, like someone had clamped a hand over his mouth.

 

“Yeah,” Roman said, nodding. “It’s her. It’s Letha.”

 

Roman knew that it was completely illogical for Letha fucking Godfrey to be lying in the woods, looking like she was still alive, or a very fresh corpse. She’d been dead for months, her body had been cremated, and her ashes scattered in the river. It was impossible. But it was also impossible for Peter Rumancek to strip off his skin to become a wolf, or for Roman to bleed to death, just to wake up again. 

 

With that, Peter took off. Roman followed after him, running without the grace, and ease Peter did, but still managing to keep pace. It was probably an upir thing, because Roman had never been a runner, or an athlete, outside of a few years of mixed martial arts, and a year of ballroom dance classes, which Letha had forced him into. Peter dropped to his knees, and seemed to skid across the dirt, sending leaf litter, and chunks of half-dried mud flying.

 

Roman stopped walking when he saw the hole in the side of her head. 

 

He saw the blood first, all down one side of her face. How had he not noticed it before? He was probably too fucking buzzed up at the sight of Letha, even though he knew, in his heart, that this was some cruel trick. 

 

Peter was holding her face in his hands, examining her features, and then the clean-cut hole in her head, at her temple. It was about the size of a small coin, and done with such surgical precision, that it made Roman morbidly satisfied. It was perfect, in a horrific, disgusting way.

 

He slowly began making his way over, using every hesitant step as a test of his own self-control. Every step made the pains in his stomach sharpen. He crouched down in the dirt beside the body of the dead girl, bracing himself on the tree she was propped up against.

 

“It’s a glamour,” Peter said. There wasn’t a single hint of sadness in his voice, which Roman found strange, since he’d just been vocalising how fucked up Letha’s death had made him. 

 

Roman didn’t reply. His upper jaw was starting to ache. He was becoming far too transfixed with the blood drying on the side of her face, and the half-scabbed over cuts on her arms, and shoulders. It was almost beautiful to him. Every single drying drop of blood was a fucking ruby pressed into her skin. Roman wanted to pick them all off, give them to a jeweler, and get himself a new ring.

 

He could feel Peter’s eyes on him. It was unnerving to know that Peter was watching this , as it was quite literally everything Roman wasn’t ready for him to see, but he wanted to tell him about so fucking badly. 

 

“You okay?” Peter asked, his voice sounded far-off. 

 

Roman blinked a few times, and then flicked his eyes away, back up to Peter, who actually looked concerned. “Yeah.” He raised a hand to wipe off the sheen of cold sweat that was breaking out on his forehead, in an attempt to make himself believe that he was okay, which he wasn’t. The combined shock of seeing Letha again, and the fucking blood, was making whatever handle he had on all the supernatural stuff slippery, and hard to keep a grasp on. 

 

“Roman.” Peter reached a hand over the body, and carefully placed it on Roman’s shoulder. “It’s fucking fine.” He gave Roman a half-smile, almost as encouragement, but it was too weary to be that. “I’m a fucking werewolf, I’ve seen it all.” 

 

He exhaled. Peter saying that somehow made it feel like there had been a weight lifted from Roman’s shoulders, and that somehow, despite all of this, they’d maybe be okay. Peter had probably seen much worse than Roman, and would probably take the news that he was different, better than almost anyone.

 

“I can’t fucking do this with you watching.” Roman felt hot embarrassment creep up his neck, and spill across his cheeks, making him feel quite clammy. There was a lot of resentment, when it came to what he’d turned into, and he was so fucking far in denial that he didn’t even know what he was, not really. He had a base understanding, but knew absolutely none of the details. He gestured to the dead girl. “I’m fucking…” He shook his head at the wrongness of all of it, “I’m starving.”

 

Peter took his hand off Roman’s shoulder, and absentmindedly used it to stroke back the hair of the dead girl, who looked far too much like Letha. He spent a few moments studying her face, and tracing her features with his symmetrical index and middle fingers, before looking back up at Roman. “Those are new.” Peter gestured to his own face, which made Roman wince. Something in Peter’s face was so undeniably sad , his eyebrows were raised slightly, and knitted together. 

 

He gave Peter a sarcastic smile, which was really just an incredibly awkward show of baring his teeth. Roman could taste the blood in his own mouth, which was a side effect of looking like Count fucking Dracula.

 

“Long fucking story.” Roman’s voice was thick, and slurred, like he was drunk. He couldn’t make certain sounds, without his voice whistling, or fucking lisping . He flicked his tongue between the canine fangs, which was starting to become a bit of a habit. They just reminded Roman of the time he had fucking braces, and how he was just uncomfortable the whole time, because he had fucking foreign metal, and elastic bands in his mouth. 

 

Peter nodded in false understanding. He’d taken to braiding a section of this girl’s hair, since there wasn’t jack shit either of them could do to make her not dead anymore. If Peter felt anything close to how Roman did, he was too fucking numb to care about the fact that it was, by all apperances, Letha Godfrey.

 

Roman was well aware that the only reason Peter was still here, was for him. He’d think about it later, probably when he was in bed, trying to get a few hours of sleep, before it was socially unacceptable for him to still be in bed. 

 

He was only half thinking, when he lifted her arm up, his fingers pressed into her pulse point. There was nothing there, obviously, which left Roman feeling like he was fucking human again, and craving another line of coke in the middle of advanced calculus. He was denied a fix. He let his eyes slide over his hand against her skin, and all the thin, long scratches across her arms. She wasn’t corpse-pale yet. Roman didn’t care much that whatever had killed her was still hanging around. 

 

He heard Peter get to his feet, and brush the dirt off his knees. He tore his eyes away from the dead girl, and looked up at Peter, who had started walking a tight circle around the tree the girl was propped up against. It was methodical. He was looking for tracks, Roman thought, but then he realised that the vargulf had never killed in this way. This was human. 

 

Roman lowered his head, not wanting to lift the girl’s arm too high, because she didn’t have a fucking heartbeat to keep her circulatory system going, which meant he’d need to use gravity to get more than a few drops. The inner thigh would be easiest, but Roman had absolutely no intention of trying there, especially while Peter was around, and when the girl was apparently his first cousin.

 

He dragged the points of his teeth across the skin, to try find a spot where the bones wouldn’t get in the way. 

 

Then he was at a party. He could see the lights through his closed eyes, or really, the suggestion of them. They were playing Common People , and he was fucking dancing . Roman didn’t know how to dance, so it was really just a matter of ‘get close to people, and try not to let your limbs become a fucking fire hazard’. It was so fucking real. He could hear the people talking, and laughing. The roof of his mouth, and the inside of his nose ached, probably from the lines of fucking cocaine he used to do, just because he could , and because he loved the feeling of just being fucking gone. He wasn’t Roman Godfrey anymore, he was just nothing . No one. It felt good. There weren't any expectations, or responsibilities , or morals. He could be free from absolutely everything.

 

He didn’t hate himself.

 

Then the feeling stopped. Just like that.

 

Roman pulled back, gasping for air.

 

He felt someone press a hand against his back. In the rational part of his mind, he knew it was Peter, but he was still on his feet and backing away from what he’d just done, even though he fucking irrational, and Peter was probably the only other person who got it .

 

“Jesus, Roman!” Peter had his hands held up in surrender, his face wore the same, sad expression as before, slightly cracked up by shock. One of his hands was empty, the other held a crumpled-up piece of paper.

 

Roman’s shoulders were rising and falling in time with the deep breaths he was forcing himself to take. He raised a hand up to his face, and ran his thumb under his lower lip, and across his chin, trying to stop blood from running down his face, but all he accomplished was smearing it across his chin, from where it was dripping down from the side of his mouth. He took his time trying to get himself back together again; dead girls don’t run away.

 

When he was about as recovered as he felt he’d ever be, he began approaching Peter, who’d since dropped his hands, and was unraveling the sheet of paper.

 

Peter glanced up at Roman, who was making a shitty attempt at licking the blood off his teeth. “That’s fucking attractive.”

 

Roman wasn’t ready for jokes, so he just shrugged off the comment, and tried to keep himself from breaking down. He’d had Letha hung over his head. But she wasn’t fucking there, and never fucking would be. ‘Dead and buried’ only applied to good people.

 

“Grocery list?” Roman asked. He raised an eyebrow at Peter, giving him a flicker of a grin, before withdrawing his phone from his pocket. The screen automatically lit up, so Roman had to press the power button to get to his own reflection. He met his own eyes, and began muttering to himself under his breath. It didn’t take much to trigger the nosebleed, and to force those goddamn fucking fangs to retract. Roman stuffed his phone back into his pocket, switching it for a tissue, which he quickly pressed against his nose.

 

“Uh, no.” Peter turned the paper towards Roman, who craned his neck to peer down at it. 

 

Roman found himself looking at a list of names, each with a word written next to them, and a sum of money. He immediately recognised his sister’s name, which made his heart skip a beat. 

 

“Shelley Godfrey, ‘Unknown’, forty thousand dollars,” Roman muttered, his voice thick from the nosebleed, and shaky from the discovery of whatever the fuck this sheet of paper was.

 

Peter pointed to another name. His. “Peter Rumancek, ‘Werewolf’, ninety thousand dollars.” He exhaled, nodding, like this wasn’t all that strange, and that shit would just go back to however it was before. “This is a fucking joke. Destiny said shit about the fucking vargulf, not… a kill list.”

 

Roman frowned, he tore his eyes away from the list to look at Peter, who looked like he’d seen a fucking ghost. He was made of porcelain, rather than steel, just for a moment. Roman didn’t try to make him feel less like shit, out of sheer worry that he’d break him. “How do you know?” 

 

Peter shrugged. “Unless they’re selling us into sex slavery… what else could it be?”

 

Roman made a face. Peter had a point. He didn’t want to believe him, but it was Hemlock Grove, and nobody was what they appeared to be. Young gypsies transformed into wolves, and so did little girls, while wealthy teenagers stalked the streets for blood, and women whispered the words of the dead into the ears of anyone who’d listen.

 

Roman read the rest of the list. His mother, Destiny, and one of the girls from the Necropolis had all been marked down. Olivia was worth the most. His name didn’t feature, but there was no relief in that.

 

He cleared his throat. “What do we do with the body?” Roman asked, in a pitiful attempt to get Peter’s attention off the list, which really demanded more of his attention than a goddamn dead body.

 

When he didn’t get a response, he just sighed and said, “I’ll call Pryce to take care of it.”

 

They were silent again.

 

Roman dug his toes into the dirt, flicking up leaves, and little bits of earth. It wasn’t particularly satisfying, especially when Roman thought about how he’d have to clean his shoes off when he got home.

 

“Letha’s alive.”

 

Roman’s attention suddenly turned away from the dirt, and over to Peter Rumancek, who’d just said something impossible. “What?”

 

“You can only make a glamour of someone who’s alive.” Peter shoved the paper into the pocket of his jeans, a deliberate attempt to not look up at Roman. “That’s why you never see people walking around looking like fucking Michael Jackson, or some shit. The magic only works if they’re alive.”

 

“So Letha’s out there somewhere?” Roman asked. He couldn’t help but feel the tiniest bubble of hope rise in his chest. It would likely turn into hysteria, which was dangerous, as it wasn’t controlled, and Roman was all about control. 

 

Peter nodded. His face was stony, an obvious attempt to not get too excited. He didn’t know where, or who she’d become. “I fucking hope so.”

 

“I fucking hope so,” Roman echoed.

Chapter Text

 

Roman Godfrey

i’ll look in necropolis. see

if anyone’s seen anything

fucked up, or knows anything

about the list.                                19:04

 

peter rumancek

I’ll talk to Destiny, she knows

more about the magic aspect of

whatever’s going on                       19:05

 

They’d decided to split up. 

 

It was a mutual agreement, as they both felt as though they’d seen a bit too much of each other, in more ways than one. They’d finished up at the Rumancek trailer, having ended up working late into the night to get the furniture in. They’d had to drag individual chairs, tables, and shelves down from the manor, which was about a ten-minute walk from the trailer, longer when they had to walk uphill from the trailer to the manor. It was hard work, and neither of them spoke much, because it would ultimately end up raising questions neither of them were ready to answer.

 

Roman had asked to use the bathroom to wash his mouth out, Peter had said there was probably no water, and Roman had gone home, and that was it.

 

It was obvious that they’d have to talk about it, because now it seemed that they were both in over their heads, but like before, neither of them would want to initiate it, unless they were absolutely blackout drunk.

 

Roman knew they’d both end up regretting ignoring the whole thing, because it wasn’t just something that went away, if you ignored it for long enough. It was one of those things that grew, and was all-consuming, and would swallow up everything that made Roman Godfrey human, and if there was one thing Roman wanted to be, it was human . He was aware that maybe he’d lost his hold on his humanity, but now that Peter was back, he had a chance of finally being himself again, instead of this thing that had the fucking audacity to parade around wearing his skin.

 

He wanted to be himself again, if they found Letha. Roman didn’t want to present as though he’d changed, which he undoubtedly had, because he didn’t want to be seen as an upir , but as himself. 

 

Roman snorted to himself.  He dropped his phone onto his chest, and tried to stare holes in the ceiling. He’d been lying on his couch for about an hour, not doing much of anything, and hoping Pryce didn’t call him into the tower, as Roman’s recent absences were starting to build up, and, as a figurehead, he looked like a pretty lousy one. He usually skipped work if he was hungry, which was most likely a bad idea, as Pryce probably had something of nutritional value for Roman to eat. But seeking that out would mean he needed to admit to Pryce that he needed help.

 

Roman had cooked up some bullshit excuse, that feeding live for the first few months would be better for him, in the long term, which he’d then gone directly against by accepting Odin’s services, and resorting to starving himself for days, to keep his fucking fifteen leeches for as long as they’d last. It was a lot of money for nothing. 

 

He’d polished off the last two about a half-hour ago, and the plastic zip-loc bag lay on the grey rug, beside the couch, bloodstained and discarded. 

 

Roman didn’t need to worry about hiding in his own home. The staff hung around mostly in the evenings, when Roman was out doing God-knows-what , and they made a point to only show up during the day if Roman was asleep. He slept through most of the day, which he acknowledged was weird, but didn’t really put the effort in to change. It wasn’t really too much of an issue, because if someone wanted to get hold of him, his phone was always on his nightstand, and Roman was a very light sleeper.

 

A few weeks after his turn, Roman had locked the doors to the attic, and moved to the edge of town, leaving all his old belongings behind at the Godfrey manor, finding it easier to restart completely, than hold onto everything he had, for nostalgic purposes. The house he’d moved into was the complete opposite of the manor; there was no antique furniture, family portraits, or persian rugs, it was all straight lines, harsh lights, and dark furniture, with entire walls made of glass. It was of modern design; a mixture of boxy rooms, and open spaces, all furnished in cold tones of grey, crimson, and brown. It fit Roman perfectly, but left almost everyone else feeling like an outsider. 

 

His phone vibrated against his chest. Roman groaned, and sat up, swinging his long legs off the couch, and planting the soles of his feet on the rug. He had a message from Pryce, informing him that Olivia Godfrey had been in contact with the White Tower, trying to get Roman’s new address. That made him feel shaky, and panicked, which quickly turned into a dull ache in his stomach. He gritted his teeth, trying to keep his composure. Everything went back to the goddamn fucking hunger.

 

He got to his feet, trying to ignore the fact that every time he exhaled he felt a sharp pain, just below his ribcage. The blood from the dead girl yesterday, and the two leeches, most certainly hadn’t been enough. Roman staggered into his kitchen, his phone clutched in his hand, the text from Pryce sitting unanswered, in a stream of notifications coming through from some bullshit thing he’d put on his Facebook page, for his father’s birthday, which Roman had long since stopped giving a shit about.

 

He put his phone down on the counter island. He’d practically slid across the polished wooden floors on his socks, as soon as he’d stopped off the edge of the rug, on his way over from the sitting room. Roman pulled open the fridge, his eyes falling immediately on a chunk of raw, red meat, which had been poorly wrapped in butcher’s paper. It was one of the only things in there. He had a carton of milk, which had probably expired, a bottle of red wine, a bottle of orange juice, and a pack of bacon. He hadn’t got to the point where he was desperate enough to ask a butcher for blood. That raised questions, and put Roman in danger. He knew well enough that he could’ve just used his hypnosis trick on the butcher, but he’d seen the damage that could do to a person, and it was etched into his own flesh. He didn’t want to hurt anyone like that.

 

Roman was shaking by the time he’d taken a carving knife to the chunk of meat.

 

He walked out his front door half an hour later, with a photocopied version of the list in the breast pocket of his Milanese blazer, knowing that it still wasn’t enough.

 

Roman Godfrey

dirk, i’m coming down to the

necropolis, can we talk when

i get there? 19:40

 

drake angelo

Sure thing Roman. A talk’s

probably long overdue.                            19:45

 

Roman Godfrey

thanks man                                              19:51

is reggie in?                                              19:51

 

drake angelo

He’s in the back. Do you 

want me to tell him you’re 

coming?                                                     19:52

 

Roman Godfrey

i’m not pissed at him or

anything                                                    19:53

 

drake angelo

Thing are running different after

8pm, in V.I.P tonight.                                19:55

You picked the wrong night

to come down here, if you want

sense.                                                        19:56

 

Roman didn’t message back, after that. He’d been hanging around in bars for years, despite being only eighteen, and shit ‘running different’ didn’t do much to intimidate him into going somewhere else. He’d decided that apparent immortality made it acceptable for him to text and drive, because it couldn’t kill him , and killing other people was something he was just wired to do, it was in his nature, and it was inevitable. Underneath all that, Roman knew it was bullshit. Just more excuses to keep him from being accountable.

 

The Necropolis was harder to find at night, as the woods that rose sharply on either side of the building hid the neon sign, and the driveway to the tiny, gravel parking lot. Roman almost drove right past it.

 

He arrived two minutes after eight, and parked his car next to a beat-up Toyota, with every appearance of a mule cart hitched to the back. Roman didn’t bother putting the roof up. Nobody would try to jack his car, even out in the middle of goddamn nowhere.

 

Roman knew to knock before entering. He slammed the palm of his hand against the door, too worried to curl his fingers into a fist, because he was hungry, and adrenaline was starting to buzz through his veins. He didn’t want to stick his fist straight through the door. 

 

It swung open, and Roman ducked inside. It took his eyes a moment to adjust to the dark, but he could immediately make out the bar, and the man standing behind it. Drake Angelo, who’d bumped into Roman by chance, on the streets of Hemlock Grove, and told him about the Necropolis, before ducking for cover under an overhang, as the clouds broke apart. Roman hadn’t thought anything about it.

 

Roman made his way over, not to order a drink, but to have a talk with the bartender.

 

“Hey, Dirk.” Roman took a seat on a barstool, unbuttoning his blazer as he sat down. 

 

The bartender looked up from what he was pretending to do, and met Roman’s eyes, which appeared to be flickering under the LED lighting of the bar. He was a well dressed man, wearing a crimson pressed suit, with a black tie loosely hung around his neck. The suit took whatever colour was in his skin, and made him look pale, and drawn. He obviously belonged in a place like this.

 

“You look like hell.”

 

Roman rolled his eyes. It seemed to be becoming a customary greeting, and one that mildly irritated Roman, because he knew he didn’t look his best. On his good days, he looked feverish, at best, and on his more rough days, he had every appearance of a walking corpse. Technically he was the latter, but Roman was far too sensitive to the subject to find it at all amusing. 

 

He didn’t say anything, and just cut straight to the chase, withdrawing the sheet of paper from the breast pocket of his blazer. He smoothed it out over the badly painted bar, and slid it towards Dirk.

 

“What’s this?” He asked, frowning. Dirk chewed on his lower lip as he looked over the paper. He muttered to himself as he read, mispronouncing names left and right. He tapped his index finger against the paper. “That’s something.” He looked away, back up at Roman, who was trying to keep his expression as relaxed as possible.

 

“Peter and I think it’s some sort of…” Roman hesitated, trying to find the right word, “hitlist.” He pressed his lips together, and lifted his hand to run one of his knuckles over the bridge of his nose. “I need to know if you know anyone on here, and if they’re what the list says they are.” 

 

“Where did you find this thing?” Dirk asked, in a voice that made Roman want to hit him. 

 

“We found a body in the woods, this thing was on the fucking ground.” Roman reached forward, and tapped his index finger onto the paper, as though he was reminding Dirk that this was what they were really supposed to be focused on, not why Roman Godfrey and Peter Rumancek were wandering around in the woods. 

 

“Summer…” Dirk’s voice trailed off, and he made a face. Roman found her name on the list, and realised he was probably avoiding saying her surname, which looked quite difficult to pronounce. “Blonde girl, hangs out in V.I.P.” He paused for a moment, contemplative. “She’s in tonight. I think she came through a few hours ago. Reggie would’ve told her about the blackout.”

 

Roman frowned. “The fuck is ‘the blackout’?” He asked. “Do you turn all the fucking lights out, and have group sex, or something?”

 

Dirk looked almost amused at the question, his pale eyes were too dead, and empty to carry out any real show of emotion, so Roman was left guessing. “We just pull a curtain over the door to the V.I.P area. It’s a black curtain, hence ‘blackout’.” Dirk looked back down at the paper, and tapped the word ‘SIREN’, branded across the paper, in bold, screaming capital letters. “She’s a half-Siren, technically. I asked how that works, and she said it was some fucked witchcraft shit. A mermaid didn’t fuck a human.”

 

Roman hoped he didn’t look as lost as he felt. He didn’t think there was much more out there than upirs , and werewolves, and he most certainly didn’t know anything about anything Dirk was going off about. He didn’t know much about what he was, let alone what anyone else was, but Dirk certainly spoke like he had some knowledge under his belt.

 

Dirk pointed to another name. “Kurt Bell.” He grinned at Roman. “He’s about six foot, and he really doesn’t like bloodsuckers.” Roman’s heart jumped. Dirk rolled his eyes. “Pity for me, he’ll never let me join his pack.” Dirk exhaled. “He’s a werewolf, which he thinks is pretty groovy. Kurt’s known around here for showing everyone in V.I.P a video he’d taken of himself turning. He’s probably in tonight... “ Dirk shrugged. “Not much else to say.”

 

“You drink blood.” The idiotic statement slipped over Roman’s lips before he could stop it. The word ‘bloodsuckers’ had thrown him. He bit back a sarcastic remark about how stupid that was, deciding it was better to just let it all play out, rather than get all awakrd about it.

 

“It’s either that, or starve to death,” Dirk replied mildly. His gaze challenged Roman, like he was waiting for Roman to get uncomfortable and look away. “Surely your mother taught you that.”

 

Roman shook his head. “I’m self-taught.” Clearly the people here just knew about each other, which put Roman a little more at ease, since he didn’t have to actively hide. If he accidentally mentioned ‘feeding’ - which he’d done at the White Tower in the middle of a meeting, making Pryce quite flustered, because the company’s figurehead appeared to have lost his grip for a few moments - then nobody would think twice about it, and continue with business as usual.

 

Dirk nodded in apparent understanding. “ Upir , right?”

 

Roman made a face, debating backtracking straight into denial, but that wouldn’t get him anywhere. If he had to tell a few other people what he was to try to do whatever it was Peter needed help with, then so be it. He nodded. 

 

“Expect that a lot.” Dirk waved a hand, and flicked his eyes back down to the list. “Reggie had you marked up as a strigoi .” That was clearly an afterthought, or some stupid absentminded comment. Dirk was too concentrated on reading to really focus on Roman.

 

Roman didn’t quite understand why he was an obvious topic of conversation. He never mentioned anything about being something other than human, and yet, they all knew. Roman knew he looked different, especially his eyes, which reflected more light than they were meant to, making them appear more catlike, than human, at times, but he’d grown up with that, and everyone around him was so goddamn used to it that they just never asked questions. The Necropolis was full of new people, who maybe weren’t so used to seeing a teenager with eyes that appeared to almost glow. Maybe it was the mysterious apparent death of Olivia Godfrey, which brought Roman’s status as a human into question.

 

“You’re not on here.” Dirk spun the paper back around, and slid it back across the bar, towards Roman. “But that there…” Dirk pointed to a faint mark on the bottom of the page. “Those are roman numerals. That’s nine, then fourteen, then eighteen. It might be a date.”

 

“September fourteenth.” Roman’s chest ached, as he felt his heart break just a little bit more. “That’s the day my sister killed the vargulf .” He’d never fucking forget that date. Roman had spent hours running through the woods, yelling for her to come back, that he wouldn’t let anyone hurt her. He’d staggered back into the manor, close to sunset, soaking wet from the rain. Olivia had been waiting for him with a towel. She’d taken his wool coat off, and wrapped him in the towel. Wrapping him in a motherly embrace, and letting him cry into her shoulder for as long as he needed was one of the only decent things she’d ever done for him. Remembering it hurt just as much as the sharpening hunger pains.

 

Dirk exhaled. “Kurt’s pack was looking for it. They lost the scent when they went looking on the February full moon.” Dirk looked up from the paper, and smirked at Roman. “Reggie told me. Kurt would never tell shit like that to a fucking spellturned vampire.”

 

“It’s like you’re speaking fucking Finnish to me,” Roman said. “I barely fucking know what I am, and you’re pulling the phrase ‘spellturned vampire’ out of your ass, and handing it to me without any explanation.” Roman struggled to say ‘vampire’, finding it to be a word that was too intertwined with bullshit like Twilight, and sparkly bastards with kicked puppy complexes. Upir was still hard to say, but that was just because Roman wasn’t ready to accept that part of himself just yet. Part of him couldn’t wait for the day he could throw the term around, just as casually as Peter Rumancek did with the word ‘werewolf’.

 

“It means I was cursed,” Dirk explained briefly. “If you die from a curse, cast by a witch, you rise again as a strigoi .” Upon getting no response from Roman, aside from a blank stare, he sighed. “Earliest documented type of vampire.”

 

“Jesus.” Roman grimaced. “Being dead is so much more fucking complicated than I thought.” 

 

Dirk ran one of his hands along the top of the bar, as though he was smoothing it out. “Do you want to order a drink, before you go into V.I.P? You might need one.” 

 

Roman didn’t ask Dirk anything else about the list, judging on the abrupt shift in the conversation, he didn’t know much else. Dirk’s name didn’t feature either, which was probably a relief for him, because it meant nobody was going to be hunting him down for money. 

 

Roman hoped Peter got to Destiny’s place with his internal organs intact.

 

“Yeah. Surprise me.” Roman withdrew his wallet from his blazer, flicked it open, and withdrew a twenty dollar bill. He tossed the bill onto the bar, and leaned in, to see what Dirk was cooking up. “Do I look that bad?” Roman joked, seeing the bottle of literal fucking metholated spirits that Dirk had found under the counter. He’d probably be able to get drunk off that.

 

“You look like you’d benefit from a fair share of the first degree,” Dirk replied. 

 

He knew well enough what Dirk meant. “Murder.” Roman dragged his palms down his slacks. “I’m not a murderer.” He was aware that an undercurrent of urgency had slipped into his voice, but he didn’t much care. Roman had killed people, but he was no murderer. He didn’t have it in him.

 

Dirk slid a glass across the table, towards Roman. “I put a shot of red cells in there.” 

 

Roman grimaced. He didn’t like the idea of drinking anything he could get a bit of a feed off anywhere he could be seen. He reserved that for his kitchen, or his living room, when he knew he was alone. He picked up the glass, closed his eyes, and downed the lot of it. It took almost all of his willpower not to gag at the sensation of it going down the back of his throat. It didn’t taste bad , but he was too uncomfortable to enjoy it. He put the glass down, immediately lifting his hand to cover his mouth. 

 

“How’d that taste?” Dirk asked, somehow managing to sound completely amused, and utterly bored at the same fucking time.

 

“Like fucking iron,” Roman replied, through gritted teeth. “But apparently I fucking love that now.” He was aware that admitting that was maybe a little fucked up, but he was saying it to someone he’d known was a bit off for a while. 

 

Roman had walked into the Necropolis three weeks after he’d turned, and had caught sight of a man standing behind the bar, with sharp, inhuman teeth jutting out of his lips. After the initial shock of seeing that had worn off, Roman had realised he could let his guard down, and relax a little bit more. He’d never outright said anything, but when he was asked if he was human, he’d usually just shrug and say he didn’t really know anymore.

 

Dirk let out an exhale, which could’ve been a laugh, if the subject matter wasn’t so completely fucked up. “You’ll get used to it.”

 

Roman didn’t doubt that. He’d already known what fucking blood tasted like, going into the whole ‘feeding’ thing, but it hadn’t ever been more than a morbid-fascination-turned-sexal-interest thing. He’d never felt the need to douse himself in blood, or rip someone’s throat out with his teeth, to get to their jugular. That was all new, and it was scary .

 

“I need to talk to Reggie,” Roman said, diverting the subject away from the fucking supernatural, and back to the reason he actually dragged his ass out of his house. 

 

Reggie was an odd guy, who was undoubtedly something inhuman , but whatever he was, Roman hadn’t figured it out, and probably wouldn’t. He didn’t really care what Reggie was, so long as he wasn’t going to use any of it against him. Roman needed people on his side, through all this, because they’d be more likely to help him, if his name somehow ended up getting tacked onto the list. Using hypnosis on people was only useful to a point, and it was really the only trick he had up his sleeve.

 

“He’ll be in the back.” Dirk reached over the bar and took back Roman’s empty glass. The dregs left in the glass were almost pink, discoloured from the shot Dirk had put in it. He turned away, and dropped it into a sink, which was starting to overflow with used cutlery, and dishes, which was strange, because the bar was almost completely deserted, aside from Dirk, Roman, and whoever was in V.I.P.

 

Roman didn’t thank Dirk, he just got to his feet, and straightened out his blazer, just to keep himself from looking like even more of a fucking mess. He exhaled, and then spun on his heel, back around to face Dirk behind the bar. “Don’t tell anyone.” He didn’t want to sound like he was pleading, but the desperate look on his face was likely a dead giveaway. “I’m just not ready for people to know that shit just yet.” Roman, for a moment, reminded himself of Letha, who’d pulled Roman aside at school one day, into an empty classroom, and told her she needed to tell him something, but she didn’t want anyone else to know. The sick desperation in the air was all the same.

 

Dirk seemed to understand. The expression on his face softened, and he let out another sigh. Roman suspected he was reminding himself to breathe. 

 

“You need to get over that,” Dirk said, in the same tone someone would speak to a kid. “They don’t trust outsiders.” 

 

It was clear that Dirk wasn’t going to sugarcoat anything for Roman, which he didn’t really expect. He’d been hanging around for a few months, and had talked to Dirk enough to get his real name, but they weren’t really close enough to be anything but blunt with each other. Still, it was enough of a reality check to make Roman feel slightly more aware of what sort of world he’d been thrown into. 

 

It didn’t take a rocket scientists to figure out that ‘outsiders’ were humans, to the people behind the red-striped door of the V.I.P section. That didn’t provide any comfort, somehow. It made his stomach churn, and his head swim, as he tried to find some sort of grasp on absolutely everything that he was fucking missing, because he was too far in goddamn denial to appear as anything else.

 

“You let me in,” Roman pointed out, “you knew I wasn’t an ‘outsider’.”

 

Dirk smirked. “I suspected.” He began walking out from behind the bar, to guide Roman to V.I.P. He stopped beside Roman, and looked up at him. “A demonic heritage has its signs.” 

 

Roman made a face, halfway through disgust, and intrigue. He was curious, but he didn’t want to seem too eager, finding it completely embarrassing to know this little about his own goddamn family’s history. He’d done enough research to know that he had to have some demonic blood, otherwise, he would’ve been fucking dead and buried.

 

It was probably his fucking eyes, which had been strange long before he displayed any real signs of something being not quite right . Roman hadn’t even noticed they were ‘weird’, until some cruel jackoff took the time to pick on him in the fourth grade, when he noticed how his eyes were reflective as shit, under the stage lighting of their class show. Roman had been completely frozen on stage. He’d forgotten his lines, and, being too confident in his own abilities to just remember them, had just stood there, like an idiot, without asking for help. 

 

Then Dirk shrugged. “You’re an upir ,” he said, “you can make anyone talk.”

 

It hit Roman that Dirk had been having him on, and that there wasn’t really much drama, with whoever was out the back. The ‘blackout’, whatever it was, wasn’t anything Roman needed to worry about. 

 

He let out a forced exhale. “You’re a fucktoy.” Roman turned away from Dirk, and made his way across the room, having to weave between threadbare sofas, and coffee tables. This place was so fucking disordered, and confused, that it made him want to shove a fire-poker into his eye. 

 

There wasn’t a bouncer beside the door into the V.I.P lounge, which Roman acknowledged was weird, but didn’t say anything about it, not that he had anyone to voice that shit to. He stood by the door for a few moments, mentally counting to ten. He checked his wristwatch, added the three numbers displayed on the screen together, and was frustrated to find that they came to an odd total, meaning he had to wait a minute to advance further. Roman kept his eyes glued to his watch, until the number changed. He pulled his sleeve down, just to be safe, and knocked on the door.

 

Roman didn’t have to concentrate too hard to hear the heartbeat of the person standing on the other side of the door. 

 

“It’s Roman. Open up!” Roman slammed his hand against the door a few times. The glass practically vibrated underneath his palm. 

 

The door swung open, revealing a girl standing in front of a black curtain. She was blonde, and wore fingerless, mesh gloves, but what Roman noticed first was the scarlet smeared across her eyes, and the way she’d stuck flakes of gold, or silver to it. It made Roman feel like he was looking into a mirror. His hand twitched, itching for the feel of the steel blade between his thumb and forefinger.

 

Her face cracked into a grin when she saw him, but it was clear that she wasn’t happy to see Roman , she was happy because he was here when he was. Her hand fiddled with the black fabric behind her, like she was going to pull the curtain back, then she extended it to Roman, who took it, though rather hesitantly. The girl gave his hand a gentle tug, and Roman, not really there enough to resist, took a step towards her. He ducked through the door, and the girl shut it behind them, having to press right up against Roman to do so, without opening the curtain. Her ear was pressed to his chest. Roman concentrated on keeping his heartbeat slow and steady.

 

The girl pulled back the curtain, stepped out, and dragged Roman along with her. He almost knocked his forehead on the metal frame the curtain was hanging from, and had to duck at the last moment, just to see a man with fucking horns protruding from his forehead walk in front of them. 

 

None of it made any sense, as Roman had been in this fucking room before, and hadn’t ever seen anything as starkly out of the ordinary as that was. He thought for a moment that he was somewhere different, but the shitty lighting, and the fucking cinema carpet was the same, it was just the people that weren’t. 

 

“Did Dirk fucking drug me?” Roman asked, focusing as much of his attention as he could back onto the blonde girl, in her little fucking dress, and mesh undershirt. He thought fleetingly that she looked like a cartoon character. His mind was skipping. He couldn’t put anything together, but a little voice in Roman’s head was screaming that this was just denial , and that he just didn’t know how to process what he was seeing. 

 

He scanned the room. It was full of the sort of oddities freak shows faked; girls with horns that curled back from their foreheads, a man who was making sparks jump off his fingertips for the entertainment of a woman with feathers hanging from the ends of her hair, who had eyes with the colour and luminosity of molten gold. A couple with feathered wings. 

 

Roman forced the sound of Letha’s screams, and the blinding white light of the illusion out of his head, before it could properly take root. 

 

Then there were the people like Roman, who appeared almost completely human. They seemed to sit around tables together, and didn’t seem to mix too much with the rest of the room. It was a strange dynamic, but Dirk had said that the people didn’t trust ‘outsiders’, and the people who looked human, like the outsiders, didn’t seem to be welcomed. 

 

Amidst all the confusion, Roman knew that he’d get answers here. 

 

“Welcome to the Occult Ring, Roman Godfrey.”