Prologue: Tauroctony, Scene II (Lauren)

"I have a knife, but it's back in the van." Oleander said, and he was indeed smirking. It was with a palpable effort that he turned the corners of his mouth downward, attempting a facade of seriousness. "Do you think you could...?"

Oleander took off his sweatshirt, pulling it over his head and slinging it across one shoulder. Beneath it, he had been wearing a plain white t-shirt, a sport's logo emblazoned across the front. His arms were long and densely muscled, and the t-shirt itself did precious little to hide the chiseled contours of the rest of his body. He held up his left wrist, the skin ivory-pale.

"I can take care of it myself if it's a problem." Oleander said, and he sounded actually serious for the moment. He was also not smirking. "But I don't really like stabbing myself if I can help it."

"Uh." As tightly as Lauren's jaw had snapped shut a moment earlier, that certainly made it fall open. Was this really happening? Did a hot guy really just take his take his shirt off and offer her his wrist? She slapped her hands against her face. Focus.

She approached Oleander with all the enthusiasm of a criminal walking to their execution. On the one hand, she had the vague sense that he had some ulterior motives. On the other, she didn't really care at the moment. It was probably going to come back to bite her later, but she was still going to do it.

Lauren took his wrist in her hand, feeling the blood pumping through the veins beneath her fingers. This close, she could smell him again. It was all very, very distracting. She readied the vial, then hesitated.

"Are you sure... uh... I mean, I can do it, I just don't know if you, I mean..." She was babbling at his wrist now. Lauren was pretty sure she couldn't look him in the eyes if she wanted to, and she didn't, because holy shit, awkward.

There was a faint smirk, on Oleander's face as Lauren approached, but nothing too obvious. He was enjoying this, though to be fair, it was hard not to enjoy watching Lauren's mouth drop open like that. Gave a man confidence, something like that happening. Still, he took pity on her.

"We don't have to it bothers you, Lauren." Oleander said, in that soft voice of his. He said her name slowly, carefully, his tongue rolling around each syllable. "Not if you don't want to."

Okay, she was going to have to do it. This was now a matter of pride. She gave him a challenging look and bit into his wrist. Lauren pulled away immediately afterward to collect the blood. As she watched it drain into the vial, she could taste it on her teeth. To say this was testing her self-control would be an understatement. It was right there!

But she resisted. Even though she allowed herself to suck just a little bit when she went to seal the wound. And maybe she was licking a little more slowly and thoroughly than was necessary. Still.

Lauren stepped away, only hesitating slightly, and looked very pleased with herself. "There."

The blood was like nothing that Lauren had ever tasted. It was thick with power, vibrant with life and health. What flowed through Oleander's veins was nothing more or less than liquid life, rich with its awe-inspiring taste. The experience was quite nearly as overpowering as the gush of blood from the neck of the bull. The closest Lauren's mind could compare it to was to her first taste of human blood, after she'd clawed her way out of the grave. It was that same opening of new vistas, that very same sense of raw power. Lauren wanted that blood.

"There." Oleander said, and he smirked at her. "That wasn't so bad."

He did not, however, put his sweatshirt back on. Instead he regarded the bull for a moment. "Are we just leaving that, or...?"

Lauren was still staring at his wrist. Now that she wasn't focused on showing off, all that was left was the lingering taste of Oleander's blood in her mouth. And wow, that was something. Blood generally tasted different, person to person, and some people tasted better than others, but this was damn near intoxicating. She licked her lips, imagining what it would taste like when she got a decent mouthful.

Wait, was he talking to her? "Huh? Oh. Uh. Yeah, should probably get that out of here. Any ideas?" Lauren was clearly not quite focused on the task at hand.

"We can do it again later if you like it so much." Oleander said, smirking at Lauren's apparent lack of attention. He looked at the bull. "And no, I don't. It's a too big to move."

Oleander walked up to the bull and prodded it with his foot. There was not a chance of moving that corpse with anything more than a forklift, and this became rapidly clear to the blond man.

"So I think we clean up, wipe off fingerprints if we left any, and let's get out of here before the next guard shift gets here." Oleander said. "Do you want me to drop you off somewhere, or...?"

If Lauren's heart still beat, it would have been pounding. Her face nearly broke into an ecstatic grin, but she managed to mostly cover it by turning away and putting her hand up to her face, as if she was deep in thought.

Lauren cleared her throat. "You're right, of course. I think the only things we need to worry about for fingerprints are the doors..." She moved to start picking up the camera. "Um... you could drop me by my apartment." It would be quicker than her trying to get home, especially in the fog, and she might even have time to work on developing the film.

"Sounds like a plan." Oleander said, and there was that sardonic twist of the lip. "Don't forget any doors you touched on the way up to get whats-his-name."


The white van pulled up to Lauren's apartment about an hour later. Clean-up had been done quickly, and from the way Oleander went about it, he'd obviously done it before. He also apparently had experience with the Golden Room's vehicle fleet, since upon reaching the van, he'd gone over to the side, stood on the balls of his feet, and peeled the pizza--delivery logo right off. It had been just a large sticker, nothing more. Between their efforts, and Moon and Penrose's not-inconsiderable influence and abilities, neither Lauren nor Oleander were much worried about legal repercussions for this night's work.

"Is this the place?" Oleander asked, as he pulled the van into the driveway of the apartment's parking lot. He turned to look at her, and for once, the smirk was gone, replaced by an intense gaze. "Need any help getting the camera to your flat?"

While Lauren was not terribly experienced, mainly due to being too oblivious to realize when someone was hitting on her half the time, she was hyper-aware of Oleander after the night's events, and that look definitely meant something.

"Yeah, I'm on the second floor. And I wouldn't mind the help, if you don't have to go." Her voice came out a little higher than she meant it to.

Some part of her brain told her that this was stupid, that she was only on the second floor and she could do it herself. That part of her brain was swiftly overridden by the part that was giddy about a delicious man in her apartment.

When she lead Oleander to her home, she was mostly able to keep the bounce out of her step. Lauren held the door open and flicked on a light. It was a rather average apartment, though perhaps somewhat cleaner than most due to not needing to use the small kitchen, which had been converted into a makeshift darkroom. This gave her a nice excuse for keeping the two windows covered, not that she often had visitors. Most of the walls were covered in photographs, some Lauren had taken, and others she admired. Much of the main living area was covered in boxes of photography equipment. It was clear that Lauren didn't spend a huge amount of time at home.

"You can put it down over there." She gestured towards the other boxes. Her hands were clasped nervously. She was pretty sure that the polite thing here was to offer refreshments, but she didn't really have any.


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