"Well, Vlad, I love the color palette you have going here, and you really have a great eye for fabrics! The blood red, the luxurious furs... this is gonna be great to work with! What do you think, Clinton?"
Stacy's partner was perched on the side of the obscenely sized comital bed, running his hands through the piles and piles of coats, vests, and trousers they'd yanked unceremoniously from a few of the nearest cedar trunks.
"I agree! The main thing we're gonna work on is the tailoring. These are great pieces for, like, a minor Transylvanian noble, but a Count of the Undead needs something a bit more..." Clinton rolled his wrist a few times, pursing his lips and staring off into the distance.
"Elegant?" Stacy suggested.
"Right! Elegant, classy, timeless... something that says 'mysterious Eastern European nobility' rather than, like, 'minor prince of an overly aggressive, back water--'" Stacy kicked him with the tip of her shoe, and laughed nervously as she glanced at their client, half in shadow, slouched in a leather chair off in the corner, glowering at them in silence. It had been ages since they'd been called in for a consult on someone with this kind of wardrobe, and Stacy did not want to screw this one up.
Now Clinton and the client were both glowering at her, so Stacy bent down to pick up a pair of leather boots.
"We're.... also going to want to work on the shoe situation, Vlad. Trust me when I say-- these are not going to fly as courtly dress in a century or two."
"And they look like peasant shoes," Clinton muttered. Stacy ignored him, and smiled brightly at the man in the shadows.
"So then! Can we get someone to send for a seamstress? It'll be a complicated process, but," Stacy winked theatrically at Clinton, but there was a menacing edge to it. Get it together, Kelly, we're on the job! Clinton rolled his eyes at her, and then turned a peppy smile towards the client, as they exclaimed in unison, "we've got all the time in the world!" Stacy and Clinton burst into well-rehearsed peals of laughter. Vlad only stared.
Sometimes it took a while to convince the newly-turned that this was policy. Vlad hadn't put up a fight when they'd appeared in his room-- just slowly backed away from the arcing trajectories of clothes flying out of his trunks and onto his bed, to sit off in the corner-- but he hadn't really said anything either.
Stacy and Clinton paused, probably looking like idiots-- Stacy with a pair of dirty leather (and, yes, fine, peasant-looking) boots in her hands, Clinton with a very passé fur stole hanging off one shoulder. Vlad kept staring at them.
They, Stacy and Clinton, glanced at each other, trying to decide where to move the consult next. Angry, aggressive, clients were one thing, but if he wouldn't even let them help him adjust, well...
But then, Vlad raised a hand in the air and snapped his fingers. It wasn't even that loud, but when Stacy and Clinton looked back over at him, a servant was by his side, head lowered as he muttered something in their ear.
And then he stood up. Clinton jumped up too, the stupid fur stole sliding onto the ground.
"Ok. Seamstress coming," Vlad said, his voice deep and growly and truly monstrous. Stacy and Clinton shared a glance—he was on board?
"And I called for snacks."
Stacy sidled her hip up next to Clinton's, so she could reach her hand behind their backs and share a high-five.
Another one bites the dust!
Oh. Uh. Oops.
They smiled at each other. This was going to be one of their best projects yet.
Clinton and Stacy were really of different minds when it came to dressing newly-turned nobility. Yes, they had beautiful fabrics to work with; yes, it meant great lodging and excellent food for a few days; sure, he guessed, it meant being waited on hand and foot--
But GOD these people were snobs!
When regular people were turned, and Clinton and Stacy showed up, they were usually GRATEFUL. I mean, obviously. You're killed, you come back to life, you can't reconnect with your friends or family because you're a monster-- and then two warm and genuine people like them show up and tell you it's time to go shopping? Of course you’re thrilled.
Plus, normal folk usually hadn't had the time or petty cash in life to develop their own sense of style, so Clinton and Stacy really had a lot more leeway as far as directing a theme for their new vampiric look.
Nobles who were turned, though? Ugh. They thought that just because they'd been surrounded by sycophantic idiots during life that death would be the same? Sorry bud.
This guy was the worst they had seen in a while. Clinton guessed it had something to do with having been close to poverty before, and then coming into his maker's huge fortune after his turning. He probably thought he was finally getting what he deserved-- and then, of course, here come Clinton and Stacy to tell him, "by the way, there's actually a dress code for this kind of lifestyle. No, it's not tacky, you are. Yes, it's required. No, we're not the bosses of the vampires. Just the grunt labor."
Clinton threw back the rest of a glass of wine—which, he had to admit, was really stupendous—as Stacy white-knuckled a pair of ridiculous mint green culottes that this bitchy kid was trying to rip out of her hands.
"I. LIKE. THIS. COLOR!" he roared, tugging harder on the garment with each word. Stacy stood firm. A vampire could definitely maul them to death if the mood struck-- but Clinton and Stacy had won their fair share of tug-of-war games with recalcitrant clients.
"Lestat, I get it, I really do. Mint is fresh and happy and-- oh, it's a lovely color," she cooed. See, this is why Stacy had to take charge with these nutcases. Clinton would've slapped the guy by now. He had no idea how she kept her cool when they started throwing temper tantrums like this.
"BLACK IS BORING! IT'S DOUR AND VILE AND BORING--"
"--AND I WON'T WEAR IT FOR THE REST OF ETERNITY! I WON'T!"
Clinton sighed. He really did not want to deal with this guy, but it was a dick move to keep Stacy hanging like this. He strolled up behind the vampire-- Stacy's eyes widened, and he could hear her thinking you idiot, what are you doing, this guy is off his rocker--and placed his hand ever so lightly on Lestat's lower back.
The shouting stopped. Lestat whipped around, glaring furiously.
Clinton was ready, though, with a gentle smile and soft eyes looking down on him.
"You know, I think they're really cute too," he placated. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Stacy roll her eyes. Whatever, as long as she didn't let go of those fugly culottes. They WERE getting burned tonight.
"It's just that, well..." Clinton let his hand run up Lestat's back, over his shoulder, fingertips brushing his neck. Damn, the guy was pretty fit.
"You've got all this power now, you know? Like, undead power," Clinton said, widening his eyes conspiratorially as his hand lightly squeezed Lestat's bicep. "These higher-ups, they just want to make sure we're giving people the right impression."
Lestat was still scowling, but he was also watching Clinton's hand closely.
"Impression..." he muttered.
"Right, exactly," Clinton said, stepping in even closer. "Elegant, classy... timeless..." He kept his eyes locked on Lestat's as he reached for the culottes. He easily yanked them away, and held up one lace-trimmed edge.
"These are just a bit...."
Lestat sighed, closing his eyes as if suffering some tremendous pain. "Poncy. I know."
Clinton placed a hand on Lestat's neck again. Eugh, he'd never get over how cold these motherfuckers were.
The crisis wasn’t over yet, though. Lestat burst into tears, and flung himself on Clinton's chest. He reacted quickly enough to catch him around the waist, and dragged him over to the nearest couch. He patted Lestat on the back as he wailed and wailed, shushing in as calming a way as a he could, as he tossed the thrice damnéd culottes across the room to Stacy.
Stacy was quick. She caught the stupid little things and tossed them in the fire immediately, as Lestat let out a pitiful, blood-curdling whine. But he didn't move-- just grabbed on more forcefully to Clinton's shirt.
The cleaning bill for tonight is gonna be unreal, he thought at Stacy.
Well, I think we've crossed the biggest hurdle with this one, at least. I cannot wait to get out of here.
I’m definitely shoving a few bottles of that wine into my luggage, though.
Clinton was openly yawning when he felt Stacy’s dagger eyes on him. Oops. He slapped a hand over his mouth.
Well, it wasn’t like the kid could see them, anyway. They were both silently rifling through a closet— it had like five pieces in it altogether so he wasn’t even sure why they were doing it.
There’s a process to this, Clinton, Stacy thought at him.
This is going to be one of our shortest jobs ever, he thought back.
So much the better.
“So!” Stacy exclaimed brightly, as they both turned around to face the pretty but depressing-looking boy. He was sitting on a broken, thread-bare sofa next to Carlisle. Clinton remembered working with him…. it must have been, what, a couple hundred years ago by now? He was pleasant enough, and he looked totally at ease today: ankle crossed over his knee, arms spread over the top of the sofa. He was smiling at the kid: kind, parental, but you could tell he felt a little weird about the whole thing too.
The kid looked up, but his eyes were blank and vacant. Ooooookay, then.
“Um,” Stacy continued, trying to keep the pep in her voice. “Well, Edward, we love the little, uh, capsule collection you have going here. Um, Clinton and I are just going to suggest a few other pieces to help you keep a low profile during nights out—”
Carlisle turned a charming smile towards them.
“You know we don’t do that kind of thing,” he said amicably.
Stacy and Clinton glanced at each other.
Weirdos, they thought simultaneously.
“Right, of course,” Clinton laughed. “Still… everything goes a bit more smoothly when we’re all playing by the same rules, don’t you think?”
Carlisle nodded. The kid was staring at the ground.
“So, uh. We’ll. Well, Clinton and I will just, uh. Sketch out the other pieces and you can—”
“We’ve got a lovely tailor nearby, I’m sure he’ll be more than up to the task,” Carlisle said.
“Great, and uh—”
“And dark neutral colors only, of course.”
The group sat in silence for a while, as Stacy and Clinton hurried to sketch out a few more appropriately eerie but polished pieces for the kid’s vampire wardrobe. Out of the corner of his eye, Clinton could see Carlisle staring at the boy. Like… almost lovingly? Whatever, the kid was depressing and kind of creepy. Clinton was ready to wrap this job up.
Stacy handed her stack of sketches to Clinton, who tapped them into order and slid them into a leather folder, taking care to wrap it up neatly and tightly. He handed the packet over to Carlisle, who stood to receive it, grinning.
“It was a pleasure seeing you both again,” Carlisle said, radiating— well, Clinton was thinking warmth but that didn’t make sense. Friendliness, maybe?
“Uh, you too, Carlisle,” Clinton said.
“And very nice to meet you, Edward!” Stacy said in a little sing-song voice.
Edward looked up at her, empty eyed. He didn’t say anything.
Carlisle chuckled. “Take care, you two,” he said, waving them as they hurried out of the little apartment.
Stacy and Clinton walked in silence for a few blocks. They had a sense when they were far enough away for Stacy to ask, “Was it just me or….?”
“That kid is gonna grow up to be a creep.”
Stacy laughed, “Creepier than Lazarus?”
“Oh my GOD”, Clinton exclaimed. “Well, maybe not that creepy. Now THAT guy was a pain to dress!”
Stacy grinned, shrugged. “I mean, those were a hard few centuries. Honestly, thank god for the industrial revolution.”
“I’m still not over that whole no blended fabrics thing, though,” he muttered.
“So stupid,” Stacy agreed.
Stacy loved these kinds of consults. A simple suburban home, the street totally silent after dark, and shy but polite client who was still learning who they were in this new stage of their life. Death. Whatever.
She had draped a classic black leather jacket over the client's shoulders.
"See what I mean, Mr. Green?"
"I don't know... leather jacket... it just seems so..."
Clinton, shoving a pile of atrociously cut khakis into a trash bag, piped up. "It's a classic look Mr. G!"
Mr. Green looked up at Stacy, face squinched up. "It's not too.. I dunno, edgy?"
Stacy and Clinton laughed, and Stacy patted him lightly on the shoulder. "It's definitely a little bit edgier than you’re used to. But I know you’ve got the attitude to pull it off.”
Mr. Green looked like he’d be blushing, if he had any circulation left. It was sweet. These kinds of clients were totally drama-free. Mr. Green was just a nice, simple man whose wardrobe needed a bit of an update to help him blend in during his nights out, and who was so fashion-clueless he was happy to let Stacy and Clinton take over. They'd be out of here in another 30 minutes. Maybe they could try that new Thai restaurant in Santa Barbara that Clinton had read about.
"No way!" she heard Clinton exclaim. He slowly pulled up a highlighter-orange windbreaker from the pile of Absolutely Not clothes that had been culled from Mr. Green's closet.
"Please tell me you didn't actually wear this out of the house," Clinton begged.
Stacy looked down smiling at Mr. Green, who was chuckling and smiling bashfully. "Well, you know, you want the cars to see you when you're out jogging!"
The front door burst open. Stacy heard a snap and the sound of something whistling through the air before there was only a little pile of dust where Mr. Green had been standing a moment before.
"What the FUCK was that for!?" Clinton yelled.
Silhouetted in the door, Stacy noticed a small blonde girl with a crossbow, and standing just behind her--
"Holy shit, William Pratt? Come in, what the hell are you doing here? And-- oh my god--"
The girl made a face at him as William stepped over the threshold of the house, and folded his arms across his chest. Stacy stepped up and gingerly held open his ridiculously long leather coat.
"Honey, what is going on here?" Stacy asked, sincerely concerned.
She and Clinton were staring, gobsmacked, at William's new look: bleach blonde hair, huge biker boots, wildly ill-fitting dingy jeans, and some weird layering thing going on, with a bright red button down (also ill-fitting) over a muddy brown t-shirt.
William shrugged, brushing off Stacy's hands as he crossed his arms. "Don't start on me, you two."
Stacy mirrored him, crossing her own arms and getting serious. "I know you know that outfit barely meets regulations."
"I'm doing my own thing now," he said, sneering at her. Jeez, when did he get so touchy? This was not the guy Stacy remembered dressing back in-- when was that, late 1880s?
"Uh, Spike? Wanna introduce me your buddies from Vogue? Or should I....." The blonde girl had let the cross bow drop to her side, and was making staking motions with her free hand.
Stacy and Clinton burst into laughter.
"Oh my god, honey--"
"We're not, no--"
"I mean, I guess you could?" they looked at each other, shrugged, and started laughing again. "But I don't think that's in the Slayer’s job description!"
William rolled his eyes. "They're not vamps, they're..."
"Consultants!" Stacy said brightly, reaching into the pocket of her blazer and pulling out a business card to hand her. "It's a whole thing-- we get a notification when someone's been turned, and then we show up to help them--"
"Dress up like raving idiots," William said, voice dripping with sarcasm.
Clinton scoffed. "I'll be the first to say that the whole goth thing is a little tacky, but Will, come on. You look like a dollar-store Blade knock-off."
Stacy pursed her lips and nodded. "It is kind of a cheap get-up, sweetie."
"And we did NOT leave you looking like THAT!" Clinton snapped, jabbing his finger in William's direction.
"This is a joke. Please tell me this is joke," the girl pleaded.
William shrugged. Stacy and Clinton grinned cheerfully.
The girl heaved a deep sigh, sounding truly exasperated. She lifted the crossbow again, and slung it over her shoulder.
"Okay, well. Sorry to interrupt this--" she waved her hand vaguely "-- whatever. When I see an open grave on patrol I gotta track 'em down, cuz. You know."
"Too bad," Stacy murmured, putting a hand over her heart. "He seemed like such a sweetheart."
The girl looked at them as if she'd just swallowed something disgusting. "Okay. Time to say bye-bye, Spike."
William glared, and stalked out of the house behind her.
"Holy shit," Clinton whispered, rushing to Stacy’s side at the door to watch the pair walk off down the street.
"I know," Stacy said. " 'Spike'? What even?"
Clinton rolled his eyes. "It's one of those hard-ass phases. I bet you in a couple years he'll be back to writing those corny love poems."
It’s just past sundown as Stacy and Clinton step into the dingy, poor-lit bar. Today is one of the rare occasions that Stacy feels uncomfortable in her signature sheath dress and heels.
It’s a Saturday, she thinks. I should not have to be at work.
Stacy imagines herself at home, cooking something up with her farmer’s market fresh produce, wearing a comfortable straight-leg jean and a cozy, draped cardigan, basking in the good lightning and shining countertops of her meticulously clean kitchen.
Tell me about it, thinks Clinton. She looks over at him, a picture of tailored perfection in a grey three-piece suit.
Plus I think these are some of the more batshit motherfuckers we’ve ever dealt with. And that’s saying something.
I know, Stacy thinks. Let’s just try to get it done quickly and move on.
One down, only 9,742 left to go!
Stacy hears his annoyance loud and clear, and smiles back wryly.
The bar is silent still— probably the owners are just waking up. Stacy and Clinton stand primly and properly just a few feet past the door.
A few minutes later, the door behind the bar bangs open. A stunning blonde, draped in the cascading layers of a black silk robe, storms out.
She comes a few feet in front of Stacy and Clinton, her face thunderous, furious. Stacy and Clinton smile pleasantly.
“What the hell are you two doing here?”
They glance at each other, quickly decide Clinton should start, but just as he opens his mouth, another vampire comes through the door behind the bar.
The second she sees Eric Northman, Stacy starts to block out Clinton’s thoughts. She does not need to see that again. She’ll clearly have to take the lead on this one.
“Mr. Northman, Ms. Swynford de Beaufort, how nice to see you both,” she says, trying to keep a straight face as she watches Clinton try to keep from drooling.
“What’s this?” Northman asks, and Stacy has to admit that controlling her own thoughts is also a bit of challenge. “Has someone been turned in my district without my knowledge?”
He barely looks at them as he heads behind the bar to a gigantic, clear-paneled fridge. He selects an IV fluid bag, punctures the bag with a tooth and empties the contents into two mugs. Which he places in a microwave. Gross.
“Nothing like that, Mr. Northman,” Stacy says, “Although we are of course here on Authority business.”
Pam hasn’t moved from her spot, but her arms are crossed now, and her expression is only growing more violent.
“I fuckin’ hate when the government comes to mess with our business. Say what you want and get out,” Pam spits.
Stacy takes a deep breath. “I suppose you’re both aware of the Authority’s desire to move forward with the plan to go public?”
Pam and Eric stilled— noticeably, which, for a vampire, was really something. They all listened in silence to the humming of the microwave.
Clinton cleared his throat. Stacy looked over at him, questioning.
Don’t trip over yourself, Kelly. I can handle this if Mr. Northman is too much for you.
Oh, shut up.
“Authority scientists have been monitoring the development of synthetic blood and we’re within a few years of a workable formula. So, er,” Clinton coughs again, veins popping in his neck and Stacy thinks, you slut, quit drawing attention to your throat. Clinton doesn’t look at her.
“So, the policy on dress has been. Er. Altered.”
Pam scoffs. “And what stupid ass rules have those idiots made up now? Pastel twin sets? Pearls and white lace?”
Clinton, like an idiot! Stacy thinks, grimaces. “I mean, a twinset, that’s a bit—“
Stacy kicks him. Lately she’s been wearing those very angular pointed heels, so hopefully it actually hurts this time.
“Nothing like that, Ms. Swynford de Beaufort. Unless, of course, that appeals to you. The goal is simply to look…. normal. Like regular folk. And regular folk each have their own unique style, don’t they?” Stacy smiles, and holds her arms open.
“Clinton and I are here as a free consultation service under the orders of the Authority to help everyone re-adjust their wardrobes during this time of transition.”
Pam arches a perfect eyebrow.
Eric doesn’t say anything.
The microwave goes off.
“Let me get this straight,” Pam drawls, gliding over behind the bar to take a mug of hot blood from Eric. Stacy can smell it from where they are standing and has to swallow forcefully to keep from ralphing.
“100 years ago, you little shits show up at my home in San Francisco, tell me to toss out my entire wardrobe and force this tacky gothic look on me—“
It’s actually only been 98 years… Clinton thinks.
SHUT UP! thinks Stacy.
It is a little tacky though.
“— now you’re here to tell me…. what? Just kidding? Never you mind?”
Stacy nods, and says in her most apologetic tones, “I completely understand your frustration, Ms. Swynford de Beaufort. The Authority’s goal with this new policy is to ease the transition for the rest of the world. We’d like everyone to see you all as— well, regular citizens! Just the same as everyone else.”
Eric, lowering the mug from his lips, which Stacy and Clinton both notice are now obscenely red and wet-looking, says quietly, “But we aren’t the same as them.”
Well, Stacy and Clinton had known these guys would be tough nuts to crack. It’s why they thought to deal with them first. They had one year to reach thousands and thousands of vampires, all around the world, to get everyone dressing more “normally” before the press leaks about synthetic blood started going live to prime the human population for this so-called “Great Revelation”. Some vampires would be open, and welcoming of their help. Many would probably be thrilled to cast off their regulation night blacks into something more unique, something that suited their personalities.
Some, like Pam and Eric, would probably just roll their eyes and do what they wanted anyway. But that was a problem for the Authority, Stacy figured. Their job was just to show up, give the consult, and be on their way.
Pam slammed her mug on the counter. “Fine, you know what, whatever! The closet’s in the basement,” she said, stalking towards the door she had barged out of. On the threshold, she whipped around, and pointed an accusing finger at Stacy and Clinton. “Do NOT toss out my BDSM corsets. I NEED those for work and I don’t give a shit WHAT the Authority says about that.”
“We definitely aren’t here to deal with work wear, ma’am. Just your everyday looks.”
Pam huffed, and stomped down into the basement, footfalls echoing back up the stairs. Stacy and Clinton took a deep breath, and headed towards the door behind the bar.
Just before they passed the threshold, they heard Eric’s voice.
“Please,” he said calmly. “No yellow for me.”
“Sir?” Stacy asked.
Eric shrugged noncommittally. “I think it washes me out.”
Stacy smiled and nodded, and they headed down the dark staircase.
No yellow for him is fine, she heard Clinton think. I’m tossing ALL of his clothes and giving him a new wardrobe of absolutely nothing. Clothes are a travesty on a body like that.
Stacy rolled her eyes, and smiled. It was a weird job sometimes, but she liked doing it with a partner like Clinton. It’d be weird, after this year was up, to not be doing this work together. What were they gonna do next?