1. Rise & Shine (T)
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Content warning: mild dysphoria

I was jarred out of a very deep sleep by a familiar voice announcing, "Rise and shine, cutie!"

A moment later the thick curtains were yanked open and the room was flooded with sunlight.

"FUCK!" I squealed as I pulled the blankets up over my head. I was wide awake now and my heart would be going a mile a minute if it could.

She started giggling. I could picture her standing there next to the window, doubled over trying to control her laughter. Yes, very funny. That never gets old.

Hiding under the blankets I was grateful for one thing. She couldn't see how bright I was blushing. I still wasn't used to my voice going so high. I squealed like a little girl. Which I suppose wasn't all that surprising, considering what I looked like now.

I wasn't entirely used to that yet either. You'd think by now I would be, it was more than three years ago when I first woke up like this.

Samantha finally got over her amusement and stated, "C'mon Tara. It's already half past five and we've got a lot of work to do tonight."

I pouted, and once again I was grateful she couldn't see that either. "The sun's still up. It's too early."

"So what?" Sam asked. "You know damn well the sun's not going to hurt you."

Now I was both pouting and blushing. She was right of course. Popular media was wrong about most of the vampire lore.

We didn't burn or roast or die in the sun. We were more prone to sunburns than most humans, but unlike them we couldn't get skin cancer. It was just uncomfortable. And our eyes were optimized for hunting at night so in daylight we were almost blinded by the sun. But it wouldn't actually blind us, it was just painful and inconvenient. And a good pair of dark sun glasses took care of that.

Being nocturnal meant we weren't really comfortable being out and about during the day, but that didn't make it impossible. Just like some humans would stay up all night, some vamps stayed up all day. And it wouldn't kill us to miss the odd day's sleep here and there, nor would having to get up early now and then.

I was still hiding under the blankets as I grumped, "I just don't like how it hurts my eyes, ok? And it's a shitty way to wake me up when I was having a really nice sleep."

"I know," Sam sighed. She sounded serious now as she explained "We've got work to do. Isabelle's patience with me is running out, and I don't want to see you get hurt. That means I'm going to have be a little more strict for a while, ok? So get up and get dressed. I have to work tonight, which means you're coming along."

"Will you close the curtains first please?" I asked.

I heard them sliding shut then she replied, "Done."

"Thanks," I said quietly as I pushed the blankets off me and slipped out of bed. She was still standing next to the window, leaning against the wall. She was fully dressed of course, all ready to head out. I was stark naked and grumpy about the rude awakening.

I shuffled past her and out of my bedroom, then went straight into the bathroom next door. I stopped there and stared in the mirror, and just like almost every evening for the past three years I felt a wave of mixed emotions.

That was another thing, vamps can see ourselves in mirrors. Someone explained it to me once. Mirrors used to be made with silver and we wouldn't show up in those. Same with old film photography, silver was the active ingredient in the film so we wouldn't show up in pictures. But nowadays mirrors were usually made with cheap aluminum, and digital cameras operated with silicon rather than silver. So I was able to see myself just fine as I stared at the big bathroom mirror.

Samantha was right about one thing, I did turn out adorable. I was a blonde-haired blue-eyed cutie. And I was a girl.

That was hands-down the best part of anything I'd experienced since that fateful night we met. I was Tara, I looked like a Tara, when I told people my name they didn't laugh or question or doubt. Just like there were never any doubts about my gender, I was clearly a girl. So I couldn't complain about that.

There were other things I did complain about though, sometimes at length.

When Sam said I'd be 'closer to her size' she wasn't lying, but she wasn't all that clear either. I assumed she meant I'd be somewhere between my original five-foot-eleven and her five-foot-three. Maybe split the difference, five-six or five-seven? That would have been perfect. Not too tall, not too short, just nicely average.

Instead 'closer to her size' turned out to mean five-foot-three but give or take a couple inches. I was very much not prepared to discover I'd turned into a tiny five-foot-zero-inch pipsqueak. Now I had to look up at the petite vamp who turned me. And technically I was still twenty-two, but that didn't mean much when I was no taller than the average twelve-year-old.

Ok that's not entirely true. At least being twenty-two meant my body was fully developed. I had boobs, hips, and a butt. I wasn't flat and skinny, I actually turned out a lot curvier than I'd expected. My body was absolutely that of a very well developed woman, but in miniature.

Even that had been a surprise. In Sam's story, she explained vamps shared a bit of themselves when they turned someone, so the someone would come out looking sort of like them. So I expected I'd turn out athletic like her. I thought I'd be taller, athletic, and pretty. What I got was short curvy and cute.

Basically it was nothing like I was expecting, and it meant nobody took me seriously. I looked like a miniature blonde version of the archetypical sexy vamp. And the worst thing was, this was it. This was me, forever. I would never grow, I'd never change. I suppose it could have been worse, but it really wasn't what I expected at all.

"Ahem," Samantha cleared her throat. She was standing in the bathroom door watching me. "Maybe I forgot to mention this, but we have work to do? So we need to get moving?"

I sighed, "Can I at least have a shower?"

Sam sighed as well and rubbed her forehead, then finally shook her head. "No. I'm sorry Tara, but we need to be on patrol at six and we've wasted too much time as it is. If you shower then you'll want to do your hair, then you'll insist on waiting till it's dry and it'll be seven by the time we're finally working."

My shoulders slumped but I didn't try and argue the point. For one thing she was a hundred percent right. And the other thing was I could tell she actually didn't enjoy this any more than I did.

She hated being strict with me. Now and then I even felt guilty about it, because I knew if it was up to her she'd absolutely spoil and indulge me.

"Ok Sam," I said quietly. "I'm sorry I've been such a brat lately."

I settled for quickly brushing my hair, then I put on some subtle lipstick and a bit of eyeliner and shadow. Finally I moved past her back into my bedroom.

As I pulled on some panties and picked a sports-bra out of my dresser I asked, "Should I dress up? Down? Does it matter?"

Her own outfit didn't really give me much guidance. She was in black jeans, a tight tie-dyed purple t-shirt, and a loose black leather jacket. And her ubiquitous ankle-boots rounded out the look. Her make-up was also fairly standard for her, just black lipstick and dark eyeshadow. Lately she was just letting her hair do whatever it wanted, so she had a sort of messy mop of short black hair.

"It's patrol," she replied. "So don't pick anything restrictive. Nothing you can't run in."

I wound up in a fairly nondescript ensemble. Blue stretch jeans, a plain white t-shirt, and my favourite dark grey hoodie. Some comfortable sneakers finished the outfit.

When I emerged from the bedroom I asked, "Since when is patrol such a crisis?"

Sam looked dead serious now as she replied quietly, "Two nights ago someone took a human. Drained them and left the body on a bench in St. James' Park."

"Oh shit," I whispered.

One thing that had been drilled into me over and over for the past three years was we never, ever broke the Covenant. That was sacred. Our Family had a truce with the humans in this city that dated back over a century. And in my three years as vampire, I'd never heard of anyone killing a human.

Enforcing those rules was Samantha's job. Her and a dozen or so other vamps like her, they were charged with keeping the peace, upholding the laws, and defending the Covenant. Sam used to be the top peacekeeper too, she was in charge of a dozen other vampires. But she threw that away for me. She broke a handful of rules when she turned me, and that got her demoted.

Another thing I didn't realize from her story was when a vamp turns someone that whole 'sharing part of themself' was serious. Samantha literally gave me part of her un-life. It left her weak and vulnerable. And I found out at thirty-years-dead she was too young to safely turn anyone. She only got away with it because despite her youth she was actually a fairly strong vamp.

Nonetheless, it was still a full year before she was able to resume her duties, and that downtime meant the other peacekeepers had to work harder to cover for her. Even then she couldn't get back to work full-time because she was responsible for me. She had to devote half her time to training and looking after me.

Sam made several enemies among our Family by turning me that night, and she fell out of favour with Isabelle.

I finally asked, "It can't be one of us though, right? We all know the rules."

"No idea," Sam shrugged. "I hope not. I haven't had to put down a brother or sister in over a decade. Doesn't matter though, the Covenant is sacred and we'll do what we have to. Personally I think it's an outsider. A lot of other Families, even some independent vamps, they're either jealous of our peace or they think we're sell-outs."

"Yeah," I frowned as I nodded. "I get it."

I was sure we'd had that conversation at least once before. I was taught our Family was controversial because we weren't constantly struggling with the humans. And the fact that we didn't hunt them made us seem weak or something, in the eyes of other vamps.

We both grabbed our shades as we headed out of the apartment. It wasn't even that bright out now, it was shaping up to be another dull October evening. But I wouldn't really be comfortable till after the sun was fully set.

I slipped my sunglasses on as we emerged from the elevator into the lobby. Sam put hers on as we stepped out of the building onto Alexander Street.

"So where are we going first?" I asked.

Samantha guided me towards Church Street, where we turned south.

"We'll start at the park. It's a long-shot but we'll see if we can pick up a scent or something. Then we'll visit a few licensed establishments along King. According to the information Isabelle received from her human contact, the victim's credit card was used in a couple bars there."

I grimaced, "How are we going to get into bars?"

That was something else I still had trouble getting my head around. Samantha was stuck looking like a high-school girl forever. And while I was technically four years older than her, my size meant most people thought I was even younger. They probably saw us as a teenage kid and her little sister.

Sam shrugged, "We'll figure it out."

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