Soraperion sat at the diner table across from Alex, who was watching his hands carefully.
Soraperion hands flickered in the air, as though he was using sign language, but instead of conveying meaning, Soraperion's fingers left glowing runes etched in the air. The longer Alex stared at the symbols, the more familiar each symbol seemed, as if he could name it and its function.
If he could watch them long enough, Soraperion's hands seemed to suggest that they could explain the universe.
Soraperion himself, however, was not nearly as forthcoming. In the four days since he'd picked up Alex, he'd barely said a hundred words. Alex had given up asking questions, and had taken to watching his hands, and the symbols streaming from them.
Last night he'd tried to do the same thing, and managed to create a few anemic symbols. Unlike Soraperion's dancing shapes that glistened and gleamed for long seconds, Alex's had faded quickly into nothingness.
The server came over, refilled Soraperion's coffee, and asked Alex if he wanted another lemonade. She ignored the symbols, and Alex suspected that neither she nor the other occupants of the restaurant could see Soraperion's magical display. Perhaps they just didn't want to see it, although Alex thought it was hard to miss.
Soraperion had promised to train Alex, but so far there had been nothing of the sort. Soraperion had arranged a bed in the spare room of his apartment, and twice a day he would take Alex to a restaurant, but most of the time he was lost in his magic.
He was looking for something, that much Soraperion's hands and symbols had made clear.
The problem was that Alex couldn't figure out exactly what Soraperion was looking for. Something important, obviously, but even Soraperion seemed to have only a vague idea of what it was. He seemed to be repeating a set of criteria over and over again and the symbols were slowly working their way through the universe to find the object.
Alex had been starring for hours at the symbols and he finally broke away to blink, and finally noticed someone looking at them.
It was a woman wearing black. Her hair was pulled back into a dark braid and her skin was unusually pale. She hadn't gotten anything to drink, but had moved over to one of the booths across from Alex and Soraperion and was sitting with her legs up.
Alex's eyes flickered to the windows and saw that the sun had dipped down under the horizon.
"Soraperion," Alex said.
The older man looked up at the woman, and then went back to what he was doing.
"Ignore her," he said as his fingers resumed their dance. "She won't bother us."
"Why?" asked Alex.
Too his surprise, Soraperion answered his question. "She's afraid of me," he said to Alex. "I doubt that she found us on purpose or she would have brought backup."
His eyes flickered up from his work. "She's not a very old vampire anyway." Soraperion had purchased an apple from the basket on the diner's counter, but he hadn't touched it yet. Alex had seen him do the same thing before. He would eat the apple later, back at his apartment, between meals. With one hand, he nudged the apple toward Alex. "Take this over to her," he said.
"Take the apple over to her. Tell her that it's a gift from me."
"You're not serious."
"She won't hurt you with me sitting right here. Take her the apple. I want to see what she says."
Alex reached out, picked up the apple, and then stood and walked over to the woman in black. Her eyes were darting quickly back and forth between Alex and Soraperion. As he approached, she smiled and he saw the elongated teeth and almost stopped but he forced himself to keep going. He didn't want to embarrass himself in front of Soraperion.
At her table he stopped and reached out, offering her the apple but unable to speak.
"What's this?" she finally said.
"It's a gift. From him." Alex nodded back toward Soraperion.
She looked down at the apple like it was a snake, and then looked back up at Soraperion. Alex could see the older man look up from his work, nod to her in a friendly fashion, and then look back down at his work.
The vampire swallowed, and for a moment Alex could see the terror in her eyes as clear as day. She reached out, and with a shaking hand she took the apple from Alex. Alex had half expected the thing to explode or kill her, but she just put it down on the table and looked back up at him.
"Thank you," she stammered.
Alex stood there for a moment in the uncomfortable silence that followed and then returned to the table with Soraperion.
"What did she say?" the older man asked.
"She said 'Thank you.'"
"See. They can be pleasant enough, if they're afraid of you. I'm sure she won't even report this to her superiors."
"Why wouldn't she?"
"Her superiors would be very upset with her for just letting us walk away. If she pretends like she hasn't seen us, she won't get in trouble for not killing herself in a futile attempt to fight me."
Alex looked at the woman, who was still looking at them from across the diner, the apple resting on the tabletop.
"What are you?" he asked Soraperion.
Soraperion's fingers paused again, and he looked up at Alex.
"I'm a mage, just like you, boy."