by Les GS
Note: The setting, dialog and actions of the first 7 paragraphs of this story are taken directly from the Partners of the Month flashback. I've chosen to set this story in 1518, in Firenze, Italy. The characters from Forever Knight, Nicholas and Lacroix, as well as the dialogue in the first 7 paragraphs belong to James Parriot and Sony/Tri-Star.
WARNING: m/f sexual activity and non-graphic violence.
Lacroix walked slowly toward his son, the candle light of Nicholas's room bringing out the ruddy glow of his dark red tunic, glinting on the gold threads of the quilting, the row of buttons. Tossing a fur collared coat over his tunic, Lacroix had left his home, finally having had enough of the miasma of emotions flowing sullenly through their link. He had no reason to look at his protégé's expression, quite conscious of the waves of dark melancholy rolling from him. Clearly, Nicholas was not taking easily Janette's need to move on. Coolly, he asked, "Did you really expect she would stay with you forever? I want you to be painfully honest."
With that, Lacroix turned his head, fixing his gaze on Nicholas for the first time since he'd entered the room. The young vampire sat sideways in the window seat, his far leg drawn up, an elbow resting on that knee, that arm crossing his chest to rest one pale hand on the heavy black velvet on his shoulder. He stared sightlessly out the window, nearly motionless, the only life and color about him the fire light glimmering in his short, dark gold hair, the flash of white lace at his collar and cuff.
Dully, with some apparent effort, Nicholas replied, "I loved her."
With some impatience, Lacroix broke in, "This has nothing to do with love." Nicholas rolled his head heavily, looking at his maker for the first time. Insistently, Lacroix went on, searching for some spark in those dim blue eyes. "This has to do with moving on. Immortals cannot cling like lichen to the stone. `Tis our nature, our imperative, to wander throughout the world, throughout time."
At that, Nicholas lowered his eyes again, despair shaping his face into a pale mask. More slowly, trying to give his son time to absorb his words, Lacroix said, "We either change and grow or we wither and die... inside." That seemed to reach Nicholas, who felt no doubt at that moment the deadening pain of rejection, abandonment. He looked back up into the pale eyes of his master, who lifted his brows, continuing with a soft irony, "And wouldn't that be eternal hell."
Nicholas looked away as Lacroix walked slowly toward him, coming to stand next to him by the window. Gazing down at his protégé's profile, Lacroix reached out to place hands upon him, one on shoulder, the other on his lower forearm. He lightly patted his shoulder, then his arm, saying softly, almost gently, "Let her go, Nicholas."
He dropped his hand from Nicholas's forearm. The tone of his voice darkened somewhat as he finished, "There's plenty more love left in the world." With that he turned and walked away, feeling Nicholas's gaze resting upon his back.
At the door, Lacroix turned again, resting one hand on the frame, catching his son's eyes with his own, and said, "Nicholas, come out with me this evening. Sitting here, alone, brooding..." He trailed off as his protégé's chin took on a stubborn set. "Very well, please yourself. I suppose Janette has immured herself in some dark, dank hole as well." He permitted himself the slightest smile. "But perhaps not... knowing Janette and her lust for life."
He was through the door and had it almost closed behind him when Nicholas called out, "Wait! I'll get my cloak." Lacroix pushed the door wide again, face carefully solemn.
Though in the less savory part of Firenze, the tavern Lacroix had selected was no stew. Seeing mortality at its worst occasionally depressed Nicholas, for whatever indecipherable reason, and that was not Lacroix's intent. The small, private room where they lounged was well appointed and clean, as was the wench who brought them their wine. She had smiled coquettishly at Nicholas as she'd set the drink, cups and extra pitcher Lacroix had requested on the sturdy table, well marked with the whittled doodles of previous guests. However, as the younger man seemed unaware that she was present, she had willingly turned her charms on the elder. He had proved far more promising, with his lift of a speculative brow accompanied by a lingering look down the length of her body. She'd murmured she'd be back shortly, after seeing to some other guests, to ensure that they had all they desired. Once she'd left, Lacroix had deftly mixed most of the wine, a strong burgundy, with the blood he'd brought in a bottle tucked in a deep pocket of his coat, making the mixture lean rather heavily on the wine.
She'd come back quickly enough, thankfully before the blank whitewashed walls and his equally responsive companion tempted Lacroix to some mischief. She now sat enthroned upon his lap, a cup of the unadulterated liquor in her hand, giggling vapidly. The tavern keeper had checked in once to see what his wayward serving girl was up to. Upon seeing her performing the other half of her duties and after his eerily pale (but well paying) customer had rested his very cold blue gaze upon him (prompting him to make a quick, concealed gesture against the malocchio), he had left her to her own devices.
Lacroix responded to her giggles with a slight smile, keeping her cup as near to brimming as her thirst permitted. Nicholas, lost in his sorrows, stared morosely into his goblet when he wasn't draining it. Though wine affected his kind only slightly, he had had enough by the time Lacroix addressed him that his vision drifted slightly when he glanced up. Plus the blood Lacroix had added to the wine had been, by necessity, fairly fresh. Even his coolest cellars couldn't keep his special vintages from spoiling quickly.
"Nicholas. Nicholas, look. Isn't she a pretty one?"
Nicholas gazed at the woman, who peered at him with inebriated coyness through long, curling lashes. Aye, aye, she was pretty enough, though her eyes were common brown, not twilight blue. She had the most charming dimples though, which she flashed to her best advantage. He offered her his rakish grin, and simpering, she circled Lacroix's neck with her arms, hiding her face in the crook of his throat. Watching Nicholas from the corner of her eye, she tilted her head to place a kiss on the underside of the older vampire's jaw. With a slight smile, Lacroix lowered his mouth to hers. He reached up with one hand, cupping her forehead, pulling her head back to rest on his shoulder. With a hooded glance at Nicholas, he lowered cool lips to her throat, laying down a light trail of kisses. With his free hand, Lacroix loosened the ties of her bodice, while she giggled, delighted with the way the younger man had fixed his eyes upon her. Slipping his hand under her chemise, the warm fullness of her breast filled Lacroix's palm, her nipple crinkling from the coolness of his flesh. He trailed his fingers across her skin, taut and smooth with her youth, bringing them together on the tightening bud. She gasped as he pinched lightly, then sighed as his hand drifted to her other breast, touch deft, delicate.
Transfixed, Nicholas watched, a sullen burn building in his groin, as Lacroix slowly, deliberately, worked upon the woman. Or rather, Nicholas realized, a wicked grin curving his lips, played. The woman's head lolling back against Lacroix's shoulder as he teased with one hand her breasts while other caressed her thighs, the circling of his palm gradually lifting her skirts higher and higher, called to mind the sensuous attention he tendered on his rebec. Lacroix glanced up at him with a small complicit smile as his fingers traveled up the final inches of her inner thigh to brush lightly at the dark fluff concealing her center. The woman moaned softly, licking her upper lip, easing her thighs apart, lifting her hips up to Lacroix's hand. The musk scent of her arousal perfumed the small room and with a low growl, Nicholas leaned back in his chair, gulping down the cup of wine and blood in his hand. He poured himself another serving, fumbling, spilling a bit across the black silk on his thighs, as he was unwilling to look away from what was spread out before him.
Lacroix ran a fingertip along the edges of the warm, slick crevice in the curls between her legs, not deigning to delve any deeper at first, though she sighed and undulated against him. She tried to slide her hands under herself, to reach his crotch, aware it was her place to give rather than receive pleasure, but he pulled her closer down upon his lap, laughing softly in her ear. She subsided a while, until his hand, never tentative, but always slow, so agonizingly slow, began doing its excruciating work deeper in her cleft. Her pleasure bud was stroked, lightly pinched, rolled, the opening beneath it barely caressed. She ground her buttocks into Lacroix's lap, seeking to inflame him, to speed his hands upon her, desperate for release from this torturous pleasure. He would not be diverted from his own pace, however, and she went limp against him, submitting completely to his will. Her reward was being lifted to a plane of arousal she'd never reached before. For a time she stared into the dark blue eyes of the younger man, his avid gaze serving to heighten her pleasure. Eventually, though, she closed her eyes, aware only of the hands upon her.
Lacroix lowered his mouth to her throat, the rapid pulse against his lips echoing her heart's thumping in his ears. Sighing, he tongued her salty skin, looking up from under his lashes to meet his son's gaze, beginning to burn with golden flecks. He slid his fingers deep into her slick core, then pulled them out to glide them over her swollen bud, balancing her on the edge, denying her that tiny push that would permit her her climax. Her breath came in small, desperate gasps, she was rigid in his arms, and she whimpered as he again lightened his touch.
"Signore, please," she moaned, lifting her chin as his mouth caressed her throat, her sense lost in a haze of wine and desire. Teetering on the peak of an arousal more intense than she'd ever felt in her life, she had nearly forgotten the other man in the room until the one under whose hands she writhed spoke to him.
"Nicholas," he murmured. "Come kiss her, Nicholas. We'll ... release her together." She looked up, her vision blurred with passion, at the sound of two knees hitting the floor beside her. The naked lust on the young man's face, right next to hers, drew her to him and their mouths met with a frantic twisting of tongues. She felt his hand, rougher than the other's, close on one breast, but she wanted it, wanted anything that would free her. His mouth left hers and he lowered his head to nuzzle her throat. She raised her head again, turning it, and her mouth was captured by the older man, his tongue insinuating itself deep, thrusting. She sucked it avidly, and the fingers were working on her again, and she was climbing, climbing that peak, the four hands and two mouths on her blending into one pleasure, suffusing her whole body.
As Nicholas's fangs sank into her throat, she burst under Lacroix's implacable fingers, her scream of mingled pain and rapture muffled in his mouth. Holding her convulsing body easily in his iron grip, Lacroix shivered as Nicholas's ecstasy flared through their bond, the scent of the woman's blood and his son's moaning snarls jerking at his self-control. His own blood-lust ignited, bringing him to a delicious state of tantalized arousal. He raised his lips from the woman's slack mouth to gaze more fully at his son's face, to watch the quivering tension of his body. The mortal's heart began its last fluttering fight for life as Nicholas drew her in fiercely, taking her, possessing her utterly.
"Ah, yes, mon cher fils," Lacroix murmured, his voice caressing. "All of her. She is yours, totally, completely yours."
Nicholas groaned deeply as her heart lurched one last time, as she died under his mouth, her final sense of sinking into warm emptiness coursing through his own veins as he shoved himself away from her, staggering to lean against one wall. Lacroix quickly stood, dumping the corpse on the table and moving to lightly grip one of Nicholas's elbows. His protégé turned to look at him, eyes still aflame, fangs gleaming a liquid pink as he rolled the last mouthful over his tongue. He grinned wolfishly at Lacroix, aware, though dimly through the images and sensations washing through him, of his master's arousal.
"Let's find another one, Lacroix," he rasped. "You didn't even get a taste."
Lacroix chuckled, and caught a ruby drop on a fingertip just before it fell from his son's chin. He lifted it before Nicholas's eyes, then lapped it up with a little shiver.
"There. That's my taste." He grinned sardonically. "Come, Nicholas. We must ... tidy up a bit before we ... indulge ourselves further." The other vampire's gaze followed his to the white- skinned, blue-lipped woman sprawled on the table. They moved together to her side, Nicholas with a feeling of floating disconnectedness. Her drunkenness, her lust, rolled through his veins, mingling with his own, and only the utter satiation of his hunger allowed him to wrestle his beast back under control. Nevertheless, he scooped her up with a practiced efficiency, making sure her wound was hidden against his body, that her head was securely nestled under his chin. Her body, still warm, a supple, yielding pliancy in his arms, was both arousing and disturbing together. He pushed the uncomfortable sensation away, focusing instead on the impression of her last rushing ecstasy.
Nicholas, laughing softly, carried the limp girl from the tavern, while Lacroix intercepted the busybody proprietor, pressing gold into a clammy palm and `suggesting' that the woman had found more promising employment as a gentleman's mistress. Once outside, Lacroix led Nicholas, who, sadly out of date, hummed one of Guillaume Dufay's more romantic tunes, to a stinking alley some distance from the tavern. Relieving the man of his burden, he left him standing abstracted, savoring the slowly ebbing heat of the girl's life, while he took her corpse down the alley. Rats skittered away from his boots as he found a place deep in the shadows. Dropping the body on a pile of offal, he drew his dagger and cut its throat to conceal the distinctive wounds. He also disfigured the face, not trusting the rats, whose eyes watched his movements with glittering interest, to do a complete job before the body was found, with any luck some days from now. He emerged from the alley, collecting Nicholas with an arm over his shoulders, and began leading him toward the finer part of town.
"Come, Nicholas. Let's find a party to invite ourselves to. Something with music, dancing."
"Dancing, yes," the younger vampire agreed, twirling himself out from under Lacroix's arm, to spin down the street, his own arms outstretched. His feet picked out the quick steps of some country dance, a skill he would lose in a few hours time. Lacroix strode after him, face impassive as he watched his protégé whirling, a dervish swept up in the blood-ecstasy.
A skip, a sliding sideways step, turn, clap, turn back, boots skimming the polished green marble floor... Nicholas looked over his shoulder, enjoying witnessing the little jolts of excitement his gaze galvanized in his partner. Each time her eyes, the melting darkness of a gazelle's, met his stare, she gasped, her breasts rising to press tightly against the rose silk of her embroidered bodice. The black glare of the lad next to him in the men's line, stepping mechanically through his paces, the wisps of his newly blooming mustache quivering with outrage, also gave him a measure of amusement. Since Nicholas, an interloper powerful in his lithe movement, his arrogant maleness, had arrived, the young woman's callow suitor had been unable to win a single glance from her. Smiling, Nicholas turned again. The large hall of his unwitting host, a powerful merchant-prince, spun past him, a blur of dancers in richly colored silks, glowing in the light of hundreds of beeswax candles set in golden candelabra. Through the crowd, he caught a quick glimpse of Lacroix bent in conversation with a black gowned woman seated against the wall, her heavy, mature face glowing a fierce, astonished red. Nicholas's grin widened and he nearly laughed aloud, suppressing the bloom of hilarity in his chest with some difficulty. He turned his sparkling, mischief-ladened gaze back to the girl whose chaperone Lacroix was keeping ... distracted. Her blush rose from the edge of her bodice up her slender throat and over her cheeks, and her full lips parted as she drew in a quick breath. He watched as she caught a near misstep, and he imagined he could feel the heat of her desire warm against his own body. He could smell her, the enticing aroma of newly ripened womanhood an irresistible lure, easily discerned even mingled with the scent of scores of other heated mortal bodies.
The musicians played a final triumphant chord, and the dancers swept together, the men to grasp and bow over their partners' offered hands, while the women bent in a deep curtsey. The more demure dropped their eyes. No doubt Nicholas's partner would have numbered among them any other night, but this time, she kept her eyes locked on his. And when the other dancers released one another's hands to applaud the musicians, she would not let go, keeping his fingers firmly in hers. The players began another song, this one slower, the steps to this dance more sinuous. Her boldness continued as she requested, her voice slightly high with her delightful tension, "Another dance, signore. If you please..?"
"I do please," Nicholas replied, his own voice deep, caressing, and he bowed low in the first figure of the dance. Flushing, she reluctantly released his hand, dipping into her own responding courtesy, before they began the first sweeping steps. The young man, who until that night had thought himself the most favored of her suitors, had spent this time gaping rather than acquiring another partner. The movement of the dancers pressed him back, and he retreated, manhood wounded sorely, to glower jealously from the sidelines.
By the end of that dance, with its slow, lithe steps that displayed Nicholas's supple strength to its best advantage, she could only nod without words at his murmured suggestion that they take a cooling breath in the garden. Her ignored suitor looked after them in amazement and shot a glare at her - until this night - diligent nurse. The older woman sat slumped against the wall, heavy chin nestled on the swell of her bosom, apparently fast asleep. With an invigorating surge of righteousness, intent on preserving his lady's honor, he darted after the rapidly departing pair. Only to find himself suddenly blocked, nearly running his nose into a broad, dark red silk clad chest. Tiny faces, his own, distorted with astonishment and the curve of polished gold, stared back at him from a row of closely placed buttons. Furious, he scowled up at the jackass in his way. His hot temper chilled abruptly under the icy blue gaze meeting his.
"A beautiful night," declared Nicholas, breathing deeply of the cool, orange blossom scented air. He tossed his head to look up at the stars, hard white points of light in the moonless sky. Then he turned his gaze back to the woman beside him, his eyes locking with those that followed his every move. Her heartbeat pulsed in his ears and the clean, heady fragrance of her desire came to him, even sweeter than that of the citrus trees. Her lips formed the word, "Yes," perhaps in agreement with his words. Smiling, he reached out to take her gently by the shoulders. She turned, pliant under his hands, molding her body against his as he pulled her lightly to him, nestling her back against his front. She trembled though, when she reached behind her to set her palms, hot and damp, upon the hard muscled length of his silk clad thighs. His own breath caught at the touch of her hands, and he fought a moment to suppress the burning of his eyes, to keep his feeding teeth within, so his next words would not be hissed.
"Yes, beautiful," he said softly, voice husky with his desire, "but never so lovely as your ... heat, your fire, is to me." He bent his head and set a careful kiss on the side of her throat. She gasped softly at the touch, at the coolness of his lips. Then, she tilted her head sideways, inviting more. He kissed her neck again, the frantic pulse beating against his lips enflaming him, and his Change surged through him. Lust jerking at the reins of his control, he caressed the soft skin under his mouth, parted lips carefully covering the razored points of his teeth. She sighed, leaning back, resting her weight upon the solid strength behind her. He growled softly, his tongue tip darting forward to taste the salt of her fevered flesh. She moaned, nails digging into the corded muscles of his thighs. Sighing, he embraced her in one smooth movement, an arm curling around her, under her breasts, the other hand lifting to cup her forehead. Holding her firmly, he struck, the fangs piercing her vein so sharp she felt no pain. She cried out softly in surprise, then her blood burst into his mouth, hot, rich, and they both groaned together. His pleasure washed over her and she knew him and her yielding was so sweet, the bliss melting her loins and spreading, liquid fire, through her limbs. He drank down her desire for him and it flowed like balm over his wounded heart, even as the ecstasy of her burning blood ignited him. The taste of her wanting him, his power and his beauty, was so good, so true, that he didn't even notice when her life slipped away, as he took her completely.
He soared an eternal moment in satiation, then something called him to open his eyes, to look up into Lacroix's pale stare. He was caught a moment by the intensity of the other's gaze, then he dropped his eyes to the girl, hanging limp in his grip. He sighed. "I'm sorry, Lacroix. There's nothing left."
"Not to fret, Nicholas. I had the boy." He inclined his head to the side, and indeed, there the slighted suitor lay in an untidy heap under an orange tree. Then Lacroix said briskly, "We'd best make our exit. The watch dog is sure to be stirred to wakefulness eventually, and she will bark out the alarm." He stooped, scooping up the lad's corpse under one arm. Upon standing, he reached out to take the girl. "Give her to me, Nicholas. You check to see nothing untoward is left behind, which would unravel the tale of two young lovers eloping. I'll meet you by the Arno."
With a final look at the girl's face, eyes filming with death, he turned her over to Lacroix, who lifted his burdens easily into the night sky. Nicholas cast about, finding almost immediately an embroidered kid hide dancing slipper that she must have lost in his embrace. He searched under the orange tree, but the boy had left no trace behind. He launched himself after Lacroix, following him slowly, filled still with the sweetness of her wanting him, glowing with a heat made up of more than her mortal warmth.
Lacroix had flown over the center of the river, to where it was deep, where its swift currents would most likely carry the bodies in an uninterrupted journey to the Tyrrhenian Sea. There he'd dropped them, the boy followed by the girl, the spume of the double splashes white in the starlight. He'd hung in the cool, gentle breeze above the water a moment, watching as one bobbed up, then the other, where after rolling once, they were swallowed down together again, disappearing from his sight. When he sensed Nicholas's arrival, he angled back to the shore, turning just before his feet touched, soundless on the rocky bank, so that he came to rest a step behind and slightly to one side of his protégé. They stood a moment, unmoving, as the black waters chuckled against the stones at their feet, the edge of an occasionally rippling current gleaming in the starlight. Nicholas tossed the slipper into the river, and they watched as it sailed off, following its mistress. Then Nicholas spoke.
"Raphael is in Rome."
Lacroix stood quietly a moment, then said, "I'll send word to have the villa there opened and cleaned."
Nicholas nodded, then sighed, Janette's loss, her rejection of him, dragging him again toward dismal melancholy. Lacroix reached out and set his left hand lightly on the other's left shoulder. Nicholas quickly lifted his right hand, setting it over Lacroix's, then shifting his grip to interlace their fingers tightly together. Lacroix turned his gaze from the dark waters to the finely cut planes of his protégé's profile. Eyes fixed on the river rolling past them, Nicholas slowly drew Lacroix's hand forward, twisting slowly, so that with a slight lowering and turning of his head, he could set a light kiss in the center of Lacroix's palm. His lips were still warm with the heat of the two women he'd taken. Lacroix bore the caress impassively.
Then Nicholas's mouth moved lower, brushing over the pulse point of the wrist, and Lacroix drew in a quick, soft breath. Closing his eyes, Nicholas ran slightly parted lips slowly back and forth over the cool skin, nudging Lacroix's cuff down as he did so. Easing the half-step closer it took, Lacroix lightly set his lean length against Nicholas's back, while his free hand came up to skim smoothly over his shoulder and biceps. With another sigh, Nicholas leaned back, resting against Lacroix. Lacroix's hand slid from his arm and under it, across Nicholas's chest, where he set it over his heart. He ducked his head, his cheek against the silk of his protégé's hair, and inhaled slowly.
Nicholas's tongue tip crept out, teasing the sensitive skin, and Lacroix's head bent even lower so he could trail his lips lightly over his ear and then his throat beneath. Nicholas shivered and the hand not holding Lacroix's wrist to his nuzzling mouth came up to press hard on the hand his companion had rested over his heart. His fangs slid from their concealment, the points pricking carefully over the vein. He felt the pressure of Lacroix's chest expanding against his back. Nicholas himself drew in a long breath. Then, abruptly, as a diver plunges headfirst into the unfathomable waters of a bottomless sea, he pierced the flesh under his teeth.
"Ahhh," Lacroix breathed, his exhalation caressing the side of Nicholas's neck, "oui..." The searing pleasure sent a ripple of memory through him, of the sensation of Nicholas's teeth, as yet mortally blunt, worrying the flesh at this very spot... then he felt himself rushing into the sucking hunger of his protégé's mouth. His arm tightened around Nicholas's chest as his son suddenly bucked against him, moaning as his maker's essence flared across his tongue. Nicholas's grief, buried and muted only somewhat by their evening's jaunt, tore at him through their link. He lowered his head, growling softly as he released his blood-lust, and bit down, penetrating the vein under his son's ear.
Lacroix grunted as the fire of Nicholas's blood burst in his mouth, the lust and desire of the two mortal women distilled into something fierce, primal. A deadly brilliance, mercurial in its exaltations and its rages, never temperate. Even the anguish of abandonment couldn't dampened that flame. Lacroix drew hard, swallowing down Nicholas's grief, the sullen suffering, as greedy for pain as for pleasure, its lash, too, affirming life. His voracious, savage joy as he consumed these sensations worked their own alchemy on Nicholas, who screamed as he was seared in the brutal crucible of his master's passions. Lacroix held him even tighter, his hunger for life, for his creation, for Nicholas, smashing through the younger vampire's body and mind. Groaning, Nicholas slashed Lacroix's wrist again and again, ever deeper, ravenous for the elemental, wordless desire that welled up from his maker's core. He tasted himself permeating Lacroix's blood, his awareness, and rejoiced in the bond between them, one that would not, could not, be broken. Spiraling tighter and tighter, the devouring ecstasy rose in them together, until rapture exploded, the bloody climax incandescent in every vein.
Black abyss, sown with sharp white points, spilling pristine light into his upturned eyes. He stood, legs braced, Nicholas's limp body, racked by deep, tearing sobs, in his arms. While Lacroix took long, slow breaths of the damp river air, his awareness collected itself again around that core of hard wariness, which had watched even while most of his being had been absorbed with Nicholas. Satisfied they had no reason to hurry their departure, he held his son, silent, unmoving, as his catharsis washed through him. Gradually, Nicholas calmed and straightened, and Lacroix loosed his hold as the other man gently disengaged from him. Nicholas looked out at the river as he wiped his cheeks with his palms. He shot a glance at Lacroix, aware he had little patience with the weaker emotions. But while the returned look was cool, it was without scorn.
"Lacroix..." he began, the other man's blood still smoldering in his body. His master's brows rose, and he found himself standing there, open mouthed yet wordless. He had no words to put to what had just happened between them. He never had.
"Never mind," he went on. But he reached out, and ran light fingertips over Lacroix's forearm, then down to the wrist he'd just fed from. The other man inhaled sharply, the wound barely healed, and caught Nicholas's fingers for a quick squeeze before letting go.
"A bath, I think. Then bed," Lacroix stated briskly. "Come spend the day at my villa, Nicholas. We can discuss our travel plans after we've slept."
Nicholas contemplated his empty home, and while a deep ache welled up at the thought, the heart-twisting pain he'd suffered under earlier that night had faded. Too much filled him, too much, and though there was nothing there of tenderness, that hollow space was gone, saturated with mortal life ... and the dark, ineffable essence of Lacroix. Still, he had no wish to face those silent rooms.
"All right." Nicholas's expression became abstracted. "Rome. Raphael. Have you seen, Lacroix, how he brings such light and life to his works?" The younger vampire flung himself abruptly into the sky, his voice trailing after him. "Those he's done lately, you'd think his subjects could step from the painting..."
Lacroix watched after his son a moment, his hands coming together before him, the thumb of his right running lightly over the left wrist. Wounds of the flesh healed so much more quickly than those of the heart. But even his Nicholas, to whom these lessons of eternity came so hard, unlike his daughter, his wise Janette, would learn "immortal" did not mean "immutable." His progeny would come together again, their relationship changed perhaps, but still strong. For the bond that linked them together, forged from his own blood, that, that, was immutable, unchanging, no matter what battles were fought between them. Even hatred could not sever those ties.
He delicately licked his lips, tasting there still the traces of the fiery essence that flowed through him. He took to the air, following his protégé. Rome. The tenth Leo was pope there now, born a Medici. There would be the art and music for Nicholas, the politics and literature for himself, and the ... luxuries for them both. He laughed softly, pressing with more speed after his son. It would be refreshing to sojourn with just Nicholas for a time, without Janette. He would eventually come to desire her wit, her elegance, her deadly grace again. Until then, though, it would be amusing to find his sport with Nicholas, drinking, whoring, sharing other indulgences... A hunger surged up in him, fierce, sharp, though his body still burned with the flame of Nicholas's blood. He laughed again, exulting, that unquenchable thirst for his creation suffusing him with the brute joy of being alive.
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