Morning Has Broken

The sun started rising, he knew he would have to move away from the window and close the blinds. He hated it, been driven away from the daylight like dog from a whip. It made him feel helpless and weak- two things he most definitely did not like feeling. He usually covered it with his displays of power, his strong will and magnificent charm. Usually, but not in these moments alone, at dawn. Those moments when the sun, a single disk of light in the sky, showed him that he was a mere speck in the universe, to be toyed with by the forces of nature.

"You're being morose today, aren't you?" He said to himself, not quite amused. He had been morose all week, he had to admit... to himself, not to anyone else. He stepped back and let the drapes fall into place, and triggered the remote to let the blinds close throughout the house. A toy he'd picked up from Nicholas, a useful one. He didn't go overboard like Nick had,and put *everything* on the remote. But the blinds, yes, it was quite handy to have them hooked up.

Thinking of Nicholas didn't make him feel any better. LaCroix sighed and headed for the living room. A bottle of blood sat on an endtable, waiting for him. Janette had sent a crate over, some time ago, just in case. He knew she didn't expect him to ever use it, his skill in the hunt and desire for fresh blood made it unlikely. But sometimes- like tonight, he just didn't feel like going out. Sometimes he felt like staying at home, sitting in his favorite chair, and sipping bottled blood and staring into a fire.

And feeling morose. He rubbed a hand over his face and was surprised to see a streak of red on one finger. He gingerly felt one cheek, and discovered the tear. It shocked him, he didn't think he was feeling *that* badly. He hadn't cried in... well, he hadn't *ever* cried. Why on earth would he start now? Angry, he stood up and decided that he would go hunting after all. Sitting around feeling sorry for himself wasn't going to be in tonight's plan after all...

He remembered that it wasn't tonight, it was today. He rubbed at his temples- what had he been thinking? Hunting? He could feel the pull of the sun, the heat as it pounded at him through the walls. His mind must have been so far away, too distracted to have even noticed... what could he have been thinking?

He sat down again in his chair and decided he might as well drink from the glass. He just wished... yes, he nodded to himself. He wished what he always wished. That someone, that one someone in particular was here beside him. Being alone was one thing, but being hated... sometimes he even admitted to himself that it hurt.

The fire burned, casting light and shadow across the room. LaCroix stared at the flames, letting their dance of destruction amuse and distract him. The fire hypnotised him, letting him free himself of the thoughts that left him sitting up all day in a closed room. The now empty bottle sat quietly beside the chair, unobtrusive. LaCroix let the glass fall from his hand, and he listened as it rolled on the thick rug.

He knew that he would have to shake himself from this soon. He had things to do, plans, for the night. He wanted to go to his station and speak to his listeners, speak to the ones who pretended not to hear. He wanted to say things that he would otherwise not get the chance to say aloud.

Sometimes it was his only way to reach out to him. Granted Nicholas didn't appreciate it, often he didn't even understand what LaCroix was trying to say to him. But LaCroix spoke anyway. He needed to, though he would never attempt to explain why.

He was perfectly willing to blame it all on Nicholas. If he would just... just... LaCroix closed his eyes. It wouldn't happen- if ever then not for a long, long time. He told himself to be patient, to keep on doing all he could do for now, and that someday Nicholas would reach back to him. But for now Nicholas resented LaCroix's desire, his need to hold on, not realising that he *needed* to hold on, and that Nicholas himself needed it as well. LaCroix curled himself up in his chair, sitting sideways with his legs over the arm. Resting his head against the back of the chair, he stared into the shadows. The sun was going down, but he didn't feel like moving. He didn't feel like hunting, although he knew he would be hungry soon. He knew the thrill of a hunt would chase this melancholy mood away, but for reasons he didn't yet want to discover, he didn't want to be rid of it.

Perhaps another bottle, and a quiet night at home. Even he needed time alone, resting, away from the world and its energy, its chaos. With that decision made LaCroix relaxed- it was exactly what he needed. He left the blinds closed, and stood up, picking up the empty bottle. He had plenty more, in the case from Janette. Smiling to himself, he headed into the dining room to get one.

He looked up when he heard the other approaching. He stayed standing still in the living room, confused and a bit shocked. He heard the knock on the door, and then the door opened. He waited in the dark room until his visitor came in.

"What are you doing here?" His voice was soft, not quite hiding his shock. His suspicion.

"Don't you remember what today is?"

LaCroix's brow curled. In truth he did not, but he searched his memory. "I don't know today's date." It so rarely mattered, to a vampire. Usually remembering the decade- or century, was enough. When even *that* mattered.

Nick swallowed, and said quietly, "Today is the day I promised to come by. Exactly four hundred years. I promised, if you.. left me be, I said I would return. For the night."

LaCroix let the surprise show on his face. "That is tonight? I thought..." he thought back. Yes, it would be tonight. Four hundred years after he had bargained with Nicholas that he would let him try to make his own way, free from his master's interference. "I didn't realise... you would still consider it a promise. You did, after all, come to me once or twice.. I left you alone til then. I thought.. the bargain negated after that." After that he'd gone back to interfering.

Nick shrugged. "I wasn't sure... but I did promise. And regardless of whether the bargain has been held... I thought it best if I kept my promise," the unspoken words, 'my side of the bargin' were not quite heard- not quite said. "I felt that I should come."

LaCroix stood silently, staring at Nicholas. He quite honestly didn't understand why Nicholas had come. By all indications he should have stayed away for as long as he could- when asked he usually said it would be forever. But he wasn't going to argue. LaCroix held out his hand.

Nick hesitated, then stepped forward into the room. LaCroix smiled gently. "I was just about to open another bottle... would you care to join me?"

Nick declined the offer of a glass of Janette's private stock, LaCroix didn't taunt him about avoiding human blood. Instead he nonchalantly poured himself a glass, then stood and looked at Nicholas.

"You're truly here.. I must say I don't quite believe it."

Nick smiled. "I didn't think you would." He suddenly pulled something from his coat pocket. "I brought something... for you."

He held it out, LaCroix saw it was a CD case. He nodded towards the player, Nick went over and put the disc in. Nick hit 'play' and as he turned back to LaCroix the first strains of 'Belle Qui' filled the room. The flashback caught them both.

The entire hall was filled with well-dressed partygoers. The music and laughter filled the air, the mood was passionate excitement. It was the centennial ball, the year 1541. The party was exclusive- for denizens of the night. Every hundred years they gathered, truces declared and axes buried- for awhile, for the three weeks in which the party occured. Old friends met, and tales were swapped of who had done what, children introduced and those who had gone were remembered. It was a time when vampires could celebrate with their own kind, without fear.

The party was the one thing the commuity could agree upon, and it was rigourously enforced. But only rarely did someone find his personal vendettas more important than a chance to enjoy the centennial ball.

It was the last time LaCroix and Nicholas had been truly happy to be traveling together. This night, in the first week of the ball, LaCroix stood to the side, watching the others dance. Janette and Nicholas were off in the crowd, enjoying themselves. He could feel their laughter, and he smiled. No one else could boast such a beautiful pair.

He looked up in surprise when he felt their brief anger- or rather Janette's anger and Nicholas' guilt. Soon he saw them coming towards him, Jantte pulling Nicholas by the hand behind her. Janette was clearly upset, and Nicholas... well Nicholas looked like he'd been scolded and was about to be scolded again.

"What is wrong, my dear?" he asked.

With a glare to Nicholas she said, "He won't dance with me. I had this dress made especially for tonight, and I wanted to show it off during the pavanne.. and Nickola won't dance!"

LaCroix gave Nicholas a reproachful look. "What is this, Nicholas?" This argument truly puzzled him, until he saw Nicholas' reason hiding futilely behind other thoughts. He gave Nicholas a look of pretend surprise. "You can't dance?"

"I don't know how. Not the pavanne." He looked to Janette, pleading apology in his entire face. "I'm sorry, I thought I had told you..."

Janette just 'hmph'ed and crossed her arms, glaring out at the crowd. "And I had them work so hard to make your clothes match and flatter my own. How am I supposed to be the talk of the party if you won't help me show off?" her tone made it clear that she knew exactly what was important, and that it wasn't Nicholas' lack of social graces.

Nicholas began to apologise again, he knew how much Janette enjoyed being appreciated, especially by her own kind. He appreciated her, as well, and wanted to make her happy. But he simply didn't know the pavanne.

LaCroix stepped out onto a bit of the floor. "Come here."

Janette and Nicholas looked at him, LaCroix took Nicholas' hand and pulled him over. Confused, Nicholas went and stood, somewhat embarrassed, in front of LaCroix. "LaCroix, I dont..."

"It's very simple, Nicholas. Just follow me..."

In the corner of the hall, LaCroix and Nickolas began to dance, to the orchestra's Belle Qui. Slowly and carefully at first, then as Nicholas learned the steps he began to relax. When he knew them well enough, he raised his head and looked at LaCroix, and found him smiling.

"It's very simple, Nicholas." They danced the rest of the pavanne, then LaCroix released him and let Janette take him onto the floor, to show off.

LaCroix smiled, and held out his hand. "May I have this dance?"

Nick hesitated only a scond, then took LaCroix's outstretched hand. He had expected this, when he purchased the CD. In fact he had worried over whether or not to get it, then whether or not to bring it, and of course whether or not to even come. He had been worrying about it for weeks, especially knowing that LaCroix would not be expecting him to come. What would he gain by it? What could he hope to prove?

Nick had finally realised that he would go, because he had made the promise in good faith, and he owed it to the man to whom he'd made the promise. Also because he discovered he wanted to go- not every year with LaCroix had been bad. Entire decades had been spent with good times and good feelings between them. While he knew that one night would not change things back to the way they had been, Nick hoped that, for one night at least, they could be happy together again. Some tiny part of unrealistic hope inside him said that if he could make LaCroix happy for a bit, then his master might come to realise what Nick himself needed to be happy. He knew it wouldn't happen, but he couldn't deny that he hoped.

He had purchased the CD, knowing it would remind them of one good time, of a time when they had loved each other and not had to fight about whether or not they could live in each other's shadow without tearing each other apart. Whether it would be enough...

Nick still didn't know exactly what would come of this night, but it was worth the try. The look on LaCroix's face, when he heard the music and when Nick took his hand to dance was worth the weeks of worry. Nick felt himself relax, and they danced silently, as the music and memories filled the room.

When they sat down on the couch, to watch the fire and listen to the night, Nick wondered what they would talk about. Would they end up fighting again? Or would they manage to be civil, perhaps even friendly? How could they speak to each other, without saying the things they couldn't stand to hear? When it was clear LaCroix would say nothing, Nick spoke up quietly. "I heard your show the other night."

"Really?" LaCroix's pleased surprise showed. "Which one was that?"

"You were talking about the future. You asked your listeners to call in, and tell you if they had plans for the future, or if they prefered to live one day- or night, at a time."

LaCroix thought back, it had only been four nights ago. It had been a good night... although talking so much about planning for the future had probably contributed to last night's depression. He looked at Nicholas, where he leaned back into the couch beside him, their feet up on the coffeetable. LaCroix felt positively... comfy. He laughed suddenly, and Nicholas looked up at him in surprise. He smiled at his look of confusion, and said, "I was just thinking... how wonderful it is to have you here again."

Hesitantly, then with more confidence, Nick said, "Perhaps we should arrange to do it again sometime." Neither of them responded to the offer- too much of a test of the tenuous veil of normalcy they'd created.

LaCroix laid back again, and they stared into the fire. Around them, unnoticed, the night went on.

An hour before sunrise LaCroix glanced down at Nicholas. The conversation had dropped off long ago, and a surprisingly comfortable silence had crept up around them. LaCroix looked out the window which faced east, though he hardly needed to.

"You should be going, soon, if you want to make it home safely."

"Yes." Nick's voice was quiet. But he didn't move yet.

LaCroix brushed the top of Nicholas' head. "I'm glad you came." He felt a pang of guilt, because Nicholas was keeping a bargain he had broken. But Nicholas had told him it didnt matter- and LaCroix knew that if it had gotten Nicholas here, than it was nothing to regret.

Nick looked up at him. He smiled. "Perhaps I'll come again, in another four hundred years." His smile was gentle, turning his words into a tease which sounded much more like a wistful thought. He stood up. With a final muted goodbye, a casual handshake and a closing away of his thoughts as the reality of their distance began to creep back in, he said goodbye.

LaCroix watched him leave. As expected, when Nicholas left, the pain returned. Four hundred years. He could wait that long, for just one more night. Sometimes he thought he could forever. Sometimes he thought he'd have to.

LaCroix headed upstairs. The house felt more empty than it ever had before, since for a few hours it had been filled. The emptiness reached into his heart, and he carried it with him to bed. He left his clothes lying scattered on a chair, and lay down between the white satin sheets of his bed. At first he stared at the ceiling, then he finally he fell asleep.

His dream was of Nicholas. He dreamt of the previous night, and in his dream he found himself again dancing, holding Nicholas close to him, feeling the single heartbeat gently against his own. He closed his eyes and listened to the subdued thoughts of the other, nearly as quiet as his own. He rested his cheek against Nicholas' as they danced. No longer a proper pavanne, but neither of them cared. Eventually even thought faded, and LaCroix pulled his head back. The look in Nicholas' eyes encouraged him, and he leaned in and laid a gentle kiss on his lips.

One more heartbeat passed, and when he leaned in for another, Nicholas kissed him back. LaCroix tasted his lips, his mouth- it had been so long. At first it was delicate, a slow, sensuous kiss. Then as the passion rose he pulled at Nicholas' lips, nibbled on them, then bit. Nicholas put his arms around LaCroix and held him tightly against his body. A single thought came to LaCroix , as he reminded himself that Nicholas had not fed that night, and he should be careful not to weaken him.

Then he was pulling Nicholas' shirt off, and running his hands and tongue over the bared skin. He felt Nicholas' own passion rising, and let it join with his own. He eased Nicholas down onto the thick rug, and laid on top of him, both of them now covering the other with not-so-gentle biting caresses. He felt Nicholas' fangs brush against his skin. Every muscle tightened, and LaCroix put his mouth against Nicholas' neck. As Nicholas' fangs sank in, he bit, and they lay locked togther in a vampires' embrace, drinking of each other's blood as their hearts beat almost perceptibly faster, bodies still writhing and savagely pushing together.

In his sleep, LaCroix moaned in ecstasy as in his dream he and Nicholas made love. When release came, his hands griped the sheets, nails digging through the fabric. A harsh scream tore from his throat, and afterwards, when his body relaxed and the dream began to fade, he rolled onto his side, one arm stretched out as if curled around his lover.

Next Story: Mornings Whisper