Forever Endings

Nick felt a breath rise and fall in his chest. The sheer absurdity of it startled him, then he relaxed at the realisation of what it meant. He glanced over at the empty bags -- a tell-tale signal he had no time to hide... even though the course of the human blood in his system would be a dead give-away.

He winced at the thought and wished he'd phrased it some other way.

The elevator slid to a stop. Nick turned and faced it squarely -- there was no getting out of this encounter, he had best meet the confrontation head on and hope for the best. Hope to survive, at least. No telling what would happen with the other's rage. No telling... Nick noticed his hands were shaking and closed his fist to stop it.

The door slid open. Nick stepped forward, and suddenly realised he had no idea what he was going to say. His brain scrambled for something, some words, phrases, placations and explanations that would get him out of this without any... blood shed.

He was still searching when his master came into the room. He did not look especially pleased.

"I'm sorry..." Nick knew it sounded so weak, knew it couldn't possibly help.

"Lacroix... I was going to come by..."

"And tell me what?" The vampire's tone was sharper than usual, whether in anger or something else Nick couldn't tell. "Tell me thanks, it's been real, but I'm 'outta here'?"

"Sorry? Well thank you, Nicholas. After all I've done... after everything I did to make this work.. and you're sorry?" He bit off each word; Nick felt it stab through his heart. He heard the anger, oh yes, but he also heard the disappointment. The sorrow. The bitterness.

He held out his hand. "Please... let me explain..."

"I will listen because it suits me.. but please be informed, dear Nicholas, that I am only here because it amuses me to see you writhe. You owe me that. To get some pleasure from your... discomfort." His voice took a strange, faraway tone. "It is that only thing I can have, now. So it seems."

"I didn't mean it like this. You have to know that. It wasn't about you, it wasn't about the others. It was just... it's what I have to do." Nick's voice dropped away. He could tell Lacroix didn't believe him, didn't care. "If there's anything I can do to make it up to you..." The offer was the last, and only thing he could give. But what could he do, that the other couldn't do for himself?

Lacroix looked up at him, and Nick was shocked by the pain in his eyes. "You know I'm going to miss you."

"Yes..." Why was he doing this? Why did it have to be this hard? Nick was furious at himself. Why did his every attempt to make his own life better end up hurting those he was closest to?

"Is it too much to ask..." Lacroix' whisper floated across the room. The only thing he'd asked Nicholas for, since he'd asked him to stay. And they both knew how well *that* had gone.

"If I can... you know I will do anything." The offer was sincere. They both knew it.

"Keep in touch?" The request was so simple, Nick knew it belied the things that they were losing, the hardships Nick was causing them all.

"I will." Nick nodded.

Lacroix sighed, and walked further into the room, looking around at the loft. "I could have accepted the other losses... I could have perservered." He glanced over at Nick. "You and I... we could have made it. But..." He gestured, a vague wave of the hand, indicating the room, the loft, the life. "I worked so hard..."

"I know. If there was any way I could have stayed..."

"I know." He nodded. "I'm sorry, I should be happy for you. But to lose so much, in such a short time..."

"I know." Nick's quiet admission reminded Lacroix that Nicholas, too, was losing as much if not more than he. Lacroix held out his hand, Nick took it, gripped it hard.

"I won't ask if I can talk you out of it."

"Thank you. I'm sorry... I didn't realise all you'd done, to stay here... I knew you were juggling a lot, but I hadn't realised... I would have warned you. I would have said something."

"I know. I just wish it could have gone differently."

"Yes. Perhaps if they hadn't sent Janette away, maybe if Schanke hadn't decided to go... I would have been satisfied to stay. But I couldn't... I couldn't accept their offer. It was insulting, and I... I have this chance, to go and do something just as... well, interesting. Satisfying."

A slight grin greeted him. "And you'll be working days."

He laughed. "There is that. Always an advantage, with kids in school..." he looked at his friend. "You'll be ok?"

"Of course. I just wish I hadn't turned down that offer, just last week..."

They talked for a bit, then walked out together, in silence. Behind them, walls began to fall.