"So, are you going to tell me why she's here?"

Elias sat casually at the bar stool, his arms reclined back on the counter, a look of both curiosity and sly amusement on his face as he watched Nicolae sort through what to wear for the afternoon council session. He was bare-chested, his skin pale and flawless excepting the crucifix burnt black onto his lower left arm, a wound from a defensive manoeuvre long ago. Nicolae could swear it still tingled at the strangest moments, he felt it mostly when he was feeding, and always wondered whether it was some sort of sign that he took special care to ignore.

"She says I ought to take responsibility," Nicolae answered, finding an off-white linen shirt and slipping it over his head, accompanying it with a black waistcoat and his turquoise leather jacket. It fell onto his shoulders with unusually heavy weight, in another of many moments, he felt tired; of everything.

"In other words, she's blackmailing you." 

Nicolae turned to his ancient friend, taking his tumbler of bronze liqueur from the bedside table and swilling it idly. He wasn't sure why he bothered, alcohol did nothing to vampires, and he'd realised long ago that without the feeling of inebriation to follow, it all tasted vulgar. Still, he drained it in one. 

"Why do you say something like that?" he asked, striding across the apartment behind the bar to refill. Elias span around on the stool with a smile of childish happiness.

"Because that's the only way you would ever take responsibility for your actions, to my mind, at least." Nicolae glanced up at him, sitting down parallel and turning the crystal tumbler so that it caught the light through the apartment window. "She's nothing more than a responsibility, then?" Elias added, wary.

"Being a Maker is a unique position, I don't expect you to -,"

"Quiet," Elias said sharply, "stop lecturing me about Making. Especially when you use yourself as an example of a good one." Nicolae rolled his eyes with an obstinacy that shone in them both like the blood of brotherhood. "I don't care what you say, Nicolae," he continued, "I don't need to meet Silena to know that she means far more to you than she should, or at least more than you let on."

"She is the most selfish woman I know," he murmured, squinting as the spectrum of light shone in his eyes, a moment of blissful humanity.

"Why? Because she keeps coming back? I'd say, she might even be good for us."

Nicolae cocked an eyebrow, "us?" 

"Negotiations," said Elias, "you leading the reveal has its disadvantages. The British royal family are resentful because you Turned one of their monarchs back in the day. I don't blame them for thinking we're conspiring against them." Nicolae smirked, remembering trying on the crown jewels earlier that evening. "However, Silena is a relatively unknown but likeable figure. Her connection to you shouldn't matter."

"Do you know how much trouble she'd cause? She's intent on exasperating me."

Elias grinned, "then we'd get on swimmingly." Nicolae sighed, leaving the tumbler and standing at the window, the morning sun giving him a lean, ominous silhouette. Elias sighed, he was difficult, more than any lost vampire he'd ever met. "You need her, Nicolae," he said quietly, "for several different reasons that elude us all."

"Elias..." he said, his voice filled with fear and pain, "what do you do when you're indebted to a woman?"

Elias scoffed, "you're asking the wrong vampire."

"You're saying that you never had anybody?"

He shrugged, "a few -,"

"- hundred?"

Elias grinned, "not exactly."

"I owe her for too many things," Nicolae murmured, looking out of the window, across and below to the glass dome of Sky Valley, where dark figures moved around inside. "Too many to count." He couldn't sense her amongst them, though about now she was exploring, having moved into her new home in the old boutique. He imagined her rifling through the accessories in storage, complaining about how cheap and inelegant they were compared to her days, yet putting on as many as possible for fun. He smiled, in a deep recess of himself, he was happy to see her again, but the feeling was quickly repressed by the anguish and the guilt.

"You said she was selfish," said Elias, standing at his side and gazing out with him. "Why?"

"She makes me remember," he admitted, bringing out a side of him that the ancient had never seen before. A softness, an old self - was it only her who brought it out? "She brings everything back, and that's why I hate her. I remember when... what I did... the things she said to me to try and make me stop... but I didn't -,"

He choked on his words, and like a switch, he reverted to his old self, dark, cruel; secretive. He turned away from the window and strode towards the escalator, his footsteps purposeful. "Tell Silena to join us at this afternoon's council meeting. I'm going on patrol."

"I'm not your lackey, you know," Elias called out in good humour as Nicolae disappeared down the escalator. At the bottom, he resisted every urge to visit the east side, instead patrolling in the opposite direction where he could drown out his self-pity in any which way possible.

The End

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