A/N: So! It's been a LONG while since I posted something. (Sorry about that guys!) Because of that, I decided to post a Halloween drabble, like I did last year. After a productive conversation with Rednightmare, I accepted her challenge to write another Halloween story with a different tone. That one was predominantly humorous and this one...isn't so much. This one is also from LaCroix's perspective, not Louisa's. So, for all the SL fans out there, enjoy! Hopefully this will tide y'all over until I become not lazy enough to write the next chapter of CoP.
He stood outside the lit up hospital entrance, hands stuffed into pockets as cartoonish, jubilant, intertwining whales smiled at him from the illuminated sign that read: Seattle Children's Hospital. Multicolored, concrete giraffes peered over the top of the leafy roof they perched upon, just above the synonymously, and ridiculously, dubbed "Giraffe Entrance". He winced at the garish yellow paint coating the walls. He was no fan of yellow to begin with, but was doubly irritated since bright colors – in his world, at least – indicated imminent danger, yet this was the main entrance, not emergency services.
One hand emerged from a pocket to run fingers through slightly dampened hair. One lock fell predictably out of place. His chest heaved a sigh before his loaders slapped precise smacks against wet pavement. The hospital doors slid open with a mechanical buzz and his senses were inundated with the smell of illness, sterilization and children. Sterile environment he could handle. The other two, not so much.
He snorted and pressed on through the scant waiting room. Joyous noise flooded his ears from hallways and floors above and around him. He winced again and inside empty pockets, his fingers flexed with anxiety. Anywhere but here…he thought, Why couldn't she be anywhere but here? His temples throbbed from a pre-pubescent screech two stories up.
Two nurses manned the main desk. Both were dressed in simple – yet ludicrous – costumed resembling the drug-induced illustrations of Dr. Seuss. He kept his grumble and criticism to himself as he approached them. They were chattering to one another and he interrupted some inane comment about something called an "app" one nurses had downloaded to her phone.
"Good evening!" one chirped.
"And Happy Halloween!" the other asserted. It was clear he had not been their first customer this scripted evening.
"How may we help you?" they asked in irritating unison.
"Good evening," he replied. "I am looking for the neonatal or maternity department. Can you direct me, Miss…" he peered at her name tag and grimaced, "Thing One?"
"Oh! Of course!" She beamed. Her blue wig bobbled as she spun her chair to grab a map of the hospital's interior.
A couple approached the desk and distracted the other blue-haired nurse titled "Thing Two". He peered back at the young woman assisting him. He didn't honestly need her help. He knew where everything was – as sad as that fact was. He just needed her to push her little red button to unlock the doors so he could be on his way with minimal effort and interpersonal contact. This wasn't his first trip here, so he drowned out her instructions to tune in for the voice he was really after. The cacophony of excited children made it difficult to hone in, but he was sure she was here.
"So, if you'll just sign in here," the nurse instructed with three quick taps to a festive clipboard, "Then I can give you your tag and buzz you through. Remember, visiting hours have been extended in certain areas but neonatal is not one of the approved locations, so you will have to be out by eight thirty. You will have to return your tag and sign back out before you leave."
He signed his name. "Yes, thank you," he replied.
"Now, straight down the hall and left at the painting of the giraffe on a swing. Elevators are the first right after that."
The nurse slid him a baby blue tag he refused to read and hit a button beneath the counter. A door to his left unlocked with a click. He walked away from the desk and pushed the door open with a firm grip to its handle. The nurse called out to him before he got too far – the same way they always did when he went this route – and he pause a breath to grit his teeth at her commendations.
"Oh, and Mr. LaCroix," her voice beamed, "Congratulations!"
He started to take another step when she added, "Boy or girl?"
Sebastian didn't answer. He disappeared behind the door and glared at the stupid painting at the end of the hall.
After three interruptions to his elevator ride, Sebastian was tempted to take the stairs. Each time the elevator doors binged open on a floor he did not need, a swarm of costumed children accosted his personal space. Exhausted and irritated hospital staff and other chaperones lumbered in after their giggling hoard, but LaCroix refused to make eye contact with any of them. Even when one of the ankle-biters tugged on his jacket hem, asking him over and over: "Hey! Hey Mister! Why aren't you dressed up? What're you supposed to be? Hey mister!", Sebastian kept his steely gaze firmly forward. The boy's mother finally stopped him when it became apparent to everyone in the elevator that his frustration was growing.
This was her territory. He, under no circumstances, would toe the clearly marked lines she set in and around this domain. While he once assumed this a hobby of hers – dropping money on hospitals and taking up intangible residence on their boards – the last two or three decades changed his opinion. The only reason this hospital existed the way it currently did was became she had written a sizable check that came with stipulations – conditions the staff and board were more than willing to oblige if it meant better facilities and equipment. The "conditions" were snuff compared to what they got. She had just demanded the hospital be as family and child-friendly as possible. She hated bland environments. She wanted an atmosphere that was vibrant, welcoming and a stark contradiction to the patients it served. She wanted every staff member's sole focus to be on the customers they waited upon and he had it on direct authority that if that focused strayed, or was compromised in any way, that person didn't have a job for much longer.
Behavior like that spoke glaringly of the Kindred condition in her. While others might assume it was just a Ventrue being Venture, he knew differently. She was striving as close as possible for something she could, literally, never had. Making him come and search for her here was another reminder of this nagging sore in her thoughts and to what degree she wanted to punish him for it being there in the first place.
"This wouldn't be an issue if you had waited a little longer!" her lungs had screamed in anger.
"Why couldn't you have let me be?" she had sobbed in utter sadness. "Why did have to take this from me?"
"I haven't tears enough for what you've taken from me!"
His eyes squeezed closed as her very first accusation rang through his mind with the speed and fatality of a newly sharped arrowhead. Yes, she never let him forget that it was his fault for situations like these. Centuries later, he felt no more or less guilty than he did the night he embraced her. She never saw things from his perspective. She hadn't know about herself what he had known. Sebastian had never shared it with her, either, because what would it possibly accomplish?
The elevators doors slid open and the last pack of miniature humans with their ragged caretakers left the tiny space. He exhaled and opened his eyes, glancing down at where the boy had tugged on his jacket. Instinctually, his hand slid from his pocket to smooth where the tiny hand had crinkled the fabric. He would never have her brand of tenderheartedness toward children. He hadn't had it when he was able to produce them, and nothing changed when he wasn't. Children had been the smallest dot in his once-upon-a-time plan for climbing the social ladder of fifteen century France. They were not something he mourned now that fangs inhabited his mouth a hunger for blood woke him each evening. His Childe…that was a different story.
Sebastian leaned against the door of the metallic elevator wall as the chamber continued to ascend two more floors. He crossed his arms over his chest and searched for her voice once again. It was a hum beneath the ambient sound of music flooding from the intercom above. She was whispering. Perhaps singing, but he couldn't be certain from this distance, with the children floors below still making a ruckus.
When the doors parted for the last time, he was welcomed to a floor of pastel pinks and blues. Less lampoon depictions of storks where painted on the walls, directing visitors to the waiting rooms and new fathers to the nursery. Sebastian stepped out of the elevator and stuffed his hands back into his pockets as he followed one jolly bird's wing toward the neonatal nursery.
He liked this floor.
It was quiet.
Everything was very much her.
He smirked to himself. The side of her only he knew was splayed on every inch of this floor.
Teddy bears and baby lambs on sale in the gift shop. Crocheted blankets of tender fleece in a variety of pale colors, streams of silky satin hemming the edges. The gentle hum of white noise machines and radio station lullabies. His footsteps echoes around all these feminine things they had no use for. Sebastian pulled the baby blue tag from his pocket and glared at it as he came to a stop outside a long, glass window. The words "New Daddy" were scrawled in decorative cursive. Two words. Just two words but they made his insides twist into knots. The very thought nauseated him. He pushed the tag out of sight once more and lifted his head to gaze into a dimly lit room containing row after row of sturdy, medical basinets. Inside each was a baby.
In the back of the room, draped in protective cap, gown, and gloves was the raven-haired mademoiselle he was after. She held a blue bundle in her arms and slid back and forth in one of the three nursery gliders. One of her feet rested on the matching ottoman while the other pushed her and her bundle back and forth at an even pace. This close to her, even with glass between them, he could hear her singing a soft lullaby to the bundle. Her French was soft as the fleece wrapping the baby.
He groaned and gripped the bridge of his nose between two fingers.
He hated this. He hated being here. He hated doing what he was about to do.
Sebastian took a few more steps and walked into an antechamber, where another nurse sat. She wasn't garbed in anything but decorative scrubs and glared at him when he entered. A magazine sat open on her lap. He had clearly interrupted a good article. LaCroix extracted the tag and handed it to her. These two knew each other. How sad was that? This ghoul only existed because Louisa insisted on continuing with his frivolous tradition. She rolled her eyes and took the tag from him.
"How long has she been here?" he asked as he began pulling off his suit jacket.
"I don't know. I think she slept in one of the unoccupied on-call rooms during the day. I only know she was already here when I came in," she answered while directing him to washing station and hospital gowns visitors were mandated to wear.
"Fabulous," he spat as he begrudgingly scrubbed his hands with scalding water and surgical-grade soap.
He felt like a fool as he pulled the gown and gloves on. She really needed something different. Right now, he would rather be dealing with an intoxicated, inappropriately dressed Halloween version of her than this. He had fervently prayed his eyes on the ground would find her amongst the other gyrating bodies at the annual Cabaret Macabre. Or, perhaps frolicking through the corn mazes or haunted houses her money helped establish each year to raise funds for the very hospital he stood in. Carving pumpkins. Trick-or-treating. Her tongue down another man's throat.
Anything but this.
He fought his instincts to bite the nurse as she tied a cap over his blonde hair. Only then was he allowed to enter the nursery. He walked in as quietly as possible, listening to the music of her lullaby and the whimpering of new life in nearby bassinets. The last thing he needed was any of these infants to start crying.
She didn't make eye contact with him, even after he came to sit in the chair beside hers. They were the only two in the room with these tiny lives. He said nothing as he watched her thumb rub back and forth over the tiny fingers that gripped hers. Closer, he could see the tiny head full of black hair snoozing against her left breast; ears possibly searching for a heartbeat that simply didn't exist. The baby's mouth sucked intermittently on a pacifier. Her lullaby came to a slow end, though her gliding did not cease.
"His mother was a teenager," she broke the silence between them with a whisper. There was a hint of jealousy in her word, a sense of irony she hated. "His chart says she plans to give him up for adoption."
"Seems the most appropriate choice for someone her age in this age," he answered.
"She didn't even want to hold him." Now came the judgment.
He knew what would follow.
"Makes the separation easier," he stated simple fact.
A dry, stuttered chuckle came out of her throat, objecting to his rationalization. "Who would want to be separated from something so sweet? So beautiful?"
He sighed, "Don't do this, Louisa. I beg you. Put the baby back and let's-"
"He needs a foster home," she cut him off and looked at him with big eyes. "Until they can arrange an adoption."
Not this again.
He hung his head and let his arms flop over his knees.
Anything but this.
Why couldn't you just have dressed up and fed off drunk kine again this year?! His brain screamed.
"No, Louisa," he words were firm but he couldn't bear to look at her while he said them. He didn't want to see the way her heart snapped in half.
"…Why?" she whispered. "Why not? I have a home, I have time, I-"
"Are dead," he stabbed.
He watched the glider come to a slow halt. Sebastian felt his shoulders sag as his ears caught the sound of her throat muffling a sob. He lifted his eyes when the baby squirmed in her arms. It whined and gave a mewling cry. He cursed in his head. He had been careless with his words and now her hands were tightening on the child.
"Stop, Louisa!" he hissed and grabbed one of her elbows. "You'll hurt him."
Her watery blues jumped to his. Pain mingled with fear as she relaxed her arms and resumed the gliding to calm the now disturbed baby boy. Tears rolled down her cheek. Sebastian turned in his chair to swipe tissues from a box behind them and wiped her cheek. This was just the start.
While wiping he realized she was wearing a candy striper costume beneath the sheer gown. The alternating pink and white stripes of the apron, combined with the matching medical hat secured to her head would have fooled any inattentive staff member. Louisa was a master of blending in when she needed to and centuries of costuming herself made this night all too easy for her to manipulate on a level above what she was used to.
"All I want to do is…" she choked again. Again, his hand wiped water from her skin.
"I know, but you can't. It's too dangerous."
"I don't see how a few days in a good home with someone who loves him is dangerous," she argued in the same lullaby voice she had when he first walked in.
"Louisa…he isn't your baby. I know you feel like you love him, but that's because he's small and appeals to whatever is left of your maternal instincts. You wouldn't just foster him, Louisa. I know because we've been through this before. When they come to take him to his adoptive home, you'll go into a rage."
She became stony, but didn't clench her arms this time. She knew he was telling the truth, as painful as it was for her to hear.
LaCroix glanced at his watch. The needle was coming close to the end of visiting hours.
"Louisa, it's time to go. Put him back and let's leave," he said with a hand to her elbow, fingers rubbing the joint.
Her bottom lip trembled and she shook her head. "I can't. I don't want to. He's so perfect, Sebastian. Just look at him!"
LaCroix stood up and moved in front of her. He removed her foot from the ottoman and sat on it. His hands moved to cup her face and drawn her in. His lips pressed a cool kiss to her forehead. Her shoulders sagged after that but she didn't budge. At least she wasn't going to fight him. As gingerly as a man like him knew how, he took the baby from her arms. The boy wriggled as Sebastian carried him to the bassinet labeled "Baby Doe". He paused to look at the baby properly.
Yes, he was perfect. His hair was black and when his eyes blinked open once, LaCroix saw their blue hue. The way his nose curved. The shape of his lips. His chin. Sebastian laid the baby back in the bassinet. Louisa was at his side to make sure the little one was properly tucked into his blanket. Her chin waggled the entire time, her hands shaking. She straightened up beside him as they both looked down at a hypothetically perfect child for them.
The drive back to her home in the Queen Anne district was a nightmare.
From the time they left the nursery to the point when they got to the limo, she had maintained a stalwart exterior. Her skirt flared out and danced against the sides of her thighs as she walked just ahead of him. Without the gown, he found her to have audacious stockings covering her legs. It made him wonder if she was wearing a garter belt to keep them up.
Once the limo pulled away from the hospital, any fantasy he might have had was shattered by the gut wrenching sound of her sobs. She wouldn't let him touch her for the first twenty minutes as she bawled beside him, her hands and wrists wiping away relentless tears. By the time they pulled onto her street, she was a sniffling mess in his arms. One hand rubbed her back while the other anxiously checked his phone.
"I just want-" but she couldn't finish before another sob shut her up.
"I know, I know," he sympathized with rhythmic pats to the center of her back.
"Why couldn't you-" Another choked cry.
Here it came again. The blame he allowed to be heaped on his person. Sebastian LaCroix was the singular reason she hadn't even held a child of her own in her arms. He was the cause of her womb and ovaries shriveling up at so tender an age. He was the monster who ended her dreams before they'd had a chance to be born. It was all his fault and he could handle that since he knew the truth. He didn't respond, because she would just go from crying to screaming and his ears couldn't deal with that after the chorus of shrieking he experienced in the hospital. His head still had a dull throb.
Besides, he had a solution to this whole problem.
In Los Angeles, he might have appeared and been accused of being heartless.
And no, he could not deny the relationship between he and Louisa was not always perfect.
But, if Sebastian LaCroix had learned anything about the girl-woman in his arms, it was how to buy his way out of thin ice situations.
The limo stopped in front of her mansion and LaCroix waited for the driver to open the door. His hands stopped their soothing and he straightened Louisa up.
"Now, now, Louisa. Stop this crying. It won't change anything but the state of your face," he said as he pulled a handkerchief from his breast pocket. He dabbed her cheeks, which had been streaked with mascara.
Her eyes became angry in the snap of a second. Pearly fangs bared at him as she opened her mouth to argue with him, but he didn't give her much opportunity. The driver forked open the door and Sebastian slid out. He sighed with relief and walked about ten feet from the limo, to someone waiting by the car.
Sebastian heard Louisa exit the limo. It was hard not to. She had already started a good rant. He heard her hard steps come his way. She was mid-accusation when he turned to face her.
Louisa caught her words in her chest.
"I know you want a baby, Louisa. We both know you can't have one. So, I got you the next best thing," Sebastian explained as he placed a wriggling, eight-week old German Shepherd puppy in her arms.
Her lip began waggling again.
He just planted another kiss to the top of her black crown. "Happy Halloween, Louisa."
A/N 2: Bah! Yuck! Fluff! There, Red! Happy? ;)