An Ancient Roman General on a Plane (OR A Snake on the Red-Eye to Chicago)
For neverbeen2spain's Snakes on a Plane Challenge
This story goes along with "After the End"
Disclaimer: "Forever Knight" and all its characters belong to Sony or CBS or Columbia/TriStar or somebody, not me. James Parriott will have my eternal gratitude for having made them up. This is just for fun.
LaCroix had never been one of those vampires who haunted one location forever. Native earth meant next to nothing to the Roman Legions, and he would be a General of the Legions forever (not "until the day he died"; LaCroix was not going to die.)
Since Toronto, though, he had been more restless, more aimless, than ever before. He chose to blame it on his own near-death experience, rather than on anything else whatsoever. It had been quite a surprise to find that being staked through the heart and set on fire was not, in fact, fatal to LaCroix these days. He wondered if anything was. The question might have been answered if Nicholas hadn't been so distracted. The boy had been a warrior, after all -- beheading certainly should have been the next step. LaCroix had always had great respect for Nicholas's skill with a sword.
And why exactly was he brooding about Nick again? Dead is dead.
LaCroix slid up the little window shade and looked down upon the earth. The moon painted the clouds below in shades of gray. Tiny glittering lights of human habitation studded the dark black land between them. The sun wouldn't rise for hours. Not that it would matter much if it did.
He'd traveled all over the world, these last ten years. He kept in touch with Janette, even though she was not precisely one of his anymore. He told himself that he was merely reasserting control over someone who should never have been cut loose from him, but he knew that wasn't it. She knew it, too. It didn't matter.
There was plenty of time for them to work it out, whatever it was. More time than he'd ever anticipated, in fact -- what with one thing and another, he'd been caught out in full sunlight twice in those ten years. That was foolish almost to the point of suicidal. Although not anymore, apparently. He'd been fine. His skin had barely even blistered.
It was a little disquieting, if he thought too much about it. As a Roman, he believed in the depths of his being that suicide was always an option, if life could not be borne. That had always been part and parcel of the taking of slaves -- anyone who could not stand it was always free to kill himself. Janette had been a slave all her days; he was a better master than any other she'd ever had. She'd be fine; she always would be fine. Oh, she might fall in love with a virile firefighter and let him impregnate her, thereby regaining her mortality -- it was well-understood, at least by LaCroix, and nothing to worry about. Even that had ended in blood and death, and a reinstatement of order, of the status quo -- the way things were, the way things should be.
Nicholas, though, had never been able to see suicide as the honorable, reasonable, obvious path. LaCroix had been fooled, had misunderstood for many centuries -- the Crusader's weird, cross-based religion was imbedded in him bone-deep, a poison for all time. Even at the end, when he saw that he could not continue as he was, he needed LaCroix to...
Not. Thinking. About. Nick. Looking out the window.
Or watching the sudden drama unfolding in the center aisle. The stewardess screamed her second scream. The unshaved man grasping her to himself gestured violently again, with -- was that a serpent he was holding in his hand? Yes. It rattled angrily, and the woman screamed until the man struck her in the temple and rocked her head back on her graceful, swan-like neck.
"Now that I got your attention," shouted the man, in an uncouth, backwoods sort of an accent, "y'all gotta listen to me! Anybody makes a false move, and blondie here gets it!" The stewardess -- flight attendant these days, LaCroix supposed -- looked as if she were about to try another scream, and the man put the snake's head right into her thick hair. "I wouldn't," he told her, rough and low. She didn't.
The yokel went on and on about something. He seemed to object to the current manner of his country's governance, but LaCroix couldn't be bothered to pay attention to all the nitwit's words. The scent of fear that arose from the other passengers was delightful; LaCroix leaned back and savored it until he realized this unwashed barbarian meant to force the pilots to crash the plane.
Newfound immunity to flame and sunlight notwithstanding, that would be damnably inconvenient. LaCroix sighed, removed his seat belt, and stood up. He focused in on the zealot's heartbeat.
"Put down the snake and we'll talk," LaCroix lied.
Mmm. The hijacker wavered. LaCroix didn't think he was a Resister, just dumb and driven. He insinuated himself smoothly out into the aisle. "Come now. I know exactly what you need. Why won't you let me help you?"
There it was. Perfect heartbeat. This would work fine. LaCroix tuned in on every other heartbeat onboard. "Listen to me. Look at me," he commanded. Every living soul complied. He had them all. "Put down the snake," LaCroix repeated.
"Put. Daown. Thuh. Snek." Backwoods Billy put his rattler down. It darted for the safety of the shadows, but LaCroix was faster than a rattlesnake. He stepped on its head, and the slow reptilian heartbeat ceased. The blonde flight attendant and every single passenger had wide round eyes fastened immovably on LaCroix. They were in his hands. He could do whatever he liked.
LaCroix let his fangs out and grabbed the idiot. He drank him down to the last drop, and moaned with the goodness of it. His victim had lived a stupid life full of dumb rage and frustration, true, but he was so young and full of physical vitality!
People were barely beginning to shake themselves free of the vampire's control as LaCroix finished. He had them back again in a twinkling. "This man was killed by a bite from his own snake," he told them all. "The serpent was killed when its master fell upon it." He dropped the empty corpse onto the reptile's body, to add verisimilitude to the tale.
One hundred and fifteen heads nodded in unison. Good.
LaCroix resumed his seat, and the flight proceeded uneventfully.