Disclaimer: I own nothing related to Hellboy II.
A/N: The title comes from the songs "Opera de Romance: I. Stare" and "Opera de Romance: II. Embrace" by Virgin Black. The songs inspired this story greatly, and I just couldn't come up with a title any more appropriate. The lyrics before the first chapter don't really have much to do with the story other than getting me in the mood to write it, so I thought I should give them a little recognition.
I'm still not sure if I'm completely happy with this story, so any feedback is greatly appreciated.
Opera de Romance
"Gimme something that I missed
A hand to hold, wild and what it seems
Kill the king, when love is the law,
And the well turn round…"
- Sisters of Mercy, "This Corrosion"
Sunlight seeped dangerously around the edges of the drawn curtains. Vanja enjoyed it, despite the potential danger. But then, she guessed she was probably old enough to withstand the sun, though she wasn't really eager to test that. But like most vampiri, Vanja enjoyed the light more than she'd let anyone know.
She released her hair from the day's confines, letting the dark mahogany waves flow over her shoulders. The day was, on the whole, dull. Perks between the mind-numbing drone of being talked at in meetings included a little reading accomplished in the library, and a heated argument or two between Red and Liz. These days, the entire BPRD staff was simultaneously amused and endangered by the couple's squabbles. Vanja didn't bother to suppress her smile at the thought.
It was different for her now, among all these others. Vanja was a solitary creature, and demanded (sometimes threatened) to be such, hence she was allowed her own apartment rather than constantly staying cooped up in the BPRD headquarters. But it seemed, time and time again, she found herself in the middle of some motley crew, taking on some ridiculous task. She reminisced a little as she changed into a black silk nightgown and climbed through the canopy curtains and into bed. Her vampiric eye watched little particles of dust dance in the shafts of light the window's drapes let into the room. She let out a sigh and closed her eyes.
Immediately, she heard the soft rustle of clothing - nothing, in itself, to shock her; she often had uninvited visits from the others on the BPRD team, being that not everyone shared her internal clock. But what was really disturbing, captivating even, was his scent. It was unlike anything she'd ever experienced before. And it was an experience, his scent. Vanja opened her eyes, breathing a deep, soundless gasp, expecting to find herself in the midst of a meadow, with that smell covering her senses.
Standing in the semi-darkness of the room, he could have passed for a vampire. But vampiri didn't smell like that. Nothing smelled like that…but elves. And that was only in theory. Vanja had never seen, met, smelled, an elf before. Despite the fact that she herself was a vampire, she still found the word elf hard to roll around in her mind. Such a strange concept, a strange culture, coupled by the facts that it was such an ancient race, and that popular fiction had distorted it so. But he didn't look like an elf. His skin was as pale as the dead, his hair long and white-blond. His garments were dark, black and red, generally accepted vampiric colors. But they were the dressings of royalty, Vanja could make no mistake. Royalty and war.
"Your Majesty," she greeted, knowingly.
He moved a little closer, placing himself in the small rays of sunlight. And all of a sudden his skin, his face, looked absolutely alive. Not at all the resemblance to the undead he displayed in the shadows. And Vanja realized immediately that he was a creature meant for the sun. And she felt a pang of tragedy. A sadness for him, and for herself.
"Your Grace," he answered, just as knowingly, giving a small nod of his head as a show of respect. His voice was soft and sweet as honey, yet his polite words only thinly veiled how forceful his voice had the potential to be.
Vanja was taken aback, shocked from the way he addressed her - after all, she'd only had title for a small time. In France. In 1765. But, obviously, the question was: how did he know that? Could he read her mind? Vanja, strangely, couldn't read his, aside from what he let her know - wanted her to know - that he was Nuada Silverlance, Elven Prince of Bethmoora. And no doubt he let her know this so that she would know how to address him. That she would know that he demanded respect. Nevertheless, she decided to press the subject.
"Forgive me, Highness," she began, straightening herself in bed, sitting up and resting her back against the headboard, "but, have we met?"
"Not personally," he replied, a small smirk adorning his dark lips.
He stepped forward, out of the small light and into the shadows of the room again. Moving closer. As he did so, his fingers brushed over the light fabric which formed the bed's canopy, the material rippling like water at his touch.
"I am sorry, Majesty, but I'm afraid I have little patience. What is it you wish of me?" Vanja coaxed.
Nuada's manner was unhurried. His eyes, a unique green-gold like the color of autumn leaves, were soft - softer than usual, Vanja speculated. For it was obvious he was a warrior, yet it seemed no warrior could have eyes so sweet. And his face, his expression, was one almost of reminiscence. His fingers parted the light curtains of the bed, and he seated himself next to her. Vanja saw clearly, now that he was so close, what it was about his eyes, his face. That slow, soft, nostalgic way about him. It was seduction.
"You know how to speak in the presence of royalty," he observed, his voice sounding impressed, as he placed a hand on the side of her body opposite from where he sat. Despite his gentleness, this kind of bridge he formed over her with his arm, it felt like a cage. For she was trapped now, trapped in his nearness, in his eyes, in his voice. Trapped in the cool, pleasant spring breeze that was his breath.
What an incredible, miraculous, glorious creature he was. To affect her so. She who had seen and felt all, she who had read the lives of millions in one glance into their minds. And there he was, a complete mystery. She couldn't get anything out of his mind. It was closed in a way she had never encountered with vampiri. Because he wasn't of her kind, she couldn't pick up anything at all from him, not even the slightest sliver of information.
"What is it you want from me," she gasped breathily, her words still in a respectful cadence, though she dropped any honorable address.
"You are what I want," he replied, "I want you to join me."
"Why me?" Vanja asked, struggling to keep her voice even, feeling that comfortable meadow breeze on her face again when he spoke.
"You have all the characteristics of a useful ally," he stated a little too matter-of-factly. "And you intrigue me," he added with a much more personal tone in his voice.
"In your existence you've been given title, land, and enough riches to satisfy anyone for many lifetimes. You were even offered a throne once. But you abandon your good fortune time and again. You seem to care little for power, and yet you willingly sacrifice a part of yourself, for that."
Nuada meant, of course, Vanja's eye. Several years before, Vanja had cut out her left eye on the battlefield to replace it with the Eye of Fire, an ancient gemstone of devastating power. With her vampiric regenerative abilities, she now looked as though she simply had one red, albeit pupil-less, eye to accompany her other naturally green one.
"I wish to understand these things," Nuada continued. "It seems there is something that means more to you, and I would like to know what it is."
"So you may use it for your own ends?" Vanja accused quickly, surprising herself with her aggressiveness.
Nuada smirked again, then chuckled, softly but heartily. "You needn't read my mind to see right through me. I am impressed. Yes, I know that your lust for battle will be useful to me. But I won't lie. There is more than one personal end I wish to fulfill when I offer you a place in my ranks."
"And what place would that be?" Vanja snapped, convinced now that Nuada simply wanted her to switch sides, perhaps to have someone to watch the BPRD closely for him. And that, of course, wouldn't happen.
Nuada leaned closer, mere inches between their faces.
"By my side," he whispered, his breath cool to her skin and floral to her senses.
Vanja scoffed. "Who are you and what do you want from me?" she demanded, dropping the archaic pleasantries altogether.
Nuada's manner changed with hers. The arm that he had used to cage her body close to his he now raised, a strong hand instantaneously gripping her face, fingers spread across her cheek and thumb under her chin. The action was more for intimidation than threat, obviously. There was nothing he could do to her and they both knew it.
"You are a child compared to me," he told her, the commander and king that he was coming out in his voice now. "But you are strong, and I have watched you. I may not need a living army, but I do need a living court. I need loyalties. And eventually, I will need a queen."
"What for? I couldn't give you heirs," Vanja replied coolly, the pressure he was putting on her throat having no affect whatsoever on her.
"I think you'd be surprised what you could do. In my world." He moved even closer, whispering directly into her ear, "be stubborn with me if you like, but think about it. Ask yourself what about this world is worth saving."
And then he was gone. Faster than even Vanja's vampiric senses could register.
When she finally did find rest, he was there in her dreams. Like most vampiri, Vanja didn't dream anymore. She missed dreams, like many others did, but the advantage to being denied dreams, was that whenever a vampire did dream, it was like an alarm for danger. Because dreams didn't come naturally for vampiri, obviously, when a vampire dreamt, it was because someone else was putting the dreams there. Vanja had before suffered aggressive bouts of memories returning to her while she slept. But she had never experienced anything like this in her vampiric years.
At first, it was truly a dream. Finding herself in a sunlit meadow clearing. The trees the brightest, most vibrant green - a color she doubted reality could fathom. The flowers all shapes and sizes and of colors that stretched beyond imagination. The sun warmed her skin, heated it. But in the most comfortable way. Her hair seemed weightless in the warm sun and the sweet breeze, in a way that was almost like being underwater. Her vampiric skin, usually unaffected by the elements, was ultra sensitive to even the slightest rustle of wind. She wore little - a simple, lightweight, ankle-length, almost-transparent gown with a wide collar that hung low around her shoulders. Markedly dream-like, Vanja could not distinguish the color of the dress. It seemed toned to her skin, but her skin seemed a color of a warmer tone, more pinkish, more alive.
But, when he appeared, she knew it was not a dream. Not a natural one. This had to be his fabrication for her. But, when he appeared, she almost didn't care. And, for a blinding second, when she saw him step out from between the trees, she didn't care at all. Didn't care that this could be manipulation. Manipulation like the kind she had used so often on the minds of her prey.
He was bare-foot and shirtless, but the small bits of clothing they both wore seemed out of place in the forest. And this thought occurred to Vanja without lust. Anything artificial just seemed so wrong in this environment that was the definition of purity. Running her eyes over him, Vanja was so in awe that she wouldn't have been able to get her mind working enough to create the emotion of lust anyway.
Here in the sunlight, in the slightly greenish glow of the foliage, Vanja had never seen a creature more alive. The way he exuded life defied explanation and defied the ability to pinpoint what exactly it was that made him look so vital. His long hair shimmered, near to the point of sparkling. His skin glowed, but it was a soft, yellowish glow, like the light from a dim lamp in a dark room. Accordingly, the color of his skin was warm and inviting, not at all the undead pallor she had seen when he visited her room. He was a god, she was sure of it. He was imbued with something…ethereal.
The smirk he wore was lighthearted and amiable, but there was something smug and slightly villainous laced into it.
"What do you think?" he asked, the words falling from his lips slowly, with perfect and effortless intonation, but arrogance was stowing away deep in the innocent, playful tone.
"What do I think?" Vanja replied. "Everything I could think would be an understatement."
He flashed that deceptive smirk again as he approached her.
"But I will tell you that you are unparalleled in bribery," she added.
"Is that what you think this is?" he asked, resting his hands behind his back and seeming all the more arrogant for the posture. "Bribery?"
"If you tell me it isn't, I'll know you're lying."
"Well, call me a liar if you will, but this isn't bribery. It's a truth. A memory."
"A memory? Yours?" she asked, looking up at his face and startled at how close to her he was. Despite what she'd always heard about elves supposedly being shorter than humans, Nuada was, in fact, a good deal taller than her.
"Yes. A memory of what this world once was."
Vanja suddenly found herself stricken by sadness. Once was. She couldn't deny that. No one could. No one could deny that the world was once beautiful. And that it was made ugly by humans.
"Could you give me this?" Vanja abruptly found herself whispering, her eyes darting around the clearing. The words left her mouth before she was even knowledgeable to their birth.
"Yes," he answered again. "We can make the world like this again." His voice was low and soft, impossibly close, like he was practically a voice in her head. But his breath on her cheek was as sweet as the wind blowing through the trees.
Vanja looked back to him and was captivated by his eyes. His hands moved to her waist, brushing against the fabric of her gown slightly, which might as well have been just like touching her skin, the garment was so light. Suddenly she couldn't keep her hands off him. Her fingers traced the contours of his chest, his skin smooth and soft, taut over hard muscle. Inexplicably, she felt dizzy. She should hate him for this. For taking such control over her. Her. A vampire. A dead woman. She shouldn't be affected by anything.
"I can give you this, too," he told her, his voice half in and half outside of her mind, his words echoing with the way he put them into her mind as he spoke them.
"What's that?" she muttered, her tone sounding more like she hadn't heard him than she was asking for clarification.
He held her face lightly with his fingers, looking at her with a certain sincerity on his face. She gazed back at him with heavy eyelids, intoxicated.
"The sun," he began, dragging the back of his hand over her cheek. "The feeling," he continued, referring to the new way that she could feel the warmth of the sun or the slight chill of the breeze. His hand moved down across her bare arm, his touch maddeningly slight. "Life," he concluded.
Vanja's drooping eyes fluttered fully open at the word. What did that mean, he could give her life? That he could make her mortal? Human? But then why would he want her, just to make her human, the thing he despised?
"Think about it," he advised, before disappearing and leaving her alone, in bed, in the dark.
He'd said those last words as if he'd be leaving her to make a decision. In reality he'd strategically planted a million seeds of question and doubt so well that she had no choice but to follow through and at least go to him, at least pry for an explanation rather than seductive little half-truths. She sighed and slipped out of bed, walking to the window to fling the curtains open and look out at the newborn dark.