Author's Notes:


This came into being as the result of a writing exercise I did with a friend, then grew and metamorphosed into... whatever this is. When all was said and done, there wasn't much else left to do but post. ;)


The title is from a song called "Out of Bounds" by Amanda Marshall, I've copied out the lyrics at the end. To hear the song, visit www.amandamarshall.com, or better still, buy the album "Tuesday's Child".


"Reckless Pantomime"


by Eve


His days were mostly the same:

Intermittent slumber, waking with blood-sweat pearled on his upper lip, her name still echoing in the empty room as he rocketed back to consciousness, weak with hunger and need. He sought the cold comfort of a bottle, rather than the warmth she might offer if only he asked.


He would not ask.


He always heard Natalie before he saw her, of course; heard the quickening of the sweet nectar in her veins as the elevator ascended. Her heart usually beat fast in the first, uncertain moments after her arrival, then gradually slowed as it became clear that neither of them intended to deviate from the set pattern: a video, a discussion, a drink, occasionally a drive if the weather was nice, and then, as the first rosy fingers of dawn streaked the sky, she would leave him to his empty bed and his empty bottles. And his dreams.


He had promised the life of a non-existent being in exchange for his sister's innocence. But now his mortal love had a name, and a face. And Lacroix knew them. He had taken a foolish chance, and nearly forfeited one or both of their lives for it. Now, he loved her in dreams, in all the ways he would never be able to in reality. There, he touched her without fear of stirring the monster within him--the traitor beneath his skin and behind his eyes that stood ready to surface and take her, without warning. It wanted her, too.


Today was different, however.


Today, she had not gone home.


It started so innocently: "Nick, look, it's snowing outside!" Contently shuttered away within, they had ignored the raging blizzard. The video was a heady little French comedy, her choice. They had both smiled throughout, but Nick's mirth had been occasioned more by Natalie's reactions than anything on the screen. Her knowing murmurs and soft gasps of surprise, the way she tried to muffle an unexpected giggle with her fingertips--he found every sound, every movement, equally endearing.


He'd said goodbye to her as usual, pressing a kiss into her hair and wishing her pleasant dreams. (Dreams!) He had already changed into his pajamas and closed the shutters when she buzzed the intercom.


"My car's snowed in," she called up.


The entire street was inundated, and, not being a residential area or a snow route, would likely remain that way most of the day. He would have flown her home, but the sun had already risen. Natalie, shivering, offered to walk out to the nearest bus stop. It was an offer whose selflessness touched him, as so many of her acts of kindness did. Even as he was touched, the monster was stirred into awareness. Here was an opportunity, perhaps the one it had been waiting for.


"You'll just have to stay," he remarked pleasantly, masking his fear and frustration for her sake.


"Are you sure?"


"Of course." He wasn't. "Let me find you something to sleep in."


When he came downstairs with a button-down shirt and a pair of cotton pajama pants, he could sense her disappointment--she had expected something a little more... personal. But even the thought of her in one of his own black silk pajama tops strained his control almost to the breaking point. Best not to risk it. He also brought her a pair of warm socks; she always found the loft too cold. She had given him the socks as a Christmas present, but he'd never worn them, preferring the feel of the chill floor beneath his feet.


"You can turn the thermostat up if you like," he told her.


She admired his red brocade dressing gown. He thanked her, wisely electing not to let on that it had been a gift from Janette. After all, it was a very intimate sort of present, and far more expensive than the socks. Natalie's gift was both idealistic and sweetly practical; she had given him something she hoped he would need in the future. Janette's gift was an unspoken, sensualist claim on his body and affections: when she'd presented it to him, she'd whispered in his ear that she intended for him to model it later. And when she spent the day with him--an increasingly unlikely occurrence these days--she wore it around the apartment, despite the fact that she was never troubled by such petty mortal concerns as temperature or modesty.


He idled at the piano while Natalie used the bathroom. She returned, face scrubbed free of makeup, hair pulled back, looking impossibly young and tiny in the borrowed clothes. Vulnerable, almost shockingly so. She sat beside him on the piano bench, her back to the instrument, their hips touching. She was so fresh, so warm. He felt the familiar ache in his jaw, canines threatening to descend. Determined to ignore the monster's resurgent interest in her, he bent with renewed attention over the keys. She listened as he finished the piece--one of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies, as he informed her afterwards. She yawned, noting absently that what she knew about classical music could probably be written out in the palm of her hand.


"Tired?" he asked.


With uncharacteristic timidity, she remarked that she should be fine on the couch. He did not dissuade her, even though he knew she must have been hurt by his swift acquiescence. He brought blankets, and placed the remote for the blinds within easy reach. He needed to be sure she was safe. Finally, he planted a kiss on her forehead.


"Good night, Nick," she whispered. She always said 'good night', even though it was morning. He felt particularly charmed by this, without really even knowing why. He smiled, adjusted the thermostat for her, and went upstairs to bed.


He thought he would never sleep, but the dream overtook him before very long. He dreamed touching every inch of her, so warm and soft and unafraid. Dreamed her eyes, a gaze like drowning. Dreamed her hair, loose and sweetly scented, trailing over his bare skin. Dreamed dappled sunlight and gentle sighs--Nick, please... please... he spoke the words with her, a silent prayer that the dream might last just a few moments longer... just... a few... oh, please...


Then he snapped into consciousness, and the sunlight was gone.


But she was still there.


"Natalie." The name more felt than spoken. Natalie.


She was lying beside him, her warmth nestled into the crook of his outstretched arm, one hand on his chest. She started at the sound of his voice, and sat up. He noted, with a thrill of very human desire, that she had discarded the pajama pants at some point, and wore only the shirt he'd provided. The top two buttons were undone, exposing the curve of her neck and shoulders to be devoured by his hungry gaze. The rapid rise and fall of her chest, the soft flutter of her warm breath on his face, entranced him... he couldn't have moved away, even if he had wanted to.


"I had a nightmare," she whispered. Her heartbeat thundered through him, a blush blooming across her fair skin. "I dreamed something had happened to you, and I needed... I'm sorry, I didn't mean to... I--I'll just go."


"Natalie," he repeated, giving more voice to it now.


She stopped talking, stopped breathing. Her lips parted, ever so slightly, and she began to tremble. He reached up and gently stroked her cheek, wanting to reassure her that she had nothing to fear from him. But when the trembling didn't cease, Nick realized that it wasn't fear at all. That she wanted him every bit as much as he did her, wherever it might lead.


He touched her lips, revelling in their warmth and softness. He couldn't shake the lingering feeling that any moment he would awaken, alone and ravenous. Her eyes were wide, amazed, as though she could hardly believe it herself.


"I should go," she said, with almost no conviction, and began easing off the bed.


"I wish you wouldn't," he told her. She opened her mouth to reply, and he captured it with his own.


Never, in the dreams, had she responded so forcefully. He had begun the onslaught, but it was she who overpowered and mastered him. He was almost afraid to touch her--afraid that she would dissolve, as his dream-Natalie always did. Or, perhaps, afraid that she wouldn't. Her mouth opened to him and she drank him, greedily, the way he had always imagined drinking her. She clutched at him and bore him down on top of her, one hand grasping his shoulder, the other burying itself in his hair. She spoke into his kiss, sounds that at first were only inarticulate moans, but which gradually resolved themselves into words.


She was saying his name


nick please


and then she was saying, "I love you."


He had known that, of course. The fact that she was willing be the first to say it now touched him almost to the point of tears. And the fact that she had come to him at all touched him in another, far different place. A much more dangerous one.


He broke the kiss gently, rolling away from her and sitting up. "You were right, Nat."


She sat up and closed the distance. "I was?"


"Yeah. You should go."


Her eyes, so blue, became crystalline. She nodded and looked down, obviously not trusting herself to speak. He placed his hand under her chin and tilted it upwards until she couldn't help but look into his eyes. He could see their amber glow reflected in her own, and he knew she understood.


"Thank you," he told her, speaking around his descended canines. Not the words he wanted to say, but the only ones he could afford, apart from I'm sorry. And she didn't need to hear that. Not tonight.


She looked dazed and pained, as if he had awakened her with a slap. "Okay," she whispered, and blinked away the tears. She wouldn't cry if she could help it; she had always prided herself on her strength in that regard. "Okay, Nick."


Even his name in her mouth only served to intensify the ache within him, called forth echoes of her longing


nickpleasenickohnickiloveyounick


and his own. He looked away again, ashamed of what he was, and disconcerted that he could have tried to take comfort from her in the way that would most endanger her life. He waited for her to leave, but instead, she drew closer to him, and gently placed one hand on his shoulder. Embers became bright flames, devouring him from inside.


"I'm not sorry," she whispered.


He didn't say anything, didn't move, just silently pleaded with her to go. He knew that he didn't have the strength to hold back much longer, and that one single, plaintive word from her would bring everything crashing down around them. She removed her hand, no doubt taking stock of the tension in his muscles and the steely rigidity of his frame, and quietly slipped away. Before long he detected the whirring of the mechanized blinds in the room below.


He lay back on the bed, his body sticky with blood-sweat. He considered biting into his hand--something he hated doing because it brought only temporary relief, and inevitably intensified the loneliness and pain he felt. His senses were so incredibly acute that he could smell Natalie, even from this distance, in addition to being tormented by the rapid pounding of her heart. With a start, he realized that the sound was approaching.


"Natalie!" It was only a whisper, but the effort of it ripped through his body like a scream. "Don't..."


There were a few soft noises outside the door--perhaps she was going to lock it from the outside. That was Natalie, he reasoned. So pragmatic. My Natalie, the monster added, its urgent, predatory desire a parody of tenderness. My sweet Natalie. Come closer.


He felt her retreat to the living room, and as the sound and scent of her lessened, he became aware of another, closer scent. Less appealing. And bottled.


She had left bottles outside his door--three of them, proof that she understood how tenuous his control had really been. He gulped messily at the first one, but took care with the other two not to waste a drop. The monster, having been fed, if not sated, stopped its relentless clawing and clamouring. For the time being.


Disgusted with the state it had left him in, Nick stripped off the bloody pajamas and showered without troubling to turn on the hot water. Climbing back into the cool bed, he longed for Natalie still, in a more human way. He wished he could fall asleep holding her, warmed by her, but he knew she would not come back, even if he asked.


He would not ask.


Sometime in the afternoon, they cleared the street. He was ready to feign sleep if he had to, but she didn't come up to say goodbye. She left the borrowed clothes and blanket neatly folded on the couch, still faintly infused with her warmth and gentle scent.


Another day's reckless pantomime, played out.



FIN



Standing on the edge of time

Playing out a reckless pantomime

And every day's another wrong to rectify

I dream about a stranger's touch

And voices in my head I cannot hush

And every night's a hunger I can't satisfy


It's the secret that I keep

It's the ache that makes me weep

And I know I'm in too deep

I'm gonna drown

It's the emptiness I fear

Baby, please don't leave me here

'Cause I'm lost inside a dream

That's out of bounds


I close my eyes and it's so real

And all at once I know just what I feel

And baby it's the kind of rush that terrifies

I am weak--I am wrong

And every day I swear that I'll be strong

But there's a bond between us that I can't deny


It's the secret that I keep

It's the ache that makes me weep

And I know I'm in too deep

I'm gonna drown

It's the emptiness I fear

Baby, please don't leave me here

'Cause I'm lost inside a dream

That's out of bounds


I wanna surrender

I wanna give in

I wanna lay down and let it be now

And let it begin

Let it begin


It's the secret that I keep

It's the ache that makes me weep

And I know I'm in too deep

I'm gonna drown

It's the emptiness I fear

Baby, please don't be leavin' me here

'Cause I'm lost inside a dream

That's out of bounds

Out of bounds

Out of bounds